Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best of 2012

It’s that time of year again my fellow melodic pop and rock fans! This is not a comprehensive “best of” by any means, but a list of some of the releases I heard this year that truly stand out in my memory. Being human with only 24 hours in the day, I obviously can’t listen to everything, so if I missed something here post it and let us know. Here’s to another great year ahead in finding the best music in 2013…we’ll be back in January with new reviews!

To read our review for some of these artists, check out the alphabetized links on the right panel. The lists below are in no particular order.

Powerpop
Well Wishers
Chris Richards and the Subtractions
Didn’t Planet
The dB’s

Rock
Jim Ivins Band
Candlebox
Beta Wolf
Neil Nathan

Modern Hard Rock
Halestorm
Shinedown
Gun
October Rage

Pop Rock
Fairchilds
Keane
Rick Springfield

Melodic rock/AOR
Sunstorm
Jack Blades
Jeff Scott Soto
Wigelius
Pride of Lions
Jimi Jamison

Singer/Songwriter
Jeff Litman
Cliff Hillis
Fernando Perdomo

Friday, December 14, 2012

Free Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Television

HEAVY METAL TELEVISION HITS WITH BANG

Launched a mere three weeks ago Heavy Metal Television is the talk of the internet. Since the launch, the station has garnered over 30,000 unique visitors with praise such as, "Thanks for this channel from the bottom of my heavy metal heart!", "You have become the soundtrack to my house" and "Heavy Metal Television is my new addiction" being plastered on the station's official Facebook page.

Heavy Metal Television beat Apple, Microsoft and Google in a race to start the first 24 hour web television network on Earth and people are talking. "We're getting eMails from people who are basically marveling at how someone in Los Angeles is watching the same exact thing at the same moment at someone in Stockholm," says a station spokesperson. "Not 3 hours apart, not 8 hours apart and not on demand but at the exact same moment forever. That speaks volumes. The music video is reborn. 24 hour music videos on the world's only true music video channel has gone viral! "

Heavy Metal Television has no log ins, no passwords, minimal commercials, zero pop up ads and it's forever free. Go see for yourself here.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Beta Wolf "Slaybell Sessions" and "Live In Danbury"


Modern rock

A fine way to close out the year, modern rockers Beta Wolf have released two new EPs: "Live in Danbury", containing 5 tracks that capture the band live, and the three-song "The Slaybell Sessions", to brighten your holiday season.

This is a quick release for the band in response to the success of their new video for “Domino,” which features footage from their Danbury, Connecticut, show opening up for Daughtry (see it here). Hearing the band live gives me a whole new appreciation for their energy and chemistry together - excellent.

To help put listeners into the holiday spirit, "The Slaybell Sessions" is a collection of upbeat, acoustic-based interpretations of Christmas classics "Happy Xmas (War is Over)", "Jingle Bell Rock," and "White Christmas."

These EPs arrive hot on the heels of their acclaimed Just Before Morning debut EP (reviewed here).

Beta Wolf - Official site.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: John Taglieri “The Very Best Of John Taglieri: The Songs That Should Have Made Me Rich”


Rock

John Taglieri, a name that is synonymous with “unsung hero of rock”, has been featured numerous times here at Now This ROCKS! both as a solo artist and with his band, TAG (click here). Now one of New Jersey’s most underrated songwriters has condensed nothing but the best of his prolific career into one retrospective CD entitled, “The Very Best Of John Taglieri…The Songs That Should Have Made Me Rich!!!” As the title suggests, John himself seems a bit amazed and befuddled that his talents haven’t been more lucrative. And while this greatest non-hits package isn’t going to radically change his financial status, it does offer the uninitiated a terrific one-stop shop to become acquainted with Taglieri’s work.

To date, Taglieri has released nine records beginning with 1999’s masterful AOR debut, “Leap Of Faith”. His retrospective (marking his 10th record in 12 years) contains two songs from each of his first nine releases and two brand new tracks. It is hard to pick out highlights from a best of collection, but try these on for size: “Leap Of Faith”, “Reason To Believe”, “How Will I Know”, “After Farewell”, and “Make Me Believe”. If you can imagine a mix of Springsteen and Bon Jovi, with a touch of Sister Hazel, be sure to check these out.

Perhaps more important than fame and fortune, Taglieri has been able to sustain his music career on his own terms. He’s traveled the world playing his songs his way, toured with Rik Emmett, Sister Hazel, Edwin McCain, Butch Walker and many others, and got many pats on the back along the way. It may be just as well that he’s never struck it rich – all too often the monetary success kills the independent artist and in that context, we all would have lost.

John Taglieri – Official site.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Sargant Fury


By Stephen Kasenda

SARGANT FURY “Still Want More” (1991)

I have to admit, the band's name is really a joke, and I thought at first, they're just another average and forgettable band. When I first heard their ballad, "Don't You Know", from an old compilation tape, I had an interest in finding out what kind of band this is and what type of music they play. When I got the chance to hear their debut from start to finish, I was completely surprised, if not shocked, with the energy, rawness, and high quality musicianship on this record. This Hanover-based act played solid melodic hard rock/heavy metal inspired by the American sound of White Lion and Dokken, blended with their hometown's senior bands, Victory and Pink Cream 69.

The twelve tracks present here are mostly uptempo, pretty good if you're looking for an adrenaline pumping album in the traditional heavy metal way. "Still You Want More" has a nice harmonic chorus and mesmerizing tones. In my opinion, this is a big opener and their finest moment. "No. 9" and "Stand Up" are also killer tracks with outstanding solos by the duo Steffan/Grosser. The English singer, Andrew "Mac" Dermott, is also a phenomenal front man, with a strong raspy timbre and a large range - his capability was shining all over the album. "Do You Remember" and "Just One Night" both have an exciting and memorable chorus, and these two songs are the most potential chart-breakers. It's a shame they didn't get the recognition they deserved.

Handled by Tommy Newton from Victory, the production level is very good and the arrangements are massive with no unnecessary fillers at all. This is a forgotten gem you have to buy if you're a fan of big vocal, huge guitars, and melodic composition. A classy debut by a truly great band!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rare CD: Brass Kitten "E-Z-N Pretty"

BRASS KITTEN "E-Z-N Pretty"

1990 Glam sleaze rock with sound of 80s hairbands


Sold for $92.78 on ebay.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: Jakob Samuel “Pastpresent”


Pop rock

Jakob Samuel supplies the powerful vocals for the Swedish hard rock band called The Poodles (review here). He is doing his own thing for the first time, calling his debut solo record “Pastpresent”. “Pastpresent” is much tamer than his work with The Poodles, featuring poppy keyboards, sax, and sappier lyrics. But the melodies are the gorgeous and, considered with his emotive vocals, “Pastpresent” is going to thrill fans of lighter pop rock.

“Stars and Grace” is a sweeping and uplifting number in the vein of Robbie Williams’ best work, a brilliant song from father to child. “Carry On” is equally satisfying, and its blend of Jellyfish and ABBA influences make it one of my favorites on the record. “Even If” is another bouncy piano-driven tune sure to lift your spirits. You’ll hear some Supertramp coming through on the soothing tune “Together”. The carnival atmosphere and memorable chorus makes “Vagabond Shows” a fun listen too. Some of the other songs take a little longer to show their charms, and others sound dreadfully dated.

Probably not a record for most Poodles fans, but if you appreciate thoughtful, catchy songs, there are more than a few winners on “Pastpresent”.

Jakob Samuel – Official site.

Check out the video for “Stars and Grace”


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: October Rage “Outrage”


Modern rock

October Rage was formed by brothers Nick and William Roberts in 2008. Based in New South Wales in Australia, this modern rock band is poised to take the globe by storm.

In September 2009 the band headed to Melbourne to track their debut single, "Silver Line" with world renowned producer Adrian Hannan (The Androids, Taxiride, etc). The single was mastered by Martin Pullan (Deep Purple, Split Enz, Jimmy Barnes) at Edensound Studio. Soon after, the band won a contest that allowed them to open for Bon Jovi in Sydney, Australia on the band's "Circle Tour." In September 2010 the band recorded more with Hannan to complete their debut album "Outrage”.

“Outrage” is one impressive debut record. Nearly every cut slams meaty riffs and driving rhythm into your ears, with each song leaving you eager to hear another. The vocals are perfect for modern rock, reminding me of Saliva or Daughtry at times. But October Rage is not all about bombast – these guys write with hooks and melody in mind, building compelling verses that erupt into arena-styled choruses. The band also isn’t all about the rage so to speak, as they can belt out acoustic based rockers and power ballads like nobody’s business. I enjoyed just about everything here, but standouts include the blistering “Set You Free”, “Wayside”, “Home”, and the radio-friendly single “Silverline”. On the slower side, check out “Into The Night” and “Under The Wind”. 

In June 2012, October Rage headed to the US, supporting acts like Saliva, Steel Panther, and Sevendust. Fans of modern hard rock are doing themselves a disservice if they aren’t checking out October Rage. “Outrage” is one of the best debuts in the genre.

October Rage – Official site.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Stryper


By Stephen Kasenda

STRYPER “Murder By Pride” (2009)

I can say that "Murder By Pride" is truly a homage to the fans. Michael Sweet opened up his ears after harsh critics railed on them for the comeback album, "Reborn", for being too modern and quite far from their origins. "Murder By Pride", without leaving the idealism and passion for evolving, ambitiously recreates the classic atmosphere that was told by Sweet as an album with lots of melodies, lots of screams, and lots of guitars. Michael Sweet was responsible for the whole songwriting process and kudos to him for keeping the fire burning.

"Eclipse Of The Son" decently opens the album, a safe uptempo track where I can hear a mix of Stryper's classic vibe with some newer elements. A pretty solid song, but "4 Leaf Clover" is the real mood pumper. This track is heavy and modern but still allows your ears to easily recognize the Stryper's pattern from the rhythm. Up next is Boston's classic, "Peace of Mind", a fun cover track with Tom Scholz contributing some guitars - I like this song. "Alive" is a great power ballad, the title track has a powerful punchy chorus and already became a concert regular, and "I Believe" is a good contemporary track (and probably you'll agree when I say Michael Sweet listened to a lot of Creed when he wrote this song). "Love Is Why" is another sparkling gem and "My Love (I'll Always Show)" is such a beautiful mid-tempo track, closing the album with style. Out of twelve songs, perhaps only "Mercy Over Blame" and "Everything" are decent fillers.

While I don't think "Reborn" is disastrously ugly, "Murder By Pride" is a real contender to be a strong release like "To Hell With The Devil" and "In God With Trust", two that earned the band fame and fortune. Like I said earlier, this is tribute to the long-time fans and I would say their hunger should be fulfilled. I'm just hoping that this isn't their peak yet and Sweet and the gang will continue to deliver ultra high-quality releases in the future. Highly recommended!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Arrow Haze “Music Factory”


Rock

Arrow Haze is a Belgium-based rock band inspired by classic rock legends such as The Doors, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd. Founder Theo Green (vocals/drums) sums up the band’s mission: “I wanted to start a band that will reflect the sound and energy of the old hard rock bands and combine it with modern sounds”. Their debut album, out November 23, radiates with homages to yester-rock sounds played with a sense of urgency and reverence.

As such, there is more emphasis here on the instrumentation than melody in most of the songs. Extended instrumental sections allow each member to shine at one point or another, but collectively this band gels very well. There’s no question that each band member has more than his fair share of musical talent and dexterity (listen to the epic opener, “Casino”), but what I sense most fans of this site will appreciate is the attention to crafting a good hook. Buried amongst the more progressive elements, the chorus usually leaps out as a pleasant surprise. Highlights for me included “Dreams”, “Visions”, “Routine”, and “Along The Way”.

Finally, there is a special treat for Dream Theater fans - “Music Factory” features a guest appearance by keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Fans of classic rock won’t want to miss this one.

Arrow Haze – Official site.

Check out the video for “Crisis”:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Gavin Guss “On High”


Power pop

Power pop fans no doubt have heard Gavin Guss in some way already, whether it was as producer of Super Deluxe or as front man for TubeTop and The Tycoons. He's toured with Nada Surf and provided piano accompaniment for Jon Auer (Posies), Fountains of Wayne, and Harvey Danger. His long-awaited solo debut, “Mercury Mine” was released to wide acclaim in 2010 (reviewed here).

From the first note of “Avenue A” to the closing sounds of “Lesson One”, Guss takes us on a delightful power pop journey that is as equally uplifting as it is melancholy. This is a balance Guss achieves in his songwriting, as he puts it: like dancing in your socks. The songs are short and sweet, but make quite the impression, percolating with keen melodies that will stick with you for days. Guss also showcases his knack for crafting buoyant harmonies (check out “Voices Inside My Head” for a demonstration). While it is best digested whole, some of my favorite picks include “Come Over”, “Wonder Too”, “Will To Fly”, and “Parc Monceau”.

“On High” was released on vinyl by Fin Records, which comes with a special download code to access the mp3 files. A must for power pop fans, especially those who enjoy the Posies, Mike Viola, or Gigolo Aunts.

Gavin Guss - Official site.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Scandal Circus


By Stephen Kasenda

SCANDAL CIRCUS “In the Name of Rock N Roll” (2012)

SCANDAL CIRCUS is another Swedish band that plays a brilliant combination of 80s hard rock and classic heavy metal. A typical formula that many European bands play, but this time they focus more on the straight-forward heavy riffs and rhythm rather than sleazy and naughty hooks or highly melodic arrangement. The title track, 'In The Name of Rock N Roll' is a colossal start, blitzed with meaty riffs and a sing-along chorus, it's no wonder this track became my favorite together with another similar track called 'The Race'.

'In Your Mind' and 'Big Bad Clown' are also magnificent. Up to the fifth track, 'Rock Spirit', it seemed like SCANDAL CIRCUS would keep unleashing their best till I stumbled on the acoustical ballad of 'Dreams', which I think is a bit too average. 'Leaving Town' is the weakest track though, but 'Losing All Control' which has that POISON's 'Talk Dirty To Me' feel is nice and easy, and luckily the last two tracks are also brilliant. 'Society of Evil' is dark, heavy, and loaded with some monstrous rhythm. 'Freakshow' also makes a very nice closer!

The production is great, especially for an indie release. The guitar parts are awesome, Pelle Eliasson should be proud of delivering such magical performances. Overall, a promising band, a good start, and if you dig Scandinavian hard rock, this won't disappoint at all!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kelly Jones Releases Debut Christmas Single

Acclaimed Pop Singer-Songwriter Kelly Jones Releases Debut Christmas Single “Kissing Santa On Christmas Eve”

 
Make room in the Seasonal Songbook for a brand new classic . . . “Kissing Santa On Christmas Eve,” by pop singer-songwriter Kelly Jones (reviewed here) wraps its irresistible hooks around the playful notion of a secret midnight tryst with Ol’ St. Nick himself.
 
Written by Jones and produced by Mike Viola, the song has the familiar, but fresh sound of a timeless holiday favorite. A shimmering two-and-a-half minute bauble with flashes of Spector’s “Wall of Sound,” E.L.O and even '80s Madonna, it delivers its fun yuletide message in a gloriously ornate pop arrangement and ties it up with a bow of winking sensuality.
 
Best known for her acclaimed pop album SheBANG! (2008), Kelly Jones has released three solo albums, as well as a duet EP with Mike Viola, while collaborating with such artists as Daniel Lanois, Buddy Miller, Adam Schlesinger and Brian Blade. With a songwriting style and a warm, soulful singing voice that echoes everything from ‘60s girl groups to ‘70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters to ‘80s New Wave, Jones is that rare artist who can sound retro and completely modern at the same time.
 
“Kissing Santa On Christmas Eve” marks her debut holiday release. Available in online stores December 4th, 2012.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review: Gun “Break The Silence”


Rock/Melodic hard rock

Some of you may remember the Scottish band Gun, a relative late-comer to the late 80s hard rock scene, whose debut album featured some great cuts like “Better Days” and “Inside Out”. It was a stunning debut that did well in the UK, but failed to find the band a big audience in the US. They’ve had a steady stream of follow-ups, most notably “Swagger”, which featured an awesome cover of Cameo’s funk hit “Word Up!”, and now they are back with a new record called “Break The Silence”.

“Break The Silence” is a marked detour for the band – they’ve changed singers and their general music direction. While the first two cuts sound like B-side classics from the Gun we used to know, the rest of the album is top notch melodic hard rock with a huge emphasis on the pop side of the coin. Gun did not recruit a new mate to the fold, but rather handed over the vocal duties to bassist Dante Gizzi (who has also done side work in the glam rock band El Presidente). Dante’s vocals fit the new sound well, possessing enough grit to be mistaken for former frontman Mark Rankin, with a touch of Axl Rose for good measure.

The band sings about a “brand new sound” on track 3, “Lost & Found”, and this is where the album really begins for me. From here on out, we’re treated to the new Gun sound, which keeps sharp choruses that you won’t forget front and center. Nearly every song sounds like it was produced to be a single, with all sorts of bells and whistles including lush orchestration or amazing harmony vocals by Catrin Wyn Southall. Additional highlights include “Caught In The Middle”, “Running Out Of Time”, and the title track. “How Many Roads” is the featured ballad this time out, which sways and swaggers with style and grace.

This is Gun reloaded with silver bullets – if you need a shot of melodic hard rock, Gun will satisfy and then some. Definitely one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve heard all year.

Gun – Official site.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: Menage “Menage”


Rock

Menage is a brother-sister trio originally from Portugal – their music has been described as “Arcade Fire’s anthemic songwriting meets The Smashing Pumpkins sonic bombast”. I couldn’t agree more with this assessment and find myself discovering new things to appreciate about their self-titled debut album with each listen.

The Ferreria siblings trade male and female lead vocals, and often complement one another with striking harmonies. The female lead exudes the warm charm of Jill Sobule, but with a great deal more power. The mix in the vocal performances made for a dynamic listening experience, but the band has a tight chemistry that gives Menage a trademark sound no matter who is at the mic. The 14 tracks are expertly recorded, with mixing by David Botrill (Muse, Peter Gabriel) and mastering by Ted Jensen (Radiohead, Bjork).

The songs explore themes related to chasing your dreams, growing up, and letting go, and they come at you with a youthful urgency that is hard to resist. Not every song has a sharp hook that sticks in your memory, but there is great potential to be heard here. When the band is firing on all cylinders, magic is the result. Just listen to the seductive power in tracks like “Promises” or “Home”, or the frantic energy in “Bury Us Young”. First single, “Tonight”, is also a wonderfully sharp duet that is instantly likeable, with a beautifully constructed chorus. My favorite is “These Are The Days”, which should be the second single in my opinion – it is a brilliant piece of pop rock. I haven’t been able to get this song out of my head for days!

Watch for “Menage” on November 13.

Menage – Official site.

Check out the video for “Tonight”:


Monday, November 12, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Red Dawn


By Stephen Kasenda

RED DAWN “Never Say Surrender” (1993)

Red Dawn was formed in 1992 by former Rainbow keyboardist, David Rosenthal. At that time, Rosenthal sealed a contract with EMI/Toshiba but unfortunately had no band. He held an audition for the project and rumor has it that Mitch Malloy originally fronted the band before his place was permanently filled by Larry Baud. Joined by his fellow drummer from Rainbow, Chuck Burgi, and guitarist Tristan Avakian, Red Dawn released its sole album, "Never Say Surrender" in 1993.

The band's musical style is a mix between 80s AOR such as Survivor, Asia, and Foreigner and the pompous melodic hard rock such as House of Lords or Giant. All of the musicians are highly skillful and Baud's vocals will leave you in amazement. Rosenthal's dominating keyboards lush up the music and Avakian's enthusiastic playing adds to the album's value.

Several big numbers here include the uptempo melodic rock opener, "Flyin' High", with Rosenthal's keyboard standing on the spotlight. A laid-back ballad with a gigantic chorus is "I'll Be There". Midtempo rockers with catchy hooks include "Liar". "Promises" is an awesome heart-melter - like a lost track from Foreigner. "Take These Chains" is their biggest ballad and reminds me of Aerosmith's huge hit, "Angel". The rest is pretty good and probably only "She's On Fire" is a bit repetitive and my least favorite here. The title track is also has a cool AOR groove with the chorus constructed in the style of Van Hagar's "Dreams".

The year 1993 was a tough year for hard rock/glam fans as alternative/grunge spread out like crazy and I remember several albums that stood out high such as Harem Scarem's "Mood Swings", Gotthard's "Dial Hard", or Poison's "Native Tongue", and I honestly think that Red Dawn's "Never Say Surrender" belongs on that list. A truly remarkable album for fans of classic hard/melodic rock and AOR.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.
 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Nirvana Home Videos from 1988

I found these videos very interesting - almost chilling - to watch. Check out very early Nirvana in rare form before they hit it big and ushered in an entirely new genre of rock music.

Check out the story at the original post via Open Culture here.

1988-era Nirvana performs "About A Girl"



And here the band switches instrument roles for a cover of the 1974 Terry Jacks hit "Seasons In The Sun". Who knew Kurt Cobain was such a fan?


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: Jet City Vega “Jet City Vega” [EP]


Modern rock

Jet City Vega is a new modern rock band based in Philly consisting of Manian Van Hacker (vocals), Brandon Reece (guitar), Tim White (bass), and Keith Collins (drums). They’ve recently released their first self-titled 3 song EP, which was recorded and produced by Grammy award winner, Obie O'Brien (Bon Jovi). While there are only three songs, the band clearly has focused more on quality than quantity. There isn’t a bad song here, each being more seductive than the one before. “This One Kid” creeps into your ears, where the chorus eventually latches on tight with its graceful hook. “Blood Like Sugar” has some more muscle to it, with crunchy guitars driving the verses in a way that reminds me of Stone Temple Pilots. The chorus is decorated with such ear-pleasing backing vocals, they make this track stand out as my favorite. Last but not least, “Only Human” begins with a bouncy pop riff that sounds a little AM radio, before exploding into a powerful anthem of a chorus.

Definitely worth checking these guys out – keep an eye on this band!

Jet City Vega – Official site.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: Jimi Jamison “Never Too Late”


Melodic rock/AOR

If anyone needs no introduction in the melodic rock arena, it is Jimi Jamison. In addition to his solo career and early work with Cobra, Jamison helped maintain Survivor in the 80s limelight with huge hits like “Burning Heart”, “High On You”, “The Search Is Over”, and “Is This Love”. Jamison is singing once again with Survivor, but finds his voice in such demand that he’s somehow made the time for several outstanding side projects, such as Kimball Jamison (with Toto’s Bobby Kimball) and One Man’s Trash (with Fred Zahl).

During the Kimball Jamison project, he started working with Swedish songwriter and producer Erik Mårtensson (W.E.T., Eclipse, etc). An AOR pairing that seems like a match made in heaven, Jamison and Mårtensson deliver yet another infectious release full of rockers and ballads on “Never Too Late”.

“Everybody’s Got A Broken Heart” provides an energizing start to “Never Too Late”, sounding very much like a hit that Survivor could have had in the 80s – a wonderfully nostalgic track with a modern flair. “The Great Unknown” is another signature inspirational anthem that Jamison can add to his collection alongside “Burning Heart” and “Reach”. The title track is similar in theme, but has a pleasant mid-tempo pace that will have listeners nodding along to the beat. Fans of “American Heartbeat” (pre-Jamison Survivor) will detect a familiarity in the thumping keyboard intro to “Street Survivor”, but the song soon explodes with a racing rhythm and a rebel’s lyric. On the power ballad side, be sure to check out “The Air I Breathe” and the heartbreaking “Heaven Call Your Name”.

“Never Too Late” is another solid addition to the impressive Jamison discography that will appease old school fans and new fans of the melodic rock genre. His voice still sounds like one of the best in the business, proving once again that no matter who writes the songs, Jamison can make them sound like gold.

Jimi Jamison – Official site.

Check out the video for "Never Too Late":

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Neil Nathan “Sweep The Nation”


Rock

New York City-based singer/songwriter Neil Nathan charmed our socks off with his previous effort, “The Distance Calls”, a release that displayed his love for Jeff Lynne and Cat Stevens in a series of folky, Alt-Americana styled songs (review here). Fans might not recognize him at first on his follow-up, called “Sweep The Nation”, which may as well have been named “Sweep The Nathan” given how much of the former Neil Nathan has been swept aside to let his “Overlord” alter ego emerge to the fore.

Inspired by the avalanche of socio-economic protests around the world, and actually released under the name “Neil Nathan, Inc.”, “Sweep The Nation” is a “power to the people” concept album dissing corporate personhood. “Sweep The Nation” is a sharp turn in terms of style and influence, but Nathan’s trademark vocals and knack for melody provide a common thread to the artist’s past. This time out, Nathan was written a concept album that pays tribute to classic 70s rock – you’ll hear overt influences from David Bowie, The Stooges, and T. Rex.

This new style is immediate with the appropriately titled opener, “Jumpstart” – a short and sweet rocker in the vein of Matthew Sweet that sets the stage for what’s to come (I got the same impression later on the party tune “Everybody Everywhere”). The title track follows, digging its chorus hook into you right at the get-go. You can detect some of his trademark singer/songwriter attributes coming through in “Comin’ Round The Bend”, but this midtempo rocker quietly builds into a piece that could have fit comfortably on a 90s Collective Soul record. The foot-stomping anthem “I Ain’t No Company Man” strikes at the heart of the record’s themes, while “There Is No Time” is one of the catchiest songs in the collection and “Evey” gives a nod to Cheap Trick. Not everything is bombastic – even the Overlord has his somber moments with the beautiful “For The Lucky Ones” and the closer, “All We Need Is So Much More”.

“Sweep The Nation” is a satisfying trip down memory lane to a time when concept albums mattered – this record is to Nathan what “The Wall” was to Pink Floyd. Nathan’s songwriting sensibilities are as sharp as ever, crafting songs that stand alone remarkably well yet gel with the others to build an epic story. “Sweep The Nation” will sweep you off your feet and allow you to get your democracy on at the same time.

Neil Nathan – Official site.
 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: Research Turtles “Mankiller Part 2 of 2” [EP]


Alternative Rock

The Research Turtles come back out of their shell with the second part of their “Mankiller” EP set (the first is reviewed here). This follow-up was planned for a 2011 release, but the band admitted to some delays due to rising recording costs and reduced income from touring. I am sure fans were waiting with bated breath as “Mankiller Part 1” was so good. In short, Part 2 doesn’t impress as quickly as Part 1, but there are a couple gems not to miss. “Guy Like Me” sets the stage on Part 2, a haunting acoustic complement to the opening “Girl Like You” track from Part 1. “Break It Up” and “Space” are more upbeat and true to form for Research Turtles – solid songs, but not particularly memorable. The saving grace here is the outstanding track called “Into You”. “Into You” is a hugely catchy slice of pop rock – simple but amazingly addictive and a blast to play again and again. Research Turtles definitely hit a home run with “Into You”.

The band is making all of its music available in the form of FREE downloads on the web site below, along with Jud Norman’s new solo album, as of October 18.

Research Turtles – Official site.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Electrolic “Live On Land”

Indie rock

Electrolic is the brainchild of Scott Gagner (reviewed here) and Steve Enstad. The pair have come together in a home studio among the redwoods near Big Sur, California to record a new psych-synth-power-pop set of tunes. The end result is an eclectic yet alluring album called “Live On Land”. As Steve Turnidge, who mastered the project, stated, “Usually, when I master, I’ll do a song and go on to the next one. In this case, I sat and listened to each track several times just for my own enjoyment”. I can say an analogous thing about the record itself. After a review, I’m usually reaching for the next artist in the queue, but there was something about “Electrolic” that made it difficult to hit eject so quickly.

If you are familiar with Scott Gagner’s previous work (either as a solo artist or as Cartographer), the music of Electrolic is not quite what you’d expect at first. But give it a chance. You’ll surely hear a lot of Ric Ocasek in the peppy opening track, “Hello Hello” – and their love for the The Cars is most overt in their decision to cover one of their biggest hits, “Drive”. Electrolic does a splendid reworking of “Drive” that ranks among one of the best cuts on the album for me. Other highlights include “Benefit Of The Doubt”, which is closest to the breezy pop style Gagner has charmed us with in the past. There is also a great energy propelling “Refreshing” and a catchy melody perforating the otherwise moody “After The Fall”.

Electrolic is recommended if you like Guided by Voices, The Shins, or The Flaming Lips.

Electrolic – Official site.

Check out the video for “Hello Hello”:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: Bos Taurus “In The Sun”


Indie rock/pop

Led by guitarist Steve Chesser, the Delaware-based band Bos Taurus released their latest album, “In The Sun”, earlier this year. He’s joined by a set of “who’s who” among the indie power pop and rock arena, including lead guitarist Shawn O'Neill (The Knobs), bassist Sam Musumeci (The Caulfields, Mercy River, The Knobs), multi-instrumentalist Phil Young (The Cocks, The Knobs, The Rubber Uglies), drummer Pete Romano, and backing vocalist Heather Plank.

Themes of loss, disappointment, and regret predominant on “In The Sun”. The sound of the band draws heavily from its influences, which include The Pixies, The Shins, and Yo La Tengo. If you’re into any of those bands, odds are you are going to dig Bos Taurus. Building from their recent success in earning a Spark Award for the Best Pop Band at the 2009 Delaware Music Awards, Bos Taurus is raising the bar on this sophomore effort. The songs here are meticulously crafted with well-placed harmonies and a mix of acoustic and jangle pop guitar tones. Highlights include the Posies-inspired “Even Now”, the bouncy and horn-laced “Just Like Lightning”, and the driving rocker “The Silence”. Reminiscent of R.E.M.’s heyday, the title track is one of my favorites, with Plank’s backing vocals providing the perfect accompaniment to this savory piece of ear candy. The back half wasn’t grabbing me as fast, but I sense that with repeated listens a deeper appreciation of the songwriting will reveal itself.

No sophomore jinx here – Bos Taurus has gone to new heights with “In The Sun”.

Bos Taurus – Official site.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: 7th Heaven


By Stephen Kasenda

7th HEAVEN “Pop Media” (2011)

7th Heaven is either too creative or too generous, but it seems every new package they have is always abundant with song numbers. After the record-breaking near 300 songs on their 15-discs boxset, 'Jukebox', and also 18 songs on their previous 'USA/UK' record back in 2008, now they're back again with a full set of 21 songs, convincing us they have no shortage of song ideas.

With no significant change to their formation, 7th Heaven brings us solid melodic hard rock with a modern power pop touch – and still referencing the 80s. As usual with too many songs on a single CD, you'll find it hard to separate which track is which - you'll get mixed up easily, especially since all the tempos and styles are very similar.

If you carefully pick the strongest tracks, I think there are at least 9-10 excellent songs while the rest are spread between fillers and so-so tracks. Among those big numbers are 'Sing' and 'Snapshots In Time At The Speed of Light', a cross of Savage Garden and late-80s Def Leppard; 'Go For A Ride' and 'Dance of A Lifetime' featuring a groovy rhythm and wonderful chorus; 'She Should Have Been An Angel', 'Animals', 'Photographs', 'Should I Stay', and 'Living In A Mystery' are other favorites of mine.

I still consider 'USA/UK' as a better release, but 'Pop Media' won't disappoint the old fans, in fact, 7th Heaven is one of the most consistent bands that keep delivering what their fans really want.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Rick Springfield “Songs For The End Of The World”


Pop rock
While I’ve followed Rick Springfield’s steady stream of releases since his 80s heyday, I have to say they’ve never really generated too much excitement for me. They are generally solid albums, with a track here or there that I deemed iPOD-worthy, but otherwise not much to write home about. I never thought he would be in the running for one of my favorite albums of the year ever again, but his new 2012 record, “Songs For The End Of The World”, is a massive game changer.

Cast aside all of your preconceived notions: “Songs For The End Of The World” sounds like any other modern pop rock record, dripping with hooks and strong performances all around. Springfield’s vocals sound incredible and his songwriting has never been this sharp. I hasten to add that there are plenty of nostalgic moments that throw you back to the 80s, but I never got the impression the record felt dated. It takes great skill to pay homage without sounding cheesy, and Springfield pulled it off.

Springfield kicks things into gear with the appropriately titled “Wide Awake”, firmly asserting that this is not your father’s Rick Springfield – “Wide Attack” takes your ears by storm. Springfield quickly follows this with the radio-friendly pop rocker “Our Ship’s Sinking”. A familiar 80s-styled riff accentuates the poppy “I Hate Myself”, and Springfield pulls out more 80s mojo with gang vocals on the fist-pumping anthem “Love Screws Me Up”. Written about his son, “Joshua” is another terrific modern pop rocker and with a wise message. If you are in the mood for a power ballad, be sure to check out “You and Me”. FYI, there are several notable guests on this record, including other 80s legends like Richard Page (Mr. Mister) and John Waite. On the bonus edition, you’ll also get a live cover of Paul McCartney’s hit, “Jet”.

“Songs For The End Of The World” is a complete triumph that will delight fans of yore and certainly draw in a new group of followers. It may even be my favorite Rick Springfield album, eclipsing even his best work from the 80s. Geez, what surprises might 2013 hold? Are you listening Bryan Adams? Billy Squier? Eddie Money?

Rick Springfield – Official site.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Joshua Ketchmark “The Ignited” [EP]

Rock

Rounding out a trio of EPs released this year, modern rocker Joshua Ketchmark delivers “The Ignited,” October 30th. Not to slight the other two excellent EPs (reviewed here), but it seems Ketchmark has saved the best for last. These four tunes all have bite and grab at your attention span greedily, exuding a commercial appeal that ranks them as some of the more radio-friendly songs he’s written to date. With help from Davey Julson Rieley (Kill Hannah, Kelly Clarkson, Elvis Costello) as producer and engineer, along with engineer Jeremy Hatcher (The Used, Black Veil Brides), “The Ignited” is a sonic treat.

The perspective of this record comes from a man that’s been hurt and heartbroken. “The Ignited” begins with the rousing track, “About To Break” – an instant anthem sure to get your blood pumping. The break-up song “Fallen” easily glides into Foo Fighters-territory and is likely to become my favorite in the bunch. The markedly darker tone of the gritty “Hurt” provides a good example of the contrasts Ketchmark is skilled with juggling. Be sure to wait for the chilling note he holds 2/3’s of the way through. He concludes with “Without You”, the first single. One of the more ambitious songs in the Ketchmark catalogue, “Without You” attempts to merge moody verses with a more accessible chorus. A decent track, but not the best one here in my opinion.

Be sure to get the song “Without You” for FREE over at his web site right now! Recommended for fans of Foo Fighters, Hinder, and Paramore.

Joshua Ketchmark – Official site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Richie Sambora “Aftermath of the Lowdown”


Rock

Bon Jovi’s better half returns with his long-awaited third solo album, “Aftermath of the Lowdown”. No stranger to dramatic highs and lows in his personal life, Sambora throws lots of emotive lyrics into his work. This time around also features an unexpected pairing with power pop legend Roger Joseph Manning Jr (Jellyfish), who plays keyboards on the record. Other notable contributors include guitarist Rusty Anderson (Paul McCartney) and Elton John’s longtime songwriting collaborator Bernie Taupin.

Things get off to a sizzling start with some outstanding guitar work in “Burn The Candle Down”, but the song is unfortunately ruined for me with the use of heavily distorted lyrics. Why a singer as talented as Sambora would chose to disfigure his voice like this defies logic. But the next track and first single, “Every Road Leads Home To You” is a terrific soaring modern rocker that sounds like Coldplay after testosterone injections. But even this is not as good as the upbeat rocker “Nowadays”, which features beautiful chord changes and an instantly memorable chorus you’ll want to sing all day. “Learning How to Fly With a Broken Wing” is another engaging anthem among the rocking tracks.

After a mighty peppy first half, the back half of the record is predominantly filled with balladry, but this is a specialty for Sambora. Among the most inspired, I would cite “Weathering the Storm” and the midtempo “Seven Years Gone”, which features one of his best vocal deliveries this time out. The album closes with a short Bowie-styled lullaby called “World”. Sambora sings “World, we don’t want you to end”, which is pretty much the same sentiment I had regarding the record at this point.

“Aftermath of the Lowdown” is a top quality rock album with a 50/50 mix of upbeat tunes and ballads. The album is a quantum leap into the modern rock era. Sambora is in excellent form on all levels – as songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. Shame we don’t get to hear his solo efforts more often, but I guess that other band keeps him pretty busy! :)

Richie Sambora – Official site.

Check out the video for “Every Road Leads Home To You”:



Monday, October 15, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Crash Diet


By Stephen Kasenda

CRASH DIET “Generation Wild” (2010)

Crashdiet is surrounded by tragedy in its genre - their original singer committed suicide and the second replacement singer left to form a rival band. Now, Simon Cruz, the third singer, breathes new life into the band by helping them create a superior album, "Generation Wild", which is on par with their sensational debut. With three singers and three albums, I don't think it's an easy job to survive, but Crashdiet has persevered and I must raise a glass of beer to them.

"Generation Wild" is a rare commodity that combines elements that I love very much - the heaviness of early glam, the naughtiness of sleaze rock, and the big punchy anthems of melodic rock. My most fave tracks here are: "Armageddon", filled with sleaze madness and a huge chorus; the title track, which can be a soundtrack to a rebellious gang; the fiery uptempo track of "Rebel"; the gigantic heavy metal piece of "Down With The Dust"; the commercial melodic hard rock tune, "Chemical"; and the Dokken-fueled "Bound To Fall". I can't find any weak links here, as everything is enjoyable, including the mandatory ballads, "Save Her" and "Beautiful Pain".

Simon Cruz has a strong voice. He's truly a gifted singer and the band sealed a very good deal by recruiting him. This magnificent album upped their game again, and for fans of heavy metal, sleaze, and melodic rock, this is your dream album - a tribute to the late Dave Lepard, and a must buy!

Bottomline: Swingin' high to the top again!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday videos: Mitch Malloy auditions for Van Halen


After the demise of Van Hagar in the mid-90s, Eddie and Alex had to find a replacement lead singer. Mitch Malloy, frequently reviewed on Now This ROCKS (click here), auditioned for the gig, which ultimately went to Gary Cherone (Extreme). Below is a rare demo that captures what Van Halen would have sounded like in a parallel universe where Malloy took the job as their new lead vocalist. The song they did was "Panama", so let's first refresh our memory of the original with David Lee Roth.



Now here is the Mitch Malloy version:



But the job went to Gary Cherone:



And lest we forget, and to round out the comparisons, the Sammy Hagar version:



So there you have it - which version do you think is the best?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Ex Norwegian “House Music”


Indie rock

Not long ago, indie rockers Ex Norwegian piqued our interest with their sophomore effort, “Sketch” (reviewed here). The band is back now with “House Music”, hoping the third time is the charm.

Don’t let the record title scare you – Ex Norwegian has not abandoned their quirky and catchy indie roots in favor of monotonous dance music. On the contrary, this third record is stuffed with ten sizzling slices of hipster rock. These tunes retain the adventurous vibe their longtime fans have come to expect, yet advance considerably closer to the realm of commercial rock. It is a delicate balance, but I believe Ex Norwegian is achieving it.

The funky sound of the infectious opener, “Ginger, Baby”, shimmies down the ear with ease, fusing potent indie rock with the sounds of 80s new wave – not unlike Weezer doing a Devo cover. The intriguing chord changes and harmonies on “Original Copy” are truly engaging. The charmingly positive lyrics (“Take initiative, it’s free”), and super catchy backing vocals combine to make the jamming anthem, “Initiative Rock”, a shining gem in the bunch. Additional highlights include the peppy “Spin With It” and the refreshingly breezy “Rearrange It”.

Ex Norwegian continue to evolve with “House Music”, a collection of tunes that will get plenty of airplay around my home.

Ex Norwegian – Facebook.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Shake City

By Stephen Kasenda

SHAKE CITY “Shake City” (2009)

Adam Shore was in Warrant before Jani Lane but as Warrant reached new heights, Lane was recruited to replace him. Shore eventually met guitarist Don E. Sachs to finally form Shake City in late 1986. Some songs were written and produced by Tommy Thayer of Black N' Blue and Erik Turner of Warrant, so don’t be surprised if you can find influences from those bands on this record. Touring from club to club, state to state, Shake City was building up a reputation but then fell off the radar in 1992 when the musical climate started to change.

After 17 years in silence, Eonian brings back the fond memories of this band’s wild and wicked days. The typical sound of early 90s glam is all over their songs, such as the great hard rock tunes "One Good Reason", "Betty Blue", and "Game of War" (which was written by Jani Lane), or the party anthems of "Submarine" and "Lust & Love". The interesting bluesy flair on "Get It While It's Hot" and the Enuff Z'Nuff vibe on "Psychedelic Ride" is also lovable. Two superb ballads here are "Sweet Dreams" and "Can't Get Over You" – the other three songs are decent fillers.

The production is average…it's acceptable considering most of the songs are from 20 years ago. But now at last we can listen to the powerful vocals of Adam Shore and the killer guitar lines of Sachs and Blair. If you like Poison, Sweet.F.A, Southgang, or Warrant, this is such a great and enjoyable album to have.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review: YoungBlood “No Retreat”


Glam rock

Holy hairbands! YoungBlood’s “No Retreat” is one of the most authentic throwbacks to the late 80s glam scene that I’ve heard in a long time. Checking closer into the bio, it now makes sense. These tunes were originally written in 1989 and have been re-mixed and re-mastered to finally rock our asses off in 2012. We have all the sleeze, falsettos, and fretboard gymnastics of that classic era. The members of the Indianapolis-based band also used to be Henry Lee Summer’s touring band, but “No Retreat” is much closer to Poison and Motley Crue in sound and style.

The bluesy hard rock swagger of “Don’t You Play With My Head” is what got the band off the ground, leading to their recording some 45 songs for a debut release on Sony/Epic that never happened. The aptly named “No Retreat” sees the boys finally getting these songs out to fans that should have heard them on the radio back in ’89. A few more highlights include “Pump It Up”, “Back In My Life”, “Sock It To Me”, “Find A Way”, and “Shot Of You”. There aren’t too many power ballads on this high octane release, but you can get your fix with “Coming Home” and “My One and Only”.

If you were ever a fan of Tora Tora, Kix, or Slaughter, get out your hairspray and makeup and check these guys out!

YoungBlood – More info.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Eclipse “Bleed and Scream”


Melodic hard rock/AOR

Eclipse is a melodic hard rock band from Sweden (Erik Mårtensson - vocals/guitar/bass, Magnus Henriksson - lead guitar, Robban Bäck – drums, and Johan Berlin – keyboards) that raises the bar to new heights with each successive release. “Bleed and Scream” is the follow up record to 2008’s breakthrough, “Are You Ready to Rock”. Mårtensson has become a wunderkind in the business as a prolific songwriter and workhorse of a producer. He’s been involved with successful releases from melodic rock greats including W.E.T, Toby Hitchcock, Giant, and Jimi Jamison to name a few.

The attitude for the new recording is best summarized by guitarist Magnus Henriksson: “Every song has qualities as a single. Erik´s vocals are way better than ever. The guitar-sound is just awesome! The whole production is just in your face. It has something for everyone in it! We worked so hard at making this record that it drove us nearly nuts and made us wanna scream, but now it’s your turn to bleed and scream!”

“Bleed and Scream” is the edgiest, hardest record the band has done yet – people have often compared Eclipse to Journey, but this music has too much testosterone for that! Eclipse has come into their own, now delivering some of the thickest riffs and thunderous percussion around their sing-a-long melodies. “Bleed and Scream” also takes the lyrics up a notch, with the songs touching on worldly affairs alongside anthems of encouragement. The first four tracks may be the best consecutive stretch of melodic rock cuts on any album in this genre this year. “Wake Me Up” is a potent social commentary leading right into the ripping title track for scorned lovers. “Ain’t Dead Yet” is a forceful affirmation and “Battlegrounds” has the best chorus on the album. The only song that comes close to ballad territory is the engaging “About To Break”, otherwise it is rock that will shake your house down.

Eclipse – More info.

Check out the video for “Bleed and Scream”:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Little Caesar


By Stephen Kasenda

LITTLE CAESAR “American Dream” (2012)

'American Dream' is solid proof of LITTLE CAESAR's persistency in not giving up – to keep creating something raw and idealistic just like they did in the early 90s. Two albums that I think are among those underrated gems of the decade are the eponymous debut and 'Influence'. Blame it on the late arrival to the scene and the emerging wave of grunge, LITTLE CAESAR didn't receive the recognition they deserved back in the day. 

LITTLE CAESAR puts out a clever mix of blues and 80s hard rock. Some part of this album might remind you of AC/DC or perhaps AEROSMITH. Most songs here are comprised of the classic pattern of Verse/Chorus/Verse, the same old formula that's probably started since the 70s, so whether you've heard of this band before or not, the music draws a very familiar and friendly picture. There are several gems here that I think are among their best. 'Only A Memory Away' is a beautiful ballad, 'Is Your Crazy, Gettin' Lazy?' is a brilliant fast-paced track, and 'Dirty Water' sounds very wild west-ish, full of hooks, and extremely catchy.

Other songs felt okay to these ears. There are a couple of bumpy roads on weaker tunes like 'Prisoner of Love' and 'In My Mirror', but other numbers such as 'American Dream', 'Hard Rock Hell', or 'Own Worst Enemy' are nicely composed and guaranteed to keep your toe tapping. I'm also amazed with the clean and crisp production they have here, considering this is a self-financed project. 'American Dream' is definitely a good album in the vein of classic hard rock - for those who are lookin' for the closest follow up to 'Influence', I bet this one is a smart choice.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: The dB’s “Falling Off The Sky”


Rock

The beloved indie power pop band, The dB’s, are back with their original line up and a new album after three decades. “Falling Off The Sky” is an amazing return that captures the youthful energy of the 80s yet also showcases the band’s maturity. The dB’s were always ahead of their time, but “Falling Off The Sky” feels like they’ve gone back in time and recaptured the magical chemistry that is usually exclusive to debut records.

The new record opens with great vitality – “That Time Is Gone” is a gritty, melodic rock tune with a bass line that just bites into the rhythm and shakes it back and forth. “Before We Were Born” is another driving rocker that is instantly charming. Horns augment the radiant tune, “The Wonder of Love”, while graceful songs like “Far Away and Long Ago” rest on a pillow of cozy strings. Additional highlights include the jangle pop of “World To Cry”, the tempting sing-a-long “Collide-oOo-Scope”, and the earnest acoustic ballad “I Didn’t Mean To Say That”.

“Falling Off The Sky” gets better with each spin and it won’t be leaving my player anytime soon. The melodies are so perfectly crafted that “Falling Off The Sky” should be textbook for pop songwriters. Hands down one of the best releases of 2012, not to mention the most welcome reunion.

The dB’s – Official site.

Check out a live performance of “That Time Is Gone”:


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: Honeymoon Stallions “Moonlighting”


Power pop

I learned a thing or two listening to The Goldbergs (reviewed here) – and that is to pay attention to anything Andy Goldberg touches. His latest project is The Honeymoon Stallions and their first offering is “Moonlighting”.

Recorded in Nashville with local musicians, “Moonlighting” doesn’t stray far at all from the tasty pop formula Goldberg has followed all along. Stuffed to the brim with overt influences from The Beatles and Badfinger, this debut Honeymoon Stallions record will appease his old fans and hopefully recruit many new ones to the fold. This is perhaps most evident on the instantly hummable opening track, “If It Wasn’t For You”, which shines with classic AM radio overtones. The other 8 songs in this collection follow suit, with highlights including the radio friendly (naturally) “Radio Song”, the chillin’ “Driftin’”, and the very Lennon-esque “Every Now and Then”. But go beyond the highlights – each song is beautifully constructed, with stirring harmonies and cozy melodies – not a bad one in the bunch.

The Honeymoon Stallions – Official site.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Pride of Lions “Immortal”


Melodic rock/AOR

For the unaware, the dynamic duo behind Pride Of Lions is the legendary melodic rocker Jim Peterik (Survivor, Ides of March) and young gun vocalist Toby Hitchcock. Together they have released a trio of modern melodic rock albums that are destined to become classics in the genre. “Immortal” marks their return after a five year break that allowed the guys to work on other projects. In the words of Peterik, “After producing and writing the songs for Jimi Jamison’s wonderful 2009 release, Crossroads Moments (reviewed here), I needed a minute or two to get me juices back flowing in the direction of writing a great new Pride Of Lions record. When Toby decided to do his solo album (reviewed here), this was the perfect time for reflection. Once I started writing, the flood gates just opened up. I feel this is the CD to put Pride of Lions on the map once and for all.”

As with previous efforts, “Immortal” is filled with energetic anthems, mid-tempo rockers, and monster ballads. The mix of pace and style does not detract from the Pride of Lions signature sound, but provides a great dynamic when listening to the album from start to finish. The baritone vocals of Peterik balance well against the theatrical vocals of Hitchcock, who is likely to draw comparisons to the great Dennis DeYoung (Styx).

There are many songs one could shine the spotlight on, including the dazzling first single, “Delusional”, which is basically a healthy dose of child-rearing advice about not dosing our children with drugs just because they want to be unique. Similarly, “Ask Me Yesterday” ponders the wisdom that is found in youth, often in hindsight. On the power ballad side, “Everything Money Can’t Buy” and “Sending My Love” really shine here. “Sending My Love” features a particularly poignant vocal performance from Hitchcock, as the song truly connects with him: “Being a new father, it gets more and more heartbreaking to be away from my loved ones on the road. I love the road, don’t get me wrong, but it’s tough being separated from them as well.” Of particular interest to Survivor fans will be the track “Vital Signs” – this was a tune being worked on for the blockbuster release of the same name back in the 80s. Peterik never quite finished it until now, and I think most people will agree it was worth the wait.

Whether or not to add “Immortal” to your Pride of Lions collection is a no brainer – and if you were a fan of Survivor, Journey, or Styx, then it is time you discover that this kind of music lives on in this band.

Check out the video for “Delusional”:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Dog Society “Emerge”


Rock

Recently covered in our “You Were Robbed” feature, Dog Society comes barking back with plenty of bite this September 25 with the long, long-awaited follow up to their 1993 debut album, “Test Your Own Eyes” (see our previous feature here). This New York band was critically acclaimed for their unique blend of rock, funk, and folk, and the new album, “Emerge” seeks to pick right up where they left off.

Dog Society has remained ever-present on the NYC rock circuit. Influenced by classic pop-rock artists such as The Who and The Beatles, their songs remain centered on melody with crisp production and warm harmonies. The band is often a tribute to the best of AM radio and “Emerge” contains a collection of well-crafted tunes that present elements of 70s songwriting in a contemporary framework.

The new record begins with the radiant “Being Here”, which is lyrically appropriate for a comeback, and it’s huge Beatles inspired chorus will be stuck in your head for days. The band quickly shifts to a mild bossa nova beat to begin “A Good Friend”, but come rearing right back with crunchy guitars to decorate another sugary chorus. First single “The Fuse Begins” shines with overtones of the debut record’s sound, and the pleasantly breezy acoustic verses are the perfect soundtrack to summer’s end. The Lennon inspired melodies resurface in a big way on “Pink Sun”, which could perhaps be considered a musical sequel to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. “Suffer A Smile” is also an irresistible little earworm. The album closes with “Salt”, which is just the right seasoning to top off this listening experience. There’s only a couple puzzling items, such as the distorted experimentation that blunts “Shade Grown” and the wildly dissonant “Spaceboots” - these are for the more adventurous listener. There is also less funk rock in the mix, but plenty of acoustic-based jams that stay focused on a good melody.

It’s remarkable to me how “at home” the band sounds after a near 20 year absence on record. “Emerge” will surely please fans of “Test Your Own Eyes” and should pull in some new recruits as well. Unlike a lot of reunion efforts that are just about the cash, Dog Society sounds genuine and fresh, passionate about the music...so go fetch!

Dog Society – Official site.

Check out the video for “The Fuse Begins”

Monday, September 17, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Bad Habit


By Stephen Kasenda

BAD HABIT “Atmosphere” (2011)

BAD HABIT's arrival to the scene in 1989 was pretty late, but hats off to their persistence and still paving their way back in 1995 through “Revolution”, even though the climate wasn’t really friendly for their music. BAD HABIT survived the millennium and return strong with their sixth studio album, 'Atmosphere'. With quality as high as the debut, it even surpasses their previous achievements and clinches a major victory – I think it is their best album to date.

Bax Fehling and Hal Johnston are the masterminds of BAD HABIT. 'Atmosphere' is not only a record full of harmonies and melodies, but it also contains heart-melting ballads as well as excellent musicianship by the band. Every song has hit potential but there are several personal faves that really shine here. 'In The Heat of The Night' is a real big blast (check out the massive chorus, it is super-fantastic). 'Every Time You Cry' and 'Fantasy' are two huge gems too, 'Save Me' is catchy and addictive, and 'Catch Me When I Fall' is also a show-stealer.

'I Wanna Be The One' and 'Angel of Mine' are slower tunes that could be your girlfriend’s favorites. They're poppish and harmless but elegant and also passionate, especially with a stellar vocal delivery by Bax. For an AOR album, the heaviness level of the rhythm section is quite high and you can hear for yourself how the guitars roar loud and high - if they pump up the tempo much faster, this might leap into melodic metal territory.

A superb release and surprisingly after more than 20 spins in a single year, I find myself still longing for more. This is a perfect 100% for me and a runner-up of 2011, highly recommended for fans of Scandinavian MHR/AOR.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Videos

Loverboy has released a new record with 3 new songs and re-recorded versions of several classics. Check out one of the new tunes, "Heartbreaker", from "Rock N Roll Revival":



The new single from Pride of Lions (featuring Toby Hitchcock and Jim Peterik) is "Delusional", from their forthcoming fourth record, "Immortal":



Next up we have a new modern rocker called "Tremolo", the first song off the debut full-length album "New Symmetry" from Wires In The Walls:



And finally, a cover tune for you. This one comes from an entire album of cover tunes from Santana and various guests called "Guitar Heaven". My favorite track off the record was his version of Def Leppard's "Photograph" featuring Daughtry:


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Hess “Living In Yesterday”


Melodic hard rock

Harry Hess, the throaty voice behind the phenomenal but now defunct hard rock outfit Harem Scarem, returns with his second solo effort, “Living In Yesterday” (not counting his excellent work as First Signal in 2010, reviewed here). Recorded at his Toronto studio, the songs included on “Living in Yesterday” are the result of Hess’ travels around the globe over the last few years with stops in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Brussels, Nashville, and Germany. Hess has no shortage of superstar guests contributing on the new record, including his former bandmates Pete Lesperance, Creighton Doane and Darren Smith, Tommy Denander, Marcie Free (Unruly Child), Howie Simon and Magnus Karlsson among others.

Hess set out with the goal to make some more great melodic rock music – just one listen to the new record makes it clear he’s achieved that goal once again. After all these years, consistently churning out one great slab of melodic rock after another, it still amazes me that Hess is not a household name. “Living In Yesterday” pumps out a continuous stream of top quality rock anthems, which is all I ever expect from Hess. Considered together, this collection of tracks reminds me of Brian Howe-era Bad Company. While no song is bad, some of the major standouts include the radio-friendly “Don’t Leave Me”, the driving rocker “Nothing Lasts Forever”, the groovy and contemporary “I Don’t Wanna Want You”, and the encouragement anthem that is the title track. If you enjoy power ballads, there are many here for your playlist consideration, including “It’s Over”, “What If”, “I Live For You”, and “Where To Run”.

Did you miss our 2010 interview with Harry Hess? Check it out here.

Hess – Official site.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Lannie Flowers “New Songs Old Stories”


Power pop

In 2008, power pop singer/songwriter Lannie Flowers won huge critical acclaim for his innovative record, “Same Old Story”, which was a musical collage of song snippets strung together to tell the story of teenage boredom, romance, and loss. The unusual format of the record had some fans begging to hear full-length versions of these song snippets. Fast forward to 2012, the wishes of these fans have been granted on his latest release, the aptly titled “New Songs Old Stories”. Two extra songs from that era are also included among the nine tracks here.

As the song snippets on “Same Old Story” foreshadowed, there are some major league power pop winners to be found. First single and album opener, “Another Weekend” quickly reminds us of the songwriting skills of Lannie Flowers - he lures you in with an enticing verse and blows your mind with a hugely memorable chorus. The melodies on “Come On Girl” are even more meticulously constructed, with spot on backing vocals heightening the listening experience. There a great Cheap Trick energy associated with “You Said”. The record ends very strong with highlights such as the excellent “Tired Of Being Alone” and the radiant “Give Me Another Chance”.

While I must admit that I found his previous release, “Circles” (reviewed here), to be more instantly engaging, “New Songs Old Stories” is sure to please fans, especially those who fell in love with “Same Old Story”. One downside for some fans is going to be the short length of the record, which clocks in just under a half hour. But no worries – he’ll be back in 2013 with the next album in his trilogy, “Home”.

Lannie Flowers – Official site.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Y & T


By Stephen Kasenda

Y&T “In Rock We Trust” (1984)

Y&T, or also known as Yesterday & Today, reached their first commercial milestone in 1984, after the groundbreaking release of "In Rock We Trust", which shot their name to the surface. This is the band's highest charting and bestselling album, racking up gold status, and becoming the only album that penetrated the Canadian chart. The concept of this album was to polish their hard rock foundation with a glam metal touch popularized in the mid-80s.

In my opinion, the strongest tracks of the album are: "Rock And Roll's Gonna Save The World", an AC/DC-soaked opener with an anthemic and fiery chorus; "I'll Keep On Believin'", a Survivor-like power ballad with a huge sing-along chorus; "Don't Stop Runnin'", an up-tempo stadium-chanting track with a gigantic and memorable chorus; and the passionate ballad, "This Time", which is also a very well written song.

There are several other good tracks such as "Masters and Slaves", "Break Out Tonight!", and "Lipstick And Leather", which has a thick Kiss vibe. The album has a couple of fillers such as "Life,Life,Life" and "She's A Liar", which lessen the total value of the album. However, with a bowl of hot hits, "In Rock We Trust" remains a great piece of history in the band's career and a great pick for fans of hard rock/glam metal.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Video: Kyoto Drive "Breathe"

We covered Kyoto Drive back in July (review here), and their EP, "The Approach" was full of excellent pop rock. The official video for the single "Breathe" has just been released and can be seen below - check it out! More info on the band can be found here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: Tin Man Walking “Tin Man Walking”

Power pop

Matthew Allen and Damian Hagger formed Tin Man Walking “as a vehicle for their power pop sensibilities”. The self-titled album turns out to be a real treat for pop rock fans, with 10 super sweet confections that hit all the right buttons. While the melodies follow classic power pop formulas, there is a mild grit to the vocals and sizzling guitar solos that give their sound an extra punch.

“Big Chorus Love” gets things off to a wonderful start with a satisfying crunch in the verses and a savory sing-a-long chorus. “Anybody Else” is a slow-burning rocker with another melt in your mouth chorus. An additional highlight is the sparkling “Love Is A Pop Song”. The band shows its gift for balladry with the excellent “We Should Be Kissing”, as well as “Not Coming Home”, “You Had To Be There”, and “Love N’ L.A.”. The ballads are quite the detour from the crunchy pop nuggets, veering into Richard Marx territory (not that there is anything wrong with that!). It is refreshing to hear a band that can balance the hard and soft rock so effectively on a single album.

I enjoyed the top half of the record more than the bottom half, but this is largely because the top half set a very high bar. Tin Man Walking struts its stuff with this most impressive debut – and it has more than enough heart to go around - so go get it today! Recommended for fans of Weezer, Cheap Trick, or All-American Rejects.

Tin Man Walking – Official site.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Didn’t Planet “We’re Goin’ Nowhere”


Power pop

“We’re Goin’ Nowhere” is the debut album from the four-piece power pop band called Didn’t Planet. Didn’t Planet hails from Boston and possesses the songwriting skill of Material Issue and sense of humor of Bowling For Soup.

“We’re Goin’ Nowhere” is a sympathy valentine to musicians who long to play originals but have to make ends meet by being in a cover band. With lyrics such as “Maryanne wants to hear Duran Duran from a friendly neighborhood cover band” and “I’m like a marathon runner encased in cement”, the sentiment is clear. Each song is a little window into that bittersweet situation, with amusing interludes in-between. The fun the band had putting this collection together is palpable and contagious. But don’t let the light-heartedness fool you – these guys know their craft. “We’re Goin’ Nowhere” sparkles with radiant harmonies and super catchy melodies. Standout tracks include “Maryanne(s)”, “California”, and the melancholy track “Bitter”. With a roadhouse boogie feel, “Kinda Got It Goin’ On” is also a fun diversion, as is the folky closer “Someday I Might”.

Didn’t Planet – Official site.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: Wanderlust “Record Time”

Rock/Powerpop

The debut record from Philadelphia’s Wanderlust, “Prize”, has been on my “desert island” list since the day I heard it in 1995. Arguably one of the greatest pop rock records of the 90s, “Prize” pretty much marked the beginning and the end of this wonderful band. Despite the great collection of songs, huge airplay for the single “I Walked”, a tour with Collective Soul, and an opening act for The Who, “Prize” didn’t catapult the band to the superstardom they deserved. While fans have no doubt enjoyed lead singer/songwriter Scot Sax’s newer projects, which include solo efforts, Queen Electric (review here), and Feel (reviews here), and guitarist Rob Bonfiglio’s solo work (review here), they’ve surely craved a reunion and new music from Wanderlust.

Fast forward to 2012 and that moment has finally arrived. Produced by Barrie Maguire (Wallflowers, Natalie Merchant), the new album is called “Record Time” and features 11 new songs and a newly recorded version of “I Walked”. Sax opens with a question on the song “Lou Reed”: “How do you write a song?”, which must be rhetorical as these guys certainly know their craft. “Lou Reed” captures the sound and spirit of the Wanderlust of yore, satisfying the appetites of fans who waited so patiently for more pop gems like this. A number of other cuts like this stand out, including the catchy “Friend Tonight”, “Fork In The Road” (reminding me of Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy”) , and the gorgeous ballad, “Blow Away”. Some others that grow on you after a few spins include the melancholy down-on-your-luck anthem, “Easy Street” (“If I am on easy street I must be in the traffic jam”), and the gentle acoustic lullaby, “Like Stars”.

The band loses me on some atypically unmelodious tracks near the end, such as “Photographic Mind” and the monotonous “You Make Me”. While I don’t foresee “Record Time” joining my desert island list, it is a welcome return that leaves me wanting more.

Wanderlust – Official site.