Blues of Desperation by JOE BONAMASSA — Reviewed Here

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We all know that when we have blues in our hearts there is no sun …

But sometimes we need to give in to despair … if only to see where real strength can be found …

Only when we have lost all hope — and in those desperate moments — a kind of reckless frustration absorbs and surrounds us. In this state of mind we are often at our most productive — in despair we find zealous inventiveness…

We cannot imagine what kind of pain stimulated the world-famous New York blues rock guitarist & singer/songwriter JOE BONAMASSA to venture down to Grand Victor sound Nashville [the historic recording studio owned by Ben Folds] along with longtime buddy and Caveman producer Kevin Shirley for an intense five-day session.

The session included such prominent musicians as South African session drummer Anton Fig, percussionist Greg Morrow, Cajun blues bassist Michael Rhodes, prog-rock keyboard wizard Reese Wynans — and a sizzling selection of horn players (like Supertramp’s Lee Thornburg) along with some incredible singers such as Mahalia Barnes and Juanita Tippins … But whatever dark blues tipped Bonamassa into creating “Blues of Desperation ” we are sure that this is his most highly-flavoured, courageous and fully conscious offering yet.

If, after looking at that fine list of musicians, you are thinking that this album could maybe be a little indolent & well upholstered — perhaps even self-congratulatory and complacent — think again. These songs are rough-hewn, undernourished, hungry for affection and often emotionally insecure. Stains and bruises are all too clear. On these songs the blues are whiskey-soaked and tear-splashed.

Yes, it’s a stressful life and it’s filled with anguish. And so Bonammasa and his cracking team of Nashville tunesmiths such as country music artist James House, Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge [Lynyrd Skynyrd] Jerry Flowers and Jeffrey Steele plus workaholic two-time Grammy winning songwriter/producer Gary Nicholson [Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings] — will want you to relate to that sense of loss — the thirst — and the state of despair.

Darker and more bituminous than a cloud of culm-dust in Fayette County mine... Live photo by Laurence Harvey

Darker and more bituminous than a cloud of culm-dust in the Fayette County mineworks… Live photo by Laurence Harvey

I want people to hear my evolution as a blues-rock musician…” Said Bonamassa, about the new album. “Somebody who isn’t resting on accomplisments and who is always pushing forward and thinking about how music can evolve and stay relevant.

The disc begins with “This Train” and with a chank of rusted and jangled iron wheels on sparkled rails. This is a driving & purposeful number and it motivates the entire album.

The riff is darker and more bituminous than a cloud of culm-dust in the Fayette County mineworks, and with that kind of ashy submetallic luster we have come to expect from Bonamassa. Backing vocals peek out from behind the fibrous notches in the sound. And the creative drums pop & punctuate the air like sizzle cakes on a griddle.

Drive” is the first video to be taken from the album — this is cleverly ambient and filled with hollowbody fruitiness and gentle groove. This is as low-slung as you can get… Sleek as a panther-cat slinking for prey.

Title track “Blues Of Desperation” has a distinctly Native American ambience with some Ghost Dance rhythms, bullfrog roars and wild turkey gobbles. This number has a coppery sheen and dark beards of guitar that trill luminescently through a blotted landscape.

For a taste of imperturbable Cotton Club charm and silkalicious saloon bar greasiness try the track “Livin’ Easy” with its fluid, syncopated rhythms, chatting piano, titilating horns and dog-tired vocals.

The album concludes with “What I’ve Known For a Very Long Time” which has a punching burst of cold-worked copper guitar and some richly heartfelt vocals.

This album has it all — temperament, strength of personality and amazing perception.

It is self-possessed, serene and sometimes oh-so sober — yet it still radiates with sunflower brightness and huge bear-claws of passion and generosity.

Highly recommended.

Words: @neilmach 2016 ©
Main Image: Live photo by Marty Moffatt
Joe Bonamassa’s new album “Blues of Desperation” is released on March 25th via Provogue

Live at Radio City Music Hall — JOE BONAMASSA Abounds with Elegance and Dynamism

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The born New Yorker — Joe Bonamassa — has been playing since the age of four, gigging since the age of twelve.

He’s played all over the world, from the Beacon Theatre on Broadway to the Royal Albert Hall in London, from Vienna’s Opera House to the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado.

But one place has eluded him. It’s the Showplace of the Nation — the world famous “Radio City Music Hall” in Manhattan.

Bonamassa ... one place has eluded him... The Showplace of the Nation...

Bonamassa … One place has eluded him… The Showplace of the Nation

But in January 2015 Bonamassa took to the iconic Great Stage himself — for the first time — for a sold-out, two-night run that allowed him to realize his life-long dream.

This October 2nd, 2015 Bonamassa will share his experience with fans and music lovers around the world with his new release: “Joe Bonamassa Live at Radio City Music Hall ”.

It will be released as a DVD + CD set, Blu-Ray + CD set and 2 LP vinyl + MP3 download on Provogue in the UK.

The set features over 75 minutes of music, two newly recorded songs, nine unreleased live tracks, over 2.5 hours of live footage, and a special 45-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

Plus a 40-page collector’s book with exclusive photos, and a sneak peek into Bonamassa’s childhood home and musical heritage. Everything is beautifully presented in a superbly designed package.

The “Radio City” shows were the culmination and the finale of Bonamassa’s special half acoustic/half electric tour, which he had show-cased around the world for the past year and half.

The first set has Bonamassa alongside the acoustic band “The Huckleberries” playing numbers from “An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House (Live) – Joe Bonamassa.

He then shifts into regular electric mode for the stunning second half with his touring band.

The CD opens with a cover of the Muddy WatersAristocrat’ number “I Can’t Be Satisfied” which has a lively rhythm and demonstrative guitar-work.

Here, the gritty voice of Bonamassa is the centre of attention for much of the number — though the elegant and slippery keyboard work from Reese Wynan helps to loosen the joints a bit. Not that this is inflexible and ungenerous, it just needs help to decompress a little.

One Less Cross to Bear” is much more strongly earthy. It’s uptempo and horned out — (Lee Thornburg on trumpet & Nick Lane on trombone.) With a petticoat tearing flounce, this is exciting and indestructible.

There also a fantastic drum/percussion solo ( Tal Bergman with Lenny Castro. ) And the number is completed by the red, inflamed tingling of guitar from Bonamassa himself — which blazes across the boundaries.

Dust Bowl” is one of the acoustic numbers performed at “Radio City”. This crowd favourite is jangled and stippled here. It has a sweeping sage-brush embrace and a mop of melody.

This is where Bonamassa reveals that his voice can be convincingly emotional.

The song builds into something far bigger than the sum of it’s parts: with bristlecone mandolin work from Gerry O’Connor, rose-bellied keys from Reese Wynans, choice mandola from Mats Wester and hot, switchgrass percussion from Lenny Castro.

So, What Would I Do?” from the ‘Different Shades of Blue’ LP befits the distinguished surroundings. It’s elegant and chic. Without being overstated.

Starting with Reese Wynans’ perfectly tailored keyboards, then promising brass; Lee Thornburg (trumpet) Nick Lane (trombone) and Paulie Cerra (sax) — this strides modestly towards a satisfying and expressive climax.

Never short of blues-energy and with much improved vocals from the man himself — this collection abounds with elegance and dynamism.

Here are collar and tie numbers that are spree enough to make you smile and wanna dance. But also distinct and elegant enough to make you yearn to hear them again-and-again.

Words: @neilmach 2015 ©
Link: https://www.facebook.com/JoeBonamassa

Pre Order Now on iTunes Live at Radio City Music Hall – Joe Bonamassa or Amazon here: Radio City Music Hall [CD+DVD]

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LOCK UP LAURA Masquerade

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On May 2nd UK rock band Lincoln’s (UK) melodic alt-rock band “Lock Up Laura” will be releasing their highly anticipated 2nd album titled “Masquerade”.

Lock Up Laura
were recently announced for the main stage at SOS Festival Saturday 18th July.

Lock Up Laura  - self-controlled yet melodic sounds...

Lock Up Laura – self-controlled yet melodic sounds…

We had a listen to the new album:

The Jury’s Out’ will be the first single from Masquerade.

It is a dark beast. With fire in its belly.

Lee’s vocals are tall and strong — they display an outer manliness that barely conceals the rage felt beneath the surface.

Around this voice, bearded guitars hang-loose and ferment passionately.

And, at about the 2 minute mark they pad into view like irritated lions… moving in to take over the water-hole.

Broken Man’ has narrow gorges of painfully dark guitar running through it.

The regular thud of the beat will help to propel this number into the mosh-pit— but it’s that creative and supremely melodic chorus that actually entices you closer.

There is also plenty of startling beauty on this album.

Alone With You’ has sparkling finger-picked guitar and a passionate vocal that fuses the enduring pain of longing with the salvation of hope.

After a short while a tribal thump begins to accelerate the song forwards… Then things break wide open.

The anxiety of false-hope is made clear and the vibrancy will take your breath away. This is a quality closer.

Sturdy alt-rock with an angry underbrush of strong, self-controlled yet melodic sounds and a mature vocal that radiates confidence and unquestionable authority.

Words: @neilmach 2015 ©

Link: https://www.facebook.com/LockUpLauraMusic/

WINTER IN EDEN Album Review

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We always supposed that living in Eden was like living in the Big Brother house. Except worse.

There is not much going on. There are a lot of small, annoying tasks. And an omnipresent authority figure watching over you. Criticizing everything you try to do.

In Eden you would get up around midday. You would schlep over to the orchard. And choose an apple for lunch.

You would try to avoid stepping on snakes. And that’s about it.

Above all, you would wait in joyful hope for an early eviction.

After the heavenly Court Of Conscience ... Adam and Eve were secretly very happy when their double eviction came up...

After the heavenly Court Of Conscience … Adam and Eve were secretly very happy when their double eviction came up…

Eden was a boring existence. No crafts. No books. No sports. No music.

Adam and Eve were secretly very happy when their double eviction came up. It meant that they could finally get on with their lives.

The problem is, paradise is always nice. You never get to appreciate the good things you have. Because you have nothing to compare them against.

There is no dark side. There is no winter. In Eden.

The five-piece symphonic rock outfit – Winter In Eden – from the North East of England – are about to release their third full-length album ‘Court Of Conscience’ this year. After facing the Court Of Conscience – Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise. Probably with a smile upon their guilty faces…

Recorded in The Netherlands and produced by Ruud Jolie and mixed by Stefan Helleblad (Within Temptation) – ‘Court Of Conscience’ will be released in the UK in the Autumn.

We had an early listen:

The album opens with a remarkably sorrowful piano.

This teeters on the ‘Knife Edge.’ Vocals from Vicky Johnson are expressive and grandly bodiced.

The accompaniments seem to accentuate the neckline of her warm, dark deeds.

Vocals from Vicky Johnson are expressive and grandly bodiced

Vocals from Vicky Johnson are expressive and grandly bodiced

With Intent’ is demonic in its majesty. It has a thunder in its heart.

And a treacly blackened synth exudes like glue from the Tar Pits of Hades.

Guitar and bass are black as bitumen. And once they absorb into your mind you are unable to move against them. This is sinister. But wonderful.

Toxicate’ has clear roots in blues-rock. The jangle of guitars enclose around a central theme in highly decorative swirls.

It’s Not Enough’ is gentle and progressive. With tiny droplets of sound lightly tapping across those buxom vocals. Then it rises like a scaly wyvern.

The Script’ has a deliciously harmonic opening. And a sleeting of keyboards.

Gentle rhythm guitar fluctuates under the skin. And that wonderful lead vocal rises like a communion croque-en-bouche. Enrobed in a glaze of spicy bitterness.

Satisfying low-chords. And an angular framework

Satisfying low-chords. And an angular framework

Constant Tomorrows’ has a metallic haze to it. Like a badly scuffed hub-cap. And then ‘Behind Closed Doors’ has some satisfying low-chords. And angular framework.

The album concludes with ‘Affliction’ and some fiery fretwork by Sam Cull. This is, in a nutshell, a crush-loading heavy-metal track.

It runs down recognizable tramways. And stops off at all the well-known points. But the mechanism of this song takes on some dark and wonderful diversions too.

With hooks of bass cunningly constructed by Ian Heddle. And adept drums from Steve Hauxwell, it flies like a banshee.

With tiny droplets of sound lightly tapping across buxom vocals - this song  rises like a scaly wyvern

With tiny droplets of sound lightly tapping across buxom vocals – this song rises like a scaly wyvern

Add to these the flustering synths from Stevie J – they growl and wilt – and you have a song that is full of drama and urgency.

Audience satisfaction is guaranteed for this album. All the musicianship is superb. And the vocals are revealing and demonstrative.

For those who like symphonic rock this will be a great pleasure. Not as dark or as doom-laden as Gothic metal (it has clean vocals throughout) – this is accessible and non-threatening.

Could it have been more dark atmospheric? Yeah, maybe so.

But this never feels stilted or too melodramatic. It retains a lightness of touch and an optimistic outlook. Without appearing poppy or ephemeral.

@neilmach © 2014

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Winter-In-Eden/110545798972772

BAD FOR LAZARUS Album Review

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The word ‘CARNIVAL’ has its roots in the eating of flesh.

The derivation is from hungrily gnawed bones, guzzled cartilage and flapping skin (think ‘Carnivore’.)

The word brings to mind cadavers and murderous ravaging. Or so it should! Carnival should bring a chill to the bone.

Bad For Lazarus - think 'Carnivore'

Bad For Lazarus – think ‘Carnivore’

In this respect, the title of the new album by UK’s Bad For Lazarus – “Life’s A Carnival, Bang! Bang! Bang!” makes perfect sense.

The period of Carnival was designed to replace the primordial festivals of the god Saturn.

At this dark time of the year he demanded human victims – sacrifices.

This probably explains the masks, the gift-giving, the liberation, the continual partying and the spontaneous celebration of a bounteous earth.

We celebrate Carnival because we are lucky to still be alive. We are happy because we haven’t been chosen as a victim. Yet. It is a grotesque party.

So, as you can imagine, this new album from Bad For Lazarus is properly deviant.

To be released July 28th 2014 [1234 Records] we had an early listen:

Sizzles like a pig-fat burning effigy

Sizzles like a pig-fat burning effigy

Tos And Fros” begins with badly squeezed acidic sounding guitars.

Disorderly drums plod around like dinosaurs in slippers.

The vocal is inflamed, hot and cunningly incisive.

The song requires your attention. The whole piece sizzles like a pig-fat burning effigy.

Caught In The Twist” begins with a series of rude shrill squeaks – the percussion is a mix of bones and sausages.

The voice is high and well mannered. It pontificates around, and places itself above the huddled masses of sound below. Appearing both proud and condescending.

At heart, though, this is a rockabilly boogie-woogie number. With that promised twist.

Waltzing ‘My Muddle’ slides and glides. And ‘No Cigar’ is a little plinky-plonky. A tiny bit bit sci-fi. Intelligent and revolutionary.

Disco Biscuits (For Breakfast)‘ is a bit of a departure from the other tracks. The candy-wrapper sweetness unfolds. To reveal a thread of textures and flaky pip-squeak rhythms.

Huge chunks of whammy vibrato

Huge chunks of whammy vibrato

Bad Stallion” is glam and stardusty. With huge chunks of whammy vibrato – big enough to fill the Albert Hall – this is set up like an overwhelming Duane Eddy barn stormer.

The vocal bounces around like an extra -terrestrial squash-ball.

It‘s like Bowie’sVelvet Goldmine” – swept away by the Surfaris.

It’s a gleaming mix of cheering androgynous glitz and hot rod shininess.

7 Minute Itch” features the vocals of Leila Moss from The Duke Spirit. It is is smoky and asphyxiating.

It has a thick bar-room mugginess to it.

But the rattle of the rhythm and the sleazy attitude will keep you awake at night. And that chorus is insidious. It creeps into your brain. It will not let go.

Bad for Lazarus short

Old Rats On A New Ship’ is another wonderfully crafted creation. Something that would not be out of place on stage – with Bowie – in his Stardust days.

Brimming with face-stars, sequins and silvery streaks in the hair. It is a thing of bouffant beauty. A plump, parading pompadour of punchy quiffs and duck-tailed stickiness.

This is one of our favourite tracks on the album.

D For Conversation” seems to be about boredom at parties. It is a speed loaded rocker and all-round fizzer. ‘The Twenty Four’ feels like a continuation of the same party. But this time, the clothes are strewn out – onto the floor. The shoes are off. And we have all fallen – in a messy heap – into the bathroom.

Which, perhaps, explains why it sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned aquatic centre.

A parading pompadour of punchy quiffs & duck-tailed stickiness

A parading pompadour of punchy quiffs & duck-tailed stickiness

Billiards’ reminds us of “The Bewlay Brothers” (Hunky Dory – 1971) It has the same sense of dread.

A schizophrenic tendency to be happy and drunkenly hugging at you one minute – but then dangerously violent the next. This is one to watch.

Or it will stab you in the neck without a second thought.

The slightly undulating – drunk – rhythm lurches from side to side. And the gnome-like voice is accompanied by spattering, dangerously licking guitars.

This track builds and builds – until we reach a climax of disaster. It is a tragedy just waiting to happen.

This is a carnival of a life … BANG! BANG! BANG!

It’s a Feast for Fools.

Passionate, decadent. As sweet as sugar rock. And as frothy as a bottle of hastily sabred Veuve Clicquot.

This needs to be played at maximum volume to be fully appreciated. Incredible!

9/10

@neilmach © 2014

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/BadforLazarus

 

Snakecharmer Album Review

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Originally founded in 2011 by former members of WhitesnakeSnakecharmer is a super-group that is made up from some of the best musicians in this country – Micky Moody and Neil Murray (Whitesnake), Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash), Harry James (Thunder), Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and Chris Ousey (Heartland.)

The band have now issued their self-titled début album – released on Frontiers Records and recorded at Liscombe Park Studios. We had a listen:

Melodic ‘My Angel‘ begins with a voice that is irresistibly tense – fanned out against some skilful acoustic guitar – but soon the sounds chug in and we are greeted by a very pleasant “You’re my Angel…” sing-along chorus. During the bridge, the Wakeman keyboards glide like butter into the folds of the song – and then a magnificent guitar solo oozes out – followed by another burst of sparkling sound. This is a wonderful track.

DSC_0265

Chris Ousey – Images by Neil Mach ©

 

Accident Prone’ steps along stridently, with plenty of honeydew organ and lustrous grinding guitars. It actually sounds like a Terry Britten number (but written by Wisefield and Ousey ) and is a song about shaking the blues away … it is dramatic, impulsive and full of irresistible momentum.

To The Rescue’ simmers like a steaming jambalaya – the sweet notes of organ wisp around the heart-rending voices – the pulsating riffs stabilise gradually and, soon enough, you’ll be boogying to the beat.

Blues-based ‘Falling Leaves’ is full of intrigue. A golden guitar decorates the darkness, as the suffering voice of Ousey bleats out in futile desperation. This song will capture your heart. And trammel it like a cheap sponge.

A Little Rock & Roll’ sounds like something that 1970’s Zeppelin has been grappling with. And‘Smoking Gun’ really reminded us of something by the British progressive rock act Warhorse (the Ashley Holt incarnation) … it will tingle the toes of any Wakeman fans out there – and it’s our favourite track on the album. It’s deeply soulful, full of lively rhythms, and it flaunts a melody-line that is as exorbitant as it is completely addictive.

But I can imagine that most people will choose ‘Stand Up’ as their favourite track on this convincing album. This James/Ousey number is like all your best 1980’s moments rolled into one. It is wildly poetic, and is full of wild-hot, sky-high guitars that fly up to temporarily dazzle you. It’s perfect stuff!

snakecharmer shortWith a twanging intro that reflects the words, the next song ‘Guilty As Charged’ is about confessing to mistakes and purifying oneself through open-armed admission. The guitar solo twists like a spinning top halfway through this heart-aching song … but you will feel gladdened by the encouraging rhythms and the confident attitude of the pace.

The album ends with the catchy ‘Cover Me In You’ – this is a joyful, soulful number – and it shines with high quality, multi-layered musicality.

If there can be any criticism – any at all – it could be that some of the songs on this thorougly enjoyable album are perhaps a little too ‘radio-friendly and ‘commercial’ for the tastes of some young music lovers out there … some of the songs are clearly written for the benefit of a past generation of rockers who still want to live their best years. But what’s the harm in that?

But the quality and competence here is undeniable. And anyone with a beating heart and a brain in their skull will find something here that can be rapturously enjoyed and emphatically celebrated.

– © Neil_Mach January 20134 –

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/QEDG.snakecharmer

Ayreon The Theory Of Everything

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Ayreon is the flagship musical project by Dutch composer and multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen.

As with every Ayreon album, “The Theory Of Everything” – the new concept album – has each character being portrayed by one singer. Singers on this project include former King Crimson and current Asia member John Wetton, Marco Hietala of Nightwish and Tarot, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, and Tommy Karevik of Kamelot and Seventh Wonder.

The album also features various guest musicians such as keyboardists Rick Wakeman (ex-Yes),Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis), Keith Emerson (ex-Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater.

According to Lucassen, the album is “four long tracks divided into various segments” … there are 42 segments. Isn’t that the answer to life? (According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)
The subject matter is genius … and many of the songs within the song-cycle focus on – frankly – fairly baffling concepts. The big questions are examined – you know the ones. What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything? If you are a fan of particle physics – and you know the difference between a baryon and a quark, you are gonna love this. But don’t worry if you don’t understand all that waffle … because this project is as approachable as “Tommy.” It’s a rock ‘n’ roll show. That’s all. And that’s how it should be enjoyed.

Here’s our track-by-track review:

Stephen HawkingStephen Hawking wrote that, even if there was a theory of everything, it would not necessarily be a set of equations presented on a white- board: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” [The Mind of the Universe.] So why have great thinkers ( from Plato to Whitehead ) sought to describe our shared reality as a system that can be safely calculated and placed into a formula? Maybe it’s because we all share the desire to rationalize what we see and experience around us. And we also share the only real fear – fear of the unknown.

The first movement in the song cycle (Phase I: Singularity) starts with ‘The Blackboard.’ A rubbery bass bounce sits low against a sea-spray of infinitely higher sounds to open up this piece. Then a delicate guitar launches the words of ‘The Teacher’ (JB). It acts as a fire-dog … desperate to keep the unearthed and earthed together – to tighten the focus of existence. Petalled softly against his words are ‘The Girls’ own soft curls (Sara Squadrani – Ancient Bards.)

Rick Wakeman’s keys are strident on ‘The Theory of Everything part 1’ – the rapidly expanding keynotes mathematically uniting the expressions of the numbers with the far more spiritual world of music. Although the notes are well-formed (and played with excited vigour) – and they even naturally achieve an (almost) arithmetic self-control and balance – they are still ‘only’ musical vibrations. As such – and ordained by the gods – the mystical properties of sound are subject to the winds of heaven; They cannot be bound by mathematics. It is great to have those grand-magicians Wakeman and Emerson back on their legitimate thrones. Explaining these intricate ideas with their fingers of fire.

Overworked yet assiduous, The Prodigy shakes and stews over the unfathomable dimensions of his problems – in ‘The Prodigy’s World.’ We are reminded here that Prodigies are often savants. They may suffer non-severe forms of autism – often characterized by impaired abilities to interact socially (think of Dr. Sheldon Cooper in ‘The Big Bang Theory’.) It is often said that prodigies retreat back into the relative comfort of their own puzzled minds – to escape the imperfections and eccentricities of life. But, unfortunately for them, life itself cannot be rationalized. It can only be experienced. (Many a plot in the ‘The Big Bang Theory’.)

‘The Teacher’s Discovery’ allows us to glimpse into the perplexed world of an incredulous teacher who has just been out-smarted and out-classed by his own student. It reminds us of the struggle of minds. These sometimes occur between two giant intellects – often between a bright apprentice and his/her diminishing master. Sooner or later, every successful apprentice become the master. And the cycle continues. There are obvious parallels to Plato / Aristotle in this concept – but music lovers will also be reminded of the fictional relationship between Salieri and Mozart. As The Prodigy – played by Tommy Karevik ( Kamelot) prudently apologises – very humbly – for his intrusion into superior intellect: “Numbers just appear before my eyes…” He leaves the teacher struggling with the twin demons of envy and jealousy in his sceptical mind.

Rain ManAmidst smoky uilleann pipes (from Troy DonockleyNightwish) we reach ‘Love and Envy’ and a plateau of sane sounds – before we are introduced to the ominous rivalry that develops into ‘Progressive Waves.’ This is a dizzying kaleidoscopes of sounds and textures – a myriad turbulent vortices tumbling in a darkened space. They call forth the knotting twists and the corrupting turns of a perverted and distorted – yet innocent – mind.

With ‘The Gift’ we are introduced to ‘The Psychiatrist’ (played by John WettonAsia) who discusses The Prodigy’s gifts. But the flip-side of the boy’s character is also revealed at this time: “He just sits there – lifeless – for hours at a time… no expression on his face… His eyes staring into space.” The Prodigy reminds us of the character of ‘Tommy’ (from Who’s rock opera) the little boy who “didn’t hear it/ didn’t see it” – his fragile mind fractured by the intensity of existence.

Without getting too deeply into theoretical physics here, as listeners we can nevertheless appreciate any attempt to capture the magical concept of the ‘Eleventh Dimension’. This is the proposed “master theory” that unifies the five super-string theories (M-theory) and gets us as close-as-can-be-dared to that elusive and self-embracing ‘Theory Of Everything’. The strings are baggy on this track. Like slack-line webbing – stretched and bounced across oscillations. The woodwind sounds (Jeroen Goossens – Flairck) and later the violin bleats (Ben Mathot – Dis) are sedate and mournful – yet they flicker playfully like tongues of fire on drying embers. A blinding star-burst of silvery sounds then rises to create a white-out of cataclysmic delight.

There is a return to form for Rick Wakeman on this album. Those who have long wished for something similar to 1973’s sublime ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ only need now immerse themselves into this album to have confidence in his lasting abilities. ‘The Theory of Everything part 2’ closes Phase One of this song cycle. Amid skirls and whipped beats, Arjen’s own bass guitar gurgles, growls and fluctuates – and the intensity is multiplied to an astonishing level.

“Phase Two: Symmetry” starts with ‘The Consultation’ – and an image that once again reminded us of The Who opera ‘Tommy’ (when the Walkers take Tommy to a shrink and the doctor instructs the boy to “Look in the mirror.”) The ‘Diagnosis’ is a rocky number with squirming organ notes and rugged guitar chops. It’s an agreeable piece – the head-banging rhythms will be a treat for those in the audience less inspired by the constructs of Musical Theatre. ‘The Diagnosis’ moves smoothly and uninterrupted into ‘The Argument’ where the audience is asked to face the uncomfortable proposition that the The Psychiatrist will need to experiment on the boy. It seems that everyone wants a piece of his dazzling intellect. They all wish to take something from it. Every character has his/her own secret desires and they will machinate until they make their own dreams come true. They all want to share in that glory – no matter what the cost. And like the Teacher, we also have to come to terms with the fact that some stars might shine less brilliantly in the heavens – now a new hyper-nova has been ‘born’.

‘Quantum Chaos’ has a rapidly blinking beat and a spattered texture. But an acute melody rises from the drizzled splashes. This sounds like the spiralling tentacles of a giant cephalopod rising from the inky deep. This track is very reminiscent of ELP. Other highlights from this portion include the charismatic rise of ‘The Prediction’ – with each princely step of sound – it rises itself higher towards the paradise of the paradigm.

Press_Photo_11CD2 and Phase Three : Entanglement opens with ‘Fluctuations’ and begins with a quick burst of synth – blasted out against sizzling chords. A dark riff emerges, as a pliant rhythm exposes the vocal – this is like broken bark allowing sticky syrup to run free. ‘Transformation’ is an elegant mix of luscious organ sounds and rummy bass notes. This leads to the inevitable ‘Collision’ when the flying sounds remind us of fundamental particles colliding with each other. We recall our own experiences, and we remember that life can also present us with similar collisions. For example, what we have previously defined as indivisible (maybe a relationship) suddenly becomes exposed as fundamentally broken and shattered … even empty.

‘Side Effects’ wallows like a sick whale in a poisonous sea. An intensely allegorical synth-line gathers strength against the slimiest of algal piano notes. The Psychiatrist warns against further treatment. The Father (played by Michael MillsToehider) admits to his son that he has been treating him with a dangerous drug. A moogish synth snarls and seeps around this rancorous news, like a bloodhound irritated at having lost the scent. It bites into the remaining caustic rhythms with an air of efficiency.

‘Magnetism’ then reminds us very much of the instrumental “Last of the Wilds” by Nightwish (2007) on their ‘Dark Passion Play’ album – with Michael Mills (Toehider) on Irish Bouzouki. ‘Quid Pro Quo’ then continues with this spiritual Celtic theme. The pipes play wistfully, twisting out across a vapid landscape. Then, against an horrific, vile and darkly sinister sound – the plot changes course – creating a tense new under-current of woeful magnitude.

Phase Four: Unification begins with a lament on the cello (Maaike PeterseKingfisher Sky) and the ‘Mirror Of Dreams’ offers us a strikingly beautiful duet. This is followed up by a ripe bass thumbed against a chortle of guitar strings, and a chattering of rhythms. ‘The Lighthouse’ offers a place of solitude for the protagonist. ‘The Lighthouse’ is carefully chosen as a haven. Yes, it can be isolated and secure. But it also indicates its existence very boldly – in order to obtain the maximum effect. The remoteness of this piece is dramatically shattered by the second ‘Argument’.

‘The Parting’ is a song full of feeling. A grimace – a fake smile – and a nod of acceptance. The voice is pristine and proud – and it soars away … above the generous orchestration below. Although the arrangements in this piece reminded us of work by Danny Elfman – we were soon soothed by the illustrious guitar-play from Steve Hackett (Genesis). This begins to settle our mood and takes us from film-score territory and into a far more familiar prog -rock landscape. Very similar, in fact, to the work of Jan Akkerman on the second part on ‘Moving Waves’ (Focus 1971.)

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After the ominous ‘Visitation’ with it’s cluttered beats and wide smears of sound, the meeting of minds is revealed. And so we are neatly coaxed towards ‘The Breakthrough’. The lyrics on this track take on magical proportions – as the secret words of physics almost become a Druidic incantations. And through these magic words the next level is reached. “Science has evolved / The Mystery… solved”. And the final movement reaches its poignant conclusion with ‘The Note’.

The ‘Uncertainty Principle’ has it that the measurements of certain systems cannot be made without actually affecting the systems being observed. So, by examining a thing closely – we might be forming a relationship with that thing – and thus inadvertently influencing the outcome. The ‘Theory of Everything part 3’ is not, therefore, a dénouement – or an unravelling – but a tightening of all the constraints that keep us all in place – the characters – the musicians – the public. We are all connected by the ‘ Uncertainty Principle’. Perhaps, then , this is the ‘ Theory Of Everything‘ – and that’s how it can finally be explained. A sense of completeness. Cohesion and unity.

Our experience of this huge piece of music will be personal. Clearly, we will enjoy the movements as they are intended – as a triumphant piece of musical theatre. But we might also ponder the many implications that each segment reveals.

This is a wonderful and engaging opus, from one of the truly great masters of progressive rock. Brought to life by an extraordinary collection of some of the greatest musical talents that live on the planet. You will experience this and re- live it. Time and time again.

– © Neil Mach October 2013 –

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/ArjenLucassenOfficial

9/10

The new Ayreon album is now available for pre-order on iTunes.

Images of Ayreon by Lori Linstruth

Zim Zam Zim Arthur Brown

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He’s one of the most original performers in the world – he’s The God Of HellfireArthur Brown.

The founding father of theatrical progressive rock – the movement that influenced Alice Cooper, Peter Gabriel, and more recently, The Prodigy. Arthur is now more than 70 years old, with over 45 years heavy rocking under his belt. But he is always fresh, energetic and disconcertingly innovative. He has now released “Zim Zam Zim” – a stunning collection of new songs – funded by fans and supporters on the PledgeMusic site. The album features contributions from more than a dozen friends and colleagues – most importantly Jim Mortimore (bass, guitars, percussion & voices) and Sam Walker (drums, percussion, voices & keys.)

‘Zim Zam Zim’ begins with a swirling, juicy sax sound and a booming Dave and Ansell Collins type voice that calls you into the curious world of Arthur Brown with the line: “You’ve got to hold the vision in your heart.” Yes this track sounds like ska. But it also has a ponderous, tribal beat – and some somersaulting, trapezing, horns that stride across the tortured screeches till they reach the inevitable starlight. This is a circus overture all right … for the longest standing ringmaster in the business.

‘Want to Love’ is about a “damaged man”. Arthur’s voice is not too dissimilar to Tom Jones (yes, you better believe it) but the simple tune is spread out like chocolate spread slammed against a pebble-dashed gravel pit of rattling textures. All the while, an elephantine bass beat wallows below. It’s a great piece.

‘Jungle Fever’ is also seasoned and smelly. It’s as fruitfully delicious as slurpily sucking the pips from an over-ripe paw-paw. But this is also an unrefined blues number – with vocals that will make you sit up and listen. The drama and the demonstrative tension is all here. It is a superb number.

‘The Unknown’ is probably the first single from ‘Zim Zam Zim’. It sounds like a classic cabaret song. You can almost imagine a shady jazz singer pacing the boards in some Bohemian back-street brothel of the 1930’s. It’s a take on the madness of modern life with some magnificent bar-room piano and tumescent accompaniments.

After ‘Muscle of Love’ with its jingling bells and ding-a-ling percussion, we arrive at the jumble-full ‘Junkyard King’. The vocals are almost spoken here, and the bass hums like mammoth blow-flies infesting the dangerous wastelands within our souls.

‘Light Your Light’ is one of the more progressive tracks on the album. A sweet ballad, it is silky and lean. It ripples gently against dreamy synth sounds and eloquent rhythms. ‘Touched By All’ has a biscuity crust created by piano – with Arthur’s elegant voice enunciating clearly against the water-colour washes. The background reminded us of Tubular Bells. This is another side to Arthur Brown – a poetic celebration … and the listener is reminded that he is always ready to feed our senses.

Arhtur-Brown-2-©-Neil-MachThe album ends with ‘The Formless Depths’ – with its foreboding bass beat and itching percussion. The voice is angrier here … more whiskery. This is a warning song. We have arrived at the crucial moment when the world may well pivot into chaos, agony and possible human extinction. Yes, the screams of the night are drawing closer and closer … and soon we will not be able to escape “The final twisting joke…”

A momentous album. And a collection that will delight the young and the not-so-young. Go grab it. And enter the crazy world.

9/10

– © Neil_Mach January 20134 –

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/arthurbrownmusic

http://www.arthur-brown.com/

BUFFALO SUMMER Album and Tour

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Welsh classic rock outfit BUFFALO SUMMER have been announced as special guests to KADAVAR (Nuclear Blast Records) on their UK tour this October.

Their new self-titled alum is released this week on Cargo Records.

This latest news follows a highly successful year for Buffalo Summer – already in 2013 this young classic rock band have toured the UK / Europe with Skid Row, Ugly Kid Joe, Walking Papers (Duff McKagan) and Heavens Basement as well as playing 2 shows at Download Festival 2013.

We had a listen to the new album and here’s what we thought:

Buffalo Summer LongThe album starts with “She’s All Natural” – and an effervescence of fire eating guitar – that crackles along. The voice climbs, spins, and vibrates. But it’s that guitar that is amoral and as sinfully elegant as asilk glove tugged from slinky burlesque dancer.

Down to the River’ has a twangy country vibe. Bubbles of guitar sputter and buzz around the main hook, and the voice sharp-shoots out like a dud Harley V-twin on a bad day. But the simmering guitar will gently purr into your ear – to give you the chills – and to make your day.

Truth From Fable’ has an epic feel and a dramatic start. Andrew’s voice is manfully up for the job. Hirsute and masculine. Then ‘A Horse Called Freedom’ arrives. This has about the same pace as the previous track. It shakes and staggers like a hay wagon on a hill. The chorus on this track is fabulous and bold, and it should be a real pleasure when Buffalo Summer play it live.

Rolls On Through’ starts out like “Foxy Lady” – Jimi Hendrix – all soap suds, stinging guitar licks, scurrilous bass sounds and a thoroughly starchy voice. Then ‘Ain’t No Other’ shoots in with a lascivious rhythm and oodles of power-metal thunder … and it hurtles along next to the vocal. It’s a silver-moon extravaganza. That’s what it is.

There is something so definitely Led Zeppish about ‘March Of The Buffalo’ – that it will blow your mind. It’s the stand out track on this disc (for sure) and it’s as potent and as strutting as a dandy in hell. The rhythm imposes itself deep inside your innermost recesses. And the cocky riff will make you smile impurely to yourself. The acrobatic vocal flies high – as it inverts itself – like a gravity defying pole-dancer on her last spin.

Keep On Runnin’ sounds like a biker anthem to us. It evokes memories of burning oil pans, greased up chains and smoking pipes. Then ‘Typhoid Mary’ screams in like a Mountain Buzzard on the kill.

This exciting album concludes with ‘Ol’ Duke’ and an immensely infectious riff. The verse is so titillating and proud that it really reminds us of Aerosmith. You gotta believe it… this is the real pumpin’ thing.

Our verdict: Sexy, dirty, blues-rock that is so darn addictive you’ll need several sessions of rehabilitation to get over it.

– © Neil_Mach August 2013 –

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/buffalosummer

UK Tour Dates

Oct 23rd London – Borderline
Oct 24th Wolverhampton – Slade Rooms
Oct 25th Glasgow – Cathouse
Oct 26th Nottingham – Bodega
Oct 27th Manchester – Deaf Institute
Oct 28th Bristol – Exchange

Cyril Neville Magic Honey

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Cyril Neville longl Cyril Neville was born in the “Big Easy” in 1948 and has been pedalling his brand of Southern funk & soul around the New Orleans club circuit for over 40 years. With ‘The Neville Brothers’, ‘The Meters’ and the ‘Royal Southern Brotherhood’ he has stamped out a breathtaking reputation.

He founded the New Orleans Musicians Organized (NOMO) movement – which helped musicians who needed business advice with their careers. And he has self-published several solo albums over the years. He left his beloved city after Katrina – vowing never to return.

Cyril has guested on various other artist’s recordings over the years, including on albums by Edie Brickell, Jimmy Buffett, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, Tab Benoit, and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux amongst many others.

CyrilNevilleIn 1974, the Rolling Stones offered ‘The Meters’ a support slot on their bands sold-out tour if only they would hire Cyril Neville to sing and front the band. It just so happened that – at this time – ‘The Meters’ were looking to expand their line-up. So they asked Cyril to join them on vocals and congas. He went on to contribute to such albums as 1972’s ‘Cabbage Alley‘ and 1975’s ‘Fire on the Bayou‘.

His work as a defender of human rights does not stray far from his art. The joys, the complications and the frustrations of growing up in the oppressed South can be heard throughout his catalogue- as a solo artist – and as well as his work with The Neville Brothers.

Cyril’s new CD, “Magic Honey” is to be released in the UK in September on Ruf Records and was produced by David Z (Buddy Guy, Neneh Cherry, Prince.) It’s full of sexual innuendo and magnificent dirty-strutting, funky blues.

The history of sexual connotation in blues music, goes right back to the roots. Singers in juke joints were often outrageous. Robert Johnson once asked a girl in a song to “Squeeze my lemon baby… ‘til the juice runs down my leg” (“Traveling Riverside Blues.”) And the listener was regularly entertained by a reliable banter of dripping honey, sweet bees, sticky sugars, floods of love, and a whole lot of ‘congregating’ that seemed to be going on. “Jelly roll” was sex – (it was also cash) – but some euphemisms were less ambiguous. Blues queen Bessie Jackson aka Lucille Bogan specialized in lewd songs. She recorded “Shave ‘Em Dry” in 1935 which – to this day – remains too rude to play (or even print) and includes lines that were a lot worse (believe me) than “I want you to grind me baby/ grind me till I cry.”

So the title track “Magic Honey” on the new album by Cyril Neville once again exclaims that proud tradition. Neville tells us all about his ‘Queen Baby’ who makes her magic honey night and day … “with honey dripping from her hive”. And when that honey drips out, it does so with a squeal of harp and a copulating rebound. The percussion (from ‘Mean’ Willie Green) begets the burning guitar (Cranston Clements) – and it all comes together in a torrent of funky fun.

Cyril Neville smallSwamp Funk’ is just as sweaty and also full of bravado. It’s a bumpin’ dance floor number that’s set deep in the moistly tumbling Spanish moss. Fragments of keyboards (from Dr John) stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the jumping spider-claws of hooky guitar . And there is always that fibrous thickly matted voice to admire – as Neville slinks and slides in out of the oily mangrove clumps.

The story of the cuckold is explored in ‘Another Man’: “I can see you slippin’ out at night/And you know that just ain’t right.” With Allen Toussaint’s exquisite keys and a shuffle-board sliding Latin-rock vibe – this track could have easily come from Santana’s ‘Abraxas’ (1970)

The sounds are squeezed out like toothpaste on ‘Invisible’ – with a sour-cream organ and pincer-like beats. And this sets us up wonderfully for ‘Blues Is The Truth.’ “Some Blues will bring you down low/Some will take you up to the sky” he tells us. Ain’t that the truth? The vocal on this track is as clear as a Mangrove Cuckoo call in the gloom. It tastes brackish and charcoaled – like a glass of a home-produced corn whiskey – taken from the jar.

Running Water’ is another funky sticky dance number. Walter Trout potioned up some foaming lyrical guitar-work on this one. Then we get to some more boldly rockin’ stuff with ‘Working Man’ which has a dusty beat and a heavy buzz. The manly riffs (courtesy of Mike Zito) fizzle like corn-cobs on the griddle platter. And the vocal is volcanically hot. “Got no time for living/They call me the working man” – It’s a sentiment we can all relate to.

Zito also chugs his stuff on ‘Money and Oil’ which is pretty much a condemnation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill – and almost everything else that we have to contend with right now. It’s a distilling of that feeling we all get – of inequality and inadequacy – when we are faced – head on – with the unbridled growth of the big-bucks corporations, their avoidance of any public accountability and their pursuit of huge profits … normally at the expense of the working man / environment / health / the whole capitalist system.

This satisfying album concludes with ‘Slow Motion’ with its clear-water silvery moonlight calypso atmosphere. And lyrics about watching a splendid ‘winding body’ move itself in the radiance.

And that reminds us that this is still all about sex.

9/10

– © Neil_Mach August 2013 –

Link:

https://www.facebook.com/CyrilNeville

Cyril Neville and The Royal Southern Brotherhood are on tour in the UK this autumn. Check http://www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com/ for tour details.