DEEP PURPLE – NOW WHAT?!

deep_purple_now_what

Out now on Ear Music

Fifth studio album from the rejuvenated Steve Morse era of the legendary rock outfit and one which find the band still sounding fresh and vibrant.

Continuing the slight progressive tint heard on its predecessor “Rapture Of The Deep”, “Now What?!” is a fresh vibrant release which sees the classic MK.2 purple sound still there in areas but is mostly one which has left the 20th century behind and is setting a new course in the 21st century.  Given than Morse has been in the band longer than Blackmore has will still stop some from failing to give this a chance, more fool them.

Granted, opener “A Simple Song” might not be the strongest opener in the bands history but “Weirdistan” soon sorts that with its marauding groove.  “Out Of Hand” continues the darker tone and it’s  this kind of track that drummer Ian Paice always powers along with precision yet always with a skip in his play whilst the chorus is an infectious bugger.

The fast tempo of “Hell To Pay” fuses both vintage and modern Purple into another strong number, you can tell Gillan is having a blast singing this one, and his often underappreciated lyrics are noteworthy here too, the track also allows Morse to let his fingers fly with Airey playing some nice back up and counterpoints come solo time all making this is one of two definite highlights of the album.

The band go a little funky on us for “Body Line” which leads into the multi-faceted “Above & Beyond” which is home to some great keyboard orchestration from Airey (who over his two albums has slotted into the band perfectly) although its a quite disjointed track that still manages to work as a cohesive unit.

The initial mellow blues of “Blood From A Stone” transcends into a heavier chorus with screaming pinched harmonics from Morse before settling back down for a Fender Rhodes solo from Airey with the mood not a million miles away from The Doors’ “Riders On The Storm”.

Another highlight follows in “Uncommon Man”, beginning with gentle guitar swells from Morse before he delivers some highly melodic lead lines over sustained chords from Airey (think Gary Moore’s extended versions of “Empty Rooms”) before the atmosphere darkens and Morse introduces the band main melodic hook over which orchestration grows before a jubilant horn fanfare announces the main riff (a nod to Concerto perhaps?),the whole build up and majestic nature of the main riff makes this track a stunner and this is sure to become a concert favourite.

From here the album is seen out by “Après Vous” which could be seen as standard fare from this incarnation to the retrospective and “All The Time In The World” which is home to some great hooks and could be catchy enough to garner some radio interest.  Album closer “Vincent Price” is as the title suggest dark, a little eerie and amongst one the heaviest tracks the band have done with Morse’s guitar riffs being particularly heavy.  This is backed up with choirs and BIG Hammond parts and closes the album on a high.

“Now What?!” sounds fresh, given this is a band in the fourth decade of their career it clear this is the sound of a band that is not living on former glories, its not looking to rewrite “Smoke On The Water”, “Highway Star” etc over and over, this instead is the sound of a band that sounds happy with each other, inspired by each other and a band that still sees new horizons and fans to conquer up ahead and is making sure it produces strong new music with new elements to try and win them over.

Highly recommended.

Rating – 93%

DANIELE LIVERANI – ELEVEN MYSTERIES

Released 20 July 2012 on Lion Music

Better known as the keyboard wizard behind Twinspirits, Genius Rock Opera, Cosmics, Khymera etc, Daniele Liverani has turned his attentions to his first love – the guitar – for his first solo instrumental offering for Lion Music entitled “Eleven Mysteries”.

Anyone that is familiar with Liverani’s other bands know he is a strong songwriter well able to pen interesting vocal compositions with deft touches, fortunately this has translated to his guitar album which is an accessible collection home to rich melodies over strong songs.   This only enables Liverani’s guitar technique, featuring all the tricks and skills you’d expect from a student of 80’s and 90’s guitars, to pack the expected punch from an offering from Lion Music.

Although one might expect Liverani to use his multi musical skills to perform all instruments, he has used the album as an opportunity to bring new names to fold, with the album welcoming drummer Paco Barilla’, bassist Tony Dickinson and keyboardist Marco Zago to the scene.  All are strong players in their own right with drummer Paco Barilla being a particularly noteworthy find.

Onto the tracks and we get a multi-faceted album from the Jason Becker like uber shred of  “Mysterious Impulse”, progressive overtones in “Inspiration”, metallic riffery in “Nerve Force” and the delicate ballad “Supreme Gladness” (a highlight to these ears). The obligatory Vai/Satch like track often found on guitar albums is well catered for with “All Is Good” whilst “Giving” injects a sprightly new world Steve Morse like vibe with nice keyboard solos from Marco Zago,    “Humiliation” and “Freedom” are focused around more tight riffs but lack a little in character, something which cant be thrown at final track “Eternal” which covers numerous styles and is a good closer.

Daniele Liverani won’t win awards for breaking new ground in guitar instrumentals with “Eleven Mysteries”, but what we do get is a well played, well produced and more importantly well written album, home to fine performances within enjoyable songs where the focus is on just that – the song.  Liverani’s impressive guitar work is the icing on this enjoyable cake.  One to check out.

Rating – 84%

-xXeDlEvaZo

MARCEL COENEN – GUITARTALK

Out now on Lion Music

Sun Caged guitarist’s 2003 solo album gets a limited edition digipack reissue (500 copies) with a bonus track of a cover of Joey Taffola’s ‘Six String Souffle’.

ORIGINAL REVIEW AS FEATURED ON VIRTUOSITYONE IN 2003

Now you might be thinking “who the hell is Marcel Coenen?”, to be honest I thought the same thing but after listening to this album a lot lately its one name that is gonna get spread around more by the week.

Marcel hails from Holland and if his bio is anything to go by has created something of a buzz on the European circuit. His first claim to fame came with the act Lemur Voice who released their debut album, Insights, on the Magna Carta label in 1996 and their second and final release Divided in 1999 through Telstar Records. In 1998 Marcel competed in the Dutch National Guitar Championships and won the rock category resulting in an endorsement from Ibanez guitars.This solo album originally came to light in 1999 originally as a cd-r with home recording. Its has however seen a re master since then and whilst not being a mega buck production job that the likes of Vai or Satriani can afford the luxury of, it does showcase what a good set of ears can achieve with modest equipment.

So what does the listener get on ‘Guitar Talk’? Well guitar would be the obvious answer but along with the oodles of fretboard antics on offer you get an insight into an artist that shows he has the goods and should only get better with age. The style is a hybrid of the stylised instrumental guitar workouts of Satriani and Vai, but it also has a prog metal element to it reminiscent of bands like Symphony X and to a lesser extent Adagio.

Opener Independence Day is a heavy tune which sees Coenen utilising a 7 string guitar for added gut wrenching growls. Marcel states in the liner notes that people have compared it to Haji’s Kitchen meeting Meshuggah. My own personal opinion is that its pretty darn sinister with a Pantera esque rhythm part over which a moody melody builds the tension before fast flurries of fretboard extravagance. Odd time signature abound but it all holds together into a cohesive unit.

Race Against Time is in the 80’s shred mold, very Racer X with a driving riff followed by huge arpeggio leaps. Its not all about shred, with a nice mid section breakdown for some great harmonised melodic lines where Coenen’s guitar really breathes. A few Tony Macalpine tapped licks lead us back into the Racer X style – impressive

Inner Alchemy sees the tempo slow and mood become more reflective with a very melodic Satriani-esque ballad. A nice piano underscore allows the guitar to really shine before drums enter with some nice synth pads – the feel of the track reminds me quite a lot of Joe Satriani’s ‘Crying’. This track really does live up to the title of the album as the guitar does indeed talk. Coenen describes this as a song from his heart and it shows – beautiful.

Fusion came about after Marcel was messing around with his drum machine. The track is certainly fusion in style and the guitar playing reflects this attitude with some quite freeform leads. It again has a very strong melody. The feel of the track has a little Vai quirkiness, a little Holdsworth cool and a hint of Steve Morse – another highlight.

The tempo picks up and the skies darken for the neo-classical tinged Rebel. Reminiscent of Cacophony meets Yngwie thanks to big arpeggios and harmonic minor and diminished runs, Marcel even quote a riff from Yngwie Malmsteen’s Krakatau 2 minutes in. Some of the rhythms are pretty intense all driven on by double bass drumming (where the drum machine does sound a little mechanical) but the overall effect is another pleasing composition.

Fairy Tale sees the fusion sound re-enter with some more of the Satriani vibe mentioned earlier. The origins of this song started in 1992 so it shows Coenen had the ability to pen compelling tunes in him years ago. Scattered throughout we have some nice twin voice guitar parts, overall the song has a strong structure and melody.

The Wet Season sees a more bluesy vibe enter the fray, again another strong melody and some nice use of different pickup positions for texturing the tone. In places it reminded me of Eric Johnson meets Steve Vai on a summer night!

Anthem is up next. If you’ve ever wondered what the Dutch national anthem sounds like – well here’s the rocked up version. Like all anthems it has a very majestic quality but then it dives into an absolutely slamming rhythm before the melody is intensified ten fold with wide intervalic runs and odd counter harmonies. Nice!

Another very heavy track raised its head in Shoreline. Again Coenen makes nice use of twin leads and the drop D riffage underneath creates a nice basis for the lead melody to work over. Coenen also shows off some very scary speed riffs on this track.

Moyra sees the mood switch over to the romantic, with Coenen penning this tune for a special friend. This track was written and recorded in March 2003 and shows the growth Marcel has made as a player over some of the earlier tunes on the album. Again a strong Satriani vibe enters the fray, but it must be said that the melody is stronger than anything on the last couple of Satriani releases – another highlight.

Move That Groove may have one of the most comical song titles but the music is again very strong indeed. Coenen credits this track as being in the Satriani vein and who am I to disagree. Again this is coming more from the ‘The Extremist’ end of Satch’s repertoire. The song is pretty straightforward in 4/4 time but it has a nice driving groove.

The album ends with an atmospheric track in the guise of Endless. Marcel makes nice use of the acoustic guitar which is coupled with some sweet electric volume swells to really add atmosphere and space to the track. After the sonic onslaught of a lot of this album its nice that it ends of a more spaced note and indeed calls out reflection of the album. To end the album with another highlight makes sure the cd ends with a good impression.

So is Marcel Coenen the new guitar god to challenge the throne held by Satriani and Vai? Well no, but as a debut release this is a very impressive outing that should have the two aforementioned names at least looking over their shoulders. Sure the Satch and Vai influences are apparent but they are used in a way they makes Coenen stand out from the pure imitators and there are many glimpses of a true original voice lurking throughout. It will be interesting to see what Marcel delivers on his next album, I for one hope that he proves me write and delivers the goods. In the meantime this is a fine selection of material and if you’re reading this Satriani how about offering this guy a slot on any future European G3 gigs?

Hot Spots : Inner Alchemy, Fusion, The Wet Season, Moyra, Endless.
Rating : 86%

JORDAN RUDESS – RHYTHM OF TIME (ARCHIVE)

Out now on Magna Carta

Jordan Rudess is best known as the keyboard player of Dream Theater with Rhythm Of Time being his second solo album on the Magna Carta label. Much like Derek Sherinian (whom he replaced in DT) Rudess has decided to call in some of the hottest guitar players to guest on the album. Lending their six string talents to the album reads like a “who’s who” of modern rock guitar with solo spots from Joe Satriani, Vinnie Moore, Steve Morse and Greg Howe.

The bass guitar is courtesy of Steve Morse sidekick Dave LaRue, with drums coming from ex Winger drummer Rod Morgenstein whom Rudess has collaborated on numerous occassions.

Stylistically Rhythm Of Time is sure to please any fan of Dream Theater. This is predominantly progressive instrumental music, yet although being keyboard driven has its fair share of guitar work. The keyboards as such take the place of vocals and in all honesty this material would work rather well were James LaBrie to provide vocals over. However, Kip Winger does crop up on vocals for 2 tracks.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of Rhythm Of Time is that it was made a reality in 14 days before Jordan left to start Dream Theater’s Train Of Thought world tour. The making of the album may well see the light of day on a ‘making of’ DVD; in the meantime on the CD there is an interview with Jordan about the making of the album.

Modern technology played a big part in this album being completed, with guest musicians adding their solos at their home studios and then either emailing or snail mailing their parts back to Jordan. That the album sounds such a cohesive unit only goes to show the high caliber of all involved.

Opener Time Crunch is begins with a fast tempo before settling into a more mid paced groove. Over the basic riff Jordan lays down numerous keyboard motifs before taking us through instrumental pastures that go from ambient to pure metal. Dream Theater fans will feel instantly at home here with the track being the closest on offer to the prog metal sound of Jordan’s main gig. Vinnie Moore (UFO) provides guitar here and his first main solo sees restraint that mixes blues with jazz fusion licks before heading into some complex string skipping. A great opener that will make you want to explore the album further.

Screaming Head is less metal and more rocked up jazz fusion with a slight funk feel. A basic riff lays the foundation for Rudess’s keboard experimentations which see good use of the pitch wheel. The track does take a complete u turn for a dark gothic vibe before launching into the main melody once again. Guitar here comes courtesy of Joe Satriani and it has to be said his style of space age lead work is the perfect compliment to the track.

Track 3 Insectamongous initially has a big Frank Zappa vibe to it. A quirky motif lays the foundation for a myriad of odd time signatures and bizarre musical twists. Zappa’s own ‘G spot Tornado’ could be seen as similar turf to Insectamongous, but this is a little more accessible than Zappa’s piece. Once you think you have the track summed up it launches into a big riff over which Joe Satriani throws done one of his most aggressive leads in several years. This fires Jordan up who lays down another impressive workout.

Beyond Tomorrow sees the tempo and ambience drop considerably for the first vocal number on the album. Initially piano led this is soon enriched by some acoustic guitars (by newcomer Daniel J) and the warm vocal timbres of Kip Winger. This is just a great song – period. The track has a timeless quality about it and is as good as any of the slower numbers Dream Theater have produced; lead guitar here comes courtesy of Greg Howe.

Track 5, Bar Hopping With Mr Picky has a futuristic vibe, thanks to lots of complex synth samples; many in the lowest bass registers which add an eerie space age quality to the track. The unmistakeable guitar work of Steve Morse (Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs) works well here with Morse’s chromatic heavy style blending in well within Jordan’s frameworks.

What Four is home to another groovy vibe, partly due to the slap bass inflections. Yet again this is mixed with a darker vibe and the piano led motif at around the 1:10 mark is a nice contrast to what came before. Greg Howe contributes a pretty gonzo solo here, that is mixed a little lower than the other guitar solo breaks for some reason. This does not make for any production faux pas’ as its still audible but I would have liked to have heard it a litte louder in the mix. Jordan compensates for this by laying down a short but great singing solo on his keyboard.

Ra sees the Dream Theater “feel” come back into play with a good rocking riff that leads into an eastern tinged section, that then flys to Europe for some French sounding accordian work, before jetting back to Asia. Vinnie Moore throws down more solos full of string skipping and legato delights, and trades back and forth with Jordan – cool stuff. The rocking nature of this track takes a few spins to fully digest, but once digested tastes totally satisfying.

The final track Tear Before The Rain (cool title) goes back to the vibe of Beyond Tomorrow and has a definite Pink Floyd feel to it; maybe due to Kip Winger sounding a little like Roger Waters. Regardless this is a sublime song with great structure, great melody, and great peformances from all involved (Kip Winger is a seriously underrated vocalist) and closes the album in fine style.

What Jordan Rudess has served up with Rhythm Of Time is similar to what Derek Sherinian achieved with Black Utopia – that is a predominantly instrumental album that manages to hit all the right notes. However, the presence of two superb vocal tracks adds an additional element to Rhythm Of Time that gives it further strength.

As mentioned in the track by track details there is a lot of variety here, although it never strays too far from what you are likely to hear in Dream Theater. Rudess doesn’t get an awful lot of songwriting credits in DT, but Rhythm Of Time proves that he is now an integral part of the band, and I hope that he is able to get a few more of his ideas in on the next record.

In summary, Rhythm Of Time is a worthy addition to any Progressive music fans collection.

Hot Spots:Time Crunch, Screaming Head, Beyond Tomorrow, Ra, Tear Before The Rain.
Rating: 92%

STEVE MORSE – OUT STANDING IN THEIR FIELD (ARCHIVE)

Out Now / Eagle Rock
 
Steve Morse should need no introduction to readers here at Virtuosity One.  If you do suffice to say the guy came to prominence with Dixie Dreggs, won all major guitar magazine accolades in the 80’s, is the main influence for John Petrucci, joined Deep Purple as Blackmore’s replacement in 1996 and since increased his profile considerably.  Out Standing In Their Field is Morse’s first new solo album in 5 years and rocks harder than previous efforts.

On this entirely instrumental album, Morse joins forces with long time SM band bassist Dave LaRue and drummer Van Romaine to pound out un-tethered creativity.  This is enjoyable stuff from start to finish and is in my opinion the best Morse solo album to date from the grooving Purple-ish riffs of opening brace of Name Dropping and Brink Of The Edge to the more mellow timbres of Here and Now and Then right up to the superb Flight Of The Osprey and the closing classical piece of Baroque N Dreams  this is a fine collection of Morse’s wide ranging pallet. All exceptionally well played and more to the point than offerings on previous albums Morse has delivered a compact album that is about write in length with a good flow throughout.

Opinions are divided on whether Morse is right for Deep Purple, but there is no debate as to whether Morse is a true guitar legend.

Rating – 85%