My CD Reviews Thread

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My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Sun Oct 07, 2018 1:07 am

Rather than continuing to make a new thread each time I do a new CD review, I have decided to just put it all into one thread.

I'm starting it off with my review of the Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa album Black Coffee.

Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa

Black Coffee

J&R Adventures - 2018

http://www.hartandbonamassa.com

As anyone who's ever read anything I've written about Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa knows, I am a big fan of both artists.

To the surprise of no one, when they teamed up to do the two previous collaboration album I loved the discs.

And now comes Black Coffee, the third album in their musical partnership. I have to say that despite listening to this album for a few months since its release, I'm a little bit disappointed in this one.

The album opens up with a cover of Edgar Winter's "Give It Everything You Got", a real kick in the pants way to start things off. It's faced paced and has a lot going on in the song, so it is a feast for your ears. It's a great song and the performance of it here was fantastic.

But then comes what I think was the main issue I had with the disc. Despite all the songs being well played, a few of them just weren't as interesting to me this time around. The Etta James song "Damn Your Eyes" started out slow but got more of a spring in its step as it progressed. There's a blazing solo from Bonamassa in there as well. And yet for all that, I just didn't particularly care for the song that much.

There's only 10 songs on the album and it pretty much went back and forth with a great song and then one that left me wondering just why the hell they chose to record it.

I loved their cover of Ike and Tina Turner's "Black Coffee", but the only real interesting thing about "Lullaby Of The Leaves" for me was the guitar work.

A devastatingly awesome cover of "Why Don't You Do Right" found Hart doing kind of a slinky vocal turn to the old blues song while there was a subtlety to the guitar work I found greatly appealing. Then they turned around on "Saved" (originally sung by Lavern Baker) and put forth a fast paced musical romp that would've had me up dancing if I possessed the slightest bit of rhythm. Another Baker sung song got the cover treatment on Black Coffee. It's called "Soul On Fire" and I thought it was just a sweet sounding slow to midtempo track.

I didn't much care for the cover of the Lucinda Williams song "Joy" though. It just felt so off and out of place to me. But I did like the guitar work on "Sitting On Top Of The World", a song by the Mississippi Sheiks.

The album closes out with "Addicted" from Klaus Waldeck and despite the number of times I listened to this album, it barely made any kind of impression on me.

So while I do think this is a good album, Black Coffee is to me clearly a bit inferior to the first two Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa albums. But to be clear, I am of this opinion solely because of I didn't like some of the songs chosen for the disc. When it comes to the performance, all ten songs are given a new life from the duo and when you do that to songs that may or may not have gotten their just due in the past, that can't be a bad thing.

Rating - 3 stars out of 5

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Fri Oct 12, 2018 8:28 am

You can check out my review of the new U.D.O. album Steelfactory via this KNAC.COM link.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Nov 26, 2018 12:52 am

Lone Justice

The Western Tapes, 1983

Omnivore Recordings - 2018

Anyone who knows me has sooner or later discovered that I am a huge fan of singer Maria McKee. It all started when I stumbled across her self-titled debut solo album (on cassette) in 1989 and was instantly captivated by the stunning photo portrait that graced the album's cover.

Then came actually listening to the music on that album and I was hooked for life. Of course, it was then that I discovered that McKee had started out with the band Lone Justice, so I had to work backwards and became just as enamored with their music as I was with McKee's solo work.

For a band that lasted just long enough to produce two studio albums, Lone Justice has had a long post-breakup afterlife. There's been a number of compilations released and their sound has influenced a number of performers as well as the music being covered by others as well.

The Western Tapes, 1983 gathers the earliest demo recordings of the band. The six song EP contains 5 previously unreleased tracks and the demo version of "Drugstore Cowboy" that was initially released on the Lone Justice This World is Not My Home compilation.

With a brief introductory essay from producer (and later band member) Marvin Etzioni along with a track by track breakdown of each of the six songs included, the album once again fuels the imagination of what might've been for a band that even in their earliest incarnation really had everything going for it.

The songs "Working Late" is a foot stomping fast paced track that went on to full fledged glory on the band's self-titled debut album. The guitar work from Ryan Hedgecock is impeccable throughout each song but I really liked what I heard on this track in particular.

As for the powerfully dramatic ballad "Don't Toss Us Away", it was also on the debut album. The song's demo inclusion here shows it at its earliest,incredibly raw stage but you can still hear that McKee's voice had already given the song (written by her half-brother Bryan MacLean) a life of its own. If you'd heard this song way back in 1983, you'd instantly know that it was destined to be a touchstone track for the band. Especially since the song did eventually go on to become a huge hit, albeit for country singer Patty Loveless.

I mentioned "Drugstore Cowboy" earlier and while I've heard this version of the song before, it doesn't lessen the fact that the song, which is one of the more "rocking" numbers that Lone Justice ever did, is flat out amazing. From the wildly kinetic vocals to the powerful drum track from Don Willens, everything about this song screams to be heard.

Like "Drugstore Cowboy", the song "The Train" was initially released (though a different version of it) on that This World Is Not My Home compilation. The liner notes state that originally this song was a rockabilly tune but changes were made to give it a more punk fueled energy. No matter how the song started out, it came out rather awesome and whenever I have Lone Justice playing and I hear this song, I get a electrically charged vibe running through me.

You might wonder why I would continually buy compilation albums from a band that hasn't been together in more than three decades. My answer would be that each compilation seems to plum the depths of the archives to come up with songs I've never heard before. And this release is no different as there are two songs that are "new" to me.

The first one is "I See It". The song showcases Ryan Hedgecock as the lead vocalist with McKee playing a more supporting vocal role on the track as well as adding some rhythm guitar to the song. It's not all that often that McKee isn't the spotlighted vocalist, but when you have a song turn out as well as this one did (at least in demo version), it is hard to find fault with the decision.

The last of the six songs on The Western Tapes, 1983 is the 2nd of the two new to me songs. It's called "How Lonesome Life Has Been" and it was actually recorded by the band before they had gone in to record the demos that ended up on this release. It's a driving up tempo paced track that has a great guitar from Hedgecock and instantly grabs your ear with it's rhythmic melodies.

Whenever I hear these long lost demos from Lone Justice, it always makes me wish I'd been in on the band when they were originally together. I know that I missed out on something really special back then. I'm glad that this compilation is now released because it gives me hope that others will get turned on to the band even all these years later.

As I said at the start, Maria McKee is one of the defining vocal presences for me and my musical fandom. And what you hear when you listen to her work with Lone Justice is a band that seemingly had everything going for it. The fact that they didn't make it is a musical crime and if you need audio proof of that statement, listen to The Western Tapes, 1983 and you'll rue the fact that you didn't get to experience Lone Justice in their time.


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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Tue Nov 27, 2018 9:51 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Dec 03, 2018 6:39 am

DVD REVIEW


Beth Hart

Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Provogue Records / Mascot Label Group - 2018

http://www.bethhart.com

Recorded on May 4th, 2018, Beth Hart's 23 song show-stopping performance at London's Royal Albert Hall is chronicled in this DVD release.

Ranging from quiet jazz inflected to ballsy full throated rock and roll vocals, Hart and her outstanding band (guitarist Jon Nichols, drummer Bill Ransom and bassist Bob Marinelli) are an incredible foursome to watch.

The show starts out with Hart wandering the aisles of the venue singing "As Long As I Have A Song" before hitting the stage in full to run through a wide ranging cross section of her catalog of songs. From the blues of "Baddest Blues" to the almost gospel/rock and roll of "Spirit of God" to the downright rocking out on "Waterfalls", Hart holds the audience spellbound throughout the concert.

Having seen her on tour for the first time in 2017 and being blown away by how emotionally powerful her performance was, I can really appreciate what the British audience had to be feeling.

There was a dash of humor with "The Ugliest House on The Block" and the confessional of "Spiders In My Bed". In fact, when Hart is indulging in the more confessional side of her songwriting, that is when some of her most powerful music is on display. Songs like "Take It Easy On Me", "Mama This One's For You", "My California" and the beautifully alluring "Leave The Light On" grab you and tend to fill you with emotions even though the stories behind those songs aren't your own.

The DVD comes with a behind the scenes video as well as an interview with Beth Hart. There is also a 2 disc CD release out of the performance as well. That is the exact same track listing as the DVD for those that wonder if the songs are the same.

Much like her Live At Paradiso concert film release, Live At Royal Albert Hall captures Beth Hart at a particular place and time in her career. It's the peak of where she finds herself as an artist and performer at that time and much like that previous live release, this DVD is a shining, sparkling encapsulation of an artist in full bloom!

Rating: 5 Stars!



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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:26 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby verslibre » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:53 am



Was so disappointed by RDC's debut. No surprise to hear that the follow-up's no better.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby verslibre » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:54 am



OTOH, nice to see Heep can still bring it.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:12 pm

verslibre wrote:


Was so disappointed by RDC's debut. No surprise to hear that the follow-up's no better.


I liked the 1st CD but was really disappointed by this one.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:12 pm

verslibre wrote:


OTOH, nice to see Heep can still bring it.


Yeah, this was a really great listen.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Dec 19, 2018 11:41 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Thu Dec 20, 2018 11:59 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Sat Dec 22, 2018 7:56 am

Joe Bonamassa

Redemption

J&R Adventures - 2018

http://www.jbonamassa.com

It took me a long time to get around to being able to write this review. The first time I listened to Redemption, I only managed to get through 8 of the albums twelve tracks before I got sidetracked. I didn't end up rushing back because in all honesty, I wasn't all that impressed with most of the songs I did hear.

Fast forward a couple months later and I popped the disc in my player and took another listen. I do have to say that I found a few things more to my liking this time around. Bonamassa's soloing on the title track and the album closing "Love Is A Gamble" are outrageously good.

But I still seemed to be relatively unimpressed with far more of this album than with other albums from Bonamassa in the past.

While the opening track "Evil Mama" features yet another good solo, I had a hard time really sticking with the song as a whole. "Self-Inflicted Wounds" was a slow moving burner of a blues song that came off as kind of "blah", at least until the latter portion of the song when the pacing picked up a bit. Still, it really didn't set my music heart aflame.

Then you have songs like "Just 'Cos You Can Don't Mean You Should" which features a ton of spectacular guitar work but lyrically left me rather bored. Meanwhile, I was unmoved by "I've Got Some Mind Over What Matters" and "Stronger Now In Broken Places". Neither song really stuck with me longer than it took for the tracks to play.

Of course, this isn't to say that there aren't some pretty decent tracks on Redemption as well. I loved the conjured up vibe on "Deep In The Blues Again". "The Ghost of Macon Jones" was a jaunty little number with a lyrical story that kept you glued to the speaker for each successive line.

With tongue placed firmly in cheek, Joe Bonamassa has a playful almost slinky delivery to the lyrics on "Pick Up The Pieces", an uptempo track that manages to also create a smoky bar atmosphere to the song as well.

I really did love "Molly O'", a stomping bluesy rocker with an added intensity to the delivery of the music. But my favorite track overall had to be "King Bee Shakedown", which comes off as a rocking blues number that you could get up and dance to. It keeps the adrenaline flowing from start to finish and your foot tapping.

If Redemption had had more memorable tracks like those last two, I likely would've enjoyed the album a whole lot more than I did. Maybe I'm in need of some musical redemption myself, but while there is fully half of the album that I would love to play on repeat again and again, it's the other half of the album that ends up leaving me with a slight feeling of disappointment.


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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Dec 31, 2018 1:51 am

Steve Perry

Traces

Fantasy Records -2018

http://www.steveperry.com

From the mid-to late '70's until the mid '90's, you would be hard pressed to find many people who wouldn't recognize that Steve Perry was one of the finest AOR singers in the business. From Journey to his two solo albums, Perry was one of those singers who could legitimately be thought of as a "voice of a generation".

And then, suddenly he was gone. Reportedly, despite making a few rare public appearances, his love of music just left him.

For more than 20 years, there was nothing to be heard from him. That is until the announcement of the pending release of this album. There was a lot of anticipation to hear new music that he had composed. And when the song "No Erasin'" was released in advance of the full Traces album, there was rejoicing across the land. Except from me that is.

I made the conscious decision to avoid hearing any of the music from the album until I actually had the album in my hands. Of course, the best laid plans ended up becoming me having the album but never quite getting around to listening to it until now.

I know there has been a ton of positive press and reviews about the album so for those who loved Traces, you might want to stop reading now. Because I really found this CD to be a relatively painful slog of a listen.

I have to listen to an easy listening type station at work when others are there and even that type of radio station wouldn't play the majority of the songs on this album. It's so laid back and polished to with an inch of its life that there's not even a hint of an edge on most songs. I know that a lot of people will think I'm committing musical blasphemy but most of this album is BORING!

It starts off okay with "No Erasin'", a solidly uptempo track that lets you hear Perry's vocals as they are now. It still sounds like him of course, but you can definitely tell there is a two decade difference in his vocal sound.

While the musical soundtrack to the disc is appropriately lush given all the orchestration on the various tracks, I found that songs like "We're Still Here" and "Most Of All" were pretty sedate and kind of sleepy in their delivery.

I did think that "No More Cryin'" was a bit more involving though. The chorus really gave the song a boost too.

But with the exception of one other song, the rest of the material reduced my interest to the point of apathy. I wasn't expecting Perry to rock out like it was the mid-80's but I was hoping for a bit more than one flat sounding piece of balladry after another.

Speaking of rocking out, that one other song I mentioned was "Sun Shines Gray". Co-written by John 5 (strangely credited as John Five in the liner notes). The song also features him on guitar and with Josh Freese (from too many rock bands to mention) on drums, this is a song that is bursting with a huge rock energy. I loved this song a whole lot and it made me long for at least a couple more tunes of this nature.

The version of the album I got contained ten tracks, but there is a exclusive edition available from Target stores with 5 additional songs on it. I don't know what those sound like but I know that the basic version of this album could've used an extra helping of rock and roll to help even out all these damn ballads that made Traces an overall disappointment for me.


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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:37 pm

My personal top 10 of hard rock and heavy metal albums for the article were:

01.) Leather - II (Divebomb) (Review Link)
02.) Judas Priest - Firepower (Epic) (Review Link)
03.) Metal Church - Damned If You Do (Rat Pak) (Review Link)
04.) Dee Snider -  For The Love Of Metal (Napalm) (Review Link)
05.) The Dead Daisies - Burn It Down (SPV) (Review Link
06.) Uriah Heep - Living The Dream (Frontiers) (Review Link)
07.) Lords Of Black - Icons Of The New Days (Frontiers) (Review Link)
08.) U.D.O. - Steelfactory (AFM) (Review Link)
09.) Jizzy Pearl Of Love/Hate - All You Need Is Soul (Frontiers) (Review Link)
10.) Lizzy Borden - My Midnight Things (Metal Blade) (Review Link)

When I expand my list to include all genres of music, there are two additions which makes the list look like this:

01. LEATHER - II
02. JUDAS PRIEST - FIREPOWER
03. METAL CHURCH - DAMNED IF YOU DO
04. DEE SNIDER - FOR THE LOVE OF METAL
05. THE DEAD DAISIES - BURN IT DOWN
06. URIAH HEEP - LIVING THE DREAM
07. LORDS OF BLACK - ICONS OF THE NEW DAYS
08. U.D.O. - STEELFACTORY
09. BETH HART - LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL (Review Link)
10. MARC GUNN - AS LONG AS I'M FLYIN'
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:54 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Mar 25, 2019 2:54 am

Queensryche

The Verdict

Century Media Records - 2019

http://www.queensrycheofficial.com

Boldly taking a turn for the heavier and darker aspects of their sound and songwriting, Queensryche plays up their more overt political lyrical bent on their brand new release The Verdict.

With a far heavier and definitely more metallic sound than you might expect, the band gets your heart pumping right from the start.

While I wasn't all that enthused about the opening song "Blood of the Levant" when I first heard it while watching the official video for the track, I found that without the visuals, the song worked so much better in my mind. There's an undoubtedly political feel to the lyrics on a number of songs and this one is the kickstart to that.

Though the band's musical attack is hard and heavy throughout, they do seem to know when to ease off the gas pedal. The song "Light-Years" is a fast moving track that features a far more restrained midsection and solo, but still the song wins you over. The song "Inside Out" is another lively rocking track where the musical intensity goes up a notch during the chorus, yet then has a more contemplative solo.

Of course, the band also seems to pick and choose their spots to just pour it on. "Propaganda Fashion" has no preamble intro to it. It just explodes out of the speakers and musically speaking is an amazing sounding cut.

One of the three tracks I heard before the album was officially released was the song "Dark Reverie". Though it isn't in the band's current setlist, it is a pretty powerful song. It starts off a bit slower than some of the album's other material, but the chorus finds the metallic backbone growing stronger and as the song continues onward, it gets more and more intense through it's fade out.

There are some noteworthy things I wasn't crazy about with the album however. On "Bent" and "Unrest", I thought the studio affectation used on parts of the vocal track dampened my enthusiasm for the songs a bit.

On "Unrest", it came on the song's last main lyrical passage. That particular choice made the song one that I had to listen to over and over again to do a real deep dive on it. Asa for "Bent", the song is actually quite in your face. There's a powerful set of lyrics, but that vocal effect ruins the clarity of the song a bit for me.

Also, I was more than a bit unmoved by "Portrait". The song started off slow, got moderately more lively in its pacing but just never really met me halfway and I was strangely a little bored by the song.

Of course, those are just my nitpicks. And they don't truly affect my overall appreciation of the album overmuch.

For me, the best example of what Queensryche has done in terms of thematic consistency for The Verdict is the song "Man The Machine". It's a razor sharp perfect blend of musicianship and vocal prowess that shows the band off at its finest. The lyrics are pointedly political and there's no blunting of their edge. This particular passage caught my ear:

"So hail (HAIL), hail to deathmocracy

Hell for your thoughtcrimes, hail to your piety

Oh the irony, the antidote is the disease

the balancing of ignorance and atrophy"

The song "Man The Machine" is the standout track on the disc for me. It shows off the band as they are now to their greatest effect. And frankly, it is one of the best songs they've ever done. This is the kind of stuff I've been waiting for!

I've been sharply critical of singer Todd La Torre coming off sounding entirely too much like Geoff Tate but on this album, the remnants of that sound help lift the songs to a greater level of consistency in my book. Since the band added La Torre to the band, their music has reintroduced the heavier aspect of their sound and each album they've released has gotten better, step-by-step. It's not perfect, but it is pretty darn close and that's something I've been waiting to say for a long, long time.

With The Verdict, having staked their claim to the more hard driving metallic part of their musical nature, Queensryche is BACK!

Rating: 4.5 out 5.0



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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Apr 10, 2019 12:10 pm

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:36 pm

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Jun 05, 2019 4:57 am

Here's my review of the L.A. Guns CD The Devil You Know.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby yogi » Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:52 am

How about a review of the Dream Theaters Distance Over Time album. I’d like to see it here.

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Jul 01, 2019 9:04 pm

yogi wrote:How about a review of the Dream Theaters Distance Over Time album. I’d like to see it here.

Thanks


Thanks for your interest, but it is unlikely I will be reviewing that album. I've got enough stuff waiting to be reviewed already.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:37 pm

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby The_Noble_Cause » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:15 am



Great album.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:49 am

The_Noble_Cause wrote:


Great album.


Thanks for checking out the review and I'm glad you like the album as well.
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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Tue Aug 13, 2019 10:53 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:08 am

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Dec 02, 2019 10:19 pm

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:33 pm

Dave Bickler

Darklight

Deko Music - 2019

http://www.davebickler.com

I'm not quite sure what kind of expectations I had for ex-Survivor singer Dave Bickler's solo album Darklight when I first heard of its pending release.

But whatever those expectations were, I'd venture to say that they were met, and likely surpassed once I really got into this 11-track disc.

The album opens with the song "Hope" with Bickler's "dreaming of a better day". The mid-to-uptempo pacing of the song is the album's bread and butter but don't be fooled, this is anything but some kind of formulaic release.

In fact, the 2nd track on the album immediately ups the ante, sonically speaking. Bickler's past glory with Survivor may situate him as one of the kings of the 80's melodic rock sound but he sure does know how to give you a hard rocking track as well. The song "Fear Of The Dark" (which is not a cover of the Iron Maiden song!) has a slightly rougher scuffed up edge to it and there's a killer guitar solo towards the end of the song that helps illustrate the more hard driving rock side of Bickler's songwriting.

The song I thought had the most appeal to a more commercial audience was the song "Magic". It's got a deft mix of both a rock soundtrack and a real pop music sensibility to it at times too.

Of the 11 songs on the album, Bickler wrote nine of them on his own while co-writing the other two. Of those eleven songs, the only one that didn't strike my fancy so much was "The Gift". It has some moments but they just didn't seem to tie all together so the song didn't quite work for me.

Then there are moments when I thought I was going to be disappointed in a song but got surprised to find myself enjoying it. "Always You" conjures up the idea of a ballad, but instead the song has a strong rocking side to it (mixed with a slightly slower pace in the main lyrical verses) that just made the song sound cool. The song "Sea of Green" had me feeling the same way. Meanwhile, "Angel Heart" is a lyrical lullabye, something that you could kind of see singing to a child (although, not if you want them to go to sleep as it is slightly faster paced than a "baby in a treetop".)

With my preference for the more adrenaline fueled uptempo rock numbers, songs like "Time", "Lights" and "The Sky Is Falling" really worked me over. "Time" has a very edgy sound to the music and Bickler's vocals have a measurable gritty nature to them. "Lights" has a killer hook to it and "The Sky Is Falling" closes out the album on a kind of crescendo.

For better or for worse, Dave Bickler is always going to be remembered best for being the singer of the Survivor smash hit single "Eye of the Tiger". But what people are likely to forget is that there is more to an artist than just their best known work. I'm sure I'm guilty of not paying proper respect to the width and breadth of many an artist's full catalog of material. But what I do know is that Dave Bickler's Darklight is one of the more entertaining rock and roll albums that I've heard all year and I'm a better music fan for having heard it. Fellow music fans, now it's your turn, go check this album out!

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Re: My CD Reviews Thread

Postby TageRyche » Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:48 am

Sabaton

The Great War

Nuclear Blast - 2019

http://www.sabaton.net

After being introduced to Sabaton via their album Heroes and loving it, my fandom for the band continued to grow with their next album The Last Stand. I've spent a lot of time over the last few years beating the drum for the greatness of the band.

So when I saw the news that they'd be releasing their new album The Great War and that it would be all about World War I, I was kind of excited to hear it. I bought the album when it came out but time and circumstances conspired against me listening to it until recently.

And while I still think the album is pretty good, I have to say that when stacked against their previous two releases, I think The Great War suffers by comparison.

First off, the band's penchant for well told tales of history is completely intact. I take no issue with the album in that regard. Between the lyrical content and the brief text explanation behind each song that accompanies the lyrics in the booklet, the stories that I either was or wasn't aware of are invariably of such interest that I want to learn more on my own.

No, instead I just wasn't swayed as much as I have been in the past with the songs themselves. Or perhaps I should say the delivery of the songs.

In the telling of people, places (where battles occured) and things in charting the course of World War I (aka the war to end all wars), the album does start off exceedingly well.

Starting with the introduction of tanks to the battlefield in "The Future of Warfare", Sabaton delivers a trio of killer tracks to get things off to a smashing start. And while it may seem odd to say this given the subject matter, the band has a knack with crafting some memorably rhythmic choruses. The fast charging nature of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", which is about Lawrence of Arabia has an instantly memorable chorus that I found myself actually singing along to rather quickly. As for the song "82nd All The Way", the tale of Alvin York is one of the best tracks on The Great War from the first time you hear it.

But when "The Attack of the Dead Men" starts, the adrenaline produced by the Swedish power metallers is sapped away a bit. The song is markedly slower. It didn't gel together all that well to my ears, lacking the melodic sensibility the band usually is very much at ease in displaying in their songwriting.

It may seem slightly jingoistic on my part but as Sabaton sang about the U.S. Marines in "Devil Dogs", I couldn't help feel a surge of patriotism. There's a very cool vibe that echoes throughout the songs.

Though I thought the intro to "The Red Baron" was a bit odd, the song unfolds in such a rapid fire manner that the intro is soon forgotten. If you are somehow unable to conjure up the brutality and horror of warfare on your own, the opening two lines of "Great War" will go a long way in helping you get the full knowledge.

"Where dead men lies I'm paralyzed, my brothers' eyes are gone

And he shall be buried here, nameless marks his grave"

The song is from a soldier's POV during the Battle of Passchendaele and while I think Iron Maiden's "Paschendale" is a better track (the chorus for "Great War" is a bit weak), it is still pretty decent.

Besides "82nd All The Way", the best song on the album is "A Ghost In The Trenches". The song is about Francis Pegahmagabow and from the title to the lyrical content, this track won me over from the first listen. And when you read about the man's story, you want to know more about him.

After that song, the album kind of petered out for me. The Battle of Verdun is the subject of "Fields of Verdun" and while the song is bristling with pent up energy, it just didn't strike my fancy.

Sabaton charts the end of the war with "The End of The War To End All Wars" but the song somehow left me a little unmoved. The postscript of "In Flanders Field" was interesting in that they used the actual poem as the lyrics. But the quiet nature of the chorus of voices singing the lyrics helped the album fade out in a kind of unsatisfactory way for me.

I should stress that this is just how the album struck me. Call it a bit hit and miss because there are some wonderful metallic tracks here. I just think Sabaton didn't quite hit the bullseye for me this time out.

As much as it aspires to join the band's other recent releases in terms of greatness, I just found The Great War to be missing that little something extra that would've pushed it over the top in my estimation.


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