There’s a distinctly melodic flavour to this week’s new releases but Doro flies the flag for traditional metal and we review and rate her 25 Years In Rock CD/DVD package. Plus we check out Jeff Scott Soto, Nelson, Prime Suspect, Vega, and Gotthard.

Jeff Scott Soto – Live At Firefest (Frontiers)

Dumping Jeff Scott Soto seemed like the decision most likely to sound the death knell for Journey. Then along came Arnel Pineda. And if AOR’s favourite band are flying higher than ever then their former frontman hasn’t dwelt on the cruel twist of fate which could have finished many a weaker individual.

This triumphant live show more than proves the point as one of the most formidable vocalists in rock rolls out a faultless set to a room full of adoring fans. Just a year after his Journey ended, Scott Soto emerges stronger and more endearing than ever – mixing his own songs with a series of covers to make this 2008 show something very special indeed.

If the 11 minute-plus Funky Medley is a little ill-judged it’s easy to forgive one aberration, albeit a lengthy one, when songs like Our Song and Soul Divine stir the emotions with such spine tingling ease. One of the unexpected highlights is a note perfect rocked-up version of Seal’s Crazy and here Scott Soto truly dazzles as a sparkling performer par excellence.

Seventeen tracks clocking in at well over an hour make this an excellent introduction to the former Yngwie J Malmsteen and Talisman singer – for those fans of melodic rock already au fait with the towering Scott Soto then Live At Firefest is the ultimate record of a classy musician loving his night in the limelight.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 He’s Scott The Lot

Nelson – Perfect Storm: After The Rain World Tour 1991 (Frontiers)

That this record of the Nelson twins is finally available almost two decades after the Timotei twins stormed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic is no coincidence. With a stunning new studio album raising eyebrows across the melodic rock world there’s never been a better time to fully appraise the Wham! of the hair metal generation.

Get past the high pitched screaming normally reserved for pop’s favourite saccharine sweet boy bands and this is a surprisingly enjoyable slice of professionally produced AOR. The musicianship is way better than you’d ever imagine when approaching a Nelson concert and the main men display a confidence and ability to work the crowd way beyond their tender years.

Looking good was never a problem for Nelson. And on this evidence neither was sounding pretty impressive. (Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection – the band’s Billboard number one and only UK ‘hit’ – is met with delirious joy and delivered with some aplomb. But it’s More Than Ever which comes across as the best song Nelson ever penned. Belting it out with genuine enthusiasm it seems like Matthew and Gunnar are having a blast – and who wouldn’t be with an army of screaming girls hanging on your every hook and your debut album still flying off the shelves.

Of course it didn’t last. But in their heyday Nelson were a hair metal phenomenon and criminally underrated on this side of The Pond. That could change 20 years on from the glory days.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Storm Gathering

Vega – Kiss Of Life (Frontiers)

As far as 2010 goes it could well be that Frontiers are saving their best until last – this gem of a modern melodic rock classic hitting all the right notes in time for next year’s live dates.

With former Kick singer Nick Workman delivering pin sharp vocals underpinned by the Martin brothers on guitar and keys this is a joyous celebration of Leppard/Jovi era mid 80s pomp – brought bang up to date with a crisp Dennis Ward mastering job.

James Martin’s keyboard skills are just one of the reasons this record steps up to the mark. Like Europe’s genre defining hair metal records, Kiss Of Life benefits from some glorious tinkling and the triumph here is how Workman weaves his vocals in and out of a series of truly glorious hooks.

Opener Into The Wild and the wonderful title track will have you begging for more and the great thing is there’s still plenty of perfect AOR fare to come. Stay With Me is melodic rock magic and What It Takes boasts the ‘wow’ factor. Vega have what it takes and then some. Expect big noises from these boys throughout 2011.

rushonrock rated: 10/10 Life Changing

Gotthard – Heaven: Best Of The Ballads Pt II (Nuclear Blast)

The tragic death of Gotthard singer Steve Lee two months ago left a gaping void in the world of melodic rock and just where it leaves the Swiss powerhouse remains to be seen. However, as a fitting tribute to the talented frontman and a well-conceived stopgap during a devastating time for all concerned, the hit-laden Heaven is perfect.

Lee could rock out with the best of them but there’s no doubt he was a class apart when it came to delivering the lighter-waving standards. And they stack up here like a supermarket shelf laden with the tastiest soft rock this side of the Alps.

Heaven itself has never sounded so powerful or so poignant and what a way to open up a brilliant record of some of Lee’s very best work. Equally moving is the magnificent I’ve Seen An Angel Cry Tonight but, let’s face it, there’s not a dud track here.

Gotthard have never gained the respect or recognition they deserve in the UK but across Europe they remain at the forefront of quality, driving melodic rock. Lee might be gone but bodies of work like this mean he’ll never be forgotten. And he never should be.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Lee-mendous!

Prime Suspect – Prime Suspect (Frontiers)

If you’re looking for proven quality in the field of melodic rock then look no further than the prolific trio of Daniele Liverani, Tommy Ermolli and Dario Ciccioni.

Once again their tried and tested formula fails to disappoint on thisself-titled Prime Suspect release with shades of Giant, hints of Foreigner and a slice of 1987-era Whitesnake making for a magnificent AOR record.

Throw in the songwriting talents of Swede Christian Wolf and these boys are onto a winner. He may only contribute to two of the tracks here but what tracks. It Could’ve Been You is a soaring, emotive ballad and opener What Do You Want is both powerful and anthemic. There’s a reason this song kicks things off – it’s a cracker!

Looking for a chink in the Prime Suspect armour is like searching for a plectrum in a mosh pit – it’s impossible to be critical of any of these well crafted and superbly delivered songs. Frontman Olaf Senkbell enjoys a career high, often evoking memories of David Coverdale at his bluesy best but just as easily delivering crisp and clean hard rock melodies. More thrilling stuff from the Frontiers stable.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Prime Cuts

Doro – 25 Years In Rock (Nuclear Blast)

One of metal’s true survivors has managed to maintain exceptionally high standards and a reasonably high profile during a quarter of a century of metal’s ups and downs. And this live resume of a prolific career is testimony to a performer who has fought long and hard to stay as near to the top as is possible for a woman in rock working out of Germany.

Up against it from day one, Doro has battled disbelieving fans, short sighted critics and marketing men missing the point in order to create a brand synonymous with polished metal. Coolly brushing aside the inconsistencies of the Warlock days, Ms Pesch emerged as a consummate solo performer and in 2010 it’s little wonder her live show is still in such demand.

This double DVD/single CD package pulls together her landmark show from 2008. And while it might be two years’ old it represents a true record of what fans can expect from Doro as the feisty metal maiden goes from strength to strength.

Calling on Tarja, her mates from the Scorpions and her old Warlock buddies, the veteran singer slays an 8,000-strong crowd. Belting out all the favourites including True As Steel, Fight and All We Are plus the Scorps’ standards Big City Nights and Rock You Like A Hurricane this really is a sensational celebration of Kraut rock.

This definitive Doro collection looks good, sounds good and feels good at a time when trad metal really is making a noise again. It’s been a long time coming but 25 Years In Rock is well worth the wait.

rushonrock rated: 8/10 25 & Alive

Nelson – Before The Rain (Frontiers)

Yet more Nelson as the boys make the most of their second shot at mainstream stardom. And in the absence of a full re-release of their hit debut this collection pulls together the demos which formed the basis of the three-million selling After The Rain.

Perhaps reflecting a painstaking five-year journey to commercial success, these aren’t the rough and ready cutting room floor pick-ups you might expect. By the time Matthew and Gunnar got around to delivering their acclaimed debut they’d written and recorded with a slew of industry leaders and it’s little wonder John Kalodner liked what he heard when the band’s demos finally dropped through his door.

The bulk of these tunes didn’t need much fine tuning to transform them into the chart-busting anthems they’d eventually become. More Than Ever sounds like a huge hit even in its roughest form but the band’s biggest hit, Can’t Live Without Your (Love And Affection), clearly needed some considerable work before re-emerging as a polished diamond played across the FM world.

Even in 2010 most bands would be delighted to deliver anything as professional as this and it’s testimony to Nelson that they waited half a decade before allowing the world to hear their work. That patience paid off. Big time.

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Before The Big Time