CHRISTOPHER CROSS made history with his 1980 self-titled debut album, and the man also released some fine AOR albums during that decade. Now, the Texan whose 'Sailing', 'Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)' — which claimed an Oscar — and 'Ride Like the Wind' are mentioned among the greatest adult contemporary/pop hits in history, is releasing his 14th album, the exceptional “Secret Ladder”.
I always liked Cross' sweet voice and penchant for writing excellent melodies, but after more than two decades I lost the trace of his art. Far from being 'an old man living from his heyday hits', Christopher Cross has really surprised me with “Secret Ladder”.
This is a strong album. An 'angry' album.
While the lovely 'Sailing' marked Cross as an era-defining balladeer, this new record is less a showcase for his still wonderfully smooth voice that easily reaches the high register he claimed more than three decades ago, more an opportunity to let off steam about things that piss him off.
And there's some serious cats helping him with homework; amongst great session musicians we find drummer Keith Carlock (Steely Dan, Toto, Sting), Michael McDonald on vocals and super-talented Eric Johnson on two tracks.
Christopher Cross is no longer “all caught up in the reverie,” he’s more concerned with getting a few things off his chest. It’s like he’s “caught between the moon and New York City,” and he’s willing to sling a few verbal barbs to fight his way out. And Rock music fans are the lucky benefactors.
Maybe Cross’ most ardent fans will be taken aback by such “Secret Ladder” lines as “I watched the bastards break your heart and never give a damn …” “It’s a beautiful world filled with stupid people …” “Oooh, this life can surely kick your ass …” “We’ll see who hits the wall before we’re through …” and “The old and the sad and the weak were the people you reached …”
Cross even assures listeners that he’s self-aware of the bile that served as his primary muse on “Secret Ladder”, proclaiming himself 'toxic with anger' and 'wondering how I became an island of anger in a sea of love'.
He leads the album off with the opinionated “Reverend Blowhard,” where Cross saves much of his venom for televangelists whose business plan is to take every penny they can from their unsuspecting 'flock' looking for something — anything — to believe in and hold onto. Melodically and rhythmically, it packs a Steely Dan groove but also an Eric Johnson's '90s works vibe, perhaps because Johnson contributes with an excellent guitar solo.
But, lest fans worry that these biting lyrics are signs of a man who’s lost touch with the elegance that produced such musical beauty years ago, rest assured that the album has plenty of tender moments.
In fact, “Simple” rivals his 1980 Single of the Year as perhaps Cross’ most lovely tune, his dream-like voice coming in over simple piano accompaniment.
Also the upbeat “Light the World” is an example of Cross’ ability to elicit joy, while the haunting “V” ranks as one of the most beautiful songs of heartbreak ever written. Over lush and lovely strings, the singer describes a friend’s breakup as 'the deepest pain you’ll ever know'.
“Got To Be A Better Way” is pure '80s Westcoast, floating over a smooth melodic line and an extended guitar work in the best LA session style.
Eric Johnson shines again on the very good "Wonderland", a rhythmically superb rock song with spiraling melodies, strong lead vocals and a terrific solo.
An artist that does not rest over the laurels of past victories, Christopher Cross surprises with “Secret Ladder”, a record which show his full potential as a songwriter and a talented musician who continues to create and explore music at his 63.
These are songs with substance, solid and superbly arranged, played and produced. You should give this a proper listen, no matter which is your preferred musical genre.
01 - Reverend Blowhard
02 - I Don't See It Your Way
03 - The Times I Need You
04 - Island Of Anger
05 - V
06 - Experiment
07 - Simple
08 - Wonderland
09 - Light The World
10 - With Me Now
11 - Got To Be A Better Way
12 - A Letter To My Children
Christopher Cross: Vocals, Guitar
Will Lee: Bass
Keith Carlock: Drums
Eddy Hobizal: Keyboards
David Mann: Sax
Michael McDonald, Jeff Foskett: guest Vocals
Eric Johnson: guest Guitar solos
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The quintet from Santa Barbara, California, collectively known as WINCHESTER REBELS, have just released their new CD entitled "Warrior". I never heard the band before (they have an indie CD prior this one) but what I am listening here is very refreshing, with a cool sound and vibe.
All five members of Winchester Rebels are solid players and bring something special to the table. Even though "Warrior" is, generally speaking, a melodic hard rock release it does incorporate some '90s rock and 'heavy country rock' into the mix.
These elements were used before by artists from the hard rock field like Poison's Bret Michaels or Ron Keel. Think steel & slide guitars and that’s the extent of the country rock influence. Don’t think of cowboys and horses.
Instead, think modern day cowboys on steel horses. That imagery works well on the guitar intro to the opening track, "Golden Line". With it’s combination of electric and acoustic guitar you can easily imagine yourself clad in leather riding your 'hog' down some 2 lane strip of asphalt in the middle of Arizona.
The next track is "Fast" with a catchy chorus and a solid guitar solo. It's little on the first Alice In Chains style, however, it's a commercial sounding song.
On "My Ways", Winchester Rebels slow down their rocking approach adding some acoustics and a definite American sound. "Don’t Mess Around", "Mirrors" and "Ropes" continue the same feel with varying amounts of intensity and different tempos. "Waters Rage" is where the band go for more modern arrangements specially on the guitar riff.
"Down" mixes the Nineties with Eighties via a straight forward rock sound and a catchy chorus, before title track "Warrior" explores rootsy US rock on the only song on the CD entirely done with acoustic guitars.
"Silence" is a broken midtempo rocker, really melodic an with a fat sounding bass, and then "Private Angel" brings back the catchiness with a groovy foundation. There's an early version of "Down", quite different to the new and an interesting showcase as how the band has morphed looking for a more distinctive sound.
The guys in Winchester Rebels know how to write solid rock tunes mashing-up different influences like '80s hard rock, US country rock and '90s riffage reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots / Alice In Chains, always with a melody as rule.
There is not gloomy sounds in "Warrior", this is a feel good record with nice lyrics and hooks from the get-go where the guitars, rhythm and vocals drive the listener from song to song. It’s refreshing, it’s different. It’s just downright cool.
01 - Golden Line
02 - Fast
03 - My Ways
04 - Don't Mess Around
05 - Mirrors
06 - Ropes
07 - Waters Rage
08 - Down (new version)
09 - Warrior
10 - Silence
11 - Private Angel
12 - Down (original demo version)
Nick Hunt - vocals
Nick Fitzgerald - guitar
James Longoria - guitar
John Livergood - bass
Barry Carter - drums
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
This summer, but the best 'American' classic hard rock band hails from Norway. Their name is AUDREY HORNE and they’re mercy ruling the competition out of the game. This brilliant side project of Ice Dale (Enslaved) and Thomas Tofthagen (Sahg) has blazed a shockingly catchy trail of pure rock lunacy since their debut a decade ago.
Their new record "Pure Heavy" to be released next September 29 is a positively bright amalgam of skin snagging hooks and mega memorable hard rock anthems.
Audrey Horne is the kind of band that serves up frothy, foamy, good times music with so much swagger they can barely walk in a straight line. That’s right, it’s big pimpin, hard rocking, dirty rolling music that sticks to the ribs and makes you cooler just by listening.
It’s another world beating party platter from a band that seems incapable of doing wrong, and every single American rock band must step aside and bow their heads in shame.
Whether it’s The Who meets Led Zeppelin guitar rock of opener “Wolf in My Heart” or the wicked Thin Lizzy melodies throughout the irresistible “Out of the City”, Pure Heavy reeks of slick, but rowdy songcraft.
It’s one classic rock gem after another, always direct, to the point and loaded with sweet hooks and superb rockin' moments. Nary a note feels superfluous and everything feels just right. This made it tough to get through the whole album since I kept having to go back and replay so many tunes so many times.
Some extra groovy moments include the boozy charm of “Tales From the Crypt”, where frontman Toschie channels the low rent appeal of Bon Scott and tells of life on the road. It even includes a nifty little homage to Sabbath‘s 'Sweet Leaf' for extra badassery.
“Ms. Volcano” is unadulterated early '80s Van Halen worship and exudes coolness in the same way those cats once did, while mixing in some tasty guitar runs to beef things up. “High n’ Dry” is another rabble rousing ditty sure to get you up and moving.
Close out tracks like “Into the Wild” and “Waiting for the Night” are every bit as strong or stronger than the opening cuts and the beast just keeps on rolling to the bitter end.
This Limited First Edition Digipak includes 2 bonus tracks, the ridiculously catchy "Let Live" driven by swirling guitars, and the shuffle rocking "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea", plenty of positive party vibe.
There isn't a weak moment here and the album runs the exact perfect length at 42 minutes. Each song is a short, sharp shock of classic (hard) rock glory and each ends before you want it to, thereby insuring you’re left wanting more. It also sounds great with a warm, rich mix and fat, tub thumping bass presence.
The guitar work from Ice Dale and Tofthagen is stuck in the golden age of rock, but they’re so damn good at playing these Thin Lizzy-esque riffs that nobody will care. "Pure Heavy" is packed with gritty, smoking solos and an embarrassment of ear candy harmonies and every song is barroom and pool hall tested.
Now add to the mix the national treasure that is Toschie, and you have something special indeed. The man channels all the best traits of beloved rock vocalists from across the spectrum like David Lee Roth, Bon Scott, Joe Walsh, Scott Weiland and even tosses in some Mike Patton from time to time, all with a patina of sleazy and tattoo parlor chic. He knows exactly how to turn a phrase and he’s the perfect singer for this kind of music.
"Pure Heavy" is pure joy and if I have a complaint, it’s that it didn't drop three months ago so it could have been the soundtrack to the summer.
Music this much fun almost had to be conceived and recorded by guys half in the bag, and it’ll make you feel like you need to catch up toot sweet. Don’t miss this one.
American rock scene, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Step up or get a new line of work.
01 - Wolf in my Heart
02 - Holy Roller
03 - Out of the City
04 - Volcano Girl
05 - Tales from the Crypt
06 - Diamond
07 - Into the Wild
08 - Gravity
09 - High and Dry
10 - Waiting for the Night
11 - Boy Wonder
12 - Let Live (bonus)
13 - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (bonus)
Members Toschie - Vox
Ice Dale - Guitar
Thomas Tofthagen - Guitar
Kjetil Greve - Drums
Espen Lien - Bass
thanks to Steel Druhm
NASTY NUNS came to my surprise with their aggressive, melodic sleaze yet metallic edge. These days Germany is actually the best place to look for modern metal bands but not sleaze, somehow Nasty Nuns proved my theory wrong.
This young band, formed around 2005, released a promising EP three years ago, and now are back with their official debut "Sick In The Head", delivering a much more polished songwriting and a slick anthemic sound breathing fire to the glam scene.
And indeed, compared with the raw first EP (the last five tracks here), "Sick In The Head" is really polished and melodic but still retaining its aggressiveness.
Think about the classic sleaze / melodic hard of Shotgun Messiah, the first Crazy Lixx and Dynazty mixed with the punch of Hardcore Superstar and the heaviness of Kissin' Dynamite and you have Nasty Nuns' new album.
From the pounding opener, "Back On Track", you know they ain't joking with their music. This is serious, well cafted sleaze, and really melodic. Guitarists Nikki Nine and Mr.Evil provided a thrilling rhythm and furious solo and I know from the first that this type of song is what makes me a fan of rock.
Don't be fooled by the 'sleaze' tag if you don't like this genre. "Sick In The Head" is plenty of Melodic Hard Rock oriented tracks.
Just check the bouncy "Insanity", the hard rockin' "Let's Boogie Tonight", or the more metallic, anthemic title track inspired by the very first Shotgun Messiah.
There's a really arena ready melodic hard rocker in "Ready To Rock", which brings to mind the first Reckless Love when they used to 'rock' for real. Then some Americanized sound arrives with the Motley Crue-esque "Light the Night".
"Sleaze Revolution", it's indeed a pure sleaze anthem where the band bound the razor riffs with a fantastic verse / chorus, and not to forget the explosive solos. If you like the good, first Crashdiet, this cut is a fist-in-the-air monster.
If you consider Sleaze a minor genre, you better think twice before letting pass "Sick In The Head".
Nasty Nuns are much more than your typical band in this style, with clever arrangements to please the hard rock / melodic rock crowd as well. Their songs are punchy, with a kick ass attitude as the first Dynazty. Talking about the Scandinavian bands, Nasty Nuns confirms here that Sweden is not the exclusive 'Sleaze Nation' anymore.
Production is polished, vibrant and these guy's songs rock. With this quality release, they should grow bigger and bigger in the future.
Get ready for a rokkin' shot of adrenaline, "Sick In The Head" delivers.
01 - Back On Track
02 - Insanity
03 - Let's Boogie Tonight
04 - Dr. Danger
05 - Sick In The Head
06 - Ready To Rock
07 - Light the Night
08 - Sleaze Revolution
09 - Come Out Alright
10 - Too Much Is Never Enough
11 - Sleazy Nasty Dirty
12 - Bor To Live And Die
13 - Car's Gonna Rockin'
Julez Bastrd Gunn - Voxx
Mr. Evil - Guitar
Nikki Nine - Guitar
Vic Nasty - Bass
Christian Veit - Drums
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THE ROCKET DOLLS hail from Brighton, UK, and consist of vocalist / guitarist Nikki Smash, Benji Knopfler (son of a fairly famous guitarist) on drums and bassist Tommy K.
The trio released an EP some time ago and now they are set to unleash their debut album "Eyes". In a word this album is… rifftastic!
Don't be fooled by the name, surely there must've been an '80s glam band called The Rocket Dolls, right? Whether there was or not, this band are certainly a heavier and harder proposition altogether.
For a band that cite a lot of nineties bands as influences there seems to me an equal amount of '80s greasy biker rock going on in the sound of The Rocket Dolls. The likes of Circus Of Power or The Almighty leave their stamp all over this album, dirty riffs emanating straight from the crotch as much as the sludgy riffs of Alice In Chains do.
They know how to pen a catchy riff like on the opener "Poisoned Speech" with its immensely catchy chorus. This sounds like Therapy? with Slash a lead guitarist.
"Delirium (Reprise)" do sound a lot like the good The Almighty but then you get "Can't Keep Him Down"which has an almost King's X groove to it with its certain swagger and cool riffage. Ok then, The Almighty meets Kings X...yeah, I can live with that.
There are plenty of fist pumping anthems on here from the single "Burning Up The Skies" through to "I Can't Go Back", a song with a real up and at ‘em vibe. There is a little light(er) relief on "The Rope Pulls Sins", although fear not it’s not a power ballad. The band supplement each other well and the vocals of Nikki Smash have the right attitude and strength to match the music.
Album closer "Across The Night" is a bit of a sludgy, grungy mess to be honest that I can take or leave, as is the title track. These crunchy songs pack a weighty punch, in places it's vicious but in others it's just a bit monotonous and ultimately not very memorable.
The Rocket Dolls will appeal to rockers of all types and bikers of a certain age, hell they rock so hard they should probably have a logo that incorporates a skull with wings... oh hold on!
"Eyes" is a solid, low down, dirty rock 'n' roll album. While I don't feel it's an essential release, it sure is a fine debut album from a new band with some great songs and there sure is enough goodness here to warrant you checking them out.
01 - Poisoned Speech
02 - Can’t Keep Him Down
03 - Delirium (Reprise)
04 - The Rope Pulls Sins
05 - Burning Up The Skies
06 - Eyes
07 - Waste
08 - I Can't Go Back
09 - I'm Just Too Weak
10 - Gotta Get A Grip
11 - Across The Night
Nikki Smash – Vocals & Guitar
Tommy K – Bass & Backing Vocals
Ben Knopfler – Drums & Backing Vocals
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Monday, September 15, 2014
DEADLINE hit the scene in 2009, after two years of seeking out a steady line-up, ready and hard willing to spread all over Europe their blend of modern and classic hard rock anthems. Hailing from Paris, France, the band secured the help of the renowned Beau Hill to engineer their debut EP two years ago.
Now Deadline are presenting themselves with the full length debut CD "Fire Inside", to be released worldwide next month on October 20th.
According to the press release, Deadline's sound was shaped by the influences of each band member - guitarist and founder Joris Beraud, guitarist Gabriel Lect, lead vocalist Arnaud Restoueix, bass player Sebastien Debbane and drummer Fabrice Trovato - ranging from the late '70s to current decade's rock ‘n’ roll.
While the vocals are a bit accented at times, the band as a whole sounds quite compact and tight.
Deadline's sound & style bring to mind Swiss / German acts such as Gotthard or Krokus (title track "Fire Inside", "Like an Old Man"), mixed with more festive numbers such as "Rock You".
There's interesting 'Americanized' '80s hard rockers like "Teach Me Love" (great pumping bass line) or the Sunset Strip tingled "The Maverick", one of the best tracks on the CD.
"Freedom Call" and especially "No Glory" have a strong smell of Canadians Helix, while the bluesy power ballad "Broken Parts" is crafted in the very classic hard rock mould for this type of songs (think Dough Aldrich's Burning Rain).
"Fire Inside" is a solid hard rocking debut by Deadline, even more considering its indie conception.
Well produced and mixed with a classic 'analog vibe', the band shows here that is capable to write good songs for the genre; classic hard rock with several influences.
Those varied influences does not retracts the record from its homogeneity, on the contrary, it's one of the factors of its strength.
Definitely, Deadline is band to keep an eye on.
01 - The Fire
02 - Fire Inside
03 - Rock You
04 - Teach Me Love
05 - Freedom Call
06 - October
07 - Like an Old Man
08 - The Maverick
09 - No Glory
10 - Broken Parts
11 - The Hunter
12 - Broken Parts (Cello version)
Arnaud Restoueix: Lead Vocals
Joris Béraud: Guitar, Backing Vocals
Gabriel Lect: Guitar
Sébastien Debbane: Bass, Backing Vocals
Fabrice Trovato: Drums, Backing Vocals
RED ZONE RIDER are the latest 'super-project' consisting of UFO / Alice Cooper guitar wizard Vinnie Moore, great vocalist Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, MSG, George Lynch) and drummer Scot Coogan (Lita Ford, Ace Frehley, Brides Of Destruction), which are releasing their self-titled debut on Magna Carta Records.
If you check out the cover of Red Zone Rider’s self-titled release and see the sci-fi-ish artwork – a motorcycle rider in the desert with a space scene behind – the last thing you’d probably expect is a thick, juicy slab of heavy old-school bluesy Hard Rock, but that is precisely what you get.
Together with famous producer Mike Varney, Vinnie Moore, Keeling & Coogan created a heavy rock monster. This power trio churns out fresh tunes that could compete with the best of Deep Purple, Mountain, Free, Bad Company, or any of the pioneer rockers of the late ’70s or early ’80s.
This is guitar-driven melodic heavy rock, with a nice slather of bluesy rocking groove Mr. Moore. Certainly, coming from this trio, the songs are developed as exactly that, a song. But Moore has plenty of room to go crazy bonkers on that fret board.
The gritty, biting voice of Kelly Keeling is perfect for this genre, very reminiscent of Glenn Hughes or Ian Gillan – and it turns out that he is a superb bassist and keyboard player as well. Coogan’s drum work complements the music perfectly – he’s flashy enough to drive the music forward, but in control enough that he does not dominate or distract. All in all, these three sound like they’ve been playing together for years.
Pulling it all together, and the songs are essentially groove monsters, often catchy, and definitely fiery with the guitar leads flying like some many bullets tossed into a hot campfire. Bluesy melodic groove comes through on "Hell No" and "By Rainbow's End", while more straight hard and heavy rock with "Hit The Road", the great "The Hand That Feeds You" and "Save It" offering some catchy vocal arrangements.
A slow burning balladish anthem comes with "Cloud of Dreams", something that might make David Coverdale weep; and then "Obvious" sound like a hybrid AOR / bluesy heavy rock, with some of Keeling's smoothest vocals.
The songs and music are at the same time both varied and bound by the common theme of classic melodic hard rock.
Red Zone Rider’s debut will has broad appeal to fans of hard rock, classic rock or heavy blues rock. Warmly engineered, "Red Zone Rider" will be a trip down memory lane for some, and perhaps a new experience for others – but no matter what side of the fence you are from, this album rocks!
It is vintage hard rock inspired by the greats done with a modern flair. If we are lucky Red Zone Rider will be more than just a one-off project.
01 - Hell No
02 - By The Rainbow's End
03 - House Of Light
04 - Cloud Of Dreams
05 - Save It
06 - Never Trust A Woman
07 - Obvious
08 - The Hand That Feeds You
09 - Hit The Road
10 - There's A Knowing
11 - Count's 77
Vinnie Moore - Guitars
Kelly Keeling - Vocals, Fretless Bass, Organ
Scot Coogan - Drums
Sunday, September 14, 2014
At the very end of past year (more precisely on Christmas day) Universal Japan finally released - after many fans requests - the two more successful albums by KINGDOM COME, remastered and pressed on a great sounding SHM-CD.
As usual, the quality is excellent, reproducing the entire original album artwork (Mini LP).
Kingdom Come released their well-received, self-titled debut album in early 1988. Led by German born frontman Lenny Wolf, who co-wrote most of the album’s material with the group’s manager Marty Wolff, the band scored their most popular and best-selling album right out of the gate.
After the band’s lead single generated tremendous buzz well ahead of the album release, Kingdom Come went gold on the same day it was released and eventually went platinum status in the United States, Germany and Canada and peaked at #12 on the U.S. Album charts.
Part of the initial attraction (and later critique) of the band was their audio likeness to classic-era Led Zeppelin.
Most of that comparison is predicated on Wolf's vocal resemblance to Robert Plant. In fact his timbre is often remarkably similar. He also shares Plant's ability to shift his tone suddenly from teasingly sultry to pyrotechnic.
However, outside the vocals, the Kingdom Come-Led Zep comparison crumbles.
Sure, there's a couple of tracks with a Zeppelin-esque vibe, but which band has not been influenced by these Rock 'n Roll legends?
Lenny Wolf & Co. have said: "Led Zeppelin was not any of the band members favorite band". And listening the entire disc proves it.
Wolf comes from an European AOR background with his band Stone Fury (two really good records), and the same can be said from the rest of the guys. Just listen "Now Forever After" below.
The album was co-produced by Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe) who forged a crisp and solid rock sound at Little Mountain studio in Vancouver and mixed it at the famous Electric Lady studios in New York City.
This fresh Japanese remaster is simply wonderful, rich. There's few copies remaining of this Limited Edition, and are being sold at a very reasonable price. Get yours pronto.
Highly Recommended in your collection.
Universal Japan LTD Mini LP SHM-CD ~ UICY-76002
01 - Living Out Of Touch
02 - Pushin' Hard
03 - What Love Can Be
04 - 17
05 - The Shuffle
06 - Get It On
07 - Now Forever After
08 - Hideaway
09 - Loving You
10 - Shout It Out
Lenny Wolf – lead vocals
Danny Stag – lead guitar
Rick Steier – rhythm guitar
Johnny B. Frank – bass
James Kottak – drums
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