Review: Bad Touch – Kiss The Sky

Marshall Records (June 19th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Brit rockers Bad Touch are back, their fourth album ‘Kiss The Sky’ will be released on June 19th via Marshall Records.

Okay let me start by saying I was curious what the band would pull out of the bag in order to better the 2018 release ‘Shake A Leg‘. Well I don’t know what the band have been drinking/smoking/eating, but whatever it is, hell’s teeth it’s worked!

Kiss The Sky’ is an absolute stormer of an album, a foot tapping, head bobbing soundscape of epic proportions which I’ve been playing time and time again.

From ‘Let Go‘ a quintessential Bad Touch song to ‘Something About Your Kiss‘ which has to be one of my favorite Bad Touch tracks from any of the band’s releases, ‘Kiss The Sky’ just keeps on ticking boxes.

Yes this review is a tad on the gushy side, but the album is that good.

Buy it, buy it now!

Pre-order the album from www.badtouchkissthesky.com

Review: Room Experience – Another Time And Place

Art of Melody Music/Burning Minds Music Group (May 22nd 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

A lot of the recent reviews I have done have been for Scandinavian or German rock bands. For this review I am moving further East to Italy to take a listen to Room Experience.

Room Experience were set up by keyboardist Gianluca Firmo. He is joined by fellow Italians keyboardist Davide ‘Dave Rox’ Barbieri, Steve De Biasi on guitars, Simon Dredo on bass and Pierpaolo ‘Zorro’ Monti on drums. The line-up is completed by the English lead singer David  Readman.  After their well-received debut album in 2015 the follow-up, ‘Another Time and Place‘ has just landed in circumstances no one could have predicted. So, is it going to brighten up your lockdown?

Hear Another Song‘ starts with De Biasi’s driving guitar and  Readman’s growling vocals. The style is reminiscent of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard especially De Biasi’s excellent solo, but Readman’s performance gives it a real edge. It is a promising start to the album.

Wild Heart’ starts with a keyboard intro that sounds like Depeche Mode’s heavier cousin and gives this song a really different sound to the average rock track. ‘Disappointed‘ is a really heavy track that harks back to late 70s era of groups like Rainbow and Judas Priest and really suits Readman’s style.

Strangers in the Night‘ is a rock ballad that starts with a piano that sounds like Roy Bittan’s work from the early Meatloaf ballads, before moving into a Mid 80s style chorus that sounds like it will be really good played live.

The Distance‘ is a song with a mellow tune that could easily be another live favourite and in places sounds almost reminiscent of Kool and the Gang! ‘Shout‘ is back to basics with a driving rock tune that sees Room Experience let loose and create a wall of sound backed by Monti’s drums that keep the momentum going throughout the song.

Another Time and Place‘, the title track is another no nonsense rocker that makes the album sound like it is going through the gears. ‘The Miles That Make A Road‘ has a Europe style vibe and is definitely one of my favourites on the album.

The Night Goes On‘ is a track that once again showcases how well the musicians complement each other, creating the backing for another really good vocal performance by Readman.

A Thousand Lives‘ keeps up the high standard with a fantastic tune and a great chorus. ‘Your Voice Inside‘ is another mellow rock ballad that will get the phones lighting up when they get back out on the road.

The final track ‘The Distance‘ is an anthemic rock song with Gianluca Firmo taking on lead vocals. The song definitely reminds me of The Scorpions, both instrumentally and in terms of Firmo’s vocals and it gives the album a really strong finish with my favourite track of the lot.

Room Experience are a superb rock band with a wealth of experience and a definite ear for a killer tune. In answer to my original question, this is an album that will give your lockdown a real lift, so play it loud and put it on repeat!

Review: Mike Tramp – Second Time Around

Target Records (May 1st 2020)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

I have to admit something. Mike and I have history. Back in his Freak of Nature days, I not only saw them many times, but also supported him in Basingstoke, of all places. I’d just had my second tattoo completed and Mike and I shot the breeze for quite a while with the main man before and after the show on tattoos and many other subjects too. I wasn’t a big fan of White Lion, I really liked Freak of Nature and after ‘Capricorn’, I kinda lost track of Mike until a couple of years back when I was quite rightly told to stop being such an arse and acquaint myself with his later solo work.

It’s fair to say, Mike will never escape his White Lion days – I’ve read interviews where he complains about having to sing way above his natural range – and he has to field constant reunion questions. Mike’s solo work on the other hand, is as honest as the day is long. He seems completely comfortable in his own skin now and has turned out a high quality body of work so far.

Second Time Around‘ is a re-imagining of Tramp’s 2009 album, ‘Mike Tramp & The Rock and Roll Circuz’, that was only released in Denmark. Now you may think – ‘Why?’ Mike himself has said that the originals are some of his favourite tunes and were never given a chance and he missed singing them live. The question is – does it work?

Co-produced by Mike and Soren Anderson, the songs actually come across as fresh and full of life, when they could have seemed to be stale. Mike’s vocal delivery through out is warm, convincing and within his rightful range. He certainly sounds stronger vocally than I ever remember him. The songs here cover a wide variety of feelings and moods.

From the opener ‘All My Life’ which is an autobiographical tale of life in a rock and roll band, to ‘The Road’, which is deeper and darker, then on to the melancholy feel of ‘Anymore’, which deals with breakup and love lost. ‘Come On’ rocks and bops along, ‘Between Good And Bad’ is a gritty rocker, ‘Highway’ is a sunny day in musical form and ‘Tomorrow‘ is a stomping rocker. The album concludes with ‘When She Cries.’ It’s a hugely touching ballad about the day Mike’s daughter was born.

Mike has proved once again he is an excellent vocalist and a story teller of some note. This release has to be up there with the finest of Mike’s solo work and even touches the highs of his White Lion and Freak of Nature days, as it really feels like a real band collaboration on the arrangements.

Review: Vandenberg – 2020

Mascot Records (May 29th 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

I, like many rock fans, was excited by the news Vandenberg would be releasing a new album in 2020. Speculation online was to whether it would sound just like classic Vandenberg, or whether there’d be some modern take on it all.

What you get with ‘2020‘ are ten tracks of pure, unadulterated hard rock! What you’ll hear people say a lot is it sounds like Whitesnake meets Rainbow. Well that’s hardly a suprise when the band has Adrian Vandenberg on guitar and Ronnie Romero on vocals!

Messers Vandenberg & Co have not tried to re-write any genre or style, and it’s not a case of ‘playing it safe’, it’s exactly as it should be and it should be welcomed as such.

I have played ‘2020‘ over and over again since the album landed in my inbox. At no point has it been an album of two halves, or only liking two or three of the tracks. I am thoroughly enjoying the whole album.

If there was some sort of blueprint for an album that ticked all my likes then ‘2020‘ would be pretty damn close.

Standout tracks………..bloody hell, sometimes that’s not such an easy thing to say. I find different songs grab me at different listens. If I’m forced to choose then ‘Hell Or High Water‘ with it’s Dio / Rainbow like qualities, ‘Let It Rain‘ for it’s delightful Whitesnakeness, ‘Light Up The Sky’ simply because it’s such a damn good track and I know certain ‘purists’ will moan but the new rendition of ‘Burning Heart‘ is a worthy re-recording of that timeless classic.

So there you have it If you like hard rock, Vandenberg, Rainbow, Whitesnake etc then this is a must buy. But most of you knew that already!

Review: Black Lightning – Blue Highways

Independent

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Well I’ve finally got off my arse and put diget to keyboard to review Black Lightning‘s new album ‘Blue Highways‘.

Frontman Mark Jackson and I go way back, back to those heady days of the Marquee when his other band Medicine Hat were starting to make some pretty big waves! So I thought I knew what I was going to hear on ‘Blue Highways‘, but no how wrong was I?

Mark’s vocal style is somewhat different on this release, but boy do I like it! This is an album of  wonderful dirty blues rock, which sounds absolutely superb, due to the fine knob twiddling and production skills of Steve Loveday.

It’s important I tell you that the album is dedicated to founder member Rich East, who sadly passed away in 2018.

The measure of an album I like is simply how many times I play it, and ‘Blue Highways‘ has certainly had a few spins.

With the likes of ‘God In Heaven‘ with it’s country vibe, ‘Statesboro Blues‘ which delivers a foot tapping hook, and my absolute favorite track ‘Escape To Mexico‘ which has me raising the volume again and again, this is a solid, mature release and one that deserves to be taken seriously.

So if blues rock is your thing, then this needs to be in your collection!

Review: Stoneflower – Finally

AOR Heaven (May 15th 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Stoneflower are a melodic rock band from Norway who got together in 1996. They had some success with their first album ‘Crack a Little Smile’ but despite having started work on another album, the band split in 2010 when singer Frode Henriksen moved to another part of the country. Founder member and lead guitarist Tom Sennerud finished the album, ‘Destination Anywhere’ as a solo project. Following great reviews he contacted fellow founder member and bassist Svenn Huneide and they reformed the band in 2014 and recruited a new singer, John Masaki who had success in Norwegian Idol. The current line-up was completed by drummer Geir Johnny Huneide, Svenn’s brother. Now, 24 years after the band started they are ready to release just their second official album, called ‘Finally’!

The album opener ‘Gonna Let You Go’ starts with a superb riff and goes into Masaki’s melodic vocals which sail along over the top of Sennerud’s virtuoso guitar playing. Their melodic rock stylings sound fresh and urgent and indicate the previously untapped well of talent in this band. ‘What Can Be Done’ is an 80s style AOR track that sounds like a cross between a Huey Lewis tune and a Foreigner style vocal. The engine room of this track is the combination of the Huneide brothers on bass and drums who drive it forward with real power.

Believing’ has a start that reminds me of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long and shows off Masaki’s soulfulness before building to a real singalong chorus that will be great live when they take the album out on the road. ‘Calling All Stations’ has a Europe feel to it and is a song that shows how the band complement each other, creating a song that builds and builds becoming one of the standout songs on the album. ‘Kaylee’ has a really mellow tune complemented by a cleverly restrained vocal that makes me think of summer days.

The Devil Never Cries’ by contrast gets straight into a driving guitar riff and a powerful vocal that would be a great soundtrack for the next Rocky movie! ‘Shivering Hands’ is a song that has gorgeous lyrics covering the life of a girl as she grows from childhood to old age. It is a genuinely different song that tells a beautiful story and is definitely my favourite song on the album. Next is the title track ‘Finally’ takes up what is almost certainly the band’s story as Masaki sings that have ‘finally found where I want to be’.

Through The Fire’ is another great example of Stoneflower’s superb lyrics which really lift this band above most of their contemporaries. They take familiar situations and rock music subjects and give them a genuinely different spin. ‘How Does Tt Feel’ is a break up song that sounds very reminiscent of REO Speedwagon and showcases the tightness of a band who really understand and complement each other.

Fall’, the final track features superb piano accompaniment from Bjørn Ole Rasch and a soulful, soaring vocal from Masaki. It is a fine end to a marvellous album. Despite being veterans of the scene Stoneflower sound fresh and vibrant. Just don’t leave it another 20 years before you record another album!

 

Review: Bullets and Octane – Riot Riot Rock N Roll

Bad MoFo Records/Cargo Records (April 24th)

Reviewer: Paul Saripo

Bullets and Octane, the four piece hard rock ‘ n ‘ rollers from California have produced a new album Riot Riot Rock N Roll. This release will be the bands sixth major/ full album release and one of the best so far.

The band have been on the scene approaching 20 years creating hard holistic rock music and touring gigs and festivals the world over.

The album’s title track opens with the mighty thrust of ‘Riot Riot Rock N Roll‘ a dangerously explosive song that lives up to its name. The track doesn’t hold anything back, totally unreserved, hungry as hell rock ‘ n’ roll, a perfect album opener and compass for this spectacular new album.

Ain’t Gonna Be Your Dog‘ is as catchy as fleas jumping around on the neck of a stray mutt. The track was co-written with guitarist Keith Nelson ex Buckcherry. This also has fantastically menacing bass work delivered by Zachary Kibbee that combines fast heavy rock with bluesy undertones for that authentic dirty feel.

The Devil‘ is up next with the catchy hook and lyrics of the devil made me do it. The guitar work of Felipe Rodrigo provides riffs that drip from the reaper’s metallic scythe as soles are sold with abandon. Another solid track from Bullets and Octane that I’m sure will be a massive crowd anthem rolling off the set list.

Give Me A Reason‘ is lyrically driven punching out without any angst or diminished excuse. A powerful vocal from Gene Louis delivers his tenacity throughout.  Moving on to the equally potent track that sits well alongside is ‘As The Bombs Fall‘, this is packed tall with massive riffs and impeccable time keeping of Jonny Udell who never eases up delivering rapid drum fire as the guitars are all in full song.

Addicted To Outrage‘ is a track that happens when these four rockers of Bullets and Octane storm up a fury together and make some real heavy music with added clarity of direction into an heal tapping head swinging harmonious romp.

Heaven Can Wait‘ re-joins the albums pace adding to the energy making sure this one doesn’t slip through the cracks.

From within the depths of this musical deluge comes ‘Chaos‘ a catchy and upbeat rhythm of rock ‘ n’ roll.

Rooftop Tears‘ one of my favourites from this album, something resonates with me here.  Musically solid, wicked bass alongside groovy chord riffs coming together providing an infectious beat and melody.

Lost Crazy Psycho‘ stands out with aggressive vocal prowess alongside menacing guitar work and rhythm section.

From start to finish this album is a banger.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Outlaw Orchestra – Pantomime Villains

Voodoo Queen Records (May 29th 2020)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

As I type this, we are in uncharted waters. So, what better than to be reviewing The Outlaw Orchestra. Their name had been bought to my attention by Donna Lennoc, one of a few Facebook friends, who support new and upcoming bands. (Well done you lot!)

The band’s website describes them as coming from the Deep South……….as in the south coast of England, not Texas! Like good whiskey, they are a definite blend. Country, blues, Cajun, rock and even splashes of Motorhead are put up on offer as influences, but I like the term ‘countrified rock and roll’, that is also mentioned.

What they definitely are, is authentic. They sound and more importantly, FEEL, like they are from Arkansas. They walk it and they talk it. You can just tell it runs through their veins. The second track, ‘Chicken Fried Snake’ is an absolute balls out classic. You’ll never eat fish and chips or a kebab again after listening to this tune.

Whiskey Drinking Liar’ has Blackfoot stamped all over it. I can hear Rickey Medlock applauding all the way from Skynyrdland. The sound that the OO has created is joyous. Wait on, did I say Blackfoot? There goes a big slab of the Allman Brothers. It’s all warm and layered, but yet so organic. The vocals of Dave Roux bleed Texicana and swamps and ‘gators in only the way real rock and roll does. It’s fabulous. Pete Briley’s banjo and lap steel are all over this recording and it’s those subtle and not so subtle touches that are all in the right places. Alex Barter plays a double bass with a crocodile’s head, all stand up and aggro. The drums of Ryan Smith swing, a la Bonham, Baker and all those mid 50’s and 60’s rock and roll skin swingers.

Arabaia’ has the wonderful refrain, ‘Where’s my camel when you need one?!’ These guys also play with a big assed smile on their faces. Can you imagine them live?! ‘Jumpin Jive’ is exactly what you’d expect it to be like, a hoe down with Brian Setzer at the bar downing double Makers Mark. Yet the boys can do ‘mellow’ too.

It Happened Again’ has those bluesy overtones, a bit Black Crowes-ish, but without being pompous and jammed out. I can’t imagine the OO playing a thirty minute stretched out version of anything. They’d wanna get to the bar and pronto. ‘Voodoo Queen’ Texicana crosses with flamenco – it wouldn’t sound out of place in Desperado the type movie. To my ears, the last two tracks hint at where the OO COULD be heading.

I don’t really want to be using words like ‘mature’, but maybe ‘structured’ explains it better. The female backing vocals in ‘Send Some Whiskey’ certainly adds to what is a strong ending to a very fine debut album.

Review: Newman – Ignition

AOR Heaven (Mar 28th 2020)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Steve Newman is back with his band and a bunch of new songs, one of the stalwarts of the UK AOR scene, Newman have released a number of excellent albums over the years, so how does new release ‘Ignition‘ stack up. Steve Newman alongside the songwriting and vocals provides all of the instruments on this one aside from drums, which are taken care of by Rob McEwen. With some great additional backing vocals coming from the takents of Doug Bartlett and Mark Thompson Smith. If you are a Newman fan you will be sure to like this one too

First up on this 12 track album is ‘End Of The Road‘ by the title would appear to be the ideal song to finish an album by, but perhaps it would lead to many questions due to the track title and lyrical content, but it doesn’t matter where they place it on the album it is a good track. Nice variety here running from rockers to some slower style tracks, criss crossing right throughout. For some reason ‘The Island‘ doesn’t really grab me, but that could certainly be just me, not quite sure what it is that doesn’t do it, but it’s a minor quibble.

Highlights here for me are the excellent ‘Chasing Midnight‘ which for some reason during the spoken piece at the beginning makes me think of Jeff Scott Soto, but there is just something running through this one that brings a smile to my face and makes me move, be it the solid beat, crunchy riff, keyboards or vocals everything just runs together so well, top stuff as always. ‘Wild Child‘ is another that grabs you, has a different sound, deeper and very old school especially once you hit the chorus, love it. Add in the pumping ‘Promise Me‘ or ‘Welcome To The Rush‘, there’s just plenty here to keep the brain ticking along, having spent quite a bit of time with this one on many rambles around the local area it really isn’t an album I feel like moving on from just yet.

Another excellently put together album from Steve Newman, no doubt at all if you are a fan of their his previous work this one is going to hit the spot, and if you aren’t familiar then seriously go check them out. Classy AOR, great songwriter and composer and the hooks are plentiful. Have to say I love the keyboards on this album, lifting things and just adding something a little bit extra when you aren’t expecting it. Overall just another cracking album from Newman, AOR or Melodic Rock, call it what you may but this is great Rock music, delivered by one of the most talented melodic rock musicians of the last 20 years, get it and enjoy it.