Lana Lane – El Dorado Hotel

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I remember buying  Lana Lane’s "Garden Of The Moon" album, her third, quite a while ago. I was very impressed and played it quite bit. Over the years I guess it gradually moved its way to back of the shelf and I haven’t played it for ages. So hearing Lana’s new album is a welcome re-introduction to her work, which is her new album after a 4 year hiatus.

Opening track, "A Dream Full Of Fire", I had labelled as a surprisingly calm affair which felt more like a mid-album track. In fact, listening back to it whilst writing this review, it has a bit more life than my initial impression would indicate, but I guess it just takes the 8 min song a while to get going. "We’ll Meet Again" is where the album seems to kick into gear with a track that shows the ‘progressive Heart" description that I remember from "Garden Of The Moon".

Not unsurprisingly the title track starts off with some Spanish guitar. This track has a brooding undertone which contributes to the feeling that the album is building a sense of anticipation. "Darkness Falls" has shades of light and dark with heavier guitars giving the ominous feel. "Hotels" is a ballad in which Lana dwells upon the life of travellers who spend a great deal of their time alone in hotels. Musically everything is fine, but I have to admit that my reaction to the lyrics is a desire to shout at the speakers "Oh stop moaning and get on with your life!".

The sense of anticipation that I mentioned earlier feels like it has reached a climax with the majestic "Believe". It chugs along very nicely and comes to life when Lana’s voice box enhanced vocals add an extra dimension. The retro sounding keyboards also contribute to this being a really great track. After this I guess there was no other choice but to have a change of pace with the up-tempo "Life Of The Party". In one sense I think this change of pace is necessary, but I just don’t think Lana suits this style, the result being a rather average sounding track. "Gone Are The Days" keeps things moving along thankfully raising the standard of the album back up again, with "Moon God", featuring a reappearance of the voice box, continuing to maintain things on a even keel.

When I said earlier that the album has the feel of building up to a climax and I mentioned "Believe", I got it wrong because the albums reaches its peak with the sublime "In Exile". The progressive/pomp elements which have only been hinted at so far are let fly on the intricate 11 minutes album closer. Lana’s voice is beautiful and clear, plus the play out which seems to go on forever never quite seems long enough.

More info at: http://www.lanalane.com/ & http://www.thetank.com/

Trevor Sewell – Calling Your Name

Trevor turned solo in 2011 after many years of playing sessions and touring with other artists. He recently won a number of awards in the States and the latest news is that he has been nominated for a British Blues Award 2012 for the track “Hate Me For A Reason”.

First off, I guess I should say that the blues element of my album collection doesn’t extend much beyond the late and definitely great Stevie Ray Vaughan. I guess there is an overall bluesy feel to ACDC’s music, but that is veering off subject. However, it does highlight that when it comes to blues rock, my preference is to have the emphasis on the rock. With the scene set, let’s take delve into the more mainstream blues of this album………

Opener “Where The Wild Ones Go” is a lively start with a little bit of a swagger to the music and a more than a hint of SRV. And from SRV, we move onto a smoother sound (“Hate Me For A Reason”) that makes me think of Robert Cray, who I seem to remember be interested in around the same time as SRV, but I never got around to buying any of his albums. On the vocals front there is a Joe Cocker thing going on. Title track, “Calling Your Name”, is a slightly slower number with a brass section and for me it sounds a little like Eric Clapton musically, but still with Joe on vocals.

So quite a few name checks so far and that correctly gives you the impression that this album contains plenty of variety. Things take a little turn off the main blues track when “Condemned” emulates Dire Straits. A couple of tracks, “No Future ’round Here” and “Don’t Need Nobody”, seem like they could have come out of a Blues Brothers movie. Despite the fact that I am fan of the movie, these are probably my least favourite tracks.

The longest number is “Hundred Years”, a tribute to Robert Johnston, which is delta blues played on an electric guitar. Maybe it is because they are in the style most familiar to me, but the tracks which really excel here are the ones that evoke the spirit of SRV – tracks such as the aforementioned opener, plus “Gone Too Soon” and “Lost Something”.

I get the feeling that Trevor is very relaxed and confident playing this music which is reflected in the seemly effortless vibe to the album, an attribute which is rare and fairly hard to achieve. This is an album that is easy to listen to and enjoy when you are in the mood for some Blues.

 

Big Dream Bus – Big Dream Baby

Big Bus Dream consists of Mike Shannon who started the band in 2006 and is the songwriter, guitarist and vocalist. He is joined by Chick Tsikouras (previously Pat Methany and Mamas & Papas) on guitar plus song writing. The band’s debut album, “The Jesters of Xmas Town” was released in 2008.

The band describe their music as social comment echoing the likes of John Lennon and Lou Reed. In fact, the general vibe of the album with it’s acoustic roots with more electrified arrangements is said to evoke Reed’s “Transformer”.

For me when listening to the album the names that sprung to mind were Tom Waits, Warren Zevon and Tom Petty. I have a Warren Zevon album but it isn’t something that I listen to all that often. I like it when I dig it out, but it isn’t something that screams play me very often. This brand of adult orientated rock just doesn’t light my fire and whilst I would describe the majority of the album as an OK listen, there are a few tracks such as the Talking Heads like “Laughing” and spacey “Here I Am” that actually tipped the balance and I found annoying. The most successful tracks for me were ones like “Mary’s Spoken” and “Letting Go’ which fitted in to the pleasant, but perhaps not overly exciting category.

A bit of a rambling album with hippy tendencies that reminds me of a quirky road trip movie. At the end of the movie you wonder what it was all about and why you stayed up watching it and didn’t go to bed earlier.

www.4thward.com

www.wampus.com

 

John Taglieri – Lucky #9

After many years of not hearing from John, it seems that I am reviewing new material from him on a regular basis over the past couple of years. Last time out John teamed up with some of his regular collaborators for the TAG band project and a full length album. This time we are back to the EP format listed under his own name.

With the TAG album I had bit of a revelation in that I finally got the fact that John has moved AOR to modern melodic pop rock. In tune with this the opening track, Losing Me, is a slice of said genre that will be familiar with those who checked out the TAG album. The majority of songs on the EP are acoustic modern rock songs within which John successfully conveys a range of emotion. On “Without You’ we have a sound that could best be described as countrified Nickelback. Whereas Sister Hazel are probably a useful reference point for closer “Not Gonna Be My Life”. However, the reference points are just that and John’s own identity shines throughout.

Single “Make Me Believe” has been doing well in Amazon’s Adult Contemporary Charts and interestingly I actually think it is one of the weaker tracks on the album where the verses don’t quite match the quality of the catchy chorus. I guess that is testimony enough to the strength of the material on offer here.

All Too Human – Juggernaut

All Too Human was formed by Maurice Taylor (bass) and Chris Lucci (drums) who had been in a band called Muzix together. The guys were then joined by Clint Wilson on guitars. For this album they have drafted in Gordon Tittsworth (Images of Eden) on vocals. Their first album was a Rush/Queensryche affair in 1998. By the time they issued their second album in 2002 the sound had shifted more towards Dream Theater. For this album the style has changed again with the emphasis on a more modern approach with shorter songs.

Over all the songs I detected a bit of a groove going on that made me think of King’s X. That might be due to the chore of the band being the bass player and the drummer. That groove is going on in the background with some fairly heavy modern riffing dominating the foreground. It kept me listening where I may have switching off during the heavier moments.

The songs that worked best for me were when the band’s earlier influences surfaced and more of a sense of melody make it’s way to fore. ‘Thorn In My Side’ starts off with a Rush vibe before heading off into Dream Theater territory. One of the longer tracks, ‘Cut Me’, caught my attention despite having some reasonably heavy riffing in places it also had a Rush meets King’s X feel. I think this is one of those albums you have to tune yourself into as my impression of the album gets more positive as it progresses with the latter tacks ‘Insurgent’ and ‘Catharsis’ fairing the best of the more modern sounding tracks. There is a lot of Rush and Dream Theater in the final instrumental ‘Arrythmia’ and that is probably the track I enjoy the most which gives a huge clue that my musical tastes a bit dated.

The mixture of the old and the new kept me more interested than I normally am in modern sounding metal. The album has a bit of a groove to it, which takes a few listens to get into and I don’t necessarily get in sync with it on every listen, but definitely an album that held more interest for me than I expected after my initial listen.

www.alltoohuman.net

 

Blood In Venice – Let The Drama Begin

The three members of Blood In Venice first got together in a Muse tribute band called, not surprisingly, “Muse The Tribute”. The band consists of Italians Matt (singer) and Alex (drums) together with Danish guitarist Guf. The band progressed to writing their own material and selected the name Blood In Venice for it’s poetic charm. This initial set of recordings, entitled “Let The Drama Begin”, was started in Oct 2011 and released in Feb this year. In fact, since I received this EP, the band have went on to create another called “The Dancefloor Assassin” which they are currently promoting.

The EP starts off with “The Apocpolypse Show” which is a slice of pop rock with a decent chorus. Pumping bass and synth propel along both “Day After Day” and “The Same Tuxedo”. On “The Same Tuxedo” I noticed that there a little bit of Queen going on in the vocal department which reminds me of chart topper Mika. That Queen feel creeps in again on “Breathe”. Can’t say that I am that familar with Muse, so I can’t really tell how much of their infleunce is coming through in the modern backbone of the tracks. “Wonderful” is a slower track that lacks a hook to keep the listening engaged. Final track, “Crush A Butterfly” is a spikely track with the vocals well down the mix apart from when they go really high pitched and float on top of the music.

Viewing the website it seems that the band have a very stylised view of how they want to portray themselves. I found this pleasant listening, but suspect it may be of more interest if your tastes in music are more current than mine.

 

Lionville – Lionville

Lionville is the brain child of Stefano Lionetti (singer, song writer and guitarist) from Genova, Italy. Stefano started LIONVILLE with the encouragement and help of Pierpaolo “Zorro” Monti (Shining Line) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever, Eden’s Curse, Glenn Hughes). The band enlisted Lars Säfsund (Work Of Art, Enbound) as lead singer. There are a host of guest musicians on the album. Stefano takes lead vocals on one track and shares vocals on two other tracks. In the song writing department the core of the songs were written by Stefano Lionetti with partners include Pierpaolo “Zorro” Monti, Robert Säll (Work Of Art), Lars Säfsund, Alessandro Del Vecchio and Tommy Denander.

I have to admit that I’ve had this album for quite a while and to be honest I completely forgot that I had a review to write. The truth is that when I put this album on it is a case of listening and enjoying and the task of reviewing gets put off for another while. Not because I think is will be difficult to write the review. In fact, quite then opposite – because I really enjoy listening to the album I think writing the review will be really easy.

Opening track, Here By My Side, kicks the album off with a great slice of AOR that reminds me of Richard Marx and you are transported back to the 80s when this type of music was in it’s heyday. Not surprising really as when I bothered to check the press info I noted that the song was co-written by Bruce Gaitsch, Richard Marx and Amy Sky (Robin Beck, Marc Jordan). If you love that era of music then this album is a real treat. The various artists that come to mind whilst listening to the album include The Storm (With You), Toto (Center Of My universe), Dakota & Balance (Thunder In My Heart) and Survivor (Dreamhunter).

There is a trio of tracks in the middle of the album – Power Of My Dreams, No End In Sight and The Chosen Ones (featuring Arabella Vitanc, the new lady fronting Scandinavian Melodic Rockers Alyson Avenue) – where the band seem to really be in full flow with the music hitting a particular high spot. The well executed, but perhaps predictable power ballad Over and Over Again may have your attention wondering a little before the band put the foot to the floor as the they head towards the finish line in gold winning position with Dreamhunter. In fact, they opt for the somewhat cheesy option of closing the album with a song called Say Goodbye. Acoustic and a little different to rest of the album, only musicians of this class could pull off such a closeout with their heads held high.

This a great slice of pure AOR that reminds me of just of how much I love that genre which is the backbone of my musical tastes.

 

Human Zoo – Eyes Of A Stranger

 

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"Eyes Of A Stranger" is the third album from German band Human Zoo. The band’s unique selling point in the overcrowded market of melodic Euro heavy metal is the presence of a saxophone player. So let’s see if this unique selling point does in fact give them an advantage in the marketplace.

After a short intro, first proper song, "The Answer", proves be to a good up-tempo track, somewhat in the style of other Euro metal acts such as Treat, where the saxophone fits in seamlessly and lifts the song. Whilst listening to second track, "Gimme Your Time", I start wondering would I like this as much if the saxophone was there and the answer yes. Therein lies the secret of Human Zoo’s success. They a none too shabby melodic hard rock band without the saxophone player. And on some of the tracks, such as the title track, he doesn’t make an appearance. These tracks still work well.

On "Everything Changes" the deliver some effortless sounding top quality AOR that is made even sweeter when the sax solo kicks in. By the time we get of "Fall In Love" I’m getting into the groove of the album. On this track and "Want It-Love It-Like It" the guitar player proves that he can shine too. In fact, "Want It….." gets the album back up to full flight after coasting on a couple of tracks. "Welcome To Paradise" and "10,000 Year Ago" close out the album with a melodic heavy metal rocker and a commercial rocker ala Brother Firetribe in fine style.

"Eyes Of A Stranger" is a successful third album for Human Zoo where the inclusion of saxophone in a melodic hard rock band continues to work well for them.

Zeroking – Kings of Self Destruction

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Zeroking hail from Huntington, West Virginia. They got together in 2005 and released an EP called "Sweet Sale Of Excess’ in 2006. The band started recording this album in 2009 and have released a few tracks over the past while to promote the album.

The band describe their sound as a mixture of Motley Crue and GnR meets Buckcherry and Hinder. They have shared the stage with bands such as Anthrax, Jackyl, Black Stone Cherry and Airbourne.

The opening tracking, "Dead Rock Star", has a rawness and aggression to it that unfortunately extends to the lyrics which contain, in my opinion, completely unnecessary use of explicit language. OK, unnecessary for me, but it fits in the whole rock star sleazy party theme to the majority of lyrics, nothing thought provoking going on here.

I have the first Buckcherry album, but it has been so long since I listened to it that I can’t remember what they sound like. Hinder are a possible reference point, but for me that means Nickelback must be in the mix somewhere as well. So from a melodic rock perspective, are there any more classic influences. Well, a bit of Aerosmith on "Forget Vegas", a bit Skynyrd on Southern Lady, "Girls Of California" has a GnR swagger to it and closing track "Leaving Los Angeles" has some old retro cheese added to the mix. Overall, the album sounds good when cranked up as the band convey a sense of energy and vitality to their music. It is a solid performance. That is a bit of surprising statement as I had the impression that my reaction was a bit more positive than that but I think maybe the bonus tracks, which are OK by the way, just gave me too much music to digest while sitting down to write the review and that a shorter blast of this might have fared better.

Spiritus Mundi – American Dystopia

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Can’t say that I know too much about these guys other than that Gordon Tittsworth of Images Of Eden performs the vocals. The Images Of Eden album was a mixture of progressive metal and traditional metal, which was almost too heavy for my tastes. Spiritus Mundi tip the balance and this is definitely too heavy for me. I’m sure there are more modern reference points but this reminded me of a mixture of early Megadeth and Metallica, complete with biscuit tin drum sound.

From the start of the album these guys play really heavy music that tells me they are pissed at the world, or at least the American government, although to be honest I wasn’t interested enough to listen too much to the lyrics. Most the tracks are a mixture of trash metal with maybe a bit of death metal thrown in a well. I found all the tracks to pretty much sound the same, with little to distinguish individual ones. About the only notable moments were that "Wake Up and Die" sounded a little like early Ozzy solo stuff and that the final track lasted for 14 mins.

So essentially a type mismatch with my personal musical tastes. There may be something in it for those who like really heavy stuff, but I think even then are better examples of the genre out there.