Sound — 8
Here we have the 2nd (and final) album by highly underrated California rock/AOR group HYTS (now pronounced "Hits," someone from the band's circle contacted me and let me know the pronunciation since my 2011 review of the self-titled debut - "HYTS").
Back again is the classic lineup of Roland "Pat" Little (vox/gtr), Tommy Thompson (keys/gtr), Roy Garcia (drums), and Stan Miller (bass). And this time, man oh man have these guys expanded their sonic horizons, sounds like a few gear upgrades happened since the last record.
When the album kicks off, we are greeted to the new digital synthesizers of "Is He Better Than Me," followed by the patriotic anthem "American Way," a acoustic crooner known as "The Show It Goes On," and the rest is all pretty much straight up hard rock, which leaves the Loverboy-like delivery of the previous album behind with a bit more high-tech flare, I think Pat Little got his hands on a rack rig at this point.
On the subject of instruments, I've had a few chances to check out the guitars Roland Little used, it seems his main is a blue/purple burst Charvel or Fender strat of some kind with a Floyd Rose and a SSH pickup setup. He still uses it today. He also uses Les Pauls as well, but it seems that Charvel is the main guitar as Roland uses a TON of whammy bar on this album.
I'm thinking Tommy upgraded his synths a bit, sounds more like a digital synthesizer on a lot of the songs, rather than an analog synth, part of why the Loverboy-like vibe was lost.
Overall, the songs hit harder and heavier than the '84 debut. The guitar tones are interesting though, a bit rubbery on the cleans, and the distortion tone has no real identifiable amplifier associated with it, I think this is due to Roland dialing in his own sound on a rack rig using a unique combination of effects with it. There is a tad bit of graininess to this recording, which I think is some attributed to the digital flavor and possibly the change in studio between this and the first, but it gives it kind of an interesting smoky flare, and makes it feel a little more vicious in a way. Overall, I give it an 8.
Lyrics — 8
Like I said in my last review, the lyrics are not that deep, but that's not something I consider a part of the HYTS sound anyway. What I always gathered was HYTS was sort of an in-between of a band like The Call and a band like Loverboy (just go check out singer/guitarist Pat Little's guitar channel on YouTube). Smart, but not beating round' the bush with artsy wording, and not always focusing on the bad in life - just focusing on life in general. However, on this album there are a few deeper cuts, the title track being one, asking a rich, affluent, high-on-himself rich guy to "look from the outside and see how ridiculous you are acting."
The lyrics follow the music really well on this album, and the music is sonically far more variety, we have a ballad, a patriotic anthem, a tribute to someone close to the band who passed on, soul metal, heavy metal, party rock, and strangely, even a song called "Loverboy," and man is Roland P-SSED on that song (did Pat and Mike Reno have an altercation, LOL). On this album, Roland seems to have a bit more of a Motown vibe to his voice, sort of James Brown or that guy who sang "I'll Be There."
Overall, I'd say Roland upped his game even more from the last album (as if he even needed to). This is an angrier album than HYTS was though, quite a bit darker, even the party song, "Up With the Night," has a dark, mysterious, and somewhat sinister edge to it. Eight!
Overall Impression — 8
Honestly, I think this album is when HYTS were coming into their own fully. Gone was the Loverboy-like feel of the first-album, I'd say the closest thing to this would maybe be Night Ranger's "Seven Wishes" from the same year. It's far darker and aggressive than even that Night Ranger release though considering it covers everything from lost love, rich jerks, woman stealers, I find it has more in common with my own writing a few years ago.
Standout tracks for this one are "Looking From the Outside," "Sorry for You," "Loverboy" is outright crazy harmonizer chaos, and I'd rather listen to "American Way" than a lot of other rock patriotic anthems. About the only thing detracting is the production quality, which I think is because it sounds like they took on digital during the early days of digital recording (it DID exist in the mid '80s). As for stolen or lost, definitely would buy again, though right now I'd love to find an original 1985 vinyl pressing to go with my vinyl promo copy of HYTS. Again, another eight.
Twas' a shame that HYTS had to end so soon. I would have loved to have seen what they would have come up with next. They could have easily been one of the heavier bands that could have survived the grunge revolution because of the writing and stylistic flexibility. Anyway, Tommy Thompson joined The Alameda All Stars on keyboard afterward, and Roland Little now writes songs for other acts, and still writes and records, and even posts his stuff up on YouTube. Well worth it if you can find a copy as this is not a common recording to get.