Reviews roundup – Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock vs. Malaya Blue vs. Habu vs. Ed Stones & The BD3 vs. Sodasquid
MICHAEL SCHENKER’S TEMPLE OF ROCK
On A Mission: Live In Madrid
This rawks! And if you want to rawk, then you need to be rawking to this. And with Herr Schenker about to rellive his past this Summer, with a reconvening of his eighties Michael Schenker Group, who knows if this is also going to act as a farewell to this lineup.
Which would be a real shame, as his erstwhile Scorpions colleagues Francis Bucholz and Herman Rarebell, alongside ex Rainbow singer Doogie White and Wayne Findlay have proven themselves formidable. And no more so than on this double live CD (also available on DVD and Blu-Ray).
It’s an all encompassing sweep through his career, recorded and filmed at the Joy Eslava in Madrid on November 19, 2015, which heads back to UFO and Scorpions, and runs through all the phases of MSG and beyond. I mean most hard rock bands would kill to end a set with ‘Doctor Doctor’, but that’s the show opener here! And he can afford to load the front half with songs like ‘Lights Out’, ‘Natural Thing’, Lovedrive’ and ‘Victim Of Illusion’.
The new material stand up well, with ‘Lord Of The Lost And Lonely’, a set highlight, but then just when you think they’ve blown their wad, they rampage towards the end with ‘Rock Bottom’ and ‘Attack Of The Mad Axeman’, before a closing ‘Blackout’ sends everyone home tired but happy.
There are a lot of Michael Schenker live albums out there, but this is probably the best of them. It’s out as a double-CD, Blu-ray, and DVD and there is a limited edition “collector’s box” (limited to only 5000 copies worldwide), which will include the double CD and 2 Blu-rays. And just in caSe you’re wondering ‘Too Ho To Handle’ isn’t a new, mucky tune!
I really liked “Bourbon Street”, the debut album from Malaya Blue. I cna’t recall wht it was I said, but it was nice. So, I’m glad to report that she’s back with another splendid, albeit different, offering.
She got a stack of nominations at the British Blues Awards in 2015 (although as a 2014 nominee, I, of course, take precedence), and off the back of some sterling live shows, the word on the, um, street, was that she would be the next big thing.
Those props have led to the likes of Paul Jones (Blues Band, Manfreds etc) popping in on this record, even though it sees her taking a sideways step, as she eases her way into a roots meets soul meets jazz direction. The main recording band of Dudley Ross (guitars), Paul Jobson (keyboards), Stuart Uren (bass) and Andrew McGuinness (drums) handle this with ease, even though fans of the first record may not immediately warm to the likes of ‘Hunny Little Daydream’ and ‘Share The Love’.
It’s a ballad heavy offering with songs such as ‘To Remain The Same’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Soul Come Back’ almost mainstream in their tone and performance. Granted, her voice can handle everything that’s been thrown at it, but I was left wishing for some more oomph and attitude.
Time for some prog now, and it’s off to darkest East Angular to catch up with Habu, a band whose “To The Stars” debut was a corker, leading to shows with such luminaries as Uli Jon Roth, Deborah Bonham, Magnum, Landmarq and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
And they make a mighty fine racket for a trio, although I’m sure there was another prog trio, once upon a time, who were rather good as well. Habu edge towards the metal side of prog, but never tip over, so they’re more ELP than Dream Theater in tone, but with guitars amped up.
There are more than a few Yes reference in here as well, and Alex Body (Bass, Vocals, Keyboards), Andy Clarke (Guitar, Vocals) and Alex Dunbar (Drums), show themselves well up to the challenge of emulating the big guns of yore.
‘Heavy Chains’ is the champion here, and if you’ve any doubts, head off to Bandcamp and have a quick stream to see what you’re missing. If I was being picky, then I’d say the vocals need some work, but it’s a minor quibble on a very good record.
ED STONES & The BD3
A new album from Bradfords finest, even if the cover seems to imply they’re from Bradfors, Mississippi, rather than that there doon South Yorkshire. And they certainly know how to rattle through some tunes, what with their being 22 of them here.
That’s right, twenty two songs on a long playing record. That’s a double album in old money, even if a lot of them clock in at under three minutes. Which is a proper length for a tune, by the way.
And what do they do? Well, it’s a sort of punky country blues meets rock’n’roll and duffs up Nick Cave for being a jessie sort of thing. And there’s no real complaints from me about that.
You won’t go far wrong with tunes like ‘I Got The Devil Inside Of Me’, ‘Teeny Tiny Mind Games’, ‘Political Indifference’ and ‘Turn Up Your Jeans’. Granted, I’m from an era when the 7″ single was king, so it does go on a bit, but that’s why they invented shuffle and program modes, so as long as I get ‘Rusty Old Railroad Line’ and don’t get ‘Oi Dickhead’, then I’m a happy bunny. Good stuff.
Lastly today, we’re off to they mythical continent of Australasia, aka The Lizard Prisonship to meet up with an indie duo going by the name of Sodasquid. Yes, really.
You’d accuse them of sounding like a nineties grunge-lite influenced band, if it wasn’t for the fact that Lucky Crea (Drums /Backing Vocals) and Michael Bury (Lead Vocals / Guitars / Bass) actually got together back in 1995, alongside some other folks to do this sort of thing.
They then vanished to do whatever it is that happens to Australasians when they vanish, but then got back together to record some of their tunes for posterity. No-one else wanted to do it, hence why they’re now a two piece, but if you yearn for the days when bands like Mudhoney and their ilk were scratching about, this may bring out some nostalgia in you. ‘Junky Girl’, ‘Hole’ and ‘Paranoid’ should see you right.