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Standing Here
NMC Music 2001
Seventies weren’t a good time for Joe Cocker, seeing a fall before the rise with 1981’s “Sheffield Steel”. Live, though, Joe kept on being an attraction, and having embarked on a tour in the wake of his Grammy-nominated “I’m So Glad I’m Standing Here Today”, singer seemed to know, what the future would bring. He dared not to perform that song, but came up with strong repertoire that is etched on this May 1981 recording from Denver. It’s live in many senses, as the levels aren’t balanced well, which makes the record breathe with life. No wonder, Cocker caught this and put into opener “Feeling’ Alright”. He was, feeling very peaceful, with no sign of nerve Joe’s famous for. Performance boils up little by little, to the point where the last encore “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” chugs like a train, far removed from Marvin’s original, no less soulful though, voice complemented by the band able to turn any piece into something different. Joe’s the greatest interpreter on Earth, “Whiter Shade Of Pale”, now more gospel than ever, switched organ and piano, gained female backing and left no place for the original drummer B.J. Wilson to indulge. He shows his skills, nonetheless, elsewhere on the album as in arresting “I Don’t Wanna Live Without You” and “Look What You’ve Done”.

All the songs here are impressive, yet Joe didn’t stick to his proven hits – sure, there are “Hitchcock Railway”, “You Are So Beautiful” and “A Little Help”, and that’s about all. And that’s about good, to get into more obscure and more interesting material, like inspired “Shocked” or “Seven Days”. And, boy, was Cocker cocky, belting out “Watching The River Flow” with elegant confidence. That is, he might have not roar and growl but still shine, standing there. Like a stainless steel. Indispensable document.


Take Good Care
Stone Premonitions 1997
In the beginning you have to adjust your ears to the barely organized noise spilling out with “Changing The Guard”, when “the music unfurls in a sunrise of sound” to settle down as something charming, fitting the strange lyrics perfectly. The key is to take Tim Jones’ and Terry B’s voices as an instrument delivering the feel of being in some fairy tale, and it works framed by fantastic guitar flow courtesy of Martin Holder. In-between songs laughter ties together this drift, all versatile and psychodelically eclectic. That’s irony, a foundation: down-to-earth “Another Day, Another Hat” boogie is a slightly disguised go at Dylan, “Angels And Lucre” proves to be almost roots reggae, while “More Than Ashes, More Than Dust” pure progressive ballad. Songs build up airy constructions, with only bass solid enough to keep the elements afloat.

Be now late Sixties, quirky “Watch My Sanity Dissolve” could make the charts. Presently, this vaudeville piece augmented by lovely whistle wouldn’t make it, still containing the appeal, sparse and wonderful. Oh yes, vaudeville is where all this collection belongs, it homes tracks as opposite as groovy Chicago blues-cum-funk “The Gap” and romantic ballad “Ephemeral Fire”, a title so apt for childish innocence, irresistible even when songs don’t wield a catchy melody. Mesmerising light beat of “Dancing With The Demonised” embraces it all, leading to Latino-tinged “Take Good Care”, which draws the line here, emotive and serious, “a greater dawn chorus becoming a song”. Surprising, like a rabbit out of a hat.


The World Needs A Hero
Sanctuary 2001
The title proves right, this day’s hero is no revolutionary type but conservative, like Dave Mustaine, who keeps his band on the same track, where all is familiar and, thus, comfortably enjoyable, up to revisiting old places, as “Return To Hangar” does. Seems, the combination of Mustaine’s and Al Pitrelli’s guitars is something the band ever needed, as Al explores an approach more melodic, that goes well with Dave Ellefson’s mighty bass, which fills the title track, a kind of rap, not so impressive amid percussive brilliance of “Disconnect” and impulsive “Moto Psycho”, sarcastic as usual. And sentimental like never, even galloping “1000 Times Goodbye” touches heart strings, not to say of orchestrated ballad “Promises”, so poignant after “Burning Bridges” firing anger. A perfect love album? Not a bad idea for MEGADETH, though strange.

Rather soul torment it is, in “Recipe For Hate” Mustaine feeling himself “a black sheep of the family” and Pitrelli highlighting the statement by thoughtful acoustic solo, that Dave doubles electrically to follow with tempo changes. Then, “Losing My Senses” only deepens this desperate expression, drawing on psychodelia, and all falls into places, “Dread And Fugitive Mind”, spilling with breaks, sees further riding on mental wave. It’s only rock’n’roll, but… We were here, right?

Not exactly, and Mustaine still appears able to amaze, his solo intervowen with one from trumpet creates an unbelievable instrumental “Silent Scream”, unforgiveably short. MEGADETH reached the point where uncompromising look at life is no longer valid. Closing “When” dramatically leaves us on the crossroads, when all the questions pointed – and none is answered.


Angels In Exile
Blue Storm Music 2001
If Gary Moore no longer makes your heart bleed, that’s the new hero. Holt comes not out of the blue, but straight from the blues, having served for years as a Buddy Guy apprentice. Still, there’s a little of Guy in Scott’s music – sure, veteran hardly needed a mirror in his own band! Holt’s a master in his own right, yet his affinity for Peter Green can’t be denied, and it shines through heartbreaking “I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Living” – sparse guitar lines, Mayallish piano (thumbs up for Geno Hattner!) and touching voice remind of “Looking For Somebody”. That’s arguably the best track off all, the most authentic blues, lingering on to Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell”, which now regained its appeal with swamp slide threads across fiery playing. There are two more veterans on this track, namely Billy Payne and Paul Barrere of LITTLE FEAT fame, all three pay a tribute to the great late Lowell George by covering his “Spanish Moon”, and what an interpretation it receives!

Then, this inspired approach makes it all as contemporary as the blues can be, if “Dress You Up” is blues at all, leaning to alternative type of hard rock. No doubt, though, about “The Unforgiven” heavy roll casting the Jimi shade, but what buys is the less decorated sincerity of “Who You’re Thinking Of” and “Too Far Gone”, voice and instrument stride hand in hand, or “Baby Let’s Go”, equally rough and smooth to get hooked on. “Strong Enough For Goodbye” soul feels strange here, but Scott lets guitar do the talking and wins – even when commercial gloss takes over, like in “Angels In Exile”.

J.J. Cale’s songs have always been the walking stick, so Holt fishes out “I’ll Make Love To You Anytime” and effectively wraps it in Elmore James live envelope to juxtapose to anxious gloom of “Up In Flames”. Scott Holt, a new keeper of the flame? That will do, blues won’t get dusted.


No Defiance Of Fate
No Fashion Records 2001
No knowledge of heraldry needed to tell by the cover we deal with another heroic metal opus. Don’t go no further than “The Liquid And The Metal”: “It’s night again, and we are dressed in armour”, quite eloquent, ain’t it? Pleasant, yes, but no defiance of fate in the band’s attitude, indeed. Except for a few moments, “Like Dogs Climbing Up The Moon” – an odd title! – starting as a beautiful acoustic ballad, yet WYVERN fail to sustain the mode and break into traditional twin-guitar thing anchored to over-suppressed low-end, an attitude signalled with the opening “Horizons Of Glory” – hardly inspiring, second solo aside. That’s true, the band care about melody and look for inspiration in folk field, as suggest title song and “Morningstar”, a great tune with an amazing bridge of funky guitar, offbeat drumming and Hammond roar. But, strangely, in a couple of places instrumental interplay sounds a tad out of key, and all the pathos of “The Last Ordeal” and “Starborn” can’t beat this impression of overall stupidity, reaching its peak in “Northern Union”. That means, “The Power Of Wyvern” isn’t something to salute to.


with Sue Fraser –
Perpetual Tree 2000
If you happen to spin this album immediately after one by Wakeman, there’s a surprise awaiting on you – keyboards flow in exactly like Rick’s. No, no copying, but Baird’s a shining talent. Shining, not blinding, it’s a sincerity that comforts you from solemn “Waving Goodbye”, bookending the album. All comes from Sue Fraser’s compelling singing, which fans of Annie Haslam would be just happy to hear, the same classical approach applied to pop tunes that characterized late RENAISSANCE, even Ken’s voice rides this wave in uplifting “Dolphins” light adorned with recorder solo. Steve Cochrane’s guitar, more gentle than on the album of his own, adds wondefully to lilting grace of “Open Doors” and “Fields”, deliberately Oldfield-like in its mesmerising beat, “Incantations” quoted briefly on the fadeout.

More progressively-tinged yet no less steeped in Chopin appears cosmic “Shadow Wall”, where Baird muses so inspired. And then there’s “Orion”, an epic seemingly continuing “Can You Understand” – listen to this majestic piano, awashed with synth solo and organ fuga! Soaring vocalizing, time changes, imaginative drumming and guitars, now handled by Baird himself, make for a real treat. The more you listen to it, the brighter the sky. There’s something spiritual, and waving goodbye comes so sad. Will Orison rise again?


Eponymus II
Unicorn Records 2001
The title and two eagles on the cover push one to think of the band’s sophomore album as a direct sequel to the debut. It is, no doubt, but something was lost along the way, and that’s immediacy so distinctive before. The best example on display is “Glassosphere – Pt. II”, which explores a great theme from the previous work yet leads it astray and makes somewhat pointless. The material became more sophisticated with Antoine Fafard’s magic bass taking over guitar and keyboards, their role now diminished – not in “Sever The Seven”, though, that rushes towards CRIMSO loose textures. Still jazzy, the reference to WEATHER REPORT seems inappropriate presently. Plus there’s a voice popping up – but what for? A mystery, sprinkled with reoccuring theme akin to that of “X-Files”.

Thus, all the bass acrobatics of pleasantly pecussive Holdsworthian “Trophallaxie”, however impressive they are, can distract from the fact of good melody absence. Free jazz? Perhaps, but rather long compositions – “Infinite Ammo”, they say – don’t develop due groove, that’s gone for trance of sorts. Once it goes out of picture, the picture focuses, like “For The Trees Too” clearly shows. Anyway, all of it elementary – of earth, air, fire and water – and impassioned, “Jamosphere” involving mad sax a confession. A musicians’ musicians thing, that is.


Noise Recods 2001
Quite an unpredictable move KAMELOT made with “Karma”, having crossed over to symphonic metal, a real thing, with an orchestra and string quartet attached. They had to come that way sooner or later, since Khan jumped in and turned the band this direction. That’s the karma – all you do comes back to you. Scenario’s the same though, album opens with instrumental overture “Regalis Apetura”, where KAMELOT don’t play a note. They do on “Forever”, a great song – thanks to the melody by Grieg, who remained uncredited. Khan’s singing is as powerful as soft, the same goes for the production and instrumental balance, Thomas Youngblood’s guitar and orchestra complementing each other, while bass and drums are pared down, a bit toothless – very clear on “Wings Of Despair” and piano-laden title track. Arrangements are courtesy of the band’s old friend Miro, whose keyboards sound so arresting in “The Spell”, which wouldn’t be strange on any RAINBOW album. What’s so special there is simplicity – KAMELOT eschew aural syrop many progressive metal groups build their reputation on. No needless decoration – just voice, acousitc guitar and strings – applied to poignant “Don’t You Cry”, very Renaissance ballad, so wonderful and sincere. A lesson to be learned.

Strange, though, how KAMELOT themselves studied HELLOWEEN textbook to pull the rabbit for “The Night I Shine On You” and romantic “Temples Of Gold” with “Nights Of Arabia” motifs of "The Fourth Legacy" revived. “Across The Highlands” feels too standard, yet its Scottish tune serves good prefacing “Elizabeth” magnific trilogy – an apex of the KAMELOT’s work so far. A concept album looms on the horizon, ain’t it?


BOA – Twilight
Pioneer 2000
It does take a certain courage to try denting into charts with songs grown on the folk furrow, but, since bands of CRANBERRIES kind did that, then why not? BOA make their debut with a strong statement, although there’s no song catchy enough to rocket up to the top. Still, they’re all charming, most of all “Duvet”, presented both electrically and acoustically, and shamanic “Fool”. BOA worked out a simple pattern of soft flow on verses and a chorus waterfall, sometimes quite tragic, like in “Twilight”. String quartet helps to carry beyond the message born in a telepathic drift between the Rodgers siblings, singer Jasmine and guitarist Steve. Strings and bass fill the air of “Rain” and “Elephant”, rolling fresh, the problem lies in the songs being cut similarly, and once the next one comes in, the previous gets washed away.

Yet they’re not sophisticated, as “Little Miss” shows; that’s engaging – you may not appreciate ZEPPELIN-esque guitar acrobatics of “Scoring” and “For Jasmine” but feel the respect, because BOA do rock – and heavy! – in “Deeply”, it’s only at this point worth recalling the Rodgers’ father’s called Paul, that Paul. Steve sounds very like him in bare drawl of “One Day”, while Jasmine conjures English ghosts on “Drinking”. Sandy Denny’s mask fits her well, but a funny turn comes in lighly reggae-coloured “Welcome”, a curious combination of folky vocals and ska beat interspersed with piano and a fluid guitar thread, that magnificiently stretches towards flamenco on blinding Latin dance of “Anna Maria”. There’s a hit to be! Next time, that is.


World That Surrounds You
Keith Johnston 2001
A rare occasion when on listening to a band you have a feeling of witnessing an advent. There’s a question whether JANAH would emerge had not Page and Plant come up with their “No Quarter” and point the eyes of the world to the Middle Eastern music again, but JANAH’s deeper than it may seem when “Oil On My Head” chant pours out. It’s an ensemble unique, septet using the wide ethnic instrumentarium – sounds of bodhran, sitar and tabla being the most recognizable. The voice sometimes too, making up a Plant impression in “Wake Of The Sun”, yet that’s not a drawback while they’re keep to this field and don’t reach for metal thing. They don’t, “Luna De La Tierra” comes softly, remindful of a certain tune about guitar weeping gently. It creep under the skin to bloom with THE BEATLES innocent psychodelia, which can be traced in a light “Sedui” drone or spiritual swirl of “Creation’s Molding Furnace”, so charming in their pagan beauty.

This nature means, there are no boundaries, then “Leavened Heart” makes East and West meet in a strange blend of Moroccan and Irish rousing dance, and you have to listen closely to the chorus to find out it’s in English. Fantastic feel for phonetics!

Back to the Celtic woods with “Temple Of My Body”, an eloquent ballad, if this terms somehow suits folk-inspired material. Still, most of the JANAH songs feature electric arsenal as well, that builds a solid bedrock for ethnic exercises and lurks in a whispering flow of “Forbidden Country”, leading to the “Bagona” humid jungle – but these two pieces lack the energy, which “Will” brings back to develop into “Hitching Post Of The Sun”. Let’s give it another name – a starting point to the world that surrounds us. And what a wonderful world it is! That’s the advent.


Urban Tale
Frontiers Records 2001
That’s the debut thing. A good one yet reeking of the first step. Light melodic hard rock you can’t help but feel for, though it’s hard not to notice a rhythm section weakness, a flat drum sound giving the album an overall demo smell and completely spoiling “Circus”, saved only by keyboardist Timo Pudas’ arty work. Production flaws come into frame in needless echo attached to vocals here and there, as in “Engine” with its great acoustic piece and slide guitar. Running order too: while “The Devil In Me” might be good, captive it isn’t and fails as an opener – especially for the band that still have to make themselves a name. “King Of Hearts” has the potential needed – Kimmo Blom’s powerful voice obviously demands a different approach, it takes to be Lou Gramm to allow such a lifeless instrumental backing that lies beneath “Passion Takes Over”, more vocal harmonies would add depth as well. Otherwise, it’s all banal, nothing special to “One Day (I’ll Make You Mine)” and “Broken Chains”, the same old blue-eyed soul everyone’s fed up with. But promising, yes, be “Runaway Train” a bit more confident, it could make the charts.

In an environment like this, “On The Edge” appears as if conceived on another planet – a haunting elegant tune, thoughtful arrangement and a top-notch chorus! If that’s the edge of a new album, there will be a smash, really. It’s natural, unlike young guys’ obsession with an old actress TALE pour out in eclectic “Doris Day” – thanks to smooth “Water” that washes away the aftertaste. A strong flow, lively and consolating, not urban at all. Yet blues, a hidden track, is something to live without. A tale too boring.


GLACIER – Monument
Glacier Music 2001
Think CAMEL, think YES – and add GLACIER to yourt list. “Think Of England”, they say, while birds sing and bells chime in their icy world, not a fantastic one but charming. Compelling melodies, jazzy solos, GLACIER’s secret lies in a clever decision to challenge the ghosts, and they do – in a crafty “Bring Down The Rain”, which stitches progressive, soul and folklore tendencies of GLACIER seamlessly. So despite the quite familiar guitar-organ interplay of “Lull Before The Storm”, the ice is warm, putting simple voice against instrumental wall. A very sympathetic move URIAH HEEP used to explore, and “Another Open Door” drives on in a similar way up to charged Moog solo. Sometimes, though, vocals swell, like in “Con Motto Noddus”, and a motion turns to something static, country guitar of “The Iceman Comes” getting buried under lifeless vocals, approach too raw to enjoy, a picture falling apart…

…to create the new one, where “Monument”, a strong instrumental, isn’t static at all, shedding light as a beacon, and here GLACIER follow an interesting path, returning to “Bring Down The Rain” to fetch a medieval European melody for “East Of Arabia” – an alchemic marriage covered with Wakey-like synth flow, coming close to the edge of perfection to spill in vaudeville piano splinters. They built a Chinese harmonies in a “Kashmir” tempo – that’s “Beyond The Wave” and that’s an innocence groovy. “Through The Mist…” is an engaging acoustic guitar solo of Steve Hackett kind and an entrance to “…The City Gates” impressive flying. The last burst of “Whichone” lights up the sky – and there’s only a top of the iceberg. And much more to come…


Ex Tempore
Musea 2001
Some music is timeless, and this title says it all, the French duo weaving a magnificient web of medieval tunes – partly inspired by the old art, partly being it but re-arranged. No sense to compare them to, say, GRYPHON, with their authentic instruments, VITAL DUO go parallel to their compatriot Patrick Broguiere, who use modern inventory, which only underlines the material’s beauty, like in “Tel Rit Ay Main”, where acoustic guitar gets eschewed for electric one that goes well with organ. This monster has a prominent role throughout the album, bursting out in solemn pavane of “La Tour Haute”, made poignant by classical guitar solo. “Loue Son Nom!” and “Ce Me Dame”, on the contrary, are moody folk processions with heavy timpani beat, close to those TULL incorporated into “Thick As A Brick”, and vocals now are put to the fore to lead like any other instrument and pack up a thick polyphony for rock-shaped “Chanson De Trouvere”, a real medieval song powerfully electrified to fit GENTLE GIANT class – and it does.

Tension builds up to form the most spiritual pieces “Deux Chemins d’Enfance” and four-part “Nostre Dame” mass. The former features piano, bouncing jazzy against the lazy guitar moves – a new age of Wakeman kind with a hint of “Norwegian Wood” in the second part, while the latter sees guitar unite with organ for a paean to the famous dome. And if “Les Saisons Marines” was gloomy, leaning towards classical ballet, “X File” is a trance bit, not strange to the suite it belongs to. Fortunately, it doesn’t last and abandons before drum rolls preceding “En Castille”, a sarabande of sorts reaching its peak with a Gypsy guitar lace and calming down to the final “Meditation”.

Listen to it or use as a background, this music makes think, that’s why it defies time.


Metal Church
Nuclear Blast 2001
Once upon a long ago, in the Eighties David Wayne was a force behind METAL CHURCH, fifteen years later the singer re-appears with a band of his name and “Metal Church” being a debut album title. While through these years lazy he wasn’t, Wayne is still faithful to classic metal and, in under 40 minutes, unleashes the old beast. “The choice is yours”, says opening “The Choice”, so if Ozzy and W.A.S.P. combination of heaviness and melody is your cup of tea, enter the church of voice soaring across guitars and bass unison. Even MAIDEN may lose to them, “Burning Up The Stake” is so refreshing amid all too pretentious metal of today. No boasting or superficial musical heroism, everything works to rock it at full swing. It’s the same rock’n’roll shack, shaken’n’stirred by striding coupling of “Hammer Will Fall” and “Soos Creek Cemetry”. All from the past, from the glorious times that spawned MOUNTAIN’s “Mississippi Queen”, which comes here as a pretty final bow with authentic slide guitar blues.

Be WAYNE a young band, songs like “Hannibal” and “Vlad” (great Oz impersonation) might seem dumb – they’re not, filled with sarcasm and humour, and great musicianship too, guitar lines smelling of Randy Rhoads. And the “Heaven And Hell” riff was surely deliberately chosen to be transformed for “DAD” (i.e. “Die Satan Die”). You can’t say, they not know what they do. So, “Nightmare Part II” feels serious yet springs from headlong automobile saga of “Highway Star”, “Death Alley Driver” and “Trashed”, up to funny bits put in the solo. And then there’s “Ballad For Marianne”, a real ballad, sincere and gentle, ringing as a church bell. Let it toll, for WAYNE aren’t vain.


Valentine Baby
NMC Music 2001
The band with such a title, emerging from in England in 1976, must have been a punk one. The more surprising it is, they followed straight in the wake of BAD CO bluesy pop, an approach very upfront on this live document from 1980. And the less surprising, the band members hit the big time in the Eighties, both solo, as John Waite, and collectively, as in BAD ENGLISH later on. Their success-to-come was rooted in THE BABYS, an ensemble that self-confident to open the show with classic “Money” – the Fabs version a blueprint – and fill it with guitar, keyboards, bass and harmonica solos, the trick usually kept to the finale. Well, they had an LP called “Head First”, in the end of the day… At that time, though, THE BABYS were touring the “Union Jacks” album, and songs off it take almost half of this set, but get presented no earlier than the surefire shots, THIN LIZZY-influenced “Broken Heart” and “Run To Mexico”, the best proof that THE BABYS were arguably the first band to wave the AOR flying colours.

But they were much deeper than many of their successors, with Wally Stocker’s concise guitar chops and Jonathan Cain’s jaunty piano, which drive uplifting “True Love, True Confession”. “No Future” Britain had no place for such optimistic songs, a little wonder THE BABYS opted then for US, where country rock numbers like “Every Time I Think Of You” and “California” were accepted warmly. John Waite’s voice fits bluesy material well, Paul Rodgers couldn’t be better on “Midnight Rendezvous” or “Turnaround In Tokyo”, but it wasn’t these songs that set the new fashion, it was “Jesus Are You There” and the then Top 40’s “Back On My Feet Again”, preceding ASIA, GTR and the like. THE BABYS themselves weren’t to last long in the Eighties, Cain’s future lied in JOURNEY, while Ricky Philips’ bass holding here “Head First” appeared in demand for many outfits, and Tony Brock, whose fireworks make “Looking For Love” so illustrious, replaced Carmine Appice in Rod Stewart’s band. Together, they were huge, and hear them live is a real treat twenty years on.


The Children Of Children
MadElf Productions 2000
Not a rock opera, as it stated, in any case, no more so than “The Wall”, stretching for two discs with the same gloomy feeling. Donald Scarf-influenced paintings in the brilliant booklet, and shadows of FLOYD abound from the “Overture”, an attempt on opera method, as main themes appear here to be developed later. Husbands and wives alienating and families breaking up appears a serious issue but to build an album on it doesn’t feel a great idea. Music, composed by the keyboard player Mark Durstewitz, is strong, and the only flaw is quite weak vocal melodies. To perform four characters of the story, the band invited singers, all good but only Christine Hull convincing as a Mother, especially in the bitching mode of “The Big Belly Blues”, and when duetting in “The Children Of Children” with pleasant tenor of Dennis Johnson, Father, too soft to equally send the chill down the spine. Partly, it’s due to often pathetic approach, an operatic one, a contrast to the music. “Your Fault” belcanto, though beautiful, hardly belongs here.

Not so with players, genuinely awesome, and if Durstewitz tends to be shy and concentrate on the piano rather than synths (they’re there to create an orchestra sound), Vince Genella’s guitar is amazing, easily spanning pure prog (“All I Need Is Life”), an exquisite acoustic lace (“An Eagle And A Dove”) and Chicago blues (“Tell Me”). His work on the latter complemented by boogie-ing piano, a real driving force, very versatile too, switching from bar-room bashing of plaintive “Madmen And Dreamers” through vaudeville in “Another Joyful Day” to “I Don’t Know You Anymore” slow disco. Thus, the music’s diverse – up to nursery rhyme tune in “Running Wild” – yet coherent, with reoccuring themes and instrumental interludes being the most proggy pieces, like “One Moment Please” or “Retreat” intro. But they’re bleak next to Father’s aria “Where Are You Now?”, a magnificient hymn, and closing “Daddy, Can We Talk?”.

Don’t think of “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Evita” here, but having “Starlight Express” for a reference point will set the mood right.


Live Insurrection
Sanctuary Records 2001
It could be an act of rebellion from any other band that put forth a live double album having the only studio one behind, but not so with this monster. Thirty years in business, Rob Halford still belts out mightily smashes both old and new. And those in-between too, as he finds it no sin to perform “Into The Pit”, “Nailed To The Gun” and “Life In Black”, recorded by short-lived FIGHT project. No songs from TWO, though, but singers’ supporters should indulge in JUDAS PRIEST material given a lion’s share of two CDs. Sure, promoting 2000’s “Resurrection”, this was logical to kick it off with “Made In Hell”, which lives up to Rob’s classic output, and there’s a sincerity in delivery that’s hard to resist; Halford’s all screams, chorus singalongs and melodies he always was capable of and gives it another chance in a vibrant “Silent Screams”. Voice didn’t wear off a bit, what can be a better proof than “The One You Love To Hate”, a singing duel with Bruce Dickinson, two sirens still compell, thus, making “Metal Gods” not a boast. Halford proclaiming himself “Hell’s Last Survivor” leaves no doubt he is, and three new studio tracks assure this revolt won’t stop now.

And why it should, if the hits of yore still sound fresh? Halford goes deep in his past and shakes the dust off “Sad Wings”, “Stained Class”, “Running Blind” and more, up to not so classic, yet appealing, “Jawbreaker”, and the three-piece opening sequence from “Screaming For Vengeance”. So it’s just funny, when Rob takes on an Ozzy mask for “Cyberworld” (he sang in SABBATH for two shows, didn’t he?). No matter, how diverse Halford’s approach can be on his albums, on-stage it all melts into solid metal rock’n’roll. Which these days is the insurrection.


Life Goes On
El Vee Records 1999
How often an artist appears to be only a push away from success he deserves, and there’s no one to give him a push. Especially when artist isn’t shocking, not pretentious and all he cares about is a good melody delivered tastefully. Big names going in this direction, somehow lose, John Wetton’s solo works an example. The reason Wetton springs to mind is the title track starting just as John’s “Hold Me Now”, and this sincere simplicity in Brown’s approach. A delicate acoustic and electric guitars wave makes homely tunes warm and welcoming, in places, like in the most rocky “What You Gonna Do About Me”, showing a streak of Americana. Or even blues, explored with “Distant Smile”, that lose from vocal side, when David tries unconvincingly to sound rough, while gain on guitars. Don’t look for any special influence here, though, what lies sleepy is soft Harrisonesque touch, that peeps in cello-augmented melancholy of “Only She Knows” or “129” and comes frontal in “Stolen Moments” (pinch yourselves, it’s not George) and “Only The Flesh” wonderful tango pace, a latent hit. Had Michael Bolton recorded “Cold Outside”, exactly his kind of soft soul, it would make Top 20. Still, Brown’s is a happy music, and anyway, life goes on.


– Falling Angels
Stone Premonitions 1997
There’s another name to the band, they used to call themselves THE RHYTHM METHODISTS, and that corresponds with their spirit much more. They’re about playing around rhythmic structures from the off, “Jump Up! (For The Mayan People)”, yet world music theirs isn’t (the Eastern ornament of “Slave Labour” proves deceptive), the method is not akin to Jon Anderson‘s, although the YES man could deliver spacious – jungle beat, splashing keys and meandering guitar – track “Body Full Of Stars” just beautiful. Not being as angelic, BFOS lean towards bass-driven funky groove befitting Peter Gabriel, though contrasting with poetic lyrics, more so for “Love Is On Your Mind” serene surf and punky “Battles”, written in 1978. No matter how sarcastic soulful “Paranoid Conspirasy” feels, it’s deeper than on the first glance, the fantasy let loose on the guitar side and takes in jazzy colours – from light fusion of “The Quaking Houses” and “Flying” through aerial instrumental “Spirit House Dance” to quirky “WASP Attack”. Surprisingly, all this soup is not eclectic and comes tasteful.

While beats may change, melody stays, and it’s hard not to appreciate acoustic flow of “The Women Come Singing” (vocals are male) before the “Fairweather Friends” cutting swing. All the exquisite, then, appears “Rainbow Water – Snake Demon” soft Latin lace, continued in “This Mortal Coil” (no reference, if you ask). Soaring “Jump Up Again” makes the circle full, and, not to leave us claustrophobic, leads beyond with “Falling Angels”. Well, not angelic – which means, closer to us, the mortals.


Sunrise In Riverland
No Fashion Records 2001
A typical power metal formation with not so typical touch of humour added. That’s not on the surface though, but what is – a clever use of folk motifs. And don’t be fooled by the name: under the subtitle “Stockholm” goes the opening instrumental “Finlandia”, which massively draws on famous Russian song, and is all but great with vocals lurking deep within. Another Russian tune – the one Blackmore took for “Gone With The Wind” – pops up in “The Land Of The Wintersun”. This old school is clear in soaring guitar and shy but eloquent keyboards that come so easy for “Lost In Time”, however heavy it is, heading melodically towards quality pop. The singer deserves acclaim too, being in posession of amazing pipes to let voice effortlessly run up and down, as in “Heading For Tomorrow”. And humour… What about “Hotel California” solo re-worked for “Beware Of The Dragons”? The only drawback can be unjustified tracks duration – “Heaven Or Hell” or “Seasons Of Life” could have been cut up much earlier.

The band’s impressive, and while the comparisons with, say, HELLOWEEN, seem inevitable in “Dangerous Mind”, the work proves strong and full of enthusiasm. And if “Angels In The Sky” may be a title too banal for a ballad, the piano-driven song itself comes well-shaped, not mawkish at all. Nothing new to it, sure, as well as to the title track but why complain until it’s pleasant? The closer to finish, the less interesting music is, “Tears Of The Nature” not so bright, still “Seasons Of Life” rocks and “Time Of The Prophesies” radiates energy. Just like rising sun, equally promising.

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