One of my favourite albums from the early nineties is this one from American melodic rock band Shooting Star. Opening with the title track, the heat is on with a catchy chorus, a subtle middle section and a short solo. And things are finished off with some nice gang styled vocals. Next is Believe In Me, that has a little of Signal (with Mark Free) to it. So keyboards, guitars and another chorus that hits home. We Can´t Wait Forever is a ballad with massive keyboard backing. Here singer Keith Mitchell proves he can carry the weight of a slow track as well as the more up tempo stuff.
A title like Rebel With A Cause says it all I think. It might be a simple song in structure, but it checks the right boxes in this genre. Still it is a good thing that on Dancing On The Edge the keyboards return to the front and shine on the beautiful intro. Which gets taken over by another guitar riff and another great vocal delivery. Always reminds me a bit of Giuffria this. So a touch of pomp one could say.
A total of 10 tracks bring us a nice 45 minutes of rock music that still sounds as good today as it did when it came out. So hasn´t aged at all and is still a joy to hear from start to finish. Own it!
Can´t believe this has been available since 1991. Remember it like yesterday! Opening with Mr. Tinkertrain, with a four on the floor chorus aimed at getting a live crowd into gear and a middle section where the orchestrations of John Sinclair are put to good use before Zakk Wylde fires away like we all know he can. And where I Don´t Want To Change The World is vintage Ozzy. Where we hear Zakk´s lighter (somewhat country) side shine through in Mama I´m Coming Home, something he would do more in Pride & Glory and Black Label Society.
Desire is again a vintage Ozzy song and warm us up really good to No More Tears. Which in essence is worth the price for this disc alone. Opening with a simple yet effective bass line, we are sucked into the mystery by the keyboards. And then Zakk is displaying some slide work before Ozzy wails his biting lyric at us. The supporting guitar riffs rule and the whole is a blistering 7 plus minutes of all that makes hard rock so damn beautiful. The middle section here is even more grandiose and is only topped by another exhilarating Wylde guitar solo. And this is only track 5 of all eleven on offer!
So by now you will have understood the ingredients for this classic album. Pounding drums and bass, keyboards, a wailing singer and a stunning six stringer. And yes, I am completely aware of other guitar greats that have supported Osbourne over the years. He always finds a great one…
The now sadly defunct Galactic Cowboy were a somewhat strange band. What is this style they play? Is it progressive metal, alternative, rock ´n roll with a twist? I am just not sure. But what I am sure of is that they created music that attracted me big time. Not only for their sense of humour (just check all the Ranch On Mars songs on their various albums, or the interludes on the Space In Your Face CD, the artwork, or CD titles), but also for their sense of melody and harmonies (reminiscent of that other alt rock band King´s X, and I am quite confident they also like The Beatles). Not to forget the quirkiness involved in their song writing. You just never know what will happen in a song!
From their back catalogue I choose their first album, the self titled Galactic Cowboys. First track I´m Not Amused showcases everything I said before. Lush melodies and harmonies, and still some parts that put you on the wrong foot. The same applies to My School, a beautiful melancholic chorus is followed by some heavy accented rhythmic work out. And with songs of about 6 minutes (not all, they range from 1 to 11 minutes) it is a good thing too they are so unpredictable. Makes it easy listening to this time and again. I could go on about this band, but I will leave something for your imagination.
If you have a broad taste and never heard them, I recommend you correct that as soon as possible and pick up some of their stuff. Don´t be surprised if you end up buying it all. This is addictive music!
One of the bands that I was slow to grow into, but never stop listening to is Savatage. Their future will always be uncertain as most members are now enjoying massive success with acts like Trans Siberian Orchestra, Circle II Circle, or with Jon Oliva’s Pain. Several of those have been featured here before.
From the back catalogue of Savatage it is virtually impossible to pick an album that really stands out. I mean, Handful Of Rain, Gutter Ballet, Dead Winter Dead and so on… So the wise choice is probably this concept album Streets that ignited my love for them anyway. Released in a time that Jon’s brother Chris still provided the excellent guitar work (rest in peace), Streets sees Savatage exploring a concept around D.T. Jesus and the Subway Messiahs, as put together by writer and producer Paul O’Neill.
A lot of tracks here are vintage Savatage: Streets, or Jesus Saves with their great combination of guitars, piano and angular riffs, with often massive backing vocals. A Little Too Far is a simple but stunning piano ballad that should have been a global hit. Jon’s voice has all the trademarks he is loved for, for sweet to aggressive, he uses every trick to deliver.
But every track here pulls all the right strings with the grand finale being the combo of Somewhere in Time / Believe. The latter again starting with only piano and vocal, and slowly building into this massive monster of a track. Killer!
The wonderful Doris Brendel album I posted about earlier, reminded me to pick up this album. Quite logical really, as she is the singer for this band. As well as plays flute (flageolet) and guitar. By the way that flute gives the music a folkish vibe at time. Like it does for Jethro Tull for instance. And like with Tull sometimes, it is quite an undertaking to label this album. That is why I choose the symphonic rock tag.
First song Dream Of Me is a beautiful gentle piece with flute and violin (keyboard probably as no player is mentioned). and of course the soaring vocals of Doris hit home also. Very tasty melodies, both instrumentally as vocally. Piano is another instrument often heard. The Spell starts with it and the song slowly builds. The use of brass here is also a nice feature. Again a track with great use of dynamics. By A River gives us some more rocking guitar, whilst still being a calm piece. Could Have Been is another showcase of the instrumentation put to effective use. I must mention the fabulous bass playing as well. In all the tracks by the way. And again the melodies strike the right chord.
Next is Offertory Song, which follows the same route as before. Yet develops in more rocking moments again. Though the constant switching of light and dark continues. Falling has more tempo to it, and impresses with it´s clever arrangement again. The finale is appealing and reminded me of Kansas. More upbeat tracks are Ill Wind Blowing and Better Be Good, but also other tracks have some quicker moments.
So an inspiring album with stunning melodies and rich in colours. Hunt it down!
The track that starts this album really did get the ball rolling for the band. Of course I am talking about Forever Young. Maybe not the hit it deserved to be, but still very popular among the rock aficionados around here. And thus found itself on my band´s live set for years. And you know what, there are several songs of that calibre on offer. I mean, the choruses for Wings, or Burning Down Inside are to die for as well. The latter also enjoying another phenomenal solo by guitar player Brooke St. James.
Another big feature are of course the mighty vocals of Danny Vaughn. His pipes have enriched many a record to date. The band rhythmic backbone is provided by Michael Clayton on drums and Jimi Kennedy on bass. And all of the boys sing backings.
The wealth of material here is testament of the classic nature of this record. Every song a winner, with mighty melodies, power and variety. The ballad Standing Alone is present on more of their albums, so popular it became among the fans. All in an effort to find the winning version that would propel them into stardom.
Alas none of that did ever happen. Yet it was never about the songs, the live performances, or the professionalism. Mere a factor of wrong time. Still, the album sounds as fresh as when I first heard it, so it belongs to every rock fan’s collection!
Before singer Steve Augeri turned up in Journey to take over from the mighty Steve Perry (and believe me, those shoes are hard to fill, but he did it!), he delivered this album to the world. And if you like him in Journey, this is definitely an album to pick up. His vocal qualities already shined in 1991.
Also the musical style of Tall Stories is akin to that of the successful Journey of the eighties. Some songs groove like opener Wild On The Run or Somewhere She Waits. Some rock, like Chains Of Love or Sister Of Mercy. And some just convey emotion, like Crawling Back or Stay With Me. It is somewhat eerie to discover the similarities in style between Perry and Augeri, without suggesting the second is a mere copycat.
So it is highly melodic rock with addictive melodies, big hooks and enough staying power to impress in the long run. Actually this is a no brainer, all melodic rock fans ought to own this album!
After his mysterious departure from the Journey ranks, Steve Augeri and Tall Stories have been reunited and released a second album in 2009 called Skyscraper. Still waiting to pick that up, but I will!
Undeniably inspired by my previous post about Dutch bands going Dutch with their lyrics, I choose a Dutch band for this week’s Classic series. I picked The Pilgrims because I just happen to like this album very much. The opening song White Men was a hit (at least over here) and the band is defined by the raw yet soulful vocals of singer Reniet Vrieze. Most famous member is probably drummer Leon Klaasse, who already enjoyed considerable success with Powerplay.
The album is positioned on the lighter spectrum of the rock scale. It is a very inspired album with, besides the already mentioned White Men, great songs like Any Trick, Dance In The Dark or Randy Newman’s Naked Man. Songs like Flamingo or Hang On are carried by the emotional vocal delivery of Vrieze. On Patoe Lele and Pela Klaasse can show his drum skills, with a lot of percussion, guitar and horns added on the latter. The track I Want You has a refined funky groove to it (a little like Lois Lane), and it is not hard to imagine yourself in a nightclub listening to it. Till the guitar solo kicks in, taking the song to a whole other level, without destroying that groove by the way.
The band released several albums after this one, but I am not sure they still exist. Worth picking up, if you can find it.
Fates Warning was never able to reach the same heights as Dream Theater has. And it is open to discussion whether that is justified. But despite there being no justice in the world, the band´s output can easily withstand comparison to the best out there. Prime example is this, their 1991 released Parallels album.
Already the opening track Leave The Past Behind is a representative of all there is to like about this band. Intricate guitar arrangements courtesy of Frank Aresti and band leader Jim Matheos, superb vocal lines of the very recognisable Ray Alder and the inimitable drumming of Mark Zonder. Joe Dibiase is the one holding it all together with his bass.
But that is not all, a track like Eye To Eye will appeal cross genre and could, no should have been big in the day. The track The Eleventh Hour is pure bliss. Over 8 minutes of progressive metal of the highest order and one of the many highlights. From the soft opening to the strong riffing further on, this is timeless progressive metal of the highest quality. The break into the chorus still giving me chills as, is the guitar riff starting half way and repeated later. Next songs like Point Of view or We Only Say Goodbye are also top notch. Unbelievable how good this all still sounds to this day!
The band has made many astonishing albums in their career so far. Check them out if you don´t already know them. They deserve it.
Mr. Big already stirred up the music world with their debut. But nobody could have expected this massive blow to the head. Of course everyone is familiar with the massive hit To Be With You. A ballad like song that keeps getting radio airplay but is actually saying very little about the band itself… Not unlike what Dust In The Wind meant to Kansas.
Album opener Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy is a prime example of the talent that is Mr. Big. From the steady foundation of drummer Pat Torpey, the vocals of pretty boy Eric Martin, to the wizardry of bass player Billy Sheehan and guitar player Paul Gilbert (as they demonstrate working their way through a tapping solo using a battery powered drill!). This band had a lot to say and were able to bring it to the fore.
Hard rocking songs in various types (Alive & Kickin’, Lucky this Time, Never Say Never, Voodoo Kiss), to almost AOR typed themes (Just Take My Heart, Road To Ruin), they did it all. However to me the absolute album highlight is Green-tinted Sixties Mind. The playing here is again of such high calibre, yet within the format of a fantastic melodic rock song, unbelievable.
Other incarnations were a joy to hear also. But as the band have reformed recently in this very formation and have a new record in the can, times are good…