Girlschool – Believe

Girlschool - Believe

More info: www.girlschoool.co.uk

Verdict (& Rating): Still alive and rocking hard (70%)

I thought that this lot had bit the dust a long time ago – I would have guessed sometime around 1985. I was quite surprised to read they had released a new album. In fact, a quick check of their web site reveals that they have been going in various line-ups right from the 1978 to the present day, albeit with little activity mid to late 90’s. Back in 2002 they released a 21st anniversary album called “Not That Innocent”. The line-up for new this album is original members Kim McAuliffe (guitar & lead vocals), Enid Williams (bass & lead vocals) and Denise Dufort (drums) together with new girl Jackie Chambers (guitars & backing vocals).

I remember listening to sessions by the band on BBC One’s Friday Rock Show. However, the only time they made it into my record collection was with their St. Valentine’s Day Massacre collaboration with Motorhead. Way back then the band’s style was metal meets punk. And the band are sticking to the formula that proved successful during the early to mid 80s. This certainly is the case on opening track “Come On Up”. “Let’s Get Hard” adds more metal to the formula and has more of an impact. On “Crazy” the girls slow things down a little sounding a bit like Romeo’s Daughter on the verses and sing rather than shout on the chorus making this my favorite track on the album. The punk elements get turned up on “We All Love To” and the sound is Pistols meets Joan Jett. “Secret” and “New Beginning” both pass by with no surprises. “C’Mon” has a deserved confident swagger to it. “Never Say Never” romps along nicely. “You Say” is a ‘so-so’ mid-tempo track. The band get back on track with “Feel Good” which sounds like ZZ Top’s “Tush” in places. By this stage the band have set the scene and rock their way through “Hold On Tight”, “Yes Means Yes”, “We All Have To Choose”, “Play Around” and “Passion” to the end of album, with “Passion” having an extra helping of melody and being a strong finish.

So Girlschool are still alive and definitely kicking as hard as they ever did. Way back in the 80s I always found their sound a little too “rough” for my personal tastes and the couple of tracks where they added a little more melody on this album only served to remind me of that and had me wanting them to ‘wimp out’ a little. Then it wouldn’t be Girlschool anymore!!!

 

Innuendo – Half Empty

Innuendo - Half Empty

More Info: www.innuendorocks.com

Verdict (& Rating): Innuendo add variations to their trademark sound (75%)

The first Innuendo album that I reviewed at Mood Swings, “Three”, made a really favourable impresssion on me. Their semi-acoustic style fused elements of rock and pop. They then moved in a more acoustic direction for “Raining In Mexico”. Album number 5 was a live affair. Now we have album number 6, “Half Empty”, in 9 years from this Phoenix, Arizona 3-piece. The band features Andy Watt on vocals & bass, Brett Richey on guitar, keys & vocals and Mike Whitman on drums and vocals.

If  “Raining In Mexico” took one side of their character to it’s logical conclusion, then ‘Half Empty’ sees the band do a ‘180’ and this time out toughen up their sound. There is also a hint of blues to a couple of the tracks this time around, opener “Best Thing I Never Had” being one example. Whilst the opener doesn’t quite click with me, “Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know” is back on form with a more familiar sound. That hint of blues that I mentioned earlier comes to the fore on “If It’s All The Same To You” which, with the rich vocal harmonies, could be described as Westcoast Blues. ‘Die In Her Car’ sees the band letting loose and rocking out. I haven’t quite made up my mind about this one. It reminds me Sammy Hagar. The previous albums proved that Innuendo ‘do’ ballads with panache and ‘Right Here’ provides further evidence.

The band’s daliance with a variety of styles continues with “Get In Line” which has a county feel ala Blackhawk or Restless Heart. With “30 Second Smile” the band are in full flight again coming across as Damn Yankees meet Nelson and sounding more convincing than on ‘Die In Her Car’. ‘Beautiful Dream’ works it way up from being a slow ballad to power ballad status. The next three tracks, “Blind Spot”, “Can’t Remember” and “Ammunition” all work well. “Ammunition” in particular which is a prime example of the semi acoustic style I mentioned at the start of this review. That desire to throw in a few stylistic variations pops up again on a cover of the Lennon/McCartney track “Oh Darling”. The band then close the album strongly with “I Still Think Of You” which is back to the semi-acoustic style I prefer. Having finished listening to the whole album I can say that once again Innuendo have done an excellent job on the production side.

Judged as a standalone work, this is a good album which will appeal to variety of music fans. However, if you want to check out the band’s work I’d still recommend “Three” as a first port of call.

Mouth Of Clay – Still Open

Mouth Of Clay - Still Open

Verdict (&Rating): 70’s rock (70%)

More Info: http://www.mouthofclay.com/

A couple of years ago I reviewed Mouth Of Clay’s debut album “What Have You Got To Loose?”. Since then the band have gone through some major changes, with only drummer Ollie remaining from that line-up. In fact, in the interim Ollie has had to adjust to being an one-armed drummer. He is now joined by Chrille on guitars and Sertan on vocals, bass and hammond organ.

Although the lineup has changed, MOC’s musical direction remains the same. They still draw on influences such as Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Bad Company and Led Zeppelin. The resulting sound is 70’s style blues rock. The healthy dose of keyboards on many of the tracks highlights Purple are being the dominant influence coming through.

The first couple of tracks, Why Don’t You and I Gave Up, set the scene with a Hammond driven ‘Purple’ sound. The good time party blues of “Woman In Green” adds a little Bad company to the mix. Cardigan starts of with a spacey Led Zep style before the keyboards head the band off into more familiar terratory. Thin Lizzy would appear to be the influence behind “Black Rose” in spirit if not in style.

“Like A Woman” and “Not My Style” see a whole lotta Zep/Purple fusion happening. A track called “One Man Standing” is perhaps envitable track title given the current band lineup. “Crazy Way” is the album’s slow ballad. “Funk It” draws on Hughes/Coverdale era Purple, while “Long Ago” close the album.

MOC have created an album that will appeal to fans of 70’s rock, especially Purple fans.

ATG – Revolution Of Adolescence

ATG - Revolution Of Adolescence

 

More info: www.atgmetal.com

Verdict (&Rating): Musically talented (albeit too ‘skull crushing’ for me), lyrically inept! (60%)

ATG consists of the following guys

Joe Cave – vocals
Nathan Candelaria – lead guitar
Jeff Nash – lead guitar
Ryan Lucas – bass
Justin Florez – drums

Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico, these young guys formed 3 years ago in high school. ATG play modern heavy metal with the emphasis on heavy – intense grinding metal with vocals that are closer to growling that singing. There are no doubt more recent bands to compare them to, but I’ll go with Pantera, Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth.

The majority of tracks rock hard and surprisingly, compared to many of their ilk, there are hints of melody and song writing going on. “Back Of My Mind” proves that can do a ‘ballad’ just as well as Metallica.

Musically, although it is not to my taste, my judgement is that the band have done a good job. It is the lyrics where ATG really turn me off. There is just too much swearing going on for my liking. I don’t want anyone flinging a string of profanities at me – in person or from my speakers.

Model A – Transmission Lost

Model A - Transmission Lost

 

Verdict(Rating %): engaging indie prog space rock! (75%)

More Info: www.modelamusic.com

Model A describe their music as indie-electro or psychedelic space rock which contains a combination of the latest in musical technology and innovation with vintage inspired tones, overall vibe and resonance. The band’s previous EP, The Stir, was released in 2001.

When in first listened to the album I thought of 80’s new wave bands such as Siouxie & The Banshees, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Killing Joke Joy Division and New Order. The high-pitch vocals have a definite ‘indie’ sound to them. A quick peak at other Mood Swings will reveal that I usually not in favour of high-pitched vocals, but in this case they seem to ‘fit in with the music’ But when you listen ‘behind the vocals’ to the music itself, the is a progressive element to the music that bears a resemblance to latter day Marillion. Further listening suggested modern ‘guitar-driven’ bands like U2 or Radiohead were also in the melting pot.

On opening track, “The Wasted Line”, the ethereal vocals float upon a guitar/synth buzz. “Chimera”, featuring a U2-type sound, builds on the foundation of the opener, albeit with a ‘less frantic’, but more memorable approach. On “Rest Assured” the band alternate between a ‘wall of sound’ buzz and quiet spacey moments – an alternative take on the tempo changes of
traditional progressive music.

“We All Die Young” features more laid back, vaguely Marillion-ish, approach. “Telling” continues in a similar vein. “Le Berceau du Bonheur” is a spacey and experimental track with minimal vocals that meanders it’s way to end of the album

Model A combine a number of influences to create a unique sound and in the process pretty much defy categorisation. Most of the time I was drawn into the ‘rhythm’ of the album, with only the odd moment where I wanted dynamics instead of ambience.

Dakota – Deep 6

Dakota - Deep Six

More Info: http://laststandingman.tripod.com, http://www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~dakota/index-1.htm, http://digital-mixes.com/deep6/

Related Mood Swings items: Mr Lucky, The Last Standing Man, Little Victories, Three Lives Times Ago

Verdict (& Rating): Dakota back, revitalised and sounding wonderful! (90%)

The Dakota story dates back 1981 when the band were originally formed. The band released a couple of albums and split up in 1987. Then back in 1996 the band released Mr Lucky (a revamp of  The Lost Tracks from 1987). That is when they first came to my attention. They went on to release The Last Standing Man and Little Victories. All was quiet for a few years, but now they’re back with a new studio album called “Deep 6″, which just happens to be their 6th album! The line-up for this second part of their career has consisted of Jerry Hludzik  (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals) , Rick Manwiller (keyboards, rhythm guitar, vocals), Jon Lorance (lead and rhythm guitar, vocals) and
Eli Hludzik (drums, vocals).

The band’s style has developed over the years. When I started listening to them the sound had a Westcoast vibe to it. With each album the band have moved more towards an AOR sound. On “Deep 6″ there is a 80s AOR feel, conjuring up comparisons with a multitude of 80’s keyboard heavy acts.

“Brothers In Arms” is an excellent start to the album and comes across as a battle cry as the band prepare to embark on a melodic crusade. The Toto-ish “Holdin’ Your Own” continues the theme of struggle. On the slick “Back To Me”, co-written with Bill Champlin, that Westcoast heritage comes to the fore. Dakota aren’t about let the pace flag, so they keep the album pulsating with “Not So Much In Love”. This track helps to remind me just how integral Jon Lorance’s guitar playing has been in the transition to a rockier sound.

Former member, Bill Kelly is involved in the making of the album. “What Were You Thinkin'” is the first song that he had a hand in writing. One of features of early Dakota that is mentioned in virtually every article I read about that era is how good the vocals were. This tracks serves as a great example of how well Jerry’s & Bill’s voices work together.

“That Awful Day” is a short prelude to “Eye Of The Storm” which is the band’s strong and defiant response to the events of 9/11. “It’s Not Just The Night” is the type of mid-tempo track that Dakota seem to take in their stride. With this type of track they exude a effortless confidence that reminds me of Journey. “Right This Minute” is another Bill Kelly co-write that has an AOR-country vibe and again highlights that excellent vocal pairing I was talking about earlier.

“Shut Up And Drive” is a forceful blues boogie track that chugs along with a 38-Special vibe. For “The Ride” the band are back in more familiar territory. Then “Luck Time Mind” starts up. Wow! What a gem tucked away at the end of the album. If you love 80’s keyboard driven AOR, then you’ll be in raptures over this track. The track pulsates, throbs, parps and ‘makes love to your ears’! The one factor that singles Dakota out from their contempories is the quality of the vocals, both lead and harmonies.”Deep 6″, which revisits the previous tracks, is an acapella track that gives an effective demonstration of their vocal prowess.

To be honest, it was with a bit of trepidation that I approached the review of this album. My reivews of previous Dakota albums had all be positive experiences and I wondered how long the trend could continue. Well, as you can tell, I needn’t have worried. Dakota have created yet another excellent album.

Alkemy – da 63 projekt

Alkemy - da 63 projekt

Tracks: Underwater: 6:08, Turtle Soup: 5:56, On The Very Day: 5:07, Sick Seekers: 6:28, Leaving Future (pt 1.): 2:46, Leaving Future (pt 2.): 6:18, Within My Prism: 6:32, First Person Dreamer: 5:25, Different Looks: 5:21, Inner pulse: 5:24, My Eyes: 8:00

More Info: Unicorn Records, Alchemy Web Site

Verdict (& Rating): Jazz Fusion meets Prog Metal (70%)

Alkemy were formed during the summer of 2000 and are based in Bordeaux, France. They consist of Aurélien Budynek (guitars), Lionel Bertrand (drums), Aurélie Martin (keyboards) and Philippe Sifre (bass). Their influences range from Dream Theater, Queensrÿche to Chick Corea Elektric Band, Miles Davis or Pat Metheny Group. From that list of influences, it won’t come as any surprise that their ambition is to fuse progressive metal and jazz fusion.

“Underwater” is an uptempo beginning that sounds like a progressive version of Talisman, mainly due to the bass playing. From the description above you might have been expecting an instrumental album, but Alkemy keep things from getting too introspective by having vocals to provide a structure to their tracks. Having said that, the next track, “Turtle Soup”, is an instrumental with some heavy prog metal riffing (ala Dream Theater) and slick jazz fusion soloing. “On The Very Day” has a jazz funk vibe with occassional heavier riffs ‘adding colour’ rather than dominating.

On “Sick Seekers”  and “Leaving Future” (Parts 1 & 2) there is an oppressive dark feeling to the music. “Within My Prism” highlights that the vocals on the album fall into the OK category, but don’t meet the high standards of musicianship.”First Person Dreamer” is a chill out slower number. If King’s X decided to ‘do prog-metal’ they might produce something sounding like “Different Looks”. On “Inner Pulse” the band let their jazz fusion hair down and give us a surprising listenable instrumental. “My Eyes” is the expected 8:00 m:s ‘epic’ that meanders and weaves it way through a number of different styles and tempos to conclude the album.

When I first started to write this review, I was all set to comment how Alkemy had taken Progressive Metal and given it a twist by adding elements of Jazz Fusion. However, now I’m more inclined to switch it around – Jazz Fusion with a twist of Progressive Metal. I think that description works better and I certainly got a btter overall impression of the album when I approached it from that viewpoint.

Mister Kite – The Hunger

Mister Kite - The Hunger

Tracks: The Hunger, How Long, Bloodsucker
More Info: http://www.misterkite.net
Verdict (& Rating ): An effective appetiser for the second album ( 84%)

The last time I listened to Mister Kite they were releasing demos and looking for deal. Not surprisingly. they got a deal and in fact this CD single is a sampler for their second album “Box Of Fear” which should be released by the time you read this.

“The Hunger” is typical of the style I remember from the demos. Think Metallica with a more progressive feel, perhaps Threshold being a better comparison. “How Long” is a mid-tempo track with some serious riffing that heads off into a classic metal guitar solo. For the final track the band romp through the Purple track “Bloodsucker” with a 80s metal attitude on display.

I remember, when reviewing the demos, thinking that Mister Kite were perhaps a little to heavy for my tastes and just on the boundaries of the music I wanted to review at Mood Swings. Well in the interim, either Mister Kite have changed subtlely or my tastes have broadened, because this time I think they fit in very well. The band are hard to categorise because they are a mixture of prog-metal, 80s metal and because of the dark melancholy I tempted to add Goth. Whatever pigeonhole you try to force the music into, the important factor is that it work and works well. Based on this sampler, the new album warrants futrher investigation.

Alan Whittaker – Top Of The World

Alan Whittaker - Out Of This World



 

Tracks: White Noise, Sunset Dream, Set Me Free, Top Of The World, Flowers On Your Heart, Heaven, Moods, Powder & Champagne, Still In Love, Coming Round, Colours, Fading Embers, Café Paris, Home
More Info: http://museeks.com/artists/1/AlanWhittaker.shtml
Availability: free of charge in UK (other than a stamped addressed envelope). Email Alan at Alan.whittaker@virgin.net for address and overseas arrangements
Verdict (& Rating ): Laid back prog-pop ( 68%)

Alan used to be a member of a 80’s prog band Moriaty. Since then he has released three solo albums. His previous release is reviewed here. Alan’s influences include Crowded House, Neil Finn, Genesis, Marillion and Yes.

“White Noise” starts off the album in with a little bit of pop, a little bit of rock and little bit of prog. And that is really what the album is all about, with the emphaisis being on mainstream lightweight rock/pop. This lightweight approach means that there are quite a few ballads on here. The standout one is “Heaven” which reminds me of Hogarth-era Marillion. In fact, it could well be the best track on the album. The other contender is the title track where the sound gets beefed up slightly and this combines well with the tracks pop sensibilities. The beefed up sound is taken further on “Colours” which is a curious mixture of blues/Beatles/modern alt rock. Alan’s progessive side turns up in a few places most noteably on the spacey instrumental “Mood” and the final track “Home”. Elsewhere there is a mixture of pop-rock and ballads.

I think this album shows progress from this previous release. Overall, I’d describe it as a pleasant listening experience, perhaps “easy listening” being a more appropriate description.