It’s that time of year again when the gremlins, ghosts and ghouls come knocking at your door. The postman has been at ours a number of times delivering a column full of treats. Here you’ll find that many great musicians are up to their old tricks. We’ve picked out the marshmallow peeps and left you only with the choicest, sweetest music for your consumption – enjoy!
Legendary Irish crooner Van Morrison (www.vanmorrison.com) carries on like the Energizer Bunny on his 36th studio album Keep Me Singing. The new offering contains 12 originals and one blues standard – “Share Your Love With Me”. Van wears the producer hat on this set that is closed out with a new twist on “Caledonia Swing” – an all instrumental number featuring the musician playing saxophone and piano. When his world famous vocal chords are utilized the results are pleasing to say the least. The first single “Too Late” is upbeat and immediately likable propelled by Van’s proficient combo on organ, horns, drums and backing vocals. The iconic performer gets closest to the gold of the days of old on “Holy Guardian Angel” that is as sweet as any of the heavenly honey he’s poured out in the past. This collection is a welcome return to form that finds the singer in a reflective mood as he looks back on the events of his life. Ironically, these songs point to a strong future of much more Morrison music. Whatever it takes to keep him singing!
The Australian rock assault rains down hard as Airbourne (www.airbournerock.com) can be heard “Breakin’ Outta Hell” on their smokin’ hot new release. Maybe they sold their souls or perhaps it was all the press their singer received as being a top prospect for replacing Brian Johnson in that country’s most famous export. Or, it could simply be that this proud spawn of AC/DC have produced one hell of a product. Whatever the case may be the quartet have scored their highest chart positions worldwide with this blistering 11-track record. Powered by brothers Joel and Ryan O’Keeffe and rounded out with David Roads along with Justin Street they excel out of the gate with the title track and the exhilarating call and response urgency on “Rivalry”. For those about to rock it doesn’t get better than the closer “It’s All For Rock N’ Roll” that finds the boys finally ready to get out from down under and take their place as the next great rock wizards from the land of “Oz”.
It was shocking in the 80’s when longtime Kansas (www.kansasband.com) leader Steve Walsh made the decision to depart from the band. Equally surprising was that the group bounced back with the help of John Elefante whose voice powered the proggers back up the charts with a more commercial sound. In 2016, history is repeating as they have once again found a new singer in Ronnie Platt who miraculously sounds like a hybrid of their two former frontmen. The dramatic artwork on the CD case is a prelude to the dramatic music that is found in The Prelude Implicit. The new release from Kansas features 10 contemporary tracks that echoes of the band’s classic sound. Strings combined with stirring rock instrumentation propel this record on epic tunes such as “The Voyage of Eight Eighteen” and “Section 60”. Whereas “The Unsung Heroes” is a more mindful melodic composition that flows into the searing “Rhythm in the Spirit”. The album title, The Prelude Implicit implies that this is a new musical beginning for the group who historically has sold millions of records. Tattoo artist, Denise de la Cerda, did the oil painting of the front and back covers. It shows a Phoenix flying from the past into the future a symbol that Kansas is on the rise again.
As the legend goes, Robert Johnson infamously started his career by meeting the Devil at the crossroads. You could say the same of The Apocalypse Blues Revue (www.theapocalypsebluesrevue.com). Co-founded by Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin and guitarist Tony Rombola and featuring vocalist Ray “Rafer John” Cerbone along with bassist Brian Carpenter, the quartet pays homage to the classic sound of the blues while adding their own contemporary spin to the genre. Their self-titled debut presents a darker, daunting side of the blues with a dash of punk attitude as their tales of woe unfolds. Starting with “Evil Is As Evil Does” – a haunting, heavy piece flowing into the gritty but all too true “Junky Hell”. Next, the blazing “Devil Plays A Strat” simmers and sizzles as they tell the story of a man armed with a Les Paul going up against Satan on a Strat. A nuanced nod to the Charlie Daniels Band. Later, the group pays a fine tribute to The Doors with the closer. “When The Music’s Over”. The Apocalypse Blues Revue is swamp, soul with a whole lot of rock & roll backed by hot guitar licks and hearty blues rhythms.
Actor, singer and songwriter Mark Collie (www.markcollie.com) has drawn more than a little inspiration and influence from his friend John R. Cash as revealed on his recently released project Alive At Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. This ambitious undertaking is fifteen years in the making as the live concert was originally recorded before an enthusiastic audience of prison inmates way back in 2001. Collie’s career resurgence spurred on by his recurring role of Frankie Gray on the soon to be CMT smash Nashville was the impetus to finally tie up the loose ends and deliver his important message of hope and redemption to the world. Mark Collie has been exciting country music fans since he burst onto the scene in the 90s with his honky-tonk-meets-rockabilly style. With five major label albums and sixteen tracks on the “Hot Country Songs” chart to his name, Collie has also penned songs for Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Aaron Tippin, George Jones, and Alabama to name a few. For this set he wrote a batch of songs focusing on themes of crime and punishment just for this event, exploring the lives of those incarcerated with poignant detail and compassion. Mark Collie & His Reckless Companions shine throughout especially on the expansive and anthemic “Reckless Companions” and the faithfully rendered “Folsom Prison Blues” that will leave you feeling liberated.
We first caught Davy Knowles (www.davyknowles.com) when his power trio Back Door Slam was opening for classic rockers Styx. At the time, we we’re blown away by the Cream-styled authenticity of the group, Davy’s singing and his prolific guitar chops. We then learned that he was being singled out as the next big thing and a decade on this blues man from the Isle of Man is living up to his promise as he continues to deftly carve out an impressive body of work – now as a solo artist. His second proper release and ninth overall is the riveting Three Miles From Avalon that finds the guitarist fired up and returning to his roots as he revisits the sounds that first ignited his passion for music. Now appropriately based in Chicago Knowles knows his way around a fretboard and this record is full of notes and nuance. The title track is worth the price of admission alone as he ruminates about the distance that currently exists between himself and his homeland. Davy is also missing the man who introduced him to music and helped spark the fire in the first place – his dad who passed in 2015. “Never Gonna Be The Same” feels like a tribute to that man. Another one of his heroes, gone too soon six-stringer Rory Gallagher, is honored on “What You’re Made Of”. Davy Knowles shows what he’s made of on the album’s eight tracks – and it’s all the right stuff.
Although Revelation by the Los Lonely Boys (www.loslonelyboys.com) was released in 2014, the Garza brothers have been actively touring behind this diverse dozen of tunes since. The CD opens with a blend of old world Mexican flavors melding with rock elements on the beguiling “Blame It on Love” that flows into the fine and feisty “Give A Little More”. The Boys impart additional good advice in “There’s Always Tomorrow” a pleasant pop offering. “So Sensual” showcases the trio’s smooth harmonies in a sultry R&B inspired song – one of our favorites from this album. Also of note is the funky “Can’t Slow Down” with its riveting riffs and later the hard driving “Rule The World” spiked with a hint of U2. Revelation is a catchy and compelling record of pop, rock, soul and world revealing a wide range of influences from this well-respected Texican trio.
What is one to do when they enjoy playing Irish music in a rock format and want to standout as there are already talented artists adding Celtic charms to their tunes? Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers (www.tommason.net) had the bright idea to dress up like pirates. As you might guess many of their tales are about booty, lassies, travel and vices. Their latest release Pirate Party is generally a fun and feisty record but just beneath the surface are darker elements. The 13 track CD is a combination of public domain songs and originals. This spirited album has a sing-along quality ideal for a live setting or a party. Folks will quickly catch on to “Talk Like a Pirate” or the peppy title track and later “Pirate Polka” will transport fans to a German drinking hall. The skillful Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers may be a bit of a novelty but their music is noteworthy and well worth a listen.
Security Project (www.securityprojectband.com) makes a quick return with Live 2 that finds the outfit excitedly expanding their plans for their reinvention and reinterpretation of Peter Gabriel songs and his Genesis catalogue. Taking advantage of the continued vacuum of live Peter Gabriel music and diminishing prospects for a full reunion of his groundbreaking band, Security Project is fast becoming the world’s most authentic tribute band faithfully recreating Gabriel’s music while updating it for a modern audience. The group consisting of Michael Cozzi – Guitar, Vocals; David Jameson – Keyboards, Eigenharp; Brian Cummins – Lead Voice; Trey Gunn – Touch Guitar, Vocals; and, Jerry Marotta – Drums, Vocals continue to produce chillingly exact renditions as heard on “Moribund The Burgermeister”, “Mercy Street”, “Father, Son” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. With their critically-acclaimed second release now under their belt the Security Project has secured an impressive beginning with more chapters sure to follow.
Horse (www.riseaboverecords.com) was formed in South London during the late sixties. They created occult influenced progressive hard rock that was ahead of its time. Guitarist Rod Roach had briefly played in an incarnation of British psych-rock legends Andromeda before forming Horse with other key member, vocalist Adrian Hawkins. Alongside bassist Colin Standring, the band also featured legendary drummer Ric Parnell, later of Atomic Rooster (amongst many others) and future star of This is Spinal Tap (aka Mick Shrimpton)! The obscure rockers have been a favorite among collectors for many years Horse is an album long overdue for an official reissue. Recorded in 1969, originally released in 1970 and bootlegged countless times from scratchy vinyl transfers, Rise Above Relics is now finally presenting this detailed release mastered and cut directly from the original master tapes. Featuring a treasure trove of previously unheard/unreleased material, For Twisted Minds Only is certain to have connoisseurs and collectors of the period literally frothing at the bit. This long classic gallops out of the gate with the psychedelic “The Sacrifice” that could feel home on a Jefferson Airplane album from the era. With its bloody chorus and the equally creepy second track “See The People Creeping Round” we can see how this Horse might be an acquired taste. But, we bet it will become a favorite of fans of the genre, too!
EVEN MORE NOTABLE RELEASES! Thomas Charlie Pedersen (www.facebook.com/thomas.c.pedersen) reveals a determined battle plan on his stunning 14-track track debut solo album, Second Hand War. The performer hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark takes a disarming acoustic approach while painting pleasing cinematic landscapes with his insightful emotional lyrics that explore the human condition and the emotional land mines therein…
Montreal-based Pop Queen (www.njtaylor.com) is best known for her infectious and energetic dance tracks. Now, she’s ready to change it up just a bit by releasing an acoustic version of her self-titled debut. Inspired in part by Justin Bieber, NJ wants to share another side of herself and these songs and that sounds good to us…
Alex Mery & The Townsmen (www.alexmery.com) are an independent folk-rock trio hailing from Allentown, PA. Their new EP Safely on Your Way reflects a diverse range of musical influences including Nickel Creek, Billy Bragg, Against Me!, Woody Guthrie, Gregory Alan Isakov, Bad Religion and many more. The songs are bright, upbeat, acoustic and find Alex and Co. moving in the right direction…
Danielle French (www.daniellefrench.com) Presents: Miss Scarlett and the Madmen – Dark Love Songs is a beautifully packaged presentation of nine new tracks from the mysterious songstress from Calgary, Alberta. She’s a Great White North version of Tori Amos and Kate Bush with the observational powers of Tom Waits thrown in for good measure. Give it a spin yourself to discover these quality tracks born out of intensive songwriting sessions that have been called haunting, intoxicating, mesmerizing and spell-binding for good reason…
Ruby Rose Fox (www.rubyrosefox.com) is the 2015 Pop Artist of the Year and Best Female Vocalist as declared by the Boston Music Awards. On Domestic she puts her powerhouse vocals on display on twelve soul driven, edgy rock ‘n’ roll numbers that reveal those accolades are no fluke. “Rock Bottom” is memorable and strong enough to power this talented Bostonian all the way to the top…
See ya next month!
About Sights and Sounds of Note: SSON column editors Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are the founders of SoundPress.net, an Internet-based music industry magazine and review site, online since 1999. 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).