We recently encountered the end of an era, with Johnny Solinger leaving Skid Row. While the band will always be best remembered for their first three albums featuring Sebastian Bach on vocals, Solinger was actually in the band much longer, and recorded his share of material with the group in those years. While much of this material has been largely seen as hit and miss by the fanbase, there is no denying that Solinger did leave an impact on the band during his lengthy tenure there.
Not long after the announcement of Solinger’s departure, it was revealed that his replacement would be Tony Harnell, formerly the classic vocalist of Norwegian hard rock band TNT (though Harnell himself is an American). With Harnell as frontman, the group recorded their biggest hits, including “Last Summer’s Evil,” “Seven Seas,” “10,000 Lovers (in One),” “Everyone’s a Star,” and “As Far as the Eye Can See.” TNT has never gotten the credit that they deserve, but those who are aware of the band know how great of a singer Harnell is, and the life he brought to these classic songs.
What were my first thoughts upon hearing this news? I think plenty of fans will agree with me when I say that this seemed like a strange choice in new vocalist! Skid Row has always been more of a straightforward, gritty hard rock band apart from a few ballads here and there, whereas TNT has always been about more melodic hard rock (some might even call them more “pop” or “commercial” compared to the likes of the harder rocking Skid Row). It definitely seemed like a strange combination, but this rock and roll fan is willing to give anything a shot.
It was later revealed that the first release from the band with Harnell as frontman would be a rerecording of “18 and Life,” a major hit from the group’s 1989 debut album that originally featured Sebastian Bach on vocals. It is not uncommon for a band to rerecord classic hits with a new vocalist when one comes on board, as has been the case over the years with many an act. So, how exactly does this new take on one of Skid Row’s old classics measure up?
As far as the rest of the band goes, they are definitely still at the top of their game; the instrumentation on this new version of the song practically mirrors the original that the group recorded a quarter century ago. I have to admit that I was not expecting much from Tony Harnell on a Skid Row song, but he pleasantly surprised me here. As a slower rocker, “18 and Life” is actually a Skid Row tune that works surprisingly well with Harnell’s melodic hard rock style of singing. He scores extra points for not simply mimicking Sebastian Bach, a move that likely would have proved disastrous. The critical reception seems to be mixed here, but this fan was won over by Harnell on this new take on an old Skid Row favorite; the former TNT vocalist still sounds superb and makes his presence known here.
That said, however, I am not sure how Harnell will fare on faster, heavier songs like “Youth Gone Wild” and “Slave to the Grind.” But this fan believes after hearing him here, he will be able to prove himself on the other Skid Row classics as well, if given the chance to do so. It is worth revisiting this guy on the old TNT albums, just so you can see how powerful a vocal presence he is truly capable of.
If this new incarnation of Skid Row with Harnell fronting comes to town, I will be attending and giving them a review; this is one change in lead vocalists that has this fan optimistic and wanting more. Will we see Harnell rerecording other classic Skid Row tunes? Will there be tour dates announced in the near future? While you are waiting, click the link below to hear Harnell’s performance on this track for yourself. And if you are still boycotting the band because Sebastian Bach is not singing, grow up. Thumbs up for Harnell’s performance here.