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: 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: Clare Free – Where Are You Now

Independent (March 6th 2020)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

Another artist I’d never heard of. Which is kinda cool, as it gets me off of my arse, in order to find out about them.

Clare is a blues artist. Plays guitar and sings. Now, there are some of my pals, who, if you mention blues, roll their eyes and say that it all sounds the same and how boring it is. Not with Clare though. In fact, as she mentions herself in interview, Clare is a rocker at heart. And throughout this album, the rock, at times easily outweighs the straight ahead blues. Which, to me, is a positive.

Sonically, this album is sparse. Plenty of space. I can imagine Clare and her band set up and pretty much laid it down. The production is clear and crisp. The songs that really work for me are ‘Nice Girls’ – Clare’s hard arsed response to Rose Tattoo’s Nice Boys. Think of a souped up Thorogood meets Kids Wanna Rock by Bryan Adams.

Gimme Rock & Roll’ – a laconic drum beat which builds into a cool chorus. ‘Scars’ – a grinding groover with an ethereal lead into a chorus which features this wonderful lyric…..’’She’s the most, beautiful girl in the world, but her face, is covered in scars“.

Let me Down Easy’ – Clare threatens to go all Alanis Morrisette but thankfully is made of sterner stuff. She just wants to be told to her face! The obligatory ballad, ‘Thank You’ shows what Clare can achieve vocally when given the chance to shine. So is it blues? Or is it rock? What about blues rock? That’s up to you to decide. It’s a mighty fine album whichever way you wanna call it.

Review: Dogface – From The End To The Beginning

ScandiRock Records

Reviewer: Grant Foster

Don’t judge a book by the cover. Or so the saying goes. Similarly, don’t judge a band by it’s name.

Dogface. I mean, let’s be honest as band names go, it’s not the best, but, it is memorable. Are you likely to forget it. Are you?!

And as for the cover? Think Powerslave, but on a tight budget. And with a dog, instead of a Sphinx……….

But what about the music, I hear you cry! Well, let’s get it out in the open straight away. If Deep Purple or latter Whitesnake is your bag, then there’s every chance you will get off on this release.

That’s not to say, however that everything on offer here is a carbon copy of those legendary bands. Far from it. Dogface take elements of both, but add their own stink and a slighter heavier touch to proceedings.

The production is both meaty and shiny. But not too slick. So the bugger sounds good too. It also weighs in at 15 songs long. Overlong at an hour and 4 minutes? Maybe a couple of tunes too long in my humble opinion. But that might be seen as quibbling. In these days of austerity, then let’s give Dogface top marks for content.

Star of the show for me, is vocalist Mats Leven. With very dynamic range, (He’s sung for Yngwie Malmsteen and lived to tell the tale, you know!) he is to the fore. It’s no surprise that the keyboards also feature prominently, but not to the exclusion of some very skilful, melodic guitar work, courtesy of Martin Kronlund.

Stand out tracks? ‘Don’t‘, ‘Not Wanted‘, ‘I Will Be There‘, ‘Can’t Face Tomorrow‘, ‘Leave This War‘ and ‘Spit It Out‘.

 

 

Review: Tygers Of Pan Tang – Ritual

Mighty Music (November 22nd 2019)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

The Tygers have been around in one form or another since 1978. Most famously, having John Sykes play on their 2nd album ‘Spellbound.’

Robb Weir is the only original member of the current line up from those heady days, but, don’t be fooled. The  previous Tygers release, the self titled ‘Tygers Of Pan Tang’, released in 2016 showed an outfit that was still full of bite and roar.

So, what of ‘Ritual?’

The one – two punch of ‘Worlds Apart’ and ‘Destiny’ showcase all that is good about the modern day Tygers. Chorus’ that will have you hollering not just at the weekend, but all through the week too. That might piss your bosses off, but bollocks to them. This is hard rock at its finest.

A word regarding singer Jacopo Meille. A hell of a voice. Tygers have always had vocalists with that ‘smooth’ sound. Jacopo has that and more besides. His delivery is right on the money throughout, although, and the band might not thank me for it, he has a distinct similarity in timbre, to Davy Vain at certain times! But for me, that’s no bad thing.

Rescue Me’ is a controlled mid tempo affair, but don’t confuse that with a lack of power. Another chorus of note and a fine guitar solo, punch this song into the upper echelons.

Raise Some Hell’, sees the pace turned up several notches. This is your foot on the monitor, head shaking number.

There’s a certain Saxon element to ‘Spoils Of War’, the guitars chugging along menacingly, with a middle part guitar solo that is classic Tygers.

White Lines’ uses some early vocal double tracking to good effect. It’s no big surprise to learn that the subject matter isn’t about flour, or what separates one side of the road from the other!

A melodic guitar and vocal intro to ‘Words Cut Like Knives’, showing a slightly mellower side. Again, it’s what the Tygers do really well and this is no exception. The track then cuts loose with some very cool lead guitar work indeed.

Damn You!’ is a thumping track. ‘Urban jungle, broken hearts and broken minds – I wanna stay alive!’ It’s a song about revenge or getting revenge. Enough said.

Jacopo’s vocals on ‘Love Will Find A Way’ are probably the best on the album. Even if you don’t like songs with the word, ‘love’ in, trust me, you’ll be singing this when you see them live. And you will be going to see them on tour, won’t you?! You bloody well should be on this album’s showing!!

I’m not keen on ‘The Art Of Noise.’ Fans of the really heavy end will like this though.

The album closer, ‘Sail On’, swings along like an old sea shanty. Touches of Maiden maybe, but it is it’s own sailor, so to speak. It knows when to step off the throttle as well, as when to step back on it.

The Tygers have delivered a consistently strong, muscular, melodic, hard rock album of high quality. Make sure it’s part of your daily Ritual from now on.

 

 

Review: Burning Sermons – Liv Sin

Despotz Records (September 6th 2019)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

I thought I’d review something way out of my comfort zone – which is AC/DC or bands that sound like them!

What I knew about this band you could have tried to have written on the top of a pin head. I really haven’t a clue how you’d describe them. Nu Metal? New rock? Church rock? Metal metal?!

How about we settle on Heavy Metal. Their Facebook page actually describes them as, ‘Metal for Sinners!’ These guys (and gal!) are from Sweden and came together in 2016. The singer is Liv Jagrell, a visually striking woman and possessor of a fine pair of lungs to boot.

What’s apparent is that they know how to weave pretty good melodies into their choruses, which means you end up humming them for a few days after. Which is always a good sign.

Opener, ‘Blood Moon Fever’, leads in with an Evanescence style keyboard intro, before it all kicks off. Liv’s voice propels the verse into a seriously catchy chorus. The guitars underpin everything in a time honoured chugging style.

Liv Sin definitely have their own style and I can see it going down really well with our Euro metal cousins.

Second tune, ‘Chapter Of The Witch’, means business, very menacing, fast riffs, but with another catchy chorus.

Its about now you realise how much the keyboards also contribute. They weave in and out, underneath the guitars, without ever overpowering or detracting from them.

Hope Begins To Fade, ‘could almost be a modern Europe track at the beginning, but what Liv Sin do well, is to move it slightly far enough into their own style to change the track.

Not every track works though. ‘War Antidote’ strays into pastiche. Maybe it’s just because of the higher standard of the other tracks here?!

At The Gates Of The Abyss’, sees Liv ease off of the power and her voice is impressive in this softer delivery.

Slave To The Machine’, has a thumping bass and drum during the verse, allowing the space for the rest of the band.

The heaviest tune on offer could well be ‘Death Gives Life Meaning’, as Liv spits out the line, ‘Take your fucking ways, burn them to the ground!’ I wouldn’t try and steal this lady’s Prosecco!!

To balance this, next up is ‘Ghost In the Dark’. Picked guitars and swirling keyboards provide an atmospheric background to an impassioned vocal. Impressive.

There’s probably people better qualified to review this style of music, but I tried to keep an open mind and I honestly enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The production is punchy, clear and concise. The playing is of a high order too.

I bet Liv Sin would go down a storm at a festival in Germany.

 

Review: Danny Vaughn – Myths, Legends & Lies

Vaughnsongs (June 14th 2019)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

I’ve always admired Mr Vaughn. A real honest, down to earth, friendly guy. And it goes without saying, a first class vocalist. Frontman of Tyketto, who’s first release, the classy AOR of ‘Don’t Come Easy’, is always welcome on my stereo / Iphone / cd player.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this release as DV’s solo releases have run the gamut of styles from hard rock to acoustic overtones. But DV hasn’t disappointed here! He has brought an album that is so intimate, so close, so full of joy, earthy, organic and warm.

It’s perfect for warm summer nights, or long drives in the countryside, or parties with good friends. There’s Irish country jigs (The Shadow Of King John), country pickers (Man or Machine, Last Ride of the Sunset Men), blues (Something I Picked Up Along The Way) acoustic (What You Left Behind) and a whole lot more besides.

DV’s voice is warm, rich and smooth. The performances here are of the highest order and the production is bright. If you think DV is a one card trick, then think again. This album is a sheer joy. It would be nothing of course, without good songs and it has plenty of those, amongst the 14 tracks on offer.

Myths Legends & Lies‘ – probably the most surprising album of the year for me so far, but, one of the best yet.

Review: Bonfire – Live On Holy Ground Wacken 2018

Pride & Joy Music (June 14th 2019)
Reviewer: Grant Foster

Live albums, are they as relevant today as they were 40 years ago?

If You Want Blood, Live and Dangerous, Strangers In The Night. In the days before the internet, downloads, YouTube etc, they were a wonderful documentation of a band’s live show committed to vinyl. But even those illustrious releases aren’t entirely ‘live’.

Priest’s effort is well known as ‘Unleashed In The Studio’ for a reason! Listen to Whole Lotta Rosie from IYWB. Most of it is the studio version from the Let There Be Rock album version. And the ending? I’ve never heard it finished like that on any bootlegs from that era or since! So, how do you know what you are hearing on these ‘live’ albums, is in fact, just that?

This album recorded at Wacken 2018, sounds great. Full and muscular. Almost like a studio release. Ooops, there’s the cynic in me again. The playing and singing is full on. There’s no doubting the quality of this band ‘live’. I really don’t know what else to say. If you are a Bonfire fan, you’re gonna love this. If you’re a hard rock fan, it’s worth checking out. If you haven’t heard of the band, check out their ‘Fireworks’ album.

That’s the problem with live albums in the modern day, in my humble opinion. The songs become so over produced, that they are almost indistinguishable from the albums from which they originally came. And as anyone who has ever performed a live rock show knows, that’s very rarely the case. Now where’s my copy of AC/DC’s ‘Live From The Atlantic Studios?’ Now that’s a LIVE album!

This time it’s the turn of Rockposer Dot Com! reviewer Grant Foster. Grant is a very busy chap singing for the premium AC-DC tribute band in the World, ‘We Salute You’,and so managed to furnish us with a Top 9! So in no particular order…

Blackberry Smoke – Find A Light

The Struts – Young and Dangerous

Airrace – Untold Stories

Electric Boys – The Ghost Ward Diaries

Black Coffee – Take One

Night Flight Orchestra – Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough

The Lazys – Tropical Hazard

Worry Blast – .44

Little Caesar – 8

 

Review: Frontline – The State Of Rock

AOR Heaven (April 2018)

Reviewer: Grant Foster

Originally released in 1994 (jeez, that makes me feel old!), this re-release/remastering/getting it back out there, comes complete with two bonus tracks that were only available previously on the Japanese release of this album.

Frontline hailed from Germany and are definitely of the AOR/Melodic Rock persuasion. Unfortunately, even a remastering job can’t hide the fact that what’s on offer here sounds dated.  It can hardly be described as a ground breaker of an album and you kind of wonder why it was reissued at all? But maybe that’s just the cynic in me, as apparently, these guys were ‘big in Japan.’

There are highlights – ‘Heaven Knows’ has a tough guitar riff and melodic keyboard interplay, strong vocals and a chorus to remember.

An AOR album demands a strong power ballad and ‘Another Love’ is that tune. ‘Heaven Can’t Wait’ is your muscular rock anthem and is upbeat, positive and would of probably have made a good lead track back in the day.

Surprisingly, both bonus tracks also shine. ‘I’m Falling’ has a Nelson type vibe with acoustic guitars and some top backing vocals. ‘Alone’ although very melodic, doesn’t lack bite and has a nice melody line.

Bottom line is, if you love this kind of genre, I’m sure it will be a welcome addition to your collection. Personally,I’d love the band to reform and go and re-record this with more of an organic sound, as it could bring out a lot of the qualities that the original recording and production didn’t highlight.