The Record Box for Sunday, Aug 31st

CALIFORNIA BREED California Breed (Frontiers) ** ½This is the first and possibly only album from California Breed. Born from the wreckage of Black Country Communion, this is old fashioned adrenaline fueled chunky rock & roll.C-B is singer/ bassist Glenn Hughes, drummer Jason Bonham and a formidable guitarist, 23 year old Andrew Watt, who was introduced to Hughes by Julian Lennon. “Julian was having an exhibition of his photographs at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in L.A.” remembers Hughes, “And he said you must meet this new guy, he’s the most fantastic guitarist- it turned out to be Andrew.” Jason Bonham, who was invited to join up after Hughes and Watt had jammed, seems to agree. “The energy in the room was crackling” the drummer notes.Produced by Dave Cobb at his Nashville studio this is old school rock n roll, which suits me just fine. “Everything was done more or less live” says Hughes, “including the vocals- which is the reverse of how I’ve always done things.” It has a real rough around the edges sound, which sounds better louder- which is not a problem in my car. More of a street brawl than a sanctioned boxing match, California Breed comes across somewhat unrefined in comparison to the 3 Black Country Communion albums that preceded it. Where Joe Bonamassa (BCC’s guitarist) is a former child prodigy and something of a virtuoso, Watt was schooled by the ways of guitar players like Page, Richards and Townshend, thanks to his dad’s record collection. Though a fine soloist, Andrew Watt’s riffs sure pack a punch.California Breed has real animal charisma and I hope they can continue and grow, but I have my doubts. Hughes, though a gifted singer and bassist, isn’t exactly known for holding bands together over a long period of time. 3 records seems to be his limit before moving on (BCC, collaborations with Tony Iommi, and, back in the day, Deep Purple) and cracks may already be appearing with drummer Jason Bonham recently defecting to (I think) Sammy Hagar’s band. Still, drummers aren’t that hard to replace, especially in town like LA, full of talented musicians, and I hope they find the right guy and carry on for a good long while to come because this shows so much promise.If this self-titled debut does turn out to be their only release, then at least we have this. Song writing aside Hughes’s soaring vocals, Watt’s classic riffage and Bonham’s dexterous fills are a kind of magic unto themselves. Given a chance, California Breed will really grow on you.HIGHLIGHTS: Midnight Oil, Sweet Tea, SoloNUR DIE BESTEN WERDEN ALT J.B.O. (AFM) ***If you’re thinking Accept meets Rammstein, then you’re close as to what you can properly expect from this German rock band. They’ve been at it for 25 years and this tough as nails disc is their 10th studio album.They sing mostly in German so I don’t know what the hell is going on most of the time, but I sure like the music. I recognized the melody for the 2nd song right away, recognizing the Opus tune that, but in typical German nihilistic fashion, they’ve turned it into Death Is Death. It’s a point of pride for the band that they’ve built a career out combining hard music and humorous lyrics. I won’t bother going over the song titles as they’re in German, but cut #6 is clearly These Boots Were Made For Walking– how close the lyrics are I have no idea, but the melody rendered as a tight, dry guitar riff is actually pretty cool. It’s followed up by the Alice Cooper classic School’s Out.I don’t know that N-D-B-W-A would ever be more than a novelty record in North America, but the musicianship is quite solid, and having some recognizable melodies on here thanks to the cover songs will probably help. Sounds pretty damn good at heavy volume- I might copy this without the goofy little spoken word things in between tracks and just stick with the songs. Do I like it? Sure. Love it? Um… no.HIGHLIGHTS: Schule- Aus, Death Is Death, Metal No. 666 (a play on Mambo #5) MEGALOMANIA Kissin’ Dynamite (AFM) ****Being old and rhytmically challenged- at least on the dancefloor- color me pleasantly surpised at thoroughly enjoying this band. Leave it to the Germans to combine metal with electronica, ending up with an irresistible mixture of brute force precision and rhythmically inspired beats on their new album, due in North America Sept.30th.Enjoying chart success and national TV exposure in the Fatherland, it’s time for these twenty-somethings to find the spotlight on the international stage- and Megalomania is the album with the muscle to do it. Coming from Swabia, their progression to this point has been natural. “One day it just came to the point that the whole thing had gathered a momentum which we couldn’t- and in the end, didn’t want to- fight against anymore” says singer Hannes Braun. “We wanted to break new musical ground, that’s for sure” adds guitarist/ brother Andre.Megalomania their 4th album, combines metal with dance and progressive rock elements, with the emphasis still on the metal as keyboard textures soar over chugging, muscular palm muted riffs and Braun’s heroic Bon Jovi-esque rock vocal style. Dramatic? Yeah- but isn’t that just one of the things we like about this kind of music? These guys have a firm grip on the form.The more I listen the more metallic Megalomania feels, but there are melodic elements at work, almost a pop sensibility, that separates K-D from the pack. This is a pulverizing disc, the songs full of anthemic choruses that stick with you long afterwards. I love the controlled chaos and sheer force of this album, it’s one of the best rock records I’ve heard this year.HIGHLIGHTS; Running Free, DNA (the first single), The Final Dance, Ticket To ParadiseTOWERS IN THE DISTANCE Heliosaga ( independent) ***Hailing now from Minnesota, this is a band that combines the best of European power, symphonic and goth metal. Their canvas is high drama mixed with fantasy to powerful effect.Vocalist Chelsea Knaack is at times operatic in her approach which can be distracting, but the music is fast and powerful, not unlike the best of Dream Theater. Towers In The Distance’s lyerical themes are deeply personal, and the primary themes revolve around the state of the world, mortality, and the personal struggles that we all encounter. Mixed by Michael Hansen and mastered by Jacob Hansen at their own studio, this is one of the most physical albums I’ve ever heard.As much as I love the music, however, I find Knaack’s vocal style to be at odds with the instruments much of the time. Someone with more depth and range like an Anne Wilson, with that sort of power and subtlety, would have been more able to convey the lyrical ideas, whereas the music itself is so powerful that it renders Knaack’s voice ineffective- most of the time I can’t even tell what she’s saying. I’m not saying she’s a shitty singer by any stretch, I just don’t think her vocal style works with music this powerful and complex.Still, I enjoyed Towers or I wouldn’t be writing about it. With a more stylistically compatible singer this record could have been a 4, maybe even a 5.HIGHLIGHTS; Scarlet Sphere, To Heal All Wounds, Hunter’s MoonTHE LESSER KEY OF SOLOMON A Sound Of Thunder (Mad Neptune) *****Now THIS is more like it! A powerful metal statement from a hugely talented band with a female singer who, frankly, has balls- metaphorically speaking of course! Solomon is their 4th long player and man oh man, does this thing pack a wallop!The songs on this disc are mega-heavy yet, on occasion, wonderfully nuanced. Classically trained singer Nina Osegueda has been referred to by some as ‘the love child of Rob Halford and Bruce Dickenson’, and with her lung-busting performance on so many tracks that’s pretty close to the mark, yet she has the tenderness to deliver a moving ballad like The Boy Who Could Fly. As a singer, Osegueda really does have it all.Hailing from Washington, DC, A Sound Of Thunder reminds me a lot of early Dio- classic and classical themes, jaw dropping musicianship and an undeniable power that hits you square in the face. This disc is dark and atmospheric, more so than the 2 or 3 albums that preceeded it, an ominous sound that is united by supernatural lyrical themes. According to the bio I received with this, Nina is only 5′ 2″, but her sound is so big that she makes other singers like Pat Benatar and Darby Mills sound like Anne Murray- not that there’s anythnig wrong with Anne Murray, but can you imagine her singing a track like Nexus of Realities or Elijah from this record? If Rob Halford is the Metal God (he is), then surely Ms. Osegueda is the Metal Goddess.All of which just goes to say that The Lesser Key of Solomon is one hell of an album, and A Sound Of Thunder is an elemental force of nature to be reckoned with. When this hits store shelves and digital retailers on Sept.9th, I highly recommend adding it to your collection.HIGHLIGHTS: The Boy Who Could Fly, The Nexus Of Realities, ElijahHYMNS FOR THE BROKEN Evergrey (AFM) ****Though Sweden is known for a lively death metal scene, Everygrey is more of a classic progressive metal outfit. This is arguably the best, most cohesive record of their 16 year career, and it’s an album that almost didn’t happen.Suffering from burnout after their 2011 set Glorious Collision, bandleader Tom S. Englund lost the will to carry on. Having taken on another creative endeavour, it wasn’t long before his former bandmates were called in to lend a hand. Evergrey was then reborn, and the result was this magnificent new disc. “When we were doing shows (for the new project) we realized that we were having a lot of fun with the music again” Englund notes. So it would seem that a little time apart to re-charge the batteries is what was needed.Evergrey’s trademark elements of dark and light, rage and melancholy are very much inevidence, and overall there’s a raw energy to this batch of songs that lifts the band to another level. Reminds me somewhat of a relatively obscure german prog band I’m quite fond of called Poverty’s No Crime- the sound of expert musicianship combined with, at times, a barely contained musical rage that gives the songs extra muscle, power and meaning.”(This album) is about finding out you’re not the person you thought you were, which is something that can be scary, and terrifying and rewarding” notes Englund in summing up Hymns For The Broken. “I think we’ve used our music as a forum for people who feel the same way we do about things, to make people feel less alone in some way.” And here I was, boob that I am, thinking that this is just a great sounding record.HIGHLIGHTS: King Of Errors, The Aftermath, Black UndertowBLIND RAGE Accept (Nuclear Blast) *****These veteran German rockers continue an amazing comeback with their third studio album in 4 years, with Mark Tornillo at the mic. Not only is Blind Rage the best of those three, it is also one of the best records of their career.Stopped by HMV on payday to pick this up and they were sold out, so I had to bag this on i-Tunes. First listen was driving from Kitscoty to Wainwright, and it sounded most excellent at nearly top volume. If your point of reference with this band is Balls To The Wall then you’re going to love Blind Rage. This very much classic Accept- tight walls of blunt force trauma chugging riffs from Wolf Hoffmann, locking in tight with Peter Baltes’ freakishly steady bass lines and almost sounding like a single instrument- they’ve been playing together since they were kids, and it shows.I don’t know if “accessible” is the right word to use, but of the three albums done with the current lineup this one took the quickest time to get close to. The melodies, the energy, even some of the mellow change ups thrown in like to intro to From The Ashes We Rise. This record is melodic but with a powerful physicality that even extends to the gang vocals on the choruse- no fey attempts at layering harmonies here, just more of the brute force and power that Accept is rightly famous for.Hoffmann’s rhythmn work (he records all of the guitar parts here, as he always has done) reminds me of classic Michael Schenker- melodic but forceful, dry and disciplined with no ragged edges, yet more powerful- perhaps because he hasn’t fought the demons that Mike has. Precision and power are two of the key ingredient in Accept’s continued success. 2010’s Blood of The Nations announced that they were back, 2012’s Stalingrad built solidly on that success, and now Blind Rage finds Accept at the top of their game. This album isn’t just good, it’s excellent.HIGHLIGHTS: Stampede (the video is GREAT), From The Ashes We Rise, Trail Of TearsHUMMINGBIRD IN A BOX Peter Frampton (Phoenix Phonograph) ***** +A new E.P. from Frampton that began as a creative project for the Cincinnatti Ballet. Inspiration can come from odd places, I suppose- and Peter has come up with one of the best sets of his lengthy, amazing career.This is no longer the Do You Feel Like We Do guy, the pretty boy rocker that seemingly got by on his looks as much as anything else. No, I think that changed when he won the Grammy for best instrumental album for his surprising 2006 record Fingerprints. I hadn’t taken him very serious as a guitarist up ’til then, and probably a lot of other people didn’t either. I recall him saying during an appearance on Jihan Golmeshi’s Q TV show that he was quite pleased to finally be recognized for his guitar playing.After that came Thank You Mr. Churchill, continuing his growth as a songwriter and player, a collection of songs to listen to, contemplate and absorb in a way that some of his previous music just didn’t require. It is in this vein that Frampton continues on Hummingbird. It may have started out as a project for the Cincy Ballet ( found out about it on his facebook page) but this feels like the next logical step from Churchill, playing and writing-wise. The title track almost feels like a mid-period Beatles tune, and the instrumental The One In 901 is thrilling. Never heard this many acoustic guitars on a Frampton record either!As much as I enjoy Peter’s early work with Humble Pie then his crazy 1970’s solo success, post-Y2K Frampton is my favorite of all. He’s developed nicely as a songwriter, has turned into one helluva guitarist, and Hummingbird In A Box is one of the best things he’s ever done.HIGHLIGHTS: Friendly Fire, Norman WisdomA NEW DAY EG Kight (Blue South) *****A sweet new offering from EG Kight, due out Sept.16th. I’m familiar with her mostly through her writing and producing with Lisa Biales, someone else I’ve discovered in recent years. This is the blues Georgia-style, some good ol’ southern soul food.Kight has been a writer and performer for quite awhile, and came through a life-threatening illness a few years back. “A year after the illness, I was finally able to write songs again and they seem to flow from a deeper place” she says. “Several of these songs came from the ‘new me’- every day of my life now is a new day.”When you hear her sing, you’ll know she was born to sing the blues. She’s assembled a great crew in the studio here too; co- produced with Paul Hornsby (Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels), her touring band was involved too, along with special guests Grey Nagy, Tommy Talton and, Randall Bramblett, with producer Hornsby pulling double duty on keys as well. A New Day is a robust mix of sassy blues, EG’s tradmark ballads and even a rousing gospel anthem in Don’t Give Up. Kight is one of the all time great blues voices, she’s assembled some fantastic players to bring this record to life and, ultimately, life is what this album is all about- the highs, the lows, the everything. A New Day is one of those records that really speaks to you.HIGHLIGHTS: Bad Times (with Greg Nagy), Graveyard Dead Blues (a song that also appeared on Lisa Biales’ last record Belle Of The Blues), Don’t Give UpTHE BACK ON TRACK RECORDING PROJECT The Jordan Patterson Band (Flaming Cheese) *****This is a 4 song e.p., not the sort of thing I’m usually given to review, but dang this is a pretty impressive set of songs.Patterson released his debut album way back in ’96, but then turned his attention to a career in artist tour management and concert & event promotion for Britney Spears, and working for House of Blues Canada as well. Makes the guy sound like a ‘suit’ but he’s got a soulful voice and man, oh man can he blow some harp! He counts the great James Cotton and Paul Butterfield as influences in that regard, and he has learned well.This short e.p. is a rockin’ electric blues set, almost Texas style, with Jordan’s voice and harp center stage. Far from being some sort of vanity project (this guy has also shared stages with Robert Cray, Mick Fleetwood and James Brown back in the day) Back On Track is an opening salvo to herald the arrival of a full length record this coming winter. It’s an energetic set with great playing, and if the songs on the rest of the album even come close to these, a lot of people are going to know when the Jordan Patterson Band is by this time next year.HIGHLIGHT: If You’d Help Me PleaseTHE OTHER SIDE Drew Nelson (DNC) ****No easy pidgeon hole for this one. Drew Nelson’s first album in 8 years is 11 blues n roots songs of heartache, redemption and love. What else can we say but “welcome back”?Drew gave up a successful career to concentrate on domestic life for a while, but as he notes “I grew tired of the constant travel but after awhile I began to miss doing the thing I love and am good at.” Produced by Monkeyjunk frontman Steve Marriner these songs feel like an old leather bomber jacket- like they’ve been lived in, but they still have plenty of miles to go, and Nelson’s early rock & roll and Chicago blues influences are evident.The death of Drew’s dad was, oddly, a pivotal event in getting The Other Side up and running. “I had been stressed for months, then it was over” he says. “I knew my dad would have wanted me to move forward.” The disc opens with a great take on Bob Dylan’s Seven Days and just a few cuts later we’re treated to the best version I’ve heard of Leonard Cohen’s Bird On A Wire since Jennifer Warnes in the 80’s. The bio I received with this disc says that if you’re into Dylan, Tom Waits John Campbell and Steve Earle you’ll enjoy this, and I can verify that. There’s a looseness in the performances, a kind of slack precision, and the lyrics take you just about as deep as you care to go.Some pedal steel here and there lends some of the tunes a country vibe, the Nelson’s slide guitar and Steve Marriner’s harp take us right back to the southside of Chicago. Some of the songs are bluesy, but this album is much wider than any single label such as ‘blues’. The title track is, of course, a tribute to Nelson’s late father that questions life, death and everything in between. Yeah- I get the sneaking suspicion that The Other Side- ther whole album, not just the song- will become a very good friend.HIGHLIGHTS: Bird On A Wire, title track, Drifitng Away

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