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Quick Play: A round-up of January 2009 album releases

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

THE FOXES Bill Hicks

The Foxes have been busy- self-managed, self-published and self-released, the bandís last effort 'Trauma Town' hit #9 on the UK Indie Singles Chart in October.

New single 'Bill Hicks' will surely head the same way and in the days of vinyl this would no doubt have been a double A-side release. Two decent, energetic rock n roll tracks (the 2nd being 'Come and Get You'), which should get some decent radio play.

The band has already supported the likes of The Magic Numbers, Amy MacDonald and Glasvegas (oh, and Chas & Dave) and have a 30 date tour in February and March to promote the single. 2009 should be a busy year for The Foxes. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

TOM FULLER BAND Abstract Man Mesa/Bluemoon Records (2008) www.tomfullerband.com

This is the second album by Tom Fuller and his band whose new album gets released via a label more known for its jazz releases. But the music on this album has a more Beatles vibe with the odd psychedelic touch here and there.

'Sunglass Wardrobe', a lovely pop tune with a touch of the psychedelic, featuring some great harmony parts. 'Radio Man' with its instant chorus and cheery guitar lines is a song made for airplay as is the ultra catchy refrain of 'Lollipop Guild'. This could be the Beatles meets Cheap Trick!

Tom Fuller and co. also tackle and produce a wonderful version of the Hollies' classic 'Air That I Breathe'. 'Dragon Fight' sees Tom Fuller sound like the lead singer in the Stereophonics!

In fact the whole song sounds like a mid tempo Stereophonics number. The album does slightly lose its way midway through and could do with a bit of uptempo music to keep it going although the acoustic refrain of 'Franklin Street' is a great end to the album.

Well played and produced this album will appeal to lovers of pop/melodic rock with a Beatles hint in the sound. It is also a set of tunes I know will grow on me more with each play. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie


THE ETERNAL Kartika (Firebox)

This is the third album from Australia's Goth metal band The Eternal. 2004s 'The Light Of Isolation' and 2005's 'Sleep Of Reason' were pretty well received by the music press and after some support slots for HIM and Opeth they've built up quite a reputation.

 'Kartika' spans two discs and as you'd expect it's a journey into the dark reaches of the human mind. The layers of guitars are quite affective and it's not as bloated as other bands in the genre are guilty of.

The second disc is merely a bonus disc with a couple of remixes as well as new tracks. Down Under isn't exactly known for spawning metal bands but The Eternal are definitely leading the way in the Goth/Dark Metal field. *** ½

Review by Neil Daniels

KING EARL BOOGIE BAND Loaded & Live Angel Air

Formed back in the 70's by two members of Mungo Jerry, namely Paul King (who has since retired from live music) and Colin Earl, the band have toured and recorded on and off through the years. This live set was recorded in 2005 and 2006 and features former Quo drummer John Coghlan in the line-up.

It's good mix of original numbers and covers all led by the boogie piano playing of Earl who really is a master of this style of piano playing. The classic 'who Do You Love' gets a run out whilst 'Blue State Slide' allows guitarist Dave Peabody to show off his classy slide guitar playing.

An enjoyable live set although actually seeing this band live would be even better to fully appreciate the musicianship and music the band offers. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

IMPERIAL VIPERS Broken
www.myspace.com/imperialvipers

New album from this local 5-piece. Very solid and upfront metal/rockíníroll. The influences of AC/DC, Led Zep and GíníR come through although the there is a strong punk/indie background and is far less jangly than it could be.

The title track is slightly grungy yet seems to work well, with the guitar work midway through standing out.

The production is bright and solid, and when you add that to the music it does come over as a wall of sound. That said there are plenty of foot tapping moments.

The switch from quieter to louder moments works, and when the vocals touch on shouting they remain coherent.

The website has tracks so you could do a lot worse than give them a listen. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

IAIN ASHLEY HERSEY Nomad Perris Records

Guitarist Iain Ashley Hersey has produced an album that will appeal to lovers of classic hard rock a la Deep Purple and Rainbow. Joining him on vocals is the talented Carsten Schulz (Domain/Evidence One), in fact many songs on here like 'Vintage Love' and 'More To life' sound as if they have been lifted of an Evidence One album. Hersey also refrains form overloading the songs with overlong and pointless guitar solos making for a solid set of tunes, although a few are a tad too similar.

'Nicotine Dreams' really does remind the listener of Dio-era Rainbow and speaking of Rainbow, 'LA Connection' is covered on this album. Doogie White (ex-Rainbow) takes the lead vocal ably backed by Paul Logue (Eden's Curse) on bass, making for a very fine version of this classic tune. An enjoyable album and would be good if the line-up could tour as this sort of music would go down a storm on the summer festival circuit. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

SIXTY 8 Before The Fall www.myspace.com/sixty8band

After a well received EP, this is the band's first full length album, and solid it is too.

Take some solid 80s/90s American trad metal and beef it somewhat (OK, LOTS), and you'll get the idea. Think Whitesnake or Dokken with some extreme influences.

The opening tracks 'Blood Red Sky' will fill your brain with pounding riffs and rhythms. Contrast that with 'Any Race Of Man', an acoustic ballad with a fantastic electric solo and layered strings, a powerful number that sits between G'n'R and Extreme, but a lot better than either (not difficult).

The bulk of the album does have a solid retro feel. 'Over' is a stand out track, with heavy and solid production (still some work to do on that bass drum though). The guitar intro to 'Better Days' is almost 70s, and ever so slightly funky. The riffs on 'The Race Goes On' are powerful, with vocals to match. The twin guitar work is almost power metal. 'I Won't Play' nods at Marshall Law.

A solid album and well worth checking out if you like a retro feel to modern extreme...***½

Review by Joe Geesin

THE TEMPLE OF NOW Two Worlds (Independent Records) www.indierec.com www.myspace.com/caliecox42

The Temple Of Now is a band formed by Cal Cox and featuring keyboard player / drummer Dave Baxley, with Cox covering some drums and keyboards himself too. Here the sound is much more fluid.

There is still that 80s influence, but the songs are stronger and the sound more original. The organ work is almost progressive, with nods at Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. The opener 'Another Day' is reminiscent of Forcefield's 'Live By Numbers', so we're off to a good start there then.

The synths in 'Temple Of Now' nod at new romantic, but the darkness of the song moves it towards gothic. The songs here are more varied, still mid 80s yet still very enjoyable. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ECLIPTICA Impetus (Frontiers)

Following in the wake of 2007's acclaimed EP 'The Awakening' this is the debut studio album by the Austrian progressive metal band Eclipitca. It's not a small band, there are seven members! Hooking up with the brilliant Italian label Frontiers will broaden their appeal and give them the right amount of promotion and - no pun intended - impetus to spread their cause.

They plausibly merge the classic heavy metal sound of the eighties with a modern progressive style. Okay, sometimes the album loses focus and the production is perhaps not as big as the genre requires but they have some great ideas and a solid set of tunes.

There's lots of intricate guitar work and the feminine vocals of Elisabeth Fangmeyer make an interesting contrast to the macho vocals of Thomas Tieber. This band are talented musicians and have some good ideas. 'Impetus' is flawed but not short of any merit. ***½

Review by Neil Daniels

LEIF EDLING Songs Of Torment Songs Of Joy (GMR)

This is the debut solo album of Candlemass and Krux's mainman Leif Edling. It's typically gothic and doom-laden stuff; in fact, it's really bloody miserable but curiously addictive. Some of the riffs are excellent Sabbath rip-offs and there's a really genuine side to Edling's voice.

He refers to the album as "minimalist organ doom" and indeed he is accurate. The opening track 'The Scar's is an example of modern doom metal at its most powerful. It's only eight tracks long but it feels like an epic album. The first couple of Black Sabbath albums have really laid the groundwork for 'Songs Of Torment' All in all, it's a sturdy release. ***

Review by Neil Daniels

THE RACE In My Head It Works (Shifty Disco)

Formed in Reading in 2004, indie band The Race are about to release second album 'In My Head It Works'. With a sound that encompasses hints of Keane, Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Arcade Fire the band serve up the type of anthemic indie rock that pleases the popular masses up and down the land.

Dave Eringa, who has previously produced the Manic Street Preachers and Idlewild, amongst others, produced the album, and has done a sterling job. Highlights include forthcoming single 'Rude Boy', the haunting 'Moorwood', 'Summer'- a track reminiscent of U2 back in the day, 'Gloves' and 'Racing Car Game'.

Previously mentioned new single, 'Rude Boy', contains non-album tracks ' I Won't Stay Away' and 'Holy Ghost' and should stir up interest in the album. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES A Can Of Worms (SPV/ProgRock)

An obscure band, Parallel or 90 Degrees have a cult fan base that has remained steady since they released their debut CD 'The Corner Of My Room' back in 1996.

Mainman Andy Tillison has another band called The Tangent but this band are lesser known and has been put into a coma for some time; the last album release was 2001s 'More Exotic Ways To Die' although they did regroup for some recording sessions in 2002.

 'A Can Of Worms' covers material from 1996, the year they formed, to 2001. Spanning across five albums, it's weird and eclectic but utterly addictive in some respects. Any decent compilation should serve as an archive of material and thus include b-sides, live tracks and unreleased material. This two disc set includes four previously unreleased songs. There are some avant-garde pieces and more approachable songs like 'The Single' but on the whole it's wildly inventive stuff. ***

Review by Neil Daniels

VOTUM Time Must Have A Stop (ProgRock)

Formed in 2003, this Polish prog metal band have created something that, as the genre demands, complex and intricate. Coming in at 51 minutes in length ĎTime Must Have A Stopí has eight densely layered songs plodding through various emotions and obsessions.

Itís hard to take in and some of the songs donít work for me (ĎTrain Back Homeí is just too pretentious) but for a first album they prove themselves to be worthwhile musicians.

The darker and more sombre tracks are the most interesting; certainly ĎThe Hunt Is Oní is a stylish piece of work. It wonít be to everybodyís tastes but they have something to say and thereís no doubt future albums will have fewer flaws. ***

Review by Neil Daniels

CLAIRE VEZINA Cyber Neptune Unicorn Records (2009) www.clairevezina.com

Although this is released on the rather fine progressive rock label Unicorn Records Claire Vezinaís album is much more pop meets electro. Fear not it is not filled with dance beats but the music uses lots of electro programming/loops but the real star of the album are the vocals of Claire Vezina. She has a lovely enticing, dreamy melodic voice with all the songs sung in French. Not content with having a wonderful voice Claire Vezina also plays piano and keyboards.

Not what youíd expect from the label and good on them for branching out into other genres. This album will appeal to the chill out crowd as well fans of female fronted progressive rock bands like Magenta and Mostly Autumn (less the guitar solos!). ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

KENELIS Remember How It Felt

Iím always a sucker for a female fronted rock band, although I have a distinct preference for a hefty dose of melody in the mix.

Farnborough based, alt rock band Kenelis have been around since 2004 and released a clutch of EPs, although itís taken them until now to get their debut album released.

Featuring the singles Nobody Sees Me (But You) and Drained, itís a dark intense and angsty affair, with a distinctive wall of sound but interspersed with delicate acoustic guitar and piano passages. Give Her The Gun is a classic example - a long piano ballad style opening with husky breathed vocals building to a frenetic, angry thrash which fades before building gently again to a tumultuous climax.

The band can play light and dark with equal aplomb and itís a formula that is deployed fairly consistently across the album. Fans of the genre will be hard pressed not to be impressed. Itís certainly enough to entice parents briefly through the bedroom door only to send them scuttling for cover when Armageddon breaks.

A niche product that will see the band sink or swim, but I wouldnít want to second guess the vagaries of the British record buying public. But with the right breaks, Kenelis could be a band to be reckoned with in 2009. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

GRAND DUCHY Petits Fours (Cooking Vinyl)

Grand Duchy. Grand piano. Pass the Duchy. A strange amalgam, Grand Duchy. Otherwise known as two piece Violet Clark and Black Francis, each taking turns in the vocal spotlight.

Containing 9 tracks, the album features driving bass lines and a healthy dose of synths. It opens with Come Over To My House - a song that sounds like something an angry Lou Reed or John Cale would have come up with (although perhaps, not the synths).

By contrast Lovesick, on which Violet takes lead vocals is an altogether sweeter affair, but again anchored in the eighties. And therein lies the conundrum - the album is an experimental affair with no clear direction emerging.

Black Suit is another feisty number that played on a support slot, to say Foo Fighters, would no doubt bring down the house. But elsewhere, the synth pop reference points - Garbage springs very much to mind - are much to the fore. And, of course, as with any male / female two-piece, a comparison with White Stripes is inevitable. Not wishing to disappoint, the album closer Volcano! could oh so easily be the aforementioned duo.

In summation, quirky, is the word that springs to mind. But quirky doesnít = bad (or, necessarily, good). But thereís some interesting work here. With the right focus and breaks, who knows Ö ***

Review by Pete Whalley

SPACED OUT Evolution (Unicorn)

Evolution is this band's fifth studio album, one that tries to convey the lyrical message within the music itself (that's about as much of the sleevenotes as I could manage); I guess that's the reason behind this instrumental set that mixes power metal with prog and fusion. A very talented 3 piece with guest keyboards.

Opener 'Biomechanic' opens with a fast bass line, hinting at Manowar, before going in a more disjointed direction with a fluid guitar line over the top.

Two more tracks in and there's a big nod to 90s King Crimson. Some nice rhythms, mixing both catchy and disjointed, and guitar that moves from fluid (some good solos) to just poking its head in when it feels like it. Some odd sounds too. Sounds like they're trying to convey a conversation.

Very much a musician's album, it's pretty technical, pretty good, but not the easiest thing in the world to listen to. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

CANDI STATON Who's Hurting Now? (EMI)

Candi Staton. A name to conjure with, but perhaps not one you would expect to find on the pages of this veritable hotbed of rock site.

A doyen of a dozen gospel albums, almost 30 Billboard R&B chart singles and four Grammy nominations, this is a woman who at least deserves our respect. So on [your feet, or on] your knees and worship rock lovers.

Best known for her 1976 disco hit Young Hearts Run Free, Candi is now a fully paid up member of the free bus pass club, and she's been recording for 55 years and for almost 40 of those as a solo artist.

Who's Hurting is, by my counting, her 26th album and her 7th in the last decade. So Candi is not taking her pedal from the metal in the autumn of her days and while it's not going to convert any guitar lovers it's a pleasant enough outing - the sort of unobtrusive album that you might expect from the likes of Gladys Knight.

It's not revelatory, or career defining, but recorded in Nashville (what isn't these days) with a bunch of veterans, it comfortably spans country and soul in an unchallenging, easy listening sort of way.

Candi comes to these shores in February if you want to catch a legend live. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

CALIE COX Obvious (Independent Records)
www.indierec.com www.myspace.com/caliecox42

Calie Cox is a young American multi instrumentalist who has formed a number of bands since the late 80s. Obvious is his latest solo album, on which he takes vocals, guitars, bass, digital piano and synths, with the help of a drummer, pianist and guitarist or two.

The first thing to hit you is Rush. And not just an influence, the bulk of the album is straight of the 80's book of Rush. The riffs, the melodies, the high vocals. There is some good work though, the vocals are strong, and some of the guitar work excellent. Even the slower more melodic numbers sound good, and like Rush too. There's a touch of other 80s rock in there, and some Zeppelin too. It's a sound very much missing these days, but it could be done with a touch more originality.

The second thing to hit you the recording quality; while the guitar and vocals sound good, the drums are bright and tinny, yet at the bottom end manage to distort too. The inter track hiss adds to that 80s sound too. **½

Review by Joe Geesin

HIGH SOCIETY I Never Go Out In The Rain Angel Air SJPCD290 (2009)

As the name suggests the band's music is based on the film of the same name and that era, namely the 1930's. The band feature Terry Cassidy (The Monks) and John Ford (The Monks/The Strawbs) amongst the line-up and had a UK hit single with 'I Never Go Out In The Rain' back in the late 1970's.

Musically it is fine if you like Noel Coward and although I love the Divine Comedy who do sometimes delve into his musical era, High Society lack variety in much of their music. This would be fine to experience live and I would imagine it would be a very entertaining show but on CD it lacks a magical sparkle. 'I Never Go Out In The Rain' and 'Top Hat & Tails' are certainly worth a listen.

File under 'curio' and certainly a CD of limited appeal although vocally and musically they are very good. **½

Review by Jason Ritchie

WE ROCK LIKE GIRLS DON'T How Did It Get To This
www.myspace.com/werocklikegirlsdont

So how did it get to this? Seriously, I need an explanation. From the opening track 'Violence', which does nothing except apply violence to my ear drums, this is a noisy mess. The band are a duo, and bulk up through ferocity. Nice idea, granted. But everything sounds either tinny or distorted, or both. 1000 Watts of white noise with rhythm and chords. This is DIY beyond and without any attempt to sound good.

Sometimes the noise stops so you can hear the vocals.

When drums and guitar constantly distort in unison it's very tough on the ears. The female vocals are nice - when they're given a chance, and when they're not too bright and shouted in your face. There's a touch of indie and rock'n'roll, but it's all so blasted and distorted. Even the slow melodic intro to 'Photograph' is distorted. What the hell was the engineer doing because he wasn't overseeing this that's for sure.

Not just plain ugly, this is ugly ugly. *

Review by Joe Geesin

 


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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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