Published on November 25th, 2017 | by Justin G.
Houston: III (Livewire)
It’s been a few years since we saw an album from Swedish AOR band Houston. Their last proper studio album was II, back in 2013, though we did get another Relaunch covers collection in 2014. The band has returned with their third proper full-length album, titled (can you guess?) – III. The album is produced by Martin Karlegård (of Reptile Smile).
Houston’s first two albums were very firmly rooted in the classic Toto-style AOR sound of the ’80s, but the original songs on Relaunch II found the band stretching out a bit. With III, they stretch out even more, keeping that highly polished melodic rock base sound but moving in a more radio-friendly, pop crossover direction. This may disturb fans who just want another round of Toto-worship, but the newer Houston sound works really well. Singer Hank Erix doesn’t hit the higher notes he did on the debut, instead opting for a warmer delivery that’s closer to Work of Art’s Lars Sasfund.
III is a gorgeous AOR album, even with it’s modern touches and pop sensibility. It’s like taking the Houston debut and mixing in parts of recent Frontiers favorites Cruzh and One Desire. There’s even a bit of The Outfield here, especially on album closer “Interstate Life.” The result is warm, very catchy, ultra-smooth, and less reliant on high vocals and cheesy lyrics. Check out the first single “Dangerous Love” to get a feel for the new Houston sound. “Everlasting,” “Cold as Ice” (no, not a Foreigner cover) and “Glass Houses” are also great examples.
At first spin, I have to admit I had some “this is Houston?” moments, but it didn’t take long for III to completely win me over. This is about as good an example of what modern AOR can sound like as it gets. Basically, what H.E.A.T has done for melodic rock, Houston has done for AOR. I’ll be listening to this album a lot in the months (and years) to come. Fans of Work of Art, Toto, Lionville, Mecca, One Desire and Cruzh…you need this album.
Summary: Crossover AOR executed perfectly