Monday, 19 February 2018

George Bellas - The Dawn Of Time 2010

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Genre: Rock
Original Release Date: 2010
Label: Lion Music LMC 289

Album Notes n the beginning there was nothing... And then there was light! The Dawn Of Time. Fifteen billion years later George Bellas presents to you an epic collection of instrumental songs inspired by the universe, how it was created, and from where and what it came from.

'The Dawn Of Time' is an instrumental album rich in Romanticism and Futurism with over-the-top performances by Marco Minnemann and George Bellas. The album contains a diverse collection of 19 songs that range from simple and delicate, to complex and ferocious. The production is dynamic, clean, and has an open sound to it allowing the music to breath naturally.

Bellas comments, “For this album I wanted the arrangements to be short and accessible, and the songs to be euphonious and tonal, especially when compared to my previous album, which was a single 75 min song and atonal for the most part. For some songs I wanted to utilize compositional techniques and elements from the baroque, classical and romantic eras, and also have other songs lean more on the progressive side by using modern aspects of music. Another important factor to me was the melodies, I wrote some in a lyrical style, and others in a virtuoso instrumental style. I strived for a pleasing balance of the two”.

'The Dawn Of Time' was inspired by the universe, how it was created, and from where and what it came from. Bellas states, “I have always loved science, especially astrophysics, and this album is a creative expression of the visions produced from studying the works of great scientists such as: Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Amy Mainzer, and Brian Green, to name but a few. Their research, thought-provoking lectures and writings have been the most inspiring resources I have ever had. This album is different from my last two releases which were ultra modern in style, and "The Dawn Of Time" consists more of a neoclassical sound, along with some futurism sprinkled throughout. This new album is also more aggressive sounding than my previous release. The production on "The Dawn Of Time" is very open with lots of dynamic headroom. I do not subscribe to the volume wars that the industry has been in since the advent of the compact disc. When I want to hear something loud I much prefer to use this neat little invention called a volume knob. So, if this album seems quieter than other albums you're used to - TURN IT UP!”

Marco Minnemann once again performed and recorded some mind blowing drum takes. Bellas – “Working with Marco is always an extreme pleasure. I truly believe Marco to be one of the best drummers that has ever lived. I compose and score all the parts for all instruments in my music, but when I hear Marco's interpretation and the additional Minnemann pizazz he adds, it just blows me away and really takes the parts to a whole new level. And believe me, just playing the complex rhythms I throw at Marco can be daunting, but for him to play them with the intensity and personality that he does is just sheer over-the-top talent”.

The voracious writing process began shortly after Bellas’ previous release "Step Into The Future" was turned in to the record label. Bellas comments, “As I usually do, I first scored out all the parts, and then proceeded to track the guitar, bass, drums and keys. The guitar was recorded through a Focusrite Red Series mic preamp into an Apogee Rosetta 800 converter, and then optically straight into a DAW through an RME PCI card".

"The bass guitar sound on this album was recorded differently from my previous releases. For this album I used a Musicman Stingray bass plugged into an Ampeg SVT Classic amp and cabinet. I used a Sennheiser MD421 to mic the bass cabinet and combined that with the direct out of the amp. Another factor of achieving the bass tone was using a custom made isolation box for the mic, not an iso-box for the whole cabinet, but just the mic. Having the isolation box surround the mic allowed me to selectively increase or decrease the amount of room reflections. For guitars and amps I used the usual assortment of Fender Strats, Gibson Les Pauls, a Marshall 1976 MKII, a Marshall JCM800, and a few JCM900 Marshall amps. For the majority of the album no compression was used, and in the few spots that it was used it was a minimal amount”.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Jeff Scott Soto - Prism (2002)

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Genre: Melodic Hard Rock 
Original Release Date: 2002
Label: Frontiers Records

Prism is just the 2nd solo album from Jeff Scott Soto. This man has been around for many years now and has sang on albums with acts like Axel Rudi Pell, Talisman, Takara, Eyes, Humanimal, Yngwie Malmsteen and many more. His first solo album "Love Parade" was released back in 1994 but was more of a groovy rock album mixed with funk and it was a big disappointment. This time he´s back to his melodic rock roots and this reminds very much of Takara and Eyes at their best. The production is very good and solid and takes the songs to a higher level. He has written all the songs by himself except for a cover he sings a duet with Glenn Hughes called "I Want To Take You Higher". "Prism" is a great mixture of rockers and ballads where he sings with emotion and power. The album opens up with the best song of the album called "Eyes Of Love". This is a fantastic AOR/Rock song with a chorus that reminds of both Takara and Eyes. I love the keyboards in the chorus and its very catchy and cheerful. "Don’t Come Easy" starts off very slow and acoustic but turns into a great mid-tempo AOR-song that is a mixture of Tyketto, Eyes and put in some traces of Talisman. The song has good background vocals. The pianoballad "Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye" could have come from the Eyes debut. Jeff shows his best side here and what an incredible singer he is. "Holding On" is Takara all the way with just better production and the keyboards are brilliant. "Prism" is a great melodic AOR/ROCK album that will please fans of Jeff Scott Soto, Takara and Eyes for sure. This is the best album Jeff has done since the 2nd Eyes album in my ears and this is ear candy for fans of AOR/ROCK. You also get a promotional video for the song "Eyes Of Love" as bonus on this album. Melodic Net

Monday, 31 March 2014

Cornerstone - Arrival 2000

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Genre: Hard Rock, Rock,
Original Release Date: 2000
Label: Massacre Records

When you first take a decent listen to this album, you can't help but get carried away by their deep and moody style of melodic rock. Cornerstone combine those atmospheric moments of Magnum and Dare with the sonic fluidity of Ten. There's intelligence and thought riddled all the way through 'Arrival', and one can easily say that this is not your typical euro melodic rock release. The combination of Doogie White (Midnight Blue, Rainbow, Nikolo Kotsev) and Royal Hunt bassist Steen Mogensen is an unlikely one at that, but the presiding mood of the album is intensely deliberate, something akin to a progressive rock album, which I suppose is not unexpected considering the Royal Hunt connection.

The Songs
One suspects that 'Arrival' has a concept theme imbued within it, one based on life and evolution. The beautiful keyboard layers give us an introduction of majestic proportions as we drift effortlessly into the second track 'Walked On The Water'. The energy and tempo increase on 'Jungle' which moves beyond primal with searing guitar riffs and cascading keys. 'Straight To The Bone' is another rich effort a la Magnum 'Wings Of Heaven', while 'Fooled' could very well be it's partner in crime off the same album. 'Reload' is an atmospheric masterpiece which you just have to listen to under a pair of headphones and I'm sure if Darren Wharton did something like this it would be a winner. The Bob Catley influence makes itself heard on 'Gift Of Flesh' and to ensure that this album finishes off on a climax we get the awesome 'I'm Alive', with cutting guitars and a wall of keyboard layers which every budding air keyboardist would be smothered by!

In Summary
To hear Doogie White in this context is a surprise, and admittedly he's grown in leaps and bounds in my opinion. His singing over the top of this luscious melodic landscape is compelling to say the least. it's a great melodic rock/semi prog crossover, and I'm sure it will appeal to those with more grandiose tastes. I can't wait for the next one, ten tracks aren't enough!!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Colosseum - Bread & Circuses (1998)

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Genre: Prog-Rock, Art Rock
Original Release Date: 1998
Label: 1998 CD Cloud Nine Records/Intuition CLD 9190 2

Veteran jazz rockers Colosseum have been on and off the scene since 1969. They released 5 albums and as drummer and leader Jon Hiseman proclaims in the liner notes, "The worlds first ever jazz rock group...etc". This statement is clearly debatable; however, in their collective prime they dazzled audiences, released fine cutting edge LP's and were among the finest of the British jazz and jazz-rock musicans.

Hiseman is the leader and has been a staple in the British jazz scene most notably with his wife, British saxophonist Barbara Thompson. Other members including keyboardist Dave Greenslade formed a cutting edge prog-rock band in the 70's, simply called "Greenslade." Guitarist Dave Clempson, who has recorded with Jack Bruce, and multi-reedman Dick Heckstall-Smith are a few of the more recognizable names among this band. Hiseman's drumming was world class. Explosive, dynamic and when necessary, refined. Hiseman also recorded a classic LP called Tempest. This LP was recorded in the early 70's and featured the great guitarist Allan Holdsworth along with Colosseum bassist Mark Clarke. As a young teen I was overwhelmed with the superb musicanship of these chaps. Time passes by and here we have the new release.

Breads and Circuses is the newly released Colosseum effort on Cloud Nine Records. Frankly, I was expecting a 90's version, perhaps with a touch of finesse and refinement in accordance with my personal wishes. Ladies and Gentleman, this is a rock record. This, of course is not intended to be detrimental, but gone are the firey crescendos, maddening pace, inventive interplay. A rock record and a not a very memorable one at that. There are eleven cuts, including one instrumental called "The One That Got Away." The instrumental track is too little too late. Tracks 1-5 are standard rock ballad fare minus any memorable melodies, creative solos, or, to summarize, anything else to get excited about. Very little in the way of compositional attributes appear throughout this CD. Track 6, "The Playground" is perhaps the best cut, a memorable tune with a nice hook (a tune which draws similarities to that wonderful "Cantebury Prog Scene" of the 1970's). Unfortunately, the majority of these cuts do not justify enough solid material for an entire CD. No one takes control and the effort seems staid, complacent and ordinary. A solid rock beat, a few catchy horn arrangements, crisp vocals, but in a nutshell I struggled to make it through the entire CD without reaching for the "eject" button.

Duke Ellington once said something similar to, good music is good music regardless of the genre, idiom or classification. This CD fails despite the capabilities of these men. Personally, this CD stands as one of the great under-achievements of recent times. These boys can play, but here they wander into territory that others seem to do much better.


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Brazen Abbot - Guilty As Sin 2003

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Genre: Hard Rock
Original Release Date: 2003
Label: SPV GmbH

The Bulgarian guitar hero Nikolo Kotzev is back with Brazen Abbot - Guilty As Sin - the fourth album after Live And Learn (1995), Eye Of The Storm (1996) and Bad Religion (1997). If I refer to the booklet, Nikolo says "This album came in difficult times. At times it felt like I'll never make it ...". Honestly, I though this project was long dead considering the last record was made in 1997. By the way, you might know this guitarist from his metal opera Nostradamus (2001).

Nikolo added "Inspiration was not a friend of mine for quite a while. However, with the help of friends and relatives I moved on and wrote music, which is the fruit of my darkest hours". Well, what an inspiration ... as this Guilty As Sin is by far the best Brazen Abbot album. Reminding me the best moments of Rainbow, Whitesnake or Deep Purple, Guilty As Sin is an homage to the 70's (vintage hard rock).

Three voices, three stars : Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple, Rainbow), Göran Edman (Talisman, John Norum, Yngwie Malmsteen) and Jorn Lande (Ark, Masterplan) for twelve wonderful songs - each vocalist singing 4 songs. These vocalists combined with Nikolo's song-writing is a guaranteed product, isn't it ? Yes it is. There are so many magical moments inside Guilty As Sin. As said above, Deep Purple, Rainbow or Whitesnake resuscitate each time Mic Michaeli plays with his organ, sending us back to the 70's, with a modern sound of course. Parenthetically, the production is pretty cool.

I need to mention my favorite tracks ... even though there is not a single weak song. The opener - One Life To Live - with Joe Lynn Turner is an outbreak of hostilities. The guitar melody is outstanding, the bridge and the chorus get printed immediately and I really like the lyrics of that song : "I got one life to live, And I'm gonna live it my way, One dream to give, I'm gonna get it some day...". Joe Lynn Turner is enormous. But only people who don't know him can be surprise by this sentence :)

The second song - Eyes On The Horizon - with Jorn Lande is another highlight. I like the vintage keyboard sound and Jorn is as good as ever. This song would have found its place in Masterplan's first album. I am always astonished how Jorn sound like Coverdale. Who said this song will remind you ... great Whitesnake ? The third track - I'll Be Free - is a wonderful ballad. This is the turn of Göran Edman to sing : a typical ballad, with the acoustic guitar and the great piano of Nikolo. A magical moment as far as I am concerned. Slip Away - the fourth track - is another homage to Deep Purple. Close your eyes, listen to Joe and you will see how the magic operates on you. A great song again. Mr. Earthman with Jorn is another "rocket" in my face. Gosh ! What a chorus !!! Jorn "scores" again on Bring The Colors Home but this time, I let you discover the emotions of this track on your own. Supernatural .... speaks from itself :)

Ok you got the picture ! Now run and check this one, especially if you like the above mentioned bands ... or the above mentioned vocalists. A pleasant surprise. Thank you very much Mr. Kotzev.
Reviewed by Danny

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The Marbles - The Marbles 1970

by Richie Unterberger
The Marbles are well known to serious Bee Gees fans for covering a number of Bee Gees compositions, as well as being produced by Barry Gibb. Those expecting a sort of Bee Gees Jr., however, will be sorely disappointed by The Marbles' sole, eponymous album, even if five of the 12 tracks were penned by the Brothers Gibb. It's a far more blustery, orchestral brand of pop/rock than the relatively tender one mastered by the Bee Gees in the late '60s, even when they're doing some songs the Bee Gees themselves recorded back then (like "I Can't See Nobody" and "To Love Somebody"). Most blustery of all is Graham Bonnet's overbearing voice, which sounds a bit like a cross between Tom Jones and the Righteous Brothers, painting mental pictures of some tuxedoed guy sweating it out on the northern England cabaret circuit, his bulging neck muscles turning red with the effort. The pop and soul covers -- including "A House Is Not a Home," "Storybook Children," and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" -- are rendered schmaltzy by both the vocals and arrangements. The Marbles' few attempts at their own songwriting (numbering only three) are better though not great, convincingly emulating the bittersweet aspects of the early Bee Gees, though sometimes with even more ornate orchestration than the Bee Gees employed. It's of most interest to Bee Gees fans, though, for the inclusion of three Brothers Gibb compositions the Bee Gees didn't record at the time on their own records: "Only One Woman" (a number five British hit), "The Walls Fell Down," and "By the Light of a Burning Candle." They're characteristic of the Bee Gees' late-'60s style, but given such a bombastic treatment that you can't help wishing that the Bee Gees had done them instead. The 2003 CD reissue on Repertoire adds six bonus tracks, including mono single versions of four tracks from the LP and two 1969 B-sides.

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Genre: Pop/Rock
Original Release Date: 1970
Label: Repertoire

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Ginger Baker's Airforce - Airforce (1970)

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Genre: Fusion, Hard Rock, Jazz-Rock, Prog Rock, Art Rock
Original Release Date: 1970
Label: Polydor

For a change, the late 1960s yielded up a supergroup that lived up to its hype and then some. Ginger Baker's Air Force was recorded live at Royal Albert Hall in January of 1970 -- in fact, this may be the best-sounding live album ever to come out of that notoriously difficult venue -- at a show that must have been a wonder to watch, as the ten-piece band blazed away in sheets of sound, projected delicate flute parts behind multi-layered African percussion, or built their songs up Bolero-like, out of rhythms from a single instrument into huge jazz-cum-R&B crescendos. Considering that this was only their second gig, the group sounds astonishingly tight, which greatly reduces the level of self-indulgence that one would expect to find on an album where five of the eight tracks run in excess of ten minutes. There aren't too many wasted notes or phrases in the 78 minutes of music included here, and Steve Winwood's organ, Baker, Phil Seamen, and Remi Kabaka's drums, and the sax playing by Chris Wood, Graham Bond (on alto), and Harold McNair, all stand out, especially the sax trio's interwoven playing on "Don't Care." Additionally, Denny Laine plays louder, flashier, more virtuoso-level guitar than he ever got to turn in with the Moody Blues, bending notes in exquisite fashion in the opening of Air Force's rendition of the Cream standard "Toad," crunching away on rhythm elsewhere, and indulging in some more introspective blues for "Man of Constant Sorrow." The original CD reissue, which sounded pretty good, was deleted in the early '90s, but this album has been remastered again and repackaged as part of the Ginger Baker retrospective Do What You Like on Polygram's Chronicles series. It's a must-own for jazz-rock, Afro-fusion, blues-rock, or percussion fans.Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

Ginger Baker was rock's first superstar drummer and the most influential percussionist of the 1960s. There were other drummers who were well-known to the public before him, including the Beatles' Ringo Starr and, in England at the end of the 1950s, the Shadows' Tony Meehan, but they were famous primarily for the groups in which they played and for attributes beyond their musicianship. Baker made his name entirely on his playing, initially as showcased in Cream, but far transcending even that trio's relatively brief existence. Though he only cut top-selling records for a period of about three years at the end of the 1960s, virtually every drummer of every heavy metal band that has followed since that time has sought to emulate some aspect of Baker's playing.

He was born Peter Edward Baker in Lewisham, London, in 1939. The nickname "Ginger" came along later, a result of his red hair. As a boy, Baker had a special interest in bicycle racing, but by his mid-teens, his interests had switched to music, especially percussion. A rebel even at that age, he became devoted to modern art and contemporary jazz, transforming himself into something of a beatnik during the mid- to late '50s. A natural musician, he talked himself into his first professional gig when he was 16 and was on the road that year, working full-time. Baker's idol during the late '50s was Phil Seaman, a jazz drummer who was probably the best percussion player in England; his own playing tended toward an aggressiveness and articulation that were unusual in juxtaposition with each other.

By the end of the 1950s, Baker had passed through several of what were known in England as trad jazz bands -- "trad" was the English designation given to what Americans and the rest of the world know as Dixieland jazz. It was the dominant form of popular jazz in England from the mid-'50s onward and it provided employment. He'd been a member of Terry Lightfoot's and Acker Bilk's bands, but the fit was an awkward one, owing to the passion that Baker often displayed in his work and his own, personally outspoken nature. Instead, he turned toward the budding British blues scene coalescing around the work of Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies -- less bound in tradition and built largely around younger players, this music was growing and being played in a much more open environment.

In 1962, on the recommendation of Charlie Watts, Baker was selected as the latter's replacement in Blues Incorporated, the band started by Korner and Davies. It was here that Baker first crossed paths with two musicians -- saxman and organist Graham Bond and bassist Jack Bruce -- that were to play a key role in his professional career. Their work with Blues Incorporated was successful enough, but it was while the two were playing with a side group, the Johnny Birch Octet, that they began jamming with saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith (another Blues Incorporated alumnus) and began getting a very positive response from the crowds. It was out of those jams that Baker, Bond, Bruce, and (joining a little later) Heckstall-Smith formed the Graham Bond Organization in 1963, the former three quitting Korner's group all at once. The Graham Bond Organisation was never as popular as such Blues Incorporated offshoots as the Rolling Stones or the Small Faces, being more jazz-oriented in their approach to R&B, and, thus, a little too complex to find a huge audience, but they were successful and respected on stage; Baker's reputation among blues aficionados and more scholarly British rock listeners can be traced to his work with the group. Their recordings, however -- with the obvious exception of the Klooks Kleek concert album -- were never as exciting as their live performances.

Its name aside, Ginger Baker was the de facto leader of the Graham Bond Organization. Bond himself was temperamentally unsuited to a leadership role, a condition made worse by the spells of substance abuse and addiction that blighted his life. The Bond group also hooked Baker up in the same rhythm section with Jack Bruce for an extended period of time, and few relationships between constant bandmates -- with the exception of siblings Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey's efforts at working together in the early '30s -- have been so tumultuous and productive. The two genuinely hated each other on a personal level, and stories of each wrecking (or trying to wreck) the other's instruments and attacking each other on stage abound. Still, the group's sound was extraordinary, a jazz-based R&B built around four powerful players, each displaying varying degrees of virtuosity and assertiveness that was quite daringly complex. And their manager, Robert Stigwood, saw them all as talents worth keeping an eye on in the future.

Baker eventually fired Bruce, who jumped to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, which, fatefully, allowed him to cross paths with Eric Clapton for a short time, and then to Manfred Mann, as well as doing session work that even had him playing on records by the Hollies. By early 1966, the Graham Bond Organization had run its commercial course (though it was still sufficiently viable to turn up on a poster outside of the club that David Hemmings' character enters in Blow Up), and Baker was searching for a new gig.

He'd observed John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in action and had known lead guitarist Eric Clapton for a couple of years, having jammed with him once in 1964 as part of the Graham Bond Organization, and approached him initially to write together and perhaps form a group. Baker had, in effect, been running the Graham Bond Organization while Clapton had emerged in Mayall's group so far into the spotlight that he'd eclipsed Mayall himself; they discovered that they were in exactly the same place. The great irony was that Clapton, impressed with Bruce's musicianship in both the Bluesbreakers and a short-lived group called Eric Clapton & the Powerhouse, insisted that the bassist come aboard as the third member of the trio. Baker agreed, somewhat reluctantly, acknowledging Bruce's daunting musical ability and willing to overlook their past animosities. The proposed trio, christened Cream, was signed up by Reaction Records, a record label founded by Robert Stigwood, who had been the manager of the Graham Bond Organization, knew of Baker's and Bruce's virtuosity intimately, and was equally impressed by Clapton and as eager as any executive in England to get the three together and see what would happen.

What happened initially was "Wrapping Paper," a pop-style single released in late 1966 that didn't impress too many people -- although even there, one could hear a swing element to the group's sound, reminiscent of '40s jazz, that showed off one (albeit minor) component of what went into their sound. Baker was barely audible in the mix, though what one could hear of the drumming did have a signature of sorts, a loose, jazzy element that was unusual. Within the next year, the band would become a chart-topping act and then a cultural phenomenon, however, and at its core was Baker. He and Bruce continued to argue without let-up while Clapton mediated and refereed, and on their records everyone got to shine, but Baker's playing was special even in that context -- on "Rollin' & Tumblin'," a Muddy Waters blues standard that the trio took into the stratosphere from the first note, Baker's playing sounded like it was on another planet, matching Clapton's rapid-fire quoting of the main riff and Bruce's frenzied singing and quietly overpowering the listener; his playing on "I'm So Glad," by contrast, had a lyrical, almost melodic quality, like a veiled orchestral accompaniment to the bass and guitar -- he kept a beat, but his drumming also played the kind of role that a harpsichord continuo played in Baroque music. And then there was "Toad," in its original studio version, an offshoot of several pieces dating back to the Graham Bond days that featured Baker in a solo; here, as on "Oh Baby" from the first Graham Bond album, Baker made his drum kit sing.

In concert, the piece would become the basis for a ten-minute drum solo that was no less impressive. The trio's live sound was, alas, limited somewhat by the technology of the day, especially when they become too popular to play small clubs (which was very early), but Baker set a new standard for playing on record, and at those shows, that every drummer with more than an ounce of ambition sought to emulate. A lot of critics in later years also felt that Baker also had a lot to answer for -- that the 15-minute live version of "Toad," 13 minutes of which was Baker solo, opened the way to gargantuan drum solos by the metal bands that came up after Cream, culminating with the infamous (and extremely funny) drum solo interlude in the movie This Is Spinal Tap. Baker can hardly be faulted, however, for the excesses of those who followed after him -- his studio work with Cream, and at least the live material that was authorized for release, never showed him playing lengthy solos for their own sake but rather depicted a drummer coaxing beautiful voices out of his instrument. The mere fact that he could do it for ten minutes or more at a stretch was impressive, to say the least.

Cream made (and still generates) a huge amount of money, but couldn't last long with the egos involved -- in just over two years, they were history. It turned Baker into a permanent superstar, however. Such was his influence that he was able to turn young admirers of his playing onto older drummers such as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, whose careers dated to the 1930s and 1940s, respectively. For a time at the end of the 1960s, teenagers who hadn't even been born when Krupa retired the last of his big bands were seeking out the drummer's work, all based on Baker's professed admiration for him.

What followed next for Baker was Blind Faith, one of the most celebrated still-born bands in history -- many millions of records sold, and millions of dollars earned, despite their having only about an eight-song repertory of their own. Initially planned as a linkup between Clapton and singer/guitarist/keyboard player Steve Winwood, Baker came along and cashed in Clapton's promise to include him in his next project and the resulting business and publicity frenzy pushed the band too far, too quickly. In seven months they were gone, but out of the ashes of Blind Faith rose the group eventually known as Ginger Baker's Air Force. Ironically, Air Force's history was an exact reversal of that of Blind Faith -- initially put together for two live gigs in England, the group suddenly found its life extended to a tour and a second album; in contrast to Blind Faith, however, whose hype had merely reflected an expectant audience eager to see a band made up of two superstars (Clapton and Baker) and one star (Winwood), Air Force's hype was the product of promoters desperately hoping that it would be another Blind Faith.

The group, which included Baker's mentor Phil Seaman and his old bandmate Graham Bond, was much too eclectic ever to have achieved the kind of popularity that Cream or Blind Faith had enjoyed, embracing jazz, traditional African music, blues, folk, and rock. The ten-piece band lasted less than a year before breaking up, leaving behind a genuinely fascinating and exciting live album and an interesting studio LP (both combined on the Ginger Baker double-CD set Do What You Like. In 1971, Baker decided to indulge his longtime fascination with African music first-hand and moved to Nigeria, where he built the first modern recording studio in western Africa. Over the next three years, he worked with a huge range of acts, including Fela and Paul McCartney's Wings, as well as recording the solo album Stratavarious -- he ultimately lost the studio and most of his money (and has claimed that McCartney stiffed him for the use of the studio in the recording of Band on the Run).

During 1974, Baker formed the Baker-Gurvitz Army Band with guitarist Adrian Gurvitz and bassist Paul Gurvitz, which made an initial splash in America before fading out commercially over the next three years. He finally re-emerged in 1986, with bassist/guitarist Bill Laswell on the album Horses & Trees. By that time, a new generation of star drummers had emerged, most notably Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson, but Baker's reputation, thanks to the continued catalog sales of Cream's work, continued to resonate with fans and casual listeners. Over the next few years, Baker reappeared through various projects, including Ginger Baker's African Force and Middle Passage, that freely mixed African and Western musical influences. And in 1991, Baker surprised all onlookers with the release of Unseen Rain, a free-form instrumental album done almost entirely on acoustic instruments. Finally, in 1994, he returned to Atlantic Records -- which had been the U.S. outlet for Cream's recordings -- and to what he realized were his jazz roots with the triumphant Going Back Home, which featured the Ginger Baker Trio. Baker has hooked up with jazz trumpeter Ron Miles on Coward of the County, a hugely successful showcase for his jazz side and also includes a tribute to the late Cyril Davies, the British blues enthusiast who co-founded Blues Incorporated in the early '60s.

Ginger Baker, like his ex-bandmates, has seen fit since the 1970s to keep the legacy of Cream at arm's length or further -- the trio's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame reportedly did little to change his feelings, and he is also said to be astonished at the emergence of Eric Clapton to mega-stardom during the 1990s. Despite some of the financial and other troubles that have dogged him since the 1960s, he has been content to go his own way musically for the benefit of any who care to hear. ~ Bruce Eder, All Music Guide

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Aghora- Formless (2006)

After a 7 year period between albums, Aghora come back with a worthy second album. With a new lineup and a new batch of songs, they are truly a treat to hear.

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Genre: Progressive Metal, Jazz-Metal
Original Release Date: 2006
Label: Dobles Music

Santiago Dobles - Guitar
Alan Goldstein - Bass
Diana Serra - Vocals
Giann Rubio - Drums
Sean Reinert - Studio Drums

The first time that "Formless" collided with my ear drums I can't say I was impressed. As I listened the first time through the album I even reached the state of occasional disappointment and thought to myself: "There it is, the first negative review I'll have to write for" But by the time I listened to all the songs I began wondering: Did the band have a creative drain by replacing the rhythmic section? Did Santiago Dobles invest so much creativity in "Aghora" that he had no more to offer? How come that seven long years aren't enough to replenish your ressources? And how does that work with all the mind and body balancing activities he goes after with great dedication? Aren't those supposed to bring out more and more creativity? I concluded for myself that the answers lie in front of me and that I have to listen to this quite a few times before making my final personal judgement about it.

My perseverance was well rewarded! How the songs differ from the debut album can be best read in my interview with Santiago Dobles himself.

I was quite surprised to hear that the metal dose has been noticably raised on this one! Don't let the Intro make a fool of you. "Aghora" started with a crunchy riff while "Formless" initiates its listener to the beating that is to come by gentle psychedelic, indian tunes that will give you a truly wrong impression of the pace of the upcoming journey. It's not like the songs are now completely built around the concept of acoustic mass destruction but there is so much more of it now that I wondered where the calm interludes went to and when I will be allowed to breath. Well there are just better hidden and distributed in a manner that gives the song a stronger live edge.

I mainly liked "Aghora" fort the epic blasting like in "Satya". Now I got a whole lot more of it, but at first it sounded simpler to my ears which has unsettled me a bit. That impression was quickly dissipated by the time I lent the harmonies more attention and enjoyed the fact that the vocals were given more room to expand and carry the song in a more angelic manner.

All in all I advise anyone who doesn't enjoy this album by its first listening to spend some time on it. Otherwise you are on your way to prive yourself of a truly enjoyable and fascinating album. Let's hope that it won't take another seven years for the band in order to assemble the next, hopefully just as great, album.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Asia - Asia 1982 (2010 Audio Fidelity 24 KT+Gold AFZ 068)

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Progressive Rock
Original Release Date: 1982
Label: Audio Fidelity
Catalog#: AFZ 068
Format: 24 KT Gold CD

One of the finest debuts in rock history, there's no denying the epic grandeur of the music

Asia's debut spent 9 weeks at #1 on the U.S. album chart. "Heat Of The Moment" (#4), "Sole Survivor" (#10), and "Only Time Will Tell" (#17) were huge Top 40 hits. Asia would go on to receive a Grammy nomination as Best New Artist of the Year and Billboard named Asia Album of the Year.

One of the first true supergroups - The band had an amazing pedigree made-up of former members of veteran progressive rock bands Steve Howe (lead guitarist from Yes), Carl Palmer (drummer from Emerson, Lake & Palmer), John Wetton (vocalist & bassist from King Crimson) and Geoff Downes (keyboardist from the Buggles).

The quartet set out to make an album that drew from their progressive backgrounds, but with shorter song-oriented material. They were right on the mark with great songs and production work - this record is just fun, emotional, raw prog-pop, served up early 80's style.

The album showcasess the talents of the members both as songwriters and musicians. Asia captured a spark and sound that riveted listeners, they became one of the most played acts on a new music media outlet called MTV that premiered on cable channels in 1981 throughout the US and in over 50 million households and for a few brief, shining moments their rock & pop ruled the music world selling over 10 million worldwide.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Chickenfoot - III (2011) [US]

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Blues-Rock, Hard Rock
Original Release Date: 2011
Label: earMUSIC

Chickenfoot III is the second studio album by American hard rock band Chickenfoot, released on September 27, 2011. The first pressing of the album was packaged in an exclusive 3-D album cover and includes 11 new songs. Despite the title, this is not actually the band's third album.

Even without name-checking Led Zeppelin's "Houses Of The Holy" on the single "Big Foot," there's no denying that Sammy Hagar-fronted supergroup Chickenfoot is serving up an ample tribute to its 1970s influences on the deceptively titled "Chickenfoot III." The riffs have the muscle of Led Zeppelin, the rhythms the slink of the Rolling Stones. And all that's before you get to the mind-bending guitar solos and pop-infused choruses that recall the best of Van Halen.

It's rare that supergroups manage to even equal the sum of their parts, let alone surpass it. Given that Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony come from one of hard rock's definitive outfits, Van Halen, while drummer Chad Smith has played with arguably the greatest alt-rock act of the last two decades, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Joe Satriani has carved out a reputation as one of the great guitar gods of all time, it's easy to see how hard it would be for a band like this to even meet expectations. And, to be fair, the band's 2009 self-titled debut fell a bit short of the mark, with tunes that largely fell on the generic side. It was almost as if Hagar and crew, in the quest to establish a new identity for themselves, ran a little too far away from their roots.

From the opening notes of "Last Temptation," it's obvious that this time, the band has brought more of its history and influences to bear — and that the members are more bonded musically. Satriani, in particular, seems more relaxed on this outing, cutting lose with a solo that exceeds anything he played on the first Chickenfoot disc — and he's just getting started.

"Alright Alright" brings to mind David Lee Roth-era Van Halen, particularly in the simple, infectious chorus, in which Michael Anthony's backing vocals will take you immediately back to around 1980, and Satriani's solo, which is pure EVH. Those looking for a return to "Van Hagar" will enjoy "Different Devil," which wouldn't have felt out of place alongside a track like "Finish What Ya Started" from "OU812."

The riffs on "Up Next," "Dubai Blues" and "Big Foot" all recall the debt every one of these musicians owe to Led Zeppelin, though the choruses make good use of Hagar and Anthony's vocal harmonies.

"Come Closer" feels like a "Some Girls"-era Rolling Stones tune, with Hagar taking an approach that evokes Mick Jagger. Smith's drumming on this track returns to the funkier style that he's perfected with the Chili Peppers, to excellent effect. The band goes full-on blues on "Something Going Wrong," which has an almost country feel in parts.

The one sour note comes with the well-meaning "Three And A Half Letters," in which Hagar reads from hard-luck letters sent to him by fans who are out of work. The letters, which provide the verses, are powerful stuff, as are the almost painful solos Satriani provides for each one. Unfortunately, Hagar felt the need to go with a conventional song structure, and the "I need a job" chorus is quite weak in comparison to all the other ingredients in the mix.

The production, by the band and Mike Fraser, is excellent, with everyone getting ample space in the mix. Anthony's bass, in particular, benefits. Those who remember his thumping tone on early Van Halen tracks are going to be quite surprised by the versatility he shows here.

"Chickenfoot III" finds the band fully embracing its history and influences to create an album that plays to every one of its strengths. Whether you're a Van Halen fan looking for something to hold you over until next year, or just a fan of classic hard rock sounds, you're going to find plenty to love here.

Highs: "Alright Alright," "Different Devil," "Come Closer" and "Big Foot."

Lows: A weak chorus on "Three And A Half Letters"

Bottom line: An instant classic that finds the supergroup channeling the best of its history and influences.