Michael Thompson Band – Future Past


Michael Thompson is one of the leading guitar players of the world. He was awarded the “Distinguished Alumni” award from his alma mater Berklee College of Music to commemorate his contributions to the music industry. Berklee’s program for the event noted that “he is widely regarded as being among the elite studio session players, and his amazing list of credits includes such prominent names as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, ‘N Sync, Toni Braxton, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, the Scorpions, Vince Neil, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler, Madonna, Babyface, En Vogue, Gloria Estefan, Stanley Clarke and Ricky Martin.” Quite a list of luminaries to perform with/for!

Originally from New York, Michael moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to begin a studio musician career. In 1988, after working to try and get a deal with his band Slang, he finally got signed by Geffen Records to release one album entitled “How Long”, under the Michael Thompson Band (M.T.B.) monicker, and is one of the best examples of AOR/Westcoast from that era (or any era!), and it was reissued in 2007 with 3 bonus tracks

On “How Long” more great studio musicians appeared as guests, in particular drummer-maestro Terry Bozzio, singer Moon Calhoun (ex The Strand), Pat Torpey (later to be  drummer with Mr Big), bassist Jimmy Haslip, John Elefante (Kansas), Toto’s Bobby Kimball and Great White associates Michael Lardie and Wyn Davis (who also produced the album). Songwriters would include, among others, AOR luminaries such as: Jeff Paris, Mark Spiro, Billy Trudel and Brett Walker.

For ‘Future Past’ Michael has teamed up with singer Larry King from the band Soleil Moon. Larry brought a new and more rocking approach to the MTB sound but certainly the trademark elements of songwriting and melodies are still to be found in the new album “Future Past”. In fact the album plays on the up tempo sound of Toto, and the first Giant album, so that cant be a bad thing

‘High Times’ picks up where ‘How Long’ left off, as an up tempo rocking number full of an instantly catchy chorus and a great riff. ‘Can’t Be Right’ continues in a similar vein and shows why MT picked King as his vocalist of choice. ‘Future Past’ is a smooth as a velvet glove and really highlights Thompson’s guitar prowess. ‘When You Love Someone’ is just a delight of an emotional ballad and is swallowed whole by the excellence of ‘Here I am’
I have to mention the reworked ‘Can’t Miss’ from the 89 debut as I’m running out of superlatives for all the other tracks. It’s still a great song, and Karry King runs the original very close, but I will always prefer the original version. That said, ‘Future Past’ is a strong enough album without this reworked classic
On its first listen I wasn’t exactly over enamoured with it. However after living with this thing for a couple of weeks, it’s probably one of the finest AOR albums you (and me)will hear all year (and its only Feb). If I had to pick a winner between the Sunstorm and MTB albums, ‘Future Past’ delivers the goods in abundance

Michael Thompson     Guitars & Keys
Larry King                   Vocals
Khari Parker               Drums
Alan Berliant               Bass

Guest Performers              
John Blasucci – Keys
Dave Hiltebrand – Bass – When You Love Someone, Beautiful Mystery, Future Past, Here I Am & Break Me Down
Matt Walker – Drums – High Times
Sahara Thompson – Background Vocals – Can’t Miss
J.P. Delaire – Keys, Background Vocals, Sax – Can’t Miss

Produced By : Larry King & Michael Thompson

High Times;
Can’t Be Right;
Future Past;
When You Love Someone;
Here I Am;
Beautiful Mystery;
Break Me Down;
End Game;
Gypsy Road;
Can’t Miss 2012;
Fight For Your Life.

Sunstorm – Emotional Fire


Joe Lynn Turner’s career has had a number of highlights. From his early days with Fandango to the Rainbow success and later on with Deep Purple and Yngwie Malmsteen, and his solo career, the New Jersey-born singer has covered a wide number of musical styles with his inimitable vocals. Plus he must have sung on what feels like over 1000 albums since our paths first met for Rainbow’s Difficult To Cure Album

Certainly he left an indelible mark in the hearts and minds of Melodic Rock fans when, in 1985, after the break-up of Rainbow, Turner released his first solo album entitled “Rescue You”. He co-wrote most of the songs with keyboardist Al Greenwood (ex Foreigner). The first single, “Endlessly,” received extensive airplay on radio and MTV. Tours with Night Ranger and Pat Benatar followed. He also wrote more songs for a follow up album in a similar style, but fate called him in 1988 to join the Swedish guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen for the “Odyssey” album, one of the most successful (and best I might add) of his career.

Years later, when Turner got in touch with Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino, the idea of digging some old gems and to create an ultimate Joe Lynn Turner Melodic Rock/AOR dream came about. This brought about the release of the first SUNSTORM album in 2006 and of the follow up “House of Dreams” 3 years later. For the third album it was decided to look at Turner’s numerous vocal sessions he did in the 80’s as background vocalist for other artists. This brought to the resurrection of some Michael Bolton’s AOR gems such as “Gina” (originally included on “The Hunger” album, where Turner contributed with background vocals), ‘’You Wouldn’t Know Love’’, and “Emotional Fire” which Bolton penned for the “Heart of Stone” album from Cher (in which Turner again appeared as background vocalist).

One thing’s for certain, when Mr Dennis Ward is in charge if knob twiddling, you know the sound is to be highly polished. Let’s face it, he’s one of the best melodic rock producers in the business. And with songs written by the likes of Soren Kronkvist (Crash the System, Issa), Tom and James Martin (Vega, Sunstorm, Khymera) and Daniel Palmqvist (Xorigin, The Murder of My Sweet), the third Sunstorm album is a promising affair indeed

‘’Emotional Fire’’ is a bit of a mixed ‘lucky bag of AOR sweeties. Yes the first half is a tour de force, with Turner literally turning back time ( see what I did?) to Cher’s multi platinum selling Heart of Stone for the stand out tracks ‘’You Wouldn’t Know Love’’, and “Emotional Fire”. Along with the opener ‘’Never Give Up’’, it makes for one hell of an opening salvo. Unfortunately after Boltons’ ‘’Gina’’ (which I wouldn’t have recorded as a choice, but considering the theme, Turner carries it off well, but nowhere near as good as Mr ‘AOR sell out’ Bolton) the songs go a bit lame. ‘’Wish You Were Here’’ is more than a ringer for Lou Gramm’s ‘’Just Between You And Me’’
Thankfully there’s more quality than ‘fillers’ (of which there are a few – Follow Your Heart and The Higher You Rise in particular), but Turners voice which is always set to ‘’quality’’ carries it above the parapet if a lesser vocalist would have covered these songs
It could have been a belter if the second half was as strong as the first. That aside its still a good album, it’s not great which could have been. Still, an essential purchase for fans of JLT of which I am one

Lead Vocals: Joe Lynn Turner
Drums:  Chris (Schmidtic) Schmidt
Bass, partial guitars and backing vocals: Dennis Ward
Guitars: Uwe Reitenauer
Keys: Justin Dakey

Produced by Dennis Ward

Cryptex – Good Morning, How Did You Live?

Now normally it’s correct to review an album just before its time of release. In this instance it’s all down to band I saw supporting Pain Of Salvation recently in the UK (Check out the live review), and I just want more people to give this band a listen. ‘Good Morning, How Did You Live?’ was released back in May 2011, and I’m disappointed that I’ve not heard this band previously, but I feel that I need to put this right
To be totally honest it’s almost obscene that three (young) German lads from Salzgitter, Germany can churn our quality Progressive/folk rock like this in the 21st Century. I’m not against the good people of Salzgitter, just that fact that these three can produce music like this. They’re in their young 20s for Gods sake! They shouldn’t have influences and a sound like this. I’ve got gig T-shirts older than these three
To say that their music is a bit all over the place is an understatement, and a fact that shouldn’t be taken in the wrong context. It’s this eclecticness that makes Cryptex an interesting band indeed. Mastermind behind their style is one Simon Moskon (Keys/piano, bluesharp, harmonica, bass, and even didgeridoo!!) a Noddy Holder lookalike, but that’s where the similarity ends. In fact he’s more in the Ian Anderson mould, but in this dimension its Ian Anderson morphed with Freddy Mercury, Richard O Brien, Meat Loaf, Tim Burton and some off kilter US Broadway! And the music is as interesting as you could imaging this collaboration to be. Moskon confidently holds the keys (and tambourine) to their future success 
Also, NEVER judge a book by its cover as the CD cover makes them look like the bastard offspring of Jim Henson’s Muppets and Robert Smith (Cure), and you’re still only half way there! This alone could put many off from their brand of folk rock
 ‘Hicksville, Habitus and Itchy Feet’ is a great opening track, which just soars around you. Martin Linke on guitar handles himself impeccably, not overplaying and keeping it all simple but essential.    ‘ Dance of the Strange Folk’ is right out of Tull’s locker, and is just a strangely addictive song with great harmonies from all. 12 months ago neither Ramon or Linke sang at all, you wouldn’t think so! ‘Freeride’ is a song straight out of a dark Tim Burton-esque Broadway musical. ‘ Bagheera’ unfortunately does not wax lyrical about the Jungle Books black panther, and is again short, sweet and neat. ‘Its Mine’ builds takes the pace down gently before building the pressure right up for the final third, and is a great song performed live with Moskon showing his blues chops off on the harp. 
Imagine the conversation in the studio ‘Now Herr’s, I’m going to open up the next song with me on the didgeridoo. Any questions?’ Well Prog-Folk fans, ‘Gypsy’s Lullaby’ does just that. I’d hate to be Moskon’s tech guy on tour!! ‘’Guitar? Ya! Piano? Ya! Harp? Ya! Bass? Ya! Kiddies Glockenspiel? Ya! Aussie wooden drainpipe thingy covered in spit? Ya!’’
‘Camden Town’ is influenced after Moskon’s stay in the capital with his girlfriend complete with recording stolen from London Underground. Its leans more towards 70s classic rock than anything so far, with Ramon Heig’s drumming is all ‘rat-tat-tat’ like a machine gun! ‘Leviathan’ follows suit, heavy with the Queen school of vocal harmonies kicking in for good measure. ‘  ‘Alois’ is where ‘Cryptex’ shine the most, stripped down and full of power and emotion. ‘Most Lovable Monster’ is as heavy as Cryptex get, yet it’s rocking one minute and subtle the next.
I must admit I can’t find much fault with this album. The multi direction of the songs may put a few people off but to me it’s all an exciting ride from beginning to end. All of this quality from such a young trio! Cryptex deserve, and fully I expect them to go very far in the future. I can’t wait for the next Album.
If you get the chance to see them supporting pain of Salvation on their current Euro tour, take it with both hands. They won’t disappoint
Tracklisting – 
Hicksville, Habitus & Itchy Feet

Dance of the Strange Folk



It’s Mine

Gypsy’s Lullaby

Camden Town


The Big Easy



Most Lovable Monster

Grief and Despair

A Colour Called Gently


Pain Of Salvation – The Robin 2, Sunday 12th Feb 2012

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The music world/Progressive Rock in particular would be a much lesser place if it were not for the likes of the very talented Daniel Gildenlöw. This is a bloke who has more talent and ideas in his little toe (I can vouch for this as I have actually seen his little toe!) than most bands can muster collectively over a lifelong career.

Living with this kind of creative ideas can’t be easy for him or his fellow band members. Since I last saw Pain of Salvation in Nov supporting Opeth, two members – keyboardist Frederick Hermansson and guitarist Johann Hallgren have left, and in (and quickly) have come Daniel Karlsson and Ragnar Zolberg. Without these two adapting so quickly, they (POS) could have easily cancelled the tour
Thankfully the new fellas fitted in very well, to the point where POS seem as energised as I have ever seen them, particularly the added vocal dynamic that Zolberg gives them. These two are only currently classed as touring members, but surely Gildenlöw can see that they are a perfect fit for the future!

Playing in front of a pretty paltry audience, but a dedicated one, POS opened up with the powerful ‘Softly She Cries’ one of many tonight making up most of the set from the RS series. Despite suffering with a cold, Gildenlöw’s voice is in fine form indeed, hitting the guttural throaty sections as well as the much higher screams. ‘Ashes’, a regular of their set follows and is a great example of their past (and continued) glory. ‘Linoleum’ is the first of some audience/Gildenlöw banter, and after a few attempts from the willing audience to ‘oi!’ in the gaps of the riff, the song gets its ass kicked. So much so, that Gildenlöw breaks a string early on and no one batters an eyelid. A trio of RS2 and 70s classic rock influenced songs ensued with ‘The Deeper Cut’, the emotive ‘1979’ and ‘To The Shoreline’
Remedy Lanes ‘Chain Sling’ proved a highlight of the night, especially due to Zolberg’s superb vocals and is as powerful a song as the Hallgren version. This bloke will hopefully prove to be an asset in the long run. Any audience cries throughout the night for ‘Disco Queen’ fell on stony ground, even though Gildenlöw had the whammy pedal up on stage ready to be unleashed! Damn you Gildenlöw!!

The last few songs finished the set on a high with the excellent ‘No Way’ from RS1 and was one of the best received of the night. Final song of the set ‘Enter Rain’ just had me in goosebumps. Nothings better when all members wade in and harmonise. I’m a sucker for harmonies and layered vocals.
The encore was slightly strange with the lengthy (and part French) ‘Physics of Gridlock’, and the final song, ‘Sisters’ an excellent track but for me shoulf have been mid way in the set as it’s a relatively subdued way to finish. Hey, WTF do I know! I still enjoyed the night immensely

Personally Id have preferred a slightly longer set (possibly 2hrs), as there were some glaring omissions, like the excellent ‘Healing Now’, ‘Used’ ‘Scarsick’ and obviously ‘Disco Queen’ but they weren’t to be.
I feel honoured to have seen POS twice in recent months. I just hope the other gigs were better attended than the few at The Robin, otherwise we might only see them restricted to gigs in the capital in years to come
Softly She Cries
Deeper Cut
To The Shoreline
Chain Sling
Ending Theme
Perfect Element
Kingdom Of Loss
No Way
Enter Rain
Physics Of Gridlocl

Cryptex Live review – The Robin 2, Bilston 12.2.2012

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Now it’s not very often that your breath gets taken away by a support act. Usually nowadays the support acts are pared to great effect with the support, but in this case and after a brief 40minute dalliance with these German (and young) progsters, you can tell that they are destined for much greater things
Musically they are a bit eclectic to say the least, but to describe them is almost like saying which one of your 2 kids is your favourite (they know which one is my favourite!). Think Meat Loaf, crossed with Jethro Tull, crossed with Queen, and we may be getting somewhere close
Also, NEVER judge a book by its cover as the guys merch stand had CDs on offer (review to follow) and they look like the bastard offspring of (pick any two from) Jim Henson’s Muppets and a Tim Burton Movie, or possibly Rocky Horror and Robert Smith (Cure), and you’re still only half way there! And they sounded (obviously) nothing like I was expecting
I don’t blame the audience at the start as it was only 150 people (ish), so they were never going to get a thunderous welcome. Cryptex were in Bilston to put on a show, no matter how small or quiet the audience. Come the end, they definitely won a few new fans.
‘Cryptex’ is basically one of the hottest bands to come out of Germany, and the driving force behind them is Noddy Holder lookalike Simon Moskon (Keys/piano, bluesharp, harmonica, bass, and even didgeridoo!!), and he confidently holds the keys (and tambourine) to their future success
They basically came, saw and conquered. Opening with the delightful ‘Hicksville, Habitus and Itchy Feet’, ‘Cryptex’ set their plans for domination. ‘Freeride’ was a song straight out of a dark Burton-esque Broadway musical. ‘Cryptex’ are a quite superb 3 piece with wonderous harmonies – just check out Dance of the Strange Folk’. Apparently 12 months ago neither Ramon Heig (Drums & Cajón) or Martin Linke (Guitars, Sansula) sung a note. They harmonised as if they’ve been at it for years, this is where the Queen influence can be heard the most. When the guys take it up a notch for the powerful Camden Town, its an all out Rock assault. ‘Alois’ is where ‘Cryptex’ shone the most, stripped down and full of power and emotion. Linke riffed on the children’s glockenspiel before swapping for the acoustic on ‘Its Mine’, and shows what a powerful tool Moskon’s voice really is, and whips out the harmonica to finish off the song, before surprising the now fully entertained audience with his didgeridoo (a first for many of the prog audience I’m certain).
The talent was in abundance, with Heig keeping the beat on his Cajón (oo-er!)for ‘Gypsy’s Lullaby’. ‘Cryptex’ finished the latter part of their set strongly (not that any of it was weak I must add) with the heavy ‘Most Lovable Monster’, the thunderous ‘Leviathan’ and finally their ‘Outro’ from their album
‘Cryptex’s’ music can be a bit all over the place, but with this gig supporting songs from their debut ‘Good Morning, How Did You Live’ it all makes for a varied and superb gig. Symphonic, pompous, 70s infused classic rock of the highest order. I didn’t mention the link to the DaVinci Code once! Dammit!
Setlist –
Hicksville, Habitus and Itchy Feet
Dance Of The Strange Folk
Camden Town
Its Mine
Gypsy’s Lullaby
Most Lovable Monster
Grief And Despair

Mark Spiro – It’s A Beautiful Life

Mark Spiro is an iconic American songwriter; an established award-winning producer, recording artist, and accomplished musician, with a career that spans over two decades. Among his many accomplishments, 45 gold and platinum records, and six solo albums. His songs, and his productions, have been represented on records that have sold over 100 million records worldwide. Not bad I hear you say!
Born in Seattle, Mark moved to Hollywood where he met Jack White, an extremely successful and acclaimed German producer who was then making impact in the American music market with his productions of Laura Branigan, Stevie Woods, Anne Murray, David Hasselhoff and more. White immediately recognized Mark’s enormous talent and brought him in as his general co-producer. In a span of three years, Jack cut more than 100 of Mark’s songs with various American and German artists.
It was at this time that Mark met German writer/producer Harold Faltermeyer, best known at that time for his song “Axel F” from the film, “Beverly Hills Cop”. Faltermeyer was a huge fan of Mark’s writing and production skills and asked him to write a song for a new film, then called simply “Top Gun”. Mark wrote the incredible “Mighty Wings” (recorded by Cheap Trick), and a classic film song was born. Developing a reputation in the film industry Mark then wrote songs for such films as, “True Romance (“In Dreams”; recorded by John Waite); “Selena” (“Only Love”; recorded by Selena) and ”Music From Another Room” (“Day After Day”; recorded by Julian Lennon), and Mark’s songs have gone on to be featured in several television series such as “One Tree Hill”, “Marker” and “Fame”.
Mark is most recognized as one of the leading melodic rock songwriters in the United States, with songs recorded by such classic artists as Heart, Giant, Bad English, Kansas, Reo Speedwagon, Winger, and Mike Reno (LoverBoy). But, in addition, he has also written for multi platinum country artist Lila McCann and Latin Artists Luis Miguel and Emmanuel. Although he is best known for his melodic rock style, it is evident that Mark has the ability and talent to write for any style and genre of music that grabs his attention.
It’s a beautiful Life is Marks first release since 2005s ‘Mighty Blue Ocean’. So its perfectly OK to write multi platinum songs but is it the same to perform them yourself? (eg Burt Bacharach has more than a Marmite vocal style, but boy could he bang out a tune)
I’m not in the habit of pissing off the AOR/Westcoast community, but to be totally honest, I found ‘It’s a Beautiful Life’ a bit safe and almost bland, and if it were a heart machine the monitor would be showing a ‘flatline’ as all the songs appear to be at a very similar level. I certainly wouldn’t put this in the bracket of AOR/Westcoast as long as I have a hole in my bottom
The songs are all listenable, but there’s nothing that jumps out and grabs you by the throat. It borders on pop for the most part with a bit of country and easy (so easy, its borderline anethesia) listening. Whilst not the worst by a long shot, I doubt it will be in many a fans top 10 come the end of the year (except maybe his mom’s!)