My good self and Romeo’s Daughter go back a long way. Quite a long way in fact. All the way back to October 26th 1989, Liverpool Royal Court, when they supported FM on the ‘Tough It Out’ Tour. We went for FM, and we still do, but we were taken aback by the then unknown to us Romeo’s Daughter. Our lives have been entwined with their music ever since. The following summer we were getting married, and were looking to come to a compromise on a wedding dance song. We decided on ‘Hymn’. Not a popular choice I suspect with anyone for a wedding song, but it was one we both loved. Even our daughters (Rachel) middle name is Leigh. To make it look like we knew what we were doing, Harrys middle name, George, we told him he was named after George Lynch, to make up the fact they were both partly named after rock stars.
Anyway, enough of the gushing, onto the EP. The guys have just released an acoustic EP (called ‘Organik’) of some of their favourite songs, and a new one thrown in for good measure. Acoustic covers can be a bit bland and uninspired, but they can can also be a true test of the strength of a song. Not all songs could be played acoustically, and thankfully the ones chosen for the EP are good ones.
I have to say that as a fan of Leigh Matty’s breathy and sultry vocals, the acoustic versions suit her voice perfectly. They are delivered with passion and warmth. It’s weighted heavily toward the last two studio albums, ‘Enemy’ is achingly beautiful, and benefits from the intimacy of an acoustic guitar. ‘Radio’, a light and poppy number originally, is now stripped back and is still effective as the original. ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep’ (the song that mentions their name) was already a passionate number, and is now delivered with more emotion. ‘Alive’ is given a new ‘life’ in this version and is focused around Matty’s voice. The new song ‘Since You Went Away’ is typical of the last couple of albums, with poignant and wistful lyrics delivered with love. ‘Talking Love’ was destined to be covered acoustically, and the delivery suits a lower register.
Nothing here is forced, the songs suit a stripped back sound and leave you wanting more.
I’d like to see a set of two halves in the future, one acoustic to open, followed by the full fat version. Romeo’s Daughter (and Leigh) never sounded better. Its a mature EP that fits them like a well worn pair of comfy slippers. Twelve months ago it could have been curtains for them, but thankfully Craig Joiner is thankfully still with us, and hopefully for years to come and delivering gems like this.
Hello there dear reader, thanks for all your support in reading my blog. You know who you are you special little dude. I’m a bit late in compiling my fave album list, it’s the first time I’ve ever posted it in the following year. I’m slacking, and I apologise for it. I’ve been unwell you see, and had some tricky kidney stones removed. I wouldn’t wish them on my own worst enemy is what I want to say, but I have 7 people who I’d love to pass the pain on to. They know who they are!!!
Anyway I digress. I’ve enjoyed 2019 over other recent years as I felt it was a particularly strong year for rock music. Proper rock music, and not the shite that the like of X factor call rock music! A couple of my favourite bands released albums that feature in my list, and there’s also a superb debut album, and the album that most of the rock community waited almost 10000 days for. So here you have it, my slightly biased list of albums that I thought were great, and some brilliant.
But first, here’s a few albums that didn’t quite make the list but are definitely worth listening to –
Puppy – Sabbath vs pop metal
Hardware 86 – as 80s as a pair of David Coverdales leg warmers
Notorious – Scandi hair metal that deserves to be heard by many
20 – Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
Probably their most ‘Prog named album’ of the last decade, ‘DOT’ sees Dream Theater return to form from the somewhat lacklustre ‘The Astonishing’ (in hindsight one of the worst names). Its an ‘almost’ return to DT factory settings, producing an album that the likes of DT only can do.
19 – Hollowstar – S/T
Hollowstar cite the likes of BSC, Thunder and Slash as influences and they all flow through the album like a stick of Blackpool rock. Old school / modern rock that delivers in spades. I expect these guys to deliver on their promises.
18 – Grand Slam – Hit The Ground
Laurence Archer revives this gem of a band with a mix of old and new tunes. The king may be dead, but Grand Slam prove that they are very much alive and kicking
17 – Airbourne – Boneshaker
In an uncertain world, its good to know you can rely on some things to stay the same and offer comfort. Airbourne are one such band. Not ones for ripping up the rulebook, they have a method, and it works. If you’re fed up of seeing AC/DCs cousins and nephews performing then there’s no better Aussie DC fix than Airbourne
16 – John Diva and the Rockets Of Love – Mama Said Rock Is Dead
On first inspection JDATROL make Steel Panther a credible 80s band, but look beneath the surface and you see a band with a mission (just like Steel Panther) in taking us back to the 80s and party like its 1986. They have the looks, the persona and thankfully the sound. Its not a perfect album, but Diva has raided the iSpy book of Hair Metal Cliches, and when they get it right they do it oh so well. Diva’s Mama was wrong!
15 – The Spectre Beneath – The Downfall Of Judith King
Paz, the person behind TSB is fairly prolific, in fact this was his second album of the year (his other outfit – The Plague and the Decay). Its TSB that just pips it to make my list, and its a belter. Combine Sharon Den Adel, Devin Townsend, Symphony X and Biomechanical, and you might have an idea of where Im coming from. Like footy, its an album of two halves. The first is a metal fest, and the latter more of a classic rock vein and its these distinct two halves that come together to make for a cracking album
14 – Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
Ok, they are not the Black Metal darlings of old, and Mr Åkerfeldt makes no apology for their shift to a more 70s prog sound. They made a bold move in recording the album in their native Swedish and English, and both versions delight the listener (well, this listener anyway). They mix it up considerably with country, rock, and Baroque all playing a part and I for one loved it. Ans as someone famous one said, ‘If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it’
13- Nitrate – Open Wide
With all the Vega and Midnite City involvement you would expect Nitrate to hit all the right places, and that is correct. Most of the songs are anthems with more riffs than Mark Tremontis hard drive (he’s got thousands!).
12 – Alter Bridge – Walk The Sky
This for me was their best album since Blackbird. They introduced keyboards and electronica and it paid off. The foundations are still there – industrial grade riffing, bone shattering bass, and spleen moving drumming, and there’s more shorter, snappy numbers this time around, but its the lengthier ‘Dying Light’ that’s the highlight of the album
11 – Royal Republic – Club Majesty
Just one song from Download on TV was enough for me to go out and get this album. An infectious album of disco rock. It’s riff meets pop meeds disco, and the outcome is glitterball chock full of frolicking fun.
10 – Black Star Riders – Another State Of Grace
I think BSR have just about broken the shackles of being ‘another Thin Lizzy’ with this their fourth album. Personnel changes have further weakened the Lizzy DNA and a couple of songs still make reference to the legacy. Its becoming less of a theme, and now ‘ASOG’ puts them firmly standing on their own two feet.
9 – Work Of Art – Exhibits
A new WOA album is always going to be hotly anticipated and ‘Exhibits’ make no exception. With Survivors Jim Peterik weighing in with help, their provenance is undoubted as being the finest modern exponents of AOR in the vein of Toto, Giant, et al. Only one other has done it better this year (See No.5)
8 – Whiskey Myers – S/T
If you liked 2017s Mud, then you’ll absolutely devour this one like Dracula at a haemophilia convention. Taking the best of Lynyrd Skynyrd, gospel vocals and Southern American music, they proved themselves right to self produce for the first time. With lyrics like ‘I was raised by wolves in the woods, not the streets’ you know its not the usual bunkum.
7 – Rammstein – Untitled
Bloomin’ ‘eck! Its been ten years since ‘Liebe Its Fur Alle’, and all focus was on Tool’s equally long awaited opus, but this was worth every bit of the wait as ‘Fear Inoculum’ was. Few bands can bugger off for so long, and just carry on where they left off, and then there’s Rammstein, the masters of industrial metal.
6 – The Darkness – Easter Is Cancelled
The Darkness seem to have had more comebacks than Rocky Balboa, but one thing they do is make consistently cracking albums. Hawkins has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek with song titles like the hilarious ‘Rock and Roll Deserves To Die’ and the title track, but he has not lost his knack for an ear splitting riff and ball tightening wail like only he can (without the aid of anything other than a scrotum chafing onesie and raw talent). Its the type of album that should be on a school curriculum.
5 – The Defiants – Zokusho
Their debut was an absolute belter, so what did they do? Bettered it! Comprising of current and former members of Danger Danger – this doesn’t make a difference, but they rock firmly like they are in their 20s and its 1989 not 2019. Aptly named, Zokusho means ‘sequel’, but it should mean ‘one better’. Big hooks, big hair, big choruses, and Paul Laine sings his arse off. What more do you want.
4 – Scarlet Rebels – Show Your Colours
Ive been shouting off to anyone that will listen about previous outfit V0id, and after a great set at HRH AOR in March, I was hotly anticipating ‘SYC’. Its melodic rock tunes at their finest with a mix of hard melodic rock, three emotional ballads, and not a single duffer in sight. The whole thing is catchier than a baseball glove dipped in UHU, and I hope these guys go as far as their talent lets them.
3 – Leprous – Pitfalls
Prior to this, I’d never come across Leprous before so I had no other benchmark to fit them to. But bugger me, ‘Pitfalls’ was one of those moments that makes reviewing albums worthwhile. Its both haunting and compelling and I half expect Solberg’s falsetto to appear on a Scandi thriller. Its a bit of a side step to anything they have done before. Its a bold move, but boy did it pay off.
=1. Rival Sons – Feral Roots
EQUAL FIRST WITH TOOL, Below
Along with AB, RS are my fave bands formed this side of the Millennium. Where ‘GWV’ was great, ‘Hollow Bones’ stalled the development a little for me, but ‘Feral Roots’ puts them back at the top of their trade and put them in the big leagues (hence their two Grammy nominations). Everything on here is a belter, its their first album that you will not skip a single track. Greta Van Fleet seem to get the plaudits, but Rival Sons have been doing it better and longer, and don’t need to be clones of Messers Plant and Page.
=1 – Tool – Fear Inoculum
OK so it took a long time in coming, but it was worth the wait. Right? Totally! It wasn’t a totally fulfilling listen at its first attempt. Its needed multiple listens to fully appreciate the scale and magnitude of ‘FI’. Typically it is hypnotic, mesmerising and absorbing. Six songs weigh in at over 10 mins – hence why they didn’t fit it all on the CD! Some said it was all the same as before, but even if that is the case, it still makes for a compelling album, it is Tool after all. And they don’t do anything by halves.
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