Oh my God, the L.A. Guns are back. Again. I didn’t mean that as an insult to the band, I meant that this is a band I haven’t even thought about for years and years and years. That’s probably because I have never been much of a fan of this band in the first place. When they – Tracii Guns and Mick Cripps on guitars, Phil Lewis on vocals, Kelly Nickels on bass and Steve Riley (Ex- W.A.S.P.) on drums – released their self-titled debut album in 1988, I found it underwhelming and the same went for the follow-up Cocked & Loaded (1989). I still hold Hollywood Vampires (1991) as their finest disc to date and even that one is, in my opinion, just good. After that, I haven’t heard a note from this band if you don’t include that I saw them live, opening for Dokken in Anaheim in 2004, without founder Tracii Guns. And speaking of members, this band has changed members more often than I change socks, so I won’t get into that. Let’s just say that both Lewis and Guns have been in and out the band and at one point there were two versions of the band touring the States.
It’s pretty much impossible to write a Phantom V review without mentioning Bonfire. Phantom V started out as Supremacy back in 2015 when lead singer Claus Lessmann had been fired from Bonfire. I’m not gonna go into that story again – it’s in the review of their last album to read about. Formed by Lessmann and guitarist Michael Voss (ex Casanova, Mad Max, Bonfire. Michael Schenker) but they changed their name to Phantom V close to the release of their self-titled debut album last year. Said album was surprisingly good and fact is, it sounds more like Bonfire than Bonfire do today. Lots of it has to do with Lessmann’s voice, of course, but Phantom V’s sound is also very close to that classic Bonfire sound and since Lessmann was the guy who kept Bonfire going for all those years, that’s hardly eye-brow rising. Bonfire, on the other hand, has had a hard time with lead singers since the firing of Lessmann, but that’s another review. With a solid debut album in their back pocket this album did come with some expectations – especially since it was only a year since the debut came out. Now, Phantom V are more of a project than a real band – which is a shame – and since they haven’t been doing any touring yet so I guess they spent their time writing songs and recording.
Confession time. When I was a kid in my early twenties I had a huge – as in HUGE – crush on Robin Beck. I loved (and still do) her debut AOR album Trouble Or Nothin’ (1989) and I thought she was the most gorgeous woman on earth. I must have seen the video for “Tears In The Rain” a million times back then and I thought that if she ever plays in Sweden, not even a restraining order would keep me from stalking her. I wasn’t serious about that, of course – I wouldn’t even have dared to approach her to say hi back then – but man, what a teenage crush that was. Not only was she a beauty, she also had a fantastic voice and brilliant songs. In 2017, everything I wrote still stands. The teenage crush, however, is gone since many, many years. I even had the pleasure to talk to her after a gig not long ago so now I can add ‘extremely nice and humble’ to the list. No restraining order was needed. So it’s very hard to not be a fan of Robin Beck.
When Revolution Saints released their debut album in 2015, they were just another Frontiers project. The record company managed to put bassist Jack Blades (Night Ranger, Damn Yankees), guitarist Doug Aldrich (The Dead Daisies, Whitesnake, Dio, Bad Moon Rising, Lion) and drummer / lead vocalist Deen Castronovo (Journey, Hardline, Bad English, Ozzy Osbourne) together in a “band” and while that sounded really cool, the album was written mostly by keyboardsman Alessandro Del Vecchio, who also produced the whole thing. Del Vecchio, as we all know, works for Frontiers records, so it was pretty clear that this was just another project from the label. However, the album turned out to be a real AOR killer and it became such a hit that for them not to release a follow-up in the future wasn’t even a possibility. While Frontiers’ projects come thirteen a dozen and most of them are pretty uninteresting, I found Revolution Saints a very successful one when it came to the all over quality and I instantly hoped that this project would turn into a real band. If it is a real band remains to be seen, but we sure enough got a follow-up – a follow-up I couldn’t wait to get my hands on.
Sometime in the early 90’s, maybe 1990 or 1991, I remember Vanessa Warwick, VJ on Headbanger’s Ball Europe premiered the debut video from Every Mother’s Nightmare, “Walls Come Down” and told us that they would be the next big thing or something like that, if I remember things correctly. I didn’t get it. Next big thing? These guys? I didn’t like the song and I thought they sounded like the bastard child of Skid Row and Poison. They looked like that as well. Now, I was a big Skid Row fan and I didn’t mind Poison either, but it just felt like EMN were just another bunch of guys jumping on the sleaze metal bandwagon. I thought the follow-up single, the ballad “Love Can Make You Blind” was ok, but again, it was just another MTV power ballad as far as I was concerned. Needless to say, I never bothered to even check out their 1990 self-titled debut and since I just didn’t give a rat, I never looked further into the band. I actually thought they had split up after the debut and when I got the reviewers link to their brand new album, I thought EMN had reformed just recently and that Grind was their second album. I was wrong.
I was a 16-year-old pimpled faced kid back in 1984 and Def Leppard and Bon Jovi had just shown me that there were other sides to hard rock than Iron Maiden, Accept and Judas Priest. Not that I had begun to dislike heavy metal but I the new melodic rock / AOR laden hard rock had taken me by storm and I was on the hunt for anything with lots of keyboards, hooks from Hell and choruses bigger than Mount Everest. So I was in this record store and all of a sudden this big keyboard combined guitar riff came gushing over us customers. A brilliant hook and a sticky melody followed – the song in question was “Send Her To Me” – and when I asked the clerk who this was, she told me it was this new band called Autograph. I bought the album called Sign In Please right then and there and I listened to that LP constantly. When the follow-up That’s The Stuff came out in 1985, I was convinced that Autograph would be the next big thing after Bon Jovi – this band would be huge, I thought. But that never happened. Fact is, it was over already by 1987 when they released the disappointing Loud And Clear. The sales were down, their label RCA lost interest and the band left the label and when keyboardsman Steven Isham left the band in 1988, it was over and out and the band split up.
The first time I ever heard anything by – and of – Stan Bush, it wasn’t even him playing. I had bought House Of Lords’ brilliant self-titled debut album from 1988 and it contained the ballad “Love Don’t Lie”, a phenomenal tune and for quite some time I wondered who this S.Bush was, the guy who wrote the song. Even when I found out that S stood for Stan, I was more or less clueless of who he was. Stan Bush released his debut solo album – self-titled – in 1983, but it would take him four years for his next release, another self-titled record under the Stan Bush & Barrage banner. A friend of mine had bought that album and taped it for me. “Love Don’t Lie” was on that album and it was when I heard said album it came to me that this was the S.Bush who wrote that House Of Lords track. Since then, Bush have released one more Barrage album and no less than nine solo albums, out of which one is a compilation album, this one included.
Coldspell are one of those bands that I have talked about in other reviews, you know the bands that you know of but never bothered to check out. Back in 2013, when they released their then new record Frozen Paradise I decided it was time to do so. And for one reason only. They had recruited a new bass player, Chris Goldsmith, who I am acquainted with and I just thought I’d check in and see how his new band sounded. And like so many other times, after only one spin, I wondered why I hadn’t done so earlier. Frozen Paradise happened to be a damn good album, full of melodic hard rock with influences from both hard rock, heavy metal and even a small chunk of power metal here and there and also some AOR-ish undertones. So when the band now, four years later, releases a new record, a check out by me is clear as a bell. Fact is, I have really been looking forward to sink my teeth into this one a lot. But I also have to admit, that I still haven’t gotten my thumb out of my arse and checked out their two first records Infinite Stargaze (2009) and Out From The Cold (2011). That’s gonna change as I’m writing this.
I remember how excited I got when I first heard the news that Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple, Phenomena, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath) had formed a new supergroup with drummer Jason Bonham (Bonham), keyboard player Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater) and guitarist Joe Bonamassa. I mean, with players like that, what could possibly go wrong? Well, they didn’t – at least not at first. But that said, the band’s self titled debut album from 2010 was something of a disappointment for yours truly. Not that I think it’s a bad album – it’s pretty damn far from bad. It’s just that I had expected more. More of what, one might ask? Well, I just can’t put my finger on it because the album sounded pretty much like I had expected it to so what it comes down to is that I just don’t think the songs were strong enough. There are some really great stuff on it but I think the album is a bit uneven. Already after a year the band had completed and released the follow up Black Country Communion II and with that album, the band was on the right track. The album sounded just like a sequel to the debut, fact is it sounded just like the two albums had been recorded at the same time. The difference between the records to me is that the second album is more even than the debut.
For the last ten years or so, Dan Reed has been like an old friend, a neighbour or something like that, at least for us Swedes. For a guy that spent most of the 90’s and a great deal of the 2000’s in more or less oblivion, the guy have turned up very frequently since 2008, especially here in Sweden and after his solo debut, the brilliant Coming Up For Air (2009) his visits became even more frequent. That said, you can probably guess how much we see of him now that he have resurrected his Dan Reed Network as well. Not that I’m complaining, Dan Reed is a brilliant performer be it alone with an acoustic guitar or when he slams things up with his buddies in the Network. Dan Reed Network’s reunion album Fight Another Day (2016) got some mixed reviews but in my book, the record is a grower and I think it’s an awesome record.