Mr Big, Defying Gravity, Frontiers
Recorded in six days in Los Angeles by all original members, Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, Paul Gilbert and Pat Torpey (albeit that Pat had a little help on the drums due to his recent diagnosis of Parkinson from Matt Starr) its great to see Mr Big back and having so much fun in the videos for the singles for the album (both drummers interchanging which while necessary doubles as an entertaining video gimmick). In this their ninth studio album the band have proved they can still come up with the goods even if they set themselves an extremely tight schedule in the studio. The deluxe version of the CD comes with a DVD of the making of the album bringing the process of making the album alive for fans.
‘Open your Eyes’ reminded us in style of recent well crafted songs by Richie Kotzen who did, of course replace original member Paul Gilbert for a while in this band and this first track reveals a slew of influences from soul and funk behind the scenes (Billy Sheehan now, of course, plays with Richie in the Winery Dogs with strong similar influences). However, the solo from Paul Gilbert is pure metal shredding making sure the track stays firmly labelled rock. Title track ‘Defying Gravity’ is even more diverse introducing middle eastern style melodies and syncopation similar to those used recently by Kip Winger and House Of Lords and, certainly keeps things interesting. The chorus of this track, however, is pure straight down the line infectious aor. ‘Everybody needs a little trouble’ has a little bit of jazz and swing, in the rhythms, but nothing serves to supplant Mr Gilbert’s rock style solo we are pleased to see. “Damn I’m in love again’ is an acoustic number in the skiffle tradition and is the closest to the ‘To Be With You’ era so far on the album. ‘Mean To Me’ about a ball breaking female is nice word play with ‘mean’ also meaning cruel in the context of the song and has some complicated jazz style playing behind the simpler main melody. ‘Nothing Bad (Bout Feelin Good)’ has the feel of a song you’ve heard before as it is so easy on the ear, but it’s just a feature of how well the song is written with some nice sixties style harmonies in the chorus. ‘Forever and Back’ is a big sounding ballad with nice Brian May style guitar breaks. ‘She’s all coming back to me now’ is an easygoing number with chart sensibilities with another excellent Queen style guitar solo. ‘1992’ about the time of the huge success enjoyed by the band has some musician’s musician type playin sitting as a sophisticated layer behind a sixties/seventies influenced commercial chorus. ‘Nothing at all’ is a funk influenced track with a Beatles influenced chorus and some blues guitar. ‘Be Kind’ is a nod to the fifties big band vocals wise but this is combined with a Zeppelinesque guitar twist, a blues guitar interlude, some Robert Plant style seventies vocals mid track and ends in a free for all jam. Nobody can say this album does not pack it all in!
Like a lot of top class musicians Mr Big clearly are interested in many forms of music, they have, however, successfully synthesised these influences into an album aimed at their longstanding fans without plowing furrows where they have already been. The result is fresh without being too much of a shock to the system for loyal fans.
Andrew the Axeman checking in:
Talk about a band who was late to the party - the Krayola Kids came on to the sunset strip scene in Hollywood with the right kind of attitude and the right kind of songs to take it by storm, but too bad it was 1991 already when they formed. But now, thanks to FnA Records, much of the material that would have been on their record 'The House that Glam Built' is available - but it is limited to 100 copies, so once you are done reading this, act fast!
The opening track "Krayola Rock n Roll" is their anthem and sets the tone for the rest of the record - this band was all about the fun of it all, having a good time and it shows. A really cool note is that Poison guitarist CC Deville was a big mentor to the band, helping them with their sound and their image. They definitely wear those influences on their sleeve - you can hear the rawness of Poison's early years, the hook-filled prowess of Pretty Boy Floyd and the trippiness of Enuff Z'Nuff at certain points throughout. The Z'nuff comparison is very evident on the track, "Sweet Pea". Songs like "Bitches N Ladies" will be stuck in your head for days and ballads like "Havin' a Friend" and "Without Your Love" could have been all over the radio. Rockers like "Don't Be a Fake" is also a favorite and rounds off the record with a bang by way of "Big Shot".
Vocalist Krayola Kelly, guitarist Pepsi Pop, bassist Holly Daze and drummer Tommi Tune lived and breathed the glory days of the strip and it is captured perfectly on this release. For all you 'hidden gem' collectors out there like me, the Krayola Kids are calling your name!
Radiation Romeos, Self Titled, Frontiers
Fronted by Parramore ‘Perry’ McCarty (Warrior, Atomic Playboys) on vocals with Dag Hayne (guitars), Jogi Spittka (bass) and Gereon Hofmann on drums this is another Frontiers super project aimed at the classic rock/eighties market and it’s an album we enjoyed as they do this sort of thing really quite well.
Title track ‘Radiation Romeos’ comes out of the trap with strong riffs and vocals, a big catchy chorus and shredding solos with ticks in all the boxes. ‘Ocean Drive’ is a highly produced road song designed to inspire a convertible ride down the Pacific Coast highway with your hair flyin in the wind and it has the desired feel good factor. ‘Bad Bad Company’ is heavier with a grittier vocal.’Mystic Mountain’ is a little Dio-like in themes and intention although the guitar work is its best feature. ‘Like an Arrow’ is a ballad lighter in tone and is rescued from saccharine sweetness by some excellent searing vocal work and some Dire Straits style atmospheric licks. ‘Promised Land’ is quite House Of Lords with a pomp and majesty feel and diverse cultural influences. ‘Castaways’ has a singalong traditional English feel a bit like some recent work from ‘Ten’. ‘Ghost Town’ has nice harmonised guitars and a good guitar solo, but is one of the weaker songs on the album. ‘Til the end of Time’ doesn’t set the album alight either and maybe should have hit the cutting room floor too. However, closing tracks ‘On the Tight Rope’ and ‘Monstertraxx’ raise the bar again with some inspired vocal work or shredding and stronger songs
Overall a pretty good album with quite a few tracks that might make your digital music collection edit. A strong debut with some material we really liked. Not every track’s a stunner, but it’s a high average score and certainly worth a good long visit.
Janet Gardner, self titled, Pavement
Not constrained by the history of Vixen, Janet Gardner has released this her first solo album with a slightly heavier more modern direction reminiscent of Halestorm. Janet is still very much a part of Vixen and their much loved sound, but in the medium of a solo album she has been able to express other parts of herself. It is fresh and exciting and, while we would also love to hear a new album from Vixen, this will do very nicely in the interim! Reinvigorated by her marriage with Justin James she collaborates with him on this record, created while Vixen were on hiatus due to a line up change. We are glad she seized this opportunity to produce this awesome new album!
An immediate in your face metal chant, it’s a take no prisoner attitude from the first with storming first track ‘Rat Hole’. The lyric ‘dirty motherfuckers’ tells you immediately that this is a new approach from the beautiful foxy lady as she shows you her teeth and why she has such a reputation for her powerful voice. A heavy chugging riff indicates the masculine presence of Justin James with slight thrash influences, but the chorus is pure get under your skin 80s commercial hard rock. ‘Hippycrite’ opens with a heavier guitar riff and has a pop influenced chorus and drum machine style beat set against a lyric with a streak of anger and 80s style guitar shredding that makes it undoubtedly rock and likely to appeal to all of Janet’s previous fans. ‘If you want me’ combines a lighter well crafted vocal melody which is quite Vixen in approach with a driving grinding riff and an 80s style guitar break in a genius something for everybody combination. ‘Candle’ is more of a ballad and love song and could easily have been a Vixen record were it not for a Steve Stevens style interlude where Justin James intercedes with a bit of testosterone fuelled fast paced burst of pure ‘look at me’ guitar energy. ‘Your Problem Now’ is a strong hard rocker with Janet singing at full throttle reminding of Smashed Gladys, Saraya and Lizzy Hale who can belt a tune out to rival the boys anyday. ‘Let it be Over’ is an anti war song with an awesome passionate guitar solo like one of those in a great Michael Jackson song (in the days when guitar heroes lifted Jackson’s songs) and strikes a great balance in the vocals between gentle and peaceful to suit the message, but with a moment of Janet letting rip with full force to indicate the anger against the senseless waste of life.
The apocalyptic guitar passages in ‘Lost’ give this track a nineties edge while retaining a strong 80s sensibility in the vocal delivery. ‘The Grind’ has Janet catching the 90s groove for parts of the vocals taking the cue from the heavy bass line, with some lighter 80s style vocals thrown in for contrast. “Best Friend’ is a pretty acoustic ballad and an indication of the happiness and bliss of new love. ‘The Good or the Bye’ is a good little barnstormer with a witty lyric and southern rock influence executed with rock n roll style guitar a la Junkyard and whisky laden vocals a la Britny Fox or classic Cinderella.
Janet has delivered an album taking some of the great aspects of Vixen, but combined with the masculine energy of her husband has resulted in producing something palpably different. Refreshing and new, while we can’t wait for the next Vixen album, we loved this opportunity to see this particular vixen with a small ‘v’ produce something with a little more bite.
Pre-order via iTunes right here and get the new single 'Rat Hole' - officially out on August 18th.
Kickin Valentina, Imaginary Creatures, Mighty Music
Scorchin’ second album from Atlanta based self confessed ‘loud unapologetic rock n roll.’ Named after a fetish artist who liked to kick men in the balls there’s nothing subtle about what this band do. Prepare to feel assaulted in the ears, at least, in the best possible way. However, these guys know what they are doing, already award winning and with diverse influences from punk, sleaze, eighties, sixties and seventies rock and fifties stuff like when Elvis was raw, they’re rough and ready but they know what makes a tune.
‘Turns Me On’ is a Guns n Roses crossed with Faster Pussycat influenced classic in the making like a sucker punch to the jaw. However my favourite on the album is ‘Crazy’ which is a slower southern style track with a whisky laden vocal betraying a mature songwriting style that could be born from old souls with a lifetime of hard real life experience in Nashville now that it’s a rock n roll as much as a country town. ‘Heartbreak’ is another track that’ll make you think the band has had nine lives of sorrow such is the level of feeling. ‘Imaginary Creature’ is a bit of a metal anthem with some Teutonic influences and a memorable title track.
‘Devil’s hand’ has a Slash style guitar break to be admired and blistering solos abound across the album. Wherever guitar master Heber Pampillon has been hiding he’s been practicing and I was not surprised to hear he had studied classical guitar and teaches too. However, there is nothing pretentious about these guys. ‘She’s Street and I’m Trailer’ illustrates that these guys are never gonna forget their roots (which run river deep and mountain high). Finally, they have a very hands on approach with fans on social media and understand the metal tribe vibe of quality old Skool bands like AC/DC.
One of the best albums I’ve heard for a while. Their debut album was a solid effort, but this new album is much, much better. If you wish you had been there when ‘Appetite for Destruction’ came out don’t miss the boat (or should it be night train) with Kickin Valentina.
In relation to this album it is necessary to cover a little history first. This is not Jack Russell’s Great White. This album is the second one from the line up that brought you ‘Elation’ with original Great White members Mark Kendall (Guitars), Michael Lardie (guitars and keyboards) and Audie Desbrow (drums) and the reason that’s important to know is that the Jack Russell line up delivered a very diverse album that may be challenging for fans of old Skool Great White earlier this year and it may be important for some not to confuse the two. ‘Full Circle’ using original producer Michael Wagener is much more likely to be to the taste of those traditional fans. It’s likely that the title ‘Full Circle’ is meant to signal that return to roots which may be music to the ears of most fans.
‘I’m Alright’ is an optimistic start and it’s a lighthearted rocker explaining how so much money has been spent on lovely ladies, but the band don’t care at all cos they had such a good time and if it’s one thing people associate with Great White it’s the party spirit. ‘Movin on’ indicates, however, that the band has changed somewhat and while the music is still classic rock it is undoubtedly more mature in themes and execution and a little more chilled and the band are clearly ok with that. In fact, they’re still having a ball albeit in a more considered way as ‘This is the Life’ indicates. That track reminded me of recent albums from Europe the Swedish band so you get the picture a strong melodic hard rock song with great guitar and vocals, what’s not to like! ‘Let me In’ is more of a ballad and easy on the ear. ‘Moonshine’ was not my favourite track on the album as the chorus seemed a little one dimensional to me, but I’ve seen great reviews of that track so some people clearly love it and it’s fair to say it doesn’t sound like anything else. ‘Cry of a Nation’ is a beautiful slow song with lot of feelin and a lifetime of musicianship and skill harnessed to create something laid back with a powerful message in the tradition of Bob Marley and, although this is definitely rock and not reggae, it may cause people to break out the smokes. “Give it Up’ and ‘I’ve Got Your Back’ continue the chilled theme, however with ‘Big Time’ and ‘Never Let You Down’ the tempo is rocked up again whilst keepin plenty of groove.
Hard copies of the CD will include a DVD “The Making of Full Circle’ which will no doubt contain some really interesting material showing the band at work with Michael Wagener at Wireworld in Nashville to create this worthwhile and super polished album. It may not be all hell raising and decadence anymore, but it is authentically Great White and you will recognise the band in the album. As reassuring as the re-appearance of the big fish on the cover, this band still has plenty of bite.
For more, go to www.officialgreatwhite.com.
Halfway There, Mark Slaughter, EMP
Mark Slaughter is back with his second album demonstrating that while his roots are firmly in metal and rock he is not a one trick pony and, as you would expect, has undergone a certain amount of development since the glory days of ‘Stick it to Ya’. Handling engineering/producing/writing duties on this as well as vocals and instruments, it’s a truly personal affair.
The record falls largely into two halves. The first half is more like the traditional metal material many people would expect from Mark, opening with ‘Hey You’ with a shout a long gig friendly chorus, strong guitar presence and beloved waterfall shredding. ‘Devoted’ is even heavier and while still melodic with a great tune it has a driving doom metal style bass line marking the material as post Bay Area thrash while retaining a commercial edge. ‘Supernatural’ is a song with a great hook and whilst firmly rock with butterfly licks in the high range, has a slight r n b influence. It retains the feel of a familiar classic rock song though and, so easily does it run on the ear, it is probably the stand out track on the album. Title track ‘Halfway There’ has a slower groove. Still with a traditional rock sound for which Slaughter is known and loved, it’s halfway to a ballad with harmonies and a statement solo which reminded us a little of Brian May. Everything for a fan of rock classics to like and love. ‘Forevermore’ has an upbeat 80s feel reminding us of Bon Jovi having striking vocals with just the right amount of rasp to give that rugged masculine feel and harmonised energised guitars, again with a dash of influence from Queen.
Moving into the second half we have some material more influenced by the 90s. ‘Conspiracy’ sounds a bit more like Sixx AM. It still has heavy riffs and is undoubtedly guitar-centric, but the vocals have more of an alternative sound. ‘Reckless’ continues this darker post grunge turn with influences from bands like Stone Temple Pilots. “Disposable’ is the 80s ballad that, traumatised by the 90s, has become an emo anthem. ‘Turn It’, while still dark emotionally, is a turn back to more traditionally structured guitar orientated rock with some Philip Glass influence. ‘Not there’, a song about passing on, shows that Mark is far more than the bubblegum glam singer he is sometimes painted to be and the style of the song, being a little more jazz and blues orientated shows him pushing beyond the confines of the rock stereotype.
So whilst there’s enough to keep a dyed in the wool Slaughter fan happy, there’s enough of a glimpse into Mark the man to satisfy those who want to see him grow as an artist and recognise he is more that a man defined by the decade of excess. Overall the second half of the album is challenging, but what worth listening to is not on some level. Props to him for showing us who he really is.
Warrant are back with the classic line up plus new-ish singer Robert Mason and they have delivered a heck of an album. And for those who dismissed them for the cheesecake of ‘Cherry Pie’, this album takes all the great things from the eighties, big production values, professionalism and commercial noise and supplements that with improved songwriting and material with greater depth and maturity born from age and experience. Production from former Dokken and current Foreigner bass player Jeff Pilson has really brought out the best in these boys and it’s time to take them super seriously on the world rock stage even if you never did so before.
Title Track ‘Louder, Harder, Faster’ and later number ‘New Rebellion’ have all the hallmarks of classic metal and get full marks for being an immediate attack on the senses and packed full of guitar and hooks. ‘Devil Dancer’ is a sultry number about a powerful women who knows how to use sex, less cheerleader, more stripper full of gritty realism and sleaze. ‘Big Sandy’ harmony-laden about a well endowed lady up for a booty call is coming from the same nether regions. ‘Perfect’ and ‘Faded’ are radio friendly aor numbers about love. ‘Only Broken Heart’ was unexpectedly a bit like Thin Lizzy in the verses and guitar approach, although with a ramped up metal chorus which works surprisingly well. ‘U in my Life’ is a big ballad with a sensitively played guitar solo. ‘Music Man’ is a tale about someone choosing to live his life outside the norms of society and has more of a stomping bluesy feel. ‘Choose Your Fate’ also has strong roots in the blues in the verses, although the choruses are back to classic metal. ‘Let it go’ is not a Frozen cover, but a melodic song about making peace with the past and we can guess what that’s all about.
So this is varied, sophisticated, all killer no filler and way better than some may expect. Jerry Dixon said they didn’t try and force it but just tried to do what came naturally without trying to think about it too hard. Ain't that the zone!
Get your copy here.
Back with his fourth solo album and accompanied by former members of Ratt and White Lion Stephen Pearcy shows us that while he still has plenty of party left, his roots are firmly in pedigree classic rock, just as much old school as old skool if you get our drift. Lyrical content is diverse and so while there are party songs, be prepared for philosophy, perception and positivity showing that he can do more than the hair metal three ps (party, pussy and paycheck) although those are still inevitably around. This particular rodent is now far more aware having escaped the hazy eighties intact and with smarts honed by experience.
Stephen’s voice is still his unique calling card and is unmistakeable and so there is plenty of continuity from the old days particularly say in ‘Hit Me with A Bullet’ and ‘Ten Miles Wide’ which cranks out the Ratt riffs from the off. However there’s more of the Led Zeppelin groove about tracks like ‘Shut Down Baby’, ‘What Do Ya think’ and more feelin in guitar on tracks like ‘I know I’m crazy’ going back to the roots of Ratt n Roll not just the externals. Sleaze and fun are still present, ‘Lollipop’ leaving little to the imagination, but appreciation of life and relationships comes to the fore in tracks like ‘Rain’ about Stephen’s daughter, ‘You want too much’ and ‘Dead Roses’ about those that have crossed him (recent Ratt events coming to the fore). That feelin of the streets skills needed from livin with the seedy and less than inspiration side of LA (always present in Ratt material) shines through loud and clear. Rats are nothing if not clever survivors.
So Pearcy arrives in 2017 unscathed, indeed reinvigorated by the poison of street life. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.