Reviews roundup – Rick Parfitt vs. Auri vs. Michael Schenker Fest vs. Tommy DarDar
Over And Out
Well now. Where to begin. After all I’m a fully paid up member of the Quo Army. Although I’ve always been on the Rick side, so the current Francis Rossi Band version of the Quo doesn’t float my boat.
Parfitt was the heart and soul of the Quo. The everyman who ended up in his dream job, the one fans related to most. And 15 months on from his death we’re getting his first solo album. Well his second if you count the unreleased “Recorded Delivery” from the Quo hiatus in the eighties. And I really wanted to like this. So the opening ‘Twinkletoes’ had me almost in tears. An insipid mid paced tune Rossi would have been proud of with Brian May failing to spark any life. But then ‘Lonesome Road’ kicks in, the boogie is back, and it’s the best Quo track since ‘Let’s Rock’.
Things go down again on the title track but this one works as Parfitt seems to be looking back over his life. It’s maudlin but charming, and you can see why they played it at his funeral. There are a lot of ballads here, but most of them manage to get pass marks. It also makes sense as he’d been struggling vocally for years so it gives him a chance to sing rather than bellow. ‘Everybody Knows How To Fly’and ‘Lock Myself Away’ bring back the rawk to great effect. The former is a John David song (one of two here), a name well known to fans of the Quo While the latter makes you wonder why Parfitts songwriting was minimal on the final few Quo album releases.
Things end up with a return to that unreleased “Recorded Delivery” album and a tarted up ‘Halloween’, a tune that came out under the Quo banner as an eighties B-side. The deluxe version of this album comes with a different mix of the album called “The Band’s Mix” which makes you wonder why they didn’t just give us “Recorded Delivery” instead. It would have made sense as the remix is fairly redundant. There are a few guests here with Quo members past and present, sans Rossi, but with Nuff, Rhino, and Bob Young making cameos. It’s a solid album which would have comfortably fitted into the top half of the Quo canon.
DELUXE BOX SET includes 2 CDs and an exclusive t-shirt (XL), CD1: Digipack (Ash Howes mix), CD2: Slip case (Original mix)
My favourite Nightwish album is actually “Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge”, the solo record by Tuomas Holopainen. So when I heard that he and the missus (Johanna Kurkela) were teaming up with Nightwisher Troy Donockley for a new project I was always going to give it a go.
But. I’m undecided. I knew it was going to be a softer, Celtic influenced, folk meets ambient sound so that wasn’t a surprise. However, a lot of the music just washes in and out without appearing to go anywhere. It’s very listenable and expertly produced and performed but for me it just tips too far into the world of ambience. I don’t mind it as an ingredient but not as a main course.
So, for me, it works best when there are concessions to the world of rock. Which means the opening ‘The Space Between’ is a real highlight. By the time you’re getting to the end of the album, though, ‘Savant’ and ‘Underthing Solstice’ just drift by in a semi-pleasant haze. Given that, when the folk element pushes to the forefront it all comes right again. So I’ve a lot of time for ‘Skeleton Tree’ and ‘Them Thar Chanterelles’ where it would seem that Mr Donockley brings his folk background to the game. Although he’ll never top his performance on the Status Quo version of ‘All Around My Hat’. The vocals tend towards the bland as Johanna Kurkela has quite, well I don’t want to say insipid but, yes, an insipid voice.
It’s an interesting diversion but hopefully that’s all it will be. For Clannad fans rather than Nightwish ones.
MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST
Hmmm. Well. Um. It’s not really very good, is it. If it hadn’t have caught my eye on 12″ vinyl I probably would have passed it by, having heard a fair few pre-release songs.
An acoustic intro, before we head off into a mid-tempo plod of a tune. And although it’s a clever idea on paper, having four vocalists on the one song doesn’t really work. It’s a shame because there were a few good tunes tucked away on his Temple of Rock offerings and even the live Fest release was worth a listen.
Graham Bonnet still has the most distinctive voice but it seems as though Rob McAuley is the one who’s managed to hold on to all the top notes. It’s grand to see the old rhythm section in action but I don’t think this will persuade too many people to fork out for the whole album.
Big Daddy Gumbo
The second posthumous album of the day as Tommy Dardar died last summer.
The tracks had actually been recorded back in 2001 and were originally intended as a follow-up to his 1999 record “Fool For Love”. But they’d been sitting on a shelf until some of his former bandmates decided to tidy them up and punt this out as a tribute. And it’s really enjoyable.
It’s good old fashioned party blues with the vocals and harmonica of Mr Dardar front and centre. There’s nothing fancy going on, just the sound of everyone having a good time. It’s music you’d want to hear on a Friday night after a shitty week at work. Joyful and life affirming. The original core band of Tony Braunagel on drums, Hutch Hutchinson on bass, Jon Cleary on piano and Johnny Lee Schell on guitar have been augmented by Mike Finnigan on organ, Barry Seelen on organ, Joe Sublett on saxophone and Jimmie Rose on percussion and Teresa James, Tommie Lee Bradley, Larry Fulcher and Terry Wilson on backing vocals. It’s a blast from start to finish and it’s a real shame that Dardar isn’t around to enjoy it.
It’s hard to pick highlights when it’s one of those records that you’ll always play from start to finish but if you were dangling a kitten over the fire I’d probably plump for ‘It’s Good To Be King’, ‘Baby I Can Tell You’ and ‘Shake A Leg’. Blues the way you want it to be. Of course I’ve no idea how you can buy it as the album has no contact info. Which is a shame.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton