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!


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!


Classic: Jethro Tull, The Broadsword And The Beast, 1983

jethro tull - broadsword and the beastMany frequent visitors might be surprised by my Classic choice of today. Guess a lot would expect Aqualung, or maybe Thick As A Brick. Certainly now TAAB2 has just been released. But no, as often is the case, I am very much attached to the first Tull album I ever heard,  the wonderful The Broadsword And The Beast.

Released in a time when keyboard wizard Peter-John Vettesse (or should I say Vitesse) was still part of the band. With of course, besides Ian Anderson, Martin Barre on guitar (an underrated player if ever there was one), David Pegg on bass and Gerry Conway on drums. In this decade Jethro Tull had a much more modern sound (more rocking guitars and the synths of Vettesse), yet the typical trademarks (flute, acoustic passages, Anderson’s witty lyrics and fantastic playing all around) were still present.

I think album opener Beastie has stood the test of time remarkably well. It still sounds viable and menacing. A great track that was also fun to play live. Clasp is another mixture of old and new, with the folky interlude exchanging ideas with the synths. Fallen On Hard Times is more the Tull of old, with keyboards playing a more supporting role. Flying Colours opens with a very tasty piano that goes on to support Anderson’s melody. And then the synths again take over and it becomes a more rocking affair. Just listen to Barre filling in the empty spaces. He is so good at that! With Slow Marching Band the “Beastie” side of the record comes to a slow folky end. Very fitting for Tull of course.

Side B, or “Broadsword” as it is called has another 5 tracks. We find the same combination of the band on it more rocking / progressive side (Broadsword) with more regular sounds (Pussy Willow (funny!). Watching Me Watching You is another example of what you can achieve with keyboards. And the band again manage to put a threat to music (Stares!). Great how they do that. Also the 6/8 beat is cause for confusion I imagine. Before we say goodbye with the playful Cheerio, we get another more progressive outing with Seal Driver.

Still a fantastic album to listen to. It also proves how Anderson`s voice has thinned over time. Yet every time I saw them live they impress. Great band, for over 40 years…



Classic: Nightwing, Stand Up And Be Counted, 1983

nightwing - stand up and be countedAh, that was a long time ago! But like with an old friend coming over for coffee, you soon get back in the vibe when you start playing this.
Labelled as hard rock, but I should add “with progressive touches”. It is no wonder singer Max Bacon later turned up in GTR joining Steve Howe and Steve Hackett.

Maybe typical of the time it was released in, this album is a great example of how this type of music should be done. Max Bacon has a voice that is easy identified, and has the ability to command a song with it. The five piece band in traditional setting with guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, knew how to write attractive songs and get your attention with album opener Let Me Be Your Lover. Straight as an arrow, plain rock.  Trading Water and The Machine show a knack for the more progressive tones, with keyboard playing a bigger role. Not unlike City Boy by the way. Dressed To Kill is another rocker, while the title track opens with mystical keyboards, with the vocals and later the band kicking in to create this mid tempo slow burner. Next Saturday is yet another rocking tune, aimed at live performances I suppose. Still In Love With You continues the album in style with a bluesy bass riff that is slowly expanded and build upon. Backing vocals are put to good use here!
There are a couple more songs before the album finishes at almost 40 minutes. But I guess you know by now that this is something you should try to pick up from the Zoom Club Records remasters series…

Classic: Gary Moore, Victims Of The Future, 1983

gary moore - victims of the futureBecause of the shocking news of the untimely death of guitar hero and singer Gary Moore, I changed my mind about this week´s classic album and picked up my copy of the 1983 released Victims Of The Future.

As most of you will know, Moore has been involved in a lot of bands, (Thin Lizzy and Colosseum to name a few) but was also very successful under his own name. To pick an album that represents his career is impossible, as he did a lot of things. But for me he excelled at making high quality hard rock, that is why I pulled this one out. The last decade or so he picked up on his blues roots again, and again achieved considerable success. To me, he was one of the best rock players around.

Starting with the title track, with that chorus that will never leave your mind. It is a a soft intro leading into that hard rocking track with one of his signature solo´s. Next up is Teenage Idol, which is blues infused, but melted into a pop formatted rock song.
Shapes Of Things To Come is another stand out song. again a chorus and riff to die for. Let alone another guitar solo that a lot of us will be able to whistle along.
I don´t think many people won´t know the album´s balled Empty Rooms. Moore recorded this several times, probably in order to find the ultimate version. But this one is already timeless. This emotional song is followed by another timeless hard rock track, Murder In The Skies. Opening with Moore on fire, showcasing his talent for furious fretwork, an inspiration for many.  From the closing trio of All I Want (a riff rocker), Hold On To Love (a somewhat lighter catchy song) and The Law Of The Jungle, I like the album closer best because of it´s eastern flavoured arrangement.

I know that Gary Moore wasn´t the best singer on the planet, but he was honest. His guitar pyrotechnics often was of another planet. He shall be dearly missed.


Classic: Big Country, The Crossing, 1983

big country - the crossingJust the start of this album alone, the shouting of ” Cha” on a galloping drum makes my day. The positive vibe generated here is impossible to resist.
At the time Big Country created a new sound with the extended use of E-bow on their guitars. A little like an electronic version of the bagpipes the Scott’s are normally associated with ;-). Over the years I have found the sound of Big Country instant recognisable.

The big moment on this record is obviously third track Chance. A heart warming song (where did the feeling go) and a deservedly big hit. The downside is, after that I hardly remember another song that gained that much attention. Which is a total shame, as I think they deserved far more than they got. But back to the music.
As I stated at the start, album opener In A Big Country is a very uplifting song with an irresistible beat. Inwards also has that melancholic charm singer and guitar player Stuart Adamson was famous for. 1000 Stars has a lot of those guitar melodies gracing the vocals lines and is again executed with high energy. Next track The Storm opens slowly with a haunting melody and than evolves into a quick folky track. Harvest Home is again proof of the nice story telling over infectious grooves (courtesy of Mark Brzezicki on drums and Tony Butler on bass) and the accompanying guitar lines (besides Stuart, also Bruce Watson). And so the album continues to proof the quality on offer.

Looking back the Crossing provided the start of a long career that brought the band across the globe and enjoying moderate success that ended with Adamson´s sudden death in a lonely hotel room. But that is a crossing of a whole other level. For now enjoy the timeless energy and the melancholy of this classic.

Oh, on the 1996 remaster, the cover colour changes to red and 4 tracks were added.

Classic: Simple Minds, Sparkle In The Rain, 1983

Simple Minds - Sparkle In The RainSo now on for something completely different; one of my favourite eighties albums by the Simple Minds. I can still vividly remember them playing that famous bass line opening of Waterfront. And then after 7 or 8 seconds the drums kick in with the rest of the band.. Play it LOUD! A magnificent way to get a crowd going if you ask me. Paired with Up On The Catwalk, you have two hammer songs at hand that still bring back a lot of fond memories of that time period. I can safely say that this album is responsible for me still buying almost all of their output, even to this very day. Also special is that 3 members are still on board (I think), besides singer Jim Kerr that would be Charles Burchill on guitars and Mel Gaynor on drums.

But don´t let my first paragraph fool you into thinking that there are only two worth while songs on offer. No, a lot of songs have that drive that hooks you to them, like Speed Your Love To Me or Book Of Brilliant Things. But also a track like East At Easter has that spell binding quality because of that mysterious arrangement with the guitar strumming through the keyboards and bass line, and with a drum focussing on the arrangement rather that the beat.
And yes, the production from Steve Lillywhite sounds like the timeframe this was released in. With a lot of keyboards and guitars being a little blurred, making it hard to hear what is which. But do I care when a record brings a smile to my face every time I hear it?
Great stuff!