Neil Giraldo as producer has found a way to combine the edgy rock tunes of the early days with powerful pop radio friendly songs while dabbling in some new sounds that can not be contained. He should be sole producer / engineer as his influence in the studio is evident throughout every recording and the added names listed as producers on each release do not seem to have their heart in the headquarters of this band.
Seven The Hard Way is a tribute to the previous releases and gives kudos to the time spent on the road and in the studio over a six year period. Pat Benatar really wanted to concentrate on her family and the raising of her daughter. They as a band contributed the same amount of songs, none of which came from Pat. Girlado, always a staple in the studio, was trying to not put out the same recycled music. He keeps the music fresh and demonstrates why he has been a key to the growth of the music over the years.
"Sex As A Weapon" was co-written by a now- welcome songwriter that has contributed compositions over the years and knows what works for the band. "Walking In The Underground" opens with a very theatrical feel, bringing in some jazz sounds of old and keeping the song slow and emotional. Half way through, the stamp of Giraldo's guitar is palpable while keeping the song's emotion.
From mood-oriented to an expandable rock generated song, "Big Life" gets off the ground quickly and burns with vocals and guitars. The ending puts pressure on Grombacher (drums) to bring it to a close the hard way (no pun intended). Grombacher and Giraldo have found a writing partnership that has opened the band up to experiment and not let the band lay dormant at the gate of rock's graveyard.
"7 Rooms Of Gloom" along with the closer, "The Art Of Letting Go" just are not able to find a home on this release. They seem to be more filler than thriller and are definitely less than stellar for Benatar. It is as if they were incomplete and were put together shortly because the band may have been short for a full length release. "Run Between The Raindrops" does not fit well on side two but is a great song standing alone and showcases Giraldo's guitar virtuoso style.
Pop one-hitters of the day can not hold a candle to what the Benatar can do and with harder rock breaking into mainstream, this band may have a harder time staying true to the house that Benatar built. The fans want Pat & company to be fresh but stay within the realms of their discography. Can they do that and stay on top in an every changing music industry?