What a varied bunch of music is on offer this week for your pleasure. Everything from 80s pomp to death rock and even touch of jazz-fusion or is that fusion-jazz…
Evanscapps: Last Time
Ean Evans of Lynrd Skynrd and Bobby Capps of .38 Special have teamed up for a side-project that is a little different from their normal gig. For one thing no one named Van Zant is involved in this endeavor. What we have here is a couple guys having some fun releasing an album that sounds a bit like Black Label Society, if they occasionally went in for a bit of Kid Rockisms.
Most of the time they are firmly in the BLS territory, with the Southern rock-metal vibe seething through all the tracks. They call it “Southern Alternative Metal,” but a slight touch of Alice in Chains at times does not make this alternative to me. It's just good Southern metal that has been influenced by all that came before it, including giants like Clutch. Whatever you call it, it's damn good music.
What makes it even more impressive is that Evans is battling cancer, having been diagnosed in late '08. I wonder if his cancer (undiagnosed at the time of recording) influenced the dark tinge that can be felt on this record. As a cancer survivor myself, it's amazing how you finds it taints what you have done before it's discovered. In late April Southern Rock came out for a benefit show in Columbus, Mississippi. We wish him a speedy recovery.
This a great rock/metal release that is well worth seeking out. You are not only buying a damn good album, but helping a talented man battle a horrible disease.
Slough Feg: Ape Uprising!
Properly entitled Lord Weird Slough Feg, this lot are rather odd in an incredibly endearing way. The name is taken from the main villain in a British comic book series entitled Slaine, which deals with Celtic myth. So you would expect them to come from the U.K. or Ireland right? Nope they hail from Pennsylvania, that hub of Celtic myth, via San Franscisco. If you can imagine Twisted Sister, with a touch of Dio, doing Celtic myth instead of angst rock then you might be somewhere close to this sound.
The music has all the jauntiness of the European folk metal, which might be the reason they are released on Cruz del Sur. However, there is a clear American sensibility, with even a touch of jazz via Dream Theater popping up in places. And the odd Black Sabbath touch too. It's rather hard to describe why this band is so endearing, but there is a clear attraction to be had in these songs.
“Nasty Hero” the final track, even manages to be quite catchy. This band has been around since 1990 and it shows. Could this be the year of the Slough Feg? I certainly hope so. A bit of Celtic pagan metal would do the U.S. metal scene a world of good.
Devil’s Whorehouse: Blood & Wishes
There is a genre which many of you might not have heard about called “death rock.” It's death metal that, well “rocks,” and is not caustic to the ear. Done right it’s a heck of a lot more fun than your average grunt, thrash, and groan death metal fare. You could probably even dance to it, if you wanted.
DW sound a bit like Danzig at his most “Elvis of Metal” stage, combined with a touch of the Supersuckers, Monster Magnet, and rockabilly. They may call it death rock, but that does not mean it can’t be one hell of a lot of fun and catchy to boot. The corpse-painted death metal hordes must hate this bunch of Swedes and others of their ilk. They are, in a sense, taking the piss out of the whole death metal genre while making some damn good music at the same time.
Personal favorite on the CD is the awesome “Werewolf,” but the rest of the CD is just as good. As a veteran reviewer of death/black metal I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this sort of release. Hey, its got melody, a tune and a sense of fun about it. You really got to check this release out. I am so glad it landed on my death-deck.
Schenker Barden Acoustic Project: Gypsy Lady
Guitarist extraordinaire, and eccentric of the first order, Michael Schenker has paired up with his buddy Gary Barden for quite an exemplary, acoustic release. And lest you worry, this is not another famous guitarist heading off to medieval balladry and never coming back. There are, however, touches that you might find on an early Blackmore’s Night CD like the chivalric “Fight for Freedom”. Then again the next track is called “El Grande” and amusingly enough is full of flamenco goodness.
This is an incredibly good guitar album, that has one thing missing from so many, actual songs. Schenker seems to be loving the stripped-down environment of this release, and proving if necessary, that he is the talent we all know him to be. Despite all his eccentricities and unpredictability he can pump out a damn good tune when he wants to. Shows off Barden’s vocal talent as a bargain.
This might not be the normal heavy rock that you expect from MSG or his time with UFO, Scorpions, or any of his other tenures. You should not discount it as anything but a great album from the German guitar maestro. Melody and acoustic ethos combine for something really quite special. I highly recommend you seek this effort out for your collection.
Jimi Jamison: Crossroads Moment
Ok, let's start with the final track. “When Rock was King” name checks some of the biggest AOR bands of the 80s and for good measure some of their lead vocalists show up to have a sing-song. It's one of those things that should be cheesy in extremis, but works really well. Don Barnes, Mike Reno, Mickey Thomas, Dave Bickler, Joe Lynn Turner, and Thom Griffin appear on this CD. Oh yes, and just to add to the uber-cred his ole’ mucker from Survivor, Jim Peterik is with him for this ride.
And, yes, it sounds like Surviror in its prime. How could it not? There is alll the melodic pomp you could ask for here, but rather than just doing it by the numbers as you find on many releases of this sort, it's done with oodles of class. Peterik’s handiwork is all over this on tracks like “Make me a Believer” and everything else.
It's quite obvious why this pair were so incredibly successful when they were both in Survivor. The music on here is recognizable yet new at the same time. There is something refreshing to hear something this good from such a class pair. A new standard for melodic pop rock has been set for the 00s and this is it.
Return to Forever: Returns: Live at Montreux 2008
Original members Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Al di Meola and Lenny White have put together this classic jazz fusion band after being begged to do so by their rabid fans (it too them 25 years). Now you might ask what the hell this DVD review is doing in a heavy rock column? Well, at first I wasn’t going to post this review here, however their influence certainly extended far beyond the confines of jazz.
Lenny White is a big fan of the drumming of Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham is a big clue what sort of band this is in the end. There is a heaviness inherit in the music that you can hear seeping through the music of bands like Dream Theater and Rush. There a whole myriad of jazz metal albums that obviously show a heavy nod to this band’s back catalogue. Jazz fans might argue the point, but I find there is a strong prog-element to this music. Seeing as the progressive-rock music to their name from progressive jazz that makes sense does it not?
On here you get 12 tracks on the proper concert and as it's Blu-ray you have extras like sound choices and five extra tracks including the epic song “Duels of the Jester and the Tyrant” recorded in Clearwater in '08. 149 minutes of jazz prog epic bliss is rather hard to beat.
Well that is your varied bunch for this week. Please have a safe and rocking (or jazzy) week. Try to check out live music where ever and when ever you can.