14 December 2011

Review: The Magnificent: The Magnificent

Pair up an amazing guitarist (Torsti Spoof/Leverage) with an equally amazing singer (Michael Eriksen/Circus Maximus) and you have the potential for something really amazing. Call the band “The Magnificent” and you have really set your sites high.
Rounding out the lineup is Rolf Pilve on drums, Sami Norbacka on bass and Jukka Karinen on keyboards.
Their debut album The Magnificent starts off on the right foot with a very catchy “Holding on to Your Love”. This song has very distinctive rhythms and I really like the lead guitar lick. There are two guitars playing in harmony and then doing an artificial harmonic trick that reminds me of Lamb of God’s, “Laid to Rest”. The vocals and harmonies make this song sound enormous. The balance between the guitars and keyboards is perfect. The whole feel of the song is intensified by all of the cymbals that are being knocked around in this tune.

“Bullets” is probably my favorite song on the album, because when you have this kind of fire power in a band you don’t want to waste it on a bunch of love songs. The lyrics, “some may fall, some stand tall, but there’re bullets enough to take us all down, down to the ground” is a reminder that no matter what station you rise to in this life you are just as mortal as the next person.

“Harvest Moon” is a great way to finish this collection. It’s a nice power ballad with lots of beefy guitars, bright keyboards and a bit of room to just sit back and take it all in. After all of the blistering guitar solos, deep drum fills and spine tingling bass runs this is a nice way to gently bring you back down to reality.

I would say the sound of this band could best be described as what the offspring of Whitesnake and Europe would sound like were they to hook up.

The musicianship and vocals are masterful, but where this album lacks is in the lyrics, if this band can come up with some meaningful lyrics that resonate with their listeners they will be unstoppable.

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Key Tracks: Holding on to Your Love, Bullets, Harvest Moon

Kirk Bullough

1. Holding On To Your Love
2. Cheated By Love
3. Memories
4. Angel
5. Satin & Lace
6.Love`s On The Line
7. Bullets
8.Smoke & Fire
9.Tired Of Dreaming
10. If It Takes All Night
11. Lost
12. Harvest Moon

Artists: The Magnificent
Title: The Magnificent
Genre: Melodic Rock
Label: Frontiers Records

Review: Beggars & Thieves – We are the Broken Hearted

In 1989 Louie Merlino (vocals) called up his buddy Ronnie Mancuso (guitar) and convinced him to move from Los Angeles to New York where he was living at the time. They wrote half of their first album in a week. After about 6 gigs Beggars & Thieves landed a record deal with Atlantic Records. Their first single “Beggars & Thieves” made it to Billboards Top 40. After their A & R man left Atlantic the band was stuck in limbo. They signed on to Epic where they recorded their second album Look What You Create but Epic never released it.

By this time grunge had taken off and record companies weren’t interested in pop-metal anymore. In 1997 Look What You Create was finally released on MTM Music. The band released a third album, The Grey Album in 1999 also with MTM Music.

In 2010 Beggars & Thieves reunited to play at Firefest in Nottingham, England where they received great reviews and were voted biggest surprise of the festival.

Now on the momentum of Firefest, Beggars & Thieves have released their latest album, We Are The Broken Hearted. They have added Erik Gloege on drums and Blake Newman on bass to complete the band.

We Are The Broken Hearted starts strong with “We Come Undone”. It has a great driving bass line, nice harmonies and an array of little guitar sounds that you really need headphones to appreciate in its fullest.

“Oil & Water” is probably my favorite track on the album. It opens with some guitar that reminds me of AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” and then fades into a nice ballad with raunchy, distorted guitar sounds, precise bass parts and the steady drum beat with the occasional tasteful drum fill. I love this slow heavy feel. Over the top of this ocean of heavy is a nice acoustic guitar and “Robert Plant” style vocals.

In the middle of “Innocence” is a cool bridge where everything cuts out except the bass and drums, then leads into a jammin’ guitar solo. “Never Gonna See You Again” starts with a hypnotic acoustic guitar playing alongside a lonesome hi-hat. In come the vocals and then some really cool bass and drums kick in. About half way through the guitar solo some really nice piano work kicks in giving the whole song a different feel. The song then cuts back to just guitar and hi-hat, builds into one last chorus with everything and then ends with just guitar and the hi-hat.

Things change up a little when you get to “Beautiful Loser” with its dual slide guitar intro. This song is another great mix between acoustic and electric guitars. The pre-chorus reminds me a little of Slaughter. There are some nice arpeggios in this song and another spot on guitar solo. The vocals remind me of Chris Cornell. “Seven Sounds” is a little heavier with a wall of guitars and an Axel Rose style vocal. There is a great melodic guitar lick in the chorus that I like quite a bit. “Stranded” starts with Mandolin and acoustic guitar, everything kicks in and Merlino’s gruff vocals start to weave a story. “I remember, stranded in the streets of Brooklyn, all alone under the dark red sky, find a bar and go inside, demons must be fed, two shots of mercy fuel the gods their singing in your head”.

“Wash Away” reminds me of “All Night Thing” by Temple of the Dog. It’s a nice soulful slow song, with nice harmonies. “Midnight Blue” starts a lot different with some synthesizer sound effects and then into some slightly distorted guitars that remind me of the Alarm. The guitar solo in this one has the coolest flanger effects and the song ends with a beautiful piano part as all the other instruments fade.

The album finishes up strong with “We are the Brokenhearted”, an anthem that reflects the turmoil the world is going through, encouraging unity instead of despair.

We Are The Broken Hearted is littered with smart, well-crafted songs, with catchy melodies and great rock riffs. Merlino can still belt it out and Mancuso is better than ever.

Mancuso said of this release, “This isn’t just some guy’s trying to have a little fun reliving the past. We are very serious about this. We want to compete with the big boys!”

What they have created is great album. I hope this is the vehicle that finally propels them to the stardom that was stolen from them and is rightfully theirs.

4/5 stars

Key Tracks:
Oil & Water, Wash Away, We are the Broken Hearted

Kirk Bullough

1. We Come Undone
2. Oil & Water
3. Innocence
4. Never Gonna See You Again
5. Beautiful Losers
6. Seven Seconds
7. Stranded
8. Wash Away
9. Midnight Blue
10. We Are The Brokenhearted

: Beggars & Theives
Title: We are the Broken Hearted
Genre: Album Oriented Rock
Label: Frontiers Records

28 November 2011

Review: The Beatles with Tony Sheridan - The Beatles and Tony Sheridan:First Recordings 50th Anniversary Edition

In 1960 the Beatles were playing in Hamburg, Germany where they met a young singer and guitarist named Tony Sheridan. They hit it off and by their second trip to Germany in 1961 they ended up playing with him quite often with either the Beatles backing Tony, or Tony sitting in with the Beatles.
German producer Bert Kaempfert of Polydor, took in one of their shows and suggested they record together. He signed both acts the same night at his kitchen table. The Beatles at the time were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best.
The Beatles recorded 7 songs during this time and were paid in advance for another session that took place in 1962. At this later session they recorded the backup tracks for “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Swanee River” on which Sheridan was able to record his parts the next day. It seems that the recording of “Swanee River” was never released and is now lost.
Of the songs that the Beatles had recorded in Hamburg, two were Beatles songs, “Ain’t She Sweet” and and the instrumental, “Cry for a Shadow”. Polydor Records expected that Sheridan would be the next big star and so they made the mistake of letting the Beatles get away. They went back to Liverpool, picked up Brian Epstein as manager, replaced Pete Best with Ringo Starr and the rest is history.
There have been other versions of the Tony Sheridan songs recorded and there has been some confusion over which tracks the Beatles did or didn’t play on. The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: First Recordings 50th Anniversary Edition contains all of the tracks that the Beatles played on in those sessions except for the missing “Swanee River”. This album contains the stereo and mono versions of these songs as well as the U.S. Versions which had some guitar and vocal overdubs to make them sound edgier.
Being able to hear what the Beatles sounded like before they found 'their sound' makes this album an important piece of rock and roll history. The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: First Recordings 50th Anniversary Edition is a must for any Beatles fan.

5/5 Stars
Key Tracks: Ain’t She Sweet, Cry For A Shadow

Kirk Bullough

Disc: 1 
01. Ain’t She Sweet (U.S. version) – The Beatles 
02. My Bonnie - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
03. The Saints (When the Saints Go Marching In) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
04. Cry for a Shadow - The Beatles 
05. Why - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
06. If You Love Me, Baby (Take Out Some Insurance on Me, Baby) (U.S. version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
07. Nobody’s Child (U.S. version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
08. Sweet Georgia Brown (New lyrics) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
09. Ain’t She Sweet - The Beatles 
10. My Bonnie (English intro) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
11. If You Love Me, Baby (Take Out Some Insurance on Me, Baby) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
12. Nobody’s Child - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
13. Sweet Georgia Brown (U.S. version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
14. My Bonnie (German intro) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
15. The Saints (Medley version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
16. Cry for a Shadow (Medley version 1) - The Beatles 
17. Sweet Georgia Brown - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
18. My Bonnie (Medley version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
19. Cry for a Shadow (Medley version 2) - The Beatles 

Disc: 2 
01. Ain’t She Sweet - The Beatles 
02. My Bonnie - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
03. When the Saints Go Marching In - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
04. Cry for a Shadow - The Beatles 
05. Why - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
06. Sweet Georgia Brown (New lyrics) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
07. My Bonnie (English intro) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
08. If You Love Me, Baby (Take Out Some Insurance on Me, Baby) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
09. Nobody’s Child - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
10. My Bonnie (German intro) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
11. The Saints (Medley version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
12. Cry for a Shadow (Medley version 1) - The Beatles 
13. Sweet Georgia Brown - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
14. My Bonnie (Medley version) - Tony Sheridan And The Beatles 
15. Cry for a Shadow (Medley version 2) - The Beatles 

Artists: The Beatles with Tony Sheridan

Title: The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: First Recordings 50th Anniversary Edition

Genre: Rock
Label: Polydor Records

Review: Royal Hunt - Show Me How To Live

Let the hunt begin! Cue horse sounds, bring in the timpani and medieval battle music, add some swords clanging, fade in the operatic voices then cresendo to a boil.

Sounds like the makings of some great cinema and it is inside my head where I am picturing knights going out to battle their enemies and DC Cooper is back to lead that charge.

Show Me How To Live
is a return to the classic Royal Hunt sound. It’s teeming with big, slick melodic arrangements, layers of glossy keyboards and jaw dropping guitar licks. A lot of care has been taken to make everything sound larger than life. Royal Hunt (est. 1989) are Andre Andersen (Keyboard) , DC Cooper (Vocals), Allan Sorensen (Drums), Andreas Passmark (Bass) and Jonas Larsen (Guitar).

“Another Man Down” starts slow with some mythical sounding piano and builds into a powerful, impassioned rock anthem. The Bass at the beginning of this song really creates the mood. The chorus sounds majestic with its harmonized vocals dripping with luring textures. I love the wah driven guitar solo in the middle of the song. It ends with DC singing “I open my eyes and I envy another man down” as everything fades out.

“An Empty Shell” is anything but empty with its driving keyboards and rhythm section. There is an amazing lightning fast keyboard solo towards the end that reminds me of something off of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, followed by an equally scorching guitar solo.

“Hard Rain’s Coming” is a pleasant surprise with its harpsichord intro shadowed by overdriven guitar power chords. There is some amazing bass work in the interlude and the guitar lines just seem to float like a feather over the top of it.

“Half Past Loneliness” starts with a hypnotizing bass line and that amazing snare sound peppers this whole album like ‘it’ was the spice of life.

The rest the album finishes strong with another anthem, “Show Me How To Live” and wraps it up with “Angel’s Gone” with its classical pizzicato strings, timpani and organ sounds leading into a great guitar solo and more colossal vocals. This song builds to monumental heights adding guitar solos on top of keyboard solos on top of drums solos with the bass holding everything together like glue. A few orchestra hits, some really cool drums and, “sigh”, the battle is won!

Show Me How To Live has made the wait for a new Royal Hunt album worth it. Certainly this strong release will close out the year with tremendous momentum that will carry them into 2012 and beyond.

 4/ 5 stars

Key Tracks: Another Man Down, Show Me How To Live, Hard Rains Coming

Kirk Bullough

1. One More Day
2. Another Man Down
3. An Empty Shell
4. Hard Rain's Coming
5. Half Past Loneliness
6. Show Me How To Live
7. Angel's Gone

Artists: Royal Hunt
Title: Show Me How To Live
Genre: Progressive Metal
Label: Frontiers Records

Review: Roy Roberts - Strange Love

Is it possible to call an album the blues when it makes me feel good? If this is what Strange Love feels like I could easily become and addict.
Blues Legend Roy Roberts has one of those voices that feels like an old friend. I liked it from the first listen. It’s the perfect courier to carry Roy’s thought provoking lyrics over a sea of tasty guitar licks.
This album starts strong with a funky little blues number called “My Love Bone”. It has a nice groove and the keyboard part takes me back to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, which seems fitting since Roy has played with Stevie.
Listening to “I Truly Love You” I kept trying to nail down what it reminded me of. After listening to it for a couple of days I realize that it had the same feel as “This Old Heart of Mine” by the Isley Brothers. I think you can hear B.B. King’s influence in “Hey Baby” and “I Can’t Wait” sounds like a cross between Chuck Berry and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
My favorite track on the album is “A Woman Needs Love”. If Plato were alive today Roy would give him a run for his money when it comes to philosophy. Here is a man that has lived and is willing to pass on some of his wisdom. I’ll take it!
The arrangements on Strange Love are just right. Every note seems to be completely thought out. There isn’t a stray note anywhere.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks:
A Woman Needs Love, The Next Time, I Truly Love You
Kirk Bullough

1.   My Love Bone
2.   I truly Love You
3.   Hey Baby
4.   Strange Love
5.   I'm Never Gonna Stop
6.   Wait For Me
7.   A Woman Needs Love
8.   We Still Together
9.  The Next Time
10. I Can't Wait

Artist: Roy Roberts
Title: Strange Love
Genre: Blues
Label: Ocean Beach Records

Review: Vangough – Kingdom of Ruin

Kingdom of Ruin is an epic journey down the rabbit hole.

The opening track “Disloyal” begins with a music box and the haunting voice of Clay Withrow singing softly and a falsetto voice doubling it in the background. “Reach inside my open chest, feel around there’s nothing left,” and then Wham! you are hit with a wall of chunky, thick rhythm guitars, chest pounding bass and a plethora of double kick drum rolls.

There is nothing better than lightning fast synchronized guitar and bass runs and Vangough deliver.

If this were the way the rest of the album went it would be a great album, but it’s so much better. About a third of the way through the song they pull the foundation right out from under song. They start playing ethereal, spatial material. The guitar lays down some really outside, dissonant lines. After some whammy bar dives they head into a big finish with big melodic vocals and harmonies. The song ends with a bit of eerie keyboard and some scream-o type moaning.

The rest of the album gets more diverse as it moves along, from the deep drop tuned guitars in “Choke Faint Drown,” to the amazing keyboards at the beginning “Abandon Me”. “Drained” has its double bass drum rolls and bendy guitar riffs. There is acoustic guitar sprinkled all throughout this album.

All of these tracks build up to “Kingdom of Ruin”. This is where the album diverges from the straight and narrow path of progressive rock and starts throwing in some more interesting elements: piano, scream-o, guitar harmonics tricks and acoustic guitar solos. “The Transformation” has pizzicato strings and cello. “The Rabbit Kingdom” has an almost classical feel.

“Stay” starts out with acoustic guitar and then weaves between a ballad and a classic rock track with an intense bluesy solo at the end that finishes with a nice Rhodes piano sound. “Sounds of Wonder” has just a hint of jazz that reminds me a little of Pat Metheny.

I think my favorite track on the album is “A Father’s Love” which is a beautiful piano ballad. Heart felt lyrics and gut wrenching vocals make this one a must listen.

The pace is picked up again with “Requiem for a Fallen King” and then to “An Empire Shattered” which reminds me of bands like Queen, Supertramp and Yes. Things slow down again with another piano ballad, “Alice”.

The album ends with “The Garden Time Forgot”. I can’t place it in a genre, it’s like someone took the best music of the last 3 decades, and a few pan flutes and threw them into a blender and poured out this last song. You could really say that of this whole album. You can tell Vangough loves music.
Vangough are: Clay Withrow (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards), Brandon Lopez (drums), Corey Mast (keyboards), Jeren Martin (bass)

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks:
Abandon Me, Alice, A Father’s Love

Kirk Bullough
1. Disloyal
2. Choke Faint Drown
3. Abandon Me
4. Drained
5. Kingdom of Ruin
6. Frailty
7. The Transformation
8. The Rabbit Kingdom
9. Stay
10. Sounds of Wonder
11. A Father's Love
12. Requiem for a Fallen King
13. An Empire Shattered
14. Alice
15. The Garden Time Forgot

Artist: Vangough
Title: Kingdom of Ruin
Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Nightmare Records
Release Date: 2011
Website: http://www.officialvangough.com