ELECTRIC BOYS – AND THEM BOYS DONE SWANG

Out now on Escape Music

After a big fanfare at the start of the early 90’s when they were proclaimed as the next big thing in a number of magazines the big time always somehow eluded the Electric Boys outside their native Sweden.  Yes the tracks ‘All Lips And Hips’ got some attention on MTV from their debut ‘Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride’ but they never broke into the big league, a shame as their brand of Aerosmith like retro rock with psychedelic lyrical tendencies and funk influences were one of the better and more original bands of the time.  After 2 more albums, the recommended 92’s ‘Groovus Maximus’ and 94’s ‘Freewheelin’ the band split. Now main man Conny Bloom after a few years spent in Hanoi Rocks has fired up the machine again for another crack.

Electric Boys in 2011 start where they ended in 1994 which means all the bands trademarks are here thankfully.  Good bluesy sleazy rock riffs, vintage guitar tones and gobs of melody done without any of the sickly AOR-ness you might normally associate with the word.  This ladies and gentlemen rocks with no pretence just a bag load of fun.

Conny Bloom still sounds good, the band behind him grooves like a monster on the likes of ‘Reeferlord’, ‘The House Is Rockin’ and closer ‘A Mother Of A Love Story’.  The funk edge is prominent on ‘My Heart’s Not For Sale’ and ‘Rollin Down The Road’. Whilst elsewhere we get a nice mix of the bands styles and its all nicely done.

Whether Electric Boys make a new mark on the musical landscape in 2011 is hard to tell.  That said when other bands less talented than them are making a go of it you have to hope they can and with ‘And Them Boys Done Swang’ they’ve given themselves much more than a fighting chance.

If you like your rock upbeat, rocking and good fun this is a fine slice of rock for your pennies.

Rating – 88%

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BIG LIFE – BIG LIFE

Out now on AOR Heaven

Big Life is a new project (there’s that horrible word again) of two lesser UK rock gods, Steve Newman and Mark Thompson-Smith. What matters isn’t the names but the music of course.

Well, it’s a pleasant surprise. Opener “Dying Day” is a solid cut of AOR. Thompson-Smith has an agreeable voice and there is an undeniable energy to the tune.  And so it goes, basically. Whether it’s “Better Man”, “I’ll Still Be Here” or “Takin Me Down”, there’s little to find fault with. Well, “At The End Of The Rainbow” isn’t exactly the best song I’ve heard this year.

Don’t expect any surprises or a revolution in AOR. Just an enjoyable album. I am somehow reminded of Overland at times. Production is up to today’s standards, for better or worse too.

 Rating – 84%

Review by Sancho

JOOP WOLTERS – FALSE POETRY

Available now on iTunes/Amazon or www.joopwolters.com

Dutch guitarist Joop Wolters is one of the great under appreciated players of the world.  With 3 albums to his name on Lion Music, Joop has branched out on his own for the release of ‘False Poetry’.  With a modern style with all the chops and technique you could wish for, Joop also knows the value of restraint and makes sure melody plays a large role in his work.

Home to 10 tracks across a number of styles, Joop has one again delivered a strong set of tunes which will appeal to anyone that appreciates good guitar. But whilst the guitar work is as impressive as ever, there is a much better attention to the songs frameworks and other instrumentation than many guitar albums you will hear.

I get the feeling there is a little less traditional instrumental fare influence this time around with less of your standard shred patterns and more emphasis on exotic scales and melodies with, all of which is a nice refreshing change and the likes of “Mi Corazon” and “Drowned” represent this side nicely.  Elsewhere “Saviour” offers up a more traditional offering and fans of heavier works will find salvation in the opener “Sponge”, “Rage Of 10” and “Renegade Robots”.

Well produced with a nice range of tunes and at a hair under 54 minutes long is about the right length too.  If you haven’t already checked out some of Joop’s work this is as good a place to start as any. Recommended.

Rating – 85%  

REECE KRONLUND – SOLID

Out now on Metal Heaven

As a direct result of their collaboration in the rejuvenated Bangalore Choir, David Reece and Martin Kronlund present this new project.

It kind of escapes me why they don’t just release this as the new Bangalore Choir, frankly…Sure it’s a bit more subdued, but the difference isn’t all that big.
In essence, this is melodic hard rock with a slight metal edge fronted by Reece’s characteristic voice.

“Could This Be Madness” may well be the best ballad I’ve heard this year, while “I Would” hints at some of Jeff Scott Soto’s more soulful material. This album isn’t all about the ballads though. Rocking tracks like “My Angel Wears White”, “Animals And Cannibals” and “Paint The Mirror Black” hit the spot with deadly accuracy. Album closer “The Dead Shall Walk The Earth” is a blistering metal track, and a surprising album closer.

Kronlund is no slouch on the guitar, and he’s given ample opportunity to demonstrate his chops.

10 tracks, 41 minutes… Looks like artists are catching on we don’t need the extra 5 filler tracks that make an album run past the hour mark.

A great album, but again, why not just call this Bangalore Choir??

Rating – 90%
Review by Sancho

AFTER HOURS – AGAINST THE GRAIN

Out now on Metal Heaven

There’s something about the sound of British AOR bands that sets them apart from their transatlantic counterparts. Part of it is a certain style of production; another part is the inevitable inclusion of some prog influences.

Instrumentally, we get decent but unremarkable AOR fare on this comeback album. Songs like “Eleventh Hour” and “ Against The Grain “ illustrate the point I made above about the proggier nature of British AOR. The album is filled with good, if not exceptional songs. The keys are present but not overbearing and there’s plenty of nice guitar playing to liven up the action.

Unfortunately, whatever positive qualities this band possesses, they are overshadowed by the reedy voice of John Francis. Not exactly one of the classic British rock voices… In the lower register, he lacks power. When he goes up the scales he sounds thin and straining (“Angel” being a poignant example). Not to mention he misses the target note with an alarming regularity. I haven’t the vaguest idea what he is trying to prove at the beginning of “I Want Yesterday”…

Production wise, there’s nothing wrong with this album. The mix is balanced and every instrument sounds quite good. Which makes it all the more a shame that the vocals just don’t cut it.

If you don’t mind the singer, you may add at least 10 points to the score.

Rating – 68%
Review by Sancho

WARRANT – ROCKAHOLIC

Out now on Frontiers Records

2006’s comeback album “Born Again” was a decent enough effort, even if it didn’t really capture the vibe of the original Warrant output. Not light-footed enough, all things considered.  Jaime St James has been replaced by ex Lynch Mob singer Robert Mason, whose voice is a far better fit for the music. On “Rockaholic”, the band have taken a step towards setting the record straight.

“Sex Ain’t Love”, “Innocence Is Gone”, “Show Must Go On”… Warrant aren’t going philosophical on us. This album is a ray of California sunshine, and should provide a nice flashback for those of us who were enjoying hard rock at the time. It’s not all lightweight fare, however, thanks to the inclusion of a couple of darker, heavier tunes like “Dusty’s Revenge” and hard rockers like “Cocaine Freight Train” or “The Last Straw”. No melodic rock album without ballads. “Home” and “Found Forever” fill the prescription very competently.

Like the last Night Ranger, there’s a harder edge to the band these days, that combines very nicely with the melodicism and results in a more balanced product.

The album is very well paced, but with 14 songs adding up to 54 minutes of music it is on the verge of too long…

A great album by a sometimes under-appreciated band. If you always thought they were too fluffy, give this one a listen.

Rating – 88%
Review by Sancho 

NIGHT RANGER – SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA

Out now on Frontiers

Ever since 1988’s “Man In Motion”, Night Ranger have been somewhat lost, trying to find their place in a music industry in motion. This new album demonstrates they never should have moved…

Opening track “Growing Up In California” sets the scene : a cheery tune, with a catchy chorus and plenty of twin guitars. No longer courtesy of the Gillis/Watson tandem, alas. Gillis is now joined by Joel Hoekstra. Who does a rather good job, for that matter. Tracks like “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)” and “Rock And Roll Tonight” rock hard, and are chock full of great guitar playing.  “Time Of Our Lives” is a big ballad. Not quite as big as “Sister Christian” but a damn fine song in its own right.

Gone is the plodding approach of more recent Night Ranger albums. Even if overall this album doesn’t sound as carefree as the band’s classic output, it’s as upbeat as you can expect in this day and age. Some might even prefer the slightly toned down and harder edged attitude over the abundance of yesteryear. Especially since the band have managed to retain everything that set them apart in the first place.

Great songs, great playing… What’s not to like? One of the year’s better melodic rock albums and one of the better guitar albums to boot!

Rating – 93%
Review by Sancho

WHITESNAKE – LIVE AT DONINGTON 1990

Out now on Frontiers

As someone who witnessed the Slip Of The Tongue tour, I have to say I raised an eyebrow when confronted with the prospect of a live album from this tour. As I remember the gig, Coverdale’s voice was shot, and there was remarkably little chemistry to the band.

Did I catch them on an off-night? This live album, taken from the band’s gig at the 1990 Monsters Of Rock, might tell… (the day where Thunder and Aerosmith blew them away -Ed)

The setlist is evidently firmly based on the ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ album. And from the off, it’s obvious Coverdale is straining. He’s singing way above his natural register, as he has been doing since 1987, and continues to do to this day. I guess having one of the all time classic soulful voices doesn’t cut it for Dave…

As long as he sticks to his natural voice (“Judgement Day” or “Is This Love” for instance), the magic is there. But then he insists on going Robert Plant on us and it all falls apart in a rather painful way. When he does get it together, like in “Slow And Easy”, it’s brilliant.

The band delivers a solid performance, if you can stomach Vai’s idiosyncrasies in the older tunes. Vandenberg is a better fit musically, and more than holds his own. Even if his solo spot starts off as a pastiche of Michael Schenker’s “Courvoisier Concerto”. The inclusion of some of Vai’s solo material makes it all the more obvious he was just using Whitesnake as a way to help further his solo career.

This recording sounds untampered. A bit messy even. It does add to the live mood. If they’d done overdubs, some of Coverdale’s more painful moments would have been cleaned up.

So, is this a bad album? Not at all. It captures Whitesnake at their commercial, if not musical, peak. I’d buy Live… In The Heart Of The City or Live… In The Still Of The Night before this one though.

If they’re going to be releasing old live material, how about the live video from Whitesnake’s first Donington gig, the rather good “Commandos”? That one’s long overdue for a DVD release.

Rating – 80%
Review by the aimed and firing like a gatlin gun Sancho.

CONSORTIUM PROJECT V – SPECIES

Released 15th July 2011 on Lion Music

I must confess despite being a fan of Consortium Project’s mastermind/vocalist Ian Parry’s work with Elegy I have never until now heard a Consortium Project album. Now having heard “Species” I am kicking myself as this is a finely crafted slice of prog power metal of the highest calibre.

Ian Parry’s voice is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive in metal, none of your usual run of the mill metal vocals here folks, but a voice with power and depth, not to mention great projection and one that adds true drama to the compositions.

The music is equally grand, expertly crafted by Parry with a variety of musicians including guitarists Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), Niels Vejlyt (Infinity Overture), Veith Offenbächer (Dawn of Destiny). Bass tracks are performed by Kris Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation) and Jens Faber (Dawn of Destiny) whilst Casey Grillo (Kamelot) provides the magnificent drumming. To create contrast to Ian’s vocals we get a pair of female voices in Lene Petersen and Ani Lozanova who work well also. A fine supporting cast indeed and it seems Ian knows how to pick the right musician to support the framework of each track with all tracks working nicely as a cohesive unit.

Essentially this is the final instalment of the Consortium Project 5 part story which sees “Species” take mankind on a final epic journey into outer space met with dire consequences the world has never seen!

Musically CP-V is mainly about big riff orientated metal numbers over a variety of tempos with a pleasant aggressive streak running for the majority of tracks. This big musical push is then backed up by some truly infectious vocal melodies and strong chorus such as the delightfully swooping lines of “Life On Earth” and “The Worst Is Yet To Come” where images of the impending apocalypse are brought to life through Parry’s delivery.

“To The Earth & Back” is epic whilst the “Sirens” has a nice punchy commerciality about it where the rhythmic interplay of the riff builds nicely. “Pitch Black” is another scorched with a truly thunderous riff after the contagious chorus.

The delicate female vocals at the start of “Silence Calling” have an ethereal angelic quality to them that contrasts nicely with the tracks heavier middle before the commercial tint of the title track is another success. “Enemy Within” then lays to waste everything in its path with its brutal delivery that sees Parry adding to the fervour more so and this is another excellent number. The album then draws to a close with the strong bookend that is “Oracle” which serves as musically rich and melodic closer.

As my first taste of Consortium Project I am mightily impressed with the quality on offer from “Species”. The songwriting and performances are all first class and the album has an excitement about it from start to finish. All of which adds up to make this essential listening.

Rating – 95%

P.S. Lion Music will also be releasing remastered and expanded versions of the first four Consortium Project albums beginning later in 2011.