FM – Thirteen

FM’s Thirteenth album doesn’t mean its unlucky. In fact its the finest of this version of FM

Said in my best Smashy and Nicey voice “FM are probably one of my favourite bands of all time, probably of all time mate!” Just like Mervs missus’s band, FM never let me down, especially live. OK I have selective memory with Dead Mans Shoes, but there are still a couple of belters on that album (Sister and Tattoo Needle). So, this thirteenth studio album from FM is aptly called, well, er…..’Thirteen’. I’d like to have been there for that meeting.

This current version of FM is the most stable in the bands illustrious history. The vastly underrated rhythm section of Jupp/Goldsworthy are firmly behind the wheel and Steve ‘The Voice’ Overland is still here, sounding as good as ever. He sits comfortably alongside Gramm, Perry, Hughes, Dio and Coverdale, and that is how high a regard I hold him in. Drop in Jem Davis adding sumptuous layers and Jim Kirkpatrick (still the new bloke) who has turned up yet again with a suitcase full of riffs and melody, and this magic recipe has delivered the best FM album since Metropolis, possibly after Tough It Out (and this assessment is just after a single listen) and instantly gets into my top 4 FM albums of all time, and could go higher after repeated listens.

Opening track ‘Shaking The Tree’ shows that FM have lost nothing of their vim and vigor. Its fair to say this is one of the finest openings since ‘Tough It Out’. Jem Davis add some nice keyboards to this song and he threads through the whole album like a champion sewing bee. Proving that its not just the one song being great, ‘Waiting On Love’ shows why they still are one of the finest bands to come out of Blighty. Mr Overland sounds at his absolute best and the fab 5 harmonies wash over me like a coveted security blanket. I don’t think there is a chink in his armour. ‘Talk Is Cheap’ has a tougher edge to it and ‘Turn This car Around’ is something that Don Henley would have killed his granny for in 1986. ‘Love and War’ takes me back to the very underrated ‘Run No More’ from ‘Aphrodisiac’. ‘Every Man Needs A Woman’ is a barnstorming track, and is Jim Kirkpatricks tribute to EVH. And nails it. I’ve never quite understood the phrase ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ because surely you just get more fire! Its the kind of song that would have adorned an 80s B movie. That is no insult when you listen to soundtracks like ‘The Wraith’. The final track ‘Be True To Yourself’ has a bit of a proggy undertone to it, only with harmonies a plenty and rounds off a cracking album.

To summarise, Overland is still one of the best vocalists of all time, the harmonies are to die for, Kirkpatrick’s playing gets better with each album, (not that he was shite before!) and the understated rhythm section of Jupp and Goldsworthy are the meat and bones of FM.

FM have brought their ‘A game’ for ‘Thirteen’ as the quality of songs are probably the best that this version of FM have put together. I have waxed lyrical about some of the previous FM albums, but this one is the absolute bollocks!

Tracklisting –
Shaking The Tree
Waiting On Love
Talk Is Cheap
Turn This Car Around
Love And War
Long Road Home
Be Lucky
Every Man Needs A Woman
Just Got Started
Fight Fire With Fire
Be True To Yourself

Needle In The Groove’s Top 10 Albums of 2021

My top 10 albums of 2021.

Well grapple fans (an up to date reference for the kids!), here we are at the dying embers of 2021 and thinking at the same time last year we were all predicting we would all be back to normal, everyone fully vaccinated and living like to the full. Well thanks to Covid-19 mutating like, well Covid-19, here we are a year down the line, all pretty much locked up as we were last Christmas. Gigs opened up for a couple of months and I snuck in 3 before the UK government made it pretty much impossible to go see a gig from Boxing Day onwards.


Thankfully bands didn’t let this affect them and it was a very strong year for releases. Most of the bands on this list were albums purchased in 2021, so there will not be a review on the site for further details. Where there is a review I will attach a link. It’s far from me to criticise, so if you have brought an album out in 2021, well done to you all.


It was also good to hear only yesterday that vinyl sales were up in the UK, with them making up 23% of all sales, which is 14 years of continuous growth, and CDs seeing the lowest number of sales since 1984, just one year after they were introduced to the UK. This increase is probably down to two factors – Adele and Abba. I don’t think my haul of over 200 albums bought in 2021 made a dent in the numbers.


I’m sure vinyl sales would be a lot higher were it not for manufacturing issues, PVC shortages and the fact that demand is outstripping supply by 2:1. If you have a spare couple of million lying down the back of the sofa, build a vinyl pressing plant. You can’t fail. For some reason, probably because they were part of a ‘bundle’, over 190,000 tapes were sold in 2021, their biggest selling year since 2003. When compared to the streaming monsters however, its bugger all as the likes of Spotify, Amazon, Deezer etc etc had an 81% share of the market.

Anyway onto my top 10 albums of 2021……

10. Lifesigns – Altitude

I was new to the Lifesigns party in 2021 but even from the first listen I was hooked. Its a really great album, and John Young is now a firmly established name in the Chesworth household.

9. The Dead Daisies – Holy Ground

The Dead Daisies were good, then they became excellent. Why? Well Glenn bloody Hughes only went and joined them. The ‘voice of rock’ added his Glenn Hughes-ness to TDD and the result is the fab. The man is the Tinkerbell of rock, adding a drop of fairydust to take TDD up a notch above anything they had done before this point

8. Thunder – All the Right Noises

Considering I was at their last ever gig a few years back, Thunder’s return and resurgence has been a great one, with ATRN sitting nicely near the summit of Thunders best works. It’s that good.

7. Dirty Honey – ST

Dirty Honey hit the ground running with their cracking EP. Their debut album picks up where the EP left off. Self produced and financed, they want to take care of their own destiny. In Mark LaBelle they have a singer who can challenge some of the greats. 70s rock is alive and well. (Fun fact – their single from the EP ‘When. I’m Gone’ was the first ever single from an unsigned band to top the Billboard Rock Chart). My only gripe is the album is too short! I’ve had longer shits.

6. The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic II

If your idea of melodic rock heaven is parpy keyboards and songs that sound like they were written and performed in the 1980s, then look no further. TNFO make every song sound like it was written for the Rocky film franchise and 80s B movies when the likes of Paul Sabu, Lion and Stan Bush were regular contributors.

5. Myles Kennedy – The Ides Of March

This is the album I waited 11 years for. Myles’s debut was good and all, but with TIOM he came out of the blocks like a stabbed rat. More power and welly, and in the title track, he has a song that is a close second to ABs Blackbird. ‘The Ides Of March’ track is completely all over the place. No wonder he hardly plays it live, but when he does…..its a thing to behold.

4. Leprous – Aphelion

Leprous is another bands that I came to the party late with. Having heard ‘Pitfalls’ first, I was smitten. With ‘Aphelion’, the feeling was identical. I can see why fans are not too hot when comparing the 5 albums before ‘Pitfalls’ to the latter two new ones, but for me ‘Aphelion’ is a brilliant album. OK its all about Einar Solberg and he clearly holds the keys to the castle, but the performances of all the guys is something to behold. They are brilliant, and they bloody well know it.

3. Plush – ST

I’ve been a fan of Moriah Formica’s ever since she appeared on a Michael Sweet album back in 2016. She is a very talented singer/songwriter and when someone of her age can tackle Ann Wilson songs with ease, you know they are special. She is surrounded with some amazing talent in Plush – Brook Colucci, Ashley Suppa, and Bella Perron. Considering they were all under 21 when the album dropped in October, the results are stunning. A band so young shouldn’t be this good with their first album.

2. Iron Maiden – Senjutsu

OK its another dinosaur of a band up at the sharp end of the poll for the second year running. After a 6 year gap Iron Maiden didn’t need to ever make an album again. But they did, and its a belter. OK, its no ‘Powerslave’ or ‘Piece Of Mind’. Its about as diverse as Steve Harris and Iron Maiden get, and that is a good thing indeed

  1. Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

This album simply ticked all the boxes for me – great gongs, great vocals, set in the 80s and some of the best videos this side of Van Halen and David Lee Roth. A lot of bands try to recreate the 80s heydays but few succeed. Lets face it, some of the lyrics are corny, but they are delivered in a style and knowing nod to the past that you are just swept along for the ride. The sign of a good album is one you can’t stop playing, and with KIAGT its hardly been off rotation. They even roped in Sam Fox for the best ballad I’ve heard in a number of years, ’Tomorrow’. I can’t wait for album No.2

Groundbreaker – ‘Soul To Soul’ Album review

If you liked the debut, you’ll absolutely love ‘Soul To Soul’. Quality AOR from Groundbreaker and Overland

Buy here – https://www.frontiers.shop/search?sSearch=groundbreaker

By Paul Chesworth

Unless you’re a fan of melodic rock/AOR, then you won’t be aware of one of the hardest working men in British rock music, one Steve Overland. Outside of FM, he has a CV that few can muster – The Ladder, Shadowman, Ozone, Lonerider, and his own project, simply called Overland. Not including all the albums he has guest appeared on, sings with The Staz Band, and has done shed loads of tribute songs, AND sang the theme to Galaxy Rangers! Phew. Known to his bandmates and supporters of FM as ‘the voice’ its a title that is very aptly bestowed, given we are in a world where platitudes are handed out like sweets.

‘Soul To Soul’ is a grand title for Overlands blues/soul vocal stylings. The debut included Robert Sall (Work Of Art) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (production). Sall has gone, joining this time on the songwriting side and is Stefano Lionetti (Lionville), Pete Alpenborg (Arctic Rain), Jan Akesson (Infinite & Devine), and Kristian Fyhr (Seventh Crystal). The line up includes Sven Larsson (ex-Street Talk) on guitars, Nalley Pahlsson (Therion) on bass, Herman Furin (Work Of Art) on drums, and Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards.

On to the stuff that matters. The music. The appetite was well and truly whetted back in August when the video for ‘Standing On The Edge Of A Broken Dream’ dropped. Its massive slice of pure and polished AOR. Its somewhat akin to FMs debut and the more recent efforts by bands like W.E.T, WOA, and Perfect Plan. An opener wouldn’t be an Overland special without the obligatory ‘whoa-ohs’™️. ‘Soul To Soul’ opens with a lovely parpy keyboard, and sees Overland hitting notes that I didn’t think possible from him. Its also worth mentioning Sven Larsson’s sterling guitar work. There’s a couple of obligatory ballads in ‘Captain Of Our Love’ and ‘Fighting For Our Love’ and because of Overland they are elevated and could appear corny had anyone else tackled them, such is the gravitas he brings to the table.

It’s on the polished, and punchy numbers that Groundbreaker truly shine. ‘Evermore’ picks up the tempo and has a good chorus. Its as close to FM as Groundbreaker gets. Overland himself gets to shine by playing lead guitar on Wild World. It borders into fm-radio territory and that’s not a bad thing to say by any means. ‘Carrie’ (not that one, or the other one) ups the ante, and Larsson wrings the neck off of his guitar. It’s a cracking little song. ‘It Don’t Get Better Than This’ has great harmonies and reminds me of The Storm. ‘Theres No Tomorrow’ keyboard sound is straight out of the iSPY book of Michael Bolton songs (that’s a reference few will get unless you’re over 50!). It’s a great song and my fave of the bunch. ‘When Lightning Strikes’ has a great melody and nice layered harmonies with now obligatory searing Larsson guitar solo. Its formulaic, but it’s one hell of a formula. ‘’Til The End Of Time’ is solid enough, but it’s on the final song ‘Leap Of Faith’ where it is a prime example of Overlands ‘cream on top of the milk’ analogy. It’s a fine song to end a mighty fine album.

If you love your pure AOR in bands like Signal, Bad English, Alias, LeRoux and Unruly Child, then look no further than ‘Soul To Soul’ It may not break into many peoples top 10s but it certainly will do on mine come December

Anything Michael Bolton can do, so can Overland, only sometimes a lot better but without Bolton’s bank balance. The man should be a household name. Well you are in our house son.

I liked the debut, but this one comes with knobs on!

9/10

Tracklisting –
Standing On The Edge Of A Broken Dream
Soul To Soul
Captain Of Our Love
Evermore
Wild World
Carrie
Fighting For Love
It Don’t Get Better Than This
There’s No Tomorrow
When Lightning Strikes
Til The End Of Time
Leap Of Faith

Wicked Smile – ‘Wait For The Night’ Review

Wicked Smile hit the ground running with their powerful debut. Fans of 80s stalwarts such as Dio, Skid Row, Maiden and Sabbath can find something to enjoy here

By Paul Chesworth

Australian heavy rockers Wicked Smile will release their debut full length album titled ‘Wait for the Night’ on September 24th. Oct 15th in the UK.

Wicked Smile are all about bringing back fist pumping heavy rock to the forefront with a collection of ten ‘killer songs’. The forthcoming album is produced by Paul Laine (The Defiants) and mastered by Bruno Ravel (The Defiants/Danger Danger).


Guitarist Stevie Janevski goes on to say, “last year was all about giving the world a ‘taste’ of what we’re about. We’re a five-piece kick ass heavy rock band and I think we made our presence known with the release of our Delirium sampler EP”.

Wicked Smile is fronted by charismatic powerhouse lead vocalist Danny Cecati (ex Pegazus & Eyefear) with Stevie Janevski (The Radio Sun, ex Black Majesty & Cyclone Tracy) and Dave Graham (ex In Malice’s Wake) on guitars, Glen Cav (ex Virtue) on bass and Jason Tyro on drums.

I won’t dwell on the EP songs from last year as all are included here. (see link to my EP review at the bottom of this paragraph) What WS have done is capitalise on the success of the EP and gone full steam ahead and put the album out a year after the EP. WS set their stall out early with the powerful ‘Date With The Devil’. Its full on 80s metal, very guitar heavy and Cecati sounding great. ‘Daze Of Delirium has a cracking chorus and is as soft as WS get to Steves other outfit The Radio Sun. ‘Don’t Wait For Me’ shows that balladic side to WS and Cecati and sounds a different vocalist completely.It has its obligatory searing guitar solo to appease the faithful. ‘Sign Of Times’ is a more doom laden vibe, which is quite Tony Martin era-Sabbath, which for me is praise in itself. ‘Last Goodbye’ has an opening riff that transports me to Bark At The Moon era Ozzy. The title track ‘Wait For The Night’ is the strongest on the album by a mile, it will certainly please fans of bands like Maiden and Halloween and Cecati’s vocals soar throughout the song. The twin guitars of Janevski and Graham definitely need a mention here as they shred the arse off each other.

EP Reviewhttps://needle-in-the-groove.com/2020/06/07/wicked-smile-delerium-ep-review/

It’s on songs like ‘Killer At Large’ ‘Date With The Devil’, and ‘Wait For The Night’ where they really hit the mark. Theres a variety of styles and influences coming into play as they show on the melodic ‘Daze….’ I understand this melodic rock style based on previous bands. But its the heavier, metal songs that stand out for me, and with that in mind I’m already looking forward to that difficult No2 album!

8/10

Date With The Devil
Wait For The Night
We Fall
Sign Of Times
Daze Of Delirium
Killer At Large
Last Goodbye
Loves Got A Hold On You
Don’t wait For Me
Stronger

Nestor – ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ Review

Many have tried to recreate the glory days of 80s melodic rock/hair metal and few have succeeded. Nestor have nailed it with ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’. Its bloody marvellous!

I’ve been reviewing albums for almost 15 years now, and occasionally an album is sent to me that completely blows me away. Usually its from an unknown band or artist. In this instance the band is called Nestor. Its not just me who knows this fact, with three previously released singles this year and close to a million plays combined for the songs and music videos, the hype is enormous for the upcoming album ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ which is due to be released on the 22nd October.

I asked Nestor’s vocalist Tobias on the band name as I thought it might be taken from Greek mythology, “Exactly, the name comes from Greek mythology and refers to an elder, a wise old man and all that, but us in the band are all big Tintin fans so the name is taken from Captain Haddock’s butler in the comic books, his name is Nestor and he’s a really cool character, haha!” I thought I’d heard that name before as I used to own about a dozen Tin-Tin books myself. Nestor was formed back in 1989 by five childhood friends in their hometown of Falköping, Sweden. But like most dreams of becoming rock stars, theirs faded away with time – but their friendship remained, as did their love of music. Now over three decades later the members have taken the opportunity to reunite the band! I for one am bloody glad they did as ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ will sit at the top of the best album list for many a melodic rock fan come the end of this year.

‘One The Run’ is one of the best opening stacks I’ve heard in quite some time. A dainty piano opening before a battering salvo of guitar riff and drums beats you into submission. The accompanying video is a true homage to 80-s vidz and would happily sit in the soundtrack to Turbo Kid. You have to check out the stripped back piano version on YouTube which is absolutely brilliant. I immediately fell in love with the tone and warmth of Tobias Gustavsson’s vocals.

Even a song with a corny lyric like ‘she’s got eyes like Demi Moore and a body like Sharon Stone….she’s a perfect 10!’ can’t detract from the quality. It still hits the mark. Samantha Fox proves to be an inspired choice for the duet ‘Tomorrow’. As I’ve got older I steered away from ballads but this one is an absolute knockout.

Apart from the aforementioned songs the other nuggets are the glorious anthem ‘1989’; ‘It Ain’t Me’ has the orchestration that could put in on a Bond movie; the galloping title track ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’; the chorus of ‘Stone Cold Eyes’ elevates a good song into a great one; and ‘These Days’ would have been a big hit in any year beginning with ‘Nineteen-Eighty-Something’.

Melodic Rock/AOR is the poor relation of probably every musical genre on the scene today. It wasn’t that popular when it was popular! That said, those like me that love it have been hit with many a pretender these last 30 years who promised much and faded away or just didn’t deliver. These guys are the real deal. I hardly give away top marks for an album (13 times in 14 years), and this gets top marks. Everyone gets credit – the keyboards are high in the mix, guitar solos are shredding, harmonies are to die for, a wonderful combination, and the vocals are crisp, warm and clean.

In 2021 Nestor’s ‘Kids In A Ghost Town’ will be as coveted as Red Rackhams Treasure.

10/10

Tracklisting –
Fanfare For The Reliable Rebel (Intro)
On The Run
Kids In A Ghost Town
Stone Cold Eyes
Perfect 10 (Eyes Like Demi Moore)
These Days
Tomorrow (Feat. Samantha Fox)
We Are Not OK
Firesign
1989
It Ain’t Me

Nestor Are –
Jonny Wemmenstedt (guitar)
Mattias Carlsson (drums)
Tobias Gustavsson (vocals)
Marcus Åblad (bass)
Martin Frejinger (keyboards)

http://instagram.com/nestor_theband
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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.

8/10

Track list – 

Intro

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

Obsession

Can You Hear Me Calling?

Does It Feel Like Love

Feels So Good

Digging Up The Dirt

Tough Love

Hollow

Dangerous

Hard Day In Hell

Wildside

Breathe Fire

Only The Strong Survive

Blood And Gasoline

I Ain’t The One

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

FM

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

Stardust – ‘Highway To Heartbreak’

Stardust – Highway to Heartbreak

Lockdown has been a bitch eh? For me cancelled gigs and no Solid Rock in Glasgow has been the hardest part of the “new normal”. Let’s be serious it is not the new normal, it’s a temporary state. Anyway music for me has been a lifeline but despite that I’ve wallowed in nostalgia and not reviewed anything new for months. I couldn’t be ar*ed and when I gave myself a massive kick up the butt I was too late for the new Perfect Plan album, I was a bit in despair and then Frontiers via Gary Levermore sent another chance.
Well let’s just say the wait for me personally was worth it and I was intrigued by the first album by a Hungarian band called Stardust.

As an enthusiastic amateur I review bands by just listening to the tracks, will read the Frontiers blurb but do nothing else than just listen rather than a forensic search which will undoubtedly influence my listening.

Well thank you Gary (and Paul Chesworth for nagging me to actually write something). Stardust is the AOR/Melodic album of the year, name a year it will be still be up there. A stunningly wonderful piece of music.

The Frontiers promo said “hooky choruses, beautiful keyboards and vocal harmonies”. Hooky to me reminds me of Only Fools and Horses as meaning “dodgy, not quite legal”. Well I would describe the choruses as being sublime, pristine and more catchy than a disease off a hooker. I played the album the first time working from home to drown out my wife doing her contact centre job. Headphones in, sound turned up and BANG. What the actual fu*k was I hearing? I was blown away and after 3 or 4 songs thought that this has to bottom out but no, it just kept coming and I repeated it numerous times. My wife took the huff, “Would you rather spend your lunchbreak listening to that stuff rather than talk to me?” – Er yes.

So don’t feel the need to read my clumsy attempts to describe each track, just buy the bloody thing, you will not be disappointed.
I’m left with a few questions and thoughts:

  • Since when did Hungary name kids: Adam Stewart, Ben Martin, Dave Legrand, Facey and Tim Keeley?
  • After finally tracking the band on Google how are they not better known?
  • Also I now understand how good the sound is, they’re basically classically trained musicians. Every one of the band contributes to make this album a classic.
  • I also now get the Toto vibe.
  • Ben Martin the bass player’s first album was ACDC – Black Ice, I have underpants older than that album.
  • Oh, and my wife saw the promo pics and now thinks she might want to visit Hungary

Anyway my thoughts on the tracks are as follows:
Runaway – A dramatic intro of atmospheric haunting sci-fi effects launches into classic melodic rock vocals over a heavier than expected bass and guitar although the keyboards are used to great effect to layer the song nicely. And we’re off, a touch of multiple melodic sounds and it’s better than decent.


Heartbreaker – Yes, that ‘Heartbreaker’ by Pat Benatar. Its got nice drum intro, menacing “Heartbreaker” chant and again a heavy guitar and bass line with the drum intro setting the tone, with drum driven vibe. “Heartbreaker, Dream maker, love maker, don’t you mess around with me”.

Bullet To My Heart – wow by now I’m getting seriously into this band, the screaming guitar note reminiscent of a Van Halen guitar scream before the song slams into some AOR layered sounds, the vocals wouldn’t be out of place on a Journey track and the chorus is as catchy as f..k. The vocals of Adam Stewart sit nicely and rule the roost.

Perfect Obsession – Acoustic sounding guitar with a wonderful jangle to the riff and smoky vocal that would sit comfortably on any melodic masterpiece, I’m racking my head to link it to other bands, it certainly has the 80’s US AOR vibe and I’m loathe to mention the likes of Toto, Age of Reflection, Poison, Warrant etc but I will.

2nd Hand Love – a lovely gentle guitar solo beginning and then we’re away again. I still think of Don Henley and Bryan Adams feel especially the lead into the chorus. The lyrics are cleverly written not clichés. Another guitar solo that compliments the song and doesn’t take over.

Shout It Out – rockier but with a classic chorus as if a title like Shout It Out could have anything else, catchy with the backing vocals pure class. It did remind somewhat of Myke Gray and his track Shout which is no bad thing in my book. It will be a classic played live.

Can’t Stop Loving You – a solid ballad with Stewart’s vocals just perfect. The harmonies again, are spot on.

Eye To Eye – let’s rock. A full on blast of rock, keyboard and guitar solo and a real quirky vibe.

Hey Mother – Styx/Toto feel with the real melodic feel of the guitars in the background. Top guitar solo and to me it reminded me of Work of Art as the keyboards are superb. “Hey Mother can you rescue me”, well sorry Mum, that ship has sailed. It as if Lars Safsund, Tommy Shaw and Steve Lukather had a ménage a trots and the resulting baby would be this!

Blue Jeans Eyes (Bonus Track) – I always wonder what a bonus track is. To me it fits in nicely, “time after time” as a lyric reminds me of Cyndi Lauper but that’s where the comparison ends. The guitar sound is punchy and the chorus is nearly as good as the wonderful guitar solo. Blue Jeans Eyes is a great description to use

The River Is Rollin’ – As there is no “G” on Rollin you know this gonna have a real Americana vibe, it doesn’t disappoint. A great end to what is a wonderful piece of AOR/melodic rock. If you close your eyes you are back to Boys Of Summer and the lyric of a young girl growing up with the attention of jerks in leather jackets who just want to jump her bones but she’s independent and is uninterested is wonderful.

Stunning stuff and cap doffed.

10/10 – it’s a classic.

Review by Lawrie

Track list:
Runaway
Heartbreaker
Bullet To My Heart
Perfect Obsession
2nd Hand Love
Shout It Out
Can’t Stop Loving You
Eye To Eye
Hey Mother
Blue Jeans Eyes (Bonus Track)
The River Is Rollin’


Line-up:
Adam Stewart – Vocals, rhythm guitars
Ben Martin – Bass
Dave Legrand – Keyboards
Facey – Guitars
Tim Keeley – Drums

 

Landfall – ‘The Turning Point’ Album Review

Landfall – ‘The Turning Point’

According to the PR bumf that comes through, Landfails singer, Gui Oliver (ex-Auras) is a ringer for Steve Perry. You know the people that you hear about in the news that get a knock on the head which causes anmesia, then when they come around, speak in a French accent. Well this fella got a right pounding and come back round with Steve Perrys clothes but Eric Martins voice, if Eric was singing in the bathroom next to you with the bathroom door shut. Its Eric, but not quite Eric if you see what I am getting at. This is the Trumpness that you sometimes having to contend with when emailed a press pack.

“I’m really glad to be back with Frontiers with a new band and new songs in a new perspective. I believe this is my best album so far. I was really impressed when I met the band for the first time. They are truly amazing, gifted and very prepared to do this with me,” says Gui Oliver.

Landfall was originally started by drummer Felipe Souzza and guitarist Marcelo Gelbcke, who are childhood friends and have been playing together since they were about 15 years old. Some years later, bassist Thiago Forbeci joined up with them, adding new musical input and influences and the band decided to go in a new direction. 

They began writing their songs and creating their own music repertoire to work off of and it was during this period that they recorded a few albums together and performed several concerts around Brazil, including opening for acts like Glenn Hughes and Mike Vescera. 

Opening track ‘Rush Hour’ certainly gets ‘TTP’ off to a cracking start. It’s a pace number that skips along and had a decent crunchy riff and an instantly singable chorus. ‘No Way Out’ ticks some boxes and is catchy enough. ‘Janes Carousel’ follows a similar path. ‘Across The Street’ shows Landfall at their best and reminds me of early Ten, and ‘Don’t Come Easy’ is one of the more pleasant ballads Ive heard recently, considering I’m not a massive fan of ballads any more.

Its basically ‘wash-rinse-repeat’ from here on in. ‘Roundabout’ and ‘Sound Of The City’ stand out in the second half of the album, and ‘Hope Hill’ offers up a singalong moment for the listener. Beyond that, its bang average, in a sort of an half decent way. The songs are pleasant, a couple are very decent, but there’s not enough here to tempt me in for a second or third listen. Some people will think Im talking out of my Covid-larger-than-normal arse, but I just feel it has all been done before, and in a lot of cases, much better

Half of the album is good, but the balance is basically melodic rock by numbers. The production is good though, the playing for all is what I’d expect from a Frontiers AOR signed band.

I jest when I say that Oliver doesn’t sound like Steve Perry, but really, he doesn’t. Ok, maybe a few notes here and there, but he is not in the same sounding universe as Hugo Valenti or Arnel Pineda. Now those two are Perry ringers. 

Score 7/10

Review by Paul Chesworth

Landfall 

Gui Oliver – Vocals

Felipe Souzza – Drums

Marcelo Gelbcke – Guitars

Thiago Forbeci – Bass

Tracklisting – 

Rush Hour *

No Way Out *

Jane’s Carousel

Across The Street*

Don’t Come Easy 

Taxi Driver

Distant Love

Roundabout *

Road Of Dreams

Hope Hill

Sound Of The City *

* worth a listen

Vega – ‘Grit Your Teeth’ Album Review

Vega have outdone themselves with ‘Grit Your Teeth’. A tour-de-force of anthems that 80s stalwarts like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi would love to be making in 2020.

VEGA’s sixth album, “Grit Your Teeth” will be released on June 12th, 200 and according to the PR bumf, is set to “blow the roof off”. Working with “The Graves Brothers” (Asking Alexandria, Funeral for Friend, The Family Ruin), they’ve pulled out all the stops, disconnected the brakes, and produced their biggest songs for their biggest sounding album yet. Theirs is a brand of music that is as rewarding as it is challenging. This is not the end, but the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the history of Vega.

They’ve toured over the years with Skid Row, Last in Line, FM, Magnum, Joe Elliott’s Down and Outz, Dan Reed Network, and have had festival appearances at DOWNLOAD, Planet Rockstock, Steelhouse, HRH AOR, Rockingham, and the Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan, that have all gone into shaping them into one of the UK’s finest melodic rock bands. The fact that they are not more widely recognised is more down to bad luck than anything else, as anyone that has witnessed them live recently will testify. 

VEGA’s members have a rich history, including stints with Kick, Sugartown, and Paul Dianno, but it was their meeting of musical minds back in 2009 that would lead to the melodic rock genre receiving one of the finest releases of that year in the form of their debut album, “Kiss Of Life”.

I think Vega are a bit of a marmite band. I asked recently if one of the other guys would like to review them as it’s always been me, and I wasn’t exactly met with enthusiasm from any of them. After many cracking albums, I must admit that I’ve expected them to kick on a bit. But even gigs the last few years have been poorly attended, and I cant put my finger on it as when faced with an audience like HRH etc, they go down a storm. And rightly so.

So what do we have with ‘GYT’?

Well, on first inspection I’m met with a certain amount of moistness in the nether regions. I don’t know if it’s a concerted effort from the Vegaboys, or if it’s a combination of the partnership with the brothers Graves. Although for me, not knowing who they are at all (Graves Bros – sounds like a removal firm!), I will put it down to a combination of efforts. 

With ‘Blind’, Vega jump out of the starting blocks like a stabbed rat with a fire cracker shoved up its arse. There’s a certain amount of vim and vigour that’s being applied, still maintaining the strong melody, but with a bit of welly. ‘(I Don’t Need) Perfection’ proves that the opener is not just a one off. There’s a substance and style here that shows that Vega mean big business with a capital B.I.G. The melodic sensibilities are still there for the fans that expect the anthems, but they are proving that this crocodile definitely has bite! In fact its probably the best Nick Workman has sounded (and he always sounded good!). Title track ‘Grit Your Teeth’ is a stormer, and Jon Bon Jovi should be getting on the phone begging to cover this. No one does anthems like Vega! ‘Man On A Mission’ has a southern drawl opening line before evoking latter day Shinedown, and that’s not a bad comparison to make. ‘Don’t Fool Yourself Again’ is probably the best song on the album. It’s a very infectious number, and I strongly suggest you check out the video below, because if you don’t like this, then there is no hope….

‘Consequence….’ Digs deep into the 80s for a Tears For Fears ‘Mad World’ influenced section that I’m sure people of my age will pick up on instantly. ‘This Ones For You’ is yet another positive track, and ‘Battles Ain’t A War’ is a ballad of sorts and is nicely layered and assembled. It’s a very cool track, and I particularly think Thurston’s playing on this is exceptional. Before you know it we are at the sharp end, and there’s still no slack on the horizon – ‘Save Me From Myself’ airs on the side of pop and deserves mainstream radio play; the positive and uplifting ‘How We Live’, and finally ‘Done With Me’  is short, snappy, punchy and rounds of a sterling performance.

I’m not going to single anyone in particular out as all the guys are on VERY top form. A new bar has been set for 2020 and any competition to the Vega throne will need to up their game. ‘The Vega is dead. Long live the Vega’

Could this be the one? I’d certainly like to think so. It’s all anthems and I expected nothing less. It’s such a great listen, that I needed a good old rest at the end as I got cramp in my hand for singing into Gills hairbrush for the whole album.

For me, it’s mainly about the melody, then the lyrics, but without the melody you have nothing. Thankfully Vega get their melody delivered by the truckload. With previous albums not being embraced as they probably should be a (much) wider audience, I was wondering what the next chapter would be in Vega’s history. In the case of ‘Grit Your Teeth’ the new chapter is a blockbuster. If you hanker for the glory days of Leppard and Bon Jovi, look no further, as this is the album JBJ and Elliott would love to be able to make.

9/10       The best album of 2020 so far. I’m leaving room for further listens.

Tracklisting

Blind

(I Don’t Need) Perfection

Grit Your Teeth

Man On A Mission

Don’t Fool Yourself

Consequence Of Having A Heart

This One’s For You

Battles Ain’t A War

Save Me From Yourself

How We Live

Done with Me

Released – 12th June

Room Experience – ‘Another Time And Place’ Review

This Friday sees the release of the sophomore album from Room Experience, more of those pesky Italians single handedly (as a nation) trying to keep melodic rocks flame burning – not as a flicker, but a full on Gas Mark 9. It’s still the brain child of Gianluca Firmo, who again plays keys, BV’s and has one song of his own to sing (Euro bonus track), and he has blackmailed his friends for another outing of melodic mayhem. Back in the hot seat is David Readman, and he is a fine choice of vocalist for any project. Also along for the ride again are Davide Barbieri (keys and BVs), Steve De Biasi (guitars), Pierpaolo Monti (drums) and noob to the set up, Simon Dredo (bass)

There’s also a host of guests itching to get involved, such as Ivan Gonzalez, Sven Larsson, Stefano Zeni, Chitarra Matteo Serra, Lorenzo Fodda, Marcello Sperra, and no Italian project would be complete without the addition of Alessandro Del Vecchio.

I think the title of the album (Another Place And Time) is obviously a nod to days gone by where an album project like this would probably have been lapped up had it been 1986, but unfortunately those days are long gone. Even now (May) and the rest of the year will be a completely different time to what it was in February. We are in strange times indeed. Thankfully people are still producing music even if gigging is off the table for the time being. At least more of us are sitting at home able to listen and discover bands like Room Experience. A couple of years down the line however, the name still hasn’t grown on me!

Take note other bands to up your game, the PR info that was issued with this album states that Room Experience is powered by Blåkläder Workwear. (I wonder if spandex and leg warmers are considered as workwear?). I expect Vega to respond and announce a deal with ‘Betty’s of Harrogate’.

Strike a pose……Vogue!

Anyway, onto the frivolity that is ‘APAT’. I’ve only had the chance to listen to it a couple of times and there’s some good stuff going on here. ‘Hear Another Song’ is a powerful opener. I was expecting to be overladen with layered keyboards, but its not the case here as is very much a pulsating rocker. ‘Wild Heart’ goes very much for the 80s keyboard style opening intro and settles into its groove. There a good enough mix of songs to keep the listener entertained – from the power ballads ‘The Distance’, ‘A Thousand Lands’ and the closer which is very Gary Moore guitar influenced, ‘Your Voice Inside’; uplifting ‘The Night Goes On’; strong choruses in ‘Disappointed’, and ‘The Miles That Make A Road’, and my personal favourites the 80s style powerful rockers ‘A Thousand Lies’, ‘Another Place And Time’, ‘Shout’ and the afore mentioned ‘Hear Another Song’.

All in all its a good album, very good even, and the playing is strong, Readman is a good choice for handling vocals, the guitar playing is excellent, and production polished, but not overly. Theres not a great deal to cheer us all up presently, but albums like this certainly can lift your spirits. Its nice for them to include a European bonus track for once, (which Gianluca handles his vocal duties impeccably), instead of the Japanese hogging the market! IN YOUR FACE PEOPLE OF JAPAN!!!!!!! Sorry, I don’t mean it (honest).

Joking aside, I’m a big fan of the work here and, if the guys ask me nicely, next time I visit Venice I’ll paint the band name on the side of the Rialto Bridge. Now that’s what I call an endorsement!

8.5/10

Tracklisting

Hear Another Song

Wild Heart

Disappointed

Strangers In The Night

The Distance

Shout

Another Place And Time

The Miles That Make A Road

The Night Goes On

A Thousand Lies

Your Voice Inside

The Distance (Lead Vocals Gianluca Firmo – European Bonus Track)