I know I do the rather overwritten Overlooked Gems series for Lace ‘Em Up, but this is something a bit different.
The album is new, but it’s the artist who’s been overlooked. That would be Lee Small. It’s not just me who’s writing it, Headbangers Lifestyle also commented;
‘Lee Small is another English vocalist that should be known by a large audience but that is not the case.’
and it seems odd for us to be saying that about a singer who has worked with Shy, Lionheart, and the Sweet; bands many of us know and love but a little niche, we who enjoy this music know who Lee Small is and may want his name to be shouted from the rooftops. That’ll be because he’s really good. And so is this album.
The Last Man On Earth
That’s what it’s called. Lee can’t have been lonely recording it though, using studios in Texas, London and LA during 2022 to get it done and having some good mates like Steve Mann, perhaps best known recently for sterling work with Michael Schenker, AOR/Melodic Rock Guitar maestro Tommy Denander and all of the Dan Reed Network – as you do.
That high-quality guestlist is a testament to Lee Small’s standing in the Rock world and the album is beautifully worked by Fabritzio Sgattoni, Mika Gronholm, Marshall Harrison and Micke Nillson on guitar, bass duties from Charles Berthoud and Edu Cominato on drums, plus a duo of Sony Steven and Rosano Capriotti on keys.
They all do a sterling job of delivering these excellent songs. And surprising songs. Sometimes it’s difficult to think of Lee Small as anything other than an excellent Melodic Hard Rock singer, but he’s often compared to early Toto vocalist Bobby Kimball and that’s reflected here.
Because this album has a healthy draft of Soul. Even RnB. With some AOR. And a little West Coast action. Sound good? Oh, it is.
The title track may arrive on bleeps, but it soon settles on a beach bar sipping a mojito, it has smooth Melodic Rock in it too, but this is often on casters.
But then ‘Let’s Get Together’ tries some Funk, they’re not dropping it on the 1 or anything, but that synth bass edging into 80’s Soul dances with reined-in Funk to make a lovely listening experience and if ‘Heaven Sent’ has a rather RnB middle, it’s wrapped in a smooth Rocker and topped with Small really opening his voice up.
Add to that the sax hanging around but keen to do more in 80’s AOR with Soul ‘Here We Go Again’, Joe Lynn Turner era rushing chart Rock Rainbow in ‘The Nakatomi Heist’ with a rather demonstrative six-string solo and lilting chorus, plus the so-huge-it’s-almost-musical-theatre ballad closer ‘The Big Unknown’ all make this Lee Small album something special.
This is top quality. Even when the tracks are expected, like the Dan Reed Network-enhanced ‘Revolution Road’ and ‘Silhouettes’, Melodic Rock tracks, they sound both expensive and stunningly high-value examples of those kinds of songs. That’s so unusual and wonderful to hear.
Will This Album Get The Word Out?
God, I hope so. Grande Rock said;
‘The Last Man on Earth is the album that Lee has wanted to release throughout his career. A melodic Rock feast in the classic style of Journey and Toto’
Lee Small is overlooked and his work deserves a huge spotlight – he might not want that, he might be happy as he is at the moment and certainly his interviews show entertaining equanimity. I’m just a fan. And maybe there are more people who are spreading the word, but this album needs an even bigger ballyhoo…