Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Hardline “Danger Zone”

AOR/Melodic rock
Hardline was formed when brothers Johnny (vocals) and Joey (guitar) Gioeli teamed up with Journey/Bad English guitarist Neal Schon, Todd Jensen (David Lee Roth, Alice Cooper) on bass, and Deen Castronovo (also coming from Bad English) on drums. Their 1992 debut album “Double Eclipse” became a favorite among fans of polished AOR, but the change in musical tides did not help things commercially and the band soon parted ways.

In 2002, Johnny and Joey reignited Hardline with an all new line-up, resulting in the long-awaited follow-up album simply called album “II”. This time out, Josh Ramos (The Storm and Two Fires) took Neal Schon’s place on lead guitar. Another record, “Leaving the End Open” was released in 2009.

Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino continued to champion the band and Gioeli decided to give Hardline another go with the Italian songwriter and producer Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge of Forever). Hardline now has a European based line-up featuring Francesco Jovino (UDO), Thorsten Kohene (Code Of Perfection, Eden's Curse) and Anna Portalupi (Mitch Malloy).

While the band only retained one founding member, the sound on “Danger Zone” largely remains the same: driving verses, big choruses, and slick production. For fans of Journey, Europe, or Bad English, you are in for a nostalgic treat. There are plenty of juicy cuts for us melodic rockers to sink our teeth into and savor. Among the upbeat tunes, highlights include “10,000 Reasons”, “Never Too Late For Love”, “Stay”, “Look At You Now”, and “What I’d Like”. The band has always churned out high quality power ballads, and the big winner this time is “Stronger Than Me”. All in all, “Danger Zone” is a very strong record.

Hardline – Official site.

Check out the video for “Fever Dreams”:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Were Robbed – Diving For Pearls

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

The debut self-titled album from pop rock band Diving For Pearls came out in 1989, spawning the minor hit “Gimmie Your Good Lovin’”. Danny Malone was the key force behind this outfit, but despite their airplay, a top 20 ranking by KERRANG, and a CD filled with potential radio-friendly hits, the album barely made a blip on the radar screen.

After this opening track, the album just gets better and better. “Have You Forgotten?” is a terrific melodic rocker that holds you attention to the more sultry tune, “I Close My Eyes”.

The band could also deliver an excellent ballad – check out “New Moon” as an example.

And that is just the first half of the album! The second half kicks off with another driving rocker called “You’re All I Know”.

Other highlights include “Mystery To Me” and “Keep You Love Alive”, as well as another notable ballad, “I Don’t Want To Cry”.

Remarkably, Malone returned in 2006 with the long-awaited follow-up record called “Texas”. While using the Diving For Pearls name, it was really a Malone solo effort. It was a solid release, and Malone sounded great, but the songs just didn’t capture the magic of their debut. Track down the debut – no melodic rock collection is complete without this lost gem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: Fallon Cush “April”


Fallon Cush returns in June with the release of his second album, “April”, which follows an acclaimed debut we reviewed in October, 2011 (review here). The songs on “April” set a different tone, as described in the words of singer/songwriter Steve Smith, "The record is really about reconciliation, fresh starts, tearing down walls, and building bridges”. In addition to exploring new lyrical themes, the musical styles on “April” flirt heavily with the type of Americana rock Tom Petty popularized.

Rounding out Fallon Cush are Scott Aplin (keys), Chris Vallejo (bass) and Josh Schuberth (drums, bass). With Glen Hannah on guitar and renowned vocalist Lily Dior on backing vocals, and mastering completed by Greg Calbi (Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, The Antlers), the songs have a refreshingly organic feel not unlike the past couple Black Crowes records.

“April” begins with the spritely tune, “It’s Line”, which radiates radio-friendliness with its bright verses and catchy chorus – one of my favorites from Fallon Cush. “Honey Honey” also makes a favorable first impression with its simplicity and charm. The soulful delivery of “Sight To Remember” gives the song a distinctive Joe Cocker vibe. I loved how the breezy feel of “When You Say” was followed by the feisty charge of “Renegade Blues”. Finally, be sure not to overlook the beautiful “Where Your Name Is Carved”, which brings some piano into the mix along with some spectacular harmonies.

Overall, “April” represents a big step forward for this band – catch them while they are in bloom.

Fallon Cush – Official site.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Destine

By Stephen Kasenda

Destine “Illuminate” (2012)

I'm completely stunned with DESTINE's latest album, 'Illuminate', which really combines enchanting melodic rock with a twist of modern element. The band builds a perfect bridge to accommodate both fans from the 80s and the young generation of the 2000s. The balanced mix of uptempo and energetic tracks with ethereal ballads make 'Illuminate' a strong contender to stay on top of the mind of this genre's fans.

'Four Leaf Clover' is a massive start but 'Stay' kicks the ball even higher. The band sways into slower territory with 'All The People', a beautiful downtempo moment. It’s not really their best offering but I find it quite satisfying. 'Wait Forever' is flawlessly brilliant. I love everything from the splendid intro to the bombastic chorus. 'Thousand Miles' is another ballad pick and I think it's better than 'All The People'.

On the second half, I'm seeing an even better game played by the band. 'Unbreakable' is a solid fast-paced track, 'Best Kept Secret' has a different vibe with a slow start before erupting with an awesome beat, and the last two tracks are definitely winners. The production is also great and some folks might think this band is too young and light for their taste, but sweet melodies are the main attraction here and if you're into that thing, 'Illuminate' is one of the best picks of this year!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Under Cover: Hot Stuff (In memory of Donna Summer)

Hard Candy "Hot Stuff" (Donna Summer)

The music community suffered another loss this week with the passing of Donna Summer. Here is a rocked up version of "Hot Stuff" by Hard Candy, a track featured on the soundtrack to The Full Monty.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Great White “Elation”

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…along comes Great White’s 12th studio album, “Elation”. While Great White is best known for their 80s hits “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”, “Rock Me”, “Save Your Love”, and “Call It Rock N Roll”, the band has been quietly churning out records regularly, featuring their trademark blues-tinged rock.

It can be argued that “Elation” is not really a Great White album – the band decided to record without founding member and distinctive vocalist Jack Russell while he was ill. Instead, XYZ singer Terry Ilous has stepped up to the mic. “This is a new birth of the band,” drummer Audie Desbrow says. “I wanted to call the album ‘Tabula Rasa’ which means rebirth, but we went for ‘Elation’ because of the euphoria in the atmosphere. It’s a fresh and healthier start than ever before. I’m like a kid in a candy store.” I’m not privy to all the politics of the band, so I’ll just comment on what I am qualified to talk about: the music.

First, I’d argue the record retains a great deal of the Great White sound despite the change in lead vocalist. Ilous is a fine lead singer and his tone fits into the band’s bluesy rock groove better than I expected. Another distinctive feature of Great White has always been Mark Kendall’s guitar licks, and they are front and center on “Elation”.

The record starts with “(I’ve Got) Something For You” – the song features some sizzling riffs and leads, but is kind of a lackluster beginning. “Feelin’ So Much Better” isn’t so much better, but at least has a somewhat memorable chorus. “Heart Of A Man” is a decent mid-tempo cut and the driving tale of “Shotgun Willie’s” is pretty good. Unfortunately, too many songs are way too long and just ramble into nowhere – the worst offenders being “Love Train”, “Resolution”, and “Lowdown”, which is probably the worst song Great White has ever done.

Overall, any euphoria the band experienced making this record doesn’t translate into “elation” - it’s pressing it just to call this record “nice”. A handful of tracks are fair to good, but too many are a chore to get through.

Great White – Official site.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Art Kenyon “Cocoon” [EP]

Alternative rock
Art Kenyon is a singer/songwriter hailing from Vancouver, and he’s just released his emotive debut EP, “Cocoon”. A former psychology/philosophy major, his music is infused with rich, contemplative lyrics, set to a soundtrack of generally dark and moody rock. The grungy undertones and use of distorted vocals fit the themes of these six songs, but what makes the EP truly engaging are the subtle hooks buried under the dirt and dust.

The title tracks kicks things off and is one of the strongest in the batch – a groove driven song, this one sinks in faster than the others. “Cocoon” explores the obstacles we encounter through each phase of our life. “The Way They Try” features more introspective lyrics about existence, and the bed of guitars is draped with some experimental sounds. “This Girl’s Trouble” doesn’t really have a great hook or melody to latch on to, but there is something hypnotic about this haunting tune that makes you want to hear it again and again (check out the video below). “Tuesday Night” finds Kenyon in more of a laid back coffeehouse mode – the acoustic strumming and handclaps make it one of the more accessible numbers and is sure to have wider appeal. Riffing off some Shakespeare, “Juliet” is a crushing rock song that gets your pulse going before the comparatively gentle closer, “Always”, calms you down.

Art Kenyon has the poetic swagger of Jim Morrison and is cultivating a blend of alternative and modern rock that seems destined to break ground in new sonic territory.

Art Kenyon – Facebook.

Check out the video for “This Girl’s Trouble”

Monday, May 14, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week - HEAT

By Stephen Kasenda

HEAT “H.E.A.T.” (2008)

Sweden continues to amaze me in the last couple of years, providing a lot of entertainment from almost all musical genres. This time, H.E.A.T. blew me away with enthralling, grandeur melodic rock in the vein of classic 80s heroes such as Bon Jovi, Europe, Survivor, and Giant. Most of the members are very young, probably in their early 20s, but thumbs up for their songwriting capability and musicianship. Kenny Leckremo, the singer, has a Joey Tempest pipe with a gentle blend of Jimi Jamison. His vocal range is phenomenal and at times we can hear a metallic edge on his voice.

Ignited by "There For You", this instant favorite has a memorable chorus. Then they take you to the higher level with "Never Let Go" – an anthemic chant mixing Talisman and Europe that stands out as the best track of the album for me. Guitarists Eric Rivers and Dave Dalone are twin killer combos, shredding swiftly throughout the songs, especially on tracks such as "Straight Up" and "Straight For Your Heart". "Cry" is a beautiful midtempo ballad with a heartfelt, passionate delivery and a thick 80s texture. "Follow Me" is another power ballad and no doubt, is a great song as well. "Bring The Stars" has an affecting emotional touch with massive vocal harmonies. If you can get the 2cd version, it worth your penny as the second disc contains the song, "1000 Miles", a huge and pompous 80s track.

If you like Europe's "Out" and "Prisoners" era or Giant's first two albums, you will love this amazing album instantly. Not to forget that Stormvox has done a splendid job with a flawless sound production. If this was released in 1988, H.E.A.T would have sold out a 30,000 capacity stadium and topped charts across the world. This is a five star album and a must-buy if you're into glam metal and melodic rock.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Under Cover: Fight For Your Right (To Party)

Coldplay “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” (Beastie Boys)

Coldplay’s tribute to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who passed away last week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: David Myhr “Soundshine”

Once upon a time, there was an outstanding pop act called The Merrymakers. Hailing from Sweden, they generated some of the tastiest ear candy heard in modern times. Unfortunately, the duo had a falling out, but one half has just released his first solo effort, “Soundshine”.

David Myhr’s sound does not tread too far from Merrymakers territory, so fans of this underrated band are going to be thrilled. For those of you not familiar with the Merrymakers, 1) you need to get yourself familiar with them, and 2) you need to pick up Myhr’s new record as well. As its title suggests, “Soundshine” is radiating with sunny, feel good melodies reminiscent of the best of Jellyfish (even the album cover looks like a Jellyfish record). Gentle horns and glistening piano augment each song and keep things perky.

Virtually every song is a winner that I look forward to playing over and over, but key standouts include lead single “Looking For A Life”, “Got You Where He Wanted”, “Get It Right”, “Cut To The Chase”, and “Loveblind”. There are few breaks from the up-tempo pace, but if you’re in the mood for something slow and sweet, check out the beautifully orchestrated song “The One”.

David Myhr has made a terrific record that celebrates the glory of 70s bubblegum pop yet manages to sound like a timeless classic. If you’re not convinced, then head over to his web site for a free download and check it out for yourself.

David Myhr – Official site.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You Were Robbed – Choirboys

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

Led by frontman Mark Gable, The Choirboys were one of the biggest bands in Australia during the 80s. Their debut album was a crunchy hard rock fest in the spirit of their AC/DC mates, but this was followed up by a markedly more melodic and commercial record, “Big Bad Noise” (1988). The band toured with the likes of Deep Purple and Bon Jovi, and scored a minor hit in the US with the anthem “Run To Paradise” – who remembers this terrific song?

The song was much more successful in their homeland and it is puzzling why it failed to raise more attention in the US. The strength of this song led me to check out the entire album and I was pleasantly surprised when track after track delivered strong, catchy melodies and unique baritone  harmony vocals. “Boys Will Be Boys” recalls a bit of their grit from the debut, but is very slick and radio-friendly.

The band exercised some storytelling muscle with the infectious track called “James Dale” – no video was made for this one, but I found a snippet of a live version of the song good enough to give you an idea of how great it is.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many Choirboys videos available, so I highly encourage you to seek out this band and give them a listen. Other highlights from the record include “Struggletown”, “Struck By Lightning”, and the title track. Beyond “Big Bad Noise”, their 2004 album “Evolver” is my second favorite, largely due to the amazing track “Fuel”. More recently, they released “Big Bad and Acoustic”, which contains beautifully reworked versions of their classics.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: The 99ers “Move It”

The 99ers released their latest CD, “Move It” on April 17. Filled to the brim with 20 new tracks, the band is clearly one of the more prolific and hardworking acts in the genre. But as much as I love their trademark homage to vintage rock, after digesting twenty tracks I can’t help but feel like I am experiencing the musical equivalent of overeating.

For those not familiar with this Minnesota outfit, the 99ers spin yarns that are encased in vintage guitar tones popularized at the genesis of rock and roll. But you’ll hear some modern influences as well, not unlike Social Distortion, The Ramones, or even Green Day at times. These classic chord changes never get old, and the rotating lead vocalists (which include male and female leads) keep the record sounding fresh. The songs are generally short and sweet, coming at you fast, so there’s never a dull moment.

14 of the tracks are originals, and the band has thrown in some revved up covers of tunes originally done by Eddie Cochrane, Brenda Lee, Cliff Richard, and more. Some of the highlights on this one include the raw energy of “Miss Shannon”, “That’s The Way We Dance”, “Punk With Gretsches” (great harmonies on this one!), “St. Paul's A Lonely Town”, and “They Came, They Saw, They Rocked”, which sums up the record perfectly.

Records by the 99ers are more than just another fun ride – they are a history lesson. “Move It” reminds us – and teaches others – where rock got its start and why it has lasted so long.

The 99ers – Official site.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week - Aerosmith

By Stephen Kasenda

AEROSMITH “Get A Grip” (1993)

"Get A Grip" is the last gripping album of the 90s that I like by Aerosmith. The band takes you on a long and winding crazy ride – you’ll think you're in a wonderland and ain't comin' back. Apart from the sensational romancing trilogy, "Crazy", "Cryin", and "Amazing", this record has so much more to offer. There is a 50s rockabilly approach to "Fever", a raging and punky tune in "Walk On Down" (which feels like they're messin' with a GNR track), the high-rockin' ground shaker "Eat The Rich", and the longest-yet-best track of the album, "Livin' On The Edge".

You can't compare this to Rocks or Toys, this is a different era of Aerosmith. But considering that the record came out in 1993 - tough days for rock and roll – the band still managed to stay on the right road and the record even nailed the Grammy and sold over 20 million copies worldwide. "Get A Grip" is a likable album to many with a great span of commercial tracks - probably hated by classic fans, but also could be their guilty pleasure they won't admit.
Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Under Cover: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Ukulele Orchestra "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Nirvana)

Here is a most unusual take on the grunge classic. The ukuleles I can live with...but the vocals? Geez...


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: John Taglieri “Lucky #9” [EP]


On April 17, the unsung hero of working class rock and AOR, John Taglieri, released an EP called “Lucky #9” (Leap Dog Music). In his own words, he states, “I approached this EP a little differently. Being my ninth release, I think I am more in tune with what I wanted to say as an artist. I wrote songs that really meant a lot to me right now in life and tried to tell stories that would connect. Using my new studio and working with Lee [Lee J. Turner, who has production credits that include Darius Rucker, Jewel, Leann Rimes, and Bo Bice] again was awesome as well. There was a great vibe throughout the whole recording process. I'm very proud of 'Lucky #9', and I hope people enjoy it.”

We last heard from John not that long ago via his new band project, TAG (review here). The prolific singer/songwriter/producer makes a strong return with “Lucky #9”, although I don’t think John’s success has much to do with luck…he is one of the hardest working in the business and deserves the success. Speaking of which, upon its release, “Lucky #9” rocketed straight into the Adult Alternative charts, landing at #2 in the Hot New Release charts and #20 on the sites overall AA Chart. The single "Make Me Believe" has hit the top of the AA Hot New Releases, taking over the #1 position on the singles chart, as well as the #13 spot on AA Overall Best Seller charts, alongside Matchbox 20, The Fray, John Mayer, Sara Bareilles, Ray LaMontagne & Ingrid Michaelson. Not only that, but the track "Dying Alive" is currently sitting at #3 on the AA Hot New Releases chart.

The new songs largely contain the signature modern rock sound we expect from Taglieri – a mix of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. But this time there is a touch of country in some spots due to John’s recent collaboration with Nashville artists. First single and opening track, “Losing Me” is my instant favorite thanks to its mix of acoustic verses and an energetic, catchy chorus. Other highlights include the radio-friendly ballads “Without You” and "Not Gonna Be My Life." “Make Me Believe” is also not be overlooked – a sincere and peppy love song. As usual, the lyrics in John’s new songs speak to everyday themes most people can connect with easily.

Lucky #9 can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes.

John Taglieri – Official site.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Were Robbed – Ratt

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

After getting thrust into the limelight in 1984 with their remarkable full-length debut, “Out of the Cellar”, the L.A. based band Ratt struggled throughout the 80s to maintain that phenomenal out-of-the-box success. The efforts were mixed commercially speaking, but one thing is for sure: they built a devoted fan base that loved what they have termed Ratt N Roll. The fifth album, 1990’s “Detonator” was probably the most polarizing release the band made in their history to that date. Produced by Sir Arthur Payson, and bringing in monster AOR songwriters like Desmond Child and Diane Warren, represented a shift from the raw rock of their early days to a more radio-friendly melodic style. The album performed well, but this one should have been a huge crossover comeback for the band.

I think the album would have done even better had it not been for the two lead off singles, “Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job” and “Shame Shame Shame”. They are what you’d expect from Ratt, but weren’t exciting or catchy enough to compete with the droves of hairbands fighting for airtime.

While perfectly good tracks, there are much stronger songs here that I believe would have charted well and pushed “Detonator” into the stratosphere. There was no one hotter than Bon Jovi at the time, so I am puzzled why his duet with Ratt on “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose” was not released as a lead single. This song is crazy infectious and Jon Bon Jovi’s guest vocals are brilliant.

Then there is the song, “One Step Away”, which contains one of the best choruses to grace a Ratt song, featuring a sugary sweet melody and some amazing harmonies.

Arena-ready power ballads were also ubiquitous on radio and MTV in the late 80s, and “Detonator” contained a whopper in “Givin’ Yourself Away”.

This record pretty much spelled the end for Ratt as most people remember. However, there was a reunion in 2009 that led to the recording of “Infestation”, which for many recaptured the essence of the band’s early days of Ratt N Roll.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: King Washington “The Gears”

Several years ago, the L.A.-based band King Washington impressed us with their debut EP, “Grenadine” (review here). On June 5, the band will release the first full-length record called “The Gears”, which builds from the acclaimed sound they managed to capture on “Grenadine” – a cross between the Beatles and Beach Boys with a hint of angst.

King Washington consists of Tyson Kelly (guitars/vocals), George Krikes (guitars/vocals), Dylan Cronin (bass/vocals), and Kyle Turek (drums/vocals). As you will notice, all of these guys lend vocal support, which explains the abundance of lush harmonies throughout each song – one of the key things you are sure to remember about King Washington. Together with their knack for moody melodies, the amazing harmonies create an otherworldly listening experience. At times you will feel like you’re back in the 60s, but then the next track sounds unequivocally contemporary. Helping with the creation of this atmospheric sound palate is Grammy-Award winning producer Joe Puerta (Ambrosia, Bruce Hornsby).

By far and away, the stand out track is the lead off and title track, “The Gears” – what a terrific creation. Soaring vocals surrounded by melodious guitar riffs usually make for a memorable listening experience, but what puts this song over the top is a catchy hook. While little else on the record made such an immediate impression, there are some gems here that surface after a few spins. Breezy verses flank an uplifting chorus on “Fourth Of July” and the witty “Bawl and Chain” masterfully incorporates 70s rock influences. The mandolin adds a nice touch to the syncopated beat that propels “Anybody Home”.

If you’re in the mood for something mellow, try “Right On”, “IGBR”, or “Fancy.” The subtle arrangements of these tunes make the harmonies stand out even more, at times reminding me of Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

King Washington should appeal to music fans spanning across 4 decades – check them out for a unique listening experience that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else today.

King Washington – Official site.