by Geoff Wilbur

For melodic hard rock fans, there has been a bit of a drought lately, broken only by the sporadic release of albums by the likes of Great White, Tyketto, or Yngwie Malmsteen. Suddenly, it isn't just raining -- it's pouring. Firehouse leads the pack with the release of "3" (Epic). It's basically the same old Firehouse, but the lyrics are a little more well-crafted and the music isn't quite so slick, though it's still crisper than 99% of the albums presently on shelves. A good mix of rockers ("Something About Your Body," "Get a Life") and ballads ("I Live My Life For You," "No One At All"), "3" is the best disc of this broadly-defined genre since Great White's "Sail Away."

Other notable releases are Slaughter's "Fear No Evil" (CMC International), Kix's "Show Business" (CMC International), and Dokken's "Dysfunktional" (Columbia). Slaughter and Kix should definitely please their old fan bases. Slaughter's guitar-driven disc is a little heavier than in the past but still utilizes the same hooky songwriting style and Mark's inimitable vocal style. Kix, meanwhile, kicks out the stereotypical Kix album... again. Sex, sex, sex. And "If You Run Around," a ballad from an angle less traveled. Kix at its best. Then there's Dokken's CD. They've regrouped, but "Dysfunktional" is best described as Stone Temple Dokken. It's an unusual blend that will appeal to some old Dokken fans and some old Dokken bashers... if they'll give it a listen.

A little rap? "Tha Butterfly (in Da Club)" is the big hit from Way 2 Real's "38th Street" (So-Lo Jam). Catchy, genre-crossing rhythms position Way 2 Real to be a real big hit.

Local rockers Powerface deliver in-your-face, thrashy, catchy, heavy alternative power on "Where From?"