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The Store For Music 2007
With no original member to play a skipper, the here-and-now ensemble show there’s no past tense in the present tension.

To cover themselves isn’t the brightest idea in the world, as that’s what every artist does on-stage, but to bring the live versions back into a studio to show how the classic songs evolved over the years looks quite teasing. It sounds good, too, with a good dose of funk thrown in from the opening groovy roll of “It’s A Long Way There” to be let loose on “Happy Anniversary”, but with many a piece outstaying their welcome, sometimes it feels a way too long with no crowd around. But let yourself go with a flow, and joy is spilled in spades from this album, especially in the light-hearted romp of “Lonesome Loser” or “The Night Owls”, even though the soulful ballads like “Reminiscing” suggest the sterile ’80s never ended. Thankfully, they’re given extended solos and are counterbalanced by powerful blues of “The Other Guy”, the “Cool Change” dramatic pull and the “Down On The Border” organ-oiled boogie. Take it little by little and drift away.


Sweet sludge from Toronto to get smeared and splashed in.

Lately, it seems, the blues are back into the youth’s veins, and these three Canadians know all too well how to pump the blood up. Announcing their entrance with the kick of “Here I Am”, a nice slice of dirty funk that draws on the modern alt pastures, the band furrow the jerky groove rather deep with the singer Scott Donnelly’s blistering guitar solo. But drummer Brian Lahaie and bassist Greg Mihajic are adept in restraining their relentless rhythm machine and wax lyrical in the mellow folky flow of “The Pie Lady” joining in the vocal harmonies. Sometimes, like in “Fingers & Thumbs”, the trio slack up and lose their drive, but there’s a strong suspicion that live it works good, because the guys sound as authentic as modern. What they still have to find is the way with a melody to prick the listener’s ear not only with the “Road Tales & The Love Lost” light walk and mischievous “Till I Arrive” and make their lysergic ruminations on all the things testosterone shine all the brighter.


25 Yard Screamer
2112 Recordings 2007
When the four-track is not a technology but a way to the highest wisdom…

From out of space come the children’s voices: here’s a cosmic playground for you – and three guys from South Wales to exercise their mind games. With only four pieces lasting almost an hour, the album might feel a hard stick to swallow, and the music is heavy indeed, but with a silver lining to Nick James’ guitar and out-there extravaganza of radio transmissions, Donal Owen’s imaginative drumming and Matt Clarke’s meaty bass the most tranquil instrument in the opener “Blacklight”, there’s hardly a boring moment. The vocals, though, drag it all onto the progressive rock territory, and sticking to the rules seems a wrong idea for this trio, and it’s only an acoustic guitar lace that saves “Boy In The Window” and “Insomnia” from the utter mediocrity. Not the same with “Cassandra” which would occupy the whole side of the record had it been out on vinyl: there’s much going on in this epic that’s highly enjoyable even with too saccharine a voice amidst the edgy riffing and smooth gliding over the strings. A bit more of their own identity, and the band’s fate will be brighter than the titular lady used to predict. For now, the IQ fans should apply.


Live In America
The Store For Music 2007
The Western folk going urban and soaking up the sun to get rid of the soggy bottoms.

Blame it on the EAGLES’ global success that in the late ’70s all the premiere league country rock bands gained sheen where the grit once was. In search of mass appeal ensembles such as DR HOOK and PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE crossed over to the mainstream but lost what was special about them and became considerably less entertaining. Not that this 1978 recording from the latter combo isn’t fun to listen to – kicking off with the almost middle-of-the-road “Place In The Middle” they merrily romp through their adorable catalogue – it’s just that songs like Nick Gravenites’ “I’ll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle” come off too glossy and, save for the bluegrass “Pickin’ To Beat The Devil” and gospel-tinged “Drifting Too Far From The Shore”, lack erstwhile Appalachian authenticity. With the most rocking numbers like “Louise” bordering on vaudeville, harmonies too sweet and sax lines too blinding, it’s more San Francisco than San Quentin, but all the pieces delivered in quite a courteous manner are strong, “Misery Train” a stand-out. The hits, “Aimie” and Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day”, make this album a bright snapshot of a latter-day LEAGUE still holding their own before it all went sour.


The Journey Of Life
Dean McGinnes 2007
The Scottish six-string bender goes all philosophical in the big instrumental picture.

With such a heavy start one would be forgiven for thinking that “Going Nowhere” is too true rather than ironic a title. But there’s a tangible physicality in the guitarist’s delivery, especially when the riffage layering breaks into a gentle picking and then, the Chicago-influenced blues that could have smelled of many long years on stage if Dean McGinnes wasn’t so young. Yet he is and so can get away with the dissonance mistake which mars the serenity of “New Start” as usually McGinnes’ technique seems precise and his thoughts run deep, He might be all over the place stylistically, with a good dose of swagger and shredding, and less convincing with the “Get Up And Go” rock ‘n’ roll beat, but emotive folk-meets-classical airiness of pieces like “2ism” and “Mountains Of Echo” is gripping. The more the album spins the stronger the grip, yet for nowhere not to be an option there comes time to go down to the crossroads and decide which way to go further on up the road. A promising talent.


MidnightCafe 2007

Read the interview

Six strings extending into the heart-strings as a transport to a state of trance. But the right word is “enchanted”.

That’s how it is with modern guitarists who fish in a hard rock pool: mathematically accurate scales and artificial emotions. Mario Parga’s different – on his scales heart weighs more than mind, and having played in a band with Cozy Powell and
Neil Murray, the Englishman has an old-school charm about him. Still, this instrumental work is as contemporary as it gets, with emotive passages rolling over sharp riffs and some intense shredding thrown in for good measure. Measured it is, indeed, and the opening title track little by little unravels into panoramic picture where everything’s in harmony and no surplus note in sight. There’s a class and a knowledge of classical music oozing out of “Legend” which can easily be scaled up into an orchestral piece. Thankfully, Parga doesn’t bring in faux, synthesized strings and pulls it off on the guitar. He can be tremulously intimate on the acoustic, like in “Ritual”, showing amazing filigree technique, and then all the facets of Mario’s talent come together in a glimmering diamond that is “Spirit Of Night”. It’s here that one will feel entranced and eager to play this gem to the loved one. Isn’t it what music is for?


Angel Air 2007
Coming in one package with his old band’s last album, the CARMEN leader’s new work finds him going through the motions again.

Life’s not been good to David Allen. An American looking for success in England, he pushed CARMEN to the extremes of the stylistic envelope only to see the ensemble going over the cliff edge and in the early ’80s had his vocal chords removed due to throat cancer, which meant no singing anymore. So he traded his guitar for a photo camera, and found that elusive respect in this art, rather than music. It’s only in the late ’90s that he picked up the instrument again – and “Widescreen”, recorded with Laurence Elliott Potter providing keyboard backing and samples, and Julian Ferrareto on occasional violin is the result of this re-acquaintance.

It’s fantastic. On the strength of “Veracruz” alone, Allen deserves to be up there with Paco de Lucia when it comes to the exquisite fingerwork, but he’s mostly elegiac here, with inner flame hidden well in water-color versions of CARMEN’s “Dancing On A Cold Wind” and “Margarita”. A mature man serenade, “La Luz” can melt the strongest of the hearts, while “Delta” in turns gains pace and loosens up tempting to join in with handclaps, and “Hope” prompting to close the eyes and dream away. Electric buzz of “Carmenesque” feels a bit out of place, but dance beats and David’s barking scat give spice to the jazzy vignettes of “Bouba” making the record as contemporary as antique – in one word, timeless.


BEAT69 –
Homrim Ratuvim
High Fiber 2006
That means “Wet Materials”, and that’s not the dreams that’s wet.

Irreverent: that’s the word for the half-minute blast of “Rabbi Nahman” screamed to the queasily omnipresent “Numa Numa” tune – but what else should punk sound like? Or pop punk for that matter, and this teenage trio from Israel don’t seem to have big plans for now as they sing in Hebrew. But their songs are of the infectious kind, with “Kmo Shelah” (“Like Yours”) heavily rotating on the radio. A new way of rebellion it ain’t. Quite contrary, every parent will share the message of “Tafsiku Leashen”, which translates as “Stop Smoking”: if there was a chorus, even the band’s peers might obey while rocking and rolling along. With an odd bluesy solo, this is better than HANSON. Much better.


Part Two: Emotional Creatures
Giant Electric Pea 2007
Now the circle comes unbroken with heavy guests solidifying the mold.

An elliptical thing, this one: two years after "Emotional Creatures - Part One", the enigmatic Englishman is back, again with a throng of progressive rock cream in tow. And again, he’s up for underplaying his game where others would go over the top. This time, even when the drift gets stormy, the hushed vibe prevails, and now, like in the flowing caress of “All The Wisemen”, the titular emotions are much prominent than ever before.

Obviously, Thorne’s aim was not to top his earlier opus but carry its message through with much more expanse, that’s why there are three instrumental pieces here. The opening one, “Toxicana Apocalypso”, sets the scene where Steve’s guitar and keyboards draw the silky daylight which breaks into the thunderous organs with Thorne’s solo shadowing that of Geoff Downes. The latter’s piano nicely complements the main man’s affecting singing and acoustic guitar on “Crossfire”, a ballad about Steve’s father the whole album’s dedicated to – just like the first part was a tribute to Thorne’s mother. The allure, then, is in the homey detail such as “mortgage on a cardboard near Brighton town”, but all this comes to a big bang with the climactic “White Dove Song” with strings and brass really briging it all back home. The picture becomes whole in the end – so it’s recommended to listen the two parts back to back.


76-06, 30th Anniversary Concert
Angel Air 2007

See the DVD

To mark three decades since gettiing on track is a good reason for a bash, yet that’s not the word to describe a show by a band whose smash, 1977’s “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”, was a soft delight.

A birthday concert recorded in South Wales in July 2006 is a light romp, not celebratory hokum others would turn to. With a rocky grit hidden in Gareth ‘Morty’ Mortimer’s voice, the band still please the fans and casual listeners alike but don’t dwell on the past, and half of the show, including two opening numbers, consists of the songs recorded this side of Millenium. Even though quite often the melancholia sets in – especially when “Downtown Tonight” stretches over 8 minutes only to pass on the mood to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” which ends with Graham Williamson’s filigree guitar take on Bach – there’s a sense of rejuvenation in “Billy” and “Up Against The Trees” that are every bit as jolly as “Calling The Tune”, the group’s debut’s first track. Nostalgia’s left out here to a great effect.

The second disc of the set, “Love Blind”, credited to Morty & THE RACING CARS, was laid down after the band stopped their race and is the leader’s solo album rather than collective effort – with a collective comprising such top players as HUMBLE PIE’s Clem Clempson and WINGS’ Henry McCullough. Read more...


– Rapperarium
High Fiber 2006
Shaping the laughter rhythmically, the Israelites declare their rhyme and reason.

The title may suggest a closed space where the recitals bounce to and fro, and in the opening “BxOxNxG” the beaters of the BEASTIE BOYS path don’t expand their narrow panorama indeed, rather placing the male-female hysterics in-between cutting guitar sheets. Further on, though, the band call on the jazzy roll to scatter both Hebrew and English rhetorics around, even though gangsta lyrics never sound convincing: there’s hooligans rather than thugs. And that’s intended to be this way – for humor to rear its ugly head where the unexpected sonic bits ‘n’ beats burst in. Nothing special, then, but the whole comes off rather pleasant, no less when, in “Yeah”, the pace slows down and dub-ish bass comes to the fore, or in the “Babylon Information” skank. A good and kind laugh!


Fossil Poets
Inner Knot 2006
The Utopian man gets real – as real as a reverie can be.

His claim to fame lay with Todd Rundgren’s band and Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell”… if only Roger Powell pursued fame and didn’t leave the business for a long time to return now. Taking his third solo opus’ title from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s line, “Language is fossil poetry”, it’s Keith Emerson that the American keyboard wizard can be compared to: while there’s no flash in this record, it possesses the inner flame which, from the panoramic opener “Lone Gunmen” on, burns slowly but hot. Close to the edge of new age, the music’s much more complex than needed for a blissful relaxation, with transparent synth layers piling up to be shot through with Greg Koch’s guitar vignettes and rippled by Gary Tanin’s machinery gurgitation and beats.

Sometimes thought-provoking, as “Tribe By Fire” aerial piano is, sometimes slyly funky, like in “Delayed Reaction”, it tickles the ear yet feels elusive to put in words what’s going on under the fusion surface. Until, that is, a searing Arabian desert trance of “Peaceful Uprising” strikes, and “Osmosis” brings on a meaty accordion and a subtle Hammond sound. That’s where the rhyme and reason reveal themselves to prompt a new spin of the disk and enjoy the poetry that’s as modern as it comes.


The Adventures Of…
Leonid! And The Daydreamers
Leonid 2005
Guitar trip into the unknown of the great wide open.

Not afraid to touch and embellish classic material from the likes of The Fabs and Duke Ellington on his 2003’s debut, “Tasty Guitar Lines”, this time New Jersey resident Leonid Muhudinov walks his own way with a variety of stringed instruments on his back. Running in with a streamline rock ‘n’ roll with Beethoven lurking in the shadows, there’s a filigree technique on display with no sign of showing off, especially when electricity breaks down into acoustic reverie. But if jazz, country and classical guitar pieces can be expected from the master, the jangly twangy beat of “Ghost Town” comes on as delicious surprise: Hank Marvin has never been so cimenatic – and there’s more to the composition, much more! And there’s much humor in here, be it Hendrix-cum-Hazel-Hackett transmutations in “Funky Bitch”, lush but playful guitar pile-up in “Leonid’s Return” or electric sitar of “Samadhi”. Highly enjoyable record of rare elegance.


The Great Apostasy
Babylon Mystery Orchestra 2006
Gloomy iconoclasts of the dogma measure the depth of the Church lies.

Subtitled “A Conspiracy of Satanic Christianity”, this, third album from American band that’s basically a one-man enterprise of Sidney Allen Johnson, continues to dig the dirt on the faith’s surface. There’s a great concept behind the record, nicely laid out in the booklet, but the surface of it is music, and the music’s not what it promises to be in the almost orchestral opening dirge of “Holy Ghosts” that’s as cosmically heavy as crystal-like transparent with solemn guitar construction breathing life on the deathly grounds. Further on, though, anthemic lines lead to the less melodically enjoyable turf where gothic coldness prevail rather then metal heat. Heaven and Hell aren’t so counterbalanced, then – but should they be, really? They’re on the same side when it comes to the organized religion, yet the lucidity of the acoustic guitar in the instrumental piece “I, Lucifer” overbears the dark viscosity of most of the tracks, scintillating electric solo in “Who Mourns for Philadelphia?” and the velveteen “Eye Of The Needle” excluded. Perhaps, not the best way to ram a real truth home, yet the effort deserves the applause.


YETI RAIN – Discarnate
Unicorn 2007
Snow drives back the foot that’s slow. The bass man gets frozen.

Rather often praised as genius, sometimes William Kopecky goes over the top – or under the bottom. This time, though, there’s no unfathomable depth to his new project where the fretless bass runs conspire with Roger Ebner’s synthesizer to create something which is neither experimental nor interesting. Well, “runs” can’t be the right word for what sounds like PINK FLOYD’s lethargic nighmare. Viscous, low passages create no picture at all. Dark ambient it is, indeed, but listening to what’s supposed to be music feels an aimless excercise and a crucible for one’s ears. That’s soundscapes with no escape. That’s space that’s warped where time’s just wasted.


Seven Percent Mind Usage
High Fiber 2007
That’s enough for most of us to think – just think about that.

What a title and what a cover! But there’s no contradiction on this EP, and sophistication slyly creeps in the Israli quartet’s charged metal that’s as reckless as funny, and seven tracks in just over 21 minutes flow past your brain nicely. Not that they leave strong imprint in the gray matter grooves, because Tal Baltuch’s growl makes lyrics decipherable only in quiet passages which always bear a good melodic snippet. “Time Kills”, meanwhile, jolts from hardcore overdrive into progressive field, whereas ‘Weapon Of Choice” unexpectedly draws on the ’60s twangy soundtracks. Tasty all over.


The Rough With The Smooth
Angel Air 2007
Having given Mick ‘n’ Keef a run for their money, this band found it a Sisyphus’ work – and now the load is available for all to bear.

Riffs, it’s all about riffs, but 1987 wasn’t about riffs at all, so setting a band half-way between THE STONES and BAD COMPANY didn’t seem a right way to break through in commercial terms – but as for enjoying themselves, singer Steve Ellson and his friends had a lot of fun, especially when a lot of people assumed it was The Glimmer Twins behind “Comin’ On Strong” until they watched the video. Two more singles and wrong politics, and two years later the band were no more and their main man returned to impersonating Jagger in the finest covers group around. What’s remained of BROKEN ENGLISH is a whole album shelved for two decades to see the light of day now.

And one hell of an album it is, with catchy licks of the opening “Show A Little Mercy” addressed both ways – from the ensemble to the audience and from the punters to the musos. Here’s music coming from the bottom of the heart and from the heart of the bottom, just like good blues-based songs should, and harmonica shuffle smoothing the sharp edges adds to overall feelgood mood. That’s why it doesn’t fall into parody, so while “Emotional Suicide” borrows a bit from “Tainted Love”; the acoustic lace of “Don’t Change” makes this heartstrings-puller work in its own right – and that’s why the record stood the test of time. “Woman Of Stone” is a real tear-jerker, and even the synth background doesn’t drag “Ball ‘n’ Chain” which swings so fine. THE ROLLING STONES surely paid attention, what with their “Love Is Strong”: if for this fact only, BAD ENGLISH deserve to be heard and enjoyed.


Unicorn 2007
Yellow brick pavement from the Middle East. Nothing special but a walk is recommended for you health.

Urgent call for relaxation: that’s how it can be when a hidden beauty reveals itself in quantum leap, and that’s how the guitar and recorder of “Pattern” blend to engage all around in a gentle dance where a mis-step is dangerous. A thin but fine line, this one, that’s drawn by Israeli quintet bent on exploring the scale of a compostion to stretch it in all possible – read, jazzy – ways yet make a tune moving and palatable for casual listener. Progressive rock aficionados who note every fine vignette will find here much more to savor, though, and there’s no need to speak Hebrew to get the “Bird” delicate drift. Comparisons with CAMEL seem unavoidable – still, it’s hard not to love these harmonies, the cinematic organ in “Too Much”, and the baroque elegance of “Grapefruit”. That’s classic autumnal comedown to lift you up.


In The Wake
MAPL 2005
Twilight classicism from the woods: some debuts have songs for all seasons.

On the first glance, this Canadian quartet are one of those glacier metal bands with female operartic vocals who are by numbers these days, but picking a bit into the icy surface reveals some neat surprises. The opening “Spirit” as cold as it is is indicative of what’s in store, with funky guitar providing a jerky backdrop for Ann Burstyn’s voice, but then the bagpipes march in, and everything takes a nice turn into the realms of folk. Dance grooves deeper in, it’s in weaving traditional motifs into their emotive tapestry that the band excel, yet there’s no typical paganism – what about flamenco threads in “Spanish Nights”? – and, “11 Hour” aside, that’s not metal after all, when all the subtleties come forth for a shadowplay. Well, “Blue Lady” rocks rather hard, but its wonderful dance draws from symphonic well; harmonies abound and Jozef Pilasanovic’s slide guitar gliding over, the piece is a new classic. Elsewhere, a bluesy wail of “Snapshot” feels hard to resist as well, whereas acoustic ring of “He Touched My Soul” feels weaker due to – again – frosty singing, even though in the “Raindrops” indie tones it works miracles. A bold step in.


The Alchemists II
Liquid Note 2007
Five years on, the six-string wizardry thrives – now cool, calm and collected. And now they come in two’s, you know.

Back in 2002, when Liquid Note launched onto the crowdy guitar scene with "The Alchemists", it was all about the shredding, and a dispute raged as to where the line’s drawn between speed and virtuosity. This time, it’s not the case, the second volume being more of a mixed bag – a bag of Santa Claus’ kind, which is rather whole and full of surprises. The first of those is another concept: two solo axemen per track. Thus, here’s a real balance on display with mostly fusion veneer – but in “One-Legged Chicken” Pascal Vigne goes in a swift swirl around Christophe Godin’s country picking, while Si Hayden with Michael Berk deliver an acoustic pearl called “Tango Schizophrenia”, the highlight of this set, pure Segovia.

When it comes to the stylistic criss-crossing, Carlos Creator raves on and lets Robert Rodrigo gently rip it up for “Space Antz”; elsewhere, in “In The Beginning”, Sven Stichter’s spanky twang pulls in Thorsten Koehne’s smart electronica, and Stefan Rosquist dons an elegiac cap in “At Last”, with Bo Ericsson capping it with an exquisite steel lining. The collection requires repeated listening – otherwise, little jokes like the quote from Jimmy Page at the end of Geoff Tyson’s “Fruit Frenzy” will remain unnoticed. Stick your hand into this bag, and every time there’s something new. That’s the alchemy.

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