Reviews roundup – Sons Of Sounds vs. Tim Hockenberry vs. Tom Snow vs. M.I.C. vs. Brad Wilson
SONS OF SOUNDS
In The Circle Of The Universe
Ten years in, and “In The Circle Of The Universe” is the third album from Messrs Roman, Wayne and “H”, and carries on in their late seventies / early eighties metal meets rock influenced sound.
Apparently, it’s a concept album, and seems to be about the new world order and global changes, but all I heard were some meaty riffs, powerful vocals and a top notch metal production, courtesy of Martin Buchwalter.
There are some clever arrangements, quality musicianship from top to bottom, and some excellent songs like ‘The Machinery’ (which toys with prog metal), ‘Rock’n’Roll Monster’ and ‘Destiny’. It’s probably about ten minutes too long, but it’s a small price to pay for a very good offering.
Tim Hockenberry first came to wider public prominence when he entered Season 7 of America’s Got Talent, getting as far as the semi-finals, with folks commenting on how he reminded them of Ray Charles and Joe Cocker.
But he’s been at this music lark for a long time, and is known in the rock world for his tenures in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the Mickey Hart Band. He’s also had records out on the past, but this one sees him entering the world of all original material for the first time, previous efforts having been mixed up with covers.
He’s also pulled in some top session players, with the likes of John Deaderick (Emmylou Harris, the Dixie Chicks, Michael McDonald) alongside Nashville musicians like Russ Pahl (Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean) and John Willis (Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift). So it’s no surprise when the record turns out to be a country tinged, soft rock, seventies styled offering.
It’s that mix of folk, pop and blues so redolent of the era, and even if not all of the songs are instant winners, they all benefit from his great voice. He can rock out a bit on the likes of ‘Faith In You’, but it’s the more instropective sounds of ‘Ease Your Pain’ and ‘Carrying You’ that catch hold straight away.
Back in 2013, I said nice things about a long lost country rock album, reissued from the good people over at the Fantastic Expedition zine whose raison d’etre is the country rock of the early seventies. It was by Country, a band who emerged from a duo called Fondiler & Snow, Snow having been an original member of Gram Parsons The Like. The album went nowhere, but Tom Snow was kept on by producer / manager Peter Asher for a solo career, ending up as a songwriter, writing hits for Joe Cocker, Olivia Newton-John, Barbra Streisand, Rita Coolidge, Randy Crawford, Leo Sayer and countless others.
But, post Country, pre songwriter, this long lost album was recorded in 1972, and is almost a straight follow up, as it carves a similar journey through gentle country rock and Laurel Canyon confession. And you can tell how he ended up as a writer, as there is a lot of strong material here, which given the right breaks, should have resulted in a wider audience.
It sounds fabulous, which is no surprise given that the cream of the LA session scene are here. Names you’ll recognise, if you’ve ever read the liner notes of a 1973 singer / songwriter album. So say hello to Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, Wilton Felder, Michael Brecker and others. If that scene was your thing, you’ll wonder how this one escaped the net, so do yourself a favour, and immerse yourself now.
Canadian band, Made In China, are based out of Toronto (although they were previously based in, um, China), over there in the colonies and are long standing purveyors of seventies melodic pop rock. I won’t be the first or the last to band the phrase Cheap Trick about, but I am nothing if not predictable.
This is their sixth studio album, hence the cunning “6th Sense” title, but it’s my first encounter with their rather enjoyable sound. They’ve been at it since 2004, so they’ve had plenty of practice, with a fluctuating lineup stabilising about five years back.
Yvon Serre, Dennis Papadatos, Emilo Meleca, Silvio Potito and Mike O’Neil have put in a good shift here, with songs like ‘Time to Rock & Roll’ and ‘Do You Still Love Me’ instantly memorable. It’s quite mellow in places, but there is nothing wrong with a mellow melody. Nice, nice, very nice.
Power Blues Guitar Live
Have you guessed what it is yet? No?. Really? Well, let me tell you. “Power Blues Guitar Live” is a live album of powerful blues rock guitar. Straight up, not a world of a lie.
Brad Wilson is over there in California plying his blues guitar trade, and he likes to take those patented SRV riffs, turn them up to eleven and rock like a bastard. So there is nothing here that will come as a surprise to fans of Popa Chubby or Michael Katon.
If you feel the need to hear ‘Got My Mojo Working’, ‘I’m Tore Down’, ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’ or ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ amped up and shredded, then this is the place for you. It certainly gets my gear stick standing to attention, and is definitely one for those Foghat fans looking for Live III. Because, yes, there is an eight minute version of ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’. ‘Appy days.