Sunday, April 24, 2016

STAR CHASE: ”The New Day”

Rating: RRR
Label: MelodicRock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Star Chase is a new band put together by Jason Old, the vocalist of The Radio Sun. With a singer whose voice and vocal style is very recognizable, projects must have an identity of their own so that they don’t sound too alike. Star Chase does have that, it’s much more of a late 80’ies sounding project than The Radio Sun. I can hear echoes of early Danger Danger, White Lion, Trixter and Enuff Z’Nuff in these songs, maybe even a bit of Queen somewhere there between the lines.

The first half of ”The New Day” is where you’ll find the band’s strongest material, songs like ”I Want You”, ”Say You Love Me” and ”Broken Heart”. On the second half you’ll get decent enough songs somehow they lack that all-important spark. Thankfully  for the album closer ”Supernatural” the band does find that spark again, it’s one of the album’s highlights. It’s probably the closest thing to The Radio Sun too.

A decent start for the Chase. I have a feeling that next time around the band might surprise us all with something really special. Mark my words.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

VEGA : "Who We Are"

Label: Frontiers
Review By: Alan Holloway

Over the last three albums, British act Vega have been carefully carving themselves out a niche in the AOR world by simply keeping their faces out there and providing quality releases. Last album ‘Stereo Messiah’ was hailed by many as their best yet, but it seems that it may not hold that accolade much longer when ‘Who We Are’ comes your way on 13th May.

The album starts with a literal bang, as ‘Explode’ does just that in a flurry of guitars  and drums, a track that belts along and lays Vega’s cards on the table with a raised middle finger to anyone who thought they might have emptied the creative well by now. Fast, frantic and with a superb little solo from Marcus Thurston, it’s the start fans will be wanting. They don’t let up with the next two tracks either, with ‘We Got It All’ a fist pumping audience pleaser and ‘Every Little Monster’ a catchy singalong that is the archetypal Vega track (you can find it on YouTube).

The band slow down for the ballad ’Nothing Is Forever’, and whilst I often get a bit bored by ballads they hit the nail well on the head here with a powerful, emotional piece that makes sure to include a great solo in the middle. ’White Flag’, ‘For Your Sins’ and ’;Generation Now’ take us back to the tried and tested Vega formula that sits comfortably between Journey and Def Leppard, tracks that you just enjoy for the quality AOR that they are. ‘Ignite’ is a slower track that feels a little ploddy, for me the weakest track on the album, but it’s followed by the best: ‘Saving Grace’ stands out with a horribly infectious chorus that demands sterling pitch control from vocalist Nick Workman. This Vega’s 2016 ‘summer’ song, and almost certainly the one that’s going to stick around the live set for a good while.

The album closes with the high energy ‘If Not You’ and the anthemic ‘Hurt So Bad’, another track that I feel will slot well into any live set. As an album, ‘Who We Are’ is a rush of adrenaline, a melodic kick in the nuts that will have you coming back for more. It sounds great, and the band are tight as ever. It’s no surprise that Nick Workman sings his heart out as he never gives anything less than his best. The man has a perfect voice for this kind of upbeat melodic rock, with Tom and James Martin helping him to write songs that fit his vocals to a tee. My only complaint is that I’d have liked to hear more guitar heroics from Marcus Thurston, whose contributions are short but incredibly sweet. Come on guys, give the man a 30 second solo at some point!

In conclusion, ‘Who We Are’ is definitely as good as ‘Stereo Messiah’, and to be honest it’s difficult for any album of this type to be better. Vega still sound fresh and hungry and I’m looking forward to seeing them with Magnum and at the Steelhouse Festival. If ‘Stereo Messiah’ pushed Vega to the top of the UK rock scene, ‘Who We Are’ cements that position.

Official Website


Rating: RRR
Label: MelodicRock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Now that MelodicRock Records has signed every worthwhile AOR/Hard Rock band from Spain, the label is moving focus to Spain’s western neighbor Portugal. The first signing from Portugal is Intuitive. Formed by ex-Faithfull guitarist Rui Martins, this band is more hard rock than AOR but melodic all the same. Martins is the main songwriter and his guitar is the leading force behind the songs.

The songs on ”Reset” range from the guitar-driven hard rock tracks รก la Van Halen, Hardline and Dokken to the more melodic rock type of material which reminds me of Nelson and Firehouse. Maybe with a touch of the European sound of Casanova, Frontline and the likes. Yes, the band’s very much stuck in the eighties, but I’m not complaining about that!

What I could complain about is the fact that apart from one, none of the songs really stand out. They’re all pretty good, but that’s about it. The harder-edged songs have a lot of energy but they’re lacking when it comes to the hooks, while the softer songs have plenty of melody but somehow they sound a little tiresome. When the band sing about ”setting the night on fire” you won’t be reaching for a fire extinguisher - they just don’t sound convincing.

The one song that stands out is ”Gone”, one of the more melodic ones. The band doesn’t re-invent the wheel with it but all the pieces fit nicely. The hook is strong, and while the overall vibe is very laid-back, there’s a certain kind of intensity in the song. A few more like this for the next album, please!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Martin POPOFF: ”Time and A Word - The Yes Story”

Rating: -
Publisher: Soundcheck Books LLP
Review by The Bailey Brothers

Fifty books is a milestone for any author, so well done Martin Popoff for celebrating it with a treat for all Yes fans. The book is written on a time line format which took some getting used to at first; imagine Yes as a big family oak tree and every branch has band members on it. Some acorns will drop and grow their own little trees yet all branches are inter connected and important to the well being of that big tree we shall call Yes.

There are original interviews with Anderson, Bruford, Howe, Wakeman and the late Chris Squire. There are moments where individual members are talking honestly about each other and their musical contribution and surprisingly there’s alot of mutual respect for each other.

Now the fun bits; the moment Anderson and Alan White gather up car parts from a junk yard and take them back to the recording studio to record them being played. Now that’s either genius or comedy but there were no plug ins back in those days; engineers artiste and producers had to get creative if they wanted new sounds. I love the story about Rick Wakeman being so bored he ate his dinner off the piano whilst playing live, maybe a bit disrespectful to the band and fans, but you have to be one hell of a musician to play live and have dinner at the same time.

It’s not a book put together without passion, Popoff is a fan, of that there’s no doubt, but where you need to be objective and ruthless he can slice through the dead wood of an album like a chain saw. I can’t see why most Yes fans wouldn’t enjoy scrolling through this book and re living the incredible journey of one of Prog rocks original flag carriers.

Friday, April 15, 2016


Rating: RRR
Label: Lions Pride Music 2016
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Greek AORsters Wild Rose have returned to the frontline with original vocalist George Bitzios back behind the microphone. Their two previous albums featured seasoned British vocalist David A. Saylor on vocals who did a good job, but so does the ”original guy”. His voice is somewhere between Steve Overland and Alan Marsh (Shogun, Tokyo Blade) and suits these songs perfectly.

Looking at the song titles, the band continue on the same path as on their previous album: one could be forgiven for thinking that this is an all-covers affair. I mean, ”Desperate Heart”, ”Time After Time”, ”Love Games”, ”Hot Wired”… none of the songs are covers though, they’re all Wild Rose originals. But maybe a little effort into the lyrics or at least naming the songs could have been beneficial for the band?

When it comes to the music, the band stays very true to the classic AOR sounds of the eighties. They have certainly studied the songbooks of Survivor, Foreigner, FM, Journey and countless others very thoroughly and have created 10 perfectly crafted, if maybe a bit too familiar sounding AOR songs.

These songs are easy to like, but somehow they are just too safe for me to really love them. Compared to ”Hit’n Run” (their previous album), the hooks aren’t quite as sharp and the overall vibe of the album is more ”mid-tempo”. My favourite song is definitely ”Love Games”, which is one of the up-tempo tracks here and does have a very strong chorus. ”Love Can Change You” and ”Don’t Let Me Down” aren’t far behind, but even they could have used an extra dose of intensity.

If traditional AOR is your thing, ”4” is worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

ST. JAMES: ”Resurgence”

Rating: RRR
Label: St. James 2016
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Here’s a 17-track archival release from St. James, a hard rock band from New Haven, Connecticut. The band featured vocalist John James and the Jacobs brothers James and Robert on guitar and bass. Their secret weapon was drummer/producer Carl Canedy (The Rods). He never got to play live with the band because of his busy schedule, which lead to the band keeping his involvement a secret and using stand-in drummers for the gigs.

Sometime ago, Canedy found these St. James tapes, gave them a listen and thought they were too good to just gather dust in the closet. Now they’ve been dusted off, remastered and released for the world to hear.

Had ”Resurgence” been released back in the early nineties, I’m pretty sure it’d be enjoying at least a cult classic status these days. With a little luck and a major deal, they might have scored a minor hit or two with some of these songs. Bear in mind that in 1991 the tide was already turning and the flannel invasion was right around the corner…

With 17 songs (okay, 16 and an outro), this is a rather uneven compilation of material and you can hear that the band is exploring different directions. It might have been better to just release the better sounding tracks because the last few songs sound very rough and lo-fi.

So what do we have here? Well, most of the songs remind me a lot of Poison, maybe with a little bit of Ratt, Van Halen and Cinderella thrown in. That’s the first 11 songs or so. Among the last few tracks the band add keyboards to the mix a couple of times and go for a more Bon Joviesque approach. Unfortunately ”In Your Heart” and especially ”Crimes Of The Heart” suffer of a demo-like sound quality, otherwise they would have been among my favorites. Same goes for ”Inside The Outside”, a fast-paced cool hard rocker with easily the worst sound of all these tracks. If the St. James story continues, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to re-record these three songs.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Rating: RRR
Label: Escape Music 2016
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Last Autumn’s Dream is probably the most productive band of today’s AOR genre. ”Paintings” is their 12th album in 13 years! That’s more than 120 songs, folks! An impressive body of work.

I’ve heard most of the other 11 L.A.D. releases and quite enjoyed them. Compared to them, ”Paintings” isn’t among the best ones. The band can still churn out likeable melodic rock tracks easily and most of these songs are just that, decent songs that are ”easy on the ear”. But would any of them make it to a Best Of L.A.D. compilation if I were to make one? I’m not sure. The strongest contenders would be the stomping ”Bring Out The Heroes” and the wonderfully titled ”In Case Of Landing On Water”…
and I have to say that the cover of REO Speedwagon’s ”Take It On The Run” sounds like a natural fit for the band.

Maybe ”Paintings” will go down in L.A.D. history as one of the less significant albums of theirs and hopefully they’ll bounce back with the next one, the lucky 13th album!

C.O.P. UK: ”No Place For Heaven”

Rating: RRRR
Label: UDR 2016
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

C.O.P. UK (formerly known as Crimes Of Passion) supported Rage and Halloween here a while ago, and I was highly impressed by their set (see our live review). A copy of the this album found its’ way to my shopping bag from the merch stand, and I think it deserves to be reviewed here.

Who ever wrote their bio says that they have ”an epic sense construct of melody, dynamics and power” and I can’t disagree. They have found their place somewhere between melodic metal, hard rock and AOR and let me tell you, it’s a fine place to be!

Guitarists Charles and Andy provide the foundation with great rifforama, not forgetting the solid backing from the rhythm section of Kev & Scott. The icing on the cake are the cool-as-ever keyboard work from Henning Wenner of Jaded Heart/Mad Max/CircleIICircle fame and Dale’s fine and melodic vocals.

My favourite songs include the massive opening duo of ”The Core”, ”My Blood” and the catchy ”Catch Me If You Can” (see what I did there :)). The band knows how to construct fine ballads too, as the title track and ”Kiss Of An Angel” prove. Yeah, this is good stuff.


Rating: R

Label: Self Release

Review By: Alan Holloway

I suppose I should say that I’ve long been a fan and admirer of Francis Dunnery. He made some incredible albums with It Bites, and went on to a solo career that has produced some brilliant work. For me, he hasn’t done anything of real interest since ‘The Gully Flats Boys’ over ten years ago, with more recent releases showcasing a man who really doesn’t seem to sure what he wants to do anymore, revisiting his past and wibbling on about astrology and not actually writing any new music. Surely, I hoped, an album named after one of It Bites more aggressive tunes might be different?

Well, the simple answer is ‘no’, as ‘Vampires’ is a double dig pack CD that contains 14 reworkings of It Bites songs. Okay, you may be thinking, maybe this is a chance for Frank to give us interesting new versions of some classics that can sit proudly next to the originals. Again, it’s a big ‘no’ there, as almost all of these add absolutely nothing to the originals. ‘Underneath Your Pillow’ does change the ending so it’s like the old live version but that’s it. There is always the excuse of getting a better production on the songs, but to be honest the originals were pretty damn well produced, and these in general don’t sound as good, although if you were completely new to the songs you would find little to complain about. Indeed, ‘Screaming On The Beaches’ lacks the youthful energy of the original and just sounds hollow, whilst the title track burns up when exposed to the sunlight of the original.

Another bugbear is the price we fans are paying for what is in effect nothing new. $25 for a download? $30 for a CD? Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Dunnery? I understand yours is a cottage industry, but only the most dedicated fans will want to fork out their hard earned for an album they might as well already have. As a ‘Best Of It Bites’ this is a cracker, but as a fan I feel completely ripped off. Ironically, for an album called ‘Vampires’ this is utterly toothless.

Official Website

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dion BAYMAN: “Don't Look Down”

Rating: RRRR
Label:  Self Release
Review By: Alan Holloway

‘Don’t Look Down’ is the second release from Dion Bayman, following the well reviewed ‘Afterburn’ 2 years ago. Uncomplicated and highly melodic, it’s not what you’d expect to come out of Australia, but Bayman bucks the trend of beer and bar fights by taking the listener on a relaxing yet catchy journey best taken in an open top car with your best girl (or boy) by your side.

Blessed with a more powerful sound than the debut, ‘Don’t Look Down’ impresses from the off, with the immediately catchy riff of ‘One More Reason’, and follows it up with a track that will wedge itself firmly in your brain, the jaunty ‘24 Hours A Day’. There’s a definite West Coast feel here, scrunched up with the lighter side of Bon Jovi or Bryan Adams and a sprinkle of the better country rock out there. What impresses throughout is the sheer joy that the listener gets from the well written melodies and wealth of choruses that don’t need more than one listen to get you humming along. Sometimes you just want an upbeat, bouncy AOR record to lift your day, and this is one of those albums. It’s about as deep as a puddle, but doesn’t care.

Bayman himself has a really nice voice that suits his musical style 100%. He’s a true one man band as well, playing and producing throughout and turning in a perfectly decent job in the process, careful not to weaken the melodies by pushing any instruments back in the mix. I often find that albums with a West Coast feel tend to wimp out a bit too much when the inevitably slow down, but ‘Don’t Look Down’ keeps the quality high even when the more slushy tracks come along, and they are thankfully outweighed by the more upbeat stuff anyway. Overall, it’s a good balance that doesn’t dent the listening experience.

Needless to say, I thoroughly recommend ‘Don’t Look Down’ to anyone who wants a simple dollop of AOR without any superstars or complications, just pure happy music that I guarantee you will keep coming back to whenever you need a lift in life.
Dion Bayman Official Site