The Soul Exchange, Edge Of Sanity, 2018

the soul exchange - edge of sanityThe boys from The Soul Exchange sure like to keep busy. Ever since coming on my radar in 2016, they keep writing and releasing new music. So this is already release 4, and the third with fabulous singer (and keyboardist) Daniel John in their ranks. Not that I want to short sell the band of course, after all they provide much of the canvas and songs for John to shine on. Another big role is for producer and co-writer and arranger Magnus Ljunqvist.

But on to the album now; 9 regular songs and a bonus track for those lucky enough and a total playing time of 51 minutes. John is now the sole lyricist, with the Von Bell’s, John and Ljunqvist writing the songs. Lyrically the album explores the darker side of the human psyche. Tailor made for Daniel’s emotive delivery.
The songs are, as before, a winning combination of classic hard rock with some contemporary metal infused, with emphasis on melody and vocal harmonies. The album sounds big, think Metallica’s black album is a reference. And should modern radio still be playing rock, a lot of songs on here would fit seamlessly in, as they impact already on first listen.

And since the album still gets better with every play, it is safe to say the band have created another winner. Personally I hope the band break in Europe, so we will get a chance at seeing them live. Very very solid, and surely an album to check out!

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Peter Banks, The Self-Contained Trilogy, + The Anthology, 2018

peter banks - the self-contained trilogyPeter Banks, is that not the first guitarist of Yes? Indeed he is, he played on their first 2 albums. And what you might not know is that he suggested the name change from Mabel Greer’s Toy shop! This collection contains 3 of his solo albums, namely Instinct, Self-Contained and Reduction.

Now 3 CD’s might sound like an awful lot to digest. But I think you will be surprised should you decide to have a listen. That is if you, like me, never heard them before. Not only is the material at hand of an enormous diversity, it is also larded with intros or short interludes with spoken word that show a keen sense of humour.
Back to the music, you will find anything from ambient to shredding, to funky, groovy to progressive here. And I must also admit that I like his guitar sound better than that of his successor in Yes, Steve Howe (who is a fabulous guitarist in his own right of course). Banks shows more of a rock vibe in his playing and sounds, and that suits me just fine.
And while I wonder if that diversity might be a reason for some to avoid his music, I was sincerely amazed listening to this. Banks proves to have been an amazing musician and a powerful creative force with the combined abilities of Vai, Satriani and maybe even any other guitarist you can think of.

peter banks - be well be safe be luckyShould you first want to sample Banks’ talents, there is also an Anthology available in the form of this double disc Be Well, Be Safe, Be Lucky…The Anthology. Disc 1 is a collection of some of his finest work. And disc 2 features a lot of rarities and extended versions. The latter making this release also interesting for the people that already enjoy his music.

For only being familiar with the name, to getting a more deeper insight in this man’s talent, 5 CD’s of discovery for all to enjoy!

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Gregory M. Hurley, Seafoam, 2018

gregory m hurley, seafoamHow fitting to name your album seafoam, and put a strat in that colour on the cover. Nice touch! What is also nice, is what Greg Hurley is offering us on this debut.

Well debut, it might be his debut album, but in his young days, Hurley spent a lot of time honing his skills on every stage that gave him a home. And now, after years of being inactive (life sometimes gets in the way), he has built a studio and unleashes his work to the unaware public.

And I must say, the man knows how to play and write a decent tune! I guess the songs are a reflection of his influences. And I am confident that The Beatles rank high there. A song like You’re You clearly fits well in the Beatles songbook, and Hold On Tight would sit comfortably on any mid career ELO album (and no, it is not a cover from them).  Other influences seem early Santana on songs Where You’re At and Pick It Up or Steely Dan on WiggleRoom.
The title track is a wonderful moody instrumental, but actually every track on the album is tasty and well done. Especially considering he played everything himself if I understand correctly.

Bottom line, this release deserves a big audience because the songs will appeal to everyone who appreciates quality pop / rock songs.

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Wishbone Ash, 2 remasters, 2018

WISHBONE-ASH-Twin-BarrelsWISHBONE-ASH-Raw-To-The-BoneTwo not so typical Wishbone Ash albums have been released with the “remastered and definitive editions” treatment.

On Twin Barrels Burning (1982), we find Trevor Bolder (Spiders From Mars, Uriah Heep) on bass and vocals. This besides regulars Andy Powell, Laurie Wisefield (both guitar and vocals) and Steve Upton (drums). The regular album holds 3 bonus tracks, bringing the total up to 12 tracks. The second disc features the album, yet with the American remixes. Even when in my mind the original sounds much more American when compared to, say, Argus. 🙂
Since I never heard these albums before, I think they are a solid testament of their time. Still some great songs on it, especially Hold On.

Next one is Raw To The Bone from 1985. The original 10 songs got company from no less than 5 bonus songs, recorded in 1986! The second disc holds 2 live performances with 8 tracks in total, recorded by the BBC. On bass and lead vocals we now get Mervyn ‘Spam’ Spence, whose phenomenal range gives an even more commercial rock vibe to the songs. (The bonus tracks are with Brad Lang on bass and Phil Palmer instead of Wisefield on guitar).

Guess it is safe to say it were trying times for the band, but on their own the albums hold up pretty good in my opinion. Nothing shocking, but then again, I did not grow up with these (you cannot have all). It rocks, and you will always find at least a couple of songs that tickle your fancy…

The fact they are still around, is  proof of their will to survive.

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Ted & Majella, Better Together, 2017

ted & majella - better togetherThe Ted in this release is famed guitarist Ted Turner, whom you might know from his days in Wishbone Ash, or the couple of tracks he played on John Lennon’s Imagine album. Majella is not only his wife, but also a singer and together they invented a new genre called new age soul.

Well I will be honest as always, to me this sounds like a singer songwriter album with lots of pop sensibilities and with heartfelt guitar playing (imagine a bit more rocking version of Mark Knopfler). Yes, there is lots of soul present in the songs, but coming from inside, not akin to the musical genre. And I guess the new age bit refers to their look at the world we live in today. “Everything has a relationship, we are nature, and systems only exist through collaboration. And are bigger than us.”

Nothing wrong with that of course and despite my critique about the genre tagging, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the music. It might be more light-footed compared to the stuff I usually listen to, but everything, from the playing, to the sound, and to the delivery oozes class.  Majella has a pleasant voice and her melodies work. The result of all this, is that the album radiates a passion. For life, for each other, and for nature.

So this is beautiful from start to finish and in my opinion suited for the majority of the people. Dreamy and sometimes intense!

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XSyntax, Watermusic, 2017

xsyntax - watermusicXSyntax is the alter ego of fellow Dutchman and synth enthusiast Richard Aardenburg. Richard claims to be influenced by Rick Wakeman, Jean Michael Jarre and Tomita and describes his music as a mix of EDM, ambient, downtempo and urban. And this is his first release.

Alas I am not an expert in these genres. All I can say is that since most of the songs have beats in them, EDM seems closest, with a bit of ambient here and there. But maybe that’s just me.

For him, music is like water, so it can come in different modes and shapes. So where I was expecting songs around a theme of water, this is not the case here. Instead we get songs like the calm Dream On, the uptempo Technix V where sequencers and beats dominate, or the mid tempo Caravans In The Desert.
There are 11 songs and a bonus track on the album, and most of the songs are around 3 minutes.

I think the ideas are there, but XSyntax needs to work a bit more on finding a good balance in the mix. In some tracks certain parts are so much louder, they drown out the rest. What is good is that he keeps trying to find new sounds to use. Also he always works with melodies, but could sometimes do with a bit more arrangement. A drum computer and a melody does not always give enough body to the songs. But again, that is just my opinion.

If you are into the genres mentioned, check for yourself!

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Darryl Way, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons In Rock, 2018

darryl way - vivaldi's 4 seasonsSometimes life as a reviewer is easy. And in this case it is. For those of you who do not know Darryl Way, he is one of the founding members of Curved Air where he delivers the violins. Curved Air recorded a track called Vivaldi some 50 odd years ago and this CD is essentially giving a bit of a rock treatment to the whole of the Four Seasons from the classical composer.

Now a bit of a heads up; when I say rock, in this case that means that bass, drums, rhythm guitars and layers of synthesisers have been added to the movements. The original melodies are still played on violin with only some embellishment in the slower parts.

So what does this re-interpretation leave us with? Well, Way knows how to play and does the music justice. Is it very different? No. Does is rock hard? Again, no, don’t think that was the intention.

This is a well done version, with a bit of extra spice here and there. Nothing more and nothing less. If you like rock and enjoy classical music, this will work since you will be familiar with most of the melodies. If you hate either, avoid. I like this version for what it is.

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Fernando Perdomo, Out To Sea, 2018

fernando perdomo - out to seaNow here is a guy that has been making quite a name for himself in recent years. Touring and recording with Dave Kerzner, or playing with some of the biggest names in the biz is surely not a bad thing. Also the fact that Fernando played most of the instruments on this album himself, is only more testament of his talent.

So what do we have here? Out to Sea is a man showing his skills. But instead of showing off, he is translating that into songs. Songs with a capital S, where melodies galore, where the vocals are never missed. With light and dark, so they take you places.
Even when I feel a bit equivocal about his tributes to for instance Peter Banks in The Architect, to Focus in De Boerderij or to Roye Albrighton in The Future According To Roye. This because these songs are so damn close to those artists, it’s almost hard to believe they are original. Yet in a way I guess that is a big compliment in itself!
Still, for me, focussing on his own inspirations gives us more than enough tasteful songs. Prime examples being The Dream or the 16 plus minute epic Dreaming In Stereo Suite.

All in all a wonderful instrumental prog album that is firmly rooted in the Seventies, from a man blessed with a great sense of melody and the capability to shine on just about every instrument he touches. Go check it!

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Souls Of Deaf, Fortune Favors The Bold, 2018

Souls Of Deaf - Fortune Favors The BoldWell, since the stats on my blog tell me that this is review 1000 (98 classics and 902 regular), it makes me very happy that fate has it that this concerns the debut album from Souls Of Deaf! Do I hear you think Souls Of Deaf? Yes SoD are a new band from the (South of) the Netherlands, so chances are you have not yet met them.

Which is a shame because for me this is easy one of the highlights in the year so far. And not because founder Sander Stappers is a close friend. That would be cheap. No, I love this album because he managed to write 10 songs that offer a fresh take on hard rock and metal from the heydays, modernised it, and stayed far away from standard formulaic songs. And still the tracks have power, sound logical and show a diversity that is remarkable for a new band.
The latter may be due to the fact that all the guys involved are no new kids on the heavy block but seasoned musicians, often active in several bands.

I am not gonna talk you through the album, this is one to discover for yourself. And mind you, I said diverse, so don’t go judging it on 1 or 2 songs or some quick sampling. No, this is an album to dig into, listen from start to finish and hit repeat. Only after a couple of spins you will understand the magic at work. The clear and heavy sound of the CD (thanks to Erwin Hermsen from Toneshed) will make enjoying it even more easy.

An amalgam of Guns ‘n Roses, to Rush to Dream Theater to Motörhead to Ozzy, this delivers a kick in the face that will leave you wanting more!

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Yuka & Chronoship, Ship, 2018

yuka & chronoship - shipAnother new name for me, but a band that was formed in 2009 and consists of Yuka Funakoshi (keyboards and vocal) with experienced session musicians Shuna Taguchi (bass), Takashi Miyazawa (guitars) and Ikko Tanaka (drums). This is album 4 for them.

The first 7 songs deal with the Greek mythology of Argo and special guest Sonja Kristina stars on the opening Tears Of The Figurehead. Which turns out to be a short and fairly mellow introduction. Because the next track The Ship Argos really sets loose a vibrant progressive work-out. Vocals are mainly used as instrument here, and there is some stellar guitar playing to admire along with some catchy hooks. Talking of catchy, what this band does really good, is writing themes that attract your ear. So even when much of the album is without actual singing words (8 of the 11 songs are instrumental), I never missed a singer there. Be it keyboards (hammond!) or guitar, they will find a way to send a convincing melody your way. So the story of Argo is told with a bunch of tracks that sit really well together and offer an exciting view of the qualities the band have to offer.
The remaining 4 tracks are of the same high calibre. And 2 of those have some lyrics to enjoy (like I mentioned, the voice is used as an instrument in other parts). Even when Visible Light is in Japanese, (you get a nice English translation in the booklet) the performance just fits the music.

As an added bonus I would like to compliment the open and transparent, yet powerful sound of the album. Very good release that every prog rock fan must listen to!

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