Published on August 14th, 2017 | by Justin G.
Don Barnes: Ride the Storm (MelodicRock, 2017)
Of all the great reissues the MelodicRock label has unearthed this year, the first-ever official release of Don Barnes’ solo album Ride the Storm has to be the best and most exciting of the bunch. The singer/guitarist recorded this album in 1989 after leaving Southern rockers .38 Special, but label issues kept it shelved…until now.
For Ride the Storm, Barnes teamed up with a stellar list of melodic rock session veterans, including Dan Huff (Giant), Martin Briley (Meat Loaf, Mick Jones), Mike Porcaro (Toto), Jeff Porcaro (Toto), Denny Carmassi (Gamma) and Alan Pasqua (Giant). Given the players involved, Barnes’ own history and the musical climate at the time, is it any surprise that Ride the Storm is such a polished, well-crafted AOR album? More or less .38 Special without the “wild-eyed Southern” vibe, Barnes’ solo album is the kind of album that should have dominated the charts in 1989. At minimum, these songs should have graced a handful of movie soundtracks at the time.
Barnes sounds fantastic here, with a voice that’s strong and steady and perfect for AOR, and of course the musicianship is top-notch. “Looking for You” and “I Fall Back” are on par with the best of .38 Special’s mid-80s hits, and on the second half of the album the Dan Huff-assisted “I’d Do It All Over Again” and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day” are standouts that compare favorably to Huff’s Giant material.
It’s such a shame that Ride the Storm never got the chance it deserved in 1989, because it really is the perfect example of that era’s melodic rock sound. It’s even more of a shame that we had to wait this long to see it properly released. Now that it’s available though, Ride the Storm is a mandatory purchase for any fan of the ‘80s AOR and melodic rock sounds, especially artists like Giant, House of Lords, Toto, Foreigner, the Brian Howe era Bad Company albums, Van Zant and of course .38 Special.
Reissue Notes: The MelodicRock label pulled out all the stops for their deluxe reissue of Ride the Storm. It’s a hefty 2-disc set that features a newly remastered Ride the Storm album on disc 1 and the original mix of the album on disc 2 with a trio of demo tracks. Both discs sound amazing, though the mix on disc 1 is the clear winner of the two. It also has a nice booklet with lyrics and related info. A brief bio/interview with Barnes would have been a nice addition, but that’s a relatively minor complaint against what has to be one of the year’s absolute best reissues.
Summary: A lost classic finally gets its day.