One thing that always comes to mind when I read the press release for an album – especially when it comes to a debut album – from a new band is that the A&R guy / girl always overdo things and exaggerate things. See, said band is always the hottest thing since music was invented and THIS band have made a record so bloody brilliant that they will sell ten times platinum and change the world of hard rock as we know it. Of course, the disappointment is imminent every time this happens, even when you take said press release with a big pinch of salt. I don’t get this at all. Why not just chill and give a fair introduction of the band, explain how they sound, their influences and give some cool info about the members and what their music and lyrics are all about? Everything worth doing isn’t always worth overdoing, peeps. So when I started to read the press release for Finnish melodic hard rockers Shiraz Lane debut album, that was what I expected – exaggeration deluxe.
Lita Ford’s career have been a somewhat stormy one, a bit of a roller-coaster, really. I guess everybody knows by now that Lita was once part of the world’s first all-girl hard rock band, The Runaways. Not only were they the first all-girl band, they were also very successful. The Runaways started back in 1975, released their debut album in 1976 and split in 1979 after only four albums, drugs and internal fighting broke the band up. Out of the five members, only Lita Ford and Joan Jett have had a successful career after The Runaways split. For Lita, her solo career started back in 1983 with the album Out For Blood, a more heavy metal oriented album than The Runaways played, but very uneven and seemed to focus more on Lita’s big hair, tight leather and big cleavage outfit than the music. A pretty harsh thing to write, maybe, but the record sure leaves a whole lot to desire and the promo pictures that went with the album spoke volumes. The follow-up, 1984’s Dancin’ On The Edge, that featured future Ozzy and Mötley Crüe drummer Randy Castillo, was better, but hardly good enough. This might also be pretty harsh to write, but Lita just didn’t seem to be a good enough song writer by herself, a thing that her record company and managers found a cure for for her third album, Lita (1988). The album was a true sign of the times, the music had gone from metal to the more radio friendly and AOR sound that was hip in 1988 and with song writing help from people like Mike Chapman (The Sweet), Lemmy (Motörhead) and Nikki Sixx (Mötley Crüe), she had an album that fired on all cylinders and the duet with Ozzy Osbourne on the ballad “Close My Eyes Forever”, gave her a big hit and the record went gold right on the spot. A special guest spot on Bon Jovi’s New Jersey tour helped to ship the record platinum and all of a sudden, people talked more about Lita’s music than her days in The Runaways and her famous ex-boyfriends like Sixx and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.
“Everything Works If You Let It”! That’s how you spell the reason I got into Cheap Trick for, what it feels like, a hundred years ago. In reality, it was the beginning of the 1980’s and my then best friend Daniel had an older brother who owned a copy of an E.P. with that song as the main track. I heard the tune once and I was hooked. Just a few days later, me and Daniel went to a second hand record store and that’s where I found a copy of Cheap Trick’s, now classic, live album At Bodukan (1978). “Everything Works…” wasn’t on that album and I hadn’t heard any of the tunes on that record, but I didn’t care, I bought it unheard and after that, I was in love. The band was formed back in 1973 by rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist Robin Zander, lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Peterson and drummer Bun E Carlos, but it would take them a while to score a record deal. They released their self-titled debut album in 1977 and I’m a bit ashamed to say that I still haven’t heard the whole thing in its entirety, just a few songs that appeared on the re-released double CD version of At Bodukan – that album was originally just a single LP. It was said live album plus the masterpiece trilogy In Color (1977), Heaven Tonight (1978) and Dream Police (1979) – the latter is still one of my all time favorite records – that made me a huge fan. I would love to state that I have had a life long loving relationship with Cheap Trick, but their 1980 follow-up All Shook Up left me underwhelmed and disappointed and after that I lost interest in the band.
Ah, those cover albums. It feels safe to say that cover albums these days are thirteen a dozen and most of them aren’t all that. To hear artists babbling on and on about how much they want to show their fans their influences and where they are coming from gets old pretty fast, especially when we all know exactly where our favorite bands and artists comes from and their influences. To me, most of the times, it feels more like either a bad case of writer’s block or a case of not being arsed to get out of their chair and write some new material. But every now and again there is the odd cover album that really works. Stryper made one some years ago and so did Tesla. Now the turn has come to Ace Frehley, a man who needs no closer introduction to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last 30 years or so. Now, covers aren’t a new thing to ole Ace, fact is, his first – and biggest – hit was a cover. Back in 1978, on his self-titled solo album, he had a big hit with “New York Groove”, written and recorded first by Russ Ballard. Ballard also wrote the biggest hit from his band Frehley’s Comet’s debut album from 1986, “Into The Night”. Back in 1979 he also covered Rolling Stones’ old “2000 Man” from 1967. Yes, I write “he” because even though it appeared on Kiss’ album Dynasty, the only guys playing on that song were Ace and drummer Anton Fig, the only guys who played on his first solo album.
The only surprising thing with the fact that Black Stone Cherry named their latest album Kentucky is that it took them five albums to do so. Just like Bon Jovi were synonymous with New Jersey – and therefore named their fourth album that – Black Stone Cherry are just as synonymous with Kentucky. The two bands might not have anything in common musically, but both of them have been true to their home towns throughout their careers and just as Bon Jovi had a denim Bon Jovi – New Jersey shield on their cover, very stripped and naked – a perfect and the only choice for an album like that, Black Stone Cherry put the old farmhouse where they used to – and still do, if I’m not misinformed – rehearse. Both bands consists of home town boys, working class people that love their birth place more than any other place on Earth. I like that. I really dig when rock stars keep it simple and home-grown. Of course, Jon Bon Jovi has gone too big for his own good and have become a huge star with a big head, something mr New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen, never became. But Black Stone Cherry feels real, very down to Earth and easy-going without any signs of any big-headedness at all – and make no mistake, Black Stone Cherry have come a long way since their start in 2005 and their brilliant self-titled debut album in 2006.
Quitting is for quitters! I guess that’s how the boys in the Swedish melodic metal five-piece sees it. Because after lots of line-up changes, bad reviews from pretentious know-it-alls and sales that haven’t matched the quality of their music, the guys just refuse to call it a day – the love for the band and playing music wins every time. The band started out in 2007, formed by guitarists Love Magnusson (then known as Rob Love) and John Berg, bass player Joel Appelgren (then known as Joey Fox), drummer George Egg and lead singer Nils Molin (then known as Nils Molin…) as a melodic hard rock band with influences from AOR, glam, sleaze and some metal on top. I first got acquainted with the boys when producer Chris Laney played me some songs from the demo he had just produced for the guys in Polar studios. I must admit that even though I heard that the guys were brilliant musicians, I wasn’t that impressed – I couldn’t hear anything that stuck. Well, that demo was later released as their debut album Bring The Thunder in 2009, released by American label Perris records and after watching the guys live at their release party, I started to get it. I bought the record and when I blasted it in my car the day after, my mind had changed.
Does anybody recognize the situation where you have been recommended a record by a friend and you don’t like it and your friend responds with “but you dig (insert genre of choice), how can you not dig this band”, just like you have to love every single band and album that moves in said territories? Happens quite a lot to me – or at least it used to. This happened to me back in the late 80’s when someone handed me a copy of AOR duo Drive She Said’s self-titled debut album from 1989. The thing is, I didn’t dislike that album per se, but except for the odd song or two it left me underwhelmed. I did tape the album and I kept the cassette and I put it on from time to time just to see if I had changed my mind – that actually happens, but I never became a fan. That also meant that I never bothered to check out the duo’s – that will be Mark Mangold on drums and keyboards and Al Fritsch on lead vocals, guitars and keyboards for your information – follow up from 1991, Drivin’ Wheel, until many, many years later and I can’t say that I have much recollection of that record at all.
First a confession: I have never been much of Danger Danger fan. Not that I think they’re a crap band, they’re not, I think they have written some really good songs and I have had the pleasure of watching them live a couple of times lately and as festival band, they’re killer – perfect party music on a sunny day. But for me, they have always passed as a more glammy, second-rate Bon Jovi. They had the big hair, the flashy clothes and those AOR-ish choruses that made me sing along but never really meant anything. Needless to say, I don’t own any Danger Danger albums. So why bother bringing them up here, one might ask? This is not a Danger Danger review. Well, this record is Danger Danger related – and then some. See, all three members of this little side project have one time or another been a member of Danger Danger. Bruno Ravel, the guy who handles bass duties here is not only the bass player in Danger Danger but also the main song writer and founding member of that band, the singer Paul Laine – if you’re into melodic hard rock in the vein of early Bon Jovi, check out his album Stick It In Your Ear from 1990 – replaced the original singer Ted Poley in 1993 and sang in that band until 2004 when the band reunited with Poley and guitarist, Swedish born Rob Marcello (ex – Ron Keel and currently the guitarist in melodic rockers Laney’s Legion – no relation to former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello what so ever) joined D2 back in 2003 and his only studio work with the band is on their 2009 album Revolve.
I remember sometime in the early – mid 90’s, if you went public with being a Treat fan then trendy rockers looked at you like you were some kind of an idiot. I mean, back then even a band like Europe were looked upon as some kind of musical pariah so just think what people thought of Treat. But I have never been ashamed of the music I like and I just don’t give a shit about whats hip and what’s not. I have on many occasions told people that Anders Wikström have more talent in his pinky finger nail than all of the grunge or nu-metal musicians combined. When Treat started back in 1985 they were looked upon as the new Swedish hard rock hope, second to Europe. Their debut album Scratch And Bite – with members Wikström on guitars and keyboards, singer Robert Ernlund, guitarist Leif Liljegren, bassist Ken Siewertsson and drummer Mats “Dalton” Dahlberg – spawned two huge hits in Sweden in the uptempo half-ballad “Get You On The Run” and the power ballad “We Are One” and quickly became a really sought after live act. Their second record The Pleasure Principle (1986) – with new drummer Leif Sundin who replaced Dahlberg who had left to start his own band Dalton – didn’t bring out any big hits but was a success anyway, a kind of unusual thing back in the 80’s. But it was with their 1987 album Dreamhunter (that album NEEDS a re-mix, re-master or better yet, a re-recording – great songs, lousy sound) and again a new drummer in Jamie Borger (ex- Six Feet Under) that the hunt for world-wide success began.
Ever since I first heard Jeff Scott Soto sing on Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force’s almost instrumental self-titled debut album – Jeff sang on two songs – he has been one of my favorite singers and I have followed him throughout his career. From Talisman, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, Soul SirkUS and his solo career to later day projects such as Gus G, W.E.T. and Joel Hoeckstra’s 13. Some of the projects has been really great, some not so great, but nothing he have put his voice on have been bad. But today, Jeff have seemed to put most of his efforts into his own band – actually the first time have have started his own band from scratch – that bears his last name and with it he has gone all in on heavy metal. See, most of Soto’s projects have been more in the AOR / melodic rock vein – some classic hard rock as well – but metal have been absent in his music since the early 80’s and Yngwie Malmsteen’s band.