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Reviews

Mon
15
Sep

ADRENALINE RUSH - Adrenaline Rush (Review)

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section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

89%
Produced By: 
Erik Martensson
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
89
Label: 
Frontiers
 
Despite the appearance on the CD of as 5 piece band, the recorded side of Swedish rockers Adrenaline Rush is down to the partnership of vocalist Tave Wanning and master songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Erik Martensson, who provided all instruments, all but 2 of the songs and all mix and production duties here.
So essentially this is a new Martensson project with a female vocalist this time, giving it a new fresh dynamic over past albums with Toby Hitchcock, WET and of course Eclipse.
As with everything that Erik Martensson touches, this sounds a million bucks, with a big powerful production and clear mix.
 
Musically it’s a little different for Erik, the material sounds like a mix of recent Eclipse and old school Motley Crue styled LA hard rock. In fact both Girls Gone Wild and Hit You Like A Rock both sound like they were lifted straight off Motley’s Dr. Feelgood album. Girls Gone Wild borrows heavily from Kickstart My Heart!
 
It’s a big groovy melodic hard rock record with some fast moving stadium anthems like Want It All, Change and Playin’ To Win.
There are a couple of melodic rock anthems like Too Young To Die, No No No and Black N Blue.
When We’re Gone is the darker, moodier mid-album circuit breaker.
 
There are some really attractive elements in this album. The sound is huge, the mix is crystal clear and there are a few monster songs.
I don’t think it is quite as memorable as past Martensson projects, but that is maybe down to the style of singer Tave Wanning. Erik has received a couple of perfect 100s and a few very high 90s in the last few years, so he’s still my favourite producer of recent years.
Well worth checking out for fans of Erik’s material and fans of female fronted ass kicking melodic rock.
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Tue
26
Aug

STATE OF SALAZAR - All The Way (Review)

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TRACK LISTING
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

92%
Produced By: 
State Of Salazar
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers Records
 
The Swedes do it again! What a great little melodic rock n pomp album this is. Filled to the brim with Swedish melodic goodness and bubbling over with uplifting harmonies and catchy choruses.
The band has an interesting sound. It’s hard to be original in this day and age, but these guys have their own swagger, that’s for sure.
What I’m hearing here is a mix of Swedish pop/rock and melodic rock with Styx influenced pomposity mixed in.
Vocalist Marcus Nygren is a real find. He wrote all the lyrics and music here and his vocals are the driving force behind the album.
 
Imagine some anthemic Mitch Malloy mixed with Toby Hitchcock and the smooth AOR of last year’s Find Me project. Add some 70s Styx pomp and some 80s Toto precision Westcoast and you might get close to State Of Salazar.
Whatever the sound, the songs are brilliant and draw you back in each time. Without repeating themselves, there’s one hit song after another.
 
I Believe In You is a happy go lucky pop rocker with a sweet vocal; Field Of Dreams sounds like the straight ahead melodic rock of Blanc Faces/Find Me; All The Way sounds like classic 70s Styx with an AOR chorus; while the ballad Love Of My Life could have come from any classic 80s rock soundtrack.
 
Elsewhere the melodic goodness of Eat Your Heart Out is pomp perfection; the immense Catastrophe is anything but, with the band showing depth with additional layers of strings; and Always is simply pop rock happiness.
Adrian is the band at their anthemic, layered pompous best and the ballad End Of Time is a relaxed way to close out a pretty energetic record.
 
A real find and destined to be one of the best debut albums of 2014. Packed with catchy hooks, glorious melodies and choruses at every turn.
If you enjoy anything out of Sweden and the lighter side of melodic rock, then these guys are an absolute must get.
Classy world-class production just tops off an all-round great record.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On (Review)

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section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

85%
Produced By: 
Andy John & Jeremy Brunner
Running Time: 
45
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
Newcomer X-Drive is the brainchild of guitarist Jeremy Brunner who put this band together with star vocalist Keith St. John (Burning Rain, Montrose). Together the pair wrote all the album’s songs and Jeremy co-produced with the legendary producer Andy Johns, who sadly passed away not long after completing this album.
Mixed by Wyn Davis and joined by James Lomenzo on bass, there has been a lot of money, time and effort put into this and it shows.
Keith St. John sounds a million bucks on this album – I prefer his vocals here over Burning Rain and his solo work. He’s just completely in the groove and speaks to my tastes perfectly.
 
There’s nothing overly complicated in the music itself, we’ve heard this kind of record before, but it is classic American hard rock done very very well. With so much great music coming out of Scandinavia, the Americans have been a little left behind. So it’s great to get a well written, well produced album in this vein.
 
Brunner’s riffs drive the album, delivering two solid hard rockers with Love’s A Bitch and Get Your Rock On to kick off the album.
But it’s the groove infused Steppin On The Rock that really gets my attention. The moody ballad Baby Bye Bye continues to grow the stature of this record, with the catchy California driving it over the top.
Lay Me Down is a moody, darker rocker that fits in beautifully. A great vocal here from Keith.
Fly Beyond The Angels is a very nice sentimental ballad and the mid-tempo groove of Just Can’t Stay is also solid.
Love Breaks The Fool is a enjoyable mid-tempo melodic rocker to finish.
 
The only thing that I could suggest might have made this even better is a couple of more uptempo tunes. The guys already sound in the right groove, so it would have been cool to see them really let go. The majority of the album is best described as mid-tempo, but there’s still enough variety here to please most folks and as stated earlier, the production, the performances and the songs are all of high quality.
Definitely worth checking out!
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Tue
26
Aug

MIKE TRAMP - Museum (Review)

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section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
 
01 Trust In Yourself
02 New World Coming
03 Down South
04 Better
05 Freedom
06 Commitment
07 And You Were Gone
08 Slave
09 Mother
10 Time For Me To Go
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SCORE
content: 

 

87%
Produced By: 
Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp
Running Time: 
44
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Target
Artist: 
 
Not a truer line has been written when Mike Tramp’s bio described his album’s a musical diary of his life. Mike certainly wears his heart on his sleeve and pours that heart into his songs.
It’s something I respect the singer/songwriter for immensely, even when I’m occasionally not totally in tune with his musical output.
 
Mike has recorded some of my favourite singer/songwriter material. His Recovering the Wasted Years album remains an all-time classic for me.
Last year’s Cobblestone Street I thought was a little hit and miss, but the new album Museum is a much stronger affair.
 
Museum continues the stripped back, acoustic driven sound that Mike’s solo career has been based upon, perhaps a little more energetic than Cobblestone Street.
But at the heart of the album are some more truly inspiring songs.
 
None better than Trust In Yourself. Mike’s raspy vocal and haunting style are an immediate positive and the message is strong.
The layered acoustics of New World Coming draw you in, before the bluesy earth tones of Down South offer something new for Tramp fans.
The sparse piano ballad Better is another highlight for me, both in the lyrical quirk and the style of the song.
 
Freedom is a more uptempo and musically layered song while the again haunting Commitment returns to the sparse and raw emotional side.
The trio of songs that follow offer more insights into Mike’s life and continue the quality of earlier tracks.
Time For Me To Go is another great song and closes a very consistent and enjoyable record.
 
This is another one for long time Tramp devotees. Those that get Mike know what’s coming and based on the songwriting here, should rate this very highly.
Those that prefer the heavier White Lion or Freaks Of Nature sound might still find this a little stripped back for their tastes, but I urge those to take a good listen as skipping this album will miss some classy new songs.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

DARK HORSE - Let It Ride (Review)

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TRACK LISTING
content: 
 
01) You Were The One I Waited For
02) Better Days
03) I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World
04) Goodbye
05) In The Country
06) Heaven Tonight
07) Strong
08) Nowhere Fast
09) What She Meant To Me
10) Let It Ride
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RATING
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86%
Produced By: 
Paul Laine, Steve Lezetc; Mixed: Bruno Ravel
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Country/Pop/Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
Indie
Artist: 
 
Dark Horse is the new vehicle for Canadian vocalist Paul Laine and his band. I’ve followed Paul since day 1 – his debut solo album Stick It In Your Ear, then moving to his brilliant time with Danger Danger and his modern rock project Shugaazer. All essential listening in my mind, he can do no wrong!
 
I heard demos for this album a year or so ago and knew that despite the “country” badge on the cover, it was still 100% Paul Laine music and for that reason I love this also.
Paul just has a wonderful knack of writing memorable songs with great hooks and choruses that draw you in.
And his voice of course is one of the most likable in any form of music he’s singing.
Some won’t be able to get past the twang or steel guitars or occasional use of banjo and mandolins, but strip those instruments back and you have a pure melodic rock record underneath.
 
The breezy uptempo southern rocker You Were The One I Waited For sets up the album with its classy sound and production and Paul’s natural lead vocal.
The feel good Better Days is pure ear candy and features some outstanding vocals.
I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World, Heaven Tonight, Nowhere Fast and the anthemic In The Country are all easy transplants from Paul’s catchy rock songwriting world.
The sultry ballad Goodbye could easily have come from Shugaazer and is a killer song in any format. It’s joined by the big power ballad Strong which should be a hit single given any justice.
 
Would I be as much into this album if someone else was singing? Probably not, as it is Paul’s style, voice and delivery that draws me in.
Its country driven, but the heart of the album’s songs remain melodic rock. If you can sit back and enjoy it for what it is - you’ll find another high quality Paul Laine record.
If you like a little bit of new-country rock n roll, then this album is likely to be on high rotation for many months to come.
 
Categories: 
 
Tue
26
Aug

ASIA - High Voltage Live (Review)

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section name: 
RATING
content: 

 

40%
Produced By: 
Asia
Running Time: 
63
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR / Melodic Rock
Score: 
40
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
The world does not need another live Asia album. Not even the most hardened Asia lovers need another live album. But, if we must….as least make it one that’s half listenable.
 
This is not the best live recording, which at times sounds like an audience recorded bootleg. The vocals are hollow and the bass thumps along above the guitars and drums. A dreadful mix.
The band sadly sounds its age here. John Wetton’s once silky smooth vocals are pretty raspy in places.
 
The band has some incredible songs – several from the debut album here and mixed with a few from recent years, but this is not an advert for the band at its best.
The accompanying DVD adds a little more value, but this is not the most visually active band around. Drummer Carl Palmer is the most animated on stage throughout the show. Guitarist Steve Howe continues to give Stones drummer Charlie Watts a run for his money in the ‘awkward skinny old white dudes in rock’ race.
 
I can’t be sure, but I think the guys are having fun on stage…I think I saw a smile during Heat Of The Moment.
 
Avoid unless you desperately need to make up your CD quota for the month or you are a card carrying member of the Asia-Forever fan club.
 
Categories: 
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Tue
26
Aug

GUARDIAN - Almost Home (Review)

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section name: 
SCORE
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85%
Produced By: 
Guardian
Running Time: 
42
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Modern Melodic Rock
Score: 
85
Artist: 
 
Welcome back Guardian after an absence of way too long. The brand new studio album was recorded last year after a successful crowd funding campaign, released a month or two ago to pledgers and is now available to the general public via digital download or limited edition CD.
The band has varied their style and sound over the course of their history and Coming Home sees them continue that trend, wrapping several styles up in this release, yet still managing to have a cohesive sounding record.
 
The band has definitely stepped up its modernization, with some very contemporary sounding tracks here.
Modern melodic rockers Boom She Said and The Real Me opening the album with a bang.
Little Things is a quirky orchestral acoustic driven track with a passionate vocal and Wonderful is almost retro/alternative until the very cool melodic chorus breaks through.
California Rain is about as eclectic as the album gets, touching on a Tuscan accordion meets modern acoustic theme. I did say it was a diverse album!
 
King of Fools is uptempo modern melodic rock with a driving beat and a good chorus.
Paranoia Kills is as heavy as I’ve heard from the band – this track really rocks and leads perfectly into the most melodic and traditionally anthemic track on the album, Price We Pay.
Free is another laid back tune that has a hard edge and an appealing moody chorus.
Almost Home is an appealing acoustic track with a Beatle-esque feel. Some beautiful guitar work on here as well as an emotional lead vocal. It’s a classy way to close the album.
 
Diverse maybe, but quality? Yes. Fans of the band will know what to expect and are going to lap up this new offering. Those that have come to know Jamie more recently via Adriangale will find a different beast here with Guardian, but the musical depth and intelligent songwriting within the new album should appeal to many.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

7TH HEAVEN - Spectrum (Review)

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section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
01. Stoplight
02. It's You
03. Dance In The Rain
04. In The City
05. Living In Danger
06. Once In A Lifetime
07. We Live Life Young
08. Magic
09. Are We Up
10. When You Say My Name
11. Walk Another Mile
12. Join The Party
13. I'm Your Addict
14. Livin Life
15. Holding My Breath For You
16. Last Chance
17. Illusion
18. Until The Day I Die
19. Heads Or Tails
20. Jump Start 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

93%
Produced By: 
Richie Hofherr
Running Time: 
80
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
USA
Musical Style: 
Pop/Melodic Rock/AOR
Score: 
93
Label: 
NTD Records
Artist: 
Chicago’s legendary 7th heaven return with yet another new studio album, this one featuring no less than 20 new cuts!
 
Back fronting the band for this album is the great Keith Semple, whose likable melodic tone is a perfect match for the happy go lucky anthemic pop/rock that guitarist and main writer Richie Hofherr seems to effortlessly churn out with spectacular regularity.
Maintaining the formula of past albums, there seems to be a couple of extra ingredients here to make this arguably the band’s best release yet.
 
First – the production quality is the best since the band’s classic Silver release. Extra thump in the drum department has gone a long way.
Second – the songs are simply unquestionably brilliant and totally infectious.
Each 7th heaven album manages to deliver several catchy pop/rock anthems to add to their already impressive list, but on Spectrum it’s simply song after song of instant hook gratification and sing-along perfection.
 
There’s a heartfelt emotion to this band’s music and that continues unabated here.
Just try and not sing along and tap your feet to the glorious fast moving anthems Stoplight, It’s You, in The City, Livin’ Life, Last Chance, Heads or Tails and a much improved re-recording of the last album’s best track We Live Life Young.
The band’s moodier side is amply explored on Dance In The Rain, Once In A Lifetime, Are We Up, Walk Another Mile, I’m Your Addict and Until The Day I Die.
Heartfelt ballads aren’t ignored either, with When You Say My Name and Holding My Breath For You both worthy of chart success.
 
Of course, with 20 tracks on offer there’s bound to be a few “misses”, but those will depend on tastes. For me the reggae of Join The Party and the rap infused duo of Living In Danger (despite another catchy chorus) and Jump Start represent the three tracks I reach for the skip button. But 3 skips out of 20 tracks is a ratio any major artist would be proud to boast.
 
7th heaven remain a Midwest phenomenon, but their worldwide cult following is only going to grow on the back of this superbly written and produced album of brilliantly catchy and likable melodic pop/rock gems.
Recommended for all readers to check out. Simply awesome.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

ACACIA AVENUE - Cold (Review)

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section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

83%
Produced By: 
Torben Enevoldsen
Running Time: 
48
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
83
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
 
This is a solid melodic rock release indeed. The idea for Acacia Avenue began back in 2008, the brain child of guitarist Torben Enevoldsen (Fate, Fatal Force, Section A).
This is his second album and again sees Torben delivering some melodic rock tunes instead of his normally more metal-themed music. To handle vocals, Torben has gathered a number of guest vocalists to fill frontman duties.
 
These kinds of albums can appear very disjointed, but the quality of the production here is such that it all flows pretty seamlessly.
Torben takes care of all the bass, keyboards and guitars, as well as singing background vocals on a few songs. New drummer, Dennis Hansen (Fatal Force) appears on drums. Good man for hiring an actual drummer, not a machine!
 
Song wise there are many highlights.
Time (feat. Steve Newman) is a first rate hard rocker, with Newman again getting heavier and sounding very comfortable doing it.
Love Will Survive (feat. Rob Moratti) is typically Moratti styled AOR with a very high vocal (of course) and a great chorus.
It's Over (feat. Albin Ljungqvist) is a wonderful little keyboard driven AOR number with a high pitch vocal and a highly memorable chorus.
Out Of The Business (feat. Mikael Roup) is another very catchy track that sounds more like Uriah Heep/Y&T. A little out of place here in the scheme of things, but catchy!
Signs Of Love (feat. Rob Moratti) is a melodic rock style track but doesn’t match the quality of his earlier track.
 
Cold (feat. Torben Lysholm) is about the same – ok, but not a highlight.
Angelina (feat. Steve Newman) is moody, but guitar driven and another great Steve Newman vocal.
You And I (feat. Mikael Roup) and Calling Out (feat. Nicklas Sonne) are skippers I’m afraid. They lack the hooks of previous songs.
How Many Nights (feat. Torben Lysholm) is better, but again is part of a group of songs that don’t match the quality of the first half of the record.
Freedom From Doubt (feat. Peter Sundell) features a strong bluesy vocal from Sundell and finishes the album with a different kind of song than anywhere else on the record.
 
A great first half of the album and an ok second half that requires a bit more attention to draw out the melodies. A solid record overall, which will stand comfortably alongside the debut. The best tracks are really special and worth the price of admission.
Very good production/mix quality lifts the results.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

SEVEN HARD YEARS - No Place In Heaven (Review)

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section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
1. Angels Fly
2. Hold Me Now
3. Live Without You
4. You Lie
5. No More Yesterdays
6. Never Meant To Hurt You
7. Call Me Tonight
8. No Place In Heaven
9. Say What You Gotta Say
10. Say Those Lies
11. Show Some Emotion
12. You Are The One
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

70%
Produced By: 
7HY
Running Time: 
43
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Lynchburg Records
New melodic rock project Seven Hard Years is the brain child of former Shy drummer Alan Kelly, who recruited former band mate Roy Davis (Shy Bassist) to help him, along with US based singer Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire), Dave Martin (Former Guitarist for-Marshall Law), Martin Walls (After Hours) and Elliot Kelly (Ocean City).
 
Their debut album has been out for a little while now and while it features some impressive hard rocking moments and some eloquent softer, more reflective pieces, the production quality and overall mix leave a bit to be desired.
It’s quite hollow sounding overall, with almost no bottom end and a lack of drum presence in the mix. The bass lines are very audible, but hold no power in the mix. It’s a strange paradox.
 
That’s a shame, as the guys have recorded some strong material here. Vocalist Shawn Pelata gives it his all, given the welcome chance to expand upon his range.
Taking a look at the songs, Hold Me Now is an impressive melodic rock song; Live Without You Now is a powerful rock ballad; You Lie is a terrific aggressive Dokken-esque rocker and Never Meant To Hurt you is a strong ballad with some impressive high notes nailed by Pelata.
No Place In Heaven is a very Shy familiar style melodic rock song that impresses again.
 
There are some complex moments here where there’s a lot of music to digest, but the mix makes this hard to achieve. The guys can build on this release as they have some chemistry here and the songwriting warrants some praise.
If they can nail the production and mix better next time around, 7HY will be here to stay.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

GREGORY LYNN HALL - Heaven To Earth (Review)

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section name: 
TRACK LISTING
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

65%
Produced By: 
Gregory Lynn Hall
Running Time: 
53
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
65
Label: 
AOR Heaven
I must admit to being very perplexed. I’ve always made production quality a theme of my reviews over the years. My determination of how good any album is reflects as much on how it sounds cranked to the max as well as the quality of performances and songwriting.
It’s those 3 ingredients that must come together to make a great album.
And on most reviews written for this album that I have seen, the context talks positively of two of those aspects, but complete ignores the elephant in the room – that is, the production here just doesn’t cut it in 2014.
 
This is a very thin sounding record, so much so that it makes the album impossible to crank to any great volume without having to adjust the equalizer in a desperate attempt to pump in some bottom end.
It’s a very sharp sound otherwise, with the rhythm section playing a very poor second to guitars and vocals. If this scene is to survive, then those reviewing material must reflect on this issue if there’s any hope of it improving.
 
I’m a big fan of Gregory Lynn Hall’s vocals. His work with 101 South has been previously praised and he’s a terrific guy to deal with.
On Heaven To Earth, GLH cranks his rock-o-meter into the red for a fired up hard rocking affair over the more laid back AOR strains of 101 South.
And it suits him. The raspy vocals and passionate delivery drive these at times fast and furious rockers in a way not heard before from the American singer.
 
The opening 4 tracks all rock (quality songs too) and it’s not until the ballad I Thought I Saw Heaven at track 5 until things let up.
From here there’s 3 ballads in 4 tracks, with Fly On the big 80s ballad of the collection. I can see old-school fans of that sound lapping this song up.
Cry No More signals the ramp up in tempo once again, but the mix here sounds atrocious and I just can’t play it.
Cryin’ is another ballad to finish the album.
 
A solid album in terms of songs, even if the better ones are stacked into the first half of the record. Things mellow out a little more on the second half.
I like the vocals a lot and I hope Gregory can come back with his next solo album sounding sonically better than on Heaven To Earth, as that aspect does let the whole project down.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

RICHARD MARX - Beautiful Goodbye (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
content: 
1."Whatever We Started"
2."Suddenly"
3."Inside"
4."Beautiful Goodbye"
5."Forgot To Remember"
6."Turn Off The Night"
7."Have A Little Faith"
8."Like The World Is Ending"
9."To My Senses”
10."Getaway"
11."Eyes On Me" 
section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

55%
Produced By: 
Richard Marx
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Pop
Score: 
55
Artist: 
Richard Marx has hardly put a foot wrong throughout his long career. A career longer than any modern day singer/songwriter is ever likely to have I might add.
Even as he matured and moved out of the spotlight, his records have continued to impress. The most recent of which, Emotional Remains and Sundown, were brilliant. Few people capture real emotion like Marx does.
The compilation Inside My Head showcased the best of those records with a second disc of re-recorded hits. More brilliance.
 
So with those high standards set, you will understand why I’m so disappointed in Richard’s new studio release. His first all-new set of songs since 2008 was preceded by the lead single Whatever We Started – itself an instantly catchy sultry ballad of the highest quality.
But the song signaled a shift in style to programmed beats and synth driven music. And when it was discovered that the ballad was also the album’s opening track, it wasn’t a good sign for the overall tempo of a record. You don’t open an uptempo album with a ballad right?
 
And those fears were confirmed on my first run through of Beautiful Goodbye. What we have here is 11 tracks that are all very soft, very slow and largely driven by synth programming.
Marx shows his age as he croons through one ballad after another as the tempo barely makes it out of first gear throughout.
There are some fine songs of course, but most of the best songs are lost in the lack of tempo through the album.
 
Inside, Beautiful Goodbye, Turn Off The Night and the tear jerker Turn Off The Night are all fine songs, but overall are simply lost in a sea of similar ballads.
The heavily programmed Forgot To Remember is one instance of a song making it into second gear (co-written with sometime gigging/writing partner Matt Scannell of VerticalHorizon).
The country twang of the big ballad Like The World Is Ending is the most painful to listen to – the falsetto is earsplitting and Eyes On Me is so unbelievably slow that listening to this while driving is strongly discouraged.
 
Sorry Richard, 6 years for an album of ballads and slow tempo synth pop? Count me as really disappointed. While some of the elder statesmen of rock have only improved with age (Rick Springfield for example), Richard has missed a big opportunity here to continue the excellent work laid out on past albums. I will return to those post haste.
Categories: 
 
Fri
08
Aug

NIVA – Incremental IV (Review)

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section name: 
SCORE
content: 

 

85%
Produced By: 
Tony Niva
Running Time: 
39
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
AOR / Melodic Rock
Score: 
85
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Tony Niva follows up his very good 2013 release Magnitude with the oddly titled Incremental IV record.
 
Following exactly where the last album left off, Incremental IV is more of the same – high energy, melodic rock-n-pomp, with high pitch vocals and plenty of those fluffy Scandinavian harmonies.
This is a very good sounding record with a great clear mix. Makes things so much easier to enjoy with the rhythm section pounding away with vocals gliding over the top.
I do think that Niva’s vocals are of the style that will appeal to some, but not to all; they are a bit over the top when going for notes on the higher end of the scale.
 
Best tracks here include the opening anthem Don’t You Know; the fast moving AOR of Crush; the slightly darker Better Just Forgotten and the AOR anthems The Reason Why and Play The Game.
The ballad Travel Back In Time is a good change of pace and is accompanied in like by the mid-tempo All By Myself.
 
Fans of Grand Illusion and Final Frontier should definitely add Niva to their list to check out – the bands have a lot in common aside from the vocal style.
A very good sounding record that will appeal to all fans of Niva and most pomp/Scandi AOR fans.
Categories: 
 
Mon
21
Jul

LOVERBOY - Unfinished Business (Review)

information persons: 
section name: 
BOTTOM LINE
content: 
 
I’ve heard suggestions of more to come, but I think if you can’t string 10 fantastic archive tracks together the first time around, the chances are that the next batch aren’t going to be any more impressive to warrant another volume.
 
I hope next time the band delivers an all-new studio album of fresh material. After all, there’s plenty of life left in this band, they defy their age on stage and on record.
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80%
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TRACK LISTING
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Fire Me Up
Countin' The Nights
Ain't Such A Bad Thing
Come Undone
Slave
What Makes You So Special
War Bride
Doin' It the Hard
You Play The Star
Crack of the Whip
Produced By: 
Loverboy
Running Time: 
44
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Rock
Score: 
80
Label: 
Loverboy Music
Artist: 
Loverboy have decided to turn back time and raid the vaults for their latest studio release. Describing this release as ‘old unfinished tracks dusted off and completed in 2014’, the band has in essence, compiled an album of off-cuts from their classic 80s releases.
I can’t blame them for choosing this route – it’s certainly a more economical solution than getting a new album written, recorded and released and it also covers the ‘fans only want to hear the classic sound’ base.
The only thing is – after the fecking marvelous Just Getting Started masterpiece and two of the three new tracks from Rock N Roll Revival being killer; this does seem as a backwards step.
But, if it’s classic Loverboy the fans want, then feast upon this 10 track release.
 
There’s everything a fan could want here – aside from a killer production. The songs bask in the band’s glorious sound of the 80s, but the production quality is really pretty bad in places.
The song quality and the production quality vary throughout as the songs are taken from various recording sessions and time frames, meaning that you’ll get snippets of the debut, Keep It Up, Get Lucky and even Lovin’ Every Minute Of It among these songs.
There’s some good stuff on offer here – Fire Me Up is a typically stomping Loverboy rocker, while the song Countin’ The Nights must consider itself unlucky not to have found its way onto an album back in the day.
Ain’t Such A Bad Thing has a good chorus, but a truly dodgy sound, including hiss and crackles from the original recordings. This certainly isn’t a case of the band re-recording old material 100% fresh such as other rock bands have done in recent years.
 
The only ballad on offer is the crooning Come Undone, which I think is pretty obvious why it hasn’t surfaced before now.
The pounding double time rocker Slave is as heavy as this band get, sounding more like cut from Paul Dean’s solo album Hard Core than a Loverboy track.
What Makes You So Special is driving rock song bathed in keyboards and sounding like really early 80s Loverboy.
The moody War Bride features a good vocal from Mike, but the song fades without any real impact.
Doin’ It The Hard Way is a classic Loverboy bar room bogie number. Clear enough why it wasn’t featured on any album, but it’s a bit of fun.
You Play The Star could have been lifted from the band’s debut album such is its sound and style. Interesting track to hear for someone like myself that’s been a fan since day 1.
Crack Of The Whip is on ok closer, but nothing too special.
 
As a compilation it works. As an all-new studio album it doesn’t. But there’s some cool tracks on here that show the behind the scenes workings of the band over their long history.
The band has rarely disappointed and die-hards will find some gems here without doubt.
 
On reflection, I think these songs showcase a grittier side of the band that the powers that be perhaps chose to abandon in the past as the songs weren’t commercial enough in their appeal.
Categories: 
 
Mon
21
Jul

NIGHT BY NIGHT - Night By Night (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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39 minutes long and not one second of wasted space. It’s all killer no filler for the Night By Night debut.
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94%
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TRACK LISTING
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Time To Escape
Holding Onto Holding On
Can't Walk Away
Everywhere Tonight
Siren
A Thousand Lies
It's Not faith
The Moment
If Only
Never Die Again
Produced By: 
Romesh Dodangoda & NxN
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
94
Label: 
Sun Hill Productions
British melodic rockers Night By Night have been hailed as the future of this aging genre and I’m here to back that claim and push it one step further – its vitally important to the longevity of the melodic music scene that we continue to welcome, nurture and promote awesome new talent like this or we may as well all give it up right now.
Night By Night prove that you can still write catchy, energetic and fresh melodic rock in 2014 and in doing so give some old rockers a kick in the pants as to what is expected that fans want today.
Not everyone wants nostalgia 24/7. But don’t think these guys are an all-new sound, they just take the old sensibilities and make it their own.
 
This is the best of old-school hooks and harmonies, driving guitars and anthemic catchy choruses, delivered with a fresh spunky attitude and a contemporary production sound.
And if you feel let down by the latest Tesla album, then this should fire a rocket up you! Vocalist Henry Rundell has an uncanny sound not far removed from Jeff Keith in his heyday.
Guiatrists Ben Christo and Tom Daniel guides the band through some cracking riffs and solos.
 
The production on here is simply fabulous – balanced mix and a crunchy sound. The album has been a long time coming and is well worth the wait.
If Time To Escape, Holding Onto Holding On and Can’t Walk Away don’t blow you away, the more melodic Everywhere Tonight will insert itself into your brain for days at a time.
If darker and heavier is what you want, Siren delivers, a hybrid of Tesla, Def Leppard and melodic Dokken.
Then there’s the glorious AOR of A Thousand Lies – perfect melodic rock here folks.
The Moment is another fast moving gem and the band saves one of their most urgent tracks for last – Never Die Again is a pounding guitar driven masterpiece.
 
Categories: 
 
Mon
21
Jul

CHICAGO - Now (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
content: 
 
The album walks a thin line between uptempo Westcoast pop and sultry jazz-infused ballads, all delivered with the sickly sweet harmony vocals expected from a band with 6 or 7 vocalists at work.
 
Good for fans of the band's earlier incarntions, beyond fluffy for those looking for the more recently used style.
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SCORE
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83%
Produced By: 
Chcago
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Westcoast/Pop
Score: 
83
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Chicago is the second iconic group to have a new release out in the same month of the same year (Yes being the other) from the same label. Much like the Yes album, appeal will squarely lay with longtime established fans over curious newcomers or part-time fans.
 
I count myself as a part-timer when it comes to Chicago. I loved the band’s edgier moments like the last studio album in 2006 (XXX) and the fabulous long kept under wraps Stone Of Sisyphus album, plus their more commercial moments such as the 80s friendly Chicago 16 through 21 albums. Some great AOR material on offer there.
 
When the band revert to their core 70s style, bring out the jazzy Westcoast sound and push their legendary brass section into a more prominent role, I find my finger reaching for the skip button.
Chicago 36, or “Now” as it is dually titled, offers some moments of melodic rock brilliance and some snappy arrangements and impeccable playing without question.
It’s also beautifully produced by the band. But at times it speeds down Pink & Fluffy Boulevard and heads Southbound on the Middle Of The Road Freeway.
 
So be warned those seeking the more guitar driven sound of XXX – this ain’t it!
 
That said, if you like classic Chicago, you aren’t going to get a more authentic experience than “Now”. The jazzy pop material is as catchy as it is breezy and the sound is straight out of 1978.
Categories: 
 
Mon
21
Jul

OUTLOUD - Let's Get Serious (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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The formula of the band’s first two albums is continued here. You’ve got the more relaxed easy flow of the second album and the song quality of the tougher sounding debut.
It makes for a nice balance and all in all, a very catchy, enjoyable melodic hard rock album. If you have yet to pick this album up and have the band’s other releases, do not hesitate at all.
Well done guys.
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SCORE
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87%

 

Produced By: 
Outloud
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
87
Label: 
AOR Heaven
Artist: 
Greek/American rockers Outloud are back with album number three, good to see the guys keeping momentum flowing with short gaps between albums.
And I’m pleased to say they help keep momentum going by delivering consistently good records that are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. I wasn’t a fan of their last EP release, but the studio albums to date have all been excellent.
This is no exception.
 
The almost Spinal Tap-influenced opening hard rocker Death Rock! would be laughable delivered by any other band, but when it’s from these guys, it just works. The double kick drum flurry and catchy chorus “we’re gonna rock you to death” is pure hard rock heaven.
The album flows beautifully into the more melodic I Was So Blind, and back to the more urgent One More Time – both songs delving choruses that can’t be ignored.
The moody Bury The Knife offers another side of the band, the passive aggressive track turning outwardly aggressive towards the end, very cool.
 
And so it continues. Most of the album presents as uptempo melodic rock mixing with hard rock, but always there’s a melody, a guitar solo and a chorus.
Things only slow down for the acoustic ballad It Really Doesn’t Matter, but then it’s straight back into the uptempo anthemic (and quite awesome) Another Kind of Angel.
Other highlights include the fast moving A While To Go and the furious but melodic Toy Soldiers (featuring guitar god Mike Orlando of Adrenaline Mob).
And to close, the band throws in a rocked up and stylized cover of OMD’s Enola Gay. It suits the band and it fits the album. Nicely done.
Categories: 
 
Fri
18
Jul

YES - Heaven & Earth (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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The core sound is there and the songs are memorable and the additional orchestration and super sharp production are all big positives to ensure that fans of Yes receive this album favorably.

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79%
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TRACK LISTING
Produced By: 
Roy Thomas Baker
Running Time: 
51
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Progressive Rock
Score: 
79
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
I don’t mind myself some falsetto vocals, but when there’s no light and shade – that is, the vocals are all falsetto all of the time, and the album goes some 50 minutes, well, my ears begin to rebel.
 
Iconic prog-pop-rock band Yes are back with their first album in many moons, with stalwarts Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and Geoff Downes with new vocalist Jon Davison in for the departed icon that was Jon Anderson.
As expected Davison is an Anderson soundalike and does his job keeping the traditional Yes sound intact.
 
The album is beautifully produced by the legendary Grammy Award winner, Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, The Cars, Guns N’ Roses, Foreigner, Alice Cooper and more), ensuring that fans of the band get exactly what they hoped for.
The songs are long and complex, but don’t forget the necessary hooks to hold it all together – the first three: Believe Again, The Game and Step Beyond impressing in particular.
The rest of the albums takes a little more concentration to appreciate, but those vocals are a hindrance for the likes of me.
 
The album is all quite likable and I expect longtime fans to be happy, but those vocals…they are enough to turn me off any long term loyalty to this record and I expect will encourage other fence sitters to do likewise.
Categories: 
 
Fri
18
Jul

TED NUGENT - ShutUp&Jam (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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I like Ted, he’s an interesting guy (even when you don’t agree at all), and I think a majority of his fans will enjoy the album for what it is, but it is a die-hards only affair I think.
Not enough substance for casual fans to rate any higher.
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SCORE
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65%
Produced By: 
Michael Lutz & Ted Nugent
Running Time: 
46
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
65
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
I expect some Ted Nugent fans would like the legendary guitarist and outspoken politico to take some of his own advice and “Shut Up & Jam”.
It’s hard to separate the man from the opinions sometimes and I know he has alienated some with his views, but on his first new studio album in 7 years Ted does what he does best – wail and shred. Unfortunately – I don’t think the majority of songs featured here are that good, or worthy of the 7 year wait between records.
 
There’s the throwaway opening title track ShutUp&Jam, the gritty Fear Itself and the bluesier Everything Matters (curiously the only song featuring Derek St Holmes on vocals) that all combine to make you wonder how Ted came up with so many legendary tracks in the past.
I know Ted Nugent won’t ever be known as a Shakespeare of rock lyrics, but even with that in mind, She's Gone featuring guest lead vocals from Sammy Hagar features a mere 6 lines of repetitive lyrics and sees the guest spot totally wasted.
Thankfully there are some redeeming moments on the album, one of which is the free flowing rocker Never Stop Believing – better lyrics, some great guitar moments and a chorus that demands repeating.
I Still Believe is pretty simplistic, but a lot more likable than some other tracks and saves the album before the silly I Love My BBQ kicks in.
The guitar-shred instrumental Throttledown is another highlight for me, surprisingly, as I’m not huge on instrumentals, but it’s a slammin track.
 
The album is dominated by two and a half to three minute songs – you know the type – get in, get to the point and get going type stuff, most of which don’t hang around long enough to be annoying, but don’t make a real lasting impression either.
Interestingly the best song of the album (Never Stop Believing) is reprised as a slow blues version to close the album. A good song works in any format and this is a completely different interpretation of the song.
 
I’m probably being too hard on Ted here, but this is a long way from his 70s best and not something that I will spend a lot of time listening to after this review.
 
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Thu
26
Jun

NIGHT RANGER - High Road (Review)

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In my book, this is yet another winner from Night Ranger. It’s different than Somewhere In California, but at the same time, it’s not too far from that sound – just a little heavier and a little more diverse. So for that reason I think it makes a great companion to the last album, just as 7 Wishes is the perfect match for Midnight Madness.
More classic Night Ranger harmonies and a really strong production make this a great album.
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SCORE
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92%
section name: 
TRACK LISTING
Produced By: 
Night Ranger
Running Time: 
46 + Bonus
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Night Ranger are quite possibly my favourite band around. They are just so consistently good and feature several times already in my all-time Top 30 with such classic albums as Big Life, Midnight Madness, 7 Wishes, Dawn Patrol, Neverland (still underrated!) and Man In Motion of course. Even the Night Ranger album we can’t mention (Feeding Off The Mojo…oops!) was great!
Some fans had a hard time with the band’s modernized and sometimes inconsistent Hole In The Sun album, but how can you go pass such great tracks as Whatever Happened, There Is Life and Rockstar? Every album sees the band deliver some great new tracks.
Anyway…I digress. The band’s “return to form” Somewhere In California was a bonafide new era classic, with hit chorus after chorus making the album a perfect 100 for me and many others.
 
Not a band to repeat themselves or make the same album twice, I was curious as to what High Road was going to deliver. And I was surprised at the results. Mainly because on first reflection I felt this was the most diverse album the band had ever delivered.
I think there are parts of both Jack and Kelly’s solo sound in here as well as a dose of Damn Yankees style rock n roll and Shaw/Blades also.
Of course the more I listen the more is just sounds like Night Ranger, but I do hear and understand some criticism from a few fans over a few of the tracks included.
After the chorus driven brilliance of the last album, it was always going to be near impossible for High Road to match it. But I think the band came close.
So High Road is a very diverse collection of new songs where choruses play a less prominent role on several songs. It’s also a heavier and harder rocking album and if you go with the flow I think there’s a lot to love here once again. It’s just different.
 
Track By Track:
High Road – you’ll be hard pressed to find a more brilliant hands-in-the-air anthem than this beauty. Absolute melodic bliss and one of my favorite recent era NR tracks. It has a modern sound, but a huge classic chorus.
 
Knock Knock Never Stop – at first I thought it a little bit silly and the lyrics aren’t anything spectacular. I thought the chorus was underdone, but in the flow of the album the song has great energy– it’s this album’s answer to Lay It On Me from Somewhere In California and I’ve come to like it a lot.
 
Rollin' On – I didn’t warm to this song at all for quite a few plays. And it’s not the best song to be rolling out at track 3 I think. The heavy blues rocker with a short chorus is something different, but it really does rock even if it sounds more like Damn Yankees than Night Ranger!
 
Don't Live Here Anymore – I loved this from the first listen and even more so now. Kelly Keagy sings his ass off here, on a song that has a haunting message and a moody heart, until it explodes out of the gate with some blistering guitar work mid-song. It has a very similar vibe to the wonderful rain Comes Crashing down from Big Life.
 
I'm Coming Home – I was so excited first time I heard the riff to this song and as it built I just knew the chorus would blow me away. Except it didn’t. I felt as if the chorus was underdone for a while, like it could have gone even higher and bigger. But that thought soon faded and it remains one of my favorite songs on the album. While I think it feels a little like it could have come from either of Kelly’s solo albums, it is also a song that sounds closest to the style of the last album.
 
X Generation – this is another all-out rocker with a pretty short chorus. It’s not a mind blowing chorus, but I love the pace of the song and the pounding drums (all the drums on this album sound fantastic). It’s a good fun hard rocker that suits the overall album.
 
Only For You Only – ballad time again and this time it’s a traditional Night Ranger ballad with gorgeous vocals and a nice sentimental message. Can’t go wrong with tracks like these and is another winner.
 
Hang On – this is a moody rocker with a Mojo style vibe to it. Or a Kelly solo track perhaps, but with those trademark NR backing vocals and the twin guitar attack, it is another cool song for me. Once again the chorus is understated, but with the flow of the album it’s perfectly placed.
 
St. Bartholomew – this is another big hard rocking track that sounds more AC/DC than it does Night Ranger, but those guitars are so classic in sound it couldn’t be anyone but NR right? The chorus is a grower and more traditional sounding, so I give it two thumbs up.
 
Brothers – is akin to something off Jack’s solo album or Shaw/Blades. Together with the instrumental LA No Name, I think that the album ends on a weak note after the high energy of the rest of the album as a whole. The track, with its Beatles-esque acoustic harmonies is a classic piece of music, but would have been better used as one if the bonus tracks on offer I think.
 
Bonus Tracks:
 
Mountain Song is one of the bonus tracks on offer and a fine hard rocking one at that. It fits in with the style of this album used by X Generation and Knock Knock and is well worth hunting down.
 
Don’t Even Know Your Name should have been on the main album release. This track is a great uptempo melodic rocker with a strong chorus and could have helped even out the album more for those that missed the commercial chorus driven sound of Somewhere In California. 
Categories: 
 
Thu
26
Jun

TESLA - Simplicity (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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A few classic Tesla tracks, and a few great ballads also, but too few rockers that deliver and way too many tracks overall – and slow ones at that.
Coupled with the stripped back production, Simplicity isn’t good enough to match what is otherwise a very consistent and impressive catalogue of albums over the years.
I remain a huge Tesla fan, but won’t be coming back to this album too often. Just a few individual tracks.
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SCORE
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70%
Produced By: 
Tesla
Running Time: 
65
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Melodic Hard Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
 
As a longtime fan of this band – since the very beginning actually – I feel that I’m more than qualified to call this new album the band’s weakest to date.
The essential quadrilogy of Mechanical Resonance (one of the best debut albums in history), The Great Radio Controversy, Psychotic Supper (again, utterly essential) and Bust a Nut are four of the best American hard rock albums I own.
I’ve not rushed into this review hoping the album would grow on me more than it has. But I’m still stuck in a middle ground of appreciating some of the tracks on here as classic Tesla brilliance, but overall, there are several tracks that fall flat and simply drag.
 
Simplicity is a case of what could and should have been rather than what is.
Style wise the band has stripped the sound right back. This is a pretty raw affair, with a live in the studio feel.
That in itself is ok, but the album is way too bloated at 15 tracks. An 11 track album would have flowed better and maintained a better tempo. As it is, the album drags through too many slower tracks and a couple of true fillers.
 
I don’t think they do themselves any favors leading off with the plodding MP3 as an opening track. It’s an ok song, but it is a mid-album track I think. The faster and more classic sounding Ricochet would have made a much better opening track.
Rise And Fall is another pretty decent track and is reminiscent of the classic Tesla sound, but I’m not sure about the sequencing at all as this track also has that mid-tempo pace.
So Divine is a uptempo rocker. Better for rocking, but let down by not being one of the band’s better tracks.
The slow bar room boogie of the acoustic driven Cross My Heart again affects the flow of the album.
The heartfelt rock ballad Honestly is a great track, but this album really has no flow.
 
Flip Side is another bar room boogie track that highlights the back and forth nature of the style and tempo within the album.
Other Than Me is another ballad and a pretty decent track in many ways, but as a die-hard Tesla fan, I’m hanging out for a classic rocker at this stage.
Break Of Dawn delivers the tempo, but perhaps not the song quality. It’s pretty raw and does grow on you and might have fared better in a revised shuffle of the running order.
Burnout To Fade is yet another slower track – another acoustic ballad which is one of my preferred slower tracks on the album, but I’m really suffering from lack of tempo.
And what do we get now, yes, another slow ballad. Life Is A River is once again, a decent enough track, but to many slow tracks are killing this album.
Sympathy picks up the pace with a heavy, but it’s a modern rocker with little redeeming value.
Time Bomb is almost there – the twin guitar attack and frantic pace is great and long overdue on the album.
Closing out the 14 new studio tracks is yet another acoustic driven ballad. Fortunately for the band it is the album’s best ballad. Classic Tesla all the way.
 
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Thu
26
Jun

URIAH HEEP - Outsider (Review)

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BOTTOM LINE
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Another very consistent traditional Uriah Heep release. Nothing unexpected – which is as it should be for a band so late into their career.
Heep fans will soak it up and await their next live release!
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SCORE
content: 

 

84%
Produced By: 
Mike Paxman
Running Time: 
49
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
Classic Rock
Score: 
84
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
You don’t get any better example of classic rock than Uriah Heep. The 70s stalwarts prove that rock n roll is the only genre that lasts a lifetime by continuing on their merry way, touring and recording unabated.
Outsider is the band’s latest opus, following up from 2011’s Into The Wild. And as expected we get another slice of pretty consistent blues based rock n roll, where that lush Hammond organ has the same profile as the guitars and rhythm section.
 
For the most part I’m really enjoying what’s on offer here. There are no surprises and no left turns, just straight ahead classic 70s style rock n roll a la traditional Heep.
Highlights within the album include the free flowing Speed Of Sound and the more dramatic One Minute that both get the album off to a strong start.
The double time boogie of The Outsider is fun too; and Rock The Foundation is straight out of the Heep playbook.
Is Anybody Going To Help Me doesn’t quite reach the same heights as earlier tracks, but the up tempo Looking At You is better.
There one track that stands out as a real clunker though and that is The Law. At track 3 I skip it every time and feel that it kills the momentum of the album. Once passed that though, it’s all good.
 
Categories: 
 
Mon
16
Jun

ASIA - Gravitas (Review)

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This is a really painfully slow album to get through. I spoke of the occasional joys of a nice mellow album, but in this case, the songs are simply frightfully dull and lacking any enthusiasm by those performing them. The production and style of the album is as close to classic 80s Asia as you could imagine, but it's wasted on some tepid pacing and dull songs. 

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SCORE
content: 

 

70%

 

Produced By: 
Asia
Running Time: 
47
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Worldwide
Musical Style: 
AOR, Classic Rock
Score: 
70
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 
Asia delivers another new album in pretty quick time following their acclaimed XXX album in 2012. Gone is guitarist Steve Howe and in his place is young gun Sam Coulson.
The band has stuck to its mantra of slick, polished AOR, staying true to their original early 80s style.
Unfortunately the band seems to have slipped back into the slow to mid-tempo slumber that has been an issue in recent albums. The brief sojourn into a more uptempo realm on XXX is once again abandoned in favor of a moped in first gear here.
The production of course is super smooth and multi-layered, but the songs….dull I'm afraid.
Kicking off with what is possible the most annoying chorus in at least a decade, Valkyrie has a nice laid back verse reminiscent of the band's debut album, but that chorus makes you want to stick cacti in your ear.
Then comes 8 minute title track, where there's no sign of life until near the 3 minute mark. Followed of course by an ultra-slow ballad, a painfully slow song followed by the mid-tempo quirk of Nyctophobia which is kind of annoying also.
Russian Dolls is then another slow song before Heaven Help Me Now finally hits second gear.
That's followed by the album's best track – the slightly anthemic (in a mellow way) I Would Die For You.
That's followed by the horribly slow and dull Joe Di Maggio's Glove and the slightly more dramatic Till We Meet Again to close the album.
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Mon
16
Jun

L.R.S. - Down To The Core (Review)

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I would class Down To The Core as a very safe album and one that very much stays true to the traditional definition of the genre it represents. But it is also one of the better examples of such, so I have no trouble embracing this. Yes, it could have been a little more adventurous, but what it delivers is super slick, super classy AOR and those vocals are just perfect! 

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SCORE
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94%
Score: 
94
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 

This is one of the smoothest records I have heard in a long time. It's a very fine slice of mature, well-written and executed traditional AOR, featuring some of the finest people the genre has to offer. First it's a huge pleasure to hear the ear candy vocals of Tommy La Verdi back in the melodic game finally – it's been way too long for a guy with a voice born for this.

And Josh Ramos – one guitarist with an absolute natural affinity for this style of music – has also been underutilized in recent years. Drummer Mike Shotton is an inspired choice to drive the band's sound and his playing style gives the album a thumping beat and slightly progressive twist in several tunes.
The architect of the album is Alessandro Del Vecchio – layering the songs with keyboards as well as writing the bulk of the album's material (Shotton delivers two tracks on his own and Tommy co-writes on a few) – and delivering a stellar production of world class standard.
I was initially surprised at the pace of the album overall – it's a very ballad heavy selection of songs and quite mellow over what I expected. But the more I listened, the more the class of the songs took over and pace/style wasn't an issue.
In fact, looking back, quite a few of my favourite albums over the years have been very mellow and I'm now adding this one to the list. When the mood calls for it, some glossy, traditional AOR with perfect vocals and a laid back vibe is just what is called for.
Think Dare Out Of The Silence, Von Groove Test Of Faith, Magnum Sleepwalking – all very fine, albeit laid back, classy records.

What LRS deliver is a group of songs that everyone reading this is going to feel familiar with. There's the anthemic Journey styled feel good tracks such as the opening Our Love To Stay (which is equal to the tracks that opened the last two Journey albums), Never Surrender and Waiting For Love; then there are the slow wistful polished AOR of I Can Take You There, Almost Over You and the super smooth and ultra-classy Universal Cry; there is a couple of more upbeat and progressive AOR numbers in the brilliant Livin' 4 A Dream and the heavier Down To The Core.
Rounding out the record is the massive power ballads To Be Your Man and Not One Way To Give.
All throughout we get dramatic backing vocals, plenty of guitar fills and some tasteful solo and always those brilliant La Verdi vocals.

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Mon
16
Jun

PRETTY MAIDS - Louder Than Ever (Review)

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section name: 
BOTTOM LINE
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Pretty Maids fans will need no convincing – but those still unfamiliar with the band would do well to check this out – it's an excellent quality album, with terrific songs and a high energy burst of European melodic hard rock. 

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SCORE
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92%
Produced By: 
Pretty Maids
Running Time: 
52
Release Date: 
2014
Released: 
Europe
Musical Style: 
Hard Rock
Score: 
92
Label: 
Frontiers Records
Artist: 

Danish melodic metallers Pretty Maids seem to be on a pretty good run in recent years. I have enjoyed their last few albums that have come via Frontiers and this is no exception. This is not a completely new album but consists of seven re-recorded classic songs from the 1995 - 2006 era plus four brand new songs specially written for this record. There are some minor tweaks to those old songs, not to mention all of them taking advantage of a better production quality and technology.

This is yet another barnstorming, high energy, melodic metal release that blows the speakers apart. The four new songs are indication that all continues to go well within the band as they continue to age with maturity without ever looking like getting soft.
Deranged is a hard edge moody rocker with a great guitar sound and raspy powerful vocal and chorus that steps up the pace another notch or two.
My Soul To Take is one of the band's most melodic tracks ever – a brilliant little feel-good melodic rock anthem.
Nuclear Boomerang on the other hand, is one of the band's heaviest – a double kick drum driven hard rocker with a menacing edge.
A Heart Without A Home is another cracking melodic rock tune – a beautiful ballad with one of Ronnie Atkins' best vocals to date.

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