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(55:44; Intelligent Music)
The debut IMP album came out in 2012, and unlike later releases featured just one lead singer, the incomparable John Lawton. This may be in due in some ways to the fact this album has been rebadged since it was originally released back in 2012. Back then it was released by John Lawton & Diana Express, the latter being a well-known Bulgarian rock band who were formed in the early Seventies. But all music, lyrics, arrangements, and orchestration were by Milen Vrabrevski, and he provides additional guitar and/or grand piano on many songs, so perhaps it is not surprising that it has been changed to a name more suitable given how this led to more albums in a similar vein. Lawton has long been one of the UKís finest singers, but apart from his time with Uriah Heep he has mostly found recognition in Europe, most notably with Les Humphries Singers and especially Luciferís Friend. Prior to this album he filmed a documentary travel series in Bulgaria for a local TV station, and even appeared in a Bulgarian film, so in many ways becoming involved in a Bulgarian music project makes total sense. By the time of this release Lawton had been releasing albums for more than 40 years, and it feels like Vrabrevski had him in mind when he wrote the songs as he provides a wide range of musical styles, all which Lawton handles with aplomb. This is mostly melodic rock, with a heavy orchestral support and plenty of grand piano and following the classic model of the rock opera. The vocals are hugely important, with a focus on harmonies, and allowing a rock singer to belt it out. Working with an already existing band means they each know what others bring to the party, and a special mention should be made of guitarist Maxim Goranov, whose deftness and attack assists in making this a very strong performance indeed. But the joy of this album is the way the Pleven Philharmonic Orchestra are often part of the overall sound, and the result is something which is enjoyable, with strong songs, and a combined musical approach which is seamless. Lawton excels here, and the result is a very powerful melodic rock album indeed, which due to the arrangements straddles the classical and rock worlds very well indeed.
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