Friday, July 25, 2008

Musical roundup...

After months and months of buying nothing, somehow the stars have aligned and I found myself buying three new CDs this week. So, in order of increasing awesomeness, here are my thoughts on them:

Revelation by Journey

Journey have had a bit of a hit and miss career. They started in the early 70s, the core of the band being the musicians left behind by Carlos Santana when he went solo from 'Santana'. They pootled about for a few years flirting with various (unpopular) musical styles before recruiting Steve Perry as their front man and opting for a 'radio friendly', pop-rock, AOR sound. Then they went massive. A few years on and keyboard player Greg Rolie had had enough of touring and suggested that Jonathan Cain replace him. They did this and Journey went on to produce the finest AOR album of all time, 1981's 'Escape'. Things kind of slowed down and drifted apart in the late 80s, but then they reconvened for a 'reunion' album 'Trial by Fire' in 1996. But Steve Perry was unable to tour for health reasons, so the classic lineup dissolved once again.

In 2001, Journey re-emerged with a new lead singer, Steve Augeri, and a fantastic (IMO) album called 'Arrival'. This was followed up by 'Generations' a few years later, which was quite similar to Arrival in many ways. But there were problems with Steve Augeri's vocal capabilities on tour, so the band eventually fired him and went looking for a new singer.

So now we have the new album 'Revelation' with new lead singer Arnel Pineda. The CD release is a double album, disc 1 being entirely new songs and disc 2 being a 'greatest hits' compilation - but all re-recorded versions with Pineda singing lead vocals.

The new songs are great. Pineda can certainly sing, and while his voice is reminiscent of the Steves that have gone before, it is also distinctive enough. So vocally and musically things are fine. Its just that the songwriting is very much in the same track as Arrival and Generations were. There's nothing bad here, but there's nothing particularly new either. Some songs really do sound very similar to others that have gone before. If you love Journey but haven't heard Arrival, then you'll find this to be a great album. But if you already love Arrival, there's nothing really to be gained by getting this. Maybe it'll grow on me though.

I have a problem with the re-recorded songs though. What is the point? Steve Perry had a highly distinctive voice with great range and power. Pineda is a good singer, but not a better one, so his vocals add nothing new to the old songs. And its not as if the band opted to 're-interpret' the old songs, they just went for re-creation. So there really is nothing special here. The CD is fine, but if you know the old songs then the minor differences will just niggle at you.

Good but not great.

Silver Spoons and Broken Bones by Stone Gods

I reviewed a Stone Gods gig back in January. They're the band that are basically The Darkness without Justin Hawkins. Well, their debut album came out a couple of weeks ago. And its pretty good really. This is a wall of hard-rocking, old-school metal with chunky guitar sounds and riffs & solos aplenty. Stone Gods sound better on CD than live in a basement, and they certainly look better when you can't see them.

This is heavier and harder and more serious than The Darkness ever were, but there are still moments of humour that come shining through. This won't achieve the crossover success that The Darkness had, none of these songs will be troubling the airwaves or the singles chart, but this will go down well with folk who identify themselves as metalheads already.

Rise by The Answer

This is the first time that has 'recommended' something to me that I hadn't previously heard of and turned out to be exactly my kind of thing when I investigated further. This is a fabulous album.

Once upon a time there was a genre called 'blues-rock', I'm not sure when it died out, but certainly there haven't been any great blues-rock albums out for a long time. In the 70s all the big rock bands dabbled with blues-rock and of course the biggest in the genre was Led Zep. Somewhere in the 80s, blues and rock parted company. Occasionally folk like Gary Moore would jump from one to the other, but few bands kept one foot in each camp - except for aging blues-rockers like Paul Rodgers.

So I have no idea how a band like The Answer can suddenly explode on the scene - in 2007 - all big riffs and blues vocals. I think what mut have happened is this - at some point in the late 80s, the former members of Led Zep, Free and early Whitesnake must have been sowing their wild oats in Northern Ireland. As a consequence of these liaisons, four boys were born who grew up to form a band. That band is The Answer.

From about 30 seconds in to track 1 on the CD, I knew I was going to love this. And the album kept going with great song after great song. The bonus disc on the special edition release has some great stuff on there too, but its not quite as coherent as the entire first disc is.

And special mention has to be made of the track "Preachin'" which is some old time blues and has an opening line which made me burst into laughter (on the bus) the first time I heard it. Genius.

If you like your rock with a little touch of blues, you'll love this album.

And there's more to come. Extreme are back next week with a new album called "Saudades de Rock" which is an odd name, but hopefully a good album. Will let you know.

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At 7:44 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

useless review, hey buddy go out and look for another job...

At 6:38 am, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

Luckily for me, my job doesn't involve doing CD reviews.


At 1:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a reviewer? You totally suck!!

At 1:16 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

Thanks. I'll bear that in mind.

You know, your commenting technique could do with a little work too.


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