Solo artists with blues rock as their speciality aren’t usually my keg of beer. Sure, I can appreciate the odd song here and there by newer artists such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Joe Bonamassa and old school dudes like Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn – and I simply adore Eric Sardinas – but usually I just let all these artists pass me by if no one throws them at me. Swedish rocker Patrik Jansson – also a drummer in southern rockers Hellsingland Underground and melodic rockers Laney’s Legion – released his second solo album Here We Are back in 2015, this time as a guitarist and singer, and since I really like his other bands I had to check it out. Turned out that Jansson had a really big feel for playing the blues and even though his English comes with a Swedish accent, his voice was really damn fit for this kind of rock and lo and behold, I dug it – a lot. So when the time had come for a follow-up, there was no chance in Hell I’d miss out on that.
The year was 1989. On one side, bad-assed angry young men were kicking and screaming with fierce hearts and shitloads of testosterone, piss n’ vinegar – Metallica, Slayer, Testament and Megadeth thrashed things around like there was no tomorrow. On the other side we had the Sunset Strip where melodic rock, AOR, glam and sleaze bands such as Mötley Crüe, Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Poison and Winger were selling gazillion of records. And then there were the guys in the middle, bands that were too out there for the main stream audience having a hard time. And of course, we had a now glorified yet underground debut record by the Riverdogs.
I guess for many rockers out there – especially rockers outside of Sweden – the name Bo Stagman might not ring that many bells. But if I write Zinny Zan instead, said bells might just toll. For those with quiet bells, Bo Stagman is the birth name of Zinny Zan, the singing glam rocker that once started the band Easy Action in 1983 with the now ex- Europe gun slinger Kee Marcello and who later joined Kingpin, the band that became Shotgun Messiah that sold half a million copies of their 1989 self titled debut album in the U.S. alone. After leaving / got sacked from the band, he went home to his native Sweden and formed Grand Slam (who had Jacob Samuel, the lead singer from The Poodles on drums) that didn’t work, formed his own band Zan Clan whose debut album Citizen Of Wasteland (1994) blew dog – and therefore didn’t sell that many copies. Zinny split the band and recorded a criminally underrated (and very hard to get) solo album, City Boy Blues in 2002 only to resurrect Zan Clan two years later, now together with guitarist and producer Chris Laney (Pretty Maids, Shotgun, Laney’s Legion, Randy Piper’s Animal), guitarist Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall, The Poodles, Great King Rat, Talisman) (later replaced by Love Magnusson of Dynazty), bass player Pontus Egberg (Treat, King Diamond, The Poodles, Lion’s Share) (later replaced by Nalley Påhlsson of Royal Mess, Therion, Last Autumn’s Dream, Treat, Randy Piper’s Animal) and drummer J. Koleberg (Hammerfall, Therion, Randy Piper’s Animal) and they released the brilliant We Are Zan Clan, Who The F**k Are You? (2004) and the live album Kickz The Livin Shit Outta Stockholm City (2006).
The fact that The Quireboys are still alive and kicking and have been so for that last 10 years or so is probably to every rocker’s knowledge these days, but are there anyone out there besides me that have been wondering what the hell happened to lead singer Spike’s song-writing partner and guitarist Guy Bailey? I mean, it was him and Spike that wrote all the classic hits that made The Quireboys’ debut album A Bit Of What You Fancy (1990) such a brilliant album and such a success and he was also part of The Quireboys second album, the underrated but by Bob Rock overproduced Bitter Sweet And Twisted (1993). Not to bash The Quireboys of 2016, I mean they are still an amazing live act and they have released some damn fine records, but I think it’s safe to say that most fans still hold their two first albums as their finest. Well, me personally, I have always hoped that Bailey one day would return to Spike’s side and write some more killer songs with him. I have definitely wondered where the hell Bailey went and why we haven’t heard from the guy. So imagine my surprise when I was about to listen to an album by a band called Thirsty (a really weird name for a band, I thought to myself) that had ended up in my mailbox and the press release told me that it was the new album by Bailey’s new outfit. All of a sudden, the album became very interesting.
A new Bon Jovi release used be like Christmas for me. I became a fan when a Swedish radio station played their first (hit) single “Runaway” just when their self titled debut album was about to be released in 1984. It knocked me out completely and I bought that album the day it was released and to this day I find their first five albums – Bon Jovi (1984), 7800 Fahrenheit (1985), Slippery When Wet (1986), New Jersey (1988) and Keep The Faith (1992) – amazingly good. Things started to slip with their 1995 album These Days, by no means a bad album, but it was only 60% great, leaving the rest of the 40% jumping between crap to mediocre. After that album, Bon Jovi has never really been themselves again. Crush (2000) only had three great tracks, Bounce (2002) had even less and Have A Nice Day (2005) didn’t have one single stand-out track. But the big crash landing happened with the horrendous wanna-be country piece of junk album called Lost Highway (2007). On their earlier few records there were at least some traces of the band I had loved so dearly, but on that album every little trace of the classic Bon Jovi sound had been forlorn. That record is one of the worst cases of a great band going down the sewer I have ever heard in my life. After that, things didn’t get better, they only got less worse. The Circle (2009) was Bon Jovi trying to find some rock again, but they failed miserably. It was the same mainstream boring pop songs with the guitars a bit louder in the mix, nothing else. And Jon Bon Jovi’s words about the band having made a big arena rock album again with 2013’s What About Now were either lies or a bad case of disillusion.
After Meat Loaf’s two latest catastrophic albums Hang Cool Teddy Bear (2010) and Hell In A Handbasket (2011) combined with my memories of his almost as catastrophic performance at Sweden Rock Festival in 2007, I had no expectations what so ever that his new album – his first in five years – would be anything to write home about. The only small ray of I hope I had for this album to turn out at least decent was that he, once again, had teamed up with his old song writer Jim Steinman, the guy who wrote Meat’s two classic albums Bat Out Of Hell (1977) and Dead Ringer (1981). However, those two albums were produced by Todd Rundgren and this one isn’t, it’s produced by one Paul Crook, Meat’s guitar player (also earlier with Anthrax and Sebastian Bach) who was also responsible for the production on Meat Loaf’s last album, something that didn’t bode well for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig some of Meat Loaf’s earlier albums, Bat Out Of Hell and Dead Ringer are both classics for a reason, brilliant albums both of them. I’m also a huge fan of the Mack produced Bad Attitude (1984), Welcome To The Neighbourhood (1995) and Couldn’t Have Said It Better (2003), three albums that just screams out classic Meat Loaf even though neither Steinman or Rundgren being involved. Also, the two Bat Out Of Hell sequels, II: Back Into Hell (1993) and III: The Monster Is Loose (2006) have both been criticized pretty heavily, something I feel is unfair as I think both of them, especially the second one, are really good records. But Meat Loaf is also responsible for a couple of real musical belly flops – other than his two latest ones, that is. Midnight At The Lost And Found (1983) and Blind Before I Stop (1986) are both horrible pieces of crap that should never have been allowed to see the light of day – or any other time of the day. That means that Meat Loaf’s career has been a roller coaster quality and sales wise so you’ll never know whether he’ll come up with a killer or a stinker every time a new record is released. At 69 years old, Marvin (now changed to Michael) Lee Aday, releases a new album that is rumoured to be his last before retiring so even if my expectations were low, I was still hoping that if this actually is his last record, he would go out with a bang.
One thing that I like with the name Apollo Under Fire is that it is impossible to label, with a name like that you could be in any genre from pop to heavy metal. Already by the name, I was intrigued to find out what the band was all about. The embryo of the band was set in 2013 when lead vocalist David Carpenter (SumerseD, Eye Empire) and Candlebox guitarist Peter Klett met at a benefit concert for the Johnny Damon Foundation. In 2014 the couple met drummer Tom Costanza, a self-taught drummer whose dad was a drummer in the New York jazz scene. In the fall of 2014 the three-piece had the songs to record an album and with some outside bass playing help from Klett’s Candlebox buddy demos were recorded, but the search for a permanent bassist had to begin. They soon found a guy named Stu Cox who fitted the band’s musical vision and the band was completed. Or so they thought.
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 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.
Want some heavy blues from the deepest parts of the American south, where the smell of the swamps fills your nostrils and the alligators sleeps tight in the backyard? Thought so. Well, how about the same stuff from Stockholm, Sweden, then? Minus the swamps and the gators, that is. Because that is what this three-piece is more or less all about – stripped down, heavy blues, so uncommercial that you’ll be closer to a football match on the moon than hearing a mainstream hit single on the radio from the guys.