As expected with the associations guitarist Jo Henning Kaasin has [see bio below], this has a definite Deep Purple / Rainbow influence. The lead off track “We Are One” is pretty close to Rainbow’s “Spotlight Kid”, with that opening riff, and fast tempo; good song, very familiar. Elsewhere it’s a good set of guitar rockers, and strong vocals from Jan Thore Grefstad [who’s recorded albums with Highland Glory and Saint Daemon]. He suits this Purple/Rainbow direction quite well. Love the variety of tunes here, from the heavy epic “Revelation” [pretty cool organ in there too], to more ’80s type rockers like “Chain Of Love” and “Carry On”, to the album’s lone acoustic ballad “Shades Of Yesterday”, possibly the best cut here [great guitar break and vocal].
Debut album from hardrock band KAASIN. KAASIN was founded by guitarist, Jo Henning Kaasin, who, in the past has collaborated with with Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple/Black Sabbath), Doogie White (Rainbow/Michael Schenker), and Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake), Kaasin was a founding member, guitarist and songwriter with Come Taste The Band, who began as a Deep Purple tribute band, and released their lone album of original material in 2019, which featured guest appearances from JL Turner and Doogie White. CTTB was put on ice in January 2020 and JH Kaasin, then went on to form his own band, simply called KAASIN. He recruited his cousin, Staale Kaasin from Spider and 2020 Vision, to handle bass. The band also features the Norwegian singer, Jan Thore Grefstad, known for his incredible vocal duties with SAINT Deamon, Highland Glory and TNT. KAASIN also includes Benjamin Dehli on Hammond organ/analog synth and Chris Brush on drums.
KAASIN released two singles “Runaway Train” and “Revelation” on Streampeak Music in 2020. Both have been a great success, streaming in thousands on Spotify, Youtube, iTunes, and other download/streaming services. “Runaway Train” also went Top 10 on rock radio stations in France, the UK, Sweden and Norway. KAASIN released a third single, “Hidden” on Pride & Joy Music in July 2021, (i.e.the first single from the upcoming album, Fired Up).
The CD version of this release contains last year’s two digital singles, “Runaway Train” and “Revelation” as bonus tracks. KAASIN – Melodic hardrock in the tradition of the great bands from the seventies and early eighties.
Track list: 1. We Are One, 2. Hidden, 3. The Smoking Gun, 4. Carry On, 5. Shades Of Yesterday, 6. Walking Downwards, 7. Chain Of Love, 8. Wrong, 9. Inside Out, 10. Revelation (CD bonus track), 11. Runaway Train (CD bonus track)
Recorded and engineered in JUKE JOINT STUDIO, Notodden – Norway and at DEHLI MUSIKK, Bø in Telemark. Produced by Benjamin Dehli, Halvor Halvorsen & KAASIN
Much like Ken Ingwersen’s latest album The Future Looks Bright, Barnabas Sky is a project put together by a guitarist / songwriter, and assembled with an outstanding cast of great singers for each track, from bands Markus Pfeffer admired [hence the title]. A solid collection of heavy rockers and a few lighter melodic numbers. Great hefty sounding guitars, and lots of good songs. Really liking the opener “Legends Rise” and “Say Goodbye To Darker Days” [both featuring Danny Vaughn of Tyketto], as well as the heavy riff rockers “Yesterday’s Gone” [featuring Bob Rock of Impellitteri], and “Youngblood” [w/ Jesse Damon of Silent Rage]. Love the sound and production of this album; nice big guitar sound, well placed keyboards where needed. And pretty cool songs, which I’m looking forward to hearing more of.
The new all-star hard & heavy project BARNABAS SKY comes from the mind of guitarist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Markus Pfeffer (Lazarus Dream, Winterland, ex-Scarlett) from Kaiserslautern/Germany. The debut album full of catchy hooklines, edgy-groovy rocking guitar riffs and filigree guitar solos is titled “Inspirations” for a certain reason: Pfeffer was able to hire singers from internationally known bands for it, which had influenced him significantly during his musical beginnings: Jesse Damon (SILENT RAGE), Steve Grimmett (GRIM REAPER/LIONSHEART), Danny Martinez Jr. (GUILD OF AGES), Rob Rock (IMPELLITTERI/AXEL RUDI PELL), Zak Stevens (SAVATAGE) and Danny Vaughn (TYKETTO) do the lead vocals on the album.
TYKETTO’s “Don’t Come Easy” was one of the first CDs Markus Pfeffer listened to on an endless loop as a schoolboy in 1991. Three decades later, he composes two songs together with TYKETTO’s golden throat Danny Vaughn, the appropriately titled epic opener “Legends Rise” and “Say Farewell To Darker Days” with elaborate vocal arrangements and poignant lyrics.
SAVATAGE singer Zak Stevens contributed lyrics about the psychological effects of the pandemic for the heavy stomping track “What Lies Beneath”, which is underpinned with down-tuned guitar riffs and subtle orchestral arrangements, and he sings about a legendary figure of Russian folklore in the form of a bird with a woman’s head on “The Alkonost”.
GUILD OF AGES frontman Danny Martinez Jr. from Denver/Colorado dominates the melodic hard rock songs “Breathe Again” and “In My Mind” with his very own timbre and velvety voice. The latter is the album’s first video track with a more than hooky guitar riff and lyrics about the increasingly important attention to mental health.
SILENT RAGE’s smoky-throated frontman Jesse Damon carries the epic ballad “Till The End Of Time” and the rocker “Youngblood”, with AOR legend PAUL SABU contributing backing vocals for both tracks. Nostalgia fact on the side: Interestingly, the Hollywood classic movie “The Thief of Bagdad” starring Sabus’s father was Markus Pfeffer’s favourite film during his childhood. Damon recorded his vocals in North Hollywood at the studio of Bill Metoyer (FATES WARNING, ARMORED SAINT etc.).
Melodic metal siren Rob Rock (AXEL RUDI PELL, IMPELLITTERI, M.A.R.S. etc.) takes over the mic on the riff monster “Yesterday’s Gone” and GRIM REAPER’s Steve Grimmett’s unmistakable voice convinces on the straight rocker “Never Enough”.
As a tribute, Pfeffer has adapted the title tune of the seventies TV series “Timm Thaler” in a “GARY MOORE way” and provided it with deliberate sonic and stylistic reminiscences of Moore’s classic “The Loner”.
Musical guests on the album are keyboardist Thomas Nitschke and pianist Michael Weickenmeyer, drummer/percussionist Thomas Rieder and bassist Bernd Schreiber. The album’s artwork was designed by well-known French artist Stan W. Decker (RAGE, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, MASTERPLAN) and mastering was done at Rolf Munkes’ (CREMATORY) Empire studios in Bensheim, Hessia.
The names of the contributors speak for themselves – there can hardly be more arguments to lend BARNABAS SKY’s debut album an attentive ear.
Tracklist: 1. Legends Rise, 2. What Lies Beneath, 3. In My Mind, 4. Yesterday’s Gone, 5. Till The End Of Time, 6. Say Farewell To Darker Days, 7. Breathe Again, 8. The Alkonost, 9. Timm’s Theme, 10. Youngblood, 11. Never Enough, 12. Till The End Of Time (Piano Version)
Canada’s A FOOT IN COLDWATER released 4 albums in the ’70s, had a couple of hit singles here, then split after the 4th, but reunited on a few occasions. The Toronto band included Alex Machin [lead vocals], Hughie Leggat [bass], Bob Horne [keyboards], Danny Taylor[drums], and Paul Naumann [guitars]. The band’s first 2 albums were released in Canada on Daffodill Records, though the debut was also issued in Australia and New Zealand. But it was the band’s 3rd album All Around Us in 1974 that finally saw the band signed to Elektra Records and get released in the US and the UK. The album included 5 tracks taken from the band’s first 2 albums (notably the hits “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” and “(Isn’t Love Unkind) In My Life”) , as well as new songs. Legendary British producer John Anthony (Queen, Van Der Graaf Generator, Genesis, Roxy Music…) was brought in to co-produce (along with Francis W.H. Davies;, also co-engineering was Mike Stone), with the album being recorded in Toronto and London [UK], and American artist John Van Hamersveld was tasked with the album’s cover art. The logo featured on the cover would be re-used elsewhere on CD compilations and concert shirts (I picked up 1 of each when I saw the band in 2011). *The album cover in Canada would be silver, while the US version would be white with the added ‘Or’ to the title.
Below is John’s words about the about cover for All Around Us, as well as info on his career before and after….
John Van Hamersveld’s background …
In 1967-68 I was a rock concert promotor for my company called Pinnacle Production, putting concerts on for a year. My partners and I booked and heard 43 bands twin a night on a Ltexlancing sound system. I was losing my hearing in the process. (Pinnacle Dance Concerts, which was founded in 1967 by Sepp Donahower, Marc Chase and John Van Hamersveld. Pinnacle promoted the early shows of the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Traffic, Cream, The Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart and Pink Floyd. The Single Wing Turquoise Bird Light Show did many of the multimedia light shows at the Pinnacle Concerts.) … I was in the business for 17 years 1967 to 1984, and when the business went digital, I left the industry to work in Surf Subculture, and the re-entry of The Endless Summer Poster into the culture in the 80s.
On getting A Foot In Coldwater assignment…
Elektra Records had their office up the alley from Willoughby street where my studio was at the corner of Las Cienega Boulevard. There was the art director Glenn Christensen who was given 30 to 40 album cover projects to design every 90 days. He had to pick photographs and designs to get the order together. So he called me and gave me the Foot In Coldwater LP cover. (Glenn Christensen: US art director, graphic designer & photographer for Buddah Records, Elektra/Asylum Records, and 20th Century Fox Records. Glenn Christensen may have made the photograph, the photographer not credited)
Glen gave me the album cover because the group’s manager by contract didn’t with the art director doing the cover and campaign, the manager wanted control.
Familiar with or meet the band beforehand?
The politics of the company people at Elektra Records was the art director to guide the will. I don’t think Glenn introduced me.
Creating the band’s logo for the cover….
I presented the idea of a logo as the cover like a lot of bands used in the promotes. The title words were weak. So I thought a logo-like image would be more dominant in the Record Store, and they would hang the promotional logo around the store.
The wings: meaning… High Flying. Arranging the title words was being abstract in typography. The logo would be the visual trick for the promotion, visually simple, could be on the drum kit, ads, t’shirt, etc. The group didn’t photograph well, no style! They needed style, so the logo became the style.
All that JVH did on All Around Us…
Created the design of the front and back.
The most famous album cover worked on.
Exile On Main Street, by The Rolling Stones!
Other famous and favorite ones John worked on…
The Endless Summer soundtrack album from the movie 1965. The Beatles, MMT album 1967, The Jefferson Airplane, Crown of Creation 1968, Bob Dylan’s, soundtrack album Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid 1972, The Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of the Grateful Dead 1974, Steve Miller’s The Joker 1976, and Fly Like an Eagle 1978, Blondie’s Eat to the Beat 1979, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell 1974, The Doors, American Prayer, Jim Morrison’s Poetry album 1978. Claudia Lennear album cover Phew !, 1973 … to name a few.
Other art John has done over the years, and places people can view his work…
The new Magnum album will be titled The Monster Roars, and will be to be released January 14 of next year. The single “I Won’t Let You Down” will be released (+video) on November 12 (less than a month away). And a tour will begin in March of 2022.
Fans of British rock band Magnum will have to wait just a little longer before they finally get their hands on the much-anticipated new studio album. Titled ‘THE MONSTER ROARS’ it will be released January 14, 2022.
But there will be new music from the band this year: guitarist Tony Clarkin, singer Bob Catley and their comrades in arms Rick Benton (keyboards), Dennis Ward (bass) and Lee Morris (drums) have already announced a couple of singles: With the forthcoming ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ (including lyric video), out on November 12, 2021, Magnum present a typically deep melodic mid tempo song featuring a memorable chorus with stylish string accompaniment for added lustre. This will be followed five weeks later, on December 17, 2021, by a second pre-release track, ‘No Steppin’ Stones’, also including a lyric video.
‘THE MONSTER ROARS’ features twelve new songs in total, with a few little surprises thrown in! On top of the regular disc, Magnum are releasing a limited box set with three extra bonus tracks, including a new version of ‘Days Of No Trust’, the opener of the 1988 album classic ‘Wings Of Heaven’, a new remastered version of ‘Sweets For My Sweet’, the very first single of their career from 1975, and a previously unreleased track from the same era. And from March 2022, the band will finally be returning to Europe for a major tour (see below for dates).
Tracklisting: 1. The Monster Roars 3:57 / 2. Remember 5:05 / 3. All You Believe In 5:01 / 4. I Won’t Let You Down 3:57 / 5. The Present Not The Past 5:27 / 6. No Steppin’ Stones 3:57 / 7. That Freedom Word 4:52 / 8. Your Blood Is Violence 6:44 / 9. Walk The Silent Hours 4:51 / 10. The Day After The Night Before 4:23 / 11. Come Holy Men 5:01 / 12. Can’t Buy Yourself Heaven 5:00 “The Monster Roars” will be released on January 14th, 2022 through SPV/ Steamhammer in the following configurations:
Regarding the album’s cover art and title, which generated plenty of fan discussion online, Tony Clarkin posted –
“We actually did have a conversation with Rodney regarding the cover, and an exchange of ideas. Following this we set up a photoshoot that was originally intended to become a part of his artwork. Shortly after this Rodney called me very apologetic that he didn’t think he’d have time to do the cover as he was too busy with a children’s animation project he is doing ‘Yendor’ http://yendorsadventures.com/. But we loved the end result of the photoshoot so much we had decided to use it as the cover on its own instead, with no embellishment. We thought it was much more powerful that way. Plus we didn’t want to end up with some sort of poor imitation of Rodney’s work but rather go with something completely different instead. The monster is inspired by the lyrics of the title track and is a creature from a child’s nightmare. The monster was created by Kelly O’Dell, played by Martin Brennan and photographed by Rob Barrow. Rodney wants fans to know that he wishes the band all the best with ‘The Monster Roars’ and looks forward to working with them again in the future. In the meantime Magnum fans might like to know that Rodney’s 2022 calendar, featuring a couple of familiar images (Foundation box set cover and Magnum II), is now available to pre-order at: https://www.rodneymatthewsstudios.com/collections/calendars
Nestor is a new [old] band from Sweden, who’s 3 videos from their debut album have amassed over a million views. Well….actually, they are old band, but have returned decades later with their first album. The band music is a return to the ’80s in sound and image, and their album (see my review elsewhere on this site) is full of great ’80s hard-rock. If you were a fan of aor/HR in the ’80s and Kids In A Ghost Town had come out in the mid ’80s – you’d likely already own it! Here is an interview with Tobias Gustavsson of the band detailing their return in 2021, and their exciting debut album. *Check out the links below.
Can you give me a bit of background on the band — you guys existed briefly and released a few singles!? What do you recall of those songs, and why/when did the band split back then?
Yeah, Nestor was founded back in 1989, we all grew up in a small town together in Sweden, found each other through music and started playing together. We released a couple of EPs up til ‘95. The first EP was all over the place genre wise. We mixed all kinds of influences, everything from U2 to Europe for example, but it’s hard to hear because it really sounds like crap. The second EP was a bit more unified, with influences like Queensrüche and Dream Theater, I’ll have a listen to that second EP from time to time and I’m quite proud of it still. We never really split up; we just went on a looong pause… haha!
Is there a bit more you guys can mention about your past in music, be it recordings you’ve been a part of (as musicians or producers)? Tobias, can you mention a bit about your success as a producer [assuming this is your site – http://www.25media.net/tobiasgustavsson/ ?]
Yep, that’s me. All of us kind of worked with music in one way or another, played in different constellations and bands, but I (Tobias) went on to become a songwriter and producer and had a couple of projects, among them a duo called Itchycoo, and later a band called Straight Frank (that our guitar player Jonny was a part of too). I also wrote for other artists and made some pretty successful songs here and there through the years. I’ve kept on working with music in some form or another through all the years.
Sweden (as well as Norway) has a lot of great musicians & bands in the hard-rock, AOR, metal genre. Why do you think that is? And any favorite (or recommended) artists or albums from your country?
That’s a tricky question, right off the bat I think that the long winter has an impact when it comes to great musicians and bands (there is nothing else to do other than being in band or in a sports team). Also, success breeds more success probably, so thanks to ABBA and Roxette and all the other greats the tradition sort of goes on and inspires new Swedes to succeed maybe.
Some favorite bands from Sweden right now – Niki and the Dove (80’s pop with contemporary influences) and Ludwig Hart (sound like a mix of Tom Petty and Springsteen with a touch of Aha which is a great band as well by the way). Another band in our own genre worth mentioning are H.E.A.T that we’re joining in February on their Scandinavian tour! That’s gonna be fun!
It was the time during the pandemic that brought you guys back to record a full album, correct? Or was it merely one song that led to another and so on?
I would love to say that we had this master plan from the start, but the truth is a bit of both – one song led to the other and then the vision became clear; “to make the album now that we didn’t have the skills or possibility to make back in ’89.”
What did you do to get in that head space of writing so many great 80s type rock songs during the making of this album — did you guys go back and listen to a lot of stuff from that era?
Yes, we did, we listened to a lot of music from that era but also read magazines and watched a lot of movies etc to get the vibe to get back to that feeling from that time in our lives.
The videos have been well planned, very detailed, and humorous. What sort of inspired those type of clips, seeing as MTV went out decades ago, and not many bands put in such effort these days?
The inspiration was plain and simple 80s metal videos – they always had a story back then. Personally, I always liked the fact that music is entertainment and that kind of got lost somewhere in the mid 90s. We have a saying in Nestor that our mission is “to protect the legacy and re-invent the iconography of rock”.
Can you touch briefly on some of the songs, as far as musical or lyrical inspirations? On The Run, Perfect 10, Firesign, Kids In A Ghost Town…. etc. Are many of the songs written from personal experience?
All of them are personal, the songs are about being a kid with big ambitions in a small town! The song Perfect 10 is a description of my boy room mixed with my first real crush, Johanna. “Darryl Hannah wouldn’t stand a chance – next to her she’s just a cheap romance” hahaha!
Can you tell me a bit about the song “Tomorrow”, and how you ended up getting Samantha Fox to guest on it?
When I wrote the song, I immediately felt that it was written as a duet. Thinking about the perfect duet partners (once again, going through the posters on my wall back in ‘87) Sam popped up and I can’t think of any other singer/artist that sets the tone of the 80s and represents that era better than her.
I contacted her management and asked if she would be interested in participating on the song. She heard the song and loved it, and the rest is history in the making! We also got her to appear in the music video which turned out really great.
Will there be any more video singles from the album? Any you’d like to do?
We’d like to make videos for all the songs on the album but unfortunately, they aren’t cheap… Hopefully there will be more. Stay tuned!
You also co-wrote a number of songs with Andreas Carlsson, who has had credits on some pretty big albums. How did you guys wind up working with him, and what did he contribute to? [songs]
I knew Andreas from before as we’ve worked on some projects together. We wrote the lyrics together for Perfect 10 (Eyes like Demi Moore) and These Days. Andreas wrote the lyrics to Stone Cold Eyes on his own.
Can you guys (each) give me a few lists (5-10) of favorite albums and bands from the ’80s or that you grew up with (the 70s??)
Tobias: Kiss – Animalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights / Van Halen – 5150 / Europe – Out of This World, Prisoners in Paradise/ Bon Jovi – New Jersey / Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime / Giant – Last of The Runaways / Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry / Bryan Adams – Waking Up the Neighbours / Def Leppard – Hysteria / Motley Crüe – Theatre of Pain
Martin: Helloween – Keeper of The Seven Keys Part 1 / Giant – Last of The Runaways / Kiss – Crazy Nights / Magnum – On A Storyteller’s Night / Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime
Marcus: Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime / Kings X – Out of The Silent Planet / Toto – IV / Judas Priest – Defenders of The Faith / Accept – Metal Heart
Mattias: Rush – All The World’s A Stage / Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime / Deep Purple – Machine Head / U2 – War / Van Halen – Van Halen
Jonny: Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance / Gary Moore – Wild Frontier / Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin / Kiss – Animalize / Yngwie Malmsteen – Odyssey
I’ve always been a mid-range fan of Yes – love the early stuff, but for me (except for 90125) their post-80s reunion stuff has been hit and miss. The band’s latest single “Future Memories” really got me interested again. A great song, and the previous 2 singles from the new album The Quest are pretty decent too! Anyway, this got me wanting to pull out previous albums I hadn’t listened to in a long time. I have listened to The Ladder, because I always liked that album, but before and after – meh… So I pulled out Fly From Here, and took it in the car. It’s an album I got when it came out, and never gave much of a chance. As I’ve said before, I’ve wondered over the years if I’m buying Yes albums more so for the stunning Roger Dean artwork! Anyway, Fly From Here was released in 2011, the band’s first after Magnification, and the first to feature new singer (Canadian) Benoit David. It was based on on a song penned by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes prior to their joining Yes, and a 2nd part after leaving Yes. Here the song Fly From Here part of a 6 part 24+ minute piece that is superb. Most of it is credited to Horn & Downes, aside from the instrumental “Bumpy Ride”, from Howe. Horn had been brought in to produce the album and Downes was brought back, replacing Oliver Wakeman (though Wakerman is credited on a few parts).
Beyond the title tracks, there is some really good stuff, such as a Howe’s (co-penned with Johnson & Sessler) “The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be”; love the vocals from the late Chris Squire here, a classic Yes type tune. I always like the Horn/Downes “Life On A Film Set” and Howe’s “Hour Of Need”. Overall a very good album. I liked Benoit David’s vocals on this, was never a huge fan of John Anderson’s, though he was the voice of Yes. Benoit David would soon contract an illness after the album’s release and was replaced by Jon Davison (who’s the singer still). In 2018 the band would re-release Fly From Here – Round Trip, which would be remixed, with added guitar & keyboards, and more so Trevor Horn re-doing the lead vocals — making it the 2nd album with the 1980’s Drama line-up. This I’ve still to get. But the original version of Fly From Here with Benoit David sounds very good to me, better than Magnification and a few other post 90215 albums.
I’ve picked up almost every Yes album over the years, and since the ’80s I often wondered if I was picking up Yes albums more so for the Roger Dean artwork than the music, which (for me) didn’t always grab me from album to album. The first 2 singles from The Quest I enjoyed, and the new video/single for the ballad “Future Memories” is the most likeable and memorable Yes song in decades. Jon Davison, who joined the band in 2012, penned the song and delivers a fantastic vocal, with such a great melody. The video itself appears to be a tribute to the band’s collaboration with Roger Dean over the past 50 years, as it features images of the album covers he’s done for the band, flowing along with band member pics, colors, and ongoing paint strokes.
15th October 2021: YES, who are Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison and Billy Sherwood, recently released their new studio album The Quest on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music The album was produced by Steve Howe. “Much of the music was written in late 2019 with the rest in 2020. We commissioned several orchestrations to augment and enhance the overall sound of these fresh new recordings, hoping that our emphasis on melody, coupled with some expansive instrumental solo breaks, keeps up the momentum for our listeners,” said Steve.
Today the band are please to reveal a video for the track ‘Future Memories’, watch it now here:
‘The Quest’ also sees its physical release in North America, as of today. Pick up your copy here: https://yes-band.lnk.to/TheQuest The album has also been hitting charts worldwide, find a selection of them below: #7 German Album Charts, #20 UK Album Charts, #1 UK Rock Album Charts, #5 Swiss Album Charts, #8 Japanese International Weekly Charts, #23 French Physical Album Charts, #37 Belgian National Album Charts, #54 Dutch Album Charts, #60 Italian Album Charts.
Previous video singles from The Quest include “Dare To Know” and “The Ice Bridge”
The Quest was recorded across the globe, The sessions took place in the UK with Steve Howe, Geoff Downes & Jon Davison, while Alan White & Billy Sherwood got together in the studio in the US. “Billy Sherwood and myself did all the rhythm sections, bass and drum, in America,” says Alan White, “down in Los Angeles at Uncle Studios, where he works a lot. It helps when you’ve got a good place to work,” Alan laughs, “and Billy’s really good on the recording desk, so we got things down relatively quickly. I spent quite a while studying the music before I went down to LA so I was prepared.”
The Quest is also now available for pre-order on various formats, including a Limited Deluxe Box-Set that features a Gatefold 180g 2LP on exclusive colored vinyl, 2CD+Blu-ray Digipak (featuring 5.1 mix & backing tracks), 36-page perfect bound booklet, enamel pin badge, 60x90cm poster, slipmat & hand-numbered certificate of authenticity, all housed in a rigid lift-off box.
Containing 11 songs, 8 on the main CD with 3 extra tracks on a bonus CD, The Quest will also be available as Limited 2CD+Blu-ray Artbook, 2CD Digipak, Gatefold 2LP+2CD & as Digital Album. Order now here: https://yes-band.lnk.to/TheQuest
CD1: 01. The Ice Bridge 7.01, 02. Dare To Know 6.00, 03. Minus The Man 5.35, 04. Leave Well Alone 8.06, 05. The Western Edge 4.26, 06. Future Memories 5.08, 07. Music To My Ears 4.41, 08. A Living Island 6.52 CD2: 01. Sister Sleeping Soul 4.51, 02. Mystery Tour 3.33, 03. Damaged World 5.20
Formats are: Limited Edition Deluxe 2LP & 2CD plus Blu-ray Box-set, Limited Edition 2CD & Blu-ray Artbook, Gatefold 2LP & 2CD plus LP-booklet, 2CD DigipakDigital Album.
The current line-up of YES was completed in 2015 when Billy Sherwood replaced founder member Chris Squire, at Squire’s insistence, as he bravely fought a losing battle with leukemia. Since then, YES have concentrated on touring with their Album Series tours, each featuring a classic YES album in its entirety. During this period YES have released three live albums Topographic Drama – Live Across America (2017), Yes Live 50 (2019) and The Royal Affair Tour: Live in Las Vegas (2020)
John Sloman is firmly established as one of the ‘voices of rock’. Famed for his octave straddling voice, John has performed with Gary Moore, Uriah Heep, Lone Star and UFO, among many others, and he is to release a new album titled ‘Two Rivers’. Two Rivers will be preceded by a 2 track digital single on Red Steel on October 29th 2021.
Lifted from his magnificently strange and exquisite album Two Rivers the single is called “This River Is A Time Machine”. This digital-only 2 track single is backed with an alternate take “This River – The Instrumental”, as the ‘B-side which is not included on the forthcoming album.
The album is described as – “having traces of a major stage production with elements of acoustic Zeppelin evident along with several other references. Even Zapperesque at times.”
John is also working on a retrospective collection with tracks drawn from his deep well of solo albums titled ‘Conspectus’. Furthermore, there is a full series of back catalogue remasters for release in 2022 as well as more new material to follow…
The album’s cover-art is based on a photo by Jeff Moh then painted by Callum Fernandes-Clarke, all put together with Callum and John.
With the release of 2 ASIA box sets in 2021, I’d thought I’d tidy up and re-share these interviews I did years ago – one with John Wetton  and one with Geoff Downes . Earlier this year BMG released The Reunion Albums slipbox [5CDs], and next month will release The Official Live Bootlegs : Volume 1. Next March marks the 40th Anniversary of the band’s debut album, let’s hope there’s something special being planned for release. RIP John.
ASIA Rises Again With Phoenix
This interview was done via email in 2008, following the release of Asia’s first comeback album Phoenix. For whatever reason, it did not all appear as I’d written it, so here is the complete thing. I’d originally sent questions for John Wetton and Geoff Downes, but only ever heard back from John.
What was the catalyst and, I guess – major reason or criteria for the original line-up of Asia to reunite? And was it with the understanding that it would have to be a long term commitment [w/ new recordings] – as opposed to just a one-off tour?
It really started with ‘Rock of faith’, a solo album from 2002,where Geoff and I wrote a song “I’ve come to take you home”, for the first time in many years. From that came the Icon project, and so on to Asia.
Over the years the reunion rumor had come up several times. How much had you guys kept in touch or had you sort of kept ‘tabs’ on each other over the years? AND, How well did the initial reunion shows go? Did they meet or exceed expectations? What have been some of the highlight concerts in the past 2 years?
Extremely well, and by the time we were halfway thru out 17-date US tour, we had an offer for Japan, and the UK.
On Phoenix John & Geoff resume as the band’s main songwriters. How easy was it to pick up your songwriting partnership after so many years?
As I explained in the first question, the ice had been broken, and we were used to working again with each other. The spark was still there.
With John & Geoff doing most of the writing, how is an Asia song [well, on Phoenix and the next album] generally put together? And what sort of input do Carl and Steve have?
Carl is not really a writer, and Steve tends to write on his own, but Geoff and myself enjoy the process of writing as a partnership.
How was the atmosphere and feeling – being together as the original Asia band again in the studio and on stage?
Much better than the first time around! We enjoyed ourselves, and banished some ghosts from the proceedings.
Phoenix is a great album, but it was more of a ‘grower’ from me because “Never Again” is such a powerful lead off rock track, but then the album really varies and includes more acoustic and softer songs. Did you guys have any idea what you wanted the album to sound like – or be a heavier or lighter album?
We just wanted it to be a representation of us 25 years on from our first outing. there are nods to our past, but the music is exactly what you get when you put those 4 musicians back on stage or in a studio. My one regret is that we didn’t have Mike Stone around to complete the circle, but that was not possible, as Mike is sadly no longer with us.
Never Again is a very uplifting and memorable song. Can you tell me what inspired that one musically and lyrically?
It’s virtually the Ten commandments. About never wanting to be judgmental, murderous or have evil intent. It’s musically quite hard-hitting. With the guitar intro, and powerful chorus, it is reminiscent of ‘Heat of the Moment’, but it was not intentionally so, and I think that is ok. ‘Parallel Worlds / Vortex / Deya’ is quite a melodic – progressive centerpiece to the album. Was this originally written as one song or separate pieces? Can you tell me how this song developed in to such an epic?
Yes,they all come from different periods. Deya was written in 1976,in Deya, Mallorca, Spain. Parallel Worlds was written in the Seneca Hotel, Niagara Falls, and was originally titled, ‘Sitting on top of the World’. Geoff wrote ‘Vortex’ quite recently.
How have the new songs been received live? Does there seem to be any fan favorites or faves that you guys enjoy performing?
Yes,’Never Again’, and ‘An Extraordinary Life’ go down very well in the live set.
Geoff and John are currently working on a new Icon album. How is that going? And is there any separation between Icon and Asia songs when writing? [I mean, any difference in what you’re writing or intending the songs for?]
We’re quite a long way into the record now, on overdubs – vocals, keyboards, etc. Should be finished by December sometime.
You’re also going on tour as Icon. How are these shows? Any different approaches to an Icon performance?
Yes, it’s very different from Asia. We have a cello (Hugh McDowell), and will have a female vocalist (Icon has duets).
When might we see another Asia studio album? Do you guys have any definite or tentative plans?
No plans as yet, but why not? We waited over 20 years for Phoenix, we don’t need to put out 2 records in 12 months.
As the original Asia was a fairly short-lived, straight to the top band in the early 80s. Do you guys feel you have something to prove to critics since reuniting?
Only to ourselves, and on a personal level, not musical.
Any solo albums in the future?
Yes, 2009 should see another solo record.
You were friends with David Byron for years; have you had a chance to check out the new Byron Band release from Damage Control Music [Robin George]?? Any contact with Ken Hensley or other Heep alumni since your own comeback?
I still have contact with Kenny, and Mick from the band. I was unaware of the Byron action.
You and Carl both had serious health issues in the past 2 years. How has that affected your drive and desire to create new stuff? And are you guys in to some new routines brought about by these health issues?
Only as far as exercise and diet, we still have the desire to play, and to create.
KJ, July 2012
ASIA – new album XXX
XXX had received rave reviews, many hailing it as the best since that first album. Geoff Downes is the band’s keyboard player and major songwriter – having contributed to such classic Asia songs as “Heat of The Moment”, “Only Time Will Tell”, “Don’t Cry” and numerous others [along with John Wetton]. Prior to Asia, Geoff had been part of “The Buggles”, before joining Yes for the Drama LP in 1980, a band he rejoined in 2011. In this interview Geoff discusses Asia’s ‘new’ reunion era, as well as the album XXX, as well as reflects on the band’s historic debut album.
What are the challenges and rewards this time around with the line-up of Asia? [What makes things easier and more rewarding, and what has changed that you need to work harder or differently at?].
Whenever we make a new album, it’s always a challenge. Not only to write the material, but also make sure we can do it justice in the live setting. The reward is knowing we have new music to play to people, not just relying on the early ‘classic’ material. Simply, nothing has really changed since we began the band. The main suspects are all still there – alive and well, thankfully!
First, just wanted to ask you – what have been some of the highlights since the band returned in 2006?
It’s been interesting to say the least. We all went into it not really with any great expectations or plans for the future. It seemed a nice path to take for all of us at the time and since then it’s been hugely enjoyable. That’s one of the main reasons that it’s still a going concern today.
Can you tell me a bit about some of tracks from ‘Phoenix” and “Omega”, such as “Never Again”, “An Extraordinary Life”, “I Believe” and “Finger On The Trigger”? [these being my favorites. Curious if you’d have any particular faves?] “Finger On The Trigger” was first recorded with John Wetton, but re-worked for “Omega”. Curious if there’s other tracks from “XXX” that may have been around for a while?
We wrote most of the material for these albums in dedicated writing periods before the start of the albums. Actually, with the exception of FOTT which had already recorded on the ICON CD Rubicon by John and myself. I think the record label saw it as being appropriate as an ASIA song. NA & AEL all written specifically with ASIA in mind. No actual full songs remain from these albums, but there are some interesting unused snippets of ideas.
You stuck with Mike Paxman as producer again, as opposed to producing yourselves. How was Mike to work with?
Mike did a great job with Omega, and provided us with a comfortable and relaxed environment in the studio. We felt he kept a very good balance between all the band members not only musically but also personally. We got to know him as a friend too, and so we had no hesitation in asking him back to help us make the XXX album.
The songs on XXX are mainly written by yourself and John Wetton. How did that work out, as [going back to the first album] – there was more band credits? [Might we hear more from Steve and Carl in the future?]
Certainly, historically a fair percentage of the band compositions have emanated from John and me. That’s not to say that that diminishes Steve’s contributions. Actually, Steve has 3 co-writes on this XXX, which is the same as he contributed on ASIA. But yeah, a full group composition might be interesting for the next album!
What is the ‘process’ of yourself and John writing together? Do either of you tend to come up with more of the words, or more of the melodies, etc… ?
The music is usually jointly collated. It’s quite rare that any of our songs end up as being the whole of one our individual ideas. I think that’s the beauty of it and why it works so well, is, that weave together two of our ideas and come up with – well, something different. John does most of the lyrics, but I’ll throw in the odd title or line here and there. I think it’s important for John that HE believes in what he’s singing about.
Can you give me a few lines on your Asia bandmates? [Having worked them 30 years ago, and currently, and what’s changed in the way you all get along and work together]
The thing with this band is that we are all very different personalities. In the early days, this could at times cause conflict, or conversely work in a very positive fashion. Since we got back together we have focused collectively on the latter. There’s a very strong level of respect between the four of us, and the chemistry is still there. That’s what’s important.
The new album seems [IMO] a bit more upbeat/rockier. I love “tomorrow The World” [and that intro], “Face On The Bridge”, Bury Me In Willow”, “Judas” … Can you give me a few lines about some of the songs – as to what inspired them or how they came about, lyrics, etc…?
We wanted to give the fans something a bit more upbeat this time. That’s not to say our previous albums have any less substance. It’s sometimes just how they turn out in terms of balance, but it’s not possible to second-guess this when you embark on a new album such as XXX. The songs are based on hope and inspiration. They are more spiritual without being religious. But bottom line is, it’s better to listen to music than talk about it to be honest.
I enjoyed “Phoenix” and “Omega”, but think this album is stronger all around. How happy are you guys with its outcome and how it stands up with previous Asia albums?
Honestly, we think it ranks up there with some of our best historical work. Having said that, some people will get more out of one album than another, so it’s all a matter of choice and personal taste really. I think we’re more proud of the fact that, we’re still here making fresh and inspiring new music 30 years on. That’s more than quite a lot of bands could say these days!
You’ve also done 2 videos for this album [Face On the Bridge and Faithful]. Might there be any further videos to promote any other tracks?
No, that’s it. Two’s enough!
You guys obviously have a lot of material to choose from for a live set. Curious how much of the new album will be featured, and what ‘staples’ are there from the previous 2 albums?
The set will be made up of all the ASIA albums that have featured the four original members. Of course there will be some of the signature songs from the first two 80’s albums, but we will also be incorporating material from the last three.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the debut album. Reflecting back, what are your fondest memories of that period and what can fans expect [aside from the CD re-issue] to commemorate its release? Any chance there’ll be a live performance of that complete album?
There are many great memories to savour when that 1st album really took off, too many to mention. We had worked long and hard on that for a year prior to its release, so our efforts were thoroughly rewarded. It was an exciting time for us. So it might be appropriate to turn the clock back and play the whole of that album again, like we did on the first tour. But there again, a show is all about balance, and it’s important for us to feature the newer music as well.
Beyond Asia, what else are you working on these days? Any Yes projects, solo outings, … ?
Well yeah, aside from recording the new ASIA CD, I’ve been involved with a number of projects over the last year or two. Specifically, my return to YES which has been a real privilege, and great fun to be back involved with those guys again. But also, I’ve been working with singer/songwriter Chris Braide on an album, as well as a whole host of other projects, so it’s very busy times for me right now!
Loud ‘n’ Proud is the title of Martin Popoff’s brand new book. It’s a visual history of the band, much like some of his previous ones in this series – Uriah Heep, Thin Lizzy, BOC…. below is the press info / details from Martin.
Nazareth: A Visual Biography is my weighty 1.65 kg, 8 ½” x 12” hardback coffee table book on Scottish hard rockers Nazareth. Easy PayPal buttons right here: http://www.martinpopoff.com/html/nazareth-a-visual-biography.html The chief mission is to celebrate the entire 50 years of the band’s hard-working career, utilizing my time-honored detailed timeline and quotes format. But that’s just the start. Besides the fully 52,000 words of academic timeline framing and commentary from the band in their own words, the book features fully 615 pictures, placed reverently upon sumptuous 100 lb. gloss paper. “Now you’re messin’…” Dunfermline, Scotland’s finest may not sound like much of a boast, but Nazareth made sure the world heard them howl, staking their claim first down in London but then conquering in sequence Canada, Germany, Russia and Brazil, all territories that remain huge Naz-lovers to this day.
Happy bassist Pete Agnew has been a constant throughout—running the ship in fact—but perhaps most notorious through the lineups that have flown this proud banner through the years has been vocalist Dan McCafferty, forced to the sidelines recently due to respiratory issues, much to the sorrow of millions of fans around the globe. But as Pete has said, “You don’t retire from this business—you do it until you die,” and so the band carries on, now with Carl Sentance singing up a storm, in front of a lineup of consummate songwriters and musicians that has been stable for an astonishing run of beloved recent albums. But it is of course the material from the glory years that keeps packing the venues.
Scotland wouldn’t be on the rock ‘n’ roll map without the likes of Razamanaz, Loud ‘n’ Proud, Hair of the Dog, Expect No Mercy and No Mean City going gold and platinum across more territories than most bands can find on a map, let alone having been there. And inside of those records… well, classic rock radio would be a sadder place without “Broken Down Angel,” “Bad Bad Boy,” “Woke Up This Morning,” “This Flight Tonight,” “Hair of the Dog,” “Miss Misery,” Love Hurts,” “Telegram,” “Hearts Grown Cold” and “Dream On” at the level of constant rotation they still enjoy today. So come join the celebration, as Martin Popoff takes us through 50 years of Naz, utilizing his trusty timeline technique, with illuminating quotes along the way. But that’s just the academic side: Loud ‘n’ Proud – 50 Years of Nazareth is all about the pictorial, from live shots to posters, 45 sleeves, magazine ads, backstage passes, ticket stubs and promo items. That’s all here, decade by decade, creating a sumptuous historical document that is a feast for the eyes, hopefully consumed with a jar or two at the ready .
Again, the link to order is: http://www.martinpopoff.com/html/nazareth-a-visual-biography.html Books will be signed by me to you unless you wave your arms wildly and tell me otherwise within like half an hour of ordering. Price including shipping (yes, it’s higher than usual, but this is now ordered in very low quantities): US orders, $75.00 US funds; Int’l orders (air mail), $99.00 US funds; Canadian orders, $88.00, Cdn. Funds. If you would like a PayPal invoice, please indicate what country you are in and give me the email address you use at PayPal. Or just do yer usual and direct funds to firstname.lastname@example.org . *Or mail payment (personal check in US funds, cash, or INTERNATIONAL money order), to: Martin Popoff, P.O. Box 65208, 358 Danforth Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4K 2Z2. Email email@example.com with any questions. Sweet postage savings to be had for multiple orders (or two of pretty much anything—long story, ask me!) for US orders.