DOOGIE WHITE – AS YET UNTITLED

Out now on Metal Mind Productions

Debut solo album from the former Rainbow/Malmsteen vocalist, quite surprising given he’s been on the scene the best part of two decades.  “As Yet Untitled” see Doogie sticking firmly to his Rainbow roots as this is classic hard rock with a dark Rainbow style vibe for the most part yet not quite up to the quality of Blackmore penned tunes.  Its also perhaps a little less interesting that the very good albums he put out with Cornerstone .  But if you like any of the acts mentioned thus far then you will get a kick out of this.

Backed by a very capable supporting staff of Patrick Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen, drums), Thomas Broman (Glenn Hughes, drums), Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion, keyboards), Tony Carey (ex-Rainbow, keyboards), Neil Murray (ex-Whitesnake, bass), Greg Smith (Ted Nugent, bass), Paul Logue (Eden’s Curse, bass), Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall, guitar), Marcus Jidell (Royal Hunt, guitar) and Mick Tucker (Tank, guitar) its good to see Mr White friend’s from his various musical acts over the years contributing.

Opener “Come Taste The Band” sets the scene well, rocking yet quite simplistic in its outlook .  “Dreams Lie Down & Die” is Rainbow through and through but could be argued missing the final magic Blackmore would inject.  “Lonely” is one of the albums more ‘in-yer-face’ numbers and kicks more ass than an angry mule .  From here on it’s a case of likeable enough material that never gets too exciting until closing number “Times Like These” which is a bit of a corker pure and simple.

Doogie’s voice in fine fettle throughout, he’s one of the more distinctive vocalists out there and in a good way.  “As Yet Untitled” is a solid album pure and simple but one that does lack some excitement in places.

Now if only Yngwie could ditch Ripper…..

Rating – 83%

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IAIN ASHLEY HERSEY – VINTAGE LOVE: THE BEST

Out now on Avenue of Allies

American guitarist Iain Ashley Hersey has always been a player that commanded my respect.  Great tone, great phrasing and all round tasty player it’s a shame he’s never made it out of cult status which to some degree is a surprise considering he’s released albums on Frontiers, Lion Music and Perris Records.  If you like classic hard rock ala Purple/Rainbow and pre perm lotion Whitesnake then you are strongly advised to use this compilation as a starting block.

15 tracks in total with 4 off debut “Fallen Angel” (1999), 5 from “The Holy Grail” (2005), 5 from 2008’s “Nomad” and one all new track “Red Head Rampage”.  To compliment Iain’s finger picked tones (for he eschews a pick) there has been no shortage of vocal talent over the albums as well and featured here we get Dante Marchi, Paul Shortino, Carsten Schulz, Graham Bonnet and Doogie White amongst the more recognisable names.

With the track listing in chronological order we get “Goin’ Down & Dirty”, “Distant Memories”, “Hold On” and “The Outcaste” from “Fallen Angel”.  All strong selections with the pick of the bunch being “Distant Memories” and “Hold On” which still scream “class” 12 years on from original release, lush vocal melodies and a guitar solos to die for make these compulsive listening.

“The Holy Grail” is represented by “Blood Of Kings”, “ Walking The Talk”, Calling For The Moon”, “Blink Of An Eye” and that albums title track continue the quality levels with a less aggressive approach to their predecessors.  “Calling For The Moon” still is a song that Whitesnake would kill for and its nice to hear Carsten “Lizard” Schulz belting it out.  Graham Bonnet is his trademark shouty self on “Walking The Talk” but a little more subtle on “The Holy Grail”.

Hersey’s, to-date, last solo album “Nomad” was arguably the weakest of the three though in the most part its cause wasn’t helped by a lousy mix.  Sonically the remaster has helped somewhat but the flaws are still there to some degree i.e. lead guitar being mixed way too low etc.  A shame as Carsten Schulz once again delivers the goods on “Voodoo Spirits”, “Sacrifice The Sun”, “Vintage Love” and “When Will My Love Fade”.  Doogie White appears on the mic for the faithful rendition of the Rainbow track “L.A. Connection”.  In hindsight the tracks are good indeed and it one you might hope Iain might remix down the line and perhaps make available to a European market better (considering the majority of personnel on it where), not to mention Perris Records did a lousy job marketing it.

Finally we get the bonus track “Red Head Rampage” which is a nice addition, bluesy rock in a Deep Purple “Burn” way.

Overall, whilst some of my favourite tracks are missing this is a nice starting point for the uninitiated and is highly recommended for classic rock fans, or fans of A1 guitar work.

Here’s hoping for a new studio album soon.

Rating – 90%

PARADISE INC – TIME

Out now on Avenue Of Allies

Debut offering from a Brazilian band fronted by German vocalist Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One, ex Domain) and its nice to see musicians from outside European or North American lands getting a shot.  Home to 11 tracks clocking in at a reasonable 53 minutes, this is a strong first offering full of enjoyable melodies and strong musicianship in the melodic rock field.

Opener “Time (Live And Learn)” sets a high bar from the off with its strong chorus refrain, before “Close Your Eyes” serves up some scandie rock overtones reminiscent of the now sadly defunct Damned Nation and again has a very worthy chorus – home to some trademark vocal harmonies from Schulz.  Dual guitar team of De Grigo and Marcos Peres combine well on “Who’s Fooling Who” with a commercial edge reminiscent of Bad English. The track written by Eden Curse’s Paul Logue is a heart-warming number with another strong vocal. The power balladry of “I Will Wait” is another winner with a nice modulation into the chorus. The fast paced “Wait And See” is another Paul Logue number and is carried along by a pumping riff.

The piano intro of “No More Mistakes” originally had me thinking its was going turn into Savatage’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ but instead it develops into an east coast AOR infused number, the vocal from Schulz is again commendable working around a low-end smoky Coverdale-ish timbre. The drums samples (one presumes) do get a little overwhelming here but otherwise it’s another highlight.  Likewise “You” begins with humble piano beginnings before developing into a heavier number than its predecessor and again works well.  This heavier timbre is continued with the mid tempo of “Set Me Free” which has another nice refrain to it.

The first of two versions of “Steel Or Stone” sets us on the home run.  The first is geared towards radio although I prefer the bonus acoustic version to the electric one.  Both versions sandwich “Not In Paradise” which sees a guest vocal from Doogie White (ex Rainbow, ex Malmsteen, Cornerstone) although sadly he has the weakest track on the album with it just lacking some of the fire of the music heard elsewhere.

Overall Paradise Inc has served up a strong debut.  Whilst it could be argued there is a lack of a totally original sound, this is something that could be thrown at the majority of the melodic rock scene.  As it stands they are good songwriters, good musicians and possess more than many that command a bigger following and the best band yet to have come from the Avenue Of Allies roster.

One to check out.

Rating – 84%

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN’S RISING FORCE – PERPETUAL FLAME (ARCHIVE)

Out Now – Rising Force Records

Yngwie  Malmsteen is back with his much anticipated new album “Perpetual Flame“.  Coming off the back of 2 return to form albums in the guise of the Doogie White vocalised “Attack” and “Unleash The Fury” offerings, Yngwie has decided to change vocalists once again replacing White with former Judas Priest/ Iced Earth vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens.  A vocalist that tends to fall into the love/hate category Owens can be great (Iced Earth’s The Glorious Burden) or mediocre (Priest’s Jugulator).  To these massive Malmsteen fan ears I personally find Rippers vocals to sit uneasily with the usual brand of Malmsteen metal. 

 Much has been said about the new album artwork, and most people agree that its very poor, sadly this also translates to much of the material and to a slightly lesser extent the production of “Perpetual Flame”.  The guitar tones are good, lead sounds fantastic, drums sound good and bass are clear enough, but Owens vocals for some reason sound as if they are sung down the phone for much of the album, and for some reason tend to be panned all in different places depending on the track.  This really isn’t good enough from a major player such as Malmsteen, and it would seem not a lot has been learnt from the WTEAW debacle.  This is generally an uneasy mix and really does spoil the impact of the album. 

  Sadly much of the song writing also falls into the average category with opener “Death Dealer” hardly setting the album off to a good start.  “Live To Fight (Another Day)” starts out with real promise with its melodic intro and “I Am A Viking” style riff, but sadly is obliterated as soon as Owens opens his mouth making this barely listenable.  “Red Devil” is strong musically with its Hendrix-y main riff, but sadly some of the cheesiest lyrics about Yngwie’s love of Ferrari’s cheapens the end product once again.  “Four Horsemen (of the apocalypse)” sees more production issues, with it sounding like Yngwie forgetting to turn on his noise suppressor for gaps in the opening chord stabs, its a fairy good song in truth but once again let down by Owen’s vocals.  “Priests Of The Unholy” starts out promisingly largely thanks to the keyboard work of Derek Sherninian actually being audible for once, but falls at the final hurdle thanks to another poor vocal melody line.  True enough Owens is a hired hand to sing Malmsteen’s vocal parts, so the blame for the vocal melodies ultimately falls directly at the maestro’s feet, and this is one of Ripper’s better vocal performances but  once again it falls into the mediocre bin.  “Be Careful What You Wish For” is a double bass drum led number that has been heard one too many times before from Yngwie.  Owens sound particularly painful here!  The 8 minutes of “Eleventh Hour” could well have been brilliant, but the vocal performance of Owens once again lessens its impact considerably (believe me I am not enjoying bagging on the guy for the sake of it) largely thanks to vocal production issues but also some pitch issues as well.

  That’s not to say the album is a total loss. “Damnation Game” is Malmsteen in full glory, a fantastic riff that fuses the right blend of melody and heaviness.  “Magic City” at over 7 minutes long starts out well with a nice melodic guitar solo, before heading into a rewrite blending of “Cherokee Warrior” and “Miracle Of Life” but this acceptable enough.  As is becoming a tradition on the last few albums Yngwie sings  lead vocals here and he is improving as a vocalist, in fact his performance is much more preferable to that of much of Owens vocals so there is some form of respite here, plus  its  also has another of the kind of solo you want to hear from Yngwie.  “Capricio Di Diablo” is the sort of “Far Beyond The Sun” 3/4 time instrumental Yngwie excels in whilst another instrumental “Lament” with its slow classical melody stirs some positive emotion and reaction, the same can also be said for album closer “Heavy Heart”.  

  So there you have it.  One of most anticipated albums of the year has turned into one of my most disappointing.  To these ears Tim Owens is clearly not the man for the job going by this performance.  This may well be different had the vocal production been different, but the main problem for me is a lack of variation in his vocals.  His predecessors, Doogie White/Mark Boals/Mats Leven/Goran Edman  etc all managed to make something viable out of Yngwie’s clichéd vocal melodies  ideas yet Owens seems comfortable to do what he’s paid for and nothing more.  To my ears it sounds like there is a lack of feeling, a lack of connection with the material  from Owens; and ultimately from Yngwie’s perspective, he who has worked with some of the best vocalists in the metal genre, you wonder why the vocals on this final product are the way they are – poor. Another issue is the overly frequent double bass drum rhythms, in the live arena Patrik Johansson is as impressive as drummers get. Unfortunately there are also too many retreads of former compositions, there is a point where you have the Malmsteen “sound”, and then a blatant case of rewriting old tracks but adding new vocal melodies and lyrics.  On the positive, Yngwie’s guitar work is mostly A1, and granted most people buy a Malmsteen album for this reason alone.  But where Yngwie goes from here is unknown.  If he keeps delivering albums of this quality he may well find hardcore fans that have accepted the former issues with not so much forgiveness from here on in.  A case of try before you buy but if you are new to Malmsteen’s brand of metal and I recommend you check out “Trilogy”, “Odyssey”, “Fire & Ice”, “Magnum Opus”, “Alchemy” or “Unleash The Fury” first before diving head first into “Perpetual Flame” as it may well put you off exploring the rest (and mostly excellent) of Malmsteen’s back catalogue.
 
Hot Spots : Damnation Game, Capricio Di Diablo, Lament, Magic City
Rating : 50%