DRESSY BESSY
Little Music
Kindercore Records

Here's a decent little band from Denver signed to the Lawrence, Kansas imprint Kindercore Records. Kind of new for us to drift into "Pop" territory, however this tight, high-energy foursome come together to create quite a stir. Led by the exuberant, candy-coated vocals of Tammy Ealom and contrasted by John Hill's melodic guitar playing (The Apples In Stereo) the two bounce around like a jar full of fire flies in the heat of the summer. Transplanted Staten Islanders Darren Albert (drums) and Rob Greene (bass) give, what could be too sugary sweet, some serious muscle.

Described as an alternative bubblegum garage pop band with infectious melodies and quick start guitars, Dressy Bessy pull it all together on tracks like 'All The Right Reasons', 'Live To Tell All' and 'Ultra Vivid Color.' Midway through the 13-song disc 'Fuzzy' gives the group a whole new dimension with its heavily distorted guitars and driving organ. The vocals get a little lost but make a dramatic come back in the meandering '2 My Questions' and 'Sunny.'

This is the bands third full-length record, fourth if you count their EP "California." They continue to push their Beach Boy - Southern Cal sound with an assortment of lush harmonies and edgy delivery. 'Princess' is the coolest song with a higher pitched fuzzy, straight ahead riff and teaser vocals. Echoing back to the hazy of '60s with a basket-full of catchy, made for MTV pop, Dressy Bessy are looking for their day in the sun.

Website:
www.kindercore.com or www.dressybessy.com

THE PARTY OF HELICOPTERS
Please Believe It
Velocette Records

The Philadelphia Weekly called this band "a great, big dangerous tangle of guitar riffs, urgent vocals and sinister melodies" - which is damn near perfect. Not to be confused with the Swedish giant of a similar name, this Kent, Ohio quartet plug-in and blaze through 10 sonic gems on their new opus “Please Believe It.” The music is gripping from the second 'The Good Punk' permeates the speakers with the crisp guitar assault of Jamie Stillman and Joe Dennis' searing vocals to the pounding of Ryan Brannon and Cory Race.

'Cover Me,' 'The Toucher' and 'Brutal Enigma' generate so much heat it's easy to see where the recent buzz on the band stems from. Since their formation in 1995, POH has logged ten tours, two drummers and a sea of fans from coast to coast. This current outing lists as the third release for the group and maintains a whirlwind of blinding intensity with dynamic sonic urgency. Dennis' higher octave vocals and his sense of melody are akin to the early '70s pop sound of the Monkeys or even Bay City Rollers but with a hammering metal-like thrust.

Well schooled in the ability to craft tightly punctuated nuggets, songs like ‘Delta 88’ and ‘Boston’ make use of Stillman’s aggressive riffing to move the songs into a mind-numbing, hypnotic swirl. Add to that layers of fused harmonies, and the sweet, pure glitz of European pop embrace the onslaught of CBGB punk. Each number resonates the same distinctive brilliance. Closing track ‘Science Reasons’ locks down a rugged edgy set of chugging rhythms that race to the twilight of an amazing set.

The record will be released April 8th, 2003.

Website:
www.velocetterecords.com or www.thepartyofhelicopters.com

PURE GRAIN
No Regrets
SOL Records

With stunning musicianship in the vein of Matchbox 20 meets John Cougar Mellencamp, Indiana's Pure Grain lights up the board with 11 soulful mid-tempo rockers. Based around the voice of South Carolina transplant, Chris Taber, songs like 'Running Out Of Time,' 'Carolina Blues' and 'No Regrets' ooze with emotion and burn with a slow, steady fire. Guitarist David Lacey, drummer Brian DeBruler and bassist Eric Francis hail from Lawrenceburg, Indiana and are the ideal backdrop to Taber's acoustic romp.

Falling rightly into the Alt-country niche, the elements of blues guitar raked over country-soul penetrate deep into the grooves of this Midwestern opus. Impressive song writing, smooth and memorable melodies build up each song with a sultry edge. The reflective 'Set Me Free', the tender 'Nobody Said It' and the bluesy ‘Workin’ compliment the group’s diversity.

Much of the record follows the autobiographical tale of Taber's pursuit to fulfill his musical dreams. ‘Back On My Feet' and 'Feeling' Lonely' follow in suite with acoustic-driven foot- tapping jams. But it’s the ballad sweetness of ‘Keepin On’ and the standout 'Sweet Dreams' with its gorgeous strum delivered over a finger-picked layered harmony that carries the disc to new heights. For a debut this is amazingly mature and well deserving of critical praise.

Website:
www.puregrainmusic.com

MAMBO SONS
Play Some Rock & Roll
Casa Del Soul Productions

Led by Vintage Guitar contributor and axe-wielding extraordinaire Tom Guerra, Mambo Sons collide as the perfect combination of high-octane rhythm and blues with a dedicated respect for Rock’s brazen legends. Generating a Stones meets T. Rex meets Jackson Browne vibe the Sons kick open the door on traditional open-chord riffing and passionate song writing. The foursome; Tom Guerra (guitars & vocals), Scott Lawson (lead vocals), Mike Hayden (drums & vocals) and Jeff Keithline (bass & vocals) not only create an uncanny homage to Sixties and Seventies rock they do so with authenticity using vintage Strats, Teles and the like driven through a beefy stack of Marshals.

Strap on “I Get Around Too Much”, “’79” and “Everything Was Mine” for a teasing guitar punch at teeth-grinding garage rock then spin it around and land on “Rockaway” and listen to Guerra’s solo tribute to blues-rock legend, Paul Kossoff. There are other teasers as well – the Warren Haynes slide in “Blame It All On You” echoes good ‘ol Southern Rock via Allman Brothers “Seven Turns” era. The gruff “You Come On Back” takes a shot at psychedelic late-‘60s with crisp T. Rex in the chorus “You can bang my gong.” A laid-back Thin Lizzy creeps into the duel-guitar of “Strawberry Hill” and even a subtle AC/DC-like riff slips into “Little Live Thing.”

Rarely is a disc, so centered on a diverse melting pot of influences, successful in delivering the goods with a tight production and a fistful of memorable songs. For a sophomore outing, this is a fine testament to Guerra and his merry band of players.

Website:
www.mambosons.com

ROBERT VALDES
Out of the Shadows
RV Records

RV Production mogul, Robert Valdes unleashes his solo effort "Out Of The Shadows" to critical praise. Valdes, a season multi-instrumental talent, spent the '80s in the hard rock outfit Enforcer. The group become a popular regional club act with such hit single favorites as 'The Draft' and 'Cheater'. As the musical landscape changed in the early '90s Valdes pioneered RV Video Productions and moved his talents of rhythm and composition to revolutionizing video production.

After a decade of financial success Valdes has returned to his musical roots writing, arranging, producing and performing his current brand of retro rock. Resurrecting the classic elements of hair metal in the vein of Bullet Boys meets Dokken meets Ratt, "Out Of The Shadows" blazes a raging inferno with songs like 'Face The Truth', 'Hypnotized' and 'Terror In The Sky.'

Guitar-heavy throughout, the disc plays like the best of "Jock Rock", big production, big songs, big sound. Ambitious as it is, Valdes voice moves from raspy (Face The Truth) to smooth (Close To You). He has his occasional fallouts but over all works well as a one-man band. 'Alone In The Dark' closes out the disc with a bit of Ynwie Malmsteen echoing in the guitar tone.

Web site:
www.robertvaldes.com/home.html

MICHAEL HARRIS
Hurricane X
Leviathan Records

Leviathan Records is currently releasing the fifth solo record by guitar virtuoso Michael Harris. "Hurricane X" finds the Ohio native moving effortlessly through a myriad of spine tingling improvisational instrumental monsters. Converging a steady stream of influences from Steve Morse to Uli Jon Roth the disc radiates with unique charm and overwhelming dexterity.

Coming to us by way of the Diginet Music Guitar Master Series where the bass and drum tracks are recorded in advance, "Hurricane X" allowed the guitarist to add his own improvisation of the top of the rhythm tracks. After serving duty in two successful bands Arch Rival and Zanister as well as his steady climbing solo career, Harris proves he is more than up for the challenge. 'Prisoner Of Time' is the first to leap off the disc with a wonderful sense of melody and dynamics. Running just under 8 minutes the track nails Harris' earliest influences from his father's Jazz texture to his mother's classical training.

That same Jazz influence rises again in the gorgeous title track, 'Hurricane X' and the captivating 'Hot Nights'. Equaling engaging is the full-throttle metallic approach of 'Chasing Rainbows' and the blistering 'Armed And Ready'. 'Destination', 'Day of Doom' and 'Mind Games' sit somewhere in the wake to congested melody and symphonic overkill yet retain Harris' commitment to reach beyond traditional boundaries.

Web site:
www.leviathanrecords.com

THE REX CARROLL BAND
That Was Then, This Is Now
Independent

Hailing from the mid-West, more specifically Wisconsin, The Rex Carroll Band have been tearing it up at the regional biker rallies for a couple years now. Bathed in the same muddy water as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robin Trower and ZZ Top, the power house trio grind out rock in the true colors of the outlaw rebel. Billed as a high-powered live act with intense stage presence, the group have made 2003 their year to release a full-length recording including the best of their live set. "That Was Then, This Is Now" is a 4-track EP sent out to stir up interest in the band.

Wasting no time 'Witch Dr. Bones' rips a whole right through the speaker. A thundering rocker, the anthem goes straight for the throat with a searing guitar lead, a sold rhythm section (complete with cow bell) and the perfect vocal. Begging for more of the same, the ballad strains of 'My Train' come in just a little two early in the song sequence. However, it stand as a longing Outlaw-esque number in the vein of "Green, Green Grass of Home" with Carroll's guitar aching with emotion; flexing and piercing all at once. 'Working Man Blues' puts the band back in the Hard Rock saddle with a groovin' strut underneath an array of ripping blues-inspired Texas riffs.

Rex Carroll (guitar, vocals), Tony Acevedo (bass), and Russ Anderson (drums) put it all together on 'Throw Them Bones' where a fire-breathing slide burns a path straight through the heart of the song. No doubt this band can write substantial, gut-wrenching ass-kickers. With a decent production and some fine tuning, together with their fan base, they just may launch into the big time.

Web site:
www.rexcarrollband.com

ICED EARTH
Tribute To The Gods
Century Media

"Before there was Iced Earth there was the young, hungry mind of Jon Schaffer, a fan who wanted something more from life. One who sought to touch the magic of music with his own hands, which grew up to be a man who would stop at nothing to pursue his dreams. This is the soundtrack to his journey." As far as tributes discs go this must rank right up there. A brutal force du jour holding quintessential metal pioneers, AC/DC, Kiss, Judas Priest, BOC, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden as the pinnacle of the genre.

On "Tribute To The Gods" Iced Earth recreate the intensity and driving momentum of such classics as 'Creatures Of The Night', 'Burnin' For You' and 'Screaming For Vengeance' with there own touch of brilliance. Though Iced Earth hails from the US (Indiana) they are becoming a significant powerhouse in Europe. The success of "Alive In Athens" and their dominating presence on the stages at Gods Of Metal festival in Italy, the Dynamo festival in the Netherlands and the legendary Wacken Open Air festival in Germany make them one of the most significant bands in metal today.

Like their heroes Iron Maiden they capitalize on amazing cover art to help perpetuate the band and stay true to the banner under which they march by delivering an unstoppable visceral pounding on 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' and 'Number Of The Beast'. The cleaver injection of bagpipes in 'It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll) and the pure heaviness of 'Gods Of Thunder' make this compilation a must have.

Web site:
www.centurymedia.com

SUCKING THE 70'S
Compilation
Small Stone Records

Dig this, here is a compilation of hungry stoner bands covering 70's rock with their own brand of petal-to-the-metal thunder. Some of these songs rarely get air play these days but during their hey day they were all over the radio. Check out Throttlehead doing Ram Jam's "Black Betty" or Giden Smith & The Dixie Damned doing a massive sludge fest on Steppenwolf's 'The Pusher'. Small Stone should be commended for gathering 35 bands from 6 countries and across 4 continents to revisit 8-track paradise. Tackling the funk of Ides Of March 'Vehicle' by Roadsaw to the quirky metal of Jethro Tull in 'Hymn 43' (ATP) and the straight ahead rock of UFO's 'Doctor Doctor' by Fireball Ministry. Ted Nugent, AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd get some serious attention with 'Free For All', 'Dog Eat Dog', 'Working For MCA' and 'On The Hunt' covered by The Last Vegas, Warped, Tummler and Dixie Witch respectively.

Even ballads 'Can't You See' and 'Bron-Yr-Stomp' come out dedicated to the spirit of the original. Of special interest is the contribution of Scott Reeder (Kyuss, Unida) delivering first solo effort in 'Don’t' Call Us, Well Call You', Broadsword featuring J. Yuenger's (his first release since leaving White Zombie) doing Sir Lord Baltimore's 'Woman Tamer' and Clutch's smoking re-invention of Jethro Tull's 'Cross Eyed Mary.' There is also Spirit Caravan final recorded effort covering Sabbath's 'Wicked World'. It's hard to pick a favorite but it would probably come down to Whitesnake's 'Child Of Babylon' by Backdraft or Raging Slab's take on Grand Funk's 'We're An American Band'. In truth, they are all over the top killer. This is some very cool shit!

Web site:
www.smallstone.com

DEMON HUNTER
Self Titled
Solid State Records

Shipping over 10,000 units the first week of release has an industry buzz circling this group like a ring of starved vultures. The actual make up of the band is cloaked in mystery. Some have rumored the line up to host members of Zao, Living Sacrifice, Project 86 and Training For Utopia. One thing is for sure, based on the lyrics, this supergroup combo was created to counter attack to the current trend of negativity in metal core.

A power surge of titanic thunder spew forth with concise ammunition in 'Screams Of The Undead' dancing between complete brutality to melodic hardcore. The aggressive 'I Have Seen Where It Grows' paints a black canvas with a dripping Sepultura-like brush before the hook of 'Infected' reaches out of the player to captivate and maim the eardrums. Since the songs debut it has ranked #1 on mp3's Metalcore chart. The ambitious ballad 'My Throat Is An Open Grave' rises with gorgeous melodic instrumentation and orchestrated beauty.

' Through The Black', 'And The Sky Went Red' and 'The Gauntlet' continue the hypnotic weave and musical journey of crafted anthems and poetic majesty. Musically the band has been compared to Linkin Park meets Machine Head with a positive message sewn into their lyrics. The CD ships in a well-crafted package complete with an ancient book-like booklet complete with lyrics and credits.

Web site:
www.solidstaterecords.com

SHEAVY
Synchronized
The Music Cartel

Blazing ahead with their complete immersion in all that is Black Sabbath, Canada's Sheavy power, groove, and rock their way through their third installment, Synchronized. Vocalist Steve Hennessy sounds more like young Ozzy with each recording. Yet, though the sound is similar, Dan Moore's guitar tone in nowhere near Iommi's heavy handed doom - it more of a full on rock sound with stylish solos and thick, meaty riffs.

After multiple listens the record is best described as torching hard rock with less doom than 'The Electric Sleep' or 'Celestial Hi-Fi'. That's not to say it doesn't blister when spinning. There are songs that completely decimate the voltage meter like the albums epic title track 'Synchronized', 'Firebird 350' and 'Last Of The V8 Interceptors', which instantly jumps out as the album's masterpiece. Fueled by a thumping back-end found in Ren Squires (drums) and Keith Foley (bass) and consumed by Moore's compelling guitar drive the record takes on a mature and artful feel. Much of that might have something to do with Sabbath producer Mike Butcher running the board.

The chemistry of crisp song arrangements over a loose delivery move the eleven-track disc through a hybrid of emotions. The piano luster of 'Ultraglide', the airy almost techno beat on 'Invasion Of The Micronauts' to the chug of 'AFX…Thrown For A Loop' keeps the range open while breaking the mold held over this band since 1998.

Web site:
www.music-cartel.com

BAD WIZARD
Sophisticated Mouth
Tee Pee Records

Uncompromising in their riff-infused, twin-engine assault, New York City’s Bad Wizard go for the throat on this their second slab of stoner-punk-metal. Having worn the treds out of their traveling caravan in a relentless tour across the US, the band bring maturity and focus to “Sophisticated Mouth” while still maintaining their crown as the Big Apple's hardest-working and hardest-rocking outfits.

Opening with the monster hook of ‘Hurricane’ the band instill die-hard dedication to ripping leads and the two-fisted punch of ‘70s Hard Rock that has made them famous. Led by the ever-energetic Curtis Brown who rattles and shacks his tambourines, as well as his bones throughout, the Hell’s Kitchen quintet groove their way through ‘Soft, Warm and Wet’, ‘Solid Gold’ and keyboard heavy Uriah Heep cover ‘Love Machine’.

The twin-guitar combination of “Titanic” Tina Gorin (ex-Helldorado) and Eddie Lynch create a inferno that blazes right through ‘Whoo!’, ‘Loosen Up!’ and the ultra-cool ‘Needle 2 Groove’ with it’s fuzzed-out organ solo riding the riff - all inspired by the thick density of Steppenwolf or England’s Stray. The bottom end does get a little lost in the mix, certainly less favored than the guitars, but for the most part drummer Ron and bassist Pat manage to make their mark. Well worth your last buck!

Web site:
www.teepeerecords.com