AOR offi­cial­ly stands for Album-Oriented Rock but there’s a seg­ment of its fan­base that instead spells it out as “Adult-Oriented Rock.” Basically, this con­cept refers to a sound where rock instru­men­ta­tion is used but the design is both more ambi­tious and more dis­ci­plined, aim­ing for a more “adult” ver­sion of rock. There are hard rock and prog over­tones but the idea is to cre­ate a seam­less blend of sounds that exist to sup­port a series of fine­ly-craft­ed songs. Accordingly, the songs’ lyrics are designed to reflect­ed more adult con­cerns than the sex/drugs/partying axis of teen-ori­ent­ed rock themes.

If Your Humble Reviewer had to present a sam­ple of this adult-ori­ent­ed rock for an inter­est­ed par­ty, the album I’d play is Clear Approach by Trillion.  It is plat­inum-stan­dard stuff as far as AOR goes: the songs are complex yet slick, with con­stant­ly shift­ing instru­men­ta­tion that catch­es each twist of every song.  Prime exam­ples of the group’s style are “Love Me Anytime,” a waltz-rhythmed bal­lad that glides forth on gen­tly-strummed acoustic gui­tar and del­i­cate wash­es of key­board and “I Know The Feeling,” a moody, mid-tem­po track that har­ness­es a dreamy vocal melody to a tense, gen­tly-per­co­lat­ing groove from the rhythm sec­tion.

However, Clear Approach isn’t all atmos­phere.  A good por­tion of the album pur­sues a path to Saga/Styx-styled pomp rock:  album open­er “Make Time For Love”  has a stomp­ing main riff that is off­set by the del­i­cate, regal swing of its vers­es and “What You Can Do,” mix­es syn­th-inflect­ed boo­gie stylings with flow­ery pop vers­es and a stomp­ing, har­mony-drenched bridge wor­thy of Queen. The best achieve­ment in this pomp-rock style is “Cities,” an art­sy mini-epic with emo­tive vocals float­ing over a tricky bal­lad-rock-bal­lad arrange­ment.

The most impres­sive ele­ment of this album is the band’s total con­trol of their sound.  There’s no padding or show­boat­ing to be found any­where on the album.  Guitarist Frank Barbalace and key­boardist Patrick Leonard add brief solos where nec­es­sary but their work is dis­ci­plined and thought-out in a way that feeds back into the main melody.  The crown­ing touch is Thom Griffin’s vocals, which have the regal strength and clar­i­ty required of an AOR singer but nev­er over­pow­er or com­pete with the music.  They all work won­der­ful­ly as a cohe­sive unit to ful­fill the par­tic­u­lar needs of each song.

In short, Clear Approach is the “album-ori­ent­ed rock” dream brought to life and some­thing any card-car­ry­ing AOR fanat­ic needs to hear.  Interested par­ties should check out the Rock Candy Records CD reis­sue, which fea­tures great lin­er notes and restores “You Clown,” a prog-styled song that was cut to make room for the label-man­dat­ed inclu­sion “Make Time For Love.”  As usu­al, it’s superla­tive stuff from a classy label.