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IRON MAIDEN
From Fear To Eternity ~ The Best of 1990-2010
Universal Music

It’s amazing Maiden is more popular now than ever! Even Lady GaGa is attaching herself to the Maiden magic. So we ask ourselves, “Do we really need another Greatest Hits compilation (there are five out there right now) or is this just a way the label can keep their hold on the franchise? Truth is, this is a pretty good selection boasting two CDs packed with the best of the last two Maiden decades. It covers eight LPs including Prayer For The Dying, Fear Of The Dark, The X Factor, Virtual XI, Brave New World, Dance Of Death, A Matter Of Life And Death and The Final Frontier. It also runs through the bumps when Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickenson left the band. Gratefully the song choice is not in chronological order. Disc One starts off with “The Wicker Man” before jumping into “Holy Smoke” and “El Dorado.” Brave New World (2000) gets a good showing with three tracks in the mix including the title track. The disc closes with “Fear Of The Dark” one of the treasured gems that defines Maiden as songwriters.

The biggest toss-up in the Maiden camp during the last 20-years was the departure of Bruce Dickenson in 1995 who was replaced by Wolfsbane’s Blaze Bayley. Blaze proved to be a more than worth successor in standouts “Sign Of The Cross,” “Man On The Edge” and the “The Clansman” but he gets the short-end-of-the-stick here as he is replaced by Dickenson with the live versions from Rock In Rio. Not that the ‘90s were bad for Maiden, but with the missing “classic’ members they are less represented here. The second disc is a good snap-shot of the current Maiden live set as they have been playing newer material mainly from their last four studio albums with a few classics for encores. It’s a good listen as Maiden has proven to be consistent in energy, quality and songcraft. “Be Quick Or Be Dead,” “Tailgunner,” and “No More Lies” have become fan favorites with “These Colours Don’t Run” and “Dance of Death” rising up the ladder. 23 tracks on two disc is certainly a good overview of a band still creating top-notch tunes 30-years on.

Website: Iron Maiden, Universal Music

RORY GALLAGHER
Notes From San Francisco
Eagle Records

Notes from San Francisco is an interesting piece of work from the archives of legendary guitarist Rory Gallagher. The two-CD set features the “never-before” released “lost” studio album recorded by Gallagher in 1978 between Photo-Finish and Top Priority. In truth the bootleg of this platter, titled simply “San Francisco” has been around for years in a number of formats including cassette and LP. However, the second disc – an unreleased 1979 San Francisco concert show at the Old Waldorf is essential. Per the ‘newly” discovered Gallagher record, legend has it the artist opted to shelve the studio album apparently displeased with the overall mix, one of the many issues that eventually caused the break-up of his band. The recordings were recovered when Rory's brother and manager, Dánal, allowed his son Daniel to recover/restore the archived album. I must say, it’s great to have it in a legitimate format complete with expanded liner notes that fold out like post cards with Gallagher’s own handwriting detailing the lyrics, time changes, etc. There are a total of 12 tracks (included 3 bonus tracks) that nicely capture his bigger-band era.

The songs on the recovered album are good (not great) proving that Gallagher might have been more uncomfortable with the songs than the original mix. This was an odd time for the Irish-born guitarist trying to sort out how he was going to more into a new decade pressured by a more polished sound. Gallagher’s best efforts here are the blues/rocker “Rue The Day” the raw Beatle-esque “Overnight Bag” and riff-monster “Brute Force & Ignorance.” The slide-rich “Mississippi Sheiks” lends itself more to Mountain territory while “Persuasion” goes down the pub for a banger on the piano. The delicate “Wheels Within Wheels” featuring keyboardist Lou Martin was the obvious single and is companioned here with an alternate take. The gritty-rocker “B-Girl” and the laid-back “Fuel To The Fire” show just how diversified the record was. What is consistent is Gallagher’s ability to pepper each song with licks-o-plenty. He never overplays but adds just enough fusion to the song to accentuate the melody while maintaining the grit of the riff. That is clearly illustrated on the second disc when the stripped-down power-trio of Gallagher (vocals/guitar), Ted McKenna (drums) and Gerry McAvoy (bass) scorch through a blazing set including classics “Tattoo’d Lady,” “Calling Card” and the roaring “Bullfrog Blues.”

Website: Rory Gallagher, Eagle Records

HIGHWAY CHILD
Self-titled
Slow Shark Records

Highway Child are a rock ‘n’ roll band from Denmark. They take dirty blues and the chic swagger of modern '70s indie revival and throw in just enough testosterone to make a realistic and bombastic sound. Coining their name from Hendrix may add some pressure and raise expectations, but after listening to their recently released, self-titled third outing it shows the band are more about colour and texture than copying the past. A casual progression, this record, takes the Led Zeppelin / Deep Purple influences from their first album On The Old Kings Road (2008) and carefully adds the heavy psychedelic MC5, Stoner influence of their second disc Sanctuary Come (2009) to mold a warm, stripped down maximum rock experience. There is a Black Keys-meets-White Stripes simplicity to opening track “Something New To Get Fooled.” The groove is genuine and catchy with subtle layers of musical nuances over a driving dry beat courtesy of drummer Andreas Henriksen and bassist Christian Norup. Paw Eriksen’s guitar is open, devoid of effects and simply magical while singer/guitarist Patrick Heinsoe caresses each verse like a modern-day Robert Plant.

Well schooled in Delta blues “Hangman’s Blues” has a wonderful resonating slide workout that could easily stand next to Anders Osborne or Sonny Landreth. And the picking styling of “Copenhagen Bye Bye” make one shudder when considering how versatile this band really is. Though the backbone of record is steeped in traditional blues there is plenty of soul in the harder rocking “Love and Let Die” the loose, harmonica-infused “Play For Soul” and the foot-tapping “Soulmender.” The marching “Real Love” and haunting “La Reptation Macabre” showcases Patrick’s crooning vocals that cast an intimate Chris Issak-like spell over the roots that build the song. Electric powerhouse “Shades of Blue” is the record’s volume changer. The song boasts a wicked rumble riff, boisterous and audacious all rolled into one with a pounding backbeat bringing Zeppelin clearly into focus. Embracing the other side of the Highway Child spectrum is the garage rock “Love Love Love” and the surf texture of “Turn Your Back and Go.” The ghost of rock’s past is alive and well in Highway Child. An amazing listen best heard at eleven.

Website: Highway Child

BIG TROUBLE
20 Years and a Million Beers Ago
Retrospect Records

According to their bio, “between 1990 and ‘92, one band ruled the streets of Atlanta, GA…and that was Big Trouble!” The four-piece enjoyed local success headlining their own shows, as well as opening for national acts Extreme, Skid Row, Bulletboys, and Jackyl. Several record labels came knocking, but as 1993 rounded the corner the “Seattle Sound” has washing over the music landscape leaving bands like Big Trouble to rot in the setting sun. Big hair and hot licks were out - shoe-gazing and feedback were in. Singer James Schmitt, guitarist Mike Wilkes, bassist Dan Call, and drummer Chuck Strawhand, called it a day, packed up and pursued other musical interests. Recently, bassist Dan Call pulled the original Big Trouble demos out of the vault to be copied as digital files. Surprised by the energy of the 21-year old tapes, Call went into Griffin Mastering Studios and remixed / re-mastered the original 8-tracks. Undeniable is the power and vigor of a band on the cusp of their creative high from the Dokken-like “Hot Shot,” to the Poison-infused “No Stopping Now” and the Mötley Crüe-inspired “Take Me.”

What Big Trouble did best was capture the LA sound. “Falling Out Of Love,” “Way Out” are solid Van Halen tributes while “Seeing Is Believing,” Upside Down” and “You Might Get Lucky” move closer to Sunset Strip metal. The band were not without their power-ballads. “No You See Me” and “Lost In Your Love” use an acoustic intro to bate the listener into a power-chord chorus. “Accidental Angel” sounds like modern country – maybe even a look to their future. Big Trouble had all the ingredients, big hooks, harmonies and that classic ‘80s sound. Weather it was timing or saturation of the market they never got their one BIG break. Of the 17-tracks in this career retrospective, 12 come from the original demos, three from a 1991 live show at the Avondale Town Cinema (including the Van Halen cover “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”). All four members continue to play music and recently reunited to record the country-fied “Popcorn, Whiskey, and Beer” a song looking back at their heyday. Nostalgic? Yes! But well worth the ride.

Website: Retrospect Records

TWISTED SISTER
Under The Blade (Special Edition CD&DVD)
Armoury Records

Ah, yes. The first “real” Twisted Sister album now gloriously restored with a MUCH better production (meaning that it’s ‘even’ all the way through). This the second reissue of said classic and this time comes with the four “Ruff Cutts” sent out by Secret records prior to the debut and a nifty additional DVD of the 1982 Reading festival set. It also has a good hour of recently recorded interviews with the band members – proving to be very insightful. Due to TS bassist Mark Mendoza’s history as a member of the Dictators, Twisted Sister were originally signed to Secret records, a punk label. UFO bassist Peter Way was brought in as producer having already worked with Oi! Punkers the Cockney Rejects. In honesty Way was a much better bass player than producer leaving the TS boys with a very unpolished, raw sounding debut. It was recorded in a barn, several different studios and mixed in a dozen more. However, with all it’s warts, it is still loaded with energy and includes several classic like the title cut “Under The Blade,” the chainsaw “Sin After Sin,” proto speed-metal “Tear It Loose” (featuring Motörhead’s ‘Fast’ Eddie Clark) and the crowd favorite “Shoot “Em Down.”

We’ve all heard this record a million times. It sounds like it’s suppose to sound - a metal album from the early ‘80s signed to a punk label. Guitarist Jay Jay French says in the DVD interview, “it’s full of attitude, rough around the edges, like a train coming through your living room.” For most of us this is the seminal TS record - so discussing sound is ridiculous. What it does have is great songs, much better than the crap they regurgitated latter in their career. These songs proved the test of a thousand bars, clubs and dives with grit and honor. Most entertaining is the bonus DVD taken from the 1982 Reading festival. The crowd reaction speaks volumes as the band dodges fruits, vegetables and real shit hurled at them. Within two songs they’ve got the same punters in the palm of their hands. Such was the power of a TS live show. Their live set is basically the debut record with a Rolling Stones cover, “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll,” as an encore tossed in for good measure. For the encore Pete Way, Motörhead’s ‘Fast’ Eddie Clark and Lemmy Kilmister come out and seal the deal taking Twisted F’n’ Sister to the next level – indeed, they had arrived!

Website: Twisted Sister, Armoury Records

THE BROKENDOLLS
Two Fifty Nine
Nicotine Records/Tornado Ride

Italy’s The Brokendolls return with their second, by our count, full-length platter Two Fifty Nine. Cut from the same cloth as Scandinavian giants The Hellacopter and Backyard Babies these five Verona-natives waste no time getting to the point with three-minute burst of high octane rock ‘n’ roll. From out of the speakers comes a punchy drumbeat followed by a twin guitar romp that will peal the tattooed skin right off your scull. “Revenge Of The Ford Taunus” sets the pace for this 10-track opus with a wild ride through snake charming solos and life-threatening bass hooks. Singer Ros the Boss has a throaty punk delivery more in the mode of Duane Peters with an itch for making his point perfectly clear. Several tracks are out for blood, street-fighting anthems with bare-knuckle fury. There’s “Time To Pay” with its twangy guitar edge and chugging rhythm with all the charm of a venomous rattler. “Wake Up” sounds exactly like it’s title, a fist pumping salute to blue-collar hard rock with a wicked little guitar lick and a forked-tongue sizzle while “I Don’t Care” sends up flames from a smoldering bass/drum beat and an insane guitar riff.

If it’s a bit of AC/DC your looking for, try out “I Am Stupid” for an amped-up Angus Young salute with both guns blazing. The song is so addicting it’s currently become our ‘song of the week.’ The solo alone will go down in the annals of history as setting water on fire. “Looking For A Driver” reminds us of Sweden’s The Bones with it’s chanting chorus and cross-cut guitar leads. If there was a single track to keep you awake on those long nights of partying – this would be it. Follow that up with the turbo-charged “Shake” and you’ll be up for days on pure adrenaline. For a change of pace comes “2:59” a song that hooks the steady 4/4 time signature of the drums and wraps the guitars around it in a tornado of power chords and barbed wires solo runs. “Hard Wood” and closer “Monday In The Jacks” barely stay on the rails with a reckless punk’n’roll assault that comes dangerously close to full on chaos. Track these guys down and don’t forget to pick up their first disc, No Ice In My Drink.

Website: The Brokendolls

RORY GALLAGHER
Photo-Finish (1978)Top Priority (1979)Stage Stuck (1980), Jinx (1982), re-issues
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Rory Gallagher’s career can be divided up into several sections; the traditional, the blue-rock, the commercial and the retrospective. These four discs hail from the Irish guitarist late midsection falling in to what would become know as his most “commercial” period. The guitarist, still steeped in the blues, was looking for marketable appeal. Having several successful albums and tours under his belt, the illusive single was still missing. Both Photo-Finish and Top Priority were attempts to find an FM hit, the concept would allude Gallagher, either he was unlucky or could never step over the line into the three-minute polish required for top-40. Try as he may, he remained at odds to the commercial market. No loss for the fans, which gobbled up everything he put out with fevered dedication and fanaticism. Eagle Records has lovingly repackaged and re-issued the following CDs with additional info that help the listener to appreciate and enjoy the Rory Gallagher experience.

Photo-Finish (1978) was the first Gallagher record I bought, so I’m partial to the beauty of the album. The back-to-basics production with his revamped three-piece lineup of bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Ted McKenna came at a critical time. Gallagher had just finished recording a full session in San Francisco (latter to be released as “Notes From San Francisco” but he shelved the recording due to its lack of universal appeal. Down to a power trio, the album delivers more of a hard rock edge not heard on previous albums. My personal favorites are “Shin Kicker”, “Brute Force & Ignorance”, “Cloak & Dagger” and the blistering “Mississippi Sheiks”. The singer / guitarist stuck to Europe most of the year promoting the record, but he did make it to the US in November where we got to see him play two nights in Philly at the Star’s Club. It was the hardest rockin’ show I’d ever seen the man play, dripping with sweat and emotion.

Top Priority (1979) saw the addition of Tom Brock (mandolin) to the line up giving the record a more traditional Irish feel. Early in ’79 Gallagher had been working with Frankie Miller on “A Sense of Freedom” soundtrack. It was the closest fans were ever going to get to a full on Miller/Gallagher collaboration. The band took the record on the road to Ireland first sustaining the momentum and popularity from the previous year with single “Bad Penny”, “Philby” and the lead-off track “Follow Me”. Surprisingly the group did a series of intimate shows in the US including My Father’s place right around the corner from where I lived in Roslyn, PA. I got to the show early and saw the band in the coffee shop next door. Rory took the time to talk to the few of us standing around and signed our albums. The evening’s performance was on fire as Rory ripped into the set list with uncanny energy and prowess - making the new tracks roar like a beast.

Stage Struck (1980) was the third ‘Live’ record from Gallagher. It features a set list of songs from the previous three studio albums: Top Priority, Photo Finish and Calling Card. This is the first time live versions of these songs were featured on any of Rory’s live albums and it was by far his loudest moment. Live, the man was a wonder to behold. This disc captures that hard rock side of Gallagher, less blues – more metal. The energy in songs like “Shinkicker”, “Moonchild” and “Bad Penny” is visceral. Hell, the version of “Last of the Independents” is worth getting the disc alone. Jinx (1982) came out three years after Top Priority. Gallagher was getting a bit wobbly. While it’s not a bad album it lacks dynamic impact with only “Big Guns” putting up a good fight. Sadly long-timer Ted McKenna (drums) had left the band with Brandan O’Neil stepping in alongside keyboardist Bob Andrews and Saxophonist Ray Beavis. The record has its moments with Lightnin’ Slims’ “Nothin’ but the Devil”, “Bourbon” and “Easy Come Easy Go”, but without the bonus tracks it’s a bit flat.

Website: Rory Gallagher, Eagle Rock Entertainment

DOOBIE BROTHERS
Live at the Greek Theatre, 1982 (CD/DVD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

According to the liner notes, this concert first aired on Showtime in the Fall of 1982 as the last performance of the band’s “Farewell” tour. The DVD is the complete concert as shown on that program (with additional songs as a bonus). As most know, original singer / guitarist Tom Johnston left the band in 1975 due to poor health, which opened the door for Steely Dan soul brother Michael McDonald to establish himself. Live at the Greek Theatre, 1982 marks the return of a healthy Tom Johnston to the Doobie lineup, although he sings only one of his signature songs with the band. For Michael McDonald fans this is a must see, as he is the central point of the show. Belting out hits “Minute by Minute”, “What A Fool Believes” and You Belong To Me”, he embodies all the FM dominance the group evolved in to. It’s important to note the band is now a massive 12-members strong creating quite a full sound range. The DVD has been delicately enhanced and restored with excellent video and sound. Both DTS 5.1 and Dolby 5.1 are available, however Dolby 5.1 in the standard sound-field is the better pick.

The concert is 74 minutes + (16 songs, with “Listen to the Music” starting and ending the show). An additional 5 more concert songs from the same show are added as a bonus feature (extending out 22 minutes). To top it, there’s even interviews with the band members. After experiencing the DVD, the CD falls a bit short with the band coming off like radio lightweights. The film footage is much more impressive capturing a band in peak performance with a list of songs that defined a decade. Even McDonald’s solo hit “I Keep Forgettin” makes it’s way into the set. By 1982 The Doobie Brothers had changed from a hippie throwback guitar-boogie band with hits like “Listen to the Music” and “Black Water” to a jazz and R&B soul machine. With out a doubt, McDonald expanded the Doobies' audience substantially even helping them score a Grammy Award with the multiplatinum “Minute by Minute”. The DVD allows the viewer to see the transition and appreciate, more fully, the evolutionary journey and immense song craft of this legacy band.

Website: Doobie Brothers, Eagle Rock Entertainment

DEEP PURPLE
Phoenix Rising (DVD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Five bands defined heavy rock in the ‘70s, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad and Deep Purple. Phoenix Rising picks up where History, Hits and Highlights ’68-76’ left off - focusing on the Tommy Bolin-era, the turbulent last two years before the band originally split in 1976. The DVD starts with half of the ‘Last Concert in Japan’ (1977), released much later with better sound as ‘This Time Around: Live In Tokyo’ (2001) and half of the ‘On the Wings of a Russian Foxbat: Live in California’ (1976), with a refreshing, clean sound. Interviews with Glenn Hughes and Jon Lord blow the top off the group’s perilous distention into death, drugs and devastation. Vintage interview with Tommy Bolin, David Coverdale and Ian Paice are synced over live footage, commenting on the songs, the concerts and some gigs from the Mark IV period (1975-1976). Some questions go unanswered like the tensions and disagreements that started to fracture the band in 1974 (primarily with Blackmore).

The DVD presents the whole crisis from ’74-‘76 as a consequence of Hughes’s and Bolin’s addictions. Yet, the fact that both of them were drug addicts had little to do with the decision of splitting the band. The band could have easily replaced them, but they chose not to. One of the most tedious things in the DVD is the ‘Indonesian Nightmare’ where they describe Suharto’s regime in Indonesia and the state of fear the dictator had established on his country and whoever visited. The diatribe wearies the viewer and the events have little relevance to the Deep Purple “musical” story. What save film is the candor and honesty of Glenn Hughes as well as the 30-minutes of never-before-seen (not even on bootleg) onstage footage from Japan. This segment is some of the only video footage that showcases Tommy Bolin performing in Deep Purple. It’s almost of if the filmmakers built the story around this rare footage. Tommy Bolin died 4 December 1976 of a heroin overdose. Nine months earlier Coverdale walked off stage in tears handing in his resignation. He was told there was no band to quite as Paice and Lord (the last remaining original members) were done months before. And so it ended…until…

Website: Deep Purple, Eagle Rock Entertainment

BAD COMPANY
Live at Wembley (DVD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Paul Rodgers has said on several occasions that Bad Company were over and would never play again. Yet, every few years, the band pops up again - Rodgers with microphone stand in hand, leading the charge. Honestly, the band’s song are too good to lay dormant for long. Fan demand has them hitting the road for one more lap around the block and, with Live at Wembley, they are at full strut. Yes, they are a bit older and a couple are putting on a few pounds but over all, the performance is vibrant and energetic. Rodgers is in fine voice belting out the classics “Feel Like Making Love” Can’t Get Enough” and the anthem “Bad Company.” The sound quality is fantastic (DTS master audio), the picture is great (High Def) and the band are cracking. Original members Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke look much healthier than they were ten years ago and combined with newbies Howard Leese (guitar) and Lynn Sorensen (bass) inject plenty of life into song that are now over 35-years old.

The concert DVD hosts 16 band classics, some having been dusted off just for the show. “Young Blood”, “Electric Land” and “Deal With The Preacher” are great to see live along with Rodgers banter between songs. Band interview added as a bonus feature are enlightening but reveal no real hidden treasures. There’s also no new material. Odd since the band certainly have the legacy as hit songwriters. As with several bands from the ‘70s it’s almost tragic to watch them become jukebox heroes with nothing new to offer. Preferably 2002’s Merchants of Cool with its host of extras, was a much better concert. There was also the Hard Rock reunion (2009) with almost the same set list. Makes you wonder how many time their going to sell us the same thing. The Wembley concert is about 90 minutes long and comes with a nice insert with a little history and a few concert pictures.

Website: Bad Company, Eagle Rock Entertainment

WHO CARES
Gillian Iommi & Friends
Eagle Rock Entertainment

WHO CARES rekindles the collaboration that brought us the worst Black Sabbath album pressed on vinyl, Born Again. The musical union between legendary Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan and Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi have producer the Who Cares project featuring two new studio tracks “Out Of My Mind” and “Holy Water”, which intends to raise funds for the rebuilding of a music school in Gyumri, Armenia. The 2 songs are available as digital download, but the physical CD single contains the video clip of “Out Of My Mind” and a 40-minute documentary that shows Gillian’s and Iommi’s involvement with the Armenia cause over the years. It’s a good cause and gets Iommi working again after the sudden death of Ronnie James Dio which put an end to Heaven & Hell. Joining the retro riffest is keyboardist Jon Lord (Deep Purple), drummer Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), bassist Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica) and guitarist Mikko “Linde” Lindstrom (HIM). The songs are as expected, a mashup of Sabbath and Purple, not entirely original but with an air of mystic and promise of more to come. Iommi is the draw with crunching power-chord riffing, in minor key, and a welcomed sense of doom.

Website: Eagle Rock Entertainment

KEN HENSLEY & LIVE FIRE
Faster
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Ken Hensley returns with a massive slab of Uriah Heep-like arena rock. His solo stuff has drifted with the tides but Faster brings him right back around and puts him squarely where he belongs. All it takes is one song and Hensley sucks us in with opening track, “Let Me Free (from Yesterday)”. It as classic Uriah Heep as you’re gonna get. Big keys, big guitars and powerful vocals David Byron would be proud of. The rest of the album is built around that song with various degrees of success. There is the driving “The Curse” with an “Easy Living”-vibe complete with Hammond and sizzling guitar solo. Title track “Faster” revs up with a crotch-rocket sound effect before swelling into a melodic rock foot-stomper. Power ballad “I Cry Alone” and Christian-themed mid-tempo rocker “Somewhere (In Paradise) fill in the lost years between Uriah Heep, Blackfoot and now. It’s obvious Hensley wrote in the classic rock style with the intention of returning to the medium he does so well.

His backing band, Norwegian-based Live Fire, understands what their role is and fulfills, even exceeded, the songwriter’s expectations. Vocalist Eirikur Hauksson does a spectacular job capturing the essence of Heeps’ heyday while guitarist Ken Ingwersen lays in with era-defining fret work that not only showcases him as a player but brings vivid life to the songs. Drummer T.A. Fossheim and bassist Sid Ringsby resurrect the thunder of ‘70s juggernauts complete with cowbell and earthshaking bass lines. It’s a return to the style of music that Hensley’s biggest fans have been waiting for. If you love classic Uriah Heep, or even guitar driven 1970’s hard rock with a twinge of prog, then this one will satisfy. The seven-minute “Beyond the Starz” will feed you Heep in buckets while “The End of Never” is hits the pop nerve. The songs are infectious with plenty of groove from the touching ballad “Slippin’ Away” to the anthem “Fill Your Head (with Rock) and benefits from themes that range from warrior kings to falling in love. Welcome back Ken!

Website: Ken Hensley, Eagle Rock Entertainment

STATUS QUO
Quid Pro Quo
Eagle Rock Entertainment

Our complaint has always been that Status Quo are criminally overlooked in North America. In all other parts of the world, they are a stadium act. We never understood where the disconnect came from. C’est la vie, the UK-based five piece still churn out high-quality product and sell millions every year. Much like AC/DC, Status Quo have full license to make every album sound the same. Yep, they carry the flag for good ‘ol boogie blues-rock. Can’t believe it’s been three years since their last LP In Search of the Fourth Chord, however frontman Francis Rossi did put out a mighty fine solo effort One Step at a Time last year to appease the masses. The archetypal single “Rock ‘n’ Roll ‘n’ You”, proceeded Quid Pro Quo’s release getting the buzz out early and letting their throngs of fans know the 45-year old band are still up for a good time. Led by Rossi (guitar/vocals) with side kick Rick Parfitt (guitar/vocals) and joined by Andy Bown (keyboards), John Edwards (bass) and Matt Letley (drums) the band are still about the rock and pile it up brilliantly on their new disc.

Never shy of the almighty riff, the sixty-something Quo members turn up, tune up, and shut up in a record that’s all about the business. There’s an air of fun to be had when the boogie kicks in on the briskly paced “Two Way Traffic” and Parfitt-sung “Let’s Rock”. The bass is chuggin’, the a drum beat setting pace while Rossi and Parfitt stretch out vocally sticking to a straight four-four, 12-bar blues set up. “Dust To Gold” gets a vote for a psychedelic return and crossover echo while “Can’t See For Looking” is a nice little ditty with the story of persuading a young lass that the singer is the man she ‘Can't See For Looking’ - sketchy lyrics but not out of step for Quo. A catchy chorus is always nice to go along with their plod and “Better Than That” delivers with a toe-tapper. Personal favorite is the fast-paced rocker “Movin’ On” - a slight country shuffle with a whole lotta swing. Rossi’s voice has such a distinct tone (much like his guitar), not overly gruff, and easily digested.

The record is packed to full capacity – no shortage of songwriting even with 15 tracks to explore their brand of boogie. Among the several standouts are “Leave A Little Light On” with its simple structure and insanely addictive chorus, the mid-paced “Any Way You Like It” which borrows from Creedence especially in the verse, and the slow shuffle of ‘”Reality Cheque”. The ’80-vibe of “Frozen Hero” captures the song with a huge intro and fast guitar picking while “The Winner” is a step into Beatles territory with the extending ‘da-da-da’ ending, similar to “Hey Jude”. Andy Bown’s harmonica in “It’s All About You” is only out done by the briskly-paced shuffle of “My Old Ways.” The disc ends with a re-vamped version of Quo classic “In The Army Now (2010)” complete with pro-army lyrics and recorded as a charity track for the Help The Heroes campaign. Status Quo will never go away, their fan-based will remain true to their dying day. Another great record to carry on the legacy of an icon.

Website: Status Quo, Eagle Rock Entertainment