Darryl Way, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons In Rock, 2018

darryl way - vivaldi's 4 seasonsSometimes life as a reviewer is easy. And in this case it is. For those of you who do not know Darryl Way, he is one of the founding members of Curved Air where he delivers the violins. Curved Air recorded a track called Vivaldi some 50 odd years ago and this CD is essentially giving a bit of a rock treatment to the whole of the Four Seasons from the classical composer.

Now a bit of a heads up; when I say rock, in this case that means that bass, drums, rhythm guitars and layers of synthesisers have been added to the movements. The original melodies are still played on violin with only some embellishment in the slower parts.

So what does this re-interpretation leave us with? Well, Way knows how to play and does the music justice. Is it very different? No. Does is rock hard? Again, no, don’t think that was the intention.

This is a well done version, with a bit of extra spice here and there. Nothing more and nothing less. If you like rock and enjoy classical music, this will work since you will be familiar with most of the melodies. If you hate either, avoid. I like this version for what it is.

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Tautologic, Re:Psychle, 2018

tautologic - re psychleReading through the press info I noticed this album is inspired by real life people from Chicago. Combine that with the play with words in the title of the CD and you might wonder how intense this is going to get…

Well let me assure you, for a prog album, this is a remarkably light footed effort. And I mean that in a very positive way. First because there are no epics here as songs range from 2 to 6 minutes. Second it is because of the positive vibes I get from the songs. The way they are arranged might help, as overall I am finding this upbeat, with great singing and harmonies. Over sometimes poppy and sometimes more complex themes , it is still prog after all. Add to this the sometimes achingly beautiful instrumental parts (using violin, cello, flutes, sax, trombone etc, really creates great atmospheric music), and the scene is set for an album that demands your attention and rewards your time with making you feel good about yourself.
And the best thing about it all is, at least in my book, I never ever once thought it was going nowhere. The songs are precise, deliver every note and beat with intent and nothing outstays their welcome. And because of the often catchy melodies I am sure a lot of people outside the “prog community” would find this a worthwhile addition to their collection!

So do not hesitate, give this a spin!

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Maverick, Firebird, 2018

maverick - firebirdOriginally released by this Aussie band in 2017, this version concerns the Bad Reputation release from 02-2018.  The band is a quartet consisting of Craig Jovanovic on vocals and guitar, Nick Dudman on drums, Mark De Vattimo on guitars and vocals and Simon Hallett on bass and vocals. Their musical influences are said to be Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Humble Pie and Mountain.

But while listening to this, the name that popped up in my head the most was The Black Crowes, even when that is mostly due to the vocal delivery being somewhat similar to Chris Robinson. Anyway, if balls to the wall rock is what you are after, these guys have the right attitude and the chops to pull it off. Does that make them special? No not really, at least not in my book. This is vibrant and I have no doubts that they will rock every stage and take their crowds by storm. But most of the songs sound a bit as by the numbers. Solid, well done, but nothing really stands out.
That is, until the closing part of the album. I found I really fall for The Road and Tonight We Die, the last 2 of the 8 on offer. These do hit home for me. So I hit repeat and just listen again. And slowly but surely the album becomes more of a friend. Track 3 Obsession is also rather good. As is that riff in Black Voodoo.

So, as is so often the case, it is a grower. Play it often and see what it does for you!

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Ghostly Beard, Inward, 2018

ghostly beard - inwardWell, not sure if I can add anything to what has already been said about Ghostly Beard. But of course I am still trying just that 🙂
Because there is a lot to like about the music of Patrick Talbot, the bearded one himself. After the Infinite EP, with it’s magnificent prog leanings, came first full length Invisible, which proved a treat with it’s sophisticated, sometimes fusion like approach. And in what seems only a few months after, we are now treated with the third release, titled Inward. Seems the guy loves words that start with I.

And to be clear, I love the music of this man. Not because he is the best singer in the world. He isn’t but can deliver his tunes with an inspiring honesty and clever use of backing vocals. Also not because he is an awesome instrumentalist who seems to handle every instrument with an ease that could make people jealous. He does not play to impress, he shines because he serves the song in the best possible way.
No, it is because of the feel good nature of his songs!

Yes, on this album some tracks are melancholic, but they do not make me sad at all. Ever since getting the album I have been listening I don’t know how many times, and the album always picks me up. From the slow burning How Does It Feel, (great chorus and heartfelt guitar solo) to the full on happy Going Away, every song enchants me.

In his words this album defines his style as an artist. To me the only thing that is important is that I hope he releases many more songs. Treat yourself and pick this up!

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Dawson Rutledge, Monsters, 2017

dawson rutledge - MonstersOne of the best things about doing this is that you get to hear a wide variety of music. And since variety is the spice of life, this album is been making quite a few rounds in my CD player lately.
The 19 year young Dawson Routledge is a fairly new name on the scene, delivering his first official album here, the 9 track album Monsters.

Probably best described as a mix of soft rock, pop, jazz and folk, Monsters has turned out to be quite the laid back affair. But of the kind that grabs you with an unique voice, clever lyrics and a delivery that is beyond Rutledge’s years.
Sometimes a song starts with a hook that makes you wonder if you have heard it before, but in the end this is all original. The overall sound is warm and does justice to the songs that are carried by their pop sensibilities and folky arrangements. It is clear that he is serious about his craft, especially since his picking skills are on par with his vocals. And the subtle rhythmic changes are often the icing on the cake.

Personal favourites are When Life Gives You Monsters and Heavy Heart, but there are enough choices to please many.

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Umphrey’s McGee, It’s Not Us, 2018

umphrey's mcgee - it's not usNow here is another band that in my humble opinion should be a lot bigger. A big lot bigger! And it seems the band thought so too, because this album sees them in their probably most focused and accessible appearance yet.

Now, those words might also scare some of their older fans away, but that would be a mistake.  Even when especially the first 4 songs sound tailor made for the unaware public, this band is just too damn good to sell out. So do not worry, their songwriting and playing abilities are still strong and prominent throughout.
Actually, I quite like they chose a couple of highly catchy songs to open the album with. You immediately feel at home listening to this. So when their usual more quirky nature shows its face in songs like Maybe Someday or Remind Me, they impress me even more. And still the melodies and feel here are of the highest calibre! The way Remind Me moves through several rock genres is mindblowing and a testament of just how good this band is. Even when you are not a mellotron or guitar fan, I dare you to not like this… And just when you think they have gone completely mad, they tear you up with the aching beauty of You And You Alone.

For me this is an album with an undisputable quality. Classy music from class musicians. Don’t remain ignorant, put this on your buy list and give it a few spins. I guarantee a satisfactory experience. And if not, consider yourself lost 🙂

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Cellar Dwellers, Junkyard Chronicles part 3, 2018

cellar dwellers - junkyard chronicles part 3And…the Cellar Dwellers are back with EP 3 in a series of 4. And as was to be expected, EP 3 of the Junkyard Chronicles is another batch of 5 songs highlighting the bands roots in punk, psychedelic and classic rock.

Opening with the venomous Don’t Know Dick, the first statement is bold and ballsy. Next track, Dear Johnny, with Michel Janssen on guest vocals, is an uptempo rocker with alas a sad ending for Johnny… Lost is a song with a great haunting guitar line throughout the song. It is a slow burner, and for me easy one of the highlights.  Next up is Pussy, which you can listen to below. And yes, it is fun and energetic.
The release closes with Nightmare, which is another prime example of the power in the band. And another song with great guitar work.

Expect part 4 towards the end of the year.

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The Foxholes, Sci-Fox, 2017

the foxholes - sci-foxThe Foxholes have been featured here before, making this their second release on these pages. And from a dialect, we now move on to Spanish as the language of choice. But no translations this time.

The album opens however with the instrumental title track. Or actually part 1 to be more accurate. And it is a prime example of how to build up such a track. Just like the other instrumental tracks they have on offer, Andromeda Blues and part 2. Themes, riffs and breaks are glued together in such a manner that the song has a clear identity. And the sound is just very transparent, yet powerful, great job!  And speaking of powerful, next track La Ciencia De La Confusion opens with a very attractive hook! It immediately sucks you in, especially since it is based on a groove Led Zeppelin would have been proud of. But the guys manage to work a little beyond that idiom, adding textures and parts that sometimes turn it into a more progressive song. Anyway, great track. And even though I barely understand any Spanish, it does not withhold me from enjoying all I hear.
Mephistopheles is the shortest track on the album. Very catchy chorus, and the use of dynamics is plain clever. In a perfect world this would have the potential to become a hit. Tierra Ni Hogar continues the high level of songwriting, and the same goes for the bonus track Cada Miércoles.

In my book there is only one flaw with the album, with 7 songs and less than 40 minutes it is a bit short. But we can’t have all now can we.

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Huub Holtman, Trap Door, 2017

huub holtman - trap doorNot 100% sure, but this might actually be the first CD discussed here, that is sung in my native dialect, Limburgs, from the South of the Netherlands. And to complicate things, from the somewhat North of the South… So while the English speakers amongst us think they are reading Trap Door, in reality that means something like; go on. Or more specific, go on with your biking. Or something like that 😉

Anyway, this album is written, performed, recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Huub Holtman himself. Albeit with some guests on percussion, additional vocals, lead guitar and a few other bits and pieces.
It took me a while to tag the music I was hearing. It sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel and Muse have been experimenting together. So I guess it is a mix of rock and pop with alternative touches and a tad of prog thrown in for good measure.
But the beauty of it all is, that even when most of the world will not understand the lyrics, the music does have the quality to reach out and grab you. Trap Door and Neet Van Belang (It Doesn’t Matter) have an attractive catchiness about them. Veur Dich (For You) is an intricate follow up to the suspense closing bit of Neet Van Belang. Heb Ik Waat (Do I have Something) just plain rocks.

Obvious conclusion is that this is an album that the (alternative) rockers, no matter the language, will be able to enjoy.

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Alan Simon, Excalibur IV, 2017

alan simon - EXCALIBUR-4From never having heard of Alan Simon, now on to a second album. The first was his recent released Songwriter double disc, which I enjoyed very much. And since this one is called Excalibur IV, The Dark Age Of The Dragon, we can be pretty sure that there have been Excalibur albums before this (duh).

Not sure if everyone will agree with me, but for me one of the highlights of Simon is the diversity on offer. From folk, to rock, to classical and many in between, you can find a lot of genres on this album. Sometimes even in one song. And while in many cases that would make an album suffer from a lack of focus, this guy produces songs that are able to tell a story, even without words. The fact that all is executed beautifully only helps of course. Just take a look at the guest list: Michael Sadler (Saga), Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Moya Brennan (Clannad), Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth), John Helliwell (Supertramp) or Bernie Shaw (Uriah Heep) to name a few! What all these names confirm is the scope of the material.

So a haunting song like Alone can stand firmly besides a more rocking song like for instance Stonehenge. Just like the pop bliss of Calling For You easily sits besides the proggy Don’t Be Afraid or the dreamy and almost opera-esque The Last Lament Of A Fairy.

For me there is no more excuse in trying to find earlier albums. Great stuff, worth checking out if you, like me, have been living under a rock as far as Alan Simon is concerned…

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