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HOT NEW REVIEWS


UPDATED September 1, 2016


Kathy Greenholdt 'The pilgrim' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Chicago singer-songwriter Kathy Greenholdt picked up the guitar in 2002 at the age 38 and has since released 5 albums and is about to release her 6th titled The pilgrim, which follows 2012ís When Youíre Dead. What we get to hear is high quality acoustic tingled singer/songwriter folk/Americana in the best 1970s style of Melanie, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Marianne Faithfull, but also reminding a bit of Martha Wainwright. Kathy has a very strong voice and songs like Now That You're Gone (strong melodies and harmonies thanks to musician/producer Steve Dawson) and Blue Girl Dig Out (calm start, but evolves into an uptempo country ish tune) shows that we are dealing here with a talent. Check it out for yourself at: https://kathygreenholdt.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

John Denney 'Pistols at dawn' (Independent/New Zealand Import)

 

John Denney is the lead singer in the Christchurch, New Zealand based rock band Pistols at Dawn, but delivers his first solo album now which is titled Pistols at dawn. Starting off with a real uptemnpo rocking where John's vocals are sometimes a bit out of tune, the following calmer tune Cheeky Charlie is a calmer semi-ballad where John sounds great. There are 11 tracks included, which here and there sound a bit experimental and very raw (I don't want to), but also sometimes alternative americana orientated such as Nocturnal light. The singing is very 1990s orientated, so sounding a bit dark, raw and depressive and Nirvana comparisons are definitely possible. It's best to check it out for yourself at: https://johndenney.bandcamp.com/

 

(Points: 6.8 out of 10)

 

Love De Vice 'Pills' (Independent/Poland Import)

 

Founded in 2007, the Polish band Love De Vice has already released 3 studio-albums and a DVD. The third album Pills has just been delivered and without a doubt we are dealing here with a quality band. Heavy progressive rock is the name of the game here, sounding quite rough around the edges, the band combines heavy guitar riffs from the groovy hardrock/stoner rock sound with progressive rock twists in the rhythm sections, while the vocalwork takes the best of both worlds, although all together it sounds very 1970s based with an updated approach. The band consists of Andrzej "Messi" Archanowicz / guitars, Tomasz "Kudel" Kudelski / drums, Robert "R.i.P." Pelka / bass, Krzysztof "Krzychu" Slaby / keyboards and Pawel "Ozzie" Granecki / vocals, guitar. Somehow they have an own sound, which is influenced by let's say 1970s Peter Gabriel fronted Genesis, yet the sound is here and there much heavier, with a slight modern American Hardrock touch (riffs a la Alter Bridge). Best of worlds for example is a clamer 70s Genesis ish progressive rocker, but the groovy No escape and Afraid are tapping out of something completely different musically speaking, mixing Alter Bridge with Porcupine Tree. The biggest surprise is the song Pills (Strings), which only features strings and is a beautiful calmer singer/songwriter ish tune with stunning lead vocals by guest female singer Katarzyna Granecka. Another highlight is the hypnotic midtempo slightly psychedelic progressive rocker Wild ride. Actually this is a very diverse record and a very good one which I can highly recommend. Some comparisons to their countrymen of Riverside are possible here and there, but overall Love De Vice has an own identity. Check them out at: http://www.lovedevice.band

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Rod Melancon 'LA 14' (Blue Elan Records/Hemifran)

 

Rod Melancon is a singer/songwriter from South Louisiana, USA and he already released 2 full-length albums in the past few years, now following it up with the mini-CD LA 14. 5 tracks are included and besides a list of guest musicians, the main performers are Rod on vocals and acoustic guitar and producer Brian Whelan on guitars. The music is very diverse, because it starts with a rather rockin' tune titled Perry, a strong midtempo melodic bluesy rocker with a dirty mean raw sound, but also fit for radio for sure as it has a Bruce Springsteen ish approach. Rod is a very impressive singer and the diversity in vocal range is clear when he starts doing so many styles on just one record, because next track Dwayne and me is a classic country influenced bluesy rockballad in American tradition, with a lovely guitar solo (reminding a bit of Ryan Adams). However, A man like me shouldn't own a gun is pure uptempo bluegrass with a folky touch, while Lights of Carencro is completely different, as this is a dark slow alternative heavy rocksong. The album closes with the classic Johnny Cash ish country-ballad tune By her side. So not only the music itself is very diverse, but Rod is also able to sing in a different key each time, which makes him a very gifted musician. He looks like Elvis Presley and who knows he will someday make it to superstardom. He definitely deserves it to be heard, so go check him out at: www.rodmelancon.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Tawny Ellis 'Ghosts of the low country' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Out of Savannah, Georgia comes Tawny Ellis, a singer/songwriter who already released a couple of records and now has a new EP out titled Ghosts of the low country. She has a very strong angelic voice and the 4 included songs are beautiful calmer singer/songwriter pieces reminding a bit of the classic 1970s. She has a band backing her up (called Five Eight), so the sound is full and just one listen to a song like Evolve or die makes you think this girl has got all the ingredients to make it big. It reminds me a bit of Heather Nova, but then with a strong 70s female singer/songwriter approach as well, especially when you listen to the wonderful song Desperate tonight. Do not miss this talented singer/songwriter at: http://tawnyellis.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

CJ Smith 'Common shaman' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Colorado comes singer/songwriter CJ Smith and she was kind enough to sent me her debut Common shaman. The album is a nice typical American affair, crossing classic 70s singer/songwriter pop with westcoast and lightweight AOR/MOR, sounding very adult contemporary orientated as a lot of the included songs are quite calm. Nevertheless the result is quite impressive and reminds me a lot of such 70s female legends like Carole King, Linda Rondstadt, Carly Simon and even Karen Carpenter, although while listening to the song Sweet mercy it sounds a lot like The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Here and there we can hear a sort of Juice Newton ish poprocker like That's what I get and Cyber Tech Chicks 5.03a, but overall it is a nice peaceful smooth pop/rock througout 12 tracks featuring great smooth vocals of CJ. The only remark would be the fact that perhaps next time a few more uptempo tunes like That's what I get are included, as now most of the time it is very ballad orientated affair, which on the other hand isn't bad either (if you hear such beautiful tunes like Stained glass window and The trouble), but for some more diversity it wouldn't hurt. If you're starting to become interested and you're a fan of classic 70s singer/songwriter pop/rock, then go to: www.cjsmith.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Jackie Venson 'Demo CDR' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Austin, Texas comes the sensational young female singer/songwriter/musician Jackie Venson. She already recorded some material in her short career after studying at the Berklee College Of Music in 2011, but this CDR she sent to me contains 5 recently recorded (demo) tracks. Opener Smile shows we are dealing here with an enormous talent at all aspects, vocally and songwise, but also on the guitar, because she can also play guitar very well besides having a superb smooth soulful voice (Joss Stone ish). The song itself is a lovely radio-ready calmer pop/rock tune with a deep southern US soulful/old-school R&B vibe. Next track See what you want is a bluesy rock affair, reminding of Gary Clark Jr, with a funky groovy ending that features a fantastic shredding solo by Jackie herself. The other 3 tracks are Next life (least interesting track, a somewhat simpler pop/rock tune), Endless war (a very cool reggae ish tune, reminding me of Neneh Cherry mixed with Bob Marley influences)  and closing track Instinct is a pretty good midtempo groovy pop/rock tune. I am so much looking forward to hear much more of this incredible talent and I am absolutely convinced that this girl will someday soon breakthrough. I can also hear similarities to Lianne La Havas, but Jackie is better at most aspects and she can play guitar, so it is just a matter of time before she will get noted by the major press out there. Meanwhile check out all on Jackie at: http://jackievenson.com/

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Tony Clarke 'Born in 55' (Independent/UK Import)

 

Now this is actually quite impressive, because Tony Clarke is a UK based singer/songwriter making classic country in typical American tradition, sounding like a mix between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. He has a really strong voice, perfectly suitable for this kind of music and his latest release Born in 55 was recorded in Nashville. Although perhaps not original, the result of 14 tracks, mostly uptempo orientated, it is a highly recommended album to fans of country with a rockabilly rock and roll approach as if The Stray Cats formed a band with Elvis Presley and started doing Roy Orbison and Neil Diamond covers. Especially the first 4 songs (Walking in the Sunshine, Born in 55, Borderline and Black Is Black) are quite impressive uptempo pieces in all-American classic country tradition. The CD has a big production/sound, so it could have easily been a major label release in the USA. But it is definitely an independent release in the UK and for more info go to: http://www.tonyclarkecountry.com/

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

3D In Your Face 'Lost in the volume' (Retrospect Records/USA Import)

 

The Nebraska based band 3D In Your Face is an over-the-top 80s inspired Hair Metal band. If you remember the looks and sound of bands like Tigertailz, Wild Boyz, Nitro, Britny Fox, Wildside, WIgWam and such, then look no further, because this band completely fulfills your needs with their 5th album Lost in the volume. The band consists of Alan ďHot RodĒ King (vocals, guitar, keys), Chris ďSniperĒ Hineline (vocals, lead guitar), Mark "The Storm" Mefford (drums), and Sam ďSpadeĒ Morris (vocals, bass). The vocals ain't that strong, but fans of 80s uptempo Hair Metal with easy to sing-a-long choruses, who-oh parts and glittering flashy guitarsolos will absolutely love this Motley Crue ish sounding band. Songs like Sound Of Recklessness, 2 Miles Down, Moscow Queen and Static renegade are the kind of uptempo tunes a Hair Metal fan is looking for and the only exception the band is making on the whole record to offer a slower tune is the power ballad Show me how to love again. Check them out for yourself at: www.3dinyourface.com/

 

(Points: 7.6 out of 10)

 

Chad Bault 'No man's land' (Winter Horse Music/USA Import)

 

Now here we have a sensational American singer/songwriter called Chad Bault from Seattle, who was kind enough to sent me his solo debut EP No man's land. He was previously in a band called Train Goes Sorry in the late 90s, but took a long break and started recently a solo career. Without a doubt, this guy has an amazing crystal clear voice and also the 5 included songs on No man's land are simply beautiful. Highlights are You and me and titletrack No man's land, both somewhat midtempo based and combining country, americana and a light altrock touch. This guy has a major label voice, just stunning and a real pleasure to listen to. Where has he been hiding all this time!!! There's also room for an uptempo bluegrass/folk ish tune called I'm the man', but Chad is at his best during those soulful vocal driven slower tunes. Sometimes he reminds me a little bit of Paul Rodgers in his early Free/Bad Company days, also musically, yet with a country twangle and here and there akin to Bo Bice and Daughtry vocally. Do not miss out the chance to check out the amazing Chad Bault at: http://www.chadbault.com/

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

Billy Starr 'Return of the rockabilly man' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Originally from Nebraska, Billy Starr sent me a copy of his latest album. The first song sounds like a cross between Roy Orbison and Tom Jones, a typical 70s evergreen tearjerker with a garage rock touch somehow, done exceptionally well, so nothing to be ashamed of really. Billy has a nice voice for this kind of music and the 14 songs on his CD are a very diverse adventure that takes us mostly back to 1950s to 1970s rock and roll, sounding quite a lot like Elvis Presley sometimes, yet a little rockier. Of course a lot of the younger generation will find this sound dated, but fans of mentioned acts might be interested to check out Billy at: http://billy-starr.com/

 

(Points: 7.2 out of 10)

 

Jerry Breiner 'Still sayin' (Blue Monsoon Music/USA Import)

 

Multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Jerry Breiner comes out of Ventura, California and he sent me his album Still sayin', which contains songs written over a longer period (1973-2012), but recently recorded together with a few other musicians. Opener Love don't know is the typical 80s US midtempo AOR-westcoast sound that feels very comfortable and reminds me of so many acts. Far from original, but done very well, as it has a catchy melody and Jerry himself has a good voice for this kind of music. It is defininitely one of the strongest and most rockiest tunes on the album, as the rest of the album is softer and more Eagles/Dan Fogelberg orientated westcoast with singer/songwriter influences a la James Taylor during the last couple of tracks. The only exception is the smooth westcoast rocker or yacht-rocker Another day you dream of her instead that also touches the sound of Orleans, America, Venice, Player and such. A nice collection of singer/songwriter pop pieces and westcoast ish softrockers here and there. Go check out more at: http://jerrybreiner.com/

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Victims Of The New Math 'Satellite Head' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Phoenix, Arizona comes Victims Of The New Math, a duo-band/project formed around 2 brothers, Thomas and Joe Young. They recorded recently their 2nd CD titled Satellite head, which musically harkens back to 60s-70s pop with a westcoast flair. Vocally it has a sorta whiny Neil Young touch, so don't expect clean melodic vocals. The songs are mostly calm, although the finest song Another day is a sorta rockish Tom Petty kinda tune. The production is a little under par and vocally/musically it is only interesting for family and friends of the Young Brothers, because I am afraid at this moment they don't have something strong to offer on this record, but perhaps in the future that might change. My recommendation would be to work on the vocals, as that is the weakest part right now. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/VictimsoftheNewMath

 

(Points: 5.8 out of 10)

 

Jake Vance 'Eden' (Independent/Canada Import)

 

Only 20 years of age and already showing that he might become the next big thing in the pop music world. Jake Vance comes out of Canada and is a multi-instrumentalist besides being a singer/songwriter. He was kind enough to sent me his second EP Eden, which contains 5 tracks that musically speaking are radio-ready singer/songwriter pop tunes with strong vocals of Jake and of course we can hear similarities to so many other singer/songwriters, such as Ben Howard, Bon Iver, Damien Rice, Hozier and Nick Mulvey. The songs are quite calm and laid-back, with the exception of the uplifting The poet, which is also the strongest song. Jake has got a good voice and who knows he will breakthrough. The fans of singer/songwriter pop music the modern way need to check him out at: http://www.jakevance.ca/

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Fornis 'Fornis' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Northern California comes the rockband Fornis, which brings us 7 tracks on their album. The music is quite diverse, starting with Blacked out and About (uptempo rocker, underground ish garage rock style), followed by I Don't Care What Ronnie Said (midtempo, instrumental, nice start, later again uptempo rocker), Story (another uptempo rocker with good vocals), Kevorkian (more early 80s inspired uptempo powerpoprocker), Of All I've Managed to Lose and Cemetery Nights (both uptempo rockers again, pretty good actually) and closing track Anyway (midtempo). The second part is less rawer and more melodic than the beginning. Rocking quite hard and raw to the bone but definitely quality stuff this Fornis. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/fornis

 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

 

Preacher 'Aftermath' (Independent/Nineteen 73/UK Import)

 

Preacher is a band from Glasgow, Scotland and in the past few years they have built up a strong reputation as an impressive live band and released some albums, including Aftermath, which is their latest studio album. The band is made up of Martin Murphy (Lyrics, Vocals, Guitar); Arnie Burgoyne (Keyboards); Greg Murphy (Lead Guitar); Iain Duncan (Drums); Gordon Munro (Bass); Ron Rodgers (Acoustic Guitar) and the female backing duo of Angela Bell and Kerry McWhinnie. Arnie Burgoyne recently returned to the band after taking some time out to go on a world tour with the legendary band Echo & The Bunnymen. Their music is clearly 1970s progressive rock orientated, with Pink Floyd being one of their major inspirations. However, we can hear much more on this new album they just released, because melodic rock, bluesy rock and classic rock are smoothly incorporated. There are sometimes similarities to the legendary Scottish band Pallas, but overall Preacher has an own identity, although it is always nice to mention comparisons when reviewing a great new record, such as this one. Opener Aftermath features excellent melodic clean vocalwork and is songwise a calm beautiful progrock/semi-AOR song like a mix between Pink Floyd, Enchant and Mystery. Following track Welcome To The Fray features lovely guitarwork and is a slightly midtempo groovier progrocker, a little 1970s Led Zeppelin ish, including a bluesy rock touch. War is a midtempo epic melodic rocker that sounds a little symphonic a la Magnum. Then we have Hold On, which is a great relaxing semi melodic AOR/rockballad, reaching an incredible high level. Sleep grabs back to Zeppelinesque bluesy rock and the title of the next song is actually the first time I ever see it as a songtitle, because the song is called Vinyl! The song itself is nice 70s progressive rock, quite lengthy and in typical 70s vinyl style I guess (Pink Floyd ish). Vision is once again a great song, very melodic and featuring a fine long guitarsolo, while War reprise is a lovely epic semi-ballad, also very melodic and haunting with fantastic guitarwork and beautiful vocals, a little like Magnum, but then with more prog influences vocally speaking (Peter Gabrielesque). Closing track Always is a very nice semi melodic progrocker, also a bit hardrock ish. Basically Preacher delivers a superb high quality album from start to finish and they sound like they are already making music for over 30 years! The vocals and guitars are superb, so nothing stands in my way to give this a high rating and a big recommendation to check out at: http://preacherrock.bandcamp.com and www.preacherrock.co.uk

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Ticket To The Moon 'Ae sense of life' (Independent/Nineteen 73/UK Import)

 

Ticket To The Moon is a Swiss band formed around Andrea Portapia (Guitars/ Vocals), Matt Zwick (Keyboards, Samples), Danny Gosteli (Drums/ Vocals) and Guillaume Carbonneau (Basses). They were founded in 2003 and released their debut album back in 2012. Now following it up with ∆ Sense Of Life, the band is creating typical concept album progressive rock with long instrumental passages and lyrically a story to tell. The music itself is quite strong and sounds sometimes like Ayreon/Dream Theater and such, but also atmopheric progressive post rock like Porcupine Tree meets Tool can be heard. Instrumental they are at a very high level, just listen to the interesting instrumental heavy tune Patient 730100: Resurrection. However, vocally speaking it is a bit weaker and thatís something they need to improve in the future if they want to grow and become an established progrockband. Another higlight is Perpetual, Pt. II, but as already mentioned, this is a concept kinda record, so you need to do a lot of full listening before making a good judgement. In the end, a recommended record to fans of mentioned bands, however the vocals definititely could use improvement on a future record. More at: www.tickettothemoon.ch

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Gadi Caplan 'Morning sun' (Independent/Nineteen 73/UK Import)

 

Israeli born, Brooklyn based composer, Gadi Caplan recently released his 3rd albu Morning sun, which musically speaking is (semi) instrumental 70s prog/jazz-rock orientated. In 2014 Caplan joined NYC based band The Weeping Willards on lead guitar and this new musical venture yielded an unexpected musical collaboration between Willards singer/composer Danny Abowd and Caplan, so on this new record Morning sun the two worked together, with a stunning result. 11 songs are included and without a doubt we are dealing here with a very interesting release. There are some very relaxing tunes here, which not only touch the mentioned 70s prog/jazz-rock fusion direction, but here and there it also sounds quite funky and very diverse actually. It is a mix of everything, making it a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. Highlight are the beautiful instrumental Hemavati, with itís electric guitar melodies based on eastern melodies, Island, which features vocals and is a slightly psychedelic relaxing folk ish melodic tune with a progressive rock touch, sounding excellent, titletrack Morning sun (a very laid-back 70s style tune) and The other other side (Pink Floydish 70s calm progrock). Concluded, this is a high quality record you need to check out asap at: http://www.gadicaplan.com/

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Sidhe 'Contenebrat' (Independent/Italy Import)

 

Founded in 2005, the Italian band Sidhe is a pagan rock band with heavy gothic doom metal influences, combining female voice with neopagan, witchcraft and supernatural themes! The line-up consists of Vocalist Tytanja, guitarist Rob, bassist Vins and drummer Mike, and they are clearly influenced by the occult and underground cult bands like Blood Ceremony, Uncle Acid & Deadbeats, Ghost (yes, they are now almost a commercial band!), Witchcraft, Coven and such. Moonspell, Paradise Lost and The Gathering can also be mentioned, so I think you will now understand the direction of Sidhe. It all sounds quite melodic with great guitarsolos and overall a high quality sound/production, so we do have a good band to check out here. 10 tracks are included on their latest album Contenebrat and the highlights are Confessione (strong slowtempo slightly groovy stoner rock/gothic/doom with a share of male/female vocals), Guardian Woods (good hard hitting heavy rocker, a little doom with Black Sabbath riffs and nice female vocals), The Land of the Young (midtempo melodic goth metal piece, best song with a strong chorus a la After Forever) and Seven Gates (strong midtempo tune, doom metal ish with big Black Sabbath riff and nice melodies). Youcan hear this recommended Italiian band a: http://gothicworld.bandcamp.com/album/sidhe-she-is-a-witch and check out their site at: http://www.sidhe-paganrock.com/

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Sky City 'Quantico traveler' (Independent/USA Import)

 

The Arkansas, USA based Sky City recently released their first full-length album entitled Quantico Traveler. The band was founded in 2011 and consist of Nathan Crouch (vocals/guitar), Grant Camp (vocals/bass), Matt Pierce (telecaster/vocals), Tanja McKay (violin), and Jimbo Gramling (drums). Musically speaking we are heading into the typical Americana/Folkrock direction of bands like Calexico, Wilco, War On Drugs and such, but a little calmer and singer/songwriter orientated sometimes (a la Ryan Adams and Bob Dylan). Definitely high quality stuff is what we get to hear during the 12 included tracks, of which the highlights are Greasy Creek (calm singer/songwriter), Explicit Travelin' Light (great middle of the road/westcoast ish Americana like Tom Petty with Phil Lynott (!) ish vocals and a Bob Dylan touch, but Bruce Springsteen influences can be heard as well here), Good Love Gone Bad (a ballad like Ryan Adams, with a bluesy guitarsolo), A Blessing and a Curse (uptempo rockier, best song definitely, uplifiting classic rocker, American tradition a la Drivin ín Cryiní meets Neil Young) and Rain song (nice semi ballad). Recommended all-American sounding band with a strong debut release that only could use some more uptempo rockier tracks, but nevertheless is worth checking out. More at: http://youtube.com/theskycitysound

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Elijah Ford & The Bloom 'As you were' (Independent/Black Pike Favorites)

 

Elijah Ford from Austin, Texas is the son of former Black Crowes' guitarist Marc Ford. Elijah went solo a couple of years ago after a break from touring with Oscar & Grammy winner Ryan Bingham. As you were is his latest release and what we have here is an awesome record with superb vocals, a massive sound and basically, this could become huge! He is frequently compared to Rufus Wainwright, but Elijahís material is more diverse and much rockier. 10 tracks are included, starting with Try as you might, a great uptempo modern melodic rocker with a Britpop touch, very catchy and radio ready, also a bit powerpop ish of the early 80s. The way we were continues in this style, but Say the words slows things down and is a great The Black Keys ish rocker. Following track Blessed is a lovely 70s stompin rocker like Blue Cheer/Black Keys etc., while Black and red is back in the uptempo melodic powerpop/rock direction and so is the song Hollow years. Daggers is a calm ballad, while If not today is a semi southern/westcoast ish semi ballad/rocker. Relief is a slow rocker and closing track Faltering is like Tom Petty doing a Bryan Adams cover, a true rocker with a lovely melodic westcoast ish chorus. All together a rockiní record, quite diverse and featuring superb vocalwork of Elijah. Do not miss this release: www.elijahfordmusic.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

The Grahams 'Glory bound' (12 South Records/Hemifran)

 

Originally from New York, but now settled in Nashville, the duo The Grahams consists of Alyssa and Doug Graham, who have spent nearly their entire lives exploring music together. Friends since she was 7 and he was 9, they became a couple in their teens, then husband and wife and meanwhile they also became an Americana music duo debuting in 2013 with the album Riverman's Daughter and now releasing a follow-up in the shape of Glory bound. Let me get this straight rightaway, because the vocals are truly superb and musically we have an act that sounds dangerously close to The Common Linnets, so melodies and Americana/Folk are blended perfectly and we definitely have a lot of winners on this album. Glory bound was produced by Grammy nominated producer Wes Sharon (John Fullbright, Parker Millsap) at his 115 Recording studio in Norman, Oklahoma and one of the guests is John Fullbright, a popular singer/songwriter we reviewed sometime ago. The music is taking a bit of everything of the traditional American music, because besides the Americana/Folk sound, we can hear traces of Blues, Rock, Bluegrass and even a little bit of Country. Highlights are Glory Bound (rock ish, american bluegrass-rock, uptempo and quite catchy), Gambling Girl (bluesy midtempo tune), Blow Wind Blow (very strong semi ballad), Lay Me Down (great calmer ballad), Kansas City (rockabilly bluegrass uptempo tune), The Wild One (actually an AOR ballad, fantastic vocalwork, an AOR voice a la Darby Mills!), Biscuits (soulful bluesy tune) and The Sinner (nice calmer country twangle). Highly recommended to check out at: www.thegrahamsmusic.net

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Jetbone 'Magical ride' (Rootsy Music/Black Pike Favorites)

 

Out of Sweden comes Jetbone, a retro-rock sounding band that mixes hard rock, blues, funk and soul, like blending the sounds of Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd and many others. The result is a nice record titled Magical ride, which consists of 11 tunes, which as already mentioned musically speaking is a step back in time to the 1970s. The band features 2 singers in the line-up (Gurten SjŲdin - Vocals, Bass, Alin Riabouchkin - Vocals, Guitar, Sebastian Engberg Ė Guitar, Tobias Bengtsson - Organ/Piano and Albin Linder Ė Drums) and despite the incredible clichť tingled song titles, they do offer some nice retro sounding classic rock during songs like C'mon, Mixed Emotions, Woman and Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. Not a sensational release, but for fans of mentioned bands nice to check out at: http://www.jetbonemusic.se

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

My Girl The River 'This ain't no fairytale' (Super Tiny Records/Hemifran)

 

My Girl The River is a duo from Covington, Louisiana, USA, formed around singer/songwriter Kris Wilkinson Hughes and her partner English bassist Joe Hughes. Together with a list of guest musicians (Jonathan Byrd, Will Kimbrough, Nick Pynn, Max Milligan, Kristin Wilkinson, Jacob Chano Lundby, John Garden and Tom Moth) they recorded their debut album This Ain't No Fairytale. Alt-country, folk, a little Jazz and Americana are nicely blended here. Mixed by John Garden, produced by Kris, mastered by Mick Conley (Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea, Marty Stuart), with art direction by James Marsh (Talk Talk), this is a professional high quality recording that can easily be recommended. The vocals are really great, the songs are quite diverse and although nothing new is brought on the table here, the performance is rather excellent and recommended to check out if you like for example Lucinda Williams. Check out more at: http://www.supertinyrecords.com/mgtr/

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Little Riddles 'Little Riddles' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Not so much info on this band, but they were formed in November of 2015 and deliver a same titled debut EP consisting of 5 short tracks. They hail from Minneapolis, MN and offer typical bluegrass of a rather high level. This is definitely high class stuff, uptempo rockabilly most of the time with strong vocals. Highlights are the radio-ready Get ready, Sweet Betty and the calmer By the Ohio. Itís best to check it out for yourself if youíre starting to become interested at: http://www.littleriddlesband.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Dirt River Radio 'The cocksucking blues and postcards from the road promo' (Teenage Head Music)

 

Sadly only 2 songs on this promo, but the Australian band Dirt River Radio already shows they are ready to become much bigger. Formed around Heath Brady on Vocals & Lead Guitar, Danger Alexander on Vocals & Lead Guitar, Ross Hetherington on Drums and Mark Down Prices on bass. They have already an album out and are preparing another, of which we can now enjoy these 2 songs, a groovy bluesy rocker with heavy guitar riffs and great vocals, sounding very American, while the other song is uptempo bluegrass like a calmer Mumford And Sons, a sure radio hit! Look forward to a full CD, but meanwhile check them out at

www.facebook.com/dirtriverradio

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Chris Nauman 'Better angels' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Massachusetts, USA based singer/songwriter Chris Nauman marks his second independent release with Better angels. The albums features some of the finest musicians found in the Boston area, including saxophonist Billy Novick, formerly of the David Bromberg Band, vocalist Louise Grasmere and bassist Steve Gilligan of The Stompers (remember them from the early 1980s powerpop genre!), guitarists Lyle Brewer, Rob Carlson and Kenny Selcer, recent Berklee graduates Seth Botos and Audrey Knuth on drums and fiddle, respectively, and finally Phil Punch contributes percussion, while Pete Tillotson add some bass too. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at Wellspring Sound, Acton, MA with the help of Eric Kilburn (Tracy Chapman, J. Geils, Al Kooper, Dar Williams, and Martin Sexton), so we have a high quality production/sound here. Well, thatís a whole bunch of names, but itís all about Chris Nauman who combines Americana and Folk-Rock on this album drawing inspiration from Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Tweedy, Colin Meloy, Bob Dylan and many others. This is really good stuff with great vocals and some very nice melodies, much recommended to also fans of westcoast/light aor/poprock, because somewhere in between we can hear a mixture of Mark Spiro, Orleans, Venice and Dire Straits, although this is mainly singer/songwriter a la Neil Young. Highlights can be found at the beginning where we have I Gotta Burnin' and On the Waterline, both nice uptempo westcoast tunes with a Mark Knopfler/Eric Clapton kinda heavyness, and also We Stand Our Ground, a rockier' catchy uptempo tune with female backing vocals. The second part of the album is more calmer folk/Americana based, but the absolute finest song is kept until the end, namely Parousia, a nice nice groovy southern rocker and perhaps more songs like this could be delivered next time, as this lengthy tune offers a lot actually, including a cool sax solo. Anyway, go check out more on Chris at: http://www.chrisnauman.com

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

The Tilt Room 'Nostalgic future' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA comes The Tilt Room, a 3-piece acoustic act fronted by Guitarist/Vocalist Mike Swindell and backed by Bassist Anthony Pandolph and Drummer Justin Hackett. They released their debut back in 2011 when co-founder Matt Dacierno was still on-board, but he sadly died and therefore it took quite some time to release this follow-up Nostalgic future, which is actually their first full-length release. A lot of influences are mentioned and musically quite an own identity due to the fact they mix altrock, indie and experimental progrock in an acoustic setting, which makes it sound a little different than the rest out there. The Crutch and Five Boroughs are 2 fine examples how this works at best, with itís little Jeff Buckley kinda approach. Itís best to check out this interesting 3-piece band for yourself to make up a good judgement, although I can already inform you that we have a great upcoming band here, so who knows a breakthrough will happen someday soon. More at: http://www.thetiltroommusic.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Captain Ivory 'No vacancy' (Teenage Head Music)

 

Founded in 2012, the Nashville based band Captain Ivoryís debut album from 2014 was produced by Grammy winning producer David Feeny (Jack White, Loretta Lynn) and released on Gangplank Records in 2014. Now followed up by No vacancy, the band is described as Greasy Rock n' Roll meets Motor City Soul. If Chris Cornell and Muddy Waters had a baby, and gave it to Jack White to raise, Captain Ivory would be the result. Well well well, a lot of praise for this band and the 9 included songs do sound quite nice like a mix between the already mentioned acts, but I do have to say that it doesnít really sound that sensational and we already have a lot of other much better bands active in this genre. Not saying it is bad, but I think Captain Ivory needs to write some more memorable tracks for a future record, because who knows live they are sounding much better than this rather standard rockalbum. More info at: http://captainivory.com

 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

 

Lionel Lodge 'Human heart' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Human heart is already the 12th album of Scottish born but Canadian raised Lionel Lodge. Americana, Blues and even a bit Alternative Melodic Rock are mixed here, sounding like a cross between Neil Young, REM, and Tom Waits. It sounds raw to the bone, especially in the vocal department (Tom Waits), rocking like an alternative Neil Young, but overall quite melodic and strong. Not familiar with his 11 earlier releases, but Human heart sounds quite good and the highlights are Crazy World (good uptempo rocker, southern rock ish), All She Wants (pretty good semi melodic rocker), I'm a Balloon (semi rockballad, a sort of semi rockballad, Bruce Springsteen ish Americana rock approach), Almost in the Clear (calmer almost irish celtic sounding traditional) and Pauper or a King (nice uptempo country twangle rocker). The rest of the album is calmer Americana based and less rockier, sorta acoustic tingled sing-a-long tunes most of the time, perfectly suitable for in a (small) downtown old Irish Pub (Auto Pilot and especially Drink It Up). You can hear for yourself at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lionellodge3

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

The Skys 'Journey through the skies' (Independent/Nineteen 73 Promotion)

 

Founded in 1995, The Skys are the number 1 band in Lithuania, where they are quite popular. Previous records featured the likes of Dave KILMINSTER (Roger Waters band) - guitar; John YOUNG (ex-Scorpions, Bonnie Tyler) - keyboards, backing vocals, producer; Snake DAVIS (Eurythmics, P.McCartney, Ray Charles, James Brown, etc.) - sax; Martin Beedle (Cutting Crew, Sarah Brightman, etc) - drums; Tony Spada (Holding Pattern) - guitar; and Anne Marie HELDER (Mostly Autumn, Panic Room) - backing vocals. Now they return with their 5th album Journey through the skies, which features the likes of Snowy White, Rob Townsend, Kyla Wight and many more. The album was mixed by Steve RISPIN (Tina Turner, Elton John, Asia, Tankard, etc) and mastered at Abbey Road Studios by Christian Wright. Fans of Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Eloy, RPWL and Hawkwind will like this release a lot, although I have to say that the lead vocals are somewhat disappointing. Actually they are the weakest point in the overall strong neo-progressive rocksound of The Skys. The band sounds a bit like 90s neo-progbands with a slight 70s symphonic touch. The absolute highlight here is the closing track Love of Life, which features vocals by female singer Bozena Buinicka, who is the keyboardplayer in the band. Recommendation would be to use more of her vocal talent on a future record! Not bad at all, but it sounds a little dated and like mentioned, the vocals are just not strong enough to make an impact. Nevertheless, die-hard progfans might find something of interest here. More at: www.theskys.com

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Robert Reed 'Sanctuary 2' (Tigermoth Productions/Nineteen 73 Promotion)

 

Magenta is a well-known Welsh progressive rockband with a female singer and one of the key members is Robert Reed, a multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer who now releases a solo-album titled Sanctuary 2. The album is divided into two pieces, each around twenty minutes long and Robert plays all the instruments from the various keyboards, through many guitars and percussion as well as woodwind. The only thing he didnít do was to sing and for that he brought in the acclaimed Synergy Vocals after their work with Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Robert also had to hire the larger percussion instruments, like timpani's and tubular bells, so the lead percussionist of the Welsh National Orchestra turned up with a lorry full of the most expensive percussion, but in the end Robert played all the instruments himself. Robert wanted to do everything by himself, just like the classic Mike Oldfield album Tubular bells from 1973, so the album is mastered by Simon Heyworth, one of the original producers of the original ĎTubular Bellsí and it is also co-produced by Tom Newman Ė the other. In fact, Robert is more or less obsessed with that record since he heard Tubular bells as a kid, so he wanted to create a similar record on his own. Thankfully it is not a sort of copycat, because this is an album that stands on its own. A lovely instrumental 70s based prog/symphonic rockalbum with a glorious sound, all performed by one man alone, Robert Reed. The release comes as a 2-CD/DVD set and you just need to listen to it from start to finish to really understand what Robert wants us to tell us, which is his love for the ultimate concept album and it definitely feels like an adventure which takes influences from various music genres and always brings beautiful melodies (especially on the guitar). To Robert this album feels like his sanctuary and we are pleased to experience it through this wonderful release! More at: www.robertreed.co.uk

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Nancy McCallion 'Opossum and praties' (Mama Mama Music/USA Import)

 

Folk Singer/Songwriter Nancy McCallion from Arizona is best known as the songwriter and vocalist for original Celtic-folk-rock cult band The Mollys, with whom she released 7 albums since 1989. The band more or less broke up after she became a mother in 2003, but she never stopped making music and now we welcome her latest album Opossum and praties. She is often compared to Lucinda Williams, Joan Baez, Mary Black and other leading female writers, but also Tom Waits comes to mind. The music is classic folk in1970s style, but with also a lot of Irish Folk influences. A song like The Man in Question has beauiful melodies and also Old Woman's Lament is a lovely song, but actually all of the songs are memorable and show what a wonderful singer Nancy is. She has a beauitiful voice that feels right at home with this kind of music. Singer/songwriter at itís best, so check it out for yourself at: http://www.nancymccallion.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Forbidden Planet 'From bedroom to oblivion' (Independent/Singapore Import)

 

Forbidden Planet are a 4-piece instrumental band from Singapore and they were kind enough to sent me their album From bedroom to oblivion. They even included a t-shirt, but itís all about the music, which does sound quite good actually. Here we have strong high quality instrumental progressive rock featuring beautiful guitaroloís and diverse twists that are sometimes sounding rocking, while also parts are close to Jazz/Fusion. Songs like A Fine Line and Hands Around the Throat are very sensational progrock masterpieces and a song like Can I Borrow Your Bass is pure progmetal. The line-up of Forbidden Planet consists of Adam Quek and David Baptista on guitars, drummer Laurence Buzzi and bassist producer The Freq, who also mixed and mastered the album. All together a very professional sound, recommended to fans of guitar based instrumental prog/fusion of the Satriani/Vai/Howe kind. More info at: www.forbiddenplanet.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

J. Hardin 'The Piasa bird' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

J. Hardin stands for John Everett Hardin, a singer/songwriter who was raised in a small Mississippi River town, but eventually settled down in Wisconsin where he released 2 albums, an EP and an LP, between 2005 and 2011 and extensively toured the US under the name Everett Thomas. He then took a break, married and settled down, but continued to write and now releases a fantastic new solo-album as J. Hardin. Hayward Williams produced it over 2, 4 day sessions at The Midwest Sound, a farmhouse turned studio owned by Daniel McMahon in Rockford, Illinois. McMahon would go on to handle engineering and mixing duties, in addition to playing electric guitar, piano, and organ. With Williams on bass, and Darren Garvey on drums, the album was rounded out with accompanying vocals by Minnesota born Naomi Marie and long time Hardin collaborator and Chicago songwriter, Liza Day. The result is a stunning record that feels like a pure westcoast record, with John singing at a perfect relaxing level (think of Don Henley of The Eagles) and most songs are slowtempo based. There's also a slight touch of both Ryan Adams and Bryan Adams in his vocal range (just listen to the songs My Oh My and Oh Sophia and you will understand the mixture. Venice meets The Eagles meets Ryan Adams meets Jackson Browne is probably the best description to give to this record and that is surely a compliment. The Piasa bird is a very surprising release and highly recommended to fans of the classic late 70s US westcoast sound. More info is hard to get actually, but definitely try https://soundcloud.com/johneveretthardin

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Riddle and the Stars 'New coastline' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Riddle & The Stars is a collaborative project between Australian singer/ songwriter Ben Riddle and The Fallen Stars, an Americana duo from Southern California. They met while touring as seperate acts in Germany in a package tour, but ended up making music together when the tourwas finished, with as result within a year an album titled New coastline. Indie/Americana/Alt.Folk like Fleetwood Mac meets The Waterboys has been a description and more or less it sometimes sounds a little like that. Among the guest musicians are Matt Froehlich on his cajon kit, Geo Hennessy on violin, Matt Tonge's mandolin, Danny Ott's dobro, Peter Linnane's accordion or Sue Paine's backing vocals. All combined it is a very spontaneous affair that brings us a diversity in styles throughout 10 songs that musically will mostly appeal to fans of westcoast/Americana laid-back smooth pop/rock in the style of let's say Calexico, Crowded House, Dawes, Wilco, The Jayhawks (A LOT!!!), War On Drugs and such. Highlights are the lovely relaxing Long way down and opener Running back to you, but actually most songs are a pleasure to listen to. The strongest point here are the use of 3 vocalists, each with an own range and together singing some beautiful harmonies. Could become a massive record if they are lucky enough that the big media picks it up! More info can be found at: http://thefallenstars.com/riddle-and-the-stars

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Eli Barsi 'Portrait of a cowgirl' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Canadian singer/songwriter Eli Barsi grew up as a farm girl at the prairies of South Eastern Saskatchewan, so she knows exactly what sheís talking about on her 13th album Portrait of a cowgirl. In her career she obviously moved to Nashville, because that is where her style of music (country) originates from, but eventually went back to Canada where she has built up a nice career, won some awards and on this new album we can hear guest musicians on all kinds of instruments (acoustic/electric guitar, dobro, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, steelguitar, bass, drums and accordeon). The songs sound quite diverse actually, although the main ingredient is of course Country Music. However, here and there rockabilly, jazz and some folk pass by. It is a very happy record that puts a smile on your face. The production is impressive and especially Eliís vocals are quite superb. Basically we have here a classic picture perfect polished crossover country-pop major US label style album, but with old style country tunes included as well such as Prairie skies. Shania Twain is of course a good comparison, but then less commercial and more real country orientated. Without a doubt, this is high quality stuff from start to finish and during the duet A real partner she is singing together with Canadian megastar Brad Kissel. That particular song is a typical modern poprock-country affaira la The Common Linnets. On the other hand you have a beautiful calmer piece like I see you everywhere, so thereís something for everyone here, including a pure rockabilly tune called Big Hat, No Cattle. All together a great high quality country-rock/western album in both classic and modern direction, which I can highly recommend to the fans of the genre. More info at: http://www.elibarsi.com/

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Nine Lies Ď9 Liesí (Aca Music/Northern Ireland Import)

 

Out of Belfast, Northern Ireland comes the band Nine Lies. Formed in 2003, the group consists of Stevie Mann (vocals, lyrics and production), Dave Kernohan (guitar and vocals), Nick Black (guitars), Stephen 'Stoogie' McAuley (drums) and John Rossi (bass guitar, keyboards and vocals). Stevie is the second cousin of singer/songwriter Damien Rice, while John started his professional career in the late 1990s playing keyboards for another Irish rock band Snow Patrol and this explains that the early sound of Nine Lies was also clearly Britpop orientated. However, through the years their sound drastically changed and so we are looking at their 2nd full-length album which is simple titled 9 Lies, the follow-up to their first album Behind it all from 2005. This new record is pure melodic rock with an 80s approach, because if you listen to a song like Save me, this is awesome catchy hookladen uptempo 80s AOR/Melodic Rock that does remind me a bit of the bands Change of Heart and The Promise if anyone can remember them. Legendary producer Beau Hill (Warrant, Ratt, Alice Cooper, WingerÖ) produced this song and mixed and mastered the whole album, so he gave it a clear 80s touch. Most of the material goes into either a midtempo or an uptempo melodic rock direction, with as other highlights the uptempo melodic rockers Take me away and Tragedy and the midtempo Damn. I have to say that the first couple of tracks are sounding quite sensational, but things get a little weaker during the second part of the album that also reveal a more alternative rocksound, except closing track Someone which is a lovely classic midtempo 80s AOR tune a la Lost Weekend. Some of the tracks were produced by Stuart Epps (Oasis, Robbie Williams, Elton John, Twisted Sister, Wishbone Ash, Bad Company, Vandenberg, Shooting Star and countless more) and despite nothing that new is brought here, as it is typical British Melodic Rock like we have heard it from bands like Kick, Big Generator, Lost Weekend, Gun, Sacred Heart, Pride, Shogun, Double Cross, The Promise, the Dutch bands Destine, The New Shining and countless more, the result is a fantastic high quality release and definitely recommended to check out if you like your melodic rock to sound catchy and hookladen. I also hear some hit potential tunes, so who knows they will become the next big band from (Northern) Ireland! Check them out at: http://www.ninelies.net

 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

 

The Neal Morse Band ĎAlive again 2 CD+ DVD Setí (Metal Blade Records)

 

Recorded live at De Boerderij in March 2015, the legendary singer/songwriter Neal Morse gave away a sensational performance once again and the result can now be heard on 2 CDs and a DVD titled Alive again. The group consisting of Neal Morse Ė Vocals, Keys and Guitar, Mike Portnoy Ė Drums and Vocals, Randy George Ė Bass, Bass Pedals, Vocals, Bill Hubauer Ė Keyboards, Guitar, Clarinet, Sax, Vocals and Eric Gillette Ė Lead Guitar and Vocals are together showing how you need to create a vibrant concert. The venue De Boerderij is one of the finest of itís kind and that night it was jam-packed with close to 1,000 people who witnessed another great show by Neal. Since leaving Spockís Beard, he seems to have created an equally strong band around him that can easily compete with his former band when it comes down to both studio-albums and live performances. 1 year after the performance this release is highly recommended to all of you who were not present that evening. Of course the main focus of the material is Nealís latest solo-albums, but Spockís Beard is also present during for example the 14 minutes counting Harmís way. In total 15 songs are played, clocking in around 135 minutes of playing time, which is not unusual for a Neal Morse gig, as he once played a 4+ hours show in Tilburg. His connection with The Netherlands is intense and he plays nearly every year concerts, so not a surprise he picked the Zoetermeer gig for a live-CD/DVD release. Neal is such a gifted singer and also a great keyboardplayer (in fact an incredible multi-instrumentalist!), so together with a great band backing him up, including legendary drummer Mike Portnoy, it is a pleasure to watch and listen to Nealís music. But all the guys are the real deal, because they are also able to switch instruments during the concert (which they did for fun here) and you can only do this when youíre at a certain high professional level. Anyway, the package is fantastic, spread on 2 CDs and 1 DVD, thereís so much to enjoy here and although sometimes Neal gets into his Christian belief singing and almost praising about God, this is one of those concerts that takes you on a journey right from the start and never gives you a dull moment. It is a welcome to Nealís adventures, so be part of it and get this release a.s.a.p. if you want to experience a bit of the Neal Morse show!

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10) 

 

Libby Koch 'Just move on' (Berkalin Records/Hemifran)

 

Libby Koch is a Houston, Texas based Americana singer-songwriter (vocals, guitar, harmonica) who has recently released her 4th record Just move on. What we have here is a very nice sounding album that is quite diverse also, with really great vocals and a nice band feel sound, thanks to the musicians Joe Devadanam (drums); Jonathan Lin (fiddle); Don Denham (bass); Ben Zuniga (lead guitar); Lazarus Nichols (keys) and Debbie Forrest (harmonies & guitar). In the Houston area she has already built up quite a reasonable name with her classic Americana blend of country, folk and rock, which is clearly influenced by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Janis Joplin, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Dolly Parton. The material sounds very smooth and polished, so no edge can be heard, itís all in the typical American tradition, but nevertheless it does sound pretty good from start to finish, with as highlights opener Just Move On (great midtempo AOR ish poprock with a very slight country twangle, like The Common Linnets meets Robin Beck and with a touch of Bonnie Raitt), the cool uptempo poprockers Iíve Been Blind and Bring You Down (both with slight country twangle, early 80s style very much reminding me of Juice Newton) and closing track I Wish You Were Here (great semi rockballad with electric guitarsolo). As mentioned, the diversity can be heard during country songs like You Donít Live Here Anymore, Out Of My Misery and Donít Know How as well as the calm singer/songwriter folk ish acoustic ballad Lady luck. Perhaps not groundbreaking, but still a nice album to check out for sure at: http://www.libbykoch.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Richard Paul Thomas 'Salado' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

This is definitely old school music, because already in 1957 (!) Richard Paul Thomas from Texas picked up the guitar. Influenced by the likes of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, we are now 60 years later and his latest album Salado harkens back to the 50s rock and roll, with a bit of jazz and folk as well singer/songwriter pop slipped right through. The result is a very diverse album with as highlights Riding on a Train (pretty good folkrocker), Wishing Love Could Be That Way (almost jazzy pop influenced 40s/50s Frank Sinatra meets a little bit of Elvis) and the titletrack Salado (a real rocker). Musically somewhere between Buddy Holly, Jackson Brown and Roy Orbison, that is what Salado is all about and for more info go to: http://www.richardpaulthomas.com/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Einfach Kurt 'Narcissism blues' (Independent/DGR Music)

 

Within 1 years after his debut Moths, Dutch singer/songwriter Einfach Kurt returns with follow-up Narcissism blues. Influenced by Tom Waits and Bon Iver, the music is not always very easy to categorise, which on the other hand is probably what Kurt also aims for with his experimental music, but I still would describe him as a mixture of the aforementioned Tom Waits doing David Bowie ish music pop/rock with vocals like a Texan Neil Young and also here and there rocking in an alternative folk direction a la Jake Bugg (Extra medium) and Bob Dylan (Palm Sunday). Other highlights are the midtempo Narcissism blues, the semi ballad Count them all, the uptempo rocker Cut me to the bone and the duet Underneath your skin, which features some great female vocals. Concluded, an album you need to listen to more often to discover the real musical beauty of this Dutch musician, who is doing things differently than many others. Check it out for yourself at: http://www.einfachkurt.nl/

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Dinosaur Pile Up 'Eleven Eleven' (So Recordings/DGR Music)

 

A huge sound and delivering a big typical American altrocksound, that is what British band Dinosaur Pile Up is doing on their new album Eleven eleven. It is their 3rd full-length record since they were formed back in 2007. They are heavily influenced by the likes of Foo Fighters, Weezer, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and Pavement, but also 60s acts like The Beach Boys and The Beatles and even metal groups such as Slayer and Deftones. However, upon listening to this exciting strong new record Eleven eleven, they are clearly heading into an almost early 1990s Seattle Alternative Rock direction. Opener 11:11 for example groovy alternative rock like Disturbed meets Soundgarden, but then a little softer and actually pure Alice In Chains (circa 1991/1992). Nirvana influences are clearly notable during Nothing Personal, but somehow the finest songs can be heard during the 2nd part of the record, with as absolute highlights Might As Well (great modern melodic rock tune, like Foo Fighters with even a bit powerpop ish melodic vocals and featuring a deadly catchy chorus, uptempo during the verses like a slightly polished version of Nirvana), Bad Penny (heaviest tune, uptempo stoner rock with a Black Sabbath ish monster sound, somehow reminding me of Monster Magnet, with a catchy chorus once again), Crystalline (melodic rock based, almost sounding like Harem Scarem!!!) and closing track Cross My Heart (a great melodic midtempo pop/rocker with a solo, a very nice 90s approach, like Candlebox). Concluded, this is a highly recommended album to the fans of altrock in the classic Seattle 90s direction of Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains and such. More info at: www.dinosaurpileup.com

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

The Flock 'Heaven bound - The lost album' (Cleopatra Records/USA Import)

 

In the 1960s Rick Canoff (vocals, saxophone) and Fred Glickstein (vocals, guitar, organ) from Chicago were already active in the local rockscene as a duo and in several bands, but after forming The Flock in 1969, it was the turning point for them to make it bigger. Together with Jerry Smith (bass), Ron Karpman (drums), John Gerber (sax, flute, banjo), and Tom Webb (sax, flute), they scored a deal with Columbia Records, for whom they recorded their debut in the same year. Musically speaking typical late 60s/early 70s rock with jazz and progrock vibes and still pop melodies slipped right through. Despite this album and even a follow-up, besides playing on major festival, including Bath Festival, prior to Led Zeppelin, the band eventually broke up, but reunited for a 3rd album several years, although that was destined to become their final stop, as after 1975 the band and its members disappeared into obscurity. 40 years later, from out of nowhere a CD release was done. Although this is not a re-issue of released album, it contains the bandís unreleased 1970s material. Having not heard their earlier records, I assume that for people familiar with those albums, this CD with unreleased material sounds rather different. Roadmaster/Stingray/Queen ish pomprock can be heard here, but a little more jazzy like Chicago here and there, but also typical 1970s rock, a melting pot of all sorts of 70s pop and rockstyles actually. The catchy opener Heaven bound is a very fine uptempo piece that grabs you right away. Although the sound quality is not always crystal clear and some might find it sound a little dated, thereís enough to enjoy here. Actually this is a great diverse record that is musically speaking of a very high level, kinda 1970s major label ish, yet without the sound quality, but the strong vocalwork and excellent guitarwork makes it interesting enough to check out. Besides the catchy opener, other notable tracks are Reasons (typical 70s pomprock ballad, Queen ish), Don't You Know (Who I Am) (cool almost City Boy kinda rocker with a catchy chorus), Makes It All Worthwhile (70s poppy ballad with very light prog touch) and The Test (groovy progrocker). For all the Kiss/Starz fans, songs like Noise Boys, Love Away and The Christos Jig are nice typical 70s rockers, while 70s pop ballad fanatics will enjoy a song like C'mon Let's Walk. The album closes nicely with the instrumental Outroduction that has some really nice violin work. The rating of the album is somewhat lower due to the sound/production quality, but musically speaking it is a typical 1970s product that balances somewhere between pop, rock and prog. Nice release from one of many long lost bands, More information at: www.cleorecs.com

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Bodragaz '20' (Fox St Records/USA Import)

 

Denver, USA based Bodragaz released their debut 20 years ago and now in 2016 they look back with the release of 20, a comprehensive greatest hits collection. This band definitely deserves to become much bigger, because they play an excellent mixture of progressive/power metal, melodic hardrock and symphonic rock and this new 2-CD set is without a doubt the best way to start if youíre not familiar with Bodragaz. It has a huge sound and lots of high quality tunes. The songs are taken from their previous 8 (!) releases, re-recorded and sounding refreshing and up-to-date. The overall progressive melodic metal sounds close to Symphony X, Kamelot and Paganís Mind, sometimes quite heavy/aggressive, but most of the time sounding ultra-melodic and very bombastic thanks to the use of both keyboards and guitars in their sound. The band features a superb lead singer, Michael Layer: [Vocals; Guitar; Keyboards] and the rest of the line-up consists of Kevin Shaw: [Lead Guitar; Backing Vocals], Jim Wescott: [Bass; Backing Vocals], Charles J. Dickey: [Lead Guitar; Keyboards] and Mike Taft: [Drums]. 20 songs are included in total and if we look at the highlights we need to mention Symphony (great melodic progressive metal with strong vocals and a catchy chorus a la Pagan's Mind/Fates Warning), God I (great semi ballad at start, turns out into a midtempo prog piece), Long After Dark (great semi prog/rock with super strong melodies and a lovelyguitarsolo, basically an awesome song!), Genevieve (sorta semi ballad, 2nd best song with great twin gutarwork, once again a beautiful tune!), Before the Winter (more melodic rock ish), Strange Fascination (like Phantom's Opera, if anyone remembers that band!). Sailing On (midtempo melodic progmetal like Pagan's Mind, Vandenplas, DGM, Anubis Gate, Mind's Eye) and closing track World Of Fantasy, which might well be the finest song thanks to a superb chorus and a fantastic huge guitarsound!). The high pitched harmonic chorus driven tunes, melodic vocals, big instrumental back-up with precise guitar and keyboardwork, tight rhythm section and diversity in material make almost all the songs of 20 sound attractive and interesting to listen to, so basically 20 is their finest moment so far! Make sure to grab yourself a copy of this Bodragaz record a.s.a.p.! Check out all info at: http://WWW.BODRAGAZ.COM

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Stuart Hollinger 'Dangerous crossing/Endangered species' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Itís basically on everyoneís bucket list, visiting Hawaii someday, but the musician Stuart Hollinger was actually born in Kaimuki, Oahu on the Islands of Hawaii and even moved to one of the smaller islands within Hawaii, so I guess you can say he is one of the very few musicians on the small island of Kauai.  He was kind enough to sent me 2 CDs he released, one of which even won the Na Hoku Hanohano (Hawaiian version of the Grammies) Rock album of the year award in 2014. That is his debut album Dangerous crossing, an album filled with both originals and covers, musically combining jazzy sounds with aor, westcoast and pop like Steely Dan and Toto. In fact, the highlight is the very original version of the Toto classic Hold the line, done in a completely different way, making it the highlight of this album. The new album Endangered species is more rock orientated, actually pure 80s uptempo melodic rock/aor based during songs like Because of U, Not Enemies and Soldier's Story, although also on this CD we can find more smooth jazzy/westcoast sounds a la Steely Dan. The only thing is that the vocals of Stuart are not so strong, but I would recommend you to check that out for yourself on his website. A little more background on himself, because not all the songs he writes are the typical boy meets girl love stories, as for example Not Enemies is a story about life in the Gaza Strip and Soldiers Story honors the brave veterans and the sacrifices they make for everyoneís freedom. Stuart himself by the way lives on a farm where he raises, rescues and releases wild jungle fowl. His job is to clean up after the chickens, feed them and make sure they are OK. A portion of the sales proceeds of his CDs will be donated to 5 Wildlife Conservation Organizations listed on the CD insert. So basically we have here a very interesting musician living an unique life making music for fun and he does it well enough to give it a listen at: http://stuarthollinger.com/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Frank & Bill 'One good line' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Frank Patrouch and Bill Anania are 2 musicians from the New Jersey shore whom have known each other since 1970 and they sent me a couple of their CDs they released together and solo. One good line is their latest joint venture, which they recorded together with a few other musicians, although they are both doing the main jobs (guitar, vocals). Frank plays Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion and Bill plays Electric and Acoustic Bass, Percussion, while both share the vocal duties. 14 songs are included, of which the highlights are Slick Johnny (great uptempo folky poprocker), Baby I Have You (middle of the road Tom Petty style), I Got Arrested (sorta 50s rockabilly), the folk country ish Cigarettes and When You're Gone (nice melodic relaxing tune, singer/songwriter style). From the solo material, Frankís album Whiskey and Revenge is the finest of all recordings, as he has the best voice and his solo songs are quite strong actually, typical Americana rock/folk. It was released back in 2014, so hopefully soon we can welcome a follow-up release. Meanwhile check out all info on these 2 musicians at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/frankandbill

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

King Of The Tramps 'Cumplir con el diablo' (Old School Records/Hemifran)

 

Cumplir Con El Diablo is the 4th album of the Auburn, Iowa based band King Of The Tramps. Formed around singer/guitarist Todd Partridge, this is a band that could easily breakthrough. What we get to hear is very strong high quality heavy bluesrock, sounding groovy in the style of The Black Keys/Jack White and such. Sometimes it is at the exact same level such as during the songs Ain't No God, Last Man Standing and That's How It Goes. However thereís also comparisons to the Rolling Stones possible, like in the songs Depression and Old Crow. Todd has a raspy raw voice, perfectly suitable for this kind of raw rootsy rock and roll. Without a doubt, this is one of those albums you can turn up loud and proud, as thatís the way we want our rock and roll to sound like! More at: www.kingofthetramps.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Miles Nielsen and The Rusted Hearts 'Heavy Metal' (Rotown Records/Black Pike)

 

Rockford, IL resident Miles Nielsen is the son of Cheap Trickís Rick Nielsen and despite the albumtitle of his new record Heavy Metal, this definitely isnít a metal record, so it is a little bit the same story as the bandname Eagles Of Death Metal, which isnít a Metalband. Anyway, Miles released his debut in 2009 and now delivers his 3rd album, helped by his band The Rusted Hearts. Opener on the album is the titletrack Heavy Metal, which is one of the weaker tracks sadly, because the rest of the record is so much better. 10 tracks are included in total and the real highlights are Is This Life (70s based funky westcoast a la Steely Dan mixed with Fleet Foxes, War On Drugs and a little Calexico, a really great tune), Simple Times (a bit Tom Petty meets Bob Dylan ish vocals, catchy melodic chorus), Strangers (great melodic tune, sorta powerpop ish a la Cheap Trick and such) and Preacher Man (great melodic heavy rocker). As you can see thereís a lot of diversity going on here, with influences from 60s soul, 70s westcoast, some singer/songwriter folk inspired tunes, early 80s powerpop and a whole lote more to discover on this highly recommended album! More info at: http://www.milesnielsen.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

The Grand Undoing 'Sparks down from the lights of love' (Secret Candy Rock Records/Working Brilliantly/USA Import)

 

Seth Goodman from Boston is the musician behind the band The Grand Undoing. He has two extreme passions in life: drinking sparkling wine and creating psychedelic post-rock Americana confronting alienation and mortality. He has already released a couple of records and now comes up with Sparks down from the lights of love. The included music is a trip back in time, clearly 1970s based with a psychedelic approach. Songs like Key Biscayne and Sparks Rain Down From The Lights Of Love are actually quite catchy tunes that sound a bit like Roxy Music, but then rockier. Other highlights are Most Of All We Just Go Around, a great catchy uptempo powerpop tune a la The Jam and The Winter, a very nice semi ballad with harmonyvocals like 1970s Pink Floyd meets Alan Parsons. Sethís vocals are quite good, reminding a bit of Paul Weller actually, while overall the diversity in styles makes us remember 1970s David Bowie. If youíre starting to become interested, go check it out at: http://thegrandundoing.com/

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Sari Schorr 'A force of nature' (Brand New Music/Manhaton Records/Glass Onyon Pr/UK Import)

 

Out of Brooklyn, New York comes the talented singer/songwriter Sari Schorr, who releases an album that was mastered by the famous Jon Astley (Eric Clapton, Barclay James Harvest, The Who, ABBA, George Harrison, Tori Amos, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Jools Holland, Tom Jones, Judas Priest, Tears for Fears, Led Zeppelin, Hothouse Flowers, Level 42, The Boomtown Rats, John Mayall, Marilyn Martin, Toto, Norah Jones, Stereophonics, KT Tunstall, Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Slade, Sting, Bono, and Anathema, etc.) and produced by Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, Blue Horizon, etc). Her band is formed around Innes Sibun on guitar, Kevin Jefferies on bass, Anders Olinder on keys and Kevin O'Rourke on drums, and Force of nature is her official debut album. Guest musicians include Walter Trout; Innes Sibun; Oli Brown; Mike Vernon, John Baggot; Jose Mena; Nani Conde; Julian Maeso; Jesķs Lavilla; Quique Bonal and Rietta Austin, so with this kind of lists I think you will understand that people believe in Sari. Her music is heavy bluesrock and her vocals are very impressive, sounding like a cross between Janis Joplin and Tina Turner. 12 songs are included, starting with Ain't Got No Money, a nice slow bluesy rocker with lovely melodic guitar solos, followed by Aunt Hazel (heavy bluesrocker a la Janis Joplin), Damn The Reason (midtempo based melodic rocker), Cat And Mouse (funky groovy tune), Black Betty (cover of legendary song, slow version, quite awesome!), Work No More (another slow bluesy affair), Demolition Man (also slow bluesy, pretty good, reminding of Janis Joplin again), Oklahoma (great relaxing midtempo bluesy tune a la Bonnie Raitt), Letting Go (lovely slow tune, reminds me of Tina Turner), Kiss Me nice (slow bluesy heavy rocker), Stop! In The Name Of Love (slowtempo bluesy cover of the The Surpremes classic, sounds even a bit like Anouk and Janis Joplin is here a real close call, very nicely done!) and closing track is Ordinary Life (a very calm tune, beautiful and perhaps next time some more of those piano jazzy moments). The comment behind the last song is the only main concern I have, because Sari has a beautiful voice and only that last song shows her calmer side, where she really shines, as most of the record it is an endless screaming, which also sounds good, but some more relaxing moments with laid-back singing would be better to get some more diversity throughout the album and so also the material needs to get more uptempo instead of so many slowtempo songs. Nevertheless, it is still a great record with the guitarwork being quite phenomenal and picture perfect if you ask me, so make sure not to miss this new release of the talented singer Sari Schorr at: http://www.sarischorr.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Ben Poole 'Time has come' (Manhaton Records/UK Import)

 

Here we have a new sensational musician from the UK, Ben Poole, who releases with Time has come his 2nd full-length release. He is only 26 years old and already a gifted guitarist and vocalist. It's hard to tell if he will become the next Joe Bonamassa, but on the other hand Ben is clearly more song orientated, with a lot of very melodic tunes included, while he sings with a beautiful soulful vibe. Therefore he is completely different than Joe, because Ben creates songs that will appeal to a wide audience. In fact a song like Longing for a woman is an almost Bryan Adams ish semi-ballad and the soulful laid-back ballads If you want to play with my heart, Whoever invented love, You've changed and Time might never come that almost remind me of Lenny Kravitz, but bluesrockfans will be delighted to hear such guitar orientated tunes like Lying to me, Stay at mine and I think I love you too much and also the guitarsolo's here and there. Ben is best comparable to Kenny Wanye Shepherd I think, so not entirely focused on bluesrock and endless guitarsolo's, but also bringing beautiful melodies in the vocal department as well as strong pop orientated choruses, with as one of the highlights Just when you thought it was safe, a lovely midtempo soulful AOR tune. This combination works quite well and therefore I can easily highly recommend this album! Think of Robert Cray, a softer Kenny Wayne Shepherd and a laid-back Gary Moore, with a lot of soul elements as well, so all together a must-hear! More info at: http://www.benpooleband.com/

 

(Points: 8.6 out of 10)

 

Robin Trower 'Where you are going to' (V12 Records/Manhaton Records/UK Import)

 

The legendary British guitarplayer Robin Trower returns with a new album entitled Where You Are Going To, released on Manhaton Records. Robin has a very long history that started back in the early 1960s when The Rolling Stones were fans of the bands he played in, because he performed live in various clubs in London way before the Stones ever recorded a song. In the years to follow he joined Procol Harum for a period of 5 years, during their most succesfull era in the 1960s and early 70s. However, during the 1970s he went solo and never looked back actually, releasing a dozen of records and at the age of 71 he now releases a new one. The music never changed and so the bluesrockfans can once again enjoy the blistering guitarwork of Robin Trower, who was called the White Jimi Hendrix back in the day. His early records from 1973 and 1974 still sell quite well and sold millions of copies in the 1970s, but I donít expext that to happen with this record of him. Nevertheless, it is a strong record that all bluesrockfans and of course especially Robin Trower fans will be delighted to hear. It is remarkable to still see new work of him after so many years and thankfully it is a very good one. More at: http://www.trowerpower.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)


King King 'Rush hour' (Hatman/Manhaton Records/UK Import))

 

Out of Glasgow comes the sensational band King King. They already released 3 albums and what I received is a preview of a new album, because Rush hour is the only song on this promo single. The song itself sounds really great, thanks to the amazing vocals of singer Alan Nimmo. The music is heavy bluesrock and it all sounds dangerously close to Bad Company, Free and Thunder, with Alan sounding a lot like the legendary Paul Rodgers. Canít wait to hear and review a full-album of this exciting band! More at www.kingking.co.uk

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

Albany Down 'The outer reach' (Independent/UK Import)

 

Albany Down is a sensational band from London, UK and The outer reach is their 3rd album. Their previous 2 albums were recorded with award-winning producer Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers, INME, Super Furry Animals). The band consists of Paul Muir on vocals, guitarist Paul Turley, drummer Donna Peters and bassist Billy Dedman. Paul is an excellent singer with an incredible range, a real classic rock shouter and musically Albany Down is taking a lot of the 1970s classic rocksound, like Bad Company, Free, Thunder, The Black Keys, with also a soulful touch here and there (Supersonic girl) and a groovy almost Red Hot Chili Peppers kinda approach sometimes. They are at their very best during such big groovy melodic hardrock tunes like Do you want me now and Home, but also the beautiful melodic semi-rockballad Like a bullet needs to be mentioned. Everything sounds picture perfect here (only weak song is the uptempo The Darkness ish rocker I need you), they have an almost American ish rock approach sometimes and whole listening you would think they are a major label signed act performing live on stage in mega arena's, but I feel that might happen someday soon after listening to their sensational new record The outer reach. Check them out at: www.albanydown.com

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Van Halst 'World of make believe' (Independent/MAPL/Canada Import)

 

Out of the Canadian city of Toronto comes a great new sensational female fronted melodic metal band called Van Halst. Formed around vocalist Kami van Halst (ex-Surviving Suzanna), guitarist Scott Greene (ex-Derina Harvey Band, ex-Dirty Pool), guitarist Strathon J. Bajowsky (ex-Havok Way). bassist Brendan McMillan (ex-My Darkest Days) and drummer Brett Seaton (ex-Culture By Fire), Van Halst just released their debut album World of make believe. Musically speaking their melodic metal has different twists, mainly due to their lead singer, who has got a voice that can make it sound almost black metal ish at times, while also singing super clean and make it sound ultra-melodic, fitting in somewhere between In This Moment, Arch Enemy and Lacuna Coil, also musically speaking you have to look into that direction. The start of the record is very aggressive and angry with the uptempo The End that also has a gang vocal driven chorus. Thankfully the rest of the CD is much more clean vocal orientated and sounding very melodic and only very rarely we get to hear an Arch Enemy scream of Kami. Following track Save Me for example is a great midtempo melodic chorus some driven Lacuna Coil ish tune and Ryan's Song is a great semi ballad with a big sound, a lovely guitarsolo and fantastic vocalwork, clearly hit potential in the Within Temptation and After Forever style. The titletrack is one of the finest songs here, an excellent uptempo melodic metal piece like After Forever, Epica and such, but also Questions is a lovely tune, being a semi ballad/semi rocker that sounds very melodic featuring superb vocalwork. Some of these songs take you into a trip, as they really grab you and keep you in extase. The songs Denying Eyes and Monster are nothing that special, but the last 3 songs offer some of the best moments of Van Halst, namely Plastic Smile (lovely calmer slowtempo semi-ballad with strong melodies), Put Him Down (great slowtempo melodic heavy rocker, a bit doomy) and Perfect Storm (beautiful piano ballad like Evanescenceís classic My immortal). In total 10 songs, most of them sounding really great. World of make believe is a very high quality recording and fans of modern melodic metal with a gothic/power-metal touch as well as a bit of extreme metal, they need to check this out asap at: http://vanhalstmusic.com/, https://www.facebook.com/vanhalstmusic/ and https://vanhalst.bandcamp.com/album/world-of-make-believe

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Jim Crean 'Insatiable' (Rocker Records/USA Import)

 

Buffalo, New York born and raised vocalist/guitarist Jim Crean has been in and out of bands since the glorious hair metal days of the mid 1980s and now after all these years his 4th solo-record titled Insatiable is released. The album is more or less a tribute to the hair metal of 30 years ago, with a collection of covers and original tunes, all following the exact same style as some of the most legendary bands. Perhaps not original and also not a parody like Steel Panther, Jim Creanís album is nevertheless a high quality recording, partly thanks to the help of a bunch of guest musicians whom will be very familiar among the fans of this genre. The album is released on on Carmine Appiceís label Rocker Records and features Carmine Appice (Rod Stewart/Ozzy Osbourne/Vanilla Fudge/Cactus/Pink Floyd/Blue Murder) Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath/Dio/Heaven & Hell/Derringer/John Lennon) Mike Tramp (White Lion/Freak Of Nature) Phil Lewis (LA Guns/Girl) Frank Dimino (Angel) Martin Slott (Push) Jimmy Bain (Rainbow/Dio) Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder/Whitesnake) Robby Lochner (Jack Russellís Great White/Rob Halfordís Fight) Rowan Robertson (Dio/Bang Tango) Phil Naro (Talas/Peter Criss) Dave Constantino (Talas) Stan Miczek ( Honeymoon Suite/The Guess Who/Sass Jordan/Killer Dwarfs/Harem Scarem/Tom Cochrane) Glenn Nash (Kim Mitchell/Lee Aaron) Colleen Mastrocovo (Hair Nation) Alberto Campuzano (Annihilator ) Steve Major (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) Roger Banks (Sarasin/24k) Don Jamieson (That Metal Show). You donít see such lists a lot on a new CD, but we are definitely dealing here with something special. The intro was done by Don Jamieson from VH1íS That Metal Show and what follows are 11 great hair metal/melodic hardrock orientated tunes. Opener Insatiable is a nice uptempo melodic hardrock tune, but things get really going with the DIO cover Caught in the middle which sounds like a great 80s uptempo melodic rocker in classic 80s sunset strip of Dokken!. Next song Touch has a cool sound with also dut-dut keys in Bon Jovi 80s style. Then comes another cover, the LA Guns classic Over the edge which is a great epic midtempo melodic rocker with LA GUNS singer Phil Lewis on backing vocals, while the song itself sounds abit like White Lion. Speaking of White Lion, Mike Tramp sings a duet with Jim during the Freaks Of Nature cover Canít find my way, which is a nice semi melodic rocker. Awesome big time melodic rock can be heard during Follow your heart and also Shut your mouth is such a big arena rocker with catchy singable chorus. Turn it around is done really well, a classic 80s style catchy melodic rocksound with great guitarwork and last but certainly not least there is the amazing 80s power ballad Miss me that is really high class, AOR ish and sounding huge with a great guitarsolo and massive 80s chorus as if the days of 80s us major label still exists with bands like Winger/Dokken/White Lion/Firehouse/Warrant/Def Leppard etc. etc. There are also 2 bonutracks, buth cover, the Mr. Big tune The whole world is gonna now and the fantastic original cover of the KISS classic Magic touch. The production is fabulous, the songs are quite nice to listen to and fans of 80s melodic hair metal will instantly fall in love with Jimís music. More info available at: http://www.jimcrean.net/purchase-jim-crean-insatiable-cd.php

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Headline Maniac 'Headline Maniac' (RodHot Records/UK Import)

 

The British band Headline Maniac is formed around members of the legendary band Eddie and the Hot Rods, Simon Bowley on Drums, Dipster Dean on Bass and Vocals and Chris Taylor on Guitar. Within a year the result is a fantastic uptempo melodic heavy blues rocking same titled debut album that features 11 blistering rockers. Most of them are uptempo and quite catchy, with strong vocals, a tight rocking rhythm section and a memorable chorus, with as best ones Give me one more chance, Someone like you and Millionaire. Perhaps not original and not so complicated, the result is nevertheless a pleasure to listen to and very energetic to play loud and proud. It's a little bit in the style of acts like Kings Of The Sun, Krokus, a softer Shakra, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Cult, Rhino Bucket, Helix, etc. Check them out for yourself at: http://www.headlinemaniac.com/

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

David Kingston 'Songs of Dave... just visiting' (Independent/UK Import)

 

Out of the UK comes singer/songwriter David Kingston, who in his career recorded over 340 (!) songs. He was kind enough to sent me his 2016 sample CDR, which musically consists of 17 well-performed calmer singer/songwriter pieces in the 1970s style. He sings in a sorta Peter Gabriel kinda way and most of the songs are in a similar style that recalls . The great thing is that you can download all the songs of David for yourself at: www.songsofdave.com

 

(Points: 7.5 out of 10)

 

Sara Watkins 'Young in all the wrong ways' (New West Records/PIAS/UK Import)

 

Young In All The Wrong Ways is the 3rd album of the Californian singer/songwriter Sara Watkins, who is also very successful with her participation in bands like the progressive bluegrass Nickel Creek and Family Hour (together with Fiona Apple). This new solo-album of her is rockier than previous album Midnight sun from 2012 and she is assisted by Jay Bellerose, Jon Brion, Jim James, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife OíDonovan, Benmont Tench, her brother Sean Watkins and producer Gabe Witcher. 10 songs are included and without a doubt we have something beautiful here, because it is musically quite diverse, in a melodic poprock kinda way that is comparable to the Fleetwood Mac classic Rumours, and Sara is blessed with a beautiful voice. It is especially thanks to her fabulous vocalwork that this album is lifted up way above the rest in the music business nowadays. If we go through the tracklisting, it starts with Young in all the wrong ways, a slow big time semi bluesy rocker which rightaway give us those superb vocals and is overall sounding modern and radio-ready to become a huge hit. Followed by The love that got away (a calmer singer songwriter piece), One last time (cool folky bluegrass tune, uptempo happy and showing once again what an amazing singer she is!), Move me (midtempo dark pop/rock ish tune with an americana undertone, melancholic and showing the diversity of the album), Like New Year's day (calmer dark singer/songwriter a la Marissa Nadler), Say so (one of the more commercial tunes, midtempo melodic poprock), Without a word (calmer relaxing piece), The truth won't set us free (midtempo sorta 50s tune with a country twangle), Invisible (midtempo dark pop/rock ish tune) and the album closed with a calmer singer/songwriter piece titled Tenderhearted. All together a very strong new solo-album of Sara and with a voice of an angel, she should easily draw the attention of many more people. Especially recommended to fans of Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Julie Fowles, Lucinda Williams, Tift Merritt, etc. Do not miss this incredible singer/songwriterís latest record that might become one of the highlights in the genre this year! More info at: http://www.sarawatkins.com

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

Auburn 'Love and promises' (Scarlet Records/Hemifran)

 

Singer/songwriter Liz Lenten started her own band Auburn 17 years ago, released 2 EPís and 1 full-length record in 2001, but focused on raising a family the next 10 years, so she had to start all over again when eventually she decided to get back in the music business, but as of 2011 she has released new albums nearly every year, making Love and promises her 5th album so far. This new record was once again recorded with producer/guitarist Thomm Jutz, bassist Mark Fain, pianoplayer Jen Gunderman and drummer Evan Hutchings, all session musicians from Nashville, where Liz recorded her albums. The 12 songs were written on the Greek Island of Crete and reflect a lot of passion musically speaking. Liz has an unique own sorta voice tone that also musically speaking grabs to the 1970s original female fronted singer/songwriter pop/rock style and can perhaps best be compared to Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, The Pretenders and such. Itís not all crystal clear sounding, but nevertheless feels quite good while listening, even makes you feel happy, with as highlights In My Blood and Wanda, both nice midtempo pieces, pop/rock that sounds kinda quirky with Americana influences, and the semi-ballads Love & Promises and If Everyone Was Listening. Check out more at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/auburn4  and http://www.auburn.org.uk/

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Tony McLoughlin and Marlon Klein 'Where is Jack' (Fuego Records/Hemifran)

 

Singer/Songwriter Tony McLoughlin has Irish roots, but is building his music career in Germany where he works with musicians like Tim Gross Thom and Thomm Jutz. On his 4th album Where is Jack he also works together with German drummer/keyboardplayer Marlon Klein, who he even credits as artist name for this particular album. The included music sounds raw and makes you feel like youíre in the deep down southern part of the USA, combining elements of Americana and rootsy rock with bluesy riffs and a voice that reminds one of JJ Cale, Van Morrison and Robert Palmer. The music is sometimes slow, dark and laid-back, but also uplifting here and there and when it rocks it sounds like a cross between Bruce Springsteen,Neil Young and early Tom Petty. The highlights are Eagle Eye (nice americana acoustic Johnny Cash ish tune), Where Is Jack (JJ Cale meets Robert Palmer meets Robbie Robertson kinda midtempo semi bluesy pop/rock) , Iím On My Way (Tarantino style song, Springsteen meets Cash!, cool tune!), Only You (rocker, almost ZZ Top!!!) and Sacred Nights (great very meloidic tune). Without a doubt, a gifted musician and a damn fine record to check out at: www.tonymcloughlin.com

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Dan Patlansky 'IntroVertigo' (Caroline International/UK Import)

 

Out of Johannesburg, South Africa comes the extremely talented musician Dan Patlansky, a singer/songwriter/guitarist who has built up quite a name these past 10 years and Introvertigo is already his 8th album! In the past he was signed to Blue Note/EMI, but he switched a few times and is now under the wings of Caroline International. He is playing the blues, yet with an open-mind, so leaving the blues from time to time, although his guitarplaying is definitely always coming from the heart of the blues. He is already mentioned alongside Joe Bonamassa , Stevie Ray Vaughan, Philip Sayce, Gary Moore and such, but thankfully Dan has an own style that can be heard very clearly on this new album Introvertigo. Besides Dan on vocals and guitar, the rest of the line-up consists of Clint Falconer- Bass guitar, Andy Maritz- Drums, Rami Jaffe- Hammond B3 and Theo Crous- Keyboards, Backing vocals. The songs are most of the time quite groovy and rocking a lot, very heavy bluesrock orientated during songs like Run, Sonnava Faith, Heartbeat, Bet On Me and Queen Puree, but also the more romantic side of Dan can be heard during Loosen Up The Grip, a very melodic semi rockballad that almost has an Aerosmith style, while Stop the Messiní is a great midtempo radio-ready tune a la Lenny Kravitz. Pure American orientated rock, like a bluesier version of Alter Bridge, but then calmer and like a heavier Lenny Kravitz and Stevie Ray Vaughan here and there, that is what Dan is all about actually. Also notable to mention are Still Wanna Be Your Man (great calmer bluesy ballad with lovely guiutar solo a la Gary Moore) and Western Decay (uptempo rocker a la Aerosmith again somehow). Definitely a highly recommended musican to check out, especially for the fans of heavy bluesrock this is a much-recommended album!!! More at: www.danpatlansky.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Cranston 'Cranston' (Rock Company)

 

Cranston from Rhode Island, USA is a band/project formed around musicians whom have already made a household name in the melodic rockworld. The band consists of none other than multi-instrumentalists/vocalists Phil Vincent and Paul Sabu as well as drummer B.F. DíErcole. Together they recorded an album that musically is clearly sounding like a cross between Phil and Paulís solo-records, so nu surprises at all here. Itís sounding a little better than the last couple of records both gentlemen released, but still the 10 included songs are very clichť tingled melodic hardrocksongs that will definitely please the fans of Sabu and Vincent, although donít expect anything new here Iím afraid. Not saying it is bad, because itís all done quite well, but most of the material reminds me of a slightly weaker version of their past work when they started both in the music business and that sounded very sensational (Kidd Glove and Phil Vincentís first couple of records). So if youíre not familiar with those albums, better start from scratch and leave this alone, but in case youíre a dedicated fan of Sabu and Vincent, then make sure to check this out at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/cranston22

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Jenai Huff 'Color wheel' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Singer/songwriter Jenai Huff comes out of California originally, but moved to New York due to the fact that her bandmembers are making a living over there. These are keyboardplayer/producer Ben Wisch, acoustic guitarplayer/vocalist Eugene Ruffolo, electric guitarist George Naha (who played with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and a whole lot more), bassist Zev Katz (who played with Bono, James Taylor and Aretha Franklin) and drummer Chris Marshak. Jenai herself writes the lryics and music (with George) and musically it is jazzy soul with instrumentally speaking some blues and country influences. The songs are mostly calm and besides 7 own songs, also 2 covers are included, of which Marvin Gayeís Whatís Going On is done quite nicely. Color wheel is her 3rd album and once again she financed it herself and with a great soulful voice and smooth jazzy sounds, she must by now reach more interested people, so letís hope she will gain a label deal soon, because without a doubt, this is a strong album you can easily put on, especially during romantic late nighters. Check it out at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jenaihuff7

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Small Change Romeos 'Mystery sings' (Milkjug Music/USA Import)

 

The San Francisco based band Small Change Romeos was formed quite some time ago, with their 2007 released debut album Fool's gold featuring members of legendary classic rockbands such as Starship and Tesla. They are formed around two great singer/songwriters/guitarplayers (Chris James and Mike Ruy) who both switch the lead vocals throughout the album and as they sound quite different from each other, it is a very diverse record that combines elements of mostly American based traditional music genres. When the two singers sing harmonies together it sounds very impressive and not a single moment I was feeling bored, because Mystery sings is a great record for sure. The rest of the band features drummer Matt Berg, Bassist AJ Leighton and Keyboardist John Patterson, but of course the 2 singer/songwriters are making Small Change Romeos such an interesting band. 10 songs are included on this excellent produced album. Opener Dandelion is a sorta laid-back affair, bluesy and Americana with a swamp sorta rhythm as if Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and JJ Cale joined forces.  Night is over follows and is a very strong midtempo melodic pop/rock tune with also great vocalwork, sounding very melodic and even a little Bon Jovi ish. Cheap shoes is also midtempo, but then more with an Americana meets bluesy touch, also with the more harsh raw vocalwork like the first song of the CD. Next track You remind me is then again featuring the amazing crystal clear melodic vocals and this midtempo tune reminds me a little bit of Venice. More of those super melodic vocals can be heard during the slowtempo semi-ballad Don't I know, which is a beautiful tune once again reminding of Venice. The following song Tonight is taking things into an interesting early 80s melodic hookladen AOR/Poprock direction that sounds a little like Dakota actually! Slowing things down during You're not there is a Bruce Springsteen inspired acoustic tingled tune, while Island Sun is once again taking that superb early 1980s uptempo AOR route and is perhaps one of the finest tracks (reminding of Player as well, the Player with the songs SIlver lining, If looks could kill and Danger zone). Into you is a sorta Westcoast meets Heartland ish pop/rock like a mix between Springsteen/Michael Stanley and a little 1970s Dakota and closing track River of life finish things nicely and calm on this rather surprising highly recommended album! Go check out Small Change Romeos at: http://www.smallchangeromeos.band

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Annie Keating 'Trick star' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

We already reviewed an album of Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Annie Keating just recently, because previous album Make Believing was released in 2015 and already less than one year later her 7th album Trick Star is out. Together with her band, which consists of Steve Mayone, Jason Mercer, Chris Tarrow, Yuval Lion and Trina Hamlin, once again we can listen to a beautiful relaxing album with mostly calm tunes, although here and there it rocks a little bit too. It is actually a very good melodic piece of work, containing traditonal American music, lightweight pop/rock with a country twangle and strong vocals by Annie, with as highlights the uptempo You Bring The Sun, the semi ballad In The Valley and Time Come Help Me Forget (a pretty good uptempo melodic poprocker like Bryan Adams, Heather Nova, Alanis Morrisette, Melissa Etheridge, etc. Overall however it is as mentioned a rather calm relaxing album that will please the fans of Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and such, so if youíre starting to become interested, you will not be disappointed at all! More at: www.anniekeating.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Ships Have Sailed 'Whisper' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Ships Have Sailed is an Alternative pop-rock duo hailing from Los Angeles, debuted in 2014 with an EP, followed by a full-length in 2015 and now releasing another mini-CD titled Whisper. Sadly this is a sorta acoustic/unplugged album, so itís hard to tell how this act sounds full electric with a band sound, but nevertheless Whisper is a nice calm little record that shows the talent of both Will Carpenter - Guitar and Vocals and Dan Hange Ė Bass. What we get to hear is strong calm singer/songwriter material (5 songs) with a high falsetto voice and of course we have heard it before (Hozier), but itís done well and once again it makes me very interested how it will sound like in itís full band sound. Hopefully soon I can make a review of their full-length record which they already released. Meanwhile check them out at: http://www.shipshavesailed.com

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Matt Bauer 'Dream's end' (Crosshill Records/Hemifran)

 

Baroque folk is what Matt Bauer is all about on his album Dreamís end. I could also describe the record as quite original which sorta sounds like dream pop meets dark folk with a taste of singer/songwriter and actually this could become huge, because it has a modern pop approach as well. Anyway, Brooklyn based Matt himself has been music for some time now and apparantly he made in the past some more folk/Americana ish records than this modern thing, so he appears to have changed his music style. He is a multi-instrumentalist and plays drums, banjo, guitaar, piano, bells and Wurlitzer, but on this orchestral sounding new album we can also hear orchestra, trumpets, clarinet, cello and sax, so enough instrumental back-up here. Mattís voice is one you either love or hate, because it has somehow a very modest, almost depressing kinda low tone, which after a whole gets a bit boring, as it lacks variation. The music isnít too happy either, so what you get is a very dark sounding record that nevertheless does have itís charm and highlights in the shape of It Knows Not What It Is (even some very slight The Cure ish influences), Silver Late (with female backing vocals), False Lights and Fox Kits (with big orchestration, both a sorta ballad). Anyway, definitely one to listen to more than a few times, because it is not an Ďeasy Ď record, instead one that gets better with every listen! More at: www.mattbauer.com

 

(Points: 7.9 out of 10)

 

The Mojo Slide 'Twist your bones' (Do It Records/Hemifran)

 

Formed in 2011, the British band The Mojo Slide is now making their debut with Twist your bones. The band comes out of Cambridge and St. Neots (Cambridgeshire) and features in the line-up vocalist Mark Wilks, lead guitarist Mike Fenna, rhythm guitarist Matt Legg, bassist Dan Savage and drummer Michael Graham. The music is a mix of classic rock, heavy stoner rock, blues riffs, garage rock and a touch of britpop, which makes it a pleasure to listen to, because it is a very diverse record. You get to hear dirty mean sleazy raw bluesy punky uptempo classic (garage) rock a la Stones/Hanoi Rocks (Addicted, Rattlesnake Humbug Blues and Drunk Dog Blues), typical modern day fuzz garage rock with a retro sound a la White Stripes (Jesus Donít Love Me), a couple of nice ballads (Smiling, Bad In Every Bone and The Balad Of Satan The Devil), a strange mixture between 90s britpop and altrock (High, Make You Bleed and The Sky Is Falling In) and finally we have the song Little bird, a great psychedelic semi-ballad with T-Rex ish influences. All together a nice adventure and trip through the land of The Mojo Slide, recommended if you like classic rock with a modern twist in the style of the aforementioned bands. More info at: http://www.themojoslide.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)


Kim Meeks 'Forget me not' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Here we have a great singer/songwriter/piano/keyboardplayer from the city of Macon, Georgia, USA who was kind enough to sent me her 4 track counting CD Forget me not. She got help from Joey Stuckey (his solo music is also recently reviewed by us) on drums, bass and guitars as well as on the production of this record. The result is a very impressive album that shows an incredible talent. The songs are very melodic, close to intelligent AOR/Poprock with a good tight rhythmic sound, awesome vocalwork, subtle guitarwork and very strong melodies. The songs are mostly midtempo orientated, with as highlights opener Inside and the wonderful Sleeping with the past, which could easily become a major radio hitsingle! I don't have much info on Kim, but take it from me that we have here a highly recommended singer/songwriter with not only a great voice, but also well-thought material on offer that you need to listen to asap! More info at: http://www.kimmeeksmusic.com/ and e-mail her at: kimmeeksmusic@yahoo.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Focus and Friends featuring Marvio Ciribelli 'Focus 8.5/Beyond the horizon' (Focus Music/Glass Onyon Pr/UK Import)

 

The legendary Dutch band Focus is back with a brand-new album entitled Focus 8.5/Beyond the horizon. They are known for their classics Hocus Pocus and Sylvia and are bringing a wide diversity in styles on this album. The sessions for the album were all recorded in between South American tour commitments during 2005 and as guests we can hear the Brazilian musicians Arthur Maia / bass, Mario SŤve / saxophone and Marcio Bahia / drums. The line-up of the band nowadays consists of Thijs van Leer / organ, flute, vocals, Jan Dumťe / guitars, Bobby Jacobs / bass and Pierre Van Der Linden / drums, percussion and the music is a combination of the prog/fusion-rock we are familiar with of Focus during the 1970s, jazzy improvisations and a strong touch of Brazilian/South American traditional salsa sounds. The result is a suprisingly strong mostly instrumental album that reminds me quite a lot of Santana, especially during the song Hola, como estas with itís great proggy guitarsolo and the drums based tune Talking rhythms. The addition of those Brazilian musicians is a nice welcome to the Focus sound, something which is unexpected and makes it rather interesting to check out. More info at: www.focustheband.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Japam 'How's my EP?' (Independent/Australia Import)

 

Out of Australia comes the sensational band Japam. Although they are not really sounding original, because the music reminds me of so many bands from the USA, Coheed and Cambria in particular, the result is of an incredible high major label level, despite they are an independent band from Adelaide with a small budget. Their EP Howís My EP? EP contains 4 well-produced tracks, with as highlights Seraph and Dk Facepunch. Everything seems to sound perfect here, including strong vocalwork and phenomenal guitarwork, combining melodic rock hooks and choruses wih progressive rock/metal guitarwork. I canít wait to hear a full-length album of Japam, meanwhile do not miss this band at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/japam4 and www.japamband.com/

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

The Tigerlillies '123456 EP' (Independent/Working Brilliantly/USA Import)

 

Powerpop as if it was still 1979-1980, that's what this band is all about when putting on the first song Easy as it seems of their latest EP 123456. The song is an uptempo catchy typical early 1980s power pop anthem in the style of Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Jam, Shoes, The Romantics, Phil Seymour, Jack Green, Dwight Twilley, etc. etc. and also a touch of The Boys, The Undertones, The Buzzcocks and even The Ramones! The Tigerlillies have already released 4 full-length albums, so they are not entirely new to the scene. The Cincinnati, USA based band is formed around brothers Pat (vocals, guitar) and Steve (vocals, drums) Hennessy, Brian Driscoll (bass), and Brendan Bogosian (lead guitar). After being grabbed by the uptempo power pop classic opener, the following songs Bowie and Darlin are slower tempo based, but Green eyes picks up that 1980s classic melodic midwestern powerpopsound like the opening cut, yet also reminding of The Ramones during their heydays. In the dark is a little laid-back, but still power pop ish, a very melodic tune with strong vocals, not unlike Joe Jackson somehow! Closing track is Some me, some you finishes in classic uptempo powerpop style again. Although nothing that original, it all sounds very fresh and especially live Tigerlillies might be a band to check out, because they bring some of the finest powerpop since the early 1980s! Check them out at: http://www.tigerliliesusa.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Jerad Finck 'Criminal EP' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Spokane, Washington comes singer/songwriter Jerad Finck, who was kind enough to sent me his latest EP Criminal. He has already built up a career with the release of several full-length albums, enjoying a lot of success with the song Runaway. Meanwhile, this new EP takes him into the modern electronic poprock danceable sound we hear a lot on the radio nowadays. The songs sound very commercial, lightweight and for some of you probably way too polished and radio-ready. In fact, the midtempo Criminal and uptempo Blood in the water could have easily been summer hits worldwide, as they sound very catchy and way too perfect. Jerad has a great voice and actually a rock voice, which I hope to hear much more in the future, because now we have to wait until track 3 Pieces of April to let it go a bit into a melodic rock territory, reminding me a bit of Daughtry and Three Doors Down. People who like the AOR sounds of let's say Work Of Art might also find something of interest on this disc, which also reminds me of Richard Marx here and there. The other 3 songs however are extremely poppy and commercial, so let's just hope that Jerad is focusing next time on more rock based material, because that would be interesting to hear him do. Meanwhile check out more at: http://www.jeradfinck.com

 

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)

 

Ray Goren 'Ray Goren' (RJ Ray Entertainment/Hemifran)

 

Now here we have something very interesting, because the name Ray Goren is one to remember for sure. Ray is a guitarist, singer & songwriter coming out of Southern California with a first EP release in 2014 and he is now making his official full-length debut with this same titled record. The interesting part is the fact that he is just 15 years old and sounds almost as good as letís say Joe Bonamassa, outplaying him here and there on guitar and also singing like a soul God! Ray started playing music on his toy keyboard before the age of three (!) and already by the age of five (!) he was playing his favorite tunes by Thelonious Monk, J.J. Johnson, Lee Morgan, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean and Oscar Peterson and after seeing a clip of BB King, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins playing together on youtube, he discovered the blues. Now he combines heavy bluesrock with elements from jazz, melodic pop/rock and sings with a soulful classic 60s R&B touch, in the end sounding like BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Sam Cooke melted together in the body of a teenager! Opener Save My Soul 2016 is a very strong hard-hitting heavy bluesrocker that even reminds me of The Black Keys and a little bit of Joe Bonamassa. The rest of the album shows a diversity that is focused on the blues but offers enough influences from other music styles to keep it interesting for everybody. Ray is shining on the guitar, not shredding endlessly, but let the guitar sing melodies like BB King and Gary Moore could do in the past, while his singing is also quite impressive and really grabbing you. It is unbelievable someone at the age of 15 is doing all this, just listen to the lovely songs I need you here to stay and You gotta learn, but also the 2 cover tunes included on this CD (The Doorsí Light my fire and an incredible stunning long live version of Bill Withersí Ainít no sunshine). If thereís a future for heroes in the music business, then Ray Goren might become one if we are looking back at the 21st century in 84 years from now and guess what, Ray is by then still not 100 years old, because he was born in 2001, so that makes him the first superstar born in the 21st century! Check out all on this incredible talent at: http://RayGoren.com

 

(Points: 8.9 out of 10)

 

Hannah Georgas 'For Evelyn' (Dine Alone Records/Canada Import)

 

For Evelyn is the 3rd album of singer/songwriter Hannah Georgas, who is from Vancouver, Canada. She named the album after her 98-year-old grandmother and musically speaking she is clearly into the modern indie-pop singer/songwriter style with a dance like beat, like we have heard from quite a lot acts the past few years (Florence And The Machine, Lapsley, Polica, Marina and the Diamonds, Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, Bat For Lashes, Lorde, Daughter, Haim, etc. etc.). So it might not be that original sounding, the result is a strong album that will please fans of mentioned acts for sure. In Canada, Hannah is a well-respected musician with many award nominations and she is about to breakthrough in Europe as well now. Hannah has got a great lush sorta laid-back tone in her voice and the music is modest and synth based with a hi-tech drumsound. Songs like Rideback, Don't Go, Walls and Lost Cause show her talent and reflect some beautiful almost soundtrack kinda theme music, but any song will do if youíre interested in the combination of beautiful female vocals and synth driven mostly midtempo based music. Check it out for yourself at:

www.hannahgeorgas.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

King King 'Reaching for the light' (Manhaton Records/UK Import)

 

Already more than 1 year passed since the release of Reaching for the light of the Scottish band King King and it is almost unbelievable that they havenít had their major breakthrough yet, because this is a truly sensational release. When listening to this superb record, it is clear that it if it was still 1975 or something like that, King King would have become a major label act. Anyway, in 2016 there is of course a lot of competition and you have to be lucky enough to get noticed. The band already released 2 albums, for which they received awards at the British Blues Awards and despite their music is bluesrock influenced, the overall sound is much more bluesy melodic rock orientated. In fact, fans of FM will absolutely love this King King, a band formed around a wodnerful lead singer, Alan Nimmo (vocals/guitar), who happens to sing with a lot of soul, reminding me of Paul Rodgers and Steve Overland. The rest of the band is completed by Lindsay Coulson (bass), Wayne Proctor (drums) and Bob Fridzema (keys). 9 songs are included, starting with Hurricane, which is a heavy bluesy rocker in the Free/Bad Company type of 1970s classic rock. The album continues with You Stopped The Rain (fantastic relaxing melodic westcoast/aor ish tune, classic early 80s style), Iím Waking Up (great mitempo melodic rocker, almost like FM!), Rush Hour (powerful semi bluesy melodic rockballad a la Thunder/FM), Crazy (Bad Company/Free ish classic rock), Lay With Me (soulful ballad, very relaxing mood, almost 60s r&b a la Otis Redding and Sam Cooke!!!! SUPERB!!!), Just A Little Lie (semi melodic rocker, again like FM!!! AOR/westcoast ish!), Take A Look (fantastic semi AOR ballad!!!!!!M A CLASSIC IN THE FUTURE!!!!!!!!! Twin guitars at the end and basically an amazing song!) and closing track is Stranger To Love (Whitesnake ish bluesy melodic hardrock song, also reminding a lot of Thunder!). Especially the last two songs, which are both quite lengthy, show the enormous talent of King Kong, both vocally and instrumentally speaking, while also the songs are quite phenomenal. There is Vintage Trouble in the same style, but then less rockier than this somewhat better sounding King King from Glasgow, Scotland, a band with a rich bluesy melodic classic rocksound that fits somewhere bnetween Thunder, FM circa their 3rd album, Bad Company and classic 60s R&B, so make sure to check them out asap at: www.kingking.co.uk

 

(Points: 8.8 out of 10)

 

Doug Shea and The Circle Of Quiet 'Where truth meets grace' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Texas based Doug Shea (Vocals,Acoustic/Electric Guitar,Keyboard) recently became a Christian Rock musician after he found his faith in Jesus and decided to write about it. Before this, Shea was a regular musician in the mainstream rock world, winning an unsigned band competition out of 2,500 acts, after which he started touring with bands like Lifehouse, Nickelback, Creed and 3 Doors Down. Anyway, his new album Where truth meets grace opens up a new chapter and finds him going into the Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns and Three Days Grace kinda Christian pop/rock direction. In the USA there is a clear border between regular pop/rock and Christian pop/rock, but here in Europe itís the music that counts and not necessarily if you sing about your belief or not. So, we look at this CD differently and review it for the music and not the lyrics, like we have always done in the past. This record has a huge sound, sorta 1970s epic pompous and symphonic, but vocally however a little bit 90s sounding (Pearl Jam/Mike Tramp). The music is very melodic and even AOR/Pomprock ish sometimes with big harmonyvocals and melodic choruses like the epic opener New in You that even reminds me a bit of Styx. The best comparison however is definitely Neal Morse, because the music and lyrics and story of becoming a Christian Rock musician are very similar to him. Neal was a member of Spockís Beard before he stepped into the world of Jesus, but in the regular (prog) music world he still finds most of his fans. Dougís CD is dangerously close to Nealís solo albums, but in a good way, because the 14 included songs sound rather impressive. Most songs are in a similar style, starting balladry and calm, but turning into epic pompous modern light melodic pop/rock with big sing-along choruses like we are used in the Christian rock community of the modern age. Nevertheless, there are still clear comparisons to Counting Crows, Lifehouse, Creed and Three Doors Down, but then with Christian lyrics. Other highlights are The Healer, Light in This Weary Land, Veil of Tears and Not Like Us (AORish) and actually the whole record is nice to listen to, although some more diversity wouldnít hurt next time. The production/sound quality is impressive and the songs are all great, but as just mentioned, throw in some uptempo rockers and a little more rock next time, then it might become an even better record than this already impressive Where truth meets grace. Check out all at:: http://www.dougshea.com and http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dougsheaandthecircleofqu

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Howard Simon 'Visitors' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Howard Simon is a San Francisco-based singer-songwriter in the tradition of the great singer-songwriters of the late '60s and early '70s (a la John Martyn, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson, John CaleÖ), although his material is also sometimes comparable to Wilco when things get a little more rocker, such as during the great alternative rocker The Devil Every Day. Antonia is also a remarkable song, as this is a strong duet with a female singer. However, overall the album is calmer singer/songwriter based as mentioned earlier on. In Her Name is for example dangerously close to the legendary Jim Groce and so we can go on and on about the 14 included songs on this recommended singer/songwriter album. Howard is making music ever since the 1970s and without a doubt, this album is recommended if you are into any of the mentioned singer/songwriters. More at: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/howardsimon2 and http://www.howardsimonmusic.com

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Someday Jacob 'It might take a while' (Haldern Pop/Hemifran)

 

Nice summerfriendly semi-acoustic tingled singer/songwriter poprock/melodic rock is what to expect on the 2nd album of this German band Someday Jacob, whom are coming out of the Bremen-Hamburg area. The album was produced with the help of Vance Powell (Kings of Leon, White Stripes, Jack White) and Richard Dodd (George Harrison, Tom Petty, Dixie Chicks), so they have clearly something to offer here. And indeed, the album It might take a while is definitely quality stuff, radio-ready and reminding a bit of Rufus Wainwright when going for a laid-back sound, but also Tom Petty comes to mind here and there, although perhaps a little more polished. The best songs are the semi ballad Trade It All In, Between Me And You and The Sun The Moon And The Stars (War On Drugs meets Calexico ish uptempo pop/rock) and Glory boys (very commercial, almost Chris De Burgh ish with an 80s chorus!). Hopefully this album will not get unnoticed, because therefore it is too interesting to pass. Check out more at: www.somedayjacob.de

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Multi Story 'Crimson stone' (F2 Music/Nineteen 73 Promotion/UK Import)

 

Itís been 30 years since the British band Multi Story was active and released 2 albums during the mid 1980s. Now they are back with a very exciting new strong album titled Crimson stone. The bandís original vocalist Paul Ford from their first album East West is also back singing lead vocals and so we are more or less looking and listening to the original line-up of the band. A nice addition to mention here is that their 2nd vocalist, Grantley Nicholas, who can be heard on their previous record Through your eyes from 1987, he went on to find fame and fortune with his band Feeder. Anyway, this new Multi-Story taps out of the classic British traditional Neo-Progressive Melodic Rocksound we all love so much. The songs are lengthy and built around melodies, both vocally and instrumentally speaking, although I have to say that Paul is not singing as good as in the old days. Anyway, 8 songs are included and together with a fantastic sound/production, this album will definitely find itís way to the fans of Progrock, although actually Symphonic Rock might be a better description, because the sound is overall very keyboard/synth orientated. First 2 songs Murmuration and Sly Dream Catcher are basically a must-hear for fans of Pendragon and the old Genesis (Peter Gabriel), while Marillion (Fish era) influences can be heard during the more uptempo 12:16, Tutankhamun and White Star, with the last two mentioned songs being quite epic and featuring a lot of calmer parts. Black Gold is AORish after a sorta Supertamp (School) kinda start, but overall this midtempo prog/AOR song a la Asia is the best song on the album. The Viewers is a great uptempo straight ahead AORish rocker a la Magnum and closing track is the titlesong of the album and without a doubt this is the most epic prog orientated song in classic 1970s style (Yes). Concluded, Multi Story makes a very nice return here with a mainly classic UK Progrock sounding high quality album and therefore it is recommended to the fans of Pendragon, Genesis, Magnum, Yes, etc. etc. More info at: http://www.multistoryband.co.uk

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Wet Rabbit 'If clocks and clouds' (Nineteen 73 Promotion/UK Import)

 

Wet Rabbit is formed around multi-instrumentalist/vocalist ZoltŠn Sůstai, who is doing most on his own on this first album If clocks and clouds. The included music is mostly semi-instrumental and clearly reminding of the classic 70s, when Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield and Jean-Michel Jarre were the big names one could hear on the radio. The overall sound is quite laid-back, combining 70s electronic music, partly new wave, krautrock and sympho/prog into a haunting move theme like direction and especially The Last Whale  and the 30 minutes concept track Kill The Robots, Pt.1-6 showcases the sound of the earlier mentioned acts. Not so much info is available on this new act, but the 75 minutes of the album is definitely highly recommended to fans of that 70s sound where bands and artists could easily improvise and stretch their recordings to long epic journeys. Check it out at: http://www.wetrabbit.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Thomas Charlie Pedersen 'Second hand war' (Karmanian Records/Denmark Import)

 

Second hand war is the first solo-album of singer/songwriter Thomas Charlie Pedersen from Denmark, who used to be in the rockband Vaudeville, with whom he released several albums on the bandís own label Vinyl Floor. Now it was time for something completely different, namely a solo-record. The sound is calm and sounding like a mixture between Rufus Wainwrightís musically speaking, but vocally there is a sorta Tom Waits meets Bob Dylan approach top be heard during the mostly piano-led tracks. 14 tracks are included and fans of calmer singer/songwriter can easily check this out at: www.vinylfloor.dk

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)

 

Sara Carlson 'Heartdance' (Raven Recording/Independent/USA Import)

 

Sara Carlson is an American singer/songwriter who released three full-length albums so far. Many of her songs have appeared in countless U.S. film and television shows throughout the years. She has had a long career already, being quite active in Europe during the 1980s, including appearances at shows in Italy and scoring recording contracts, which led to various albums with several groups. Now many years later she is settled in New York and Heartdance is her last release, already dating back to 2012, so not very recently, but still the album sounds too good to pass on. The material is calm and sounds modern, with as one of the highlights Dreamer that shows Saraís strong vocal skills. A song like Love Is takes a slightly different journey, as this uptempo dance pop orientated, quite catchy actually and radio orientated, probably in the style of her 80s material. I am quite interested to hear new material of Sara, but meanwhile you can find out more of this talented musician at: www.saracarlson.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Hannah Epperson 'Upsweep' (Listen Records/DGR Music)

 

Upsweep is the debut album of Hannah Epperson, a talented singer/songwriter/violinplayer originally born in Salt Lake City, but now a Canadian resident. The sound on her debut album is quite modern and a typical exponent of the current female fronted movement, as it reminds me a lot of acts like Lapsley, Florence and the Machine, H∆LOS, Daughter,London Grammer, etc. So it might not all sound really original, the result is still quite good and basically we have here typical modern Indie Pop with a Scandinavian feeling (Bjork also comes to mind here and there). Thereís quite a lot bombastic classical influences added and despite it is not groundbreaking, you can easily put this on and listen to from start to finish. On the other hand, I did not hear any specfic stand-out songs and also it is a pity that her voice is sometimes manipulated. I think she is able to do much better in the future, because she is quite gifted, but for now I think this debut album is not yet strong enough to make her the new star in the already overcrowded music business. Nevertheless you can find out more at: http://www.hannahepperson.ca/

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Emanuel and the Fear 'Primitive smile' (Listen Records/DGR Music)

 

Out of Brooklyn, New York comes the original six-piece band Emanuel and the Fear, whom are formed around Emanuel Ayvas - Guitar/Piano/Vocals, Nic Cowles - Synths/Flute, Jeff Gretz - Drums/Percussion, Ben Backus Ė Bass, Sarah Haines - Viola/Vocals and Karolyn Bethke - Violin/Vocals. They already released 3 albums, making this Primitive smile their 4th release so far. Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, and Fleetwood Mac are influences that pass by in the bandís sound, although Emanuel and the Fear is quite original due to several twists in their music, sometimes sounding like a rockband, but then suddenly introducing a synth dominated sound (Meredith). Emanuel himself also has an own tone in his voice and all together that gives the band an own identity, which is much needed in todayís music scene. Opener Some May Fall Asleep is rocking and reminding a bit of REM and Wilco, while the more melodic Holding On and calmer State of Violet are belonging to the highlights on this album. Indie meets Altrock is nevertheless the name of the game here, with the occasional Singer/Songwriter ish tune slipped right through. They are one of those bands that could easily breakthrough if they lucky enough, because thereís so much competition out there nowadays, but due to the fact thereís something original going on here they at least show they have something fresh and new to offer. More info at: http://www.emanuelandthefear.com

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Trentemoller 'Fixion' (In My Room/NEWS/DGR Music)

 

TrentemÝller is a Danish musician and Fixion is his 4th album. He took a slight break and worked with the band Savages on their latest effort, but now makes a sorta comeback with this new album. I am not familiar with earlier recordings, but Fixion sounds very retro and modern at the same time. I donít have too much info, but despite the music is mostly instrumental based, we can also hear some beautiful angelic female vocals in a couple of songs (One Eye Open and Spinning) that are also the best songs on offer here, sounding like a relaxing slightly hi-tech version of Florence and the Machine, Bjork and Sinead OíConnor. But thereís also 80s cybergoth/EBM kinda tunes and basically a commercial song like the uptempo River in Me is almost reminding me of A-Ha with itís hi-tech 80s popsound! Nice little record by Trentemoller and interesting to check out at: www.trentemoller.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Robert Hunter 'Outta my mind' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Outta My Mind is the debut EP from Robert Hunter, an American singer-songwriter from Danville, Pennsylvania. Definitely a recommended little record we have here that sounds like a cross between Ryan Adams and Charlie Sexton, sometimes rocking and at other times calm and collected singer/songwriter based. Outta My Mind and 365 are the uptempo rockers here, with the latter being the finest track, a mixture of classic early 80s powerpop and a touch of altrock like the best combination of the earlier mentioned comparisons, The other songs are calmer and especially Carbon is showing Robertís strong vocal pipes. I also smell a little Bruce Springsteen here, but overall Robert is an artists to watch out for in the future, because he has got something that makes you interested in keep on listening to his voice and music and that is rare these daysÖ More at: http://www.roberthuntermusic.net/

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Rebecca Lowe 'Rebecca Lowe' (Independent/Hemifran)

 

Out of Dallas, Texas comes the talented singer/songwriter Rebecca Lowe. She released her self titled debut EP in late 2015 and has performed in various musicals throughout the years. Rebecca is currently settled in the New York/New Jersey area, where she worked with Kevin Max (DC Talk), Richie Cannata (Billy Joel), and Julio Fernandez (Spyro Gyra) and she was kind enough to sent me her 3 tracks counting CD. Short, but sweet is the name of the game here and after listening to it I was quite impressed and canít wait to hear much more. Rebecca is blessed with a beautiful voice and the 3 calmer tunes are reminding me a bit of Beverly Craven and even Enya. Hideaway is a beautiful laid-back melodic indie pop tune, with superb vocals and a haunting melody and believe me, this could easily become massive!!! The song In another life is a little AORish somehow and what more to say, because you need to hear it for yourself at: http://www.rebeccalowemusic.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Desert Dragon 'Before the storm' (Sliptrick Records/Latvia Import)

 

Now here we have an interesting band from Los Angeles that sounds very diverse on their 3rd album Before the storm. The band was formed in 2010 by Greg Patnode (guitar & songwriter) and the current line-up consists besides Greg now of Danielle DeCario (keyboards & bass), Joseph Michael (lead vocals), Rick Brandt (bass) and Nick Mason (drums). Joseph used to sing with White Wizzard and is now the new frontman of Desert Dragon, a band which reached the Billboard Charts in 2012 with their previous effort Desolation, which was produced by Ron Nevison (Survivor, Heart, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Starship). New album Before the storm was recorded with James ďJimboĒ Barton (Producer/Mixer for Queenryche, Rush, Eric Clapton, MetallicaÖ), so you can bet we have a big sounding rockalbum here and a very sensational one for sure. The songs are very diverse as already mentioned and Joseph is a phenomenal singer, who can easily go up and down with his voice without ever sounding forced. It all goes down quite naturally and Desert Dragonís new album is definitely a contender for best rockalbum of 2016! 11 songs are included and after a symphonic instrumental intro we are pleased with Save My World, a lovely calmer neo-progrocksong with fantastic vocalwork, sounding like a lighter Threshold meets Arena meets Pallas and even with a touch of Psychotic Waltz, making this a highly recommended tune to hear! Desert Horizons follows and is a great midtempo melodic prog metal tune a la Threshold once again, while We the People is a calmer proggy tune. Then we have a complete change of style, because Take It Easy Now is high class bluesy midtempo southern rock a la Lynyrd Skynyrd and to be honest I have not heard such a big music change ever before, so Desert Dragon is doing something right here, changing styles and still sounding awesome! Next track Flying High is another change in style, because this is classic 80s midtempo AOR/Melodic Rock that reminds me a little bit of classic Swedish melodic rock (remember Snakes In Paradise/Treat/Dalton/Davinci/TNT!) and Slow Groove goes into the same direction. Following tracks My Sunshine and Kicking Down are slightly more psychedelic rock orientated tunes, while Loving You is a nice midtempo bluesy melodic rocker like XYZ did back in the day. Closing track Call an Angel is a lovely calmer semi ballad, sounding very melodic and finishing the album in high class style! All together a diversity not heard many times before and always sounding sensational no matter what happens, so what more to say than to highly recommend this fantastic new album of Desert Dragon! More at: http://www.desertdragonofficial.com/bio

 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)

 

The Muddy Gems 'Home training' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA comes the duo Johnny "Rock" Rochford Guitar/Vocals and Laurel Lynn Rochford: Vocals/Flute/Keyboard. It is something we have seen many times the past few years, a male/female duo doing a great record together and The Muddy Gems is not an exception on their debut album Home training. The songs sometimes remind of The Common Linnets, but then with a raw bluesy touch due to the strong female vocals that sound a bit like Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin. The male vocals are slightly weaker, but combined it all sounds quite nice, especially during the songs Beautiful Poison and That Ain't Right. Itís best to check it for yourself at: http://www.themuddygems.com

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)

 

Various Artists 'A Taste of BESTE! UNTERHALTUNG Vol. 2' (Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

In 2008 the German label BESTE!UNTERHALTUNG was formed, with as main goal to promote northern european acts in the folk, singer/songwriter, americana and indie pop music genres. The first releases were bands from Germany (Sutcliffe and Grand Paradiso), but through the years there have been releases from acts which are coming out of a lot of different countries in Northern Europe, such as ŃrstŪūir and Svavar Knķtur from Iceland, Gudrid Hansdottir from the Faroe Islands and the Finnish Aino Venna. The label has released over 50 recordings so far and A Taste of BESTE! UNTERHALTUNG Vol. 2  is our first experience with them and what better way then to start with this rather interesting compilation record, which consists of 18 acts signed to BESTE!UNTERHALTUNG. Especially the beginning reveals that we are dealing here with an incredible high quality label that is focused on professional sounding bands which could easily breakthrough in the future. Finally we have a quality label for non-American/English acts, but North Europe based and except from for example the Dutch label V2, there are not that many labels based in Europe primarily focused on acts from this region. Have to admit that not all included songs are that interesting, but most of them are very good to sensational and a few are even undiscovered pearls! I would like to mention 12 out of 18 acts here, namely Kati Salo (great Americana singer/songwriter, calm and very strong), The Anatomy Of Frank (pure Mumford And Sons kinda melodic folkpoprock, pretty good), ŃrstŪūir (excellent Melodic calmer pop/rock/folk/indie in ther style of Crowded House, Bearís Den, War On Drugs), Svavar Knķtur (very good singer/songwriter folk), Gudrid Hansdottir (fantastic female vocals, calm singer/songwriter, very high quality!), Myrra Růs (typical modern day dark indie-pop a la Lapsley, calm high quality and again good female vocals), Anna Maria (folk the old style with a traditional Spanish like melody!), Elisabeth Cutler (nice female singer/songwriter, calm), Elin KŚven (nice female singer/songwriter, calm), Ochre Room (great male vocals, calm singer/songwriter, beautiful song!), VŚr (another great calmer indie songwriter-pop) and Oh Lonesome Me (nice Caro Emerald ish, strong female vocals once again). Hopefully we will be able to review all these acts in the near future and have a more in-depth look at the release of this interesting German label. Make sure to check out this exciting German label at: http://besteunterhaltung.biz/ and start with this highly recommended compilation album!

 

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)

 

Svavar Knutur 'Brot' (Nordic Notes/Beste Unterhaltung/German Import)

 

Brot (The Breaking) is the 4th album of the Icelandic musician Svavar Knutur. He is a very gifted singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist with a fanastic voice and on this new album he sings 5 songs in his native language Icelandic and 5 songs in English. Before he went solo in 2009, he was part of the band Hraun, with whom he released 2 records. Itís about time Svavar breaks through worldwide, because his music is of an incredible high level. It all starts with Brot, an uptempo tune that starts calm but develops into an indie folkrocker a la Calexico, War On Drugs and Bears Denn, quite rocking actually and sounding very senstional, also due to Svavarís excellent vocals. The Curtain follows and this is a beautiful calmer acoustic singer/songwriter duet with female singer Marketa Irglova. Next track Girl from Vancouver was already a vinyl single back in 2014 and is the most commercial song on the album, a rather happy poppy tune. Other highlights on the album are Wanderlust (big chorus a la Mumford And Sons, typical new moden indie folk, radio ready sound), řokan (beautiful calmer song, something Sting might do), ŕlfar (more indie popfolk style a la Bearís Den and Fleet Foxes) and closing track Slow Dance (a song that starts acoustic singer/songwriter orientated, but turns out to be a midtempo post-rock atmospheric almost semi progrock song a la Porcupine Tree, Radiohead and Jonathan Wilson, wonderful song!!! More like this next time would be interesting!). Definitely a big recommendation this release and hopefully it will finally bring Svavar Knutur the much deserved fame and fortune! More at: http://www.svavarknutur.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Papa Satch 'Open dreams' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Open dreams is the 3rd album of Papa Satch, a multi-instrumentalist from New York. Except for the playing by Phil Kennelty on Keyboards, he played all instruments himself on this album. In the past Papa Satch was a member of bands like Black Horizon, Blank Stare, Mercy Hit and Spoof, but is now trying to breakthrough as a solo musician. Vocally he has some limitations in range and sounds quite modest, like a JJ Cale meets a thin sounding Tom Petty, but musically speaking we are surprised with a mixture of alternative pop/rock and a lot of 70s westcoast/American Yachtpop, which makes it very interesting to listen to. Highlights are I Know (bluesy rocker), Steal Your Pain (uptempo Bruce Springsteen ish heartland rocker), Cold Day (Say Why) (calmer 1970s westcoast/yachtpop ish), Oh Sara (even a bit uptempo classic AOR a la Benny Mardones, but vocally as already mentioned more like JJ Cale), Walk Alone (catchy tune, westcoast ish, a la America, also with 60s touch a la The Hollies/Sandy Coast) and Sad Times (clearly late 70s/early 80s with that guitar and piano chord). Overall if you can imagine a mixture between Ryan Adams, Tom Petty, Sandy Coast and America, then you need to check out Papa Satch at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/papasatch2

 

(Points: 7.7 out of 10)


Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Strange Hobby 'Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Strange Hobby' (Cherry Red Records/Glasson Pr)

 

Strange hobby was first released back in 1996 without mentioning who was the performer back then and now 20 years later it receives a re-release. Arjen was at the time just starting Ayreon, the concept prog metal adventure that took him musically and artistically in the years to come, but at the same time he wanted to do some fun things besides the somewhat complicated and complex Ayreon project he got involved with at the time. Arjen was back then not as well-known as he is now, because after his Vengeance days he released a couple of solo-albums, but no big break had come yet. Little did he know that he would rise to stardom in the rock and metalworld with his project Ayreon and involvement with the band Stream of Passion. Now in 2016 the time seems right to re-release his Ďforgottení album Strange hobby. The album is a very interesting one, because musically it sounds like Ayreon, but these are actually all covers of classic tunes from the period 1966-1968, the so-called psychedelica rock era. The new version contains 4 bonustracks and mastermind Arjen did everything on his own, including the vocalwork. The result is very impressive and without a doubt, it will now get more attention than 2 years ago. Actually it sounds like it was recorded only yesterday and it also shows how much classics were made during this short period in music history, because I only have to mention songs like Arnold Layne (Pink Floyd), Norwegian Wood (The Beatles), Pictures of Matchstick Men (Status Quo), I Am a Rock (Paul Simon), Sunny Afternoon (The Kinks), Bus Stop (The Hollies), The Letter (The Box Tops), Sloop John B The Beach Boys), Daydream Believer (The Monkees) and Ruby Tuesday (The Rolling Stones) and everyone knows them and will sing-a-long to them while playing this excellent album of Arjen. Check out more at: www.cherryred.co.uk

 

(Points: 8.3 out of 10)

 

Rami and the Whale 'Rami and the Whale' (Wooded Shrine Recordings/Hemifran)

 

Rami and the Whale is the project of Swedish singer/songwriter Rasmus Blomqvist, who sounds like the next big thing in the singer/songwriter world. He has already done quite some things in the past musically speaking, which includes being part of a duo called Holy Farmers and playing in the band Ginger, but is now aiming for a succesfull solo career. The self titled debut album is definitely a good start and great introduction to this talented musician. Thereís a diversity in the music going on as well while listening to the record, because some songs rock a bit, but we are mainly hearing beautiful crafted classic 70s singer/songwriter popmusic in the style of Jim Groce, Cat Stevens, Dan Fogelberg, Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Especially the songs The Unfinished Song and Tiny Seed are sensational singer/songwriter masterpieces that will wet the appetite of any fan of the mentioned singer/songwritergenre. Other highlights are the more slow rock ish tune Poorhouse (90s inspired, British sounding a la Oasis/Radiohead and Stereophonics, but then a bit lighter), I am Rami (great calmer tune again) and Echoes of Matter (harmonyvocals driven indie folk pop tune a la Fleet Foxes). Basically a very haunting beautiful record this is and especially highly recommended to the fans of 70s singer/songwriter, but that isnít a coincidence if you consider the fact that Ramiís favorite record of all time is a Simon&Garfunkel record, but on the other hand the absolute best comparisons are James Taylor and Jim Groce. More info at: www.ramiandthewhale.com

 

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)

 

Tilted Axes 'Music for Mobile Electric Guitars' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Tilted Axes is not a normal band or project, but something completely different. Music for Electric Guitars was created in 2011 for Make Music New Yorkís inaugural Winter Solstice event. The guitarists perform original music by Patrick Grant through powerful mini-amps strapped to their sides while traveling the city streets. Since its inception, Tilted Axes has had incarnations in New York, Detroit, Germany, Brazil, and other locations. This is the only ensemble of its kind and Grant is its inventor. And now there is a CD with 17-tracks that have a playing length of 74 minutes. What to expect from guitarists like Patrick Grant (who worked with John Cage, Philip Glass, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, Don Was, etc.), Matt Grossman, Daniel Reyes Llinas, John Halo, Randolph Hudson III, Reinaldo Perez, Nick Didkovsky, Gene Pritsker, Howard Glazer, Anthony Mullin and Larry Simon. Well, a fantastic high quality instrumental guitar driven progressive rock/fusion record. Leader Patrick Grant describes the music as Post-Progressive Rock, an intentionally vague genre that means to contain the various styles and performing techniques within the repertoire. These include elements of Prog Rock, Contemporary Classical, World Music, Blues, Film Music, and incorporating the music of the host city. In the end, it sounds like a perfect instrumental record with all ingredients needed to make it interesting and thankfully no endless stretching improvisations can be heard here, because it is song based with the focus on melodies. The instrumental Rush we could call this, especially during the lovely uptempo Shapes 1, but thereís more, such as Theme Variation (very 70s based classic rock), Rivera Court (very laid back, almost Santana ish) and Kneadle Variation (very proggy). I am usually not that interested in instrumental releases, but this Tilted Axes is a clear exception, because this is absolutely high quality instrumental music that is very diverse and should appeal to any music fan out there. More info at: www.tiltedaxes.com and https://tiltedaxes.bandcamp.com and https://www.facebook.com/tiltedaxes/

 

(Points: 8.7 out of 10)


Nathalie Estes '20/20 vision' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Natalie Estes was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, USA and she might easily become the next big star as her 4-tracks counting mini-CD 20/20 Vision sounds very professional and quite picture-perfect to be honest. She worked with producer David Huff (Dan Huffís brother and original co-founder of the legendary AOR band Giant) in Los Angeles at the House of Blues on this EP and among the musicians on the record are Victor Indrizzo (Circus Of Power, Masters of Reality) and Tim Pierce (major session musician who worked with Crowded House, Christina Aguilera, Seal, Meat Loaf, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Rick Springfield, Phil Collins, Madonna, Santana, and countless others). Basically a bunch of big names and thanks to them it all sounds very impressive, although nathalieís voice is of course the most important part of the music. Opener Until i do namely shows immediately that we are dealing here with a great singer, who sounds a bit like Adele, while the song itself is a bluesy soulful midtempo poprock tune that is radio ready if you ask me! Where there's some there's fire is very much going into a modern R&B direction, almost Rhianna and Alicia Keys ish, not bad, but definitely not everyoneís taste Iím afraid. Reminds me of you is a nice ballad and closing track Bad game is the albumís best song, being an uptempo poprocker the modern way and once again very radio-ready. Thereís massive hit potential to be heard here and if she can cut it live as well, then who knows if Nathalie will be the next big star. The album is very professional sounding, could be a major label product and perhaps a little too perfect sometimes, but Nathalie has a great voice and could easily become huge, so why complain! Meanwhile, check her out at: http://natalieestes.com

 

(Points: 8.2 out of 10)

 

Wild Heart 'Wild Heart' (Independent/Hard Life Promotion)

 

All the cliches of 1980s US Party/Glam Hardrock are present here, but thankfully it is done well, so therefore the Belgian band Wild Heart is of interest for fans of 80s US acts like Ratt, Motley Crue, Teaze, Britny Fox, Dokken, Dirty Looks, Dirty Blonde, Jesse Strange, etc. etc. Some more diversity on their same titled debut wouldnít hurt, because most of the songs go directly into the classic 1985 US Mainstream Hardrocksound with the guitar riff and a tight uptempo rhythm, but it does sound quite catchy, with a song like Stone cold fox featuring a riff straight outta the Ratt / early Motley Crue book of fame and fortune. The song that stands out is Beautiful, which starts as a power ballad turning into a midtempo melodic rocker in Dokken/Firehouse style. Vocally it is not that good, with some struggling going on, but at least Farty (yes, that is his name!!!) sounds better than Vince Neil. If you want to hear how 80s US Hardrock more or less sounded like 30 years ago, then look no further than this Wild Heart at: https://www.youtube.com/user/wildheartrockandroll

 

(Points: 7.8 out of 10)

 

Bobby Tombasco 'CDR' (Independent/USA Import)

 

Not that much info on this talented American musician, but while reading the info on his website he certainly has a good sense of humor (copy paste: He wrote hit songs for the likes of (well, for people who sort of look like) Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Barbra Striesand, the Schmengie Brothers, Cher, Sting and a host of other. He is proud of having the distinction of being the 304,687,158th Beatle. And he is considered by several to be one of, if not the greatest songwriter to ever come out of his parentís house). Muscially speaking it is quite a surprise, because the CDR Bobby sent me consists of 13 tracks which musically is clearly old style American pop/rock. On the other hand not such a coincidence, because Bobby started writing music in the 1960s, so likewise his influences come from the pre-1990s, which happens to be very interesting for the AOR fans out there, because opener Since you went away is an awesome uptempo classic early 80s US AOR/Radiorock tune, pompous with strong vocals and a sound close to the greats of the early 80s, sounding just perfect and dangerously close to USA, Preview, Thrills, M&R Rush Band, etc. The die-hard AOR fans know then exactly this is interesting stuff, although the rest of this CDR is tapping out of other genres as well. Following track Make it up to this hill is for example poppy 70s westcoast meets CSNY orientated, while Another lonely night is a nice calmer semi-ballad, a poppy tune in 70s crooner style, but also sounding a bit quirky. 7 steps down to heaven is another change in style, going for a more groovy funky rocksound, but high quality nevertheless.The CDR continues with Something in me (nice early 80s westcoast/AORish, very close to legends like Bernie LaBarge, Donnie Iris, Greg Guidry, Michael Zee and John O'Banion), Dark girl (sorta 70s uptempo pop tune a la Billy Joel with a latin/caribbean feeling, very happy and retro sounding), One night at a time (folkish poptune), Count on me (nice orchestral melodic AOR ballad, quite strong a la Van Stephenson and very early Stan Bush circa 1983), Last song (very calm ballad, old school crooner style), No worse for wear (definitely the best on the whole album, a lovely uptempo classic AOR/Melodic Rocker, please make more tunes like this next time as this reveals the early 80s US Rocksound, even a bit like Night Ranger!), These broken wings (sorta middle-of-the-road ish tune with a 60s The Hollies approach), You keep talkin (a rockabilly ish song) and closing track is Untitled (calmer 70s melodic pop/rock/aor ballad). Concluded, Bobby has got a fantastic voice and is definitely able to write a strong tune, so letís hope for an official release someday soon and if he rocks a little more this is a must-hear for the AOR/Melodic Rockfans among us and he definitely deserves it to be heard! Check out more at: http://www.rippat.com/bt2.htm

 

(Points: 8.1 out of 10)


 

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