Reviews roundup – Magnum vs. Mike Dekleva vs. Vasil Hadzimanov Band vs. Wake The Sun vs. Jesse Kinch vs. D’Ercole
Live At Symphony Hall
This must be about the 10th live album from Magnum, five years on from “Escape from the Shadow Garden – Live 2014”. They’ve only released two real studio albums since then so they’ve done the sensible thing and whacked in a big wedge of recent material to make sure that no-one feels cheated. And with 20 studio albums to pick from they’ve got an enviable choice of “hits” to keep the live audience happy.
Recorded on the last night of their tour in their home city of Birmingham it’s a record that showcases just how many good songs guitarist / songwriter Tony Clarkin has under his belt. It’s also the first live release to showcase the newish drummer and keyboard player. Now I don’t know if they’re just trying to piss off former keyboard player Mark Stanway but this is the first of their live records where the keyboards are upfront in the mix. And it’s something that works really well especially on the newer material which has a fresher sound than for quite some time.
As well as four tunes of the most recent album “Lost on the Road to Eternity” they still find time to dip into their lengthy back catalogue with the likes of ‘How Far Jerusalem’, ‘Les Morts Dansant’ and ‘All England’s Eyes’ making welcome appearances. But now let’s let the bogeyman out of the cupboard. The vocals. Bob Catley has come in for some criticism over the last few years and, to be fair, it’s deserved. Even here his vocals are gruff where they once soared but at least the band are trying to compensate by having a lot of harmony / supporting vocals from bass player Al Barrow. It’s particularly noticeable when Tobias Sammet (Avantasia, Edguy) flies in to recreate his duet on ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity’,
That aside, though, it’s a musical delight with the band on top form, and fans of Magnum will delight in this tour souvenir.
Odd. When an EP and a tune are entitled ‘Psychedelia’ you kind of assume that it’s going to be, um, psychedelic.
However that particular tune is funky with touches of Frank Marino and a hint of Dennis Coffey. Which is a good thing even if not what I expected.
And instrumental rock guitarist Mike Dekleva is certainly very talented. This is his second four song EP, following on from his 2015 debut instrumental EP, “Synergy.” As well as Dekleva (lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars) there’s Robbie Calvo (rhythm guitars), Jason Webb (piano and keyboards), Amanda McCoy (bass guitar) and Grady Saxman (drums and percussion) and they all put in a good shift.
.He never forgets to come up with a strong melody and a good guitar hook, something too many instrumental performers forget about, no more so than on the fine ‘Miguel’s Last Stand’. He mellows out on ‘Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea’ but the mood is a captivating one. Things get even more blissful on the closing ‘Love Finds A Way’ which is the kind of thing that mid-period Santana fans will find themselves at home with.
I’m actually glad it’s an EP as I often lose my way when someone punts out 80 minutes of instrumental guitar whereas here not a note is wasted.
VASIL HADZIMANOV BAND
Lines In Sand
Some Serbian jazz fusion now which seems to start out with a call to prayer before heading off into an absolutely captivating set.
It’s a clever trick to manage to be complex whilst remaining melodic and accessible but it’s one that’ largely pulled off here. After a mellow opening number some funk guitar licks lead you into the following ‘Mr MoonJune’ a splendid wee tribute to record label fella Leonardo Pavkovic. I heard his “Alive” album a couple of years back so was keen to see what Vasil could pull off in the studio and I’m glad to say that he more than satisfied my expectations.
He’s more than happy to tear up the fusion rule book and throw in whatever influences he feels like. So for every moment where you think Weather Report a ‘Kazi’ will come along which seems straight out of the golden age of “Get Carter”. Although that title will raise more than a few chuckles in certain parts of the world. There are even moments of psychedelia and swing. As well as some special guests his core band of Branko Truic – guitar , Miroslave Tovirac – bass guitar , Bojan Ivkovic – percussion, vocals and Pedja Milutinovic – drums seem fully in sync with the band leaders vision. A delightful offering.
WAKE THE SUN
Through The Night
Off to American now for some incredibly commercial pop / rock.
It’s one of those records that you just assume has already invaded the charts as it ticks every box for the world of mainstream rock.
They’ve got melodies, commercial hooks, a killer ballad, heartfelt vocals and a great sounding production. The band – Dillon Mealey (Vocals/guitar), lead guitarist Tom Perrotta, Jeff Alvarado (Bass) and Marco Gill (Drums) have done a grand job of looking straight down the barrel of success without flinching. They’ve brought in Rick Parker to produce and as he’s worked with (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Beck and Scott Weiland amongst others he certainly knows his way round a console.
There are hits galore here which are just screaming out for US radio play with ‘What’s My Name’ and the moody ’40 Days’ the ones most likely. Given the right breaks Wake The Sun should be chart-botherers in the very near future.
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
The thing about winning a reality show is that people have very short memories. So the fact that Jesse Kinch won short running US singing show “Rising Star” back in 2014 will have been forgotten by most. At least Mr Kinch went down the Allman Brothers / Creedence route for his song choices with only ‘Billie Jean’ coming from the world of pop. That appears here but sadly no ‘Whipping Post’.
It must be a bit of a bugger for him because, unlike the UK, you can become a proper star in the USA coming from a reality background. Just ask Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert. And Mr Kinch has got a really good voice, rich and striking. Musically it’s rooted in the classic rock that is obviously his music of choice. After all this is a man who sang ‘Love, Reign o’er Me’ by The Who in the final of a telly show! And when he does rein things in as he does on ‘After All These Lovers’ you really get to appreciate what he can do with his voice. It certainly won’t hinder his chances either when he peeks out from a moody photoshoot with his Jim Morrison curls.
Most of the songs are self penned and ably demonstrates that he is more than just a voice and when he tackles a cover it’s the Kinks, Spencer Davis Group, Screaming Jay Hawkins and the Beatles that take his fancy. In fact his version of ‘I’m A Man’ is outstanding. A couple of the songs are overly string drenched but it’s a really good album which I have no trouble recommending to any fan of classic seventies rock. Although I do wonder which mass market he’s being aimed at. If you can find Bo Bice ask him what happened.
Made To Burn
Another record featuring insomniac Phil Vincent on vocals. Well he must be with the number of records he appears on. This one is the fifth album under the D’Ercole banner with guitarist Damian D’Ercole of that ilk.
Like everything that Mr Vincent does this is firmly in the world of eighties melodic rock. Now he’s a good singer and he’s written some good songs here. However, it’s the slower, more mellow tracks that come off best with ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’ coming straight from the world of bands like Shooting Star. However things dip when they try to rock it up a bit.
That seems to be a production problem bearing in mind how well the aforementioned songs have come out but numbers like ‘Feel The Burn’ end up sounding like demo tracks rather than the finished article. So the mid-section of the album is a struggle for me but then and out and out AOR delight like ‘Only A Feeling’ comes along and all is forgiven. There are a few special guests along for the ride with Paul Sabu and Vince O’Regan among them. It’s half a good album but that half will be a treat for fans of eighties styled melodic rock.
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