Harry Hess of Harem Scarem focused on the softer side of his core sound on this excellent solo album, featuring his bandmates Pete Lesperance and Creighton Doane. Just Another Day is a bit softer than Harem Scarem, but is not just a collection of ballads. It’s a slice of the same pie, with more of an acoustic lean.
Just Another Day features nine new songs (ten in Japan) and one Harem Scarem cover. And that’s for good reason! Originally, “Sentimental Blvd.” was ably sung by drummer Darren Smith. If you’ve ever wanted to know what this classic would have sounded like with Hess singing lead, now you can. It’s very similar indeed, with Harry throwing a little extra rasp on top. This remake might be better, if you happen to prefer the sound of Harry. Smith even sings backing vocals on this track, and with four Harem members appearing on it, it very well could be called Harem Scarem.
As for the original tunes, Harry opens with a poppy upbeat number called “Look Right Through Me”, featuring a nice tasty guitar lick as the introductory hook. Sounds like a slide. On backing vocals? Eric Martin of Mr. Big! The chorus hits all the bases – off to a great start! “Wasted Away” is a nice sounding acoustic ballad with a stepped-up chorus. Lush backing vocals here too. Joining Harry on electric guitar is Mike Turner formerly of Our Lady Peace!
“Everybody” is pure pop joy. There’s a Beatles-y vibe to the acoustic bop. But then the passionate title ballad “Just Another Day” might take things a step too far by employing trendy drum programming in the verses. The song is fine but the programming is dated. Redemption comes on “Two Ways”, another acoustic tune with a serious case of melody! Harry sings his ass off.
The electric guitars come out for “Undone”, another fine pop rock tune with a Beatle-bent. Big Harem-style chorus though. By contrast, “My Way” has a pop-punk vibe circa the start of the millennium. In a good way. There were a lot of good pop-punk songs and Harem were not afraid of that sound. Simply put, Harry doesn’t get enough credit for his songwriting chops. He’s well versed in melody, guitar hooks, and even progressive facets. “Miles Away” is a fantastic ballad, touching all those bases. The verses and chorus are top notch.
The Japanese bonus track “Up Hill Climb” is one of the most mellow of the songs. Once again the vocals (lead and backing) are outstanding.
Harem Scarem fans already like ballads and don’t mind a little bit of pop in their rock. They’ll dig this solo album too. It is a pleasant, but not bland, record of largely songs that might have been too soft for Harem. Definitely worth a listen if you can find one at a decent price.