Classic: Signal, Loud & Clear, 1989

signal - loud and clearNot entirely sure, but I think that this album was my first encounter with the mighty vocals of Mark (now Marcie) Free (King Cobra, Unruly Child). And even if this album is a one off from the band, the trademark melodic rock with huge choruses and a great balance between guitars and keyboards would feature heavily in his/her subsequent career.

Opening with a gem like The Arms Of A Stranger, the mood is set. Great energy, great chorus, and after a interesting break a nice little solo.  Next song Does It Feel Like Love is another belter. Keyboards and guitar open and after the half time verse the song is lifted high when the chorus breaks. And a mighty fine one it is!
But of course every song on offer is aiming to nest itself in your brain and refuse to let go. One of my personal favourites being My Mistake, with it’s tongue in cheek lyric and powerful riff. This Love This Time is a medium tempo power ballad, carried by another expert delivery of Free, using melody to the fullest extend. I could go on, but trust me when I say this serves 10 Songs and 42 minutes of bliss, all killer no filler.

I cannot remember how often I have played the album, but it never tires me. A genre classic if ever there was one.

Classic: Black Sabbath, Headless Cross, 1989

black sabbath - headless crossWell, I guess some will be frowning and considering how on earth I got this one so wrong. But I really don’t care. Yeah I know that the die hard fans look away from anything Sabbath did without Ozzy. Okay, some may add Dio to that, but the albums they made with Tony Martin are often overlooked. And that is a damn shame as the man has a magnificent voice. And on this album one Cozy Powell is beating the skins, so for me this is an all star line up.

Anyway, starting off with the suspension of instrumental opening The Gates Of Hell, we are soon awakened by the powerful drumming of Powell and the mighty riffs of Iommi as they launch into the title track. And what a monster it is. Makes my day every time I hear it!  Next up is Devil & Daughter, another tasty song, in a more upbeat vein. No one quite writes chord riffs like Iommi, as he so energetically proves here once more.
When Death Calls is next, opening in quiet mode. Keyboards (Geoff Nichols) play a supportive role throughout the album, and really add colour to it. But not for too long, Iommi takes over with more riffage. Very impressive track, as it should be. Kill In The Spirit World is next, and we are back in more upbeat territory. And another song that takes no prisoners, nice Oriental feel to it too! The last 3 songs are also very good, trust me!

So if you are not familiar with this album, track it down and give it a listen, it will not disappoint.


Classic: Giant, Last Of The Runaways, 1989

Giant - Last_Of_The_RunawaysTalking about bursting unto the scene! The opening guitar of I’m A Believer shook many a home at the day, believe me! Well at least, I used to play it loud in order to feel that monster tone and guitar wizardry… Of course Dann Huff already had made a name for himself, playing with for instance White Heart. The others in this quarters were seasoned players as well: Alan Pasqua  on keyboards, brother David on drums and Mike Brignardello on bass. Together with producer Terry Thomas they cooked up this monster of a melodic hard rock album.

Because that first track might have been big, when you can follow that up with songs like Innocent Days (more face melting guitar), I can’t Get Close Enough (more guitar) or the very tasty ballad I’ll See You In My Dreams, you know things are going the right way. But every song of the eleven on offer counts, we are talking about a classic!
And while Huff was a genius guitar player, he was a very convincing singer too. And the experience of the band made sure they were not treading on all too familiar grounds. All songs have a good hook, strong melodies, backed with clever vocal harmonies and not only provided a solid base for Huff to excel on with the guitar, there were also enough turns left or right to make the songs withstand the test of time. In fact, to this day it sounds fresh!

So there you go, a shame they came alive in what might have been the worst period for rock music. Still I cherish their albums, brilliant stuff!

Classic: Jeff Beck, Guitar Shop, 1989

Jeff Beck - Guitar shopTo some it may be sacrilege, but this was my first encounter with the fabulous fretwork of one Jeff Beck. Together with Tony Hymas on keyboards and Terry Bozzio on drums he created this wonderful album.  The trio not only played and wrote, but also produced it, although the latter together with Leif Mases.

Opening with the title track which is interlaced with lines from musical instruments adverts. You know, “super slinky” and ” feel those frets” never were the same after that 😉 . In the beginning I did not realize that Beck plays without plectrum. But even without knowing that, it is obvious there is genius at work here. And not only from Beck, we should not forget the other two rank pretty high upon the genius ladder as well.
Next track Savoy has a lovely boogie feel and mixes melody with technical prowess from the gents. Melody being key here. Great when instrumental music makes you forget it is actually that. Behind the Veil is built on a reggae feel and has a beautiful heartfelt melody that is pure gold. Amazing how the track flows and keeps you interested.  Then Big Block comes shuffling in. Parts of it are bent into bluesy riffing, but the drums make it impossible to resist the beat. And then that guitar solo. Such class! Where Were You is a showcase for the craftsmanship and feel that Jeff puts into his guitar. Even if you listen just ones to the opening sequence, I am pretty sure you can only admire the feel that comes pouring out of your speaker. Heart tearing!

A career that started in the sixties I believe (with more hits than you can now think of), and still going strong… How is that for classic!

Classic: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mothers Milk, 1989

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Mothers MilkBefore they were propelled to global stardom with Under The Bridge, the Peppers already were delivering some damn fine albums. In fact this is the CD that got me interested in the first place, and it’s a lot heavier than later albums. Despite featuring a number of covers, RHCP demonstrate convincingly how to mix funk and metal, adapt everything into their own identity and get a party going during the process.

So if the heavy opening track Good Time Boys won’t get your adrenaline pumping, then Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder) will. Unrecognisable in this rendition, but oh so enjoyable! Subway to Venus focuses more on the funk part, complete with a blistering brass section. Nobody Weird Like Me features another bass line only Flea can get away with. And the song really lives up to it’s title too… Knock Me Down is another must have. Again the bass and guitar cross bridges to different genres. Okay, some tracks I could have done without (Magic Johnson), but the good easily outweighs the bad.
Nobody knew at the time what the boys would have to endure on a personal level, but I for one still follow their career closely as they really wrote several albums that deserve the   ‘classic’  tag…

Classic: World Trade, Same, 1989

world tradeAhhh, again wonderful memories flow. Can´t believe this album is already 22 years old. It still sounds as fresh as it did then! I totally dig the sound of this band. That winning combination of epic songs on progressive ground, crossed with the sensibilities of mighty pop melodies. Band leader Billy Sherwood later joined Yes, and that band is a bit of a reference here. But as World Trade are American, they have a more heavy sound. Which adds a lot to their charm. But also the keyboards here are put to full use, as are the (backing) vocals. The production on this is stellar and withstood the tests of time spotless. Oh, and I must not forget to mention that Bruce Gowdy and Guy Allison from Unruly Child are part of this band!

So from the opening sequences of The Painted Corner to set the mood, to the spell bending declaration that The Moment Is Here, we Can’t Let You Go. The band have created a set of songs that bring everything to the table we as progressive lovers can wish for. Musicianship, light and dark, daring arrangements, power, melody, you name it. Essential stuff if you ask me.

World Trade made another album that alienated a lot of people because of the peculiar mix. I like that one too, as I do practically all output that has Billy Sherwood involved, be it solo, or with bands like Circa, Conspiracy et al.
You know what to do!

Classic: Warp Drive, Gimme Gimme, 1989

warp drive - gimme gimmeWhile digging through my CD collection, I stumbled upon this 1989 release of a band called Warp Drive titled Gimme Gimme. Who? Yeah I know, but I like this little gem very much.

As the title suggests glam / hair rock, I think this is selling them short. First track Bang The Drum hints at Def Leppard or Bon Jovi, but the album reveals this are a bunch of talented individuals, with a lot more in the bag. Which raises the questions “where have they gone” and “why didn´t they enjoy more succes”.  Both I cannot answer I´m afraid. Though I do believe another record was released last year, 20 year later!

Back in the day this was one of my favourite albums and I played it a lot. Revisiting that always brings back fond memories. I am sure you will recognize that. Track I 4 U still is a heartbreaking declaration of love, with a great guitar solo. Crying Girl starts with  unbelievable funky bass slapping Mark King of Level 42 would have been proud of. The lyric is funny and the riffing is fast and furious. Tracks Words has a very unique arrangement with fret-less bass and clean guitars taking centre stage beside the haunting vocals, all building to a heavily processed guitar solo.
Overall a lot of effects are used on the guitars. But that may be due to the times it was recorded in.

Tracks like Eyes On You, Take, Take Me Now or Rock ‘n The Boat are rocking tunes with catchy choruses and Making Time Stand Still is another example of a powerful track with a healthy dose of effects on a lot of different instruments. Though opinions may vary on that comment 😉 And again some fantastic fret work present.

I would have loved to hear more music from this outfit, so will have to dig up their current release to find out how that sounds. Shame they fell off the radar in the years in between!

Classic: It Bites, Eat Me In St. Louis, 1989

it bites - eat me in st louisOut of the 3 disks this band released in the 80’s, it is hard choosing. They all have that special quality that makes me still enjoy them very much.

The first reason I like this band is their singer, and guitarist extra ordinaire Francis Dunnery (whose solo albums afterwards are very different, but still full of class). His soloing is out of this planet and distinctive. Second it´s the way they were able to melt rock and pop into high quality songs, filled to the brim with musicianship, melody and adventure. Never a dull moment!

Just take a look at the songs on display on this third album, their last studio album with the original cast of FD, John Beck on keyboards and vocals, Bob Dalton on drums and vocals and Dick Nolan on bass and vocals. A lot of vocals in the band, which created wonderful harmonies.

The album starts with a rocking Positively Animal, which sets the mood brilliantly for what is to follow. Track Still Too Young To Remember should have been a number 1 hit all over the world if there was any justice. Humour was never far away in the lyrics of this band, with songs like Underneath Your Pillow or People Of America being more testimony to that. But the absolute highlight of the album to me is the stunning drama that is The Ice Melts Into Water. A true heartbreaking lyric about losing a daughter. And music to match.

At the time the band got some criticism about being too loud at times. I think they were light-years ahead. In recent years the band has been revived and is releasing new material with former fan John Mitchel (o.a. Arena) stepping admirably in the shoes of Francis. Their return is welcome, but please check out their career start.