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REVIEW SEA OF TRANQUILITY (USA)

The Val: Heading For The Surface

Although I personally found it unsteady in places (and admittedly excellent in others), The Val hit the spot with many AOR aficionados with their debut album Back. Frustratingly it was an album of sure fire hits and extremely wide of the mark misses and my closing remarks in my review of it suggested that album number two could be make or break.

And here it is, Heading For The Surface finding the duo of singer Gabrielle de Val and guitarist/songwriter Alfonso Samos joined by bassist Alex Morell, keyboarder Tony Ortega and drummer Ruben Berengena. Not much has changed in terms of attack, a Robin Beck meets Heart via Abba and Roxette sheen still sparkling over most of the twelve tracks. However there's an air of confidence and assuredness in evidence here that the debut sometimes lacked and also with the beautiful acoustic based "Borderline" a little more diversity than expected. Val is a seriously fine singer, her voice carrying much of what could have been retro fare (a feeling Back suffered from) and bringing it into the here and now (well, in terms of AOR and Soft Rock anyway). You get the feeling this young lady is one of those singers that you could hand any lyric to and she'd make them worth hearing. And that's just as well, for while the flow and wording of the songs on ...Surface have taken a step forward, there are still a few clumsy moments lyrically; the well intentioned "She's Dumb And Blind", for example, a little awkward in execution.Musically however there's seldom a foot put wrong, the album's title track a short opening intro leading into the Beck like "Wish You All The Best", a sultry track which readily seduces you into the rest of the album. "Crusaders" is the most obvious hook soaked number, the repeated chorus line 'We gotta get back hooooooooooooooooome' an instant sing along moment. However "Roses And Chains" isn't far behind with its Heart like shuffle, while "My Heart Is Blind" (which borrows heavily from T'Pau in the intro) has a stinging guitar bite and rhythmical verve not always in evidence elsewhere.Heading For The Surface is a mature, considered album which will delight those who enjoyed the debut effort from The Val and while there may not be a stand-out killer cut in the way Back had "Johnny's Got A Red Car", it proves to be a far more rounded and confident experience from start to finish. For The Val, Heading For The Surface would appear to be ready to make a big splash!
Track Listing 
1. Intro 
2. Heading For The Surface 
3. Wish You All The Best 
4. Crusaders 
5. Roses And Chains 
6. Up To Where U Are 
7 She's Dumb And Blind 
8. Stardust 
9. My Heart Is Beating 
10. I Saw Him First 
11. Breathe Me In 
12. Borderline

Added: February 8th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid