Classic: Shooting Star, It´s Not Over, 1991

shooting star - it´s not overOne of my favourite albums from the early nineties is this one from American melodic rock band Shooting Star. Opening with the title track, the heat is on with a catchy chorus, a subtle middle section and a short solo. And things are finished off with some nice gang styled vocals. Next is Believe In Me, that has a little of Signal (with Mark Free) to it. So keyboards, guitars and another chorus that hits home. We Can´t Wait Forever is a ballad with massive keyboard backing. Here singer Keith Mitchell proves he can carry the weight of a slow track as well as the more up tempo stuff.

A title like Rebel With A Cause says it all I think. It might be a simple song in structure, but it checks the right boxes in this genre. Still it is a good thing that on Dancing On The Edge the keyboards return to the front and shine on the beautiful intro. Which gets taken over by another guitar riff and another great vocal delivery. Always reminds me a bit of Giuffria this. So a touch of pomp one could say.

A total of 10 tracks bring us a nice 45 minutes of rock music that still sounds as good today as it did when it came out. So hasn´t aged at all and is still a joy to hear from start to finish. Own it!

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Classic: Ozzy Osbourne, No More Tears, 1991

ozzy osbourne - no more tearsCan´t believe this has been available since 1991. Remember it like yesterday! Opening with Mr. Tinkertrain, with a four on the floor chorus aimed at getting a live crowd into gear and a middle section where the orchestrations of John Sinclair are put to good use before Zakk Wylde fires away like we all know he can. And where I Don´t Want To Change The World is vintage Ozzy. Where we hear Zakk´s lighter (somewhat country) side shine through in Mama I´m Coming Home, something he would do more in Pride & Glory and Black Label Society.

Desire is again a vintage Ozzy song and warm us up really good to No More Tears. Which in essence is worth the price for this disc alone. Opening with a simple yet effective bass line, we are sucked into the mystery by the keyboards. And then Zakk is displaying some slide work before Ozzy wails his biting lyric at us. The supporting guitar riffs rule and the whole is a blistering 7 plus minutes of all that makes hard rock so damn beautiful. The middle section here is even more grandiose and is only topped by another exhilarating Wylde guitar solo. And this is only track 5 of all eleven on offer!

So by now you will have understood the ingredients for this classic album. Pounding drums and bass, keyboards, a wailing singer and a stunning six stringer. And yes, I am completely aware of other guitar greats that have supported Osbourne over the years. He always finds a great one…

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Classic: Triumph, The Sport Of Kings, 1986

triumph - the sport of kingsYeah I know, with a back catalogue like that of Canadians Triumph, it is pretty hard to pick just the one album that tells you all you need to know about this band. So, as I think this one ranks among their finest work ever, I grabbed my copy and started listening again.

And when the intro of Tears In The Rain starts, I am already in a far off place. It will never seize to amaze me how capable this trio was. With Rik Emmett on guitars and vocals, Mike Levine on bass and keyboards and Gil Moore on drums and vocals, they were in fact a serious contender for the throne of that other famous Canadian trio.

And even if that never happened, it was not for the lack of great songs.  I Mean: Somebody´s Out There! Great riff and chorus, catchy as hell and just plain timeless. What Rules My Heart, ditto. A bit more heavy, but still, wow. If Only shows great emotion, from the opening guitar notes, to the ghostly backing vocals ” if only wishes would come true”… Hooked On You is a party rock song Triumph style. The vocals exchanging parts, with Rik as usual doing the high parts and Gil delivering the more earthy lines. Take A Stand, or the instrumental Embrujo…

For me there is no sense in naming all the tracks, this is a record every serious lover of all things rock should own. Period! And since they seem back together, we might even get some new music…

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Classic: Chris Rea, Wired To The Moon, 1984

Chris Rea - Wired To The MoonChris Rea might not immediately strike a feeling of recognition with you, but when I say Josephine, On the Beach, I Can Hear Your Heartbeat, or Fool If You Think It´s Over, then I am quite sure you know at least some of those tunes. For me, this album Wired To The Moon ranks among the most beautiful things he has done. And he has done a lot of beautiful things ladies and gentlemen!

Opening with the hypnotic groove of Bombollini, a 6 minute showcase of how one can write a catchy tune, yet still maintain a high level of artistic integrity. And a showcase of the stratocaster fretwork one Mark Knopfler would get a lot more praise for, yet here of course done by the master himself. Touché d´Amour is a reggae influenced song with that dark brown voice Rea is famous for.  Shine Shine Shine is another example of the musicianship of Rea. Very tasteful playing catches the attention between the sung lines over another laid back groove with lots of keyboards.
Next up is the title track. The pace is picking up, but that voice and the stratocaster are still prominent. As is the use of a vast array of keyboards. On board is also another hit single: I Don´t Know What It Is But I Love It. Yep, it does, although I do know what it is. It is the combination mentioned before, all wrapped in melodic pop rock songs and a lot of emotional appeal. So it is no wonder the last track on the album is called Winning. That is an appropriate tag for the man…

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Classic: Dio, Holy Diver, 1983

Dio - Holy DiverTo me it is import to never forget the magic that Ronnie James Dio has added to my life. So some 30 years after it´s original release I am proud to write some words about his first solo release. Well solo, with band member like Vinny Appice on drums, Jimmy Bain on bass and Vivian Campbell on guitars, it probably is more of a band effort. And the man´s voice is as strong here as on anything he did over the years.

This release holds many a live favourite from Dio. The disk opens with Stand Up And Shout, a ferocious rocker. Next track Holy Diver opens with a keyboard intro that brings back the good old Rainbow Days. The song itself, with it´s steady mid tempo groove is also considered a Dio classic by his fans. Gypsy and Caught In The Middle are fine album tracks. But when Don´t Talk to Stranger opens, you know you are in for a treat within seconds of its start. Clean guitars, a voice whispering and than that voice, warning us for evil… they will only bring us down! And after that the songs really kicks into gear and has you banging your head. Another highlight on the album is of course the anthem Rainbow In the Dark. An un-typical keyboard addition really attracts and adds to the already charming riff. Never get tired of hearing that one.

So with the rest of the songs we have a timeless piece of hard rock that stands the test of time with ease. So he may be gone, but will never be forgotten!

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Classic: Head East, A Different Kind Of Crazy, 1978

head east - a different kind of crazyAhh, fond memories! Playing this on CD really brings me back to my childhood days. Listening to the LP (I still own) on my room, playing it over and over. In all honesty I had never heard of the band before at the time, but picked it up because of the cover. I thought it was pretty crazy and funny. And it never let me down because “leaving you out in the cold is her Speciality”. 😉

Listening to it again now it is remarkable how transparent it sounds. For modern standard this is far off what is now called hard rock, it is much lighter in tone. But these guys know how to play and the songs still resonate in my brain. Even know part of the lyrics, how cool is that. Music wise this is typical of the time: the Hammond is not dominant, but there, we have guitar solos,and choruses that stick like flies to the jam spoon. And another feature I still admire is the ability to add some unexpected twists. Sometimes a break, sometimes a middle section that catches you off guard.

So despite the boys never reaching absolute stardom (they are bigger in the USA than in Europe), I always enjoy listening to this. This CD was up for grabs on the internet, so you don´t have to spend a lot to own it. Give it a try! Oh, and they are still (or again) around and releasing music!

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Classic: Prophet, Cycle Of The Moon, 1988

prophet - cycle of the moonWow, just realised it has been  a long time since I last pulled an album out of the closet to present here as a classic. And what better album than this, the second Prophet album Cycle Of The Moon? Presented  by another great Hugh Syme cover, I found it remarkable how many of the songs I still know by heart. Talking of staying power…

With the core of singer Russel Arcara, bass player Scott Metaxas, and Ken Dubman on guitars, joined by Michael Sterlacci on drums and Joe Zujkoswki on keys, the band delivered a combination of melodic rock and progressive rock that I still find irresistible. From the progressive side of things we get the arrangements, breaks, solos and unexpected twists, and the melodic side brings us massive choruses and melodies that nest themselves in your head and just refuse to leave.
Just the opening trio of the title track, Can´t Hide Love and On The Run, are worth the money for this disk (which got a much deserved remastered rerun in 2011 from Z Records). But also the (semi-)ballads Sound Of A Breaking Heart or Tomorrow Never Comes should have been huge and propelled these guys into stardom. And the list goes on as there is not a weak track among the 10 on offer (the remastered version has one extra).

I think that after this only a rarities album was released. Arcara went on to release some solo work (also enjoyable), but the rest seems missing in action. Or at least I lost sight. If you are into quality rock and don´t mind a turn left or right, this is one for you!

 

Classic: Shotgun Symphony, Self Titled, 1993

shotgun symphonyThe 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…

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Classic: ArcAngel, Same, 1983

arcangelJeff 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!

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Classic: Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced, 1967

Jimi Hendrix - Are You ExperiencedIt 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!

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