The Aristocrats – ‘Freeze! Live In Europe 2020’ Review

If you love a bit of instrumental rock/fusion then look no further

The Aristocats

Anyone that knows me, knows I will try to help them out as much as I can, even if its outside of my comfort zone. So when Ryan, the PR guy behind the above band emailed me 3 times, and shamed me into something, I couldn’t turn him down!!

Theres the rub PR, badger me enough and I’ll review it! If you don’t know them, The Aristocrats are probably one, if not the crème de la crème of rock/jazz fusion trios ‘in the World’ (if Clarkson was describing them). It’s Marco Minnemann on drums (Steven Wilson, The Mute Gods, Satriani, The Sea Within), Guthrie Govan on guitar (Steven Wilson, Asia, Hans Zimmer), and Bryan Beller on bass (Steve Vai, Mike Keneally, James LaBrie). To name their involvement is merely scratching the surface of their combined work. I like a bit of prog, where I have encountered all the aforementioned guys in their respective discography previously, but I usually have to draw the line at instrumentals, only because you can only keep writing the same comparisons, or in this trio’s output….superlatives.

I have never heard anything previous by The Aristocrats so I’m coming in fairly blind as far as this live album ‘Freeze! Live In Europe 2020’ goes. If I’m honest, I doubt if I would want to subject myself to an hours worth of widdly noodling, but I appreciate quality when I hear or see it.

Given the superb quality on offer here, its ‘Spanish Eddie’ that hites the right notes for me, especially when Govan drops into Blackmore territory with the Blues section 2/3 of the way in before making way for the Spanish flamenco ending. Considering its all recorded live is an absolute wank fest for blokes in their 50s who fawn over playing like this. I feel sorry for the staff having to clean the mess up afterwards. ‘When We All Come Together’ Could just be reference to my above comment. Its a ‘wild west, rockabilly, yee-haw, Devil came down to Georgia’ piece that you can hear the audience lap up. There’s a picture I can’t un-see of middle aged blokes line dancing to jazz fusion par excellence. ‘Get It Like That’ is dedicated to Neil Peart, and I cant think of a better drummer on the planet to namecheck Peart, or for that matter come close to the legend that is Peart. As you’d expect, the drumming  is to the fore and a perfect tribute the 19 minutes just fly by which is always a great sign.

As a stand alone piece, you have to marvel at the musicianship and quality (with a capital K) on offer. Minnemann, Govan and Beller are an absolute tour-de-force, but its just not for me. That said, if you do like these guys already and are a fan of other pieces of their ‘band’ work, then you will enjoy the gig, as there isn’t a bum note in an hours-worth of high-octane noodling. And for that I give it a credible…

8/10 (if youre a fan of the band, I guess it’s a 10/10 as the playing is fucking faultless!)


D Grade Fuck Move Jam

Spanish Eddie

When We All Come Together

The Ballad Of Bonnie and Clyde

Get It Like That


The Aristocrats – 

Marco Minnemann

Guthrie Govan

Bryan Beller

FM – Tough It Out…Live

‘Tough It Out’ in its entirety has been a long time coming but worth its weight in gold.

FM – Tough It Out Live

It just so happens that my very first FM gig was on the ‘Tough It Out Tour’. October 26th 1989 to be precise. We broke down on the way there, but was determined to see them for the first time. Since then Ive probably seen them live at least 40 times, I should have kept count! Getting old is a bastard.

Dec 20th 2019 was the date we want to see them on the 30th anniversary tour at the Manchester Academy 2. It turns out to be one of the last gigs I saw because of the Covid situation. Strange times indeed.

Live albums are a bit hit and miss, none can recreate the feeling of being at the gig, but ask any rock fan 45 and over and probably only about 6 or 7 spring to mind – Kiss, UFO, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, Rush, and Deep Purple. Its a tough membership club that few get admitted to

Anywho, like the ‘Indiscreet’ tour, I was also hotly anticipating the ‘TIO’ tour. ‘Tough It Out’ is a vastly underrated album. It was the album that was supposed to break FM into megastars. The label brought in the golden pens of Desmond Child, (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith), Jesse Harms, and Robin and Judith Randall. The album contained some absolute gems – ‘Bad Luck’, ‘Someday’, ‘The Dream That Died’, ‘Burning My Heart Down’, and my all time favourite FM power ballad ‘Everytime I Think Of You’. For some strange reason, it just didn’t happen. So it was a chance again to hear most of these songs probably for the last time as they vanished from setlist obscurity, for as long as I can remember. Hardly a song from ‘TIO’ makes it into the FM set these days, and I always wanted a FM live album from that era. I had to make do with a bootleg cassette bought at a record fair some 31 years ago. Blimey.

To be honest, the album sounds fab. Production is nicely balanced between band and audience, and the mix is solid, hearing all instruments and vocals from band and audience. ‘Tough It Out’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ reaffirms my belief in these songs, Overlands vocals are excellent (when aren’t they – well on that bootleg cassette for starters). The bloke has never, ever let me down. Kirkpatrick’s and Overland’s guitar parts match the originals, and the harmonies are a melodic rock fans crusty sock dream. ‘Bad Luck’ one of the few that still makes the current day set is the big song that delivers in spades. ‘Someday’ is a melodic rock classic that deserves its place in FMs set list. ‘Everytime I Think Of You’ was classed as FM’s new ‘Frozen Heart’ back in the day, and was soon dropped. Its a killer ballad and one of the few I can still listen to. All the songs up to ‘The Dream That Died’ is a reminder of just how good ‘TIO’ was, and still is. The latter half of the album are a welcome addition to me, and I loved hearing them being given a proper dust off and airing, even if they never make the light of day again. The gig should have been sponsored by ‘Pledge’, and ‘Brasso’. They missed a trick.

The second CD is a deep dive into a clutch of songs that like ‘TIO’, hardly get a sniff of being played live. Which is a shame, nay its criminal, because there are some bloody fantastic beauties on this disc. How ‘Dangerous’ never made it onto ‘Indiscreet’ or ‘TIO’ is a mystery to me, and is the best of all their B sides. ‘Diggin Up The Dirt’ is one of the best songs to come out of FM since they reformed with Metropolis, and shows how good the current FM are. Had ‘Only The Strong Survive’ been picked up by a 90s boy band, it would have been a massive hit. Its the addition of three songs from ‘Aphrodisiac’ that whet my appetite – ‘Hard Day In Hell’, with sublime vocals from Overland; ‘Breathe Fire’, and the excellent ‘Blood And Gasoline’ wehre only someone like Overland can get away with a line ‘When I hold you in my arms, my blood feels like gasoline’. ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ closes out the album, its the song that nearly got them the exposure they deserve. Overland is on fire, and even a heckle can’t shake him off his stride. 

‘Tough It Out Live’ is a mighty fine live album. Having waited 32 years for it, it lives up to my expectations. Are we likely to see the same of Aphrodisiac? I would like to think so. But having seen both ‘Indiscreet’ and ‘Tough It Out’ played in their entirety, I am content in having seen their two best pieces of work. 

FM were and still are one of finest rock bands Blighty has produced. How they never became big (massive) is a puzzle to me and probably all FM fans. In another parallel universe, the likes of Bon Jovi and Foreigner are opening for FM. I’m hoping one day there’s an Overland biography that will fill in all the blanks, or more succinctly….’Diggin Up The Dirt’. In the meantime, enjoy FM at their finest.


Track list – 


Tough It Out

Don’t Stop 

Bad Luck

Someday (You’ll Come Running)

Everytime I think Of You

Burning My Heart Down

The Dream That Died


Can You Hear Me Calling?

Does It Feel Like Love

Feels So Good

Digging Up The Dirt

Tough Love



Hard Day In Hell


Breathe Fire

Only The Strong Survive

Blood And Gasoline

I Ain’t The One

I Heard It Through The Grapevine


Steve Overland – Lead vocals, guitar

Pete Jupp – Drums

Merv Goldsworthy – Bass guitar, backing vocals

Jim Kirkpatrick – Lead guitar, backing vocals

Jem Davis – Keyboards, harmonica, backing vocals