Category Archives: music

Pride of a Lion: Mike Tramp on Copenhagen, getting older and AC/DC

Mike Tramp Interview: Star of Kings, London:

So, this is your 8th solo album now

M.T: Yes sir, about that now

Where do you think you’ve travelled from your first solo work, or even since “Stand Your Ground” (2011)?

M.T: The thing is, is that, you know, once I broke away from White Lion and formed Freak of Nature, you know, one thing led to another. I was done with White Lion and I needed to start something new. I needed a new sound. It’s kind of like, in better words, I grew out of that. There are people today, you understand the point, still trying to play [the same music] but when you hear the calling inside you to move on you can’t resist that. In the 90s with the grunge coming along and the scene changing, I had also changed and so Freak of Nature became the band that were and the sound and the lyrics. It was just completely something different. When that band ended, I knew I couldn’t give anymore to a band. It’s taken so much of my life.

So then I basically just went back to who Mike Tramp is. Mike Tramp is just one of the bricks that build the house and that brick is just one certain type. Once you take that brick away, you just have that one element. And obviously, those who know those two bands only know the final sound; they don’t know how the ingredients were put together. But the sound of Mike Tramp is much more different than the bands I was in. And it’s also why the band sounds like that because if they had had any other singer, or frontman or songwriter, so it’s the combination of things. So I returned to myself. But of course I’m starting with the 80s and 90s behind me and starting a solo career. So there’s going to be lots of searching and experimenting and all that kind of stuff and it went on for years and years and years.  And then, a slight return to try and recreate White Lion with the new line up. A complete mistake.

You think it was a mistake? Why do you say that?

M.T: Oh yeah, of course it was a mistake. The reason I broke up with the band was because I was done with it. The reason you file for divorce is because the love is gone. You get tired of it. But I needed to do it to find out I’d made the mistake. I made the decision when I’d be on tour for my second solo album and when you’re playing to like 25 people and when people are goading you and saying “Oh, if you put White Lion back together…I knew White Lion…you’d play festivals and make big bucks…”

But it’s not all about that…

M.T: No and you find that out so you put together and it becomes heartaches and lawsuits, everything else. So now I came away twice the bitterest. But those are the mistakes you learn from. So I’ve been going in and out and stuff. My previous 2 albums were called “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus”. Because the guys who recorded that album were just too much of a band; even though these were my songs, it was not a solo album! They had too much influence in the performance of the album. So that’s why I called it the Circus. When I went to do this album, number 1, I didn’t plan to do an album: I just walked into my friend’s studio and said, “I need to hear some music, I’m feeling it.” He said, “every time we’ve worked together, we always talk about our heroes and how simple rock is. Why don’t you, for the first time in your life, follow your love of acoustic guitar.” So, you know, I went in the studio and recorded the first song. And he said, “You know, I heard a piano part, let me play it.” So he did and we sat back and then we went: this song is finished. At the end of the first day, the first four songs were finished, recorded and everything. In four days, the album was finished. And I had no record deal; I had nobody to introduce it to. Nobody knew about it, which is why now I’ve gotten the greatest reviews around the world that I’ve ever gotten for another album.

Has your source of inspiration changed?

M.T: No. Because right now this is a complete circle back. I grew up in the late 60s and 70s in Denmark, heavily influenced by folk music and there was the hippie movement. On every street corner there was stood someone with a flower in their hair with an acoustic guitar, singing something. Then there was Dylan and Neil Young. Then there were the Danish artists. And I had that in the youth club, singing it at camps, at school and stuff. But it never ever evolved into anything. I mean I was still young so I don’t really remember all of it but it wasn’t the message wasn’t about getting better. Folk music was an expression, it wasn’t “oh, I’m going to be much better than the last album!”  You never heard Bob Dylan or anyone talk about those things! It was poetry, it was a message. Little did I know that as I ventured out in wanting to be the next Van Halen, stuff like this, that this would test itself so heavily on me. Every time I wrote a song, it came from that. Every song I’ve written for every rock band I’ve been in comes from the acoustic guitar you’ll hear tonight. They’re all written in the same way. And then they become electrified. So I go into the recording studio and I show the guys the song and we come up with the big rock sound. But the song itself was created in this way. So when I play the simple version today, I’m not playing it “unplugged,” I’m playing it where the song has come from. And this is where the new album is. I left it at that. There’s only me and my friend on that album.

Is that why you decided for this tour to be purely acoustic one?

M.T: Yeah, yeah, but this is who I am. This is the way I’m going to remain. This is the difference between me and all the other 80s rockers and do an unplugged tour. This is who Mike Tramp is and you’ll hear that in the album.

Where did the name “Cobblestone Street” come from?

M.T: Well, you know London is very familiar with cobblestones and so is Copenhagen. I had seen this vision in my head, remembering when they came with the big yellow machines to put asphalt of the cobblestone streets and in the opening track [of the album] I sing about the little shops closing but all the memories are still there. To me, it’s the closing of one thing and the start of a new thing but I belong under the asphalt, I belong with the original source. So I was using it more as a metaphor and when I did all the interviews in France they were like “Oh, we googled Cobblestone Street in Denmark but we couldn’t find it!”

Well, you must know of “White Lion Street” in Islington in London?

M.T: [laughs] Well, that’s a whole other thing!

What’s it like now, without the band? How is it choosing musicians?

M.T: Well these days I don’t do anything without it feeling right. And it feels right to be alone. I’m a man that loves to be alone. And even though I miss a little bit of music behind me, the feeling of just going out there now is an emotional challenge for me. The album is so personal: I sing about my marriage, about my children, about the fight and the struggle in life. And the great thing is is that my fans have, like, replied to that in the way that, a lot of them who followed me from Freak of Nature are going to grow up with me and my lyrics. When I left White Lion, I started writing about real life. I was raised in Copenhagen in Denmark and we’re very liberal and I was exposed to the world at a very early age. The Americans can be very closed in, living in a fantasy world. But you can’t escape your roots and I don’t want to escape the roots. I speak the truth, I sing about the truth. When you hear the word, me, it’s me.

Are you seeing new fans at your shows?

M.T: Well you can always see, and you want to see, new people venturing into a place. But my fans are almost as old as I am and they’re just growing with me. See, the difference between me and say, Whitesnake, I mean there’s many differences, is that I’m following a natural evolution and part of that evolution is growing old and not defying it! I mean, look at the Hollywood actresses and stuff like that, it’s vanity. Why should I fight life? It feels good! It feels the best I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ve played Madison Square [New York] and some of the biggest arenas in the world. Yesterday I played for 25 people in a pub in Ipswich but I was almost in tears in my head, it felt so good singing the songs. Why is that? Why didn’t it feel like that in Madison Square Garden? It’s the make-up of rock’n’roll, you can’t get any higher! Why didn’t it feel like that when I stood there in 1988?

Do you think there’s something in that for smaller bands?

M.T: No, I don’t think I could ever translate that. I think it’s something you just experience. You either know it or don’t. Most people want to be in rock’n’roll for the wrong reasons. I came into rock’n’roll and learned how to be there. But I soon discovered that that part of rock’n’roll that most people know is not what’s right. I come from of a small part of Denmark and never had a car. So even though I could easily write an album or perform at those levels, I mean I played for 37 years, but I’m so at home looking the mirror and just saying, “You know, this is who you are, this is where you are, 52 years old. And you’ve made your best album.”

Would you consider this your best album then?

M.T: Yeah. I’m proud of all my albums! It’s the most fucking simple album there is but it just happens to be – say you were sitting in my living room and I changed my clothes six times and the seventh time I came out and you just said “They’re the clothes that fit you. They’re the clothes that connect with who you are.” And that’s the search. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with searching. My search just took 20 albums [Laughs]. It’s been a great search, I’ve had a great time and I’ve written some great songs. I’ll be performing them tonight, just in their most primitive form. The only thing I need to wear is a cave-man outfit.

Will you be?

M.T: When I run out of ideas!

You did a tribute song once to Ronnie James Dio, was he a big inspiration of yours?

M.T: Well I got to know Ronnie and it just felt [right] at that time. I was just about to record my last “Rock’n’Roll Circus” album and it came there while I was just sitting at home and it felt right. I took all Ronnie’s titles, like every title he had was like the title of a movie or something. Ronnie was representative of what that rock’n’roll was in many ways and so much of my own influence came from that, especially the Rainbow years inspired me just like Freddie Mercury did, Phil Liner, Bob Dylan. I toured with Ronnie and he was one of the greatest powerhouse singers that nobody could top. So I just felt it. When Phil died and Freddie died, my two heroes, I wasn’t in that frame of mind and I didn’t have that talent to write a song like that. I Was still searching, I was still lost. So yeah/

At the moment you’re enjoying your solo tour but who have you really enjoyed playing with? And who would you like a chance to tour with?

M.T: Well obviously right now, I’ve toured with all the hard-rock acts, from KISS to AC/DC, the lot. Each had their moments: KISS was all over the fucking place, Aerosmith was on the comeback tour so you saw the hunger again and AC/DC was like a machine that was so fucking perfect. So you learn from all different ones.

Do you keep up with that scene?

M.T: No but I’m a classic rock fan so I own all those albums. But it’s kind of like in later life you like to dine on red wine and cheese. But when you were 17 and wanted to get drunk, red wine was the worst thing you could drink; tasted like shit and felt worse when you threw up. I don’t know what it is. I came into a band when I was 15 and a half years old and I never planned to become a musician or a singer or anything, it just happened. The band was 10 years older than me, already had an album and were professional. So from the day I entered that band I was in a romanced world.

Were you singing then?

M.T: Oh yeah, yeah. So I never had those teenage years of fucking up. I never got to fall in love as a young kid and stuff like that. I was instantly in the company of older women and stuff like that. Yeah, it was cool, but sometimes when you look back and say, “It had an effect in later life” just like the effect of my father not being in my life. I’m not wounded but there’s something missing. I was not made for this business. I have all the ingredients to not be in this business: I am punctual; I have respect for so many things. But I learned to be a great rockstar. I learned it was not a natural ingredient of me. I don’t like to ride a limousine; I don’t like luxury, I don’t like decadence. I like to have an assistant so people help me at times! [Laughs]. But you will hear me talk and I will be me. Some people come to go get drunk but I charge people’s soul. Not by being an evangelist but just by telling the truth and being real. There’s nothing more powerful than the truth.

Where are you looking to go next?

M.T: Now I’m just looking to stay where I am and to just carry on. Then either the business decides if you become more popular in the commercial sense or you just remain and once in a while you might think “Oh, I’ve done nothing” because you’ve played, what, fucking 20 shows this year but you come around and maybe you play to 75 die-hard fans. I’m really looking forward to having much more time to talk and bringing people into it and into the music. I do feel I’m unique in my own way and that all those people would connect me with from the 80s do not do what I do; they don’t have the songs that I do and they don’t sing from the point that I sing from. They’re just carrying on. There’s nothing wrong with that, we’re just not the same. “But what about this guy?” No, no I’m not the same. “Even though we were on the same magazine and we both had long hair?” I’m not the same.

Anything else for the UK fans?

M.T: You’ll all be here. It’ll all be out there, self-explanatory. When people judge for themselves, which is obviously very difficult today, the response I get when people discover this album is almost unanimous across the world. The greatest reward is when people see the same thing, for what it is. I already succeeded in making the album that I wanted. But that’s the greatest reward, that’s much better than having a platinum album, even though it makes a lot of money. I have a lot of money in the bank and I have a lot of platinum albums. But I wasn’t happy. How does that work? I don’t know how to explain it to you?

The emptiness of materialism?

M.T: Yeah, I sometimes describe it by saying that I feel like I’ve had the longest puberty! It’s like later in life discovering how to make love. Whereas when you were young you were just going for your lust. But then you come to that point where you discover something: it’s like fish and chips! – It just feels right and it doesn’t need anything more.

With the greatest of thanks to Mike Tramp for his time and words

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Gig Review: The Lion lives on at King’s Cross

Mike Tramp – Star of Kings – 22/05/13

The Star of Kings (126 York Way London, N1 OAX) looks like something you might expect to find in the depths of Dickens’ Great Expectations. Pale blue walls and bare bricks are studded with gold-framed black and white photographs, antique chandeliers jewels of light. There’s even a frilly pink lampshade. It’s frightfully fitful for something alternative like rock, with a stab of the gothic or even elegant.  A pub worth a visit in this up and coming area.

The headline, perhaps unusually for such a small venue, was Mike Tramp, (ex-White Lion and Freak of Nature front-man) touring to celebrate his 8th solo album “Cobblestone Streets” with a series of acoustic shows with the basics of songwriting at their heart. Before that, however, we had to get through the supports.

First up was Callum Rafferty, a 15-year-old singer/songwriter who reportedly played over 200 shows last year including venues such as the London Roundhouse. The performance, though enthusiastic and passionate, lacked the spark all performers need to capture an audience and to make songs their own. The songs were competent though Rafferty’s talent and voice has not yet developed and I’m tempted to say he’s just too young to be trying so hard at this age. Sweet for some but underwhelming and tiresome for most.

Mia Klose is a London-based Swedish 80s rock singer and tonight she performed an acoustic set with two guitarists. The songs were fairly tight and well-played but Klose’s voice is gratingly nasal and unfortunately a perfectly-worded PR statement on your website can do no work for you on stage. Visually, the rock image is there but the performance was unimaginative. Tracks included “Mama” and “Living for Tomorrow” from Klose’s debut album “London” as well as new song “Living for Love” and she closed on a cover of Skid Row’s “I Remember You.” Klose gave the performance attention and emotion though you almost felt she thought it was a little beneath her and the vocals in places were thin and at times rhythmically incoherent. Perhaps a consequence of an acoustic set, but needs more work to fulfill the expectations set by her track record.

Mike Tramp delivered beyond expectations. The performance was wonderfully simple and intimate: Tramp and an acoustic guitar with a small effect to fill out the vocals at times. Tramp’s voice seemed to have barely aged except for a subtle rasp in the higher register but the charisma and feeling he displayed carried more weight than any note-perfect mechanical rendition could have. At times his voice did sound deeper and richer than during the White Lion-era, possibly because the band wrote in a higher range and at times, as Tramp said, he had to “go into the bathroom to check he was still a man.”

Songs ranged from the newest, such as 2013 title-track “Cobblestone Streets” to White Lion hits including “Wait” and “Lady of the Valley” as well as older solo songs like “Highway” and even “Rescue Me” from Tramp’s second band, Freak of Nature. The performance was punctuated with Tramp’s memories, stories and often poignant and witty jokes that kept the audience engaged as well as laughing. The fans were young and old, with many mouthing the words and some requesting favourite tracks too.

The performance felt like a pure privilege, as I’m sure it did to every person there, to hear an artist so established, and once so big, play confidently and honestly as if he was playing to each individual. His progression as an artist to more “real life” topics in his songs was clear in the genuine way he spoke and performed and the fact that he alone sold his own merchandise after the show, speaking with interest to each person, only cultivated an image of a down-to-earth and engaging man. The venue was atmospheric, almost broody, which contributed not only to Tramp’s status but also to the rawness of the performance and it enhanced the focus on musical skill.

Never have I listened so intently to an acoustic performance, only to enjoy it so much.

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It certainly is a “Savage playground” when CrashDiet hits London

CrashDiet + Jettblack – O2 Islington Academy – 27/04/13

Jettblack are what you might call the perfect support band. They’re modern,  bring along a host of their own fans and their hard rock genre means that you can place them with pretty much any other rock band. This, however, was more of a co-headline tour. With album no.2 under their belts, you’d expect the boys to be building up experience and honing their craft. And they are, just in a slightly regrettable direction.

                The set list was predictable but very well received, running through a host of their hits including the Two Hot Girls and Slip It On as well as the newer Prison of Love, Less Torque More Thrust and In Between Lovers. The gritty ballad Black Gold was less expected due to its slower nature and length but the band played it well, living up to the song’s emotion. Their performance was tighter than I’ve seen it before, the sound balanced and rough, just like their studio work. The vocals, however, were less than perfect at times with a few clashes erring on the wrong side of harmony between singer/guitarists Jon Dow and Will Stapleton.

                The crowd were mostly receptive and enthusiastic though in places the band became a little boring, as if the same visual show had been rewound and replayed with the soundtrack of a different song. The lights and constant guitar soloing on podiums of amplifiers detracted from the show; if you’re a band that can play, you don’t need to hold yourself up for this sort of attention.

                A mixed, not exactly thrilling set, which was disappointing, especially since the songs were played, on the whole, pretty well.

 

CrashDiet had a welcome of their own. It’s time to expect more from this band and justifiably so too. This is the tour for the 2nd album with singer, Simon Cruz, and a UK show like last time, with rather shambolic vocals and apathetic stagecraft at best, might cut it with the 15-year-old Crash cult hogging the front two rows, but the band should be pushing for more.

                Luckily, to some extent, they are. Bouncing out to Change the World, Cruz’s vocals were on top form, guttural howls matched only by the backing vocals provided more by the crowd than Martin Sweet and Peter London.  I was sceptically impressed by how much these two have improved their harmonies, especially when singing so far away from their microphones…

                Nevertheless, Sweet and London were interactive, visibly enjoying the show which always makes the crowd enjoy it more. Cruz jittered around the stage like an electrocuted jelly bean, racing through Anarchy, California, Snakes in Paradise and Generation Wild to name but a few. The performance as a band was certainly much tighter and the contrast in attitude to Jettblack, especially concerning Sweet’s solos was welcome, with minimal fuss made over Sweet’s handiwork. London received his own roar for an average bass solo and the “instrumental”, if that’s what it was meant to be, three-quarters of the way through the set was a strange and redundant mash up of acoustic guitar, harmonica, bass and drums.

                For some reason the set seemed extraordinarily short, despite being an hour and I felt more older hits wouldn’t have gone amiss given the crowd’s reaction to Queen Obscene/69 Shots and Riot in Everyone. Cruz’s stage dive at the end was an entertaining stunt, not least because he only got across about 4 people before security dragged him out and then a girl wouldn’t let him go. Still, it added to the atmosphere of rebellion, anarchy and chaos.

                Condolences, of course, go out to CrashDiet at this time for the loss of their manager, Michael Sundén, who tragically passed away in Nottingham earlier this week. For a band to commit to a show like this so soon after is impressive and professional and I don’t think their fans would have thought any less of them had they postponed it.

                While they may not match the solidarity and sheer performance of some other bands, CrashDiet are undoubtedly impressive in their ability to create an atmosphere and to drive a crowd. Remarkably vivid and entertaining.

 

 

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Skid Row: maybe older but certainly no less spirited

Skid Row: 02 Islington Academy, 16 Parkfield Street, Islington, London

13th April 2013

They’ve been around since 1986 and within 10 years they’d sold 20 million albums worldwide. They are, however, still going strong, with 3 original (roughly) members, a bold and charismatic singer and an album due out in the UK on the 27th May (North America, you can get yours now!) When a band that old produces a show like this, no matter how big or small, it epitomizes the point of music: for expression, for colour of life and for fun.

OK, so their United World Rebellion tour wasn’t exactly covering stadiums of 20,000 like back in the days of vocalist Sebastian Bach of 1989-1990. But the fact is that they came to the UK and who would say no to an intimate gig at the likes of the 02 Islington with a deliciously close atmosphere of 800 people. And there were 800 too, it was sold out.

So there’s the first success. A sold out London show. And the band showed their thanks. Singer Johnny Solinger gave embellished throaty performances of the old favourites Piece of Me, 18 & Life and Big Guns and put Bach partly to shame with his still-strong voice and lack of arrogance on stage. There was attitude and meanness but certainly no lack of care.

The 90 minute set (shame about the 10pm curfew Islington!) thundered through tracks of the popular self-titled album as well as hits from Slave to the Grind and Thickskin. Dave Sabo and Scotti Hill’s guitar work had a deep and decent sound, perfectly akin to the albums and their stagecraft was indeed engaging and tailored towards the crowd, never forgetting the people up on the balcony watching down also. The encore, if you can call them that nowadays seeing as they’re more 5-minute breaks for both the band and crowd, consisted mostly of Solinger’s regret about the curfew. Still, Youth Gone Wild closed the show with a bang, though inviting the supporting UK bands back onstage was a little amateurish and made the whole ending messy and without impact.

Rachel Bolan, certainly the key creative mind in the band as well as the bass player, gave a passionate performance of Pyscho Love as well as providing the most interesting part of Sabo and Hill’s instrumental intermission – they both got a bit “guitarist in their bedroom.” Both Sabo and Bolan talked of their happiness to be in the UK and it truly was heartfelt, none of this triumphalist crap that they had a sold out show.

There were smiles on stage, smiles in the crowd, and these rockers have lost nothing of their style, dedication or skill for their music, not even their long hair (with the exception of Bolan, who was always more of the punk genre anyway!) They promised to be back and I advise you to get your ticket early. Thanks to this show, I think there will be many disenchanted fans who will check out the new album that promises to be an ecelectic mix of old and new.

It was rock’n’roll, but this time, for the fun and love of it. If Skid Row are right and “Park Avenue leads to Skid Row!” then that’s the Park Avenue I’m looking for.

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Album No 4 from the savage swedish sleaze band

Crashdiet – January 2013 – The Savage Playground

Track List:

  1. Change The World
  2. Cocaine Cowboys
  3. Anarchy
  4. California
  5. Lickin’ Dog
  6. Circus
  7. Sin City
  8. Got A Reason
  9. Drinkin’ Without You
  10. Snakes In Paradise
  11. Damaged Kid
  12. Excited
  13. Garden of Babylon

Band:

Vocals – Simon Cruz

Guitar – Martin Sweet

Bass – Peter London

Drums – Eric Young

 

The band? Crashdiet. The history? Messy. The album? No. 4.

They’re a band with a story and a long line of singers as well as being known for their dedicated, if often overly so, fan-base. Vocalist Simon Cruz comes with a strong image and a mouthful of swear words that have wound their way into almost every song on The Savage Playground. Starting out with Change The World, it feels like they’ve taken the Riot in Everyone riff from album no.1, chewed it up and spat it out again. Yes, it’s anthemic and rather infectious but it also feels rushed and a little uncontrolled. A strong start, however. The single Cocaine Cowboys has a western theme; it’s catchy, contagious though the “corruption of the suit and the ties” idea is getting a little old. It’s one of Cruz’s stronger vocal performances though, so savour the moment.

The album incoherently jolts through the subsequent tracks. There’s too many effects and layering, producing a chaotic and messy sound. At times, the riffs are barely recognisable, the melodies lacking in Crashdiet’s old punching memorability. It almost feels like they’re trying to be ballsy and riotous but we’ve been there before with GG Allin, Motley Crue – and Crashdiet even! It’s not about how rebellious anymore, it’s about how new, how different. It all feels a little amateurish. Lickin’ Dog, smack full of insults, sounds like Sweet and Cruz’s personal animosities growled out amidst silly effects and the solo is lacking in skill or style. Circus is much better; it’s original and the tight, clipped vocals emulate the “standing in line” lyric. There’s a much better balance with the rawness of the guitar and the vocals. If they can emulate the musical breaks live, it’ll be brilliantly effective. The veiled backing vocals too work well, not too high or weak like on Damaged Kid. Speaking of which, why is there always a song about a girl ending up as a prostitute? The music’s not hard or dirty, despite the fast pace, though it’s more fluid than some of the other tracks. Sweet comes out of his shell a little on Snakes in Paradise but the track doesn’t sit well within the coherency of the album. Garden of Babylon was a strange song to end on, especially at 7 minutes long. Too many effects cloud the sound but I do like Cruz’s voice here – strained but in a gut-wrenching way: memorable.

The bass was lacking throughout and the cymbals were too high on most tracks. The band said before the release that they wanted a more raw sound, like a live performance. Well, it’s raw, but not in the sleazy, punky way you might have hoped for. It has neither the rawness of Rest in Sleaze nor the diversity of Generation Wild. There’s a mix of the evil and emotional lyrics along with some poignant and unusual ones too. For me it was a disappointment. Some if it will stick to you with the strength of the band’s hairspray. Other bits you’ll never want to listen to again.

 

 

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Albums: the good, the bad and the ugly of 2012

Top 10 Albums 2012:

  1. Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue – they claim they don’t like the term, but this is all glam. Layered backing vocals, catchy melodies and lyrics revolving around girls, partying and hard rock all rolled into the raw stadium sound.
  2. Slash – Apocalyptic Love – I admit, I never thought I’d like it. Fantastic vocals lead the way through distorted racing tracks to emotive but steel-hearted love songs. A great mix of hard rock, Slash’s distinct sound and a touch of the sexy street glam.
  3. Gotthard – Firebirth – Uplifting and melodic, it’s a little different to its neighbours above and below. The band stays true to their AOR roots while moving forward with tight production and songs you’ll just want to shake your hair too.
  4. Fatal Smile – 21st Century Freaks – The band have tightened up their image and their sound. It’s theatrical and fun but highly professional at the same time. Metal fans, it’s one for you, with dark melodies and gothic themes but man do they do it well.
  5. LA Guns – Hollywood Forever – Ok, it’s got classic LA Guns stamped all over it, but isn’t that the sound they do best? For new and old fans alike and though there’s a couple of borderline tracks they melt away underneath the gritty rasping quality of the rest of the album.
  6. Hardline – Danger Zone – We’re back to the dreams and limitless skies with Hardline’s easy-listening rock album. Powerful and richly melodic it’ll keep all you softer fans happy!
  7. Sister Sin – Now and Forever – Eagerly anticipated after Sister Sin’s self-imposed delay to reproduce, this hardcore album delivers on all levels from powerful female vocals to unexpected rhythms and structures in the songs. A modern take on rock and metal.
  8. Jettblack – Raining Rock – It’s always nice to see a local band doing well and this album lets Jettblack do just that. Ok, some of it’s a little silly but the tracks are catchy and classically rock so no funny surprises. Oh, and they’re pretty good musicians too.
  9. Kiss – Monster – The album disappointed me which is why it sits so far down. They retain the rebellious attitude but there’s no change to the Kiss style, that’s for sure, so if you’re looking for something new then don’t go here. Quality wise though, it’s competent and definitely not un-enjoyable.
  10. Baby Jane – in The Spotlight – they made it onto the list, but only just. Tough competition against the likes of Tyketto and Trixter but Baby Jane’s guts and all-goes-to-hell attitude won it for them with this thrash-esque album.

 

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TNT: Dynamite gig

TNT – Camden Underworld – 30/11/12

It’s never easy opening at 6.45pm on a Friday night, but since the Underworld had a club at 11pm, NeonFly, Stampede and TNT were on a tight schedule to finish by 10.15pm.

Credit has to go to NeonFly for the show they produced. The crowd topped 50, which, for a band that has toured with Magnum was perhaps a little deflating but they never gave that impression. Vocalist Willy was dynamic and engaging with a fantastically powerful and emotive voice. The synchronised head-banging looked at times rather silly but at least it came across as rehearsed and part of the show. There were no airs, graces or unnecessary arrogance – this was a band that plays for their enjoyment as well as the crowd’s. Unfortunately the sound was rather cluttered. I would attribute this to the Underworld’s system rather than the band’s performance; though the band’s recorded backing tracks didn’t help. They crammed a lot into 30 minutes, including their latest video track A Gift To Remember – a moving power-metal track that NeonFly performed to a T. A band that is great live with a raw and edgy sound.

Stampede is a British rock band that have been around for as long as headliners TNT. Vocalist Reuben Archer showed what a great voice he has, making me wish I’d heard him in his heyday, and the band gave a tight performance. The sound was clear and definitive, thanks in part to guitarist Laurence Archer’s characteristic sound. They had a friendly rapport with the crowd and put in lots of effort to make the performance one to remember. The songs weren’t all to my liking; Missing You, Humble Pie and Moving On were just some of the tracks from the band’s repertoire but I almost felt like the songs weren’t up to the performance. They’re enjoyable and talented band and while you won’t exactly be raving to your friends if I saw them on a bill I’d get there in time to see them.

Wow. TNT. If I said they were all they’re cracked up to be I still feel I wouldn’t be doing them justice. Guitarist Ronni Le Tekro, the only original member, played with a passion and zeal that almost seemed to control his fervent performance. And he is one heck of a guitarist. His instrumental was short enough to be sweet while cramming in technique that still allowed the solo to flow coherently. It was great to see a live keyboardist instead of silly recorded backing tracks. Vocalist Tony Mills proved he still has the lungs of his Shy days though maybe not as enduring or as powerful. Still, he was taken aback by the loyalty of the fans and how many knew the words. Hits like 10,000 Lovers, Intuition and Caught between the Tigers took the Underworld by storm while the band’s later tracks were received well. On the whole, a very warm and energetic appearance by a band that is clearly gifted both in musicianship and performance. Don’t miss out if you get the chance.

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funk, fireworks and a flippin’ good night out

Electric Boys – The Underworld, Camden – 27/11/2012

The Brits, Americans and Swedes. What a mash up eh? And the night proved to be just as fluctuating and unpredictable as a mound of that lovely fluffy, lumpy stuff.

The timings were shifted heavily towards Electric Boys giving them 75 minutes compared to 30 for all three supports, a little unfair to Adam Bomb in some respects who was third up. Bad Touch opened to a rather meagre crowd but gave it their best shot. They had energy and dynamism but just not yet that much to talk about. They’re still young though and with the live experience, and maybe a bit less commerciality, they could go much further.

King Lizard surprised me in that again, I found them better live than on their album. This time they completely sold title track Nightmare Livin’ The Dream from their latest offering, most of which the set list was from. Their ramped up introduction took a bit of a hit when the size of the stage meant they could only shuffle on as opposed to striding out to the backing track. At times, however, King Lizard seemed as if they’d been taking it too easy. With a wave of good reviews just before the release of album number 2, I’m wondering if the boys have taken their foot off the gas a little. The songs weren’t tight enough and the attitude fluctuated between amateur, can’t be bothered and wannabe-rockstar. They had the energy to whisk up a fairly small crowd and their rapport with their fellow Londoners is to be admired but I couldn’t help feeling let down. To end, they did a fantastic cover of Johnny Be Good before ruining it with a drawn-out incoherent ending that saw vocalist Flash disappear off stage before the final note while guitarist Niro Knox simply turned the amplifier off. At this moment the drummer Moyano El Buffalo was still waiting to finish off. They gave it a good shot but they’ve outdone themselves much better before.

Adam Bomb was rather less conventional. Feather boas twisted around his microphone stand and what was with the bright yellow lights around his amplifier and guitars? I know it’s nearly Christmas but….still, it brought an atmosphere to the show and that in turn brought the crowd. The main thing I liked about Bomb was that there was no messing about; he got on that stage and tore through half an hour’s worth of songs with barely ten words in between. The slight problem was that there were only ten words and at times I think the crowd were hungry for a little more interaction. But hey, the fireworks kept them happy. Yeah, you did read that right. The poor bassist had to cower near the drum-kit as sparks exploded from Bomb’s guitar in several songs, adding a whole new dimension. No, it didn’t take away from the fact that a lot of the songs were far too similar and monotonous and his solo, while illustrating his undeniable technical ability, didn’t exactly bridge that gap between him and the now much quieter crowd. He was a showman however and ended the show with grateful thanks and I’m sure, several new fans too.

You can’t beat a good funk band. And a good funk-rock band? That’s been around since 1988? Nah, you can’t beat them. Electric Boys couldn’t put a foot wrong, both in the eyes of the adoring crowd and in terms of their music. They knew that set-list down to the t. They had the tendency to drag out some of the endings and to dabble with weird and wonderful instrumentals part-way through songs before breaking back into the choruses with neck-breaking intensity. It was great to see such an experienced band still loving what they do and still doing it with courtesy and good humour, especially in their dealings with the crowd. Spanning their musical library with songs including Mary in the Mystery World, Bad Motherfunker, Father Popcorn’s Magic Oysters and of course, All Lips ‘N Hips they brought a fresh feeling of musical talent and raw energy to Camden. And you know, they don’t still look half bad either.

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Eclipse: but they don’t eclipse the AOR scene just yet

Eclipse – Bleed & Scream – August 2012

  1. 1.       Wake Me Up
  2. 2.       Bleed And Scream
  3. 3.       Ain’t Dead Yet
  4. 4.       Battlegrounds
  5. 5.       A Bitter Taste
  6. 6.       Falling Down
  7. 7.       S.O.S
  8. 8.       Take Back The Fear
  9. 9.       The Unspoken Heroes
  10. 10.   About To Break
  11. 11.   After The End Of The World

Band:

  • Erik Martensson – Vocals
  • Magnus Henriksson – Guitars
  • Robban Bäck – Bass
  • Johan Berlin – Drums

Swedish melodic rock band return with their second album and it’s clear that they’ve found their sound before going for it full throttle. The songs have a tendency to become a little similar but are recorded and performed to a high standard. Wake Me Up stamps the AOR sign all over this album; uplifting vocals singing out over heavily layered guitars and bursts of backing vocals. Ain’t Dead Yet is catchier – a headlong rush of steadily climbing riffs and melodies. Martensson’s voice sometimes sounds a little thin, especially in the higher register but the tone lends itself well to this genre. The solos are rather long-winded and nothing exciting in most of the tracks. The solid roots the band has laid down in the melodic genre are admirable but I feel they could still push for some catchier writing. Is it wrong of me to say it reminds me of Star Trek in places, just that little bit obsessed with supersonic sounding guitars and special effects? Despite these, A Bitter Tasteis one of the stand-out songs, as is S.O.S, strong and powerful both in terms of Martensson’s voice but also in song-writing. There are some great harmonies in The Unspoken Heroes and About To Break shows the just mellower side of this boisterous band and the more restrained approach really works I think. The closing track After The End Of The World yes is too long but brings the album to a hearty close. Just stop those damn scales in the solo. A competent band with a lusty set of songs though they are just another melodic rock band.

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You Don’t Need To Ask Why You Listen To Music; You Just Know

You Don’t Need To Ask Why You Listen To Music; You Just Know

There must be something slightly damming for some bands about playing at Firefest festival in Nottingham surely? The venue, Rock City, apt as it is, holds only about 2,000 and the youngest in the crowd was 18 (with a fairly large gap until you reached the average age). Oh, and unless you’re a headline band, of which there are two, you won’t get more than an hour to play. So why do so many bands talk about the honour of appearing at this 3-day indoor, no-camping festival?

Now for some bands, the more unknown but not newer artists, it’s a great way to get UK support. The crowd are fantastic; the floor was filled for Saturday’s opener Johnny Lima and somehow more managed to squeeze in to catch The Stage Dolls and Gotthard at the end of the day. The other early bands, including Farcry, Royal Hunt and Work of Art were not alone in having long-time fans pushing their way to the front, the singers clearly staggered to hear their lyrics being sung back to them with enthusiasm and gusto. Sounding a wee bit sad? Well it wasn’t. When Gotthard’s singer Nic Maeder dedicated the song One Life, One Soul to late singer Steve Lee it was one of those moments that sends goose-bumps over your arms; Rock City was still, held in the sway of Maeder’s heart-felt tribute and before the end of the song he had the whole crowd singing along. Now, one could argue it’s the skill of a showman to command 2,000 fans like that. Didn’t Ozzy Osbourne once wonder what would happen if he tried to dictate the mob in front of him? But it wasn’t just the fans that were willing to engage.

The bands felt like a large family throughout the whole event. Many of the musicians made multiple appearances whether it be as backing for someone like Mitch Malloy or Fiona or just because they actually happen to be in two bands. It wasn’t noticeable from just watching, but a little bit of googling goes a long way to see just how many of these bands have shared and swapped members.

Take Stage Dolls; ex-TNT drummer Morten Skogstad (Kenneth Odiin in TNT) rolled up in 1992 and has been playing with Stage Dolls ever since. Meanwhile, in 1983, Shy’s Tony Mills replaced Tony Harnell on vocals. XYZ’s vocalist Terry Ilous now sings for Jack Russell’s Great White and…ok, you get my point. We’ve all seen Rock Family Trees.

But why do they do it? Why did Terry Ilous appear with XYZ when he’s secure in Great White? And Tyketto? After saying they’d break up at least three times they appeared for a second time at Firefest? It’s because they enjoy it. Of course, I am a cynic, I would say the answer was money. But it’s not, not all of it. Firefest doesn’t shell out that much; the ticket sales themselves could bring an estimated £180,000 but spread between 15 bands, covering costs and then when the bands split it to cover members, costs and equipment? What told us it wasn’t just the financial motive was the repeated claim that it was “an honour” to play; the thanks to the organisers and the “fantastic crew”; headlining band Danger Danger could have delivered a mediocre show and no one would have complained but they didn’t. They came on, they blasted through hits and lesser known songs alike; Ted Poley took the crowd for his famous stroll and not one note was out of place from Rob Marcello or Bruno Ravel. Not to mention the meet-and-greets the bands did, the photo opportunities outside the hotel and venue and their general attitude when spotted walking around. These were musicians that were, and still are, just happy to be playing to a good crowd.

JJ Lee

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