Janet Gardner – Your Place In The Sun

Rating: 4/5
Distributor/label URL: https://www.pavementmusic.com/
Released: 2019
Buy Album [URL]: https://www.janetgardnermusic.com/merch
Band Website: https://www.janetgardnermusic.com/

Band Line-up:

Janet Gardner
Justin James
Anthony Gemignani
Richie Rivera

Tracklisting:
  1. Your Place In The Sun
  2. Assassinate
  3. Standing
  4. Try
  5. Web
  6. Kicks Me Back
  7. A Way To Your Heart
  8. Should Have Known
  9. Unconditionally
  10. You Said
  11. Without You
  12. Flame Thrower
Review:

Towards the end of the 80s, emerged a powerhouse of female rock, Vixen toured with the likes of Bon Jovi, The Scorpions, Ozzy and Kiss. One of the few female bands to claim the status of rock legends, with billboard hits including ‘Edge of a Broken Heart’, ‘Cryin’ and ‘Love is a Killer’. The band appeared at Milton Keynes with Skid Row, Europe and Bon Jovi and seemed on course to dominate in a world where men ruled. The 90s changed the music scene and Vixen split in 1992, they reformed briefly in 1997 but this was without Jan Kuehnemund who then tried to sue them. Another reunion in 2001 with Kuehnemund lasted longer, but this all came to an abrupt holt when Kuehnemund died of cancer in 2013. The band promised to continue to honour her memory but the long promised album is still awaited and Janet Gardner, singer and rhythm guitarist with the band has now announced she has left the band to focus on her solo career and family.

In 2017 Gardner released her debut solo album, joined by her husband Justin James on guitar, married in 2016 he has worked with Staind, Tyketto and Collective Soul. Their first selt-titled album was greeted with great praise, and they signed to Pavement Entertainment to release it. They return with their second album, ‘Your Place In The Sun’ and there is a focus on bringing modern elements to a classic rock sound, it also features Gardner’s first ever recorded guitar solo and was produced by James. The duo are joined by Anthony Gemignani and Richie Rivera on drums.

Opening with the title track, ‘Your Place In The Sun’, the listener is taken straight back to the 80s, with big hair, power vocals and epic guitars, Gardner’s voice has got a little cracked over time, but it is still impressive and they use over dubs of backing vocals to help strengthen it when needed, in fairness she is now 57, although you would never guess that from the album cover image. An intriguing synth intro grabs the attention with ‘Assassinate’, the chorus is huge and this is everything Vixen were known for, it has stunning guitar sections and will no doubt be a favourite live. With the attitude of a woman who knows what she wants from life, ‘Standing’ is a self-examination that announces that Gardner is still as relevant today as she was in 1988, a great statement for women over a certain age, with enough confidence and charisma to ensure anyone takes note.

A change of pace comes from the ballad ‘Try’, which is about trust in a relationship and learning to love a second time around, it has a sweetness and frankness that many will relate to, even as a ballad it retains much of the energy that runs through the album. ‘Web’ has a sexual predator feel, not quite threatening but slightly sinister and lustful, its fast pace and soaring riffs will pull you under its spell. Reminding us all of her reputation as a bad girl at heart, ‘Kicks Me Back’ is about loving the bad boy and regretting it every time.

Power ballad ‘A Way To Your Heart’ is a pure 80s throw back, a huge anthem with harmonies, killer hooks and guitar solos oozing from every note. Staying on the softer side of rock, ‘Should Have Known’ returns to the theme of learning to trust in a relationship, it has a chorus that kicks ass, full of distrust and anger at being betrayed and sucked back in. Looking at things from the other side of the coin, ‘Unconditionally’ is about holding on and staying faithful despite what life throws at you, it has a charm that comes from its positivity.

Almost a disco beat starts the edgy, ‘You Said’, it has a sleazy glam element, and a political statement, that is anti fake politicians, something very topical and current. The teen-dream gone bad anthem, ‘Without You’ has the nerve to hold two fingers up and is the 80s rock equivalent to ‘I will Survive’. Last of all comes ‘Flame Thrower’ a ballsy rocker with plenty of fire, more AC/DC in style and is full on guitar hero from start to end.

With more hooks than a champion angler, ‘Your Place In The Sun’ has a feel good feel that makes you want to sing along and back comb your hair, it’s very retro, nostalgic for the 80s and it makes no apologies for that. The vocals are not as great as they once were, but they are hidden well and they don’t detract too much from these songs. There are some moments where you will reach for the dial and turn it up more, and live this should be epic. It’s not offering anything new or modern in reality but a great trip back in time. The one criticism is that the album cover is a bit creepy and it isn’t likely to attract listeners who were not Vixen fans of old. A good listen though, uplifting and enjoyable.

Review by Lisa Nash
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