Invisible Movie Soundtrack

Tracks: Northentro (soundtrack), She Sings To Me (retro-pop), Mr..Rogers (electronica), Darwin (soul/RnB), Jim’s Truck (hard rock), Damn allright (trip-hop), Down town (prog electronica), EZ girl (lounge jazz-pop), Denji (soundtrack), Disappear (retro-pop), Green Song (rock), Gan (ambient) , Pramanha (world), I Don’t Wanna (electronica/soul), Z’nave a la Evans (prog electronica), Waterfolk (trip-hop), Daneloo (electronica), Flute Stretch (electronica), Lake (prog rock)

More Info: www.pennynation.com

Verdict: Snoozy eclectic jazz influenced electronica (i.e. nothing to do with Melodic Rock)

Even though Mood Swings’ main focus is melodic rock, there is something about the name ‘Mood Swings’ that attracts review submissions from artists outside this genre. “The Invisible Music soundtrack'” is one such submission.

You may have already guessed from the title – there is no movie. Just a collection of music tracks to which you provide your own moving pictures.Surprisingly the CD leaflet doesn’t say what you need to smoke, swallow, drink or inject to help this process!

The music is described by Penny Nation as an eclectic mix of retro-pop,electronica, soul/RnB, hard rock(?), lounge, trip-hop……(I’ve included their classifications along with the track listing). The common factor in all this is the vocals of Lydia from a group called Mothers Favorite Child. The musicians are a group of people affiliated to Penny Nation records.

In fact, there is less diversity here than implied from the press info. I’d describe most of it as laid back lounge elctronica jazz. There a few hints of other styles, but they don’t amount to anything more than hints. I thought the hard rock of “Jim’s Truck” might be of interest, but it is only a minute long and I’d describe it more as heavy funk. The Latin sounds of Pramanha do add diversity, but perversely seem out of place.

There is nothing here to interest Melodic Rock fans. However, I guess if you tastes extent to laid back jazzy influenced pop/electronica you should check out the web site (which has some nice animations).

Sanity – The Demo

Sanity - The Demo

Audio Tracks: Together As One, Man Along The Line, Sanity (Live), Beyond Believe (Live), Lonely At The World (Live)

Video Clips: Sanity (Live), Beyond Believe (Live), Lonely At The World (Live), Systems Of Mercy (Live), Together As One (Live)

More Info: www.sanity.nl

Verdict (& Rating): Solid Power Metal (70 %)

Sanity are a Dutch progressive metal band that combine elements of Queensryche and Dream Theater, with Queensryche style techo/power metal being to the fore. The band was formed by ex-members of the band Blind Fury and ex-Bagheera singer Kees van Keulen.

Before actually talking about the music, Sanity’s “The Demo” package impresses for being innovative. The package consists of 2 discs – an audio disc and a video disc. Not only do you get the hear what the guys sound like, you get the see them in action on stage.

Opening track “Together As One” is power metal with the keyboards adding a few prog touches. At 8 mins long it certainly is of prog duration. Equally long is “Man Along The Line” which displays the bands more sensitive side in a Metallica meets Rainbow ballad . Vocalist, Kees van Keulen, puts a great deal of feeling and emotion into his voice on this and the other tracks on the album. At times it seems like the emotion has taken predecence over melody.

On the first two live tracks, “Sanity” and “Beyond Believe”, the band adopt a more classical metal approach. “Lonely At The World” starts of in a slow rambling manner and as it develops reminds me of either Magnum or Demon.

The live tracks give a feel for what the band are about and prove that the band can deliver in a live sitiuation, but because the quality is of the ‘OK’ variety, so I’m not going to draw too many conclusions from them. The studio tracks are best ones to investigate the potential of the band.

That little bit of Dream Theater in their sound, means that I automatically compare Sanity to DT and they set a very high standard indeed. So perhaps my verdict as ‘solid’ is a touch on the harsh side. For fans of  Techno/Power metal (Queensryche, Crimson Glory etc), they   area band to keep an eye on, as the two studio tracks show promise.

Steelwind – Jawhook


Steelwind – Jawhook
Steelwind - Jawhook



Tracks: Still In Love With You, Jawhook, My Flesh, When You Are Here, The Dream, I Believe In Miracles, Running Out Of time, For All Days, When The Father Tells The Son, Home At Last

More Info: www.steelwind.net

Verdict (& Rating): 80’s AOR done well (80%)

Steelwind are a Texas, USA outfit that consits of Kevin Humphey (vocals, guitar), Billy Oliver (keyboards), Artie Jones (drums) and Michael Clary (rhythm guitar). In fact, Kevin is the main focus of the band as songwriter and producer. This is their follow up to 2000’s debut “Heaven’s Calling”.

Steelwind conjure up memories of 80’s AOR bands like latter day Boston, Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx and slightly rockier bands such as Night Ranger. “Progressive” is another term that has been used to describe the band, but it has to be coupled with AOR to give “Progressive AOR”, so that you could throw Kansas and Saga into the ring when describing their style.

Whilst many bands opt for a ‘hit em hard’ approach to their opening track, Steelwind glide in on a big REO style power ballad. This is followed by the epic title track that with fluid guitar work and sweeping synths echos the work of bands like Saga/ACT. “My Flesh” ups the tempo with some bouncy 80’s AOR/melodic rock. “When You Are Here” is a ‘filler’ ballad that stays in the same decade. More impressive is the 80’s bouncy AOR of “The Dream” which this time takes on few Asia/Pomp tendancies.

The band continue the good work on the REO style “I Believe In Miracles” and “Running Out Of Time”, even if the vocals take a little too much helium on board for my tastes on the latter Steelwind do their own take on Boston’s “Foreplay” at the start of the rambling power ballad “For All Day” which develops into one of the album’s standout tracks.That same influence continues on the rockin’ “When The Father Tells The Sons” that features some tasty guitar work and vocal harmonies. “Home At Last” is the predictable ballad to close the album.

 I guess at some point I should say that the band are Christians and that this is reflected in their lyrics. I personally find this inspiring and welcome their choice of lyrical content. I don’t ever feel that I’m being ‘preached at’.

I always think that if a band’s tastes leads them to play retro sounding music, they set themselves an additional challenge.They have to compete with what everyone remembers and that is generally the best of the era. One this album Steelwind show how to succeed in that challenge.

Scott Sudbury – Get The Picture


Scott Sudbury - Get The Picture
 
Tracks: I’m Her Freak, Give A Damn, Just Fine, It Must Be You, Good Enough For Me, All I Want Is You, Dear Yesterday (The Note), Too Bad So Sad, I’ve Heard It All Before, If You Still Loved Me, You’ll Come Through, Cover Me
 
More Info: www.scottsudbury.com
 
Verdict (& Rating): AOR meets nu-breed in a killer package (90%)
 
For a little bit of background check out my review of Scott’s debut album – Static On The Radio.
 
Scott cranks up the guitars and storms though the first 5 songs. This time in addition to John Cougar Mellencamp and Bryan Adams, I’ll can thrown Rick Springfield and Bon Jovi into the comparison melting pot. But that isn’t the whole story. The other name that came to mind is Squint, who I was raving about earlier this year. There is a youthful exuberance and just the right amount of contempory ‘nu-breed’ thinking going on here as well. Now the more cynical amounst you might be thinking that this is some sort of contrived transformation by Scott, but it sure a hell doesn’t sound like that to these ears. It just sounds like Scott strapped on his guitar and had a good time writing and playing these tunes. The theme continues later in the form of the Beatle-esque “Dear Yesterday” and the killer “Too Bad So Sad”. All these songs are prime examples of how it is possible to combine ‘nu-breed energy’ and ‘AOR big choruses’ into a lethal cocktail.
 
When Scott takes a breather it is back to a more familiar style with “All I Want Is You”. Even on these more ‘classic’ sounding tunes the song wrting seems to have stepped up a gear compared to the debut. This ‘classic’ approach is featured on the final four tracks of the album, which adopt a slightly slower pace also,  and if comparisons are needed then I’d say Bon Jovi was a valid one.
 
Scott delivers big time! Nothing more to say.

Scott Sudbury – Static On The Radio


Scott Sudbury - Static On The Radio
 
Tracks: Static On The Radio, The Letting Go, Long Way Home, Here I Go, Tonight, Me and the Memory of You, Around, The Last American Dreamer, Good Thing, You and Me
 
 
Verdict (& Rating): A solid slice of ‘Americana’ rock (80%)
 
This debut independent album by Scott was actually released some 3 years ago and has sold something around 20000 copies so far. My main reason for reviewing it now is to set the scene for his new release “Get The Picture“.
 
The overall sound here is Bryan Adams meets John Cougar Mellencamp i.e. a mid-western AOR sound. The album is crammed full of a good mixture of rockers and ballads.On the rockers think Bryan Adams and on the mid-tempo and ballads think JCM. On a couple of tracks I hear a little Joey Tempest (“Long Way Home” & “Here I Go”. And on “Tonight” a little Tom Petty. “Good Thing” takes a little detour with light funk ala Dan Reed.
 
Scott gets your ‘blood pumping’ on tracks like opener and title track “Static On The Radio”, but it was slower/mid-tempo tracks like “The Letting Go”, “Long Way Home”, ballad “Me and the Memory of You”, “Good Thing” and the excellent “The Last American Dreamer”, that stand out for me. “Around” was the pick of the rockers.
 
This really is a good sounding album and I think that maybe if I had listened to it in isolation, it may well have squeezed a higher rating out of me. Now let’s see what he did on the follow up “Get The Picture“.

Uncle Sid – Demo


Uncle Sid

Tracks: Frenzy, Out Rock The Clock

More Info: www.unclesid.com

Verdict (& Rating): Enjoyable classic hard rock romp (80%)

Uncle Sid started life off in 1994 in Vancouver, Canada. The band now consists of Franky Dee (vocals), Henry Seto (guitars), Scotty Vye (bass) and Dale Salive (drums).

The band play 80’s style hard rock, with possible comparisons being Steelheart and Slaughter.

The first track “Frenzy” is lives up to it’s name, being an uptempo rock out. It grabs your attention, setting the mood for “Out Rock The Clock”. This track really ‘does the business’, adding a little AC/DC or Krokus to the mix. The vocals are powerful, the guitars wail and the rhythm section provides the necessary solid foundation.

When a band decide to go for a ‘tried and tested’ sound, they’ve got to do it well and Uncle Sid do a sterling job. On the basis of this couple of songs Uncle Sid are worth keeping an eye on.

Wildest Dream – Demo


Wildest Dream

Tracks: Believe, Never Say Goodbye, Every Time

More Info: http://utenti.lycos.it/wildestdream

Verdict (& Rating): Talented musicians, but doing a little too much hero worshipping (80%)

The inspiration behind Wildest Dream is Arin Vahanian (guitars, bass, keyboards & drums). He is joined by vocalist Tony Vendel. The influence of bands such as Harem Scarem, Frontline, Ten and Fair Warning fuelled the formation of Wildest Dream. Tony is also is a member of Dutch band Shoreline and a Journey tribute band.

The demo consists of three songs – “Believe”, “Never Say Goodbye” and “Every Time”. All three sounds are similar in style and structure – mid-tempo AOR tracks with strong melodies. The songs certainly ‘pressed all the right buttons’ for me (I’m a sucker for some ‘good old fashioned AOR’), with the final track raising it head marginally above the others. Hence the very respectable rating. However, all three songs bear a strong resemblance to Journey. Tony’s vocals take on many Perry-isms, but the overall sound and the songs themselves play an equal part in contributing to the cloning.

There is undoubted talent here, but it needs to be redirected so that the band can develop an identity of their own and make themselves an attractive prospect to record labels.

Alan Whittaker – Out Of This World


Alan Whittaker - Out Of This World


 

Tracks: My Love, Her Beautiful Disguise, Anyhow, Another Sunday Afternoon, Nothing Changes, The Day The Angels Came Down, Ellouise, She’s Out Of This World, It’s Your Day, Perfect Life, Schizo Kid
 
More Info: http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/250/alan_whittaker.html
 
Availability: free of charge(other than a stamped addressed envelope). Email Alan at Alan.whittaker@virgin.net
Verdict (& Rating ): Too laid back for my tastes ( 64%)
 
When I first receive a new CD, the first thing I do is put it in the CD player and have a quick listen to each of the tracks, just to get a taste for the album, even if I don’t have time to listen to the whole album. In this process ‘in your face hard rock’ tends to make to best initial impressions. Whereas, gentler faire such as “Out Of This World”, leaves me a little disappointed.
 
After this initial listen, it was a while before I returned to this album. My wife happened to be in the room when I was listening again. This time we both thought the opening track, “My Love”, was good, but the rest of the album failed to live up to promising start.
 
It wasn’t until I had the time sit down and have a ‘good listen’ to the album that I changed my mind about the album and I began to see it positive attributes. It is hard to describe Alan’s style of music. Words I could bandy about are soft rock, singer/songwriter, laid back etc. There is a 70s/early 80s pop-rock feel to the material.
 
That opener that I mentioned earlier, “My Love”, is a sparse piano track that initially conjures up visions of Sytx, but heads off in a poppier direction. It is not the sort of opener that grabs you from the off, but about half way through, you might just be thinking “this isn’t bad”. “Her Beautiful Disguise”, “Anyhow” and “Another Sunday Afternoon” all have that 70s soft rock vibe with “Anyhow” being the best of the trio. When listening to “Nothing Changes” I’m reminded of a song (but I can’t remember the title) by the Alan Parson’s Project, especially the rhythm section.
 
So far, so good. Then comes “The Day The Angels Came Down” which reminds me of the crass Pogues/Kirsty McCall Christmas ditty “A New York Fairytale”(again I’m having problems thinking of the song title). Unfortuantely this “faux pas” is followed by three undistinguished ballads, which may just have been OK separately, but don’t cut it in sequence.
 
We have to wait until the penultimate track to find a track that falls into the rock rather than the pop arena. “Perfect Life” has a vaguely progressive feel to it, albeit in a latter day Marillion kind of a way rather than a full blown prog workout. “Schizo Kid” is yet another ballad, but this time an effective one that closes the album well.
 
This album was really a little too laid back for my tastes. This becomes especially noticeable when the start of the second half of the album is a series of ballads which failed to capture my imagination. This fact combined with a track that reminded me of that dreadful Pogues/Kirsty McCall Xmas tune sealed the albums rather ordinary rating from me. That is my take of things, you can investigate for yourself at www.mp3.com . As you’ll see at the top of the review, this album is available free of charge to anyone who sends Alan a SAE, which makes it worthy of further investigation!!!!

Synasthasia – The Land Of Lores


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Tracks: Discovery Of The Mask, The Attack, Quest For The Dharacle, The Swamp, The Mines, Yvel, Salvation From The Curse, Gladstones Fall, Scotias Death, In Misery
 
More Info: www.synasthasis.de
 
Verdict (& Rating ): Melodic Power Metal  ( 65% [alternative metalhead rating 75%]) 
 

Synasthasia describe their style of music as ‘melodic power metal’. Since my collection isn’t exactly awash with ‘power metal’, it took a little bit of web research to turn up Helloween as being the band that Synasthasia are  supposed to sound something like. From the more metallic elements of my own collection, I heard a little Maiden, a little Metallica and  a little Stratovarius (are they power metal or neo-classical?).
 
Given the above, I was rather surprised that “Discovery Of The Mask” made a positive impression, but it did. It is an engaging uptempo romp. When the band attempt to race each other to the end of the track, “The Attack” being one example, I tend to switch off or just smile and hit ‘next’.  (I do the same thing when listening to Maiden or Stratovarius.) 
 
That ‘next’ brought me to  the  slightly more sensibly paced “Quest For The Dharacle”. The vocalist has a chance to sing rather than struggling to keep up with music. This track is helped by a melodic and coordinated chorus. In fact, the vocalist is one of the strengths of the band in my opinion. Unlike many others in this genre he is mid-range, rather than the high-pitched wail of his  helium-fuelled contemporaries. The following two tracks “The Swamp” and “The Mines”, continue is to cast the band in a positive light, especially “The Mines” which is best track on the album.
 
After all the frantic activity so far, the band take a breather on the Metallica Black-era ballad “Yvel”. Whilst it does sound uncomfortably like Lars & Co, it does the job of being ‘ the ballad‘ effectively. The band then seem to lose the plot slightly with next couple of fairly boring and ordinary tracks. “Scotias Death” has the band back on track again. The band complete the album with a Metallica meets Maiden instrumental. 
 
Roughly about half of the tracks on the album impressed me. To these ears the band put their best foot forward when they keep the pace to a sensible romp and allow the singer the room to sing! The best example of this is ‘The Mines’. Elsewhere, it is more the case of my not liking the style of the music, rather Synasthasia necessarily doing anything wrong. So,at the final count, this gets an ‘average’ rating. I think the band have done a good job – to create a concept album as their debut with solid sound quality should not be dismissed lightly. Metalheads would no doubt rate this higher and, as I said before, the average rating from me reflects a slight mismatch of their style with my musical tastes rather than anything else.

Morgan Finlay – Uppercut

More Info: www.morganfinlay.com, www.briscobodai.com

Verdict (Rating %): Laid back mixture of rootsy AOR & Funk (70 %)

Morgan Finlay is a singer/songwriter from Toronto, Canada Oh yeah,just what I wanted – a package arriving in the mail postmarked Toronto right when Toronto was making the headlines regarding SARS.

It is hard to describe Morgan’s music. Imagine if Mark Spiro, Dan Reed, Jude Cole and maybe Warren Zevon were merged together – Morgan Finlay? Morgan describes it as ‘an organic mix of edgy modern music and easy funk’. I can’t think of a better description.

Opening and closing tracks, “Zensong” and “Everything Will Work Out Right”, are similiar in style. “Zensong” is a Mark Spiro meets U2/REM style affair, whilst “Everything Will Work Out Right” is more Jude Cole/Mark Spiro/Warren Zevon.

In between there are a couple of funk based tracks, “In A Perfect World” and “A Lesson”. “In A Perfect World” works best and I’ve written Earth, Wind and Fire meets Warren Zevon, if such a thing doesn’t bend your mind too much.

That just leaves a short acoustic guitar piece called “Flow” and “The Reason Why”, which is a slower AOR style (Timothy Drury/Jude Cole is what I’ve got in my listening notes).

OK. I’m beginning to wonder about my new rating system, as the last three albums I’ve reviewed have all ended up with the same score!!! The people I used as comparisons at the start of the review all feature in my own record collection with one or two albums each ,which says I like them but I’m not a big league fan – a little too laid back for me unless I’m in that frame of mind So maybe if you are more into laid back rootsy AOR, you might want to increase Upercut’s rating slightly.