REVIEWS - JULY 2008

Steve Lukather - Ever Changing Times

Well, if you aren't familiar with AOR legends Toto [recently disbanded], pull out about half of your rock or pop albums from the late 70s onward and there's a good chance Steve Lukather has played guitar somewhere on a track or 2! Anyway, Lukather's latest solo album is called "Everchanging Times", and it's a varied and solid modern disc. If you're thinking Toto AOR like "Rosanna" or "Africa" - do not fear! Everchanging Times is up to date in song and sound.  Rock tracks like the title track and "New World" are excellent songs. The title track featuring some heavy guitar sound and a great chorus, as does "Tell Me What You Want From Me".. Softer tracks like "The Letting Go" and "I Am" are also good, as is the funky "Jammin With Jesus".  Lukather aims to keep a wide variety here, with such songs as the blues cut "Stab In The Back" and the closing instrumental "The Truth".  Admittedly i haven't kept up on Toto happenings over the years, but you gotta love Lukather's appearances on albums from Alice Cooper, Don Henley and Asia - to name a very few, and Everchanging Times features a couple of standout tracks and lots that can grow on you!  *Also features a number of guests, such as bassist Phil Soussan [see Ozzy Osbourne], former Toto buddy  Steve Porcaro and his kids!.

Also check out  www.stevelukather.com & www.everchangingtimes.com

Jann Klose - Reverie

New York based singer / songwriter, Jann Klose [born in Germany] is an acoustic artist, who's latest disc "Reverie" features 12 tunes, most notably the soft lead off track "Beautiful Dream" and the more upbeat "Hold Me Down", which has a bit of a reggae feel to it. For the most part Klose's smooth vocals are accompanied by hammond organ, accordion, violin, and dashes of quiet electric guitar in places.  Reverie features plenty of ballads, notably - "Doing Time", a mellow summertime acoustic ballad, followed up by another memorable ballad "Mother Said, Father Said". There's also a couple of upbeat pop tracks, such as "Clouds", with a bit of show feel, accompanied by pianos and trumpets as well as a bit of a swing to the chorus. "Watching You Go" is another strong acoustic pop song, about as close to mainstream as this album gets. Reverie closes with another soft ballad titled "The Beginning". Jann Klose's music isn't a rock disc; it's a very different type of pop music, featuring Klose's own unique storytelling songs, and vast instrumental approaches and beats, probably influenced by Klose's theater background and the different parts of the world he's lived in [South Africa, Germany, ...Cleveland!]. All 12 songs are memorable and despite being largely ballads, Klose steers clear of being boring or repetitive.  Should appeal to those who like lighter summertime stuff along. Heck, rock fans who enjoy great songwriters like John Wetton or Paul McCartney doing acoustic shows may dig this.

For more info visit www.jannklose.com & www.myspace/jannklose  to check out a few songs. 

Jack Bruce & Robin Trower - Seven Moons

2 huge legends teaming up for this new classic blues rock album [along with veteran drummer Gary Husband].  I love Trower's guitar work any time, and Jack Bruce's bass and distinctive voice make this one instantly likeable. Kicking off with the title track,  and including such cool bass driven tracks as "Distant Places Of The Heart" and "The Last Door" - the former a slow tempoed track, that rides along the bass with a deep vocal from Bruce and the latter more upbeat, with some cool guitar breaks and solos from Trower. "She's Not The One" is a straight ahead mid-tempoed blues-rocker, with a gritty rock intro from Trower and it's followed up by the rocking "So Far To Yesterday". There's also a few classic lighter tracks, such as the ballad "Just Another Day", which is perhaps the best track here, with a slight pick up on the chorus, a classy guitar solo and another great vocal. "I'm Home" closes out the disc, another slower gem, which features some light guitar and drums and is driven by Bruce's vocals . Elsewhere there's a few standard type blues tracks, but overall this  is an excellent album of blues-rock, with that cool  late-night 70s sound and feel. I love the production too, nothing overly tidied or smoothed over, with much of this stuff already having a great live feel.

Though this album comes under the name of Trower and Bruce, special mention must also go to drummer Gary Husband, who suits this line-up perfectly, adding lots of unique drum sounds and beats, not simply putting in the standard blues or rock paces. Admittedly, I was never a huge Jack Bruce

fan [aside from what i know from Cream], but his bass drives most of these tracks and his vocals are excellent and haunting throughout this disc. 

For more info check out www.jackbruce.com  & www.trowerpower.com

Dave Cousins - Secret Paths [Withwood Media]

Strawbs frontman Dave Cousins 3rd solo album [his 2nd in 2 years!] is an acoustic album of Dave's storytelling songs. It's just Dave, accompanied by Pedal steel player Melvin Duffy, and is produced by legendary Metal producer Chris Tsangarides.

"Secret Paths" boasts a number of memorable acoustic gems like "Song Of A Sad Little Girl", "I Turn My Face Into The Wind", "Ringing Down The Years" [written in memory of Sandy Denny] and "Canada". Well worth checking out for Cousins' special delivery on vocals and acoustic guitar. If you're a fan of The Strawbs, acoustic stuff, or just want to hear some excellent music - "Secret Paths" is a strong album start to finish.

Cousins' 2007 album was an electric one [albeit not too heavy], featuring great tunes like "Never Take Sweets From A Stranger", "The Smile You Left Behind", "Skip To My Lou" and "Hellfire Blues". It also boasted such guests as Miller Anderson on guitar [Keef Harltey Band, Spencer Davis Group...], Ian Cutler on fiddle and the Strawbs' Chas Cronk on bass. 

Both of these discs make a great pair, and i see Dave Cousins has released a new disc featuring stuff from his Songs & Stories Tour of North America this past spring. I attended one of the shows, and it was classic! The music was great, Cousins' personal stories were classic and at times hilarious, and the man was very pleasant to meet. [And had all 3 of his solo discs there for sale and to sign!].

More to come in a feature article on Dave Cousins soon!

Also check out the Strawbs site for info on the new Strawbs album and tour!   Visit www.witchwoodrecords.co.uk and www.strawbsweb.co.uk  for further information.

CLASSIC PICK

Harlequin - Love Crimes [1980]

With all the talk of a new release by Canadian rockers Prism , as well as releases in recent years by Loverboy, April Wine, Rush, and the return of Triumph, i find myself pulling out my late 70s / early 80s Canuck vinyl [the best era in Canadian rock as far as i'm concerned].

And speaking of new releases, Harlequin, lead by singer George Belanger [now know as Harlequin II] - released a new disc last year as well. So here i am checking out my favorite Harlequin LP from the band's heyday - "Love Crimes".  Although subsequent albums [the band released 4 studio albums from 79 to 85] would be a bit more keyboard heavy and less rocking. It's the band's 2nd album that was a huge breakthrough [though the debut was pretty decent also], boasting hits and Canadian radio staples - "Thinking Of You" and "Innocence". The rest of the album was no less strong, with the hard rockers - "Love On The Rocks" & "Sayin Goodbye To The Boys", as well as further memorable pop/rockers like "It's All Over Now" & "Wait For The Night". Produced by the legendary Jack Douglas - who also discovered the band [see Alice Cooper, Guess Who, Aerosmith] , Love Crimes was one of the best Canuck releases of that year [having to compete with releases by the likes of Rush and the debut Loverboy LP - which would win several Canadian Juno Music Awards that year].

If you lumped Harlequin in with various other Canuck AOR bands of the era, that'd be a bit unfair. Check out Love Crimes - a great album, with loads of memorable tunes, heavy on the guitar, with keybaords playing a great companion role, and Belanger's distinctive voice. Haven't heard the newer stuff, but if anyone wants to send it my way....

Also check out www.harlequintheband.com

*Upcoming articles on Dave Cousins as well as guitarist / songwriter Eddie St.James [check out info on his latest release "Living With The Bomb" at www.eddiestjames.com ]


Reviews: Kevin J. Julie  / Universal Wheels, July '08