Review: Easy Action – That Makes One

AOR Heaven (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Easy Action were a Swedish band of the early to mid-80s. They had short lived fame off the back of two albums, their eponymous debut album released in 1983 and ‘That Makes One‘ released in 1986.

They were the first Swedish rock band to sign a worldwide record deal but found themselves overshadowed by the success of Europe. The band split up later in 1986 when Europe invited Kee Marcello, guitarist and founder of Easy Action on board just after the release of ‘That Makes One‘.

Talk of the Town‘, the opening track, could be the long lost son of Huey Lewis and the News ‘Stuck With You’ and points towards the American influence that was widespread in music at the time.

Teachers do it with Class (!)‘ is a driving rock track that makes use of Tommy Nilsson’s growling rock vocals, great guitar work from Marcello and Chris Lind and the unshowy effective drumming of Freddie Von Gerber. Needless to say, the lyrics don’t bear up to close inspection but it is a fun track.

Code to your Heart‘ is a track that any 80s rock group would like to have in it’s locker with a Springsteen style vocal. ‘Only Love‘ is the obligatory ballad that sounds very much like Def Leppard’s Love Bites at the start before morphing into a Foreigner type chorus that robs the song of its power.

One in a Million‘ is a true mid-80s song with synth and simple chorus that in places reminds me of the song Pop goes my Heart from the movie Music and Lyrics! ‘Talk, Talk, Talk‘ starts off with quiet guitars and faraway lyrics that draw the listener in, then breaks into a song that proves that these guys could produce hair rock with the best of them.

Partners in Crime‘ is a decent enough album track but nothing in it really stands out. The title track is a really good slice of AOR of the type that Survivor were knocking out whenever a new Rocky movie needed another training montage!

Rosie‘ is probably the track that sounds most like a single that could have really made dents into charts worldwide and probably reflects the direction that the band would have taken if they had stayed together. ‘In the Middle of Nowhere‘ is similar in sound to the Scorpions and is simply superb. It is my favourite track on the album by a long way and would almost certainly get airplay these days if re-released.

Eye for an Eye‘ starts off with a synth riff that sounds amazingly similar to Chequered Love by Kim Wilde. It also features probably Tommy Nilsson’s best vocal performance on the album. ‘There is a River‘ is the final track and appropriately enough brings the album to a meandering conclusion.

It is a fascinating album that shows a talented group of artists starting to find their sound through experimenting with a number of rock styles. It might have been the start of something bigger but the band’s break up meant that this became an intriguing if ultimately frustrating swansong.

 

Review: Jesse Damon – Damon’s Rage

AOR Heaven (28 February 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Jesse Damon returns with solo album number six ‘Damon’s Rage‘. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit of a fan since first discovering Silent Rage (Jesse was vocalist & lead guitar) back in the late 80’s. Since those heady days I’ve followed his career with interest, enjoying the Silent Rage albums as well as Jesse’s previous five solo releases.

I guess I knew what to expect when it came to ‘Damon’s Rage‘ and fellow fans certainly won’t be disappointed as there is that distinct Jesse sound.

Together with long time musical partner Paul Sabu, Jesse has once again delivered a hard rock album that delves into AOR and melodic rock, all with a modern approach.

As to be expected the songwriting is above parr, with each song flowing seamlessly as the album progresses.

No chance of being short changed neither with the album containing twelve songs, all of which are over four minutes each.

Favorite tracks, ‘Damon’s Rage‘, ‘Flyin Dutchman‘ & ‘Lonely Night

Well worth adding to the collection and not just to complete your Jesse Damon catalogue!

Review: Gorilla Riot – Peach

Off Ye Rocka Recordings (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: Steve Borkowski

I first became aware of Mancunian 5 piece Gorilla Riot at Ramblin’ Man where I was blown away by their performance on the Rising Stage back in July 2018 and caught them later that year at HRH CROWS in Sheffield where I picked up their EP ‘American Honey Vol 1‘.

Initially I was surprised by the EP as I was expecting the energy of the stage performance and anyone who owns the EP will know that it’s stripped back, semi acoustic set.

With a few plays I began to really enjoy the EP, but still wanted something that represented what I’d heard on stage and with ‘Peach‘ I finally have it.

Peach‘ shows not only how versatile the band are but just how far they have come in a relatively short space of time. The record draws inspiration from a multitude of genres and times, from classic rock of Black Sabbath to the grunge of Nirvana and the southern rock of The Black Crowes, while keeping true to their stoner rock roots, there really is something for every type of rock lover on this record.

This record opens with an instrumental, ‘Riders‘, and this gives the listener an idea of what to expect from the whole album. A much harder, grittier edge to it than previous released EPs, the triple intertwining guitars are still very much evident, but there’s heavier, monstrous bass lines and pounding drums driving each track.

The first couple of times I played it, I struggled, perhaps the wrong frame of mind when I initially listened, but I stuck with it and after a few plays I noticed the intricate solos, punchy vocals and most of all swagger of the album begin to shine through. For me the album was definitely a grower and I look forward to hearing the tracks live.

Stand out tracks for me – ‘Beat Your Bite‘, ‘Half Cut‘, ‘Mind Your Head‘, ‘Riders II‘.

 

Review: Autumn’s ChildAutumn’s Child

AOR Heaven (January 31st 2020)

Reviewer: David Pearce

Autumn’s Child’s eponymously titled album starts with a 45 second track called ‘Intro‘ which consists of whispered words and Gregorian style chant that is definitely arresting as well as unexpected.

The second track ‘Rubicon‘ is a soft rock song that brings to mind fellow Swedes Europe with a driving guitar courtesy of Pontus Akesson.

Third track, ‘Glory‘, is a showcase for founder Mikael Erlandsson’s smooth vocals and the drums of Robban Back. ‘Crying for Love‘ is an 80s style tune that oozes class with another great piece of guitar work by Akesson.

Victory‘ is a ballad with another superb vocal performance and great keyboard work from Jona Tee and Claes Andreasson on acoustic guitar holding the song together. ‘I’m Done‘ ramps up the volume and shows a group that can write a heavier tune without losing that Swedish smoothness.

Sayanora Eyes‘ is another ballad that reminds me of Carrie by Europe. ‘Face the Music‘ has a Elton John style piano in the background, a Billy Joel style vocal and a chorus that sounds remarkably like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart!

You’re Breaking My Heart Again‘ is pure 80s AOR and sounds like a lost Survivor track that should accompany a Rocky training montage! ‘Everytime‘ is probably my favourite track on the album that channels Meatloaf and sees Erlandsson’s vocals soar.

Northern Light‘ is another Meatloaf style track that has more than a hint of Modern Girl and is another track that I really love. The final track ‘Heaven Knows Your Name‘ finishes off a really strong trio of tracks that really leave the listener wanting more, and they lift the album to another level.

I have always enjoyed Swedish rock music and this album is a strong entry that certainly bears comparison with some of their famous predecessors especially in those final three tracks.

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: Collateral – Collateral

Roulette Media Records (Feb 21st 2020)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Kent based rockers Collateral will release their debut album on February 21st, coming after 2018’s ‘4 Shots!‘ EP. The new album contains one track from said EP, the single ‘Midnight Queen‘.

Before we delve into the album’s contents, a bit of back history so to speak. Originally formed as the Angelo Tristan Band, named after vocalist Angelo Tristan, they toured the US, and played numerous live dates, including Fibrofest in 2017 and had various line up changes. Move forward to 2018 and the band became Collateral with Angelo and bassist Jack Bently-Smith being joined by drummer Ben Atkinson and guitarist Todd Winger. Since 2018 the band has grown from strength to strength, playing the likes of Ramblin’ Man and the Bon Jovi Cruise, as well as numerous other gigs and building on an already solid reputation.

And so to the album itself which kicks off with the single ‘Mr Big Shot‘, which on the album sounds much richer, with a fuller sound, which in my opinion is a much needed boost and really gives the track a kick.

Promiseland‘ starts with a catchy riff and a pounding bass and drum backing before the main body of the song fills out, foot stomping with great harmonies.

Merry Go Round‘ will raise the Bon Jovi comparisons that are repeatedly mentioned in reviews etc. It’s something which could be a win or a curse, thankfully the former, as yes it is Jovi like, but also with echoes of Royal Court Of China, all delivered with Collateral‘s own stamp on it.

In It For Love‘ sounds like a classic 80’s song title and the song certainly has leanings in that direction, with some nice keyboard in fills.

Next is another of the album’s singles, ‘Lullaby‘. Okay I’m going to be honest and say this particular song just hasn’t grabbed me as much as the band’s other material, however it’s a song that always goes down well with a live crowd so what do I know!

As mentioned at the start ‘Midnight Queen‘ has been brought over from the ‘4 Shots! EP‘, and rightly so as it’s the track that really helped garner the band’s reputation via airplay. Light and fluffy with a real AOR’ish vibe, it is perfect radio fodder and you cannot help but find your foot tapping and head nodding along.

And so we reach ballad time with ‘Get Back To You‘. And what a great job the boys have made, certainly one of my favourites on the album, it sounds like it’s taken from their third or fourth album let alone the debut!

Tempo stepped back up for ‘Won’t Stop Me Dreaming‘, very commercial and would of been a better choice for single than ‘Lullaby‘ methinks, some lovely guitar work by Todd (a future axe hero), great harmonies, and no overblown drums and bass. Great stuff.

Alas we reach the final track, ‘About This Boy‘ a song that Angelo says is autobiographical. Again a song that has a real maturity, which highlights the journey Angelo and Co have travelled from before Collateral to now. Plenty of country influences, it is really a cross over track that will appeal to a multitude of music fans.

So there we have it. In conclusion I feel the album more than reflects the band’s influences and ambitions.  The future certainly is bright for the boys and I for one am more than a little pleased.

A must buy and don’t miss a chance to see them live!

Review: Robert Tepper Better Than The Rest

AOR Heaven (September 27th 2019)

Reviewer: Stephen Brophy

Most people will remember the song ‘No Easy Way Out‘ from the Rocky IV movie, but perhaps be unaware that the man behind the song was NJ born songwriter/singer Robert Tepper. That was a pretty big hit at the time and has continually received airplay over the yeas, especially in Europe where there were many different genre mixes of the song that kept airplay going. Continuing both recording and writing, although album releases have been a bit sporadic, his work mainly consisted of writing for TV/Film, so it’s great to see a new album of original material almost seven years since the last release.

Better Than The Rest‘ brings us 11 songs mixing styles, mostly Rock, some more pop orientated and a definite mix of keyboards/electronic sounds, what is consistent throughout though is an upbeat punchy feel to the tracks, excellent vocals and music that suits each of the compositions, from the screaming solos littered around the title track to those back beats on tracks like ‘Tell Me You Love Me‘.

There is something very calming about the music on this album, hard to put your finger on why, but listening to if over the last couple of months and it just has that ability to remove some of the stresses and strains of life, that alone is a brilliant trait. It may not be an in your face style release, and in places perhaps a little too laid back, but it’s certainly not a criticism.

Highlights on this album are opener ‘Why Does Over (Have To Be So Sad)‘ which sets a nice scene, has some great backing vocals leading in and it’s just one of those tracks and has you coming back for return visits, ‘Show Me Where The Light Is Going‘ which has an almost Van Halenesque opening, not as frenetic or heavy perhaps, but a nice solid riff right through the middle with a really solid rocker wrapped all the way around it, and  the terrific closer ‘You Know Just How You Feel‘ which provides an excellent ending to this chapter of Robert’s story. This one just builds as it progresses, a really strong track and lifts as though it may power on to be something more aggressive, but then gets pulled back to a more emotional place, was not what I expected but works damn well.

The reality here is that Robert Tepper continues to be an excellent songwriter, with some excellent tracks in the mix on this album, it’s great to hear new material and we will hopefully see him back on the road in the UK soon. If this one passed you by on release then do yourself a favour and pick it up over the Christmas period, great mix of Rock, a little Country/Americana in places and just overall good music. Would definitely be nice to here some of these tracks live. Perhaps it’s not better than all the rest but it’s certainly better than a lot of releases these days.

Review: Blindstone – Deliverance At The Crossroads

Grooveyard Records (Dec 10th 2019)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

Well I’ve never hidden my appreciation of the music of Danish blues rockers Blindstone, far from it, a band seldom off my music rotation since I first encountered them quite by chance on Grooveyard Record‘s website.

Since that time the band have released in total nine albums if you include their newest ‘Deliverance At The Crossroads‘. Guitarist / lead singer Martin J. Anderson is one of the most underated guitarists in Europe who is capable of playing not only blues rock but has branched out into hard rock & heavy metal with other bands & projects.

With the bass guitar of Jasper Bunk and tub thumper Sigurd Jøhnk-Jensen making up the other two thirds of the band, this trio have amply captured in my mind the very essence of blues rock, namely, heavy, dirty groove riffs that demand you crank that damn volume knob right up and wallow in the soundscape now pounding from your speakers or cans!

From the opening notes of ‘World Of Trouble‘ your pinned against the wall, realising your in for an absolute audio treat. When comparing ‘Deliverance At The Crossroads‘ with the band’s previous albums there is a definite leaning towards that rockier, dirty end of the blues rock spectrum, an area I like to dwell in, an area that you’ll also find the likes of that man from Hell, Michael Katon, an area quite happy to stick two fingers up to ‘traditional blues’ and just crank and play.

While there isn’t a poor track on the album, there are always going to be tracks that either stand out or just make that connection.

One is the title track ‘Deliverance At The Crossroads‘. It’s just over 4 1/2 minutes of instrumental glory, a track  that just envelopes you in that afor mentioned soundscape. The guitar playing stands up against any of Martin’s peers.

Two track not out of place on a hard rock album. ‘What I Want‘ and ‘Olympus‘ pound and scream, with a heavy guitar sound and frantic bass and drums it’s almost headbanging material.

And ‘Dove‘ with it’s mixture of acoustic and electric guitar beautifully woven, creating a wonderful foot tapping end to what is a superb release.

This for me is potentially a cross over album, appealing to blues rock and rock fans alike. With the band making a welcome return to Ramblin’ Man festival next year here’s hoping they get the recognition they so justly deserve.

 

Review: Sign X – Like A Fire

Pride & Joy Music (December 6, 2019)

Reviewer: Paul Saripo

Fantastic album, comprising well written and executed musicianship with a polished production to suit.

Some catchy riff deliveries reminding me of Foreigner.

If you like melody, riffs, epic drums and powerful vocals this album will not disappoint and should be on everybody’s list of albums to buy and certainly a band I would like to go see live should an opportunity arise.

Storm’ opens with a signature piano melody leading to the full elements of percussion and fret work of guitar and menacing baselines with a punchy energetic vocal delivery.

Nothing is left out of this album, ‘Rain’ is a true anthem of a track, opening with an acoustic ballad on to a crescendo of power with hearty vocals and pleasing harmony’s throughout.

Free your Mind’ demonstrates the bands wordsmith-ability’s  and delivers a lyrical hook that will stay with you.

Crush‘ ’had me thinking of a west end musical score, not only in the presentation but in the message and feel of the song, credit to these guys on the composition of this triumphant piece and finding a suitable place that sits well on the Album.

Sign’ this reinforces the bands range of musical ability to write original music with a feel and nod over to the likes of Deep Purple on a tin of red bull.

Koda X’ a melody that closes the album with  tranquillity and reflection.

For me, this is one of the best albums I have had the privilege to listen to and review. Its released today and should be in everyone’s album collection.  I will be looking out for more  from Sign X, as these guys are simply genius.

 

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!