Review: Carl Dixon – Unbroken

AOR Heaven (November 29th 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Carl Dixon is better known as silver throated singer of Canadian melodic rockers Coney Hatch. They were the classic example of critical success and had three magnificent albums in the 1980s. The last of these was the humungous ‘Friction‘, which to this day is still one of my favourite albums. I did see Coney Hatch in 2014 at Firefest to coincide with their comeback album ‘Four‘. However, I must confess, I haven’t really kept up with Carl’s solo career, so I was intrigued to get this one to review.

Opening with ‘Can’t Love a Memory‘, this is a pacey, melodic rocker that illustrates just how much influence Dixon exerted over the Coney Hatch sound. And the man hasn’t lost his voice either! Great start! The intro of keyboards and guitar are reminiscent of Journey for the next number. Called ‘Bowl Me Over‘, once the song kicks in properly it is another riff-lade melodic rocker and I am back in 80s heyday of melodic rock. The clean guitar intro belies the pacey melodic rocker that is ‘Nothing Lasts Forever‘. Lyrically the song is obviously a biographical song about Carl’s days in 80s with Coney Hatch and takes me back to my own days in the 80s with Moritz when I lived in London.

‘Every Step of the Way‘ has an almost contemporary rock intro but then kicks into a great staccato guitar riff with overlayed lead licks. Another well-arranged and executed melodic rocker with great light and shade. There is a harmony vocal intro to ‘Summer Nights‘ but the song doesn’t turn into the poppy summertime melodic rocker I anticipated. Instead what get is a more complexly arranged number which ebbs and flows with a number of changes of beat which work well. Next up is ‘All My Love and Hopes for You‘, which is a ballad. For me this is possibly the weakest song on the album and just doesn’t really get going, albeit there is a pretty catchy chorus. Maybe one that will grow on me with a few more listens.

‘This Isn’t The End‘ opens with an archetypal Coney Hatch guitar riff and continues in that vein and could easily sit on Outa Hand, Coney Hatch’s second album. Another great melodic rocker. Continuing in that vein, ‘Drive Just Drive‘ opens up a like a track from ‘Friction‘ and is another powerful melodic riffing rocker. However, the chorus is a little weak for me compared with the rest of the song. Good none the less! Next song, ‘Roll the Dice‘, just picks up from the last song and delivers another solid slice of melodic rock with some nice guitar work too.

With a sequenced keyboard intro and guitar lick over it, ‘Keep the Faith‘ is more 80s AOR than straight forward melodic rock. Again, this song didn’t quite gel for me until after a couple of listens, but once it did it really grew on me. Last but by no means least, is the title track ‘Unbroken‘. This strangely sounds a little like Eden’s Curse with the guitar playing, especially the harmony guitars. A mid-paced rocker it fittingly brings the album to a close.

This is a great album, but unlikely to make Carl Dixon many new fans. There are some great songs here, but it lacks a little in consistency. However, there are no fillers. If you like Coney Hatch and you are looking for a new fix, then my advice would be to get a hold of this and you won’t be disappointed.

Review: Burnt Out Wreck – This Is Hell

Burnt Out Wreck (October 11th 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

This is the follow-up to the 2017 debut for Burnt Out Wreck. For those of you who don’t know, this is former Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat’s baby. However, he is the main songwriter and singer this time around. And a what singer too! Although I must confess to being a little biased here having watched this guy rip into AC/DC covers at The Venue Rock Xmas party and just think, ‘Git!’

The nine song album kicks off in arse-kicking fashion with ‘Dead or Alive‘. It opens with a riff that could sit comfortably on any classic AC/DC album. It rattles along at a fair pace and doesn’t let up at all except for a few breakdowns before kicking back up through the gears. From the outset ‘Positive‘ sounds like it could be from Powerage (my favourite DC album) and the song builds nicely into a massive bridge and chorus with huge vocals.

The amusingly-titled ‘Paddywack‘ opens up with a twelve-bar intro and the swings throughout with a great quirky chorus. We then have the straight-forward ‘Headfuck‘ which is most definitely not a song to be fucked with. While it has elements of AC/DC I can also hear other influences in there such as Judas Priest. The song just bulldozers its way through to the end and has another great chorus and some great guitar parts. ‘Guitars Amplified‘ is just that with the guitars cranked up both left and right. What a great riff the vocal melody is woven around – superb.

The title track ‘This is Hell‘ starts with a lone guitar and then another massive riff until the rest of the band kicks in – in fact with my headphones on they kicked my head in. While just as powerful, ‘Rock Hard Sticky Sweet‘ returns to more playful mood in terms of the riffage and story-telling and of course a killer chorus. ‘Just a Dog‘ moves to a more heavy blues style and grooves along nicely. There is also a very tasteful solo section too before the huge chorus kicks back in. And all too soon we are at the last song – noooooo! Entitled ‘Snow Falls Down‘ the song immortalises a famous rock pub in Glasgow called the Burns Howff. In fact if I am correct, the song is about the very last night the pub was open and as everybody spilled out into the snow filled streets we all started pelting people coming out the pub across the road. It got a little out of hand in terms of size and the police eventually arrived by which time I was standing watching on the sidelines. It was one of those I was there moments – and I remember that night Mr Moat!

Yeah – I know the album has a fair AC/DC influence and Gary sounds a little like Bon Scott in places. Yeah – I know it is hardly innovative or ground-breaking. But feck me, this album is chock-full of superb songs with more balls than an elephant after a vasectomy! It also has some superb lead guitar playing and a voice I would die for. So if this is hell, then hell ain’t a bad place to be my friends! Let’s all burn together!

Review: Black Stone Cherry – Back to the Blues 2

Mascot Records (November 1st 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

This is the second of Black Stone Cherry’s ‘Back to Blues‘ EPs. The first one was released in 2017 and received such a great reaction the guys thought they would do it again! Sandwiched in between these has been the full studio album ‘Family Tree‘, which is also much more bluesy than previous BSC offerings. Quite what the purpose of this second blues outing is, I am unsure. However, I am sure glad they did!

With only six tracks on it, the proceedings open with ‘Big Legged Woman‘, which is a Freddie King song. It swaggers along and the addition of the keyboard player pays dividend, with some great blues piano.

Next up is ‘Me and the Devil Blues‘ which also has some great electric piano in it. An original from Robert Johnson, the song has some great twin guitar parts reminiscent of the Allman Brothers. It is breaks down in the middle with the piano being more prominent providing some great light and shade in this version.

All Your Love (I Miss Loving)‘ is I believe a blues standard brought to prominence by Otis Rush and grooves along nicely on a great drum beat with some nice blues licks throughout before breaking into a twelve-bar section. The pace is picked up a little with ‘Down In The Bottom‘ which drives along on a ferocious drum rhythm and is great version of a Howlin’ Wolf song.

We then get treated to the out and out twelve-bar blues intro of ‘Early One Morning‘ before it drops down into a laid back funky rhythm that Elmore James would be proud of. The closing song opens with piano and military-style snare drums that make it sound like a Free song before the guitars kick in. The song in question is Son House’s ‘Death Letter Blues‘ and the guys absolutely rock this number.

Now I know it is an album full of standard covers, and some might say it’s for the collectors only. But I have got to say I have absolutely loved both the Back To Blues EP, and even gladder it is filtering into their original material as evidenced by Family Tree. For once it is nice to see a band grow and just get better and bigger which doesn’t really happen much these days. Perhaps there should also be a little kudos for their label and other labels should have a look at what can be achieved if you truly nurture an artist. Well done to both and long may it continue!

Review: Michael Bormann’s Jaded Hard – Feels Like Yesterday

RMB Records (October 25th 2019)

Reviewer: Dan Mann

To be honest, this could easily be a really short review being such a fan of this band’s vocalist. There are vocalists I like that I always grab the releases ofwhatever band / project they sing on. One such vocalist is Michael Bormann.

Unbelievably it’s been almost fourteen years since Michael’s departure from Jaded Heart. Since his announcement of the formation of Jaded Hard around two years ago, I’ve been keeping a beedy eye on their plans. Jaded Hard have up to now been playing live dates in Europe. But now they’ve taken the plunge and are releasing an album, ‘Feels Like Yesterday‘, containing twelve brand new songs.

Put it simply, this is like an early Christmas present for all Bormann fans. This is like re-visiting those classic Bormann fronted Jaded Heart albums, albums I absolutly love!

With albums you’re instantly taken with, it’s damn hard to pick favorite or stand out tracks. However, for me personally ‘Won’t Surrender‘, ‘We’d Still Make It‘, the Tyketto sounding ‘Bring Me Higher Love‘, the Y&T esk ‘Good Times‘ and ‘It Feels Like Yesterday‘ fit the bill.

To be fair, in my humble opinion, there isn’t a bad/weak track on the album, I’ve already played it multiple times and have it pencilled in as another likely contender for my top ten list for the year.

If your a Michael Bormann fan then this is a must buy. Likewise if your a melodic hard rock fan, add it to your ‘to buy’ list forthwith!

 

Review: Beth Hart – War in My Mind

Provogue / Mascot Label Group (September 27th 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

Can’t remember when I first saw this she devil of a woman but it may have been on Jools Holland’s show and just thought, WTF! What a voice and what a stage presence. I have been hooked ever since. I mean, who else would start a show at the Royal Albert Hall in the middle of the audience, singing unaccompanied and walk through said audience to the stage. So let’s get straight in there!

‘Bad Women Blues‘ starts with some contemporary woahs and electronic hand claps and then into then into big chopping verse which builds to the chorus and I am hooked on this bad woman. Blues with a contemporary twist. The opening lilting piano of ‘War on My Mind‘ gently introduces a song with deep and dark subject matter. The songs rises and falls beautifully as do Beth’s vocals. ‘Without Words in the Way‘ opens with what sounds like an upright bass and for a moment I am expecting Tom Waits to come blustering in. Instead I get Beth Hart in gentle, lilting mood and she lightly builds into the song with a jazzy feel to it. It really swings superbly in my humble opinion with piano, bass and percussion.

Let It Grow‘ moves back to a more contemporary feel with the vocoder style intro before Beth and her trusty piano pick up the thread of this song. The contemporary feel continues throughout the song with a superb chorus and the introduction of a great bank of female backing vocals giving it a slight gospel feel. Continuing with the contemporary and melodic feel I could almost image ‘Try A Little Harder‘ on an early Toto album. The song is uplifting and bounces along until the half-time breakdown for the middle eight and then leads back into an uplifting with Hart doing some Cleo Lane adlibs in places! ‘Sister Dear‘ is just classic Beth Hart and piano. With a little bass and percussion and some strings, the songs just tells its story about her sister Susan.

We are now into the second half of the twelve songs and it kicks off with a suedo-Spanish feel. Not surprising as the song is called ‘Spanish Lullaby‘. It is a full band affair with bass and drums driving along with guitar and Hart kicking up the gears a little vocally. The pace drops for ‘Rub Me For Luck‘ with electronic style percussion in the laid back verse. Just as you are lulled into a false sense of security lilting piano, the chorus bursts in and it sounds like a Bond them tune which Shirley Bassey would have been proud of! Superb!

Sugar Shack‘ sees Hart venture into an almost danceable beat reminiscent of early Stevie Nicks. The song bounces along on a pulsating hi-hat rhythm with the she devil weaving her meandering spell with her silken vocals across this song lifting and dropping as she sees fit. We crop back into some laid back blues piano for the intro to ‘Woman Down‘. The structure of the song reminds me again a little of Tom Waits with the light and shade building to a crescendo at the end with percussion and bass. The penultimate song sees Beth in a happier reflective mood with ‘Thankful‘. Returning to the more contemporary side of this album the song builds from the simple piano and vocals and slowly building with drums, bass and guitar. Sadly, we are at the last track but it is a fitting end for a Beth Hart album. ‘I Need A Hero‘ again opens with piano and vocal interplay that is this lady’s specialism. This continues throughout the song and is archetypal of some of her live performances, where the band seems to disappear and is never quite sure of when they are going to be invited back onto stage!

I am not sure if I can pour enough superlatives on this album. It’s Beth Hart adding a little contemporary feel and it works spectacularly for me. Yet it still has some of the trademark Beth Hart blues, melody and angst we have come to expect and adore. Simply fantabuloso! Roll on Valentine’s Day when myself and Mrs Scallan have the pleasure of this lady’s company at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

Review: Kris Barras Band – Light It Up

Provogue/Mascot Label Group (September 3th 2019)

Reviewer: Peter Scallan

The Kris Barras Band first came to my attention with the single ‘Hail Mary‘ which was a slow burner for me. On the basis of this and hearing a few other songs I acquired ‘The Divine and Dirty‘ album. This proved to be a heady mix blues and rock with a commercial bias, sounding like Bon Jovi with gonads and a decent vocal of course. Fast forward and here we have the latest opus from KBB entitled ‘Light It Up‘ which continues in the same vein and to great effect.

What You Get‘ opens the album and is bluesy, ballsy and melodic. Stradling the best of Davy Knowles and Bon Jovi it is a stomping anthem which sets the tone for ‘what you get’ from the rest of the album. ‘Broke Teeth‘ opens with a great bottleneck riff and continues in the same vein with some great female backing vocals and could be off Slippery When Blue, sorry Wet! The chorus sounds like it is paying homage to Kris’s other love of cage fighting, at which he is also meant to be pretty mean at. Next up is ‘Vegas Son‘ which I believe is a single from the album. Sounding a little like classic Pat Travers Band, the song stretches the band into more blues rock territory with a slight nod to a little reggae, ergo the Travers reference. The title track is next up entitled ‘Ignite (Light It Up)‘ and this rocks along with a killer chorus over a stonking staccato guitar riff. ‘6AM‘ takes the band back into a more laid back blues groove with a driving bass line through the chorus and of course another killer chorus. There is some nice Hammond on the song too. The slide into laid back blues continues with ‘Rain‘ which has a Nashville country feel for me. The chorus has a stripped feel and builds nicely into yet another hook-laden chorus.

‘Counterfeit People‘ takes us back to a guitar driven blues mid-paced rocker hand looking at the title I wondered if it were an observation on the music business! Great guitar riff, great vocals and catchy chorus again. The feel varies a little again with ‘Let The River Run Through You‘ walking a fine line between blues and country rock. None the less it is another stonking song reminiscent in some ways of Chris Whitley’s first album. The rock returns with ‘Bullet‘ which swaggers along through the chorus on a rhythmic bass line and of course, yeah that’s right – another killer chorus! There is also a great break down into the guitar solo. ‘Wound Up‘ opens up with a real twelve-bar rock’n’roll feel with bottleneck over the top. It then breaks down into a great chop for the verse and builds well into another pristine chorus.

As they say in the business, you can never get enough cowbell and ‘What A Way To Go‘ just proves that. This is a raucous blues rocker that doesn’t disappoint. More cowbell anybody? ‘Not Fading‘ continues in the blues rock vein opening with a great double beat with further tinges of Pat Travers. It just rocks along to the ultimate track on the album called ‘Pride is Forever‘. This has almost Bad Co feel to it with the guitar riff and the use of the slide reminiscent of Mick Ralphs with the inevitable killer chorus. Simple, but very effective and the perfect example of sometimes less is more.

Well what can I say about this album? For me it really is quite a majestic statement of intent with superb songs, playing, vocals and production. I haven’t yet seen Kris Barras Band live but I am so looking forward to seeing them when they hit Glasgow. Yeah, this is bluesy, but there is just so much more to this album in terms of melody – I am sure if he could still do it then Jon Bon Jovi would be delighted to put this out. It’s just got it all for me and a must have! Go get it – NOW!

Kickin ValentinaChaos In Copenhagen (EP)

Mighty Music  (December 6th 2019)

Reviewer: Paul Saripo

Kickin Valentina, hailing from Atlanta, are one of the best live bands I have seen in recent years, so I was pleased for the opportunity to review the bands new EP, here it is ‘Chaos in Copenhagen’ which is set to be released 6th December.

This is not just any EP release, this is 3 brand new songs, a new frontman and a live version of ‘Get Ready’ recorded live at this years Bang Your Head Festival 2019.

Kickin Valentina at the beginning of 2019 introduced a new frontman into the equation in the form of D.k. Revelle (Ex Jetboy)

Some processes and changes happen for a reason and this new line up is no exception.

The EP opens up with ‘Sweat’ a full-on anthem that will have you on your feet singing and head swinging around to precision beat delivery by Jimmy Berdine hammering out the drums, this is one hell of a track with a solid vibe.

Next up and maintaining the momentum is ‘Easy Ryder’ menacing drums duelling with some serious bass lines, low strung and delivered by Chris Taylor ripping up the bass strings, whilst Heber Pampillon works the guitar providing some serious riffs and solo work.

Shake Down’ follows on, in a slightly different approach, exercising vocal harmonies and lyrical hooks that show the range of ability in not only maintaining well written and original songs, but in the delivery of a sound that’s so catchy it feels like this will be an epidemic.

Last track, ‘Get Ready’ (Live at Bang Your Head) is up next and it has 3 brand new stellar tracks before it to compete with. Well It’s a belter, not only is this a fantastic live performance capturing most of the unique elements of Kickin Valentina, it is mixed to perfection and sits well on this EP.  Since recruiting the new vocalist and touring extensively this year D.K. Revelle has proved his commitment and delivers his powerhouse vocals into the bands well eared an proven brand of ‘loud unapologetic rock n roll’

This EP is not only a masterpiece from start to finish, but a prelude of what is to come from a  band of talented and experienced song writers with real stage presence delivering full on freight train rock’n’roll in and out of the studio.

Puddle of Mudd – Welcome to Galvania

Pavement Entertainment (September 13th 2019)

Reviewer: Paul Saripo 

Puddle Of Mudd have been around since 1991 however it wasn’t until around 2000 that the band became worldly known.  Singer songwriter and only original member Wes Scantlin  has now released this 5th studio album after 10 years.     

The album starts with some menacing grungy riffs with ‘You Don’t Know’ which is a good opener for the album and sets the intention and delivery of cultivated grunge that is woven amongst the lyrically angst tracks of this album.

Next up is ‘Oh Oh’ with some catchy riffs and hooks. The formula here is classic Puddle Of Mudd single material. This had me singing along in no time at all.

Following on is ‘Go To Hell’ I quite like this song too, however something about the chorus vocals sounds reminiscent of some sort of wailing cat, however I have listened to this a few times now and it grows on you to the inevitable point that it seems to sit well in the song.

I’m liking the guitar work on ‘Diseased Almost’ with some very poignant lyrics that can be associated with the struggles that Wes Scantlin has battled with. This is not to be underestimated and is a fitting keystone of this album.

‘My Kind Of Crazy’ is another well written, song which builds and expands on the struggles around lousing your way.

‘Time Of Our Lives’ starts slower and has some reflective thoughts coming through with complimentary rhythm section to keep you moving along.

‘Sunshine’ another song in context of the album, expressing the inner battlefield.

‘just Tell Me’ moves to another area of relationships and the continued challenges that have been put to pen for album. Some interesting and catchy riffs tie this album together and make it worthy of any rock collection, ‘Kiss It All Goodbye’  and ‘Slide Away’ close the album with, originality yet with a familiar feel of times gone by in the abyss of the 90’s POM. As an indication of the commercial awareness a radio friendly version of ‘Oh Oh’ sits as the final track of the album as an alternative, which doesn’t suffer any loss of impact as a result.

Overall I enjoyed the album. Puddle Of Mudd have swapped and changed musicians faster then a duelling banjo player on a caffeine rush, yet Wes who has remained constant has had quite a journey along the way. This album is a product of that turbulent time moving on to this point of a new full album after 10 years of struggles.

 

 

 

Review: Stargazer – The Sky Is The Limit

Mighty Music (October 11th 2019)

Reviewer: David Mark Pearce

After releasing ‘The Sky Is The Limit‘ and ‘I’m The One‘ from their forthcoming album, this hugely talented band from Norway are setting out their stall as a major force to be reckoned with.

Their self-titled debut was good, but this album sees the four piece really step it up – not just one notch, but several. Ok, so what do they sound like? In the mixing pot I hear TNT, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Dokken and the guitarist has definitely listened to Blackmore, Le Tekro and George Lynch with, at times, a hint of Malmsteen.

A cave full of reverb is on this album, which suits me just fine. It reminds me of when I mixed my album and a friend said “Wow … I didn’t know you could get that much reverb into a track!”. Well, in comparison, I pale into insignificance! ‘The Sky Is The Limit‘ is packed full of great riffs, great vocals and all round musicianship, which makes an album of great songs you’ll be listening to on repeat for a long time. I should know, as I haven’t stopped listening to it for weeks – fantastic album!

 

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.