Definitive AOR – infectiously melodic – satisfaction guaranteed. Canada has it’s share of melodic rock band such as Loverboy, Honeymoon Suite, Sheriff, Headpins, Chrissy Steele, etc., but one of the most underrated were Harem Scarem. If you are a fan of the genre then you know about them, since they are a cult band of the melodic rock scene, but outside they are virtually unknown and I must say that’s a big shame.
The Toronto based melodic rock act was formed out in 1987 by the remains of two virtually unknown bands in Canada. Pete Lesperance had been the guitarist for Minotaur and Harold Hess had been the lead vocalist with the metal band Blind Vengeance. The band name they’ve been using was devided from the 1939 Bugs Bunny cartoon prototype, Hare-um Scare-um, as they were fans of Bugs Bunny and thought it would make a good name for the band.
What makes these guys extremely interesting is that they were out against the world in 1991 when grunge started spreading like a disease by delivering a pompous harmonic rock style which hardly acceptable by mainstream masses back then. Failed to grab attention in the land of America, Harem Scarem was considered successful in their home country, while songs like “Slowly Slipping Away”, “Honestly” and “Hard to Love” were pure gold on the radio and started to create an international following for this new band and surprisingly gained cult followers in Japan. One of the impressive features of this album is that the songs are so strong and classy and as we roll from one track to the next, your hunger pangs get worse waiting for the next norsel. Another lesser fact is the subtle layer of keyboards underneath, giving Lesperance’s guitar that extra height and dimension sitting a top it, while the production is just perfect and every guitar and keyboard solo are in the right place. The album consisted of guest appearances from fellow Canadian stars such as Ray Coburn of Honeymoon Suite, Carl Dixon of Coney Hatch and Paul MacAusland of Haywire. It also boasted a co-writing credit by award
winning songwriter Christopher Ward of ‘Black Velvet” fame.
The whole concept of this album is a glorious mid tempo rock with an immense harmonic vocals and sentimental guitar touch. I was hooked instantly when I heard the brilliant opener “Hard to Love” with its strong uplifting melody and the undeniably awesome chorus. The song kicks things off and get as melodic as music gets. “Distant Memory” is the perfect mid tempo melodic rocker, a little slower but the magical tones of the whole song is breathtakingly beautiful as is “With a Little Love” and “How Long”, shared a same fascinating formula but each song has its own highlight and brilliant moment. “Honestly” is another ballad that remains in Harem’s live set today, this one should have been a smash. The piano intro shows great musical depth from the band and it really takes you deep inside the song itself and makes it perfect, flowing with a silky voice and untainted emotion-stirring notes.
This is simply one of their masterwork that have stood the test of time. “Love Reaction” has a great melody and brings the album’s pace up a bit again, The first half of this album leaves the listener with a very up and down feeling, like a rollercoaster, which can make this half hard to listen to, depending on your mood. “Slowly Slipping Away” scored a major hit in Canadian chart when it was released, featuring a versatile delivery drown deep inside a superb composition and continue to keep the pace up through “Don’t Give Your Heart Away”, which starts of slow then really kicks in, and it has to be one of my favourite on the album. With “All Over Again” I was surprisingly shocked with the harmony vocal and the melody that pierced my ears. The spine-tingling acoustic of “Something to Say” closed the album with an enchanting acoustical passage driven by Hess’s griefing vocal having a gorgeous mellow guitar introduction that carries into a beautiful sung song, proved that this song was something very special.
I can honestly say that there is not a single dull track on this album, and probably half of the songs would be included on my top ten Harem Scarem songs-list, if I was to make one. Harem Scarem’s self-titled record casted a delighful AOR from start to finish without leaving you with any trace of disappointment at all, and it’s even better to get the Japanese version as the three acoustical rendition of their songs are taking the excitement level one step higher. An album worth to be placed to any melodic rock collection.
Harold Hess – Lead vocals, backing vocals, keyboards
Pete Lesperance – Electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Mike Gionet – Bass, backing vocals
Darren Smith – Drums, percussion, backing vocals
Ray Coburn – Keyboards
Terry Hatty, Carl Dixon, Marc Gionet, Paul MacAusland – Backing vocals
01. Hard to Love
02. Distant Memory
03. With a Little Love
05. Love Reaction
06. Slowly Slipping Away
07. All Over Again
08. Don’t Give Your Heart Away
09. How Long
10. Something to Say
Review by http://melodic-hardrock.com