Denver, Colorado’s Love Stallion are working in the same vein as nostalgia/comedy act Steel Panther, but not quite so self-consciously. Their full length release Unforgettable Ride features nine songs that never spoof or parody classic hard rock sound, but instead pay loving tribute to influences like Kiss, Van Halen, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and Motley Crue, among others. It isn’t rank imitation, however, as Love Stallion blaze their own unique trail and stamp the album’s nine cuts with irrepressible personality and first class musical skills. It’s one of the keys to this album’s success – Love Stallion are fun, playful, but five star talents as well capable of bringing this time-tested form to new and modern life while still honoring its past. Unforgettable Ride is, definitely, one of the more unforgettable rock releases in recent memory.
“Slow Release” opens the album with a mid-tempo number that, primarily, highlights Aaron Hart’s excellent vocals. He’s a true natural for the form who combines enormous singing muscle along with understated finesse and charismatic phrasing. It’s a strong beginning for Unforgettable Ride they build on with the second number “Ignite the Night”. This is, obviously, a cherry live cut in the making guaranteed to bring an audience to its feet, but the melodic rock has teeth as well with Rob McLemore’s potent lead guitar bursting through the mix on a number of occasions. He leads the way, as well, on the album’s third tune “Big Rock Radio”. Older listeners might go into this one with some trepidation thanks to the song title, but there’s no obvious poking fun going on with this tune and what playfulness you do hear is balanced against the album’s best riff and strongest arrangement yet.
“Hide Me Away” reverts back to the approach we heard with “Ignite the Night”, albeit slower and more deliberate, but Love Stallion upends listener’s expectations some in the second half by breaking away from the song’s primary riff, clearing out the arrangement, and relying on evocative atmospherics before launching into a reprise near the song’s end. They keep churning out solid mid-tempo rockers with the track “Tinker Toys” and Hart scores with another strong vocal. They, once again, treat audiences to a mild surprise with the song’s tempo shift more than half way through and Rob McLemore’s lead guitar takes command with some tasty playing. “Valentine” is another side of the band – the guitar’s primacy cedes ground, instead, to a song built around a fat rhythm section attack and Hart’s gift for vocal understatement comes to the fore as well with this track.
We’re back on familiar ground with the song “High Time” and McLemore turns in some raucous lead guitar flourishes throughout the tune. This is one of the best rockers on Unforgettable Ride and maintains a consistent drive rather than experimenting with any of the tempo shifts and atmospherics we heard with recent songs. “Trans-Am”, the album’s closer, adopts much of the same template heard with the earlier track “Hide Me Away”, but the tempo for this number is faster and Love Stallion unleashes some hard, rhythmic riffing distinguishing this closer from many of the earlier tunes. Love Stallion’s Unforgettable Ride is a winning reminder that this particular brand of hard rock is far from a moribund form – it still comes alive in the hands of musicians who understand what makes it work for listeners and can bring something of themselves to it.