Reviews roundup – Asia vs. Darryl Way vs. Fear Theories vs. Elam McKnight Band
Phoenix – 2CD reissue
The Asia reunion over the last decade has been a bit of a treat. I must admit that the first reunion CD “Phoenix” isn’t my favourite. Which isn’t to say it’s bad, because it’s actually very good. I’m just hung up on the majesty that was “XXX”.
But if you missed “Phoenix” first time around, here’s a chance to get your hands on two versions of the album. This release is the first on the band’s own Asia Music imprint, so I’m guessing they’ve got the rights back, and sees the original version of the album rubbing up sides against the American remix. It also throws in the two acoustic bonus tracks from overseas editions, so there is plenty for you to listen to.
Now my ears are old, so the American edition which includes a different mix of the opening track ‘Never Again’ and different mastering throughout, sounds the same to me, but with Geoff Downes (Yes), Steve Howe (Yes), Carl Palmer (ELP) and John Wetton (King Crimson / UK) in top form, this is a melodic prog delight. Lengthy pieces like ‘Sleeping Giant / No Way Back / Reprise’ and ‘Parallel Worlds / Vortex / Deya’ are as good as anything they’ve ever done, and they line up nicely against more poppy material such as ‘An Extraordinary Life’.
A great album.
Myths, Legends and Tales
More prog now, this time from former Curved Air man, Darryl Way, who heralded his return to prog with the “Children Of The Cosmos” album, back in 2014. That was OK, even if it did get a bit new agey in places, and this one is more of the same.
As the name implies, “Myths, Legends and Tales” takes its inspiration from some of the mythologies (both ancient and present day) which have inspired him. And to that end you’re getting an array of instrumental pieces looking at the world of Greek Mythology, and some songs which fly the modern day hippy flag.
It’s the former which work best, and I was really taken with the opening salvo of ‘Apollo (Racing Against The Sun)’ and ‘Orpheus And The Underworld’. It gets a bit lost in the middle, around the arrical of ‘Dove Of Peace’, but Curved Air fans missing his fiddle will find this to their taste.
To Norway! For some heavy metal! And, unusually, it’s for some power metal. I mean there is a lot of metal over there, but not many looking towards the Teutonic hordes for inspiration. But that’s what Fear Theories are doing.
They’ve been around since the start of the decade with an EP to their name, but this is their debut album proper, and it sees bassist Hakon Sakseide, drummer Brage Nygaard, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Andreas Tjosvoll and lead guitarist Ole Sonstabo looking back to the eighties for some Priest like vibe and into the nineties for some Helloween / Gamma Ray influences.
Which suits me fine, as it’s the sound of proper metal. They seem content to go for Maidensesque canters throughout the record, and a variety of pace might have pushed this slightly beyond the good grade, because there are some fine tunes here, with ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ and ‘Heroes of Today’ getting a few repeat plays. There are also one or two production issues which makes for some muddied sound, but there is certainly some potential for them to take their place on the Euro festival circuit.
ELAM McKNIGHT BAND
Lastly, for today, it’s time to head off to the American colonies for some blues meets soul, courtesy of the Elam McKnight Band. Mr McKnight has been around for a wee while now, with a few albums to his name, in different amalgamations.
But three years ago he moved from Nashville to West Tennessee, set up his own studio, and want about forming a new band. All of which has led to this release, with veteran Dudley Harris on bass, vocals and guitar alongside Eddie Phillips on drums. The latter has the claim to fame of having been the postie round Carl Perkins house. You are right to feel unworthy.
McKnight’s solo debut, “Braid My Hair” came out back in 2003, and since then he’s recorded and toured, sharing the bill with the likes of Jonny Lang, Little Milton, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, BB King and countless others. However, this new release should see some more people pricking up their ears. The band can rock, get soulful and play the blues, as a quick listen to the likes of ‘I Feel Like Rocking’, ‘Well I’m Bad’, ‘Hold Me (Just a Little Bit Longer)’ and the title track / single.