Sunday, January 31, 2016

GRAND SLAM - A New Dawn (2016)

GRAND SLAM - A New Dawn (2016) full

Hailing from Malmö, Sweden, GRAND SLAM was founded by drummer Andy Swaniz in 2007 with the aim to craft his own interpretation of the Melodic Rock style. After an extensive gig training, one EP (featured on this blog), and being signed by AOR Heaven Records, Grand Slam are presenting "A New Dawn", the band’s full-length debut album.
Catchy and with more hooks than a mafia-owned meat-locker, this CD stands head and shoulders above the rest in the absolute tsunami of Swedish Melodic Rock / AOR releases around at the moment.

Sporting a couple of mid-80s Vince Neil-type hair / headband get-ups (and neither of them on the two chick back-up singers!), Grand Slam kick-off with a serious pace-setter in album opener "Light Up The Sky".
The whole CD is like a New Year’s Eve hooley where stripey-panted Scorpions of yore get up and jam with leather-clad, Tempest-led Europeans (see what I did there?), all to great effect.
Wonderfully-named singer Andy Sinner is to lead vocals what the Titanic was to epic movies – lungs like leather airbags and he leads these cracking tunes, front and central.

After a couple of spins of "A New Dawn", I have to say that this is a great record all the way; melodic hard rock / AOR with attitude filled with strong melodies, excellent harmonies, tasteful guitars and tight performances.
Yes, "A New Dawn" is an album that will please each and every single fan of this particular scene and will rocket Grand Slam to a higher level.
The aforementioned "Light Up The Sky" is the perfect opener to sample Grand Slam's music. It includes a catchy as hell chorus line and it's what I call 'ballsy melodic rock'.

GRAND SLAM - A New Dawn (2016) inside

"Face", the first single, is yet another kickin' rocker somewhere between H.E.A.T and a 'lighter' Eclipse. This track will blow your mind with its irresistible riff.
"One Way To Heaven" is edgier while in "Get High" Grand Slam delivers a superb and punchy modern melodic hard rock hymn.
"Don’t Leave" is perhaps the more classy track recalling Scorpions' The Zoo in its chunky riffage and thudding verse, "Take Me Higher" is a typical feel-good Scandi-rock stuff and "I Wanna Live" is build up for arenas.
Each song seeks to outdo the last in terms of sheer tonnage – not a single smoochy ballad in sight - just damn good romp and roll.

Grand Slam has had numerous line-up changes since forming in 2007 and I’m hoping they can keep this one together because this debut album rocks like a mofo.
"A New Dawn" hits so hard that even Rocky would have nightmares. Grab yourself a copy and salute the new Swedish champs, Grand Slam.
HIGHLY Recommended.

1. Light up the Sky
2. Rock My World
3. Face
4. One Way to Heaven
5. Don't Leave
6. Get High
7. Take Me Higher
8. Waiting for Tomorrow
9. I Wanna Live
10. Don't Mess with Me

Andy Sinner – Lead Vocals
Andreas Gullstrand – Guitar
Andy Swaniz – Drums
Henrik Hansson – Bass
Daniel Gronberg Svensson – Keyboards



HARDREAMS - Countdown Time (2016)

HARDREAMS - Countdown Time (2016) full

Spanish melodic rockers HARDREAMS are back in 2016 with a new studio record, "Countdown Time"- their fourth, released worldwide through the reputable Perris Records.
While located inside the European borders, HARDREAMS seem to be flirting more with the American sound, ranging from heavyweight AOR to Melodic with enough rocking moments in between.

I really enjoyed Hardreams past efforts, and "Countdown Time" is without a doubt a step ahead in the band's career; mature compositions, slick production and flawless performances.
Manu Esteve’s voice is smoother than ever, bearing in mind the Mediterranean natives do not usually fit adequately to the English language requirements. This man surely knows how to sing and dress a song with passion, emotion and kind melodious lines.
We have sharp guitar riffs and cool solos plus a solid rhythm section, while new keyboardist Miquel Garcia add a refreshing ivory work.

There are some straightforward hard rockers here but most of the stuff is melodic rock oriented in classic mold, truly tuneful to the listener’s ear.
If you are new to Hardreams imagine a cross-mix between Journey (Steve Augeri era), Nineties Bon Jovi, Mr. Big, Hugo, etc.
'Fire Child', 'Best Days of Our Lives', 'Into Our Dreams', the breezy 'Summertime', and 'Lights and Shadows' are among the best songs on the CD, but all have their own charm resulting in a solid record.
Hardreams hired a new producer for this album (after using the same in their previous) and the output is more punchy & modern.

HARDREAMS - Countdown Time (2016) inside

Hardreams delivers a bunch of great classic Melodic Hard Rock tunes in "Countdown Time", catchy, melodious, rocking and smooth at the same time.
What I like about these Spaniards is their approach to arrangements: while are inspired in the traditional patterns of the genre, all are pretty original and personal. In short, they always try to sound different and not 'just the same'.
Highly Enjoyable.

1. Fire Child
2. More than One Life
3. Best Days of Our Lives
4. Into Our Dreams
5. A New Beginning
6. Summertime
7. Give Me
8. Countdown Time
9. Crying
10. Soul Mates
11. Lights and Shadows

Manu Esteve (vocals)
David Aguera (guitar)
Victor Muino (bass)
Sergio Hormigo (drums)
Miquel Garcia (keyboards)



Saturday, January 30, 2016

BEST PROG ALBUM OF THE YEAR Honorable Mention : DREAM THEATER - The Astonishing (2016)

DREAM THEATER - The Astonishing (2016) full

In their new monster recording "The Astonishing" DREAM THEATER goes … well, theatrical. This 2 hour concept double CD (4LP) production “plays” out like a play – truly an epic story of love, betrayal and redemption this was clearly written with the intent to take on the road as a big rock opera/theatrical production.

Lyrically conceived and written by guitarist John Petrucci, the story takes place some 200 years in the future where the reigning powers have allowed the NOMACS to suppress musical expression in favor of electronic noise (sound familiar?).
In a manner similar to Rush’s 2112, “The Chosen One” rises from the “oppressed” with the offer of the gift of music to humanity – the music to serve as the vehicle to spur revolution and the restoration of humanity. Yeah, it’s much more complicated than that but no spoilers here.
The fun of an album like this is to be able to explore the characters, scenes and backdrop for oneself - far be it from me to spoil anybody’s virgin listening experience.

Musically, this is truly different from where the band has gone before. Sure, they’ve done the epic story telling tracks before (“The Count of Tuscany” just one example), but those songs really could stand alone.
The Astonishing is an entire theatrical performance (akin to Pink Floyd’s The Wall) and plays out exactly in that fashion, each song dependent on the preceding track for support and context both lyrically and musically. Sound effects are used to create a cinematic vibe and there are some choral and symphonic elements but they never seem to overwhelm what the band is trying to accomplish.

It’s cool how the narration of the story is actually worked into the body of the songs so we don’t get corny spoken parts interrupting the flow of music. The way they reference themselves in “When Your Time Comes” is brilliant.
And in general, the genius with much of the diversity here is that if you take the work as a whole it actually pays tribute to many different forms of music (rock, jazz, classical, etc.) and in doing so specifically supports the legacy of Dream Theater and in general all forms of musical expression.

So what about the music that supports this epic story? Well, there are a few things that really surprised me. With the exception of the “overture” type songs that we hear at the beginning of Act I and Act II (not new to Dream Theater), it has been a long time since I heard these guys emphasize the melody and really serve the song in this regard. Some of these songs are a bit mellow (especially Act I), so don’t expect huge technical riffing and endless soloing.
That is definitely de-emphasized here to the point that I almost didn’t believe what I was hearing at first (only because it was such a departure for DT), but with repeated listens these melodies are strikingly beautiful. Even Mangini takes a back seat to the song – his normally mathematical machinations supplanted by supporting rhythms injected with the occasional flamboyancies.

Interestingly, much of this music reminds me of the Images and Words/Awake era in that regard, as well as Scenes From A Memory. The piano plays a huge role, especially in Act I. More surprising though is that LaBrie handles the vocals of (in addition to the narrator) all 8 of the key characters!
Those familiar with Ayreon – Arjen Lucassen is the master of 2 CD concept releases – will recall his “thing” was to give each character in his stories a different “voice” in the form of an individual singer. Folks, James LaBrie does all of the voices here, which is extremely challenging.

And while I would have loved to have heard some guest vocalists on a release like this, LaBrie makes it work. He is truly brilliant on this record. Look, I’ve been a sceptic of his voice in the past, at times when his voice was less than stellar. But his performance here is THE focal point of The Astonishing … and to me that is “astonishing” in and of itself since the history of this band has always been that the vocals kind of take a back seat to the instrumental wizardry. Not so here. Although I will say that while Act I feels a bit more melody driven, Act II brings some of the heaviness, instrumental wizardry and soloing that fans will want.

My final surprise with this release musically is that the NOMACS don’t play a bigger role here. Their "music" only occupies 5 short tracks on the entire 2CD set. I really thought there might be more “warring” between traditional music and robotic music, but as it turns out the NOMACS are a very small part of the story here as this is really a story about humanity vs. humanity – the machines are controlled by the behavior of the humans, and the ultimate outcome dictated by human actions.

DREAM THEATER - The Astonishing (2016) back

In summary, "The Astonishing" is a different beast, one that might frighten some fans away while simultaneously entice others to explore.
But one thing is for sure – this is Dream Theater through and through, and I for one am really glad to see them not only revisit their more melodic roots but also bring something this inspiring, positive and this hugely theatrical to the stage. (review by JSwank)
Highly Recommended

CD 1:
01. Descent of the NOMACS
02. Dystopian Overture
03. The Gift of Music
04. The Answer
05. A Better Life
06. Lord Nafaryus
07. A Savior in the Square
08. When Your Time Has Come
09. Act of Faythe
10. Three Days
11. The Hovering Sojourn
12. Brother, Can You Hear Me?
13. A Life Left Behind
14. Ravenskill
15. Chosen
16. A Tempting Offer
17. Digital Discord
18. The X Aspect
19. A New Beginning
20. The Road to Revolution

CD 2:
01. 2285 Entr'acte
02. Moment of Betrayal
03. Heaven's Cove
04. Begin Again
05. The Path That Divides
06. Machine Chatter
07. The Walking Shadow
08. My Last Farewell
09. Losing Faythe
10. Whispers on the Wind
11. Hymn of a Thousand Voices
12. Our New World
13. Power Down
14. Astonishing

James LaBrie - vocals, percussion
John Petrucci - guitar, backing vocals
John Myung - bass guitar, Stick
Jordan Rudess - keyboards, synthesizer
Mike Mangini - drums



SHAKRA - High Noon [digipak version] (2016)

SHAKRA - High Noon (2016) full

Swiss melodic hard rockers SHAKRA just released their new album "High Noon" via AFM Records. "High Noon" marks the return of the band's former vocalist Mark Fox, who parted ways with Shakra in 2009 but recently announced his return.

"High Noon" is a great, no frills, rockin' album.
“Hello” starts the CD off with a sharp guitar intro and a catchy chorus à la Def Leppard. Up next is maybe my favorite song on the record, the title track “High Noon.” It has a hard hitting intro, laid back verses, an anthemic chorus and a blazing guitar solo.
You have groovy sleazy guitars at the beginning of “Around the World” and a bluesy riff in “Eye to Eye”, while “Raise Your Hands” is an arena ready blast straight out of the '80s, as well as the nicely written ballad “Life’s What You Need.”
Finally, no album in this genre is complete without some punchy, uptempo party rockers like “Into Your Heart”, “The Storm” and “Wild And Hungry”, the latter being another favorite of mine.

SHAKRA - High Noon (2016) inside

"High Noon" brings the return of longtime vocalist Mark Fox and a renewed passion for the band as a whole. Not that John Prakesh wasn’t a fantastic singer and the albums he sang on weren’t good, but the band really wasn’t entirely the same without Fox. His voice and addition to the band was what really set them on the road to what they’ve achieved so far.
Shakra has always had the ability to write some of the most catchy and memorable hard rock songs, amply demonstrated on this new CD.
For me, they’re on the same league of Pretty Maids and Harem Scarem: truly talented, but sadly overshadowed by far inferior bands. With "High Noon", their 10th album in almost 20 years, Shakra is demonstrating why they have so much staying power and why they’ve remained alive and kicking all this time.
Strongly Recommended.

01. Hello
02. High Noon
03. Into Your Heart
04. Around the World
05. Eye to Eye
06. Is It Real
07. Life's What You Need
08. The Storm
09. Raise Your Hands
10. Stand Tall
11. Watch Me Burn
12. Wild and Hungry

Mark Fox (vocals)
Thomas Blunier (guitar)
Thomas Muster (guitar)
Roger Tanner (drums)
Dominik Pfister (bass)



WIGELIUS - Tabula Rasa (2016)

WIGELIUS - Tabula Rasa (2016) full

Since its formation in late 2011, WIGELIUS - created and fronted by Anders Wigelius (winner of a popular TV show on the National Swedish channel) prominently helped by his brother Erik on Drums plus few others talented players including gifted guitar player Jakob Svensson - is one of the most refreshing acts from the new Scandinavian Melodic Rock / AOR wave.
Released by AOR Heaven Records, "Tabula Rasa" is the new lovely effort by Anders Wigelius & Co.

With a debut album receiving high praise in a worldwide scale by all AOR specialists, the juvenile band continue on this new record with their vision of a refined '80s radio-ready Melodic Rock with a modern twist, plenty of wonderful tunes.
Just listen some of the album highlights; “Long Way From Home” with a delicious melody like a Journey / FM collaboration with some Leppard-ish drum sounds, “Yesterday’s News” which stands-out for structure and execution, or “Time Well Wasted” with that distinct classic-era Bon Jovi feel to it.

Album opener “Do It All Again” will tell you all you need to know about this album: modern AOR with a pristine sound and production, while the anthemic “Please Please Please” is the exact compromise between present day Def Leppard and H.E.A.T.

WIGELIUS - Tabula Rasa (2016) inside

The pumping pace of “Do It All Again” is borrowed to the groovy entertainment of both Winger and early Harem Scarem enhanced with an additional, irresistible multi-layered chorus, then “These Tears I Cry” is perhaps the more 'American' track on the CD with a Night Ranger flavor.
On the balladry side, “9 Out Of 10” is a great example of how to build on a catchy acoustic opening with an orchestral backing.

"Tabula Rasa" confirms all the expectations put on Wigelius sophomore album; a stellar collection of AOR / Melodic Rock tracks strongly inspired in the golden age of this type of music, but with a revitalizing modern approach.
This is how the genre should sound 2016, and I am glad these Swedes are bringing new young listeners to this timeless, melodious kind of music.

1. Do It All Again
2. Deja Vu
3. These Tears I Cry
4. Long Way From Home
5. Set Me Free
6. Yesterdays News
7. Time Well Wasted
8. 9 Out of 10
9. Run With Me
10. Love Is The Key
11. Please, Please, Please
12. Ma Chérie

Anders Wigelius – Vocals
Jakob Svensson – Guitars
Erik Wigelius – Drums
Patrik Janson – Bass



Friday, January 29, 2016

AUTOGRAPH - Loud & Clear [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded]

AUTOGRAPH - Loud & Clear [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] full

Between 1984 - 1987, L.A. quintet AUTOGRAPH released a string of successful records, all of them doing their bit to give melodic hard rock a good name. However, it's their third outing that is widely regarded as the pick of the pack... "Loud & Clear" is one of the all time great albums of the '80s US scene, ably produced by studio legend Andy Johns.
Fully digitally remastered by Rock Candy Records, "Loud & Clear" sounds better than ever.

In style, "Loud and Clear" is very similar to Autograph's previous albums, but we have a stronger, mature songwriting, arrangements, musicianship and production.
It's an upbeat, feel-good party rock album with odes to hot girls, loud parties and rocking all nite. Catchy hooks, great melodies and just enough keyboards are all abundant on "Loud & Clear", and Steve Plunkett does another knockout job on vocals.
There really isn't a Turn Up the Radio style hit on this album, but "Dance All Night" and "Just Got Back From Heaven" should have been solid radio hits at the time, and "More Than a Million Times" should have been huge. It's a brilliant, "soundtrack ready" melodic rocker.

AUTOGRAPH - Loud & Clear [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] back

As good as it is, "Loud and Clear" was Autograph's least successful album, and ended up being their last work as a band, with Plunkett using the moniker but in fact being a solo artist.
If you're a fan of the second half if the '80s glossy melodic rock sound, "Loud & Clear" is a 'can't miss' album from one of the era's more unfairly overlooked bands.
This Rock Candy remaster sounds million bucks.
Highly Recommended.

01 - Loud And Clear
02 - Dance All Night
03 - She Never Looked That Good For Me
04 - Bad Boy
05 - Everytime I Dream
06 - She's A Tease
07 - Just Got Back From Heaven
08 - Down 'N' Dirty
09 - More Than A Million Times
10 - When The Sun Goes Down

Steve Plunkett - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Steve Lynch - Lead Guitar
Randy Rand - Bass, backing vocals
Steven Isham - Keyboards, backing vocals
Keni Richards - Drums



Thursday, January 28, 2016

AUTOGRAPH - That's The Stuff [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded]

AUTOGRAPH - That's The Stuff [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] full

AUTOGRAPH's debut album Sign In Please contained a surprise hit single, the infectious ‘Turn Up The Radio’, whilst a sell out tour supporting Van Halen elevated them into the upper echelons of the Eighties hard rock elite.
Things were looking more than good.

However, when a Stateside tour supporting Motley Crue was secured, RCA, their record label, hit the panic button, insisting that in order to keep momentum rocketing the band should get back into the studio and cut a follow up album as quickly as humanly possible.

It was inevitable that things began to slide; a rushed choice of producer, a lack of pre-production time and a touring deadline that was looming ever closer. Amazingly, when the album was released its cover had to be changed due to bungled copyright issues.
And if that wasn’t enough, in order to combat the appearance of Russian band Avtograf (pronounced Autograph), RCA thought it might be a good idea for Autograph to record a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s classic ‘We’re An American Band’ adding it to the record half way through the campaign.

Under any other circumstance this set of events might have spelled disaster but for Autograph it was just a one more river to cross and one more hurdle to jump.
"That’s The Stuff", despite all the pressures baring down on them, was hailed as another solid slice of prime-time American melodic hard rock, big on hooks and crammed with some of the best guitar playing that Steve Lynch ever recorded.

Opening with the the title cut filled with the same happy smiling in your face rock and roll as the debut album and take no prisoners attitude, has the echo kind of backing vocals that made Dokken and Ratt famous.
'Blonde's In Black Cars' was the hit off this one, it's actually quite good, sure it didn't go as far as 'Turn Up The Radio' but that kind of song is really once in a lifetime. 'You'll Get Over It' is a beautiful love song (mid-tempo, not really a ballad), 'Crazy World' is fun and rocking, in the Night Ranger vein.

The stand out track on this album is 'Changing Hands' a beautiful ballad that should have been released as a single, sounds very much like Def Leppard from the Hysteria period. 'Hammerhead' shows that is among the best, while 'Built For Speed' and 'Paint This Town' are cool melodic hard rockers with nice hooks.
This Rock Candy remaster includes the bonus 'We're An American Band', a cover done in a very hair metal way.

AUTOGRAPH - That's The Stuff [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] back

"That’s The Stuff" is another solid album from Autograph, plenty of hooky rockers and a feel-good vibe.
Rock Candy's chief engineer Jon Astley has enhanced the bass lines (slightly buried in the original) and now with this fresh remaster the record sounds punchier, more vibrant.
Highly Recommended.

01 - That's The Stuff
02 - Take No Prisoners
03 - Blondes In Black Cars
04 - You'll Get Over It
05 - Crazy World
06 - Six String Fever
07 - Changing Hands
08 - Hammerhead
09 - Built For Speed
10 - Paint This Town
11 - We're An American Band (bonus track)

Steve Plunkett - Vocals and rhythm guitar
Steve Lynch - Guitars
Randy Rand - Bass and backing vocals
Steven Isham - Keyboards and backing vocals
Keni Richards - Drums



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

AUTOGRAPH - Sign In Please [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded]

AUTOGRAPH - Sign In Please [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] full

A must have release Remastered & Reloaded by Rock Candy Records is without a doubt "Sign In Please", the awesome debut album by American melodic hard rockers AUTOGRAPH.
Emerging in the early Eighties, unsigned at the time, Autograph were hand picked by Van Halen to open a mammoth North American concert trek – an accomplishment that quickly led to their inking with industry giant RCA Records and an ensuing hit single, the energetic and infectious ‘Turn Up The Radio’ which made the US top 30 in the same year.

Feted and championed by the hard rock cognoscenti (supporters included Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne) this Los Angeles based quintet made all the right noises by packing both melody and muscle into their music; highly valuable commodities that found Autograph reaching a level of success that would see them out perform most of the competition.

AUTOGRAPH - Sign In Please [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] booklet

‘Sign In Please’ was, then, the band's highly praised debut album, unleashing a beast of significant fire power and songs that would stand not only the test of time but would also improve with age including the classic hit single ‘Turn Up The Radio’.
Taped by renowned British producer Neil Kernon (Queensryche, Dokken, etc) the album exudes Class-A melodic hard rock all the way with big hooks and solid riffs.
'Send Her to Me' (another hit), 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me', 'Thrill Of Love', 'All I'm Gonna Take', all are anthemic commercial rockers in the best 80s US tradition.

AUTOGRAPH - Sign In Please [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] back

Definitely one of the greatest albums from the '80s LA scene, Autograph's "Sign In Please"
claims a place in your collection, and this Rock Candy 24-bit remastering from original source tapes is the way to do it.
4,000 word story of the making of the album by Pail Suter and exclusive interview with singer / songwriter Steve Plunkett, previously unpublished photos, one bonus track, all spread out over a super 16 page full colour booklet.
A Must Have

01 - Send Her To Me
02 - Turn Up The Radio
03 - Night Teen & Non-Stop
04 - Cloud 10
05 - Deep End
06 - My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me
07 - Thrill Of Love
08 - Friday
09 - In The Night
10 - All I'm Gonna Take
11 - Turn Up The Radio (Remix) (bonus track)

Steve Plunkett - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Steve Lynch - lead guitar
Steven Isham - keyboards, backing vocals
Randy Rand - bass, backing vocals
Keni Richards - drums, noises



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ARMORED SAINT - March Of The Saint [Rock Candy remaster]

ARMORED SAINT - March Of The Saint [Rock Candy remaster] full

One of the more lovely commercial metal albums appeared in the first half of the '80s is "March Of The Saint", the debut by American five-piece ARMORED SAINT. Rock Candy Records 'Remastered & Reloaded' the tapes, released with additional unreleased high quality demo tracks.

Formed in Los Angeles during the early '80s, Armoured Saint were part of an explosive West Coast scene that included the likes of Dokken, Malice, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Motley Crue and Metallica. By 1984 they were signed up to a major (Chrysalis) and recording their debut album with producer Michael James Jackson, fresh from working with a rejuvenated Kiss.

The result was "March Of The Saint" - hailed by Kerrang! magazine as having 'more balls than a snooker marathon', and generally regarded as one of the era's finest metal releases.
The debut album yielded a minor MTV hit with 'Can U Deliver', an anthemic, melodic strong metal / hard rock number. But vocalist Joey Vera later recalled that it was not the sound they wanted, explaining that producer Jackson approach was much more commercial than the traditional heavy metal sound the band had wanted.
And indeed, "March Of The Saint" has not the heavy sound the band would develop later, but instead, it's a great piece of edgy hard rock / American metal with a glossy sound.

With songs like 'Seducer', 'Mutiny On the World', the title track, and the killer 'Can U Deliver' (sure they can!), Armored Saint proved that they rocked as hard as anyone.
Shifting gears on 'Take A Turn', the closest thing to a ballad on the album, singer Bush gives perhaps his most emotional and inspired vocal effort.
This album is all meat, with no filler material. Lots of memorable riffs, soaring vocals and melodic guitar solos.

ARMORED SAINT - March Of The Saint [Rock Candy remaster] back

In many ways, with "March Of The Saint" Armoured Saint created a subgengre in the American rock music scene. At the time there was the hair/glam metal and the rising thrash metal movements dominating the clubs.
"March Of The Saint", however, was different than the other material being released by American bands. They weren't rippin' thrash yet they weren't pretty boys either. Armoured Saint were a band with their own sound at the time. It's like they took some Euro metal styles such as NWOBHM and mixed it with some classic hard rock.

The result was really original for the era - at least in America - powerful but really melodic, with a superb production.
If you never hear about Armoured Saint and like the edgy side of Dokken, Impellitteri, WASP, etc, you should try this really good record. For those already aware of its quality, this excellent Rock Candy remaster is a must, plus 3 bonus tracks.
Strongly Recommended

01 - March Of The Saint
02 - Can U Deliver
03 - Mad House
04 - Take A Turn
05 - Seducer
06 - Mutiny On The World
07 - Glory Hunter
08 - Stricken By Fate
09 - Envy
10 - False Alarm
11 - March Of The Saint (24-track demo)
12 - Seducer (24-track demo)
13 - Mutiny On The World (24-track demo)

John Bush - vocals
Dave Prichard - guitars
Phil Sandoval - guitars
Joey Vera - bass
Gonzo Sandoval - drums



Sunday, January 24, 2016

JOJO - Jojo [YesterRock remaster +6]

JOJO - Jojo [YesterRock remaster +6] full

One of the best reissues / remasters in YesterRock Records existence is without a doubt Germans JOJO self-titled album. For many years out of print this great CD finally was was digitally remastered, includes 6 juicy bonus tracks.

After the split of Tokyo (another fine band featured here on the blog) in 1985, leader Robby Musenbichler founded the band Jojo. Next to a new line-up, this change also meant an enhanced sound compared to his previous projects.
Jojo worked with three different powerhouse lead singers; Robby Musenbichler, Roko Kohlmeyer and George Liszt resulting in a varied, highly harmonized vocal heaven. The bass was handled by Ken Taylor (ex Tokyo) and the keyboards by Lothar Krell (also ex Tokyo). None other than the incredible Curt Cress was in charge for the drums.

First, Robby recorded two singles with established producer Frank Farian (Far Corporation). Both were pretty successful, then Jojo entered into the studio for the full length debut, produced by Eddy Offort.
Jojo's sound covers the same territories of bands such as Toto, Dominoe, Craaft, Journey, and of course Tokyo... so read; catchy choruses, melodic refrains and a bouncy rhythm.

Described as the German Toto at the time, that is not a bad comparison although with a classic '80s German sound.
After the superb opening track 'Extasy', all the following numbers are strong enough to keep the interest of your AORish ears.
The video for the melodic 'Woman’s Touch' received strong airplay on MTV, 'Diana', the prime AOR of 'Hold Back The Night', 'The First Will Be The Last', the moving 'I Can Wait', 'Runnin' Through The Night'... all are excellent.

JOJO - Jojo [YesterRock remaster +6] back

If the remastering job is outstanding, so are the quality bonus tracks featured in this YesterRock reissue. The 6 cuts (including a remix) are on par with the main album finest numbers.
Polished, highly melodic, harmony-rich AOR is what you'll find aplenty here.
For me, A Must Have.

01 - Extasy
02 - The First Will Be The Last
03 - I Can Wait
04 - Woman's Touch
05 - Running Thru' The Night
06 - Diana
07 - So Long
08 - Hold Back The Night
09 - Love Is Like Water
10 - Water To Wine
11 - Remember Me
12 - Let's Rock The Shelter (bonus track)
13 - You Can Fly (bonus track)
14 - Call Me Now [feat. Mr. Voice] (bonus track)
15 - How Does It Feel (bonus track)
16 - Extasy (bonus track)
17 - Stand Together (bonus track)

Robby Musenbichler - vocals
Roko Kohlmeyer - vocals
George Liszt - vocals
Lothar Krell - keyboards
Ken Taylor - bass
Curt Cress - drums



Saturday, January 23, 2016

CONEY HATCH - Outa Hand [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded]

CONEY HATCH - Outa Hand [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] full

We already featured here some albums from one of the most underrated Canadian bands of the '80s: CONEY HATCH. Remastered & Reloaded by Rock Candy Records, and appeared on CD for the first time, the band's second effort "Outa Hand" is a hell of a rocking album.

Their highly respected self-titled debut album (also available on the blog) garnered much international acclaim, especially in the United Kingdom, allowing the Canadian four piece to unleash an even more impressive sophomore LP.
Issued in 1982, and produced by English maverick Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Y&T), the band succeeded in crafting an album that many regard as their greatest work.

Combining the best of both worlds - that's melody and muscle - into one remarkable package, "Outa Hand" went on to establish Coney Hatch as arguably one of the most endearing and successful Canadian rock acts of the Eighties, being MTV regulars and supporting metal icons Iron Maiden on a sold out North American arena tour.

CONEY HATCH - Outa Hand [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] booklet

From the punch of 'Don't Say Make Me' and melody of 'First Time For Everything', to the rockin' 'Some Like It Hot' & the catchy 'Fallen Angel' to the nice, smooth, feel-good ballads 'To Feel The Feeling Again' & 'Music Of The Night', there is not a weak track here.

Now available for the first time on CD, Coney Hatch's "Outa Hand" has been fully remastered, repackaged (with involvement from the band) and features 3 previously unreleased bonus tracks from the original sessions.

CONEY HATCH - Outa Hand [Rock Candy Remastered & Reloaded] back

And let me tell you that these bonus are great songs - even the demo 'Fly On', in its rough mix, is a great addition to the Coney Hatch legacy. The other two bonus tracks are sung by Carl Dixon ('Nobody Gives You'), and by Andy Curran ('Your Kinda Love').
The sound of this remastered version is clear and powerful at the same time, and it also includes a 16-page colour booklet with rare photos and with very interesting comments behind the "Outa Hand" sessions provided by Carl and Andy.
Very, Highly Recommended.

01 - Don't Say Make Me
02 - Shake It
03 - First Time For Everything
04 - Some Like It Hot
05 - To Feel The Feeling Again
06 - Too Far Gone
07 - Love Games
08 - Fallen Angel
09 - Music Of The Night
10 - Nobody Gives You
11 - Your Kinda Love
12 - Fly On (demo)

Carl Dixon – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Andy Curran – bass, lead vocals
Steve Shelski – lead guitar, vocals
Dave "Thumper" Ketchum – drums, percussion



CONEY HATCH - ST [Rock Candy remaster]

CONEY HATCH - ST [Rock Candy remaster] full


A reader requested the first, self-titled debut by CONEY HATCH 'Remastered & Reloaded' by Rock Candy.
Why not? It's one of the finest rocking albums coming out from Canada during the first half of the '80s.

With a name derived from 'Colney Hatch', which at the time was the location of a Victorian lunatic asylum, home to 3,500 mental patients in North London, this Canadian four-piece were much more than your average early Eighties rock band.
Whereas many of their US counterparts chose to rely on big hair & party anthems, Coney Hatch - based in Toronto Rock City - had an altogether more twisted take on the Great Rock’n'Roll Dream (and big hair!).

CONEY HATCH - ST [Rock Candy remaster] booklet

From the striking sleeve art onwards, ‘Coney Hatch’ - the album - was different. A happy (if unconventional) marriage of rolling riffs & off-kilter melodies, topped off with lyrics that were as likely to take a scenic shortcut as stick to the beaten path.
Produced by legendary Canadian artist Kim Mitchell (of Max Webster fame), these 10 songs are some of the best examples of ‘Maple Leaf Mayhem’ you’re likely to hear.
Ray Danniels, Rush manager and boss of Anthem Records signed Coney Hatch and before they knew it, the band were in the studio to record their debut album.

These 10 songs, although rocking and kickin', are extremely melodic and catchy such as opener "Devil's Deck" (featuring chorus vocals from producer Kim Mitchell), "You Ain't Got Me", the energetic "No Sleep Tonight".
But the real strength of the album was its diversity and tracks like the bouncy "Monkey Bars" or the excellent, AORish "Hey Operator", covered one year after by Aldo Nova on his 1983 solo album Subject.

CONEY HATCH - ST [Rock Candy remaster] back

This re-issue comes with no less than three bonus tracks from the original sessions: the rocking "Dreamland", "Where I Draw The Line" showing a different side of the band including pianos, and the good sounding demo "Sin After Sin".
On this kind of old recordings is where you can appreciate a good remaster, and Rock Candy has done another fine job here.
Highly Recommended.

01 - Devil's Deck
02 - You Ain't Got Me
03 - Stand Up
04 - No Sleep Tonight
05 - Love Poison
06 - We Got The Night
07 - Hey Operator
08 - I'll Do The Talkin'
09 - Victim Of Rock
10 - Monkey Bars
11 - Dreamland (bonus track)
12 - Where I Draw The Line (bonus track)
13 - Sin After Sin (bonus track)

Carl Dixon – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Andy Curran – bass guitar, lead vocals
Steve Shelski – lead guitar, vocals
Kim Mitchell – backing vocals, production



Thursday, January 21, 2016

BOULDER (Stan Bush) - Boulder [Wounded Bird remaster]

BOULDER (Stan Bush) - Boulder [Wounded Bird remaster] full

One little album deserving to be discovered is "Boulder", the self-titled debut from BOULDER recently remastered by Wounded Bird Records. Boulder was the first major band of a young and future Melodic Rock icon called Stan Bush.

Blending melodic rock with FM oriented radio rock, Boulder style has all the trademarks found in later Stan Bush's solo material.
Produced by expert George Daly (Santana, The Cars), all here is really melodic, and does not sound outdated at all.
Feel good numbers like 'Join Me In L.A.', the Canadian sounding 'A New Mr. Right', the hard rocking 'Winner Takes All' and the AORish 'Heartbeat' are among the best cuts in this short, but highly enjoyable record.
'Turn The Radio Up' speaks for itself, catchy and radio-ready, 'Help Yourself' rocks with a cool riff, then 'For Love' ends the record in an acoustical ballad mode, again, in a typical Stan Bush style.

v back

All we know Stan Bush career after Boulder disbanded, but few have listened this, the band's one and only record. "Boulder" is a strong melodic rock record, with a FM sound typical front the bands of the era like the very first Survivor, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, etc.
This Wounded Bird Records remaster is excellent, clear and 'earthy' with a warm output.
Highly Recommended.

01 - Join Me In L.A.
02 - A New Mr. Right
03 - Winner Takes All
04 - Heartbeat
05 - Turn The Radio Up
06 - Travelin' Man
07 - Help Yourself
08 - For Love

Bob Harris - vocals
Stan Bush - guitars, vocals
Zeke Zirngiebel - guitars, bass, backing vocals
Marty Stinger - drums
Mithran Cabin - percussion, backing vocals
Todd McKinney - keyboards, backing vocals
Kim Stone - add. bass



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MICHAEL C. DRAGON - Transsylvania Calling (YesterRock remaster)

MICHAEL C. DRAGON - Transsylvania Calling (YesterRock remaster) full

MICHAEL C. DRAGON's 'Transsylvania' was originally released as private pressing on the artist’s own label in 1997 and has become a much sought after piece by collectors and Melodic Rock fans. YesterRock has remastered and reissued the album in a new version, re-entitled "Dragon Of Transsylvania" and now has to offer 10 tracks instead of the original 7.

Musically, "Dragon Of Transsylvania" is a mix of AOR and Melodic Rock with a cool feeling and great melodies in the typical German mould. The brilliant ballad "Still Loving You" is reminiscent of the best times of Blue Tears and the straight rocker "Fire In Your Eyes" is the perfect counterpart, a bouncy mid-tempo masher.

"Wishing", "Gladiator - No Time To Cry", the acoustically driven "Beyond - The Blue Of The Sky" and the ballad "Song Of Hope" are smooth, melodious numbers with Michael C. Dragon (real name Manfred Michael Seile) delivering fine vocals, helped by the services of several fellow countrymen providing instrumentation.

MICHAEL C. DRAGON - Transsylvania Calling (YesterRock remaster) back

Well recorded & produced, "Dragon Of Transsylvania" will appeal fans of German Melodic Rock like Casanova, Zeno, Mat Sinner works, but also Bon Jovi, Blue Tears and alike.

01 - Wishing (dedicated to Sammy B. Karoly Uhrmann)
02 - Transsylvania Calling (New Version)
03 - Still Loving You
04 - Fire In Your Eyes
05 - Stop The Countdown
06 - Transsylvania Calling (Video Version)
07 - Beyond - The Blue Of The Sky
08 - Ghetto Blues
09 - Song Of Hope
10 - Gladiator - No Time To Cry (bonus track)

Michael C. Dragon - vocals
Mathias Church - guitar
Stefan Hiemer - bass
Jessie Milliner - keyboards
Roland Depner - drums
Rüdiger Berg - add. guitar
Dieter Roth - add. guitar
Mathias Dieth - add. guitar



Monday, January 18, 2016

LITA FORD - Lita [Rock Candy remaster 2nd edition +1]

LITA FORD - Lita [Rock Candy remaster 2nd edition +1] full

For me, LITA FORD best album (and her most successful) always will be "Lita", greatly remastered by Rock Candy Records. Note there was two releases by Rock Candy, the first with the original tracklist, and this second featuring as bonus track the much sought after remix / video version of the smash hit "Close My Eyes Forever".

When former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford released her debut solo album ('Out For Blood') in 1983, the sleeve of the record laid her metal credentials bold and bare. Five years on, however, things were to change; not only did Lita shed the studs 'n leather in favour of a more stylish look, but her music was given a comprehensive overhaul too.
Producer Mike Chapman was determined to steer her down a more commercial path (melodic hard rock rather than metal, class rather than crunch), and 'Lita' was the first fruit of their in-studio relationship.

Featuring co-writes from Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx & Motorhead's Lemmy, a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, plus a brace of major US chart hits, this album was to be the biggest-selling (and best) in her career.
Lita's all-round musical talent was finally getting the recognition it desereved, with a Grammy nomination plus a gold record award subsequently comin' her way.

Opener "Back To The Cave" demonstrates Lita's fiery guitar-playing abilities and a sound that outdoes Slippery When Wet-era Bon Jovi, but then, she ups the mileage on the next song "Can't Catch Me" with its express train guitar and lovely keyboards is one of the best songs here. Small wonder, as Motorhead's Lemmy wrote this.
The Chapman-penned "Blueberry" is a guitar rocker with Ron Nevison-like keyboard AOR fills, but nothing that dilutes the metal in this song.
Then comes the single that got Lita into the Top 40 for the first time. With strong guitar riffs, synths galore, and pop metal sensibilities without diluting its power, "Kiss Me Deadly" is a killer tune.

"Falling In And Out Of Love" was co-written by Nikki Sixx of the Crue and rocks with style, "Fatal Passion" is one of the harder cuts and truly effective, while "Broken Dreams" has a cool melodic hard bounce.
The final song, "Close My Eyes Forever," a sobering and melancholy song of betrayal and regret that drove one to death was both sung and written by Lita and Ozzy, with terminal overtones: "And when we sleep, would you shelter me/in your warm and darkened grave." A tragic operatic aura of a final sleep is created by the synths in the last chorus repeat.

LITA FORD - Lita [Rock Candy remaster 2nd edition +1] back

In the early 80's, it was impossible for Lita Ford to get into the mainstream. In 1988, with groups like Bon Jovi, Europe, Poison and Motley Crue having paved the way for hard rock / hair metal for mass acceptance, Lita did it, and with results that outdid many male metal bands.
Highly Recommended.

01 - Back to the Cave
02 - Can't Catch Me
03 - Blueberry
04 - Kiss Me Deadly
05 - Falling in and Out of Love
06 - Fatal Passion
07 - Under the Gun
08 - Broken Dreams
09 - Close My Eyes Forever
10 - Close My Eyes Forever (Bonus Remix)

Lita Ford – guitar, vocals
David Ezrin – keyboards
Don Nossov – bass guitar
Myron Grombacher – drums
Additional musicians:
Craig Krampf – additional percussion and drums
Ozzy Osbourne – duet vocals on "Close My Eyes Forever"
Llory McDonald, Mike Chapman– background vocals



Sunday, January 17, 2016

LE MANS - Le Mans [YesterRock remaster]

LE MANS - Le Mans [YesterRock remaster] full

LE MANS self-titled album (their 2nd and final) is a baby that needs a place in your AOR & Melodic Rock collection. Digitally Remastered by YesterRock for the first time, this rocker sounds fabulous.

Le Mans was very much an active part of the hard rock scene in and around San Francisco during the '80s. An ad in Guitar Player Magazine led to the formation of the band, featuring guitar hero Derek Frigo (who unfortunately died from a drug overdose in 2004).
No wonder their first album emerged on Shrapnel Records, known for its many guitar-orientated releases, being a record pretty hevay metal oriented.
Then major label Columbia Records signed the band but wanted a more commercial sound for the next album.

Gone were the metallic overtones, to be replaced by a Melodic Rock, edgy AOR sound we all love. To be honest, there isn't a weak song in sight in "Le Mans", a record that shoulda be more known by fans of the genre.
All are killers, like the bright 'Chain Around Your Heart', the kickin' 'Life Of Rock 'N' Roll', the melodic bliss of 'Love Is a Waste of Time', the exquisite mid-tempo 'Never Wanna See You Cry' or the power ballad 'Never Wanna See You Cry'.
But pay attention to the fan-damn-tastic opener 'Love Lies', one of my favorite tracks from the '80s. This cut is all what AOR / Melodic Rock is all about!

LE MANS - Le Mans [YesterRock remaster] back

"Le Mans" is a terrific record full of great songs, superb instrumentation and a huge production.
If you never heard about this little gem and enjoy the feeling of bands like Dokken, Icon, Heavens Edge, Keel, Bronz, and why not, some Scandinavian groups of the era (mid-Eighties), you NEED this right now.
One of the best releases / remasters by specialists YesterRock.
A Must Have.

01 - Love Lies
02 - Don't Wanna Work
03 - Love Is A Waste Of Time
04 - Never Wanna See You Cry
05 - Addicted
06 - Chain Around Your Heart
07 - Bad Reputation
08 - Life Of Rock 'N' Roll
09 - Misunderstanding
10 - Sex, Guitars, Rock 'N' Roll

Peter Marrino - lead vocals
Derek Frigo - lead and rhythm guitar
Johnny Johnson - rhythm guitar, keybords, vocals
Brett Bloomfield - bass
Kenny Stavropoulos - drums



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