Stark Music Reviews

Dust – Soulburst (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 19:09


Not to be confused with the 70s namesakes, who released two albums. These Swedish retro rockers should however appeal to the fans of the aforementioned. Dust’s first effort really struck like me a sledgehammer! Outstanding 70s sounding riff oriented hard rock with a touch of the mighty Badlands. The debut was a self-financed affair, while they have now been picked up by the appropriately named Attitude Records. This is also, I was told by one of the members, why they decided to re-record two songs from the debut. This means that for us “old” fans this release features seven new tracks to suck on. The album kicks off with “Sun Rising” which instantly shows the band hasn’t changed their winning concept from the debut. Next up is “The King Is Coming” which really shows the band’s Badlandsinfluences with the mighty Roger Solander sounding like Ray Gillen’s long lost cousin. Johan Niskanen is a bluesy riff machine with a lot of tasty leads under his belt, often skipping the rhythm guitar during the solos and leaving it up to the tightly knit power rhythm package of bass player Bernt Ek and drummer Örjan “Dr Rock” Englin to fill every crack and crevice. It’s however not all power riffs and heavy rhythms. “Waiting For You” is a cool blues oriented ballads, with a hint of vintage Whitesnake (when Dave still had a voice and they were a blues rock unit). “Free” is based on almost the same, more or less sacred and forbidden but still often used, riff pattern of Hendrix “Freedom”. A tad too close, but still a great song. “Soul Stealer” is another cool riff rocker in line with the rest of the album. The album closes with a cool Univibe drenched guitar floating on top of the groovy rhythm package and Solander soaring above it all with his bluesy melodic top notch vocals. All in all a solid follow-up to a killer debut! If you’re into bands like Badlands, King Karma etc., don’t miss these guys out!
Janne Stark
Year: 2016
Label: Attitude Records

Country: Sweden

Electric Religions – Duality Of The Universe (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 19:07

Swedish guitar wiz Steven Kautzky Andersson released his first solo album, “Gipsy Power”, in 1994. A second outing, “Missa Magica”, saw the light of day four years later. The albums had a strong hint of the far east and after this he started exploring this type of music even further, which was quite evident in his project Iubar. In 2000 I received a demo with his new band Electric Religions and in 2014 the first official EP saw the light of day. The direction was now completely different. Heavy and riff oriented! Yep, my favorite words. The band’s first full length album “Duality Of The Universe” starts off with a 48 second instrumental intro entitled “For The Love of Jimi Hendrix”. Now we’re talking! “Good Fortune” and “Terracotta” continue in an almost doomy vein. The band is fronted by female singer Neili Bjerring. Her vocals in combination with the riffing actually reminds me quite a lot of the early stuff by 70s hard rockers Resurrection Band, which is a good thing in my book! “Lee Chao Long” is another cool number, sounding quite oriental and with a touch of early Rainbow at times. “1000 Battles” continues the dark and doomy vein with a really brutal chorus and a cool oriental sounding guitar solo. “Horses Tale” is a powerful big ballad, also with a touch of vintage Rainbow. “Yangtze River” is the darkest and heaviest I’ve heard from this band so far, very Candlemass meets Sabbath with Neili’s vocals giving it a touch of Avatarium. Sitar playing doom riffs? Yepp, check out the track “Last Emperor” for this interesting combination. I must say, I’m positively surprised by the sheer brutal heaviness of this album, and the combination between Steven’s fat riffs and killer guitar playing and Neili’s cool and melodic, yet slightly raspy voice. Think Avatariumand add an oriental flare to it. If that sounds appealing – check out Electric Religions! I highly recommend it!
Janne Stark
Label: Comedia
Year: 2016
Country: Sweden


Heavy Star – Electric Overdrive (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 19:05


If you were brought up on the 80s melodic, sleazy hard rock with bands like Ratt and Cinderella, you should definitely check out Italian band Heavy Star. I’m definitely more of a seventies guy with riffs and a bluesy vibe as my preference, as I’m sure most of you know by now. I however must say Heavy Star do a great job bringing back the vibe of the era of big hair and spandex. Guitarist Marco “K-Ace” is a shredder with the right attitude and sound and singer Albert Fish does have a touch of Steven Pearcy meets Tom Kiefer. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the band is on the notorious glam, sleaze and melodic rock label Perris Records. These guys will fit in perfectly in the labels roster and if you like the other releases of Perris Records, no need to hesitate!
Janne Stark
Label: Perris Records
Year: 2015

Country: Italy

Badge – If It Hurts It Must Be Good (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 19:03


Swedish cowboy zombie punksters has decided to give us yet another well-aimed kick in the genitals. Imagine you have a venomous Led Zeppelin rat in one corner and a pissed off MC5 snake in the other. You then bring in John Spencer and let him conduct the fight between these two animals. That’s kinda what Badge sounds like. Especially the two opening tracks ”Reap What You Sow” and ”The Game”. The fight slows down a bit in ”Trapdoor” and it seems like they’ve been given some tips from an Australian contestant named Tracer. Ok, we take it down even another notch in ”In The Eye Of The Storm” and bring in the acoustic slide artillery. In ”We Will See The Light” the fight is over and the animals lay in their respective corner, licking their wounds. Some attempts to pick up the fight do occur, but both are way to groggy to even stand up. They slip and they slide, walking heavy back into the corner. ”Traitor” is most likely the victory song with its perky, strutty, guitar picking and busy drumming. In ”Step Aside” we’re back in the game again, loser still as groggy, but mind dead set on revenge. No way this fella can walk a straight line. Falls over, trips, gets up, falls again. Damn, this is getting weird. ”Mapped Out Trail” yep, it may be. But now Raging Slab throws a punch, trying to interfere. Succeeds, too! Game over. ”Yet To Come”. The victor walks out, head high, back straight, middle finger in the air. This is f***ng weird, and I f***ing love it!
Janne Stark
Label: Perennity Records
Year: 2015

Country: Sweden

D.I.G – s/t (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 19:00

Swedish power trio D.I.G kicks off with a some really nice crunchy riffs! Riff-oriented powerful hard rock that hits hard. I’m afraid I do have one problem that I can’t get over and it hits me after just a few bars. The vocals. Björn’s guitar playing is killer, but his vocals don’t live up to the guitar playing. It’s not that he’s a bad singer, it’s just that his voice is way to weak and squeaky for this type of powerful music. I’m guessing he’s not really an experienced singer, and it shows. There actually are some really good songs here, and I wish I could get over the vocals, but I’m afraid they kinda kill the buzz for me. Musically there are some hints of King’s X, Black Water Rising etc. which is right up my alley. The sound is fat and nice and the CD was mastered by Ty Tabor (King’s X), so, so far so good.
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015

Label: private

Arctic Void – Entangled (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sun, 05/08/2016 - 18:54

I shall admit, I’m not a huge fan of the current semi-proggy power metal scene. Most of the bands sound very similar in style and sound. Actually, opening track “On The Padded Wall” didn’t really impress at all, and sounded like the band had been manufactured using the industry standard mould. Yes, they sound great, but not original at all. However, in the second track, “State of War”, things really started happening. A killer track with a dramatic touch, powerful riffing and pounding drums. Great vocals from Olof Lindgren. “Sleeping Under Water” opens with Olof’s vocal partner Anna Samuelsson taking the lead. Another powerful track with nice vocal interplays between Olof and Anna. Great, tasteful guitar solo, too! “Who Am I” starts out really great, but to me chorus is way to “Eurovision song contest”. “The Rising” is another intense and pretty good track, but on this one I’m not really a fan of the mix. It feels a bit out of balance with the vocals and keyboards one layer above the compact and slightly muddy guitar, bass and drum package. “Labyrinth” is another track I’m a bit on the fence about. On one hand I do like the powerful chugging guitars, but I’m not really a fan of the gothy vocals. “Obsession” is a straight ahead powerful track with nice duets between Olof and Anna. They do remind me of Sonata Arctica mixed with Amaranthe (without the growls) at times. “A Blink Of An Eye” is another straight ahead melodic power metal offering with chugging guitars, soaring keyboards and nice vocal interplays. “Ghosts Are Calling” also caught my attention, despite the, at times, gothy vocals. It has some cool guitar patterns and a nice arrangement. Good vocal melodies, without being too cheesy. Great guitar solo, again. Nice one! Gothenburg based Arctic Void leave off with “Blackwood”, where, unlike my previous criticism, the vocals are almost a tad too low in the mix. The wall of guitars sounds a bit like what you’d hear from a band like Soilwork. I am a bit on the fence about this album. It has some really great highlights, but at times it feels a bit generic. Still, top quality performances all around!
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden

Label: Power Prog

BRETT ELLIS BAND – Electrified Live (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:21


American blues rocker Brett Ellis comes alive. Well, he sure as hell rocks it out live! He kicks off at full throttle with Keeping The Rock Alive and he doesn’t look back! Backed up by bass player Rick Nash and drummer Calvin Lakin they are kickin’ asses and taking names! Brett is an outstanding guitarist on his studio albums, but DAMN this cat is on fire live!! His rendition of Hendrix’s Freedom is nothing short of outstanding. 20 In 5 is a cool chunky rocker that actually reminds me a bit of Van Halen’s Little Dreamer in the verse, but there end the similarities. The fat chorus riff is powerful and nice and the song also showcases the talents of Rick and Calvin since they get their solo pieces as well. Brett lands on the heavy side of blues rock, so if you’re into guys like Lance Lopez, Michael Katon, Poppa Chubby and Philip Sayce, check this cat out. You won’t be disappointed!  What I really love about Brett’s guitar playing is that he knows all his blues licks, but he mixes them up with brutal technical licks, some jazzy runs and a variety of other styles making it all into a nice mix of his own, plus his tone and sound is killer. As for Brett’s vocals, they may not live up to his guitar playing. However, like with Gary Moore, Pat Travers, Michael Katon and Hendrix himself, they weren’t great singers, but they had the right attitude, which Brett sure has. Plus, he actually reminds me a bit of Ted Nugent in his early days, which isn’t bad at all (even if I don’t share the Nuge’s… views and Brett is a far better guitar player).
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: USA

Label: Grooveyard Records

BRIDGE TO MARS – Bridge To Mars (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:19


This one has been long awaited. This Swedish trio, featuring singer/guitarist JJ Marsh (Spellbound, Glenn Hughes), bassist Robert Hansen (Beardfish) and drummer Thomas Broman (Great King Rat, Electric Boys etc), just oozes of quality looking at these guys’ resumes. It was early on clear that this was going to be an earthy, retro rocking combo, which is just up my alley. Opener Days That Never Camemixes some cool riffing with melodic swirling parts in the landscape between the sixties and seventies, but landing on the right side of the fence for me. Mirror Magic Spirits opens with some hysteric guitar tones and continues into sounding like a vocal version of the Stockholm combo Plankton, which is really good in my book. Vintage Strat sounds without too much distortion, but heavy enough to rock and intense drumming with a busy bass filling the voids and JJ’s cool vocals. This is good stuff! SuperFi Yourself starts out with a super gritty evil sounding fuzz guitar and continues into a cool heavy, yet melodic retro rocker. Love it! In A White Light starts out pretty mellow but gets in the swing in the verse and lands somewhere in a bluesy Mahogany Rush:ish landscape. Soulshine brings back the evil and dirty guitars and gets the Hendrix mojo going in the beginning, but with a heavier stonking verse. A killer tune, indeed! Love the crushing, dirty guitar and rhythm work in this one, with JJ’s cool vocals hovering over it all. Amaze My Mind is also close to Plankton territory with its smooth, swirling melodic, almost folky feel. Jupiter’s Dream is another gritty rocker with ultra cool ever changing rhythm parts. It soon became my favourite on the album. Outstanding! Rivers Of Dissolution is also a cool track, where JJ is most likely using an ElectroHarmonix B9 or C9 organ Machine for his guitar. Have one myself and it’s a really cool sounding pedal that turns your guitar into a distorted Hammond organ. The album finishes with the blues ballad All This Time. All in all a killer debut for this power trio, a band I’d really like to see live, where I think the songs will really come alive. Highly recommended!
Janne Stark
Year: 2015
Country: Sweden

Label: Pride And Joy

NAKED – End Game (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:16


Swedish melodic rockers Naked released their quite anonymous debut in 2007. It was good, but didn’t hit me that hard. The line-up has now been reinforced by Alienguitarist Tony Borg and former Madison bassist Conny Payne. The band also features singer Peter Sundvall, keyboardist Mats Hedén, rhythm guitarist Mats Stattin and drummer Mikael Wikman. I’m not sure what has happened since the debut (which I obviously need to re-visit), but this feels like a completely transformed band. The opening track didn’t fully convince me at a first listen, as it felt a bit too traditional, but then something happened. First of all, I found little twists and turns I didn’t expect, then it got stuck in my head like a bee to flypaper. Then I discovered something else. This is actually a true AOR album, in the sense – Album Oriented Rock. This album needs to be consumed in its entirety. Every song is like a piece of the puzzle like the classic albums by Boston, Balance, LeRoux etc. Furthermore, killer tracks like Blood Of My Blood, Still In Love With You and Setting Sails may as well have been recorded by one of those late great classic pomp bands of the late 70s/early 80s classic and where Peter Sundvall reminds me quite a lot of Fergie Fredriksen during his time with one of my favorite pomp bands of that era – Trillion. Simply love his voice! The crisp and clear, but still full, production also bears resemblance with that era, but of course slightly upgraded. This album was a really nice surprise! One of the best pomp/AOR albums of 2015!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Label: Escape

Year: 2015

RED MORRIS – Lady Rose (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:14


With so many great productions being released every day, average is not enough. Unfortunately stuff like this drowns in the flood of high quality releases being released every day. Releasing a memorable and great instrumental album, is even more difficult. It has to be top notch musicianship, killer sound, no programmed drums and simply, and most importantly – great songs. The opening track Golden Angel starts with quite horrible and simple drums. The melody is simple, but not really interesting and it doesn’t really give me anything. The title track is just more of the same. Very amateurish guitar work and childishly simple melodies, which could, maybe, have been accepted in the 70s (but without sounding 70s), but would even have been below par back then. Mysteryis just more of the same, and it really makes me feel this is really a waste of natural resources. There is no refinement whatsoever and it sounds like some beginner’s first project. This is just bad. Sorry.
Janne Stark
Label: self-released
Year: 2015

Country: Italy

JOHN DALLAS – Wild Life (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:12


I’ve given this album a few spins, but John Dallas just doesn’t manage to rock my world. He’s not bad, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. The opening track Under Control is quite generic melodic, poppy rock and it shows quite clearly John has an ok, but quite average voice. Heaven Is is slightly heavier, but here it’s also quite evident the production is not really up to par. Falling is so heavy compressed the song even sighs when the drums start pounding. This, to me sounds like a decent demo at best. Average performance, average songs and average production.
Janne Stark
Country: Italy
Year: 2015

Label: Street Symphonies

LARS LIND - Soul Kicker (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:10


One thing I hate is an instrumental guitar album without good songs and with programmed drums. Well, I’m happy to say Lars Lind’s album Soul Kicker is the direct opposite. First of all, John Macaluso on drums, that just can’t go wrong. The bass work is handled by Simon Fitzpatrick and the keyboards by Jan-Fredrik Heider, and these boys do a killer job as well. Furthermore, Lars is a melodic, yet technical, bluesy and very all-round guitarist. I really like his tone and guitar sound, very nice and crunchy, but not overly distorted. The songs are really strong with the right balance between melodic, almost vocal “verses” and shreddy solos. It’s definitely not any “shred for shred’s sake” album, but an enjoyable musical ride. He’s less metal than Joey Tafolla, more rock than Steve Morse, less shreddy than Vinnie Moore, actually more in the vein of fellow Norwegian Mads Eriksen, but a bit better in my opinion. A classy CD, well worth checking out!
Janne Stark
Country: Norway
Year: 2015

Label: Self-released/Shredguy Records

ELECTRIC GUITARS – String Fever (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 21:08


The phrase “Danish dynamite” has somehow mostly been connected to hard rockers Pretty Maids. I would however like to widen that epithet to also include this powerful foursome. String Fever is the second effort from the Danish rockers fronted by guitarists/singers Soren Andersen and Mika Vandborg. Both have released their own, outstanding solo albums, while Soren has also been part of Glenn Hughes band plus Kick The Kangaroo, Mike Tramp etc. The title track opens the album with a groovy Hendrixy melodic rocker mixing cool vintage guitar sounds, loose drums, working bass and cool sassy vocals, ending in a full-on guitar orgy. I really love the production, keeping it fresh but still honouring the late 60s/early 70s in its dynamics and style. White Flag opens with one of the coolest, funkiest riffs I’ve heard all year (2015, that is). Makes me think of a mix of Philip Sayce and Frank Marino with a touch of Lenny Kravitz in his rock mood. Killer track! F***ing LOVE that riff!! Running Out of Time continues the riff mania and keeps the heaviness pounding with its intense and cool rhythm work. Another heavy hitter that just completely knocked me out! Girlfriend hits some others strings, surprisingly poppy and more akin to 70s Cheap Trick (which I happen to like). Day Off continues in a swampy southern early ZZ Top meets Blackberry Smoke vein, while She Wants My Guitar (feat. Ida Corr) draws more towards AC/DC meets The Black Crows with the addition of the vintage talk box effect. A cool hit-oriented rocker! I like the way Electric Guitars blend rough, riffy vintage sounding bluesy rock with quite poppy melodies, without sounding cheesy. The guitar work is totally stunning and the vocal qualities fits the style just perfectly, not too nice, not too, dirty. A killer band and a killer album, indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: Target
Country: Denmark

Year: 2015

INGLORIOUS – Inglorious (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 20:59


Wow!!! Just f***ing WOW!!! I’ve seen there’s been a bit of a hype around this band and before hearing them I was not really paying attention thinking it was just one more, no offence, decent but not overly exciting melodic rock project. Well, suck me sideways! Wrong was I!! I damn near stood in attention after the sneaky intro had finished and the first riffs of opening track Until I Die rolled out of the speakers like a raging steamroller! The first band that came to mind was the long lost Badlands fronted by the highly missed Ray Gillen. The power, the riff and the intensity of phenomenal power house vocalist Nathan James just hit me like a brick! One track doesn’t do an album, of course, which second track Breakaway helps to overcome. This one started out with a touch of Aussie rockers Electric Mary with a Whitesnake sounding chorus. High Flying Gypsyprovides a bit of Kashmir-feel to the guitar rhythm, but there end the similarities. Another killer bluesy rocker. Holy Water starts out with a cool bluesy riff, the pumping bass and drums come in and we’re now in Whitesnakemeets Purple territory, with Nathan hitting that soul-rattling Hughes vibe. A big, powerful, yet cool and bluesy ballad. A dirty, mean, gritty, ugly and lonely guitar starts off the track Warning, joined by a cool slide guitar. Break. Hell breaks loose! Inglorious may not be bastards, but they sure sound like a bunch of bad boys! Bleed For You also enters into a cool, bluesy Whitesnakey vibe, but better than anything that band has done since 1984. Ok, Girl Got Gun is yet another slow piece. It’s a great track, but I hope you’re not falling asleep, guys, are you? Well, You’re Mine answers the question. Nope! The track Inglorious sticks out a bit with it’s simple halftone descent metallic riff, followed by a Magnum-like passage, making me wonder where this one’s heading. It’s a bit like if Led Zeppelin and Magnum had a love child, and that’s all good in my book! Unaware starts off with a soft piano intro, after which the heavy riff masters take over and turns this into a heavy, yet cool riff-oriented hard rocker with a modern melodic rock chorus. Some bluesy 7-chords, a bit of wah and we’re home free! Even though the album closer is entitled Wake, I think Goodnight would be more appropriate. Acoustic guitars and vocals and then 3 minutes into the song some very unplugged sounding drums and a bluesy guitar solo enter. Kind of a Badlands-vibe to this one as well, actually. This will most likely be the cigarette lighter (now iPhone) moment of the glorious Inglorious live show. Damn fine album, indeed!
Janne Stark
Label: Frontiers
Country: UK
Year: 2016

KILLER – Monsters Of Rock (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:24

Killer is a Belgian trio that harks back to the 80s and killer albums like Ready For Hell, Shockwaves and Wall of Sound. They were sort of a Motörhead with slightly cleaner vocals. Well, guitarist/singer Paul “Shorty” Van Camp still keeps the flame alight. Their early albums were released on the notorious Mausoleum label, and so is the new album. This killer is back to the scene of the crime. Well, that goes for the music as well. Not much has happened here, and I tell you, that’s a good thing! Shorty sounds as good as ever, the songs are pounding and the sound is classic balls to the wall metal. Kicking off with the title track and No Exception To The Rule they prove there’s not much water that have passed under these bridges. Powerful, straight ahead, no frills, kick in the nut metal! Shotgun Symphony starts off as a heavy, detuned and doomy riffster, but picks up pace after the intro and moves into classic stomping Judas PriestBritish Steel territory. Good nostalgia tickling stuff, indeed!
Janne Stark
Country: Belgium
Year: 2015

Label: Mausoleum

ETERNAL OF SWEDEN – Heaven’s Gate (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:23

This Swedish combo, originally called just Eternal, released their debut album Chapter 1 in 2012, so it’s about time for a follow-up. The debut was in the vein of Eclipse, with a slightly heavier edge. Melodic hard rock with a touch of AOR. Well, opening track Ruins kicks off the new album way heavier than its predecessor. This reminds me quite a lot of Nocturnal Rites actually. Still melodic and still heavy, but even more bombastic and with Sabaton:ish warrior style choirs (which I unfortunately don’t especially like). The title track continues in the same vein, but fortunately leaving the “warriors” outside. Surrounded By Shadows draws closer to power metal in its design, but Christer Gärds is far more interesting than the majority of the current power metal singers. The production by Peter Tägtgren is powerful and heavy, but there’s something with the keyboards I just don’t like. It’s like they are floating in a dimension of their own, disconnected from the rest of the music. It’s like they are far away and with a big reverb all over it. It’s especially evident in the track The Purity Inside, but also in several other tracks. I’ve given the album a few spins and it hasn’t hit me as hard as the outstanding debut. I hope it will grow on me, but I think the main problem for me is that they have moved in a direction that is a bit further from what I’m into right now. Still, it’s top quality on musicians, vocals and overall it sounds killer, and the track Freedom Now is damn fine!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015

Label: Black Lodge

BILLION DOLLAR BABIES – Chemical God (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:21

Nope, Billion Dollar Babies is neither the original Alice Cooper backing band nor a cover band of the same. Billion Dollar Babies is a Swedish hard rock combo. The first recording in my collection is a demo entitled Ladies First, from 2007. They showed great promise already back then. The MCD Stand Your Ground was unearthed later the same year, followed by the debut album Die For Diamondsthree years later. A really good and solid effort indeed. A life sign in form of the EP House of Dreams Pt 1 saw the light of day in 2012. Well, it seems the band has been honing their skills and making a new game plan in the years between then and now. Chemical God offers a new and very re-vamped band. Still heavy and melodic, but not at all as sleazy and glammy, instead very theatrical and with loads of bells and whistles all over the place. The spare no ‘spences when it comes to effects and a modern sound. Stuff happen high and low and I’m not sure how they will be able to pull it off live, but still, it works! They sometimes feel like a modern metal version of Sparks, especially in The Junkies Ball, which is sort of a This Place Ain’t Big Enough For Us with a touch of Rammstein. Frank Kooistra is also an outstanding singer, which lifts the album even higher. There are a few tracks I’m not 100 % into, but for the most part this is a damn great album! I think the babies have found their new dress!
Janne Stark
Country: Sweden
Year: 2015

Label: Metalville

CRAIG ERICKSON – Sky Train Galaxy (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:18

I discovered Craig Erickson already back in 1992 when I bought his album Roudhouse Stomp!. I loved his cool vocals and fierce guitar playing from day one, and it hasn’t changed. He’s one of those guys that never ceases to deliver high quality stuff. Well, opener The Comeback just proved he’s done it again. An awesome, stonking, punchy rocker with balls the size of a wrecking ball. But, what really blew my mind was his phenomenal cover of Deep Purple’s Getting Tighter/Ode To T (yes, T, not G), which is just plain classic. The times when I think a cover actually is better than the original is as rare as an ice cream man on Antarctica, but Craig actually does. It’s without doubt one of my favourite tracks of 2015! In Time (Never Enough) Craig delivers fill after fill and solo after solo with his highly recognizable slinky and bluesy style. Illusions of the World gives me vibes of another favourite artist of mine, namely Robin Trower. Craig has the same cool soulful style and same tasteful way to fit in cool guitar licks around the vocals with out one clashing with the other. Oustanding! I may be partial since Grooveyard is releasing some of my stuff as well, but I must say that this label really picks some outstanding artists and releases some top quality albums! Craig Erickson, Jay Jesse Johnson, Brett Ellis, Martin J Andersen, Johnny Hunkins etc etc. The list is as long as Billy Gibbons’ beard. This is no standard blues rock album. You’ll find a variety of styles and sounds hidden in the mix and it really makes for an album you come back to over and over and never get tired of.
Janne Stark
Country: USA
Year: 2015

Label: Grooveyard Records

JAY JESSE JOHNSON – Set The Blues On Fire (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:16

American blues rocker Jay Jesse Johnson is one outstanding axe master. He’s delivered nothing but quality discs, and this one is just another notch on the Marshall stack. What I really like about JJJ is that he blends his down to earth, classic blues playing with swift and tricky licks, similar to the way Stevie Ray used to do. In fact Set The Blues On Fire would fit in nicely somewhere between Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood”, Joe Bonamassa’s “A New Day Yesterday” and Pat Travers “Makin’ Magic”. His tone is really to die for and the sound is fat. I also really like his rough and bluesy voice. What also makes this album such a stellar piece, is the phenomenal backing band featuring groove master Jeff Donaldson on drums, the funky Reed Bogart on bass and the cool Lee Evans on keyboards. The song material goes from semi-hard blues ballads such as I Knew Then and the outstanding cool guitar master piece Rio De Los Suenos to full out funky rockers like Ace In The Hole and album opener Hell Or High Water. A killer album and indeed it's on fire!
Janne Stark
Country: USA
Year: 2015

Label: Grooveyard Records

LESLIE WEST – Soundcheck (CD)

Stark Music Reviews - Sat, 01/23/2016 - 14:14

Leslie is one of my all-time favourite guitarists. Ever since I heard Mountain back in the 70s I was hooked! His solo albums, quite a few by now, has however never really been any 10/10s, but on the other hand he’s never released any bad albums either. It’s mostly been half killer stuff and the other half swaying between good and ok. On his last couple of albums it’s like he’s been rejuvenated in some way, because he’s actually better than ever! The guitar playing, vocals and overall attitude is rock hard and the songs are for the most part really good! Souncheck starts out with a hard hitting nut kicker in the form of Left By The Roadside To Die, one of the album’s few originals. I’m not an extreme fan of covers (says the person who has released three cover albums…), but when you record a cover don’t really like it when you do a carbon copy of the original. Leslie West has, ever since the old days of Mountain, Leslie West Band and West Bruce & Laing recorded covers, and made them his own. From StonesSatisfaction, Jack Bruce’s Theme For An Imaginary Western to the entire Dylan cover album Masters Of War. This album features several covers, and I really love it when he gives them the full frontal West treatment, such as You Are My Sunshine (featuring Peter Frampton) as a cool soft blues ballad in a minor key. Just as genius as when Ghost did The Beatles Here Comes The Sun in minor. You will also find Leslie’s (or actually bass player Rev Jones’) renditions of The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby, Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready (with Leslie’s lead guitar tone soaring like a bit proud eagle) and a really groovy, strutty cover of Don Nix Goin’ Down (featuring Brian May). The only one I don’t really like is Stand By Me (mainly because I don’t like the song from the beginning and also because the way it’s done didn’t really speak to me) and the quite badly recorded live-version of Spoonful, which I can fully understand he included because of nostalgia reasons after the loss of Jack Bruce, but it doesn’t really live up to the quality of the rest of the album soundwise. As for his original tunes, Here For The Party is an outstanding chunky, gritty and heavy blues rocker that hits you like a steamroller while A Stern Warning (dedicated to his friend Howard Stern) is an outstanding showcasing of Leslie’s acoustic guitar skills. All in all, this is a damn fine album, one of the best Leslie has released since the Mountain days!
Janne Stark
Country: USA
Year: 2015

Label: Mascot Records

Pages