This must be the second time in AC/DC’s history that a release is overshadowed by
potential career threatening situations. The first time was most notoriously in 1979,
when after original singer Bon Scott’s death the Young brothers thought about calling it a day, but the band soon after recruited ex-Geordie, iron-lunged, blow-torched singer Brian Johnson, and as we all know by now, bounced back from an awful tragedy to release what was possibly their most successful album to this day, namely their 1980 classic "Back to Black". Fast-forward to 2014, and after years of apparent stability in AC/DC’s camp, first came news that Malcolm Young was not returning due to a debilitating dementia diagnosis and as if this wasn’t enough, drummer Phil Rudd then proceeded to get himself charged and facing prison on accounts of heavy drug possession (not to mention the "threat to kill" moment he’s suspected of pulling as well!!). However, even with all of these unfortunate events, Angus Young & Co.have managed to return to the spotlight once again with a new record, showing that AC/DCalways manage to overcome such hard situations and stay on top with all guns blazing.
The 16th album “Rock or Bust” definitely isn’t your typical AC/DC record. Well, at least when having in account the situations that surrounded its recording. For the first time in the band’s history, Malcolm Young didn’t play or write a single note of music, having been replaced by his one-time touring substitute back in ’88, three years younger nephew, 59 year old Stevie Young. This was of course a natural choice, given the fact that he’s played with the Young Brothers since the ‘60s, understands the band’s sound, and is also a member of their close family that runs band affairs in a fashion all too similar to the tightness of a typical family business.
And oh yes.... about Stevie’s playing, if anyone had any doubts that he could effectively replace Malcolm, the hyper-catchy opener “Rock or Bust” brings them all to the ground, as Stevie starts the song with an infectious simple four-chord riff, bearing almost the same rhythm style and a practically identical guitar sound to the one his uncle used over the years on all of the band’s iconic records. “Rock or Bust” shows that the band still means business. He may be approaching 70, but Brian Johnson’s vocals haven’t lost a bit of their trademark raspiness. He sounds like he could sing this kind of material for another decade or so. Phil Rudd and Cliff Williams still make one hell of a tightly locked rhythm section and Angus keeps delivering his trademark electrifying solos.
This last phrase could be pretty much used to describe every single song on the record, however, the boys still kept a few interesting tricks up their sleeve. “Play Ball” is for me another classic AC/DC staple with lots of tasteful bluesy guitar doodles and is destined to be a sports show soundtrack. “Rock the Blues Away” has a slick groove that takes you back to ’79 and makes you think of how it would sound with Bon Scott singing. Other tracks that stand out are the mid-tempo cut “Dogs of War”, the “Flick of the Switch” reminiscent “Baptism by Fire”, the ridiculously catchy “Rock the House”, which has one of the record’s one-million-dollar riffs and is possibly the closest AC/DC have come to the slippery fluidity of Led Zeppelin. Yes, there are the usual dodgy odes to womanhood ("Miss Adventure","Sweet Candy") and the swag-filled finisher “Emission Control” could be the loudest Viagra jingle ever !!!!.
“Rock or Bust” is a short album. It’s under 35 minutes long and nearly 21 minutes shorter than the previous album, 2008's “Black Ice”, but if anything, this shortage of time actually keeps the record interesting and easy to listen, instead of making the listener swim through seas of filler. Of course, some tracks aren’t exactly the most memorable they’ve ever wrote, and at times, even though Stevie picked up the rhythm guitar masterfully, you can feel that Malcolm’s writing style probably gave more punch and strength to AC/DC’s material and some of the album’s more forgettable moments could have benefited from his touch…So he is missed for sure....
Still, “Rock or Bust” is effective, hard-edged, dirty and infectious hard rock, filled with great bluesy riffs, lots of party references and the usual naughty boy, double entendre sexual references. “Well, what’s new then?” you might be asking…The answer is: nothing. And actually, in their case, that’s great. They’ve managed not to grow whatsoever for 40 years and the time to demand a more progressive rock masterpiece from them is long gone. We’ve grown to love them for what they are. AC/DC may have no interest in ever improving on their core sound, but that also means they'll never run the risk of ruining it, which is fine by me !!.
So, continuing the WTS summary mode, “Rock or Bust” is good old AC/DC, it’s what we want from them and once again it showed us(well me anyway !!) that they’re still the best at what they do. No, it's no "Back in Black," or "Highway to Hell" but if this is their last record, which is a possibility, it’s a pretty solid way to go off, and for all of those wrinkly rockers like me who are always about to rock, they have once again saluted us with one of their best!
1. Rock or Bust
2. Play Ball
3. Rock The Blues Away
4. Miss Adventure
5. Dogs of War
6. Got Some Rock & Roll Thunder
7. Hard Times
8. Baptism By Fire
9. Rock the House
10. Sweet Candy
11. Emission Control
Wrinkly the Silver
Take a huge chunk of Lynyrd Skynyrd, a slice of Blackfoot and a sprinkling of Grand Ole
Opry - and what have you got? You have Tennessee band Skinny Molly, here with a new CD released late last year. 'Hear for a good time' is a mixture of older Mike Estes songs along with some brand new tunes.
As soon as you hear the opening riff to the title track you are pulled in for a ride of the best Southern rock and country, and these lads have just got better and better. Formed in 2004 just for a one off UK tour, this has now grown into a major undertaking with regular visits to UK, Germany, France, Spain as well as a growing fanbase in the US.
It's good to hear some of Mike's older songs given a makeover...'When the Going gets Tough, the Tough go Fishing' is just one that rocks along while the sheer beauty of 'Dust it Off' really relaxes and is more rocky than the acoustic original. I did mention a huge chunk of Lynyrd Skynyrd, not only was Mike a member, 2 songs here are co-written by surviving members. 'Snakebit' was co written by Gary Rossington and was originally on Mikes CD with 'Brave new South', while 'Make it Easy' is a new tune co-written with Ed King, who also plays on the track and is the first thing he has recorded in a while, so we are really honoured to hear this.
For me, the best track on the CD is 'Ride'...light and shade at it's best, play this one loud. Ending of with a fun track called 'Girls like you' this really is a quality CD. Mike's lyrics can lift you, inspire you, make you laugh, make you thoughtful - but best of all, they stay with you.
You can catch Skinny Molly on tour in the UK during January .... but this wrinkly will be at Swansea and maybe even Evesham .... you will be able to get the CD from all gigs. Look forward to seeing you there.
For the past decade or so, Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke have been carrying the torch for gritty, ass kickin’ southern rock, which is clearly alive and well. Don’t let that tag scare you off; these guys are no paint by numbers Lynyrd Skynyrd or Outlaws tribute band. Though their roots are in that same dirt, they have been able to craft those influences of Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, Georgia Satellites and the Black Crowes and twist them into their own thing. They carry the Southern rock banner proudly.
With their new record Holding All the Roses — their fourth studio effort — they’ve come up with an impressive batch of 12 songs that wear their influences on their tattered sleeves while still sounding fresh and vibrant and expertly blending melodic pop smarts, Southern rock fire, and good old country comfort. Producer and fellow Atlanta native Brendan O’Brien takes control of the boards here, mixing in the right amount of grit and spit with just enough polish to make it shine, and in the process, captures the high energy of the band. He has worked with massive artists such as AC/DC, Pearl Jam, The Killers and Bruce Springsteen and represents somewhat of a feather in the cap for Blackberry Smoke, proving their star is definitely on the rise.
Things kick off with ‘Let Me Help You (Find the Door)’ which really rings out like some long lost Crowes classic, adorned with a driving Rolling Stones meets AC/DC style riff. Once the lead break rips in, the deal is sealed: These guys are out to rock and roll. The album’s title cut clips along in genuine “crank it up” mode. Mix in some Hammond B3 organ and fiddle? Yeah, why the hell not! Lead guitarist Paul Jackson has a great "cut to the chase" style that suits these songs perfectly. Another key selling point here is the vocal style of lead singer Charlie Starr. He is able to maintain a down home sort of feel, but doesn’t succumb to cliche. The band, thankfully, has a great melodic sense, which plays nicely off the s–t eatin’ grin rock and roll they are putting forth. Also of special note is keyboardist Brandon Still, who holds convincing court on piano and Hammond organ, and adds tasty keyboard accompaniment to the guitar-centric tracks.
‘Living in the Song’ is a pop rocking gem, while ‘Rock and Roll Again’ almost sounds like something from the songbook of NRBQ or Dave Edmunds — always good paths to roam. ‘Woman in the Moon’ finds the guys in ballad territory, and just before it starts to border on generic, they sidestep the obvious to include a sweet, almost George Harrison-esque guitar solo. ‘Too High’ is a straight forward country tune that rings as true on them as does the gritty rock and roll. Traces of the Stones and Faces run right alongside the dander of Steve Earle or Marty Stuart — but it never comes off as anything but sincere.
Most likely, ‘Wish in One Hand’ will have heads boppin’ and fists pumpin’ with its heavy riff and country cliches, but the lyrics are a bit too, shall we say, “down home.” Things get back on track with ‘Lay It All On Me’ — it’s another pure country number with some nice barroom piano and pedal steel guitar. The album ends with the riff heavy rocker, ‘Fire in the Hole,’ which manages to get in a funky section that recalls Rosco Gordon’s old R&B classic, ‘Just a Little Bit'.’ The song is the perfect way to wrap up the album. So in summary, this album is a breath of fresh air in an era of neatly packaged, polite power pop and it is, quite simply, a kick in the sonic behind.
By 2015 standards, Blackberry Smoke are probably too rock for the country radio, and too country for the rock stations — but I doubt they’re losing a whole lot of sleep over such pigeonholing. Simply put, if you like no frills, straight ahead ’70s styled Southern influenced rock, Blackberry Smoke will be right at home in your collection. They are certainly in mine......!!! Southern rock is alive and well, and Blackberry Smoke carry the banner proudly and long may they continue. I’d be really surprised if the band don’t continue to grow an even bigger fan base than they already have.
1. Let Me Help You (Find The Door)
2. Holding All The Roses
3. Living In The Song
4. Rock And Roll Again
5. Woman In The Moon
6. Too High
7. Wish In One Hand
8. Randolph County Farewell
9. Payback’s A Bitch
10. Lay It All On Me
11. No Way Back To Eden
12. Fire In The Hole
Wrinkly The Silver
When the Scorpions announced their retirement way back in 2010, neither Germany's biggest selling band (100 million records world-wide) or their fans would never have dreamed they would still be here in 2015 celebrating their fiftieth anniversary! Better still was the news of a new nineteenth Scorpions studio album, Return To Forever to be released. It all started with the band planning on re-recording eight songs for a fan only release - but new material was written in the studio so eight songs turned into a whopping nineteen! Twelve songs have made the cut to the standard format and seventeen to the deluxe edition. So much for going for a pension !!
"Return To Forever" is certainly not the sound of the Scorpions treading water in their twilight years. In fact these songs are so vibrant it makes it my favourite Scorpions album since the 1982 release of Blackout. Yes it really is this good. Klaus Meine’s vocal delivery is as powerful as ever on the rockers and sublime on the ballads. When it comes to rock ballads the Scorpions always deliver and the three here are as gripping as ‘Holiday’, ‘Still Loving You’, ‘Always Somewhere’, ‘When The Smoke Is Going Down’ etc. As the teasing blue grass intro leads into the seismic riffs for the chorus and even some Rolling Stones like guitar lines midway to the aptly titled opener ‘Going Out With A Bang’ proves that this is no nostalgia trip but the sound of a band chomping at the bit. They continue with the radio-friendly stadium anthem ‘We Built This House’, It’s ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ like intro, use of “whoa oh oh oh’s” and a chorus that gets straight in your head make it my track of the album for what its worth..
Other highlights are ‘Rock My Car’, full of hefty ‘The Zoo’ like riffs and an over the top guitar solo from Matthias Jabs as Klaus bellows “Rock, rock, rock my car, lets put some pedal down to the metal”. Yes, he really does sing that ..! The first of the three ballads is next. ‘House Of Cards’ has a spine tingling vocal over acoustic guitars with minimal stabs of electric. You can see the arenas now with all the phone lights on and a superb electric guitar solo mid-song just tops it off. ‘All For One’, an on the road song brings the heaviness back with a abrasive main riff and a huge chorus of “All for one, standing tall through high and low”. 'Rock'n'Roll Band' is a fast rocker that reminds me of the early days of the band. The guitars are roaring, the rhythm section is pushing - a song that is right to the point. One of the best of the new songs for yours truly....
The almost Sweet like intro to ‘Catch Some Luck And Play’ gives way to a thick, almost grunge like main riff with yet another razor sharp Matthias solo midway. The Rolling Stones vibe raises it’s head once more with the main riff of ‘Rolling Home’ akin to ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ as James Kottak’s thumping drum patterns lead to a monstrous chorus. ‘Eye Of The Storm’ strays into power ballad territory with the wistful vocal of ”Another year running is through my veins, some moments wasted, some will remain”. The languid opening verses are given a shot in the arm when the power chords kick in.'Return To Forever' ends on the third and final ballad ‘Gypsy Life’ - which is another on the road number with the lyrics reflecting on relationships whilst on tour.
And so to sum up..: 'Return To Forever' is a huge exclamation mark in the career of this legendary band. It combines all the strengths and trademarks this band is known for. For sure there aren't any experiments here and the Scorpions deliver what they can do best, but within the genre. 'Return To Forever' shines with its variety and great performances by all band members. If the Scorpions can hold this high level I really hope these guys have returned to stay with us forever!. However, if this indeed is the last album, then thank you for the music guys... And see you at the inaugural Ramblin’ Man Festival in Maidstone at the end of July at your only UK show for yet another farewell appearance !!
Track listing :-
1. Going Out With A Bang
2. We Built This House
3. Rock My Car
4. House Of Cards
5. All For One
6. Rock'n'Roll Band
7. Catch Your Luck And Play
8. Rollin' Home
9. Hard Rockin' The Place
10. Eye Of The Storm
11. The Scratch
12. Gypsy Life
13. The World We Used To Know (Bonus Track)
14. Dancing With The Moonlight (Bonus Track)
15. When The Truth Is A Lie (Bonus Track)
16. Who We Are (Bonus Track)
17. One And One Is Three (Bonus Track)
Wrinkly The Silver
It has been a bizarre time to be a Bon Jovi fan, and it isn't too difficult for those rock listeners who have been left outside of the feud between lead vocalist and main man Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora to understand why. After Jon gave Sambora an ultimatum, which would either result in the founding guitar player heading back out on the road and into the studio or spending time with his family and being kicked out of the band, Sambora chose the latter. The remaining members of Bon Jovi would then head back on tour with the aid of guitarist Phil X without actually naming him as the official replacement for Sambora, before heading into the recording studio to record and release the band's thirteenth album ‘Burning Bridges’.
The release of a 13th Bon Jovi studio album won’t change many minds. After a three-decade career, most listeners have already formed an opinion on the New Jersey rockers’ rousing stadium-filling choruses. A new album offers little more than a fresh excuse to refill the coffers and add a few more set fillers to a multimillion-dollar touring juggernaut that is still dining out on 1980’s anthems.
So what, right? Most casual fans need relentlessly reminding that – despite the egotistical name – Bon Jovi are a band, not one man, and Jon Bon Jovi wrote most of said band’s biggest hits alongside a certain sparring partner. It’s not quite in the same league as Mick touting The Stones sans Keith, but a Sambora-less Bon Jovi is a significant loss, for sure – more akin, perhaps, to Axl Rose fronting Guns N’ Roses without Slash (a sacrilege many fans will never forgive).
If Sambora’s departure offered any chances for the remaining band members to reconnect or reinvent themselves, they have been squarely ignored. JBJ, for example, could have revisited the confessionalism of his 1997 solo album, Destination Anywhere’. Keyboard player David Bryan – the composer behind Broadway musical ‘Memphis’ – might finally have been given a moment to shine. They could have tried, well, something new. Instead, ‘Burning Bridges’ is the sound of a band at its least inspired – many of these tunes are cast-offs from old sessions, dusted off and, presumably, spitefully overdubbed with new guitar parts (no credits are included).
The acoustic ‘Fingerprints’ treads water for six, leaden minutes, despite opening with finger-picked guitar reminiscent of the classic ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’. Stomp-rocker ‘Who Would You Die For’ lumbers along like a lorry struggling up a steep hill. “I’m not afraid of burning bridges, because I know they’re going to light my way,” wails JBJ on ‘We Don’t Run’, twice, which comes complete with a shredding, 1980s-style guitar solo, concocted solely to rub Sambora’s face in it. Still bloody good though!.And perhaps that’s the point – proof that it’s business as usual, that JBJ can continue to churn out by-the-numbers rock fluff all on his own, thank you very much.
That’s not strictly true, though, as all but two of the tunes here boast a co-writer. One of those is Sambora, on the album’s first single – and best song – a mature rejoinder to ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’, called ‘Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning’. But does he play guitar on that track, or any others? It's hard to say. Musician credits aren't included, and since these are, in some cases, old songs, it's possible that, in some cases, the band may have used old tracks instead of starting from scratch.
Even JBJ has washed his hands of ‘Burning Bridges’, decreeing it a “contractual obligation fan album” (isn't every album a fan album by the way !??). The country-flavoured title track is a tongue-in-cheek send-off to Mercury Records with scathing lyrics – “the last song you can sell” – the band’s home for 32 years. But no more... as the band and label could not agree on adjusted terms for the band's recording contract. There is apparently a “real” post- Sambora album set to follow on a new label in May next year. This predecessor is a stopgap “fan record”, rushed out to coincide with the band’s upcoming tour of Asia, which will stop off in Abu Dhabi on October 1st.
So the burning question remains: Is the latest Bon Jovi album ‘Burning Bridges’ a "new" album? That depends solely on what you consider "new" to mean. They're fresh recordings with the band's current line up, and I'm sure some interpretations were included along the way. One or two of these tracks like ‘We Don't Run’, are also some of the finest hard rock compositions to arrive from Bon Jovi in some time, (since ‘Have A Nice Day’ in my view). Rather than questioning the status of what we find on ‘Burning Bridges’, it may prove to be more worthwhile to turn towards the future of the band. If all Bon Jovi can do is rely on the previously abandoned scraps of earlier efforts when Richie Sambora, someone Jon Bon Jovi seemingly can't bury the hatchet with, was in the line-up and writing material, this progression may be over just as soon as it begins.
1 A Teardrop to the Sea
2 We Don't Run
3 Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning
4 We All Fall Down
5 Blind Love
6 Who Would You Die For
8 Life Is Beautiful
9 I'm Your Man
10 Burning Bridges
Wrinkly The Silver
Iron Maiden transcend their own music. They are the true survival story of British heavy metal, now in their landmark fortieth year together. The elaborate live productions, the ubiquitous merchandise and the iconic visage of ‘Eddie’ are as much a part of the Iron Maiden aesthetic as Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines and Bruce Dickinson’s scream. There is a culture to Iron Maiden fandom; the band is like a musical genre unto itself.
The 2009 tour documentary Flight 666 puts this into perspective as the band takes its private jet plane to various exotic locales across the lower hemisphere. At each show - many in isolated countries where the band rarely plays - thousands of fans donning Maiden shirts descend in a communal celebration of their favorite band. They shout the lyrics to each and every song, even if it’s not in their native language. Something about the escapist quality of Iron Maiden, the progressive arrangements and the epic storytelling, gives them a worldly, universal appeal, which in turn gives them the longevity to keep going. Their dedication to craft is rivaled only by their fans’ devotion, and the band, even as its core members approach their 60’s, works tirelessly to do good on that devotion, whether it be a tour through previously unvisited countries or a massive double album. Metalheads disagree on many things, but they all agree on one thing - no band personifies the genre more in all its absurdities and glories than Iron Maiden.
The band’s cartoonish image obscures the fact that these are deeply serious players with the compositional skills of classical musicians. The best Iron Maiden songs are long, but they are never dull. The band understand too much about melody, tempo and musical tension to be boring and this sixteenth studio album ‘The Book of Souls’ is beyond anything we could’ve expected from Iron Maiden this far into their career. It was certainly not done by halves, that's for sure! Billed as their lengthiest, most epic work to date and first ever studio double album, it’s a record that only Iron Maiden could get away with an hour and a half of wildly theatrical power metal. The Dickinson-penned opener ‘If Eternity Should Fail’, originally intended for his solo album, casually pushes eight minutes, moving from a hooky drop-D riff into bass-driven prog grooves. The chorus is pure fatalist Maiden: “Waiting in line for the end of your time/ If eternity should fail.” Having just beaten tongue cancer, Dickinson struggles to carry some melodies, but the rawness of his delivery and the unfiltered production give his vocals a specific catharsis that other, highly polished latter-era Maiden albums have lacked.
The first song to be released from the album, namely ‘The Speed of Light’ is the closest you’ll get to a ‘Trooper’ or ‘Aces High’ on ‘The Book of Souls’, as all 11 tracks brush the five-minute mark at least. But Maiden is a different beast now, and conceptual magnificence takes priority over instant gratification in 2015. ‘The Red and the Black’ represents this perfectly, clocking in at nearly a quarter hour. Written by Steve Harris, the legendary bassist manages to coat the listener’s ears with one of Iron Maiden’s richest soundscapes to date, sweetened by the breathtaking use of keyboards. ‘The Red and the Black’ is an unyielding riff and solo fest, even honing a gigantic section of Iron Maiden “WOAH’s”. ‘When the River Runs Deep’ breaks from the flow slightly by picking up the pace, while the album’s title track showcases the somewhat unsung compositional talents of guitarist Janick Gers. ‘Shadows of the Valley’ comes soon after, and it adds yet another Maiden epic to an album already packed to the barrel with gunpowder. It begins with a riff reminiscent of ‘Wasted Years’, but quickly breaks from further comparison with some unconventional guitar breaks and a super powered chorus from Mr. Dickinson that just begs to be sung by a stadium filled with Maiden fanatics.
If ‘The Book of Souls’ were to take its bow after ‘Tears of a Clown’, the band’s farewell to Robin Williams, and ‘The Man of Sorrows’, a piece filled with melancholy and soul, we’d all be left in a euphoric haze praising our metal heroes for yet another life affirming release. However, an extra 18 minutes is given to a little prog cut called ‘Empire of the Clouds’ written by Bruce Dickinson at the piano. And ladies and gentlemen, this is where ‘The Book of Souls’ goes from simply fantastic to an undeniable classic. Bruce begins the journey behind his piano with a light interlude of strings adding atmosphere and substance to the ethereal solemnity of Dickinson’s melody. Attempting to articulate the scope of this song feels like an injustice. Suffice to say this track alone is worth the price of the record and an experience any metal fan should welcome. Comparisons are already being drawn between this pièce-de-résistance and the band’s storied epic from 1984, ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.
With ‘The Book of Souls’, Iron Maiden has further cemented its iconic status among the rock and metal community. This record is but another grand and fulfilling chapter in a legendary career that is distinguished by deft musicianship, intelligent lyrics and masterful songwriting. Kevin Shirley‘s production is understated yet flawlessly brilliant. Whether ‘The Book of Souls’ is the final chapter in Iron Maiden‘s impressive and historic catalogue of music remains to be seen, but it is certainly among its most memorable offerings since the band’s seminal 80’s works such as ‘Number of the Beast’ and ‘Powerslave’. Obviously Iron Maiden can’t continue forever but with the band continuing to write vital songs, and constantly looking for new avenues, bigger ideas - and planes there is, thankfully, life in the old beast yet. Long may it continue, because metal without Iron Maiden will be be a strange world indeed. And it's already evident that ‘The Book of Souls’ will be a hit with fans, with the album having reached Number 1 in a mere 24 countries around the world debuting at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart (dated Sept. 26). The recently announced live 2016 world tour to accompany the album is set to be nothing short of exceptional with the band expected to visit 35 countries flying over 55,000 miles across six of the seven continents, taking touring to a whole new level by using a Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, which will be piloted by Bruce who is currently in training to qualify for his 747 license. First stop the USA. Can only be Iron Maiden can't it!! Can't wait....!!!!!!
1. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28
2. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
3. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
4. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33
5. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
6. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27
7. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
8. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
9. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01
Wrinkly The Silver
Buoyed by the success of last year's massively attended and enthusiastically received reunion Hyde Park gig, (organised after persuasion from Chris Evans during a radio interview) Electric Light Orchestra, that Brummie bunch with the multi-coloured spaceship and semi-orchestral sound have released their first album in fourteen years; or at least their front man has under the ELO banner. Jeff Lynne, the ridiculously talented multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter and producer has released fresh material just three years on from the release of his solo album, ‘Long Wave’, with an album promising to deliver a truer sound to fans of the band of which he epitomizes.
‘Long Wave’ was a self-declared solo but ‘Alone in the Universe’ poses as an ELO "branded" album; the acronym and the spaceship which has long been synonymous with ELO appear on the album cover but in truth, this is another Lynne solo, albeit better geared to an ELO loving audience. As Jeff himself recently told Rolling Stone magazine: "I did everything except the shaker and the tambourine". Even Jeff’s long-term friend and bandmate, Richard Tandy (the only other original ELO member to feature on 2001’s overlooked ‘Zoom’) is missing from this one. Founding ELO member Bev Bevan is long gone: the pair haven’t spoken for 30 years, hence the awkward legalese surrounding the band’s moniker. Steve Jay is accredited for engineering the album and Lynne’s daughter, Laura, supplies backing vocals on a couple of tracks but the rest is all down to the bearded musical genius with the sunglasses. Vocals, lead guitar, bass, drums, you name it, Jeff can, will and has done it for this record. Perhaps, ‘Alone in the Studio’ would have been a more apt title!!!
The striking thing about ELO is that their music continues to find new listeners, whether through compilations, car commercials, soundtrack placements, or G+ copies of ‘Eldorado’ in used record bins. On one hand, the band ought to have aged about as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer or Styx, which is to say, not very well. ELO’s best albums – ‘A New World Record’, ‘Discovery’ and 1977's double album masterpiece ‘Out Of The Blue’ in particular—are prime examples of the excesses of the '70s, with all the pomp and studio over-excitement of the most ambitious prog rock imaginable. And yet, Lynne deployed those techniques in service of songs that had all the exuberance and abandon of early rock 'n' roll.
Given their propensity for cosmic imagery (have you seen their web site?), the title of their latest album sounds all the more wistful, as though the absence of alien life is the saddest thing Lynne could ever imagine. That particular melancholy informs first single and album opener ‘When I Was A Boy’, which may sound slight but is animated by the kind of nostalgia often found in country songs. "Radio waves kept me company in those beautiful days when there was no money", Lynne sings, as though flipping through old photo albums. "When I was a boy, I had a dream." He’s still no wordsmith, but there’s something bracing about his directness; any lyrical pretensions would ruin the reverie. However, this is a true ELO track and arguably the best single to be released since the band’s heyday.
On the other hand, you have something like ‘Dirty To The Bone’. With its florid harps and thrumming drums, it’s an upbeat pop song in tone and tempo. But the lyrics are mean-spirited to a near-comical degree, as Lynne describes one of those she-devils who seem to exist only in old rock songs: "She’ll mess you up, she’ll move around… she’ll deceive you till the cows come home." That kind of cartoony straw-woman writing abounded in the '70s, but the casual misogyny, not to mention such threadbare cliché, feels profoundly out of place now. All a bit Whitesnake if you ask me..
‘Alone in The Universe’ fares best when Lynne is more generous, when he can contrast the downcast sentiments of the lyrics with the effervescence of the music. After a rocky side 1, side 2 picks up considerably, thanks to light-speed ‘Ain’t It a Drag’ and the zero-gravity ‘I’m Leaving You’ which pays clear homage to Roy Orbison, one of Lynne’s contemporary’s in supergroup The Travelling Wilburys. Likewise, there are strong hints of John Lennon (who once described ELO as the "son of Beatles") present on 'All My Life', which is no surprise given Lynne's self-confessed Beatles fixation, which remains in full bloom here.
The latter half of the album features ‘One Step at a Time’, a track that epitomizes the ELO of the 70’s and would have fit effortlessly on the masterpiece that was ‘Out of the Blue’; before flowing smoothly into the finale; the eponymous ‘Alone in the Universe’ with its ‘Time’ intro. This is a beautiful track with a whimsical guitar solo; although, not quite in the same league as the likes of 'Waterfall' or 'Midnight Blue'. More of an update of the 1976 single ‘Telephone Line’ I reckon..
‘Alone in the Universe’ doesn’t simply unearth that classic ELO sound like some ancient artifact. Instead, it gently updates those elements to 2015, the year Lynne celebrates his 68th birthday and his 52nd year in the music business. These songs sound precarious, both musically and emotionally. Partly that is due to age and the slight quaver in Lynne’s vocals, which aren’t quite as robust as they used to be. Partly it is due to technology. Lynne has always used to the studio to define his band’s entire identity, and the difference between then and now is the difference between the air-brushed UFO on ‘A New World Record’ and the CGI saucer on ‘Alone in the Universe’. There’s a gauzy thinness to the sound, an inescapable two-dimensionality that occasionally hinders Lynne’s mission. Still, this is a fine addition to their catalog, perhaps not as consistent as 2001’s ‘Zoom’ but much better than these late-career revival albums tend to sound.
But, generally this 14th ELO album is a pleasing album showcasing some of Lynne’s best work as a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter since the 80’s. ‘Alone in the Universe’ is a nostalgic romp and a quality album by an exceedingly talented musician with ample ELO qualities but don't expect another ‘Out of the Blue’. While ‘Alone In The Universe’ exists well within Lynne’s comfort zone, it’s never less than enjoyable and, at barely half an hour, doesn’t outstay its welcome. And the really good news is that it has provided the impetus for Lynne to take a band and ELO’s wonderful back catalogue on tour next year, so roll on the 02 Arena in April. And of course, the WRC will be there !!!
01. When I Was a Boy
02. Love and Rain
03. Dirty to the Bone
04. When the Night Comes
05. The Sun Will Shine on You
06. Ain’t It a Drag
07. All My Life
08. I’m Leaving You
09. One Step at a Time
10. Alone in the Universe
Wrinkly The Silver
Danny Bryant said about 'Blood Money' - “I wanted to make this album ever since I began my musical journey 20 years ago as a 15 year old boy who fell in love with his parent’s record collection.” On 'Blood Money', Bryant set out to record an album that showed an introspective return to his roots and an appreciation of his Blues influences, by paying homage, as he puts it “to all the different influences and flavours of this wonderful music that I have loved for many years.” I only read this after I listened to the album and had started penning the review – DB listed his influences for some of the songs – I found myself listing my own and I am sure others will add theirs when they hear this excellent album.
'Blood Money' - the title track kicks of the album which is brave as normally the quality of the track the album is named after decides how good it is – no worries here as this track sets the tone. Walter Trout guests on this one and from the moment DB’s Joe Cocker like vocals kick in together with the choppy repetitive riffs you are waiting for the two to round things off with their solos – DB and WT don’t disappoint – now we know why this track is the opener.
'Master Plan' - I can picture it now – roof down, 90 degrees driving through the Florida Keys with 'Master Plan' blaring out – DB says he is a freight train in this one but it is my road song from the album – the repetitive riffs do remind you off a train rolling along but for me it’s a Cadillac – air guitar time unless you are driving of course!!
'Slow Suicide' - a haunting traditional Blues song with a beautifully played weeping guitar solo. The song builds nicely – a real lighters/camera phone job – enough said!!
'Unchained' shows us the funkier side of DB – I can imagine a lot of bumping and grinding going on to this one. The song has a great backing groove going complemented by DB letting go with a withering solo.
'On the Rocks' - I’m not a great instrumental fan but this is different as there is so much going on all the way through. I found myself imaging who could be jamming with DB on this – I came up with Chuck Berry – BB King – Thijs Van Leer on keyboard – now that would have been a line up. I am sure others will have their own thoughts.
'Sugar Sweet' is the single from the album and is another road song for me. For me it has Quo's 'In my Chair' and Canned Heats 'Let’s Work Together' feel, both of which I love so Key West here we come!!
'Fools Game' - more from funkmaster DB – and a song about not playing the fools game of gambling – I know a few who have been there and it is a place that has many ramifications not just moneywise but on other people’s lives – well written and hard hitting.
'Holding All the Cards' - no not another gambling song, but about a relationship where one person holds all the cards – been there as well – great keys from Richard Hammerton leads into another trademark DB solo – dare you not to foot tap, head sway, air guitar or all of them to this.
'Just Won’t Burn' with Bernie Marsden – this has everything starting as it means to go on with haunting piano, vocal, guitar solo intro, leading into vocals that feel the heartache of a relationship that has run its course – well for one of the two anyway. The other can’t let go 'Just Won’t Burn'. Hurting guitar solos from DB and BM - outstanding.
'Sara Jayne' - this song sounds very personal – I may be wrong. A real tear jerker – I can hear the audience joining in on this chorus – “miss the day, miss the night and I feel this empty space beside me, where are you tonight?”
Joe Bonamassa said that DB can make the Fender sing – there is no doubting that and just like JB you know that when he takes these tracks on to the stage the guitar solos will become even more immense than they are on the album – not a poor track on the album and I can’t wait to see the man himself at Leos Red Lion in Gravesend on Sunday 28th February!!
'It would be easy when reviewing this album for me to “big it up” simply on the basis that The Stevie Nimmo Trio are headlining our Kent BluesRockFest later this year. Let’s face it for a promoter to thumbs down a new release from the main act of one of his/her promotions would effectively be musical suicide. Thankfully I won’t be searching around for nice things to say because ‘Sky Won’t Fall’ is one of the most refreshing albums I have heard in a long long while. The album has something for everyone from Rock, Blues, Country, Pop Rock and Acoustic and whatever your musical tastes you will find you yourself appreciating all the different genres due to the catchy riffs and wonderfully crafted lyrics.
The album opens with the riff laden ‘Chains of Hope’ (Sky Won’t Fall) and all I want to say about this track is “crank it up” give it plenty of head banging and air guitar – job done!!! – surely this must be the opener to every gig in 2016! The pace doesn’t slacken as ‘Roll the Dice’ Again continues the theme with more gut wrenching riffs - brilliant stuff. So the dye is cast then it’s a rock album, but no the next track ‘Change’ launches into 70’s disco funk in my eyes followed quickly by ‘Running Back To You’ which is a wonderful Bluesy experience that relates to a relationship so many of us have known. So we must be going back to Rock now but no the genre changes again as Stevie puts on his cowboy hat with ‘Walk the Thin Line’ – now I get to hear a lot of Country music on my trips to the USA and I challenge you to find a better country song than this - this needs releasing over there - end of!!!! Follow that - well Stevie pulls another rabbit out of the hat with the wonderfully soulful ‘I’ll Pray For You’.
Surely the album will run out of steam soon but no chance of that - the next two tracks ‘Still Hungry’ and ‘Gamblers Roll’ could have been taken straight off a Joe Bonamassa album and to be honest if you dropped them into one you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in quality - brilliant. To finish off as a dessert is the beautifully crafted ‘Love You More Tonight’ another country song with a Springsteen feel.
To sum up this album it is one that will be constantly on my ‘turntable’ for a long time as it has everything you could want to suit your mood. Trust me you will not be looking to skip tracks that are there to fill in because there aren’t any!!
Buy it and enjoy!
Celebrated blues rock guitarist and singer-songwriter, Ben Poole, releases his second studio album, 'Time Has Come' via Manhaton Records this Friday 1st April which has been produced by King King’s drummer, Wayne Proctor.
Ben opens with 'Lying To Me' and immediately Proctor's production smacks you in the face with its cool keys and backing vocals complementing BP's soft, but, crystal clear vocal. But it's the guitar mix that catches the ear on this track - surprisingly not about infidelity - but more about life and how 'you don't reap what you sow'. Poole's funky 'wachichoo' guitar, catchy chorus and a trademark guitar solo outro ticks all the right boxes. More of 'YDRWYS' on his second track - although this time it is about a relationship on 'I Think I Love You Too Much'. This has more of the expected Bluesy feel to it and despite the neat harmonies and another catchy chorus, BP's roller coaster of a guitar solo with guest Aynsley Lister does all the talking. The acoustic gentleness of 'Longing For A Woman' shows Poole's genre versatility with this Country Rock sandwich with an electric guitar solo in the middle before it comfortably retreats back to its roots. Very reminiscent of Welsh band The Storys who split in 2010 - check them out. The Country flavour continues albeit with more of a 'Pop' feel on 'If You Want To Play With My Heart' - Poole again pulling out both another great chorus and guitar solo out of his locker.
The momentum slows with 'Time Might Never Come' although the quality is still there on this atmospheric, moody, Blues classic - that entices you into another superb guitar solo plus some great keyboards. Ben demonstrates he literally has 'Soul' on 'Stay At Mine' which rocks n' rolls with his groovy guitar work and his soulful voice is even more evident on 'You've Changed' given its delightful simplicity. 'Just When You Thought It Was Safe' is a boppy affair and further emphasises the unpredictability of this album if you are expecting wall to wall Blues Rock - although just to keep the Blues Police happy Ben throws in another classy Blues guitar solo. From boppy to poppy on 'Whoever Invented Love' as Poole's sweet vocals are bookended by some further excellent guitar work whilst we are back to more familiar Blues territory with the final track - 'The Question Why'. Whilst not exactly what Blues Rock fans might have been expecting, the obvious versality of this album not only explores Ben's Hendrix, Healey, Moore and B.B. influences, but it also doffs its cap to Cray, Lang and Mayer plus has the physical input of Freischlander, Sharpville and compadre Stevie Nimmo. However, the real beauty of the album is the crafting of ten great tracks that have the undoubted bolt-on capacity to stand out in a Blues Rock arena. Just make sure then that you catch Ben on the remainder of his double header UK tour with Stevie N. - you won't be sorry!
Big Boy Bloater and The LiMiTs released their new album 'Luxury Hobo' on Provogue/ Mascot Label Group in February and the band will be hitting the road from Sunday 8th May including a show at the iconic 100 Club in London on Sunday 15th May. With a fascination for textures and subtle narratives 'LH' sees Bloater in a tougher, deeper and more expressive mode following a bout of depression in 2013 which has led it to take a lot darker and personal tone. His Tom Waits-esque gravelly vocal delivery, coupled with the distinctive and dynamic guitar style has seen him build on the Blues foundation offering insights into rockier territories, aided and abetted with his ability to weave story-telling around barbed observations.
BBB's distorted guitar intro doesn't prepare you for what's in store with this foot-tapping 'LH' opener 'Devils Not Angels' and it's killer keys, rock n' roll guitar and BBB's distinctive gruff but great vocals. I challenge you not to rock out when your hear this live! If you haven't seen the Vid yet of 'It Came Out Of The Swamp' then do yourself a favour - check it out on Youtube it's hilarious. Musically it's another barnstormer with its brilliant baseline, awesome keyboards from Dan Edwards plus guitar and it's imaginative lyrics which BBB delivers perfectly. Wow - a definite candidate for audience participation at one of their forthcoming gig's. Anyway, could BBB&TL's keep up their momentum with track 3?
Well even it's title is a classic: 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' - with The LiMiTs 70's rock n' roll style big guitar and keys whilst the Bluesy slide guitar intro of 'The Devils Tail' continues to steady things after the manic opening to the album - again with some standout groovy piano. Hand-clapping heralds the arrival of 'I Got The Feeling Someone's Watching Me' with it's tango feel rubber-stamping the musical versatility of 'Luxury Hobo'. In fact the title track 'Luxury Hobo Blues' gives a massive clue as to its direction with it's catchy neat riff and backing vocals. 'Robot Girlfriend further reinforces BBB's thoughtful lyrics intertwined with a mean BBB' Blues guitar solo but 'All Things Considered' proves that BBB also has 'Soul' in his locker - again with its soulful backing vocals. BBB&TL's - including Matt Cowley on drums and Steve Oates on bass guitar - literally pick up on the opening pace of 'LH' with the closing track 'Not Cool Man' - once again with it's awesome keys, guitar and lyrics including the line "he's a nose picker" - you can't accuse those guys of not being entertaining! Well Luxury Hobo is cool man - now a staple on my personal play list - can't wait to see them at the 100 Club!
Born Healer's 'Til The Dawn was bought on recommendation of a friend, so I started to listen with an open mind and oh boy what a cracker. It begins with 'Pressure Valve', a song which sets the scene for the album, from the opening drums the journey that you get carried away on by stupendous guitar work and accompanied with haunting vocals, that are reminiscent of an early Elkie Brooks, leaves you wanting for more.
'TTD' is a roller coaster ride of music that takes you from a simply hypnotic 'Leaving Trunk', which leads to a much slower title track with some intricate guitar work, combined with a captivating voice that just bursts to life drawing the listener on a magical journey. 'River' has got so many echoes of the past, that when you think you know where they came from you are moved on to another place. 'Trust Yourself' drags you unknowingly into a great foot stomping romp with some great bass pushing you along, while you play air guitar and then it ends. Should be at least 10 minutes long!
'A Million Miles Away' is a track that you can just put your head back close your eyes and your off to another dimension. 'Brand New Day is such a tight song with all the band excelling in their chosen paths - it would be hard to put a sheet of paper between them. 'Share The Ride' with its great vocals and guitar work is truly from the heart. "Healing Hand' is as hard paced great working stonker of a song which is worthy of being played at full volume, just so the neighbours know how good this band is.
'Never Gone' is a perfect example of how gentle they can treat a song just smooth as polished glass. 'Since I’ve Been Lovin' You is a showcase of how to bring the listener back to earth from the journey they have just been on. All in all an album that deserves to be played on repeat till it's worn out!
Sari Schorr & The Engine Room release their debut album 'A Force of Nature' in the UK and Europe on Friday 2nd September. Sari delivers hard-driving Blues-Rock, influenced by the late '60's British Blues movement and mixes Blues, Rock and Soul with concrete melodies and poetic lyrics to striking effect. The album is produced by the legendary Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall & the Blues Breakers and David Bowie) and features Walter Trout, Innes Sibun and Oli Brown.
A Force Of Nature' blasts off with a Gary Moore reminiscent opening salvo from Engine Room guitarist Innes Sibun on 'Ain't Got Not Money' - New Yorker Schorr's protest against the greed of Wall Street neatly summed up with the line "Ain't got no money, but you ain't got no sense (cents)." Immediately the force awakens on this opener given both Sari's powerful earthy vocal complemented by Sibun's gutsy guitar work. Must admit that when I originally witnessed 'Aunt Hazel' at her Showcase gig at The Surya last year, I thought it was a bit clunky. Based on urban slang for heroin (Schorr doesn't pull her punches when songwriting) - I now take it all back. Again both Sari and Innes let you have it with both barrels - with a chorus of "Aunt Hazel's laughing as my words get slurred" - they up the ante on this rocker.
Time for a guitar intro from guest Oli Brown on 'Damn The Reason' - with no let up in Schorr's vocal nor subject matter - this time based on domestic violence. The contradiction is that it's beautifully crafted with Julian Maeso's keyboards, the introduction of backing vocals plus a trademark Brown guitar solo. The opening groovy rhythm guitar of Quique Bonal on 'Cat And Mouse' belies its underlying message of past emotional abuse in the music industry. "I ain't ready for a steady rollin' Tom and Jerry life!" - the moral of this story being that once the shackles are off you can write great groovy music like this with both Sibun and Maeso excelling. The first cover on the album is Lead Belly's classic 'Black Betty' - it's unique arrangement and in particular it's cajun guitar opening - lean heavily methinks on the influence of Sibun's time with Robert Plant in 1993. About slavery and rape - Sari originally performed this at Lead Belly Fest at Carnegie Hall - Ram Jam it certainly ain't - but it's powerful production, Innes' guitar and Sari's undeniable enthusiasm and attitude deliver a classic from within a classic.
Step forward Walter Trout on 'Work No More' - WT's own contribution to Sari following Lead Belly Fest - and indeed a personal favourite with the late great Johnny Winter no less. An explosive opening guitar solo from Walter eases in Sari's amazing vocals - Sari paying fine tribute to Trout's late friend who the song is based on - with Walter duly throwing in some amazing guitar for good measure - not forgetting also organist John Baggott. Another memory from The Surya Showcase was Sibun's slide work and organ (this time by Maeso) on 'Demolition Man' - again forcefully sung and written by Schorr in support of Amnesty International's resolution to decriminalise sex work. The mellower "Oklohoma' tells Sari's last minute change of plan that ends up with her gigging with Joe Louis Walker in .... Oklohoma. Another groovy number - that builds into one mean fusional outro featuring backing vocals, the keys of Maeso, another Oil Brown guitar solo plus Schorr's excellent lyrical diction - a nail on for a live jam extension.
Vernon's production on 'Letting Go' has a 'Winehouse' feel to it - co-written by both Schorr and Bonal - it was written for and dedicated to Quique's late wife Natalie. With its big finish - another Sibun solo is vindication as to why Mike hand-picked Innes for the Engine Room backbone - their paths originally crossing when Vernon produced Sibun's 'Blues Explosion' album in the early '90's. The stand-out on the album, however, harps back to Sari's love of 60's Psychedelic Rock. The melody and harmonics of 'Kiss Me' must have been a joy for Vernon to produce which sees Oli Brown revelling in a riff/chorus/solo that rocks out big time - Schorr even managing to include a line about her beloved Pit Bulls - although the song is about being in love with someone who is gone.
Sari's second cover on the album was The Supremes - 'Stop! In The Name Of Love' - Jose Mena's drum roll introducing Schorr's take on this classic. With Rietta Austin chipping in with Sari on backing vocals - Schorr and Sibun inevitably put their own big rubber stamp on this version - nailing it at the same time! Ironically, it's left to the last track of the album to measure Schorr's versality. With her roots originally in Jazz - and perhaps sometimes overpowering vocals (she was once compared to a hybrid between Tina Turner and Janis Joplin) - she's had to learn to hold back to get the guts of the Blues. Well 'AFON' has well and truly confirmed that - although Jesus Lavillas beautiful keyboard intro to 'Ordinary Life' takes Sari into another dimension. There's certainly nothing ordinary about this ballad - the crystal clarity of Schorr's vocals all for everyone to see and hear. A beautiful end to an awesome album. Just make sure you catch Sari & The Engine Room at their album launch at The Half Moon, Putney on Monday 5th September. May the force be with you!
Texas guitar legend Eric Johnson releases his first all-acoustic solo album this Friday 7th October. Long hailed as one of the world's preeminent electric guitarists, Johnson celebrates his acoustic side with 'EJ', his 12th album. Emphasising Johnson's formidable skills as a singer-songwriter, his first completely unplugged album is also his most immediate and intimate. Johnson self-produced the album and performed nine of its thirteen tracks unaccompanied in his Austin, Texas Saucer Sound studio.
An unexpected but excellent opening steel-string instrumental arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel's classic 'Mrs. Robinson' is trumped by Johnson's piano and vocals on his next track, the beautiful 'Water Under The Bridge'. Of course, better known for his guitar playing, Johnson gets out his prized 1980 Martin D-45 acoustic guitar - a gift from his late father - on 'Wonder' - another great vocal by Johnson - doing his dad proud. It's back to piano for Johnson on 'Wrapped in a Cloud', a neatly constructed vocal ensemble track with cellist John Hagen, longtime Johnson accompanists Tommy Taylor and Wayne Salzmann on drums and Roscoe Beck and Chris Maresh on acoustic bass. And he's back playing the steel-string on the explosive instrumental 'Once Upon a Time in Texas' - very reminiscent of Townshend's acoustic guitar in the masterpiece that is 'Tommy'. The second cover on 'EJ' is Johnson's vocal rearrangement of Hendrix's 'One Rainy Wish' for guitar and piano, capping the performance with a jazz-inflected piano solo plus haunting backing vocals.
Johnson also conjures the pensive flamenco tones of the 'Serinidad', a short original instrumental, on a Ramirez nylon-string guitar with the crystal guitar and vocal clarity continuing on 'Fatherly Downs' with Johnson reverting back to his 1980 Martin D-45. However, the pace quickens with Johnson and guest guitarist Doyle Dykes’ excellent instrumental cover of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s 1951 classic, 'The World Is Waiting for the Sunshine' - although things are taken down a notch as Johnson excels again on both vocals and piano on 'November', beautifully complemented by Molly Emerman's violin. Johnson picks up his 1980 Martin D-45 once more for 'All Things You Are' - with delicious vocal delivery before tackling another Simon & Garfunkel classic - and a particular favourite of mine - 'Scarborough Fair' - his own take on piano and vocals doing this classic the respect it deserves. 'EJ' closes out on the steel-string - another superlative instrumental - 'Song for Irene'. Given 'EJ's mix of both originals/covers and vocal/instrumentals - the balance of this album is truly inspirational given it's virgin territory for Johnson but adds another outstanding dimension to this Grammy winning guitarist's back catalogue.
Aynsley Lister’s eighth studio album, 'Eyes Wide Open', is released today (Friday 7th October), a month before his 40th birthday, by Straight Talkin’ Records. Aynsley produced the album, as well as providing vocals and guitar. He is supported throughout by Steve Amadeo (bass), Boneto Dryden (drums) and Bennett Holland (keyboard and backing vocals).
Aynsley should need no introduction to WRC members. Born and raised in Leicester, he soon became an established performer on the Blues/Rock scene after the release of his first album, 'Messin’ With the Kid', in 1996. Since then Aynsley has continued to build his reputation as a leading British Blues singer/guitarist/songwriter, culminating in a series of awards at the British Blues Awards, including Guitarist of the Year in 2015. His previous album, 2013’s 'Home', earned him both Songwriter of the Year and Song of the Year in 2014; does 'Eyes Wide Open' maintain or even enhance Aynsley’s already well established reputation?
The principle behind the album is true to the origins of the Blues: using simple narrative ballads to reflect the musician’s life experiences and emotional landscape with the insight of a fine artist. As Aynsley himself puts it: “The world never stops and so much happens around us - some of it resonates with you, some of it doesn’t. This album is written about the world as I see it, through eyes wide open.”
The range of emotions covered is exemplified by the first two songs. 'All of Your Love' is a song of need that centres around the basic need for wholesome love, the riffy guitar backdrop supporting the urgency of the lyrics. The heavily reverberated stinging guitar tone emulates the sound of a heart wrenching in pain, longing to be satiated and satisfied. In contrast 'Everything I have to Give' is about giving, exploring how much you can give while under immense pressure without falling over the edge. Musically, the song has a powerful edge, with killer riffs and throbbing bass supplemented with added horns. The emotional themes continue in both 'Won’t be Taken Down', about standing up to jealousy and other people’s overbearing competitive nature, 'Time', about realising the impact of our own decisions and choices before it’s too late, and 'Stay', the story of a destructive, insecure relationship.
Another recurring theme in 'Eyes Wide Open' is Aynsley’s love of the movies, especially gangster films. 'Il Grande Mafioso' is the tale of a loser in a late night card game at a seedy bar run by mobsters. The guitar and keyboards use Italian themes to give the song a slow throbbing pulse as a backdrop. Set in the same seedy bar, Dishevelled uses sultry guitar work, with an amazing solo interlude, to tell the story of a bar-room liaison in three distinct stages: arriving, meeting and hooking up.
Finally, no review of 'Eyes Wide Open' would be complete without mention of 'Kalina', the poignant tale of a girl with overpowering mental health problems, hidden behind a beautiful smile and happy exterior. Aysley’s lyrics build awareness of the seriousness of depression without becoming over-emotional.
Overall, 'Eyes Wide Open' is an excellent album with yet another take on Aynsley’s unique perspective on contemporary Blues. It has over an hour of bold and confident Blues/Rock, comprising 13 superb compositions covering an assortment of styles. The quality of Aynsley’s lyrics is outstanding: astute and thought provoking but never over-complicated. When combined with his virtuosity as a guitarist, and ability to craft catchy emotional melodies, the result is yet another memorable album that you’ll want to play again and again.
Hailing from Scotland the GT's Boos Band are a Blues-based Rock n’ Roll band led by guitarist John Boos and lead vocalist Greig Taylor. The band are born out of an acoustic duo six years ago in October 2010, when self-taught Blues guitarist John Boos approached singer GT about hooking up for an acoustic jam. After two years touring the circuit as an acoustic duo, and building a significant local following in the process, they together devised the idea of the GT’s Boos Band electric project. Singer GT himself remarked, “I am not an out and out Blues singer by any stretch but more of a Rock/Soul vocalist if truth be told. But with this band through our Blues influenced music I am able to tell some of my own significant story through my performance and my lyrics. It is often remarked to me how much I put in to each performance; the passion, the feeling. For me it has to be that way to tell my story. Every time. That’s my Blues. I’ve been down there, I’ve been in prison and I’ve experienced tremendous lows so I think I’m pretty qualified to sing my Blues!”
I listened to the Album before I researched the band history and from my notes I commented on the eclectic nature of the songs and the gritty heartfelt nature of the vocals and it is clear to me now after reading the above how and why those qualities stand out.
As suggested the first five tracks are all completely different in nature. ‘Seven Questions’ opens the album with its in your face road Blues with excellent guitar breaks which then leads into ‘High and Dry’ with it’s choppy, funky guitar licks and heartfelt vocals. Next up is ‘Amsterdam’ which is probably my favourite track on the album with a 70’s Prog feel – the song has lots of different moods and the guitar solos are very reminiscent of our old friend Tony Hands from Tea for the Wicked – great stuff!! Follow that with a traditional Blues offering ‘Baby Stop Your Crying’ and a wonderful acoustic track in ‘Walk My Path’ and you have the eclectic full house – ‘Walk My Path’ has a very Joe Bonamassa feel to it as heard on ‘Black Rock’.
The rest of the album revisits the above genres and the pick is probably a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’. Add to that a couple of numbers that could well be crowd pleasing closers especially ‘Howl for the Lover’ and you have an album that has plenty to offer for those that like variety and not a one-dimensional theme. This is an album to be proud of and will certainly increase the profile of the band which is well deserved.
Col (aka Wrinkly)
It has been almost four years since Halfway To New York made an impressive introduction to themselves with the ‘Treading Water’ EP; a highly enjoyable encounter which only grew in stature and persuasion over time. Since then, apart from the occasional listen of the release, the band has been lost to the shadows of thoughts as a swarm of other encounters have stolen attention. The band now returns to reclaim ears with first album ‘Tremor’ and having shortened the name to H2NY, the British quartet show the time between offerings has been well spent breeding new maturity and adventure in their melodic rock.
Formed in 2012, H2NY have backed up the success of the acclaimed ‘Treading Water’ EP over time with tours across the UK and performances at the Hard Rock Calling Festival in Hyde Park and headlining Trafalgar Square as part of the Closing Paralympic Celebrations. The band has successfully invaded the US too; supporting Fuel and then Alien Ant Farm whilst playing shows in 38 US States involving the covering of more than 24,000 miles in the process. As mentioned the past couple of years have seen the band slip from focus and personal radar somewhat but fair to say, they have reappeared with a bang with ‘Tremor’.
The album opens with the first single taken from it, ‘Bleed’. Straight away a muscular wall of riffs and rhythms encase ears, H2NY swiftly showing the power in their sound and equally the harmonic prowess of vocalist Sam Burkey. It is a magnetic entrance only blossoming further as the melodic and sonic enterprise of guitarist Scott De Jongh courts the darker rumbling tones of Daniel Mount’s bass. The great undemanding yet potent band harmonies simply bring richer colour to the captivation; mischievous hooks and a rousing tenacity similarly as persuasive as band and release get off to a masterful start.
‘On the Run’ follows with its own sinewy strength and presence, and like its predecessor an infectious swagger and imagination which steers every groove and hook straight into a waiting greedy appetite. With the jabbing beats of drummer Martin Griffith framing its resourceful blaze, the track recalls the great essences which made the first EP an easy draw on ears whilst revealing the new dynamics and bold creativity shaping album and songs like ‘Little Piece of Everything’ which comes next.
The melodic croon of ‘Love Behind You’ firmly engages ears and thoughts with another side to the band’s sound where pulsating beats align with a melancholic caress of guitar as Burkey’s voice shines with emotive expression. Shades of Snow Patrol here without doubt and encapsulated by the acoustic led ‘Slide By’ straight after. Elegant and sombre, the track is a serenade of acoustic and melodic flames which also builds more aurally dramatic points in its contemplation. Indeed, the electric guitar hook that drifts in and out of that song is also reminiscent of the mighty Coldplay no less....
Both songs keep ears eager and enjoyment ripe but swiftly find them eclipsed by the outstanding pair of ‘Every Inch a King’ and fellow moody slow-burner ‘Caught in the Middle’. The first of the two begins as a brooding tempting with dark rhythms and sultry melodic suggestiveness prowling. If anything, the band sound more generic and straightforward the louder they get. And while they are capable of delivering some rousing foot-stompers, , they’re definitely at their most striking when reining it in more.
The following ‘Blue Eyes’ has a thankless task backing up two major pinnacles of the release yet with its melancholy lined character and body of alternative/melodic rock it has ears and satisfaction on side with ease.. ‘More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows’ also benefits from a slow build before the album’s title track soothes, by this point, an admittedly exhausted mind and body and together with ‘Counting Sheep’, bring ‘Tremor’ to a fine end with its intimate balladry sculpted on folkish melodies, mesmeric harmonies, and impassioned emotion.
Halfway To New York or H2NY as they are now known have offered more than enough on their debut LP to be worthy of your respect and admiration. They’re clearly an act to keep an eye on. ‘Tremor’ is a striking debut.
On The Run
Little Piece of Everything
Love Behind You
Every Inch A King
Caught In The Middle
Over & Out
More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows
Wrinkly The Silver
Even for the hard working Blackberry Smoke, a band that has been at it since 2001, the past four years have been productive ones. This is the third studio album the Southern rocking quintet has released since 2012’s ‘The Whippoorwill’ breakthrough, along with a live disc and simultaneous DVD of a typically energetic 2014 performance. While the group’s direction stays rooted in the red clay soil that has created its solid and growing fan base, they expand their boundaries, at least slightly, for ‘Like an Arrow’.
It’s likely Blackberry Smoke will never entirely break free of the Lynyrd Skynyrd comparisons attached to the dueling guitars/keyboards sound they traffic in. Still, there is stylistic room to roam. Songs such as the tough, sinewy riff heavy title track, the Bad Company/Brit rock inspired opening ‘Waiting for the Thunder’ with its crashing drums, greasy riffs and arm-waving chorus, the grinding rocker ‘Ought to Know’ and blue collar anthem ‘Working for a Working Man’ are some of the hardest, most powerful tracks in Smoke’s studio history. All of these sound tailored made for the live shows without a doubt..
Conversely, lower wattage, more pensive material such as the Bluesy ballad ‘The Good Life’ and the breezy ‘Running Through Time’ (both co-written with veteran Nashville songsmith Travis Meadows), display a more sensitive side. The same holds for the closing ‘Free On The Wing’ where kindred spirit and Smoke supporter Gregg Allman guests on vocals for a song clearly inspired by ‘Midnight Rider’ even though the somewhat clunky lyrics of “People just want you to be/what they want you to be” come up short in the creativity department. The lilting, reflective ‘Ain’t Gonna Wait’ with its acoustic guitar/mandolin underpinnings provides more ying to the yang of the chugging boogie of the appropriately titled ‘Let it Burn’, the latter a return to the act’s bar band roots with some nice bar room piano in the background. ‘Sunrise in Texas’ blooms slowly over a gentle organ line and brushed drums, until frontman Charlie Starr is overtaken by the song’s spirit, reaching a fever pitch as he ushers in a wah-wah-filled guitar solo, which is followed by a redemption-signalling vocal break.
This is Blackberry Smoke’s first self-produced higher profile project, recorded in their home state of Georgia, close to their Atlanta home base. While there aren’t drastic changes to their sound, there’s a sense of sureness to the songwriting, playing and Charlie Starr’s singing that reflects a decade and a half of the same dudes slinging it out together on the endless highway. This release certainly shows a band becoming more and more confident in their craft. The Southern rock genre was never the hippest way to make a living even at its peak. But for those whose eyes glaze over in rapture when the name Ronnie Van Zant gets mentioned, Blackberry Smoke fills the bill for the next generation of gutsy, heartfelt and honest Southeast rocking with plenty of talent, tons of drive and no apologies. I have loved these guys since the WRC saw them at the 02 Academy Islington in March 2014 and will continue to do so. I cannot wait to see them back on a ten date tour in the UK end March/beginning April 2017 with a stop at the Roundhouse in London..See you there folks !!..
1. Waiting For The Thunder
2. Let It Burn
3. The Good Life
4. What Comes Naturally
5. Running Through Time
6. Like An Arrow
7. Ought To Know
8. Sunrise In Texas
9. Ain't Gonna Wait
10. Workin' For A Workin' Man
11. Believe You Me
12. Free On The Wing
Wrinkly The Silver
A true vocal and musical icon of our times, 'Resonate' is the highly anticipated twelfth original Glenn Hughes album released today. At the end of 2015, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based in the USA, announced that Deep Purple including MKIII, are finally to be inducted after several previous nominations over the years. This was a culmination of a 40+ years career which saw Glenn leave his indelible mark in several musical endeavours and bands, including Trapeze, Deep Purple, Hughes/Thrall, his collaborations with Gary Moore, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and most recently with Black Country Communion and California Breed. Despite his undoubted pedigree, the only time I have seen Hughes live was in the highly impressive Black Country Communion with Joe Bonamassa - which unfortunately ended acrimoniously - perhaps unfairly reflecting his marmite reputation. So would his first album in eight years be a triumphant return for "The Voice Of Rock"?
The opening single 'Heavy' sets the scene for the album and does exactly what is says on the tin - an 'in yer face' intro blending the driving guitar of Soren Anderson, the keyboards of Lach Doley and Red Hot Chilli Peppers Chad Smith's drums before sixty four year old Hughes lets rip with his trademark vocals. Given the fact that 'Heavy' was a released as a public taster on Youtube at the end of September - my only concern was whether the rest of the album would stand up to the subtlety, production and sound of this quality opener. Step forward 'My Town' which continued to carry 'Resonate's' torch with Pontus Enborg's pounding drum opening and a to die for driving guitar riff and solo from Andersen - the perfect vehicle for Hughes to flit between a soft and hard vocal. Guitar feedback heralded the arrival of 'Flow' with another stand out guitar/organ riff and another opportunity for Glenn to open his tonsils - although a common theme throughout 'Resonate' is the unexpected direction that some tracks take - on this occasion the delicate mid-section harmony that builds into a awesome combination of another Andersen solo complemented by the amazing 'purplesque' keys of Doley. For mine the track of the album - follow that. Initially taking their foot of the accelerator on 'Let It Shine' - this track deceptively creeps up on you into a real ace rocker - again with the combination of Hughes, Andersen and Doley in overdrive.
Doley's unmistakeable 70's Hammond organ intro entices you in before 'Steady' unleashes a classic riff that primes Hughes' hard and soft pic 'n mix vocals - which also showcases for the first time Glenn's bass guitar prowess fused once more with Enborg's drumming and jaw dropping solos from Andersen and Doley. This is as good as it gets! 'God Of Money' unquestionably flies the flag for good old prog - the track very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree whilst the Hard Rock of 'How Long' is another platform for a Doley Hammondfest with the supporting cast of Hughes and Anderson very evident - both tracks maintaining 'Resonate's standard. Eventually, we step off the Hard Rock rollercoaster thirty five minutes into the album with the slower Bluesy 'When I Fall' - immediately reinforcing its diversity - particularly Hughes' vocals. Delightful. The Funk of 'Landmines' explodes on to the scene, again confirming the depth of 'Resonate' before we're back rocking with 'Stumble & Go' which has a definite Stones feel about it. Andersen's acoustic guitar welcomes the last track 'Long Time Gone' which also sees the return of Smith on drums - it's Funky Rock sound - a fitting finale to a diverse, stand-out album.
My preconception regarding 'Resonate' was that it would be another cliched jurassic driven solo album from a rock icon dinosaur. How way off the mark I was! The musical diversity on this album needs to heard to be believed - its distinctive style blending the finest elements of Hard Rock, Soul and Funk. The surprise CD package of the year for mine - and it deserves to resonate through my initial perceived prejudice and get the critical acclaim it so thoroughly deserves.
Originally formed in 2010, British Southern Blues Rock group Bad Touch release their new studio album 'Truth Be Told' today. The 5-piece rock band from Norfolk, not only supported the Kentucky Headhunters on their critically acclaimed sell-out UK tour recently, but co-headlined on a UK tour with Australian Rock band Massive. They launched their new album last night supporting Whiskey Myers at The Dome in Tufnell Park and we managed to grab a few words with the guys beforehand - so watch out for that audio shortly!
The follow up to their 2015 debut album 'Half Way Home' sees Bad Touch celebrating Classic Rock with Southern boogie influences, supported with heavy guitar riffs and an iron-clad, tight rhythm section, in the great tradition of Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin. The album, which was recorded at Mwnci Studios in Wales, features the singles '99%' and 'Made To Break', both remixed for radio by the legendary Rolling Stones engineer and co-producer, Chris Kimsey. Bad Touch line-up with Stevie Westwood - vocals, Rob Glendinning - lead/acoustic guitar, George Drewry - drums/keyboards/backing vocals, Michael Bailey - bass guitar and Daniel Seekings - guitars/backing vocals, and many of the tracks on the album were built around an idea or riff which was then developed by the band with each member bringing to bear their own life experiences and individual feelings to the mix.
The album kicks off with two punchy tracks, the opener 'One More Night' - all about lost love - which bops about with Bad Touch's arsenal immediately stepping up to the plate including keyboards and backing vocals - whilst their catchy single '99%' - which incidentally initially attracted me to the band - with it's '70's' intro - keeps the album bubbling as it rocks out! But it is the appropriately named 'Waiting For This' where the album takes off for mine - the promise of heavy guitar riffs, cool drumming and outstanding vocals - duly nailed with an enormous nod to Zep. Not quite 'The Lemon Song', but according to the band - "an angry song!". The rock baton - albeit not as heavy as the previous classic - is passed onto 'Under My Skin' - all about love unrequited - although in my case - love this one! And what better song title for a band with Zep influences than 'Heartbreaker Soulshaker' - all about being a free spirit - the flip side of 'WFT' - a much funkier track with some awesome guitar work from Glendinning.
'Take Your Time' slows things down - the message being don't be hasty - take a deep breath and a step back - a track which also showcases Westwood's vocal range and dexterity - complemented by the softness of Glendinning's acoustic guitar. And if you thought half way through the album that Bad Touch could not possibly take you in another musical direction - wrong. From its opening "1, 2, 3, 4!" the fresh and groovy 'Let The Sun Shine' (written unsurprisingly at Download) takes you down a path that smacks of the Stones! And taking of '70's intro's - Quo certainly springs to mind on 'My Mother Told Me' which is all about family support - but this stand-out track's metamorphosis gives me the sneaking suspicion that they have been keeping 'Bad Company'! So step forward 'Outlaw' with it's blistering guitar intro/outro plus Westwood's superb delivery of its Western lyrics - this is definitely Bad Touch's very own 'Wanted Dead Or Alive' - excellent. Follow that - well 'Made To Break' makes a good fist of it - with another great guitar solo - the subject matter being making the most of the good times before it all inevitably goes bang! 'Healing Hand' - about friendship, tolerance and forgiveness - (these guys are obviously deep thinkers) - builds nicely into a riff driven finale and the album's high standard is maintained and perhaps even bettered with 'The Mountain'. More boundary-stretching from Bad Touch in this beautifully crafted track which is not only heavy in its genre but also its message about the sustainability of our planet and our collective responsibility with pollution. All in all a delightful album that takes many positive twists and turns that takes Bad Touch well outside the constraints of their supposed genre. Catch them at Planet Rockstock this Saturday 3rd December - you will not be disappointed.
Ronnie Baker Brooks was born in Chicago and started playing guitar around the age of six. At nineteen, he joined his father Lonnie Brooks, who by then had influenced some of the most well-known Bluesman of our history: Jimmy Reed, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter and Junior Wells. For twelve years the two would tour together, putting Ronnie out front with Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor! 'Times Have Changed', 49 year old Brooks’ first album in ten years, released today (Friday 20th January 2017), carries with it the weight of grown perspective and time spent perfecting old material. ‘THC’ also comes laden with original hits - five of the eleven tracks were penned by Ronnie. Recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, the home of Al Green, Syl Johnson and Bobby “Blue” Bland, Brooks worked it with Steve Jordan (Keith Richards, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Eric Clapton).
A veritable who's who guests on the record, from "Big Head" Todd & The Monsters mainman Todd Mohr, R&B/Soul singers Bobby “Blue” Bland (one of the last recordings he made), R&B icon Angie Stone, legendary guitarists Steve Cropper (Stax, Booker T. & the MG's Otis Redding, Sam & Dave) and Eddie Willis (Motown, Funk Brothers), rapper Al Kapone, Archie Turner (Al Green, Syl Johnson, O.V. Wright), jazz saxophonist Lannie McMillanand of course Ronnie's father, Lonnie. For several tracks, Brooks also enlisted brothers Teenie (guitar), Charles (organ) and Leroy Hodges (bass) of the legendary Hi Rhythm Section, which served as the house band for hit soul albums by artists like Al Green and Ann Peebles.
Joe Tex's '68 classic 'Show Me' - best known from the Commitments - kicks things off in style - one for the 'Blues Police' to drool over - featuring a mean Cropper guitar, contrasted by the slower groovy guitar of Todd Mohr on Brooks' own composition 'Doing Too Much' which has oodles of soul and certainly keeps up with the Joneses. And what better way to keep the momentum going - than it's 'Twine Time' - the instrumental sixties sound from the late Alvin Cash & The Crawlers - and given its fusion of guitar and keys intro, I would defy anyone not to want to get up and do the Twine - with Ronnie's father Lonnie given the honours on this classic on guitar. The pace slows on the stand out 'Times Have Changed' - written years ago by Brooks but timelessly reinvented by Jordan - as testified by Ronnie's jousting guitar solo outro with his long time friend from Memphis and rapper
Al Kapone - Brooks' intention to be authentic enough for the older generation but have something that the younger generation could latch onto, fully vindicated on this title track.
Ronnie's guitar intro on another one of his compositions 'Long Story Short' heralded another groovy upbeat Bluesy Soul song before we are transported back to the unmistakable sound of the '70's with a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly hit 'Give Me Your Love (Love Song' featuring singer/rapper Angie Stone, apparently the first track recorded on the album. The funk/soul of another Joe Tex cover 'Give The Baby Anything The Baby Wants' features Todd Mohr and Eddie Willis before Brooks covers Eric Clapton and Robert Cray's 'Old Love' - although missing Clapton's legendary live guitar intro - Ronnie puts his own individual take on this classic which in retrospect is made even more special as it features the late Bobby "Blue" Bland. Any mention of the 'Blues Police' will always mean that Jake and Elwood are not far behind - cue a cover of The Blues Brothers 'Come On Up' featuring Felix Cavaliere and Lee Roy Parnell with two final Brooks compositions rounding off 'THC' - the spunky 'Wham Bam Thank You Sam' which Ronnie wrote with Keb Mo and the delighful 'When I Was We' - further evidence of the quality of Brooks' vocals - picture that last slow dance at a 70's disco! 'Times Have Changed' has it all. Breadth in genre, backbone in content and an awesome array of top musicians. Hopefully we won't have to wait another ten years for Ronnie's next offering which one would hope would be less diluted but testament to one hugely talented musician.
Before I start, I have to admit that up until recently I had not been aware of Mr. Townend & The Mighty BossCats, however better late than never as they say! On first play of the album you could be forgiven for thinking this delta style Southern Blues is straight out of Mississippi, and not from our own fair shores. Eyes closed and headphones cranked, you could be in a small and intimate Deep South Blues club. Never is this more evident than on the opening track, 'The Long Years', which is reminiscent of the T Bone Burnett music from the True Detective tv series. Building slowly from a smoky Blues guitar and harmonica opening, with shuffling drums and bass added to the mix halfway through and ending with some great guitar work, it's the story of a seven year stretch in jail. With its very laid back feel, this sets the scene perfectly for the remaining ten songs. Track two, the title song 'Goldfever', follows in much the same vein and tells the story of chasing happiness and the fruitlessness in panning for gold, while the only people getting rich are the ones selling the pans. 'Do You Miss Me' is up next, slightly more upbeat than the opening two tracks and built on a steady train like rhythm covering all the standard Blues themes of heartache and lost love. Nice guitar work, but maybe the lyrics are a bit too repetitive making the song feel slightly over long. Track four 'Deliverance Day', tells the story of a woman trying to gain the courage to leave an abusive relationship. The lyrics are powerful and sound very personal, and once again it has a great guitar sound, but with no chorus the song tends to last slightly too long and loses a bit of focus.
From here it's on to 'Love Will Always Find A Way'. A very laid back song, which would sound perfectly at home on Radio 2 on a lazy Sunday afternoon.Sounding a lot like Chris Rea, it's a tale of a couple who have to run away to be together, and is very much a song my Mum would say was a lovely little tune. Next up is my favourite track on the album, 'The Rain Will Come And Wash It All Away' is a beautiful song which starts with Townend's great vocals and a simple acoustic guitar before gospel backing singers gently join in, giving the song extra richness & depth. A great song. A shame then that my favourite song is followed by one which feels like the only "filler" track on the album. 'Help From The Lord Above' feels a bit laboured and meandering which is not helped by the repetitive lyrics, this would be the song to be skipped over on repeated plays of this CD.
Track eight, 'Sweet Loretta' is a feel good old fashioned early Rock 'n' Roll/Swing tune sounding like something from the '50's, it's a good Pop tune and definitely is the only song on here which could possibly be danced to (if that's your thing). The very personal sounding 'Bately Boy' follows, a song about looking back on a childhood and the hardship that comes with it. Like the rest of the album, it has a great guitar sound, but the song feels rather word heavy and repetitive and as such it's a song that tends to outlive it's welcome a little. The heaviest song on the album is 'Wrong Road', starting with an acoustic guitar and vocals, before the electrics and drums kick in, followed by backing vocals and harmonica to beef up the sound.A great song, which needs to be played at neighbour bothering volume! Rather fittingly, the album closes with 'Closure', which does exactly what it says on the tin.A simple song that builds nicely and brings us back to where we began, the smoky Blues clubs of the Deep South or the UK at least. To sum up, a very enjoyable album from an artist that I was unfamiliar with, but who apparently has released nine CD's over the past five years so there is much to catch up on and discover.
At first you could be forgiven for thinking, is this just another English boy trying to play the Blues? And whilst essentially you would be correct, there is no doubt that for a debut album, Lincolnshire's Ash Wilson can certainly pull together an impressive set of musicians. This includes Bob Fridzema (King King) on keyboards and Roger Inness (Chaka Khan's band) on bass, while brother Phil takes care of the drums and production. 'Broken Machine' opens with 'Show Me How To Love You', a number soaked in the Deep South Blues style, complete with opening chain rattling percussion. The vocal is very strong, however towards the end the laid back feel seems to evaporate as everyone jumps in. Track two (the shortest on the album) 'World Gone Crazy' is a good little rock out number. The political lyrics do, in places, leave a bit to be desired, but a strong song nonetheless which, in places, reminds me of The Stranglers (although that could be just me). Next up is the Blues shuffle of 'Peace And Love', with its distorted effect on the vocals, it's a sad story of the blues of desperation (thank you Joey B) and it's a real grower upon repeated plays. Title track 'Broken Machine' is Blues Rock the way it should be, more upbeat, but with another sad story to tell, some great sounding guitar work, makes this one of the outstanding tracks on the CD.
I find it hard to listen to this style of electric guitar driven Blues Rock without making comparisons to one of my heroes Mr. Joe Bonamassa, who, without doubt is one of the best guitarists I have ever seen. I would find it hard to believe that Ash wasn't influenced by him for track five 'Words Of A Woman'. It has a great sound, with strong lyrics revolving around a woman's troubles when her husband leaves ("Does She Have To Start Again"). A great ballad with an excellent solo from Ash at the end, definitely my favourite song on the album. 'Maybe Out Of Time' would have been better named "Out Of Place" - even some nice guitar work can't really save this from feeling like a filler song and one that could have easily been off the final track list. 'The Hitcher' opens with a nice slow train rhythm, and accompanied with the Hammond organ, has a great feel to it, then when the first of two guitar solos kick in, it would appear to be the track that has everything, however in contrast to the initial clean solo, the second with its distorted effect, slightly outstays its welcome.
'Hold On Now' sounds like Ash's attempt to be an angry young man and confront his demons. Once again the guitar work is great, but his voice doesn't quite lend itself to this style as the song lacks melody. However, if a single is to be released from 'Broken Machine', my choice would be a slightly shorter version of track nine. 'Lonely Room' has an upbeat feel with downbeat lyrics, a great combination and one of the most commercial tracks on here. The album closes with 'Holding Hands', which again, reminds me of Mr. Bonamassa. It sounds a very personal song, dealing with trying to rekindle a long lost relationship, featuring a good guitar solo half way through - it's a ballad that once again needs repeated listens to fully appreciate, but is worth the effort, and is the song that brings 'Broken Machine' to its conclusion. To sum up, it's a good debut album, due to be released on Friday 21st April, and whilst in some places it sounds as if everyone is trying a bit too hard, surely the only way is up for Ash Wilson. Definitely one for the future.
If, like me, you wish you had learnt to play guitar at an early age, one listen to Aaron Keylock and you realise that unless you started at around twelve months, you've probably left it too late. It's hard to believe that this incredible album is from an artist, who while obviously devoted to his craft, shows maturity well beyond his eighteen years. While his influences are easy to hear, he certainly has his own sound, perfectly captured by producer Fabrizio Grossi (famed for his work with Slash and Zakk Wylde to name but two). Never is this more evident than on opening track 'All The Right Moves', starting with a great riff, it perfectly sets the tone for what's to come. An uptempo number, with a great loose Black Crowes Bluesy feel, and a terrific, if short mid song solo, which if extended in a live setting, could turn into something truly special.
As if to make a point as to how talented Mr. Keylock actually is, the second number 'Down' sounds like three songs rolled into one. Catchy verses, lead into a downbeat chorus, followed by some amazing slide guitar work, such ambition could get messy, but it works perfectly. 'Medicine Man' is apparently a big crowd favourite and it's not hard to hear why. This time, a particularly strong vocal is once again accompanied by a great guitar sound and a fist punching chorus, play it loud and you've got a song to lose your voice to. Great stuff. Next up is 'Falling Again'. Southern, Country style Rock - more at home in Nashville, Tennessee, with the likes of The Cadillac Three - who knew that a young guy from Oxfordshire could make sounds like this. Another great song. Onwards to 'Just One Question' which sounds like a song heavily influenced by a couple of guitar greats. Opening with a Joe Bonamassa feel and cutting in with some late, great Gary Moore style, its layers and precision show that maybe the "One Question" to be asked, should be how good will this guy be with a few more years under his belt? The (almost) title track 'Against The Grain' follows. A guaranteed foot stomper which would make a perfect single (if such things are still important). It's a perfect upbeat mix of Blues,Rock and Country complete with handclaps - a standout track which has the potential to be on Aaron's set list for many years to come.
Talking of future fan favourites and set list constants, the same can be said for 'That's Not Me'. With more great solos and a lazy laid back chorus which gets into your head after the first listen, if it were a book, it would be impossible to put it down. Track eight 'Try' will in all probability leave the listener in a bit of a dilemma. Trouble is when a song has this much going on, it's hard to know which air guitar should be busted out first. Do you go with the gentle opening and try and look sophisticated or rock out like a lunatic to the songs thunderous climax .Whichever you prefer, this is a wonderful noise, which once again demands to be played loud. With \Spin The Bottle' you can almost hear our hero channelling his inner Rolling Stones. Reminiscent of the early seventies 'Exile/ Tumbling Dice' era of the boys, it's a track with more of a band feel to it, catchy chorus, great vocals and of course exceptional guitar work .
After all this great stuff, I found 'Suns Gonna Shine' a little disappointing, although no way a filler track, after the promising opening, things tend to lose a bit of focus as everything gets thrown into the mix, this would be my personal skip over song. However, we are back on top form for the album closer 'No Matter What The Cost'. A great song with another chorus that gets lodged in your brain, a laid back Bluesy Rock tune which would be perfect for lazy summer days, beer in hand and all troubles forgotten. One of the things most noticeable upon repeated plays of this debut album is how restrained Aaron Keylock is with regards to his playing, with his youth and talent it would be easy to get carried away and make each song a lengthy overindulgent shred fest, however he definitely understands the concept of less is more as no song outlasts its welcome, making for a perfectly paced CD. It's the sound of a guy for whose future is so bright it's no wonder he wears shades on the cover. Next week I will have the pleasure of hearing at least some of these songs live at Planet Rocks WintersEnd festival. If the live show is as good as the CD, I think a great evening is in store. Highly recommended.
The place held by Michael Schenker in the annals of Heavy Rock folklore is incontrovertible. For the past 47 years, he has quite rightly been regarded as one of the greatest guitar “gods” of his, or any, generation.
He always has been a precocious talent – as well as prodigious, in every sense of the word. After all, he started out on his professional career at just 11, playing alongside his brother Rudolf and recording his first album with the Scorpions. In 1972, and still only 17, he was recruited by UFO as lead guitarist, leading them to massive global success, before six years later quitting to return to his brother’s side. One album, and one ground-breaking US tour later, at the tender age of 24, he decided to form his own band…
After getting his career trajectory very much back on track with the ‘Temple of Rock’ studio releases and some well-received live shows, Michael Schenker has returned to his MSG roots and ‘Michael Schenker Fest Live’ is a Classic Rock case of all the pieces coming together and all the (Rock) stars aligning for a 21st century revisit of what was, and remains, some of the finest and most successful musical moments of Schenker’s career under his own name - the original Michael Schenker Group era (1980 to 1984) and later McAuley Schenker Group (1986 to 1993).
Filmed and recorded on the 24th of August 2016 at the Tokyo International Forum, featuring lead vocalists Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley and backed by an excellent band of MSG brothers Chris Glenn (bass) Ted McKenna (drums) and Steve Mann (keyboards, guitars), Michael Schenker delivers classic era MSG (plus a couple of obligatory Scorpions and UFO numbers) with a scintillating performance in front of five thousand rabid fans who double as the MSG Chorus - 'Cry For the Nations' being a particularly notable, full-voiced example as the song was introduced by Schenker coaxing a howl of feedback from one of his many signature Dean Flying V guitars and the huge bank of Marshall amps behind him.
Opening with the tour-de-force instrumental 'Into the Arena' (preceded by the intro music of Temple of Rock's 'Searching For Freedom'), the band then back Gary Barden, the original and perhaps definitive MSG singer who steps up first on five original era MSG numbers including the definitive MSG rocker 'Armed and Ready,' the aforementioned 'Cry For the Nations' and the superbly wacky, but still rocking 'Attack of the Mad Axeman’.
While time doesn’t tell so much on seasoned and talented musicians, it does, inevitably, tell on many a Rock vocalist who have given their chords to the cause over the decades – in the case of Gary Barden his core vocal remains, but the higher tenor notes are intentionally ducked. Paradoxically, while the original highs on the vocal bridge of 'Axeman' are posted, missing it actually makes for a better "Rock" performance of what is one of the strongest songs in the MSG repertoire and the Michael Schenker six-string arsenal.
The pleasant surprise of this MSG Fest, and a true highlight among many, is just how good Graham Bonnet is vocally (still an incredibly strong singer at a now 69 years young). Bonnet had but a fleeting part to play in the history of MSG (the studio album ‘Assault Attack’ and then he left before the ensuing tour) but that release delivered a handful of MSG classics including the three songs featured here (which follow the Scorpions instrumental 'Coast to Coast') - a crunching version of the title track, the mini-epic 'Desert Song' and the infectiously engaging Hard Melodic Pop of 'Dancer’. On the latter, Graham Bonnet is backed by both Gary Barden and Robin McAuley for what is a fun, sing-a-long number, but one that suffered ridicule back in the day - not so much for it's Poppified arrangement - as for sporting one of the most unnatural or forced phrasings in a pop-rock chorus just to get the lyric to scan ("she’s a great dancer…not i-dee-ally built for ballet")
The quirky 'Captain Nemo' (from the 4th MSG record ‘Built To Destroy’ (1983) gets Disc 2 underway and allows the band to instrumentally stretch once more before Robin McAuley returns to the stage for three numbers including the pedal down rocker 'Save Yourself' and the AOR Rock brace 'This is My Heart' and 'Love is Not a Game’.
Robin McAuley also takes the lead for the UFO finale of 'Shoot Shoot' and a 15 minute 'Rock Bottom’, the latter allowing Michael Schenker to flex his six-string muscles in an extended workout that proves, once again, that the legendary Rock guitarist is back at the top of his game. This is surely destined to remain forever Schenker’s signature guitar track and he is quite probably playing the best guitar of his life at the moment in my humble opinion...
Encore/ final song 'Doctor Doctor' is another excuse for the Tokyo faithful to lend a voice to proceedings, but with all three vocalists sharing vocal lines, singing loose and a decidedly party atmosphere attached to the last song of the night, it’s not the tightest version you'll ever hear of the UFO classic. But as a celebration of a lauded past, ‘Michael Schenker Fest Live’ is just what the Doctor Doctor ordered!!! There would certainly be many more audiences for this album set should Schenker decide to tour Europe or Britain behind it although with the ongoing success of Temple of Rock that would seem unlikely. However, this will soon have you dusting off those worn out copies of the 1982 classic ‘One Night At Budokan’ and is a terrific effort from all concerned.. Live CD’s can be a hit or miss, but trust me, this one is definitely a hit. If you discovered Schenker in the 80’s as I did, then as a Rock fan or guitarist you’ll love it.....
01. Intro: Searching For Freedom
02. Into The Arena
03. Attack Of The Mad Axeman ft. Gary Barden
04. Victim Of Illusion ft. Gary Barden
05. Cry For The Nations ft. Gary Barden
06. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie ft. Gary Barden
07. Armed And Ready ft. Gary Barden
08. Coast To Coast
09. Assault Attack ft. Graham Bonnet
10. Desert Song ft. Graham Bonnet
11. Dancer ft. Graham Bonnet
12. Captain Nemo
13. This Is My Heart ft. Robin McAuley
14. Save Yourself ft. Robin McAuley
15. Love Is Not A Game ft. Robin McAuley
16 . Shoot Shoot ft. Robin McAuley
17. Rock Bottom ft. Robin McAuley
18. Doctor Doctor ft. Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley
Wrinkly the Silver (pictures courtesy of Emili Muraki)
A multi-award winning Bluesman who has toured with such names as Bo Diddly, Buddy Guy and Greg Allman, it seems strange that Canadian singer/songwriter Matt Andersen is not more of a household name. However maybe his latest album, 'Honest Man', can change all that. With an easy listening, Bluesy, radio friendly feel, this could be the collection of songs that brings the mass recognition that would be richly deserved. A relatively short album opens with 'Break Away' which sets the tone perfectly for the next nine songs with it's laid back Summertime feel. It's almost calypso style tells us that, if life's pressures become to hard to handle, it must be time to start again, which gives the album's shortest song the most positive message. Continuing in the same vein, but lower key and with a slightly religious tone, comes 'The Gift', a nicely downplayed vocal reassures us that when all is lost "The Gift Of Life Is All", probably a message that's easier to cope with when you are lucky enough to do what you love for a living, but it's a good song with subtle harmonies from backing singers adding to the overall depth of the track.
Next, it's time to break out the horn section for the title song 'Honest Man'. A personal song, telling of the artists struggles to make his own way in life ("Everybody's Just Serving Themselves, Nobody's Got Time fFor An Honest Man"). It's a great song with a great vocal and one of the album's highlights. If the title track has a great vocal, then track four, 'I'm Giving In' has a simply stunning one. Accompanied only with a piano, it's a sad song which has an almost hymn like quality, starting softly and building to the powerful mid-section before coming full circle. It's the song that perfectly demonstrates the artists vocal abilities and for me, is the stand out track on the CD. Track five, 'Quiet Company', brings a bit of Country into the Bluesy mix - it has a great melody and some subtle slide guitar to go along with that late night easy listening feel. After repeated plays it also reminded me somewhat of solo acoustic Springsteen in the 'Tom Joad, Devils and Dust' eras, which is by no means a bad thing. Another cracking song.
'Let's Get Back', is probably Matt Andersen's shot a being an angry young man. The song tells how his home country is changing, but not for the better, and how life would be if returned to the values of the past. The horn section make a welcome return and there is even a mid-section trumpet solo. If there is a song here made for the radio, then this is it. 'All The Way' sees a return to the low key vocals but adds a slightly funky bass line with some light backing vocals, piano and keyboards, turning a simple song into an instantly catchy tune. Next up is 'Last Surrender', which again uses the horn section to good effect, and is the story of an everlasting love, that endures though all that life can throw at it. Another great, late night, easy listening radio friendly ballad. The penultimate song 'Who Are You Listening To?' is the most uptempo Rocky track on the album in which - through the catchy melody and chorus, we are encouraged not to believe the media hype and make up our own minds - he probably wrote this with politics in mind, but the same context could definitely be used in relation to today's music scene. Another top track. The album's closer, 'One Good Song' is exactly that, a good song about finding and writing that one good song that every artist aspires to. Vocal, piano & flute take pride of place as this well crafted tune takes the CD to its inevitable conclusion.
A real unexpected treat of an album, the only question that lingers is how Mr Andersen is not a household name? Surely this can only be a matter of time? If the live dates throughout May in the U.K. are as good as this album, big things are surely just around the corner for Matt and his easy Country Blues style rock.
Erja Lyytinen's tenth studio album 'Stolen Hearts' is her latest release in her 15 year recording career that sees her team up with producer Chris Kimsey to create an album that is somewhat more diverse in styles than previous releases. The "Finnish slide goddess" recorded the album in her homeland but it was mastered by the Master in London's Air Studios. And it's a slick production. Whilst known as a Blues artist, Erja has incorporated elements of many other styles in an album that is therefore a mix of tastes. And with lyrical themes that transcend all ages there's something in it for everyone.
'Stolen Hearts' opening eponymous track is a fine beginning to the album with strong fret board skills and strong vocals that perfectly fit a song about a man-eating woman turned heartbroken damsel in distress. The guitar work has hints of Hendrix but this is not blues as we know it Jim. 'Rocking Chair' has an unusual time signature that hides what is essentially a true Blues track with trademark slide guitar. A nice grooving riff pulls the song along as Erja bemoans the power of media and money driven world. Less intricate guitar work allows you to hear the delightful bends and slides. The title might make this my anthem as I make my way into my twilight years.
'Love Laboratory' is a far more laid back funky track that wouldn't sound amiss amongst a more pop ensemble with the likes of Adele singing. A question of what love is will have most grizzled Blues listeners scratching their heads. No idea love. Again, Erja's strong vocals and guitar skills keep us interested. '24 Angels' is another gentle opening track about morality and forgiveness. This suits Erja's vocals which sound smooth even when she increases the intensity. Another more pop type song, it is saved from becoming bland by the interesting key giving it a slightly mysterious sound. Influences of her recent visit to the East.
'Black Ocean' is a more down to earth Blues track with a nice repetitive riff with a full blown guitar solo. The guitar solo is tastefully done with no excessive speed or unnecessary frills. It has that really emotional feel where one note says so much more than twenty. Not to say that Erja doesn't have technical and speed skills - they are there - she just uses them well to create a solo that sounds great. The longest track on the album, it certainly doesn't feel it. 'Slowly Burning' is a slow Blues track describing a relationship slowly burning away to nothing. Her smooth voice again sounds just right for this sort of song that is a traditional "feeling sorry for myself so let me take out my emotion on my Fender Strat". Not one that will get you up and dancing, but one that may well water your beer down with a few tears.
'Lover's Novels' ups the tempo with a faster shuffle and the ever present slide guitar. This is the shortest track on the album, it moves along at a brisk pace and will get your toes tapping. I liked the slide guitar in this track - it's been the track I have gone back and listened to most just for the slide work. I can see where Erja gets her "Finnish Slide Goddess" tag from. 'Silver Stones' is a song about Mental illness and is clearly sung from the heart - a subject that is all too close to many people. Another song that feels more Pop than Blues, I could imagine this being played on mainstream media. Assuming they would allow a guitar solo longer than a nano-second that is. It's probably the weakest song on the album musically but not a bad song.
'Awakening' is another song that mixes various styles - Blues, Pop - there's some nice keyboards behind the guitar and vocals. It's a song about the positives of being in love that give the song a lift above the melancholia of the Blues and into the Pop arena. 'City Of Angels' tells the story of Erja's experiences of her visit to the Californian metropolis. Highlighting those things that you would see and feel in the busy bustling city, it is an engaging track. Nice use of a quiet verse building to a more powerful chorus, this is one of the stronger tracks on the album for me. All of the components - voice, guitar, rhythm, the overall mix - are just right. 'Broken Eyes' is the final track on the album and is a piano melody about a broken heart - or broken eyes in this case. A stripped back sound with various chord changes, it keeps you engaged whilst you reach for your Zippo to hold sky high. It’s a fine way to end the album showcasing Erja's voice and songwriting skills. I guess it's an appropriate ending to what is an interesting mix of songs.
After ten albums it is understandable that an artist wants to introduce a fresh approach and bring in new ideas. 'Stolen Hearts' has a mix of songs that defies the ability to label it as a Blues album. It's one of those albums where some will appeal and some won't. There's no denying Erja's singing, songwriting and guitar playing talents. With a track record of playing the Blues scene, it will be interesting to see which track's Erja chooses for her forthcoming tour to support the album. And maybe which track makes it for her on mainstream radio. I wish her well in both.
Following on from Rainbreakers first EP 'Blood Not Brass' comes 'Rise Up' a new five track collection by this highly talented four piece from Shrewsbury. All songs on offer here have a very retro feel to them and on first listen reminded me very much of the old school type production used to such great effect on Rival Sons 'Great-Western Valkyrie' album, only this time with more Soul added to the Blues/Rock mix. Opening track 'On My Own' has a very soulful, psychedelic bass driven feel to it with a subtle electric guitar sound in the background, all of which help to tell the story of a positive relationship breakdown (never knew there was such a thing) accompanied by great vocals by Ben Edwards. A very classy opener.
The title track 'Rise Up' with its opening line of "Wake Up And Open Your Eyes" sets out the message for this song very early, which is go for your dreams and don't get pulled down. The longest song here finds the time for a psychedelic middle section complete with female backing vocal harmonies to accompany it's consistent soulful groove. My personal favourite 'Waiting On You' is next, a very smooth understated track which builds nicely from a great opening guitar and soft vocals into an excellent song which would be at home on any late night radio station or maybe a future (sadly not) Amy Winehouse album. An optimistic song, tinged with sadness. A terrific song.
'Perception' follows in the same vein sound wise, but has a more positive message about how much better life can be with a little love in it, complete with a gentle Reggae feel, it's slightly meandering in the middle section, but is short enough at four minutes not to outstay it's welcome. A gentle drum and simple guitar bring in the final track 'Living Free', then once the great vocals kick in, it builds nicely into a tension filled piece about everyday internal struggles. Complemented by a great guitar solo, it eventually returns to the calm feel of the opening.Overall I would say it's an EP that requires a certain late night relaxing mood to fully enjoy. Whilst it is certainly more soulful that the usual Blues/Rock out there, I look forward to a full album by the guys, as Rainbreakers would appear to be a band whose star is very much on the rise.
The Krissy Matthews Band continue their UK tour in April to celebrate the release of their first live album 'Live At Freak Valley'. Released today by Proper Records, the live album was recorded at the Freak Valley Festival in Siegen, Germany on 27th May 2016 and it really catches the adrenalin and pure excitement of the band in all their glory. Originally from Oxford, Krissy’s band has often been described as an exciting, high octane, power Rock trio steeped in Blues roots. Twenty four year old Matthews has performed at some of Europe’s most iconic music venues including Ronnie Scott’s, Loreley, Tanzbrunnen and Festa Avante. He’s also opened for many high profile recording artists at the top of their game including Joe Bonamassa, Toto, Gregg Allman and Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Max Maxwell's drum roll intro and Sam Weston's driving bass leaves you in doubt that Krissy Matthews has that 'Feeling For The Blues' on this incendiary opener - Matthews guitar immediately grasping the wrinkly throats of the Blues Police including its lyrics "I wasn't born in 1902 .... I got the feeling for the Blues" - although it's difficult to believe that he penned this track at just the age of fourteen and is still only twenty four. No standing on ceremony here as they immediately launch into the heavy opening bass riff of "I've Been Searching" - another head-banging composition from Krissy showcasing not only that he plays a mean guitar, but also, despite his tender years, that he has already experienced the blues of life's ups and downs - in this particular case, written in respect of an ex-girlfriend. 'All Night Long' is more of the same - written at the age of seventeen - in both subject matter plus another heavy riff with a mid-section guitar solo before Krissy asks the Freak Valley crowd "Do you know Blind Willie McTell?" Matthews then duly opens with an a cappella on 'Searching The Desert For The Blues' - a track he covered and gave his own take on his last studio album 'Scenes From A Moving Window' - before its metamorphosis into one delightful jam - the crowd whooping in delight as Krissy's guitar once again goes into overdrive.
Matthews then poses the question: "Siegen - are you ready to rock" - as another self-penned Blues Rock corker 'Language By Injection' - written about a night out in Poland when touring - nudge nudge wink wink - delivers as promised. Krissy then shares a special personal moment with Freak Valley - "Seven years ago I was very lucky to meet the King of the Blues - Mr. B.B. King - and this is a song I wrote later that night" - cue 'The Soul Will Never Die' including both a two minute opening guitar solo that the great man - God bless him - would have been proud of - plus another towards the end which hears the German crowd roar with approval. Maxwell's pounding drum heralds the boppin' 'Bad Boy' - another Matthews composition - before the man himself introduces his engine room: "on bass guitar, all the way from London - give it up for the sexy, the fabulous, Mr. Sam Weston" before Weston's obligatory bass solo kicks in, followed by "on the drums all the way from the Blues capital of the UK - Studley Green - the sexiest man in Germany right now - Max Maxwell" - cue obligatory drum solo before Matthews rounds things off with some more scintillating fretwork. Their Freak Valley set closes with a cover of Hendrix's 'Freedom' - now back as a staple on their live set list - a favourite with Matthews as this guitar tribute to Jimi truly demonstrates.
Despite its title 'Live At Freak Valley', the last bonus three tracks on the album were recorded live in Germany, but actually at Gerd's Juke Joint in Joldelund a month earlier. Maxwell's drum opens the brief rock 'n roll number 'Hit The Rock', the title track from their 2011 album, which also sees the welcome introduction of some honky tonk keys, although Matthews once again steals the show with a rockin' guitar solo on a track written oddly enough about the band's tour van crashing in Norway six year's earlier. The Country sounding 'Roadsick Blues' is a defining track for mine on this CD. Live albums rightly or wrongly get the tag of a sort of "Best Of Collection". In other words, you generally have already heard the studio track on an album before you buy its live counterpart. 'Roadsick Blues' for mine, would not be a studio track that I would go out of my way to purchase, but the shear infectious nature of this live track and the rest of 'Live At Freak Valley' has exactly the opposite effect, in that it makes you really want to go and see these guys live even if you don't own one of their studio albums - testament to our love of live music. Also love the lyric "You can take the man off the road, but you can't take the road off the man!" Yee-haw! It's a bit of a cliche, but they actually save the best for last with 'Bubbles And The Seven Phones' - Matthews fitting ten minute memorial to his friend - with its additional fusion of a beautiful Hammond organ before Krissy takes it away with another glorious guitar solo. If there was ever an album to get the message across about keeping music live - then this is it. Can't wait to see these guys in action at London's Fiddler's Elbow in Camden this Wednesday!
Recorded over two nights in January 2016 at the iconic Carnegie Hall, New York, this double CD finds Mr. Bonamassa and his nine piece band on blistering form. Stripped down songs with new arrangements, spanning his whole career with a few personal favourites thrown in, what could be better? From the first chords, you can tell these were very special evenings, worthy of another live album by the Blues maestro. The evening begins with three songs from Joe's latest album, 'Blues Of Desperation'. First up is 'This Train'. Unintentional or not, it provides the perfect metaphor for this well oiled machine of a band, with the rhythm mirroring the locomotive chugging down the track slowly gaining pace and building to its thunderous conclusion, a wonderful opener. No time to bask in the applause as the more sedate 'Drive' keeps the motion theme alive. An intricate solo and gentle backing vocals from Mahalia Barnes, Juanita Tipping and Gary Pinto give the song a great, laid back feel, capturing the mood of whiling the miles away on a long journey while trying to escape the confines of life. Completing the trio of songs from JB's 2016 album is 'The Valley Runs Low'. A song steeped in the Blues, it feels like a familiar old friend of a song, Joe's voice is on top form, and again, the backing vocals are allowed to shine giving the song a light Gospel feel. Tina Guo on cello adds to the smooth feel of a great arrangement, one of the album's many highlights.
Then it's time for one of the big guns to come out, and although we have heard a version of 'Dust Bowl' very similar to this on 2013's 'Live at the Vienna Opera House' album, it's a class song and obviously a band and crowd favourite.The addition of Eric Bazilian's mandolin gives the song an extra depth, but acoustic or electric, this is the song that Joe will be playing live until he retires. Next up is the title track from the 'Driving Towards The Daylight' album. Never a very heavy song, even in its stripped down form, the whole band is allowed to shine. From the simple opening acoustic guitar, through to the gradually accompanying piano, cello and drums it sounds great with Joe's voice perfectly blending in with the backing singers. Back to the 'Dust Bowl' album for one of its heavier tracks. 'Black Lung Heartache' opens with an unfamiliar guitar solo, however once the instantly recognisable riff kicks in, the song loses none of its power and even features a hurdy gurdy, compliments once again, of the multi-talented Mr. Bazilian.
The equivalent track to 'Black Lung Heartache' on the 'Black Rock' album would have to be 'Blue & Evil', which keeps the more Rocky feel to the album's mid-section going. This version however does not really add anything to the song and for the first time it seems things get a little messy in the middle, even the usually excellent backing vocals seem strangely out of place. A good song, probably not best suited to this format, the first slight disappointment of the opening thirty minutes. Next we are back to the 'Blues of Desperation' album for the final time and 'Livin Easy'. A vintage sounding modern Blues song that JB does so well. The classic theme of a woman who spends your money twice as fast as you can make it, this can truly be described as one of Joe's hidden gems.The saxophone and piano add to the smoky late night feel of this outstanding song. A foot stomping start ushers in 'Get Back My Tomorrow'. A great sing a long chorus, top vocals and piano, with its message of how wasting time (not something Joe could ever be accused of) is a bitter pill to swallow, makes for another gem, this time reworked from the 2014 studio version.
So nine songs in and such is the pace, we finally get our first "good evening" from the man himself, time is simply flying by. Now then, this is where the reviewer has a bit of a dilemma. The live version of 'Mountain Time' on 2008's 'Live From Nowhere In Particular', is, quite simply one of my favourite ever songs by anyone. The closing guitar solo on that track, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention. Unfortunately, this obviously cannot be replicated with an acoustic guitar, however it's still a truly great song and this new arrangement can't be faulted, with the vocals of Barnes and Tippins adding to its depth, a classic song, whichever style you prefer. It must be time for a cover version, the first of three in fact. The Folk song from the 1920's, 'How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live' has been covered by such luminaries as Ry Cooder and Bruce Springsteen. You can tell Joe loves this song, with his take on it, blending Blues, Folk and Gospel to make this arrangement stand head and shoulder's with all those that have gone before.
Probably the most unexpected inclusion on this album is up next. The Black Country Communion track 'Song Of Yesterday'. Clocking in at over nine minutes, it meanders on pleasantly enough but only really comes to life as it gathers pace in the final section, and as such, breaks the pace of the album unnecessarily, feeling a bit like a filler track. Maybe you just had to be there for this one. Next we head back to 2003 for 'Woke Up Dreaming'. This is truly epic, and could easily be used as a showcase of Mr. Bonamassa's talent. Accompanied by the cello, Joe shows us why he is the premier Blues guitarist of his generation. With all of his arsenal in play including a huge mid-song solo, the crowd laps it up as the song comes to its unstoppable, inevitable conclusion. A masterclass from the master himself.
On the Three Kings tour of 2015, Joe paid tribute to his three heroes (B.B, Albert and Freddie) and on the second cover version of the night, he chooses 'Hummingbird', written by Leon Russell, made famous by B.B. King for another slice of classic Blues. It's a great song, wonderfully played with Reese Wynans on piano complementing Joe's guitar beautifully.
"Thank you very much and goodnight" - surely that can't be it and of course it isn't - there is always time for one more song. An encore of 'The Rose' is as unexpected as it is welcome, even the purists who are sure the Bette Midler rendition is the definitive version of the song would have to admit this is pretty special. Joe's voice has rarely sounded as good, accompanied by a understated piano at the start, before the rest of the band come in, to close the album with a real touch of class.
These must have been two truly wonderful New York evenings. Having been lucky enough to see Joe Bonamassa on a few occasions, but only ever in a Rock/Blues context, this CD highlights two shows I would've loved to have attended. If anyone wants to know who today's guitar heroes are, they need look no further than his considerable back catalogue. My old Dad always tell me repeatedly "None of today's so called stars can really play their instruments". Wisdom obviously doesn't always come with age and JB is the living proof. A CD I would highly recommend to anyone who loves guitar, Blues and exceptional musicianship.
After being fortunate enough to recently review the CD version of this excellent concert from Carnegie Hall, and after hearing how it's done, now it's time to see how it's done on the Blues masters new DVD. The first thing you notice is how this iconic venue in Midtown Manhattan has retained its historic look and feel - the interior architecture looks as though little has changed since the theatre opened in 1891 on Seventh Avenue, New York City. The venue has three separate concert spaces, with this particular gig taking place in The Main Hall, the largest of the three holding almost three thousand fans.
A simple stage set, with a seated Mr. Bonamassa front and centre, accompanied by the eight multi-talented musicians is all that is needed to let the quality of the music shine through. No frills or video screens needed, just the man in black with trademark shades providing a virtuoso display to keep the audience enthralled. Playing songs and (acoustic) guitars from almost every stage of his career, it's a set that fans of the great man would probably chose themselves and the pace is relentless, from the opening stomp of 'This Train' to the surprising finale cover of Bette Midler's 'The Rose'. But this show is not all about Joe, with the rest of the band on top form, looking like they are thoroughly enjoying the experience of playing this great venue. Special mentions must go to Tina Guo on cello and the two string erhu, who not only plays quite beautifully but also provides the cameraman the opportunity to try and look down her top at regular intervals, and the excellent Reese Wynans on piano, who plays with delicacy and precision in equal measure.
For a song by song review, please see my review of the CD below, but if you enjoyed the album, this is a great accompanying DVD, illustrating just what a great musician can do when accompanied by a great band. The extras on the bonus disc include interviews with the all the band members, the most interesting of which is Joe explaining how, from his vast collection of guitars, he chose the ones to be used on the night (one of which is a hundred years old and another, a gorgeous Johnny Cash signature model). If you like Joe Bonamassa/acoustic Blues music this excellently filmed concert DVD is well worth adding to your collection.
To coincide with their (now delayed) UK Tour in October, King King release their fourth studio album 'Exile & Grace' on Friday 6th October, looking to increase their already burgeoning reputation as a live band with a collection of radio friendly Blues/Rock tunes that should see them get the airplay and recognition their performances on the road so richly deserve. Although still present, the more Bluesy numbers have been put slightly on the back burner, to make way for sing a long choruses and big guitars, which should appeal to fans of Thunder and FM to name but two.
No better example of this, than on the opening track and lead single '(She Don't) Gimme No Lovin'. An infectious riff and great chorus, it's already garnering much radio play on Planet Rock and if it wasn't for the vocals of Alan Nimmo, you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to the latest offering from Thunder.
Slightly more in their usual style, track two 'Heed The Warning' introduces a more Bluesy feel, not that surprising when you read it was inspired by time in the studio spent with the Legend that is Mr. John Mayall. It has a hook that sticks in the brain long after the song is over. A crowd favourite in waiting, it's destined to be on the set list for a long time to come.
Keeping up with a very popular theme in Rock music at the moment, 'Broken' sees the boys tackle the state of the world, but unlike some, it's not as depressing as it sounds. Keeping the pace of the album ticking over nicely and with great vocals, along with an impressive mid-section guitar solo, this relatively short song (as they all are on this CD) never outstays its welcome. A personal favourite. Another sure fire crowd pleaser 'Find Your Way Home' and it's time to get those lighters (or phones, depending on your age) in the air. It's ballad time. A simple song which only takes one play to get you singing along with the big chorus, which is strange, as the song itself is rather understated, proof perfect that sometimes when music needs to be played loud - less is more. Again, great vocals and subtle guitar add to the genuine feeling in the song. A song for all ages, especially Mums - they will love it.
Possible second single (everyone knows the ballad is always third) is up next. 'Tear It All Up' and we are off and rocking again. A song apparently written on the road whilst touring with Thunder, it's another song that would perfectly suit either band. A great hook and riff, it's a song that not only refers to the 'Exile and Grace' of the album's title, but is also crying out to be played live. If there is one song where the Blues outweighs the rock. then 'Betrayed Me' is probably the one. Not as instantly catchy as most of the songs on here, it has a quite downbeat feel as the name would suggest. Being not as immediate as the other tracks, a few plays (nearly said spins) are required, but once that down tuned guitar sound gets under your skin, it becomes a firm favourite.
Time for another instantly memorable hook and with singing voices at the ready, 'Long Time Running' will probably do just that. It's the sound of the whole band having a great time - special mention for Bob Fridzema on the keys - who really is allowed to shine. Rocking enough for mainstream radio, but sadly lacking the proposed cowbell, another song that could see the band take it to the next level. All Right Now, (see what I did there) and on to track eight 'Nobody Knows Your Name' - sees a major influence from Paul Rodgers and Free. From the great opening riff through the story of the ups and downs of fame, and how it's not all black stockings and limo's. The song has a great groove, and shows how being inspired by the greats doesn't mean you have to copy them - this still has the King King sound all over it.
The final song 'I Don't Wanna Lie' is a strange arrangement. Sounding like a Stevie Wonder song, sung by Paul Carrack and played by King King, the song is a mixture of Pop, Groove and Funk with the lightest spattering of Rock in there as well. By no means my favourite song on the album, it cannot detract from the fact that this is a strong collection of commercial songs which, if they have the desired and deserved effect, should see King King cement their reputation as one of the best bands in the U.K.
Mollie Marriott’s much anticipated debut album ‘Truth Is A Wolf’ will be released on Friday 3rd November via Amadeus Music. The album is available for pre-order through and is available as Limited Edition Red Vinyl, Deluxe CD and Standard CD. Mollie is a highly accomplished, gifted and talented solo artist and singer in her own right who has worked with many great artists since the age of 15 including P.P. Arnold, Paul Weller, Oasis, The Faces and her stepfather Joe Brown.
Mollie’s music can be described as classic and contemporary Rock with large helpings of Soul, Gospel and a smattering of Country for good measure. I can hear influences ranging from Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Bramlett, Sam Brown, Stevie Nicks and Bonnie Raitt to name a few.
This is an album from an artist very much on the rise, someone who is taking charge and leading their own musical path, an individual in control with their own vision. This is the work of a truly great singer-songwriter who has found their true voice. A performer who has worked at their craft and honed their skill as a writer and singer and is able to deliver the goods with poise and passion.
The lyrics on the album are quite heavy and emotionally intense, definitely written by someone who has lived through the highs and lows of life and come out the other side stronger. The lyrics emote raw and profound feelings that penetrate deep into the heart and soul of the listener.
The sultry black & white cover photo of Mollie was taken by Rob Blackham of Blackham Images. Mollie is captured with eyes closed, hair dangling down the left side of her face covering her left eye, expressing a subtle cheeky knowing smile and holding her tasselled leather jacket by the labels as though she means business.
The album was recorded at Black Barn Studios, RAK Studios and Air Studios, produced by Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert, who has produced albums for the likes of Paul Weller and Oasis. Seven of the songs were further produced by Steve Orchard, who has produced albums for artists such as Travis and Sting. The album was mixed by Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert and mastered by Guy Davie at Electric.
The album opens with the outstanding ‘Control’, the first single released and the last song written for the album, co-written by Mollie and keyboard player Sam Tanner. Sam is also the lead vocalist and keyboard player with the Funk/Soul band Brother Strut. This powerful song is about Mollie taking back control of her music and taking charge of your own destiny. This is a sensational funky song that gradually builds from a piano and bass drum intro before soaring vocals enter the scene, then a full on solid heavy drum sound comes thundering in for the chorus exerting authority and adding power to drive the track to euphoric heights. Sparkling and gritty guitar work adds meat to the track and guides the melody along. The vocals are strong and muscular delivering the message across. The production is warm, wide and roomy with plenty of air. A strong song and great album opener.
The second track, also co-written with Sam Tanner, is the emotionally charged ‘Broken’, a deeply personal song that is dedicated to Mollie's daughter as an apology for the trauma caused during the breakdown of her relationship with her daughter's father. When I heard this song played live acoustically it touched me emotionally and had me welling up! This recording is the fuller electric arrangement. There is busy snare drum rim tapping at the forefront and appears periodically throughout the track, despite this distraction the overall arrangement works well with tantalizing guitar accompaniment adding texture. The vocal performance is astounding and second to none.
Third song in is the phenomenal title track ‘Truth Is a Wolf’, written by Gary Nicholson and Bonnie Hayes. Both Gary and Bonnie are American singer-songwriters. Mollie picked this one up when she was in Nashville. This song has a classy sound with a nice laid back tempo and a perfect groove to it. The arrangement has allowed for plenty space and has an airy feel to it. Compelling keyboard playing and jabbing guitar stabs augment and enhance the sensation. Paul Weller guests on guitar. There are some wicked howling vocal refrains after the chorus.
The fourth song is the tremendous power ballad ‘Give Me A Reason’, written by Mollie, Sam Tanner and Jim Stapley. Jim is a British singer-songwriter based in America. This song really tugs at the heart-strings and is another of my favourite songs on the album. Mollie’s vocals really sore and fly on this one, at times I feel it might take off into the stratosphere! Breathtaking gospel backing vocals raise up the tension and add to the emotional intensity. A truly majestic song.
The fifth track is the impeccable ‘Run With The Hounds’, another song Mollie wrote with Sam Tanner. A prodigious track with a nice laid back rhythm and a beautiful melody. An acoustic version can be heard on the 4-track ‘Live Acoustic’ EP released earlier this year.
Sixth track in is ‘Love Your Bones’, the first of two songs written solely by Mollie. This song was written after her friend sadly died and is 'written from his girlfriend's point of view'. This is a gradual building dramatic Rocker with tasty piano playing and vocals that shine.
Seventh song is the immense ‘Transformer’, the first of two songs co-written by Mollie, Judy Tzuke and Graham Kearns. Judy is a legendary British singer-songwriter best known for her 1979 hit 'Stay With Me Till Dawn', Graham is a British guitarist and songwriter. This is an epic track, another of my favourites. It has a striking anthemic chorus with a powerful and stunning vocal delivery. This dynamic and expressive track has shades of light and dark with a tasteful balance of vocals and instrumentation. A very powerful and strong song with thumping great power chords driving it along. An absolute classic.
The eighth track, ‘Fortunate Fate’, is the second song written solely by Mollie. As with ‘Love Your Bones’ this was written for one of her friends who was going through difficult times. This was the first song Mollie wrote on guitar, of the track Mollie is quoted saying; “Safe to say this was definitely Pearl Jam inspired”. A good mid-paced song that builds steadily to a climax. There are definite subtle Grunge influences with a slight hypnotic vibe.
Ninth song ‘King Of Hearts’ is the second song on the album Mollie co-wrote with Judy Tzuke and Graham Kearns, and is the second song to feature Paul Weller on guitar. A great little sleazy Rock song! Cool heavy bass anchors this track with a slightly psychedelic intro and delicate
trippy guitar notes ringing throughout. A Deftly arranged track with a nice vibe throughout. A third song co-written with Judy Tzuke, but unfortunately not on the album, is ‘Trouble & Shame’. It can be found on the 4-track ‘Live Acoustic’ EP.
The last track on the album is the monumental and arresting ‘My Heaven Can Wait’, written by Mollie and Jim Stapley. This is another soaring epic track and definitely another of my favourites. An emotionally haunting track that is dark, eerie, atmospheric, wide and deep. Nicely paced and balanced that builds layer by layer. Exceptional vocal delivery, with an abundance of feeling and emotion. You have to have lived it and felt it to be able to sing it like this! Superb backing vocals add to the overall haunting nature of the track. A formidable song to end the album on. I hope Mollie will perform this song live on the next tour.
There are two bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of the album, the awesome ‘Armour’ and ‘Gravity’. Unfortunately the brilliant single releases 'A Million Miles' and the World Party cover 'Ship Of Fools' are not included on the album, undoubtedly due to contractual issues with their release on another label.
The mark of any classic album is its timeless and enduring quality, a lasting resonance which transcends time and space. An album that is relevant today needs to be relevant tomorrow and when discovered many years down the line. It must be fresh and vibrant as the first day it was aired. Each listen will bring out other subtle elements perhaps not heard before to further emphasize the shear quality of the recordings. I strongly believe Mollie's debut album meets these criteria. It is definitely one for the record collection that will be listened to time and time again. It is nothing short of brilliant!
With quality this good I have every faith that Mollie will have a long and successful career.
This year, as well as performing solo headline shows, Mollie has completed tours supporting Paul Weller and Wilko Johnson, and will be supporting Bad Touch on their UK tour this November.
Steven C. Gilbert
So, here it is, the most unlikely album release of the year. Five years after a reportedly acrimonious split, the supergroup that is Black Country Communion are back with their fourth studio release. Ten new songs penned by bassist Glenn Hughes and blues maestro Joe Bonamassa make up the originally titled 'BCCIV'. But that only tells half the story - throw Jason Bonham on drums and Derek Sherinian on keyboards into the mix, all wrapped up with producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley's magic touch and you have a barnstorming collection of tunes which could easily make up the best Rock album of 2017.
From the opening Zep like crunching riff of first single 'Collide' it sounds like the five year old cobwebs are being blown away with some serious force. Everyone is obviously having a ball, with Hughes vocals soaring and wailing in equal measure, to powerhouse performances by Bonham and Bonamassa, with the latter playing like his guitar is on fire. A great opening track that leaves you in no doubt this is no half hearted side project to fill time between solo releases.
Never is this more evident than on 'Over My Head' with another instantly catchy riff and a great chorus, it's perfect for radio. Happily it seems the considerable egos on display are going to be put aside and everyone is going to get their chance to shine, this time it's Bonham, who plays with such force and precision even old Dad would have been proud. This has the feel of a band on the edge where reputations are forgotten and all that matters is the music.
'Last Song For My Resting Place' would be at home on any Joe Bonamassa solo album. And what a song this is, the only track with Joe on lead vocals and clocking in at almost eight minutes long, the word epic doesn't really do it justice. It sounds like a sea shanty with attitude and tells the story of Wallace Harvey, the band leader and violinist on the Titanic who played and perished as the ship went down. As you might expect the violin plays it's part, with the layered song mixing light and heavy with a crushing solo from Mr. B. in usual Blues/Rock mode at its centre. A monster of a track that only improves with repeated plays.
With everyone stamping their mark on the previous songs, 'Sway' sees Sherinian take to the spotlight and whilst the guitars and drums of the two JB's are unrelenting, the underlying keyboards bring an extra depth to this rocker. Add to this, the over the top vocals by Hughes and this full on song, again reminiscent of classic Zeppelin, is a swaggering five minutes of sheer joy.
Although the pace slows down somewhat for 'The Cove', the power most certainly does not. A track inspired by Hughes work with conservation group The Dolphin Project, we get a heartfelt vocal from the singer and a back to the Blues performance from Mr. Bonamassa. Meanwhile Mr. Bonham's crescendo drums sound like they are signalling the end of the world. Although not as immediately accessible as many of the songs featured here, it's a definite grower which needs time to get under your skin.
With a possible reference to the cover of third album 'Afterglow', 'The Crow' has everything thrown in, as well as the kitchen sink, another rocker featuring solos from guitar, drums and keys. Sometimes quick and sometimes slow maybe the lyric, but with a Rage Against The Machine like bass line, and powerful vocals, it's clear that Hughes will not be outdone.Only with multiple listens can you take in everything that's going on in this track. A complete stormer.
My initial favourite upon first listen was 'Wanderlust'. From the very start it sounds like a classic Bonamassa song and if I could find one fault, it would be that I would have preferred to hear JB sing it. It has a great pace, a highly infectious groove and a singable chorus that immediately gets wedged in your brain, plus another great ascending drum and guitar combination - not to mention a rocking grand piano - make this song an absolute highlight.
Next up 'Love Remains' and the Led Zep references just keep coming. A falsetto performance for the chorus from Hughes where it feels like a high pitched Plant should be. It's a great song, which even though is about loss, is no way downbeat, another ear worm which could be a single and is perfect for radio. Bonham in particular sounds like he's having the time of his life. Another personal favourite.
Blistering is probably the only word needed to describe 'Awake' with its thunderous guitars and keyboards.A song about living forever - you can imagine the audience needing a lie down - let alone the band - when this is played live. A well paced number which builds to a stunning climax,Hughes uses all his vocal dexterity to power though it, reminiscent of his days in Deep Purple. A stunning track.
The album closes with the more sedate 'When The Morning Comes', the second multi layered eight minute song. Never feeling over long, everyone plays their part, with once again solos for keys and guitar. The vocal passages during the verses are pretty low key for a change, but normal service is resumed through the instrumental sections as again Mr. Bonham brings the power. A killer way to close a superb CD.
A great album easily worth the five year wait. Just a shame next year's European tour only consists of two UK dates, but with everyone's touring commitments I suppose it's not that surprising. Those who have (and can afford) tickets are in for a real treat come January 2018. Here's hoping Black Country Communion V lands before 2022!
Steve Hill, the one-man band Blues Rock machine, released his new album ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’ on No Label Records on Friday 6th October in the UK. Steve hails from Montreal, Canada, and he’s a multi-award winning Blues Rock guitarist and singer-songwriter who’s gearing up for world domination. He’s literally a one-man band guitar machine and does it all (by himself) with no overdubs or tapes. How can one musician sound like three? Steve performs standing up while singing and playing guitar, his feet playing bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and with a drum stick fused to the head of his trusty guitar, any other percussion within reach and he gets the bass notes by feeding three of his strings through an Octaver guitar pedal that’s hooked up to a bass amp!
Steve’s an overnight sensation that’s twenty years in the making. He’s an ambitious and raucous force to be reckoned with on the Canadian and international Blues Rock scene. Now, he’s ready to break out internationally. Following the success of his JUNO nominated ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 1’, which also won "Album of The Year" at the International Blues Challenge in 2013, and JUNO Award winner ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 2’, Steve Hill first released his brand new album ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’ in Canada in March 2016. In January 2015, Hill was awarded four coveted Maple Blues Awards including Electric Act of the Year, Guitarist of the Year, Recording/Producer of the Year and Entertainer of the Year. Solo Recordings: Volume 2 won the 2015 JUNO Award for Blues Album of the Year.
Throughout his career, Steve has shared the stage with many of his musical heroes including Ray Charles, BB King, ZZ Top, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Jeff Beck and many others. Over the course of nine albums he's explored everything from Hard Rock, Country, and Stoner Rock to Folk music while always incorporating the essence of his first love, the Blues. Steve’s reputation as an exciting performer has provided him the opportunity to showcase his talents at some of Canada’s biggest music festivals including the Montreal Jazz Festival, Ottawa Bluesfest, Jazz Winnipeg Festival, Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, Kitchener Blues Festival and more.
Hill kicks off the first of twelve tracks with the Heavy Rock of ‘Damned’ – the influence of namesake Dusty, Billy and Frank immediately palpable before his kick-ass single ‘Dangerous’ – think King King meets Jimi Hendrix – a Blues Rocker if ever there was one, with lyrics about a personal relationship, the subject matter pretty much the backbone of the whole album. The swampy feel of Muddy Waters ‘Still A Fool & A Rollin Stone’ is a classy cover, Hill clearly demonstrating that you can take the catfish out of the swamp but you can’t take the swamp out of the catfish. The acoustic ‘Slowly Slipping Away’ clearly demonstrates not only more facets to Hill’s armoury, namely harmonica and the crystal clarity of his voice, but also that he can mix his musical genre’s up a bit - which benefits the overall freshness and melodic balance of ‘Solo Recordings: Volume 3’.
The name of the next two outright rockers rather aptly sums Hill’s undoubted talent up. Both his strong bass line and slide guitar prowess are showcased on the ‘Rhythm All Over’ – the influence of his bearded buddies (with the exception of Beard of course) again coming through loud and clear, whilst the Rock 'n’ Roll delivery of ‘Smoking Hot Machine’, with its harmonica/guitar fusion, smacks of Jeff Lynne. Hill then literally takes his foot of the pedal for ‘Troubled Times’, which sees a beautiful acoustic solo from Hill's naked guitar – so reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel and a riff similar to Queen’s ‘Liar’. Another acoustic piece, a love song and his latest single ‘Emily’, makes you question whether Hill has been on the Labatt’s, as this time it’s about a happy relationship. Steady on now Steve!
The one man band Blues Rock machine returns with the groovy rock of ‘Can’t Take It With You’ with its Booker T ‘Green Onions’ style riff. Brilliant. And talking of getting into the Blues groove, the medley of Hambone Willie Newbern's Blues classic ‘Rollin & Tumblin’ (better known for its Muddy Waters take) and Robert Johnson's ‘Stop Breaking Down’, sees Hill’s slide guitar and latterly his two pedal drums and assorted percussion going into appropriate overdrive.
The penultimate track sees more beautiful acoustic guitar with the stripped back white Blues take of ‘Going Down The Road Feeling Bad’, better known for entirely different covers by Woody Guthrie and The Grateful Dead. And finally, talking of waking the dead, another rocker ‘Walking Grave’ sees Hill return back to more heavy/slide guitar – such a shame that Steve has to head bang all alone!
This album shows an artist at the top of his game. Steve Hill is clearly in his element as a solo artist and one-man band, inviting listeners into a world of musical madness in the form of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Hill undertakes a 27-date UK tour when he supports Wishbone Ash in October and November including London’s O2 Academy, Islington on Thursday 19th October. Do not miss this definition of a one-man power trio!
Legendary British Blues rockers Ten Years After release their twelfth studio album this month, ‘Sting In The Tail’, it contains twelve original songs and is their first since ‘Evolution’ released in 2008, which then featured guitarist/vocalist Joe Gooch. The only two original members remaining in 2017 are drummer Ric Lee and keyboardist Chick Churchill. Original bassist Leo Lyons left the band in 2014 along with Joe Gooch to form their new band ‘Hundred Seventy Split’. New recruits since 2014 include the legendary bass player Colin Hodgkinson and guitarist and vocalist Marcus Bonfanti.
Ten Years After are also celebrating fifty years since the release of their eponymous debut album in 1967. To coincide with this milestone Chrysalis Records are set to release a fiftieth anniversary ten CD box set on Friday 10th November. This limited edition (only 1,500 copies) remastered set gathers together all the Deram and Chrysalis period albums from 1967 – 1974, the set also includes a CD of previously unreleased material from 1972 called 'The Cap Ferrat Sessions', newly mixed by legendary producer Chris Kimsey. The five tracks were recorded at Cap Ferrat in the south of France during sessions for the 'Rock 'n' roll Music To The World' album in 1972. These complete masters were discovered by Alvin Lee's wife, who found a box of recordings in the vaults of their studio in Spain. Acclaimed writer Chris Welch provides the newly commissioned in-depth 10,000 word sleeve notes which are in the accompanying book that comes with the ten CDs housed in luxury hardback format.
Ten Years After formed in 1967 in Nottinghamshire by guitarist/vocalist Alvin Lee, bassist Leo Lyons, drummer Ric Lee and keyboardist Chick Churchill. They released eight studio albums and two live albums between 1968 - 1974. It was their ‘I’m Going Home’ performance at The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in August 1969 that elevated them to worldwide success and cemented their place in Rock history. When Alvin Lee went solo in 1975 the band broke up. Over the next twenty years there were three attempts at a reformation and one new studio record resulted in 1989, aptly named ‘About Time’. The reunions didn’t last long though and on each occasion Alvin quit to return to his solo career. Sadly Alvin Lee passed away in 2013 from complications following a routine surgical procedure for atrial arrhythmia.
What we get in this new ten CD box set are all the albums chronologically recorded by the four original band members over the seven year period from 1967 – 1974, starting with the wild and energetic eponymous debut produced by Blue Horizon founder, Mike Vernon. The album features such classics as Al Kooper's 'I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes', Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful' and Sonny Boy Williamson’s 'Help Me'. Of the nine tracks five are originals written by the charismatic lead vocalist and guitar extraordinaire, Alvin Lee. Some fine tasty British Blues to kick of a burgeoning career, enthusiastically setting the tone for what was to come. A firm statement and the mark of a band definitely on their way up!
The 'Undead' live set is most definitely on the money, recorded live at Klooks Kleek club in London in 1968. This album contains the exciting and manic tour de force that is 'I'm Going Home', written by the gifted and talented Alvin Lee and produced by Mike Vernon. This exciting and frantic recording combines elements of Blues, Boogie, Jazz and 1950s style Jump Blues and Rock 'n' Roll. Alvin Lee set the bench mark for 'Shred' style guitar playing and was one of the fastest guitarist of the time. The best way to capture Ten Years After in full flight, firing on all cylinders and leaning on their strengths as improvisational musicians is in the live setting. This is where they excel with virtuosity.
1969’s superb studio album 'Stonedhenge' has slightly more variety than the debut with some slower pieces and varying moods. A robust studio effort with all tracks original compositions written by Alvin Lee, except 'Three Blind Mice', which is a traditional arrangement. Once again produced by Mike Vernon. The top-notch stellar track 'Hear Me Calling' continues to be a staple of the live set today.
Also released in 1969 came the album 'Ssssh' produced by Chrysalis founder Chris Wright. Of the eight tracks, seven were written solely by Alvin Lee, with one cover of Sonny Boy Williams 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, another staple of the live set list. This is an album with some fine dazzling Blues Rock.
The fifth album is the masterpiece that is 'Cricklewood Green', released in 1970. All eight tracks were written and produced by Alvin Lee. This is a much more even album that flows elegantly from start to finish. Every track is well written and arranged. A great platform for Alvin's signature lightning fast guitar technique. The album contains the raucous power Blues Rock anthem 'Love Like A Man' and the stirring '50,000 Mile Beneath My Brain'. The production is much clearer and wider than previous releases, an absolute thumping classic!
1970 also saw the release of the 'Watt' album. Seven of the eight tracks were again composed by Alvin with one cover, Chuck Berry's fiery rocker 'Sweet Little Sixteen', recorded live at The Isle of Wight Festival. Production is credited to all the band this time. Overall not as strong as its predecessor, but it has a great sound with accomplished playing. Perhaps a bit more time was needed to expand on some of the ideas to make it a more refined and focused album.
The seventh album, 'A Space In Time' was released in 1971 on Chrysalis records. This ten track album was produced by Chris Wright with nine of the ten tracks written solely by Alvin, 'Uncle Jam' being credited to the whole band. A more diverse sounding album and definitely a slight departure from the usual heavy Blues of previous albums, this time with more acoustic based songs and even strings! It includes their biggest hit in Canada and the USA, the melodic and sublime 'I'd Love To Change The World'. Accompanying the propelling acoustic guitar is some tasteful melodic lead electric guitar lines. A scorching highlight of this album is the rock out track 'Baby Won't You Let Me Rock 'n' Roll You'.
Eighth album in the box set is the 1972 Chrysalis nine track album 'Rock & Roll Music To The World', with production duties credited to the whole band. Recorded in Cap Ferrat south of France and Olympic studios London. A good strong album featuring some robust songs like the wicked 'Standing At The Station', the barn storming 'Choo Choo Mama' and the dazzling title track 'Rock & Roll Music To The World'.
The last Ten Years After studio album to be released on Chrysalis before the first major band split was 1974s 'Positive Vibrations'. Nine of the ten tracks were again written solely by Alvin with one cover, Little Richard's foot stomping 'Going Back To Birmingham', a weighty highlight! The album production is again credited to the whole band. I wouldn't say it was one of their best, but it has enough quality music and playing to make it worth a few listens.
The tenth and final CD in the box set is the five track previously unreleased 1972 'Cap Ferrat Sessions', newly mixed by legendary producer Chris Kimsey. These tracks were completed and fully recorded but were left off the 'Rock 'n' Roll Music To The World' album due to time limitations of vinyl. These ultra-rare tracks are available for the first time on this box set. A must have item for all dedicated Ten Years After fans and new fans wishing to experience the momentous and magical music made by one of Britain's best Blues Rock bands.
In 2017 Ten Years After are still an ongoing creative force and live attraction. In 2002 the three founder members Leo Lyons, Chick Churchill, and Ric Lee got together with guitarist Joe Gooch and hit the road, mainly in Europe. They recorded two original albums, ‘Now’ in 2004 and ‘Evolution’ in 2008, also releasing two live albums, ‘One Night Jammed’ in 2003 and ‘Roadworks’ in 2005. The current line-up of Ric Lee, Chick Churchill, Colin Hodgkinson and Marcus Bonfanti released the live album ‘The Name Remains The Same’ in 2015 and are set to release their brand new studio album 'Sting In The Tail' in October 2017.
Steven C. Gilbert
It seems at the moment that every boy with a guitar wants to play the Blues and fly the flag for Canada. JW Jones is seemingly no different. But upon first listen, it is glaringly apparent that Mr. Jones is no new kid on the block, with countless albums released and seventeen years since the first, this highly respected singer/songwriter's latest CD, could see him hitting the big time outside his native land.
'High Temperature' boasts an impressive cast of musicians including former bandmates of Robert Plant and Emmylou Harris to name but two, who all add to the overall laid back feel of the album, but never detract from some impressive guitar solos from the main man himself.
It's a collection of twelve songs and one instrumental which seems to be divided into three sections. The first comprises of the opening five songs, and its all out Blues,covering the usual bad luck, heartache and pain themes, and although at various points you do think you've heard this all this before, the hooks of opening track 'Price You Pay' along with the title track, followed by 'Murder In My Heart For The Judge', are all instant winners.
As we go into the middle section of the album, it seems someone has decided that radio friendly songs are needed to garner wider appeal . These come in the form of the more uplifting 'Away Too Long' and 'Same Mistakes', both have some great guitar work and memorable choruses, and along with the lighters in the air tune 'Leave Me Out' and the feel-good 'Midnight Blues' (a possible single?), these could be the songs to bring JW to the masses.
Two thirds gone and onto the final act, and it's back to the standard Blues fair of the first section. Kicking off with 'Out In The Woods' complete with fuzzy vocals and continuing with the Bonamassaesque 'Where Do You Think I Was' (with a great mid section solo) it seems the best songs have been saved for last. We finish off with 'Wham' an all out jam with the whole band obviously enjoying themselves immensely, you can just tell when played live this track could last for hours as everything including the kitchen sink is thrown at it.
With an upcoming seventeen date UK tour starting next month, this album,along with the extensive road work (and possibly a support slot on a bigger tour) could see JW Jones emerge from the pack of similar artists to make his mark on the Blues genre worldwide.
Travelin Jack are a Hard Rock/Glam Rock band from Berlin, Germany. Formed in 2013 by vocalist Alia Spaceface and guitarist Flo 'the Fly' Krämer, completing the line-up are bassist Steve Burner and drummer Montgomery Shell. The band name comes from the 1984 fantasy novel 'The Talisman' by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The Travelin Jack sound is unapologetically old school Rock 'n' Roll but with the spirit of the present very much in evidence. Think of bands such as Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, UFO, Girlschool, Stone The Crows, Slade, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Purson and Blues Pills and you get a idea of what Travelin Jack are all about. I can hear vocal influences ranging from that of Grace Slick, Joan Jett, Maggie Bell and Elin Larsson, to name a few. The band fully embrace the whole 70’s Glam era with their iridescent outfits, platform shoes, makeup, sparkling glitter and all exceptionally executed with full on struttin' swaggering attitude!
Travelin Jack released their first single 'Madness' in 2014 on El Bruto Recordings and their debut album 'New World' followed in 2015 on This Charming Man Records. Their new album 'Commencing Countdown' was released on 8th September 2017 on the Steamhammer/SPV label and was recorded by Richard Behrens and Mirco Hildmann at the Schaltraum Studio, formerly a broadcasting centre in East Berlin, mixed by Richard Behrens at Big Snuff Studios and mastered by Mirco Hildman. The overall production, recorded in analogue, is sharp and vibrant with a rich and warm resonance, wide and spacious with plenty depth.
The black and white cover photo, portraits and colour inner sleeve were constructed by Martin Becker. The front cover shows all four band members kitted out in full on Glam costume and make-up. To quote the dedication on the back of the CD booklet, “This record is dedicated to those who are lost in this time, may your visions create new space for you and me”.
All the songs on this ten track forty two and a half minute long album are credited to the whole band. Some of the material is slightly slower, more grooving and haunting than on their debut 'New World' (2015). Kicking things off confidently is the struttin' 'Land Of The River', its driving riff propels the track onwards, tantalizing trippy guitar refrains pepper the track, with some tasty melodic Wishbone Ash style phrases to excite the ears.
'Metropolis' has some luscious raspy vocals from Alia with an elevating and rousing chorus, “Life in Babylon where the gold writes the law”. 'Life In Babylon' might have been a more apt title for this track.
The first single and strongest track on the album is 'Keep On Running'. The lyrics reflect the band’s willingness to face challenges and courage to venture into pastures new, “Nothing you can't do, nothing you can't say, nothing to lose, living is attitude”. Solid drums set the foundation with a strong Thin Lizzy style guitar riff fixing the groove. A well crafted track with a powerful catchy chorus and pristine vocals.
'Cold Blood' is another highlight and the heaviest track on the album, with a similar style to the type of songs on their debut album 'New World'. A hard drivin' riff fest with fiesty fiery vocals from Alia. The pace slows down towards the end with a Black Sabbath like descending guitar phrase before re-launching into a heavy conclusion.
'Galactic Blue' gets of to a Rock affirming Glam stomp with vocals full of salubrious attitude. Hawkwind style intergalactic space travelling guitar meanderings inject an experimental interlude towards the end of the track.
'Time' starts of quiet and slow then the tempo builds up before rising and soaring into a resounding energetic finale. Deft and imaginative mind expanding lyrics scaffold the song, “So I fly to the rainbow and I fly to the sky”. Dazzling and creative musical arrangement keeps the listening experience interesting.
'Miracles' has a strong early Jefferson Starship vibe with salutary Grace Slick inspired vocals (Jefferson Starship actually have a song called 'Miracles', but this song sounds nothing like that one).
'What Have I Done' slows the pace down with a more Bluesy vibe and a languid Wishbone Ash styled guitar lick. A rousing lavish chorus soars with an aching questioning resonance.
'Fire' is a heads down thumping power chord boogie with exotic guitar hook phrases that repeat periodically through out the track to break up the incessant grooving.
The final track, 'Journey To The Moon' is about being determined to make your dreams come true. The opening line sets the scene “The sun goes down in concrete town I'm on my way”, the sparkling chorus name checks the band name “I'm on my journey to the moon cause I'm a Travelin Jack”. A monstrous slice of solid gold with sensational and sumptuous vocal delivery from Alia.
There is a great quote from Frank Zappa on the back of the CD booklet, “A mind is like a parachute, it doesn't work if it is not open”. A very profound statement indeed.
Overall 'Commencing Countdown' is a very satisfactory and worthy release with a warm afterglow. Definitely a more honed and mature record than the debut 'New World'. However, I strongly believe their best is yet to come. With a little more refining and tweaking they could be on their way to producing a Rock masterpiece.
Steven C. Gilbert
Singer, songwriter, guitarist and surely one of the hardest working artists in music today, Samantha Fish released her second album of 2017 'Belle Of The West' in mid-November and if you think Blues playing women are all about Joanne Shaw Taylor and Chantelle McGregor, it may be time to think again. Although primarily known for her Blues sound, this new album showcases a stripped down, acoustic style including both Country and Bluegrass influences giving the album a very personal feel.
'American Dream' an acoustic campfire style song with simple guitar, violin and penny whistle (fife?), opens the album and sets the tone of what's to come, and as this carries seamlessly into 'Blood In The Water' with the first appearance of subtle electric guitar in the mid section, it’s clear that, although recorded in Mississippi, Nashville wasn't far away. 'Need You More' mixes the standard Blues sentiment of heartbreak with a Country and Western feel, while 'Cowtown' continues in the same vein but includes electric and bass guitars, giving it a more band like feel.
The Blues are more to the fore on 'Daughters' but with the principal characters “making their way down to Lafayette”, the song, although slightly downbeat, has a “dyin’ with ya boots on” feel, and retains the Country elements whilst giving them a Blues makeover. One thing you notice whilst listening to this collection of songs is how each number perfectly compliments the one that went before it. This is demonstrated nicely on 'Don’t Say You Love Me' keeping the tone downbeat in the mid section of the album, but with some great guitar work and vocals, a very personal song before things become a bit lighter and the title track kicks in.
Unashamedly Country would be one way to describe 'Belle Of The West', another would be an excellent Bluegrass style song that someone like Alison Krauss would be proud of. A great song featuring slide guitar and given depth with the addition of backing vocals. A personal highlight of the whole album. 'Poor Black Mattie' is an absolute free for all romp, from the opening Rockabilly bass, to the delta Blues harmonica, based around a repetitive riff, it’s a cover version of a song which sounds like it’s been played on the porch of many a Mississippi cotton field. 'No Angels' follows, keeping the same style, adding some gentle guitar and soft backing vocals, another excellent song.
Violinist Lillie Mae, steps up to share vocal duties on 'Nearing Home' and her strings, accompanied with Samantha’s acoustic guitar, are all that’s really needed on this very gentle song, sounding like it was recorded in one take live in the studio, a perfect example of just how good this album is. Time for the closing track and 'Gone For Good'. It’s an upbeat foot tapping acoustic number on which Samantha truly shines and is a great way to finish a very original and classy album. This is an album which will not only enhance Samantha Fish’s growing reputation, but should see her fan base growing, as anyone who likes good songwriting in a Blues and Country style, will surely find this CD completely irresistible.