Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: The Slingsby Hornets “Borrowed And Blue”

Power pop

The Slingsby Hornets injected us with a healthy dose of vintage-styled power pop with their last release, “Something Old Something New” (reviewed here). The new release – the fourth – is a 35 minute romp through pop history, Slingsby style. The record is aptly named “Borrowed And Blue” as it features a number of cover tunes spanning several decades of pop music.

The first thing that is evident with “Borrowed And Blue” is that Jon Paul Allen (a.k.a. Frank E. Slingsby) has wonderful taste in music. His choice of tunes to rework is impeccable and includes a nearly unrecognizably peppy version of the Carpenters hit “Yesterday Once More”. Even better is his rendition of Bobby Goldsboro’s AM radio smash “Little Things”. However, I don’t think the world needed another cover of David Essex’s “Rock On”, but it’s here if you want it. My pick of the litter has to be the energetic version of “The Lady In Red”, a staple of the 80s high school dance originally performed by Chris De Bergh.

Among the original tunes, definitely check out the upbeat “Love, Love” and the downbeat “Growin' Old Disgracefully”. And I have to mention the CD itself was a hoot – packaged as a Japanese import with OBI strip and all – way cool! “Borrowed And Blue” is another winner from The Slingby Hornets that will keep power pop aficionados happy all summer long.

Slingsby Hornets – Official site.

Check out the video for “Fireball XL5”, a cover of a 60s TV show theme:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Europe “Bag of Bones”

Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been buying every new Europe album even though the last great one was way back in the early 90s with “Prisoners In Paradise”. Each time Europe releases a new album they say it is the greatest since “Final Countdown”, but each has been deeply disappointing as the band seemed to be stumbling around in the dark searching for a new undated sound. The band is back with “Bag of Bones”, a new record that once again claims to be their best since “Final Countdown”. And this time there isn’t a bone in this body that regrets getting it.

Europe has finally found the sound I believe they were looking for – of perhaps they just finally perfected it. “Bag of Bones” is a heavy, guitar driven record that blasts off with four hugely engaging songs right at the top of the batting order. But this isn’t your father’s Europe. This Europe sounds like it belongs among any modern rock band, with the exception that they boast much better guitar solos.

I must admit I miss the keyboard-guitar synergy that made their late 80s records so memorable. But if they had stayed on this path, they would definitely sound dated. If you are a big fan of this era of Europe, you may want to sample “Bag of Bones” before purchasing. In addition to the smoldering title track, just check out the crushing sound of tracks like “Firebox”, “Riches To Rags”, or first single, “Not Supposed To Sing The Blues”. The middle of the record sags a bit, but the band closes strong with killer cuts like “Doghouse” and “Mercy You Mercy Me”. The record closes with an exceptional and soulful ballad, “Bring It All Home”.

“Bag of Bones” is not a melodic masterpiece, but it reaches much greater heights than their other recent work. It continues to be dark and moody, but it’s got something about it that makes it more energetic and memorable.

Europe – Official site.

Check out the video for “Not Supposed To Sing The Blues”:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Poison

By Stephen Kasenda

POISON “Open Up And Say…Ahh” (1988)

Poison did well with their debut, "Look What The Cat Dragged In" in 1986, and they successfully spread the venom with their follow-up, "Open Up and Say.. Ahh". The sophomore record spawned four hit singles, including the well-known acoustical piece "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". They stripped the heavy metal element from the debut and put a more stadium-oriented hard rock and commercial touch to the songs. The result is beyond any devil's expectation, racking up 10 million sales worldwide and boosting their name to become a big contender alongside Bon Jovi and Guns N' Roses.

While many claims that this is their best album, I hardly agree as I think Poison reached their peak later with "Flesh & Blood". Sure this has a lot of strong and classic tracks, but with some decent songs such as "Love On The Rocks", the Def Leppard-rip off "Tearin' Down The Walls", and the worst filler, "Bad To Be Good", this album suffered from songwriting inconsistency. My fave picks of the album are "Nothin' But A Good Time", a fiery party starter, the stripper's anthem "Look But You Can't Touch", the body-shaking Loggins and Messina cover of "Your Mama Don't Dance", and the painful ballad of "Every Rose". But the top of the mountain is undoubtedly the fame-and-fortune journey of "Fallen Angel".

The production is raw and thin. The volume level is very low. I haven't got the re-mastered version yet but I hope they've resolved this issue. "Open Up And Say.. Ahh" is still a very good release with lots of fun and excitement. With this album, Poison taught you how to live life and party hard. As long as you don't drive drunk, kill somebody, and blow up your liver, that's quite a harmless lesson to learn.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Under Cover: AC-DC

I'm betting very few of you woke up with an urge to hear classic AC/DC hits played on ukulele. Nevertheless, here is a batch of AC/DC covers played on the uke.

A taste of what you're in for:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: PK “The Lost Boys Sessions” [EP]


If you took Robert Smith of The Cure and injected his right arm with testosterone and his left arm with caffeine, you’d get a pretty good approximation of what the indie rock outfit PK sounds like. The urgency of early U2 resonates in their songwriting and new wave 80s sound effects abound, yet they sound like a comfortable companion to modern rock pioneers The Killers.

“The Lost Boy Sessions” marks the band’s second release, bursting with 6 songs to add some sizzle into your summer. Hailing from San Luis Obispo, California, PK is made up of Travis Hawley (Vocals), Matt DePauw (Guitar), Mikel Van Kranenburg (Bass), Nick Fotinakes (Guitar) and Rico Rodriguez (Drums). Hawley lived in England for five years before moving to the U.S., which deeply affected his vocal style – you’ll hear influences from Robert Smith to Bono to Danny Elfman. PK’s first record, “Into the Roaring”, got the band selected by Rolling Stone Magazine as 1 of 16 top unsigned artists. In the past year, the band has opened for such acts as Angels and Airwaves, Twin Atlantic, Aerosmith, Shiny Toy Guns and Youngblood Hawk.

Things start off on the right foot with “Berelain” (video below), a hugely energetic anthem that sounds like it could have been on the “Better Off Dead” soundtrack – easily my favorite on the EP. “London” is a tribute to Hawley’s stomping grounds, appropriately performed in Brit-pop style. If “Some Nights” doesn’t take you back to the 80s, I’m not sure what will – this tune is a blast, reminding me of Rock Kills Kid. The EP ends on strong notes as well, with the ambitious “Chase The Sky” and jubilantly catchy “I Know”.

PK released “The Lost Boy Sessions” on May 29th and you can buy it on iTunes here. The band is also giving away their full-length debut “Into The Roaring” here.

PK – Official site.

Check out the video for “Berelain” here:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You Were Robbed – The Pursuit of Happiness

"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!

Well known in their native Canada, The Pursuit of Happiness (TPOH) never made it as big in the States. Led by the hilarious and talented songwriter Moe Berg, TPOH did achieve a modest level of success with the amusing rock track “I’m An Adult Now” in 1989.

Maybe the song pigeonholed them into a novelty act, so the other spectacular cuts on their “Love Junk” debut went largely unnoticed by the mainstream. Take a listen to the melodic charm of “She’s So Young” and try to figure out why it wasn’t a crossover smash. The powerpop legend Todd Rundgren produced this record, and his influence comes through the best on this track.

Yes, those beautiful female harmonies supplied by Lelie Stanwyck and Kris Abbott! Those backing vocals became a signature sound for TPOH and they are omnipresent on all of their records. Although, Stanwyck and bassist Johnny Sinclair left the band after the solid sophomore record, “One Sided Story”, to form Universal Honey.

The third single from “Love Junk” was a gritty pop rocker about cheating, the only one I know to rhyme the word “beguiling”. Again, catchy melodies and wry lyrics make it a mystery why this song didn’t give the charts a beating.

Virtually every track is wonderful and sticks in the head easy. I’ll leave you with one final example that should convince you that TPOH was robbed: the acoustic-based pop rocker “When The Sky Comes Falling Down”.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Bonaventure “Come Hell or High Water” [EP]

Pop rock

Formed in 2010, Bonaventure is a Nashville-based pop rock duo that recently released their debut EP, “Come Hell or High Water” on May 15th. Following the success of their previous bands, vocalist Andrew Albert (previously of Holiday Parade) and guitarist Dan Smyers (previously of Transition) have teamed up to create an explosive act in Bonaventure. The band has a diverse sound reminiscent of influences such as Kings of Leon, The Fray, and Carolina Liar.

Bonaventure's debut EP is a perfect soundtrack to kick off the summer. Lead off track “Gaining Speed” feels like a #1 radio hit with an uncanny resemblance to Train. “I Dare You” is another slick piece of commercial pop rock with a sweet hook and sound that pays homage to their love of The Fray. The title track breaks things down with some refreshing acoustic guitars before the power chords chime in to accentuate the storytelling lyrics. “These Shoes” is included as a bonus track - a beautifully sparse but radiating song with a Wildflowers-era Tom Petty vibe (see video below).

Bonaventure brings soulful vocals, melodic hooks, and outstanding modern production to your ears. There’s not much more required to satisfy pop rock fans. You can purchase the EP on iTunes.

Bonaventure – Official site.

Watch the official music video for "These Shoes" on here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Alfonzetti

By Stephen Kasenda

ALFONZETTI “Here Comes The Night” (2011)

ALFONZETTI's 'Here Comes The Night' is his third solo offering, which came out pretty late in 2011. It steals the attention and I've seen some friends rate this pretty high, even up to their top 10 of that year. I do think this is a great album, but I'm not sure that it's really worth that extremely high rating because despite some killer tracks here such as 'Set Me Free', 'Heartbreaker', 'Don't Listen To Your Heart', and 'Lay Your Love On Me', there are few weaker moments such as 'Why Can't You Love Me', 'Losing You', or 'Rock N Roll Heart'.

This album was handled by only two guys. Matti himself played bass and guitar while singing the whole song and his other friend, Daniel Flores, plays drums and also keys. But to me, it doesn't sound like a one-time project and it still feels like a whole band playing a complete album. Alfonzetti still has that great vocal and I need to underline that the gems of this album are the ballads, so probably not really for those who prefer heavier music, even though you can still find some good uptempo tracks here as well. 'I Will Never Let You Fall' is also a great track.

My biggest complaint is that this album is just way too short. Clocking below 40 minutes, it reminds me of old SLAYER or TESTAMENT album, and I think providing a couple more songs would have been better. I give this a solid 80%, depends on the mood, probably swing as high as 85%. If you love melodic rock and AOR, I think Alfonzetti has done a pretty good job here.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Under Cover: Hit Me Baby One More Time

Travis "Hit Me Baby One More Time" (Britney Spears)

Circa 2003, Brit-pop band Travis reworked this massive Britney Spears hit from a slick overproduced affair to a stripped down acoustic version.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: Wig Wam “Wall Street”

Melodic rock
Norwegian glam revival band, Wig Wam, is back with their fourth release, “Wall Street”. The boys in this band enjoyed their major breakthrough in 2005 when they presented their single "In My Dreams" to the Eurovision Song contest, beating all rivals and going straight to #1 on the national charts, where it stayed for over 21 weeks and went platinum. In 2006, Wig Wam recorded their follow up, “Wig Wamania”, and further cemented their reputation for big riffs and catchy hooks with the 2009 release of “Non Stop Rock N Roll” (reviewed here).

As you might surmise from the title, all the fun seems to have been sucked out of this party band. This time around, the band made a conscious effort to bring more depth to their lyrical themes. An admirable task, but it isn’t going to be compatible with what many of their fans expect – and might want. There is a greater sense of drama in the musical accompaniment to match the darker, more somber mood. Nothing wrong with a band evolving and experimenting, but I have to say it took me by surprise and I’m not sure it was a pleasant one.

The title track and “OMG! (Wish I Had A Gun)” almost seem too serious for their own good, and these are followed by a painfully boring ballad called “Victory Is Sweet” (but even more sleepy is “Tides Will Turn”). “The Bigger The Better” is more exemplary of what we’d expect from Wig Wam, but it feels strangely small in staying power. “Try My Body On” might have worked better on a previous record, but these lyrics just sound stupid sandwiched between the other songs. The only tracks that have a chance of being played again into my ears are the catchy “Wrong Can Feel So Right”, the funky rock fusion “One Million Enemies”, and the refreshing acoustic-based jam “Natural High”.

I really enjoyed the last Wig Wam record, but “Wall Street” is bankrupt – what a disappointment! A band should grow and explore more serious themes, but they don’t have to compromise memorable melodies to do so.

Wig Wam – Official site.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: SIVA Addiction “Bad Decisions”

Modern rock
Led by the powerhouse vocals of Bridgette Oliver, Oklahoma-based SIVA Addition released their sophomore effort, “Bad Decisions”, back in February of this year. Propelled by the head-banging single, “One Night Rodeo”, the band is raising eyebrows as fans raise their fists in the air at their shows. “Bad Decisions” was produced by Hinder's Cody Hanson, so if you’re familiar with Hinder you have a good idea of what SIVA Addiction sounds like. In addition to Bridgette Oliver on lead vocals, SIVA Addiction features Andy Hopkins on lead guitar, Jesse Slone on bass, Vince Lindstrom on rhythm guitar, and Brandon Fields on drums.

The title track serves to introduce us to what SIVA Addiction is all about – thick riffs, anthem choruses, and engaging lyrics and vocals. In addition to the terrific “One Night Rodeo”, other rocking highlights include “Hit Me”, “Night To 5”, and “When It’s Over”. The band can do more than rock out - “Gone Away” is a restrained and pleasant mid-tempo tune and “Take Me Home” is a solid power ballad.

Fans of Halestorm, Paramore, and Shinedown will want to check this one out for sure – lots of good tunes to feast on to satisfy modern hard rock appetites. You can catch the band on tour with Saliva.

SIVA Addiction – Official site.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

GOTTHARD “Human Zoo” (2003)

'Human Zoo' is a turning point for hard rock band GOTTHARD. Entering year 2000, the band seems to have convinced themselves to play a more European melodic rock style rather than the AC/DC driven no-frills hard rock. Both sides of GOTTHARD are interesting, as is trying to see them mix the two styles in the set list during their concerts.

This album is a slightly higher step than 'Homerun', and there are three insanely perfect songs here that give me chills when I hear them. 'Have A Little Faith' is a truly wonderful ballad with a beautiful violin that could make a perfect wedding song. 'Top of The World' is a roaring anthemic song and also an incredible gig opener. 'One In A Million' is a brilliant commercial track that I love a lot.

GOTTHARD also seems to focus more on the mid-tempo songs and ballads, even though some heavy rockin' songs like 'Human Zoo' and 'Where I Belong' add colors to the whole album. The mid-paced tunes such as 'Jamie's Not Alone', the acoustical ballad of 'First Time In A Long Time', and the closing song, 'What Can I Do' are other songs that I recommend. The production is also great and overall this one is a pleasant album and I'll gladly rate it a respectable 85%.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Wes Hollywood “Fantasy Arcade”

Power pop

Since 1999, Wes Hollywood has been honing his sound on the streets of Chicago, perfecting a mix of new wave and power pop that combines one part of the Kinks and two parts Cheap Trick. “Fantasy Arcade” is the culmination of lessons learned through the years, resulting in one of the most solid albums of his career.

In general, the music of Wes Hollywood is bouncy and upbeat, with melodies that feel inspired by Lennon and McCartney or Todd Rundgren. Highlights include “It’s Good To See You”, “Alfie”, “New Society”, and “City Streets”. While remarkably consistent, it could be argued that a few more dynamics would help prevent each song from sounding too similar to the last. Some additional harmonies would certainly take some of these songs to the next level.

“Fantasy Arcade” is a healthy dose of bright and cheery pop rock to start your summer off on the right foot – there is more than enough here to satisfy even the most discriminating power pop fan! And for your audiophiles, the record is available in both stereo and mono versions.

Wes Hollywood – Official site. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Sam Densmore “Ku-Thar’-Tik”


Sam Densmore is a singer/songwriter from Portland, Oregon who has poured all he’s learned about love and loss during his first 40 years into his latest album, “Ku-Thar’-Tik”. “Ku-Thar’-Tik” is actually a double EP: the first entitled “Sad Songs For A Sad World” and the second called “Cat Years”. Together, they consist of 17 tracks that are recorded in the lo-fi format, reminiscent of the organic feel Paul Westerberg has been shooting for on his most recent efforts. Densmore earned a BA degree in music composition in 1996, and his abilities have been polished over the years in various bands including Slow Children, Frequency db, and Silverhawk.

I would characterize Sam’s vocals along the lines of Michael Stipe (R.E.M.) or Dave Pilner (Soul Asylum), and the music he crafts is in the neighborhood of Elliot Smith or Guster at times. While the arrangements are sparse, this isn’t to say the artistry is not sophisticated. Beautiful chord changes and harmonies are heard throughout the course of this album and the simplicity forces you to focus on the message without being distracted by the smoke and mirrors of glitzy production tricks. I would be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that there are several songs on here that would stand to benefit from a more climatic ending or added dynamics.

At 17 tracks, there is a lot to digest. If this style piques your interest, I’d encourage you to check out “So Complex”, “Groan”, and “Sophisticated” on the first half. The second portion is much fuzzier and less accessible to my ears, but I’d point you to “She’s Going To Want You” or “Live Another Life” for sampling.

“Ku-Thar’-Tik” will be available on June 19.

Sam Densmore – Facebook.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week: Big Life

By Stephen Kasenda

BIG LIFE “Big Life” (2011)

Big Life, a name that reminds me of Night Ranger's classic release, definitely won't surprise me if their songs have derivative influences from what the Ranger did in the 80s. But to top the cake, Steve Newman uses his tender melodic rock touch and Mark Thompon-Smith enhances the product with his metallic experiences he grabbed by fronting Praying Mantis in the early 90s. If you also have heard the prog/AOR mix of Slamer's "Nowhere Land" and the two classic Giant albums, there are a lot of similarities in style on this record as well.

Going through this album from top to finish for the first time, my initial impression was they have a very unique sound - not your everyday melodic rock. Many songs have unpredictable patterns but the good thing is that every single tune has hit potential. If you prefer their harder side, "Dying Day", "Close To You", "Calling", "Feel Alive", and "Takin' Me Down" are the best picks. If you're curious for the slower parts, "I'll Still Be Here", "Stop In Time", and "Nothing Without You" are ballads carefully crafted for maximum enjoyment. The crème de la crème of this record is the third track, "Better Man". Driven by piano, it has a strong Toto touch - the chorus is a champion, the harmony is utterly brilliant, and it’s simply a superb song!

I didn't expect this album to be that good, but after repetitive listening, this album just gets better and better. I even came to the point that Big Life even surpasses the already-great release of Newman's, "The Art of Balance" last year. It would be a total waste if this project is only a one off shot. For fans of melodic hard rock and AOR, it's an unforgivable crime to pass on this. Bottom line: Bigger than just Big!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.