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

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

HOPE All Of My Days (Escape Music)

The three members of Sweden’s Hope have some real musical pedigree to them-vocalist/bassist Henrik Thomsen and drummer Imre Daun have toured Europe with, amongst others, Dave Lee Roth and Don Patrol, whilst guitarist Mats Johanson played on albums and tours with the likes of Tone Norum, Paul Young, A-Ha and Ace of Base.

As a band, Hope remind me of that moment in rock, somewhere around the early nineties, where Def Leppard and Bryan Adams were serving up Mutt Lange produced records not that dissimilar. 'All of my Days' would fit in nicely alongside Adams’, 'Reckless' to 'Waking Up The Neighbours' era, and would equally fit in the Leppard period between 'Adrenalize' and 'X'.

Highlights include opening track 'I Want You', 'All of my Days', 'See The Sign', the ballad 'Why Don’t We Talk About It' and 'Bring Down The Stars'. The musicianship on this album, as you would expect, is of a very high standard.

This album will hopefully be the first of many from the band, and with bands like Def Leppard and Whitesnake still doing the business live, there is still a big market for bands like Hope. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

JOHN PHILLIPS Pussycat (SPV Yellow Label)

This 15 track CD from late Mamas and Papas member John Phillips features 10 songs originally recorded in 1976 and 1977 for an album on Rolling Stones Records. Not released at the time, a version of the record was finally available in 2001 as “Pay Pack and Follow”. However, this new version features the long - lost original 1978 mixes of the tracks.

The list of guest musicians involved in the album reads like a Who’s Who, and includes Stones members Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Mick Taylor, alongside Michelle Phillips and Chris Spedding, amongst others. The Stones are heavily present throughout, “Mr Blue” is a great example of this, as well as the out and out highlight on this CD, and others include “Wilderness of Love” and “Zulu Warrior”.

The story doesn’t end there though, as there are also 5 bonus tracks, which include out-takes and tracks Phillips recorded for the soundtrack to the Bowie film “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. These include “Liar, Liar”, Time Machine” and “Don’t Turn Back Now”.

This collection is a statement to the talent of the late John Phillips, who died in 2001. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

NICO'S ALCHEMY Fundamental Darkness  Dirty Dog Records (2009)

Guitarist Nico Tamburella has been around the music scene for awhile apparently but this release marks a new chapter for him being a more band led effort. Fans of Ritchie Blackmore in particular will enjoy Nico's guitar playing which tips a nod now and then to Blackmore's style of playing.

There are three instrumentals on here, two are heavy riff based tunes whilst 'A Leap In Space' sees the use of loops and programming taking the music in a whole new direction. The other seven songs on here all feature vocalist Candido who has a classic hard rock voice often reaching the higher end of the musical scale.

'Save Me Jesus' is a cracking hard rock song and the Rainbow sounding 'Miss Sensation' has a memorable chorus coupled with some nice piano/keys in the background. The closing song 'Miles Away' again see the album take another musical avenue this time pop rock and makes for a very strong finish to the album. The good thing about Nico's playing is he never sacrifices a song's melody by overloading a song with loads of guitar solos.

An enjoyable album and certainly worthy of investigation if you like Ritchie Blackmore's classic rock playing. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

PAULA WOLFE Lemon Sib Records (2008)

Oh no not another female singer/songwriter I hear you cry! But wait Paula Wolfe is worth a listen on this her second album as she covers many musical bases and has a lovely, melodious voice.

There are jaunty tunes like ‘Not Lonely’, reflective acoustic numbers such as ‘How Can I?’ Paula even veers into light jazz although for me that is not something I personally like to listen to. This is self-produced (and self-released through her own label Sib Records) with a very clear, crisp sound throughout.

An enjoyable album for those quieter moments and all this album needs is one song to get some airplay and Paula Wolfe will become a much more widely known name as she has the songs to back her undoubted vocal talent. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

HARTLESS Full Circle Harmony Factory (2007)

Hartless feature Greg Hart of Mortiz fame along with fellow guitarist Marty Wells, bassist Ray Edmunds and drummer Mick van Dell. Greg Hart and Ray Edmunds provide the lead vocals, both of whom have previously toured in Thin Lizzy tribute bands and it is that band which has the biggest influence on the music on offer here.

'Star' is a classy pop rocker and the first real Thin Lizzy sounding song comes along in the shape of 'Russian Roulette', with its duelling guitars and vocals not a million miles removed from Phil Lynott. A great tune with strong choruses and guitar solos. 'Who Do You Run To' harks back to a classic 80's AOR/melodic rock sound complete with harmony vocal overload and another killer chorus. 'Girl' is another Thin Lizzy type rocker with 'Boom Boom' similar in sound. In fact the bonus song on this CD is the band's cover of 'Thin Lizzy's Romeo & The Lonely Girl' and a fine version it is too.

Although this album has modern production the band are very much influenced by the 70's rock sound and in particular Thin Lizzy, which is hardly surprising given that two band members have appeared in Lizzy tribute acts. But they do dabble in some melodic rock/AOR as well adding a nice bit of variety and stopping this sounding too much like a Thin Lizzy tribute band. Certainly worth a listen and they set out what they intended to do, namely recreate the classic late 70's rock sound. ***1/2

Review by Jason Ritchie

SCIENCE FAXTION Living On Another Planet Mascot Records (2008)

Science Faxtion consists of Bootsy Collins on bass guitar and vocals, Greg Hampton (last seen producing Alice Cooper's latest album) on guitar and vocals, ex-G'N'R member Buckethead on guitar and Bryan "Brain" Mantia on drums. Public Enemy's Chuck D pops up as a guest vocalist on 'What Is It'.

Musically this is one strange album as the idea is to see what music could sound like in the future, judging by this album a right old mish mash! There are lots of loops and samples, spoken word parts - in many ways this could be viewed as a concept album as there are a few main characters running throughout the whole album.

'Sci-Fax Theme' is very funky but slightly hindered by all the programming and effects. 'Lookin' For Eden' and 'Gone Tomorrow' are the most accessible tunes on here, featuring the unique space bass playing of Bootsy Collins along with some searing guitar solos. Whereas other songs like 'L.O.A.F.' are just to jumbled to make any sense.

This is an album you will either love or hate as it is very full on, experimental funk meets metal/rock with a hint of techno. The playing you can't fault but for me not an albujm I would personally play much again. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie


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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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