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III
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Rating:
4.5 Stars

Joe Vana and his MECCA project have finally returned after five years with the simply titled “III” album yet this album is anything but simple. What was achieved here is actually quite impressive as Vana and company have spent the last three years crafting a true opus. The record is the purest form of AOR with everything the genre is known for and more and upon first listen you can hear the quality truly shine through.

This review should have been finished weeks before it was but do to computer issues it gave me time to listen to the record for a more extended period and really let it sink in. That is not to say the material isn’t immediate because right off the bat the songs carry more than enough melody and catchiness but upon repeated listens the lyrics as well as the subtle nuances of this finely crafted record become even more apparent.


As I said “III” was a long time in the making and I believe was quite a journey for Vana as the Chicago area musician made many a visit to Nashville, TN to work on the recording alongside producer and current TOTO drummer, Shannon Forrest. As I said, what was achieved here is truly stunning as this record sounds like a million bucks. In speaking with Joe a few years ago he indicated he was putting a lot of time and effort (along with expense) into this record but he said he wanted to make the record he wanted to make. Now in hearing the final product, I can comfortably say he has achieved that.


The record opens with “Take My Hand” which is a pure AOR song with just the right amount of edge and urgency to it while remaining smooth and accessible. Vana’s vocals are strong and soaring while the guitar work is great. It’s a fine opening track. “Unknown” is up next and takes a slightly more subtle approach but still provides strong vocals and some great drumming by Forrest. The song has a memorable chorus right in line with some of the genres best and a pretty epic feel overall. 


“Alone” is a moody song and likened to modern day TOTO in feel sounding like something Steve Lukather might take on while “Gone” has a cool vibe and again could sound like something you’d hear from TOTO especially with the Steve Lukather sounding guitar tone. It’s a great song with great vocal delivery from Vana. “Cry” to me is similar in feel to the opening track of the album with its soaring vocals and slight urgency.

The next two tracks are two of my favorites at the moment. “A Kiss On The Wind” has an epic yet subtle approach with slightly restrained vocal delivery from Vana. I really like the lyrics on this one but the way Vana takes on his vocals is truly masterful. “Let It Go” is another epic sounding song with more power in the delivery, especially the sweeping vocal build to the chorus. For me, these two songs highlight the voice of Vana and “Let It Go” has an absolutely killer guitar solo too. It’s not a lengthy solo but is perfectly suited for the song and without a doubt I hear shades of the great Steve Lukather again.


The final track on “III” is “Believe” and Vana’s vocal delivery is a highlight yet again. I love the vocal melodies and the way Vana delivers the verses is a little “looser” in style but it works just right for the vibe of the song.


At just eight tracks and around 33 minutes “III” is precise and to the point without any filler but the way these eight songs are crafted and delivered is without question very classy and classic sounding. One thing Vana has indicated is that he wanted this album to be a true audiophile record in sound. As my provided review download from Andrew at Melodic Rock Records was in mp3 format I personally cannot wait to pick up the CD version to hear it in all its true glory. In fact “III” is even being given a limited edition vinyl treatment and so it might be worth looking into that also!
This record really is a modern day AOR classic in my book and one I will continue to listen to in the years to come.

 


Band Lineup:
  • Joe Vana - Lead Vocals
  • Shannon Forrest - Drums and percussion
  • David Hungate - Bass
  • Tim Akers - B3 and piano, background vocals, Duet on "Believe"
  • David Browning - Synths
  • Joey Vana - Guitars
  • Mark Baldwin- Guitar
  • Sol Philcox-Littlefield additional guitars
  • Ethan Forrest - additional guitars
  • Rudy Chmelik additional percussion on "Believe"

 

Track Listing:
  1. Take My Hand
  2. Unknown
  3. Alone
  4. Gone
  5. Cry
  6. A Kiss on the Wind
  7. Let It Go
  8. Believe




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