Tuesday, February 18, 2020

HEAVY PETTIN: the reissues "Lettin' Loose", "Rock Ain't Dead", "The Big Bang"

Rating: -
Label: Cherry Red Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Heavy Pettin released these three albums originally back in the eighties, 1983, 1985 and 1989 respectively. The band took their first steps when the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) movement was shaking the foundations of rock music. From the other side of the Atlantic, bands like Mötley Crüe and Quiet Riot were rising up the charts. Being soundwise somewhere in between, they soon found themselves signed to a major label (Polydor) and in the studio with Brian May and Mack, recording their first album.

"Lettin' Loose" is an energetic hard rock album that reminds me of strongly of early Def Leppard with touches of Saxon, mixed with some glam metal influences. My favourite track is "In And Out Of Love", which was the biggest hit of the album I believe. "Devil In Her Eyes" is another highlight, as is "Shadows Of The Night", one of the two bonus tracks. The production by May and long-time Queen producer Mack isn't quite as polished as one could assume considering their resume.

"Rock Ain't Dead" was a more polished effort indeed. The million-selling acts like Crüe, Dokken and Ratt had an influence to the bands' sound, as did producers John Jansen and Mark Dearnley. And Def Leppard's mega-successful Pyromania.

The title track is an anthem, a hit single that never was, and one of my favourites from the band. A glossy MTV video was made for it and "Sole Survivor", but neither of them became the hits Polydor hoped for.

Most of the other songs are rather good too, except for the ballad "Dreamtime" which might put you to sleep (pun intended).

In 1987 the band were working on their third album, but took a break from the recordings to provide UK a "Song For Europe". "Romeo" was their attempt at winning the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, they ended up sixth in the UK competition and managed to alienate a lot of their fans with the keyboard-driven semi-ballad "Romeo". Eventually they broke up in 1988, and their last album "The Big Bang" was released posthumously the next year.

The band's final eighties' album sees the band abandoning their Heavy Metal roots and embracing the sound of REO Speedwagon, Journey and their UK competitors FM and Shy. Only they didn't have the songs to match. Don't get me wrong, there are a few perfectly enjoyable AOR tracks on "The Big Bang" like "Born To Burn" and "Looking For Love", but then again, most of the album is very bland. "Don't Call It Love" is probably the most "Heavy Pettin"-like song, but it sounds like a leftover from the previous albums. "The Big Bang"? Hardly.

The band has reformed lately, and they've released some new material recently. I haven't heard it but I guess it's safe to assume the it sounds more like the first two albums.

https://www.facebook.com/heavypettinofficial/

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DECARLO: "Lightning Strikes Twice"

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tommy DeCarlo has been the singer of Boston since 2007, and featuring son Tommy DeCarlo, Jr. on guitars, their debut album effort is deeply rooted in family friendly music and keeping it safe for all the little kiddies. Do not expect any swearing and there's certainly no need for any parental advisory sticker with explicit content. OK. That's enough of banter. It's however the truth though as this is a very old fashioned AOR platter where the message is and I quote, "Do we have to hurt each other? To all my sister and brothers - We need to Give Love A Try". Good on ya'. There's enough of hate, haters, and Trumps in this world.

It actually soft-rock music steeped in the laidback, feel-good, tradition of REO Speedwagon, Dakota, Petra (Greg X Volz era), 38 Special, and a little bit of Boston (of course?). Opening the album with the Country influnced "A Better Day" is something to get used to before the band strip the sound down to the bare bones of AOR on "You Are The Fire" which devolps into the honest approach and statement from the DeCarlo family. The band originated in Charlotte, North Carolina and sees the two Tommy DeCarlo's collaborate with drummer Dan Hitz and bassist Brett Nelson. The band has toured in many US states and has recently played at the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, Italy at the kick off acoustic night.

There's a distinct old fashioned edge to the melodies and the album may lack some of the bite and hooks of the mid/late 80's/early 90's era. This is rather the late 70's/very early 80's sound and it may not always please the critics of this particular site. It's however still pretty catchy and something like, "Give Love A Try" that features a wicked drum pattern by Hitz, should please any fan of early 80's melodic rock with a touch of Asia (the band). The instrumental "Into The Storm" works as a nice intro to the uplifting title track which basically reeks of Dakota and 38 Special. The piano ballad of "Still In Love" goes through several sections of soft-rock and it's very much the 10cc concept of keeping it real and in harmony with nature and voices.

A title such as "Rock N Soul" should put ya' in the mood, get ya' feelin' right. There's even a saxophone on this track and again, think late 70's rock. "There She Goes" isn't a cover of The LA's excellent anthem from the late 80's. But a rather catchy original that goes straight to the heart. "Stand Up", a typical early Petrafied track that goes sadly nowhere. "The One", the piano ballad in the style and tradition of REO Speedwagon. Final verdict: It's a a rather innocent, feel-good platter in the style and era of approx 1979 to 1982. Great vocals and musicianship and it's one of those albums that got better with each spin (up to a certain point of course). facebook.com/DECARLOROCKS

DIRTY SHIRLEY: "Dirty Shirley"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Dodgy moniker, check. Dodgy album artwork inspired by American Gothic, check. Dodgy music... no, check this out!!! I don't know who this Dirty Shirley is but she's obviously a rocker. It's actually yet another project put together by six-string bender George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, etc) and described as blues infused hard rock featuring the cold wicked touch of Mr Scary. The warm touch and excellent pipes by Croatian singer Dino Jelusick (Animal Drive) is however the real starting point of the album. He's clearly the best Dio vs. Coverdale vs. Gillan voice since... well... Jorn of course (see review elsewhere).

The overall sound is based around the 70's blues hard rock records. However. There's also r&b, ballads, a couple of heavy tunes, and some grungy vibes. Something like, "Last Man Standing", could just as easily have been leftover from the Coverdale/Page project. According to Lynch, "80% of the guitar work on this record is rhythms, so I wanted to create a three-dimensional sonic tapestry that complimented the more basic riffs and chords. I tried to add a little twist to everything". His style and wicked tone is something out of the ordinary as always and you really can't complain on the guitar work. "Siren Song" is probably the best song on the record and it simply reeks of Coverdale/Purple. "The Voice Of A Soul" goes through all the different stages of Coverdale and Hughes.

I'm sure Dirty Shirely will cause quite a stir in the groovy hard rock circles over the next months or years, depending on if this is the one-off project?Unfortunately, not all the glitter is gold. A couple of fake nuggets inbetween the goodies and this is where the typical Lynch sound kicks in with the mid/late 90s styled rock. Remove them and you'll end up with a winning combination and concept though. facebook.com/DirtyShirleyRock

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: "Cult Classic"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"All our times have come. Here, but not there, gone. Seasons Don't Fear The Reaper. Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain". Indeed. There's one helluva lotta' la,la,la,la,la's next and it's all very cozy and the timeless classic rock moment. They obviously wrote the tune while smoking a fatty and listening to America (the band, not the continent) and their massive hits of 'A Horse With No Name' and 'Ventura Highway'. Yes? No? Whatever. Simpy add more electric guitars and it's Blue Öyster Cult. Keep it under your hats though. It's explosive stuff. The great album Agents Of Fortune from 1976 doesn't exactly pre-date the America debut. On the downside, the cowbell is buried low in the mix on this re-recorded, remastered version and we always need more cowbells on this track... :-)

"All praise to Balthazar. He's found the awful truth. He's found the saucer news". You have songs about extraterrestrial intelligence. Bombers in the sky, the summer of love (not!), burning, O.D.'d on life, the secret of telepaths, megasize monsters from Japan, skywatching, cities on fire, the eyeman of TV, and even the odd boogie. What's not to like? It's all very much the seventies sound though and Cult Classic may not surprise any fan of the genre.

To be perfectly honest. The album was originally released in 1994 and containing remakes of many of the band's songs. The same recording was re-issued by other labels under the titles Champions of Rock and E.T.I. Revisited in 1998 and 2004, every time with different artwork. Now it's Frontiers turn and some of these tracks are just too bland for my personal taste. It may have been the s**t for U.S. people in the 70's, but remember, they also thought of Ted Nugent as the Rock n Roll God? Christ on a bike. They both have one thing in common though. One superb classic rock tune. Nah. I definitely prefer BOC and they have Burning For You!!! The nice beginners' compilation album.

MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND: "High Times Live In Italy"

Rating: Live
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hands up if you ever gave up hope of the Michael Thompson Band double live CD and DVD release ever seeing the light of day, or dark of night for that matter. Ehem. Okay. Keep waving those hands in the air if you've never heard about Michael Thompson? Yeah. That's what I thought. Under the radar but never forgotten at RockUnited.com since we're extremely nerdy at digging up all the rockers of the past. Simply check our massive archive for all the Michael Thompson information. U.S. LA session guitarist gone haywire and here's the rather ambitious live project recorded in Italy with the following musicians: Larry King (vocals), M.T. (guitars), Larry Antonino (bass) and the keyboard Guy named Allison are both Unruly Child(ren), etc.

This is a showcase of experienced musicians with plenty of know-how and not quite as much pace or energy on stage. They hardly move or do basically anything beside standing still on the spot and singing/playing their hearts out. It's like watching your gramps' on dope and that's at least some kind of entertainment, I guess? Kidding aside. Do not expect any dance moves or movement whatsoever. The concert given to an less than enthusiastic audience in Italy and Frontiers inhouse place (the Live Music Club in Milan) was indeed recorded both on CD and DVD. They have the same running order and there's no real bonus material or hidden stuff. I couldn't find any? Perhaps it's still bloody hidden?

'Good evening' (no real response) 'You guys suck' - maybe not the best way to start up the audience but Larry's trying and he's obviously kidding. The response gets better and there's even praise from the crowd. The sound is of decent high quality and there's a nice mix of distance shots and close-ups of all the geezers plus some extra shots at the awakening audience. They're warming up to the music and what's not to enjoy about the likes of "Can't Miss", "Secret Information" and "Save Yourself". Everybody's talking about "Give Love a Change", but I'm not a big fan of that particular tune. The guitar work and solo is however top class. Merely 9 tracks and the last one is a friggin' cover? Why? We want Michael Thompson material, not another snooze version of More Than A Zzzzz... Feeling (Boston). Final verdict: Great musicians. But still perhaps not the best of live outings by the Frontiers. facebook.com/MichaelThompsonBand

JORN: "Heavy Rock Radio II Executing the Classics"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Jorn Again? Hallelujah. Sisters and brothers. It's the return of the Heavy Rock Radio and covers' on repeat. Oh the horror, the horror. Hang on... there's a mansize crow or magpie on the cover and Jorn's stuck in the electric chair? Things are getting better by the minute. Every song Jørn covers is treated with the utmost respect thoughand "Jørn-ized" accordingly, just like the first album where fans showed a lot of enthusiasm and interest for those versions, so a follow-up covers album seemed like a no-brainer. They did? Show enthusiasm? Executing The Classics? Does the world really need another dodgy version of 'Quinn The Eskimo' (The Mighty Quinn) as in originally performed by Bobby 'Ewing' Dylan. Needles And Pins? Definitely. It's all needles and pins.

'New York Minute' as in Don Henley (Eagles) is however a g-r-e-a-t choice and a very underrated song in my opinion. One of those late 80's tunes that deserve a lot more attention and praise in this time and era. Jorn's version is slightly heavier and darn excellent I may add. It's just such a great song from the start. 'Winning' (Russ Ballard) is another interesting choice and you simply can't go wrong with the starightforward rock of Bryan Adams and 'Lonely Nights'. They've actually added bagpipes to the 1976 tune of Winning, but it's not as weird as it may sound? It's very John Farnham somehow even if there's no real bagpipes on his super hit, You're The Voice.

Final verdict: One of his better covers records and I'm still digging the version of Naked City (KISS) from Heavy Rock Radio I, one of the bonus tracks on this release.

REVOLUTION SAINTS: "Rise"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Rise", the third studio album by the Revolution Saints. Production overseen by in-house Frontiers man, Alessandro Del Vecchio, the recording process took place in Milan and in Doug and Jack's own studios in California and Seattle. Songwriting was also mostly handled by Del Vecchio, with contributions from Aldrich and Blades. The classy ballad "Eyes Of A Child" was penned by Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw and it's clearly done by the Damn Yankees. It could just as easily have been Cat Stevens or Harry Chapin though. Think Cats In The Cradle rather than Cat Scratch Fever.

Revolution Saints? Featuring the convicted felony and overall wife/woman beater Deen Castronovo (The Dead Daisies, ex-Journey, Bad English) on lead vocals and drums, they should rename themselves as Sinners. Not the best of start? Well. Stop being a Goddamn hypocrite or worse and kindly recall how you reacted when you first heard about the BLACK rapper, the beating of Rhianna or any other woman for that matter. Castronovo is the White, Pink N Fluffy, AOR rocker. Surely he can't be as bad as the Gangsta? Look. He's been convicted on several cases of domestic violence. Case closed. Or maybe they had it coming? I believe they throw him out of Journey because of this? Jack Blades (Night Ranger) and Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Burning Rain) have no problem working with the proper skin-basher though.

The overall songwriting end up in the 'not too shabby' category where it's difficult to be neither upset or pleased. The idea behind "Rise" was clearly that the band would record something the goes down easily in a fight pretty much like the female victims of Deen. It's funny how these sort of people never end up in fights with any males?? Yeah, right. It's sort of like watered down Journey, kind of like RTZ and dut-dut AOR and it's up to you to decide if you fancy another platter with the same basic pattern and AOR ideas. "Million Miles" and "Win Or Lose", the real highlights of the album and the songs that any Journey-esque songwriter should be darn proud of.

VICTORIUS: "Space Ninjas From Hell"

Rating: Rr
Label: Napalm Records 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Oh my... oh my, oh my. Space Ninjas From Hell??? Ouch. Serious headache and the flashback attack from the Amiga days and playing various crap games on a crap computer. Evil ninjas from outer space are on their way to take the world by storm and Victorius made the soundtrack for this glorious happening? Be prepared for 13 silly anthems about ninjas and samurai warriors, mixed with knowledge from silly kung fu movies? It would be fun if not for the German/Teutonic over the top Power Metal musicians and their really dodgy attempt at composing from mainly the weird and strange influences of Japanese culture and language.

I'm actually both stunned and confused by the lederhosen boys and song titles such as Super Sonic Samurai, Evil Wizard Wushu Master, Nippon Knights, Shuriken Showdown, Wasabi Warmachine, Shinobi Strike 3000. etc. Are you supposed to laugh or cry? Then again, it's hardly surprising considering the history of Germany. Don't mention the war!! See my point??? It's no fun to be merely reduced to stereotypes. Victorius have got some nice ideas musically and the actual musicians are all fine, but there's definitely work ahead in the lyrical concept departement. But hey... If you fancy The German mock version of traditional Japan, don't let me stop you. Like the leader of the lederhosen boyos said, sharpen your laser katana and brace yourselves for the great cosmic ninja war! Sigh...

LOVEKILLERS: "Lovekillers"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2019
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tony 'The Tiger' Harnell is like a speed racer down the track(s) as he take each turn and corner with precise measurements and style. The Lovekillers are loud, fast, noisy, and the turbo kicks in at nearly all the right moments. Not quite the posh muscle car and TNT (pun intended) that gave us the all time classic of Tell No Tales. It might just be a tad too glossy and polished with a wift of schlock and several ballads.

Written by Tony 'The Tiger' Harnell (because he's grrrreat!) mostly with Alessandro Del Vecchio and together with other soft/melodic writers such as Nigel 'Blanket' Bailey, Pete 'The Pistol' Alpenborg, Marco 'Polo' Sivo, Jonas 'Fika' Hornqvist and produced by Frontiers inhouse guru Del Vecchio.

"There will be better days. Somewhere beyond the darkness. Sunshine after the rain and I'm Alive Again". Smashing opening track (Alive again) and the following "Hurricane" is a stormy affair in the Journey terrority and Tony's powerhouse vocals will definitely blow you away. The great semi-ballad "Ball and Chain" speak of yet another storm where there's no shelter from the rain? If that's not strange, how do you read the following message and lyrics and I quote, "If we stand together now we can be free of the ball and chain", end quote. Strange, considering that 'ball and chain' could also be your loved one as in a married couple. "Who Can We Run To" is slighly too sappy and a very soft ballad that I always tend to skip. It's one of few bland moments though and there's a rather high consistent level of quality throughout the album. Final verdict: Have a go at the Lovekillers if you're into Westworld meets Journey meets TNT. It's a tad predictable, but oh so enjoyable. facebook.com/tonyharnellofficial

A NEW TOMORROW: "Universe"

Rating: RRr
Label: Frontiers 2020
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

And now... something completely different??? Well. At least when we're talking about Frontiers and the slab of melodic records they are normally releasing. It's hardly different from the average white people on dope record as of lately. It's actually smack right down the middle of the road and in the style of Alter Bridge, Green Day and pretty much any other mainstream poser act. The latter is Punk, you say? Clearly you have never really been listening to Punk Rock? They are more like Power-Pop with Punk influences.

Formed in London by vocalist/guitarist Alessio Garavello (ex-Power Quest, Arthemis) and bassist Andrea Lonardi, the two were later joined by Tim Hall on drums and Michael Kew on guitars. The vocalist (Mister Garavello) is of the more modern kind, but there's nothing wrong with the singing or the pipes. It's all commercial online collage radio 'ala 2015 and the kind of stuff that goes a long way without actually moving or saying much. Don't get me wrong. It's hardly the worst record of the century, it's just so, been there, done that. And yes, the same goes for many of classic rock sounding albums. However. This is the stuff that all the new acts are playing at the moment or in the past ten years for that matter.

Drummer Tim Hall comments: "Several years of amazing times, full of both ups and downs, not just as a band but as great friends, gave us the foundation to write something special for this record. 'Universe' became the only title to encompass all our experiences as individuals and as a band, with themes – from fear and doubt to taking back the pursuit of our hopes and dreams – that I think all of us can identify with. The time we took gaining experience as a band, before writing 'Universe', has really allowed us to find our own space within the music allowing our own individual influences to come across a lot more than in our previous releases", end quote. Previous releases? This is their debut?

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Gary MOORE: "Live From London"

Rating: -
Label: Mascot/Provogue
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Gary Moore's career can be roughly divided into two chapters: the Hard Rock and the Blues chapters. As the eighties ended, so did Gary's hard rock era, and he became a full-blown blues blues man. During the late nineties he did a couple of experimental albums, but returned mostly to the blues-style the rest of his recording career. This album was recorded 14 months before his untimely death, and sees him in full blues mode.

"Live From London" sounds like an authentic live recording. I don't think it's been much doctored afterwards. A over-polished sound wouldn't suit these songs anyway, this sort of a blues-rock needs to be a little gritty.

To be honest, I'm not much of a blues fan, so this release isn't really something I'll come back to. I can appreciate it for what it is - a tribute to the great talent of Gary Moore. He was a great, soulful guitarist and good singer. If you enjoy his blues albums, then this is a safe purchase. Considering that "Still Got The Blues" is his biggest-selling album, there's certainly an audience for this one too.

If you're more of a fan of his 80'ies material, then sadly you'll only find "Parisienne Walkways" here, which itself is a bluesy ballad anyway. Here's hoping that there's live material in the archives from his hard rock era, I think a quality live album from the "Wild Frontier" tour would be popular release.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

BLIND EGO : “Preaching To The Choir”

RATING: RRRR
LABEL: Gentle Art Of Music/Soulfood
REVIEW by Martien Koolen

 Blind Ego, the German melodic rock band, featuring RPWL’s guitar picker Kalle Wallner, are back with a new album. I really loved Blind Ego’s debut album,Liquid, and after a couple of spins I can indeed say that I like Preaching To The Choir even better.

This guitar-oriented album kicks off with a song called Massive and that is what it is, powerful, energetic and massive indeed; this great opener is followed by the title track, clocking over 6 minutes; this one is probably one of the best melodic hard rock songs I have heard in a long time. The first single of this album called Burning Alive is a kind of funky/poppy song with a real catchy chorus and vocal-wise I hear clear Threshold influences.

Next up is the “weakest” song, as Line In The Sand is kind of boring; however, follow up Dark Paradise is again a musical highlight. This track features an amazing guitar solo, lots of variety and again Threshold-like vocals by the excellent singer Scott Balaban. Favourite and definitely the best song is Heading For The Stars, in which Kalle plays his balls off in an extraordinary guitar solo!! Preaching To The Choir is a fantastic melodic hard rock album performed by a band (especially Kalle) at the height of their game. Looking forward to seeing/hearing Blind Ego in the flesh in Maastricht (The Netherlands) on 7 March !!

https://www.blind-ego.com