Reviews roundup – Robin Trower vs. Gamma Ray vs. The Jokers vs. Van Susans vs. Dissona
Where You Are Going To
For someone who has been performing and recording for over fifty years, it’s amazing how Mr Trower still manages to make vital and interesting records. And this latest one is one of his finer latter day creations.
He’s moved away from the bluesier offerings of late, back into the world of rock, and he’s done a fine job of it across the ten tracks here. He’s taken care of guitar, vocals, and bass, with Chris Taggart on drums, and some additional bass from Livingstone Brown, so it is very much his show. I’ve never been the biggest fan of his voice, but as he’s got older, his tone has improved. Naturally, he remains an amazing guitarist.
And he obviously is still in love with the guitar, as one listen to ‘The Fruits Of Your Desire’ will attest. The fretwork is just outstanding. But he could always write a good tune, and none more so than ‘We Will Be Together Someday’, a gut wrenching paean to his late wife. As someone whose youth is long in the past, and as the last man standing in my family, the pain is all to familiar.
The title track is the one that will appeal most to fans of his blues guitar, but as whole piece of guitar rock, this album is nigh on flawless. Catch him on tour soon.
Insanity And Genius / Lust For Live
Onwards with the Gamma Ray reissues programme, and the latest goodies lined up for you are their third studio album “Insanity And Genius”, from 1993, alongside the live “Lust For Live”.
I really liked “Insanity And Genius” when it came out, as it showed that there was much more to Gamma Ray than just power metal. And it sounds just as good all these years later. It may have been down to the arrival of a new rhythm section in the shape of Jan Rubach (bass) and Thomas Nack (drums) and, particularly the former, who chipped in with some great songwriting ideas.
This new version comes with a second CD which has two live tracks, an extended version of ‘Gamma Ray’, three demos, a rough mix of ‘Space Eater’ and their version of the Judas Priest classic ‘Exciter’. An essential purchase for Gamma Ray fans.
Later that year, Gamma Ray played a show at Hamburg Docks which was being filmed for release as a live video (ask your Dad). Which means that this is the audio version of the old VHS cassette you haven’t been able to play for ten years. It’s also historically significant for Gamma Ray fans as it turned out to be the farewell performance of vocalist Ralf Scheepers.
As such it’s interesting, if not essential, although the Helloween medley of ´I Want Out`, ´Future World` and ´Ride The Sky` is quite thrilling. There are better Gamma Ray live recordings, but long term fans will appreciate the show, and the two bonus tracks – ‘Heading For Tomorrow / Dream Healer’ and ‘Gamma Ray’.
Here Come The Jokers
Off to Viva Espana now for some eighties sleaze rock, courtesy of a band of scoundrels, who love old school sleaze and Scandi sleaze in equal measures. And there is nothing wrong with that.
They’ve been on the go since 2009, bonding over a shared love of Motley Crue, Skid Row and Backyard Babies. They bunged out an EP, and took to the road, playing shows with the likes of Adam Bomb, Quireboys, Crazy Lixx, Warrior Soul and more. What larks.
Their debut album, “Sex Booze & Tattoos” was well received, and now they’re back with a new release, following on from the single ‘Rockin In Stereo’. Now I may be a monoist at heart, but there is no denying that it’s a really enjoyable listen. For sure, there is absolutely nothing new here, but if you like mucky, sleaze rock, chock full of great riffs and dodgy lyrics, then is the place to come.
They’ve got tunes about showgirls called, um, ‘Showgirls’, they’ve nicked a whole load of AC/DC riffs, and they’ve got the legally obligatory acoustic ballad in the shape of ‘Way Back Home’. Fun, fun and more fun.
An indie folk EP. Well, three versions of the same song, masquerading as an EP from the London based Van Susans. And as these things go, it’s pretty good. They’ve reeled in a name producer to make it sound good – John Cornfield (Foxes, Razorlight, Muse) – and put together a tear jerker of a video to make you weep like a bunch of jessies.
That’s because the song is about the pain of dealing with the loss of a loved one, which is just what you want to hear on a spring day. Granted, front man, Olly Andrews, lost his father three years ago, and is getting some catharsis here. Me, my Dad died when I was still at the school, so you’re getting no bloody sympathy from me.
However, hipsters with more generous spirits and a yen for something more anthemic indie than folk will like this.
Finally for today, we’re off to Chicago to catch up with Dissona, a progressive metal band, who know how to piss me off with an unpronoucable title. I’m guessing from the component parts that they’re advocating some kind of rubber tyre diet, but I may be reading too much into it.
This is their second album and it seems as though the debut was very well received in prog metal circles, which is no surprise if it was anything like this one. They’re certainly on the outer reaches of their chosen genre, with an array of influences in there, with psychedelic jazz and all sorts of whatnots going on. Which is nice.
There are oodles of dense arrangements, all sorts of clever musical flourishes on display, and a downright avant-garde approach to their presentation. Now that’s the sort of thing that makes prog metal fans go a wee bit moist, so they’d best tread carefully here, and get some extra Kleenex in. Granted, the vocal approach of David Dubenic takes some getting used to, but on numbers like ‘Another Sky’ and ‘Outside The Skin’, they show more than enough innovation to play with the big boys.