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HOT NEW REVIEWS
 UPDATED ON  FEBRUARY 1 - 2012

BRENT JAMES AND THE CONTRABAND ‘MOMENT OF SILENCE’ (SKIDDCO RECORDS/USA IMPORT)

BRENT JAMES is a singer/songwriter whose dream of becoming a professional singer one day started at a very young age and after he moved to New York City, things went very quickly, because his demo landed on the desk of Grammy Award Winning Producer SKIDD MILLS. The click was immediately there and so it was only a matter of time before the recording process of Brent’s debut CD ‘Moment of silence’ took place at the Sound Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee. The result is a very strong and impressive album that sounds as American as possible. Traditional singer/songwriter Americana rootsy pop/rock is combined with New Country, Southern Rock, Heartland Rock, AOR and typical Modern day American Radiorock, ending up sounding very melodic and catchy, radio-ready and appealing to anyone, especially to all the Working Class Men out there! The 12 songs are quite diverse and are a pleasure to listen to and let’s say if you take a bit of DAUGHTRY and BO BICE, fill it up with BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and TOM PETTY, sneak some LYNYRD SKYNYRD right through here and there and finish it all off in a very tight and radio-ready production, then you have this hit-record by BRENT JAMES. This really could have been a major American label release, but it really has been out via the small label SKIDDCO RECORDS. Brent’s vocals are really great and a pleasure to listen to, very much in the classic American accent direction of VAN ZANT and DAUGHTRY and some of the AORish songs on the album even recall MITCH MALLOY sometimes. Almost every song has a deadly catchy chorus and if we have a quick walk through the album’s tracklisting, it all starts with the fantastic “Moment of Silence” (semi-rocker/ballad with AOR/Melodic Rockish chorus, very catchy strong radio-ready a la DAUGHTRY), which is followed by “Furious” (midtempo, with TOM PETTY riff) and the ballad “My Mona Lisa”. “Young Love” is a singer-songwriter inspired semi-southern rocker, a little acoustic tingled and slowing things down, before rocking it all up again during “Let It Rain” (Classic American Rocker, with the guitar riff and the catchy chorus, very much like DAUGHTRY again) and the superb “Cloud of Dust”, another semi-melodic rocker, very much like the first cut on the album, perhaps this is the album’s absolute highlight!). 

We’re halfway then with ”Sick and Tired” (midtempo ballad, southern style, like the most recent record of LYNYRD SKYNYRD, with JOHNNY VAN ZANT on vocals). Next track “Diggin' Up the Past” is a really great haunting AORish ballad and “Love Is an Opera” is a nice midtempo pop/rocker, while “Little Bit High” has another midtempo TOM PETTY kinda guitar riff, with the song itself being a countryish rocker in the classic Nashville style, even reminding one of THE TRAVELLING WILLBURY’s, so it is catchy and American all the way! This last mentioned song could actually be a major single! The final two songs are “Me After You” (Classic AORish ballad a la DAUGHTRY) and “Shine Shine Shine (uptempo shuffle rocker mixed with Southern flavored Country rock, like ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION and DOC HOLIDAY). This is really high quality stuff here and Brent’s debut record could easily become huge! AOR, Americana, PopRock/Radiorock, Southern Rock, New Country, Heartland Rock, Singer/Songwriter and about any other typical American Pop/Rock tradition is united here on 1 record. Although it captures the typical modern day American polished rocksound a la DAUGHTRY, BO BICE… there’s actually a lot more to discover here. Check it out at: http://www.BrentJamesMusic.com

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)  

ROBBIN THOMPSON (BAND) ‘ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE BLUES/JUST A BLUR IN THE REARVIEW/LIVE AT THE NATIONAL’ (OUT THERE MUSIC/USA IMPORT)

Singer/songwriter ROBBIN THOMPSON from Richmond, Viriginia was kind enough to sent me 3 albums from his catalogue. Robbin already has a very long career behind him that started way back in the late 1960s when he opened with his band MERCY FLIGHT for an act called STEEL MILL. Sometime later Robbin joined that band and despite the fact STEEL MILL never made it big, one of its members went to achieve major fame and fortune for the rest of his life, because none other than BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN was the leader of that band. It is not that surprising to hear a lot of similarities to BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN while listening to Robbin’s music. Basically this is pure American Working-Class/Heartland Pop/Rock, mixing influences from Classic traditional American Rhythm and Blues, Nashville Country, Southern Rock, Singer/Songwriter Music, Westcoast and good old fashioned Rock and Roll, backed by semi-acoustic/electric guitars and raw emotional vocals like only American singers are able to provide. Robbin’s 3 most recent releases include 2 studio-albums and a live CD. The live CD is released under the moniker ROBBIN THOMPSON BAND and contains a live recording of a performance at The National Theater in Richmond, Virginia, January 16th, 2010. It marked the reunion of ROBBIN THOMPSON BAND, whom were active during the 1970s and 1980s with a slightly more rockier approach than Robbin’s solo efforts. Their 1980 album ‘Two B’s please’ even sold a stunning 200,000 copies! Outside the USA, Robbin’s music is not really well-known sadly, but that is usually the case with this kind of pure American Heartland Rock, with some exceptions of course, like BOB SEGER, TOM PETTY and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. However, other American artists like JOHN CAFFERTY, JIMMY DAVIS, TOM KIMMEL, MICHAEL STANLEY, DANNY WILDE (and even JOHN COUGAR!), etc. are all playing in the exact same style as ROBBIN THOMPSON and have also been in the business for ages by now, but are sadly also not able to break out of The States, despite the fact their music is equally as good as the PETTY/SEEGER/SPRINGSTEENs of this world. A real pity, because this live-CD, which was recorded at The National Theater in Richmond, Virginia on the 16th of  January, 2010,  shows that ROBBIN THOMPSON BAND is able to play some great early 80s Singer-Songwriter American Heartland-Rock and Roll that especially live on stage brings a lot of joy and excitement. Some flirting with Westcoast, Southern Rock and even AOR can be heard here and there, but the main road on which Robbin is driving is the uptempo Heartland Rock’n’Roll direction (“Dream On Melinda”, “Candyapple Red”, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”, “Barroom Romance” and “Bright Eyes”) in the style of BOB SEEGER, MICHAEL STANLEY and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. Other interesting songs are “Highway 101” (laid-back westcoast ish), “All Alone in the Endzone” (classic southern rock/country stripped stuff), “Boy From Boston” (classic Southern Rock/Country, stripped down a la BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN), “Another Day Another Dollar” (lovely epic piece, BOB SEGER/stripped LYNYRD SKYNYRD, starts calm but gets uptempo halfway), “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (more rocking, early 80s American rock and roll, pure MICHAEL STANLEY and even DAKOTA) and for me personally the highlight on this CD the song “Let It All Out” (mid 80s AORish, JIMMY DAVIS style, a little epic pure 80s Westcoast-AOR, also DAKOTAish, quite beautiful with a lovely guitarsolo and giving you the wow factor!). This live-CD is basically excellent stuff and a must-have for anyone who wishes to hear Heartland rock at it’s very best!

Now on to his solo efforts, because he released about 8 albums and 2 of them I would like to discuss here. First off the slightly stripped-down/back-to-basic album ‘One step ahead of the blues’ from 2003, which is a mix of Americana and Singer/Songwriter. It features guest appearances by TIMOTHY B.SCHMIT (THE EAGLES) and DAVE MATTHEWS BAND keyboardist BUTCH TAYLOR, a song that was recorded in SHANGHAI CHINA featuring traditional Chinese instruments (“Orange moon”) and a previously unreleased song by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN called “Train song”.  

The other solo record dates back to 2007 and is titled ‘Just A Blur In The Rearview’. This album is mainly acoustic/semi-electric tingled singer/songwriter music with typical Americana and some Southern Rock influences. On this disc Robbin’s voice shines quite brightly, showing he has that typical great American way of singing, which one can clearly hear in the music styles of Southern Rock, Heartland Rock and New Country. If we run through the track listing, the album starts with some early 80s westcoast in the titletrack, while BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN is a clear comparison during “Standin' in the Rain”. The bluesy “I Won't Quit (Till I Get Home)” follows and with “Where You've Never Been (The Zhong Song)” there is a touch of Southern Rock, with some really excellent raw vocals here, even a bit JIMI JAMISON meets BOB SEGER and a stripped LYNYRD SKYNYRD. Next tracks “One-horse Town” and “Nothing but a Breeze” offer a classic American Country/Americana mix up, the BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN acoustic singer/songwriter style, yet with also similarities to MICHAEL STANLEY BAND. “Water From the Moon” is a very nice laid-back ballad, even AORish with crystal clear vocals. Following track “Desperate Man” is another light Southern Rock style song and actually so is “Real Mean Dog” that go in the direction of BOB SEGER/stripped LYNYRD SKYNYRD. Closing track of the CD is “Move On Down the Line”, a soulful old R&B style that recall memories of the classic “Proud Mary/Rolling on the river”. 

Concluded, ROBBIN THOMPSON is a very talented and highly underrated musician, who in the USA has achieved quite some fame and fortune, winning the American Song Festival twice, but sadly in Europe not many people are aware of his qualities. That is quite strange if you consider the fact that BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN is a major artist over here and musically speaking Robbin’s music is not too far away removed from THE BOSS. Time to check out Robbin’s music for yourself at: www.robbinthompson.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

ADRIAN WEISS ‘BIG TIME’ (INDEPENDENT/GERMANY IMPORT)

German guitarist ADRIAN WEISS has been a member of the Progressive Metalband THOUGHTSPHERE in the early stages of his career, but around 2002 he became part of FORCES@WORK, which more or less followed the same musical path as his former band. Now in 2012 he releases his first solo-CD ‘Big time’, which took him 3 years to finish recording, although there are even songs included that were written as far back as 1999. Anyway, there are some notable guest musicians on the album, such as Victor Smolski (RAGE), Joachim Kremer and Björn "Burn" Sondermann (ASSASSIN), Daniel Dring (PAUL DIANNO – BAND, RE-VISION, PERZONAL WAR), Thorsten Praest (COLDSEED, GUT, HUEHNERFRIEDHOF) and Sabir Salkic, Mischa Blum and Marcel Willnat (FORCES AT WORK). Without a doubt, the result is a very professional record that contains perfectly played instrumental guitar orientated music that fits somewhere between melodic rock and somewhat groovy Hardrock, NEAL SCHON meets STEVE VAI would be a good description, so no freaking out here, just bringing you mostly beautiful guitar melodies. Check it out for yourself at: www.adrianweissmusic.de and http://www.myspace.com/adrianweiss and http://www.reverbnation.com/adrianweiss and www.adrianweiss.bandcamp.com and e-Mail to info@adrianweissmusic.de

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

DREAMCATCHER ‘SOULDESIGN’ (RISING RECORDS)

The English band DREAMCATCHER is making their debut with the CD ‘Souldesign’ and none other than JACOB HANSEN (ANUBIS GATE, MERCENARY, DELAIN, DEADLOCK, TYR, AMARANTHE) mixed and mastered the album, while he also provided guest vocals on 1 of the 6 included tracks. The sound is massive and musically speaking this is ‘primera division’ Melodic Neo-Classical Progressive Metal that sounds dangerously close to PAGAN’S MIND. The musicianship is terrific, the vocals of singer LUCAS JACKSON are picture-perfect and the songs on the CD are really sensational. The only pity is the fact that only 6 tracks are included, because all of them are quite superb (“Take hold”, “Balance”, “In the depths of a dream”, “My sin”, “Never look back” and a hidden track). A real gem this is and sounding very unlike a British band, although bands like POWER QUEST, DRAGONFORCE, THRESHOLD, BALANCE OF POWER moved in the same direction as this DREAMCATCHER, but I do feel that this new band might someday become huge, because they have got all it takes to become bigger. Any PAGAN’S MIND or ANUBIS GATE fan will absolutely love this record! More info at: http://www.dreamcatcherofficial.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/dreamcatchermusic

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)  

BORN OF SCARS ‘BORN OF SCARS’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

Sadly only 3 songs can be found on the mini-CD of the band BORN OF SCARS, a band based in Queens, New York. Why sad? Well, what we can hear during the 10 minutes playing time of the CD is of a very high level. First of all, the band features a truly amazing vocalist called RENEE DAVIS, who has an incredible high pitched range in her voice, easily beating any other female singer out there and having a sort of classic PAT BENATAR vibrato! Further more, the 3 songs are all excellent pieces of midtempo modern day American based Melodic Heavy Rockers with big fat groovy guitar riffs out of the modern  Metal scene (DISTURBED ish) combined with superstrong melodic clean female vocals, catchy hooks and memorable choruses, all together making BORN OF SCARS a highly recommended band. This band could easily secure a major label deal if someone wakes up and learns about them. Personally I think it’s only a matter of time before some record label discovers these guys and girl. If I had the money I would personally sign them in a flash, but for now they are independent and hopefully working on a full-length album. Check them out asap at: www.bornofscars.com

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)  

TYRANTS TEMPLE ‘THE TYRANT’ (SEWER PICKLE MUSIC/TWO BIG COOKIES PRODUCTIONS LLC/USA IMPORT)

It is actually quite stunning to see the recent interest in NWOBHM type of music, because this style within the Hardrock/Metalworld slowly died somewhere in the UK in the mid 1980s, but during the past 5 years or so we have seen many new bands playing it all over again with own original material. Although some of them are coming out of mainland Europe (Sweden, Holland and Germany), it is remarkable to see many bands from places all over the USA and Canada playing songs that sound like they were created 30 years ago. The American bands however do have a sort of Classic American Melodic Rock touch as well, with VAN HALEN guitar riffs and RIOT/FIFTH ANGEL/BLUE OYSTER CULT/TALAS type of melodies slipped right through. We have seen that on records by bands like CAULDRON, WHITE WIZZARD, LORDS OF THE TRIDENT, HIGH SPIRITS, etc. and to that list we can add TYRANTS TEMPLE without any doubts. Everything here sounds picture perfect and perhaps their way of describing their own music is correct (RAINBOW meets JUDAS PRIEST), although personally I would also compare them to some other bands. There’s pure NWOBHM a la ANGEL WITCH/DIAMOND HEAD here (“The tyrant” and “Running with the Rods), 80s Melodic Hardrock the American way a la TALAS (“Riding star” and “Just remember when you’re lonely”), early 80s American Southern Hardrock a la STRANGER (“I know you’re with the dancers”), Epic DEMON/BUDGIE ish pieces (“Gravedigger” and “Legend of the lake”) and even Melodic Rockballads (“Can’t stop running” and “Summers gone”). In the end, this is a very enjoyable album that features by the way some really great guitarwork as well and 12 hard-hitting tunes that are a nice mixture of all mentioned bands, although I can perhaps also add a band like RAIL or THE RODS, both of whom this TYRANTS TEMPLE is reminding me a lot after several spins. Be sure to check them out if any of these bands are up your alley! More at: http://tyrantstemple.com/

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)  

MARCUS EATON ‘AS IF YOU HAD WINGS’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Singer/songwriter (and guitarist) MARCUS EATON is coming out of Boise, Idaho, USA and already releasing his fifth CD with ‘As if you had wings’. Back in 2002 he signed his first recording contract with a subsidiary of MCA Records, but is now currently independent. Although Marcus is not shy from typical singer/songwriter orientated music, this new album of him is much more rocking. In fact, a lot of songs are Melodic Poprock orientated, yet with a definite own touch, mostly thanks to Marcus’ fantastic melodic clean vocals that sound very impressive and quite unique. Sometimes I hear similarities to musicians like DANNY WILDE, CHARLIE SEXTON and TOM KIMMEL, but then again Marcus adds an own touch to the typical American poprocksound, with a sorta Soul vibrato and then RYAN ADAMS and JOHN MAYER are perhaps better examples to whom you might want to compare MARCUS EATON. His music has been praised by such well-established artists like DAVID CROSBY and DAVE MATTHEWS and it’s only a matter of time before he gets his breakthrough. This is the kind of music everyone will appreciate and it should really belong on Radio and TV playlists, because basically this is a high quality record by an incredible professional musician. Hard to believe, it’s been released independently, but for more info go to: www.marcuseaton.com and http://marcuseaton.bandcamp.com

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)  

INTERNATIONAL BLUES FAMILY ‘INTERNATIONAL BLUES FAMILY’ (HEMIFRAN)

THE INTERNATIONAL BLUES FAMILY is a band made up of musicians whom are coming from all over the world, USA, Germany and Croatia to be exact. They recorded an album together, which musically speaking of course is Bluesrock, with raw soulful female vocals of LZ LOVE and even rawer male vocals of guitarist LIGHTNIN’ RED. Quality stuff, although strictly recommended to the fans of pure Bluesrock. More at: www.hemifran.com

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)  

DERBY ‘MADELINE’ (TIMBER CARNIVAL RECORDS/GREEN SUBMARINE RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

DERBY is a band from Portland, Oregon, USA that already released a few albums, but now launch an EP consisting of 6 tracks. Musically it is more or less typical modern day Altrock with a Classic Rock of the 1970s feeling, especially during the first 3 tunes (“Don’t Believe In You”, ”Madeline” and “Creeping Climbing”), which are all quite strong rocking tunes with memorable melodies and basically radio- and TV-ready for airplay. However, the band also switches to pure FLEET FOXES orientated singer-songwriter acoustic guitar driven melodies during songs like “One’s A Lonely One”, “It’s All In Me” and the Country/Folk shuffle “If Ever There’s a Reason”. Quite an interesting band this DERBY, which could be the next big thing for sure, because they have got all the ingredients to serve both folk/Americana/singer-songwriter and more altrock type of fans, although the music is so melodic it might even appeal to the open-minded melodic rockfan out there, especially during an almost 1970s anthem rocker like “Don’t believe in you”! Check them out at: www.derbyrock.com

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

THE RED BUTTON ‘AS FAR AS YESTERDAY GOES’ (GRIMBLE RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

Out of Los Angeles comes the singer-songwriter duo Seth Swirsky (wrote hits for TAYLOR DAYNE, AL GREE, JANE WIEDLIN, TINA TURNER and many others) and Mike Ruekberg, who together formed this THE RED BUTTON in the mid 2000s and now release a sensational new album titled ‘As far as yesterday goes’. It’s the follow-up to their 2007 groundbreaking debut ‘She’s About to Cross My Mind’, which received a lot of attention back then. Without a doubt, this new album is another winner, because from start to finish this Bubblegum Powerpop in the best 1960s tradition of THE BEATLES, THE HOLLIES and the rest of the Merseybeat sound. They also remind me very much of the Dutch equivalent THE MADD (or THE KIK as they are now called in 2012). Anyway, from start to finish this is a lovely timeless sounding record with catchy melodies all over the place. People longing back to the 1960s melodies of THE BEATLES, SANDY COAST, THE HOLLIES and such will absolutely instantly fall in love with this band, although fans of WEEZER and TEENAGE FANCLUB might also get a kick out of THE RED BUTTON. Among the highlights are the balladish “As far as yesterday goes” and the uptempo “Caught in the middle”, “Picture” and “I can’t forget”, but any song will do! Do check out this catchy hookladen harmonyvocal driven cheerful Powerpopband at: www.theredbutton.net and www.myspace.com/theredbuttonband and www.novatunes.com

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

LYRIAN ‘THE TONGUES OF MEN AND ANGELS’ (MEDIEVAL RECORDS/UK IMPORT)

I believe we already reviewed some material of this UK based band in the past, but LYRIAN’s latest effort ‘Nightingale hall’ is their first concept album. Lead guitarist/vocalist JOHN BLAKE, Alison Felstead (bass) and Paul W. Nash (keys, guitars) are forming the line-up of the band. 8 songs are on the CD and musically it is a sort of folkish traditional affair that could also go down well with the open-minded progfans out there as it is close to 1970s early prog of bands like PINK FLOYD, GENESIS, YES and JETHRO TULL. Especially that last mentioned band is a good comparison, because vocally speaking LYRIAN is sounding quite out-of-the-ordinary sometimes. Not in the PETER GABRIEL mood, but more like an Irish Leprechaun mixed with an Elf from LORD OF THE RINGS! It is unique perhaps, but it also takes a long time to get used to. Instrumental the band offers the typical Progrock with Folk influences (also CARAVANish) and 2 long CDs are filled with this Folk injected Progrock. It listens quite nicely and fans of mentioned bands should check them out at: www.cdbaby.com/cd/lyrianrock and http://www.myspace.com/lyrianprog  and http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lyrianrock

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)  

ABANDONED STARS ‘OPENING ACT’ (ODDRIFF RECORDS/SCOTLAND IMPORT)

Out of lovely Scotland comes the band ABANDONED STARS and they were kind enough to sent us their first EP CD ‘Opening act’, which musically sounds rather interesting actually. Scotland is not really known for delivering Progmetalbands and ABANDONED STARS may well be one of the very first bands to play it and thankfully they do it at a very high level. In fact, they even add something of their own to the typical Progressive Metal genre. DREAM THEATER and RUSH are the clear major influences here and then I am talking about the first couple of DREAM THEATER records, mixed with RUSH circa ‘Presto’ and they also have some similarities to KING’S X. It’s a pity there are only 4 tracks on the album, but happily they all sound very good and make you vey eager to a full-length CD release. The album was mixed and mastered in Canada and you can really hear that, because like already mentioned earlier on, they sound very non-UK/Scottish and are closer to a Canadian, American or Scandinavian band. Opener “Beyond reason” shows right away we are dealing here with a very impressive band, because this is RUSH meets DREAM THEATER meets KING’S X at it’s best! Following track “Follow your heart” is catchier, has some great keyboard arrangements and a killer KAMELOTish chorus, so a more straight-ahead uptempo piece, with still some massive sounding Progmetal breaks and overall the best song on the EP. The other 2 songs are not as good as the first 2 songs, because both “Sealing my fate” and “Against the tide” fail a bit in the chorus department, although these songs are meant to sound darker than the earlier tunes and are resembling a very slight touch of bands like PAIN OF SALVATION, NEVERMORE and MASTODON. The band has a great lead singer, instrumental it all sounds very good and who knows in 2012 this band might release a sensational full-length CD that will be as good as 2011’s PAGAN’S MIND classic ‘Heavenly ecstasy’ that was the best Progmetal album of the year 2011! More at: www.abandonedstars.co.uk

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

THE MCCLYMONTS ‘WRAPPED UP GOOD’ (UNIVERSAL MUSIC AUSTRALIA/BSM MUSIC/FONTANA DISTRIBUTION/USA IMPORT)

Superstardom in their homeland Australia, but currently also winning over the hearts of the American people, we welcome THE MCCLYMONTS, which is sorta the Australian equivalent of American all-girl New Country bands such as DIXIE CHICKS, BOMBSHEL, LADY ANTEBELLUM and INDIGO GIRLS. Their latest CD ‘Wrapped up good’ was already released in early 2010 in Australia, but these 3 Aussie sisters just recently secured an American release and ever since the album has been out, they have been getting a lot of press and appreciation from the Americans. On the other hand that is not really strange, because the album sounds picture-perfect and radio-ready for the American market, with especially during the uptempo almost Melodic Poprock orientated material some really catchy tunes, like “Kick it up”, “Wrapped up good”, “Hearts on fire”, “If you’re gonna love me” and “Boy who cried love” (touching THE CORRS here) that also remind one of classic JUICE NEWTON, LISA HARTMAN, THE JUDDS and PATTY SMYTH (her solo-records after the SCANDAL period) besides the already mentioned modern acts. Ballads can of course also be found and the best one of them is definitely the beautiful AORish “A woman is a flame”, which sounds dangerously close to PATTY SMYTH and even ROBIN BECK during her calmer 1990s years. Country never looked and sounded so sexy, rocking and catchy as before nowadays and THE MCCLYMONTS are yet another example of a groundbreaking act in the genre that is very popular in Australia and the USA, but sadly is completely ignored in the rest of the world. They are currently working on their 3rd album, to be released in 2012 and of course we will be looking forward to that album, expecting nothing but quality stuff. In the meantime, check out THE MCCLYMONTS, because they look and sound pretty much close to perfection. More at: http://www.themcclymonts.net.au/ 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)  

LEE SMALL ‘JAMAICA INN’ (ESCAPE MUSIC)

Having recorded a new CD with SHY just recently, it seemed like UK singer LEE SMALL finally found a band with whom he could forever record and play live on stage, but sadly the passing of SHY guitarist STEVE HARRIS probably also means the end for that band, which is such a shame as that last record was SHY’s finest album in ages! Anyway, Lee already had plans for a new solo-record, which is now out on ESCAPE MUSIC, the label that also released many of Lee’s past recordings with SURVEILLANCE, CLOVEN HOOF and PHENOMENA. Lee’s vocals are simply incredible and it was such a blessing to hear him sing Classic AOR/Melodic Rock, because his soulful GLENN HUGHES’ type of vocals are a deadringer for anyone out there! This 2nd solo-record ‘Jamaica Inn’ is slowing things down a bit and actually moves even further into the GLENN HUGHES direction, so what we have here is Soul injected heavy Bluesrock’n’Roll. Although it isn’t as good as the last SHY record, if you have a voice like Lee has, everyone will be impressed and so it is safe to say that this is a high quality recording. The best songs are the more slower ballad orientated ones, such as “The Captain’s quarters”, “Shine at light”, “Voyager” and the midtempo “Dead man walking”. The rockier tunes are not really sensational and offer just plain heavy Bluesrock, not bad at all, but if you compare this album with SHY, the difference is quite big, except perhaps for the haunting melodic rockballads on this CD. However, Lee’s vocals are such a blessing to listen to and it doesn’t even matter if he sings the phonebook or a serious lyric or in which style it is done, because it all sounds great and for that reason alone, this is still an enjoyable record, although do not expect anything similar to that SHY record. However, this is a must-have for any fan of GLENN HUGHES and do not forget to check out his cover of one of the 20th century’s biggest US R&B hits ever (BOYZ 2 MEN’s “End of the road”)! More at: www.lee-small.com

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

ANDREW JACKSON ‘FERAL FAMILIAR’ (INDEPENDENT/CANADA IMPORT)

Toronto-born singer/songwriter J. ANDREW is the man behind ANDREW JACKSON, which is more or less a one-man’s band with a CD release titled ‘Feral familiar’. He got help from a few other musicians and producer JOHN NAZARIO (THE TEA PARTY and NELLY FURTADO) also took part in the recording of this album. Musically speaking it is a mash-up of several Rockgenres, sounding quite raw and sometimes even progressive, although it is very hard to fully describe the sound, because it is as diverse as for example ANDREW W.K., DANKO JONES and THE TEA PARTY. Like many fellow Canadian musicians, also this is a quality release, but just a little more experimental and therefore not for everyone’s taste, although nobody can deny that ANDREW JACKSON offers an interesting deal of music here.  Highlights are the songs that go for a somewhat straighter Classic Rock approach, such as the MOXY orientated ”Grinder”. Check it out for yourself at: www.andrewjackson.ca

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)  

KLOGR ‘TILL YOU DECAY’ (VALERY RECORDS/GLASS ONYON PR/ITALY IMPORT)

The Italian band KLOGR is playing Alternative Rock/Metal, with clear American influences and although they are surely a decent band, they are not reaching the incredible high level of their American counterparts of STAIND, RED, SHINEDOWN, DISTURBED and such. Nevertheless, I have to say that they are doing quite a good job, with their CD also being mastered in Hollywood and despite I mentioned they are an Italian band, actually they are an Italian/American band. Their bandname is quite original, because it is a reference to the law of Weber-Fechner, developed in the second half of the 800, which is known as the fundamental psychophysical relationship (S = K log R). The band or project is formed around Gabriele "Rusty" Rustichelli, vocalist, guitarist and producer and ‘Till you decay’ is their debut CD. Formed back in 2010, the album was recorded 1 year later and with songs like “Live dying”, “Silk and thorns”, “Naked mind” and “Silted memories” offering a good deal of Americanized Modern Alternative Rock that sounds dark, aggressive and modern, but is still melodic enough to keep everyone in a happy mood. They seem to however go for a slightly more 1990s approach, so actually should be compared to AUDIOSLAVE and even SOUNDGARDEN instead of the earlier mentioned modern acts. Anyway, check it out for yourself at: http://www.klogr.net

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)  

ELM STREET ‘BARBED WIRE METAL’ (INDEPENDENT/AUSTRALIA IMPORT)

ELM STREET is a band from Victoria, Australia with a sound that fits somewhere between Melodic Power Metal and Thrash Metal. The sound is guitar based, with many Classic Metal riffs and a massive sound, while the vocals are quite raw and aggressive sometimes. April 2011 brought the debut album of this band, which was formed back in 2003. Without a doubt, this one is a real Metalhead record, especially with songtitles like “Barbed Wire Metal”, “Heavy Metal Power”, “King of Kings” and “Metal Is the Way”, you would think this is the latest MANOWAR record. ELM STREET however is a little heavier and more straight-forward, so without all the epic and dramatic stuff. Basically they play Classic Metal the way it was meant to be, something we have also heard from a band like WOLF. Of course the bandname was taken from the well-known NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Horror movie. Perhaps not really original, it is done very well and is a must-have for any fan of Classic Metal! More at: http://www.metalelmstreet.com

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)  

ANNIS BRANDER ‘GLASS PEOPLE IN THE WOODS’ (LONELY ROAD RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

ANNIS BRANDER is a Swedish female singer/songwriter who has got a gorgeous voice and combines that with lovely melodies in her mostly balladry material. The songs are somewhat dark lyrically speaking, but her perfect clean voice makes it a pleasure to listen to. In fact, the 2nd album of Annis is a beautiful undiscovered gem with many well-crafted melodic songs, such as “You broke my heart”, “Goodnight” and “Oh Foolish me”. One of the few songs that goes a bit more into a traditional Swedish Folk tradition is the uptempo shuffle “More than Ice Cream” that was also chosen as a first video/single. This song along with “Sweet Marianne” also touch a sorta American Country influence (TAYLOR SWIFT, DIXIE CHICKS…). As already mentioned, the lyrics are sometimes going very deep and seem quite emotional (“The biggest betrayal in the world”), but musically speaking a song like “Burning sky” is even going for a very cheerful summerish uptempo catchy Melodic Poprocker that reminds me a bit of the semi-AOR of past artists like JAIME KYLE and LENITA ERICKSSON. In the end, a little less experimental musically speaking that the much-praised LYKKE LI, ANE BRUN and AGNES OBEL, but overall just as good and perhaps a female singer/songwriter to keep your eyes open for in the near future! More at: http://annisbrander.blogspot.com/ and available through: http://www.hemifran.com/artists_a-b.html#annis

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  

THE ADVENTURE SPIRIT ‘GRAND STANDARD’ (TAS/INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

Described as a harmony-driven, country-soul-pop group, this Melbourne, Australia based band combines elements of Classic Folk, Singer/Songwriter with lush 70s style pop melodies that makes their latest album ‘Grand standard’ somewhat a remarkable record, because you don’t hear that too often nowadays. Of course a band like FLEET FOXES is more or less doing the exact same thing, mixing classic SIMON&GARFUNKEL with BOB DYLAN and adding some accessible melodic harmonies, but THE ADVENTURE SPIRIT is here and there going a step further, such as during the Jazz/Big-Band influenced “Daisy” that even sounds a bit like classic CHICAGO, yet less rockier. And how about the CROWDED HOUSEish “Open Misere”, a very smooth song that could easily find it’s way on Radio Airplay rotation lists. In contrast is the slow bluesy “If you see danger”. The diversity of this band is quite interesting and makes their music a challenge to listen to and without a doubt one will be very pleased with their music. It’s a pity that such talented bands like this THE ADVENTURE SPIRIT have nowadays such a hard time to get recognized for their beauty, so make sure not to miss them. Go to: http://theadventurespirit.com and www.myspace.com/adventurespirit and available through: http://www.hemifran.com/artists_a-b.html#spirit

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

SUSAN JAMES ‘HIGHWAYS GHOSTS HEARTS AND HOME’ (DUMPLINGS MUSIC/TAXIM RECORDS/HEMIFRAN)

‘Highways ghosts hearts and home’ is the latest release by Californian singer/songwriter SUSAN JAMES. Her music is a mix of typical Singer/Songwriter acoustic pop/rock and Country tingled material, sounding close to classic JONI MITCHELL, JOAN BAEZ and such, thanks to the change in vocal range that sometimes goes up to a pretty high octave. The songs are backed up by a full band, so that gives the material a bigger sound than the mentioned classic artists. Susan’s vocals are really great it is more than a pleasure to listen to the 11 songs on her CD. She has already released quite a few CDs in the past, starting back in the late 90s when a legendary Apple Computer founder heard her playing a Bay Area coffeehouse and handed her a paper bag of cash to finance her first album. From then on things went very quickly, playing with many well-known acts (SON VOLT, BILLY BRAGG, RUFUS WAINRIGHT, LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM, BOB WEIR) and recording several albums. This latest album offers nothing but quality music that will please any fan of singer/songwriter pop/rock. More at: www.susanjamesmusic.com and www.myspace.com/susanjamesmusic and available through: http://www.hemifran.com/artists_s.html#susan

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  

CHASING GRAVITY ‘VARIOUS RECORDS’ (KID AUDIO RECORDS/MGM/HEMIFRAN)

When you have your album mastered at the famous STERLING SOUND in New York by the legendary TED JENSEN, you have got yourself a quality album! In this case it concerns the album ‘Autumn in the platinum desert’ by the Australian band CHASING GRAVITY. This band was formed in the city of Brisbane back in 2003 and so far have released the earlier mentioned album and a single titled ‘Statue of stone’. The album was released in 2008 and since then it has become a little quiet, although a new record should be released in the near future. Anyway, this band is playing full-on uptempo based fun Rock and Roll with the attitude of today’s modern rockbands, but sounding damn catchy and super melodic, so CHASING GRAVITY sometimes sounds like a pure Melodic Rockband. A song like “Bright lights” is basically a fantastic Melodic Rock anthem that sounds like an instant winner! Other highlights are “The latest enemy”, “Keeping secrets”, “Believe” and “Let it out”, all sounding quite sensational actually and basically pure uptempo catchy hookladen Melodic Rock for the modern generation (especially recommended if you’re familiar with the band DESTROPHY! The CD-single ‘Statue of stone’ was released in 2009 and until now the band’s latest official release, with the song itself being a typical American style Melodic Rocker that also reminds me a bit of FACE TOMORROW. Concluded, I am personally looking forward to new material of this impressive Rockband from Australia, but in the meantime check them out at: http://www.myspace.com/chasinggravity and available through: http://www.hemifran.com/artists_c.html#gravity

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)  

TOMMY RICKARD ‘DREAM CALIFORNIA’ (INDEPENDENT/HEMIFRAN)

‘Dream California’ is the debut CD of the Californian based singer/songwriter and drummer TOMMY RICKARD. He is actually best known as being the drummer for the Sleazy/Glam Hardrockband VAIN, but aside from a few other projects, he is now starting a solo career, which starts here with this album. Musically speaking this is a different turn, because the album is filled with typical American Singer/Songwriter that feels like you’re on that long Route 66 heading down the highway and driving through small Cowboy like towns. Melancholic Pop/Rock with a Westcoast flair and backed by an acoustic guitar and raw vocals, it sounds like a mix between JOHNNY CASH, LOU REED and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, although here and there it gets a little more melodic, such as during the almost 90s BRYAN ADAMS poprockers of “Tell me what you want” and “Walk with me”. Perhaps not very original, it is all done very well and without a doubt, this album is a high quality album that will be loved by the fans of singer/songwriter music. Check for yourself at: www.tommyrickard.com and www.myspace.com/tommyrickard and available through: http://www.hemifran.com/artists_t.html#rickard

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

CAROLYN ALROY ‘THROUGH A SCREEN DOOR DARKLY’ (WUSSY RECORDS/GORGEOUS ENORMOUS SONGS/USA IMPORT/HEMIFRAN)

5 short songs can be heard on the mini-album ‘Through A Screen Door Darkly’ of the New Jersey based singer/songwriter CAROLYN ALROY.  A pity, because it lasts no longer than 13-14 minutes and the included music is stripped down but beautiful laid-back singer/songwriter type of music that goes a little experimental and melancholic here and there. Carolyn’s vocals are quite interesting and actually hard to compare to anyone else, while musically the songs feel like the soundtrack to a cold cloudy November evening in a dark forest or to movies like ‘Tree of life’ and ‘Melancholia’. It is basically Carolyn’s voice and an acoustic guitar and that feels good! Hopefully a full-length record will follow soon, because this mini-album already dates back to 2009. More at: http://www.carolynalroy.com/ and available through: http://www.hemifran.com/artists_c.html#airoy

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

MIDEANDO STRING QUINTET ’TUTTE LE DIREZIONI’ (INDEPENDENT/ITALY IMPORT/HEMIFRAN)

MIDEANDO is a very unique World Music type of band that already released a few albums in the past and this latest one ‘Tutti le direzioni’ shows they are creating an own sound, which is called new Acoustic Music, using instruments such as mandolin, octave mandolin, mandocello, violin, guitar and electric bass, combined with melodic vocals and 5-part vocal harmonies, making the overall sound of the band quite melodic and catchy, as if we are listening to a Westcoast/AORish band, yet without the drums, electric guitar and big keys, just a stripped down version with different instruments, but embracing the same kind of catchy melodies in each and every of the 11 included tunes. Some of the songs are sung in Italian, others in English and besides a bunch of originals, there also covers included. I have to say that the Italian sung tracks are the most interesting, because the English sung tracks are not without the Italian accent in the vocal parts. Recommended to people who are also into World Music. More at: http://www.mideando.it/ and available through; http://www.hemifran.com/artists_m.html#mideando

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)  

CHASING KARMA ‘COSMOGRACY’ (INDEPENDENT/USA IMPORT)

The American band CHASING KARMA evolved from the band BILOXI, an AOR/Melodic Rockband that was active from the mid 1980s onwards. They released a couple of very strong albums the past decades and at one time they were part of the now defunct MTM MUSIC label. Sadly BILOXI lost their incredible lead vocalist CLYDE HOLLY in 2006 and anyone who has no idea how talented this guy was I would recommend to check out this live performance from 1988 at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq6lRJ0Fjwg and you will be blown away by this man’s voice and guitar playing, but as mentioned he isn’t among us anymore (R.I.P.). Anyway, CHASING KARMA is more or less the follow-up to BILOXI, yet with MARK ALLEN LANOUE as lead vocalist, although he did sing with BILOXI after Clyde’s passing. Although the high level of BILOXI is not reached on CHASING KARMA’s debut CD ‘Cosmogracy’, the included Melodic Rock still sounds pretty good, with as highlights between the 14 included tracks “Embrace tomorrow”, “Tell me”, “Don’t you think” and “For you”. The material reminds me a lot of PHIL VINCENT, so if you’re familiar with his music projects, then you’re gonna love this band too. Of course also the BILOXI fans might wanna check out all info on this exciting Melodic Hardrockband at: www.chasing-karma.com    

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)  

EMINA ‘TAKE #1’ (SIXTY SIX RECORDS/AUSTRIA IMPORT)

EMINA is a very young female rock singer from Austria who is making her debut with the CD ’Take #1’. Musically speaking it sounds a little heavier than for example the much praised ISSA on the FRONTIERS RECORDS label, but overall there are a lot of similarities, because the music of EMINA is mostly Melodic Rock/AOR based, with clear similarities to early PAT BENATAR and ROBIN BECK besides the already mentioned ISSA. I have to say that the first track on the album, the heavy “Speeding on a highway” impressed me less due to the somewhat too-much-out-of-control vocals of EMINA. Happily, this is completely corrected on the following track “Action girl”, which is a catchy Melodic Rocker with strong chorus and above all, quite impressive vocal melody lines of EMINA. It seems she is even better when going for the more calmer soul approach, such as can be heard during the slower “Long lost trace” where she shows she is a really great singer, because halfway this song when it gets rockier, she screams out really perfectly in a Classic Rock mood, recalling classic DARBY MILLS of HEADPINS. Shame the song doesn’t last longer, because it could even resemble a Classic 1970s Rocksong if it had been stretched with a long guitar solo and some more screams from EMINA. Slight let-down is the simple rocker “I am the future”, but following track “Don’t need words” shows the emotional ballad side of EMINA and this song really asks a lot of attention in the upper vocal range, but she succeeds definitely. “Bitch” is nothing that special, but this is gladly followed up by another strong Melodic Rockballad entitled “I’m leaving” that once again shows some really good vocals of EMINA. I am quite sure if this girl is coached by the right person, she is able to become a superrockstar in the future, because as already pointed out, during a couple of songs she sings really perfectly (“Long lost trace” and “I’m leaving”). The remaining 4 songs are “Carry me” (Gospel ish acoustic tingled ballad, vocals seem a little off here), “True reason” (catchy 80s type of early PAT BENATAR/DONNA CRISTY uptempo Melodic Poprock/AOR, could’ve been sung by an American female rocksinger, one of the strongest songs on the album, also featuring some nice guitar licks), “That’s why I’m screaming” (nice tough Melodic Hardrock, vocally a bit less interesting) and closing track “Go to hell” (good uptempo Melodic Rock piece). Concluded, EMINA delivers an interesting debut CD, which is not 100% perfect, but considering the fact she is still quite young, she can definitely learn in the coming years and I am positive to say that in the future she might even be able to release a very sensational record. For now, a good debut with a few really excellent tunes, but also some tracks that fall in the so-so category. If you’re starting to become interested, then please go to: www.emina-rock.com and e-mail her at: office@emina-rock.com and office@sixtysixrecords.at

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  

(All reviews by Gabor Kleinbloesem except where noted) 

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