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.
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.
This band’s moniker may make them sound like a municipal leisure centre but, thankfully, an unassuming supergroup is actually what lies behind the name. BWP are Robin Bennett, Danny George Wilson and Tony Poole. Many readers will know Danny Wilson from his time fronting Grand Drive and Danny & The Champions of the World and some will know Robin Bennett from his work with The Dreaming Spires but BWP’s secret weapon is veteran guitarist and producer Tony Poole. Poole was one half of Starry Eyed and Laughing who released two records in the mid-1970s earning a reputation as the ‘English Byrds’. If you pair Poole’s pedigree, and famed mastery of the 12-string Rickenbacker, with Wilson and Bennet’s background in contemporary harmony-driven Americana you’ll already have a decent idea of where the band are coming from.
It’s not easy being a heritage act like FM. Your fans want a nostalgia hit but they also want new releases. You’re trapped. You may want to move on, but you don’t dare go too far. Despite lacking the international successes of Def Leppard or - to a lesser degree - Thunder, FM remain one of the UK’s best-loved melodic hard rock bands and their new record is an impressive balancing act between that rock and that hard place. They might just be the one band on the scene that can manage to please nearly all of the people… nearly all of the time.
Every melodic rock fan with half a brain knows that there is no such thing as the perfect AOR album. From the late ‘70s through to the early ‘90s we were awash with perfect moments but, for the past two and a half decades, bands have matched the gems of that period with only very limited success. These days, making records is cheaper and faster; sonically sub-standard AOR albums arrive at an alarming rate and are all accompanied by unhelpful amounts of hype, so it’s no wonder that fans have become cynical about new releases. How refreshing it is, then, to come across an artist whose press makes no claim whatsoever and who has made an album that doesn’t sound as if it was cobbled together in a hurry. One-man freaky genius (he plays, sings, produces and mixes everything) Tom Satin quietly released his debut in 2014 and now the follow-up, It’s About Time, has arrived seemingly out of thin air. While it’s not perfect, I’d say it’s about as close as anyone has got in a very long time.
Toronto native Josh Taerk (pronounced Turk) is a new name to me but, with heavy-hitting support on his bio from E-Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, my guess was his new ‘Stages’ EP would be well worth checking out. I’m pleased to report this assumption would prove to be correct as ‘Stages’ is a little gem.
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.