Category Archives: Review

Review: Black Bambi – Black Bambi

Review: Black Bambi – Black Bambi

20th Century Music (August 2017)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Black Bambi, one of the multitude of bands that never ‘made it’ back in those heady days of the late 80’s and early 90’s. With legendary producer Beau Hill at the helm and with the backing of Atlantic Records everything was lined up for success right?  Wrong! Black Bambi was unfortunately one of those bands that came so close. Now with new re-issues label 20th Century Music about to finally release the album to the masses we can at last hear what all the hype was about.

As expected given the original recorded date, you get a strong dose of hard rock, but with that almost bluesy groove that some bands managed to inject, something that is certainly to my own personal tastes and it’s something that I think helps the album stand out a little more than other releases from that time period.

If there’s one big similarity for me sound wise,  it’s with sorely missed Scandi rockers Aces High with hints of Royal Court Of China. And those are similarities that I’m certainly happy to hear.

Beau Hill’s production across the twelve tracks of this self titled album shines through, with a tight bass line and a spaciousness to the sound with no muddying of vocals and guitar.

Stand out tracks for me – ‘Celebration‘, ‘Shadows‘ and ‘Soul Of A Child‘. Mind you there isn’t a bad track on the album.

Highly recommended.


Review: Devilfire – Dark Manoeuvres

Review: Devilfire – Dark Manoeuvres

Escape The Fire Records (October 2017)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

In a musical landscape of what has lately been relatively boring releases (with some notable exceptions), there are still gems that reach out and grab you. Such a gem is Devilfire‘s ‘Dark Manoeuvres‘. Having had my interest triggered by the video for ‘Waiting For A Rockstar‘, I was looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

This is certainly a jam packed album with thirteen tracks, kicking off with ‘Ready For War‘, quite a laid back feel but with plenty going on in the background, the instruments and vocals are not fighting or jockeying for position.

Don’t think for one minute that this is a laid back album though. Track two ‘She’s Like Fire‘ picks up the pace without jeopardizing the vocals, the sort of track that calls for the car stereo to be cranked, windows open, ‘educating’ your fellow traveler!

(In And Out Of Love) All Of The Time‘ while having a solid rock rhythm, it leans much more towards the blues end of the spectrum with some lovely guitar injections and a more soulful vocal.

Next up is that track that triggered my interest, namely ‘Waiting For A Rockstar‘. Talk about a catchy tune, another volume cranker for sure! Perfect single choice.

With ‘Lay It On The Line‘ your once again shown what an accomplished vocalist Alex Cooper is. Yes I’ve said it a 1000 times (now 1001) that if I don’t like the vocals regardless of the music then the album is lost to me. It is certainly a catchy tune to boot.

Kill Your Love‘ is leaning more towards melodic hard rock which shows the band’s diversity, it’s almost like Vega with a harder edge and a potential single.

Tear Me Apart‘ is a ballad, and before some of you moan, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With a great late 80’s style guitar break and punctuated with piano it does the job well.

God Give Me Vengeance‘ has elements of angst, an emotional track delivered with real feeling. A track that highlights the bands ability to bring everything to the fore. ‘Devil In Your Eyes‘, one criticism, it’s too short. Just as the band are building up a head of steam for what should be an all out audio assault it ends!

(You Gotta) Revolution‘ starts off with a great guitar intro, reminiscent of Reason, a memorable, punchy chorus underlined by the hard working rhythm section.

The same feel can also be found on the next two tracks. ‘She’s Always On The Run‘, love the vocal twists and turns, leading again to a memorable track. The intro to ‘A Thousand Times‘ again is so like a Reason track, this underlying similarity at times is certainly one of the reasons I’m enjoying this album.

And so the final track arrives. ‘Somehow‘, an acoustic track that draws you in and yet again shows the diversity of this band.

This album has had numerous plays at home, in the car and at work. A potential contender for my albums of the year list. Well worth checking out.

 

 

 

 


Review: Charlie Bonnet III – Sinner With A Song

Review: Charlie Bonnet III – Sinner With A Song

Charlie Bonnet III / Cb3 Music 2017

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Okay I’ll hold my hands up and say I wasn’t aware of Charlie Bonnet III (sorry Charlie), but I initially received a PR release about a collaboration with none other than Tracii Guns.

I was intrigued as to how this would sound, as it wasn’t something that to me was an obvious partnership music wise.

Well having received a copy of the EP from Charlie, all I can say is what a pleasant surprise. This is Southern Rock yes, but with a sleazy slant to it.

Yes there are elements of the EP that have a strong Steve Earle / Lynyrd Skynyrd feel to them, but hey that’s kind of to be expected when it comes to anything Southern Rock.

With  strong melodies and insightful writing it’s a real pleasure to listen to.

For me personally, the two stand out tracks, of the six that are on the EP,  are ‘Restless And Reckless‘ & ‘Heading Home‘.

It would certainly be good to hear a full album’s worth of this material. For Southern Rock fans, it’s certainly worth checking out.

 


Review: Radiation Romeos – Radiation Romeos

Review: Radiation Romeos – Radiation Romeos

Frontiers Music Srl 2017

Reviewer: Grant Foster

Remember the Atomic Playboys album featuring Steve Stevens on guitar? (He of Billy Idol fame)………..If you do, then this album is the showcase for vocalist Parramore ‘Perry’ McCarty, who was the singer on said album! Confused? You will be………………………….

The title track gets us off to a good start, sounding very much like it could easily slip onto that Atomic Playboys album with no trouble at all. All melodic and muscle.

Second track, ‘Ocean Drive‘, starts off with a bass synth line and piano. It evokes the spirit of Boys Of Summer and you can just see yourself driving in a red Corvette somewhere in the USA by the beach. All melodic and………well you get the picture, very radio friendly rock and rather good.

Now, after this, is where it all starts to go wrong.

Bad Bad Company‘ has a phased sound through the admittedly decent guitar riff from the off. A heavier grinder of a song, the phase returns annoyingly through the chorus. Aside from that it’s a decent slab of hard rock. ( Just don’t mention the nan na na’s at the end!)

But in ‘Mystic Mountain‘, well, things start to get s-t-r-a-n-g-e……….veering between keyboards and hard rock, the lyrical content is all about aliens and conspiracy theories! I kept getting that image of Close Encounters in my head……’’Tales of travelers of space & time, guided by ancient global greers’’……it’s all rather pompous! I’m not knocking the content matter, rather the delivery of it all.

And this theme does rather run through the rest of the album I’m afraid.

Like An Arrow‘ – another slow ballad on an album of plodders. Unremarkable.

Promised Land‘ – supposed to be all mystical and Egyptian, it comes out sounding like a week at Camber Sands. And it drags.

Castaways‘ – piano led with seaside sounds. At least the pace picks up here. ‘’Legends of discovery on an oceans quest, the power of the oceans calling was never second guessed’’……..I mean at least Maiden’s Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner was interesting! No doubting there is melody in these songs, but the lyrics……………..

Ghost Town‘ – all Clint Eastwood in it’s approach, it actually works, when McCarty varies his delivery. Props to guitarist Dag Heyen, who weaves some nice lead work not just here, but through much of the album.

Til The End Of Time‘ – All far too formulaic and twee for these ears. ‘’I will love you till the end of time, and when all the words refuse to rhyme’’………and McCarty seems to be almost embarrassed in his delivery……..not that I can blame him.

On the Tight Rope‘ – just unremarkable. You really have heard it all before.

Which leads us to the last tune, ‘Monstertraxx‘. Despite it’s ridiculous title and intro, there is something about this song. Catchy guitar riff? Check. Ear worm chorus? Check? Daft lyrical content? Definitely! Needs to be in a Sci Fi film for sure!!

To sum up, this album is more hit than miss. No doubting Mr McCarty has decent pipes, but the plodding nature and the lyrical content stop this from being what it could have been. Atomic Playboys? More like CND dustmen I’m afraid!

 

 


Review: Gun – Favourite Pleasures

Gun – Favourite Pleasures

Caroline (Sept 2017)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Being from their hometown and knowing a few of the guys, I am pretty familiar with Gun and their career output. Admittedly, I wasn’t that keen on the band while Toby Jepson sang with them and was pretty glad the he left and even more delighted when it was announced his replacement was Dante Gizzi. While there is a constant debate about the merits of Gun without original vocalist Mark Rankine, I have liked what Gun have produced so far. And just to throw my tuppence worth in, Dante is technically a far superior singer to Mark!

The press release with this album states that it’s a return to the bands rockier roots and the opening track ‘She Knows‘ just completely knocks your socks off. With a superb riff the song rattles a long at fair pace with bass and drums firmly driving it. New boy Tommy Gentry absolutely rips it up during the solo. Primetime Gun! Next up is ‘Here’s Where I Am‘ which revolves around an almost 70s drum beat and while it rocks, there is a tip of the hat to their pop sensibilities. The title track ‘Favourite Pleasures‘ funks up proceedings with a crisp, hard-edged rhythm and Gizzi almost spitting out the words. The album continues with ‘Take Me Down‘ which again for me is primetime crossover Gun combining their rock roots with a whole range of contemporary influences, which is basically the Gun hallmark. ‘Silent Lovers‘ bounces along on a bouncing rhythm and sounds like it draws on influences such as 70s pop rock and punk/new wave while rocking along.

Black Heart‘ stomps along on an almost walking rhythm and then bursts into a real stomp for the short bridge and powering into the chorus before dropping back into the opening riff. It also has some great string arrangements. Next up is ‘Without You In My Life‘ which starts with a slashing guitar riff that wouldn’t sit out of place on an early Clash album. However, with all the other elements of the arrangement it sounds edgy, contemporary and original. ‘Tragic Heroes‘ opens up like it could have been on any of the first two Gun albums but sounds fresh and modern rather than a band trying to just re-tread their own footsteps. They also cleverly cram a lot into just over three and a half minutes. Next up is the vitriolic ‘Go To Hell‘ with Dante sneering the lyrics at whoever has to go to hell with the juxtaposition of the chorus and the ‘love, love, love, love’ chorus. Rocks but has an almost new wave feel too it. The final song on the album proper for me is quite possibly the standout track. Entitled ‘The Boy Who Fooled the World‘, it opens with just piano and vocals. Melody-wise, it reminds me of Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins at their sublime best. A fitting closer for the album proper and sublime in its own right.

The review version of the album has five bonus tracks with it. First up is a cover of ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)‘ with a guitar sound that the Young Brothers would be pleased with! This is followed by ‘20 Storeys‘ which I thought might have been a variation on the Jelly Piece Song (Glaswegians over a certain age will know what I am talking about)! ‘Come Undone‘ is next and is the pick of the bonus tracks for me. The throbbing bass line is contrasted by the almost muted guitar picking across the top and with a grooving chorus – great stuff! ‘Next is All I really Need‘ and we get the classic Gun crossover sound drawing a range of any one of a number of alternative rock influences, but rocking all the same. Last, and by no means least there is ‘Whisky and a Prayer‘. This has an awesome edgy groove with the riff and the vocals and all crammed into just three minutes!

So, do I think this album lives up to its billing of being a return to Gun’s rock roots? Damn tooting and then some. However, in returning to those roots, the sheer diversity of influences that have always been there still remain. Being an old fart I can hear influences from the 70s as diverse as Slade, Bowie and Zeppelin as well as alternative stuff such as Manic Street Preachers and the Clash. There are also more contemporary influences I can hear such as Muse. However, what the guys do is take these influences and carve out a little niche of their own and sound like…well, they sound like Gun! Just as they always have done! This is easily the best Gun album since they reformed and definitely since they burst on to the seen with Taking on the World. If you really are a Gun fan, set aside your hankering for Mark Rankin, and get with the programme. If you don’t, your missing some quite stunning sounds and in age of quantised, digitised, soundalike bullshit where it is becoming rarer and rarer!


Review: Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up

Night Ranger – Don’t Let Up

Frontiers Music Srl (March 2017)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Over the years Nightranger have produced some of the best US-based melodic rock, especially in the 80s. Having said that, they probably fell foul of their own success with film soundtrack successes they had not necessarily being representative of their sound. They are also one of the best live acts you are ever likely to see and seem to consistently put superb live performances. The studio output has probably been less consistent, but none the less is still pretty impressive. The last two releases have seen them on fine form, so I was looking forward this one.

The opening song ‘Somehow Someway‘ comes thundering out of the traps with guns blazing. The sound is certainly more guitar driven and even slightly heavier than previous offerings. However, it still retains the trademark melody we have come to expect of Night Ranger. ‘Running Out of Time‘ kicks off with a great riff and then into some excellent twin lead guitar work, feature of this album. Having listened to this album a lot in the car, I was racking my brain to think whey I thought the riff sounded familiar. I eventually realised it sounded like a track called All Fired Up by Glasgow’s Killing From A Distance, having seen them recently. ‘Truth‘ has an almost FM-like quality to it, albeit slightly more ballsier. This is demonstrated in the chorus with with vocal melodies working around the twin lead guitars nestling in the background. ‘Day and Night‘ kicks off with a dirty bluesy feel and then breaks down into a verse sung over thundering drums. The chorus then picks up the pace with double pace drum beat. The title track ‘Don’t Let Up‘ opens with more harmony guitars which again are reminiscent of FM and flows nicely in to a great chorus.

The blues feel hinted at in Truth comes to the fore in ‘(Won’t Be Your) Fool Again‘ with a great staccato riff and some bottleneck guitar. With a riff Keef Richards would be pleased with, this number bounces along with a great chorus falsetto sounding backing vocal! ‘Say What you Want‘ is the type of melodic pacey rocker we came to expect on the first five Night Ranger albums. It moves swiftly along with a great vocal. The pace is changed somewhat for ‘We Can Work It Out‘ which is built around the drum pattern and some acoustic guitar picking. It has a great harmony lead vocal and a killer chorus in my book. ‘Comfort Me‘ takes the feel back up a level and has some great duelling lead guitar work as well as some great harmonies. Jamie also opens up harmony guitars and builds on the previous song in terms of pace and feel. While I like the song, for me it’s easily the weakest song on the album. We are the last track which opens with just acoustic guitar and vocals and in places sounds a little like Oasis! That it until the killer chorus spectacular chorus kicks in. Entitled ‘Nothing Left of Yesterday‘, the verse/bridges contrast perfectly the huge powerful vocal in the chorus. Great stuff!

I’ve got to admit, the first couple of spins of this album and I thought Night Ranger have blown it here! But, I like to give albums a chance to reveal themselves to me over a number of plays and this one certainly did! It is certainly heavier and more guitar orientated than previous efforts, but it is a real grower. If you like Night Ranger, you will love this but give it time to grow and you and I guarantee you will love it!


Review: House of Lords – Saints of the Lost Souls

House of Lords – Saints of the Lost Souls

Frontiers Music Srl (March 2017)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

House of Lords need no introduction for fans of AOR/melodic rock. Oringially formed in the 80s from the ashes of Giuffria by Greg Giuffria, they released a spectacular debut and equally impressive follow-up. The band has changed somewhat since then but still includes James Christian on vocals. This is the tenth studio album from the band and also features new bass player Chris Tristram.

From the first song ‘Harlequin‘, this album has a different feel to their previous outing and seems more key board-based. It opens with a lush keyboard intro for the six minute long opener. Once the song gets going, I must admit it is a little disappointing. I like the focus on keyboards but the overall mix, in particular the guitar sound, is a little lack lustre. This one really needs to kick you in the gonads to work and it doesn’t. This is quickly followed by ‘Oceans Divide‘. It has a great chorus hook and is more suited to the overall sound of the album as a melodic rocker. However, for ‘Hit the Wall‘ the sound and feel really hits the spot. This is songs strikes an ideal balance between guitar, keys and vocals and is easily the best song on the album for me. The title track, ‘Saints Of The Lost Souls‘, is next and it starts with atmospheric keyboards. It is an up-tempo melodic rocker that needs to be seriously guitar driven but doesn’t quite come off as it just isn’t edgy enough. There is a change of pace for the acoustic opening of ‘The Sun Will Never Set Again‘. The songs builds nicely to a catchy chorus and again the production works well for this power ballad.

New Day Breakin‘ kicks off the second half of the album and a great guitar/keys combo riff and another great hook for the chorus, although the backing vocals/refrains at the end are a little weak. ‘Reign of Fire‘ in its title suggests it’s going to be an out and out rocker. It’s actually a mid-paced rocker that for me doesn’t really get going. For the next song title is even more misleading. Entitled ‘Concussion‘, it is a bluesey rocker which bounces along nicely on thumping bass line with great balance between the guitars and keyboards. It is also another great chorus even with that strange title! ‘Art of Letting Go‘ follows and starts well but for me really doesn’t really get going. The intro to ‘Grains of Sand‘ is excellent and twists and turns through the verse, bridge and chorus and has another catchy chorus. Last song on the album is ‘The Other Option‘ which is a pacey closer which needs to be much edgier to have any chance of working. Unlike some of the other weaker songs which have the saving grace of a catchy chorus, the chorus just doesn’t do it for me. I especially didn’t like the woahs at the end, which kind of sum of the lack-lustre feel of the album in places.

With this album I have given it numerous spins to get to grips with the content. It has some super stuff on it in the shape of the likes of ‘Hit the Wall‘, ‘The Sun Will Never Set‘ and ‘Concussion‘. But overall the production/mix of the album just leaves me a little cold. In Jimi Bell they have an excellent guitarist and he shines in some of the tracks in terms of lead playing. However, when the songs really need to rock, they just don’t. The power just isn’t there resulting in the pacey rockers falling flat. In addition, the drums sound so programmed that the fills really do start to irritate a little and the drums sound is part of the lack-lustre mix. I totally get what the band are trying to do here with moving more in the direction of the keyboards. However, for the production is letting it down as it has ended sounding a little too sanitised and dare I say it quantised! Not a bad album, but I just don’t think I would spend my money on it!


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