Reviews roundup – Shakin’ Stevens vs. Iron Mask vs. Georgia Ruth vs. C.T.P. vs. Cunning Mantrap

61vttdwj8nlSHAKIN’ STEVENS
Echoes Of Our Times
HEC

It’s nigh on 25 years since Sir Shakin’ Stevens had a proper album out in the UK.  His last release, ‘Now Listen’ sneaked out in Europe about ten years back, but here he is, just shy of his seventieth birthday, with a new record.

Now don’t come here if you’re looking for his poppy eighties rock and roll stylings which made him the biggest selling British singles artist of the 80s, because this is actually a largely self penned collection of blues, roots and Americana inspired by details from his family history.  So expect tales of Cornish copper mines, the First World War, preachers and the Salvation Army.

And it’s really enjoyable.  His voice is deeper than in his heyday but the instrumentation conjures up a sympathetic backdrop in amongst the harmonica, Dobro, harmonium, banjo, flute and more.  The songs are good as well with the likes of “Behind Those Secrets And Lies” and “Down Into Muddy Waters” and “‘Last Man Alive” well deserving of the repeat button.  Granted, the percussion seems oddly muted in places, but as with the last couple of albums from fellow Welshman, Tom Jones, this sees Shaky getting to grips with his maturity in fine style.

He’s lined up a massive UK tour for early 2017 so make sure you don’t miss it.

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81wdozgm6tl-_sl1200_IRON MASK
Diabolica
AFM

To Belgium for some power metal now.  It’s album number six from guitarist Dushan Petrossi and whoever is in the band this week and it’s an absolute belter.

I’ve always believed that if you’re going into this style of music then you should just go completely over the top with your riffs, vocal lines and melodies and that’s exactly what you’re getting here.  This one sees the debut of vocalist Diego Valdez who has taken over from the much travelled Mark Boals (now in the Las Vegas Show – “Raiding The Rock Vault”) and he does a fine job.

The rest of the band are no slouches with bassist Vassili Moltchanov and drummer Rami Ali (Frontline, Kiske – Somerville) doing a grand job of powering things along.  Although it’s not an out and out concept album there are common threads which draw inspiration from the likes of Faust and Galileo, which suits the material especially when it takes a turn for the epic.

Numbers like “The Rebellion Of Lucifer” and “Cursed In The Devil’s Mill” are as good as any power metal offerings this year, so give it a whirl.

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517u0pmcotlGEORGIA RUTH
Fossil Scale
Navigator

Album number two from Welsh folkie Georgia Ruth who was nominated in 2014 for a Radio 2 Folk Award.  Since then she’s got up to all sorts including the Manic Street Preachers album ‘Futurology’ which may explain why this sees her making a move into the world of indie.

Which is a shame because the debut was very promising.  This however is striving to mix up indie and electro with the merest smattering of folk, so there are lots of synthesisers and a feeling of indie ambience about the whole affair.  Maybe she’s decided she wants to be Kate Bush?  I don’t know. But a lot of this washed over me.

It’s annoying because a song like “The Doldrums” has a lot of promise which is then lost in a sea of sterility.  It’s interesting that the press release mentions the likes of St Vincent, Feist and Bat For Lashes because they’ll certainly get a lot more from this than any fan of modern folk music.

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71peqpz6mhl-_sl1440_C.T.P.
Now & Then
Fast Ball

The fourth C.T.P. (Christian Tolle Project) album ‘Now & Then’ sees the well respected melodic rock / AOR chap revisiting some of his best tunes, re-recording them, adding some new tunes in the company of some rock giants leading to a really enjoyable release.

So if the thought of some quality songs augmented by the likes of John Parr, Philip Bardowell,  David Reece, Michael Voss, Chuck Wright, Steve Lukather, Doug Aldrich and many more sets your heart a flutter, then stop reading this and get on with buying it.

It’s quite old fashioned melodic rock but with a punchy 21st century sound which brings out the best of songs like “Dumped”, “Taking A Risk” and “Hard To Find”.  Despite the different origins the mix makes the album seem rounded and complete, resulting in a record that AOR fans will really take pleasure in.

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71blotisrxl-_sl1200_CUNNING MANTRAP
Hazmat
Fast Ball

Some German modern rock meets post grunge metal now from the oddly named Cunning Mantrap.  It’s my first encounter with them although they did have an EP out back in 2014 called “Dull Days”.  Which is just asking for trouble.

Because even if they’re not my cup of tea, they’re certainly not dull.  Their sound lies in the early nineties when all the post Pearl Jam bands were revving up for action although they do look back a wee bit further for some of their riffs.  Generally though they go for a midtempo Alice In Chains style groove that serves them well.

Granted they could have varied things a bit more but songs like “A Light That Should Have Shined”, “Weary” and “The Curse Of The Leaden Tongue” should serve then well.  “Weary” in particular would have been a solid radio hit back in the day and should still help push them across the European heartlands.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01IE3KVEE/theroc-21

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