In 1989, Dann Huff stepped out of the shadows from being a top-notch session guitarist who played on a astounding number of top selling records, and into the spotlight as the front man of Giant—a melodic hard rock band signed to A&M Records. They came out of the chutes strong with a fantastic single, “I’m a Believer,” and while the record wasn’t a massive commercial success, it was an artistic triumph, merging blistering guitar work with anthemic choruses and rock-solid songwriting. The follow up on Epic, “Time to Burn,” was even stronger, but being born into a musical climate of shifting sand with grunge burying melodic hard rock, it sadly got no traction and Giant called it quits.
Dann Huff went on to become one of the most in-demand producers in the country music business, helming massive hits for the likes of Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban and many others. But it wasn’t all twang. He also produced Megadeth’s “Cryptic Writings,” which was one of their most commercially successful offerings, as well as “Risk,” which, well…wasn’t.
There’s a parallel between Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Dann Huff of Giant. They both bring such a unique and dominating aspect to the music with their vocals and guitar work, that it’s really difficult to call anything Megadeth or Giant without their presence. So when asked if I’ve heard the new Giant record, and is it any good, I have to answer those as two separate questions.
Is it a new Giant record? Well, in name, this is the 5th release from Giant, and in all honesty, the 4th release, “Promise Land”, which saw Terry Brock taking Dann’s place on vocals and Winger’s John Roth handling guitars, failed to live up to the sound, style and legacy of the band’s powerful first two records. That’s not to criticize anyone involved, but just to reveal that the Dann Huff is probably impossible to replace, and his presence is so much a part of the identity of the Giant sound that a case can be made any version without him should not be called Giant.
That said, “Shifting Time” does a far superior job of sticking to the blueprint of those first two albums, and with Kent Hilli (Perfect Plan) now on the mic, this new version of Giant has a lot going for it. In fact, Perfect Plan gave a taster of what might be coming in 2019 when they released a cover of “Stay,” a killer track from Giant’s second record. Hilli has the pipes and power of a classic mid 80s front man, and while he sometimes channels Dann Huff’s vocals vibe, at other times he resembles the late Jimi Jamison in Survivor’s glory days. He’s a great fit and delivers a solid performance.
The rhythm section remains intact from the early days, with Dann’s brother David still on drums, and Mike Brignardello on bass. They’re seasoned veterans that play with the same proficiency and punch as those early records. They stay somewhat still in the background because the Giant sound features very up-front rock guitar and vocals. Huff himself does contribute a solo on one of the strongest tracks, “Never Die Young,” and it sounds exactly as it should. It’s glorious. John Roth, however, should get a lot of props for playing with the same type of swagger and strength throughout the rest of the record. Dann Huff’s shoes are hard to fill, but Roth steps into them quite nicely in both tone and technique.
There are a couple tracks that very reminiscent of classics in the Giant catalog. “Let Our Love Win” has a strong resemblance to the classic scorcher “Thunder and Lightning.” “Don’t’ Say a Word” harkens back to “See You in My Dreams.” “Highway of Love” calls upon “Chained.” While one might take that as a lack of originality, it’s actually a strategic effort to retain the songwriting style of the band, and it’s one of the reasons this record works. Because even though Dann is no longer featured, his legacy appears quite respected. The songs are catchy, accessible and easily recalled.
While some might call this style dated, I prefer to consider it classic. Frontiers has released an astounding number of records that loosely fit in this genre, but few are honestly are as strong as this one. So hats off to David Huff, Mike Brignardello, John Roth and Kent Hilli, for “Shifting Time” and taking listeners back to an era when hair was big, choruses were even bigger, and power ballads and blazing rockers found space on the same recording.
Released By: Frontiers Music SRL
Released On: January 21st, 2022
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
- David Huff / Drums
- Mike Brignardello / Bass
- John Roth / Guitars
- Kent Hilli / Vocals
“Shifting Time” track listing:
- Shifting Time
- Let Our Love Win
- Never Die Young
- Don’t Say a Word
- My Breath Away
- Highway of Love
- It’s Not Over
- The Price of Love
- Standing Tall
- Anna Lee
- Don’t Wanna Lose You
- I Walk Alone
Even without Giant's original guitarist and singer Dann Huff at the helm, the blueprint from powerhouse 80s band is intact here, the songs and performances are strong, and it stands tall on its own merits, being an excellent melodic hard rock album that instantly satisfies