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Electrically Driven / Sailing The Sea Of Light
Classic Rock Legends 2001
Something fantastic going on with HEEP. Media-despised dinos are back to eventually feed hats to those who had been slandering them for long. Not more now, after sell-out shows in England, with one, recorded in London in March 2001, preserved here. That’s so called “official bootleg”, and it shows: the sound balance is below standards set with "Future Echoes" and "Acoustically Driven". This album is a logical continuation of the latter, while close to the former being musically not a one-off performance but one of a kind with a couple of surprises in. Well, Ian Anderson’s frolics in “Blind Eye” and “Circus” aren’t surprising, TULL man did exactly what he had played before, and “Come Away Melinda” was in the repertoire a while ago. What wasn’t for some 25 years is “Return To Fantasy” the band kick the gig with, and now the song comes “close to perfection” for the first time since it was recorded. “Soon to be classic” material, in Bernie Shaw’s words, such as “Universal Wheels”, “I Hear Voices” and “Between Two Worlds”, “bootlegged”, feels more immediate here, delivered jauntily. The rest is real classics, with exquisite bass solo woven into “July Morning” and… no “Lady In Black” in the set – a shock, but, on the other hand, the London curfew made the show extremely intense and tight. Songs shortened – was “Gypsy” ever ticking in three-minutes-plus? That’s wonderful, though vocal harmonies the five are famous for have a sonic limp sometimes, as in “Bird Of Prey”, getting thin, with Lee Kerslake‘s voice rolling solid alongside Shaw’s. Still, it’s a muscular performance able to make many modern acts green of envy to this evergreen entity, HEEP.


What Have You Got To Loose?
Self-released 2001
A fledging band from Sweden behind this demo album are in posession of talented musicians yet what they desperately need is a good producer able to shape them well. The influences are right, all Seventies hard rock, sometimes too overt as trodding the SABBATH path in “Cutting My Loss”, turning PURPLE with Hammond of “Hear The Coming” or hooking on HEEP for “Morning Flight” (“Traveller In Time” revisited). Anyway, full of thoughts, music slaps one in the face with deep bass interwoven with meandering guitar of the opening “Made Of Lead”, trembling at once funky and straightforwardly but leaving a lot of space for voice to fly, while there could be much passion to it. A matter of time, clearly, and Jocke Eriksson will emerge as a new David Coverdale. Bluesy intonations come impossible to resist, even in emotive ballad “Burned”, which puts organ/bass combination up front and lets Hawkan Englund deliver solo in Pagey mode though there’s no ZEPPELIN in it. The problem is in sorting out the elements, and that concerns not only mixing, which feels quite poor, but also the material selection. “Perfect World” could be much more driving with a top line more imaginative, yet a couple of songs, like too rough and unfocused “With Your Bones”, deserve to be left on the cutting room floor. Similarly, if “Overflow” were led by Jugge Lindhult’s impressive bass part, there would be something magic. That means, MOOTH OF CLAY got more to loose, not to lose. A winning horse to sign up.


Tales Of The Psychic Wars
NMC Music 2001
BOC appeared somewhere in-between BLACK SABBATH stomp and HAWKWIND space-outness to bloom – or Bloom – ever since. At the very start of the Eighties, though, the band were quite far from their usual heavy ride. The first show of the two comprising this set was recorded in New York and strikes with its synthesizers use. Not that this wasn’t before, it had been already on the BOC greatest kick, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”, delivered here in all the glory, but the whole solo of “Dr. Music”, rock’n’roll anthem with piano doing the killer work?! Such was the new formula, on display for fresh material; “Fire Of Unknown Origin” feels contagious yet has a strong pop feel. Still, there’s nothing weak – every song, especially bouncy “Joan Crawford” adorned with classic piano introduction and kept in the live set for some years, comes worthy of the group’s 70’s hits featured in the second part of the concert and occupying the most of disc two. The five go back in time with Chuck Berry-ish “Hot Rails To Hell” after “Veterans Of The Psychic Wars”, very imaginative from the rhythm side paean to BOC past.

The second show comes from LA, and, committed to tape in 1983, sees different BOC. The band now were on their own ground, as heavy metal was back with them an instrument: guitar part of “Burnin’ For You”, equally powerful on both CDs, is exactly of MAIDEN kind. Strangely, with “Stairway To The Stars”, “Workshop On The Telescopes” and a couple of other tracks from BOC early albums, magnificient “Godzilla”, BOC’s “Wild Thing”, got left on the East Coast’s gig – for weight balance, obviously. Sure, what can’t be left off are “The Reaper”, “Born To Be Wild” and “Roadhouse Blues”, everchanging to include “The End” snippet in NY and a dose of “Love Me Two Times” in LA. Well, had these veterans stopped changing, they woudn’t be around nowadays playing psychic wars. Yet, BOC were “Born To Ruck”, as Buck Dharma says here.


Manic Moonlight
Metal Blade 2001
Manically beautific album by any stretch. Power trio flow in on cutting riff of “Believe”, sung very laid back while ever-busy Doug Pinnick’s bass relaxes and lets Ty Tybor’s guitar do the talking. Although echo effects on vocals sound rather weird, as if they were mixed in to confuse, the music, funky and heavy, comes easily with Sixties harmonies building the title track. This simplicity gets exemplified by optimistic “Yeah” ringing out with Hendrix-like psychedelic interplay, where guitar, bass and Jerry Gaskill’s drums all go solo to straighten up and turn to “False Alarm” sunny surf. And then, “Static” – a stunning attempt to make the African beat stand still in a state of trance beside lifeless voice. Strange yet engaging.

Techno pace of “Skeptical Winds” sets the combo sailing the more familiar, if not stormy, seas, all calm to bore. Equally breezy, though fresh, feels “The Other Side”, windy and innocent, and transparent, yes, even when bass and gutar weave a thick canvas, redolent of Spector’s Wall of Sound. Catchy riffs get back to cover this tapestry with vibrant “Vegetable” – more soul to vocals here, and we’d have a big hit, otherwise it’s rocking too slow to smack a botty. Still, that slow motion is exactly what “Jenna” needs to fall into alternative ballad category. Listen to the Frippian guitar putting a violin guise on and bass thundering delicately to dissolve quietly in “Water Ceremony” splash. Romantic for lunatics playing on the grass.


Secret Of The Runes
Nuclear Blast 2001
A sonic treaty in Nordic cosmology. THERION go through the nine worlds that are cosmos, from Asgard down to Helheim, and each of them gets depicted here. But all started from the void called “Ginnungagap”, and that serves as a Prologue to the mythological sequence. Wagnerian choirs shining through metal riffs, orchestra and keyboards strata paint a majestic landscape with a magic Yggrasil tree in its center. Here’s the secret, in reoccuring themes and elements melding into something perfectly whole. That was done before, “Ljusalfheim” acoustic guitar betrays WISHBONE ASH influence, while orchestra salutes to Rimsky-Korsakov, and Grieg’s motifs lurk in “Vanaheim”. THERION’s drift comes equally compelling. In “Asgard” and “Nifelheim” male voices create a dark backdrop to soaring female vocals that spread on acoustic valley, guitars ringing folky way, not unlike Page’s part in “Battle Of Evermore”, making for Renaissance-via-Gothic feel. Violin and flute dance electrified bouree in “Muspelheim”, and solemnity never leaves the picture, even though “Midgard” – our world – and “Jotunheim” are where one cannot deny it’s metal. Yet saying the music is not operatic would be a lie either, “Schwarzalbenheim”, or “Helheim”, which has tenor and soprano duetting, prove it convincingly, because songs all these aren’t by any means (rocking title for a finale apart). It’s not groovy, nor driving but deep and emotive, music to live by.


Ancient Records 2001
There’s a definite logic in the PARANOISE method, summed up by artwork. While "Private Power" cover has women working, its follow-up pictures them relaxing. That’s the general feel of “Ishq”. Also, no logos of big enterprises this time and no samples (except for a couple of talking ones) woven into songs, some of which, tagged to the originals by Jim Matus, come from the world music greats, like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Kafi”, and some are traditional ones. The most sublime moments come, perhaps, with “Mondanabosh” paired to “Quacida An-Nabi” from Afghanistan and a supreme bass passage of Moroccan festal “Jajouka Black Ryes”. Yes, it’s North Africa where we find ourselves in – with a brief visit to Kenya for “Kayamba”, yet opening “Call To The Enlighted” has a strong rock feel to it, that gels greatly with Thorne Palmer-led chant and violin mesmerizing to step back before short solo from electric guitar. A marriage is perfect, and tribal “Wedding Song” completely dissolves in “Occurrence Currents”, making it difficult to pick a whole array of exotic instruments out of the mold, where bass dances around finely tuned percussion.

The same goes for material as such. Band’s own “Ishq” and heavy “I Own” sit proudly inside all this sound feast, maybe they drive on even more. Which can’t be said of “History’s Fractal Mountain” as hypnotic to pass by before you even notice and turn into “I’m A User” (they’re concerned about ways of the world, PARANOISE) that builds up into something new for them, a Bulgarian song turned on CRIMSO-kind madness. Still, it’s well structured, there’s an evidence in “Superimpositional” and breezy cool “Overmind Over Matter”. “Heliocentric Strum” would be the best definition for the style, so if “Have More” is an answer, not a manically pointed question, then bring it in!


Ecstasy On The Edge
NMC Music 2001
Strangely, how for many Daryl Hall and John Oates duo conjures up some pop image, while they never were about it. Having started in late ’60’s and still in action, the two were about one thing – and that’s rhythm and blues in its most soulful. Then, the insclusion in this live show, recorded in 1979, of “Sweet Soul Music” that both Otis Redding and Sam Cooke had a hand in making big is no occasional, voices sounding black and band turning the classic into mighty jive. Oh yes, the combo’s great here – drummer Jerry Marotta’s name says it all. Well, call it pop if you like, the singers bluesiely insist: “Do What You Want, Be What You Are”, and “Rich Girl” is pop, indeed. Blue-eyed pop-soul, that is – simple and catchy in “Sara Smile” and “It’s A Laugh”. No laughing, though, about the quality of performance, it’s top-notch.

That year they were promoting “X Static” and threw in a good measure of fresh material into the show, which didn’t feel static at all. You’re in the groove right from the sax hook of the opener “The Woman Comes And Goes”. That’s a funny cynical decline from romanticism of some years before, when they dent the charts with “She’s Gone”. Now they rock fully in not-unlike-ELO lush “Blame It On Love”, boasting impressive synthesizer work of Charles Deschamps (and it’s him, who blows the sax too).

His piano and G.E. Smith’s guitar give an edge to “Serious Music”, yet slight dropout before the song signals of possible edit – and it’s a pity if something was excluded from the recording. As for the song, it’s really serious and similar to SUPERTRAMP manner, as well as smooth “Wait For Me”, the then current single. What was worth the wait is this album, much greater than 1978’s “Live Time”. This time their rocky “Pleasure Beach” cries for lying on. Sunny ecstasy.


HURRICANE – Liquifury
Frontiers Records 2001
Ten years on from the band’s break-up and out of great performances for projects like "Heaven And Hell" and "Into The Light", Kelly Hansen reunites with original drummer Jay Schellen to shine once more. With shadows of the past lurking in the “Intro”, storm bursts into cutting rock’n’roll of “River Gold”, simple but groovy and most fitting to warm it up and let loose with Sean Manning’s guitars acrobatics. These RAINBOW-like features build up “New God” and “It’s Your Life”, poorer from melodic side on the verses, though radiating energy and boasting impressive bass hooks executed by Larry Antonino. All elements get tightly together for deeply emotive “Heart Made Of Stone”, the only drawback is that it sounds as if belonged to SABBATH’s “Seventh Star” – up to Glenn Hughes‘ intonations. Still, it’s awesome.

“Bleed For Me” effectively scoops from the same well, screwing into one’s mind as a piledriver. As a contrast, “Happy To Be Your Fool” and “In My Dreams” are radio-friendly ballads (latter smelling of Brian Adams’ “Everything I Do”) that hardly make one cry but delivered sincerely and it pays. Well, the delivery feels good throughout – and it’s not only about Hansen working his lungs off, but aslo the rhythm section jiving with full force. That manages to save tracks of lesser appeal, like AEROSMITH-esque “Shelter” or “Torn”, which has all the potential to turn out mighty yet comes underachieved on the top line. Sadly, towards the end flow dips further, albeit “Shine” proves soulful with Plant’s ghost guesting. Seems, one more year in the oven was needed to boil the eggs into balls.


Belfast Blues
Blue Storm Music 2001
Rab’s recent appearance on Dick Heckstall-Smith‘s "Blues And Beyond" alongside key players of the major blues league is a telling example of his abilities. Now he comes up with his own product, a long-overdue album from one of the Irish best guitarists, who could challenge the great late Rory Gallagher these recordings are dedicated to, if only left Eyreland for the big world back in early 70’s. Maybe, it’s a case of an age that McCullough keeps his cool where Rory was walking on hot coals, yet blues is like a wine: the older the better. So the only wrong thing about “Belfast Blues” is playing time ticking in under 32 minutes. The stronger the impact then.

It hits you right away, when “Louisiana Woman” kicks in in TASTE-like trio format quickening the pace towards a chorus. Sparse guitar lines across solid bass bedrock work for an authentic Delta drift, dreamy and humid, crawling and biting. Piano splashes boogie-ing into “Walkin’ Back To You”, arresting Muddy-way but easy, effortless from the unpretentious yet convincing vocals to blistering slide solo. A jaunty ride, which grinds to a halt to be dissolved in “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Fool”, a Hammond-tinctured crying blues many would attribute to another Irishman, Gary Moore. Close indeed, as both are indebted to Peter Green, and this one sound like a new chapter to “A Fool No More”. Less captive comes “Trouble”, too brass-shiny with THE UPTOWN HORNS doing their best, while B.B. King’s jazzy trick doesn’t work here with all the scat applied. Back on the rocky track for bouncy “Mistreatin’ Me” – that feels better, especially when guitar layers overlap on solo, lick over riff. A reggae beat of “Shame On You” makes the song the most catchy and outstanding moment of the album, poignant and powerful and hard not to love. If you don’t, shame on you. Get familiar hook and go then “Further Up The Line”. Not a remake of “Further On Up The Road”, it’s as simple as it gets to rock on, kicking the blues dirt. Traditional but revelatory.


Masters Of The Road
NMC Music 2001
Country rock was a good vehicle for many American bands to cross over to the mass audience, the trick this combo wasn’t that capable of. OK, faithfulness to the roots is something to praise, which can be said of annoying hiss getting in the way of inspired performance. The show, recorded in 1976, clearly breaks in two parts, one country and one rock, without real marriage of the two. Still, it doesn’t matter – like with the most emotive ballad “Love Makes The Lover”. Electric guitar running along violin in Cajun-sprinkled “Homemade Wine” is not a mean business but that doesn’t make rather strong C&W number appealing to those about to rock. What does is two harmonicas and infectious if traditional melody of “Beauty In The River” – that’s the blues which definitely “roll away the stone”. More cutting it got shaped for “Noah”, a chugging steamroller LITTLE FEAT would be proud of. And this slide part of “Commercial Success”! The song belies a suspicion that there’s no humour there. How about the line going like, “I wanna be in a rock’n’roll band, smoking dope in the back of a van, rolling joints and snorting cocaine”? Superb, eh? OZARKS proved their right to have a ball in rock heaven with magnificient “Country Girl” that has a haunting refrain one can’t help but hum on and on.

“If You Wanna Got To Heaven” shows the straight way up there: “you gotta raise a little hell”. They do with a bass hocus pocus, to go then for “Look Away”, reeking of “Honky Tonk Women”. Pure country of opening “Chicken Train”, on the other hand, might be a jolly ditty with funny cackle yet it builds too slowly to get onboard right on. If it’s a strategy to be involving little by little, it works because in the end we have CREEDENCE-like storm in the form of “The Road Master”. They’re still on the road, so dare to catch these DEVILS.


Frontiers Records 2001
Convincing debut statement, deeply rooted in the glories of AEROSMITH and MOTLEY CRUE – check odd Hendrix bit here and there or chorus of “Dragon Fly”. Strong in instrumental department, it’s all fully minded if half-hearted, even when ballads “Only You” and “Temptation” flow in quite predictably, great acoustic lace lets eschew the maudlin. Luckily, opening “The One That Makes You Crazy” will have lovers of American curly metal stomping along the solid riff constructions, although there’s not enough appeal to unfurl into such stadium shouter that “Stark Raving Mad” is, while bass-laden “Guns Of July” fire as good as it gets. What really stand out is bluesy “Adriana” and rolling “Anything For Money”, which hit and kick showing the band’s skills at their best. Grower altogether, it’s the second part of the album that infects a listener to send him apeshit, or ape. Or monkeyhead.


Songs Of Pure Harmony
NMC Music 2001
This band’s is a telling name – yes, they sing cowboy songs. Country, that is. Pure but electric without crossover accomplished by, say, EAGLES – and here’s a reason why they didn’t make a big time. Well, “Amie”, which kicks off this 1974’s show, was a minor U.S. hit a year later. Maybe, it’s all down to the leader Craig Fuller’s lack of attack in his singing and guitar playing, yet did country ever need such an attitude? LEAGUE explored pure formula – with arresting “Brand New Tennesee Waltz” a forgivable exception – that’s best defined by bluegrass reading of THE BEATLES’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, Fabs receiving their due after giving Buck Owens’ “Act Naturally” to Ringo. Fuller’s combo don’t shy away from classic material too, having here a go at “I’ll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle” from Nick Gravenites, Linda Rondstadt’s “Bring It With You” and Merle Haggard’s “It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad” and doing them justice with all the might.

Still, LEAGUE’s own songs don’t lose to masters, “Harmony Song” and “Tears” bordering with blues shine brightly in the spotlight of John Call’s elegant pedal steel and Michael Connor’s clever use of piano. They’re deep and emotive, though, but if you look for light C&W go no further than “In And Out Of Town”, that guitarist George Powell co-wrote with bassist Larry Goshorn, or smooth “Country Song”. Submitting gems like “Fool For You” and rocking “Leave My Heart Alone” and applying mandolin technique to his guitar, Powell deservedly comes as Fuller’s rival in delivering the best of the goods. Take it or break it, this could be a starting point to delve into country music world. Real themes for imaginary western.


The House Of Atreus
Act I
Noise Records 1999
A good deal of dexterity it takes to play somebody else’s game, STEEL struggle in power metal field they’re not specialists in, the fact that Greek mythology demands another treatment doesn’t add to the plan too. The trio’s restricted in producing rock opera as having a cast of characters and David DeFeis the only vocalist makes it hard to paint a host well – you can tell a character only with eyes on the lyrics. But cut these 22 tracks in two and that will make for an essential listening. Start with beautiful “And Hecate Smiles”, where the action is. Piano dances with guitar and rockets up solo to the skies for “A Song Of Prophesy” to unravel into claustrophobic Kassandra’s song “Child Of Desolation”. The central part of “Act I” feels a work supreme, the remainder just heady metal with a thin melodic icing from David’s keyboards, the best thing on offer, be it theatrical “Blaze Of Victory” or instrumental pieces like organ-delivered “Prelude In A Minor”.

Still, it’s the most classically-biased “G Minor Invention” and “Day Of Wrath”, that are the best cuts in there, and entire album of this kind would be warmly welcomed. They go well in context with gentle “Iphigenia In Hades”, though contrast with second hand SABBATH tunes of “Return Of The King” and “Great Sword Of Flame”, needless extra leading to deem an idea of two-part project self-indulgent. In “The Fire God” and “Gate Of Kings” the band return to their homebase, the freedom gets in the air, so maybe two separate albums is what really needed, eh?


No World Order
Metal-Is Records 2001
Another concept opus from Kai Hansen-led band, the most focused to date, equally melodic and heavy and, at last, on par with HELLOWEEN’s “Keepers”. “Induction” chorale may suggest they’ve come dangerously close to pomp metal, which is not the case, like “The Heart Of The Unicorn” proves. It’s a balance on the verge of speed and power, if you want to stick to definitions, yet RAY defy the labelling with exquisite guitar work, switching from expressive Blackmore-esque riffarama of the title track to impressive lace, stretching into folk field in “Dethrone Tyranny”, and vocals strong and warm and winning in superb “Follow Me” and “Heaven Or Hell”, so good that they’re out of time and could easily belong to Seventies, Eighties or Nineties – a sign of real masterpiece.

Still, they look forward, so while “Damn The Machine” holds a good dose of keyboards, that’s modern and rough, despite all the familiarity of the infectious chorus, like the “Solid” refrain, a surefire stadium shouter GAMMA RAY have been missing for long. Beside these, more regular songs, like “Fire Below” and “Eagle”, don’t stand out, but could every other piece be any special? – and don’t forget, here’s a concept, outlined with best artwork from Derek Riggs. What’s essential about “No World Order” is that the album grows with every new spin, no surprise in it though – the closing “Lake Of Tears” creeps poignantly under one’s skin making cry and wish for the feeling to be lived again, from the beginning, because being orderless is the supreme order of this world.


Eternal Infinity
Frontiers Records 2001
The band’s title is a hybrid of the members’ surnames, guitarist Jamie O’Kane and PRAYING MANTIS singer Tony O’Hora. Present somewhere are TEN’s Steve McKenna and CATHEDRAL’s Brian Dickson, but they don’t matter anyway, inasmuch as “Eternal Infinity” turns out to be O’Hora’s solo album with all the advantages and drawbacks of such a thing, where artist feels no limits. So whatever strong “Over The Edge” feels, hard to deny it’s artificially designed to show the singer’s abilities rather than to emphasize sophisticated guitar part. This imperfect balance proves awkward in “Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow”, so if there’s a search of originality, why cross over to Iommi’s camp for “The Storm” then? That’s boring. “Voices”, the only track co-written by O’Hara and O’Kane, is heavy but, nonetheless, doesn’t improve a thing despite some bass acrobatics. “Hold On”, leaning towards power metal, feels better yet still lacks a good hook. Rest with “Never Meant To Make You Cry”, ballad redolent of German bands’ output, though, filled with vocal harmonies, delivered very thoutfully and moody enough to feel a compassion to. Again, great rock’n’roll drift of “Judgement Day” comes marred by overstretched, too strung-out voice, which shines, soaring, on “Hurts Like Hell” chorus and “Remember My Name”, adorned with acoustic strumming across multitracked vocals going for anthem-like solemnity. To draw the line, HORAKANE fall out of love affairs and kick out the jams of this world “End Of An Era”, very pretentious and very Eighties in its attitude. They don’t want this era to end, so their eternal infinity isn’t for everyone.


The Official Receivers
NMC Music 2001
Another chapter of Marriott saga, no less glorious than his stints with SMALL FACES and HUMBLE PIE, though less known due to the album attempted but not made. Steve embarked on sessions with a new band, THE OFFICIAL RECEIVERS, and Disc 1 presents a collection of songs committed to tape in 1987-1988. These tracks see Marriott trying to find his way through several classics, “Oh Well” being the most outstanding: while other versions dealt with instrumental side of Green’s tune, great guitarist and singer in equal measures, Steve turned the song into heavy blues with gospel chorus, much more surprising than a go at soaring “Stay With Me Baby”.

As of album, there are charged R&B numbers written especially for it with bassist Jim Leverton, “I Need A Love” and “Ain’t You Glad”, that followed to the bin in the wake of 1981’s "Majik Mijits" recordings. Steve wasn’t to see it out, yet still wanted some material to see the light of day and decided to re-record a couple of songs, “Lonely No More” and “Toe Rag”, close to original takes but with less of a delicacy he felt in Ronnie Lane’s company. MIJITS weren’t about raunchy “Shakin’ All Over”, reeking of “Come Together”, “Law Of The Jungle”, recorded for Puma commercial, or live “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, which leads to Disc 2 containing the RECEIVERS Hammersmith Odeon’s show of 1987.

If there was a thing Marriott missed after leaving the Mod camp it was organ, RECEIVERS had it, and on that date Steve revisited his back pages, from early influences, like Sonny Boy’s “Five Long Years” and Larry Wiliiams’ “Slow Down”, through “Watcha Gonna Do About It”, “Tin Soldier” and “All Or Nothing”, now more rocking than when he was a Face (“Fool For A Pretty Face”, one more glance over the shoulder), to PIE’s smash “I Don’t Need No Doctor”. Beside these, lion’s share of the concert is obscure Sixties treasures the band brilliantly revive. Still, closing part of the saga they weren’t, but THE DT’s were, and a bit of their performance proves that Steve remained on top to the very last day of his life. A pricelss package.


Sex, Money, Rock’n’Roll
Massacre Records 2001
Poor, poor porno queen, she’s so dear to metal players! Unlikely, the guys will go far with a name like this, but theirs is a rock’n’roll worthy. Too dark and angry “Lucky Bastard Land” aside, the band rush towards three-minute punk, a healthy approach – get on the title track’s rumbling flight, money isn’t a bad substitute for drugs, is it? OK, SODOM’s Andy Brings knows what to do, he’s “F**kin’ Grown Up”, as the singalong chorus of eponymous track goes. But again, has he? He breaks into whistle here, to dig off BONEY M’s “Daddy Cool” and dusty disco hit “Born To Be Alive” there, and what a smoking heavy bass-laden covers they turn out to be! The band even add their own “sha-la-la” breaks with “All I Really Need”. Yes, “Will you, please, come back” call of “You Be My Baby” is so full of Sixties, even in sound, your feet go dancing and heart beats faster.

And faster. And faster, there’s “Bad News Mum” crashlanding that leads to arresting “My Kinda Girl”. Follow the path from THE KINKS to THE RAMONES, and you sure stumble upon “She” hoedown. That means, players are good – listen to the drums and guitar on “Feel Like Charlie Brown”, it’s a primal wild beat you find hard to resist to – as well as to the “See You When I See You” sax and strings making a menuet from an upbeat song. “Start It With A Kiss, Stop It With A Gun” – that’s a good definition, a feeling of one-take hit-and-run policy. Porn to be wild? Thumbs up!


HAVEN – The Road
Frontiers Records 2001
Since HEART went off, we haven’t had the lady-led hard rock outfit, so welcome HAVEN – that’s the thing, and you can tell its quality if only for those who helped singer Pamme, bassist/keyboardist Michael Brady and guitarist John Vanselow get on “The Road”: here are Matt Sorum on drums and Robin McAuley supplying background vocals. Songs alone deserve acclaim, as opening “The Curtain” rises, you smell a hit – such dramatic crawling-under-the-skin tunes usually are chosen for finale, here the mood is different, close to AEROSMITH’s “Dream On”. Cherchez la femme, anybody? Voice soars, guitars cry on the verge of desperation, asking “Can You Hear Us” – very airy feel in this one, and here’s an almost orchestrated peacefulness of “All I Ever Need”. A big production holds some concept, which keeps a listener interested, “Halfway Home” flows as folky-coloured ballad with punctuated bass so delicate, you fall into comfort to get up to driving “Strange Premonition” catchy riffage against saucy organ and cutting-edge vocal. But all step back to leave Pamme alone with keyboards for “Face The Day” soulful serenity.

“Show Them”, then? Debbie Harry’s ghost in the wings, popcicle simplicity from plastic keys – and rockabilly solo. Good, still “The Road” feels one song too maudlin to prevent from enjoying “Hold On” appeal. Compensation comes in “Someday Soon”, a solemn engaging hymn of hope in the vein of “Let It Be”, and sunny “Be The One”. In the end appears “Forgiveness”, exactly what was exspected in the beginning, a number cocky enough to embark on the road again. Is this only a debut, really? Seek haven for the next one, then.


Android Domina
Musea 2001
Another proof of the fact that nowadays real prog is settled in the Land of Rising Sun. All-female trio return with their finest moment so far. Lashes and clashes moans and groans pull in the mighty Hammond to build a title epic on. Hardly a trace of Emerson now, it’s rather Wakeman-esque touches in synthesizers layers, all Renaissance with a good dose of jazz from Mika Nakajima, whose delicate voice comes in Part 2, “Hypnosis” – for the first time in ARS NOVA canon – to dissolve into Keiko Kumagai’s sublime fugue. Ladies share the solos equally and intertwine their parts so tight, you just catch hints on classic tunes hidden deep inside. Current slows down and bursts in powerful coda, enigmatic enough to welcome a carol of “All Hallow’s Eve”, so remindful of “Nutcraker” crystal beauty turned battle – check Akiko Takashi’s staccatos alongside piano awashed in synth waves – and then waltz. It’s a ballet!

Yes, yes, shadows of “Swan Lake” in stormy “Horla Rising”, where real orchestra wouldn’t be out of place, but three girls do all that wonderfully! Rare elegance in their playing shows they managed to acquire the old masters’ secrets much better than anyone off neo-progressive heroes. Tempest reaches its high and then solemn end. Child sings, heavy heartbeats, and bass swaggers in for “Mother”, nerves bare and this Eastern melody creeping in – a moody piece, a paean to pregnancy and delivery of a child. But that’s Android Domina, a dominatrix thing, don’t forget, so we’re taken aback and back with fiery “Succubus”. Lashes again – and a fantastic solo from Keiko.

A nod to IL BALLETO and other Italian greats is transparent medieval “Bizarro Ballo In Manchero”, for which Mika comes up with pipe organ reigning amidst chorale-like court dancing. Domina, say? A dome!


On The Run
NMC Music 2001
If you call EAGLES a country-rock band, that means you’ve never heard this ensemble, sticking to “Tequila Sunrise” instead of “Acapulco Goldie”. Though by 1976, this concert harks back to, group’s name was shortened to DR. HOOK, their show went on. Sure ‘nough, better to see it rather than listen, for minute and a half into the performance, eccentric artists still chat with audience before they start crackling “The Yodel Song”, giggling and fooling around while one-eyed Ray Sawyer keeps on yodelling as if he’s from Tirol, and Dennis Locomiere remains on sharing a joke, as important part of the band’s ethics as songs. You feel that “Storytellers” atmosphere and wish you’d be there to join in for “Carry Me, Carrie” and “Queen Of The Silver Dollar” infectious choruses.

It’s raw Wild West vaudeville with jazzy guitar solos, swaying bass and weird drums patterns. There’s even an envy cowboy’s lament, “Everybody’s Makin’ It But Me”: “Elvis is a hero, he’s a superstar, and I heard that Paul McCartney drives a Rolls Royce car”… Great, eh? Shel Silverstein knew how to cook a hotdog, putting in there almost everybody – Alice Cooper, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Neil Diamond. What a challenge for Ray Davies’ verve! Well, Shel had managed to take his proteges up to the top, “Cover Of The Rolling Stone” gave DR. HOOK not only that coveted cover but also a BBC ban. Advertising, y’know.

Yet every circus needs an ad, especially one able to turn Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home” into Diddley-esque extravaganza and then be romantically serious on Sam Cooke’s “Only Sixteen” only to warm up again with the Fifties’ medley (including Richie Valen’s “Oh Donna”, though 10CC’s one could fit them well) and let their collective hair down for “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms”. So, once DR. HOOK bid farewell singing “Happy Trails”, you’re happy and healed from sorrow too – for theirs was the sound sound.

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