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Friday, July 31, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Screaming Eagles roar to next level on Stand Up And Be Counted


THERE’S nothing new in this world - or so the saying goes. And, there are those that would argue that in the field of hard rock there is nothing new.

To some extent they might be right – it’s guitars, drums and singing; but in every other aspect the saying is wrong, as Screaming Eagles prove on their sophomore release ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’.

How you write and play hard rock determines whether you have added your own creative weight, and whether you have the ability and songs that make the listener stop in their tracks and get ready to raise their fists in salute to you. Screaming Eagles have achieved this.

With talent in abundance, as proved on their début release, this time they have upped their game, with superb playing, better song composition and a mature approach to their craft.

Album closer ’27 Club’ and ‘Breaking All The Rules’ are just two examples of how Screaming Eagles are spreading their rock wings and getting ready to ride the air to further success.

They are also not afraid to acknowledge their influences - the album title, and track of the same name are a direct nod to AC/DC (it's the first line of 'For Those About to Rock), and throughout there are references to classic hard rock bands.

But this is no slavish rehash of the same old riffs and hooks: no this is bringing hard rock bang up to date; fresh sounding, raucous and proud. No better example of this is the lead single 'Save Me' with its creative arrangement, slick solo and a hook that will snag you into its delightful refrain.

Lyrically the album also showcases grit and angst, as well as insight that rarely finds its way on to recording - add in Chris Fry's vocals makes for a killer album. This time Fry has elevated his work to a higher plain.

The same could be said for Adrian McAleenan's guitar work. McAleenan has always been acknowledged as one of the top rock guitarists in the land. On 'Stand Up And Be Counted' he has developed his tone and added more diversity to his sound, with the title track showcasing those in the perfect context.

Underpinning it all is the rhythm section. It rocks and rolls, holding the whole album together like gaffa tape. Ryan Lilly (bass) and Kyle Cruikshank (drums) have added a new groove such as on 'Bow Down To The Blues' and the eponymous 'Screaming Eagles'.

That track is worthy of note - it's not about the band, but rather the US Army's 101st Airborne Division, whose nickname is the Screaming Eagles. What could have been a cheesy track ends up as a chest-thumping anthem.

Track by track there is an abundance of what fans of rock want - and need. But taken as a whole this a huge step up in writing and performance; add the production and mastering by Russ Cullen and you have a winner.

Stand Up And Be Counted is available digitally now from the usual online stores and the bands site.

Review by Jonny

 

 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Ramblin' Man Fair - Day 2 - damp but not defeated

IF the first day of Ramblin' Man Fair concluded with a warm evening following a sun-soaked Mote Park then those ill-prepared awoke to find Kent under a blanket of cloud and rainfall ranging from drizzle to complete downpours.

But, undaunted the crowd gathered, the mud underfoot and the water falling from the sky failing to dampen the enthusiasm.

Getting the blues
with Blues Pills
Opening a festival day under such conditions is no easy task, but when the name of the band is Blues Pills then it is a fair bet that grim faces quickly turned to smiles as punters shuffled, and in some cases ran to the front.

A cynical man may say that the red-blooded males were there to 'admire' Elin Larsson, but that would only be a small few amidst the majority captivated by the band's performance.

Dorrian Sorriaux's guitar work has a pure sense of feel for the era of music the band's sound harkens back to.  By the time second song 'Ain't No Change' rolled across Mote Park Sorriaux and Larsson's musical partnership left many in awe; and by the time closer 'Black Smoke' came around most were in agreement that Blues Pills should have been higher up the bill.


Have guitar will play
Unknown to many Sólstafir were appearing in the UK for the first time, and the Icelandic band won new fans with their down-to-earth brand of atmospheric rock.

The set was all-to-brief in terms of songs played, but there was a sense of mischief from opener 'Dagmál' and the 2014 single 'Ótta' drew more people to the front.

With a banjo played for a while (and then breaking!) Sólstafir concluded with 'Goddess of the Ages' and even the rain seemed a little warmer.

Spike soaks up
the adulation
Despite the weather the party really got going when The Quireboys brought their own unique brand of rock 'n' roll to the festival - and Spike knows how to throw a party. If you were to try and mould the perfect rock 'n' roll singer, who has swagger and style then you only need to think of Spike.

Backed by guitarists Guy and Paul the good times came song after song, as 'There She Goes Again' and 'This Is Rock 'n' Roll' kept the party vibe rolling along.

The closing trio of 'Hey You', Sweet Mary Ann' and '7 O'Clock' transformed the soggy Mote Park into everybody's favourite rock venue as Keith grinned from behind his keyboard as the ivories added the bar room boogie across Mote Park.

It's raining and who cares!
The Temperance Movement have been working hard to earn the plaudits for their straight forward no bullshit take on heavy rock, and more praise will be on its way if they keep up the standards they achieved at Ramblin' Man.

Glaswegian singer Phil Campbell's blues rock jester role in between songs was engaging and all of the band swung as guitarists Luke and Paul traded licks and smiles from opener '3 Bullets' through 'Smouldering' and 'Battle Lines' to set closer 'Take It Back'.

Former Jamiroquai bassist Nick Fyffe and drummer Damon Wilson gave each song a sense of groove to match the rock bite.

A succinct, smoothly delivered set of smouldering hard rock.

Many were wondering why comedian Vic Reeves had been wandering around the VIP area in the early afternoon, and it became clear when he appeared on stage to introduce Californian rockers Rival Sons. Reeves would have made the perfect MC for all the bands, but he gave only a few words for the Long Beach band.
Facial hair - Rival Sons

The hype that has surrounded the band drew a significant crowd away from the shelter of the beer tents and by the time the second song, 'Electric Man' rolled across the rain drenched field that hype seemed justified as Jay Buchanan serenaded the soaked and Scott Holliday seared through his guitar work.

However, as the set wound on some of the arrangements seemed laboured in places; what works on an album could do with some trimming before airing at a festival. By the time 'Pressure and Time' came along the intensity of the support was waning a little.

It is a shame that some songs did feel overlong as Rival Sons have superb chops. Having said that the closer 'Open My Eyes' redeemed what could have felt a little too much complexity.

The man!

Exactly why Seasick Steve appears on so many rock stages with his downtrodden hobo blues is only apparent when you see the man lay it down with so much passion, a twinkle in his eye and some playing that could leave shredders weeping.

Humble, funny and smiling between songs Seasick Steve's opener 'Thunderbird' had pure passion in the guitar work. And yes throughout the set we saw him play 'The Three String Trance Wonder' and hubcap guitars - unique and beautiful.

Drummer Dan Magnusson exchanged so many grins it was infectious for all gathered. 'Walkin' Man' at Ramblin' Man - synchronicity embodied.
Hobo rockin'

'Summertime Boy' 'Barracuda '68' and a mean sounding ode to life 'Keep on Keepin' On' had the Oakland, Ca. man drawing the crowd ever nearer into his life story. Concluding with 'Back in the Doghouse' Seasick Steve was the highlight of the day for many. And, it stopped raining just before Seasick Steve came on stage...

The same could not be said of Gregg Allman. Headliner status perhaps granted given his legendary work, but that felt so long ago, especially with reports of him being physically sick at previous shows.

A set that had covers of Blind Willie McTaggart, Muddy Waters and T-Bone songs kept the hardcore of Allman fans seemed happy, but from early on many were drifting away from the Classic Rock stage to the Prog and Blues stages via the beer tents.

It's not that Allman was not playing well - he was - it just seemed that the tunes adored by many from his own band and The Allman Brothers Band felt a little flat.

Surrounded by a fine set of musos 'Done Somebody Wrong' 'Soulshine', 'Melissa' and closer 'Whipping Post' were all delivered well but the magic dust was absent.

Not that bothered many that were gathered - whether sticking it out with Allman or revelling in the prog rock of Marillion it was a second great day for Ramblin' Man Fair.

Review by Jonny
Main Article pix by Darren McVeigh of MetalplanetBelfast
All photos and text are copyright of those named - reproduction only by written permission

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Ramblin' Man Fair - a feast of Rock on Day One

THERE’S something about a damn good rock festival; when the sun is shining, the beer is flowing, the bands are smoking and the crowd has melded itself in that bounteous zone between relaxed, drunk and ready to rock.

 
No Hot Ashes say
hello to Kent
And then the stars align and something magical happens. And, thus, Maidstone in Kent hosted a special event that encapsulated the totality of the atmosphere that makes rock music special.

 
Kicking off Ramblin’ Man Fair Northern Ireland’s No Hot Ashes delivered something of a blast from the past - but they could be forgiven for that as the band only recently reformed after almost a three decade hiatus.

 
A smile to open the day
With material from their early days still sounding fresh songs like ‘Diane’ and ‘Summer Rain’ had a crowd unfamiliar with the band nodding their heads.

 
Singer Eamonn Nancarrrow was as engaging as always, but as he related the story of his family’s struggle with his mother’s stroke as the introduction to new release ‘Boulders’ the crowd warmed to not just the emotional tale, but the passion with which the band delivered.

 
In contrast Toseland took three songs before the band had the crowd slightly

Eye candy for ladies
and a singer too...
 warmed up. For a band with such a pedigree, and such a reach amidst the audience they were flat – not in musical terms – but in terms of how they were received. Billed as a renaissance of classic rock amid commentators the main man has assembled a crowd of musos who can deliver his vision of hard rock.

 
Unfortunately for him and his band that vision too often either fell flat or didn’t engaged with the variety of stage acts and the usual festival attraction distractions.

 
It took until the last two songs before the biker got the crowd going, with several dozen ladies registering their delight at his looks as well as his singing.

 
FM - all smiles
When it comes to timing FM managed to peak when the surge of 80s rock had faded, not that this ever stopped them. Energetic from the off they played with a clear sense of pleasure.

True, many in the audience harkened for the earlier hits but the material from 'Heroes and Villains' was received well by the burgeoning crowd streaming through the gates at Mote Park. And, most important for those stage front the band were clearly enjoying their slot in the summer sun/

 
Eric  - BOC - 'Nuff said!
That Blue Oyster Cult were once regarded as dangerous by mainstream America seems remarkable against today’s backdrop of black metal et al but when Eric Bloom and his accomplices took to the stage it was the moment that Ramblin’ Man Fair went from being a good festival to a great festival.

 
Hits be damned, this was a free flowing expression of hard rock. Sure they played ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ and ‘Burnin’ For You’ to keep those who are not complete BOC aficionados happy, but on the rest of the set they playfully gave songs the breath and space to ’Cities on Flame’ with extended solo and guitar trade-offs, and, of course the delightfully playful introduction to ‘Godzilla’.
Guitar attack BOC style

 
Ramblin’ Man kicked into high gear with Blue Oyster Cult, and the levels of adulation were set to rise yet further on the Classic Rock Stage…  

 
British to the core Saxon play what is dismissed by the ignorant as classic metal, when Saxon are a metal band that do what they do damn well.


Road Warrior
 
From the moment ‘Motorcycle Man’ revved like the sound of full bore bike exhausts Biff held the crowd in his hands and they roared into his willing grip.

 
Sure there is never going to be too many surprises with Saxon, but then again that’s not what the faithful want. Newer songs take time to bed in, and the road warriors know how to work a festival crowd.

 
My Name is Biff.
And I rock
‘Wheels of Steel’, ‘Sacrifice’, ‘Denim and Leather’ were all sang with gusto by the packed rows at the front as a grinning Byford revelled in the adulation yet still remained suitably humble.

 
Perhaps the recent health problems suffered by Nigel has kept the band even more grounded, and all welcomed his return behind the kit; and as the set ended all the other band members turned and bowed to him…a welcome touch as British metal handed over to American Prog Metal. 

 
Pensive Petrucci
The masters of musical dexterity, Dream Theatre, took to the stage to give a master class set. Petrucci’s precision playing had guitarists reaching for their tab books.

 
The likes of ‘Panic Attack’, ‘As I Am, and an outstanding rendition of ‘Behind The Veil’ had fans roaring in ecstatic praise, bordering on worship.

 
Happy Pereucci
But, it has to be said that Dream Theatre don’t play short, snappy songs. Their intricate arrangements, time changes and lengthy segments of sophisticated song writing may have been greeted with adulation by the faithful but it was noticeable that dozens drifted off from the main stage in search of beer, food and the tunes on the Prog and Outlaw Country Stages.

 
For those that remained Dream Theatre delivered a set of almost impeccable standards.

 
Some might take the Scorpions as a bit of cheesy act – but that is too ignore a pedigree that spans several decades, has adopted with changing rock trends, and most of all still seem to be enjoying themselves in union with the crowd.

RUDI!

 Klaus Meine is as engaging as ever,  but the man with the biggest smile was Rudi Schencker as the band tore through a set that ranged back to the epic days of ‘Tokyo Tapes’ days to relatively new material.

 
For the dedicated ‘Speedy’s Coming’ and ‘Steam Rock Fever’ were rolled out as old standards; for those just here for that song everyone whistled to ‘Winds of Change’; and, for those who (vaguely) remember the ‘80s it was a storming rendition of ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ that brought day one of Ramblin’ Man Fair to a close.


Brothers in rock
 
Sunshine had baked the field on Day One, and as weary, bleary festival goers joined the many queues to find their way back to accommodation few realised what Day Two had in store, but for now they were more than content.




Review by Jonny
Main pictures by Darren McVeigh - MetalplanetBelfast
 

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