World-renowned guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani today releases his 16th solo studio album in thirty years: 'What Happens Next' on Sony/Legacy Recordings - which is a fantastic feat in itself! The new, instrumentally electrifying album features a dynamic power trio of legendary status, all on top form; Satriani on guitar and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee bassist Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple/Black Country Communion) and drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), the latter reuniting with Satriani for the first time since their work in the supergroup Chickenfoot. Satriani is once again joined by producer/engineer/mixer Mike Fraser, his frequent collaborator over the last 20 years - Fraser well-known for recording/mixing every AC/DC album since 1990's 'The Razors Edge' along with his classic works with Satriani going back to the release of 'Crystal Planet' in 1998.
These new tracks literally vibrate the soul with an energy rarely found these days. From the dynamic aptly named opening track, 'Energy', full of Rock from start to finish, to the majestic crunch of track 3 'Thunder High On The Mountain', with its Hard Rock intro, slowing down to Joe’s melodic guitar, ending with a more Folky sound, and the easy, sensual chords of track 5 'Righteous' and Track 6 'Smooth Soul', both slower Rock ballads and good catchy tunes which keep you hooked to the end of each track, although inevitably you feel that they could benefit from added vocals - Sammy H. was obviously busy at the Cabo Wabo! Seriously though, the unparalleled Rock-rhythm section gives 'What Happens Next' a depth of groove that sets it apart from Satriani's other work. Track 2 'Catbot' is more of a drum based track, slowing down mid-track to show-off Joe’s undoubted guitar talent, whilst one of my one of my favourites - track 4 and new single also released today 'Cherry Blossoms' - is full of changing tempos which becomes more of a Rock ballad.
Indeed 'What Happens Next' has multi-faceted genres of music from Blues, Folk to pure Rock - something for everybody - and this is borne out in the second half of the album as we head back to the fast Rock of 'Head Rush', not one for the feint hearted which would sound great live, 'Looper', which has quite a different sound to the other tracks, changing in direction to a more Funky Blues sound, and then the title track with Satriani playing at his best - a great track. The longest track on the album 'Super Funky Badass' does exactly what it says on the tin, whilst 'Invisible', starts fast and carries that energy throughout with its pure Rock guitar. 'For Ever and Ever', is great track to finish on, more of the same great music - in conclusion a great instrumental album played by great musicians. I highly recommend this album.
What Happens Next? Well the good news is that yesterday Satriani revived his G3 tour entity in Seattle, WA, with Dream Theater's John Petrucci and Def Leppard lead guitarist, Phil Collen joining him. Since its debut in 1996, Satriani's G3 tour has featured the worlds greatest guitarists (everyone from Steve Vai and Eric Johnson to Steve Lukather and Robert Fripp) and has become a consistent concert hall sell-out attraction in the U.S., South America, Europe, Australia and Japan. The G3 tour continues across the U.S. before winding up on 25th February in Milwaukee, WI before G3 hits mainland Europe on 16th March in Moscow and winds up on 30th April in Birmingham in between playing shows in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland and more. Replacing Collen on the European leg will be former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth - with each guitarist performing their own set, followed by a massive jam at the end of the show. Do not miss it.
Friday 2nd February 2018 sees the release of South African singer, songwriter, guitarist and 2017 WRC Best Blues Rock performance award winner Dan Patlansky’s self produced ninth album 'Perfection Kills'. With an up and coming UK headline tour in March supported by Mollie Marriott, could this be the album which see’s him make the step up from a supporting act to some very big names (Bruce Springsteen, Joe Satriani and most recently Joanne Shaw Taylor among them) to a top of the bill star?
The album opens with 'Johnny' telling the story of a troubled childhood, leading to the same in later life, it has a strong chorus with fuzzy vocal effects, more Rock than the Blues we are accustomed to and it’s a strong start. Piano is introduced as the mid tempo 'Never Long Enough' brings things down a notch. It tells us how life on the road comes with the sacrifice of not having enough time with the ones we care for (as do most jobs, but probably easier when you get to do what you love) and longing for the mundane. It’s a good song, even though it’s a bit hard to sympathise! The mellow 'Mayday' follows, with its smooth, late night Blues feel, complete with building guitar solo which shows the versatility of the player, a personal highlight and instant ear worm which leaves you singing it long after the track is over.
When in doubt, write a song about the state of the planet and what we are doing to to it. Probably the heaviest song on here, 'Too Far Gone' is a protest song covering these standard themes. Suffering from a lack of chorus and unoriginal subject matter, fuzzy guitar and shouty vocals, all make up the sound of someone who is, perhaps trying to hard on this particular track. From the heaviest song comes the Bluesiest. 'Judge A Man' covers all the usual downtrodden themes, but is a return to form with some great guitar and vocals, showing just what DP is capable of, this is much more like it! 'Junket Man' is another good strong song, with its Rock/Blues style it would be at home on any Joe Bonamassa album and could become a crowd favourite when played live. The same could be said for 'iEyes' this time with a Funky bass line and more of a band feel, whilst bemoaning the ever growing importance of technology, this song would probably work just as well as an instrumental.
Returning to the mid tempo, downbeat feel 'Shake The Cage', with its don’t get stuck in a rut sensibility, has the feeling of a filler track and as such is a pleasant if standard album number. The penultimate song could be the one that brings mainstream acclaim and wins new fans as 'My Dear Boy' is just crying out for radio airplay. Instantly catchy with a great chorus it's the first song on the album to celebrate happiness and the joys of life, and is perhaps unsurprisingly a song for DP’s new born son, Jack. It seems that the best was saved for second to last, as the final track is rather a disappointment. 'Dog Day' once again, revisits standard Rock star issues (state of the world versus state of individual lives) but with lyrics like “stood in poo, smell like shit from scraping my shoe” this has the feeling of a track that this particular album could do without and as such,is not the closing number the album deserves! A good album, with some great playing, it has the feeling of an artist maybe trying too hard to do everything himself, when maybe some help (especially in writing stronger songs) would allow the real talent on show, time to breathe and shine through.
The new Michael Schenker album 'A Decade Of The Mad Axeman', released in January 2018 on the Inakustik label, is a thirty one track 2 CD retrospective collection that documents his studio and live output between 2007 and 2016, covering his return to the roots of the Michael Schenker Group (MSG) through to Temple of Rock and the current Michael Schenker Fest. The last ten years has seen Schenker's creativity continue to escalate exponentially and his performance strengthen. This collection exemplifies and solidifies his reputation as a great band leader and guitarist of exceptional note, it also goes a long way to cementing his legendary status. CD 1 contains sixteen studio tracks and CD 2 contains fifteen live recordings.
Schenker started his career with the Scorpions in 1972 appearing with them on their debut album, ‘Lonesome Crow’ and then again on the ‘Lovedrive’ album in 1979. He went on to cement his reputation as an exceptional guitarist when he joined UFO in 1973, appearing on nine albums including all their classic 1970’s era releases, re-joined them on three further occasions, 1995, 2000 and 2002. After leaving UFO in 1979 Schenker went on to found the Michael Schenker Group (MSG) which existed in various incarnations for the next thirty years, including a spell as the McAuley Schenker Group in the late 1980’s. In 2007 Schenker reunited with original MSG vocalist Gary Barden and returned to his musical roots on the album ‘In The Midst Of Beauty’, from which four tracks are presented here on CD 1, including ‘I Want You’, ‘Night To Remember’, ‘Cross Of Crosses’ and ‘Ride On My Way’. The band consisted of singer Gary Barden, ex-Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray, Toto drummer Simon Phillips and ex-Rainbow/current Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey. A good solid return to form with Deep Purple and Rainbow influences much in evidence.
In 2011 Schenker put together a new group called Temple Of Rock. A strong line-up of musician’s added refreshed creativity, renewed inspiration, dynamic power and high energy. He released three studio albums and two live albums under the Temple Of Rock banner. The band consisted of two former members of the Scorpions from the ‘Lovedrive’ era: Francis Buchholz on bass and Herman Rarebell on drums, Wayne Findlay on keyboards, as well as the phenomenal vocalist and charismatic front man, Doogie White. He was one of the five great vocalist to have graced Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. His tenure being from 1994-1997 and featured on their highly under rated 1995 album ‘Stranger In Us All’, and subsequent live album 'Black Masquerade – Rockpalast '95'.
The first Temple Of Rock album released in 2011, and simply titled 'Temple Of Rock', is represented by four tracks on CD 1, including ‘Miss Claustrophobia’, ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead’, co-written with Doogie White - a thunderous heavy track and definitely a highlight of the album. ‘Storming In’ and ‘How Long’ complete the selection. A strong, hard driving and powerful album that sets the scene for what Temple Of Rock are all about. As well as the core band members, this album features a wide array of guest musicians including Pete Way, Robin McAuley, Rudolf Schenker, Leslie West, Paul Raymond, Don Airey, Chris Glen, Neil Murray, Simon Philips and Carmine Appice.
The second Temple Of Rock album ‘Bridge The Gap’ was released in 2012. Tracks from this album represented in this retrospective include ‘Lord Of The Lost And Lonely’, ‘To Live For The King’, ‘Land Of Thunder’ and ‘Black Moon Rising’. The production is crisper and is definitely a step up from the previous album. Schenker takes it up a gear on this release, with exceptionally muscular and expressive vocal delivery from Doogie White. Doogie’s growing confidence as the front man is very much in evidence here, also contributing most of the lyrics for the album. Robust and tight playing from the band, creative song writing and strong arrangements make this album an interesting listen and worthy release.
The 2014 album ‘Spirit On A Mission’ takes everything up another notch. A well-balanced and slightly more polished production with wider depth to the overall sound and more top and bottom end. Strong soaring vocals from Doogie, inventive riffs and sublime lead guitar lines from Schenker. The four tracks included on this CD include ‘Live And Let Live’, ‘Rock City’, ‘Saviour Machine’ and ‘Bulletproof’. A high quality release with some top-notch tracks.
The ultimate way to experience the work of Michael Schenker is in the live setting, for this is where he excels. The second disc of this retrospective contains essential live tracks from pivotal points over the last ten years of his career. The first four tracks presented here are taken from the 'Thirtieth Anniversary concert – Live From Tokyo' album recorded at the Nakano Sun Palace on January 2010, including the opening instrumental ‘Welcome Howl’, ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’, a high-octane track originally featured on the second MSG album from 1981, simply titled 'MSG', ‘Rock My Nights Away’, originally from the 1983 album 'Built To Destroy', and lastly the phenomenal ‘Attack Of The Mad Axeman’, also from the second MSG album. All tracks feature the blistering vocals of the original MSG singer Gary Barden.
The next three tracks were recorded at the High Voltage Festival, Victoria Park London in 2011, and are taken from the 2012 ‘Live In Europe’ album. The first track is the Scorpions classic ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, an electrifying anthemic song and a great crowd pleaser. The second track is ‘Hanging On’, originally from the 2011 'Temple Of Rock' album, with lyrics by the featured vocalist, Michael Voss and finally the UFO classic ‘Doctor Doctor’, originally from the 1974 'Phenomenon' album, and featuring guest appearances by Pete Way and Rudolph Schenker, concludes the selections from the High Voltage Festival. A totally thrilling and intoxicating aural experience! A further two tracks have been lifted from ‘Live In Europe’, these tracks were recorded in Tilburg, Netherlands on May 2012 and feature the magnificent vocals of Doogie White. The first of these is the superb ‘Armed And Ready’, originally from the first MSG album entitled 'The Michael Schenker Group', released in 1980 and the second track is the UFO epic, ‘Rock Bottom’, originally from the 1974 album ‘Phenomenon’. Schenker gets to stretch out on this one and really show what he can do with a guitar, a potent reminder of his natural gift and is a real joy to the ears.
Following on from ‘Live In Europe’ comes the second Temple Of Rock live album ‘On A Mission – Live in Madrid’ recorded at the Joy Eslava theatre in Madrid 2015. This album truly showcases the chemistry and camaraderie between the musicians. It is clear to see that they are reveling in the performance, executing each song with determined focus. The set is well crafted and the musicians gel tight. You can definitely sense that something special is happening here. The first track ‘Horizons’, originally from the 2012 ‘Bridge The Gap’ album, is a hard hitting track that exhilarates the senses. The second track is another UFO classic, ‘Lights Out’, from the 1977 album of the same name - a fantastic song and great performance. Last, but not least, is the soaring ‘Vigilante Man’, originally from the 2014 ‘Spirit On A Mission’ album.
The final three songs are taken from the ‘Michael Schenker Fest’ live album recorded at the Tokyo International Forum Hall Japan on August 2016. This special reunion show includes former MSG singers Robin McAuley, Graham Bonnet and Gary Barden, plus former band members Chris Glen (bass), Steve Mann (guitar, keyboards) and Ted McKenna (drums). A rare treat for MSG fans and classic Rock appreciators everywhere! Represented on this collection are the blinding ‘Desert Song’, originally from the 1982 ‘Assault Attack’ album and featuring the songs original vocalist, the power house that is Graham Bonnet. Another top class vocalist to have graced Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, appearing on their 1979 hit album ‘Down To Earth’. A commanding and rousing performance from Bonnet, who still has the ability to hit all the high notes with verve. A force to be reckoned with! Next up is ‘Love Is Not A Game’, from the 1987 McAuley Schenker Group album ‘Perfect Timing’. The song’s original vocalist, Robin McAuley, reprises his role on this recording and gives a sterling performance. A sensational uplifting and catchy melodic rock song. The final track is another version of the UFO classic tour-de-force ‘Doctor Doctor’, featuring all three vocalist taking turns at belting out the lyrics.
The reunion proved to be such a huge success that all the band members agreed to get back together and take the show on the road, finally bringing it to the UK in November 2017. The stimulating camaraderie that was very much apparent during the reunion shows must have sparked a renewed creativity as they have all contributed to the recording of a brand new Michael Schenker Fest album! Entitled 'Resurrection', the album will be released on Friday 2nd March 2018 on the Nuclear Blast label!
Steven C. Gilbert
Hard Rock band, The Bad Flowers release their debut studio album 'Starting Gun' this Friday 16th February. The album is a follow up to 2016's self-titled EP and shows the great progression of song writing and musicianship of the band over the past two years. Formed from the depths of the Black Country in 2014, they comprise of lead vocalist and guitarist, Tom Leighton, whose signature riffs, fuzz emotive guitar and pure vocals have distinctive sound unlike anybody else. Bassist Dale Tonks provides a deep heavy groove and tasty bass runs that underpins Karl Selickis' chest pumping drums and impeccable rhythmic feel.
We first caught the guys at the O2 Islington Academy supporting Crobot and Dirty Thrills in June 2016 - a breakthrough year as The Flowers left local venues in a wake of blood, sweat and ringing ears when they opened for Canadian rockers The Sheepdogs in Birmingham, then onward to extensive tours up and down the UK to packed venues with Jared James Nichols and Scorpion Child, plus an appearance at Hard Rock Hell. ‘Starting Gun’ was recorded at Vigo Studios, near the band’s hometown of Cannock. The band chose this studio because they wanted to make a record that sounded like their roots and had the chance to work with long-time friend of the band and producer Adam Beddow, who has recently helped produce Diamond Head’s most current work.
Following the release of their first single ‘Thunder Child’ last September – you can immediately see why The Bad Flowers were named as one of Planet Rock’s ‘Ones To Watch’ with this great lyrical opening salvo which not only gained heavy airplay and was described by the radio station as “pure, dynamic, riff-heavy rock ‘n’ roll delivered with passion and prowess”, but also led to the band being asked to play at Planet Rock’s Christmas party in support of Blues Pills at London’s Jazz Café last November. ‘Lions Blood’ continues the Heavy Rock vibe, with its a great hook and sobered guitar solo, which would undoubtedly be great live, whilst I really like ‘Secrets’, another Heavy Rock track with a good chorus.
‘Rich Man’ is different from the first three Rock tracks – although another great track – it has more of a Blues Rock sound – and on the subject of contrasts – ‘ I Hope’ sees Tom singing and playing acoustic guitar, showing a completely different side to the band, but yet another song that I really like, with both great lyrics and rhythm. The longest song on the album ‘Let’s Misbehave’ starts again with Tom on acoustic guitar with the Dale’s bass and Karl’s drums building the tempo to the end, although ‘Who Needs A Soul’ brings us back to the pace of the first three opening tracks – a pure Rock song full of great guitar.
‘Be Your Man’ sees some great vocals from Leighton - another Heavy Rock song and another I’d love to see played live - whilst ‘Hurricane’ as it name implies – cannot fail to get you up and moving - a typical Bad Flowers Heavy Rock track. Talking of song names – ‘I Don’t Believe It’ unbelievably is not one of my favourites – but it’s still a Heavy fast Rock track with a good guitar solo and catchy chorus whilst the album closer – ‘City Lights’ – is very much a Blues Rock number with good vocals from all three band members - a classic Bad Flowers track. In summary an album that starts and finishes with good strong Rock songs with a tasty variety of acoustic, Blues and Heavy Rock songs sandwiched in-between. A very good debut album played by three musicians that complement each other so well.
The Bad Flowers play an exclusive album launch show at the Birmingham Asylum 2 this Saturday 17th February 2018 - playing all the songs from the new album plus more surprises. Special guests will be Them Damn Crows and These Wicked Rivers, with the show, unsurprisingly almost sold out. If you miss out on the launch, then the good news is that, in order to dovetail with the release of ‘Starting Gun’, The Bad Flowers will be special guests on Stone Broken and Jared James Nichols nationwide 12 date UK tour that starts next Thursday 22nd February at The Haunt Brighton and ends at The Fleece Bristol on Wednesday 7th March stopping off at London’s Islington Assembly Hall on Saturday 24th February. Their tour also includes an appearance at Planet Rock’s Winters End Festival on Friday 23rd February plus the Stone Free Festival at London’s O2 Arena on Sunday 17th June.
Danny Bryant releases his highly anticipated new studio album 'Revelation' through Jazzhaus Records on Friday 20th April. This is his fourth studio album to be produced by Richard Hammerton, following in the footsteps of 2015's 'Blood Money' and 2014's 'Temperature Rising', and the new album is one of Danny's most personal and emotional albums of his career. Indeed in a recent interview, Bryant opened up on how it's been a difficult year, losing his father and dealing with anxiety and depression. In fact the first time we saw Danny was on the big man's birthday at a very wet Ramblin' Man Fair in 2015 - Bryant immediately endearing himself to the crowded Blues tent by saying that he either had all of a sudden become very popular or it was the fact that that everyone wanted to get out of the rain! Well it was definitely a case of the former given Danny’s afforementioned album ‘Temperature Rising’ had been nominated in the British Blues Awards and it was one of those songs - ‘Guntown’ that stood out in an impressive set. Personally - one of my top three sets of that day, although the last time we caught Danny was guesting with Bernie Marsden this January at London's 100 Club. What a night that was!
Opening with the album's title track, Hammerton's delicate piano intro is immediately stopped in its tracks by a rasping Bryant vocal - its lyrical revelation all about "the end of times" way of thinking that we hear so much about nowadays. Richly complemented by both Hammerton's keys and David Maddison's trumpet - Bryant's delightful fret work gathers pace before signing off in typical style with a barnstorming solo. One to definitely watch out for on tour. There's no refrain from 'Revelation's intensity with the guitar ballad 'Isolate' - as one would expect - all about feeling disconnected from the ones you love and the world around you. One could perhaps accuse Bryant of being a little bit self-indulgent, but the spontaneous vibe of the whole track emphasises the quality of Danny's solo and vocal, which apparently were done in one take. Bryant admits to listening to a lot of Rock music whilst making 'Revelation' and this fact firmly smacks you in the chops with the Deep Purple influenced 'Liars Testament' with its pounding drums courtesy of Dave Raeburn and keys of Hammerton, as Danny duly carries his heavy guitar riff through the verses. Another to watch out for live. Another Rock song, and the first of two covers, takes things down a notch, with Bryant on a rare acoustic outing on John Mellencamp's 'Someday The Rains Will Fall' with the trusty Hammerton's keys adding the 2007 'Freedom's Road' track's depth.
In 2017 Danny toured Europe with a specially assembled nine-piece Big Band featuring keys and a four-piece brass section no less. 'Truth Or Dare' - a real rocking Blues number - is the one track that features his full touring Big Band line-up which truly captures the energy of those live performances with a great keys solo from Stevie Watts. With it's distinctive 'Wall of Spector Sound' intro, 'Shouting At The Moon' is a ballad that Danny wrote for his Dad about the last night they spent together before he passed away. Add Richard Hammerton's production and writing, and Bryant really delivers both lyrically and musically, a window to the soul in the style that his father loved, with both a falsetto vocal chorus - smacking of Bowie - plus a guitar solo - in the spirit of Gilmour. Hammerton's keys carry the verse on 'Sister Decline' before Bryant's hypnotic guitar riff and his brass section kick in - a song all about temptation and addiction. A track where an old Blues shuffle and contemporary Rock deliciously collide - the energy of which will provide yet another live favourite.
And talking of delicious, how about the second and final cover on the album, none other Howlin' Wolf's old classic 'May I Have A Talk With You' - a long-time favourite of Danny's that duly gets the justice it deserves with a great Blues vocal and awesome guitar from the big man - again with great support from Hammerton, bass guitarist Alex Phillips (who we also saw in that Ramblin' Man tent three years ago) and his brass section. The last track on the album - 'Yours For A Song' - is where we finally mention the 'B' word. Indeed the opening salvo to this power ballad is very much Bonamassa territory - with its perfect fusion of guitar and keys, driven splendidly by Raeburn on drums, which builds into a killer track that climaxes with Bryant's Skynyrd/Freebird like guitar outro. A fitting way to end 'Revelation', although, given Bryant's well publicised demons, this album isn't a 'downbeat' durge. As expected, it's packed with passion and energy - and is an impressive display of Danny's Blues/Rock prowess as both a singer and guitarist. Dedicated to his father, 'Revelation' is something which, no doubt, his Dad Ken would have been proud of. You can catch Danny on his UK tour next month featuring special guest Steve Hill from Monday 7th May until Sunday 17th June which also includes a few Big Band shows.
Hailing from the Medway Delta, and although originally a covers band, Bad Pennies are a tight, no-nonsense and well respected four-piece Blues Rock band - inspired by the finest Blues-Rockers of the 70's & 80's playing tribute to Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Dr. Feelgood, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter, around Kent, London and beyond at pubs, clubs, rallies, festivals and events. Originally formed by lead guitarist Gary Seager, their mantra of not short changing you and no dodgy notes, has seen the band play many hundreds of gigs accompanied by more than a few changes in personnel. The current line-up has been working together for a couple of years and despite Bad Pennies whole sound and style being honed live on stage, they have developed their own unique style of raw, unadulterated Blues Rock. Indeed Bad Pennies began writing in the Summer of 2016 and their first EP - 'Turned Up Again' - made its debut at #22 in the IBBA UK Blues chart. However, due to other commitments the band were not able to focus on writing an album until later in 2017. Cue the aptly named 'Songs From The Medway Delta' which was released at the beginning of February 2018 and early reaction has been very positive - in fact it's a debut album that has been well worth waiting for.
The album contains 14 all-original compositions recounting some of the trials and tribulations of life in and around the Medway Delta. A diverse range of styles are covered including slow minor Blues, shuffles, heavy and raw and acoustic delta Blues - with Seager, vocalist Adam Stocker and experienced session bass guitarist Gavin Matthews contributing all the songs, some by collaboration and some sole-written. Recorded and mixed in just three days at Ranscombe Studios in Rochester by Jim Riley (who remembers The Herbs?), the album perfectly captures the live essence of the band. Seager's classic Blues Rock riff on his self-penned opener 'Crash and Burn' - all about a relationship heading for the wall - where trust issues are destined for it to end horribly - kicks off the album with an immediate nod to Gary's Rory and Stevie Ray influences plus a mean old-fashioned ‘shouty’ Blues vocal and harp from Adam.
The funkier 'Lady Luck' - an amusing, some you win, some you lose ditty, that makes you wonder why you got out of bed in the morning - co-written by Seager and Matthews - shows that these guys can not only groove but they can mix it up with Gary's foot firmly placed on his wah pedal, while Matthews 'One Shot (ballad of a no-good)' - despite its title - is a rocker all about a horrible 'so and so' who gets his comeuppance at the mercy of Seager's distorted slide plus an in yer face Stocker vocal and an opportunity for drummer Dave Two-Jackets to vent his influence of Ian Paice. 'SFTMD' twists and turns once again with Seager's 'Move On'. We've all been there - they act like your buddy but they’ll stab you in the back and throw you under the bus to take your place! Adam's message being "Don’t let them grind you down!" - as Gary's acoustic opening (Seager studied classical guitar and violin before getting side-tracked by Page and Blackmore), correspondingly twists and turns with some groovy fret work and one awesome electric guitar solo. Given their gig history - Bad Pennies must be good judges to the fact that live music fits hand in glove with a drink as Dave Two-Jackets snare intro heralds Matthews 'Medicine Man' - Bad Pennies very own drinking song - Maybe one more won't hurt? - with another great vocal and harp from Stocker.
Another classic stock Blues Rock riff launches Matthews & Seager's 'Mynah Bird' - its sentiment all very un PC - but boy is she a nightmare and she can take you down with one word, a track that gives Gary licence for some groovy guitar moves plus some great diction from Adam in the mould of his old mucker - the legend that is Nicky Moore. Stocker continues the pub crawl with the succinct Blues of 'When I Get Drunk' - its premise - why spend your money on a cab or even the bus when you can use the money to have another drink? Well we'll drink to that, as Stocker and Seager's melancholic 'AM Blues' is all about the morning after - no time to feel sorry for yourself, although Seager's guitar work goes a long way to curing that hangover. The slide guitar of 'Please Baby' duly picks the pace of 'SFTMD' back up again, another Matthews/Seager Blues composition addressing relationship decisions, whilst Seager's rocking guitar on 'Hometown Blues' also sees Matthews revisit his NWOBHM era, which departs from relationships and booze, and does exactly it was says on the tin - all about returning to your old neighbourhood to discover how much things have changed.
Matthews' 'Queen of All The City' keeps things rocking, all about that women who is out of your league - or is she? with Matthew's bass and Dave Two-Jackets drums driving things along very nicely with more great work from Seager and Stocker. And you take the man out of the Medway but you can't take the Medway out of the man - Gary's 'Midnight Train' - all about being run out of town - sees Bad Pennies all aboard and rocking and a rolling all the way down those Medway tracks before the band jump off the wagon once more on Matthews' 'Temperance Boogie' - another crackerjack - albeit its sentiment being that it can make a good man go bad. Seager's 'Losing Streak', would you believe about drink and women, closes out the album, with it's cajun feel, its message being that you’re just looking for a peaceful life, but you find yourself up the creek without a paddle! Well, come on, this is the Blues! All in all, a delightful eclectic mix of Blues with not only great lyrics, but more importantly, an album that has the vibe of a live band with some killer tracks that will go down a storm at any gig - particularly their drinking songs! You know what they say - go on - in for a penny, in for a pound!
Being new to Steve Hill, who in his native Canada is already three studio albums into his career, it seems that his first live CD provides a good introduction to this no nonsense rocking Blues artist. That said, the album title is surely the most accurate description of what is to be found on this fourteen track collection. Recorded in Quebec in late November 2017, it does, as they say, “exactly what it says on the tin”.
When thinking of a one man band, the first image that came to my mind were the buskers at the London Underground tube stations which I used to see every night on my way home from work, however, they never sounded like this! Electric guitar, percussion, harmonica and vocals from one person all at the same time, as I said the clue is in the title. With no need to concentrate on individual players, you get drawn into what a remarkable sound one extremely talented artist can make. Surely seeing this artist in a live setting must be something to behold.
From the two rocky openers of ‘Rhythm All Over’ and ‘Go On’ complete with fuzzy guitars and foot stomping catchiness, it is obvious that Steve Hill knows how to please his audience right from the off. The classic style Blues of ‘The Collector’ and ‘Damned’ showcase another talent in his considerable arsenal when his vocals drop to a low down and dirty ZZ Top style drawl, which for the most part remains for the rest of the album, perfectly suiting the material here.
Things get more stripped down for ‘Tough Luck’ to give a Mississippi Delta feel with a simple guitar and harmonica replacing the all-out rocking feel of what’s gone on before. The audience who seem to have been lost in the mix on the previous track return for ‘Never is Such a Long Time’, another very Bluesy song showcasing some very impressive solos, it sees SH clearly in his element and clocking in at over six minutes long it leaves the listener wondering can this really be the work of just one man? It really is that impressive!
Much more up-tempo, but no less astounding, ‘Hate To See You Go’, builds up to such a pace, just to play it must feel like the equivalent of running a marathon. The guitar sounds superb and the crowd lap it up. A rest is clearly needed and this is provided by ‘Emily’, a melodic, boy meets girl, mid paced rocker which has radio air play written all over it. Surely if a single is to be released, this sing-a-long classic in the making is the one. Lowdown, harmonica driven, delta Blues returns for ‘Nothing New’, possibly the slowest song on the CD and while it doesn’t deserve the label filler track, the title does seem rather appropriate and as such, adds little to the excellent feel of the album so far.
Strange then, that although the slow pace continues, ‘Out Of Phase’, is a wonderfully subtle song with simple guitar hook. It’s one of the stand-out tracks here and is probably my personal favourite. ‘Still Got it Bad’ amps up the guitar for a much more traditional Blues feel. A song about lost love which sounds like a four piece band playing rather than a one man tour de force. The best title of the CD goes to ‘The Ballad of Johnny Wabo’ ,another slow burner which builds to a full out hand clapping, fist pumping, foot stomping romp. This is the song that makes buying a ticket for his upcoming tour a must!
Penultimate track ‘Dangerous’ returns us to a much more rocky road, a real blast of a song with a cracking chorus, sure to be a real crowd pleaser. We finish off with a seven minute version of the Hendrix classic ‘Voodoo Child’ which although shows off the multi talents of SH is probably best seen in a live setting and feels slightly unnecessary for the purposes of a live CD. Another original song would have been better suited here to close out the album.
So, a great introduction to a new talent that it’s only taken twenty years to discover. With studio albums finally released in the UK and an extensive tour supporting both King King and Danny Bryant well under way, one would suspect that Steve Hill’s star is about to shine very brightly indeed.
Just as the withdrawal pains were kicking in (it’s been at least three months since Mr. Bonamassa has released any new material), the prolific JB returns with his own tribute to the great British Bluesmen of the 60’s and 70’s. Recorded live at London’s Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich in early July 2016, no stops are left unpulled as the music of Beck, Clapton, Page are given the Bonamassa treatment to wonderful effect. The DVD opens with a brief black and white introduction of how the Blues arrived in the UK at the start of the 1960’s, narrated by ex-Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones, it sets the scene nicely for what is to follow.
All the usual suspects are assembled as Joe takes the stage, dark suited with trademark shades and Gibson Les Paul in hand and we are off at lightning speed, which will, on the whole be unrelenting for the next 100 minutes. Beck’s ‘Bolero/Rice Pudding’ is the perfect opener, lifted from Jeff Beck’s 1966 debut solo album, it maybe a brave move to start with an instrumental, but with a guitar solo as good as this, the gamble immediately pays off.
As usual JB is a man of few words preferring to let his playing do the talking, and on Clapton’s ‘Mainline Florida’ he makes it look effortless, whilst keeping the audience in the palm of his hand, it’s such a great track, even the sun is coming down for a closer look. Time for the band to shine, starting with a ragtime like piano, keyboard legend Reese Wynans kicks off Zeppelin’s ‘Boogie With Stu’. With the song progressing, everyone plays their part, all clearly loving every minute of bringing these classics to life.
Bassist Russ Irwin shares the vocal duties for ‘Let Me Love You Baby’. Although it’s hard to believe the Stevie Ray Vaughan version could be bettered, this comes pretty close. Although the pace of the show is slowed down somewhat for the intricate mid section, it’s not long before we are back up to full power, bringing the song to its thunderous conclusion. Returning to the Jeff Beck catalogue for the next couple of songs, we get both the Rock for ‘Plynth (Water Down The Drain)’ and brilliant powerhouse Blues for ‘Spanish Boots’, the latter a great ensemble piece which gives the rhythm section of Michael Rhodes on bass and the ever fantastic Anton Fig on drums the chance to show everyone exactly how it’s done.
‘Double Crossing Time’ is probably the one song of all the greats on here that Joe Bonamassa was born to cover. Clearly in his element, playing with such speed and ferocity that his fingers are just a blur, it would appear he is on a mission to single handedly keep the Blues alive whilst blasting through this old Bluebreakers number. Next up is our second visit to Clapton’s ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ album and ‘Motherless Children’. It’s an instant toe tapper with its chugging steam train like rhythm, its exceptional playing all round, and the fact that this song is originally over 90 years old, proves just how timeless this music really is.
After fifty unrelenting minutes have flown by, it’s time for band introductions and Joe finally speaks to the highly appreciative audience who give each band member the applause they richly deserve. Rest over and it’s time for some Cream, and surely one of the strangest song titles ever –‘ SWLABR’ (handily translated by JB as She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow) complete with a SlowHand like red guitar, this classic from 1967 is given the full Rock out treatment, with JB and Rhodes taking centre stage, driving the song through to its typically bombastic finish. From one all time classic British Rock ‘n Blues band to another, ‘Tea For One/I Can’t Quit You Baby’ gives JB the opportunity to do his best JP as the solo is taken down to an intricate, barely audible level, before soaring to heights that even the Zeppelin boys in their heyday would’ve done well to match.
In a slight departure for the heavy Blues/Rock ‘Little Girl’ takes us the nearest we are going to get to a Pop song. An upbeat number that would sound great on any of Joe’s solo albums. No surprise that the red guitar stays on for ‘Pretending’, one of solo Clapton’s best tunes and the most modern of all the songs played tonight. The only thing that could have made this better is a cameo appearance by God himself, but alas, it’s not to be.
‘Black Water/ Django’ with its slow start and slightly Indian feel sees Joe in familiar solo show territory, and whilst not traditional Blues fare, it’s done with such style and flair that a moment of self-indulgence is completely forgivable. It’s yet another highlight of this exceptional DVD release. What better way to finish off an enthralling evening than with an all-out 15 minute long, throw everything at it, barnstorming version of ‘How Many More Times’, which even has time to include a section from Bad Company’s ‘The Hunter’. Everyone gets their 5 minutes in the spotlight with a special mention for a wonderful, mid-song Anton Fig drum solo. The crowd are on their feet as a truly memorable evening is brought to a spectacular conclusion.
Extras on the DVD include Joe and band playing The Beatles ‘Taxman’ at the world famous Cavern Club in Liverpool and an introduction to the evening by Journalist Mick Wall who certainly doesn’t miss the opportunity for a shameless book plug. A welcome addition to any live music lover’s collection, especially for fans of Mr. Bonamassa (Me), this disc provides a great record of a special evening, and a fantastic souvenir for those lucky enough to have actually been there.
Stripped back to its bare bones is a description which hardly does justice to this new collection of twelve songs from an artist, better known to us, as the frontman for Wrinklystock heroes and covers band The Replicants. All tracks here feature just vocals and guitar and can prove to be a challenging, but in the end, a very worthwhile listen - very much with the vibe of Page and Plant’s iconic MTV ‘Unledded’ session.
From the opening slow burning title track, which features just those seven words, to the more up tempo second song ‘Behind My Eyes’ featuring Head’s impressive acoustic guitar. Keeping in the same vein ‘Infinity’ (Free) and ‘Time Slips’ follow, the latter concerned with the speed of a passing life (and how youth is wasted on the young), again great playing lift the track as it begins to wander.
‘6 Years’ is probably the most commercial song on here and has a nice rhythm to it, and whilst not destined for massive radio airplay, it’s easily the most memorable track and the one that could see Joe reaching a wider audience. The meandering instrumental ‘Science Museum’ follows and is pleasant enough followed by both ‘Speed Of Darkness’ and ‘The Beginning Is Near’ which keep the momentum going, the first sounds intentionally messy but interesting none the less, the latter with its slightly fuzzy guitar and is yet another track from Joe with a multitude of layers, which again captures the grey matter’s attention.
‘Yesterday’s Sun Dial’ continues with the theme of the passing of time, and like a lot of the songs on the album, poses the question of the added benefit of a band version for some added depth and weight. The gentle ‘Water Freeze’ lifts the mood, before the longest song ‘Axiom’ with its spoken vocal and rap style delivery, gives us Mr. Head’s view on immortality, with ‘Cosmos’, on the whole a downbeat instrumental, bringing ‘WILIMIF’ ‘to its close.
As another reviewer cleverly put it – “this is the epitome of head-onism.” But it’s also an album with that magic formula of some instantly gratifying and rewarding tracks plus those that improve with repeated listens, and proves a good introduction into the music of an artist who easily falls into the category of “One To Watch”.
Dorian Sorriaux, better known as the formidable guitarist with Swedish Rock band Blues Pills, released his sublime debut solo EP 'Hungry Ghost' on Friday 29th June via Soulseller Records. This four track EP is definitely a deviation from the Blues Pills rocking psychedelia, instead channelling a more laid back acoustic folk direction, heavily drawing influence and inspiration from such artists as Neil Young, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake and Bert Jansch.
Sorriaux initially made a massive impression with his mesmerising electric guitar playing when Blues Pills first appeared on the Rock scene in 2014. The band formed in Örebro in 2011 going on to release their debut studio album ‘Blues Pills’ in July 2014, and a second ‘Lady in Gold’ in August 2016, both on the Nuclear Blast label. Dorian displayed an incredible expressiveness to his playing, creating rich melodic tones with tastefully controlled vibrato and delivered with a delicate touch and dynamism not to dissimilar to the likes of legendary guitarists Peter Green and Paul Kossoff.
With a well-earned break in Blues Pills touring schedule, Dorian has been able to explore his passion for acoustic folk with the release of this debut EP. All four tracks were written by Sorriaux and recorded at Blues Pills own studio in Örebro, Sweden. The EP was produced and mixed by Blues Pills bass player Zack Anderson and mastered by Jon Moorehead. The songs were tracked with Dorian’s live vocal and acoustic guitar through a single mic, capturing the organic purity and emotional depth of the performances perfectly, giving it that authentic classic late 60’s early 70’s folk sound and airy vibe. The EP features two other guest musicians, Emelie Sjöström on vibraphone and Blues Pills keyboard/guitarist Rickard Nygren on Fender Rhodes. The beautifully striking psychedelic collage cover artwork was created by Chekou Cantú Garcia and is based on old Nicholas Roerich paintings.
The first track is the haunting 'Huitoto', with its delicate acoustic guitar picking and subtle vibraphone touches adding to the overall tingling atmosphere. The confessional 'Hungry Ghost' is a gently strummed, raw and intense song with bags of emotion seeping from Dorian's warm and tender vocals. The title ‘Hungry Ghost’ comes from a book called ‘In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts’ by Dr. Gabor Maté. Essentially it is saying is that the hungry ghost inside of us makes us feel as though we are not good enough the way we are, ultimately driving people to seek more of the things that can lead to self-destruction. This is heavy soul baring stuff!
'Need To Love' is a fragile and ethereal song performed with eminent grace. Dorian's voice sounds quite emotionally exposed and vulnerable but with an honest and deep resonance, quite moving. The divine and graceful 'Hello My Friend', a song that recalls tragic American folk hero Jackson C. Frank, closes the EP with its lilting arpeggios and celestial vocals. These four songs reveal the striking talent of a young songwriter finally stepping into the limelight. Immediately following the EP's release, Sorriaux is set to play his first UK solo live shows supporting Myles Kennedy, culminating in a prestigious concert at the London Palladium on Sunday 29th July.
Steven C. Gilbert
To coincide with a co-headline September tour alongside The Bad Flowers, Stockport's Federal Charm, consisting of founding members Paul Bowe (guitar) and L.D. Morawski (bass) plus recently recruited 23 year old Southampton vocalist, Tom Guyer, and top Manchester drummer, Josh Zahler, are due to release their new album 'Passenger' through Wire-Sound on Friday 14th September.
With a new energy, the revitalized quartet's opening track 'Swing Sinner' sets the tone for this eleven song strong collection. As with each track Guyer delivers his vocals with (for the most part) controlled aggression, and it soon becomes obvious this is a band with a lot to say, and one that is not afraid to say it. In this instance, the questionable execution of a murderer, hence the swinging sinner.
The first single from the album is 'Choke', which is currently benefiting from a lot of airplay on Planet Rock radio. A catchy hook line - “What makes you think you are the king of the world” - it tells of the dangers of privilege and self importance, along with its bass heavy riff comes a vocal style reminiscent of early Rival Sons albums, which makes this a perfect introduction to FC’s third CD.
Two of the next three tracks have a more laid back feel: 'Emerald Haze' and personal favourite 'Nowhere Is Home'. Both great songs, the first recounting lost love and the latter dealing with the feeling of rootlessness, each demonstrating this is a band with more depth than the opening blood and thunder tracks would have us believe.
Sandwiched between these two mellower tracks sits a song that deals with an issue close to all our hearts. 'Death Rattle', with vocals delivered with passion and venom in equal measure, it recounts the sorry tale of how our country’s musical heritage is being sold down the river, with the closure of all our great old gig venues in favour of faceless tower blocks and apartments. It’s a powerful song with a very heartfelt message.
The groove laden 'Get Through' follows. It has a much more uplifting feel than what has gone before, all about no regrets and moving on. Its positive tone tells us not to dwell on the past but look to to a brighter future (what a great idea). A great guitar riff saves the slightly directionless 'Concrete Creature' - part acoustic guitar, part electric stomp - and just when you’re wondering where the track is going, everything comes back together and saves the day with a great finale.
Both 'Can’t Rule Me' and 'Halo', with their distinctive guitar sound are rocking Blues numbers with enough of the aforementioned aggression and atmosphere to hammer home their messages (Don’t let the world grind you down, in the case of the former, and the latter focusing on the pain of lost love). Fuzzy guitar accompanying a political tirade sums up 'Speak Out', but even when berating the state of the country and its leaders, there is always time for mid-section hand clapping! A track that really hits the spot, as do most of the offerings here.
The closing 'Parting Words' is the longest song on 'Passenger' and sees the album come to a rather downbeat conclusion, although it must be difficult to make the subject of an impending divorce uplifting, at the end of what is a most enjoyable listen. I for one am very much looking forward to catching the guys at The Borderline with The Bad Flowers and Those Damn Crows on Sunday 30th September as well as making the northbound trip to Sheffield for HRH C.R.O.W.S. a couple of weeks earlier to see them on a festival stage. The Federal Charm boys are definitely going places and fast.
Starting with the uplifting old-style twisting Blues track ‘We’re Gonna Rock the Joint’ Michael William Hugh "Mike" Vernon (born in Middlesex, UK, on 20th November 1944) introduces his latest album, which has a release date of Friday 7th September 2018. This album is entitled ‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’ and will be supported by a UK and European Tour under the billing of “Mike Vernon & The Mighty Combo”. The title of this recording precisely reflects his advancement in direction within his own record label company Blue Horizon and features him on vocals, something which he has dallied with and enjoyed for many years. The Mighty Combo were handpicked by Mike who knew the exact artists needed to join him to make the album work and these are the reputed and Otis Grand mentored Kid Carlos Moreno on guitar, Paul Tasker on saxophone, Matt Little on keyboards, Ian Jennings on upright bass and Mike Hellier on drums.
This is feel-good music at its best and if you enjoy foot-tapping, hip swinging sounds by serious Blues professionals that put you in a comfortable, soul lifting and revitalised mood then this is just what you need! The music on this album is mostly a celebration of the classic 40’s and 50’s R&B greats with a fistful of Mike’s self-penned originals that complement the collection. ‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’ features rock solid rhythms enjoyed, Mike says, through the vein of Fats Domino, Little Richard and other energising artists. Mike has been in the Blues industry in many guises for over fifty years specialising as Music executive, top producer, studio owner, label boss, magazine editor, songwriter and occasional singer. He has worked with an extensive list of celebrated artists including Peter Green, David Bowie, Climax Blues Band and Christine McVie amongst many others and also collaborated for over thirty years and on a regular basis with Fleetwood Mac.
His life in Blues started after securing a job with Decca Records whilst still in his teens where he first integrated himself into the music scene as a goffer and earned respect from his colleagues through the input and suggestions that he made at the recording studio whilst making tea and running errands. Mike was always an opportunist and being obsessed with the Blues zealously visited many London clubs which is where he met and discovered Eric Clapton who was, in his opinion, turning the Blues scene completely upside down. On recognising this, he went to his boss, Hugh Mendl, and told him that he needed to give consideration to the potential of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with their new ex-Yardbirds guitarist Eric Clapton and grab and sign them while they could! Hugh, trusting Mike’s Blues instinct and knowledge, told him to go ahead and do it and so a deal was negotiated making Mike Vernon a producer of his first album, the classic 1966 ‘Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton’ LP, whilst he was still in his mid-twenties.
Leaving Decca in 1968 just two years after the historical success of this “Beano album”, so called because the sleeve showed Eric Clapton reading a copy of the famed kids’ comic, Mike Vernon chose to go independent. His Blue Horizon record label, which he’d been releasing small-run Blues recordings on since the mid-‘60s, had gained a reputable following within the British Blues scene, and artists and bands wanted him to record for them. Peter Green was one of these and he was looking to form his own band after leaving John Mayall, and by getting Mick Fleetwood to join him they created the band that would then become Fleetwood Mac. This band had been offered to Decca who wouldn’t put it out on the Blue Horizon label so instead Mike offered it to CBS who took it, along with the label identity. It was contention over the ownership of this that lead to Mike Vernon resigning from Decca and shortly after becoming an independent producer for them.
‘Beyond The Blue Horizon’, his latest and soon to be released album features nine new originals written by Mike which are accompanied by three covers from the catalogues of Brook Benton, Mose Allison and Clarence Henry. Although the first single on the album, ‘We’re Gonna Rock The Joint’, is of a rather thigh-slapping Working Men’s Club genre, I thought that ‘Kiddio’, the Benton song from 1960 which follows, was well reproduced and modernised through Kid Carlos’ skill on the guitar. ‘Heart & Soul’ which follows, is a happy clappy and joyful love song, which celebrates how someone can hook you, bring you under their spell and get you “in a spin”.
The tempo and mood step up and swing out with the energising and optimistic next track ‘I Can Fix It’ which, as the title suggests, rejoices how anything is possible if you have the right attitude. A favourite and timeless song familiar to most is the classic (‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do’, originally produced by Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry in 1961, which uses a great guitar and saxophone duet to respectfully take you back in time and raise your mood.
Keeping the energy flowing with ‘Be On That Train’, this song conjures up a picture of a 60’s filled dance floor with swirling skirts and crisp seamed suits which begins with a mesmerising guitar solo before leading you through with an archetypical but quirky rhythm. ‘Your Mind Is On Vacation’ from 1976 follows, which was originally written and recorded by composer and pianist Mose Allison who passed away in 2016. This track slows the tempo down and can carry you off even whilst singing of people talking nonsense about something which they know nothing about!
This is followed by the wistful track ‘Old Man’s Dreams’ which is a slow, smoochy Blues tune coupling up and featuring wholesome saxophone and Blues guitar reminiscent of Peter Green with the incredible depth that it reaches within you. ‘Jump Up’ does just that and picks the mood back up with impressive guitar solos which are celebrated again in ‘Red Letter Day’. Leaning towards more of a swing-based backing, ‘A Love Affair With The Blues’ proceeds the final track ‘Hate To Leave (Hate To Say Goodbye)’ which brings the album to an enjoyable and fulfilling close.
If you want to be taken back in time to recapture and embrace the joy of dance halls in the sixties then this is an album that will definitely do that or why don’t you go even better and see them live on their concert circuit? The skills shown throughout this production are very concise with an extremely well kept rhythm and as much as I enjoyed the album, I can also say that I also do now have a very happy Mother, about to turn 80 years of age, who tells me that she is delighted with my gift of it and that playing it makes her constant duty of household chores an absolute pleasure!
I may risk being torn limb from limb by diehard Ben Poole fans if I refer to this album as a return to form, but that’s how it felt to me from the first listen. I first encountered his music during one of the much missed Bluesfest stroller programmes in one of the smaller rooms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013 (a session which was itself released a year later as a fine CD) and I bought his early CD releases (the EP ‘Everything I Want’ and the full length ‘Let’s Go Upstairs’) from him without hesitation there and then.
When ‘Time Has Come’ was released in 2016 it felt to me that too many of the rough edges which gave Ben’s sound its attraction had been smoothed away, almost as if Ben was searching for a new market for his music. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this new offering, but I needn’t have worried; the vocals may be rather lighter and smoother than some other Bluesrockers out there, but the edge is definitely back in the guitar work!
Much has been made of Ben’s love of the late Gary Moore’s music, but to my ears there may be a closer comparison, vocally at least, with John Mayer. Mayer is, of course, a very fine Blues/Rock guitarist, but one whose instrumental prowess has been overshadowed by his voice in recent years; this has rather led his sound away from the Blues and I think that was probably my concern when I heard ‘Time Has Come’. The same comment cannot be levelled at ‘Anytime You Need Me’, hence my view of it as a reassuring return to form.
Drummer Wayne Proctor, perhaps best known as a member of King King, has done an excellent production job, as well as co-writing much of the material with Steve Wright and Ben himself. As well as Wayne, the band features bassist Beau Barnard and Ross Stanley, a mainstay of the London modern jazz scene, on an array of keyboards, including Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, piano and synth.
The music itself is top quality from the start and I’m sure everyone may pick different tracks as their own personal favourites; the guitar solos usually choose mine for me, so ‘Found Out The Hard Way’ probably edges the vote, although the closing pair of ‘Let Me Be’ and ‘Holding On’ (the latter apparently influenced by Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’) run it mighty close.
It shouldn’t be surprising for an artist to have a closer affinity for their own songs and, for me, the two cover versions, ‘Dirty Laundry’ and ‘Start The Car’ (written by Don Henley and Jude Cole respectively), don’t seem quite as strong. That said, opinions are like backsides (i.e. we all have one and they’re all different!), so the next review you read may like those songs the most; the best thing to do would be to buy your own copy of the album and decide for yourself. Highly recommended.
Sari Schorr burst onto the Blues-Rock scene in 2016 with her fiery debut ‘A Force Of Nature’, produced by the legendary Mike Vernon (Blue Horizon founder) and released on the Manhaton record label - Vernon, of course, being famous for producing iconic British Blues bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After and John Mayall’s Blues Breakers in the late 1960’s.
Schorr is originally from New York where she worked the Blues and Jazz clubs for many years, an operatically trained singer and songwriter who turned to the Blues for inspiration and fulfilment. It was in January 2015 when Vernon first encountered Sari when he was invited to receive a ‘Keeping The Blues Alive’ award at the prestigious International Blues Challenge in Memphis USA. He was so impressed with her performance that night he decided to come out of retirement to produce an album with her. Several years of touring the USA & Europe with Joe Louis Walker and Poppa Chubby brought Sari greater prominence in the Blues world and as such she has been inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame. Sari’s voice is pure dynamite and has been described as being somewhere between Janis Joplin and Tina Turner for shear Blues power, vibrant texture and raw emotion. She definitely is a force of nature!
Schorr’s highly anticipated second album ‘Never Say Never’ will be release on Friday 5th October on the Manhaton Record label. Nine of the eleven songs were recorded live at The Grange Studios in Norfolk, UK. The other two songs, ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Freedom’, were recorded at Superfly Studios, Nottinghamshire. All tracks were produced by Henning Gehrke, with the Grange Studio recordings being engineered by Dave Williams and the Superfly Studio tracks being engineered by Andrew Banfield. The album was mixed by Tom Tapley in Atlanta, Georgia, and mastered by Jon Astley at Close To The Edge in London. The band features Ash Wilson on guitar, Mat Beable on bass, Bob Fridzema on Hammond, keyboards, and Roy Martin on drums, with Neal Wilkinson on drums and Bennet Holland on Hammond, keyboards for ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Freedom’.
With a total of eleven tracks clocking in at 49 minutes and 28 seconds, seven of the songs were written by Schorr and Henning Gehrke. ‘Freedom’ was written by Schorr and Steve Wright, and ‘The New Revolution’ was written by Schorr, Fridzema, Wilson, Beable and Martin. Two cover songs feature on the album including the 1972 Mott The Hoople classic ‘Ready For Love’, brilliantly written by Mick Ralphs and originally on their ‘All The Young Dudes’ album, it also appeared on the Bad Company debut album ‘Bad Company’ in 1974. The album’s title track ‘Never Say Never’ was written by the late great Ian McLagan of Small Faces and The Faces fame, and originally featured on McLagan’s 2008 album of the same name.
‘King Of Rock and Roll’ kicks things off in style and sets the scene nicely, a steadfast building track that rocks with fervent intent rising to a rousing anthemic chorus “I’m on the cross roads to the devil, looking for the king of rock and roll”. This song is a tribute to the great American Blues legend Robert Johnson. Colossal towering and expressive vocals from Sari here! Second song in, ‘Thank You’, is a very personnel song that Sari wrote “for all the good people ruining great relationships”. Intense and confrontational vocal performance, delivered with snarl and attitude! A Rock steady rocker with repeated descending and ascending power chords dominating the arrangement, the accompanying bass adding to the overall texture and atmosphere.
The first cover song of the album, ‘Ready For Love’, is a song is about vulnerability and strength, which is delivered here with much passionate grace and intense raw emotion by Sari and band. The forth track, ‘Valentina', is a fast paced Heavy Rocker, and according to Sari “Valentina is my alter ego who learns too late that the high price of her pursuits have left her alone and broke in a world that is completely indifferent to her”. A fiery and spirited performance.
‘The New Revolution’ opens with a tasty ‘Faces’ style guitar groove and solid snare drum action before strong muscular vocals enter the fray! Notable Hammond embellishment giving it that authentic Faces sound. This song was written in honour of Martin Luther King, Jr. “Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for the truth.” Profound statements if ever there was!
The sixth track, ‘Beautiful’, is a slower paced Blues track with some breath-taking husky and smoky vocals from Sari. This song is about “how we all live in a superficial culture driven to distraction in our pursuit of the unattainable state of perfection”. The song is sung with bucket loads of passion and tender emotion, a stunningly beautiful performance! One of the best tracks on the album. Cracking guitar solo too!
Seventh song, ‘Turn The Radio On’, has a cool piano intro that sets this track on its way, climbing up to a sensational melodic chorus with adept acoustic guitar strumming and a four on the floor beat. According to Sari; “This is a sad story about finding the right man at the wrong time”. This is yet another song sung with impassioned emotion oozing from every lyric, you can really hear the heartfelt pain in Sari's voice. ‘Maybe I’m Fooling’ is another energetic rocker. This song is about “balancing vulnerability and empowerment to stand up for yourself and run like hell if necessary”, delivered here with vibrant burning attitude!
Ninth track, ‘Back To LA’, has a sweet and delicate slide guitar intro with jangly tambourine and a ginormous solid snare drum sound, reminiscent of intros by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. The chorus sounds a bit like the American Melodic Rock band Heart in full flight! The slide guitar repeats occasionally throughout the song, which gives the track a reoccurring and notable hook. This song is about regretting time wasted and bad decisions made, but also using that regret in a more positive way to make better decisions and learning from bad experiences.
Tenth song, ‘Freedom’, is a mid-paced rocker with a powerful invigorating and up-lifting chorus. The lyrics are basically saying that “Guns take away our freedom, we are not free if we have to fear the normal spaces in which we exist”. This track steam rolls along with sizzling energy and smokin' grit! The last track on the album is the brilliant Ian McLagan cover ‘Never Say Never’ - McLagan wrote this song after his wife's tragic death in 2006. Writing the song was part of his healing process. Sadly McLagan passed away in 2014 due to complications after suffering a stroke, he was sixty-nine years old. This is a truly beautiful song with an ocean of emotion pouring from each and every word. A sensational and arresting performance from Sari, simply breath-taking! She definitely does the song proud. I am certain Ian would approve.
Overall 'Never Say Never' is a very enjoyable and worthy album with powerfully intoxicating and accomplished vocals, strong musicianship, and containing a balanced range of tempos, moods and emotions. Sari will be on tour in the UK in September, with the album launch party being held at The Borderline, London on Friday 14th September.
Steven C. Gilbert
In April 2017 Black Spiders gave their fans one final chance to raise their middle fingers aloft and yell "fuck you" at their five, grizzled faces before hanging up their riding capes for good. In the months leading up to their final shows, frontman Pete Spiby was undergoing rehabilitation for an operation on his left hand, which learned physicians say is an important part of the human anatomy when you’re doling out sweet riffs left, right and centre. 'Failed Magician' is the title of Spiby’s new solo release through Be Lucky Records. It’s a sprawling double album of heavy Blues, dense Alt Rock that shows that Spiby still has plenty of fire in his belly! Indeed, there comes a time in a man’s life when the Blues become mandatory listening and this in turn has informed his new songs. For his next trick, he assembled a crack team of ne’er do wells to help bring his ideas to life in the studio with Matt Ellis at the production console. Calling on family and friends, formed over years in music and raising the money through Pledgemusic, Pete was able to release his first solo album.
‘Lightening Bolt’ appropriately starts the double album, a full Rock music track and a great start, which I liked very much, with better things to come. The quietly starting and Bluesy ‘Bible Studies’ is a good tune, building to a catchy sing a long chorus, whilst ‘Friday Night’ is absolute quality, a Bluesy Rock number with brilliant vocals. ‘We Used To Be Friends’ is perhaps not the best track on the album but all the same a good Rock ballad, although in contrast, I really liked ‘Why Not Let Them Come’ - with its good beat to get your feet moving - followed by a big chorus, full of Pete’s expletives!
Also really liked ‘Wrap Me Round Your Little Finger’ - a true traditional Rock track - perhaps the rockiest on the album, plus I also got right into ‘Guiding Light’ with its really good lyrics and great vocals - one of my favourites off of the album. ‘Mary Lous Dawg’ and ‘Working for Mary Jane’ are both good tracks musically, very well played with good vocals - as one would expect from such brilliant musicians. ‘Thrown To The Wolves’ is pure Rock - the heaviest track on the album, with a good riff that draws you into the music and a great track to finish the first CD on. The second CD is an acoustic version of the first CD where Spiby has taken it all back to guitar and vocals and pulled off a triumphant contrast. My favourite track is ‘Thrown To The Blues’, but hey, at the end of the day they are all good, and complement the first CD perfectly. A really good double album, although, if pressed, I preferred the acoustic sounds on the second CD compared to the Heavier Rock and Blues sound on the first CD. But, all in all, still a perfect match.
Bad Touch comprise of Stevie Westwood on vocals, Rob Glendinning on guitar, Daniel Seekings on rhythm guitar, Michael Bailey on bass, and George Drewry on drums. The band will be releasing, on Friday 5th October, their new and exciting studio album ‘Shake A Leg’ which was recorded in their home county of Norfolk at Orange Tree Studios; production and mixing by Andy Hodgson. Staying loyal to their music style and integrity this highly anticipated third album stays with their traditional Bluesy feel and has your feet tapping from the offset.
The band began by performing Rock covers in local pubs whilst studying at college in Norfolk in 2010 before personal inspirations took over and saw them composing and playing their own material. Taking their lead from bands such as the Arctic Monkeys, The Darkness and KT Tunstall they recorded their first EP in 2012. Proving themselves as an exceptional live band they were invited to and rocked at many UK festivals including Download whilst also touring with various Hard Rock artists the likes of Tyketto and The Quireboys.
Their first album ‘Half Way Home’ was released in April 2015 and on the strength of that they embarked on a full and successful UK tour. Continuing to tour in 2016 the band rounded this off with the release of their second album ‘Truth Be Told’ and now, following their support tour with Skid Row in March, they have a worldwide album deal with Marshall Records and the release of their third album.
All band members are very excited about the content and vibe of this new album, which has had writing input from them all, and they state that they have taken a “more personal and ambitious approach in song-writing” in this recording. Their fearless decision to write more spontaneously and developing their style - I applaud - despite the revisited theme of loneliness, lost love and life disappointments!
The opening track ‘Lift Your Head Up’ introduces you to the adrenaline rush and enjoyment that you hope you are going to have from the whole of the album and focusses on the positive and free statement “it doesn’t take much to get yourself free just open up and listen to me”. The following track ‘Hammer Falls’ has a more of a Bluesy feel and the subsequent ‘Too Many Times’ is rightly described as a real foot stomper with a great inclusive chorus that keeps the blood pumping. A real good party dance song follows with ‘Dressed To Kill’ which has that beat that you just can’t sit still to with awesome guitar riffs and rhythm. This song rejoices that moment when you’re out to party and dressed to kill, feeling an invincible attitude that makes you boundless with the beat and able to dance great to no matter what!
Track 5, ‘Skyman’, takes its inspiration from the late great Duane Allman the guitarist and leader of the Allman Brothers. Duane was an intense and talented artist who was nick-named “Skydog” and lost his life following a motorcycle crash at the tender age of 24 in the year of 1971. This is a song of invincibility, destiny, loving life and losing control in the most enjoyable way! Giving a little repose to the album recording with the following therapeutic track ‘I Belong’ your mind wanders to where you are in life now through memories and acceptance of the path that you chose to follow. Picking the rhythm back up with track 7 ‘Show me What It Means’ grabs you and reminds you to embrace life and not let it float by.
The following track ‘Tussle’ beats it out and denotes the long and arduous journey of nights spent alone whilst longing for some company and action. “I’ve spent too many nights Laying in my bed by myself, this time I’m not looking for a busy thing Just wanna tussle with a tail That ain’t got no sting, no! I’m not saying that I’m not looking for love Just wanna make it ‘fore I take it home!” sums up needing with none of the emotional complications! ‘Take Me Away’ shows the struggles in track 9 about the emotion of being lost and feeling the changes in life but not knowing in which direction to turn whereas the following recording ‘Believe In Me’ is all about finding the person that makes you feel whole but being unable to give the trust to this.
‘Movin’ On Up’ follows the analogy of songs on this album with a storyline and lyrics akin to the previous ones, about failed relationships, although ‘Slow Tempest’ runs a catchy beat and lyrics but still tells of dark clouds approaching and desertion. The final track ‘Bury Me (When I’m Gone)’ was recorded in one take in a live room and from the title alone could take you that step down ever deeper, although at the same giving encouragement for you to live your life and not dwell on events and people passed, it repeatedly reminds you that “nothing lasts these days, no one is forever, we are just a breath”.
Given their courageous experimentation of different times, places and moods - the consequent complementary shift of pace, tempo and feel on the majority of the songs on this album, all pulling from that well tried and tested Bad Touch foot tapping and Bluesy pump – means it’s definitely time to ‘Shake A Leg’.
Shake A Leg tracklisting:
Lift Your Head Up
Too Many Times
Dressed To Kill
Show Me What It Means
Take Me Away
Believe In Me
Movin’ On Up
Bury Me (When I’m Gone)
Friday 21st September sees the release of the prolific Mr. Bonamassa’s 13th studio album, and whilst thirteen maybe unlucky for some, you just know this couldn’t possibly apply to one of today’s greatest Bluesmen.
We kick of with a very familiar drum intro and whilst the temptation may be to sing “Been a long time, been a long and lonely time” no one could possibly accuse JB of taking things slowly. Starting the year with gigs that would run through to Summer, followed by the stunning British Blues Explosion album and another impressive collaboration with Beth Hart, you can’t help but wonder just where he finds the time? Probably the most diverse album of his career there is a lot going on here with tinges of Gospel, Country and Soul, as well as the Blues Rock that we all know and love. So,after the initial nod to Led Zep, ‘Evil Mama’ is a low down bass driven track complete with horn section and trademark guitar solo, throw in some more Bonham-esque drumming and you have the perfect foot stomping way to open this collection of 12 brand new songs.
The last two Bonamassa shows I have been to have both opened with the Rockabilly ‘King Bee Shakedown’ although, admittedly, I thought the song was called ‘Good To See You’. A great, upbeat party like song, you can hear the fun the band are having on this number, which has been aching to be recorded and released for ages. It’s the perfect opening track on the setlist and probably will be for many tours to come.
The influences of last year’s excellent fourth album from Black Country Communion can be clearly heard on ‘Molly O’. The tale of a sinking ship and its fatalities, including the title character, with “her suitcase full of redemption”, It could almost be described as a Rocky/Blues sea shanty. From the waves and creaking ship intro through to its heavy riff and storming solo, this story driven song is an early highlight and should be placed firmly in the “Must Hear Live” file.
If ever you were asked to sum up Joe’s music in one song,you wouldn’t need to look much further than ‘Deep In The Blues Again’. A terrific track just right for radio. Commercial, Bluesy, upbeat with a driving rhythm and great vocals along with a catchy chorus, you can almost hear the crowd clapping along, an instant JB classic.
Things get taken down a notch for the weighty ‘Self Inflicted Wounds’ which, apparently, is a personal favourite of Joes. It’s certainly up there with some of his best work. As with the majority of the album, the overriding theme of looking for redemption runs heavily throughout the song, and with a solo that tugs on the heartstrings, by its conclusion, you could forgive the artist just about anything and grant him the mercy he so desperately seeks.
Time to lighten up proceedings with a bit of smoky late night Blues. ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ is a tongue in cheek story about a drunk with four ex-wives, trying to rebuild his life, (redemption once again). Although this may not sound like a lot of fun, it makes for a wonderfully infectious track and another album highlight.
Next we have a bit of a rarity, a duet on a Bonamassa solo album. ‘The Ghost Of Macon Jones’ sees Nashville country singer Jamey Johnson join JB on a tale of Renegades and Outlaws. The dangers of the cowboy life are brought to life in what can best be described as a train like Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Country song. It’s a prime example of an outstanding artist turning his hand to, and conquering yet another musical style.
More radio friendly upbeat Blues follows, this time with some brass thrown in for good measure. ‘Just Cos You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should’ is a signature Joe song, with a memorable hook which would fit comfortably into any live show. Yet another winner.
Where next? Well surely it has to be a bit of Gospel! The title track and overriding theme ‘Redemption’ sees us return in places to the opening song with its fleeting Led Zep touches, but manages to keep the Blues to the fore, as salvation and forgiveness runs deep throughout a song that can really only benefit from repeated listens.
Surely after such a personal and meaningful track, we deserve something a little lighter and with ‘I’ve Got Some Mind Over What Matters’ Joe duly delivers. The ups and downs of everyday life are covered on this mid paced song, which whilst certainly not a filler track is not the strongest on the album, however it keeps spirits up, which is no bad thing as the heartbreaking ‘Stronger Now In Broken Places’ follows shortly after. Stripped down to just an acoustic guitar, it’s JB at his most vulnerable. A real tear jerker and ode to the lonely, with the hope that things get better in time. If this appears in a forthcoming live set guys - better be ready with a hanky and the “I’ve got something in my eye” excuse. A classic piece of Joe.
Unbelievably we have arrived at the last track, and we finish on a high. The band are back in town for the traditional ‘Love Is A Gamble’ complete with a horn section, great piano from the exceptional Reese Wynans and of course the obligatory wonderful guitar solo. Everyone is allowed to shine as the album is brought to its close.
‘Redemption’ certainly ranks up there with the best in Joe Bonamassa’s ever growing catalogue. With so much going on, this beautifully layered album really is the gift that keeps on giving, with something new to discover on each listen. Looking forward to the Royal Albert Hall gigs in 2019, but knowing Joe, he’ll probably have released another three albums by then.
The Wrinkly Rockers Club thankfully, from time to time, provides the opportunity to indulge myself. For example, I got to spend Valentine’s night reviewing the Godfathers gig much to the (feigned) indignation of my other half. And now another golden opportunity comes my way, the chance to review one of my all-time guitar heroes – Simon Hinkler of the Mission and his new 5 track EP ‘Moving On’. And I can remember exactly when he became a super hero of mine. Late 1980s feet up after a hard week at my first job having left school, to watch Channel 4’s The Tube with Jools Holland and the late Paula Yates. Then my musical life changed for ever with the explosion from my TV screen of a driving sustained guitar sound as The Mission blasted into ‘Wasteland’ accompanied by a crowd going wild throwing hand fulls of confetti into the air in time with the guitar crescendos! Dry ice, sunglasses and cowboy hats. What the hell was this? It was Rock and Roll and I liked it! There then followed decades of being accused of being a Goth, which although not strictly accurate, was kind of evidenced to my friends by a lifelong love of the variety of formats that consisted of the Mission.
But with opportunities, often comes some trepidation. Not all members of successful bands go on to make successful solo records. Whatever did happen to Andrew Ridgeley? Would a solo record be any good?
However, Hinkler has a substantial track record behind him. His first band - Artery - from Sheffield formed in the early 80’s, with an album and Peel sessions, he moved on to play on the first Pulp album ‘It’ in 1983. He also spent some time the other side of the recording console as a resident studio engineer. Simon then joined the newly formed Mission in Leeds in 1985 contributing to four albums (including one of my favourites of all time), touring and generally living the Rock and Roll life style. A couple more projects, soundtracks and three years with an electronic three piece Mindfeel before he moved to the deserts of New Mexico in 1996. The music from the EP relates to that time in New Mexico and the photograph on the front of the EP cover was taken through his car window on the way to The Gorge Bridge, Taos, shortly before leaving his home there for the last time.
In 2005 Hinkler released his first solo album ‘Lose The Faith’ returning to the UK and playing with the ‘Goth’ supergroup The Eden House before re-joining the Mission for their 25th anniversary and recording two new studio albums.
But I must not review this offering as a Mission off-spin, as Hinkler’s pedigree demonstrates, there is more than enough individual talent to play with here. Yet I find the EP intriguing as it gives such an insight into the influence that Hinkler has had on the Mission sound over the years. The opening track ‘It Isn’t You’ has plenty of twirly guitar riffs to remind me of the core Mission sound I have come to love. So good so far, but this is still clearly his own work, which is fine by me. ‘Virginia’ is a pleasantly stripped back relaxing track which leads into ‘Friends’ recorded in a garage studio in Taos with a bunch of friends contributing to the chorus! Again, some insight into some of the Mission’s less well known and eclectic tracks such as ‘Mr Pleasant’. ‘Moving On’ is a sombre piece recorded in the same garage when all the friends had gone and ‘What More Do We Know’ will have the lighters (or mobile phones) waving along in time.
With the Mission currently on a break, this is a welcome collection of Simon’s songs spanning those years living in the back of beyond. "Every time I come back to making music I’m reminded why I started doing it in the first place” Hinkler says. This is not the Mission, but it has enough echoes to remind me of that legacy whilst remaining a substantial successful solo piece of work from one of my all-time favourite guitarists.
'Moving On' track listing:
01 It Isn’t You
04 What More Do We Know ?
05 Moving On
What happens when a band from your student past re-forms and starts releasing new material? Well, for me it is a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Will the magic still be there or has it faded. With this offering from the Dan Reed Network, I’m hedging my bets as ‘Origins’ combines new studio material and four classic DRN tracks are re-imagined.
Dan Reed comes from Portland, Oregon, and formed The Dan Reed Network in 1984. The band combined their diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds into a Heavy Metal-ish Rock sharpened by Junk Funk and some American Rock and Roll energy. Reed is of German, Hawaiian and Native American origin, Dan Pred on drums - Jewish ancestry, Brion James on guitar - Jamaican, Melvin Brannon on bass - African-American, and are now joined by Rob Daiker on keyboards. Quite a mix, which gave the band a unique Funky-Rock sound, and their three studio albums from 1987 to 1993, surprisingly did better in Europe and the UK than their native US homeland (mainly due to poor marketing in the States).
The band finally faded from the scene in the late 1990’s to pursue other projects, but reformed in 2013 with a crowd funded compilation album and tour. The engagement of their fan base led to a new studio album ‘Fight Another Day’ in 2016 with a further world tour and this engagement has given birth to something quite unique on ‘Origins’ - the band opened the doors of the recording sessions to their fans! The fans became part of the project witnessing the production of the music and even getting to contribute to the final recordings.
The first two tracks on the album were recorded at Blueprint’s Studios in Manchester. The opening track, ‘Fade To Light’ is the first single and the accompanying video reveals the process the band and fans went through to record the track. It is a cross between a studio session, live gig and a family get to together! This approach certainly brings performer and fan much closer together, in fact the line between the two becomes even more blurred as the fans form the backing chorus!
And the song itself is probably smoother than some of their earlier material. The Metal-ish edge has been polished out a little, but pulls together into a Classic Rock track. The song is about recognising the people and places where we find solace, where things can not only fade to darkness, but also fade to the light.
The second track is the first of four classic Dan Reed Network tracks re-imagined in front of their fans. ‘Ritual’ is one of my all-time favourite tracks and features on many compilation tapes, when making such tapes was a key tactic in my courtship ‘rituals’! So I was highly nervous when putting this track on for the first time. I wouldn’t say this is better than the original version, I would say - it is a different version. The original chant (captured during the 1987 recording sessions from an African percussionist called Dido) is performed on this version by the studio fan audience but there are enough original elements of the song to keep me happy.
Track three is ‘Right In Front Of Me’ is upbeat positive track and a reminder to always take stock of what you have - right in front of you! It has a catchy tune and is nicely polished and Reed’s vocals shine out (with the backing vocals from the fans!).
The second re-imagined track is ‘Forgot to Make Her Mine’ recorded at the Power Station NYC. A nice rocky riff has made this a DRN classic and fan favourite at live shows. The bass Funk slaps away to remind us this is DRN at their best.
‘Shameless’ is a song about love and friendships that endure forever, regardless of what others perceive or judge. I often judge a track by the effect it has on my emotions rather than just on the musically content and this is a track that evokes more meaning than just the solid melodies. If I still had a tape player, maybe this one would be on my next mix tape!
‘Let It Go’ is another DRN track re-recorded, this time in their home town of Portland. The track has been retuned as a bit more of an uplifting Soul track rather than the more sombre original version with some nice acoustic guitar supporting Dan’s unique voice.
The last two tracks were performed and recorded at Studio 4 in Stockholm. ‘One Last Time’ is about the difficulties a demanding job can have on friends and relationships and ‘Rainbow Child’ was one of DRN’s major hits in the UK and Sweden. This recording is 30 years after the original was conceived. Again the studio ‘audience’ participate on backing vocals.
The band return to the UK for a headlining tour to support the launch of the ‘Origins’ album in November 2018. I was lucky enough to catch them at the Islington O2 Academy last time round and their live show is much more than merely reciting their classic tracks. Not surprisingly, there is much audience engagement and quite often on-stage experiments with their music, guest musicians to jam with and general top notch entertainment. So, on the back of this new album offering, will I be going along to London’s 229 Venue in Great Portland Street on Friday 23rd November for more? Well, yes of course! How could I miss it?
I knew half of Jawbone, Paddy Milner (keyboards) and Marcus Bonfanti (guitar) who share the vocal duties, from Marcus’ own albums and their involvement with The Boom Band, so I was expecting Jawbone to have a Blues/Rock feel. However, given that the four individuals have racked up playing time with members of Cream, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music and the Rolling Stones, I should have realised that Jawbone’s original music would reflect a far broader range of influences.
Milner and Bonfanti’s songwriting partnership was born out of a friendship dating back to a house share a decade ago, while Rex Horan (bass) and Evan Jenkins (drums) were musical colleagues in Australia before relocating to the UK. The group’s name came from a song by The Band, while Little Feat, the Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are among their many influences. Having had the good fortune to hear them play live at Ronnie Scott’s very recently, I’d say there’s definitely Rock, Blues and Americana in the Jawbone mix.
Opening track ‘Leave No Traces’ was the first song Milner and Bonfanti wrote together, but there’s nothing tentative about it. Their love for CSNY’s (or certainly CSN’s) vocal harmony is evident from the following ‘Get What You Deserve’, although the words are a subtle dig at another, unnamed musician! ‘When Your Gun Is Loaded’ demonstrates the humour in many of the band’s lyrics, specifically when saying the wrong thing is akin to shooting yourself in the foot (been there? Thought so!).
Despite not being among the band’s listed influences, I can hear a little of Steely Dan in ‘Family Man’, while the horns added on ‘Bet On Yesterday’ give it the feel of one of the better tunes from a spaghetti western. Humour is back in evidence on ‘Rolling On The Underground’, an older composition which Milner and Bonfanti revisited for this album; in it they tried to drop in the names of as many London tube stations as possible (readers of a certain vintage may recall a classic Two Ronnies sketch which did the same)!
‘Big Old Smoke’ has a Rolling Stones feel to it and, in my opinion, features the best guitar work on the album. The fact that it felt like the highlight of the CD to me may be one reason why the closing trio of songs seemed just a bit lightweight by comparison; ‘Sit Round The Table’s lyrics, in particular, sound rather middle of the road. ‘Two Billion Heartbeats’ was based on the idea that we might have a finite number of heartbeats in our lifetimes, while the closing ‘The Years Used To Mean So Much’ is Paddy’s nostalgic look back on his childhood in Dorset.
Maybe the running order of the tracks could have been tweaked to give the album a more rousing send off or maybe I’m falling into the trap of judging the disc by what it isn’t (i.e. the anticipated Blues/Rock), rather than by what it is. Certainly Paddy and Marcus are both fine players, but the album doesn’t quite replicate the energy of the band’s live performances, during which Marcus’ vocals tend to sound richer. Maybe a live album (or even a DVD to show the terrific bassist Rex in all his eccentric glory!) will be the answer further down the line; in the meantime the album is well worth a listen and should ensure that the band’s gigs are deservedly well attended.
Musicians like Dave “Bucket” Colwell are the lifeblood of the small venue Rock scene; the sort of guy you might hear on an album or at a gig and say to yourself “that guitarist can certainly play!” without knowing his name. This is poor reward for a man who has toured internationally (only last winter he was as far afield as New Zealand with a band he co-led with Foreigner bassist Rick Wills), most notably with Bad Company and the current incarnation of Humble Pie.
He belatedly released his debut CD ‘Guitars, Beers & Tears’ in 2013 as Bucket & Co., with a raft of guest vocalists in tow; for this follow-up with co-leader and drummer Paul Edwards he retained just one of them, the impressive Jim Stapley, for the bulk of the vocal duties.
In concert “Bucket” often bases his setlists on hits recorded by the likes of Free, Bad Company, Foreigner and the Small Faces; many of the originals on this album are written in a similar vein and (while obviously no Rodgers or Marriott; who could be?) Stapley’s voice fits in hand in glove.
After the excellent opener ‘Animal Beat’ and the radio-friendly hook of the title track, ‘Rebel Heart’ sees Stapley mining a higher register (more akin to the sound of Foreigner perhaps) and we do get treated to a Marriott after all! On this track and the next pair, ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Whiskeyland’ (the latter of which features lead guitar by Ross McEwen), the strong backing vocals are provided by Steve’s daughter Mollie, whose contributions are instantly recognisable, even at this early stage in her career. ‘Rebel Heart’ and ‘The Bridge’ also feature some nice piano work by Richard Young.
After the semi-acoustic, Spanish tinged ‘Mexican Sun/El Diablo’, Stapley sits out for ‘Radio State Of Mind’, allowing Rick “Georgia Satellites” Richards to handle the vocals and (the now sadly departed) Mikael Fassberg to take the guitar lead; this song has a little of the Country/Southern Rock about it. Stapley then returns to show how to reach the higher register without straining on the power ballad-like ‘When Angels Fall’.
The quieter mood is maintained during the semi-acoustic ‘Bulletproof’; this song, like the album opener, has backing vocals by Lyla D’Souza, who gets to sing lead on the next track, ‘Customised Car’. Her voice is strong and soulful, but, together with the horn backing on this track, it rather interrupted the mood or feel of the album as a whole for me.
Stapley returns for the closing pair of ‘Faraway Blues’, which again has a lead solo by McEwen, and ‘If You Need Me’; these are not the album’s strongest songs and it was an interesting choice to close proceedings at near ballad tempo. However, these are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things; this is a fine album and, especially if you like any of the bands I’ve mentioned, you can buy with confidence and help to raise “Bucket” and Jim Stapley’s profiles in the process.
While the ‘Classic Rock’ genre has been re-energised in recent years by its original generation, an under-current of new younger bands are beginning to tread the boards. Among them now are Kent’s four piece rockers ‘Collateral’.
Originally under the ‘Angelo Tristan Band’ with Angelo on vocals/guitar along with bass player Jack Bentley-Smith, some five years ago the band signed with East Kent’s Roulette Records. They re-branded the band name and brought in the more than competent lead guitar player Todd Winger and Ben Atkinson on drums.
The debut offering definitely brings promise of things to come with many of their major influences cutting through from the likes of Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and from what I've seen of them live, some rock poses à la
The ‘4 Shots’ EP kicks off with the solid ‘Going With The Wind’ cool guitar riffs, mixed nicely under the vocal lines and strong melody. Second up, the AOR tinged ‘Angels Crying’, with hints of Nashville’s new Country-Rock acts which could see the cigarette lighter being raised on this one. In at number three ‘Just Waiting For You’ - one that I would cast as the best song of the four. Very well arranged and the hooks vocal and musically in all the right places! Last of the four shots ‘Midnight Queen’ - quiet easily the commercial radio single with its outright catchy chorus lines.
Well produced by Sean Kenny at Ten21 Studios the future looks bright - they may want to wear shades or would that hide the guy-liner?