Book review: NOW That’s What I Call A Quiz: Puzzle Your Way Through Sixty Years of Pop by Michael Mulligan

Trapeze [Publication date 31.10.19]

Based on the bestselling series of NOW compilation albums this is a good all-round music quiz book. Split into sections that include decades, the themed NOW compilations (e.g. Disney, football anthems) and genres (rock, classic rock and punk get a look in but sadly no death metal or mathcore…).

There are ten questions in each round/chapter, with answers at the back of the book. Indeed for a chart anorak the answers section provides a wealth of information on the artist and chart position. You can find out how Mungo Jerry got their name, find about the the one hit wonders Racing Cars (they supported Bad Company and were label mates with Jethro Tull) and John Parr’s only other top 40 hit aside from ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’

Good fun and as it covers sixty years of pop (and a fair bit of rock & prog), if used amongst family and friends everyone should be able to answer a fair few of the questions. A much better way to spend time rather than watching Christmas repeats or gloomy soap operas and a good basis for any music quiz you may run in the future.

Review by Jason Ritchie


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Gig review: HAWKWIND – Cambridge Corn Exchange,18 November 2019

Now celebrating their 50th tour, Hawkwind have always been one of the giants of the UK rock scene but have, despite their longevity, never seen the plaudits and respect that are heaped on many acts of their vintage and younger.

This extensive UK tour gives those around the country the chance to see what the legendary band has done in a show that cherry picks some of the best from their five-decade career and tops even the high of their magnificent orchestral tour last year. Though the only constant from their original line-up is ‘Captain’ Dave Brock, this groundbreaking outfit is arguably currently the best it’s been and certainly those who have witnessed the tour have cited it the best the band have played.

First though came an extraordinary support slot by The Blackheart Orchestra, the duo of Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington who won the hearts of so many when they opened on Hawkwind’s previous jaunt. Both multi instrumentalists, the two musicians walked quietly onto the stage and effortlessly filled the cavernous Corn Exchange with a sound at once huge yet beautifully fragile.

First number, ‘The Tide’ was plaintive and haunting, a number that brought about a hushed and reverential calm to the sold-out venue and was light years away from what most were expecting from a touring partner of the sonic warriors. With its cascading guitar loop and Mostyn’s stunning vocals ‘Hypnotize’ more than fulfilled its title and the percussive and driven ‘Drown Me Out’ brought a dramatic, helter-skelter piano pattern that punctuated the childlike wonder of the vocals.

Amongst the other tracks in their short but perfectly formed set, fan favourite ‘Sebastian’ was as glorious as could have been expected, whilst closing number ‘Hey Pluto’ wowed with a vibe that brought to mind what may happen if Kate Bush did a World Music album. A famously tough crowd, the Hawkfans were won over by TBO and it seemingly won’t be long before they’re headlining venues like this themselves.

A mix of fans, young and old, pushed further towards the front as the lights went off in the hall and the band hit the stage in a wash of lasers as a huge, animated backdrop came startlingly to life in a blaze of technicolour as they burst into a pneumatic ‘Motorway City’. Like the rest of the set, the song has a really timeless quality and is carried along by an impossibly powerful and seductively rocking groove, the band comfortable and assured as they play within its constantly morphing structure.

Bringing things right up to date with lead track from their latest album, ‘Flesh Fondue’ is a pounding, kinetic space monster that highlights that Hawkwind are still creating great music and the critically acclaimed ‘All Aboard the Skylark’ can happily sit alongside such greats as ‘Masters of the Universe’.

The more cerebral ‘Last Man on Earth’ juxtaposes a light melody with desolate lyrics and a sense of loss before ‘The Song of the Gremlin’, ‘Born to Go’ (sandwiching ‘You Shouldn’t Do That’), ’65 Million Years Ago’ and ‘In the Beginning’ take the audience on an truly epic and utterly hypnotizing journey that appears to span the length of the whole night whilst seemingly over in a flash. Hawkwind, it reveals, have conquered time and space and have managed to alter the very fabric of the universe with their instruments.

Forty-two years old now, ‘Spirit of the Age’ still sounds utterly futuristic and captures that feeling of all the great dystopian sci-fi that was happening at the time, foreshadowing with a frightening accuracy events that were coming and ‘The Fantasy of Faldum’ caught the zeitgeist, backed by the huge screen showing a landscape made up of Mindcraft style graphics.

Although Brock was suffering from a cold that held his vocals back a little, there was certainly no slowing down musically as the band attacked the set with a dexterity that was as dazzling as the lightshow.

An incredibly solid and inventive presence behind the kit, the hugely recognizable intro and vocals of ‘Silver Machine’ were handled with great aplomb by longtime drummer Richard Chadwick as the crowd went into a virtual frenzy of ecstasy at Hawkwind’s most famous anthem.

Nearly impossible to listen to without hearing Lemmy’s voice on the original, this staple of 70’s and 80’s rock still feels a really visceral thrill, a primal ride on a screaming BSA motorbike through the psyche.

In an ordinary show anything else would have been anti-climactic but this is Hawkwind and the classic pairing from the seminal ‘Warrior on the Edge of Time’ album, ‘Assault and Battery’ and ‘The Golden Void’ melted minds with its visuals, constantly shifting patterns assailing the senses as the music washed over the crowd.

Set closer ‘Right to Decide’ brought an almost New Wave feeling that rocked with a large sprinkling of space dust and featured an earth-shaking guitar solo by Brock. Encoring with the acoustic and joyous singalong of ‘Hurry on Sundown’ and the full throttle boogie of ‘Master of the Universe/Welcome to the Universe’ that was stretched to epic length,

Hawkwind couldn’t have put on a better show or a bigger show of strength. Very few bands can come close to matching them and nights like this show that they are still true leaders in their field. Here’s to the next 50 years.

Review by Paul Monkhouse
Photos by Jan Roberts


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: THE DARK ELEMENT – Songs The Night Sings

THE DARK ELEMENT - Songs The Night Sings

Frontiers Music [Release date 08.11.19]

Dark Element is the second coming together of Symphonic Rock’s golden couple, Jani Liimatainen and Anette Olzon. One recorded 8 albums with genre giants Sonata Artica and Stratovarius, the other 3 albums with the genre’s pioneers, Nightwish.

And with Songs The Night Sings the matching of musical minds is really paying off.

If there’s such a thing as traditional Symphonic Rock, this is it. The album is an object lesson in how to do it, and get it right. Liimatainen integrates electronic music with traditional orchestral arrangements with Zimmer-esque flair and eloquence, creating mini symphonic rock epics of sonic brilliance, holding our attention from the first note to the last.

‘Silence Between The Words’ and ‘You Will Learn’ are remarkably assured pieces of work, driven by Liimatainen’s spine tingling orchestration, occasionally leavened by bursts of sharp edged axework. Each is gracefully furnished by Olzon’s bright soprano. ‘Not Your Monster’ is particularly marked by that same intensity, especially the manner in which Olzon caresses the higher notes.

The title track and ‘Pills On My Pillow’ are nearest thing that Symphonic Rock will ever get to great pop, and we’re ok with that. The latter has a memorably melodic, Max Martin of a chorus, grand without being grandiose. Liimatainen’s keyboard riffs spar and jab with the speed of a welterweight boxer, while meantime Olzon’s vocal dances around the ring, amusingly staying just out of reach.

That said, ‘When It All Comes Down’ and ‘To Whatever End’ are probably the picks. The first has a towering edifice of a hook, spiralling ever upwards, looking down on a line of wannabees stretching into the distance, all eagerly listening, watching, hoping they’ll get the next fifteen minutes. On the second, a piano and violin create a subdued sense of drama, allowing Olzon’s soprano to do all the heavy lifting, building the emotion to breaking point. Both songs have a live music thrill about them, and armed with compelling, “true-life” lyrics, they mark the songwriters and performers out as something really special.

What next? “Songs The Night Sings”, the musical? Wouldn’t be surprised. ****

Review by Brian McGowan


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: JULIAN TAYLOR BAND – Avalanche

Julian Taylor Band

Gypsy Soul Records [Release date 29.03.19]

The Toronto based Julian Taylor Band make music on their own terms with deeply meaningful emotional narratives and lingering hooks.

They mix soul, funk, roots rock and essential song craft in a memorable album that will appeal to both contemporary and classic soul fans alike.

Their music evokes of the golden Hi Records era with shades of Otis Clay, Al Green, Willie Mitchell etc, but it’s not an outwardly commercial album though the potent hooks do give them a potential shot at the mainstream.

Taylor fits neatly into the contemporary soul scene somewhere between Leon Bridges, D’Angelo and the rockier Curtis Harding, except that he digs deeper for self revelation through his lyrics and singing.

‘Avalanche’ is a personal, reflective and at times a yearning spiritual album with moments of introspection, counter-weighted by the band’s ability to perfectly nuance his feel and emotion through a mix of subtle restraint, deep grooves and a soulful feel.

Taylor strikes a perfect equilibrium between his lyrics and the band’s music, meaning his search for the truth combined with his contemplative nature gives the album its emotional charge.

The songs are shaped by concise arrangements – listen for example to the soulful minimalism and reflective nature of ‘Sweeter’ – and are given extra emphasis by Taylor’s soulful phrasing and judicious instrumentation.

It all makes for a soulful musical journey punctuated by diary-like narratives that give us fleeting insights into his psyche as he looks to make sense of everything, while the ghost of Curtis Mayfield swoops in and out of the vocals.

And when he has lyrically said all he needs to, the deep grooves take over to retain that emotional connection.

And naked emotion is the currency running through the heart of a beautifully crafted album in which the band purrs like a smooth running engine, while Julian Taylor is the soulful messenger.

His voice is at the forefront of all the songs, meaning that lyrical meaning and his phrasing takes primacy.

All 8 tracks clock in at under 40 minutes, as each song makes its point and leaves a dynamic void that the next track always fills. And in doing so, Taylor and his band take us on an unhurried down-river journey in a metaphor for life and everything it throws at us.

He sets out his stall on the funky opener ‘Time’ with a snappy hook which levers us into the first album highlight ‘Take What You Need’.

The longest track on the album, it’s a soulful percussion driven funky number that drips with the gentle touch of the late Curtis Mayfield, an influence the band returns to on the later ‘Learn To Love’.  The latter frames Taylor’s velvet voice perfectly as he hovers over a subtle groove that leads to another simple, but catchy hook.

The slow lilting melody of the title track is the defining moment on the album, as Taylor’s falsetto wraps itself round the melody like a vine on a beautifully produced track that that draws us into a melange of acoustic, organ and strings.

‘Avalanche’ is that kind of album. It smoulders, glows, occasionally sparks, but moves at its own pace to reveal moments of emotive beauty, as evidenced by the life cycle theme of the single ‘Back Again’.

The funky minimalism of ‘Sweeter’ is another highlight. Topped and tailed with just a hint of a phaser, it’s notable for a lightness of touch and eclectic lyrics: “We had a lingerie lunch while Venice was sinking, those Ontario boys they just kept on drinking.”

The yearning quality of his vocal over the organ, electric piano and sparse rhythm guitar accompaniment is timeless.

His musical antecedent further reveal themselves on ‘Gone’, which evokes the early 70’s Stax years of William Bell, complete with sonorous horns, but he makes it something all of his own.

And suddenly we come to the journey’s end with a sudden tempo change on the crisp funk of ‘Never Let The Lights Go Dim’, a track full of layered organ, percussion and choppy rhythm guitar.

Taylor tops it all with some peerless clarity of diction, expressive phrasing and a chanted hook that almost seems forced compared to what has gone before, but as with the album as a whole, it’s all locked in with a deep groove.

Not so much as an ‘Avalanche’ of memories perhaps, as a groove laden journey through soulful goodness, the Julian Taylor Band carve out their own impressive soulful roots rock niche that has integrity stamped all the way through it. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

 


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



News: The Best of 2019 – Get Ready to ROCK! reviewer top albums and live acts of the year

The Best of 2019

The Get Ready to ROCK! end of year ‘Best of’ fully reflects the reviewers’ and the website’s eclectic tastes.  Their reviews are amongst the most highly visible and authoritative on the web.

The Best of… has been a feature on the website since 2003 and forms a definitive and critical guide to any particular year.  You can view previous years by following links here.

From Monday 9 December, in the run-up to Christmas, we open up a popular vote when you can indicate your own favourites in each category.

On Sunday 22 December, on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, the results of the popular vote are announced with a selection of the voters and reviewers’ favourites in 2019.

Throughout December, Get Ready to ROCK! Radio will feature ‘Best of’ selections throughout their playlists.


It’s difficult with such an eclectic selection to pick out overall “top” positions and achieve any consensus.  We’ve taken into consideration more than one reviewer making the same selection, and the relative rankings allocating 5 points to a No.1 position and so on.  The top albums listed in genre categories are taken from those reviewer specialists on the GRTR! team.

(Photos by John Ball (Rockrpix), Paul Clampin, Andy Nathan, David Randall, Jason Ritchie, Dave Wilson)

THE NEW ROSES - Nothing But Wild

Top albums

1.THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
2.REBECCA DOWNES More Sinner Than Saint
3.CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
4.BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
5.MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love And Beyond

6.THE WILDHEARTS Renaissance Men

UFO – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 4 April 2019

Top Live Acts

1. UFO
2. MARTIN BARRE BAND
3. ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS

Collateral - RAMBLIN' MAN FESTIVAL - Day 2 - Mote Park, Maidstone - 20 July 2019

Breakthrough Act

COLLATERALRORY GALLAGHER - Blues

Top reissue

RORY GALLAGHER - Blues

RORY GALLAGHER  Blues


The GRTR! Reviewer selections

Top albums

THE DIVINE COMEDY - Office Politics

JASON RITCHIE (News and Reviews Editor):

1.    THE DIVINE COMEDY Office Politics
A real tour de force on this double album. It has everyting from the pop classic ‘Norma and Norman’ through to the avant garde pop of ‘Phillip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company’. Quirky pop perfection.

2. PHIL LANZON 48 Seconds
Phil Lanzon has come up trumps again, no mean feat considering the quality of last year’s album and he shows no sign of lacking musical ideas or memorable tunes. Not quite making the number one spot for the second year running, he still produced an album of memorable songs and will there be another album next year? We can but hope!

3. JAMIE FREEMAN Dreams About Falling
A fantastic mix of country, Americana and pop from a talented singer songwriter. A new name to this reviewer and one of the most played albums this year for me.

4. STEELEYE SPAN Est’d 1969
The band celebrate their 50th anniversary with one of their best studio albums to date. Steeleye Span are sailing with confidence into their fiftieth anniversary, backed by this very enjoyable album and the band’s seemingly endless love of getting out and performing live in order to keep their songs and traditional music alive.

5. = BIG BIG TRAIN Grand Tour
Their sound moves on from the pastoral themes of the past couple of albums into a wider scope, a world tour of the arts and discovery. They keep their high musical standards and in ‘Alive’ have produced one of the feel good anthems of the year.

5. = JIM PETERIK & WORLD STAGE Winds Of Change
In a year when there were plenty of new melodic rock/AOR releases, few really stood out and warranted repeated plays. This album is one of the few and with guests including Don Barnes, Kevin Cronin and Dennis de Young plus the writing skills of Jim Peterik, you know you are in for a treat and some melodic rock gold.


Rammstein

DAVE WILSON (Live Editor):

RAMMSTEIN Rammstein
This was the bands first album in 10 years and it proved to be well worth the wait. From the full on industrial rock of ‘Deutschland’ and ‘Radio’ to the quiet and reflective ‘Diamant’ the band covered all bases.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Another State Of Grace
This was another top release from the guys and the first without Damon Johnson on guitar. The fact that the song writing and musicianship didn’t falter was testament to the quality of all the band and new guitarist Christian Martucci.

THE WILDHEARTS  Renaissance Men
Ginger and the guys returned with a cracker of a record that rocked hard and heavy. It contained all the usual multi layered harmonies that the Wildhearts are famous for and hooks big enough to knock out a heavy weight boxer!

The Wildhearts play UK dates 28 January – 4 February.

THE NEW ROSES  Nothing But Wild
I turned up late to the party on this one as this is album number 4 from the guys, but what an introduction! The music on offer was superb melodic heavy rock with great vocals and the album contained one of my tracks of the year in the shape of the radio friendly ‘Down By The River’.

STATUS QUO  Backbone
Possibly one of the surprises of the year, this album was the sound of a band revitalised. An album under the Quo name without Rick Parfitt was always going to split opinion but the quality and new found energy throughout the album won a lot of well-deserved critical acclaim.

The Quo play UK dates 27 November – 6 December.


Michael Thompson Band- Love-and-Beyond

DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):

1.  MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love & Beyond
West Coast/AOR at its best.  Great musicianship, memorable songs.

2.  REBECCA DOWNES More Sinner Than Saint
Rebecca goes rock, or at least rockier than previously.  Great voice and craftsmanship. (See also Pete Whalley’s comments)

3.  CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
A decade or more in the making but certainly worth the toil.  Whilst freely referencing known progsters in parts (Yes, Floyd etc) still a convincing whole, and beautifully produced.

4. DANNY BEARDSLEY Blood From A Stone
One time with a metal combo and a prog metal trio Beardsley upped the ante for his solo debut.  Robust hard rock and great playing.

5. BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
A fine album with some real standout tracks, and great vocals from Sally Ann Evans.


Top Blues Rock Album

Buck & Evans - Write A Better Day

BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day


PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor and Features Editor):

1) BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
This album has just been re-issued after an abortive release earlier in the year on Pledge and it’s a killer album full of real song craft and great playing.

Somewhere between the twin imperatives of rock and soul, there’s enough energy to spark their blues and funk antecedents, as well as the west coast feel and the hints of psychedelia to be found in Buck’s guitar playing. In Sally Ann Evans they have a vocalist who lives and breathes the lyrics she sings.

2) PAUL GILBERT  Behold The Electric Guitar
‘Behold The Electric Guitar’ is a delightful, passionate, adventurous and imaginative album.

Paul Gilbert always looks forward to new possibilities with solos that have a freshness and spirit so often lacking in contemporary shredders, but then again he has so much more to his armoury than simply speed and a relentless barrage of notes.

3) CHANTEL McGREGOR  Bury’d Alive
What you hear is what went down on the night. Chantel McGregor champions new music with an intensity that transforms her own songs into something different from what they were originally.

‘Bury’d Alive’ is a visceral journey through her Gothic lyrical imagery within a rock framework, think grunge, metal, alt. rock, prog, melodic rock and rock-blues influences.

4) 4th LABYRINTH Better
‘Better’ is their best album by some distance and takes us on a wide ranging musical journey rooted in the twin imperatives of classic and prog rock, offset by keyboard-led new wave elements and contrasting grungy riffs.

‘Better’ is an album that makes good use of dynamics and the band’s intricately woven interplay. It’s all topped by a magnificent performance by the keyboard playing, vocalist, songwriter and producer Marcel Kunkel who also wrote the material.

5= ALBERT CASTIGLIA Masterpiece
A perfectly balanced slice of everything that’s good about the South. ‘Masterpiece’ broadens Castiglia’s musical scope from Chicago blues into a more stripped down Americana and song driven direction. He forges his own roots rocking blues style, as his producer Mike Zito strips things down to focus on Castiglia’s heartfelt lyrics. The result is contemporary blues at its finest, as part of a rough-hewn ‘Masterpiece’

5= CLIMAX BLUES BAND  Hand of Time
It’s an aptly titled album that that reflects both the passing of the band’s former leader Colin Cooper, while offering a key to a mellow song-driven set on which vocalist Graham Dee and sax player Chris Aldridge make the most of the grooves. It’s the sound of a mature band drawing on historic roots to explore polished songcraft blues, funk and soul with catchy hooks.

Too good to overlook

KYLA BROX  Pain & Glory
A very cool, but soulful blues album. The challenge for this album is to find material good enough to showcase Kyla Brox’s superb voice and ‘Pain & Glory’ does so with plenty of variety.

There a handful of outstanding tracks on a consistently good album that perfectly matches her voice and fulfills the band’s potential.


Top Melodic Rock Album

THE DEFIANTS Zokusho


ANDY NATHAN:

1 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho
Danger Danger members raise the bar even further on their second album with huge hooks and swaggering choruses delivered with a modern freshness.

2 THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
The Germans confirm the promise of their last album with a series of memorably catchy e songs blending AC/DC like riffing with Petty and Mellancamp inspired storytelling skills.

3 MICHAEL THOMPSON BAND Love And Beyond
A lovingly crafted album of the very best in West Coast-inspired AOR with thoughtful arrangements.

4 BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day
Long awaited first album from the Welsh outfit blends rock, soul and blues in an original and stunning way.

5 FIRST SIGNAL Line Of Fire
A rare example of a melodic rock studio collaboration that works perfect mix of keys and guitars topped off by Harry Hess’ vocals.

Too good to overlook

Black Star Riders – Another State of Grace; Burning Rain – Face the Music; Fortune- II; Work of Art – Exhibits


Top Singer Songwriter Album

KRISTINA STYKOS River Of Light

KRISTINA STYKOS River Of Light


REBECCA DOWNES – More Sinner Than Saint

PETE WHALLEY:

REBECCA DOWNES  More Sinner Than Saint
An early pace setter and one that’s held the chasing pack at bay all year.  After a couple of run of the mill blues/rock albums, More Sinner Than Saint saw Downes drop a shoulder, and shimmy into the mainstream.  And how.  Brilliant songs, brilliant playing, brilliant singing, and brilliantly produced.   A game changer, and a worthy album of the year.

CHASING THE MONSOON  No Ordinary World
Wearing its influences unashamedly, this highly melodic/mildly ambient rock album masterminded by Karnataka’s Ian Jones, spiced with just a soupçon of World elements and Lisa Fury’s sublime vocals, is a brilliantly produced record of tantalising beauty.  Stunning.

BERLIN Transcendance
Packed to the brim with New Wave synth beats, fabulous melodies, sumptuous hooks, and Terri Nunn’s sexually charged vocals, Transcendance is one of those rare beasts  a perfectly crafted pop/rock album.  And one that finally lays to rest the ghost of Take Your Breath Away.  Remarkable.

Berlin’s European tour is postponed to May 2020.

IZZ  Don’t Panic
‘Accessible’ and ‘hard core prog’ aren’t words normally found together.  But Don’t Panic boasts some marvellous melodies, some of the most accomplished playing, and one of finest productions of 2019.  Like vocalist Laura Meade’s solo album last year, an infinitely listenable album that keeps on giving.

And lastly, but not least, two albums from 2018 that hadn’t surfaced on my radar when the shutters came down on last year’s nominations:

Too good to overlook:

ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS  Vol. 1
Ten of the heaviest, uncompromising, hardest hitting numbers you’ll hear in a lifetime, as Zal came out of retirement to rediscover his youth.  Perhaps the most underrated guitarist of his generation, here with his amps turned up to 11, and his Sin Dogs unleashed.  Iconic.

NORTHWARD Northward
Another monster, this time, a Dutch/ Norwegian hard rock, cross border collaboration between Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen, and Pagan’s Mind guitarist Jørn Viggo Lofstad.  A veritable melodic powerfest of screaming guitar and vocals 100% guaranteed to remove even the most stubborn of ear wax.  Exquisite.

KRISTINA STYKOS River Of Light

Exploring love and aging, and with her spasmodic dysphonia enforced semi spoken vocals lending a unique fragility to proceedings, River Of Light sees Kristina Stykos spinning tales of hardships, hope and redemption in the solitude of the Vermont Green Mountains.  Underpinned by some sublime guitar work, River Of Light is a heady brew of alt country / folk meriting wider appreciation.


Top Progressive Rock Album

IAMTHEMORNING - The Bell

IAMTHEMORNING The Bell


ALAN JONES:

1.    IAMTHEMORNING The Bell
The other-worldly piano playing of Gleb Kolyadin and ethereal vocals of Marjana Semkina combine to produce a contemporary masterpiece.

In lesser hands this could easily have just become a mournful melancholia masterclass, but such is the mastery of the songwriting and the sheer brilliance of the musicianship that the album is awe-inspiring, hopeful and uplifting in equal measure.

Kolyadin’s piano work is staggering paradoxically in both its complexity and simplicity and Semkina’s sublime, delicate vocals both complement and enhance the instrumentation in a way that will leave you open-mouthed.

In what has been an excellent year for music, this takes the prize for its sheer, understated brilliance.

2. RPWL Tales From Outer Space
German progressive/art rock behemoths RPWL have been at the forefront of the European prog scene for many years now and this album shows why.

There’s not a duff track to be seen and in Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner they have one of both the best vocalists and guitar players around.

I said in my review that it is only every so often an album as fine as this comes around and in the swirling mass of bugger all that passes for much of music these days, the opportunity to absorb its brilliance should not, and must not, be missed.

3. STEVE HACKETT At The Edge Of Light
Yet another gem from the redoubtable Mr. Hackett. With his ongoing ‘Genesis Revisited’ shows – which have been brilliant – it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he’s still creating music of sublime quality.

With its world music flavours and staggering virtuosity from all the musicians, it’s right up there with his finest work and with the solo on ‘Those Golden Wings’ I think he’s eclipsed ‘that’ solo on ‘Firth Of Fifth’.

Steve Hackett has announced a new UK tour for November 2020 playing ‘Seconds Out’ in its entirety.

4. THEA GILMORE Small World Turning
Thea came in for a bit of stick for her previous outing ‘The Counterweight’ – its beats, clicks and contemporary sheen not being to everyone’s taste, although I thought it was excellent and produced one of her finest songs in ‘The War’.

‘Small World Turning’ returns to her “contemporary folk” roots with another wonderful collection of pithy, insightful and intelligent songs, underlining that she is one of, if not the finest, female singer/songwriters this country has produced.

5. CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World
Something like sixteen years in gestation, Karnataka’s main man Ian Jones has finally released ‘No Ordinary World’.

Has it been worth the wait? Most definitely – it’s forays into world music cut with Karnataka’s brand of Celtic folk/rock is a heady brew, and in Lisa Fury they have found the perfect voice to deliver a captivating album.


Kris Barras - Light It Up

DAVE ATKINSON:

1.    THE KRIS BARRAS BAND  Light It Up
A sumptuous collection from Mr Barras who is hitting his stride nicely with quality blues rock songs that are elevated by beautiful production, assured playing, lush backing vocals and a fine lead voice.

2.    THE WILDHEARTS  Renaissance Men
Good to have The Wildhearts back at full tilt with energy and punky heaviness, mixing with Ginger’s lyrics that are by turns humorous and scathing. Their first album in 10 years and best album for even longer.

3.    IAN MCNABB  Our Future in Space
I’m grateful to Jason Ritchie for his review of this album which otherwise might have slipped under my radar. This continues McNabb’s excellent recent series of albums with heavy emphasis on electric guitar and this outing is full of distorted riffs and solos that echo the grungy feel of Neil Young at his best. The tunes are equally good.

4.    THE NEW ROSES  Nothing But Wild
A four-piece from Wiesbaden, Germany who stir up furious hard rock/classic rock stadium-ready anthems on their unrestrained and full-throttle fourth album. ‘Down By The River’ is bone fide classic.

5.    DIAMOND HEAD  The Coffin Train
The enigma that is Diamond Head and all that NWOBHM back story. However, here is a band in 2019 at the top of their game. With enough nods to their roots, this is a fine, well crafted and powerful album. Massive respect to Tatler for sticking to his values and finding a contemporary sound to alloy with his metallic instincts.


IAN GILLAN with the DON AIREY BAND - Contractual Obligaiton #2 Live In Warsaw

JOE GEESIN:

IAN GILLAN & The Don Airey Band  Contractual Obligation #2 Live In Warsaw
One of 3 live sets from the Deep Purple vocalist, each on a different format, showcasing work by Deep Purple, solo and more. A fine collection and combination with an eclectic set list showing that the REAL voice of rock still has it.

Don Airey plays UK dates with his band 22-28 February.

SAXON  The Eagle Has Landed 40
40 live tracks over 40 years, from the band who’s eponymous debut helped kickstart the NWoBHM. A 5 LP box, the package is as wonderful as the music, with the classic rock legends still at the top of their game.

Saxon play rearranged dates in the UK, 27-28 March.

RHAPSODY OF FIRE  The Eighth Mountain
Cementing the new line-up, this operatic melodic power-metal band who verge on symphonic continue to rock with this concept album and another great mix of guitars, keyboards and choir

ELOY The Vision, the Sword and the Pyre (Part II)
Completion of a prog rock epic concept with plenty of riffs and soundscapes  a return to form from these German legends.


ROXY BLUE - Roxy Blue

NIKK GUNNS:

THE NEW ROSES Nothing But Wild
The fourth album from German band and from the start this is from the heart, honest country/southern tinged rock n roll.

ROXY BLUE Roxy Blue
With a more updated sound, this is a fine return.

CRASHDIET Rust
This album should take the band to the next level.

BLACK STAR RIDERS Another State of Grace
This could be their best album to date.

BACKYARD BABIES Sliver and Gold
Another band that consistently deliver and this album is no exception.

MICHAEL MONROE One Man Gang
Having never released a bad album, Michael Monroe has struck gold again.

ROLLING STONES Bridges to Buenos Aires
Quite possibly my favourite Stones live recording of the last few years.


STEELEYE SPAN – EST’D 1969

DARREN JOHNSON:

BURNT OUT WRECK This is Hell
A second album from the ex-Heavy Pettin’ drummer turned frontman Gary Moat and his bandmates channels the spirit of Bon-era AC/DC and in Gary Moat’s own words when I interviewed him for GRTR! recently: “we just love it!”.

STEELEYE SPAN  Est.d 1969
As Jason Ritchie concludes in his review a Steeleye Span mark their fiftieth anniversary with confidence and release this enjoyable album proving that the folk-rock pioneers still “have it”.

ELLES BAILEY Road I Call Home
An incredible voice, some great songwriting and some seriously good musicianship, with Road I Call Home Elles Bailey and her friends in Nashville have given us an impressive album.

SPIRITS OF FIRE Spirits Of Fire
A supergroup of sorts the project brings together Owens (ex-Judas Priest, Iced Earth), guitarist Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death) and drummer Mark Zonder (ex-Fates Warning, Warlord).

Eleven tracks of classic, polished heavy metal  this debut from Spirits Of Fire is well worth checking out.

THE FERRYMEN A New Evil
Fans of classic-era Dio et al will really warm to A New Evil right down to the cover art  and won’t be at all disappointed by what’s inside.


THE SOUL REBELS – Poetry In Motion

PHILIP BEAMON:

1. THE SOUL REBELS Poetry In Motion
The first release in seven years from the New Orleans brass ensemble finds them expertly fusing jazzy horn lines with Hip-Hop verses and beats.

From the opening of notes of the opening track, The Soul Rebels exude swagger and confidence, promising to “shake the world up like an earthquake”. Fortunately they make good on their word and deliver an album by skilled musicians that are damn near the top of their game.

2. MISS VELVET & THE BLUE WOLF Feat. GEORGE CLINTON Feed The Wolf
Miss Velvet & The Blue Wolf’s second album feels dirty and raw; little wonder after cultivating their live act on the road supporting Parliament Funkadelic in over 100 shows.

Lead singer, Miss Velvet is a New York native and brings a swagger and sass that immediately encourages the listener to imagine they’re getting hot and heavy at a concert. The horns are tight while the bass work by Jimi Beamon brings heft, all contributing to a glorious cacophony. What’s lacking in lyrical subtlety is made up for in sheer fun.

3. INCOGNITO Tomorrow’s New Dream
Celebrating their fortieth anniversary, new album ‘Tomorrow’s New Dream’ finds Incognito looking backwards and referencing their own past and that of the British soul scene in general.

Bluey Maunick’s production is diverse and expansive, the kind of feel-good tunes that could grace any coffee shop and find customers tapping their feet and smiling while sipping their lattés. “Sunshine” feels like an appropriate adjective to describe this record, the very definition of feel good.

4. EMMA KING The Sun and The Blues (EP)
Hull-born blues singer Emma King stands proudly alongside her forbearers while still feeling original. The album has been recorded in full live takes, to analogue tape and there is real warmth to the recording.

This stripped back, old school approach really allows for clear sound and the ability to pick out individual instruments. The effort to stay analogue is always appreciated, especially if there are some cracking songs and musicianship to back it up.

5. THEA HJELMELAND Kulla
The third album by Thea Hjelmeland, KULLA, is the definition of artistic freedom. Hailing from Norway, Hjelmeland is a singer, writer and a multi-instrumentalist and demonstrates a genre-hopping confidence that suggests an artist completely at ease with her identity. KULLA finds an artist that can be discussed alongside the Kate Bush’s and the Björk’s, the upper echelons of artists who are completely free.


Top Live Acts

JASON RITCHIE (News and Reviews Editor):

THE DIVINE COMEDY Oxford
First time seeing the Divine Comedy live and they didn’t disappoint. Mixing in most of the excellent new album ‘Office Politics’ with classics such as ‘Billy Bird’ and ‘National Express’, easily made this the gig of the year for me.

CORNBURY FESTIVAL (pictured)
The best family friendly festival and this year highlights were the sets by the Beach Boys, Steeleye Span, Chris Difford, Trevor Horn Band and the Rainbreakers.

Cornbury takes place 10-12 July 2020.

LED ZEPPELIN MASTERS Birmingham
Vocalist Vince Contarino and guitarist Tzan Niko Led Zeppelin Masters put on a masterful show of Led Zep classics. The icing on the musical cake is adding the orchestra that gives songs like ‘Kashmir’ that extra bit of magic.


Rammstein - DOWNLOAD, 10-12 June 2016

DAVE WILSON (Live Editor):

RAMMSTEIN Milton Keynes (pictured)
A Rammstein show is more than a mere live gig, it’s an event not to be missed. This show had everything, great music, huge flames and enough pyrotechnics to lay waste to most of Milton Keynes! The band will be back in the UK next year and I for one will be there to witness this spectacular once again.

WILDHEARTS Edinburgh
A Wildhearts show is always a good night and this one was no exception. With an excellent new album to promote and Danny McCormack back on bass the show was a cut above. The guys had also brought along the unstoppable Massive Wagons as support who also went down a storm.

GREAT BRITISH ROCK & BLUES FESTIVAL, Skegness
This was my first experience of a Butlins music weekend and what a great three days it proved to be. Superb music, great accommodation and excellent food all added up to this being a top weekend and one I am looking to repeat in the coming year.

The 2020 Festival takes place 17-20 January.


JONNY LANG – Rockin The Blues, 02 Forum, London, 4 June 2019

PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor and Features Editor):

1 VINCENT FLATTS FINAL DRIVE/Ritchie Dave Porter London
Gig of the year with rip roaring boogie and southern rock from Birmingham England. Fronted by Stevie “Bertie” Burton – one of the few members of the rock fraternity really worthy of the legendary tag – Flatts take us on a musical journey that a capacity crowd will never forget.

Led by Burton – he of the killer growl, death rattle phrasing, wry humour and the art of performance – the band is fired by the steely licks of Gary Harper.

Highlights include a smoking blues ‘When The Blues Catch Up With You’, Katon’s ‘Road Tested’, the funky ‘Walk Without My Crutches Someday’, and the mirthful ‘Too Drunk to Get Drunk’.

A mention too for the for down-home blues and heartfelt songs of fellow Brummie Ritchie Dave Porter.

2 ROCKIN THE BLUES 2019 (JONNY LANG (pictured)/WALTER TROUT/KRIS BARRAS) London
Whatever Provogue records original vision was for their annual European Rockin’ The Blues’ tour, it could surely not have been much better than this.

Put simply, in terms of passion, energy and balance, tonight’s triple bill delivers different shades of rocking blues and enough individual excellence to satisfy all musical palettes.

Johnny Lang oozed white boy soul, Walter Trout poured his heart and soul into a rip- roaring set and Kris Barras announced himself as the new kid on the block in the Rock/Blues world.

3 VIVE LE ROCK AWARDS London
This poignantly turned out to be one of Eddie & The Hot Rods frontman Barry Masters’  last London shows.

An award ceremony is never the best showcase for the actual music, but tonight Glen Matlock is firing on all cylinders and Suzy Quatro burns for 15 minutes, Masters rips through Teenage Depression’, ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ and ‘Get Out of Denver’, and Matlock returns  for a surprise appearance by The Rich Kids who are now a guitar driven a high octane rock band with three part harmonies including impromptu front man Midge Ure!

Eddie Tenpole reminds us of the vacuousness of the era, and his set if counter-balanced by the musical merit that has made The Stranglers so enduring. Punk in 2019 is a broad church, and everyone is represented tonight.


TREVOR HORN - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 31 July 2019

DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):

1.  TREVOR HORN Manchester
Unashamed guilty pleasure, Horn-associated songs (and artists) given a new lease of life with orchestra. Marillion’s Steve Hogarth with more costume changes than Widow Twankey.   The eighties lives!

2.  THE KORGIS featuring James Warren Bristol
Good gigs are sometimes a combination of unexpected venue, great setlist and lack of schmaltz.  Plumbing the Stackridge/Korgis and his own solo catalogue James Warren and his band delivered and then some.   There go the eighties again!

3.  MARTIN BARRE BAND New Brighton
Martin’s own celebration of Tull’s 50th anniversary was immaculate, enhanced by back projection and a sublime acoustic interlude.

Too good to overlook

ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS, Minehead
A wonderful and unexpected way to start the year.  Topped of course with a sublime version of ‘Faith Healer’. Duh, Duh, Duuuh….


STYX- London Palladium, 4 June 2019

ANDY NATHAN:

1 STYX London
I saw them on both sides of the pond this year but a second row seat at this great venue made for a very special night with two sets in which the evergreen pomp rockers mixed the usual hits with some lesser played classics and material from their new album, all with their customary energy.

2 KISS London
It may not exactly have proved to be the end of the road, but no-one could have been short changed by this spectacular show.  Say what you like about Kiss but their mantra ‘You Wanted the Best You Got the Best’ certainly applies to their live performance.

3 EAGLES London
I was originally sceptical, but one of the best catalogues in rock was exquisitely delivered by a combination of the evergreen Don Henley and Joe Walsh, and the inspired new recruits in Vince Gill and Deacon Frey.

Best festival by a mile – Ramblin Man Fair – superbly organised and with a great mix of old and newer acts it sets a new standard for classic rock festivals.

Ramblin Man Fair takes place again 17-19 July 2020


Zal Cleminson - GIANTS OF ROCK, Butlins, Minehead, 25-27 January 2019

PETE WHALLEY:

ZAL CLEMINSON’S SIN’DOGS Minehead
One of the finest pieces of rock ‘n’ roll theatre I’ve seen since witnessing Bowie unleash Ziggy at the Top Rank Suite in Liverpool back in 1972.  A jaw droppingly complete performance from a man who, at the time, was rapidly approaching his 70th birthday.  And one that put all other artists I’ve seen this year firmly in the shade.  Phenomenal.


UFO – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 4 April 2019

DAVE ATKINSON:

UFO London
The Last Orders tour will now rumble on States-side into 2020, marking the band’s 51st year. Back in April, I was invested heavily in UFO’s penultimate UK show which delivered an emotional night of the best classic hard rock, fronted by a 70-year old whose voice appears to be getting better with age.

The ‘Last Orders’ tour continues in February 2020 in the States.

RAMBLIN’ MAN FAIR 2019
This festival has quickly become a firm favourite of mine, with its chilled, friendly vibe and great range of established and emerging bands. 2019 set the bar very high and sets by Robert Jon & The Wreck, Jimmy Barnes, The Temperance Movement, Cheap Trick, Chantel McGregor, The Fallen State and Beth Hart will live long in the memory.

THE WATERBOYS Valencia, Spain
A band I hadn’t seen live for over 20 years, The Waterboys still have it. And in spades. This show, on the outskirts of Valencia on a steamy June evening, leant heavily on a canon of majestic, soaring rock ‘n’ roll, spliced with acoustic, country and Irish influences to deliver a vital, eclectic, vibrant and thrilling set.


STEVE HACKETT - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 11 November 2019

ALAN JONES:

STEVE HACKETT Liverpool
Yes, Steve Hackett again…This gig was Steve’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ but with a twist – an almost complete run through ‘Spectral Mornings’ on the occasion of its 40th anniversary and a complete ‘Selling England By The Pound’. Despite an over-enthusiastic smoke machine, this was just superb from start to finish – with musicianship of the highest order from a band at the very pinnacle of their powers. What. A. Night.

Steve Hackett will tour again in the UK November 2020 and featuring ‘Seconds Out’.

MARTIN BARRE BAND New Brighton

Martin Barre, guitarist of Jethro Tull for over 40 years, delivered a superb set of ‘Tull classics backed by a band of first-rate musicians which included ex-Tull stalwarts Clive Bunker and Dee Palmer.

A chronological run through ‘Tull’s history with a complementary back projection of events from the time – this was Martin’s chance to step out of the shadows and demonstrate what an integral part of Jethro Tull’s sound he was (is) – and he took it with both hands.

LINDISFARNE New Brighton
Although now down to one original member (Rod Clements) they gave the adoring crowd a rollicking good night packed with all the band’s classic tracks including ‘Fog On The Tyne’, ‘Lady Eleanor’, ‘January Song’ , ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ and ‘Clear White Light’.
If you get the chance to see them, don’t miss it – just brilliant.


The Cult - Festival D'ete De Quebec, 7-17 July 2016

NIKK GUNNS:

THE CULT London (pictured)
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their “Sonic Temple” album, this was a gig that was head and shoulders above any other I have seen this year.

BLACK STAR RIDERS London
With a new album to promote and a new line-up, this was Black Star Riders at their very best.

BUCKCHERRY London
Another band with it all to prove. The loss of guitarist Keith Nelson could have meant the end for the band but they have fought back with a new line up and a new album. They’ll be here for a while yet.

MICHAEL MONROE London
Another new album from Michael Monroe finds him and his long-term band showing everyone else exactly how it should be done

WARRIOR SOUL album launch
With just a handful of reviewers Warrior Soul let rip with an afternoon of loud rock n roll and free flowing beer. A good time was had by all.


DARREN JOHNSON:

MOTT THE HOOPLE ’74 London
If this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Mott the Hoople – thanks for a great trip….

GLENN HUGHES Bexhill
I grew up with most of the songs played tonight, from albums that were frequently pumping out of my dad’s stereo as a kid and I am very grateful to Glenn Hughes for giving these songs a new lease of life He has done the Purple legacy proud with this tour.

UFO London
Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Cheers UFO!


GARY CLARK JR. – Albert Hall, Manchester, 18 June 2019

PHILIP BEAMON:

1. GARY CLARK JR. Manchester (pictured)
The musicianship on display was mesmerising; against the stained glass trappings of Manchester’s Albert Hall, the audience undoubtedly felt the spirit move them.

2. THEON CROSS YES, Manchester
Bonkers freewheeling tuba-jazz, played by musicians that love every minute of what they do.
3. MARCUS MILLER Manchester
Internationally renowned jazz bassist does his thing, in a way nobody else can.


The Rainbreakers - GREAT BRITISH ROCK & BLUES FESTIVAL - Skegness, 22-24 January 2016

Breakthrough Act

JASON RITCHIE (News and Reviews Editor):

RAINBREAKERS (pictured)
An impressive mix of blues, rock and soul this four piece from Shrewsbury look set to gain even more fans after impressive live shows this year.

COLLATERAL
Of the current crop of nu-breed of classic rockers this band look the best placed to make the leap from the smaller venues into the medium sized halls, maybe even the arenas if they land a couple of choice support slots to arena sized bands next year. They certainly have the tunes and live appeal to make it big.

Collateral release their debut album in February 2020 when they tour as special guests of Jared James Nichols.

GASOLINE OUTLAWS
Slipped under the radar for some but give these guys a listen at they have the tunes and just need a little bit of luck to see them get better known.


DAVE WILSON (Live Editor):

ANCHOR LANE
The young Scottish band have a new album coming out early in the New Year, I have and a sneak preview and it sounds excellent. Hopefully it will provide a springboard for the guys during 2020.

Anchor Lane’s debut album – ‘Casino’ – is released in January 2020.


DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):

MATT MITCHELL & THE COLD HEARTS
Excellent debut album from one-time frontman of AOR band Pride, Furyon and Colour Of Noise.  Ramblin Man appearance in 2019 and an early 2020 gig at Giants Of Rock should widen their audiences.
EXPLORING BIRDSONG
Liverpool music hot-house LIPA alumni, a prog-rock trio who released their debut EP ‘The Thing With Feathers’ in November.


PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor, Features Editor)

1) BRAVE RIVAL
With their funky debut single ‘Magpie’ already denting the indie charts and hatful of gigs, including tour dates with the Billy Walton Band, the Hampshire-based harmony heavy band Brave Rival are already making a splash.

With glistening harmonies of Lindsey Bonnick and Chloe Josephine anchored by the former Albany Down rhythm section rhythm section they offer a fresh take on West coast influenced roots rock.

They have strong songs, a jam band feel (think Tedeschi Trucks) and a Grace Slick vocal influence. We wait with baited breath for their debut album. It can’t come too soon.

2) 4th LABYRINTH
2nd year running in this category for Cambridge’s finest. They made a big impression at the 2 Hard Rock Prog Festivals in London and Sheffield to match their high standing at the Cambridge Rock Fest. Together with their excellent 2nd album ‘Better’ they are in a handy position to move up the grid.

3) THE CINELLI BROTHERS
London based Italian brothers band with a welcome fresh take on the blues. That is they adhere to the classic Chicago style, but pen their own songs. They shuffle, boogie rock and jump and groove impressively, check out their self released album ‘Baby Please Set Your Alarm’.


ANDY NATHAN:

COLLATERAL
Led by the charismatic Angelo Tristan, they have both the swagger and the songs to bring old school hair metal back to the forefront.

MASON HILL
The talented, intense young Scots finally have their album out which should establish them as a home-grown competitor to the likes of Alter Bridge and Shinedown.

Those who are following King King in crossing out of the blues rock pigeonhole into the mainstream – Kris Barras Band, Rebecca Downes, Sari Schorr – will go far.


PETE WHALLEY:

With both acts I named last year (The Kentish Spires and Riversea) effectively hitting the buffers in 2019, I’m hoping this isn’t the ‘kiss of death’ spot, but LAST FLIGHT TO PLUTO‘s debut A Drop In The Ocean, ELAINE SAMUELS & KINDRED SPIRIT BAND‘s Elemental, and KRISTINA STYKOS’ River Of Light were three excellent 2019 releases signposting promising futures.


ALAN JONES:

THE RAILS
Excellent folk-rock from James Walbourne and Kami Thompson (daughter of folk/rock royalty Richard Thompson). Their 2019 album ‘Cancel The Sun’ is the embodiment of exemplary musicianship and is one of those albums to which you just want to keep listening. Hope there’s more to come next year.


DAVE ATKINSON:

HOLLOWSTAR
This four-piece hard rock crew are surely going places. Their debut album was a stand-out in 2019, only just missing my top 5. The band serve up a feast of meaty riffs and tasty vocals allied to mature compositions, with no little poise and class on the side. Some noteworthy support slots have kept their profile on the rise and surely there is more to come.

KING NUN
I saw this wiry, energetic band put in a chaotic, frenetic and sometimes troubled show at Camden Rocks back in the Summer and was immediately won over by their punky, alt rock racket that recalled the edgier memories of Dinosaur Jnr and Mudhoney from back in the day. Their twisted, well-received debut ‘Mass’ from September should be just the start.


NIKK GUNNS:
Germany’s THE NEW ROSES are making waves with their latest album and could be about to become a lot better known. Do yourself a favour and visit their back catalogue


DARREN JOHNSON:

SCARLET REBELS
The band emerged as one of the stars of the introducing stage at Butlins Giants of Rock this year. Their brand of classy, melodic hard rock which immediately impressed me first time around.

Lead guitarist, Chris Jones, is an absolute live-wire on stage, injecting wave after wave of energy into the crowd with his soloing, while front-man, Doyle, has a great voice that’s just perfect for modern-day classic rock.

I also continue to retain very high hopes for RAINBREAKERS and HELL’S GAZELLES who I nominated last year.


PHILIP BEAMON:

KoKoKo!
Trance-jazz-fusion by a Congolese ensemble of musicians. Creating their own instruments out of day-to-day items, ‘KoKoKo!’ create unique soundscapes and bring breathless excitable energy to their gigs.


Top reissues

WHITESNAKE - Slide It In (35th Anniversary Edition)

JASON RITCHIE (News and reviews editor):

WHITESNAKE Slide It In


Love From The Planet Gong - box set

PETE FEENSTRA (Blues/Rock Editor, Features Editor):

1 GONG Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-1975
OK hands up who actually listens to all this stuff and if they do, do they have to plan their listening time?

Fans are buying into the aesthetic and they can dip in and out at their leisure.

There’s first 4 Virgin albums (there’s even a quad mix which will date a lot of listeners), 2 John Peel sessions and raft of live albums, a book, unseen Daevid Allen artwork and lots of info, all overseen by curator Steve Hillage.

Refreshingly all surviving band members welcomed the release.

It’s big, expensive beautifully and essential for completists.  Xmas looms.

2 CLIMAX BLUES BAND The Albums 1969-1972
Released last June, this box set captures the early band at its best on a musical journey from Chicago blues to a more proggy approach as they moved from Parlaphone records to Harvest, plus 19 bonus tracks.

The band works a delicate balance between the equally talented guitarist/vocalist Pete Haycock (listen especially to ‘Reap What I’ve Sowed’) and the sax playing baritone vocalist Colin Cooper (check out his version of ‘Cut Her Loose’) and you are hearing a creative band at the heights of its considerable powers.

3 PROCOL HARUM Broken Barricades
Long time fans will love this, especially with this remastered album (Trower’s last with Procol) plus some splendid extras. There’s 9 bonus tracks with alternate tracks and two bonus CDs with live recordings.

The first bonus CD is an American live radio broadcast of the band on the original album. There’s also a post Trower BBC Radio session and Swedish live cut with guitarist Dave Ball and bassist Alan Cartwright.


CARAVAN - The Decca/Deram Years (An Anthology) 1970-1975

DAVID RANDALL (Managing Editor):

CARAVAN The Decca/Deram Years (An Anthology) 1970-1975
An excellent box set if you are someone who hasn’t yet indulged in anything by the band.  The multi-disc box set for Gentle Giant looks appetising for those who like their prog a tad more cerebral.


ANDY NATHAN:

SHY Excess All Areas
Poignantly one of the best ever Brit AOR albums got its Rock Candy re-release (with its predecessor Brave the Storm) – around the time singer Tony Mills lost his fight with cancer.


ALAN JONES:

RORY GALLAGHER – Blues
A triple CD of Rory doing what he loved. There’s three CDs here – two electric, one acoustic. Both the electric ones are brilliantly recorded and feature much unreleased material, but it’s the acoustic one that really does it – capturing Rory with just an acoustic guitar showing everyone why even Jimi Hendrix regarded him as the best guitar player in the world.

Rory died in 1995 and this album, lovingly compiled by his brother Donal, shows just how good he was and how we still miss him.

And just to mention:

MARILLION Clutching At Straws
It would have made last year’s ‘Best Of’ but was released on the day the reviewers’ selections were due in…

As with nearly everything associated with Marillion, this is an object lesson in how to do a re-issue.

5 discs:- The Original Album remixed and remastered, two discs of a gig in Fish’s hometown of Edinburgh from 1987 (remixed and remastered), a disc of demos (remastered) plus four previously unreleased demos and a BluRay with 5.1 mixes, a documentary, promo videos plus more bonus tracks.

Everything a fan could want combined with superb sound, sumptuous packaging great remixes – and all without the hand of Steven Wilson even touching a dial!


DAVE ATKINSON:

RORY GALLAGHER  Blues
This three CD collection of rarities and unreleased material is organised across electric, acoustic and live discs. Tracks cover the full range of Gallagher’s career from ’71 up to ’92 and throw some new light on the mercurial genius of this truly great guitarist.


JOE GEESIN:

SAMSON  Bright Lights (5CD box)
A 5CD set collecting the first few albums with plenty of bonus tracks, lots previously unreleased on CD. Samson were officially the first NWoBHM band, with 2 45s released in 1978 (both featuring Clive Burr), sadly neither included here, but these Bruce Dickinson- era albums are wonderful and Paul Samson such an underrated guitarist.


WHITESNAKE - Slip Of The Tongue

NIKK GUNNS:

WHITESNAKE Slip of The Tongue
The box set marking the 30th anniversary of “Slip of The Tongue” certainly contains a wealth of material, and although most is already available they have done a good job here.


PHILIP BEAMON:

PAUL MCCARTNEY Amoeba Gig (UMC – Virgin International)
Previously only select tracks were available as an EP, or as a newspaper-freebie. Now this entire joyous 2007 set by McCartney is available in full. Capturing the atmosphere and karaoke fun of being in the room with the ever twinkling Beatle.


GRTR! Contributors
The Best of 2018


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: VARIOUS – Hollywood Hairspray Vol 8

VARIOUS - Hollywood Hairspray Vol 8

Perris Records [Release date 18.10.19]

Perris Records have recently released the 8th instalment of their Hollywood Hairspray series and although the bands are not massively well known, there are some great tracks on here. This is an album that is certainly full of melodies, harmonies, hooks and chorus-laden rock with appearances from past and present members of Journey, Tyketto, Extreme, Firehouse and Dangerous Toys amongst the tracks on offer.

Of the 14 tracks on the album, my favourite has to be Loud N’ Nasty’s “Stand Strong” which has a Ratt like feel to it. Morano’s “After The Love” has some solid 80’s AOR style to it and in some ways reminds me late 80’s/early 90’s Europe, as does 99 Crimes’ “Rumor” (although heavier on the rock more than the AOR side). Bad Boy Eddy’s “My Best Friend” is a little too sugary for me, whilst Walker’s “Time To Party” is reminiscent of “Slave To The Grind” era Skid Row.

One of the issues I do have with this compilation is the variance in the sound quality on some of the tracks included. AOR’s “The Smartest Girl In LA” is a good example of this as it is the first dip in sound quality, although the guitar work more than makes up for this, Mercy’s “Jet Black Romance” also suffers from a muddier sound. There are also a couple of tracks that are of demo quality (NiteRain’s”Rise Up” and Affaire’s “Highway Affair”) but are good songs and I would have like them to have been a bit better remastered.

Kill City Kills’ “Wild Brigade” has a nice sleazy edge to it but special mention has to be made of Notorious’ “Notorious” as it literally sounds like The Scorpions’ Klaus Meine singing over Motley Crue’s “Looks That Kill”, make of it what you will.

Overall, “Hollywood Hairspray Vol. 8” is a good compilation, easy to listen to, and has made me want to look out its 7 earlier predecessors. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: QUIET RIOT – Hollywood Cowboys

QUIET RIOT - Hollywood Cowboys

Frontiers [Release date 08.11.19]

“After nearly ten years since the loss of his friend and co-founding member and bandmate Kevin DuBrow, and with careful consideration, soul searching and with the blessings and support of Kevin DuBrow’s family, Frankie has moved forward with the band to bring the fans a new record!” announce Quiet Riot as they release their latest album Hollywood Cowboys.

Always best known for their 1983 smash album Metal Health which included the hit cover of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ a song that finally brought the delights of Slade to an American audience, the band is now led by drummer and long-term member Frankie Banali who was part of the Metal Health line-up and has played on every subsequent Quiet Riot release since. Banali is joined by bassist, Chuck Wright, who’s been part of the band, on and off, since the early 80s and guitarist, Alex Grossi, who has been with Quiet Riot since 2004. Vocals are, once again, handled by James Durbin, who also sang on the band’s last studio album (2017′s Road Rage).

With a smoother and more melodic feel than the raunch of DuBrow’s vocals, Durbin a former American Idol frontrunner, has himself now left the band it’s been reported. There are some decent songs on this album and some powerful but hummable fast-paced hard rock. It includes one or two surprises as well. The slower, smouldering, bluesy feel of ‘Roll On’ is actually one of the real treats on the album.

Former lead singer Kevin DuBrow was such an essential component of Quiet Riot that debate will always be a matter of debate among classic-era fans as to whether, without him, it’s really Quiet Riot or not. Nevertheless, this latest release to bear the band’s imprint is an album of likeable, if somewhat generic, 80s-influenced heavy metal. ***

Review by Darren Johnson


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: ALAN SIMON – Excalibur The Mythical Concert

ALAN SIMON - Excalibur The Mythical Concert

“Excalibur – The Mythical Concert” (CD&DVD)

“Excalibur – Live In Broceliande” (CD&DVD)

[Release Date 25.10.19]

In the late nineties, Breton’s Alan Simon created “Excalibur”, a Progressive/ Symphonic/ Celtic Folk Rock series, based on Arthurian legend. It proved to be hugely popular in Western Europe, yet it has continued to bump along under the radar in the UK. It’s gained some traction recently, as word of its pan European content, and its success in France and Germany filtered through to these shores.

“Live In Broceliande” is essentially the live version of “Excalibur 3, Origins”, staged in Brittany, in 2002. Similarly, “The Mythical Concert” is the 1999 live version of “Excalibur 1”.

The better informed will already know that in each of “Excalibur” albums, Simon brings together a carefully curated art rock ensemble, with each artist chosen to interpret a specific piece of music. The cast here includes Fairport Convention, Martin (Jethro Tull) Barre, Roberto Tiranti, Moya (Clannad) Brennan and Supertramp’s mainmen, Roger Hodgson and John Helliwell.

When it’s a live performance, you might expect the most familiar voices or indeed the dramatic orchestral pieces to have the biggest impact. Like Roger Hodgson showing the lightest of vocal touches on the Byrdsian ‘The Clemence’. But it’s probably Moya Brennan’s intimate, ethereal tones and John Helliwell’s rasping sax, both bringing a level of gravitas to ‘Sacred Lands’ and ‘Evil Day’ respectively, that bring to life the themes of tragedy, loss and emotional betrayal that underpin Simon’s writing. That said, you can dip in anywhere and come up with all manner of compelling pieces of music and stories, adroitly told by a litany of consummate performers.

Both releases are CD&DVD packages, with the DVD being the track for track visual version of the concert. Nothing is lost in the live recording’s translation to disc…the audio has the clarity and depth not found in major label funded releases. In addition, an “Excalibur Trilogy” documentary is included on the “Live In Broceliande” CD&DVD set.

All you need to hear and all you need to know in two neat bundles. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

Album review (Excalibur IV)


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: LAURA COX – Burning Bright

LAURA COX - Burning Bright

Edel [Release date 08.11.19]

Billed as half English, half French, 100% Rock’n’Roll, this is Laura Cox’s second album and from the outset it is serious rock’n’roll.

Her 2017 debut Hard Blues Shot sold well in France and the lady has had a lot of youtube hits, and on the evidence of the first two songs on this album, she should be a star. The blues rock is solid, Laura Cox doesn’t rely on that commercial or trendy angle nor on sexual image for sales (Alannah Myles she is not), she fronts a 4 piece band that just rocks.

Here Laura plays guitar, lap steel and banjo as well as handling all vocal duties, and is joined by guitarist Mathieu Albiac, bassist Francois C Delaqoudre and drummer Antonin Guerin.

Opener ‘Fire Fire’ kicks off with a great sound that mixes the drive of Deep Purple and fuzz of an uptempo mid 70s Black Sabbath song, before the vocals come in and the song becomes solid rock’n’roll. The vocals are clean and solid, reminiscent of Amy Schugar, driving rhythms dirty and rolling. ‘Bad Luck Blues’ is another great song, the two guitars playing nicely off of each other.

Parts of ‘Last Breakdown’ hint at, in their heavier moments, the bluesier side of bands like Cinderella. Then there’s gentler moments like ‘Looking Upside Down’ where there’s a fine lap steel touch. Yes it does add a country touch but, as the song builds, it doesn’t take over. Works well. ‘Just Another Game’ is also more acoustic and comes over as more heartfelt. Then there’s’Here’s To War’, a heavier and chunkier track, that still retains a rock’n’roll touch.

There’s a great feel to the album, because the different moods run together smoothly, it’s not formulaic, and at times sounds as fun to make as it is to listen to. The press release says there’s a touch of Danko Jones meets Joan Jett which I can def see. Southern Hard Blues? Yep I could go with that.

Definitely one to look out for. ****1/2

Review by Joe Geesin


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: DEWOLFF – Tascam Tapes

DeWolff – Tascam Tapes

Mascot Records [Release date 20.01.20]

Dutch funk/soul rockers, DeWollf, strip it back to bare bones – literally – for their extraordinary new album, Tascam Tapes. Dedicated followers of this fine young group of musicians already appreciate their ability to adapt their by-now distinctive DeWolff treatment and throw genre-bending curveballs at convention with astounding results.

Any true, dyed-in-the-wool artist will tell you they live for those two hours on stage each night and that everything that happens in between is essentially “life-on-hold” until the lights go down. What happens during that downtime has become the stuff of rock and roll legend over the years – what DeWolff did was to channel all their creative juices through a Tascam Porta Two, four-track cassette recorder from the 80’s (plus a few running duct tape repairs along the way) and recorded these twelve tracks in the van, on the road, backstage…in fact, trapping lightening in a bottle at every opportunity.

And the results are breathtaking – mix two equal parts of brothers van de Poel, the same amount of Robin Piso, a splash of rare soul/funk sampled beats, a couple of squirts of battery powered synthesizer and a guitar, and you have a fizzy, fuzzy and tasty cocktail of funk, blues, soul, rock….so much so that perhaps a new musical genre, called DeWolff, is being born before our very ears.

Recording this way is like dancing through the streets in your underwear – your very soul stripped naked for all to see, the sinew, the blood gushing through the veins, the pumping organs – everything on display with nowhere to hide. Indeed, by taking the road less travelled and not the route of using the “studio as an instrument” has only served to catapult DeWolff into the song-writing stratosphere. In the end, it’s all about the songs and then the ambition, devotion and drive to tour that material relentlessly….taking it to the people one gig, one fan, one word of mouth, one drop of sweat at a time.

The story of producing this less than $50 recording is highly laudable and unique in itself, especially in the ever-changing narrative of what it takes to be a successful rock band in 2020, and it’s actually the method of recording Tascam Tapes that lends true authenticity to this terrific collection of tunes. Well-constructed, clever and hooky songwriting will always pull you in close whether you hear it in arenas, subways or a damn telephone box because the essence of the song is front and central, the sonic magnet which can’t be ignored, the ear worm that soothes, excites and warms.

Canned Heat-relaxed, most lekker, best track of the album “Life In A Fish Tank” deserves an honorary place on the Stones’ “Exile” album as does “Let It Fly”, plastered with Kravitz DNA but also with the unmistakable soul-and-roll caress of DeWolff.

Interestingly, it’s the couple of very short, 2 minutes or less, tracks like “Nothing’s Changing” and “Awesomeness Of Love” which add even greater authenticity to the whole project in the sense of it being a collection of song ideas in their most feral and basic state form, recorded in the same way – this is what it sounded like inside the van, sitting around backstage, bare, exposed and very, very live.

“Nothing’s Changing” is this album’s “Big Talk” with a nice playful Brittany Spears type back-beat whilst opening track “Northpole Blues” is just a glorious orgy of juke joint stomp and riff, fuzzed-up ZZ-style before taking the Tascam to the limit of the fuzzosphere.

Blood Meridian I and II are the darkest of the album tracks in subject matter as well as the menacingly ascending chords….these will be as heavy as a concrete hippo when DeWolff plays them live. Fucking tribal percussion/rhythm from the brother from another mother.

“Made It To 27” is a no-holds barred reflection of the harshness of a musicians life on the road, all set to a sinister, surfy Pulp Fiction-ish vibe….Vincent Vega surely in the video to this one ?

“It’s Ain’t Easy, Baby” is just a riotous disco romp, accompanied by an outrageous video which would have had Freddie grabbing his crotch.

The beautiful “Am I Losing My Mind” has not a single wasted line or note, nothing more than what is required to make this a couple of minutes of song-writing genius and a testament to Pablo’s vocals….attack-dog hard one minute and achingly melancholic the next……and a chorus which could have come from Laurel Canyon in the ‘60s.

“Love Is Such A Waste” is just a fucking great urban vibe, which sits around this soul-breaking chorus and almost Zappa-esque, mono-coda. The soundtrack to Huggy Bear doing the walk in Starsky and Hutch……

“Rain” sounds like it was recorded at Muscle Shoals – a little beauty destined to be part of a big movie sound track one day.

Ridiculously retro, ridiculously relevant, ridiculously real……just fuckin’ ridiculous how good these guys are. *****

Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: MALONE SIBUN – Come Together

Malone Sibun - Come Together

Redline Records [Release date 31.01.20]

Take one of the best soulful, honey voiced rock-blues vocalists in the country and pair it with arguably the most intense guitar player on the circuit, then anchor them with a versatile rhythm section and season with gospel tinged bv’s and you have the perfect recipe for a magnificent rock-blues album with wide appeal.

From the colourful psychedelic album art work, via the call to arms of the title track, through the burgeoning power of the music as a whole, ‘Come Together’ radiates positivity.

The band rocks hard, grooves eloquently and gets soulful by turns, to make the most of tight arrangements with memorable hooks that linger long after the album finishes.

‘Come Together’ stretches both Marcus Malone and Innes Sibun’s artistic endeavours to forge a new broad based musical canvas that plays to their respective strengths.

It’s all there on the conceptual title track – topped and tailed by a cappella vocals on a power chord driven gospel tinged rocker – on which the visceral duo hammer out a barn busting opener.

It builds brilliantly to finally resolve itself with a Beatlesy finish including an ‘Abbey Road’ guitar line and a cappella outro.

The album is packed with superb vocals, bristling solos and  is tempered by a groove laden feel, but it is the quality of the songs that stand out on a collaboration that pushes the ensemble to new creative heights.

There’s at least 6 career best songs on this album, from the opening title track and the slide-led Malone penned rocker ‘Let Me Love You’ – featuring a Sibun southern rock style solo – to the closing Memphis Soul influenced ‘Everyday’s A Miracle’ on which Malone vocal is supreme.

Then there’s the two truly two outstanding Sibun compositions, the Robert Cray influenced ‘I Want You Back’ and the deep blues of ‘So Tired Of Living’.

The latter benefits from his masterful guitar work and Malone’s evocative phrasing over the peerless rhythm section of bassist Roger Innis and drummer Chris Nugent who subtly push the groove as Sibun builds a trademark climactic solo.

The song shows both the band’s diversity and melodic sensibility in a perfect balance between song craft and a stellar performance.

‘I Want You Back’ is another highlight.  Malone’s phrasing brings the lyrics to life on a lilting groove with an intricate opening guitar line, a gospel tinged hook, a burning solo and a beautifully nuanced double coda.

‘Taste Of Your Love’ is a yearning harmony heavy song on which Sibun switches from acoustic to electric guitar to briefly evoke Mick Taylor before a perfect vocal block outro.

‘Come Together’ flows effortlessly from opening brace of rockers into blues, a rock ballad and 4 minutes of rock and roll on ‘Jodie’, which could have been Dave Edmunds Rockpile at their best. The band bobs and weaves it’s way round the blues imperative before a heavy rocker ‘Lovelight’.

And if the macho strut of ‘She’s My Girl’ is a nod to Malone’s early solo career, then the Dylan influenced percussive rocker and thematic duality of ‘Rabbit Hole’ illustrates his lyrical acumen, before the perfect gospel-led bookend of ‘Everyday’s A Miracle’.

The band sounds as if it’s been has been together forever.  What you are hearing is the sheer joy de vivre of making music and the coming together of musical spirits on a superb self production.

‘Come Together’ contains ten tracks of the best in rocking blues with a soulful feel and a gospel heart. Put simply, its contemporary blues at its finest on one of the most impressive rock-blues debut albums in recent times. *****

Review by Pete Feenstra


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Gig review: CANCER ON THE ROCKS – Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

Concerts are one of the more pleasurable staples of charity fundraising activity – vastly preferable, at least in my eyes, to bungee jumps, head shaves or ice buckets.

After an event in the North-West last year, the Cancer On The Rocks team – led by Rick Palin, who heads up a multimedia music agency, Skyfire Promotions – put on an ambitious whole weekend of music and fundraising at one of London’s nicest venues, Bush Hall.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

No-one could be failed to be moved by the cause as a third of us will directly have to deal with cancer at some points in our lives, and knowledge of someone suffering at present is pretty universal.

However building a festival from scratch is a daunting task, not least in the run up to Christmas when the gig schedule is at its busiest, quite apart from family commitments, and the second day had to be pulled as the event neared. Fortunately, with four bands surviving on the Saturday, including the two headliners who were the biggest weekend draw for me, it was very much a case of less is more.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

First up of the quartet were Gypsy’s Kiss, a band with an intriguing history I was not previously familiar with. Back in the early seventies they were the first band of a young Steve Harris but his fellow East Londoner (hence the rhyming slang) David Smith has assembled a new line up to revive the name.

‘Influence’ was an appropriately titled opener as it was immediately clear that they shared many of Steve Harris’ formative inspirations (and indeed bands I love) with a seventies sound combining elements of Stray, Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash – not least with a two and sometimes three lead guitar attack – with some slightly progressive arrangements.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

For a while I was finding David’s vocals a little of an acquired taste but after ‘Better Than Me’ lifted the set, ‘Settle The Score’ was truly outstanding with a melody line to the chorus that lodged deep in my brain. There was also a hilarious finish when ‘Heat Crazed Vole’, based on a seventies newspaper story,  saw a rodent mascot come out to jam with the band – I wonder if that was another idea that inspired ‘Arry to create the Eddie mascot, or was it the other way round?

Next up were Blurred Vision, who apparently in the past have attracted the attention of such luminaries as Roger Waters and Rush producer Terry Brown. They were a four piece, admittedly augmented by prominently sequenced keyboards prominent, led by the commanding presence of be-hatted Canadian singer Sepp Osley.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

They weren’t so much my scene personally but almost seemed to change gear mid-set from quite a modern pop-influenced sound to a rockier and more discordant one, moving in the direction of Muse or Porcupine Tree.

Their songs also had a message which Sepp was not afraid to promote, including the title track of a previous album ‘Organised Insanity’ while a convincing cover of ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ added to the Floyd connection.   They closed an impressive set with a song ‘P.O.W.’, apparently from their forthcoming album, and are definitely a band with a big future for lovers of modern progressive rock.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

If Blurred Vision were a new name to me Collateral were anything but: during their extensive tour this year, I’d seen them three times and missed countless other opportunities. However, this time was a key test: their music has a stadium ready sound, but in more luxurious surroundings than some of the smaller venues they have been playing, did they have the presence to fill a larger stage?

The answer was very much yes as they opened with ‘Mr Bigshot’, charismatic singer Angelo Tristan swinging around to reveal the same slogan on the back of his denim jacket, before one which was unfamiliar to me, ‘In It For Love’, a reminder that their set is evolving with a debut full length album due out soon.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

 The set mixed brash aggressive rockers like ‘Merry Go Round’ and ‘Promiseland’ with more melodic numbers driven by Angelo’s acoustic guitar such as the autobiographical ‘About This Boy’ – though bassist Jack Bentley-Smith took the mike and reminded the singer, who appeared somewhat refreshed , that he had forgotten to strap on his guitar!

‘Midnight Queen’ is already a crowd participation favourite and included some great poses between Angelo and his right hand man Todd Winger whose fluent, eighties style guitar shredding lifts them above many of their contemporary hopefuls, while they closed a set that had flown by with the furious ‘Lullaby’.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

While the bands had done well to make up time, an 11 o’clock curfew loomed over Romeo’s Daughter and I noticed one song had already been scrubbed from the printed setlist. As ever, singer Leigh Matty’s raven fringe and magnetic stage presence seems frozen in time from their breakthrough in the late eighties.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

After opening with one of their less convincing (for me) songs in ‘Trippin Out’, ‘Attracted To The Animal’ – seemingly always second song in – remains a great anthem. However there was one gem after another from their two reunion albums this decade – ‘Radio’, ‘Bittersweet’ with the crowd joining in on the closing refrain, the infectious musical and lyrical optimism of ‘Alive’ which was how I and others were beginning to feel as the booze flowed in convivial fashion- and catchy melody lines of ‘Enemy’.

The songs may sound simple but have a bright and breezy feel and reflect great credit on main writer Craig Joiner, an understated figure in his band sweatshirt and woolly hat, but an extremely tasteful guitarist, and thankfully restored to the fray after some health issues. Those newer songs have grown on me to the extent I now enjoy them just as much as the oldies.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

Talking of which, ‘Have Mercy’ – which opened their harder rocking 1993 sophomore effort ‘Delectable’- was an unexpected but welcome  reintroduction to the set before the inevitable  debut album favourites.  ‘Inside Out’ was upbeat and its ‘oh-oh-oh’ chant was made for participation, setting the scene for ‘Cry Myself To Sleep at Night’, which featured a superb solo from Craig and mass singing along, notably to the ‘I’m A Romeo’s Daughter’ line.

Sadly ‘Heaven In The Backseat’ was a casualty as the curfew approached so a frustratingly short, but a brilliant, 45 minute set ended in rockier fashion with ‘Wild Child’, an anthem so good Heart used it to open their ‘Brigade’ album.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

The attendance was still not great, and I was disappointed more Romeo’s Daughter fans were not present, given that their London shows at places like the Borderline have been well attended.

Nevertheless in many ways it was a perfect mini festival with a decent number of people including most of the well-known recurring faces from the London gig scene, and in such plush surroundings it had the air of one of the most fun parties of the year!  I really hope the organisers are not deterred by the show’s growing pains and that with a few lessons learned, it will become a regular event.

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

Review and photos by Andy Nathan


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Gig review: LAST IN LINE/Vega – The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

This gig was nearly, but not quite, ring out the old ring in the new. With some gigs rearranged from early December, this was a chance to see a band of essentially old stagers with two of the “nu-breed” of melodic hard rock.

Gin Annie - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

Gin Annie opened the evening with their brand of relentless riffage and focusing on debut album ’100% Proof’ with infectious songs like ‘New Bad Habit’ and ‘Damage Is Done’.

Vega - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

Vega have steadily built their audience since 2009 and have frequently been reported on by GRTR! Their mix of melody and harder rock fair bristles with energy and now with five albums to draw upon (and a sixth on the way early in 2020).

Vega - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

The band have perhaps defied the system in a current musical climate that seems to make it increasingly harder for new bands to get established even if – like Vega – they have the requisite on-stage chemistry, an amiable frontman and anthemic hooks. Songs like the revitalised ‘Kiss Of Life’ and ‘Worth Dying For’ punctuated an all-too short set.

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

Last In Line, on the other hand, show what it is to have “veteran” rockers in the line-up whilst still embracing modern hard rock. Their album debut ‘Heavy Crown’ was back in 2016 and sadly since then they’ve lost their bass player Jimmy Bain who added more credence to the then Dio triumvirate. His place is now ably taken by Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy, Billy Idol, Vince Neil).

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

Andrew Freeman was a revelation and hopefully he won’t run out of puff before the end of the band’s short tour which includes two festivals. He wrapped his powerful vocals around several Dio classics – a fitting tribute to Ronnie J himself – whilst also an engaging frontman.

Vinny Appice needs no introduction on drums (and without a need for the ubiquitous drum solo) whilst the underrated Vivian Campbell has a chance to really shine in this line-up. Vivian’s trajectory was on the up from the early 1980s with Dio, a brief spell with Lou Gramm in the often-overlooked but quite superb Shadow King until he jumped ship to Def Leppard replacing Steve Clark.

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

Whilst the Defs have obviously given him a good pension it has not really been the best place to savour his consummate style and highly melodic and fully engaging hard rock approach. He makes it all seem effortless, and authentic, using the vintage Les Paul featured on the Dio recordings.  My wife thought he looked like a younger Monty Don, the WASPI woman’s favourite gardener; it is not clear whether Viv has green fingers but he certainly uses them judiciously.

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

This gig warmed up with ‘Holy Diver’ and pivoted on ‘Last In Line’ before Jimmy Bain was remembered ahead of the pile-driving LIL composition ‘Starmaker’. It was then a galloping Dio-fest with Campbell’s extended soloing in ‘Egypt’ and ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ real highlights.

The band was obviously conceived as a vehicle for playing classic Dio by relevant musicians but it’s clear – announcing the home-grown-if Dio-like ‘Devil In Me’ – that they do want to break away from that band’s legacy and forge their own path. Their second album released earlier this year was a further step in the right direction which hopefully will be consolidated in the future. But for the moment, this gig, and band, remains a masterclass in superbly executed – and still relevant – heavy rock.

Review and photos by David Randall

Setlist: Landslide/Stand Up And Shout/Straight Through The Heart/Year Of The Gun/Holy Diver/Black Out The Sun/Last In Line/Starmaker/Electrified/Egypt/Rainbow In The Dark/Don’t Talk To Strangers/Devil In Me/We Rock

With thanks to Roki and his staff at The Tivoli for keeping local live music alive in 2019 and promoting some great bands.

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

UK tour dates

Fri NOV 29 – The Limelight, Belfast
Sat, NOV 30 – Troon Concert Hall, Troon
Sun, DEC 1 – KKs Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
Mon, DEC 2 – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Sat, DEC 7 – Planet Rockstock, Trecco Bay, Wales


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: RAMMSTEIN – Rammstein

Spinefarm Records  [Release date 17.05.19]

10 years is a long time in anyone’s book but in musical terms it can be a whole career, or in the case of some X Factor winners a career can pass in 10 minutes. The fact that Rammstein have gone 10 years without producing a new album but have continued to fill stadiums the world over year after year is testament to their excellent back catalogue and incendiary live shows. This album has a lot to prove then, is it worth the 10 year wait?

Opening track ‘Deutschland’ quickly confirms that the band have not forgotten how to write a brutal but catchy song with a menacing edge. Till Lindemann’s  unnerving vocal delivery is the key to the band’s sound, deep with an air of malevolence that suits the industrial metal backing perfectly.

The catchy ‘Radio’ follows before the band enter full attack mode on ‘Zeig Dich’ with a huge riff and thunderous drumming. ‘Auslander’ is another catchy, almost dance worthy track before ‘Sex’ plunges us into a seedy world with Lindemann leading the way down towards the red light.

‘Puppe’ is possibly the most unhinged track on the album with a manic delivery on the chorus, this should be a monster of a track in a live setting. The other song which will prove to be a show stopper in a live setting is ‘Diamant’, a slow, gentle number that will have the lighters, or mobile phones more likely, held aloft. ‘Tattoo’ is another storming track driven along by the dual guitars of Richard Z Kruspe and Paul Landers and the epic ‘Hallomann’ rounds things off in fine fashion.

It may have taken years to come to light, but this album was well worth the wait. Rammstein are a unique band that blend the crushingly heavy with the lilting and melodic seamlessly. With stadium tours already planned and sold out well in advance, the band’s popularity shows no signs of waning and this album just reaffirms their position as the most explosive band in metal.

*****

Review by Dave Wilson


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Gig review: SNOW PATROL – Regent Theatre, Ipswich, 21 November 2019

Sometimes, just sometimes, true magic happens and a band clearly demonstrate the incredible power of music to change the world. With a song or even a phrase or small collection of notes or possibly just a word they can break your heart, bring joy and hope, make you glad to be alive, make you dance, make you think or save your life.

On this night of their ‘Reworked’ tour, Snow Patrol achieved just that. Augmented by an extra guitarist, an additional keyboard player, a percussionist and brass and string sections the Northern Irish five piece wrung every last drop of emotion from the audience and indelibly etched themselves into the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to be there.

The evening was split into two halves: the first half a generally genteel affair and the second a considerably more up-tempo set, each giving a different flavour to the reworked songs aided and abetted by the supplementary musicians onstage.

Each one though brought out the lushness and heartbreaking beauty along with the joy that the tracks enjoy. It was truly a rollercoaster of emotions and encapsulated all that has made Snow Patrol so successful over their twenty-five years since forming in Dundee in 1984.

The start of the show was one of remarkable restraint and simplicity as two red spotlights pierced the darkness and a stripped down ‘Dark Roman Wine’ was started solely with one voice and one organ, the brass section subtly joining in later.

The whole was so beautifully stark as to be breathtaking and there was a moment at the end of the song where the air lay pregnant with a heavy longing before the capacity crowd erupted into applause, Gary Lightbody beaming from ear to ear at their reception. The rest of the band and ensemble strolled onstage, settling behind their instruments and the pieces of ‘You’re All I Have’ slotted into place, each person adding their own colours to the stunning and stripped-down arrangement. ‘New York’ turned up the heat somewhat, joyous and full of life, it’s cascading guitar riff getting feet tapping and heads nodding.

There was a real ease with which Lightbody built a rapport with those in the hall, everyone warming to his gentle and self-effacing in-between song dialogue and that warmth continued for the whole length of the show, a mutual show of love between the performers and audience.

‘You Could Be Happy’ was equally lovely and it was a treat to hear the seldom played ‘Warmer Climate’ but both were topped by a stunning rendition of ‘I Think of Home’, it’s atmospheric love letter to Ireland bringing a truly heart stopping and picture perfect vision of the memories and feelings engendered by this wonderful country.

A powerful display of the ability of music to not only cut through any political barriers but to bring us back to what is truly important, when Lightbody sang ‘’There’s beauty North, South, East and West’’ the audience roared with a truly heartfelt agreement to the sentiment, the lyric smashing through any perceived tribalism.

In a rush ‘Crack the Shutters’ blazed with multi-layered glory, ‘Lifening’ was filled with a stunning and deeply hammered joy and set closer ‘Take Back the City’ went from a gentle lament into a high-powered hoe-down as the violin lifted the pace into the fiery finale.

It was another gentle start to the second half of the evening with a gentle stroll through ‘Time Won’t Go Slowly’ before the familiar strains of ‘Spitting Games’ were twisted into an alternating fast / slow version, peppered with some great brass accompaniment, adding to the drama.

The brass section also played a big role in the following ‘Chocolate’, melding with acoustic guitars and percussive drumming into a heady brew as the crowd sang heartily along and ‘A Dark Switch’ rocked with a certain intent. All that though was just a warm-up to what was to come next as once more purely keys and an effects tinged lone vocal proceeded to start an incandescent ‘Run’.

It really can’t be overstated as to how this particular track seems to have caught the hearts and minds of the public and the version here performed was so moving it left many around the building with tears on their cheeks at the end of it, all hoarse with singing as the 1,550 strong crowd joined together in the anthem’s chorus.

The audience were now well and truly on their feet and ‘Heal Me’, ‘Set the Fire’ (featuring the shows M.D. Miriam Kaufman duetting with the frontman and some superb pedal steel playing), the bright, big, bold and brassy ‘Empress’ and a punchy ‘Called Out in the Dark’ kept everyone dancing as waves of light swept the auditorium.

In an evening of so many great moments it would have been almost impossible to imagine anything topping the emotional high of ‘Run’ but then the band broke into the opening lines of ‘Chasing Cars’ and the atmosphere went into overdrive.

What was already a total triumph for the band turned into a night that none who were there will ever forget when from the side of the stage an unassuming figure walked on and joined the band, the crowd equally stunned and

rapturous as local resident Ed Sheeran sang along with the first chorus. Due to the earsplitting reaction from the audience it was all but impossible to hear him over their roaring as he took the next verse but this calmed somewhat as, once again, every voice in the place was raised to sing every word of the remainder of the song, old friends Snow Patrol and Sheeran obviously having as good a time onstage as everyone in front of them.

Never someone to grab the limelight unnecessarily, the Suffolk born star hugged the band members and took his leave, letting the group finish with a blistering ‘Open Your Eyes’.

Encoring with a superb ‘What if this is All the Love’ and ‘Just Say Yes’ the night reached its final climax, both songs beautiful and full of a very raw and naked emotion. Snow Patrol: twenty-five years old and never better.

Review by Paul Monkhouse


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Gig review: GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch – Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

One of the great sadnesses of my formative music years was the failure of Philip Lynott’s post- Thin Lizzy outfit to get as far as a record deal- despite their reputation as a live act, including as support to Status Quo in the first ever gig I attended, back in 1984.

However the story has a happy ending, beginning with an extraordinary reappearance at this year’s Ramblin Man festival.  Albeit with only guitarist Laurence Archer left for the original line up, this show, the first of a UK tour, coincided with the release of a new album ‘Hit the Ground’, which received a rave review on this site.  I’m pleased to say there was also one of the healthiest turnouts I’ve witnessed at the Underworld in a while.

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

As a bonus, support was provided by a band who could have headlined in their own right, Bad Touch. The Norfolk blues rockers steady rise to fame has hit a bit of a plateau with a rather quiet 2019 so far, though I know they have been recording new material.

They opened to a crowd that was slow to fill up, with the urgency of ‘Lift Your Head Up’ then a couple of rather dry rockers in ‘Movin On Up’ and ‘Show Me What It Means’,  and the fact they have greater recent live experience than the headline act showed in their excellent stage presence and dynamic movement.

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

‘Good On You’ enlivened the crowd- not least with an unexpected mid-song diversion into ‘Sharp Dressed Man’  though its ‘Jealous Again’ feel was a reminder that if the reformed Black Crowes ever tour the UK they would be an eminently suitable support act- not least with the low slung Les Pauls of Rob Glendinning and Daniel ‘Seeks’ Seekings.

Despite Stevie Westwood’s distinctively gruff voice, not every song hit the mark, but ‘Outlaw’, dynamically building to a big chorus was very impressive, while ‘Go Down on Me’ was interspersed with a snatch of Marshall Tucker’s ‘Can’t You See’.

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

‘Dressed to Kill’ was a sassy number that grew on me but the best was saved to last, with ‘99%’,  another with that distinct ‘Exile…’ era Stones or Black Crowes groove having people joining in and completing a very welcome return to the stage.

The anticipation was crackling as an intro tape heralded the arrival of Grand Slam and as Laurence cranked the brisk riffs to ‘19’ (which eventually saw the light of day as a Phil solo single) I was transported back to a place in time where I was even younger than that age.

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

It was followed by the new single ‘Gone are the Days’,  coming over as a glorious cross between UFO (who Laurence was in for a while) and Lizzy; indeed for a moment as Laurence  played the first solo I thought I was about to hear the latter’s ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’.

‘Military Man’ lost nothing in comparison to the version Phil and Gary Moore eventually combined on- indeed as well as being a very confident front man, Mike Dyer had a natural hint of Lynott in his voice, while Benji Reid successfully captured the song’s distinctive drum patterns.

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

At this stage the GS catalogue is a mixture of old, new and somewhere in between: I was sure ‘Come Together’ drew on their old song ‘Harlem’ while ‘Crazy’ is an old number from Mike and Laurence’s days in Rhode Island Red and was as frantic as the title suggested.

‘Crime Rate’ had a steady,  menacing beat with some particularly stylish playing from bassist Dave Boyce and was reminiscent, as a friend said of Great White’s ‘Rock Me’, but in contrast the title track, which began with Mike singing through a loud halo,  had an almost punk and new wave energy to it.

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

The pace then changed with ‘Long Road’, with a vocal intro from Laurence, a lengthy, reflective number  allowing the band (including guest keyboard player Andy Fuller who played a low key but effective role) to again stretch out somewhat.

As the set moved to a conclusion, there was a great atmosphere at the front with singing along and punching the air to ‘Dedication’, a song Laurence had to reclaim from a rather sordid Lizzy cash-in, then ‘ Sisters of Mercy’ had an epic feel,  building from a slow intro with some very ‘Emerald’  style playing from Laurence..

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

However, after a fast and furious hour, the encores were a tad anticlimactic-first a solo from Laurence giving way to an instrumental named after the band, then the song that Mike said had been specially  requested for the final number was, oddly, a reprise of ‘Gone Are the Days’.

That gripe aside, it was a brilliant night being able to reclaim a Grand Slam that up until now was only a fond but distant memory and with such a fine band, they can finally move forward with confidence, only 35 years too late.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

Album review (Grand Slam)


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: JASON ALDEAN – 9

JASON ALDEAN - 9

BMG [Release date 22.11.19]

Jason Aldean is the reigning Academy of Country Music ‘Artist of the Decade’ and has scored 23 Number One Country singles. He’s also the only country act in history to top the Billboard 200 album chart four times, racking up 14.4 billion streams and more than 18 million albums sold.

Jason Aldean’s style of country owes more to a rock grounding, with the guitars set more to the crunch end rather than a typical country twang. The songs, written by a host of songwriters, cover drinking, hometown life, drinking,  and err a little more on drinking.

His vocals change to suit the mood, be it reflecting on an ex (‘Tattoos And Tequila) or a good old country twang (‘Came Here To Drink’). Nice little bit of southern rock on ‘We Back’ (got to love any song that namechecks the Marshall Tucker Band and AC/DC). Good mix of styles throughout the album including rock, traditional country and even a little indie pop.

With sixteen songs you certainly get value for your money, something Jason Aldean was keen to do.

‘9’ is his ninth album to date and one that is set to keep his album sales growing. Modern country with a healthy dose of rock, this one comes recommended. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



News: Albums of the Month (October 2019 – December 2019)

January – March 2019
April – June 2019
July – September 2019

Buck & Evans - Write A Better Day

BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day (Departure Records)

…feels like an old school album crafted with contemporary values.  Given enough airplay this impressive debut album should help a truly excellent band make a big splash in the rock market.

**** (Pete Feenstra)


Kris Barras - Light It Up

KRIS BARRAS BAND Light It Up (Provogue)

Kris Barras is that rare thing, an artist who stamps his own DNA on an album full of different styles and influences. He’s a passionate performer, a thoughtful songwriter and a ripping guitarist and all the elements combine splendidly here on a top class album.

**** (Pete Feenstra)


CHASING THE MONSOON - No Ordinary World

CHASING THE MONSOON No Ordinary World

…if you like highly melodic/mildly ambient rock spiced with just a soupçon of World elements, and appreciate fine female vocals, then No Ordinary World is a brilliantly produced album you’ll want to revisit time, and time again.

***** (Pete Whalley)


STEVE HACKETT - Genesis Revisited: Band And Orchestra

STEVE HACKETT Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra (Inside Out)

A totally immersive experience and an object lesson in consummate musicianship from all concerned.

***** (Alan Jones)


THE DEFIANTS Zokuscho (Frontiers)

…a memorable set of songs, delivered with freshness and swagger, which it will be hard to top in the end of year melodic rock best ofs.

**** 1/2 (Andy Nathan)


January – March 2019
April – June 2019
July – September 2019


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: ABLAZE – No Chaser

ABLAZE - No Chaser

www.ablaze.com [Release date 08.10.18]

Ablaze have been blazing their own trail (no more bad puns honest!) with an EP and debut album, plus a fair few live dates and support slots under their belts. Hailing from Australia, Ablaze are a five piece consisting off Danny Slaviero (vocals), Ben Anderson (lead guitar), Matt Dynon (rhythm guitar), Dan ‘Mango’ Mangano (drums) and Dave Knight (bass). This album has been out now for over a year, however it is getting another push on the back of more touring activity including Hard Rock Hell (HRH).

‘Just A Taste’ has quite rightly been released as a lead track/video, with its gang chorus vocals and an impressive vocal performance from Danny Slaviero, coupled with an AC/DC approved guitar solo, it makes for an impressive tune and listen.

Plenty of simple but effective riffs and songs, including ‘Two’s Up’ (reminding me of Company Of Wolves) and ‘Bad Tattoo’ – Ablaze certainly know to pen a punchy hard rock tune. Speaking of which ‘Where’s My Drink’ romps along with a vague Celtic tinge, another song about drink and another good ‘un.

‘The Darkest Day (What I’ve Become)’ is the album’s big production number from the emotionally charged vocals through to the short, but sweet guitar solo from Ben Anderson, the song’s seven minutes seem to whizz by.

Certainly an album to give a go, with some notable stand outs and Ablaze are another band to add to the keep an eye on list. A tour with someone like the New Roses would be a live event not to miss I am sure. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Album review: HEAVY PETTIN’ – Reissues

BurntOut Wreckords/Cherry Red [Release date 29.11.19]

Melodic rockers Heavy Pettin’, onetime Kerrang! faves, produced a couple of fine records in the 80s, and with drummer Gary Moat’s own Burnt Out Wreck currently receiving much acclaim, the band’s three albums get a re-release here with a couple of bonus tracks. The box set is long out of print so these will be of interest to fans.

Dubbed the Scottish Def Leppard, the guitar intro to their 1983 debut’s opener ‘In And Out Of Love’ has a strong nod to Pyromania, and if you give the commercial leanings a chance there’s some solid guitar mid song. The vocals are quite high, but it’s quite a strong track. Second track ‘Broken Heart’ mixes commercial, acoustic ballad and full out FM hard rock; again if you stay with the song long enough there’s a more than decent guitar solo.

Co-produced by Brian May, there are some fine touches, although it’s not as fully rounded as it needed; there is a feel that the heavier moments are reigned in rather than let loose as they should be. Maybe that’s why the band never got the credit they deserved. But this debut is really worth a listen, un-prejudged.

1985 and the follow-up ‘Rock Ain’t Dead’ followed in the same vein, perhaps a little too similar. Some great songs and equally good performance, the opening title track features some very FM Friendly shred midsong, the constantly high vocals do take some getting used to. ‘Sole Survivor’ is a good song, def worth cranking up. There’s a hint of Magnum in the album too.

Again, punchy, rocking, underrated, some great moments here.

Sadly, the 3rd album ‘The Big Bang’ would be the end for Heavy Pettin’. The more melodic/radio FM (and the band FM) direction, an intentional nod to the other side of the pond, would be a demise. And while there are still some strong tracks, the failed Eurovision entry of ‘Romeo’ was waving like a warning banner. Opener ‘Born To Burn’ is a good track, but there’s too many others just too innocuous compared to the first two albums.

Wonderful to be able to play these again.

Lettin’ Loose ****

Rock Ain’t Dead ***1/2

The Big Bang **1/2

Review by Joe Geesin


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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

Power Plays w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

Throughout December we are featuring Best of 2019 selections from the GRTR! Reviewers.

Featured Albums w/c 25 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 Melodic Rock Featured Albums of 2019
12:00-13:00 Melodic Hard Rock Featured Albums of 2019
14:00-16:00 Singer Songwriter Featured Albums of 2019

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

A selection of albums featured in 2019



Book review: NOW That’s What I Call A Quiz: Puzzle Your Way Through Sixty Years of Pop by Michael Mulligan

Trapeze [Publication date 31.10.19] Based on the bestselling series of NOW compilation albums this is a good all-round music quiz book. Split into sections that include decades, the themed NOW compilations (e.g. Disney, football anthems) and genres (rock, classic rock … Continue reading

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Gig review: HAWKWIND – Cambridge Corn Exchange,18 November 2019

Now celebrating their 50th tour, Hawkwind have always been one of the giants of the UK rock scene but have, despite their longevity, never seen the plaudits and respect that are heaped on many acts of their vintage and younger. … Continue reading

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Album review: THE DARK ELEMENT – Songs The Night Sings

THE DARK ELEMENT - Songs The Night Sings

Frontiers Music [Release date 08.11.19] Dark Element is the second coming together of Symphonic Rock’s golden couple, Jani Liimatainen and Anette Olzon. One recorded 8 albums with genre giants Sonata Artica and Stratovarius, the other 3 albums with the genre’s … Continue reading

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Album review: JULIAN TAYLOR BAND – Avalanche

Julian Taylor Band

Gypsy Soul Records [Release date 29.03.19] The Toronto based Julian Taylor Band make music on their own terms with deeply meaningful emotional narratives and lingering hooks. They mix soul, funk, roots rock and essential song craft in a memorable album … Continue reading

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News: The Best of 2019 – Get Ready to ROCK! reviewer top albums and live acts of the year

The Best of 2019

The Get Ready to ROCK! end of year ‘Best of’ fully reflects the reviewers’ and the website’s eclectic tastes.  Their reviews are amongst the most highly visible and authoritative on the web. The Best of… has been a feature on … Continue reading

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Album review: VARIOUS – Hollywood Hairspray Vol 8

VARIOUS - Hollywood Hairspray Vol 8

Perris Records [Release date 18.10.19] Perris Records have recently released the 8th instalment of their Hollywood Hairspray series and although the bands are not massively well known, there are some great tracks on here. This is an album that is … Continue reading

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Album review: QUIET RIOT – Hollywood Cowboys

QUIET RIOT - Hollywood Cowboys

Frontiers [Release date 08.11.19] “After nearly ten years since the loss of his friend and co-founding member and bandmate Kevin DuBrow, and with careful consideration, soul searching and with the blessings and support of Kevin DuBrow’s family, Frankie has moved … Continue reading

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Album review: ALAN SIMON – Excalibur The Mythical Concert

ALAN SIMON - Excalibur The Mythical Concert

“Excalibur – The Mythical Concert” (CD&DVD) “Excalibur – Live In Broceliande” (CD&DVD) [Release Date 25.10.19] In the late nineties, Breton’s Alan Simon created “Excalibur”, a Progressive/ Symphonic/ Celtic Folk Rock series, based on Arthurian legend. It proved to be hugely … Continue reading

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Album review: LAURA COX – Burning Bright

LAURA COX - Burning Bright

Edel [Release date 08.11.19] Billed as half English, half French, 100% Rock’n’Roll, this is Laura Cox’s second album and from the outset it is serious rock’n’roll. Her 2017 debut Hard Blues Shot sold well in France and the lady has … Continue reading

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Album review: DEWOLFF – Tascam Tapes

DeWolff – Tascam Tapes

Mascot Records [Release date 20.01.20] Dutch funk/soul rockers, DeWollf, strip it back to bare bones – literally – for their extraordinary new album, Tascam Tapes. Dedicated followers of this fine young group of musicians already appreciate their ability to adapt … Continue reading

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Album review: MALONE SIBUN – Come Together

Malone Sibun - Come Together

Redline Records [Release date 31.01.20] Take one of the best soulful, honey voiced rock-blues vocalists in the country and pair it with arguably the most intense guitar player on the circuit, then anchor them with a versatile rhythm section and … Continue reading

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Gig review: CANCER ON THE ROCKS – Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

 CANCER ON THE ROCKS- Bush Hall, London, 23 November 2019

Concerts are one of the more pleasurable staples of charity fundraising activity – vastly preferable, at least in my eyes, to bungee jumps, head shaves or ice buckets. After an event in the North-West last year, the Cancer On The … Continue reading

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Gig review: LAST IN LINE/Vega – The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

LAST IN LINE - The Tivoli, Buckley, 27 November 2019

This gig was nearly, but not quite, ring out the old ring in the new. With some gigs rearranged from early December, this was a chance to see a band of essentially old stagers with two of the “nu-breed” of … Continue reading

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Album review: RAMMSTEIN – Rammstein

Spinefarm Records  [Release date 17.05.19] 10 years is a long time in anyone’s book but in musical terms it can be a whole career, or in the case of some X Factor winners a career can pass in 10 minutes. The fact … Continue reading

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Gig review: SNOW PATROL – Regent Theatre, Ipswich, 21 November 2019

Sometimes, just sometimes, true magic happens and a band clearly demonstrate the incredible power of music to change the world. With a song or even a phrase or small collection of notes or possibly just a word they can break … Continue reading

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Gig review: GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch – Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

GRAND SLAM/Bad Touch- Camden Underworld, London, 22 November 2019

One of the great sadnesses of my formative music years was the failure of Philip Lynott’s post- Thin Lizzy outfit to get as far as a record deal- despite their reputation as a live act, including as support to Status … Continue reading

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Album review: JASON ALDEAN – 9

JASON ALDEAN - 9

BMG [Release date 22.11.19] Jason Aldean is the reigning Academy of Country Music ‘Artist of the Decade’ and has scored 23 Number One Country singles. He’s also the only country act in history to top the Billboard 200 album chart … Continue reading

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News: Albums of the Month (October 2019 – December 2019)

Buck & Evans - Write A Better Day

January – March 2019 April – June 2019 July – September 2019 BUCK AND EVANS Write A Better Day (Departure Records) …feels like an old school album crafted with contemporary values.  Given enough airplay this impressive debut album should help … Continue reading

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Album review: ABLAZE – No Chaser

ABLAZE - No Chaser

www.ablaze.com [Release date 08.10.18] Ablaze have been blazing their own trail (no more bad puns honest!) with an EP and debut album, plus a fair few live dates and support slots under their belts. Hailing from Australia, Ablaze are a … Continue reading

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Album review: HEAVY PETTIN’ – Reissues

BurntOut Wreckords/Cherry Red [Release date 29.11.19] Melodic rockers Heavy Pettin’, onetime Kerrang! faves, produced a couple of fine records in the 80s, and with drummer Gary Moat’s own Burnt Out Wreck currently receiving much acclaim, the band’s three albums get … Continue reading

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