Album Reviews
Band: The Ragged Saints

Title: Sonic Playground Revisited

Label: AOR Heaven

Let's get this straight, yet again ... ROCK IS NOT DEAD!!! How many bleedin' times have we got to put up with the bellends who claim this statement is the Gospel?  It never will be as long as there's fans out there who's love for the music is their life, and we have band's like The Ragged Saints who come up with the goods, as they do on this fab album!  These Finnish rockers make such stupid comments a mockery when they deliver Hard /   Melodic Rock that fans of bands such as Europe, Journey or Whitesnake will certainly take to their hearts, and Markku Kuikka (vocals), Tomi Julkunen (guitar), Toni Bite (guitar), Jukka Hoffren (bass guitar) and Mikki Kunttu (drums) can be proud of themselves for doing so!  After the lads took a few years off from the band, this album was always going to see the light of day, and fortunately for us, it has, on AOR Heaven, so you can guess this is a snorter!

 

The keys-led opener 'Never Gonna Let You Down' sets the stall out, drums n' guitars a-blazing in tandem, and along with the  powerhouse vocals, it's  just a welcoming sound to us who still think ROCK LIVES, and it does as the uber AOR cracker 'Like A Spinning Wheel' follows, as it rips from the speakers on a tsunami of those riffages, stonking drums, ball-bag grabbing vocals and one Hell of a rumbling bass that has next door wondering if there's a Tasmanian Devil going bonkers in your house! (Bugs Bunny cartoon!).  

'Take Me With You' takes a slightly less ballsy tone, the keys again making a statement here, giving the song a gentler feel, early Bon Jovi in their Poodle Hair era that caught our imagination all those years ago, though the solo that jumps in mid way reminds us what can still come, which does on the US-styled Rocker 'Secret In Our Hearts', the Y&T meets Giant full 'o gutsy riffage and fist-pumping gang-like vocals style that filled the arenas 'over the pond' in the mid 80's, and found a place in our hearts over here on this little Island of ours.

 

The acoustic intro to the ballad Just Believe' has the vibe steeped in 80's heartstring-tugging auras, Poison/Jovi  at their most tender, Kuikka's vocals just perfect here, but for me it's Hoffren's bass that stands out for me the most, it's subtlety speaking volumes throughout this wonderful song, and of course, you get that arching solo near the end, tailing off to open the floodgates of the most ardent of listener, but put that hanky away, the pomp and ceremony that fills 'Absence Of Light' will dry those tears, those symphonic keys, with some serious guitar work, the driving force here, putting the song wa-ay into Magnum territory, the sound is HUGE, definitely one to be experienced live to get the full effect of this barnstormer. 

Back to the more AOR side the band holds so dearly on 'Always Forever', the duelling guitars flitting in and out in perfect harmony, the song  hitting the heights of Europe in their heydays of the mid-late 80's, not a carbon copy by any means, no, this band do it their own way, yes with hints of influences, but with a stamp of The Ragged Saints firmly entrenched within the track.  Tomi and Toni jointly bring in 'Pretending Diamond' another 80's 'flash-backer' of sorts, the harmonies on the chorus definitely one for the fans to join in with, a little hint of a 'groovy' guitar hook slipped in for good measure (someone been listening to Richie Sambora lately?!), and with a fine dusting of keys, what's not to like about this song? 

The same could be said of 'Turning Cold', centred around a stabbing guitar hook and pulsating drumbeat, Kuikka putting his heart 'n soul into the song as it motors it's way through, which leaves the final track 'Supernatural', and what a way to finish! This is simply a great melodic chest-pumping, harmonious belter that easily could and should be envied by the likes of Revolution Saints, as it has that big production to it which fills the speakers to overload, again those harmonies on the chorus irresistible, the chugging riffs the dog's b's, and for the final time, the vocals up there with the best I've heard this year, all bought to a tailing off ending with an orchestrated section. What more do you need!!

Yes, dear Rock Folks, you're going to be hard pressed (again!) to find a better album than 'Sonic Playground Revisited' this year, so well done The Ragged Saints for such a great (2nd) album. This also Rocks like a bugger!!

Review by: Robb Baldwin

 

Tracklisting:

1.  Never Gonna Let You Down
2.  Like A Spinning Wheel
3.  Take Me With You
4.  Secret In Our Hearts
5.  Just Believe
6.  Absence Of Light
7.  Always Forever
8.  Pretending Diamond
9.  Turning Cold
10. Supernatural 

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