Column from 4th January, 1999

Seeing as we’re at the start of a new year, might be worth thinking about what’s actually happened in 1998. Has much changed? Not really. European labels are still taking the lead in bringing new melodic rock to the market and the overall quality of the releases seems to be getting higher – but why do the majority of releases on Escape sound the same?

There’s also been a real proliferation of web sites promoting melodic rock – almost too many, just as there’s too many European printed magazines covering exactly the same releases. The launch of the big glossy "Classic Rock" magazine in the UK was a pleasant surprise, but I think it only comes out quarterly (there’s only two issues so far) – so it’s going to be hard for it to maintain a decent momentum.

Back on the web sites, I think they really need to develop another step in the coming year, as too many are obviously home made efforts with people promoting their own self images rather than doing something tangible for the music. With only a finite number of labels really supporting melodic rock, it’s inevitable that most with be reviewing the same releases. But, I think the ones that are going to prove their real long-term worth are those that search out more obscure, deserving releases and actually say something different rather than following the safe, consensus opinion like the printed magazines. After all part of the point of the WWW is being able to present individual opinions – maybe some of the labels are scared of that….

As it is there’s a lot of labels (and bands too) that don’t fully comprehend the power of the internet and how it should be fundamental to the future of music. It isn’t 1985 anymore, and marketing CD releases just as one did then is not appropriate. Just consider the huge amount of committed music followers this publication goes out to – no printed magazine could ever hope to reach such a large and diversely located readership! And for the long-term health of melodic rock, getting the information into the hands of US-based readers is vitally important.

1998’s been a great year for reissues on CD (particularly in Japan) – but reissues shouldn’t be the main focus of attention, especially when the overall music market is perceived as being in decline. We still need more, fresher music from young bands to define where melodic rock is going to go next.

On the subject of reissues, what ever happened to the proposed issue of all the Sugarcreek albums in Europe? That one seems to have gone to ground. Old pomp bands seem to be being resurrected from everywhere. Latest one back together is Bluebeard, whom dedicated collectors will remember from the rare, and rather over-rated, "Bad Dream" album. The band’s working on new material right now – god knows what they’ll sound like more than 20 years after their one and only album!

Maybe 1999 will be the time that the powers that be begin to understand that introducing some more diversity will re-pollinate the whole music market, and the greater listening public in general.