Guitarist Bernie Marsden will be forever known for his stint in Whitesnake where his partnership with fellow guitarist Micky Moody supplied the blues licks for ex Deep Purple frontman David Coverdale. The ‘Ready And Willing’ album and its huge UK hit single ‘Fool For Your Loving’ still sound great in 2014, but as the musical landscape changed, Coverdale found MTV, and that was pretty much that. Over the intervening years Marsden has been very busy indeed with his solo career and as a member of AOR / Melodic Rock act Alaska and Company Of Snakes.
His latest release ‘Shine’ really is a quite fantastic album, superbly produced and played. It echoes back to the musical roots of Mr. Marsden but, due the production and execution, sounds modern and relevant in 2014. The mix of songs, both old and new, all meshes well together and allows the album to flow. Standouts include the blues stomp of ‘Trouble’ fronted by David Coverdale, who sounds quite superb, while the hard driving title track with Joe Bonamassa should keep Deep Purple fans very happy. Elsewhere ‘Walk Away’ and the eco-friendly ‘Who Do We Think We Are?’ show another side of Marsden as does a lovely version of ‘Dragonfly’ the Fleetwood Mac track originally from 1970. This is an interesting choice as the Danny Kirwan penned tune did not appear on a Fleetwood Mac studio album and seems to have been under appreciated by many over the years.
A very welcome return for the guitarist who looks to be keeping busy with a solid slate of gigs lined up for the rest of the year.
Listening to the new self-titled album from Espanola is a bit like pulling on a pair of boots that you’ve worn every day for the last twenty years. This is music so comforting and worn-in; so natural and loose that, despite being released in 2019, stirs feelings of nostalgia and warmth normally reserved for those precious pieces of vinyl you’ve owned forever. As I listen I am forced to ask myself: “is this really happening?” and, as the vintage classics pour forth, I occasionally slap myself to check it isn’t a dream. It transpires I am fully awake and that this could be the realest thing I’ve heard in decades.
I’ve had an extended break from reviewing hard rock, although as a genre it remains my first love. There is a cynicism that comes with age and I simply struggle to get excited about most new releases. I find myself shaking my head (like the old man I am) and coming to the predictable but inevitable conclusion that they just don’t make rock records like they used to. I suspect that a similar sentiment was the starting point for Animal Drive’s new covers EP Back to the Roots.
Nashville-based singer and guitarist JD Simo is currently touring the UK (March 2019) with guitar great Tommy Emmanuel CGP so his credentials as a guitarist will not be in question. I’d incorrectly assumed that JD was a straight-ahead bluesman; an assumption blown out of the water by ‘Off At 11’. The blues play a major part in JD’s sound but jazz fans and psychedelic rockers will find much to enjoy as JD and his terrific band; Adam Abrashoff (drums) and bass player Luke Easterling play up a storm on a freewheeling set that owes as big a debt to Miles Davis and The Grateful Dead as it does the Lightnin’ Hopkins and BB King.
The Cats In Space story is one of perseverance, refusing to give up in the face of adversity and sticking with what you know. The members of Cats In Space have been around, they’ve done the hard yards, put in the miles and it’s refreshing to see the acclaim that has been heaped on the band since they released their debut album ‘Too Many Gods’ in 2015. For their third studio album, the guys are refusing to rest on their laurels and seem intent on pushing the envelope. The result is ‘Daytrip To Narnia’ a record that should please longstanding Cats fans but might also leave a few scratching their heads.
When The Steel Woods burst onto the scene with ‘Straw in the Wind’ in 2017 they bought fresh new energy to the burgeoning Southern rock scene – not an easy thing to do with the likes of Blackberry Smoke and Whiskey Myers already spreading the word in fine style. A mix of original material and contributions from such heavyweight songwriters as Darrell Scott and Brent Cobb ‘Straw in the Wind’ was a fine record that found the band equally adept at picking out a country tune, when they weren’t exploring a melancholy Southern gothic vibe reminiscent of the solo work of Zakk Wylde. Coincidently, the band even found room for a Black Sabbath tune with a powerful blues-rock take on ‘Hole in the Sky’ which might well prove to be the first of many such excursions into the Sabbath catalogue.
RGM first encountered Josh Taerk in late 2017 with the release of his ‘Stages’ EP a five track collection full of lyrical positivity and melody. Less than a year later and Josh is back with ‘Beautiful Tragedy’ which takes up where ‘Stages’ left off. I’m pleased to report that despite a serious haircut Josh hasn’t endured a Samson style loss of his creative strength.
In 1979, I was just discovering Heavy Metal in a big way. Usually, this involved one of my friends lending me their latest discovery (I was still at school and always short of cash). So The Scorpions, Van Halen, Aerosmith and Judas Priest circa ‘Killing Machine/British Steel’ were never far from my Ferguson Music Centre. Said stereo might not have been up to the hi-fi spec of today but if you turned it up loud enough... Priest had at this point in time developed the knack of penning hit singles so they’d turn up on BBC TV via Top of the Pops which was essential viewing back in the day, it was so cool to actually see Metal bands on TV. By 1983 I was lucky enough to catch a stunning show as Priest played the Hammersmith Odeon. This scenario would be repeated in the late 80’s with another great show and more great memories. My tastes might have changed over the years but I’ll still happily reach for a Priest album on occasion, with ‘Screaming’ probably my favourite, so I was very keen to read what K.K. Downing had to say about his ‘Heavy Duty’ time in the band.
Legendary Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd are currently playing shows on their ‘Last of the Street Survivors-Farewell Tour’ with dates booked into late October of 2018. The band has toured heavily since their 1987 reformation, but with sole surviving founding member Gary Rossington enduring his own health problems in recent times maybe it really is the end of the road for Skynyrd but who’d bet against the band coming around again? Skynyrd released their last studio album ‘Last of a Dyin’ Breed’ back in 2012 and any further studio records look increasingly unlikely but the void has been filled to some degree by a slew of interesting live archival releases to keep hard-core fans busy which brings us to ‘Live In Atlantic City’ released on the German earMUSIC label.
Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell might be a new name to some but the guitarist has played with plenty of notable names in a career that dates back to the 80’s. Colwell’s credits include being one of three guitarists in ASAP with Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden fame, key involvement as a songwriter/guitarist in the reformed Humble Pie on the 2002 ‘Back On Track’ album plus stints in many other acts including Samson, Urchin and The Entire Population Of Hackney.
Laurie Mansworth had already seen action with NWOBHM act More when in 1982 he decided on a more transatlantic musical approach for his next musical venture. The result was Airrace and a deal was quickly inked with Atco/Atlantic records for their debut album ‘Shaft Of Light’ produced by Beau Hill (Ratt, Streets, Kix). The 1984 release of the album was well received by press and fans alike, although the majority of the reviews did focus on teenage drummer Jason Bonham (Foreigner, Black Country Communion) for obvious reasons. This did the band a disservice as ‘Shaft Of Light’ had some fine tunes, a terrific singer in Keith Murrell (Mama’s Boys, Cliff Richard), Toby Sadler’s (GTS, Samson) tasteful keys and Mansworth’s punchy guitar contributions. The band toured with heavyweight acts such as Queen, Meat Loaf and AC/DC but by 1985 Airrace was over and the band members went their separate ways. In 2011 Mansworth, Murrell and bassist Jim Reid reformed as Airrace and signed a deal with Frontiers which resulted in ‘Back To The Start’ and a busy touring schedule before things again went a little quiet. Fast forward to 2018 and Airrace are back again with ‘Untold Stories’ as classy a piece of 70’s influenced AOR as you’ll hear this year.
With their recently released ‘Thunderbolt’ album garnering universally great reviews and a typically busy touring schedule, including special guest status on the USA leg of the Judas Priest ‘Firepower’ tour, 2018 is shaping up very well indeed for Barnsley’s finest Saxon. The NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) legends have been cranking out their brand of heavy metal / hard rock for 40+ years and show no signs of slowing down. An ideal time then for a look back at the roots of the band as their catalogue gets a welcome reissue via Union Square Music / BMG. The band’s first six albums have been reissued in 24-page media book CD packaging or, if you prefer, rather fetching coloured splatter/swirl vinyl in keeping with each album’s primary colour scheme. The vinyl pressings look especially cool and scream collector’s item.
Norwegian singer-songwriter-guitarist Torgeir Waldemar will be no stranger to regular readers of RGM as we reviewed his second album ‘No Offending Borders’ back in 2017. An album of sprawling classic rock with more than a passing nod to Neil Young & Crazy Horse ‘No Offending Borders’ was a quality record (if you’ve not heard it I urge you to seek it out). The record exhibited an, often meandering, rough-around-the-edges 70’s rock approach that was in stark contrast to his debut release, which owed more to the California infused sounds of the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters of the early 70’s. Bearing this in mind, it should come as no surprise that for his latest release Waldemar has taken a good look at both albums and made a few changes. The more stripped back folky sounds of the debut album have been seriously electrified while ‘No Borders’ material is now laid bare.