Go Down Records

When the needle hits the title track “Over and Over” you know you are in for a rock n’ roll thrill ride. The band’s debut for Go Down records basks in big guitar Motor City punch with plenty of boogie piano tossed in over a throbbing bass drive. Formed by Maury “Wood” Capra (vocals, guitar) and Steve Bossa (drums), the Italian duo were determined to combine the best of Detroit and fuse it with England’s finest including The Who, Faces Stones and Pie. “Love Reducer” is where they throw down the gauntlet while penning a tale of decadence from the band’s perspective. The tunes seduce with a signature riffs, side-winding solo bursts, thick Hammond and stomping rhythm in the style of Radio Birdman, Diamond Dogs and Nomads. Joined by guitarist Mauro Ramozzi, bassist Eddie Laino and keyboardist Don Schiuma, the five-piece have spliced together some cherry Rolling Stones-like gems including “Downtown Boogie,” the exploding “Sin City’ and the sweat-soaked swagger of “Lazy Rope”.

Written as an anthem for the diehard “Dance All Night’ gets a huge workup with a glorious build and ragged chorus. Easily one of our favorites, it has a great “garage” hook and interplay between guitar and organ. When they bring it down, Electric69 approach the Quireboys in funky, gritty guitar and layered organ. Capra’s voice maybe whisky-soaked but he can lay down the tender in “Cherry Rollin Down the Window” just as seductively as the southern blues of “Northern Swamps”. Unafraid of taking risks, the band push the edge, even when it stalls the tempo as in “Cherry Rollin” or the vocal gets knocked out of tune in “Ain’t No Waitin’ For You.” For these guys, it’s the passion of the performance and not some play-by-numbers rock. It is refreshing to listen to a group capture raw energy, channel it into an exciting power-packed set and use the songs as a vehicle to release that passion to their audience. It certainly makes for a fuller listening experience. Italy just maybe the next frontier in rock n’ roll.

Website: Electric69, Go Down Records

Beggars & Losers
Andromeda Relix Records

The dig pack case can barely hold the shear weight of this CD. Dense guitar, bass and drums with a thunderous production make Bullfrog’s Beggars & Losers the true titans of classic heavy rock. Immediately bands like Mountain, Cream and Grand Funk jump to mind as the laser traces the disc through 11 original compositions. Dedicated to finding the heart and soul of  ‘70s power-trios, Francesco Dalla Riva (bass, vocals), Silvano Zago (guitar) and Michele Dalla Rive (drums) match pound-for-pound the universal magnitude of sonic expression. Tears well up when the band rip into “Detour” a Sabbath / Deep Purple inspired headknocker with a frenzied vocal and huge riff. The organ, retrofitted by Simone Bistaffa, is absolutely spine tingling - as is the gut-wrenching guitar solo. A shuddering hallmark! Soaked in whiskey-laced blues, songs like “Rat Kicking” and the backwoods “Every Sunny Day” meet the Allman Brothers and Free at the crossroads with a commanding strength that is as gratifying as it is powerful.

“Rocking Ball” sets the benchmark with its slow, plodding push that feeds the surging guitar. Singer, Riva, has his best Paul Rodgers strut in step then jumps up an octave for the chorus into a blinding Ian Gillian. The hook is sticky sweet with a drumbeat that lasts for days. Several tracks are more straight ahead hard rock including the bombastic “Over Again,” the Foghat-inspired “F for Fool” and the chugging “On Through The Night” that could have easily slipped off The Red Album-era Grand Funk. The tempo changes and instrument isolation in “On Through The Night” open up the track to an inspired dimension where the magic lies within the notes between the spaces. Three tracks, “One For A Zero,” “Easy On My Love” and “Poor Man Cry” sound as if they were written forty years ago. A splash of Humble Pie, Atomic Rooster and Budgie offer a hint of the potential of these songs. Each time we play this disc we gain a greater respect for the compositions and the craft in which they were constructed. These guys are true believers in dynamic music and lead a new generation of rock pioneers.

Website: Bullfrog

Hormone Hop, Mini-Skirt, Hormone Airlines, Hormonized
Go Down Records

The Hormonauts are a wild, frantic, rockabilly, Stray Cats-styled trio from Italy. Originally signed with Voodoo Rhythm Records they have released five discs built on the slap-bass rhythm of the ‘50s with a late ‘70s punk attitude. Not classic nor traditional, their mix of influences takes a reflective reverence, then adds a snarl and swagger for serious impact. To celebrate 10 years of rip-roaring, snot-nosed, kilt-wearing rock and boogie, the band have recently reprinted their first four discs, Hormone Hop (1999), Mini-Skirt (2002), Hormone Airlines (2004) and Hormonized (2006). The two double-album packs are displayed in an elegant digipack that includes outrageous photos and the popular “Tre Notti Di Fila” (Italian for “Three Nights in a Row”) as a bonus track. The three-piece, featuring Sasso Battaglia (double bass & vocals), Andy McFarlane (vocals & guitars) and Matt De Paola Pinna (drums), have become a bit of a sensation in Europe playing for thousands of rabid fans and recently opening for their idol Slim Jim Phantom.

Listening to all four albums back-to-back is a nostalgic musical journey filled with curious arrangements and novice tracks like the SciFi-tinged “We are The Hormonauts” the western-twang of “That Man In Your Bed” and the drunken “Who The Hell Are You” from Hop (1999). Each record grows with added elements. There is the distinct Hammond presence on Mini-Skirt (2002) on “The Girl at the Station Bar,” the La Bamba-beat of title track “Mini-Skirt” or the Metal-a-billy of “Hot Rod Tattoo.” Among the original material are selected covers that are twisted and turned to fit the band’s quirky sense of melody. “Tainted Love” and “My Sharona” are great examples, but it was the band’s rendition of the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” that hit a home run with both radio and TV. By Hormone Airlines (2004) the combined ingredients of surf, jazz, salsa and even ska defined the group’s sound.

Lead singer / guitarist Andy, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland has a surprising Elvis meets Brian Setzer-like baritone. His emotion and control in “Mojito Joe” is a revelation. Though he started as a drummer for Glasgow’s Space Kittens Andy’s mastered a slamming guitar punkability that not only gives the band their originality, but adds a fun, catchy, pop to the group’s bounce. His flaming solo on “That Cat’s Too Fat” or the buzz saw burn in “Off My Chest” are soaring slices of surf riff rock that even Dick Dale would grin at. Bassist Sasso and drummer Paolo spent 10 years in the successful Rebel Cats before joining forces with Andy and launching The Hormonauts. Their keen feel and groove can take a western romp like “Greasy Black Hands” or the swinging “Hatuey” and make them perfect 3-minute classics. Hormonized (2006) saw the band stretch out with the acoustic “Any Normal Super Hero,” the rapping “Swimming Pool” and the clever Sinatra-esque “Bundle of Fun.” The record boosted their live show with hip-shaking, toe-tapping gems “Shit Faced” and “Lucky Toy”.

In 2007 the band played SXSW in Austin, Texas and Eurosonic in Groningen, Holland where they represented Italy. At the end of 2007, the band recorded their fifth record Spanish Omelette, collaborating with Londoner Kenny Diezel (LSDiezel). This fusion of dub and experimental electronica with country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll resulted in a unique and surprising cocktail labeled “electrobilly.” In November 2008 their version of “Staying Alive” was used in the French film “J'irai Sleep in Hollywood,” and distributed by the Disney Group. 2009 promises to spread even more glorious exploits as modern rockabilly finds its future in The Hormonauts.

Website: The Hormonauts, Go Down Records

Heavy Days
Omnicide Records

Proving to be chronically prolific, America guitar-based trio Mambo Son, have issued a double CD (a la Exile on Main Street) of original material titled Heavy Days. This is their fourth record since forming in 1999 and continues their musical exploration through 20 songs and over two hours of classic rock music. It’s been four year since their last outing Racket of Three (2005) and, to our ears, this is their most sturdy. Guitarist Tom Guerra starts off with a wicked Foghat slide in “She Just Wants to Ride” and by the end of the disc one is settled into a Beatles/Cheap Trick wistful ode to “Heavy Days” – a song that embraces immense passion. Singer/bassist Scott Lawson continues to impress with a fine voice often drifting into a Paul Rodgers delivery style and range. It’s not surprising these two fit so well together as both have expressed their mutual respect and admiration for blues-rock legends like T-Rex, Mott The Hoople, Free and the Stones. Drummer Joe Lemieux is one of those steady, in-the-pocket players that is as sophisticated as he is forceful with each blow. Matt Zeiner guest on Hammond and piano and rounds out the band’s sound triggering a wave of nostalgia and retro rumblings.

Openly wearing their influences on their collective sleeves, the band embrace their idols in songs about them. There’s the clever “Overend Watts” about the Mott the Hoople bassist, “Once In Awhile” reminiscing John Lennon and the Free-like “Single City” that echoes “I’m A Mover”. Everywhere the needle drops there’s another monster riff or signature bass line that throws back to the deep cuts of a ‘70s record collection. The chill factor is off the chart when the Marc Bolan-fed “So Wonderful” or the Dylan/Floydish “All Men Are Pigs” rubs just the right nerve. Even the more melodic “Waiting For My Ship To Come In” and acoustic “Love Is Strange” warm in a Fleetwood Mac kinda way. Funk fuels the Sly Stone “I Love My Family” and even Queen sneaks in on the 50-second segue way “Song For a Rugger,” Being drawn to the more hard rock numbers means “The Devil’s Kin,” the Animals-meets-Aerosmith “The Early Train,” and Hendrix cover “Stone Free” are perfect for cranking the volume. Trust us, you’ll be proud to have this disc in your collection.

Website: Mambo Sons

Endless Skies
Transubstans Records

This album grows leaps and bounds with each listen. The hyper-sonic power trio fuel their fire with huge slabs of Sabbath, Zeppelin, Trower, Cream, and Mountain. Formed from the ashes of Sideburn, Jani Kataja (bass, vocals) and Fredrik Broqvist (drums) joined forces with Magnus Jernström (guitars) to build a wall of rock so solid and heavy that the earth shakes just mentioning their name. Endless Skies teeters on the fine line between hard rock and stoner yet takes the listener to both sides with ease and brilliance. Songs like opener “Universal Time,” the drum-filled “River of My Soul” and power-hungry “Electric Eye” reverberate a classic respect for merging riff and melody that captivate instantly. Yet there’s plenty of open spaces that allow the songs room to expand or contract. Two instrumentals - the quite, desert “Back by the Mountainside” and the more grandiose “Quivering Ground” are prime samples of moving along the stoner highway with sludge in the bass and drum, then giving way to the guitar’s strong hooks.

“Pieces of Our Yesterday” has a larger than life, atmospheric sound that rattles like an lumber Panzer. The guitars are chunky and spit out solo shards with lethal accuracy. The rumble carries on into title track “Endless Skies” with a nod to Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Mustasch. A killer riff and bludgeoning drums has the track notched as a prime mover. Kataja voice is overwhelming as he powers into the chorus. Even when the band slows into “Time of Sorrow” the voice becomes the vehicle that the other instrumental rally around. It’s here we also hear the dexterity of the bass and it’s winding, heavy thump riding the rhythm of the guitar. Like Bad Company, Mangrove debuts with it’s own signature song in the jazz/blues-baked “Mangrove.” Fuzz-laden, trippy and addicting, the track basks in a glorious chorus and ‘70s chord structure. This is not one to be missed.

Website: Record Heaven

Cartesian Dreams
Frontier Records

After being inactive for over a decade (from 1992-2004) House of Lords returned as a mere skeleton of it’s former self. Led primarily by singer James Christian the band resemble little of its Gregg Giuffria, Chuck Wright, Ken Mary classic line up. Since World Upside Down (2006)  and Come To My Kingdom (2008) the band has become more a solo vehicle for Christian. That’s not to say it doesn’t have merit. Using the same guitarist Jimi Bell and drummer BJ Zampa for the last three records (including Cartesian Dreams) does make the project seem more cohesive and stable. In fact, Cartesian Dreams actually returns the band to a more arena-ready rock sound. Tracks like “Born To Be Your Baby” and “Bangin” bring a certain sizzle back into the group’s ‘80’s delivery with modern punch. The sexed up “Repo Man” finds the singer squaring off with wife Robin Beck, who adds backing vocals, and opens the door for Bell to fill in a blazing solo. Scorpion-like anthems “Saved by Rock” and “The Bigger They Come” go for that colossal factor and almost nail it. Christian is a powerful singer in the vain of Coverdale, Rodgers and Joe Lynn Turner. When you add the fire and spit he puts into songs like the title track and the bombastic “Desert Rain,” his conviction to the lyrics are the key sell. Bell is no slacker either, his fret work is reminiscent of Sambora, catchy, big and proud.

Website: House of Lords, Frontier Records

Frontier Records

Native Greek band Outloud are making quite a slash in hard rock corners. Formed in ‘08 by Firewind members Bob Katsionis (Keyboards, Guitar) and Mark Cross (Drums), the two recruited Talon vocalist Chandler Mogel, bassist Jason Mercury and guitarist Tony Kash then started cutting demos. Their initial writing pointed in the direction of Riot’s Fire Down Under, Skid Row and Tell No Tales-era TNT with some Foreigner melodic elements. The rev of “What I Need” reflects those early sessions and breaks the band wide open with soaring vocals and whiplash riffs. Cross’ drums almost steamroll over the whole thing and if it wasn’t for Kash’s aggressive playing, the disc would be way too bottom heavy. Mixed and mastered by Tommy Hansen (Helloween), the producer brings the record back around pushing the charismatic Mogel out front where his vocal nails you in the face. Borrowing from Firewind’s quick temp, the group are able to find their own groove that takes melodic hard rock and balances a glorious chorus, crunching guitars and chest-thumping bass. The massive “We Run,” a Frankie and the Knockouts-spellbinder “Tonight” and AC/DC-ish “Wild Life” are the record’s crowning jewels that beg for repeated play. Had this been released in 1988 it would have sold millions. Here it is twenty years later and now these young guns prove the genre’s back for another bite.

Website: Frontier Records

In Search of the Fourth Chord
Eagle Records

These guys are the quintessential road warriors. Established in the early ‘60s and calling themselves “The Scorpions,” Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt have become the godfathers of meat and potatoes three-chord boogie rock. For the better part of forty years their brand of pub-styled electric rhythm and blues has set them apart as an icon that has remained unflinching in both direction and presentation. After changing their name to Status Quo, releasing the psychedelic-hit “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and hooking up with “roadie/co-writer” Bob Young the group have become one of England’s most successful and endeared rock acts. No so in the US. Even though they have released most of their 28 records on American soil, they have yet to take hold here. In Search of the Forth Chord, originally released in the UK in 2007, has a bit of self-deprecating humor, as the group have been criticized of only using 3 chords per song. The disc is much more than that; packing 14 tracks which encapsulate much of the band’s rich history.

Straight out of the box we get prime Piledriver riffs in “Beginning of the End” and “Alright.” Big beefy tunes that prove these geezers can still knock about a good tune and make you feel it. “Tongue Tied” and “Pennsylvania Blues Tonight” flash back to the late 60’s merging folk, blues and psychedelia into a captivating mixture of hook-filled friendliness. The latter rises as one of the best songs in the set with a catchy chorus and head-bobbing licks. Zeppelin-meets-Stones creeps in “My Little Heartbreaker” with classic pub piano and a two-step shuffle. Even the Beatle-esque “Electric Arena” and Celtic “Figure of Eight” holds tight to their old school roots with plenty of fire still left in the guitar. Quo never depart too far from the text, they just get louder. “You’re The One For Me” and “Saddling Up” are barnstormers with a fire-breathing rhythm and plenty of texture, whether it’s harmonica, frantic piano or swelling organ, it’s pure boogie rock n’ roll.

Website: Status Quo, Eagle Records

Different Realities
Transubstans Records

Appropriately titled, Different Realities is indeed an alternative direction for Sweden’s ’70 retro outfit Siena Root. Fans may need to put in the necessary amount of time with this record to truly appreciate the fullness of the musical landscape contained within. Where their past three efforts were shorter bursts of muscle and bump, this 10-track platter moves in a more progressive, folk direction with some very fierce pieces injected in for dynamic effect. Tempered to perfection, the ten-minute intro track “We Are Them” is a seductive charmer that reflects Curved Air’s Air Cut, Rush’s debut and Gentle Giants’ Octopus finding the right mixture of hard rock, classical and even jazz. In essence this record could easily fit into 1973’s prog circles and is actually designed so. A disclaimer on the jacket states “This is an album of two musical pieces. For ease of navigation, they are subdivided into ten shorted tracks.” The track list splits the song titles into A “We” (English) and B “The Road to Agartha” (Swedish) a very Yes thing to do. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this merits a vinyl release and therefore captures its full glory.

Most of the record is instrumental with every song constructed to embrace emotion. “In the Desert” is an intoxicating trace with melodic Spanish guitar overcome by a haunting flute. You can almost smell the reefer. Immediately “Over the Mountains” swallows it up whole and the tempo blast into a Trower-inspired rock jam that goes cosmic and then funks it up midway through. The refrain, “As We Return” closes side one with elements of Deep Purple and the push/pull effect that Siena Root have made their own. The ghostly vocals are beautifully sculpted around the song’s rhythmic structure and recall Geddy Lee or Budgie’s Burke Shelley. Side two can only be described as heavy world music embracing Moroccan beats, Japanese folk and Middle Eastern instrumentation. This is where it gets trippy. The flute takes over as the prominent instrument with hurdy gurdy, bansuri, sitar, monochord and even kazoo playing their parts in this musical journey that is as much about discovery as it is transcending. Another ten-minute jam closes the opus bringing back the electric guitar and wah-wah for a mind altering odyssey of psychedelic beauty.

Website: Siena Root, Transubstans Records

Streets of Fire
Frontier Records

Place Vendome are the holy grail of melodic hard rock. Led by Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween) and most the guys from Pink Cream 69 they capture a sound that’s more straight ahead rock, yet very accessible and melodic. Streets of Fire mark the band’s second recording and measure its success on the strength of it songs. All killer, no filler with 12 compositions guaranteed to blow your mind. “My Guardian Angel” will make you weep, literally. Yes, the record does benefit from outside writers, but for songs this good one would easily sell his soul. The disc kicks off with the muscle bound title track, “Streets of Fire,” a piano-laced piece that explodes into a glorious pomp rocker truly showcasing Kiske’s amazing vocal range. Guitars swirl around the hook like a tornado taking everything including the kitchen sink with it. The drum patterns are heavy and dense, something usually watered down in the quest for melodic perfection. Several numbers are nicked straight from Neal Schon’s playbook including the high-octane “Believer” and the harmony-filled “Changes”. The FM-styled “Follow Me” and Mr. Mister-etched “A Scene In Reply” hearken back to the days when AOR ruled the airwaves. Even “Valerie (The Truth is in Your Eyes) casts its West coast spell. Keyboard ballads “Completely Breathless,” the gorgeous “Set Me Free” and the masterful “Id’ Die For You” cap off a stunner of a sophomore release.

Website: Frontier Records

16.6 (Before The Devil Knows Your Dead)
Frontier Records

Power metal phenomenon Primal Fear returns with their eighth studio album. Former Gamma Ray vocalist Ralf Scheepers and bassist/vocalist Mat Sinner, two of the most respected German Metal musicians, founded the band 1997. After their move from Nuclear Blast to Frontiers Records, the band embraced a more melodic direction including a first time duet last year with Epica's Simone Simons. With this disc the band return to their Nuclear Fire-era power-hungry selves finally shaking their Judas Priest comparisons and coming into their own. It also is the first album not to feature guitarist and founding member Stefan Leibing and the first to host new guitarist Magnus Karlsson. Like the title indicates, the tone of the record is more sinister and the guitar more assertive. “Smith & Wesson,” the furious “Killbound” and the more melodic “No Smoke Without Fire” radiate with a fuller, succinct twin-axe assault, add to that Mat Sinner’s bass and Randy Black’s drumming and it becomes the soundtrack to 2012 (the meaning of 16.6). Already considered a classic is first single “Six Time Dead” a bang-your-head masterpiece with a chorus you could sing all night. Some strange bits are found in the nu-metal of “Soar” and the Middle Eastern-styled “Black Rain,” but the sonic ballad “Hands Of Time” where all four guys excluding Black share lead-vocals, is spin-tingling.

Website: Primal Fear, Frontier Records

All Fall Down
JMM Records

Must be something in the water - turn your head once and another kick-ass southern rock group just popped up on the radar. Jive Mother Mary hail from good ol’ North Carolina and make their debut with All Fall Down produced by none other than John Custer (Lynyrd Skynyrd, COC, Dag). With deep roots in southern rock icons and a generous dose of Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and Waylon Jennings, the thunderous power trio soak their songs in kerosene and light them on fire. The combustible impact of “Bedroom Eyes”, “Fever” and the Rolling Stone-meets-Faces “Move On Home” is immediate. It will literally singe the hair right off your face. What Mason Keck (guitar. Vocals), Nathan Coe (bass) and Seth Aldridge (drums) do with basic blues riffs fully cranked is something of a marvel. There’s an alternative Soundgarden / Alice In Chains echo in the vocals, but the rhythm groove and loud guitar are pure ‘70s. Adding color and texture means there’s a lot of layers including acoustic guitars and traditional slide. The strumming of “Another New Never” or gentle picking “Holy Roller” complete with lush harmonies fuses Blind Mellon and Potliquor. (see YouTube). Then there’s the Doobie Brothers-inspired “Save Me” that takes the listener on a winding California road trip. The monster track that is “All Fall Down” is a slow burner the packs a serious wallop. Oh yeah, and the record was record when these guys were in high school – last year!

Website Jive Mother Mary

End of Ride Revisited
Surgeland Records

Originally released in 2006, the pairing of guitarist Marty Paris and vocalist Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge, Blue Murder, Michael Schenker Group) has nurtured 16 tracks that celebrate their ongoing collaboration. End of Ride Revisited dust off the original recordings and gives them a sonic makeover. The core of the group includes bassist Rick Van Benschoten, cellist Matt Goeke and drummer Gintas Janusonis but also has the boys working with a number of guest musicians including Don Dokken, Carmine Appice, George Lynch and Al Pitrelli. The CD is split up between live performances and studio sessions. There is an instant attraction to rocker “Tear of Heaven” and ballad “I’ve Found” both featuring Don Dokken and making for great slices of melodic rock. Keeling and Dokken’s voice mesh together in spin-chilling harmony as the guitar gives the songs an effective polish. The cello adds elements of classical even Celtic texture. “These Days” with George Lynch casts a dark Beatle-esque shadow over a Glenn Hughes-inspired vocal delivery.

The tracking order embraces a “live” vibe moving from structured, tight crafted song to loose, jam-like tracks. The Zeppelin-like “Head Straight” gives drummer Carmine Appice a solid groove to build on. The original studio version is also included toward the end of the record and packs a more aggressive Cheap Trick tone to it. Several tracks showcase Keeling’s astounding vocal talent including the gorgeous ballad “Free”, the near a capella “Morning Song” that borrows from the emotional singer/songwriter moments of Paul Simon or even John Denver. The delivery is swallowed up in Keeling very moving performance. A guilty pleasure is the group rendition of ELO’s “Telephone Line”. Beautifully crafted, it’s an unusual choice but works in the record format. “I Learned from the Inside” and the punkish “Don’t Disturb The Occupants” go for a more gritty, hard rock punch proving the band aren’t all puff and fluff but pack some real meat into their rock and roll.

Website: Paris Keeling, Surgeland Records