Future Elephants? – Human Passin’ Thru

“Let’s leave click-tracks, copy n’ paste and autotune to the kids. Future Elephants? is the real thing”! Those are the finishing words in the press-release for this record. And by those words, it’s not hard to guess in which genre this lot is dwelling. That they aren’t exactly 20-something in age isn’t that hard to figure out either. But no matter what, I dig that attitude. Autotune is Satan! And what about that name then? Future Elephants? With a question-mark. Well, bassist Anders Lundquist explained that to me not so long ago, but that night included wine. And beer. And a whiskey or two. And it got late. In fact, your’s truly’s wife had to drag your’s truly home early in the morning. So I don’t remember it all that well but I believe it had something to do with elephants are on their way to being endangered and that can be applied on musicians. Or something like that. Whatever, I dig the name – once you hear it, you’ll never forget it.

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Mats Karlsson – The Time Optimist

I guess most people aren’t very familiar with Mats Karlsson, going “hmmm” when taking a look at this review. Mats Karlsson came into the spotlight here in Sweden while playing guitar with Swedish Metal/Hard Rock outfit 220 Volt, a band that never really made it outside of Sweden. To be frank, they weren’t exactly huge in Sweden either even though most rockers that grew up in the 80’s know who they are. They were the closest to a international break-through when in 1988 they released their most commercially viable record Eye To Eye, their fourth, with legendary producer Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Y&T, Lynch Mob, Megadeth, Savatage) steering the wheel. It’s also my favorite 220 Volt album and in my book, the album deserved a better fate than it did. Personally, I was never a big fan of the band even though I never disliked them – they sure wrote some really good songs throughout the years.

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Grand Slam – Hit the Ground

As a kid I just missed out on Thin Lizzy. Growing upp in the 70’s, Thin Lizzy was a band a never took any interest in, for reasons unknown. I became a fan in 1983, just as the news of their break-up came out. What a bummer. I followed Phil Lynott carefully after that though and after a decently successful solo tour, featuring John Sykes on guitar, Brian Downey on drums and Magnum keyboard player Mark Stanway, Sykes joined Whitesnake and Lynott, Downey and Stanway formed Grand Slam with new guitarists Doish Nagle and Laurence Archer (Stampede, UFO). But despite writing a whole bunch of really good songs and lots of playing live, the band never got signed due to Lynott’s escalating heroin abuse, which would later take his life. Still, when Grand Slam called it quits, Lynott, for some reason, managed to get himself a solo deal and a single – “19” – was released before it all was over on January 4 1986.

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Airbourne – Boneshaker

Even though the quota for AC/DC clones has been filled ages ago, I was still pretty much floored when fellow Aussies Airbourne released their debut album Runnin’ Wild back in 2007. The energy, spark and sheer passion for driven, straight-forward and edgy Rock ‘n’ Roll – and of course the killer song-writing, made the album impossible to resist. And truth be told, even though the AC/DC influences were everywhere on the album, I never saw Airbourne as clones. AC/DC was in there, so was Rose Tattoo but they also had the fuck-you attitude and party-til-u-puke outlook of bands like Mötley Crüe and Motörhead and the mix made them sound like their own beast. I had one worry already after the debut album though. How would the band take their music further after this? How would they develop their sound without sounding repetitive. I mean, their heroes AC/DC has been accused more than once for recording the same album over and over again.

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Michael Monroe – One Man Gang

When Finish rockers Hanoi Rocks split up for the second time back in 2009, lead singer Michael Monroe – Matti Fagerholm to his family – wasted no time in getting a new band together. Together with guitarists Ginger (The Wildhearts) and Steve Conti, bassist Sami Yaffa (who was Monroe’s Hanoi Rocks band-mate back in the 80’s) and drummer Karl Rockfist (his passport says Rosquist, though), they released the great album Sensory Overdrive in 2011 – his finest effort to date, in my humble opinion – and toured their tiny asses off to support it. But Ginger and Monroe didn’t see eye to eye and Ginger split and with him he took a million hooks, gluey pop-melodies and shitloads of hit-potential. His replacement, Backyard Babies and Hellacopters man Dregen also knows how to write that and therefore the follow-up, 2013’s Horns And Halos became another really good record – albeit not as even and strong as its predecessor.

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Diamond Dogs – Recall Rock ‘n’ Roll & the Magic Soul

I have loved Swedish Classic rock band Diamond Dogs since I saw them live for the first time some time in the 90’s. Their brand of swinging 70’s Rock with a slight glam-touch with clear influences from 70’s Rolling Stones and The Faces but also reminiscent of “newer” bands such as The Quireboys and Black Crowes really hit home with me. Live, their swing and groove was out of this world. But I had almost given up on them when it came to new music. Ever since Black River Road (2004) the quality had gone down and the attitude and grit had been transformed into safe sounds and songs more reminiscent to Swedish oldies dance-band music than Rock ‘n Roll. New hope was given with 2012’s Set Fire To It All and their last album Quitters And Complainers (2015) showed a band that had found their old spark again. A rocking album with a whole bunch of great tunes gave me hope for the future.

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Tom Keifer Band – Rise

In some of the interviews promoting this album, Tom Keifer was asked why no new music is released by his old band Cinderella and if there will be any more tours from that outfit. Apparently, Cinderella are a band of destructivity and it’s hard to keep that band together which means that Cinderella are no more. As a big Cinderella fan, I was very disappointed to hear that. On the other hand, there are new music from Cinderella guitarist/vocalist/main song writer Tom Keifer out and since he more or less was Cinderella, I find it really hard to complain. I consider myself lucky to have seen Cinderella live twice on their reunion tours and even though I think they were splendid, I also saw the Tom Keifer Band live and that unit was easily as brilliant, in fact even better – and they did play a whole lot of Cinderella tunes. With no more Cinderella in the way, Keifer can completely focus on his own band.

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Black Star Riders – Another State of Grace

With their fourth album, the Black Star Riders should be out of the Thin Lizzy shadow once and for all. With each album, the band has found their own identity more and more, leaving the most obvious Thin Lizzy pastiches behind them. That said, the fact that the band embraced Scott Gorham’s Lizzy-past real hard musically and the fact that Ricky Warwick at many times tried his best to imitate Philip Lynott, Black Star Riders’ music never suffered because of it. Quite the contrary, their past three album are all brilliant efforts, full of melodic Classic Rock with hooks and memorable melodies enough to sell. The band’s biggest problem, however, have been the band-members walking in and out of the band even as far back as when they took on the Thin Lizzy moniker. For the last two albums, it felt like the had found a permanent line-up but for the writing and recording of this record both drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T, Ratt, White Lion, Alice Cooper, Megadeth) and guitarist Damon Johnson (Brother Cane) has left the band.

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The New Roses – Nothing But Wild

As a big fan of The Dead Daisies since the release of their self-titled debut, it was the no-brainer of the year that I would attend when they were playing in Stockholm. More or less at the same time we were leaving for the concert, I read online that this band called The New Roses would be the opening act. Now, I will admit not overly proudly that with age I have become one of those buffers who comfortably skips the opening act for another beer with my friends if I don’t know the band. Well, for some reason I logged in to YouTube and checked out one of The New Roses’ songs there. I liked what I heard and decided that this time I would see what they had to offer live. Of course, I did miss half their gig, something that really bugged me afterwards because I thought they were awesome. That meant that I had to get a hold of their three albums – Without A Trace (2013), Dead Man’s Voice (2015) and One More For The Road (2017) – and man, did I enjoy those. Luckily enough I got the chance to watch a whole gig with them at Sweden Rock later on.

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Caleb Johnson & The Ramblin’ Saints – Born From Southern Ground

It’s impossible to write more or less anything about Caleb Johnson without at least mentioning American Idol once. Personally, I’m not a fan of all the Idol competitions at all. Why? Well, firstly, I think it’s the wrong way to go as it’s a shortcut to fame. Sure, you get to perform in front of big crowds and you get a whole lot of exposure for sure. But what you don’t get is experience. You get experience from rehearsing with your band, playing clubs, cutting demos – that’s how you learn your craft and find your identity as a musician, not by performing covers chosen by a TV show. You also end up a puppet for Idol even if you win. Especially if you win. They tell you what songs to play, they force you sing stuff you dislike, they style you to look they way they want – and when you’ve won, you have to record an album with songs written and chosen by Idol. All in all, they don’t want someone original or longevity – they want someone mainstream that can make them a fast buck.

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