Ever since the somewhat modest re-start of the band back in 2001 when they released their album This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll and Well Oiled (2004), The Quireboys have built a real stable following and fan base, even though said albums weren’t all that great. But what they did do was to show their fans that they were back and that they wouldn’t become one of those nostalgia acts, no, this was the real McCoy. I don’t want to use the title reunion here as it feels more like Spike (vocals), Guy Griffin (guitar) and Nigel Mogg (bass, left the band in 2007) started afresh as a completely new band that was using the old name. The Quireboys were extremely close to making it huge back in the day. Their debut album A Bit Of What You Fancy came out in 1990 and spawned no less that four big hit singles and for a while there, these English blokes were the talk of the town. But when the follow up was about to be recorded, the guys relocated to America to work with Bob Rock. Big mistake! The Quireboys were – and are – a typical British band and their influences are all British with bands like The Rolling Stones and The Faces up front.
Happy Metal. If there ever was a genre called that, then Night Ranger would own that genre. Because there is something really happy and natural over their music that makes you smile and feel good. It really doesn’t matter if they write a really tough rocker or a big ballad, they just sound happy – and boy, do I love that. Night Ranger started out back in 1982 and scored a big hit with their debut single “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” from their debut album Dawn Patrol and when the band had an even bigger hit with the power ballad “Sister Christian” the following year, which led to their second album Midnight Madness shipping platinum in the States (1 000 000 sold albums) and 1985′s Seven Wishes did the same, Night Ranger had become one of the biggest bands in America, touring arenas all over the country. But with those three albums being produced by Pat Glasser, a man who do not like his music hard, who had given the band a polished and commercial touch, but still with the rock elements left, bringing in Journey producer Kevin Elson (also responsible for the lightweight and sterile sound on Europe’s The Final Countdown a year earlier) for 1987′s Big Life turned out a bad idea. The album was full brilliant tunes and they scored a hit with the soundtrack “The Secret Of My Success” for the movie by the same name (starring Michael J Fox), but the production was too pop and too light weight and instead of scoring another platinum record, Big Life “only” went gold (500 000 copies). Not bad, but still showed a downward spiral for the band. Jack Blades (lead vocals, bass), Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson (lead guitars) and Kelly Keagy (drums, lead vocals)(Alan “Fitz” Gerald (keyboards) had left the band by then) tried to make up for that a year later with the much rockier and hard-edged Man In Motion, produced by Keith Olsen (Whitesnake, Magnum), but the train had already left the station and the album bombed.
To many people who knows me, I can be a somewhat stubborn and obstinate character when it comes to music at times, highly opinionated and a preference for vomiting those opinions at all times and costs. Well, I would be lying if I said that they were lying, but hey, that’s just my personality, I guess – or at least a trait of mine. But sometimes, I’m too damn stubborn and obstinate for my own damn self. Like when it comes to Rival Sons. I remember when I first heard of them a few years back. The word got around that they were something real special and more and more people were praising them. After they released their third album, Head Down in 2012 and toured that album, everybody and their mother seemed to love Rival Sons. Now, I had been resistant from day one about the band, for reasons even I don’t know, but when they exploded like they did I couldn’t take the hype and like I small child, I completely refused to even give them a shot. But after a while I had to give in and at least try to listen to them after many of my friends had put a goad in by being very consistent and convincing while persuading me. Of course, there was nothing else for me to do but to surrender because to deny the fact that this lot is anything but brilliant is preposterous.
One thing that gets on my tits is when the (oh, so stupid) term “hair metal” is brought up and some lesser knowing individual brings up Tesla. Sure, their debut album, Mechanical Resonance came out in 1986, when AOR-sounding bands such as Europe and Bon Jovi ruled the charts and Tesla kept on recording successful albums throughout the 80′s and into the early 90′s and that’s why they are thrown in with all the other bands that were successful around that time. I need to stress, however, that the term “hair metal” wasn’t used around that time – pop-metal or melodic hard rock were the terms – and it shouldn’t be used at all. It shouldn’t be used because there is no music called “hair metal”. Take a look at some of the bands that are placed under that moniker – Winger, Cinderella, Poison, Skid Row, Europe, Warrant, Mötley Crüe – and Tesla! Now, go on and tell me that all those bands sounds the same and I will tell you that you’re most likely to be tone-deaf. But no matter what you call the music, Tesla didn’t sound or look like any of the other bands. They never wore, big hair, spandex or make-up and their music was always pretty stripped and raw and rootsy. The hair was long, sure, but not big and they wore jeans and shirts, no glam ever. Still, when grunge (another stupid term) took over, Tesla fell on the way side just like all the other melodic hard rock bands and after the very underrated Bust A Nut in 1994, that totally bombed, Tesla broke up and the members dived into other, pretty unsuccessful projects.
The first thing I came to think about when I heard this CD – guilty pleasures. I mean, we all have them, right? Some people has more, some less and it doesn’t matter if you’re not ashamed of it, it’s still your guilty pleasure. I know I have some. Romantic comedies are one, country music is another. Ok, real stripped down country is something I can’t stand, but when mixed with rock or / and pop and the songs are good enough, there’s a soft spot for the stuff in my musical heart. The fact that I really don’t like country, but still do kinda make me cringe a bit, but hey, I’m all for candour so I can might as well admit it. On the other hand, there’s quite some credibility in liking Steve Earle and the sorts, so I guess the laugh might not end up on me anyway. Why I bring this subject up to the surface in this review is because country is a big ingredient in The Northern Cowboys’ music – their name might have given that away some. This four track E.P. is the first sign of life from this band – or duo might be the proper description – that came to life back in 2013 and is the brainchild of guitarist Andy Zata, who also handles bass duties here and lead singer Jake Lindholm. This is more of a side project, I take it, as Zata is also the lead gun slinger in Swedish melodic hard rockers Crazy Lixx – then by the last name Dawson which he has dropped from now on – which are on their way with their fourth album, up for release later this year. The drums are beaten by one Louisian Boltner who has joined the group permanently. Now this is just a E.P. and I have a problem with those. Four songs is just a teaser, like getting a taste of the frying oil when you’re hungry as hell and you keep looking at the steak. Well, not much to do about it but to listen, because this seems like a real interesting piece of work.
I haven’t even stopped writing the review for one supergroup when the next one appears. But I really don’t know if all these bands are correctly called supergroups because in many of the cases, the bands aren’t really bands at all, they’re merely just projects. Just like the George Lynch / dUg Pinnick / Ray Luzier project KXM, WAMI are just a bunch of musicians that got together and recorded som music, whereas other projects like The Winery Dogs or Flying Colors are real bands that actually lives and tours – and it’s not just the odd gig either, I mean real touring. WAMI is a project put together by singer Doogie White (Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Rainbow, Tank), drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, Heaven & Hell), bass player Marco Mendoza (Dead Daisies, Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, Whitensake) and young Polish guitar wonder, 16- year old Iggy Gwadera. Even though you have all those classic names in the band, I get the feeling that young Iggy is this group’s main character and that this whole project is built around him and the purpose with this album is to make a name out of Gwadera. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what this whole project is about. But no matter what the reason for any project might be, the most important thing is always to make sure you have the proper songs written – and in this day and age, you better make sure that you have a bunch of damn good songs to go with it, if you wanna be able to sell any amount of records / downloads at all.
When I grew up, side projects was very rare. If you played in a band, you either stuck with that band or you left. Maybe, you could get away with recording a solo album when your band had been playing together for many years. But unless you left your band, you did not tour that solo album. I kinda liked it like that. Today, everybody plays in many different bands at the same time and sometimes it’s a mess to keep track of all the different liaisons from all the musicians’ projects everywhere. On the other hand, it’s quite understandable. When the music business looks like it does, with illegal downloadings and Spotifys, the musicians needs to get an income if they don’t want to take 9 to 5 job and play music on the side. When you’ve earned your living playing music your whole life, working at Starbucks or McYuckals really isn’t an option. Most musicians that have reached middle age also have families – children and very often at least one ex-wife – and mortages and there are bills to pay each month, so they need to get their money from somewhere. Something to think about for all of you who only downloads music from torrent sites or use Spotify and never pays for your music. Ok, enuff of that. The latest “supergroup” to emerge is called KXM, that features lead vocalist / bassist dUg Pinnick (he used to spell it Doug, but I guess he got bored with that) from King’s X, George Lynch from Lynch Mob and Dokken on guitars and Ray Luzier from Korn (ex-David Lee Roth) on drums.
On paper, Black Country Communion looked like a match made in heaven. Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian felt like they belonged together. Sure, we heard about things being pretty turbulent from the beginning and that producer Kevin Shirley (Bonamassa, Journey, Iron Maiden, Europe) was the guy holding the pieces together and that Hughes big ego clashed with Bonamassa’s tight schedule. Black Country Communion made three albums, Black Country (2010), II (2011) and Afterglow (2012) and with each album being better than the last, it looked like Black Country Communion would have a bright future ahead. But when Joe Bonamassa made it clear that his solo career was his main priority – and he was clear about this from the beginning – things turned sour. Where Glenn Hughes’ opinion was that Black Country Communion should be everyone’s first choice, it totally clashed when Bonamassa said that it wasn’t for him and all of a sudden, Black Country Communion were no more. Personally, I’d take BCC over Joe Bonamassa’s solo stuff 24/7, but in Bonamassa’s defense, he was very clear about the whole situation from go and his solo career is a very lucrative business and it has made him and his right hand, producer Kevin Shirley very wealthy, so him chosing that couldn’t have come as a surprise for anybody.
A year has passed and now it’s June again, which equals Sweden Rock Festival. And just as sure as the sun will rise, me and my friends will head down to Sölvesborg, Blekinge to join the festivities once more. This year, a bunch of us decided that we would fly down from Stockholm instead of going by car and now when the festival is over, decision has been made: No more driving. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive, but I gladly pay a bit more for a 45 minute ride instead of 6 hours. Back at the festival, not that much has changed, only a few improvements had been made. The bar counters had been made longer and more personnel had been hired to minimize the cues and that, I must say, really worked out great. Last year, SRF opened 6 beers a second and their goal was to better that this year. But not so much in the VIP area. To hire bleach blonde chicks with huge racks as bartenders might me a cool idea, but I’d rather have experienced bartenders. People could be left hanging by the bar for ages without any of the girls taking any notice, while watching someone else coming right in and getting served right away. They were clueless of who hade been waiting the longest and the only time you got a real good service there was when you got served by some of the older staff. But that’s about the only complaint I have. Also, a water leak made sure that the whole of Norje (which is the place where SRF takes place) were out of water for half of the Friday. Nothing worked. The toilets, the showers… and it was a hot day as well. Luckily enough they fixed it pretty quickly.
Today, now that Black Stone Cherry has made it big – well, at least kind of big – it’s really nice to be able to say that I have been there with them from the start. Well, since their debut album anyway. I first made their acquaintance when a friend of mine who had seen the Edmonton, Kentucky four piece open up for Hinder in a pretty tiny place and been completely blown away, talked me into giving them a chance. I just HAD to check them out, she said. So I did. Black Stone Cherry’s self titled debut from 2006 blew me right off the map and I have been a fan ever since and I never looked back. The guys gained recognition pretty fast, at least in Europe and foremost the U.K. I remember them playing at noon at Sweden Rock Festival in 2008, the weather was hot and I was pretty sure next to no one would show up because I didn’t think they were a name by then. But the space in front of the Rock Stage was full, crowded as hell and even singer / guitarist Chris Robertson was taken aback by the size of the crowd. “I can’t believe all you people showed up to see us when you could have been sleeping through your hangover instead”, he mused. Later that year they released their second – and in my opinion, their best – album Folklore And Superstition and after that, Black Stone Cherry could do no wrong.