Reviews roundup – Van Zant vs. Focus vs. Lisa Weint vs. Roni vs. Icefire

71a1fwdiyql-_sl1200_VAN ZANT
Red White & Blue (live)
Loud & Proud Records

Southern Rock.  God’s Own Music.  Although nowadays it’s largely a forgotten art.  For sure, there is always the righteous racket of Whiskey Myers, but you’ve got to go hunting for it. Not like back in the day when the likes of Doc Holliday and Molly Hatchet were riding high.  The Van Zant brothers were also at it, although .38 Special went too far down the pop road, and the Johnyy Van Zant Band only made one solid southern rock record before he also began searching for pop glory.

So no-one was more surprised than me when Johnny and Donnie got together and fired out some cracking southern rock meets country on their duo albums.  It was a short run, though, and Johnny stuck with the rejigged Skynyrd and Donnie with .38 Special till his recent retirement.

So they were a footnote, albeit a fine one, until this live album appeared out of nowhere.  It was recorded on their one and only tour, and it is absolutely fantastic.  Recorded at Valdosta, Georgia, it is apparently, the only known live in-concert recording by the band. And what you get is an amazing run through their joint material, including their Top 10 Country single “Help Somebody” as well as dipping into the Skynyrd and .38 Special songbooks.

The show was recorded by Donnie’s .38 Special bandmate Larry Jungstron, but it’s been lying around forgotten for years.  Thankfully, it’s now here, and it’s a heady reminder of some glorious music.

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81x0g9fh2kl-_sl1200_FOCUS
Focus 8.5 / Beyond The Horizon
In And Out Of Focus Records

Prog legends Focus have been on a decent run of late, with Thijs Van Leer, Pierre Van Der Linden and their present day cohorts putting on some excellent live shows as well as reinvigorating some golden oldies from their back catalogue.

Back in 2005 the then lineup of Thijs Van Leer, Pierre Van Der Linden, Bobby Jacobs and Jan Dumée were on tour in South America, and used their downtime to head into a recording studio with producer Marvio Ciribelli and some leading Brazilian musicians including Arthur Maia and Mario Seve and Marcio Bahia.

And it’s a bit hit and miss, as there is a lot of improv going on here, with a lot of the material being more of a jam session than a defined set of recordings. However, there is some good music here, with the opening “Focus Zero” certainly living up to repeat plays.  I could have lived without the drum duet, but fans of fusion and Focus will probably find enough of interest here to keep them going.

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41y80w43gdl-_ss500_ss280LISA WEINT
Vurbei
Unlicht Records

Austria now to the odly named Lisa Weint, who comprise Markus ‘Marks’ Baumgartner on vocals, Ronald Wintersteiner on synths, vocals, and Tom Plo on bass.  That’s right, neither a Lisa or a Weint in sight.  And just what did they do to Lisa to make here weep?

And what they’re doing is a modern mainstream rock thing, with a few metal licks and some poppy choruses.  It’s the sort of thing that you see and hear on mainstream festival stages, with the likes of Foo Fighters leading the charge.

They do have a couple of tunes that stand out in the shape of “Betrayed By Love” and “Fool”, but too many of the songs pass you by without making too much of an impact.  There is talent at work here, but until they come up with a few more memorable melodies, it’s the three in the afternoon slot for them.

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51rd4zjxazl-_ss500_ss280RONI
Nothing Less Than This
independent

Some rootsy Americana slash country now from Devon singer / songwriter Roni Perry.  Back in the days she performed with a variety of bands as well as touring the world with a number of performers.

That all went on the back burner when she decided to have a family, but now she’s ready to get back in the game with this EP and a lead single, “Baby Bird”.  And it’s quite good.  It’s acoustic roots with some nice melodies, and she has a very listenable voice.

The first two tracks are the best, namely the title track and the aforementioned “Baby Bird”.  Some of the other numbers outstay their welcome slightly and could have done with some editing, but as an opening salvo it serves its purpose.  As well as the country influences there are also nods to seventies singer songwriters, which gives you hope for her forthcoming full length album.

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51fuv8uboxl-_ss500_ss280ICEFIRE
The Nature Of Evil
Pharaoh

We’re finishing the day with a female fronted rock meets metal band featuring former members of Agincourt, Scarab and Nightblade. No, me neither.

They’re giving us some eighties styled hard rock with a few metal riffs, and singer Deborah Woodward, guitarist Dave Paz, bass player Billy Fitz and drummer Steve Riley (no, not the WASP / LA Guns one) do a good job of delivering the goods.

They’ve got a slight goth meets psychedelic edge to their style, which comes to the fore on tunes like “Drink Me In” and “Witches”, which brings to mind a combination of Witchyfynde and Eloise-era Damned. Which is better than it sounds.  The production could have been a bit more in your face, but it’s an enjoyable record nonetheless.

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