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Music Reviews: David Mark Pierce, David Reese, Jeff Healey Band, ZZ Top, & Saga

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After last week’s mostly power metal fare, this week we are a tad more diverse with some classy AOR slipping into the mix. Before I begin I need to recommend a single by David “Rock” Feinstein: “Metal Will Never Die”. It features the last vocals Ronnie James Dio every recorded. Feinstein is Dio’s cousin who was in Elf and Rainbow with him.

CD Reviews

David Mark Pierce: StrangeAng31s

The band behind this effort includes Goran Edman, who has worked with Yngwie Malmsteen and John Norum to name two bands. John Payne of Asia fame shares the vocals. Keyboards are handled by Lisa LeRue, CS Brown on bass and Mikael Wikman on Drums. DMP was most recently with the Oliver Wakeman Band (son of Rick and current Yes keyboard player replacing his father) and played on the recent release from Stream of Passion (which I shall review soon). The guy is also an engineer and producer.

As with many of this sort of solo album, this is a mix bag of styles. Who plays or rather who sings on which track really affects who the track sounds like. The tracks with Payne sound very much like his efforts in Asia, while Edman’s stuff is similar to some of the bands he has been in.

That is not to say this isn’t quality stuff. Tracks like “Shelter Me from the Rain” and “Save Your Prayers” have that catchy vibe that is needed in this sort of AOR. Not exactly an essential release by any means, but a competent effort from an obviously talented guitarist.

Reese/Kronlund: Solid

Resse is a bit of journeyman vocalist. Reese has been part of the chronically underrated and short-lived Bangalore Choir, Gypsy Rose, Sircle of Silence and had a brief (2 year) time in the mighty Accept. To suggest that Reese’s vocal style is quite different to that of Udo Dirkschnieder is an understatement. Reese has a far broader range of vocal talent than Udo. He is joined by his Gipsy Rose compadre Martin Kronlund on this effort.

It is probably safe to say this album is closest to Bangalore Choir in its AOR-ness. There are some tracks in the form of “Could This be Madness” that really get under your skin. Fans of another journeyman vocalist Jeff Scott Soto could find much to like on this release. He comes closest on the great power ballad “I Would”. And how can any hard rocker worth his salt not like “Magic Pudding”? Tracks like “Animals and Cannibals” break things up nicely with their heavier rock vibe.

Classy AOR like this does rather provide a pleasant break from all the metal I review. This is quality music from an obviously talented singer. A tight band with good song-writing always makes the difference on a release like this lest it all blend into one big mushy musical mash. There is not one duff track on here, there is a consistency of output that can be rare on this sort of solo release.

Jeff Healey Band: Live at Grossman’s 1994

Not exactly metal for sure, but Jeff Healey still continues to be fondly membered after his untimely passing in 2008 from the disease that initially made him blind. Many people only know Healey for his set of chart hits in the 90s, especially the huge hit “Angel Eyes”. The artist who played his guitar flat on his lap as if playing slide guitar continues to awe musicians of all types. This release features the band’s homecoming gig to the place where they were discovered.

Rather than a greatest hits live release, this is the JHB getting back to their roots. This is Healey and company proving they had the blues chops. It’s a live album where they produce stomping covers of some of the true greats including Howlin’ Wolf, Albert King, Louis Jordan, Elmore James and, of course, Robert Johnson.

There are couple of non-blues covers in the form of a great version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and “Yer Blues” by The Beatles. This is a release that is full of passion and shows the talent of Healey and his band. While no cover album is essential, this is certainly one of the better ones around.

ZZ Top: Live in Germany 1980

Speaking of the blues, you can’t get more fun than a live ZZ Top record. What is more intriguing is that this is pre-MTV fueled mega-stardom of the mid-’80s ZZ. This is the down and dirty Texas blues that so riled their early fans and keeps them filling the venues to this day. And unlike many of the “from the vaults” live releases from Germany, the sound quality on this release is pretty damn good.

Most of the 16 tracks on this release come from their ’79 release Deguello, but they do not forsake much beloved songs. So you get better known tracks from Fandango and Tres Hombres to please the ole’ timers. For many of ZZ Top’s legion of fans this sort of release is pretty much essential.

However be warned this set has been released by Rockenplast as Double Down Live on DVD. I am not sure why but the sound on this CD is quite a bit better than on DVD. I am willing to bet you will get far more plays out of this CD anyway. ZZ Top blues is always a great addition to any summer drive.

Saga: Heads or Tails Live

This is a rather odd release it has to be said. As the name suggests it’s the entire Heads or Tails CD sung live. The reason it’s rather odd is that the bloke on the vocals is not the original singer Michael Sadler, the original vocalist for Saga, but Rob Moratti. Moratti is the poor sap that, like Blaze Bailey and Ripper Owens, stood in while the original lead singer was off doing whatever a lead singer does when he buggers off for a few years. As you would expect from a band that has been around since 1977, Sadler was back the minute he wanted to be.

Needless to say Moratti didn’t sing on Heads or Tails when it was originally released. So why would anyone but fans of the vocalist be interested in this release? That said, on merit its not a bad release with the band in good form. Fans of Saga will obviously miss the unique voice of Sadler singing the tracks.

This is probably a release for Saga completists only. It’s not a good introduction to the band or the album. Then again some royalties for placeholder Moratti would probably not go amiss. Lets hope we see Moratti resurface in a new band that will keep him around longer.

Well, that is your lot of discs for this week. Stay safe and rocking out there.

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