Quick plays: MARTIN SIMPSON, RIVERDOGS, HIRSH GARDNER

MARTIN SIMPSON Trails & Tribulations

Topic Records [Release date 01.09.17]

Trails & Tribulations’ is Martin Simpson’s twentieth album in a career spanning over 40 years. As he says the album “is a collection of songs about nature, about travels and about real life stories. There are traditional songs, poems and contemporary songs by great writers, and songs that I had to write because nobody else knew what I wanted to say.” The wistful ‘Maps’ being a prime example of his aim on this album.

There is a wonderful version of ‘Reynardine’ (previously covered by Fairport Convention and Martin Carthy amongst others), where Martin Simpson’s soothing vocal sits on top of his deft acoustic guitar playing. Throughout the album there is astounding playing on both acoustic guitar and banjo, notably on ‘Bones and Feathers’.

Traditional folk music and songs never ages and here we have a master at work. ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

RIVERDOGS California

Frontiers [Release date 07.07.17]

Riverdogs released their self-titled debut album back in 1990, however they got lost in the grunge deluge and guitarist Vivian Campbell quit the band in 1992 to join Def Leppard. They reconvened in 2003 and songs from then made up much of 2011′s ’World Gone Mad’, and now we have their new album ‘California’.

Vivian Campbell lays down some seriously smokin’ solos, including ‘The Revolution Starts Tonight’ and big riffs on the radio friendly ‘American Dream’, aided by vocalist Rob Lamothe’s guitar. Speaking of Rob Lamothe his singing takes the band up a level, be it on the bluesy ‘Something Inside’ or ‘Golden Glow’ – think the guitars Alter Bridge meets the Tea Party – both are superb songs.

‘Searching For A Signal’ has a hint of Blue Oyster Cult about it and again Vivian Campbell’s solo is pretty damn fine. He has certainly put all his energy into this album and Last In Line, after his health issues and more power to him.

Classy music from start to finish, lets hope the Riverdogs can keep the momentum going and tour this album. They are too good to become another ‘lost gem’ of a band… ****

Review by Jason Ritchie

HIRSH GARDNER My Brain Needs A Holiday

Escape Music www.escape-music.com [Release date 24.08.17]

Hirsh Gardner is best known as the drummer with AOR/pomp rockers New England who released three albums between 1978 and 1982. They have since reformed and a new album could well be planned in the future. However, before then Hirsh Gardner releases his new album and on the limited edition bonus edition you get a copy of his first solo album, ‘Wasteland For Broken Hearts’. He is joined by fellow New England band mate Jimmy Waldo (who himself has been busy touring in Graham Bonnet’s band) and a few top notch guests including Jon Butcher, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (ex-G’N'R) and Richie Rano (Starz).

It is a mixed musical bag ranging from the Slade like fun of the title track and the AOR-tastic ‘Lost In The Darkness’. Queen and pomp rock fans will love ‘Love Is’, that starts with a Beach Boys harmony before launching into all manner of pomp shenanigans. Great one  for the headphones. However, ‘Get It Back’ does stray after a stonking guitar intro – the programmed beats and sampling vocals seem out of place with the rest of the album.

Ballads are all present and correct with the heartfelt ‘Diamond Moon’ a stand out. Those harmonies are back again in force at the start on the cover of Procul Harum’s ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’. Pretty decent version, although it sticks pretty much to the original arrangement.

It will please fans of New England and anyone after a little AOR/pomp rock with a distinct 80′s edge. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie






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