MARCO MENDOZA – ‘NEW DIRECTION’

SEPTEMBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH

(5/5)

A new outlook for a new era, Marco Mendoza is set to release one of autumn’s feel-good rock n roll albums – with light to offset the darkness of recent times, hope and positivity over division and despair.

After a year of enormous, unprecedented global challenges, we have seen some artists capture how it felt to live through the lockdown days, whilst others have voiced protest at the inequalities in society or the perceived lack of political role-models. The spirit of protest is part of the DNA of rock n roll – but so is music’s power to inspire us, to offer escape and to remind us what we actually have in common. The music for this album was recorded before the world went crazy with a pandemic, then a war – but Marco’s creative reaction is to give us hope for a better future through his music. Literally as the world is taken to the limit, it’s a time to reset and focus on a new direction.

This is both the best solo album Marco has done and yet, for me, it also captures some of the feel-good vibes from his era with the Dead Daisies, a series of albums and tours that brought the party with fun, accessible music you could lose yourself in at a show, whilst leaving your troubles at the door. Putting these pieces together, this Marco album is not about a critical assessment of individual songs, it’s more about how the collection of material makes you feel. This isn’t an album where you need to put your smoking jacket on, stroke your beard and contemplate new boundaries in the history of rock music. No, this is instant, accessible and fun music that engages you and puts a smile on your face – and, in the weeks ahead, it will bring a bit of bright autumn sunshine to your day. If you could visualise this music, it would be an album with a big smile on its face – and maybe a cheeky wink thrown in too!

Looking at some of the standout tracks, ‘Take It To The Limit’ and ‘Shoot For The Stars’ under-score the positive message coming through this fine album – adopting a can-do mindset despite the limitations of the over-heating world. Beyond the lyrical messages, the music is energetic and empowering in its very essence.

There’s a stand out ballad on the album too. Some rockers and rock media today seem to have gone off ballads a bit, but in truth they are absolutely core to rock’s heritage. ‘Walk Next To You’ reminded me of those classic soft ballads of the 80s and, done well, there’s still a place for them. It’s the control on the song that makes it work, as is Marco’s vocal which is sublime. For people that have lost or been separated from loved ones in recent years, I think many will find something in this song. This one is ultimately a simple song, but sometimes the simple songs are the best.

The title track ‘New Direction’ is the album stand-out for me – my only quibble is I may have had the title track as the album opener rather than the closer. ‘New Direction’ is musically a new take on Marco’s signature oeuvre, but it’s such as inspiring and empowering track. It’s featured on my Friday rockshow for the last three weeks and reaction each week has immediate and strong. The listener reaction suggested this was the kind of music people needed in their lives – for many, a healing tonic for troubled times. Put simply, we need music to make us feel good – it’s part of the wellbeing recovery after two years of lockdown.

‘Free Ride’ also grew with me after a few listens, a bit of a sensual rocker perhaps, and the loose groove of ‘Can’t Explain It’ I think is one of those engaging songs that would appeal beyond fans of rock. Like Marco’s shows, the album is quite eclectic in the light, shade and palette of colours employed – but it’s easy to enjoy and it will leave you with a smile on your face.

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the future shape and form of rock. Is the future really about re-living the classic era? Should guitar music fuse more with influences from other genres? Should rock speak more for the seismic issues in today’s world? What this Marco album reminded me is that with music the only thing that matters is that it has something to say and is done well. Sifting through the pile of album review copies on my desk, there’s lots of albums out in the next month that are louder, that have more frenetic guitar solos crammed in. There are others that critically push boundaries more and also those that protest more aggressively. But Marco’s album was the one I kept playing, while the review pile just got bigger. Why? I guess because the music was more direct, accessible and fun.

There are few rock legends out there that have played with (or in) a more impressive who’s-who of bands, yet Marco remains one of the nicest and down-to-earth guys in the scene, always making time for friends and supporters. From all the Daisies shows I attended to do interviews, Marco was always a guy that would come and find you, take interest, engage and exude his positive energy. And this also plays out in his solo work, as well as his positive enthusiasm for current work with Iconic. Marco’s a ‘glass-is-half-full’ kinda guy; this frames his positive outlook on life and it washes through the essence of this fine new album. Musically it’s not attempting to change the world but, you know what, it’s precisely because of this that maybe it will – one person at a time.

New Direction is released on 16 September

Available in limited edition coloured vinyl in addition to digipack CD and digital via Mighty Music at – https://targetshop.dk/marcomendoza

Marco Website – for all news, social links and tour dates – https://www.marcomendoza.com

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