Dr. Savage And The Shrunken Heads, Primitive, 2018

dr_savage - primitiveWell, this type of rock does not often hit my mailbox! Don’t know about you, but I had never heard of this band. And the press sheet talking about garage rock did not really get the juices flowing to be honest.

But while listening to this, I can relate to the name dropping in the info sheet; this does sound like fifties acts Bo Diddley and Howling Wolf messing with sixties bands like the Troggs, while adding a few pinches of punk. Might be the reason they cover The Last Time from The Rolling Stones, who share those roots.

So what can you expect? Simply put, this is music meant to party to. Pretty sure they burn every place down that let’s them have a go. Never complicated, just in your face, feel good rock.  And while this is not really a genre I feel at home with, I do think they pull it off well.

So if they show up in your neighbourhood, and you are in the mood, pay them a visit!

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Maks, 3FT No Diving, 2017

maks - 3ft no divingMaks are a Dutch rock band, initiated by singer and multi-instrumentalist Maks A. Assisting him are Peter Bernauw (guitars), Claudio Guliker (bass), Andy Kockelkoren (synths), and Jeroen van Tuijl and Tommy Stillwell (guitars).
Coming from a punk background as a drummer, Maks also played in cover- and later new wave bands. Eventually to end up in a blues rock band. So I guess it is little wonder all these influences somehow sip through in the music on this album. Although, when pressed to describe the music, I would go for pop rock with some wave accents (because of the synths).

While listening to this it is clear there is experience behind this. For instance, adding a little flute solo to The Gods In My Head, steers the song away from a fairly standard pop song. Clever. Most of the songs are carried by not too complex rhythms and chord progressions. Yet adding little things here and there gives them a bit of sizzle. The songs have hooks and melodies that will quickly sound familiar. Even when in Critical Mess there is a synth melody that made me think of Kraftwerk…

The result is an album that aims to be a pleasant listen and delivers just that. It never outstays its welcome, and will not shock the world for ground breaking new additions to the world of music. But it does not need to be.

Time will tell if this sparks the intended career as a professional musician.

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Hello Stranger, Long Division, 2018

Hello Stranger - Long DivisionHello Stranger are a fairly new band, who met in LA around 2015. Sam Deffenbaugh is the singer / guitarist, Daniel Rodriguez the drummer, Sam Plotkin also plays guitar and sings the harmonies and the band is rounded out by Doug Slohm on bass.

Listening to the album I cannot deny there is some massive appeal here. The songs are catchy (often damn catchy in fact), and Sam D has a voice that ought to make many a young girl take note. Well, I am not a young girl and and I still like the singing 🙂 . But there is more to this album: there are enough distorted guitars and variation at work throughout the album to keep me interested.
Still the band prove many times they are not a one trick pony. Where a song like Victorious has hit written all over it, The Flood is a riff monster waiting to explode. All The Things I’m Not sounds powerful, yet is carried by groove and a lighter sphere that works like a charm.

Most of the songs clock between 3 to 4 minutes, so will work in a radio format. I hope the band will get picked up, because they write quality songs that stick in your head and still manage to avoid the overly used clichés.

Nice one!

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Polar Fever, Soothing Plastic, 2018

polar fever - soothing plasticPolar Fever was formed by Vasia Bratchuk and Robert Szulc, who met in 2011 at a Muse gig in Nijmegen (NL). Both were involved in several bands along the way and were living and studying in Eindhoven. Together with bandmates from all over the place they recorded this and released it independently.

According to them they are an art rock band. Yet in my ears there is a lot of more mainstream sound involved. Not that is necessarily a bad thing, in fact, I think a song like She Comes And She Goes could be well received on British radio, since it resembles the days of Blur and Oasis. Yet I think I understand their need to classify beyond that of popular music. Just listen to Overture, with its classical approach and gentle albeit rich mood. And when Muse is a shared influence, combining pop melodies with more elaborate arrangements seems like a logical thing to do.
Yellow Regret is a fine example of that. Again as if the Gallagher brothers decided they want to bring in some of the traditional prog elements into their music. Excellent piano playing by the way. And somehow I cannot stop thinking of that combo. Must be the timbre of the lead singer…

But that takes nothing away from the fact that this album is quite enjoyable. Never too technical or heavy. Just good melodies and hooks. And still never too predictable. You could do much worse. So worth checking if this combination intrigues you!

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Josh Smith, Burn To Grow, 2018

Josh-Smith-Burn-To-GrowRegular readers of the blog will know that I am not a big fan of pure blues. This because of the often slow tempos and limited lyrical and musical vocabulary.
And now arrives the latest album from guitar player and singer Josh Smith, accompanied by a load of musicians from various backgrounds. Without selling all those names short, most important is Monét Owens who sings lead on one track and does a lot of harmonies.

And while I was prepared to not like the album, I must say that there are some things happening that made me a bit of a happy camper; the horn section ads loads of soul, we get riffs awesome solos, hammond organ and some tracks incorporate elements from pop, rock, and even a bit of Steely Dan typed fusion.
So a track like Through The Night reminds me a bit of Warren Haynes and is damn tasty. Watching You Go would make Joe Bonamassa proud. And Your Love, with Monét on lead vocals could be mistaken for a classic Motown remake. And the variation goes on; Look No Further has a great groove and a lightness about it that is very attractive.

So there you have it, another album that proves me wrong. Smith is a fantastic guitar player with loads of feel. And his voice is also above average. Couple that with the varied song material, and there should be hordes of people falling for this. And rightly so.

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The Fierce And The Dead, The Euphoric, 2018

the fierce and the dead - the euphoricFinally the time has come to discuss the new The Fierce And The Dead (TFATD) album The Euphoric with you. In their ranks Matt Stevens (guitar) who has released a bunch of solo albums that you might want to check out too.

To my knowledge TFATD are a quartet consisting of drums, bass and 2 guitars. Those guitars often enhance their sound with (synthesised) effects, thus giving a nod to King Crimson. Overall I guess their sound combines rock, prog and a tad of post hard-core. But where the soundscapes from KC sometimes tend to linger on a bit, TFATD make sure they keep pumping loads of energy into their songs. And they combine that energy with hooks  and melodies and musicians able to infuse dark and light into their compositions.

The result is, quite frankly, anything but your typical instrumental album. I never once miss the vocals on this album because of the way the songs are arranged. Very detailed, very varied and with room for everyone to shine. Thus making sure you never lose your connection with it.  You keep wondering where they will go next, but because of themes returning, they give you enough anchor points to not loose your way.

Yup, easy one of the most exciting albums in the genre this year. If you haven’t already, make sure you give it a couple of spins.

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Adult Cinema, Teaser Trailer, 2016

adult cinema - teaser trailerAnother one of those albums that slipped between the cracks for a long time. But now surfaced again to claim it’s spot. Besides the off-kilter name, you should know that AC is in essence Mike Weston, a multi-instrumentalist from the UK. Okay, he gets help on several of the tracks from various people (including his dad and uncle Bob) but what we get to hear is his vision.

I guess in many ways this is to be labelled as a progressive record. But bear in mind it is more like (an early) Supertramp kind of progressive. By which I mean that it would not surprise me if a whole bunch of people would like this album a lot, should they get to know about it and actually have a listen. So hopefully this helps a bit…

Because this is just a very pleasant album in every sense. It has great melodies that hook you in with ease. It has extended arrangements that show Mike is not afraid to think outside of the standard pop formulas (hence the prog tag) so you can enjoy instrumental bits, hooks, riffs and so on. It is never too much of anything yet has enough going on to keep you interested. And above all it has songs that are varied, have roots in various styles, and together make for an album that is a joy to hear. Especially for fans of Seventies music.

So go ahead, get in touch with him and have a listen!

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Smoking Martha, In Deep, 2018

smoking martha - in deepFrom Down Under come Smoking Martha, built around songstress Tasha D and guitarist Mick Broome’s love of raw rock ‘n roll. Joining them are Azz on guitars, Matty on bass and Jordon on drums.

Now I must confess that I wasn’t all that impressed on first listen. Don’t know why, but in hindsight I probably wasn’t paying enough attention. Because repeated play has taught me that this is actually a very solid rock album. Martha has a damn fine voice for this type of rock and the songs do travel beyond the all too familiar. Even when it is sometimes in the details.
So, after spending a bunch of time with the album ( I got the version with the 5 European bonus tracks, the album itself has 10 songs) I am totally digging tunes like So Lonely, Say You’re Mine, To The Stars, and so on. The melting pot that make up all the songs is quite broad I think. A bit of punk energy, classic rock , grungy overtones, melodic hard rock and probably even more. And a song like Baby Let Me Go proves that know how to chill too, beautiful!

So in the end I can say that it is a tasty rock affair that shows a singer in possession of an impressive delivery and a band that is able to give the songs energy and flair. And knows how to keep things interesting. More proof that rock is not dead at all. It is lurking somewhere, waiting for you to fall for it again!

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Alan Simon, Big Bang, 2018

ALAN-SIMON-Big-BangA couple of releases into Alan Simon now (check for instance this or this). And now we have Big Bang playing. And it is definitely something different compared to those before. Not only from a technical point of view, with the press sheet talking about 120 musicians or 200 active tracks per song on average… Or the inclusion of the sound bank of the universe from NASA.

This is indeed a musical odyssey from the origins of our universe to the destiny of planet Earth. And one that marries classical themes and orchestrations with contemporary music like never before in Simon’s work. As far as I know it that is. With a starring role of Supertramp’s John Helliwell on various saxes. So the instrumental pieces prevail and are a showcase of diversity, atmosphere and feeling. Lingering dreamy melodies, sound scapes and bits of rock interweaving. Like in Seven Moons In the Sky, where Roberto Tiranti delivers the vocals. Or on Fools, with Saga’s Michael Sadler. And Pink Floyd fans will embrace The Soul Of The Stars, with great guitar playing by Paolo Ballardini.
Because of the less obvious rock side, at first I wasn’t too sure about this album. But the more I played it, the more I fell for it. Diversity, dynamics and combining genres has always been part of Simon’s music and this is no exception. There is a certain grandeur to the themes that will get you hooked, sooner rather than later. Else you can always look at the fantastic space photography present in the art.

So the man delivered again. Simple as that!

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Martin Turner, The Beauty Of Chaos, 2018

martin turner - the beauty of chaosTo put the record straight; the full name of this double disk is Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash – The Beauty Of Chaos, Live At The Citadel, St. Helens – 26th February 2016. And it is a deluxe 2CD + DVD set. Glad we got that out of the way 😉

And indeed you regular followers of the blog, lots of (ex) Wishbone Ash has been landing in my CD player lately. Not that I mind that much, Argus is a classic record of course. And talking of that, disk 2 features some of that classic Ash tracks with The King Will Come, Warrior and Throw Down The Sword to name a few.
But there is a lot more to enjoy on this live album. Some tongue in cheek humour, some fantastic playing, especially from Misha Nikolic who has a great tone in his fingers. And I love songs like Falling Sands (what an enchanting guitar melody) or Interstellar Rockstar.  But also the very recognisable harmony singing and dual guitars shine.
So the album is very much worthy of your time and money. Even without seeing the DVD yet. No, Martin Turner (bass and lead vocals), Danny Willson (guitar and vocals), Misha Nikolic (guitar) and Tim Brown (drums and vocals) have got a good thing going here. Timeless music.

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