Old-school Sora is all about the classic rock

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, DEC. 8, 2005

If Erol Sora had released his new album, Demented Honour, 30 years ago, he’d have been an instant superstar, touring the world, packing 20,000-seat arenas, and drowning in chicks, champagne, and caviar.

At least that’s the impression you get from the CD’s boisterously catchy opener, “Guilty”. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist has blended elements of ’70s ear-busters like Deep Purple, UFO, Thin Lizzy, and pre-hairspray Whitesnake and-with Spitfires singer Jay Solyom behind the board-forged 10 original blasts of vibrant, old-school hard rock.

Lounging in his West End apartment, Marshall amps and guitar effects-pedals scattered on the floor, the long-haired 39-year-old describes the circuitous route that led him to set up shop in our fair city and create his classic-rock masterpiece.

The Montreal-born Sora picked up the guitar at age 10 after hearing Kiss’s Rock and Roll Over. He moved to L.A. in his late teens, sharing a flat with a guy who ran the Blue Oyster Cult fan club, and playing in a band called Siberia that built a strong following in Southern California, but split up before scoring any major-label action.

In ’94 Sora moved to London, England, where he’s spent most of the time since, recording four CDs and two live DVDs with ex-Uriah Heep vocalist John Lawton, and touring throughout the U.K. and Europe with Lawton’s band. After relocating to Vancouver last year, Sora quickly hooked up with Solyom, owner of Abbotsford’s J Set N’ Sound studio.

“He was a friend of my brother’s,” says Sora, between sips of an Alexander Keith’s. “When I was in England my brother told me, ‘I know this guy who’s got this studio, you could probably get a really good rate, take your time and do it right.’ And it worked out better than I could have thought. Jay’s turned into one of my best friends, and I play with him in a band on the side now, ’cause he plays drums too.”

That group, Midnight Dragon-which includes singer-bassist Chris Read from the John Ford Band and Spitfires/BTUs guitarist Marcel Lafleur-plays the Lamplighter on Saturday (December 10). Like Sora, the quartet specializes in ’70s-oriented rock, but takes more of a straightforward boogie approach than he does on Demented Honour, which is more melodic, with both ’70s and early-’80s British hard-rock influences. “I hope people don’t confuse it with the whole ’80s glam/hair-metal type thing,” he notes.

Sora doesn’t actually use the Gibson Les Paul he’s pictured with on Demented Honour‘s cover, but at times you can still imagine Les Paul lover John Sykes-the British guitar hero whose fierce riffing has lit up albums by the Tygers of Pan Tang, Whitesnake, Blue Murder, and Thin Lizzy-doing the fretboard damage.

“He’s one of my favourite players,” Sora confesses, “and I love Ritchie Blackmore too, for his melody writing. Those two guys are my top players, but they have such drastically different sounds; that’s the problem. So on the CD sometimes I’ll be using a Strat with an old Marshall-type sound, very clean, and sometimes I’ll go for the much more high-gain John Sykes-type sound.”

Demented Honour has already earned Sora critical raves-including nine-out-of-10 ratings from the Web sites Metaleater.com and HardRockHouse.com-and he’s currently trying to get the CD released on a wider scale. The demand for new, classic rock-style material isn’t huge in North America, though.

“It’s more so in Europe,” he points out. “There’s a few labels which I’m kind of in discussion with as far as distributing the CD, so there is a market for it. Having said that, you know, when the Darkness came out everyone thought ‘Oh, maybe hard rock’s gonna come back in a big way,’ but I don’t think it really has.”

Demented Honour may have come three decades too late to win Sora a million-dollar recording contract, but he’s committed to blasting forth the kind of music he loves, current fashions be damned. He’s not a trendy guy. In fact, the next time Whitesnake hits town, he’s going.

“That’s a band I’d love to see, for my sins,” he contends. “It’s a shame, because certain people view Whitesnake as such a hair band; they get confused with the whole mid-’80s L.A. scene, and it’s so not the case. They were such a great band originally, but you can’t explain that to people. I saw an episode of Smallville the other day, and they made a reference about Whitesnake, making a joke like, ‘Well, I won’t tell so-and-so about your old Whitesnake albums.’ But I’m proud of what I like, you know. I make no excuses.”

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