*** If there’s but one thing you take away from this article, make it Tony Harnell’s CD “Cinematic”. ***
If ever there was an artist to bow to, it is Tony Harnell.
I was first introduced to Tony Harnell when guitarist Jonni Lightfoot joined Harnell’s band Starbreaker as its new bass player earlier this summer. I hadn’t ever heard of Starbreaker or Tony Harnell, but had a minor recollection of the 80s glam rock group TNT where Harnell was its lead singer for 20 years. I was unfamiliar with Tony Harnell’s voice and completely underestimated the effect his music would have on me.
In August, Starbreaker released its second CD, Love’s Dying Wish, in Europe and its U.S. release is slated for November 18th. In advance of its release, Harnell made available to fans songs from Love’s Dying Wish on Starbreaker’s MySpace page. It was there that I first heard Tony Harnell, and thus began my fascination with Harnell as a singer.
The first song I heard by Tony Harnell and Starbreaker was End of Alone from Love’s Dying Wish. I immediately fell in love with Harnell’s voice. Well suited for rock, Harnell’s four-octave range shows his comfort singing in a low register as well as in a high. Where some rock bands ‘scream’ in the higher register, Harnell’s voice is controlled, precise and perfectly pitched. Listening to Harnell sing End of Alone I got an education in melodic rock and my senses were invigorated. An anthem for hope and optimism, End of Alone inspires a connection with the listener as Harnell sings, “Thought all the life in me was gone…could this be the end of alone?”
European reviews of Love’s Dying Wish were positive, citing growth and directional improvement from Starbreaker’s debut CD in 2005. Word of Starbreaker’s new CD was spreading fast and Harnell and Starbreaker fans were anxious for its release. Europe got first crack at the Starbreaker CD in August. However, fans unable to buy the CD in Europe wouldn’t have to wait for the November U.S. release as it also became available for purchase through iTunes.
Shortly after Starbreaker’s Love’s Dying Wish release, Tony Harnell started talking more about some demos he had recorded in Sweden between 2006-2007. Harnell had posted a few of these songs on his MySpace, and subsequently announced the production and release of a limited-edition CD of six demos. Having already heard The Show and Cinematic, I was eager to get my hands on Harnell’s demos CD. With his posting of The Show and Cinematic on MySpace, Harnell skillfully reeled me in, hook, line and sinker.
Two weeks ago I received Tony Harnell’s Cinematic. Now, I’m a girl who doesn’t know a whole lot about the technical aspects of music, so you’ll have to forgive my simplistic descriptions and opinions of Cinematic’s songs. But what better words can I use to describe Harnell’s voice than phenomenal, incredible and unparalleled? And what better words can I use to describe the lyrics than profound, enlightening and intelligent?
It has been two weeks now that I have had Cinematic in my car and home stereo, on my computer and MP3 player, and yes, even my BlackBerry. At first, I was giddy to hear it and listen to Tony Harnell’s musical prowess. But the more I played it, the more I listened to it and the more I developed a true appreciation for the ability and God-given talent that Tony Harnell has as a singer and songwriter.
I’m not easily impressed by singers and bands. I enjoy music the same as the next person and my musical taste is quite varied. But when I hear someone like Tony Harnell whose virtuosity is so profound, it makes my heart beat fast and I tingle all over! Ok, like I said…I’m a girl. But a girl who knows great music when she hears it!
The six songs on Cinematic are Out From Under the Black Cloud, The Show, I Don’t Want Anything, Cinematic, One Way Ride, and Unholy. So what do I like so much about Tony Harnell’s CD? Let’s get into it. (Apologies if any of the lyrics are incorrect.)
Having previously heard Cinematic and The Show on MySpace, I had already formed an opinion about these two songs. Title track Cinematic is descriptive and has a pop/rock feel. Visually, Cinematic is a Stepford-esque neighborhood and life. Harnell sings, “All the classmates have the same jeans (genes?). All the parents do the same things.” “Everybody get a cinematic life in stereo. Get together have a real (reel?) good time, relax, enjoy the show.” “80 degrees, nice ocean breeze, everything super California. Almost unreal, how does it feel, what could be wrong?” Ending dark, Cinematic is sarcastic and foreboding, but its tune is melodic, catchy and easy to sing and I like it!
As I listen to Harnell sing Cinematic, I am reminded of Freddie Mercury. Mercury, one of the greatest talents to have graced our lives, was incredibly versatile, showed great artistic integrity, and to the end gave us everything he had – and then some. He was a risk taker with songs like Bohemian Rhapsody and he collaborated with artists outside his music genre (Barcelona YouTube Clip) to share his skill and to soar to new heights. Tony Harnell has these same great qualities and as an artist continues to grow and give.
I got hooked on The Show straight away. It’s a lovely ballad with poignant lyrics. Harnell sings, “Isn’t God a state of mind? For some it’s just a thing left undefined. Trying to find a point of view, and where you land is really up to you.” The chorus tells us that “The truth you are is greater than your fears.” My interpretation of this is that the worst you could ever think of yourself is always outweighed by the goodness of your soul. Finally, Harnell asks, “Aren’t we all just looking for some love?”
Cinematic’s The Show will be a favorite song for many, as ballads typically are. When I first heard The Show, I instantly thought of David Bowie’s 1969 hit Space Oddity, which I like to refer to as Major Tom as it’s a lot easier to relate that name to the song! I can’t really explain why I connect The Show with Space Oddity, except to say that when Bowie and Harnell sing, I hear melodic and harmonic similarities. I love both of these songs and artists!
I Don’t Want Anything starts out slow, like a ballad, but progresses to an exclamation of defiant independence. Harnell sings, “Even when I’m satisfied, there’s so much I’m still denied. But I go the way I go, I keep my own control.” “Keep talkin, I’m not listening, to the lies, I can’t take anymore.” I feel the frustration and drama but am steadied by the strength and determination to stand tall and let them not be of importance.
One Way Ride, in my view, is probably the song with the most pop/rock and crossover sound. This could easily be heard on the radio today. Relevant lyrics combined with a great rock beat and change up to a semi-pop sound, One Way Ride would appeal to a wide audience. Get that on the air now man!
Out From Under The Black Cloud is a GREAT metal/rock song with an unexpected uplifting “na na na” chorus (reminds me of Styx)! The song is a bit head banging and good to rock out to. Lyrically, it seems to be about leading a spiraling downward life and being brought out of the desolation and into the light and positive energies of life. Deep.
Saving the Best For Last: Harnell Fills My Veins
Unholy by Tony Harnell is the equivalent to Jesus’ Holy Grail. Singers can only aspire to seek its perfection and sing Unholy with Harnell’s precision and clarity. Using his full four octaves, Harnell sings each note with strength and purity and not once does he fall short. Singing at the lowest register, Harnell’s voice is sultry, sexy and devilishly inviting. At the highest octave I am left breathless.
I previously thought that The Show was my absolute favorite song I’d heard from Tony Harnell thus far. After obsessively listening to Unholy, I’ve been taken to new heights. Listening to Harnell sing Unholy, I want to jump right into that song, become a lyric and be embraced and caressed by the soul and breath that constructs each note sung by Harnell.
Unholy is passion unleashed. Harnell sings, “She’s dark as the sun, shining upon me. Filling my veins. Killing me slowly. She’s draining my faith. The light’s been replaced with something unholy…Her morphine kiss is all that I crave…Everyday I’m letting go…I lost myself that’s all I know.”
Unholy is complete seduction of the senses. Lyrically, the song speaks of love, pain, temptation, the inability to resist, resignation and desire. Vocally, the song begins innocently and each verse explodes to the next higher level of seduction. I hear the words but I am enveloped by Harnell’s energy and am on the edge of my seat for the duration. And just when I think it can’t get any more powerful, Harnell unleashes a vocal ferocity unmatched by any artist today. Harnell’s passion IS power and Unholy is an auditory orgasm.
Cinematic’s six songs on Harnell’s limited-edition solo ‘demos’ CD don’t deserve the classification of ‘demos’. These songs provide a master class in voice and songwriting and deserve to be released and heard on the airwaves today. Tony Harnell is off to a great start with marketing Cinematic. He’s doing everything right and he’s doing it his way. My opening comment to this article was that you should buy Cinematic. Take my word for it — Cinematic will rock your world and will blow you away. Listen below for a few samples of Tony Harnell and Starbreaker and after buying Cinematic and listening to Unholy, if you aren’t affected, then you need to listen again. And then maybe again.
To say that Harnell’s voice belongs in the presence of Gods may sound a bit mythic, but surely Apollo himself would invite Harnell to sing for his fellow Olympians.
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Buy Tony Harnell’s Online
Buy Cinematic at http://www.tonyharnellonline.com/
Photos courtesy of Tony Harnell.
**To hear exclusive songs below on ReverbNation, click the link to play the full song**
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