Reviews roundup – Midori vs. Robert J Hunter vs. Ron Pope vs. Greg Lake & Geoff Downes vs. Wigelius
MIDORI & Ezra Boy
This was quite interesting. Certainly, the cover didn’t give any clue as to what was inside, so if you’re looking for some glam rock you’ll be sorely disappointed. What you’re actually getting is some quite sophisticated pop/rock, with a few nods towards eighties stadium rock and AOR.
They’ve certainly got a winner in vocalist Midori who hits every note you could possibly want, and on the best songs, ‘‘So What’ and ‘Burned’, the music more than matches the performance. So, it’s a shame that they’ve front loaded the album with the two best songs, as things don’t reach those heights again.
Different sequencing might have balanced things out, because later numbers like ‘Love Avalanche’ and ‘Killing Me’ are worthy, if not quite great. The band do a good job of mixing up modern rock sounds with the influences mentioned earlier, and it might have been better to go for a mini-album. However, there is more than enough here to keep me looking out for whatever comes next.
THE ROBERT J HUNTER BAND
Before The Dawn
Some blues rock now from the Robert J Hunter Band, and I think I can safely claim that Mr Hunter is the finest bluesman to hail from Alderney.
You may have seen him over the last few years, as he’s done support slots with Wilko Johnson, Eddie & The Hot Rods and The Animals, and his is a name worth remembering if this record is anything to go by. He’s got a really strong voice, one that you will remember, and along with his band he can brew up a fine blues rock storm.
There are some good arrangements as well, with some cleverly judged keyboards, and when the songs soar, as they do on ‘Preacher’ and ‘Three Shake Fold’, then you get a whiff of something that is going to win folks over with ease. Some fine blues riffs add to the sound, and this is one that fans of the genre should definitely be checking out.
RON POPE & The Nighthawks
Album number a hundred from Georgia born singer-songwriter Ron Pope, but his first with his new band, the Nighthawks.
Surprisingly, for someone who first came to public attention on an MTV show, and who has since placed songs in a few teen dramas, his music is rootsy and invigorating. Take a listen to the single (video at the bottom somewhere) for ‘Bad Intentions’, and then tell me your foot wasn’t tapping.
It’s the kind of southern tinged rock that the Band and the Allman Brothers used to purvey, and even when he slows things down, as he does on ‘One Shot Of Whiskey’, he captivates you wholeheartedly. Elsewhere, songs like ‘Hell Or High Water’ and ’Take Me Home’ will make many a mournful Black Crowes fan rouse from slumber.
Great songs, great performances and a great album. What more could you want.
GREG LAKE & GEOFF DOWNES
Ride The Tiger
This either counts as interesting or scraping the barrel, depending on what mood you’re in.
Because “Ride The Tiger” is a collection of six not quite finished songs by Greg Lake and Geoff Downes, back when they were between jobs. One of the songs was later recorded by Asia and two by ELP. Some of these versions have appeared on compilations like 1997’s Greg Lake retrospective “From the Beginning”, but this seems them in one place for the first time.
At least it’s out at mid-price, because the 27 minute running time barely qualifies it as an album. The songs, as you would expect are very much in the melodic rock mode of Asia and nineties ELP, and if you haven’t heard them before, then it’s an interesting diversion for half an hour or so. I actually preferred the early version of ‘Black Moon’, which appears here as ‘Money Talks’, and it’s a nice stocking filler for the melodic prog obsessive in your family.
Anders Wigelius first came to public attention when he took part in the Swedish talent show “True Talent”. Check out Youtube for his appearance singing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and you’ll understand why labels were keen to sign him up.
But he stuck to his AOR roots and penned a deal with Frontiers. Of course it helps that his brother Erik is also a multi-talented musician, and their debut album “Revelations” made a lot of friends in the AOR world. It’s taken 3 years for this follow-up to arrive, but now that it’s here, it’s a good one.
From the opening ‘Do It All Again’, you can tell you’re in for a treat. It’s a solid melodic rocker, with some great vocals and a sweet guitar solo. But you’ve got to move on a bit for the real highlights. They include ”Long Way From Home’ which just thunders along and the pop/rock crossover of ‘Yesterday’s News’. They’ve also get a killer ballad tucked away at the end of the album, so make sure you hang around for ‘Ma Cherie’. I’d probably have preferred one less ballad, but as long as they can come out with tunes as fabulous as ‘Time Well Wasted’, I’ll be a happy man.
It’s out in early 2016, but don’t be surprised to see this in Top Tens at the end of the year.