Independent Release

This is one for the cooker. You need to let it bake for a while before it actually gets under your skin and begs for attention. It’s a progy rock album with shades of Rush, Dream Theater and Queensryche. There are times it sounds like all three, but then there are spurts of Metallica, Kansas and even Bad Company. So who the hell are these guys? Built around vocalist Bill Moore, guitarist Mike Clark, bassist Charles Mumford and drummer John Chominsky - and based out of LA, the four merge heavy musical styling to create a sound unique and edgy. To be honest, we thought this was a Kansas spin-off group with songs like “Parallel Lives” and “The Darkness” reflecting Kerry Livgren’s writing style, Then there’s songs about sailing ships “The Flying Dutchmen” and the mystical tale of “Phoenix”. Politically charged “Line ‘Em Up” dances over a wicked riff with an addictive chorus and there’s the epic “Shadow of the Wolf” with it’s central bass line and surging crescendo. Favorites include “Bottle of Love” and “Been Wasted” where classic City Boy-AOR comes with an emphasis on harmonies and a satin melody. A nice surprise is the soothing ballad “Lightning and Rainbows” giving full credence to Moore’s stunning voice as he moves from an a cappella intro, engaging verse-by-verse storytelling and a big harmonized chorus. Modern metal creeps in with a nice hook in “Be Not Afraid” and Clark’s guitar tone inches close to Satriani in “Room 19”. For fans of classic late seventies, early 80’s prog rock with a Mutt Lange-like production.

Website: Final Gravity

Crest of a Wave (best of)
Eagle Records

This is the sixth “best of” or “retrospective” compilation on the Irish blues-rock legend Rory Gallagher since his untimely death 14 June 1995 of infection after a liver transplant. Much like The Essential (2008) and Big Guns: The Very Best of Rory Gallagher (2005) we get a 2-disc hybrid of the guitarist more successful standards, primarily based on set list favorites. Nothing new here, and for most hard-core fans, will be passed over - but for the novice listener keen on exploring more than Irish Tour ’74 this is an acceptable swath at the right price. Rory’s nephew Daniel Gallagher did a decent job picking and choosing tracks from the artist’s post-Taste 1971 solo works. He state’s in the liner notes, “I wanted to show an often over looked quality to Rory’s playing, his song-writing…so many styles and emotion, storytelling, and his ability to open his heart with beautiful, haunting melancholy.” Fair enough, so we get a track or two from each of Gallagher’s eleven studio records except Jinx (1982) and Fresh Evidence (1990). The omission is a bit of a pisser as “Big Guns”, “Easy Come Easy Go” and “Slumming Angel” are certainly worthy of inclusion and there is time on the discs.

As for what did make the 24-track selection is pure joyous blues-rock with Gallagher distinctive baritone vocals. “Follow Me” is a top cracker and kicks the comp off in a raucous irreverent style, just as Rory would have it. The rollicking’ “Shinkicker” is interesting just to hear what Gallagher would have sounded like had he taken the job offered him by The Rolling Stones. Fiery and ferocious, his guitar rumbles through “Walk On Hot Coals” the metallic “Bad Penny” and bold riffing of “Philby”. The ripping “Overnight Bag” from Photo Finish (’78) is no slouch either as it roars with Gallagher’s friendly competition with his backing band for over all dominance. Yet, it’s in the record tender moments – like “A Million Miles Away” from Tattoo (’73) where the supporting piano builds to crescendo, that we hear the soul of the man’s guitar playing. As many times as Gary Moore covers it, he still can’t do the original justice. “I Fall Apart” from the guitarist’s debut and the electric “Edged in Blue” are absolutely tearful. Nice to see “Lonesome Highway” and “Wheels Within Wheel” included from the posthumous acoustic release also included.

Website: Rory Gallagher, Eagle Records

Rock Inferno (Murder Is Now)
Chorus Of One Records

The Nerds have been causing havoc and raising cane since 1997. A product of old school punk and lethal aggression, the Italian misfits come off a bit like Antiseen, Dwarfs or GG Allin. Rock Inferno (Murder Is Now) is their third long player and, from what we can tell, all new originals. Preferring the label “scum punk,” the band’s mixture of punk, garage, horror and freaky shit - like what WASP did for cheesy ‘80s metal, takes their live show and compacts it into a 5” plastic disc. Song titles are not for the faint of heart. There’s the bass-driven “A Dinner With Jeffrey (The Milwaukee Bunch),” the metallic thundering of “Last Thing You’ll See” and Slayer-like “Hate is a Four Letter Word.” Vocalist The Boss has an affinity for hardcore meets Motörhead and growls his way through all ten tracks with thick, dense riffs gurgling lava from the amps. Known for their many splits and comp including tributes to Motörhead, Venom, GG Allin and Alice Cooper it’s no surprise the songs reflect their idols. Evil rock'n'roll mayhem delivered fast and furious, like the Grannies on speed during a Halloween fright fest. The commercially attractive “TV Reality” (also found on Under the Radar Volume 1) hints at the band’s future, dangerous yet compelling with some of the record’s best guitar work. Recommended for purveyors of hardcore garage punk - a steady dose of these guys will feel like an amphetamine high, a hangover and a wild sex part rolled into one.

Website: The Nerds

New Wave of Norwegian Hard Rock
Chorus Of One Records

We can’t get enough of this record. Released in 2007 this masterpiece holds it’s head up high for all other to bow to. Equal doses of Feel the Darkness-era Poison Idea and Young Loud and Snotty Dead Boys makes this record an essential modern punk rock classic. Built on the back of addictive hooks and power-surged riffs along with singer Eirik Haukur’s tenor range and boiler room basics, courtesy of rhythm section Sigve Trynet (bass) and Håvard Torrez (drums), the ten tracks bleed perfection. The frantic “Silence” has already broken out on YouTube and showcases the band, all dressed in black, putting on a most furious exhibition. But that’s certainly not the only gem here. Track #6 “No Time” launches into a reckless swagger with Anders Bresjnev’s chainsaw guitar and Oddvar’s lead slicing a swath through a banging punk beat. The screaming “Too Late” and almost metal “Break Out” paints the band as coinsures of multi-layering genres with enough pop sensibility to pull off widespread attraction. The feedback speed riffing of “Close Race,” and “Booze Machine” counter the garage seduction of “Sexual Famine” adding plenty of color and musical friction into the mix. Highlights are the stadium rocker “Let Go” and ‘60s Sonics-like throwback “The Hate.” Bonus track “Highway” was added from their 2001 EP. After this disc bassist Rune (El Hijo) left to join ex-Gluecifer’s Captain Poon in Bloodlights…still highly recommended!

Website: Nude Pube Banglers

One Mile
Chorus Of One Records

When Gluecifer broke up we started looking for their replacement. Looks like Germany punksters Boozed just might be it. Their years as an AC/DC cover band have taught them the craft of writing short, power-packed numbers with a catchy hook that leave a lasting impression. One Mile is their third record since forming in 2001 and like many European bands, feed their fans on a steady diet of splits and EPs. Opening track, “Save Me’ is the breakout single with a Monster Magnet riff a hint of Flaming Sideburns garage - and their own stamp in the anthemic chorus. The drums are quick and steady and the solo is a wicked little sidewinder. There’s some Hives influence in the rhythm section throughout and some obvious Hellacopters with Nicke Andersson lending an extra guitar on “Circus”. But compared to Tight Pants (2005) and Acid Blues (2007) this one is more earthy with a real garage vibe. The mid-tempo “Easy” reflects a Small Faces taste for blues pop melody while “Don’t Hold Back” and “Asphalt’s Burning” with its frantic organ/piano builds into two solid robust numbers – not to far removed from the Diamond Dogs. Female vocalist Jarita Freydank adds some amazing texture on several songs as well. If it’s full tilt rock you want “This Ain’t My City,” “Hypnotic Magnetic” and “Hole To Hide” will do nicely. Pub rocker “Next Door” seems to get the most repeated plays in the office but the whole disc is mesmerizing and a classic return to rock done right.

Website: Boozed

Back in the back of a Cadillac
Chorus Of One Records

Prior to releasing One Mile, Boozed released this hidden treasure with Germany’s December Peals in late 2007. Six tracks each, the prime seller in this pack was the Boozed cover of Madonna “Like A Virgin”. Honestly, it’s a piss-poor song and Boozed does their best to save it from totally collapse. They amp it up and throw in some aggressive riffage with a garage backbeat but in the end it’s not enough to make it interesting. Luckily the other five Boozed numbers are rock solid including the unreleased country-styled “Slave To The Band” that takes a little Hank Williams Jr. and spins in some dirty Rolling Stones complete with organ and soul-sister backup singers. “Gimme The Fire” and “Take Me To Vegas” celebrate all that’s great about this band – punk attitude, fierce guitar and a hook-filled chorus. The live “Stop Your Revolution” has a raw mix, heavy on the drums and vocal with the guitar pushed back, yet it does capture the fire of their live show.

December Peals are an up and comer with a taste for greased up pop punk. They released a full length Le Café Royal back in ’04 and have a couple EPs. The line up here is the same as their If You Wanna Be Loud (07) release. A nice complement to Boozed, these youngsters function on high doses of testosterone and let the guitar run wild all over their thunderous drum/bass rumble. A modern edge links them closer to Hinder or Buckcherry but with more snarl and spit. “Got Taste” is a ripe cherry busting out with a sordid riff and bombastic kick in the gut. The vocals are somewhere close to Chad Cherry (The Last Vegas) or John Allen (Charm City Devils) delivered at full volume. Tracks “Puerto Rico” and “Collapse” are all about fast guitars and showcase some killer revved up bass lines. Nice to hear a band unashamed of boasting the talents of their four-sting wizard. The boogie of “Sink or Swim” and the duel guitar marathon that surrounds pop-charged “If You Wanna” has the five-piece crafting top-notch tunes that itch for bigger things. A band to watch out for in 2010.

Website: Boozed, December Peals

Global Music

It’s been years since we’ve cared about a WASP record, but something very strange happened when we piped Babylon through the office speakers. Suddenly is 1985; Blackie Lawless was screaming out the soundtrack to the apocalypse, the guitars were razor sharp with the thunder of the gods in the rhythm section. No lie, we dedicated the whole day to all things WASP - cracked out the old vinyl and ripped through everything from the 1984 self-titled debut, to Last Command (‘85), Inside the Electric Circus (’86) and Headless Children (’89). It was a revelation, and all due to the best penned and tracked record since their heyday. Says Lawless in the liner notes; “I did a detailed study of the book of Revelations (Bible, New Testament) with some pretty amazing reading that inspired powerful images.” Babylon picks up, in both word and musicality, where Headless Children left off. The songs are catchy with huge chouses while the trademark metal ringing of the original band is crystal clear. Nowhere is that more evident than in the epic title track “Babylon’s Burning.” An anthem that resonates with it’s galloping Maiden riff and boisterous war cry complete with biblical imagery of the “last days” led by the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

As in all the classic WASP records, there is a loose theme. Babylon is not so much a concept piece as it is a hailing to its listeners to wake up. The infectious “Live to Die Another Day” has Blackie’s reflecting “I was hellhound but now I’m running free / from Satan’s Angels of Light” as a crescendo of guitars blaze around him. “Thunder Red” and the chugging “Sea of Fire” could easily have fallen from the band’s earliest writing books as they both have vivid imagery, massive hooks and fist-pumping choruses. Lawless remains the only original member of the group and leaves the biggest footprint, however guitarist Doug Blair more than captures the classic tones of Chris Holmes and Randy Piper. Comparing the new with the old brings up ballad “Into the Fire” that has a very similar feel to their debut’s “Sleeping (In the Fire)” and just as good. Noticeable is the tight space between each song, in some cases overlapping, giving the whole record a sense of urgency. A clever use of covers has Deep Purple’s “Burn” following “Babylon’s Burning” and an Elvis/Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” closing out the disc. ‘Bout time they delivered another classic.

Website: W.A.S.P.

Are You Ready? (Rockpalast ’81 DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

There was a time when fans struggled to find vintage Thin Lizzy on HVS or DVD. Various quality bootlegs of this show (Loreley Germany August 29, 1981) flooded the market for years, so it’s refreshing to see its proper release. Eagle entertainment has enhanced this show with digital sound and picture, greatly improving the original outdoor footage. The added feature is that it is one of the few filmed Lizzy shows that captures Snowy White in the line up. Shot for the German TV series Rockpalst, the show features Phil Lynott (bass, vocals), Brian Downey (drums), Scott Gorham (guitar), Snowy White (guitar) and 18-year old Darren Wharton (keyboards). Eagle has dubbed the disc Are You Ready?, a chant Lynott shouts several times as the disc begins, before leading the band into a vicious charge through the song of the same name. The stage ignites in a fireball of pyrotechnics with the bass player emerging from the haze bellowing “Are you Ready to Rock? / Are you Ready to rip it up?”

Those familiar with the Japanese lazar release of this show will be perplexed by the sound warble in the first few songs, which is oddly still there, but does smooth out by the third track. Visually the DVD is clear and vibrant and showcases this particular lineup in good light. The band prove to be rightly hungry and vivacious through the set - except for Snowy White (Pink Floyd, Peter Green) who tends to lay back a bit too much while Lynott and Gorham monopolize the stage. Sandwiched between Gary Moore and John Sykes, White was ill fitted and never made the transition to the more metallic years of Thin Lizzy. Yet, his contribution is mesmerizing on several key songs most notably the bluesy “Memory Pain,” galloping “Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo)” and artful “Sugar Blues,” the last two from Chinatown the record they were promoting with this tour. Sadly “Killer On The Loose” is omitted and the awful “Trouble Boys” takes it place. The song was so disliked by the band it never made it to album, yet here it is for all to judge.

An interesting feature is the inclusion of “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)” from Renegade due to be released three months later. But, it’s the storming run through “Waiting for an Alibi”, “Got to Give it Up” and “Black Rose” that prove the band were still eager to promote 1979’s Black Rose: A Rock Legend. The rest of the set was a mix-mash of TL greatest hits live including “Jailbreak” “Don’t Believe A Word,” “Cowboy Song/The Boys Are Back In Town,” “Rosalie” and “Emerald”. Considering the band were heavily involved with drugs and suffering from illness (Lynott hacks his way through most of the set), they still pull off a rather remarkable performance. Downey is at the top of his game stirring up a powerful rumble on the drums. Gorham is sloppy but professional showing off his thick riffs in “Suicide,” the 50s-styled “Baby Drives Me Crazy” and the encore “Desaster.” (He checked into rehab after this tour-ed). However, a real indication of how truly magnetic Thin Lizzy was, even slightly off their game, was when the MC struggled to be heard over the roar of the crowd.

Website: Thin Lizzy, Eagle Entertainment

Live At Montrenx (DVD)
Eagle Entertainment

UK Boogie kings Status Quo celebrated their 42nd year rocking all over the world with the DVD release of Live At Montrenx. Filmed this summer (July 2009) on their wildly successful Pictures tour shows the band easily out playing their younger cohorts in what is a shining example of how older really is better. Original members Rick Parfitt (guitar, vocals) and Francis Rossi (vocals, guitar) are joined by Andy Brown (keyboards, guitar), John Edwards (bass) and Matt Letley (drums). All except Letley have been in the band since 1986. The concert is well filmed with bonus features that include a Rossi / Parfitt Cam just to shake it up. The camera follows the band wandering about Montreux with humorous interview with Parfitt and Rossi. 22 tracks fill the DVD as a nice career retrospective and include a medley of their storming ‘60s pseudo-hits. The disc starts with the band backstage as they windup before the show. They then open with the rambunctious “Caroline” from ‘73s Hello which quickly wins the French/Swiss crowd over and puts a smile on everyone’s face.

The magnificent set list is packed with classics and orders them up in a showcase that is not only a tribute to the band that created them but can still do them justice “live” with engaging vitality - a bit like watching Sammy Hagar or Jimmy Buffett. Making a full recovery from his open-heart surgery a decade ago, Parfitt looks fit as a fiddle and proves he’s still got the chops as the band’s rhythm king. “I do get a bit winded towards the end of the set,” he says in the interview section on the DVD. “By ‘Down Down’ or ‘What Ever You Want’ I can barely make it across the stage.” He is 60 and we’re talking a 22 song and a two-hour set. His quivering vocal on “The Wanderer” and “Rain” are a priceless tribute to Roy Orbison. Rossi (also 60), is in superb rock n roll mode, taking the vocal lead on most tracks and injecting his signature, scorching leads throughout. Essential and understated are keys of Andy Brown especially as the band move into the six-song ‘60s medley. The harmonica led “Down The Dustpipe,”  “Dear John and the psychedelic “Pictures of Matchstick Men” back in the set. Parfitt claims they “raised ‘Matchstick Men’ from the ashes” and “dug into it more” to bring to back to its current vibrant state.

The high energy “Mean Girl” from ‘71s Two Headed Dog hits the mark with the traditional guitar pile up at the end. The infectious “Beginning of the End” a new one from In Search of the Fourth Chord follows suit with a tremendous pop swagger. Rossi’s feet are so happy they’re almost distracting. “When we wrote this in the ‘70s we were taking things that made us go very fast,” he says as the band kick into “Is There A Better Way” tipping their hat to the denim rock of Blues for You (’76). Drummer Matt Letley sets the beat for “The Oriental, “ a real headbanger, and even though Rossi forgets the words (as he does in “In My Chair” too) the track is one of the disc’s highlights. Crowd favorite “In The Army Now” and “Rocking All Over The World” have the band on the verge of exhaustion and dripping with sweat. Yet, they get it up one more time for a last romp through On The Level’s “Junior’s Wailing,” Chuck Berry’s “Rock ‘n Roll Music” and an audience chanting “Bye Bye Johnny.”

Website: Status Quo, Eagle Entertainment

Out Standing in Their Field
Eagle Records

One of the most prolific guitarists of our time, Steve Morse’s resume reads like a rock encyclopedia. Forming the Dixie Dregs at the tender age of 21 with, among others, drummer Rod Morgenstein (Winger) led to one of the better instrumental jazz rock fusion groups of the 70’s. They set themselves apart with fragments of southern Allman Brothers-like tendencies. Though they released a number of Grammy nominated LPs, sales were never brisk – however, the song “Odyssey” from What If (78) grew legs and has since seen a number of bands cover it including Dream Theater. The one Dregs record to feature vocals, 1982’s Industry Standard, were those of Steve Walsh of Kansas. When Kansas needed a guitarist in 1986 Morse stepped in until his departure to join Deep Purple in 1993. In between steady work, from ’84 on, the guitarist has release solo efforts under the name Steve Morse Band. Bassist Dave LaRue (Joe Satriani) joined on in 1991 and drummer Van Romaine in ’92. The trio proved much heavier that the Dregs but still made their mark recording instrumental masterpieces.

Out Standing in Their Field is the SMB’s 12th studio record and has the “classic” three, LaRue, Romaine and Morse, back after a five-year hiatus. Morse is the chief songwriter and produces the album. Through he’s experimented with a number of styles and musical progressions in the past, this is primarily a rock record in the vain of his Southern Steel (’91). The chunky “Name Dropping” joins shredder “Brink of the Edge” and “Restless Encroachment” as the toughest of the bunch. All nicely crafted hard rock with Morse signature soloing and LaRue’s bass finesse. The smoother, more subtle “Here and Now and Then” benefits from a gorgeous melody and widening refrain while “Time Junction” is the only scaling twiddler in the bunch. The one song that really hits, more because of its uniqueness, is the country-styled “John Deer Letter.” It allows the listener a quick flash back to the Dregs and opens it up for LaRue and Romaine to flex a bit. Two tracks, the fluid “Flight of the Osprey” and the classical “Baroque ‘N Dreams” have Morse playing both ends of the spectrum and all pint in between. Indeed a master craftsman.

Website: Steve Morse Band, Eagle Records

Leviathan Records

Those unfamiliar with metal shredder David Chastain’s southern rock chops must certainly have a listen to Instrumentalized. As a departure from playing in bands CJSS and Chastain, the guitarist formed Southern Gentlemen in 2000. Since then the group has released four stellar discs each a gem in southern-edge hard rock and blues. The trio consisting of Chastain (guitar), Dave Swart (bass) and Mike Haid (drums) selected 3-4 tracks from each of the band discs, pealed away the vocals and let them stand as instrumental pieces. Thrilling is the energy packed into stout riff monster like the grinding “Too Hot For Love” where Chastain’s solo runs are off the chart. There’s the frantic groove of “Racing Back To Mississippi” and the moody bass-driven “Reflections” that lays it down big and heavy. Both “Drive Me Wild and “Back Door Woman” were immediate favorites from the debut Exotic Dancer Blues, yet as instrumentals they move in a more cerebral direction - and kick even hard. Slowing down to embrace the more visceral depth of the electric blues is the near Sabbath-styled “I Languish For You” and searing “End of the World.” The freshness of hearing these tunes – almost bare-bones and raw, brings natural breath to their creative beginning. It’s easy to see why the band chose to revisit, and in some cases, embrace the inspiration one more time. Fan’s of the classically named “Slutovirgin,” the swinging “It’s Not True” and mesmerizing “Snake Flower” the first time around will relish a second pass.

Website: Leviathan Records

Live At The Blues Warehouse
Grooveyard Records

Several months ago we reviewed Mean Streets, Guitar Pete’s current offering of hard rock electric blues. We were knocked out by the guys insane playing and his thick gravel voice that’s more authentic and passionate than most mainstream blues artists. Live At The Blues Warehouse continues to elevate the musician in his natural setting of Deer Park, NY. Recorded live July, 1st, 2007 for a local radio broadcast, the 6-track disc runs 49 minutes with each sizzling song averaging 8 minutes plus. The production is clean and basic bringing a raw grit to the performance. Pete’s love of all things Hendrix is demonstrated by the inclusion of both “Hey Joe” and “Voodoo Child”. Using the organ to shadow the melody adds a great retro vibe to “Hey Joe” and we find Pete’s playing actually reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore especially in the intro and section breaks. The ten-minute plus “Voodoo Child” gets down and dirty, allowing the guitarist to really stretch out and take full advantage of the songs liberating mid-section. Again the organ, sandwiched between the drum and bass, brings a fantastic level of texture to the classic. The SRV’s “Cold Shot” is treated with respect while putting a gruff edge to the vocals and a metallic bend on the strings. Willie Dixon penned “You Shook Me” and Jeff Beck’s “Going Down” are all about fun, and here Pete’s is reveling in short burst and long tonal phrasing. His rhythm section is tight and well schooled as the band only give what is needed to allow the song full breath and punctuation. A marvelous, though too short sampling of what this combo is capable of.

Website: Guitar Pete, Grooveyard Records

Ain’t Bringing Me Down
Jazz Haus Records

Vdelli is the brainchild of guitarist Michael Vdelli. While playing on the remote Rottnest Island Lodge off the coast of Perth (Australia) he met up with drummer Ric Whittle during a Wednesday night blues jam. It was the early nineties and over the next 15-years the two played in a number of bands together before forming Vdelli. Bassist Roy Daniel, of the Dave Hole Band filled out the trio and assisted in their self-titled debut record released in 1997. The band has gone on to release eleven albums including a live disc from their European tour in 2007. Troy Gennoe took over bass duties prior to the group hooking up with producer Kevin Shirley who helped sculpt Ain’t Bringing Me Down. The self-composed disc is 12 tracks of blue-based boogie rock in the wake of ZZ Top, Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Shepard. The word “boogie” is use in three of the song titles, a good indication of what to expect. Tunes like the party-filled “Loose Endz,” the delta-infused “Suck It Up” and foot-stompin’ “Boogie A” have a good time Sammy Hagar-like vibe. A celebration of the clash between high-spirited pub rock and blues.

Vdelli’s voice is somewhere between, Corey Glover (Living Color) and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) while his guitar sound is thick, crunchy and powerful – especially in his solos. Lead track “Manhole” is a slow burner with a marching drumbeat while the tail end of the track whips up a lethal sting. The hook-filled “Something New” is as close as the band gets to a top-40 contender. It’s seventies guitar riff and catchy chorus leave an impression that lasts. “Could Be Good” follows suit with a danceable Wild Cherry funk edge while the slower groove of “Going To Hard” lays into a sweltering Texas boogie. “Going To Hard” also captures the mood as the perfect hang-over song with the lyrics “I’ve been going to hard for to long / heavy drinking and getting stoned.” The guitar-driven title track “Ain’t Bringing Me Down” moves in a more melodic direction with some amazing finger work as its counterpart “Ain’t Bringing Me Up” pumps up the volume with a drumming racket and wailing slide guitar.

Website: Vdelli