Reviews roundup ~ Sarah McQuaid ~ Dan Baune’s Lost Sanctuary ~ Mick Kolassa ~ LC & The Chaingang
The St Buryan Sessions
If you’ve got a voice like That then it makes perfect sense to open up your live album with an unaccompanied vocal track. I mean if I could sing like that you’d never shut me up. Mind, it would seem a bit strange coming from a large, hairy, tattooed Celt but I’m guessing the approbation would far outweigh the brickbats. And, indeed, bricks.
I was very late to the game with Ms McQuaid, possibly due to her sharing a surname with a certifiable ex from my teenage years (see my 3rd tattoo for more information), only arriving with the ‘If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous’ album. I was actually meant to review her live show as well, but that arrived soon after the death of my wife and I was too busy railing against the Gods.
But here she is with a live album recorded last year at St Buryan Church, Cornwall which, based on this, has some ridiculous acoustics. There have been a good few tracks released since earlier in the year but it’s nice to get them all in one place. I say nice, I mean glorious. Because Ms McQuaid has one of the finest voices it has ever been my pleasure to hear. Rich, redolent, honey for the ears.
Of course it helps that she can also write powerful songs as well. I mean I would pay to hear her read the phone book but the experience is definitely heightened by some fabulous music. So it’s mainly just voice and guitar with the occasional appearance of a grand piano. It would be rude not to mention that she’s also a remarkably accomplished musician and the fact that this performance was also filmed is an added bonus. Although it was a knife to the heart when “Time To Love” arrived. I remember listening to it and screaming at the injustice of the world.
If we only had time
If we only had one more day
If we only had time
Time to love
It’s simple but still gets me every time. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom but as Ms McQuaid largely sings about everyday life, there is a fair amount of pain. I firmly believe that life is by and large, um, unfortunate. That 10% of the time when you can say “that was a good day” needs to be embraced because when it’s gone, there’s only emptiness and regret.
The songs on offer here go right back to “When Two Lovers Meet” from 1997 although they seem timeless. You hear a song for the first time and it’s almost as if you’ve known it your whole life.
There isn’t a moment here that isn’t beautifully executed and of the songs that were new to me, I was really taken with “Last Song”. I say hadn’t heard before but I have as it was the most recent single release from the album. But considering it’s only been in my life for a fortnight, it’s amazing how it makes me choke up. As I said in that review it’s a completely alien experience, like a fantasy story that makes no sense but still causes a dull ache. You’ll be hard pushed to hear a better acoustic record this year. In fact, you won’t which is why you really need to head off and order a copy now.
DAN BAUNE’S LOST SANCTUARY
Dan Baune’s Lost Sanctuary
Rock of Angels Records
Oh, that Dan Baune! Nope, me neither. Turns out he is best known for being guitarist with British trad metal band Monument. Nope, me neither. I mean I know it’s been a while since I was hewing away at the coalface of metal but I am amazed how many bands manage to come and go these days without stirring a hair on the back of my neck. Granted, when I were a lad there were probably only about seven heavy metal bands but still.
Anyway, like many others he decided to put the beginning of the Apocalypse of John* to good use by recording a solo-ish album. *for further information on my long held theory of de-evolution and the Death of Man please send a postal order for £1.99 and a SAE to the usual address.
I say solo-ish because although he does the guitaring and plays bass and synths along with a lot of the vocals he’s also wheeled in some, presumably long distance, special guests. And they would be Doogie White, Rasmus Bom Andersen (Diamond Head), Herbie Langhans (Firewind, Avantasia), Matt Mitchell (Furyon), Jennifer Diehl (Fire Red Empress), Aliki Katriou (Eight Lives Down), Bob Katsionis (Firewind) and Chris Webb (Biomechanical). Now this is both a good and a bad thing. It’s a bad thing because it shows that he’s not the best singer in the world. But it’s a good thing because when a decent singer chips in you can appreciate how good some of the material is.
It’s not really trad metal, although a couple of tracks could sit there, but there is a lot of power metal on offer, some thrashy riffs, even a hint of prog metal. The latter is most obvious on the nine minutes of No Man’s Land which even manages to throw some chug into the mix and shows what a really good songwriter he is. The sort of title track, “Lost Sanctuary”, is another highlight with some Doogie White vocals on a mid-paced tune that sounds as though it was actually written for him.
The production is strong and well mixed and it certainly shows that Mr Baune is more than capable of holding his own in the hallowed ranks of Euro metal. If we’re ever allowed to breathe again and he can get this over on the European festival circuit then there is an audience waiting for this. A good one.
Endless Blues Records
Mick Kolassa doesn’t make bad records. Almost every year sees a new one, the last few in collaboration with guitarist / producer Jeff Jensen. Add in some great songs from Mr Kolassa and the swinging Endless Blues band and it’s invariably a treat. This one is no exception.
Things kick off in fine fettle with “Throwing Away These Blues” which sees the horn section blowing up a storm before things slow down for the title track which tells us something those of us of a certain age are only too aware of. Youth is most definitely wasted on the young. If I knew then what I knew now I’d have cut way back on the speed and booze. Well, maybe not.
Then it’s time for a slow blues with the heart wrenching “It Hurts to Let You Go”. Mr Kolassa’s wife died last year and as a middle aged widower I know that feeling all too well. It actually knocked me back a few steps so the second time I played this I made sure to hit the skip button so I could appreciate what came after. Although with “Feeling Sorry for Myself” a few tracks down the line it’s still hard going. At least on that tune which rolls along on a lazy piano line it’s not all doom and gloom.
It’s an excellent record from top to bottom although, as always, when the horns and backing vocals arrive things move up a notch. But as I said a couple of paragraphs ago, Mick Kolassa doesn’t make bad records. This is another good one.
LC & THE CHAINGANG
Last Man Standing
Danish southern / country rock musician Lars Christensen isn’t shy.. The press release says that “Lars has been working on this album for 3 years, which is imbued with this glorious music”. Glorious, eh? I’ll be the judge of that.
Seems like he’s been playing US inspired roots music for nigh on 40 years with a fair few albums under his belt. So musically it’s certainly sound. The album itself is about “people on the edge”. I can relate to that. There’s also a lot of drink inspired lyrics. I can relate to that. I didn’t relate to the opening “I’ll Probably Do It Again”. I mean, I would but the vocals really sounded strained as the boogie beat pounded away.
So imagine my surprise when the country ballad “A Friend Of Mine” arrives complete with a very melodic vocal that sounded nothing like the opening. Surprise! It made a huge difference so I started paying attention again. And there are a lot of good songs here. It’s more country rock than it is southern rock and he’s a really talented musician. There aren’t any credits on the promo but, apparently, he’s played most of the instruments himself. The funky “Superstitious Woman” is probably my favourite along with “Coming Up From Behind” (oo-err missus), a mid-paced stomper where he adopts a more speaky-singy approach to the vocals that work well.
To be brutally honest (and I’ve got nothing to lose) it’s the vocals that hold things back. They’re serviceable but the mix, especially on the countrier tunes, pushes them to the fore. That aside, it was an enjoyable wee diversion but I would recommend trying before you buy.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton
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