Here we are then, another obscure AOR album from 1987 that has been exhumed for your delectation by those bloodhounds at Yesterrock. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, Boulevard was considered an extremely promising outfit on the melodic hard rock scene. At the time of the original release of this debut album however, the record label had no apparent interest in pushing the band and despite the release of a string of singles the album never took off.
'What's Up' was Boulevard's only album before the band split up and the shame of it is it has a lot going for it. It has the exuberant zip of youth and the snotty nosed groove that the old LA bands used to have by the ton. There are the big riffs with soloing to match, the fluffy keyboards being kept under tight control so the album is allowed a bit of swagger.
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Songs like 'Still On My Way' (especially the demo version included here), 'Solid As A Rock', 'Fallen Angel' and 'Surrender' have plenty of grunt with edges softened by an unobtrusive keyboard. The poppy groove of 'Running' and 'I'm What You Need' could actually bring the party to you.
Strange as it may seem, whilst there is a lack of a killer track, there are no absolute duds either and it is all the sort of stuff that is manna from heaven for any melodic rock buff, especially those with a soft spot for the more obscure eighties melodic sleaze.
The production could be better but at least the album does not sound as dated as some that have been released recently. Compared to a lot of stuff that did get a bit more recognition back in the day, this album should have seen Boulevard create waves beyond the meagre recognition they eventually achieved.
What lets 'What's Up' down however, is the lead vocal. Being a bit flat and yappy, as on 'Running' for instance, there is definitely room for improvement and the album tries really hard to take up the slack but ultimately it all lacks heart.
In some ways it reminds you of the likes of Rock City Angels: they also released just the one album that is now claimed to be a lost gem and were hailed as the next big thing but when you got down to the nitty gritty they and it were just not good enough.
Boulevard's problems are perfectly summed up by the vocal short comings here; adequate but when things step up a gear the strain sets in, power is lost and no amount of expansive choruses and grunt hides the fact.
I suspect Boulevard fancied themselves as able challengers to take the melodic Metal crown of fellow compatriots Europe but unfortunately 'What's Up' was their underwhelming weapon of choice. It has the required snarl but lacks the songs and ability to be nothing more than another obscure oddity that is good but just not good enough.
In the past, the Europe boys have been known to woo Bloodfest crowds simply because they are world class entertainers that know how to deliver the goods. So when compared to such formidable firepower, Boulevard and 'What's Up' just wouldn't have stood a chance then, and still wouldn't now.