The origins of the Madrid, Spain based band THE VAL can be found in the local act Ying-Yang which achieved considerable popularity during the nineties.
When one of their members sadly passed away the group decided broke-up. But after several years, in 2010, singer Gabrielle de Val, keyboardist David Erick Criado and guitarist Alfonso Samos got in touch with each other and from the very beginning they all knew that they wanted to go on with the project they had begun years before.
Renamed THE VAL, a bunch of songs sprung up very quickly and spontaneously, so they were able to begin recording their album “Back” immediately.
The Val's music has many influences, from Adult Contemporary and AOR to Classic Rock / Melodic Rock. Centered in their charismatic vocalist, these songs are plenty of delicate harmonies and finesse instrumentation.
Gabrielle is a German-born singer, but many years ago moved to Madrid, where she has developed his musical career. According to her, the lyrics were written in English because that's the language in which the songs were conceived.
The result is a powerful and inspiring recording, full of charm and beauty.
The style of this combo reminds you female fronted acts such as One & The Same, Heart, Ella Baila Sola, Nexx and Venus & Mars.
From the start with "A Kiss In A Dragon Night", The Val surprises us with an enchanting soft melody, the solid voice of Gabrielle and original instrumentation including convincing electric & acoustic guitars (not with the typical amp set-up) and elegant pianos & synths.
Since the beginning it is clear that The Val sounds like no one, there's no repeated formulas here.
Next, "Dreaming" indeed tele-transports you into dreamy and breezy classic melodies, where Gabrielle shows her immense vocal ability and diversity. A beautiful track.
But this band is profuse not only in smooth sounds, as the melodic rock infused "Pay (For The Lonely Nights)" and "Johnny's Got A Red Car" offer a great guitar / keyboard interplay and delicious choruses.
The we have title track "Back", a perfectly crafted song with a bluesy and melancholic feel. The way all the instruments are orchestrated are really tasteful, again, sounding original and like no-other band.
The rest of the songs maintain the high level, as the melodius and light "When Midnight Comes", the moving "Every Beat Of My Heart" and the veltety "The Unwritten Songs", a tune that Ann Wilson would be proud of.
For the end, The Val gives us perhaps the best tune of the album (and they're all good) with "The Age Of The Sun", an AOR pumped song driven by a stupendous rhythm and a great vocal job all over bending herself.
The Val's "Back" is one of the best discs I heard this year.
It's original, mature, scintillating, from the songwriting to the personal intrumentation and arrangements.
Gabrielle ows one of 'that' unique voices which not impacts by the power, just by the class and the way she performs each melody, always different and intriguing. Her bandmates provide as well a musical background rich of varied harmonies and fills with sound settings far from the common.
As minor point production would have needed a little more brightness, but this is an indie release and this does not detract the value of this amazing album.
I think the expression that best reflects the music included in this CD is 'Good Taste'.
Don't miss it.
01 - A Kiss In A Dragon Night
02 - Dreaming
03 - Pay (For The Lonely Nights)
04 - Trapped Between The Lines
05 - Johnny's Got A Red Car
06 - Hold On
07 - Back
08 - When Midnight Comes
09 - The Devil's In The Band
10 - Every Beat Of My Heart
11 - The Unwritten Songs
12 - The Age Of The Sun
Gabrielle de Val - Vocals
Alfonso Samos - Guitars, Bass, Drums, Background vocals
David Erick Criado - Keyboards, Background vocals
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Friday, August 24, 2012
Not the cappy version floating around
PLEASURE ADDICTION has been around for a while now in the growing French Melodic Rock scene, sharing stages with Europe, White Lion, LA Guns and Danger Danger's Ted Poley among others.
They went through several line-up changes over the years, enlisting now 'El Butcho' (Hellectrokuters) on vocals and the other guys all play in other bands as well: 'Carvin' is one of the guitarists in Aesthesia, 'Stuffy' plays bass in Voodoo Smile and Highlight Enemies among others, 'Pamy' is his bandmate in Voodoo Smile and 'Bady' plays in Sweet Silence.
"InDependence" is their indie debut, akin the Sunset Strip '80s sounds.
They mostly want to have fun with this band, playing their colourful eighties influenced Melodic Hair Rock with grace and it seems like there's a good chemistry between the these guys when listening to this album.
The music unshamelessly resembles all those American acts that made it big during the Whisky A Go-Go golden days. Simple and catchy tunes with instant choruses.
"Dance (With The Devil)" brings the primal Poison spirit back (something they seem to have forgotten) with a straight riff and tons of harmonic layered choruses.
"My Superstar" is one of the best tracks, plenty of 'oh-ohh' vocals cliche but lovable in its effective execution. Really melodic.
Pleasure Addiction sometimes sound more glam on a song like "Saturday Nite" for instance and also go into more melodic territories with the Warrant-like "Melody."
If you like late '80s Dokken and XTZ, "Shout It Out" and the melodious "Couldn't Live Without You" (love the chorus) are for you.
Pleasure Addiction plays pure cliched but lovable (who doesn't like?) '80s American Melodic Hard Rock / Hair Metal.
"InDependence" is plenty of catchy tunes in this style, well composed and full of melodies, vocal harmonies, choruses, guitar pyrotechnics, in short; all the arsenal of the classic bands in this genre.
All the musicians are more than capable players and 'El Butcho' has the pipes and well learned vocal inflections needed to sing Hair Metal, luckily without accent.
A fun, enjoyable retro piece of rock music.
01 - Dance (With The Devil)
02 - My Superstar
03 - Shout It Out
04 - No More Me (No More You)
05 - Couldn't Live Without You
06 - Saturday Nite
07 - Melody
08 - Shot Of Poison
09 - Couldn't Live Without You [Samba Version] (Bonus)
El Butcho (Hellectrokuters): Vocals
Carvin (Aesthesia): Guitar
Bady (Sweet Silence): Guitar
Stuffy (Voodoo Smile): Bass
Pamy (Voodoo Smile): Battery
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UK multi-instrumentalist (but mainly guitar player and singer) STEVE THORNE has released a couple of captivating self managed albums during the last decade, and now has ready his third effort "Crimes & Reasons".
Thorne is an artist that it's hard to categorize because although he may utilise the skills of a number of Prog luminaries on his albums he's not traditionally Prog. Neo-Prog maybe, he’s more a songsmith in the singer/songwriter style who just happens to have Prog leanings.
"Crimes & Reasons" is an immaculately recorded CD which delivers truly quality songs with intelligent thoughtful lyrics, often hard-hitting but occasionally set against tunes that belie the message.
Guest musicians are fewer this time around but unquestionably virtuous; the awesome ex- Spock's Bread Nick D’Virgilio and Bob White provide drums whilst the great Tony Levin (bass), Gary Chandler (guitar) and ex- IQ Martin Orford (flute) plays flute on two tracks (briefly coming out of retirement from music), all make telling contributions.
Musically, Steve's music is mature and melodic, mixing modern prog with melodic rock & pop-rock features. Having as a guide the less complicated & more tuneful aspects of Marillion, Spock’s Beard, Asia, It Bites, Arena and IQ, Steve manages to deliver amazingly beautiful songs.
"Already Dead" bounces along with a pleasing beat and an edgy vocal style, followed by "Bullets & Babies", a song where the melody is contra to the sentiment with the tune being rather pleasant, melodic and extremely catchy while the lyrics to relate to conflicts around the globe. Half way through the tempo increases and the guitars get aggressive before expertly returning to the original theme.
The title track "Crimes & Reasons" has a fabulous melody and a structure that reminds me of Jadis, the unnamed female backing vocalist brings a nice touch to proceedings.
"Everything Under the Sun" laments the lot and loneliness of a widow; it has a hint of recent It Bites about it. A gentle theme matches the mood of the piece and the fretless bass and flute are wonderful accentuations that round out the arrangement beautifully.
"Fadeaway" features a loop to which sounds are added before the song bursts into a good aggressive riff that more than carries the lyrical content about the motives and inadequacy of politicians.
The track segues beautifully into "Moth To Flame", a Marillion-like amazing atmospheric melodious prog rock tune with an excellent guitar work and a great instrumental outro.
"Blue Yonder" is a splendid poppy prog track driven on a nice acoustic guitar refrain with Chandler (Jadis) providing an excellent solo. "Making Plans" has a plaintive piano motif but again the song builds rather nicely and features yet more strong melodies.
"Modern Curse" has a melodic rock heart, an upbeat tune featuring a strong vocal delivery and very acerbic lyrics. The album closes with "Distant Thunder" where It Bites come to mind again with stupendous arrangements, just listen the last part...
"Crimes & Reasons" is a delightful CD that creates delightful warm pictures when you dive into it.
Steve Thorne is a very skilled songwriter, his voice is vibrant and colorful while his playing (he handles all types of instruments) is top notch. The guest musicians, by adding their personal touches to each song, are making the entire result even more enjoyable.
Production is very clear and rich, pristine I would say… excellent by any means.
If you like melodious modern Prog rock music (Neo Prog) with several Melodic Rock & pop-rock passages, well crafted, intelligent and superbly played then “Crimes & Reasons” will surely make your day.
01 - Already Dead
02 - Bullets And Babies
03 - Crimes & Reasons
04 - Everythin Under The Sun
05 - Fadeaway
06 - Moth To Flame
07 - Blue Yonder
08 - Making Plans
09 - Modern Curse
10 - Distant Thunder
Steve Thorne : vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass
Nick D'Virgilio : drums, percussion
Tony Levin : bass, stick
Martin Orford (ex IQ) : flute
Gary Chandler (Jadis) : guitar, backing vocals
Bob White : drums
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All true Westcoast and AOR fans are already aware of State Cows, the Swedish band who brought back the classy sounds of the genre with their debut a couple years ago.
Founder member DANIEL ANDERSSON released his own CD "Days In L.A." shortly before only in Scandinavia and in limited quantities. Now is available worldwide and with the addition of a new track as bonus.
Daniel has studied music in Los Angeles where he met and played with Jason Scheff (Chicago) and Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets). Back in Sweden he started to record what would become this CD.
What's very strong about "Days In L.A." is the mix of styles cleverly assembled and superbly played. Andersson takes you on a ride that passes through villages of AOR, Westcoast, Melodic Rock and even a bluesy spice.
If you're scared to be bored with the same riffs, the same production sound, the same arrangements all over – well, it ain't gonna happen here.
The opening track "Glamorous Hollywood" really sets the mood and when the keyboard solo towards the middle of the song starts I find myself already falling in love with the album. This track reminds me a lot of Bill LaBounty and Robbie Dupree.
Then comes "Lift Me Up", which is a Summer smelling melodic rock tune in a Richard Marx meets Venice style. The vocals are clear and pristine backed by strong guitar playing.
On the midtempo "In My Mind" the keyboards take a central role drawing a marvelous melody, while follower "The Dealmaker" is a classic uptempo Westcoast in a Chicago / Toto vein.
I enthusiastically applaud the mix of styles on this CD, all done perfectly, but if you want to listen a track that clearly represents Daniel Andersson and his all-Swede league of magic musicians, then pick "Easy Street Shuffle". This is pure gold, plenty of smooth intrumentation, amazing melodies and terrific arrangements.
The excellence continues with the superb rhythms of the Bill Champlin-like "Keep On Trying", the early Kenny Loggins melodius "Tell Me" and the breezy harmonies in the ballad "Everytime You Come Around".
"I Can't Stand It Any Longer" mixes classy L.A. sounds with pulsating Melodic Rock nuances (another high point on this super CD) delivering a first class guitar parts, while the new track "Cafe Des Arts" goes back thirty years to a classic smooth Westcoast much in the vein of his band State Cows.
Great playing and fantastic songwriting is the simplest and best way to describe this future classic, not only in the AOR / Westcoast genres, but also in the Melodic Rock field.
Daniel Andersson and these Swedish guys (including his partner in State Cows Stefan Olofsson who also plays here) are the future of the genre, they have the class and the skills of the great names from L.A. scene.
As if all that was not enough, the outstanding production in "Days In L.A." was handled by Andersson as well. He's managed to find a full blooded sound from a small budget – it's close to a miracle. You will easily be fooled into believing this is a major label production, that's how good it is.
I dare to say that "Days In L.A." is a Must Have album in your collection, and as said, a future AOR / Westcoast Classic.
A Must Have.
01 - Glamorous Hollywood
02 - Lift Me Up
03 - In My Mind
04 - The Dealmaker
05 - Easy Street Shuffle
06 - Keep On Trying
07 - Tell Me
08 - Everytime You Come Around
09 - I Can't Stand It Any Longer
10 - Cafe Des Arts (Bonus Track)
Daniel Andersson (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Stefan Olofsson (keyboards, Fender Rhodes)
Fredrik Lundgren (guitar)
Peter Holmqvist (guitar)
Mikael Sandstrom (guitar)
Stefan Forsberg (keyboards)
Mikael Emsing, Paulo Murga (drums)
Paulo Murga, Mikael Emsing (percussion)
Per Wretling, Anders Jonsson (horns)
Olle Nigeus, Peter Nygren (sax)
Christian Thomsen (background vocals)
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Take a sexy hot blonde lead singer (who actually can sing), surround her with big ugly looking guys who just happen to be some of the best heavy music instrumentalists in Australia, throw-in a bunch of supercharged hard rock tunes and you have the beast that is HEAVEN THE AXE, whom have released their debut aptly titled "Sex, Chugs & Rock'N'Roll".
The band features former members of Aussie metal acts The Amenta, Damaged and The Berzerker, so these boys can seriously play hard rock riffs. And at front we have Phoebe Pinnock, who delivers sassy, kick ass vocals injected with rocket fuel, raw and honest in her attack.
Heaven The Axe displays different personalities throughout the album from high-energy hard rock songs to ballads. Phoebe is truly the focus in this band, delivering a wide range and depth vocals with a real in-your-face kind of attitude attached to it.
Opening track "Enemy" sports one ball tearer of a riff with subsequent guitar squeals, driving bass and drums, and front woman Phoebe Pinnock's vocals giving us a good taste of what the disc is all about.
The chugging riffs are meaty and consistent throughout the entire album, as shown later on the dirty stomper "Electric Wire", the razor sharp "So Nirvana" and the breaks in "Glue" where the song pulls back in the bridge, before the ascending bass notes build to an explosive ending.
The acoustic intro to "Unconditional Love" gives the cd a good change up. It's an epic rock song that builds on the back of electric guitar and strong vocals, with the warm bass giving it feeling throughout the peaks and valleys of the journey that the track takes us on.
'Sex Chugs And Rock-N-Roll' is an solid modern hard rock album with a metal edge, and if their live shows share half as much energy as the CD has, they would be an amazing act to see.
Hard Rock enthusiasts who like Baby Animals or Halestorm to name some references are going to dig this album; sharp hard riffs mixed with Phoebe Pinnock's sexy but powerful rock-chick voice.
On the outside this disc could be easily written off as hard rock chick metal, with a semi naked Phoebe on the back cover and guys drinking and gambling, but on closer inspection you realise that the songs have real substance and are cleverly written & arranged with that 'chug chug' effect.
01 - Enemy
02 - Masochist
03 - Electric Wire
04 - So Nirvana
05 - Glue
06 - Get Your Devil To Do It
07 - Unconditional Love
08 - Tails To You (bonus track)
Phoebe Pinnock - Vocals
Mat Silcock - Guitars
Steve Watts - Guitars
Tim Aldridge - Bass
Tom Rossell - Drums
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the Real adv. copy
Formed in 2005, THE LAST VEGAS cut their teeth relentlessly playing in support of two independent releases. In 2009, the band burst on to the national scene when Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx saw them play live in Los Angeles and subsequently co-produced their third album. More touring followed, including a stint opening Motley Crue's 'Saints Of Los Angeles' tour.
Now they're back, recharged, with their brand new CD "Bad Decisions" to hit the stores on August 28, produced by Johnny K (Megadeth, Airbourne).
The Last Vegas plays an explosive cocktail of heavy rock resembling Motley Crue, early Guns 'N Roses, Tesla and AC/DC to name some. There are so many different sounds going on, especially in the vocals, that this CD almost comes across as a greatest hits of the hard rocking '80s.
However these Chicago natives aren't just rehashing two decade old formulas, instead they wear their influences on their sleeves while making the entire mix sound current. This is not modern rock by any means, they sound modern and polished but with their roots in the eighties.
Right from the get go The Last Vegas grab the listener's attention with the unrelenting "Beat To Hell". This venomous in-your-face rocker is one of the best songs on the entire album, but far from the only killer track.
"Other Side" follows suit with a Faster Pussycat meets Skid Row styled vocals while the swagger of title track "Bad Decisions" increases the over-the-top quota by another notch.
Then you have the first single "Evil Eyes", the best track Motley Crue forgot to write in the last twenty years, followed by the melodious but rocking "Don't Take It So Hard".
"She's My Confusion" somehow reminds you Tesla (specially in the refrain), "It Ain't Easy" slow down the things a bit with a bluesy feel, and "My Way Forever" turns into a sweaty sleazy rocker ala G 'N R but more polished.
"Leonida" is modern-day Fastway, "Devil In You" sports a catchy chorus, and "You Are The One" rocks with a strong riff.
For the end we have the ballad "Good Night" which recalls Tesla best moments and in parts brings back to my mind a Cinderella old tune as well.
"Bad Decisions" is more solid and impactful than I expected.
In fact I can't find a bad track on this entire album, as everything is played as if the group realizes this may be their only chance at success, so they hold nothing back.
What resulted was a record that should appeal to new and old hard rock fans alike, and a record that should make these five guys household names. As said, the sound is modern and uptdated but The Last Vegas style is pure late '80s / early '90s.
None of the aforementioned classic bands has shown this type of energy or songwriting skill in ages. This new album by The Last Vegas will no doubt appear of many people's 'best of' lists this year - and deservedly so.
Whatever "Bad Decisions" is one of those CDs that demands to be played at high volumes.
01 - Beat To Hell
02 - Other Side
03 - Bad Decisions
04 - Evil Eyes
05 - Don't Take It So Hard
06 - She's My Confusion
07 - It Ain't Easy
08 - My Way Forever
09 - Leonida
10 - Devil In You
11 - You Are The One
12 - Good Night
Chad Cherry (vocals)
Adam Arling (guitars)
Danny Smash (bass)
Nate Arling (drums)
Johnny Wator (guitars)
Californian Bob Welch, better known for the wistful romanticism of such songs as 'Sentimental Lady' with Fleetwood Mac, shattered any stereotyping by composing all of the hard-rocking tunes performed on the debut album by the short-lived power trio PARIS.
In many aspects the band can be labelled as a mini super-group. Together with Welch was former Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Thom Mooney from Nazz (one of the American responses to The Monkees).
Signed to Capitol records and put into the studio with seasoned producer & engineer Jimmy Robinson (Detective), the recording took nearly a year.
Unashamedly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, the band's style focussed on powerful, crunchy riffs, laced with a funky undertow.
But it wasn't all about the music as Bob Welch's bizarre, some might say, spooky lyrics provided yet another murky depth to the package. With references to both religion and metaphysical inspiration, the songs make for curious listening.
Check out "Black Book", "Beautiful Youth", "Rock Of Ages" and album centre piece "Narrow Gate (La Porte Etroite)" for some of the best examples of mid seventies hard rock crafted in the Zepp style, but also in the style of a rising UK band; Thin Lizzy.
This is a rare piece rescued from the vaults by Rock Candy, remastered and with enhanced artwork.
The music on this album is unlike anything Bob Welch did with Fleetwood Mac or his later solo works. Paris delivered a kind of pretty raw hard rock with the typical trio fuel, and although not all the tracks hit the mark, it's a clear testimony of these crazy years when rock was much more than a prefabricated product.
01 - Black Book
02 - Religion
03 - Starcage
04 - Beautiful Youth
05 - Nazarene
06 - Narrow Gate (La Porte Etroite)
07 - Solitare
08 - Breathless
09 - Rock Of Ages
10 - Red Rain
Robert Welch (Fleetwood Mac) - Guitar, Vocals
Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull) - Bass, Keyboards
Thom Mooney (Nazz) - Drums
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JIMMIE VAN ZANT is the younger of the Van Zant family who has been touring the U.S. for years spreading the music that made this dynasty into the American legends they are today.
"Feels Like Freedom" is his fourth album and surely the best in Jimmie's discography
At the beginning of his career in the late nineties, Jimmie was accused for make a living as musician usufructing his famous surname, but the truth is the man has talent.
Although Jimmie's white-hot vocals pay homage to the incredible music legacy paved by his cousins Ronnie (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Johnny (.38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Van Zant), and Donnie (.38 Special, Van Zant), he has opted to a more organinc style in his music since his early days.
Yes, musically it is influenced by classic Southern rock, but he adds to the mix some Americana, country rock and even FM Rock. The difference with his cousins bands lies as well in the sonic treatment of his songs, more melodic and crisp, all clocking in a strict three / four minute.
For "Feels Like Freedom" Van Zant has surrounded himself with the cream of Nashville session players and songwriters. It's a symbiotic and really well rounded combination where the singer stays true to his roots but enriched by new sounds.
Perhaps Van Zant's biggest strength lies in his storytelling.
When addressing wanderlust and leaving the past in "Chasing Shadows" he puts himself in the first person. And the manner in which he shifts from tales of outlaw rockers to depictions of an alcohol-ravaged marriage shows empathic range.
The song sequence has been cleverly chosen. Full-throttle rockers are interspersed with ballads and mid-tempo tunes with taste.
All are good and enjoyable, but title track "Feels Like Freedom" is a winner, an anthemic rocker full of energy and class playing.
"Feels Like Freedom" is a really nice album of pure American rock.
It's very well composed and crisply produced with superb musicians at service of the music, while Jimmie's strong performances infuses each song with heavy emotional weight. And like some skilled method actor, he makes each word spring off the page.
01 - Chasing Shadows
02 - Ain't Quite Mary Jane
03 - Wildest Branch
04 - When You Gonna Learn
05 - Feels Like Freedom
06 - That'll Take You Back
07 - Southern Rock
08 - Unfinished Life
09 - Runaway Train
10 - Come On Man
11 - Stronger Stuff
Jimmie Van Zant (vocals)
Rob McNelly (electric guitar)
Dave Daniels Camarda (electric guitar)
Kent Wells (electric guitar)
Steve Hinson (electric guitar, steel guitar, background vocals)
Kent Wells (acoustic guitar, programming)
Gary Smith (keyboards)
Mike Brignardello (bass)
Nick Buda (drums, percussion)
Christine Winslow (background vocals)
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012
"Classics" is a 2012 European release from rock legends FOREIGNER, a selection of their hits re-recorded with the new incarnation of the band, including vocalist Kelly Hansen (who joined in 2005), ex- Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel, keyboar player Michael Bluestein and drummer Mark Schulman.
These new versions never where released in Europe, and many of them only were available into special packages in America.
While there may be some who prefer remastered versions of the originals, the band in its latest incarnation is no second rate copy. These new takes don't replace the immortal '80s cuts, they just gives you Foreigner updated.
Digitally recorded and produced mastermind Mick Jones, from "Urgent", "Head Games" or "Hot Blooded" to the mega-hit ballad "I Want to Know What Love Is", the band delivers the goods and sounds energetic.
The set also includes the new song "Save Me" which was co-written with Mick Jones' step-daughter and well known DJ & musician, Samantha Ronson.
01 - Feels Like The First Time
02 - Urgent
03 - Can't Slow Down
04 - Cold As Ice
05 - I Want To Know What Love is
06 - Double Vision
07 - Head Games
08 - Hot Blooded
09 - In Pieces
10 - Waiting For A Girl Like You
11 - Long, Long Way From Home
12 - Save Me (new track)
13 - Dirty White Boy
14 - When It Comes To Love
15 - Juke Box Hero
16 - The Flame Still Burns
Mick Jones: Guitars, Vocals
Kelly Hansen: Lead Vocals
Jeff Pilson: Bass, Vocals
Tom Gimbel: Guitar, Keyboards, Sax
Michael Bluestein: Keyboards
Mark Schulman: Drums, Percussion
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Norwegian BENTE SMAAVIK has been singing since her teens when debuted as vocalist if the punk band Per Kleppe & Skattesnylterne in 1978.
The lady has recorded and toured with countless European bands, but maybe Bente's better known international project was being one of the dual lead vocalists for '80s act Blonde On Blonde.
In "1979-2011" she looks back to her long and eventful career that is far from over.
"1979-2011" is like a showcase CD covering her contributions as vocalist from the last 25 years, even including own original material from her 2004's 3-track EP.
After her punky start, Bente joined dancing rock band Four Jets, and during the '80s she turned into melodic hard rock bands such as Road, Blonde On Blonde, later Perfect Crime, and more recently The Jan Holberg Project with Joe Lynn Turner.
All that stuff is presented here, and while every track has its uniqueness, melodic hard rock is the common denominator. It also applies when Smaavik acts as a solo artist and as a guest singer for others, eg. Jimmy Iversen, a musician who appears in several of the bands she has sung in.
The album is set up in the order where her newly recordings comes first and the oldest last. Having started with her '78 demos with a punk band would have given a totally wrong type of impression for those who are not familiar with Smaavik career.
So we start with a contribution in a track for Jimmy Iversen's last year album, the bluesy midtempo "Walk With Me" which shows Smaavik clear and melodious pipes.
The AORish melodic rocker "Vision Of Lust" is one of the best tracks here, Bente's duet with Joe Lynn Turner from the great Jan Holberg Project 'Sense Of Time' album.
Then we have "Hard To Say Goodbye", a great cover of Stage Dolls for their Scandinavian tribute album, the really nice melodic anthem "Vinterfolket" which was the official song to the 2008 Ski Championships held in Norway, and the piano piece "I Natt" recorded with the band Hammers Harem.
From Bente's own EP, "Leaves In The Wind" is the only track featured here, a vocal dominated strong rock&pop tune performed with energy.
"Hot Stuff" is a cover made with Blonde On Blonde of Donna Summer's classic, while "Orn-Sangen (Eagle Song)" is the anthem for the Trondheim Eagles football club. Cool tracks.
"Stripped To The Bone" and "Am I Right" are winners. Both are taken from Perfect Crime's album Blonde To Blonde, classic sounding female fronted Melodic Hard Rock songs plenty of hooks and fine choruses.
Followers "Love Me Or Leave Me" and "Sail Away" are also strong tunes recorded with Blonde On Blonde, the former a great rocker in the FM nineties style, the latter more melodic rock oriented with a marching rhythm.
"Normal Life" is taken from his contribution to the 1986 album with the band Road, an obscure recording much sought after by collectors.
The remaining stuff is the less interesting; the poppy "Good Trip To Paris" with Four Jets, and two poor sounding tracks from her origins with Per Kleppe & Skattesnylterne.
"1979-2011" is like a presentation card from Bente Smaavik, a really good female singer owner of a colorful and potent register.
For Melodic Hard Rock listeners this is a more than recommended CD, because as said, most of the material featured here waters this style, and with very good songs.
Hope Bente Smaavik have the chance in the future for a full length album on her own. She is truly professional and capable.
01 - Walk With Me
02 - Vision Of Lust
03 - Hard To Say Goodbye
04 - Vinterfolket
05 - I Natt
06 - Leaves In The Wind
07 - Hot Stuff
08 - Ørn-Sangen
09 - Stripped To The Bone
10 - Am I Right
11 - Love Me Or Leave Me
12 - Sail Wway
13 - Normal Life
14 - God Tur Til Paris
15 - Per Kleppe Og Skattesnytera
16 - Benny Bankboks
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THE ROCKFORD HEROES was founded in Sweden during autumn 2010 by Jonas Arvidsson (guitar) and Dan Hultstrand (vocals).
Jonas, previous guitarist in the metal act VII Gates, wanted to do something more complete and comprehensive to his musical influences, and found that the so far unknown talented Dan wanted the same thing.
After a few demo recordings to show the music, drummer Marcus Johansson and bass player Pekka Kiviaho were recruited as well, thus formed a complete line-up.
The Rockford Heroes raised some eyebrows with their impressive indie EP "Light Scares" earlier this year, and now are back with another one in the form of "The White EP". Both EP's combine their love for classic '70s pomp AOR / Melodic Rock, '80s Hard Rock & modern day sounds.
The music features plenty of crunchy riffs and classy keyboard textures, with a wide spectrum of influnces ranging from Styx, Rainbow, Skid Row, Edguy, Queen, Pretty Maids, Tobruk and many more. The band is kind of all over the map but it works.
The first EP "Light Scares" is more seventies / eighties oriented, sometimes pompy but not with that edgy modern AOR sound that we hear from so many bands today, it is a bit rougher around the edges and less layered.
I can hear strong Styx influences here, the melody of earlier REO Speedwagon but also the first Def Leppard, Tobruk and Bronz.
Lead singer Dan Hultstrand has a really good voice soinding in places a bit like Tommy Shaw first-era Styx, but without the lisp that Tommy has. I love the way the guitars and keyboards are thrown in the mix, creating a very nice atmosphere.
"Streets Of Gold" reminds you '79 Styx with its lovable chorus, the melodic rock lines of "Embrace The Moonlight" brings back Bronz and Tobruk, while "Keep Away From The Sun" will recall to you the first Europe, Whitesnake and Zepp.
"Love Lies Bleeding" akins more '80s Styx sounds, while "Devil's Eye" has a different production (obviously from a different recording session) featuring some synths in a German or Scandi style.
I found myself listening again and again to the songs included in this EP and some special attribute to remark is that the production and output sound does not resemble at all to the plastic-pressed recordings done massively lately.
The 4-track "White EP" it is musically slightly different, a bit more heavier which is well illustrated in the very good opening track "Gold Encircles The Altar". It is still very melodic though and the music still feels rooted in the melodic hard rock style but with a more modern approach.
The vocals are also more powerful, hard rocking, with Hultstrand singing in a first Skid Row Sebastian Bach-like style. The keyboards play a Rainbow or even Foreigner role keeping the connection with the '80s intact.
Guitars feel harder than the previous EP as it is obvious in the riff driven and fast rocker "Capricious Arrows" that could easily hide some NWOBHM influences following the characteristic bridge-chorus addictive structure.
I love the way the keyboards throw Uriah Heep on the influences table while opening the door for some almost AOR grooves during "A Split Second Goodbye".
"The Fools Realm" closes the EP kicking-in as a power ballad (I can spot the Coverdale singing references here) and then explodes into a great Euro Hard ala Pretty Maids or Praying Mantis tune based once again into British virtues via the driving main melody and the mood lifting tempo. A terrific track.
The Rockford Heroes must be Sweden's best kept secret, but I'm sure we will hear great things about them in a near future.
The songs are extremely well-crafted with driving grooves and awesome melodies that will stick to mind from the very beginning. They go from pompy classic sounding melodic tunes to epic styled arrangements and layers of vocals, plus some surprising hooks.
Honestly, each tune here has its own charm, providing some really hard rocking moments but also with enough sophistication and melodies to also appeal the Melodic Rock, AOR and even the progressive crowd.
Now if only these guys can put together a strong full length and get a label to back them the world will then get a hefty dose of what they are all about.
01 - Gold Encircles The Altar
02 - Capricious Arrows
03 - A Split Second Goodbye
04 - The Fools Realm
05 - Streets Of Gold
06 - Embrace The Moonlight
07 - Keep Away From The Sun
08 - Love Lies Bleeding
09 - Devil's Eye
Jonas Arvidsson – Guitars
Dan Hultstrand – Vocals
Marcus Johansson – Drums
Andreas Lundgren – Bass
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Nigel Dupree is the son of Jesse James Dupree of Jackyl fame, but the guy has his own career, and with his rocing band is releasing his second album "Up To No Good".
Like his pops, Nigel has a true love for loud, greasy, grimy, dirty barroom brawl rock and roll. You could say that this rocker didn't fall far from the tree.
But unlike his dad, however, Nigel did not grow up playing chainsaws, instead, he grabbed a Les Paul guitar. Nigel seemingly listened to Tesla growing up and that is worn on his sleeve proudly. He is a good guitarist who can write an infectious hook and play American hard / classic rock with style.
The album starts out with the moving rocker "Attitude", a three chord hard rocking tune with a great riff and solo. The track is the description for this record; quintessential hard rock, instant and enjoyable.
First single "Tumbleweed" is a low slung grinding affair showing off his southern roots and a nasty track to down that next drink to. "Say Watcha Say" and "Trouble" continue the fire as well as one of the best tracks on the album: "Control".
As hard as this record burns, it does have a sentimental side with the slow grooves that are "The Chooser" and "Hold On" but still showing serious power underneath.
Nigel Dupree has come out swinging with a solid rock record to be cranked up while cruising down the highway or while at a backyard BBQ.
Nigel is not reinventing the wheel on "Up To No Good ". Instead, he has the look of a young Ted Nugent and a sound that mixes all of the bands that influenced his daddy and the more commercial side of American hard / classic rock, resulting in a sort of an '80s rock for the new millennium' sound.
A very well-rounded album that has something for every rock fan.
01 - Attitude
02 - Tumbleweed
03 - Control
04 - The Chooser
05 - Hold On
06 - Push
07 - Sad Situation
08 - Trouble
09 - Blame
10 - Say Whatcha Say
11 - Blur
Nigel Dupree : Vocals, Guitar
David Buchanan : Guitar
Alex Foretich : Bass
Sebastian Anderson : Drums
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Thursday, August 16, 2012
THE DARKNESS, England's fearlessly flamboyant answer to '80s glam / glitter hard rock, are back after a five-year hiatus with the original line-up and a new album: "Hot Cakes".
In late 2011, the British quartet enjoyed a handful of reunion dates – clad in their signature open-chested catsuits and leather pants – followed by a North American tour. In February, frontman Justin Hawkins sang their old song 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' for a Super Bowl commercial, pushing the 2003 anthem back up the iTunes charts.
Next week the band will consummate the reunion to record the new album, their first to feature original bassist Frankie Poullain since the 2003 debut.
Justin Hawkins may be the face and attention-seizing voice of The Darkness, but the heart of their sound lies in his guitar playing, which offsets brother Dan's 'Angus Youngian' raunch with the sort of rich, harmonic solos that Tom Scholz used to slather on Boston records.
And despite the band's love for retro hard rock histrionics, "Hot Cakes" furthers the notion that the Darkness are, in essence, a very slick power-rock-pop band with high doses of commercialism.
"Hot Cakes" was recorded by the band at Dan Hawkins' home studio as well as Rockfield in Wales, assisted by producer Nick Brine with glam rock legend Bob Ezrin behind the mixing board.
Highlighted by wailing sex anthems ("Every Inch Of You"), pop-metal hooks ("Living Each Day Blind"), and a thrashing glam reinvention of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)", the album culls generously from the band's usual pool of influences – including flashy hair bands, seventies hard rock and Queen.
There's the usual feel-good rockers such as "Nothin's Gonna Stop Us", "Keep Me Hangin' On" and "Everybody Have a Good Time". The titles says all.
The Darkness is a mega-selling sensation in UK, and a more modest phenomenon in America. "Hot Cakes" arrives to try make 'em big there and so far as possible.
It's a very comercial disc with easy tunes very well produced and arranged, and although this stuff isn't exactly my cup of tea, I must admit that The Darkness is a good thing.
A good thing because this band is able to spread rock-rooted songs in the mainstream music business (they will be an opening slot on the European leg of Lady Gaga's tour), and maybe it helps to bring new listeners to the (real) hard rock genre.
"Hot Cakes [Collector's Edition]" includes a bunch of bonuses of old songs in acoustic form and alternate takes, some of them really cool and enjoyable.
Enjoyable as it's the whole CD if you're looking - nothing more, nothing less - for a fun, good time.
01. Every Inch Of You
02. Nothing's Gonna Stop Us
03. With A Woman'
04. Keep Me Hangin' On
05. Livin’ Every Day Blind
06. Everybody Have A Good Time
07. She Just A Girl Eddie
08. Forbidden Love
10. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
11. Love Is Not The Answer
12. I Can't Believe It's Not Love (Acoustic Demo) (Bonus Track)
13. Love Is Not The Answer (Acoustic Demo) (Bonus Track)
14. Pat Pong Ladies (Demo Mix) (Bonus Track)
15. Cannonball (feat. Ian Anderson) (Long Version) (Bonus Track)
Justin Hawkins : Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Dan Hawkins : Guitar
Frankie Poullain : Bass
Ed Graham : Drums
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DISTRICT 97 debuted in 2010 with an album which received more clamour for the fact that the band's singer Leslie Hunt had competed as a finalist in 2007's American Idol, than the excellent music it contained.
However in the cold light of day it wasn't merely Hunt's voice, or the prog-idol crossover shock that made the album stand out, the clash of traditional prog and a modern approach ensured that the music itself made the CD a worthy contender for time on any prog lovers playlist.
So two years later and District 97 are back with their second album "Trouble With Machines".
While not much has changed, neither has much stood still, with Hunt still leading much of the music from the front, but only because what she is backed by is pretty damn impressive in the first place.
As many prog albums do, "Trouble With Machines" splits into two types of songs. The long, meandering, jarring mini-epics and the shorter blasts of melody that offer light relief for those fatigued by off-kilter time signatures, vocal melodies that intentionally work against the keyboards / guitar lines and long drawn out arrangements.
The effect is one where the album feels challenging and technical, while simultaneously being quite immediate and memorable, catchy even.
Although when you revisit it, somehow the commercial sheen you imagined remembering isn't quite there, with more of the bristling riffs, keen piano forays and pounding drum adventures revealing themselves to be not as simple and straight forward as first thought.
Every spin reveals more, with "The Perfect Young Man" howling through a guitar and Hammond battle that results in a bloodied tie, before the nuancing hi-hat patterns and vocal harmonies between Hunt and guitarist Jim Tashjian come along to trounce all that have come before them.
Talking of Tashjian, he really is a mighty talent, but then so is Rob Clearfield, who provides keyboards as well as the odd touch of six string magic.
From the shorter tracks, "Open Your Eyes" lets the vocals really stretch out in a more accessible way, but the ever on the move percussion from Jonathan Schang stops the bouncy riff from becoming just too straight ahead. Although stinging burst of harmony guitar, which are almost laughingly bright and jolly also knocks you out of any comfort zone you'd attempted to settle in.
Then bassist Patrick Mulcahy brings the bottom end rumble to the District, with his forceful attack on the funky and moving romp of "Who Cares?", illustrating his importance to the band to the full.
Much though these shorter blasts are convincingly good fun, it really is where things become more extrovertly introverted that District 97 really make their mark, with the unsettling vocals of "Read Your Mind" leading you into a dreamy, yet threatening setting, before the ever evolving and often spacey "The Thief" brings a subtlety to the album that is only really hinted at elsewhere.
"Trouble With Machines" is a mature and really interesting album from District 97's, a band planted in the Prog field but never afraid to explore new territories. It is no surprise that the band has earned praise from some big names in the Prog world such as John Wetton (who also guest vocals), Bill Bruford and Carl Palmer.
However, it is actually quite difficult to place this band into any particular sub-genre, as it presents a unique blending of styles with some Neo Prog, Melodic Hard Rock, Symphonic impressions, and even some Prog Metal style guitar riffs.
District 97 music is playful, clever, exploratory, enigmatic, and a whole lot of fun. The compositions are wonderfully well thought out and present many twists and turns, good grooves, complex rhythms but also easy melodies, and some excellent musicianship.
Far from being a flash in the pan prog band with a media back story, "Trouble With Machines" proves that District 97 are in it for the long haul.
On the evidence of this album, they'll have a lot of people interested in their journey. I am one of them.
1. Back And Forth
2. Open Your Eyes
3. The Actual Color
4. The Perfect Young Man
5. Who Cares?
6. Read Your Mind
7. The Thief
Leslie Hunt / lead & backing vocals
Rob Clearfield / keyboards, guitar
Jim Tashjian / guitar, backing vocals
Patrick Mulcahy / bass
Jonathan Schang / drums, percussion
John Wetton / vocals (4)
Katinka Kleijn / cello (6)
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The Real One, not the fake floating around
In the realms of the recording sessions for his exceptional project Prog Collective, Billy Sherwood has been cooking as well a tribute to one of Britain's most loved melodic prog bands: Supertramp.
"Songs of the Century - An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp" features some of the stars appeared in the Prog Collective album, plus some well known names of the Melodic Hard Rock field.
We have lead vocals by Starship's Mickey Thomas, ex-Rainbow / Deep Purple singer Joe Lynn Turner, The Zombies' Rod Argent, full instrumentations by Toto's Steve Porcaro, The Doors' Robby Krieger and several Yes members and alumni, including Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Tony Kaye, Geoff Downes, Billy Sherwood and Peter Banks.
Sherwood has done a very good job arranging and producing the Pink Floyd tribute albums Back Against The Wall & Return To The Dark Side Of The Moon, and shines here as well.
The 11 Supertramp songs are essentially their best known hits. Each performance considers the original arrangement, yet a touch of each performer style comes through. Sometimes there's obvious playfulness to the composition, which merely shows contributor's fondness for the music.
While all the interpretations display love for Supertramp's music, the better ones were: "Take the Long Way Home", "Logical Song" with a cool Mickey Thomas, "School", and "Bloody Well Right" featuring the stainless Joe Lynn Turner.
Sherwood tosses in an original Chris Squire - Tony Kaye track composition (non-Supertramp) as a bonus track as well.
There's a "Songs of the Century - An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp" Deluxe Edition (which I have), with a bonus CD featuring the instrumental takes of the tunes, but oppositely as it happens with the same move in Prog Collective, these versions here sound insipid without the vocals. In my opinion, don't worth the extra cash.
"Songs of the Century - An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp" is a pleasing tribute to a great band, with some stunning performances.
01 - Breakfast In America (ft. John Wetton, Larry Fast)
02 - Take The Long Way Home (ft. John Wesley)
03 - The Logical Song (ft. Mickey Thomas, Steve Morse)
04 - Give A Little Bit (ft. Richard Page, Peter Banks)
05 - It's Raining Again (ft. Geoff Downes, Colin Moulding)
06 - Crime Of The Century (ft. Billy Sherwood, Rick Wakeman)
07 - Dreamer (ft. Annie Haslam, David Sancious)
08 - Goodbye Stranger (ft. Billy Sherwood, Gary Green, Jordan Rudess)
09 - Rudy (ft. Roye Albrighton, Steve Porcaro)
10 - Bloody Well Right (ft. Joe Lynn Turner, Dave Kerzner)
11 - School (ft. Rod Argent, Robby Kriegger)
Bonus Original track:
12 - Let The World Revolve (ft. Billy Sherwood, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye)
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Anytime LYNYRD SKYNYRD comes out with a new CD, infrequently as that maybe, the reaction is almost universally the same: They're not as good as the original seventies line-up.
But that doesn't mean Skynyrd's second incarnation can't rock. In fact, to my ears, their brand new album "Last Of A Dyin' Breed" is one of the best in their career.
The best description of Last Of A Dyin' Breed" is: Solid Rock. Though, as with most things, it has its highs and lows. But this band is pure Classic Rock, and rocks good.
Every song on this CD stands alone, from the opening riff to the closing note. As on their previous album there's some country-rock lines to be found on a few tracks, but essentially - as we all know - Skynyrd is Southern Rock with an American Hard Rockin' vibe all over.
Lynyrd Skynyrd has also reinlisted the guitar army harmonies that made their sound so distinct when they first burst on the scene, and now they have incorporated a heavier edge that fits all too perfectly - even though no one thought it would have.
Possibly contributing to this harder sound is the fact that they collaborated again with unlikely suspect John 5 provinding some of his crazy licks.
It's been about 34 years since Ronnie Van Zant's passing in an airplane crash, and younger brother Johnny has proven himself to be a solid frontman since that time.
The technical ability of Van Zant, guitarists Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke, and Mark Matejka, new bassist Johnny Colt, killer drummer Michael Cartellone (ex- Damn Yankees) and keyboardist Peter Pisarcyzk is not up for debate.
These are musicians who still provide 'wow' moments on "Last Of A Dyin' Breed". Something that not many can achieve these days.
01 - Last Of A Dyin' Breed
02 - One Day At A Time
03 - Homegrown
04 - Ready To Fly
05 - Mississippi Blood
06 - Good Teacher
07 - Something To Live For
08 - Life's Twisted
09 - Nothing Comes Easy
10 - Honey Hole
11 - Start Livin' Life Again
Johnny Van Zant – lead vocals
Gary Rossington – guitars
Rickey Medlocke – guitars
Michael Cartellone – drums
Mark Matejka - guitars
Peter Pisarcyzk - keyboards
Johnny Colt - bass
John Lowery aka "John 5" - Additional Guitar
As we anticipated here some months ago with an exclusive advanced track, one of the biggest musical collectives in Prog history has been gathered together by former YES musician Billy Sherwood.
Today, the appropriately titled CD "THE PROG COLLECTIVE" hit the streets.
Sherwood has persuaded some very high profile talents in the genre to appear as guests on a record on which Billy also plays most of the instruments.
The recording includes some of the greatest names in Progressive Rock History all in one album; from Yes, Asia, Gong, Alan Parsons Project, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Porcupine Tree and XTC. There is also a neat vocal by Annie Haslam (Renaissance) who duets with Peter Banks, the original Yes guitarist.
Interestingly the bar code sticker on the CD states 'File under Yes', but a Yes album this is not, far from it.
Opener "Laws Of Nature" features the great vocals of John Wetton alongside a killer electric violin played by the legendary Jerry Goodman of the Mahavishnu Orchestra fame. It is great to hear Goodman has not lost any of his superfast skills, laying down a pace which only a master class bassist of the calibre of Tony Levin could handle. The drums are actually played by Billy Sherwood, who is responsible for the “Prog Collective” producing, recording and mixing all the tracks at his Circa Studios in Los Angeles.
On "Technical Divide" Sherwood managed to secure the services of his old Yes compatriot Chris Squire, thus ensuring a thumping bass, supporting a lead vocal by Alan Parsons with strutting and soaring guitar work by Gary Green, he of Gentle Giant fame. A tight musical combination.
Sherwood's production skills are well renowned within the music industry and on "Buried Beneath", he utilises the soaring guitar playing of Steve Hillage to build up a sheer wall of sound with keyboards and xylophone contributed by Larry Fast, who was very instrumental with the early works of Peter Gabriel.
Strangely enough I would never have listed XTC as a pure prog band, but on "Check Point Karma" Billy has cleverly landed the talents of Colin Moulding, the bass player of XTC, to take the lead vocal in the cool journey that is this tune. A very accessible melody with Rick Wakeman providing two easily recognizable Hammond solos, the only critic being they are simply just too short.
Billy Sherwood has pulled together some of the greatest names in prog history, all of whom joined with great enthusiasm for this unique idea.
“The Prog Collective” sounds vital, dynamic, and it's almost perfect in all aspects. The sound and production is lush and brilliant.
I strongly recommend this "Deluxe Edition" which includes an extra CD featuring instrumental versions (and a little remix) of each track, giving a completely new dimension to these fabulous compositions.
“The Prog Collective” will appeal a wide range of audiences, not only Prog, that's for sure. So melodic rockers, aorsters, and people with good taste in music, don't miss this one.
1. The Laws of Nature (Feat. Jerry Goodman, John Wetton, Tony Levin)
2. Over Again (Feat. Geoff Downes, Richard Page)
3. The Technical Divide (Feat. Alan Parsons, Chris Squire, Gary Green)
4. Social Circles (Faet. Annie Haslam, Peter Banks)
5. Buried Beneath (Feat. Billy Sherwood, Larry Fast, Steve Hillage)
6. Following the Signs (Feat. John Wesley, Tony Kaye)
7. Check Point Karma (Feat. Colin Moulding, Rick Wakeman)
CD 2: (Instrumental)
1. The Laws of Nature (Feat. Jerry Goodman, Tony Levin)
2. Over Again (Feat. Geoff Downes)
3. The Technical Divide (Feat. Chris Squire, Gary Green)
4. Social Circles (Feat. Peter Banks)
5. Buried Beneath (Feat. Larry Fast, Steve Hillage)
6. Following the Signs (Feat. John Wesley, Tony Kaye)
7. Check Point Karma (Feat. Rick Wakeman)
The Dream Team:
Billy Sherwood (Yes, Circa, Yoso, Lodgic)
John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson)
Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel)
Chris Squire (Yes)
Richard Page (Mr. Mister)
Colin Moulding (ex- XTC)
Jerry Goodman (ex- Mahavishnu Orchestra)
Gary Green (ex- Gentle Giant)
Annie Haslam (Icon, Magenta)
Peter Banks (Yes, Empira)
David Sancious (ex- Peter Gabriel)
Geoff Downes (Yes, Asia)
Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple)
John Wesley (Porcupine Tree)
Larry Fast (Peter Gabriel, Foreigner)
Billy Cobham (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra)
Chester Thompson (Genesis, Frank Zappa)
Jordan Rudess (ex- Dream Theater)
Keith Emerson (ELP)
Mel Collins (King Crimson, Camel)
Nik Turner (Hawkwind)
Rick Wakeman (Yes)
Steve Hillage (Gong)
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Monday, August 13, 2012
MYSTERY was formed in 1986 by Michel St-Pere in the Montreal region, Canada. Originally created as a studio project, it would take nearly four years before their first self-titled album was published.
Since then the band released material regularly, being "The World Is A Game" their brand new CD.
Apart from mastermind St-Pere, Mystery includes in the line-up YES vocalist Benoit David who has recorded in 'Fly From Here' and the subsequent 'In The Present; Live From Lyon'.
For this new Mystery recording, Michel St-Pere has recruited expert bass player Antoine Fafard from the band Spaced Out, and terrific drummer Nick D'Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Tears For Fears, Genesis).
"The World Is A Game" delivers top class Neo Prog in all aspects.
Foundationally, the music is progressive rock, with a vocalist that gives them a hint of classic AOR, which to my ears is actually a great combination.
There are soaring melodies, St. Pere's tasteful guitar riffs and class keyboards, beautiful vocals from Benoit David and a stellar rhythm section. The songs are incredibly solid and interesting with accessible melodies, understandable lyrics and of course, great musicianship.
Mystery's style will remind you YES, Rush, Marillion, Styx, but the more modern incarnations of these bands, so expect a lush and polished sound with a crispy fabulous production.
"The World Is A Game" is an excellent Neo Prog album, it has everything that feeds the craving of the fans of this style: Prog + AOR + mature art music.
Everything is done top notch; a great combination of production, melody, instrumentation, songwriting and a vocalist that really keeps your attention with his pure range and unique tone.
01 - A Morning Rise
02 - Pride
03 - Superstar
04 - The Unwinding of Time
05 - The World is a Game
06 - Dear Someone
07 - Time Goes By
08 - Another Day
Michel St-Pere - Guitars, Keyboards
Benoit David (Yes) - Vocals
Antoine Fafard - Bass, additional Acoustic Guitar
Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard, Tears For Fears) - Drums
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Norwegian Melodic Hard Rockers FAITH CIRCUS were already presented here with their stupendous debut some months ago.
Today, August 10, they're releasing the 5-track EP "5.Live", as the title says, recorded live.
The set features some of the best tracks of their debut plus the previously unreleased song "No Turning Back". It is an electrifying show recorded privately in front of 200+ of their closest friends & fans.
I love this band and their brand of extremely melodious hard rock and this recording confirms they're really hot on stage as well.
The songs have been slightly re-arranged, specially "Hold On" featuring a crunchy guitar work, while the new track "No Turning Back" has a catchy chorus.
Another fine slice of Scandi Melodic Hard Rock from Faith Circus.
01 - Tried N True
02 - No Turning Back (previously unreleased)
03 - Hold On
04 - Rain On You
05 - Back On Love
Marc Farrano - vocals
Marius Morch - guitars
Lasse Koester - bass
Baard Nordvik - drums
Christer Ottesen - bass
unlisted keyboard player & female backing vocalists
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Although WORLDS APART have been performing and recording together since the early '90s, releasing four very good albums and playing in sold out shows with bands like Dokken, Y&T, Night Ranger, Cinderella, Firehouse among others, they never make it big and aren't well known in the Melodic Hard Rock community.
A shame, because these guys are all very good musicians and wrote very catchy tunes.
"Separate Ways" is a collection of songs recorded on a 16 track tape machine back in 1992 but never officially released.
These dudes had everything formula-wise to have made a splash. That typical hard rock tone, the high rise vocals, the crunchy guitar grooves and the lyrics to ignite a spark or two.
The songs here have been re-mixed by Johnny Lima and mastered by Anthony Focx who has worked with big names like Aerosmith and Buckcherry. Is obvious the guys wanted to give this release the proper mixing for all the fans to enjoy, and the quality clearly shows.
The opener of "That's Why They Sent Me" has a tight get-n-go rhythm that leads the way for a razor sharp start. The guitars splash through with true Hard Rock edge on the high riser "Give It Back".
A tune that has commercial appeal is the resourceful hooks of "Riding On a Whisper". Another well done song is "Forever" which plays like a memoir or a soundtrack of someone's life, another solid song with a fun pompous chorus.
The title track "Separate Ways" has it's nostalgic moments as the name of the record was based on the fact the group is disbanded now.This song holds a special meaning more than it would under any other circumstances.
The last track "Final Chapter" features all the desired traits that made the band's last release (2010's 'Clean Slate', already presented in this blog) really enjoyable; powerful melodies, nice backing choruses and some tantalizing guitar action, a perfect song to close the record with.
"Separate Ways" is the delightful will from Worlds Apart to their fans and to anyone who loves the good classic late '80s / early '90s Melodic Hard Rock sounds.
Too many bands today seem to forget how to make good and fun rock music, and with the vast ocean of talentless people out there and the crumbling music industry, is nice have a piece of fine melodious Hard Rock come alive out of the proverbial cellar and unleashed to the world as it was meant to be.
01 - That's Why They Sent Me
02 - Crutch
03 - Give It Back
04 - Last Time
05 - Desperation
06 - Can't Let Go
07 - Separate Ways
08 - Riding On A Whisper
09 - All Or Nothing
10 - Forever
11 - Final Chapter
Jay Davids – Lead Vocals
Rich Cedillo – All Guitars and Backing Vocals
Jeff (JAS) Silva – Bass, Fretless and Backing Vocals
Gary Silva – Drums
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"The Story Of Light" is the new STEVE VAI studio album to be released on August 14, and as his acclaimed 2005 album ‘Real Illusions: Reflections’ (Vai’s most recent studio release), it's a concept work.
In a true Vai style, the CD takes you on a journey from the opening title track for 12 exciting compositions.
As expected, this mostly instrumental album is crafted with a monster and complex production (rare to hear these days), soaring multi-layered guitar tones, and tight harmonies. It's a beautifully expansive work that orbits within a galaxy we've visited before, and Vai is truly awesome throughout.
The opening two tracks are very epic sounding as you can probably imagine, both using 7 string guitars to get full sounding chords to build atmosphere.
Title track "The Story Of Light" is a very complex and layered song where the guitar keeps a simplicity that binds the parts together as the drums and keyboards jump around in the background with scattered rhythmic stabs.
"Velorum" on the other hand is a more uptempo rock track with singing harmony melodies and ethereal verse sections where a single guitar plays the melody, the chorus sections sound really heavy with the 7 string guitars being used and the syncopated breakdown is superb.
The album offer some nice surprises as well.
Vai covers Blind Willie Johnson’s "John The Revelator" with a gospel choir and an amazing vocal performance from Beverly McClellan (a finalist on The Voice). I was instantly transported back to watching ‘Crossroads’ for the first time. This is how I remember Steve Vai sounding as well when heard his playing in David Lee Roth's ‘Eat ‘em & Smile’.
Steve also duets with singer / songwriter Aimee Mann on "No More Amsterdam" to great effect. It is an unusual song for Vai, a very orchestrated lush sounding composition and his vocals creates a rare contrast with Mann's register.
And of course, Vai gets in his share of familiar arena-rock workouts like the killer "Gravity Storm" and "Racing The World", and mellower inspired compositions such as "Creamsickle Sunset" and "Mullach a' tSi".
Another of my favourite tracks is "Weeping China Doll", this is a classic Steve Vai track with heavy 7 string solo guitar building the intro before the densely layered backing track enters. The track is ballad style with some of Vai’s famous Wah effected solos and layered anthemic riffs throughout that reminded me of his work with Whitesnake mixed with ‘For The Love Of God’.
All in all, "The Story Of Light" takes music and guitar playing to a whole new standard, as usually happens when Vai takes his time (it has been seven years) to create.
Vai thoroughly showcases his brilliance in each song through a variety of different guitar techniques such as tapping, whammy bar use, great finger picking patterns in background guitar parts, and, of course, complex use of different musical scales.
Among this vast amalgamation of virtuosity is Steve's uncanny ability for melodies. Throughout the CD the compositions feature a very high amount of them, some truly memorable.
All Steve Vai albums sparks interest in the listener, and "The Story Of Light" is not the exception. In fact, it is one of his best albums ever.
01 - The Story Of Light
02 - Velorum
03 - John The Revelator
04 - Book Of The Seven Seals
05 - Creamsicle Sunset
06 - Gravity Storm
07 - Mullach a' tSi
08 - The Moon And I
09 - Weeping China Doll
10 - Racing The World
11 - No More Amsterdam
12 - Sunshine Electric Raindrops
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Back in 2007 DESTINATION'S CALLING came out of nowhere (well, in fact from Germany) with their great debut 'Invisible Walls' which really surprised me with its high quality and many memorable songs.
The band has spent the last four years preparing their 2nd effort "End Of Time" - they are independent and manage all the artistic aspects, even the artwork - and this has paid off.
For starters, Destination's Calling was tagged as Melodic Power Euro Metal with their debut, and I agree for the most part although they had a particular way to develop their music.
The new CD shows the band retaining their powerful stamp but exploring new welcomed musical territories and melodies. The strong rhythm section is still there, the lead guitar work and many guitar solos are once again spectacular and Christian Grater is back with his clear voice (supported by very good backing vocals).
But now the band is much more melodious than before. I would't classify "End Of Time" as Power Metal all. Instead, the CD leans towards Melodic Progressive Metal, mid-paced Prog and some Euro Melodic Hard Rock touches.
Take as reference Cloudscape, Platitude, Allen-Lande, Vanishing Point and nineties Queensryche.
A proof of Destination's Calling more accesible (yet elaborated) approach is the inclussion of 3 ballads in this new album, intercalated between the rocking tracks which gives the recording a nice flow and variation.
These slow tunes are amongst the best material in the CD, build around fine orchestrations, acoustic guitars and atmospheric passages, being "Dark Poem" my favorite.
One of the things I like the most about the debut are the choruses, and they're just as good on this album as well. The band simply knows how to create memorable songs, both with the vocals/choruses and the crafty guitar work.
Just check the great "Walking On Thin Ice" which has a really melodic line and a sound pretty close to modern Melodic Hard Rock, the bouncy title track "End Of Time" or the marching "Burning Paradise".
"End Of Time" is consistently solid CD and a step forward for this band, maintaining a high level of musicality from start to finish.
Destination's Calling managed to put down a distinctive sound despite the different genre influences delivering an album that contains a variety of songs but making them homogeneous. Songwriting is crucial these days, and Destination's Calling is up there with the best.
They're skilled musicians too and their ablities are enhanced by the incredible pristine and polished production for an indie, handled by the lately much in-demand Sascha Paeth who grants a crunchy or crispy sound when needed on each track.
With "End Of Time" Destination's Calling will please a wide spectrum of rockers, don't be afraid to taste them if your ears prefer more delicate sounds, you will find them here as well.
01 - Feel The Rain
02 - Soulbound
03 - Revolution In Mind
04 - The Broken Hourglass
05 - Dreams Died On The Road
06 - Another Day
07 - End Of Time
08 - Burning Paradise
09 - Dark Poem
10 - Walking On Thin Ice
11 - The Way Back Home
Christian Gräter – Vocals, Guitar
Markus Göller – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Steffen Singler – Bass
Christian Frank – Drums
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BENNY MARDONES exploded onto the music scene in 1980 and was quickly nicknamed 'The Voice', a title earned because of his incredible range, as well as his soulful and passionate performances.
His second album spawned the hit 'Into The Night', becoming a radio classic across the country, topped the charts twice, and turned one of the most frequently played tunes in radio history.
It is estimated that the song has been played more than 4,500,000 times in the US alone.
After the massive success, expectation were high for Benny's third LP "Too Much To Lose" on the major label Polydor. Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors - including a massive restructuring in the record company - the album was a commercial failure.
But many people feel the record was a musical smash, containing some of the best songs in Benny's career, including the original version of "Shelia C.", "Baby Don't" and "I'm Not Gonna Cry Anymore".
I am one of those.
"Too Much To Lose" is plenty of Classic early '80s American AOR gems, almost all composed by Mardones together with Robert Tepper, who later would shine performing the in the Rocky IV soundtrack and as solo artist.
The album was only released in America on vinyl, and due to legal fights with the record company, never pressed on CD.
Now, finally, Mardones got the rights to release "Too Much To Lose" for the very first time on a digital support remastered with a really pristine sound.
The CD is only available at his webstore, so be fast, as it's a limited edition.
A Must Have.
You've seen it first here, at 0dayrockz
01 - Sheila C.
02 - This Time
03 - The Dreamer
04 - Till He Mentioned Your Name
05 - Baby Don't
06 - Treat You Right
07 - I'm Not Gonna Cry Anymore
08 - Oh Me Oh My
Benny Mardones - Vocals
Robert Tepper - Bass, Backing Vocals
Lars Hanson - Guitar
Terry Bacon - Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Gregg Gerson - Drums
Judi Dozier - Keyboards
Michael Kamen - Synclavier Keyboard
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PHOENIX RISING is new sensational band from Rome, Italy, founded by singer / drummer Titta Tani, who want to create something fresh and interesting in the AOR / Melodic Rock scene.
Their first effort "Give It A Name" surely will delight the true fans of the genre.
The Phoenix Rising project was created in 2008 by Titta Tani and guitarist Paolo Caucci. The duo worked hard on several songs and ideas but the project was moved aside for a period of time due to studio engagements and live tours with other bands. Both are requested session musicians, and Tani has been part of several bands such as DGM, Daemonia, Goblin, Ashent.
But now the time has come for Phoenix Rising.
Led by Tani on vocals (who also took care of all the lyrics and most the drums), the band is now made up of very talented six-string player Andrea Gentili, Gilles Boscolo (Ashent) on keyboards, Alessandro Jacobi (Burning Black) on bass and Francesco Di Battista on drums.
On "Give It A Name" you will find 5 songs of high quality AOR / Melodic Rock reminiscent of the great bands of the genre such as Journey, Giant, The Storm, Boston, Pride Of Lions just to name a few, with a very personal songwriting and taste crafting fine melodies.
Catchy refrains since the very first listening and outstanding sense of melody are the trademarks of these songs. The guitars are sharp and the keyboards are used and arranged in the classic way of the genre. Most of them are played by Paolo Caucci (no longer in the band) as this recording was made prior to the present line-up.
Tani does a very good job with the vocals, and being essentially a drummer in his musical formation, what it is truly remarkable in this recording is the drum sound & playing.
Most of the indie recordings face this problem; the lack of a good drum and percussion sound / production. This is not the case here, the rhythm section is really outstanding.
I only have words of admiration to Phoenix Rising.
They are playing true, real Classic AOR / Melodic Rock in this 5-track debut, with excellent musicianship and production.
Check the video-track below (which isn't the best song on offer here) and convince yourselves.
Kudos to Phoenix Rising! Can't wait for a full length album.
You've seen it first here, at 0dayrockz
01 - No Lie To Say
02 - Fade Away
03 - Written On A Stone
04 - It's Up To You And Me
05 - Give It A Name
Tatti Tani : Vocals, Drums
Paolo Caucci : Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Andrea Gentili : Guitars
Gilles Boscolo : Keyboards
Alessandro Jacobi : Bass
Francesco Di Battista : add. Drums
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Those who only remember THE FIXX for their ‘80s hits will be pleasantly surprised by their latest release, "Beautiful Friction".
Most known for their synth-pop chart singles 'Saved by Zero', 'One Thing Leads to Another' or 'Red Skies at Night', The Fixx's music has moved toward a new maturity with the years, and their new album is one of the best of their career.
The Fixx was always a different beast from the MTV generation crowd.
Lyrically they are political and thought provoking, while musically, a review of their catalog finds a creative mixture of new wave rock, guitar-rock, progressive rock influences and even some proto-electronic work.
They were not an easy band to classify back then as their material always sounded so unlike other artists. Their music was too explorative and wide in range to pigeonholed as simple new wave pop.
So it is no surprise that many of the 11 songs on their latest CD doesn't fit into any category or genre. In my opinion, "Beautiful Friction" is a revelation.
You get a fresh, vital energy rarely seen in a group that has been together for 30 years (same line-up) with the polished wisdom and professionalism of a seasoned rock band all spread across 11 songs.
The range of different types of songs on this CD is impressive. It goes from the blistering rock song "What God?" to the acoustic ballad "Small Thoughts", from the rocking, politically-conscious "Take A Risk" to the almost progressive "Something Ahead of You".
The really original "Just Before Dawn" showcases the fact that the band is stretching beyond what they are known for, and reaching for a denser sound that allows the group explore new styles — and Cy Curnin to sing in a more subdued way.
"Follow That Cab" is another rock track which exposes all the elements of The Fixx genesis, when they had a sound similar to the first U2 and alikes around Great Britain. It's a meaty track, full of energy.
"Anyone Else" is the first single which sounds terrific and whose message is motivated by recent political and social upheaval in the world.
The album continues to deliver on surprises with the title track that has Curnin singing in a falsetto over a mid-tempo groove and a delicate guitar hook from West-Oram.
The Fixx is a criminally underrated band, perhaps punished for their '80 synth-pop hits. But The Fixx always has been much more than that.
A band that didn't sound quite like anyone else, and at this stage I don't think anyone but the most ardent fans could have expected an album as strong as "Beautiful Friction". And this occurs because they are exceptional musicians who write interesting music and compelling lyrics that still reflect our society today.
If you have doubts about the style here, this is a rock album. But not your ordinary one. It has the signature 'Fixx sound' while marveling at new and different textures added in. If you haven't heard them before of only know a few of their hits, forget that, this is not synth-pop at all.
The Fixx are clearly a band with more to say and a fair amount of jetfuel still in their veins, and their new effort "Beautiful Friction" is one of the most original, different, interesting rock albums I heard in long time.
01 - Anyone Else
02 - Just Before Dawn
03 - Take a Risk
04 - Beautiful Friction
05 - What God?
06 - Second Time Around
07 - Follow That Cab
08 - Shaman
09 - Something Ahead of You
10 - Girl With No Ceiling
11 - Small Thoughts
Cy Curnin - vocals
Dan K. Brown - bass
Jamie West-Oram - guitar
Rupert Greenall - keyboards
Adam Woods - drums
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Monday, August 6, 2012
The majestically titled ROQ ROYALE was a band put together in the second half of the '80s by erstwhile Gambler vocalist/guitarist Nathan Shaffer, although it's fair to say the group's almost mythical status has been achieved thanks to the involvement of Legs Diamond keyboard maestro Michael Prince.
The band was signed by a major label and recorded their debut at the end of the decade, but incredibly the record company refused to publish it. Completely incomprehensible if you keep in mind how much money was spent for the production by Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Journey, Foreigner) and the excellent level of quality the music had.
Fortunately, now "Roq Royale" finally sees the light of day for our pleasure.
Cut at Enterprise Recording Studios in North Hollywood, Roq Royale (the name being chosen thanks to wanting a 'royally majestic sound') is a wonderful slice of pure '80s Melodic Hard Rock / AOR with a touch of Pomp AOR.
Stylistically, Roq Royale can be compared with Network, Autograph, Touch, Vital Signs, and of course, Legs Diamond. The latter comes not only because of Michael Prince's involvement, but also because two of the album's tracks ("Walk Away" and "Find It Out The Hard Way") were already used for the Legs Diamond great mid-eighties disc 'Out On Bail'.
Also included is a cover version (much more AOR) of Squeeze's classic "Tempted", and "Never Felt Like This", a remake of an old Gambler number. Even though all of these songs have a high level of awareness, they are not the strongest material to find on the disc.
The relentless good ballad "Alone In Hollywood", the diverse "Sixtie's Kids", the pithy "Too Young To Die" and the lively "Boulevard Lights" are terrific original Melodic Hard Rock / AOR numbers written by the band.
All wonderful melodious rockers with catchy choruses, soaring vocals and awesome keyboard / guitar interplay.
Usually the AOR Heaven label at his 'Classix' series takes care of re-issuing albums that have evolved in estimated classics and sought after rarities over the years since its first release.
Roq Royale is an exception as the release of their one and only album is a true first publication.
This is a pure late '80s AOR / Melodic Hard Rock little gem plenty of great songs with 'that' unrepeatable sound and production, and in view of the myths and legends around it, the limited edition of 1,000 copies is destined to be sold out quickly.
Get yours pronto.
01 - Never Felt Like This
02 - Nothing Lasts Forever
03 - Walkaway
04 - Sixtie's Kids
05 - Too Young to Die
06 - Alone in Hollywood
07 - Boulevard Lights
08 - The Children Will Dance
09 - Find It Out the Hard Way
10 - Tempted
11 - If I Were King
12 - Someone Is Waiting
Nathan Shaffer - vocals
Billy Cannon - guitars
Mike Prince - keyboards
Jean Paul Tantet - bass
John Merritt - drums
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"Speak" is the debut release of Renaissance keyboardist Jason Hart's solo project I AND THOU. Hart is responsible for all keyboards, piano and orchestration work as well as the lead vocals and production.
A stellar list of guest musicians supports Hart on this album. John Gargano from IZZ supplies his unique bass lines, expanding the songs' chordal parameters and giving them a full low-end.
Other IZZ members contributes as well; Laura Meade with some backing vocals and Paul Bremner on guitars, together with Matt Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright) on drums, Jack Petruzzelli (the Fab Faux, Patti Smith etc.) on guitar, plus guest appearances from Steve Hogarth (Marillion) on vocals.
"Speak" is a heady brew of progressive rock, art rock and rock&pop enriched with loads of symphonic & orchestral passages. The whole work is so ingeniously made and performed that it emits a refined quality able to almost entirely purify one's mind.
A great portion of the album is characterized by subtle keyboard tones creating the backbone for the compositions. Hart lays down plenty of keyboard and piano work, at times also branching off into Tony Banks territory due to beautifully arranged classical themes and melodies.
His singing is more so in the vein of Porcupine Tree, where a lot of cloudy lines are delivered softly over the slow-building soundscapes.
Trying to deal with each song separately is, for me, a waste of time in prog rock albums generally, so I'll just mention that the fifth song "Go Or Go Ahead" is a cover of a Rufus Wainwright tune and the great Steve Hogarth from Marillion gives his magnificent own touch in delivering it. Much like Hogarth's recent project with Richard Barbieri, the song features his unmistakable theatrical singing in a very minimalist sound environment, filled with rich layers of synth explorations, a subtle piano theme that runs beneath the central vocals and sweet acoustic guitars.
All the music in this recording contains a good dose of vintage keys mixed into more modern textures. The arrangements are sparse and built patiently; each progression takes its time to develop and the vocals and instrumentation are provided with beautiful contrasts.
Although all four tracks clock in at over 10 minutes, each piece segues into the next seamlessly and carries passages filled with reams of ebbs and flows.
For all practical purposes, on "Speak" you could possibly listen to just about every silvery sound imaginable embracing well-turned lyrics and stunning performances.
The motto of I And Thou is create mellifluous arrangements reminding you of Marillion, Genesis, Yes, IZZ, Renaissance and some more recent neo prog / art rock acts.
This CD should urge listeners to re-evaluate the definition of good music by comparing this work with others which allegedly have claimed a respectful place but not a well-deserved one.
Great piece of music.
01 - Speak
02 - And I Awaken
03 - Hide and Seek
04 - The Face Behind the Eyes
05 - Go or Go Ahead
Jason Hart - Vocals, Keyboards, Piano
Steve Hogarth - Vocals
John Gargano - Bass
Paul Bremner - Guitar
Jack Petruzzelli - Guitar
Matt Johnson - Drums
Laura Meade - Backing Vocals
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