White Diamond – The Lost Demos 1988 – 1990


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Tracks:

  1. Symbol Of Love
  2. American Dreamer
  3. It’s Just Another Day
  4. This Game Of Life
  5. Heaven
  6. All My Love
  7. It’s So Funny
  8. My Girl
  9. Man Of God

Label: n/a
Producer: White Diamond
Year: 2001

Total Playing Time: 37:56 m:s
Review date: 23/02/2002

Web site: http://www.whitediamond-demos.com
Email:

Rating: 80 %
Verdict: A blend of melodic hard rock and AOR with a 80s vibe to it

This album is actually an accompaniment to a film. The film is being made by fitness guru Don Lemmon (www.donlemmon.com) about his previous life as a rock musician. The film is all about a band called White Diamond who almost made it to the big time, but got ripped off by a record company. You can read more about the film at the web site. This album is set of demos recorded by the band.

In fact, no one seems too sure what to make of White Diamond – did they ever exist or are they a new band with some interesting ideas on publicity? Check out the web site or an interview at www.heartoftherock.com to make up your own mind. In the interview Don does reveal that the singer from the Norwegian band “Winter Parade” is doing the vocals!

No matter what is actually going on, this CD exists and is looking to find it’s home in your record collection. The album consists of a number of original tunes and number of cover tunes. At only 37:56 m:s it just snatches the “Harem Scarem it’s too bloody short” award from Takara.

Opener “Symbol Of Love” is an uptempo rocker that has little bit of funk tucked away in the middle of it somewhere, reminding me of Extreme. This is followed by the mid-tempo hard rock meets AOR of “American Dreamer”. This same formula is maintained for “It’s Just Another Day” which is the best tune so far. There is a real Van Halen – jump vibe about “This Game Of Life”.

For the big AOR ballad they cover a Warrant tune called “Heaven”. “All My Love” rocks out once again and this is another tune with a Van Halen undercurrent flowing through it. “It’s So Funny” is a cover of a Rick Springfield tune with a few lyric changes. If the cover versions so far have been predictable, then the next one isn’t. “My Girl” is a surprisingly straight cover of the tune made famous by the Temptations. After that touch of ultra-fluffiness, the band hit hard with a White Metal anthem called “Man Of God”.

The album features a mixture of tracks with a few surprises on the first listen. The basic formula is one that contains a blend of melodic hard rock and AOR with a 80s vibe to it. Most Mood Swings readers will find something of interest here. The best moments for me are “This Game Of Life”, “It’s So Funny” and “Man Of God”.

Takara – Perceptions Of Reality


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Tracks:

  1. Miles Away
  2. Shadows in the Night
  3. Tomorrow
  4. Without You
  5. Ready to Promise
  6. L.I.E.S.
  7. Dream of it all
  8. Believe
  9. Tell me

Label: Lion Music
Producer: ?
Year: 2001

Total Playing Time: 39:07 m:s
Review date: 20/02/2002

Web site: www.takararocks.com
Email:

Rating: 80 %
Verdict: Feel good melodic rock performed with style

Takara having being hovering around my ‘want to buy’ list of a while, but never quite made it. The main reason for interest in the band was the presence of one of the best voices in Melodic Rock – Jeff Scott (yes, you pay me, I’ll sing) Soto. It is ironic then that when I finally do get to hear a Takara album JSS has departed & the band are now using new singer Michael James Flatters.

The band hit the ground running with the first couple of tracks – “Miles Away” and “Shadows In The Night”. They both contain slowish verses combined with uptempo catchy choruses. There is a hint of Blackmore about the guitar work and the overall impression is of Rainbow meets a less heavyweight Damned Nation. This successful formula is continued on “Tomorrow”. After three uptempo numbers come the inevitable power ballad called “Without You”.

There is something vaguely Van Halen-esque about the start to “Ready To Promise” which develops into a catchy mid-tempo rocker. In fact, the song holds onto that VH feel throughout. The start of “L.I.E.S” is more determined and the rhythm section adopts a more strident attitude for this track. I have mentioned the word catchy quite a few times in this review already, but on “Dream Of It All” the band take this to new heights. This is the sort of track that gets inside your head and stays there, so that you’ll find yourself singing/humming a tune sometime later in the day and realise it is a Takara song. Having scaled the heights of catchiness on the previous track the band stay there with “Believe” and the closing track “Tell Me”.

“So is that it?” I hear you say. Well yes, Takara came perilously close to being this month’s winners of the Harem Scarem “Less than 40 min is quite sufficient” award. A smudge on another otherwise acceptable copybook.

Takara songs are all feel good ones that really take off during the choruses where they have the vocal harmonies pretty close to perfection. This is the type of music that you stick on the stereo and enjoy without having to think too much. It the sort of music that you’d love to hear on the radio. As for the change of vocalist, Michael does an excellent job and the change will help the band overcome the preconceptions held by people like me who always thought of them as a side project for JSS.

Mouth Of Clay – What Have You Got To Loose

 


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Tracks:

  1. Made Of Lead
  2. Cutting My Loss
  3. Hear The Coming
  4. Burned
  5. Perfect World
  6. With Your Bones
  7. Overflow
  8. An Eye In Each Corner
  9. Morning Flight
  10. Rush
  11. Eleven Seas

Label: n/a
Producer: n/a
Year: 2001

Total Playing Time: 60:29 m:s
Review date: 19/02/2002

Web site: www.mouthofclay.com
Email: mouthofclay@hotmail.com

Rating: 75 %
Verdict: Retro rockers show promise despite a budget recording

How do like your rock stars? Clean cut & baggy trousers? Denim & Leather? Spandex & Perms? Spikey Hair & bondage trousers? Make-up & Glitter? Long Hair & Flares? Did you say yes to long hair & flares? Well, I’m sure Mouth Of Clay certainly would. Despite their decidedly trendy name, Mouth Of Clay are retro rockers with their roots in 70s music.

Judicious reading elsewhere at mswings.com will reveal that my interest in rock music really happened around the late 70s and early 80s with the NWOBHM. A major influence was the Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1. As well as playing all the then newer stuff by Def Leppard, Saxon, Maiden etc, the show used to feature classic rock tracks and sessions. Typical bands would be Uriah Heep, Mountain, Deep Purple, Man, Led Zep etc. Being a poor student in those days I couldn’t afford to buy albums, so I used to tape the Friday Rock Show. I still have many of those tapes kicking around.

When I put the Mouth of Clay CD in the player it was a total nostalgia trip. Not only does Mouth Of Clay remind me of those bands, but the sound quality is such that it actually sounds like those old tapes – muffled and bass heavy. To be fair to Mouth Of Clay they did warn me that the sound quality was rough and ready and the objective was simply to capture the essence of the band, rather than create a major PR tool.

The CD starts with a Zep meets Coverdale era Purple bluesy workout called “Made Of Lead” (maybe that should have been Led?). This is followed by the slow blues rock of “Cutting My Loss”. On “Hear The Coming” that big Purple sound comes to the fore with the Hammond swirling around nicely. This one made me sit up and take notice. There is a hint of Uriah Heep to “Burned”, so it isn’t the Purple rip-off you might have expected from the title.

There is more Purple on “Perfect World” and these tracks are the ones that are grabbing my attention. “With Your Bones” reminds me of Led Zep, but to these ears Mouth Of Clay capture a more authentic blues feeling than I recall hearing from Zep. On “Overflow” the band edge more towards Whitesnake than Purple. For “An Eye In Each Corner” the band adopts a “Dazed & Confused” style phased guitar sound. It is time to sit cross-legged on the floor in the dark and let the sound waves wash over you. Who mentioned drugs?

A good Ian Paice impersonation starts “Morning Flight”, but by this stage the songs are starting to all sound similar. Just as my attention starts to wander, the band changes the formula slightly. This track has more of a rhythm to it and is sort of a blues/boogie workout that make me thing of George Thorogood and Rory Gallagher. Another change for the final track with is a lightweight blues track with a vague country flavor that actually makes me think of Molly Hatchett.

When listening to the album a pattern emerges – when the organ is to the fore MOC sounds like Purple and when it is in background Led Zep. Purple’s “Made In Japan” album is one of my fave albums and as a result the more Purple-esque tracks are the highlights. (Interesting aside – I recently listened to Purple’s “Live In Japan” album which contains the full length versions of the concerts edited to compile “Made In Japan”. Ritchie Blackmore fluffs “Smoke On the Water”‘s riff in two of the concerts, so they were left with only one version of use on “Made In Japan”. Ah, another hero knocked off his pedestal!) I think the band have potential and I certainly would like to hear what they sound like on a better quality recording where more of the dynamics of the music are in evidence.

Broke ‘n’ Blue – Northern Lights

Broke ‘n’ Blue – Northern Lights


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Tracks:

  1. I Will Be There
  2. Cry For You
  3. Enuff
  4. Touching Me (Tonight)
  5. Here She Comes
  6. Needed To Believe
  7. Heaven In My Hands
  8. Back Again
  9. Oriental Eyes
  10. Heavenly Beauty
  11. Heart2Heart
  12. Northern Lights

Label: Maple Leaf Records/Hang Loose Records
Producer: Ulf Vesffund and Lars Abrahamsson
Year: 2001

Total Playing Time: 54:52 m:s
Review date: 19/02/2002

Web site: http://listen.to/l.a.music
Email:

Rating: 90 %
Verdict: Broke ‘n’ Blue have created an album that is a very well balanced blend of rock and pop

So you like AOR and you like hard rock, but let’s face it there hasn’t been that much to really enthuse about in those genres of late. So you turn your attention to more lightweight material. Something that could be described as pop-rock – say The Corrs, Roxette or Savage Garden. They are all good, but don’t you just wish they would ‘rock’ out a little more. Well, Broke ‘n’ Blue are here to answer your prayers.

Broke ‘n’ Blue are studio project set up as vehicle for the songs of Lars Lars Abrahamsson. Eva Abrahamsson and Peter Gustavsson singing lead and backing vocals join Lars. Peter is also a guitarist. Ulf Vestlundon completes the band on bass. If you haven’t already guessed it from the names, Broke ‘n’ Blue are a Swedish outfit.

The uptempo opener, “I Will Be There”, marries the AOR of Heart with the pop of Roxette, resulting in an excellent start to the album. “Cry For You” has more of a rock feeling to it with the guitars getting to come to the fore and sounds like a mixture of Toto and Go West. The lead vocal duties are swapped around throughout the album. The opener featured Eva, whereas Peter is featured on this second track. It is back to Eva however for the catchy “Enuff” which is a great lightweight rock tune. Touching Me (Tonight) is a mid-tempo semi-ballad where the band give a performance that would give Journey a run for their money.

Richard Marx is a reference point for the FM rock of “Here She Comes” where Eva’s backing vocal give the sound a slightly Celtic feel and reminding me of a band called Broken Voices. By this stage BnB think is time to prove that their feet are firmly planted in the rock side of the pop-rock divide. To this end thye conjure up “Needed To Believe” which has a touch of Van Halen about it.

With two vocalists a duet was bound to happen and it does on the big power ballad “Heaven In My Hands”. “Back Again” is a track that reminds me of Romeo’s Daughter. Keyboards are to the fore for the slice of 80’s AOR nostalgia called “Oriental Eyes”. An excellent track, that would have been huge back in that time frame.

“Heavenly Beauty” is smooth Westcoast affair. “Heart2Heart”,erm…., sounds like Heart! The closing title track, “Northern Lights”, has an atmospheric Celtic feel to it mainly due to Eva’s vocals.

I always like to find albums that dare to be a little different. Broke ‘n’ Blue have created an album that is a very well balanced blend of rock and pop. In Eva and Peter they have two good vocalists and the sharing of lead vocals adds extra variety and depth to the album. The only thing I’d change for future albums is to beef up the production a little and give the sound a little more “sophistication”. However, this is only minor nit picking on my part. I can only hope that this album does really well for the band, because it deserves to, and that someone lets them loose in the studio with a little more money next time, so that they can create not just a good, but a totally knockout album next time.

Atello – The Wrecking Ball

 


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More info: www.atello.com 
 

Verdict (rating): Retro metal (70%)
 

Atello’s last album was a retro-rocking affair that impressed most when the songs displayed a Firehouse vibe. This time out the band seem to have kicked Firehouse into touch and replaced them with GnR. ‘The Wrecking Ball’ sees the band ‘toughening up’ and adopting more of an 80s sleaze metal feel.
 

This approach is in evidence on the first couple of tracks and resulted in my initial reaction to this album being one of disappointment. On ‘Feed My Head’ Larry even adopts a Axl style snarled vocal. It isn’t until ‘Tied Up In Love’ when the band remember to introduce a sprinkling of melody to proceedings that I get reminded that my reaction to the previous album was positive.
 

After a couple of slow tracks there is more 80s metal posturing on ‘Dirty Mind’ and the Aerosmith influenced ‘Meltdown’. When ‘The Money Shot’ arrives we get a slow burning bluesy rocker which has a more melodic edge to it. Of the ballads, ‘Lifetime Away’ is the best. It is a sort of almost country-tinged tune of the type purveyed by GnR & Poison. The final track was obviously written after the September 11 tragedy and is a defiant message to the terrorists.
 

After listening to this album I went back and revisited ‘The Big Payoff’. The band have definitely gone for a more aggressive style on this album and moved from hard rock into more a metallic arena. The band put in as good if not better performance than the last album, but I prefer the style of ‘The Big Payoff’ to the ‘The Wrecking Ball’.

A Band Called Delicious – Season To Taste


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More Info: www.abandcalleddelicious.com 

Verdict (Rating): Adult-orientated Pop (80%)

When trying to categorize ABCD, I considered bundling ABCD into the Nu-Breed category along with acts like Marvellous 3, SR71 etc. However, whereas Nu-Breed acts use a rock base for their music, ABCD use more of Pop base. The band describe themselves as ‘smart power pop’ and cite comparisons with bands like Counting Crows, Ben Folds Five and Dave Matthews Band.

 

Smart is word that applies to ABCD on a number of levels. The name is touch on the clever side. Their web site is simple and effective. Similarly the album cover. And if you visit their web site you’ll see that the adjectives ‘smart & clean cut‘ apply to their appearance.
 

The opening duo are modern pop tunes with slowish verses followed by a more uptempo chorus. The semi-acoustic ‘What About The Love’ has a singer/songwriter feel. ‘Frump’ is an angry little number where the vocal sound suitably strained to convey the emotion. By contrast ‘Only Roses’ is a gentle number with a underlying sense of melody. ’17 Years’ is a semi-acoustic number with minimal jangly guitars pointing out that you really don’t know everything at the tender age of 17. ‘Rich Girl’ is a jerky stop/start tune that sees the band in more of a rock mode. The band spoil things a little by following this with a plodding melancholy tune called ‘Too Far To Fall’. OK, for a band that I’ve previously described as smart they rather predictably complete the album with a tune called ‘Farewell’. Despite the cheese factor, I think I’ll give this slice of modern pop my vote are the best tune of the album.
 

This is power pop for adults (AOP? – Adult Orientated Pop). Melodic Rock fans with their eyes focused rearwards to the 80s aren’t going to find too much of interest here. However, if you’re one of the melodic rock fans with an open mind towards modern music, perhaps you’re already checking out Nu-Breed Melodic Rock acts, then ABCD are well worth investigating.

Innuendo – Raining In Mexico


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More Info: www.innuendorocks.com 
 

Verdict (Rating): An interesting album for existing Innuendo fans (80%)
 

Innuendo’s last album, ‘Three’, seen me getting really excited about the band. Their brand of semi-acoustic rock seem to hit all the right notes for me. For the follow up to that album, the band have let the acoustic side of their nature take a front seat and released ‘an acoustic collection’ of songs called ‘Raining In Mexico’.
 

From the first moment I put this album on it felt comfortable – a bit like an old favorite sweater. That feeling was probably enhanced by the fact that this album features several songs from the ‘Three’ album. In fact, further investigation reveals that the album is actually split in half between reworking of songs from their previous albums and new songs. But that feeling wasn’t just down to the familiarity of those songs, I think is more down the fact that Innuendo simply ‘click’ with me.
 

The album starts of well, with the catchy mid-tempo acoustic rock of ‘Little Less Grey’. The title track that follows has a ‘song along’ quality. There is an even catchier chorus on ‘Point Of No Return’ where it is impossible to sit still when listening to it – you’ll be drumming you fingers or tapping your feet – I guarantee it. ‘The Call’ shows a little more variation in tempo within the song, but it is still another impressive slice of acoustic-based rock. By now I’m sure you’re getting the picture. Other highlights include the nostalgia fuelled ‘Ain’t Like It Used To Be’, the bluesy ‘Up To You’, ‘Song On The Radio’ (which had already impressed me on the ‘Three’ album) and ‘The Real Me’ which slows the tempo nicely just before the chorus to give it more impact.
 

The quality is pretty much maintained throughout the album. The fact that the songs are all acoustic based does give them a common identity and all credit to Innuendo for keeping the whole affair a ‘little less gray’. This collection isn’t the most obvious follow up to their previous album and Innuendo are clearly a band that intend to follow their hearts when it comes to deciding what to do next. If you’re an existing fan, then this is yet another one for your collection. However, if you’re new to the band I’d still recommend checking out ‘Three’ first. The new songs on here show that Innuendo haven’t lost their touch and a new ‘plugged-in’  album is something that I’m looking forward to.

Orange Crush – Songs For Ophelia


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More Info: www.orangecrushmusic.com 

 

Verdict (Rating): Excellent laid-back pop-rock (90%)
 

Orange Crush are a band, but my first reaction on hearing the music was that it sounded like it had been created by a  singer/songwriter, with Mark Spiro’s name being the one that came immediately to mind. Jude Cole’s being another. On further listening, I detected elements of gentle pop-rock as played by 80s’ acts like Go West and Cutting Crew. The band certainly have a lot of crossover appeal and a wide potential audience.
 

The albums starts with a Jude Cole style number called ‘Losing It Without You’. It is a slow to mid-tempo number which has vague Southern/Country elements beneath the surface. The pace is increased slightly for ‘Can’t Believe It’ and this time Mark Spiro is the comparison. ‘Ophelia’ is a slow melancholy ballad that captivates the listener. This is brings me to the excellent ‘The Way’. A gentle soft rock tune with a hint of Westcoast that gets even better when some female gospel style vocals are added in the background. The are some samples added to give this thoughtful track extra impact. The EP closes with a simple ballad called ‘What I Came Here For’.
 

There is a laid-back simplicity to this EP. The whole affair seems so effortless and I guess that when someone is really good at what they do, then they make it seem effortless. The performances, the songs and the production all ooze class. For a set of laid back tunes to make such a good impression on me is really something. The future for Orange Crush should be extremely healthy and their full length CD, which they are currently writing material for, is eagerly awaited.

Markonee – The Spirit Of The Radio

 


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More Info:
www.markonee.com 
 

Verdict (Rating): An album that will appeal to fans who like this style of no frills rocking (75%)
 

“The Spirit Of The Radio” is the subject of this concept album by Italian rockers Markonee. Quite a bold move for a debut album. The album story focuses on Marconi, his first radio transmission and it’s impact upon the world.
 

The style of music and indeed the album’s concept make it impossible for me to think of Markonee without thinking of Tesla. They both play gutsy hard rock/metal with a down to earth attitude. And they’ve both got albums about Radio – The Spirit Of The Radio & The Great Radio Controversy.
 

“Every Beat Of My Heart” is an up-tempo rocking start. The song picks up on the chorus which curiously is quite low in the mix. That Tesla feeling is possibly at it’s strongest on “Loved Land”. The vocals have a gruff ‘just swallowed a handful of razor blades’ quality – the guy from Nazareth meets Bon Scott. In fact, this is a good thing – it helps the band develop an identity of their own. “The Needle Eye” is a determined sounding track with definite riff propelling it along. Not bad, but you get the impression that a better production job would have beefed it up and made it more convincing.
 

By the time “Discovery” reaches your ears the vocals seem to have fought their way to the front of the mix and that ‘demo’ feel that plagues the earlier tracks moves further into the background. “Movin’ To America” is more mid-tempo rocking which is the area where the band seem to feel comfortable. They adopt a “leave ’em rockin'” policy by closing the album with the up-tempo “Modern Time Clockwork”
 

Markonee work their way through a set of no nonsense mid-tempo to up-tempo rockers. The songs have a honest quality about them and that appeals to me. I can’t say that Markonee are breaking any new ground musically – it has all been done before during the 80 by bands like the aforementioned Tesla. In one sense Tesla have done a lot of the ground work with me on Markonee’s behalf. Tesla were a band that always impressed me for their hard working attitude and always came across as good guys in the press. In my mind I seem to have bestowed those same qualities to Markonee.
 

As far as the concept album thing is concerned, to be honest, at a superficial level, the album doesn’t feel like a concept album. The songs can all stand on their own merits. It is only when you take the time to listen to the lyrics or read the lyric sheet that you realize that the band have put in a good deal of effort in this department. All credit to them, it makes a pleasant change from the usual banal subject of metal tunes.
 

I have to admit that on the first listen I wasn’t that impressed with what I was hearing. I got that been there done that feeling. However, after a few more listens I can’t help but like this album.

Final Tragedy – Greed


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More Info: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/finaltragedy/

 
Verdict (Rating): Metallic progressive art rock (79%)
 

Final Tragedy is a duo consisting of guitarist/songwriter –  Jean-Luc Millot  and vocalist  – Delphine Cochand.
 

My first thoughts on this album were to describe it as progressive metal. As many regular readers will know my progressive metal listening consists almost exclusively to the prog metal standard bearers – Dream Theater. I find that most other bands pale in comparison. On the first few listens, Final Tragedy befell a similar fate. However, there is nothing like having to commit your thoughts to paper to clarify your thinking.
 

To describe Final Tragedy simply as progressive metal is to do them an injustice. They are progressive rock with a metallic sound, but with an art-rock theme through their work.
 

The foundation for their music is heavy riff guitars and machine gun drumming interspersed with quieter sections featuring clean/more jangly lead guitars. On top, or perhaps I mean underneath, this foundation floats the haunting vocals of Delphine They have a melancholy lingering quality that helps to convey the tortured subjects of the lyrics.  To find an adequate comparison from my own listening experiences, I have to go back to Siouxie Sioux from punk/new wave rockers The Banshees.
 

This formula is followed on virtually all the songs making this an album to immerse yourself in and let the music float around you, rather than one you can dip in and out of. This also makes picking out any individual tracks as being better than others almost impossible. I guess the final track Gift? being the big finale to the album is the obvious candidate.
 

“Greed” is an album that requires repeated listens to ‘get into’ and whilst I can’t see straight-ahead rock fans getting too excited about it, I think it will appeal to those Mood Swings readers with an open mind towards progressive music. In a genre that seems to dominated by Dream Theater wannabes, it is good to see a band willing to follow their own path and creating a sound of their own.