Reviews roundup – Graham Bonnet vs. Hawkwind vs. Ivor S.K. vs. Tribulance vs. Benjamin William Pike
Flying…Not Falling 1991-1999
It’s been a busy old time for Graham Bonnet collectors of late what with reissues, box sets, an excellent biography and now this latest box set.
I suppose it makes sense to take advantage of his higher profile of late, what with the Michael Schenker tour and forthcoming album, so this time around they’re punting out three solo albums from the lost decade that was the nineties. And if you didn’t hear them first time out (and you probably didn’t) then they are worth a listen. The three of them are “Here Comes The Night” (1991), “Underground” (1997) and “The Day I Went Mad” (1999). They came together on a variety of small / overseas labels and certainly never got much of a push anywhere.
The latter two are from the heavy metal days and even though there are some fine songs there, the project nature and the dimension of the material isn’t really up to the voice. Both of them come with live bonus tracks which aren’t top quality. I’ll listen to the “Underground” bonus tracks again as the likes of ‘SOS’, ‘Only One Woman’ and ‘Will You Be Home Tonight’ manage to overcome their audio deficits.
The ace in the pack is “Here Comes The Night” which has always been one of his best albums, albeit one you’d pay a hefty price to acquire. It’s the one record where you can feel that the right amount of time and effort has been put into the material and the recording, both of which show his voice off to best effect. With Ray Fenwick on guitars and Don Airey on keyboards, the mix of covers and originals hits all the right notes. However it would have been better left alone rather than cluttering it up with some instrumental demos from across the years. It comes with some decent liner notes and is certainly required listening fans for Bonnet followers.
At The Roundhouse
I should know better. Another Hawkwind live release. And with a bonus DVD.
I’ve probably seen Hawkwind more times than any other band, more than even my beloved Motorhead. I even used to follow them round on tour, catching half a dozen shows or so at a time. Those days are gone and the modern Hawkwind led by Baron Brock leaves me cold in the studio. But this had a good track list so here we go again.
And it starts off really well. The unplugged segment at the beginning is good and when they blast into ‘Born To Go’ you’re ready for a spaceage inferno. And in places you get it. Instrumentally, the likes of ‘You Better Believe It’, ‘Magnu/Golden Void’ and others still have the power to transfix. However, when Mr Dibs starts howling what passes for vocals then I remember why I stopped going to their shows in the first place.
The DVD, by contrast, is terrible. A single static camera angle over the course of a two hour show doesn’t really cut it in the modern world. They’re trying to claim this is a bonus which the fans demanded. But if that were the case they wouldn’t be charging top whack for a box set release. The clamshell box set itself is rather nice with a booklet and poster but it seems like yet another lost opportunity. Phil Campbell from Motorhead pops in to play some extra guitar on ‘Brainbox Pollution’ and ‘Silver Machine’, and the extra power certainly makes a difference. Good but certainly not essential.
Ivor Simpson-Kennedy is back with a follow up to his very enjoyable “Delta Pines” EP and I’m glad to say this is more of the same.
Except there is more of it. Ten tunes this time and the all original set shows just how good a songwriter he is as he expands upon the dark and spectral blues he offered up first time. That’s still there but with more room to play he’s looked further out from the Australian delta and has incorporated some funk and some soul, as well as some rock and roll. And it’s all to the good.
The first gem is two tracks in when ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’ rocks things up but he still knows how to bring a tear to your eye and does just that on ‘It’s Raining’, although as I’m permanently on the edge these days that might just be me. Elsewhere he has a New Orleans vibe on a few tunes which really suits the vibe with the only downer being ‘I Been Had’ which just misses completely for me. That aside, this is a delightful set of bues which fans should be checking out a bit sharpish.
The Aftermath Of Lies
To Arizona now for some modern thrash metal, courtesy of Tribulance.
They certainly know how to make an almighty racket which is fair enough considering they first tried out back in the early nineties, going as far as to release an album called “Trials & Tribulations” before taking a near twenty year break. That saw founder members, vocalist Michael Vidal, guitarist Sal Flores and bassist Gino Silva getting together with Brandon Lee on drums to have another bash.
As time and metal has moved on, they’ve incorporated some more modern power metal sounds into their music but at heart they still want to thrash. They’ve got some great riffs on the likes of ‘Conflict’, ‘Initiation’ and ‘Deny The Pain’ and you do wonder why they never managed some kind of breakthrough first time out. There are some strong vocals and good arrangements, especially on album highlight ‘Enamored’. Fans of thrash old and new, will find a lot to enjoy here.
BENJAMIN WILLIAM PIKE
A Burdensome Year
Gin House Records
A burdensome year! A fucking burdensome year!! Tell me about it. This is the year my beautiful wife died of cancer. And not just any old cancer. No. Cancer of the brain. The worst of all cancers. So don’t come round my hoose with your moans and groans.
Which is why I put off playing this for a couple of months. You know, just in case I got the urge to set fire to it. Because this album tells the story of Mr Pike and his experience of illness, hospitalisation and surgery following his diagnosis with a chronic kidney disease. Of course the fact that he’s made this record implies that there was a better outcome than the one I’m living through.
But personal agonies aside, this is a a very good album. He traverses across folk, blues and even country on his musical travels but wherever he goes, he finds a good song. He’s not a singers singer, instead using his croaky vocals to tell the story of what’s happened to him. But with some intricate arrangements, superb guitar picking and well judged use of additional instrumentation, he never fails to convince on songs like ‘Beasts Of Burden’, ‘Hand You’ve Been Dealt’ and the heart wrenching ‘Keep Me In Your Mind’, something my wife asked of me in her last days.
A couple of the songs are similar in theme and content but that aside this introspective and personal collection is guaranteed to give you pause for thought and tears.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton