Reviews roundup ~ Magnum ~ Patrik Jansson Band ~ Tragik ~ John Fusco ~ Now Or Never (NoN)
Dance Of The Black Tattoo
Steamhammer / SPV
Another day, another Magnum compilation. If you are a Magnum completist then I tip my hat to your carpentry skills because it’s going to need some damn sturdy shelves to hold them all. That said, in a year when musicians income has shrunk to practically zero you can’t really blame a band for trying to get some pennies in. Which is what they’ll get if you stream instead of buying. #streamingiskillingmusic
So what are you getting for your money? Some live tracks, some bonus tracks of special editions and some (holds head in hands) radio edits. They’re billing this as a companion piece to “The Valley Of Tears – The Ballads” which was, um, a collection of ballads with this featuring rockier numbers. Although to be fair, in the world of melodic mid-paced prog rock, there’s not a huge difference. On the live front you get ‘Black Skies’, ‘Freedom Day’, ‘All My Bridges’ and ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ from the live “Escape From The Shadow Garden” DVD and ‘Dance Of The Black Tattoo’ from the vinyl version. Handy for CD only purchasers.
‘Your Dreams Won’t Die’ and ‘Twelve Men Wise And Just’ were both on the bonus disc to “Lost On The Road To Eternity” while the studio tracks see ‘Born To Be King’ from “Goodnight L.A.”, while ‘Phantom Of Paradise Circus’ and ‘No God Or Saviour’ which were ‘bonus tracks on “Sacred Blood – Divine Lies” making an appearance. So it’s mainly twenty first century Magnum and you would imagine most of that fanbase will have pretty much everything already. But Magnum don’t make bad albums. Granted, they don’t make great ones anymore either but if you like Magnum and you’re stuck at home cursing the Gods then this might ease you through the day.
It’s out on CD and as a 2LP Gatefold on 140g magenta vinyl.
PATRIK JANSSON BAND
Sneaky Foot Records
As the name suggests this is the fourth album from Patrik Jannson and his band. Four is a big number. Led Zeppelin IV. Black Sabbath Vol 4. Beyonce 4. Big boots to fill.
And it’s good. He’s certainly a cracking guitarist and there are some good tunes here. Generally, it’s quite mellow and veers towards a poppy blues sound. There is some great keyboard work from Lars Eriksson who, when he is let off the leash, really lets rip with some great sounds. Try ‘She Said What’ or ‘She Ain’t Gonna Come Back Any More’ if you want some actual pudding type proof. They’re really good.
It’s the kind of thing that fans of King King a few years back will recognise and enjoy and with an equally solid rhythm section of Thomas Andersson on bass and Martin Forsstedt on drums holding things together, the music works really well. Thing is he’s nae singer, mind. The vocals are serviceable and don’t offend but I imagine what these songs would sound like with a great voice. But it’s his band and they’ve done well enough to make it this far so maybe that’s just me. Certainly, a song like ‘Love Will Find a Way’ is the kind of earworm that has you buzzing for quite some time.
The production is exemplary and if a more modern yet recognisably blues sound is your thing, give it a go.
Of all the several hundred bands that Phil Vincent is involved in, Tragik are probably my favourites. That’s because I’m a child of the eighties when skyscraping hard yet melodic rawk ruled the world. And it’s a world that Tragik are intent on recreating. Fine by me. #thumbsaloftemoticon
I think this album number nine but even the Sumerians with their calculations around a sexagesimal number system would have been hard pushed to keep up with Mr Vincent and his various musical endeavours. Tragik sees him taking care of vocals, bass and keyboards while guitarist Damian D’Ercole and drummer Dirk Phillips handle the rest.
There are riffs a-plenty. Some of them fierce, some of them more poppy but they’re invariably good. The opening ‘Back On The Road’ is a fine example of what awaits you. Heavy but melodic. ‘Hanging By A Thread’ is another highlight while the guitars on ‘Who Am I’ are borderline outrageous. There are a couple of tracks that work less well but that’s probably because they’re surrounded by fairy dust and magic. There’s usually a 1987 US number one hit single tucked away on a Tragik album and I reckon this time around it’s probably ‘Don’t Know What To Believe’. That would have got a few crop tops lifted when they opened for Tommy Shaw at the Cow Palace.
It’s the sound of rock they way it used to be. And the way it should be. A gem.
JOHN FUSCO & THE X-ROAD RIDERS
John The Revelator
Checkerboard Lounge Recordings
Yes, that John Fusco. The one that famously wrote the movies Young Guns, Crossroads and, less famously, Young Guns II. More recently he was heavily involved in the Marco Polo TV series. Which me and my mate David loved! Go watch it.
But apart from movie making he’s long been involved in music, right back to his days in a seventies southern rock band. Recently he’s been getting back into music making and this is his second album under his own name. Now if there is one thing ye canny whack it’s a mean, moody and magnificent version of ‘John The Revelator’. Which opens this double album of blues, Americana and beyond. Mind you is it wise opening a record with 18 original songs on it with a cover? Well it keeps you listening early doors.
Although, to be fair, I was well disposed to this when I read the liner notes and saw that his (and one of mine) musical heroes had painted the cover art. Bobby Whitlock! Yes, Bobby Whitlock whose two Capricorn records in the seventies have been long time companions of mine. Oh, yes, and he did that Derek & The Dominos stuff.
Back to the music here though and it’s, largely, fairly straight down the middle, seventies blues bordering on rock. Mr Fusco has written all the tunes bar the aforementioned ‘John The Revelator’ and a version of ‘Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing’. Choose between the Gregg Allman and Fontella Bass/Bobby McLure versions for the best takes on that one. His own tunes are largely keyboard based with the other instruments (including trombone and electric washboard!) weighing in with some sturdy support work. His voice is, um, shall we say characterful if we’re being charitable. Road worn! Which means that when singer Risse Norman chips in, it’s a real sweetener.
The production from Cody Dickinson (who also provides a lot of the instrumentation) is as good as you would expect it to be and on the best of the songs – ‘Good Money’, ‘Motel Laws of Arizona’, ‘Hottest Part of the Flame’ – it’s a record that is heartily recommended. But it’s a double album, in old money, and might have been better shorn of a few numbers, especially on the second disc.
That aside, though, it’s definitely one that blues fans should lend an ear to.
NOW OR NEVER
They can’t seem to make up their blooming minds. They were Now Or Never then they were/are NoN but the CD and the bumph says Now Or Never. It’s enough to give a poor boy palpitations.
Regardless, it’s the band formed back in 2012 by two Pretty Maids in a row. Namely, guitarist Ricky Marx and bass player Kenn Jackson alongside singer Jo Amore from Nightmare and drummer Ranzo. And what they do is play classic hard rock with a few power metal licks and some touches of modern metal. And they do it well.
The brighter of you may have calculated from the album title that this is their third record. And you’d be right. Nowadays, founders Kenn Jackson and Jo Amore are gone and bassist Claudio Nasuti and vocalist Steph Honde are in. The album itself is concept album-ish with Marx saying it’s about “about faith, life, afterlife…the relation that one can have with his life, loved ones, addiction… has he done it right?…what would he do if he had the chance to live his life again?…do we get another chance?”
It’s also quite keyboard driven and probably leans more to the classic rock sound of yore than metal. It’s certainly very melodic and there are some really good songs here with the legally obligatory power ballad ‘Until We Say Goodbye’ a top notch example of the genre. They actually probably save the best till last as ‘Afterlife’ is a magnificent song that you all need to hear immediately. Will we mention the Duran Duran cover? Well we just did. But it’s ‘Ordinary World’ so we’ll let them off.
It’s a really good album with the whole band bang on form. Hopefully, it won’t be one of those records that slip through the cracks as it’s deserving of an audience in both rock and metal worlds.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton