Driver, Sons Of Thunder, 2008

driver - sons of thunderSinger Rob Rock needs no introduction here (or else; where have you been?), and guitar player Roy Z is probably best known for writing and producing some very good and successful albums (Bruce Dickinson and others).

Together they created this metal monster that is Sons Of Thunder. It is actually pretty simple to review this. If you like your metal melodic, with great songs and attitude, with heartfelt ballads, with scorching guitar and a steady backing, buy this. Oh, and sometimes the guitars reminded me of Jake E Lee´s Badlands. Which is meant as a compliment.

Yup, the material presented here is very mature and the songs have enough variation between them to keep this vivid, even after repeated play. These are pros and it sounds like it.
That is not to say this is anything new or exceptional. No, it is more traditional and of a constant calibre. But there is little wrong with that in my book. Good music should be appreciated as is, and not because they use 3 bass players and a banjo. Or something even more silly 😉

So that is it really, highly enjoyable stuff!

Personal play tips: Heart´s On Fire, Never Give Up, Tears That I Cry.

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Liberty N Justice, Light It Up, 2010

liberty n justice - light it upI believe Liberty N Justice is to be considered a project with constantly changing participants. Every song on this 14 title disk has a different singer and other musicians adding. All brought together by founder Justin Murr.

On the upside this creates an album where almost everyone will find something he or she likes.

The downside however, may be that it is quite a mixed bag. Especially because a lot of songs sound close to the original bands of the main contributors. And I am not sure that is a selling point actually. If I want Ted Poley, Firehouse of Harem Scarem, will I be looking for Liberty N Justice?

Naturally it makes Justin Murr kind of a chameleon (he co-writes it after all) and you have to respect him for that. And sounding close actually means it sounds convincing nonetheless. So credit for that also!

But to me it is like a weird kind of Best Of from Various Artists, and lacks originality and thus identity. But if you like the afore mentioned bands or others in that vein, this is still a safe buy.

Personal play tips: Do What You Want, Man Vs. Mother Nature, Beautiful Decision.

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Reece, Universal Language, 2009

reece - universal languagePerhaps to my shame I must confess I had not heard David Reece before. Of course I am aware he sang in Bangalore Choir and Accept, but those records are not in my collection. Guess you can´t have everything…

Actually I bought this because my dear friend Hans in ´t Zandt plays drums on the new Bangalore Choir album. Hope to hear that soon.

So what about this CD then? In the booklet is a short piece of information about the recent years of mister Reece, and that gives some nice insight.
Well I approached with little expectation and found myself being greatly entertained. I like David´s voice a lot. It has a warm timbre with a lot of expression. No screaming but lots of tone and feel.

The music is rocking, with a great sense of melody. Some are instant, some reveal their addictiveness after repeated play. Which only means you grow into the album and like it more. And that is a good thing!

The setup is fairly basic (or classic if you will), with drums, bass, guitars and vocals. Nevertheless, it is fresh enough to keep things interested. Recommended for any rock lover with a knack for good singers and matching songs.

Personal play tips: Before I Die, Fantasy Man, Rescue Me.

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Sanction-X, The Last Day, 2009

Sanction-X - The Last DayAnother project guitarist Robby Böbel (a.o. Frontline, Evidence One) is involved in. While I do like what he has done so far, and know he writes some serious good music, this album troubles me a bit.

To clarify things, in it´s genre I think this is a potent album. I mean the songs are heavy but melodic, the players know what they are doing, melodies are everywhere, good singer, lot´s of guitars and keyboards, etc.

But I guess it´s the wall of sound that doesn´t do it for me. I find listening to this record tiring! There is a constant blow on the ears and always a lot going on. I miss dynamics, some lighter parts. As a listener you don´t get a chance to catch your breath, the band are constantly firing away at you.
Oh, tempos do vary, and several songs really have great parts. So I guess that a lot of people will actually dig this album very much. I hope for more light and shade next time around.

Personal play tips: try the first few tracks, if you like that, the rest of the album is of the same calibre.

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D´Ercole, The Art Of Self Destruction, 2010

d´ercole - the art of self destructionPhil Vincent has done it again people. Under the new monicker of D´Ercole (after guitar player Damian) and with some other known compadres like William Arnold on bass and Tane DeAngelis on drums, this release is chock-full of delightful hard rock songs.

Why the new monicker? I think first because all songs are written by Phil, Damian and William. Second this release concentrates on guitars rather than keyboards. There are some keys to support the arrangements, but this is all about massive guitars. Holy cow, sometimes they even seem to invade your home…

Of course the Vincent sensibility for great melodies is never lost. I have heard some people compare this to Dokken and sorts, which is surely an indication of style. At least when they relate to the Dokken on top of their game.
I must also mention that Phil is really broadening his vocal style. Some songs are sung with an aggression not often heard from him before. And I like it!
The production is really sounding big (remember the massive guitars?) so repeated play really makes you like this record even more. Essential for everyone into melodic hard rock, get it and support one of the hardest working men in the business.

Personal play tips: Desperate, Face To Face, Destiny. (but that changes daily)

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Classic: Harem Scarem, Voice Of Reason, 1995

harem scarem - voice of reasonWoho, I am on a roll here! Yes another classic album and yes, I can imagine a lot of people thinking I got it all wrong. Those would probably vote for the 1993 Moodswings album.

Well, let me try to explain. I am fully aware that Moodswings is a fantastic album, with a lot of classic songs, that are always played live and are very popular among the aficionados, and count me in. All right, but to me the right choice still is this record. Why?

* it shows the band in top form (not unique, they always are)
* it is another testament of the great songwriters Pete and Harry are (not unique, etc.)
* whereas Moodswings is more mainstream melodic rock, this album displays a more distinct sound
* it serves as the perfect closure for the first two albums
* it serves as a perfect indication of what was to come
* thus it is pivotal!

And that´s it really. I actually like to think the band agrees, as this album got the most songs played on the final concert at Firefest (if I am not mistaking) as was recorded on the Raw and Rare DVD.

So my Voice Of Reason lights a Candle so the Paint Thins and hopes to never be Breathing Sand…. (okay, that was a bit much)

Classic: Gentle Giant, Civilian, 1980

gentle giant - civilianI am guessing this first Classic Album will raise a few eyebrows already 😉

This is actually the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard and I immediately fell in love with it. And I said it before, albums you grow up on, tend to stick with ya and get that aura of being fantastic due to all the memories attached.

Even for the time it was rather short, but I just kept playing the LP at the time. For it´s wonderful choruses, the great use of Hammond by Kerry Minnear, the inventive guitar licks by Gary Green, and the somewhat hoarse voice of singer Derek Shulman. (and to complete the list of musicians involved: Ray Shulman played the bass, and John Weathers drummed). And a lot of singing of course.

And yes, this has little to do with their previous output. So imagine my surprise checking out albums like Octopus, Free Hand or Missing Piece. From where I was coming from (hard rock) that was not an easy task. But I grew into it and have since also developed a taste for quality symphonic music.

But this was close to perfection according to me. On it´s own I regard it a classic melodic rock album with some symphonic influences. In hindsight I understand some of the older fans as well. they thought it was a sell out and hated the band for it.

For me, I still enjoy playing this (meanwhile upgraded to CD) All Through The Night

still alive!

Wow, time really flies when you are having fun…

So don´t worry folks, I am still alive. Just been real busy with some things that needed attending to. But I will start posting new material soon. I even came up with a new idea; classic albums! Classic to my taste that is…

So I´ll be back.

Shortino, Chasing My Dream, 2009

Shortino - Chasing My DreamThis album grabbed my attention from the very first seconds of it. A little suspense opening with a great track following, full of feel and emotion. And with what immense voice of mister Shortino! Next track is also taking no prisoners. Instant memorable chorus and a great guitar riff.
And so this album continues with heartfelt tracks, great rockers, touching lyrics, guitar solos that really add to the picture, sometimes heavy riffs that are convincingly sung over, etc.. And some humour too. But that may be due to the side effects 😉

So by now you will know I was really impressed with this disk. Perhaps to my shame I must confess I knew Paul Shortino by name, but I am not really sure I have more albums from him. Will have to check that later.

This album is a safe buy for anyone into guitar based melodic hard rock, who is not afraid of a little added spice with keyboards and likes a lead singer with a rough edge to his vocals. Very pleasant surprise, get it!

Personal play tips: Remember You, Nocturnal, Side FX, but a random play will suffice I guess.

Website

Harem Scarem, Raw And Rare, 2008

harem scarem - raw and rareA good thing about having vacation is taking the time to watch some DVD’s laying on a shelf… This band ranks among my all time favourites. It is a real shame it is a testimony of their final concert at Firefest 2007. With a history of over 19 years and a lot of albums under their belt, their set is sure to disappoint. But only because it is too short! So there is no time for everybody’s favourites. Alas…

If anything, this shows the top class of this band and the genius that are Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance. The latter never seizes to amaze with his unbelievable guitar solos and riffs and Harry is in fine voice as always. Misters Doane on drums and Donaghy on bass and vocals are no slackers either by the way.  A lot of  fun between them and it shines.
The one thing I will never understand is why drums are panned the wrong way. I always get confused when I see a drummer hitting something to my left, and hearing it from the right. Well I guess that is just me.
While viewing and listening it is hard to believe Harem Scarem never became a household name. Maybe because some songs simply are too clever. Maybe because the guys look like your neighbour (except Pete who looks like a rock star with all his tattoos, but he also has a short haircut). It can’t be because of the songs. These vary from modernistic hard rock, to classic AOR, but always ooze class… We will probably never know.

I admire the band for always doing what they wanted to do, and for never looking back. And for corkers like Mood Swings and Voice Of Reason of course.

Among the bonus features there is footage from 1994, during the tour for their second album Mood Swings. It is fun because of all that hair that later disappeared, and because of the songs, but audio and video are bootleg quality at best. Nevertheless also a testimony to my earlier point, a brilliant act!
More interesting for me are clips of them working in the studio, recording. More is good 😉

I for one am still looking out / hoping for news about the guys, ya never know… For now, enjoy this or play any of their albums.

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