The Record Box for Tuesday, May 19th

INDESTRUCTIBLE House Of Lords (Frontiers) *** ½ This is the band’s 10th album, due to hit shelves in Canada June 9th, and it also marks the 10th anniversary of the current lineup.  It’s Can’t remember the last time I heard these guys, but Indestructible is a bristling collection of Whitesnake meets Van Halen melodic hard rock.“The name Indestructible was chosen because we all felt that we had been through a lot in our long careers” notes singer and founding member James Christian, “and what better way to say ‘hey, I’m still here’ than by giving the CD a bold title.”  One might be tempted to dismiss Lords as an aging hairband with little to offer, but the musicianship on this record is razor sharp, with guitarist Jimi Bell in particular really stepping it up.  The rhythm section of drummer BJ Zampa and bassist Chris McCarvill also know their roles well, giving Bell and Christian a solid bedrock foundation to work their particular magic.Indestructible is an effective mix of crunchy riff-rockers like 100 MPH and ballads, resulting in a well-balanced record.  “We love songs that are both melodic and heavy” notes Christian. “The idea was to fit the best of both on one CD without sounding like different bands.”  I’d say mission accomplished on that count.  The sound of this disc is heavy yet crystal clear- not sure if it was an outside guy or whether that chore was left up to the band, but whoever put the final product together has great ears.  The disc is heavy, but it doesn’t keep you pinned to the wall- think of this as a civilized Whitesnake, but with a better singer.Sophisticated hair metal?  Dramatic hard rock?  Whatever you choose to call Indestructible, (and both descriptions apply), it has the range, power and variety to keep you entertained for some time to come.ESSENTIALS:  100 MPH, Pillar Of Salt, Die To Tell HUMAN ERA Trixter (Frontiers) ****These hair metal survivalists are back with their 7th album, a follow-up to 2012’s New Audio Machine.  Human Era combines the vibe of their previous work with the muscle of AC/DC and the melodic chops of fellow New Jersey citizens Bon Jovi.  Energetic and decidedly hairy this recalls Trixter’s earlier work, in the best possible ways.“Almost 30 years together and the band is tighter than ever” says lead guitarist Steve Brown with some pride.  “We are family and that makes everything we do more and more special.  The (title song) really sheds insight into our story.”  I virtually ignored the band throughout the 80’s and 90’s, buying into the ‘if it’s hair metal then its crap’ theorem, but this new record is a game changer.Coming off like a combination of Mr Big and Bon Jovi (singer/ rhythm guitarist Peter Loran does sound like Jon) with a touch of Motley Crue attitude, Human Era is a solid and occasionally thrilling rock & roll album.  The promo write-up that came with this album says “For fans new to Trixter, their sounds in nicely to an album collection next to Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC and even 70’s classic rock bands.”  That sounds like a fairly appealing combo and for the most part it’s true, so don’t let the somewhat goofy name or hairband lineage keep you off of something you might actually dig.I’ve never been a hair fan, preferring instead to populate my collection with more ‘serious’ bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Judas Priest.  Still, there’s something to be said for melodic, well-played hard rock, which is what Human Era happens to be.  I surprised myself by liking this album as much as I do, and you might too- no reason why you can’t enjoy whatever else is on your playlist right now and this too.ESSENTIALS:  Rockin’ To The Edge of The Night, Midnight In Your Eyes, title track AMERICAN TRASH Beauvoir/ Free (Frontiers)  *****Formerly the driving force behind Crown Of Thorns, Jean Beauvoir and Micki Free, American Trash (due out June 9th) is their first record under their new name.  Greasy and melodic in a real rock & roll way, this album has the bones to be a stone cold classic.I took a chance on opening this download mainly because I recognized Beauvoir’s name from his work with Kiss, particularly in writing and playing bass on a few tracks on Animalize while Gene Simmons was busy tonguing the Hollywood crowd.  It turns out Jean and Mikki have also collaborated with the likes of The Ramones, Debbie Harry, The Pretenders, John Wait, Lionel Richie, N Sync, Billy Gibbons, Bill Wyman, Carlos Santana and Prince… dudes get around.The best way to describe American Trash is melodic hard rock, or melody with muscle.  I know this is reaching back, but in many ways this is the record I had hoped The Damn Yankees’ (Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, Ted Nugent) first disc would’ve been- loads of melody and great singing but tough, gun-slinger guitar work that doesn’t try to sound pretty, the kind of stuff you like to drive to on a hot summer day.Lest you think they’re hogging all the credit, Beauvoir/ Free really is a 2 man band.  Jean (a tall black guy with a rather shocking white Mohawk & mullet combo) contributes lead & background vocals, bass, guitar, drums and keyboards, while Mikki does lead and rhythm guitars, plus acoustic guitars.  Great rock & roll is never made democratically, and perhaps keeping it down to just the two guys (for the studio at least) is part of the magic that happens across these 11 tracks.American Trash is full of killer riffs, melodic choruses that stick in your head long after the songs are over, and truly inspiring solos from Micki Free. Though the pedigree of both guys might suggest ‘hair metal’, this is close to being a perfect rock & roll record.ESSENTIALS:  Shotgun to The heart, Angels Cry, It’s Never Too LateGREAT LEFTY: LIVE FOREVER- TRIBUTE TO TONY IOMMI, GODFATHER OF METAL Various Artists (Tanzan Music) ****This double disc tribute to the man that arguably invented an entire genre, and my favorite guitarist to boot, is a real treat.  Other than some of Tony’s former band mates, these artists will be largely unknown to most fans.All but one of these songs- Time Is Mine­, originally appearing on Y2K’s Iommi with ex-Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo)- is a Sabbath track, ranging from the first album to the semi-recent 13.  The artists you may know, particularly if you’re a hardcore fan include Tony Martin (ex-Sabbath), Dario Mollo (Tony Martin, Voodoo Hill), Vinnie Appice (Sabbath, Dio) and Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio Disciples, Dokken).The project has Tony Iommi’s support, but not for reasons you might expect.  On his Facebook page Tony says “A big thank you to everyone involved in the album, whether you’re a player or not” he offers. “I’m flattered and honored to have this done by genuine fans, not a label- I’d heard something was going on, but wasn’t expecting anything this big.”  Of those who put Great Lefty together Tony notes “There are so many of you, it’s impossible to mention the complete list, but great to see old band mates Tony Martin and Vinnie Appice getting involved and Mike Exeter producing.”Exeter (Iommi. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest)’s talent at coaxing great performances from those he works with and his familiarity with Iommi’s music in general is key to why this project turned out so spectacularly well.  Using mostly relatively unknown acts- some of them Sabbath tribute bands- was a great idea too.  On previous Sabbath tribute sets like the two Nativity In Black discs, using well known groups like Megadeth and White Zombie was commercially astute, but brought with them certain expectations.  With Great Lefty I went thinking “I don’t know these guys, let’s see what they’ve done with this music that I love so much.”As for the songs themselves, some stick close to the original arrangements, such as the version of Anno Mundi by Giuntini featuring Tony Martin on vocals, who also sang on the original.  Then there is Mario Parga’s stunning rendition of Scarlet Pimpernel, turning a short acoustic guitar instrumental passage from The Eternal Idol (just a time filler, I thought) into an epic guitar symphony that, frankly, puts the original to shame.I’ve been a Black Sabbath fan since the early 70’s, and their music too important to me to put up with second rate renditions.  If Great Lefty sucked or was just “meh”, I would have no trouble telling you, but the opposite is true- these twenty performances range from spirited to fiery, to inspired.  Some, like Children Of The Gravy’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath stick to the original blueprint, but when someone like Tanzan Music Academy can do that with a song like Neon Knights and still fuck with the arrangement, I’m a happy fan.  Enjoying the heavy stuff as much as I do, I was shocked to find myself digging the aforementioned Scarlet Pimpernel and Phil Jakes’ solo acoustic instrumental version of Behind The Wall Of Sleep as much as I do.  It’s good to know that even songs you’ve known for decades can still surprise you.   Who knows?  Maybe Tony will borrow some of those ideas.Great music for a good cause here, and I had no problem paying $13.99 at I-Tunes for my copy.  “Although I understand she doesn’t want to take credit, I don’t think (this project) would have happened without Rosie Piergiorgi” Tony says of his friend and one of his biggest fans, “And I’m really pleased that she chose to help MacMillan Cancer Support.”  A worthy cause to be sure, but don’t buy Great Lefty just for that- buy it because this thing flat out rocks!ESSENTIAL:  DISC 1: Heaven & Hell  (Kyle Cousins), Scarlet Pimpernel (Mario Parga)DISC 2:  Behind The Wall Of Sleep (Phil Jakes), Paranoid (Rekuiem)THE PURPLE ALBUM Whitesnake (Frontiers) *** ½ The new (and 12th) Whitesnake album barely qualifies as Snake.  Sure, all the guys are here- but rather than Snake tunes, these are covers of songs from singer David Coverdale’s time with Deep Purple in the mid-70’s.   Great songs then, but do they do them justice?  Mostly.The idea for The Purple Album came after Coverdale had contacted Ritchie Blackmore to bury the hatchet and mend fences.  “I was told by  a representative of the old Purple management that keyboard maestro Jon Lord, who had worked with me in Whitesnake too, had been diagnosed with cancer” says Coverdale, “And that on his recovery his wish would be that we put together a Purple reunion of sorts- I agreed with him.  So we all know, sadly, he didn’t recover.  I felt it necessary to reach out to Ritchie Blackmore to express the grief at Jon’s loss, and hopefully bury any unpleasant hatchets.”  While Ritchie’s people were willing to move forward with some sort of Blackmore/ Coverdale project plans didn’t gel, and David Coverdale respectfully withdrew from the discussion.  After things fell apart, it was Coverdale’s wife Cindy that suggested he take the idea and make the next Whitesnake album a celebration of his legacy with Deep Purple, and that’s the basic “why” of the new record.“It was a shared vision” David says of the recording sessions. “Everyone came in fully loaded with ideas and talent and helped make this a memorable project for me.”  Knowing that they would be compared to the originals (I’ll get to that in a minute) Coverdale offers that “there was absolutely no intention to compete or compare with the original recordings.  We just wanted to play these songs the best we could, and this is how we wanted to play them.”The Whitesnake attack on these Purple classics, in most cases, lacks the finesse of the originals, but we have to remember that we’re talking about 2 very different bands.  In Purple you have in drummer Ian Paice with jazz chops that can make things swing whereas Whitesnake’s Tommy Aldridge is more of a straight ahead rock guy.  Plus, the original versions of the tracks were played by musicians in their 20’s- Coverdale is now 64 and sings very differently, and the guys in his band are a lot older than 20.  Comparing the two is like comparing Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath- both heavy bands, but Zeppelin takes the upper hand with a much more varied sound.Having said that, approaching these songs as Whitesnake material was the right move.  Trying to copy the originals would be pointless, boring even, and though Whitesnake’s style is a lot more heavy-handed it is not without its charms, and this new record is a weird sort of convergence, a meeting of past and present.  The Purple Album imbues the songs with heaviosity and chest hair they did not have previously, and should be thought of perhaps as looking from a different angle.I’m a fan of both bands, owning all of Deep Purple’s stuff from every line up, and most of Whitesnake’s.  Is The Purple Album better than the source material?  No- they’re different, but a great song is a great song.  Some of the tracks come off a little turgid, too studied, while the arrangements and playing on others is nothing short of inspired.  I’m enjoying this record and, ultimately, isn’t that the ultimate judgement?  Its out today.ESSENTIALS:  Lady Double Dealer, Sail Away, You Keep On Moving

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