AXEL RUDI PELL
Shadow Zone
SPV Records

One of the hardest-working men in rock, Axel Rudi Pell releases his 13th disc in 12 years, entitled ‘Shadow Zone’. It is a melodic affaire with beautifully crafted songs filled with edgy guitar. The disc confirms Pell’s seat in the kingdom of classic rock. With a nod to Deep Purple and Rainbow, Pell pays tribute to his idol Ritchie Blackmore on tracks like 'Live For The King’ and ‘Time of The Truth’ yet retains his own originality. ‘Coming Home’, ‘Follow The Sign’ and ‘Saint Of Fools’ may even be better than Rainbow’s finest hour.

Returning to the fold are Mike Terrana (drums), long-time friend Volker Krawczak (bass), Ferdy Doernberg (keyboards) and vocalist extraordinaire Johnny Gioeli. So, what sets Pell apart from the Malmsteen’s of the world? It is defiantly his unique since of melody. The guitar is used to build the song, not over-power it. And in Gioeli, Pell has one of the best metal vocalist of the genre. Like two minds converging to build a mammoth sound, their combination is exhilarating.

For Pell, the emotional ballads ‘All The Rest Of My Life’, ‘Under The Gun’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ move to new heights creating a power reminiscent of early Scorpions. ‘Shadow Zone’ is certainly a massive contribution to a legacy the guitarist has already sewn for himself. Do not let this disc go unnoticed!

Website: www.axel-rudi-pell.de or SPV Records

GLUECIFER
Basement Apes
SPV Records

Formed in Oslo, Norway in 1994, Scandinavian cock-rock combo Gluecifer dig in deep with there fifth recording, ‘Basement Apes’. Fronted by vocalist Biff Malibu and joined by guitarists Captain Poon and Raldo Useless along with bassist Stu Manx and drummer Danny Young they create a colossal set of riff-heavy knockouts.

Pumping some serious power up front, the disc cranks with ‘Reversed’ and ‘Brutus’ then settles into ‘Losing End’ a catchy mid-tempo soul-cleanser. ‘Easy Living’, ‘Not Enough For You’ and ‘Black Book Lodge’ punish the marshals with vibrant intensity setting off a blatant contrast to the mellower side of the album. However, there in lies the dilemma. ‘It Won’t Be’ breaks past Glucifer efforts with a strong use of keyboards drinking just enough whiskey-soaked blues with a bit of Stooges tossed in for flavor.

"Round And Round" milk a slick groove just catchy enough to merit radio play. But the side-winder track is ‘Little Man’ building on a staircase of tornado melodies. Power Tools And Piss is what defines Glucifer edge; a nasty, ruffed-up version of Cult meets the Buzzcocks with emotion-charged lyrics to boot. No mistaking it, Glucifer can write and Basement Apes shows us just how good they can be. The CD comes with a bonus ‘Easy Living’ video. A nice touch for those who have yet to experience Glucifer up close and personal.

Website: www.gluecifer.com or SPV Records

MAGNUM
Breath Of Life
SPV Records

With all Magnum’s success worldwide it is a wonder that they still have yet to make inroads in the US. During their heyday in the mid-to late ‘80s they sold out large venues and had a string of top twenty hits mostly in the UK. Their breakup in 1994, at least on these shores, went relatively unnoticed. Vocalist Bob Catley remained in the game with a number of stellar solo outings and even Tony Clarkin surfaced with a new band ‘Hard Rain’.

Now, some eight years later, the core line up of Clarkin, Catley, Al Barrow, Mark Stanway and Mickey Barker resurrect what the Birmingham quintet see as the most ambition opus of their career. ‘Breath of Life’ combines layered symphonic compositions and roaring guitar in a near–perfect artful yet accessible hybrid of pop, symphonic art–rock, and melodic hard rock. Within all 12 tracks Magnum effortlessly re–establishes themselves at the peak of modern pomp, radiating a fresh sound and energy that is firmly rooted in tradition and makes no concessions to trendy irrelevances.

Check out ‘This Heart’, ‘Still’, ‘Breath of Life’, ‘That Holy Touch’ and ‘The Face of an Enemy’ for a well rounded over view of the majesty of Magnum. Then hit track 11, ‘Just Like January’ to hear how a perfect song is put together. A smart set effective and provoking with polychromatic arrangements and a rock-solid performance – all encapsulated in a beautifully crafted and thoughtful CD–booklet for a more fully impacting experience.

Website: SPV Records

THE QUILL
Voodoo Caravan
SPV Records

The Quill is a Swedish hard rock/metal act that combines the best of classic hard rock with alternative and metal. The group's influences come from across the spectrum, but some show up more obviously than others. Their first outing, a self-titled number, was filed under the Stoner Rock marquee. With Voodoo Caravan they explore a more brash approach with less fuzz and more straight ahead Sabbath/Deep Purple trends. ‘Sell No Soul’ and ‘Wade Across The Mighty River’ even drift into Led Zeppelin territory.

Yet, all their influences are not so old-school. ‘Shapes Of Afterlife’ and ‘Until Earth Is Bitter Gone’ rings in a Soundgarden texture and ‘Overlord’ screams Corrosion of Conformity. The group still exhibit a healthy doses of ‘Stoner’ jam sound, but that is certainly not the whole picture. The Hammond B-3 organ lends a great retro texture to soundscape, but much of the power and magic of the group comes from the incredible vocal talents of Magnus Ekvall, and guitarist Christian Carlsson who really pull it all together with style.

Not to ignore the tremendous rhythm section of bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolie Atlogic who help establish a signature sound for the band. But it is not often that a band of this genre is elevated to greatness by the singer, but that is definitely the case with this one. The album shows a versatility and mastery of both songwriting and arranging that are not present in much hard rock these days.

Website: SPV Records

ROSE TATTOO
Pain
SPV Records

From the ashes of Australia’s quintessential rock band Buffalo came Rose Tattoo. Formed in Sydney in 1976 by ex-Buffalo guitarist Peter Wells and former Buster Brown vocalist Angry Anderson the two recruited guitarist Mick Cocks, bassist Ian Rilen and drummer Dallas "Digger" Royal to complete a leathal, pissed off bunch of tattooed motherfuckers.

The group made their public bow on New Year's Eve at a local club called Chequers, which several years earlier launched the career of AC/DC. Chiefly inspired by the Rolling Stones and the Faces, Rose Tattoo's ferocious, ear-splitting sound quickly earned a devoted following. The success of their self-titled debut (1978) and Assault and Battery (1981) put them on a European tour and hailed them as the loudest band to play London's Marquee Club since Led Zeppelin. Back to mark 25 years of earsplitting relevance ‘Pain’ signifies the bands return to the international rock community.

Led by Well’s rippin’ slide and Anderson heavily-accented gravel voice Pain forges 16 tracks that find Rose Tattoo fully equipped for world domination. Untouched by current musical trends the ageing five-piece plug in and freight-train through soon to be classics ‘Satan’s Eyes’, ‘Union Man’, ‘No Mercy’ and ‘Hard Rockin’ Man’. There are the occasional inferior moments but with so many gems especially the records title track ‘Pain’, ‘Heat Of The Moment’ and ‘One More Drink With The Boys’ all is forgiven and the good-time swagger leads the way to one killer release.

If you find Well’s guitar work addicting pick up his solo efforts, Solo, Hateball and Damn Fine Band. Or check out his web site.

Website:
Rose Tattoo, Pete Wells or SPV Records

U.D.O
Man and Machine
SPV Records

Big year for UDO. First off was the release of his double ‘Live From Russia’ disc - an ecliptic epic that defines UDO as an individual as well as a band. Then, if that wasn’t enough, ‘Man and Machine’ hit the street. Reviewers are hailing the disc as a return to his Accept roots. I disagree. I don’t think he ever left. As the voice and 30% shareholder of the mind and soul of Accept it’s only expected our stout frontman will remain true to his heart. Therefore, ‘Man And Machine’ is a continuation, of sorts from the shear magnitude of ‘Holy’ and ‘Solid.’

Accompanying the voice are the ever-present guitars, a rapid-fire rhythm section all escorted by a tight production. There is the occasional use of studio wizardry most noticeable on the title track. Lyrically the album deals with typically "Metal" subjectivity: ‘The Dawn Of The Gods, ‘Like A Lion,’ ‘Black Heart.’ UDO does casts a piercing glance at the misuse of technology in tracks ‘Private Eye’ and ‘Network Nightmare’ reminiscent of Priest’s ‘Electric Eye’ period.

The only awkward moment might be in ‘Dancing With An Angel’ which pairs Udo with Doro Pesch for an intimate duet. The gruffness of Mr. Dirkschneider is almost too much of a contrast to the angelic strains of Ms Pesch. Yet the full velocity of ‘Animal Instinct,’ ‘Silent Cry,’ ‘Hard To Be Honest’ and ‘Unknown Traveller’ build with increasing validity until they completely take over your cerebral cortex.

Website:
SPV Records

U.D.O
Live From Russia
SPV Records

Live From Russia is a powerhouse for UDO. Like Alive I & II were for Kiss, this one should awaken the masses to the power of UDO. First off the production is killer – an equal balance in the instrumentation across the board yet capturing the live “vibe” of the band reaching full speed. More than two hours, split between two CDs, jam-pack this best of collection. Recorded live from a handful of selected nights along the 2001 Russian tour the set covers the best of the UDO and Accept catalogues. Adding validity to the Accept inclusion, singer Udo Dirkschneider was joined by guitarist Stefan Kaufmann formally the drummer in Accept, but changed instrument due to problems with his back. On total count, there are 26 tracks on this release including a drum solo; 14 U.D.O. songs and 11 Accept songs.

The band selected songs that Accept has never released live. They play three songs off Russian Roulette, (‘T.V. War,’ ‘Monster Man’ and ‘Heaven Is Hell’) an album that Accept never released a live track from. The Accept songs are played very well, even the lead guitar solos are very similar and often identical to how Wolf Hoffmann played them. Also included are some very old tunes (pre-Restless & Wild) ‘I'm A Rebel,’ ‘Run If You Can’ and ‘Midnight Highway.’

The U.D.O. material is excellent. Included are five songs off Holy, the album they were touring under. The rest of the songs reach deep into their back catalog and include superb versions of ‘No Limits’ and ‘Heart of Gold.’ The gig ends with ‘They Want War,’ a real winner off their first release Animal House (1988). The crowd reaction is infections and U.D.O. play it up for their Russian fans. In the middle of ‘Living in the Frontline,’ they even play a Russian theme song, to which the crowd responds enthusiastically. Udo's voice is overall very good and, like much of the bands work, the booklet and packaging are rightly done.

Website:
SPV Records

NAKAI
Fourth World
Canyon Records

Nothing is as soothing as the music of R. Carlos Nakai. He has a magic about his playing – a trance like magic that not only captivates his listener but transports one to a loftier place. Fourth Wind plays like a movie soundtrack complete with an orchestrated background. Joining – interlacing the Native American Flute is a rich texture of symphonic strings, oboe, French horns, trumpet and ethnic percussion.

Each of the disc’s eleven tracks are aptly titled to describe moods evoked. "Comes The Dawn" paints a gentle soundscape of those early morning minutes when dark changes to light. "Sonoran Nights" swirls with enchantment of a distant exotic place accentuated by the Trumpet, French horn and Moroccan drum beats. "Eye of the Eagle" puts the listener on the edge a mountain peak, surveying the tops of the pine trees below as the scent of forest rises from the valley below. The list goes on, "Into The Twilight", "Under the Beautiful Sky" and "Meditation on Dinetah", each a masterpiece in transcendent peace. A comfort for mind, body and soul.

Website:
www.canyonrecords.com

SOUTHERN CREE
Drum For Life
Canyon Records

For fans of Native drum beats ‘Drum For Life’ brings the passion and emotion of Pow-Wow songs to the forefront. Southern Cree of Rocky Boy, Montana is one of Pow-wow's great drum groups. Traveling extensively through the United States and Canada they bring their powerful singing and drumming to all corners of Pow-wow country.

To borrow from their press release, “Southern Cree sings this collection of their latest songs to honor the way of the drum and the spirit of all Native people.” To the untrained ear Native drum songs sound similar, almost identical to one another. However, the relationship the singer has with the song is what moves through the piece embracing the melody and giving each song it’s own signature. For instance, the high-pitched whales in ‘Desert Heat’ contrast ‘Griz Attack’ where even the chorus springs to life when all twelve singer join in.

The songs begins with a four-bar drum intro followed by a single voice then joined by the remainder of the group. Much like traditional spirituals, the occasional voice darts in with added punctuality through out the song. The recording captures the breath of life as well as the melody.

Website: www.canyonrecords.com

VERDELL PRIMEAUX & JOHNNY MIKE
Hours Before Dawn
Canyon Records

Peyote songs, accompanied by rattle and water drum, are musical prayers of the Native American Church. Created and sung by GRAMMY Award winners, Verdell Primeaux (Sioux) and Johnny Mike (Navajo). At birth Verdell was diagnosed with a combination of spinal meningitis and yellow meningitis. Verdell’s father traveled to Texas where he harvested, with the help of friends, peyote which, at the time, was illegal to possess even for religious reasons. He returned home with the peyote and through prayer and songs of the Native American Church cured Verdell’s illiness.

Today Verdell considers himself a living testimony to the healing power of God and Peyote. Johnny’s grandfathers and grandmothers were some of the first to use peyote within the Navajo nations and at a time when people went to jail for using peyote as part of worship. Johnny was brought up in ways of Peyote and looks back with appreciation towards his elders who led him to the Peyote road.

These harmonized songs help listeners on their spiritual quest and provide an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Two songs in the healing style (peyote songs without drum and rattle) are included as special encores.

Website: www.canyonrecords.com

NORTON BUFFALO & ROY ROGERS
Roots Of Our Nature
Blind Pig Records

This is the first duet recording in over 10 years by slide guitar virtuoso Roy Rogers and harmonica wizard Norton Buffalo, ‘Roots of Our Nature’ is an album that brings the best of Americana, folk and blues together in a discovery of roots music. With the success of “O Brother Where Art Thou?” a new audience is discovering the charm of earthy compositions even though roots music has been accessible on a number of major and independent labels for years.

Where this CD hits the mark are on ‘Under The Rug,’ ‘If I Were A King,’ ‘Making New Love Out Of Old’ and ‘Highway Bound.’ Yet, the recording prides itself on diversity. The latin-fused Ritmo De Las Almas is a masterful attraction whereas ‘Requiem’ could sit along any Jim Croche set. Elements of Peter, Paul and Mary creep into ‘Long Hard Road’ and ‘Trinity’ while an up-tempo boogie closes out the disc in ‘Happy Go Lucky’. A notable release with a lot of charm.

Website: www.blindpigrecords.com

DEBORAH COLEMAN
Soul Be It!
Blind Pig Records

‘Soul Be It!’ is wicked-ass guitar from an exceptional blues player. However, it is the soulful voice of Deborah Coleman that gives this disc its gorgeous texture. Recorded at the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico California we get the best of a honest live outing - which is exactly what fans of Coleman's decade-long career have been clamoring for; a raucous, high energy live performance, splendidly recorded and packed with spit-fire solos.

USA Today calls her, "one of blues music's most exciting young talents." Comparisons to Robert Cray can be made to the passionate ‘My Heart Bleeds Blue’ while ‘Don’t Lie To Me’ could be another ‘Fever’. Les Paul in hand, the woman can walk the walk as heard in the biographical ‘I’m A Woman’ and mesmerizing ‘The Dream’.

Though Coleman has released four studio albums on the Blind Pig label that have firmly established her as one of the leading lights in the blues field, it has been her knockout live performances that have made her one of the hottest commodities on the contemporary scene. This disc is a “No frills, no drills, no right nor wrong, just sight, sound and soul…” The enhanced CD comes with an exhilarating video performance.

Website: www.blindpigrecords.com