Reviews roundup – Gamma Ray vs. Dalannah and Owen vs. Bellowhead vs. Circle II Circle vs. Habitats

GAMMA RAY Sigh No More / Heading For The EastGAMMA RAY
Sigh No More / Heading For The East
earMUSIC

The Gamma Ray reissues programme continues apace, with the appearance of my least favourite Gamma Ray album, “Sigh No More”.  Regardless of what they may say, it seemed like they were bowing down to the whole grunge movement with a dark and depressing release.

Granted, all these years on, it sounds better now, but it will never break through to the upper echelons of Gamma Ray albums.  The remaster serves it well, as the mix sounds a lot better than the vinyl version I’ve just dug out, and as with the other reissues, there is a welter of bonus material to pack out the two discs.

As well as four live versions from across they years, they’ve included the relevant tracks from the “Blast from The Past” re-recordings as well as half a dozen demos with the Kai Hansen vocals.

Much more exciting (for me) is the audio version of the old “Heading For The East” video, also as an (unnecessary) double disc.  Because the video was only 90 minutes long, so I’m sure once the interviews were stripped out, they could have squeezed it onto a single disc./  But that niggle aside, this is a rare treat from the Ralf Scheepers days.

As well as material from “Heading For Tomorrow“, the Japanese shows saw them performing some old Helloween songs and a tune from Scheepers old band, Tyran’ Pace.  It’s a real, historical gem as the early enthusiasm carries the performance, and with an other excellent remaster, it’s already a new favourite.

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DALANNAH and OWEN Been Around a WhileDALANNAH and OWEN
Been Around a While
Quest Records

Well, this is a wee bit different as Canadian veterans Dalannah Gail Bowen and Owen Veber have taken stripped down blues to a whole new level, with their very own vocals and bass presentation.

Yes, you read that right.  Vocals and bass.  Between them they’ve got about 90 years of performing experience*, so they know what they’re doing, and if you’re someone who likes their blues broken down to basics, then you’re going to find this very interesting indeed.

As well as acoustic blues, there are an array of jazz references thrown in on the bass, something that really works on some of the covers like Billy Eckstine’s ‘Blues, Mother Of Sin’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues’.  But there are some good, original tunes here with ‘That Ain’t It’ probably the best.

It’s something that those looking to get away from screaming blues-rock guitar solos should be investigating forthwith. * this is a fact!

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BELLOWHEAD Pandemonium: The Essential BellowheadBELLOWHEAD
Pandemonium: The Essential Bellowhead
Navigator Records

So, Bellowhead are splitting up after eleven years at the forefront of the British folk scene, with a lengthy farewell tour and the obligatory best of album.

They’ve done well for themselves over the years, with decent sales and sold out tours, but keeping a twenty two legged folk machine on the road must have taken its toll and with lead singer Jon Boden handing in his notice, that was that.  Although, doubtless, 2025 will see the reunion tour.

For the time being, though, folk will have to make do with this thirteen track compilation.  As with all these things, fans will take umbrage at their personal favourite not being there, but you can only fit so many songs onto a single CD.  Me, I’m happy that ‘Roll Alabama’, ‘Gosport Nancy’ and ‘Yarmouth Town’ made the cut, but with nothing new on offer, this is for completists only, or someone who has turned up to the party late.

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CIRCLE II CIRCLE Reign Of DarknessCIRCLE II CIRCLE
Reign Of Darkness
earMUSIC

Album number seven from the once and future Savatage man, Zak Stevens.  And it’s nicely timed to appear while the immensity of the Savatage reunion at Wacken is fresh in everyone’s mind.  So, has he risen to the occasion?

Well, it’s pretty much like every other Circle II Circle album. It’s good, but it never quite transcends into the realms of the great.  Don’t get me wrong.  This is good stuff.  Tunes like ‘Victim Of The Night’ are as good as anything CIIC have done over the years.

Naturally,there has been a lineup change, with a new drummer, Marcelo Moreira in place, and he certainly knows his way around a kit.  Elsewhere, the modern metal influences showcased on the last couple of albums are in place, which means the likes of ‘Sinister Love’ don’t really work for me.  But when they stick to the power metal template then it makes for an enjoyable listen.

It’s good, but there is a sense of water being tread.  Love the cover art, though!

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HabitatsHABITATS
Boogie Waltzer
Label Fandango

Now I don’t normally listen to skinny white boys who claim to be purveyors of dance-rock.  Invariably, they can do neither, instead turning out to be just A N Other indie band.  However, when a song title as good as ‘Boogie Waltzer’ comes along, you have to give it a go.

It’s the lead track from their forthcoming “Jungle” EP and, sadly, fails to live up to its title.  Apparently, with tongue (hopefully) in cheek, it was “‘written in the peak of our sexual enlightenment, coming straight out of college and heading into the abyss of clublife.”.  Ah, hipster students with beards.  Don’t you love them.

All you need to know about their dance credentials is the fact they’ve been compared to the likes of Foals and Peace and had airplay from Steve Lamacq. Did we really kill the NME for this?

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