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Confessions of a Raccoon Dog (Part 1) - 71%

Tanuki, June 13th, 2018

Despite their namesake, 44 Magnum was not the most powerful band in the world, nor did they ever blow my head clean off. While their first few albums flirted with speed metal, 44 Magnum's true calling was already being heralded by AOR crooners like 'You Love Me, Don't You?' and 'You Are Everything to Me'. This sentimental, synth-driven formula would be refined and expanded upon throughout their career, with less agency given to guitars and more given to keyboards and spongey vocal harmonies. 1987's Love or Money can be considered 44 Magnum's master thesis on this subject. And uh, just between you and me? It's actually pretty good.

Harnessing a potpourri of styles ranging from synth rock to eccentric funk straight out of a 70's action movie chase scene, 44 Magnum have crafted some mercilessly catchy songs. 'Love & Money' in particular is a host to punchy synth that transitions to and from acoustic movements with smarmy wit. Chords are imaginative and naturally inquisitive, going off the beaten track to bulwark compositions like 'E.N.D.A.N.G.E.R.' with a bevy of dramatic experimentation. Adding to this vortex of quirkiness are three female backing vocalists; Sandy Gonzales, Jeri Lynne, and Vicky Rosino. Their influence is most notable in the slow-paced 'Day-Dream', where they harmonize rather ambitiously with frontman Tatsuya Umehara.

As Tatsuya sings mostly in Japanese, individual measures are unorthodox in their syncopation. This, together with the aforementioned harmonies, makes the vocals a whole lot more engaging than most AOR albums like Saxon's Destiny, not to mention 44 Magnum's own Danger. It's the same reason I was also charitable toward Saxon's Innocence Is No Excuse; although the style of music is barely metal and decidedly wimpy, the melodies are engaging and actually build up to something.

Of course it isn't all gold; both 'It's Raining (In My Heart)' and 'Dancing with Your Love' feel pretty feckless, as glitzy and overtly commercialized as you're almost undoubtedly expecting from this genre. In spite of this, even 44 Magnum's weaker moments sound like Praying Mantis on an off-day, which is nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel like giving your eardrums the aural equivalent of a day at the spa, you can't go wrong with Love or Money.

This review was written for The 1st Diamhea Memorial Review Challenge, dedicated to the memory of Christopher Santaniello.