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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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
I was first exposed to German gothic metal band Beyond The Black when they were the unexpected opening band when I caught the Bristol show on Saxon’s “Warriors Of The Road” UK tour back in November 2014.
At that point they had yet to release an album, and considering that the band had only played their first show a few months earlier were quite impressive.
Debut album “Songs Of Love And Death” was released on 13th February 2015. A decent slab of gothic / symphonic metal with an accessible edge, the record was well received, especially in Germany where the album reached number twelve in the charts, and contained some catchy and memorable tracks such as “Running From The Edge”, “Numb” and “In The Shadows”, plus a superior cover of Motörhead’s 1991 track “Love Me Forever”.
The group’s line-up comprises vocalist Jennifer Haben, guitarists Nils Lesser and Christopher Hummels, bassist Erwin Schmidt, drummer Tobias Derer and keyboardist Michael Hauser, but only Haben appears on the first album – with session musicians contributing the backing – as it was seemingly recorded before the band was put together.
Almost exactly twelve months later (on 12th February this year) the band’s second album “Lost In Forever” hit the shelves, this time performed, I think, entirely by the six band members. That said, and without wishing any disrespect to the group, some of the guitar solos in particular are so polished I do wonder if the record bears the hallmarks of session musicians again.
The record kicks off with the first single, title track “Lost In Forever”. Haben’s vocals are more polished and assured this time around, and she is ably supported by backing vocals from Hummels. The instrumental performances are uniformly high quality, and the songwriting is very impressive too.
For some the material may be a touch too accessible, particularly on a power ballad such as “Against The World”, which to my ears harkens back to the hair metal scene of the glorious late Eighties whilst also have a definite modern pop/rock feel. Simply, this is symphonic metal written unashamedly with an eye on success. That may make the whole thing calculated and less authentic to some listeners, but when the songs and sonics are this good I don’t find that to be a problem.
Standout tracks here include “Heaven In Hell”, “Written In Blood”, “Dies Irae”, “Shine And Shade”, “Halo Of The Dark”, “Lost In Forever” and the delicate acoustic closer “Love’s A Burden”. This isn’t a band trying to reinvent the wheel, but they do what they do very well indeed. Without doubt Jennifer Haben is the star of the show, but Beyond The Black are a band that seem capable of making it big in their chosen genre. I’ll watch their future development with interest…
“Lost In Forever” tracklist:
1. Lost In Forever / 2. Beautiful Lies / 3. Written In Blood / 4. Against The World / 5. Beyond The Mirror / 6. Halo Of The Dark / 7. Dies Irae / 8. Forget My Name / 9. Burning In Flames / 10. Nevermore / 11. Shine And Shade / 12. Heaven In Hell / 13. Love’s A Burden
Like many folk I was gutted to hear of Motörhead mainman Lemmy’s death just over two weeks ago, though it was a shock it wasn’t entirely surprising given the health problems that had dogged him over the past few years. Much more shocking and surprising was the news yesterday that the legendary David Bowie has also passed away from cancer only two days after his 69th birthday.
It was also just two days after the release of his most recent album “Blackstar”, his second album of new material since his unexpected return to the limelight after nine years away following a heart attack during his 2004 “A Reality Tour”. I suppose I’m getting to the age myself where the heroes that I grew up listening to are going to start passing on with increasing regularity. It’s a depressing thought and one that makes me consider my own mortality too.
Anyway, I spent a chunk of yesterday listening to various parts of Bowie’s long and varied discography. Bowie being the innovator that he was there is a lot of different styles of music in his oeuvre and not all of it has been easy accessible to the listener. Albums such as the drum ‘n’ bass infused “Earthling” or his much-maligned two albums under the Tin Machine banner for instance.
Naturally it’s often his work during the Seventies that are lauded, such is the popularity of 1972’s “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” and of the Berlin trilogy of albums – “Low” (1977), “Heroes” (1977) and “Lodger” (1979).
Personally speaking it was the 1983 album “Let’s Dance”, which featured guitar from the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, that was my first foray into the world of Bowie and subsequent to that I found the singles compilations much easier to digest that some of the parent albums.
Over time, though, I grew to appreciate some of the less immediate material and really enjoyed a lot of his later work, such as 1999’s excellent “Hours…”, 2002’s “Heathen” and the unreleased “Toy” record from 2001. “Reality” (2003) was not as good, to my ears, but I found his comeback album “The Next Day” to be a real return to form, and would definitely recommend the full twenty-two song “Extra” edition!
The latest (and presumably last, unless there’s stuff in the vaults for future releases) album is, of course, the brand new “Blackstar”. So how does it stack up against his back catalogue? Well, to be honest, to begin with I found it hard going, especially after the fairly straight-forward sounds of “The Next Day”.
Having given it repeated plays however, especially in the last twenty-four hours I have to say that it has really grown on me and I now think it’s fabulous!
Kicking off with the near-ten-minute title track, a fusion of drum ‘n’ bass percussion, jazz parts, ethereal vocals, progressive rock style changes and a fairly impenetrable lyric! It takes a few listens to get a handle on, but boy is it a great track.
There are only seven songs on the album, one of which, “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)”, was included on last year’s inappropriately titled “Nothing Has Changed” compilation release and released as a single. Another, “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” was the b-side for that single. Both songs have been overhauled for the new album. “Sue…” ran to nearly seven and a half minutes on the compilation and was a strange jazz / drum ‘n’ bass hybrid. On “Blackstar” three minutes have been shaved off the song’s duration and whilst it retains the drum ‘n’ bass percussion and some jazziness it has a much more rock edge with a prominent guitar part from Ben Monder.
The other “old” song “‘Tis A Pity…” was inspired by a play published in 1633 by English poet / playwright John Ford dealing with the subject of incest. The re-recording of this song is also shorter – though only be thirty-odd seconds – and has less of a dance music vibe about it. Bowie’s original saxophone playing has been replaced by a performance from Donny McCaslin.
The other musicians involved on “Blackstar” (Bowie himself handles acoustic guitar) are keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana – all, together with McCaslin, members of the Donny McCaslin Quartet jazz group.
“Lazarus” is the album’s other single and clocks in at almost six and a half minutes. Tony Visconti, the producer of the record and a long-time Bowie collaborator has stated that the song, which begins with the lines “Look up here, I’m in heaven…”, was just one that refers to Bowie’s then-impending death – though that has really only become clear in the past couple of days now that the lyrics can be seen in the context of Bowie’s passing.
This album was apparently recorded early last year, some months after his diagnosis (and prognosis?) so has presumably been held back and scheduled to see the light of day to coincide Bowie’s death. The fact that the album has been titled “Blackstar” which is said to be a cancer-like lesion of the breast that literally looks like a black star can now be seen to be a clue too. I suppose it’s easier to see the signs in retrospect but you have to admire the way that Bowie put it all out there, albeit in a cloaked way, with very few people seemingly actually aware of his illness until he passed away. There again, as the final song says “I Can’t Give Everything Away”.
In the end this is a wonderful piece of music by a man who has for decades reinvented himself and his art, so makes for a fitting epitaph. Surely a contender for one of the top albums of 2016 already!…
1. Blackstar / 2. ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore / 3. Lazarus / 4. Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) / 5. Girl Loves Me / 6. Dollar Days / 7. I Can’t Give Everything Away
Hearing of the sad news that heavy metal legend Lemmy passed away yesterday I have been listening to his work with both Hawkwind and Motörhead today, and it seemed like as good a time as any to have a look back at when I saw the latter in concert.
It was during the Motörizer Tour of the UK back in November 2008 and, despite being a fan of the band for years, was the first time I had seen Motörhead in the live arena. So, for the second time in a week, I headed off to Bristol and to the Colston Hall, where I had seen a number of bands in my youth.
From the balcony I watched as the first band of the night, Canadian trio Danko Jones, hit the stage. Promoting their fourth album “Never Too Loud” I hadn’t heard anything by the band prior to the gig so was unfamiliar with their material. I do recall that the band were tight and impressive and had a set full of catchy melodic AC/DC-like tunes. Likely playing tracks like “Baby Hates Me” and “Still In High School” I do remember that they finished their brief set with a note-perfect excerpt of the Rush instrumental “YYZ”.
Next up were Yorkshire legends Saxon who were gearing up to the imminent release of their eighteenth studio album “Into The Labyrinth” in January 2009. This was the second time I’d seen this band live, the first being way back in 1982 in the very same venue as headliners.
As main support band Biff and the boys were obviously unable to perform a full set but managed to cram two tracks from their most recent album, “Let Me Feel Your Power” and “Ashes To Ashes” into a set containing some stone-cold classic heavy metal tunes such as “Denim And Leather”, “And The Bands Played On” and “747 (Strangers In The Night)” and still find room for brand new single “Live To Rock”. Fantastic to see them live again so long – a superb performance.
1. Motorcycle Man / 2. Let Me Feel Your Power / 3. And The Bands Played On / 4. Live To Rock / 5. Heavy Metal Thunder / 6. Witchfinder General / 7. Denim And Leather / 8. Ashes To Ashes / 9. Princess Of The Night / 10. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
1 and 10 originally from “Wheels Of Steel” (1980) / 2 and 8 originally from “The Inner Sanctum” (2007) / 3, 7 and 9 originally from “Denim And Leather” (1981) / 4 originally from “Into The Labyrinth” (2009) /5 originally from “Strong Arm Of The Law” (1980) / 6 originally from “Lionheart” (2004)
Following the interval it was time for the main event. I recall my first Motörhead record being the live version of “Motörhead”, backed with “Over The Top”, issued to promote the live “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” album. I don’t think I’d heard anything quite like it before!
Anyway on came vocalist / bassist Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee, with Lemmy announcing “We are Motörhead and we play rock and roll” and bang! – we were headlong into “Iron Fist”.
A set full of classics from throughout the band’s career followed, including two songs from the oft-maligned “Another Perfect Day” record that was made when ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson was briefly a member of the group.
Campbell’s guitar riffs and solo flourishes were bang on the money, under-pinned by Lemmy’s unique bass playing style and Dee’s incredible drumming. To play a track like “Overkill” with the energy that he did at the tail end of a long set is no mean feat!
Lemmy himself proved to be every inch the icon and force of nature that I expected him to be and was the very personification of Motörhead and their music. A cover of Bob Seger’s”Rosalie” – many will be more familiar with Thin Lizzy’s cracking version – was a surprise inclusion but slotted nicely into the middle of the set. “Stay Clean”, “Rock Out” and “Metropolis” were other highlights.
The encore began with “Whorehouse Blues”, an acoustic foot-stomper that saw Campbell and Dee playing acoustic guitars, with the latter also handling percussion at the same time, and is one of my favourite latter-day tunes from the band’s extensive catalogue.
Then it was onto the home straight with the one-two finale of signature song “Ace Of Spades” and then “Overkill”. Stunning and, frankly, rather deafening. What a great show!
1. Iron Fist / 2. Stay Clean / 3. Be My Baby / 4. Rock Out / 5. Metropolis / 6. Over The Top / 7. One Night Stand / 8. I Got Mine / 9. Guitar Solo / 10. The Thousand Names Of God / 11. Rosalie / 12. Another Perfect Day / 13. In The Name Of Tragedy / Drum Solo / 14. Just ‘Cos You Got The Power / 15. Going To Brazil / 16. Killed By Death / 17. Born To Raise Hell / 18. Whorehouse Blues / 19. Ace Of Spades / 20. Overkill
1 originally from “Iron Fist” (1982) / 2, 5 and 20 originally from “Overkill” (1979) / 3 and 7 originally from “Kiss Of Death” (2006) / 4 and 10 originally from Motörizer (2008) / 6 originally b-side from “Bomber” single (1979) / 8 and 12 originally from “Another Perfect Day” (1983) / 13 and 18 originally from “Inferno” (2004) / 14 originally from “Rock ‘N’ Roll” (1987) / 15 originally from “1916” (1991) / 16 originally from “No Remorse” (1984) / 17 originally from “Bastards” (1993) / 19 originally from “Ace Of Spades” (1980)
OK, so still gradually working back through the Seventies, and here are my top ten albums released back in 1977…
AC/DC “Let There Be Rock”
The third album to be released world-wide by the band, and their fourth in Australia, “Let There Be Rock” was a big step forward in terms of the group’s sound and style with more guitar solos – and just guitar in general – than before.
The record contains a number of bonafide classic AC/DC songs, including “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be”, “Bad Boy Boogie” and “Let There Be Rock” itself. The first and last of these were released as singles, along with “Dog Eat Dog”, though only “Whole Lotta Rosie” troubled the lower reaches of the charts in the UK.
An excellent AC/DC record, one of the best from not only the Bon Scott fronted era but the band’s entire history.
2. Billy Joel “The Stranger”
A much more restrained affair than the aforementioned AC/DC record, Billy Joel’s fifth studio album “The Stranger” is nonetheless also one of the very best in the artists’ entire catalogue.
Four tracks were released as successful singles in the US – “Just The Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “She’s Always A Woman” and “Only The Good Die Young” – and the first three of those made the UK top forty too.
Those songs are timeless, and the album remains one of Joel’s best-selling efforts. For me, though, aside from the singles the best of the album can be found in the haunting “The Stranger” and the fantastic “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, a real storyteller of a song, which was a highlight of his live set when I was lucky enough to catch it on the 1990 “Storm Front” tour.
3. Fleetwood Mac “Rumours”
Surely one of the best known and most loved albums of the decade, Fleetwood Mac’s eleventh studio album was the one that saw their international success continue to build upon that achieved two years earlier with their self-titled album – which had introduced Stevie Nicks and Lyndsay Buckingham to the band’s ranks.
To date “Rumours” has sold in excess of forty million copies, taking it into the top ten best-selling albums of all time, actually at number eight. A number one album in the UK, the record spawned four hit singles – “Go Your Own Way“, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun” – and still had room for classic tracks such as “Songbird”, “The Chain” and “Gold Dust Woman”.
Most folk probably know all about the drama that surrounded the recording of this album, with marriages and relationships imploding, affairs going on and the songs being about (and aimed) each other. That they managed to make a record at all was a triumph over adversity. To have made such a timeless classic is remarkable. A simply brilliant album.
4. Heart “Little Queen”
Before they had huge melodic rock hits in the late Eighties, Seattle band Heart were sometimes compared to British legends Led Zeppelin in terms of their fusion of hard rock and acoustics and use of light and shade in their material.
This was only the group’s second studio album release, and appeared during a time of difficulty for the band. When their first album had reached a million sales the group’s record label took out an advertisement to celebrate that the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, took offence to, finding it to be sexist and insulting. That lead to a stand-off between group and label over the recordings for their planned second album “Magazine” for which the group had recorded, but not finished, just five new songs.
The label nonetheless released those recordings, padded out with a b-side and some live tracks just a month before “Little Queen” hit the shelves before legal action meant that it was swiftly withdrawn. Eventually the band re-recorded and finished “Magazine” and it was released in 1978.
“Little Queen” meanwhile kicked off with the storming “Barracuda”, a song inspired by reactions to the advertisement that caused the furore in the first place. That song was the lead single from the album, followed by “Little Queen” and “Kick It Out”. Elsewhere the beautiful “Love Alive” and “Dream Of The Archer” were among the acoustic based numbers that would draw comparison with Led Zeppelin, as would the more bombastic closer “Go On Cry”.
Not the high point of the band’s career in terms of sales success, although it still managed triple platinum in the US, but one of their stronger albums artistically speaking. Great stuff.
5. Jethro Tull “Songs From The Wood”
As mentioned in my post on 1978, “Songs From The Wood” was the first in a loose trilogy of folk rock albums on themes surrounding nature and the changing world. It’s also probably my favourite of the three records.
Containing a trio of singles – “The Whistler”, “Songs From The Wood” and the winter-themed “Ring Out Solstice Bells”, none of which achieved much in the way of chart success – as well as other cracking tunes like “Jack-In-The-Green”, “Velvet Green” and the superb “Pibroch (Cap In Hand)” this is a great record best summed up by the text of an advertisement at the time, which read “…a new album of old magic… inspired by the thought that perhaps nature isn’t as gentle as we’d like to believe… takes as its theme the natural and supernatural inhabitants of the woodlands of old England… warm and friendly, harsh and bitter by turns. Find a quiet spot and listen to it soon.” An excellent album.
6. KISS “Love Gun”
From the depth of Jethro Tull to the shallowness of KISS! Let’s be honest, KISS songs are all about love and sex and having a great time, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
“Love Gun” was the American hard rock band’s sixth studio album. Released just a few months before “Alive II”, their second double live record, and with the folly of the four individual solo albums to come in 1978, this was the last great early albums before the slump leading up to concept album “Music From The Elder” in 1981.
While they were at the top of their game, however, KISS were excellent. “Christine Sixteen”, “Love Gun” and a cover of The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” retitled as “Then She Kissed Me” were released as singles, and other classic tracks on the record include opener “I Stole Your Love”, “Shock Me” and “Tomorrow And Tonight”.
7. Meat Loaf “Bat Out Of Hell”
As with Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, this one probably needs little introduction and is also in the top ten best-selling albums of all time, this time at number five.
The record was the first collaboration between Meat Loaf and songwriter Jim Steinman, which because of its enormous success has cast something of a shadow over Meat Loaf’s subsequent recording career.
Of the seven songs on the album four were issued as singles. In the US there were top forty placings for “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)”, the ever-brilliant “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” and “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”, whilst here in the UK the first two of those, plus “Bat Out Of Hell” (albeit not until 1979), also made the top forty and all are live favourites to this day.
The remaining three songs, “Heaven Can Wait”, “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” and “For Crying Out Loud”, round out this definitive Meat Loaf album that still stands out as something very special nearly forty years later.
8. Motörhead “Motörhead”
The self-titled debut album from Lemmy’s band Motörhead wasn’t really their debut album at all. The record that they recorded first was 1976’s “On Parole” but the record company behind it, United Artists, shelved it and that album didn’t see the light of day until the tail end of 1979, by which time both “Overkill” and “Bomber” had brought the band chart success in the top thirty album chart.
“Motörhead” was recorded one weekend in early 1977, with the band about to call it a day and break up. Given a couple of days recording time by Chiswick label boss Ted Carroll they re-recorded the majority of “On Parole” (7 of the 9 original tracks) with the addition of a couple of additional numbers.
The song “Motörhead” was released as a single. Technically a cover version, the song was written by Lemmy during his time as a member of Hawkwind and appeared on the b-side to that band’s 1975 single “Kings Of Speed”.
The first recording by the legendary line-up of Lemmy, “Fast” Eddie Clarke and Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor, the album isn’t blessed with the best production job or performances (“On Parole” may just edge it) but is an excellent snapshot of the band on their way to becoming one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time.
9. Slade “Whatever Happened To Slade
Often viewed as a singles band, no doubt due to their extraordinary run of chart hits in the early Seventies, Slade made some very good albums in their time. One of the best, in my opinion, was this one although ironically it was their first album not to chart since their first flush of success. Even 1976’s “Nobody’s Fools” had managed number fourteen but by March 1977 when “Whatever Happened To…” was released the band’s popularity had declined markedly.
A more straight ahead rock album than much of their previous work, this album contains some great songs. Some of these – the tongue-tripping opener “Be” and “One Eyed Jacks With Moustaches” – I had been introduced to via a taped copy of the “Alive Vol. 2” album from a friend, whilst I first heard the single “Gypsy Roadhog” on the 1980 compilation “Slade Smashes”. Other cracking songs on the record included “When Fantasy Calls”, “She’s Got The Lot” and “It Ain’t Love But It Ain’t Bad”.
The reissued CD version from 2007 also included a number of non-album singles and b-sides from 1977/78 including “Give Us A Goal”, “Burning In The Heat Of Love” and the Elvis Presley tribute “My Baby Left Me / That’s Alright” to make a great album even better.
10. Status Quo “Rockin’ All Over The World”
Released during November 1977, “Rockin’ All Over The World” was Status Quo’s tenth studio album and reached number five in the UK album chart.
Two singles were issued – “Rockin’ All Over The World” which saw the infamous bass playing puppet used when Alan Lancaster was unable / unwilling to fly back from Australia to film the video for the song, and “Rockers Rollin'” – although the latter, a double a-side with “Hold You Back” was not released in the UK.
Recently a remixed version of the album has been issued, so I have already written at some length about this record. Suffice it to say that, despite the lightweight sound of the album, it has remained a much-loved album since I first discovered it around 1981/82 whilst amassing the band’s back catalogue after getting their 1981 album “Never Too Late”.
In the usual round-up of events in this year we find James Callaghan as British Prime Minister and Jimmy Carter becoming President of the USA (replacing Gerald Ford). Liverpool won the old First Division for the tenth time but lost to Manchester United in final of the FA Cup. Top film releases of 1977 included “Star Wars”, “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, “Saturday Night Fever” and the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.
Back in 1969 guitarist / keyboardist / singer Dave Brock formed a psychedelic rock / space rock band under the name Hawkwind and, together with fellow musicians Nik Turner (saxophone / flute / vocals), Huw Lloyd-Langton (guitars / vocals), John A. Harrison (bass), Michael “Dik Mik” Davies (synthesizers) and Terry Ollis (drums), created the band’s self-titled debut album in early 1970.
In the years since the band have released numerous studio and live albums and seen dozens of musicians come and go from the line-up, including Lemmy Kilmister (who went on to form Motörhead) and Robert Calvert.
Other notable figures to be connected to the Hawkwind name include fantasy author Michael Moorcock, interpretive dancer Stacia Blake and lighting engineer Jonathan “Liquid Len” Smeeton.
Brock decided to disband Hawkwind during 1978 and formed a new group with Calvert and drummer Simon King (both also from Hawkwind at the time) along with bassist Harvey Bainbridge, keyboard player Steve Swindells and second drummer Martin Griffin.
The new venture was called Hawklords, likely as a result of disputes over use of the Hawkwind name, and they released one album, titled “25 Years On” in late 1978 and by the following year had folded with Brock, King and Bainbridge joining forces with Lloyd-Langton and keyboardist Tim Blake in a new version of Hawkwind.
Brock still leads Hawkwind to this day, and his band most recently released “Spacehawks” in 2013, a collection of new and re-recorded catalogue songs.
Meanwhile, Hawklords have risen from the ashes, initially in order to play benefit shows for the late Robert Calvert.
The band is now comprised of ex-Hawkwind (late 90s version) members Bainbridge on keyboards (the only one present in the original Hawklords line-up), guitarist Jerry Richards and vocalist Ron Tree now joined by drummer Dave Pearce and the newest recruit – bassist Tom Ashurst.
The reignited band have since released four new studio albums – “We Are One” (2012), “Dream” (2013), “Censored” (2014) and the new record “R:Evolution”.
This album is something of a cracker, to be honest. I reckon it’s easily the best of the aforementioned four records, and is equal to anything that Hawkwind themselves have released for a while too.
My favourite tracks are “Evolver”, “Space Monkey”, “The Last Change” and the brilliant near-ten-minute “Shadow Of The Machines”. Whilst “One Day” is reminiscent of “Hurry On Sundown” (from Hawkwind’s 1969 debut) and therefore arguably somewhat derivative, but overall this is an excellent album.
Basically, if you know and enjoy Hawkwind’s output you are likely to appreciate what the Hawklords have achieved here. Great stuff…
1. Re-animator / 2. Blink Of An Eye / 3. Evolver / 4. The Last Change / 5. Space Monkey / 6. One Day / 7. The Dreaming / 8. The Joker / 9. Shadow Of The Machines
OK, so when I recently finished my look back at my favourite albums from the Eighties with my top ten from 1989 I wasn’t sure whether to next tackle the Nineties (having already looked at 1995 some time ago) or the Seventies (again, 1975 has already been covered).
Well, decision made – it’s the Seventies, but this time I’m going to start at the end of the decade and work my way back from 1979 to 1970. As I have mentioned previously we are now in territory where I have come to appreciate these records in retrospect, not having been exposed to the majority of them when they first appeared.
Without further ado, therefore, here are (in alphabetical order) my personal favourite ten albums released during 1979…
1. AC/DC “Highway To Hell”
The band’s fifth studio album to be released outside of Australia, and what was to prove to be lead singer Bon Scott’s last, as he died in 1980 during early sessions for what would become “Back In Black”.
I can remember having the vinyl copy of this record and playing it a lot back in the early 80s when I was beginning my love of / obsession with (delete as appropriate!) music, having been turned onto the band through my regular Friday night engagements with BBC Radio 1 and Tommy Vance’s fabulous Friday Rock Show.
Aside from the classic title track which was a number 56 single in the UK, “Girls Got Rhythm” would also be a hit reaching number 29.
There were plenty of songs on the record that were about girls and sex, including the aforementioned “Girls Got Rhythm”, “Beating Around The Bush”, “Love Hungry Man” and “Touch Too Much”, for this then-teenage boy to envisage, whilst the band attracted controversy subsequently with the final track “Night Prowler” as it became associated with the case of Los Angeles serial killer Richard Ramirez – a fan of the band – who had been nicknamed the Night Stalker.
Regardless, this album – produced by legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange – is a classic hard rock record and one of AC/DC’s very best.
2. The Clash “London Calling”
It would be nice to bolster my street cred by claiming to have been into bands like The Clash, Joy Division, Stiff Little Fingers or the Specials in the late 70s, but the truth is I was never that cool! Even when I started to get into music in secondary school (where I started in September ’79) it was mainly rock, metal and pop music that I listened to. In retrospect, however, I have investigated and come to appreciate many acts that passed me by at the time, including The Clash.
Released just a couple of weeks before the year’s end, “London Calling” was the band’s third album and saw them moving further away from their punk rock roots and embracing a variety of styles including reggae, ska and rockabilly, and it was the fusing of reggae and punk that initially drew me to the record.
Whilst single “Train In Vain” didn’t chart in the UK, “London Calling” itself just missed the top ten, reaching number 11. With nineteen tracks spread across four sides of vinyl in its original double album format, there is a lot of value for money to be had here, with some of the best tracks being “The Guns Of Brixton”, “Lover’s Rock”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, “Spanish Bombs” and, of course, “London Calling”.
3. Cozy Powell “Over The Top”
An instrumental album, this one was one of my favourites for attempting to play along to on the drums – sounding I suspect nothing like the great man himself.
Hailing from Cirencester, Powell became one of rock’s most well-known and loved drummers for his work with bands such as Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath. “Over The Top” was his first – and best – solo album and featured contributions from Gary Moore, Bernie Marsden, Don Airey, Clem Clempson and Jack Bruce.
Kicking off with a version of “Theme One”, originally a single for Van Der Graaf Generator in 1972 and used weekly as link music on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show, the album is full of actually memorable instrumental numbers, with some great performances from all concerned.
Naturally the drums are the focus and nowhere is this more the case than on the closing track “Over The Top” which incorporates Tchaikovsky melodies with original themes written by Airey and Powell and some simply thunderous drum soloing. Undoubtedly this is a record for drummers, or at least fans of drumming, but it is still strong enough in my opinion to hold its own in this list.
4. Led Zeppelin “In Through The Out Door”
Released in August of ’79, this would prove to be the final studio album from Led Zeppelin (leaving aside the outtakes collection “Coda”) as drummer John Bonham died in September of the following year.
Less guitar-heavy than the preceding album 1976’s “Presence”, there was more influence on the sound and material from singer Robert Plant and bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones as the pair experimented with a new synthesizer that Jones had obtained and guitarist Jimmy Page and Bonham allegedly battled their addictions to heroin and alcohol respectively.
Whilst admittedly different in sound to the rest of Zeppelin’s work I still love this record. Favourite tracks include the opening “In The Evening”, the keyboard-heavy “Carouselambra” and “Fool In The Rain” (with some fantastic syncopated drumming). The closing two tracks “All My Love” and “I’m Gonna Crawl” are slow burn numbers, with the latter having a definite blues edge and the former perhaps pointing towards Plant’s early solo material.
Not as essential as “Physical Graffiti” or “Led Zeppelin IV” but any Led Zeppelin album is worthwhile and better than anything that many bands could ever produce.
5. Motörhead “Overkill” / “Bomber”
As I did with Saxon’s two releases of 1980 I’m cheating slightly by including two albums by Lemmy and his crew – “Overkill” came out in March ’79 and “Bomber” followed in October.
For may folk the band’s golden era was when the line-up saw Lemmy joined by guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clark and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor – the version of the band responsible for 1977’s self-titled album as well as “Overkill”, “Bomber”, “Ace Of Spades” and “Iron Fist”.
“Overkill” contained two singles “No Class” (number 61) and the title track (number 39), whilst the title track from “Bomber” (number 34) was the sole single from that record. I can remember seeing the band on BBC’s “Top Of The Pops” numerous times in the late 70s / early 80s.
The group’s classic live album “No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith” contains six tracks from this pair of records in its ten tracks and many of the cuts here remain in the band’s live repertoire to this day including “Bomber”, “Stay Clean”, “Metropolis”, “No Class” and “Overkill”. Simply essential heavy metal.
6. Rainbow “Down To Earth”
July 1979 saw the release of “Down To Earth”, the fourth studio album from Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Deep Purple band Rainbow.
Following original singer Ronnie James Dio’s departure at the end of 1978 the album had been recorded by Blackmore, drummer Cozy Powell, keyboardist Don Airey and bassist Roger Glover. Glover wrote lyrics for all the songs and then singer Graham Bonnet was hired and recorded the vocal parts on top of the already near-complete record.
Two singles were released from the album, which saw Blackmore pursuing a more commercial sound. “Since You Been Gone” reached number 6 in the UK and “All Night Long” got to number 5.
Although more poppy than the Dio-fronted albums, there is still plenty of hard rock to be found here, particularly on “Eyes Of The World”, “Love’s No Friend” and “Lost In Hollywood” whilst “Bad Girl” and “Makin’ Love” also have their moments. Blackmore’s playing is sublime in places and his riffs as instant as ever and with brilliant rhythm work from Powell and Glover and Bonnet’s distinctive voice on top this is a great hard rock album.
7. Sky “Sky”
I have my parents to thank for this entry, the second all-instrumental one to make this list. They had this record in their collection, and I think one of two others from Sky, and I can remember listening to this at home quite often.
A so-called supergroup, Sky were formed by classical guitarist John Williams, bassist Herbie Flowers, drummer / percussionist Tristan Fry, guitarist Kevin Peek and keyboardist Francis Monkman – all of whom had extensive experience in session work as well as having been members of various bands.
A progressive rock band in nature, the group’s debut album “Sky” features a mixture of styles featuring electric and acoustic instrumentation. The first side of the record contained five short numbers (all under four minutes) including two classical adaptations, but it is side two where the magic is to be found.
Written by Monkman, “Where Opposites Meet” is a five-part suite that I never get tired of hearing and love just as much today as when I first heard it. Absolutely superb!
8. Status Quo “Whatever You Want”
Another album that hit the shelves in the latter part of 1979, in this case October, “Whatever You Want” was Status Quo’s twelfth studio album and produced two top twenty singles in the UK. The title track “Whatever You Want” made number 4 and “Living On An Island” got to number 16.
One of my favourite Status Quo albums, this has some truly great songs alongside the hits. These include “Shady Lady”, “Your Smiling Face”, “Breaking Away” and the brilliant one-two of “Come Rock With Me” which segues beautifully into “Rockin’ On”. It was such a thrill for me when “Come Rock With Me” appeared in the band’s live set for a while!
The album was retitled “Now Hear This” in 1980 for the American market in an attempt to achieve some success there with a remixed and differently sequenced record. That version is very good but the UK original, with its classic album cover, is hard to beat.
Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt’s guitars mesh perfectly on their trademark boogie crunch, Rossi pulls off some great solos, the rhythm section of Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan are right on the money and keyboardist Andy Bown’s contributions are important too. Most importantly, though, there is not one duff track here – ten superb Status Quo tracks.
9. Thin Lizzy “Black Rose : A Rock Legend”
Coming the year after the release of the band’s seminal live album “Live And Dangerous”, this was Thin Lizzy’s ninth studio album.
With guitarist Gary Moore staying with the band long enough to make a full album – having had stints in the band in 1974 and 1977, the line-up was completed by vocalist / bassist Phil Lynott, guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey.
The record produced three hit singles in the UK – “Waiting For An Alibi” (number 9), “Do Anything You Want To” (number 14) and “Sarah” (number 24). Of the rest of the album, the best tracks are “Got To Give It Up”, “S & M” and the four-part celtic epic “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose) : A Rock Legend” which is one of the highlights of the band’s entire catalogue.
10. Whitesnake “Lovehunter”
“Lovehunter”, another October ’79 release, was the second album from former Deep Purple singer David Coverdale’s band Whitesnake.
Recorded at Clearwell Castle here in the Forest of Dean, the album spawned one single, the lead track “Long Way From Home”, the video for which featured drummer Ian Paice, who had joined the band after the album was recorded, along with Coverdale, Jon Lord, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray. This incarnation of the band would only last until late 1981 but produced a further three excellent studio records.
The album cover, designed by Cyprus-born fantasy artist Chris Achilleos, attracted some controversy for obvious reasons, but is really a fairly accurate representation of Coverdale’s lyrical direction in tracks such as “Lovehunter”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Women”, “Mean Business” and “Medicine Man”.
Musically, this album is very much in the bluesy hard rock era of the band, with some wonderful guitar interplay between Moody and Marsden adding colour to the muscular rhythm section, all topped off by Coverdale’s fantastic voice.
That, then, is my favourite ten albums from 1979. Some of the albums that narrowly missed out on making it onto this list include southern rock band Blackfoot’s “Strikes”, the Police’s “Regatta De Blanc”, Scorpions’ “Lovedrive” and Cliff Richard’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Juvenile”.
In the wider world in 1979 Margaret Thatcher replaced Labour leader James Callaghan as British Prime Minister whilst President of the USA was Jimmy Carter. Football-wise, Liverpool won the old First Division with Arsenal beating Manchester United for the FA Cup. In cinemas top film releases of the year included “The Amityville Horror”, “Rocky II” and the fantastic “Apocalypse Now”.
Hailing originally from Yorkshire, the British heavy metal band Saxon were the first band I ever saw live in concert, way back in 1982 on their “Eagle Has Landed” tour.
Although the group endured some lean years during the late 80s and early 90s in the UK and had to deal with legal issues over ownership of the band name with former members, they remained popular in Europe, particularly in Germany.
Since the release of “The Inner Sanctum” in 2007 the band have seen their profile and success steadily rising once more here in the UK. Indeed their last studio album, 2013’s “Sacrifice”, gained a higher chart position here than any of their albums since 1988.
Now, in October 2015, comes studio album number twenty-one, the appropriately titled “Battering Ram”.
Things kick off with the title track with some of the great in-your-face heavy metal riffing that these guys have perfected over the years before the majestic voice of Biff Byford comes in.
With production work by Hell guitarist Andy Sneap (as with “Sacrifice”) the sound here is razor-sharp and heavy. Sneap is adept at providing perfect state of the art heavy metal production.
“The Devil’s Footprint” – another superb hand-banging number – begins with some narration provided, I believe, by Sneap’s bandmate David Bower describing a folklore tale of devilish goings-on a snowy night in the year 1855.
The tempo drops slightly for the chugging Alice In Wonderland themed “Queen Of Hearts” before picking back up for “Destroyer” and the self-explanatory driving song “Hard And Fast”.
Throughout the album Byford’s vocals are stronger than you would expect for a man of approaching 65 years of age! Both Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt provide incisive guitar riffs and excellent solos, whilst bassist Nibbs Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler both provide rock solid foundations. It’s especially good to hear Glockler in such good form given that he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm late last year.
Other top tracks include “Stand Your Ground”, the monolithic “To The End” and the eerily atmospheric World War I epic “Kingdom Of The Cross” (featuring a poem read by Bower). To be fair, I don’t think that the record wouldn’t have suffered if the final (bonus) track of “Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)” hadn’t made the cut, but that’s a minor quibble.
The limited deluxe edition of the album comes with a second disc entitled “Saxon Over Sweden 2011” containing the band’s appearance at that year’s Sweden Rock festival.
As was the case with Motörhead’s recent “Bad Magic” album (being what you’d expect from that band) this record is pretty much what you would expect with Saxon – and that’s no bad thing.
For fans of the band, or just good old-fashioned traditional heavy metal, you can’t go wrong with “Battering Ram”. A natural follow-on from “Sacrifice” this album has everything that is good about Saxon in the 21st century. It’s good to have them back.
“Battering Ram” tracklist:
1. Battering Ram / 2. The Devil’s Footprint / 3. Queen Of Hearts / 4. Destroyer / 5. Hard And Fast / 6. Eye Of The Storm / 7. Stand Your Ground / 8. Top Of The World / 9. To The End / 10. Kingdom Of The Cross / 11. Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)
Wednesday 23 September – my first all-metal gig of this year. Billed as a co-headlining tour between Norwegian progressive black / Viking metal band Enslaved and Swedish heavy metal band Grand Magus, I caught the tour’s first show at the Marble Factory in Bristol.
Although the ticket (I say ticket, but it was one of those horrible e-tickets, not like a traditional proper ticket where you get the stub ripped off on the door!…) said doors at 6:30pm and show start at 7:00pm, when I arrived I heard the people in front of me being told that the doors wouldn’t be opening until 7:00pm. As it was spitting with rain I made myself comfortable back in my car and watched the queue start to form along the pavement past the next door tyre fitters.
Shortly before 7:00pm security staff appeared at the gates, and around ten minutes later started to let people through. Now a problem with e-tickets is that they are supposed to be scanned but many folks, like myself, were told that the qr code was too big to be scanned, meaning that we had to be manually ticked off a list! The upshot of all these delays was that opening band Heaven Asunder (who weren’t even listed on the bill) had started their set – probably in front of a mere handful of people!
A Bristol-based metalcore band, Heaven Asunder certainly had a few fans in attendance, making plenty of noise in support of the band. I must confess that their particular brand of metal, metalcore, isn’t really my thing but they were clearly musically tight and enjoying what they do. Guitarist Lewis Blake did look slightly like he’d dropped in from another band but I was impressed with his fretwork, even if not moved by the band’s material as a whole.
After a short break for an equipment change it was time for Grand Magus to hit the stage. I had seen this bunch previously, third on the bill when I went to see Behemoth last December.
At that time I commented that the lack of a second guitar player left a hole in their sound when vocalist / guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson played a guitar solo, and that is still the case.
The group, completed by bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig “Ludde” Witt, are a great band to have on a mixed genre metal bill as their material features an accessible traditional metal sound – not unlike Manowar – with lots of anthemic sing-along qualities. They perform their Viking tales with conviction and with good humour too, and interact well with the audience.
In truth, though, I found that their set tended to drag a little towards the latter stages as a result of what I felt was a lack of variety in terms of tempo and style. Still, that never hurt bands such as Motörhead, and the band went down very well with the crowd (which had filled out to a few hundred I would guess), so it was probably just me!
Setlist: (probable – I didn’t have anything to make notes on!)
1. I, The Jury / 2. Sword Of The Ocean / 3. Kingslayer / 4. On Hooves Of Gold / 5. Steel Versus Steel / 6. Iron Will / 7. Valhalla Rising / 8. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 9. Drum Solo / 10. Wolf’s Return / 11. Hammer Of The North
1 and 11 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 and 7 originally from “The Hunt” (2012) / 3 and 10 originally from “Wolf’s Return” (2005) / 4 and 5 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014) / 6 and 8 originally from “Iron Will” (2008)
Another gear change was followed by a roar from the assembled crowd as Enslaved entered the stage, blasting headlong into the opening track from this year’s excellent “In Times” album, “Thurisaz Dreaming”.
Bizarrely, the band – led by frontman Grutle Kjellson – were only lit from behind for the whole eight minute number (and quite often throughout the set) leaving the audience looking at silhouettes of the band and lots of red lighting. Whilst this may be, perhaps, atmospheric it is somewhat frustrating to go to “see” a band play live only to spend much of the time only being able to see them in silhouette – that said, maybe the effect was better further forward in the room?…
Musically the band were excellent. Cato Bekkevold, the drummer, had some equipment problems with his kick drums which disrupted the flow for the band a little, but I imagine there are always likely to be teething problems on the first show of a tour.
Bassist / lead vocalist Kjellson was an engaging frontman and capable of some ferocious extreme metal vocals, which were offset superbly by keyboardist Herbrand Larsen’s clean vocals. Incidentally, on the small Marble Factory stage Larsen’s keyboard riser was so high that he towered over the rest of the band (including Bekkvold and his mammoth drum kit) and looked to have his head rather near the ceiling!
Guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal were intense and concentrated on producing a wall of sound from their instruments, and it’s here that I think the biggest problem with the band’s show lay (lighting issues aside). On record, particularly with the band’s more recent output, it is quite easy to distinguish between guitar parts and focus on individual elements of the band’s sound should you want to. In the live arena, however, although the bass, drums and keyboards are all crystal clear, the two guitarists disappeared into a kind of audio fog with even guitar solos getting lost in it.
That’s a shame, as on record Enslaved are brilliant. Following the aforementioned Behemoth concert, this was my second “extreme” metal gig and whilst I most certainly enjoyed it I would have to say that in terms of both visuals and musical performance the Polish black metal band produced the better show. That said, I’m glad I went to this show as, even with my reservations, it was definitely worth the price of admission…
Setlist : (again probable – for the same reason as above)
1. Thurisaz Dreaming / 2. Fusion Of Sense And Earth / 3. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn / 4. Building With Fire / 5. Ruun / 6. Ethica Odini / 7. Convoys To Nothingness / 8. Allfǫðr Oðinn / 9. Isa
1 and 4 from “In Times” (2015) / 2 and 5 originally from “Ruun” (2006) / 3 originally from “RIITIIR” (2012) / 6 originally from “Axioma Ethica Odini” (2010) / 7 originally from “Monumension” (2001) / 8 originally from “Hordanes Land” (1993) / 9 originally from “Isa” (2004)
British heavy metal band Motörhead, (more specifically vocalist / bassist Lemmy Kilmister) have not been able to enjoy the fortieth anniversary of the band as they / he might have liked due to health issues forcing some concert cancellations and the unfortunate moment at this year’s Glastonbury festival when Lemmy had a mental block leading him to sing “Ace Of Spades” whilst the band played “Overkill”.
As is often the case with bands that had an initial run of success, as Motörhead did with a five album run from 1977-1982, there are always those who consider the line-up from that era – in this case Lemmy, guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke and drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor – to be the definite one.
However, in 2015 we find the band comprising of its longest serving line-up of Lemmy, guitarist Phil Campbell (who joined in 1984) and drummer Mikkey Dee (who joined in 1992).
These three have been together as a three-piece for thirteen studio albums since 1996’s “Overnight Sensation”. Prior to that, second guitarist Michael “Würzel” Burston, had been in the band from 1984 until 1995 and Pete Gill and Taylor (for a second time) had taken stints on the drum stool.
Despite the aforementioned bad luck, very much on the plus side this year is the arrival of the band’s twenty-second studio album “Bad Magic”.
Sounding nothing like a band of their vintage, Motörhead come flying straight out of the traps with “Victory Or Die”.
Lemmy sounds great. Granted he’s never been what you might call a great singer, but he has a distinctive rasp and it’s perfect for this band’s output. I suspect, given his age and recent health scares, that producer Cameron Webb has enhanced Lemmy’s voice in the studio, but that’s really nothing to quibble about. And his bass rumbles as menacingly as ever too!
Campbell’s riffs are great and he pulls some superb melodic and memorable solos out of the bag throughout this record, and Dee shows off his chops, particularly on the introduction to “Shoot Out All Of Your Lights” and the closing cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy For The Devil”.
Basically, anyone who’s heard an album by this band should know pretty much what to expect. Motörhead have their own distinctive style and sound and this record is more of the same. That’s not to say that they’re going through the motions, because to these ears that’s not the case. It’s just that this isn’t a band given to too much experimentation or deviation of sound.
This album is, however, another in a line of strong records over the past decade since 2004’s “Inferno”. My favourite tracks are currently “Thunder & Lightning”, “Shoot Out All Of Your Lights”, “The Devil” and “Tell Me Who To Kill”.
To borrow from Lemmy – this is Motörhead, and they play rock and roll…
“Bad Magic” tracklist:
1. Victory Or Die / 2. Thunder & Lightning / 3. Fire Storm Hotel / 4. Shoot Out All Of Your Lights / 5. The Devil / 6. Electricity / 7. Evil Eye / 8. Teach Them How To Bleed / 9. Till The End / 10. Tell Me Who To Kill / 11. Choking On Your Screams / 12. When The Sky Comes Looking For You / 13. Sympathy For The Devil