Reviews roundup – Lenny Kravitz vs. Michael Stanley vs. Gonoreas vs. Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip vs. Dead Memory
Just Let Go
Lenny Kravitz? Are we still doing that? Who knew. But turns out that Mr Kravitz has made some records since 1994. And it seems that his last album, “Strut”, was a return to form, hence this concert film of the tour of the same name.
It’s not a concert film as such, as it was shot over a three month period on his 2014 tour, but it looks good and retro, as you would suspect. Now I’m one those people who like to watch a show from beginning to end, so the arty farty approach isn’t my thing, but technically it’s very well presented.
There are 12 songs in the main set which covers the big ones – ‘Fly Away’, ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’, ‘Let Love Rule’ and ‘It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over’ as well as some new tunes, which do actually sit in nicely alongside the oldies. There is interview material and soundcheck footage, but the best bits are the unedited live versions of half a dozen tracks, where you really get a feel for the show.
The first live album I ever owned was “Stagepass” by the Michael Stanley Band. Not because I was a fan. No, it was largely down to the fact it was 10 bob in the bargain bin at Ezy Ryder and was the only thing that was vaguely ‘rawk’.
Recently he’s been veering in a countryish direction but this sees him heading back into the mainstream American rock medium he made his name in, and which made him a huge name in the US midwest back in the seventies. It’s nearly all original material and he’s even wheeled in legendary producer/engineer Bill Szymczyk (Eagles, B.B.King, The Who, Santana everyone)to do the mix. And with a combined age of 140 they’ve done a bang up job.
The sole cover is Storyville’s ‘Good Day For The Blues’, but otherwise it’s down to Stanley and members of his road band The Resonators who present some excellent songs. The current playlist favourites round my way are ‘Shifting Gears’ and ‘Sweet Spot’, but you can drop the needle just about anywhere to hear some vintage Stanley, even if he does seem to have some anger to get off his chest in places. And no, I have no idea what the cover is all about.
That’s just mucky, that is. No band should be called that. It’s better than AC, min, but really. They’re from Switzerland, land of clocks and chocolate, but there is nothing sweet about this lot. Nope, it’s balls to the walls thrash meets death with some power metal and a rather strange power ballad thrown in for good measure.
It’s certainly interesting, and they’ve got plenty of riffs up their sleeves. Lyrically, they seem quite keen on vikings, wizards and things from the dark side, so trad metal fans will feel right at home here.
They’ve been at this a while, and they’re very professional at what they do. At times, they sound like a beefed up latter day Accept, which is a very good thing. The title track and ‘Wizards’ are the ones that do it for me most, and it comes across as very well produced. There are plenty of tunes that could get a festival crowd going, and this should be a step forward for the unpleasantly named ones.
MICKE BJORKLOF & BLUE STRIP
Ain’t Bad Yet
Off to Finland for some blues now. And it’s the sixth album from Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip, even if they are a new name to me. But blow me down with a big blowy thing, but they’re good.
I should have known that because when they travelled to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record this, it was to work with multi Grammy award winning producer, John Porter. Now he may have spent time working with shite like Billy Bragg and the Smiths, but it was his later work with the likes of Buddy Guy, B.B King, Taj Mahal, Keb Mo and Santana that has filled his mantelpiece with awards. And I assume he doesn’t have to wrok with rubbish nowadays.
And so to Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip who have been playing the blues across Scandinavia for over 20 years, with their last record “After The Flood” voted as best Finnish blues album of the year on Radio Suomi ( I take it Erja Lyytinen didn’t have a record that year). And this one should be chasing it down the awards road, as it’s a cracker. Musically it veers from Chicago to ZZ Top, to mainstream blues rock with some slide guitar from Lefty Leyeppanen that lifts every song it appears on.
There isn’t a duff track on offer, so blues rockers need to be checking this out quickly. No, quicker than that.
Some German alternative rock now. Not something I usually lend an ear to, but this lot are better than most. Don’t be fooled by the cover into thinking this is some kind of sleaze rock throwback, because it’s not.
Basically, it’s what passes for modern rock, with plenty of post grunge influences, and a few pop punk riffs and choruses thrown in for good measure. However, where Dead Memory come out ahead is in knowing how to write an actual song instead of throwing a pose and hoping for the best.
They’re youngsters, and this is their debut album, following on from an EP last year, but if they could get ‘Lipstick On the Mirror’ on to the radiogram, then they could easily see their way to mainstream success.