Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition) (2009) – $15: There is a Twisted Sister renaissance going on in my house over the last year when my oldest daughter (10 years old) got seriously into the band. She’s the only 10 yr old I know that can recite all of STAY HUNGRY (with or without music) and LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS (1987) on cue! So the big 2 CD reissue of STAY HUNGRY is a big deal in my house, especially since I have 2 awesome seats to the concert in Plymouth, MA in September…..one for me and one for her! Off to the record store Tuesday morning to snag my copy at the $15 sale price but there was an added bonus…..a live DVD: Twisted Sister – 1984 Uncut Live at San Bernadino, CA. Now I’m not sure if the DVD is just a bonus thing but I hadn’t heard about it with all the press releases, I found out from the weekly email from Newbury Comics. So I buy my album, drive home, pull in the driveway and I am assaulted by a 10 yr old girl dressed in a KISS tour shirt (one of mine!) and jeans with a studded belt screaming that she needs to hear the band’s new song ’30’. I haven’t seen the CD since…..
I haven’t been posting but I have been buying! Here’s everything I’ve picked up in the last couple weeks online and at the record stores…..
Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009) – $15: The new Dream Theater came out last Tuesday and I had a choice of 2 stores to pick up the 3 CD limited edition: Newbury Comics or Best Buy. I went with Best Buy because it was $5 cheaper. The 3 CD set breaks down as follows: Disc 1 is the new studio album, Disc 2 is a bonus disc of 6 cover songs and Disc 3 is the studio album again but as instrumental mixes only. All together it’s 3 hours and 17 minutes of music on 3 CDs for the price of one regulary priced album…..a good deal!
Primal Fear – 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) (2009) – $16: Picked this up a couple of weeks ago at Newbury Comics when the album was released officially in the U.S. The cool thing was that the only copy the store had was the European version with the 2 bonus tracks and the video…..I prefer the extra material even if that means paying a couple extra bucks. I have only had a few spins so far but it sounds like another updated sound added to the Classic Metal assault.
Spinal Tap – Back From the Dead (2009) – $9.99: New album from Spinal Tap, great sale price from Newbury Comics! A lot of extras included in the package: the CD has 19 songs (6 new and 13 re-recorded from the soundtrack), an hour long DVD and the CD packaging folds out to become paper dolls of the band and Stonehenge! The only complaint is that there is no slipcase to keep everything in but it’s definitely a cool way to put together a CD.
Axel Rudi Pell – Best Of (Anniversary Edition) (2009) – $8.99: I don’t have much Axel Rudi Pell in the collection except for a few of the newer records so I figured a retrospective release like this would give me a taste of some of the older material. I picked this up mostly based on the sale price and it fit in nicely with the Primal Fear and Spinal Tap purchases.
Jester – Digitalia/Tales From The Boogieman (2000 reissue) – $2.50: Back when print fanzines were still a viable source of info, I heard about New Jersey’s Jester. I think this was around 1997 when their debut TALES FROM THE BOOGIEMAN was released on Pulse Records. I always wanted to check them out but I never got around to it and now the CD is out of print, same with DIGITALIA, now that Pulse Records is no more. Escape Music came around in 2000 and reissued DIGITALIA with new cover art and TALES as a bonus CD. Some retailers still have this for $17-$20 online but I was able to snag this on Ebay for less than $3.
Lita Ford – Dancin’ On The Edge (1984) – $21: I have been after this CD for a long time. I had it listed in the WANTED! column for about a year now and my patient searching brought me a copy at a decent price. $21 may seem like a high price to pay considering the original release was probably $12-$15 but this CD regularly goes over the $30 range. This was one of those short auctions (3 days) so I came in quick with a last minute bid.
Anvil – Plugged In Permanent (1996) – $22: I’m slowly filling all the holes in my Anvil collection after seeing the Anvil movie. I noticed that a lot of the later albums have Japanese pressings with bonus tracks and this album gives Japan one with ‘Stolen’. There were 2 copies on Ebay: this Japanese pressing from a seller I have bought from in the past and the regular U.S./Euro pressing without ‘Stolen’. Both were $17 so but the shipping was $2 more for the Japanese pressing. I paid the extra $2 for the extra track.
UFO – The Visitor (2009) – $22.50: I’ve had a promo copy of this album for a few months now but I have to have an actual copy when it comes to on of my favorite bands. The bonus track ‘Dancing With St. Peter’ isn’t on the promo and I wanted to hear the updated version by UFO…..the song was the title track of the Phil Mogg fronted side project $ign of 4. The album of the same name was released in 2002. The only copy of THE VISITOR readily available was the U.S. version without the extra song so I ordered the Euro version from HMV.com.
One of the things I’m doing now more then ever is ordering online. The UFO CD from HMV is what I consider a one time thing but I have been browsing NEH Records, Sentinel Steel and CD Inzane more often lately. There are just certain albums that the local record stores are not going to stock! So here’s my latest order from CD Inzane…..
Solna – Eurameric (2009) – $13: I knew nothing about this all-star project except for the fact that CD Inzane founder Zane Petersen (from China Blue)produced it and played drums. There are a lot of guests on this album including Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Pamela Moore (Queensryche) and Alex De Rosso (Dokken). There are more people included and it kind of follows the path taken by other projects like Ayreon and Avantasia. I haven’t given it a spin yet but I’ve read some great reviews.
Solna – Sent From Heaven E.P. (2009) – $4: This 6 song E.P. was released prior to EURAMERIC and included 5 songs that are on the album and an E.P.-only bonus track titled ‘I Light A Candle Too’. Only 2000 copies were pressed and the CD was on sale for $3 + $1 shipping…..can’t beat that. I figured that I might as well grab the E.P. along with the proper album to have all the songs in the collection.
Bloodbound – Tabula Rasa (2009) – $12: I have to plead ignorance on Bloodbound because I’ve never actually heard any of the band’s music, the only thing I know is from the reviews I’ve read online and they all seem to be really positive about TABULA RASA. The album was $5 cheaper at CD Inzane than at NEH Records so I picked it up right away. I have the U.S./Euro version that includes a bonus video…..I hear the Japanese import has a bonus track instead.
Nocturnal Rites – The 8th Sin (2007) – $5: Over the years I have picked up almost all the the Nocturnal Rites albums as they have been released but, for some strange reason, I never bothered to pick up THE 8TH SIN a couple of years ago. I was going through the CD Inzane clearance section and there this CD was for $5! The bargain is better because it’s the limited edition with the bonus DVD with videos, live tracks, and documentaries on the band’s European Tour 2005 and Japanese Tour 2006. The regular version was $12 & the limited edition was $5…..easy choice! The bonus DVD is PAL format but my DVD-ROM drive on the computer plays PAL.
Gothic Knights – Up From The Ashes (2003) – $5: An online clearance section can be even more lucrative for finding CD treasure than your local record stores used bins! I couldn’t help but notice that this Gothic Knights album was a mere $5 so I grabbed it too! I looked at this album on Ebay for $15 to $20 depending on the seller…..even Sentinel Steel couldn’t match the price on a used copy! Now I only need the out of print debut from Gothic Knights.
U.D.O. – Infected E.P. (2009) – $12: I wasn’t going to make the same mistake of not ordering the E.P. that comes before the proper album like I did with THE WRONG SIDE OF MIDNIGHT E.P. in 2007 before the MASTERCUTOR album came out. U.D.O. always has E.P. exclusive songs and INFECTED is in different: 2 non-album tracks, a remix and a live track to go along with the title track that comes from the new upcoming record DOMINATOR. The E.P. is limited to 2222 copies worldwide so I acted fast.
I haven’t been posting but I have been listening…..here’s what’s been assaulting my ears the last couple of days…..
Primal Fear – 16.6 (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) (2009): I picked this up in the last couple of weeks but I didn’t get around to listening to it until this past weekend. There is some classic Primal Fear on 16.6 but there is also some more melodic songs like on the band’s last album, NEW RELIGION (2007). I definitely need some more spins with this.
Wolf – Ravenous (2009): This CD hasn’t left the stereo yet and it’s getting a daily spin or two. One of the best albums of the year.
Def Leppard – On Through The Night (1980): Great debut from a band that rocked big time when they were hungry for success…..and the Leps haven’t been hungry in a long time! The concert is Tuesday night so I’m reliving some old glories!
Def Leppard – High ‘N Dry (1981): I had this record BEFORE the reissue in 1984 when PYROMANIA was hitting the top of the charts. To this day, one of my favorite Def Lep songs is ‘Let It Go’ and I’m hoping to hear live again, last time was back in 2006.
Poison – Greatest Hits (1996): I like a taste of Poison now and then but not enough to get me to listen a lot. I already know the setlist the band is playing on tour…..all the predictable hits that are on this compilation. If I could have one song off this album it would be ‘So Tell Me Why’ from the studio tracks on SWALLOW THIS LIVE (1991).
Judas Priest – British Steel (1980): The show with Whitesnake is next week so I figured I’d give this a spin seeing they are playing the whole thing live. Looking forward to hearing the band tear up ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Grinder’.
It’s been a long week with work getting busier while school and baseball is winding down for my daughters. There hasn’t been much time to listen to much of anything except the new Iron Maiden – Flight 666 live album soundtrack…..along with watching the double DVD! I decided that I would pass up the Sunday overtime and take a much needed day off from work and spend Father’s Day with the family and hopefully listen to some music…..
Iron Maiden – Flight 666 DVD (2009): 2 DVDs that take up 3 hours and 35 mins from start to finish…..I’ve watched the whole thing everyday in the past week. I was up early this morning so I put it on and stared at the television watching Maiden conquer the globe again. I saw this tour a year ago and it was cool to re-live the setlist while seeing Maiden mania in different countries around the world. The DVD of the year so far!
Iron Maiden – Flight 666 (2009): I can’t get enough of Maiden right now so I listened to the double CD today while walking the dog. I got thru the first hour walking the dog and I kept my iPod on around the house to finish it off. Now I have to compare it to the rest of the Maiden live albums…..can you believe this is their 7th live album?!
Michael Schenker – Thank You (1993): Everyone went out after I listened to FLIGHT 666 so I took the opportunity to seize the quiet time and play something low-key. Michael Schenker is one of my favorite guitarists and I have enjoyed his THANK YOU series of acoustic albums for their excellent musicianship and relaxation. My youngest daughter would only take her afternoon nap if I played THANK YOU or THANK YOU 4 (2003) on a continuous loop! This time my dog took a nap to Schenker’s acoustic guitar while I thumbed through old issues of Metal Forces.
Manowar – Gods Of War (2007): I like to take a look at my top posts here at HMA, especially the album reviews, to see what people are clicking on. No surprise that Manowar would be in the top 5 of all the album reviews that get read. Seeing that it’s popular among the readers, I decided to listen to it again. Big mistake! I listened and after I was done I remembered why I chose GODS OF WAR as the Worst Album of 2007…..it’s terrible!
Accept – Balls To The Wall (1984): So I’m listening to the end of the Manowar album and I pulled up the new version of ‘Balls To The Wall’ by the reunited Accept with Mark Tornillo (TT Quick) on vocals…..sorry there’s no one like Udo Dirkschneider. Didn’t the guys try this once with David Reece? I decided to go with the classic album first and then listen to…..
Accept – Eat The Heat (1989): …..EAT THE HEAT so I could compare Udo to David Reece and hear the difference fresh. It may say Accept on the album cover but it’s not Accept. I can’t fault Reece though because it’s a tough enough job to replace an original singer but, when that singer has a voice so unique, it’s even tougher. EAT THE HEAT isn’t something I listen to often, I think I’ve listened to it twice in the last 5 years.
By this time I’m looking for something great, something classic. The Manowar album and EAT THE HEAT had negated the greatness of Maiden, Schenker and Accept so I had to find something special, something I haven’t listened to for a long time…..
Savatage – Sirens (1983): What a way to end the day! I haven’t listened to SIRENS in a very long time…..I remember when this first came out! It’s still one of my favorite albums from 1983, and from Savatage…..they have an awesome catalogue of albums. I remember this record so well, I heard this in a local record store a couple months after it had come out and picked it up on cassette. ‘Holocaust’ is my favorite track.
Knyght – Bet Everything (2009, Anko Music)
- Goin Anywhere
- Heaven Or Hell
- A Million Times
- The Game Of Love ‘N Hate
- Shut Up
Tommaso ‘Tommy’ Forni – lead vocals
Oliviero ‘ Olly’ Forni – electric/acoustic guitar and background vocals
Dario Stagnitto – bass
Francesco ‘The Doctor’ – keyboards and backing vocals
Matt ‘Mr’ Svarione – drums
Producer: Heiko Hinze
Total Time = 20:46
Knyght has been a band I’ve been keeping my eye on for a couple of years now because their 3rd demo, DESTINATION UNKNOWN (2007), had a lot of promise. What I heard then was a band with a lot of talent that needed to tighten their sound, songwriting and production but, for a new young band, it was a decent start. Fast forward two more years and Knyght has progressed in some of these areas and stayed the same in others.
First off, the production is much better on BET EVERYTHING than on their previous E.P., I understand that DESTINATION UNKNOWN was an indepenent demo but the production value was pretty rough. The band has signed on with Anko Music and producer Heiko Hinze has made the band sound a lot better and tighter. Tommy Forni’s vocals are still way up front in the mix and his voice is very high, almost like a Geddy Lee meets Bret Michaels kind of sound. At times the vocal gets a little distracting because it’s too high. The guitars are pushed back just a little too much…..if they were brought up, and the vocals evened out, I think the band would sound a lot better. The band is a lot tighter, that comes with years and experience, and they have a lot of good ideas written down, especially the melodies. I think what they need to do now is concentrate on writing to their strengths and finding a way to compensate for Forni’s ultra-high vocal delivery. Maybe a little heavier guitar? Maybe a faster pace? Bigger background vocals?
‘Goin Anywhere’ starts the E.P. off in a Poison style due to Forni’s Bret Michaels sounding vocals, I think if the guitar was slightly higher in the mix and the background vocals were better then this would be a great song. ‘Heaven Or Hell’ is a mid-tempo song that has a few faster flourishes in it…..it’s melodic and there are some complimentary keyboards at work, good guitar solo too. The vocals are a little to high at times but that can be improved as Forni’s voice gets stronger, and it has since 2007. The proper ballad on the E.P. is ‘A Million Times’ and it’s decent but a little weak in some areas. You can hear the direction the band is taking and they have a good ballad base I think they just need to flesh out the song a bit and the lighters will be out in full force. More Poison influences come out in ‘The Game Of Love ‘N Hate’ and there are some cool piano bits that compliment the guitar very well, reminds me of Savannah a little as well. Best song on the album is ‘Shut Up’ and this one definitely reminds me of Savannah and parts of Royal Hunt. First off the guitar rocks completely (the best guitar sound on the album) and the lead and background vocals are working in perfect harmony. The song is heavy and guitar driven but melodic at the same time with the underlying keyboards. Throughout the whole E.P. I thought that the rhythm section was very good but they go above and beyond on ‘Shut Up’ and the tradeoff between the guitar & keys during the solos is a highlight. If you want to hear Knyght’s full potential, ‘Shut Up’ is the perfect example.
Knyght is getting better with more experience. BET EVERYTHING is a collection of four good songs that need a little work and polish and one great one (‘Shut Up’) that shows the band’s full potential. The production is much improved but there are some slight mixing problems between the vocals and the guitar, once they get the sound even then it will be better. There are a lot of good ideas here and you can hear the ’80s Glam/Poison influence throughout. The areas Knyght need to continue to improve on are the vocals (Tommy needs to keep strengthening his voice and fattening his range), and they need to lead with the guitar, there are some decent riffs here but they need to be bigger and heavier. Maybe some bigger background vocals too? All in all, Knyght is improving well, there is a lot of promise in this band and I’ll be keeping an eye on them for the future.
Favorite Songs: ‘Shut Up’, ‘The Game Of Love ‘N Hate’
Lacuna Coil – Shallow Life (2009, Century Media)
- I Won’t Tell You
- Not Enough
- I’m Not Afraid
- I Like It
- The Pain
- Wide Awake
- The Maze
- Shallow Life
Cristina Scabbia – vocals
Andrea Ferro – vocals
Cristiano “Pizza” Migliore – guitar
Marco “Maus” Biazzi – guitar
Marco Coti Zelati – bass, keyboards
Cristiano “Criz” Mozzati – drums, percussion
Producer: Don Gilmore
Total Time = 44:05
Lacuna Coil took the lead in the Gothic Metal genre when they released 2002’s COMALIES, an album that fused Cristina Scabbia’s beautiful melodic vocals with heavy guitars and double bass drumming to create a new standard. The follow-up, KARMACODE (2006), offered more of the same but added a Middle Eastern flavor to the music, making the overall album unique. Now we are in 2009 and female fronted Gothic Metal bands are popping up all over the globe. Some of these bands are not as polished as Lacuna Coil, and some are just not as good, but it’s safe to say that there is plenty of competition from bands like Leaves’ Eyes, Epica, Sirenia, Temujin and Nightwish. So has Lacuna Coil offered us anything new?
The focus again falls solely at the beautiful voice of Scabbia, tha band’s main assest. Her vocals are melodic and beautiful with plenty of range and she is also serves as the band’s main image in the press. There is no problem with her as she is one of the premier female vocalists in Metal. What I do find troubling is that the band basically gave us more of the same, kind of like a COMALIES Part 2. There really isn’t anything to set SHALLOW LIFE apart from previous albums like there was on KARMACODE. That doesn’t mean SHALLOW LIFE is a bad album, on the contrary, it’s very good…..it’s just boring…..I’ve heard it all before. Most of the songs sound basically the same: the same tempo, the same effects, the vocal trade-offs with male lead Andrea Ferro, the same guitar tone. There really isn’t anything to set this apart from their more popular mainstream counterparts Evanescence.
I’ve been a fan of Lacuna Coil’s since they released their self-titled E.P. back in 1998 and the thing I’ve liked the most is that they have stayed ahead of their contemporaries/peers by enhancing their sound with every release. Their progression as a band has followed hand in hand with their success and they have the reputation of being better than their mainstream rivals. Unfortunately, I think the band has regressed on this new album. There really isn’t anything that sets the new music apart from previous efforts and the songs start to sound the same after a while. SHALLOW LIFE is still a good album but I consider it a disappoinment when I listen back to KARMACODE, there is no progression and no new twists and turns to the overall sound. I don’t consider this to be a bad album, more of a disappointment, the sound is too commercial and uninventive. With other bands in the genre experimenting with their sound, Lacuna Coil is in danger of becoming middle of the pack.
Everything really sounds the same here but if I had to pick a couple I’d say ‘Survive’, ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Shallow Life’.
As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009, Tooth & Nail)
- ’84 Sheepdog
- Errand Rum
- Into The Sea
- Made Too Pretty
- Lady Blue
- Pirate Blues
Cody Bonnette – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keys
Colin Kimble – bass, guitars, backup vocals
Aaron Lunsford – drums, percussion
Chris Lott – lead guitar
Produced by: Tyler Orr & Cody Bonnette
Total Time = 38:14
2009 has been a great year so far for Hard Rock & Heavy Metal new releases but there is always a few albums that cross my desk that are awful and a waste of my time. The first suspect of 2009? HELL OR HIGH WATER by Christian Indie Progressive Rock band As Cities Burn.
I got this album a couple months ago for review and I put it in the pile because I have a massive backlog of promos but I read the press release and the band sounded interesting. Tooth & Nail Records is home to the popular Metalcore band Underoath so I figured that As Cities Burn would have some sort of Metal slant to their music. The album cover looked promising although a bit different but you should never judge an album by it’s cover!
As Cities Burn plays a very mellow brand of Indie Rock that I would here on my local Indie rock station instead of my local Rock station. There is nothing hard, heavy or fast to the music, it’s more ambient (not in a Gothic Metal style) and mellow. Lead vocalist & guitarist Cody Bonnette sounds very whiney and subdued with no display of vocal range or ability, kind of like a younger Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins). The music itself sounded primarily the same over the entire album, the sound effects were distracting and the performances were boring. On the positive side….the production was crystal clear and there is a bit of melody in the songs. I liked the middle section of ‘Lady Blue’ but that’s it.
I’ve played this album at least 10 times to try and find something interesting or something that relates to what this website is about: Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. I didn’t find anything worthwhile, what I got was the most boring 10 spins I’ve ever listened to (and I really listened). The album is so mellow and boring that I actually fell asleep a couple of times and had to go back! There is nothing Metal here, nothing Hard but fans of Indie Rock will eat this up I’m sure. There is crossover Pop Rock appeal to the music so I’m sure that Indie rock stations will pick this up. This type of Indie Rock music gets played all the time at the record store I shop at weekly and I am always annoyed when I hear it. There is good interesting Indie stuff out there but HELL OR HIGH WATER is just boring. If you like Smashing Pumpkins with an Indie/Punk flavor then this is for you. If you are looking for any piece of Metal or Hard Rock…..avoid this album! This is my lead candidate for the worst album of 2009.
Favorite Songs: none
Iron Maiden – Flight 666 DVD (2009) – $14
Iron Maiden – Flight 666 soundtrack (2009) – $15
So I was out in front of the record store again this morning waiting impatiently for the doors to be unlocked so I could get my hands on the new Iron Maiden DVD — FLIGHT 666. Everytime Maiden puts out a DVD, it’s a superb product and I expect FLIGHT 666 to go beyond my expectations especially when Sam Dunn and Scot McFayden (the guys that did METAL: A HEADBANGER’S JOURNEY and GLOBAL METAL) filmed it!
I saw the tour stop in Mansfield last summer so I know all about the live show, I want to see the behind the scenes footage and the worldwide footage of fans in other countries going wild. The video is 2 DVDs at over 3 1/2 hours between the film and the concert footage. The CD is a double disc set that is a mirror of the DVD performance. Why did I need both? Because it’s Iron Maiden! The only complaint I have is that the CD cost a dollar more than the DVD and the DVD gives you more quality Maiden product. Not sure what the powers that be are thinking, the DVD should easily be priced higher than the CD if we went by content. I saw the vinyl at the store too but I wasn’t dropping the $20 for it.
I didn’t get a chance to see this in a theater and I’ve avoided VH-1 Classic (they have been showing it multiple times a day since last Friday!) so I’m going into my viewing/listening with fresh eyes and ears. Up the Irons!
UFO – The Visitor (2009, SPV)
- Saving Me
- On The Waterfront
- Hell Driver
- Stop Breaking Down
- Rock Ready
- Living Proof
- Can’t Buy A Thrill
- Villains & Thieves
- Stranger In Town
(NOTE — The Japanese and European pressings have a re-recorded bonus track ‘Dancing With St. Peter’, a song that was originally released on Phil Mogg’s side project $ign Of 4 in 2002.)
Phil Mogg – Vocals
Paul Raymond – Keyboards & Guitars
Vinnie Moore – Guitars
Andy Parker – Drums
(NOTE — Bassist and founding member Pete Way is currently suffering from a liver disease and was unfortunately not available for the studio production.)
Peter Pichl – Bass
(NOTE — Pichl is the bass player in Nektar and is not credited in the liner notes of the advance copy.)
Total Time = 42:27
UFO has been around for a long time…..40 years and going strong! THE VISITOR marks the band’s 20th studio album, the third with current lead guitarist Vinnie Moore, but without founding bassist Pete Way who is currently battling a liver disease and could not work in the studio. It’s hard to believe that three years have passed since 2006’s THE MONKEY PUZZLE but the band hasn’t missed a step with their classic brand of Hard Rock & Blues.
The sound of THE VISITOR isn’t that different from THE MONKEY PUZZLE or the first album with Moore, YOU ARE HERE (2004), and it’s that type of stability and quality that I like in a band. UFO knows one way to do things and they continue to deliver. Honestly, the band has been on a roll since they reunited with longtime guitarist Michael Schenker back in 1995 for the WALK ON WATER album despite the personnel changes. Vinnie Moore has stepped in for the long departed Schenker and put his bluesy stamp on the UFO sound, a perfect compliment to Phil Mogg’s vocals. One of the continuous high points over the entire record is the axe work of Moore: he solos effortlessly and his riffs have that thick 70s Classic Rock sound. I’m not going to get into the Moore vs. Schenker debate because they are two different style guitarists but it’s easy to hear that Moore has become and integral part of the sound and the writing…..and with Pete Way sidelined, it’s good to have “the new guy” step up and help take the reins with Mogg. Of course, Phil Mogg IS the sound of UFO and his voice has gotten stronger with the years…..it’s hard to believe that he just turned 61!
Opening track ‘Saving Me’ has a cool Southern Rock styled guitar intro and moves right into a bluesy Hard Rock number with Mogg turning out trademark phrases. It’s heavy and bluesy but it’s also a melodic song…..that’s a key ingredient to the overall UFO sound: melody. More melodic Blues Rock with the mid-tempo ‘On The Waterfront’ that features some really cool lyrics and an effortless solo while the band kicks into high gear again with the pure Hard Rock of ‘Hell Driver’, a song that could have easily fit on anything from WALK ON WATER forward. I’ll bet this is a song the band plays live on this tour because it fits so perfectly alongside the classic newer material, I had the iPod on a “UFO shuffle” recently and ‘Hell Driver’ got sandwiched between ‘Pushed To The Limit’ (from WALK ON WATER) and ‘Hard Being Me’ (from THE MONKEY PUZZLE) and it just blended perfectly. The band goes back in time with ‘Stop Breaking Down’ and returns to the classic ’70s UFO sound. It’s a melodic mid-tempo rocker with plenty of guitar flourishes to satisfy the Schenker disciples and Mogg puts in an inspired vocal but the highlight here is original drummer Andy Parker, the unsung backbone of UFO. Whereas the departed Jason Bonham provided UFO with an excellent heavy drumming style, Parker’s style sounds so effortless and retains the heaviness but in a more subtle way.
‘Rock Ready’ is another uptempo Blues Rock standard that I would pair with ‘Saving Me’ because of that Southern guitar style. The band slows down again from another blues number, ‘Living Proof’, that has this real groove. Mogg’s vocals impress and Moore adds some cool flourishes throughout the song but the overall sound has a certain rhythm that gets the head bobbing and toe tapping. The guitar solo is one of the best on the album. Another guitar intro opens the mid-tempo ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’, another song that has that classic ’70s melodic UFO sound, while ‘Forsaken’ turns out to be one of the best ballads the band has ever done! I think it’s just the way Mogg delivers the ballads with such passion and sincerity, I find myself repeating this song everytime I play the album.
‘Villains & Thieves’ is more bluesy Hard Rock but with some cool piano from longtime guitarist & keyboardist Paul Raymond. I’d put this song with ‘Saving Me’ and ‘Rock Ready’ as far as style goes but the added piano gives the song another distinct detail to it. The usual UFO sound is to have that big Hammond organ playing along with the guitar but it sounds like the organ isn’t as prominent on THE VISITOR so it’s good to hear a little more of the ivories up front. More big sounding Hard Rock on ‘Stranger In Town’ that features more of the Moore/Raymond trade-off between guitar and organ and some heavy handed pocket drumming from Parker. This is the UFO sound! It goes without saying that not having Pete Way on the album is a disappointment, he is battling some sort of liver disease and he was unable to contribute. The band brought in Peter Pichl from the Progressive Rock band Nektar to handle the bass duties for the record and he does a great job keeping the rhythm section intact.
Another triumph for UFO! THE VISITOR is one of my favorite albums of 2009 so far and that’s no surprise because the band is all about solid songwriting and brilliant playing…..that’s what makes a great album! I’ve had the advance for a few weeks now and it has not left my current rotation in the car, on the iPod or on the stereo. Everytime I listen to the album I can’t really find a weak song and I find myself instantly singing along and whistling the solos…..the album captures my full attention and that defines a great album to me. THE VISITOR is classic UFO from the ’70s with an updated sound that leans more toward a Southern Rock and melodic Blues groove that sounds so effortless. That’s the key right there! The performance by the band doesn’t sound forced or pressured, there is no inner turmoil interrupting the creative process, everything sounds relaxed and natural. It’s obvious that Vinnie Moore has fit in perfectly with Phil Mogg, Andy Parker and Paul Raymond and a true bond has formed.
My favorite song on the album is ‘Forsaken’ but the entire album is a solid collection of songs. I really like them all but, if I had to pick a few more to go alongside ‘Forsaken’, I’d pick: ‘On The Waterfront’, ‘Hell Driver’, ‘Can’t Buy A Thrill’ and ‘Living Proof’.
I’m trying to catch up on a lot of listening to some of the newer releases that I haven’t gotten to yet but having the collection organized has been a challenge. Everytime I grab an album to put into the Collectorz cataloging software or iTunes, I find another that I haven’t heard in a long time! Then I find a band I forgot about and I pull out all of their albums! Will it ever end?
UFO – The Visitor (2009): This hasn’t left my rotation since I got the advance from SPV a few weeks ago and I don’t think it’s going to leave anytime soon. One of the best albums of the year for me.
Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): I had the advance in December and I haven’t put it down yet…..album of the year for me but UFO is challenging!
Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Play My Game (2009): A great comeback for the Ripper, its good to hear him doing his own thing and not being a hired hand. I like the Iced Earth and Malmsteen albums but I think Ripper has to make a mark with his solo career or Beyond Fear.
Beyond Fear – s/t (2006): More of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens doing his own thing instead of being a hired frontman. I listened to the album and realized that this was easily one of the best pieces of work Owens has produced. It hasn’t grown stale since it’s release, it still sounds feash and I think that’s because Ripper had the control.
Chickenfoot – s/t (2009): Sammy Hagar & Michael Anthony…..that’s enough to sell me on this album but then you add Joe Satriani and Chad Smith. This isn’t Van Halen, solo Hagar or a Red Hot Chili Pepper thing, this is an actual new band with some good Hard Rocks songs from solid performers. So far it’s better than I thought.
As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009): One of the worst albums I’ve heard so far this year! The album cover screams Metal but As Cities Burn is a Christian Rock/Indie/Progressive/Modern Rock band and there is just nothing heavy or hard to the music. It sounds too much like what is already clogging Rock radio: mainstream modern Rock with no substance. I wanted to give this another chance but it was a tough listen.
Joe Lynn Turner – Rescue You (1985): JLT’s first solo album after Ritchie Blackmore ended Rainbow. I haven’t listened to this in years and I just got the CD in from a nice seller on Ebay.
Iron Maiden – (various albums): Basically I pulled out all my Maiden albums and started spinning them on the stereo. At work, I put the iPod on “shuffle” and listened to Maiden out of order and had some cool playlists. The new DVD documentary and live CD, FLIGHT 666, come out Tuesday and I want to be ready!
AC/DC – Back In Black (1980): I never pull out BACK IN BLACK because I can tune in to any Rock radio station in my local area and I guarantee I will hear the whole album by the end of the day! There’s nothing wrong with BACK IN BLACK, it’s just that I know it all by heart and it’s completely overplayed. So why is it in my current playlist? My 10 year old daughter loves the album and she absolutley begs me to play it! At least she knows about good music!
The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969): I’ve always been a Stones fan and LET IT BLEED has been my favorite Stones record for a long time. I heard ‘Monkey Man’ on one of the radio stations as a “deep track” and I pulled the album out as soon as I got home!
Chickenfoot – s/t (2009) – $9.99: Chickenfoot is the latest hard Rock supergroup and includes former Van Halen duo Sammy Hagar & Michael Anthony, Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer Chad Smith. The roots of Chickenfoot came from the 2002 Planet US project (that included Journey members Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo) and the combination of Hagar & Anthony as “The Other Ones” that played songs live during Hagar’s various concert tours. I’ve been hyped up for this project for a few months now with songs being leaked all over the Internet. When I went to the record store this past Tuesday, I noticed the promo posters up in the store and I asked if there was going to be a sale price. Sure enough…..$9.99! The cover is heat sensitive so if you press on it your body temperature reveals the album cover underneath the black…..kind of like the early ’80s clothing line Hypercolor.
MSG (Schenker Barden Acoustic Project) – Gipsy Lady (2009, Inakustik)
- Dance Lady Gipsy
- All Of My Life
- Fight For Freedom
- El Grande
- Starting Over
- Can’t Live On Love Alone
- Another Melody
- Travelled So Far
- Night Of The Stare
- The Journey
Michael Schenker – Acoustic Guitars & all Lead Guitars
Gary Barden – Lead Vocals
Michael Voss – Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Orchestral Arrangements & Backing Vocals
Kai Luennemann – Percussion
Pearl – additional backing vocals (track 7)
Andrea Beusker – additional backing vocals (track 10)
Produced by: Michael Schenker & Michael Voss
Total Time = 47:04
Michael Schenker and Gary Barden reunited last year for the comeback album IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY (2008) that cemented another brilliant comeback for the often maligned guitar god. IN THE MIDST OF BEAUTY was a return to the classic MSG sound from the early ’80s but Michael Schenker has always been about exploring new musical paths and the follow-up, GIPSY LADY, continues a journey through the acoustic soundscape. Since 1993, Michael Schenker has released 5 acoustic instrumental albums all with the main title THANK YOU as a tribute to his fans.: there is the orginal THANK YOU (1993), THANK YOU 2 (1998), THANK YOU w/ORCHESTRA (1999), THANK YOU 3 (2001) and THANK YOU 4 (2003)…..all independently released. The main difference between the THANK YOU series and GIPSY LADY is that Michael finally had a vocalist who could provide top quality lyrics to his acoustic arrangements.
All the songs here are very subdued mid-tempo songs and/or ballads but there are a couple of upbeat songs that have almost a Blackmore’s Night sound to them. Opening track ‘Lost’ is a ballad with a soulful vocal from Barden but it sounded very familiar to me…..so I went diving into my MSG collection. Turns out that the basic acoustic instrumental is the same as ‘TY 1’ on THANK YOU 4 (there are no song titles on THANK YOU 4, only TY and the track #). The same thing with ‘Dance Lady Gipsy’ (the basic acoustic instrumental is really ‘TY 8’), ‘All Of My Life’ (mostly ‘TY 11’) and the istrumental ‘El Grande’ (‘TY 5’). I knew that the first few songs sounded familiar! To make sure I was positive I played each album’s respective track at the same time and they were a perfect match! On one hand, it’s nice to have some song titles and lyrics for some of the THANK YOU 4 tracks but it’s also a little disappointing knowing that 4 out of the first 5 songs are basically copies of songs from 7 years ago. The only other THANK YOU albums I own are the first one and the ORCHESTRA album (which are the same album except one has orchestration) and I cross-checked them against GIPSY LADY…..nothing. So I’m going to base the rest of the review without knowing if any instrumental tracks from TY 2 or TY 3 are being used.
‘Dance Lady Gipsy’ sounds like Blackmore’s Night with some female background vocals and ‘All My Life’ is another soul filled ballad. ‘Fight For Freedom’ has a Latin/Flamenco/Medieval sound to it (again like Blackmore’s Night) and ‘El Grande’ is a straight up instrumental without vocals. ‘Starting Over’ has a slight mid-tempo gallop to it and Barden starts to stretch his voice a little more, there are some nice background vocals here as well. ‘Can’t Live On Love Alone’ has this almost Foreigner-lite style to it but with some subtle keyboards and female vocals from Pearl. ‘Another Melody’ is a piano based ballad while ‘Travelled So Far’ has more of an uptempo beat to it even though it’s still melodic, light and similar to Ritchie and Candice’s minstrels. ‘Hungry’ is a really cool and soft but the Barden vocal makes it stand out and puts more of a melodic rock feel to it, same thing happens with ‘Night Of The Stare’ but the Tango styled guitar parts break up the song and make it more unique. The album ends with another pure instrumental ‘The Journey’ that starts out with a marching flute and drums and moves into Michael’s beautiful guitar work. ‘The Journey’ has an upbeat mood to it and I’ve heard it before on one of the THANK YOUs I own but I’m not going to go back and search again.
It’s a little disappointing to get some recycled material that at least 7 years old but, like I mentioned, it’s nice to hear the songs completed with full lyrics and other instruments. If I never owned any of the THANK YOU series then I would consider this album a great acoustic record but I have to deduct points for the recycling. Taking the album as a unique original piece, it’s very interesting as well as beautiful. Michael Schenker proves again that he is as innovative as ever and that he is one of the premier guitarists in the world, he plays with such effortless beauty that it’s easy to get lost in the music. Gary Barden gives Michael that true partner in music with his solid words and crips rasp of a delivery…..combining the two results in top of the line records. While this may not be the typical Michael Schenker album full of innovative riffs and solos, it’s a Schenker album filled with melodic touch and beauty. If you are looking for something different, something relaxing, something calming, this is an album to check out. I enjoyed it and I think it fits well alongside the other five acoustic albums Michael has released in the last 17 years.
Favorite Songs: ‘Lost’, ‘Dance Lady Gipsy’, ‘El Grande’, ‘Can’t Live On Love Alone’, ‘Night Of The Stare’