Dare – Sacred Ground Review

DARE Sacred Ground small

 

Whilst listening to this in the car, I came up with the thought that listening to this album was like spending a day hill walking with a best mate who had been overseas for a while. The hill walking bit, I guess, is all to do with the images the underlying Celtic theme conjures up. The central idea in the thought was that whilst out walking you fell back into easy conversation with your mate as you reminisced about days gone by. His stories of live, love and loss were told with such passion that you felt as if you had been there even for the events that happened when he was overseas.

 

I have been a big fan of Dare and whilst I enjoyed their last couple of albums, I, like many others, felt they were a little too mature i.e. polite and pedestrian. I have to admit that after listening to this album and writing this review, I went back and listened to a couple of songs from those albums and wondered why I had issues and wasn’t content to sit back and enjoy without nit-picking.

 

Whatever fears I had about this album disappeared quickly as even on the first listen I got caught up in it and was singing along  by the second chorus of “I’ll Hear You Pray’. Darren’s voice is as rich as ever and Vinny Burns does a good job in the guitar department. All the songs are pretty damned good, making selecting highlights pointless.  ‘Home’ sets the scene and “I’ll Hear You Pray’ really grabs your attention before the feel good ‘Strength’ has you hooked. ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ is an effective ballad.  Around the mid-point ‘Days Of Summer’ is a very catchy number. Bon Jovi or Dark Horse could have some fun churning out ‘On My Own’. The Celtic flavour gets turned up a notch on ‘Until’ and closer ‘Along The Heather’. When Darren sings ‘those were the best days of our lives’ on ‘All Our Brass Was Gold’ it signals that the last few longs are all taking a nostalgic view of days gone by. On ‘You Carried Me’ we are treated to a tale where ‘we have climbed every mountain and crossed every sea’ and on  ‘Like The First Time’ there is a ‘distant train where she longs to go’. The aforementioned ‘Along The Heather’ closes the album.

 

Dare are back on top form with a spring to their step. A cause for celebration!

Fab Box – Two Review

 

Back in 2009 when I last reviewed Fab Box (their debut album ‘Music from the Fab Box’) it was summer and I remember the CD being the album of choice as its mood perfectly matched the good weather we had been experiencing. Fast forward to 2015 and this time I’m reviewing the album over the Christmas holidays when we seem to have been battered by a series of storms, albeit it is exceptionally mild for this time of year.

 

My first time experience of this album is whilst driving in the rain with the regular swishing of the windscreen wipers and the sound of rain as the back drop. Against this backdrop opening track, ‘Unconditional’, starts playing. An up-tempo track with stabbing guitars whose catchy chorus will have you singing along on the second chorus. A talking of the catchy choruses, by the time ‘Something is Coming Your Way’ arrives, the guitars are cranked up to to 10 (on a Fab Box scale), the band have hit their stride and we have another catchy chorus in play.

 

These guys share my love of all things 80s with tracks like ‘Test of Time’, which evokes thoughts of Journey, Survivor, Bad English and host of other bands, ‘Freedom’, a slow ballad and perhaps my favourite track from the album, ‘Heaven on Earth’, which reminds me of anther song, whose name escapes me.

 

The other style I associate with Fab Box is Westcoast and tracks such as the boppy ‘Down to You’ and the smooth ballad, ‘Kathy’, reminding me of bands such as Chicago, helping to reinforce that link.

 

If ever a title hinted at the content of a song ‘Starting Up A Fire’ does it for me because, as anticipated, it has a strong hint of Bryan Adams running through it. And of course, then we have the ironic title ‘It’s Not The End’ fading out the album, whereas I wanted the band leave me aching for more. A minor glitch for me, but I guess those of you who like more sedate closing tracks, will beg to differ.

So fab box have continued where the debut left off. Another enjoyable album of breezy pop influenced rock. Well done guys.

 

Rating: 4 stars

Mystery – Delusional Rain Review

 
Mystery are a band that I have reviewed a few times in the past, but as activity at my webpage has been sparse to say the least for most of 2015, I didn’t pay that much attention when a press release came in saying Mystery were about the release a new album.Then I happened to be surfing over at Dangerdog and noticed that Craig had given the album a 5 star review. As the Christmas holidays were coming up and I would have some time to available to to listen to music, I decided to download the album and hear what it was like.

 

Since I last reviewed the band, Benoit David has been replaced by Jean Pageau on vocal duties, but to be honest, their styles are so similar, that I wouldn’t have noticed with doing some research. And this same theme holds for the band in general. This album doesn’t deviate too much from my memories of their previous work.

 

Opening track,’Delusional Rain’, fades into being and slowly you get sucked into Mystery’s world. It gradually wraps a blanket of music around you until a few tracks down the line you realise you are sitting very comfortably and enjoying the listening experience. ‘The Last Glass of Wine’ has hints of Dream Theater at their most commercial on this slower track.

 

At almost 20 minutes long, ‘The Willow Tree’, is the centre piece of the album. In my head I’ve always had the band in the 5 to 7 minutes AOR meets progressive territory, with the progressive elements being the secondary consideration. However, checking back to previous reviews I see that longer tracks are feature of their albums. As you would expect with a track this length, it takes a few twists and turns, but as is Mystery’s way, this is more of a cruise down meandering roads, rather than a bumpy roller coaster ride with violent changes of direction. Somewhere in the the middle, things do get heavier when I began thinking of Rush meets King Crimson with potentially a bit of Dream Theater thrown in the mix as well. You get the idea, even when they are rocking out a little, the band still have their sights firmly focused on melody. That more intense guitar work is also featured on ‘Wall Street King’ which follows.

 

I have always associated these guys with Yes due their chosen style of vocalist and on this track we head back to the Seventies with the organ pumping out the intro to this final track. A pomp affair that mixes Yes with the pomp meets AOR of Magnum.

 

Listening to this in the car driving both too and from work just after Christmas, it struck me that I always arrived at my destination feeling chilled out and relaxed. Mystery just seem to have that effect upon.

 

Rating: 4 stars