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Music Review: The Answer, Prong, Icon, JSS and a Book Review Too

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The following tracks have made my life a bit easier, whether good or not, while I have dealt with coordinating tea parties in Maine. I think I am reviewing a CD here that meets each mood I have felt over the past week. I will let you guess what moods those are, dear rockers.

CD Reviews

The Answer: Everyday Demons

It's hard to believe this band would be able to top their awesome debut, Rise, described by many, including your reviewer, as one of the best British rock debuts in a very long while and certainly the best thing to pop this young century. No over production here, they have kept to the same formula that worked the last time. They have opened for AC/DC and other huge bands, played the biggest festivals possible, and toured the world.

This release was hyped in the hard rock press in quite a spectacular way. So does it live up the hype or is it yet another band falling at the second hurdle? Hard rock fans need not worry because The Answer have quite possibly topped their debut album with this release. They manage to channel the great hard rockers of their land while making it fresh and exciting. There are snatches of Zeppelin, Bad Company, AC/DC with a touch of a melange of 70s rock thrown in for good measure. This is a great album from start to finish. They cover the gamut from rockers like “Evil Man” to moving tracks like “Cry Out”.

They even manage to thrown in a bonus track that is worth having, the catchy as stink sing-along “Revolutions”. If you like your hard rock and have not discovered The Answer yet, then you owe it to yourself to seek this out. You will be very hard pressed to find a better hard rock album this or any other year.

Prong: Power of the Damn Mixxer

This is a remix album, the title of the CD is a clue, of Prong’s release the Power of the Damager. Now, as you probably know, I am rather skeptical of “re-mix” albums, considering most of them are no better than the endless “compilations” that some bands release to milk their fans for all their worth. Prong is one of those bands that just might get away with this sort of release because there is so much depth to their stuff.

As you would expect with this sort of release they wheel in all kinds of people to do the remixing including Rob Caggiano from Anthrax, Jon Clayden of Pitchshifter, Virus of Dope, Clayton Worbeck of Revolting Cocks, and Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan. I suspect Prong had no shortage of volunteers to have a go with their music. They are that sort of band that gets a great deal of respect from their fellow muses.

In the end, what we have is a collection of tracks that would be out of place at a goth/industrial dance club like Sin City @ Electric Ballroom in London. It's dance music for heavy rockers and the other black clad hordes. As far as an everyday listen, it doesn’t work that well. Next time you are having a party for your friends who hate dance music, but want to dance this might just do the trick.

Icon: 3

John Wetton, voice of ASIA and King Crimson and Geoff Downes have released this, their third album, as duo Icon. If you could imagine a more keyboard heavy version of ASIA then this just about fits the bill. I can’t see how any ASIA fan would not like this release. It has all those basic elements that made the original band so damn good. Considering Wetton & Downes are two parts of ASIA this should be no surprise at all.

This is the quality you would expect from the two of them. Soaring vocals and grandiose music; that can any moment slow down to a relaxing piece of keyboards and vocals as on the track "Green Lights and Blues Skies". And just to prove their chops they manage a three part vocal part with the two members and a female vocalist, Anne-Marie Helder of Karnataka and Mostly Autumn fame. We have a former ELO cellist Hugh McDowell along for the ride as well as Dave Killminister.

Listening to this you will have no doubt why fans of the band were clamouring for a new release. It is uber-classy keyboard ladened rock that never drifts into lame middle-of-the-road territory, preferring to retain that rocky edge to give it gravitas. Not that I am surprised at all, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable release from a great band who keeps getting better.

JSS: Beautiful Mess

Journeyman lead singer Jeff Scott Solo’s latest release is monikered with a simple JSS. It's meant to reflect all the stages of this man’s career have become one in the same, or something like that, not quite sure. For those who don’t know JSS, he has fronted Journey (most recently), Soul Sirkus, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (where he got his start), Talisman and even the Christmas rock extravaganza Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Oh yeah and he was the voice of “Rock Star” in the bloody awful Mark Wahlberg movie that might or might not have been based on Judas Priest’s relationship with Ripper Owen.

This album does not really sound like any of the above bands and is far more in line with Seal, Lenny Kravitz, and a touch of Prince. It’s a very soulful rock pop that would have been huge in the 80s and even the early 90s in various places around the world. It's quite good stuff that veers in disco or that awful twee soul music of the 70s. There is still quite a bit of backbone in this music, it's just a bit mellow at times.

You gotta understand that JSS can pretty much sing anything he wants to, the bastard (that’s no fair because I met him in the UK at a Firefest gig and he was a damn nice bloke), so you can expect a certain level of quality with every release. It all sounds like it's so easy for him, just check out “Hey”. He even makes the phrase “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” sound sexy and sultry. If you need something not so heavy with a bit of soul to listen to with your significant other then this is the release you should seek out.

Book Review

Classic Rock Revisited: from the Vault Series 1: Stadium Rock
By Jew Wright

The man behind the long-serving classic rock site Classic Rock Revisited has decided on the 10th anniversary of his site, to put together several collection of his interviews with bands over the years, This is the first of such releases focusing on the “stadium” bands of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. He has a nice selection of artists in this collection with a few forgotten bands thrown in for good measure, remember Foghat.

If there is anything that grates a bit about the style of Wright is that he can be a bit sycophantic at times. As someone who has reviewed quite a few bands in my time, I can tell you that it's very tempting to do a buddy-buddy style interview with some of the nice guys and gals in the rock world. While it might look good on TV and sound good most of the time on radio; it does not really make for good reading. The written page just lacks something as it does not get over the vibe very well.

Wright has chosen well and includes rockers like Sammy Hagar and Ted “da Nuge” Nugent (now with his own Twitter hashtag #nuge). The interview with Dennis DeYoung of Styx just makes DeYoung look a tad pathetic, unlike the interview with another former big-band focus Steve Perry ex of Journey. Along the way we get to read about Kansas, REO Speedwagon, and even Steve Miller.

What might of helped this book is a bit of context for readers not au fait with the events surrounding the band and their history. For those who are new to classic rock this is not a good purchase. This is probably most useful for those who know classic rock, but aren’t experts or obsessed with the subject.

Well, that is your lot for this week, some spring purchase selections to ease you into summer. As always keep it heavy and rocking, but stay safe.

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About Marty Dodge