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.
Melodic hard rock has had its time. There’s no denying that it still lives and, to some degree, thrives but its glory days are long, long gone. Its current state isn’t helped by fast-buck-making labels and a certain sort of purist fan that simply won’t allow any of these artists to move away from a hackneyed, formulaic sound. So, new releases from bands that have been plying their trade for thirty years more often fill me with a sense of sorrow than a sense of joy. Not so with the latest Riverdogs album, California. This is a record that might just be too good for the classic rock fraternity to properly deserve.
Steven Van Zandt aka Little Steven aka Miami Steve recently apologised for the gap of nearly twenty years since his last solo release. To be honest this refreshing approach is welcome, but unnecessary, as Steve had hardly been spending his days sipping cocktails, while counting his money, on some far flung beach. In the intervening years Van Zandt has successfully worked as an actor, first catching the attention of the masses in The Sopranos and followed that with the fish-out-of-water gangster tale Lilyhammer. He also found time to turn his hand to radio as a DJ / program director (Underground Garage / Outlaw Country) and launch his own record label (Wicked Cool Records). Then there is the little matter of his day job with the E Street Band. Does this man ever sleep?
Norwegian singer-songwriter Torgeir Waldemar released his debut album in 2014 to widespread acclaim, and a Norwegian Grammy Award nomination, for a record that had a marked 70’s Laurel Canyon influence. At first glance, the tall and bearded Waldemar looks like he should be fronting a Black Metal act with an indecipherable logo, luckily images are often deceptive, and Waldemar is more folky troubadour than extreme metal screamer as his debut disc proved. Three years on and ‘No Offending Borders’ finds Waldemar intent on expanding on his musical palette.
Tokyo Motor Fist is a melodic hard rock project fronted by the dream-team of vocalist Ted Poley and guitarist Steve Brown. Bass and drums come in the form of veterans Greg Smith (Rainbow) and Chuck Burgi (Red Dawn) respectively. I would normally be very wary of this sort of career vehicle but the blistering riff and infectious singalong chorus of the opening track are enough to make me think that this time, maybe - just maybe - I might be on to a bit of a winner.
Unruly Child released their debut in 1992 and, although not a commercial success at the time, it has since been held up as a melodic rock masterpiece. An inspired coupling of ex-World Trade members and vocalist Mark Free (formerly of AOR legends Signal), Unruly Child retained the loosely-held prog leanings of the former band but added the hit-worthy rock bombast of the latter. Free’s muscular vocal delivery in particular helped the band have greater appeal across the rock sub-genres and the debut has subsequently aged far better than many of its contemporaries. The album wasn’t without its faults but it remains one of the more interesting and inventive records under the hair-rock umbrella: it had big guitars, hooks, lashings of keyboards and stacked vocals but - more important than all that - it was chock full of unusual ideas and musical ambition. None of this sounded geeky, meandering or noodly, it just sounded, - to me at least - like top class hard rock… from the future.
Indiscreet was originally released in 1986 and is one of the finest AOR albums you’ll find from a British band of the period. Unsurprisingly then, it has come to be something of a sacred classic among fans of the genre, making it extremely risky business for FM to decide to release a full re-recorded version to celebrate its thirtieth birthday.
Sixteen years since their last studio album is an awfully long time but for Kansas, who can chart their history back to 1970 and released their debut album in 1974, it just feels like a small part of the overall plan. With a quite staggering 30,000,000+ album sales worldwide Kansas are one of the biggest acts of the classic rock era but for all such acts, Journey instantly spring to mind, longevity is a double edged sword as the sands of time can catch up with a band, members leave for a variety of reasons and the musical landscape is forever changing. Kansas have kept themselves busy as they still play around a hundred shows a year and recent releases have included a feature length documentary ‘Miracles Out Of Nowhere’ that charts their long career. Founder members Richard Williams (guitar) and drummer Phil Ehart don’t look to be retiring anytime soon and on the strength of ‘The Prelude Implicit’ it looks like the band are about to embark on an impressive new chapter in their illustrious career.
Ian Hunter can trace his career back to the late 1950’s but has demonstrated absolutely no signs of slowing down his touring schedule (UK tour dates are booked for November) and even less signs of a drop in quality with ‘Fingers Crossed’ his first album since ‘When I’m President’ received great reviews in 2012. Opener ‘That’s When The Trouble Starts’ is a rollicking, ramshackle barroom brawl of a tune that shows that Hunter is in no mood to retire to a life of watching daytime TV in his slippers just yet and for that fans of quality tunesmiths can be very grateful.
Hamilton, Ontario singer and guitarist Terra Lightfoot is clearly intent on making a statement with the release of ‘Every Time My Mind Runs Wild’ the subdued vibe of her debut album, released back in 2011, is but a distant memory. For her sophomore release a new band has been enlisted and producers Gus Van Go & Werner F, best known for their work with The Stills, are behind the desk. The result is a strident rock record that manages to successfully perform the delicate balancing act of maintaining Terra Lightfoot’s roots, soul and blues influences while adding a catchy pop sensibility.
Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee The Cadillac Three are perhaps an unlikely act to be enjoying success this side of the pond. The trio employ a sound that appeals to Southern rockers and country fans alike but historically this has proved a hard sell in the UK. For TC3 this has not been an issue as they’ve been incredibly well received and built an increasingly ardent following with a run of impressive festival slots and headline shows at increasingly larger venues. The release of new long-player ‘Bury Me In My Boots’ and a UK tour, that will include a show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, is confirmation that the guys are on a roll. The band are here to have a good time, turn the music up and crack open the Tennessee Whiskey which kinda helps and definitely works for me.
I consider myself reasonably well-versed in the biggest of the big-hair hard rock acts but Treat are a band that have simply passed me by, in spite of their thirty-year pedigree as well-respected Swedish melodic rockers. A career that has seen them constantly in the shadow of the success of Europe might go some way to explaining how it happened, but Ghost of Graceland makes me think I may have seriously missed out.
The Defiants are Bruno Ravel: Danger Danger’s bassist, songwriter and co-founding father; Rob Marcello: longtime Danger Danger guitarist and Paul Laine: onetime lead vocalist for a band called... Danger Danger. So it's no surprise that this looks, smells and tastes a lot like a Danger Danger album. Recent shows in the US confirm that Danger Danger fronted by Ted Poley is still very much a going concern, hence the new moniker for this side project.