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

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


Swiss band Silver Dirt have already toured their homeland with the likes of Gilby Clarke, Brides of Destruction, Deep Purple and Iron Maiden.

From the opening chords of the “Go! She Said” new album “Sonic Boom” mixes the rawness of The Stooges with the swagger of countless Scandinavian bands of the last 10 years, The Backyard Babies in particular.

There are numerous highlights on this 13 track CD including title track “Sonic Boom”, “City Prowler”, a raucous version of The Stones’ “The Last Time” “Wasted Dream” and The Ramones like “Room 666”.

With the band geared up to impress the rest of Europe in 2009 they have also made available the DVD “Sonic Live 2006”. Recorded on the “Sonic Live” tour, which accompanied the release of the album, we get a live set inter-cut with backstage footage. Bonus features include even more behind the scenes footage and the video for “Go! She Said”.

Apparently Silver Dirt will be releasing a new album this year, however, this is a good introduction for starters. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

RETTIG White Album

Strange one this, not in the music, but the way it's packaged. The CD has no label, and the only musician credited is pianist/vocalist Pat Rettig and harmony vocalist Brianna Rettig. It was completed over a 12 year period by LA based musicians, sometimes never meeting each other, and who they were I guess we'll never know. Shame, as the guitar bass and drums make up a decent sound.

The music is Southern Rock of the most gentle kind; with only one foot in the classic rock pool, the other foot plays firmly with AOR and rock/pop. The opening track does have its moments, some strong if light Southern moments. "Cruisin'" opens with a very 80s piano before building into a very commercial FM oriented boogie.

The strength is in the piano, vocals and storytelling. The weakness is the commercial nature. If Skynyrd or Hatchet were an authentic Madras, this is your microwaveable TV dinner version, with a little Korma thrown in. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

ERIC BELL Live Tonite...Plus! (Angel Air)

Former Them and Thin Lizzy guitarist is a top notch blues guitarist but not one who is often talked about in conversations about great blues players. Many also know him as the co-writer of Thin Lizzy classics 'Whiskey In The Jar' and 'The Rocker.'

'Live Tonite…Plus!' was recorded in 1996 in Sweden and it's an entertaining live album. Since the early eighties he has fronted his own band dubbed the Eric Bell Band and what this collection does show is that not only is he still a great guitar virtuoso but a pretty decent singer too.

There are good versions of the aforementioned tracks as well as the classic blues song 'Baby Please Don't Go.' This album also includes three bonus tracks ('Gloria' being one of them) and the usual Angel Air delicacy with sleeves notes, photos, etc. It's not an outstanding release but blues fans will find some solace in it. ***

Review by Neil Daniels

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS Guitar & Drum (Deluxe Edition)
EMI Gold

This punk / rock / pop band formed in the late 70s and split in the mid 80s, before reforming in 1987. After a myriad of personnel passed through the ranks, this album was originally released in 2003. It is reissued here with five bonus live tracks, recorded in Glasgow in 2006.

Sole survivor and vocalist Jake Burns is joined here by Ian MacCallam, Steve Grantley and Jam bassist Bruce Foxton. The original album is typical jangly punk rock with melody, rock'n'roll, chants and more.

The angle is all more mainstream now, but it will have fans remembering their youth fondly. The album itself is full of decent tunes; the band can certainly still knock out a decent and thoroughly enjoyable track or two.

The live tracks show tightness, heaviness and a sense of humour.

Well worth a listen. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

LIZHARD Lizhard (Perris Records)

A very retro classic rock style here, think late 80s / early 90s. The press release cites the likes of Bon Jovi, Mr Big and Firehouse, which is a fairly apt description. Only with more balls than Bon Jovi (not hard).

Lead singer Luke Marsilio plays harmonica / acoustic guitar under the electric lead.

The opening track 'Rock'n'Roll Is Back' has a funk rock feel, and 'I Cry For You' is right up Skid Row territory. There's a neat cover of 'Life In The Fast Lane', and 'Let's Party' has a boogie feel and a neat guitar solo too.

Some good hard rock here, some nice touches, very enjoyable to listen to within its remit, but not a great deal new. Fun, though. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

SACRED MOTHER TONGUE The Ruin Of Man (Transcend Records)

Debut album from this young band who are already the darlings of Metal Hammer. Musically you can see why, yet in avoiding one common annoyance in young extreme metal bands (taking an indie or grunge direction) they've gone for another slightly less annoying trait in alternating/mixing clean vocals with shouts/growls.

Several songs could easily come from the late 80s big 4 or 5 thrash giants. There is some great intricate fast and furious guitar work, soaring choruses, there is much that most other young metal bands could learn from this lot.

When the vocals remain clean, there's the Megadeth element; the shots nod at Kreator, the screams at Testament. The mix, however, is the main downfall. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

RICK SPRINGFIELD The Early Sound City Sessions (SPME CD102)

Something of a curious re-issues ‘The Early Sound City Sessions' by Rick Springfield was recorded but not released back in 1977/78. Best described as a jaunty pop rock crossover ‘The Early Sound City Sessions' finds a number of influences at play, as teen star turned actor Rick Springfield makes a decent attempt at finding his own style. He certainly has the vocal range to make the most of some variable material but overall it's the lack of killer songs that hampers the project as a whole.

As it is, there's a mix of the humorous as on ‘Bruce' (he gets mistaken in flagranti for Springsteen) and ‘Cold Feet' (a potential infidelity is scuppered by nerves), while he makes a decent stab at a pop rock crossover with echoes of Billy Joel on ‘The Solitary One' and the radio friendly ‘Spanish Eyes'. The latter incidentally is missing from the track listings.

There's even shades of the very 1978 Hall & Oates complete with salient bv's and a cool string arrangement on the well worked 'Looking For The One' and an original version of a disguised waltz ‘Beautiful Feelings'. This song was destined to become the title track of the album when it finally saw the light of day in 1984.

But too often the lyrics are too trite, and stylistically Rick veers too close to a poppy feel that ultimately slips into a disposable funky dance groove on the forgettable bonus track ‘Still Got The Magic'. Of course Rick went on to some considerable chart success and TV fame in both of his chosen professions, but being as this release covers the previously unreleased origins of his success, it will only be of interest to die-hard fans. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra

LES EMERON The Sound City Sessions (SPMECD108)

Best known for his work with Five Man Electrical Band, the Californian based Canadian singer song writer Les Emerson stepped out on his own with this 1977 album. And his trademark MOR and Soft Rock focus with smooth harmonies is well represented by the opening brace of songs. Both ‘I Can Still Hear The Music' and the aptly titled ‘Summer Souvenirs' are firmly routed in the Beach Boys territory with some glistening harmonies and stylish production.

On ‘Mary Ordinary' he combines west coast influenced soft rock with soaring harmonies, but its strictly on the poppy side of the Buckingham/Nix era early Fleetwood Mac It's hard to imagine quite where all this mellow material and frankly old fashioned arrangements could find a home back in '77 or indeed 32 years on.

The songs although well constructed and performed sound like a pleasant anachronism, offering fleeting glimpses of times past. ‘And I Laughed' for example, rocks along nicely but is anchored to an overbearing hor n arrangement that is as bombastic as it is out of place. Perhaps Les had been listening to Wizzard at the time, or as a number of piano led pieces suggests perhaps Supertramp and 10CC?

But it is precisely the musical context of the time by which this album will be judged and in truth much of the material here is well presented rather than inspirational. Overall, this album sounds like a producer going into the studio with a few ideas in progress but without any real sense of direction other than the use of a few gentle harmonies and the occasional lush production.

‘Hung Up' for example, is a sharply arranged number with what sounds like synth-guitar and harpsichords, but falls just short of fulfilling its commercial potential. In fact it's a good poppy song but not quite as good as similar efforts of the time.

Les throws in a coupe of Country tinged outings such as ‘Borderline' (a ballad) and ‘One Way Ticket' (a country rocker) both which are engaging enough but hardly the stuff with which to make your name. In fact it is with barely any sense of irony that the latter song delivers the lyrics; "Just another guitar picker who is trying not to be, just another one way ticket on the train to obscurity", which just about sums up the album. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra

FITZSIMON & BROGAN Songs Of Love And Revenge

Once upon a time there was a band called Pretty Blue Gun who were signed to a big bad record label... . Actually, I'm making it up, but isn't that the point of fairy stories? But the fact is you know you're up against it when you find that even the interweb seems devoid of information about a band.

What we can glean is that the Pretty Blue Gun - a Hertfordshire based band with main protagonists guitarist / songwriter Neil Fitzsimon and vocalist Trudie Brogan - put out a couple of albums in the early nineties - Big Blue World and The Girl Who Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World. Copies of the Big Blue World - produced by Pat Collier (Walking On Sunshine - Katrina And The Waves) can still be found on the likes of ebay and there's a couple of sites where downloads are available.

But certainly as far as the album Big Blue World is concerned only a few thousand copies were ever produced, by all accounts studio over run time contributing to their label's untimely demise.

The masters having reverted to Neil Fitzsimon, Songs Of Love And Revenge is a compilation culled from those 2 Pretty Blue Gun albums. What can I tell you? Well, it's typical period pop/bubblegum/rock, in many, many ways a Brit version of Roxette but without the killer commercial finish.

It's not an unpleasant collection - the songs are good and Trudie's vocals light and evocative - but it didn't create any ripples in the pond first time round - albeit perhaps due to the record company collapse, but nervertheless it remains somewhat timebound and I suspect it will slip silently below the surface once again. **½

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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