John Corabi – Unplugged [RatPak Records]

“Unplugged” showcases John Corabi as a singer and songwriter, pulling songs from his past projects with The Scream, Motley Crue and Union, as well as featuring 5 new songs. Going back and re-listening to the Union discs and particularly the Crue album, I thought at times [well really with the Crue album] – that John’s voice got a bit buried in the mix of the heavier tunes, so this disc is a welcome add for anyone who just wants to hear the guy sing. Corabi’s joined by guitarist D.A. Karkos, bass player Topher Nolen, and on percussion Cheney Brannon and Matt Farley – with all players contributing to the backing harmonies. 

This is a really solid collection of tunes, and the acoustic thing suits Corabi well with past faves like “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)” from his Union days, The Scream’s “Man In The Moon” and Motley Crue’s “Hooligan’s Holiday” – with the latter 2 featuring ex Union band mate [and sometimes sidekick] Bruce Kulick guesting on lead guitar. The newer tracks are equally as strong as anything from the man’s past - “Crash”, “If I Never Get To Say Goodbye” and “If I Had A Dime” are all memorable tunes. Love the harmonies throughout this album as well. Classic stuff! 

For more info check out:
www.ratpakrecords.com & www.johncorabi.com  

David Kilminster – Scarlet: The Director’s Cut 

British guitar player David Kilminster is known to classic rock fans via his work with such names as John Wetton (Asia), Ken Hensley (ex Uriah Heep), Keith Emerson, and more recently Roger Waters. I admit, I was kind of expecting more of a pop-rock type thing, but “Scarlet : The Director’s Cut” is a bit more left-field, with plenty of styles and different tunes. Some funk, some jazzy stuff, some aor…. Kilminster’s got a good singing voice, and a wide range of decent tunes such as the ballads “Chance”, and “Just Crazy” – the former a classy melodic tune, and the latter done simply on acoustic guitar with string accompaniment, “Static” is a solid aor rock tune, opener “Silent Scream” is a funky tune with Kilminster’s vocals standing out, and epic piece “Rain (On Another Planet)” features one lengthy killer solo. An eclectic set of tunes from a great guitar player and singer, not so much of a rocker’s album, but worth checking out, for special tastes. 

Visit his official website at: http://davidkilminster.com  

Steve Lukather - Transition [Mascot Records] 

The latest solo disc from Steve Lukather, who’s not just guitarist in aor band Toto, but is legendary for his thousands of guest appearances with numerous acts out there over the years [Alice Cooper, Asia, Don Henley, Spinal Tap, the list is pretty endless], as well as a solo artist.  “Transition” is a more personal album for Lukather, as he explains - “As we were writing the songs, I was thinking about everything I’ve seen - all the people I’ve lost in my life, the great and the difficult experiences I’ve had, and how ultimately it was time to get it together and embrace things for what they are, because we’ve only got one life to live and we’ve got to make the most of it.” 

On first listen I thought this was pretty laid back, but this album is quite a grower, and the melodies are great and there are a number of tracks that are simply superb and easily enjoyable, from the melodies, hooks, the lyrics, and Steve’s guitar and vocals, such as the mid tempo lead off track “Judgment Day”, to the ballad “Once Again”, to “Right The Wrong” – which is possibly the best thing the man’s written in his near 40 year career. Well worth hearing are the blues ballad “Rest Of The World” and the pop oriented “Last Man Standing”. An album that as a whole isn’t overly heavy, not driving music, but also not just lightweight aor.  

Check out his website at: www.stevelukather.com  

John Lawton & Diana Express – The Power Of Mind [Intelligent Music] 

Those that are familiar with John Lawton, know that the guy can still out-sing any other ‘70s rocker these days, and on this project with veteran Bulgarian band Diana Express, Lawton lends his voice to their latest album – in English. A bit of a different pace here with plenty of ballads, strings, piano, classical guitar, and a few choice rockers.   Some simply classic lighter tunes in “Two Hearts” , “Fairytale”, and “Love In The World”, a great riff & rocker in “Rock n Roll Is My Thing”, and a couple of memorable upbeat tunes in “New Rhythm” and “Max Rock”.

Check out my interview with John about this album elsewhere at Universal Wheels, and check out his site: www.johnlawtonmusic.com  


The Harm’s Way Project – Broken Dreams and Titan Doors [CHA] 

A very in-depth package, musically and visually as envisioned by writer Ron Mann. “The Harm’s Way Project: Broken Dreams and Titan Doors” brings together a number of musicians to play out the lyrics penned by Ron with various different musical pieces, from acoustic ballads to guitar & Hammond rockers.   A good portion of the tracks were written to music provided by Mac Steagall who played rhythm guitar or bass on every song, Mac also mixed most of the disc.  The disc opens with the sounds of a train whistle [and train leaving], before kicking in to perhaps the most likeable track here – “City Of Fools”, much in the vein of classic Heep & Purple with the organ soaring over the mix of guitars from Mac Steagall, Rob Dwyer, and [ex John Lawton Band] Erol Sora – who provides the solo. Jon Binder delivers the vocals on this, and the majority of the album, with Brad Todd delivering on a few tracks as well. “The Bridge” is another rocker I really like, Dave White’s guitar work is great stuff here, musically reminds me Steppenwolf’s “Monster”. The Bridge sits between 2 parts titled “Reminiscence” [1 & 2], both acoustic tracks [co-credited to guitar player Rob Dwyer].   Favorite tracks here are perhaps the “Enchanted”, a soft acoustic tune highlighted by Jon Binder’s vocal and violin accompaniment from Cynthia Marshall, and this track leads into the heaviest track here – “Woke Up Dead”, a song of regrets, which features Canadian Erol Sora on lead & rhythm guitar, giving this a very dark, almost Sabbath feel, with a neat little Hammond outro. 

The disc closes out with the ballad “Audience Of One”, a classic which has been around Heep fans for a few years [penned by Mann, White, and Graham Hulme], followed by the upbeat ‘70s type o’ rock tune “Happiness 101”, which deals with sorting out conflicts; love the acoustic guitar, Jim ‘Flapper’ Lynch’s Hammond organ, and David Powell’s slide guitar, gives this a bit of a Zeppelin feel. Kudos also to Simon Dickenson who plays guitar on a number of tracks, drummer Staf Pypen, bass player Michael Fedysky, as well as slide guitar player Jeff Reid on a couple of tracks. 

Check it out at: www.harms-way.net  

Kingdom Come – Outlier [SPV] 

Lenny Wolf and Kingdom Come broke huge in the late ‘80s in North America, but after 2 albums the original band split, and Wolf would keep the band going, eventually moving back to Germany where he has been making Kingdom Come albums for years. I don’t think I ever bought anything after “Hands Of Time”, the 3rd album, but “Outlier” sounds like good ole Kingdom Come to me, despite there being different players, Wolf’s vocals, songs, and the Kingdom Come sound haven’t changed that much. Opening track “God Does Not Sing Our Song” is 
classic Kingdom Come, heavy chugging guitars, a dramatic mid tempo’d piece, a great vocal, and good melody…., elsewhere there’s a few good hard hitting rock tunes in “Running High Distortion” and “Skip The Cover And Feel”, and closing cut “When Colors Break The Grey” is a cool tune .   Things get a bit different and even patchy at times, with such as use of techno dance stuff “Rough Ride Rallye”.   But as a fan of Kingdom Come and the early stuff, I am glad to hear this, despite it lacking a few more killer tunes, I always enjoy Lenny’s vocals, and plenty of his melodies and writing. 

Check it out : www.lennywolf.com  

Heaven And Earth – Dig [Quarto Valley Records] 

The third album from Stuart Smith’s band “Heaven And Earth”, and it’s been a long time, and well worth the wait! In more recent years the British born guitarist has been playing in Steve Priest’s version of The Sweet, along with singer Joe Retta [originally from upstate New York], a project that saw plenty of live shows and one live album, but eventually Smith would come back to H&E, also in this line-up are longtime members Richie Onori [drums] and Arlen Schierbaum, as well as Quiet Riot bass player Chuck Wright.  First off “Dig” is an eye catching package with cover art by famed rock and movie photographer Glen Wexler [who’s done covers for Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Slaughter, Rush, and more]; the guitar being raised out of an archeological dig signifying a resurrection [or something] in rock n roll, and well the art fits perfectly, ‘cause Heaven & Earth deliver a classic hard rock album that pulls in the influences and vibe of Deep Purple, Bad Company, Rainbow, pre-glam Whitesnake….. Sure – sounds a good deal like Ritchie Blackmore, but so what – this is the best Blackmore never played! This album rocks right from the start with “Victorious”, a solid rocker, love the guitar and keyboard built-up intro before the band kicks in pounding away...”No Money, No Love” is the first video from the disc, and it’s a cool rocker, very reminiscent of Joe Lynn Turner era Rainbow, albeit a good bit heavier, as is “Waiting For The End of The World”, my fave track here, with a bit of Kansas approach on the acoustic verses. 

This is definitely a disc to take for a drive and crank up, with “Man & Machine”, featuring Ritchie Sambora adding his trademark ‘talk-box’ sound to a big rocker, the Bad Company blues rock of “House Of Blues”, the aggressive rocker “Back In Anger” with plenty of guitar and Hammond exchanges ala Deep Purple, and there’s the fast paced “Rock & Roll Does”. The heavy power ballad “I Don’t Know What Love Is” is a classy blend of acoustic guitars, bass, Hammond, and strings courtesy of Toto’s David Paich, and left-field ballad “A Day Like Today”, altho a good tune and well sang produced, this one sounds like something that should be part of the soundtrack to a new Shrek movie! [Donkey !?]. 

Definitely an album that must be heard, plenty of lengthy cool guitar solos, Hammond organ, and some nice guest harmony vocals on a couple of tracks such as the closing cut “Live As One”, giving it a good bit of a gospel feel.

Great stuff!   Check out: 

Review: © Kevin J. Julie / Universal Wheels, April 2013