The name Michael Palace sure rings a bell for yours truly. I can’t put my finger on where I have heard that name before but it sounds very familiar. Some quick research (yes, I read the press release…) shows that Michael Palace has been working as a song writer for Frontiers Records and that he was involved in projects such as the Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) fronted First Signal also as a guitar player. He has also been involved in projects like Cry Of Dawn (with Göran Edman of Yngwie Malmsteen, Madison, Glory and a million other acts), Kryptonite (with Jacob Samuel from Poodles) and Toby Hitchcock (Pride Of Lions) and he also fronted the now defunct Swedish melodic hard rock band Big Time. No wonder his name rang a bell. Since working close to the Frontiers label guys, it’s not that strange that they heard his demos and offered him a deal – according to Frontiers, the material was too strong not to sign him.
The first time I laid eyes on their name, I thought Cruzh were a metal act from Poland or Russia or some place like that. Fact is, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it. Now I know better. Of course, Cruzh is the word “crush” misspelled. I’m not sure why they felt they had to use a z instead of a s, maybe they were trying to be different but I think it runs the risk of confusing people. Well, enough about the name, Cruzh – Tony Andersson on lead vocals and keyboards, Anton Joensson on guitars and Dennis Butabi Borg on bass (with session drummer Louisian Boltner who played on the album) – are an AOR trio from Sweden that rose from the ashes of glam / sleaze rockers TrashQueen, Anton’s and Dennis’ former band. They hooked up with Tony who they knew from when he worked as a studio musician on the never released TrashQueen album when they noticed that they all shared huge affections for AOR and melodic rock, presumably mostly from the mid eighties. At first the guys decided to not reveal who they were and when they introduced the band online in 2013, the page only showed three silhouettes and the line “Get ready for the Cruzh”. This was, of course, a marketing thingy that they hoped would make people talk about them and trying to create a buzz. It kind of worked because when the band revealed themselves for the release of their debut E.P. Hard To Get, it got some raving reviews world-wide and so was also the case of its follow-up E.P. Aim For The Head. By the time we were writing 2015 in our calendars, Cruzh were in the works of recording yet another E.P. when they got a call from Frontiers records and were offered a deal with them.
Here’s a dude who needs no introduction. If you read this and feel like you need to be told who he is, you haven’t only been living under a rock for the last 40 years, you are probably still living there. That’s the only info I will write about mr Steven Tallarico. This solo album has been a really long time coming, I don’t remember exactly when it was first outed that Tyler was about to release a solo album but it must have been a year or so since that happened. A single (at least I think it was one), “I Make My Own Sunshine” has been out for quite some time now (more on that later) but the release of the album sure took its time. In later years, the Aerosmith situation has been turbulent – to put things mildly – and there was even talk of the rest of the band looking for another singer to tour with (Lenny Kravitz, Sammy Hagar and even Sebastian Bach were mentioned as a replacement), but that never happened. Of course, there is no way in Hell that Aerosmith would work without Tyler, that guy is irreplaceable, but there sure were cracks in the Aerosmith camp. Tyler seemed to have lost interest in moving forward with his band and except for shorter tours (they played Sweden Rock Festival in 2007 and 2010), nothing really happened with the band between 2004 and 2012 when the band finally released their latest – and very underrated – album Songs From Another Dimension. One of the reasons for that down time was that Tyler wanted to establish his brand, the brand “Steven Tyler” and he was involved in nonsense like sitting in the jury for American Idol with Jennifer Lopez among others.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but sometimes when I look at the name of some band, I just know what kind of genre they belong to without hearing a second of the music. That means that if I have it in my head that the band in question belongs to, say, power metal – or nu-metal or modern American radio metal, I just lose interest and doesn’t even feel like reviewing it at all. That’s stupid, of course, because half of the times, I’m wrong and sometimes when I’m right, I end up liking the album anyway. Cage9 are such a band. When I got the download link and saw their name, I just knew that they were one of the millions of bands that plays modern metal / hard rock, the stuff that’s being played on the radio everyday, that goes in one ear and out the other. But being the music nerd I am and the fact that this guy had bothered to send me the link, the least I can do is to check it out and make an effort to write something about it. Cage9 are based in Los Angeles but were formed in Panama City and they have been around for some 10 plus years (the online info is somewhat confused, though. It says that the band was formed in 1999, but also that their debut album was released in 1995 – an equation that doesn’t really work…) and have throughout the years released no less than nine albums prior to this one.
It’s not very often that I get to review two albums by the same artist the same year. Back in June, former Nightwish soprano Tarja Turunen released a record called The Brightest Void, an album that according to herself, shouldn’t be seen as a real album but more of a foretaste of what’s come later in the year, August 5th to be more precise. Since Tarjas’s previous solo albums had left me both cold and underwhelmed, Colours In The Dark (2013) excluded, the record came as a very pleasant surprise. For the first time in her solo career, Tarja and her band sounded focused and the songs felt way more direct and in-your-face and many of the tunes stuck right away. It also brought up some expectations for this release – the main one. Well, that it raised the expectations might be to exaggerate a bit but at least I was hoping that the album would follow the taster quality wise. But it could also be the other way around, that the songs on the predecessor were the only great ones and that the main album would disappoint big time.
New music, new bands, new albums by old bands. To finding out about those is like an elixir of life for me. I know that to many people in my age, new music isn’t of any interest and they’re content to only listen to the music they grew up with, but I would go crazy to be stuck with only my old records. Don’t get me wrong, no matter how much I dig a new band or a new record, I always go back to the stuff I grew up with, the classics in my collection. No band will ever top – or replace – bands like Sweet, Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple etc. but for a music nerd / freak like me, I just can’t get enough of new music. To review albums comes in handy when I want to discover new music – the download links I have been given have opened my eyes to music that I probably would never had found out about otherwise. Since I’m an old-school guy, I still love to buy albums – both CD and vinyl – so this has affected my wallet as well – yes, I do buy records I get for free if they are good enough.
I find it such a relief to finally read a press release of an album of a new melodic hard rock band that doesn’t describe said album (and band) as the new savior of rock and roll and the best thing that has happened to rock music since Led Zeppelin, that said album is truly revolutionary and will without a doubt make said band future superstars. In my experience, those press releases are nothing more than cover-ups for records that are mediocre and underwhelming. I don’t need to read such rubbish, I want to know about the band, where they come from, their influences and the name of the members and their past in music, if they are old enough to have a past. And that is exactly what I got to read when I got the streaming link from Frontiers about new Finish melodic hard rockers King Company and their debut album. Of course, just because the press release is nuanced and written properly isn’t a guarantee that the album is any good, but it sure doesn’t create any expectations or in some cases a hype of sort. So who are these guys then? Well, as I wrote, the band – Pasi Rantanen – vocals, Antti “Eversti” Wirman – guitars, Jari Pailamo – keyboards, Time Schleifer – bass and Mirka “Leka” Rantanen – drums – hail from Helsinki, Finland and the members comes from a past in bands such as Children Of Bodom, Warmen, Kotipelto and Thunderstorm, mostly bands I haven’t ever heard of, to be frank.
Hands up everyone who has longed for a new album by Jackyl. Or everyone who knew that the band even still existed. Or anyone who actually know who Jackyl are. I will put my hand up for the last one because I clearly remember the first time I saw Jackyl on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball where they showed their debut single “I Stand Alone” from their self titled 1992 album. Their AC/DC meets Southern rock meets pop shipped their debut album platinum “over there” and they had some hit singles like “Down On Me” and the blues rocker “The Lumberjack” where lead singer Jesse James Dupree actually plays a solo on a chainsaw (!) – the band were very close to making it at a time when grunge had started to make a big fuss with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam selling records by the pound. But you can never heat up a soufflé, something many bands before them had learnt the hard way. The follow-up Push Comes To Shove (1994) was a pretty good album, but Jackyl tried to write their debut all over again, even bringing out the chainsaw again. Cool as f’**k once, a desperate move twice! The band’s third album Cut The Crap (1997) bombed completely, something not even an appearance from AC/DC’s Brian Johnson could have prohibited by then. Jackyl even got lumped into the “hair metal” moniker (stupid, stupid, stupid name!) together with Warrant, Winger, Poison, Slaughter and all the other pop-metal bands for some unexplained reason.
I have been pretty rough on Heart in my reviews for their recent albums and it’s nothing I enjoy one bit. See, I love Heart. I never got into their 70’s and early 80’s albums because, well, I didn’t know about Heart back then. The first Heart song I ever heard was “If Looks Could Kill” from their self titled come back album back in 1985 and the song really left me breathless. Of course, I instantly bought that record and I fell in love right there and then. The follow-up, Bad Animals from 1987, was just as good and I love both records to this day – despite the horrendous production. The producer in question was, of course, Ron Nevison so it comes as no surprise that the production stinks – he spent the whole 80’s trying his best to ruin rock records and he succeeded every time! My favorite Heart record is to this day, Brigade (1990), this time produced by Richie Zito – a good choice as Zito’s work is superior to Nevison’s. The golden era of Heart – for me – ended with the underrated Desire Walks On (1993), a more dark and serious piece of work but still with all the great melodies they are known for. For ten years the Wilson sisters Ann (lead vocals) and Nancy (guitar and vocals) pursued other musical projects, like The Lovemongers before finally reuniting Heart in 2004. But it was a different Heart that we got.
At first glimpse, The Dead Daisies looked like a side project for some more or less well-known musicians, a place to go when they had some spare time and felt like making some music and have some fun when they had a minute or two to spare. The band was formed by rhythm guitarist David Lowy and lead guitarist Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses, Thin Lizzy) and together with bass player Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones), drummer Charley Drayton (The Cult, Eddie Money, X-pensive Winos), keyboard player Dizzy Reed (Guns N’ Roses) and lead singer Jon Stevens (INXS), the band released their self-titled debut album in 2013, a damn fine album full of swinging rockers that should satisfy every rocker who is drawn towards kick-ass rock ‘n’ roll with big groove. The album even included a cameo from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. Back then The Dead Daisies felt more like a collective of musicians than an actual band. Members came and went in an ever flowing stream – some of the musicians that were in and out of the band were drummers Frank Ferrer (Guns N’ Roses) and John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie, Rob Zombie, Exodus, Testament) and guitarist Damon Johnson (Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, Brother Cane), but also with touring members Dave Leslie (Baby Animals) and Tommy Clufetos (Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent).