CD: CATS in SPACE ‘My Kind of Christmas’ (Harmony Factory)

Those CATS in SPACE have really pushed the boat out for the holiday season this year, with a specially-recorded Christmas single released on multiple formats. You could have had a 7-inch satsuma-coloured vinyl (very clever, CATS!), a 12-inch picture disc featuring the new artwork created for the season by the band’s regular artist Andrew Kitson, or a CD which contains the song plus additional new tracks with reworked versions of older songs. Alongside all of that fans could also buy a limited edition print of the cover artwork, or for the well-heeled CAT fan, a ‘Catmas Tin’ box set containing the CD, two 7-inch vinyl records, plus various CAT-branded items such as a Christmas decoration and even some candy (!) all presented in an aluminium tin with the now-familiar CATS in SPACE logo on the lid. If like me, you’re short on both house room and readies especially at this time of year, the best bet is that CD since it features a lot of material for your tenner, so that was what I plumped for. At the time of writing, there are still various formats available for the CAT completist to indulge themselves with however.

My Kind of Christmas cover art by Andrew Kitson

My Kind of Christmas cover (art by Andrew Kitson)

The band are also pushing for a Christmas chart hit with this single, having launched a campaign on their fan group. They’re up against strong competition as you might expect, but after having held off playing this disc until the calendar finally reached December, it’s time to give this seasonal offering an appraisal. Starting off with the Christmas song itself, as you’d expect by now there are numerous nods to their many influences. They’ve chucked the kitchen sink at the production; it’s all there – sleigh bells, lyrics touching on everything from ‘mini-skirts at the office party’ (are we hoping for a mild December, lads?) to ‘Eric and Ernie on the box’, vol-au-vents and ‘flat warm beer’. (They stopped doing Watney’s Red Barrel years ago, guys!). They have gone full Wizzard with a children’s choir on the last chorus too, although the over-arching message is to urge us all to have this mindset all year round (‘don’t wait for the snow to fall, to wish peace and love for all‘) set to a song which evokes memories of classic 1970s Christmas chart-toppers. The melody in the chorus did make your correspondent think of Petula Clark’s hit ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’ though, and I bet that was not entirely unintended!

Track 2 on the CD (‘This Is London’), written by ‘7th Cat’ Mick Wilson, is a paean to the capital city, praising London as ‘the jewel in the crown’, set to a melodic rock song not a million miles from the sort of thing Cutting Crew did in the 80s, all harmonised vocals and gently soothing guitar backing. Another new one from Wilson follows, ‘If I Were You’ is a mid-paced acoustic track showcasing new vocalist Mark Pascall’s voice as well as those trademark harmonies.

‘Hollywood’ is the last of the new material; bassist Jeff Brown picks up the writing credit  as well as taking lead vocal on this one, a not-quite-so complimentary view of Tinseltown (‘land of the greedy, home of the vain‘) where ‘the faces may change but the dreams stay the same‘. All these tracks are in a rather gentler style than perhaps we’ve come to expect from the albums; that’s not to suggest the new album will be all like this but it does offer further proof that the band aren’t all bombast, they can rock you gently as well as heavily.

The remainder of the tracks on the CD are reworkings; there’s a new, acoustic version of ‘Chasing Diamonds’ as well as the new version of ‘September Rain’ which they issued separately in, September! The trilogy of Pascall reworkings concludes with ‘Yesterday’s News’; this is flagged on the cover as the ‘audition tape’. All of these new versions of older songs are to establish Pascall as the CATS singer now, having taken over from Paul Manzi who sang on the first three albums he is now putting his own stamp on the back CATalogue. The last track on the CD closes with a karaoke (or ‘kataoke’ as they would have it’) version of ‘My Kind of Christmas’ for you to sing along to. (The lyric is provided in the CD booklet, helpfully!)

As is the case with everything CATS in SPACE do, a lot of thought, time and effort has gone into the production and presentation of this release. I’d have liked this CD to be a little more lively, maybe with a cover of a party classic just for fun, but as it is, it is another quality product. I do hope the next album has a little more dirt under the claws however!

The band have today (as of the time of this post) just issued a promo video for ‘My Kind of Christmas’ – at the time of writing it is only available on their own Facebook page. Directed by none other than Toby Jepson, they have themed the video on ‘A Christmas Carol’ interspersed with the band playing on a stage set just like you saw on ‘Top of the Pops’, complete with audience attempting to dance!

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

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4 – Deserving

The SoapGirls release ‘Chains’ music video online

South African punk/rock sister act The SoapGirls issued a new video this week for their track ‘Chains’, taken from their fourth album ‘Elephant In The Room’. The duo, plus their touring drummer Sam Ogden, recently wrapped up a lengthy tour of the UK and Europe culminating in a riotous show earlier this month at The Hive in Rotherham. That gig featured much slapstick including a machine set up at the back of the hall generating large quantities of foam suds which soon turned the floor into a quagmire, while folk sprayed shaving cream, silly string and other substances all over each other. It was rather like a scene from ‘Tiswas’ for those who remember, and great fun to be a part of if not something I might write about in more detail on this blog (!)

Anyway, the video was shot earlier this year in between live dates, and features footage of Mille and Mie (Camille and Noemie Debray, on bass and lead guitar respectively) on stage with rapid cuts to shots of them applying makeup as only they know how to (!) and of them posing with a snake! I always did think they were influenced a lot by Alice Cooper, especially with their stage antics, and this provides further evidence. But as the song is called ‘Chains’, maybe there’s as much ‘Alice In Chains’ as there is ‘Alice Cooper’ to the band’s makeup… 😉

Poor puns aside, presented below is the new video for ‘Chains’ with parental advisory regarding the lyric, which anyone who follows this band should be aware of by now!

The girls, along with their mother and manager Sam Debray, are back home in South Africa now, taking a well-deserved break. They plan a return to the UK in Spring 2020 for more live shows here and in Europe.

The SoapGirls Facebook page

Holly Henderson releases video for ‘Pride Can Wait’

Maidstone singer/musician/songwriter Holly Henderson has released a new promo video for her track ‘Pride Can Wait’, taken from her acclaimed ‘Monday Green’ album.  Filmed in her native Kent, the clip shows her in dreamy looking scenes near the coast, walking along pathways in the countryside and stood before an imposing structure which is a ‘sound mirror’.  These concave concrete blocks acted as an ‘early warning’ system by picking up and amplifying the sound of approaching aircraft engines.

The song is a dreamy, ethereal number with a visual that accompanies it perfectly, capturing perfectly the mood of summer ending and autumn coming. The clip is now available to view on YouTube or embedded below:

The album ‘Monday Green’ is available to stream or download by following this link

Holly Henderson ‘Monday Green’

CATS in SPACE release reworked ‘September Rain’ with new vocalist

Earlier this year UK retro-rock band CATS in SPACE announced their new vocalist as Mark Pascall, who came in for original singer Paul Manzi. The new guy has performed some shows with the band and by all accounts has been welcomed by the ‘Cat Fans’, but they have decided to introduce him properly by re-recording an older song to feature his vocals. The single was released in limited quantities on CD but is also available on YouTube now.

‘September Rain’ was originally on the band’s second album ‘Scarecrow’, and this version has been completely remade. The arrangement is not much different however, so it serves the purpose of giving the fan base a taste of what Pascall will bring to the table. The song, a mid-temp pop rocker that you’ll find yourself singing for hours afterwards, is ideally suited for radio stations although whether it will actually get any airplay is another matter altogether!

It is a good move on the band’s part; giving their new frontman a small piece of the back catalogue to make his own of, especially since he has to go out there and sing songs that Paul Manzi put down on record. It helps bed in Pascall to the role, and he delivers a performance that is a little different, perhaps slicker than Manzi, but arguably just as good.

Those worried about the band’s direction with a new voice at the mic need worry no longer, the group are in good hands with Mark Pascall. Below is the new promo video for this version of ‘September Rain’:

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5 – Delightful

CATS in SPACE Facebook Page

The Dead Daisies: Hughes in, Corabi/Mendoza out

The worst-kept secret in rock was finally confirmed this week when The Dead Daisies unveiled a brand new track, ‘Righteous Days’ featuring Glenn Hughes on vocals and bass alongside present members Deen Castronovo (drums), Doug Aldrich (lead guitar) and founder member/rhythm guitarist David Lowy. The story was first broken by Sleaze Roxx but it was almost two weeks before we were given official confirmation.  According to their statement, previous vocalist John Corabi and bassist Marco Mendoza were concentrating on their own solo careers, while the statement also reminded followers that the outfit was founded as a ‘collective’ whereby personnel would come and go.

Their statement as taken from their own website is reproduced here:

The Dead Daisies are a musical collective, whose members come together through a common love for great rock music. It’s a living, breathing, musical organism with the credo, “Rock is indeed alive & well!”

From the band’s inception, the idea was for members to bring their own ideas to the table but also have the flexibility to come and go when working on their other projects.

Both John and Marco are, and always will be, a part of The Dead Daisies musical family, but at this point in time they have decided to do some work on their own solo projects.

The recruitment of Hughes is a coup for the Daisies; up to now they’ve been made up of excellent, accomplished players who were associated with legendary bands or artists. Hughes was actually a part of a legendary band himself as a member of Deep Purple. Since he returned to the scene in 1993 following his ‘lost years’, he has been exceptionally productive, releasing solo albums at a frantic rate as well as collaborating with many other notable musicians in ‘supergroups’ such as Black Country Communion. However, the departure of both the charismatic Corabi and the dynamic Mendoza is bound to disappoint many fans, especially since Corabi has recorded three albums with them and it is no coincidence that their popularity (in the UK at least) has ballooned since they started to settle into a period of relative stability. Hughes’ vocal style is vastly different to that of Corabi, and that may take some getting used to for fans who are familiar with him being at the helm.

The track released this week (‘Righteous Days’) is a good song in itself; showcasing Hughes’s trademark soaring vocals, the heavy chugging guitar sound is still there (Hughes himself has a thunderous bass sound). How they will sound singing older material live that is associated with Corabi remains to be seen, although Corabi himself had to perform songs recorded by original singer Jon Stevens when he first came into the band.  The track was exclusively unveiled on Planet Rock radio in the UK and also is available to listen to on their website.

Hughes is currently still touring with his set performing Deep Purple material from his time with the band, once that’s concluded he will link up with the Daisies for a new album.  The band’s site once again:

David, Doug, Deen & Glenn head back into the studio later in the year to finish the album and look forward to seeing you on the road in 2020!

For those who haven’t yet checked out the new song ‘Righteous Days’ click the link below:

The Dead Daisies statement and new track ‘Righteous Days’

Those who caught Hughes live when he was touring with Doug Aldrich a few years ago should be excited as to what is in store next year.

New rock trio Silverthorne tear the sky wide open

Many years ago now, when Thunder had reconvened following a split I’d gone to see them play on their comeback UK tour. Along for the ride were a young trio, who went through several names before settling on ‘Winterville’, led by a blonde singer/guitarist from the North East named Peter Shoulder. He’d garnered praise from Thunder’s own frontman Danny Bowes, and it was easy to see why after seeing this band perform. I distinctly remember them coming on to indifference, and after gradually grabbing the ears of punters there only to see Harry’s boys do their stuff, went off to huge cheers. It was largely down to Shoulder’s vocal, the sort of soulful bluesy delivery that evoked memories of a young Coverdale, but with his own slant.

Winterville only got to make one album before splitting themselves, however Shoulder wasn’t idle for long. He teamed up with Thunder’s Luke Morley to form The Union, who released three albums in the first half of this decade to critical acclaim. However, this came after Thunder had once again called it a day, and it was noticeable at The Union gigs how many Thunder t-shirts were in evidence, suggesting their fans still weren’t quite ready to let that band go. Morley took the hint, reuniting once more with his Thunder mates and they have continued to more success. Meanwhile, save for a low-key acoustic tour a few years ago, Peter Shoulder had apparently disappeared off the radar. Until now – when he reappeared with a new rock trio, featuring bassist Daniel Spree and a certain Brian Tichy on drums. The Tichy link quite possibly came about when The Union opened for Whitesnake a few years ago (while Tichy was a member of Coverdale’s outfit), nonetheless this was quite a surprise when announced, with a teaser for a new song ‘Tear The Sky Wide Open’. That song and video were released fully on 12 August 2019, and they promise more to come soon.

On the evidence of this one song, it sounds like the North East man has got his mojo back in a big way. The track is very reminiscent of Winterville, with that heavy electric guitar sound once more to the fore, alongside that distinctive voice adding the touch of class. With the mighty Tichy driving it all along this looks to be a must-see band for 2020 if they make it over to the UK (Shoulder is now based in LA alongside Tichy and the unknown – to me, at least – Spree).  I’ve no idea whether they have a full album’s worth of material yet, so it may be that they play as support to another band. Either way, I look forward to getting reacquainted with the guys soon – or newly acquainted, in the case of their bassist!

Silverthorne Facebook Page

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4 – Deserving

DORJA release new single/video ahead of full album release

A year after international hard rock collective DORJA issued their debut album (‘Gemini’) to crowdfunders they are finally ready to release the record officially this month. Gearing up for that, they’ve already put out two tracks online complete with promo videos, firstly ‘Chainbreaker’ and now the title track ‘Gemini’ has come out.

The video for ‘Gemini’ (directed by Dan Coffey) sees the various band members in low key lighting, performing against a black background alongside reflections of themselves, while vocalist Aiym Almas is shown flicking through and then dropping Polaroid photos, which are later revealed to be portraits of the band members themselves. Also there’s another scene showing the singer conducting a ‘photo shoot’ with the rest of the band, which was of interest to a camera geek like me, since they were using what looks to me like a vintage Bronica SQ-A medium format camera. Their earlier video for ‘Chainbreaker’ utilised on-stage footage intercut with scenes from the road, with the studio recording soundtrack up until the final minute where it segues into the band actually performing live, getting the crowd to chant ‘DOR-JA’ as they did during this number when I saw them last year.

Also released recently was a stripped-back version of ‘Use You’; described as ‘acoustic’ although both guitarist Sarah Michelle and bass player Becky Baldwin are using their regular instruments, this shows the quintet in a relaxed, informal setting with three of them on a sofa (!), while drummer Anna Mylee is sat playing the cajon.

‘Gemini’ will see a full release on 21st June 2019; as one of the crowdfunders I got my copy a year ago and have reviewed it here. Following this the band are looking to play a run of dates in the UK and Europe around August; when they come around I shall be in attendance.

http://www.dorjaband.com

 

Single: Holly Henderson ‘Loneliness’ (Trend & Chaos)

It’s been a long time coming but at last, Maidstone’s Holly Henderson is ready to release her first full-length album. Recorded back in 2017 in LA, after she was discovered by renowned guitarist and producer Pete Thorn via the magic of the internet, he then brought her over to Los Angeles to cut the album. The album has been completed and ready to go for some time, but only now have things aligned so that the album (which we now know is entitled ‘Monday Green’) will see a 2019 release. Leading things off is the single ‘Loneliness’, which emerged on all streaming platforms literally moments before I took to this laptop to write this post!

First heard in demo form on a BBC Introducing radio slot in 2017, ‘Loneliness’ is the obvious choice for lead-off single. An uptempo rocker with a introductory guitar riff that has a slight taste of Pearl Jam to these ears, and a lyric which, in her own words is “about being all dressed up with nowhere to go, of being a hopeless romantic in the modern age. We fabricate our best selves online, yet we stay in the confines of our bedrooms and become trapped in a superficial circle of proving ourselves to everyone, and getting nothing tactile and genuine back in return.

There is also a promo video for the song, directed by George Mays who previously directed the video for ‘Breakdown’. This clip is a simpler affair, showing Holly in various guises, illustrating the sentiment behind the song where she takes on different ‘looks’ while never leaving her sofa.

The finished version of ‘Loneliness’ now has a few subtle guitar enhancements added in the background, but is pretty much what we heard when the song first got an airing on BBC Radio Kent. Having previously had the chance to see her perform this and several other songs from the upcoming album live, I’m really looking forward to hearing the recorded versions when the album finally lands on my mat. Of course there’ll be a full write-up on here when it does, but for now enjoy ‘Loneliness’ – musically, not literally!

Holly Henderson 'Loneliness' single cover

Holly Henderson ‘Loneliness’ single cover

Link to Flaunt online magazine article and video premiere of ‘Loneliness’

Holly Henderson Music website

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5 – Delightful

Whitesnake release first new, original song since 2011

‘Flesh & Blood’, the new album from Whitesnake has been much-delayed, but is finally set for release later this year through Frontiers Records. Preceding this is their new single and video ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’, appropriately released on St Valentines Day. This is the first offering of new material from the current line-up, although the band has been in its present form for several years now. Their last album, 2015’s ‘The Purple Album’ saw the band rework a selection of tracks from frontman David Coverdale’s days with Deep Purple, with a subsequent tour spawning a live album/DVD released early last year.

The track itself is an uptempo hard rocker, one Coverdale himself might have described as the sort of song ‘that walks off the disc and into the concert hall’. You won’t find a profound lyric here, it’s exactly what you’d expect from the man who encouraged us to ‘Come An’ Get It’ and to ‘Slide It In’ all those years ago, after all. Guitar-wise, the sound is reminiscent to these ears of the ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ era, which may please Messrs Hoekstra and Beach, since it was one Steve Vai who performed on that 1989 album.  It is not one that’s going to rank alongside their classics, but will almost certainly go down well with a crowd. Vocally, you can tell Coverdale isn’t what he once was, he’s rationed that former ‘lung-busting roar’ now, providing a more measured delivery.

The video clip is a clear homage to his 1987 glory days; Coverdale has not only got the blue jacket from the ‘Here I Go Again’ video out of mothballs but also THAT white Jaguar car! Unsurprisingly, somebody from those days who was heavily featured in those glossy videos is not present now, but there are appearances from Coverdale’s wife Cindy and son Jasper (as well as his girlfriend), with presumably other family friends having fun climbing over the Jaguar. With the full album release still several weeks away, long-term fans of this band will have to wait a little longer to hear what they’ve been cooking up over the past year or so.

Whitesnake ‘Shut Up And Kiss Me’ (Frontiers)

 

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From The Earth: ‘From The Earth’ (Machine Devil Records)

This one came out of left-field last month: a six-track mini-album from a new project fronted by Michael Devin, currently the bassist for Whitesnake. He’s written all the material himself, and co-produced this record with Warren Riker, as well as contributing bass, vocals, keyboards and guitars. There are several other notable performers on the record however, listed on the back cover (posted below) including a certain Brian Tichy on one track.

The cover art suggests the style of rock on offer here quite well, evoking the ‘stoner rock’ era of the early 2000s, itself inspired by 1970s acid rock bands such as Hawkwind. That’s the kind of thing to expect, especially with the Monster Magnet-esque ‘Creature Feature’. Those sort of sludgy guitar riffs are present and correct on here, and Devin may surprise those unaware of his vocal prowess on this album. ‘Wild Buffalo’ could have fitted on Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’ and it’s no stretch to say that the Whitesnake man’s voice is quite reminiscent of the late Chris Cornell on this one.

Opener ‘Hallelujah Blues’ is more like another Monster; the hard rock shuffle of this track is in keeping with Monster Truck’s sound. Safe to say if you like the kind of retro-rock those two Monsters serve up (and I do!) then you’ll enjoy ‘From The Earth’. It isn’t all a heavy hammering though; ‘All The Time’ is a slower, more country-rock styled number while ‘Moon Queen’ also cools things down, Devin sounding more like the Cornell of ‘Euphoria Morning’ here. Closer ‘Monsterland’ is a slow-burning, stoner epic of the kind of thing Dave Wyndorf specialises in, it will conjure up images of sixties-style liquid light shows in your head!

Devin’s Whitesnake commitments (he’s currently on a US tour with Coverdale and co) mean it’s unlikely he will get the chance to play this stuff live often, but it’s to be hoped he can get a band together to play a few selected dates. This is a strong offering from a talented musician who shows here he’s far more than a sideman. Recommended.

The mini-album is available as a download on iTunes, Amazon and is also on Spotify – you can listen for yourself below:

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4 – Deserving