If, like me, you are a connoisseur of eighties hard rock and AOR, the news that multi-instrumentalist Jeff Cannata was reforming his Arc Angel project for Frontiers Records would have caused a little shiver of excitement to run down the spine. Arc Angel, y’see, are one of those mythical AOR acts whose legend seems to have grown far beyond the influence and legacy of any actual music they produced – this is only the third album to be released under the AA banner in the band’s thirty year existence – and a release from them is to be anticipated with a sense of excitement bordering on hysterical. Was it worth getting worked up about? Undoubtedly it was.
Harlequins of Light is a superlative album, weaving Cannata’s many strands of influence seamlessly into one seamless, streamlined whole. The man himself is in fine voice throughout, moving between a gritty hard rock tone to a lighter, higher register that sometimes brings to mind Yes man Jon Anderson; Indeed Yes are an ever present presence throughout HoL, as are American pomp rock Gods Kansas; However the fact that these two bands seem to inform most of Cannata’s work never becomes obtrusive. He uses the work of these two acts as a touchstone for his own, resulting in gloriously pompous hard rock such as title track Harlequins of Light or the excellent ballad Through the Night, which also brings to mind hair metal exponents House of Lords at their most overblown (As it goes Cannata was in a band called Jasper Wrath with HoL frontman James Christian many years ago, fact hounds). Elsewhere there’s chirpy pop rock in the form of As Far as The Eye Can See, Amnesia (For the Rest of Your Life) and California Daze, whilst the album closes with the superbly atmospheric The Legend of The Marie Celeste, a latterday pomp rock classic that Kansas fans will absolutely eat up – it really is that good.
Something for everyone then – at least everyone who gets their kicks from melodic hard rock – and a welcome return from a man who proves with this record that he’s worth all the hype and myth making. Great stuff.