Reviews roundup – Styx vs. Skin & Bone vs. Danger Alley vs. Kern Pratt vs. Witchwood
Live At The Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
Look everyone! A Styx live album. There’s not many of them out there. But I’m a stupid assed old school Styx fan, so despite the feeling of meh that should accompany this, I look at the tracklisting and go “ooh, I wonder what the version of ‘Superstars’ will sound like”.
And the answer is good. I suppose that no-one is really interested in new material from heritage acts nowadays, which is why it’s 12 years and counting since their last new studio LP. Seems that the only way a band like Styx can get an album out is as a sideline to a DVD / Blu-Ray, which is what this is.
And, of course, if you’d been at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, then you would to see Styx playing the hits. Which is what they do. Very well. I’m happy because ‘Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)’, ‘Crystal Ball’ and ‘Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)’ are played with relish. There’s a cameo from Chuck Panozzo and, for some reason, former Eagles man Don Felder drops in to play on ‘Blue Collar Man’.
I really enjoyed this, whilst wishing it was a double, and hoping that the cover photo has had some bad retouching. If not, I’d be suing the wig makers and plastic surgeons!
SKIN & BONE
The debut album from British hard rockers Skin & Bone, who are Influenced by Dokken, Deep Purple, Chickenfoot, Shinedown, Alter Bridge and many more. So says the bumph.
However, they’re not a band in the first flush of youth, which is why that those of you with long memories may recognise a few faces from Brit melodic rock band Tara’s Secret, who surfaced fifteen years ago or so.
They were a bit fluffy to begin with, but toughened up a bit toward the end, and the escapees seem to have carried on in that heavier direction for their new venture. Which is why Skin & Bone is grittier and less melodic, with some modern sounding guitar work. There is a dark hue to a lot of the material, something that probably comes with age, but there is a lot here worth lending an ear to.
Sometimes they sneak in a blues rock riff, but it’s mainly wall to wall modern hard rock, which is why Shinedown is probably the most appropriate reference from the list above. Best of the bunch? Well, that would be ‘High Society’, ‘Burn The Blue Sky’ and ‘The Exceptional Child’.
Oh, how I wanted ‘Won’t Stop Believing’ to be the Journey song, with one letter changed for copyright reasons. But it wasn’t to be. However, Journey isn’t a million miles away from where Danger Alley want to be.
Yes, they worship at the altar of eighties melodic hard rock, which is a mighty fine place to be. And I speak as someone who has Tyketto live in Newcastle in my Top Ten gigs, ever. So, there are lots of keyboards, big choruses and a swell, just when you need one.
Now, I’m guessing from the picture on the rear of the sleeve that Danger Alley are, ahem, seasoned professionals, who were certainly there the first time around which may be why songs like ‘Welcome To The Show’ and ‘Never Too Old To Rock’ have such an authentic feel to them.
It’s a really good album, which makes you wonder why we haven’t heard from them before. I’m guessing, wrong place, wrong time. Whatever, their time is now, and melodic rock fans should definitely be listening to this.
Time for some blues now, and it’s a mighty fine album from Kern Pratt. Things start off in fine fettle after a brief intro piece, with a superb song called ‘Greenville Mississippi Blues’. It’s a great boogiefied number with some fantastic slide guitar, and sets you up for a very enjoyable ride.
It’s mainly original material, but he finds time for an excellent take on the Albert Collins tube ‘Lights Are On But Nobody’s Home’ and, later on, a fine version of ‘It Hurts Me Too’, as covered by everyone.
There are plenty of tunes that hold the attention, with the likes of ‘Black Hannah’, ‘Somewhere South Of Mississippi’ and even the instrumental ‘Cotton Pickin’ getting the repeat button hit. He’s a good singer and picker, with an excellent band and production behind him on this excursion into what is mainly Delta blues.
There have been a few run of the mill blues albums out there recently, but this is definitely not one of them. Highly recommended.
Litanies From The Woods
Jolly Roger Records
Born from the ashes of Buttered Bacon Biscuits, Witchwood love the seventies. I mean, really love the seventies. If there is a Uriah Heep bootleg out there from 1972, then you can guarantee that they’ve got it. BBB had an album out on Black Widow a few years back, and if you’re familiar with the label, then you won’t be surprised at the direction Witchwood have taken.
And it’s a very good direction, indeed. It’s your seventies hard rock with a bit of folk and some hippy drippy stuff thrown in for good measure, and it works beautifully. Your Italians seem to have a taste for this sort of thing, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a long while.
There is an organ honking away throughout, the production is spot on, there are moments of Focus like flute madness and, luckily, some good songs as well. Result! ‘Liar’, ‘Rainbow Highway’ and ‘The World Behind Your Eyes’ are currently top of the pops round my way, and even though the 15 minutes of ‘Farewell To The Ocean Boulevard’ overstayed its welcome, I’d rather that than some of the shite I’ve heard recently.
Grandiose and sometimes ludicrous, this is a must have for fans of olde worlde rock.