Rock Candy Records has just 'Remastered & Reloaded' a new batch of 3 essential MONTROSE albums, and this "Warner Brothers Presents...Montrose!" completes the series.
This is the first Montrose album released after the departure of singer Sammy Hagar, and the first Montrose album to feature a keyboardist as a full member of the band.
At the time of this recording, Montrose had successfully crafted a well respected reputation for themselves with two albums of high class hard rock, before abrasive relationships eroded the band’s central core. Vocalist Sammy Hagar was effectively forced to leave the band by an increasingly mercurial Ronnie Montrose, a man who ran the band with complete control and authority.
With Hagar cast aside Ronnie appointed new boy Bob James, who, like Hagar, was an unknown quantity, but the possessor of an extraordinary voice.
When the band began to plan the recording of their third album, "Warner Brothers Presents...Montrose!", Ronnie instigated another significant change, by rejecting powerhouse producer Ted Templeman, in favour of assuming the production duties himself.
This led to a more eclectic record, that incorporated several moods, ranging from drawn out epics such as ‘Whaler’ and the aggressive hard rocker ‘Matriach’ to snappier cuts such as ‘Oh Lucky Man’ [written by Alan Price] and ‘Black Train’, a proto speed metal romp.
‘Whaler’ weighed-in as the band's most ambitious composition and elaborate production to date. Evoking the imagery and atmosphere of a seafaring adventure, the song was an unexpected FM hit in Canada, resulting in Montrose moving up from second-bill to headliner status for select performances.
But the album’s stand out track is ‘Dancin’ Feet’ with its catchy and uninhibited guitar riff holding centre court (performed later as a cover song by an unknown Van Halen).
There's also a sweet, radio-friendly ballad in "All I Need", which alternates between soft acoustic verses and electric guitar crunch at the chorus.
When "Warner Brothers Presents...Montrose!" was released it further enhanced the band’s reputation as musicians, but it failed to alleviate their declining sales and lack of chart momentum.
It also clearly demonstrated Ronnie Montrose’s continued quest for musical development and diversity, a fact underscored by the appointment of keyboard player Jim Alcivar, helping to provide a vivid and contemporary sounding palette that indicated the direction to come (both Ronnie Montrose & Alcivar would be part of Gamma years after).
A very good record presenting a quite punchy remastering by Rock Candy, perhaps the louder of these Montrose reissues.
01 - Matriarch
02 - All I Need
03 - Twenty Flight Rock
04 - Whaler
05 - Dancin' Feet
06 - O Lucky Man
07 - One And A Half
08 - Clown Woman
09 - Black Train
Bob James – lead vocals
Ronnie Montrose – guitar
Jim Alcivar – keyboards
Alan Fitzgerald – bass
Denny Carmassi – drums
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Thursday, December 31, 2015
Rock Candy Records has just 'Remastered & Reloaded' a new batch of 3 essential MONTROSE albums (two of them featured on the blow few days ago), but the specialized reissue label already released Montrose self-titled debut some time ago. Let's check how it sounds to complete the package.
Montrose debut was (and still is) one of the most influential Hard Rock albums of all time, specially for American musicians. Ronnie Montrose was an in-demand session guitarist before that, but he was searching for a self-directed musical exploration when he met a young, inexperienced Sammy Hagar.
They recruited beast drummer Denny Carmassi and within a month 'Montrose the band' signed to Warner Bros. Records, they got Ted Templeman producing, Don Landee engineering and the first Montrose album was born a month after that.
The disc combines good-time, party rock with a metal edge and slick guitar work, a sound that bands like Van Halen and Aerosmith would later adopt and polish to perfection (Templeman / Landee were Van Halen's initial tech team).
Montrose's debut is universally regarded as one of, if not the greatest hard rock albums of all time. It introduced both a sound and a swagger that single-handedly dragged heavy rock kicking and screaming from its turgid proto-metal roots into a modern streamlined era, opening up a brave new world of possibilities.
For guitarist Ronnie Montrose and frontman Sammy Hagar, this was indeed history in the making.
It has been rightfully said that there is not a weak track on this album. Every guitar riff, drum break and ball-squeezing vocal rings out with a pristine clarity that sounds as astounding now as it did when it was first released.
Essential to their monumental sound is the creative axis of Sammy Hagar and Ronnie Montrose, who provide the classic guitar/vocalist foil, in a tradition set by Plant/Page, Jagger/Richards and Tyler/Perry.
With Hagar’s immediately identifiable vocals and Montrose’s juggernaut guitar riffs the results are truly mind blowing.
It is an album full of classic hard rock moves.
From ‘Rock The Nation’, to ‘Bad Motor Scooter’, through ‘Rock Candy’ (a track so good, that in fact Rock Candy Records was named in its honour!) to the truly Herculean ‘Space Station #5’ there is no denying the sheer thermo-nuclear power.
"Montrose" is a fantastic album ahead of its time, and still sounds fresh today thanks to this punchy Rock Candy Records remastering.
Think first Van Halen albums with Hagar on vocals instead DL Roth, and why not, early Aerosmith. Production is exceptional for the age, with a crispy and sparkling sound. Kerrang! readers voted "Montrose" as the 4th best & influential Metal Album of All Time, and I completely agree with that poll.
A Must Have Classic.
01 - Rock The Nation
02 - Bad Motor Scooter
03 - Space Station #5
04 - I Don't Want It
05 - Good Rockin' Tonight
06 - Rock Candy
07 - One Thing On My Mind
08 - Make It Last
Sammy Hagar – lead vocals
Ronnie Montrose – guitar
Bill Church – bass
Denny Carmassi – drums
BUY IT !
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Here’s an album that almost slipped through the cracks, but given it was released in late November last year, I think we’re allowed to sneak into the 2015 reviews. We are talking about young sensation RYAN McGARVEY and his last (third) album "The Road Chosen".
"The Road Chosen" is an excellent self-released album by Albuquerque, NM based guitarist / vocalist Ryan McGarvey, a fiercely independent artist who operates without an avalanche of PR. Indeed his relatively high profile in Europe has come on the back of relentless road work as he brings his music to the people on their doorsteps.
It’s a strategy that has paid dividends in terms of building things from the ground up and has led him to appearances at several leading European festivals. He’s also copped several awards, including Best Guitarist at the European Blues Awards, 2013 Best New Talent for the prestigious Guitar Player Magazine and many more.
Given the effort that has gone into the CD, its pleasing to report that he’s managed to transfer his spontaneity, energy, creativity and energetic spark into a stylish album full of good songs, strong melodies and superb solos.
Ryan's music is a classic rock oriented, but very modern in approach, hailing high praise from critics and his rock idols alike. With strong vocals and a knack for the heavy blues scales, the one man wrecking ball delivers another strong performance on "The Road Chosen".
He is able to offer many different sounds on the album, from quick-tempered rockers to acoustic ballads, he leaves no shade of his strat unearthed.
Ryan is a thoughtful songwriter, an emotive vocalist and a cool guitarist with a welcome sense of restraint, though when he does lean into a full blooded guitar solo on ‘Fading Away’, a sudden fade robs us of a special moment.
His solos and wide array of tones are always delivered as an integral part of the song rather than the song being a vehicle for a million notes. He’s best when he grooves with his road tested band, as on the riff driven, beautifully sculptured ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, which is full of big tones, potent chord changes and a sudden funky wah-wah break that leads into an uplifting solo, before its all too suddenly over.
He’s a artist in the old school sense of the word, who eschews the conveyor belt approach to releasing out 2 or 3 albums a year – we usually have to wait a few years between each release – because he’s not the sort of guy to record anything unless he’s got something new to say.
He works in a wide musical landscape that takes in heavy blues, classic rock, heavy funk and soulful ballads with real substance. He sings from the heart, to suggest that the emotion of a song is everything, while his playing mirrors the intensity and the tonal intricacies of Eric Johnson.
Ryan is also a road warrior who undertakes back-to-back tours of the US and Europe, and then promptly does it all over again. His nomadic lifestyle makes "The Road Chosen" an aptly titled album, full of grooves, sparkling guitar tones, plenty of drive and a flow that levers us into the opening distorted tone of ‘Memphis’, to propel us through a seamless musical journey that comes to rest on the choogling beat and jangling guitars of ‘To An End’.
The fact that he’s an multiple award winning guitarist who was co-opted on to Clapton’s ‘Crossroads Festival’ and is championed by Joe Bonamassa, is more of a reflection of his relentless work load rather than the result of press release hype.
This album confirms that he’s the real deal, with hand crafted songs and expansive arrangements sung with real passion, as evidenced by the acoustic-into-electric ‘My Heart To You’. The latter employs a deliberate stuttered mid-number rhythm before his quivering guitar ascends into the apex of a heartfelt ballad.
‘The Road Chosen’ channels its intensity into a guitar driven set of songs, while the instrumental ‘Firework Eyes’ sounds like a natural extension of what’s gone before, as a flurry of notes and sharp harmonics give the album a notable lift.
The following ethereal sounding ‘Burnin’ Alive’ is a wonderful blend of shimmering tones, impassioned vocals and a wall of sound that envelopes us, while ‘Always & Forever’ is an introspective love song that deftly combines acoustic and electric to find the perfect balance that lies at the heart of an exhilarating album.
Ryan McGarvey is on the fast track to success. Already having played alongside the likes of Clapton and Bonamassa, he has garnered the praise and respect he truly deserves, and this "The Road Chosen" is a clear proof of his talents.
This is the kind of albums that you come back to listen again and again, and never get tired of it.
01 - Memphis
02 - Fading Away
03 - Little Red Riding Hood
04 - My Heart To You
05 - Firework Eyes
06 - Burnin' Alive
07 - Goodbye Blues
08 - Always & Forever
09 - Wish I Was Your Man
10 - Mean Thing
11 - To an End
Ryan McGarvey (guitar, vocals, percussion)
Sam Miller (bass)
Logan Miles Nix (drums)
Brant Leeper (Hammond B3)
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, founding member of British heavy metal legend MOTORHEAD, has died at the age of 70 shortly after learning he had been diagnosed with cancer. Although his music is not the main motto of this blog, this "The Best Of Motorhead" (re-released early this year) goes as tribute to one of the most important - and fundational - musicians of the metal genre.
Lemmy, born Ian Fraser Kilmister, formed Motörhead in 1975 and was its only constant member, as singer and bassist. The band released 23 studio albums and are best known for their 1980 single 'Ace Of Spades'.
Lemmy musical career began in the early 1960s and he was, for a time, a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. He played in several rock bands, including the Rockin’ Vickers, Sam Gopal and Hawkwind, before founding Motörhead (originally named Bastard).
Motörhead’s loud, fast style was a pioneering force in heavy metal. Lemmy’s vocal growl and aggressive bass playing has been emulated by countless other bands, but the singer joked that he largely learned on the job.
Motorhead’s early years are credited with laying the ground for thrash and speed metal, but Lemmy consistently refused to categorise their music, often playing to audiences of all genres.
The band’s highest-rating record was the live album No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith, which peaked at number one on the UK album charts – a testament to the band’s crushing onstage performances.
Other highlights from Motörhead’s extensive discography include their second and third albums, Overkill and Bomber (both nicely represented here on this Best Of), and several high-rating singles in the early 1980s. The Ace of Spades album reached number four in the UK charts, and the single number 15.
Tributes poured in for the heavy metal giant, with Ozzy Osbourne tweeting: “Lost one of my best friends, Lemmy, today. He will be sadly missed. He was a warrior and a legend. I will see you on the other side.”
Former Motörhead drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor died aged 61 in November. “Fast” Eddie Clarke, who becomes the last surviving member of the band’s most famous lineup, wrote on Facebook: “I have just been told that Lemmy has passed away in LA. Like Phil, he was like a brother to me. I am devastated. We did so much together, the three of us.“
The band had been scheduled to tour the UK and France in early 2016, but drummer Mickey Dee confirmed Lemmy’s death marked the end of Motorhead.
“Motörhead is over, of course. Lemmy was Motörhead. We won’t be doing any more tours or anything. And there won’t be any more records. But the brand survives, and Lemmy lives on in the hearts of everyone.”
Dee requested fans “play Lemmy’s music LOUD. Have a drink or few. Share stories. Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself”.
1. "Ace of Spades" (from Ace of Spades, 1980)
2. "Overkill" (from Overkill, 1979)
3. "Bomber" (from Bomber, 1979)
4. "Please Don't Touch" (from St. Valentine's Day Massacre, 1981)
5. "Motörhead" (from Motörhead, 1977)
6. "No Class" (from Overkill, 1979)
7. "Louie Louie" (from "Louie Louie", 1978)
8. "Damage Case" (from Overkill, 1979)
9. "Too Late Too Late" (from "Overkill", 1979)
10. "Dead Men Tell No Tales" (from Bomber, 1979)
11. "Killed by Death" (from No Remorse, 1984)
12. "Metropolis" (from Overkill, 1979)
13. "Emergency" (from St. Valentine's Day Massacre, 1981)
14. "Tear Ya Down" (from Overkill, 1979)
15. "White Line Fever" (from "White Line Fever", 1977)
16. "Iron Horse / Born to Lose" (from Motörhead, 1977)
17. "City Kids" (from On Parole, 1979)
18. "Motörhead" (Hawkwind; from "Kings of Speed", 1975)
19. "Fire Fire" (live, 1981)
20. "Bite the Bullet / The Chase Is Better Than the Catch" (live, 1981)
1. "Iron Fist" (from Iron Fist, 1982)
2. "Heart of Stone" (from Iron Fist, 1982
3. "Bomber" (from St. Valentine's Day Massacre, 1981)
4. "Shine" (from Another Perfect Day, 1983)
5. "I Got Mine" (from Another Perfect Day, 1983)
6. "Ain't My Crime" (from Orgasmatron, 1986)
7. "Doctor Rock" (from Orgasmatron, 1986)
8. "The Chase Is Better Than the Catch" (Ace of Spades, 1980)
9. "Deaf Forever" (from Orgasmatron, 1986)
10. "Orgasmatron" (from Orgasmatron, 1986)
11. "Eat the Rich" (from the Eat the Rich soundtrack, 1987)
12. "Rock 'n' Roll" (from Rock 'n' Roll, 1987)
13. "Dogs" (from Rock 'n' Roll, 1987)
14. "The One to Sing the Blues" (from 1916, 1991)
15. "Sacrifice" (from Sacrifice, 1995)
16. "Overnight Sensation" (from Overnight Sensation, 1996)
17. "Snake Bite Love" (from Snake Bite Love, 1998)
18. "God Save the Queen" (from We Are Motörhead, 2000)
19. "Shoot You in the Back" (live, 1981)
20. "The Hammer" (live, 1981)
BUY IT !
Tobias Sammet's AVANTASIA project will release its seventh studio album, "Ghostlights", on January 29, 2016 via Nuclear Blast. The twelve-song CD was produced by Tobias and Sascha Paeth at Gatestudio in Wolfsburg, Germany.
It’s too easy to lump Avantasia into the heap of all-star projects that are all the rage these days. However, for all of Sammet’s trolling about 'never writing another album' after every album and tour – they keep coming… and they keep getting better. Amid the usual Avantasia trademarks, there is a dark edge to “Ghostlights” that pushes this album into greatness.
With each passing album, it occurs to me – why can’t Tobi just write the music for everyone? I’m not certain if he chooses to write for the guests he has in mind or chooses the guest based on what he writes, but its uncanny how much those interchangeable vocalists fit so perfectly.
Dee Snider’s eerie appearance on “The Haunting” is reminiscent of his Twisted Sister's Come Out and Play or Burn in Hell. Title track “Ghostlights” is seriously Helloween Keepers, Pt. 1 infused even without Michael Kiske at the helm. Did MasterPlan write that 12 minute opus “Let the Storm Descend upon You”? Well, Jorn never sounded stronger!
Best of all, the amazing Queensryche Rage For Order-era inspired “Seduction of Decay” is audible proof that it isn’t Geoff Tate’s voice that’s the problem in his recent album… it’s his drab and uninspiring songwriting.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sprinkling of other vocal greats like Pretty Maids’ Ronny Atkins (“Let the Storm Descend Upon You” and “Unchain the Light”) and the legendary Bob Catley (“A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies”) along with the lead guitar contributions of ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick (“Babylon Vampyres,” “Lucifer,” “A Restless Heart and Obsidian Skies”).
One very noticeable difference between “Ghostlights” and the previous Avantasia albums is an air of darkness and heaviness that permeates in the riffs and vocal performances. Between “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose” (with its near ode to Meatloaf), “Seduction of Decay,” “Babylon Vampyres” and “Master of the Pendulum” (featuring Nightwish’s Marco Hietala) there is more power than in the last four releases combined.
All the record feels powerful, infectious and completely driven.
Of course there's a ballad, “Isle Of Evermore”, eaturing the beautiful voice of Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) who is no stranger to Avantasia albums.
Tobi’s songwriting notwithstanding, Avantasia is flanked by some of the best musicians in the business – guys that are seldom talked of in the popular metal / hard circles. Sascha Paeth is not only a proven guitar hero (check out Heaven’s Gate, Luca Turilli, Redkey or Trillum), but a producer/engineer extraordinaire. In Avantasia, Paeth is both!
Add Oliver Hartmann – a recurring Avantasia “guest” – who brings both guitar prowess and vocal brilliance, Miro (keyboard and orchestration expert) and the underrated Bruce Kulick playing great guitar solos again.
“Ghostlights” is both a welcome return a stronger sound as well as a continuation of the songwriting and hair raising choruses that you come to expect from Avantasia. With Tobi’s uncanny ability to make every guest either fit perfectly to a song, or be able to write a song that shows off a guest’s best qualities, it works brilliantly.
In all honestly, this has got to be one of the strongest Avantasia releases of all time. Though the general atmosphere of the album is the darkest Tobias has attempted, “Ghostlights” shines so bright as it takes it’s rightful place in front of an already flawless discography.
01. Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose
Vocals: Tobias / Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth
02. Let The Storm Descend Upon You
Vocals: Tobias, Jorn Lande, Ronnie Atkins, Robert Mason
Lead guitar: Oliver Hartmann
03. The Haunting
Lead vocals: Dee Snider, Tobias
Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth
04. Seduction Of Decay
Lead vocals: Geoff Tate, Tobias
Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth
Lead vocals: Michael Kiske, Tobias, Jorn Lande
Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth, Oliver Hartmann
06. Draconian Love
Lead vocals: Herbie Langhans, Tobias
Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth
07. Master Of The Pendulum
Lead vocals: Marco Hietala, Tobias
Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth
08. Isle Of Evermore
Lead vocals: Sharon Den Adel, Tobias
09. Babylon Vampyres
Lead vocals: Tobias, Robert Mason
Lead guitar: Bruce Kulick, Oliver Hartmann, Sascha
Lead vocals: Jorn Lande, Tobias
Lead guitar: Bruce Kulick
11. Unchain The Light
Lead vocals: Tobias, Ronnie Atkins, Michael Kiske
Lead guitar: Sascha Paeth, Oliver Hartmann
12. A Restless Heart And Obsidian Skies
Lead vocals: Bob Catley, Tobias
Lead guitar: Bruce Kulick
Tobias Sammet - Keyboards, Vocals, Bass
Sascha Paeth - Guitars, Keyboards, Bass (Trillium)
Michael Rodenberg - Keyboards, Orchestration (Trillium)
Bruce Kulick - Guitars (ex-Kiss, ex-Union)
Oliver Hartmann - Guitars (ex-At Vance, ex-Iron Mask)
Felix Bohnke - Drums (Edguy)
Dee Snider (Twisted Sister)
Geoff Tate (Queensryche)
Marco Hietala (Tarot, Nightwish)
Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation)
Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween, Unisonic)
Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids)
Bob Catley (Magnum)
Jorn Lande (ex-Masterplan, Allen/Lande)
Robert Mason (Warrant)
Singer, actress, stunt-woman, martial artist, extreme sports junkie, JESSICA WOLFF is a very independent and busy young woman. Her first passion though is music and since she began singing and performing in her native Finland when she was just twelve years old, making music has been her abiding delight, the consequence of which is a raising, promising musical career. "Grounded" is Jessica Wolff new album (her second) to be released in Europe, but just apperared in Japan.
Many specialized music magazines and critics raved about Jessica Wolff's debut album two years ago. We opted to discard the record and not posting it here as, honestly, it did not impressed us much.
This second effort "Grounded" is a much more elaborated piece though, and quite enjoyable.
Wolff's first record was a mixture of rock&pop with modern melodic rock, very well produced yet not consistent in my opinion. Ironically, "Grounded" is even more 'commercial' and melodic, but much, much more solid in the songwriting department.
Additionally, Jessica's vocal performance has grown considerably; getting the super-talented Sofia Lilja (Nubian Rose) as vocal coach has paid its dues.
Opener 'Reckless' is a declaration of attitude, all piss and vinegar, with Jessica belting out the lyrics with a come and try to knock me down chip on her shoulder.
This mind-set continues on 'Playing For Keeps', title track 'Grounded', 'Roots' and the bouncy 'Magic Castle', all of which are great slabs of melodic Rock / pop with bucket loads of vitality thrown into the mix for good measure. Same can be found on the Japanese bonus track, the riotous 'Memorylane'.
Of course there's a couple of ballads and poppier songs, however quite solid and really well played, arranged and performed.
With a tight production, punchy (and very good) musicianship, a young Lady with a strong voice and tons of attitude, there's a lot to like about this 'Grounded', Jessica Wolff's second effort.
Oh, and she looks gorgeous...
01 - Reckless
02 - Chase Me Down
03 - Playing For Keeps
04 - War
05 - Under Your Spell
06 - Grounded
07 - Arrow
08 - Saving Someone Else
09 - Roots
10 - Magic Castle
11 - Love Me Like You Never Did Before
12 - Memorylane (Japanese bonus track)
BUY IT !
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Rock Candy specialists have 'Remastered & Reloaded' TOTO's most celebrated '80s albums few weeks ago. Let's go now with their triple platinum-certified "TOTO IV".
There comes tipping point in every artist’s career; a moment where decisions have to be made and a course of action needs to be taken. By the time Toto had reached this, their fourth album, matters were building to a head.
Their previous two albums had commercially under-achieved and the label was getting itchy feet about their future prospects. So, it was with the greatest deliberation that the band embarked on the road to "Toto IV", vowing to throw everything and the kitchen sink into its creation.
History shows that this album was a triumphant success, but the road to redemption was not without sacrifice, hard work and dedication.
It is clear that a huge amount of creativity and talent formed the backbone of "Toto IV", songs crafted to utter perfection and all wrapped up in pin-point production.
The recording took many months and the band was allowed a much larger than average recording budget. At a time when most bands were using a single 24-track recorder Toto used as many as 3 separate 24-track recorders at the same time.
The 24-track recorders were linked with a computerized SMPTE timecode system that allowed for up to 69 individual tracks of sound simultaneously.
The result was HUGE.
Musicianship is also impeccable showcasing talent beyond belief, of an apparently altogether otherworldly nature. Achieving sales in excess of triple platinum (only in the USA) and notching up an eye-popping six Grammy awards, it also spawned three huge global hit singles, namely ‘Africa’, ‘Rosanna’ and ‘I Won’t Hold You Back’, songs that epitomise the band’s first rate AOR pedigree.
‘I Won’t Hold You Back’ is one of my favorite Toto songs ever. Written and sung by Steve Lukather, this tune shot up the charts in 1983 after Toto won the Grammys including best record, album and producer of the year. Timothy B. Schmit, the sweet-voiced member of Poco and The Eagles, is featured on its soaring chorus.
Perhaps eclipsed by the major hits, 'Good For You' deserves mention as one of this project’s drum-tight, lesser-known gems. It’s a terrific example of how Toto, at the height of its powers, mixed and matched so many styles with class.
Co-written by Lukather and erstwhile frontman Bobby Kimball, the song finds Kimball in all of his full-throated glory — matching the lyric’s unvarnished, carnal desire.
He performed, then as now, with a reckless, edgy abandon, something that probably contributed to the reedy texture of his voice sometimes these days. The arrangements and instrumentation behind him did the rest.
Also 'Make Believe' is a little diamond. This David Paich-written, Bobby Kimball-sung rocker wasn’t a huge hit, but it illustrated something — with every tough Steve Lukather riff — that’s often lost in the ballad-driven public persona of Toto; they could (and can) Rock.
Other favorites are the highly underrated 'It's A Feeling' and 'Lovers In The Night' all of which are a display of a band at the absolute height of its musical creativity.
"TOTO IV" was a triumph of incredible proportions for a group that had been written off by so many and, with bitchy cruelty, labelled as a faceless bunch of skilled session musicians. It is without doubt one of the most important AOR albums of all time.
Great, crystal clear remaster by Rock Candy Records.
A MUST HAVE.
01 - Rosanna
02 - Make Believe
03 - I Won't Hold You Back
04 - Good For You
05 - It's A Feeling
06 - Afraid Of Love
07 - Lovers In The Night
08 - We Made It
09 - Waiting For Your Love
10 - Africa
Bobby Kimball - lead and backing vocals
David Paich - keyboards, lead and backing vocals
Steve Lukather - guitar, lead and backing vocals, piano
Jeff Porcaro - drums, percussion, xylophone, tympani
Steve Porcaro - keyboards, lead vocals on "It's a Feeling"
David Hungate – bass guitar
James Newton Howard - strings, orchestral arrangements
Lenny Castro, Joe Porcaro - percussion
Ralph Dyck - synthesizer
Martyn Ford - strings
Tom Scott, Gary Grant, Jerry Hey, James Pankow - horns
Tom Kelly - backing vocals
Mike Porcaro - cello on "Good For You"
Timothy B. Schmit - harmony, backing vocals
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Rock Candy specialists have 'Remastered & Reloaded' TOTO's most celebrated '80s albums few weeks ago. Let's start with the catchy "Isolation".
For this album, Lukather & Co. made the drastic decision to fire vocalist Bobby Kimball, replaced by the awesome Fergie Frederiksen (previously of pomp purists Trillion and Le Roux).
"Isolation" begins with 'Carmen', an excellent opener, catchy and engaging thanks to the duet between David Paich and Frederiksen's gorgeous pipes, and it provides a good idea of what is about to come: the songs won't really slow down except for 'Lion' (which is a midtempo anyway) and for the single true ballad of the album 'How Does It Feel', making the entire work energetic and really pleasant to listen to.
Considering the high number of ballads Toto provided with some of the previous albums, having just one here feels strange. If we also consider that the song manages to be unforgettable, we find what makes this album so good as all the previous ones: consistency.
Every song manages to get stuck in your head. If I could use only one word to describe this album, it would be "catchy". Everything, from the vocals to the instrumentation, is catchy.
Speaking about the mentioned consistency, Toto keep firing one killer track after another: 'Angel Don't Cry', 'How Does It Feel', the terrific title track, 'Change Of Heart'... all are true '80s AOR gems.
Sure, catchiness plays a huge role here (thanks mainly to Fergie Frederiksen's harmonies) but the goodness of the instrumentation must not be forgotten.
Steve Lukather shines through the entire album and provides driving riffs ('Change Of Heart', 'Carmen') and solos. Actually, the solos are often short, but have the right punch and are carried by the superb keyboards.
A mention of honor goes in fact to the keyboardists: David Paich and Steve Porcaro not only help at giving an identity to each song, but often end up being the stars instead of Lukather ('Mr. Friendly', 'Change of Heart' or 'Endless'). Last but not least, Jeff Porcaro provides another stunning performance with the drumming, keeping it catchy yet aggressive without being overly minimal.
'Isolation' is one of the most consistent albums in Toto's career. It's catchy, it's energetic, it's highly replayable, it's solid, it's awesomely well played, and it provides a lot of AOR anthems to sing to. Plus, it provides zero forgettable tracks.
The Rock Candy remaster is surprisingly loud - yet not brickwalled - giving the album and even highly pumping output. And I like it.
A MUST HAVE.
01 - Carmen
02 - Lion
03 - Stranger In Town
04 - Angel Don't Cry
05 - How Does It Feel
06 - Endless
07 - Isolation
08 - Mr. Friendly
09 - Change Of Heart
10 - Holyanna
Fergie Frederiksen - lead vocals
Steve Lukather - guitars, lead and backing vocals
David Paich - keyboards, lead and backing vocals
Steve Porcaro - keyboards
Mike Porcaro - bass
Jeff Porcaro - drums, percussion
The London Symphony Orchestra - strings
James Newton Howard - orchestral arrangements
Lenny Castro, Joe Porcaro - percussion
Mike Cotten - synthesizer on "Stranger in Town"
Chuck Findley, Jerry Hey, Tom Scott - horns
Tom Kelly - backing vocal on "How Does it Feel"
Richard Page - backing vocal on "How Does it Feel"
Gene Morford - bass vocal on "Stranger in Town"
Bobby Kimball - backing vocals
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Another this year's release which truly deserves a place among the best is without a doubt BLOOD RED SAINTS debut "Speedway" and what better way to recap about it with its Japanese Edition featuring a bonus track.
BLOOD RED SAINTS is a new super Melodic Rock / AOR band formed in late 2014 by singer Pete Godfrey and bassist Rob Naylor. Pete made his great recording debut In Faith album last year, but hungry to be in a 'band' rather than a project, he teamed up with Naylor from the excellent group Angels Or Kings and quickly got to work writing their debut album “Speedway”.
Pete’s In Faith album (featured HERE) took a few by surprise last year and was one of the genre's best in 2014.
Rob Naylor also created another nugget with his band Angels Or Kings and their awesome CD 'Kings Of Nowhere' (featured HERE).
So, do two nuggets make a diamond? Read on…
The search for a band name came and ended with a chance discovery of a semi legendary speedway team, ‘The Blood Red Saints’ who were formed in Brooklyn in the late 1920s. Their leader was Freddie Rendetti who was allegedly a fiery and colorful character who ultimately lived the fast life a little too fast. It builds up a great background story, right?
Enlisted in as honorary mechanics are James Martin (Vega) who was instrumental in getting the band signed to Frontiers and along with his twin Tom, co-wrote 2 songs on the album. Chief mechanic comes in the form of Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) who mastered the album... Wow.
Blood Red Saints is completed by another former In Faith member (and countless more) drummer Pete Newdeck, and on guitar, Lee Revill.
'Kicking Up Dust' offers up a very lively start. Revill goes all George Lynch on us and it’s a more melodic and ‘sing-ier’ version of Dokken. It offers up more kick and punch than a school full of kick boxers. Throw in Godfrey’s melodic vocals and it makes this one of the tracks of the album, and the year.
'Mercy' is just an extension of the opener, but indeed rocks with no-mercy. It's instantly hummable and with more than enough bite and hooks to keep the Melodic Rock fan pulling windmills on his air guitar for days.
'Best Of Me' takes its lead from the likes of Foreigner and once again, is under your skin in double quick time. The backing vocals are so simple and so bloody effective. 'Dangerous' fades in and out, subtle one moment, then prowling and pulsating the next. With 'Love Set Me Up Again' arrives the first power ballad. Godfrey even sounds like Jon Bon Jovi, only when JBJ was good! However, musically, the song has the strength of a Pride Of Lions tune. Great one.
‘Better Days’ honestly wouldn’t go amiss on the recent Def Leppard album, as the vocals mirror Leppard at their trademarked best.
Should we still live in an era where MTV was king and made bands millions and household names, then ‘The Best Thing’ could have done the same had it been performed 30 years ago. Thankfully songs of this quality are still being written.
‘Unbreakable’ blends Leppard-ish melodies with some Tall Stories kind of AOR (great track), then ‘Wrapped Up In These Arms' sounds very FM / Overland, British AOR with spark keyboards all over, and what’s not to like?
'Cgrnr' is a cool, calm guitar interlude, followed by the pumping mid-tempo melodic rock of 'Feels a Lot Like Love', some kind of Strangeways 2015.
Ballad 'Faith' ends this fantastic record with a sweet slow melody lead by piano arrangement and pristine lead vocals.
It’s hard to sound original nowadays in the Melodic Rock / AOR field as so many have trodden the path before you. Blood Red Saints will be compared to the likes of Giant, FM, Def Leppard, Dare, etc, and rightly so, but they have their own personality. These are bands that were (still are) masters of their trade, and Blood Red Saints deserve to be likened with such.
"Speedway" features some of the best Melodic Rock / AOR melodies you'll hear this year, and believe me, there's not a dodgy song or filler in sight here, and that makes it one of the best, if not the best Melodic Rock album of 2015.
01 - Kickin' Up Dust
02 - Mercy
03 - Best Of Me
04 - Dangerous
05 - Love Set Me Up Again
06 - Better Days
07 - The Best Thing
08 - Unbreakable
09 - Wrapped Up In These Arms
10 - Cgrnr
11 - Feels A Lot Like Love
12 - Faith
13 - Best Of Me (Acoustic) [Japan bonus track]
Pete Godfrey – vocals
Lee Revill - guitars
Rob Naylor – bass, backing vocals
Pete Newdeck - drums, backing vocals
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Friday, December 25, 2015
This is a Christmas present for you all from 0dayrox: ARC ANGEL first self-titled album remastered plus a bonus track.
Simply put, Arc Angel, founded together by vocalist Jeff Cannata and keyboard player Michael Soldan, created in 1983 this masterpiece regarded as one of the greatest AOR albums of all time.
Arc Angel was dismissed by silly U.S. critics as a Boston / Kansas clone, but became a huge hit album in Europe, and today is considered a timeless classic.
A couple years ago, Jeff Cannata remastered the album by himself (released through his own record label) adding as well the awesome bonus track "Court of The Crimson King".
The sound is terrific, something this pearl needed to be enjoyed in all its glory.
You do not need more details, "Arc Angel" is a MUST HAVE, a MANDATORY album in your collection.
01 - Stars
02 - Tragedy
03 - Wanted : Dead Or Alive
04 - Used To Think I'd Never Fall In Love
05 - Rock Me Tonight
06 - Before The Storm
07 - Sidelines
08 - Confession
09 - Just Another Romance
10 - King Of The Mountain
11 - Court Of The Crimson King (bonus track)
Jeff Cannata - vocals, drums, bass, guitars
Michael Soldan - keyboards, backing vocals
Scott Spray, Jim Gregory, Hugh McDonald, Chuck Burgi - bass
Jay Johnson, David Coe, Lance Quinn - guitar
Kevin Nugent - guest guitar solo
Jeff Batter, Doug Katsaros - piano
Jeff Bova - Oberheim
Brent Diamond - synthesizer
James Christian, Frank Simms, Tony Airdo - backing vocals
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As happens every end of the year, Swedish melodic rock institution LAST AUTUMN'S DREAM presents a new album, first released in Asia. "Paintings" is the title of the new effort, to be out across Europe via AOR Heaven records. on February 26, 2016.
Always fronted by singer Mikael Erlandsson, Last Autumn’s Dream 2015 / 2016 features a new line-up, with founder Andy Malecek deciding to leave the band (in good terms) because of personal reasons and was replaced by Peter “Pac” Söderström, a genius guitar player that earlier used to add rhythm guitars to Last Autumn’s Dream previous albums.
Producer Ulf Wahlberg in the meantime had joined the band as keyboard player.
But Last Autumn’s Dream distinctive sound remains intact in "Paintings", a proper title as the new record is a colorful melodic rock album with varied melodies.
Despite the lost of Andy Malecek, the band has gained a fresh sonic delivery thanks to Soderstrom's modern guitar contributions. His set up sound - and the way he builds the riffs - has more in common to former Europe axeman Kee Marcello, providing a 'swirling' vibe to the songs.
Tracks like prime melodic rockers "My Mistake To Make", "Won'tcha Stay The Night" (a favorite), "Bring Out The Heroes", "Too Late" or the pure Scandinavian "An Eye For An Eye" are true LAD numbers.
There's mid-tempo staples in "Take It On The Run" (a very good R.E.O. Speedwagon's cover Song) or "In Case Of Landing On Water", but the overall sound in this new album is harder than the previous, a welcomed aspect in this new CD from the band.
Even the Japanese bonus "Even When I Hate You" has some kind of edge with an AORish feel.
So, as bottom line, we have another solid Last Autumn’s Dream album in "Paintings", a collection of very good hooky melodic rock tunes, a fantastic singer and as usual, tight musicianship.
The new record combines traditional Last Autumn’s Dream AOR-stuff with a slightly more rockin’ note in sound, mostly thanks to the great guitar work of Peter Pac Soderstrom. A step in the right direction to ensure that you don’t listen to the same arrangements again and again.
Also, production is brighter, a bit more punchy and pristine, perhaps the best produced record in the band's history.
Very, Highly Recommended.
Victor Entertainment ~ [MICP-11255]
【CD】Paintings / ラスト・オータムズ・ドリーム
1. My Mistake To Make
2. Bring Out The Heroes
3. Out Of Love
4. Too Late
5. Take It On The Run
6. Won'tcha Stay The Night
7. An Eye For An Eye
8. Bitter Blue
9. In Case Of Landing On Water
10. Rock Star Crazy
11. Even When I Hate You (Japan Bonus Track)
Lead Vocals – Mikael Erlandsson
Bass – Nalle Påhlsson
Drums – Jamie Borger
Keyboards – Ulf Wahlberg
Guitar – Peter Pac Soderstrom
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Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Near to the end of the year it's time to recap about some of the best 2015 releases. Though appeared only three months ago, we are presenting again here "CFW" from CHAMPLIN WILLIAMS FRIESTEDT (retail + full artwork) because it's one of our picks of the year.
The West Coast AOR true supergroup teaming up Toto’s Joseph Williams, former Chicago vocalist Bill Champlin and guitarist/producer Peter Friestedt was released through AOR HEAVEN Records, and it's a pure delight to the ears.
There are some very Toto sounding songs on here like ‘Runaway’ and ‘Aria’, not just because of Joseph Williams vocals, but the music is like classic Toto, plenty of layered music and attention to detail on every note used.
Having Bill Champlin on the album is a real bonus, as they complement each other nicely. The acapella of ‘Rivers Of Fear’ is stunning, the two voices work so well together.
Apart of the great 'orchestration' courtesy of Peter Friestedt we have as well many shining star musicians involved all over the album, like Toto's Steve Porcaro providing keyboards or Randy Goodrum, a legend from the genre.
Among other highlights there is also a faithful cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire classic ‘After The Love Has Gone’ (Champlin was one of the co-writers on the song), with him on lead vocals as you’d expect and Williams adding his classy backing vocals.
Peter Friestedt gets to let rip on a couple of songs, well as heavy as you can get in the confines of the West Coast AOR genre. ‘All That I Want’ and the aforementioned ‘Runaway’ feature great guitar riffs.
To sum up, I think "CWF" is one of the most 'true' West Coast AOR' albums recorded in the last 20 years. You have here a real charm from the glorious days of the genre, spiced with a melodic rock feel which provides a more updated sound.
The vocals are excellent, the instrumentation impeccable and production crystal clear... do you need more?
Yes, you need to buy Champlin Williams Friestedt 'CWF', a must have in your AOR collection.
01 - Runaway
02 - Aria
03 - Still Around
04 - All that I want
05 - Carry On
06 - Nightfly
07 - Hearts At War
08 - After the Love Has Gone
09 - Rivers Of Fear
10 - Evermore
Joseph Williams: lead & backing vocals
Bill Champlin: lead & backing vocals, keyboards
Peter Friestedt: guitars, bass, keyboards
Steve Porcaro: keyboards, synth bass
Randy Goodrum: keyboards, backing vocals
Will Champlin: harmony vocals
Tamara Champlin: backing vocals
Per Mathisen: bass
Herman Matthews: drums
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This self-titled, 3-song EP is the first taste we get of THE PARALYDIUM PROJECT, a new monster band created by former Dynazty guitarist John Berg alongside current Dynazty members Georg Egg (drums) and Jonathan Olsson (bass), as well as keyboardist Micke Jansson (Degreed) and vocalists Mikael Sehlin (Engel) and Linnea Vikstrom (Therion).
As you see, the core of the band come from Melodic Hard Rock acts, but just to make sure you get this, this project sounds nothing like Dynazty or Degreed at all. Well, at places, a little.
Some time ago, John Berg jumped the Dynazty ship to pursuit other musical challenges, looking for a completely new sound, and The Paralydium Project blends classic metal riffs with a big chunk of progressive and on top of that, catchy melodies that sometimes even borders to AOR. Sounds intriguing?
Well, I think so too, so let’s get a bit deeper into what this lot have to offer.
Opener “New Frontier” is a beast. It’s a heavy and aggressive prog metal tune, but with an extremely catchy chorus that brings '80s AOR to mind. I also think of prog-pop-hard rock stuff such as Jono and Degreed. Not being a prog metal fan per se – I like my fair share of bands that works in that territory, but most of them passes me by unnoticed – this is how I love my prog metal, I need the catchiness.
That’s why I also love the second tune, “Bringer Of Life”, because of its catchiness. Shadow Gallery comes to mind, but also – again – Degreed. It’s very much a prog metal track but it moves more towards progressive hard rock and I guess Berg’s roots in the melodic rock scene leaves its mark on the song.
Last track “Astral Liberation” is the heaviest and most progressive song on the EP. I hear some Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater) influenced keyboard arrangements and I also hear a lot of Circus Maximus in melody and structure, but just when you thought you knew the song, some AOR-ish, Toto-like melodies shows up on top of it and that sure give the song a different vibe. We only hear Linnéa Vikström briefly here, but she adds another dimension to the track.
The Paralydium Project is one of the most original and intriguing band appeared this year.
Berg’s guitar work is incredible, and is complemented very well by Jansson’s expansive keyboards. Sehlin’s vocals are a huge part of the appeal here as well with a tremendous power and range.
We only get three songs here (averaging about 7 minutes each), but that’s enough to whet the appetite for the full-length release. These are three songs that are going to get a lot of plays from me in the months to come.
The Paralydium Project could very well be the next big thing in the Melodic Progressive Metal scene. Anyone who’s into catchy metal / hard plus modern prog / AOR touches with killer vocals will want to pick up this (digital-only) release.
Very, Highly Recommended.
1. New Frontier
2. Bringer of Life
3. Astral Liberation
John Berg - Guitars, Additional Keys, Programming
Georg Härnsten Egg - Drums
Jonathan Olsson - Bass
Micke Jansson - Keyboards, Synths
Mikael Sehlin - Vocals, Backing Vocals
Linnéa Vikström - Vocals, Backing Vocals
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NERGARD is the musical brainchild given birth to by Norwegian bassist, keyboardist and drummer Andreas Nergård, being "A Bit Closer to Heaven" the second album from the project featuring a multitude of guest singers and musicians from bands such as Circus Maximus, Amaranthe, Pagan’s Mind, Primal Fear, The Jan Holberg Project and others.
On a quest of recreating a new blend of genres, Nergard is trying to deliver something different with ''A Bit Closer To Heaven'', and he succeed with gusto.
The album blends melodic hard rock, melodic metal and progressive, the latter in a very melodic, dynamic way. And all is pretty gripping and intriguing.
The combined experience and talent of the various singers means that there’s no issue in the vocal department. The myriad styles of the different vocalists all add something to each track and no guest is wasted or under-used.
It’s not a complete testosterone-fest either, as we are also treated to female singers such as Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) whose presence raises the bar.
The multiple singers give the album a diverse feel while the music and production gives it a cohesiveness that is necessary to avoid it sounding like a compilation.
As example, opener 'Light And Shadows' is quite heavy but in the middle turns extremely melodious with lots of harmony vocals, and then returns to a flowing melodic metal feel.
Then, track 2 'Fall From Grace' is a true melodic hard rock tune, featuring the excellent vocals of Thomas Løseth (form the band Tempo), an absolute revelation to me, and a guy to keep an aye on.
More variation continues with the quality semi-ballad 'On Through The Storm' combining male / female leads, another solid melodic hard rocker in 'Let It Come', and a driving, groovy rocker with 'Help Me Through The Night'.
'I Will Find You' brings some prog with a superb clean atmosphere and great arrangements, title track it's almost poppy (reminds me The Jan Holberg Project), while closer 'When All I Want Is You' is a midtempo with a melodic rock spirit but relaxed sounds.
NERGARD has delivered a rich, highly melodic & varied album in "A Bit Closer to Heaven".
The songs are all really well-written / arranged and are chock full of hooks, catchy melodies and harmonies. Each song has its own character and personality, and this is further enhanced by the vocal variety.
Musicianship is first-rate and there are enough solos included for the guest musicians to get their teeth into, while production is pristine, extremely polished.
"A Bit Closer to Heaven" has a varied spectrum of potential listeners, but overall this is a truly enjoyable record for all Melodic Hard Rock aficionados.
01 - Light And Shadows
02 - Fall From Grace
03 - On Through The Storm
04 - Let It Come
05 - Help Me Through The Night
06 - I Will Find You
07 - A Bit Closer To Heaven
08 - When All I Want Is You
Andreas Nergård - drums, bass, keyboards
Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) - vocals
Nils K. Rue (Pagan's Mind) - vocals
Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear, ex Gamma Ray) - vocals
Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) - vocals
Andi Kravljaca (Aeon Zen) - vocals
Thomas Løseth (Tempo) - vocals
Sunniva Unsgård - vocals
Ole Martin Moe Thornæs (Rudhira) - vocals
Jostein Svarstad (Tony Carey, Jan Holberg Project) - guitar solo
Stig Nergård (Tellus Requiem) - guitar solo
Jørn Viggo Lofstad (Pagan's Mind) - guitar solo
Øyvind Voldmo Larsen (Withem) - guitar solo
Henrik Karlsvik - rhythm guitar
Martin Aas - bass
Øyvind Wærnes - guitar
Raymond Hellem - acoustic guitar
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Monday, December 21, 2015
Another album highly requested album on these pages was "Live & Bangin’", the limited edition CD released by Swiss hard rockers GOTTHARD this year.
"Live & Bangin’" was recorded during Gotthard’s Bang! tour in Baar, Switzerland, in 2014 and it was put on sale exclusively at the band's website and for their FanClub members only.
But "Live & Bangin’" was officially released on CD in Japan by Marquee Inc / Avalon.
"Live & Bangin’" is a massive 'thank you' for the last four years, in which fans have kept the faith with Gotthard - because without them, there probably wouldn’t have been a future after the tragic death of vocalist Steve Lee end of 2010.
Gotthard’s Nic Maeder stated; "Live & Bangin will not be available in stores, but instead sold solely in the Gotthard fan shop and at merchandise stalls on tour, strictly limited. Exclusively for Fanclub members there’s a pile of CDs autographed by the band waiting to be unleashed."
But as usual, the Asian market got the privilege to have the album released locally, though, in a Limited Edition.
There’s not a second wasted on "Live & Bangin’": presented as an 'official bootleg' - but this is a mere classification to make it even more 'collectible', as the production of Leo Leoni is top notch - there are close to 75 minutes of the Tessin platinum rockers’ sound - unaltered, live and pure.
You could actually call its tracklisting a set list, because the songs on "Live & Bangin’" are a perfect cross section of the tour-show including a lifelike instant mosh pit in your living room.
Gotthard's "Live & Bangin’" is a monster, terrific record. Fo those missing the early Gotthard bite and pure hard rock attack, this release is must. Everything sounds punchy and crystal clear with a separated instruments mix and perfectly balanced vocals.
Apart of being a collectors item, if you usually discard live records, try this; you'll be blown away...
Marquee/Avalon ~ MICP-11233
【CD】 ライヴ・アンド・バンギン / ゴットハード
01 - Let Me in Katie
02 - Bang!
03 - Get Up 'N' Move On
04 - Sister Moon
05 - Right On
06 - Master of Illusion
07 - Feel What I Feel
08 - The Call
09 - Remember It's Me
10 - What You Get
11 - The Train
12 - C'est La Vie
13 - That's It (Car Crash)
14 - Mountain Mama
15 - Lift U Up
16 - Thank You
17 - Anytime Anywhere
Leo Leoni - guitars
Freddy Scherer - guitars
Marc Lynn - bass
Hena Habegger - drums
Nic Maeder - vocals, additional guitars
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