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Wings of Heaven (Live Recording) - Magnum 04/05/2010

Clipped Wings Of Heaven!

Wings of Heaven (Live Recording) - Magnum In the music you can take nothing for granted. Make the most of the good times because you can be dealt a lousy deal almost overnight. I think melodic rockers Magnum are a classic example of a band snatching anonymity from the jaws of global acclaim. The release of ‘Wings Of Heaven’ in 1988 saw the band finally breaking through with major venue headlining tours as well as chart success for both album and selected singles. It was the perfect platform for success yet less than three years later they were back playing the smaller venues to the hardened faithful. In truth the follow up album was somewhat of a ‘turkey’ but really that should not have forced the rapid nose-dive from relative fame. But that’s the music business for you; make an error and your profile can plummet. ‘Wings Of Heaven’ was the pinnacle for the band even though fans will possibly throw in a strong challenger in ‘On A Storytellers Night’. The success of the album took many by surprise; it was as if someone somewhere had decided this was Magnum’s time. The album opens up with a somewhat progressive rock melodic pop effort in ‘Days Of No Trust’. It’s a decent song but even the likes of yours truly were surprised when it not only became the first single from the album but also became a high charting hit. It is to be fair quite catchy but certainly not your usual pop fodder. ‘Wild Swan’ is more of a dramatic prog rock piece and is the track that contains the name of the album title in the lyric. Bob ...

Sheer Heart Attack - Queen 04/05/2010

Sheer Pleasure Attack

Sheer Heart Attack - Queen Though Queen had risen to some prominence prior to the album release 'Sheer Heart Attack'; they were regarded as being followers rather than leaders of their genre. Their first two albums though very good were likened too much to the early rock giants Led Zeppelin. They had a competent style and delivered strong music but the material was not new in terms of originality. Their first true push on the commercial market had been the single 'Seven Seas Of Rhye' from their second album release Queen II which gave the band a raised profile especially in the UK. 'Sheer Heart Attack' saw the band ease slightly away from the full on guitar sound and introduce more piano driven lines. A more wide ranging vocal approach was adopted to introduce more musical styles into the bands repertoire. The move was bold; the results spectacular. Taking in the first track of the album 'Brighton Rock' you would have been given no clues that 'Sheer Heart Attack would be any different from the first two Queen albums. It is undeniably hard rock with Brian May giving early opportunity to deliver his guitar craft. The track has a strong vocal element but it is the extended guitar play with all its symphonic revelry that steals the show. 'Killer Queen' was the first single release from the album and the first for me truly clever Queen song. The track is not about hard rock guitar and intense vocal. Everything about this track is slick and the way it embraces pop, rock and even classical is ...

Making Love... The Very Best of Air Supply - Air Supply 03/05/2010

The musical air supplied is perfect!

Making Love... The Very Best of Air Supply - Air Supply I don’t expect many to hold their hand up on this one; but I will happily concede I always enjoyed the music of Air Supply. Easy listening it may have been; possibly soggy round the edges as well but that never bothered me. The duo made great pop music and during the early eighties could literally do no wrong. This particular compilation just about captures all the essential hits and highlights of the group and is a thoroughly enjoyable CD to play on any occasion asked. Their mega hit ‘All Out Of Love’ is here along with my personal favourite from their repertoire ‘Making Love Out Of Nothing At All’. The two tracks are iconic love songs and truly deserve their place up there with the all time great tear jerkers. Although ‘All Out Of Love’ is the big one; my top track is ‘Making Love’. The piano intro and the way it holds on the melody throughout makes the hairs truly stand up on the back of neck. If you want a track with a killer mood it is this one; quite breathtaking. What makes their music great pop music is there is nothing really to dislike. The songs are harmless; certainly not pretentious and are only meant to deliver enjoyment and that is most certainly what they do. In many ways despite their fame I think Air Supply’s qualities are a little under-stated. Many tracks in particular for me, ‘Chances’ are incredibly subtle in their lyrical delivery with a slight breeze of an arrangement that literally does blow you away. Air Supply music has the great sing ...

Man of Yesterday (The Anthology) - David Byron 29/04/2010

Byron the singer not the poet

Man of Yesterday (The Anthology) - David Byron David Byron was a great vocalist, a great front man and one of the music world's general nice guys. If you have any of those old Top Of The Pops albums at home from the late sixties early seventies where hits of the time are performed by unknown artists; Byron will almost certainly be on a few tracks. Along with a certain Reg Dwight he used to supplement his income as a session singer. He is best known however for his role as lead singer on heavy rockers, Uriah Heep's classic albums from the period 1970 -76. This 2cd anthology is a fitting tribute to the man and his remarkable vocal. It delves way back into his early career in the sixties with the band Spice through the halcyon period with Uriah Heep and on to the series of solo and band ventures that followed. The track listing is a fairly comprehensive representation of the singers finest vocal moments. For someone unfamiliar with the music or career of David Byron, the opportunity of finding out what this guy was about may not appear that attractive an option. Who is David Byron? Oh no not Uriah Heep! Boring old heavy rock? If you are interested enough to give it a go; your time I feel sure will prove well spent. Not only will you experience some classic songs to link to the name, you will also realise his long term band were pretty good as well. David Byron could sing all styles but his real speciality for me was the ballads; the slower side of rock. He could nail a track when it ...

Greatest Hits - Albert Hammond 27/04/2010

The Hammond efect!

Greatest Hits - Albert Hammond The name Albert Hammond may not strike a chord with many. The younger audience may have come across the name but only in relation to his son, Albert Jnr who was a member if the rock band; 'The Strokes'. Albert Snr goes back a long way (forty and more years infact) and has written and collaborated on many a famous track over the years with several included in this collection. In the UK he is probably best known for the opening track of this compilation 'Free Electric Band'. The song is one of the great pop songs of the early seventies and is still a much requested track at nostalgia parties. It is truly one of the great sing-along songs from that decade. Though a clear highlight there are many tracks to get your interest here and surprise you by their familiarity. A favourite of mine is 'Peacemaker' which follows a similar tempo to the opening track but less rocky. It is a very catchy again sing along number that you can very quickly engage with and consider an old friend. 'Down By The River' is one of many tracks you probably know but not by the title. If you are of a certain age as soon as you here the opening lines , I'm sure memories will come flooding back. Co-written with Carole Bayer Sager, Hammond includes here his version of 'When I Need You' which was a huge hit for Leo Sayer both in the US and Europe. This version for me has a bit more about it than the commercial effort from Sayer but of course that is a personal opinion. It would be ...

Best of Jim Croce - Jim Croce 25/04/2010

Timeless and bottled for prefection!

Best of Jim Croce - Jim Croce Jim Croce was one of the greatest singer song writers of his era. Beautiful arrangements; touching melodies and sublime lyrics were all key features of his locker. The quality and importance of Croce work was not fully realised until after his untimely death in a plane crash in 1973. This album is a touching tribute to his song writing skills and includes some classic moments and quality songs that you may be more familiar with than you think. My personal highlights are very much captured below as they are the tracks I remember most as a young man discovering the music of Jim Croce. 'Bad Bad Leroy Brown' was covered by no less a recording icon than Frank Sinatra. The track is made for swing but its roots are country and the Croce delivery is a classic. The chorus line is extremely memorable but the track overall is a true gem. It's great to hit that feel good button early on an album. 'Operator' is a bitter sweet number sitting on a tender melody. This track floats along at such a gentle pace but the lyrics are absolutely knock-out. 'You Don't Mess Around With Jim' is a personal favourite of mine, very much in the style of 'Bad Bad Leroy Brown'. For a folk singer he certainly had a rare skill for getting the place going with rousing melody and amazing hook lines. This is a cracking song that from the first time of hearing you are totally smitten. 'Time In A Bottle' was the posthumous hit single that became a high charting hit in the United ...

Very Best of Free & Bad Company Featuring Paul Rodgers - Bad Company 07/04/2010

Short measure but an excellent taster!

Very Best of Free & Bad Company Featuring Paul Rodgers - Bad Company Great idea to mix up the two classic era’s of the career of vocalist Paul Rodgers even if a couple of obvious numbers have somehow missed the cut. Free were a great band with a bluesy pedigree that just caught the imagination of the nation. Four teenagers that came together to form one of the great bands of all time and turn out some incredible music. The voice of Rodgers was the ultimate focal point of the band but the guitar playing of the tragic Paul Kossoff was always for me the true inspiration factor. Along with talented bass player Andy Fraser and drum machine Simon Kirke, Free were streets ahead of their competitors. Like all good things though the magic was not meant to be with regards longevity of the band. Musical and personal bust ups saw the band break up and a brief silence reigned before Rodgers along with drummer Simon Kirke re-invented the mood with a new more rock driven band; Bad Company. Mick Ralphs formerly of glamsters Mott The Hoople and Boz Burrell from prog rockers King Crimson were recruited on lead and bass guitar respectively. The momentum was quickly regained and just like with Free, Rodgers experience a successful period of album and single chart success. For some reason the order of the album is giving you the Bad Company tracks first. Their debut single opens the album; the rousing ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’. A great guitar opener but more importantly this was music suddenly more accessible to a wider audience. It was rock ...

Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 - Black Sabbath 05/04/2010

The fourth volume of Sabbath unfolded!

Black Sabbath, Vol. 4 - Black Sabbath Black Sabbath Vol 4 is probably the bands finest guitar album. After the death doom mystique of the first wonderful album and the wizards, booted fairies and paranoia of the second; they pushed a heavy theme with the third before coming up with the more structured offering that was Vol 4. The fragile nature of Ozzy’s mind set was not to surface for a few years and for me this album along with its follow up ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ are the best crafted of all the Sabbath albums. Vol 4 is a personal triumph for lead guitarist Tony Iommi with so many memorable guitar lines on show here. It is also possibly Ozzy’s best vocal effort overall on a Sabbath album. ‘Wheels Of Confusion’ is a superb opener with a controlled almost sauntering power chords booming out on Ozzy’s unmistakeable vocal. The mood of the track eases slightly as Iommi picks on a more rippling effect before resume battle again. It is noticeable even from the first track how memorable and ironically catchy the arrangements are here. Regardless of the heavy rock onslaught the material is hugely infectious. ‘Tomorrows Dream’ is a great track for the drummers out there. Bill Ward gives a wonderfully powerhouse performance on this one. I used to refer to this track as ‘the grumbler’. The bass is effectively heavy and the guitar has an almost groaning effect. I never really felt the band were able to re-create this particular sound on any subsequent album. From out of nowhere Sabbath suddenly ...

Ssssh (Digitally Remastered) - Ten Years After 05/04/2010

Let's have a little 'Ssssh'

Ssssh (Digitally Remastered) - Ten Years After Ten Years After are true legends of the heavy blues. Led by the guitar maestro Alvin Lee they released a string of fine albums during the late sixties and early seventies. The band took the blues and provided their own translation adding heavy bass and keyboard to powerful guitar runs. ‘Ssssh’ from 1969 is a classic example of the power blues this band exuded. The album opens with ‘Bad Scene’ which is a rocker broken into a number of sections. The intro has some animal croaking/clucking away before a little boogie kicks from keyboard player Chick Churchill. Alvin Lee joins in with some particular fuzzy guitar before the lyrics kick in. Although hardly thought provoking; the lyrics are surprisingly upbeat and catchy. The highlight of this opener though is Alvin Lee’s guitar work, which is excellent throughout. The arrangement though not the guitar, has similarities in some areas of late sixties Deep Purple. ‘Two Time Mama’ is so reminiscent of the classic Canned Heat. The track has that swampy blues feel that just drifts along on a soft line melody. This is the band showing completely the opposite side of their repertoire. It’s a great track and somewhat of an early surprise in the set. ‘Stoned Woman’ is classic late sixties blues rock. The track sits on Churchill’s subtle keyboard work for the majority aided superbly by some great heavy bass from Leo Lyons. Plenty of opportunities throughout the track for guitar break and Alvin Lee makes full use of them. I ...

Rising [Remastered] - Rainbow 01/04/2010

Ritchie's post Purple triumph!

Rising [Remastered] - Rainbow This is the classic Rainbow album by arguably the classic Rainbow line-up. It is Ritchie Blackmore’s second effort under the Rainbow name following his departure from Deep Purple. The first album though impressive was somewhat experimental and production wise could have been better. ‘Rising’ literally was the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. Everything came together on this album; the band had truly blended and the music was sublime classic rock. Ronnie James Dio certainly came to the fore on this release with some amazing vocal performances. Though a fine singer his efforts with former band Elf were largely unknown and his role on the first Rainbow album was overshadowed by it being Ritchie Blackmore’s first outing after Deep Purple. It was ‘Rising’ that truly saw Dio step up to the mark. Another key aspect to the winning formula of this album was the solid rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Cozy Powell formerly of the Jeff Beck Group. ‘Tarot Woman’ is a great start to the album with keyboard man Tony Carey creating an atmospheric opening that resists comparisons to any Jon Lord effort with Purple. The intro in itself sells this album as being a step away from the Deep Purple Sound. The Blackmore power chords kick in the track is away. Dio produces a great vocal from the start. The track is arguably more prog rock than out and out traditional flavour. The synthesiser sound soars along nicely against Blackmore’s predictable ...

Past Present And Future - Al Stewart 01/04/2010

Al's Past Present & Future classic

Past Present And Future - Al Stewart Al Stewart is without doubt my favourite singer song writer and my association with his wonderful music kicked of with the gem from 1973 'Past Present & Future. The album is essentially an historical concept piece attempting to cover incidents from the decades that had passed of the twentieth century. Now to the modern day music lover the brief so far is the usual sign to switch off and check out the reviews on Stork Margarine. The theme of the album is well out of fashion in today's music world with artists sticking to social issues, street attitude and throwaway pop. Past Present And Future gives out in each song a wonderful history lesson on events in history not necessarily that familiar to many. The album opens up with the track 'Old Admirals' which is based around the life of Lord Fisher who was Admiral Of The Fleet in the latter years of Queen Victoria's reign. The track is set in a subtle stroll of an arrangement with some delightful guitar lines from Tim Renwick. Stewart with his effortless vocal is taking you through the admirals career but he is also telling the grim facts of life. As you get older in post your value to others is questioned regardless of position. You gradually and systematically become unwanted. Not a comfortable thing to accept but Stewart essentially sells the cold fact here and it is as fresh now as it was back then. 'Warren Harding' is the tale of an American president who was in post between 1920-23. Arguably considered to ...

Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin' - Paul Simon 01/04/2010

Simon rhymin the classics 'live'

Paul Simon in Concert: Live Rhymin' - Paul Simon This is an excellent ‘live’ recording perfect for those moments when you’re doing things round the house and you are crying out for some quality background vibes. The recording is from an early seventies solo concert, not that long after the release of the classic ‘There Goes Rhymin Simon’ album. Paul Simon solo material has been exceptional over the years and none more so than the material from his first two albums of the seventies. Five of those wonderful tracks are performed here. The opener to the show is the highly reggae influenced ‘Me And Julio Down By The School Yard’. School days indeed re-visited for me on this one. Such a happy song and Simon creates the mood so well here. Following on is the first famous duo effort of the show, ‘Homeward Bound’. I’m sure many who listen to this album for the first time listen intently to such songs for signs of the missing harmony factor. There is no such problem here as Paul Simon is comfortable throughout and in truth this always more of a Simon prominent vocal track. The Art factor was saved for other classics. ‘American Tune is one of Paul Simons most moving as well as symbolic songs. The studio version is truly awesome but there is an equally endearing charm to this ‘live’ rendition. With ‘El Condor Pasa’ the arrangement is slightly out for me but the overall delivery is flawless and again the Simon lone vocal is sufficient. ‘Duncan’ was Paul Simon’s first single from his first seventies solo album. It ...

Distance - Bob Seger 31/03/2010

Certainly going the distance!

Distance - Bob Seger ‘The Distance’ is Bob Seger’s closest effort to replicating the success of the stunning trio of albums ‘Night Moves’, ‘Stranger In Town’ and 'Against The Wind'. Though not quite reaching the heights for me of those previous albums it does still contain some stunning Seger compositions. 'The Distance' was released in 1982 which was several years after the previous release. In today's music world to have only two years break between albums is easily the norm with most established artists choosing longer to come up with new material. Back at the turn of the eighties such a gap was a calculated risk and in some ways the move was not a wise one. Though it made the upper reaches of the charts the album did not have the same staying power as its predecessors. Production wise the album is much slicker than previous albums; the ballads are more to the forefront on this album but the familiar Seger style rockers are still present. 'Even Now' is effectively a re-working of 'Hollywood Nights' and why not? The track is a classic driving track with that creaking motorised guitar infecting the song from the outset. Seger does excel on the open road numbers and this one is no exception. It is a great way to start the album for sure. 'Makin' Thunderbirds' is down tempo and bluesy with Seger singing of the manufacturing decline of the famous car and the social impact that brought about. Many Seger songs are inspirational and focus on dreams, ambitions and hope. This is one ...

Glory Road - Ian Gillan 31/03/2010

A Glory Cul-De-Sac!

Glory Road - Ian Gillan Ian Gillan for me was never really fully comfortable outside the family home that is Deep Purple. His first three studio albums as the Ian Gillan Band were at best average but generally unmemorable affairs. The string of albums that followed under the stripped down name of Gillan contained several shots of brilliance but none really were the complete package. Although much of the song writing improved during this period the overall quality of the material was not the same consistency of that coming out between 1970 and 1973. That is not to say I was not carried along with it all; I was a big fan and certainly rated the album 'Mr Universe' and enjoyed the studio stuff from 'Double Trouble'. The closest I guess the band got to hitting the spot as it were was arguably the album 'Glory Road. It arrived at a time when the popularity of the band was soaring. Released as a double album, in truth only 50% of the output was 'Glory Road' the album; the other half was session out-takes and rarities added as bonus material. The CD version of the album includes the all the above as well as some B sides of singles from the time. The album is indeed a heavyweight; Gillan never went along with the subtle approach at times followed by the likes of Rainbow and Whitesnake. He preferred the full onslaught which made the bands material far more in your face. 'Unchain Your Brain' is a classic example of the bludgeoning rock that Gillan served up. It is intense high ...

Good Trouble - REO Speedwagon 31/03/2010

Ballad what ballad?

Good Trouble - REO Speedwagon You really have to like the American radio rock style to be a lover of bands like REO Speedwagon. With a career going back over forty years they are most famous for a period in the early eighties where they had global success with the album 'Hi Infidelity' and its mega hit singles; 'Keep On Lovin You' and 'take It On The Run'. My personal favourite album from the band is actually the follow up album to Hi Infidelity'; the quite brilliant 'Good Trouble'. REO despite their success were tagged throughout their career as being simply a power ballad band who rarely changed their product. This is as far from the truth as you can get as the band for most of their first ten years or so were out and out classic rock. The ballads were the fillers of their albums that fate took a hold off. 'Keep ON Lovin You', 'Can't Fight This Feeling' and 'One Lonely Night' were big hits in the eighties but they were not typical of the overall REO Speedwagon sound. The album 'Good Trouble' goes someway in providing the evidence that this band were first and foremost a rock band. It is absolutely crammed full of great pop rock tunes all having their own individual distinct melodies and amazingly catchy lyrics. The quality here surpasses that of 'High Infidelity' and the band for me certainly come up with a rockier album. 'Keep The Fire Burnin' is a wonderful opener with the Kevin Cronin vocal working wonders on what has to be described as a typical open road number. ...
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