Reviews roundup – Theatre of Tragedy vs. Eliza Neals vs. John Clifton vs. Phil Vincent vs. Blue Rock
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY
Theatre Of Tragedy, eh? Blimey, that’s going back a bit. Does anyone even remember them? And if they do is it as “that band that Liv Kristine was in before Leaves’ Eyes”. Such is the fate of pioneers.
And they were pioneers influencing goth, darkwave and beyond with their style. So it comes to pass that nearly a decade after they split up some of their best known tunes have been handed over to a bunch of people I’ve never heard of to remix. Now I’m sure in the European darkwave scene they’re probably really well known but round my house Das Ich, Icon Of Coil, VNV Nation and others remain sadly unheralded.
The songs come from across their career which is why it’s interesting that the press release only gives the last lineup of Theatre Of Tragedy. Odd, since Raymond István Rohonyi has done a few tours with Liv Kristine over the last few years. Anyway, music wise, your appreciation of this will depend on whether you’ve always longed for any hint of rock to be stripped from their music to be replaced by nineties sounding electro beats. Because that’s what you’re getting. So it’s very definitely darkwave with the goth largely filtered out. Which isn’t really my cup of tea. However, it was good to be reminded of some of the better songs from their back catalogue so I’ve been digging out the originals of ‘Machine’, ‘Lorelei’ and a couple of others for a nostalgia fest.
If it encourages others to track down the original albums, then job done.
Sweet Or Mean
This is an Eliza Neals fan zone so I was unlikely to complain about this release. But…
No, kidding, it’s great. It also sees her teaming up with Popa Chubby who has produced the record as well as playing the guitar on all the tracks.
The self penned material is up to her usual high standards with the horn enhanced “Pawn Shop Blues” which has leapt straight into my Favourite Eliza Neals Songs Chart. As always her vocals are fantastic knowing when to raunch and roll and knowing when to pull things back a wee bit as on the delicious ‘Livin’ With Yo Mama’. The band are fully in sync with the music and when she goes acoustic on ‘Knock Knock Knock’ it really highlights her voice even more than usual.
Naturally, I have a complaint. It wouldn’t be me without one. And that is that “Sweet Or Mean” is only a six track EP. More, more, more. That’s what we want round here but, regardless, an essential blues listen.
In The Middle Of Nowhere
Rip Cat Records
Hurrah! Another John Clifton album hot on the heels of “Nightlife”.
Which means lots of honking harmonica, old school blues and some splendid performances.
As before it’s a mixture of originals and new material with 5 tunes from Mr Clifton as well as half a dozen choice covers. Although with songs as good as ‘Four Years Ago’ you’d happily take some more of his own material. Along with Mr Clifton who takes care of mandolin, harp and vocals there is extremely able support from ; Scott Abeyta, guitar; Bartek Szopinski, piano; Jake Finney, bass; and Edward Fritz, drums and percussion, who all put in an excellent shift.
The instrumental ‘Cool Spot in Hell’ is a real treat and of the originals the Lightnin’ Slim tune ‘I’m Leaving You Baby’ and ‘Honky Tonk Night Time Man’ by Merle Haggard are the best of the bunch (although I’ll take the Lynyrd Skynyrd cover of the latter, cheers). Although it’s his moothie playing that gets me over the door, his vocals suit the material well on what is a stonkingly good set of blues.
Well if it’s Tuesday it must be time for another Phil Vincent record.
You know, the fella who’s released twenty solo albums prior to this one. And who also is part of projects such as Cranston, Chinawhite, Tragik and D’Ercole. Me, I can barely get oot the bed before noon.
As on virtually everything he records he’s done most things himself with some additional guitar work from regular co-conspirators Peter Cox and Vince O’Regan. And it will come as no surprise to anyone that this is another set of melodic hard rock songs teetering on the edge of AOR. Although he does mix it up a wee bit with the title track yer actual heavy metal tune. Yes, really. And it works well as when he takes a turn at a pop song in the shape of ‘Never Enough’.
But in between all that he sticks to the tried and tested template and anyone who has enjoyed his earlier work, from last week, will take a shine to this. I prefer it when he strays over to the heavy side of things so tunes like ‘Broken’ are the ones that float my boat. As usual there are a few fillers but when Mr Vincent flings things at a wall, more sticks than not. An enjoyable release.
To Australia for some classic hard rock courtesy of Caelan Irrgang (guitar/bass/mandolin/piano/vocals/drums) and Michael Irrgang (guitar/bass/vocals).
Photography would seem to indicate a father / son combo as the former was 17 at the time of recording. Just for fun he also plays the drums at the same time as guitar, courtesy of half a dozen pedals. Show off.
It’s the seventies that has influenced the blues rock influenced songs, some of which are very enjoyable with the boogie rock of ‘Ringstead Blues’ particularly memorable as is the acoustic picking on ‘Drysdale Station’, which is very Joe Bonamassa. Young fella me lad and his da have also written all the songs bar a cover of ‘Who Do You Love’ by Bo Diddley via Juicy Lucy. It’s also a self produced offering and, to be honest, it does sound like a dandified demo. Regardless, musically they’re spot on but Calean is nae singer and it might be time for someone to take that load off.
Because there is a helluva lot of promise here. But sometimes it does help if there are some outside ears twiddling knobs and proferring advice. But for the first time out of the blocks this is certainly well above average.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton