No fooling – we received a record number of submissions at the office this month. So many of them were real good but only a select few have risen to the top. Like choice treats in a basket these are the best and most interesting of the batch – let’s take a peep!
Call it Danger Trixter, Trixter Danger or Danger Danger Trixter Trixter but any way you slice it this new alliance from hair rockers Ted Poley and Steve Brown called Tokyo Motor Fist (www.frontiers.it) is sure to please. Throw in a well-honed rhythm section consisting of Greg Smith (Ted Nugent, Rainbow, Alice Cooper) and Chuck Burgi (Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, Joe Lynn Turner) and you can see why already many critics are calling this the album of the year. The opener “Pickin’ up the Pieces” picks up from Steve’s recent experience in Def Leppard and might have some fans flashing back to “Photograph” to get this project off to a picture perfect start. The eleven excellent tracks have everything that was good and right with the 80’s pop metal scene and this fist is ready to knock you senseless with its big guitars, big hooks, and big melodies. In our opinion the band rises on “You’re My Revolution” that finds Steve and Ted sharing the vocals and a message of love on the album’s top track. While not a radical departure from what they’ve done in the past the self-titled debut from Tokyo Motor Fist firmly plants their flag in the ground as they seek fervent followers in a new musical era. It won’t be long until arms are flying in the air in unison in a throw back to the glory days of the genre when TMF takes the stage.
Guitarist/songwriter Robby Krieger (www.robbykrieger.com) is best known for his work in the California psychedelic rock band The Doors but he has remained active over the years releasing solo records that explored classical, jazz and rock. Robby Krieger In Session is a continuation of these concepts with creative covers and mixes featuring an impressive list of guest artists such as Jackson Browne, Hawkwind’s Nik Turner, Asia’s John Wetton, Styx’s Tommy Shaw, and even the Star Trek captain himself, William Shatner. The 11-track album opens with The Beatles’ “Across The Universe”. Robby with Jackson puts a slightly different spin on the classic while staying true to form. “Hypernova” is a spacy instrumental that flows into a series of Pink Floyd songs culminating with the still disturbing and dramatic “Brain Damage”. Rod Argent rocks with Robby on “School”. “Deep Down” is mainly a spoken word piece with Captain Kirk commenting on fears. Next, Krieger adds a middle-eastern flavor to the “Little Drummer Boy” then its back to The Beatles with a vibrant version of “All You Need Is Love”. The CD concludes with a raucous and raw “Backdoor Man (live)” with Robbie nodding to his past on his most current project available now on Purple Pyramid Records
The Flaming Lips (www.flaminglips.com) take a foul-mouthed turn on their most recent OCZYMLODY that finds the pride of Oklahoma City still fracking away at the low-key electronic territory they’ve been exploring in recent years. The title track is the instrumental opener that launches the spaced out odyssey to a halting and hovering altitude. “How” is melodically pleasing even if it leaves you lying in the corner in the fetal position while the next track has the trio chasing unicorns with beatboxer Reggie Watts. Wayne Coyne’s vulnerable vocals re-emerge on “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)” that offers a glimpse of what the Lips do best as it shines with rays of reflective and emotive pop. Still, the three-time Grammy-Award winners never really lift off into the stratosphere on their fourteenth studio album and not even a cameo appearance by honorary Lip Miley Cyrus on “We A Family” can save this dysfunctional effort. We shout it with our megaphones and we’re not even on the bubble about this one – the latest album from The Flaming Lips is difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to listen to.
Steve Hackett (www.hackettsongs.com) is an immensely talented and innovative artist. He was the lead guitarist with Genesis as part of their classic line up with Gabriel, Collins, Banks and Rutherford. For a long time Steve’s compositions and playing have reflected influences from many genres, including blues, classical, jazz, prog, rock and world. Hackett’s The Night Siren echoes these interests. As implied in the title, The Night Siren is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division. But it is also a celebration of cultures and unity as musicians from different countries were invited to play on this 11-track CD. The opener “Behind the Smoke” is daring and dynamic focusing on the plight of refugees throughout the ages. This track set the serious yet stellar tone for the rest of the record. Later “West End” exposes the damages of war paired with the hope for a better planet. Other highlights are the agile “Anything But Love” which runs through a range of complex changes another signature of this compelling record. Talking about his current work, Steve says, “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over.” Utilizing un-worldly guitar tones and world artists Steve Hackett has an important message that needs to be heard by Genesis fans and a global audience.
On September 21, 2013 ASIA (www.originalasia.com) performed at the Sounds of the Ages Festival in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. During their set of hits and heady tunes they were joined by The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a special moment in time featuring the line-up of original members with the newly recruited young gun Sam Coulson on guitar. Says John Wetton (bass/lead vocals), “the show in the glorious Roman Theater of Plovdiv, with orchestra, along with the massive Sweden Rock Festival and the shows in the UK and the European tour thereafter, were the first dates of the new chapter of ASIA – and in my opinion, the band has never sounded better.” Now ASIA/Symfonia- Live in Bulgaria 2013 available in various formats may be bittersweet for fans with the passing of John Wetton earlier in the year. The CD opens with a solid version of the popular “Soul Survivor” flowing into the heavy “Time Again”. ASIA was a band that effectively blended pop and prog elements in songs that were compelling and complex. This collection proves that with singles such as “Only Time Will Tell” and “Heat of the Moment” along with intense, insightful tracks including “Holy War”, “Extraordinary Life” and “Days Like These” all well played in a live setting. ASIA/Symfonia – Live in Bulgaria 2013 is a great lasting legacy for ASIA.
With the recent passing of John Wetton there’s been a lot of talk about the impact that his Supergroup had on the direction of music in the MTV era. Now, another “amazing ensemble” of prog musicians including Billy Sherwood, Oliver Wakeman and Eric Gillette join project organizer and Canadian singer-songwriter John Vehadija to form Light Freedom Revival (www.lightfreedomrevival.com). Unfortunately, on their debut Eterniverse Deja Vu the driving force and least known quantity is the weakest link. Perhaps it’s us not ready to make the evolutionary leap but the album’s baker dozen of tracks never really rise to the promise of the players involved. In the liner notes John says he offers the project as a “proof that the complete frequency of the divine avatar template can be supported by the planetary crystal grids in the open”. We counter that the record is proof that every great band needs a superb frontman and we don’t find that resonating on this release. However, Eric Gilette deserves a shout-out for his ever sharp playing and Billy gets a nod for his much sought after bass skills. Comes with a great CD Digipack and artwork by visual artist Ed Unitsky. We just hope next time they put as much effort in the music as they did the packaging.
With Paging Mr. Proust The Jayhawks (www.jayhawksofficial.com) get the word out that they are still a folky-Americana outfit at the top of their game. The album’s dozen tracks find the core outfit led by Gary Louris (lead vox/guitars), Marc Perlman (bass), Tim O’Reagan (drums/vox) and Karen Grotberg (keyboards/vox) teaming up with rock royalty Peter Buck who co-produced the effort with Louris and Tucker Martine. Their patented big jangle is featured on “Quiet Corners & Empty Spaces” which opens the set. The group is often called one of the great American rock bands and critics are reporting that this collection ranks right up there with the best they’ve ever done and that’s saying a lot. “Lovers of the Sun” shines as it shimmers and exudes laid-back warmth. “Isabel’s Daughter” provides a lovely uplift that jams out on an extended coda with cool effect. “Ace” is sultry and saunters as it reveals the guys and gal have a new card up their sleeve. On Paging Mr. Proust The Jayhawks are still making fine music good for any type of day that might come your way.
We thought we recognized the face staring back at us on our Facebook newsfeed. It was Rhiannon Giddens (www.rhiannongiddens.com) who has recently come to the national forefront thanks to her role of Hallie on the critically-acclaimed fifth season of the music industry soap Nashville now on CMT. Rhiannon herself is a real-life resident of Music City and while she hasn’t yet spread her musical wings on the show her own career in the biz is really taking off. Giddens previously won accolades as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and she made her solo debut with Tomorrow Is My Turn that was one 2015’s most highly praised albums. For her second release Freedom Highway she takes another turn and a strong role in the songwriting on tracks that are as raw and as real as it gets. Remarking on the album Rhiannon offered, “These songs are based on slave narratives from the 1800s, African American experiences of the last century, and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and headlines from streets of Ferguson and Baltimore today. Voices demanding to be heard, to impart the hard-earned wisdom of a tangled, difficult, complicated history; we just try to open the door and let them through.” And, come through they do on the record’s soulful and heartfelt dozen tracks that tell the story of an oppressed people on the hard road to freedom via folky Americana and Bluegrass music underscored with Gidden’s expressive and pleasing banjo picking.
Ronnie Baker Brooks (www.ronniebakerbrooks.com) was born in Chicago. He picked up the guitar at age 6 and by 19 he was playing with his father Lonnie Brooks who had worked with some of the most respected bluesmen of our age. Ronnie’s Times Have Changed is a mix of covers and originals reflecting a range of influences that hint of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, James Brown and even Motown. It also demonstrates a maturity in song craft with tunes such as the title track – an insightful social commentary with fine fret work punctuating key points. A rap toward the end gives the song an extra modern edge. This 11-track CD is solid from start to finish with a lot of high points including the engaging opening number “Show Me” featuring Steve Cropper, the sassy and smart “Long Story Short” with horns adding to the funky blues vibe of the tune followed by the soulful “Give Me Your Love” with Angie Stone. The witty, table turning “Wham Bam Thank You Sam” is another winner. Times Have Changed has it all – sizzling guitars, solid rhythms, soul and plenty of style.
KXM (www.ratpakrecords.com/kxm) – the supergroup comprised of dUg Pinnick (King’s X), George Lynch (Lynch Mob/Dokken) and Ray Luzier (Korn) have hit the books to return with their sophomore album Scatterbrain which finds the power trio examining the sometimes disturbing thoughts currently on their mind. The guys have returned to Chris “The Wizard” Collier who directed the festivities on their critically acclaimed and well-received 2014 debut. KXM at times can’t help but feel like a King’s X offshoot with Pinnick out front but this band is carving out a niche for themselves as conspiracy rock extraordinaires. Take “Big Sky Country” for example. The third track explodes out of the speakers with anti-NOW urgency that successfully brings the fringe to the mainstream. “Noises In The Sky” tackles the strange trumpet sounds that are occurring all over the world if you believe websites like GLP. Still, it makes great fodder for dUg and Co. as they sound the alarm with sonic fury. Scatterbrain is not all over the place as its name might imply but it does draw from a variety of eclectic genres including prog, ska, punk and metal. We hope the world lasts long enough for this threesome to get to their third record – it’s a good bet microchips and/or chemtrails will be on the agenda!
FROM THE VINYL TAP: This month we get to return to doing something we love – breaking the seal on an LP and dropping the needle on a record. Vinyl sales are at their highest levels since the CD became king and this month we have Strange Karma (ww.strangekarma.net) to thank for the experience. Their latest album Cold Blooded is a vinyl-only release and the ten-track album includes the lead-off single, “Devil from the Moon” that helps this primer on the Australian power trio really blast off in demonic and fiery fashion. Comprised of members Martin Strange (lead vocals, piano, guitar), Paul Strange (lead guitar, backing vocals), and Jason McDonald (drums), the group’s singer/leader is especially proud of the release, they say: “We all think this record is a great snapshot of what Strange Karma is all about – it showcases the versatility of the music we like to create and play.” It’s awesome to hear a band who are drawing comparisons to Led Zeppelin and Queen excel in the format that made those classic rockers soar. Vinyl is back and Strange Karma might be rock’s next great ambassadors – stranger things have happened!
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES!
The Regrettes (www.theregrettes.com) show no remorse as they strut their stuff on their latest release “Picture Perfect” on Warner Bros. Records. The LA based punk act write songs that proudly bear a brazen and unabashed attitude with a vintage pop aesthetic reminiscent of 50’s and 60’s acts. Check them out, you’ll be glad you did…
Monarch (soundcloud.com/monarchmusicofficial) have released the memorable “Remember Me” that draws from its member’s diverse musical backgrounds from indie rock to classical to R&B to form a musical sound all their own that is ready to fly. The track is clean, poppy and peppy and stays in your head proving that this trio from Toronto is off to a good start in advance of their forthcoming debut album later in the year…
Bloody Heels (facebook.com/bloodyheelsband) have endeavored to return the lifeforce to the rock scene since forming over five years ago and with their “Cheap Little Liar” they are kicking at the door with an infectious track oozing with potential. Join four long-haired guys dressed in ripped jeans and leather: Vicky White/Lead Singer, Harry Rivers/Guitar, Chris Flint/Bass, and Gus Hawk on the drums – as they pour out their talent on this latest tune…
Portand-based Souvenir Driver (www.souvenirdriver.com) picks up speed with their next single “Photograph” from their upcoming self-titled album. Called a shoegaze / bliss pop band the track showcases the four-piece band’s genre-bending sound that blends indie, psychedelic, dream pop, rock with a breezy and casual energy…
Vancouver-based Said The Whale (www.saidthewhale.com) has confidently downsized from quintet to trio and are ready to reveal the new configuration on “Confident” the lead track from their fifth release As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide. And, this is no fish story. Many are calling the new song their best effort yet proving that perhaps they cut away the blubber to become the right whale after all….
She wants you to call her DYLYN (facebook.com/callmeDYLYN). We call her talented and mysterious. This brooding and sexy songstress returns with her latest “Secret” that she says is personal. Her life was turned upside down and as a result this song emerged. The song was therapeutic but she’s not saying exactly what it’s about, that’s gonna stay a secret…
San Diego musician Michael Tiernan (www.TiernanTunes.com) has been a fixture on the Southern California scene for over 15 years and he’s honed a sound that recalls Jack Johnson surfing with Coldplay while lying on the beach with the Foo Fighters. It’s warm, laid back and gritty all at the same time. His latest “Tired Eyes” is a good excuse to stay up a little while longer and groove to the soulful horn injected shot of adrenaline from a seasoned pro.
See ya next month!
ABOUT US: Sights and Sounds of Note column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are longtime activists in the music industry. Together, they have reviewed thousands of concerts and music releases through their network of websites including www.soundpress.net, www.kweevak.com and www.musiccitynashville.net. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z (www.positivepowersecrets.net). Rich regularly interviews famous rock stars for the site’s radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at (www.richlynchband.com).