Toto, All In 1978 – 2018, 2019

toto - all in 1978 - 2018Despite already owning all regular Toto albums, I still thought this would make me a nice present from the kids for father’s day. So they did 🙂

And while listening to all these albums I know so well, I did find that the remasters of especially the first 7 albums breathe new life into them. Because in all honesty I have always loved the music, but the production always seemed very smooth. And if my ears and memory do not fool me,  these new versions have more punch, especially in the drums and the guitars. And as a bonus, some discs contain tracks I did not yet have too!

But the main reason for wanting to have this 13 CD collection was of course the inclusion of the Live In Tokyo 1980 EP and the Old Is New CD. The Live EP has 5 songs, 3 from one of my favourite Toto albums Hydra, and Tale Of A Man, whose studio version would not surface until the XX release. It ends with Runaway, a new David Paich song (for me at least). Great rocker that went down a storm.
Some tracks from Old Is New already have been released as singles. On these tracks the band revisit old recordings they for some reason never finished (that include many past members like the Porcaro brothers), rewrote parts or added them, fresh lyrics and vocal melodies by Joseph Williams and voilà. An album that sounds like Toto, past or present… (pun intended). Turned out great I feel!

Well, then on to some remarks; sadly the CD box does not include the liner notes from Andrew McNeice that where present in the full on version (including vinyl). And 1 album is missing from this collection; the Dune soundtrack, so it is in fact “(almost) All In”. ( I do not reckon the various live albums and their covers album Through The Looking Glass are candidates for this box). Also, Hydra comes as a mini vinyl replica, all others are wallet versions (some with such small print my old eyes sadly can hardly read the song titles).

But this is minor, the music is and will stay timeless!

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Ronny Morris, Sweet Silence, 2018

ronny morris - sweet silenceI cannot help but smile while listening to this debut from Danish musician Ronny Morris. Not because of the beautiful and a bit mysterious artwork. Not because of silly lyrics, or anything like that.
No I smile because this album keeps reminding me why I like music. This guy obviously creates for the love of art. And not because of stupid things like fame, winning TV competitions, reality TV, etc.

But even if you do not fall for that, there are lots of reasons why you should check out this album. First; it is a damn good pop rock album with tons of moody songs that reach out to your soul and heart. Morris also has a fine voice with that bit of edge that many people find attractive. Also the performances and production are top notch.
Another reason is that this is produced in a climate neutral way. First time I ever heard about that, and, being a firm believer we are here to make sure our children also have a planet to live on, a worthy cause.

And last but not least, even when all songs are accessible, by no means they are carbon copies of things you have heard a thousand times before. If I would be forced to mention a reference, it would be something like Bryan Adams met Donald Fagen with a bit of Beatles thrown in for good measure. Also the sophisticated sound reminds me a bit of 3rd Matinee, but that is a reference not all too many will understand.

Most important thing is you go listen to this album, it truly deserves your attention.

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Baskery, Coyote & Sirens, 2018

baskery - coyote & sirensTalking about never judge a book, ehr CD by the cover. Don’t know about you, but when I put this CD in the player I was kinda expecting some sleazy garage type punk hardcore or something like that. Turns out this is anything but!

Reading up a bit, I found that this is a trio of sisters from Sweden that, on the promise of a record contract, moved to the US. After some ups and downs they did record an album worth of songs, but things got complicated once more. In the end they managed to get a large part of the songs of this album back in their hands and decided to release them themselves.

So now we are treated to the pop rock that is Baskery. Alas I do not know anything from the musicians, but at least my guess is that the sisters are singing. And they glue well together too. A song like Cactus Baby is a fine example of how they combine their vocal prowess with a pop rock backing.
It must be said, music like this ought to be heard by many more people. This sounds like real people making real music. And making it sound “commercial” without adding way to much sugar…

Pretty good effort, worth checking!

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Ljungblut, Villa Carlotta 5959, 2018

ljungblut - villa carlotta 5959When the first song was playing, I was suddenly thinking “have U2 gone new wave?” But then I remembered I was listening to the latest album by Norwegian band Ljungblut, with the mysterious name Villa Carlotta 5959 and it is the sixth release.

From the press sheet I found that Ljungblut started as an outlet for the musical ideas of Kim Ljung (Seigmen / Zeromancer) and this has slowly developed into a 5 man band. This album is sung in Norwegian and closes a trio of albums. And I guess a remarkable thing about it is that, while I do not understand one word, I still connect to the music. Yes, more prove that music is THE universal language.

Overall the songs are melancholic of nature. Varying in tempo and dynamics, but melancholic. Imagine travelling alone along the coastal fjords in Norway: you will enjoy the beautiful and changing scenery, but it is still cold. Not that these tracks will leave you cold mind you. With it’s organic sound and the feelings pouring through, this will warm your heart and soul.
In the opening I referred to U2, this because the voice of the singer and a bit of the guitar sound. Yet the music is in general far more keyboard heavy, hence the new wave reference. However, there are still guitars used throughout, so it remains a bit in the rock genre.

Pretty sure this is an album that many people would dig, so give it a listen!

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Peak, Electric Bouquet, 2018

peak - electric bouquetAnother album that has been playing for quite a while here at YMB HQ, is the debut from NYC band Peak. Consisting of Jeremy Hilliard on guitar/ vocals, Otis Williams on keys/ vocals, Eric Thachuck on bass and on drums Dale Paddyfote, who is replaced by John Venezia for live shows. Hilliard is the main songwriter.

What is really nice about the album, is that it is an obvious melting pot of influences that may seem far fetched, yet the band make them work. Think of funk, blues, fusion, dance music and rock. Or as Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan and Chic having a coming together, wooing the crowd with a vibrant mix of songs, sounds and beats.
Yes the album moves around with the various tracks. But when it is over, I cannot help but think that it was a damn fine listen that just made me feel good. And upon listening closer, it is also clear that underneath all those positive vibes, is a band that knows how to play and treats you with little musical accents and arrangements that show their ability.

So if you should need more prove that it is possible to create independent music that is easy on the ears, sounds good, is suited for a large audience, and is still filled to the brim with class musicianship, look no further.

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Cellar Dwellers, Junkyard Chronicles part 4, 2018

cellar dwellers - junkyard chronicles part 4With part 4 the Cellar Dwellers are closing their Junkyard Chronicles. And have completed the picture!

In the meantime I have seen the band live, and they are a formidable force. Their combination of rock, metal and punk energy is sure to go down well with many a crowd.

On this EP 6 songs this time. Shut Up is another ballsy rocker that they do so well. Furniture, is a short little steamroller where their punk influences really come to the fore. Take It is a Black Sabbath influenced heavy metal punch. At least you think so, until they suddenly change direction and take off with speed and determination. She’s A Loser is back on the metal track and a menacing at that. Song About Nothing is slightly more commercial, great riffs and melodies throughout, catch the video below. The EP closes with Rock ‘n Roll Noise, which sees them in their more classic rock ‘n metal mode.

Over 4 EP’s and 21 tracks, Cellar Dwellers have proven to rise to the challenge. Will be interesting to see where they are heading next…

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Aaron Brooks, Homunculus, 2018

aaron brooks - homunculusAfter a 2 year hiatus, former Simeon Soul Charger songwriter Aaron Brooks returns to the scene. Helping him are, amongst others, 2 people that will peek the interest of the progressive community: Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner from RPWL. Still that does not mean that this is a full on progressive album. Yes, you hear elements here and there. Like mellotron, or some more elaborate arrangements to spice things up. Yet in essence I think this will appeal to anyone who loves the vibe of the sixties. Or the other qualities on offer.

On to the music then:  with a few exceptions, most songs clock in at around 3 minutes. Brooks must have had his melancholy hat on when writing most of them, because the feel that is pouring from them is full of emotion. And since the songs are very melodic, the outcome is a very warm and entertaining album.
The song titles seem to be telling a lot (alas the promo does not come with lyrics): Consume, You’re Just A Picture In A Frame, Everybody Dies, By Your Halo Or The Fork Of Your Tongue, Nobody Knows What It’s Like To Be Someone Else or my favourite: What Is A Man But An Animal’s End.  Guess some people needed dealing with 🙂

To conclude this is an album for many uses. To listen to with attention and admire the storytelling and melodies. Or to play in the background when you have friends over, just to show you do not need to play technical music all of the time…

Well done!

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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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