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

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

TOP GEAR Seriously Rock 'n' Roll!

Jezzer, Captain Slow and The Hamster are fast becoming the equivalent of a rock supergroup. A sold out annual European arena tour, the occasional side project, and, of course, the obligatory double album.

And that's before we get into merchandise - calendars, books, dvds, T shirts, key rings, mugs and even The Stig bubble bath. That's rock 'n' roll Dads. Hell, they probably have three ELP style artic's getting the stage set from gig to gig.

And, carefully timed for the Christmas market this double CD marketed under the subtitle 'seriously rock 'n' roll'. It's all you would expect it to be - video friendly soft rock culled form the last 4 decades spanning The Who's 'Baba O'Reilly' to The Killers (Human).

Aimed to be all things to all men, there's no arguing with the quality of any of the 40 tracks here, although it would be nice to see a bit of imagination and fewer of the more predictable inclusions like Bachman Turner Overdrive - 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet', and Robert Palmer 'Addicted To Love'.

But on the whole there's no arguing that the content is here on merit and would brighten any car journey. In truth most rock fans (closet, or otherwise) will have a healthy proportion of the material. But when did that ever stymie a marketing opportunity?

One for the old man's Xmas stocking along with the aftershave, socks and chocolate orange. Oh, and The Stig bubble bath. ***½

Review by Pete Whalley

CHRIS VAUGHN For Those That Have Ears (New Toy Music)

Singer/songwriter Chris Vaughn comes from New Jersey, that will become more important in the story of this debut album shortly. 'For Those That Have Ears' is a strong album with a rough edged sound that has a touch of fellow Jersey residents Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen - there is also a hint of Cobain and Kroeger in the albums darker moments, yet it still sounds different to most of the current alternative rock albums being released.

Vaughn has recently completed the documentary 'Jersey Boy Hero', this deals with his upbringing and struggle as an artist - and he managed to get his long-time musical hero Bruce Springsteen involved with the project, and the track 'Speak' features in the film. First single, 'Fallen Angel', also appears on film as it is used in new film 'Stiletto'.

'For Those That Have Ears' is a solid rock album with a strong melodic thread throughout. Lighter songs such as 'Music Writer' and 'Still The Same' sit nicely alongside livelier tracks like 'Mountains' and 'Treading Water'.

This record, alongside Vaughn’s documentary, could be the springboard to bigger things to come. ***½

Review by Nikk Gunns

TIGER PLEASE They Don't Change Under Moonlight

At first blush this 12 track mini album by up and coming South Wales five piece Tiger Please may look like a full blown debut. But strip out the into and 5 interludes and you're left with an excellent 6 track introduction to a band who've been compared to the likes of Snow Patrol, Sigur Ross and Kings Of Leon.

Strawberry Moon opens the set with some heavily Edge influenced guitar playing before erupting into anthemic Snow Patrol style rock. The Armada has a more Kings Of Leon rock style.

Without Country, featuring Neil from Attack! Attack ! is another big anthemic singalong with more Edge style guitar, while This Side Of Town manages to combine the attributes of U2, Snow Patrol and kings Of Leon.

Packed with strong melodies and big hooks, what They Don't Change Under Moonlight lacks is a first rate production and perhaps a little more originality. But nevertheless definitely a band to watch for 2010. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY Deliverance/Wiseblood (2CD)
(IronBird / Cherry Red)

After a myriad of line-up changes, the early 90s finally saw some stability to COC, and 1994 saw the release of their biggest seller, Deliverance.

The punk metal crossover sound is bolstered by a hint of Sabbath (1994 also saw COC contribute to the Nativity In Black tribute album).

So it’s a full on sonic assault, the rhythms coming in bursts, the vocals and guitars punchy or screaming (or both). “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds” were both big hits in America, and “Without Wings” has a good acoustic feel.  Elsewhere, the music is rough, punchy, with alternative elements too. Quite ear splitting.

Wiseblood continued in a similar vein, a mix of crossover, alternative and a Sabbath nod. It failed to sell like its predecessor, and it is a little samey. Some good work here though, a fairly solid album. ***

Review by Joe Geesin


Big Mama Scandal were formed in 1991 in Bulgaria. Having read this I was not sure what to expect from new album 'By You', however, I was pleasantly surprised. The band have built up quite a following in their homeland having won various awards and taken part in many TV shows throughout their career- in fact they nearly represented Bulgaria at 2006’s Eurovision Song Contest.

The band have taken a number of influences and used these to create their own sound. 'By You' is full of simple, melodic songs that are easy to listen to. Amongst the albums 15 tracks you will be reminded of Oasis on tracks such as 'Come With Me', 'On My Own' and 'Same Old Song'.

You will think of The Damn Yankees when you hear the vocals on 'Two Eyes Of A Hunter' and title track 'By You'. There is also the ‘90’s style power ballad 'Love' (think Extreme) and the Green Day style pop-punk of 'Saturday Night'. There is also a bonus track in the shape of a live rendition of 'Two Eyes Of A Hunter/Say You Love Me'.

'By You' is not a bad record, however, the album feels longer than it actually is as there is not enough variation in the songs. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

VON BENZO Von Benzo (Orange Haze Productions)

This Swedish band are about to release their self-titled debut album 'Von Benzo'- 15 tracks of radio friendly hard rock that is heavily influenced by the likes of Nickelback, Creed and Puddle of Mudd. This album may not be the most original release that I have heard this year but, that said, the combination of vocalist Jay’s Chad Kroeger style vocals and the guitar work of Nicke make this American sounding record very commercially accessible.

'Von Benzo' will, undoubtedly, draw a lot of comparisons to the afore mentioned Nickelback- and on tracks like 'And The Dead Say No', 'Medicine' and the slower 'Die Beautiful' this is unavoidable.

These tracks also feature some of the best guitar solos on the album. Acoustic number 'Bad Father, Bad Son' highlights the lighter side of the band, whilst the superbly titled 'MTV Killed Rock N’ Roll' is a bluesier affair that blames the renowned music channel for killing off Rock N’ Roll as we knew it.

Other tracks worth looking at include 'Demolition Man', 'Poison', 'Black Eyes On A Saturday Night' and the bass driven ''I’m On My Way'.

At 15 tracks the album feels like it overruns somewhat and maybe a smarter move for the band would have been releasing an album with the 12 strongest songs on it. Had Von Benzo been an LA based band then this album would have been picked up by a major label already, however, with some solid promotion the band should do well with this release. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

CHERRY LIPS Cherry Lips (Perris Records)

Cherry Lips are an all girl band (well, they were until drummer Serena was recently replaced by a bloke!!), whose self-titled debut album is out now.

The band has a sound that is party style rock with an almost pop edge. Stefi Parks’ vocals are, at times, reminiscent of early Madonna ('Heartbreaker' and 'Narcissus'), there is also more than a touch of a rockier Cyndi Lauper in there and comparisons to No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani are hard to avoid.

Big choruses, well-written songs and some decent guitar work make the album easy to listen to. Highlights include 'Dead or Alive? (Are You)', 'Stop Messin’ Around' and 'Back For More'.

The band has played a lot of live shows in their native Italy since this album was originally recorded last year. This experience should be reflected in their next album, although there is nothing wrong with this debut effort. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

VILLA NOVA JUNCTION Villa Nova Junction (Hellrow Records)

Villa Nova Junction have captured the feel of early ‘70’s Rolling Stones and The Stooges and infused this with modern day elements of bands such as Jet and The Hives, they have also added a healthy dose of Scandinavian trash swagger- with vocalist Husky bringing a touch of Michael Monroe (Hanoi Rocks) here and there.

This self-titled debut album is full of energy and does not slow down at all throughout its 12 tracks. This Swedish band has been together since 2000 and that shows in the musical tightness that they have forged in that time.

Highlights include opening track 'Critical', 'Painkiller', 'Whore' and 'Black N’Blue'. However, the whole album is definitely one to check out and hopefully there will be more to come from Villa Nova Junction. ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

SPiT LiKE THiS We Won't Hurt You (But We Won't Go Away)' (GMR Music Group)

SPiT LiKE THiS are re-releasing debut album 'We Won't Hurt You (But We Won't Go Away)' as a deluxe edition, although this does only include 1 bonus track and the video for 'Sex, Drugs & Heavy Metal'. Although the band were formed in 2002 and have released several EPs this is their first full-length album.

SPiT LiKE THiS are a cross between KISS, Meat Loaf and The Rocky Horror Picture Show- the soundtrack from which comes bonus track 'Sweet Transvestite'. 'We Won't Hurt You (But We Won't Go Away)' is driven consistently by the bass and guitars, particularly on 'Act Of God' and 'Trick Or Mistreat'.

Then there is 'Young, Dumb & Full Of Fun' with it's 70's glam groove, the gothic overtones of 'Dead Girl Walking' or 'Pussywhipped' which, vocally, reminds me a bit of latter day Ian Astbury. The tracks that remind me most of the theatrical feel of The Rocky Horror Show, apart from 'Sweet Transvestite' of course, are opening track 'Sex, Drugs & Heavy Metal' and 'Top Of The World'.

The band have built up a loyal fan base over the time they have been together and you would be hard pushed to find a bad review of their live shows. Details of upcoming gigs can be found at ***

Review by Nikk Gunns

MARGATE On The Other Side

Lock up your Green Day albums it's a another pop punk crossover band. Mind you, look at the cover and the band's name and you'd think it was a prog rock album contained within.

It is a mixed bag both music and lyric wise, with songs having dark undertones through to a classy piece of throwaway power pop in 'Believe In Steve'.

Sadly though it is a case of heard it all before and better as well. Can't really say much more about this album as once you've played it you've not got much urge to play it again. Margate need stronger songs to shine in a very crowded field they ply their musical style in. **½

Review by Jason Ritchie

THE PONY COLLABORATION If These Are The Good Times' (Series 8)

'If These Are The Good Times' is the second album from eight-piece band The Pony Collaboration. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2007 to critical acclaim and gained radio play on the UK’s BBC Radio 1 and 2.

Back to the new album, which almost has the feel of a soundtrack to a dinner party. It is, for the most parts, a laid back and easy to listen to album and covers a range of feelings across its 10 tracks.

From the mellow, jazzy opening track 'Until It’s Gone' to the melancholy title track 'If These Are The Good Times' and the sombre 'Model/Actress', the vocals of singers Ellie Walker and James Scallan compliment each and work together well.

Then there are more upbeat tracks like 'I Never Knew', which brings to mind bands such as The Magic Numbers, the Snow Patrol lite 'HTTP 404', fast paced 'Leaving With Your Heart' and instrumental track 'Monopoly On Sound'.

As I have said, the vocals work well together throughout the album. Ellie Walker sounding like a cross between Kirsty MacColl and singer/guitarist James Scallan having a touch of a young Gordon Haskell to his voice.

'If These Are The Good Times' may not be an album for your usual rock fan, however, it’s not a bad album and should do well for the band. **½

Review by Nikk Gunns


He may be younger, better looking, and slimmer than Seasick Steve, but on the other hand, they've got a hell of a lot in common - the hair, the beard, … and the blues.

A self taught guitarist and LIPA drop out, and with Jimmy Page a lasting inspiration, budding young bluesman Marcus Bonfanti made his debut in 2008 with Hard Times. What Good Am I To You picks up where that album left off.

Which is with a major slice of lo-fi blues. Marketed as the sound of the North London blues and referencing Tony Joe White to Led Zeppelin, Seasick Steve is a far better stepping off point. Although at times Chris Rea also springs to mind.

With vocals and a delivery well beyond his tender years, anyone who can't wait for Seasick's next release could do a lot worse than investigate What Good Am I to You. But for fans of the genre only. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

DAYNA KURTZ  American Standard

The album title American Standard says it all, because Dayna Kurtz's latest album is steeped deeply in Americana. It's like taking a trip in a time machine that touches down here and there as America emerged from the wild west to become the first global superpower.

Opening with the plaintive Invocation, it moves swiftly into the swinging rockabilly of Good In '62 and from there to the broody Mississippi swamp blues with Billboards For Jesus.

Co-produced with long-time drummer Randy Crafton at his award winning studios and on the road at Ardent Studios in Memphis with Sun Records legend Sonny Burgess, and in New Orleans with brass band the Nightcrawlers, you can see why Norah Jones is a fan.

'Authentic' is the word that springs to mind. Dayna takes obscure songs like Elliot Smith's Don't Go Down and turns it into a desperate blues that bleeds raw emotion. At the other end of the scale is the excellent acapella You Fine Girl, and the New Orleans mardi gras influenced Election Day.

But beautifully constructed as it is, American Standard is likely to appeal only to a niche market. Research carefully before diving in. **½

KARL CULLEY Bundle Of Nerves

The Isle Of Jura is famous for one thing. Well, maybe two - its malt whisky, and its beauty. Singer songwriter Karl Culley is trying to make it 3 with his own brand of eclectic folk.

Like Jura, the sound of Bundle of Nerves is sparse and desolate. Recorded over 20 days and involving a 6 and half hour car journey and two ferry rides to the island's only studio, Karl is joined by bassist, piano and Marimbula musician Simon Edwards (Fairground Attraction, Portishead, David Gray) and percussionist, multi instrumentalist and producer Giles Perring..

Living on a remote island and breathing in distillery infused air over a lifetime is bound to have an affect on the psyche and when Karl starts singing about elephant juice and playing discordant rhythm patterns you begin to worry for the man's sanity.

With 11 tracks of lust, regret, anger, love and death delivered in a Karl's unique finger picking style and plaintive vocals, Bundle Of Nerves is unique, but unlikely to be a big seller. Although it's easy to see him as the centre of attraction at a festival side show. .

Eclectic in the extreme. And like malt whisky - an acquired taste. **½

Review by Pete Whalley


What is it with Scandinavia and metal? Something to do with the dark nights? There seems to be a proliferation of hard rock / heavy metal bands emerging from those distant shores at present.

Based in Trondheim, featuring the twin guitars of Kristian Drivenes and Sivert Skaaren, and blistering vocals of Ingrid Galdadriel, Orpheus serve up a heavy rock set influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden and Guns 'n' Roses fronted by Janet Joplin.

As a whole. it's a fairly raw set and whether there's any real need for a track called Fuck Me Over, is debatable. But being cynical, I guess it does qualify the album for the obligatory 'parental advisory' labelling. The semi rap on Mr Manipulative sounds out of place, but if you like you rock hard, heavy and raunchy, you might want to check out the band's myspace page at **½

Review by Pete Whalley

MUSICSPEAK Room To Sustain

From Vermont, Stateside and marketed as female fronted AOR power pop, you're hoping that MusicSpeak will explode out of your speakers like a modern day Boston, or Van Halen.

Unfortunately not. MusicSpeak are essentially a two piece - Gary Williams on guitars, bass, drums and percussion, and Suzanne Tremblay on vocals. And that sort of tells its own story - it's a diy effort.

And like many diy efforts, someone forgot to bring along the spirit level.

The sad truth is that MusicSpeak's song writing is pedestrian, the playing perfunctory (at best) and the production sadly lacking. And, I'm sorry to say it, but Suzanne wouldn't make it to Simon Cowell's American Idol 'boot camp'.

The band's family and friends will no doubt be big supporters. But wider acknowledgment is highly unlikely. Sorry. *

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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