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“DEMONS”
Scarcity Rock
Alaska Productions

The street lords of Stockholm’s darker side resurface with their sixth slice of punk and roll calling it Scarcity Rock. Two years in the making, the disc sees the group streamlining into a power trio with singer/guitarist Matt Carlsson, bassist TJ and drummer Micke Jacobsson taking full charge of their musical direction. This is a more sinister album than others in the past. Carlsson, the chief songwriter, is feeding off some real angst. The band’s press release states they are, “exploring dystopian subjects, the dark side of psychedelia and ugly forms of ‘50s and ‘60s subcultures.” You can hear it in the urgent strains of songs like “At War With Everything” and “Pagan Bible” where the guitars swing with swagger while Carlsson spits out venom like “Purgatory is the answer” and “Burning all the Christians with fire” sewn in to a greasy garage beat.

The “Demons” still preach the evils of government encroachment, warning of big brother in the snarling “Signal Turns Red” while the old school punk of “Gang Fight” has the band at their gritty best. Some of their twin-guitar violence is set aside for a more structured rockabilly, Shadows-like riffing. The instrumental “Credit Card Fraud” has a bit of Hank Marvin / Bruce Welch laced in the strings as does “Needles and Pills” only with a more menacing edge. Horror/Sci-Fi punk shows up in coolness of “Translucent Nights” whereas “Exit Happiness” echoes The Pogues in a whiskey stain of bar room bawdry. With classic retro fashion, an announcer comes on mid-record telling us to “please turn this tape over for continuation of the program.”

Known for mixing The Sonics with Velvet Underground and Dead Kennedys, the “Demons” in Scarcity Rock come out sounding guttural, poppy and remarkably textured. The band calls it their “Frankenstein’s monster having its revenge on the world.” Since touring with the Hellacopters (who covered the “Demons” song “Electrocute” on their final LP Head Off) they’ve taken to the wide open chords of “Edgar Allen Poetry” and the fat hollow-body sound of “Don’t Bite The JuJu Hand” where Carlsson’s voice gets as ragged as his guitar. Personal favorite is “Dark End of the City,” a frantic, pile-driving tune sheltered in a “condemned house for condemned souls.” Absolutely brilliant!

Website: “Demons”

BEE GEES
In Our Own Time (DVD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

It’s amazing how hard some bands work before they see fame and fortune. In the case of the Bee Gee it was a steady climb dating all the way back to the 1950s. With nearly fifty years of producing music, their history runs deep and is more about writing music than performing it. In Our Own Time is a heartfelt look at the brothers Gibb and their rise to stardom. The documentary, produced and directed by Scott Bright tells the story of three brothers who stumbled upon a unique talent of harmonizing at a very early age. Though they were originally from the Isle of Man in the UK, their initial singing success began in Brisbane, Australia. The film follows them from their humble beginnings to their staggering global domination of the ‘70s. The story is narrated through interviews with Barry and Robin Gibb with archive interviews of Maurice. Vintage photos, TV appearance and live performances are expertly edited in to the feature. The tragic loss of teen heartthrob and brother, Andy is touched on as well as is the sudden passing of Maurice.

The Bee Gees phenomenon makes them unique among musicians and artists. They stand next to Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson as one of the biggest in modern musical history. This documentary is keen to touch on the human aspect of the group often highlighting their wit and humor. They tell the story, when after sailing six weeks from Australia on the determination to make it as a group, they are meet in England by another singing group that says to them, “Go back, groups are dead, Clapton lives.” Barry recounts their determination and the fortune of signing with the Robert Stigwood Organization. He credits a shift in writing style, which separated them from their pop roots. “We started writing about drama,” say Barry Gibb, “in abstractions and about characters giving our songs a melodramatic element.” With the Beatles team behind them, The Bee Gees talk about their relocation to Miami, Florida and digging deeper into their love of R&B, Soul and Funk. Crafting rhythmic beats in combination with Barry’s new-found falsetto, the group gave disco its focal point. Interesting, amazing and enlightening.

Website: Eagle Rock Entertainment, Bee Gees

FRANK ZAPPA
The Torture Never Stops (DVD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Filmed live at the Palladium, NYC, Halloween 1981 The Torture Never Stops DVD treats us to an eclectic performance of one of the greatest innovators of jazz-fusion rock. We don’t claim to be overtly articulate when it comes to Frank Zappa, but do consider Freak Out! (1966), We’re Only In It For The Money (1968) and Hot Rats (1969) essential listening. Mostly we sit on the sidelines and watch the mad genius unfold. As a composer, guitarist, innovator and madman, Zappa is an enigma with a tendency to rotate his line up often. In 1981 Zappa toured supporting You Are What You Is (the second release on his Barking Pumpkin label) with a seven piece band including drummer Chad Wackerman, percussionist Ed Mann, bassist Scott Thunes (the author of the convoluted liner notes that accompany this package) keyboardist Tommy Mars and Bobby Martin with guitarist Steve Vai and Ray White. The 24-song set primarily comes from You Are What You Is, but does reach back to albums Over-Nite Sensation (1973) with an amusing “Montana,” and Zoot Allures (1976) with “Black Napkin” and the DVD’s title track “The Torture Never Stops.”

Fans of Sheik Yerbouti (1979) will be delighted with “Flakes” and “Broken Hearts Are For Assholes” while “We’re Turning Again” and Vai’s solo showcase “Stevie’s Spanking” are a sampling of what would spring up in later releases. This is Zappa at his colorful best though a bit of the eighties do give way in hair and clothing style. With You Are What You Is only released the month before this show, Zappa is keen to get most of it out to the audience performing more than half of it here with baton in hand. Pieces of Tinseltown Rebellion, a double-record live set released earlier the same year, is represented by songs like “Easy Meat,” “Fine Girl” and “Bamboozled By Love” mixing dumb fun with satire. Zappa’s guitar playing is whimsical and wayward at times leaving Vai to strut off with the majority of big riffs. Ray White’s soulful vocals and Bobby Martin falsetto really add dynamic range to the music. Zappa is conservative with his usual onstage banter but his Reagan-era sting is sharp and poignant. Some of the editing cuts, multiple flashes and quick zooms become a bit dizzy, but the film has surprisingly held it crispness. The Torture Never Stops becomes a nice snapshot of Zappa’s late period.

Website: Eagle Rock Entertainment, Frank Zappa

VELVET REVOLVER
Live In Houston (2005)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Having seen VR several times on both world tours, we were interested in testing the Live In Houston DVD against our experience. As most know, Velvet Revolver was/is made up of GNR guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. Singer Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) joined the group in 2004 with Dave Kushner added as rhythm guitarist. This DVD was recorded in 2005, a year after the release of their first record, Contraband. We always saw VR as Guns & Roses-meets-Billy Idol. In our opinion, Stone Temple Pilots never really entered their music even though Weiland led STP though the nineties. We also thought VR songs never really lived up to their potential. I don’t think we’re alone here. Live VR were a different animal. They seemed to come together with greater intensity with fire-in-the-belly. Weiland is maniacal on stage – a mixture of Iggy Pop and a rabid animal. As seen here he can go from expertly delivering STP cover “Crackerman” and “Big Machine” to lunacy as his voice rags out at the end of “Sucker Train Blues.”

The band is remarkably tight. A hatless Slash is throwing shapes and delivering one razor sharp solo after another. Weiland over uses the megaphone – a habit he will carry over into the band’s second album Libertad with annoying results. Duff and Sorum keep the rhythm heavy while Kushner comes across surprisingly comfortable considering the company he keeps. Highlights include “Illegal I” where the band extend the song into a cool blues jam. “Fall To Pieces” and first hit “Slither” translate so much better live than on record. “Do It For The Kids” sums up why this band got together in the first place, however we could have done without the stupid artsy split screen from the production room. Eight of the twelve songs are VR originals off Contraband with STP hits “Crackerman” and “Sex Type Thing” beside GNR’s “It’s So Easy” and “Used To Love Her.” Weiland is the obvious weak link destroying “Used To Love Her.” No wonder they’re looking for a new guy. Between the songs are brief, behind the scene clips consisting of interviews with each of the five members, detailing the origin and history of Velvet Revolver.

Website: Eagle Rock Entertainment, Velvet Revolver

BLACK RIVER
Black‘N’Roll
Mystic Production

Polish stoner/metal/goth band Black River return with their sophomore outing Black’N’Roll following their well received self-titled debut. They are a supergroup of sorts having shed their death metal skins for a more traditional metal/rock groove. Described as swampy, dirty and gritty, they do come off a bit like a stoned-out Black Label Society with elements of The Cult and Fireball Ministry. The catchiness factor is way up as soon as opening track “Barf Bag” blares from the speakers. The hammering drums of Dariusz Brzozowski feed into the chugging riffs of guitarists Piotr Wtulich and Art Kempa allowing the whole thing to take off with military precision. Bassist Tomasz Wróblewski (a.k.a. Orion of Behemoth) pulls double duty as he pummels away at the four strings that give this record’s eleven tracks their infectious groove. Vocalist Maciek Taff has a gruff, visceral howl keeping the whole thing dark and sinister from the metallic “Isabel” to the Danzig-like southern rocker “Morphine.”

“Lucky In Hell” was the first video pulled for the record. It stars Polish actress Magdalena Cielecka with direction from Roman Przylipiak. With it’s fuzzed out guitars and headbangin’ rhythm track it was the prefect introduction for US audiences. Problem is the video got pulled from YouTube – but with some clever detective work it’s worth tracking down. Claiming allegiance to 80’s rock comes the song “Too Far Away” which borrows more than a little from The Cult as the guitars surge into an addictive chorus. Comparisons to Sweden’s Mustasch are easy to make especially with the record’s title track “Black’N’Roll” where punk meets the metal “that flows in their veins.” Personal favorite “Breaking The Wall” revels in it’s slow chugging riff that has the density of Black Sabbath, the darkness of Dimmu Borgir and dirty edge of Rootwater. The Rolling Stones/Sex Pistols mash-up “Jumping Queenny Flash” is packed with fun while “Loaded Weapon” is shear Metallica. The record closes with the sledgehammer “Like A Bitch” and the remarkably musical “Young’n’Drunk” complete with some elegant female backing vocals.

Website: Black River

FOOBAR (THE BAND)
Your Fiend, My Friend
NCB Records

Foobar the Band first came to our attention via their quirky “Bodyslam” video on YouTube. The song was so instantly catchy with its bass intro and Nirvana-like one-two punch that we had to find out more. This is what we’ve come up with so far. The five-piece are from Sweden, meaning they’re well produced and have a keen since of pop. We hear elements of Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Fu Manchu amidst their dirty brand of rock'n'roll. Their debut album Hellride had the band embracing speed, tempo and riffs with a quick pace that ached for volume. From the first notes one can hear the guitars fire up like chainsaws echoing the rawness of the Ramones or even Motorhead. Singer Jonny Zassela spits out his lyrics with a raw punk attitude, yet holds on to a sing-a-long chorus revealing his soft spot for melody. With their new release Your Fiend, My Friend there is an added mix of '60s garage-rock and experimental heavy riffing all brought together with a sense of humor.

Standing alongside Danko Jones, Clutch and The Dirty Callahans as the new saviors of rock n’ roll, Your Fiend, My Friend is an 11-track monster that delivers the goods. Yeah, the songs are about swearing their allegiance to all things rock (“My Friend”), drinking (“Moonshine”), chicks (“Natural”) and starting a “Revolution” but it’s done with taste and style.  There is the killer riff during the chorus of “Dawning of a Day” that make it easily one of the best songs on the album. “Catch 22” rolls out like a German tank to war with all gun blazing while “Communication” takes the twin guitar harmony and wraps it into a powder keg of dynamite. ”Queen of Fools” puts more Monster Magnet-edge into the set with some nice space moves. The musicality of the band comes into clear focus as the bass interplays with the guitars to make a classic up-tempo stoner track. It harkens back to Hellride’s “Super Nova”. The closest they come to SoCal is in the song “All Right.” Our boys must be listening to van full of Blue Cheer, Fu Manchu and Kyuss to capture this one – you can even smell the reefer!

Website: FooBar The Band

MAIN LINE RIDERS
Worldshaker
Retroactive Records

Main Line Riders return with Worldshaker, their second full-length release. If you thought their debut, Shot In The Dark, sounded like AC/DC, this one takes it one step further. The group is led by guitarist Cliff Powell (a.k.a. Cliffy Huntington) who got his start in the mid-nineties with the Ramones-flavored punk band, The Huntingtons. That ended…and a couple years later (after a brief stint with The Stivs) he located to Houston, Texas and the Main Line Riders were born. Joining Powell on this record is vocalist Shawn Edward Browning (a dead ringer for Bon Scott), second guitarist Matthew Kenenske, bassist Michael and drummer Adam Dee. Together they make an impressive retro noise with power chords on steroids, echoing drums and thunderous bass lines. The disc boasts 12 phat tracks including is a couple of songs revisited from their debut including the Thin Lizzy-inspired “Throwin’ Bones To The Wolves” and chanting “We Are The Ready Ones.” Then there’s their ode to Angus in “Hell Ain't A Good Place To Be” complete with the intro to “Hell’s Bells,” while acoustic power ballad “Comin' Home” stands as a nice showcase for drummer Adam Dee.

Under the cracks, the band take a Christian view on life. Opening track “It All Ends Tonight” harnesses that late-‘70s open chord riffing that continues through to “Broken Hearted” where the interplay between the two guitarists is dazzling. Possibly the best track on the disc is “Chrome & Steel” where Cliffy takes on more of a Frehley adaptation. “Worldshaker” and “Power Surge” are a perfect adrenalin thrill ride. If you’re gonna do AC/DC, ya gotta do it right and these guys nail it. Putting their own stamp on rock’s gritty side is the sidewinding “Rhythm-N-Blues” a brilliant piece that can best be described as an army of metal guitars playing Vegas-era Elvis. “It’s A Revolution” closes the record as a straightforward, no frills hard rocker. You gotta like the swagger these guys put into their music. Yeah, Main Line Riders aren’t reinventing the wheel, but their having a lot of fun taking the best of riff rock and building a great bar band out of the whole thing. So grab a beer, roll your own and let rock and roll save your soul.

Website: Main Line Riders

WATTS
On The Dial
Independent Release

On The Dial marks the third release from this Boston foursome as they continue to channel the spirit of rock and roll through road-worn equipment and stories of past glories. The album graphics suggest the band’s name was derived from a unit of power measuring the rate of energy conversion but the music inside is more akin to the surname of infamous Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts. When the two come together, it only seems natural the band fuel their fire with a healthy dose of early seventies riff-rock. The first half of the disc plays out like a long lost Stones record rubbed up against the Faces’ Long Player for some added ring wear. Title track “On The Dial,” has all the retro grove of a classic garage throwback while “Time To Give The Devil His Due” is a double guitar, thumping bass and pounding drum take on the blues. Yeah, they dirty it up good!  Singer Dan Kopko’s has a voice that’s had its share of Winstons, Bourbon and late night seductions giving “Chaperone” it’s own wicked little smile. “Afterburn” re-writes AC/DC with guitarist John Blout, bassist Craig Lapointe and drummer John Lynch highly intoxicated with nothing to lose.

Joining Sweden’s Diamond Dogs and UK’s Quireboys, Watts celebrate the swagger as much as bar room boogie. There is the Chuck Berry/ Bo Diddley inspired “Dancehall Days & Nights” and the tuneful “She Wants To Rock” that has flashes of Cheap Trick. All four Watts are singers and alternate turns at the microphone. It not only showcase the band’s versatility but allows the songs a different color and mood. The second half of the record has more or a Midwestern Replacements/Producers/Shoes vibe. The vocals are smooth with attention to harmonies and well-sculpted melody. The Angels cover “No Secrets” is especially polished. “Fight Song” brings more bite the a big open chord and a lyric that boasts, ”I get a rush of blood that’s so intoxicating, and the damage done isn’t tough to calculate.” But it’s the almighty riff that finishes the record off in both “The Times” and “Sweethearts of the Radio” - the later quoting the Byrds but adding more meat and potatoes to the delivery. An excellent slice of American pie!

Website: Watts

TWISTED SISTER
Club Daze, Vol. 1
You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Once again the Twisted Sister catalog gets a new makeover. Club Daze Vol.1 continues the Twisted Sister reissue rollout that started in October 2010 with the DVD+CD set “Live At Wacken”. The album features unreleased studio sessions and demos by the band recorded before they signed to Secret Records and prior to the release of their 1982 debut album Under The Blade (produced by Pete Way of UFO). In the 10 years leading up to this, Twisted Sister had been working consistently in clubs in and around Long Island and New York City. They had broken up and reformed several times but through it all, had built a steady fanbase. This collection reflects a very fertile creative period that guitarist Jay Jay French recalls as “showcasing the evolution of the band.” Twisted Sister had reformed for the fourth time, this time with singer Dee Snyder who brought a wealth of influence including Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and AC/DC. Harder stuff with heavy pop hooks that gave the band identity.

Originally released on Long Island’ s Spitfire Records, the 13-track compilation is packed with great photos and extensive liner notes. One can almost hear the band progress from the anthemic “Pay the Price” and anti-disco “Rock ‘n’ Roll Saviors” to the rebellious “I’ll Never Grow Up” and “Under the Blade”. Fans familiar with the band know the band’s history and will appreciate the early version of the Shangri-Las cover “Leader of the Pack” (later to appear on Come Out and Play), complete with handclapping and piano. French recalls, “Back then we thought it didn’t matter who produced us, we’ll sound great anyway. In a way, we were right - the less we messed with it the better.” Club Daze Vol. 1 is exactly what you would expect…brutal Twisted Sister rough and ready.

You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll was Twisted Sister’s second studio record and first for Atlantic Records. Originally released in 1983, the album has been remastered for this reissue and includes the 3 bonus tracks (nos 11 to 13) that were added to the Spitfire reissue first released in 1999. A number of these tracks went on to become fan favorites including “The Kids Are Back”, “Like A Knife In The Back” and the UK Top 20 hit “I Am (I’m Me)”. Though they were maximizing their glam image their music was more akin to the pulverizing mayhem of Motörhead and Metallica. Like freakish clowns they were determined to leave their mark. Though the record didn’t punch holes in the sky, it did lay the groundwork for their mega-platinum success that would follow two short years later. It also leaves us with a greater appreciation for Dee Snider (vocals, background vocals), Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda (guitar, background vocals), A.J. Pero (drums, background vocals) and Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (background vocals).

Website: Twisted Sister, Eagle Entertainment

PUSHKING
The World As We Love It
Armoury Records

Russian rockers Pushking have been slugging it out in Eastern Europe for 15 years releasing just as many albums. With The World As We Love It the band make a bid for the west showcasing their love of late eighties hard rock with over a dozen heavyweight icons lending a hand. Names like Paul Stanley, Billy Gibbons and Alice Cooper fill the ‘featured guest’ page adding serious legitimacy to their big guitars, slick production and memorable choruses. Think Scorpions, Bon Jovi and JLT-era Rainbow and you won’t be too far off. The disc adds a second title, “A Rock and Roll Journey” giving a universal picture of what the band’s trying to say in the 19 songs that fill its 83-minutes. The five-piece is singer/songwriter Konstantin "Koha" Shustarev, guitarist Dmitry Losev, bassist Roman Nevelev, keyboardist Oleg Bondaletov, and drummer Andrey Kruglov. There are a number of added musicians filling in the horns and providing sweetening. Each track hosts a rock hero from the ‘70s and ‘80s from guitar legends Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) and Steve Vai to vocalist John Lawton (Lucifer’s Friend, Uriah Heep), Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and Dan McCafferty (Nazareth).

When judging a project like this it’s easy to get caught up in the “special guests” and not the songs. Do the songs hold up regardless of the guest spot?  Most do and we’ll focus on those. The records first video is pop rocker “I’ll Be OK” featuring Billy Gibbons and Nuno Bettencourt. Its acoustic intro, mid tempo push and bombastic finish come straight from the Cinderella school of songwriting giving Gibbons a chance to step outside his Texas blues comfort zone. The robust “Nightrider,” also hosting Gibbons, is more up his alley with roadhouse flare and bar room piano. Alice Cooper steps in for “Troubled Love” with Keri Kelli on guitar giving the song a real snarl. Paul Stanley doesn’t necessarily stand out on “Cut The Wire” but Glenn Hughes really shines on “Why Don’t You?” the power ballad “Tonight” and “Private Own.” It’s his performance that lifts these songs to a new level.

Countering the smooth vocals of Hughes is Udo Dirkschneider in the metallic “Natures Child” and Dan McCafferty on the epic “I Love You” and “My Simple Song.” The texture they add to the overall feel of the record is impressive. Pushking’s own singer, Konstantin "Koha" Shustarev, is gruff on his own and in many cases duets with the ‘guest’ in a push / pull arrangement. “Head Shooter” is a Sabbath/Hendirx mash up that gets a bit distracting but “Heroin” with Jorn Lande is a huge Deep Purple tribute complete with swelling organ. The disc finishes off with “Kukarrachs” a fun-loving Hagar-like party tune with nearly every guest throwing down vocals. The CD was produced by Fabrizio Grossi and mastered at Precision Mastering in Los Angeles by Tom Baker, who has previously worked with Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Mötley Crüe and Velvet Revolver. Pushking prove they can hang with the big boys, hopefully a US tour is in the wings.

Website: Pushking

STRANGER
Rock Solid
Grooveyard Records

Yes, this is the same legendary four-piece from Tampa, Florida that gave us a stunning major-label debut back in 1982. That disc showcased the band’s southern roots in the riff-monster “Swamp Woman” and opening cut “Jackie’s So Bad” which was actually covered by a young Tesla. As consummate road dogs, Stranger gained a fanatical following throughout Florida and earned the respect of Pat Travers, Molly Hatchet and the Outlaws while competing for the same crowds. They rose to success as a smokin’ club act, and open for international headliners UFO, Triumph and Ted Nugent to name a few. Eventually they attracted the attention of Peavey Electronics who heavily endorsed the band. Sadly they fell victim to record company politics, fickle executives and New Wave pop radio…and were dropped before releasing their second platter No Rules (1989). Lack of major label support didn't faze them as they successfully released a series of self-distributed LP/EP releases on their own Thunderbay label. Rock Solid is a compelling compilation resurrecting the band’s greatest moments and making a fitting tribute to the band’s legendary guitarist Ronnie Garvin who passed in 1996.

Stranger consisted of vocalist Greg Billings, guitarist Ronnie Garvin, bassist Tom (King) Cardenas and drummer John Price with Randy Holt joining on keyboards and second guitar from 1989-1992. Together they melding blues, metal, funk, pop and bluegrass with a Van Halen-like delivery. Rock Solid polishes up classics from their debut including the afore mentioned “Swamp Woman,” the riff-heavy “Comin’ To Get You” (complete with a tasty bit or Uriah Heep-like keys) and the Dokken-ish “Dirty & Mean.” Garvin was a huge fan of Ronnie Montrose, EVH and UFO’s Paul “Tonka” Chapman with chops that showcase his diversity and technique as a player. Of the discs 20 tracks, the first seven come from their ’82 debut, three from No More Dirty Deals (1991), three more from No Rules (1989) and four off Angry Dogs (1993). It’s hard to pick highlights when all are cherry picked favorite but a couple include “Okeechobie Whiskey” with a pounding bass/drum swagger and the metallic “Mama Mama” where even the keys can’t water down the sizzling guitar. Though Dedication to Stevie Ray (Vaughan) was written just a few months after the Texas guitarist passed, it’s feeling still packs as much emotion today. Stick around for the two live cuts Face To Face and Swamp Woman to see just how good these guys were as a live band. Amazing!

Website: Grooveyard Records, Greg Billings Band

THE HOLY GOATS
Next Round
Grooveyard Records

Ah, this is a magnificent record. Here we finally have a young band staying true to the soul-powered ‘70s with blues-based heavy guitar, strong dynamics, and groove-induced riffs in the spirit of Humble Pie, The Black Crowes and Free. The songs are top-notch, soaked in the essence of cool retro-rock. Fronted by Todd McCullough (guitars, vocals) with Pete Scott (guitar), Bob Willow (bass), Glenn Sorino (drums) and featuring Daphna El Roy (backing vocals) the band make a huge statement in the eleven tracks that fill Next Round. “Something To Tell You” kicks the disc off in style with twangy feedback and a fundamental drumbeat that lends itself to McCullough’s mid-range timber. The guitar work is blues-based forged in old school British rock - emotive and peppered with exotic spice. There’s even a bit of Cry of Love in tracks like “Homesick Blues,” the rootsy mid-tempo ballad “Look Inside” and the grinding “What You Do To Me.” The latter utilizes the sex-appeal of the guitar and vocal in a simple, hypnotic groove while the lyric “the way you tease me with your sharp tongue / you’re gonna get a lickin’ before your done” leaves a memorable impression.

With repeated listening, it’s hard to believe this is only the band’s second release as the songs are so refined, crafted and catchy - sounding as if its aged 40 years before surfacing. The lyrics borrow from the innuendoes first fostered by Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. It gives the record another stamp of authenticity and enjoyment. Also pulling from the blues is the push-pull of songs like “Temptation” and the start-stop tension found in “Time To Recall” where the vocal duets with the riff. The raw nature of “Within Reason” and “Every Time We Meet” find their soul in the slide guitar. Both start with a band conversation before the ‘take’ bringing the listener in and establishing a report with the audience. The same technique was often used by Grand Funk Railroad and Humble Pie. Speaking of Pie, “Marriott Soul” pays fitting tribute with lyrics “ninety-nine pounds is a lot of soul, filled with black coffee and sweet rock and roll.” A favorite is the staccato riffing of “The Deeper You Look” with its Hendrix groove and a rhythm that locks in with the bass. This Jersey quintet may have white skin but their soul is black. Highly Recommended!

Website: Grooveyard Records, The Holy Goats

JOHNNY HUNKINS
Talladega Pile-Up
Grooveyard Records

When you first open Johnny Hunkins’ debut digipak and lift the CD from the back tray, there is a photo of a stack of 8-tracks with all the artist that have influenced this multi-instrumentalist and helped guide him to his mojo. They include all the greats one would expect, Hendrix, Nugent, Skynyrd but then there’s Blackfoot, Mahogany Rush and Point Blank. It gives you a feel, right away, what this record is all about. The attention to detail in the packaging spills over into the quality and brilliance of the 11-tracks enclosed therein. Johnny does it all on Talladega Pile-Up, he plays the guitars, bass, keyboards as well as all vocal duties. Lending a hand is drummer Ryan Hoyle (Paul Rodgers / Collective Soul). Johnny’s day job is the editor of a hot rod magazine and you can actually hear his passion for big, loud engines through his amp. First track (and title cut) “Talladega Pile-Up” revs up like a V8 Roadster. The guitar sound is beefy with Johnny’s vocals a dead ringer for classic Molly Hatchet’s Danny Joe Brown…when he gruffs it up. The lyrics don’t drift too far from what Johnny knows…cars, partying and rock ‘n roll.

The record is a pure reflection of Hunkins as a player and performer. He strikes with confidence in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party” where a layered guitar romp and a series of wicked solos win fans immediately. His voice cleans up into a nice baritone by “Catch Me” sounding more like Steve Miller playing over a metal riff.  In fact, “Shine In” has a Steve Miller-meets-ZZ Top vibe and features another rising star, Ryan McGarvey, swapping solos. Boogie rock with a southern swagger might be the best way to describe most of the disc, it certainly captures the rough and ready “Floyd County Bootleg” and ball-bustin’ “Over The Edge.” Mid-record we get the subtle but powerful, “Dreaming” with an acoustic, flamenco intro, sun-soaked Southern Cal groove and the most eloquent playing on the disc. Chris Duarte steps in to add some leads on the fret-fest “Let It Eat!” and the boogie-woogie of “Memphis.” Texas blues giant Wes Jeans also stops by to add some lead to the foot-stoppin’ “Henry Jackson,” one of the best songs writing about a car, ever! The album closes with a real gem in the Procol Harem/Skynyrd-inspired “Gone” showing a whole other side of Hunkins playing. The greatest strength with Talladega Pile-Up is its diversity – a surprise from start to finish and a long player that won’t leave our CD deck for some time.

Website: Grooveyard Records