The now sadly gone UK label Now & Then has produced a lot of albums that I consider classics. One of those is this 1993 debut from USA outfit Shotgun Symphony. At the time they only released a couple of albums, but as they now have a website, maybe we can expect some more music from the guys. Which would be a good thing, as this is quite enjoyable.
On this disk we find 10 songs in the melodic rock vein. And all are classy. Produced by Ivan Gunn (Balance Of Power, etc.) this album is a prime example of how one can rise above the main playing field in a over crowded genre. First you need a singer with an identifiable voice who sings his melodies with ease. So bring in Tracy White, check. Then you need a solid rhythm section, that is not afraid to cross boundaries if the song benefits from it. So bring in Ron Sivulich Jnr on drums and Ed Avila on bass. Next is a keyboard player that can add rich textures, so welcome Charlie Calv. And last but not least, you need a guitar player that can riff, play massive chords, and still rips it up like the best of them, and Mike Maino does just that. Of course, many of the members sing backing vocals, we would not want it any other way right?
So add to this ten songs that put all these qualities to good use and you have achieved instant success. That is, if there was any justice in the world. As we all know, that is not the case, so far to few people actually are aware this album exists. Which is a crying shame that needs to be undone. So head on over to the website and start exploring! Or better, buy it to help inspire the band to give us more music…
Jeff Cannata, despite being in the biz since the seventies I think, is not a man of many releases. He always chooses quality over quantity and that is why about anything he has done over the years, is at least a great, if not a classic record. He can be found in acts like Cannata (duh), Jasper Wrath, Zoldar & Clark and this, ArcAngel. Some of the songs on this album got a rerun on other releases, just to show how much staying power they have.
The man himself is also multi talented. Besides writing the songs (with in this case Michael Soldan), he also perform lead- and backing vocals, drums and guitars. With just over 37 minutes this is of course a product of it´s time, and aimed at regular LP length. Still you get 10 amazing prog rock songs that impress most because of the melodies. Catchy but never over simplified, easy on the ears but never syrupy. Cannata shines vocally with just a little dose of roughness around the edges. So the music, while being categorized as progressive rock, will have cross over appeal. Quite sure that a lot of people whose primary choice is melodic rock, can handle this quite well.
For me there is little use in pointing you to certain songs. From opening with Stars, to closing with King Of The Mountain, every second here counts. Just unbelievable this is only considered a classic in a few places. Way to few if you ask me, so all, please set it straight and dig this up!
It will be hard to find an album more classic than this one. After all, the world of electric guitar would change forever after this release. It´s impact on the world of rock is impossible to fathom. Too many guitarists to mention that claim they were influenced by this man. And probably not only six-stringers. After all, Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding holding the fortress on bass were important to the sound as well.
And then the songs. How many people on this planet would be familiar with Hey Joe? Or with Purple Haze, Manic Depression, The Wind Cries Mary, Fire, Stone Free or Foxy Lady? If not in this version, then probably from a version one of their personal favourites did. Or in one of your beloved movies. And not counting aliens here, even though Hendrix once claimed he came from Mars… Well, don´t know if that is were all the crossing of boundaries came from, but one thing Jimi made clear is that a guitar is able to produce sounds that go far beyond the strings and fretboard. His urge to experiment stunned generations, let alone his playing and song writing skills.
So it is a very good thing that the Hendrix family is keeping the legacy alive and taking care of all music and recordings. Even when remastered, it still sounds true to the original vision of the band, producer Chas Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer. Who both also built a name for themselves. Legendary on all accounts and essential for every lover of music!
Being one of modern history´s most successful bands, it is of course neigh impossible to choose the one album that says it all about Genesis. So instead of that route, I choose this, their second album.
Why you ask? Well first because this already shows the charisma Peter Gabriel has. His voice cuts through the music like a knife through butter. His delivery already as capturing as the stage theatrics the band was developing.
Second because the nexus of Tony Banks (keyboards) and Mike Rutherford (guitars and bass) are already in place and developing their skills. On this album Ant Phillips played guitar and John Mayhew handled drums. After this release they were replaced by Steve Hackett and Phil Collins and the rest, as they say, is history.
Third: in the 6 lengthy songs much of the band´s sound is already rearing it´s head. Mellotron, acoustic guitar, flute, various time signatures, dynamic arrangements, you name it. So from here the band went to create some timeless classics and sold a whole bunch of records. With the follow ups of songs like Looking For Someone, Visions Of Angels or The Knife, that is more than fair. Maybe not their best, and probably not their most successful. Yet a testament of things to come. And things were often stunning…
For those of you who are not familiar with Fish, he is the guy that sang Kayleigh with the band Marillion. After leaving them, he started a solo career, and this was his first, and to some best effort. Luckily for him he got off on a good start as the song A Gentleman´s Excuse Me was a bit of a hit here and there. And rightly so as it is a beautiful ballad like song with a great lyric. Which is common to Fish, as he takes big pride in writing those.
Another track on here that was heavily rotated on MTV at the time (when it was still a rock channel, where are those days) is Big Wedge. Uptempo, upbeat and overall a cool symphonic rock track showcasing the man´s talent. But there is more on here worthy of your undivided attention. Opener Vigil starts atmospheric and then develops in a sound akin´his former band. It´s chorus is catchy as autumn flu! State Of Mind is a slow brooding song with fabulous bass courtesy of once Simple Mind John Giblin. On drums we find Big Country´s Mark Brzezicki, on keys Micky Simmonds and the guitars are handled by Frank Usher and Hal Lindes. Other guests are Janick Gers, Tessa Niles and Kick Horns.
The track The Company would later be the name giver to Fish´s fanclub. Tracks like The Voyeur, View From The Hill and Cliché are other examples of a Fish at his symphonic and rocking best. Family Business is another slow song with a lot of feel, and as chilling as Gentleman’s Excuse. An album to own and a great joy to revisit every once in a while…
Been a while since the previous Classic album post, so here comes another one. For some weird reason I was thinking of listening to this one and figured I might as well bring it to the fore while I am at it.
So, why Classic? Alas it is a one off (to my knowledge) and features the mighty Göran Edman on vocals. Another more known name is Imre Daun on drums. But main writers (together with Edman) are (the unknown to me) Dragan Tanaskovic on guitars and Atilla Szabo on keyboards. The band is completed by Joel Starander on bass. I labelled it as rock, but in reality is is a combination of Styx, Journey, Toto and maybe some Uriah Heep. So very melodic with catchy choruses. But also with enough musical depth (into prog territory) to avoid the all too obvious routines.
Opener Free Yourself focusses on the catchy (while the guitars are still present enough), but the title track that comes next proves my point. Very dynamic in arrangement with a hybrid of styles and still catchy as hell. Some may think that the USA holds the flame when it comes to this type of class, but these Swedes give a lot of those bands a run for their money. Knowing You is testament of that. Could easily imagine Signal (Mark Free) playing this…. Other fave tracks are In Chains, Part Time Lovers and Ray Of Sunshine.
So should you be without his one, I say put a search wizard on Ebay and try to lay your hands on it. Could prove difficult as label MTM is alas gone, but I promise it will be worth the effort!
Yes, I am aware Manfred Mann´s Earth Band is already featured in the Classic series, with the follow up to this record, Watch. But I was listening to this remaster and figured what the heck! I know this is one of the best selling MMEB albums, so many of you will know this one. Even if only for the classic Blinded By The Light (another Bruce Springsteen penned track) or the famous cover.
On this remaster 2 tracks are added: a rerecording of Spirits In The Night with new boy at the time Chris Thompson, and the single version of Blinded. Fun thing of this is that some of the tracks are quite long for a pop – prog crossover. Singing The Dolphin Through being an example. Here all members get a chance to shine. And it is a pity that the liner notes of this edition do not shine a light on the guest musicians, as I am quite sure none of the lads is handling the female vocals, or the sax solo on this track…Next track Waiter There´s A Yawn In My Ear is another progressive track. Mann noodling away on the Moog and assorted keyboards before the band joins and adds to the instrumental fun.
Personal favourites are Blinded (of course) but also The Road To Babylon and especially Questions. The first opens with a classic female choir to set the mood for this brooding track. When the mellotron kicks in, the atmosphere is right for the band to take over and enchant with a fine lyric and ear catching melodies. I really like the contribution of that female singing throughout, as it creates a tension that only enhances the arrangement from the band. Questions may also be familiar to some, as it was one of the singles from this. And rightly so, it is beautiful! Opening with piano and the singing of Chris, it touches me everytime I hear it. The bridge is timeless, as is the chorus. What a song…
Which is not saying that the remaining Starbird or This Side Of Paradise are filler. They are not!
For many people Trevor Rabin entered the spotlight when he joined Yes and gave them their first (and only) global hit with 90125 and the song Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Or maybe his name came up on the soundtrack of one of your favourite movies, the successful career he began after Yes.
But what many of you might not know, is that he started with a couple of solo albums before that. And this 1981 album is not even the first of those! I can actually recommended all of his albums (a new one was just released and will feature sometime later).
What is interesting, in hindsight, how does this fare when compared to 90125, the album he would make only a couple of years later? Well, his vocals are distinct, as is his guitar playing. Here less processed, but still you hear he has a good ear for melodies. In his song-writing one can notice that he is already exploring more complex structures. Yet there are also some plain rockers on beard. After all, hard rock was his chosen style here. But also there, he tries to expand on the genre by adding out of context instrumental parts. Who actually fit seamlessly…
With the help of people like Simon Phillips, Jack Bruce, Manfred Mann and Chris Thompson, it was already clear that Rabin was destined for bigger things. There is a certain promise in the songs! Track 1, Heard You Cry Wolf, is not only characterized with a keen chorus, but the extended solo part with a lot of keyboards is just fabulous. So whatever the reason, this is a tasty rock album by an accomplished musician. Still lifts my mood when I listen to it.