The Conspirators – Rocket To The Sun EP

The Conspirators - Rocket to the Sun EP

Verdict: New Wave meets Indie Rock

More info: www.theconspirators.co.uk, www.myspace.com/theconspiratorsuk

Out of the ashes of a band I reviewed towards the end of last year called Mr Lilter comes this new outfit called The Conspirators. They have only been together since November of 2006 and played their first gig in Jan this year. This time John Gillies (Vocals/guitar) and Genevieve Parker (Vocals) are joined by Darren Banner (lead guitar), Laura Goodacre (drums) and Mike Cinnamond (bass).

The influences listed this time out include the Stones, The Beatles, Blondie, The Police, The Clash. There are three songs on offer here. I guess there is no law that states you must start a CD with an uptempo track, but I’m always a little surprised when a band opt for a different option. In this case opening track, “Connected”, is a slow almost psychedelic track. It also the track that bears the closest resemblance to Mr Lilter so it is almost like a transition piece. Jumping to the final track, “In Session”, we get a track that sounds a bit like early Blondie to me. Squeezed in the middle is the best track, “Turning Green”. This time the New Wave of early Blondie get mixed with contemporary indie rock on this uptempo track.

I’m sure the band have their own ideas about the direction they want to take, but to me be the New Wave meets Indie style of “Turning Green” seems to have worked best. Overall, a promising start for the band

Tea For Two – Twisted

Tea For Two - Twisted

 

Verdict: Neo-prog given extra vitality by adding folk rock

More info: www.teafortwo.de

Tea For Two was founded in 1985 by Michael Scumpelt and Oliver Soerup as a blues-folk-jazz duo. Stephan Weber joined in 1987 by which time the band were a 5 piece. The band released an album called “Dream or Reality” in 1993 and a live album in 1996, but called it a day shortly afterwards. The three guys mentioned above got together again in 2001 to record “101”. After that they played a few mainly acoustic gigs. Performing the acoustics gigs refined the discipline for stripping material down to it’s essence and this was the groundwork for creating this new album.

Opening track, “Spanish Night”, is a surprisingly lightweight, even poppy, track drawing on flamenco style guitar flourishes. “Soundscapes” is a neo-prog instrumental track. “Out In The Sun” and later tracks “Autumn” and the instrumental “Scar Folk” are folk-prog tracks that remind me of Jethro Tull.

There is plenty of variety on this album. “Last Drink” is a prime example. It is a late night jazzy piano track that reminds me of one of my favourite pieces of music – Pavane by Jon Lord off his Sarabande album. Like the Jon Lord track, this cool jazz sits pretty far removed from my normal listening genre, but I love it.

For those of you looking for more progressive elements there are tracks such as “Hold On”, the Fish era Marillion style of “My Own Way” and the brief instrumental “Why?” leading into closing track “Come What May” which is 7 mins of neo-prog rock.

Neo-prog isn’t a genre that I’ve invested too much time in. However, Tea For Two have added something extra to the genre by adding the folk rock elements creating an album that I enjoyed. Despite the variety on offer here the album gels together well and the band can be proud of their creation.

 

Sifu Stephen Doe – Playing With Time

Sifu Stephen Doe - Playing With Time

Verdict: Promising demo CD

More info: www.myspace/sifudoe

This is Stephen’s second disc, which he has been working on in the 3 years since his first disc was being sent out. On this disc Stephen has written the music and played all the instruments himself.

“Awakening” is a good opening track which breaks off rather suddenly into “Breathe”. “Breathe” is a slower more melodic track reminding me of Neil Zaza. The only negative element is the drum sound which seems a little prominent. “Questions” starts off with some piano and is a transition piece between the start and the rest of the album. “Con-fusion” is a more moody and complex track whose tempo changes give it a progressive feel – a bit like Dream Theater meets Rush. “Hidden Time” features a style that will be familiar to fans of guitar instrumental albums as it is inspired by Steve Vai. A good track, although I have to admit that although Steve’s work with DLR and Alkatrazz is in my collection, his solo work hasn’t made it there yet.

“My Self Reflection” is a track that Stephen rates as his favourite so far. It is a long track featuring a progressive feel with plenty of mood changes and even some classical guitar. A great showpiece for Stephen’s talent, but it is actually Con-fusion that is the standout track for me. All guitarists seem to love the blues and Stephen is no exception with an adept journey into the genre on closing track “Strat-o-spheric”.

This a good demonstration of Stephen’s talents.

Ferris Mudd – Ferris Mudd

Ferris Mudd - Ferris Mudd

 

Verdict: Accomplished debut

More info: www.ferrismudd.com

Opening track, “Time To Fly”, is a glorious mixture of Rush and Yes, where the Yes factor is mainly due to Steve Richard’s vocals. “The Move” is more Rush influenced progressive music. The third track, “Over Your Head”, is the album’s longest track at 8 mins 32 secs. There is a nice relaxed vibe to this track and it has just enough light and shade, plus fluid guitar work, to keep you listening. “Anyway” glides along picking up intensity as it progresses. “Unrapped” has a poppier 70s vibe to it in keeping with it’s shorter duration.

“End of the Day” reminded me of Camel or Barclay James Harvest. They stick around for “Call It Your Own”, albeit with a little bit of Rush thrown in. “You’re Alone” closes the album with a good vocal performance and complements the opener.

I thoroughly enjoy listening to this album, but the restrained feel to the tracks makes me wish the guys had let loose a little more. Maybe I just need to think more BJH rather than Rush when I listen. A good debut album and the sense of untapped potential makes this a winner for Ferris Mudd

 

Eric Xodik – Songs Of Samsara

Eric Xodik - Songs Of Samsara

Verdict: Out there!

More info: www.myspace.com/ericxodik

Eric hails for Oakland California, when he’s on the same planet as the rest of us. The CD was recorded during July to November 2005. Eric describes it as intense, energetic and trippy music. I’ll stick to describing it as psychedelic guitar instrumental rock. You can check out his website for yourself to get the full spaced out bio.

Album opening track, “Afterburn” drifts in on a sea of percussion before Eric lets rip. Imagine a manic axe guy with a fetish for special effects letting loose on an improvised solo whilst some guitar riffs go on in the background with a nominal tune. By the time the second track, Blue Cobra, arrives it is clear any attempt at songwriting is out the window as the extended soloing continues. “Fractal Resonance”, I’ll have to admit does have a certain ‘spacey charm’ and given a darkened room it might be suitable for a retro listening experience where I could ‘get in the groove’. Of course my experience would be limited by the lack of dubious chemicals in my bloodstream.

When you get to fourth track, Hanger 19, it dawns on you that the rest of the album is going to be filled with the same style of repetitive guitar ‘noodlings’ as the first three of tracks and this is the case. Taken in isolation the tracks rate as interesting (in a warped sort of a way), rather than enjoyable. A whole album’s worth is just too much for me as the novelty value wears off after a while. This might work as the soundtrack to a movie or as meditation music. In the ten years of reviewing albums at Mood Swings I think this must rate as the most inaccessible yet.

If guitar playing that is a blend of Ritchie Blackmore at his most manic mixed with Neil Young at his most experimental played over a drum machine for 77 mins is your thing then go for it! Just don’t blame me if you lose your sanity.

 

Rosemary – If I Had My Way (Download Single)

Rosemary - If I Had My Way

More info: www.rosemarymusic.com

Verdict: More jangly guitar fun from Rosemary

In an attempt to update my dated musical tastes one of the albums I’ve been listening to is NME’s Essential Bands 2006 collection. Rosemary would fit in well with the bands on that compilation. This is an uptempo track that reminds me of the The Automatic’s “Monster” especially at the start. This is an appetizer for a new single, ’40-40′ to be released in the spring. To paraphrase the band, “if I had my way”, I’d move the vocals up the mix a bit as they tend to get lost behind the jangly guitar driving the song.

Chelsey Austin – Download This

Chelsey Austin - Download This

More info: www.chelseyaustin.com

Verdict: Style experiments from a talented vocalist

Chelsey Austin is a 19 year old from Bowie, Texas. Since the age of 14 she had been singing country at Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue in Ft. Worth. She then met up with retired drummer and producer Guy Houston who roped in Grammy winning engineer Phil York to record this album.

The promo material talks about Debbie Harry singing for Van Halen which at least lets you know that we’re talking about a mixture of rock and pop. In practice, the album basically splits into parts. On the first half it feels like Chelsey is doing a market research study cramming in a few different styles trying to find one that fits.

Opening track “Nothing Left To Say” comes out with guitars blazing in what I hoped was a short blast of scene setting. However, rather than build on that we get a lilting Spanish track that sounds like a big Julio Inglesias production. “Jo-Jo High Jump” which follows heads off in a funk meets rock meets hip-hip meets 80’s tech-AOR direction – bizarre. “Listen” attempts to get things back on track with some blues. “I Guess You Know By Now” takes Chelsey into Madonna pop territory.

Having raised my expectations by mentioning Van Halen, it only by the time we get to the Suzi Quatro style “Rock Star Queen” and “Treat Me Like A Woman” that we get some rock. On “Touchy Situation” Chelsey seems to finally want to rock out a little. I guess Van Halen could be a point of reference, but I’m reminded more of Starship on this and the following track, “Did You Have To Say That”. Closer “Straight Out” even reminds me of ACDC, Rose Tattoo and George Thorogood, but the sound just isn’t ‘dirty’ enough for this style of rock.

Reading over what I just written, it does sound quite negative and that’s not true reflection of what’s on offer here. Chelsey is an attractive girl with a good voice, but I think Guy and Phil are hedging their bets here with the material, not quite sure which audience to go for – pop or rock. The second half of the album was more to my tastes, but sounded a bit too manufactured and clean.

Comeg – One Day

Comeg - One Day

 

More Info: www.comeg.org
Verdict: U2 & Oasis style rock-pop

Comeg is actually just one person – Coemgen Savage who does the whole shebang – writing, instruments, vocals and production – in his home studio. This is actually his 6th album since 2003. His list of fave songs ranges from the Beatles (hey, he is from Liverpool after all), through U2 and Primal Scream to the Cocteau Twins. Led Zep even get a mention. Unfortuanately his ‘reasons to smash up your radio’ list includes Metallica ( fair enough, well no, Lars & Co do have some decent stuff in amoungst the crap), The Eagles (an easy target, but I like them) and unbelievably Thin Lizzy at the end of the list.

Comeg’s own music is a mixture of U2 and Oasis as witnessed on opening track, “Halo Goodbye”, and the Edge guitar style of “Smile Inside”, with U2 coming the fore of my thinking as I listened to the album more. For just one man, Comeg manages to create a surprisingly full band sound and a sound that despite my references to U2 isn’t too derivative. A few of the songs also hark back to a 60’s type jangly guitar, such as “Sunday Rider”. Thoughts of jangly guitars made me think of Tom Petty and then The Travelling Wilburys, although Comeg’s sound is much more contemporary. On “The Hand of God” I even managed to conjure up U2 meets Bon Jovi who I’m sure could be potential candidates for his “reasons to smash up your radio” list. “He Blew The World Away” is a swipe at Mr G Bush.

Overall I think this is a reasonable album, its just that I stopped buying U2 albums after The Joshua Tree and never really got Oasis, so this one kind of passed me by. However, all Comeg’s albums, including this one, are available as free downloads from his website and would be a worthwhile download for fans of the genre.

Paul Furlong – Have A Little Faith & Someday

Paul Furlong - Have A Little Faith                  Paul Furlong - Someday

More info: http://www.contemporarychristianmusic-paulfurlong.com/index.html

Verdict: Easy listening light rock with a hint of country

Paul Furlong is a Web Design and Marketing consulant who plays Contemporary Christian Music. Hailing from Australia, Paul is married with 3 kids and is an evangelist at heart.

With a motto of “Go hard after God” you might be expecting his music to rock hard, but instead we get a mixture of light rock and ballads. “Have A Little Faith” was Paul’s first release in 2005, whilst “Someday” is his latest 2006 offering.

The title track of “Have A Little Faith” kicks of proceedings with a catchy number that makes good use of female backing vocals on the chorus. In fact the female backing vocals are used to good effect throughout the albums. The first few tracks all offer that same catchy formula. “Father” is a slower track that reminds me of Gareth Brooks but without the county twang. In fact, next track “Praise” reminds me a lot of Brooks’ “We shall be free” both in terms of music and lyrics. “God is So Good” is an effective song of thanksgiving. The pace slows a bit during the second half of the CD with ballads predominating. The albums closes with a reprise of the title track.

The opening of “Someday”, “Don’t You Hear My Voice”, sets the theme for the CD which is more about reflection and feeling the presence of Jesus. Tracks such as “My Eyes Are Dry” sound a bit like Steven Curtis Chapman, albeit in more of an soft rock/easy listening sytle than Chapman’s country feel. “Thank You For My Family” continues the thanksgiving theme heard on “Have A Little Faith”‘s “God Is So Good”. “There’s So Many Songs” has the electric guitars more to the fore than the other tracks. The album then glides into slow/ballad mode for the next few tracks. The pace is picked up for “Living Life Alone” before “What Have We Done” leaves you asking yourself if Jesus really is the centre of your life.

Generally, when I’m listening to music I like it to rock out a little more than this. Having said that, over the period of time I’ve been listening to these albums I have found a few of the tracks, but especially “Have A Little Faith” sticking in my mind – it leaves you going around with the words “Have a little faith and trust in God” buzzing around your head, which surely must be the goal of every Christian artist. This is chill out and recharge your batteries type music.

 

Torok – Addiction of Fools

Torok - Addiction of Fools

Verdict: 80’s still alive and well
More info: www.torokmusic.com

Torok are a new name to me, but have actually been together for 10 years. This is their 3rd release. The touring band currently consists of Mike Torok on guitars, Bryan Erickson on vocals, John Jankowski on keyboards, Bill Holmberg on bass and Tim Davis on drums. However, the band that recorded the album consisted on main men Mike and Bryan together with some guest musicians.

Mike was the original guitarist in 80’s shock metal band Impaler. Combining this fact with the somewhat sleazy album cover, I’ll have to admit that my expectations for this weren’t that high. I was expecting some sort of sleaze/punk rock in a third rate Motley Crue impersonation.

Listening to album was a pleasant surprise. The band describe their music as blending elements of 70’s giants such as Led Zep and Purple with the 80’s hard rock bands like Van Halen and Whitesnake. Just goes to show I should actually read the promo flyer instead of opening the packet, sticking the CD in the player and hitting ‘play’. It turns out that the band’s own description is fairly accurate, although I’d say there is a lot more 80’s than 70’s happening here.

Opeing track, “Wolf Within”, is a deceptive track that rocks out more than you might expect for a mid-tempo track. The drum sound in particular contributes to “Full Moon” sounding like Van Halen who are also a point of reference for a couple of other tracks (such as “Breathin'”). By the time you get to “1000 Reasons” is clear that vocalist Bryan likes to be up front in the mix and not hiding behind a wall of sound which I’ve noticed on few albums I’ve been listening to recently. His voice suits this style of music. For example, he sounds like Mr Coverdale on “Breathin'”. Whilst I’m on the Purple theme the penultimate track “The Burden” sees the band sounding like Purple/Rainbow, albeit an 80’s metal version.

The title track, “Addiction of Fools” which is the fourth track, is a poignant piano led ballad that sits like a rose amongst the thorns of the rest of the album. I like the way it sits in contrast the result of the album. The couple of songs that follow, “Infamy” and  “Do U Harm” rock plenty, but somehow seem to suffer by comparison. The strangely titled “Y” has got a bluesy/funky vibe kinda like Extreme, who crop again as a reference point for album closer “Forsaken”.

Although I listen to a variety of music, 80’s hard rock is one of my favorites. However, as fans of the genre will know at one time there were plenty of bands playing this type of music, but fewer bands doing it well. Therefore, I sometimes tend to give bands in this genre a hard time, as “it’s all been done before”. However, if a band does it well, then I make an exception and Torok have created an album that stands up well compared to others in the genre.