Tuesday, July 22, 2014

KARL JOHNSON – ‘New Beginning’





Rating: RRRR

Label: Self Release

Review By: Alan Holloway



You probably don’t know Karl Johnson, ex lead singer and writer for Spin, but he’s been plotting away in his shed at the bottom of the garden for a while now, preparing to take any part of the world that’ll have him by storm. Much like fellow one man band Phil Vincent, Karl does just about everything on this, his first solo album, and is planning to release several more.

So is the UK’s version of Phil Vincent worth your time? I have to say that he certainly is, with this full length debut coming in at a wallet friendly £4.99 to download from his official site (link at the bottom of the review). Although he has recorded heavier music for a future release, ‘New Beginning’ is definitely aimed at the melodic market, grabbing melodies and influences from classic AOR, modern pop rock and even a bit of West Coast, with the laid back but still groovy ‘Ordinary’. Vocally, he has a fine voice, and the whole thing is very well balanced considering it was all done by the man himself. It’s not really a guitar heavy album, although there are some nice little solos – it’s all about the melody and choruses, which is fine by me.

It’s always nice to find a new artist who has the discipline to put out an album with no weak tracks, and Karl sensibly keeps himself down to eleven tracks rather than loading up with more ‘just because I can’, as some do. The standout track for me is the upbeat, ludicrously catchy ‘Brightest Star’, although there’s certainly plenty of competition elsewhere. Overall, it’s reasonably laid back but with a coiled spring like energy bubbling away beneath the surface. Definitely a name to check out, especially at the nice price, Karl Johnson deserves a few minutes of your time. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

UNISONIC – “Light Of Dawn”





RATING: RRRR

Label: EARMUSIC/EDEL

Review By: Alan Holloway


The phrase ‘Dream Team’ is often bandied about, and in music it applies to the likes of Jagger and Richards, Daltrey and Towsend or May and Mercury. In the rock world it is totally just to apply it to Hansen and Kiske, a couple of lads who made my life a lot more exciting back when they were in Helloween, even if it was only for two albums.

So is it godo to have them back together for their second Unisonic album? Hell, yeah! The first thing that grabs you about ‘Light Of Dawn’ is, unsurprisingly, Michael Kiske’s vocals, which are as powerful and soaring as they ever were. Many, many other singers have taken their lead from his groundbreaking style, but none has quite managed to match the superior tone of Kiske in full flight. Listening to ‘For The Kingdom’ transports me back to my teenage years again, swimming in the sheer melody and power, broken up only by a widdle-tastic solo from Kai Hansen. It’s one of several tracks that could have walked off of either of Helloween’s ‘Keeper…’ albums, and this is definitely a Good Thing.

‘Not Gonna Take Anymore’ is a more cumbersome track that comes across like something from one of the ‘Avantasia’ albums. It’s a bit of a fists in the air track, with a pounding drum beat and orchestral keyboards that bring to mind Kiske’s Avantasia appearances. There’s also ‘Blood’, a power ballad that doesn’t really do it for me, except when Hansen lets rip.  On the whole, ‘Light Of Dawn’ is an upbeat album that will have fans of classic power metal falling over themselves to get a copy. Personally, I feel that the slower tracks can trip up the momentum built up by the faster ones, but this doesn’t alter the fact that this is an album with a hell of a lot to enjoy within.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

MOTHER ROAD: Drive

Rating: RRR
Label: AOR Heaven 2014
Review by Rich Dillon

Drive is the first full length issue from Mother Road, a band named after the iconic US highway, Route #66.  Smacked in the face with a very southern hard rock sound on the opening track, “The Sun Will Rise Again”, by track two, “Feather in Your Hat”, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to bands like The Black Crowes.  This album simply oozes a seventies blues rock feel throughout and the band is the work of collaborations between American vocalist Keith Slack and German guitarist Chris Lyne.  Joining these two are drummer Zacky Tsoukas and bassist Frank Binke along with Hammond organist Alessandro Del Vecchio who has lent his talents to such outfits as Hardline, Silent Force and Eden’s Curse among others.

“These Shoes” screams of Deep Purple and Whitesnake all in one to me while “Dangerous Highway” could easily fit in on one of today’s classic rock radio playlists.  “Poor Boy (Long Way Out)” and my personal top two picks of the album “Dirty Little Secret” and “Still Rainin’” keep things moving along nicely.  Things wrap up with “On My Way”, a slower pace acoustic track rising into an electric bluesy delight before finishing acoustically.  For me the album improved as it went along and is a good solid choice for fans of bands like Bad Company, Deep Purple, Whitesnake or just the 70’s blues rock genre in general.



DEAD END HEROES: Roadkill

Rating: RRRR
Label: AOR Heaven 2014
Review by Rich Dillon

Never having heard of Dead End Heroes previously, I cued it up for a spin.  It grabbed me right away on the first track, “Roadkill” and followed suit throughout all eleven tracks, every one well over four minutes in length.  It’s hard to put a finger on a direct comparison for these guys, but the straight forward hard rock is a great listen start to finish.  It’s not all “in your face” punches as “Cry For The Moon” slows the pace slightly but still very rocking while “Stormfront”’s seven minute opus is very Deep Purple-ish thanks to the Hammond organ.  Some standout cuts for me are:  “Dead End Heroes”, “Feed The Flames”, “Hands Off The Wheel” and “Gambler’s Crusade” but really there’s something for everyone on this album.

With no real low points contained herein Dead End Heroes are changing the definition of roadkill!  Usually it’s something (dead animal on the road) kicked to the side and forgotten about….don’t do that with this release!


Claiming to be formed by accident, Dead End Heroes is the brainchild of drummer Daniel Voegeli, who originally started this project off as a solo recording.  Once guitarist/producer Rolf Munkes became involved it wasn’t long before vocalist Carsten “Lizard” Schulz was enlisted bringing bassist Paul Logue along for the ride.  Schulz and Logue had played together previously on LaValle’s 2013 effort, Dear Sanity, which made my top picks from that year.  Hammond organist Holger Seeger completed the roster that Voegeli had assembled and Dead End Heroes was unleashed, accident or fate I ask?  Some things were just meant to be!



ACACIA AVENUE: Cold

Rating: RRRR
Label: AOR Heaven 2014
Review by Rich Dillon

The term Acacia Avenue is actually a cliché in British culture, a metaphor for an average middle class suburban street. Receiving this album by a band of that same name immediately harkens me back to Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast album and, of course, the song “22 Acacia Avenue”. I wondered if this would simply be a clone of that iconic British band, as if we needed another of that ilk. Happy to report that this band, called Acacia Avenue, is not cut from the Iron Maiden cloth.

This band who issued their initial effort in 2010 is back now with Cold and perhaps “band” is not the correct term. It seems more of a one-man show with Danish creator Torben Enevoldsen handling the writing, guitars, bass, keyboards and some background vocals! Aside from the roster of guest vocalists, a new/different voice on each track, the only other musician credited is drummer Dennis Hansen. The vocal guests read as follows: Rob Moratti, Steve Newman, Album Ljungqvist, Mikael Roupe, Torben Lysholm, Peter Sundell and Nicklas Sonne. The music is very melodic hard rock/AOR sounding with some selections being a little more “poppy” than others and had my interest piqued from the opener of “Time”. Two of my top picks of the effort are both Steve Newman sung selections, “Time” and “Angelina” which features a catchy vocal chorus. Others worth mentioning are: “You and I” (Mikael Roupe), “Love Will Survive” (Rob Moratti), “Calling Out” (Nicklas Sonne) and “Freedom From Doubt” (Peter Sundell).

The Tubes cover, “Out of the Business” featuring Mikael Roupe’s vocal talents is another stand out track, actually I’d venture to say that there’s not a bad composition in the lot!
I’ll be searching for the self titled debut immediately!
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NIGHT BY NIGHT: ”NXN”

Rating: RRRRR
Label: Sun Hill Production 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Night By Night is just what the melodic rock scene needs. A young, hungry band that doesn’t sound like they’re merely recycling old Journey or Bon Jovi songs, yet they don’t sound like they’re trying hard to be ”current”. They just happen to have great melodies, sharp guitar riffs and stunning harmonies. Romesh Dodangoda, who’s previously worked with Bullet For My Valentine, has produced the album and given it a perfectly balanced sound between "then and now". These songs song contemporary, but they wouldn’t sound out of place next to 80’is hard rock classics like Def Leppard, Dokken or indeed the two aforementioned bands. Did I mention that the band looks like rock stars too? Well they do.

Some of the highlights of this fine album include ”Can’t Walk Away”, the AOR-friendly, balladic ”Everywhere Tonight” and ”A Thousand Lies”, which has a touch of Bullet For My Valentine in it. BFMV at their most melodic best, mind you. And it’s just a touch.

My favorite track at the moment takes a pet peeve of mine, strangles it and hands it back to me in a highly attractive package. I’m talking about ”holding on” - just when I was ready to say that the world does not need yet another melodic rock song called ”Hold On” or ”Holdin’ On”, Night By Night come up with a song called ”Holding Onto Holding On” and it’s friggin’ awesome! Hooks, melodies, interesting axemanship, great vocals… the song’s got all that and more. I still think that to release song called ”Hold On” in 2014 is at least a felony, but these guys turn it up to eleven and get away with it!

I’ve been wondering whether I should give this the full R’s, as it’s something I don’t do lightly, but what the heck! I think these guys have figured something out, and they might just be the band that will draw younger fans to the genre. Check them out, and TELL EVERYBODY!

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Michael BORMANN: ”Love Is Magic - The Best Of Ballads”

Rating: RRR
Label: RMB Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”The Travelling Singer” Michael Bormann is possibly one of the busiest guys in the scene. His name pops up on a regular basis, when bands announce their new singer or producer. It seems like he joins at least three bands a year, yet still finds time to produce a few albums in between other commitments. Somehow it feels that the most stable thing in his life seems to be his solo career, which he resurrects every now and then.

Bormann’s solo albums have been of varying quality, but one thing has remained the same - he’s always known how to write and perform a ”tearjerker”. This compilation features ballads from his solo albums but also newly recorded versions of ballads originally recorded by Jaded Heart, Rain and a couple of previously unreleased songs. 15 songs in total, some value for money even if you’ve got most of his stuff already. That said, you’ll have to be a pretty hardcore ballad fan to enjoy fifteen of them back to back! I can’t say that I am, and therefore this album doesn’t work really for me. Some of these ballads are among my favorite Bormann-sung tracks (”I Wanna Hear Your Voice”, ”Love Is Magic”), but then there are the others which are nice but frankly not particularly exciting… It’s quality stuff all the same, so if you already like Bormann or are a huge fan of hard rock ballads in general, you should check this out.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

SONIC STATION: ”Next Stop”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Avenue Of Allies 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

This is the second album from Swedish AOR group Sonic Station. The band has slightly toughened up their sound compared to the pop/westcoast-flavoured first album, which in my books is a good thing. Fans of the debut should not worry though, ”Next Stop” is still very much a ”soft rock” album, it’s not like than band has turned to metal all at once! The guitars are just more upfront, the overall vibe a bit more rocking and uptempo and the hooks are sharper.

You can’t really talk about this album without mentioning a certain band. Yes, there’s a very strong Toto influence evident on many of the songs. It does delight me that most of the ”Totoesque” songs seem to have drawn their influences from albums like ”Isolation” and ”Seventh One”, which are my favorite Toto albums.

The main man of the band is writer/producer/songwriter Alexander Kronbrink, who has penned a rather fine selection of AOR songs for this album. I could imagine this album making him a sought-after producer too, as it sounds like ”a million bucks”, as the old saying goes… It’s not completely Kronbrink’s show though, the two singers of the project pretty much steal the show. Johan Boding is the latest addition to the band and he has a perfect voice for this kind of material, very much like Joseph Williams in his prime. The female voice belongs to Marika Willstedt, and she is just as impressive.

The standout tracks for me are the hi-energy AOR track ”Brighter After Dark”, ”Love Clash” with its’ anthemic, slightly Starship-like chorus, the Big Ballad ”Hide And Seek” and ”Half Of My Heart” which could be described as ”Alien in Isolation” (get it?). The Work Of Art-like ”Amelia” is a good one too, as are most of the others… a few of the tracks are still a bit too westcoast-y for me, but overall, ”Next Stop” is a winner and a major leap forward for the band.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

THE RADIO SUN: ”Wrong Things Right”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Did you ever heard Square One, the Australian rock band? I did, and quite liked them. The band disappeared from the radar a few years ago, but now most of the band members have resurfaced in The Radio Sun. Vocalist Jason Old, guitarist Steve Janevski and drummer Ben Wignall are continuing with bass player Robbie Erdmanis, and it seems that their mission is still the same - to write instantly catchy, timeless power pop tunes.

The band has a sound that takes influences from the past decades yet doesn’t sound too retro. Take the title track which opens the album for instance: it starts with smooth accapella harmonies, followed by some crunching guitars and swirling keys that remind me of Cheap Trick. The verses are very melodic with Jason Old sounding a lot like Vega’s Nick Workman, while the chorus is pure harmonious bliss.

You can hear that the boys have been listening to a lot of Rick Springfield, Nelson and Butch Walker’s work, combining these influences to a very appealing style of their own. Almost each one of these songs sounds like a potential summer hit, but if I were to pick up a couple of ”most likely to succeed”, I’d vote for the aforementioned title track and ”Summer Girl” with its’ gigantic melodic hook.

The album’s only downfall is the fact that some of the songs sound a bit alike, but since they’re all good, that’s hardly a big thing. ”Wrong Things Right” is one of the most stunning debuts of this year and it really should find a bigger audience that just us melodic rock diehards. Radio people, hello? Are you awake? Summer hits here, ones that do not irritate!

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

SAGA: "Sagacity"

Rating: RRRR
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

All praise to the Sage and not to mention Sagacious person who came up with Sagacity as title for the brand new Saga album. What to expect from the classy Canadians on their forthcoming album? - a little bit of everything really? Indeed. Saga, truly your pizza and pie version of complexity and rock. Have another slice of Prog-Rock or why not the New Wave-ish salad as your side-dish? So many different levels and elements of music and each section just as important to their overall sound.

You have as always the distinctive and very excellent voice of Michael Sadler, the extensive keyboard attacks and arrangements, the classy guitar work, the interesting and groovy bass lines, and last but not least, the caged animal behind the kit. You know, their characteristic sound. However, they add a modern touch to their arrangements this time and it's perhaps more of the complex album than previous effort. With this in mind not much can go wrong if you enjoy the Saga. Here's the quick track-by-track:

Opener, "Let It Slide", reminiscent of Worlds Apart and Heads or Tales only groovier and featuring biting guitar work. "Vital Signs" show the artistic side of Saga. "It Doesn't Matter Who You Are", Gilmour gets to shine with an excellent performance. "Go With The Flow", one of those song structures that Yes experimented with in the early seventies and Saga completed in 2014? "Press 9", space rock met 80's New Wave? It's clearly one of their most quirky songs as of lately. Merely the atmospheric (spacey) keyboard in the background, the laid-back guitar work and those vocal harmonies. "Wake up", completely different and aggressive in comparison to previous track. The chanting vocal line (Wake Up!) and the short number (2:34 min.) work as your... ehem, yeah, Wake Up call.

"Don't Forget To Breathe", based around Ian's guitar line and riff, it may just lack a proper chorus part? "The Further You Go", mesmerizing... if you're tired of listening to the commercially side of music. "On My Way", pull out some huge eighties like arrangement and structure from their massive back catalogue without sounding too similar or samey. The keyboard/guitar interlude do the trick and it's just a superb track. "Luck", the return of the synthesizers. The epic closing track, "I'll Be", acoustic guitar intro followed up with teardrop-like ebony and ivory work and the powerful and catchy refrain. Pay extra attention to Crichton's perfect tone and solo here.

The only problem with Saga and Sagacity? They already have so many classic tracks and albums. They're fighting their own legacy so to speak and it's always difficult to please everybody. Damn solid and fine effort as always though. Or as Michael Sadler puts it: "For me this album marks a return to many of the signature elements that put Saga on the map at the onset of the band's career, while maintaining a firm grip on the here and now. The balance between past, present and future is the key and I think that's what we've managed to achieve. Quite simply, this is Saga... 2014"!
www.sagaontour.ca

TOTO: "35th Anniversary - Live In Poland"

Rating: Live
Label: Eagle Records 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

...And here's the latest live album from the soft-rock, AOR, west coast outfit originating from L.A. and came together originally as a one-off project by the finest session players of the ancient era of 1978. They're however not in Kansas anymore as this recording took place in Lodz, Poland and featuring my favourite Toto singer, Joseph Williams. Yup. The 7th one is my all-time fave album. It's their 35th Anniversary party recorded on the 25th of June, 2013 and this double live CD represent the best(?) of their timeless soft-rock. I personally wish they could include more songs from The Seventh One though.

Williams (still) possesses a fine voice and we're at times reminded of a somewhat better version of the man ála 1988. They possess songs that please the ears of any soft-rock fan and the live sound is almost too perfect at times. "I'll Be Over You" gets you in the heart every time and they manage to cover all the different periods of Toto from the classic debut to their latest effort in 2006? Also available on DVD and BluRay, we listened, we liked, we wondered, and merely wished we had the video version to review. The Tasmanian Devil a.k.a. Andrew McNeice is responsible for liner/sleeve notes. Good on ya' matey.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kenny Wayne SHEPHERD: "Goin' Home"

Rating: RRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot Label Group
Review by Martien Koolen

 Kenny Wayne Shepherd released his new album Goin' Home on 28 April and this new CD is a discovery into the music of his biggest musical influences, like e.g. BB King, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Guitar Watson. On this album Shepherd's band consists of long time singer Noah Hunt, Chris Layton (drums), Tony Franklin (bass guitar) and Riley Osbourn on keybaords and piano. Furthermore Shepherd is assisted by Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Kim Wilson, Robert Randolph and Ringo Starr. So, great musicians and 25 classic blues tracks, what else dfo you need to have a good time? Hence, put the CD into your player, turn up the volume and enjoy blues rock classics in a modern Shepherd version.

Highlights for me are: You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now and Still A Fool, as both are the two longest tracks on the album and Kenny plays his best guitar solos in those two songs! Classic blues tracks like Boogie Man (funky with horns), or Born Under A Bad Sign need no further introduction, altough I prefer Pat Travers's version of Born Under A Bad Sign. The up tempo boogie/woogie like songs such as Palace Of The King, The House Is Rockin', You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover or Looking Back are not my personal favs, but the guitar solos in all those songs are still great to listen to. Goin' Home pays homage to the spirit of the original blues music and shows Kenny Wayne Shepherd's appreciation for the musicians and genre.

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NAVARONE: "Vim And Vigor"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Suburban Records
Review by Martien Koolen

The debut album of the Dutch alternative rockers Navarone A Darker Shade Of White received great reviews, so everybody was looking forward to their follow up album. Vim and Vigor - a weird title by the way - has just been released and it is a great album; far better than their debut! It is more mature and it rocks like hell. Trademark of Navarone is singer Merijn van Haren with his typical high pitched vocals. Just listen to the rocking opener Time and you know if you like Navarone or not.

Most of the 11 songs are dominated by heavy guitar riffs and hooks and that astonishing voice of Merijn. Highlight of the album is the song Indigo Blue, featuring a screaming guitar solo, which kind of reminds me of Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains. Navarone's music is really dynamic and 10 songs are really good rock songs but unfortunately there is one misser, an ood one out so to say; as it is jazzy, featuring trumpet and slide guitar...But Navarone is a band for the future, that is for sure. Play it LOUD!!

http://navarone.bandcamp.com/album/vim-and-vigor

Monday, June 9, 2014

The QUIREBOYS: "Black Eyed Sons" (2CD/1DVD)

Rating: RRRR+
Label: OffYerRocka/Border 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Still alive - 30 years down the line! This three-disc package marks the 30th anniversary of the band formerly known as The Queerboys and what a top value deal you receive. The Geordie and bandanna version of Rod Stewart treat us with a brand new studio album (Black Eyed Sons - 10 tracks), the live acoustic and unplugged at Sweden Rock CD (Unplugged in Sweden - 10 tracks) and last but certainly not least, the live DVD (Beautifully Cursed in London - 19 tracks). Keeping the World Cup Football in Brazil in mind, this is one helluva' impressive hat-trick (2CD, 1 DVD) worthy of Ronaldo, Messi, or any other class act player (Neymar, Mandzukic, Suárez, Aguero, Dzeko, Lukako).

The new studio album, "Black Eyed Sons", exactly what Jagger recommended and then some. I believe that some of these songs are leftover from the Beautiful Curse sessions? Produced by Chris Tsangarides and represents yet another career high for a band that simply can do no wrong at this particular moment of time. It's the classy album with roots buried in the U.K. tradition of Rolling Stones and The Faces. In fact. Someone give Rod immediately a call, "Julieanne" is the cheeky and fun attempt at beating the Highlander at his favourite game. Big grin stretched across the faces of fans all around the world as this is the excellent ballad which only Rod could do justice in the past. Actually. KISS did something similar with "Hard Luck Woman" and Peter "Not-Quite-Rod" Criss at the mike. Not that Spike could do any other ballad with his whiskey and barbwire voice.

...And while you're at it, give the Stones a ring. "You Never Can Tell" and "Mothers Ruin", are calling from the year of 1974. The latter may remind you of "Fool To Cry" somehow? Nothing new or fancy (or "A little bit of what you fancy"?), it's basic as well as classic rock from the opening note of "Troublemaker" to the closing ditto of "Monte Cassino" (Lady Lane). Pure, all out energy with fun tunes and attitude. This is must have or you'll miss out on the next trip back to the rock'n roll future of Mick, Rod, and Spike.

The Unplugged In Sweden CD, perhaps the least interesting of the three discs and it's still a jolly good time. Spike, Griffin, Guerin, and Weir form the acoustic four at the main stage of 2013's Sweden Rock festival – in front of 40,000 vikings and vagabonds. They truly are a top-drawing, concert attraction and in between banter from Spike is party on as always and I quote, "I'm drinking non-alcoholic cider- I'm just kidding". Or why not the classic line of "this next song is about drinking... [pause]... and women". And how can you not enjoy acoustic versions of "Have A Drink On Me", "Roses & Rings", "I Don't Love You Anymore", "7 O'Clock"? etc. Excellent. Unfortunately, they've managed to screw up the printed track listing on the package. No biggie though.

The DVD: London, let me hear ya' - We're The Quireboys and this is rock'n roll. Except they kick off the show with "Black Mariah" instead of "This Is Rock'N Roll". Well... it's still rock'n roll, but you know what I'm getting at. Spike do enjoy his pint or ten while performing and he's at least semi-pissed towards the end of the show. Not that it matters since he's the old school performer and not some posh t##t with an attitude. Down to earth and having a drink with the audience instead of looking down from above. You get all the goodies such as, "There She Goes Again", "Tramps & Thieves", "Hey You", "7 O' Clock" and "I Don't Love You Anymore", the best ballad Rod never wrote. "Homewreckers & Heartbreakers" really comes alive like your vintage (pre-image) Whitesnake. Surprise of the bunch, "Mona Lisa Smiled", such a great tune and perfect sing-a-long on stage. The pure joy of performing live goes through the screen and in to your living room and the 7 CAM shot DVD featuring the London leg of last year's Beautiful Curse tour is a treat with a capitol T.

DVD bonus material: band interviews, the promo video of "Mother Mary" and the acoustic live in the studio versions of "Mother Mary", "Beautiful Curse", "27 Years", "Devil Of a Man". Interviews, in between songs, speak of old tour memories, Monsters Of Rock, etc. Spike inform us about moving down from Newcastle to London at the mere age of 16 and playing the London scene for 6, 7 years until they finally received their first recording contract. "Keeping English Rock'N Roll alive - that's what we were put on this earth to do is to keep English Rock'N Roll alive. Can't do anything else", Spike proudly says and yours truly can merely nod and agree. He's probably shite at football. That's one more thing in common with Rod Stewart :) Highly recommended.
www.quireboys.com

NIGHT RANGER: "High Road"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Vrooom!!! Who dat? The Knight Rider and Kitt? Nah. It's the Night Ranger on the High Road after midnight and I don't think they'll ever go home? And why should they? They still have a good thing going in 2014. The guitar riffs are plenty and the hooks are as sharp as in their heydays. It's just a slightly different sound than your ordinary Sister Christian. If you had to put a label on this great album, I guess the nearest you'd get is a bit less of the schlock and more of the rock in the vein of Damn Yankees and Tom Petty & The Torpedoes.

It's catchy, fun, guitar oriented rock with classy compositions by the three original members: Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, Kelly Keagy. They all know what they're doing. To date, Night Ranger has sold 17 million units worldwide and boasts several platinum and gold-certified albums. The approach they use in the studio may suggests a modern production and influence, but in reality it's retro rock with the technology of today. Most of the album, even though it sticks to your basic four chord classic rock formula, sounds fresh and energetic. A couple of oddities, but really just the great album effort in the fun uptempo mood.

In fact. When they slow it down and transform their rawk into more personal messages and emotion on "Only For You Only" or "Brothers", they're still just as professional and exciting. By the way, that "Brothers" tune is clearly the sound of Macca (ex. Beatles' Paul McCartney) and The Wings ála 1974. They even throw in the old "hey now" and it's the proper sing-a-long around the bonfire. Final verdict: Crank it up throughout the summer as this is your feel-good soundtrack of melodic rock.
www.nightranger.com
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

The GHOST WOLVES: "Man, Woman, Beast"

Rating: RRRR
Label: PlowBoyRecords 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Since you already have the big, the bad, the hungry, cry, ordinary, and various sport teams. Why not the Ghost? Coming at ya' - not in pack but as the married couple of Carley (vocals/guitar) and Jonny (drums) armed with fury licks and clawy tricks, the duo goes for the jugular with stompy delta blues and loud indie/garage rock. I'm not entirely sure if the 'blues only' fan will appreciate this particular duo of Wolves though?

It's perhaps just too quirky and punky/indie at times and you definitely need to enjoy the outlandish rock of (early) The B-52's, The Fall, White Stripes, as well as the old delta sound of yesterday and year. Carley Wolf is the evil Betty Boop kind of vocalist with as much attitude and hunger as the entire team of Wolverhampton (bring back Steve Bull now!). The band's ferocious, primal sound with nothing but a four-piece kit and an electric guitar takes you waaay back in time and has nothing in common with your modern era production or fake azz musician. It's pure, honest, raw, and very much down to earth.

It's the utter fun album effort featuring 13 tracks recorded in US of A and Austin's Arlyn Studios (Ray Charles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc.) and mastered by Howie Weinberg (The Clash, Nirvana, The Ramones). I really can't pick any favorite tracks since I truly enjoy them all and the bare-bones riffery and slide gets you right between the eyes. It's hardly the guitar work of the fast shredding influenced six-sting bender though. Recommended.
www.theghostwolves.com
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