Some of you might remember the short-lived bands VALENTINE and OPEN SKYZ from the early 90’s. Their singer was Hugo Valenti, a guy who not only sounded a lot like Steve Perry, he even looked like him. I remember the VALENTINE song “No Way” coming on MTV, it was a cool song but I didn’t really pick up on what an amazing talent Valenti was until around 1996 when I was sent a promo of his solo album.
I feel bad for the guy as he’s probably always been compared to Steve Perry of Journey, I’m sure he grew up a fan but I don’t think Valenti is purposely trying to copy him. This AOR sound doesn’t solely belong to Journey even if they are a driving force behind it’s popularity.
Back to his solo album, that was around 27 years ago, (which sounds impossible) so could he possibly still have that angelic voice? That would be a resounding “YES” he does still have it. I’m guessing that Valenti hasn’t abused his voice over the years because someone who has to be close (or possibly over) 60 usually doesn’t sound like this.
Musically this is 100 percent 80’s style AOR Melodic Rock. I tend to either LOVE or hate this style. When done right, it’s heavenly and beautiful, when it’s done poorly it’s cheesy and wimpy. HUGO’S VOYAGE is mostly done right, with power and emotion. He’s put together a strong team of musicians and Frontiers Records is the ONLY place he should be at this point, they have a legacy of supporting melodic rock.
AOR is generally about love and emotions. The song titles can be a little cliché’ at times, but on the other hand, the messages are very universal and timeless. The first single “Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” is hardly ground-breaking, but it’s done very well and gives a nod to his solo album from 1996 as well.
There are moments of more uptempo stuff too, “Goin’ Away” has a bit of a similar feel as Journey’s “Be Good To Yourself”. “I’ll Be Around” is another solid upbeat track. They’re not afraid to throw in a solid guitar solo into the songs and the drums are generally mixed with a nice kick to them that blends nicely with the bass.
There’s a lot of mid-tempo stuff like “How Many Times” where Valenti shines. The backing vocals are also extremely impressive throughout the album. You just don’t hear melody and harmony like this anymore.
Ironically, the first real Power Ballad came in the second half of the album with “In My Heart”. This one will stir up the emotions and make you want to call your significant other and profess your love. This one hits in all the right spots. “September Love” isn’t too far behind either, a very nice track with piano, acoustic guitar and a great chorus.
Bottom line, to make an album like this today is beyond impressive. The late 70’s and 80’s AOR is very hard to replicate simply because of the budgets they used to have back in the day. Technology hasn’t been kind to the industry and to get that layered “analog” feel is quite expensive. Frontiers has done a very admirable job in re-creating the golden age of AOR, and Huge Valenti again proves he’s one of the elite singer in the genre and always has been.