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Music Review: BB King, White Wizzard, The Jokers, Tantric, and Native Window

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The eclectic nature of my CD/DVD pile makes for an interesting week. It's great fun to be listening to everything from blues masters to the darkest of death metal. Here is the latest batch that caught my fancy.

DVD Review

BB King: Live in Montreux

Recorded at the famous Montreux Jazz Festival in 1993 this DVD shows the blues' master at the height of his powers really showing everyone why the world’s great guitarists look to him as a hero. His influence is legendary ranging from Eric Clapton through the latest metal guitar hero. The man truly makes his instrument sing along with him, instead of just moving the song along.

Backed by a big band, the most recent addition joined him in 1990, he rolls through songs both new (at the time) and old. He makes it looks so easy and the band gives the song the full flavour they so richly deserve. Amusingly one of them acts as MC for the whole performance by introducing King and outroing him with the requisite amount of engaging the crowd to cheer.

Songs like “The Thrill is Gone” and “Since I met you Baby” really make it clear why the guy continues to thrill guitar geeks and normal blues fans alike. You won’t even care that there are absolutely no extras on this DVD. Almost 100 minutes of BB King is all you really need. A classic performance from a guitar legend whose ability to thrill with a guitar is rarely matched.

The Blu-ray, looks better obviously, and includes 15 minutes of music from 2006 in the form of “Why I sing the Blues”, “Guess Who” and the great track “When Loves Comes to Town.”

CD Reviews

Native Window: s/t

What happens when a bunch of the band Kansas want to get together and record an album, but their chief songwriter is uninterested. When they are a motivated lot like this, they go off and record a new album under another name that hints at their background. So is this a half-baked album of material best left in the bin? Hardly, your ears will not notice this isn’t Kansas as all the dynamics of the band abound here.

Then again it is Kansas, without Steve Walsh so it's not too surprising. Despite they are without their main song-writer the band have pulled out all the stops and produced quite a good selection of tracks. This is violin-tinged melodic rock done with all the pomp needed, but never too much.

Tracks like “The Moment” and “The Way you Haunt Me” remind the Kansas aficionado of the band in their prime. The epic scope of the songs remind you just how good this lot can be when they are firing on all cylinders. Fans will eat this up as will anyone who likes atmospheric AOR without the cliché’ and over compensation so prevalent in some releases. Clearly a candidate for AOR release of the year.

White Wizzard: High Speed GTO

With a name like White Wizzard you would expect them to be a bunch of Black Sabbath worshiping, stoner groove merchants. Well the country for inspiration is right, but wrong band. This lot are clearly heavily influenced by the mid-80s period of Iron Maiden with a touch of other NWOBHM bands such as Tigers of Pan Tang and even Saxon. If you are a fan of those types of bands, you will find something refreshingly familiar on here without being just imitation.

There is a hard rock sensibility that is lacking in so many modern metal bands. It may be heavy, but there is still a sense of fun and mischievousness about. The CD has only seven tracks, but that is all it really needs. There is not one turkey on this release from the high octane of “High Speed GTO” to the dry good-bye of “Red Desert Skies”. Needless to say the band are doing gigs in Germany land of the trad heavy metal clad hordes.

Given the right push this lot could be huge. If you have had your fill of screamo vocals in your heavy metal, this band is the perfect antidote. The bloke on the vocals can actually sing.

Tantric: Mind Control

This lot were formed after the break-up of Days of the New who reached platinum status before their implosion. This band clearly have taken up where DotN left-off and continue to produce hook-heavy poppy rock which makes it very difficult not to like it. Now I am not saying this is the annoying punk-pop that abounds today, but more a new century pop-rock. It's catchy, clever and fresh, which works great on disc.

This is a mature and well put together album that reflects the fact the band have been together for a while honing their craft. There is enough meat on the bones to please most hard rock fans while not losing that sensibility that attracts non traditional rock fans. There is quite an arena-rock sensibility on here with occasional nods to the 80s and even stadium bands of the 70s. Tantric describe this as their heaviest record to date and that is clearly the case. The album is full of great stuff, to select one song would be unfair to the others. Bloody good album from a bloody good band.

All in all from the first track to the last, this album works on so many levels. Quite an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so.

The Jokers: The Big Rock & Roll Show

Equal parts Led Zeppelin and AC/DC (viz "Super Groover") this lot are a party hearty band from the Liverpool area. Slightly goofy party rock that just works nicely echoing the time of good time rock that was popular in the 80s with band likes the Quireboys and Thunder. The bands whose baton has been taken up by The Answer and Glyder. What most amuses me is that the band comes across quite often as the English The Tea Party. The album was recorded in Vancouver, Canada by Mike Frasier so that might have something to do with it, maybe.

It's clear that there is a bunch about this lot from their gigs in London and touring with bands like Fozzy. It's catchy good time rock 'n' roll that is the perfect antidote to the current crop of misery-guts on what is thought to be rock-radio in the UK. Check out the title track if you want to understand why this lot have a good a vibe about them.

There one of those bands that could be huge if picked up by the right sort of person who can make them. They have the goods to deliver, like the Answer, and just need a forum to go global. With a little luck, the support of the rock community and the right backing these guys could be the next great rock band.

This is the best hard rock review I have heard since The Answer’s stellar debut. Good to see England can pump out such great bands. Oh yes and check them out live now before they get out of the smaller venues. Then you can say you “knew em’ when”.

Your lot for the week. There are some great bands in this bunch, ones well worth seeking out for your hard-earned money.

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