Thursday, December 18, 2014

Xtasy: ”Revolution”

Rating: RRR

Label: Melodic Rock Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Melodic Rock Records’ love affair with Spanish band continues, and now it’s time for Xtasy. What next, ”Afterglow”? ”The Morning After”? Anyway, Xtasy is a female-fronted melodic rock band with a sound comparable to Vixen, Lee Aaron, Femme Fatale and the likes.

At their very best, Xtasy are very good, but unfortunately for there are a few rather unimpressive moments too. The two first tracks are easily the highlights of the album, and wisely the band has made a video for one of them, the excellent ”Stronger”. The title track is another good one. I also like the very Vixen-like ”All For One”, the ballad ”It Is You” and ”Burning Around”, which has a rather catchy chorus. Some of the others are OK too, but then there are those weaker moments…

”Million Miles” is an otherwise decent song, but somehow the chorus is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. With its’ title, ”Scream” should be a powerful song, but it could just as well be called ”Raise Your Voice Politely”. The background chant of ”shout!” during the chorus has no power whatsoever, I can picture the ”choir” standing around the microphone half-asleep holding coffee mugs and having sips between the ”shouts”! The closing ballad ”Bye Bye” suffers of vocalist Silvia’s rather muffled articulation.

”How Much Love” is one of my favourite Vixen songs. Xtasy’s version of it might be technically ok, but somehow they manage to suck the life out of it. The original has a definite groove or flow that’s missing from this version, and vocalist Silvia’s singing lacks the passion that Janet Gardner has in her vocals. Almost cost an ”R” for the band…

The biggest problem of the album is that Silvia’s vocals do not make me believe in the lyrics she’s singing. It could be the fact that she’s not singing in her native language, and maybe a vocal-oriented producer could help her out to make the most out of her talent. In many of the songs, the vocal melodies are fairly monotonous, so maybe she’s just bored singing them…

www.xtasyband.com

Friday, December 12, 2014

STRATOVARIUS: "Elements Anniversary Reissue" [3CD+DVD]

Rating: Reissue/Comp.
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Ho! Ho! Ho! What would the merry Stratovarius fan like to have for Christmas? What? A Mistress? Well. How about this posh 3CD+DVD digi-pak, limited to 10.000 copies worldwide? It's the second best thing to the more expensive and limited to 3.000 copies worldwide box set. Don't bother with that now as you get the albums "Elements Pt. 1" and "Elements Pt. 2" on this Anniversary release (it's been 11 years since their release so what kind of anniversary are we talking about?), also included are a bonus CD including unreleased and rare songs like B-Sides or live versions from the 2003 Elements tour and a DVD that features the 5.1 mix of both albums, rare bonus songs as well as a photo gallery.

Impressive. Ambitious work indeed. Add to this a fat booklet with lyrics and liner notes by Jens "Metal Mozart" Johansson as he talks about the elements albums on eight pages, the idea behind the work, the recording process, reception and consequences, and what not really. He goes on and on about everything from their sonically pristine way to record to equipment and how he had completely free reign regarding keyboard arrangements. The latter could of course be due to the fact that Tolkki was stuck in Madrid and told Jens to go ahead and record the keys by himself. 'I Trust you. I'm sure it will be fine', was the words from the Finn and no longer part of the band even if he started it all. The Swede was obviously over the moon and started throwing s**t at the studio wall to see what would stick. Happy, happy. Joy, joy.

Stratovarius succeeded what only few bands manage to achieve with these albums: they opened doors, tore down (genre) walls and created two milestones in progressive symphonic metal. The DVD bonus audio tracks are mostly demo versions of songs that ended up on the albums. Some of them are drum machine pre-demo versions and others are simply just keyboard or orchestra demos. Not always that interesting if you're not the 'mad die-hard must-have everything ever recorded by Strato' fan.

The CD bonus tracks are previously unreleased tracks such as "Run Away", ever so slightly distorted vocals by Kotipelto during the verse and the nice and catchy refrain in a happy poppy power metal style and way. "Into Deep Blue" is the more complex and Gothic ballad with the 'Defenders of the Crown' theme going on in the background (if you can recall the cult Amiga game from your childhood). Actually, Dream Theatre-ish would be a more correct description. Very nice and excellent vocal performance by Kotipelto. "Ride Like The Wind", not the Christopher Cross tune as this was written by Johansson and speak of 'black clouds gathering' and it's the straight ahead uptempo rocker ála early Strato or Yngwie Malmsteen and feat. the impressive solo by Jens. The French version of "Papillon" is something for Kotipelto to build on (articulation?), but could possibly work as the different take and version. The next six tracks are all live versions of Elements and other songs such as "Black Diamond" and "Hunting High and Low". These titles are strongly connected to KISS and A-HA in my books.

The surround (5.1) audio mixes of the album(s) could blow ya' away if you're the tech nerd. What better X-mas gift to the die-hard fan?
stratovarius.com

DEEP PURPLE: "with Orchestra - Live In Verona" DVD

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

The picturesque scenery of Arena di Verona in Italy is a sight for sore eyes. It's Ancient Rock live at the Ancient rocks so to speak and yes, pun intended, but there's no need to agree with my dry sense or complete lack of humour. Filmed at the Roman amphitheatre originally built in 30 A.D. it's definitely one of the most beautiful, atmospheric, and not to mention historical outdoor venues out there.

What better place to have the U.K. geezers of Deep Purple performing their classic songs in a new orchestral arrangements? It's drama, the Stephen Bentley-Klein's Frankfurt-based Neue Philharmonie, and the line-up of Ian Gillan (vocals), "newbie"  Steve Morse (guitar - since 1994 that's 20 years now), Roger Glover (bass), Don Airey (keyboards) and Ian Paice (drums). The latter sporting a matching face to the Roman building and I'm not sure who's been there the longest at the back of the stage? I know that this was recorded during their 2011 tour, so it's been close to four years already.

There's no extra, no fuzz, no boring distraction, merely the live gig that ticks in at approx 115 mins and the place is packed with a loud audience. It's hardly their first time dabble with orchestra as Purple released 'Concerto for Group and Orchestra' already back in 1969 which featured the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. That was however a Jon Lord three-movement concept album and this is more or less the best of Purple. I do miss a couple of classics and especially "Child in Time" and some more of the 80s stuff would have been fun too. You do however get both "Perfect Strangers" and "Knocking At Your Backdoor" and they sound great with full-on orchestra and tasteful mix.

The we-are-tired-of-this song, "Smoke On The Water", gets a new dimension thanks to Frankfurt dudes and there's no need have a break and put on the kettle as of yet. Gillan delivered that day/evening and the rest of the musicians are keeping it nice and clean throughout the concert. The Don Airey solo is sort of strange  though as you always expect 'the Walrus' to appear behind the keys. It's tight, well-performed, great camera work, and most certainly a must have to the fan of DP. Argh. Okay. I simply can't resist to quote myself. - "Ancient Rock Live at the Ancient Rocks".

FOREIGNER: "The Best Of Foreigner 4 & More"

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

The Best of Foreigner 4 & More - it's basically a fancy name for yet another live album. Recorded at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the two dates of 3rd and 4th of October, 2014. I believe they're mixing songs from both dates so expect some fade outs on this platter. Guitarist Mick Jones, the only remaining member since the heydays and original release of "4", the rest consisting of former Hurricane vocalist Kelly Hansen, Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson (also producer of the album together with Jones), and the 4 of Michaek Bluestein (keys), Tom Gimbel & Bruce Watson (guitars), and Chris Frazier (drums). Phew. There's a total of seven geezers up there on stage.

The title harks back to the utterly classic release of the album "4" in 1981. Easily their overall best release in my opinion. They are performing 7 out of 10 tracks from the album and not in correct order for that matter. That's a minor disappointment actually as I expected the entire she-bang with all of the songs. No biggie though, but it would have been fun to have "Luanne", "I'm Gonna Win" and "Don't Let Go" amongst the rest of the them.

The "more" part are standards such as "Feels Like The First Time", "Cold As Ice", "Hot Blooded", "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Say You Will". They still insist to perform the latter as the semi unplugged thing and that's a shame as I prefer the original version with its catchy beat. To be honest. I do believe that most Foreigner fans would like to hear the songs in their first and best version. Hansen truly is a great vocalist though and it's the second best thing to having Lou Gramm at his peak. It's a rather vital and good live recording though with several fresh takes at some of the most classic AOR and melodic rock tunes out there. The million dollar question however, are you up for another live album this Christmas? I guess you can't go wrong with this as your very safe gift to the melodic fan though.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

HAREM SCAREM: "Thirteen"

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

The Hockey Hooligans a.k.a. Harem Scarem are finally back with a brand new studio album following on from their rather boring idea of re-recording their classic 2nd album, Mood Swings (they simply entitled it Mood Swings 2). Truth be told, their latest effort may not hold any major surprises nor re-recordings (Thank God!), it's simply just more of the good Canadian stuff and it's nearly impossible to ignore their thirteenth album as it's jam-packed with hooks and lush background vocals.

Harry Hess (vocals/keys) and Pete Lesperance (guitar/bass/keys) - more or less the perfect songwriting team when it comes to Melodic Rock as they still manage to come up with fun ideas and structures. They seem to have that natural ability to mix groovy guitar work and ditto rhythms with memorable harmonies and choruses. Indeed. There's a really heavy bottom end and edgy guitar riffing to be found on "Thirteen" without losing any of their sing-a-long melodies and moments.

It's hardly strictly retro or pure eighties sounding rock though, so don't just expect this to be Mood Swings 3 or whatever. The opening two tracks (Garden Of Eden, Live It) are actually the least interesting ones in my humble opinion. They're still pretty decent though. "Early Warning Signs", rocks along the track like a runaway train and please take notice Mr.Big, this is how ya' do it. Groovy/fun guitar work and the catchy hook. "The Midnight Hours", timeless power-pop with a dangerous hook and gorgeous harmonies.

"Whatever It Takes" is the excellent grand piano (semi) power ballad of the album with heartfelt message and lyric about lost love or rather the feeling of time taking its toll on your relationship and that you need to do whatever it takes to bring back the joy in life. And when you're finally ready to crawl back up from the bottom. "Saints and Sinners", "All I Need", and "Troubled Times" will quickly knock you back down to the floor with massive hooks ála Mike Tyson in his prime. Modern yet retro sounding rock at its very best.

Final verdict: It's basically ten tracks of perky and uplifting music that will get you going through your ordinary day... and night. Highly recommended.
haremscarem.net
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ELEMENTS OF FRICTIONS: "Elements Of Frictions

Rating: Comp.
Label: Lions Pride Music 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Not to be confused with the all-star project at MTM in 2001 feat. Robin MacAuley (MSG), etc. With this particular Elements Of Frictions, the newly founded melodic hard rock label Lions Pride Music in Denmark, is bringing back some of the voices from the past of the genre in the likes of Larry Baud (Red Dawn), Rich Cox (Sic Vikki), Mark Evans (Heavens Edge), Stefan Berggren (Snakes In Paradise), Stephan Kammerer (Frontline), Tommy La Verdi (21 Guns/LRS), Paul Laine (Danger Danger, solo), Mats Levén (Treat, Swedish Erotica, Yngwie Malmsteen), Pete Loran (Trixter), Oliver Fehr (Transit), Matti Alfonzetti (Jagged Edge, Bam Bam Boys, Skintrade) and Swedish newcomer Emma Varg.

Elements Of Frictions is the brainchild of label owner and founder Carsten Nielsen according to the press release. I'm not entirely sure if it's simply just the one-off project or a sampler of future label releases?? Let's hope for the latter as they plan to release many more melodic and AOR albums. Matti Alfonzetti is responsible for mixing the album and also for writing six out of fourteen tracks including the ones performed by Oliver Fehr, Emma Varg, Mats Levén, and Larry Baud.

Add to this Alfonzetti's solo tune, "Don't Leave Me Lonely" (good hi-tech AOR number and softer than his usual solo stuff as of lately) and band project Area 51 feat. Sven Cirnski: guitars (Bad Habit), Micke Hoglund: bass (Great King Rat, Thunder), Jamie Borger: drums (Treat, Talisman), Pasi Oxman: Keys. Their song, "Little One", great mix of Swedish melodic rock ála Europe, Baltimore and U.K. rock ála Deep Purple and Rainbow. Emma Varg and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" represent the female-ish style of the genre like Chrissy Steele, Femme Fatale, Robin Beck, and it's one of the stronger tracks on this compilation. "Make You Mine" feat. Larry Baud and co-written by Alfonzetti/Baud, it's a far cry from the classy Red Dawn album and the production sounds like a demo. The Mats Levén track (Only My Heart) sounds like a mix between Alfonzetti and the leftover tracks from the self titled TREAT album.

Other tracks written by their performers: Stefan Berggren or Snakes In Paradise and "Without Your Love". "When You Grow Up" by Marcello/Vestro deliver the song of the album with their lovely U.S. melodic rock of the eighties. Pete Loran try his best to sound like classic Trixter on "To The Limit" and does a pretty good job at it. Summer fun stuff. Paul Laine deliver some fine melody and noisy guitar work on "Another Me" as it sounds like the most punky and modern pop-ish track of them all. Not bad though. Just different from the others. Tommy La Verdi and "Somebody Up There" has the Zack Wylde influenced riff and was previously recorded by Street Legal? I believe there's a Ozzy connection too? Frontline's Stephan Kammerer and "All About You" is a very soft and fluffy number with just as much pop as hard rock influences. The refrain is kind of annoying in the long run with its constant repeat of the title. Could benefit from a re-write and let's add more words to the chorus, yeah? "Let Me Down Easy" by Sic Vikki's Rich Cox is a major disappointment (Steve Plunkett to the rescue?). The same goes for Mark Evans (Heavens Edge) and the snooze fest "Piece Of The Action".

Final verdict: Interesting and definitely worthy of your time. A couple of stinkers and not always the best of sound. The majority of tracks are nice though and let's wait and see what comes next from this label.
Lions Pride Music

JOUIS: "Dojo"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Beetroot Records 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Dojo" is clearly not your ordinary rock album as Jouis from Brighton, U.K. are blending and combining jazz, fusion, west coast, psychedelica and progressive rock on their debut album. Strictly intended to the open minded as you definitely need to enjoy several different styles and genres of complex and difficult music to truly appreciate their vivid effort. Simply look away for the next couple of minutes if you're only into simple and straight arrangements and top 40 easy listening.

This 5 piece is clearly on a mission as they've built their own analogue studio in an office block in Brighton, a space where they now live and work. Producer Phill Brown (Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin) helped them record 'Dojo' live to tape and result reeks of the groovy past and acts such Blood, Sweat & Tears, Aphrodite's Child (pre-Vangelis), Steely Dan (at their most complex era) and all those wild and crazy fusion acts of the swinging seventies.

Yes Sir Indeed. There's plenty of experiential rock and propulsive rhythmic flex on the nine tracks debut by Jouis (from the French word that roughly translate as high enjoyment and goes back to Jouissance). It's the concept album that tinkers with space and time, past experiences and philosophical ideas. The vocal parts and harmonies are soft, melodic, and nearly singer/songwriter like and you may also pick up the odd reference to Gentle Giant and Nektar. It's all very loose and jazzy free with fusion as the melting pot that brings it all together so to speak. I sure like it now, but absolutely hated this kind of music as a kid. Too hippie and mellow-yellow. Not to be missed if you're into the weird, complex, laid back stuff.
jouis.co.uk
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Rebecca LAPPA: "Ode To Tennyson"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Lappa Music/Socan 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

 Release the Kraken - Release the Kraken!! Ehem. Excuse me while my brain confuse the classic work of Tennyson with the really dodgy movie phrase of the eighties [Clash Of The Titans and I believe they did a equally dodgy remake recently]. Let's try again as this is the great and already fourth (yes, 4th) full-length album from the mere 17 year old 2014 nominee at Canadian folk music awards.

Rebecca Lappa is her name and extremely classy folk, singer/songwriter, jazzy, art-pop is the nature of her game. The creative blend of several styles of music reflects a mature sound and a much older soul than her actual time spent here on earth. This ain't your typical bubble-gum pop nonsense of the MTV.

The album is obviously inspired by the works of British poet and posh legend of Lord Alfred Tennyson. And yes, there's a song titled "Kraken" and 'the ocean's wide and vast and deep. Beneath its heart untouched a monster sleeps'. Lappa is certainly not afraid to wake up the beast as she unleashes her stunning vocals right at the ugly story. She's blessed with emotional and great set of pipes similar at times to Tori Amos and even Sarah McLachlan with a more sulky twist.

The music on "Ode To Tennyson" follow no strict structure and thus why each and every track is like a brand new story. One minute it's Irish/Celtic rootsy folk music and the next art-pop that harks back to the golden era of Kate Bush, but sounds more like Tori Amos to be completely honest. "Mermaid and Merman" has a loose and fun creative feel with a simple grand piano and Lappa's voice at the centre of attention. "Gypsy" with its violin, aria and 'ohhh-ahhh-ahhh' as chorus part is a nice build up to the darker mood of the "Kraken". Rebecca tickle the ebony and ivory as Tori Amos did in the nineties as the monster appears in the distance. It's all very laid back and there's plenty of violin, cello, accordion, etc. to be found on this fine record.
rebeccalappa.com
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BAILEY: "Long Way Down"

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

Nigel Bailey (vocals/guitars/bass) came from out of nowhere the other year and ended up fronting U.K. band Three Lions featuring Dare/Ten guitarist Vinny Burns, whose self-titled album was released earlier this very year at Frontiers. They obviously believe in the man and his abilities since they're now releasing his first solo album, 'Long Way Down'.

Unfortunately, yours truly can't always agree on this particular matter as I find this to be sort of second rate melodic rock with your typical English sound and style ála Ten, Airrace, Waysted (Danny Vaughan/Tyketto era - not the Fin albums). It's hardly something you'd throw out as yesterdays trash. It's simply just not too original nor catchy enough to keep you wanting to play this disc throughout the holidays.

The groovier rocker such as "Bad Reputation" and the title track are interesting as they show a little spark in the dark. The real winners are however the straight to the chorus/don't bore us tracks of "Love Falls Down", a catchy and classy tune and basically the 50/50 mix of Ten and Vaughan/Waysted. Also "Ticket To Yesterday" is yet another home run, even though if both tracks are sadly out of place and order as number nine and ten in the track listing? Strange indeed. Alessandro Del Vecchio as always responsible for production as well as playing keyboards and it's no more than your average sound to your slightly below average album.
baileyrocks.com
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WITHIN TEMPTATION: "Let Us Burn - Live"

Rating: Live
Label: BMG/Playground 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Let us burn and light up the skies here tonight". Recorded live at two separate events, the band's 15th anniversary Elements concert in November 13th 2012 (Sportpaleis/Antwerp) and at the Hydra European tour in May 3rd 2014 (Heineken Music Hall/Amsterdam). It's a total of 32 tracks and female fronted symphonic metal at its very best. The band is literally on fire and this double live CD release, no doubt one of the better live efforts as of lately. Everything is crisp, huge, and bombastic, and Sharon den Adel sings like a tiny goddess.

The Antwerpen show display an enthusiastic audience and have gladly parted with their hard earned money to go absolutely bonkers for the opening chords of "Iron". Like it or not, Yngwie 'Viking' Malmsteen is THE original source to many of these acts and tracks. You only need to have a quick listen to the following "In the Middle Of The Night" to realize just how much influence the neo-classical guitar God had on Within Temptation. It's the riff ála Devil In Disguise and marvelous keyboards and vocals by den Adel. What a marvelous track and catchy to the extreme. The lush piano moment of "Fire and Ice" set the place in flame and on fire and I believe it's still burning in Antwerp.

"Let us Burn" is the opening number at Amsterdam and crowd go positively ape you-know-what for "Faster" with its bass and drum piece. The acoustic versions of "Sinéad" and "Whole World Is Watching" are... dare I say better and stronger than any Tarja T outing as of lately. The only downside thing with Let Us Burn? with 32 songs on two concerts you're bound to have some repeats. Merely six of them though and that's not bad considering all those tracks and WT standards. Nice!
within-temptation.com

GAELERI: "Gates Of Rome"

Rating: RRR
Label: TBM/Roastinghouse 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The reunion and return of Gaeleri after a decade of silence is sort of similar to the fellow Swedes of Dalton, since the opening track inform us to be "Ready Or Not". Everything is professional done and executed as always and the same goes for the production again by Anders Theander at Roastinghouse Studio. Vocalist Anders Vidhav (previously known as Bengtsson and it's the original front man) is the underrated singer as he follow in the footsteps of Swedish singers such as Matti Alfonzetti (Jagged Edge, Talisman, Skintrade), Björn Lodin (Baltimore) and Tommy Nilsson (Easy Action). Perhaps not quite as superb as the latter Swede, but not far behind for that matter.

"Queen Of Time" takes us on a slightly neo-classical and progressive magic carpet ride as the main guitar riff has the Yngwie Malmsteen trademark and style all over it. Very Kashmir-ish too. Tracks such as "Wannabe", "Gates Of Rome", "One Touch", are all great and catchy melodic rock numbers in the style of Alfozetti/Nilsson/Snakes In Paradise meets the U.K. rock of Whitesnake and Thunder. "Entertain You", display a groovier sound and the slightly progressive vibe is back, mostly due to eerie keyboards. "One Step Closer" is a sunny and catchy composition with a little bit of Beatles pop, rock, and AOR ála previous Gaeleri albums and especially A Brighter Day.

I'm however not too keen on tracks such as "Let Your Love Bleed" and "No Boundaries" as they're stuck in second gear and sounds like something Baltimore would leave off their latest release. The closing track of "Time Has Come" rocks big time though and it's overall a mighty decent effort if you're into the above mentioned artists.
gaeleri.com

AXENSTAR: "Where Dreams Are Forgotten"

Rating: RR-
Label: Inner Wound 2014
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Title correction: Where songs are forgotten? Not quite, but at the same time easily accepted as the harsh reality for Axenstar. They have the bombastic power metal style going on at full speed where a galloping rhythm section and blistering solos are just as important to their overall sound as the lack of proper melodies. It's like if they're playing easy-listening music of Power Metal, a slightly dafter version of all the great bands in the past.

It's the opposite to the classic and ultimate bombastic riff age of Running Wild's Death Or Glory, hands down, the best speedy power metal album ever? Believe me, those guitars and melodies will no doubt rock your socks off. This on the other hand sounding suspiciously like socks that sucks and a lot of this due to muffled vocals. And yes, this is the season to be jolly. So okay. It's not threatening, groundbreaking, exciting, nor original? Songs like "Sweet farewell" and "Annihilation" are still rather interesting with over-the-top structures and excellent guitar work. Nonetheless, there are so many of these acts around as of lately and the genre is in rapidly danger of overflowing.

WHITESNAKE: "Live in 84 - Back To The Bone [DVD/CD]

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

'Ere's a new old live effort for ya'. Live in '84 - Back to the bone. The CD/DVD combo pack is overall a very decent indeed but hardly essential Whitesnake release. It's however my favorite era and period of the band and the CD starts with nine tracks recorded during the 'Slide It In' tour in 1984. The band quickly launch into the Slide Material and both "Gambler" and "Guilty of love" sounds great, and there's plenty of trickery and skill from then new guitarist John Sykes (Thin Lizzy, Tygers Of Pan Tang).

The 'Ere's a song for ya' call from Coverdale is the start of "Love Aint No Stranger" and it's followed  by the at time current MTV single of "Slow and Easy". I do not agree with the uptempo version of "Walking In The Shadow of The Blues", since they let Sykes do all his flashy moves and notes without keeping the lovely bluesy feel of the original. I also believe that Whitesnake should always be a two-guitarist kind of band, but that's just my personal take. Good stuff though.

The DVD is live in Japan (Super Rock 1984) and Jon Lord is nowhere to be seen as he decided to leave for the Deep Purple reunion and thus it's just the four of them (Coverdale, Sykes, Murray, Powell) and the constantly out-of-picture keyboardist. Previously released back in the day on Laserdisc in Japan, time has taken its toll on vision and at times sound and the quality is sadly no longer regarded as top notch. To be honest, a lot of this is probably because we are all used to HD and blu-ray quality and you simply can't compare this to modern technology. The original production team in Japan was keen on mixing short snippet interviews with the band every now and then during the concert and it's especially annoying for the first two tracks (Gambler, Guilty Of Love) as you miss out on the actual music.

Tracklist: Gambler – Guilty of Love – Love Ain’t No Stranger – Ready an’ Willing – Slow an' Easy – Crying in the Rain – Guitar Solo – Soldier of Fortune – Drum Solo – Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City – Don't Break My Heart Again.

The DVD bonus material (also on CD), Jon Lord's final performance with Whitesnake, four tracks (Gambler, Guilty of Love, Love Ain't No Stranger, Ready an Willing) recorded by Swedish Television and the tv-show of 'Måndagsbörsen'. The bonus gallery section contains photos, short audio interviews (mostly about 'Slide It In' the album) plus bits and pieces of private demos from Coverdale's personal archives. Well. Strictly speaking it's more like rehearsal jams and outtakes from songs later included on 'Slide It In' as well as some dodgy sounding unreleased stuff. Overall, not too shabby at all, if you're the die-hard Whitesnake fan.

CRAZY LIXX: "Crazy Lixx"

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

All Looks - No Hooks? Nah. Musically combining wicked guitar riffs, energetic structures, catchy melodies, and their overall larger than life attitude, could only be described as the winning concept for The Crazy Lixxers. They're not trying to revolt their genre or the music business for that matter. Because, let's face it... we've heard it all before. However, these Swedes are more or less cherry picking the fun bits and pieces from the eighties and making it sound relevant in 2014.

Following up the mega sleazy 'Riot Avenue' with a more polished and catchy effort might just be the right move and direction. The mixing by Chris Laney and background vocals by Mats Levén (Swedish Erotica, Treat) add extra beef and fat anyhow. We have previously noticed that Laney is very keen on HUGE bg vocals and harmonies ála Mutt Lange and this album surely is no exception to the Laney rule.

Opening track "Hell Raising Women" truly is the core of Crazy Lixx. Sleazy vocals by Danny Rexon (inspired by Seb Bach?), screaming guitars, pounding drums/bass, and layers and layers of harmonies. "Sound Of The Loud Minority", "Outlaw", and "Girls Of The 80s", are some of the best melodic sleaze tracks of the century. Catchy, sleazy, classy! "Ain't No Rest In Rock N Roll" borrows guitar work and harmonies from AC/DC and "Call To Action" had me seriously thinking about Skid Row on a night out with Baton Rouge (pre/chorus).

The re-recording of 'Heroes Are Forever', not to my liking but I'm sure it attracts new fans to check out their old material. Final verdict: It's one of those records that both you and your 'adult in the eighties' friend can get down and boogie to as Crazy Lixx blend a little bit of everything really and thus ending up sounding like a 50/50 mix of Sleaze and melodic rock. Wicked indeed!
crazylixx.com
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RATED X: "Rated X"

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

The JOLT is one of my fave vocalists when it comes to melodic classic rock. Add legendary drummer Carmine Appice and bass player Tony 'Fretless' Franklin to the line-up and the name/band dropping could go on forever. What looks like a brand new super-group and very good indeed on paper or in this case your PC screen, sadly just won't deliver in reality. Rated X and producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (co-song writer, keyboards) are coming up with second rate Rainbow material and not a single one of these tracks would end up on your best of Joe Lynn Turner compilation.

Turner sound pretty great vocally and the experienced musicians can do no wrong. However, the songs are so 'been there, done that' and there's simply not enough of hooks, sinkers, and bate to keep the fish happy and biting on your trip to Lake Dejavú. It might not be the best of JOLT, but what if you've never heard about the man and his music? Yeah. I guess this could work as background music if you're new to the game since it's all very professional done and executed. The production on the other hand could merely be described as muddy and demo-ish. It could already need the remastering and plenty of beef.

"Fire and Ice" is a nice tune and the same goes for "I Don't Cry No More". "Lhasa" (written by Kronqvist/Palmqvist/DelVecchio) will remind you of the Blue Murder track 'Valley Of The Kings' and the opening lines goes and I quote, "The quest for the gold took me here in the valley of the kings", end quote. Ouch. No shame at all apparently. It's a nice epic tune though, just like the Sykes one. Then again, Blue Murder borrowed a lot from Led Zeppelin in the first place so I guess it's the circle of life/music. Rated X? More like Rated RR.

HEART (& Friends): "Home For The Holidays"

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

Hic. Bloody 'ell... it's the Santa Sisters. Hic. Well... Merry bloody Christmas and a Happy new year. The Santa Sisters a.k.a. The Wilson Sisters are sharing their love and joy of a very merry HEART holiday this season and the result is as much fun as watching your deranged and drunk relative with her/his traditional speech about the true meaning of the festive and various other nonsense.

Don't get me wrong. Ann Wilson is a vocal goddess and Heart are normally just as great as Christmas pudding. I do appreciate folky/rootsy/americana music and some of these tracks such as "Love Came Down At Christmas" are good, but that's actually Shawn Colvin behind the words/music and not Heart at all really. Other guest musicians include Richard Marx and Sammy Hagar. The latter add absolutely nothing to dull moments such as "All We Need Is An Island" and "Santa's Going South". And why do they insist to perform Stairway To Heaven? They have plenty of originals for Santas' sake.

Straight to the point, it's the mellow holiday version of Heart and friends and it's like if you're looking through a super glossy Disney reality lins. Harsh words? Yeah. But it's not like we have anything against their normal day job and music, it's just, how many songs featuring the word Christmas can you stomach before you go berserk? You want chipmunks? We got chipmunks. Sammy Hagar and Richard Marx are running up and down the Christmas tree on stage searching for nuts and found plenty. Recommended to folks with Santa Claustrophobia? Nah. Probably not.

Dennis DEYOUNG Styx: "Live In Los Angeles"

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

Kudos to Dennis DeYoung for performing all the classic old songs of Styx as he wrote many of them. He's still a great performer and the voice is if not exactly the same then at least very intact indeed as the pipes sound excellent. Live In Los Angeles was recorded and mixed by the man and he brought along a six person strong backing band including his wife since 44 years, Mrs Suzanne DeYoung on background vocals. Would it be extremely rude to remark on Mrs. DeYoung's as she looks smashing and no, I'm not going to type for her age. Hint why Dennis wrote "Babe" as a celebration to her charisma and grace (what the hell?) all those years ago and I believe it's still the biggest hit of Styx?

They kick off the concert with Pomp classics such as "Grand Illusion" and "Lady" and you wouldn't believe that Dennis is nearly 70 as he sounds strong and confident as always. The pros and cons of Live In Los Angeles are pretty much the same thing as DeYoung's not just delivering the Styx songs he wrote and sung himself. Nope. You also get the likes of 'Blue Collar Man', 'Foolin’ Yourself', 'Too Much Time On My Hands', etc. Unfortunately featuring one of the fellows from the rather unknown backup band on lead vocals (August Zadra?) and it's just not the same as the real thing, you know.

In between stage banter from DeYoung include highlights such as and I quote, "How many people right now tonight are seeing Styx live for the first time in their lives? [audience roar] Where the hell have you been? I'm 67 for christ' sake". I actually expected more of DeYoungs solo material and not just Desert Moon. Anyhow, it's great to see and hear the man live as he still deliver the goods. It's just that it sometimes feels like a cover/tribute band when the backup patrol gets to shine in the spotlight. Nice.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

NUBIAN ROSE: ”Mental Revolution”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Limewire/Cargo Records 2014
Review by Rich ”The Meister” Dillon

From Sweden come Nubian Rose and their Mental Revolution album set for release on December 9, 2014 in North America.  Mental Revolution is the bandís sophomore outing behind 2012ís Mountain.  The band centers around female vocalist Sofia Lilja and guitarist Christer Akerlund with Swedish super producer Tobias Lindell (H.E.A.T/Europe/Hardcore Superstar) again in the fold.  The rest of the band features Henric Uhrbom (bass), Tomas Weijnesjo (drums) and Torbjorn Weijnesjo (rhythm guitar) with guests Joakim Ahlund (keyboards), Mats Leven (backing vox) and Katarina Kammarkor (choir).  This second outing for Nubian Rose is touted as having production that is edgier and bigger in every way, more mature song writing and in general the duo have taken a big step forward.  Letís see if it holds up to all that even though I have not heard the debut.

As always when doing a review I listen to the album a minimum of three times on different days as often one's mood is different day to day.  My first impression of Mental Revolution was that I found it hard to listen to cover to cover as Lilja's voice reached some high registers.  Now in my fifth or sixth rotation I can say that I am absolutely loving this album more and more each time as my ear becomes accustomed to her vocal prowess.  ”War” is the lead track and begins softly before the pounding drums and tasty guitar riff kicks in.  This blisteringly paced track had become a favourite.  ”Time Again” takes the listener on an epic ride ringing in at over six minutes.  ”Illuminated Within” features an insanely catchy bridge and chorus, but those are just the first three tracks of Mental Revolution!  Further on we find ”Break Out”, the lead single that has been given the video treatment as well, another clear standout and good representation of Mental Revolution.  The press release states: ”In combination with powerful guitar riffs and great melodies, they put a new spirit in the classic melodic hard rock” and I couldn't agree more... now to search out 2012's debut, Mountain.

www.nubianrose.com

TOOMAS VANEM: "I "

Label: Indie
Rating: RRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

If you love/like guitar pickers like Steve Vai, Marty Friedman, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, then this debut album from Toomas Vanem will be to your liking as I is an absolute must for guitar lovers. Vanem is from Estonia and he plays his guitar brilliantly and his debut instrumental album called I is a mix of jazz rock, fusion, prog rock and prog metal.

All the 11 tracks are composed like a song with a strong and sometimes addictive hook riff/line and do not really need any vocals. Some of the songs on this album I would already call melodic instrumental guitar anthems; take for example the amazing Operation S.S.E.S. or the opening track Tomorrow's Child. Tracks like Butterfly Effect and Orbital Man even could be called catchy guitar songs and Flower Power is a breathtaking ballad in the veins of classic guitar ballads as For The Love Of God (Vai) or Always  (Satch). Vanem is assisted by the skilfull drummer Andrus Lillepea and Henno Kelp on bass guitar and no one less than Stuart Hamm handles the bass in Gravity Of Eiffel Tower.

"I" is a must have album for guitar afficianados as it is pure guitar brilliance you hear. Toomas plays with power and sheer passion making this album to one of the best instrumental guitar albums I have heard in a very long time. So, Vai and Satch eat your hearts out with this one; play at maximum volume!! My favourite tracks: Butterfly Effect and Tomorrow's Child; sheer magic and I wish I could handle and play the guitar like Toomas...

www.toomasvanem.com

LANCELOT LYNX: ”No Time To Die”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Unsigned/Self Released 2014
Review by Rich ”The Meister” Dillon

Lancelot Lynx began life as MataHari when Beto Kupper moved from Brasil to Ireland in 2005.  The three piece played covers all over Ireland and after undergoing some lineup changes Kupper found his team in drummer J-Roz and guitarist Michal Kulbaka.  Changing their name to Lancelot Lynx this new band ventured out playing original songs composed by Kupper and Roz.  They issued a five song, self titled EP in 2010 and now serve up their full length debut with No Time to Die.  For three straight weeks Amazing Radio (London, UK) has chosen them as ”track of the week” with the songs ”7th Circle” and ”Drifter” and has referred to them as ”Classic metal monsters from Ireland”.

Often preferring a little bite and heaviness to my music, Lancelot Lynx appealed right away to me as I spun it for the first time.  Several listens later and itís raw sounding production, thundering bass lines and high energy is really sitting well with me.  No Time to Die rips open with the anthemic thrash powerhouse, ”We Live the Life”.  ”Fast Way” features a catchy chorus among the driving beat while the hard driving grind of ”Real Bastard” is sure to incite head banging and air guitar/drumming.  The vocal harmonies to the chorus on ”Dead Elaine” are a nice addition and without going through all 12 tracks I'll just say it's no wonder that both ”Drifter” and ”7th Circle” were awarded the previously mentioned accolades, both being solid standout cuts on No Time to Die.

http://www.lancelotlynx.com/

PAIN OF SALVATION : "Falling Home"

Rating: R
Label: Inside Out
Review by Martien Koolen

A new Pain Of Salvation is always a surprise as it will be quite different from the previous POS albums. I have a love/hate relation with Gildenlow and Co. because I really love The Perfect Element (2000) and Remedy Lane (2002), but I loathe the albums Be (2004) and Scarsick (2007). The new album, Falling Home, is again utterly disappointing as it is an acoustic album (I hate unplugged stuff) filled with eight re-recorded old tracks, two covers (I hate covers) and one new song; being the title track.

The two covers are completely redundant and I truly believe that Ronnie James Dio would turn over in his grave if he could hear Gildenlow's version of Holy Diver. POS's lounge jazzy version with even some reggae influences is absolutely horrific and in my humble opinion covers should be forbidden, as they never have any significant added value whatsoever. Well, the eight old songs from albums like Scarsick and Road Salt Two are all acoustic stuff, so they all sound the same (read boring) and offer no alternative to the original tracks. Take e.g. Chain Sling which can be best described as a horrible monstrosity due to the very annoying vocals of Gildenlow. In fact the entire album is a waste of time and utterly redundant as even the only new track is nothing more than a country duet! I know this may sound harsh, but it is only my opinion and there might be POS fans who actually will enjoy this album; which is of course good for them. Real die hard POS fans should buy the limited edition digipack as it includes the two bonus songs She Likes To Hide and King Of Loss.

http://www.painofsalvation.com

SIN 7 SINS : "Purgatory Princess"

Rating: RRR
Label: Suburban Records
Review by Martien Koolen

Purgatory Princess is the third album of the Dutch female fronted metal band Sin7sinS. This new album is a lot heavier than the other two ones and as a listener you are treated to lots of double bass drums, heavy bass guitar lines, metal-like guitar hooks and riffs and sad but true also a lot of grunts; which I actually hate as you probably know.... Lotus is the female singer of the band and her voice is kind of crystal clear and reminds me of singers in bands like Stream Of Passion, Within Temptation and Epica; in other words, not really original.

However the ten new songs on the album are fun to listen to (except for the grunts), they are quite heavy and lots of tracks have very addictive choruses. Most of the songs are really up tempo tracks, but you can also enjoy a ballad called Bittersweet Dreams. For me this song is really too sweet (read: utterly boring) as it only consists of piano and vocals. Different Place, Different Stage is a kind of radio friendly song which will do very well live on stage. No Tears Left is the first single of the album and is probably a good choice as it has a catchy melody. Purgatory Princess is produced and mixed by no one less than Dan Swano and he did an excellent job as the album really sounds great, overwhelming and bombastic. So, if you like bands like Epica, Stream Of Passion, Leaves Eyes and Within Temptation then Sin7sinS is a good alternative. I could have done without the grunting vocals of Gen Morphine, but there is no account for taste, so, enjoy and play it loud!!!!

http://www.sin7sins.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

SUNRISE AVENUE: ”Fairytales - Best Of 2006-2014”

Rating: - Compilation -

Label: Universal 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Sunrise Avenue are one of the most successful Finnish music exports of the last few years.  After four albums they’ve summed up their success with this compilation package, which includes a Best Of CD and a full concert DVD from Hamburg.

If you haven’t heard Sunrise Avenue before, this is a good package to start with. It contains most of their strongest songs and the DVD is quite impressive. ”But… I’ve never heard of them, why should I care”, you ask? Well, the fact that you’re reading this would lead me to believe that you like melodic rock, and Sunrise Avenue are very much a melodic rock band. If you’ve enjoyed Bon Jovi’s recent material there’s a good chance that you’ll like this band too. Throw in some other influences, maybe U2, Goo Goo Dolls, Three Doors Down…

Vocalist Samu Haber has a very pleasant voice and along with his co-writers, he definitely knows how to write a catchy pop-rock song. Some of the lyrics strike me as a bit simplistic and one can easily tell that english isn’t Haber’s first language, but I doubt that this will hinder their career in the UK or US. Probably those little things only add to their charm.

My favorite SA tracks include ”I Don’t Dance”, ”Hollywood Hills”, ”Fairytale Gone Bad”, ”Forever Yours” and ”Angels On A Rampage”, all of which are included on the CD as well as on the DVD. In fact, some of the live versions are better than the studio ones, ”Forever Yours” with its’ cool guitar intro for example.

The DVD was filmed at O2 World Hamburg, where the band played a sold-out show during their ”Unholy Ground” earlier this year (or last year, the date is not mentioned anywhere!). I knew the band was ”Big In Germany” but I didn’t know they were a full-blown arena rock band! The DVD sounds absolutely fantastic and looks pretty amazing too. The band has a great light show, video screens and a big stage. Having seen them live, I don’t think that this DVD completely captured their energy though. I could also be that the band had been asked to remain at certain spots so that they were always well lit for the cameras, I don’t know. I just remember them being more lively on stage.



http://www.sunriseave.com

Friday, November 28, 2014

ALLEN/LANDE: ”The Great Divide”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Frontiers 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”Never change a winning formula”? That’s what they say anyway… All three previous Allen/Lande-albums were written by the Swedish songwriter/producer/guitarist Magnus Karlsson and featured the two great vocalists Russell Allen and Jorn Lande. You won’t win any prizes for figuring out what part of the formula has been changed…  Karlsson’s role in the project has been assigned to former Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki, a surprising move from Frontiers but in the end it has been a rather successful one. At least when it comes to the quality of the music, the commercial success remains to be seen.

I wasn’t sure how this album would turn out, as Tolkki’s recent material has been hits and misses. The first Avalon album was a good one, but the second one failed to match it. I shouldn’t have worried, for this album Tolkki has been very focused and written a good selection of songs. Stylewise these songs aren’t that drastically different to those on the previous albums, even though there are definite echoes of Tolkki’s Strato-years in some of the songs. The production is powerful and clear, and the two singers sing like metal gods.

Highlights… the opener ”Come Dream With Me” is a powerful and very melodic track with both of the singers sharing vocals. This has a certain ”Stratovarius-single”-vibe to it, thanks to its’ anthemic chorus and catchy guitar work. ”Down From The Mountain” is a bit heavier but just as melodic, as is the fast paced ”In The Hands Of Time”. ”Lady Of Winter” is the kind of a plodding mid-tempo track that I usually don’t like, but damn it, this one comes with a superb chorus that’s hard to resist! ”Hymn To The Fallen” is also very good and ”Bitter Sweet” is a great, majestic ballad.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/AllenLande/19550548398?v=wall

Thursday, November 27, 2014

NEONFLY - 'Strangers In Paradise'


RATING: RRRR

LABEL: Inner Wound

REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway



UK noise makers Neonfly have been beavering away at their second album for a while now, and to be honest expectations weren’t amazingly high, although their debut album was a solid piece of work. Well, my own expectations have been blown right out of the water by ‘Strangers In Paradise’, an album that sees Neonfly gain a few rungs on the rock ladder of success.

The most fun thing about this album is the way it continually defies attempts to slot it into a comfy pigeonhole. \Opener ‘Whispered Dreams’ is a gloriously catchy mix of power metal and melodic rock with sumptuous vocals and harmony. The vocal mix is something that continuously lifts the album throughout, with singer Willy Norton possessing one of those high register voices that has poise and power in equal measure. The thing is, Neonfly aren’t a power metal band, even though they sometimes to a good impression. What Neonfly are is a power metal prog AOR melodic hard rock band. You know, obviously…

The Progness comes in all over the place, with the band able to slip in a bit of proggy introspection into songs under 4 minutes long, which is a nice touch. There’s only one ‘epic’, the six and a half minute ‘Chasing The Night’, a pretty straightforward rock track with a break in the middle for atmosphere. After all that fun, the album closes with one of the most beautiful tracks of the year, ‘Falling Star’ – something that TNT would have done almost as well back in the good old days. There’s also a neat instrumental track in here (‘Aztec Gold’), where guitarist Frederick Thunder gets to show off his not inconsiderable chops. All in all, a damned good mix of style and substance.

‘Strangers In paradise’ has come right out of left field, and will surprise and delight a lot of people who never even had Neonfly on their radar. A consummate rock album for the modern era, it encompasses just about everything we like about this genre called ‘rock’. Personally, I would have preferred a few more pacy songs like the opener, but this still stands as a first class album by a band who are just about to make a big splash in our small pond. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

WHITE WIDDOW: ”Crossfire”

Rating: RRRRR

Label: AOR Heaven 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I don’t know about you, but I like these newer AOR bands who manage to add some energy and bite into their music, while still using tried and tested elements. Purists might argue that their music isn’t AOR at all because of the metallic edge, but then again, we could spend hours discussing what is Adult Oriented Rock and what is not.

”Crossfire” is the third album from Austalian White Widdow, and while I’ve liked the previous two, I think this is their best one so far. Their style hasn’t really changed over the years, but now they’ve come up with some killer tracks and somehow they sound really focused and energized.

I could imagine the younger generation getting into this because the band isn’t a pale imitation of Journey or Bon Jovi. It seems to me that their influences come from somewhat more obscure sources like Treat, White Sister, Shy and Aviator, thus making them sound a bit more exotic.

Each one of their songs comes with a big chorus, majestic keyboards and a lot of attitude.    Yes, attitude. Even though the lyrics are the usual kind of relationship-stuff, it feels like there’s an underlying theme of determination in them and in the songs itself. Vocalist Jules Millis delivers his lines with a lot of passion and sounds like he means what he sings.

There isn’t a filler among these tracks, but I want to mention a few really special ones. First of them is ”Caught In The Crossfire”, the hard-edged opener with a strong Treat-vibe. ”Fly Me Away” carries the Treat-vibe in a slightly more mellow vein, while ”Just Another Night” has one of the finest choruses of the year. ”Below The Belt” recycles the riff from Poison’s ”Fallen Angel” and a dozen other songs yet the band make the song their own with great keys and a clever chorus. ”Dreams Don’t Die” sees Xavier Millis throwing in some extra cool keyboard flourishes and the harmonies are rather marvelous, as they are throughout the album. I see I mentioned all the tracks on the first half of the album… Oh well. The second half is very good too, with ”Too Many Tears” and the balladic ”Carry The Heartache” as standouts.

I wasn’t really expecting that I’d be handing out as many 5R ratings this year as I have done, but what can I do? Quality albums like this deserve the highest accolades.

https://www.facebook.com/whitewiddowaor
http://whitewiddow.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lenny KRAVITZ: ”Strut”

Rating: RRR

Label: Roxie Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

I have never been that much into Lenny Kravitz, but after hearing the first single ”The Chamber” from this album, I thought I’d check it out. As it often turns out, the single wasn’t really representative of the album’s overall sound. ”The Chamber” is a unashamed throwback to the eighties, a catchy pop tune that would not have sounded out of place on Jean Beauvoir’s solo albums. Those LK fans who didn’t like the single are probably relieved to find out that most of the album is more in the vein of typical Kravitz material.

The album does start with another 80’ies styled track. ”Sex” reminds me a lot of Duran Duran’s early material like ”Girls On Film” or ”Rio”. With ”The Chamber” as the second song, one could be fooled into thinking that Lenny has fallen completely for the eighties’ sounds, but that’s not the case. The gritty, rocking ”Dirty White Boots” and the funky ”New York City” are more familiar LK stuff, as is the slower ”The Pleasure And The Pain”. The rest of the album showcases Lenny’s versatile style from bluesy ballads to funky tracks like ”Strut” and ”Frankenstein”. Some of it is okay, some of it not that great… ”Ooh Baby Baby”? Seriously?

For what it’s worth, I really like the sparse, spacious production on the album. Every song seems to have room to breathe, yet there’s quite a lot going on in some of them. There’s no denying that Kravitz is a great singer and guitar player, but still, I’m still not that much into his material. ”The Chamber” is one of the best mainstream songs this year though.

http://www.lennykravitzmusic.com

Friday, November 14, 2014

LIVE: "The Turn"

Rating: RRRR
Label:
Review by: Martien Koolen

Finally after a long hiatus of eight years there is a new album by LIVE, the Pennsylvania quartet from York. The Turn is their eight studio album and I can already say that it is a good, decent rocking album with 11 brand new songs. Well, what else is new with  LIVE? The lead singer is now Chris Shinn (formerly of Unified Theory), as you know of course that Ed Kowalczyk left the band, and the other three original members Taylor, Dahlheimer and Gracey are also back on track. In the late eighties and the beginning of the nineties   LIVE had massive hits with songs like Lightning Crashes, I Alone and The Dolphin's Cry, but now the new era of LIVE has begun. The new songs of The Turn are filled with great hooks, riffs and melodies and without any doubt there are many songs on this album to sing along to. Take for example Natural Born Killers, 6310 Rodgerton Dr. or By Design which all have very catchy choruses and have that typical LIVE sound and atmosphere. New vocalist Shinn does a great job and in the rather dark, heavy opening track Sirens Call (one of my favs on the album) he actually sounds like the vocalist from Soundgarden! Another great song is called The Way Around Is Through featuring a great guitar melody and lots of vocal power. Unfortunately this album also features a misser as the last acoustic track Till You Came Around is utterly boring. However, the rest of the album is great as the music bursts with energy and the sound is harder and heavier than before, making The Turn a big rock album, which you have to play very loud through your loudspeakers. LIVE is back and I hope they are here to stay! The Turn crashes loud and clear, get it now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CHRIS DUARTE GROUP: "Lucky 13"

Rating: RRRR1/2
Label: Blues Bureau International
Review by: Martien Koolen

Chris Duarte, guitar player and singer, emerged on the music scene out of Austin in the early nineties and his debut album Texas Sugar/Strat Magik was an excellent blues album which gained lots of great reviews and sold rather well. Since then Duarte has released more critically acclaimed CDs like Tallspin Headwhack (1997) or Love Is Greater Than Me (2000). Duarte's albums/songs have alwasy been rooted deeply in the blues with a rock and roll edge. The new album Lucky 13 continues in the tradition of contemporary blues rock with bursts of fusion, pop and heavy psychedelia throughout. Duarte's guitar playing brings back memories of magical guitar players like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix and I must say that Lucky 13 is Duarte's best album by far, featuring some of his most impressive and extended guitar work to date. The album opener You Know You're Wrong grabs you by the balls right away and Duarte does not let go till the final  impressive instrumental Jump The Trane, which is filled with lots of sleazy, swampy, dirty, jazzy and funky guitar passages and solos. Absolute highlights on this album are: Let It Go, an amazing blues ballad with smashing solos, Weak Wheels, a typical Duarte blues/boogie song, Minefield Of My Mind, an impressive instrumental song with howling and screaming guitar solos and Setting Sun, a slow blues track in the veins of Stevie Ray Vaughan with melodic organ parts and again breathtaking guitarwork. On this album you will find NO fillers as all the tracks are just guitardriven and therefore a MUST for fans of amazing guitarsongs. THis is the best blues rock album I have heard in a very long time and I can only say: buy or die and by the way: Joe Bonamassa eat your heart out with this Lucky 13.

THOMSEN: "Unbroken"

Rating: RRR
Label: Artist Station
Review by: Martien Koolen

Thomsen released their debut album Let's Get Ruthless five years ago and the critics and fans were very pleased with that album. Why it took 5 years to make a new album is a mystery. But now you can enjoy Unbroken, twelve new songs composed by bandleader, and guitar player Rene Thomsen. He was assisted by a lot of guest musicians like e.g. Udo Dirkschneider (UDO, Accept), Robert Soeterboek (Ayreon, Star One), Mathias Don Dieth (UDO), Vinnie Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio) and Bobby Jarzombek (Halford, Fates Warning). The songs on the album are all power metal tracks featuring fast guitar solos, pounding drums and lots of very recognisable melodies.Highlights are the opener Draw The Curtains, New Horizon, In Steel We Trust and the instrumental Six Thirteen 64 where Thomsen shines as a guitar picker. On the last two songs of the album, One and Tears Of The Sun, you can hear the new voice of Thomsen called Denis Brosowski, former singer of Iron Fate, who is considered as one of the strongest German vocalists of this time.  So, anyone who likes traditional German-like power metal should at least listen to Unbroken once and then decide to buy the album, because it is a very audiolicious album!