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Quick Play: A round-up of August 2008 album releases

We've listed albums in order of star rating. Best first.

JOHN MELLENCAMP Life, Death, Love and Freedom (Hear Music)

Eagerly anticipated and produced by legendary T Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp’s new album 'Life, Death, Love and Freedom' gives us 14 tracks of modern electric folk songs- lyrically deep and full of honest and heartfelt song writing, at times echoing Springsteen and maybe even a touch of Chris Rea.

Highlights include 'A Ride Back Home', 'If I Die Sudden', 'Troubled Land' and 'County Fair'.

The CD comes packaged with a 'CODE' DVD- a new system that recreates the high definition audio of the master tapes. Playable on any DVD player, this is the first CD to be released in this format. *****

Review by Nikk Gunns

LIPSTICK MAGAZINE Skin Deep (Vigilante Music)

Every now and again an album will come my way that totally takes me by surprise and 'Skin Deep' is one of them. Lipstick Magazine have recently supported the likes of Bret Michaels, Winger, Danger Danger and Jani Lane (Warrant) and can hold their own with any of them.

The 9 tracks on 'Skin Deep' have a guitar and keyboard sound that will be familiar to fans of so many mid- late ‘80’s bands, whilst vocalist Toni brings to mind Vixen and Heart- this is no bad thing and it is this combination that makes this album what it is. There is not a weak track here and if I had to pick any of them above the rest, I would have to go for 'Skin Deep', 'Against The Wall', 'Love Games' and the ballad 'All I Want'. With ‘80’s rock back on the menu this album should do well. *****

Review by Nikk Gunns

AMERICAN DOG Hard On The Road CD/DVD (Bad Reputation)

American Dog are a hard rocking blend of AC/DC, Motorhead and Ted Nugent- and a firm favourite of rock fans and bikers worldwide. This live CD/DVD set brings you the best of the band in the raw, beer drenched and rocking. Highlights include 'Rock N Roll Dog', 'Shitkicker', 'Drank Too Much' and a rousing version of Deep Purples 'Black Night'.

You also get a live CD of the same tracks, plus extras on the DVD including interviews and promo videos.

Great band, great gig, great DVD. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

HARLAN CAGE The Best of Harlan Cage (Gypsy Rock Records)

Formed in 1996 by ex-Fortune members Roger Scott Craig and L.A Greene, Harlan Cage have released 4 albums prior to this 'Best of' collection. With a sound that is reminiscent of early Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Survivor, this 16 track CD does not disappoint. Highlights include 'My Mama Said' (try listening without instantly singing along!!), 'One New York Morning', 'Wooden Cross', 'Three Nights Runnin’' and 'One Naked Kiss'. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

BETH HART 37 Days (Provogue Records)

Beth Hart’s fourth CD was recorded and mixed in just 37 days, hence the title '37 Days'. Hart’s vocal style is raw and powerful and sits somewhere between Tina Turner and Sheryl Crow, with the songs easily combining bluesy, soulful and rock styles.

Highlights include the new single 'Good As It Gets', 'One Eyed Chicken', 'Sick' and slower numbers 'Missing You' and 'Forever Young'.

In addition to the 14 new tracks there are also 3 bonus tracks on the CD, including the hit single 'L.A Song', from previously released albums. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

KORTINI Red Live Joint CD/DVD (Bad Reputation)

Australian classic rock band Kortini unleash this awesome live CD/DVD package- and what a package it is. Over 3 hours of live performances recorded on the bands 2007 'Lady Luck Tour'.

The live CD includes such highlights as 'Lady Luck', 'You Fed Me Lies' and 'Let It Go'- as well as AC/DC’s 'High Voltage' and Skid Row’s 'Monkey Business'.

The accompanying DVD features two gigs and the bands tribute gig to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Guns n’ Roses 'Appetite for Destruction'- the band capably rip through a set including 'Welcome To The Jungle', 'Sweet Child Of Mine' and 'Paradise City'.

Kortini are a band well worth checking out for any rock fan. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

DOMINOE The Story is Far From Told NL Distribution

Dominoe had some success twenty years ago in the German charts and two of the original members Robert Papst (guitars) and Jorg Sieber (lead vocals) are back in action. It has to be said that this slice of retro eighties melodic rock veers towards Euro-cheese, from the opening 'Yesterday Was Yesterday' through 'Don't Touch Me..I Like It' (with it's Slade 'Coz I Love You' stomp) and the ballad 'Irresistible'. It's all been done before, and better, by The Babys or Bad English.

There is nothing hear that merits repeat play, perhaps with the exception of 'The Force'. And, always a bad sign, there are re-recorded versions of their earlier 'hits'.

Well produced, catchy songs, but somehow lacking soul. That's Dominoe. ***

Review by David Randall


New and young 3 piece who release their debut album in October, having already unleashed a couple of singles. With a lot of good reviews in the bag already, it's time for the album!

The set kicks off with "Weapons Grade", mixing rock'n'roll with indie/guitar pop/rock. The occasional jangly guitar breaks the pace well.

"Global Disaster" kicks off in early U2 fashion before picking up, and "Lack Of Trust" has a high octane rating with bursts of metal guitar.

The bass lines are good and there's some good rhythms too. Some changes of pace too, as "Hostile Takeover" shows, slowing down without drifting.

13 tracks, none over 4 minutes, it's a punchy affair for sure.

Some great sounds, some great moments, the Manic Street Preachers and Green Day could learn a thing or two from this lot. Just a bit more beef to the production and you're there. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

CITY 13 Better Late Than Never Again (City13 Records)

Debut album from this young hard edged rock band. Self produced and self financed, and it'll be made available on CD and online, so full marks for effort there.

The album opens well with "Suffer For It", a fast and furious mix of metal and indie rock, and a nod at Blaze era Maiden. From then on there's more of a hint of guitar pop done heavy indie metal style, especially in the vocals. "To The Darkness" features some neat riffs and changes of pace though. "Nightmare" features a mix of complex metal that nods at Maiden again with simpler passages. "Walking For Miles" has a slight Sub Pop feel.

"Puppet Strings" picks up the pace, a solid metal track, but not enough variation in pace or power of the vocals to match. Good bass sound though.

Some good stuff here, there is hope for mainstream metal in the younger generation, but the inexperience in variation shows. A couple of support slots could do them the world of good. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

MATT ANDERSON Something In Between (Matt Andersen Records)

Canadian singer/guitarist Matt Andersen has teamed up with members of Eric Clapton’s post Cream band to record the album 'Somewhere In Between'. The album contains 13 tracks of country-tinged blues. Instrumentally the band reminds me of Creedence Clearwater Revival and it is no surprise to find the Fogerty written 'Wrote A Song For Everyone' on the record. The stand out tracks include 'Come By', 'Stay With Me', and 'Lonesome Road'.

Andersen will be touring the UK later this year. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

GUNS ON THE ROOF New Frustration

A definite punk angle on rock here, so you get the hard working guitars, catchy choruses, uptempo songs, some decent riffs and a touch of rock'n'roll. Snowboarding music!

The indie angle is taken to the extreme with the punk direction, and some decent guitar work and vocal harmonies too. Tight and furious. The press release mentions The Clash, The Jam and Rancid, while reviewers mention AC/DC and Stiff Little Fingers. Well, if Manic Street Preachers played rock'n'roll you'd get all that and a good chunk if GotR.

Tracks like "Road Of Our Lives" conjure up images of sing-along-amoshpit. Anthemic punk rock.

Even the odd acoustic track sounds good. But bar those, the rest of the album is at a rather constant pace, almost energy sapping it's so intense in places.

Rock meets punk acceptably. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

REISSUE Unstoppable

Some classic melodic metal from Sweden, proof that the Europeans know a thing or two about music after all. Opener "Evil In You" shows range in guitar and vocals, mixing 70s and 80s metal, even a touch of 90s. The sound is augmented by the mixing/mastering of Andy LaRocque, who has worked with King Diamond and Mercyful Fate.

"For Sure" nods at the mid 80s sleeze metal scene, some decent riffs too. Punchy vocals make it a tad catchy too. The vocal harmonies continue in "Save My Soul" .
"Am I To Blame" is a power ballad, a touch cliché (but not quite to Extreme standards).

The press release mentions a mix of Zeppelin, G'n'R and Sabbath, which is in part quite true.

Nothing new or startling here, but very competent and very very enjoyable trad and classic metal and well worth a listen. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

EDEN SANDS Living Kills

Classic and surprising quality trad metal from France. Lead guitarist Stefan Tudela is formerly of Northwind.

Riffs and solos aplenty, opener "Path Of Life" is a good start. "Golden Fangs Hungry Dogs" is straight 80s US Metal, think Hammers Rule. "Scream" kicks off almost acoustically and nods at Judas Priest, before some solid melodic metal kicks in. Symphony X, Skid Row and Malmsteen could all be influences.

What is enjoyable is that it has all the right influences without being too deriviative.

"Mother" nods at Black Widow, beefed up somewhat; almost with an indie NWoBHM feel. Good guitar solo too.
The acoustic "From Dark To Light" is one of the weaker tracks, the vocal harmonies not working so well. The following "Lost Will" is several degrees better, harder and faster and makes up for it though.

A fairly good mix and a hope for young metal. Worth a look. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

ALL THE WAY RIDER The Eagle's Revenge
Blue Work Records

Second full length album from this crew, metal and hard rock that takes you in both indie and alt. directions.

Some decent bass lines underpin some trebly and occasionally jangly guitar, and punchy bursts of noise add to the sonic assault.

"Truth Hits Nobody" features some interesting rhythms, tribal in places, as if Porcupine Tree went extreme metal. Same goes for "On The Water", where the concentration is on the rhythm with bursts of riffs and some indie-ish screamed vocals.

"Starting To Warble" mixes ambient and indie metal, a touch of Soundgarden.

An interesting mix and a wide range of influences on this album; the band cite bands as diverse and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin to QotSA, Mogwai and Janes Addiction.

Should prove popular. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

CUT OFF YOUR HANDS You & I (Sixsevenine)

This sampler highlights the forthcoming album and features the single "Expectations", a solid guitar indie pop outing with riffs and melody to match. Definitely guitar pop but solid and more ballsy than most. "Oh Girl" continues in the same fashion, a definite touch of indie but infinite less sludgy than most.

"Heartbreak" nods at whimsical garage pop, an influence of 60s psychedelic chorused melodies.

"Still Fond" jumps to the late 80s, giving a good mix.

Producer Bernard Butler has worked with Manic Street Preachers, Suede, Libertines and Duffy, so if you like class indie pop that's no bad thing. NME and The Guardian have already been impressed.

"It Doesn't Matter" is more anthemic, while "Happy As Can Be" is at the more uplifting end of 90s grungy guitar pop.

For a guitar pop album it's not bad at all! ***

Review by Joe Geesin

WARRIOR SOUL Live In England Livewire/Cargo

This 13 track live album represents everything we love about gritty punk rock - it's fast, loud and filthy. Warrior Soul is, of course, led by Kory Clarke and this version of the band is lead guitarist Rille Lundell, rhythm guitarist John Hodgson, drummer Rob Stephenson and bassist Mike McNamara.

Since their first five albums were reissued in 2006, Clarke has re-activated Warrior Soul and they've been well received in the UK. Recorded in England last October, this CD is a testament to their unrelenting live power. A lot of live albums are too over produced and polished or are just a bit too long but this one is just the right length. Good stuff. ***

Review by Neil Daniels

GUILT TRIP Suffer In Silence (Casket Music / PHD)

New album from this 'melodic hardcore' band formed in 2004, opening with the crunch and aggressive "My Life". The guitars mix grating with metal, the vocals mix cement mixer with melodic, the fluctuations almost adding a grunge element to the hardcore.

"Short Story Long" opens with some decent guitar, but is soon ruined by the harsh vocals. By the time the more traditional singing comes in, which does have some great angles, you're already put off.

Maybe it's a genre thing I just don't 'get', but the cement mixer vocals are really dire. They are really off putting too. No matter how good or heavy the metal, no matter how intelligent the lyrics and riffs, no matter the are mixed with some quite competent vocals, it just doesn't work and it ruins everything around it. There are plenty of the good points, just check out "Questions No Answers" and the title track, but every burst of extreme vocals just has me reaching for the eject button. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

POPE JOAN Hot Water, Lines & Rickety Machines
One Inch Badge (OIB) Records

9 Tracks from this Brighton band, with quirky indie and avant pop aplenty. Synth, guitar, bass and drums in intricate blasts. Very post punk, with an experimental touch.

The sound and production is understandably basic, yet the sounds intricately woven, from interesting rhythms to bursts of noise. Jangly, it's early 80s trying to be so off the wall as to avoid anything along the lines of the new wave tag.

Guitar led melodic avant pop will either please or annoy. Thankfully the 9 tracks run at under 30 minutes, I certainly couldn't take any more than that. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

PETER BRAME My Secret Suicide

They say if you scratch an itch long enough you'll start bleeding. Well I'm not far off that point because I just can't pinpoint who Peter Brame's vocal phasing reminds me of. My mind keeps thinking ‘Richard Ashcroft' and refuses to track the memory banks any further. Perhaps I need more RAM.

Anyway, safe to say that we're told that Peter's favourite artists of all time are The Beatles, The Verve (so I could be right about Richard Ashcroft), Ryan Adams and Cherry Ghost. Which gives you a pretty big pointer of where this pretty much unplugged album is aimed. And that's fairly and squarely at the female James Blunt / James Morrison bedsit record buyer.

But there's a drawback. In fact, there are several. Peter (of ‘wild child' Fame Academy finalist acclaim) has a decent enough voice but he has a delivery that varies very little from track to track - from forlorn to falsetto and back again. It works well but is a bit formulaic and quickly becomes tiresome. That's on the plus side.

On the downside, one song just blurs into another. It's clear that they have all been composed on a gently strummed (and no doubt battered) acoustic guitar. That's been stuck fairly high up in the mix, along with the vocals, and some fairly sparse and unobtrusive backing added.

Then there's the songs themselves. They're not bad, but like everything else on the album they're only OK and there's no clear standout that has a chance of breaking the album. Which all adds up to a record that is more likely to sink than swim.

It's suggested that this album could turn the UK music scene on its head. I don't think so. We're also told he loves his Mum's lasagne. Fine, I'm sure its delicious, but if that's the best PR line they can come up with, God help us all. Dreary. **

Review by Pete Whalley


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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