Today´s shorts is totally about another discovery I made via MusicWorthBuying: guitar player and all around musician Mike Trapp. Who also engineers, produces, etc.. On his CDBaby page I ordered 2 CD´s from him; Crimsonfaced with Captain Freak (2004), and Bliss with Chasing The Mad Rabbit (1998). The latter is also featuring Matt Wells on vocals.
The cd´s are not very promising if you judge a book by the cover. I mean, CDR´s, pretty minimal cover artwork regarding pages (though funny and well done), badly cut paper so it won´t fit the tray 100%. Mmhmm…
But when you start playing you are blown away with what you hear. Crimsonfaced is mostly off the wall rock and Bliss is aptly described as classic rock for the new millennium. This guy uses everything he can lay his hands on apparently. Processed vocals, processed drums or processed whatever. Sometimes plain sounding guitars and drums with soaring vocals. Weird arrangements and moods. Often stunning guitar work (Vai is an influence). And to round it up, memorable tunes. Which is what music should be all about.
So forget my whining on the look, you gotta hear this yourself. Support the guy and visit his website! (even better, buy his albums, there is as least one more available)
For any serious rock lover this must be a household name. Be it from his time in Santana, Journey or solo, a lot of people will own albums with him on it.
So now Gregg and his band have released a live album. Heavily influenced by his Santana times (2 percussionists on board give that away), this is a great rocking and grooving set of songs. Most titles I recognize (Jingo and Oye Como Va for instance) but despite owning several solo records, almost all things Journey and little Santana (must catch up sometime), other titles sounded less familiar. Too long ago I played them probably.
The percussionists (together with the bass) are driving your body to move to the beat. Too hard to resist! Even a little drum solo by Ron Wikso is present. But also the very Santana like guitar playing of Kurt Griffey (what a sound!) is very tasteful. And yes ladies and gentlemen, Hammond organ present! And the one that crunches and squeaks. Just the way I like it.
So if you like harmonic guitar phrasings over a driving beat, accompanied by organ, a groovy bass and competent vocal melodies, you know what to do. Also recommended if you liked Santana in his prime. Get it, this is a very pleasant and at times stunning live CD.
Personal play tips: Jingo, As The Years Go Passing By, Give It To Me.
The mighty Robert and TJR from Music Worth Buying raised my attention for this band. Took me a while (as always) but finally I was able to hear this album in full. Though, in retrospect, this is hardly a style I listen to on a regular base, I think this oozes quality from every second you play it.
Describing the music is not simple. I mean, it is some kind of classic rock music, but very mellow for my usual taste as a lot of guitar parts are played with a clean sound. But the songs radiate a kind of emotion that gets under your skin. And I mean that in a positive way! The singing reminded me a little of British stars Coldplay. But this band focusses on guitars instead of keyboards. Thus we get the occasional solo too, when it adds to the atmosphere of a song.
Judging by the drum sound I am guessing Led Zeppelin was part of their upbringing also. Especially the kick on some tracks reminded me of the late and great Bonham. The folk and blues influences here and there might also be ignited there. BigBang use authentic instruments only it seems. So we hear for instance electric guitars, piano, Hammond, slide guitar, drums, bass and vocals. They add a little soul to a song like Bag Of Leaves because of the female vocals involved. I feel this adds to the overall retro feel of the album. Kinda seventies ya know? So an album which impresses through the quality of the writing and the overall feel and dynamics. And not because of a hyper modern production with tons of compression. I think this is great!
Personal play tips: Play Louder, Swedish Television, Jumpsuit.
Doug Aldrich I consider one of the most underrated guitar players in the world. I really dig his hard rock with a groove type of playing. So when I heard he was part of this new Whitesnake line up (together with the fantastic Reb Beach) I had high hopes for this record. I mean, when David Coverdale is in shape, and accompanied by this quality players, you can´t go wrong. Or can you?
First a little about the production. This is a full and heavy sounding record. But a little more definition would have been nice. Keyboards are pretty low in the mix and the bass you feel but you have to make a conscious effort to actually hear it. Not that it is bad mind you, it is just heavy on the guitars. (And that coming from a guitar player 😉 )
First song is to me a typical Aldrich tune, fast with groove and melody. We hear it fortunately more on this CD. And despite rumours that David isn´t always cutting it live, here he seems al right. Track 4 is a typical Whitesnake ballad. So I guess Coverdale set out to make another instant recognizable album and I feel they succeeded. However, little experimenting here. What you get is a band knowing what they want and how to do that. That makes it very enjoyable and a must have for the fans. But will it bring them new ones? I doubt it.
Oh, and if you like Dougs playing on the album, make sure you check out his other bands!
Personal play tips: Best Years, Good To Be Bad, A Fool In Love.
After being on hiatus for over 13 years, Americans Extreme please us with their comeback called Saudades de Rock.
From the opening lines of Star, it is evident that they are back with a vengeance! No lallagaggin´here, they play all the cards they were famous for. For people who don´t know those cards: I am talking of stunning guitar work by Nuno Bettencourt, the instantly recognizable vocals of Gary Cherone and keeping it all together are Pat Badger on bass and ” new boy” Kevin Figueiredo on drums. The backing vocals are another trademark that are again put to good use.
Sound wise I feel they melted Three Sides to Every Story with Waiting For The Punchline. The latter being wrongly not very popular among critics because of it´s dry sound. I have always loved that one to death for it´s brutal honesty and excellent tracks. Stylistically it is familiar with the incredible riffing and groove the guys are known for. And without forgetting the melody. The unique combination of rock, groove, emotion, musicianship, humour, intellect and melody that formed the success of Extreme in the past is back! Something for everybody here and that is no low feature…
Personal play tips: Star, King Of The Ladies, Ghost.
A few years back I stumbled upon Laura Kaye through a Fireworks Magazine´s sample CD. And it did sound like a woman with ehrrr balls… (Don´t worry guys, she is a beautiful gal also) Again it took me some years to obtain a copy (and then finding out she has a website which proved easy to find on a search engine…welcome world wide web… 🙁
The CD is a combination of own material and some covers. Most notable the Led Zeppelin track Black Dog. Here she puts brass to great use. And what this tracks makes absolutely clear, she can pull it off vocally! And I know of few female singers who can say that (in fact only Heart´s Ann Wilson comes to mind). Another very nice feature is the electric violin shredding of producer Mark Wood. Very special, tasty and convincing. Who needs a guitar solo when he can mime this perfectly? And add as well.
Vocally Laura reminds me of Sass Jordan sometimes. Alas another female singer with too little recognition. So by now you might have guessed Laura Kaye is a powerhouse singer. She really rocks with ease. And proves not to be a one trick pony as well. She uses a lot of vocal tricks and techniques and sounds great throughout. Musically this is very varied, but mainly rock. Nothing too heavy, but a lot of groove and melody. Which lets the vocals shine.
So here you go, the CD is still available. My advice is to visit the website and get a copy. This deserves to be heard by many!
Personal play tips: samples are on the website, use them!
Talking of a surprise! I had this album written down for purchase for several years so was glad to be able to buy it at a friendly price.
This is progressive rock often bordering into metal. Very massive sounding, thanks no little to the effort of Oliver and Christian´s (Everon) Spacelab Studios. Alas it is this wall of sound that also causes a little tiring effect in the long run. A quick look at the website tells me the band is no longer in operation. Which is a shame as this sounds like they were going the right way.
Music and performance are very convincing. In fact I think this is one of the best Dutch albums I have heard in a long time. A pity they were not able to build on that. But if you like your music sounding good, with lots of keyboards and guitars, with expressive and emotional vocals and avoiding clichés, than this is worth tracking down. Despite my small criticism this is class a stuff. I hope they get together again and record some more. Judging from the remarks in the guestbook on the site, there was already more material on it´s way…
Personal play tips: Eternal Life, Flower, Nothing Worth Fighting For.
This is, to my knowledge, the second album by this four piece around guitar player and all around busy guy Dan Delucie (also recording, mixing, etc. Mmhmm sounds like someone I know…)
It is fairly simple to describe this: HEAVY METAL! Yeah, if the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal did not pass you by unnoticed, then I guess this is straight up your alley. In fact this sounds so 100% textbook proof, it is scary. This is galloping drums, blistering guitar solo´s, heavy riffing in typical style, and vocals wailing melodies like a werewolf.
Don´t expect Crescent Shield to mess with other sounds, influences or styles. Forget experiments or cross over merging. No, they stay true to the formula and pull it off with class. If you grew up on this, you´ll love it. Others may find it limited. So nothing more to tell about this really. Only a warning up front; this stuff will nest inside your system within a few plays and make you howl along…. just watch the stars…
I have enjoyed several records by this American rock band in the past, so was really looking forward to hearing this. But truth be told, I am not sure about this one. Yet…
After several spins I still don´t know what the guys had in mind when making this record. I guess with an attitude of “hell, who cares, let´s just do what we like”. And sure, that has brought us numerous classics. But I find some aspects of this album just bringing up memories of “peoples anthems” (simple sing along tunes for brainless masses of drunks that is). And I am pretty sure that will not have been the intention! Upon exploring my feeling, I think it´s because of the (clean) guitar arpeggio´s in a number of songs, sometimes combined with rather simple and obvious melodies. The way these are played just reminds me of the afore mentioned scenery. Somehow it´s not a sight I love. 😛 Other songs seem to aim at the more modern rock crowd. Ferocious riffing and aggressive singing. Then again, maybe it´s just me…
And don´t get me wrong, this sure has it´s moments. Some songs are quite beautiful even. Then the guitars rock, and there are some great ideas accompanied by worthwhile melodies and intriguing atmosphere´s. So not all is bad! But I for one hope they return to form and stick to melodic hard rock. There´s enough prove they are still able to hit that nail on the head! With a length of over 74 minutes, this CD would have hit me harder with a couple of songs left off.
Personal play tips: Jesus Wept, Down Below The Ocean, Kill Me Again.