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.
Since reassembling their original five-piece line-up nearly ten years ago, Unruly Child have given us three top-notch slices of gently progressive AOR in the vein of their classic 1992 debut. Worlds Collide (2010) and Can’t Go Home (2017) were both put out by Frontiers while 2014’s Down The Rabbit Hole was independently released but all three albums showed a band that still has plenty to offer. Now, in their 27th year, the band return with Big Blue World. Marcie Free’s indestructible, made-for-rock voice has lost nothing and it’s this voice - along with Guy Allison’s upfront keys and Bruce Gowdy’s ability to fuse acoustic and electric guitar textures - that make Unruly Child so unmistakable.
Morganway first came to my attention earlier this year when they unexpectedly appeared in the RGM inbox. The track in question was ‘Frozen In Our Time’ and my classic rock taste buds were instantly sated as Morganway presented a sound that owed a debt to the likes of Dire Straits (musically) and Fleetwood Mac (vocally) while the addition of fiddle delivered a folky musical curveball. This early positive impression would be further enhanced by subsequent singles and cemented by a really terrific live show at Black Deer Festival. I had a feeling that Morganway might be on to something a little bit special, and I’m pleased to report their debut album doesn’t disappoint.
Leroy from the North is the debut solo offering from Eli Wulfmeier a singer/guitarist from Los Angeles by way of Michigan. If the name sounds familiar it’s hardly surprising as Eli spent three years as a member of The Wild Feathers; whose 2013, John ‘Jay’ Joyce produced, debut is a cool slab of Eagles/Jayhawks influenced country rock. Eli’s other credits include playing with Katy Rose, Shelby Lynne and Joe Purdy amongst others and he is also a member of female-fronted hard rockers Dorothy. Eli brings all of these influences along for the ride on the five tracks that comprise his ‘Health and Fitness EP.
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.