Everybody goes: Who? Yes, Tony Mills is one of those guys in rock that few people know anything about and / or who he is, but if you’re at least a little nerdy, there’s a good chance that you have heard him sing at one point or another. In my book, Tony Mills has always been one of those guys that people really should know about. On the other side, his whereabouts has always been somewhat shadowed, much because of the bands he has been in has never become big acts, despite great musicians and good songs. Also, Mills is one of those singers that you either love or hate. He has a distinct voice, but is on the more falsetto and high-pitched side (think Mark Slaughter, Michael Sweet, Tony Harnell, Mike Matijevic). It works for some, but many find that kind of voice annoying. Tony Mills started his career fronting British AOR rockers Shy, a band whose three first albums Once Bitten, Twice Shy (1983), Brave The Storm (1985) and especially their finest hour (45 minutes…) Excess All Areas (1987) are classics today. The latter really should have broken that band big in 1987, but sometimes things just don’t work logically. Shy’s career more or less died when their record company took them to California in 1989 to record Misspent Youth and they hired top producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Mötley Crüe) who didn’t give a rat’s ass about the band and the album came out sounding horrible, worse than a bad demo.
I remember the first time I heard of Kid Rock and how much I hated his guts. It was the year 2000 and I saw the video for his tune “American Bad Ass” from his fifth album The History Of Rock from the same year. Looking like a big douche, (that’s what I thought, yes) he was rapping and shouting over a sample of Metallica’s “Sad But True” and I couldn’t have hated that song more. Kid Rock’s that is, not Metallica’s. One thing that has always got on my tits about hip-hop is the artists inability to actually play their own instruments and instead they just sample stuff they like and then rap over it. That’s not creative, that’s theft. As a rocker, that’s one thing I can always use during arguments: “Well, rockers do play their own instruments and they usually do it well”. To me, Kid Rock was just one of those hip-hop artists without any musical talent, just talking over sampled music that was written, arranged and played by real musicians. I never gave Kid Rock the time of day after that. Another thing that bugged me with Kid Rock was that I was never friends with the whole nu-metal environment, the metal mixed with hip-hop is a match made in the loo as far as I’m concerned. Rage Against The Machine started that anomaly once upon the 90’s and I have never liked them. Kid Rock wasn’t that far behind so I blamed him as well.
When people talk about bands that have sliding doors for all kinds of members to jump through, back and forth, Whitesnake and Rainbow are the most talked about. Why UFO seems to be unnoticed in that department is beyond me because if there’s one band that has been a band member roller coaster throughout the years, then it’s UFO. The band was formed in 1969 by singer Phil Mogg and bassist Pete Way together with guitarist Mick Bolton and drummer Andy Parker and the four of them released their self titled debut the following year and that line-up stayed together for 1971’s UFO 2, but for their third album Phenomenon (1974), Bolton had been replaced by guitarists Michael Schenker and Bernie Marsden, the latter only played on two songs on that record before he was gone. Marsden later joined David Coverdale when he formed Whitesnake in 1977. That somewhat stable line-up kept intact for four more albums with the addition of keyboard player / rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond, Force It (1975), No Heavy Petting (1976), Lights Out (1977) and Obsession (1978) – all hailed as true rock classics today, before Schenker left after a lot of fighting within the band, mostly created because of drink and drug use. The last thing Schenker played on was their now classic live album Strangers In The Night (1979). He went to form his own band Michael Schenker Group (MSG). The band replaced him with Paul Chapman for the albums No Place To Run (1980) and The Wild, The Willing And The Innocent (1981) before Raymond left and was replaced by Neil Carter for 1982’s underrated Mechanix, but by Making Contact in 1983, Way had also departed, leaving Carter to play the bass on that album as no permanent replacement had been chosen for that record.
Ok, here comes the first WHAT THE FUCK!!??! of 2015 – and probably the biggest one as well. Eclipse are a Swedish melodic rock / AOR band that has, at least how it feels, been around forever. Actually, they started way back in 1999, when garbage like nu-metal ruled the air waves of metal and has since then released six albums, including this one and of which one, Are You Ready To Rock (2008) was re-released last year with four new tracks. And here’s me, a guy that loves the brand of rock that Eclipse plays, but haven’t given them the time of day ever. Why? Yeah, well, that beats the hell out of me as well. Also, main song writer, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Erik Mårtensson is very much involved in other projects that I really dig, such as W.E.T., Age-Sten Nilsen’s Ammunition and he had songs on killer records by Frontiers (record company) projects like First Signal (featuring Harry Hess of Harem Scarem) and Revolution Saints.
The last time we heard from Norwegian AOR rocking beauty Isabell “Issa” Oversveen was back in 2012 when she released her cover album Don’t Stop. Every time an artist releases a cover album, voices are being raised, talking about lack of fantasy and on many occasions, those voices are right. Usually we get the same old interpretations by the same old songs / bands. “We want to show our fans our musical upbringing”, they say. Like we already don’t know their influences. However, Issa’s cover album was something else. Instead of the same old, same old, she had picked a lot of obscure AOR and melodic rock songs that she listened to as a kid and the fact that many of the songs weren’t known to the big audience did only make that album more of a surprise – and interesting.
Back in 2010 when German veteran rockers Scorpions had just released their then newest album, Sting In The Tail, guitar player Rudolf Schenker revealed that said album was to be their last and the band would dissolve after the long tour that was about to follow the album’s release. The reason for the decision, he said, was that him and lead singer Klaus Meine had well passed the fine age of 60 (something) and that lead guitarist Matthias Jabs was getting there as well and that the tour would probably go on for a couple of years which meant that Meine and Schenker would have turned almost 70 by the time of the release of the next album and then they would be too old for another album – tour thingy. But it only took them one year to release Come Black, an album of re-recorded Scorps classics mixed with a bunch of covers and Schenker’s talk of last album and tour turned out to be wrong already by then. Me and many more wondered what the hell he was talking about, I mean, too old to rock? To be in your late 60’s and play rock ‘n’ roll in 2015 is no biggie, lots of bands are proof of that.
When Scott Gorham’s new version of Thin Lizzy decided on writing new material for a record, there was a pretty big opposition within the Lizzy fans’ camp. Understandably so because Scott had always ensured that the Thin Lizzy that were out playing gigs – the band that featured Ricky Warwick (ex The Almighty) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar Scott and Damon Johnson (ex Brother Cane) on lead guitars, Marco Mendoza (ex Whitesnake) on bass, keyboard player Darren Wharton (Thin Lizzy, Dare) and former Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey – were nothing more than a band paying tribute to the Lizzy that he and Downey once played in, giving their large fan base a chance to hear those classics live. So when the band went in to the studio to record, not everyone were pleased.
Still to this day, when you mention the name Europe in certain circles, you get a smirk and a look that says “lame”. Some people actually says it out loud – that Europe is a weak and ridiculous pop band for teenage girls and children. The words “pop metal”, “poodle rock” and “no relevance” has been used. Ok, it doesn’t happen very often these days, but it does happen and it kinda shows how hard it is to wipe off an old reputation. Which in Europe’s case is not deserved! But when it does, I’m wondering, has the fact that Europe has reunited more than 10 years ago completely skipped those people’s minds? Or do they know that Europe are still around, but just assumes that they still play their AOR smelling rock of the 80’s and therefore hasn’t bothered to listen? I don’t know, but the fact is, Europe has since the reunion in 2003 turned into a completely different beast than they were in the 80’s. And just to make one thing clear, Europe has NEVER been a pop band, they have ALWAYS had the 70’s hard rock as a guide line when it comes to song writing, sonically they were just a sign of the times (sic!) back in the 80’s, using catchy AOR influenced melodies and producers that cut off the roughest edges off the music.
Sweden has, since the mid 80’s delivered hard rock in all of its forms with the highest quality. Sure, no genre has been created in Sweden and yes, there hasn’t been any Swedish acts that has re-started any new trend. But! We have always had extremely talented musicians and song writers in this country and a huge passion for the music that has been played. Not only in rock music, I might add. Singers, musicians and song writers from this country has always stood high in course, no matter the genre. Except for two (three, depending how you count) exceptions. Death Metal is one. In the 90’s, Sweden – and our second biggest city Gothenburg in particular – was way ahead of the rest of the world and there is actually a brand of death metal called The Gothenburg Sound. Bands from all over the world wanted to be part of that and it put Sweden on the map in those circles. The other is, what some people call TNWOSGAS – The New Wave Of Swedish Glam And Sleaze. In the early 2000’s bands such as Crashdïet, Crazy Lixx, Hardcore Superstar, Babylon Bombs, Sister Sin and Dynazty were all over the place, in a time when nobody gave a shit and most people had one foot in the now (thank God) dying nu-metal genre.
If there ever will be a world championship in reunions, England’s Thunder will be a contender for the gold medal without trying too damn hard. Thunder was formed in 1989 by singer Danny Bowes, guitarist Luke Morley and drummer Harry James out of the ashes of their former band, the melodic rock / AOR outfit Terraplane. Terraplane released two album in the mid eighties and got some rave reviews in the rock mags, but they never took off (pun intended). The band was completed by Ben Luckhurst (who later became the bassist for Coverdale/Page) and guitarist Ben Matthews and in 1990 they released their debut album, by far still their best, Backstreet Symphony. All the AOR vibes was gone and Thunder was working in a more 70’s hard rock direction that had bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Bad Company and Whitesnake as influences. The album spawned four classic songs in “She’s So Fine”, “Dirty Love”, “Love Walked In” and the title track and Thunder was looked upon as the next mega band from the U.K.