Review: Ben Poole – Anytime You Need Me

Manhaton Records (Sept 2018)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Ben Poole returns with his third album release ‘Anytime You Need Me‘, an album that helps build his standing in the blues rock community as his career continues to grow.

I think there’s one thing this album epitomizes, it’s the continuing trend to release albums that don’t conform to the over regimented definition of what blues music should be.

What you end up getting are releases that are like a breath of fresh air, pulling in influences from other genres and with it new audiences.

With ‘Anytime You Need Me‘, Ben has introduced elements of funk, 70’s rock and even a little soul. The album is a little more adventurous then previous releases.

Take It No More‘ would be nearer the traditional blues rock track which has elements of King King, which is hardly a surprise with aforementioned band’s Wayne Proctor at the production helm.

While ‘Found Out The Hard Way‘ wouldn’t be out of place on a Mitch Laddie album.

But I found ‘You Could Say‘ a bit too poppy for my palette with Ben’s vocals taking on a high pitch Jonny Lange vibe.

It has to be said the two covers on the album are interesting choices, Don Henley’s ‘Dirty Laundry‘, a track I’ve always loved and Jude Cole’s ‘Start The Car‘. However they work really well and releasing ‘Dirty Laundry‘ as a single will certainly help raise interest from other quarters.

While not every track is to my liking, I think live it will be an entirely different matter and with a heavier live sound they will fill out nicely.

Anytime You Need Me‘ is an album, which along with other current British musicians releases, helps cement the UK as one of the top blues & blues rock territories in the World.

 

Review: REƎCE – Resilient Heart

Mighty Music (November 2018)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

There are some albums which are highly anticipated, and for me ‘Resilient Heart‘ is one of them.

Take the vocal talents of singer David Reece, who I first came across as front man for American hard rock band Bangalore Choir and vocalist on Accept‘s ‘Eat The Heat‘ album, add a guitarist whose playing I highly regard, namely Martin J Anderson, who I first heard playing in his blues rock band Blindstone. Finish off with guitarist Marco Angioni, bandmate of Martin’s in Danish heavy metal band Meridian, bassist Malte Frederik Burkert from David’s other band Sainted Sinners and drummer Sigurd J. Jensen also from Blindstone.

The result….a mature hard rock album!

From the opening bars of the first track, ‘Any Time At All‘, you know your in for a bit of a musical treat. This is a band tighter than an elastic band wound three times round a  pencil. David Reece’s vocals sound as good as they did 25 years ago and yes I’ll bring up the old chestnut I always do, if I don’t like the vocals then I won’t like the album!

With eleven tracks on the album, none of which in my opinion a ‘filler’, choosing a favorite is bloody difficult. However, for me there is one track that stands out both in vocal performance and musicianship, and that’s ‘Forest Through The Trees‘. This is without doubt a monster track!

For those of you familiar with David’s work and indeed the catalogue of the other musicians involved, then ‘Resilient Heart‘ is probably already on your ‘to order’ list. If your not and it’s not……then don’t hesitate and pre-order it now, you won’t be disappointed.

Review: The Radio Sun – Beautiful Strange

Pride & Joy Records (August 24th 2018)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Australia’s The Radio Sun are one of the new breed that harks back to older times, releasing on average one album every year continually giving their fans what they crave. The latest offering ‘Beautiful Strange‘ falls under the same style as their other releases, with those wonderful melodic harmonies once again standing out.

The twelve tracks on offer this time around are once again top class, there are a number of songs that get in your head like a musical worm burrowing through the cortex and just not letting go. There is something a little special about the mixture of melodic rock with some crunching riffs, songs by The Radio Sun always seem to be uplifting, no matter what the subject matter, it really is a rare talent.

Having really let this one sink in over a period of time it’s grown the more I’ve spun it, some tracks that didn’t hit me immediately are now firm favourites. Despite the fact they the band are releasing an album every 12 months or so they are still managing to sound fresh on each release, perhaps that is helped by the style of music these guys play.

Highlights on this one for me are the opener ‘Hold On Tight‘ that just kicks things off so well, a great blend of power and subtlety, ‘Out Of This World‘ is another cracking track again not quite being a ballad, but having a slightly slower tempo and then just take a listen to the crunchy riff on ‘Hearts On Fire‘ which is a song that keeps dragging me back to it, half way through the song you thing it’s settling down for break and then Steve Janevski kicks things up a notch or two with a soaring solo, once again the guitar playing and general tightness of this band is a joy.

There is something about this band sets the World right when you listen to them, it’s not all about the harmonies, but damn they are sweet. The Radio Sun continue to create high quality output, this is once again an excellent release from the band. Can’t wait to hear some more of these tracks live when the band hit the UK next March, get out and enjoy a fun night out with some awesome music.

 

Review: The Magpie Salute – High Water I

Mascot/Eagle Rock (August 2018)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Now I’ll set my cards out from the offset. When I first saw that The Magpie Salute had Rich Robinson, who of course is known for The Black Crowes, in the line up I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my thing. The Black Crowes ticked all the boxes yet never really did it for me.

However……..Straight out of the box so to speak I soon realised that this is one of those ‘cleansing of the palette’ albums. An album that sets its stall out a little different from what others are releasing, a album to just sit back and allow it to wash over you.

There are various different elements to the album, you want a nice slice of sit on the porch blues then ‘Hand In Hand‘ is perfect for you. Tracks that start all laid back until they throw things into top gear? That’ll be ‘For The Wind‘.  If your a Tom Petty fan then ‘Can You See‘ will certainly be to your liking.

All in all a coherent, mature album which just grows the more you play it. So it’s gone from a pre-judgemental uncertainty to an album I’ve not stopped playing.

With this being ‘High Water I‘ I have to say I’m already looking forward to ‘High Water 2‘, which is already a certainty.

 

 

Review: Wonderworld – III

Key Music (June 2018)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Four years after their debut album, Wonderworld are back with their third release not surprisingly called ‘III‘.

For those of you already familiar with the band then there won’t really be any surprises or changes from the previous two releases. That certainly isn’t a negative thing, just means we have ten more tracks of top notch melodic hard rock to enjoy!

For those not familiar, Wonderworld consists of Italian singer/bassist Roberto Tiranti and from Norway guitarist Ken (JR) Ingwersen and drummer Tom Fossheim. All three have an extensive musical background which has helped bring a lot of different influences into the band’s sound.

It can always be difficult to pick stand out tracks when your really enjoying an album, however the track that really hit the spot for me is ‘The Last Frontier‘ which at nearly seven minutes long showcases the band’s musicianship and the quality of the production on the whole album.

So for the third time, I can highly recommend ‘III‘ as well as the previous two albums.

 

Review: Michael Romeo- War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1

Music Theories Recordings / Mascot Label Group (July 27th 2018)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

I’m sure most of your are familiar with the name Michael Romeo, founding member of progressive metal band Symphony X. Well in this release Michael delves into the depths of symphonic metal.

I’ll say from the start, if your not a fan of widdly widdly guitar then this release is probably not for you. Having said that, those guitar connoisseurs among you will absolutely love it!

Kicking off with an intro that wouldn’t be out of place in a Star Wars film, Mr Romeo soon makes it obvious where his roots lie.

I’ll be honest and say I have to be in the mood for symphonic metal, but catch me at the right time and there is an increase in volume shall we say. Those increases were quite frequent during the various playbacks of ‘War Of The Worlds / Pt. 1‘, the production leading to a decent sound full of depth and atmosphere.

Listening to the robot effects at the beginning of ‘F*cking Robots‘ is an experience on headphones, even more so up-scaled through a home cinema system, making it one of my favorites out of the ten tracks on offer. The current single ‘Djinn‘ is shall we say a little daring as a single coming in as it does at a nearly seven and a half minutes long. But it so highlights the vocal talents of Rick Castellano. Boy can he hit notes most of us could only almost manage in tight trousers.

With a run time of some 50 minutes, this album certainly doesn’t short change you, leading you as it does through the mind of H.G. Wells. There are influences aplenty with more than a nod to my favorite classical composer Holst. It’s almost the Planets Suite meets Conception meets Savatage.

To sum up, this is an album I discovered I enjoyed far more than I expected. It is without doubt a labour of love by Romeo and here’s looking forward to Pt 2.

 

Review: Gus G. – Fearless

AFM Records (April 2018)

Reviewer: Simone – The Metal Mistress

What happens when Michael Schenker and Steve Vai have a love child? You get supremely talented, melodic, riff heavy guitarist, Gus G. I have been a fan of Gus for a long time, especially enjoying him when he toured with Ozzy. His band Firewind has been around for 20 years, and is one of those unsung metal bands only known to non-mainstream fans and are a definite must-see if they play near you. Now, once again, he outdoes himself, giving us the album ‘Fearless‘ featuring three super talented musicians playing together. Dennis Ward of Pink Cream 69 and drummer William Hunt of Black Label Society collaborate with Gus to create a non-stop hard-hitting rock album.

The album starts off with what we expect from Gus G. – a powerful guitar segment in ‘Letting Go‘ Here we first get to hear Dennis’s vocals. Known more as a bassist and producer, at my first listen this was definitely not what I expected. It took me a moment to appreciate Dennis’ vocals. While his range is not wide, he has a solid, strong voice that works tremendously with Gus’s strong guitar and William’s kick ass drums. It does not get lost among the music as it so easily could with a less clear and strong singer. One thing I like about Dennis’s vocals is he modulates with each song’s composition unlike other hard rock singers who always sing with the same tone, and punch on every song.

Getting us settled into the deep riffs that we will see throughout the album, ‘Letting Go‘ and ‘Mr. Manson‘ set the tone for ‘Fearless‘, however do not be lulled into thinking all tracks will be the same. ‘Don’t Tread On Me‘ has what I consider the best solo riff by Gus on the album. If you want to truly hear his talent listen to this melodic number. The title track ‘Fearless‘ takes us in a different direction entirely having a Flamenco-style staccato of a guitar opening. This number above all the rest, reminded me of Joe Satriani – long, melodic, crying melodies that led into killer speed riffs.

I love the ‘Money For Nothing‘ cover. It is such a sleeper song- making us reminisce and think it is going to sound like the original. The abrupt change from the familiar sounds of the original playing in our memory to the hard crunch and searing new solos makes you wake up and say WTF. Then Dennis’s vocals whack you over the head.  If I was a bit unsure about his vocals in the beginning, this number lets me know I am an idiot.   The minor lyric changes are also a clever revision with a touch more relevancy to today’s crowds.

Gus makes sure we get a few instrumentals for his long-standing fans. ‘Thrill of the Chase‘ delivers. I especially like William’s drums on this number. They do not get drowned out by the powerful guitar, but keep stride throughout the song along side it.  ‘Big City‘ was a bit unusual to me – delivering a bit of Southern rock, bluesy vibe in the base chords that make up the root of the song. It turned into what I would consider a typical 80s hard rock song with a short solo by Gus in the middle. ‘Last Of My Kind‘ is a great close out to the album, bringing everything to a huge blow out of all three melding together for one final “let’s show you how much ass we can kick” song.

As usual we are treated to Gus’s intricate guitar solos in each song. He makes sure his fans get enough to satisfy while keeping the entire album balanced between each musician. This trio’s talents compliment each other and never overpower each other.  This album is one I would pop on during a long road trip to get the juices flowing again. It keeps your energy high and delivers on a good, constant rhythm. From first song to last, it keeps your attention.  Just remember to set the speed control to keep the speeding tickets at bay!

Fearless‘ is a well-produced, fluid album from 3 killer talents working together to give us what we expect from them – kick ass hard rock with enough variety to keep us listening from track 1 to 10.

Review: Big Boy Bloater & The Limits – Pills

Provogue / Mascot Label Records (June 2018)

Reviewer: Steve Borkowski

With today’s blues scene seemingly saturated with blues/rock power trios and guitarist front-men playing everlasting solos with painstaking looks on their faces, it’s quite refreshing when something different comes along to shake things up.

For the unfamiliar, Big Boy Bloater lives up to his name, a big man with a big voice, a husky, hoarse growl… think Tom Waits meets Howlin’ Wolf. The other thing worth noting is that BBB has a massive personality and sense of humour.
With so many artists taking themselves too seriously, Bloat’s tongue is always firmly in his cheek and this comes through in his lyrics which are always clever and humorous and often topical, from society’s reliance on modern medicine to cure pretty much every ailment imaginable in the title track ‘Pills‘, to the pop at shady agents promising a big break in ‘Stop Stringing Me Along‘ which is the closest thing to a ballad on the album and the honky-tonk roll and roll of ‘Oops Sorry‘ which is a humorous take on a ruined relationship.
Add in titles like ‘Friday Night’s Alright For Drinking‘, ‘Slackers Paradise‘ and ‘Unnaturally Charming‘ and you get the idea of what to expect.
Musically, you get a multitude of influences from old school rockabilly, Louisiana Swamp Blues, slide heavy, groove filled blues/rock and even blues tinged pub rock, but what you won’t find are long guitar solos or loads of heartfelt ballads. This is an upbeat feel good blues album for non blues fans, that continues in the same vein as Luxury Hobo.
Forget taking pills, buy it, this album is a surefire cure for the blues.

Review: Salty Dog – Lost Treasure

Escape Music (March 2018)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

Salty Dog’s debut, ‘Every Dog Has It’s Day’ was, in my eyes a true lost classic, packed with fine rockers and golden mellow moments driven by the writing partnership largely of Pete Reeven – guitar- (who provided the music) and Jimmi Bleacher – vocals – (who added lyrics). I remember taking a copy down to the Clay Pigeon in Eastcote, home of Neil Kay’s infamous Heavy Metal Soundhouse at the time, so I could headbang to ‘Come Along’ for chrissaskes!

Unfortunately, grunge killed SD’s blend of hard rock & blues, stone dead, along with a number of other bands. Timing, as they say, is everything.

So, this release – what’s it all about? The lost second album? It appears to be just that, polished demos that were worked up for the album that never saw the light of day. By then, Bleacher had departed and Darrel Beach had taken up the vocals. But how does it compare to EDHID?

I really, really, really, wanted to like this album. Like I’ve said, I loved the debut and if ‘Lost Treasure‘ came anywhere near that, in terms of song writing, production & performances, then it would still be a corker of an opus.

But – I’m afraid to say, I’m left totally & utterly disappointed. And really, really, really frustrated!

I’m looking at the notes now, that I typed over the course of listening to this album, on the five occasions I listened to it and it saddens me.

  1. Damned If I Do – More straight ahead hard rock than the debut album – Felt it would have been more ‘in the groove’. Doubles up towards the end for no apparent reason.
  2. I Need More – Sounds like a Badlands out take. It highlights how unique Jimmi Bleacher was and is sorely missed. The chorus is the best part on offer here, but not enough to save the song. Again, it double times out of nowhere, apparently for the guitar solo.
  3. Walk Softly – Starts out like The Cult, pre Electric, then ultimately goes nowhere. A real demo feel, which brings me to the production, or rather the lack of it. Muddy, unrefined and not a patch on that debut!
  4. Open Sezme – The guitar riff is cool and up to now probably the best thing so far. And be grateful for small mercies that Mr Beach has stopped caterwauling long enough to prove he CAN sing! Has an eastern feeling guitar solo.
  5. Mission On A Hill – A slower paced tune, very Zep like, but again, goes absolutely nowhere. Lacks any kind of strong melody in the vocal, something that is right across the board, I’m afraid. ‘’Do you remember?’ sings Beach? I’m trying to forget………
  6. All That Glitters – Slide guitar opens a riff heavy tune, but lacking the subtle touch. Certainly not glittering and definitely not gold.
  7. Woman Scorned – This proves when the band take their foot off the heavy laden lumpen blues pedal, there is a half decent tune here.
  8. Honeysuckle Wind – Yee haw! Banjo upfront and it goes on to be an inoffensive little jaunt. The sort of thing Blackberry Smoke went past, about ten years ago.
  9. Didju – More of the same…….lumpen hard blues rock with yet another uninspired vocal melody and no chorus to speak of. Oh god……..
  10. Old Fashioned Love – Tries to be Skynyrd, but falls way short. Still, at least it sounds different, although still no chorus!
  11. When Fools Rush In – No, sorry, I’ve lost the will to live. A ballad on shifting sands and I’m out of here.

I know, I know, it doesn’t read well. I suppose when the debut album is as stunningly as good, as Salty Dog produced, bringing out a follow up 26 years later with a different line up and therefore different dynamics, was never going to be easy. But even taking that into account, this, is as bad, as EDHID, was good.