Reviews roundup – Billy Sherwood & Tony Kaye vs. Graham Bonnet vs. Stratovarius vs. Harper and Midwest Kind vs. Luke & Mel

61dekmktzdlBILLY SHERWOOD & TONY KAYE
Live In Japan
Backyard Levitation

Billy Sherwood is the current bass player / former guitarist in legendary prog rockers Yes, while keyboard man Tony Kaye was a founder member of Yes, who re-joined the band for the hugely successful 90125 era, carrying on through to the mid-nineties.   They also both play in Circa, a band that has, in the past, also featured Yes drummer Alan White and guitarist Jimmy Haun, who played on the Yes album” Union”.

When they’re not doing that, they sometimes play a two-man show, performing songs from Yes, Circa, Conspiracy and solo, and this was recorded during a Japanese tour in 2011.  It’s a bit strange, because although Kaye plays the keyboards and Sherwood plays guitar and sings, the bass and drums are pre-recorded.  So don’t come here looking for some prog rock improv.  What you do get are some professional performances of some excellent material.

The likes of ‘Time and a Word’, ‘I’ve Seen All Good People’, ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ and ‘Wondrous Stories’ are always welcome round our way, and this three disc edition also has a DVD of the show for your viewing pleasure.  Although, as it started live as a streamed webcast, it makes for a better record than a video.  An enjoyable listen.

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81bjllsacrl-_sl1200_GRAHAM BONNET
Back Row In The Stalls
Hear No Evil

It looked like Graham Bonnet was destined to be a one hit wonder, post Marbles.  There were a couple of one off singles, but he was recording advertising jingles until DJM decided to give him a chance at recording an album.  That got hijacked when he appeared in a film with his then wife Adrienne Posta, with some of the songs ending up on the soundtrack, where he was in the pretend band Billy Beethoven.

He thought the tapes were long lost, but a cassette version turned up, which was then given a good clean, leading to this, the album that never was.  Now, as anyone who has dipped into his pre Rainbow years will know, Mr Bonnet was a bit of a jack of all trades.  He never had a definable style, but this is probably as close to the “real” Graham as you will get, as it’s self penned songs, with him playing bass and guitar.  See, a lot of people forget he was a musician as well as a singer, hence why ELO tried to get him to join.

Musically, it’s very of its time, pop meets soft rock meets seventies singer / songwriter, but it’s not without its charm.  The songs from the film “Three For All” are here, as are the DJM singles that did sneak out, as well as a couple of Adrienne Posta songs, which featured hubby Bonnet.  There are some excellent (new) liner notes, which go into a lot of detail about the times he was a-living and, as a curio, it’s worth a visit for fans of the man.

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81wsh5okn4l-_sl1500_STRATOVARIUS
Best Of
earMusic

Aiiiiieeee!!!  Time for some metal.  And here comes a double (triple/quadruple) album of heavy metal courtesy of Stratovarius.  Their label is about to do a Gamma Ray and embark on a reissue programme, and this is to whet the appetite.

I still think of them as being a new band, but they’ve been around since 1985 and released 16 studio albums, despite running out of original members a few years back.  This is also their fifth(ish) compilation album, although it’s been ten years since the last one. The standard issue is a double album, the deluxe versions throws in a third disc of the band live at the Wacken Festival recorded in 2015.  Although for some reason the promo version is spread over four discs.  So, ya boo sucks, my Dad is bigger than yours.

In amongst the classics, they’ve sneaked in a new tune to tempt the completists.  That is ‘Until The End Of Days’, which is exactly the same sort of power metal they’ve been bunging out these last thirty years.  And that’s fine by me.  At least they’ve managed to cover a decent amount of material on this Best Of, so if you’re new to the band, this is the best place to start, while the live album will sate the long term metalheads.

The band formerly known as Black Water have come a long way since they started life in Finland, and this package is a neat summary of their career.

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61ikhrabo9l-_ss280HARPER and MIDWEST KIND
Show Your Love
independent

Our travels are taking us to the mythological continent of Australasia, where the self titled World Blues performer mixes up the blues with some sounds native to his adopted homeland.  He’s doing that in the company of Detroit band Midwest Kind, and the eleven tracks on offer see Peter D. Harper (for it is he) getting jiggy on the didgeridoo and djembe, amongst many other things.

He’s been doing this sort of thing for quarter of a century now, despite being British born and a US resident, so his personal take on the blues is well established.  He’s a good singer and has found a good band to support him, as he continues on his journey.

I like it best when things are stripped back and he demonstrates his moothy skills, but there is plenty here to keep fans of blues, roots and world music content.  The best songs are ‘Drive Brother Drive’, which has an amazing power for an acoustic number and the didgeridoo heavy ‘It’s All In The Game’.

It’s always interesting and sometimes invigorating.

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61dvmsy1l1l-_ss280LUKE & MEL
Bad Habit
L&M

We’re finishing off today with some British country music.  Now, don’t run off.  Things have changed from back in the day when my auld Irish mammy was Secretary of the Scottish Country Music Fellowship, and I spent my Monday nights sitting up the back of the Tuscon Country Music Club nursing a Kia-Ora.

Nowadays, the Brits are following in the footsteps of the American colonies by specialising in country / pop, and off the back of the crossbreed Jess & The Bandits and Sasha McVeigh, here come come Luke & Mel.  Turns out they formed in 2012, having met through performing in the UK’s touring theatre show, Country Legends. Luke has also played guitar with ‘One Night of Elvis’ and ‘Dolly The Show’, as well as contributing songs to Raintown and Thorne Hill.  But now he’s teamed up with singer/songwriter Melanie, to perform their own tunes.

Their debut EP came out in December 2014, which debuted at number two on the iTunes UK Country Album Chart, where it stayed in the top 10 for 2 weeks and they’ve been on the road playing their own shows, as well as supporting Engelbert Humperdinck and the Pistol Annies’ Angaleena Presley.  And on the basis of this, they could go beyond the UK circuit.  This single came out to coincide with a Jess and The Bandits tour, and it’s fair to say that their melodic country pop will have went down well with that crowd.  The A-side is a radio friendly upbeat tune, while the flip, ‘Somethin’ About A Woman’ won them Song of the Year at the British Country Music Awards 2015, and appears here in a new mix.  A job well done.

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