Reviews roundup – Bonfire vs. Mark Vickness vs. David Cross & David Jackson vs. Laurie Jane & The 45s vs. Lex Grey & the Urban Pioneers
Temple Of Lies
I’m so old that I remember buying “Fireworks” when it came out back in nineteen mumblety mumble. Only Hans Ziller is around from those days and even he spent a few years out of the band before winning the legal rights to the name and carrying on.
But musically, they’ve always been sound, regardless of who’s been playing and this release is no exception. Granted, they have toyed with a heavier, almost metal sound, rather than their patented hard, melodic rock and this carries on with that trend. It’s maybe due to the fact that new(ish) singer Alexx Stahl has a voice that suits that style but they can certainly pull it off.
I wasn’t overly interested in their last record as the songs didn’t catch my attention but they’ve righted that on “Temple Of Lies” with a really strong set. There are a couple of songs here that are as good as anything they’ve recorded over the years with ‘Feed The Fire (Like A Bonfire)’ and ‘Love The Way You Hate Me’ absolute peaches. This time around they’ve remembered the melodies so even hard hitting tunes get stuck in your head. The playing, production and songs are spot on making this a desirable slab of melodic metal.
Never heard of him. Which just shows how much music is out there. Because Mr Vickness has been producing music for over two decades as a film scorer and also as one-half of the acoustic fusion duo, Glass House (with David Worm). So there.
This, however, is a solo acoustic album. Which will really, really thrill a niche audience who swoon over fingerstyle solo acoustic guitars. I’m not one of them but I do know when someone is good at what they do. And this is good. It’s the kind of record that makes weekend only pickers pack it up for good as you wonder how they hell does he do that. Granted, a lot of the music is very gentle and doesn’t catch the attention first time out. But stick a pair of headphones on and give it some time. It works.
‘New York City’ and ‘Bishop Pass’ were the highlights for me although I suspect the sole cover of ‘I Must Tell Jesus’ is mighty fine. Thing is, it had me greetin’ first time around and haven’t taken the chance of a replay yet. It’s a master class in modern fingerstyle acoustic guitar but there are enough tunes in there for the more casual listener looking for something different.
DAVID CROSS & DAVID JACKSON
Cross & Jackson
Well now. If this were 1972 there would be a lot of hippies and overcoat owners passing out with over excitement. Because this is the David Cross from the classic King Crimson lineup and the David Jackson from Van Der Graaf Generator. Of course then you remember that one of them plays the fiddle and one of the honks a saxophone.
And if the opening track, ‘Predator’, was all you’d heard you’d go running for the hills. It’s so atonal you might think it was someone taking the pish. But if you stick around till ‘Bushido’ arrives you’ll find it’s well worth it. Because from track two onward there is some very good music on offer. Assuming, of course, that you’re into jazz fusion. And you probably are otherwise you wouldn’t be interested in this album in the first place. It’s more Crimson than Generator (hey, there’s your band name), so fans of that band will be well served by the likes of the jazzy (obvs) ‘Trane to Kiev’ and ‘Going Nowhere’.
You can tell that they first started collaborating on improvisations as a lot of the material here seems like a springboard for some lengthy live workouts. Along with Mick Paul on bass and Craig Blundell on drums there could be plenty of mileage in this setup.
LAURIE JANE & THE 45s
Down In The Alley
Here we go with the latest soundtrack to your beered up Saturday night. At least if you’re in Kentucky.
Because this is the soundtrack to a good night. A rare old mix of blues, soul revue, country and rock’n’roll. All served up by Laurie Jane & The 45. It’s primarily original material although there is a stonking cover of ‘Howlin’ For My Darlin’ but the original songs sound like old friends even on first listening. Laurie Jane Duggins on vocals, Cort Duggins on guitar, piano and lap steel, Jason Embry on upright bass and Scott Dugdale on percussion certainly know how to play up a storm and this is enjoyable from top to bottom.
The best of the bluesiest material is probably the cover of ‘It’s Been A Long Time’, a real standout song which has you hitting repeat every time. But their own songs (mainly written by Cort Duggins) are mighty fine with the country blues of ‘Couldn’t Cry Alone’ my favourite. If they play this well live then their date book will be jam packed. Definitely recommended.
LEX GREY and the URBAN PIONEERS
I enjoyed “Heal My Soul”, last time out from Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers. I went so far as to say “they’re almost the ultimate bar band as they set about ripping the ears of your head with some raunchy rocking blues which is powerful enough to light up a small city”. High praise form me.
And they’re back. And it’s another enjoyable release. Thankfully, they’ve fought off any urges to make an experimental electronica album and stuck with what they’re good at. Which is top notch rockin’ blues. For sure, there are some soul and country blues licks in there as well, but when you’ve got a voice designed for shouting the blues then go for it. It’s a powerhouse vocal that really shines on this album of originals. But it’s no one woman show as the band and guest performers really shine.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have started with the title track which is good but not really powerful. So the album starts as a grower with the following ‘Chow Down’ a light, fun piece. But then comes an early album highlight in the shape of ‘Dirty Secret’ and things really start to hit home. And when that’s followed up with the self explanatory ‘SRV’ you know you’re in for a good time. The wide range of instrumentation also helps push the record along with ukelele, accordion and fiddle all making appearances. It’s well played, well arranged and with so many moods and flavours on offer it’s hard to stop playing. An excellent follow up to an excellent record, you really should be checking out Lex Grey and the Urban Pioneers.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton