Monday, 31 March 2014

Cornerstone - Arrival 2000

Format: flac + cue + log
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)

Format: flac + cue + log
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

Format: ape + cue + log
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