SCORPIONS
Unbreakable
Sanctuary Records

With the metallic embossed appearance of the Scorpions 22nd release Unbreakable, it’s obvious the band are determined to claim back their waning status after an experimental Eye II Eye (1999), the symphonic Moment Of Glory (2000) and the acoustic Acoustica (2001). And return to form they do plugging back in and cranking it up with “Love ‘em Or Leave ‘em”, “Borderline” and the garagey “Someday Is Now”.

The power of their world-wide smash “Wind Of Change (1990) isn’t passed over as they jump back into the politically-conscious arena with the hyper-charged “New Generation” – this time with teeth clenched and twin-guitars a’ blazing. Like much of the record it grows on ya.

As predicted they mix it up with mid-tempo rockers, ballads and rock anthem thrillers. The Mathias Jabs penned “Deep and Dark” springs up as a leading radio single. He’s also back with the guitar vox distortion in “Can You Fell It”. Of course the Scorps are perfect driving tunes, with that mind motorway thrillers include “Blood Too Hot” and “My City My Town”. Songwriting is still handled primarily by Rudolf Schenker and Klaus Meine however, drummer James Kottack is credited on three tracks.

Lest we overlook the ballads, the boys give us three in a thirteen-song spread – and they’re all amazing – two are weepers. The first comes in at track six “Maybe I Maybe You” complete with piano and orchestra (ed. all that work with the Berlin Philharmonic paid off). It does get a bit grandiose especially when the guitars kick in. The killer is “Through My Eye” an absolutely perfect Scorpions song.

Website:
Sanctuary Records, Scorpions Offical Site

GARY MOORE
Power Of The Blues
Sanctuary Records

After last years highly-acclaimed hard rock effort Scars, Moore has returned to his best selling take on the electric blues. Moore has never hid his love for the blues from his early days in Skid Row through his intermittent stints with Thin Lizzy and on to a very prominent solo career. Left over from last year’s band drummer Darrin Mooney joins ex-Ozzy bassist Bob Daisley and keyboardist Jim Watson for Moore’s bombastic stomp through 10 ball-busting standards in Power Of The Blues.

There’s no mistaking Moore style, even bleeding the blues his amp is fully cranked and what might be a recognizable Willie Dixon riff (I Can’t Quit You Baby, Evil) sounds like a charging rhino through Moore’s Les Paul. Like contemporaries Walter Trout and Stevie Ray Vaughan his style has been picked up and fed to young upstarts Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joey Bonamassa and Johnny Lang with remarkable power. Though his original compositions “There’s A Hole”, “Can’t Find My Baby” and “Tell Me Woman” are a little heavy-handed and wooly his energy is well spent and his passion runs true.

Having Chris Tsangarides as producer rounds out the sound and when that gentle whisper is needed he knows how to get it. Jump to “Torn Inside” and feel the vacant landscape of painful misery. The solo is a real gem. Hendrix is all over this one especially in Moore’s treatment of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and “ There’s A Hole”. And just incase you forgot why Gary continues to play the blues he gives you two songs to explain - listen up. “That’s Why I Play The Blues and “Power Of The Blues” should put an end to those in question.

Website:
Sanctuary Records, Gary Moore Official Site

MOTÖRHEAD
Inferno
Sanctuary Records

As reverent as ever, Motörhead continue to stake their claim as the heaviest motherfuckers on the planet. Back for their annul ass-kicking - for all those MTV bands that think they know anything about heavy rock, Lemmy, Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee never let up in their relentless barrage of pummeling on Inferno’s 12 tracks. Having just finished Lemmy’s outstanding autobiography “White Line Fever” (ed. which I highly recommend) I found the record even more thrilling with each track.

Sometimes overshadowed by the group’s, mustached bass player, Campbell comes into his own on this one placing one signature riff after another in songs like “Killers”, the AC/DC-like “Suicide” and the swagger of “Life’s A Bitch”. Not to forget Dee’s contribution to the three-piece he pounds through the speed-injected “Terminal Show”, two-stepping “Smiling Like A Killer” and the stripped-down “Whorehouse Blues” – complete with old time vox box.

“Put the bass up, will ya,” bellows Lemmy as the band kick into “Fight”. Where most groups drop into a lull midway through, Motörhead pick up momentum. “In The Black” clangs along with the rhythmic rattle of a steam locomotive. A Thin Lizzy presence shows up in the bass-line of “In The Year Of The Wolf” and a bit of power-house 12-bar shuffle has “Keys To The Kingdom” breathing like a dragon. Of course they all boast Kilmister’s humorous lyrics, which become quite stately at times. For a three-piece they make quite a racket.

Website:
Sanctuary Records, www.motorhead.com

DOKKEN
Hell To Pay
Sanctuary Records

What’s Dokken like in 2004? It’s been twenty years since George Lynch thrilled us with his solo on “Paris Is Burning” – rivaling Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption”. So, at first, it is his absence that is a bit difficult to overlook when the gorgeous strains of Don Dokken’s vocal first comes out of the speakers. The two were a formidable force…so, it is big shoes that Jon Levin steps into but this is his fifth year and the record benefits from his confidence. In fact, he saves Hell To Pay in a couple places. The middle-eastern bend on “The Last Goodbye” gets a bit meandering until Levin pulls out a wicked solo.

Mick Brown proves he still has the chops in the double-kick of “Don’t Bring Me Down” and the power-driven “Better Off Before” the most representative tunes of old Dokken. Barry Sparks (ex-MSG) fills in where Jeff Pilson left off hugging the bass with a return to passion all the while dancing in time with Brown’s heavy boots. The blues tinged “Haunted” also echoes the past with a gigantic chorus and a boatload of heavy riffing giving the whole song an interesting Tesla-like treatment.

A couple tracks drop the ball. The satire of “Prozac Nation”, through boasting a decent riff never hits the mark. The Beatle-esque “Letter Home” sounds awkward and might have been better on a solo record. Much better is the country-tinged “Care For You” – sappy but tender (ed. the unplugged version is even better). The broken-hearted “Still I’m Sad”, “I Surrender” and the punchy “Can You See” put it all together in one tight package - chunky, thick and buttered with tasty solos.

Website:
Sanctuary Records, Dokken Central

DIO
Master Of The Moon
Sanctuary Records

What’s always been impressive about Craig Goldy’s guitar playing is his intimate thunder. Nowhere is that more prevalent than on his return to the Dio camp with the new opus Man Of The Moon. Listen to “I Am” and the clever “Shivers” to feel how heavy Goldy actually gets. Yes, you can actually feel it – that bottom-end rattles your bones. A cohesive affair, Dio brings back elements of both Rainbow and Sabbath to his new CD - with a tad bit of Deep Purple thrown in for good measure.

“Death By Love” is almost a play-by-numbers of Sab’s “Lady Evil”, the melody is crisp, dense and catchy as hell. Even the lyrics wrap around a similar mood – watch out for the lady, she’ll getcha! “In Dreams” and the triumphant “The Man Who Would Be King” spill off like Deep Purple outtakes with a bass line Roger Glover would be proud to call his own. And “One More For The Road” opens the record revving up like Rainbow’s “Death Alley Driver”. Somebody’s been doing their homework.

Dio’s not trying to reinvent the wheel here, however his return to a more melodic delivery defiantly bumps the quality of his past three releases. This one falls right in line complete with Tony Carey-like keys played by admirably by Scott Warren (End of The World, The Man Who Would Be King). The presence of ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson is unmistaken in the big orchestration of tracks like the “Master Of The Moon” and “Living The Life”. It would be interesting to see how much he influenced the songwriting. After the 15th play in less than 24 hours the most impressive elements are Ronnie’s beautiful crafted lyrics (easily on par with Mob Rules) and the records production complete with proper layering and dynamic range. A fine job indeed.

Website:
Sanctuary Records, Ronnie James Dio Official Site

GRAVY
Bones
Road Kill Records

Seventies rock never sounded sweeter. In fact, the band will remind you of Stillwater from the movie Almost Famous in sound and look. Gravy are not just a casual throw-back to a classic era but they time-travel with respect and admiration. Check out the Steely Dan approach on “Brown Baggin’ It (Get Together)” and the ‘70s funk of “Show Me What You’re Made Of” off their debut record Bones.

The five-piece is led by Bang Tango guitarist Mark Knight however, this incarnation has very little to do with the sleaze metal/funk that brought Bang Tango to the limelight. Gravy focus on elevating the musical roots of Led Zeppelin (Scared), Stones, Frampton - even bringing back a serious respect for the Hammond B-3 played by Erik Szabo.

It’s obvious the band is having a good time with songs like “In Deep”, “Monkey Boy” and anti-drug dealer “Dirty Dog”. Yet, the emphasis on hook and groove dominates all 15-tracks. Standouts include “What’s It To Ya”, a personal favorite “Lighten My Load” the Foreigner-inspired foot-stomper “Elevate” and “Stand Me Up”. Ballad-friendly “Eye To Eye” keeps the harmonies tight and lustrous leaving just enough room for guitarist Mark Tremalgia to drop in a poignant solo. Check out “One Time Or Another” to hear the real acoustic side in the band.

Website:
www.gravytunes.com

BLACK MANALISHI
Mines A Whiskey
Independent

Six months ago BM contacted us about reviewing their outstanding self-titled debut. We were knocked out with their flexibility in complementing the past yet still maintaining a fresh presence. Back with their second long player Mines A Whiskey the quartet dig even deeper into their late ‘60s early ‘70s influences most notably Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Humble Pie.

Vocalist Adam Ward brings a classic voice to the record’s eight tracks. Part Steve Marriott part Paul Rodgers he creates a dynamic tension that swells within tunes like the five-and-a-half minute “Jack’s Gone To Hell” and the funky ‘70s B.V.P.2 - a continuation from their debut which has bassist Craig Gilroy doing his best Glenn Hughes workout. Drummer Joe Robert locks in with Gilroy on the Stevie Ray Vaughan-ish “Breed” showcasing how well the two jell as “in the pocket” players.

The dueling, almost country nature of the song “Mines A Whiskey” builds on the tension of an acoustic melody battling it out with an electric fender courtesy of Mr. Nathan Moore. Moore stems from the Duane Allman/Carlos Santana school of guitar equally balancing country, rock, bluegrass and folk. With Paul Glover at his side handling the rhythm guitar, the two make a devastating pair. The acoustic phrases of “Am I Really So Bad”, “Dosemary Pool” and the monstrous “10 Fold” give the disc a refreshing momentum building across the board until it all comes together with fire and emotion.

Just to shake it up, check out the Danzig/Doors-like urgency in “Bleed You Dry”. Amazing stuff!

Website:
www.blackmanalishi.com

BRADY COLE
Chancers EP
Independent

Watch this space. This will be a serious case of “I told you so.” Brady Cole could very well be the next BIG thing to come out of the Brit-Pop scene. Forged in wide-open riffs and huge harmonies the Scottish (Kingdom of Fife) four-piece are on the verge of ruling the charts. This teaser EP contains only four tracks put sometimes that’s all you need to know that what you’re listening to is very, very special.

First track in “Rented Teenage Years” has a Faces riff with a Kinks harmony. The voice of lead singer Steve Calvert fits his tough guitar playing and is perfectly suited as an arena performer. Guitarist Kris Barclay is right next to him pushing with shards of garage-edge chords. The two open up just wide enough for bassist Alex Burrell and drummer Sean Crossan to inject a thick rhythm section giving their sound a seminal texture last heard on Jet’s sophomore outing.

“Sentimental George” really gets the whole thing going as the twin-guitars drive a catchy melody crashing occasionally for effect. The chunky groove of “Talk Of The Town” weaves in and out of quite verse before cranking through a hypnotic chorus. There is a ring of Live, Better Than Ezra and Tonic in the mix. All bets are off then the boys kick into “Chancers.” - Lord have mercy, this ones a killer setting up an in-your-face guitar kick over a thundering rhythm section. It all rolls out with exquisite craft. Check their website for seven new songs and the video for “Illness Of Hype”.

Website:
www.bradycole.co.uk

ALBERT CUMMINGS
True To Yourself
Blind Pig Records

Cummings is demon when it comes to ripping out a blazing blues run. His Fender screams like your kid sister on a roller coaster when he plugs in on “Man On Your Mind” off his new CD True To Yourself. Backed by Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer BE “Frosty” Smith the threesome come dangerously close to hard rock. Check out the Skynyrd/Allman Bros influenced “Come Up For Air” to appreciate the band’s full capacity to work up a frenzied rocker.

Cummings voice, gruff and intoxicating, embraces his songs. The shadow of Robin Trower is all over the place and with a soulful vocal delivery reminiscent of James Dewar or Dave Pattison the record stands firm as a classic. For the 36-year old Massachusetts native, a construction worker by day, the electric blues are a second career. Influenced by Albert Collins and Luther Allison he started playing guitar in high school but it was his first sighting of Stevie Ray Vaughan that changed his life.

Among the powerhouse rockers on True To Yourself, Cummings mixes it up with the country-tinged number “Work It Out” and shuffle of “Where Did I Go Wrong”. The straight-ahead “Blues Makes Me Feel So Good” and “Your Sweet Love” set up a traditional bar-room-boogie while keyboardist Riley Osborne puts his own stamp on the upbeat “Separately” and “Follow Your Soul”. Slowing it down just enough to capture the emotion of “Sleep” and “Lonely Bed” Cumming comes in for a home run.

Website:
Blind Pig Records, www.albertcummings.com

BILL PERRY
Raw Deal
Blind Pig Records

Bill Perry has been around the block – and his songs prove it. His woman left him in “Another Man”, he’s over worked in “Big Ass Green Van”, he’s fell on bad luck in “Bluesman” and he’s nervous as hell in “Terrorists”. Yet his life experience is what makes Raw Deal such a great blues record - that and the worn out vintage Les Paul that hangs from his neck.

Produced by Bronx-native Popa Chubby the record splits into eight originals and three covers including “Til The Money Runs Out” by Tom Waits and the poignant “Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan. Chubby pulls out some serious fire from Perry giving tracks like “Harlem Child” a rock-funk snap and pushing “Big Ass Green Van” into Foghat territory. The dynamic is carried through to the tender “Live On” and the boogie groove of “Going Down To Memphis”.

Hailing from Chester, NY Perry is on the outside a gritty character even calling his publishing company Hell Hog Music. With spitfire guitar licks and a smokin’ delivery he’s come along way since playing in Ritchie Havens band. Compared by some as having a similar phrasing to the late great Rory Gallagher, Perry keeps the record a bit more rock than blues. The quintessential track of this disc is the Ted Horowitz-penned “Paper Dragons”. The song finds Perry in his element ripping out solos, slipping into a funky drive and laying his vocals on top of a steady backbeat. Stunning!

Website:
Blind Pig Records, www.billperry.com

CHASTAIN
In An Outrage
Leviathan Records

Once again, David “T” Chastain has resurrected his female-fronted phenomenon simply titled Chastain. Established in 1984 as a completive front to Europe’s thrash/speed metal scene the band, originally featuring Leather Leoner (now replaced by Kate French), has grown from strength-to-strength. Approaching their 20th year anniversary makes this a timely release considering the last Chastain outing was in 1997.

The most impressive evolution is the production of In An Outrage. From the alarm/siren beginning of the opening track “In An Outrage” to the classic crunch of “Hamunaptra” the record’s sound is crisp and clear. That’s not to say the raw emotion has been removed – quite the contrary. “Lucky To Be Alive”, “Malicious Pigs” and the doom-infested “Souls The Sun” take a chainsaw guitar and stitches together a melody line that works in perfect unison with a dense rhythm section. And the playing is superb. Chastain throws down the hammer to anyone who challenges his legendary status as a guitarist.

Backed by ex-Vicious Rumors drummer Larry Howe and bassist Dave Starr the thickness and momentum of the Chastain-penned compositions take on a cohesive balance. Though the guitar runs the gamete from the acoustic intro of “Rule The World” to the galloping “Bullet From A Gun” the thunderous backbone is right there holding the song on a firm foundation. This enabling the guitarist to push and pull with multiple solos, tempo changes and complex arrangements. Example: “Women Are Wicked”.

Though vocalist Kate French is an acquired taste, she is the perfect compliment to Chastain’s relentless shred. Her voice finds new freedom in the Dio-esque delivery of “New Beginnings”, the balladry of the afore mentioned “Rule The World” and the visceral “Tortured Love”. She sits comfortable in the song’s complicated structure, which is demanding as the record host influences from Dream Theater and Queensryche to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple.

Website:
Leviathan Records

STIMULATOR
Self-titled
Stimulator Records

Gaining our attention with their write-up in UK’s Classic Rock magazine, Stimulator take the pop aspect of Blondie mix in some trash guitar and a bit of Devo - add addictive techno beats and call in the hit squad. The band reeks of the Shirley Manson-led Garbage but a lot more techno and songs that are catchy as hell. No wonder this disc is taking England by storm.

Susan Hyatt’s spunky delivery is charming. In her Kylie Minogue tribute “Let’s Hook Up” she fills a dance-beat with a Pink workout all the while guitarist Geoff Tyson is wailing away in the background. The anti-White Stripes, Stimulator are being compared, by some, as ABBA light (since they are only two members). The two come closer to ‘80s mega-hit Roxette with a taste for Bon Jovi.

“How Far Would You Go? (Die For Me)” is the records leading anthem. A juicy Euro-pop teaser sprayed on like a latex miniskirts oozing with sex appeal. By “On Top Of The World” the fuzzed-out guitar grind finds it’s place inside the chorus and gets in your head like a loop-reel. The girl-powered “Complicated Girl” followed by “Just Like A Girl” moves into No Doubt territory, the latter using a middle-eastern twist over an x-rated storyline. Fans of My Bloody Valentine will dig “New Vampire” and there’s the souped-up version of Olivia Newton John “Magic” to push it over the top.

Website:
Stimulator