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

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

LYNN HANSON Eleven Months (Lynn Hanson Records/Pinnacle)

'Eleven Months' is the 2nd album by Canadian singer/songwriter Lynne Hanson, a singer whose style is a melting pot of contemporary American country, and whose voice is reminiscent of Sheryl Crow at times.

The album subjects cover a range of emotions and the songs are about real life- whether it be commitment, loneliness or joy, the songs all have a real feel to them. As you would expect from this genre of music there are mandolins, steel guitars and fiddles a plenty and this all adds to the texture of the songs themselves.

Highlights include the fast paced 'Day Keeps Coming', 'Dance In The Evermore', the bluegrass feel of 'Cold Touch', the soulful 'Tears In Your Rain' and title track 'Eleven Months'.

This is one of those albums that I will definitely be revisiting. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

AUTOGRAPH Sign In Please (Rock Candy)

This 1984 RCA album will again please melodic hard rock fans, for Autograph pleased the likes of Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne back in the day. While unsigned, it was a tour with Van Halen that led to the RCA deal, and from the off they mix solos and melody aplenty.

This five piece featured 2 guitars as well as a keyboard player, with Steve Plunkett handing vocals. Opener "Send Her To Me" is a great number, and "Turn Up The Radio" was a US top 30 hit. Think a mix of Heavy Pettin' and Def Leppard, which on the commercial yet heavy rock side of things, is no bad thing.

A solid and consistent album with more tunes and harmonies than you can shake an FM hit single at, plus a bonus track and Steve Plunkett interview. ****

Review by Joe Geesin

CRYSTAL EYES Chained Metal Heaven (2008)

Swedish metal band who are new to these ears but this is their fifth album and not a bad one either! Musically they don't veer of the path of Euro power metal so its precise metal riffing, very powerful vocals courtesy of Nico Adamsen (he reminds me of Astral Doors/Wuthering Heights vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson) and big powerful melodies.

'Ride The Rainbow' gets the album underway in fine style and 'Shadow Rider' recalls Dio in their prime, a great metal anthem. The album's quiter moment 'Guardian', features acoustic guitars and gang vocals, closes the album and makes for a pleasant change in musical tempo. The rest of the album is standard power metal, not bad but nothing overly memorable.

Not a bad album with good production and a good vocalist in Nico Adamsen, so if you are a power metal collector add this to your collection otherwise grab a listen first. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

SLICK'S KITCHEN Half Evil - Half Album (Red Lion Music)

Three piece metal with pop and goth tones. This six track outing is a fine taster for the forthcoming Damned tour. The bass is heavy, solid, driving and prominent throughout, although at times it does sound programmed. The vocals mix goth and upbeat rock/pop, and the guitar mixes metal with guitar pop in a heavy way.

Drummer Hartman's production is good - he's already produced the likes of Doro, Sodom and Powergod.

Opener "Cum In My Kitchen" opens with a fast melodic bass line, and "No Man's Man" has a feel of US Country Metal with a touch of sleaze.

Definitely one to watch. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ELVENKING Two Tragedy Poets (And A Caravan Of Weird Figures) AFM Records (2008)

This started out as an acoustic EP to fill time between studio albums (their next one is due sometime next year) but it has been expanded to a full album.

There are acoustic versions of songs already recorded by the band including 'The Winter Wake' and 'The Wanderer', both of which see the band up their folk roots with violin and acoustic backing.

The opening instrumental is good rollicking fun and 'Another Awful Hobs Tale' is a good folk rock tune. They even throw in a cover of Belinda Carlise's 80's hit 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth' - interesting choice of cover but all they really do is add heavy guitar, some violin and it sounds out of place with the other songs on here.

The band do try and go all folk metal/rock but for me bands like the Pogues, Flogging Molly, Skyclad and Wolftone do it so much better. Still if you like folk metal/rock this is worth a listen but sadly not one I would call an essential buy. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie

MATT DUKE Kingdom Underground (Rykodisc)

Second album from New Jersey born and Philadelphia raised Matt Duke. With a fanbase out there already, he's hoping the vibe will rub off here.

"The Father The Son" is a pleasant number, as behind the uptempo monotonic strumming is a decent tune from the vocals, strings and piano. There's a more whimsical edge to "Sex And Reruns", built up with some odd effects.

"30 Some Days" is even more whimsical, it's certainly a gentle number. And some actual guitar strumming, that's too low in the mix. It does build to become a powerful ballad though.

There are some pleasant tunes and well written and very intelligent lyrics, but there is a feeling that Matt should make more of the guitar, play more of a tune on it. Like far too many acoustic recordists and singer/songwriters, if half of the piano or vocal melody could be transferred to guitar you would have stronger songs and need to rely less on the production to build things up. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

ProgRock Records

Second album from this jazz/prog/art rock group. Some fantastic interplay too, between guitar, keyboards and saxophone / clarinet, and the some of the vocal phrasing is reminiscent of Yes.

Trouble is, the direction changes are all over the place. It's not just the disjointed jazz-in-prog and trying to be too clever, it's the pop too. 'Stay Beside' features moments of Mike/Mechanics pop with female vocals before a heavy guitar riff and solo come in.

The intro to the title track more programmed alt.metal, but then there are the female vocals on the softer pop moments (there are three vocalists in all). Two extremes duelling over a clever bass line.

From metal power, to lovely pop melodies, to anally and almost self righteous and overly clever jazz moments, it's all mixed in.
Each moment on its own is good and (mostly) hard to fault, but the resultant pastiche is just plain 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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