Hartmann – Hands On The Wheel
Ive been a fan of Oliver Hartmann right from his first solo album ‘Out In The Cold’ For me, it took that years releases by storm as it produced some wonderful songs – 'Out In The Cold', 'Alive Again', 'What If I', 'Brazen'. He is one of the very few singers my missus loves (other than Michael Bolton) – and that's saying something! So you're in good company, mate. The following years have been a bit hit and miss – Home (good), 3 (OK), Balance (V.Good), Shadows and Silhouettes (couldn't get along with it at all).
When you have a voice lice Olli, and a definite talent for hooks and harmonies, I will always give him the time he deserves.
Since the late 90’s founder Oliver Hartmann is known as a highly respected singer and guitarist on the international music scene due to four albums with the band At Vance, studio work for hard rock and metal acts as Hammerfall, Rhapsody, Helloween or Edguy, as a long time studio and live member of top sellers as Avantasia and as part of 'Rock Meets Classic' that is featuring the big names of the international rock scene: Alice Cooper, Ian Gillan, UriahHeep, Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, Paul Rodgers, Eric Bazilian, Jimi Jamison, Midge Ure, Steve Lukather, Chris Thompson, BonnieTyler and many others. Not only that, Oliver Hartmann is also fronting the successful Pink Floyd Tribute band, Echoes.
The following review may contain racing puns!
So what do we have with the new album ‘Hands On The Wheel’?
Well it seems as if the Oliver of old is back, and that for me is great news. ‘Don't Want Back Down’ has all of his usual hallmarks, with its gentle build up, then hits you between the ears with is rocky and powerful chorus. If this is what is to come, then its a better album already than its predecessor. Its a solid and pretty decent rock song, with no twiddly widdlys, or histrionics. We’re off the start line and into the first corner. ‘Your Best Excuse’ is straight out of the Hartmann archives. Think of ‘Is It You’, and ‘All My Life’ and you’re on the right track – in fact, the chorus sounds a little like the Foo Fighters. ‘Cold As Stone’ contains my kryptonite, a Hammond. Its following a now tried and tested formula, and its good to see Olli and the guys hitting top gear.
I've been looking forward to hearing this next song, ‘Simple Man’ as it contains a duet with the Peter Pan of rock, one Eric Martin. It starts with a 70s Jethro Tull /Celtic vibe, all fluty and earthy, in an Ayreon kind of way. Its not the first time Hartmann has done a duet, and this one is great. The warmth and storytelling in their voices are a joy to listen to. ‘Last Plane Out’ is typical Hartmann fare, and ‘Soulmates’ is a nice lilting ballad that builds as it goes along, and its a long song – a hefty seven minutes. Long doesn’t equal epic, but its a damn good song all the same. I can imagine it sounding superb when played live, its almost gospel-like in its nature. You couldn’t have two Hartmann songs that are further apart that are in succession. ‘The Harder They Come’ is about as hard as Oliver Hartmann gets. I like the change in direction. ‘Dreamworld’ and ‘I Remember’ are both nice and punchy – and hit the spot. I quite like the opening riff to ‘Lost In Translation’, I wanted just a little more from the rest of the song. ‘The Sky Is Falling’ draws on the blues (in an early Whiteshake way) and then swaps with a decent and heavy chorus. Its all over with ‘Heart Of Gold’ has Olli’s warmth coming through for this acoustical ballad. Whether is the rockier numbers or a heartfelt ballad, Oliver Hartmann has it covered.
There’s some good interplay going on here. Long standing guitarist Mario Beck knows his part well and is a great foil for Hartmann. All the other guys add to the overall mix also.
The last album stalled at the lights, then when it did get going, got caught in the gravel trap. ‘HOTW’ on the other hand, moves up through the gears nicely and is firing on all cylinders. This is a very welcome return from one of my favourite artistes.
Score – a very solid 8/10
Line-up:Oliver Hartmann (vocals, guitar); Mario Reck (guitar); Armin Donderer (bass); Markus Kullmann (drums); additional keys by Jimmy Kresic
Don’t Want Back Down
Your Best Excuse
Cold As Stone
Simple Man (Feat. Eric Martin)
Last Plane Out
The Harder They Come
Lost In Translation
The Sky Is Falling
Heart Of Gold