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Music Reviews: Johnny Cash, Matthew Fitzgibbons, Midnight Syndicate, and Memfis

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Well, it's that time of the year when all the record company types are out getting pickled with their fellow biz types before they head off for an extended holiday in the sun. Needless to say there are slim pickings for us reviewers. However, I have been forewarned my carpet will be awash with new review material very quickly into January.

Here are a few CDs that I have found on my desk including one that I "lost" as it came not in its normal form.

Johnny Cash: The Legend of Johnny Cash

This is a rather complete collection of Cash's hits, lovingly put together to introduce the uninitiated to the tortured genius that is the Man in Black. There are tracks from all aspects of his career both live and in studio. From the nominal title track "Ring of Fire" right through to the gut-wrenching recording of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt", this is cracking stuff that belongs in every rocker's home whether they prefer the light edge of the genre or are face-painted extreme metallers. There are a few people who are true legends — this man is one.

Matthew Fitzgibbons: Patriot 2

Matthew has released a fine collection of positive, mildly (if not in-your-face) patriotic songs about freedom and the American experience. The one track which I would most recommend is the rather good "Private and Free". This is none of your in-your-face country but it's a more sublime singer-songwriter variety of rock. It's mellow and laid-back, and rather minded me of Don MacLean, to be honest. And let's face it, we got a Latin-titled instrumental, "In Deo Speramus," which is most satisfying. The production and musicianship is first rate, a quality independent release.

Midnight Syndicate: Cage of Delirium

Midnight Syndicate have done the clever thing and tied themselves up with a game company who has released a fantasy role play (pen and paper) adventure under its Dungeon Crawl Classic. Now one does not have to play the scenario to appreciate the accompanying CD, that is for certain. As one would expect with MS, their skill at evoking a mood is on show here and the quality of their composition is plain for all to see. I would consider this disc good accompaniment for reading your favourite horror, sci-fi or fantasy novel. Alas, while I have not had the time or the group to play this scenario, I can tell you the accompanying CD is well worth the price of admission.

Memfis: The Wind-Up

Prog death metal or heavy metal with prog elements — call it what you will, but it is most interesting music that never gets predictable or stale. It is no shock to anyone that this band has toured with the likes of Satyricon amd The Haunted. These gentlemen from Sweden do not believe that groove should be missing from this sort of music and there is a certain catchiness to this all. There are times, like on "Forever Discounted", the band reminds me a bit of ol' Opeth while they were making their transition to prog-metal luminaries. This is a good collection of music and well worth seeking out.

Well, that is your lot, ladies and gentlemen. I am off to Iron Maiden at Earl's Court on Saturday so I might try to slip in another short column before we ring in the new year. One has a rather busy schedule, but I will do my best.

I wish you all a happy holiday season and I rather hope you have done your bit to keep the music business afloat, especially in the UK where they are not doing terribly well. Do make an attempt to see some live music in the next couple of weeks.

Until we meet again please stay rocking, safe, and bopping.

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