Reviews roundup – John Diva & The Rockets Of Love vs. Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics vs. Dwiki Dharmawan vs. Earth For Sale vs. Mike Campese
JOHN DIVA & THE ROCKETS OF LOVE
Mama Said Rock Is Dead
Steamhammer / SPV
Daddy’s home! I was a teenager during the glory years of glam metal. A bus doon tae the Newcastle Mayfair om a Friday, kip in a park overnight and then another evening of partying all night long. Girls (and boys) in spandex, hair teased to the stars and beyond. Happy days. And it seems that John Diva agrees. Because this is one of my Top 10 albums of 1987.
Granted it’s several decades too late but Mr Diva doesn’t care and neither do I as he and his Rockets of Love rampage through some incredible eighties anthems. From the opening whip crack of ‘Whiplash’ to the closing band anthem ‘Rocket of Love’ it’s a non-stop party. And yes the latter is all about a lady who encounters his rocket of love. As it should be.
He’s got the sneering vocal required of this genre as he smooths up in ya with every cliche of the genre. So far so Steel Panther. Thing is the songs are great. Melodic, sing a long choruses, chanted backing vocals and guitars that grind out some fabulous sleazy riffs. The guitars come from Messrs Snake Rocket and J.J. Love and when they were christened with those names it was inevitable that they would end up in a band like this. Other highlights include ‘Lolita’, ‘Dance Dirty’ and the obligatory power ballad ‘Just A Night Away’. It’s a record that took me a place in time when happiness was still a possibility. Bittersweet but brilliant.
And to ensure you can enjoy it properly it’s even out as a 2LP vinyl edition. Enjoy.
AARON BUCHANAN & THE CULT CLASSICS
The Man With Stars On His Knees
So he left Heavens Basement for this. I liked them and saw them a few times in a good few basements. But it wasn’t enough for Mr Buchanan so here he is, with his name at the front.
And it seems as though he has stuff to say. Portentous, meaningful stuff. In order to do this he’s decided that Audioslave post grunge is the way to go. Although, to be fair, that’s mainly in the riffs and bridges. Come chorus time he reverts to type and goes for a poppier approach. It’s quite good and he’s always had a strong voice but I do wonder if it’s not 15 years too late.
He and his band are aiming for an arena approach and a couple of the songs are full on Alter Bridge but even they’ve gone from Gold to Silver to Tin with successive albums. This record works best when the songs are short and punchy so the likes of ‘Dancin Down Below’ and ‘The Devil That Needs You’ make for an enjoyable listen. But the rule of thumb seems to be that the longer the song is stretched out the less there is worth listening to with the title track just plain turgid.
But elsewhere there is plenty of attack with the CC – Laurie Buchanan and Tom McCarthy on guitars, drummer Kev Hickman and bass player Chris Guyatt – putting in a good shift. It’s a record that seems to want some Biffy Clyro style action and based on this they could get it even if it left me flatlining.
Some Indonesian jazz fusion here from the master of the keyboards Dwiki Dharmawa.
I enjoyed his “Pasar Klewer” release and this is an equally formidable follow-up. On this release his band is guitarist Nguyen Le, bassist Carles Benavent, upright bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Asaf Sirkis who make for a formidable band and really bring out the best in the material.
As before his Indonesian background is a major influence on the record with a couple of Trad Arr along for the ride as well as some well presented traditional instrumentation with Balinese gamelan and Sulawesi flute amongst the flavours on offer. When things do adhere to a more traditional jazz fusion template then it’s the late seventies sound of Return To Forever that seems to have a strong influence on affairs. But when the musicians head off on lengthier explorations then that’s where they really find a freshness to the presentation. So you’ll want to set some time aside to take in ‘Rumah Batu Suite’ Parts 1 and 2 where you will find some incredibly adventurous playing.
You’ll also find some incredible guitar playing, fluid piano lines, some King Crimson licks and an array of delights. Essential for fusion fans.
EARTH FOR SALE
Blimey! It’s like the eighties never went away. Fresh from hearing the John Diva album here come Italian pop rockers Earth For Sale with a delightful release.
There are moments of pure AOR here along with some songs that sound like the best of Romeo’s Daughter so it’s no surprise that this female fronted outfit have been snapped up by a Japanese record label where this should do well for them.
They seem to be well seasoned musicians who’ve been working away for years before ending up here in 2014 which explains why they know their way around a good arrangement. Singer Silvia Reale has a powerful voice but knows when to hang back a wee bit, hitting it hard when she needs to. Some of the songs like ‘Psycho Love’ have a touch of soft prog around them but it’s when they shoot straight down the middle that things really work well. So ‘Alive’ and ‘Life’ are real(e) highlights.
The album flags slightly towards the end as they seem to run out of inspiration but if they settle on the right melodic rock style they could easily make a name for themselves in wimphem world.
The Fire Within
Time for some widdle now and there is plenty of that on the 10th solo album from Mike Campese.
Apparently he played on “The Lost Christmas Eve” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra but on what seems to be a bit vague as his name isn’t in the credits on my version so he’s mebbe tucked away in the deluxe edition somewhere. But his thing is his solo material and he can certainly shred on guitar. The opening ‘The Battle of Pompeii’ is exactly how you want an album of this ilk to start. Neo-classical and a wee bit pompous. Yes, please.
He’s got Patrick Johansson on drums and seeing as how he managed to spend 14 years with Yngwie Malmsteen there’s no doubting he’s got the chops required. And when Mr Campese sticks to the tried and tested then this is a thoroughly enjoyable example of the genre. Thing is, as Malmsteen himself did, he’s decided to sing on 5 of the 12 tracks. And that’s not a good idea. Far better to stick what you’re actually good at. But the likes of the title track and ‘Feed The Flame’ will keep fans of the shred very happy indeed. As the album progresses he also tries out a few different tricks with ‘Throw It All Away’ getting a wee bit funky and he gets his blues on on ‘Hana Highway’.
When it’s good it’s very good.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton