Well, here I am – writing lengthier reviews than I intended [again] and rambling on. Not sure why, but I’ll try to be inconsistant! After all, isn’t that what these forums are for?
Still got lots to cover from the latter part of 2014 and first half of this year. Currently still playing the hell out of the latest Europe album “War Of Kings”; in fact I had to go back and pick up all the studio albums since their 2004 comeback – quite an impressive string of releases, especially “Bag Of Bones” and love the live releases from Shepherd’s Bush [London] and Sweden Rock Fest.
Recently saw the band in Niagara Falls, NY to a small crowd – apparently their first trip over here in 10 years. Lots of ground to cover and it seems a heck of a hurdle to overcome with the ‘hair band’ tag from the ’80s. Telling people I saw Europe – the band that did “The Final Countdown” usually gets an odd look, which i follow with – ‘their new stuff ain’t like that!’ Was bummed that Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock show was cancelled in Toronto, but oh well – hopefully there’ll be a return with Doogie White. Here’s an interview I did with Doogie years ago [look under October 1999] – http://www.travellersintime.com/uw/
Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’m finding as I get older, I am listening to and buying more stuff I never thought to or got in to in the past. Also revisiting those Lucifers Friend albums from the ’70s, since the new release.
Hmm, maybe I’ll get to revisiting catalogues of favorite bands here!? There is just not enough time in this life to get to it all tho! Here’s hoping the new someone will drop me a copy of the new Tommy Bolin “Teaser” box — 3 LPs! Amazing, how much this guy did in such a short life time, and we’re still gettting cool releases like the “Whirwind” set a couple of years ago, as well as reissues of his stuff with the James Gang and Zephyr, among others. You can never go wrong checking out Bolin’s music, if you’re not familiar! Also, looking forward to getting Dennis Dunaway’s new book about his Alice Cooper days; then we’ll just be awaiting for Neal Smith’s account of those days.
Another new vinyl shop has opened in nearby Thorold [“Our Favorite Record Store”]. Mostly used LPs, but it’s a neat little store, clean and reasonably priced. Funny that when people were hurrying to ditch vinyl, shops and vendors were selling used stuff for $5 and less, now that it’s back – every crappy dime-o-dozen release is somehow a collectable worth $10 and up. Not everything is worth big $. If anyone could pick up big selling LPs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, the first 2 Boston albums, or late ’70s Foreigner records were worth $3 five to 10 years, why would anyone expect to pay over $10 a-piece now??
anyway, more to come….
The Harm’s Way Project – Everything Works If You Let It [CHA]
The 2nd Harm’s Way Project release, and quite a project it has become! The musicians being those that have found each other on the internet, largely though Uriah Heep forums and online groups, so you’ll understand if there’s a good bit of the Heep influence. Tho I enjoyed the first album, this one is a major step up – in concept, sound, performance, production and flow. This is a major production – and i dont mean that in a ridiculous Mutt Lange kinda way!
As I understand, lyrically based around the life journeys of lyric writers Ron Mann and Allie Segars, and tho this may be one or two peoples personal tales and outlooks – it is definately something many of us can relate to. 70s rock fans will easily dig this for the feel and sounds that come from classic rock influences of that era – a good bit of hard rock, progressive, folk….and it all flows so well musically and lyrically. Big praise to Jon Binder who handles most of the lead vocals here, as well as guitarists Keith Shaw, Dave White, Mac Steagall [who also doubles on bass and as major music writer], Micheal Fedysky [bass] and Staf Pypen [on drums], as well as the backing singers. The use of Hammond organ and Moog Synthesizer [courtesy of Jim Lynch] add to the whole feel of a time gone by when bands made these sort of albums. Frankly it is hard to pick favorites because i just throw this on, enjoy it in full as old Heep styled lead off track Time simply flows nicely in My Song, then on to the ballad Forever In The Night [the backing harmonies are a great touch throughout this]. A great mix of tunes with rockers like Cries In Winters Rain [this one musically reminds me Heep’s Time To Live], Battles, and Lost In A Fog, and outstanding ballads like It’s All My Fault [nicely done on piano with violin sounds adding a nice touch] and Searching For An Angel – [love the female lead vocals here, backing vocals, and keyboards adding the string sounds]. Again, this album is a FULL listen – not something you can simply jump through select tracks. Lots to listen to musically and lyrically. Seems like a fine album to throw on for those outside summer evenings!
Well packaged too [tho i’d love to have it on vinyl!] A classic unknown 70s release, made in 2014!
*and look ’em up on Facebook Reverbnation
Trapper – Go For The Heart
Holy shit, it’s like early ’80s Canuck rock made a comeback here! Trapper’s the new band formed by Canadian guitarist Sean Kelly – who’s become a legend in the last couple of years here – with his book Metal On Ice, and having wrote andrecorded with Helix, played live with Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron…. Trapper tho, is his brand new band with singer Emm Gryner and they have a 5 track CD that is a cool throwback to that period in Canadian rock when the likes of Harlequin, Trooper, Loverboy, Toronto, etc… were big on the radio airwaves, albeit a good bit heavier with no keyboards, more guitar… Lonely Nights, Technology Killed Our Love and Grand Bender are cool memorable rockers, catchy hooks and choruses, big solos, great production; and then there’s 2 covers in The Warrior and Your Love – neither of which i cared for way back, but they’ve got a bit more bite and fit so well on this disc. Check Trapper out > http://www.maplemusic.com/artists/trp/bio.asp
Dennis DeYoung – Plays The Music of Styx [Frontiers]
Styx was one of my first favorite bands, “Paradise Theater” being the first LP I ever bought (at a record outlet at the CNE In Toronto!). The albums from 1975 (Equinox) up until “Pieces Of Eight” are classic albums, and tho they softened up and became more ‘aor’ for the last few albums before splitting in the mid 80s, I thought they were still good. Stxy – the band, carried on without one of it’s founding and IMO it’s key figure some 15+ years ago, and DeYoung went off and did some different stuff, but this Live revisit of the Styx classics is outstanding! DeYoung and his band give a very authentic Styx sounding production, full of energy and accuracy faithful to the original recordings. And it sounds like DeYoung really enjoys performing this stuff still. Interesting to note he managed to find a great guitar player in August Zadra – who not only looks like a younger Tommy Shaw, but also pulls off the vocals on the Shaw written and sang classics like “Crystal Ball” and “Blue Collar Man”, sounding remarkably like the Styx guitarist. Highlights for me include “Suite Madame Blue” (w/ prelude), “Lorelei” and lone solo hit here “Desert Moon”.
Lucifers Friend – Awakening
The debut album from Lucifers Friend was a classic early metal album, coming around the time of Heep’s debut and Deep Purple’s “In Rock”, it featured the classic “Ride The Sky”; it is the starting point for anyone looking in to this Germanband that would gather a strong underground following around the globe, especially in North America where their LPs came out on smaller labels, labels folded, the band switching labels, lack of any promo, – you get the idea!? Singer John Lawton was the lone Englishman in the band which also features guitarist Peter Hesslein (He and other founding LF members were experienced in studio and on the circuit in their homeland throughout the late 60s), as well as original bass player Dieter Horns. Lawton left the band in ’76 to join Uriah Heep (having missed an invite to audition for Deep Purple a few years earlier), but returned for 1 classic hard rock album in 1981 (again on a label that did nothing to promote it or distribute it!). The band also reconvened in 1994 as Lucifers Friend II for the “Sumo Grip” album. Disc one of Awakening pulls the best known classic tracks from the albums Lawton sang on up until 1981 (note – the band continued on for 2 albums in the late 70s with Mike Starrs at the mic, but nothing is included from that period here). The band’s debut being their best known, so we get 4 heavy tracks from it, though nothing from “I’m Just A Rock n Roll Singer”, and just 1 from fan favorite “Banquet” – but oh well, this is a cool collection with classics like “Burning Ships” and “Fugitive” (the latter from the highly recommeded, more progressive album “Mind Exploding”, from ’76 ).
With Lucifers Friend albums, the band was constantly changing, adding in some pretty diverse sounds and approaches from album to album, rock, blues, jazz, fusion, pop… it’s all in their repertoire with big brass arrangements, strings, etc.. 1981’s “Mean Machine” was a return to a direct hard-rock sound, likely influenced by the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal happening at the time (note – Lawton had a solo album in 1980 with LF members as back-up, and Hesslein co-writing).
Disc 2 of Awakening (and really – 14 tracks total probably could’ve fit on 1 disc!) consists of 4 brand new tracks the band recently recorded to coincide with this release and some live shows (note – this band was not a live band for the most part throughout the 70s). The band’s writing being closer to their 1994 album, a bit more pop, but first track “Pray” is the hardest hitting and easily enjoyable, John Lawton’s vocals show no sign of ageing. “Riding High” is a steady rock number, but i dig “Did You Ever” for the changes, and Lawton’s performance. “This Road” is more of a pop track, reminiscent of the Sumo Grip stuff, but it’s catchy, and we finally get to hear Peter Hesslein a bit louder with a riff and then let loose and solo a bit . Actually my only beef is that I’d like to hear more from Hesslein; he’s a great player, but man – more big solos! Oh well, a great intro to the band for anyone not familiar, and 4 solid tunes for those that enjoyed Lucifers Friend in the past.
Dave Flett – Flying Blind
Pulled this one out again recently – The first album released by the real Dave Flett since his departure from the music scene in the UK in ’88. And i say the ‘real’ Dave Flett, as this whole project began with a track called “Stolen Identity”, which is based on a Canadian guy who’d been passing himself off as our Dave Flett for years, while the real deal was out of the music business! A pretty incredible tale, but hey – if it got Dave out of music retirement, so be it! Back to early days …. Dave Flett [for those not knowing], was the guitarist in Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in the mid 70s, playing on a couple of albums, most notably The Roaring Silence, which featured the Springsteen penned “Blinded By The Light”, a #1 hit for the band. He went on to tour with Thin Lizzy, and then various lesser name acts before relocating to the US and getting in to a new profession. And although Flett’s solo on Blinded By The Light is most memorable, this album is more mainstream alternative modern rock than classic rock with the guitar hero approach, but plenty of cool hooks and fitting solos. This is comprised of upbeat rockers here with the title track standing out, as well as “The Only Thing”, “Walking With The Angels”, “Kings” and “Drive”. Singer / producer Tony Manna deserves a good bit of credit here, as this album has a fairly sound and feel, sounding more like a young energetic band here than a 70s rocker attempting a lame comeback.
*Manfred Mann guests on the track Flying Blind, and former MMEB member John Lingwood takes care of the drums throughout this album.
Joe Bouchard – New Solid Black
Originally a 6 track EP, Joe added a couple of tunes making this closer to a full album. Both ‘bonus’ tracks being written with Helen Wheels [RIP] – “Light Years Of Love”, a fine ballad that originally appeared on BOC’s The Revolution By Night [which is why I didnt remember it much], and there’s the upbeat “O Jim” – which had a brief life with BOC in ’79, but never made it to album. These sit well along NSB’s other gems like the upbeat “Forget About Love”, “Love Takes Heart”, and “Roller Girls”.