REVIEWS - JULY 2009
Saxon: Into The Labyrynth [SPV]
Saxon is a legendary British metal band, whom I've only discovered in more recent years, and it's through the band's latest killer releases like "Metalhead" and "Killing Ground" - which got my interest. "Into The Labyrinth" is another strong album, boasting a mix of powerful metal tracks like "Valley Of The Kings", "Demon Sweeney Todd", and thundering "Battallions Of Steel" - which leads off the album in full glory with a dramatic intro [an instant classic Saxon rocker].
Elsewhere, the band can come up with gems like the AC/DC-type metal anthem "Live To Rock", as well as "Slow Lane Blues" and "Protect Yourselves", and quieter tracks like the acoustic "The Letter" [which leads in to Valley Of The Kings], and the bottleneck version of "Coming Home".
Well worth checking out!
UFO: The Visitor [SPV]
When UFO reunited with Schenker back in the mid 90s and released Walk On Water - I thought that album was amazing, and thus subsequent albums [The Covenant and Sharks] didn't catch my attention and I veered from following the band's work much [though i have You Are Here, and thought it was decent]. "The Visitor" is the band's latest and features Mogg [as always], Raymond, Parker, and American guitarist Vinnie Moore - who has played on the past couple of albums since Schenker left again. And, this one is easily impressive. Though Moore and the band's direction may give this album more of an American feel; the songs, performances, and Moore's various styling's make "The Visitor" the best UFO I've heard since Walk On Water.
The Visitor sees Moore adding a good bit of slide guitar on a few tracks, giving this album a bit of a Southern blues feel. The Visitor starts out kinda slow with the Southern blues feel of "Saving Me" and slower paced bluesy "Down On The Waterfront", But things pick up with "Helldriver", one of a handful of classic UFO rockers - along with "Stop Breaking Down", "Stranger In Town" [where Paul Raymond's keyboard work is finally noticeable] and the mid-tempoed more commercial "Can't Buy A Thrill" -- all memorable tunes. The band change things up with the laid back coolness of "Living Proof" and "Rock Ready". An album full of solid tunes and deep enough that it impresses right away and grows on further.
IQ: Frequency [SPV]
Longtime British prog-rockers IQ are lead by founding member - guitarist Michael Holmes and feature original vocalist Peter Nicholls on their ninth studio album since their inception in 1981, titled "Frequency". On Frequency IQ draw on influences and sounds of classic prog bands like early Genesis and Yes, with plenty of piano based melodic tracks, such as the ballad "One Fatal Mistake" and "Life Support", which starts as a quiet piano ballad and then kicks in to an airy proggy guitar-synth instrumental. With 7 tracks here, one better be able to sit through 5 lengthy prog tracks [from 8 to nearly 14 minutes in length], most notably "Stronger Than Fiction", which is like a lightweight modern Yes track [though parts of this remind me of Dream Academy's hit "Life In A Northern Town"!], with best cuts here being the title track, a spacey, largely guitar driven song with traces of Rush [guitar] and King Crimson [moog / synths], and the final cut "Closer", another ballad, based on guitar, with a classy build up of organ and synths in the middle, giving this some power before fading back to acoustic guitar and piano -- a wonderful ending to the disc.
Prog fans [sorry I have a shorter attention span for lengthier cuts], may also dig the 14 minute "The Province", full of time changes, various instrumentation, and probably the heaviest track here [musically]. Overall, a smooth, err ... pleasant sounding album, cleanly produced, with great vocals and keyboards, but wish there was something just a bit heavier and/or rougher, which would give it a kick for me. Otherwise though - worth checking out.
Visit www.iq-hq.co.uk for more information.
Classic Rock Revisited: Stadium Rock (From The Vaults Of: Volume 1)
Classic Rock Revisted is one of [if not THE] premier web sites for visit for classic rock fans -- full of classic rock news updates, new reviews and interviews. This book commemorates 10 years of the web site's existence and founder Jeb Wright's rock writing. Like myself, the man started as a fan who simply wanted to created a space for exposure for the classic rock music he loves, and triumphantly Jeb has been so committed and good at writing reviews and handling interviews over the past decade that there isn't too many classic rockers he hasn't covered! "Stadium Rock" is a collection of some of Jeb's finest and [likely] favorite interviews over time, to highlight his website's vaults. Wright's interviews are always great reads - extensive and revealing, and he has a way of getting the most out of his subjects. 12 Classic interviews included here, among them Dennis DeYoung [post-Styx], Steve Perry [post-Journey], Foghat's Roger Earl [discussing the band beyond Lonesome Dave Peverett], Paul Rodgers [from 2000, in-depth discussing his Free and Bad Co days, among other projects], and a more recent interview with Boston's Tom Scholz [discussing the late Brad Delp, the band's resurgence with new singers, and the band's very early days].
Stadium Rock is a well worth collection of interviews to have saved in print for classic rock fans. There's a good mix of artists featured here, and whether you're a fan of any of these bands, it's still a neat piece of music journalism to add to one's collection.
You can order the book, [as well as check out many of Jeb Wright's other interviews and reviews] through www.classicrockrevisited.com
Joe Bouchard: Jukebox In My Head [JBM]
Original BOC bass player and writer of such BOC classics as "Hot Rails To Hell", "Wings Wetted Down" and "Nosferatu", Joe Bouchard's first solo album sees him play all guitars, keys, and percussion, and wrote [or co-wrote] all but one song here on this wide range of classy rock album. Jukebox In My Head features 12 songs [3 of which are listed as bonus'] ranging from the solid hard rock of "Travelin' Freak Show", to more rock-pop - sometimes folky oriented tracks like "Cowboy's Dream", "One More Song So Long" and "Running Out Of Time" [with a melody fitting late 70s classic BOC]. There's also the opening bass driven rock of "Shadows On The Streets of New York" and the rockabilly style of the title track [check out the ZZ Top type intro]. But the best cuts here are the slower more atmospheric ones in the melodic instrumental "Haunted Dance Floor" and the John Elwood Cook penned "Dark Boat". An incredibly varied and strong album, with Joe Bouchard showing the emotion, creativity and songwriting -- much of which has been lacking in any BOC albums since the early 80s.
Check it out at www.joebouchard.com
Saga - The Human Condition [InsideOut / SPV]
The first Saga to feature new singer Rob Morati [ex Final Frontier], having replaced the distinctive Michael Sadler. For me, the first 5 or 6 Saga albums [from the debut til "Heads Or Tails"] were classics, and a period which the band never managed to get back to. Albums beyond that and more recent were hit and miss with me, a few line-up changes, experiments, etc.. I loved 1993's "Security Of Illusion", but a number of releases from the 90s on I have heard and easily forgotten. Here the band, now with Morati and former Helix drummer Brian Doerner try to retain the classic Saga sound, but without Sadler's voice and a songs more focused on keys and vocal arrangements The Human Condition needed a few listens to get in to to find the better moments.
"Step Inside" is the first of a few stand-outs - a mid tempoed powerful prog rocker; the others coming later on more rock oriented cuts "Let It Go" and "Crown Of Thorns" - both featuring guitar up front and Morati's vocals don't get mixed in a pile of keys and production.
A good bit of The
Human Condition though I just can't get in to beyond the
production and less memorable tracks (such as "Hands Of Time" -
a proggy ballad where Morati borrows the vocal melody from
Queensryche's "Silent Lucity").
Check out www.sagaontour.ca for further informaton.
Magnum - Into The Valley Of The MoonKing
Magnum is a band that's I've always heard good things of, but never bothered to check out. This album though has completely got me interested to hear more. It's a classic British aor/hard rock album, guitar up front - with plenty of memorable hooks and killer solos, great vocals, classy keys, and beautiful songs, story-type lyrics and great arrangements.
A slow keyboard intro opens the album before "Cry To Yourself" seems to start simply, it's a seemingly straight forward rock tune, with a great harmonized chorus, and then Tony Clarkin's guitar solo kicks in. And after that "Into The Valley Of The MoonKing" keeps getting better with "All My Bridges", and driving rocker "Take Me To The Edge". The blues epic "The Moon King" is the album's center piece here, starting out slow, picking up, before the song takes off during the chorus and comes back - Great song, in the realm of classic Rainbow and sound-wise reminiscent of '70s Robin Trower. "None Knows His Name", starts out as a ballad, with Bob Catley giving it that deep Coverdale-like vocal in the beginning, before the band kicks in. Things lighten up a bit in other places with the somewhat proggy "In My Mind's Eye", the dramatic ballads "Time To Cross The River" - where Clarkin trades in the textbook big electric solo for a classical guitar solo [a nice touch] and [the heavier] "If I Ever Lose My Mind". There's also the classic Journey type ballad "A Face In The Crowd". Things come back to rock though with another cool rocker in "Feels Like Treason" and the slower paced "Blood On Your Barbed Wire Thorns" [the guitar riff reminds me of Canuck band Helix's hit "Does A Fool Ever Learn"].
This is a great album, and easily the best thing I've heard this year. And from here i will be checking out more of this band.
Put Magnum alongside other underappreciated [at least in North America] British rock acts like Praying Mantis and Ten -- all bands that have survived, released some classic aor-hard rock albums and are putting out stuff better than ever in their later years.
Check out: www.magnumonline.co.uk
After years of battling over the name there was the '90s reunion of the original Foghat, which yielded the excellent "Return Of The Boogeymen" album in '94 and subsequent tours and live release "Road Cases". In 2000 "Lonesome" Dave Peverett passed away from cancer, but the band after a while, carried on under the leadership of drummer and founding member Roger Earl, who was now joined by Tony Stevens [bass], guitarist Bryan Bassett [ex Dave Peverett's Foghat and '90s Molly Hatchet], as well as new singer/guitarist - Charlie Huhn [ex of Ted Nugent's band, Victory, DeadRinger and Jerry Shirley's Humble Pie]. Huhn's Steve Marriott like vocals and his guitar work, make him the perfect fit in this new incarnation of the band, despite Peverett having been the band's leader and main writer throughout it's classic years. In 2003 Foghat would release "Family Joules" to a warm reception amongst fans. The album being a strong offering of rock and blues-rock fitting the Foghat catalogue quite well, with the stand-out "Mumbo Jumbo", which would remain in the band's live set since then, and features such good cuts as "Thames Delta Blues", "Hero To Zero" and "Mean Voodoo Woman". Huhn's vocals fit the bluesier Foghat style perfectly, while on grittier hard rock tunes, he and the band sound reminiscent of Bon Scott era AC/DC on tracks like "I'm A Rock 'N Roller" and "Self Medicated".
Following Family Joules Tony Stevens would leave the band [again] and be replaced by Craig McGregor [again]. Since then the band released "Live 2", recorded in July of 2005. A 2-disc, 20 track outstanding live set containing numerous classics, which Charlie Huhn does justice to, showing he is more than just a hired-hand to replace the legendary Peverett. An energetic set including classics like "Drivin' Wheel", "Chevrolet", "My Babe", "I Just Want To Make Love To You" and [naturally] "Slow Ride" and "Fool For The City". As well the band inject 4 of the new songs into the set, thus not making this a mere trial of oldies; the new ones like "Mumbo Jumbo" and "I'm A Rock n Roller" fit in fine with Foghat's energetic rockin' set.
"Live At The Blues Warehouse" is the band's latest release, and it was recorded 'live in the studio' for the Long Island Blues Warehouse radio show in June of 2007. Narrowed down to 8 tunes, the band sounds better and heavier than on Live 2, with killer performances of Fool For The City, Home In My Hand, Drivin Wheel, Mumbo Jumbo, My Babe, Chateau Lafitte '59 Boogie, I Just Want To Make Love To You, and Slow Ride. This disc sounding heavier on the guitars, Huhn's vocals fit these songs like he's been there forever. No disrespect to the legacy of Lonesome Dave [who's name graces 5 of these songs on the writing credits], but if Foghat ever wanted a chance to carry on and be taken seriously -- Charlie's the man! Not to mention Bryan Bassett taking up the lead and slide guitar work - sounds great. You'd also be hard-pressed to find a young band these days that sound so energetic -- Fool For The City is evidence enough of this!
The Live At The Blues Warehouse was also recorded around band interviews with host Mark Klein, who knows his Foghat stuff and manages to get a good bit of history from each of the 4 bandmembers, as well as Lefty Lefkowitz - who guests on harmonica on a couple of songs. Easily the best live recording I've heard in a long time!
Visit the official website at: www.foghat.net
Lizzy Borden - Appointment With Death
Lizzy Borden was another 80s metal band that came out trying to take over the old Alice Cooper shtick - "shock rock", with lots of blood and gore on stage and violent and rebellious guitar hard rock tunes, and were quickley lumped in alongside with Wasp, who probably had a bit more commercial success. "Deal With The Devil", released in 2000 though showed that LB was more than just a goofy gore guitar shlcok band, with great memorable hard rockers like "Lovin You Is Murder", "We Only Come Out At Night" and the anthemic "Hell Is For Heroes". "Appointment With Death" sees a few changes, most notably new guitarist Ira Black [who's since left the band], and a guestlist of guitar players, including George Lynch [Dokken] and Dave Meniketti [Y&T]. The new album is a concept, based on , err...'death'! It's a darker lyrically and visually [band looking pretty gothic in the pic], and slightly heavier musically album. A bit less 'clever' musically and lyrically as well as it's predecessor as well, but "Appointment With Death" is a pretty decent goth / metal album, boasting a number of good tunes. From the opening fast paced galloping drums and fast guitar, layered vocals in "Abnormal", this album doesn't really let up, but tracks like "Live Forever", Tomorrow Never Comes", "Perfect World", "Death Of Love" and the slower / lighter and still gloomy "Under Your Skin" are pretty strong.
A bit more variety may help though, as Appointment tends to get in to that 'let's see how fast and heavy we can be' type thing. But again, a number of tracks are regular players here and Lizzy's past few albums easily outmatch the band's '80s schlock rock catalogue.
Classic Rock Picks With Dave Hanson!
For those who don't recognize the name, Dave Hanson was a pro hockey player and starred as one of the Hanson brothers in the 1977 film "Slapshot" [starring Paul Newman]. Most recently Dave has released his autobiography "Slapshot - Original". The book is one of the funniest things I've ever read, and a very good story. If you're into hockey [or the film Slapshot] - you can check out and order Dave's book at www.slapshotoriginal.com
When I wrote Dave and suggested he check out Universal Wheels, he replied, "Hey I'm an old rocker!"
So I asked for some his
favorite albums from the Slapshot era... "From what I
recall, some of the albums at the time we - Jeff [Carlson],
Steve [Carlson] & I - were playing together in Johnstown for the
Jets, which was the town and team that was so richly portrayed
in Slap Shot, and while we were filming SlapShot, were:
Reviews: © Kevin J. Julie / Universal Wheels, July '09