SNAKECHARMER – SNAKECHARMER

snakecharmer

Released 25 January 2013 on Frontiers

Is there life after Whitesnake? There might be for Micky Moody and Neil Murray.

After an earlier attempt with Company Of Snakes, that didn’t quite deliver the goods, the former Snakes have regrouped as Snakecharmer. Musically there’s no surprises. Bluesy hard rock. So far so good. Where Company Of Snakes mostly failed because of the wimpy vocals, Chris Ousey does a better job, even if he’s no Coverdale. His voice does have a hint of Glenn Hughes to it, thankfully without the latter’s exaggerated histrionics. The band does a professional job and the songs are well crafted and quite catchy. Take “To The Rescue” for example, or the equally strong “Turn Of The Screw”.

While overall the production is solid, the buzzy guitar sound is particularly grating for this style of music. Murray’s trademark bass sits quite prominently in the mix.

Micky Moody and Laurie Wisefield do a great job on guitars, but does that come as a surprise to anyone?

Quite enjoyable if not spectacular by any means. As much as I like the current incarnation of Whitesnake, I can’t help but wonder what a reunion with Moody and a return to the old sound would bring. The songwriting on this album is actually stronger than it was on the latest Whitesnake albums.

Rating – 85%
Review by Sancho (he would lie to you, just to get in your pants).

Advertisements

PUSHKING – THE WORLD AS WE LOVE IT

Released February 28th 2011 on Edel/earMusic.

Pushking are one of Russia’s biggest rock bands having released 15 albums to date, but then without the exposure of the like Gorky Park got in the late 80’s how are we to know?  But with  “The World As We Love It”; and thanks to producer Fabrizio Grossi that may well change for band have scored one hell of a guest list for their new album which sees selected cuts from the bands previous releases re-recorded each with a special guest or two on each.

As for the guest list how do the likes of Billy Gibbons, Nuno Bettencourt, Alice Cooper, John Lawton, Steve Stevens, Paul Stanley, Steve Salas, Steve Vai, Graham Bonnet, Glenn Hughes, Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Martin, Udo Dirkschneider, Dan McCaffery, Joe Lynn Turner, Jorn Lande and Steve Lukather grab you?

Musically this is competent hard rock nothing truly spectacular but a pleasant enough listen from start to finish.
 
Highlights come in the guise of the Alice Cooper led “Troubled Love” which is a nice mix of Cooper’s 70’s rock and late 80’s commerciality.  The melodic minor blues of “Tonight” with Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa is touching and classy whilst Hughes also sounds great on “Private Own”.   Bluesy hard rock fans are well catered for with the Joe Lynn Turner led “Head Shooter” and Paul Stanley leads the commercial rocker “Cut The Wire” with his usual flare and panache.  Steve Vai plays with more emotion than normal on the excellent “My Reflections After Seeing The Schindlers List Movie” and its another highlight.

Its not all good though, Udo Dirkschneider will always be an acquired taste and “Nature’s Child” is quite laughable in places thanks to his pneumatic drill delivery, likewise Graham Bonnet has delivered better than what is heard on “God Made Us Free” although the song itself is not too bad.

Musically the Russian band are competent players with nothing flashy or overly original to either annoy nor dazzle but they can pen a good tune as it evident from the majority of this release.

Overall a nice addition to the collection for fans of the assembled guest list.  The production is perfectly fine and there is a nice pace to the 19 tracks on offer. 

One to look into further.

Rating – 83%



JOE BONAMASSA – BLACK ROCK (REVIEW)

Out now on Provogue Records

Yet another bold, confident, masterful release from “the future of blues rock”. Joe and Kevin Shirley retreated to Santorini Greece to seek new inspiration and to break in a brand new studio set in the cliffside. The result is the very mature “Black Rock” which comprises 5 Joe penned originals and 8 cover tunes. Four tunes include traditional Greek instrumentation, best of those is “Quarryman’s Lament” which is one of Joes best riff compositions yet, you will be humming this one; a lot.

Joe’s vocal performance is also his best yet, and as always, plenty of snarly classic tone guitar riffage is evident, primarily on killer tracks like “Blue & Evil”, Bobby Parker’s “Steal Your Heart Away” and the great cover of Jeff Beck’s “Spanish Boots” . The highlight for Joe on this album is the participation of B.B. King on the Willie Nelson standard “Night Life”, and a great guest spot it is too, B.B. still rocking hard in his eighties and perhaps left just a little out of breath by tunes end. The most surprising inclusion however, is Joe’s take on Leonard Cohen’s poignant “Bird on a Wire”, replete with traditional Greek instrument embellishment.

Overall, this is another positive step in Joe’s steep developmental process. Only qualm is that perhaps the production is perhaps just a tad too clean, not enough dirt left under the fingernails for a big rock small blues production. The guaranteed success of this offering will once again have the blues purists cringing, but Joe’s popularity continues to grow in leaps and bounds and rightly so. Well done Joseph….. I eagerly await the as yet officially unnamed “suppa groupa” project from Joe, Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian later this year, should rock hard.

Rating – 85%
Review by Mike Blackburn

MARCO MENDOZA – CASA MENDOZA (REVIEW)

Out now on Mascot Records

Marco Mendoza, bass player to the stars, has found the time to produce his second solo album “Casa Mendoza”.  It’s an eclectic mix of funk, rock, fusion, latin etc garnished with lots of shreddy guitar and keyboard solos.

Opening track “Living In The City”, a Stevie Wonder tune, wouldn’t be out of place on an older Chili Peppers album. It all just gets funkier along the way… Ballad “You” could be rather nice but then they go all Carlos on us.

If you know Mendoza from his work with Whitesnake, Ted Nugent or Thin Lizzy, you’d probably better give this album a listen before buying. Rock is not the main ingredient in Marco’s mix.
This album reminds me of a mix of Glenn Hughes’ more adventurous funk material with Santana. But less accessible.

A difficult album to rate. As a rock album, it scores about 20. From another viewpoint you could rate it anything up to 80. Which leaves an average score of …

Rating – 50%
Review by Sancho.

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION – BLACK COUNTRY (REVIEW)

Released 20th September 2010 – Mascot Records
 
On the strength of some simpatico vibes generated by a Glenn Hughes guest vocal appearance at a Joe Bonamassa concert, and probably fuelled somewhat by the commercial success of the Hagar/Satch Chickenfoot project, the genesis spark for this “super group” was struck. There are precious few of these amalgamations that have generated much critical success (including said ‘Foot) and so it was with great trepidation that I cracked open this offering. The main concern was the quality of the 60 plus vocal chords of one Glenn Hughes. A few live YouTube videos exacerbated that concern……

Well then, there was no need for concern was there? Glenn sounds magnificent, Joe slashes and burns throughout; Derek adds timely keyboard flourishes and Jason whomps down a solid backbeat his dad would be proud of. This is one heavy slab of majestic top drawer rockness . The sucker takes three or four songs to get off the ground and then soars through the following onslaught, masterfully engineered by Joe’s maestro of choice these days, Kevin Shirley. “Sista Jane” is as close as you will ever hear Glenn and Joe to AC/DC territory. The compositions are surprisingly strong, given the short time frame utilized to produce this sucker.

I have but one slight qualm. Joe, when noodling for his own pleasure, or shredding, has a tendency to rely on this really cool Eric Johnson phrasing riff. We get to hear that riff, however flawlessly performed, a tad too often here. Regardless, Joe’s performance here on six string, and vocally I might add (the fact that Joe can hold his own with an in form Hughes speaks volumes as to his emergence as THE premier rock-blueser on the planet) is superb. This, should they choose to make it so, IS a super group and this CD is a must have. The Trapeze standard “Medusa” is a thing of beauty to behold.

Thanks guys for sticking to your guns as this slab almost did NOT see the light of day…..

Rating – 90%
Review by Mike Blackburn

KEN’S DOJO – REINCARNATION (REVIEW)

Out Now – Metal Heaven

Ken’s Dojo is a project by Ken Ingwersen. A glorious unknown to me. Apparently he’s worked with several illustrious names over the years. Chesney Hawkes however? You’d get more street cred working with Aqua… In recent years Ken has been part of a production team that allegedly scored major successes in Europe and Asia. He’s also a member of Ken Hensley’s touring band.

For this, his first solo album, Ken has opted for the rock approach. A gentle mix of prog and AOR with obvious pop influences. “Keeping The Flame Alive” gives a firm nod in the proggy direction, while ballad “I Surrender” could very well be a hit if only the mainstream media could pull their heads out of their asses for long enough.

There are several guest musicians implicated, not all of whom will ring a bell.
Glenn Hughes (excellent on “I Surrender”) and Ken Hensley are the biggest names. Ken is an accomplished guitarist who manages to steer clear of the clichés yet come up with interesting lines. Not all songs are equally strong (some, like “Come Alive”, could have done with a bit of careful editing), but there’s precious little potential for embarrassment.

Rating – 80%
Review By Sancho