ALBUM/EP/SINGLE AND LIVE DVD REVIEWS

BELOW ARE A SELECTION OF MY ALBUM/EP/LIVE DVD REVIEWS. MY LATEST REVIEWS ARE AT THE TOP AND IN MY REVIEW ARCHIVE THEY ARE IN ARTIST ALPHABETICAL ORDER, ALBUM UNLESS STATED


***NEW REVIEW***

Rainbows Are Free
Waves Ahead of the Ocean

This powerful at times doom metal laden album (also snatches of blues, progressive, classic and Southern rock) is possibly the most Black Sabbath influenced album I have ever heard especially along the lines of Tony Iommi's guitar work with little echoes of the great mans style cropping up often,
The spectacularly titled opening track 'Speed God and the Rise of the Motherfuckers From a Place Beyond Hell' is full of solid riffs (guitar and bass) with traces of Hawkwind style space rock, weird but at times wonderful, and the Sabbath influence is really to the fore on fast rocker 'The Botanist'.
'Waves Ahead of the Ocean' itself adds a little Southern rock (possibly Black Stone Cherry style) to the mix while 'Sonic Demon' has dark ominous vocals by front man Brandon Kistler and after its slow paced opening charges ahead with Judas Priest style riffage and more Hawkwind style flourishes and even a Robert Plant style vocal touch makes an appearance.
'Snake Bitten by Love' shows the bands sleazy side and moves away from the Sabbath sound into Motley Crue territory apart from I think a distant 'War Pigs' style siren in the background at one point.
Album closer 'Comet' is a real mix with a little of Motorhead's aggression this pounding rocker also has echoes of the Sabs 'Children of the Grave' riff as well as a little Thin Lizzy like guitar work, on the vocal side there are Rob Halford style screams and a Jim Morrison style section- a real melting pot of influences but it works for me.
No doubting the power in this release and as I love Sabbath (in fact also love most of the bands obvious influences !) I appreciate the influence that band has on this album.


Andrew Lock


***NEW REVIEW***

Red Butler
Freedom Bound

A very accomplished album by this young blues/rock band from Sussex that belies their ages and the fact that they only formed in 2012, the sound is built around the impressive guitar skills of Alex Butler assisted by the outstanding vocals of Jane Chloe Pearce and a top quality youthful band.
There is plenty of variety on offer and for me the highlight/strongest part of this album is a chilled midsection collection of three stunning pieces of music.
Will finish on the already mentioned gems but elsewhere plenty to saviour including opener 'Jaywalker' with it's stonking riff, 'Danger Zone' with it's funk touch particularly in the bass lines and the foot tapping, honky-tonk blues of 'Young and Free'.
My personal favourite part of the album (tracks 5-7) starts with the one cover on the album which also happens to be one of my all time top rock and roll numbers, the Johnny Kidd & the Pirates classic 'Shakin' All Over', here converted to a slow paced, sizzlingly sensual number, stylish and uncomplicated with gorgeous vocals by Jane.
Next up in this quality trio the mood provoking 'Hoodoo'; with it's lyrics mentioning witchcraft and such like, slightly eerie 'heart beat' drum sound in the back ground and cool slide guitar this number is just drenched in atmosphere and finally 'River Of Smoke' which reminds me just a little in style of Joanne Shaw Taylor's quieter moments and features beautifully restrained guitar work and the whole thing smolders wonderfully.
This young band have come up with a quality album which includes a few absolute gems.

Andrew Lock







REVIEW ARCHIVE
*******BY ARTIST A-Z*******



Adrian Nation
Live at Crossroads
(2014)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

I have seen Adrian perform a couple of times at The Cambridge Rock Festival and he is a truly charismatic artist, a soulful vocalist, exquisite guitarist and his lyrics are full of depth and emotion, what is more this live album captures the magic of his live shows to perfection and I agree 100% with his own comment on the press release that this is "One of the best live albums I have ever heard".
Very much in the folk/roots style the nine tracks on the album are all stars in their own right, opener 'The Coming of the Day' is a sprightly, uplifting ode to Mother Nature with impressive finger picking, 'Five Finger Rapids' is a spellbinding instrumental with more fast guitar work and it flows along like the river in the lyrics and the amount of different sounds he gets from the guitar is amazing and hard to believe just one man on stage.
Beautiful ballad 'No Question' is for me the most traditional folk sounding number and reminds me of John Tams at his best, 'The Heart Beats On' chugs along like a train (possibly a touch of Johnny Cash) with its constant foot tapping beat while the one cover on the album 'Vincent Black Lghtning' by Richard Thomson, the fantastically written but sad story of a young couple (with lyrical echoes of 'Whiskey In The Jar' at times) is mesmerising.
The closing number 'Set Fire to the Sky' has a hint of country, gentle, relaxing and full of emotion, finally the set ends with the most gentle/quiet thank you I have heard on a live album, not quite the end of the disc as he includes a bonus number recorded at a different show 'The Dancer' another beauty which takes you on a fabulous journey and says a lot about the thoughts and philosophy of the artist.
10 out of 10 and I strongly recommend that what ever musical genre you follow give it a listen as it ticks all the boxes, Adrian's voice and guitar work fabulous, lyrically superb, the sound /recording so perfect you could be at the show, an emotion packed stunning live album.

Andrew Lock



AFTER TEA
JOINT HOUSE BLUES
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

After Tea started out as a flower power pop outfit before changing into a harder edged blues band and both sides of that coin appear on this re-release of their 1970 album which has seven bonus tracks added.
The standout cuts for me are album opener and title track 'Joint House Blues' a slab of railroad style blues in the 'Dust My Broom' tradition, it just rolls along with its solid beat and harmonica work and the second number in 'You've Got To Move Me' a power charged rocker in the Deep Purple style with a Jon Lord style keyboard intro.
'Im Here (and Nowhere Else)' seems to be a throwback to their flower power days and has a pleasant enough acoustic vibe, 'Someday' is more of a power ballad, strong vocal delivery, a quality laid back Hammond organ solo and equally laid back guitar work.
They inject a touch of gospel to the opening of 'Lets Come All Together' which alternates between sections of riff based blues and mellow moments, which leads me to the final track of the album proper which is a 25 minutes long jam called 'Trial/Punishment/The End' and while I appreciate the musical ability of all involved for me it is far to self indulgent and a little samey but sure some of you will love it.
Best of the bonus tracks for me the light and breezy 60's pop of 'Sunshine Eyes' and the country tinged 'Love Song To Mother Nature'.

Andrew Lock



ALVIN LEE
STILL ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

The former Ten Years After member returns with a spirited follow up to his seventy's release On the Road to Freedom, plenty of blues, a good dash of country rock and a pinch of easy listing.
Opener and title track 'Still On the Road To Freedom' is light and breezy, possibly Byrds in style with a real Woodstock vibe, vocals and guitar in perfect harmony with guitar licks just about filling every second of its running time, 'Listen to Your Radio Station' as the title suggests is a radio friendly number, funky, foot tapping and full of summer groove.
'Midnight Creeper' gives the chance for the keyboards to take centre stage with subtle blues guitar work smouldering in the background, after a slow burning start it really speeds up towards it's powerful climax, 'Save My Stuff' is top blues/rock and roll with harmonica work and a touch of a young Elvis Presley to the vocals, a real shuffle to this number which also has echoes of Jimmy Reed's 'Bright Lights, Big City'.
Other highlights include another touch of Elvis on the fast tempo rock and roll of 'I'm A Lucky Man' with it's foot certainly in early Sun Records territory and the country rock of 'Walk On, Walk Tall' lyrically the great Johnny Cash springs to mind and this number also has a positive gospel vibe running throughout.
The instrumental 'Song Of the Red Rock Mountain' is an atmospheric piece of music almost spaghetti western in style and a real masterclass in acoustic guitar picking.
Alvin reminisces about the old days on 'Back In 69' which is a fast tempo nostalgic look back at the Woodstock era with various styles thrown in the mix and another delight is the good time rock and roll instrumental 'Down Line Rock'.
A diverse album of real quality by a superb musician and with the mix of styles there is something for everybody.

Andrew Lock



Attica Rage
Road Dog
(2011)

A fabulous rock album by the Glasgow based four piece band Attica Rage full of passion and power, not a dull track in site with touches of Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath now and again in their sound.
Always a rocking album there is however a lot of variation in the numbers, my personal favourite track is the Southern Rock singed sound of 'Road Dog Forever' including outstanding slide guitar and piano and coming over like a heavy rock Lynyrd Skynyrd, it has a perfect sing-a-long chorus and must be a real crowd pleaser live.
'Contradictions' has another excellent guitar riff and starts with powerful almost tribal drum work, and to show their versatility the track 'Altea' is a beautiful delicate instrumental almost Blackmore's Night like in places and includes haunting cello work.
Other highlights include the classic rock ballad 'Lost', 'Through the Inner Eye' with its awesome Dio Sabbath era style riff. and the fast paced rockers' Altered Reality' and 'Back To the Old School'.
A very impressive release with so many different rock styles but all tied together with a distinctive style, well played throughout, standout vocals and excellent production, I have played it through many times and do not skip tracks which is always a sign of a really strong album to me.

Andrew Lock



BILLY BOY ARNOLD
CHICAGO BLUES FROM ISLINGTON MEWS 1977
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This re-release of an album heralding the meeting of legendary blues man Billy Boy Arnold and British rock/blues trio The Groundhogs is a collision between traditional blues and 1970's blues rock, Billy Boy has a fabulous bluesy vocal style and also plays a mean harmonica while The Groundhogs really know how to rock.
The whole thing has a gloriously informal fee, not in the music which is tight and well played but with the pieces of studio chat and banter that can be heard before some of the numbers, pleased to read in the CD booklet that late Dr Feelgood vocalist Lee Brilleaux was a huge fan of this album as I hear a Feelgood touch at times.
The disc fair explodes into life with 'Dirty Mother F!' a pounding blues workout with real groove enhanced by sensational extended harmonica work, 'Don't Stay Out All Night' reminds me a little of early Status Quo boogie, think 'Down the Dust Pipe' and the breezy, up-tempo instrumental 'Riding the El' (really a fight out between harmonica and guitar) does not pause for breath.
If you want a taste of down on your luck blues look no further than 'Blue and Lonesome' slow paced and down beat and if you want more lively fare 'Eldorada Cadillac' has a touch of rockabilly and the Bill Haley's about it.
This release also includes three bonus tracks including the furiously paced 'Catfish' and is packaged superbly with sleeve notes explaining how this recording came about, if you enjoy your blues this one is for you.

Andrew Lock



BLUE TO BROWN
BLUE TO BROWN
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Distinctive, original, just two words that can describe this album by the Father and Son outfit Blue to Brown, Rob has an unusual vocal style, deep rich and full of character and added to Dom's (guitarist of Duran Duran for the last 7 years) dynamic guitar work they make quite a team.
Opening track 'Blue Boy' is full of screeching blues guitar, 'Going Down But Not Slow' has a classy jazz/blues feel with vocals right at the fore and top drum work while 'Bad Boy' with its impressive slide guitar intro has a warm, back water, Cajun, Bluegrass feel and turns into a real stomper.
Down and dirty blues with a real edge best describes 'I Get Loaded'', things slow down on 'Talking Blues' with Rob's vocals almost as low and rich as Louis Armstrong and this number also includes effective, subdued guitar work by Dom while 'Sweet Mercy' is a short, groovy, funky number with unusual vocal moans and groans at times.
For me the standout number on the album is 'The Heat Has Gone' performed as a duet by Rob and a female vocalist, a cracking set of lyrics to this scorching blues number which includes electrifying lead guitar.
Quite unique and one of the more unusual albums I have heard for a while in the blues genre.

Andrew Lock



The Boogiemen Inc.
Rocket Surgery
(2012)

A Norwegian rock' and 'roll band with by the sound of it many influences including possibly The Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd while at times I also hear traces of AC/DC and The Quireboys.
First up the lively good time rocker'Jezebel' a belting starter with female backing vocals adding an extra layer, '49 & 61' is definitely influenced by the Southern Rock genre, 'Nobody Home' is a country tinged, foot tapping rocker with standout lead vocals by Ola Kroken and things get heavy with 'Driftwood' a powerful blues workout with explosive guitar.
'Another Rainy Day' is smooth and funky with top quality drum work and full of groove, the album closes with the 100 miles an hour 'Rocket Surgery' the rocking title track with its echoes of Eddie Cochran classic 'Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie' and possibly also a touch of The Stray Cats, an electrifying finish to what would make a fantastic party album, wellplayed, well produced and sounds like it was recorded by a band full of smiles and having a whale of a time, top marks.

Andrew Lock



CASSIE TAYLOR
OUT OF MY MIND
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

The daughter of blues legend Otis Taylor arrives with her debut solo album full of original material which showcases her superb songwriting over several musical genres.
Opener 'Ol' Mama Dean (Part 1)' and Cassie's rich, crystal clear vocals impress from the start in this blues/gospel crossover, this is followed by 'Ol' Mama Dean (Part 2)' which carries on the story with the addition of extra keyboards, vocal effects and wailing lead guitar.
Elsewhere on this delight of an album we have 'Spare Some Love' a soulful blues ballad, it's combination of powerful vocal delivery and sublime low-key blues lead guitar reminiscent of the first Beth Hart/Joe Bonamassa collaborative album while Cassie shows a 'Motown' edge on the funky, upbeat title track 'Out Of My Mind'.
Not a dull moment on this very well played and produced album and although every track deserves a mention I will leave some surprises for those of you who give it a go and just mention a couple of my personal favourites, the 'Otis Redding'/'Sam Cooke' like soul ballad 'Lay My Head On Your Pillow' and complete with it's' Radar Love' style guitar riff blues rocker 'No No'.
Another contender for my albums of the year I think.

Andrew Lock



CHERRY LEE MEWIS
HEARD IT HERE FIRST
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN MAY/JUNE EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This is a delightful slab of blues tunes tinged with country, soul and jazz, a mixed style that Cherry has made her own, her first two albums set a high standard but this latest release has managed to surpass them both.
A short (but oh so sweet) album running just over half an hour, but forget the length and feel the quality, I would rather have 32 minutes of musical excellence than a 70 min album with excess 'filler' material which can often distract from the quality.
Highlights include opening number 'Man Overboard' which explodes into life with it's brisk country/rock and roll beat with Cherry on top sassy form, the blues/jazz 'soaked in the Mississippi' sounds of 'Going Down (To Memphis Tennessee)', the foot tapping 'He Wants More' which even throws in Andrews Sisters like backing vocals, and the traditional blues vibe of 'On Loan'.
The recording is top quality, fresh sounding and vibrant, her band is up there with the best and Cherry is real star quality both on record and on stage, she has a powerful voice full of attitude/soul and along with the other main writer in the band Max Millagan has composed a lyrically superb selection of material.
The album concludes in chilled out reflective mood with the atmospheric end of the day sounds of 'Sittin' On the Porch' a solo instrumental by Nick Slater on resonator guitar and finally with Cherry's voice brim full of emotion 'Legend' a moving tribute to her recently passed away Grandfather.
Simply put, an outstanding album by an incredible young talent.

Andrew Lock



CHRIS BEVINGTON AND FRIENDS
CHRIS BEVINGTON AND FRIENDS
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

An array of artists support bass player extraordinaire Chris Bevington on this release which is a collection of his favourite blues tracks, top quality musicianship all around and both lead vocalists/guitarists Jim Kirkpatrick and Scott Ralph do particularly sterling work.
Standouts for me are the rock and roll/blues of Walter Trout's (get well soon) 'She's Out There Somewhere', Kenny Wayne Shepherd's 'Was' with its bluegrass style opening with a little banjo which turns into a straight ahead blues rocker and the groove laden, funky 'I Don't Need No Doctor' which includes beautiful backing vocals by Sarah Miller'.
Also included is a cracking version of blues classic 'Crossroads' with standout layered vocals by Scott and Sarah and the lead guitar work by the former (of course such an integral part of this tune) is smoking hot.
This album closes with the most up-beat number on the set the rock-a-billy/rock and roll of 'Party Right Here' which does just what it says on the tin in true Jerry Lee Lewis fashion.
Quality musicianship throughout and a wonderfully produced album.

Andrew Lock



Del Bromham
Nine Yards
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Founder member of Stray Del Bromham delivers an album of new original blues numbers covering various styles which show off his multi-talented versatility, he plays guitar, bass and keyboards as well as lead vocal duties and he has also roped in the magnificent Cherry Lee Mewis to sing backing vocals and to contribute even more to the albums stand out number.
The album kicks off with his ode to Jack Daniels (man and whisky) 'The Ballad of JD' with it's touch of country and possibly the Small Faces and Del is not afraid to mix the styles 'Everybody Has To Sing the Blues' has a southern rock edge, 'Words' is a blues stomper and that Hendrix moment (every blues album has one!) is 'You Don't Know How I Feel' reminiscent of Jimi's more bright, breezy, flowing output and Del puts the guitar effect pedal to good use.
'Smiling Face' is a very personal number for Del and listening/reading the words and taking in what they mean it is very easy to feel the eyes moisten, a really emotional piece of music and I love the line "Looked out the window to see a Simpsons' sky".
Cherry Lee Mewis really adds something to this album and for me the strongest number is her duet with Del on 'What Comes Around' with it's killer guitar riff and harmonica work, and you can really sense the chemistry between them in this slab of deep south style, swap blues and I love some of the slide guitar work.
It closes in style in ZZ Top territory with 'Catch You When You Fall' a scorching closer to a more than impressive album.

Andrew Lock



EBONY TOWER
The Magic Box PT 1 **EP**
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

A band I first came across at the Cambridge Rock Festival in 2011, really hard to pigeon hole with their mix of styles but they sure have that something, they base their lyrics around Alice in Wonderland stories which gives them a distinctive quirky edge.
This four track EP is very diverse and all the better for it, opening track 'The Passing' has screeching lead guitar, a bit of a punk edge and reminds me a little of Breaking Glass era Hazel O'Conner and includes rocking guitar riffs in the middle section.
'The Labyrinth' is a slower paced, atmospheric, psychedelic, progressive rock number and 'LSD' is another track with a punky attitude, for me this one along the lines of early Blondie.
My favourite number is 'The Mirror' a laid back, silky smooth, dreamy soft rock number very easy on the ear and lead vocalist Zanda's performance really shines.
A really interesting top quality release by a band not afraid to experiment with styles and genres and with a sound and style all of there own.

Andrew Lock



FESTE
FIRST FOLIO
(2014)

This the debut album from this multi influenced Californian rock outfit is split into two acts the first act for the most part short snappy numbers with the slightly more lengthy in act 2, but plenty of gems in both.
Musically for me inspired by many of the 1970's rock greats the album also has plenty of original touches and mixing the words of William Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) with the bands music on two occasions is for me an experiment that really works.
Act 1 bursts into life with 'Hollywoodland' which alternates between rockabilly style verses and a heavy rocking chorus, 'The Bad Man' has more of a groove with a hint of sleaze rock and 'Satisfaction Street' is a classic blues/rock workout with a traditional and strong main riff.
The first visit of the bards words appear on 'Come Away Death' an acoustic number with layered vocals which reminds me just a little of some of Metallica's slower numbers particularly 'The Unforgiven' and the acoustic vibe continues at the start of the closing track of act 1 'Annie' a truly haunting and beautiful number, which builds in intensity with powerful vocals and quality mandolin work.
Act 2 includes 'Black' full of shattering drum work and explosive riffs and one of the albums real rock outs with a touch of The Cult, this is followed (and really showing the albums diversity!) by the Santana like guitar work of 'Dancer from the Islands' a light breezy, flower power pop/rock type of sound and really catchy it is to.
The influences change to possibly Motley Crue and Van Halen on 'Sweating Bullets' and then again to The Doors on the down and dirty blues of 'The Mud' before the album closers with the 2nd appearance of that well known writer from Stratford Upon Avon on 'The Wind and the Rain' which is again acoustic based and this time maybe in medieval territory with just a smidgen of Blackmore's Night.
A really interesting album with such a lot to take in but well worth the ride.

Andrew lock



FISH
FISHHEADS CLUB LIVE **LIVE DVD)
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This special edition 2 disc set features performances from the Fishheads Club Live project, the idea started when himself, Frank Usher and Foss Paterson were reworking songs for the first Leamington Spa convention, they were playing around with them, changing the keys etc due to Fish's at the time throat issues. After the success and enjoyment of these acoustic sessions at the convention the decision was made to try this set up as a tour.
This release consists of two acoustic but quite different performances, the first recorded live in 2010 at the University of Derby and the second in 2012 in the big man's home studio in front of a handful of invited guests and while there is duplication of many of the tracks they often have a different feel.
The material covers a broad spectrum of his career, a splattering of Marillion classics, given complete makeovers of course, a good portion from his solo debut album and a selection form his other solo outings.
The Derby show is well recorded with plenty of wide full band/audience camera shots also close ups of the artists and quality audio, the crowd as usual at these types of Fish show are quiet and respectful during the numbers but then when the big man says "no talking during the songs" that is exactly (and quite rightly) what you get.
First up from the University show a challenging solo performance of 'Chocolate Frogs' proving straight off that the famous voice is working just fine and this is followed by a track always a standout at Fish shows 'State of Mind'.
The Marillion numbers are well chosen including a vibrant 'Slainthe Mhath' which is very emotional as performed in tribute to a recently departed friend, 'Punch and Judy' is made even more enjoyable by his introduction and on stage banter (when will he consider a full on stand up comedy show - would be a cracker), and of course the one-two hit of 'Kayleigh' and 'Lavender' are welcomed like old friends.
If I have a favourite from this show it is the beautiful version of 'A Gentleman's Excuse Me' with a wonderfully delicate keyboard intro by Foss, such a romantic number which just flows over you, another highlight must be 'The Company' complete with the big man's fairy dance !which has to be seen to be believed.
This show brought back many memories of the two shows I caught at Cox's Yard in Stratford, such a relaxed way to watch a gig and I gather also relaxing and fun to perform.
Disc 2 is a little different and even more intimate as recorded in two sessions at his home studio, in the introduction recorded separately Fish mentions the fact that this was a far more controlled environment with complete control of the acoustics and lighting and this added to the fact that many of the songs had been regularly perfected over the previous 18 months or so meant the performance was even more assured and polished than disc 1.
The studio used for these performances is very well lit and I must admit I thought I had a large CD collection until I noticed the racks of them around this room, it was also great fun to spot the memorabilia on show like the original artwork for the 'Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors' album and what looked like the original artwork for a portrait he used as a fan club Christmas card a few years back.
I was very impressed with the format of this disc with every performance having a separately recorded introduction which includes a wealth of info and memories of each track including how and why they were reworked for these shows.
One of the many highlights is a pumped up 'State of Mind' even more powerful than the Derby version with a stunning guitar display by Frank and Fish tells us that this his first solo single is a favourite set opener.
Another standout is the lyrically dark and dramatic 'Family Business' and he mentions having this follow the discs previous number, a completely new approach to the 'Fugazi' album classic 'Punch and Judy' as a balance, one looking at the macho side of a relationship and the other of course deals with domestic abuse.
The rarely played (before this tour anyway!) 'Jigsaw' is a heartfelt, emotionally packed delight with Fish explaining how it is a fans favourite due to it's rarity in being performed live during his time with Marillion and in his solo shows as difficult to sing live in it's original arrangement, but I am sure it is also a fan favourite because it is bloody good !
This is a collection that all Fish fans will love and anyone who went to any of these acoustic shows will treasure and I really hope as promised he returns to these kind of shows in the future (after of course the upcoming studio album tour!) as they really work, the three of them make a fantastic musical team and the fans enjoy them just as much as Fish and the guys seem to.

Andrew Lock



GOV'T MULE
SHOUT
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

What a fantastic, innovative idea this is with the band giving away a bonus CD of the whole album re-recorded with high profile special guest vocalists (also friends of the band) including Elvis Costello, Glenn Hughes and Myles Kennedy, the album itself is very strong with many different styles incorporated and this bonus disc really turns a should buy into a must buy album.
What I will call protest blues is the starting point of the album with 'World Boss' which has scorching lead guitar and just a hint of funk, 'No Reward' is down and dirty blues with a touch of the early ZZ Tops and 'Whisper In Your Soul' is atmospheric, has a fabulous steady drumbeat on the verses with also a touch of 'Dear Prudence' in the background riff.
This is one of those albums that deserves comments on every track as such a strong collection but writing a review not a novel so special mentions for the reggae influenced 'Scared To Live', the slow burning, cool blues of 'When the World Gets Small' with its echoes of 'Riders on the Storm' and the up-tempo sprightly rocker 'Funny Little Tragedy' a real foot tapper with a touch of heavy rockabilly and top bass work.
The bonus disc is just as good with many of the guests adding a new dimension to the numbers and my personal favourites are Elvis Costello adding a bit of indie style to 'Funny Little Tragedy', Dr. John adding his distinctive style to 'Stoop So Low' making this ZZ Top style number even more so and Grace Potter the only female vocalist on display adding her soulful, passionate vocals to 'Whisper In Your Soul'.
Even without the bonus disc Shout! is an album of outstanding quality, with it simply one of the releases of the year.

Andrew Lock



GOV'T MULE
THE BEST OF THE CAPRICORN YEARS (& RARITIES)
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Gov't Mule are new to my ears and what a discovery, a power packed American, three piece rock band with a southern rock edge formed in 1994 (with ties to The Allman Brothers Band), for me their sound includes a good dose of classic Lynyrd Skynyrd as well as traditional blues.
This double album is a compilation mixing studio and live recordings recorded for Capricorn Records and boy is it impressive, disc one opener 'Thorazine Shuffle' is a heavy, groovy number in the good old southern rock tradition, also from the first CD and recorded live like many of the tracks 'Soulshine' is a meaty ballad with plenty of keyboards while 'Blind Man in the Dark' is a power packed number making good use of distorted vocals and impressive pounding bass lines.
Other highlights in part one include a stunningly powerful take on the gospel blues number 'John the Revelator', full of heart and soul and possibly also fire and brimstone, and the first disc closes with the funky extended jam, 'Mule' with expanded parts for both guitar and keyboards.
Disc 2 is the home of the live epics, only 4 tracks but all clocking in at a lengthy running time, starting with 'Gambler's Roll' a slow blues work out with delicate keyboards and guitar work full of emotional intensity which climaxes with a crescendo of guitar shredding and a mournful vocal flourish, superb.
The rest of the second CD is made up of traditional blues with the Robert Johnson number '32-20 Blues' full of explosive lead guitar,a fabulous version of Jimi Hendrix instrumental 'Third Stone From the Sun' perfectly capturing and paying justice to the great mans work, and closing this impressive set in soulful fashion a stirring 'I Shall Return'.
So impressed with this album which has bought a new band to my attention, love both southern rock and the blues and this band tread both camps in spectacular fashion.

Andrew Lock



GREG GOLDMAN
Cathexis
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This album by multi instrumentalist Greg Gouldman is full of fantastic grooves, for me the style is at times funk at others Latin style soft rock with plenty of pop melodies and smooth vocals including touches of Steely Dan and Santana here and there.
Opener 'Whole/Part' is a bright flowing number, 'Apropos' has a laid back dreamy summer jazz vibe while 'Drop Anchor' is for me the stand out number on the album, a high tempo pop/rocker which really gets the feet tapping.
There is plenty of top quality funky bass work on the chilled out but full of groove 'Recipe For Ruin', and 'Bargain Song' has a real West Coast Byrd's type thing going on.
An interesting collection of material from an obviously versatile musician, personally would loved to have seen what he would have done with a real rock workout, but maybe that is just me.

Andrew Lock



Harlan Flo
Strategy
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN JULY/AUGUST EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Harlan Flo hail from Chicago and their main strength is the way the vocals of Patrick Dugan and Amanda Riva work and gel together, they also are the bands guitarist's lead and rhythm respectively.
I find it impossible to pigeon hole the bands sound as it includes elements of pop, blues, rock and country, album opener 'Land of The Gardens' has a Woodstock style folk/rock vibe, 'Stumble Quick and Run' is at times close to B-52's pop/punk, 'Bittersweet' is perfect light country/rock while 'Shoot the Stars' is slide guitar blues.
The band have a fresh bright sound, the playing is excellent, vocals superb and this album is very easy on the ears.

Andrew Lock



Heather Findlay
The Phoenix Suite EP
(2011)
(PUBLISHED ON GRTR WEB SITE)

This is the much anticipated first solo material by ex Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay.
Titled The Phoenix Suite it is a five track EP of new material all written by Heather and produced and engineered by her former Mostly Autumn colleague Chris Johnson, who also performs on guitar, and vocals.
The striking sleeve artwork is from an original painting by accomplished artist Heather entitled 'Phoenix' and for the very special limited edition of 100 the original painting was cut into squares and used as the sleeve, Heather also included hand written track listings, signed the booklet individually and it arrived wrapped in black cellophane with a stamped wax seal - surely the definitive special edition.
The music is in the main a departure from her work with Mostly Autumn with for me only one number having echoes of that great band, first up 'Red Dust' which after a gentle intro turns into a powerful fast paced number with plenty of guitar work and a catchy chorus.
The strongest track for me is 'Phoenix' a true classic in the making, slow burning and haunting but with dramatic tempo changes, highlights in this number the subtle percussion work and an outstanding vocal performance by Heather.
'Cellophane' has an up-tempo quirky feel to it with excellent vocal harmonies and is a real foot tapper, next the track with at times a Mostly Autumn feel, 'Seven' a beautiful piece of music that really flows along with my favourite guitar riff on the EP, and finally the atmospheric 'Mona Lisa', which reminds me a little of possibly Shakespeare's Sisters darker moments.
I am really impressed with The Phoenix Suite and it is so obvious listening to it that Heather has put her heart and soul into this project, she has a top draw collection of musicians working alongside her, Heather's voice as always magnificent and Chris Johnson has done a fabulous production job, 'The Phoenix Suite' sounds fantastic from start to finish.
I am sure all mostly Autumn fans will buy this release and the quality is up there with that great band, I also recommend to anyone who likes quality rock music, one of the best female voices in British rock is well and truly back, I cannot wait to see The Phoenix come to life on the stage.

Andrew Lock



Indigenous Featuring Mato Nanji
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN JULY/AUGUST EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This is my first taste of the music of Mato Nanji and his fellow musicians and what an impression it has made on me, this album of exceptional quality, and at times explosive blues tinged rock opens with 'Free Yourself, Free Your Mind' which not for the only time on the album manages to capture the power and passion of Hendrix at his best, both musically and lyrically.
Highlights everywhere on this release, 'Evreywhere I Go' is groove laden blues/country rock while 'Someone Like You' is a cracking combination of distorted guitar work and exceptional drum/percussion work, while the aptly named 'Storm' is right back in Hendrix territory this time for a breakneck speed instrumental work out with so much going on.
Other standouts 'The Way I Feel' with it's touches of early ZZ Top and yet another Jimmy moment with the Little Wing like 'Wake Up', the album closes in style with two crackers firstly a track battling with Storm for the fastest number on the album the rocking 'By My Side' and finally a real blues workout in 'When Tomorrow Comes'.
In closing, what a talent Mato Nanji is, a sensational guitar player and gifted vocalist, performing with a top quality band alongside him on an album full of passion and vitality if you like Hendrix, SRV, ZZ Top etc this is for you.

Andrew Lock


Jama
Change Your World
(2010)

This is the debut album from Jama a band that includes the popular local musician Jon Lewis. The album has a delightful sunny warm feel to it and is full of original material with drummer Steve Laffy and bass player Bryan Paul on main song writing duties and one song composed by Jon.
The music has a distinct Caribbean feel with a hint of Reggae and there is a concept of peace, tolerance and love running throughout.
Just a few of the many highlights in this release are the opening track No Borders an up-tempo anti-war number with delightful guitar picking, the catchy Don’t Give it up and the chilled Paradise with haunting sax work by Ian Hill.
This is an excellently produced album performed by a group of outstanding musicians and I must also mention the fantastic album artwork and design.

Andrew Lock
Verdict – A summer treat



THE JOKERS
Rock 'N' Roll Is Alive
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

The spirit of early AC/DC is very much alive on this album which is full of feel good numbers by a band who really know how to rock, an unfussy album that really gets the toes tapping and vocalist Wane Parry has a lot of the style and power of the late great Bon Scott with perfect pipes for rock and roll.
Along with the AC/DC style riffs the album also has touches of blues and southern rock all blended together to make that difficult second album look rather easy.
Their AC/DC style comes over on the rock and roll blues of album opener 'Silver City' and the stadium style rocker 'Let it Rock' the latter with also a Def Leppard feel to it while possibly another of the bands influences Motley Crue comes over on sleaze rocker 'Night Driver'.
The band show a polished side on the first single taken from the album 'Radio', with its smooth flowing American feel and great hook, and there is a touch of Skynyrd style southern rock to 'Find My Way Home' and finally on raucous album closer 'Dr Rock Head' (a Doctor to rival the Crue's Dr Feelgood!) they show their zany sense of humour.
Upbeat, fun, honest rock and roll.

Andrew Lock


KRISTY GALLACHER
Spinning Plates
(PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Kristy Gallacher is a singer/songwriter hailing from Coventry and this her second full length album is a real delight, she writes clever thought provoking at times emotional at other times hard hitting lyrics has a unique vocal style and is an accomplished guitarist.
Opening track 'Quicksand' is a folk/county foot tapper with the addition of superb violin work and a delightfully catchy chorus and makes a perfect choice to pull you into the album,'Spinning Plates' the title track has more of a jazzy feel with beautiful vocal harmonies and subdued guitar work.
The rockiest number on the album 'Annie Said', has powerful lyrics and a quality banjo performance, while my personal favourites are the heartfelt 'Beautiful Bouquet', the heartbreaking and at times lyrically dark 'Cut and Run' with it's at times almost gospel/spiritual backing vocals and the breezy, uplifting 'Fending off The Frost' for me my track of the year so far.
Kristy has chosen the perfect number to close this collection 'Until Then' which begins with the line "So I guess that's it", the number is a classy gently paced number while its lyrics and overall feel pull off the trick of seeming both sad and happy at the same time.
A stunner of an album from I truly believe one of the county's finest singer/song writers, do not get fooled if you see her tagged as folk because while there are folk elements to her music she is so much more than that, her lyrics are contemporary, emotive and at times really powerful, for me she is a true star in the making, catch her live if you can, she has already performed in front of artists the calibre of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood and opened for Elton John.

Andrew Lock



Kristy Gallacher
Spinning Plates
(EXTENDED REVIEW)

This album is such a step up from Kristy’s debut and her EP releases and they were all excellent, the recording and production is top quality, every word of her fabulous lyrics as clear as a cloud free winters night and the CD sleeve design and photography stylish and classy.
The band she has chosen to play with on this recording is top draw and I especially love the violin work of Lisa Nowak which sweeps and echos through the album.
Nine tracks in total and not a filler in sight and while it falls into the Folk category, anyone who loves Kristy's music will tell you there is far more to her than that, her lyrics are contemporary and she is never afraid of throwing different styles into her music.
Not a dull moment on this album and opener 'Quicksand' a foot tapping, rolling, folk/county style tune with plenty of violin, a catchy chorus and an effective vocal effect section is one of the standouts. 'Spinning Plates' the title track itself is another, a jazzy number with excellent vocal harmonies and subdued guitar work.
Possible the best track on the album is 'Beautiful Bouquet' previously released on one of Kristy's EP releases, this re-worked version is a cracker, the vocals sound like she could be in the same room as the listener while the guitar picking and violin work is a delight, a gem of a number and of course with its heart wrenching lyrics always a live favourite.
Another contender for best track on the album is 'Fending Off the Frost' a light and breezy uplifting number with stunning percussion work while the rockiest track on the album is 'Annie Said' with such powerful lyrics, its uptempo pace which includes top quality banjo work make it a real foot tapper.
The albums beautiful ballad moment is 'Cut and Run' and drop dead gorgeous it is as well with its almost gospel/spiritual like backing harmony vocals at times.
The album closes with 'Until Then' a track which is perfect for the job with lines like "So I guess that's it" and is a classy mid paced gentle number with lyrics that seem to be both sad and positive at the same time.
A superb album on every level, lyrically, musically, artistically, full of melody and top quality song writing by an artist that deserves all the success in the world,

Andrew Lock


Kristy Gallacher
The Game
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Following her 2012 album 'Spinning Plates' (my album of the year) was never going to be an easy task for Kristy but then as she is among the hardest working singer/songwriters around who deals with every aspect of her career not being easy was never going to be an issue.
This another gem of a release is full of the well constructed, beautifully performed pieces of music those of us in the know about this artist have grown to love, unlike 'Spinning Plates' I have yet to decide my killer track, on that album it was my track of the year 'Fending off the Frost' but on this collection I have a few contenders.
For me one of the impressive aspects of this album is the use of Kristy's layered vocals to produce a truly rich tapestry of sound while another highlight is the haunting violin work of Lisa Nowak, the other artists on display are Karen Milne on the drums and the distinctive banjo work of Dan Gascoigne.
Those contenders for my track of the album include sprightly opener 'Sweet Redemption' with it's superbly constructed chorus, the exceptionally fast paced 'Blood' with Kristy's lighting fast guitar picking to the fore and the musically jazzy, 'happy go lucky' feel of 'Do Or Die'.
'Dark Hours' and 'Dreams' both for me move effectively away from the more traditional time signatures, the former with the addition of that haunting violin work.
Album closer and another possible favourite of mine the laid back 'Reinventing The Wheel' continues the trend of Kristy knowing exactly the perfect number to close with, such a warm sound with a real glow which is helped by the soothing, crackling sounds of a vinyl record being set up at the start and close.
So another corker from still in my opinion one of the best singer/songwriters out there, full of well crafted numbers that for me defy genre and another release that ticks all the boxes, vocals and guitar work sublime, backing musicians top quality, song writing of the highest order and recording quality clear as a bell.

Andrew Lock


Laurence Jones
Thunder In the Sky
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This 21 year old blues slinger means business on this absolute belter of an album, a young man full of confidence at such a young age which shows both on stage an on this release, yet another addition to the quality stable of blues talent plying their trade in the UK but for me already towards the top of the pile.
It fires into life with rocker 'Bad Girl' with it's catchy chorus and the first of the albums many incendiary guitar solos then without time to catch your breath and with the thunderous drum and bass rhythm machine underlying Laurence's blues riff it is straight into 'Not Stickin' Around' and here the solo really soars.
Not all fast based blues on display 'Too Good' is funky and full of soul, the one cover on the album 'The Thrill Is Gone' a hit for B.B.King is slow burning and a showcase for his youthful yet already rich vocal delivery and 'Cornered' has a touch of Jazz/swing to it's laid back groove.
Saving the best to last, the closing numbers are 'Thunder In the Sky' the title track an epic blues ballad which builds and builds, effective keyboards in the background and a quality extended guitar solo help to make this one of the strongest cuts on the album but for me the releases tour-de-force is the fabulous final track 'Going Down', including tribal style drumming this multi-layered dose of real down and dirty blues is full of power, attitude and style, an absolute cracker.

Andrew Lock



MARILLION
Best.Live
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

While Marillion fans have been very well catered for over the years with live recordings from the Steve Hogarth era (inc the official bootleg series - The Front Row Club) this double album is a welcome addition to the cannon of the bands post 1988 concert work.
So much time and care has been taken in choosing the best possible versions of the numbers, compiling the running order and also ensuring that the sonic quality and the audience applause and reaction between the tracks make it appear like a single show (a great show at that).
This release includes many of the recognised classics from the Steve Hogarth era including the moving Donald Campbell story as told in 'Out of This World', from Marbles the chilling 'Invisible Man' and the magnificently grand 'Neverland' while the bands epic of epics 'This Strange Engine' (Mr Hogarth's life story condensed into around 20min) is a spectacular closer for the first disc.
Not every track on this set is on the epic side and highlights among the shorter numbers include the bands pop/rock hit single 'Your Gone', a powerful acoustic take on Brave's 'Hard As Love', the exquisite 'Beautiful' and for me one of the bands under rated masterpieces the up lifting 'The Release'.
For fans of the Fish years the first disc includes a suite of fan favourites from Clutching at Straws with quality performances of 'Hotel Hobbies', 'Warm Wet Circles' and 'That Time of the Night' proving that Steve Hogarth can perform the older material with some panache.
The material on this release is bang up to date and includes a selection from their last studio album 'Happiness is the Road' including the spiritual vibe of 'Essence' and a fabulous 'This Train is My Life'.
This album close with possibly the best display of audience participation I have heard on a live recording when at the close of a magnificent 'Man of a Thousand Faces' the audience continues to keep the tune of the number ringing around the venue long after the band has finished playing.
A fantastic live selection with the bands undeniable musicianship on display throughout, the love and loyalty of the bands fans is obvious and as always with Marillion the album is also superbly packaged with distinctive, unusual cover art and a top selection of gig photos in the album booklet, even if you have a number of Marillion live albums in your collection make room for another.

Andrew Lock



Matt Schofield
Far As I Can See
(2014)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

A much respected blues artist both in the UK and internationally and this Matt's 5th studio album is a quality release full of choice cuts of blues mixed at times with jazz, funk, soul and even a touch of a Latin beat.
'Clean Break' is funky and soulful with stylish Hammond organ adding to Matt's impressive playing,'Getaway' has a more laid back groove with top rate bass lines behind the vocals and guitar work the later of which includes a quality solo.
There are two covers on the album and Albert King's ''Breaking up Somebodies Home" is full of powerful and emotionally charged vocals intertwined with subtle blues guitar picking with what sounds like a horn section helping out to produce a rich tapestry of sound
and one of the albums standout numbers
The second cover 'Yellow Moon' originally by The Neville Brothers has a distinct Latin edge almost touching on reggae at times and possibly even a touch of Gospel.
If you like low key, slower burning, sitting on the porch, heartbreak blues 'The Day You Left' is for you and Matt's guitar smoulders with emotion yet is also perfectly under control, in a distinct change of pace 'Oakville Shuffle' is a fast, foot tapping delightful instrumental and keeping up that pace 'Tell Me Some Lies' is a lively rocker well stamped in the Chuck Berry tradition.
The album closes with its "Hendrix Moment" (as I have mentioned before in my reviews I believe every blues release has at least one) and on this album it is the magnificent 'Red Dragon' which is also the albums epic and starts off with stunning Voodoo Chile like guitar work.
Excellent blues release from an artist at the very top of his game.

Andrew Lock



MOSTLY AUTUMN
LIVE AT THE BOERDERIJ ( LIVE DVD) double CD version also available
(2013)

This is the long awaited first live Mostly Autumn DVD release with Olivia Sparnenn at the helm on lead vocals and is a double disc set also available on CD (without the three bonus tracks and one of the encores) which stands as a perfect statement of where the band are at the moment and that is at the very top of their game.
Included in the DVD version is the complete set as recorded live at the Boerderij in the Netherlands on 15th September 2012, due to a technical hitch on the sound side three numbers 'King of the Valley', 'Never the Rainbow' and 'Changing Fast' were only recorded by one camera and the monitor mix but they have been included to complete the show, of course not up to the quality of the rest of the material but still a welcome extra.
The packaging is excellent for both versions with generous photo booklets, and the bands special pre order deal for the DVD and CD set for a reduced price and with Bryan and Olivia signing the DVD cover was a great idea.
The Boerderij looks like an ideal venue to record a live show with a stage big enough for the mighty Mostly Autumn to spread out and work their magic, the show was part of 'The Ghost Moon Orchestra' tour and a large selection of the new material made this show along with of course bags of classics.
The show starts as is the norm these days with the rumble of the classic 'Passengers' album instrumental 'Distant Train' perfect for the job, and straight off the picture and audio quality look top notch and the stage lighting (very important in concert DVD's) is really impressive and boy does our Andy Smith look cool in designer shades, next up Olivia's arrival on stage for the atmospheric new album number 'Unquiet Tears'.
As usual with Mostly Autumn two sets with a Tea (well Pint !") break in between and highlights from set 1 include a sterling drumming display by Gavin Griffiths on the driving new rocker 'Drops of the Sun' with one of the bands catchiest choruses to date (also loved the fab green stage lighting for this number and 'Ice' a real gem with two distinct parts, the steady hypnotic beat of the first section and the heavier, charged up, emotion packed second section.
It goes without saying that 'Evergreen' also in the first set was as good as ever but then a good performance of this classic is as safe a bet as the sun rising.
Closing the first half is possibly Iain Jennings shining moment the masterful Breathing Space number 'Questioning Eyes' co written with Olivia and given a new lease of live in Mostly Autumn sets.
Set 2 and more of the same (thankfully) with if anything even better lighting as there appear to be laser like effects on the stage at times, the second helping thunders in with two of the biggest rockers in the bands arsenal 'The Dark Before the Dawn' and 'Deep in Borrowdale' before they take things down a notch with a brace of slower more spiritual numbers in 'Passengers' and the sublime 'The Last Climb' the latter of course with a starring role by Anne-Marie Helder on the flute.
Other highlights in act 2 are one of the best numbers from the latest studio album 'Tennyson Mansion' with its 'Ghost Riders in the Sky' sounding opening (on purpose as that line is used in the lyrics) and featuring one of Bryan Josh's greatest ever solos,'The Last Bright Light' one of the most mystical and spiritual pieces of music they have made.
Always a high point of any Mostly Autumn show and the main set closer these days rather than show closer was Bryan's tribute to his father 'Heroes Never Die', always and understandably played with such passion.
For the encores a welcome return for the crowd sing-a-long favourite 'The Spirit of Autumn past (Part 2)' ( DVD only) a number I miss whenever excluded from the MA set, and here performed with Liam Davidson's astonishing lead guitar intro.
The other encores include the beautiful, poignant and perfectly introduced by Bryan as "like a dance floor in the sky" 'And When the War is Over', soft delicate, very moving and Olivia's vocal performance is simply exquisite. Finally to close the show two tracks that point to the quality of this bands material as both appear as bonus tracks on the 'The Ghost Moon Orchestra' album, the short but sweet, acoustic in style 'The Last Train' and 'Tonight' which for me is good as anything they have recorded, beautifully structured chords, a gentle exquisite opening that builds, rocks and then it returns to the gentle side.
Well worth the wait and a show with repeat watch written all over it, the band giving it all and more, a masterclass of a rock performance and the bonus material is also well put together with an informative behind the scenes short film and an extensive photo gallery.
Ten out of Ten

Andrew Lock


MOSTLY AUTUMN - GO WELL DIAMOND HEART
(PUBLISHED ON GRTR WEB SITE)
(2010)

BACKGROUND

I first discovered Mostly Autumn back in 2002 when they played a pub gig in my home town of Leamington Spa, which I only noticed while leafing through Classic Rock Magazine, and from the first few seconds of the opening number I could tell that I had found something very special that would play a large part in my life. I have seen the band live many times over the years, including flying to Edinburgh to see them support Bryan Adams and planning a short break in Cornwall to take in a performance.
Live as on album this band never disappoint and I have also over the years had the honour of meeting the band many times and I am sure there is not a more friendly group of people in the music industry,
This album is such an important one for the band because although the band has lost members before (some returning later) this time it was lead vocalist Heather Findlay who has moved on, who in my opinion is one of the best female rock vocalists in the country.
Luckily they have the perfect replacement in Oliva Sparnnen (another of the best female vocalists in the country) who has of course been a member of the band for several years as well as fronting the band Breathing Space until leaving that band to concentrate on Mostly Autumn last year, and she is doing an absolutely fantastic job as lead singer both live and on the new album.

FIRST PLAY BACK PARTY FOR THE ALBUM

Last August myself and my wife were honoured to have been invited to a first playback party for Go Well Diamond Heart for the band, family and close friends, so we found ourselves in an absolutely lovely farmhouse near Burnley and it was a night we will never forget.
The version played on the night was the pre-order double cd (disc one was the retail release reviewed below and disc two a complete cd of extra excellent new material) and after an introduction by band leader, vocalist and guitarist Bryan Josh accompanied by what must have been at least 50 candles to add to the atmosphere we were treated to the first playback of the bands latest masterpiece.
As you will read in the review I was very impressed but then their albums are always so consistently good so no real surprise there, everyone treated us both so well during our visit, we had plenty of chats with the band members and other guests and the evening went on to the early hours with good food, good real ale and of course excellent company, after the album play back there was a very special moment with the lighting and releasing of Chinese lanterns to wish the album good luck.

THE ALBUM

Presentation

There is always a great deal of thought put into the artwork on Mostly Autumn releases and Go Well Diamond Heart is no exception, the cover is a striking image of a red circle of flame against a black background, within which is the band name, album title and enclosed in a white diamond outlined shape the famous Mostly Autumn leaf in the centre of a a red heart shape design.
The Album booklet first page is made up of an excellent arty publicity photo of the band while the remaining pages, one track a page have the lyrics on one side and in keeping with the front cover, white diamond shapes filled with beautiful drawings relating to the songs theme on the other.[/u]

[u]The music


For All We Shared

The album begins with a nice touch, a track named after the very first Mostly Autumn album, the introduction is truly haunting with choral like vocals, atmospheric keyboard effects alongside subtle guitar, gentle cymbal work and the always magnificent uilleann pipe work of Troy Donockley all blending together perfectly. The track after the dramatic introductuin turns out to be a toe tapping medium paced rocker with lead vocals shared between Bryan and Olivia with superb lead guitar flourishes, and not for the only time on the album I get the impression that Heather is not a long way from the bands thoughts.

Violet Skies

A beautiful medium paced number that has a light, breezy summer, feel to it, with its gentle acoustic guitar work and Olivia's laid back vocal approach and for me almost a radio friendly pop feel to it (very good pop with a touch of rock of course).

Deep in Borrowdale

A gentle start to the albums first out and out rocker a real rousing number with its tight guitar riff, Bryan on lead vocals singing about wine women and song in a real positive up beat number, and a great track to head bang live to. The lyrics of course relate to one of Bryan's favourite places Borrowdale valley in Cumbria and the number really has an earthy quality to it.

Something Better

The other real rocker on the album with it's cracking Thin Lizzy style main riff, and a very catchy chorus with lyrics bemoaning the lack of real heroes in the world today and the general poor state of to quote the band "This Great Blue Pearl" we all live on. This number is a showcase for the guitar work of Bryan and Liam Davison also the solid bass work of Andy Smith.


Go Well Diamond Heart

The title track and the real epic piece of the album, a track dedicated to the bravery of seriously injured soldier and friend of the band Ben Parkinson, such a well structured dramatic number and also an example of the second theme of the album the horror and heartbreak of war. Starting with the sound of a jet fighter going overhead (or possibly a missile) the number transports us to the front line with the grim realities of war, " your friend in pieces", "blood in the sky" and towards the end after stunning machine gun, bomb blasts and air raid siren sound effects the voice of Colonel James Learmont appears with a stark portrayal of life in the firing line. An extremely powerful piece and one bound to be a live classic.


Back To Life

The kind of number made for Olivia's beautiful vocal delivery, a gentle but flowing rock ballad which also includes exquisite keyboard and flute work form Iain Jennings and Anne-Marie Helder respectively and the track ends with stunning guitar work by Mr Josh.

Hold the Sun

Such a clever number managing to combine both sadness and happiness in a tale of loss but also full of the joy and gift of life. The track begins with gentle delicate keyboards, the guitar and bass jump in for the dramatic verses in real contrast to the joy and lightness of the chorus, this change of mood gives the track real power.

And When The War Is Over....

To end the album another beautiful piece of music with its lyrics of joy and celebration at the end of war and conflict and a track that would be perfect for dancing a good old fashioned waltz to, includes plenty of subtle keyboards, guitar work and a special mention for the delicate drum work of Gavin Griffiths. A great choice for the closing number ending the album on a real positive joyful note.

VERDICT

A triumphant stylish album by a band that never disappoints, full of the usual MA light and shade, thought provoking lyrics, the top rate musicianship we have come to expect and a good mixture of musical styles, pounding rockers, beautiful ballads and epic numbers all with that Mostly Autumn special touch. For me this is an album up their with my favourite releases by the band Passengers and The Last Bright Light and as the fans expected Olivia has handled the extremely difficult job of replacing Heather Findlay in some style.


Andrew Lock



THE MOTIVES - FEATURING MATT TAYLOR
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This the bands debut release is a stylish blues album and kicks off with 'Never Tell a Lie' a number which successfully combines blues rock with a ska feel, full of sublime guitar work and lashings of Hammond organ, other stand outs are the funky beat of 'Cookie Jar' which for me includes effective use of a similar tribal drum pattern to the one used in the Shadows classic Apache.
'Leap of Faith' is steeped in traditional blues while the epic of the album (and stand out track) for me is the superb 'The Rules Dont Apply' with its theme of good and evil with a very special guest taking the role of the devil, blues master Ian Siegal, this is lyrically and feel wise along the same lines as the country classic 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' only with more balls and the guitar work is stunning.
'Find Another Love' co written by ex England cricket star (now blues artist) Mark Butcher is another album highlight with the Hammond organ (plenty of this on the album) and guitar working in perfect harmony, 'Gangsters' has a cool laid back blues vibe and I love the closing number 'Baby Dont Lose My Number' a Huey Lewis and the News style tribute to classic rock and roll.
Band front man Matt Taylor has a soulful voice perfect for the blues and plays sensational lead guitar throughout, along with his top band they have produced a debut album that drips with style and quality, the album packaging is also top quality.

Andrew Lock



The Nimmo Brothers
Brother to Brother
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN JULY/AUGUST EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

The Scottish blues/rock brothers latest album opens with a real statement of intent with the hard hitting 'Still Here Strumming' a track very much for me in the Free/Bad Company mould, this album is a real mix of styles and other standout tracks include 'For You' polished radio-friendly stadium rock of the highest order, and showing their soulful side 'Waiting For My Heart To Fall' which includes fabulous Hammond organ work.
This release also has it's 'lighters in the air' moment with 'King and Country' with it's powerful bitter-sweet lyrics and a couple of covers, a more than competent run through Free's 'Wishing Well', nothing wrong with their version but for me an over covered track, the other cover which closes the album is a cracker as they rock and roll through the Texan band Arc Angel's roadhouse classic 'Shape I'm In'.
At times on this album I hear a touch of the sound of one of my favourite bands Thunder, especially on some of the vocals and overall this is a strong blues/rock release with plenty of variation to the material.

Andrew Lock



NINA BAKER
QUITE FRANKLY
(2013)

This the debut album from singer/songwriter Nina Baker is an emotion drenched collection containing diverse musical styles with an overall fresh, bright sound, it is very well produced and has some of the brightest, quirkiest album artwork I have seen for a while.
She is a real talent who I have seen perform a couple of times in the Leamington area and I am as impressed with this album as with her live performances.
The bouncy and upbeat ‘Single Bed’ opens the album with it’s fabulous brass instrument work and catchy lyrics and ‘Breaking Every Rule’ one of the standout numbers has just a touch of the gothic rock ballads produced by the likes of Within Temptation .
‘Little Fibs’ is a fun, jazzy number with plenty going on and has an impressive speedy (but as always crystal clear) vocal delivery by Nina and all in all is a real toe tapper.
‘Tell Me’ is almost in soft rock ballad FM radio territory, ‘Clown’ is hauntingly delicate with beautiful piano and gorgeous strings along with one of her best vocal performances on the album and ‘Game You Play’ is brisk paced with a touch of country.
‘Tied Up In You’ is for me a big production pop ballad, a kind of Whitney Houston number and she wrings every last drop of emotion from the powerful album closing ballad ‘Falling’.
Excellent album from a lady of immense talent, she writes really well has a beautiful voice and magical piano/ keyboard skills.

Andrew Lock



NOW OR NEVER
Now Or Never
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This band with a good rock pedigree which includes two ex members of Pretty Maids and connections with French metal band Nightmare have produced a debut album full of power and aggression while also proud to show their rock/metal influences in the music.
Will not go on too much about the fantastic album art but the angel overlooking an ancient city is fabulous but lucky for the listener the music is top quality as well.
Opener 'Reach Out For the Sky' begins with the Edgar Allan Poe like thudding of a beating heart then throws in a crashing riff, demonic vocals and comes over at times like heavier and more intense classic Maiden, the wall of sound 'Brothers' is a little more Slipknot in style and ends with effective motorbike sound effects.
Another influence on the album appears to be the mighty Judas Priest and a good example is crashing rocker 'Princess of Undiscovered Land' which for me mixes Priest circa 'Painkiller' with an effective Nightwish style spoken passage.
The album does have a couple of more mellow numbers which work well and give the album a touch of light and shade 'An Angel By My Side' has a touch of acoustic guitar and is very catchy and here the band seem to have added their heavier style to an FM rock number along the lines of dare I say it Journey! and it works well, even more low key is the albums one ballad 'Something's Missing' a number full of emotion and quality acoustic guitar work.
Impressive debut.

Andrew Lock



Panic Room
Skin
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN JULY/AUGUST EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Panic Room left themselves a mammoth task to deliver a third album up to the quality of 2010's 'Satellite' but they have been more than equal to the challenge and released another masterpiece which may turn out to be even better on repeated listenings.
For me the album is not quite as dark as it's predecessor, it has it's dark moments but overall it has a lighter feel and June seems an appropriate release date as several of the numbers for me have a touch of summer about them.
As always they are never a band to be tied to just one genre and this an album of differing styles, but of course there is plenty for us progressive rock fans.
The album opens with the first of several epics on the release and also one of the rockiest tracks 'Song For Tomorrow' a well structured number with a powerful guitar led intro, the tempo then dips for Anne-Marie Helder's beautiful vocals and the track continues in this vein of light and shade, it has a catchy chorus and I love Jonathan Edwards harpsichord style keyboards and the at times tribal like drum work of Gavin Griffiths.
I really like the dreamy tranquil feel of 'Chameleon', with it's violin sounds and chilled out guitar work that just wash over you while another highlight, with the band throwing in a touch of Gary Numan style electronic vibe is 'Screens', combined with bursts of rock guitar this is a mix that works surprisingly well.
If the band are looking for a single from this release in my opinion they should look no further than 'Chances' for me the albums stand out number, catchy, light and breezy with that summer vibe I was talking about with superb Spanish flamenco style guitar by Paul Davis.
'Promises' begins with Stone Roses style guitar, and this medium paced rocker also features a superb bass line by Yatim Halimi, plenty of keyboard work and really builds in intensity for a grandstand finish, while 'Velvet & Stars' is a gentle piece combining acoustic guitar picking with exquisite vocals by Anne-Marie, a delightfully simple uncluttered track.
'Hiding the World' is another of the tracks with a rock edge featuring plenty of crunching lead guitar and rock out drumming and it closes in a very different and unique style with a short almost classical/choral vocal section by Anne-Marie.
Another triumph, a stunning release without a weak link by one of the more innovative bands around, the usual mix of eclectic of styles, superb songwriting craft and a band of individually world class musicians who work so well together.

Andrew Lock


The Pat McManus Band
Dark Emerald Highway
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This is Pats 4th solo album and the former Mama's Boy has delivered an album of varying styles but with plenty of homages to his Celtic roots.
Opener 'S Before X' has a Van Halen feel especially the main guitar riff and the tongue in cheek Roth like lyrics and 'Lets Turn it Up' is a real rock anthem with plenty of groove, a powerful, charged chorus and a touch of the ZZ Tops.
His Celtic roots take centre stage on 'Lazy Days' which is delightfully Thin Lizzy in style as is his emotion packed tribute to Gary Moore 'Belfast Boy' and the Irish charm is also evident on lightning fast instrumental album closer 'The Bolt' where Pat's fingers really fly over the fretboard.
Pat shows his prowess on the violin on the fast, funky blues of 'Shame On You' which also makes superb use of the backing vocalists and includes a killer guitar solo.
A special mention for my favourite track the slow burning 'Cold Town' which for me has glimmers of Rainbow's 'Catch the Rainbow' to some of the guitar work but lyrically is a thousand miles away from that bands fantasy inspired lyrics and far more down to earth (pun intended!).
Really strong album, variety of styles all carried off with some aplomb.

Andrew Lock


Pearl Handled Revolver
This Mountain Waits
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This the second album from the Bedfordshire based band is already a contender for one of my albums of the year, they carry a late 60's early 70's vibe with for me the main influences shining through being bands like Free and especially the more bluesy output of The Doors.
Opener 'Do it Again' has a rich sound and a catchy chorus with the superb guitar work to the fore, 'Hello Mary' is a complete change of style, more relaxed, flowing and soulful but also has a swagger with a great grizzled lead vocal performance.
For me the Doors influence really comes to the fore on 'Johnny's In the Basement' where they show a 'L.A. Woman' album vibe and 'Rabbit Hole' which has Alice in Wonderland inspired lyrics and crashing keyboards, while for me Doors in style it is a lot heavier and at times also steps into Sabbath doom metal territory.
Elsewhere on the album they also hit more of a straight blues mark on 'The Red White and Blues' with its hints of blues era Zeppelin about a third in and in another change of pace and style 'Josey' is a beautiful guitar driven piece reminiscent of Chris Rea at his best.
One of my favourite cuts is 'Blind' a slow burning number which begins with tranquil keyboards, again includes fabulous grizzled lead vocals here assisted by quality backing singing and you expect the track to explode into life any moment and the fact that it doesn't take this obvious route is a surprise that really works to it's advantage,
Confident, accomplished, they have a mixed bag of styles with various influences evident and the echo of prime Jim Morrison bouncing up more than once, really look forward to catching them live.

Andrew Lock



Pendragon
Not Of This World (New Madfish edition)
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN MAY/JUNE EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This re-released album comes from the time when the band were at the peak of their epic progressive rock powers, the band have of course had great success with their last two albums 'Pure' and 'Passion' where they added a harder rock edge to their sound.
This album flows over you, full of beautiful melodies with Nick Barrett's incredible guitar work and keyboard layers by Clive Nolan just two of the stand out components.
Sounds of wind and a tolling bell open the album in dramatic fashion followed by Nick's solo guitar and then the rest of the band for the first of the albums epics 'If I Were the Wind' its lyrics full of sea farers and pirates, delicate/beautiful but also with real power, a rich full tapestry of sound.
Sound wise this release is magnificent as the keyboard/guitar intro to 'Dance of the Seven Veils' proves, this is music to sit on the couch, light jos sticks/candles turn off the lights, grab a glass of wine and let it wash over you, this track full of light and shade as Nick tells the wondrous story (no pun intended) of Sailors, Sirens and Gorgons, and includes one of the finest chorus's in progressive rock.
The three part title track, starts in jolly upbeat fashion with heavy swirling keyboard work, drums to the fore while Nick solos away on lead, a tour de force of an intro to this epic of epics, the second part has a catchy melodic side with magnificent guitar refrains and vocal harmonies while the closing piece is simply gorgeous.
The remaining numbers are the almost spiritual 'A Man of Nomadic Traits', 'World's End' with its excellent laid back guitar work and truly uplifting finish, finally two bonus acoustic numbers, for me the crowning glory of their back catalogue 'Paintbox' and 'King of the Castle'.
A welcome reissue of a classic album, musicianship of the highest order.

Andrew Lock



POPA CHUBBY
UNIVERSAL BREAKDOWN BLUES
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

First thing that strikes me about this release is the fabulous cover photography/artwork that emphasises a meeting of old and new blues with its front cover shot of Chubby and glamorous lady friend next to vintage cars but with a modern building skyline while the back cover is simply just a fantastic portrait shot.
Onto the music which fortunately is just as good kicking off with an electrifying 'I Don't Want Nobody', pulsating guitar runs and a foot tapping back beat, other highlights include soulful ballad 'I Ain't Giving Up' with rich lead vocals and soulful backing voices, '69 Dollars' with it's Santana like lead guitar.
Really impressed with his original instrumental take on movie classic 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' (reminded me of a Rainbow concert intro tape in my distant past !) starting very mellow in the mix, throwing in a classical music snippet (not sure what the piece is called !)before turning the piece into a guitar extravaganza based on this much loved tune, fabulous playing.
'Danger Man' is an up-temp blues rocker with plenty of guitar effect pedal work and album closer 'Mindbender' is the heaviest cut on the album and has lashings of Hendrix style distorted guitar work.
Solid release with something for everyone.

Andrew Lock



Renegade Creation
Bullet
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN JULY/AUGUST EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This is an album of superbly executed twin guitar (courtesy of Robben Ford and Michael Landau) led blues rock at times with a shot of country as on album opener 'All Over Again', while 'Bullet' is more of an up-tempo Hendrix style rocker with good use of the guitar effect pedals.
'On A Mountain' is a powerful riff driven blues stomper with the rhythm engine-room working over time leaving the twin guitars free to solo over the top, while on 'Nazareth' they really slow things down on a chilled out ballad with haunting echoing guitar work.
The band show their diverse talent on this album, all the tracks have elements of the blues but of varying styles, the briskly paced foot tapper 'People Like Me' is another of the tracks with a touch of country, 'Greedy Life' has a jazzy blues feel and for me 'High and Low' is in Texas blues territory with a touch of the ZZ Tops.
The one cover on the album the Bob Dylan penned 'Too Much of Nothin'' works really well and 'Older Today' is a classy ballad.
A quality blues/rock release.

Andrew Lock



RICKY FERRANTI & THE RUSTY MILES
Rusty Miles
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Like many modern blues releases this album sees a mix of styles, in fact this one more than most with it's selection which includes country, rock, pop, and rock and roll style blues numbers and the album is choc full of catchy melodies and choruses.
The album opens with 'Rusty Miles' itself an excellent driving, sun roof open, sunglasses on blues rock work out and a perfect to way to open an album which carries a theme of a journey, while 'Don't Stop' is more of a straight up soft rock track in the tradition of hair bands like Poison.
'Keep On' hits a country vein, a gentle ballad full of warm harmonica playing, beautiful backing harmony vocals and laid back guitar work, the country style continues with the fast paced (amazingly speedy guitar picking) rockabilly/hillbilly instrumental 'Country Junky' and the band (as of course so many Blues artists do) also pay homage at the alter of the fabulous Jimi Hendrix on 'Jimi's Colour' another instrumental but this one full of Jimi's trade mark guitar moves and it seems to have echoes of several of Jimi's classic numbers.
For me the two best tracks on the album are on the quiet, delicate side, the simply gorgeously sentimental and romantic 'My Eyes On You' and the absolutely haunting penultimate track on the album 'New Orleans' which is a piano/cello/acoustic guitar piece echoing the tragic natural disaster that hit that city, at times I can hear just a touch of another haunting piece of music Elton John's Song For Guy within the number. This track also has a first for me with words (very moving words) in the CD booklet that are not on the track but the listener is prompted to read them while listening, for me this number is worth the price of the album alone (but luckily the rest is superb as well !).
After the seriousness and sadness of the previous number the mood changes completely with 'You're My Cat' an Elvis style rockabilly style track with added violin, a really fun number.
A superb album that I will return to often and in 'New Orleans' they have hit musical gold.

Andrew Lock



ROADHOUSE
GODS & HIGHWAYS & OLD GUITARS
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This is a strong release with a couple of absolute gems and Roadhouse seem to have a style all of their own with their mix of male and female vocals and a combination of blues, southern rock and Americana (you would swear they are American!).
The opening number is always important and they have chosen one of the strongest on the album 'Hell On Wheels' a lively blues rocker for the job, fantastic vocal harmonies (a real strong point of the album), a catchy chorus and explosive lead guitar work.
One of the more unusual and effective numbers is the stylish, atmospheric 'Skinwalker', downbeat, moody, mysterious and haunting it is choc full of fantastic guitar sounds and slightly experimental in feel, as soon as I played it wanted to hear it again.
'Gods & Highways & Old Guitars' the title track is another highlight and if you close your eyes you can almost picture route 66 and racks of guitars and for me the female lead vocals have a touch of Stevie Nicks to them (for me not a bad thing at all!),
My other two favourite tracks on this release are 'The Big Easy' very much along the lines of the Alannah Myles hit 'Black Velvet' , it has fabulously sultry lyrics and quality guitar work, and also on the sultry side with even more sizzilingly sexy lyrics (superb female lead vocal) 'Slow Down' which is sure to make you feel hot under the collar.
Really enjoyed this album which is not your standard blues release at all and all the more interesting for it.

Andrew Lock



Rob Tognoni
Art
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Australian guitarist/vocalist Rob brings us a blues/rock album of quality with lashings of full throttle speedy guitar playing.
After a tranquil subdued intro including bird calls the album explodes into life with driven opener 'Shoot the Dove' full of power chords and the tracks guitar solos cover several styles, his spectacularly fast playing really shines on 'Play You Blues', which would make a great foot tapper if only you could tap your foot that fast !,the lyrics pay tribute to a host of blues legends including Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker.
The Hendrix connection as with most blues/rock releases makes occasional appearance's including during the complex instrumental 'Cafe Deluxe' and 'Reasons Why' while I hear a touch of AC/DC on 'Set You Free'.
Rob gets experimental on 'Roadrunner' with plenty of keyboards plus distinctive vocal and guitar effects, very different to the rest of the album but an interesting number that really works.
A real highlight is his faithful cover of Neal Young's 'Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)' with plenty of fuzzy guitar work and the addition of a touch of 'You Really Got Me' thrown in at the end, great stuff.
Interesting album by one of the fastest guitar players in this field I have heard and obviously someone who is not afraid to experiment within his chosen genre.

Andrew Lock



Rocky Hill
Lone Star Legend
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN MAY/JUNE EDITION OF THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Worth a listen for fans of Texas Blues, Rocky who passed away in 2008 was the older brother of Dusty Hill of ZZ Top fame, the material on this release was recorded back in 1977 in Texas and has a real feelgood groove, 'Go Down Dupree' with its incessant tight blues riff certainly gets the foot tapping while 'Hoodoo Eyes' has classic old style ZZ Top boogie flowing through it.
The magnificently titled 'Waitin' Around to Die' is a real standout, down and dirty and as bluesy as you can get with plenty of mean screeching guitar work, for me this battles with 'The Charleston Knife' with its excellent honky-tonk/bar room style piano as the best track on the album.
As a blues fan it is great to hear an album from someone you have never heard of (hang my blues loving head in shame !) which is as full of quality blues as this release.

Andrew Lock



RUBEN HOEKE BAND
LOADED
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Dutchman Ruben Hoeke really has music in his blood, respected guitarist, song writer, music journalist, record producer and also leader of this smoking rock/blues band.
Even though well loved and acclaimed on the blues circuit for me on several numbers I hear a distinct 'Van Halen' influence both in the vocal approach of singer Frank Van Pardo and the lightning fast guitar work of Ruben himself.
This Halen feel comes over on blistering album opener 'High On the Bottle' the 100 mile an hour rocker 'Raging Fire' with all the attitude and bite of something from Van Halen 1 or 2 and the groove laden 'Give it Up!,
But before you think that is all there is to this album 'Gone But Not Forgotten' is more laid back and heartfelt with superb grizzled vocals and a touch of Hammond organ and as with most albums in the blues field there is that Hendrix influenced moment, on this release that is loud and proud on the electrifying rocker 'Is There a Heaven. Is There a Hell?'.
For me not every number works 'Mississippi BBQ' is a stomping rocker but lyrically too much of an advert for a particular style of food and 'End of the Line' is a fairly routine rock ballad, but the rest of the album is well up to scratch and I really like the haunting instrumental 'David', with its atmospheric style it could easily have fitted on the 'Bladerunner' movie soundtrack.

Andrew Lock



SANKARA
GUIDED BY DEGREES
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

This is the first album by a band with a really good pedigree as it features ex members of both The Reasoning and Bluehorses among it's ranks, this is a promising debut release which combines elements of Prog, Gothic, Celtic and good old school rock.
Opening number 'In God We Trust' touches on the Celtic rock side of the bands music with impressive harmony vocals, excellent acoustic guitar picking and hard rocking riffs with a powerful almost blues like chorus, the following track 'Chasing the Sun' is an all out charging rocker with no let up and full of crashing drum work all played at a crisp marching beat.
'Never Felt So Alive' begins with keyboard work reminiscent of American soft rock bands like Journey/Foreigner and Reo Speedwagon which is followed by beautifully high pitched guitar work making for a cracking soft rock ballad in the vein of the aforementioned bands and is also one of the albums showcase numbers for Gareth Jone's vocals.
'The Doll's House' with the addition of guest vocalist Maria Owen-Midlane from the band Noterminus at times treads the Gothic rock ballad path of bands like Within Temptation and Nightwish with great effect turning this track into the epic of the album.
Other highlights include the catchy rocker 'The Harm Prinicple' with it's top draw guitar solo by Jay MacDonald, the soft flowing 'But For Her' with beautiful backing vocals and haunting slide guitar and last but not least album closer the storming 'Light Your Journey Home' again slightly Gothic in feel but really solid with touches of NWOBHM about it, a short but sweet number closing the album with a bang.
Hugely impressive opening salvo from a band with true potential.

Andrew Lock



SIMON MCBRIDE
CROSSING THE LINE
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Solid blues rock by this Northern Irish artist and his red hot band full of distinctive vocals and superb guitar work.
Siren like lead guitar opens the album in spectacular style with 'Lead Us Away' with possibly a touch of Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song' this riff driven heavy blues/rock number is full of power and drive, 'Go Down Gamblin'' has a real groove and swagger about it and a feel of Aerosmith crossed with Lynyrd Skynyrd (not a bad mix !) and includes lighting fast guitar work and what a great subject gambling makes for the blues.
Other album highlights include 'No Room To Breath', slowed down blues with the guitar almost playing second fiddle to Simon's fabulous throaty/gravelly vocals apart from the incendiary guitar solo, the soulful flowing blues of 'Alcatraz' and 'A Rock and a Storm' an acoustic blues number full to the brim of superb guitar picking.
The two closing tracks 'Home to Me' and 'Down To The Wire (Revisited)' the former laid back and bluesy the latter a scorching blues rock out both feature superb backing vocals by Mia Simone.
A quality blues rock album, Simon has a unique vocal style and he sure can play that guitar.

Andrew Lock



SNAKECHARMER
SNAKECHARMER

This the debut album from a classic rock super group that includes ex members of Whitesnake and Wishbone Ash and the current drummer of Thunder and Magnum really shows that this band are far more than a nostalgia trip for the hordes of Whitesnake fans still around.
Top musicianship all over and a really polished at times laid back at others full on rock and roll classic rock album of real style (wonderful production as well) with of course a few echoes to the bands Whitesnake roots but in no way a paint by numbers approach but I do love the cover art work of a guitar lead in Snake pose in front of a snakeskin speaker, just a small nod to the past.
Opener 'My Angel' is a chorus driven mid-paced rocker with a beautifully simple acoustic guitar intro which soon gives way to cracking electric riffs and explosive lead breaks has a radio friendly sound (possible single !) and a hint of a Coverdale "Yeah" by vocalist Chris Ousey at the close, next up the equally catchy and addictive 'Accident Prone' already a live favourite this has strong vocal harmonies and sublime lead guitar work and a summer American FM radio groove.
The band push the blues/rock and roll to the fore on the stonking 'Turn of the Screw' while 'Smoking Gun' pays a little homage to the classic 'Here I Go Again' with the keyboard intro while 'Stand Up' has life on the road lyrics and for me just a touch of Magnum in the sound and as Harry James is co-writer no surprise there.
Driving rocker 'Nothing To Lose' is again a nod to the bands Whitesnake roots while 'Cover Me In You' puts the twin guitars of Micky Moody and Laurie Wisefield (on fine form throughout) to great use in a Thin Lizzy kind of way, my copy also has a bonus track 'White Boy Blues' as cool a blues work out as you could ask for.
Really impressive album by a band strong in all departments and rammed full of top quality tunes.

Andrew Lock



Steve Summers Band
Lookin' Back, Movin' On
(2012)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

A well played collection of original compositions and covers, Steve posses a rich vocal delivery to accompany his outstanding guitar work.
Album opener 'Lookin' Back, Movin' On' fires out of the blocks, full of driving riffs, Hendrix in style with an impressive solo while one of the highlights of the release sees Steve in Larry Miller fashion on 'Your Funeral, My Trial' with familiar classic blues scales in the background and scorching lead guitar to the fore.
Plenty of variation on offer,'Little Miss Blue' after a mellow acoustic guitar intro turns into a true blues stomper while he makes good use of a guitar effects pedal during the pop/rock Hendrix like sounds of 'Lovebound'.
Things slow down in soulful, sensuous fashion on another of the album highlights 'Dangerous Mood', 'Am I Losing You' is a beautiful instrumental with guitar work dripping with emotion and 'I Saw the Light' has an upbeat Dr Feelgood vibe running through it.
Well chosen and unusual cover 'Maybe I'm A Leo' is a spirited version of the Deep Purple 'Machine Head' classic, and blues standard'Hoochie Coochie Man' while more of an obvious and easier choice is also given a good workout.
Solid album with plenty for the blues lover which sees Steve drawing from a wealth of influences.

Andrew Lock



STRAY
Live In Japan 2013
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)


Hot on the heels of Del Bromham's fabulous blues album 'Nine Yards' here he is with his three piece power rock trio Stray for this killer of a live album recorded on the bands first ever dates in Japan and make sure you read the booklet notes which make for one of the best stories behind a live album I have ever heard.
Opener 'Move A Mountain' with its simply effective Van Halen like riff gets this live set off to a flyer, 'Free At Last' is another headbangers delight, spectacularly solid drum work, crashing riffs and wonderful distorted, effect laden guitar work by Del, no messing just rocking.
For me there is a touch of punk to the heavy rock of 'Harry Farr' and hints of fellow Londoner's Iron Maiden while 'I believe It' is a little more laid back blues in style and Del's voice really comes to the fore.
My personal favourite is the epic 'After The Storm' starting with a bit of improve this track gets better the longer it goes on, numerous tempo change, touches of Hendrix and plenty of room for bassist Robbie Stewart-Matthews and drummer Karl Randall to shine.
The band get serious on '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue' named of course after one if not the most famous address in the world and the serious subject matter is sensitively written, musically it has a touch of the blues and extended axe work outs.
Another epic closes the album the catchy 'All In Your Mind' which flows beautifully with yet more guitar pyrotechnics, a power packed live set by one of the gentleman of the music scene Del Bromham and his red hot band.

Andrew Lock



TYRONE VAUGHAN
DOWNTIME
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Tyrone's style is not as rooted in the blues as his famous uncle the late and very great Stevie Ray Vaughan but this is a quality album of country rock now and again tinged with the blues which prove he is an exceptionally talented guitarist and vocalist.
This album has a real feel good party vibe for a lot of it's running time as is very evident in the opening and title track 'Downtime' so catchy you can picture Shania Twain belting it out, other numbers that fall into this category are 'Next Stop Texas' with added fiddle and 'Ladies Man' with its Duane Eddy twangy guitar style making a big impression.
He shows great humour in the lyrics of 'The House Feels So Empty' the musical is traditional country fare and the lyrics of missing everything at home after a relationship break up except the other half also touch on well trodden country music themes, the lyrics are also top quality on the country rock of 'She Could Have Had Anything' and he shows his soulful side on 'L.O.V.E' , a lounge style blues number smooth as you like.
There you go not as blues based as I expected but an impressive, cheerful, uplifting collection of country blues with various twists and being a photographer I must also say this release has some of the best cover photography I have seen.

Andrew Lock



VARGAS BLUES BAND
Heavy City Blues
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

Much travelled guitarist Javier has an impressive CV and this album features amongst others two artists well known to metal/rock lovers, vocalist Paul Shortino (Quiet Riot and others) and drummer Carmine Appice (nearly everyone !!) while Javier Vargas himself shows his prowess on many different guitar styles.
'Shake Baby Shake' launches the album, heavy, pounding riffs with echoes of T. Rex classic '20th Century Boy' in its main riff and is a slice of full throttle blues rock, 'Rock 'N' Roll Circus' has a touch of glam rock about it as well as latter day Kiss, a catchy chorus and a fab up-beat feel.
'Back To My Roots' has more of a soulful vibe and is a real guitar showcase with a touch of Santana, and while 'Love Hurts' the Everly Brothers classic is an unusual choice for a blues/rock album it really works, sensational lead guitar and it is possibly more in line with the Nazareth version, whether intentional or not a fitting tribute to the recently departed Phil Everly.
Also the title of one of my all time top movie's,'Sin City' would have not been out of place on the soundtrack, down and dirty, sleazy blues with a pounding, incessant guitar riff and storming drum work to go with the Motley Crue style lyrics.
The album closers with a complete change of genre on lightning fast instrumental 'Anaconda Style', country/rock and roll with superb fuzzy guitar, keeping with my movie theme this would fit perfectly over the closing credits of a cool Quentin Tarantino movie.
Solid album with plenty of variety and plenty for the guitar lover in all of us to enjoy.

Andrew Lock



Voodoo Vegas
The Rise of Jimmy silver
(2013)
(PUBLISHED IN THE CLASSIC ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE)

For me as far as debut albums go this is up their with the likes of the explosive Van Halen introduction to the world of rock and roll and has the fire, energy, drive and at times style of the Guns N' Roses classic 'Appetite For Destruction' and at others the swagger of vintage Aerosmith, this is a real mean and lean rocking machine without an ounce of fat or filler.
The album artwork is very striking and is an original piece by respected comic book artist Jim Boswell and features the character of Jimmy Silver himself, the band have only worked with the best on this album and on mixing and producing duties they have Pedro Ferreira of the Darkness- 'Permision To Land' fame.
The albums intro titled simply 'Intro' is full of atmosphere and reminds me a little of 'E5150' the short Black Sabbath instrumental piece before 'The Mob Rules' on the fabulous album of the same name, after this short piece it is straight into the first of many catchy rockers on the album 'King Without a Crown' one of the tracks that fits in with the bands G N' R vibe, this track has an effective slower middle section before it blasts off into orbit again for the finale.
'Bullet' is a cool rocker with a tight groove, top drum work and a singalong chorus with several stunning lead guitar breaks by Meryl Hamilton and Nick Brown, and there are echoes of 'Night Train' on the pounding and gritty 'No More' with it's touches of anger and venom at times in Lawrence Case's vocal delivery, almost punk rock at times.
'What I Pay' is a strong acoustic number with a real vibe, after a gentle guitar intro Lawrence's vocals start gently and gradually grow in intensity and the number also includes superb slide guitar.
Next up after another short instrumental piece titled 'Interlude' the tempo rises for long time live favourite 'Mary Jane' a real anthem that charges along at break neck speed with scorching lead guitar, throbbing bass by Ash Moulton, awesome stick work by Matt Jolly and knock out lead vocals, the high speed of the verses work really well with the slower chorus.
'Ferry Song' is a feel-good number with delightful honk-tonk piano/keyboard work from special guest Stephen Green and Lawrence on harmonica duty all adding to a real foot tapper that just races along
The one ballad on the album is a corker, titled 'Lost In Confusion' it is a ballad with balls and passion built on one of the most beautiful guitar riffs I have ever heard (also possibly echoed on the keyboards), vocals full of emotion including the backing vocals of another guest on the album Stevie Vann Lange, this is a rock ballad of true intensity.
'So Unkind' is another live Voodoo Vegas classic almost 1980's hair band, glam rock in style and closing the album is 'Jimmy Silver' the story of the man himself a number that proclaims the simple love of rock and roll (I will drink to that !) and a full throttle scorcher it is as well with a beautifully simple chorus all together now " I love rock and roll, in my heart and in my soul", a fitting end to a triumphant debut album.

Andrew Lock



WES FINCH
MAYFLOWER
(2013)

A fabulous album released in 2012 that I have just discovered and is now one of my most played albums.
Mayflower is a totally feel good album which is perfect for giving you a lift when feeling down, it has a folk style all of its own and with its clever use of sound effects has the feel of a concept album.
Setting the scene with its selection of bird song, footsteps and distant thunder sounds is instrumental opener ‘Tithe Farm’ and then straight into the sprightly/jolly ‘Good Morning, Captain’, it’s touch of brass, and lashings of strings gelling perfectly with Wes’s outstanding, rich vocal delivery.
‘The Mermaid’s Song’ is flowing and soulful with superb percussion while ‘I Know You Have a Secret’ has a laid back, Latin summer feel with dreamy trumpet.
One of the funkiest numbers is ‘The One You Let Slip Away’ which has a fantastic groove, really gets the foot tapping, and for me has gospel/spiritual church style choir vocal sections.
‘Southern Cross’ a ballad full of power and passion is simply a stunning piece of work with impressive acoustic guitar and a faultless vocal performance that really draws you in.
Excellent banjo work on the uplifting ‘Bowl of Stars’ and closing number ‘Cold Hands, Warm Heart’ is a superb, breezy, light country style number with strangely enough for me echoes of Lionel Richie’s ‘Dancing On the Ceiling’ at times.
A delightful album with not a weak track that I am so pleased to have found.

Andrew Lock