Tag Archives: Hard Rock

I’m A Freak, Baby…

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Just over a year ago I discovered the rather super folk music compilation “Dust On The Nettles : A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72”, a three-disc set from the Grapefruit label. That, I subsequently discovered, was the second release in a series that started with 2013’s triple-disc “Love, Poetry And Revolution : A Journey Through The British Psychedelic And Underground Scenes 1966-1972”.

Deep Purple

Now I have stumbled across Grapefruit’s latest “a journey through” offering, released during the summer of 2016, is “I’m A Freak, Baby… : A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72”. Now, granted the use of the word “underground” doesn’t apply to all the music contained in this latest triple set, any more than it really did with the prior two, as there are a number of very well-known acts featured in each. However, I do think that the majority of the material presented for us to immerse ourselves in is likely to be unfamiliar to many, if not most, listeners.

Uriah Heep

First, though, let’s look at the more familiar fare. Disc one brings us “Do It” by The Pink Fairies and “Cherry Red” by The Groundhogs, the second disc contains Deep Purple’s “Fireball” along with tracks from the Edgar Broughton Band and the Move, whilst the final disc bears “Gypsy” from Uriah Heep, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” as well as tracks from Taste and The Yardbirds. All great tracks and, to be honest, the easy recognition of these numbers helps to balance against the unknown songs spread across the rest of the three discs.

Stray

Amongst the acts that are less well-known are a number that can already be found nestled within my music library. These include the opening nine-plus minute “All In Your Mind” by Stray, which was covered by heavy metal legends Iron Maiden on the b-side of their 1990 hit “Holy Smoke”. Others I was already at least partly familiar with include Chicken Shack’s “Going Down”, “Heart Without A Home” by Blonde On Blonde, The Gun’s “Race With The Devil” and “Escalator” from Sam Gopal featuring future Motörhead leader Lemmy on vocals and guitar.

Skid Row

Moving on to the new-to-me artists, I particularly enjoyed the offerings from The Iron Maiden (“Falling”) (not to be confused with the above-mentioned metal band, Dark (“Zero Time”), The Kult (“Occult”), Jerusalem (“Primitive Man”), Barnabus (“Apocalypse”), Egor (“Street”), Cycle (“Father Of Time”) and Irish band Skid Row (“Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You)”) – the latter being the late guitar ace Gary Moore’s first professional band.

Hawkwind

I should also make mention of “Sweet Mistress Of Pain”, a track credited to Hawkwind Zoo. Also known under the alternate title of “Kiss Of The Velvet Whip”, this was recorded in late 1969 by the newly-formed band just prior to their name change, dropping the “Zoo” to become simply Hawkwind – a band synonymous with psychedelic music if ever there was one.

Sam Gopal

Oddly, although I would consider myself more of a rock fan than folk fan, I think on balance that I’ll likely listen to the “Dust On The Nettles” set more often than this one.

Fleetwood Mac

As with the folk anthology the sound quality varies a little, but this is a small price to pay for having some real rarities present. Whilst the former set included a massive sixty-three songs, “I’m A Freak…” contains just forty-eight. However, with a running time of just a few minutes shy of four hours there’s not much to complain about. Well worth digging into…

“I’m A Freak, Baby… : A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72” tracklist:

Disc One:

1. All In Your Mind / 2. Cast A Spell / 3. Hot Smoke And Sassafras / 4. My Son’s Alive / 5. Going Down / 6. Father Of Time / 7. I’m Coming Home / 8. Do It / 9. Time Machine / 10. Cherry Red / 11. I’m A Freak / 12. Rock My Soul / 13. Sweet Mistress Of Pain / 14. Nightmare / 15. Falling / 16. Apocalypse

1. Stray / 2. The Open Mind / 3. The Moochie / 4. Crushed Butler / 5. Chicken Shack / 6. Cycle / 7. The Deviants / 8. The Pink Fairies / 9. Factory / 10. The Groundhogs / 11. Wicked Lady / 12. Charge / 13. Hawkwind Zoo / 14. Stonehouse / 15. The Iron Maiden / 16. Barnabus

Disc Two:

1. Bogeyman / 2. Fireball / 3. Primitive Man / 4. Love In The Rain / 5. Trust / 6. Rhubarb! / 7. Dream / 8. Skullcrusher / 9. Zero Time / 10. Jehovah / 11. Brontosaurus / 12. Bring It To Jerome / 13. Mr. Make Believe / 14. Flash / 15. Street Walking Woman / 16. Go, I’m Never Gonna Let You

1. Writing On The Wall / 2. Deep Purple / 3. Jerusalem / 4. Edgar Broughton Band / 5. Hellmet / 6. Second Hand / 7. Little Free Rock / 8. Iron Claw / 9. Dark / 10. The Velvet Frogs / 11. The Move / 12. Stack Waddy / 13. Samuel Prody / 14. Bare Sole / 15. The Phoenix / 16. Skid Row

Disc Three:

1. Race With The Devil / 2. Heart Without A Home / 3. Ascension Day / 4. Street / 5. Escalator / 6. Gypsy / 7. Garden Of My Mind / 8. Think About It / 9. Trying To Find My Way Back Home / 10. Yellow Cave Woman / 11. Too Old / 12. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) / 13. Twisted Trip Woman / 14. Occult / 15. Born On The Wrong Side Of Time / 16. Hollis Brown

1. The Gun / 2. Blonde On Blonde / 3. Third World War / 4. Egor / 5. Sam Gopal / 6. Uriah Heep / 7. The Mickey Finn / 8. The Yardbirds / 9. Morning After / 10. Velvett Fogg / 11. Andromeda / 12. Fleetwood Mac / 13. Sweet Slag / 14. The Kult / 15. Taste / 16. Fusion Farm

Totally Driven

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Uriah Heep In 1970
Uriah Heep In 1970

Originating from London, veteran progressive / hard rock band Uriah Heep were formed at the tail of end the Sixties. Guitarist Mick Box, lead vocalist David Byron, drummer Alex Napier and bassist Paul Newton were joined by keyboard player Ken Hensley  in time for the band’s debut album “…Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble” which was released in the summer of 1970.

Uriah Heep In 2015
Uriah Heep In 2015

The group are still going strong in 2015, and in the decades since 1970 there have been numerous line-up changes, over twenty studio albums and nearly as many live releases. As with many successful acts that have been around for this length of time there are far more compilation albums around than albums of original material.

Mick Box & Bernie Shaw In 2006
Mick Box & Bernie Shaw

Box is the sole remaining founder member and has been joined since 1986 by lead vocalist Bernie Shaw and keyboard player Phil Lanzon. All three appear on the band’s latest release, which is the double disc set “Totally Driven”.

Phil Lanzon
Phil Lanzon

The recordings on this album were actually made sometime around 2000 / 2001 by Box, Shaw and Lanzon together with drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Trevor Bolder – a line-up that existed from 1986 until as recently as 2007 – and were actually released in October 2001 under the bizarre title of “Remasters : The Official Anthology”.

Uriah Heep In 2001
Uriah Heep In 2001

That release quickly disappeared from view – likely due at least in part to it appearing to be yet another compilation of old material. And in a sense that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here. The difference being, of course, that these are not the original recordings but re-recordings made by the aforementioned line-up.

Uriah Heep - Acoustically Driven
Uriah Heep – Acoustically Driven

According to Box the band recorded these versions “…while we were in preparation for the ‘Acoustically Driven’ and ‘Electrically Driven’ concerts…” The band’s website states that the recordings were made in 2001 but the “Acoustically Driven” live album was recorded in December 2000 and the “Electrically Driven” one in March 2001.

Uriah Heep - Electrically Driven
Uriah Heep – Electrically Driven

Given Box’s statement I guess it’s more likely that these tracks were committed to tape in 2000. Certainly all but six of the numbers recorded then featured across the two live albums, so I can see that it would be relatively easy to make this album whilst preparing for the relevant gigs, especially in terms of getting to know the acoustic-based versions. That said, one of the tracks from the acoustic gig / album, “Traveller In Time”, is definitely an electrically based version. 

Uriah Heep In 2009
Uriah Heep In 2009

I imagine that many listeners dislike re-recordings of earlier material, preferring the sound and magic of the originals. This is something I briefly touched on when discussing Whitesnake’s “Purple Album” earlier this year.

Uriah Heep - Celebration
Uriah Heep – Celebration

What makes this release slightly more perplexing I suppose is that although on the one hand I can see why the band may want to make these versions more widely available, on the other hand they have made further re-recordings since, on their 2009 “Celebration” album. That album was made by almost the same line-up (with current drummer Russell Gilbrook replacing Lee Kerslake who’d left in 2007 due to health issues) and duplicates 10 of the songs contained here within its 14 tracks.

Lee Kerslake
Lee Kerslake

Whilst the “Remasters…” version was sequenced with the tracks in chronological order in terms of their original incarnations, on “Totally Driven” they have been moved around, making the album feel less like a greatest hits record in some ways – which I feel is a benefit to the 2015 version. Where it falls down slightly is the inclusion of nine songs that were originally recorded by the line-up responsible for the re-recordings, making those seem rather superfluous.

Trevor Bolder
Trevor Bolder

None of those songs were re-re-recorded for “Celebration”, so of the remaining eighteen tracks, only eight are exclusive to this release. Having said all that, I believe that there is room in the band’s catalogue for both collections. “Totally Driven” gives a wider overview of the band’s whole career and, although it doesn’t contain any new material (“Celebration” has two new songs), the songs repeated in 2009 are different enough to stand up on their own merits.

Uriah Heep In 1999
Uriah Heep In 1999

There are a lot of classic songs here – “Gypsy”, “July Morning”, “Easy Livin'”, “Lady In Black”, “Sunrise” etc. etc. If you take the view that originals can’t be bettered and so bands shouldn’t try, then none of this will matter as you’ll stick with the source material. For a clean, audience free, collection by what was the band’s longest-serving line-up of many of the songs they performed in concert regularly, however, this ticks all the boxes.

Overall this isn’t an essential release, but still one that’s well worthy of investigation and a nice introduction to Box and gang’s lengthy career.51KjCFLCHzL

“Totally Driven” tracklist:

1. Gypsy / 2. Traveller In Time / 3. Bird Of Prey / 4. Sunrise / 5. Rain / 6. Come Away Melinda / 7. Return To Fantasy / 8. Look At Yourself / 9. Come Back To Me / 10. The Easy Road / 11. Sweet Freedom / 12. Why Did You Go? / 13. July Morning / 14. Easy Livin’ / 15. Between Two Worlds / 16. Only The Young / 17. Different World / 18. Love In Silence / 19. Blind Eye / 20. Wonderworld / 21. Stealin’ / 22. Time Of Revelation / 23. Cross That Line / 24. More Fool You / 25. Universal Wheels / 26. The Golden Palace / 27. Lady In Black

1 and 6 originally from “…Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble” (1970) / 2 and 14 originally from “Demons And Wizards” (1972) / 3 and 27 originally from “Salisbury” (1971) / 4, 5 and 19 originally from “The Magician’s Birthday” (1972) / 7 and 12 originally from “Return To Fantasy” (1975) / 8 and 13 originally from “Look At Yourself” (1971) / 9 originally from “Fallen Angel” (1978) / 10 and 20 originally from “Wonderworld” (1974) / 11 and 21 originally from “Sweet Freedom” (1973) / 15, 16 and 26 originally from “Sonic Origami” (1998) / 17 and 23 originally from “Different World” (1991) / 18, 22 and 25 originally from “Sea Of Light” (1995) / 24 originally from “Raging Silence” (1989)

Burning Bridges

do1fztuThe past year has seen some big changes in the world of US rock legends Bon Jovi, both in terms of personnel and record label.

Bon Jovi In 1986
Bon Jovi In 1986

Formed in New Jersey, the group’s initial line-up was singer Jon Bon Jovi, guitarist Richie Sambora, drummer Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan and bassist Alec John Such. These were the five behind the band’s first four albums, including the wildly successful “Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey” records of 1986 and 1988 respectively.

Jon Bon Jovi In 1992
Jon Bon Jovi In 1992

Following the “Jersey Syndicate Tour”, which ran from 1998 through to 1991 the band took a short hiatus before reconvening for the less hard rock sounding “Keep The Faith” album in 1992.

Hugh McDonald
Hugh McDonald

After the release of the “Cross Road” greatest hits album in 1994 bassist Such departed and bass duties were taken over by Hugh McDonald – though despite appearing on all the band’s records and tours since then McDonald is not officially a band member, even now twenty-one years later.

Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 1995
Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 1995

1995 saw the release of the darker “These Days” record, and then the band took a four year break before starting work on their next studio album “Crush”.

Since then, at least in terms of simple sales figures, the band’s albums have been on a downward trajectory. Although chart positions for each subsequent record, both in the UK and the US, have been either number 1 or 2, physical sales have continued to decline. This will undoubtedly be partly due to the modern culture of downloading music for free from the internet.

Bon Jovi In 2013
Bon Jovi In 2013

However, from my perspective, each album has become a little less vital and memorable than the last, and even though each has had at least one or two decent songs, I felt in fact that the best track on the band’s 2013 “What About Now” was the bonus track “Every Road Leads Home To You” which wasn’t a group recording at all, as it had been a single and album track from Richie Sambora’s solo album “Aftermath Of The Lowdown” the previous year.

Nikki Lund
Nikki Lund

Having temporarily been absent for a run of live shows in 2011 to go into rehab, Sambora was reported to have bailed out on the band’s 2013 tour after the initial run of North American dates, for unspecified reasons. Perhaps more rehab, perhaps suffering burnout from all the beautiful women he has had to deal with (actresses Heather Locklear and Denise Richards, manager Nikki Lund and now fellow guitarist Orianthi… I know, life’s tough, right?). Bon Jovi stated in late 2014 that Sambora was no longer in the band, saying “He’s quit, he’s gone, no hard feelings”, whilst Sambora himself said “…I still see the possibility of a return”.

Richie Sambora & Orianthi
Richie Sambora & Orianthi

Sadly, it seems that – at least for the time being – Sambora is history. This is a great shame because not only did he contribute some great songwriting and superb guitar playing, but he is also a great singer in his own right (when he took lead vocals on a track during the band’s gigs it was usually a highlight of the show for me) and is arguably a better singer than Bon Jovi himself!

Bon Jovi In 2015
Bon Jovi In 2015

In addition the band have now parted company with record label Mercury after a thirty-two year relationship, with the last release on the label being the new album, the band’s thirteenth studio release, “Burning Bridges”, described by Bon Jovi as a “fan album”, stating that “it’s songs that weren’t finished, that were finished, a couple of new ones like the one we released as a single (“We Don’t Run”), it’s sort of a hint as to where we’re going musically, but the new album, the real new album, will be early next year.” It’s also undeniably designed to finish the band’s contractual obligation to the label.

So, with all that in mind, is the record any good? Does it sound like an album or just a collection out outtakes from various recording sessions? Is album number thirteen lucky or unlucky?

John Shanks
John Shanks

According to the band’s website the musicians involved in the recording of these songs are Bon Jovi, Bryan, Torres and McDonald with guitar duties being handled by co-producer John Shanks.

Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 2011
Richie Sambora & Jon Bon Jovi In 2011

So we must presume that one the songs that Bon Jovi stated “were finished” he has had Sambora’s contributions removed and replaced by Shanks, even on “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” the one that Bon Jovi, Shanks and Sambora wrote together? Seems a little harsh given that this is supposedly a fan album. Mind you, that in itself begs the question who exactly are all the other records for?! Perhaps the truth of the matter is that previously unused songs and ideas were rehashed and completely re-recorded by those listed above.

Tico Torres
Tico Torres

Whatever, what about the music itself? Well, “We Don’t Run” starts off badly with a Europop sound but soon starts to rock nicely enough, although the chorus is still too poppy in sound for my liking.

David Bryan
David Bryan

The aforementioned “Sunday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” is good, and features a great guitar solo from Shanks. “Who Would You Die For” meanwhile, despite some more poppy sounds is actually sonically in the same general territory as the “These Days” record and again benefits from some great guitar work from Shanks in that latter stages.

John Shank
John Shank

Less positively, the mainly acoustic “Fingerprints” seems longer than its six-minute duration and some of the lyrics throughout the album are somewhat throwaway.

Mercury Records
Mercury Records

Final track “Burning Bridges” is a country-style singalong which aims Bon Jovi’s scorn at Mercury, with lines like “…after thirty years of loyalty, they let you dig the grave. Well I’ll give you half the publishing. You’re why I wrote this song. See you all in hell…”. Now, whatever the disagreements may have been between band and label that lead to them ending their association this seems a little over the top – after all Bon Jovi has become a very, very rich man thanks at least in part to the efforts and support of that very label, certainly in the lean early days.

Bon Jovi In 2015
Bon Jovi In 2015

Ultimately, this isn’t a bad album and it does actually come across as an album rather than collection of unused stuff – although the pacing is a little off, starting with a ballad. The performances are all shiny and professional and the songs pleasant enough with one or two pretty decent ones. But this is never going to be regarded as a classic Bon Jovi album in my book.

Bon Jovi In 1986
Bon Jovi In 1986

I have been a fan of this band since the mid 80s, have all their albums and have been to see them in concert several times over the years too. Now that they are, effectively, reduced to the singer, the drummer and the keyboard player where do they go from here with next year’s proper new album?

Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi

Perhaps the loss of Sambora will lead Bon Jovi to up his game. Maybe they will strive for greatness once again or try something new – but maybe it’ll be, rather like this stop-gap album, business as usual with the emphasis seemingly on the business rather than the rock ‘n’ roll. Time will tell…

bon-jovi-burning-bridges-maxwells

“Burning Bridges” tracklist:

A Teardrop To The Sea / 2. We Don’t Run / 3. Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning / 4. We All Fall Down / 5. Blind Love / 6. Who Would You Die For / 7. Fingerprints / 8. Life Is Beautiful / 9. I’m Your Man / 10. Burning Bridges

Isla De Muerta

Ten - Isla De Muerta

Gary Hughes
Gary Hughes

Back in 1995, British rock singer / songwriter Gary Hughes was preparing material for what was to be his third solo album. Having amassed twenty eight new songs it was decided to make two records and split the material into a “heavy” album and a “ballad” album.

Vinny Burns
Vinny Burns

Ex-Dare guitarist Vinny Burns was enlisted to work on the albums, and the project developed into a band situation which was christened Ten. Burns remained a member of the band until after the release of sixth album “Far Beyond The World” in 2001.

Johnny Halliwell
Johnny Halliwell

Returning to the beginning, the band’s debut album “X” was released in 1996. Then, starting with the band’s second album release of 1996 “The Name Of The Rose”, which saw the introduction of rhythm guitarist Johnny Halliwell, and continuing up until 2007 when the band was put on hiatus, a changing band line-up had produced a further seven studio albums.

Steve McKenna
Steve McKenna

In addition Hughes himself had released four more solo albums as well as contributing all the material for, and producing, three solo albums for Magnum’s frontman Bob Catley.

The band returned in late 2010 and released “Stormwarning” the following year. The band included Hughes, Burns, Halliwell and bassist Steve McKenna. McKenna’s first studio appearance had been on 1999’s “Spellbound”.

Darrel Treece-Birch
Darrel Treece-Birch

Keyboardist Darrel Treece-Birch and drummer Max Yates were on board by album number ten, “Heresy And Creed”, which appeared in 2012.

Last year new lead guitarists Dann Rosingana and Steve Grocott appeared on the excellent and well received “Albion”. It is the line-up of Hughes, Halliwell, McKenna, Treece-Birch, Yates, Rosingana and Grocott that have produced the follow-up, “Isla De Muerta”, released in May 2015 – just six months after the release of “Albion”.

Max Yates
Max Yates

The album starts with an instrumental, “Buccaneers”, which leads directly into “Dead Men Tell No Tales”. Instantly the music and lyrics conjure up images of pirates and the sea, which is fitting as the album’s title is a reference to the island of the dead from pirate folklore.

Dann Rosingana
Dann Rosingana

As usual, all music and lyrics are penned by Hughes – and fit within his overall style perfectly. The man doesn’t do mediocre or average – his songs are always very good and generally have a catchy melodic chorus regardless of how heavy the guitar riffs may be – or may not be, let’s not overlook Hughes’ love of a good old-fashioned ballad, here represented by “This Love”.

Steve Grocott
Steve Grocott

Overall, though, this is a heavy melodic rock album, full of great hard rock guitar solos to compliment all the harmony and melodies.

My personal highlights at this stage are “Karnak” / “The Valley Of The Kings”, “The Last Pretender”, “The Dragon And Saint George” and “Acquiesce”, but that will probably change as I listen to the record more over time.

Ten - Albion
Ten – Albion

“Albion” was a truly excellent melodic hard rock album, and one of Ten’s best. I have to say that it also sports one of my favourite Ten album covers, but in musical terms – both the songs and the individual performances captured – “Isla De Muerta” may have just topped it…

Ten
Ten

“Isla De Muerta” tracklist:

1. Buccaneers / Dead Men Tell No Tales / 2. Tell Me What To Do / 3. Acquiesce / 4. This Love / 5. The Dragon And Saint George / 6. Intensify / 7. Karnak / The Valley Of The Kings / 8. Revolution / 9. Angel Of Darkness / 10. The Last Pretender / 11. We Can Be As One

City Of Heroes

Kiske Somerville City Of Heroes

Michael Kiske
Michael Kiske

Back in 2009, the Italian record label Frontiers Records, a predominantly melodic rock label, were involved in putting together a new project under the title Kiske Somerville.

Featuring the German vocalist Michael Kiske (formerly lead singer of heavy metal band Helloween and currently of Unisonic) and the American singer Amanda Somerville of the band Trillium, the self-titled debut album, released in 2010, was a decent melodic rock / metal record.

Amanda Somerville
Amanda Somerville

Now in 2015 comes the follow up “City Of Heroes”. As with the first album, the majority of the songwriting is handled by guitarist / keyboardist Magnus Karlsson of Primal Fear and bassist Mat Sinner (also a member of Primal Fear and his own band Sinner). Joining Kiske, Somerville, Karlsson and Sinner on the album is drummer Veronika Lukešová.

Magnus Karlsson
Magnus Karlsson

Kicking off with one of the best tracks, “City Of Heroes”, it’s immediately clear to me that this album is a step up from the first. Falling somewhere between hard rock and power metal, the sound is huge and the melody is very memorable and catchy. Kiske and Somerville’s voices mix perfectly, and the song has a big chorus that’s easy to sing along with practically straight away.

Mat Sinner
Mat Sinner

Other favourites here include “Salvation”, “Open Your Eyes” and “Run With A Dream”.

Elsewhere “Walk On Water” starts with a delicate piano figure which builds into a slower paced number with another fabulous chorus, sounding not dissimilar from the bands such as Nightwish. In fact, if you were being overly critical you could argue that the whole album is a kind of generic Nightwish-a-like one.

Veronika Lukešová
Veronika Lukešová

The musicianship is not in question – the performances are of a uniformly high quality, and there are some excellent guitar solos. Vocally Kiske and Somerville tend to sing individually until the choruses when they sing together, and both sing really well.

Kiske Somerville
Kiske Somerville

The material, however, is where things could perhaps be a little better. Granted all the songs and catchy and memorable, but perhaps a little obvious and, as I say, generic?

Nonetheless, there is much to enjoy here, and if you want to hear something that you can sing along to that isn’t too taxing on the old grey matter – think disposable tunes from the likes of KISS but done is a European melodic power metal style – then this record fits the bill perfectly…

ad“City Of Heroes” tracklist:

1. City Of Heroes / 2. Walk On Water / 3. Rising Up / 4. Salvation / 5. Lights Out / 6. Breaking Neptune / 7. Ocean Of Tears / 8. Open Your Eyes / 9. Last Goodbye / 10. After The Night Is Over / 11. Run With A Dream / 12. Right Now

The Purple Album

Whitesnake - The Purple Album

Since their massive success in the late 1980s, legendary British hard rock band Whitesnake have released just three studio albums of new material. In 1997 an album originally slated to be a solo album from vocalist David Coverdale, “Restless Heart”, was released under the moniker David Coverdale & Whitesnake following record label pressure.

David Coverdale
David Coverdale

Further albums under the Whitesnake banner came to fruition with the excellent “Good To Be Bad” in 2008, followed by 2011’s equally good “Forevermore”. The release of a new Whitesnake studio record is now imminent, but rather than another set of cracking new hard rock tunes the band have instead chosen to follow the well-travelled “covers album” route.

“The Purple Album” is, however, a covers album with a difference. Rather than a collection of songs by a number of different artists, or a set of back catalogue songs re-recorded by the current line-up, Coverdale and his band have produced a record comprised entirely of songs from the Deep Purple back catalogue, specifically from the period when Coverdale himself was a member of that band.

Whitesnake
Whitesnake

Now, as a long time music fan myself I am aware that certain songs and albums will hold a special place in your heart and anyone’s attempt at re-inventing them is generally not very welcome, which is at least partially due to the nostalgia and emotional connection you feel for the original material.

Fans of a band as celebrated as Deep Purple are thus likely to approach an album such as this, even though it’s presented by a former lead singer, with great suspicion and reluctance – and I can understand that completely. In fact, before I heard this record I had read the review in Classic Rock magazine that gave the album 2 out of 10 and called it a “travesty” and a “stinker”. Fortunately, I did not let such an incredibly negative review put me off giving the album a chance myself.

Deep Purple In 1973
Deep Purple In 1973

The album apparently came about after a proposed project involving Coverdale and his old Deep Purple bandmate Ritchie Blackmore failed to gel. This, in addition to the death, in 2012, of former Deep Purple / Whitesnake keyboardist Jon Lord, gave Coverdale the impetus to embark on what would become “The Purple Album”. Coverdale himself has stated that “there was absolutely no intention to compete, or compare with the original recordings. We just wanted to play these songs the best we could and this is how we wanted to play them”, and it’s clear to me that this is exactly what they have achieved.

Coverdale has a solid, tight band supporting him on this album – guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, veteran drummer Tommy Aldridge, bassist Michael Devin and keyboardist Brian Ruedy. None of these replicate the original parts of Blackmore, Tommy Bolin, Ian Paice, Glenn Hughes or Lord – but that’s clearly the point. This is not a recreation of the Coverdale era of Deep Purple, it’s a tribute, and very much in the style of latter-day Whitesnake.

David Coverdale
David Coverdale

The record begins with the classic “Burn” and instantly I loved what I heard. Clearly Coverdale’s voice has changed over the years, and in the live arena it is clear that he struggles these days. But then, at the age of 63 there aren’t likely to be many rock singers with the range and strength that they possessed some forty years previously. In the studio it’s still possible to get a powerful performance from the great man, and this album is full of such performances.

“Sail Away” sees the band in much more introspective mood, with some beautiful acoustic guitar work and harmony vocals.

Whitesnake
Whitesnake

“Stormbringer”, the first track released from the album is a truly epic tour de force, and probably the closest to the fare that we are used to hearing from Whitesnake. Other highlights here include the mighty “Mistreated”, “Lay Down Stay Down” and the always welcome “Soldier Of Fortune”.

This is most certainly not your typical covers album. If you are a huge fan of the Deep Purple originals this album may take some getting used to, but for the casual fan this could really be an all-new Whitesnake album. That said, I hope the band do get back into the studio and make at least one more original record before Coverdale decides to finally call it a day, but for the moment this is a worthy addition to the excellent Whitesnake legacy…

Def_Ws_ad_hr“The Purple Album” tracklist:

1. Burn / 2. You Fool No One / 3. Love Child / 4. Sail Away / 5. The Gypsy / 6. Lady Double Dealer / 7. Mistreated / 8. Holy Man / 9. Might Just Take Your Life / 10. You Keep On Moving / 11. Soldier Of Fortune / 12. Lay Down Stay Down / 13. Stormbringer

1, 2, 4, 7, 9 and 12 originally from “Burn” (1973) / 5, 6, 8, 11 and 13 originally from “Stormbringer” (1974) / 3 and 10 originally from “Come Taste The Band” (1975)

Into The Wild Life

513208574_1280x720“Into The Wild Life” is the latest album from Pennsylvania rock band Halestorm.

Arejay Hale & Lzzy Hale
Arejay Hale & Lzzy Hale

The group was started by singer Lzzy Hale and her brother, drummer Arejay Hale in 1997. The siblings were 13 and 10 years old at the time, and their father Roger played bass guitar initially, with lead guitarist Leo Nessinger completing the lineup. With Lzzy having taken guitar lessons at 16, the current lineup of the group began to take shape in 2003 with the addition of lead guitarist Joe Hottinger, and with bassist Josh Smith joining the following year.

Lzzy Hale
Lzzy Hale

The band’s debut album “Halestorm”, featuring the brilliant “It’s Not You” single was released in April 2009, and was followed in April 2012 by “The Strange Case Of…” which spawned hit single “Love Bites (So Do I)”. In addition the band have released two cover EPs, “Reanimate” in 2011 and “Reanimate 2.0” in 2013, featuring Halestorm takes on tracks by artists as diverse as Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Fleetwood Mac, Daft Punk, Judas Priest and The Beatles.

Joe Hottinger, Arejay Hale & Lzzy Hale
Joe Hottinger, Arejay Hale & Lzzy Hale

The band had recorded their first two albums in the way that many bands do these days, which is to say each instrument recorded separately, at different times, and striving to make everything sound as perfect as possible. Undoubtedly that worked, as both records were successful for the band and their international profile has steadily risen over the past few years.

Lzzy Hale
Lzzy Hale

With “Into The Wild Life”, however, the band decided to take a different approach. They aimed to throw everything out the window that made them feel safe, going back to the beginning and adopting a new mindset. Choosing to work with a new producer, Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Little Big Town, Emmylou Harris) and recording in Nashville. Their goal was to capture performances and moments rather than perfection.

Arejay Hale, Lzzy Hale & Josh Smith
Arejay Hale, Lzzy Hale & Josh Smith

Preceeded by singles “Apocalyptic” and “Amen”, the album is arguably less polished than the previous albums, in production terms, but the end result is excellent. Less immediate, perhaps, than “The Strange Case Of…”, this is nonetheless a very very good hard rock record.

Lzzy Hale
Lzzy Hale

Lzzy’s vocals are excellent, using her full range to great effect. All four musicians are playing brilliantly, and there are some fabulous guitar solos throughout the album. Many of the tracks segue into the next track, which means that the record works much better listened to as a whole, rather than at random – an admirable approach from the band to presenting their music in today’s disposable society, and perhaps underlining their confidence in the complete album rather than a few potential “hit” tracks?

Recording In Nashville
Church Used For Recording In Nashville

Lzzy herself posted “My insider advice, listen to the record front to back, cuz in a day and age where everyone is freaking out about the state of the music business, we said fuck it, and made an “album”. It’s a snapshot of where we are at in our lives and emotions; all basic tracks done Live just the four of us performing in a circle in a beautiful church in Nashville. We errored on the side of performance and making moments, rather than perfection, bridging the gap between what you’ve heard on previous records and what you see at a live Halestorm show. We are unapologetically stoked to share this with you! Enjoy!”

Lzzy Hale
Lzzy Hale

It’s hard, so early on, to pick highlights from the album – particularly as I do feel that it’s easily the band’s best to date. That said, at this point in time I am really enjoying “I Am The Fire”, the delicate ballad “Dear Daughter”, the crushing “Mayhem”, “Sick Individual”, “Gonna Get Mine”, “What Sober Couldn’t Say” (with it’s lovely Procol Harum style organ work), the rock ‘n’ roll of “Jump The Gun” and “I Like It Heavy”. In truth, though, there isn’t a duff track to be found. Sure, there are different genres on display here – rock, metal, country, rock ‘n’ roll, etc. – but all put together and moulded into the unique sound of Halestorm. Highly recommended!

Halestorm
Halestorm

“Into The Wild” tracklist:

1. Scream / 2. I Am The Fire / 3. Sick Individual / 4. Amen / 5. Dear Daughter / 6. New Modern Love / 7. Mayhem / 8. Bad Girls World / 9. Gonna Get Mine / 10. The Reckoning / 11. Apocalyptic / 12. What Sober Couldn’t Say / 13. I Like It Heavy / 14. Jump The Gun / 15. Unapologetic

War Of Kings

Europe_War_of_Kings_album“War Of Kings” is the new, tenth, studio album from Swedish hard rock legends Europe, probably best known for their 1986 hit single “The Final Countdown”.

Milton Keynes 1989 Poster
Milton Keynes 1989 Poster

I have very fond memories of seeing Europe performing as headliners at the Birmingham N.E.C. in 1988, and then as special guests to Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl in the summer of 1989, on a bill also featuring Skid Row and Vixen. To my mind they were easily the best band that day, having included a couple of new songs set for their upcoming album, “Prisoners In Paradise”, as well as storming versions of the Elvis number “Hound Dog” plus “The Flight Of The Bumblebee” as guitar feature. They certainly eclipsed Bon Jovi that day.

However, any momentum that had been built on the back on the successful “The Final Countdown” and “Out Of This World” albums had been lost by the time “Prisoners In Paradise” was finally released in late 1991, particularly as grunge was huge by then, with many of the biggest hard rock bands of the 1980s suddenly finding life very tough! Splitting in 1992, no more was heard from Europe until late 2003 when the band announced their reformation and the recording of a new album, “Start From The Dark”. Whilst that album featured a detuned guitar sound, the band have been steadily developing a classic hard rock direction since then with a string of solid releases.

Joey Tempest & John Norum
Joey Tempest & John Norum

This new album continues in that vein. It is very much a classic sounding hard rock record, with echoes the great rock bands of the 70s to be heard. The use of hammond organ and a massive drum sound add to this perception. Front man Joey Tempest’s vocals are as powerful and soaring now as they ever were and guitarist John Norum delivers some seriously tasty lead guitar solos. The highlights of this record, for me, are “War Of Kings”, “Nothin’ To Ya”, “California 405”, “Rainbow Bridge” and “Light Me Up”, but in truth this is a very good album from the opening sound effects through to the reprise of the title track at the end of closing instrumental number “Vasastan”. Excellent stuff!

Europe
Europe

“War Of Kings” tracklist: 1. War Of Kings / 2. Hole In My Pocket / 3. Second Day / 4. Praise You / 5. Nothin’ To Ya / 6. California 405 / 7. Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll / 8. Children Of The Mind / 9. Rainbow Bridge / 10. Angels (With Broken Hearts) / 11. Light Me Up / 12. Vasastan

Wonder Days

thunder-wonderdaysBritish rock band Thunder have just released their tenth studio album, “Wonder Days”, a little over six years since the previous album, “Bang!” hit the shelves, during which time the band had retired from active duty – for a second time.

Thunder
Thunder

The band first split, early in 2000, after ten years together and five albums. Reuniting as a live act in late 2002, they went on to record a further four albums before splitting again in 2009, citing outside interests – with Danny Bowes particularly feeling that he could not juggle his job as booking agent, managing Thunder and looking after the band’s website with singing too. Then, in 2011, the band announced their return as an occasional live act, with no plans to record new material.

These days it seems that long established bands are increasingly reluctant to record and put out new albums. When so few albums are being sold, or even listened to as a whole, in the age of instant downloads of albums and individual songs, it is in the live arena and with merchandise such as t-shirts that these bands are able to make any money. So it is understandable that acts are not rushing to pour their heart and soul into an album that relatively few people will appreciate for what it is.

Having grown up in the era of vinyl albums, and listening to albums from start to finish, I feel that many miss out by the tendency to playlist seemingly random MP3 tracks into their iPods, mobile phones etc.

Thunder - The Thrill Of It All
Thunder – The Thrill Of It All

Nonetheless, to the delight of Thunder fans everywhere, the band have now come up with a new album – and it’s a corker. I’d go so far as to say it’s the band’s best album since 1996’s excellent “The Thrill Of It All” – and there has not been anything remotely approaching a bad album in between either!

Opening with the title track, “Wonder Days”, the record is chock full of tasty guitar riffs, memorable melodies and great lyrics. “The Rain” is a more laid back and acoustic-based number, which really showcases Bowes’ unparalleled vocals and the way it meshes with Morley’s backing vocals.

Ben Matthews, Danny Bowes & Luke Morley
Ben Matthews, Danny Bowes & Luke Morley

“The Prophet” arrives on a driving chugging riff, somewhat reminiscent of Heart’s “Barracuda”, and “Chasing Shadows” has another of the band’s signature riffs powering it along. No Thunder album would be complete without a heartfelt ballad, and in “Broken” they have delivered another classic bittersweet love song.

The real highlight of the album for me is the excellent “When The Music Played” with it’s extended instrumental middle section and wistful lyrics, but mention also has to be made of the brilliant “Serpentine”. In fact, it’s only on the closing “I Love The Weekend” that the overall quality drops fractionally, as this number feels slightly throwaway.

Danny Bowes & Luke Morley
Danny Bowes & Luke Morley

The music that Morley has made away from Thunder – with The Union, his project with Pete Shoulder, with the two Bowes & Morley albums and his own solo album is all great. However, to my ears nothing quite matches the magic created when you mix his songs with Bowes’ voice in the band, underpinned by the rock solid James’ drumming, Matthews’ guitar and keyboard parts and Chris Childs’ bass playing and the magic is complete. Thunder are a fantastic band, whether on record or on stage, and it’s great to have them back with new songs!

Sadly, due to ongoing cancer treatment Matthews was unable to take part in the recording of “Wonder Days” but Morley has ensured that the band still sounds as good as ever by stepping up and covering for his bandmate.

Another 100% essential Thunder album added to the collection…

91S9poVtubL._SL1500_“Wonder Days” tracklist:

1. Wonder Days / 2. The Thing I Want / 3. The Rain / 4. Black Water / 5. The Prophet / 6. Resurrection Day / 7. Chasing Shadows / 8. Broken / 9. When The Music Played / 10. Serpentine / 11. I Love The Weekend

Devil’s Train II

Devil's Train - IINew out is the second album from European hard rock band, Devil’s Train – the appropriately titled “II” – which follows 2012’s self titled debut.

Devil's Train
Devil’s Train

With a line up consisting of vocalist R.D. Liapakis, guitarist Lakis Ragazas (both from German power metal band Mystic Prophecy), bassist Jari Kainulainen (of German power metal band Masterplan) and drummer Jörg Michael (formerly in Finnish power metal band Stratovarius) you would be forgiven for expecting Devil’s Train to be somewhere in or around the power metal camp.

But this is a band with a clear love of the hair metal of the late 80s and early 90s – think Badlands, Cinderella, Van Halen – whilst also occupying similar sonic territory to the likes of Slash, Black Label Society and Alter Bridge.

Devil's Train - Hollywood Girl
Devil’s Train – Hollywood Girl

The songs, such as “Hollywood Girl”, “Let’s Shake It” and “Girl Like You” are riff-heavy but melodic and catchy. Unlike many of the bands of the hair metal era, however, there are no ballads present on this album. Sure, there’s a cool heavy blues vibe on the likes of “Gimme Love” and “Mr. Jones”, but for the most part this is foot-stomping hard rock with plenty of energy.

Band04If there is one, then the low point of this album is the presence of two cover versions – updates of Steppenwolf’s seminal “Born To Be Wild” and the mighty Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. Both are actually very good versions, but given that both songs have been covered numerous times over the years then perhaps a couple more original compositions, or even some more unusual cover choices would have been welcome.

Nonetheless, this is a really impressive, good-time hard rock album. In fact, listening to this record, you can picture it blasting out in a room full of tattooed long hair rockers and hair metal-era rock chicks!

“Devil’s Train II” tracklist:

1. Down On You / 2. Hollywood Girl / 3. Gimme Love / 4. Mr. Jones / 5. Can You Feel / 6. Rock Forever / 7. Let’s Shake It / 8. Girl Like You / 9. Born To Be Wild / 10. You And Me / 11. Thunderstorm / 12. Suffocated / 13. Immigrant Song