PALADIN – Paladin / Charge! [Red Steel]
Paladin were an early 70s act on Bronze Records [see Uriah Heep, Osibisa, Manfred Mann...]. This 1996 double disc release features the classic albums “Paladin”  and “Charge!” . The band featured Peter Beckett, who went on to sing in ‘Player’ [re “Baby Come Back”], keyboardist Lou Stonebridge [ex McGuinness Flint & pre David Byron] and Pete Solley [who went on to produce such bands as Motorhead]. The first album was more ‘jam’ oriented IMO, with lots of tribal beats [see “Third World”] and plenty of guitar and hammond organ. Influences of rock, soul, blues, jazz... Couple of good lighter tracks such as “Fill Up Your Heart” and “Flying High”. The second album, Charge is a more rock oriented album, but also contains interesting beats, and classic tunes like the ballad “Any Way” and the 9 and a half minute epic “Watching The World Pass By”. Each disc contains 7 ‘bonus’ tracks, these being outtakes, demos, and instrumentals which – along with the extensive liner notes makes this a superb package on one of the 70s long lost classic bands. Although comparable to the likes of Heep and Purple, Paladin were certainly a very unique sounding band with their tribal influenced beats, and wide range of great songs.
A band well worth discovering. Check out www.redsteelmusic.com
MATTHEW D. GUARNERE – MDG [What’s Real Unlimited]
Rochester, NY native musician, who is a multi instrumentalist / songwriter, and strong singer. MDG [as he is called] takes on influences of classic rock, hard and progressive from the opening Kansas like “A Little Chemistry” to the outstanding rocker “White Trash Wonder” with it’s thick guitar sound and attitude delivered in the lyrics and vocal. The ballad “You Never Have To Grow Old My Dear” is anther standout, written and dedicated to one of his musical heroes – Freddie Mercury, based largely on organ, with a nice guitar break. MDG offers a good mix of tunes here with an acoustic ballad “Where’s Everybody Gone?” and the progressive “Chemistry Experiment”. Ends with a reprise, and features a lengthy interview with the guy, who sounds like he has good taste in classic rock! :-) A very appealing disc for the likes of fans of Kansas, Queen, Extreme, Deep Purple, Saga.....
For more info check out www.whatsrealunlimted.com
FEATHERWHEEL – Wheelenium [RS]
It’s been some 5 years since the first Featherwheel project from Ontario’s Robert Seagrove. That album was well liked by those that heard. The follow up “Wheelenium” sees Seagrove back with his unique voice, which although derives from the influence of Rob Plant and reminded me a great deal of Lenny Wolf on the debut, comes off as much more distinct here, maybe because I’m used to it or maybe it’s all the bluesy vamping and stuff the guy does. His guitar work is great, and Zep fans will dig his mix of acoustics with heavier stuff, giving this a very summertime and very 70s feel to it. Seagrove also goes for less intentional commercial appeal here, with longer songs, instruments, etc...With just 7 tracks, and 2 of them clocking in at nearly 10 minutes! Overall this album is more acoustic and laid back than hard rock approach, but the music is deep and beyond that normal power ballad or simple acoustics of verse chorus verse chorus...Songs seem to be inspired than constructed by pop standards. The album opens with the Sabbathy heavy chords of “Burn The Bridge Down” before it is replaced by acoustics and a quiet vocal and goes through a few more changes with a heavy mid section and lighter sounds after that. One thing Seagrove is good at is incorporating different influences and sounds in to his music, such as the tribal openings of “Bambo” and it’s haunting vocals. “Things Are Changing” and “Dancing In The Sun” are both excellent tunes, both ballady summertime tracks harking back to the early 70s feel of acoustic classic rock.
Wheelenium doesn’t feature any heavy kick ass rockers, the closest being the mid tempoed “It’s Not The Same Anymore”, with it’s thundering rhythm section, heavy guitar [which is a bit far back in the mix IMO], and cool vocal. “We Stumble” closes out the disc nicely; it’s somewhat heavier than most here, but plods along mid tempo as much of Seagrove’s stuff tends to; not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just his style. We Stumble is also the only track to feature pipe organ from Gregg Dechert, who graced a number of tracks on the first Featherwheel album. Those that liked the debut FW disc will definitely like this; albeit overall lighter, the songs and performances from Rob Seagrove make this an album that will warrant many listens. *Watch for an exclusive interview and new web site info from Rob real soon!!
DIO – Killing The Dragon [Spitfire]
Well if “Magica” was the Dio disc to draw back old Dio fans, this is the one to put him over the top. While Magica was a deliberate attempt to return to the 80s classic Dio, IMO it didn’t have the great songs of the early stuff, but this one does. Accompanied by longtime sidemen Simon Wright [drums], Scott Warren [keys], Jimmy Bain [bass], and new guitarist Doug Aldrich “Killing The Dragon” is a monster of an album. Big riffs, big sound, big vocals, and memorable tunes! The first 4 songs are all excellent heavy rockers. Throw in the token classic Dio anthem like “Rock N Roll” and the slow paced “Throw Away Children” [probably inspired by Dio’s work with kid’s charities] and this just gets better. Every song here is decent, if not classic stuff! Arguments could be made that this just could be THE best Dio album yet. Great title and cover too! Check out www.ronniejamesdio.com
ARK – Burn The Sun [Favored Nations]
2nd CD from Norway metal band featuring ex members of TNT, Conception, and most notably – singer Jorn Lande [ex The Snakes, Millennium]. A heavy album, heavier than Lande’s previous works, yet perhaps his best. While he comes off a lot like Coverdale at times, his voice is stronger and suits this style of heavy, almost latter day prog metal, albeit more interesting and attractive than most such prog-metal outfits. Burn The Sun is a disc that can be thoroughly appreciated fully through, with a great flow of tunes with Tore Ostby’s big guitar sound and Lande’s big voice giving this a very powerful feel. Mats Olausson’s keys fill out the band’s sound, adding to the lighter moments, such as on faves like “Torn” & “Resurrection”. Other standouts include the opening cut “Heal The Waters” and “Feed The Fire”. Much less aor-ish than Lande’s previous works [i.e. solo], but still melodic enough to appeal to heavier melodic rock fans. Interesting tracks in the acoustic/Spanish track “Just A Little” and the Whitesnake reminiscent ballad “Missing You”.
Highly recommended; one of the best new discs I’ve heard; nicely comparable to the new Dio album. For more info check out www.arksite.com
PAUL NELSON –Look [BigWaveBuz]
Instrumental mini-album from Liege Lord guitarist. “Look” features 5 fusion / rock pieces, most notably the hard hitting fast paced “Full Blast”, while other tracks range from the funky “Complicated”, and the slower and classy “Rocking Chair” [w/ some cool slide playing]. Great guitar sound throughout, although don’t be expecting the speed metal works of his Liege Lord recordings.
For more info check out www.paulnelsonguitar.com
*Also check out my prior Interview with Paul at Universal Wheels!
Are You Ready Steve – A Tribute To SWEET [Bullseye]
From Bullseye Records of Canada, a tribute album in the spirit of the word ‘tribute’. Much in the vein of the “Heepsteria - A Tribute To Uriah Heep” release, “Are You Ready Steve” sees little known acts performing Sweet classics with energy and a sense of fun. No clinical note for note repeats of the basic hits here. This disc is crammed with 24 tunes, and honestly [sadly perhaps on my part] I’ve heard of one of these bands! But regardless this is well worth checking out for Sweet fans with neat renditions “Wig Wam Bam” by Teen Machine, “Teenage Rampage” by Sackreen, “Fox On The Run” by The Lolas and Doug Powell’s smooth remake of “Love Is Like Oxygen”, just my faves here. The performances are top notch and there’s nothing overly experimental that would upset any Sweet fans. Great liner notes, and a cool 70s K-Tel inspired cover.
Check out www.bullseyecanada.com & www.thesweet.com
GUN BARREL – Power Dive [SPV]
Solid hard driving metal album from German band, with upbeat rockers like “Only A Passenger”, “Gate Of God”, “Back To Suicide” and the closing cut “Take Me To The Highway” [great fast guitar solo]. Definitely influenced by the likes of Maiden and Motorhead. Best cut probably being “For All Like You”, which features a few changes in pace and a decent hook. Vocals remind me somewherez between Lemmy and Udo [from Accept], with a few good attempts at harmonies as well. An album worth checking out if yer looking for some straight forward fun metal.
THE ELECTRIC HELLFIRE CLUB – Witness The Millennium [Cleopatra]
Dark heavy metal stuff, with some cool riffs and hooks, usually painful vocals, and occasional techno mix on the voice or drums. An interesting disc though, somewhat distinctive from a lot of modern metal stuff I’ve heard. Includes a garbly mixed remake of Maiden’s “Number of The Beast”.
JORDAN RUDESS – Feeding The Wheel [Magna Carta]
Solo disc from DreamTheater’s keyboard player. Lots of synths, most of which aren’t in the least bit heavy, but more symphonic, pop, latter day proggish, .... Kinda spacey, experimental stuff; classical and pop influences, with a few cool guest appearances like Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan. Not really my bag, doesn’t rock or keep me hanging in save for a few nice piano passages. Most interesting track is the last epic “Interstices”, which is dramatic, features influences of celtic, classic....and rocks a bit courtesy of John Petrucci’s guitar work. I’m sure keyboard-prog and DT fans will be interested though. What’s the theme here?
MOXY – V [BLR]
Originally recorded as a comeback album in ’99, and recently re-issued on Bullseye in anticipation of a new album as well. Moxy had a big cult following the late 70s and even into the 80s after they’d split up. Original singer Buzz Sherman passed away way back and was briefly [for one underrated album] replaced by one Mike Renowski [sp? See Loverboy!]. A few years ago original drummer Bill Wade and guitarists Buddy Caine & Earl Johnson put the band back together with singer Max Maxim to begin what has become frequent live shows around Ontario and this first disc. A decent hard rock album, albeit IMO a bit dated with it’s big 80s sound approach and a clean heavy drum sound and shady lyrics like “Candy Delight” [I mean ‘shady’ in a schoolgirl aimed Aerosmith sorta way]. Reminds me kind of like a heavy Loverboy meets Quiet Riot, but with a killer duo guitar team. Regardless, a good heavy rock album, with some commercial appeal as well which old fans will likely dig. Lots of cool guitar riffs and heroics and big vocals. Check it out.
Sadly Bill Wade passed away after this album’s release. *This release also includes 2 bonus live cuts.
Check out www.moxy.ca & www.bullseyecanada.com
AWAKEN – Party In Lyceum’s Toilets [Awalp]
Wow, where do I start!? A 2 disc set from this European band with lots of drum machines, synths, organ, guitar, and what’s labeled as “a concept album about the darkest side of dreams”. Probably not for everyone, especially rockers, but pretty interesting and adventurous to say the least. Tracks range from the guitar driven punk of “I’ll Disagree” to the electronic dance approach of “Cold As My Heart” to the keyboard ballad “Carla’s Dream” to the rap direction of “Lycee Nase”. Some you’ll dig, some you’ll want to skip quickly! Disc 2 is the band’s unique interpretations of old pop and rock classics. Again it’s a very mixed bag of interesting choices, from Depeche Mode’s “One Caress” to an electronic take of Neil Young’s “One Thing” paired with Cold Chisel’s “Best Kept Lies” to a slowed down keyboard version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” [this one’s real good!] to Bowie’s “Sweet Thing”, all very keyboard dominated versions with drum machines and wild synth sounds. The covers’ disc includes 25 tracks, although there’s plenty more titles as there’s a number of medleys. Other covers include songs by Kiss, Peter Criss, Gillan/Glover, Genesis, Barclay James Harvest, The Supremes, Toto, Earth Wind & Fire, The Bee Gees,.... Not sure who’d I’d recommend this to. I suppose anyone’s who’s into keyboard stuff or who’d like to hear the covers. Definitely a very interesting collection of original and covered music, somewhat of a novelty, and strangely likable.
For more info check out www.ping.be/awaken/
Reviews: © Kevin J. Julie (Universal Wheels) June '02