Reviews roundup – The Alan Parsons Project vs. Albany Down vs. Magick Touch vs. Vasil Hadzimanov Band
THE ALAN PARSONS SYMPHONIC PROJECT
Live In Columbia
Well that was a turn up for the books. Who’d have thought that Alan Parsons would have reconvened his Project, along with an orchestra to replay his greatest hits in Columbia. Of course, without the late Eric Woolfson, it’s only really half a project, but hearing new versions of some great songs that time forgot makes it all worthwhile.
I always liked the Alan Parsons Project, with only their final “Gaudi” album letting the side down for me. And if you’re a fan, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of the Eric Woolfson album “More Tales Of Mystery & Imagination”. But let’s head off to the Parque Pies Descalzos in Medellín, Colombia on August 31st, 2013, when Parsons appeared on stage, along with the Medellín Philharmonic Orchestra and his band.
It’a an all new band with Alan Parsons on acoustic guitar, keys, and vocals, P.J. Olsson (lead vocals), Alastair Greene (guitar, vocals), Guy Erez (bass, vocals), Danny Thompson (drums, vocals), Tom Brooks (keyboards, vocals) and Todd Cooper (saxophone, guitar, percussion, vocals), and they certainly know how to bring the music to life.
It’s a double album full to the brim of melodic prog meets soft rock, with long standing favourites like ‘Damned If I Do’, ‘I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You’, ‘Eye In The Sky’, ‘Old And Wise’ and ‘Games People Play’ all present, correct and immaculate. Granted, it seems a bit odd to hear someone else singing, as the songs are embedded in my head from decades ago, but that aside, this is a sheer delight.
It’s available as a DVD, Blu-ray, 2-CD digipak, triple vinyl, and download.
The Outer Reach
This is album number three from Albany Down, although it’s my first encounter with the UK blues rockers who’re made up of Paul Muir (vocals), Paul Turley (guitars), Billy Dedman (bass) and Donna Peters (drums).
They’re looking back to the early seventies when wailers like Led Zeppelin were splattering the walls with their ripped off blues bluster, but fortunately they’ve stopped to look around at folk like early Bad Company to temper their sound with some class. Which really works on songs like ‘Do You Want Me Now’ and ‘Revolution’. They’re also happy to broaden their scope with some well placed horns, and can even turn their hand to a heartfelt ballad. That would be ‘Look What You Have Done To Me’ and ‘Sing Me To Sleep’.
Paul Muir has a really good rock voice, while t’other Paul can certainly whip out a good guitar riff and solo. It also sounds great, so props to Greg Haver for that. We’re still waiting for a breakout British blues rock band, and seeing as how this year sees the tenth anniversary of The Answer being the next big thing, it’s beginning to seem like a lost cause. But for as long as there are bands as good as Albany Down, we’ll just have to keep on keeping on.
Aiiiiieeee!!!! Off to Bergen in Norway for some heavy metal. And with a surfeit of K’s in their name and title, who better than Magick Touch, a mighty fine trio comprising HK Rein on guitar and vocals, Bård Nordvik on drums, and Christer Ottesen on bass and vocals.
To be fair, they’re not really metal. They’re more of a hard rock band on the cusp of being metal. The kind of thing bands did in the late seventies before the Priest finally emerged from their kaftans. Magick Touch are relatively new, forming in 2014 and recording this debut in 2015, but they’ve certainly got the rocking chops.
They’ve also got a penchant for some classy lyrics as in the opening ‘Love Rocket’, a sure fire hit in 1986. They get closer to the metal on the likes of ‘Underwater Prison’, but always have a stadium rocker just around the corner, as on ‘Trouble & Luck’. There is a slight sag in quality towards the middle of the album, before they get some glam metal chops out for ‘Dead Man in Chicago’. Is it the best thing since a plain half loaf? No. Is it a fun album, full of Nordic promise? Yes, it is.
VASIL HADZIMANOV BAND featuring David Binney
In their neverending quest for the finest in avante garde, fusion, prog and downright weirdness, MoonJune Records have taken themselves off to Serbia, to catch up with keyboardist, pianist and composer Vasil Hadzimanov.
He’s not a well known name (or indeed a catchy one), but he’s well known in musi circles and has performed with people like David Gilmour, Antonio Sanchez, Matt Garrison, David Binney, Nigel Kennedy and an assortment of rock stars in his native country.
He comes from a musical background and is a graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, in Boston. “Alive”, as the name suggest sees Vasil and his band, featuring saxophonist David Binney, recorded live in concert. Turns out it’s their sixth album, but the first one to be distributed globally, and it will certain enthrall those looking for some new fusion kicks.
There are a couple of tunes here, in particualr, which sum up the adventurous spirit of the band and their music. The opening ‘Nocturnal Joy’ sees the band taking some spectacular side routes through various forms of jazz, while ‘Zulu’ is the one for those searching for some seventies fusion reformatted for the 21st century. Granted, I could have done without the vocals, but instrumentally, it’s a dream concoction.