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Salt The Planet
Moonchild 1999

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Jeremy Morris proves his versatilty again and delves into ambient new age waters, the best way of depicting nature’s beauty – as we have here ecology for a subject. Off into “Jungle” gets us where it should, intertwining flute of “Living In The Past” kind with soaring synth solos on the solid groove grounds. Hardly a piece to relax to, it’s rather for listening pleasure while with the rest it’s easy to turn a stream of consciousness on. Handling all the instruments, Jeremy tries to keep a melodic line straight and simple though adorned with effects, the problem is duration that inevitably has it lost in the wilderness like piano of “Waterfall”. There are genre’s restrictions pushed to the extreme – and, surprisingly, good.

Two eleven-minutes-plus monsters are “Salt The Planet” and “Lightyears”, Kitaro would be proud of, if only they manage to retain the attraction and not turn into background music: a decision comes with many quality solos sewn into a patchy tapestry. In places it feels a tad unfocused as “Heartbeat” combining filler bits and fiery guitar synth playing. Wakeman’s influence throughout the most obvious seems in wonderfully anxious “Earthquake” – spot Rimsky-Korsakoff’s “Bumblebee” quote inserted. Had it been given an orchestra treatment, the effect could be tremendous. And such it is – once you’ve reached the end, which is an uneasy task.


Indian Summer
NMC Music 2000
For many Ronno still remains a Spider from Mars, work as a Bowie cohort overshadowed both his solo career and work with Ian Hunter – documented by NMC on "Missing In Action". An apt title for one of the greatest British guitar players. Ronson was a multi-faceted one, shifting from glam to blues to hard rock, but his involvement into soundtracks seemed a myth that got real now. The “Indian Summer” movie hadn’t seen the light of day while music written for it in 1981-1982 does. With this edition you can choose either listen to the songs as such or stick to the bonus CD that has the same tracks interspersed with screen test dialogue – the latter variant gives an insight of where a certain track belongs and keeps them all together.

But it’s the guitar that makes songs cohesive and does smoke from the opener, “Indian Summer”, the only riff-based here. Hard to call it incidental music, the definition can be tagged to “Tinker Street” with its SHADOWS’ style that solo complements. Hank Marvin was a big influence so his stamp is on bouncing “Ballad Of Jack Daniels” and “Satellite”, the second version of which comes bathed in airy FLOYD feel. Yes, “The Wall” might easily home melancholy “China” that Hunter recorded later, but there are always basic rock’n’roll licks hidden that come to the fore when protagonists’ radio bursts with pure Berry-ish “Get On With It”. Mick wasn’t a great singer, although his voice suited perfectly simple songs as piano blues of “Blue Velvet Skirt” or “Midnight Love” where vocals are exchanged for slide. The drift somehow becomes folky giving way to “Plane To England”, sung in Dylan tone. Humility was the key to Ronno’s soul – listen to the angst oozing out of “I’d Give Anything To See You” – that’s why he kept his profile low. A big loss.


Seventh Key
Frontiers Records 2001
Given the fact that a mastermind behind SEVENTH KEY is Billy Greer, the KANSAS’ bass since 1986, you could guess, there would be a certain amount of heavy friends. Right, here they are, helping Billy out with creating a good AOR record. It explodes with driving rock’n’roll called “The Kid Could Play”. Who doubts? It’s a tribute to Greer’s late buddy yet, in present tense, this could be about the man himself, who takes vocals, bass and guitar duties. The start’s startingly good and paves the road for mid-tempo “Only The Brave”, made in the vein of Eighties’ blues rock but without turning a refrain into a shouter. Written by drummer David Manion, “Missy” is a FOREIGNER-like pomp-ballad, simple and by no means banal, sporting a solo courtesy of Richard Williams. And he’s not alone here, Steve Walsh, Phil Ehart plus Steve Morse join in for “No Man’s Land” and “Every Time It Rains”, thus going back to “Power” and “In The Spirit Of Things” line up – sans Walsh’s pipes. Unfortunately, these songs, though strong, are not special except for notion that the latter reminds a certain George Harrison piece.

Kudos to Mike Slamer’s production – Mike co-wrote half of the material and plays guitars – “Seventh Key” appears a very whole body of work, and even rather mediocre tracks, like “Surrender” or “Forsaken”, come put in the context, side by side with such acoustic-dominated gems as rousing “When Love Is Dying” and “Home” sung in Paul Rodgers’ manner that’s continued in rich-textured “Prisoner Of Love”. Quite a contrast to them sounds closing track “Broken Home”, so beautiful in its simplicity driven by Igor Len’s piano – a fitting final chord. The key’s right – the doors open.


Something’s Coming
NMC Music 1997
There was a time when dinosaurs were being born. YES were one of those, always scorned as bombastic proggers with collective ego big as Everest. They were – and they weren’t. They came off the highly experimental psychodelic combo which changed for ever once Howe and Wakeman joined. But live, it was always different than on platters and these BBC recordings of 1969-1970 are the only demonstrating YES the beginners.

Then YES were about experiments and diversity, thus, close to ELP, in picking Leonard Bernstein’s “Something’s Coming” and Stephen Stills’ “Everydays” for their first singles – made in unmistakable YES way, jazzy and filled with BEATLES’ harmonies. Jon Anderson‘s voice wasn’t so high still but delivered “Every Little Thing” with great passion, Chris Squire‘s swaggering bass added a funny turn with quotes from “Day Tripper” and “Norwegian Wood” to this song that developed into fantastic picture as time went by. There’s a big difference between 1969’s and 1970’s sessions that clearly depicts the band’s progress. Only one year, but what a confidence YES gained.

Hesitations gave way to cutting edge where Pete Banks’ unleashed guitar combined with imaginative grooves courtesy of Bill Bruford sounded very tricky, contrasting Jon and solid bedrock of Tony Kaye’s organ that ran along – and here’s that spacious “Astral Traveller”, which involves a baroque dance. The ensemble had enough strength to have some songs aired before nailing them for sophomore “Time And A Word” yet didn’t stop developing after, as “Sweet Dreams” and “Then” show in this unique (there’s the only existing recording of “For Everyone”) document of progressive music’s Jurassic era. You may not love Godzilla but this little dino should feel great in every psych freak’s home.


No More Obscurity
Lion Music 2000

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Tell me where is the rule written that guitar heroes should go metal? Hardly a chance to make it through. The average mistake is players missing an album point yet coming up with quality pieces that don’t cohere. The mistake number two is wrong singers’ choice. Rolf Munkes comes capable of top-notch riffage crammed into “You And I” and “Starsailor” yet there’s Goetz Mohr, a friend with regular set of pipes, distracting from string work. Not that he’s a bad singer as he shows in “The Moon Who Learned To Fly”, a light acoustic piece given a short but exquisite solo. Rolf’s mastership’s on display in POLICE’s “Message In A Bottle”, which BALANCE OF POWER’s Lance King sings in the Mr Somner’s way yet has Summers’ guitar replaced with no less driving fusion part. There’s a clue, in going off the metal rails – it could be Beethoven-cross-folk of “Legatomizer” because it rocks, underpinned by immacullate groove from drummer Gerald Kloos. Gerald even received a special spot on the album, “Drumatic”, a duel with Anders Johansson.

This diversity does no good, and while alongside Blackmore-influenced “Mystic Overture” (to what?) stands “That’s new”, which is no new at all, there are strong pieces as pure AOR of “Lord Of Lies” and classical “Tunnel Strut” or “Up And Down” that may point to Munkes’ future as progressive guitarrero. This manner suits him better than “Where Do We Go From Here?” rumbling. But Rolf’s deeper than that – spot him plucking bass on “Tap That Thing” and “Confuse Them All”.

The best way for Rolf would be create a band but he chooses to draw attention through “names” like Johansson, Mark Boals and Neil Murray who he works now with. That will do, buddy!


We Can Swing Together
NMC Music 1998
1971 saw LINDISFARNE settling at the peak position with the “Fog On The Tyne” album waiting in the wings, and BBC jumped the train to record the band live. This CD comprises two concerts: the first one oddly dated by the drummer Ray Laidlaw’s liner notes as June 24th while tracklisting says July 18th, the second show was nailed on December 7th – OK, that doesn’t matter since dates no way concern music.

But the venue does, so Alan Hull logically starts London gig with elegant “City Song”, very laid back yet its impact is immense – those Geordie knew the secret of haunting melody so audience easily joined in clapping for “Train In G Major” blues lead by Ray Jackson’s harpoon that sounds tired on the December’s version. At the time ‘FARNE just had “Lady Eleanor” single out and what a smash was this ballad, which involved superb drumming from Laidlaw and Jackson’s mandolin complementing vocal harmonies, supported by Rod Clements’ swaying bass. It drives the third “obligatory” piece played on both shows, “Fog On The Tyne”, exemplar of mighty folk, more impressive on-stage than on LP – especially when released, spiced up and given Clements’ violin solo.

Rod seems the country-blues chief of the lot, having come up with jiving “Knackers Yard Blues” and pulling his bow through “Jackhammer Blues” hoedown madness. Sometimes that vibe crosses THE BAND field as in “No Time To Lose” or “We Can Swing Together” with fantastic harmonica running through barn catalogue up to glorious culmination. Unity was an integral part of ‘FARNE idiom and to open the winter concert they chose “Together Forever”, quite flat tune, not their own. Maybe, t’was too freezing so December’s gig is of less interest – melancholy “January Song” says it all. Much better and sunny comes “Meet Me On The Corner” – well, some have their conventions on the ledge, others on the corner… That’s nearer, eh?


Live In Poland
Wydawnictwo 21 2000
In the wake of Peter Green’s recent efforts now we face an acoustic blues album from another British legend, namely Tony McPhee of GROUNDHOGS fame. But it’s a live and very informal one, recorded in Poland in 2000. Just like Greeny, McPhee starts with the ancient Robert Jonson’s “32-20” which looks like nothing special and, while sung quite impassioned, there’s no sign of what a hell of a guitarist Tony is. He uncovers his mastership later, little by little although master strokes can be witnessed already in Howlin’ Wolf-penned “No Place To Go”, a take on “How Many More Years”, which ZEPPELIN put on their debut – the famous riff retained. A selection is really brilliant including both well-known classics as “Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” plus one more from Wolf, “Sitting On The Top Of The World”, very fragile compared to CREAM’s version, and rather obscure pearls like Freddy McDowell’s “Write Me Few Short Lines”, maginified immensely by guitar acrobatics, and “No Mo’ Doggin'” that great Rosco Gordon wrote – how McPhee goes intoning to his fiery playing on the latter! It takes time to get into that stuff – since Muddy had blues electrified, bareback riders are rare birds – yet that’s rewarding. Enthralling performance!

And there’s one special standard called “Groundhogs Blues” Tony named his band after, a kind of extravaganza after those heavy renditions with the band. Off the ‘HOGS catalogue only two early pieces got played, “Mistreated” and slide-driven “Garden”, the audience immediately recognizes. Yes, old man has a huge following in Poland and is ocasionally accompanied here by vernacular bluesmen, Krzysztof Opalski on harp and Romuald Poplonyk on kazoo. And there’s no split – it’s the blues in the end of the day.


Magnetic Oblivion 1999
Who’d doubt that had Ed Macan, famous for his art rock reserches, decided to play himself that would be a magnificient effort. Such it is – and is beautiful, having a great set of instruments explored, that, spare for Hammond and Moog organs includes recorder (a sort of flute, if one asks), marimba and, above all, vibraphone. With it at the fore, music is closer to THE NICE but more intelligent though equally complex in approach, balanced on the verge of classical and cool jazz. Which means that’s progressive rock – sans rock! The album has a title suite in six movements at the core, prefaced by an overture of two parts, the first being RUSH’s “Jacob’s Ladder” (the first great prophesy in man’s history, wasn’t it?) given a gentle treatment with Ed running through all his inventory. Once the mood’s set, Macan, supported by punctuated bass and inspired drumming, charts a jazzy territory of “Intrigue In The House Of Panorama”, seemimgly improvising on the spot.

And then the suite unfurls in all its glory and hidden quotes. Maybe, jokes too – one can’t help thinking of a certain piece as Movement One is “Barbarians At The Gate”, a bolero, which turns into a serene landscape with “Hope Against Hope” where bass counterpoints ARP strings. “Last Stand” appears to be more sparse leaning towards melodic percussion, gone for short “Lament” to let the Steinway grand piano in, which employs a classical constraction of prelude and fugue dedicated to Glen Gould, an obvious inspiration. But if you think of Bach, a meaty organ picks up the theme in “Leviathan And Behemoth” – an apt instrument for these Biblical giants. Through piano and recorder “State Of Grace” is attained, the most Emerson-esque of all. Good. So for those who successfully reached the end and perceived what hermetic science is, a prize awaits, a work of love: “Tarkus” adapted for pure piano and recorded live. A treat. Get hermetic!


T.REX – Uncaged
NMC Music 2001
A mighty document of T.REX at their best – these recordings, first ever in both audio and video format, are from German TV program “Beat Club”. The band’s performance clearly shows that 1971-1973 was Bolan’s combo’s peak, and while the sound quality isn’t of high standards, the energy prevails here. Drummer Bill Legend, who submitted liner notes for this lovingly packaged set, was too humble in his reminiscences: that band could be a smash. Contrary to many other live releases – these are aplenty nowadays – Marc’s voice sounds very strong on this one, maybe due to the audience absent from the TV studio. On the other hand, spontaneity was retained – and that’s essential.

“20th Century Boy” and “Buick McKane”, though raw mixed, come as glam gems, in its metallic ringing standing side by side with SWEET and SLADE hits crossed with Hendrix’ stage madness. Marc the guitarist’s versatility is often overlooked so here’s a lesson given in “Jeepster”, a homage to the early Sixties’ rock’n’roll, easy and charming, and if there are mostly chops and riffs in it, “Jewel” (caught a quote off “Debora” inserted) involves fiery soloing – were REX supposed to turn progressive? They could, with those players complementing Bolan’s boogie perfectly. (Who’s the bass man, eh?)

“Life’s A Gas” may swallow a listener more than ever – too short, a pity – but what a surprise is “Ride A White Swan”, REX debut single, still innocent and naive. That can be said of “Baby Strange”, T.REX refined – a sunny band with a sunny boy. A solid gold easy action. A must.


Nuclear Blast 1999
If English punk was about protest and American about politics, punk from Deutschland is about fun. But fun can be about politics and protest too. “Crash-Landing” has a go at both with huge self-criticism. The album opens with “The Producer”, which is no less than introduction from, er, producer John Caffery, who warns us of possible damage from listening to what? The band answers, “The Product”, a speedy rock’n’roll advertisement. A perfect bravado you can’t help but give a nod to. OK, the mood is set right with the basic rock turned seriously and followed by funky and feisty “The Man” similar to THE STONES’ “Fingerprint File” – maybe, a little toothless for HOSEN yet that what makes the drift more expressive.

The bite comes later, with powerful “Soul Therapy” and soulful “Viva La Revolution” that wash away the surface after “Big Bad Wolf”, a murky reggae-tinged ditto begging for orchestra touch. An intermission of unchangeable “I Am The Walrus” and, more interesting, Sonny Curtis’ “I Fought The Law” with “blackness” preserved doesn’t add much to the picture. So is it punk at all? Attitude-wise, yes, and hardly so, speaking musically – rawness made room for quality musicianship. There’s a bit of crash but with feet firmly on the land. No damage done – no complaints about the product. No matter how evil is punk, “Disneyland will stay the same”, assume DIE TOTEN HOSEN.


The Heretic
Drakkar Records 2000
It’s all about self-indulgence. There were many attempts to marry hard rock and symphonic music yet it takes to be Jon Lord – not even Malmsteen – to succeed. To get one’s songs “symphonized” is one thing while writing a concerto another. And here comes Smolski, the guitarist with MIND ODYSSEY and, lately, RAGE. Victor’s no novice to this world with father a classic composer and Snr. helped out with orchestra arrangement – Belorussian Symphonic was recorded by Andrey Zubrich, who had Smolski in his first band INSPECTOR, one of the best Belorussia gave birth to. But guitarist’s been living in Germany for long now so while narration in German and English is OK, words in Russian are terrible. That says something about the attitude with which Smolski approached his piece on witchcraft in Western Europe.

“The Inquisitors Dream”, a strong piece, seems an apt title for the rest of the album, where “Hex Of The Six Strings” owing a bit to “The Wall” has guitar tortured. It squeal and squirms in “Witches Hammer” trading riffs with string quartet – all in vain. Everything’s too cliched – “The Testimony” sounds as if orchestra was warming up. An endless overture. The band containing RAGE members got lost here, dumped by orchestra “The Necromancer” diminished to movements between spoken lines. The most exquisite is a title track with Peter Wagner singing but overall it’s much ado about nothing. Get Smolski stuck to his guns – his prowess as a metal figure is, at least, out of question.


Nuclear Blast 2001
The band opted for a break for couple of years to re-charge the batteries and in order to thank the faithful present a collection of rare tracks.

It’s new songs that kick it off, “Will My Soul Rest In Peace” and “Falling Into Fantasy” being a power-chorused ballad – two similar tracks in a row not a clever thing, yet ain’t it for completists? There’s a certain order in the material and after machine-gun tempo of “The Curtains Are Falling” where voice chases the drums, appears a majestic keyboard “Requiem” – all rooted in the Seventies canon, with three covers a proof. Two taken off the tribute albums, JUDAS PRIEST’s “Bloodstone”, strong but a bit poppish, and RAINBOW’s “Kill The King”, obviously based on “On Stage” version. STRATOVARIUS show their ability to play mighty not putting their own stamp here. If so, why pretend that “I Surrender” was found on Russ Ballard’s record, since STRATS’ live cut has its origins again in RAINBOW hit?

The second half of the album is to save money on singles and bonuses. It makes sense, as “Keep The Flame”, plaintive piano-driven serenade, suggests. The band feel at home with catchy “Why Are We Here?”, a must for all AOR-obsessive, and one more SCORPIONS-influenced piece, “What Can I Say”. Two rhetorical questions are followed by a pair you can easily live without. “It’s A Mystery” though could be good if it wasn’t a DIO rip-off melodically (Ronnie had his own “Intermission” in 1986), “Cold Winter Nights” is much better – another great keyboard solo, STRATS guitars may not shine solo but make a monster coupling. Live, they’re to kill, so keep “Hunting High & Low” until the band is back.


Running With The Pack
NMC Music 1999
Steve Marriott was the only artist who managed to shift from beat to heavy rock and further towards rhythm and blues. But 1974 was the end of HUMBLE PIE golden era with the band falling apart at the seams since others struggled Steve in order to return to basics. That influenced the music badly so “Street Rats” album appeared inferior. More material was tried at the time though it’s only now that these songs see the light of day for the first time.

It’s obvious why they didn’t make it and the reason is lack of energy. Even scrupulous renditions of James Brown’s “Think”, where Steve sounds exactly like Godfather himself, come laid back rather than brimful of soul. Even then it could be put into the album context, but not “This Ol’ World”, too raw, split into two vocal lines that hardly complement each other. Frenetic pace of the similarly approached “Snakes & Ladders” feels better; more time spent on developing the songs would do good – if standard forms like bluesy “Midnight Of My Life” can be improved at all. But had “Lovemaker” gotten over the demo stage, PIE’d have another hit yet Marriott didn’t even bother to sing the piece leaving it to bassman Greg Ridley, who does a superb job on scorching blues – like on his “A Minute Of Your Time” with jiving piano solo from Tim Hinckley and brilliant Clem Clempson’s slide licks.

Clem did his best on funky “Charlene” and THE BEATLES’ “Rain”, the most unlikely choice that eventually sat in “Street Rats”, but what for since melody’s weak. “Good Thing” is such, indeed, but aborted on the move as the imagination well run dry – compare these working tapes to mighty cuts off the PIE last ever USA show of December 1973 added herein, back in the studio, “Stone Cold Fever” was no more. Did they need no doctor?


The Code Of Life
Nuclear Blast 2001
The first thing you’re smashed by is guts-shattering bass that makes guitars run alongside in “Day Of Reckoning” but, powerful musiciansip notwistanding, the impact’s lost on not too imaginative melody. What’s for sure is that it’ll be a great stage opener – with curtains falling with “We Are One”, a top-notch stadium shouter. There’s a real unity, guitar duetting, vocals soaring. The problem is a division: heavier stuff comes first, melodic – later and a borderline is an acoustic instrumental piece “Pantheon” demonstrating a lyrical side of riveting WARRIOR. How’s about unplugged show, guys?

“Open Your Eyes” has the band touching a home base confidently. Solid metal it is, original isn’t – how many songs you could liken to “Kill The Machine”? Spot here MAIDEN – sure, Joe Floyd lent his gutar to Bruce Dickinson who was a big influence on Rob Rock – and even MEGADETH-like riffs. Given more variety, those riffs could serve better while in “Standing” and “Soul Survivor” they’re quite flat. A bit underproduced is that offering – that’s not bad, being raw like rock’n’rolling title track, yet album as a whole may feel to a certain extent tedious if not for the great chant of “The Endless Beginning”. Rhythms section goes dancing for “The Fools Theme”, although vocal line all too familiar mars their effort that exquisite Renaissance sketch “Insignificance” compensates with big gusto. Energy saved has its release in rumbling “Retribution” that links us to “Day Of Reckoning”. A full cirle. A secret code of life?


Perplexed In The Extreme
Frontiers Records 2001
Previous works warned us that hard RAIN would gonna fall and a new one shows the band’s progress. The most impressive they now deal with rhythm that takes over from the opener “You” and spears the album through. The balance between instrumental and vocal melody still not reached though and where guitar solos hit the deck, voice, good as such, presents a collection of AOR cliches rather than a melody that sticks. From that point songs like “Is This Love” are just regular and here’s the problem – a quality on display hardly holds interest right to the end.

Maybe that’s the reason for stealing Steve Harris’ bass line and RAINBOW hook for “Numb” that has bombastic keyboard intro – the song’s really good. Had RAIN stuck to metal or top-notch blues rock as of “Until Your Blind” they’d rocket off. Where riffs sharper and heaviness gained there’s the rock: “Badlands” destined to be a fave on-stage, the affinity for the shouters and quasi-alternative ballads like “Wasted Time” RAIN already proved with "Live2K". But studio seems to make EMERALD RAIN dim – a lesson to be learnt to shine.


Nuclear Fire
Nuclear Blast 2001
With an album and songs titles too banal this band should fight their way through, which might be not difficult with former SINNER and GAMMA RAY members in the line up. A deceptive bend. Battle thunder rushes “Angel In Black” in… Well, the eagle on the cover warned of PRIEST ghost – vocals strained, instrumental frame’s good, no leaks left. Sometimes it’s good and even ironic with artificial “no compromise” game of “Kiss Of Death” and “Nuclear Fire”, a fad long gone but tasty played. In places, though, it goes over the top and things look dumb – be it speedy “Back From Hell” or more loose “Now Or Never”: PRIMAL FEAR seem stranded on over-charted land of classic metal. Guitar duets, on the other hand, are fine and somehow save the sinking ship with just a little help from the voice, too effusive in simple rock’n’roll, which is “Eye Of An Eagle”. Ralf Scheepers can sing not scream yet don’t keep calm even in ballad “Bleed For Me”, the slow-motion band sounding quite convincing.

“Fight The Fire” cuts hard – but where’s it, the fire? Is “Fire On The Horizon” the right answer? Too far to warm! Its tongues sparkle in “Red Rain”, scorching while not burning. Mid-tempo “Iron Fist In A Velvet Glove” comes impressive – if only its development held PRIMAL FEAR such enjoyable longer! They are, on this one, well-balanced for the first time here. So what’s wrong then? “Living For Metal” says it all – irony test is hard to pass when iron wins the day.


NMC Music 2001
NMC continues the series of ROXY audio/video albums that was launched with "Valentine". These five songs recorded for German TV in 1973-1975 represent the vintage band, but not so vintage since Brian Eno had already left the band having taken all the aural extravaganza with him and his namesake Ferry eventually took over. Sonic experiments immediately set aside, ROXY became more traditional rock band – only a bit later the leader started polishing the sound. But at the moment it was so pleasantly raw, even Ferry himself was reciting rather than singing in “Out Of The Blue” driven by catchy combination of Phil Manzanera’s guitar and Andy Mackay’s wailing sax that soar in the best progressive traditions with Eddie Jobson tagging swirling violin solo onto the end. The hint of things to come is “Psalm” rooted in continental Forties’ chanson yet taking turn into country field where harmonica cuts in organically – THE BAND had influenced ROXY, no doubt, so Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” appears rather natural, not being a crossover. “If It Takes All Night” a proof, it’s a boogie, isn’t it?

“Editions Of You” sounds so urban compared to other tracks and without Eno’s gimmicks – Jobson’s organ solo notwithstanding – loses all its effect. That’s where the secret lies: a passing phase it was that’s vintage now so the wine deserves to be savoured.


The Dark Ride
Nuclear Blast 2000
Gone are the days of keys and rings, nowadays HELLOWEEN albums artwork looks as if it was some alternative band. Thankfully, the music’s theirs, maybe a tad rawer but huge in scale and rich in textures. No, it’s not a conceptual work, as intro “Beyond The Portal” may point. Who cares, since “Mr. Torture” swoops down “with his whips and his chains” to bind you to the chorus. It’s a band’s trademark, these anthem-like refrains, yet in “All Over The Nations” all too cheerful Andi Deris’ voice soars in vain: hurricane drums don’t support the mood – even so the track’s catchier than gloomy “Escalation 666”, SABBATH territory surely isn’t for these guys. Roy Z, who sharpened his teeth producing Halford and Dickinson, gave HELLOWEEN’s sound edge to shift them closer to new standards like “Departed Sun” shows, the band’s nature remained intact. Combining melody with heavyweight stomp becomes harder with every new work while it’s still here, witness superb piano line woven into “If I Could Fly” – what a piece!

The deeper we dig the more we see the band we used to know. Some signs given – “I Live For Your Pain” is rough cut and “We Damn The Night” is too MAIDEN-laden – HELLOWEEN are obviously on the crossroads deciding where to turn. That’s good because they’re moving like rolling stone that, y’know, gathers no moss. That is the dark ride.


Judgement Day
Frontiers Records 2001
At last there’s a band that inherited the spirit of THIN LIZZY! It may not be seen from the title track that’s rather standard opening smash – an appetizer. With Alex Edwards’ voice resembling John Wetton‘s the LIZZY influence is well hidden in the beginning and becomes very clear in “Emerald Isle” letting Lynott intonations shine alongside guitar duet that goes up to direct quotes. All of them collected – both in music and lyrics – in “Wild One”, a eulogy to the great late Phil, sung by bassist Fasker Johnson (he and drummer Nigel Durham used to play in SAXON), who does even more frightening Lynott impersonation and that doesn’t seem forced and COMET aren’t a tribute band and present here a bunch of powerful songs – extremely impressive for a debut.

OK, the Bailey brothers are no newcomers to the business so they know the trick that is slow swallowing: at first you’re hooked on “Spirit Of Toumahai” chorus and then only start guessing on which LIZZY album you’d heard “Revolution”, co-written by Dez Bailey with none other but Lynott himself. “Stealin’ Your Lovin'”, on the other hand, has a different idiom explored, plus another in “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” – not BAD CO song but in bluesy vein closer to mid-Eighties David Coverdale‘s endeavours, more so for “Should Have Been There”. Mostly instrumental “Celtic Warrior” shows BAILEYS COMET prowess in serious material the album of which would be very appreciated.


A Tribute To ABBA
Nuclear Blast 2001
It was bound to come since Ritchie Blackmore proclaimed his love for the Swedish quartet. Loving ABBA is a test for a good melody feel – a blind spot for many a metal band. But why not try to have a lesson? It takes some stamina so number the brave.

An ice-breaker role have THERION sending violin around the riffs found in “Summer Night City”. A confident effort – especially viscous pace and male and female voices entwined on chorus. METALIUM didn’t do extreme changes yet turned “Thank You For The Music” into rock’n’roll – two sides of pop on display – similar method ROUGH SILK applied to “Take A Chance On Me”. Different to those, bombastic rendition of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” from SINERGY appears faithful to the original but when it comes to self-written solo – thumbs down. Vocals moved to the fore is the obvious solution yet a band wins with instrumental approach balanced, as in “Money, Money” brilliantly re-worked by AT VANCE, or “Eagle” SARGANT FURY did.

MORGANA LEFAY, on the contrary, went far with too serious take on “Voulez-Vous” making it evil – strange to ABBA idiom. Eviscerating continued by PARADOX to the extent where “S.O.S.” is hard to recognize (Tad Morose solo treats “Kmowing Me, Knowing You” as it deserves though). SPIRAL TOWER left “Chiquitita” mellow despite the growing heaviness, which is much better while “One Of Us”, FLOWING TEARS slowed down to a metal ballad, lost its glamour and NATION answered with pure glam rock “Waterloo” with QUEEN-like coda. In the same mold CUSTARD deliver “Super Trouper” and even more Seventies are in “Dancing Queen”, which GLOW sift through punk, glitter, funky groove and make a final statement: a metal/disco marriage done. Death won’t do it apart.

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