Blues history, three-chord pop and some damn good hard rock fun make up this week’s collection.
Robert Plant – Robert Plant’s Blue Note
Robert Plant had nothing whatsoever to do with this DVD. The only time he appears is in archive footage from various appearances. That does not detract whatsoever from this release. In fact, it is possible to argue this very long DVD is in fact two in one. Robert Plant provides the excuse for a very interesting history of the British blues scene (of which Robert was a major part) and the evolution of blues as a form of music. The pursuit of the “blue note” in other forms of music might be a bit trainspotterish for some, but anyone interested in the history of music will be fascinated. Metalheads and hard rockers will learn a lot about their favorite genre from this release. At their core, metal and heavy rock is blues, for that matter so is country.
Plant’s musical history is pretty interesting, from being the kid with all the obscure blues records to the guy constantly seeking to try new things. All along the way we hear from his friends and musical collaborators (other than in Zeppelin). Of particular interest is the Egyptian musician/producer explaining how hard it was to take Led Zep’s stuff and combine it with African/Arab musical styles. The beauty that was the music on Page/Plant’s No Quarter proved hard to create for all of those involved, much less perform live. Also, of interest was the explanation of Plant’s journey out of grief to being a regular performer again after the twin tragedies that befell him in the late ’70s.
This DVD is not be taken lightly. It is in-depth and sometimes a tad musician-centric. This is not a Behind the Music-type documentary, but a serious undertaking for both viewer and producer. I personally enjoyed all 155 minutes of it and learned quite a bit .
Bai Bang – Livin’ My Dream
These guys know exactly who their target audience are. They are aiming for those that loved Bon Jovi in their ’80s prime. Huge choruses, lashings of underlying keyboards, great guitar solos and immediate sing-along potential. To me the band sound quite a bit like Trixter or Bulletboys, no more so than on “Rock On”. This bunch are prime ’80s glam rock with all the fun and frolic it entails.
I mean come with a song like “Come On” how can you possibly resist? There is nothing original anywhere on this disc, but who gives a toss really? Bon Jovi has seriously morphed into a band that seems to be po-faced and trite ala U2. How about hard rock that is fun for a change?
I find it hard to say anything negative about this disc. Might help that I first heard it with the sunroof open, and windows down while driving on a lovely twisty road in the summer sunshine. If there is a new wave of hair rock, these guys should be at the front of the pack. Would it surprise anyone that this lot come from Sweden?
Outloud – Love Catastrophe
“We Came to Rock” makes it pretty clear this is serious party metal. More Skid Row than some of the fluffier versions of the genre, they deliver the goods. It is no surprise that their previous release mustered good reviews from the cynical bunch that are hard rock reviewers. They are a Greek band who were helped immensely by Bob Katsionis of Firewind. Like many of this sort of release, there is nothing remotely original about anything on here, but the fact the music is done so well makes it easier to overlook. This is the type of band that is a great addition to the various AOR festivals around Europe.
There is a good dose of serious guitar playing with less keyboards. While the music on here is decent, there is very little that jumps out at you. It takes a few listens to sink in and then only just. In order to hit the next level they might need to up their song-writing skills as much of it is bit a predictable. They are a touch like TNT, with not as instantly catchy songs. Outloud’s attempt at a ballad “Someday” falls a tiny bit flat to be honest, more twee than good. The title track, oddly left to last, has some good qualities with its Scandinavian hard rock touches.
Overall, it is not as good as their debut, and is a sophomore slump perhaps. It is not bad, just not that great, inconsistency of songwriting lets it down.
Karma to Burn – V
Yet again this band releases something and I have no idea why people like this stuff. It is possibly because I am a singer and like to hear singing that it leaves me so cold. But it takes a lot to impress me when it is an instrumental album (mostly) and this just doesn’t. It is more like Karma to Bore. This is atmospheric stoner rock I am told. I wonder if that means it only works if you are in fact stoned off your head.
Considering the tone of this review it will not surprise anyone to know that in fact I like one track on this CD quite a bit called “The Cynics”. The two other songs that include Daniel Davies of Year Long Disaster as vocalist are a Black Sabbath cover (gee how original) and “Jimmy D”. They are, at least, interesting to listen to and have some attraction. Their first album had a vocalist on it at the insistence of Roadrunner Records. I think RR was on the right track. Fans of this band obviously disagree.
Pagan’s Mind – Heavenly Ecstasy
Keyboard ladened proggy heavy rock with lavish amounts of Scandinavian pop rock touches. The opening track “Eyes of Fire” is the heaviest love song you will hear for a while. Every song on this release has something that is missing on most prog influenced metal albums, catchy as stink choruses. Check out “Live Your Life Like Dream” for a track where it all comes together wonderfully. Every single song has quite a sing-along quality as if they were trying to be a slightly more edgy Europe. And there is nothing wrong with that when it drips with such quality. There is an almost Winger like quality to some of these tracks.
What helps is the lead singer Niels K. Rue has a voice which is slightly distinctive in tone. There are qualities in his voice that remind the older listener of Graham Bonnet of Rainbow and Alcatrazz fame. The package just works all around. There is not one duff track on here, even managing to get through the minefield that is a ballad with aplomb, a tad cheesy but not too much. There are times when the band brush all sorts of genres from prog to Scandinavian pop to power metal. No matter what it sounds like it just works all around. Imagine if a Scandinavian band had recorded Empire by Queensryche and you are getting somewhere.
I have been enjoying this album for several weeks and reluctantly review it for this column. It is one of my highlights of the summer of 2011. Everything works so perfectly on here and thus a joy to listen to whenever.
Status Quo – Quid Pro Quo
It might have a pithy Latin title, but fear not Quo have not gone all prog or classical on you. This is more of what makes Quo such a huge success and why their fans love them. For the rest of us, there is nothing wrong with anything on here, it is just nothing that special. In fact it is a decent album that, unlike some of their output over the years, is not merely treading water. It does not strike one that this is “an excuse to tour” release as is the case with many bands of a similar vintage.
They do rehash old ground with a re-recording of “In the Army Now” which seems just a tad superfluous and padding. As with many Quo releases the CD is a bit overlong for the average listener and a tiny bit samey. That said, repeated listens find it blossoming a bit more.
Then again what critics say about a new Quo album does not matter to their denim wearing fans. They love what Quo does and nothing we say will ever prevent their adoration. For that devotion for their fans and to their fans they are to be admired.
On that three-chord note time to sign off. Have a safe and rocking week.