Reviews roundup – Nasty High ~ Stephen Cooper ~ Altostratus ~ Flying Circus ~ Karney
Where The River Runs
Och, I’ve only gone and done myself a mischief.
See I’m no the same fella that used to nip doon the Mayfair in Newcastle on a Saturday if there was nothing doing in Edinburgh. Because that was decades ago. But Nasty High (briefly) made me feel like a youngster again.
So, apart from my knee giving way under me whilst I threw some eighties shapes, this is an absolute belter.
It’s the second album from the Nottingham based band and I’m certainly keen on hearing the first one if this is anything to go by. There are some delicious melodies, plenty of cranking riffs, hooks galore and singalong choruses. All of which are, officially, very good things. If this were America and it was 1987 this would be a sure fire monster, monster hit, so replete is it with tasty goodness.
They’ve got a couple of new guitarists since the debut but as long as the immense vocals of Daniel Barrow-Bentley are fronting songs as good as ‘Make ‘Em Pay, ‘Travelling in Time’ and the title track then things are going to be just fine. In fact, anyone who heard the last Crazy Lixx album will have heard him on a couple of tracks.
They’ve already toured with the likes of Blaze Bayley, Tigertailz and Zodiac Mindwarp amongst others and if you have any affection for your childhood rawk or the good taste to know when music was at its best, then you should be grabbing this sharpish.
STEPHEN COOPER & The Nobody Famous
Well this is rather good. If I had a jig in me then there certainly would have been some jigging going on.
Oddly (or not) it really reminded me of my beloved Andy Frasco & The U.N. It’s that stew of blues, soul and funk all mixed up with some proper rock but less jam. A heady brew.
Seems as though Mr Cooper has been a working musician for nigh on quarter of a century in an assortment of bands but this is the first one to have his name front and centre. It’s mainly originals but there’s a couple of prime tunes from, I presume, Adam Mackintosh and a not unexpected trip into the world of Blood, Sweat and Tears.
I’ve always loved a horn section and The Nobody Famous horns know how to swing with the best of them. Vocally, Mr Cooper is better with a ballad like ‘It’s You’ than he is at the rockers but it’s a minor thing when the music is so damned good. I mean I enjoy a smush jam like the aforementioned ‘It’s You’ as much as the next man but I did enjoy shaking my tailfeather to ‘Higher Love’ and its ilk. And when the horns blast out in a fusion of Jackson / Love or Tower of Power I’m a very happy man indeed.
The joy of such a big band is the depth of instrumentation because I don’t care what anyone says. You cannot replicate it on a computer. I want music where you can sense the sweat trickling. This does that in spades and it’s one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard this year. The sooner I can get a few folk round for some shots and a house-party the better.
Complete the Connection
Is it math metal, is it tech metal, is it prog metal?
Don’t ask me. I grew up in a world where we had metal. Just the one kind. A bit like milk.
Anyway, this is the debut album from instrumental prog / math / metal outfit Altostratus and it’s safe to say that these lads now their way round their instruments. Some of what goes on here is ridiculously complicated. The kind of thing that gets other folk giving up. I mean, what’s the point. You’ll never be that good. So fair play to Alex Hek (guitar), Jordan Harris (guitar), Andrew Smith (bass) and Jack Thomas (drums).
They’ve been honing their craft for four or five years now, leading up to this. Which is the proper way to do it. Too many bands chuck a recording in the first flush only for it to be, well, flushed away. But they’ve worked at this. So there are melodies in there for the likes of me to hold on to with ‘Zephyr’ being my absolute favourite. They do have the legally obligatory epic number. The closing ‘Starlight’. But even spending eight minutes there doesn’t seem too much which says a lot about the quality of the compositions. A word of praise for the production as well, which is remarkably good for a self produced indie.
If you are into the likes of Tesseract or even some of the harder edged modern prog outfits then you’ll find plenty here to get your teeth into.
Much to everyones surprise I’m too young to remember 1968. Well, that’s not strictly true as I think I remember my Granda feeding me strawberries on a train back fae West Calder. But I’m told I would have been too young so it might be a false memory.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure 1968 was nothing like this. My Granda had been medically retired fae the pit, my Da was working construction 250 miles to the North of where we stayed and my Mither was heading for her third nervous breakdown. I was living with my Great Auntie Euphemia and Great Uncle George. But out there in the world, apparently there was stuff like the Martin Luther King assassination, the Paris riots, the Vietnam war and a whole host of other stuff that nobody around me cared about.
But German progsters Flying Circus have decided to base their latest release around world events from 1968. So, sort of a concept album without being an actual concept album. Oh, and when I say prog I really mean Lucifers Friend / Uriah Heep styled rocking prog with Family type vocals, not the noodly stuff. Although there is a Curved Air style violin.
So there’s tons of Hammond organ (hurrah!), plenty of hard driving riffs ans some complex shenanigans to justify the proggish tag. It’s one of those records that actually deserves to be listened to from beginning to end as there is a flow to things. Although the brief violin instrumental ‘Derry’ could easily have been dropped as it’s the one thing that puts a brake on the flow. And as I say that as the offspring of Irish grandparents and beyond.
If I was pushed to pick favourites I’d go for ‘Prague’ and ‘Vienna’ but this is a record that deserves to be heard properly. And widely. Go get yourself some.
A five track EP from singer / songwriter Anna Karney, following up from her 2018 album “No Mercy”.
And it’s good. It’s definitely edging into the world of seventies hard rock, although I should have seen that coming what with the sole cover being ‘Ramble On’ from Led Zeppelin.
Ms Karney has a strong voice, a bit Grace Slick in places, especially on the swirling ‘Snake Oil Salesman’ which first appeared on her 2012 release “Love & Respect”. She’s working with some top notch musicians here and it shows through as the thoughtful arrangements are really brought to life.
The three brand new tunes are excellent with the opening, title track probably the winner. It’s well produced with lyrics ranging from the personal and the global. Definitely worth a listen.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton