Album review: INA FORSMAN – Been Meaning To Tell You

Ina Forsman - Been Meaning To Tell You

Ruf [Release date 25.01.19]

‘Been Meaning To Tell You’ is a challenging cross genre album that suggests Ina Forsman will be a musical force to be reckoned with.

The low key vocal and piano intro to the opening ‘Be My Home’ serves notice of a singer-songwriter, vocal led album. Ina Forsman’s phrasing dominates throughout an album with significant big band accompaniment that broaches contemporary r&b, pop, soul, funk, jazz and blues.

A dozen tracks are built round her lyrical acumen and her ability to phrase ebulliently above Kazz Kazanoff and his Texas Horns, alongside a stellar cast of Austin A-list players including Laura Chavez on guitar, Chris Maresh on bass, and Red Young on piano.

Normally on a solo album the players don’t get such a big name check , but it’s the ambitious arrangements, her relationship lyrics and unfettered vocal style that makes this album work, or otherwise depending on your view.

Whoever was behind the decision to record the album with Mark ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff, obviously had a musical vision far bigger than some of the individual tracks here. It makes for some stellar moments, even if they sometimes tend to be within a song rather than the song itself.

Take ‘Genius’ for example, on which Forsman sings behind the beat on a big horn-led soul outing, before soaring when the moment takes her. Like the album as a whole, her vocal is partly beguiling and party annoying. For while she hints at many musical directions and lyrics nuances, she rarely hovers long enough to give a phrase real substance. Indeed Laura Chavez’s short but effective guitar solo gives the track its missing beef.

That said, Forsman’s lyrical ability is impressive, whether on the contrasting male perspective of sexual harassment ‘Whatcha Gonna Do’ – on which purrs like Eartha Kitt – or on the more sophisticated female retort ‘Why You Gotta Be That Way’, on which her purring diction ensures you get the feel if not always the meaning in her diction.

Her stellar phrasing dominates a funky, jazzy track that closely defines her contemporary feel on another song with an electric piano solo.

The cornerstone to the album is her interpretive ability and the way she wrings every last nuance from her own words, even if she does sometimes over sing.

No matter, you can’t help but think that it’s with innovative artists like Ina Forsman and Samantha Fish that blues will have any kind of enduring contemporary appeal.

She tops and tails the album with the focus squarely on her voice, albeit 2 minutes in from the opening ‘Be My Home’ we’re into a full blown gospel arrangement.

The following ‘Get Mine’ serves as a contemporary slice of funky r&b, with her breathless vocals and an annoyingly phrased hook that admittedly stays in the mind, which of course was probably the idea.

The album title comes from ‘All Good’, a light poppy outing on which her voice shifts from the angelic to outrageous swoops in an MOR context.

On the slow blues ‘Miss Mistreated’ she twists and turns every single lyric to illustrate both her considerable abilities, but also her shortcomings. She’s got an incredible range that sees her go from a purr to a huge swoop, but she lacks a natural middle range and tries to over compensate by straining.

They say a slow blues always asks the most of a singer, and though she attacks it with gusto, like the ‘Sunny’ book-end to the album, it sounds closer to a vocal exercise than any deep emotional connection.

However, this is far from being a one dimensional album, and the great moments easily compensate for the opposite.  She’s much better on the more relaxed vocal and piano arrangement of ‘Figure’, while ‘Who Hurt You’ is a notable highlight, being a cool soul outing with sympathetic horns, call and response bv’s and a belated flute part that leads to a big resolution

By contrast, the playful ‘Every Single Beat’, is built round a cluttered percussive Latino arrangement that is surprisingly well suited to her fast paced delivery. The track allows her to soar and swoop at will, as she cleverly incorporates some of the players as part of the song.

‘Been Meaning To Tell You’ will doubtless have many admirers and rightly so. There’s always room for challenging imaginative song writing and vivacious vocals in the blues, while any cross genre work is always something to be championed. Ultimately the album is just a little too busy, as her musical twist and turns mirror a restless spontaneous vocalist who is never going to settle for a one dimensional song.

You could argue that ‘Been Meaning To Tell You’ is groundbreaking, and that being so, it’s an album full of promise which might have benefited from just a little more restraint.  ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: JOOST DE LANGE BAND – Lonesome Wolf

Joost De Lange Band - Lonesome Wolf

Self release [Release date 01.03.19]

Joost de Lange Band’s ‘Lonesome Wolf’ is a hard hitting rock-blues album inspired by Rory Gallagher, but fashioned to their own ends by the band’s melodic hard rock-blues intensity. It’s an album full of grit, passion, sweat and guts. It’s crammed full of flint sharp riffs, inspired playing and solid songs.

Belgian band Joost de Lang Band is the epitome of a hard rock power trio with blues antecedents. They are the glorious sum of their parts on 11 tracks that balances rocking blues with subtle elements of grunge, funk and melodic pop that offers plenty of contrast.

Everything sounds effortless, yet there’s an unfettered intensity to their music as they transfer their live chops into a studio without missing a beat.

‘Lonesome Wolf’ is the kind of album that rock fans of a certain age will relish, while younger rock fans will surely be drawn to the bone crunching riffs.

Rory Gallagher comes to mind simply because the band members play as if it’s their last day on earth. The steely riffs, thunderous rhythm section and animated vocals mirror the band’s total commitment.

They open with a brace of hard rockers which sets out their musical stall. ‘Drifting Away’ is the sound of a road tested band that knows the value of a good chorus. The focus is on sheer power and intensity, tempered by de Lange’s scorched earth vocals and judicious use of wah-wah.

‘Best Shot’ is an equally good, being a high octane hard-rock drinking song fired by Ramses Donvil’s bulldozer drums, incendiary guitar and another catchy hook with subtle  harmonies. A mighty tension breaking guitar solo in the middle lifts the track to another level and gives the album its sense of direction.

And it’s that simple combination of the intense solos and uplifting hooks that gives the band its unique sound in a crowded market place.

‘Fly On’ features a spiky Walter Trout style riff fused with a melodic bent, before a defining solo that rises from the track like a soaring eagle.

Trout is also an influence on the big wall of sound that glues together the title track, which flows mellifluously and leads into a blitzkrieg solo and descending harmony guitar lines, before a subliminal reggae breakdown leads us back to the hook.

The album as a whole is anchored by the more relaxed cool blues of ‘The River’, notable for a beautifully constructed climactic solo from de Lange, as the rhythm section pushes him to the limit.

They stylistically strip things down to the basics on ‘Soul On Fire’ – a rip tight, high octane, stop-time boogie  that could be George Thorogood and the heavy boogie of ‘Rock & Roll Radio’, which though a bit obvious is a decent fist pumping anthem.

They round things off with a borrowed Deep Purple riff on the big sounding ‘The Rambler’, before de Lange’s double tracked harmony vocals turn it into something all of their own.

Mitchell Goor’s rumbling bass on the song’s break-down leads to one more dynamic tension busting guitar break, as the band head for a final uplifting chorus on a powerful ending, via a punctuated coda, to an immensely enjoyable rock-blues album.

Credit must also go to producer and mixer Guido Aalbers at Guisound studio for both the pristine sonic quality and the way he captures the band’s spark.

‘Lonesome Wolf doesn’t so much reinvent the rock-blues wheel as offer a timely reminder of what rock used to be in the pre auto-tune era. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra


Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: ALLY VENABLE – Texas Honey

Ally Venable - Texas Honey

Ruf Records [Release date 22.03.19]

Ruf Records has long established its niche in the contemporary blues market with a roster of up and coming talent that reflects the best of the global blues scene.

From Aynsley Lister, Ian Parker, Erja Lyytinen, Vanja Sky, Oli Brown and Samantha Fish to Joanne Shaw Taylor, Laurence Jones, Ina Forsman, Eliana Cargnelutti and Christina Pejak etc, the label has poured all it’s resources into new artists and taken them to the next level.

Like many of her label predecessors, Ally Venable is touring with the Blues Caravan to help market her music, but unlike some of her predecessors the Texas guitar slinger is already being tipped by her producer Mike Zito as: “the future of the blues and the crossover music of American roots-rock.”

But before anyone gets too carried away, they should read the small print, as she is indeed potentially the future, but still has some work to do.

On the evidence of ‘Texas Honey’, she’s already learnt her basic craft, which is the art of storytelling within a rock/blues song. She also frequently delivers a telling solo as part her own unique style, which is gritty but melodic rocking Texas blues that veers towards the middle ground.

In short ‘Texas Honey’ is an album where you can hear her going through the gears, while heading for the fast lane.

The double East Texas music award winner revels in a power trio setting with the dependable rhythm section of bassist Bobby Wallace and drummer Elija Owings, with Lewis Stephens adding keyboards. But it’s when she digs in with special guest Eric Gales on ‘Come And Take It’ that you can hear both the best of her ability, but also the fact she has a way to go.

The slide-led piece is full of unwitting contrast, from her scratchy voice set against Gales’ warm timbre, to the different guitar tones which reflect the chasm between a lifetime of playing the blues and the new kid on the block.

The guitars impressively lock into a harmony part over a military shuffle which finally levers us into guitar break, as Gales breaks the tension with an almighty shred, and in the distance you can hear Ally on the fade.

Mike Zito’s slide also acts a welcome foil on ‘One Sided Misunderstanding’, as he effectively brings an extra layer to a song on which her upper register vocal on the hook works well alongside neatly interwoven guitars.

She opens with ‘Nowhere To Hide’, with a little echo on her voice to give it more punch, over a slide guitar riff leading to a catchy hook. The track builds into a crunchy solo which announces her fretboard ability at the outset.

‘Broken’ is a good example of her succinct writing ability which draws the listener into both the narrative and lashings of guitar. The opening avalanche of guitars on the title track sounds like Skynyrd meets ZZ Top. She struggles to bring the requisite heft to her vocal, but cleverly adds a pre-hook pregnant pause, before filling the track with brusque guitar work leading back into the hook.

This track alone defines where she is at the moment, an artist teetering on the brink of something new and exciting, but not quite there yet.

‘Blind To Bad Love’ is more of an interesting challenge. Built on a North Mississippi hill country blues style sludgy beat, it demands more of her vocal than she can deliver. Yet it’s well paced enough for her not to oversing, while the brooding bv’s provide a stark contrast to her high register timbre to cleverly evoke the title of the song.

She’s back to her rocking best on ‘White Flag’ which features  a sinuous wiry solo at the heart of the song, while a gentle hypnotic guitar riff ushers in ‘Long Way Home’,  a more relaxed outing that in a live setting could be become a mighty groove.

‘Texas Honey’ is a gentle beguiling album with steely licks and a fragile voice that at times leaves you wondering whether she’s going to deliver, but the fact that she does so – and at times ebulliently – gives the album its sense of triumph.

As the production work kicks in, the lattice of guitar lines wrap themselves round her vocal, as illustrated by the slide work on ‘Running After You’, a song with a sing-along hook.

Her nifty guitar playing on SRV’s ‘Love Struck Baby’ and her undulating solo on WC Handy’s ‘Careless Love’ act as a counterbalance to her light vocals on both.

No matter, it’s the fervour with which she attacks those tracks that give you an insight into her fearlessness, ambition and fiery guitar playing that will carry her a long way. ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra


Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Gig review: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL- Donington Park, Leicestershire, 14-15 June 2019

Def Leppard

The fact that Download ranks alongside the very largest of all the UK festivals is tribute to the enduring, if underground, popularity of metal and heavy rock  in all its forms. However in some quarters it gets a bad rap, in particular the notorious mud leading to ‘Drownload’ banner headlines. However for an astonishing variety of bands in addition to the biggest acts in the genre, it is the only place to be, in the UK at least.

This year the weather jinx struck yet again with torrential rain in the days before the festival and showers during it, leading to highly publicised stories of people evacuating the site before the festival had even started. However it seemed as packed as ever, even though I heard accounts of a myriad of other troubles from long delays to get in to queues for the bar.

I am sure conditions were worse in the campsites, but as a day tripper, I escaped lightly and though there was plenty of mud, the main areas in front of the stages had straw put down and were perfectly safe.

DAY 1 (14 June) – Def Leppard, Slash, Whitesnake, Delain

Friday was the main day for someone of my more classic and commercial tastes, but my own festival did not go to plan with my partner rushed to hospital the night before, meaning that on my planned schedule I missed out on Goodbye June, Tesla and Blackberry Smoke. Together with Vega, one of my favourites but sandwiched in a tight gap in the schedule at the top of the hill from the main stage, my apologies to those bands or any of their fans hoping to read how they performed.

First step when visiting hours ended and I finally arrived was the Zippo Encore stage to see Dutch symphonic metallers Delain, who somehow I have never caught in over a decade of touring, though as is traditional on a Download weekend, their tour for 2020 was also announced and splashed on posters on the site.

Delain

Dressed in colour co-ordinated red and black, they came over as fairly traditional symphonic metal until they then took a slightly out of the ordinary twist when both ‘Don’t Let Go’, with singer Charlotte Wessels leading crowd participation, and ‘We Are The Others’ both had an almost danceable Euro pop influence to them.

I left the second stage just as Geezer Butler was pounding out one of the all-time great bass riffs to ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ as new supergroup Deadland Ritual opened. However, for the rest of the day it was as far down the front of the main stage as I could get for three legendary bands, beginning with Whitesnake. In time-honoured fashion, after the ‘My Generation’ intro,  David Coverdale thrust his mike stand upwards and shouted both ‘are you ready’ and ‘ere’s a song for you’, as the band cranked out the riff to ‘Bad Boys’ in thrilling fashion, with solos from both guitarists,  cowboy-hatted Reb Beach and extrovert latest recruit Joel Hoekstra.

Whitesnake

Any review of present day Snake comes with a big health warning which divides opinion. Over exertion turned David’s once bluesy and richly soulful voice into a screechy croak many years ago. On the other hand, the band has been drilled to provide vocal support to minimise the effect. On ‘Slide It In’ among others, I noticed how they, bassist Michael Devin in particular, were providing support on the verses, not only in the more usual places like choruses.

Moreover he can still carry off the archetypal rock star look with charisma and indeed was in great physical shape, prowling the extended stage platform and even going down the dividing line separating the two halves of the front section during ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’.

Whitesnake

New album ‘Flesh And Blood’ was showcased with some pride,  with no less than four new songs, of which  ‘Hey You (You Make Me Rock)’ was easily the pick – the Bon Jovi-ish chant one that people readily picked up on, before it segued into ‘Slow an Easy’, minus its old intro, which got the best reception of the set yet.

I wasn’t so convinced by ‘Trouble Is Your Middle Name’ and ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’, though DC seemed to be having great fun. However, we had already had a guitar solo break when the least impressive of the new songs, ‘Get Up’ led into ferocious drum and then percussion solos from the seemingly ageless Tommy Aldridge.  I feared the Swiss timing that Download operates was running out and they would lose the race to play all the hits still to come in the set.

Whitesnake

Fortunately, with David saying ‘I can feel romance in the air’, even the odd  croaky line could not spoil a superb ‘Is This Love’ including a twin guitar solo, and with barely a pause for breath they rattled through a closing trio – ‘Give Me All Your Love Tonight’ had people bouncing at the front, ‘Here I Go Again’ resulted in mass participation and the riffs of ‘Still Of The Night’ were simply mighty as the song thundered to a climax, prior to calling a full house on Coverdale bingo as he signed off with a taped snatch of ‘We Wish You Well’ and his ‘don’t let anyone ever make you afraid’ shtick.

Whitesnake

This had been the full on, americanised Whitesnake experience and any trace of the yeoman blues rockers that had headlined the place in 1983 had been completely expunged. Subtlety was not the band’s middle name, and despite – or because of?- that they put on a great show full of movement with Joel in particular pulling some great poses.

Indeed it was a headline-worthy performance for a band only third on the bill. The only question was when is a headline tour to promote the album going to be announced, hopefully with a few of the older and bluesier songs?

Slash

This time last year Slash was headlining the festival as part of Guns’n’ Roses but now was second on the bill in his own right, back with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (or ‘Slash and Friends’ as the spatially challenged line-up posters had it!) This was an ideal opportunity for me to see them touring their latest ‘Living The Dream’ album as the London show at Hammersmith had (over) sold out in no time.

‘The Call Of The Wild’ wasn’t the most exciting opener but the fast-paced ‘Halo’ was an improvement and ‘Standing In The Sun’ featured a clap along during the faster close to the song. With four albums since the start of the decade, older songs like ‘Back From Cali’ and ‘Dr Alibi’, sung by bassist Todd Kerns and dedicated to its original singer Lemmy are now firm favourites. I admit to being not overly familiar with the new material but too much of it was ordinary other than the anthemic ‘Driving Rain’ and to an extent the rapid-fire ‘Mind Your Manners’.

Slash

Despite being one of the true guitar legends, with the iconic image of top hat and Les Paul tilted at an angle, Slash prefers to stay somewhat in the shadow, not addressing the crowd. Myles is an almost unrivalled singer but is naturally quite reserved, and the combined effect was that they suffered somewhat between the showmanship of Whitesnake and the slick visual stageshow of Def Leppard, even if they arguably had more musical substance than either.

With the set in danger of tailing off, things looked up with ‘You’re A Lie’  while ‘Nighttrain’, which now need only be a token GnR song in a set that used to be full of them,  went down well and Slash was let off the leash with an extended solo.

Slash

His crowning glory though was ‘Anastasia’ as he began with some delicate opening arpeggios which he repeated at greater speed and volume as the song wore on, all complementing Myles’ anguished voice.  ‘World On Fire’ was extended to include an audience singalong as one of the solo anthems that has stuck, completing a very worthy but unspectacular set.

Despite the huge crowd I was able to stay fairly near the front for Def Leppard, yet in a relatively civilised and comfortable atmosphere,  thankfully devoid of the circle pit that some young idiots decided to form nearby when they should have been paying attention to Slash’s set.

This was Sheffield’s finest’s fourth appearance at Donington and their third as a headliner in the past decade. On this occasion it was also a final UK bow for the ‘Hysteria’ show that toured at the end of last year. Having caught both London gigs, not only the setlist, but the show itself, lacked the element of surprise – other than a few graphics which I didn’t recall from the first time but I am sure were the same.

After a timed countdown on the stage, and rock classics culminating in their recent cover of ‘Personal Jesus’, they came on to play that ground breaking album in its entirety, opening with ‘Women’ with solos for both Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, then ‘Rocket’ with the first of the well chosen graphics on the giant screen.

Def Leppard

Joe Elliott, sporting that iconic t-shirt of Her Majesty with a Bowie-esque stripe, seemed on fresh vocal form throughout, though occasionally and inevitably in such a place there was the odd sound problem with the harmonies not sounding as rounded as normal on a couple of occasions.

The unusual thing about playing a classic album in order is that the usual sequencing of saving crowd favourites to last can be inverted. In this case it helped build the atmosphere swiftly to the boil with a trio of the big hits which delighted most fans (me less so) in ‘Animal’,  ‘Love Bites’ and most of all ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’.

Def Leppard

Chat was kept to a minimum, save for Joe making a few introductory remarks and joking they had stolen Vivian from Last In Line who had opened the day on the main stage, as the Irishman was ushered forward to play the opening riff to ’Armageddon It’. A touching photo of Steve Clark and vintage video excerpt led into the second side, as it were, which I preferred, being the opportunity to hear some of the less obvious songs.

At the end of ‘Gods Of War’ those sound effects were thudding deep into my body, ‘Don’t Shoot Shotgun’ would for me have been en equally good singles choice; then on ‘Run Riot’, a hark back to the earlier and more aggressive Leppard many of us still prefer, saw Phil doing exactly that on guitar.

Def Leppard

The more casual fan was back on side for a very poignant ‘Hysteria’ with a montage of the band in younger days and a few bars of ‘Heroes’ at the end, and though ‘Excitable’ failed Download’s environmental promise that nothing was disposable, a rare chance to hear the semi ballad ‘Love And Affection’ closed the book on ‘Hysteria’ one more time.

The second part of the set – or a 40 minute encore, depending how you look at – opened with ‘Lets Go’ which I found a very unconvincing  retread of past glories. However it was noticeable that, whereas the ‘Hysteria’ set had been very much a set piece, designed to showcase a lasting legacy, this part of the set was much looser and more relaxed, as Joe got participation going, and the same feeling persisted during ‘Let It Go’ where it was nice to be reminded of Leppard’s harder rocking roots.

Def Leppard

Joe invited people to sing along to one they might remember in ‘When Love and Hate Collide’ but a greater response was reserved for ‘Lets Get Rocked’. However the best was saved to last – reminding us with some poignancy that it was at Donington 1986 that Rick Allen first made his comeback from his dreadful accident, Joe introduced the drummer for his customary introduction to ‘Rock Of Ages’.

Phil in particular was rocking out, and during ‘Photograph’ there were big, energised smiles from both band and fans, Viv and Phil going down the walkway together and the latter producing a superb closing solo.

Def Leppard

As Joe closed with his usual ‘don’t forget us..we won’t forget you’ shtick, my concluding thoughts were that Def Leppard remain masters of the  immaculately choreographed show and unlike contemporaries Bon Jovi, have retained just enough of a rock edge for Download to continue to successfully book them as one of the select group of headline worthy acts.

DAY 2 (15 June) – Halestorm, Stone Temple Pilots, Three Days Grace, Brothers Osborne, Epica

Sunday at Download boasted heavy hitters in a variety of fields, from the alternative sounds of main headliners Tool and Smashing Pumpkins to a pair of thrash’s ‘big four’ in Anthrax and Slayer’s supposedly final UK show. However none of it appealed to my own musical tastes, so Saturday was to be my second and last day at the festival.

I steered well clear of the main stage where Slipknot were headlining, and conserved walking through mud by spending the whole day at the Zippo Encore stage, the second largest and with a capacity of a medium-sized festival by itself. I’d learned from previous visits that the vantage point from the left of that stage is one of the best at Download.

Epica

After another hospital trip I arrived in time to catch the last few songs of Epica. While their fellow Dutchmen Delain the day before had offered a little variation on the theme, they were symphonic  metallers straight from central casting – a great show with plenty of pyro, and the classic ‘beauty and the beast’ contrast between the operatic vocals of Simone Simons, clad in a spangly gold dress, and the growling delivered by guitarist Mark Jansen. The other entertainment was the keyboard of Coen Janssen, which span from one side of the drum riser to another like a radio controlled hostess trolley.

I said at the start that Download is a broad church and the net was stretched to its limits to encompass Brothers Osborne. I knew this would be different when a banjo was among the instruments being prepared, and was curious to see them as they have built a reputation as the latest in a long line of interesting southern bands.

Brothers Osborne

Like Download regulars Blackberry Smoke and the Cadillac 3, they mix rock with other southern influences, though perhaps with an even stronger emphasis on country,  as evidenced  by the fact that  singer TJ Osborne seemed surprised at a good reception from an admittedly smaller crowd and sheepishly said ‘this is what we do’.

However as well as leaning towards the darker outlaw country style  made popular on both sides of the Atlantic by the likes of Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell,  the lead guitar work on the likes of ‘Shoot Me Straight’ of the other brother,  cowboy hatted John,  was steeped in rock influences.

Osborne Brothers

TJ’s heavily accented deep baritone lent character to the likes of opener ‘Drank Like Hank’ and ‘Shoot From The Hip’. The one out and out country song ‘Weed, Whiskey and Willie’ was very enjoyable with the second guitarist playing lap steel, while ‘It Ain’t My Fault’ was a rabble rouser that I and others picked up on the chorus.

However it turned into a jam with the keyboard player switching from synthesiser to piano and back again, then a guitar solo, and all in all the song took up the last 15 minutes of a 40 minute set which was frustrating, albeit a trait that many of these southern bands share.

I struggled to regain a good spot having underestimated the appeal to UK fans of Three Days Grace. I saw the Toronto band at a festival in the USA in 2012 and  remember them being too brutal for me. I am not sure whether new singer Matt Walst – who I saw here many years ago with My Darkest Days – has since made a difference  but, sporting an asymmetric haircut, he was certainly a lively and charismatic  frontman, expert at marshalling the crowd.

Three Days Grace

Openers ‘Mountain’ and ‘Home’,  and ‘The Good Life’ in particular, managed to be both heavy and hooky throughout, reminding me of latter day Shinedown and Pop Evil, though guitar solos were all but absent.

 ‘I Hate Everything About You’ and ‘Never Too Late’ were semi ballads of the type bands of their post-grunge ilk excel at,  while during ‘Animal I Have Become’ Matt’s  bass playing brother Brad began beating out the riff to ‘Seven Nation Army’ – though unlike at a certain other major festival, the crowd did not burst into an ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn’. A short but sweet set ended with ‘Riot’ with the hyperactive Matt diving into the crowd and acting out the ‘Lets Start A Riot’ lyric, judging from the circle pit action I could see on the video screen.

I wouldn’t have given Three Days Grace a second thought yet they were one of the revelations of the festival. Could the same be true of Stone Temple Pilots? Full disclosure – I detested grunge with every bone of my body, though in hindsight less on purely musical grounds, and more for the symbolic fact it was driving the music I loved underground, rendering my musical tastes irrelevant and leaving me feeling old  in my mid-twenties.

Stone Temple Pilots

However, rather than sulk in the press or beer tent waiting for Halestorm, I thought such a multimillion selling band deserved a fair hearing and I found myself pleasantly surprised. If anything the music was too bland, with brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo locked into an understated groove, though ‘Big Bang Baby’ was an enjoyable tune.

The big difference for me was new singer Jeff Gutt, in his Billy Idol crop, who bizarrely was a former X Factor USA contestant (imagine that happening in the anti-rock culture of the UK’s media industries!)   Energetic and with a good voice, he did not come over as edgy or as troubled as the late Scott Weiland but had mainstream appeal, even if he did over use the word ‘badass’!

Stone Temple Pilots

Their big hit ‘Plush’ was given a fresh treatment as the way it built from a stripped down intro only enhanced the crowd participation, even if it still sounds like Pearl Jam-lite, followed by more big favourites in ‘Interstate Love Song’ and ‘Dead And Bloated’ with its refrain of ‘I am smelling like the rose’.  However it was a token new song in ‘Roll Me Under’ (one of the few where the song title could be gleaned from the lyrics!) that made me think I might even quite like STP.

As Jeff introduced the last song, a fan behind me said ‘they’d better play ‘Sex Type Thing’ and memories came back of when it was a staple in Velvet Revolver’s set, ending a set that the fans loved and which came as a pleasant surprise for this non-fan.

Halestorm

That left Halestorm as second stage headliners, my good vantage point compensating for last year’s show where we arrived too late at a Brixton Academy packed to the gills. With their upcoming tour graduating to their largest venues yet, here was a chance to see how a band who had progressed up the stages and bills in nearly a decade of regular Download appearances could shape up as an arena band, just as Black Stone Cherry have.

Lzzy Hale has certainly blossomed into a charismatic figure who owns the stage and is entirely comfortable in her own skin, right down to some very un rock n roll trousers that flared from the knee downwards and platform boots.

Halestorm

Opener ‘Do Not Disturb’ was an interesting choice, being too staccato to be a conventional opener,  before another song from last album ‘Vicious’ in ‘Uncomfortable’  with a riff that owed much to Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’.

Lzzy stated her pride in being one of the (still too few) women on the festival stages, introducing ‘Ms Hyde’,  which unlike their later work combined heaviness with big hooks  that had people bouncing and punching the air, while the semi-ballad  ‘I Am The Fire’ had an anthemic quality.

Halestorm

They even played a brand new song ‘Chemicals’,  taking a stage further  the darker new sound from the most recent album,  also shown to good effect on ‘Skulls’ and ‘Killing Yourself To Live’, though ‘The Silence’ was entirely different, raw stripped down emotion delivered just by Lzzy and Joe Hottinger on acoustic guitar.

The latter was a revelation: I always remember him, and bassist Josh Smith as rather faceless figures in Lzzy’s shadows , but the growth in his hair seems to have had a Samson-like effect as he was far more animated and extrovert and shared the spotlight with Lzzy, to the benefit of their stage show. Indeed a highlight of the show was how ‘Amen’, made for crowd participation, then developed into an epic guitar battle between the pair.

Halestorm

Lzzy’s brother Arejay, sporting a homemade tribute to Keith Flint, was as crazy as ever and while his drum solo with giant sticks the size of a baseball bat has become old hat, it never fails to raise a chuckle and very nicely led into ‘Freak Like Me’ as the set ended with a series of crowd pleasers including ‘I Get Off’ from the very first album, making a welcome return to the set, then Lzzy welcomed on stage for ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ a young Japanese singer Asami  who named her band after the song.

Lzzy then let out a huge scream which led me to fear for her welfare, but it led into perhaps the best of all the classics on their ‘Strange Case…’ album in ‘I Miss The Misery’. The band then extended it into a  lengthy jam as she and Joe again traded riffs and solos- though with the clock running out it also meant no time for traditional closer ‘Here’s To Us’.

Halestorm

From their early days as something of a family cottage industry it has been great to see Halestorm’s gradual progression as a band, and this stage show was a quantum leap forward, which is just as well as Download needs newer acts to step up to be tomorrow’s festival marquee names. Rainstorms may have been the talking point for much of the week, but the Saturday night belonged to Halestorm.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Rising Stars – JETT REBEL

Pop rocker Jett Rebel has a new single out now, ‘Waiting For The Weekend’ and we asked him a few questions about his musical influences, the new single and more…

You found you had musical ability at a young age, at 10 you played drums, piano and guitar, were your parents musicians? If not, how did you persuade them to let you have lessons / buy instruments?

Luckily my parents also played so there would always be instruments. I tried to play those before mastering the skill of walking. I started drum lessons when I was 5, and piano at 6. But I was already playing those before that. Couldn’t persuade my parents to also get guitar lessons, so that I had to teach myself. That kind of goes for all the instruments I took on after.

What bands or musicians influence you and your music?

Too many to pick out a few. I think the first thing I got into where The Beatles. I’m mainly inspired by 60’s/70’s/80’s music.

Your song, ‘On Top of The World’, was released as a bonus song on the soundtrack of The Amazing Spider Man 2 – how did this come about?

I’m not really sure anymore. But I jump on opportunities like that. Asking me to do a soundtrack, you are likely to receive my first draw before the day is through.

Are you a superhero movie/Spiderman fan? Was this special to you?

Not specifically. I was into superman as a kid. But really, I’m a sci-fi nerd. Anything that starts with “star”.

You write your own music & handle arrangements, production, vocals and play all instruments when recording, sounds like a lot of work – artistic control is obviously vital for you?

I guess so. I’ve always had some sort of “studio”. As a kid that used to be a cassette deck, nowadays a full blown one. Coming up with an idea, and being able to end the day listening to a fully written, produced and recorded song is so addictive. Being able to do all that by myself just comes in really handy being that type of junky.

You have won many accolades/awards in Netherlands and Europe, but you are independent, not signed to a major label – is this a choice you made to maintain artistic control for your musical vision?

I’ve always strived to do things exactly the way I feel they should be done, and just be me. A lot of the things I feel are normal, seem very nostalgic now. It has a lot to do with the purity of things, it’s all about music. Honestly, most major’s don’t understand what I do, cause it’s unfortunately pretty rare these days. It’s all about money.

You are playing an intimate show in London, is it important for you to come to the UK, and will this be your first ever UK gig?

This is Jett Rebel’s very first UK gig indeed, and I’m over the moon. Have been looking out for this moment for over 5 years.

I did work on the “Hits For Kids” album in London, but no gigs happened around that time. I also remember playing a jewish wedding in a wedding band there ages ago. Those were very different times.

I got all this piled up excitement for doing this, people better beware.

Tell us a bit about your new single, ‘Waiting for the Weekend’ ?

That song is there to get you trough the week so you can party to it on the weekend.

Do you have a message for your UK fans?

Can’t wait to see you, meet you and give my all to you. It’s been a long time coming. This won’t be a one time thing though, I’m coming over to get to know you so that we can start dating. Then one day I hope we can get married.


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Gig review: TESLA – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 16 June 2019

Gig review: TESLA – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 16 June 2019

No surprise to see a healthy crowd in on this damp Sunday evening to see Wayward Sons. The band has been cutting a noteworthy profile since its establishment in 2016 and already a second album is in the can.

‘Don’t Wanna Go’ and ‘Be Still’ kicked off the set in typically punchy, direct, hard rockin’ style. Toby Jepson commanding the attention, belting out full throated lyrics and chucking his Flying V about.

By the time ‘Alive’ came along, the band grabbed the opportunity to stretch out and it quickly became apparent that lead guitarist Sam Wood is a serious talent. He laid down some gorgeous, fluid breaks on this track and stamped his authority on everything he played.

More than this, Wood looked like was loving every minute. Indeed the whole band attacked the set with energy and vim. Jepson, with a top table cv led the band well and worked the audience like a real pro. This was a good show.

Newsboy-capped and long-time Jepson wingman, Dave Kemp brought his keyboards to the party with some lush rumbles of organ on ‘Alive’ and percussive undertow to new track ‘The Joke’s on You’.

‘Crush’ crashed through on a fat sub-Zeppelin riff, with Nic Wastell and Phil Martini cooking up a sweet, tight rhythm and Wood splashing around in waves of bluesy lead guitar. The mood carried through with ‘Small Talk’ and another new track, ‘As Black as Sin’.

Wayward Sons have all the ingredients to take a significant step up from support slots like these. The band has Jepson’s talent for crafting driving hard rock with tasty hooks and a healthy attitude. The sound builds on a Little Angels (of course)/Thunder heritage, freshened up on tracks like the brilliant set-closer ‘Until The End’ with shades of Massive Wagons in energy and vocal delivery. This show would be a hard act to follow.

And so it proved. Tesla were – at least initially – pretty flat in comparison to the barnstorming support. A shame, because set opener ‘Tied To The Tracks’ is a good cut from the band’s even better latest album ‘Shock’. Second up ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ from their debut, and arguably best collection, ‘Mechanical Resonance’ also suffered a surprisingly tepid reception.

A muddy sound didn’t help, producing riffs that were lacking bite and muscle. Though the lead work from both Frank Hannon and Dave Rude was scintillating throughout. Take the former’s hair-raising slide intro on ‘Be A Man’ and the follow up ‘Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)’.

Maybe the crowd (the venue was far from sold out) didn’t warm to frontman Jeff Keith who largely left inter-song banter with them to Hannon; and who sidled off to the back of the stage during instrumental passages.

Keith’s voice, always gravelly, was as rough as a badger’s backside and way off-key on more than one occasion during the first part of the set. This didn’t help the mood. When one begins to notice the precision of the drummer’s fills and the effectiveness of the light show, clearly something is wrong.

Nevertheless, the band stuck to its guns and began to turn the tide. Surprisingly, mid-paced tracks like ‘Breakin’ Free’ with some dirty guitar and ‘Tastes Like’ went down well. ‘Miles Away’ featured one of the best closing solos of the night.

‘Changes’ mixed things up and as another classic from ‘Mechanical…’ it clearly connected with the crowd. Then Hannon wheeled out the double necked guitar out for ‘Stir It Up’ and even though ‘Call It What You Want’ was a little muddled, the band made its biggest impact so far with ‘What You Give’. Keith was out front making flirtatious comments and flashing his Californian smile to reveal teeth bright enough to blind half the crowd. He managed to cajole a good sing-a-long though.

The band were on a roll by now and ‘Edison’s Medicine (Man Out of Time)’ kept the feel-good mood bubbling on the big chorus.

In a rare interaction with the assembly, Keith told us that the band had been recording material in Abbey Road studio and by way of a Beatles tribute, we were treated to a rendition of ‘Blackbird’, before Hannon picked out the opening notes to ‘Love Song’.

Live staples ‘Little Suzi’ and ‘Signs’ brought the show to a close – no encores – in something approaching triumph, though it had been a struggle. The gig didn’t entirely capitalise on Tesla’s strong back catalogue, but credit to the band for working hard and producing a half-decent show.

Review by Dave Atkinson

 


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: GENERATION AXE – The Guitars That Destroyed The World (Live In China)

GENERATION AXE - The Guitars That Destroyed The World (Live In China)

earMUSIC [Release date 28.06.19]

Generation Axe, coordinated by Guitar God Steve Vai, brought together a summit of shredders from 2016 when the circus toured North America.  Subsequent sorties saw them in Asia, when this outing was recorded in April 2017.  Towards the end of 2018 they returned to North America.  Sadly, perhaps for some, they have never made it to the UK although the Satriani fret fest ‘G3′ made it here in 2018.

The problem with a guitar extravaganza  is the contrasting styles and the tendency for fretting flamboyance, sometimes overshadowing good taste as even great guitar players are caught in the moment.  For this reason, this account of the show will only really appeal to inveterate shredders and wannabe guitar nerds.

Stepping up to the plate with head-honcho Steve Vai (who contributes a thankfully listenable ‘Bad Horsie’) are Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde and the lesser known Tosin Abasi (Animals As Leaders).

All have a couple of tunes (sometimes “duets”) before the almighty blow-out of ‘Frankenstein’ and  ‘Highway Star’.  It is perhaps invidious to single out performances, they are all of a standard, but Abasi’s melodic figures on the Purple classic are convincing if somewhat isolated in this context.

It’s evident that this is a compilation of their show, a snapshot, which omits the later opener ‘Hocus Pocus’ reminding us that even five shredders can’t hold a candle to that song’s original melodic shred protagonist.  Where is Akkerman when you need him?  And Zakk Wylde’s solo turn is an (admittedly) incendiary take on the Allman’s ‘Whipping Post’ when he also played a couple of Sabbath songs on the night.

There’s no DVD/Bluray of this gig (although plenty of complete YouTube footage) so the nerds will have some fun identifying the players in the ensemble pieces.  ***

Review by David Randall


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: BARBE-Q-BARBIES – Borrowed Time

BARBE-Q-BARBIES - Borrowed Time

Dissonance Productions [Release date 17.05.19]

As fellow scribe Andy Nathan observed in his recent review of the Sweden AOR Convention, a fresh generation of Scandi bands now lead the pack in genres they were too young to have lived through first time around.

So what about sleaze/trash exponents Barbe-Q-Barbies, an all-female Finnish quintet?

Formed in 2002, and with three previous albums to their name – All Over You (2010), Breaking All The Rules (2013) and Driven (2015), their last release was an AC/DC, Kiss, and Motorhead flavoured outing, whereas Borrowed Time – their first with new guitarist Heidi Meri – focuses ‘on the songs rather than getting hooked on rock clichés … adding strong pop and even funk elements’.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done – in a very similar vein to Joanovarc – they’ve lost none of their sassy, locked and loaded attitude, but combined it with some strong pop sensibilities to deliver 32 minutes of radio friendly rock.

It’s a feisty affair, from the opener, title track and current single ‘Diz-funk-tional’ sounding like a sleazy ‘Spice Up Your Life’ (in a good way) to the foot-stomping funky closing rocker ‘Borrowed Time’, it’s a raunchy 32 minute ride of driving rhythms, big hooks, some excellent femme fatale vocals from singer Niki Rock, and some outstanding guitar work from Heid Meri who marries a suitably dirty tone with some fabulous lines.

Perhaps not yet the full package, but ones, along with Joanovarc, to watch.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: WARMRAIN – Back Above The Clouds

WARMRAIN - Back Above The Clouds

Rain Recordings [Release date 07.06.19]

Promoted as a ‘must have’ for fans of Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson and Anathema, a double ‘concept’ album is one hell of a gamble for a full length debut.

But such is the conviction of English singer songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Leon J Russell (no relation) – a man weaned on albums such as Quadrophenia, Tommy, Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall in the late sixties/early seventies.

Majoring on the more ethereal moments of the likes of Floyd, Wishbone and Home all wrapped in one double album package, it’s fairly safe to say, had Back Above The Clouds been released in the early seventies ‘WarmRain’ would have been indelibly scribed on many a sixth former’s rucksack.

But most of that generation have long since given up record buying, now eagerly awaiting the extra spending power of their State Pension.  Although a significant proportion no doubt indulged in The Endless River.

And Back Above The Clouds is a bit like an endless river.  Virtually every number conforms to a pattern of a gentle, wistful, opening, building slowly – through a meandering mid-section – to a mild ethereal climax.  Although for the most part, a bit like for most of us ‘over sixties’, ‘climax’ is something of an overstatement.

Dip in and, combined with an excellent production, it’s a formula that works convincingly well.  But play the full 90 minutes from beginning to end, and by the time you get to disc 2 you’ll likely be overcome by an overwhelming desire for something with a little more ‘life’ in it, with even the audacious, seven minute extended version of The Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again failing to get out of second gear.

That said, if you’re partial to the occasional spliff and, metaphorically, watching the river flow, then Back Above The Clouds could well be the perfect soundtrack.  But absent hallucinogenic stimulus, I’m sorry, life’s just too short.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley


Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: HEATHER FINDLAY – Wild White Horses

HEATHER FINDLAY - Wild White Horses

Black Sand Records [Release date 05.07.19]

Heather Findlay’s first full solo album is long overdue.  And really, you might have expected it to follow relatively hot on the heels of her excellent The Phoenix Suite EP way back in 2011.

Instead – during a period when we’ve seen the emergence of an unprecedented number of bands with female singers of a similar ilk – the ex-Mostly Autumn front woman has really only come up with I Am Snow (2016) – a ‘fireside, candlelit, winter companion’ that, a bit like snow, left no lasting impression on the landscape.

And while she’s not been dilly dallying – contributing live, or on record, to albums and projects by the likes of Richie Blackmore, Jethro Tull, Fish, John Wetton, Uriah Heep, and Thunder – Wild White Horses – produced by Thunder’s Luke Morley – could well be a ‘do or die’ attempt to get her solo career back on track.

So, with Morley having masterminded the recent resurgence of Thunder (and shaping the likes of The Amorettes), the question is whether – at his favoured Rockfield Studios stomping ground — he’s been able to tether a little of that magic to Findlay’s Wild White Horses.

He’s certainly thrown himself fully into the task – Dan McClusky on drums aside, he takes on pretty much all the instrumentation – guitars, bass, piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond, keys, mandolin, recorder, percussion and harmony vocals.  Yes, there’s smattering of ‘guests’, and a host of harmony vocalists, but with Morley also co-writing the greater part of the material, you almost have to wonder just whose project it was.

And it turns out to be quite a diverse and eclectic affair – from the easy on the ear Eagles style country rock opener ‘Here’s To You’, through ‘The Island’ and ‘Face In The Sun’ which hark back to Findlay’s earlier works – acoustic, ethereal, meanderings with her vocals full of longing, to the solitary unfettered rocker – ‘Southern Shores’.

As for the guest spots, Thunder’s Danny Bowes croons as only he does on their Linda Ronstadt style soft rock duet ‘Just A Woman’ (although I’m not convinced their voices are a great match), and Ian Anderson plays some typically tasteful flute on ‘Winner’ – a jaunty / folk number that wouldn’t be out of place on Thea Gilmore’s Small World Turning.

But it’s the Celtic, Troy Donockley embroidered ‘I Remember’ that takes the prize.  It’s an album highlight, adorned with some lovely fluid guitar lines from Morley, and a number befitting of last year’s excellent Auri debut.

Elsewhere, there’s middle of the road tinged Americana (‘Already Free’), a Kate Bush-style blues torch song (‘Cactus’), eighties balladry (‘Firefly’ and ‘Forget The Rain’), and the title track with a driving rhythm that I can’t quite place (Queen’s ‘Great King Rat’, perhaps?).

Overall, Wild White Horses feels a bit like a throwback to the late eighties/early nineties – say, around the time Shawn Colvin stuck a rich seam of form with Fat City.  Back then, or even a decade ago, it wouldn’t have been out of place but time has moved on. And while vocally Findlay was once the darling of the prog scene, some seriously talented new singers have emerged in recent years.

And in that context ‘restrained and predictable’ doesn’t really cut it as we rapidly approach 2020.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album, but it doesn’t exactly put Heather Findlay back amongst the front-runners in the field.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS – Pattern-Seeking Animals

PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS - Pattern-Seeking Animals

Inside Out [Release date 05.07.19]

Pattern-Seeking Animals maybe a new band, however its members have a long and shared history as it features John Boegehold, who started the idea of this band and writes and works with Spock’s Beard. Joining him are current Spock’s Beard members vocalist Ted Leonard (who also played the guitars on the album) and bassist Dave Meros, along with former Spock’s Beard drummer/vocalist Jimmy Keegan.

John Boegehold wanted Pattern-Seeking Animals to “…produce music that’s progressive and intricate while keeping things immediate and melodic. Whether a song is four minutes or ten minutes long, I didn’t want more than a few bars go by without some kind of instrumental or vocal hook.”

There are Spock’s Beard similarities, which can’t be avoided given the line-up and the fact Ted Leonard is singing, however Pattern-Seeking Animals go big on the melody and use of lush musical arrangements, not only on the longer songs like ‘’Orphans Of The Universe’, but also on the shorter songs like the excellent ‘These Are My Things’.

‘No One Ever Died And Made Me King’ is a monster of a tune, with a big chorus and equally big guitar riff (Ted Leonard shines throughout on his guitar playing), along with lots of keys – one part reminds me of a David Bowie tune but can’t recall which one!

Pattern-Seeking Animals look set to be in this for the long run and have produced a strong, melodic progressive rock album. Spock’s Beard fans will doubtless like it as will those who enjoy the melodic delights of bands such as Flying Colors and Supertramp. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

John Boegehold answered a few questions including how Pattern-Seeking Animals came together and what they have planned next…

How did Pattern-Seeking Animals come together?

Originally I just wanted to record live drums for some songs I’d been working on last year so I recruited Jimmy and booked time with Rich Mouser at The Mouse House here in L.A. In the time before that session, I finished a few more songs and added them to the list. Since at that point there was potentially enough for an album, I decided to produce them all as if it might end up as one then talked with Ted and Dave to see if they’d be into contributing. It didn’t start out to be a band but quickly evolved into one as things progressed.

Will PSA be purely studio based, or is the idea to play live and become a long term band?

Definitely long term band and more than just a studio project. We’re just starting to get offers to play live so we should have some shows either later this year or more likely early in 2020. A lot of logistics to figure out but we’re intent on making it work. We’re talking to one or two additional musicians since it’d be virtually impossible to pull off the songs as recorded as a four-piece.

For someone looking at the musicians involved and given the heavy Spock’s Beard connections, how would you say PSA differs from Spock’s Beard sound wise?

Right at the top, the keyboards and guitars aren’t the same. I’m playing and programming all of the synths and Ted Leonard is the guitarist. Our styles are quite a bit different than our counterparts in SB. Also, I approached producing the album differently than may be expected. All that said, I suspect everyone will have their own opinion as to how similar we sound.

You have done many film scores. Which have been the most memorable and what for you makes a good film score? Does this help in creating the epic soundscapes that appear on the PSA album and when writing for Spock’s Beard?

The one that first comes to mind was a documentary I did called “The Great Year” which was narrated by James Earl Jones about the fall of ancient civilizations that may have been related to celestial cycles. I was quite happy how the music turned out in that one. I do think some of my scoring experience and ideas find their way into my songwriting and producing.

What made you want to compose and play music?

Early on I started to realize that there was little or no future in being an admittedly average bass player in a series of unremarkable bands and that being able to write would expand my opportunities. Songwriting always seemed mysterious and difficult to me but I jumped in feet first and immediately loved doing it, as horrible as I was in the beginning.

Message for your fans…out there!

Thanks for listening, hope you like what you heard and stay tuned for much more music coming from Pattern-Seeking Animals in the very near future!


Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Gig review: TOTO – Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

In the ever more crowded gigging season, a fresh trend over the last few years has been for London’s finest historic settings to be used for concerts. Following in the footsteps of Hampton Court and Greenwich is now a short concert series, ‘Live at Chelsea’, in the courtyard of the Royal Hospital, home of the famous Chelsea Pensioners.

While the residents may have been entertained by the Gipsy Kings and Tom Jones, the rock night of the four night run here might have been more challenging to a good night’s sleep!

The big draw for me was seeing one of the giants of AOR in Toto, not least having missed their Albert Hall show last year. However in a belated move presumably to boost ticket sales, the Darkness were added to the bill to make an unlikely musical combination. I must be one of the very few people in the centre of a Venn diagram of fans of both bands.

The Darkness

The move was however justified when a fair number of Darkness fans rushed to unregulated standing sections to the side of the stage, as they started with a mix of the old and new in ‘Giving Up’ and ‘Open Fire’. But on a couple of the singles that made them the sensation of 2003, ‘Growing On Me’ and the ballad ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’, Justin’s lead guitar solos were excellent and show how he is the Angus to the Malcolm figure of brother Dan, less flamboyantly but metronomically  laying down a thick rhythm.

Indeed, after a rather ostentatious cowbell banging ceremony from bassist Frankie Poullain ‘One Way Ticket To Hell And Back’ was very AC/DC ish, with the exception of Justin’s love- them-or-loathe them falsettos, as was ‘Black Shuck’.

The Darkness

Sporting a white suit and personalised headband, Justin was his usual arch figure but his eccentric banter with the crowd began to pall and worst of all use up valuable time in a set constrained to 45 minutes.  They closed with two more from the ‘Permission To Land’ album that will always be their landmark, in ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’, proving that there was no swearing ban in this prestige venue, and the ever enjoyable ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ as more of us rushed the standing area to join in.

Indeed for a better atmosphere than the temporary grandstand seating, I moved there again and stayed for Toto’s set, although space constraints made it difficult to see the whole of an enclosed stage. As they opened in obscure fashion with the recently released ‘Devil’s Tower’,  David Paich was absent, continuing to recover from illness.

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

His young deputy, Dominique ‘Xavier’ Taplin who has played with Prince among others, was an exceptional keyboard player, combining effectively with Steve Porcaro’s synthesiser work, though it was still disappointing to see one of the two Toto mainstays absent.

The other, Steve Lukather, got his first chance to show his guitar prowess on a surprisingly early ‘Hold The Line’ but though delivered faithfully,  it was a touch lacklustre. At this stage the sound was too quiet, as I discovered singing along too loudly to a pleasant surprise in ‘Lovers In The Night’, with some great solos by both Xavier and Steve L, but the sound did sort itself out.

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

Though a rather low-key frontman, Joseph Williams was excellent all night, singing numbers originally recorded by a variety of other vocalists without getting too far out of his vocal range,  and shouldering more of the burden in David’s absence. He was helped though by my man of the match in sideman Warren Ham, an excellent singer in his own right and versatile multi instrumentalist. They left the way clear though for Steve L to sing ‘I Will Remember’ in typically smoky fashion.

‘English Eyes’ and later ‘Girl Goodbye’ were great examples of how, at their best, Toto’s blend of AOR tunesmithery and jaw dropping musicianship cannot be beaten. However, the patience of the  more casual fan was tested not only by regular rain showers, but a challenging  set list which admirably they regularly mix up,  including new material such as ‘Alone’, and a long instrumental in ‘Jake To The Bone’.

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

Steve L almost acknowledged this in introducing ‘Rosanna’ which got the best reception yet, with a great synth solo, though even then they could not resist stringing the song out into a jam after the final  chorus.

Repeating a format they used at the Albert Hall, an acoustic mid-section was a highlight, including an interesting treatment of ‘Georgy Porgy’  with Warren on flute, and later he played the blues harp on ‘No Love’, while Steve P – looking like a silicon valley entrepreneur on his day off –  introduced ‘Human Nature’ which he wrote for Michael Jackson. There were also more familiar songs given this treatment in ‘I’ll Be Over You’ and ‘Stop Loving You’.

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

I was also delighted that my own favourite Toto album, ‘Isolation’ was featured for once in the shape of ‘Lion’ which turned into an impressive, almost funky jam. However the theme from ‘Dune’ was probably an instrumental showcase too far as we headed towards the final part of the gig.

When Steve dedicated a song to one of his guitar heroes I was worried we were going to get a Hendrix cover, but instead he played ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ in tribute to George Harrison.  I wasn’t initially keen on the prospect but after Joseph got everyone to wave their phone lights as darkness fell in the courtyard, it created a great atmosphere.

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

After ‘Make Believe’, with a sax solo from Warren, showed the band at their super smooth best , Steve then said ‘Ok, lets play that song’. Now, ‘Africa’ seems to have joined ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ as an AOR classic that has taken on wider kitsch status for a new generation.

It was certainly the reason why there was a surprisingly number of party-hardy millennials present, sometimes to the irritation of many of us older and more serious fans. However, and despite the absence of its writer and co-vocalist, the sing-along atmosphere was joyful though a percussion-led jam took it to over ten minutes.

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

There was a single encore in one of their finest songs in ‘Home Of The Brave’ which unknown to me had apparently been dropped from recent sets. With Warren stepping in to share the vocals with Joseph, it was stirring, but I only realised after the event how appropriate the sentiment was in this place where those who served their country with such distinction spend their twilight years.

On a night when we were blessed by rains in SW6 and in an albeit special venue that had its shortcomings, this might not have been the very best Toto show I have witnessed, but their class still won the day.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Gig review: LAST IN LINE – Islington Academy, London, 12 June 2019

Last in Line have reached the same crossroads as the Black Star Riders did a few years ago. Originally put together by former bandmates to honour the memory of an iconic frontman, what then happens when you want to start creating new music? Since their UK bow with a wholly-Dio set at this same venue in 2013, the band have pushed forward with two albums of wholly original material.

And yet my own interest in attending this gig would otherwise be modest, but for the chance to hear those classics from the first two Dio records, which completed a decade long hot streak for Ronnie James, that had taken him from Rainbow to Black Sabbath to his own band.

When Dio played Donington Festival in 1983, their star was rising while that of the band on immediately before them, Diamond Head, was falling. So there was a neat symmetry that the latter  opened this well matched bill in front of an Academy crowd larger than I expected.

Diamond Head

Guitarist Brian Tatler is the only remaining member but has kept the name alive with various line-ups and this was my first chance to see the current one fronted by Rasmus Andersen. Shaven headed, bearded and with a good stage presence, he also had an impressive voice that could switch between registers, Dickinson-like.

Despite opening with ‘Borrowed Time’ from the eponymous album, a short set bravely featured the new album ‘Coffin Train’ as prominently as old favourites. They felt slightly heavier in execution that the vintage songs, with ‘Belly Of The Beast’ the most immediately notable, but demonstrated that Brian is not far behind fellow West Midlander Tony Iommi in his ability to craft a dark but killer riff.

Diamond Head

Given a new, extended intro, ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ was my favourite and I felt 15 all over again, while Brian had a joyful grin on his face as he and second guitarist Abbz Abberley pulled poses as they cranked out the riffs. The set seemed to have passed in no time, but needed to create space for a typically epic ‘Am I Evil’, the NWOBHM classic that Metallica have ensured will be remembered for posterity. But tonight was as much about Diamond Head’s future as their past.

Last In Line set the tone for their set by opening in fast and furious fashion  with ‘Landslide’,  before a huge cheer went up for the opening riff to ‘Stand Up And Shout’, followed as on the ‘Holy Diver’ album with ‘Straight Through The Heart’.

LAST IN LINE- Islington Academy, London, 12 June 2019

Vivian Campbell’s superb solo was the first, but not last, reminder that as a heavy rock guitarist he is, if not wasted (pun intended), then certainly  under-utilised in Def Leppard. He was a revelation throughout and treated us to some vintage solos, rapid but fluent, pitched somewhere between John Sykes and Gary Moore.

With keyboards ditched from earlier live shows, the new material such as ‘Year Of The Gun’,  ‘Give Up The Ghost’ and ‘Black Out The Sun’ was hard, taut  and uncompromising though lacking memorable hooks.

LAST IN LINE- Islington Academy, London, 12 June 2019

Singer Andrew Freeman also has a strong metal voice and though far from a Dio clone – other than sharing his small stature – he seamlessly slotted into the master’s old songs. He also won friends among this predominantly  male and fifty-ish crowd by name checking Iron Maiden and other British greats and wearing a jacket with ‘stay metal’ emblazoned on the back.

Of the Dio classics, ‘Holy Diver’ and their eponymous song were given a very authentic treatment, then bassist Phil Soussan paid tribute to his late predecessor  Jimmy Bain before ‘Starmaker’ which for me was the pick of their own songs, segueing straight into a Dio classic I’d forgotten about in ‘Evil Eyes’.

LAST IN LINE- Islington Academy, London, 12 June 2019

Indeed the ‘Last In Line’ album was well represented with  ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On)’ before perhaps the ultimate Dio anthem in ‘Rainbow In The Dark’,  but a heavier version notable for the absence of keyboards.

I knew what two songs were missing as they went into encores, but after ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ in which Vivian excelled himself even by his high standards there was an added number in ‘Devil In Me’, one of the best of the newer songs with the evergreen Vinny Appice powering it forward with some aggressive drumming,  before the inevitable closer of ‘We Rock’, many of us punching the air with those trademark RJD horns.

LAST IN LINE- Islington Academy, London, 12 June 2019

I found myself enjoying this gig way more than expected. Last In Line are far more than a nostalgia act, though it was hearing those Dio songs, and Vivian’s solos in particular that made it special. As a legacy to the great man it certainly knocks a hologram out of the park any day of the week!

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

 


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



News: MICHAEL ARMSTRONG showcases superior pop rock – The Water Rats, London, Tuesday 2 July 2019

David Randall previewed the London show and ‘Periscope’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 23 June. (4:06)

Michael Armstrong

After a 2-year hiatus and following the release of his highly-acclaimed second album #LookingForTheWorld, Michael Armstrong returns to the stage and brings with him a fantastic new band.

Michael will be performing at The Water Rats, Grays Inn Road, London on Tuesday 2 July – a rare opportunity to see a master songwriter who has performed and recorded with the likes of Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard, Albert Lee, Steely Dan’s Elliot Randall and many, many more.

To coincide with the show, the song ‘Periscope’ is released from the current album.  Reviewing for Get Ready to ROCK! Jason Ritchie enthused: “a gloriously melodic ride drawing on many of rock and pop’s 60′s and 70′s giants, containing songs that will stand the test of time”.

Album review
Artist website
Ticket link



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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: JIMMY’S COUSIN – Wax Wings

JIMMY’S COUSIN – Wax Wings

Desertion Records [Release date 08.03.19]

There is something endearingly conversational about the music of Jimmy’s Cousin. The new album from the Irish originating jazz man, ‘Waxwings’, is an exercise in raconteur style. Singer-songwriter Ian Dosdson aka Jimmy’s Cousin opens the album with ‘Astor & 8th’, a vivid story about a dreamy trip to New York.

The arrangements by Dave Keary, whose credits include working with Taj Mahal, Bobby Womack and Van Morrison, have a relaxed lounge-vibe. If there were any overdubs they’re certainly not discernable, as the whole atmosphere feels very organic. Occasionally punctuating the mellow is some showy musicianship, like the bluesy electric guitar from Keary on ‘I Do’ and Stevie Wonder-like harmonica on ‘Love Is Only for Fools’.

Well worn themes of heartbreak are chewed over on album standout, ‘I’ll Never Love’. This wistful look back on a failed relationship owes a debt sonically to ‘Bennie and The Jets’, which is no bad thing. Dodson’s vocal really soars here as his belt increases across the song. The voice of Jimmy’s Cousin makes a nice juxtaposition against his own folk-y lyrics, sounding like a crisp crooner somewhere between Bryan Ferry and Gregory Porter.
Titular song ‘Waxwings’, presumably referencing the wings of Icarus in Greek mythology, captures the euphoria of being in an all encompassing relationship. “Waxwings carried us along and up to the clouds”. The poetic lyrics continue over onto ‘Look at Me Now’, a plaintive reminder from one lover to another that they are there; “I’m just standing here watching for you, I’ll be there to rescue you”. Producer Dave Keary weaves in some subtle string arrangements that lend a cinematic quality.

Press material for the album states that Jimmy’s Cousin took thirty years to get round to this album because Dodson “wanted to wait till I had something to say”. On the strength of this release, hopefully he won’t take that long for the follow up! ***

Review by Phillip Beamon

 


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: JONES – Carver’s Law

JONES - Carver's Law

Bandcamp [Release date 12.07.19]

Jones is Trevor Jones, principle songwriter with the critically acclaimed duo Miracle Mile, the other half of this duo being arranger and musical partner Marcus Cliffe. Jones has released four solo albums to date, with ‘Carver’s Law’ his fifth solo outing and one that sees him working with the aforementioned Marcus Cliffe again.

The album’s title is inspired by writer Raymond Carver who was determined to use up the best that was in him each day and trust that more would come.

‘Have A Sunset On Me’ is a wonderful song, aided by some beautiful piano and pedal steel guitar from BJ Cole (who sprinkles his magical playing throughout the album). Also worthy of a mention is multi-instrumentalist Gustaf Ljunggren who adds sax, clarinet and flute to the mix.

‘What’ll I Do?’ is a sublime piece of upbeat melodic pop, perfect for radio and given a little push could open up a whole new audience for Trevor Jones. If radio airplay for new music is fast becoming a thing of the past, a song then perfect for playlists. In fact many songs on here have an instant melody giving way to thoughtful and thought provoking lyrics, such as ‘Coleman’s’ and ‘Blackshore’. The latter features the evocative soundscape of ships in a harbour.

The little spoken word vignettes scattered throughout the album highlight his love of words and using them to create pictures in the listener’s mind. In this respect he reminds me of the late, great Jackie Leven.

For too long Jones has remained a listening pleasure for the few, time now for Trevor Jones and his musical partners on this album, to gain the wide success and acclaim ‘Carver’s Law’ deserves. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite drink (or a tea in this teetotal reviewer’s case) and enjoy the magic Jones weaves with words and music. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Book review: THE ROLLING STONES 1963-1980 – On Track by Steve Pilkington

The Rolling Stones 1963-1980 On Track by Steve Pilkington

Sonicbond Publishing [Publication date 27.06.19]

Over the years I have read a number of these types of books, each telling the story behind well-known artists albums and songs, and the trouble is that a song can easily be interpreted differently by several people. Take for example The Rolling Stones golden stretch between 1968 and 1972, there was so much going on socially and politically worldwide that the lyrics of a simple song could easily be misread.

That said, a lot has already been written concerning the period covered here and Pilkington appears to have researched the subject well, with the book covering the highs and lows of their recorded output as the band evolved and developed.

Each chapter relates to a given album and talks about the cover art, album personnel and the related songs, mostly these are tracks recorded at the time but not included on the album, these most likely turn up later on compilation albums such as “Tattoo You” and “Metamorphosis”.

Towards the end of the book there is a section that also covers The Rolling Stones’ live and compilation albums, an epilogue and Pilkington’s ultimate Stones playlist, which is a nice addition as it shows he is an actual fan of the band. Whilst you may, or may not, learn anything new about the band, or the songs, this is an easy and enjoyable read.

Review by Nikk Gunn

On track (Jethro Tull, The Beatles)
On track (Blue Oyster Cult)
On track (ELP, Deep Purple, Rainbow)


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Quick plays: BEN HEMMING

BEN HEMMING The Devil Beside Me

BEN HEMMING The Devil Beside Me [Release date 31.05.19]

‘Nu-blues’ man Ben Hemming opens his latest release with the impressively broody/ doomy Dead Man Blues which reminds me (strangely) of PJ Harvey circa Bring Your Love To Me.  It’s a powerful statement.

And with just the help of James Hosking (bass) and Luigi Rampino (drums) his third album The Devil Beside Me is a brutal slab of soul searching recorded at The Blues Studios in London’s Hackney with producer Mark Waterman (Depeche Mode, Elastica) behind the desk.

It may, or may be not, a coincidence but there’s unmistakeable tones of Gahan to Hemming’s vocals and with some of his previous work having been recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Recording Booth, the London based singer/songwriter could easily be the pair’s bastard offspring (if that were physically possible).

Uncompromisingly dense, The Devil Beside Me is no easy ride  “my mother knew, the day she had me, a darker day she would never see” (‘The Sea’) but it’s easy to see Hemming building a cult following.  Taking it to the masses may prove more challenging.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: THE STEVE THOMPSON BAND – The Long Fade

THE STEVE THOMPSON BAND - The Long Fade

www.steve-thompson.org.uk [Release date 31.05.19]

Steve Thompson may not be a name you’re familiar with, but after 50 years in the business, his debut ‘solo’ album pays tribute to career served largely ‘behind the scenes’ as a songwriter, producer and session player.

Starting out way back in 1969 his band Bullfrog played support to the likes of Wishbone Ash, Vinegar Joe, The Edgar Broughton Band and the like, but folded after a couple of singles.

The Eighties saw him writing and producing for artists as diverse as Elkie Brooks (‘The Last Teardrop’, and ‘One Of A Kind’), Celine Dion and Sheena Easton (‘Please Don’t Sympathise’), Chris Farlowe (‘Looking For Love In A Stranger’), Wavelength (the 1982 Top 20 hit ‘Hurry Home’), and at the more ‘meaty’ end of the scale as a key writer for Tygers of Pan Tang between 1982 and 1987, as well as playing bass and keyboards on several of their albums and those of Argent guitarist John Verity.

And more latterly he was involved in the musical Steel Town, a collaboration with playwright Tom Kelly, based on his early working life at the Consett Iron Company, his struggle to break into the music industry, and the closure of the steel works.

Inspired by the loss of close friends, The Long Fade sees Thompson revisit his ‘earlier years’ and after the atmospheric live sounding Alan Parsons/Gary Moore style opener ‘Red Dust Overture’, and the rootsy ‘Like My Father’s Father’ replete with ‘Industrial Choir’ – both from the Steel Town musical – it rapidly becomes apparent the album is one of celebration, rather than contemporary reinterpretation.

As a result, the set sounds somewhat ‘time locked’, but by all accounts Thompson is an engaging live raconteur, and I suspect – apart being a neat career ‘retrospective’ – The Long Fade was conceived with a view to providing satisfied gig goers with a merch desk memento, rather than as a vanity project.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

Gig review (March 2018)


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: DANNY VAUGHN – Myths, Legends & Lies

DANNY VAUGHN - Myths, Legends & Lies

Self-release [Release date 14.06.19]

It has been eleven years since Danny Vaughn’s last solo outing, although this one was delayed by issues caused by Pledge Music going into administration. Luckily Danny Vaughn has a loyal fan following meaning this album gets the release it deserves.

It is a varied collection of musical styles and themes, as Danny himself comments – “This is the music I make when left to my own devices. When there is no schedule to satisfy and no target audience to audition for.”

He is aided on the songs by including Tyketto bandmate Chris Childs on bass, drummer Rhys Morgan and pianist Nigel Hopkins. They all add their musical talents to the album, which also features fiddle, mandolin and brass.

‘The Shadow Of The King’ kicks proceedings off in fine style with a Celtic folk drive, whilst ‘Man Or Machine’ and the funky ‘Monkeys With Money and Guns’ allows Danny to vent his anger at modern life.

‘The Missouri Kid’ taps into a bit of country, complete with harmony vocals beloved of bands like Poco and the Eagles (the latter not surprising given that Danny was a member of the Ultimate Eagles until recently). This song really shows off his vocals to great effect, a singer who has perhaps seen his vocals get stronger with age similar to say Paul Rodgers.

‘Last Of The Sunset Men’ starts off like an Outlaws song featuring plenty of guitar and strong rhythm, before a spoken word midway through backed by synths. Sounds a little weird when described in print, however it does work well in the context of the song.

Meanwhile on ‘The Good Life’ drummer Rhys Morgan lays down a groove filled jazz beat, with a lovely bit of Hammond playing and a gospel fade out at the end, impressive stuff. ‘Deep Water’ is another one with a sprinkle of jazz/swing in the sound. Great horns and brass arrangements on this song.

The two stand outs for me are the dark menace on ‘Black Crow’ and the life’s journey advice ‘Point The Way’ (nice bit of Bruce Hornsby approved piano on this one), both from the acoustic side of his music.

A musical potpourri then from Danny Vaughn and one that has been well worth the wait. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait quite so long for the next solo outing as he doesn’t seem short of musical ideas or memorable songs.  Quite possibly his finest release to date. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie


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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)

Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)



Album review: INA FORSMAN – Been Meaning To Tell You

Ina Forsman - Been Meaning To Tell You

Ruf [Release date 25.01.19] ‘Been Meaning To Tell You’ is a challenging cross genre album that suggests Ina Forsman will be a musical force to be reckoned with. The low key vocal and piano intro to the opening ‘Be My … Continue reading

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Album review: JOOST DE LANGE BAND – Lonesome Wolf

Joost De Lange Band - Lonesome Wolf

Self release [Release date 01.03.19] Joost de Lange Band’s ‘Lonesome Wolf’ is a hard hitting rock-blues album inspired by Rory Gallagher, but fashioned to their own ends by the band’s melodic hard rock-blues intensity. It’s an album full of grit, … Continue reading

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Album review: ALLY VENABLE – Texas Honey

Ally Venable - Texas Honey

Ruf Records [Release date 22.03.19] Ruf Records has long established its niche in the contemporary blues market with a roster of up and coming talent that reflects the best of the global blues scene. From Aynsley Lister, Ian Parker, Erja … Continue reading

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Gig review: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL- Donington Park, Leicestershire, 14-15 June 2019

Def Leppard

The fact that Download ranks alongside the very largest of all the UK festivals is tribute to the enduring, if underground, popularity of metal and heavy rock  in all its forms. However in some quarters it gets a bad rap, … Continue reading

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Rising Stars – JETT REBEL

Pop rocker Jett Rebel has a new single out now, ‘Waiting For The Weekend’ and we asked him a few questions about his musical influences, the new single and more… You found you had musical ability at a young age, … Continue reading

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Gig review: TESLA – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 16 June 2019

Gig review: TESLA – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 16 June 2019

No surprise to see a healthy crowd in on this damp Sunday evening to see Wayward Sons. The band has been cutting a noteworthy profile since its establishment in 2016 and already a second album is in the can. ‘Don’t … Continue reading

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Album review: GENERATION AXE – The Guitars That Destroyed The World (Live In China)

GENERATION AXE - The Guitars That Destroyed The World (Live In China)

earMUSIC [Release date 28.06.19] Generation Axe, coordinated by Guitar God Steve Vai, brought together a summit of shredders from 2016 when the circus toured North America.  Subsequent sorties saw them in Asia, when this outing was recorded in April 2017.  … Continue reading

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Album review: BARBE-Q-BARBIES – Borrowed Time

BARBE-Q-BARBIES - Borrowed Time

Dissonance Productions [Release date 17.05.19] As fellow scribe Andy Nathan observed in his recent review of the Sweden AOR Convention, a fresh generation of Scandi bands now lead the pack in genres they were too young to have lived through … Continue reading

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Album review: WARMRAIN – Back Above The Clouds

WARMRAIN - Back Above The Clouds

Rain Recordings [Release date 07.06.19] Promoted as a ‘must have’ for fans of Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson and Anathema, a double ‘concept’ album is one hell of a gamble for a full length debut. But such is the conviction of … Continue reading

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Album review: HEATHER FINDLAY – Wild White Horses

HEATHER FINDLAY - Wild White Horses

Black Sand Records [Release date 05.07.19] Heather Findlay’s first full solo album is long overdue.  And really, you might have expected it to follow relatively hot on the heels of her excellent The Phoenix Suite EP way back in 2011. … Continue reading

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Album review: PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS – Pattern-Seeking Animals

PATTERN-SEEKING ANIMALS - Pattern-Seeking Animals

Inside Out [Release date 05.07.19] Pattern-Seeking Animals maybe a new band, however its members have a long and shared history as it features John Boegehold, who started the idea of this band and writes and works with Spock’s Beard. Joining … Continue reading

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Gig review: TOTO – Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

TOTO- Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, 13 June 2019

In the ever more crowded gigging season, a fresh trend over the last few years has been for London’s finest historic settings to be used for concerts. Following in the footsteps of Hampton Court and Greenwich is now a short … Continue reading

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Gig review: LAST IN LINE – Islington Academy, London, 12 June 2019

Last in Line have reached the same crossroads as the Black Star Riders did a few years ago. Originally put together by former bandmates to honour the memory of an iconic frontman, what then happens when you want to start … Continue reading

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News: MICHAEL ARMSTRONG showcases superior pop rock – The Water Rats, London, Tuesday 2 July 2019

Michael Armstrong

David Randall previewed the London show and ‘Periscope’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on Sunday 23 June. (4:06) After a 2-year hiatus and following the release of his highly-acclaimed second album #LookingForTheWorld, Michael Armstrong returns to the stage and … Continue reading

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Album review: JIMMY’S COUSIN – Wax Wings

JIMMY’S COUSIN – Wax Wings

Desertion Records [Release date 08.03.19] There is something endearingly conversational about the music of Jimmy’s Cousin. The new album from the Irish originating jazz man, ‘Waxwings’, is an exercise in raconteur style. Singer-songwriter Ian Dosdson aka Jimmy’s Cousin opens the … Continue reading

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Album review: JONES – Carver’s Law

JONES - Carver

Bandcamp [Release date 12.07.19] Jones is Trevor Jones, principle songwriter with the critically acclaimed duo Miracle Mile, the other half of this duo being arranger and musical partner Marcus Cliffe. Jones has released four solo albums to date, with ‘Carver’s … Continue reading

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Book review: THE ROLLING STONES 1963-1980 – On Track by Steve Pilkington

The Rolling Stones 1963-1980 On Track by Steve Pilkington

Sonicbond Publishing [Publication date 27.06.19] Over the years I have read a number of these types of books, each telling the story behind well-known artists albums and songs, and the trouble is that a song can easily be interpreted differently … Continue reading

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Quick plays: BEN HEMMING

BEN HEMMING The Devil Beside Me

BEN HEMMING The Devil Beside Me [Release date 31.05.19] ‘Nu-blues’ man Ben Hemming opens his latest release with the impressively broody/ doomy Dead Man Blues which reminds me (strangely) of PJ Harvey circa Bring Your Love To Me.  It’s a … Continue reading

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Album review: THE STEVE THOMPSON BAND – The Long Fade

THE STEVE THOMPSON BAND - The Long Fade

www.steve-thompson.org.uk [Release date 31.05.19] Steve Thompson may not be a name you’re familiar with, but after 50 years in the business, his debut ‘solo’ album pays tribute to career served largely ‘behind the scenes’ as a songwriter, producer and session … Continue reading

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Album review: DANNY VAUGHN – Myths, Legends & Lies

DANNY VAUGHN - Myths, Legends & Lies

Self-release [Release date 14.06.19] It has been eleven years since Danny Vaughn’s last solo outing, although this one was delayed by issues caused by Pledge Music going into administration. Luckily Danny Vaughn has a loyal fan following meaning this album … Continue reading

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