So, while life was happening last year I got behind in posting things – mainly interviews I’ve got and reviews. And in all honesty, I’ve grown to dislike writing reviews … well at least lengthy worded ones [unless the occasion or reasoning strikes me]. For various reasons I aint crazy about rambling on in detail about an album, I like to get familiar with it, which means i need a few listens and often things get put on the back-burner when I pick up on something i really like and play endlessly for weeks! Case in point – the new Europe album! Thoroughly enjoying it, and it has been ‘stuck’ in the car player for close to a week now! Also, things that are a bit more complex or very different sometimes take time getting in to [enjoyed a few listens to the latest Steve Hunter release, but more on that next time], and then there’s stuff I really hope to like but don’t – which makes it hard to say a lot. I am not a musician either, just a fan so I often wonder if and who is ‘qualified’ to give a proper viewpoint on someone else’s work; all I can tell is a bit of detail, a few comparisons [if any], and whether I like it or not…plus a few snide comments on occasion! Over the years I’ve also treaded the line on trying not to be outright nasty; the old saying “if you have nothing nice to say…” usually works when going over newer stuff. There’s been that occasion where I just don’t like something or ‘get it’ or it’s simply not my bag, and then I have contact with the artist. Years ago I received a copy of Wasp’s then latest album “Kill F**k Die” to review, and well – I hated it! I am a big fan of Blackie Lawless’ band, but I was pretty put off upon hearing it – BUT being a fan, I also didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to interview him! I was excited to get to talk to the guy, but in a roundabout way avoided a lot of talk or praise on the album at the time.
Anyway, this blog of commentaries on recent releases is a start, I’ve got lots more to catch up on. This covers some of the hard rockin’ stuff, while my next chapter will likely cover a few different things…
Current favorites are the Sweet & Lynch “Only To Rise” and Europe‘s new “War Of Kings” albums…. I own nothing of Michael Sweet [Stryper] prior to this and I prefer Lynch’s ‘Mob’ releases as opposed to his time-waisting with Don Dokken. This is a highly energetic hard rock album, which also features Brian Tichy [ex Whitesnake] on drums. Sweet’s vocals are almost always in that high range [and sometimes that makes it difficult to clarify the words], but the combination sounds great with a pretty solid rocking album. Tracks like The Wish, Time Will Tell, Recover and the 80s LA rock of the title track pack a good punch here. Plenty of great songs, notably the anthem Love Stays. Token ballad – Me Without You ain’t bad, tho I am glad there’s only one of them! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSbQgAntZZ4 …..Europe – Hard to believe this is the same band that recorded all those 80s hair metal hits – especially That song! Admittedly, some of it was neat to hear in the movie “Hot Rod”, but War Of Kings is a whole different class of hard rock / metal. It’s blues based, gone are the cheesy anthems, sing-alongs, and synths, add in John Norum’s guitar, Hammond organ and a heavier & dark sounding production and a list of songs that are a fantastic listen beginning to end! The title track, Days Of Rock n Roll, Hole In My Pocket, Nothin To Ya (which reminds me very much Sabbath’s “I”), Rainbow Bridge – all cool rockers, but ya gotta love the bluesy slower numbers like Praise You and the ballad Angels (With Broken Wings). These guys are more in tune with the likes of Zeppelin, UFO and early 80s Whitesnake than with the numerous 80s hair metal bands that aren’t putting out albums remotely as good as this > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wWGOLshzzY …………..One of the current ‘trends’ of older is to re-hash the past via remaking their best known album in studio or live and putting it out as something that’s currently relevant [i can’t think of too many bands that haven’t done this yet]. Some bands pull it off well, others merely make a mockery of the band’s legacy. Having said that – Foreigner‘s “Best Of 4 & More” ….well sorta not sure on the point of this one. I get that the band currently parading around as Foreigner sounds good live and Kelly Hansen is a great singer [love the albums he did with Hurricane and Heaven & Earth], but really – who are these guys?? Aside from Mick Jones [who’s there on a part-time basis, i believe?] – no one here played on the band’s classic albums [the first 3 for me, though fans will include ‘4’ as well]. 4 being their commercial peak with a string of hits. so more than half of that album is featured here. sounds good, well-played, but….. > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_p_5WRmCWc ….David Coverdale on the other hand, after attempts to lure Ritchie Blackmore into a project, which may have involved the late Jon Lord [and ceased being possible with Lord’s passing] revisits his 3 albums with Deep Purple from ’73-’75, and re-records tracks from them, giving them enough change via a lack of a Hammond organ player throughout [keyboards are minimal, where necessary, this is mainly a 2 guitar album]. Admittedly, I was pretty horrified upon first hearing the first single – Stormbringer, but the rest of this is pretty decent. Whitesnake is really only Coverdale and whomever he hires, so unfortunately it lacks a definitive ‘Snake sound [no Moody, Marsden, Paice, Sykes,etc…], but credit to Coverdale for letting the players play the songs as they have instead of attempting a paint-by-numbers remake; so that gives this a bit of a fresh approach and up to date sound. A nice list of songs from 3 of my favorite Purple albums. > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7UxOrBb0Is …….. So Doug Aldrich went on to record as part of the Revolution Saints [self titled debut – what a dumb band name! Are these guys really revolutionary?], along with Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Dean Castronovo of Journey. This is kinda like a beefed up Journey album, with the drummer handling most of the vocals [Blades takes on a bit as well] and doing so in a very Steve Perry style and sound. First couple of tracks are cool energetic rockers, Back On My Trail is a great lead off, but things start to slip by the 3rd song with a mid tempoed ballad sung by Arnel Pineda [the guy in Journey] – a good song, but breaks up the pace, and better placed on a Journey album. After another rocker we get Neal Schon questing and slowing things down again! Beyond that the songs are good, but there’s that damn Journey production feel and 3 [!] more ballads. Really though a better Journey album than Journey’s done in years! > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeZKAVUyKQc …. Mr Big‘s latest “The Stories We Could Tell” – love the heavy feel of this album, great lead off track in Gotta Love The Ride, as well as rockers I Forgot To Breathe, The Monster In Me, and the title song, but something about these guys’ albums I just find I can easily skip through some of the ‘groove’ stuff and more so – easily the 3 ballads here; but probably the more solid and rockier Mr Big album I’ve heard [and yes, I’ve skipped a few] > https://www.youtube.corded om/watch?v=oTrAhP4tVxA ……….”A Conspiracy of Stars” is perhaps the best UFO album in years! Love the album art, outstanding. songs here are a bit more upbeat, aggressive, and memorable than the band’s previous album [couldn’t get in to it], with plenty of blues based rock, and a singer [Phil Mogg] who sounds like he’s never aged! – Killing Kind, Devils In The Detail, Run Boy Run, One And Only, King Of The Hill — classic UFO hard rock! Looks great on 2-LP blue vinyl > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVk0NtWCb7A ….. Uriah Heep‘s “Live At Koko” is the band’s latest live release, recorded prior to but released after their latest studio album “Outsider”. Modern day Heep has become an outstanding straight ahead hard rock band, bordering on metal over the past few studio albums [since Russell Gilbrook took over on drums], yet they still retain their own sound with the guitar and Hammond organ, melodies, and harmonies… This live set was recorded last year, and the great thing is, besides the band just sounding in top form – is the change-up in the set list, which manages to include something from each studio album since ’95’s “Sea Of Light”, alongside the usual handful of old fan favorites, a couple of old surprises, And 2 songs from “Outsider”. I love these releases, as long as they keep introducing strong new material and a few classics rarely played – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrm5bIs7nPY
til next time…..
KJJ, April 2015