SAVOY BROWN
Steel
Panache Records

During our Foghat interview with Roger Earl he ranted and raved about the new Savoy Brown Steel LP. As big fans of Kim Simmonds ourselves we had to track down a copy to see if it merited such accolades. Sure enough it’s a barnstomer! Simmonds’ ability to transcribe the blues into several shades of gray while still keeping the root of the culture intact is an impressive feat. With Steel, the man returns to a simplistic presentation, focusing on the performance as well as song quality. Finding spiritual inspiration in the likes of Howling Wolf, Freddie King and The Yardbirds (particularly Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck) Steel delivers from the gut. The Lowell Fulsom tune “Monday Morning Blues” has Simmonds joined by bassist Gerry Sorrention and drummer Dennis Cotton for a mid-tempo grinder. His scorching solo work at the song’s end is absolutely magnetic. The rave-up, slide guitar in “Long as I’ve Got You” and the Stones/Faces “You Don’t Do a Thing for Me” rewind the clock 35 years allowing Simmonds to touch base with his Hellbound Train days.

Simmonds handles the mic as well as the guitar and, as in records past, struggles to deliver from his voice box what his fingers do through the amp. However, even in his own monotone timbre, he can still evoke emotion from the driving “Crying Forever” to the slow, melodic “I’ll Keep Singing the Blues.” Ultimately a Savoy Brown album is about electric blues guitar and that’s exactly what we get in the country-styled “Fly Away” and “Keeping the Dream Alive.” Rotating drummers from Cotton to Mario Staiano throughout the disc’s 10 tracks keeps the backend trim and tight. The chugging “I Don’t Remember You” has an especially dense rumble with a menacing guitar chewing through all five-minutes of the song. Pee Wee Crayton’s “Daybreak” is the heaviest and certainly the loudest of the guitar spotlights. Wailing away on his Les Paul, Simmonds comes about as close as you can get to a fire-in-the-belly Stevie Ray Vaughan. The elegant almost jazz fragrance of “Echo of a Sign” sheds light on the guitarist’s flexibility moving through notes like flecks of light through a stained glass window - a delightful exercise from a seasoned professional.

Website: Savoy Brown

PAUL GILBERT
Get Out Of My Yard
Shrapnel Records

It was the addition of Paul Gilbert that made this year’s G3 tour (2007) a must see for guitar enthusiasts. The Racer X/Mr. Big six-string slinger had the opening slot but never relegated himself to playing second fiddle to anyone – including Joe Satriani or John Petrucci. His live playing is beyond inspirational as he effortlessly launches into a staggering set of full-scale runs and dynamic, mind-bending riffs. Gilbert’s sense of melody has proven significant and durable, as he and the band’s he’s worked with have made their way to the top of the charts on several occasions. His list of solo albums are equally impressive – even when he attempts to sing - yet Get Out Of My Yard endears itself as his first full-length all-instrumental showcase. One might expect a blazing fury of solos strung together in an onslaught of hell-on-wheels guitar playing – remarkably the record is far more tuneful with the occasional bull ride tossed in.

The title track and “The Curse of Castle Dragon” are pure Racer X but after that, the guitarist is off exploring other alternatives. For instance there’s the Rush-like texture of “Hurry Up,” the Van Halen nuances in “My Teeth Are a Drumset” and the acoustic hyper-speed of “Three E’s For Edward” using only three strings tuned to E. Paul’s wife Emi, an accomplished concert pianist, lends her talents as the two duet in “Marine Layer” and the funky “Rusty Old Boat.” Gilbert’s shows off his classical chops in “Haydn Symphony No. 88 Final” and then goes for the blues in “Radiator.” “The Echo Song” is a little bizarre. Using an echo machine he creates a techno rock beat, and then bounces around joyfully creating whatever his fingertips dictate. The blues rockin’ “Full Tank”, “You Kids” and “Straight Through the Telephone Pole” are more easily digestible and in line with Gilbert’s taste for hard rock candy. Threads of Robin Trower, Gary Rossington and Pat Travers intertwine in this batch with “Twelve Twelve” winning the prize.

Website: Paul Gilbert

THE GODS OF KANSAS
Self-titled
Independent Release

The Gods of Kansas, actually from Kalamazoo, Michigan, are brothers Reo (bass) and Chris Youngs (guitar) with Danny Hough (drums) and vocalist Mike Buerge hellbent on destroying your neighborhood with their nasty blast of southern fried rock and punk. Songwise, they’re still looking for that killer hook that’s going to make them superstars but in the meantime check out the Motley Crüe-ish “They Lit The House” and “Welcome To The Front” (both on their myspace page) for some true-blue, whiskey-soaked highlights. Though the production might suffer a bit “Don’t Touch the Radio,” “Hey Buddy, Where You Going?” and “The Big Gun” bask in a rip-snortin’ chord progression and a weighty drum sound. The wooly guitar fuzz lends itself to a band that’s on their last set of strings playing through broken heads. There’s something endearing in that kind of desperation especially when the feedback is pumped up to full volume - like in the closing moments of “Daydreaming.” When the guitars get a clean polish, songs like “Oh! The Magic” and the bass-led “Sister of the Poor” come screaming out of the speakers with pure G’n’R meets Faster Pussycat riding the wires. The quartet slow down for a breather in “Century” - a space-tripping voyage in psychedelic/hard rock heaven.

Website: The Gods of Kansas

CIRCUS DIABLO
Self-titled
Koch Records

Billy Duffy has been itching to play real heavy metal for some time now. The last couple of years have seen him in Seattle playing with Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell in a glorified cover band under to monarch Circus Diablo. In 2005 he relocated to LA, hung out with Slash and Steve Jones and eventually formed an LA sleaze band under the same name. This time the band consists of vocalist Billy Morrison (Camp Freddy), guitarist and Def Lep opener Ricky Warwick (The Almighty), bassist Brett Scallions (Fuel) and drummer Matt Sorum (G-n-R, Velvet Revolver). Their self-titled debut is being released through Koch Entertainment and is not too far a cry from another LA supergroup Velvet Revolver. On first listen, Duffy has shed some of his Cult persona lifting more than a little from Buckcherry’s Keith Nelson and Faster Pussycat’s Greg Steele. His early punk roots clash with the Sunset strip in a number of places on the records eleven tracks but his presence is clearly the leading factor in guiding the band through chainsaw guitars and deafening rhythms.

Lead single “Loaded” (watch for the video) is jam-packed with Duffy’s down and dirty guitar. There is the bite of Velvet Revolver/Guns and Roses that sinks its teeth into the song but that’s to be expected. It snaps again in the turbo-charged “Rollercoaster” primarily in the rhythm section. The only indication of the guitarist’s former glory is in the song’s solos. “Mad Parade”, “Restless” and even the seductive “Hello Goodbye” have much more of a Cult feel, especially in the chorus. One can also hear a Scandinavian influence – our vote is the Backyard Babies, in the hypnotic “So Fine.” There doesn’t seem to be the stumbling of a past generation trying to catch up with the current, or even the future. Even the more exotic tracks “Ants Invasion” and the bizarre narration of “Commercial Break” don’t scream sellout. Those hoping to get through the disc without an 80’s power ballad will have to contend with the Cure meets The Alarm “Dignified.” However, its grace is in the easy British pop friendliness of the verse and the haunting hook in the chorus. The disc was written by an arena band for an arena crowd so plan to catch them all summer at Ozzfest 2007. Check out our interview with lead singer Billy Morrison by clicking here.

Website: Circus Diablo, Koch Records

NOCTURNAL RITES
The 8th Sin
Century Media Records

In the early ‘90s Nocturnal Rites were a Swedish death metal that released the appropriately titled The Obscure demo in 1991. A year later, a second demo appeared with the band drifting into more of a melodic, Iron Maiden meets Helloween direction. By the time they signed to Century Media in 1998 they were a full-on power metal band complete with sci fi/fantasy lyrics, twin-guitar harmonies and double-timed rhythms. The five-piece came into their own on the highly polished The Sacred Talisman (‘99) and on 2000’s Afterlife featuring new vocalist Jonny Lindqvist, actually sounded closer to Rainbow in songs like “The Sinner’s Cross” and “The Devil’s Child.” Seven years later we have The 8th Sin, corresponding to the same number of records released. Producing the album themselves allowed the group to pump the guitars with rich texture so as not to over take the composition of the song.

Hook-friendly and overtly melodic, the Swedes pack 11 beautifully crafted numbers under one roof. “Call Out To The World” is a fist-pumping anthem with an intoxicating chorus while the fallen angle-themed “Never Again” gets a nice visual workup as the record’s first video (check it out on youtube). The sonic brilliance is magnified when the laser strikes “Not The Only.” Backed by what sounds like an full orchestra of strings, Jonny Lindqvist steps up to the microphone and delivers a career defining vocal performance with guitarists Nils Norberg and Fredrik Mannberg churning out slick harmonies o’ plenty while keyboardist Henrik Kjellberg simply soars. Matching its majesty is the heavier “Leave Me Alone” and the aggressive declaration “Strong Enough.” “Tell Me” and “Pain & Pleasure” are thick with effects adding muscle to a highly energetic sing-a-long. Here we find drummer Owe Lingvall, and bassist Nils Eriksson as tight as a rhythm section gets while pounding out a bedrock of density. The piano-laden ballad “Me” acts as counterpoint and filters into a tasty duet with a guest female vocalist.

Website: Nocturnal Rites, Century Media

THE GENDERS
Virgin No. 72
Dead Sea Records

Tel Aviv-based rockers The Genders have been spreading the good word of turbo-charged rock and roll for a couple years now. An exhausting tour of the US last year paid off in mass with the thirteen tracks housed under Virgin No. 72, their second big record. Beefy open riffs on such soon-to-be-classics as “Stick To My Guns,” “Hot Pants” and “Snake Charmer” has the four strapped in and ready for take off. Sewing together Hellacopter chops with a taste for good humor songs that poke fun a themselves and their hometown hebs keeps the disc charming and full of fun.  Best to start with “Long Island Princess” where we get the skive from a rock and roll Jew that wants to put the “ball in her Matzo-ball soup” or “make a mess on her long black dress” – you get the picture. The cliché jitter of “Dome of the Rock” goes for high-octane rockabilly with a little Elvis thrown in singing “Well you thought 9/11 was a shock/wait till they blow up the Dome of the Rock.”

Of course the title track “Virgin No. 72” is loaded with double entendre referencing the Muslim belief that after death men are awarded 72 virgin wives. Pissing lines are drawn with “I’m on the bus and ready to explode/One look at you, I could blow my load…baby be my virgin number seventy-two.” Guitarists Amir Neubach and Nahi Ninyo pair off in whirling dexterity through the Turbonegro-like “Army Girl” and the start-stop punk of “No Tomorrow.” Drummer Orr Kahlon and bassist Gal Meirson take a detour with the country hillbilly “Big Wheels” while more Stones swing than swagger fills up the ballad “Someone.” It all comes together with the band’s slogan song “We’re The Genders.” Lots of loud open chords crash into a rumbling rhythm section all the while the chorus creams “You’re an Arab/I’m a Jew/Fuck you were the Genders.”  Currently on tour across the US, the Genders prove their worth in salt.

Website: The Genders

SUNWHEEL PSYCHEDELIC
Compassion and Cruelty
Independent Release

Had to listen to this several times to get the vibe. Unlike it’s chief component this record’s not really psychedelic at all – save for the last track that jams out into longer stretches with some dense guitar pushed and pulled from left to right. Including flecks of Robin Trower or meandering Leslie West this is a brash guitar slab more likely to deafen the neighbors than take a cosmic thrill ride. Performed primarily by the cowboy-hat, sunglass wearing guitarist/singer Sunwheel Psychedelic, the disc moves from old Cult (“Jump In My Face”) to ‘70s-inspired hard rock (“Rock Bottom Blues”). The chime-ring of “I’ve Still Got The Music” is interrupted by a thick, grinding lick that is so punishing it overtakes the song. The recurring melody comes right around at the end of the disc in “Sand Grains In Eternity.” A snare drum, garage rock blitz takes “Source of Strength” into a Hendrix haze while “You Are Revolution” and “Feeling Good, Feeling Free” has Ted Nugent written all over them with the same snarl and snap. Even the lyric of the later boats “I love a mean guitar” howling in the background. Texas boogie captures “Diamond In The Rough” complete with a two-step beat fused into a chainsaw power-chord. Then there’s the churchy organ-based “Black Madonna” creeping out from a under a thumping bass-line and demonic Danzig riff.

Website: Sunwheel Psychedelic

VALIUMBITCH
More Than One Not Yet Two
Pure Records

You never know what you’ll come across when you run an internet search for gritty, greasy, down and dirty rock and roll. Suddenly Valiumbitch pops up and after a full 20-minutes watching their assorted Youtube highlights including “New Rose” “Loaded” and “Harakiri Dalek” one must agree – these guys fit the bill. The razor-sharp execution on More Than One Not Yet Two really must be heard – even with its creepy ‘house-of-horrors’ cover. The power-trio formed in ’05 when brothers Mini-Mite (voice, bass) and Hellvis (guitar) met Peaches (drums) and decided to dedicate their lives to the devil’s music. And what better way to do it than to lead off with a track called “Gary Busey.” Yes, even in Barcelona, where the three reside, they are keen to the loose canon actor and sum it up in three minutes of guitar-frenzied mayhem. “So Long” follows suit with a chugging, rhythmic crunch that drops into the minor register before stumbling into the chorus and a driving bass solo. Their punkish pace kicks into gear snarling through “Harakiri Daikiri” and only slows when they plod into the uber-dense “Generation No.” By “Night Visitor” drums are flailing again as it hits the speakers with full force. It’s the only track that really lends itself to a pop flare…could be the acoustic layering or just the fact it’s so damn catchy. Peaches’ bass powers the closing “15 Years” in true Ramones fashion with just a hint of rebellious U2 in the final moments.

Website: Valiumbitch

SWEATMASTER
Animal
Fullsteam Records

Finnish trio Sweatmaster first caught our fancy a couple years ago with their massive hit “I Am A Demon And I Love Rock And Roll” off the Sharp Cut disc (2002). The way they retrofit garage rock into a sleek high-performance engine is simply brilliant. Since then they’ve only improved upon their spastic, mind-bending momentum. With their third long-player Animal, more than a little taste for Queens of the Stone Age filter through the speakers. In reality, Animal is the record QOTSA should have made in ‘07, instead they left it up to Sweatmaster to deliver an album that fills the halls with primitive rock, progressive hooks and overall beauty. The guitars are tougher, the rhythms are stronger and the songs are more catchy – in short this is the disc to buy over Era Vulgaris. Out-of-the-box triumphs include the hypnotic stomper “Down To Size,” the bass-heavy “Do What You Do to Me” and the frantic “Blisters.” It’s obvious that touring with Danko Jones and the Hives has certainly helped upgrade their sonic assault.

Fueled by Matti Kellio’s pounding drum beat, single and title song “Animal” has the infectious riff that penetrates through Mikko Luukko’s guitar with Sasu Mykkänen’s bass grumbling in the back. Sasu’s vocals have always been the psychotic thriller that hinges each song…it’s shrill and frantic, yet holds it together in a dangerous way. He uses that to great affect on biographical “Calling Satan, Let Me In” the frail, Chris Cornell-sounding “Cut up in Half” and the jumpy (clap happy) “Dead Legs.” Rising as the second most accessible tune would have to be the afore mentioned “Do What You Do To Me” with its foot-stomping drum intro moving to the 60’s surf guitar and backing group sing along. It also boasts one of the best guitar solo burst on the disc. “In Limbo,” “World of Disease” and “Everybody Thinks They Know You’ve Got a Broken Heart” center on the rhythm section. Once the beat is anchored the guitar cuts through with buzz-saw abandon spitting shards of hot metal inside some very poppy grooves.

Website: Sweatmaster

NEW GENERATION SUPERSTARS
Songs from the Underdog (EP)
Independent Release

UK rock punks, New Generation Superstars are leading the battle to fill the Guns & Roses void with their own brand of high-octane guitars and explosive hit songs. Currently featured in July’s Classic Rock CD freebee with their louder-than-Motörhead track “Come Over” the Nottingham four piece attack with plenty of vigor. Part Faster Pussycat, part Hanoi Rocks, the group scrape just enough grim and sleaze off the LA streets to keep this six-track EP interesting. Production is stellar with an admirable mix that does equal justice throughout the vocals and instrumental amplitude. The songs are robust and center on girls, drinking and being pissed off with some minor political undertones. Big chunks of AC/DC guitar harmonics ring out in “Little Miss Dopefiend” before rolling out the diesel and hitting third gear in “Bleed” which brags, “I’m a mean motherfucker …and I’m gonna watch you bleed.” Huh, where have we heard that before? Keeping the spirit of the Mac Ladds alive is “One More Drink (and it’s time to go)” – a humorous tale for the pub life. Sobering up they take a blurry-eyed view of the world in “Ain’t Quite Right” – and sum it up with twin guitars a blazing in the ironic tale “Done Before.”

Website: New Generation Superstars

THE COLOR OF MORNING
Verdell Primeaux and Johnny Mike
Canyon Records

The Color Of Morning is an engaging piece of Native American music. Meditative in its presentation, the Grammy-winning combination of singer/songwriters Verdell Primeaux (Ogalalla Souix) and Johnny Mike (Navajo) continue their journey through peyote melodies and traditional healing chants with an array of musicians creating a transcending backdrop of mood-stimulating melodies. Between the two vocalists they have release several recordings exploring and developing Native American song structure. With The Color Of Morning they focus primarily on the voice through the first three songs or cantatas including “Balance,” “Reverie” and “Radiance.” With the atmosphere set they move into the album’s title cut “The Color Of Morning” and are joined by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl on flute, Steven Frailey (guitars/keyboard) and Stephen Butler (guitars/programming). The prayer-like structure of “Murmurs Of Life” evoke a certain reverence which carries through to the cathedral Gregorian-like chant of “To The Four Directions” and organ-filled “Prayer For The Young.” Elements of more contemporary songwriting enter “Go My Son” and “A Glimmer Of Dawn” reminiscent of the direction Simon and Garfunkel were developing on Sound Of Silence. The musical journey concludes with the enchanting “Whispered Memories.” Peaceful and sublime, it enhances the soul and frees the mind.

 Website: Canyon Records

NORTHERN CREE AND FRIENDSCalling All Dancers
BLACK LODGEWatch This Dancer
THA TRIBEBlue Scout
Canyon Records

Pow Wow and social Round Dance songs can include native drumming, flute and group and solo chants. Canyon records have done a tremendous job in preserving this Native American culture and recently released three discs celebrating the spirit of the Pow Wow and native Round Dance. Award winning Round Dance sensation Northern Cree (and Friends) release their Calling All Dancers recorded “live” April 8th 2006. The courting and dance songs highlight the humor, jubilant singing and traditional drumming cultivated in the long cold winters of northern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Unlike the Pow Wow, Round Dance is by invitation only. The best singers and hand-drum players often perform all night inspiring joy and healing through their songs. Standout tracks include the catchy “Smilin,” the lively “Red Skin Gal” and the Gospel almost R&B influenced “Butter’s Loving Feeling.” 

The popular Tha Tribe release their ninth recording Blue Scout. More contemporary than most, they are all about having fun within the genre. Songs like “Smack Down,” the humor-filled “Pimp My Outfit” and “Cruzin” typify their loose approach while still building from traditional roots. Dance songs “Lonnika Hotstepper,” “The Pacifier” and “Kilee Hop” center around lead singer Wayne Silas Jr. while the other singers respond in chorus. The drumming is exhilarating and is only match by the diversity in songwriting. Championship drum group Black Lodge’s release Watch This Dancer, which showcase why they are one of the premiere drum groups on the circuit. Made up of 12 sons, all Blackfoot, the focus is primarily on three different types of dances. The Chicken Dance, Grass Dance and Women’s traditional which merges with sections of  Round Dance. Four Intertribal Dance songs fill the main body of the recording - each unique but remain more traditional.

Website: Canyon Records