Self Titled

Far from what most people think, original Boston members Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau have been aggressively working together for over 27 years. Goudreau played guitar on the first two stratospherically successful Boston records while Delp became the most recognized voice on FM radio. As the years went by Goudreau left Boston to pursue a solo career releasing a self titled record in 1980 and later formed Orion The Hunter with current Boston guitarist Fran Cosmo. Their efforts did yield the chart climbing “So You Ran”. However the late ‘80s and early ‘90s saw Goudreau embroiled in a legal battle with Boston founder Tom Scholz.

Next came the reuniting-of-sorts with both Goudreau and Delp forming RTZ (Return To Zero). The band release two records, RTZ (1991) and Lost (1998) seven years apart - right up there with Boston’s track record. Now with things settled down in the Boston camp and the band currently enjoying a worldwide tour behind their new opus Corporate America Goudreau strikes again with a luscious almost Beatle-esque recording. Delps role is that of melodic harmonies over Goudreau’s impeccable and largely acoustic guitar.

This is a very suppressed affaire. The over-the-top production gloss of Boston is long gone. It seems Delp and Goudreau’s primary interest is to create a powerfully emotional body of songs that work well standing alone without all the fluff. Gritty in spots, the writing maintains a delicate mood balance. You have the harmony-heavy “Everyday”, the gentle acoustic ballad “My One True Love” and “Out Of My Hands” which drifts into Pink Floyd territory. The disc does boast the occasional mid-tempo rocker. The instrumental “Keep On Runnin’ showcases Goudreau’s piercing guitar with his traditional Boston signature. There is also the one live track “The Rhythm Won’t Stop”, a finely crafted front-porch scorcher.

Delp formed a Beatles tribute band (Beatle Juice) several years ago in Boston which has been met with much success. The first three songs that grace this disc “What You Leave Behind”, “Hands Of Time” and “Let It Roll” feels as if they are a reflection of Delps understudy in Beatledom. The defining moment must be the only true hard rocker “Reconciliation”. Riding on the back of a Lenny Kravitz-type lick, the song blazes through the lyrical detail of the sad demise of the friendship with Scholz and the plead for reconciliation.


Volume II
Big Dixie Records

Borrowing from Scandinavia’s Turbonergo comes Chicago’s Super 8 Cum Shot also known as S8CS or just simply Super 8. Considering themselves “fast, loud, sex party, punk, garage, pop rock music” the Windy City’s foursome whip up a frenzied force of Stooges meets Sex Pistols sweat-stained rock n’ roll. Fully loaded with lyrics stuffed to the gills with songs about “I Love The Boy”, “Check Your Nuts” and the over-the-top “Everybody Loves A Muscle Boy” takes it to an all new level in homoerotica.

Chugging through a hilarious combination of locker room lyrics (“I Wanna Make Love To You”) and dysfunctional maladies (”Oh Daddy”, “I Can’t Get Enough Of You”) the band bury themselves in relentless feedback and quick-tempo changes embracing everything from Dead Boys punk rage to New York’s Toilet Boys delivery. The garage-rock barricade eases up on “Your Brand New Swedish Volvo” where the song descends into a Alice Cooper-like lounge act. A similar vibe runs through the anti-nursery rhyme “Porn Star Shining Down On Me”.

The riffs get meaty again with the metal-ish “Trade” and the punk riddled “Homo Go Home”. A sonically charge production cuts to the chase, sewing the songs up tight and keeping the energy level at it maximum. Nothing sloppy here – just roaring vintage rock oozing with confidence and a hard on. Word has it lead singer Jinx Titanic is a marvel live. Check ‘em out if your in town.


Upstate Boogie, Rock n Roll That Relates
Independent Release

Cousin Jake is a dynamic three-piece from Syracuse, NY. that mix together a lethal dose of pub rock and bar-room boogie. With Dave Cook on guitar, Johnny More handling bass and vocal duties and drummer Jamie Puffer locking down a steady groove their hard rock blues are instantly effective. Part Allman Brothers, part Fabulous Thunderbirds and just enough Molly Hatchet to peak your interest the boys blaze through “Knifes Edge”, “Hiding In A Bottle” and “Yeah You” on their latest release Upstate Boogie. The songs ride on the backbone of Cook’s conservative yet aggressive riffs and benefit from a stripped down no nonsense production. The two live cuts added to the end of the record, “The National Anthem” from Shakers and “Peter Gunn” from Legends showcase Cook skill and ability to astound in front of the locals. His ode to Hendrix is superb.

Second disc, Rock ‘N Roll That Relates, is a bit older but maintains the integrity of whiskey-soaked biker rock. The record kicks off with “Travelin’ Band” – a serious road burner with razor sharp guitar and a thunderous bottom end. “Lost and Found”, “Rude Attitude” “Keep The Change” could easily go metal, BIG chunky guitars and More’s gravel voice make these stellar cuts. “Wrecking Yard”, “Waiting All Day” and especially “Gambling Fool” sound like Georgia Satellite outtakes keeping just enough Southern rock in these Damn Yankees. Elements of ZZ Top sneak into “All Night Long” while More takes the bass lead on the funky “Back In Order”. “Nuclear Blues” closes this one down with a psychedelic tone and some serious kick drum.

Cousin Jake, CD Baby

In This World
Blue Wave Records

Born in Buffalo (NY) and raised in Chicago gives Jony (pronounced John-nie) James logistic rights to the blues. Playing with legendary greats Eddie Taylor and J.B. Hutto has given James the inspiration and technical skill to wield his own blues axe, carving out his piece of the blues pie. Studious listening of Otis Rush, Albert King and Buddy Guy can be heard in the fiery “Hit The Street”, the laidback “I Don’t Know Love” and the sizzling saunter of “Voices”. Production was left in the capable hands of Greg Spencer (Savoy Brown, Kingsnakes) while engineering was done by Kim Simmons himself.

What James has created with “In This World” is a very cohesive body of work that expresses the blues in a very personal way. The support of Rod Horning on bass and Kent “Boom Boom” Leech on drums allows James to extend himself as a singer and well as guitarist and arranger. His delicate embrace of ”Come Back Home” is reminiscent of ‘70s era BB King while “Let The Chips Fall…” and “Don’t Let It Blow Your Mind” fuse John Lee Hooker with Albert Collins. A fresh expression of the blues is what helps “In The World” move from regional highlight to national appeal.


Self titled

Armed with a wall of guitars and the intriguing voice of Stella Katsoudas Chicago’s Whorse surface with 10 morsels of driving rock delight. Joining Stella are drummer Jeff Hanes, bassist Ben Rowley and guitarist Damon Williams, together they give the Windy City an edge on the alt-rock market. Some may remember Katsoudas as leading Sister Soleil and later Stella Soleil the campy pop/soul outfit that released “Dirty Little Secret” on Universal in 2001. Far more pissed off this time around Stella puts her anger to good use in the riff heavy “Call Me Out”, “Half Human” and the infectious “Pavement”.

Hard rock works for Stella, having worked with both Chemlab and Ministry the direction of Whorse fits. Her punked up attitude translates well especially with the Nine Inch Nail-like working of America’s “Horse With No Name”. Yet, their originals hold up just as well. “Saliva” mixes up a mood twist and tempo change that carries over into the hypnotic “Sapharine”. Rowley’s funky bass gives “Undertow” a subtle groove that moves the song into Blondie territory. “Hearts Ease” is the records stand out track – haunting with Stella’s frailty building strength and momentum over Williams driving guitar.

“Tragedy” puts the spotlight on Hanes’ solid power drumming with the cymbal crash in all the right places - a compelling song to say the least and a showcase for Stella. The rhythm guitar that leads into “5 Days” sets up a misleading trap that snaps when bass and drums converge on the chorus. The rage of life’s counterpunch is well captured with emotion and efficiency. Well done.


Century Media Records

Tiamat, the trio from Sweden, first came to international prominence with their groundbreaking Wildhoney (1994). Evolving from their death metal roots, they were considered one of the leading proponents of symphonic black metal blazing the trail for bands like Opeth, Type O Negative and Therion. Led by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist John Edlund (aka Hellslaughter) the band continued to change and alter it’s sound eventually landing on a gothic brooding that some say cost the band its core audience. Prey intends to bring some of that audience back to the coven.

Those looking for the darker, heavier strokes of Astral Sleep or Clouds won’t find it here however the Pink Floyd meets Sisters Of Mercy elements of Wildhoney and even Deeper Kind Of Slumber continue in the well adapted “Wing Of Heaven” and the celtic-inspired “Clovehoof”. Having relocated to Germany has changed the band’s sound as much as their constant lineup rotation. The “love songs” that plagued last years “Judas Christ” still haunt Pray especially in the keyboard fused “Love In Chains” and “Divided” where Edlund’s Pete Steel baritone creates a mystic duet with guest vocalist Sonja Brandt. By “Carry Your Cross And I’ll Carry Mine” the piano orchestration is much more embracing and again Brandt evokes an emotional reprise that is both alluring and penetrating.

Edlund’s production skills maybe the records biggest controversy. His high level of sheen takes the snarl out of the gritty “Light Of Extension” and the leading single “Cain” The guitars are heavy put still polished reducing a fang soaked bite. That said, “Nihil” works exceptionally well with a wash of orchestration, power chords and lyrics. The Aleister Crowley inspired “Pentagram” needs to be on the Van Helsing soundtrack. Sound samples and all, it is easily the darkest (and longest) track on the disc.

Century Media

Ghost Of A Rose
SPV Records

It’s been nearly six years since Ritchie Blackmore formed the post-Rainbow renaissance machine Blackmore’s Night with his girlfriend Candice Night. The two spent the last few years traveling around the country playing Renaissance festivals and professing their love for the 16th century. Needless to say this did not sit well with Purple/Rainbow fans who felt abandoned and misled. Last year Blackmore’s Night upped the ante and did a castle tour of Europe dressing in period costume and selling out …well castles. With Ghost Of A Rose, the bands fifth recording and a decent castle tour it can no longer be considered shtick.

When Blackmore first formed the band the idea was to keep it to traditional songs and instruments. It’s obvious the fan’s plea to bring back electric elements that made Blackmore a ‘70s rock god have affected this recording. True, the aged Renaissance flare is still prevalent in “Way To Mandalay”, “Ivory Tower” and “Queen For A Day” but the bite is back. “Cartouche” and “Loreley” pick up their feet for a druid dance around the fire while Blackmore actually plugs in on “All For One”. Night’s performance has also greatly improved not only as a singer but in her delivery.

The inclusion of two cover songs make Ghost Of A Rose heads and shoulders above the rest in their catalog. The Joan Baez portrait of Bob Dylan in “Diamonds and Rust” is positively riveting. The guitar sets the canvas as Night paints a masterpiece with full control of her fine-tuned voice. “Rainbow Blues” from Jethro Tull’s Warchild years drops in like a sledgehammer as Blackmore actually cooks up a decent rocker. His solo harkens back to why we listened to Machine Head in the first place. There’s still hope that Blackmore will deliver another hard rock masterpiece but until then this is not half bad.

SPV Records, Blackmore’s Night.

Self Titled
Independent Release

This is a very ambitions project from a producer/composer/keyboardist Rick “Doc” Barrack. Ten years in production, self-financed and immaculately assembled it stands a tribute to one man’s determination to create a highly polished theatrical rock operetta. Recruiting progressive metal band Zaxas Barrack recorded at Gargoyles Castle in Vista, California while mastering was done by Chris Bellman in Bernie Grundman Studios, Hollywood. The 2 disc set takes on a life of its own as the story unfolds.

What is the story? Well it’s a bit like Pirates of the Caribbean for metal heads. We have a sleepy seaport village called Destiny Faire struggling through economic hardship due to a drought. (A drought by the ocean?- ed.) One night a ghost ship, captained by evil itself, mores in their bay and begins harboring the souls of the disgruntled. As corruption builds the captain harnesses the power and wrecks havoc upon the land. The whole concept is accompanied by 32 page booklet.

Though I can appreciate the effort put in this project there are things about it that keep it homespun when it could have been a monster. The reviews on CD Baby compare it to Tommy and rave that it is incredible, wonderfully written and powerful. Yet hold this up to Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime, Shadow Gallery’s Tyranny or the afore mentioned Tommy and this falls dramatically short. The songs, though well played, lack emotion, spark and conviction. Guitarist Mikki Suvia jumps in to give the project CPR on “Promises”, “I, Me” and ”Confrontation”

The vocals are handled by an array of singers from Geoff Tate-wanna be Dale Anthony (Zaxas), Johnny and Holly Bisaha and Ronnie Sarkisian (ex-Maedae) - adequate at best but certainly not earthshaking. There are catchy moments like the seamstress thread of “What Would You Do”, “Time Passing” and the snappy “Hate”. Barrack’s keyboard drives the whole affair to the point of nausea. Rarely do the individual instrument stand on their own before washed over by a wave of keys. Part of Destiny Faire has promise but the campy writing and forgettable melodies drop it flat.


Skull Ring
Virgin Records

Man, has this record been chewed up by the critics. Which, if you think about, is perfect for an Iggy record. Never one to please the masses, Pop has centered the majority of his career pissing folks off. With Skull Ring he hits a home run. Keeping it short and simple Pop goes for what he does best - power punk, garage rock. The real buzz on this record came about when it was leaked that the original Stooges were to be featured on four tracks, none of which disappoint. From the open chord of “Little Electric Chair” and “Loser” to the Bowie-esque anthems “Skull Ring” (Fast cars/Hot chicks/Money) and “Dead Rockstar” this mother smokes.

Going right back to American Caesar (1993) Pop celebrates the physical nature of feedback. Among his culprits include the guys from Green Day ("Private Hell", "Supermarket") and Sum 41 in the killer “Little Know It All” – easily the best track here. Pop’s road band, the Trolls, pick up the slack grinding out punchy rockers “Perverts In The Sun”, “Here Comes The Summer”, “Whatever” and the savory spellbinder “Superbabe”. Sarcastic, intriguing and social relevant Pop and band settle in with four on the floor, high octane, vintage rock ‘n roll.

That was the easy stuff to like – more difficult are the two tracks with Peaches. Both “Rock Show” and “Motor Inn” capitalize on fuzzed out pop beats salted with Pop’s lyrical sweat. This is where critics waver, however if you hang in there, the songs dig deeper until they're embedded like a 20-year tattoo. A real gem lies the stripped-back rustic blues number “Till Wrong Feels Right”. Just Pop and an acoustic guitar make this baby burn - then he closes out with the sledgehammer “Blood On Your Cool”. Check out the hidden track “Nervous Exhaustion” - dude, it’s doesn’t get any better than this.

Iggy Pop

The Last Embrace
Meteor City

Spirit Caravan, the stoner doom vehicle for Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (ex-Obsessed, Saint Vitus) has apparently met its end. With only two proper records (and a hard-to-find EP) the band was probably Wino’s most stable project. For their last will and testament the Maryland trio (Wino, drummer Gary Isom, bassist Dave Sherman) have assembled a 2-disc compilation embracing both LPs with assorted rarities thrown in. The track listing varies slightly which might put you off if you’re accustomed to the original. Jug Fulla Sun got the more extensive reshuffling – to its benefit. It’s nice to hear “Courage” and “Powertime” latter in the set as they’re both very strong and sound great on top of each other.
Well known for their titanic merging of Motorhead meets Black Sabbath meets Hawkwind fans will appreciate the compilation retaining “Fang”, “Chaw” and “Melancholy Grey” as a packaged triple threat. The acoustic, almost Alice In Chains-like “Last Embrace” as well as the heart pounding “Brainwashed” add tone and texture to the first disc keeping it fresh and vibrant. Disc two includes “Dove-Tongued Aggressor”, “So Mortal Be” and “Undone Mind” to the Elusive Truth (2001) record. Heavy-handed to the point of death metal in the case of “Undone Mind” SC showcase a growth for a darker more dense presentation.

For first-timers this is an excellent and relatively inexpensive way to check the band out. Personal favorites like “Sea Legs and “Black Flower” sound every bit as staggering here as in their original packaging. Now that the band has split, chances are their classic discs will be harder and harder to track down, hence this kills two birds with one stone. However, don’t look for anything off the Dreamwheel EP – regrettably it still remains as elusive as ever.

Spirit Caravan, Meteor City

Leave The Light On
Koch Records

I first met Beth Hart in Syracuse, NY backstage at the 1996 Lollapalooza. Her band then, the Beth Hart Band, completely destroyed the second stage and she come off like a Janis Joplin vagabond with eye-bopping stage presence. Hart was touring on the back of her Atlantic debut Immortal. The record had uncanny innocents to it - filled with poetic melodies and textured with layered orchestration as well as punchy rock nuisances. So I was a bit surprised to see her grinding away at the piano in her 1999 video “LA Song” – a mix between Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette. This year her name was added to the credits on Deep Purple’s Bananas – I took note and checked out her new release.

With “Leave The Light On”, Hart is back to remind us to pull those old CDs from the shelf and give ‘em another spin. Writing through sheer intensity, Hart’s raspy gospel voice wraps around cuts like “If God Only Knew”, “I’ll Stay With You” and the roots-rocker “Lifts You Up”. Schooled at the feet of The Rolling Stones, The Faces and Jopin, Hart crafts catchy barnburners with magnetic appeal. Check out “Monkey Back”, “Lay Your Hands On Me” and “Sky Full Of Clover”, you can almost hear Jagger and company backing her up.

An accomplished pianist, Hart uses the ivories as subtle, almost suppressed building blocks, only dominating when invited in by the other instruments – including her voice. It all comes together in her lead single “Leave The Light On” a passionate mixture of scaled back bass, guitar, drums and piano. Etched in dark, confessional lyric Hart takes us on a winding passage through some of the more seedy alleys of her soul. Enter “Bottle Of Jesus” which ducks in the backdoor and actually outdoes its predecessor with a New Orleans-styled jam. Her rock is just as convincing in Feeder-like “World Without You” and the balls-out “Broken And Ugly” – then there is the delicate beauty of “Lifetime”. Poetry with symmetry.

Beth Hart, Koch Records

Green Light Records

Cut from the same cloth as Atlanta’s Black Crowes and armed with a vintage Stones-style raunch, Loud Earth keeps the guitars up front and center with gut-level rock. Built around Jersey natives Christian Roreau (vocals), Mike Askin and Rich Miele (guitar), Todd Erwin (bass) and Mike Bennett (drums) the five deliver a primitive swell of chunky riffs and lambasting rhythms. Leading the pack is “Rotten”, already a favorite on local radio that grinds out a duel-guitar crunch and makes way for a tasty little solo. Roreau’s vocals polish up the ruckus with a shot of bar-room finesse.

“Midnight Bitch”, with its ample use of slide, feedback and constrained vibrato is pure energy at it’s best. The song sees Askin and Miele swapping licks with a Kossoff edge for a proper lesson in rock-guitar. The riffs keep coming through “Poor Baby”, “She’s Worth It”, “Better For You” and “No Good No More”. They even get a little country in the southern-fried “Sorry”. A couple tracks venture out of the box like the ballads “Bleed” and “Beautiful Mess”. Even the mid-tempo “Squeeze n’ Pull” breaths new life into old-hat rock standards. Never over done, the boys rely on a piston-driven machine that churns out addicting rock and roll.

Loud Earth