HOT NEW AOR REVIEWS

UPDATED JULY 13 - 2000

CRYSTAL 'Collection' (AOR HEAVEN)

AOR HEAVEN has done it again! The German AOR label/mailorder company has released the first ever CRYSTAL CD. This fantastic AOR band released 3 Cassette-LPs between 1985 and 1993. This 'Collection' contains the 8 songs of the last two albums. In the past we did an interview and also published a story on CRYSTAL, so most of you will know this band already. Nevertheless, not many people have actually heard the music of CRYSTAL, so this CD is a nice welcome.

CRYSTAL played that typical mid 80s American AOR a la WHITE SISTER, PROPHET, WINTERS REIGN, completely with big choruses and catchy hooklines. The 8 songs on 'Collection' are a must for the fans of pure 80s AOR/Melodic Rock, because songs like "I'm a dreamer", "Always be there", "Right before my eyes" and "One life" are examples of how good that 80s AOR rock was and still is. I think this CD will please a lot of people, especially since the CRYSTAL recordings never made it to Europe until now, so get this CD as soon as possible! Website: http://www.aorheaven.com

Rating: 9/10

 

NICK E BAND 'Nick E Band' (NICK E BAND RECORDS)

NICK E BAND is a Danish Melodic Poprockband formed around lead singer/guitarist Nick E who has been in the music business for almost 25 years. He has played in several bands, but I believe this band is the first with an actual CD release. The CD features 5 songs, so we can call this a mini-CD. Musically they play in the early 80s melodic poprock style, kinda reminds me of BRYAN ADAMS (songs), JIMMY BARNES (vocally) and also RICK MATHEWS (sound).

Opener "Tell me stranger" is a pretty nice catchy semi melodic rocker. Next up is "Sandy", a bit weaker poprock a la JIMMY BARNES. Then we get to hear "Telephone line", a song with a classy 80s melodic guitarsound. I really love this song, because it is so early 80s
orientated. This is really a catchy cool early 80s melodic AOR rocker, it reminds me a lot of RICK MATHEWS, MICHAEL MORALES, BRYAN ADAMS…

Also next track "Tomorrow" is very good, a semi melodic rockballad. The CD closes with the semi poprocker "Candy girl" which is not really something special. Concluded, this NICK E BAND is a promise for the future. If the band would put some more tunes in the style of their songs "Telephone line" and "Tomorrow", then we can welcome another new sensation. Check out this band at: www.nickeband.com and e-mail them at: stagegroup@teknik.dk

Rating: 7,5/10

 

JAY B. 'Lonely nights'
(JAY B. MUSIC)

JAY B. is a Finish band and they can be labelled as a melodic hardrockband in German style (think: BONFIRE, HOTWIRE, WILD FRONTIER). Although the lead vocals are a bit weaker, the melodic rock of these guys really sounds pretty good. There are 5 songs on 'Lonely nights'. Opener "I wanna know" is a good uptempo melodic hardrocker a la BONFIRE and WHITE LION. Up next is the melodic rockballad "Lonely nights", unfortunately disturbed by a saxsolo.

Then comes another cool uptempo melodic rocker titled "I don't care", a song with some good harmonies and a sound close to 80s BON JOVI. Next track "Without sayin' a word" is hard rock, but nothing special. Closing track "Always gonna love u" is one of the best songs of JAY B., because this is a great cheerful uptempo melodic rocker with a very catchy chorus. The song is a duet with guest vocalist Hillka Yli-Nara, a female vocalist. I am really looking forward to the upcoming full-length CD release of this Finish band, definitely a band to watch out for.

The upcoming CD will also feature the help of Chris R. Holm, the former WILD FORCE singer (a band that released a couple of good quality melodic rock albums). For now, check out JAY B. at: http://www.oocities.com/Jay_B_Rocks and e-mail them at: Jay_B_Music@hotmail.com

Rating: 8/10

 

MELODICA 'Long way from home' (FRONTIERS RECORDS)

MELODICA is a new project of the Austrian guitarist Gerhard Pichler and lead vocalist Ted Poley (from DANGER DANGER and PROPHET). Their debut CD 'Long way from home' is filled with typical 80s American AOR/Melodic Rock. There are 11 songs on the album and I need to add here that the production is not superb. It doesn't sound bad, but somehow the lead vocals of Ted are not always convincing and therefore this CD is not as good as DANGER DANGER for example. Also some of the choruses of the included songs are a bit weak, such as "Playing with fire" and "Sleeping with the enemy".

Nevertheless there are still some great AOR/Melodic Rock tunes on the album. My favourite tracks are "Come runnin'" (midtempo AOR/Melodic Rock a la BAD ENGLISH, only not that high quality), "Hardest part of love" (catchy uptempo AOR rocker), "Forget about you" (midtempo melodic rocker) and "Long way from home" (catchy uptempo AOR rocker). Opener "It's not enough" is a nice uptempo AOR tune a la JOURNEY/FRONTLINE, but not from the same high quality as those bands. Also the closing track, the instrumental "A long time ago", is a great AOR tune. A nice release, but don't expect the high quality of mentioned bands, still check it out if you're a fan of Ted Poley's vocals.

Rating: 8/10

 

EMERALD RAIN 'Live 2k'
(FRONTIERS RECORDS)

'Live 2k' is a live-recorded CD of one of Canadians finest Melodic (Hard) Rockbands. There are 15 songs on the album and the production and sound quality is terrific! The band is live definitely as good as on record. The best songs of their first two albums can be heard. It's uptempo melodic rock all the way with songs like "Desperate heart", "Heart on the line", "Broken saviours" and "Misery loves company". The CD also contains a new song called "Take a stand", a nice heavier tune that can also be heard as a live version. This CD is definitely a must for fans of that typical HAREM SCAREM uptempo melodic
hardrock.

Rating: 8/10

 

IVORY MONKEY 'Spread the word' (EMERALD WISHES PRODUCTIONS)

IVORY MONKEY comes out of High Ridge, Missouri, USA and 'Spread the word' is their second CD. The CD is filled with typical 80s typed melodic hardrock a la RECKLESS, VYPER, DOKKEN, ROUGH CUTT, WAYSTED, KEEL… There are 11 songs on the album and some of them sound pretty good actually. The lead vocals of singer Rod Ruffin are very good and that give the band a very melodic sound.

My favourite songs are the uptempo melodic rockers "Drive-by jury", "Another bad habit", "Spread the word" and "How can I love you?". This last mentioned song is the best track of the whole CD and can be seen as an uptempo hookladen AOR tune with a very catchy chorus that includes lovely harmonyvocals.

The TRIUMPH/Q5 typed melodic rocker "Magic dream" doesn't sound bat either. The only weak songs are the final two songs "Bitches'n cream" and "Broke the chain". IVORY MONKEY is just another fine example of typical 80s US Melodic Hardrock. Check them out if any of the mentioned bands are up your alley. More info at: IVORY MONKEY

Rating: 8/10

 

X-HAIL 'X-hail' (X-HAIL RECORDS)

X-HAIL from Oxford, UK sent me a 3-track CD. The band has a female vocalist called Samantha Townsend and she gives the melodic poprocksound of X-HAIL a slight soul-touch with her soul/r&b typed melodic vocals. The music is very much based on the typical late 90s/early 00s female fronted melodic poprocksound which is promoted a lot on the radio these days.

The 3 songs are titled "Hang onto your happiness", "Mississippi rainin': and "Can't keep a good soul down" and all three are nice melodic poprockers in 90s style (a la SASS JORDAN, ZIA LINDBERG). This X-HAIL is a must for fans of this kind of rock, because X-HAIL does it really good.

Though I don't think AOR fans will find something of interest in this band, because therefore they sound too updated and radio orientated. Anyway, more info on X-HAIL at: http://i.am/x-hail and e-mail them at: cjmanagement@excite.com

Rating: 7/10

 

HOLLANDER 'MP3 DAM CD' (INDEPENDENT)

Do not confuse this HOLLANDER with the same named band from the early 80s that released the LP 'Side kicks', a melodic poprock album in the style of LOVERBOY, STREETHEART… This Californian HOLLANDER sent me their 8-track demo CDR. The band has opened for Rick Wakeman (YES), Rik Emmett (TRIUMPH) and Steve Hackett (GENESIS), so they have experienced a lot in their career. Musically they play a mixture of pure 80s AOR, Progressive Rock and some Pomp Rock. Sometimes they remind me of a great new band I recently discovered called NEVER NEVER.

I also hear similarities to bands like TREASON, THE LIGHT, GTR, SAGA and even MARK SPIRO a couple of times when the band enters the AOR style. The band's lead vocalist, Jeff Souza, has a superb voice (a la Steve Walsh from KANSAS). Besides, Jeff also plays bass in HOLLANDER. Actually this band is quite sensational and unique in their music approach.

The CD opens with "Common ground", a nice calmer progressive rocker like a cross between GTR, SAGA and RUSH. Right away you can hear this band is very 80s orientated, due to the keyboards, melodic vocals and radio-friendly light AOR sound. Next track "Blind
freedom" is a pretty good 80s AOR song that reminds me a little of FAITH NATION, yet with some progressive and pomp influences.

Then comes one of my favourite songs of the CD, namely the beautiful calmer AOR song "Something blue". This song has a superb huge chorus that sounds like a cross between 80s KANSAS, LRB (their mid 80s Pomp albums), OUTRIDER and BALANCE. Hearing a song like this, I can definitely guarantee you that there is indeed underground AOR out there waiting to be discovered, because this is from a very high quality. The CD continues with "London", a lovely pompous midtempo AOR song.

"All the world" introduces some pure 80s AOR instrumental, while the chorus is a little progressive orientated. "Fragile after all" follows and sound like MARK SPIRO. I really love the long guitarsolo at the end of the next track, "I'll be there", the song itself being a nice calmer AOR ballad (a la PROMOTION, TOTO).

The CD closes with the short instrumental outro "Eternal traveler". HOLLANDER is a very good professional sounding band that mixes 80s AOR and Progressive Rock. This band is a promise for the future, but hopefully they are a little more AOR sounding on future recordings. Nevertheless, a band to check out for both AOR and Progressive Rock and Pomp fans. E-mail the band at: jeff@theguitarist.com and visit their website at: http://www.mp3.com/hollanderband

Rating: 8/10

 

EARCANDY 'Raw candy' (INDEPENDENT)

Formed a year ago, Oklahoma's EARCANDY has already released two albums. Both albums are now available as one CD titled 'Raw candy' that is available through mp3.com. There are 11 songs on the CD and musically there is a split between melodic rocksongs and groovy southern rocksongs. Of course I prefer the melodic rock typed tunes and therefore my favourite songs are "White bird", "Demon me" and "The rage in a rebels eyes". The first two are classy 80s cheerful hookladen American melodic rockers a la SLYBOYZ, VON GROOVE…

"The rage in a rebels eyes" is a great midtempo AOR/Melodic Rocker, sounding like a cross between VELOCITY and 38 SPECIAL. But apart from these 3 songs, the rest is totally different and moves sometimes in pure Southern Rock territory. Songs like "Rock&roll revival", "Light of day", "Baby's got rhythm" and "Livin that way" are weak songs, very groovy and Southern Rock based. Some of the other songs such as "Pay to play", "Monday morning" (uptempo hard rock a la CINDERELLA), "Rain" and "That's cool!" (POISON meets ZZ TOP) are ok, but nothing that special. Hopefully the band throws in more melodic rockers (like the first 3 mentioned songs), then they would be much more interesting.

Nevertheless, a band worth checking out, maybe the songs aren't always convincing, the lead singer has a very good voice, something which is very important for many melodic rockfans. Check out their site at: http://www.mp3.com/thebandearcandy and e-mail them at: thebandearcandy@hotmail.com

Rating: 7,5/10

 

THERE '2' (SAY JIM RECORDS)

THERE comes out of the Boston area and they sent me their second CD '2'. This album was released last year. Musically the band takes us back to the 70s rock, because '2' is filled with raw bluesy groovy Hard Rock, reminding me of bands like FREE, LED ZEPPELIN, BADLANDS… This has nothing to do with Melodic Rock or AOR, but if you're into bands like these, then do check out this THERE, because they really know how to bring out the soul in 'there' music.

To me, this band is just another one of those bands in that rock genre, but I think they will make an impression to people who like bands such as BADLANDS, FREE, LED ZEPPELIN and some BAD COMPANY. Check out their site at: http://www.thererock.com and e-mail them at: sayjim@hotmail.com

Rating: 6,5/10

 

MAXWELL PARIS 'Dangerous games'
(ADAMSAPPLE RECORDS)

Multi-instrumentalist MAXWELL PARIS released his debut 'Dangerous games' back in 1994, but it has now reached me, so therefore the late review. Anyway, Maxwell comes out of Pennsylvania, USA and musically this is pure 80s AOR rock with some Bluesy Melodic Rock influences. A lot of times, he reminds me of artists like BILLY SQUIER, ROBIN GEORGE and even SAMMY HAGAR (circa his early 80s Rock albums). The vocals are a bit raw and bluesy, not really melodic, reasonable to listen to.

The music isn't that polished, so the comparisons I made are quite clear, because those artists also didn't do that on their records. There are 13 songs on the album and my favourites are "Heart of ice" (cool early 80s uptempo AOR rocker like BENNY MARDONES meets SAMMY HAGAR), "I wanna make love" (pure ROBIN GEORGE, LIFE), "Pressure zone" (this rocker is very close to BILLY SQUIER), "Faith" (nice AOR rocker) and the AORish ballad "Because I loved you".

There are also some weak moments to be found on 'Dangerous games' such as "No easy way out", "Mary goes round" and "Runnin' for my life". In general a nice CD, but not essential. Check out Maxwell's site at: http://www.maxwellParis.com or http://www.adamsapplerecords.com and e-mail him at: jmjp@bwkip.com

Rating: 7,5/10

 

DANIEL STUBBS 'Ye fallen avenues' (STUBBSY MUSIC)

DANIEL STOBBS from Australia is yet another multi-instrumentalist, but only the 4 songs on his debut CD 'Ye fallen avenues' are without vocals. Still this is worth checking out, because Daniel sure knows how to play his instruments. Opener "Ebony tomorrows" is a really great 80s melodic rocker a la DOKKEN (only without vocals unfortunately). "Downstream dreamin'" and "Dead sea fruit" are both nice semi-ballads, while "Waiting for you" is an acoustic ballad. Daniel Stubbs is another great player in the scene and you can check out his music for yourself at: http://www.danielstubbs.com.au and e-mail him at:
dstubbs@primus.com.au

Rating: 7/10

 

JOEY RIEDEL AND ESCAPE 'Pink days' (INDEPENDENT)

Piano/Keyboardplayer JOEY RIEDEL from California sent me his debut CD from 5 years ago. Musically this is quite a musical trip through many different styles of Rock and Pop Music. Sometimes it's like you're listening to the latest new AOR sensation playing in the best JOURNEY tradition, and then suddenly there is an enormous change in style and we're in Pop territory (QUEEN meets ELTON JOHN). Nevertheless, all the time the songs sound very melodic and professional.

Anyway, Joey is helped on his CD by ESCAPE, a band consisting of guitarist Brad Bischoff, drummer Rob Alford and bassist Rikki Sterling. There are unfortunately only 8 songs on the CD, but some of them sound quite good. The CD starts with "Christina", a great uptempo AOR rocker, and sounding like a cross between SUNSHINE JIVE and JOURNEY (I love the piano-keys on this song). We're definitely into pure 80s AOR with the next track "Harmony", what a gorgeous song this is! "Harmony" is a lovely semi AOR ballad with some great piano/keyboard-work and this song is in the style of JOURNEY, STREET TALK, FAITH NATION…

Some quirky late 70s Pomprock can be heard in "Pink days", sounds like a mix between STONEBOLT, AVIARY, CINEMA FACE and RUSSIA. Next track "The dolphin song" is a short piano-ballad. Following track "Back again" is a good midtempo 80s AOR tune with some poppy elements, a bit like JIMMY HARNEN meets MARK SPIRO. "Hurt sometimes" is a song that didn't do anything for me, although it has created some stir in the US. This song is a Pop orientated piano-ballad a la ELTON JOHN. "Town girl" is a weak rocker and closing track "Tears of pain" is then again a great midtempo AOR tune. Although the CD has it's ups and downs, there is certainly something to enjoy on this record. Check out Joey's music at: http://www.mp3.com/JoeyRiedelandEscape and e-mail him at: tree30@earthlink.net

Rating: 8/10

 

SLICE OF LEMON 'Slice of lemon' (INDEPENDENT)

Out of Sweden comes SLICE OF LEMON, a Bluesy Melodic Hard Rockband. The 7 songs have many influences from 70s and 80s rock. The best song has got to be "Heartache", a great uptempo AOR rocker a la AXE. The other 6 songs have nothing to do with AOR, but are still worth listening. The uptempo hard rockers "High water" and "Close your eyes" come out best. Some of the remaining songs are a bit weak, such as the groovy opener "Miracle man". The raw lead vocals remind me a lot of SAMMY HAGAR, but the music can more be described as bluesy melodic hardrock in 70s style. More info at: http://www.mp3.com/sliceoflemon and e-mail them at: sliceoflemon@hotmail.com

Rating: 7/10

 

HANDS 2 HEAVEN 'Wood and steel' (INDEPENDENT)

HANDS 2 HEAVEN is another one-man band. The man behind this band is Phil Klahn, a multi-instrumentalist from the state of Oregon in the USA. Musically this sounds very different from the things I usual review, although I still heard some interesting influences. Obviously Phil has been influenced by KANSAS, but I have to add here that the lead vocals are not that good. In fact, the vocals are the weak point on this CD.

Although the music is also sometimes a bit experimental, I can live with that, because there are some cool songs on this disc. The CD starts with the short acoustic ballad "Ancient history". Then comes "Wood and steel", instrumental sounding very good, this song is a nice pompous AOR that reminds me of bands like PATRIARCH and THE AUTOMATIX (not vocally!). After this song we have to wait a little while before we can hear something of interest, because songs like "Psalm 69" (poppy acoustic song), "Open up" (weird spacy new wave influenced tune), "Gold and paper" (epic ballad) and closing track "Wonderland" are very weak.

Happily, towards the end of the CD, there are still a couple of songs that could be of interest for fans of AOR. First off the midtempo AOR song "The greatest" (a la JOHN PARR). "L.A.T.U." has a nice chorus that sounds very melodic, the song itself being a cool 80s typed hi-tech AOR/Poprocker like GLASS TIGER meets JIM STEEL. "Stand still" is a nice melodic poprocker a la RICK SPRINGFIELD.

The best song of the whole CD is definitely "Day of the rags", a good midtempo AOR song a la MARK SPIRO and ROBERT TEPPER. Strangely enough the vocals sound much better on this song than the other songs. The song also features a really great keyboardsolo. Some more songs in this style on a future record would be very interesting. Check out HANDS 2 HEAVEN at: http://philip.klahn.com or http://www.mp3.com/hands2heaven and e-mail Phil at: H2Hvn@aol.com

Rating: 7/10

 

POKER '6 quickies' (INDEPENDENT)

Like the title of the CD predicts, this is indeed a 'quick-made' CD, because the band recorded the whole thing live in one day. Still I have to say it sounds pretty nice and especially the fact that it was recorded live makes this CD sound very special. Musically, this band from Brooklyn, New York is playing a mixture of early 80s and 90s Melodic Poprock. The band has a female vocalist called Lori Jean Kreussling who sounds a lot like PAT BENATAR in her early period.

The first 3 songs of the CD are pretty good melodic poprockers, the best one is "Come see about me", a midtempo melodic poprocker. These songs sound like PAT BENATER with a 90s edge. The second part of the CD is a little different. First there is "Let it go", a very fast punkpoprocker in early 80s style (think about WENDY O. WILLIAMS). Then we have the short acoustic popsong "Alone again". The CD closes with the poprocker "The one that got away". The beginning was pretty nice and I hope the band continues in that style on a future recording. For now, you can get more info on POKER through their site at: www.rexcast.com

Rating: 7/10

 

FISHER 'One' (RAWFISH - RECORDS)

This is such a great album that ventures into poppy/aor radio territory a'la Jann Arden, Paula Cole and Fiona Apple. Kathy's music has a special way of relaxing you which is manily due to her very dark and haunting voice.

Track one "Any Way" is a contender for radio airplay,Kath's grandeous pop melodies are very sharp and the chorus is great to sing along to, track two "Never Say Never" is also very good - Kathy's vocals are awesome!!!!This song is led by an accoustic guitar and a nice piano background. KathyFisher comes from Los Angeles, the album features veteran bassist/writer and keyboard player Ron Wasserman,who has also done an amazing job on the albums production,Fisher's rise to fame started when she was spotted by Atlantic records who inlisted her talents to appear one of her songs on the soundtrack to the film "Great Expectations",which met with huge success,however Fisher decided to set up her own label "Rawfish" and released the album themselves rather than through a major, A good move in this day and age.

She has worked with stars like Sarah McLachlan,Sinead O'Conner and Natalie Merchant but to her credit her music is more powerful than those artists,her lyrics are beautifull and eye catching and capture exactly what Fisher's music is all about,one listen to the albums arrangements and I swear you'll be hooked!!

Lend an ear to track four "True North",a delicate and sombre tune with a slight country edge,this track displays yet again what a voice this lady has,things rock up a bit for the up-tempo "Hello It's Me"this song is very infectious and and sits around in your head for days, just listen to those harmonising vocals against the instrumentation,"Had To" is a very haunting ballad that I cannot stop listening to,Ron's piano playing is so delightful that your body will just end up swaying, actually thinking about it, if I could compare this to any male infested album then it would have to be Steelheart's - "Wait" album, but without the guitars, I can imagine Mike Matijevik singing this as some of the music is slightly gospel and reto-orientated.

"Had To You" is a stunning song that is simply slaying me, just listen to the mid-section when the guitar crashes in, and listen to Kathy's voice were she get's really high and emotional like Kate Bush."I Will Love You" is another gorgeous ballad, and "EveryTime" is a huge pop song with a great dancy beat, that would suit any rock club and dance club.This is almost close to Richard Marx's "You Never Take Me Dancing".This a great start to a very promising artist that I'm sure we'll here a lot more of in the future.

This is essentially an mor/aor/pop album, but is so good it deserves praise throughout the rock press. I for one love this lady who has the most powerful voice I have heard from a woman in years, I'm really excited about this album. If you would like to get a copy of "One", then simply Email Kathleen Fisher: musicnews@mindspring.com or visit the bands website: http://www.rawfish.org or http://www.digitalsound.net/ or http://www.cdbaby.com

Rating: 9/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)

 

STREET TALK 'Transition' (POINT MUSIC/AOR HEAVEN)

2ND OPINION REVIEW

Cult Swedish AOR heroes Street Talk shot into the limelight a couple of years ago when they released they're classy debut album "Collaboration" on USG Records which featured Madison,Glory, Yngwie Malmsteen and current Kharma vocalist Goran Edman.

The word about their Bad English/Heartland/Faith Nation/Mystery/Aviator/Sheriff and TOTO inspired material spread like wild fire and they soon became firm favorites with the European AOR fans. Point Music were quick in picking the band up after the untimely dismiss of USG records in Germany in 1999.

Street Talk's roots go way back to 1992 when a 20 year old Swedish singer called Fredrik Bergh formed a band called "SHAPE". Shape recorded a bunch of demos which at the time was nominated best demo of the month in Kerrang magazine who awarded Shape 4 KKKK's.

Shape eventually went on to record one track with Alien guitar player Tony Borg for an Indy Swedish compilation back in 1994. Between 1995 and the release of "Collaboration" Fredrik recorded numerous demos including a cover of "Seperate Ways" by Journey. The band then spent 1996 working on their material for Street Talk and drafted in various singers, enter Goran Edman and Daniel Jonsson who sung on "Collaboration", which was produced by Galleon keyboard player Ulf Petersson.

The new Street Talk album sees a drastic line up change, gone are Andreas, Thomas and Jon. Teaming up with Fredrik and Gorman for "Transition" are Sven Larsson - guitars, Mikael Berner- bass and Christian Johansson - drums. Fredrik produced the album himself and wrote all the material except "Ye Gods And Little Fishes" and "Energizer Bunny" which were both written by Goran and with this line up the band sound tip-top.

"Transition" picks up where "Collaboration" left off, although I feel that "Transition" is a much stronger album. "Transition" features ten pure AOR songs that are easy to singalong with. My favorite songs are track six "Ye Gods And Little Fishes", I just can't believe the range on Goran Edman's vocals,"Need Someone" is also very catchy and reminds me of West Of Sunset and Frederic Slama's band AOR, very west coast indeed, it's from here that "Transition" get's deliciously classy, for instance "Everything I Do Is Just For You" has a Richard Marx/John Waite/Mark Free style melody, a huge song with a smooth as silk
chorus to die for, in a perfect world, "Everything I Do Is Just For You" should be all over the radio, give this song to Geroge Michael and he would have a guaranteed hit.

The album has various musical textures from gorgeous ballads "Don't Give Up On This Love","When You Loose The One You Love", "Let Me Be The One", pure AOR "Everything I Do Is Just For You","Always Stand By You", to melodic rock songs
"Ye Gods And Little Fishes" and "Energizer Bunny". "Transition" is a glorious album that has something for everyone to enjoy, superb musicianship, superb songwriting skills and production the lot, an AOR purists wet dream and the AOR album of 2000. They don't come much better than "Transition". Recommended.

Rating: 9,5/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)

 

NINE DAYS 'The madding crowd' (EPIC/550 MUSIC)

Following in the hook-filled, major label status, footprint of Marvellous3 and Mars Electric, comes Nine Days. Like their peers they combine Cheap Trick songwriting suss, with harmonies bigger than the latest Anna Kournikova bra ad- check out the opening track , "So far away" for instant details- musical prowess, and an acknowledgement of the last 40 years of popular music.

" Absolutely.." could be a punky John Lennon, with Don Henley harmonies supplied by vocalists/guitarists John Hampson and Brian Desveaux, and the lyrical analysis of Generation Whinge self-obsession is a delight, whilst "If I am" is a rocky REM with
Tom Petty roots, pure Americana cool on a two lane black top, and the lyrics to "Bob Dylan" are beautifully constructed and observed, and in a just world the wonderfully caustic "Bitter" would be all over the radio like a rash, and just check out the almost pomp rock ending to the latter and smile. File along Mars Electric and Marvellous3 as part of the new beginning!!!

Rating: 9/10 (Review by Andrew Paul)

 

400 HORSES '400 horses' (A2 RECORDS)

Here comes another hot new British band to start talking about. Birmingham based rockers 400 Horses smack you in the face hard with their eighties tinted hard rock style a'la Hit The Ground Running, Talisman, Rox Diamond, Aerosmith and Little Angels. The great thing about this record is that the recording is really polished,any of the major labels would have released this in the eighties, you will find youselves singing along to the songs without even realising it.

There are nine songs on this debut record with only "Information" and "Don't Give A Damn" being on the weak side. 400 Horses is a fun record with lots of catchy chorus lines to sing along too followed by cool musianship. With Thunder now defunct, 400 Horses could be the new band to fly the flag for British hard rock.

Rating: 8,5/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)

 

RABBIT HILL 'Carrots and sticks' (INDEPENDENT)
2ND OPINION REVIEW

From Munich in Germany comes another great new band called Rabbit Hill. The band's debut album "Carrot's And Sticks" mixes general influences from Whitesnake, Gotthard, Affair, Bonfire and Scorpions. The album features a number of great songs "Coming Home" an excellent ballad called "The Witch" which opens up with some suited violin, "Cage Of Gold" and "Mr.Roper", are another couple of songs that will entertain fans of the above bands.

The band were fromed in 1993 and gained interviews on tv in their home land and have since been performing live gigs in clubs and concert halls around much of Germany. Lead guitarist Peter Woratz told Fireworks that "We have just completed work on our new album called "Take It Or Leave It" which is due out sometime this year, and if you have heard the first album then you will really love this, as I think it's the best material we have recorded".

Until then you can contact the band by writing to Peter Woratz, Ebereschenstr, 18a, 80935 Munchen, Germany. or email
Peter@rabbit-hill.de

Rating: 6,5/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)

 

UFO 'Covenant' (SPV)

The high flying soap opera returns-yet again-, with the exit of Paul Raymond, the mercurial Mr Schenker returns alongside Messrs Mogg & Way, whilst Aynsley Dunbar(Frank Zappa/Journey/Whitesnake) comes in on drums. With a spacious production by the band & Mike Varney, opener "Love is Forever", with it's rippling, melodic Schenker riff, and cynical-sometimes strange-lyrics & a coolly detached vocal melody gliding into a subtle hook, promises much. This promise is backed up the Lizzy call and response of "Unraveled"-and judging by Pete Way's appearance.many a true word etc...

"Midnight train" is a new century "Hot & Ready", whilst "Fool's Gold" balances melodic understatement, with typical film-noir storytelling, before exploding into the heaviest slice of raunch 'n' roll they've come up in years, and "Serenade" is, thanks to it's lilting melody, a potential classic.Released with a seven track official live bootleg-extra value for one's shekels-"Covenant" will be an album that will be returned to more often than most albums released this year, and one suspects that in the long term it will be seen as better than "Walk on Water". Funny how the old guys still makes the pretenders eat their dust!

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Andrew Paul)

 

AMERICAN DOG 'Last of dying breed'
(AXE KILLER RECORDS)
2ND OPINION REVIEW

American Dog is the new band featuring ex- Dangerous Toys and Salty Dog frontman Michael Hannon. American Dog play good time beer festival rock n'roll with lots of chugging guitars and catchy chorus lines, which remind me of Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, AC/DC, Twisted Sister,The Electric Boys, Stevie Salas Colorcode, Bad Company, Kincaid, Zak Daniels And The One Eyed Snakes, Guns 'N' Roses and even Motorhead and Ted Nugent.

"Barely Half Alive" kicks the album into gear, the main guitar riff from Steve Theado holds the song together, otherwise all you get is a song where the chorus is sung over and over again, it's still very catchy rock 'n' roll swagger set firmly in the late 70's to mid 80's.

"Drinkin' About You" is more of the same - here Michael's vocals sounds a bit like a lower key Lemmy from Motorhead. "TC Disease" has a heavy wall of chugging guitar riffs, which I can imagine Guns 'N' Roses or Michael Monroe playing, the song is quite sleazy and groovy baby, but the song itself lacks bite in the lyrical department and thus becomes slightly mediocre.

Theado's guitars light up again on "Under The Blade", (I must give a mention to drummer Keith Pickens, his playing is most vibrant right through out this album), "Under The Blade" at first sounds like Primus' "Tommy The Cat" with bouncy guitars and bouncy drum pounding, the song however is one of the better tracks on the album which has a slight funky edge and a shit-hot guitar solo. You cannot fail to enjoy this song. "Be A Man", like "Barely Half Alive" is pure rock 'n' roll boogie woogie, and "Drank Too Much" is catchy but too tedious.

"Dog's Life" enters AC/DC and Dog's D'amour territory and there is a huge slab of bass picking on "Last Of A Dying Breed", now this is more like it lads, this song breaks into Ted Nugent territory and has a brilliant sing along chorus that won't let go of you, this could almost be early Skid Row too.

"Straight Jacket/Dwight Fry", is spoilt by Michael's vocals in the intro build up, his smokey and gritty voice just didn't seemed to work until after the guitar solo and the main section of the song, after further listens however the song has become one of my favorites off the album, it has a beat similar to The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz". The last song "She Had It Comin' (live)" ses American Dog concluding their set on a roll of sweaty blues riffs. I would really like to see American Dog live one day as I bet they are a cooking live band, I do like "Last Of A Dying Breed" which is an album that musically seems to go up and down, the
flavour is classic American rock 'n' roll, which I'm pretty sure many of you out there will enjoy.

American Dog's music is about letting your hair down, cracking open a few tins of beer and having fun with your friends.

Rating: 7,5/10 (Review by Nicky Baldrian)

 

ANGUS JANES 'Angus Janes' (DEMO TAPE)
2ND OPINION REVIEW

This five track demo tape serves as an introduction to the music of Angus Janes, This multi talented singer/songwriter is based in Ontario, Canada. Influenced by Foreigner,Sheriff and Kansas, Angus Janes took to song writing in the late eighties applying his guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocal skills to the hard rock/AOR sounds of that era.

In Angus' music you can hear that he has also been learning a thing or two from such bands as Beau Geste, Rush, Nightranger,Honeymoon Suite, Bon Jovi, Coney Hatch, Heart, and Aldo Nova listen to the summer good time rock of "Urgent Love" for example, this song has fast guitars and brilliant harmonies, making "Urgent Love" a straight forward eighties hard rock/AOR song by numbers, the next song is equally good, check out the Honeymoon Suite/Rush-ish chorus lines on "This Is The Age" featuring plenty of (WoahYeahs!!) in the chorus, which are backed by a killer guitar solo and lots of keyboards.You make think it sounds cheesy, but it's so simple and effective and as the tale goes, had this been released in the eighties then Angus could have had a hit with both "This Is The Age" and "Urgent Love".

"Nicole" is a likeable soft centered ballad that you can imagine Sheriff's Feddy Curci singing, the song though is maybe just a little bit to twee and could use a bit more of a push in the guitar department. "Fear In The City" reminds me of House Of Shakira, The Works and Artica, the guitars are again featured strongly with the song's direction being darker and slightly more progressive.

"Urgent Love" is the best song on this demo without a doubt, a few more songs like this and we'd have something to really shout about, however, Jane's has put together a strong demo tape which the labels should investigate, the production is quite good for a home recording and with a little bit of a production polish, the music of Angus Janes could be ready to release without much further efforts.

Contact Angus by sending him an Email to
tinyic@home.com or http://www.mp3.com

Demo Rating: 6/10
Rating for the music and songwrting skills: 8,5/10

(Review by Nicky Baldrian)

 

AGAPE LED 'Demo Tape' (INDEPENDENT)
2ND OPINION REVIEW

Oh dear, Agape Led plays like an out of date sounding Pat Benatar and Fleetwood Mac with progressive tones in the guitar area, it's the tapes sound quality and not the songs that makes the whole thing dissapointing. If you can look underneath the sound, then you may find a couple of intresting songs to listen to like "The Choice" for example which builds nicely into an instrumental piece, which worked ok until the "Sesame Street" sounding harmoinca showed an unwelcomed pressence.

Lead singer Chris Gillepsie sounds as if she isn't too comfortable with the songs, I get the impression that she would like to harmonise her voice alot more accordingly to the songs directions, as opposed to sitting back in the mix and piping up now and again when required. This is essentially seventies sounding progressive rock, I did like the songs "Serenity" which is a superb ballad and features some really powerful bass work from John Steele, I also enjoyed "Judged" which is Agape Led's best song and is quite spooky with lots of hot guitar licks and superb musianship.

Agape Led are about musical exploration, so for that I cannot fault most of their music, granted these are just demos and I expect that the band will clean up their production qualities when they go in to record their full album, but for now, you can file this under the "NEXT" category.

Demo Rating: 4/10
Rating for the music and songwrting skills: 5/10

(Review by Nicky Baldrian)

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