CD: Inglorious ‘II’ (Frontiers)

This was an album I meant to do a write-up on long before now; I went to the band’s Liverpool in-store appearance in May and picked up this record on the day, but ‘stuff’ kept intervening and it’s only now, with me out of gig-going action temporarily that I have got around to this one.

Inglorious are the latest in a long line of British rock bands touted as ‘the future of rock’; they were saddled with a tag of ‘The New Deep Purple’ by some commentators, which I thought was a little unfair. For one thing Deep Purple didn’t hit their stride until their fourth album and then only after a change of singer and bassist! Also, when Purple were at their peak, they were also at their most dysfunctional, something that this band could well do without as they make their own way in the rock scene. The tag was one this band could never live up to, and their debut album of last year showed promise, but ‘In Rock’ it wasn’t.

The band are built around singer Nathan James, whose pyrotechnic vocals certainly attracted attention. They have striven to present themselves as a band, not just a vehicle for the singer, but such is his voice, his presence, that he does dominate the spotlight, just as (for example) David Coverdale before him did with Whitesnake. However all the members have contributed to the songwriting on this album, including guitarist Wil Taylor who, after recording his parts for ‘II’ parted company with the band at the end of 2016, to be replaced by his own predecessor Drew Lowe. Taylor has since formed another band (Deeva) and has been back at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios this year (where this album was recorded), working on new material.

So what do we make of this follow-up album by Inglorious? CD in the deck, let’s press play…

It certainly gets off to a good start with ‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’; typical of their old-school rock style yes, but it’s a catchy number which ticks all the boxes. Hard riffs, singalong chorus and an early chance for James to show off those pipes. From there though, the album is full of material that could have been written by any number of those bands in that long line of acts that came before them. Titles such as ‘Hell Or High Water’, ‘Taking The Blame’, and ‘Change Is Coming’ give away what to expect even before you get to them, that this isn’t going to break any new ground. The playing is fine, the drums kick with enough wallop and the guitars slash away with intent, but these songs just don’t stick. Like the first album, you’ll come away with the impression you’ve heard this record many times before, the only thing that makes them stand out is the voice. There are fast-paced rockers (‘Taking The Blame’, ‘Hell Or High Water’), slower songs (‘Making Me Pay’), ones with Whitesnake-style gentle intros which bring the band in with a wallop (‘Tell Me Why’, ‘Change Is Coming’, ‘Faraway’), guitar workouts for axeman Andreas Eriksson such as the shred solo on ‘I Got A Feeling’, but this is an album that is a distillation of so many 1980s hard rock bands, nothing you haven’t heard many times before. It is all so familiar, that the only reason for picking it up is if you’re a particular devotee of James’s vocal style.

The in-store appearance aside, I’m still yet to see this band live (they are touring the UK in October 2017) and I’m sure they’ll cook up a storm live, but for me they need some stronger songs – even if that means an external writer. They can imitate the style of previous bands, but there is little to innovate here. I’m afraid this album only reinforces the perception that it is a vehicle for James, however hard he tries to tell us otherwise and I still feel the way I did after hearing this band’s debut – sooner or later he will be recruited into a supergroup or will be offered a solo mega-deal, one he would be crazy to refuse. This is a band made up of dependable, solid players but fronted by a singer who cannot be confined by this act for ever.

Inglorious II

Inglorious II

3gtrs

3 – Decent

 

Album: HAIM ‘Something To Tell You’ (Polydor)

Back in 2013, there was no escaping HAIM. The group, made up of three sisters from California first came to UK attention at the beginning of that year, winning the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll of music industry figures. From then on, following a UK tour in the spring they played Glastonbury, T In The Park, and Reading/Leeds – all of these appearances were televised on BBC, significantly boosting their profile. Their first full album, ‘Days Are Gone’ did not appear until the autumn of that year but by the time it did, they were as well-known in the UK as they already were in their native Los Angeles. When the record was released, it showed two distinct sides to the group.

On album, their music was radio-friendly pop with harmony vocals to the fore, with more than a hint of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles to their sound. Against that, the record’s modern production sheen brought their sound up to date. However, they were a completely different proposition live; middle sister Danielle (the more reserved of the trio) was cast as primary lead vocalist, while showing herself to be a mean lead guitar player, unleashing hard rocking solos in songs that had nothing of the sort on record. She also played drums on the album, however for live performances the sisters enlisted drummer Dash Hutton (a friend of eldest sister, bassist/vocalist Este) who toured full-time with the girls.  Este herself was the most outgoing of the trio, engaging the crowd between songs with banter punctuated by more than a few choice F-bombs, while youngest sister Alana ‘Baby Haim’ took up the other side of the stage, given a multi-faceted role on rhythm guitar, additional drums and keyboards as well as vocals.

Later on the group added a full-time touring keyboardist (Tommy King) to take some of the load off Alana, expanding the live group to a quintet. The band live were more akin to a hard rock act than a pop group, songs would feature Danielle cutting loose on the guitar far more than on record, and to close their set the girls would take to drums themselves to bash away alongside their drummer in a spectacle reminiscent of that done by The Scorpions in recent years. The band toured extensively for the next two years, coming back to the UK in 2014 for a tour of bigger halls, and a return to Glastonbury in the summer, but back in their homeland their popularity really blew up when they were selected to support pop megastar Taylor Swift. From there on in they haven’t looked back, although this second album has been delayed somewhat by the meticulous nature of their studio work. The group actually pulled out of planned festival dates in summer 2016 in order to focus on completing the album, releasing a statement apologising to their UK fans.

In April 2017 HAIM finally unveiled a taster for this record, the haunting, brooding ‘Right Now’ which turned out to be an early, ‘live in the studio’ performance. To say the least, after the runaway success of their first album expectations were high for ‘Something To Tell You’ – especially after a four-year gap (Leppard-esque, if you will!) between this and ‘Days Are Gone’. The record was released at midnight on Friday, 7th July, becoming available immediately to listen to on Spotify. Time to settle back and see what the LA sister act have in store for us this time, then…

If you’ve seen this band live and were hoping for an album that captures that harder live sound more accurately, prepare to be disappointed. The material here is smooth, slick, well-produced (perhaps OVER-produced? Bearing in mind that the final result is exactly how the band intended it to be) but, once again it shows that on record this group is a different beast to the onstage version. That’s not to say it is a bad album; it’s actually very good, the songs are designed to ease their way into your brain and take root – you’ll find yourself humming one or more of these ditties after one listen to this album. If anything it is smoother than ‘Days Are Gone’; the group worked once again with producer Ariel Rechtsaid to deliver an album that will sound great in the car, whether you’re heading down a freeway in the summer sun or stuck in a traffic jam on the M62 on a cold, wet Monday morning. There are some nifty basslines from Este in tracks such as recent single ‘Want You Back’, but guitar from Danielle is used sparingly, often buried in the mix such as on the playout for ‘Little Of Your Love’. I’d expect that to be radically different once they hit the stage.

The vocal harmonies that have led to those Wilson Phillips comparisons are present and correct, and they venture into RnB territory with songs such as ‘Treat You Right’. On that track, surprisingly there is another lead guitar playout from Danielle, unsurprisingly it is again buried deep within the production. On ‘You Never Knew’ they go into full Fleetwood Mac mode; the echoed backing vocals will make you think immediately of ‘Little Lies’ from Mac’s 1987 album ‘Tango In The Night’.

The girls’ drum background is shown once again in ‘Kept Me Crying’; this album’s ‘The Wire’ with a beat throughout that will inevitably lead to audience handclaps when it’s played live. This one DOES have a more prominent, fuzzed-out guitar outro. The highlight for me is penultimate track ‘Right Now’; a slow-burner starting out with a church-style organ and gradually building up, deploying the heavy guitar chords for the only time on the record midway through and then introducing those syncopated drums. Even so, the live version as seen on their recent BBC appearances is superior, the production is a little bit too strong with unnecessary (IMO) effects added to Este’s backing vocal. That could have been the album closer, but they have chosen to end things with the gentle ‘Night So Long’, demonstrating once again their close harmony vocals.

You won’t find thought-provoking lyrical content on this record, it is all concerned with boy/girl relationship issues. With that in mind it is a little baffling that this band is considered ‘indie’ by some, this is pure ear candy that has many tracks that could be singles, surely many will be picked up by radio in the coming months. Besides ‘Want You Back’ and ‘Little of Your Love’, tracks such as ‘Found It In Silence’ and the title track are potential hit singles.

If you’re more of a rock fan and were hooked by this group’s live prowess, you’ll need to put aside your metallic leanings in order to enjoy this record. If you can do that, there’s much to enjoy on this album. Consider it a successor to ‘Tango In The Night’ and you’re about there.

Haim 'Something To Tell You'

Haim ‘Something To Tell You’

4 – Deserving

All change in the DORJA camp; farewell Holly and welcome Sarah Michelle

Almost a year to the day since DORJA announced themselves with their track ‘Fire’, they have now had a change to the line-up. Founding guitarist Holly Henderson announced her departure last month, as her own solo career is set for lift-off. She has plans to play live with her new band, and with a new EP imminent and an album in the can for release later in the year she perhaps felt that she could no longer give her all to DORJA. With dates of their own booked for July, the remaining quartet (guitarist Rosie Botterill, drummer Anna Mylee, bass player Becky Baldwin, plus LA-based lead singer Aiym Almas) conducted an online search for a new guitarist, and they have today announced their new member.

Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, new six-stringer Sarah Michelle has several years’ experience touring the UK and Europe, most recently with tribute act ‘The Magic of Michael Jackson’. Her guitar influences include Eddie van Halen, Gary Moore, Jimi Hendrix and Paul Kossoff, and she maintains a channel on YouTube with over 1.2million views at the time of writing. She appears to be a natural fit for this band, and I was hoping to get to a show or two in order to see for myself what she will bring to the party. However I shall be out of action for most of July having sustained a fractured ankle (following a recent gig, note not during it!) therefore I cannot travel to any of the scheduled dates. Beyond disappointed at that, since I know the other four members well and would no doubt enjoy their set, but it will have to be another time.

The dates for DORJA’s upcoming tour are listed below, if a show is reachable I recommend attending, since the band members can only come together at irregular intervals (singer Aiym Almas is based in LA, with Sarah Michelle in Dublin and the other girls all based in England).

For further information please see the band’s Facebook page.

DORJA UK dates July 2017
Lastly, here is a clip of Sarah Michelle herself from her youtube channel:

DORJA guitarist Sarah Michelle

DORJA guitarist Sarah Michelle

Caught Live: The Strypes, Arts Club Liverpool 9th June 2017

The crowd who showed at the Arts Club for this gig by Irish retro-rockers The Strypes were clearly still in election mode, coming the day after the UK General Election which saw a clean sweep of seats in Liverpool taken by the Labour Party. Chants of ‘Oh, Je-re-my Cor-byn!’ rang out frequently, and were given plenty of encouragement by support act, Man & The Echo. Frontman Gaz Roberts made his own feelings abundantly clear, both between songs and during them, with his anti-Tory tirades going over well with this crowd. Their music was reasonably typical indie-rock fare, with emphasis on organ more than guitar, but their singer did stand out with his crooner-type vocal.

The Strypes were touring in support of a still-unreleased at the time third album (it came out around a week after this date), ‘Spitting Image’. Still barely in their twenties, this band are already veterans of the live scene, having performed in their native Republic of Ireland since their early teens. Their energetic live set included several new tracks from ‘Spitting Image’, but there were enough favourites there to please their followers. Live, they play HARD and have an intensity that many Metal bands would envy. The crowd on the floor responded in kind, with frequent moshpits throughout their set (yours truly anticipated this, and stood further back on the terrace-like area which still afforded a clear view of the stage!) There were still plenty of pro-Corbyn shouts during their set, and guitarist Josh McClorey acknowledged that while reminding the crowd that it wasn’t their election to get involved in! He played some killer leads and even threw in a snippet of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Cowboy Song’ at one point.

The Strypes at Liverpool Arts Club

The Strypes at Liverpool Arts Club

The main MC duties came not from frontman Ross Farrelly (looking cool in shades, a natty suit and a snazzy yellow and black striped (Stryped?) Telecaster guitar, but bassist Pete O’Hanlon. It was the bassist who handled most of the crowd interaction, getting them to jump, clap, or even just encourage them to go wild. They needed little encouragement! At the back, drummer Evan Walsh looked sharp, with a fifties-style haircut and loud jacket, he was immense behind the kit but must have been hot in that get up!

This band have had some critical pastings but have won themselves not just fans their own age, but many older ones who remember the likes of Dr Feelgood. The Feelgoods plus many others of their era are obvious inspirations to these young lads. They’re the real deal, a no-nonsense hard-driving four-piece who are already on their way to becoming huge thanks to their live performance.  I don’t think I’ve seen such an intense live act since early Airbourne, that’s how hard their delivery is. Seeing this group while they’re still playing small venues such as the Arts Club is thus highly recommended.

As a postscript, I got through this gig by staying clear of the pit but afterwards, having enjoyed a marvellous show, I managed to fracture my ankle walking back through the city to where I’d parked. Somehow I made it back to the car and was able to drive home again, but this has put me out of gig-going action for several weeks. Consequently, I have had to sit out several gigs I’d otherwise have seen and so this leg cannot heal quickly enough, I’m missing my fix! 😀

The Strypes Facebook page

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

 

The 27 Club: A new and much-needed Liverpool venue

I found myself in the centre of Liverpool last night after finding out about not only a new venue, but that it was launching (officially) that evening with four bands, headlined by Glam Skanks, a Californian all-girl quartet about whom I knew little. However judging by the name and that at least two people in my Facebook list had already checked them out, it looked like it would be a good night out.

First challenge was to find the place: I knew it was on Victoria Street, but not exactly whereabouts. I actually walked the whole length of the street, going past it before retracing my steps and discovering that the venue was actually in the former L1 KTV karaoke bar on the corner of Peter Street; it even had the old sign outside still. Only on closer inspection did I spot the small ‘The 27 Club’ sign in the window. Having found the venue and furthermore, discovering it was free entry (!) I entered to find a small, dimly-lit room with the bar to the right as you go in, and the stage area (such as it was) to the left. A band was already on, it turned out to be a four-band bill. The main lighting was behind the performers – an array of multicoloured flourescent tubes. I suspect that this is a remnant from the place’s previous life, and the whole set up looked like it had only just been put together. I had no idea at the time, that it had!

The band playing were called Figures, formed in Liverpool but with personnel hailing from the Preston area. The set was grunge-inspired hard rock, their chief asset was singer Carrie who had a powerful voice. The next band up were St Helens crew Last Reserves, who were energetic with powerful bass lines and some enthusiastic jumping about from frontwoman Alice Nancy, not really my cup of tea to be completely honest. Following this came Novacrow, the only band on the bill I had prior knowledge of, having seen them last year also in Liverpool. A four-piece fronted by the purple-tressed Kitty, they’re a lively bunch. Kitty is singer/guitarist, something along the lines of Lzzy Hale but with a more expressive performance; when she puts the guitar down for a series of numbers mid-set she is all over the stage, occasionally off it and into the audience! Not to be outdone, bassist Federico ‘Freddy’ Spera is leaping about the place, all over the fittings,  out on the floor, and memorably running out into the street mid-song while continuing to play! His radio link makes that possible of course, he is totally untamed. Next to this, guitarist Jonyx’s own ventures off the stage seem gentle by comparison! The liveliest of live bands you’ll see, they are well worth checking out and play regularly in the area, as they are based in Merseyside.

I found out while the other bands were playing that Glam Skanks were actually playing a double-header this night; when doors opened at the 27 Club the girls were actually 35 miles up the road in Manchester, opening for veteran punkers The Skids at the o2 Ritz. They must have packed up in record time and shot down the M62 then, as they arrived just before Novacrow started their set. I’d not heard a note from them prior to their arrival on this stage, but they were exactly what I expected. Introduced by an older guy in a trilby (presumably their manager) they looked as expected too, glittery costumes and guitars aplenty. They opened with ‘G.L.A.M.’, with singer Ali Cat looking like a cheerleader, the song is a definite nod to that and got the punters in the mood. They beckoned us up to the stage and ran through a short set of hard rocking glam punk, played with humour. One of their songs, whose title is direct and to the point, shall we say (!) is a more profane take on the Beatles ‘Please Please Me’. (Get their album, you’ll soon identify the track in question!)

It was an enjoyable set of riff-heavy glam rock, watching them reminded me a little of London combo The Featherz but with a more Hollywood twist. I was amused to find their bassist was called Millie, and they have a song called ‘Bad Bitch’ – but the links to The SoapGirls (a South African sister act I have seen on several occasions, whose bassist is also called Mille) ended there. Ali Cat was an endearing frontwoman, easily getting this crowd clapping and singing along. Following their set, their manager was hawking their CD ‘Glitter City’ (featuring many of the songs played in the set) and so I treated myself to a copy.

All in all this was a successful launch night for a venue that this city has needed for some time. The people who run the place also offer rehearsal space for bands, and live music will be on offer most nights. I often travel even to see small gigs in venues such as this, and this place looks ideal for several bands from other parts of the country that I know. Only thing was, with the lighting minimal to non-existent, I didn’t take any pics of the proceedings so you’ll just have to content yourself with this snap of yours truly with three of the Glam Skanks! 🙂

glamskanksme

I wish the 27 Club every success with this venture and look forward to seeing many more up-and-coming bands play here.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving

Facebook Pages:

The 27 Club

The Glam Skanks

Novacrow

Last Reserves

Figures

The ‘new’ recordings from ‘Rainbow’

After Ritchie Blackmore surprised fans last year with a short series of shows under the name ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’ (featuring a new line-up, natch!), rather less surprising is that he has decided to do some more, after initially insisting that he would only do this as a one-off. Another short run of dates is to take place next month (one of those is at Manchester Arena, which must be in doubt now since the venue is still out of bounds following the dreadful attack last week), and to coincide with these shows, he has issued the first official recordings under the Rainbow name since 1995’s ‘Stranger In Us All’ album.

First up is a reworking of ‘I Surrender’, the band’s highest-charting UK hit which reached No. 3 in the charts way back in 1981. That track introduced singer Joe Lynn Turner to the group’s fans, he is not involved in this remake however; it is current vocalist Ronnie Romero who is heard on this version. Positives first: Blackmore still displays a deft touch on the guitar with some quite tasteful lead playing. Unfortunately, he does himself no favours with the backing – the drums sound flat, mechanical, as though it was a machine playing them. It turns out that it WAS – a comment on YouTube from a fan was met with a response from none other than Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith, a.k.a. Troubadour of Aberdeen, who revealed that the recording only features Blackmore and Romero with everything else programmed. The result sounds lacklustre, the ‘drums’ could have come from a phone app. Romero impressed live, but this song is not suited to his voice. His harsher voice lacks the smoothness of Turner’s original delivery and all but destroys the radio-friendly sound of the original.

The other track is an instrumental rendition of ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’; the piece has traditionally been used as a prelude to Rainbow shows, of course. It starts off with strings playing the melody before Blackmore comes in with his unmistakable guitar tone. This is also somewhat lacklustre, if only he’d actually brought his musicians into the studio with him it would have been so much better. Hearing one of the greatest guitar players of the rock era deliver what is frankly a half-arsed job over a drum beat that could have been purchased off the shelf is totally disappointing, especially after a two-decade wait for anything under this name. It actually sounds like a Blackmore’s Night demo, but you bet your boots had he done this under the BN name, he’d have put more effort into it. That’s what is so disappointing, he knows he has fans still who have waited a long time to hear him play rock once more, yet when he deigns to do so, he is so lackadaisical about it that you wish he had not bothered.

As a Rainbow fan of many years’ standing, I am completely underwhelmed with this effort – listen to it on YouTube if you must, then dig out the old vinyl LPs to hear this man play with meaning, with menace – with passion. Not recommended.

2gtrs-a

2 – Disappointing

Planet Rock Magazine issue 1, May 2017

Bauer’s new monthly magazine, a companion to the DAB radio station of the same name,  finally launched this month with a very nice cover, a reflective silver effect front and back featuring the Motörhead ‘Snaggletooth’ logo. With former Kerrang! editor Phil Alexander in charge, and with several writers known to music mag readers contributing, this is a top quality publication as expected. It is clear Bauer have indeed sunk a lot of time, effort (and money) into its launch.

Screenshot from 2017-05-27 21-55-37

Planet Rock Magazine issue1

So what do you get for your fiver (cover price)?  No covermount CD (though they may issue one occasionally in future issues), but the expected mix of in-depth features on classic rock bands (Aerosmith and indeed, Motörhead feature in the launch issue, with an extensive interview with sole surviving member of the ‘classic’ ‘Head line-up ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke taking several pages); a staggering TEN pages devoted to Def Leppard and the convoluted process behind the making of their seminal ‘Hysteria’ album, excellent pictorial content, reviews of the latest albums and live shows, and a few more offbeat features – for example The Hairy Bikers quiz Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr about his favourite foods. Another Planet Rock presenter (Alice Cooper) is also featured, with an anecdote about how he, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees were persuaded to pose for a photo with Canadian singer Anne Murray, who was known more for middle-of-the-road pop than hard livin’ rock ‘n’ roll!

In addition, the magazine provides a run-down of gigs in the upcoming month that Planet Rock readers/listeners should be interested in attending.

The magazine is a very good read, but you will forget it is a new publication because the style, the layout and overall ‘feel’ of this magazine apes the long-standing Classic Rock magazine almost exactly. The impression is that of Bauer (a large multimedia concern) parking their tanks on the lawn occupied exclusively by Classic Rock until now. There has been a lot of effort put into this publication – it hasn’t just been thrown together – and that suggests they’ve been planning this for a long time, even before CR’s publishers Team Rock went under at the end of 2016, with the magazine only rescued from closure by previous owners Future Publishing. Bauer are a much bigger operation than Future or Team Rock, and they must have eyed the healthy circulation of Classic Rock with some envy. Bauer have also recently disposed of weekly mag Kerrang! after having published it for around two decades; I’m no media analyst but the demographic of older rock music fans who still spend money on gigs and albums, is one that must have been more appealing to Bauer than the transient readership of Kerrang!

This is however a niche market; the people who buy albums on physical format still and travel to see gigs are by and large the same people who were doing so 20, 30 years ago. Newer bands are noticing that the people who come out to see them are in many cases considerably older than themselves; they won’t mind who comes out to see them as long as somebody does, of course, but it does make me think (as one of these older fans!) whether there’s longevity in this business for say, Joanne Shaw Taylor when her fans are in many cases twenty years older than she is. There is just one national radio station devoted to this kind of music (and it was a struggle to get that, much less keep it on-air!) and I cannot see how the market can sustain two printed publications covering pretty much the same ground, classic rock bands of the past alongside newer bands who fit in with the genre’s overall sound and style. (Not to mention the independent Rock Candy magazine which has also recently launched, but that focuses exclusively on bands of yesteryear.)

I can only conclude that Bauer are aiming to ’embrace, extend, extinguish’ the existing publication then; they are putting a great deal of resource into this magazine and if it does steal readers from Classic Rock, it is inevitable that Classic Rock magazine will either fold or be swallowed up by Bauer, ultimately being ‘merged’ into the Planet Rock brand.

All that said – is the Planet Rock magazine worth checking out? Absolutely, if you like this kind of music and are a listener to the station, you will find much to enjoy in the accompanying magazine. I do predict that within a year, this magazine will be the only one available on the newsstand for fans of classic rock music, though.

4 - deserving

4 – Deserving