To the reviews index

EMI 2003
No, the gang’s normal. Tight but loose and juicier than before.

A five-year gap between albums occured to DP just once – when the ensemble was non-existent – so waiting for this record wasn’t easy, especially after Jon Lord opted out of the band having left Ian Paice the only original member on-board. Don Airey is more than adequate in the organ department, yet the sound somehow mutated from the familiar, and typical PURPLE programme “Bananas” isn’t. Perhaps, for good: it keeps the future open for the veterans, the title being a humorous warning that they have lost no marble. Well, almost. Yet they’re rocking hard.

Here’s the quintet’s most rocking album in years. Given full rein, Ian Gillan pulls all the stops on rock ‘n’ roll numbers like “Razzle Dazzle”. “I know I started out with the best of intentions, some blinding inspiration and a few not-to-mentions”, he’s singing: this time stereotypes are thrown away to an extent that there’s even a lyrical concept present, which is not usual for the combo at all. Producer Michael Bradford’s contribution made the output much invigorating, so opening “House Of Pain”, one of his co-writes, sees the five at their sharpest, bending the trademarks into a modern anthem that gets under the skin. And if accepting female backing on several songs may come difficult – aren’t the guys wary of delving into “Let It Be” scenario? – even the purists, whose gain is a slow-burn of “Walk On”, classically tasty in its economic pace, will love the delicious, amazing samba groove running through “Doing It Tonight”.

Save for posh romanticism of “Haunted”, a ballad seemingly ready-made for the MTV rotation, and the sad “Contact Lost”, a heartfelt instrumental dedicated to the “Columbia” crew, all of this could be a bit more humorous though. Even the title track that’s mad enough to find the singer snatching an old SABBATH tune and concealing it with febrile harmonica playing before letting Airey inject a huge dose of Hammond interspersed with Steve Morse’s licks. If the keyboard player feels quite at home here, it took three albums for the guitarist to fully integrate his style into the PURPLE’s but finally he’s done that, so we really have a rather new ensemble now – “I’ve Got Your Number” even involves bassist Roger Glover’s singing, another novelty.

Bananas, then? Why, the reasonable craziness is alright.


Guest review – by Alex Gitlin

Five full years since the last studio effort by the famed outfit, the lamentably disgraceful and nondescript “Abandon”, and what we have here is a wholly more solid, cohesive effort than any of its predecessors. Whereas DEEP PURPLE circa 1996 was really DP guest-starring Steve Morse, this is simply DEEP PURPLE. Whereas back in 1996, they were feeling fresh and cocky, having just gained a young and energetic new guitarist, so they could afford to experiment with some decidedly non-PURPLEsque material like “The Aviator”, “Cascades (I’m Not Your Lover)” and “Ted The Mechanic”, now Gillan & Co. probably realize that their time on the scene is indeed limited, and they should give the punters what they want for a change.

In my humble opinion, “Bananas” is the best album this lineup of the band has ever produced. Steve Morse is still playing Morse on the solos, but on the rhythm parts he’s able to knock together a nice Blackmore-esque groove, and I think we should accept that, ’cause didn’t we once accept Tommy Bolin as a full-fledged member? Don Airey simply shines on the Hammond and does “’70s Lord” better than the ’90s Lord did.

The material is once again diverse, but with the majority of compositions nicely fitting into the overall “DEEP PURPLE” schema. Many tracks (“House Of Pain”, “Razzle Dazzle”) have a great “Woman From Tokyo”/”Smooth Dancer” groove to them with a dash of “Hard Lovin’ Woman”. On the ballad “Haunted”, my guess is, Ian belatedly responds to Ritchie Blackmore circa 1982: “Well, if you can branch out into pop, mate, so can I – check this out!” And it’s not a bad effort at all. In fact, those female backup vocals and the orchestration are a nice touch! “Never A Word” betrays a Celtic touch, much like “The Aviator” did. DP do FAIRPORT CONVENTION?

There’s very little here to remind us of the unseemly diversions on “Purpendicular” or “Abandon”, however, there are some lows: “Silver Tongue”, “Picture Of Innocence”. Other tracks show thoughtfulness and imagination in the lyrics department with tasty twists in the melodies – e.g. “I Got Your Number”, “Doing It Tonight” and “Bananas” with its remarkable guitar-organ interplay and with Don for once putting on his Keith Emerson cap! Another ballad, the somber “Walk On” is reminiscent of the quiet part of “Child In Time” or “When A Blind Man Cries”, except quieter and bluesier. The album’s codpiece, “Contact Lost”, is a sad guitar instrumental recorded in memory of the perished crew of space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated when entering the Earth’s atmosphere earlier this year; one of the members was Ian Gillan’s personal friend and a DP fan.

What of the estranged lynchpin of the band, Ritchie Blackmore? He’s got yet another “renaissance” album out on the racks nowadays, “Ghost Of A Rose”, which, let’s face it, sounds even less like classic DEEP PURPLE. So rejoice and savor while you can.

Tip: it plays GREAT back to back with Colosseum’s brand new “Tomorrow’s Blues” album.


Steppin’ Out
Tepee Records 2000
Small format, big proportions: veteran jazzers notch their groove for posterity.

The British combo story stretches back to 1976, but their recorded legacy is strictly limited, this mini-album being just the teasing sampler of what’s the band’s up to. While it’s primarily on-stage that the eight-piece fly high, with the players’ combined energy and the choice of material failure is never an option. Light, Coltrane-esque roll of brass and two Tony’s, Edwards and Reeves‘, rhythm walk propel the Latino-tinged boogie of “Fiyela” before the more traditional material gets tackled to. Not in traditional way though: Ellington’s “Come Sunday” shifts from bossa nova into the reggae territory and back again, John Fry’s sax keeping Adrian Paton’s piano at bay, while Percy Mayfield’s “Stranger In My Own Town” is a great showcase for fluid blues licks of Mike Jacques and Stax-styled “Steppin’ Out In Class” much a characteristic for what the ensemble’s doing. A fresh and spiritual strut.


A Time & Place
Tuff Gong 2003
It’s all in the blood, Bob’s young son follows the family suit.

You can’t envy the one whose surname is a curse rather than a blessing for it’s extremely difficult to walk in the shadow like your father’s, knowing you’ll never grow bigger than that – but also knowing that you’ll never walk alone. Over the years, Julian’s older brother, Ziggy, found a niche for himself, so there’s still a chance, especially with an undeniable talent. He effectively mixes roots ska with a contemporary beats which moves songs such as “One-Way Train” or “Harder Days” away from traditional reggae and onto the dancefloor, yet there’s still a social edge to it. The rootsier the better though, the “rastafarize the law” message and the classic rhythm making “Systems” the best track on display by far. While many pursue the false Jamaican, this album’s a real thing.


Tomorrow Today
Acoustic Music 2003
Molten Teutonic – and tonic – blues. Dick Heckstall-Smith helps out with an approving nod.

There seemed to be no European band with the blues chops since LIVIN’ BLUES, but voila! the wah-wah’s spilling and harmonica spitting – a lava flow out from “Meet Me In The Sky”, and swampy “Last Goodbye” requires a good pinch to believe the quartet’s not from the Mississippi. Perhaps, that wouldn’t be so surprising if singer Hugo W. Scholz and guitarist Frank Pecher picked firmly on Chicago style, as they do in big ballad “Down To It”, yet the combo brew up a burrito tasty enough to summon the sax legend Dick Heckstall-Smith over from London for “Your Mama Is Your Mama” and a frantic piece appropriately titled “What Kinda Land Is This”. Exuberance of these is well balanced by acoustic “How Much Do You Love Me” that comes close to the European classical tradition yet at the same time is true to the blues canon, and after rollicking “Steppin’ Out Shoes” there’s not much you can ask for. Except for more – and better today rather than tomorrow.


When Empires Burn
Frontiers Records 2003
Not a Magnum Opus as it could be, and the fire dims.

One can ascribe this to MAGNUM’s "Breath Of Life" and the band’s vocalist having let off the steam, yet the real reason of Catley’s fourth solo album being much bleaker than preceding "Middle Earth" is the change of producer. While TEN’s Gary Hughes, who worked – and wrote all the material – on the previous Bob’s records, is a singer himself and has an intrinsic feel of how a voice should be handled, keyboard player Paul Hodson, now in charge, took it back to the pomp territory the veteran has been wisely keeping from when on a path of his own.

Steered off into the metal direction – “The Prophecy” might easily fit DIO – Catley just loses his singularity, instrumental ring drowning the voice. Songs like “Every Beat Of My Heart” or “Gonna Live Forever” sound as tawdry as they’re titled, strong but banal, the title track seems to be an out-take from Bob’s last album, and only the closing “My America” is moving in its Scottish garb, delivered from the very heart. Because sincerity is where the singer’s heart belongs and where his empire stands tall.


Mood Swings
Unicorn Records 2003
A MYSTERY bass-wielder goes solo, and the Pilgirm progress his is.

He is a secret weapon: a musician, a producer, an arranger of high calibre, Canadian Richard Addison is perhaps most known for his stint with a proggers MYSTERY than for all the other work, the experience packed into this punch of an album. Looking on its title and expecting something woozy would be a mistake, as the wandering spirit’s mood can’t be light, though there’s enough bliss in crystal fusion of “Sleepwalking”, keyboards rolling over bass riffs before sax peeps in to smooth the egdes and the piano shows what the real swing is. Factor in even more brass and guitars, as in “After All”, and think WEATHER REPORT exploring the easy listening niche – melodies flow from one cut to the other, the pieces fall into places for a whole picture to appear out of Eastern-flavored, enigmatic yet wonderful tornado swirls like “Montee De Lait” and violin-led swath of the title track. All reined in, serene, sublime and subliminal “Controlled Freedom” frames it well.


BOB DYLAN – Live 1975
The Bootleg Series
Vol. 5

The Rolling Thunder Revue

Sony 2002
Blood on his tracks and a greaspaint on his face, big Zimmy wheels out a rock circus.

By 1975, the idea of a traveling show wasn’t new to rock ‘n’ roll, artists like Ronnie Lane already trying it out, yet Dylan’s music and big top seemed an unlikely marriage even to those knew the man’s ability to reinvent himself. Bob saw no sacred cow in his own songs and, having spent the first half of the ’70s in search of new direction, didn’t want to bury the old fare, even though some of the classics may sound strange alongside fresh material. Perhaps, that was the reason for turning a standard show into a revue where, surrounded by friends, he could make it all fitting, but in the end of the day, the enterprise took on a completely diffetent quality.

Here, Dylan emerges poised between the past and the future, belting out – yes, there’s a great case of bravura in most of the tracks – cuts both old and new. From the country rock of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” off “Nashville Skyline”, now an ice-breaking opening salvo, to “Isis” which would be released in 1976 when the first leg of the tour had reached its end, “Oh, Sister” is the only common song of this set and “Hard Rain” documenting the same trek. Yet while then-unheard pieces might keep an audience in awe, especially Middle Eastern flavor of “One More Cup Of Coffee” and “Romance In Durango” rumba, no one could be prepared to hear familiar tunes sounding so unfamiliar. His God-like status firmly back in place, Bob tranforms the songs for an amazed audience to see that another side in them and in their author: to everybody’s astonishment, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Full” and “It Takes A Lot To Cry” bristle with Mick Ronson “Jean Genie”-like chops, while “It Ain’t Me Babe” is effectively wrapped in bossa nova garb. No matter whatever style gets picked on, the band of sometimes more than ten people, weaving a thick canvas where the main man’s strong voice lays pictorial strokes.

Still, as a drop of his feathered hat, Dylan’s punch softens when he’s left on his own to deliver unusually pessimistic, very plaintive “Mr. Tamborine Man” and romantic “Simple Twist Of Fate”, but these moments of overt vulnerability – wasn’t it what the artist hid under a greasepaint? – are briefly replaced with romp of duets with Joan Baez of which “Mama You’ve Been On My Mind” grooves finely, unlike deliverately rough “Blowin’ In The Wind” – the Revue wasn’t about protest, so only “Hurricane” and “Hattie Carroll” tapped into this side of Bob’s. A look back came with acoustic guitar and harmonica fills “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, another view on protest poetry with another guest of his, Roger McGuinn, helping out on “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.

To many, that was it, a great artist knockin’ on the doors of paradise, and this treasure document keeps the bliss of that alive, rolling and thundering years later.


The Evil In You
AFM Records 2003
Having lost three members almost at once, the band are still a force.

It does’t seem to matter that there’s only half of the original line-up now, with Mats Leven, who previously sang with Yngwie, in for the fifth album, AT VANCE open a new chapter in their history. And judging by the title cut and an opening “Fallen Angel”, both hook-laden, subtlety underlining the attack, quite a glorious chapter this should be. No way the changes diminished the swagger with which the team delivers brilliant “Princes Of Ice” or “The Curtain Will Fall”, up for a good-time singalong and would-be live favorites, as well as a touching acoustic ballad “Shining Star”. A music’s clever and playing never gets in the way of a tune, yet in speedy numbers is a trap of repeating themselves that the group must try not to get in. Oh, they seem to be aware of it anyway.


How The West Was Won
Atlantic 2003
A welcome advent of not what the world was after.

“Were they really that great?” is the question arising once the last note of this two-and-a half hour set fades out. The deluge of bootlegs in circulation notwithstanding, Jimmy Page decided to release the recordings that come dangerously close to the infamous Madison Square Garden show issued as “The Song Remains The Same”, not so chronologically – New York gig took place one year later – but in terms of context. It seems those songs had always been the same now that the “Led Zeppelin” DVD revealed where their real on-stage greatness lay: mesmerizing visually, LED ZEP concert of the period feels sluggish when committed to tape, no matter how perfect a perfomance is. And the L.A. ones of June 1972, which make “How The West Was Won”, weren’t perfect, so the fact that the band’s leader let intact his own straying-out-of-tune during “Black Dog” speaks much of both his honesty and firm confidence in the ensemble’s unshakeable status. They stand tall, indeed.

Yet that’s funny, copyrighting even the guitar-and-bass opening noise as “L.A. Drone” and playing Bach’s “Bouree”, the closest Jimmy came to classical canon after “Beck’s Bolero”, the first piece where he and John Paul Jones played together so prominently. The same level of telepathy is on display here in “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp”, bass underpinning both Robert Plant’s vocal lines and Page’s guitar, and yes, here’s finally the magnificent acoustic spot that saw all four musicians sitting at the fore of the stage enjoying pastoral of “Going To California” and “That’s The Way”. It’s as down-to-earth as “Rock And Roll” and “Immigrant Song” are soaring, above transcendental “Stairway To Heaven” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” which lose their epic scale alongside Bonzo Bonham’s quake of “Moby Dick” and monstrous “Dazed And Confused” that Percy enlivens with his scat before the band break into monochrome “The Crunch”.

There’s more from the then-unreleased “Houses Of The Holy”, but “Dancing Days” is rather boring though “Over The Hills And Far Away” somehow hold its Celtic own and “The Ocean” sways more solid than on record. Whether the audience was ready for some funk is one’s guess, but “Bring It On Home” and “Whole Lotta Love” chug along wonderfully, Plant conjuring up John Lee Hooker’s ghost, and still bring a palpable excitement with their bluesy drift and the singer’s rock ‘n’ rolling – what a blistering Elvis’ impersonation he pulls off in “Let’s Have A Party”! And the huge party it was, having its drowsy moments as well as adrenalin-filled like any other stay-up, even with “Hello, Mary Lou” shake-up. Maybe later, song-oriented performances will be out one day too, but it’s a portrait of the group at their conquering peak and, as such, is monumental.


Bootleg Blues
Mucho Mojo Music 2003
Law and order of red-hot rhythm-and-blues caught in the red.

That’s quite telling: if WISHBONE ASH mastermind Andy Powell joins some American band instead of having a side project of his own, the combo must be good. And BLUE LAW are good, indeed – here’s the evidence. Recorded in England in 1996, this 100-minute performance shows a firm bond between the group and the audience asking for a favorite tune. Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” might be the strangest of those, but it gives a break from the relentless heat of brass-adorned incendiary R’n’B the seven-piece serve. Even the sometimes problematic sound – coming from a bootleg recording and cleaned up – doesn’t diminish the music appeal which stretched to several songs licensed for MTV’s “The Real World” programme.

Wrapped in two saxes foil, Powell’s funky licks and Jonathan Moorehead’s soulful warbling easily fall into the Stax-patented groove, be it swaggering “Expressway To Your Heart” or sprawling “Bicycle Man”. The band gracefully strut their stuff sending “Teeny Weenie Bit” boogie up soaring, and walking on hot coals of “Hey Miss Bessie” with Mike Mindell’s piano and Andy’s soloing that’s as far from ASH’s twin-guitar canon as can be – if you don’t count 1973’s “No Easy Road” which would make a great “45 with LAW’s “I’m Too Tired”. Live feel, much more intense with ordering the drinks, breaking a bottle and jokes, is well-presered here, suggesting that was the night out. Wish(bone) we were there.


Year Of The Spider
Flip/Geffen 2003
An artist sharing his tribulations with the world: does it ease the pain?

That’s sick, the way that Atlanta, GA band’s singer feeds emotions to a listening lot. Entangled in his personal trials – the sister and girlfriend have cancer; hence the spider of the title – Scooter Ward and his mates shift grungey stones up the hill just to let them roll down within reach of the top. Painful and void, while the shock of the opening “Remedy” gets smoothed away with a seething instrumental work and its chorus is gripping, there’s no soothing ensues. “Stupid Girl” could have bring in some optimism with its psychedelic textures and acoustic guitars if not for its relentless poison which informs also orchestrated ‘Wasted Years”. A groove becomes tedious despite Howard Benson’s (P.O.D.) brilliantly transparent production, and the line “If you can make the world a stage for me, then I hope you can hear me scream” from “Cure My Tragedy (A Letter To God)” sounds too pathetic, while lament for Cobain in “The Day Seattle Died” reeks queasy. No doubt, manic depressive kids will like this.


Electro-Acoustic Requiem
Unicorn Records 2003
One guitar, one computer and one toolbox is all one needs to create a masterpiece.

It took one-year worth of research for Canadian Martin Heon to explore the range of Fender Stratocaster and find there’s more to the guitar than just riffing and soloing. Not that the idea of feeding a sound through all kind of gizmos to shape its aural outing in different way, up to drum-like as in “The Verdict”, has never been applied before – that was the method of Steve Hackett‘s "Darktown" – yet limiting the album’s armory to one instrument worked on by screwdriver and saw alongside software is no mean feat. Likewise it goes with the record’s themes of life and death, or other way round: “Electro-Acoustic Requiem” starts with “Death” languid metallic ring rising to anxious ticking and, through pseudo-organ of “Hell”, runs to “Back To Life” celestial soundscapes. Still, no matter how experimental the method may be, the tune is never far, “Melancholy” drawing on jazz-tinged blues and “Amazed By Beauty” weaving a gentle melody over insistent chug. A low-fi sci-fi it’s not, here’s a human blood in the grooves which makes this “Requiem” so life-affirmingly great.


100 Miles From Heaven
Garden Records 2003
Subtitled “The Complete Works 1975-1977”, here comes a missing link between hard rock and punk.

That guitarist Keith Rimmell and drummer Bob Peach joined Kevin Rowlands in THE KILLJOYS after SUPANOVA ceased to be give little credentials to the latter band whose forte was charged hard rock akin to their fellow Brummies BLACK SABBATH’s – just listen to “Planet Of Destruction”. There’s not a lot evidence of the group’s short existence, so short that the singer Colin Barlow never made it to the studio, and you could only imagine how much more irresistible “Sentenced” would have sounded with his pipes added to those memorable guitar lines. Imagining is possible with three live tracks that hint on the SUPANOVA’s real power, which easily turned into heartbreaking subtlety within one piece or rendered “Funny Frame Of Mind” so intimate.

But on-stage or not, their brilliant songs always had an unpolished, garagey quality to them, revealing punk’s debt to the early metal and putting the music history straight. In fact, “Groucho In Drag” sounds like an update of “Born To Be Wild” and “Diary Of A Madman” holds a good couple of punk ditties in it. Yet new tendencies destroyed SUPANOVA, and the band imploded just three years before New Wave Of British Heavy Metal they were true predecessors of. Too clever to simplify what had been qute simple anyway, the ensemble’s entire output deserves to be cherished now.


Burning Down The Opera – Live
AFM Records 2003
The first concert album of Teutonic stompers brings the house down.

The crowd’s excitement is pitched very high, and the band don’t let the feeling evaporate shifting their melodic metal with an enviable stamina and taking the audience in. That’s not too difficult when a number is as catchy as “Tears Of A Mandrake”, while everyone knows their favorite “Avantasia” will unfurl in due time. So it’s a surefire game, a playing matching such a tuneful material leaves no doubt in the musicians’ ability to deliver the goods. Even more, they’re not scared of switching into sentimental, piano-driven ballad “Land Of The Miracle”, quite a feat in these times of heroic poseurs’ reign. Tobias Sammet, always in command, leads the ensemble into an almost operatic singing that keeps the people on their toes and ready for epics like “How Many Miles” or “The Pharaoh” featuring the great instrumental work. “You tell us what you wanna hear, and we play what’s next on our set list”, the remark signals of the entity to be reckoned with.


AVIARY – Ambition
AV Records 2003
A treasure chest from the band who could have given KANSAS a run for their money. If only they’d been given money.

The re-issue of the 1979’s self-titled album, the AVIARY’s only release, brought a great interest in the ensemble who were poised to shoot high yet, for various reasons, didn’t make it to the top. This compilation of previously unreleased gems from 1975-1979 charts their way up there, a sort of yellow brick road “Hello” graciously ushers a listener on with artful harmonies and undercurrent poignancy. The group’s methods were of progressive rock’s, with Paul Madden’s line of Hammond, Mellotron and Mini-Moog, and singer Brad Love’s ever-prominent piano, yet however elaborate, arrangements for the most part helped shine the tune.

These arrangements – from jug band ditty to QUEEN parodying romp – are already in place on the earliest cut, “Eva’s Birthday”, while the luxury of “Apathy” and reggae-tinctured title track and the diversity of “The Sun, The Sand” draw comparisons even to GENESIS, but there’s a genuine originality on display. And if adventurous epic “Desert Songs / Pharaohs March” feels not that effortless, edgy vaudeville of “Working Girl” brings enormous fun. Ambition can be a good thing when it’s justified.


Songs In The Key Of Rock
Frontiers Records 2003
Way back to the bone, the Funkmeister gets close to the heart of matter.

This album’s goal, its author announced, was to bring back the ’70s solidity to the master’s rock: with the title alluding to Hughes‘ idol Stevie Wonder’s soul masterpiece, here’s a span of the artist’s method, hence a flame and a dove in his hands on the cover. Solid it comes off, “Written All Over Your Face” perhaps the best piece the veteran ever composed, yet the songs’ impetus is retarded now applied to the construction more shaky than 2001’s "Building The Machine", though more familiar in the scheme. “In My Blood” is all Glenn – angular riffs, bubbling bass and a gutsy scream – and punchy “Lost In The Zone” holds a nod to his Blackmore-related past, so there’s no freshness to record. A part of the plan, sure.

A quote from THE BEATLES on the run-out of “Written All Over Your Face” and a majestic reprise of mighty “Higher Places” dedicated to Bonzo Bonham and, therefore, ZEP-shaped even in its production are the bits that give the album a great aftertaste. The return is welcome, as “Songs In The Key Of Rock” take time to grow on a listener, which makes it an hard contender for hooking new fans – the task made easier by the CHILI PEPPERS’ Chad Smith drumming on one track, set to remind everyone who took the heavy funk spark out of rock in the beginning. This spark is still here, witness psychedelic-tinctured “Courageous”: the key’s right, alright.


Dark Visions
Musea 2003
Nightmares from beyond the Rue Morgue, darkness holds romanticism.

The title captures the feel: there’s no ethereal wooziness to the band’s brew. “Meine Liebe” sways idiosyncratically from cloaked nervousness to spiked anxiety, guitar puncturing synth ebb and bass tracing the emotions that boil in Jean Marc Tesorio’s singing. Take the voice out of the equation, and Gothic hauntedness becomes unrelentingly alluring, if only there was more going on to justify the songs length and histrionics, though 22-minute “Battlefield”, the most adventurous and melodic of four epics comprising the Paris five-piece’s debut album, fares not bad, being a solid example of prog rock. A velvet gloomy pleasure marred by the absense of humour, they still can arise to the ultimate feel.


Epic 2003
The MTV fodder claim to being a state-of-art.

It’s been quite a while since the female-fronted metal act could grab the TV audiences’ attention. EVANESCENCE are no WARLOCK, and the water gone under the bridge of time clearly shows that now the rules of the game demand operatic coldness from the vocals and no edge from guitars, and this band have it all in abundance, kicking good rarely. Orchestration and raps of hit single “Bring Me To Life” aren’t such a moment, yet the bridge and solo of “Going Under” is, while “Hello” and “My Immortal”, pure in their voice-strings-and-piano garb, rises to be a sublime, classical-tinged ballad. That’s where Amy Lee surely belongs, as gentle parts of solid “Imaginary” prove, and pretending to be Ozzy in “Haunted”, a Ben Moody’s guitar domain, does neither her, nor the choir no good. Still, that’s an (ice) age thing, it depends on whether you remember Doro Pesch, though “Whisper” has an equal fire to it.


KHYMERA – Khymera
Frontiers Records 2003
Spectacular yet no spectral show for AOR get-together.

There could have been a feast, when KANSAS’ frontman Steve Walsh joined forces with Italian melodic rock sage, Daniele Liverani, a mastermind behind the “Genius” rock opera for an album comprised of songs from, among others, Jim Peterik and Russ Ballard, and the results taste good indeed, “Strike Like Lightning” zooming in on a listener like an arena thunderbolt. But though “Written In The Wind” and “Without A Warning” have enough depth to them, elsewhere music is rarely visceral, it packs the punch with too much cleverness while real vehemence is lacking, and even ballads like “Bless A Brand New Angel” or “Who’s Gonna Love You Tonight”, as beautiful as they are, seem all well-tailored to be comfortable at anyplace. This might be ephemeral, yet you can wear it nicely.


Big Buildings
Neil Henderson 2002
There’s a bliss in urban life, you know? Open your eyes.

If the cover suggests new age, there’s no disillusion with a musical illustration of the image, the title track bursting in with a light attack of guitars-and-keyboards fusion with inspired vocals the only anchor to the soil, and “DNA” bubbling with life. The late-YES’ influence is apparent, yet the playing feels too exemplary to reckon it a sin, especially when Neil Henderson pictures a city landscapes rather than some fantasy lands, so sharp “Song For The Working Man” is as romantic as “On To Avalon”. Quite a drawback is a sheer effusiveness of such a romanticism, and “So Strong The Wind” comes too exuberant to be riding a sunbeam alongside the artist, but it’s much better this way rather than the other, the Manhattan one, many could associate with Big Buildings.

To the next reviews page

Leave a Reply

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