Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Frost* - Smith / Kotzen - Stormtrooper - Robin McAuley

Some CD tips for you. This time not groundbreaking renewing bands, but just some very comfortable good music.


Frost* - Day and Age
Frost* is the exception on the above rule, as you never know exactly what you get with them. This time they took the decision to refrain from guitar solos, which is interesting if you consider that John Mitchell is playing guitars. He also sings as does other founder Jem Godfrey. Nathan King on bass is the last other fixed bandmember, with drums divided over three people. The lack of guitarsolos strangely enough does not disturb me. Another surprise the spoken word song The Boy Who Stood Still is one of the highlights. So far only Tinyfish managed to make me like spoken word parts (band of brother of Jem). Hard to pick a favorite on this album really, but maybe Kill the Orchestra would be it for me. I saw Frost* live after they released debut album Milliontown. Their poppy open appraoch to prog is refreshing indeed. More important and not that common with prog rock bands, they laugh and have fun while playing. Result another uplifting album that you should check out.


Smith / Kotzen - Smith / Kotzen
A collaboration of two famous guitarists might not shock the world with their music, but it all sound so damn comfortable. Biggest surprise to me is that Adrian Smith also has a great voice suiting this bluesy hardrock. I saw Ritchie Kotzen a few years ago in het Paard and his voice is impressive too. The combination of both works wonderfully well and we get an album that oozes classic bluesy hardrock which might have filled stadiums in earlier decades. It would be nice if the two can work on a tour. Same as when I saw mr Kotzen solo, not knowing the songs does not hinder when it all sounds just like good music. All over a strong album highlights? maybe Scars or I Wanna Stay.


Stormtrooper - Every Now and Then
The title reflects to the reality of the album, some newly written songs and some revisted early eighties songs. Together they reult in a mix of the more NWOBHM inclined older songs and accesible new work. Stormtrooper never were the most famous NWOBHM band. They released only a single in 1980 Pride Before a Fall. Then in 2016 they came with the full album Pride Before a Fall (the lost album). Well that was one surprise and one of the best NWOBHM releases of last decade with epics Battle of the Eve and After Battle next to some catchy short heavy songs. I was pleased to see them performing live in Bristol one legendary evening. Every Now and Then is not of the same level really, but it hints towards that album more than once during the old songs. Overall it mainly is a pleasant album not made to shock the world, but just showing that bands you never heard of can make good music as well. 


Robin McAuley - Standing on the Edge
Robin McAuley brings the McAuley / Schenker Group to mind for older fans. Recently I saw him perform twice with Michael Schenker Fest and his voice survived best if comparing with Gary Barden and Graham Bonnett (maybe Doogie White came close only) Not for nothing that he was asked to sing the UFO-era songs. And now he released a solo album which brings me back to those hairmetal days of the late eighties. The surpise is not only in his voice, but the songs are all good rockers as well. This is a Frontiers release, so Allessandro Del Vecchio is involved. Well if you want new music, that does not sound all that new, but is pretty awesome to kill some missing them old days feelings. The cover is very nice, but the pictures with Robin standing against poles, posts, walls and tables not so necessary at our age (his and mine). 


Sunday, 6 June 2021

Pain of Salvation Ranking the albums


 A good trip down Remedy Lane this was and to my positive surprise the albums that I thougt least of even had their good moments. So ranking PoS was not that hard, with still at some points choices to be made. My ranking is as follows:

10. Road Salt One
Originally a big disappointment, later on I realized it had some good songs on it too and for certain days it works well for me.
9. BE
Even holding some good songs overall an album I will not return to on CD anyday soon, maybe I play the DVD again one day.
8. Road Salt Two
Same story as number one, but with better songs on it for me and also not unimportant some metal songs again.
7. Panther
I think seeing them play this album live will help my appreciation of the songs further. Now an OK album but not top of the list material.
6. Scarsick
The wildest mix within one album. Some very strong songs here, but also America and that song unfortunately.
5. Entropia
A very good debut album, even if I picked it up some years later. Lasting over 70 minutes not consistent in high quality overall to me. Paving the way for the classics that would follow.
4. In the Passing Light of Day
The album the re-won them many fans from the early days. An emotional concept piece filled with heavy songs and wonderful melodies. Title track among their three best songs ever.
3. The Perfect Element I
Probably a favorite to many, for me just a notch below my top two. Filled with classic PoS songs that all are welcome during a live show. Used opens extremely strong.
2. Remedy Lane
On some days my number one. This is PoS how I love it. Wide variation in songs, without experiments outside my comfort zone. Best when played from start to finish for me.
1. One Hour By The Concrete Lake
My first PoS album, their heaviest and overall best set of songs. Pity that during live shows they hardly play songs from it. 11 songs all killer no filler (unless you consider an instrumental opener of 43 seconds no song). From Inside to Inside Out a great ride through PoS at their best, played by their best line-up.
So what's next? Panther's follow up? The Perfect Element II? Scarsick 2 or a dance album? With Daniel Gildenlöw we never know and I think that is one of the beauties of this band (or solo project nowadys). Unpredictable by all means. Sometimes the surprises are not so nice, but you can't discuss quality with this band.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Dream Theater Ranking the albums

 


Always the best part ranking the albums, or the impossible task depending on your point of view. I have been going through all their albums over the past four days and even took the courage to listen to the full Astonishing again. Before starting my countdown a small explanation on the fanboy in me. I was totally into the band during their early years. Later on this moved to just a good band I kept on following. Further apart from number 15 all albums have their charms and might please others more. So here's my list
15: The Astonishing The album that noone understood. Played it today probably for the last time in my life.
14: Scenes From A Memory Let the controversy begin. This album started of well with me, now bores me (to reincarnated death?). Also this is the first album where the band started to forget about the songs at times in favor of instrumental wankery.
13: A Dramatic Turn Of Events The first album without Portnoy sounds all smooth and well. Still no outstanding songs and several songs being extended far too long.
12: Black Clouds & Silver Linings Portnoy deserved to say farewell with a better album. The absolute highlight of this album is his AA recovery track The Shattered Fortress, which should make my favorite song top something. The bonus instrumental version of the full album never left it's cover.
11: Distance Over Time A pretty decent album, pretty to the point and pretty nice. But where are the absolute highlights of the album? It starts on decent level and finsihes at same level before you realize that was all.
10: Systematic Chaos It are the short songs that make this a better album. And of course The Ministry Of Lost Souls, which is a haunting beauty.
9: A Change Of Seasons Killer song, but not a full album. So it would only therefore be strange if making my top five. Now I use it as a breaking point. The albums that came before I do not really recommend as must hears. My top 8 following now are all necessary albums in progmetal (where 4 to 8 could vary a bit on other days)
8: Falling Into Infinity The commercial album that worked out well. Lots of great songs and the Desmond Child cooperation You Not Me might as well have been a hit. My best live memories are around this album as well, which always helps.
7: Dream Theater The self titled album is in total for me by far their best CD of the past 15 years. Only good songs, no wankery and a decent closing epic. Brilliant return to old form.
6: Octavarium This varied album has something to please everyone. Apparently not all fans thought that positive. Also the last album on Elektra and looking at my list it is fair to say that Elektra had more luck with the releases than Roadrunner had.
5: Train Of Thought Dream Theater going metal fitted them perfectly well. How nice to hear an album where you can bang on by DT. For me if you go this heavy it could have been shorter. But definitely one that kept the metalheads in their fanbase on board.
4: Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence A double album and still not holding one weak song. Disc two with the title track is sensational. Disc one has this nice balance of going all over the place from very heavy to a ballad. The best of the rest for me.
3: When Dream And Day Unite Definitely the album that had the biggest impact on me. Maybe the album that had the best songs on it. This debut album came out of the blue and was so good that it catapuulted the band straight among my favorites bands of the time. And yes Dominici was a strong vocalist too.
2: Images And Words Their Classic album that defined a genre and is an all time favorite for many. Pull Me Under actually scoring a hit is already sensational if you hear how heavy it pulls you under. My favorite line-up and the best concert I ever saw by them touring this album.
1: Awake And still I&W did not make it to my number one as this album is similar, but a bit darker and heavier, which in music often means better. Only killer songs and The Mirror/Lie being an all time high in their career. Their only album that lasts over 70 minutes and does keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Finally when going through Youtube I found this clip of a show commemorating 15 years of WDADU. James LaBrie struggling at times, but what an album that is also with a later lineup. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW_877BdaL4 So now I am done for a while playing Dream Theater. The biggest surprise to me was how much I liked the selftitled album. All others ended more or less where I woudl have placed them in advance before hearing all again. Now tonight maybe some old school speed metal to cure my prog overdose. Please feel free to disagree with my choices, as long as it is done respectfully like Andy suggested with their metal album.

Michael Schenker Ranking the albums

 


Over the past Corona year I have been completing several of my collections of heroes from my youth. For unknown reasons I did not do so for Michael Schenker. This weekend made me realize that I need to look out for several of his missing albums on future metal markets or just the internet. The albums I will have to get are from several of his era's: McAuley Schenker - M.S.G., MSG - Written in the Sand, Temple of Rock - Bridge the Gap, Fest - Revelation. Anyway I still have 13 albums to rank which I do have and played over the past days. So my favorites for these are ranked as follows:
13. Adventures of the Imagination
Somehow for an instrumental album I expected more from the man who gave me the best instrumentals ever written during his early MSG years. Even Resurrection held in Salvation an instrumental topping all on this album. Not questioning quality here, just songs.
12. In the Midst of Beauty
The most disappointing album, especially if you look at the line-up. All those eighties names, could not make the eighties return. The songs lacked class of the old times and I was very sick missing live shows, to help getting them more alive.
11. Gipsy Lady
Acoustic albums can never compete with full band performances . The biggest plus here was that the songs fitted Gary Barden's voice much better. Still acoustic, therefore not for every moment
10. Immortal
For now I kept this album low, as I did not play it enough yet. Some very promising songs on it, but why change to three new singers again?
9. Tales of Rock 'n' Roll
19 songs in 57 minutes sounds like a rush. If this album would have twelve songs and several of them extended and ended properly this might have been higher up. Several ideas are very good and the seven vocalists all add something to the party.
8. Save Yourself
The second McAuley Scheker album had some lesser songs on it. I liked this hair-metal era of the band, but also no touring this time made it not his best. Band pictures on the cover remain hilarious, I mean Schenker in a white social shirt and hair fohned is funny, Flying V in hand or not.
7. Spirit on a Mission
Doogie White's great voice gives this album an extra. Strong band and good songs, make this one that comes closer to the golden years. Good live shows during those days too, even if too much Scorpions played.
6. Resurrection
Surprisingly strong album, based upon the very good songs. I would not expect all vocalists to sing that well. Live it seemed they were having such a good time on stage and ego's were put aside. Salvation an instrumental of the top class as well.
5. Perfect Timing
The first album with McAuley. The style changed, but not as much as the hair did. Great songs make up this album and McAuley can sing. Following fashion of the day maybe, but with a great result.
4. Built to Destroy
This album received way too much critics at the time of release. For me only just below the top three. It did help that my first ever MSG live show came after this album. Some of the songs should be in a best of set any day.
Now before going to the top three I have to state that it must have been the hardest choice so far. I struggled ranking top three albums for Fates Warning, Savatage, Whitesnake, Dream Theater or Angel's top two. In this case, they really all three are equally good and have their own charm. I therefore can only rank based upon re-playing this weekend.
3. Michael Schenker Group
This LP is among the best debut albums ever. Only classics. I put it on three since it holds most songs we heard over and over during live shows, so hardly any o yeah that one experience. Into the Arena and Lost Horizons are among his best songs ever.
2. Assault Attack
Same classic status, different vocalist. I only did not put this on one, as I consider Gary Barden the voice of the golden years. Graham Bonnett maybe delivering the best performance of his career, helped by eight killer songs (well seven one is instrumental) Everythig is right about this album.
1. MSG
The second LP, was the first one I got and is also classic from start to finish. For some reason songs like Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, On and On and But I Want More, hardly appear in live sets nowadays. This album has the best line-up ever for MSG with Glen, Raymond, Powell, Barden and Schenker. Somehow I feel it does not get the same credit as my number two and three do, so I put it on one. Schenker could even afford to not put an instrumental classic on this one.
Well that was a great ride along 40 years of MSG in it's several formats. Anyone new to the band should look for the box The Chrysalis Years. It holds my top four, plus two live albums and some unreleased live at the Manchester Apollo songs. Schenker rulez indeed.




Angel ranking the albums

 


So after one weekend of many old albums it's time to rank them in order of favorites. Replaying them all did not really change my opinion from what I expected in advance, but sometimes I will explain a position. Going through these albums does make you wonder, why Angel never became as big in record sales as bands like Cheap Trick, Styx, REO Speedwagon or even Queen and the likes. Not to mention Kiss a band they often were compaerd with being the white version of black dressed Kiss. I never had anything with Kiss and even Angel in poppy mood outshines Kiss for me any day. The fact the Gregg Giuffria left the band is a pity as I personally believe that both Giuffria and thereafter House of Lords released albums, that were better classy follow ups with some Angel influences still blended in. I do not include any of those in the ranking, but kept the solo albums I mentioned this weekend in the ranking. So counting down 9 albums.
9. Sinful
If I would have been a fan in the seventies the disappointment probably would have been even bigger. Now just their most poppy album to me, with less memorable songs.
8. Punky Meadows - Fallen Angel
This solo album was not bad, but missed the vocals and was a bit softer than I hoped for. A long album too, which does have its effect on attention spans.
7. Dimino - Old Habits Die Hard
The voice of Angel going solo. This was one hell of a positive surprise to me. Ranking it number three in my end of year list 2015 and only number seven here shows how big Angel are to me. Great album.
6. In the Beginning
Musically this album deserves maybe to up some places, but I put it here as it is far from the traditioal Angel sound. If I would rank the Led Zeppelin albums it would end up higher. Still a very good album to play every now and then and I never understood the critics it received.
5. Risen
A worthy comeback indeed, but missing the nostalgy factor my top four has. Even if discovering them in the eighties, playing all their albums Over and Over (pun) did add to my appreciation levels years later. Very diverse respecting all sides of Angel
4. On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Album number three where they decided to leave the proggy path. Still this one had several great songs on it like Can You Feel It and On The Rocks. What if they would have decided at the time to go more proggy and metal instead? probably the next Rush, but we shall never know
3. White Hot
Their fourth album continuing the route of their pre-decessor. This one to me has a few more must hear Angel classics on it like Don't Leave Me Lonely, Got Love If You Want It and Hold Me, Squeeze Me. All songs much more rocking than their titles would make you expect.
2. Helluva Band
This one is maybe as good as my number one. Friday a few people mentioned to play Angel again. I am sure they meant the first two albums. It was the best era of Angel really, even if not sales-wise. Pressure Point shows how heavy they could go these early days and The Fortune should have been an all time classic.
1. Angel
The self titled debut album holds eight songs all having their charm. The Tower is their band defining song, but Long Time, Broken Dreams or Sunday Morning are hidden gems as well. How is it possible that this brilliant debut did not catapult them straight to super stardom? One of the wonders in pop music for always.
So I end with a small clip form The Fortune, which I found on Youtube. It is shot at the Golden Age Rock festival which I attended.
If it shows anything it is, that Angel are live still a band to travel long distance for, even if the sound here is messy. Angel the band that makes you think what could and should have been.
Finally it became clear to me that Angel must be close to the weather Gods. This weekend for the first time in two years The Netherlands turned all white covered in snow. Call it coincidence if you like. Luckily just a bit and all left already, so time for a jog on a Sunday Morning now.




Rush ranking the albums

 


So after playing all 19 albums I now have the impossible task of ranking them in order of favorites. Originally I thought I like them in order of phases, but that is not absolutely true, as your mood can even determine which album suits better. All albums have their highs and some would probably change position if I do this again (which I won't). So the most important factor is what does the album to me. Some of them I know better than others, so that already impacts placing. But let me just start not with the worst, but least good to me.
19. Vapor Trials
The album that had no songs that stuck with me really. All decent and well, but a bit uneventful for my taste.
18. Roll the Bones
Some good songs and this tour among my top five favorite shows ever. Yet as a total it can't beat the ones above it.
17. Clockwork Angels
A decent farewell. I saw rankings having this on one even. Well to me it never really spoke. Some good songs, but a storyline that doesn't exite either. Maybe I hoped for more this being a concept album.
16. Test For Echo
More good songs, just overall not their best still. If they kept the level of the first three songs going, probably a few positions higher on my list.
15. Presto
The last LP I bought of them and some very good songs. Overall we ar egetting in stronger album territory, still also some songs that being not there would have made it an overall stronger LP.
14, Grace Under Pressure
I bought this one on LP years after release, but didn't play it all that often. Actually holding some strong songs and the synth years were not weak indeed.
13. Permanent Waves
This is much lower than many people rank the album. Two reasons, I don't have a history wit this album really and second look at the ones released before and after it, this is a dip in form
12. Signals
An album opening with Subdivisions really deserves a top ten place. I guess Chemistry and Digital Man prevented that. Losing It was the biggest re-discovery for me over the weekend, what a beautiful song that is.
11. Snakes & Arrows
For me by far their best album of this century. Reason is simple the songs speak much more to me here. Many great ones and an album that can stand proud next to any other Rush album.
10. Rush
This one is hardest to rank as it is a different animal still before Neil Peart joined. A great seventies hardrocking album as such which holds some classic songs they played live until the end.
9. Fly By Night
Rush turning towards their progmetal years. A bit rough around the edges several gems you must know on this one. The long song (By-Tor...) still not fully settled I thought
8. Counterparts
This is an extremely well balanced hard rocking Rush of the later years. I was even surprised how I liked the full album again from Animate all the way down to Everyday Glory.
7. A Farewell to Kings
So I did not rank their four progmetal albums 1-4. This is mainly my least favorite of the four as Side A is magic and Side B is not. Placed a bit low really for an album holding Xanadu and Closer to the Heart.
6. Power Windows
This one I liked so much better in retrospective than I imagined. Here all 8 songs hit the bull and this synth style works very well for them. Definitely one I shall go back to more often.
5. Moving Pictures
Overall their most favorite album to many and with a reason. A band like Rush delivering hits here. Top songs from start to almost finish as I think Vital Signs is slightly below par.
4. Caress of Steel
One of the wonders in music, why is this album so often slagged by fans and critics? All songs leave their own mark and The Fountain of Lamneth is the first full side song. Apart from that it is one of the first progmetal albums ever released, so bonus points for that.
3. Hold Your Fire
Usually appearing in the ranks 15-19 it is one of my absolute favorites. It is all about the timing, the history, the first live show. And then it is helped by the songs as well. Definitely my go back to album if I go for more poppy Rush. And yes that one guitar tone in The Mission still gives me the shivers.
2. Hemispheres
If an album holds your second best long song, your second best instrumental (after YYZ) and best short song (The Trees) a number two is a logical place. One of the go back to albums. One of their all time classics you simply must have heard.
1. 2112
The title track of this album must have been the song getting me hooked on prog epics. Until the day of today I can hear it over and over. When side B holds five good songs to make it a complete LP it is my number one indeed. Actually before starting thisi weekend, I knew this much 2112 would be hard to kick of the number one spot and no album managed to do so indeed.




Fates Warning ranking the albums

 


Well that was one great trip down memory lane and at times rediscovering the beauty of some albums. So now I shall rank them from 13 to 1. This ranking is the one I made today and might even next week be different. For sure if I would have come up with a different order if not replaying all 13 over the past days. This ranking has been done before and I can say that the seaoftranquility YouTube channel gave me the idea first. Pleased to say that while I am pretty sure Pete Pardo is as much or even more a Fates Warning fan as I am, we still came up with pretty different choices. If you want to check out what he thought here is the link
Enough introduction, here is the list. Please feel free to criticize or confirm my list remembering all albums are very good to start with.
13. Night on Bröcken
This is a very strong heavy metal album from 1984. If you compare it with the levels Fates Warning reached hereafter this is a band still finding their way. Damnation being the best window to the future.
12. Darkness in a Different Light
Even if holding one of the best heavy opening riffs ever released It has the least standout tracks of the later years. Maybe the 9 year pause was too long.
11. Inside Out
Being in style close to Fates Warning at its best I think for me it had some trouble matching its three pre-decessors. Yet an album with Monument, Pale Fire, Face the Fear and Outside Looking In so the level is high.
10. The Spectre Within
One metal side and one future Fates Warning side with The Apparition, Kylie Eleison and Epitaph made me realize I will revisit this album more in the future. Pity production was not at the same level of the songs yet.
9. A Pleasant Shade of Gray
This must be the hardest album to rank. There definitely are days that it is my favorite Fates Warning album, but then again it also is not for every day or 20 minutes only. A wonderful album as such which opened the door for many progrock fans. Maybe I should have seen it played live in full, but that was 10.000 km away for me.
8. Disconnected
This is another one I have been moving up and down my list. On forehand I would give it top three at least. What I realized is that it is one of the albums I played most over the years. I loved all the shows I saw with the Disconnected part 1/One opener to get you straight into the mood. Can be at any other place tomorrow really.
7. Long Day Good Night
Too close to call. Really impossible to judge how it stands compared with the full discography after one week. Playing safe putting it in the middle therefore.
6. Awaken the Guardian
This album should have had the production that became the norm hereafter and I don't know where it could have arrived on my list. Eight great Heavy Metal songs which build a progpower genre. The most popular cult album, bridging between old school metal and progmetal fans.
5. FWX
This album I would have rated lower in advance. Playing it again I totally love the variation and fact it is build around shorter songs still over a wide range of styles. Another Perfect Day is the song I would have given most chances to reach high in hitparades. But then again who plays Fates Warning on the radio?
4. Perfect Symmetry
Another album of eight killers. First time I saw them live when they finally made it to Europe. This one also could be on another position but never higher than 1 or lower than 6. This album definitely set the progmetal style which I love so much.
3. Theories of Flight
My favorite of the current century. Again eight tracks all hitting the bull fo rme. Either long and epic, shorter and faster or instrumental and dark. For anyone in doubt this album brought them straight back to the top of progmetal Champions League. How many bands can say that their twelfth album is among their very best work?
2. No Exit
This is the heavier Rush album where all seemed to have arrived at the right place at the right time. Heavier Rush means side A full of short songs and Side B one 21:25 minute song. The Ivory Gate of Dreams sets a standard for long songs, which is not met by any other band thereafter. On Side A I love the aggression of the heavy metal days is still very present. Just the perfect mix.
1. Paralllels
Parallels is for me the Holy Grail in progmetal. For some maybe too commercial or accesible, I loved all eight songs as from the first time I heard them. If than the album also holds in The Eleventh Hour my favorite Fates Warning song it can only be my number one. The album works both with headphones on reading along with the lyrics as well as on the background while doing something else. Music as it was meant to be for me.