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Hall, Todd Michael: Letters From India

Known for his stellar vocals in the power metal outfits Riot V, Jack Starr's Burning Starr and Reverence, Todd Michael Hall has decided to change tack completely for his first solo album, Letters From India. Inspired by his relationship with his wife the pair were pen-pal friends before meeting and getting married, sending letters from the US to India and vice versa as their emotional bond formed and also by Todd's Christian faith. What in essence is being explored lyrically is a mixture of self discovery, growth and the gratitude of a man who finds himself blessed by family happiness, while being willing and brave enough to share those emotions.

Much though Todd's lyrics in his 'day job' bands fit their bristling metal settings, so they too use many metaphors for what effects us all in every day life and how we approach it, and even though there's is an obvious shift in emphasis here, the manner in which the lyrics can be applied to much broader themes, remains. As you might expect, with that lyrical starting point, Letters From India could barely be further removed from the chest beating metal Todd usually fronts, most of this album a blend of piano led ballads and AOR that allows a man already known for his vocal prowess to positively thrive in a different light. "The Best I Can" sums up the thankful, positive attitude both musically and in the words, the Christian themes combined to some wonderful piano playing from Francisco Palomo (Jack Starr's Burning Starr, Joe Stump, Manowar (live band)), who appears throughout and also did an excellent job of mixing and mastering the album.

Anyone who's read my previous reviews of Todd's work within his other bands will know I'm a fan of the man's vocals and yet here even I was struck by just how magnificent his performance is. Stripped away from distorted guitars and thundering drums the clarity and warmth in the vocals really is quite astounding. When aligned as beautiful layers of voice (all sung by the man himself) as they are on "Never Let Go", the results really do send a shiver down the spine. "Ordinary People" adds a little more urgency, the superbly smooth AOR sheen of John Elefante brought to mind as acoustic/clean guitar bounces energetically off the piano base and another sumptuous vocal. "Kathmandu" sits somewhere between the two styles revealed so far, a soft rock approach always delivered with such energy that the vibe is never allowed to slip. Most of this is performed by Todd and Fransisco alone, although Mike Flyntz and Nick Lee, both also of Riot V, and Domingo Vasquez also guest on guitar.

Bringing the atmosphere down to really intimate levels Todd sings of his love for his family on "If Today Were My Last Day". His soothing voice perfect for the unobtrusive strings that bolster the mood, while the upbeat and uptempo "The Sky Is Falling" and positively joyous "Free" are as good as this heartfelt AOR style can be; the piano dancing as the vocals once again hit the heights. Things close out in much more reserved style, "Whole Again" bringing the intimate mood back into focus, while the praising "From The Father" brings proceedings to an end in the most contained but outgoing style.

There's little doubt that the honest Christian perspective Letters From India is built from will prove a tough hurdle for those not willing to take on board the faith of others (and I don't fall in to any particular faith category but respect those who do). However those willing to listen and absorb the music and messages on this album will find an artist celebrating all that's good about his life in a quite a wonderful setting, and surely that has to be admired? Musically the admiration is undoubted, Letters From India an unexpected and wonderfully realised change of gear from a hugely talented singer and one that makes a strong impact in a variety of different ways.

All proceeds from the sale of Letters From India go to Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan.

Track Listing
1. The Best I Can
2. Never Let Go
3. Ordinary People
4. We Only Have Today
5. Kathmandu
6. Open My Eyes
7. If Today Were My Last Day
8. Never Be the Same
9. The Sky Is Falling
10. Free
11. Whole Again
12. From the Father

Added: December 9th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Todd Michael Hall online
Hits: 593
Language: english

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