Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The AMORETTES: "White Hot Heat"

Rating: RRRR
Label: OffYerRocka 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oi! Oi! Hey! Hey! Gabba Gabba? The opening track entitled "Batter Up" reminded me of CBGB and the sort of artistic endeavor best associated with working class and beer throwing punks. It's the sheer and utter attitude of 'turn your amps up to ten and never turn it down again' while trying to look as cool as possible on stage, but, in reality you're probably too pissed to notice what the hell is going on.

Nothing too fancy, neat or complicated, and definitely no more than four chords. I'm not going to lie to you. You've heard if all before and you're probably going to pick up yet another record the following next week that fall somewhere between the punk and sleazy rock as played by The Amorettes. "White Hot Heat", the sophomore release by the female power-trio promenade or rather stroll up and down the street outside the original CBGB and it's merely a shame it's been closed for ages now. They'd be at full swing at the club, screaming at the top of their lungs to "Come n Get It" and "Let The Neighbours Call The Cops", since they don't give a damn about society rules or laws.

Ehhh... kinda. It's nonetheless the very competent and professionally crafted record and ten tracks that oozes of lipstick and leather? Black and red? Beer, sweat, and smoke, the more correct description as the walk it like they talk it. It's the fun, up all night, sleep all day, sort of record with more balls than all of the footballers at the current Euro Cup [Zlatan! Rör på dig!].

Final verdict: Sleazy Hard Rock Punks goes amok in the studio and end up recording the perfect summer album? Well. I'm taking my pants off while listening and... Oi! Pervert Alert!
theamorettes.co.uk
facebook

ATTICA RAGE: "Warheads Ltd"

Rating: RR
Label: OffYerRocka 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Original yet vintage sounding metal or if you prefer hard rock songs with their own distinctive mark and though you can pick up influences, Attica Rage's vision and storytelling shine on through. Their Glaswegian and Scottish heritage shines through as well and lyrically it's everything from voting on leaving or stay (oh yes, it's politic) and (anti) war propaganda to the pure nonsense of el chupacabra. The latter a major surprise considering that it's your Mexican monster and these guys aren't exactly Latino. Ginger and pale as death for fecks' sake.

Musically drifting between the boring modern Ozzy arrangements as well as all that crap coming from Zakk Wylde nowadays to pure melodic rock and it's like if they're not sure which leg to stand upon? Definitely not to their advantage nor benefit in the long run, since it gives their record a rather schizophrenic impression. I'll go for the melodic stuff any day of the week and the likes of "Lost In Memory" that licenses long pauses and thought worthy notes about the child of years ago and the whole 'if I could turn back time' moment.

Almighty and Thin Lizzy are sure influences, but never really as good as any of them. Scottish heroes Attica Rage have come up with decent to below average stuff on their fourth release and I'm not too keen on finding out more about their previous releases. Meh.

Monday, June 20, 2016

DUFF MCKAGAN - IT'S SO EASY AND OTHER LIES - DVD REVIEW



Label: Entertainment One

Review By: Alan Holloway

Duff McKagan should be dead. It's not the most insightful observation, I know, but after watching this new documentary/performance it's a fact that is pretty much rammed home. At one point it's noted that he has more lives than a cat, and it's not an exaggeration. 'It's So easy & Other Lies' is a mixture of interviews and spoken word performance, and gives an interesting if not too revealing insight into one of rock's most famous bassists.

The spoken word sections come from a tour Duff did to promote the book of the same name. which consisted of him reading passages from the book whilst an acoustic band (with string section) played atmospheric music plus GnR tunes. It's a neat little idea that works well (the audience seem to love it) but to some may seem a little lazy. It's more helpful if you see this as a 'film of the book' sort of thing.

Much more interesting are the many interview snippets, from old friends, family and band members. Only Slash turns up to represent GnR, but then again he's always seemed to be the nicest of a mad bunch and has the bonus of being with Duff in Velvet Revolver as well. So we go through Duff's early band days through his various addictions, recoveries, more addictions, more recovery and so on. All the interviewees do their bit and you get a well rounded and interesting picture as a result.

'It's So Easy & Other Lies' is not the sort of DVD I'd calla 'must' for fans, but if you like a good rock doc you should certainly give it a try. As I have said there's nothing anyone who has read his books won't already know, and the biggest attraction is hearing it from the mouths of those who knew him before and after fame swallowed him up and shit him out again.

COMEDY OF ERRORS: "Spirit"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Nineteen73 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"You're God and you let me down. You're supposed to help. What the hell are you thinking? Can't you let us be what we should be?". Are you there yet? Believe me, one of these days you'll all be there. Shaking your angry little fist to the sky and screaming out to someone who may or may not exist. The Scottish Symphonic Prog-Rock band Comedy of Errors are dealing with themes of grief, loss, and ultimately hope (I thought of it as utter doom and gloom at first though). The grande concept where the cornerstone of the album is a 45 minute unbroken piece taking the form of an emotional journey at once personal and universal, despairing and uplifting.

It's a spiritual and sort of uber religious musical journey where choral and orchestral textures meet symphonic and progressive rock. It's quite obvious that keyboardist and songwriter Jim Johnston are referring at some point to personal experiences. You simply can not write these kind of lyrics without going through the pain of grief and loss. It's in fact the proper meltdown and the language of despair as and I quote, 'you took away the world. everything I had, everything that was dear to me', end quote.

Holy Smoke. The first six of the ten part long "Spirit" (45 minute) - doom, gloom, and random acts of change, darkness, denial, anger, tears, suffering and all those other human emotions of sorrow. "Why take the innocent? Why punish the good? and why make us suffer as only you could". It's not getting any better or more cheerful as the bashing continues: "How can you ever, ever hope to reason why? Why so indestructible? You even let your own son to die". Indeed. Johnston are making his listener stare into the darkness and just when you thought it's all black, the ray of hope appear in the distant. A light shines from heaven from the love is your eyes. Rise again. Oh rise again in everlasting love. To touch you, to hold you, to see you again. Forever you're part of us, still in our lives and your Spirit shines.

It's one of those albums you're not going to forget easily. Wrapped in keyboards and lovely arrangements, it sounds like if Lawrence GOWAN (Styx) did a solo album in the vein of YES. That's the easiest way to describe this grand concept. YES vs. GOWAN - and dare I say it's a nearly a masterpiece? Highly Recommended.
comedyoferrors.org

WITHEM: "The Unforgiving Road"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Withem from Norway and their sophomore release 'The Unforgiving Road' at Frontiers records. The softer side to Circus Maximus? From opening 'Exit', there's a feeling of the rockier elements drifting into the modern Prog laden sound, the staccato percussion as easily fitting into the metal as it would a vivid cinematic song. Thinking into the concept and composition, there are moments when the modern, prog sound prevails, such as the opening of 'In The Hands of a God', but not THE God? where it would be easy to make comparisons to the likes of Seventh Wonder and the Swedish tapestry of arrangements.

It's layers upon layers of keyboards and guitars and the typical interaction between the two. Something that obviously started out with the Swedes of Yngwie Malmsteen and Jens Johansson in the eighties and has since become a trademark of sophisticated and professional rock. Especially weird considering they don't have a proper keyboardist in the band? The Norwegians of Withem are probably not going to agree and thinking I'm taking the piss. However, you couldn't find a more Swedish sounding track at the moment than 'In The Hands of a God'. It's a rather clean and close to sterile sonic landscape for the listener to explore.

Direct and more emo, 'Riven' manages to strike up a middle ground between soft melodic rock and cinematic Prog-Rock music, drifting between the two as the song unwinds, The Robby Valentine vs. Seventh Wonder rock shows how much they're capable of as they create a storm of emotion, the music ebbing and allowing the listener to come up for air if only for a short moment.

Final verdict: Solid as a rock. Atmospheric keyboards and overall well executed cinematic melodic prog. Definitely not super-proggy and perhaps a tad too short to the proper fanatic?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

JORN: "Heavy Rock Radio"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

No! No! NO! Oh God... please no. Make it go away. Make it stop. Oh, the horror, the horror. For the love of music and all the things you keep sacred. Why did you have to test our strength and devotion by giving us yet another cover record by Jorn and yet another cover version of "Don't Stop Believin"? It's not like we hate that song enough already? Christ oh mighty. I'd rather have 40 days and nights of rain or any other divine intervention or suffering for that matter. Hold on to that feeling? Street light? People? Sheer and utter agony. It's not a Journey, it's a trip to hell and back in which your poor soul will never recover.

Oh, the terror, the terror. Add to this. The darn right butchering of "Hotel California" (I know someone must be spinning in his grave). The pointless recording of "Rainbow In The Dark". Yet another Dio cover by Jorn? When recording this song and I quote, "we stayed very true to the original, it felt natural and was the right thing to do". Really? What's the point in recording your version then? Do something differently with the arrangements and people could enjoy it more. The same goes for Black Sabbath's "Die Young" and no, it doesn't sound fresh nor does it rock hard. "Killer Queen"? More like Killed The Queen.

I do enjoy the fact that he's managed to dig up a couple of 'outside the box' moments though. Thinking about "I Know There's Something Going On" originally recorded by Frida from ABBA in 1982 and not 1985 as Jorn suggest in the booklet. "Running Up That Hill" - another decent attempt at something differently and I kind of like it. Mostly due to the fact that it's one of the all-time best songs out there. I totally agree with Jorn as he writes in the booklet and I quote again, "Kate Bush is without a doubt one of the most unique and special artists the world has ever known". Amen brother. Amen.

Final verdict: You shouldn't have to pay to play Heavy Rock Radio. It could most definitely work as second bonus disc on a 2CD release featuring a completely new Jorn studio album. By the way. The same goes for all you artists/bands out there. If you ever feel like recording the tribute and cover songs of the past. Stick it as bonus disc on your brand new original songs album. What's next? Well to get the bad taste out, yours truly definitely need to play the originals starting with the mighty Kate Bush and "Running Up That Hill". Now, she's a genius if ever...

DAN REED NETWORK: "Fight Another Day"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

I've been looking forward to this for a long time. Massive fan of Dan Reed Network and their first couple of albums with killer beat and groove. The FUNK, the wicked guitar work by Brion James, the tribal drumming, the bass right up in your face. Bloody 'ell. The song "Ritual" always send a shiver to the spine and it's THE perfect party starter. Not to mention that Max Martin borrowed and stole every thing he could get his naughty little hands on to launch his songwriting career. He simply turned the likes of "I'm So Sorry" to Pop stuff and "Hit Me Baby One More Time". And yes, he started out playing in a funk hard rock band in Sweden in the late 80's.

First of all. Slightly disappointed at first spin and let me tell you why. Not enough of funk and definitely not enough of hard rock and guitars to be classic Dan Reed Network. Brion James playing in the background of the production and several tracks are rather Pop/Rock than funk/hardrock. Do not expect this to explode like popcorn in the micro, it's overall sophisticated Pop/Funk with the occasional loud guitar. I really don't see the point in releasing this as Network? It's their first album in 25 years and people sort of expect the traditional beat and sound? I mean. C'mon... that's the whole point in doing the comeback tour and album?? Yeah? No? Release the six-string beast!!

Secondly. Don't get me wrong. It's still a good borderline great album. Even though the spacey/trip-dance keyboards and several tracks are provided 'ala SEAL and "Crazy" rather than DRN and 'Get To You'. Class. Class. Can I get your attention? The first couple of tracks, "Divided", and its follower, "The Brave", are fun and groovy DRN tracks though. "Infected", the Prince wannabee. "Champion", here's where the SEAL sound kicks in and the likes of "Heaven" and "Sharp Turn", could not be more 'scarface' even if they invited Al Pacino to the studio. It sounds very commercial and deliberately like Top 40 stuff of the popular Seal years. The instrumental track, "Ignition", the only tribal drumming on display.

Final verdict: Good. Solid stuff. It's obvious that some of these tracks are going to work better as well as rock harder when performed live on stage. And they were always the great live act. "Are we born to be divided or born to be one".
facebook

Thursday, June 9, 2016

CIRCLE OF REASON: "Faith Or Theory"

Rating: EP
Label: Freefall Records 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"As seen on Kerrang and Scuzz TV". That's surely not the best way to promote your debut EP? Let's not dwell on the quality of former great magazines as the Southampton quartet Circle of Reason are coming up with intriguing compositions and quirky arrangements on their brand new album. Musically we are drowning in sub paranoiac kind of rock that can't help but resonate on a personal level. Vivid pictures and soundscapes of emotive and melancholic stuff drawing upon a wide range of influences from the likes of Deftones, Funeral For a Friend, Biffy Clyro, and Mastodon. Never quite as heavy and blunt as the latter though and more towards the work of Coheed and Cambria in my personal opinion.

Artistic endeavor and rhythmic sensibilities make heart-felt metal in which the listener take center stage throughout the record. You're invited to a sonic journey through time and space, faith or theory, and a theme of always feeling as though you're not quite what someone wants. "You always said I could be so much better", sings Simon Osman on the opening track of "Never Enough", and what better way to lure teenagers into checking out your band's music then gloom, doom, and depression? However, there's a positive side to the story and the realization that in the long run you are better off being yourself and doing things your own way. Easier said than done when you're 14 and trying to be cool.

To really get the hang of Faith or Theory, you need to spin this over a long period of time. There's constantly something new and quirky to discover and a message of never judge a book by its cover. Lyrically it's about being more than what people see on the surface and trying to think outside the box for a change. Play this when you're in the mood for some excellent alt-rock versatility and craftsmanship.
facebook

NO SINNER: "Old Habits Die Hard"

Rating: RRr
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

... And the best artwork of the year award goes to... nah.... just kidding. They simply decided to grab a pic from their recent Tequila party and use it as the album cover? Blimey. Old Habits DO Die Hard!? I haven't been listening to any No Sinner in the past so this is a first experience and the very first thing that hits you, right between the eyes, the howling and haunting vocals.

Colleen Rennison. The former actor and sci-fi nerd. She's done stuff with the likes of Bruce Willis, Ray Liotta, and Michelle Pfeiffer. She's also a proper belter and powerhouse singer that oozes of blues and attitude. Clearly not one of them Britney Spears wannabees (Thank Lord!) and according to Colleen and I quote, "it's easy to compare me with the likes of Janis Joplin, Etta James, or even Robert Plant", end quote. Blimey. They do have thoughts. Actually. Yours truly compare himself to the likes of Albert Einstein and The Boogeyman. Cause I'm the genius as well as the urban legend. Let's just say that Rennison is a darn good in fact sort of great singer, but no legend and definitely no Etta or Joplin. Sass Jordan, a more correct comparison.

The album is more or less a roller coaster ride with too many ups and downs. Unfortunately. To each superb track, such as one of my favorite songs of the year "When The Bell Rings", there's a couple of dodgy ones. Well let's just say that "Old Habits Die Hard" is slow Blues death at first then picks up, but losing some of its impetus during the middle section as well as towards the end. I'm still not sure what "One More Time" and "Mandy Lyn" are supposed to be all about? It's got that acid meet flower-power trippy blues that goes nowhere and eventually dies in the corner. Final verdict: Great vocals. Some truly great songs. But, overall, just a tad too weak material.

MOB RULES: "Tales From Beyond"

Rating: RR
Label: SPV 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Mob Rules and Tales From Beyond. It barely just exists and plods through the motion. Never nearly as great as their moniker (that's Birmingham and Black Sabbath, folks). Never really outgoing or progressive, but continuing to hack out the same old bump and grind kind of stuff until you get bored and lose focus entirely. It's difficult to point out any highlights whatsoever and it comes across to me that Mob Rules are just playing the metal cliches for the sake of it.

Sure enough. They throw the occasional tantrum as well as burst into several ticks and seizures, and it's definitely not a case of metal in which flair, skill, and all those other imponderables are simply not required. Make no mistake. Mob Rules are good musicians. The song material? It's just so been there, done that, and bought the book in which all these arrangements are clearly described. It sounds like they're trying to do something original and no doubt they'll get there one of these days. I could go on with the battering, but there's no point really. Let's just call it a day as the tracks lack the ability to intrigue the listener. Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

MOTÖRHEAD: "Clean Your Clock"

Label: UDR
Rating: Live
Review by Martien Koolen

 This superb "new" live album was recorded at the Zenith Hall in Munich (Germany) during the winter of the previous year and it is a worthy legacy for Lemmy. These songs were recorded only weeks before his sad death and as Lemmy would say: "Turn the volume up, because the only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud..."

The fifteen songs on this live album are almost all Motorhead classics and the CD kicks off with one of the best metal songs ever being Bomber and it ends with another classic Lemmy track Overkill. Other headbanging highlights are Stay Clean, Metropolis, Orgasmatron, No Class and of course Ace Of Spades. Kilmister, Campbell and Dee play their socks off as usual and the musical energy can be felt in every played note and chord.

The only thing which I find rather superflouos is the guitar solo just after the song Over The Top. The rest of the material on the set list is spot on and shows Motorhead at its peak; so sad that Lemmy ('we are Motorhead and we are going to kick your ass") will not be performing anymore, he will be truly missed!

https://www.imotorhead.com/
https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMotorhead/


TREMONTI: "Dust"

Label: FRET 12
Rating: RRRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Of course hard rock guitar lovers know Mark Tremonti from notorious bands like Creed and Altar Bridge, but Dust is also already his third solo release under the band name Tremonti. Founded in 2012, Mark Tremonti teamed up with Eric Friedman (guitar) and Garret Whitlock (drums) and released his debut solo album All I Was. Later Wolfgang van Halen joined the band and in 2015 Tremonti released Cauterize which took on the number 1 spot on the I-tunes rock charts for a week.

Dust is Tremonti's third album and it is one of the best hard rock albums of the year 2016 already. Dust contains 10 brand new songs and they are all brilliant and very, very addictive. Take for example a song called The Cage, an arena rock track of the first order, with an extremely excedllent guitar solo. Other musical highlights are: Betray Me (heavy), Catching Fire (the slowest track) and Never See, which is a brutal guitar driven monster of the highest quality. The last song of the album Unable To See opens with a nice, melodic acoustic driven "intro", but then changes into a typical Tremonti guitar track.

Dust is a marvellous metal/hard rock CD, combining speed, heaviness and lost of breathtaking melodies and it is good from start to finish; absolutely no fillers!! My personal favourite of this smashing album is probably Never Wrong, but I could listen to the entire album everyday and not be bored; this is guitar driven rock at its best. Needless to say that you have to play this album at maximum volume, do NOT mind the neighbours; bring out your air guitar and watch out that you do not wring your neck....

https://fret12.com/mark-tremonti

IRON SAVIOR: "Titancraft"

Label: Suburban Records
Rating: RRR
Review by Martien Koolen

Iron Savior have been around for 20 years now and if you buy a new album of these German hard rockers you know exactly what you can expect, namely decent "ordinary" German power metal.

Titancraft is Iron Savior's 9th album containing 10 new songs, filled with very recognisable guitar riffs, blazing solos, anthem-like choruses and up beat, driving drums. The production of this album is as crystal clear as ever and the signature vocals of the only original member Piet Sielck are classic in the true sense of the word.

Favourite songs would be Gunsmoke due to the very addictive chorus, which actually sounds like Ratt and the very MElodic rocker Beyond The Horizon. Other excellent songs are the up tempo Strike Down The Tyranny and the also very fast Rebellious. Of course you can also "enjoy" a power ballad, being the maybe somewhat superfluous I Surrender. But in the end you can say that Iron Saviour did it again, as they have created another good power metal album with great songs and if you are a fan of the genre, you already have bought Titancraft or not. Turn up the volume for maximum enjoyment!!

site.iron-savior.com/

Monday, June 6, 2016

ROB MORATTI - 'TRANSCENDENT'

Rating: RRRR

Label: Escape Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

Hailing from Canada (sort of like Britain but with more French people), Rob Moratti is perhaps best known for his vocal work with Rage of Angels and Saga (on the 2009 release 'Human Condition). 'Transcendent' is his second solo release, and he's waited five long years to get around to it since the well received 'Victory'. The good news is that it's been worth the wait, as it picks up where it's predecessor left off, and with any luck should reel in a few extra fans for this talented vocalist.

It's always nice when an AOR album arrives with no pretensions and little fanfare. As it's an Escape Music release, 'Transcendent' naturally has a fantasy/sci-fi cover, complete with winged horse and zeppelin. Let's be honest, though, you'd be worried if it didn't have this sort of cover, and at least they're always well drawn. the important stuff, however, is inside, and Moratti delivers in spades. 'Answer Of Life' gives the listener a solid template for what's to come, with a smooth melody, soaring vocals and nifty guitar solo (from Torben Enevoldsen). It's decidedly 80s in feel, as is the rest of the album, with a gentle, catchy melody that carries on throughout the album. The tracks on offer have all been written using the 'Big Book Of AOR Cliches', true, but there's a polish to them that elevate this from many other run of the mill releases. Another factor is Moratti himself, who sounds absolutely gorgeous on every track. It's decidedly upbeat, too, a real summer album if ever there was one. If you're a fan of AOR it's definitely a hard one to dislike that's for sure.

'Transcendent' isn't an album that will change your life, sure, but it's one that will put a smile on your face and give enjoyment from the first listen. Sometimes you just want to sit in the sun with a cold beer and a quality slice of melodic rock that has no surprises, just great quality tunes. This is that album, so don't forget to pour me on whilst you're at it.

Rob Moratti Official






DVD - MICHAEL SCHENKER'S REMPLE OF ROCK - ON A MISSION LIVE IN MADRID


Rating: RRRR

Label: Inakustik

Review By: Alan Holloway

The first time I saw Michael Schenker, (supporting The Scorpions), he was off his tits, but the last time, (at the Steelhouse Festival), he was much better, aided and abetted by a solid band and decent singer. As this DVD shows, the solid band, decent singer and not being off his tits is a continuing affair.

Filmed at a sold out show in Madrid, 'On A Mission Live' certainly has plenty going for it, not least the inclusion in the band of ex Scorpions members Francis Buchholz and Herman 'Ze German' Rarebell. As rhythm sections go it's not a bad place to start, and when you add former Rainbow vocalist and professional Scotsman Doogie White to the roster it's pretty hard to do much wrong as long as your superstar guitar player is behaving himself. As I've already said, though, Michael shows all the skill that made him a legend among guitar freaks.

The two hour set is well balanced between old and new material, from classic Scorpions and UFO to modern Temple Of Rock. It's not a huge venue, which means there's no big stage show or lighting to impress, but there's plenty of good music to do the talking throughout. Schenker has plenty of opportunity to shine and show off his impressive guitars, including the new twin neck flying M, and the camera takes the opportunity to show us his flying fingers whenever pertinent. Second guitarist Wayne Findlay is no slouch either, and it's nice that Schenker is man enough to give him the solo on 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' (although Schenker gets to play his own bit in this extended version).

As live DVDs go, this is a pretty good addition to your collection, and will be extremely fawned over by Schenker fans. The band is tight, the mix spot on and the songs ranging from good to great with plenty for the older fans. The mark of a good DVD is whether you would have wanted to be there, and this passes that mark with flying colours, or should that be a flying V...

Michael Schenker Homepage

Thursday, June 2, 2016

IMPERIUM: ”Dreamhunter”

Rating: RRRR
Label: AOR Heaven
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Imperium is the solo project of Mika Brushane, the drummer from Strike. On this album he’s responsible for the the songwriting and most of the instruments, only the guitars and vocals were provided by several talented musicians from the Finnish rock scene. Perhaps the most well-known of them is Mika’s bandmate from Strike, Pasi Rantanen. He’s also the vocalist of Thunderstone.

”Dream hunter” slips comfortably into the Finnish melodic rock/metal scene. There are some harder-edged songs with a bit of a power metal vibe (think Strato, Sonata but with an AOR overtone), some very 80’ies sounding AOR material (á la Brother Firetribe) and there’s no escaping the Finnish melancholia either. A couple of the songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a HIM album if they were downtuned and sung by Ville Valo.

I can say that I pretty much like every song on the album, some more than the others but there are certainly no fillers here. All three singers (Pasi Rantanen, Nisse Nordling and Markus Kuikka) do a fine job and the guest axemen ”play for the song”, as they say.

A couple of the songs I want to mention: ”Starlight” is my favourite song of the album, thanks to its’ glorious melodies and huge, anthemic chorus. The album’s big ballad ”80’s Love Song” is a curious one: Pasi Rantanen manages to sound convincing despite the fact that the song dances on the ”fine line between clever and stupid” (Spinal Tap). The song could have been written to be the theme song of a reality TV series, ”Dream Weddings” or something and uses every ballad cliche known to man in its’ lyrics. Yet… it’s kinda good and heartfelt!

I might add a word about the production - the album sounds great! No wonder, as studio wizards Erkka Korhonen and Mika Jussila were involved.

If you like Finnish melodic hard rock, it’s more than likely that you’ll enjoy this album too. Check it out!

https://www.facebook.com/imperiumproject

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

RED BAZAR: "Tales from the Bookcase"

Rating: RRRR
Label: WhiteKnightRecords 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tales from the Bookcase and its lyrical content is based on stories from singer Peter Jones' favorite classic books. It's seems to be everything from fantasy to war stories and the result is symphonic progressive rock in the vein of Genesis and Marillion. This is in fact the debut (including vocals) album by Nottingham, U.K. based five piece band Red Bazar. However, the four of Andy Wilson (guitar), Mark Wilson (bass), Gary Marsh (keyboards), Paul Comerie (drums) have previously existed as an instrumental outfit, recording two albums and the EP. By the way. You may also recognize singer Jones from performances with Big Big Train and Magneta and his own solo albums.

This being their first step into the vocal spotlight and even though the Prog ground they inhabit has been well trodden down before, the Tales are well written and performed. There is a great deal of Genesis moments here, especially on "City and the Stars", where the song describes "the bitter harvest from the seeds we've sown" and "our every move and thought tracked by cameras in the sky". It's all very 1984 and a certain old classic of the past. Melodic passages, lovely harmonies, smashing keyboards 'ala Tony Banks, and a selection of different views from within the prog community, are cornerstones of Red Bazar's record.

It reeks of old school U.K. and their grand tradition of coming up with music that matter and not just something that goes through the motion. The vocal phrasing is typical British and the modern production add a touch of class. Final verdict: Successful in terms of spreading the propaganda, getting their message through and communicating the ideas of symphonic Progressive Rock, Tales from the Bookcase goes straight to the top of impressive debuts in 2016.
redbazar.co.uk

MARTIN TURNER: "Life Begins" 2CD+DVD

Rating: Live/Re-issue
Label: Cherry Red Records 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Martin Turner is of course the former bassist/vocalist of Wishbone Ash. The voice that sang all those old classic songs. This is the repackaged and reissued Deluxe 2CD + DVD set of "Life Begins". Featuring Argus in its entirety as well as other Ash classics and celebrating the 40th anniversary of Wishbone Ash. It's the full concert recorded and filmed live at the Y Theatre in Leicester 13th March 2010. It's a nice and cozy theatre and town where magical things happen. You don't believe me? They've recently dug up an long lost King and their football team just won the premier league! That's sheer and utter magic. Wicked Leicester! (that's a KISS reference by the way).

The total of 20 tracks and obviously the same concert on 2CD and DVD. Turner is looking flashy sporting the spiffy leather jacket and matching hairdo. The rest of the band? Danny Wilson & Ray Hatfield (guitars), Dave Wagstaffe (drums). Let's just mention it's more like Moody/Marsden than Vai/Sykes, if you catch my drift? What about the audience? Well. Let's just say there's a lot of bald spots reflecting in the spotlights. The spots are unfortunately rather laid back throughout the gig and that's a minor letdown.

The concert, starting up nicely with "Time and Space", but drags on a bit as they insist on performing the strange "Vas Dis" as their second piece? I never understood the greatness about this track? "The Ballad of Beacon" or if you're feeling especially hungry, Bacon (that's Turner's joke and punchline and not yours truly) and "Rock N Roll Widow", are from their 4th album and here you get to experience Wilson as lead singer. There's more Turner funny lines coming at you, as "Ships in the Sky" becomes Chips in the Pie. Oh, dear. CD:2 and the last nine tracks on the DVD are all from the classic Argus album though, kicking off with "Time Was" and ending it all with "Jailbait". It's a thrill to any Wishbone Ash fan.

DVD: Behind the scenes section includes interviews, rehearsals for the tour, trailer, and 9 year old wee lass Amy and her work to raise money for cancer research. She's up there on stage with the band enjoying (?) the music and receiving freebies and praise. Good on ya', Amy. Interviews. Turner sitting on stage and talks in depth about various Ash topics and stories about fans that haven't seen him live since 1973 and expect business as usual. The great thing about being in a rock n rock band? You get to travel around the world. The Argus era? 'We were just young, free, and able to devote a lot of time on the record. The album does deal with some classic themes especially space and time. The concept of the end of the world and various Bible quotes and phrases. It's just taking a look at the doom concept'. There is a link between all these songs. Find out about this Swedish girl which inspired him to write "Blowin' Free". Also quick interview and chat with his band. "Time doesn't exist when I write and create music" - Martin Turner. Recommended.


martinturnermusic.com

RICH ROBINSON: "Woodstock Sessions Vol 3"

Rating: Re-issue
Label: Eagle/Circle Sound 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Rich Robinson (Black Crowes), storytelling and thought worthy material go hand in hand with blues, folk-rock, country, and traditional singer/songwriter on his live recording, Woodstock Sessions Vol. 3. Recorded over two days. Two sets each day. The first acoustic and the second electric. On May 31 and June 1, 2014, Robinson invited an intimate group to Applehead Studios in Woodstock, NY to join him as he recorded this very live album.

It's got that 'live in studio in front of an audience sound' that became so darn popular in the early/mid nineties due to MTV and their shows. This expended edition was produced by Robinson and the production is organic and breathing throughout, allowing our artist's weary voice to shine through the vial of his words, no better example springs to mind than on the groovy, "I Have a Feeling", which will have the manic jam brothers in tears of joy. It'll give you a sneak peek of the feeling that the next following numbers and jam session, "Laila II" and "One Cylinder, are all about. This is when most people take a break and leave the room to freshen up on beverage and snack? Yeah. The instrumental jam songs, perhaps not to everybody's liking, since it's just a tad too much hippie groove and Woodstock. His 10+ minute jam is all about guitar tones and improvisation.

This edition/version of the Woodstock release comes complete with previously unreleased "Got To get Better In a Little While". It's no doubt the musical document of what happened in on these two dates. What happens in Woodstock stays in Woodstock? Nonetheless. Some of these live tracks are perhaps just too much jam and hippie to your average 2016 rocker?
richrobinson.net

KIAMA: "Sign of IV"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Cherry Red/Tigermoth 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Kiama is the brand new band project from previous members of The Reasoning, Shadows of the Sun (vocalist Dylan Thompson), The Tangent, Machine (guitarist Luke Machin) Magenta, Kompendium (bassist Rob Reed), and IQ, Robert Plant (drummer Andy Edwards). Drawn from a pool of music and references that came from the early 70's and from bands that were largely thought of and considered as classic rock, but also made some of the great Prog Epics of the era: Led Zeppelin (Stairway To Heaven, Kashmir), Rainbow's Stargazer and Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. These became Kiama's template.

To be perfectly honest though. I can't pick up a lot of or any Queen sound and influences on this record? If anything, it's classy and organic Prog-Rock with its roots deeply buried in the modern production. It's not really either the retro album in my humble opinion. Sure. Absolutely. It's got these tiny bits and pieces of Led Zep and also The Who and their Quadrophenia release. However, the majority of tracks are showing all the elements of modern prog drifting into the Marillion structure and mode which they've been using on their latest releases in the 2000's.

They've actually recorded this at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios and I quote, "We felt there was no point in making music that sounded like our previous bands. We wanted to do something different". Easier said than done. If only more musicians would think and do the same thing. I never quite understood the idea behind recording... for instance, the solo album in the same style as your band's music. The result is a debut album that transcends trends or not, and filled with all the half remembered sounds of past classic rock or rather prog nights. Final verdict: Nice, structured stuff with organic and spacious arrangements, if only just a bit too pretentious?
kiamaband.com

MARTIN TURNER: New Live Dates" 2CD

Rating: Live
Label: Cherry Red Records 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

This is the repackaged and reissued edition of 'New Live Dates', previously available as Vol.1 and Vol.2 this 2CD set combines both volumes and restores original concert running order. Recorded in 2005 and 2006 at various venues and the studio concert, the sound quality and production is good, but you get the whole she-bang including fade-out in between tracks, since it's recorded at different stages. I'd personally prefer if they could simply just continue to add audio noises from the audience throughout instead of fade to black, ehh... silence. The absolutely best thing about this 2CD live release? Merely three out of twenty four tracks are also included on the "Life Begins" release. Thus, you'd end up with the ultimate live by Martin Turner (ex. Wishbone Ash) on the two. After a slighly hurried and good version of "Doctor", it was time to slow things down a bit with one of the least interesting numbers in my humble opinion, the tiresome blues of "Blind Eye". As usual in a live setting the crowd seem to prefer the older numbers? However, the likes of "Walking the Reeperbahn", "Persephone", etc. are just as intriguing if not better. Martin Turner was a founding original member of Wishbone Ash and lead vocalist, bassist and key creative force on iconic album releases such as Argus, Pilgrimage, There's The Rub and New England.
martinturnermusic.com

ASIA: "Phoenix" 2CD Re-issue

Rating: Re-issue
Label: Cherry Red/Asia 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Asia (and Cherry Red Records) are pleased to announce the re-release of its Phoenix album. This 2CD re-issue features the European version of the album, the two acoustic bonus tracks from foreign editions (I Will Remember You. An Extraordinary Life) and an extra disc with the American version of album. What's the difference you ask? Well. The American edition included a different mix of the opening track, "Never Again", and different mastering throughout. And as this is on the band's own label, they were able to control that the wholesale price was only increased by amount necessary to cover the cost of manufacturing the extra disc.

Originally released in 2008, it's the first album recorded during the reunion of John Wetton (vocals/bass), Steve Howe (guitars), Geoff Downes (keyboards) and Carl Palmer (drums). The million dollar question though? Do you really need this? Two extremely slightly different versions of the same album? Yeah. But, only if you're the complete and utter die-hard manic follower and fan of the band. You know. One of them that are basically stalking the band, travelling around to different stages across the planet, and built an impressive Asia altar in the basement. Not to be confused with the sort of Asia altar Quagmire's got in his basement (Giggity!).

To quote my original 2008 review, "Never Again" is a great opener for an album. It's such a great little number that I started thinking in big words and a raving review. It's definitely just as good as the best of Asia. However, they were always about hits and misses anyhow". Then again. You also have the following to consider and to quote myself again, "For instance, take the stripped down, "Nothing's Forever", as a warning example of how NOT to write a song in 2008. It's a mish-mash of Chris De Burgh melodies and dodgy, pomp, rock music of the past".  I'm not saying it's a bad idea or record. It's just one of those releases that screams 'must be serious collector and fan boy/girl to fully enjoy and appreciate'. I'm more than happy and pleased with my original European release of the album as most people would be. Final verdict: It's a nice digipack re-release...

The RAPTOR TRAIL: "New World"

Rating: RRR
Label: Cherry Red/CDbaby 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Raptor Trail feature one dude that tunes his guitar in D and another that plays an instrument called Guijo (half Strat/half banjo) tuned in open G. Add to this that the guitarist Mayes and drummer: Bass? (oh the irony) played together for twelve years in pioneer Jam rock band Jupiter Coyote which went on to sell more than half a million records and you're up to date?

I haven't been listening to any jupiter or previous raptor release though. However, although the band have managed to make a record which exists at some level and dimension, they've kept themselves rather constrained and underground? Or perhaps it's just yours truly and his crappy attitude and lack of knowledge? Well. You simply can't keep track of all the groups out there. It's impossible. If I believe to have a decent know-how? That's clearly not up to me to decide.

Many of these tracks seem to blend together, which in itself is no issue as I'm keen to hear their not so ordinary version of "Prog-Rock". I don't hear all that much of the bluegrass, country, and southern rock which came out on their debut. Their sophomore album, "New World", includes thought provoking lyrical content and complex structure that surely must have been inspired by the likes of Rush, REM and Primus? It's different, slightly wacky and some of these works are extended, but together it sometimes comes across as bland at moments, and slipping into the interesting-but-almost-too-wacky zone.


theraptortrail.com

Monday, May 30, 2016

HEADLINE MANIAC - S/T


RATING: RRRR
LABEL: Rod Hot Records
REVIEW BY: Alan Holloway

Well this one came out of left field, featuring three members of seminal pub rock band Eddie & The Hot Rods, forever remembered for their hit single ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’. The whole thing came about when the band’s original members reformed for the 40th anniversary, and current bassist Dipster Dean, along with guitarist Chris Taylor and drummer Simon Bowley, formed Headline maniac to be the support band, using songs he had written that weren’t quite right for the Hot Rods. Thankfully, they realized they were on to a good thing and decided to make the band an ongoing side project.

From the outset, Headline Maniac make it quite clear that this going to be an album best described as ‘simple and melodic’. Very much the classic power trio, it’s an effective mesh of guitar, bass and drums that is raw yet exceptionally tuneful, more Therapy than Rush but to be honest that was what I was expecting. Although the tracks are raw and powerful, there’s always a strong melody and a chorus the sing along to, often comparable to the likes of Green Day and accurately described by Vive Le Rock as a ‘tuneful racket’. It’s undeniably an album that owes a lot to melodic punk rock, but there’s also hints of Thin Lizzy and The Who in the strong basslines and melody. Dipster Dean does a fine job on vocals, which suit the musical style down to the ground, and the production allows the three members to shine.

With most songs providing a short burst of well structured upbeat melodic fun, it’s nigh on impossible to dislike Headline Maniac. They’re not reinventing the wheel or providing soaring AOR masterpieces, but as far as no frills unpretentious Brit rock goes they can hold their heads up against anyone you care to mention.

Official Facebook Page

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The JELLY JAM: "Profit"

Rating: RRRRr
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Vocals/guitar - Ty Taylor (King's X). Bass guitar - John Myung (Dream Theater). Drums - Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs, Winger). End of review? There's no denying the sheer quality and craftsmanship of above mentioned musicians. Top notch, dude. Top notch. Are they still into the whole Prog-Rock goes monolithic grooves and dark agenda? Yeah. Only darker and more experimental than in the past.

Like. All of a sudden it became very trendy to spout out religious beliefs, but not following it and not believing it. Thus why the Prophet became about Profit? and saving the world and its population may not be that easy in the end. All that considering, The Jelly Jam have got it all back together and are about to do it all the way with no restrictions. Ty (the skinny white dude from King's X) - still trying to sound like John Lennon on dope and the vocal tracking is groovy-hippie as usual. Several tracks are obviously close to Ty's King's X compositions in both style and arrangements. Not that strange all considering. And just for the record, I love most of their releases.

'We can change if we stop'? The message is ringing out loud and clear. It's all about wanting to change and do better? To most people it's all talk and no action and it's so darn easy to set up the 'angry and upset people' facebook page and then declare: job's done. Yeah, right. Dream on sucker. Tight as hell musicianship and arrangements that goes through several different stages of rock music. For instance. The Neil Young-ish work of "Fallen" is goosebumps and high-fives all around. Superb and definitely sentimental stuff. As always when it comes to Ty, it's not just about Prog-Rock or one certain style of rock. It's however all about quality songwriting and having the listener in constant awe.
facebook

The RIDERS: "Pierced Arrow"

Rating: RR
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Mustang Sally. Have you heard it all before? She would most definitely smile, nod and agree. This is all very second rate 'Mustang Sally' to my ears. Bog average Blues rock performed by top notch musicians? Not even a true legend like Stephen 'Friggin' Stills, can save this record from sounding like not so fun and dusty roadhouse music in a since long deserted place.

Tracks such as "Kick Out Of It", "Riva Diva", "I Need Your Lovin", are your worst blues nightmare come true. Excellent guitar work, but oh-so boring arrangements and songwriting. Actually. I absolutely love the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sounding tracks such as "Virtual World", where the singer/songwriter style goes straight to the heart.

It's just the uptempo Blues tracks that are duller than dull. You've heard it all before and you can find it each and ever night at your local pub. Sure. They don't have excellent musicians such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd or Barry Goldberg. But, Mister Sister and Brother Mother are still belting out the same kind of snooze-blues. I'm sure it's enjoyable to watch live on stage while drinking those twenty beers or more. Yours truly? I would rather just listen over and over again to the pure magic of "By My Side" and especially "Virtual World". Final verdict: Great ballads (Stills is still a master at those) - not so great uptempo rockers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DARRYL WAY: "Myths Legends and Tales"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Cherry Red/Right Honourable 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Myth, Legends and Tales is definitely old school Symphonic Prog-Rock. You know, the sort of music the pre-date mankind and merely the big dino's roam the earth in search of prey. Are you Darryl's next victim? Have you decided that any progressive record post 1980 is basically rubbish and can't get enough of the thought of ending up as dino food? Then this is your lucky day, punk.

Darryl Way is of course the co-founder of Curved Air and his latest offering to the ancient Gods, speak of wonderful tales of the mystical world of Greek mythology. Expect to find a lot of clever arrangements and the mixture of vocal tracks and instrumental pieces where the man and his violin take centre stage. To quote the man, "As a rock violinist I have always been searching for that elusive sound, turn of phrase and means of expression that would give the electric violin a legitimate voice in the idiom of rock music. With this album, I feel that I have come closer than ever before to achieving this goal", end quote.

I actually surprise myself as I enjoy listening to the instrumentals of "Orpheus and the Underworld" or "Aphrodite". The latter Way describe with the following words, "Just imagine it's a hot summers evening and you're on a beach of some beautiful Greek island and the Goddess of love has just stepped out of the water". I'm there. Totally. Merely three out of ten tracks are instrumentals though. The rest are all filed under mature, laid back, Prog-Rock, which will appeal to Curved Air fans as well as the ones into the likes of Mike Oldfield, Moody Blues, and Asia/Yes (their most laid back period and stuff). The jazzy work of "Helter Skelter", and no, it's not the Beatles' track, something different from the rest.

Final verdict: It's a one man project as Darryl Way handle everything from electric violin, keyboards, vocals, to the programming. Way is definitely wearing suit and armour as he fly the flag for old school Prog-Rock. Waving it in the (Curved) Air like he just don't care..
www.darrylway.com

ELAINE SAMUELS & KINDRED SPIRIT: "Phoenix Rising"

Rating: Re-issue
Label: Cherry Red Records/KS 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Quick question. Have you been searching for something you can't quite define? Are you travelling on a quest through space and time to solve the riddle written by mankind? Perhaps you are searching for an island in this vast and empty sea? Then congratulations my friend you have found a kindred spirit in Elaine Samuels. Indeed. It's Glastonbury and Guildford. Folk rock and Progressive ditto. Mystical, medieval, songs and stories about children of the stars and come together, live and love, and let the music set you free. It's like the genius once wrote and sang for that matter, what's so funny about peace, love and understanding???

You could say that the British Prog-Folk band are the children of the children of the revolution. It's very much the ideas and stories of the hippie generation. Only the next step or perhaps not? Elaine is however the leader of the pack and her haunting yet smooth vocals are setting the agenda of singer/songwriter meet folk and prog. It's music and arrangements sort of in the tradition of Renaissance, Curved Air, Fairport Convention, Joni Mitchell, and Jethro Tull. Or if you prefer, the more down-to-earth and nitty-gritty version of Blackmore's Night? Not quite, but, again, sorta.

Flute, violin, sax, the whole she-bang and former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks? Blimey. It's quite the eclectic mix and they've decided to cover one of my favorite chill out songs. Namely 'Horse With No Name' originally done by America the band and not the continent. Varied and perceptive song-writing by Samuels define the record and even though it starts to slow down a bit too much and loses some steam towards the end, it's still a pleasant surprise. Don't expect to find a lot of uptempo tracks and make sure to peel back the clouds, let in the sun...
kindredspiritband.co.uk

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

ALAN PARSONS SYMPHONIC PROJECT: "Live In Colombia"

Rating: Live
Label: earMUSIC 2016
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Far out, dude! The Alan Parsons Project? Are they still out there? They may not have been recording anything new for ages, but are (every now and then) definitely still doing their rounds on and at various stages across the globe. Take this brand new double live release for instance. Recorded live down at Parque Pies Descalzos in Medellín, Colombia? with an symphonic orchestra (Medellin Philharmonic) under the baton of Alejandro Posada.

Alan Parsons, the mastermind and solo survivor since the heydays, started out as assistant engineer to George Martin at Abbey Road studios and was heavily involved towards the end of the Beatles' success story. Not to mention a certain 'Dark Side of The Moon' and Pink Floyd, prior to setting up his very own project in 1975. The debut, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1975), was based upon Poe's horror stories and merely "The Raven" has managed to spread his wings and fly across the sky to touch base in Colombia.

It's quite the experience to hear tracks such as "Breakdown" (from the 1977 classic, I Robot) or The Raven for that matter with the full 70-piece orchestra and massive choir. The five complex and intriguing parts of "The Turn of a Friendly Card", including 'Snake Eyes, The Ace Of Swords, Nothing Left To Lose', are also exceptional as the band sounds great and the same goes for lead singer PJ Olsson, even though he's no zombie (I believe the Zombies' vocalist sang it first? do the google. I might not be right or screw things up?). "Don't Answer Me", this comes across like a 50/50 mix of ABBA and ELO and I'm still not sure if that's a good or bad thing?

While lyrically there's no real contest to the Raven, it opens up with the future world of "I Robot" and ends in a more up-to-date sound of "Games People Play". The youngest track on display (La Sagrada Familia -1987) benefit from the orchestra, while the rest are all from the classic era of 1976 to 1983. It's something different from the usual live effort. However, the audience is way too laid back and there's no real substitute for the originals. Final verdict: Nice. The DVD is probably more value for money though.
www.alanparsons.com