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Music Review: Jeff Beck, Leprous, Cauldron, Ian Gillan, and Closer

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The sun actually appeared outside this week, in abundance, as opposed to just teasing us. Fortunately, a few releases have come that are less morose than much of the stuff I have to review. As you may have noticed, I like a bit of variety in every column

DVD review

Jeff Beck: Performing this Week

When it comes to a guy like Jeff Beck there are quite a few people who don’t really need this review. He has his avid fans and a few detractors who can’t really see what all the fuss is about. He does have a reputation as someone who is a bit headstrong and knows what he wants. It is very hard to listen or watch the man play and not admire the talent  seeping from every pore of his body.

Jeff Beck, one of the famous Yardbirds, (a band that also spawned Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton) has had a patchy popular career. One of its peaks is the gospel-esque track, originally recorded with Rod Steward, “People get Ready”. On this live DVD, filmed at a several night stand at the famous Ronny Scott’s Jazz Club, he has Joss Stone handle the vocal duties on that song. I am not sure why, possibly nerves, but she over-cooks the vocals and seems like she is trying to hard to be a soul diva. Her re-interpretation of the song sucks all the beauty of the original song out and turns into pap.

Other than that, this is a guitar tour de force with his band in some of the tightest form you can imagine. Eric Clapton shows up for a run-through of “Little Brown Bird” and “You Need Love”, two Blues classics. Quite an impressive collection of his “hits” with Beck playing at his best in front of an adoring crowd. This being a DVD, there are extra interviews with Beck on each of his guests, the band, and his career. At 155 minutes of music and extras, this is quite a good value DVD.

As I said from the outset I can’t imagine a reason for a fan of Jeff Beck’s or great blues guitar not to buy this release. If you don’t know Jeff Beck, this is not a bad place to start.

CD Reviews

Leprous: Tall Poppy Syndrome

With a name like Leprous you might expect extreme death or black leanings resulting in cacophony. In fact, what Leprous specialize in is just the opposite. These guys produce quite a good line in prog metal and are getting lots of props in their own land of… wait for it… Norway. It must be the water in Norway, for they seem produce lots and lots of good metal in great variety.

The band have been finalists in the Norwegian Rock Championship, which is a big deal in the land of the Vikings. The Norwegian government gives bands grants for their work if they are good enough. Considering the band are in their late teens and early 20s this sort of achievement is pretty impressive. Of course, what would really impress the metal hordes is that they are ex-Emperor man Ihshan’s studio band and they are touring with intelligent prog metal giants Opeth this summer.

This lot are taking the prog metal template and adding their own twist to it. Hard to describe, but damn good. I would highly recommend you seeking this out if you are prog metal inclined. Hell if they are good enough Ihshan & Opeth they are good enough for the rest of us.

Cauldron: Chained to the Nite

An almost antithesis to the prog metal mentioned above, this lot play traditional Canadian heavy metal with lots of gusto and bravado you expect from Canucks. They have the same vibe as Anvil, Helix, and the like. While remaining their heaviness they strive to write songs that are catchy and have a healthy sing-along chorus count. Well what do you expect with a track called “Young and Hungry”.

These guys didn’t get the memo that solos are out of the fashion and show their guitar mastery at any chance they get. Cleary keen on flying the flag of Canada in the new wave of traditional heavy metal, they are doing a good job at staking their claim to represent Canada.

As this is their debut you have to give them credit for a pretty good effort. Enough here to please the older hordes of metal-heads while retaining a freshness that never strikes you as mimicry. Proving that is possible to pay homage to your heavy metal heroes without sounding like a memorex tape of older band’s outtakes. Well worth keeping an eye on.

Ian Gillan: One Eye to Morocco

The venerable front man of the classic rock giants Deep Purple releases his first solo effort in a very long time, ten years to be precise. It was recorded during the enforced Deep Purple hiatus due to the death of Roger Glover’s mother.

Rather than pomp and bombast of Deep Purple’s efforts or the straight ahead heavy rock of Gillan’s self-titled band Gillan, this is quite a mellow affair. The name is based on a conversation Gillan had in the Jewish quarter of Cracow in Poland. The term that inspired the title track is Polish and would be clearly translated in English as a “wandering eye” according to Gillan’s account of the origin of the concept.

This is introspective and quite mellow, but not drifting into the singer-songwriter territory, lest you worry. It's very bluesy and harkens back to a simple era of story led rock. From the title track on down this is quite a good release that rewards you with each listen. Not what you would expect to hear the mighty Gillan singing, but quite rewarding nonetheless. Now one has to wonder if Gillan might tour this album in smaller venues for his fans to witness. Now that would be a real treat for all.

Closer: A Darker Kind of Salvation

This release is definitely one that grows on you. At first coming across as a bit like all the rest of the metalcore tinged metal releases of late. However, it is a mistake to write it off in such a way. There is quite a bit of clever musicality here and its not just in your face screaming.

Take for instance the quite impressive “Open Your Eyes” with its piano and prog-tastic instrumentation. Yes, there are still metalcore vocals over the top but here is quite a bit of depth here which seems to work. This is probably the most approachable song for those who are not fans of the metalcore genre.

The album needs to percolate a bit to truly get interesting. Spend a bit of time with it and you start to hear its endearing features. Not one of my favourite releases of the year that is for sure, but of this sort of release it is by far my favourite. It will certainly be interesting to see what they come up with next. They are a band that can be filed in “ones to watch” without much argument.

Well, that is your lot for the week. Well, one more thing, if you are into symphonic space opera soundtracks check out the CD for Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. I hope those at SWSX will enjoy the live music there. Have a good, safe and entertaining week.

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