Would anyone have blamed Martin Sweet (guitar), Peter London (bass) and Eric Young (drums) if they just hung in their stage-gear in the closet and bailed music after their third singer went AWOL? I sure wouldn’t. Few bands have been struck with so much bad-luck like this band has when it comes to having the rug pulled out right under their feet – time and again. First the sad death of original singer Dave Leppard after one album, an album that gave them quite a big fan-base right off the bat. The replacement singer Oliver Twisted became Olli Hermann and started his own band, the underwhelming Reckless Love and when they thought they had found a singer that would stick it out for the long run, the perfectly matching Simon Cruz, the guy bailed after two records, never to be heard from again. Come to think of it, where the hell did Simon go anyway? After four records it sure looked like the Crashdïet saga were over – but I guess fate wouldn’t have that The Savage Playground should be their retiring album, thank you very much.
Since Michael Schenker finally got sober for real some 10+ years ago, he has become more creative than in a long, long time. It all began with his his Temple Of Rock project which spawned four albums since 2011 and with his latest project, the Michael Schenker Fest, he has released two studio albums – including this one – and one live effort, plus an extensive amount of touring. When Schenker goes into reunion mode, it’s not only with one of his old singers but almost everyone of them – Leif Sundin who sang on 1996’s Written In The Sand excluded. Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley and Doogie White are all present. This album also features Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, CoreLeoni, The Ferrymen, Lords Of Black) as lead vocalist on one track. Romero has no connection to Schenker what so ever so why he is on the album, I’m pretty clueless of.
I had just finished writing a review of an album by one of those “we didn’t make it 30 years ago, maybe we’ll do it now” bands when it was time to sink my teeth into another one. I’m not trying to bash or make fun of those bands at all, I honestly wish that they had blown my mind with their new albums but unfortunately that seldom happens – and many are the bands that have tried. Spread Eagle. Tora Tora. Babylon A.D. Pretty Boy Floyd. Every Mother’s Nightmare. Autograph. None of them has put out reunion albums that delivered the goods – to my personal taste – and most of them are bands I wasn’t a fan of even back when, Autograph and Tora Tora excluded. Jetboy released a good one, though – and so did Black ‘N Blue, but in the case of the latter, that was eight years ago and not much has been heard of them since, which is a pity. This time it’s Melodic Rock/Arena Rock one-album-affair band Roxy Blue’s time to give it one more shot.
I clearly remember when I first heard of Spread Eagle. Headbanger’s Ball Europe premiered their debut video for “Scratch Like A Cat”, the first single off their self-titled debut album back in 1990 and Vanessa Warwick was specific that these guys were the new hot shit from NYC. I understood nada. I didn’t like the song one bit. Later on they also viewed their second single “Switchblade Serenade”. That was slightly better so I borrowed the CD from a friend. I didn’t like it and my relationship with Spread Eagle ended there. I didn’t even know until just now that they had a follow-up, Open To The Public in 1993. But Spread Eagle never made the big time and in 1995 they called it a day and it seemed like the band would for ever be a parenthesis in Hard Rock history. But fate would come to have a say in the matter and in 2006, original members, singer Ray West and bassist Rob De Luca – who’d be making a living playing with acts like Sebastian Bach, Joan Jett and is now a touring member of UFO – decided to do a few reunion shows.
When it comes to progressive Metal and Hard Rock, both my knowledge and interest is somewhat limited. Within that genre, there are only a few acts that I really find interesting and good enough to listen to regularly. That’s why I’m not overly familiar with singer Neal Morse. He used to be the singer for Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic, two bands I have heard very little of. He’s also a member of the band Flying Colors which also features Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Sons Of Apollo, ex- Dream Theater and a million other projects and Ex Kansas and Dixie Dregs guitarist Steve Morse, now in Deep Purple. I totally adore Flying Colors. He’s also a solo artist within his Neal Morse band, a project I have heard literally nothing of. I’m not writing this to diss Morse, just to let you know I don’t have that much to compare this record to. That Morse is an amazing vocalist isn’t even under discussion.
I love it when a label like Frontiers decides on signing new, young and upcoming bands because let’s face it, it doesn’t happen that very often. Frontiers as a label is mostly known for signing old bands reuniting, band members going solo or all-star projects and while there’s nothing wrong with that, many of those are actually very good, it feels refreshing with new acts. What’s more, new acts are much needed in Rock today. One such signing is British melodic Hard Rock band The Brink. The band cites acts such as Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses as influences but also Avenged Sevenfold and Black Stone Cherry and it takes only one look at the members’ names – Tom Quick (vocals), Lexi Laine and Izzy Trixx (guitars), Gaz Connor (bass) and Davide Drake Bocci (drums) – to figure where they are musically. This smells like Sleaze or Glam Rock a long way. Let’s find out where this band is quality wise – and if they are doing their own thing or just another bunch of carbon copies.
Spanish Metal act Lords Of Black is, if one should be really honest, mostly known for their former singer, Chile born Ronnie Romero. With three albums under their belt – their self-titled debut from 2014, II (2016) and Icons Of The New Day (2018) – the band is hardly a world-wide known act and most of the talk has been about Romero being a very well respected and a singer who’s used for lots of different projects, such as The Ferrymen, CoreLeoni and mostly as the latest singer in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Romero recently left Lords Of Black for reasons unknown to me and was replaced by Argentinian big voice Diego Valdez, most recently in the underwhelming Dio-wannabe band Dream Child. With all that happening, Lords guitarist Tony Hernando decided it was time for him to make a name for himself and used the break to form a side project – this one – a side project that really is a solo album under a band name.
I put British rockers The Wildhearts in the file “bands I like but probably shouldn’t”. See, I’m not into Punk much at all and The Wildhearts’ simple, in-your-face, clearly Punk influenced Hard Rock isn’t something I usually get into. But I have always had a weak spot for this band even though they’ve never been a favorite band. The biggest reason for me liking the band is because of guitarist/lead vocalist Ginger’s amazing ability to write memorable melodies and catchy choruses that sticks big-time. Fact is, at times, I think the guy is a damn melody-genius, a master of uncheesy poppiness. For example, Ginger was very much behind Sensory Overdrive (2011) being Michael Monroe’s best solo album. But I must state that The Wildhearts’ albums has always been somewhat uneven. When Ginger’s Punk genes and love for hard-core Hard Rock meets Metal takes over, I’m not really there.
I knew I had seen the name Leverage somewhere, but I couldn’t put my finger on where. Some digging at home put an answer to that question. I found a burnt copy of one of their early albums, Tides from 2006. I can’t remember who gave it to me or why and I can’t remember what they sounded like but I have a faint memory of liking the CD at the time. However, that album obviously didn’t make a lasting impression on me as I don’t recall much of it. Again, I’m not sure why my memory serves me that way. What I do know now is that Leverage hails from Helsinki, Finland, that they took their first steps back in 2002, that their debut came out in 2006 and that they, according to Wikipedia, plays a mix of melodic Hard Rock and 80’s Metal with symphonic strains and that they has released four albums, including their brand new one – the last of which came out 10 years ago.
At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to hear this album at all. See, I used to be a massive fan of this guy, defending him for all I was worth. When people suggested that he played without feel only relying on technique, I told them they were probably tone-deaf and that they were completely clueless. Yngwie playing without feel? C’mon already. The guy was faster than fast but he bloody well bled his heart out when he was playing. Some said he could play but couldn’t write a decent song to save his life. Rubbish! From his debut instrumental Rising Force album in 1984 up to Alchemy in 1999, the guy and his “bandmates” did very little wrong and I will forever cherish those records. But since then, a lot of things have changed for Yngwie – some in good ways, like he’s been sober for more than a decade. All good there, Yngwie – proud of you for taking the healthy route.