To the reviews index

Angels & Ghosts

Voiceprint / Mintspy 2001

Read the interview

It’s been a long time between the break-up of FLASH and the band’s bassist’s first solo effort. The collection of antiques charts the story of missing in action.

Ray moved out of sight once the combo he shared with former YES men, Peter Banks and Tony Kaye, was well over. And here’s an answer to those who ever wondered where the band’s name might come from: “Watch Your Step”, an obscure 1973’s single, borrowed its incendiary riff from “Jumping Jack Flash” while its B-side, “Never Stand Behind An Old Piano”, is an additional proof of their ability to rock the joint. Between the two recordings placed are pieces that never surfaced – only because all the projects were abandoned way too early. Some of them included ex-FLASH members, like Colin Carter-sung “Hold On” with Bennett’s funky bass, or “Who” and “Everything Changes” featuring Banks’ smooth lines and Sidonie Jordan’s soulful delivery. There’s not a plenty of details in Ray’s liner notes yet a fleeting feeling of how great all this could have turned out.

The rest had been laid down in guitarist Ed Fritz’s company in 1989-1993 before Bennett ventured into work on his “Whatever Falls” album. The change is remarkable for maturity on display, at first playfulness is full-on, as intense “It’s Alright” and nervous “Cool Religion” witness, to calm down later through “Lay Your Head Down” salamander crawl to “Don’t Miss A Beat” spacious progscapes. Ray Bennett certainly didn’t miss a beat in his time – we did! With a prospect for blank spaces to be filled, a crime of hiding away these fascinating tunes is forgiven.


Shadow Zone

SPV 2002

A quote of “Purple Haze” at the very end says it all: German Blackmore clone is on the prowl again.

“Searching for the rainbow” is the refrain of “Follow The Sign”, and Pell does it fairly, he stuck to the past like the pair of old socks, and might stink likewise if not for the singer Johnny Gioleli, the only living force and an opposite to Mike Terrana’s cold drumming. Axel’s guitar verve lies somewhere in-between but his sympathy to cliches both melodic and lyrical seems too obsolete. “Coming Home” is great though – a showcase for strong vocals in the vein of Tony Martin – and if you’re in for the wonders of yore, “Live For The King” appears a ballad of high calibre until it gains weight and flats out. Had it all been kept short, the appeal would be gross yet stretching “Time Of The Truth” or “All The Rest Of My Life” over eight minutes each makes music sour. Lurking in the shadow zone is good just unless it’s someone else’s shadow.


To The Bone

Guardian Records 1996

Davies siblings come out with the best and the rest of their long and illustrious career – plug in and out for the great effect.

When it came to the melodies, off all the British Invasion exponents THE KINKS were rivalled only by the Fab Four, the fact many let slide under the band’s greatest hits. Fiercefully played perennial “All Day And All Of The Night” and “You Really Got Me” bookend the live part of the double-CD set yet the main attraction lies with many an obscure song spanning all the group’s career. Tracks that previously seemed strictly belonging to concept albums get a new lease of life here – “Muswell Hilbillies” and “Celluloid Heroes” manage to exist beyond “Everybody’s In Show-Biz” while “Village Green Preservation Society” gets presented not only by “Days” but “Picture Book” and the title piece as well.

Another feature is mellowed-down acoustic versions of tunes as familiar as “Apeman” or “Sunny Afternoon”. Those never were out of focus still, which can’t be said of such late-day pair of charmers as “Come Dancing” and “Don’t Forget To Dance” – they are lively, they are lovely and they serve to show neither Ray nor Dave ever lost their knack. Though it’s Ray’s classics of “Dead End Street” thread steal the scene, his younger brother’s “Death Of A Clown” shines like a diamond too. And did you ever care to pay attention to “State Of Confusion”, “Give The People What They Want” or “Do It Again”? THE KINKS did their trick again and gave the people what they wanted. Even more, among other surprises there are two new songs, “Animal” and “To The Bone”, that retain all the old magic. If it’s the last record from the marvellous combo (hopefully, it’s not), the testament is superb.


HALFORD – Crucible

Metal-Is 2002

Angry Metal God goes through new ordeal to emerge crooked but invincible.

When Rob Halford arranged the band of his own name it showed where his heart would be from then on. Therefore, this time experiments are none, and pure rock ‘n’ roll pushes its way forward below falsetto of “Betrayal” and into anthemic “One Will”. And here’s an anger which makes it all spooky and sharp at the same time, as “Wrath Of God” or “Golgotha” display. This underlying feature livens up the drift more than guitars swell and bass pulse that pan majestically for the title track where vocals stretch with tempo changes and careen to rap.

Stepping into tunelessness feels dangerous sometimes, like in “Handing Out Bullets”, but the artist’s maturity prevails to turn “Heart Of Darkness” and “Crystal” into mesmerising fusion dances, instrumental waves ebbing up and down leaving the voice chant incantations. Seriousness gradually grows to spill in spades with “Sun”, an album lyrical apogee; vulnerability is pulpable in “Trail Of Tears”, and that’s the reason for Halford to appear off his crucible ever stronger.


Cathedral Of Emotions

Ricocher 2001

First full-fledged outing from the Best New Band as voted in 2001 by Classic Rock Society.

It was predicted by "Quest For The Heartland" : the mini-album left a little doubt this Dutch quintet would fly high, and two years down the line they do. What wasn’t clear is that the band would choose the most comfortable direction of neoprog, the MARILLION one. Here, tight pop riffs of “Ideals” bring fun and win over classic method, which is good melodies flown into dramatic panoramas of epic title piece and “Mask Of Illusions”.

Layers of John Van Heugten’s keyboards and Bart Van Helmond’s guitars sound one minute thick and other transparent like crystal with acousic strum, but if an accent makes Erwin Boerenkamps’ singing only charming, his pretentious tones cut it down and take out of “Child Inside” the fragility given to “Painting”, where simplicity is wonderfully touching. RICOCHER seem to be limiting their own abilities to rock – they do rock in “Fugitive” and “Out Of Hands”! – to others’ formula. Eschewing genuine emotions may ruin the band’s cathedral yet now it stands proudly.


Whatever Falls

Voiceprint / Mintspy 2001

Read the interview

Former FLASH member emerges out of oblivion, an act long-overdue and, therefore, more than welcome.

Going solo at this point of his career, an artist can be either boring or outrageous. Luckily, with Ray Bennett it’s the latter – today only a few play progressive music as frighteningly intense and haunting. No matter what bouncing “Changing” suggests, veteran somehow preserved the emotions many genre’s exponents lost. Not a mindchild but a soulbrew, “La Verite Des Miracles” reveals itself like a mirage, synth mountains and guitar caves awashed with silver drops morph into sharp riffs of city concrete. Complex yet beautiful and all the more worth investigating – for simplicity with which Ray plays bass-punctured “Stella” is deceptive.

What may seem strange on the first glance turns out a time warp bringing genuine wild art into present tense. And “Digging With A Spoon” is majestically tense, as if some punks did the court dance on the other side of moon; so an anger of furious angularity of “Torn Apart” with its well-hidden silky jazziness, seems less a paradox than a quirky dream. “Davey Goes To Park” is such a psycho dream delivered by a voice etherial and warm at the same time, even warmer unfurls a title ballad. “Whatever falls always arise” represents a motto of Ray Bennett, a philosophy in a sonic cloth.


Chapters From A Vale Forlorn

Metal Blade 2002

While other heroic metal bands tend to expand their ranks infinitely, FALCONER keep to a trio format and win.

Past opening “Decadence Of Dignity”, too headlong to catch on, “Enter The Glade” lifts up to a tasty blend of heavy textures and folk motifs. The major impact comes from the players’ flexibility, Karsten Larsson’s drums impeccably following a subtle change of a melody, “The Clarion Call” sounding exactly bugle-way when tempo speeds up and Mathias Blad’s voice soars to result in almost danceable groove. That’s the reason for a viking saga “We Sold Our Homesteads” or “Lament Of A Minstrel” featuring flute alongside Stefan Weinerhall’s guitar to be nothing short of a masterpiece.

Music is unambitiously spellbinding – no showing off, musicians abandon it even in more galloping pieces like “For Life And Liberty” that has a soft, acoustic guitar given, spot in it. In “Portals Of Light” though it could seem maudlin a bit, if not for a violin thread; equally, a cappella intro adorns “Stand In Veneration”. Veneration they deserve straying to some jazzy territory in “Busted To The Floor’ which boasts Andy LaRocque’s solo. Here’s a fresh air – viva!


Run For Cover

Red Steel 1995

Solo album from a veteran keyboard player, formerly with FREE and currently with THE WHO, Rabbit’s verve remains varied yet solid.

If you ever wondered why such a prolific songwriter, who worked even with Bob Marley, has always been in a band rather than go solo, here’s the answer. It’s all down to a highly idiosyncratic style Rabbit posesses which needs a special foil to polish it off: this time choice went to guitar supply from his erstwhile CRAWLER friend Geoff Whitehorn and Geoff Webb. The former’s bluesy playing makes “Love Is An Animal” a nifty beast and “Let’s Make War” a funky catwalk while the latter’s chill-out work chases “Better Be Ready” and “Same Old Story” to progressive territory.

There’s a range that houses Bundrick’s unpretentious vocals and synthesizers mastery, bubbly organ work eschewed in favour of Wonder-esque electro soul, clever and pleasant like in “Dancin’ Shoe”. Er, almost, as “Hammond” finds a way into “Shuffle Down” and “Moog” into a heavy groove of “Midnight Lover”. So that’s an uncovering of an artist, not a shelter he may seem running for in beautiful new age vignette of “Theme For Eon”.


RAGE – Unity

SPV 2002

Second album from the re-formatted combo sees RAGE return to a top form with a genuin sonic unity: “It’s just another way to multiply their power,” as “Seven Deadly Sins” go.

It took some years for a band to find a way back to balance their heaviness with a melodic side and for Peavy Wagner to finally come to terms with his vocals. Voice shines in “Down”, set against characteristically catchy choruses married to Mike Terrana-delivered breakbeat ride. This newly-discovered edginess shooting out of “All I Want” introduces a kind of industrial dry sound, though now it’s a perfect mold of sound resting only on Victor Smolski’s instrumental pieces, progressive “Unity” and short “Shadows”.

The guitarist’s influence grows stronger, and it was him this time who welcomed The Belarussian Opera Choir for powerful “Dies Irae”, reinforced blistering “Set This World On Fire”, the grand example of RAGE’s best, with his classically built solo and fixed a fusion into “World Of Pain”. Towards the end of the album, drift becomes less varied, yet one hardly can’t help but agree with “You Want It, You’ll Get It” message.


Natural Wonder

Motown 1995

Three decades since “The 12-Year Old Genius”, Stevie comes up with no less ground-breaking live album recorded with The Tokyo Philarmonic Orchestra in Osaka and some bits from Tel Aviv.

From a sonic vortex of “Dancing To The Rhythm” Stevie casts a magic spell on audience, all crystal clear voice and visceral vibe leading through gems both old and new. Even though “Ms. & Mr. Little Ones” is the only other previously unheard song on the offer and “Stevie Ray Blues” is just an exercise in boogie jive, the rest sounds as fresh, given an orchestra treatment: “Master Blaster” appeal comes immensely elevated, and “For Your Love” grows universal while “My Cherie Amour”, linked to “Overjoyed”, manage to retain their original tremulous innocence.

Maybe, that’s not so surprising in silky soul mode, where emotional surge of “Village Ghetto Land” or “Pastime Paradise” approaches classical heights yet “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and “Superstition” roll more mighty than ever. And when the tide gets down to leave Wonder alone with his piano for “If It’s Magic”, it is pure magic. Great moment of a great artist; best starting point for uninitiated to go beyond “I Just Called To Say I Love You” and a celebration for the fans to bounce off “Sir Duke”.


Nobody Is Perfect

SPV 2002

An atomic album from POGUES’ graduate Jamie Clarke is folk-punk and then some.

Banging in with a medley of tradtitional tunes and rounding off with a rousing countrified version of THE KINKS’ “Sunny Afternoon”, the trio present a collection of saucy dances. Dervish extravaganza poured in results in music rocking and rolling and reeling on powerful pairing of Clarke’s guitar and Pedja Zaric’s accordion – when they command “Shake Some Action” your legs won’t refuse stomping to Andreas Schabinger’s drums. “Turkish” picks the best in European music and bridges a stride between Asia Minor and Ireland cutting into “Hungarian Dance” – Monti’s csardas, that is – along the way.

Sharp riffs come smoothed off with blistering chromatic keys so wonderfully that intrinsic vulgarity of “Hey Now” and “Terrorist Activity” only adds to the overall cheerfulness. From frenetic “Mad World” to mid-tempo “Temptress” sheer joy is being spread around. Still, there’s a sad note with “Ride On”, tense and easily tear-inducing, guitar solo shooting high. Complementing acoustic with electric and combining folk and rock, PERFECT couldn’t be any better – they know it and sing about in “Best Thing”. Which is true: indispensable – one of the best folk-rock albums ever.


ENGINE – Superholic

Metal Blade 2002

Fitting a title for a band whose sound is like motor’s roar.

A clinch of Joey Vera’s bass and Bernie Versailles’ guitar is so tight and dry that opening “Losing Ground” has an industrial feel to it. Now there’s a band on display rather than ex-FATES WARNING Ray Alder’s side effort. Echoes of the singer’s progressive metal past may be heard in “I Know” though you’d better go with a flow here for a good yet bumpy ride with “The Perfect Star”. Hypnotising this music is yet highly melodic isn’t – a perfect conveyance of melancholy culminating in “Home”.

THE CURE’s “Fascination Street” appears a piece quite trasparent and not too quirk, which is very cathartic even amidst all those serious songs. More so, it’s offset with acoustic – just guitar and voice – ruminations of “1 A.M.”, a painful mood grown tragic by almost orchestral “Save Me”. Not for those with a faint heart but a solid work with no foolishness in it.


Lunar Escape Velocity

Fluxury Music 2001

A depth of the sky is how this 22-part progressive suite should be measured.

With no usual storyline and overblown conception, “Unreality” softly opens the gates to a hazy idiosyncratic space of caressing piano and down-to-earth singing, an anchor to the mundane. That’s why jazziness oozing out of “Pretty Perfect” feels sarcastic; here minimal guitar and hit-and-run bass dance around elusive electronica and there they swirl like neurotic screwdriver. This groove blows in a lot of soul – blue-eyed? blue-skyed? – on which “Volatile” lingers on, insinuatingly, onto a title track, a sublime yet too brief serenade breaking into vaudeville-shaped “Lookup”.

Gradually, nervousness of “Remember A Face / I Wanna Remember” steps out to let in jolly “Shout” and then “The Sky” madrigal and “Tucked Away” little oratorio. Reoccuring “Fluxury” motif keeps a listener hung out between heaven and hell wriggling to a crooked tango of “Snakecharmer Setback”. Songs cycle could make a great soundtrack to a dream approaching awakening, a chase of the moonbeams dissolving in a sunlight, drowning like voice into the “Anonymous Insomniac” orchestral wave. Lunar escape velocity is how this chase should be measured.


The Last Millenium

Metal Blade 2002

Maybe German band wanted to herald their return but killing LIZZY’s “Boys Are Back In Town” by turning it bombastic isn’t the best way of doing so while for CHINCHILLA’s own song this guitar-keyboards balance works fine. “War Machine” is a good example of classic heavy metal, and arena shouters are so captivating that MAIDEN influence can easily be forgiven, especially when “Demons We Call” sees Udo Gerstenmeyer polish Marc Steck’s orchestration with his guitar solo.Elsewhere, like in primarily pop tune of “Father Forgive Me”, this approach may seem too lush but with Thomas Laasch’s voice soaring over Marc Peters’ punctuated bass everything falls into place making it all enjoyable (if only “After The War” didn’t take on RAINBOW’s “Gates Of Babylon” groove again). “They Are Liars” is the deifinitive CHINCHILLA, a composite of melody, sharp delivery and progressive tones – a return with whole album in this mold would be welcomed.


Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus

ABKCO Records 1995

One of the most coveted rock artefacts gets dusted off after 27 years spent in the vaults. Blame is on THE STONES themselves, who hosted this amazing event on December 11th and 12th, 1968. It was an exhausting experience, and when Mick led his flock on-stage in the end of the second day they were tired – Brian Jones, even more, stoned out of his mind – and later thought their performance had been much worse than others. Only time proved they couldn’t have been more wrong. But now it’s a historic document that not only caught Jones’ last appearance as a band member but immortalized a quartet called THE DIRTY MAC.Never heard about them? No surprise, together they’d cut only much-bootlegged “Yer Blues” and provided the backing for “Whole Lotta Yoko”, Ono’s mad wails intervowen with Ivry Gitlis’ crazy vilolin, yet separately… Please, welcome: Mitch Mitchell, Keef Richards, Eric Clapton and John Lennon, Winston, as Jagger calls him in funny exchange over a plate of rice. But that you see only in a movie this album is tied-in with.

Likewise, only in the video real circus scenes are on, all those fire-eaters and clowns and JETHRO TULL guitarist’s white hat briefly revealing moustache of Tony Iommi’s. He’s not on the record though because, save for Ian Anderson, the players just mimed to “Song For Jeffrey”. It was flute that determined choice of TULL over other contender, Jimmy Page’s band, and THE STONES didn’t want too many guitars there, where Taj Mahal, flown into England despite the Musicians Union rules, rumbled through “Ain’t That A Lot Of Love” with a help from Jesse Ed Davis, and THE WHO delivered their fantastic mini-opera “A Quick One While He’s Away”. That’s the most illustrious moment, when Moon The Loon bashes his water-covered skins spilling drops all around, a contrast to Marianne Faithful in a petals-like dress quietly crooning Goffin-Mann’s “Something Better”.

And THE STONES? Wiped out they might be but what is a couple of sleepless nights for a young man? There are not more than six songs yet huge they are – from the fiery “Jumping Jack Flash to the moment of complete unity at the end of “Salt Of The Earth” it’s a band at their prime. Where else you can hear “Parachute Woman” and “No Expectations”, and if “Sympathy For The Devil” got played at the time, “You Can’t Always Get” debuted there. As liner notes say, “…for a brief moment it seemed that rock ‘n’ roll would inherit the earth.” You can’t help but agree – yet wouldn’t it?


Merchants Of Cool

Sanctuary 2002

See also the DVD

This album induces quite mixed feelings and a lot of questions. For one, why there’s no live document from the original quartet reunion tour? Then, this band playing “All Right Now”? Well, with Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke from the combo that over their golden age of 1974-1982 produced no concert recording, this ensemble might as well have been called FREE. So here lies the principal difference: these foursome hardly sound like BAD CO. Except for the rhythm section, Jaz Lochrie has been providing bass in Rodgers’ band for seven years and there’s no better drummer for Paul than Kirke.But this quartet’s verve always sprung from the relation between Rodgers and Mick Ralphs, while Dave Colwell, who played with the band in the ’90s isn’t able to deliver those little chops that go along with vocals so well. So if mid-tempo bluesy cuts like “Rock Steady” or “Burning Sky” appear nothing short of brilliance, pop-based hits “Feel Like Making Love” and “Can’t Get Enough” lose their appeal to some extent. Even Rodgers sings less natural though his voice is great as ever, as demonstrated in many a melismatic turn.

Save for “Ready For Love” where change in the mood would be a crime, there’s just no subtlety now. “Deal With The Preacher” showing much a well-oiled engine, not something special, and in “Movin’ On” the group simply doing what the title suggests, yet it’s impossible not to fall for the charm of the performance, and the audience response is immense. The highest point of the show comes with majestic “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” interpolating “Ticket To Ride” and “I Feel Fine”. Still, all the grandeur of “Bad Company” can’t compensate easiness in equal measures applied to “Silver, Blue And Gold” and “Shooting Star”, the latter losing its pain.

Merchants of cool, then? The line’s taken from one of the newly recorded studio tracks, “Joe Fabulous”. The other is “Saving Grace”, noticeably inferior to the version on Rodgers’ “Now” album, but “Joe” doesn’t feel fabulous at all – soulless, it could suit THE FIRM better. “Don’t play my music on MTV,” plead BAD COMPANY. Luckily, their music belongs to the stage, and this album is the best proof.


W.A.S.P. –
Dying For The World

Metal-Is Records 2002

A change is significant, it’s been a long time since W.A.S.P. sounded as mighty as in “Shadow Man”: instruments are mixed frontal, and newcomer Darrel Roberts’ guitar is let rip on the rolling groove of Frankie Banali’s cymbals and Mike Duda’s bass. There’s a dramatic being spilled around in spades in this era of collapsing world each of us help creating, hence the hystery that “Hell For Eternity” or Hammond-splashed “Stone Cold Killers” epitomize – that’s where sharp “My Wicked Heart” comes from.The feelings are easy to catch yet they chase away the melodies, the tunes left mainly to shamanic chants of “Black Bones Torso” and “Hallowed Ground”, painful depth of the latter revealed more tragically in added “acoustic” version. “Dying For The World” isn’t a concept album, but September 11th disaster hurt Blackie Lawless drastically, his fury ringing in heady “Revengence (Be Thy Name)” and anguish in mesmerising “Trail Of Tears”. Aftertaste is bitter, indeed – too much negative energy fired off is not what the world needs now. Dying doesn’t deserve this band wasting their living force.


Deception Of Pain

Limb Music 2002

Suicide a subject for a concept album? Roberto Dimitri Liapakis scrutinizes the phenomen in twelve cutting songs that outpour anguish on almost physical level with Liapakis’ sharp voice and Martin Albrecht’s heartbeat-pulsating bass. They live each piece, that’s why “The Fire Burns” oozes agony, “Point Of No Return” is so full of feeling while “The Sun” comes as a storm on thunderous guitar strains from Frank Pane and lightning cymbals courtesy of Frank Huber. And here’s a light, a mood flowing throughout the album and getting clear in “Mirror In Your Eyes” to tell that it’s not finite, it’s not the end, not that dark.”Dark Shadows On The Wall” is not a writing and “Dark Room” in all its melancholy shows a way out which is “Creating Gods”, romantic from the point of Love being a God supreme, both lyrically and melodically defying a depressive attribute of heavy music. If pain’s a deception or, in band’s words, “Unholy Power”, it can be deceived as well, right?


Warriors Of The World

Nuclear Blast 2002

True metal crusade results in crossover. This time the warriors slow down the pace for the good part of the album and deliver no less than two powerful anthems, the title track and “Call To Arms”, that showcase the band at their best. But if the battle scene tapestry embellishment with “An American Trilogy” marking the 25th anniversary of Elvis’s departure seems logical for this is the Civil War hymns, Eric Adams’ heroic pretensions stumble upon his rendition of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma”.Going operatic, his voice, so strong and clear in magically orchestrated and given a wonderful piano line “Fight For Freedom”, lacks flexibility it has in acoustic garb of “Swords In The Wind” (a claim of only him being able to do that is a boast too – Mark Boals has been singing it for years). Still, closing sequence, a speedy rush, mars all the good impression gained due to Karl Logan’s neoclassic guitar runs and songs dealing with death. Does that mean muscle metal bursting at the seams?


W.A.S.P. –
Unholy Terror

Metal-Is Records 2001

There’s a bit of nervousness about this album aimed at organized religion, and that turns even massive stompers like opener “Let It Roar” or “Raven Heart” into a spiky ball of thunder which explodes with Chris Holmes and Roy Z guitar duel of “Wasted White Boys”. That’s understandable with Blackie Lawless’ Christian upbringing yet overt protest it isn’t. Here’s a masochistic taste to it – “DeSade I claim you’re mine” – so sharper than the anguish of ‘Loco-Motive Man”, of a person who’s going to take others’ lives for the love he was robbed of, is etherial instrumental called “Euphoria”.Not a protest but an anger against use of people’s beliefs for manipulating them – both on family level, as told in “Hate To Love Me”, and a political one. “Unholy Terror / Charisma” coupling creeps up in trance, hypnotic crawl and, thus, the sting feels more painful. No ambiguity now, each verse bears a comment attached as to who and what it’s about, be it Lennon’s assasination, SS or Al Gore. Strange, then, comes the optimism of “Evermore” filled with vocal harmonies and hope of soul being reborn rather than tortured for ever. Temple of soul versus Church of terror? Magnific.


To the next reviews page


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *