Jet Circus, Look At Death Now, 2005

jet circus - look at death nowAnother disk that was slumbering on my ” wantlist” for years and finally got into my hands. Thank you Ebay…

And was it worth the while? I must admit I needed several spins to get into this album. And that is not because it is bad. Strange as that may sound, I think it is because of the intended simplicity of the music.
Let me try to explain: Jet Circus make melodic rock, with fairly simple guitar parts, mainly blues influenced soloing and catchy chorusses. And the obligatory backing vocals of course. I hear you think “what is wrong here?”. Maybe it was just my state of mind today, but I found myself not enjoying it at first. The lead vocal seemed to stand apart from the music, and the guitars are heavy, but seemed to sound the same throughout the record.

But after a few spins my mind seemed to gel back to normal mode and it all came together. It was only then I noticed the bass sound, very rough with a little distortion on the edge. Cool! Also the little arrangement things here and there that avoid kicking in every open door revealed them selves. So final verdict, I am glad I got it.

Personal play tips: The Way You Bless Me, Shooting Star, Skull Of The Poet.

Website

Audrey Horne, No Hay Banda, 2004

Audrey Horne - No Hay BandaThis is the second disk I bought from this band, but it is acuallty their debut release. As I was blown away by their follow up, I was very curious to find out how I would like this CD.

Put simply, it is very recognizable the same band. But after a few spins I feel this is a somewhat lesser album. Just minor mind you! The reason for this is hard to explain. I feel it is mostly because the vocals sound less clear on this album.

Nevertheless, all the trademarks that made me like ” Le Fol” are present here: loud guitars, melodic vocals with a haunting quality, groove and especially, the terrific use of keyboards. A lot of strings, mellotron (like) and organ here. Jummie!

I feel the kind of music this band makes is timeless. I mean, it is heavy music, with sometimes a lot of agression. But because of the melodies it never gets old. The clever use of vocal harmonics only adds to this. My winamp player has a hard time labelling this: post grunge alternative? Dunno, but I like it! I also bought their recent output, so watch out for that in a few weeks!

Personal play tips: Deathhorse, Blackhearted Visions, Bleed.

Website

Disturbed, Indestructible, 2008

disturbed - indestructableAnd now for something completely different…

So far a lot of reviews were about progressive bands. Well, this isn´t one of them. Nevertheless, I like this album very much! What you have here is a very tight playing band, with a lot of groove, furious guitar riffing and melodic vocals. A pity the lyrics in the booklet are hard to read.

I believe I first heard them on TV, VH1 or Scuzz most likely. Of course in this type of music there is a lot of compression, thus losing dynamics, but I just love that massive sound and groove.  Singer David Draiman has a very recognizable style. Very rhythmic, articulate, and yet he mostly sings melodies. Sometimes a growl, but no squaling here.
What is also good about them; they use a typical figure (see Eddie from Iron Maiden) in all their artwork.

Personal play tips: Indestructible, Deceiver, Haunted.

Website

Kayak, Nostradamus, 2005

kayak - nostradamusIn my earlier post about Kayak I already mentioned purchasing more albums from them. So now it´s time for their 2005 opus Nostradamus – the fate of man.

Considering the work of keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel in Dutch theaters, it is not strange that you will find a lot of variety on the double disk. The opening is musical like, with choirs singing and all. And truth be told, they pull it off greatly. You will have understood this is a concept album about the (in)famous French prophet. At times a storyteller is used, though I must confess I am not all too keen on that. It´s not that it is bad, it´s just not my cup of tea I guess.

As said, there is a great variety between the songs at hand. Luckily I don´t feel the story is interfering with the music. A lot of the music is typical Kayak. If you know and like them, this means you will like this as well. Several lead singers (male and female) can be heard. They personify different characters in the story. Some songs rock, some are very subtle, you hear influences from for instance Irish Folk, and it is always melodic. All done with care and competence, without becoming all too predeictable. These guys and girls are too experienced to let things get out of hand. All in all an album that will grow on repeated play, so buy it when you are into classic prog.

Personal play tips: Friend of the Stars, Pagan´s Paradise, The Inquisition, A Man With Remarkable Talent, The Flying Squadron, The Centuries.

Website

Nektar, Book Of Days, 2008

nektar - book of daysThis is the second album I bought from this band. The first being Man In The Moon from 1980. Gives away they have a long history. I don´t know much about that alas, so let´s concentrate on the music.

The first song Over Krakatoa is not what you might expect. Distorded vocals give it a strange sound. From then on things turn into “normal” mode. With 3 songs beyond the 10 minute milestone, there will be much rejoicing in the camp of serious lovers of symphonic rock. Personally I don´t think that is a selling point unless a song needs it. Too much widdly widdly bits, can also prove you try to hide the fact that you have nothing to say behind brainless note playing. But anyway…

I must confess I don´t think the vocals are their selling point. But they don´t spoil everything either. Just kind of regular, nothing special really. A good thing they use harmony vocals to spice things up.
Musically speaking Nektar has a lot more to offer. Nice melodic guitar solo´s, competent musicians, and even the odd organ. A pity they use it rather cleanly. But fans of classic prog can rest ressured, Nektar offer songs with light and shade, time changes, clever arrangements, etc. And they keep it melodic, so all in all it is a positive affair.

I do think this album will grow on me over time, but that is always a good thing.

Personal play tips: Lamorna, Doctor Kool, The Iceman.

Website

Uriah Heep, Celebration, 2009

uriah heep - celebrationDespite being the guitar player in Chinawhite, I am quite fond of the Hammond organ. Some reviewers of our latest album found that out to their disstress ;P. Therefore it is not strange that I like bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. The latter we had the privilege of opening for, for a few years back. Still a great band with lots of playing pleasure.

The disk on offer here contains rerecorded versions of their classics and 2 new songs. These fit in nicely with classic titles like Gypsy,  Stealin, or Easy Livin´.

You may ask yourself; do we need this? My answer would be yes! I think it is great to hear the voice of Bernie Shaw on these timeless songs. Of course, you can hear this live as well (and make no mistake, their recent studio output is absolutely relevant!), but I feel they have succeeded in translating these songs into their current line up. That means only little change when compared to the original, but still sounding as convincing as need be.
And who´s complaining when the songs at hand are this good…

I bought the special edition, which also holds a live DVD, but I have yet to watch that. But I guess I already know what to expect. Though it will be nice to see “new” kid Russel Gilbrook hammering away on the drumkit.

Website

Yes, Drama, 1980 (2004 remaster)

yes - dramaAhh, a controversial album among the Yes fanbase. Must confess I never really understood why! Trevor Horn sounds a lot like Jon Anderson, and musically this is typical YES. Or is it just because the little big man isn´t the one singing? Mmhmm, lets see.

The album is very recognisable, melodic, well crafted, well executed, housed in a Roger Dean painting, great singing from Trevor and Chris. Maybe a little less esotheric. But I prefer it above Tormato every day of the week. So it must be me 😉

This remaster has no less than 11 bonus tracks. Some of which are heavy bootlegged. Of were, as of this release I guess. From the original album I love all songs, so no favorites there. The bonus tracks feature single versions of Into The Lens and Run Through The Light. (BTW, Trevor Horn did another version of Into The Lens, together with keyboard player Geoff Downes, on the second Buggles album called Adventures in Modern Recording. They called it I Am A Camera, which is the subtitle here.) But in my opinion they add little value to the original album.

Other bonus tracks are session recordings. This leaves us with 6 other unreleased songs. Have We Really Got… is a studio jam at best. A rough sketch of what could become a song. Same applies to Song no 4.  No lyrics or vocals, just instrumental.  Dancing Though The Light is Run Through The Light but in a strange dance like fashion. What were they thinking here?

The remaining 3 songs are taken from a 1979 recording session with Jon Andersson and Rick Wakeman present. As the booklet so nicely states, something wasn´t feeling right, so they left… Still, these songs are recognisable Yes material. Just rough, but keep in mind they were working on this material at the time. Being a Yes afficionado myself, I did enjoy hearing these tracks. And as this remaster is available at a bargain price, you should get it if you don´t already own it on CD. I think the 6 songs that form the original Drama release are worth it!

Website

MelodicRockFest II 2010

Howdy Folks,

Coming weekend is the second edition of the Melodic Rock Fest as organised by MelodicRock.com. Alas I won’t be there, but I hope that Andrew (who runs the site) will be able to welcome a lot of visitors to make this happening financially viable. The line up looks killer, so I am sure it will be a great party.

If you like melodic rock and are able to join, visit the Fest in Illinois USA!

Solution, The Ultimate Collection, 2005

solution - ultimate collectionYesterday and today I spent my available listening time to the 3 CD package that is The Ultimate Collection by Dutch classic prog band Solution. It had been sitting on my want list for quite some time, so I was very anxious to find out how it would work for me.

The first disk was the hardest to get into. It is mainly instrumental music, with a lot of sax. Musically very challenging and competent, but takes more time for me to digest. Disk 2 weighed a little less. Some beautiful melodies and also vocals. Makes it easier to enjoy.  The 3d disk is labelled as a bonus disk, but is the most interesting for me. Not only because it contained the only songs I knew before buying this set, but also because this is the most melodic side of Solution. Hey and finally some guitar solo´s! Maybe because a lot of material on this disk is live. It just seems to have a touch more power behind it.

The material on these CD´s sounds excellent, a remastering job done well. Especially considering the time table; 1971 – 1983.

Personal Play tips: French Melodie, On My Own, Black Pearl, It´s Only Just Begun, Runaway

Karl Jenkins, The Armed Man, 2001

karl jenkins - the armed manRecently my father in law mentioned he bought an album based on a song he heard on the radio. He thought I would like it as well so played me the disk. It turned out to be a classical piece by Karl Jenkins, The Armed Man. Subtitle ” a mass for peace” .  The subtitle gives it away I guess. It is a mass, but nog in a strict sense. Songs include a Kyrie, a Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Benedictus as well as several other pieces  of music. Used Languages in the singing are Latin, French, Arabic, English, etc..

He asked me if I would be so kind as to translate the story behind it. I did and thought it was a worthwhile cause. There can never be to much peace in this world, or?
The first minute of the music did not do much for me, some marching drums? Right, heard it before…. He just smiled and said ” wait for the Sanctus”.  And I must confess: that hit me hard. What a great use of harmonics, what a tension. Absolutely stunning and very inspirational.

Despite the rest of the album not being as instant as the Sanctus, I think this is a truly beautiful album with a great message. Highly recommended, even if you´re not religious. Just to make sure, this is a classical piece of work, so no guitar solo´s or hard hitting drums. But worthwhile for any serious music lover. The singing sometimes reminded me of Carl Orff´s Carmina Burana, but all in all, this work has it´s own character. Give it a try!

Personal Playtip: Sanctus, Hymn before Action, Agnus Dei

Site: http://www.karljenkins.com/index.php