savatage tso solo projects

fight for the rock review by jim gordon
By 1986, Savatage bassist Keith Collins had left the band to pursue other interests. The departure of a band member is always a possibly traumatic event for a band, even if the departure is amicable, and is more so if the departing band member took part in songwriting. For the Fight For The Rock album, Savatage's bassist slot was filled by Johnny Lee Middleton. It turned out to be a good choice for both him and the band. Incidently, according to an article from a while back which I found while looking for Savatage articles on LEXIS, Johnny Lee won accolades for best bassist at least once in the Tampa Area Music Awards (or somesuch area music awards ceremony) during his stint in Savatage.

Fight For The Rock has the dubious honor of being the least liked Savatage album by both fans and the band. However, despite the somewhat silly band photos (check out the glam action!), this is not a bad album. It is simply an example of a band trying to find new avenues to explore. Savatage apparently decided to try out arena rock at least once, and despite the fact that this may be the most commercial album they put out, Fight For the Rock did allow Savatage to explore an instrument which had previously taken a background role: keyboards. The prominent role of keyboards in some of the songs off of FFTR resurfaced again and again in later albums. This album was not a waste, but rather a foray into mainstream hard rock which added yet another facet to an excellent band. A quick review of the songs:
1. fight for the rock - 3:55
Although lyrically simple, this song is a great one to play when you get into a stereo war with a neighbor. A catchy chorus, and lyrics meant to be sung by a concert audience in an arena make this one a decent song. Maybe a little Spinal Tappish, but who cares- I'm too busy singing along. There's also a nice little keyboard riff in the middle.
2. out on the street 3:58
Basically, this is the song of the same name off the earlier Sirens release, polished up for major label release. Savatage added some keyboards to the intro, background vocals and other gloss. I always sort of liked this song. Both versions are good in their own ways. The added vocals are good, but unfortunately a whole verse gets dropped in this version. This song would've been a good single (for all I know, it might've been one!).
3. crying for love - 3:27
A nice keyboard intro gives this song an initial classical, "wintery" feel. It then becomes a mid-tempo power ballad/hard rocker. For some reason, this song and The Edge of Midnight make me think of bands like Impelliteri. A decent song.
4. day after day - 3:40
Savatage covers Badfinger. Not much to say, except that they did an OK job. I would've rather heard them do the Badfinger song No Matter What. A relaxed song which might convey the wrong impression about the band to the uninitiated.
5. the edge of midnight - 4:52
Another keyboard-heavy song, Edge of Midnight begins with a slightly gothic feel, and proceeds into a standard hard rock song. Something funny I noticed in this song- one of the lines is "you better listen to the power of the night".... is this subliminal advertising???? We may never know.
6. hyde - 3:51
Just hearing Jon Oliva screaming "Hyyyyyyyyyyyde!" is worth the price of admission. I could've done without the spoken intro, though.
7. lady in disguise - 3:08
One of my favorites from this album. The sudden keyboard + guitar intro is stately and dark without being too pompous. The main descending riff in the verse is pretty good. A nice experiment in creating a specific "feel" with timing.
8. she's only rock n' roll - 3:14
One of the weak points of the album. Although there's a good riff here, the line about mingling with the in crowd is too much for me. Other than that, a competent rocker (never mind the lyrics).
9. wishing well - 3:20
Excellent cover of the Free song. Although I've never heard the original, this version stands on its own. Johnny Lee Middleton's bass stands out in this song, while avoiding being intrusive. This may be the high point of the album. This was meant to be performed in an arena at night in full hard rock spectacle. Most outstanding!
10. red light paradise - 3:56
This is pop metal with balls. If Motley Crue weren't a bunch of poseurs, they might actually dream of writing a song like this. Savatage pours out a low-slung riff, replete with lyrics about sluttiness, and a gravelly, powerful chorus. A good, relentlessly driving song.
All in all, this is not a poor album at all. It may not be Savatage's best work, but it is worth checking out anyway.