A look at some classic live albums [part one]

Well, I started this out as a pile of reviews of some of my favorite Live albums, but find myself enjoying rifling throughout [and a few newer] live albums in my collection. There was a time when live albums were a bit more rarely released and held more meaning — such as they capped off a period for a band or captured a band on a special occasion… Now a-days live albums seem pretty regular for most bands, releasing them after almost every tour – or more than one per tour. Though there’s some great single live albums out there [and I’ve included a few here] – there is something special about those big double LP gatefold releases – and every great band of the ’70s has such a legendary album in their catalogue – Thin Lizzy, UFO, Uriah Heep, Humble Pie, Deep Purple …. well – except for Black Sabbath [with Ozzy] and Alice Cooper [the band!]. Anyway, more to come next time – as I have pulled a pile of these from the shelf to revisit, as well as I have a few new[er] great releases too.


Kiss – Alive
The first ‘used’ albums I ever bought were from a school friend’s older brother – he was kind enough to sell me his LP copies of a few early Sabbath albums and a couple of Kiss albums for a mere 50 cents  each! A great deal then [and still] for a grade 5’er, even if the guy had bothered to print his damn name on the front of each LP cover! For me tho, this was my first hearing of a band ‘live’, and it was an exciting experience! Kiss Alive was my first and easily still my fave Kiss live release [Alive 2 was ridiculous and I hardly played it even when i got it]. Something about the band’s material from the first 3 albums that makes that period their best for me, and the infusion of volume and a live crowd to a band that was young, energetic, eager to please and cool back then – was pretty spectacular! Alive was just a great set of guitar rock; sure Kiss lyrics were fairly lame even back then [they got worse after this period] – side one just packed with Kiss early classics like “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Got To Choose”, “Hotter Than Hell”, and “Firehouse”. Elsewhere, faves include “C’mon and Love Me”, “Black Diamond” [w/ Peter Criss singing], “Rock Bottom” [w/ that cool light intro] and “Cold Gin” [w/ Paul Stanley’s goofy story beforehand]. This album was highlighted by the single “Rock And Roll All Nite” – which became the band’s first hit — and one of those songs I just can’t stand!
Classic packaging courtesy of Fin Costello, who used a similar concept he’d done on Uriah Heep’s “Live …January 1973” release – with memorable photos [front and back], and a gatefold cover that includes a program featuring a pile more live band and individual photos [note the bandmember close ups signed, just as the Heep ones were].  This was Kiss at their peak, before they tried being a pop-rock band of cartoon characters on the next several albums. I should add i enjoyed Alive 3 in the ’90s, as well as the live Unplugged [reunion] release, but for me Kiss – up until Alive was the most magical for this band – no dolls, lunch boxes, comic books and stupid solo albums – just a solid and exciting guitar heavy rock band!


BOC – Some Enchanted Evening
The first Blue Oyster Cult album I ever bought, and heck I’m not even sure why[!?] – likely the cover-art combined with it being on display and sale at the local Sam The Record Man [and I knew “The Reaper”!].  Taken from various shows around the globe in 1978, Some Enchanted Evening was a mere single LP release [the band’s previous and next live releases would be doubles, but not sure of the reasoning behind this release!?],  w/ color photo’d sleeve. Some Enchanted Evening would be my introduction to this seemingly scary band with songs about death – “The Reaper”, monsters – “Godzilla”, and unknown  / other worlds – “Astronomy” and “ETI [Extra Terrestrial Intelligence”], 4 of the best known BOC classics – all here! and for the longest time – my favorite BOC songs [til I much later completed buying the band’s catalogue].  Side one kicks off with “R U Ready 2 Rock” [from Spectres] – turn up loud because this IS BOC at their best! The song comes off heavier, and rocks harder – Albert Bouchard kicks the shit out of it on drums.  A prime example of why BOC was never remotely the same after he [and brother Joe] left. ETI follows with that classic riff, and a cool vocal delivery from Eric Bloom, but it’s the performance of “Astronomy” here that really got me early on and remains my favorite BOC tune; delivered as more of a heavy bass / guitar track; it wasn’t for a long time that i realized this was in fact a piano based song originally – and both are pretty different but classic recordings. Side 2 opens with a huge rocking rendition of “Kick Out The Jams” and closes with a smooth cover of The Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, in between is “Godzilla” and the band’s biggest hit “[Don’t Fear] The Reaper” – all beefed up in guitar and sound, with strong backing vox. BOC :  Eric Bloom, Donald Roeser, Allen Lanier [RIP], Joe Bouchard, and Albert Bouchard – that was it for me! I enjoyed subsequent studio albums – Mirrors [despite it being a bit lightweight], Cultosaurus Erectus, and Fire Of Unknown Origin, but definitely things began to fade when Albert left, and aside from a few tracks ’80s releases The Revolution By Night and Club Ninja [minus Joe as well] i rarely got beyond a couple of tracks. 1989’s Imaginos was a great record, but too many guests and not a real reunion to follow. Oh well. Some Enchanted Evening captured BOC at their peak, and it’s fun to revisit and crank up loud still. I should add that tho I lost interest in the band throughout the ’90s, it was really Joe’s first solo album and Blue Coupe shows that I really got back in to the BOC catalogue, but this remains my favorite release from them [studio or live!] and their biggest seller. *Note: the remastered CD version of this album adds a pile of songs as well.


Saga – In Transit
One of the first albums I bought, In Transit covered material from the band’s first 4 albums – easily their strongest era, and (in my opinion!) – a period that ended with 1983’s Heads Or Tales.
Originally from Toronto, Saga would make a bigger name for themselves in Europe where their more progressive approach was far more appreciated, and with this album being recorded at shows in West Germany and Denmark. I can clearly remember first hearing this album at a friend’s when it came out and then buying it soon after at the Eaton’s in the Rexdale Mall [a time when department stores had decent sized music sections; sadly Eaton’s and that mall are long gone].  Though part of a great up and coming Toronto scene in the late 70s and early 80s, Saga’s more keyboard / prog approach and more thought provoking lyrical approach set them apart – a good bit of drama and melody in this band’s music. And frankly most of my fave Saga songs are still all found on this single LP, full of classics like “Careful Where You Step” [a cool intro for this young new fan at the time], followed by “Don’t Be Late” and Humble Stance”. Side one closes with “Wind Him Up” from the band’s [then] latest World’s Apart – which had a couple of big radio hits at the time [and 2 of the few Saga tunes that still get any radio play]. Side 2 boasts “How Long”, the ballad “No Regrets” (w/ Jim Gilmour singing lead), a short drum solo aptly titled “A Brief Case”, the dramatic “You’re Not Alone”, and the other big hit from World’s Apart “On The Loose”. After hearing the studio versions, In Transit showed what a great live band Saga were [are] – bringing a lot of energy and life to already great songs.  On this upswing in their career the band followed up with Heads or Tales, which featured classics like “The Flyer”, “Cat Walk” and “Social Orphan”, though to me – the studio stuff just lacks that energy. Of note – the band was to play the Niagara Falls Memorial Arena on February 29 [!] of 1984, which I’d planned to go, but this was cancelled when a blizzard at the time close schools for a few days and cancelled the show. The band’s last album with that classic line-up of Michael Sadler, Jim Gilmour, Jim Crichton, Steve Negus, and Ian Crichton was 1985’s Behaviour, but saw the band heading in a more commercial/ aor direction with the hit “What Do I Know”. 1987’s Wildest Dreams saw Negus & Gilmour gone from the band [both return later, tho Negus has since departed permanently] – a totally forgettable album for me [aside from the fact that Curt Cress, who’d played with Lucifers Friend was on drums!]. I never got back to being a big Saga fan, though In Transit remains my fave album by them, and one of my favorite Live albums. Sometime in the early ’90s Saga played a club in St.Catharines, and I was able to take and get all those early Saga LPs fully signed [i recall the drummer taking them for me and commenting “wow, someone has vinyl!”].  Interesting also that last years Saga-City album, though a decent sounding album [def sounds like Saga] – added a bonus disc of live material – much of which is still from the In Transit era.


Uriah Heep – Live in Europe ’79
My fellow Heep fans may disagree, but this is my favorite Heep live album. Granted Heep’s “Live – Janurary 1973” is legendary as it captures the classic line up at their peak as well as set a standard for live album packaging, courtesy of Fin Costello.  But this post-David Byron line up release of the band then fronted by John Lawton in 1979 – his last tour before being dropped, came out in 1986 [Raw Power / Castle]. A shame it didn’t come out at the time it was made, may have helped the band at a declining time. Though the band’s profile in North America had sank pretty far since the band’s heyday from 72-75, Heep still had a string of hits throughout various European countries during the Lawton era and still played to decent crowds there. Believe it or not, there are still those Heep fans that gave up after Byron was canned [sad for them] – and even sadder if someone didn’t give this line-up a listen here. Lawton’s debut with Heep was on Firefly – a classic album!, though i find the next 2 a bit inconsistent and softer, with songs seemingly more hurried in the studio and not given the full classic Heep production. Having said that – Lawton and bassist Trevor Bolder [RIP] really added some new life to the Heep classics here, while the band really beefs up and adds energy to tracks from [then current album] Fallen Angel. Actually wish they’d chosen more from the Lawton period here [btw the remastered CD release includes a couple of Lawton era tunes not on the original LP set]. While Lawton adds a powerful voice to classics like “Easy Livin”, “Stealin”, “Sweet Lorraine”, and mixes well with Ken Hensley’s vocals on “July Morning” – it is side 3 here that is my fave, with Fallen Angel tracks “Falling In Love” running into “Woman Of The Night”, followed by “I’m Alive” – heavier than the studio and sounding better IMO. That side ends with Lee Kerslake’s “Who Needs Me” – complete with drum solo, though i’d prefer less drum solo and another Firefly track! [*Drum solos not my thing, especially hearing more than once.] L:awton era lightweight hit “Free Me” even comes off a bit heavier on the opening side of this album [sitting comfortably after “Look At Yourself” and “Lady In Black”. Love the way Hensley’s keyboards would connect “The Wizard” into “July Morning”! Last side features Mick Box’s moment in the spotlight during “Sweet Lorraine”, before the it winds down with blaze-throughs of Innocent Victim’s lone rocker “Free N Easy” [w/ Hensley adding slide guitar] and old classic “Gypsy”.
Original packaging was lacking – a nice brief band overview on the back, the front featuring just photos of Box and Hensley, as well as photos of Box, Hensley [the same pic!] and Kerslake only featured in the gatefold [someone couldn’t make the effort to include Lawton or Bolder at the time!?]. Oh well, definitely a great listen to a classic band, capping a period that should’ve been bigger and more successful. Interesting that this came out at the end of Heep’s period with Peter Goalby fronting the band; makes me think we’re long overdue for a Goalby era Heep double-live release!?

My latest listening and ramblings! Harm’s Way Project, Europe, Trapper….


Well, here I am – writing lengthier reviews than I intended [again] and rambling on. Not sure why, but I’ll try to be inconsistant! After all, isn’t that what these forums are for?
Still got lots to cover from the latter part of 2014 and first half of this year. Currently still playing the hell out of the latest Europe album “War Of Kings”; in fact I had to go back and pick up all the studio albums since their 2004 comeback – quite an impressive string of releases, especially “Bag Of Bones” and love the live releases from Shepherd’s Bush [London] and Sweden Rock Fest.

europe war of kingseurope bag of bones europe sweden rock

Recently saw the band in Niagara Falls, NY to a small crowd – apparently their first trip over here in 10 years. Lots of ground to cover and it seems a heck of a hurdle to overcome with the ‘hair band’ tag from the ’80s. Telling people I saw Europe – the band that did “The Final Countdown” usually gets an odd look, which i follow with – ‘their new stuff ain’t like that!’ Was bummed that Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock show was cancelled in Toronto, but oh well – hopefully there’ll be a return with Doogie White. Here’s an interview I did with Doogie years ago [look under October 1999] – http://www.travellersintime.com/uw/
Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’m finding as I get older, I am listening to and buying more stuff I never thought to or got in to in the past. Also revisiting those Lucifers Friend albums from the ’70s, since the new release.

Hmm, maybe I’ll get to revisiting catalogues of favorite bands here!? There is just not enough time in this life to get to it all tho! Here’s hoping the new someone will drop me a copy of the new Tommy Bolin “Teaser” box — 3 LPs! Amazing, how much this guy did in such a short life time, and we’re still gettting cool releases like the “Whirwind” set a couple of years ago, as well as reissues of his stuff with the James Gang and Zephyr, among others. You can never go wrong checking out Bolin’s music, if you’re not familiar! Also, looking forward to getting Dennis Dunaway’s new book about his Alice Cooper days; then we’ll just be awaiting for Neal Smith’s account of those days.

dennis dunaway book
Another new vinyl shop has opened in nearby Thorold [“Our Favorite Record Store”]. Mostly used LPs, but it’s a neat little store, clean and reasonably priced. Funny that when people were hurrying to ditch vinyl, shops and vendors were selling used stuff for $5 and less, now that it’s back – every crappy dime-o-dozen release is somehow a collectable worth $10 and up. Not everything is worth big $. If anyone could pick up big selling LPs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, the first 2 Boston albums, or late ’70s Foreigner records were worth $3 five to 10 years, why would anyone expect to pay over $10 a-piece now??
anyway, more to come….

The Harm’s Way Project – Everything Works If You Let It [CHA]
The 2nd Harm’s Way Project release, and quite a project it has become! The musicians being those that have found each other on the internet, largely though Uriah Heep forums and online groups, so you’ll understand if there’s a good bit of the Heep influence.  Tho I enjoyed the first album, this one is a major step up – in concept, sound, performance, production and flow.   This is a major production – and i dont mean that in a ridiculous Mutt Lange kinda way!
As I understand, lyrically based around the life journeys of lyric writers Ron Mann and Allie Segars, and tho this may be one or two peoples personal tales and outlooks – it is definately something many of us can relate to.  70s rock fans will easily dig this for the feel and sounds that come from classic rock influences of that era – a good bit of hard rock, progressive, folk….and it all flows so well musically and lyrically. Big praise to Jon Binder who handles most of the lead vocals here, as well as guitarists Keith Shaw, Dave White, Mac Steagall [who also doubles on bass and as major music writer], Micheal Fedysky [bass] and Staf Pypen [on drums], as well as the backing singers. The use of Hammond organ and Moog Synthesizer [courtesy of Jim Lynch] add to the whole feel of a time gone by when bands made these sort of albums. Frankly it is hard to pick favorites because i just throw this on, enjoy it in full as old Heep styled lead off track Time simply flows nicely in My Song, then on to the ballad Forever In The Night [the backing harmonies are a great touch throughout this].  A great mix of tunes with rockers like Cries In Winters Rain [this one musically reminds me Heep’s Time To Live], Battles, and Lost In A Fog, and outstanding ballads like It’s All My Fault [nicely done on piano with violin sounds adding a nice touch] and Searching For An Angel – [love the female lead vocals here, backing vocals, and keyboards adding the string sounds]. Again, this album is a FULL listen – not something you can simply jump through select tracks.  Lots to listen to musically and lyrically. Seems like a fine album to throw on for those outside summer evenings!
Well packaged too [tho i’d love to have it on vinyl!] A classic unknown 70s release, made in 2014!
*and look ’em up on Facebook Reverbnation

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Trapper – Go For The Heart
Holy shit, it’s like early ’80s Canuck rock made a comeback here! Trapper’s the new band formed by Canadian guitarist Sean Kelly – who’s become a legend in the last couple of years here – with his book Metal On Ice, and having wrote andrecorded with Helix, played live with Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron…. Trapper tho, is his brand new band with singer Emm Gryner and they have a 5 track CD that is a cool throwback to that period in Canadian rock when the likes of Harlequin, Trooper, Loverboy, Toronto, etc…  were big on the radio airwaves, albeit a good bit heavier with no keyboards, more guitar… Lonely Nights, Technology Killed Our Love and Grand Bender are cool memorable rockers, catchy hooks and choruses, big solos, great production; and then there’s 2 covers in The Warrior and Your Love – neither of which i cared for way back, but they’ve got a bit more bite and fit so well on this disc.  Check Trapper out > http://www.maplemusic.com/artists/trp/bio.asp

Dennis DeYoung – Plays The Music of Styx [Frontiers]
Styx was one of my first favorite bands, “Paradise Theater” being the first LP I ever bought (at a record outlet at the CNE In Toronto!).  The albums from 1975 (Equinox) up until “Pieces Of Eight” are classic albums, and tho they softened up and became more ‘aor’ for the last few albums before splitting in the mid 80s, I thought they were still good. Stxy – the band, carried on without one of it’s founding and IMO it’s key figure some 15+ years ago, and DeYoung went off and did some different stuff, but this Live revisit of the Styx classics is outstanding! DeYoung and his band give a very authentic Styx sounding production, full of energy and accuracy faithful to the original recordings. And it sounds like DeYoung really enjoys performing this stuff still. Interesting to note he managed to find a great guitar player in August Zadra – who not only looks like a younger Tommy Shaw, but also pulls off the vocals on the Shaw written and sang classics like “Crystal Ball” and “Blue Collar Man”, sounding remarkably like the Styx guitarist. Highlights for me include “Suite Madame Blue” (w/ prelude), “Lorelei” and lone solo hit here “Desert Moon”.

lf awakeing lf awakening band

Lucifers Friend – Awakening

The debut album from Lucifers Friend was a classic early metal album, coming around the time of Heep’s debut and Deep Purple’s “In Rock”, it featured the classic “Ride The Sky”; it is the starting point for anyone looking in to this Germanband that would gather a strong underground following around the globe, especially in North America where their LPs came out on smaller labels, labels folded, the band switching labels, lack of any promo,  – you get the idea!? Singer John Lawton was the lone Englishman in the band which also features guitarist Peter Hesslein (He and other founding LF members were experienced in studio and on the circuit in their homeland throughout the late 60s), as well as original bass player Dieter Horns. Lawton left the band in ’76 to join Uriah Heep (having missed an invite to audition for Deep Purple a few years earlier), but returned for 1 classic hard rock album in 1981 (again on a label that did nothing to promote it or distribute it!). The band also reconvened in 1994 as Lucifers Friend II for the “Sumo Grip” album. Disc one of Awakening pulls the best known classic tracks from the albums Lawton sang on up until 1981 (note – the band continued on for 2 albums in the late 70s with Mike Starrs at the mic, but nothing is included from that period here).  The band’s debut being their best known, so we get 4 heavy tracks from it, though nothing from “I’m Just A Rock n Roll Singer”, and just 1 from fan favorite “Banquet” – but oh well, this is a cool collection with classics like “Burning Ships” and “Fugitive” (the latter from the highly recommeded, more progressive album “Mind Exploding”, from ’76 ).
With Lucifers Friend albums, the band was constantly changing, adding in some pretty diverse sounds and approaches from album to album, rock, blues, jazz, fusion, pop… it’s all in their repertoire with big brass arrangements, strings, etc.. 1981’s “Mean Machine” was a return to a direct hard-rock sound, likely influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal happening at the time (note – Lawton had a solo album in 1980 with LF members as back-up, and Hesslein co-writing).
Disc 2 of Awakening (and really – 14 tracks total probably could’ve fit on 1 disc!) consists of 4 brand new tracks the band recently recorded to coincide with this release and some live shows (note – this band was not a live band for the most part throughout the 70s). The band’s writing being closer to their 1994 album, a bit more pop, but first track “Pray” is the hardest hitting and easily enjoyable, John Lawton’s vocals show no sign of ageing. “Riding High” is a steady rock number, but i dig “Did You Ever” for the changes, and Lawton’s performance. “This Road” is more of a pop track, reminiscent of the Sumo Grip stuff, but it’s catchy, and we finally get to hear Peter Hesslein a bit louder with a riff and then let loose and solo a bit . Actually my only beef is that I’d like to hear more from Hesslein; he’s a great player, but man – more big solos! Oh well, a great intro to the band for anyone not familiar, and 4 solid tunes for those that enjoyed Lucifers Friend in the past.

Dave Flett – Flying Blind
Pulled this one out again recently – The first album released by the real Dave Flett since his departure from the music scene in the UK in ’88. And i say the ‘real’ Dave Flett, as this whole project began with a track called “Stolen Identity”, which is based on a Canadian guy who’d been passing himself off as our Dave Flett for years, while the real deal was out of the music business! A pretty incredible tale, but hey – if it got Dave out of music retirement, so be it! Back to early days …. Dave Flett [for those not knowing], was the guitarist in Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in the mid 70s, playing on a couple of albums, most notably The Roaring Silence, which featured the Springsteen penned “Blinded By The Light”, a #1 hit for the band. He went on to tour with Thin Lizzy, and then various lesser name acts before relocating to the US and getting in to a new profession. And although Flett’s solo on Blinded By The Light is most memorable, this album is more mainstream alternative modern rock than classic rock with the guitar hero approach, but plenty of cool hooks and fitting solos.  This is comprised of upbeat rockers here with the title track standing out, as well as “The Only Thing”, “Walking With The Angels”, “Kings” and “Drive”. Singer / producer Tony Manna deserves a good bit of credit here, as this album has a fairly sound and feel, sounding more like a young energetic band here than a 70s rocker attempting a lame comeback.
*Manfred Mann guests on the track Flying Blind, and former MMEB member John Lingwood takes care of the drums throughout this album.

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Joe Bouchard – New Solid Black
Originally a 6 track EP, Joe added a couple of tunes making this closer to a full album. Both ‘bonus’ tracks being written with Helen Wheels [RIP] – “Light Years Of Love”, a fine ballad that originally appeared on BOC’s The Revolution By Night [which is why I didnt remember it much], and there’s the upbeat “O Jim” – which had a brief life with BOC in ’79, but never made it to album. These sit well along NSB’s other gems like the upbeat “Forget About Love”, “Love Takes Heart”, and “Roller Girls”.

Eddie St.James Interview, 2014

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American guitarist and songwriter Eddie St.James has been based in Germany for years. Over the years he’s established himself there with various styles, bands, and releases. His most recent release is titled “Streets Cry Freedom”, and it is a full album of guitar driven hard-rock from this former LA based rocker.

You can check out my review elsewhere at Universal Wheels, but here Eddie talks in depth about his new album, as well as projects he’s worked on over the past few years [including an attempt at a project with former Joshua / Uriah Heep singer Stephen Fontaine], and a look back at his first release when he was still in LA under ‘The Eddie St.James Project’.

For more info, check out : http://eddie-st-james.com/home-en/

*This interview was conducted last year, but I was unable to post it for some time [it was a long year!]. Apologies to Eddie. Enjoy the read [it’s a long one].


Streets Cry Freedom kinda marks your return to hard-rock, ala Out Of Nowhere, so I wanted to go back and

ask what you’d recall of that album [mini-album]? The label, the recording, and how it was received?  [And where can people find it these days aside from eBay — can you make it a download at your site?]

ESJ – What’s funny (in a sad way) about that album (EP) „Out of Nowhere“, is that I think it’s my worst solo work I’ve   

       ever done. What I remember about that CD is having to make a lot of compromises and having to record all 

       the tracks + overdubs in max. 2 days. There were some people involved that I really did not want to work 

       with anymore, but just so I could have something to put out, I had to control myself and just push on. It came to  

       a head and almost lead to a physical fight in the studio. Subsequently after the recording I got fired from  

       my own band and I was the one with the record deal, contacts, backing-etc. I also made 2 bad decisions, that 

       were my fault, I experimented by not using a click track at all (I regret that for the drummers sake) and I had far 

       better songs that I should have recorded. Those songs that are on that EP were originally „North star” songs 

       that I had written for 2 guitars and was a lot heavier. I think the keyboards just didn’t fit in these songs, but 

       fit much better in the newer songs that I had written for this type of instrumentation. The good memories are    

       that we were in a top notch studio (Red Zone, North Hollywood- not around anymore) and „Slaughter” was 

       recording his 1st  album in the studio behind where I was recording and we were sharing the same tech-crew. 

       We had a couple of really good parties over there and I made it into Billboard magazine-Aug.1989. With the 

       label (capitol) they were supportive at first, I got to go there and wonder around and watch them by the 

       mastering-etc. Distribution was of course through the major US stores, Tower Records-etc. I even shot 1 

       Video for this thing that I decided not to release. They had asked Joe Walsh to make a guest appearance, but 

       I told them, I only wanted cute girls in the video, that was actually my 3rd and biggest mistake. I was involved         

       in the editing and we had it finished, then one of the editing chief’s girlfriend didn’t like that we had heavily 

       featured this particular supermodel babe. So, she told this guy to go back and re-edit the Video, take the girl 

       out, change everything around and put everything in slow motion. When I found out about this, I wanted to kill  

       the guy for completely ruining all the hard work and money that went into that Video. They wanted to start  

       booking gigs for the group, but I had to tell them I didn’t have a band anymore and needed to put it back 

       together again, from there it all went very quickly down hill- they lost interest and I went into a slump at this 

       point. I don’t have any plans to do anything with the „Out of nowhere“ EP, except maybe to make it available 

       as a download CD on iTunes at some point in the near feature. I’m so busy with all the good things that I have 

       going on now. I guess to sum it all up, it was a bitter sweet experience and I at least learned from my own 

       mistakes.  Wow, that was a long answer, but you also had a 5 part question.

You started a follow-up to that album, but it was never finished!? what happened with that?

Bringing us more up to date…

ESJ – Yes, it was another lesson in frustration- I got along great with the guys I had in the band and it sounded

       even better, So far so good. That was about 1991, as usual- I was the guy who did all the song writing and 

       had all the contacts and my then girlfriend introduced me to the producer for Loren Black (the former 

       bassist for Great White, unfortunately Loren recently passed away in Sep. 2013-r.i.p) and he and I hit it off, 

       he liked my material and the vibe and took me on as a spec. deal. I got my band in the Studio to start 

       recording the follow up CD to O.O.N., (I don’t even think I had a name for the CD) I was just happy to be back 

       on track again. We recorded the songs and the producer only gave me one song (Demo) for me to listen 

       back to, he didn’t trust me and didn’t want me to take off and release it and cut him out of any deal that I 

       might end-up getting. We were gigging all over and it was going good-we were opening for Lynch Mob-etc. 

       and through the Out of Nowhere CD, 

       I had gotten some good interest and support from a couple of Local Radio-DJs, they had contacted me and 

       told me they wanted to set up a showcase for me with Island records and with Polydor. In the meantime, 

       these guys I had, said they wanted to come over and talk? They then told me they wanted to quit the band 

       so that they could go join up with an old heroin junkie friend of their’s and “jam“ in his mothers garage. At 

       first I thought it was a joke, but they were serious. I knew this guy they were talking about and I told them 

       here’s what going to happen: your all going to end up throwing away what we got going on now so that you 

       can go and waste your time and jackoff with this guy in his mother’s garage- then go. I went to the 

       Showcase with a bassist friend of mine and we only had a couple of days to put some songs together that I 

       could sing, as I had written everything as a guitar player for someone else to sing. So, I did the showcase as 

       a duo with my electric guitar because I didn’t even have an acoustic guitar at that point. I did some blues 

       type of originals, I was nervous and embarrassed- I knew that this was not the material or group that they 

       were expecting to hear, the 2 A&R guys got up after half way through the first song and left, it was the first 

       time I ever sang as a front man and I was completely unprepared. I never forgave those guys for doing what 

       they did and never will. They’ve tried to contact me a few times, but I don’t have any interest in talking to  

       them. I already said everything that I had to say to them when they left and to no surprise of mine, it all 

       came to fruition. They all work at drywall or some factory and I’m working on a blues rock CD Project with 

       one of George Harrison’s drummers and a bassist from Crosby Stills and Nash (more on that later). I ended 

       up reforming the band and was able to recruit none other than Marc Droubay from Survivor, an incredible 

       drummer. We needed a singer so Marc suggested a guy by the name of Stef Fontaine (ex-Uriah Heep). We

       drove over to Stef’s house and told him you are now in our band.

In 2006 you were involved with a reformed ‘London’. What happened with this project and is there any plans 

to work with the band again?

ESJ – Yes, I’ve known Nadir for a long time, we go way back to the old Pasadena days 1984. One day in 2006, I 

       was wondering what had happened to him, so I looked him up and found him. I asked him about London, if 

       he had any plans for doing any sort of regrouping and he said there were no plans at that time. So, I asked 

       him if we could maybe do something together and put D’priest/London back together with a new line up. At 

       that time he mentioned something about the original members were not interested or were busy with other 

       things. We started writing songs together and we ended up with a handful of tunes and we went back and 

       forth for almost two years exchanging ideas through the net. I started to realize that it wasn’t going to be so 

       easy with him over there in the US and me over here in Germany. We even had gotten some press and 

       people were starting to talk about it, but after about this time period I had noticed that the original members 

       did end up coming back into the picture. So, I told Nadir that he should do what he feels is best for him as 

       far as the band goes. I wished him good luck and I say hello to him every once in awhile, they’re out and 

       playing a lot of shows, they look and sound good. I don’t know if they have any record contract or deal, I hear 

       that there’s supposed to be a new Album coming out soon from them. I would still like to work with Nadir, in 

       one form or another -maybe as a guest singer on a track or two for a project CD type of thing, were I would 

       have a couple of different singers. As far the Band goes, they already have 2 guitar players, I don’t think they 

       need a 3rd one.

A few years ago there was talk of you working again with Stephen Fontaine. Did anything become of this? 

 And what are your current status / relationship with Stef? [I see a number of new clips of him on YouTube doing         

covers with an acoustic guitar player]

ESJ – You know I love Stef, he’s a very interesting guy and a lot fun to hang out with. it took me 2 years to try to 

       talk him into coming over to Germany, so that we could gig and record together and make some $$$. I let 

       the word out and a lot of promoters were interested in booking the band, live, TV, radio-etc. I told him we 

       can work as a duo and as a band, but we’ll be working in any case and making money. He finally consented 

       and then changed his mind again, I even had some other well known musicians calling me up on his behalf 

       and asking me if I was going to stiff him in some way. I thought wow; I don’t know what to say to that, even if 

       I was insane and planning to screw him over, would I tell him or them that I was planning on doing it, and 

       what would I gain by doing it? The very last thing that Stef said to me: „why should I go over to Germany just 

       to play in bars?“ I didn’t bother to answer him, because it sounded like he was now the singer for Journey 

       and playing in major arenas making good money. So, instead he’s in California doing acoustic duo gigs in 

       some guys living room and open mic nights or jams at the local beer bar and I know for sure without a doubt

       he’s not earning any money in California doing these gigs, he probably doesn’t even get a discount on his 

       drinks. My relationship with Stef is, as far as the music goes, finished. I don’t have any desire to beg 

       anybody, it’s a shame, but that’s the way it is and it’s his decision. I have alot of great well known musicians 

       friends that are eager to work and are 100% dependable and easy to get along with, so I have to go with 

       what works.

 You had also recorded [or intended to] a few Uriah Heep songs. what was this project for and will it be 

 released [details] ?

 OK… first Congrats on Streets Cry Freedom! What got you back to this point to record a hard rock / metal  

 album? [I notice a couple of tracks were written well before this album would’ve been conceived]

ESJ – Yes, the Uriah Heep songs I was planning on doing were with Stef, I prepared an entire album consisting of 

       some of the old Eddie St.James songs (from the 2nd follow up CD to Out of Nowhere) plus a bunch of new 

       original titles along with 3 Heep songs (total 14 songs) for us to release as Fontaine/St.James. The CD 

       is/was entitled „Heavy like a Chevy“  sort of a tip of the hat to „Very eavy and Very umble“ The cover looks 

       great. I have the CD nearly finished, I stopped working on it after the last „conversation” with Stef. This is 

       now what I’m thinking about turning into a multiple singer project CD, unfortunately without the Heep songs, 

       because the connection is now „gone“.  Or, maybe you could hook me up with Goalby or Kerslake.


      And thank you very much for the encouragement, I know how honest of a music critic you are, I’ve read 

      some of the other reviews and I know that you don’t hold back.


      I thought it was time to go back and do what I originally started out doing which was playing loud, hard rock

      music the way that it was meant to be, with a real guitar through a high gain tube amp and songs that say 

      something more than just about falling in or out of love. Love is a good thing, but there are other important  

      and interesting topics in life too. The other reason is that you don’t hear this type of music anywhere 

      anymore and I started to miss it (I don’t think I’m the only one), so I wrote/write this stuff for myself. Yes the 2 

      oldest songs on the CD are: (1)Johnny got his gun and (2) Children of the (new) revolution, they were both 

      actually written around 2002. The rest of the songs are fairly new compared to the other 2.

There’s a lot of great riffs / intros solos, etc… Curious if you had stashed up quite a bit of stuff over the years 

 [ideas]? and how the songs came together?

ESJ – Thank you again for the compliment, I’m lucky in that I have musical ideas running through my head day 

       and night and every time I pick up the guitar to practice, I end up with a riff or 2 and sometimes almost whole 

       songs that just jump out at me or catches my ear. Yes I have a large backlog of material plus I get new 

       ideas for riffs and songs all the time or sometimes I’ll hear something that inspires me to create. There is a 

       science (or method) to writing songs, but I’ve found it easiest to sit down with either a guitar, bass or piano 

       and to work out what I’m hearing in my head. Sometimes it just a simple riff, rhythm or a chord progression 

       or a lyric line. The best thing is to be able to hear the complete section, song or idea in your head, then 

       translate that to your instrument, vocals-etc. 

The songs on this album touch on a lot of social and political issues.  What sort of inspires you lyrically, 

Where do topics come from, and is this more challenging or interesting to you than writing relationship type        


ESJ –  Life is a very good inspiration for lyrics, your own experiences or other people’s experiences and conditions- 

       other than „love-relationships“. Many various topics come from all over, the news, TV, the net-etc., yes this 

       is a bit more challenging to write about war, hunger, poverty, self-doubt, child slavery, the climate problem, 

       injustice in the world, political and social tyranny-etc., and have people rock out to it. For me it’s more 

       interesting to write about the topics that are not so overly prevalent and over used such as your typical 

       falling in love or break up song. There are a lot of great “relationship songs“, especially the classic stuff, but 

       The problem is, that’s just about the only topic that any commercially successful artist sings about, 

       over and over again. I’ve got some relationship songs, but I try to stay away from this topic because it’s 

       basically the only subject matter that’s on the Radio nowadays.

You chose “Rat Race” to release first

. What can you tell me about this one?

ESJ – This is very simple it was the first song that we had finished mixing, so I jumped on it to do the first promo-

       video. I wanted to do Streets cry freedom“ as a video first, but I wanted to have John „JR“ Robinson in the 

       video, since he drummed the track. The logistics for this would be considerable; I’d have to schedule him, 

       the video studio, the other musicians, then to fly to California-etc.  Rat race is a simple one man, green-

       screen editing job, something that I could do here without too much hassle.

“Rock n Roll Ain’t Dead” is a great anthem. Love the line “rock ain’t dead it just smells a little funny”…. What 

can you tell me about how this track came about, and what’s your take on the current state of rock n roll? 🙂 

ESJ – This is also an easy one, the title was inspired by a Frank Zappa comment: “Jazz ain’t dead it just smells a 

       little funny“ so I just replaced „Jazz” with „Rock” and I had a song. The current state of rock is exactly the 

       way the title says, it’s not completely dead but it does smell a little bit funny. There are a lot of people who 

       still are into this type of music because it’s real and „un-fake” and unpretentious and because it smells like 

       blood, sweat and tears which is something that every human being can relate to.

“Why Should I Believe” is very nice melodic tune, and obviously asks a number of questions. what sparked 

this song [musically & lyrically]?

ESJ – This song was actually inspired by another song from an L.A. band called “Shark Island“(Epic), they had a 

         song off their album „Law of the order“ called „Why should I believe“. It was a song about self doubt and 

         the struggle to find one’s way in life, Richards voice and the lyrics sounded raw and desperate in a moving 

         way- you couldn’t help but believe him, because we’ve all felt this way from time to time. I thought okay, I 

         won’t only question my own belief’s but also the belief’s of others who demand that I should believe as they 

         do and to blindly accept someone else’s beliefs. Spencer Sercombe was the guitarist of the band and he 

         lives over here in Germany, up in Hannover. We know each other so I thought it would be cool to have him 

         on the track, since he inspired me in the first place.

 “St James / James Bond”  – I’m a big James Bond fan! Where did this instrumental idea come from? AND 

Who’s your favorite Bond [actor] and movie[s]? 🙂

ESJ – I’m also a big J.B. fan and I’ve been doing this Theme song live since 2004, I’ve always messed around 

         with this riff since I was a kid just starting out on guitar. It’s just such fun piece to play and it sort of fit the          

         concept idea of „Streets cry freedom“, except that I see the politicians as the real life super criminals and 

         it would take a man like bond to take care of the problem. Of course that’s just fantasy, what it’s really 

         going take is that the everyday normal citizens wake up to peacefully insist on their rights. The other thing 

         is, I don’t think that anybody’s done a hard rock version of this. There’s a jazz, techno and a death metal 

         version but I haven’t heard of any officially released hard rock version of this.


         favorite Bond actor; Pierce Brosnan 

         Bond movie(s): Where he steals the tank in Russia and chases down the guys that kidnapped the 

                                     Russian computer girl, I think that was golden eye. Daniel Craig takes second place.

“Critical Mass” is another instrumental and you really let loose on this one. How much of this is worked      

out / rehearsed extensively or is there a lot of in-studio improvisation and jamming?

ESJ – I did this one backwards, by that I mean I had the drum and bass parts finished first, then I just improvised 

         over the top of it with the guitar. So, the guitar parts were the last thing that I came up with, they sort of fell 

         into place by themselves. I had the basic structure in my head and just laid it down the way I heard it in my 

         mind. I basically did a couple of takes in certain sections until I got what I wanted, but most of the song 

         came together pretty easily.

“Rainbows & Dragons” has it’s own subject matter, but also doubles as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio     

 [correct?]. Can you tell me what inspired this song, it’s subject, and the idea to tribute it to RJD? 

ESJ – That is correct it fits into the concept of the CD, but it doesn’t fit style wise with the rest of the material and 

         it’s not suppose to because it doubles as a tribute to Ronnie and I wanted it to sound similar to the type of 

         material that he was doing. I’m only sorry that I didn’t make it sound angrier and heavier than it is. The 

         inspiration was modern day slavery and in particular child slavery and that Ronnie had also done the 

         “We’re stars benefit”, which starts off with the line “who will cry for the children, I will”. Now that he’s gone, 

         I was wondering now who will cry for the children? The title “Rainbows and Dragons” came to me 

         automatically and it fit the whole Dio vibe, with the heavy riff and the powerful angry type of singing.

         His type of voice was the one to best convey the heavy raw feeling for this type of subject matter. Not 

         saying that I captured his sound, but that it was the inspiration for the vocals and the song. 

And speaking of RJD, did you have any dealing with him over the years – musically or socially? and what’s 

your favorite work of his? [Rainbow, Sabbath or Dio albums]

ESJ – Yes, I had a lot of contact with his band members, Craig Goldie and Tracy G. I also met him when they  

         came over to Germany to play, Tracy would always put me on the guest list, give me backstage passes-

         etc. I was over at Graig’s house a couple of times; we even recorded a jam session together in his home 

         studio. I’ve known Tracy G. since high school and we always use to hang out together and play guitar, I just 

         talked to him not too long ago. Both great guitar players and songwriters. My favorite Dio work is  

         everything he did, although I tend to favor his solo work just a bit more.

There are a lot of great tracks here, my own faves also include – Shotgun Messiah, Johnny Got A Gun, 

Talkin Plenty…. can you give me any notes on any of those tracks and anything you are particularly happy 


ESJ – Thank you again for the compliment, „Shotgun Messiah“ is simply an anti war theme as is „Johnny Got His 

          Gun“ except that Shotgun Messiah is about people who won’t let a government or public opinion morally 

          blackmail them into going out to kill innocent people because it’s your “patriotic duty“-etc.  “Johnny Got 

          His Gun“ is about the poor bastard that ended up going, although the text sounds like it’s about a street 

          thug, it doesn’t matter where you do the killing, the point is that it doesn’t take a brave man to pull a 

          trigger, it only takes a desperate one. Gandhi said: „ there are many causes I would die for, there is

          not a single cause that I would kill for“. “Talkin Plenty…“ applies to any and all politicians. 

          I’m very happy with the guitar solo in “Shotgun Messiah”, I was very happy with the vocal work in „Johnny 

          Got His Gun” and I’m happy with the overall sound of „Talkin Plenty…”

 What’s been the plan for promoting this album? are you playing live [with these songs]?

ESJ – Well, the promotion is very simple, print, radio, the net and the video will be on TV over here soon.

         so, that’s not to bad for a guy that is basically a one man operation, I’m the world’s first “one man metal 

         band“.  I haven’t done this CD live yet, that is coming up, I’ve been working with the idea of really going 

         out as one man and playing to my own backing tracks, of course the guitar and the vocals would be live. I 

        wanted to do something more than just run through the songs live, I’m thinking about how I could make this 

         a concept show to make up for the lack of a band. I was also thinking of just doing albums and videos and 

         not playing live at all. At this point I wanted to concentrate more on producing very good original promo 

         material and not doing it like I’ve always done it, backwards, first putting a band together and having no 

         product to promote.  By the time you do put promo together, the bands already fallen apart 😦 In closing I 

         just want to thank the following people for all their effort and support; Michael Leukel (Co-Production/ 

         Keys), Bernie Pershey (Drums), John „JR“ Robinson (Drums), Spencer Sercombe (guitar on why should I 

         believe) , Hagen Grohe (Bass on why should I believe) and Sven O. Schiebel Foto/Video.

Random Commentaries on New Releases [part one]

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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

WONDERWORLD “Break The Chains” – Interview

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 Wonderworld is the new band that features  singer/bass player Roberto Tiranti from Italy, guitarist Ken Ingwerson and drummer Tom Fossheim, both from Norway. All 3 of whom double as Ken Hensley’s [ex Uriah Heep] “Live Fire” band.

 The band’s debut was released in October of last year and met with great reviews in the music press and amongst new found fans, and easily sits at the top of my favorite releases for 2014. This interview has been a long time coming J , thanks to Ken for getting it done.

 You can read and see more of Wonderworld at their site : www.wonderworld.no  And look them up on Facebook!






First off – one would easily assume the band-name came from the Uriah Heep album from 74. How deliberate was that and what inspired your own song of the same name?

Yes, we picked the band name off the Heep album. We met because of Ken Hensley, he is the man that made us all play together, so it was partly a tribute to Ken and to a great band and a great era. On top of that we felt it was a suitable band name 🙂

I think the word itself just inspired us to write about the place called Wonderworld, that we sort of had an idea about as soon as the project developed and the artwork was in place etc.

How long has the idea of you 3 recording your own album without Ken Hensley been floating around and how fast did the ideas and songs come together?

Actually the three of us met the first time while we were recording “Trouble” for Ken Hensley in Spain, in March 2013. We immediately felt a unique energy and connection, so already the first day I told Tom that I had this idea about a powertrio, and that Rob would be perfect for it. So we asked Rob the next day, and he was in. Then we more or less started writing as soon as we were done with Trouble, and one year later the album was recorded.


Was it an easy decision [and why] not to have any ‘guests’ on this album? 

Yes, we really wanted this album to be pure trio. We played with the idea of having Ken playing some organ on it, and there were other keyboard players that wanted to contribute, but we quickly left that idea, and finished it as a trio.

Now Ken H.  didn’t play or write on the album, but I’m curious how much of an influence he may have had as far as how you guys approached things in writing and in studio [the harmonies work well on various tracks] ?

Well, Ken was definitively an inspiration as the idea behind the album was to go back to the roots and keep it fairly simple. The whole idea about the sound started when the three of us were jamming in the studio. THAT’S the vibe we wanted.


Can you give me an atendote on the tracks –

Wonderworld [was this the first track written?]

No, it wasn’t the first. The first was Break The Chains, I believe.

The inspiration behind it was Tom’s solid, heavy drumming, so I wanted to have a heavy vibe to it. And Roberto came up with the idea of singing about this ‘wonderworld’ in a talking/singing kinda way.


Break The Chains

The first track we wrote. I think I had AC/DC in my mind playing around with it, but the intro riff is very classic 70’s trio.


Surrender [my fave track here. perhaps the most commercial feeling].

The last song we wrote for the album. It was actually a struggle, and we bounced ideas back and forth for a while, before we landed on the final idea. I remember Roberto wanted to put in a pre-chorus, but I insisted on keeping it simple, and we were all happy with the result.


Voices [an interesting choice for a cover. why this one as? did you feel it was necessary to include a cover or did this song just come up?]

Well, we wanted to do a cover. Actually we did two….the other one might show up in the future)

We discussed various songs and ended up with Voices because we feel it’s a really good song, we found our own vibe to it and Roberto sings it really well. We also wanted a song that was slightly off-center compared to what we’d normally do.


Every Now And Then

Also one of the first songs we finished.

Very happy with the breakdown in the middle and also an epic guitar solo.


No One Knows [epic ballad, lots of feeling in this track]

Thanks! Yes, Roberto is a great ballad singer, so we had to do a ballad. On the other hand, we didn’t want it to be a lighter swinging power ballad, so we kept it to a minimum production-wise. Here, I also just used the same guitar and amp as the entire album, just rolling off the volume and cleaning it up slightly – instead of acoustic guitars, chorus guitar and keyboards 😛


The Sound Of The World [another great song, love the changes from the light verses to the heavy chorus. Great vocal!]

Yeah, probably the most “modern sounding” song on the album, with it’s 6/4 signature, and leslie guitars.

We even managed to throw in a small drum solo there. haha.


A New Life [love the lighter chorus, has a very 70s feel]

Again Tom’s heavy drumming and John Bonhan inspiration was kickstarting this one. Kinda has a Led Zeppelin vibe to it, with an odd solution to the chorus where we chose to take it down and make it more hippy’ish.


Hero Without Stains [a bit of funk feel, reminds me of Glen Hughes solo stuff]

Slightly funky song with a classic powertrio riff. Got some hints of Extreme in it. Also a cool riff in the guitar solo that we tend to extend forever live 😀

I also dig the ending where we usually keep jamming live.


Kissing The Sky [a very fitting end track]

Thanks. I had this melody and chords that made me think of The Eagles for some reason, that I felt would give the album a nice ending, without going for a typical ballad. A friend of mine wrote the lyrics to the melody, because Roberto was busy finishing the words for the rest of the album, and we landed on these Hendrix type lyrics. It’s actually more or less a duet between Rob and me, as we sing most of it in harmony and it starts with my vocals.

Was there many leftover ideas or songs that didn’t get finished that may give you guys a head start on a follow up album?

Actually we finished all the ideas, and only recorded a cover as a leftover.


Where were the 2 videos shot, and is there plans for any further ones?

Break The Chains was filmed during the recording of the album. I think we spent like 2 hours recording and I went back home and edited it myself. Efficient shit 😀

I Surrender was recorded in Genova, pretty close to Rob’s house + some scenes from Oslo actually.

Sort of in the middle of doing a video for No One Knows these days. Need some more footage…hehe.


How was the band’s live debut? did entire album get performed? and anything else? Is there many shows upcoming?

The first 3 shows we did were great. There’s always a slightly slow start, doing new material live, but already on the second gig we felt quite confident. We played pretty much all songs, except Kissing The Sky, mainly because we had enough lyrics to learn already, and Rob and I need to be super tight on the words for that one. We also did some fun cover tunes – especially Tom Sawyer by Rush, which is being well received 🙂


Do you guys foresee Wonderworld ever getting to North America? 

You never know. As a matter of fact, a friend of ours in the industry just went to Miami today, and he’s gonna work on trying to get us a couple of gigs, so we’ll see what he comes up with 🙂


How did you come across the cover art? Was it was a piece already done that you used? [Would look great on some merch and vinyl]



Yes, I really like this artist called George Grie, and I was looking at his work one day, and just saw this beautiful drawing that would be perfect for us. So I showed it to the other guys, and we all just went for it.

We are working a limited edition of the vinyl right now actually, so it should be ready in May 🙂


Feedback has been good on the album!? Lots of great comments, reviews out there. It’s got such a cool classic hard rock feel; varied – rock, a bit of funk, lighter moments….

Yes, I haven’t seen one bad review. Everybody has been very nice and positive. So that obviously makes us all happy and confident that we’re onto something good here.


Going back a bit…..what are some of your fave moments from the album[s] you’ve done with Ken H. ?

I’ve done 2 studio albums with Ken now, and I really liked the process of them both. “Faster” was done in Riga and we had a great time, and “Trouble” was done in Alicante, Spain. I’d probably say that “Trouble” is my favorite moment, because that’s where we met and started this adventure.


The guitar solo [and Hammond interplay] on The Curse is such a cool piece. How did that develop between you and Ken H.?



I came up with the idea of a breakdown, because we lacked a part in the song. So I threw a few chords at Ken, he started playing it, and together we developed the melody and let it grow.


Trouble was a more direct hard-rock album, and more like a band album, and one that developed in the studio while things were on a roll. How much were you guys around for all of the recordings, mixing, putting things together?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbxILif7osg


We were there most of the recordings. The mixing process was done entirely by Dani and Ken, so we didn’t have any input on that.

But yeah, we developed all the riffs, tempos, keys etc live in the studio.


What are your favorite from the 2 albums with Ken H to perform live, as well as the Heep material?

Hm….I’d say The Curse and “I Don’t Know”. That’s a heavy one, and Rob sings it great.

As for Heep material July Morning is always a winner.



Prior to working with Ken H. curious how familiar you guys were with his albums with Uriah Heep? any favorite albums? songs? singers? bass players….?

Ken: I was very familiar with it because my ten year older brother was a huge fan. So even though I wasn’t more than a small kid, I heard all the albums all the time. My favorites are Look At Yourself and High And Mighty actually. I stopped listening to Heep after Byron left, so to me he’s the only singer next to Ken. My favorite song is probably Weep In Silence.

Tom: To be honest I was not familiar with Ken’s work with Heep at all. I’ve heard Easy Living before but that was it. After I started to play with Ken in 2007 I discovered a lot of great music. My favorite songs is Devil’s Daughter and Sunrise. Bass-player has to be John Wetton because of his time in King Crimson and later UK…

Rob: Very easy for me to choose! Best album: Sweet Freedom. Best songs: Sweet Freedom and Stealin’ and Gary Thain for me is the perfect bass player, he was light years ahead the musicians of that period.


Can each of you guys give me a few music idols or influences [on your respective instruments, singers]? as well as a list of favorite albums?

Ken: For me it has always been a weird mix of English and American bands. So it was Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore on one side, then Van Halen, Journey. You throw in some Australian AC/DC, German Scorpions and Norwegian TNT in there, and you have a nice cocktail 🙂

Tom: Zeppelin, Purple, Kiss, Yes, Journey, Ghost, Steven Wilson, hard rock/metal, progressive music in general, jazzrock/fusion.

Influences: John Bonham, Peter Criss, Nicko McBrain, Ian Paice, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl, Terry Bozzio, Alan White and Bill Bruford of Yes, Marco Minnemann, Dennis Chambers, Thomas Lang among a lot of others.

Impossible to give a list of all time favorite albums because there are too many…

Rob: My list it could be too long 🙂 Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Queen, Mr.Big, Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Gino Vannelli etc. etc. Basically bass players and singers in the bands I mentioned gave me a lot of inspiration in my life.


What’s next for you guys — live shows? New album?  

Yes, we just finished a couple of shows in Italy, and we have gigs coming up in Norway in April, more Italian gigs in May, and some festivals during summer. Even the fall is beginning to shape up. We are also in the middle of writing new songs for album number two, so maybe you’ll see another album in 2015 😉

Interview : March 2015, KJJ


Welcome to a new beginning (thus, a new name)… Over the years my page Universal Wheels (http://www.travellersintime.com/UniversalWheels/Index.html) has been hosted and maintained by my good friend Ron. It has been a lot of work and time on his part, and starting over here gives me a chance to write & post as time allows here. I’d like to thank Ron, who also runs an excellent David Byron (original Uriah Heep singer) site – http://www.davidbyron.net , and is involved in writing and producing his own music – http://www.travellersintime.com/harmsway/
I’ve got lots of rock releases, lists, interviews, and other articles to get to, so I hope you’ll come back to check in on things.
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