Thursday, February 26, 2015

CROSSNAIL: ”Sands Of Time”

Rating: - (single)

Label: Fireball Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Formely known as Teodor Tuff, this Norwegian band is back with a new name and a new single for starters. CROSSNAIL is the new moniker for the band, and even though it shouts ”extreme metal” to me, the sound of the band hasn’t drastically changed. They’re still playing melodic metal, as far as these two songs are anything to go by.

”Sands Of Time” is a good midtempo/semi-balladic track with the lovely Elize Ryd sharing vocals with Crossnail’s own Terje Harøy. I don’t know whether this song has enough crossover hit potential to become a radio hit, but it is certainly very good.

The second song is a cover of Gotye’s ”Somebody That I Used To Know”. Now that song has already proved its’ hit potential, and I have no doubt that Crossnail will get some airplay for their version too. The band has beefed up the song considerably, and totally changed the vibe of the song - the ”storyteller” of this version sounds almost manic and scary! Rather excellent. Terje Harøy’s are fantastic.

TONY MILLS: "Over My Dead Body"

Rating: RRRR

Label: Battlegod Productions

Review By: Alan Holloway

Tony Mills hasn’t had an easy time of late. The vocalist who blew my young mind in Shy all those years ago was constantly pilloried for having the audacity to join TNT, and is still recovering from a serious heart attack. Now a lone wolf once more, at least for this album, Mills has recorded what is by far his most personal piece of work, kicking his demons in the arse and rocking out while he does it.

‘Over My Dead Body’ is in turns melodic and mournful, reflecting the things the singer has gone through, at times seeing Mills laid bare as the cover might suggest. Don’t think that this is some self reflective doom fest, mind, as there’s some cracking heavy melodic rock tracks here, most notably the upbeat and catchy ‘Northern Star’, and the Shy-like ‘No Love Lost’, which has a go at certain people. He even pays tribute to the good old days with the infectious ‘4 In The Morning’ and ‘Somewhere In London’, both of which will please fans of Mills’ more melodic work. On the darker side we have ‘Gate 21’, scene of the heart attack, followed by a cover of Jaques Brel’s ‘My Death’ (more a cover of the slow Bowie version), the former having a weighty heft to it with the latter seeing Mills really delivering with vocal passion that really reminded me of Geoff tate.

Mills impresses on every level throughout what must have been a cathartic album, co-written with Robert Sall. It’s difficult to listen to without thinking a bit of Queensryche’s ‘Operation Mindcrime’, with the smart lyrics, additional atmospheric inserts and Mills high register, but it’s a different breed of album. ‘Over My Dead Body’ is a massive Fuck You to everyone who attacked Mills for doing a difficult job, proving that he is much more than anyone’s hired gun. Powerful, passionate and a must for fans of his work, this proves that Tony Mills has plenty more left to offer. 

DIRTY PASSION: ”Dirty Passion”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Denomination/Transsubstans Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Here’s my review summed up: Ass-kickin’ Hard Rock!

What? That’s not enough? Okay, I throw in a few more words about this…

Swedish rockers Dirty Passion have released 2 rather good album before this one. This self-titled third album of theirs is just as good as the previous two, even better in many ways. The production is better and vocalist Kriss sounds like he has really found his style.

Straight-forward, no-frills rock can be extremely boring if it’s just based around a riff or two. I’m glad to say that Dirty Passion are very good at putting together straight-forward, yet hook-driven and melodic songs. I’m pretty sure that these songs are unstoppable when performed live - they rock and they roll, and the hooks are the kind of sing-along material you can join after hearing the first chorus.

I can’t really name any standout songs, as they’re all high-quality rockers. Maybe they aren’t memorable enough to find a way to my ”Best Songs of 2015” list, but damn it, they’re fun to listen to. There’s definitely a time and a place for some kick-ass rock’n roll! Highly recommended for fans of Hardcore Superstar, Dirty Looks, Hanoi Rocks and guitar-driven rock in general.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Rating: Live
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"I've always written autobiographically. There's an arc of my life with all the songs in it. People often ask me if I'm sick of playing 'Jessie's Girl' or 'Don't Talk To Strangers' and I'm not, because they're my life" - Rick Springfield, up close and personal with the intimate live release in 2015. Recorded in 2014 and receiving rave reviews and sold out seats across the states, here's the chance for the rest of you to met the man. Indeed. It's 'Stripped Down', acoustic and electric guitar versions of his biggest hits and then some.

These kind of laid-back releases could go either way. The whole "MTV unplugged" thingy surely proved that too much of a good thing is never really that good? Let's face it. We were all sick and tired of the concept after a while. This on the other hand is quite the great surprise. And huge credit to Ricky for being the cool entertainer and not just another stuck up rocker. I've never had to pleasure of catching him live in concert. But he's definitely the proper storyteller on this DVD (and CD) as well as the provider of fun in between banter. Certainly not afraid to tell some jokes on his own expense for that matter. You'll smile along to the melodies and banter such as the desperate cry during "Don't Talk To Strangers" (sadly not included on the DVD merely CD) - 'I can't sing both parts - I need your help'. It's all good, it's all witty, it's all fun. Rick at the centre of the stage and attention, surrounded by the audience and merely with the help of a laptop (which include backup vocals, drums-machine, hand claps, and various other instruments).

The voice is pretty much intact and there's absolutely no need to feel worried about the live quality of the man. He's not just another nostalgia act since he's still out there making great new music (Songs for the End of the World). He recently finished filming Ricki and the Flash with co-star Meryl Streep (release in the summer of 2015). Currently working on Season 2 of HBO's critically acclaimed 'True Detective', and of course the notorious role of Dr. Drake on General Hospital. Yeah... but we don't really care about his TV and film stuff? - only the music.

The only downer would be that Rick insist on playing a couple of old blues covers when the audience is screaming for more of the slick Springfield rock. I don't get why the track list is different for dvd (13 tracks) and cd? (14 tracks). But hey, you can't always get what you want. What you do get is a sneak-peak on his upcoming album this autumn and the new and already cult and live favorite song "If Wishes Were Fishes". Great lyric and just the fun and catchy tune. The DVD includes the really short interviews and they could have added so much more. Nonetheless. You'll be watching/listening to this concert with a big grin all over your face. I dare anyone to not feel touched by the story of April 24th, 1981. Damn. I wish I had Jessie's Girl... were can I find a woman like that? Recommended and a must have if you're the fan



Label: Escape Music

Review By: Alan Holloway

Rob Moratti (Saga) is yet another or 'rock's legendary voices'. Seriously, there's a lot of em about and they aren't scared of letting you know about it. Another of them is Steve Perry, who recorded many songs with a little band called Journey, and is widely considered to be one of the absolute best melodic rock singers in history. Boy, it would be a brave man to take on his songs, right?

Enter Rob, who is the man brave enough to give is a Journey tribute album because, well, because like loads of other people he bloody loves Journey. So take twelve of the absolute best Journey tracks (all of which are on one Greatest Hits or another) and re-record them by putting your own spin on them, giving them new life and energy. Hang on, though, Rob hasn't done that at all, he's just re-recorded them with inferior music and inferior vocals.

Look, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with Rob's vocals, as he hits the notes when he has to (although there is definitely a hint of electronic help in places – maybe it's just the production, but it sounds weird). But, ultimately, what's the point of this album? It's a vanity project that will appeal to Rob Moretti fans only, and even then they know damned well they're better off with the originals. The richness and passion of the originals is filtered out, leaving a tribute act that would be good if you saw it in a pub. I am amazed Escape have got themselves involved with this, because it's the musical equivalent of a photocopy of the Mona Lisa. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

IAN PAICE'S SUNFLOWER SUPERJAM: "Live at The Royal Albert Hall 2012"

Rating: Live
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Number one million two thousand and eight in the long and endless series of Deep Purple related projects and albums. Low and behold, it's finally time for the geezer behind the kit to step up and hit a home run? The audience might just also run home for that matter? Nah. Not too shabby really and the all-star gathering with guest musicians such as Alice Cooper, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden, Samson), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Brian May (Queen), Mark King (Level 42) and hippie-trippy guitarist Uli John Roth (Scorpions).

Paice's musical angle and style is clearly influenced by 60's Pop/Rock, Jazz, Funk, and the odd Metal. The backbone of this Sunflower SuperJam is indeed the fusion of all genres. Recorded live in London in 2012 and originally intended as the private charity dinner and show, the people demanded access and the result is the interesting but hardly spectacular concert.

You get the semi dodgy Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, and Rainbow cover. Alice Cooper sings old hits such as "Elected" and "School's Out". The ultimate heart wrenching The Who ballad (Behind Blue Eyes) is performed by Bruce Dickinson and it's again, ehhh, the interesting concept but hardly essential stuff. Black Night fits him better though. The person that gets my personal vote as performer of the evening, Mark King of Level 42, excellent bass player and singer for that matter. He's right on the money and hit all the perfect notes with ease. He's remarkable upbeat and energetic and especially in the quick comparison with all the other dino rockers on stage.

The closing all-star jam of "Smoke On the Water" gets on my nerves to be honest. How original? They couldn't come up with anything more interesting? The world does not need another version of the song. Final verdict: only intended to please the die hardest of DP fans?

SAINTS TRADE: "Robbed In Paradise"

Rating: RRr
Label: 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Saints Trade - there are plenty of rockhead moments to be found on the album and I especially enjoy the Axxis and Roko inspired tempo of "Dreams Running Wild". Vocalist Santi Libra at his best on this track and the moodier tempo and sound fits him like a glove. Perhaps nothing too earth shattering or ground breaking (that's a lot of chaos?), but a sort of decent effort from a decent band with decent song material. U.K. audience might just remember them as the opening act for Ten at Fleetwoodstock Festival (Fleetwood football hooligans - ok!) and the album features guest musicians such as Roberto Priori (Danger Zone), Pier Mazzini (Perfect View) and guitarist Tommy 'Ooops!' Denander.

The first three tracks on "Robbed in Paradise" are really not that great and had me seriously worried about the quality of the band. However, they nicely manage to turn things around with tracks such as "Like a Woman", "California", "Dreams Running Wild" and "Rock N Roll Man". It's like if there's two completely different acts actually. They start out as dodgy soft rockers from Bologna and finish up sounding more like the Italian version of Teutonic acts such as Axxis and Mad Max. Add just the hint of Running Wild or rather the Melodic Hard Rock project that Rock N Rolf did the other year and you're two steps closer to the core of Saints Trade.

For all promise shown, they are sadly some truly dodgy moments and I can't help to wonder, what if they weren't stuck in between two different styles and genres? I would recommend them to explore the rough and heavier side and perhaps ditch the Denander sound?

Monday, February 23, 2015

JJ GREY & MOFRO: "Ol' Glory"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Mascot Records/Provogue
Review by Martien Koolen

Celebrated soulful JJ Grey & Mofro  released their new album called Ol' Glory as a debut album for Mascot Records/Provogue. This amazing CD contains twelve new songs all being  a blend of blues, rock, blues rock, folk, gospel and funk. The songmaterial on Ol' Glory reflects two themes namely: finding happiness with where you are in your life and a strong sense of place. All the tracks feel like a breeze of fresh air although the influences of JJ Grey''s  all time musical heroes, Otis Redding and Jerry Reed, are clearly present.

The opening track Everything Is A Song starts with a rather "commercial" feeling but JJ's  amazing passionate vocals turn this song into an instant classic Mofro track.  Follow up The Island is rather melancholic, but it is a song that I liked right from the start and it gets better and better every time I listen to it. The title track comes straight from the Stax best period while Every Minute features an amzazing horn passage and ends with a great slide guitar solo. Closing song The Hurricane is a mix of country and soul, but my absolute favourites are: Brave Lil' Fighter and A Night To Remember. JJ has done it again, he made an album straight from the heart, very emotional and moving. An almost perfect mix of soulful R' n B, blues, southern rock, gospel, funk and folk. Check this album out as it is probably one of the best and honest releases of this year. Play it loud and often and let JJ amaze and astonish you.

ALL THAT REMAINS: "The Order Of Things"

Rating: RR
Label: Razor & Tie Recordings
Review by: Martien Koolen

The Order Of Things is the seventh album of American hard rockers All That Remains.
The band hailing from Massachusetts was quite successful over the last years as it
reached another landmark with A War You Cannot Win (2012) that debuted at position
13 on the Billboard Top 200. That album also contained two hit singles Stand Up and
What If I Was Nothing. The new single This Probably Won't End Well will probably
will end up as a hit single as well, as singer Labonte delivers a soaring refrain
which sticks in your head almost forever (not that this is a good thing tough?). For
this new album All That Remains asked Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God) for the production,
however I do not really hear great differences with the previous albums which were
produced by Adam D (Killswitch Engage). What I really do not like are the grunting
2vocals" (in fact I actually hate grunting) in songs like No Knock, Tru-Kvit-Metal
and Criticism And Self-Realization. 

To me the best songs are: Divide with a rather catchy refrain, For You, true American based melodic power ballad stuff in the veins of Nickelback and Bite My Tongue, an up tempo song with fast guitar solos. But, overall you could label The Order Of Things as a typical non-original American hard
rock/metal album with lots of melody and even lots of fresh songs. Tracks that do NOT remain in your head; but are nice to listen to once, but no more than that I am afraid?

There are no musical surprises on the album, as most of the song structures are really predictable and I really believe that The Fall Of Ideals was their best effort so far! Maybe the band has become too "commercial", let the fans decide! To me this is rather a mediocre album which will last not very long in my CD-player.

FURYON: ”Lost Salvation”

Rating: RRR

Label: Dream Records 2015
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Furyon have taken their time with this second album. Their first one ”Gravitas” was originally released in 2010 and again in 2012 by Frontiers. Their music has been given away with several issues of Classic Rock Magazine, and several other magazines and webzines have sung their praises, so they’ve gotten their fair share of publicity.

I wasn’t blown away by ”Gravitas”, and I’m afraid ”Lost Salvation” doesn’t win me over either. It’s well produced (by Shinedown producer Rick Beato) and the band is highly impressive, I especially like Matt Mitchell’s vocals. He’s a very versatile singer, kind of like Chris Cornell, Bruce Dickinson and Jeff Keith (Tesla) all rolled into one! It comes down to the songs again,
and I’m just not that much into them. They are by no means bad, but this kind of low-rumbling post-grunge metal is just not my thing. The band is at their best when they speed it up a little, as in ”Lost Salvation” and ”Wiseman”. Some of the slower tracks do have some pretty cool melodies, but then again some of them are fairly forgettable.

Although this second effort didn’t make a fan out of me, I still think that Furyon could be on their way to a major breakthrough and I’m keeping an eye on them. Maybe on their third album they’ll have a couple of songs that no-one can resist…

Friday, February 20, 2015

ECLIPSE: "Armageddonize"

Rating: RRRR+
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Now I'm living for the first time. I will never walk away. Now I'm living, living like I'm dying everyday". Easier said than done to be honest and clearly not what your doctor ordered? Then again, why the hell not? Listening to "Armageddonize" and its power ballad where the above mentioned quote is taken from, the much needed break and breather from the massive overkill of sonic melodic hard rock on display. Nope. It's really NOT about softies and slow numbers since there's plenty of uplifting uptempo tracks and merely the one ballad (but what a great ballad!!).

The album kicks off in a decent mood and tempo. "I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry", feature great guitar work and the riff is coming at ya' fast as Jake E Lee with a terrible touch of the runs. Super catchy hook and punch line and it's all a very intense and fun experience. This being said, the chorus part of following track, "Stand On Your Feet", slightly disappointing considering the verse and fun uptempo formula. Again, excellent guitar work and tone. I especially enjoy the splendido furioso of tracks such as "Blood Enemies" (lovely 'Gary Moore' intro and solo), "Wide Open", "Love Bites", "Caught Up In The Rush", "All Died Young", since they all feature the extra special ingredients which a lot of melodic hard rock albums are lacking nowadays... namely attitude and the aggressive production. Edgy loud guitars and sing a long melodies - works like a charm every time.

So don't go thinking it's some kind of bland softies platter as nuthin' could be further from the truth. Eclipse and Mårtensson, Henriksson, Ulfstedt, Bäck, manage to remove all the sappy layers as the quality of the band's performance can only be described as excellent. Sure. Every now and then. The reused melody and rock n roll cliché. Still the final verdict has to be highly recommended. However, are you really supposed to 'Eat This' as written on the front sticker? Now that's definitely not what your doctor recommended. Yours truly recommend you to take a healthy dose of "Armageddonize" though (even if I prefer the title of guitarmageddon). As close as you ever get to 5R's without actually being 5R's :)

PIG IRON: "Sermons From the Church Of Blues Restitution"

Rating: RRr
Label: OffYerRocka/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The best moniker since Tigertailz?? Only kidding. Sure. I'd like to met the preacher that speaks of "Sermons From the Church Of Blues Restitution". And with a reputation of sounding like a darker version of The Quireboys and Black Crowes, I've been looking forward to listening to their latest sermon. However, you're not preaching to the choir here as I find things remarkable safe and below average at times. Don't get me wrong. The whiskey and cigarette vocals by Ogle and Edwards (still no match to Spike - the ultimate hoarse singer) are nice and the noisy and raw production goes hand in hand with their nifty arrangements. They have basically retained their muscular sound, although they have added some more basic roots such as MC5 and Iggy.

For all that's worth mentioning, this kind of uber gritty southern/Detroit tinged rock can be a tad one dimensional at times. It could just end up sounding a bit stale and lacking in stamina. I'm not talking hordes of filler material and dodgy musicians. Just not very "original" and a bit like your neighbours garage band. Good after twenty beers or so and don't you ever pay attention to what they're singing about since the lyric is shite anyhow. For instance and I quote: "Wildcat birdhead, why can't you look me in the eye. Well I'm telling you woman. We're gonna have to say goodbye", end quote. Or why not this from "The Spell" and I quote again, "Hey you got me under your spell. Baby you got me under your spell. Honey you got me under your spell.  I can't sleep alone what you doin to me. Can't call you on the phone what ya doin to me". Excellent. Now go back to flipping burgers.

The guitar work is savage as f**k and end up grinding the same following path for the majority of the album. It's all far too dodgy to me. Pick of the bunch would have to be the classy "Come To Me" (including fine backup vocals by Emma Wilson).

REVOLUTION SAINTS: "Revolution Saints"

Rating: RR
Label: Frontiers 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Make damn sure the check's in the mail" - Seriously. I don't get it? The brand new project and experienced musicians such as Jack Blades (Night Ranger), Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Burning Rain, Hurricane) and Deen Castronovo (Journey, Hardline), yet not a single songwriting credit amongst them? Thus why the opening sentence and call for $$$. Revolution Saints - probably the biggest sell-out since MTV decided to replace the M as in music with butt ugly reality shows? Lol! Harsh words. But if you've been here before, you know I tend to speak my mind with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek. Yeah right. Attention seeking tosser? Whatever. First and most the music fan though. So let's get down to business and discuss the actual music then?

The need to know. It's a Journey spin-off project put together by big chief Serafino and trusted side-kick: Alessandro Del Vecchio. The latter is responsible for penning down most of the tracks and it's basically the Del vecchio project feat. hired guns. They are massive Journey fans and the next best thing to being a member of the band is creating your own spin-off? It helps when Castronovo, Journey drummer and also lead vocalist on this platter sings in the tradition of Steve Perry only not quite as grande (there's merely one Perry and that's Katie???). Credit to Deen for stellar performance and vocals though. What's more, current Journey man and singer (Arnel Pineda) guest appears on, "You're Not Alone".

Voilá or should I type presto? The stage is set and the show must go on in the tradition of Journey. Some of the highlights: "Turn Back Time", the g-r-e-a-t track with lyrics by Blades. Ok. My bad. That's one and I repeat one co-writing credit by the three and it's lyric not music. "Way To The Sun" feat. Neil Schön, the great semi-ballad and more in the style of Cheap Trick or Damn Yankees than Journey actually. "Better World", reeks of late eighties AOR movie soundtrack and not your typical Journey arrangements. The Eclipse written "To Mend A Broken Heart", all good stuff. The majority of the rest of the tracks are just too bland to this particular reviewer. Blades merely play his bass and add some backing vocals while Aldrich is merely performing at 25% of his best. Drenched in wimpiness and any band fronted by Steve Augeri (former bloke upfront), I guess this could be the nice and cozy experience if you simply can't get enough of the you-know-what related sound.

Monday, February 16, 2015

MAHALIA BARNES & The Soul Mates: "Ooh Yea The Betty Davis Songbook"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"And she'll tease you. She'll unease you. All the better just to please you. She's precocious and she knows just what it takes to make a pro blush. She got Greta Garbo stand off sighs. She's got Bette Davis eyes". Oh hell no! We're definitely not talking about Bette Davis, the big eyed American actress of film, television and theater as in sung by Kim Carnes. Nope. Mahalia Barnes pays respects and tribute to Betty 'Fookin' Davis as in the wild, free, nasty, raw, funky, intense, powerful and sexy F-U-N-K & R&B vocalist. Known as the cult figure and Queen of freaky-Funk, the Lady recorded three albums between the years of 1973 to 75 (self-titled. They say I'm Different. Nasty gal - all recently re-released) before disappearing from the scene without a trace. In 2007 Betty Davis (she was married to jazz legend Miles Davis in the late 60's) gives her first interview in 30 years.

Fast forward to present date and Mahalia Barnes (the daughter of ozzie cult hero: Jimmy Barnes) records twelve songs by Davis with producer Kevin Shirley (Journey, Divinyls, etc) and with the constant assistance of guitarist Joe Bonamassa to lend his skills on this party record. And that's basically what this is all about. The big FUNK R&B party album as it celebrates one of the most progressive voices of funk and R&B.

They're keeping it real and raw by recording this album live in just about three days at "Dad's" Freight Train studios in Sydney, Australia. Mahalia, no doubt one of the most impressive and interesting voices from down under as she holds her own so to speak. It's vibrating, soul-breaking, earth-shaking, performances from the opening track of "If I'm In Luck I Might Get Picked Up" to the closer of "Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him". In between you have ten smoking numbers where "He Was a Big Freak", "Game Is My Middle Name", "Nasty Gal", and "You Won't See Me In The Morning" are hotter than hell. Davis fronted the open sexual attitude and some of her 70's live shows were boycotted and the songs were not played on the radio due to pressure by religious groups and the NAACP. They songs are not *that* filthy though. No need to worry about any four letter words really. Just a lot of innuendos and tongue-in-cheek stuff.

Bonamassa add a lot of attitude to the songs and it's basically the heavy funk album that Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) would love to release. Obviously the hint of Sly Stone and all that hairy funky stuff of the swinging seventies and a couple of tracks are not really relative in the year of 2015. However, overall, fantastic album and the same goes for The Soul Mates, featuring Clayton and Lachlan Doley on keys, Franco Raggatt on guitar, Dave Hibbard on drums and Ben Rodgers on bass. Groovy as FUNK.

UB40: "Labour Of Love" Deluxe Edition 3CD

Rating: Re-issue
Label: Universal 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

"Oh Cherry Oh Cherry Oh Baby". The album that caused all the rude boys and die-hard SKA and Reggae fans to run for the hills. UB40 took some of the finest old skool songs from the late 60's and early 70's and recorded their own mainstream versions. Not to mention doing the wicked reggae arrangement on "Red Red Wine" (#1 hit), as in recorded by Neil Diamond. Originally formed in 1978 in Birmingham 'The Muslim Capitol of Europe according to TV idiots in the US of A', England, "Labour Of Love", number one in the charts, their 4th album release from the year of 1983 and featured 4 Top-20 single hits in the U.K. including above mentioned number one single.

Sporting a rather sterile and clean production not dissimilar to Madness, Roxy Music, or Spandau Ballet of the eighties, it might just not sound raw and proper like all those ska albums of early seventies. And it's a completely different era altogether really so let's not discuss it any further than saying it's the posh version of Eric Donaldson, Bob Marley, Boy Friday, Jimmy Cliff, etc. The too-afraid-to-admit that I enjoy mainstream fan(s) may turn their noses up at this, while the rest of us can slowly groove along to the laid back beat.

The arrangements are light and lovely and Ali Campbell is quite the superb singer. Astro and Hassan on the other hand are keeping it rude by toasting some excellent versions including "Johnny Too Bad". "Version Girl" is the underrated tune and "Cherry Baby" is just perfect bliss. Disc: 2 - singles and b-sides. 7 versions of Red Red Wine and Many Rivers To Cross, not that exciting really. The Dub Mix of "Sufferin" and "Cherry Oh Baby" are on the other hand. The 12 version of "Frilla" is da killa. "I've Got Mine" gets the extended mix and it might just work as your reggae work-out (hey man, stop smoking).

Disc: 3 - the BBC Radio live sessions from April 14, 1983 (Red Red Wine, Don't Make Me Cry) and in concert on January 7th, 1984 (a total of 11 tracks). They start however up the show with "One In Ten" and merely six out of the elven tracks are taken off the 1983 album, so it's stricly not just the Labour Of Love. Credit to UB40 for being the Reggae cross between something old and something new and the excellent live act.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

MARK OLSON: "Good-bye Lizelle"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Glitterhouse/Border 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Mark Olson came to fame in the eighties as your dedicated co-founder of the Jayhawks and their alt-country like music. They've been kinda on/off for a while and I believe that Olson decided to leave once again to pick up his solo career where he left it in the dust of America. 'Good-bye Lizelle' is a splendid little effort with a strongly identifiable sound and core in Americana, singer/songwriter, folk, and the hint of different cultures and country.

The first couple of tracks [Lizelle Djan, Running Circles] display his love for George Harrison and especially the early solo albums by the former Beatle-member (RIP). Norwegian singer, co-writer, multi-instrumentalist, partner, Ingunn Ringvold (Clavinova, keyboards, bass, quanon, guitar, djembe) add the healthy dose of 'Kharma' and several tracks speak of mysticism as it's almost Hare Krishna light, minus the religion part. Definitely not as much cowboy-music and twang as expected considering the Jayhawks past and a lot more of the spiritual world. The hippie friendly sound.

"All these games are not your own. How am I to show you what you need to learn? You're gonna need someone who can comfort you. You're gonna need someone who can stay by your side. When all your dreams come down". You could say it's a beautiful slash painful experience where the songs are written by a couple of proper craftsmen/woman and performed from the heart. The lovely basic "Cherry Thieves" reminded me at first of the smoothing sound of 'Crying In the Rain' as in performed by the Everly Brothers and A-HA (not the Whitesnake tune), but grew into something different. Mark's vocals versus Ingun's fragile yet strong voice (almost Emmylou-like) is the winning concept. Based on a true story as Mark grow them in his hometown of Joshua Tree near the Mojave Desert and I quote, "One day I walk into the orchard and there was a ladder I did not recognize. Just when I was getting used to that a pick up pulled up and someone started to come out to get the ladder. I shouted woe partner and they took off. I chased them down the road in my pick up. It was like a bad movie. They had stolen all the cherries and forgotten their ladder", end quote.

The superb, "Which World Is Ours", reeks of 'the man in black' (RIP) and his bride. "Long Distance Runner" is just the perfect song and the dedication to Emil Zatopek. It's wonderful gentle vocals by Olson/Ringvold and soul stirring melodies that will make the listener stop whatever they're doing and simply pay attention to the music. Recommended.

DEEP PURPLE: "Long Beach 1971"

Rating: Live
Label: earMUSIC/Edel 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Blimey. You've got to hand it to the folks of earmusic, not only are they releasing Deep Purple records, but they are truly dedicated as well as determined to re-release all the obscure seventies live recordings of the band? "Long Beach 1971", up next in their official DP (overseas) live series and it's well over 70 minutes of music, but only four tracks? Bloody 'ell. Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord and Paice - doing their stuff on stage which included extended jam versions of 'Speed King', 'Strange Kind Of Woman', 'Child In Time' and 'Mandrake Root'. The album has a ballsy live feel, not too many smothering effects or overdubs, leaving the overall 70's sound, raw, and nice with the remastering touch of course. Recorded at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California, on July 30, 1971, it was broadcast on radio (KUSC 91.5 FM), a showcase for a support performance to Rod Stewart and The Faces.

I'm not entirely sure it's because of the magical use of that darn plant (Mandrake Root). However, the song goes through several different stages of the mellow-yellow and it's just too much in the long run. It takes approx: 30 minutes to do and it's actually a quite similar output and version to the old Scandinavian Nights boot and show (re-released as Live in Stockholm 1970 by earmusic).

Gillan, way upfront in the mix as they start to jam on opener "Speed King" as soon as possible really. Lord do the ebony and ivory dance and Blackmore add a note or two while Paice is slamming in the background. I can't say that I enjoy the endless shuffling, soloing, and improves. Not to mention that Gillan scream and shout like a drunken sailor most of the time. "Strange Kind Of Woman", a lot better and more cohesive. Blackmore's extended solo part make sense and it's fun to hear Gillan mimic the notes. "Child In Time", classic rock and 20 minutes of Purple at their very best and the colourful display of Jon Lord's handy work. That's pretty much it people. Four tracks in 70 minutes. Let's just say that I'm not a huge fan of this massive overdose of improvisation. But you're in for a treat if you enjoy jam on your toast.

HEYWIRE: "Heywire"

Rating: Rr
Label: Massacre 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Not to be confused with Haywire and why should/would you? A platinum selling act in their Canadian homeland during the eighties and with plenty of spark and hooks on their first two albums. These guys on the other hand are flogging a dead horse with their misplaced old school rock of the early/mid seventies. It's not as much the sound as their song material that lack excitement and not to mention quality.

The Danes are bringing out the trusty old keyboard/hammond sound of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple on their self-titled album. But sadly forget to include the element of 'classic' rock as the majority of their tracks are hardly worth the bother. There are times when things look slightly on the positive side, particularly on tracks such as "Lean On Me" and "Could Have Told Me", yet they manage to screw things up by adding another massive load of filler material towards the end of the disc. What you do get are four rather good musicians in desperate need of a helping hand from your trusty song smith as this could send you a sleep faster than you could possibly type the word of... Zzzzz!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SARASIN: ”s/t”

Rating: RR

Label: Sarasin 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Sarasin have been around for ”longer than they care to admit” and have ”played every shithole in North America” (quotes from their bio). Over the years they have created their very own brand of Heavy Metal, with a strong 70’ies/early 80’ies vibe. They cite the classic bands such as Zeppelin, Sabbath, Maiden and Priest as their influences, and one can hear that. Vocalist Mike Wilson does have a bit of an Ozzyish sound at times, but most of the time I hear traces of the grunge years in his voice and somewhat wailing vocal style.

As the members of the band are experienced musicians, it’s no surprise that they are a rather tight band. No complaints for the musicianship then, but I’m less impressed by the songs and as the band themselves confess, they were recorded on a ”shoestring budget”. The overall sound is a bit muddy, but with certain symbals piercing through it like knives. The album sounds like a small label release from 1981, but considering the band’s influences, it could be what they were aiming for.

The best song for me is ”Forevermore”, which has an energetic chorus. The weakest one is the closing track ”Wake Up”, a real plodder with ”The most annoying rhythm track ever”.

If you’re into the ancestors of metal or NWOBHM, you’ll probably like this more than I did. Despite its’ lo-fi production this album might be what you’re craving. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

THUNDER – ‘Wonder days’

Rating: RRRR

Label: EarMusic

Review by: Alan Holloway

Thunder are one of those bands that have been happy to suffer from ‘Status Quo Syndrome’, whereby you officially give up, do a few gigs, do a few support tours then say ‘sod it’ and release an album (or in Quo’s case, a few hundred). It’s been six years since we last heard from Thunder, with the impressive but not over exciting ‘Bang!’ album, and there’s sure to be plenty of people out there excited to find out if they’ve kept hold of that old Thunder magic.

From the start, as the title track rolls in with a ballsy guitar riff, it’s clear that this is a Thunder album. There’s powerful hard rock mixed with soulful blues throughout, with a solid handful of pop melodies poking their heads round the corner when needed. There’s a bit of shameless borrowing, most noticeable in ‘The Prophet’ which is Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ in a wig, and the ghost of Led Zeppelin also haunts a few tracks. What it does have in spades is the ‘oomph’ that traditionally runs through a good Thunder album, a sense of uplifting joy that cpmes from the combination of big ass guitars and arguably the best soul/blues/rock voice around. Yes, a Thunder review always has to mention Danny Bowes’ vocals, which are as good as they ever have been, thankfully.

The burning question is always how does it compare to other releases, with ‘Wonder Days’ being touted in some quarters as the band’s best since the debut all those years ago. To be honest, ‘Backstreet Symphony’ is still head and shoulders above anything else they’ve done (please get Andy Taylor back behind the desk, boys), with ‘Laughing On Judgement Day’ a perennial second. ‘Wonder Days’ sits comfortably amongst the other seven studio releases, in a position that will depend on what mood the listener is in. In fairness, Thunder have never, for me, released a bad album, and ‘Wonder Days’ will certainly please fans. It’s of those that improves the more you listen to it, with the title of ‘favourite track’ flitting around like a hyperactive sparrow, and fans will certainly be filled with wonder. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The LUCID DREAM: "The Lucid Dream"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Holy Are You/PrescriptionPR 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Whatever happened to Krautrock, psychedelic progressive space rock and eighties UK indie music? Look no further as the Carlisle U.K. act of The Lucid Dream has arrived to the scene with an impressive sophomore album that reeks of experimentation and art-noise. It's just so fookin' vivid and 'out there' that you either going to love or hate this with a passion. It's basically the melodic acid journey through time and space and plenty of trips back and forward as their spaceship make several stops to pick up all the best freaks in the universe.

You need to spin this over some time to truly appreciate all aspects of The Lucid Dream. It's an album that grows bigger and weirder with each listen up to a certain point of course. The production by Ross Holden is anything but sterile and Mark Emmerson's vocals are of very high standard and there's no need to worry about any Hawkwind-like grunts and roars.

Opening track "Mona Lisa" gets this space ship trucking with eight minutes of instrumental Armageddon 'ala Joy Division meet Neu! I'd say that bass-player Mike Denton likes to rip and trip in the style of droning and looping the bass pattern over the repetitive drum beat. Check out "Cold Killer" for some Can and Neu! rock meet the utter darkness of Joy Division. "Moonstruck" is a lovely horror/terror struck nightmare track as well as the fastest sell-out in Too Pure Singles Club's history, selling out a month in advance of release, coinciding with sold out UK dates. Closing track, "You and I", bits and pieces of some old tune by Marlene Dietrich or Édith Piaf? I don't know? it's one of those ancient gals of the way back time. Also the nod to the 60's and psych for that matter. Weird and fun stuff.

Sidestepping any current top-20 musical trends, their self-titled release rises like a f**ked up Phoenix on dope and deep-fried Mars bars only to slowly get back to earth with a lovely awful crash and sound. Try this if you're into hallucination and the melting pot of acts such as: Aphrodite's Child, CAN, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Joy Division, Neu!, Spacemen 3. etc. Wicked indeed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

DANGER: ”s/t”

Rating: RRRR

Label: Stale Records 2014
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Flashback time… Danger are a new, young band from Sweden, but their album takes me straight back to 1989. Not that it’s such a bad thing.

Actually, the band’s not even that young or new anymore, although this is their debut album. They were formed in 2008 and according to the old photos, they started out as five-piece group with an over-the-top image (think Wrathchild, early Crüe). Now there’s four of them left, and the image has been toned down a little.
The band’s songs range from California-styled, sunny pop metal to more dangerous-sounding sleaze rock. Not quite as polished as Reckless Love yet less sleazy than Hardcore Superstar, if a couple of Scandi-rock comparisons are allowed. Of course you can hear influences from the golden ages of Glam too - Ratt, Poison and even 70’ies bands like T. Rex and early Kiss.

The band knows how to come up with catchy riffs, even though some of them sound rather recycled. Most of the songs have good choruses too. The weakest part are the lead vocals, which sometimes sound really forced, as if the vocalist is trying to sound edgier than he is. Listen to ”On The Edge” for example. A good song, but could be better with a less rough vocal style.

My favorite songs include ”D.C.A. Hollywood”, ”On The Rocks”, ”Diamond Lightz” and ”The Hollow Core”. I’m not that fond of the 70’ies sounding ”Midnight Shocker” and the rather lame ”Rockstar”, but otherwise, I pretty much like all of them. That’s worthy of 4 R’s, I think.

Monday, February 2, 2015

GAMMA RAY: "The Best (of)"

Rating: Comp.
Label: earMusic 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Promoted with a slogan that reads '25 years of Heavy Metal - 25 essential songs', this impressive 2CD best of compilation is a cut through all the years of Gamma Ray according to your former Helloween guitarist/singer, Kai Hansen. And why not? I can't say that I miss too many 'best of' tracks other than your personal favourite or two. It's been nicely remastered and the booklet include all of the lyrics and liner notes by Hansen in which he talks about the true meaning and story behind each and every track. Actually, it's constructive and informative stuff about all of the songs on CD 1 and it gets slightly less interesting with each track on CD 2. The lack of stamina?

For instance, about "Heaven Can Wait" and I quote: "It's in a similar vein of what I did with Helloween. It has quite a pop approach and an uplifting spirit, a very positive view of life. Basically it says that there is no need to be depressed, just look to the sky and say 'come on, it's not the time to die now. Neither physically nor mentally. So cheer up and live on. Also, it reflects a feeling that I had when I left Helloween. I'm not going to die now. The world will go on, so will my own life", end quote. Compare this to what he wrote about "Master Of Confusion" and end up feeling slightly disappointed.

But seriously... do I need to add anything more to the title for you to figure out what this is all about? No. Of course not. We're all too familiar with the concept of best of compilation and the sound of Germany's Gamma Ray. If not, regarding the latter, it's uplifting, 'German Power Metal' at its best (along side Running Wild, Helloween, etc). The perfect start to the Gamma beginner.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD: Deluxe Vinyl Boxset"

Rating: Comp.
Label: Universal 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

It's a rather morbid concept when you really start to think about it. Universal are putting together a great box set of music that basically had an abrupt end to the band's most popular incarnation when it claimed the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zandt, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister Cassie (backup singer on tour) and their personal manager, Dean Kirkpatrick. What? That's insane. You surely can't blame the music as the rented plane crashed into a swamp in Gillsburg, Mississippi on October 20, 1977. No. Of course not. It's not some kind of curse of the music. But let's be frank. We're fascinated with these sort of stories and love to discuss the whole 'what if' factor if not for the tragedy.

The Florida band, at the very peak of their success as they had just released their fifth studio album, Street Survivor, a follow-up to the epochal double live album, One More For The Road. Both included of course as so are the first four albums, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973), Second Helping (1974), Nuthin' Fancy (1975) and Gimme Back My Bullets (1976).

Known for popularizing the southern hard-rock genre, the band was originally formed in high school as My Backyard and would later corrupt their sports teachers name Leonard Skinner to Lynyrd Skynyrd as he always complained about the length of their hair. It turned out to be a great moniker and it's synonymous with Dixie/Boogie rock as it best and worst for that matter. The latter due to LS being the number one household name and Gods to all of the deranged rednecks which proclaim that 'The South will rise again' and we all know what they mean with that (racist bastards).

It's not just about 'Free Bird' and 'Sweet Home Alabama' and thank God for that. Let's face it, those songs has been played to death and we're all sick of them anyhow. You can really dive in and swim through a bunch of songs that you never really payed attention to in the past. Far from everything has stood the test of time though and you'll have to take the good with the bad. Swamp Music? Don't Ask me No Questions. Gimmie Back My Bullets. I'm a Country Boy. Vinyl will rise again.

GOV'T MULE: "Sco Mule"

Rating: Live
Label: Provogue/Mascot 2015
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Jam, jam, jam, jam, jam! It's sticky and very much extended guitar live sessions going on at full volume in Georgia, US of A. Yup. It's Gov't Mule and their all-instrumental live set recording from two shows in 1999. Previously unreleased and much talked about (really?), it's 'Sco-Mule', the approx 150 minute long concert featuring guest jazz/blues guitarist John Scofield. Bloody'ell. Warren Haynes and 'the Sco' are trading licks and tricks for nearly 20 minutes at times and something like 'King Of Bird', well... it's simply just too much for this particular reviewer. You could have a decent cat-nap here and still find yourself listening to to same old chords and tune as you wake up.

It's your weekly fusion album with everything from blues to jazz and funk to straight up rock n roll. Indeed. These cats could jam all night and Dr. Dan Matrazzo tickles the ebony and ivory just like the doctor ordered. They pull off one amazing guitar solo after another and these musicians could probably go on forever with their over the top jam session. However, I find myself in front of the PC screen, paying more and more attention to my latest game of Football Manager as I try to conquer the world and premier league while listen to Gov't Mule in the background. "Pass The Peas", I scream, as I try to get my winger to stop dribbling all of the time and simply just cross the ball in front of the goal.

Final verdict: Excellent musicians - too extended jams.

ISSA – ‘Crossfire’

Rating: RRRR

Label: Frontiers

Review By: Alan Holloway

Norway’s sexiest export since haddock in suspenders, Issa left a few people, myself included, with her last album ‘Can’t Stop’, on which she covered some little known AOR numbers. It just didn’t click like ‘Sign Of Angels’, and I for one was genuinely excited when I learned that she was again collaborating with Vega songmasters Tom and James masters for this album.

First up, I should clarify that ‘Crossfire’ does not sound anything like Vega, which is a very good thing. That may sound odd, as I love Vega, but Issa isn’t Nick Workman (he’s got prettier hair), and has her own style that the Martin brothers have worked with perfectly. What you get with ‘Crossfire’ is an AOR album. That may seem obvious, but this album is so AOR it could go beside those three letter in a dictionary. The songs are light, melodic and full of hooks and soaring vocals. These are the sort of songs that you could imagine Journey doing back in their heyday, such as ‘Fight Fire With Rain’, which would sound amazing if Steve Perry covered it. There’s plenty of mid paced jauinty rockers, like the immediately catchy ‘Hearatbeat’, ‘Only You’ and the title track that opens the album. A surprise to me is how much I like the ballad ‘Raintown’, where Issa teams up with Steve Overland to deliver one of the best ballads I have heard for years.

With Issa sounding great and not a duff track in sight, ‘Crossfire’ is a must for anyone who likes proper, wimpy AOR music. It may be lacking an absolute killer song or two that would elevate it above four Rs, but the sheer quality and consistency displayed throughout means it’s just one of those albums it’s almost impossible to dislike. Norway, nil points? I don’t think so…