Reviews roundup – Billy Bio vs. Peter Banks vs. Piledriver vs. C For Caroline vs. Big Harp George vs. Metro Verlaine
Feed The Fire
When is a Biohazard album not a Biohazard album? When it’s a Billy Bio album. Because Billy Bio is, of course, Billy Graziadei. And you’d be hard pushed to spot the join.
Because it is very Biohazard like. Which isn’t a bad thing as Biohazard have cranked out a fair number of groove monsters over the years. This, however, harks back more to the earlier days when there was still a whiff of punk and hardcore in their sound. Which makes sense as that’w where the young Billy sprang from. Slap on ‘Freedom’s Never Free’ or the title track and it’s like wee Billy is leaping out the gate, all fresh faced and full of dreams.
If you’re looking for a couple of tunes that would sit firmly on any of the more mainstream Biohazard releases then point yourself towards ‘Sick And Tired’ or ‘Rise And Slay’. They’d slot easily onto the likes of “State of the World Address” or “Mata Leão”. It’s been a long time since the Hazard released anything and with the last lot of upheavals it might not happen again. In the meantime you can get your fix here.
PETER BANKS’S Harmony In Diversity
The Complete Recordings
In case you don’t know, Peter Banks was the original guitarist in Yes. His later band, Flash, made a brief ripple but then it was into the world of selective audiences before he passed away in 2013.
This six (6!) disc set has been released by the Peter Banks Estate to mark the 5th anniversary of his death and the 50th anniversary of Yes. But, and it’s a big but, Mr Banks himself said “Harmony In Diversity is about music improvisation, clarity, instinct, space, dynamics, intensity and poise.”
Which translates as making it up as they go, noodling in the studio. As percussionist Andrew Booker says “You know what, I don’t think we should have ANY rehearsals.”. The core of Harmony In Diversity was Peter Banks-guitar, Nick Cottam-bass, and Andrew Booker-acoustic/electric drums/programming with the final disc seeing Dave Speight sitting in on drums. The six discs cover a relatively short span of time, from 2005 to 2007 with the second disc “What Is This?” intended as a debut album. As such it does stand out with some fine jazz rock and an emphasis on electronics. There’s some good stuff there. Elsewhere you might want to dip into the live freeform on Disc 5, especially if the jam is your thang.
Regardless of the preponderance of noodle, the sound is good across all the discs as we were well past the days of tape hiss by the time this was recorded. The lengthy booklet is also informative with Andrew Booker and Dave Speight providing first person insight. But it’s definitely one for the Peter Banks completists out there.
Once upon a time Piledriver, as the name suggests were a Status Quo tribute band. Their debut was 80% Quo. But by the time album number two came around it was t’other way round. Despite the title, “Brothers In Boogie” saw them stepping away from the boogie with originals taking up 80% as they moved towards a more eighties metal meets hard rock sound.
That move continues on this third release. with 12 originals and a sole Quo cover (‘Rockers Rollin’ since you ask). It still sounds good as former Accept / UDO man Stefan Kaufmann has stuck around to produce this one as well. However, the drift into more mainstream territory means that some of the songs pass in a blur of modern rock and downright balladry with ‘For Freedom And Friends’ and ‘Farewell’ really missing. When they remember to rock as they do on ‘Sparks’ and ‘Stomp’ then a good time is had by all. But unlike their earlier releases, a surfeit of earnest, political songs leaves them more in thrall to Springsteen than Status Quo. Which is not a good thing.
There is half a good album here but folk who enjoyed their earlier ride may be left cold by this softer one.
C FOR CAROLINE
To Germany now for some pop punk.
The oddly named C For Caroline have been around for a decade now so even when they started they were throwbacks to the days when Green Day, Offspring and Blink 182 ruled the airwaves.
And that decade has not withered them as they rattle through some top tunes. Strange to say, this is actually their debut, following on from an EP but they’ve put the time to good use and really honed their sound and songs.
It’s safe to say that the market for this sort of thing isn’t what it was but given half a chance there is no reason not for them to be festival regulars across Europe. They’ve got the punchy riffs and catchy melodies that get people bouncing in an unseemly manner. Twenty years ago I have no doubt that ‘On The Dancefloor’ and ‘The Greatest Story (Ever Told)’ would have been guaranteed chart botherers. They even manage to keep a hold of their punk edge on ‘See The Light’ and ‘Waves Of Adrenaline’. A job well done if even an old biker like me starts throwing shapes. Highly recommended.
BIG HARP GEORGE
Up Town Cool
Damn right I’ve got the blues. My wife is deid, I’m finishing off this review, alone on Christmas Day, and my dog done left me. Two of these things are true.
So the old school stylings of George and his big harp certainly suit my mood especially when he hits you with a killer slow blues like ‘Cold Snap By The Bay’. As befits a moothie led album it rarely gets out of a mid temp groove but the musicians he’s brought in to help out know how to be dynamic without being frenetic. That includes Chris Burns, Kid Andersen and Little Charlie Baty on keyboards, bass and guitar as well some splendid horn work with saxes, trombones and even a tuba joining in.
Some of the songs address the mysteries of the modern world with ‘Internet Honey’ and ‘Alternative Facts’ attempting to get to grips with 21st century first world issues. But in an amusing way. However it’s when he addresses matters of the heart that he really hits all the spots. It’s a very strong album of originals with ‘I Wanna Know’ and ‘Lord Make Me Chaste’ real standouts, in the company of the aforementioned ‘Cold Snap By The Bay’. A good one that comes recommended for fans of old school blues with a side order of sass.
Hold On Music
To France! For some eighties influenced indie.
The bass is straight out of the Peter Hook Big Book of Bass and they’ve thrown in some Echo & The Bunnymen swirly guitars. In fact it’s so indie it needs to come with its own long, black coat and a surly expression.
They’re probably Anglophiles despite a lot of French singing. After all they did call their EP “Manchester” and that song appears here. Throw in some punk (the US smart aleck type no the UK shambolic type), some Siouxsie styled vocals and you’re left with something that will definitely appeal to the arty types out there. That’s not me but I’ve certainly heard a helluva lot worse over they years. Often by people doing rather well for themselves.
There is a dark, gothy undercurrent to a lot of the music, especially ‘Ballade Sauvage’ and if they can get the wastrels on BBC Radio 6 to pay some attention they could certainly get some movement on this side of La Manche.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton