Michel Héroux, Now, 2019

michel heroux - nowOn my quest to find the time to work my way through all the backlog regarding the reviews I want to write, it became time to listen to Michel Héroux.

He was so kind to include a letter with the CD, saying he was not sure about the direction he wanted, he just wanted an instrumental rock album, without it becoming a shredding project.

Well, this album did not help me shorten the list, as it turned out to be far too good for a limited amount of listens! There are a lot of influences shining through on the music on this album. Think folk, jazz, and prog rock. And while that may sound an eclectic mix, the songs delivered make perfect sense. And yes, no shredding, even though the guitar is the hero here.

Lots of feel from all involved, various moods and luscious grooves on offer. Diverse and vibrant, a great album to visit and re-visit!

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Arcana Kings, Lions As Ravens, 2019

arcana kings - lions as ravensIt probably is a good thing I am aware that my mood influences how I perceive music. A few days ago I would probably have put this down as a solid but a bit mediocre album. But today I do hear a couple of tracks that carry fire.

So the former Johnny McCuaig Band, with seldom used bagpipes as part of the arsenal, do deliver some energetic tracks in their mix of pop, rock and a dash of punk. Especially the first few tracks (Drowning, Friend Of Mine and my favourite Here We Go) are vibrant and convincing. Still, with 9 tracks and a playing time of under 32 minutes, there is room for improvement. A track like Run Runaway has already been done too often.

A good (re)start and a band that probably will light up any stage.

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Bryan Beller, Scenes From The Flood, 2019

Bryan-Beller-Scenes-From-The-FloodSome musicians are so talented it’s almost inhuman. And when they often work with other guys whose chops are also out of this world, I get suspicious. Maybe the aliens are already amongst us and just dazzle us with their musical capabilities…

Well one can never tell for sure, but Bryan Beller sure is a guy that has talent in spades. And not just as a bass player, the job he’s best known for.

This double album proves he is much more. And thus delivers another album to prove people wrong who do not believe instrumental music can be as entertaining as vocals songs. (There are some vocals present on the albums by the way).
A lot of diversity on offer too, and all packed in Songs, not just your (above) average rifferama. From catchy to spectacular and everything in between, the album delivers! And accessible too, I loved it at first play. But that is not surprising or else I would have chosen other words to describe the joy of listening to this. Stellar!

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Dudley Taft, Simple Life, 2019

dudley taft - simple lifeSecond album from mister Taft to land in my player and, like the first one, I am liking what I hear!

This is another batch of blues infused rock that might not be something world shockingly new, but damn, are this tasty bits. And good that the man has a sense of humour too!

Opener Give Me A Song is a perfect introduction to the album. And the title track that follows too. I Can’t Live Without You has some twin guitars that would have made Thin Lizzy proud and on many other places, his bluesy strat licks add bits of magic to the already vibrant songs.

Yes, another album you should check if you like blues that rocks / rock with bluesy touches!

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The Compounds, Far From Home, 2019

the compounds - far from homeThis is the debut EP from this young Dutch 4 piece. A singer, a drummer, a bass player and a guitarist screams rock doesn’t it? Well yeah, sometimes life is that simple 🙂 There are 5 tracks on this digipack and a good 20 minutes of music.

While listening I sometimes got a bit of a punk energy from the band. The sound is a bit rough around the edges, but I guess that is intentional. For me the drums could do with a bit more power in the mix and the bass sounds a little lightweight in my humble opinion. Or maybe the vocals and guitar are a tad too prominent? Let’s say tastes differ.
And while the singer already puts a lot of swagger in his performance, with a couple more years of experience his projection will get even better. Nice little Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) reference in closing track Rockin’ Machine by the way.

Promising first effort so look out for their new album, which they will be recording shortly.

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Guy Paul Thibault, The Road Between, 2019

guy paul thibault - the road betweenWhen you play over 200 shows per year and still manage to record a new album, you must be dedicated to your art. So welcome back Guy Paul Thibault to these pages. And while it took 17 years to release predecessor It’s About Time, this one took only 2 years.

But many things I wrote about then, still apply now. The Road Between is as diverse and varied as before and carried and held together by the confident vocal performance of Thibault.
But this time I also want to mention his guitar playing. Especially his clean stratocaster tones in tracks like Who Are You or Don’t See Me Cry are worth noting. The latter strangely reminds me of Robert Cray’s Strong Persuader by the way.
Stand out tracks for me are Dangerous Strangers and Talk To Me. But those are amongst the more rocking material on offer, and that remains the more natural environment for me. Especially when compared to the country twang in Take Me. Then again, No One Understands is a pretty good ballad!
Oh, I should also mention that, besides drums, percussion and backing vocals, Thibault did all the rest himself.

Pleasant, solid and enjoyable are fitting words for this collection of tracks.

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The Sighs Of Monsters, Dust, 2019

the sighs of monsters - dustThird album from this London (UK) based outfit and the second one to hit these pages. If you look at my review of previous album Lie, you will find that I quite liked the outcome. So it was really exciting to receive this new album, knowing that the guys still strive to deliver an interesting album, and do not care for singles or EP’s. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I am just more into albums myself too.

Last time I might have called it progressive rock, but I think a better, albeit more generic, term to describe their music is rock. Because the music goes places, but at the core feels like it is based on rock principles.
So don’t be scared if at one song you recall 80’s new wave, then pop rock, then a slice of authentic rhythm and blues (the real kind, not the plastic r&b crap) and of course there are proggy elements throughout too.
These guys never seize to amaze me with blending all these influences and still make sense.  Always with a good hook, a catchy chorus or a riff that grabs your attention, so never a dull moment on this.

Simply put, another album that sounds fresh and diverse, and another one I will be playing for years to come. Well done sirs!

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Spitfish, Penny Dreadful, 2019

spitfish - penny dreadfulFrom Polish coastal city of ships, Gdansk, comes Spitfish. Despite being a “new” band, it’s members describe themselves as experienced. They are a trio, with David Zwolan on vocals, bass and synths, Pawel Kwagz on guitar and Jedrzej Antkewicz on drums. Yeah, I had not heard of them before either.
The CD holds 7 tracks and almost 28 minutes of music, making it more of an extended EP or mini album. But it’s the music that counts, so let’s take a look.

Opener Into The Void is a quite misleading half minute intro, built on sequencing and a mellotron type sound. But when it bursts into second track Grim Suspiria, we hear what the band is really about. Powerful guitar riffs, pounding drums and an energy that harkens back to punk. And it must be said, the album does sound mature. It is well played and recorded, and the songs are delivered with swagger and bravado.
Another good thing about them is that the music is well put together. They got hooks and melody. By using dynamics in their arrangements, the band also avoid sounding like a one trick pony. A good example is Swallow The Dust, with it’s soft intro and a verse that builds up the tension before they set loose in the chorus.

Yup, good one!

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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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