Gillan: The best post Deep Purple project

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Ian Gillan has been one of my favorite vocalists from his performances with Deep Purple and his short stint with Black Sabbath alone. However, after leaving Purple he went through the motions eventually forming the Ian Gillan band playing jazz/fusion in the mid to late seventies and finally forming a super group of sorts simply titled “Gillan” in 1978. Gillan’s classic lineup consisted of underrated guitar player Bernie Torme, Bass juggernaut John McCoy, Colin Towns on keys and Mick Underwood on drums. The band with a slightly different lineup recorded an album that was not widely available simply known as “The Japanese Album” in 1979 before a slight lineup shift and songs being reworked finally ending up on the first classic album “Mr. Universe”

 

Image result for gillan mr universe“Mr. Universe” was NWOBHM before it even exploded. This album took what was good about about the sound Gillan had in Purple and gave it more balls than ever. While the album isn’t quite “metal” per say, it is great British Hard Rock. Opening with the brooding and epic keyboard instrumental “Second Sight”, the album launches into its proper first track with the neck breaking “Secret of the Dance” which is incredibly fast and tight and shows how gritty Ians vocals can be but also how melodic they are especially in the chorus. The album continues with the catchy mid paced “She Tears Me Down” and then another fast tune titled “Roller” which is another go for the throat tune. The title track is incredibly epic and builds quite well with some impressive soloing from Torme. :Vengeance” is a good almost boogie rock tune with a lot more blues influence to it as well as “Puget Sound” and “Dead Of Night”. Up next is possibly my all time favorite Gillan track “Message In A Bottle” which is another breakneck tune but the real highlights are the ways Ian Gillan spit out his lyrics and Mccoys commanding bass really shines here and shows how underrated his thick tight playing is. Ending the album is the ballad like “Street Fighting Man” which an equally epic song and another favorite of mine. Overall this album could just be called Gillans greatest hits because it is that good definitely a great start for the band and personally my favorite album by them.

 

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Perhaps Gillan hit their peak was their second record “Glory Road”. After gaining a huge following in the growing hard rock revival in the turn of 1980, the band quickly released this album which also included a “for Gillan fans only” mini album featuring some jam tracks which was a cool inclusion. However, this album like its predecessor is pure grade A British Hard Rock but definitely shows a bit more of a metal side to the band. This is definitely apparent with opener “Unchain Your Brain” which is a no nonsense fast rocker. Torme’s guitar feels a bit sharper on this record and the production is slightly slicker and my favorite track on the album “Are You Sure” features some awesome guitar and keyboard riffs blending its definitely very well written. There are so many great tracks like the epic “On The Rocks”, the classic “No Easy Way” and even the super Bluesy “If You Believe Me” which solidify this album being another classic. The album thrived in the more underground but unfortunately didn’t break in America (shocker) but that didn’t stop the Gillan train from rolling on.

 

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While the album cover is a bit  aliening, the album is anything but. This could very well be the most visceral album Gillan did. The title track opens up being a great fist pumping hard rocker that is equal heavy and catchy. “Night Ride Out of Phoenix” is a badass mid paced bluesy rocker as well. “(The Ballad Of) The Lucitania Express” is such a fast tune that almost sounds impossible to play the riff is just so unbelievably fast and really makes this tune because its crazy fast but still very precise at being what it wants to be. “New Orleans” is a great cover that feels equal parts Hard Rock and 50’s rock n roll. There are other great tunes like “Bite The Bullet” and “Sacre Bleu” but the best song has to be the dryly comedic “No Laughing In Heaven” with such entertaining lyrics and a great bumpy rhythm that makes it such a blast to listen to. Unfortunately this would be the last album Torme would be a part of but equal talent in the for of former White Spirit guitarist Janick Gers would join for the bands final recordings.

 

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Gillans fifth album would be an interesting one as it would be a double album splitting studio tracks and the other being a collection of well recorded live tracks which is a real treat. The studio tracks include the terrific melodic yet rocking “Reckless” as well as the grooving “I’ll Rip Your Spine Out” and the terrific foot stomping “Hadely Bop Bop”. The band is definitely in top form here and the studio side definitely feels the most polished the band has sounded yet with more melodic touches on the songs as well. However, it still feels incredibly Gillan and Gers more than holds his own. He isn’t as much as a gung ho player as much as Bernie but he is solid and his solo’s are very precise. The live side shows recordings from the 81 reading festival and one track with Torme performing from the Rainbow theater. Definitely a well worth it package for Gillan fans.

 

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Magic was released in 1982 and ended Gillan’s discography pretty much perfectly. The band sounds the best on record than they ever have. Now while Magic is not my favorite it is still a damn good and should have launched the band higher than they achieved. Opening with the gritty and fast “Whats The Matter” right into the groovy “Bluesy Blue Sea” which both alone make the album worth a purchase, the album stays consistent with mid paced and fast rockers all the way through. “Caught In A Trap” and “Your So Right” are perfect pop rock songs and are the closest the band goes to that kind of sound and they pull it off perfectly. However the main event is the epic progressive ripper “Demon Driver” which has a lot of twists and turns and always keeps your attention and Ian’s almost creepy like vocals sell the song especially the intro amazingly. The album ends with a badass cover of “Living For The City” by Stevie Wonder and a short reprise of “Demon Driver” as Gillan set off into the sun.

Ian Gillan had to get nodes removed from his vocal chords shortly after the end of the tour and dissolved the band at this point from inner tensions due to money as well as other difficulties. Gillan himself shortly joined Black Sabbath and then came back to the reformation of the Mk II lineup of Purple while some members such as McCoy and Torme stuck to doing projects here and there while Gers became part of Iron Maiden nearly ten years afterwards. While we will most likely never see a Gillan reunion especially after Torme’s passing, these albums represent a band full of excellent musicians that need to be rediscovered for their sheer staying power and “magic” that each release holds still. Gillan for me will always be the one band when everyone talks about Rainbow or Whitesnake, as the best Post Purple project by any member of that band.

Album Review- Asomvel: World Shaker

 

 

Here is an album I have been anticipating for awhile. For those who are not familiar with Asomvel, they are a trio that are true to their roots as a straight to the point classic Heavy Metal group. Their sound is rooted mainly in Motorhead all the way to the distorted Rickenbacker bass lines and growling vocals. However, with their sound so reminiscent of classic acts, can they hold up on their own? Now the album “Knuckle Duster” they released some years ago was damn good and a very fun album but I felt the production was just a tad flat in parts and the vocals just felt a bit off to me as well. However, with “Worldshaker”, the band forges on with the Nephew of original front man Jay Jay Winter at the front of the band and this album I have to say is pretty damn fun.

Now what makes this album to me an improvement over “Knuckle Duster” is firstly that the production seems a bit more lively. The bass really takes over and but still meshes well with the guitar lines. Even thought the Motorhead sound is even heavier here, it still works as the song quality is very tight. We have break neck speed tunes such as the title track, “Runnin The Gauntlet” and “Every Dog Has It’s Day” to songs that are locked in solid grooves like “PayBack’s A Bitch”, “Reap The Whirlwind” and the generic but straight to the point titled “The Law Is The Law”. However, for me personally the best song here is “The Nightmare Ain’t Over” which is one of the catchiest tunes and ends the album with everything it’s got.

While this album is everything but original, it hits you square in the face with a solid selection of songs that are straight, simple hard rock n roll. Asomvel to me are very much how Airbourne are in the spirit of keeping that Hard Rock sound alive and this record definitely exemplifies that for showing that the old school still has a place in 2019. “Worldshaker” comes out May 3rd through Heavy Psych Sounds. Check it out!

 

Order the album: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS102

 

Album Review- Tora Tora: Bastards Of Beale

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Tora Tora are a hard rock band that formed in Memphis at the tail end of the 80’s unfortunately sandwiched between the Glam acts and the heavy hitting Grunge bands soon to come. While they did have some minor hits and fairly strong albums with “Surprise Attack” and “Wild America”, they never saw much more than a cult status and soon folded after planning a third album that never was released. However with the recent onslaught of more obscure acts returning with full-fledged reunions, the time seems right to give this little Bluesy Hard Rock group a second chance and the market seems ripe for their return. Finally in early 2019, we are seeing the next chapter of Tora Tora entitled “Bastards of Beale”.

Right away the band come out swinging with the heavy Bluesy hard rock sound they reveled in when they first formed. We see opener “Sons of Zebedee” keeping a refined melodic rock sound all the way through its chorus all the way to the very upbeat “Silence the Sirens” which is one of my favorites here. Another major highlight is “Son of a Prodigal Son” which has an almost vintage country stomp to it with driving acoustic guitars against heavier electric guitar riffs. The production I also have to say fits the bands character as well. Every instrument is mixed evenly together and still are able to give off a garage band sort of vibe where everything still feels loose and organic. Songwriting-wise, the arrangements are very simple in their execution but hold a lot in terms of feeling and that can be heavily attributed to Anthony Corder’s soulful voice. Besides a lot of other standout rockers such as “Rose Of Jericho” and the swaggering title track, we also get some softer sides such as “Lights up the River” which absolute shines. It adds more to what is already a terrific rock solid album.

Honestly, this album is one of the major early highlights of the year and it is a totally unexpected one. While I love when bands expand their sounds to new musical heights, sometimes it is great to just put on a simple rock record with song after song of catchy hooks to keep you coming back for more which is what you exactly get here. Tora Tora have released a record in 2019 that’s a statement showing that straight forward rock n roll ain’t dead and that they aren’t either and are here to show the kids how to do it right.

 

Album Review: Razorbats: II

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The first time I heard Razorbats was when they released the track of their first album (Camp Rock) entitled “Kids of The 70’s” and I though the Ramones-ish sound the band had going on was fun but I felt they could go further with the sound they had. When I got around to listen to their second release I found that the band had done just that.

With the album cover having this late 70’s almost glam rock feel, I felt the band would go for the more melodic side but they actually balance the harder rock edge and the melody nearly perfectly here. The album opens with “The Waiting” which retains that punkish sound but I have to say the vocals are noticeably more strong this time around with the production also being a ton sharper. It’s a fun opening track and leads nicely into the grooving hard rocking tune “Take It Out On The Road” which has almost a bit an 80’s pop rock feel through the bridge and chorus which I dig a lot. One of the best songs on the whole album has to be “Social Rejects” which is just seething with energy all the way through. “Dead Boy City” is the only track that feels a bit boring to me especially after coming off the energy of the last few songs. However, the energy picks back up with “Bad Teacher” which has an almost Cheap Trick mixed with ACDC kind of feel. “Nowhere” keeps the energy at max with the band creating a very anthem-like song and one that would work great in a live setting. “Sister Siberia” is a total melodic/AOR song which is another major highlight on the album. “Going Underground” has some nice organic guitar work throughout that I dig and retains that punk mentality in its roots. “Send In The Clowns” and “Talk All Night” both end the album fairly well with the final track being a softer rock ballad that is a lot better done I feel than “Dead Boy City” is.

Overall, I think this album is a fun Hard Rock album that definitely will be an enjoying one to cruise around with in the summer time. With the band retaining their hard punk like sound but injecting more melody and solid musicianship, they manage to create an album that is simple but will definitely be one that if it’s on, then it has to be played at 10.

 

Geordie: A Retrospective

 

 

Some groups in the history of Rock music tend to go overshadowed especially when a member becomes part of a much larger and established act. An absolute perfect example of this the band out of Newcastle, England known as Geordie. Forming around 1972, the group would release a string of albums throughout the 1970’s beginning with “Hope You Like It” and ending with “No Sweat” in 1983. However the bands most notable work was the four albums performed with Brian Johnson as their lead vocalist. Johnson of course is known as being the vocalist of my personal favorite band of all time ACDC from 1980 until 2016. However, I have always been surprised that it had taken me so long to listen to his previous groups work as (spoiler alert) it is very quality blues driven hard rock from the seventies with every albums having some characteristics that are unique to each which makes for very refreshing listens throughout. So as this article is titled, I am going to take you through a short and sweet retrospective of one of Englands most underrated Hard Rock acts that deserve more credit than they are given.

 

Hope You Like It (1973)

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When I first heard Goerdie’s debut album, I didn’t think it was their debut as it has the sound of a well oiled seasoned machine. The band crafted a sound right from the get go that would essentially be their establish go to sound for future releases. Right from the start with the groovy “Keep On Rockin'” does the band go for throat with their blues driven sound with Johnson even using his signature higher pitched snarl throughout that he’s become famous for years later. The band then rolls right into”Give You Till Monday” with the main focus of straight ahead power chord riffing mixing with some subtle melody proving simplicity can be best when done right. The title track is a more sing along tune with the vocals being presented more in a softer and slick way. it is also one of the first songs where we see a lot of bridging vocal and guitar melodies that really drive the song. Songs like “Don’t Do That” and “All Because Of You” continue that bluesy pub Rock sound that personally doesn’t get old as the band plays it really tight and with a lot of enthusiasm. One of the best tunes on the album is”Old Time Rocker” which is actually more rockabilly oriented and it works really damn well and is a major highlight on the album. The album does mix softer songs in like “Oh Lord” that is a nice short change of pace before going back into the final stretch of the album. The final track which is a traditional song that the band worked in called “Geordies’s Lost His Liggie” is a funny and quirky way to end an extremely solid debut album. The reissued version actually includes six additional tracks including a personal favorite “Can You Do It” and “Geordie Stomp” among others making it the definitive version of this album. Geordie definitely set the bar high with their debut and a sophomore release was sure to follow as well.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Name (1974)

 

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Following their debut, Geordie quickly recorded and released their follow up album which has alot of the same character and strength the first album had with the main focus being blues based riffing through out. From the heavy and singable “Goin’ Down” to “Mercenary Man” with its rock solid riffing that also hides melodic undertones within Johnsons softer vocal deliveries. One of my favorites presented here is “Ten Feet Tall” which has a very heavy rock presence but an almost psychedelic midsection that really works only for the song to have a very explosive end. There are riffs galore here and show how underrated Vic Malcolm is as a guitar player. He plays with such ferocity yet can dial it back for some nice cleaner more melodic tones as well.  However the subtle variation is very welcome with the presence of keyboards in songs like the mellow yet welcoming ballad “Little Boy” and “Got To Know” which is personally my favorite song on the album with how upbeat and bouncy the rhythm is it just grooves through in and through out. Now of course the album is possibly most well known for the bands cover of “House Of The Rising Sun” and it is probably my favorite version of the song with the low droning humming throughout and Brians vocals going from clean to his signature snarl works so well. Overall, this album is a true unsung rock masterpiece and it is a shame more people don’t know of it as it has a lot of staying power and memorable moments throughout.

Save The World (1976)

 

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As Geordie went into creating their third album, the band had progressed their sound a bit more to a more pop rock oriented sound. I feel like out of all their albums up to this point, this one has the tag “Glam Rock” tied to it mostly. While a lot of the songs still retain their catchy Blues driven Hard Rock sound, they have a bit more upbeat feeling to them which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The band still sound as lively as ever right from the beginning notes of the very catchy and bouncy “Mama’s Gonna Take You Home” into one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded “She’s a Teaser” which is complete with a horn section adding a lot to the song. There are even some hints of disco in the song “Goodbye Love” which at first I was taken back from as it goes for a less heavy sound to it. But after multiple listens it is a great bouncy rock tune that really sticks in your head and is one of the highlights on the album. Another highlight is the song “She’s A Lady” which is a straight Glam Rock number that is put together oh so well. Now obviously with this slightly tweaked sound, the album has a bit more of a commercial feel than the previous two but it still rocks with a bit of a pop flare and it works. The heavy moments are still present especially in songs like the grooving, guitar phaser driven “Save The World” and the incredibly heavy “Fire Queen” which is possibly the best song on the album. Although the album has a bit of a softer edge in spots, it still rocks hard when it wants to and the band has a lot of charisma as this would be possibly the last album with a stable line up as the next would feature more revolving musicians.

No Good Woman (1978)

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This album features brand new vocalist Dave Ditchburn with Johnson having only recorded a few key tracks before leaving the band and soon enough landing at the doorstep for AC/DC and the rest would be history…But anyway, back to the album. While the opener and title track has a good groove to it with some nice keyboard presence, the production feels a bit too heavy on the bass side as it makes the whole band feel a bit too laid back. It’s catchy but lacks that shot of charisma every album before had. However “Going To The City” quickly picks up the pace with Johnson back on vocals. You can definitely see the difference between both line ups as this track has so much more energy. Now “Wonder Song” does have a heavier tone to it akin to later Deep Purple and it really works well but the vocals just feel a bit underdeveloped. Ditchburn just sounds like he doesn’t have the range or the character in his voice or at least not enough of it. Honestly, the inconsistency I think is was kills this album a bit. With the focus shifting between both vocalists, it goes from powerful to laid back to up beat and in your face and then swings back to the bass heavy almost lounge rock sound the current line up had. If this was a whole album recorded with Ditchburn I feel I would accept it as is more but with it switching back and forth, it makes you wish Johnson was on the whole record. Now there are some good songs they recorded with Dave at the vocals including the groovy “Give It All You Got” and the bouncy “Show Business” which is another that gets stuck in my head. Overall, the album is good but not great like the rest of the bands discography to me anyways. It felt like the band lost their signature voice and were trying to find sort of a new sound. However I will mention the No Sweat album only briefly as the band definitely seemed to take a bit of a hint from NWOBHM group Saxon as they has a slicker heavier sound than they ever had before. Unfortunately the album failed to generate a buzz for Geordie who had been around for ten years at this point and they slowly faded into the halls of relative obscurity besides the minds of hardcore fans and/or ACDC completionists.

However, as we get further down the years, Geordie are a band that deserves to be remembered as having an arsenal of rock anthems that deserves to be dug out of the basement and heard by the masses. With enough swagger to push around the hardest rocking bands at the time but the accessibility of any songs on the radio at the time, Geordie’s music  is a great time all around and will always be. If you can find these albums I highly recommend it, they deserve to be cranked and rocked til the sun comes up.

 

Rock In Peace Malcolm Young….

 

 

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Its around nine or ten at night. Your 9 year old self is flipping through the channels until you land on a VH1 Classic block of rock videos. A video for ACDC’s “Hells Bells” comes on and you are immediately intrigued. A hard rocking band embraces a dark lit stage with ecstatic Schoolboy guitarist Angus Young and  Beanie wearing Brian Johnson commanding front and center. However on the back line with a bright white Gretsch Falcon thumping his one leg to the beat was the long haired almost Ramones-esque looking Malcolm Young. As somber as he was, his presence always intrigued me. He would sit and bounce to the beat of the song and walk up with the equally solid rhythmic Cliff Williams for simple sounding back up vocals only to return right back to the back line of the stage. it was almost as if he was a machine playing to the song. This was my first taste of ever watching any live footage of this band in my life. I was familiar with them of course with hearing “Back In Black” very early in my youth but seeing how they were in a live sense was awe inspiring.

Soon enough, my first CD I ever bought was “Let There Be Rock” on vacation in Texas and hearing this album front to back with headphones was a memory I could never forget. I soon followed with buying every album, dvd or any thing I could get my hands on I was obsessed. Learning more and more about how Malcolm was essentially what really made the band tick was the best part as it was his dirty rough but simple rhythm playing was what caught my ears in the first place. Listening deeper and deeper it was easier to see how his playing held the band together, it was just that tight that he could play a riff and everyone would follow through. However, what he taught me most was sticking to your guns and don’t be afraid to do it. He kept the band from falling away from their hard rock roots all the way until he left the band in 2014. He was the reason I really wanted to pick up a guitar and just riff. While Angus was the flashier up front player that every lead guitarist wanted to be, Malcolm was the brains. He knew rhythm to a science and knew how make every song in their catalog really tick. Listen to earlier songs like “Overdose” and “Night Prowler” to later songs such as “Fire Your Guns” and even a majority of the songs of Stiff Upper Lip are led by those solid rhythm sections. And now he has left us and is playing that beat up Gretsch in the sky…

We’ll miss you Mal, the music is forever here and we’ll always remember you as one of the most solid rhythm guitarist to grace the earth. Rock In Peace from a true fan.

Headbanging Highlight of the week: Thunderstick- Something Wicked This Way Comes

Characters or persona’s in bands have been around for nearly forever. From Alice Cooper to Lizzy Borden and everyone in between, musicians creating a sort of different character on stage has always been present. One of the most recognizable ones (in the underground at least) however comes from cult Hard Rock/Heavy Metal group Samson. Thunderstick was that musician. Replacing drummer Clive Burr to play on all of the classic Samson albums such as “Head On”, “Shock Tactics” etc., he developed this character who wore a mask playing his kit in a cage which became an image that really helped Samson stand out live. He also was an early drummer for Iron Maiden and has a lot of connections with them but that’s for another time…Recently, he has reappeared on the scene with his solo band after years of being dormant. Entitled “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, we see his style almost come full circle with an extreme throwback to the Samson sound of old. But is it listenable or is it just a cheap throwback of tired ideas?

The album right from the start gives off a strong bouncy classic rock vibe more or less what Samson in the late 70’s/early 80’s. Opening track “Dark Night Black Light” is such a fun and very bumping song that has that catchy 70s hard rock vibe with a production that I really like. It definitely has a stripped down production with every instrument being mixed fairly well. Tunes like “Don’t Touch I’ll Scream” and “Fly N’ Mighty” have a very mid 70’s melodic rock feel which work well and are catchy fun rock tunes that get stuck in my head whenever I hear them. Vocalist Lucie V. handles herself great with a very dirty and bluesy rock voice that is one of the biggest highlights on the album. But what about Thunderstick himself? Well he definitely carries the drums wonderfully across the album with that unmistakable very tight style he has always had. My personal favorite on the album is “Thunder, Thunder” as it is probably the most fist pumping song on the album and the most reminiscent of that NWOBHM style. However, the album definitely isn’t perfect as there are a few songs that I tend to just pass over such as “The Shining” which feels just repetitive or even closer “I Close My Eyes” which just feels like a boring ballad and sort of a weaker way to end the album. However, there are enough tracks that redeem the album for the few boring moments it can have.

Overall, The album is a simple fun nod of the old Hard Rock style of the late 70’s with a great musician making a return to making music. It isn’t game changing or anything like that but it has some fun charm to it. It is a good driving album and one that any fan of classic rock and old school heavy metal will enjoy. There’s the great songs, the good songs and a few songs that could have been reworked or left off.  However, if you are expecting straight up heavy metal you will be disappointing. While the album has some harder edge in sections, it is still a rock album but an enjoyable one that is nice to see pop up on the radar that you’ll enjoy from time to time.