The first time I heard L.R.S. and their debut Down to the Core I had no idea what to make of it. My first thought was “JOURNEY Lite…everything you wanted in a regular JOURNEY, and less”. But then I took a step back and gave it a few more spins. And while this undeniably 80’s influenced AOR, who cares? It is just good time rock and roll made for summertime drivin’ and having a backyard or beach party. Vocalist Tommy La Verdi (21 GUNS) returns to the scene in bold form and guitarist Josh Ramos (THE STORM, HARDLINE) channels his inner Neal Schon while Michael Shotton (VON GROOVE, AIRTIME) provides the drums as well as backing vocals. So if you’ve been paying attention L.R.S. is all of their initials, DUH! With contributions from album producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (HARDLINE, SILENT FORCE) on keyboards, Hammond organ, and backing vocals what we have here is the formula for something so sweet that NO dentist will recommend this one to their patients.
As soon as you hear “Our Love to Stay”, “Livin 4 a Dream”, and “I Can Take You There” you will be immediately transplanted to a simpler time; one of tape decks in cars made for cruisin’while you tried to find some good Samaritan to get you beer at the local 7-11. “Never Surrender” features that riffy tune and snappy beat that you can just close your eyes and you’ll be able to see the hero in some teen comedy running after his dream girl. And if you tell me you don’t stop everything when one of those movies comes on you’re a liar.
Next up is a ballad “Almost Over You” that La Verdi does exceptionally well on. He knows how to sell it in his vocal delivery and again, this is something I could easily see on Dial MTV back in the day. With that said, there is a misstep or two. “Shadow of a Man” and “Universal Cry” do nothing to separate themselves from the pack. They’re not bad, just not anything to write home about. Title track “Down to the Core” gets us back on track quickly though, so crisis averted. “Waiting for Love” is your standard up-tempo fare, heavy on the keys with big harmonies, and another winner, plus Ramos gives us a mini-solo that he’s obviously been waiting to unleash all album long.
Album closer “Not One Way to Give” is nice, but it’s too slow to end things. Plus there are two more ballads in “To Be Your Man” and “I Will Find My Way”. Hey, no one likes a good slow number more than me, but on a 12-track album you’ve got four of ‘em. Nothing brings the party down like too many slowies on the same disc. All told though, this is a solid debut from a band that if they can just tweak things a little bit will be making records that people will really be into for years. Again, the JOURNEY, FIREHOUSE, and BAD ENGLISH similarities run rampant across this whole thing, but if, like me, you’re on the wrong side of 40 you’ll dig it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take something for this toothache.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Our Love to Stay”, “Livin 4 a Dream”, “Never Surrender”, “Almost Over You”, “Waiting for Love”