Review: King King – Maverick

Channel 9 Music (October 16th 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Ah – been looking forward to hearing this one based on the lead track ‘I Will Not Fall‘. I first came across these guys when they supported Gun at the Barrowlands some years ago. In fact, it was Jools Gizzi from Gun who told me to come early to see them! And I wasn’t disappointed and subsequently bought the albums. The band has changed somewhat in terms of membership in the last year or so and we now also have the incredibly talented Stevie Nimmo on guitar augmenting his wee brother Alan. Having seen the Nimmo Brothers perform together previously, I can’t wait to see this line up of King King live. Anyway, to the album.

Opening song ‘Never Give In‘ kicks off and any concerns about changing line-ups is blown firmly out of the water. Built around a big staccato guitar riff, this is melodic blues rock of the highest order. And Alan Nimmo sounds the best he has sounded in a long time with his soulful, bluesy and effortless vocals – maybe having Stevie in the band has created some healthy competition as he is no slouch vocally either. Next up is ‘Fire In My Soul‘, and this picks up where the opener left off with quality blues rock.

The tone and tempo changes for ‘Whatever It Takes To Survive‘. This opens with some soulful vocals from Alan Nimmo over tasteful guitar and keyboards and builds into a powerful chorus. The song rises and falls throughout with great guitar playing in the mix also. The pace is picked up with ‘I Will Not Fall‘ with an almost dancey rhythm and keyboard riff – absolutely killer. We drop back into ballad territory with the wonderful piano and vocal opening to ‘By Your Side‘. And what a great bridge and chorus before the rest of the band join in and the song changes somewhat into an almost early Foreigner-style ballad. This perfectly demonstrates the melodic strength of the song-writing on this album. And we are only half-way through!

‘One World‘ opens the second half of the album and is another song with slight dance tendencies, a la Steely Dan, with the great keyboard work and a superb vocal melody. The upbeat feel continues with the opening of ‘Everything Will Be Alright‘. Kicking straight into the song with lead vocals from the get go, it drops into a laid back segment before picking up and building to the chorus.

When My Winter Comes‘ is another song opening with piano and vocals to great effect. In fact the song continues in that mode and with another killer chorus, is captivating to say the least. The pace is picked up with a driving bass and drum rhythm for ‘Dance Together’. Ironically, although the word dance is in the title and considering the upbeat dance feel of some of the songs, this is one is a straight ahead blues rocker and it just pumps along nicely. The closing song is appropriately called ‘End Of The Line‘. Driven by a funky rhythm in the verses, it has some great soulful vocals and then picks up for the big chorus. Superb stuff!

For me, this is King King at their best. I loved the last album, but just felt it was maybe a little over-produced and the band lost that soulful edge Alan Nimmo brings with his playing and singing. This is just superb – top notch song writing, top notch vocals and production/mix that brings the best out of both in my humble opinion. To use the Glaswegian vernacular – it’s a pure dead belter by the way!

Review: Jim Kirkpatrick – Ballad of the Prodigal Son

US One Records (September 4th 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Although another blues album for me to review, Jim Kirkpatrick is well known to me in terms of his work with melodic rock kings FM. I was also lucky to see him do an acoustic set some years back at HRH Blues in Sheffield when I was playing with the Brian Rawson Band. I thought his acoustic set was superb, but was a little disappointed in the full electric set later in the day, which just didn’t land with me. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive when I got this to review.

‘Ballad of the Prodigal Son‘ is the opening song and is a pacey blues rocker which has a Bad Co feel to it. This is followed by ‘No Such Thing As A Sure Thing‘ which has a more blues country feel to it. ‘Ain’t Going Down‘ also has slight Bad Co feel to it with a bit of Bonamassa thrown in. It also has a great opening guitar riff and brings something different to the party. Next up is an instrumental called ‘Blue Heron Boulevard‘ in which Jim gets to show off his tasteful guitar playing. I can imagine this being the theme tune for a travel or a car show! The guitar harmonies veer from reminding me of the Allman Brothers to Bill Nelson and prime Be Bop Deluxe. A delightful piece indeed! We move back to big blues riffola for ‘Be Hard With It‘ with its grooving guitar and some cowbell magic. Blues rock at its best which I can image on a classic Pat Travers album. ‘Skin and Bone‘ is built around a rotating drum pattern and walking bass line. It does remind of something but I just can’t place it but demonstrates the variety in the song writing.

Always On The Road‘ is a it a bit of twelve bar blues with tales of travelling and leaving love behind. While, Jim does a great job vocally, I would love to hear Steve Overland (The Man in my eyes) chant this song. We have a real country opening to ‘61 and 49‘ and this is indeed a country rocker with some nifty bottleneck and some stellar backing vocals from Sarah Miller. We then slip into a blues ballad called ‘Talk To Me‘. This slowly builds and while I like it, for me it’s the weakest track on the album.

The tempo is lifted markedly for the bouncing rocker that is ‘Gravy Train‘. Driven by guitar and organ, this is a short pacey rocker which does the trick. Next is ‘Brave New World‘, which is quite possibly my favourite track. Sounding like a cross between Pink Floyd and King’s X, it’s a slice of alternative blues while being really melodic with a killer chorus. Great stuff! And before I know it I am at the last song. It’s a slow burning ballad of sorts called ‘All You Need Is All You Have‘. Building to a crescendo, it provides a great finale for the album.

If I am honest on the first few listens to this album I thought it was an ok album and not really doing it for me. However, it was on rotate with the latest Walter Trout and was the second of the albums, so quite possibly it was the fact that the Trout album blew me away right from the off. However, as the album rotated more as Mrs Scallan and I toured the west coast of Scotland, we both really started to pick up the nuances of this album. As such, this was a real grower and I have got to say that I am so glad that it was on rotate on holiday. Otherwise, I would have quite possibly missed out and what has turned out to be a really superb album! Hats off to ya Mr Kirkpatrick!

 

Review: Walter Trout – Ordinary Madness

Provogue/Mascot Label Group (August 28th 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

As I get older, I feel myself strangely drawn back to the music that most excited me as a kid, which was blues and blues-based rock. In fact you could say I am regressing as it’s something I have an urge to do at some point, having already had a taste of the blues having sung in the Brian Rawson Band for a year or so. But that’s another story altogether! As I delve into the blues a little deeper I am discovering gems that have been hidden in plain sight all along. One such gem is Walter Trout, who I was looking forward to seeing on the Keeping the Blues Alive cruise with Joe Bonamassa. It’s some small consolation that I got the job of reviewing the latest album from Walter Trout.

The album opens with the title track ‘Ordinary Madness‘. This is a slow burning slab of blues which slowly builds. While it is traditional blues groove, Walter’s vocals and guitar-playing make it far from ordinary. We then pick up the pace with ‘Wanna Dance‘ with an intro that builds into a rhythm section driven blues rocker and the vocals moving up a notch. It also has a killer chorus in my opinion. The groove changes again with a country blues feel with ‘My Foolish Pride‘. An acoustic guitar based number, it shows a more sensitive side to Mr Trout’s playing and vocals.

Heartland‘ just kicks straight in with drums and it’s up and running. To my ears this is classic melodic Americana and from the get-go has got that Tom Petty feel to it. We then return to a more recognisable blues format with ‘All Out of Tears‘ which is another blues ballad of sorts. It moves along with piano, organ and guitar weaving various textures and layers and is just magnificent to my old ears. The feel changes again with the opening bars of ‘Final Curtain Call‘. The opening guitar riff has a swagger not unlike a classic Jimmy Page riff and it rocks out somewhat, with an edgy vocal. Some great harmonica in there too!

Heaven In Your Eyes‘ takes us into the back-half of this album. It’s a mid-paced melodic ballad, with the intro reminiscent of Gary Moore’s Empty Rooms. This song highlights a more accessible, almost commercial side of the blues, which Walter easily pulls off. Opening with acapella vocals, ‘The Sun is Going Down‘ is just a masterpiece in terms of vocals, guitar and lyrics. The guitar riff has the feel of Chris Whitley circa Din of Ecstasy with a slightly grungy blues feel. We are then back on the up-tempo side of Walter’s repertoire with another huge slice of melodic blues that I could imagine Alan Nimmo from King King singing. Called ‘Make it Right‘, it motors along with more top notch playing and singing. And just to keep you on your toes, the feel and tempo change yet again with ‘Up Above My Sky‘. This has an almost dreamy, psychedelic 60s feel initially and is just sublime. And then just around the half-way mark it kicks into a great guitar driven monster with Walter giving it big licks. And just as quickly we are back into that 60’s feel again. And speaking of the 60’s, we have ‘OK Boomer‘ as the closing number. Sounding semi-autobiographical and reflective, Walter is asserting that he most definitely ok! It is a driving rocker and is a fitting end to this album.

I am sure those who are more in the know with regards the back catalogue of Walter Trout, might be able to point to the highlights of his career. And yeah, some of the tracks tread a well-worn path. However, very few will do it with the aplomb of this veteran of the blues scene. For me this is a master class in how to put a blues album together and then some. It just gets better every time I listen to it! If this is ordinary madness, I want to completely lose my marbles!

Review: Abel Ganz – The Life Of The Honey Bee And Other Moments of Clarity

Abel Records (August 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Abel Ganz is most definitely a blast from the past for me. I played a festival in 1985 on the same bill as me. At the time there was a bit of a progressive rock revival, and if I am honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to it. Fast forward some 35 years and here I am reviewing their latest album. While I am not a huge prog rock fan, I am not averse to it, especially a bit of Yes and Rush. However, prog for me always was much wider than those pigeon-holed into that category include the likes of Supertramp, early ELO and even 10cc. Let’s see where these guys sit on this wide spectrum of prog rock.

The opening song is the title track ‘The Life Of The Honey Bee and Other Moments of Clarity‘. Weighing in at almost 13 minutes, it has elements of the likes of Yes, Genesis and Rush. However, what you get is a song that twists and turns through the full spectrum of what I consider to be progressive music and even includes a Celtic folk influence with fiddles. It also has some harmonica and saxophone on it. Yet this song weaves it story and every twist and turn is seamless and by the time I get to the end of it I am quiet stunned by its sheer beauty. ‘One Small Soul‘ follows and is next up and opens with some beautiful acoustic guitar and opens up into a most beautiful hybrid of folk and Americana. Featuring the soothing vocals of Emily Smith, it also has great piano interlude in the middle. This could easily sit on the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album and is simply sublime. We get a short instrumental interlude in the shape of ‘Arran Shores‘. This is beautiful acoustic guitar piece from guitar maestro David King and doesn’t disappoint. And therein closes Side 1. Yes – that’s right Side 1 as I am listening to this work as it was intended as an album and on vinyl.

Opening up Side 2 is ‘Summerlong‘. Opening with gentle grand piano, vocals and a beautiful string arrangement, this section leads into a full band section which has elements of Yes and early ELO with the strings. It then moves back into just piano and vocals and closes in the most sublime manner. The opening of ‘Sepia and White‘ is very traditional prog rock with elements of Yes, Genesis and even Colosseum jazz rock vibe going on for almost the first minute and a half. We then have a piano and vocal interlude before the band start to join and build up into a crescendo of guitars and keyboards which has elements of Rush and Yes and then drops back into the piano and vocals and repeats the above section again before being treated to a mini-moog solo. The pace is then picked up with off-beat full band section with a guitar solo and then breaking down into an instrumental section and then just as you think the song is building to its end, we are into the second part of this song. It slowly builds again with themes recurring from the first part of the song and even includes what sounds like vibraphone from the ever talented Alan Hearton. The song slowly builds in layers with Hammond organ and heavier guitars to a climatic end. The last track opens with programmed drums and low whistles and is instantly reminiscent of Blue Nile. Entitled ‘The Light Shines Out‘, drummer and producer Denis Smith steps up to the mic and sounds like a cross between Peter Gabriel and Paul Buchanan from the afore-mentioned Blue Nile. A simple stripped back song with Celtic overtures with the low whistles, it bursts into a little electro funk and fades.

It’s been a long time since I been so excited about a vinyl release. The music is quite sublime with numerous progressive and contemporary touch points. These range from Blue Nile to Yes and pass through some Celtic folk and Americana for good measure. Yet it always sounds original, tied together by the Celtic brogue vocals of Mick McFarlane for the most part. Abel Ganz‘s ‘The Life of the Honey Bee & Other Moments of Clarity‘ is a proper vinyl release in every sense of the word. The attention to detail and packaging is utterly superb, from the cardboard inner sleeve with the vinyl inside a separate poly-lined inner sleeve, to the gatefold lyric sheet. And then that little extra mile with seeds for you to sow in your garden to encourage bees into it. I used the word beautiful quite a lot in the above and that is exactly what this is – beautiful. I know that prog is considered a bit niche, but the success of Steven Wilson proves that there is still a market for such artists. This album is every bit as good as anything Steven Wilson has produced and I hope the band get the recognition they so clearly deserve and this sells like hotcakes – it’s only taken me 35 years to catch on and hopefully more will also! I doubt I will hear a better album this year!

Review: Joe Bonamassa – A New Day Now

Provogue Records (August 7th 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

While I can’t claim to be a lifetime Bonamassa fan, I have been a big fan since ‘Black Rock‘ came out in 2010. The blues rock groove and his soulful voice had me hooked as soon I heard him on this album. While I have delved into the back catalogue, my least favourite album has always been ‘A New Day Yesterday‘. Therefore, while the Bonamassa purists who have been around since the first album may think this redone version is blasphemy, I was quite looking forward to it. Equally I am sure those purists of the early albums probably don’t like the latter day more refined blues rock Joe trades in now.

First up is ‘Cradle Rock‘ and from the get-go of the instrumental opening, you can tell the difference. Remixed and remastered by Kevin Shirley, the guitar sound is powerful and crisp and the drums cut through compared to the muddy mix of the original with a snappy snare and crisp cymbals. And once JB starts singing, the difference is humungous compared with that of the original. The first time I heard this album, I had to check the liner notes to make sure it was Bonamassa singing. The difference and feel continues into the more traditional blues number of Free’s ‘Walk in my Shadow‘.

Next is title track ‘A New Day Yesterday‘, which is another cover version from Jethro Tull. This is a fine example of just how much JB’s vocals have changed over the years. This is a slow burning number but the original vocal does the song absolutely no justice at all. ‘I Know Where I Belong‘ opens with a funky guitar riff reminiscent of Keith Richards and bounces along nicely. This is followed by the more radio-friendly number called ‘Miss You, Hate You‘ and the redone version makes it even more radio-friendly with the more refined mixed and vocal. If I recall correctly, on the original there was what even sounded like some guitar feedback. And so the improvement continues through ‘Nuthin’ I Wouldn’t Do (For A Woman Like You)‘ which is an Al Kooper number and features Rick Derringer on vocals and guitar.

Colour and Shape‘ is next up and is a more laid back number which is followed by the funky bass opening of ‘Headaches and Heartaches‘ which is a powerful bluesy funked up song. There then follows a slice classic blues in ‘Trouble Waiting‘ which is JB original. Another slow burning blueser is up next in the form of ‘If Heartaches Were Nickels‘ which is a Kenny Neal cover. This song originally featured the mighty Leslie West on vocals and lead guitar and Greg Allman on vocals and organ. However, JB sings the lead vocal in its entirety and the song loses a little of its original charm.

The penultimate track on the original album is next, called ‘Current Situation‘ and is a JB original. The last track on the original album was ‘Don’t Burn Down That Bridge‘. The opening of the song has a strange Deep Purplesque feel to it, even though it is a BB King cover. This re-released version has three extra tracks on it. These songs produced and written with Steven Van Zandt, the first of which is ‘Hey Moma‘ and is very similar to the material on the Din of Ecstasy album from fellow blueser Chris Whitley. Judging by the vocal on it, there has been no re-vocal of this song or maybe the song just demanded a different vocal from JB. The next additional track is ‘I Want You‘ and has a strange almost new wave rock feel and the vocal is…, well, it is bloody awful! The final song of the re-release is ‘Line of Denial‘. This is based on a staccato guitar riff and is a pretty good song but again the vocals let it down.

So, is it another JB let’s fill the gap album or a worthwhile addition to your JB collection? For me, it is as I prefer it to the original and you get the three bonus tracks, even though only one of them is worth the investment. However, if you are a recent Bonamassa fan and haven’t got the original, I think this album will be more in keeping with your expectations. Having said that, I am sure it has appeal for Bonamassa fans old, new and even former!

Review: Snake Oil & Harmony – Hurricane Riders

Zero One Entertainment (Feb 28th 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

This is Snake Oil & Harmony’s debut album. When reviewing debut albums there can be a degree of apprehension as to what you are getting. However, with this debut album, it is more about the intrigue of hearing what two seasoned pros such as Danny Vaughn and Dan Reed will come up with! Being a huge fan of both guys in terms of their individual band and solo efforts, the key question for me was, ‘Will the whole be greater than the sum of the parts?’

From the opening bars of ‘The Lines Are Open‘ and lush acoustic guitar you know what you are getting. With the guys trading lead vocals from verse-to-verse and the lush harmonies, the song has distinctive elements of the solo work of both, while creating something original. We move quickly into ‘Last Man Standing‘ with Danny opening the vocals then joined by Dan on harmonies. And what a glorious hook in the chorus.

The emotive ‘Aberfan‘, which is about the 1966 mining disaster in the village of the same name, is next up. While this song sounds more like a Dan Reed solo song, it actually evokes more of a Crowded House/Neil Finn feel and is a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in that disaster. ‘Dance In The Heart Of The Sun‘ has Latin American undertones to it and could be a great number to dance to! The pace drops a little for ‘Another Reason‘, and it seems to have late sixties vibe to the rhythm and bounces along very nicely indeed. With Dan taking the lead vocals it has a really lush feel to it.

Damned If You Do‘ has an obvious country influence with what sounds like lap steel guitar with Danny taking the vocal duties and Dan providing backing and refrains. In structure and melody it has feel reminiscent of early Eagles and to great effect too. The light country stylings continue with the superb ‘Where The Water Goes‘ which has one of the best choruses I have heard in quite some time. Trading lead vocals across the verses seamlessly and equally so in their backing of each other, this epitomises how comfortable these two appear to be musically with each other.

Canonball‘ takes the country feel to the next level with some superb Americana playing and arrangements and is Eaglesque for me. We stray back into more straight-forward melodic acoustic material with penultimate track ‘Save The Day‘. It is one of the few tracks with electric guitar and reinforces just how versatile both of these guys are in terms of their musicality. It is fitting that we return to the acoustic feel of the opening song and the trading of lead vocal licks on an almost line-by-line basis. ‘Little Hercules‘ wholly epitomises the sheer class of this album and the lush chorus just reinforces this class further. Superb!

I am sure a whole bunch of people must have thought when these guys started singing together it would be but a fleeting moment in time. As I usually explain when working with a band, if the musicians bear in mind the basic equation of singer = Knob, we should be fine! Let’s face it, two very successful band leaders and solo artists and both sing lead vocals – just how long would it be before the egos kicked in and it ended in disaster?

Wrong! What this album demonstrates is musically and possibly personally how comfortable these two hugely talented gentleman are with each other. If you like the band and solo efforts of these gentlemen then this is absolutely essential. If you’re not that familiar with one or both – this is a superb introduction. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts. Sublime! Just absolutely sublime! Thank you gentleman – I look forward to seeing you at the Glasgow gig.

Review: H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II

earMUSIC (21/02/2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

H.E.A.T are band that seem to have been around for ages yet still remain a young band and the next big thing to break. For whatever reason, they have just never made that leap into the big league. On their last album release they shook things up an bit and changed the formula they had stuck to previously, and took a little bit of criticism for that. Personally, I thought it was the best thing they had done and looked forward to them developing this direction further. However, judging by the press release it sounds like they have went to their roots, thus the name ‘H.E.A.T II‘.

Rock Your Body‘ opens the album with its pumping opening salvo and a great chop. And as you would expect it has a huge chorus. It pumps along nicely and definitively re-asserts the band’s sound. Next up is ‘Dangerous Ground‘ which lifts the pace and power somewhat and is classic H.E.A.T with some stellar vocals. ‘Come Clean‘ opens with a keyboard-driven riff, breaking down into picking guitar and once again there is a killer chorus. The arrangement cleverly changes a little each time round, keeping it fresh each time round. A more classic rock sound more akin to Rainbow/Deep Purple is next up with ‘Victory‘ and a chanting chorus. For me this is one of the weaker songs on the album. The feel changes with the opening bluesy guitar of ‘We Are Gods‘. This is powerful thundering track conveying the title perfectly, with Eric Gronwall giving it some serious big vocal licks. The pace is picked back up with ‘Adrenaline‘ and if there is such a thing sounds like typical Swedish melodic rock. With a staccato riff behind the chorus the song has another big chorus.

One By One‘ opens in a similar vein to its predecessor but drops into a completely differently melodic feel with keyboards and some choked guitar. The guitar solo is tastefully played over a more laid back break and provides a great contrast. Next up is the obligatory ballad, ‘Nothing To Say‘, and Gronwall shows he can vary his vocal styling. The song is predominantly acoustic guitar and ethereal keyboards but lifts for the chorus as do the vocals. In places, it almost has the feel of a movie soundtrack song.

Heaven Must Have Won An Angel‘ sounds like it should be a ballad from its title, but it’s a classic H.E.A.T mid-paced rocker which rattles along very nicely indeed. The opening of the next song sounds like the Scorpions to me before breaking down into a bluesy riff and then changing again into a rotating drum-pattern driven riff – great variation from the guys. Entitled ‘Under The Gun‘, it wasn’t the balls-out rocker the name suggested – great stuff. The last song on the album is ‘Rise‘ opening with some lilting keyboards before exploding into a huge guitar riff. This closes the album very much as it started with the classic H.E.A.T sound.

So what’s the verdict? Well, the guys wanted to go back to a classic sound after the experimenting of the last album and they have certainly achieved that. It oozes quality in terms of the songs and vocals and will certainly delight H.E.A.T fans. However, will it win them over a drove of new fans? I doubt it! A much as I love this album, I am kind of disappointed they didn’t go the whole way this time with the road they started down with the previous album. Regardless of my disappointment, let me be clear about it – this album seriously rocks. I dearly hope the quality of their recorded works and their kick-arse live shows get them into the big league.  If any melodic rock band that have emerged in the last decade or deserve to, its these guys. Get them album, buy your tickets for the tour – you won’t be disappointed!

Review: Ben Poole Trio /// – Live ‘19

(January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Ben Poole is one of a wave of young up and coming blues guitarist blazing a new trail for the genre. In the short time he has been kicking about, he has certainly gathered some great accolades for his playing and live performances. Therefore, this interest was of particular interest to me! This live set is a double CD and is basically Ben with bass and drums.

The album opens with the dirty riff of ‘Take It No More‘. It’s a catchy guitar chop with an equally catchy chorus. It also has some great light and shade with Ben acquitting himself well as guitarist and with some decent vocals. Next up is ‘Win You Over‘ which falls into a more blues style rhythm with some tasteful guitar playing. However, for the vocals sounded a little lightweight and a little limited, but good none the less.

Start the Car‘ is next up and has a great groove to it and powers along with another catchy chorus. The album then drops into some slow burning blues with an extended guitar intro with ‘Have You Ever Loved a Women‘. In fact the song is extended full stop lasting over 11 mins of the Freddie King classic. While the song suits both Ben’s guitar and vocal styling perfectly, for me it just goes on a little too long.

The outstanding song for me is next and that is ‘The Question Why‘, which is perfect for Ben’s voice. It is a little more soulful and suits the breathy vocals. For the penultimate track on CD 1 the tone goes a little more funky and harder-edged for ‘Further On Down The Line‘ before the closing track goes back to being a little lighter and soulful again with a great clean guitar part for ‘Don’t Cry For Me‘.

Lying To Me‘ opens the second disc and is back to the grooving guitar riff. There is a great brooding guitar riff for the chorus. However, it only serves to highlight the fact that vocals can’t match that power or intensity of the riff. Next we have a Jeff Healy number in the shape of ‘I Think I Love You too Much‘. This is a great rendition of the song but again for me highlights the limitations of Ben’s vocals. We drop back into a more laid back song called ‘Found Out The Hard Way‘. Doing this type of song suits Ben’s vocals and guitar playing. It also has the benefit of a killer chorus.

Stay At Mine‘ opens with a great drum intro and bounces along nicely on the drum/bass rhythm and picks up the pace just when it needs it. The funk returns with ‘Anytime You Need Me‘ with another great rhythmic, pacey number and chorus. However, for me it’s just a little too self-indulgent coming in at well over 14 minutes with a number of musical interludes. The last song is another slow burner in the form of ‘Time Might Never Come‘. This is another great song but again for me is just too long, lasting over 15 minutes and too much guitar self-indulgence.

Having got to the end of this double CD set, I have mixed feelings. There are some great songs on this album and some great playing. While I get that with a blues trio there is always going to be an element of showboating from the main man, for me in this instance the really long songs just don’t hold my interest enough. I would also rather hear more of Ben’s original material! And finally, my perennial niggle of the singing blues guitarist! There are some fine examples out there of this phenomenon, with the like of the Nimmo brothers and Kris Barras to name a few. However, some of the material in this set only serves to highlight Ben should either select the material to suit his vocals or have someone share the vocals, such as a bass player with a voice that can move up a notch for the harder-edged material. Overall impression is that this is a good album but could easily be an excellent album depending on which way Ben wants to go with vocal options. Existing fans won’t be disappointed, but I don’t see this attracting too many new fans.

Hi folks, here’s the Top Ten Albums Of 2019 as chosen by reviewer Peter Scallan.

Danny Vaughn – Myths, Legends and Lies

Burnt Out Wreck – This Is Hell

Kris Barras Band – Light It Up

Matt Pearce & The Mutineers – Gotta Get Home

Beth Hart – War In My Mind

Gun – Reloaded

Grand Slam – Hit The Ground

The Magpie Salute – High Water II

Carl Dixon – Unbroken 

Jack Savoretti – Singing to Strangers

Review: Grand Slam, Bannermans, Edinburgh (5/12/19)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

The new Grand Slam line-up has been driven by the vision of Laurence Archer to finally get some the original songs penned during the original Phil Lynott incarnation of the band recorded properly. This included Grand Slam being seen as a band and not a project. The recently released album goes a long way in proving that in spades. However, the real acid test for any band is can they deliver live?

The set opened with ‘Nineteen‘ after which just rocked from the off. The driving rhythm section and that superb guitar riff kicked the show off spectacularly with the vocals really sitting in the groove from Michael Dyer.

Next up is the wonderful ‘Gone Are The Days‘, which was the first video and single from the album. The song features some wonderful harmony guitars and I wondered how this would be achieved with only one guitarist. However, the harmonies were provided by the keyboards, played by one other than Gem Davis from FM, who also played with Laurence in UFO I believe. This song is just a genuine slice classic British rock and certainly snares the crowd.

Military Man‘ was next up kicking with some military snare and Mr. Dyer marching along. The Grand Slam version is absolutely superb, and according to Mrs. Scallan, is better than the Gary Moore version, and I tend to agree.

The only song played on the night not on the new album was ‘Harlem‘, which is another 80s Grand Slam original and executed superbly all round. One of the new compositions from the album was next, namely ‘Crazy‘. Another song driven by a great guitar riff, it again rattled along scoop up the audience with the catchy chorus and the sheer pace.

The band then returned to an old song in ‘Crime Rate‘, with Michael talking about how relevant the song is based on the stabbing epidemic in London and the fact it has happened on his own door step. This blues-based slow burner is one of my favourite songs and Michael acquits himself spectacularly in his delivery.

The title track of the album, ‘Hit the Ground‘ followed, before ‘Long Road‘ was introduced quite emotionally as it is dedicated to friend Mikael Fässberg who lost a short battle against cancer. Ironically ‘Dedication‘ was next and was dedicated to Mr Doogie White who happened to be in the audience.

The last song proper was ‘Sisters of Mercy‘ which had everybody bouncing along to the Irish jig section. The encore kicked off with Laurence demonstrating what a superb guitarist he is accompanied by Gem on keyboards before launching into the instrumental song ‘Grand Slam‘. Bringing Michael back on stage, they closed with a second rousing rendition of ‘Gone Are The Days‘.

So does the new Grand Slam stack as well live as it does on the album? Yeah bet it does and then some! I was well and truly Slammed by Grand Slam at Bannermans. With an absolutely superb set of new and classic GS material and such an accomplished band of musicians, what is not to like? In summary, superb songs, superlative playing and a charismatic and articulate front man in Michael Dyer whose voice sits right in the groove. I doff my cap to you Mr Archer and co and I would say mission accomplished thus far! I can’t wait for the next instalment of seeing you guys live!