Sunday, July 31, 2011

Amadeo L. Gauthier - Une Chanson d'Amour LP

Hear The Track Here

In case you run away with the impression that musician Amadeo L. Gauthier is a new name to us, t'ain't true ya damn varmints. In fact I have reviewed some of the tracks from this album before, but under a plain Amadeo name. That overview featured the track Going To Baton Rouge (June 2008) and that was one of the tracks sent to me this time too, but I can always listen to it again and again. The reason for this is because it's a flawless piece of American story-telling with such down home authenticity you can taste the dust at the back of your throat.

Une Chanson d'Amour is a 'cross-genre, multi-media musical album, film, and theatrical performance', what we oldies used to refer to as a concept album, writ large of course. The story is 'set during the great depression, and is an 11 track blues, folk, rock, and jazz opera which tells the story of an aspiring blues singer that winds up trading his soul at a crossroads in Mississippi in exchange for fame and fortune' All very Robert Johnson even. Walking With The Devil is a new track to be but has all the ingredients that made Going To Baton Rouge such a standout. The tone and tenor of the music is definitely influenced by New Orleans...and that's fine by me.

So, it's the blues then that is the primary influence but the music does a bit more than that as Maggie Le Fay shows, he can exhibit a fine pair of jazz heels too. Again, the most surprising thing is the sophistication and performance, all of a ridiculously high standard, even down to the 1940's doo-wop girlie backing vocals. Everything changes on Ave Maria with the welcome addition of a vocalist (singing in French) and a classical number that contrasts strikingly with the blue element so prevalent on other tracks. What all six tracks showed me is that as well being a terrific songwriter, he has a fairly wide range of styles and sounds to draw from. Interesting it will be, to see how this develops...

Highly Recommended, highly professional, and a treat for the ears.

Heavy Glow - Midnight Moan LP

Hear The Track Here

Classic rock fans are facing a variety of choices from new bands at the moment, a major change from say a couple of years ago when they were scarce on the ground. San Deigo's Heavy Glow made a big impression on me with The Filth and The Fury EP (August 2010) because of the quality and style of the band is exactly what I would from the classic rock genre. And I have a grudging respect for any hard rock trio - that's a tough gig. Midnight Moan is the band's latest LP and I was cheeky enough to ask for a copy to impress you guys with. It's a nine track jobbie and considering that Jared Mullins, Joe Brooks and Dan Kurtz did such a good job with their EP I scheduled plenty of listening time.

One of the best rock trios of all time IMHO is the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and it was the first musical reference my lazy bastard of a brain lurched for. Not that I am saying that they sound like Jimi, but the raw feel and power of the trio certainly does. Musically the band are rooted in the bluesy heavy rock of the late 1960's/early 1970's and for an old fart like me it feels like hog heaven. It might not do for some of the bright young things out there, but I know there is - and probably always will be - a hardcore of people for whom music like this will never die. With more nods of respect to rock's chequered past per inch than most band's entire output, Heavy Glow are definitely not 'umble but by God they are extremely heavy.

Having grown up with rock giants I am very, very critical of someone who professes to the genre but fails to deliver the right atmosphere and authenticity, but Heavy Glow do it with consummate ease - and on track after track. Now whether there is indeed a market for this particular brand of classic rock is a moot point, after all as much as the songs have the top spot, the instrumental side take equal billing and that means music that probably takes a bit of assimilation (ie more than one or two plays). However, for a rock animal (Ed: dinosaur even) like me, this is the perfect antidote to the acres and acres of navel-gazing, sophomoric alternative we are swamped in. Nine classic rock treats, red, bloody and raw...

Highly Recommended back-in-the-day heavy rock.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Acoustic Brain Hemmorage - Half Stoned On A Sunday

Hear The Track Here

Who waits for a Sunday to be half stoned? More to the point isn't being half stoned kind of like being half pregnant. You either are, or you aren't. There again you didn't come here for a mass hair splitting session, so lets talk about acoustic strokes. OK, maybe not then. Acoustic Brain Hemmorage lumbered into my view with Frustrated by Conversations Lost In Translation (October 2010) and probably avoided me ever since because, when all is said and done, there isn't much you can say about a guy, a guitar and a song.

Rudimentary is today's word kids...

To be blunt, Half Stoned isn't anything like as interesting to me as the first track was. It's a song that actually sounds as if it were indeed composed and performed on a Sunday, half stoned. Therefore it stands to reason that this won't appeal to the vast majority of listeners, even if the acoustic tag didn't put them off in the first place. However, the question you need to ask is whether Acoustic Brain Hemmorage cares what any of us think, maybe he just wants to put his music online because it can be done.

Whichever it is, there are some bright spots because - like the previous track - the bare bones of some good ideas peek though every once in a while and that makes me think of what emerge once reality sweeps in. See, as much as we might all think that releasing our 'hobby' music is all a bit of a lark, it actually gets harder and harder because the competitive standards are just so high these days - even in acoustic music. Maybe even more so with acoustic music because the song really IS the thing...

Smoke It 'n' Die - Take Your Shot

Hear The Track Here

Take that puzzled look off your face. Yes, I have spoken about this track before and that's because I like the damn thing and I think you should too but - finally - I get to review what is steadily becoming one of my favourite tracks this year. Howard Billington (the man, the leg end) is the geezer behind this track and Smoke It and Die is the band to make it happen. I caught the video of this track when the band released it earlier this year and was one of the only tracks I have been featuring on my You Tube channel (only the best folks!) and I am really careful about what I highlight there.

'But I don't care, it's all good cos I pay no attention to all the crap I hear' is but one of many classic lines on this high energy, in-your-face slab of joyful defiance. For my money, Howard Billington is a class act when it comes to penning a cracking song, and Take Your Shot exemplifies just how good his songs can be, full of the crackle of **** you, encased in a punky, full on rock backing track that may sound a little rough but kicks butt with every note and crash, bish and wallop.

The problem is that I seem to have become spoiled by the video OR this is a slightly different take of it because, in every way, I would direct you to the video rather than the MP3. For me, the video version has that vital spark that ignites the song and makes it something else and I just didn't get that at all from the MP3, moreover I found myself questioning things; was the drumtrack slightly adrift timewise? Does this sound more 'hollow' than the video version? Eventually, I said my usual bunch of hail meh's, and went and grooved for a while to a timeless chorus which I share with you now from this knockout song. It goes (ahem, cough cough) ''You suck, you suck real bad and you can go to hell. That, and also your breath poo'

MUST HAVE Video at least, not sure about the track.

Ludicrous - Dead Woman

Hear The Track Here

You wouldn't think that UK electronica, UK Alternative and Houston's finest exponent of WTF music, Fear 2 Stop, have much in common but - funnily enough - all of them seem to have been bowled over by this track. Billy Castillo (of Fear 2 Stop) says ' IMHO the best song on SC I've heard this year' which is high praise indeed from him. How do I know this? Because I always read song comments, and all of the above rated this track highly. We first encountered Ludicrous with The Real World (June 2011) and very impressive it was too, a pop song with real depth - now there's a thing.

For a second I was convinced that Ludicrous had resurrected Kate Bush because I scrawled 'lucky bastards' all over my notepad while listening. Then, once the drugs wore off obviously, I finally decided that this supposition would be just too silly to fly. Somehow, and don't even go there, Ludicrous has teamed up with Kate's daughter or whoever is doing the vocals on this taps into the Bigger Bush spirit more than most. Let me make myself clear, this is gorgeous, exactly the kind of track that I love; great female vocals wrapped around an equally great song and performance. Even better that it's (kinda sorta) rock of a high order (Ed: Nu metal asherlly...)

In the space of just two tracks, Ludicrous have indeed lived up to their billing as 'a brilliant UK/France pop-rock threesome' and if The Real World didn't quite do the trick for me, Dead Woman certainly does. What The Real World hinted at, Dead Woman nails it. Mind you, I can't say I'd agree with Billy's comment about being the best track around this year but, by God, it's damn close and that is a real high bar. There again, the more you play the track, like their previous one, it grows and grows on you. This one definitely has some legs so expect to see it pop up again...

Excellent song. Highly Recommended.

Friday, July 29, 2011

JCH (UK) - Price You Pay

Hear The Track Here

This alternative track was sandwiched against the awesome slab of rock that Rayon Vert delivered this month and I think James Crosbie Hancox (geddit??) should feel some pride that Price You Pay more than held up its end, and in fact pointed something out to me. JCH we have come across loads of times in the past couple of years and he's proved that he's always an interesting lesson, especially if you like intelligent, alternative rock with a UK tinge and you would think that the differences between Rayon Vert (a band btw) and JCH would be enormous. T'ain't so, o most disbelieving of eyeballs, they both supply very high quality rock (albeit of different strains) and have a crack songwriter at the heart (Farrell Jackson in Rayon Vert).

James's easy, straight ahead alternative take often has a retro, 1960's feel and when I think about it, Price You Pay has too, but not in a way that is derivative - it's fresh, exciting and fluid. Exactly what you would expect from the genre but so often fail to get. Although he's only been around online a couple of of years or so, James Hancox should be feeling some satisfaction at having carved out his own little spot in whatever passes for the limelight around here and Price You Pay will only strengthen and enhance his fanbase, or if there is any justice in the world, it should.

In the time I have known him, this musician has certainly served up some awesome music, gaining a couple of Must Haves, a listing in Tracks Of The Year 2010 and damn me if he just doesn't keep getting better and better. I am certain that the upcoming Green Book project is going to be every bit as this track promises and if this is the standard of that, hold on to your ears. Considering this is some geezer, working in a starving garrett (the price you pay, as it were) kinda thing, the sheer technical achievement is enough to single this out. Weld that to a song that is so right in every sense of the game and you get JCH (UK) in fine voice and fettle - whatever that is.

Price you pay? Free. Priceless.

Rayon Vert - Life Under A Microscope

Hear The Track Here

With all this talk of when Soundclick was really steaming (Ed: you are the only one who keeps yapping about it, everyone else has gone home) 2004-2006 you would think it would apply right across the board but it was kinda restricted to electronica, pop and folk rock, with heavy, heavy emphasis on the electronica community who blossomed during this period. What it didn't have, surprisingly enough, were some decent rock/classic rock bands. That's why I badgered Avalanche to join Soundclick. Mike-K and Dazed were the people who finally rectified this fault - for me anyway - and more power to their elbow for it. Mike for the Saturday Night Rocks show and Dazed for providing the Mixposure website which has since become a very rich seam of quality rock music.

The roll call of superlative rock musicians on that site is staggering and among the most well known are going to be (in no particular cut-n-paste order) Gary Carciello - all guitars and drums programming. Rob Grant - Bass guitar. DrC - all keyboards, mixing, and production. Farrell Jackson - melody, lyric, and vocal.(Ed: Gilmore, you lazy bastard!!) Farrell Jackson, of course, we have encountered in every guise, but his contribution to Rayon Vert is priceless, but only alongside the solid work of the resy of the guys. Although their work so far has been somewhat tainted by my own personal animus against prog rock but, to be honest, I think Rayon Vert passed that particular landmark a while ago, and Life Under The Microscope is the proof.

For sure it's classic rock by every definition known to man, and even a little proggy in feel but what it is most is an outrageously good rock song that ******* SCREAMS to be played as loud as possible. Do so and you'll be treated to a rock experience about as close in feel and tenor to tracks issued in the REAL Golden Age of rock, and believe me that's a high compliment indeed. Aaahh, you think cynically, rock is easy to copy isn't it? And yes, I would agree with you, technically it's an easy learn but to get that feel, that mesmerising quality- nah-uh. That comes with knowing what works and what doesn't and that takes experience and this reeks of authentic, dirt under the fingernails experience and sheer hard work.

MUST HAVE top quality Rock.

Mike Kohlgraf - Your Local Forecast

Hear The Track Here

How many times have you heard someone online tell someone else to 'get a life'? As I've discovered, there is a certain downside to that. Not that I didn't have a life previously you understand but I've been much more active in the real world lately, but it does mean that I'm always tired and my online life suffers accordingly. I have, for example, almost given up hanging out at Mike-K's Saturday Night Rocks because I'm almost always out, sleeping or piling up these reviews. Something had to give, ya know. Sad though, because the Mixposure radio show is a party spot most Saturdays (and other days of course).

Mike is, first and foremost though, a musician; guitar player, songwriter and keyboard whizz... Personally, as Mike knows only too well, although I like jazz I can only take certain kinds and one of the sub genres that I most try to avoid is Smooth Jazz, and that is where he prefers to use his musical skills. Of course, that has led to us not always seeing eye to eye on the material but - I have to say - I can say nothing against both his production or performance. After all, if anyone can count as both a professional online musician and a steady producer of quality and a Soundclick veteran it would be Mike Kohlgraf.

So although Your Local Forecast does exactly what it says on the label, it isn't something I'd particularly go looking for, but I guess by now Mike would be used to that attitude from me. What I can say is that if you like your jazz as smooth as freshly churned butter and as easy to listen to as elevator music, then this track should be heard. Mike wrote the track inspired by the background music that plays during weather programs in the USA. Hey, he thought, I can do that as well as what is playing right now - and you know what? He can. Whether that is a good thing or not I will leave up to those smooth jazzers amongst us.

Highly Recommended S-m-o-o-t-h Jazz.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lauren Aquilina - Robots/Never Change

Hear The Track Here

You might not know it to look at me (and because I have kept it quiet) but I am the proud possessor of a You Tube channel. Yeah, yeah, I know the whole world and his brother has one too, but hey, we get solace wherever we can innit? Anyway, the point is that I am extremely picky about the tracks I choose to show on there - much more so than in these reviews. It may come as a surprise then, upon encountering said channel to find a track from an artist I have yet to review. Fact is, as soon as I saw and heard Lauren Aquilina's Robots song and video I added it immediately - a wonderful song and I can't praise it enough. What is really amazing is that this very assured and professional track is from a 16 year old!

and that is why it's on my channel.

The music and (I guess) production credits go to Laren's collaborator, another new name to me - Kyan. If the work on Robots is any indication, this guy is very good. The real star though is Lauren who, to give her full credit, writes a damn fine pop song and sings it with such obvious delight you can't help but smile. Never Change and Robots are both featured on Lauren's Soundcloud page and to be honest both are cracking tunes. However, if I had to give a preference it wouldn't be Never Change and there may be a few reasons for that - none of which have anything to do with the track,

I don't know whether it's because of my almost daily exposure to Robots but Never Change, as good a song as it is, doesn't hold a candle to Robots in terms of both charm and commercial possibilities - an instant hit. Put it like this, as much as I like Never Change, it didn't have the instant impact Robots had on me, and it hasn't grown on me in the same way as Robots did so ably. Nonetheless, Never Change is still a really excellent pop song, one that would still be head on shoulders above most of the competition, but it ain't Robots. Anyway, go see for yourself, you'll kick yourself if you don't.

MUST HAVE for Robots, Highly Recommended Pop.

Frankfurt Dialog Company - An Der Zeit

Hear The Track Here

It's about time (hint, hint) that charming duo Frankfurt Dialog Company turned up in my review list, been a long time between tracks and that's a shame. Silke Natschke and Andreas Horchler compose the main body of Frankfurt Dialog Company, helped along the way with the odd collaborator, and the last time we encountered them was with Close To Nothing (May 2009) (Ed: damn it HAS been a long time!). All told, I have only reviewed three of their tracks with two - One Day (February 2009) and Do or Die (A summer song) (August 2008) - gaining well deserved Must Haves. An Der Zeit, in case you haven't guessed yet, is the first track I've heard from them in German, their mother tongue.

I kinda prefer it when people sing in their own language and I am on record as favouring German bands particularly simply because I like the way it works, I don't find it off putting in any way, in fact it often helps. Mind you, a lot of those bands are extremely heavy and Silke and Andreas definitely are not. What they are, above all, are sophisticated musicians and composers as An Der Zeit so amply displays, particularly if you like a nice jazzy blues and they are always a treat for me.

While the track borders on the easy listening, it's amazingly clear and well put together and I think Andreas is Mr Guitar Man on this one so the licks are sharp and to the point. He's also the main vocalist on this, and he does a real good job of it, the feel and the music only helping to get over the language problem. Of course, you should like music that is, musically and technically, as good as you are likely to hear out in the commercial world but with musicians of this standard, it's a given. Probably need to like jazzy blues too, but I do know many of my readers do...

Highly Recommended jazz/blues.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

8mm Orchestra - One Small Step EP

Hear The Track Here

****** if I know whats going on up there in the English Midlands, but by God it's throwing up some interesting musical combinations from the balls to the wall rock of Bayn, the majesty of Hhymn, the folky style of Wwolves. A never ending stream. 8mm Orchestra are, in case you haven't guessed already, from Nottingham and I am hard pressed to describe exactly what they do - but whatever genre it manages to fall into it'll be sure to stand out. Upon hearing the title track of this DIY EP I was struck by how much is owed to Mike Oldfield, especially by guitarists. Not quite fair, though, because One Small Step (the track) also manages to evoke the dead ghost of Pink Floyd past - and very well too...

This is followed by track two, One Small Step (Mirrorzisland Remix), which shows a much more electronic state of mind from the opening notes and a decidedly odd almost experimental tone to it. Being a big fan of great noises, I am honour bound to like something like this track which is stuffed to the gills with aural wonders. There again, I do understand that some experimental can be hard to take for more delicate ears, and so do 8mm Orchestra judging by this track because while it is essentially experimental, it's also an involving sound cycle.

Track three Untitled (Trains) sets yet another entirely different structure before you, showing that 8mm Orchestra have more than a few tricks up their collective sleeves; a track that owes much to rock, a convincing slab of electronic experimentalism and now, a piano and cello/string that is every bit as involved and detailed as any of the other tracks. Certainly if intelligent, well constructed instrumentals float your boats you are going to well pleased to be discovering this little gem. Seems odd I know to have only three tracks on an EP but when you consider that these are long tracks, it seems about right.

Interesting trio of tracks. Different and well worth a listen.

Freshset Music - Stuck In The Moment

Hear The Track Here

Although Freshset Music have gone through a couple of name changes, the members seem to be roughly the same. We have, of course, come across eXceL a time or two in the past, and have - by my count - reviewed around four Just F.A.M. (Freshset) tracks in addition to the same amount from a solo eXceL. Now I'll readily admit that I don't have much of a taste for the more commercial end of the hip hop field but this crew have proved that they at least have the chops for it. Worse, so called 'melodic' hip hop is the flavour of the month but I'm sorry the whole thing just leaves me cold. Which leaves Freshset Music yet another mountain to climb.

Mind you, they should be used to my prejudices by now.

Funnily enough one of the appealing things, for me anyway, is that I don't particularly get hip hop from other major cities but - in all honesty - I find New Jersey hip hop easy to get into, even if it is 'melodic'. What really curls my toes is when the track just doesn't ring true, and that has never been a problem with Freshset at all. Although they have never - to my mind - bettered Dreamer (December 2009), they have come into their own as a solidly commercial prospect and I am absolutely sure the ladies like them.

For me, however, it's the style itself that doesn't do it for me, but Freshset can console themselves with the knowledge that I can and do recognise how sharp and accurate they are; musically and lyrically. For someone into this style, I am sure this is going to go down a treat, thanks in major part to the understated music track that is basic as it gets. The melody, in this case, being supplied by that R&B standard, the Fender Rhodes sound beloved of sound engineers the world over. What the track shows, more than anything, is that Freshset are slicker than most, although that may not be to everybody's taste,

Recommended hip hop ballad.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Diamond Lil - Sex Injuries

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'Fill me with sex injuries' the man sings... Could only be rock and roll eh? I was lucky enough not only to witness the birth of rock music, but also to see some of the giants (and not so well known) musicians that triggered the biggest flowering of musical creativity in history. From live performances from the likes of the Pretty Things (at 17) to Hendrix at the Isle Of Wight, I saw and heard some incredible - never to be repeated - rock music of the finest order. I have retained that love of hard rock right to this day, and is probably my reviewers Achilles heel. See, it's the genre I have the most love and devotion to and I am not one to take it lightly. If you approach someone like me claiming to be 'classic rock, you'd sure better have the stones to prove it.

The first hurdle is at the 20 second point...

Of course, I should have twigged it by the band's name. Diamond Lil is a play written by the legendary Mae West and if anyone is the spirit of rock and roll personified, it'll be her. It's all about attitude, ya see? Whether or not that is truly why the band is called that is irrelevant because Diamond Lil (the band, not the play or the pretty woman) pass the 20 second test with flying rock stones of gigantic proportions. See, the thing about classic rock is that it did exactly that, relentless, unstoppable and from the opening notes generally. Twenty seconds was being generous. See, in the days when you actually had to GO OUT to hear a record, that could be a problem.

Especially when the things were as big as pizzas, got scratched with as little as a cross look and had a shelf life of about....OK that's your lot. It concentrates the mind wonderfully about what does the trick and what doesn't and Diamond Lil, I am happy to say, carry the rock standard with pride and respect that would gladden the hearts of old musos everywhere. Certainly if you want a modern example of what I (an aging rock manic from back in the day) would consider worthy of the name, Diamond Lil and Sex Injuries is it. Expect to see a review of their upcoming Misfits of Society EP on these pages, because for sure I wanna hear that.

MUST HAVE classic rock.

Thomas J Marchant - It's Easy To Get Confused

Hear The Track Here

Funnily enough, it was Larry Ludwick who really solidified what it was about Thomas J Marchant so special to so many Soundclick regulars. In his review guise, Larry wrote that Thomas 'addresses each song as if he never heard of any rules' and I'd say that's the most accurate way of saying exactly what it is Thomas does. Sure, his musical style and songwriting talent is obvious if you can look beneath the often obscured production, lo-fi has always been a feature of any Thomas J track but he is one musician who has actually made lo-fi and retro work for him. It's actually part of his musical trademark, that and the can't-be-arsed vocal style that inevitably dribbles out of the side of his mouth.

Thomas's great appeal to me is as a songwriter. Little did I know when I was labouring through some his early electronica that later years would show one of the most talented songwriters around, on Soundclick or anywhere else. For sure, you won't have anyone quite like our Thomas, that's for sure. As he has progressed this side of his music (he's also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist) so he has gained in confidence and maturity, a quality that really stands him in good stead for a track like It's Easy To Get Confused.

Keep it simple has become something of a zen thing with Thomas and this track is one of the finer examples of Thomas's unerring ability to make so much from so very, very little. So don't go looking for any flashes of artistic instrumental brilliance or even a vocal that delivers fireworks at every turn, it's a wood and trees thing. Thomas J Marchant are always best assimilated as a whole; feel, tone and atmosphere as if he had just sat down and whacked it out in seconds. Trouble is, he probably did but that still doesn't stop it sounding so good you just want to smash your system. If you've never heard Thomas, I really urge you to catch up on one of England's finest musical eccentrics.

Highly Recommended Alternative, MUST HAVE for fans.

Larry Ludwick - The Boy That Was

Hear The Track Here

The Boy That Was...behaving himself?? I know that this is the first time Larry has appeared since the goings on a month or so ago, so maybe he has cut down a bit on the collaborations or - more likely - he's stacking them up to the ceiling to take over a whole month in one go. I jest, of course, in truth I have a distinct liking for musicians who develop their own voices are that is both Larry's strength and his weakness. Because, like all things unique, it's often difficult for people to get their heads around. Something a lot of so called experimental musicians have always suffered from.

Funny thing is, Larry isn't really an experimental musician, he's much more of an all rounder than that and his music has a deceptive quality about it; it sounds simple, but it isn't. The Boy That Was is billed as Alternative and believe me, it just can't get more alternative than Larry Ludwick as you will see when you hear this track. Why would you want to hear it? Well, imagine Neil Young had read a LOT of books and gleaned scraps of information all his life, the poured it all into his music. How could you not want to hear it?

OK, admittedly it isn't without a blemish or two (purely technical though, can't fault the man's style). The worst culprit are the highly suspect (ie hokey/factory) brass sounds which definitely set my teeth on edge although it admittedly doesn't take much to have me doing that. Larry Ludwick has certainly worked at getting his own thing right, and it shows because almost everyone I know who has heard of him has at least a grudging respect for what he does, even if their way is the less risky. Fans of this musician (and there are more than a few) will love this classic Ludwick thought song. Read the lyrics as you are playing for best effect.

Highly Recommended alternative Alternative.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gangbangsters - War On Drugs

Hear The Track Here

It would be true to say that I'd kind of given up on the whole hip hop scene, certainly of the commercial variety, and even the online, indie kind I was hearing at the time seemed dull, machine-like and devoid of any real meaning. Certainly the over-reliance on beats of musical accompaniment would very likely send anyone nuts over time. I'm a big fan of using percussive scoring and that's something very few beat merchants ever bother with. Gangbangsters, along with a few other Soundclick indie hip hop musicians, changed that gloomy scene for me with some ridiculously clever blends of hip hop and other musical genres, including rock. So is it strictly hip hop?

Actually, who gives a **** so long as it works eh?

War On Drugs cannot, in any way, be termed hip hop. It's a wall to wall electronic blitz with special appearances by the King and Queen of Jussay Knokids themselves. Ron and Nancy Reagan rap of the joys of drug use, set to an extremely hard edged piece of electronica and yes, I know this kind of thing has been done endlessly, if it works, it works. For me, this is the kind of track I cherished back when the use of vocal samples from famous people wasn't such a copyright minefield, and even the music fits the period. So, yes, it does sound dated to me, but I think maybe that was exactly the intention as the War On Drugs was during the 1980's, an electronic Golden Age.

So while this doesn't have me spinning cartwheels of delight, it's certainly a solid piece of work and shows that Gangbangsters put a lot of effort and sweat into getting this out the door. Either that, or he was a lucky enough bastard to have it creep up on him. It happens. Whatever, the inspired use of Ron and Nancy is obviously the main highlight but the musical accompaniment more than holds up its end. Give it more than a couple of plays and this could be setting up ruts in your hearing canals...

Highly Recommended Electronica.

Pidgeman - Intoxication

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Why do musicians like me (and Pidgeman too for that matter) settle for this cyber existence? Why don't we go the time honoured route of musicians uncountable; go on the road. Well plain fact is most of us can't, for one reason or another. Therefore we spend years and years watering this particular garden in the hope that it will grow some fruit in the way of an audience for our music. One of the side effects of this totally insane way of looking at things is that it gives you time to hone your craft. Too much time, some might say, judging by some of the drivel online. However, stick around for a few years and something becomes apparent very quickly, the more you do it, the more you do it. The more you do it, the better you get.

When you end up, some considerable time later, as a dependable, consistent supplier of really good music, people go all doe-eyed and start calling you an overnight sensation. Got to laugh. Anyway, experience IS the name of the game, and it shows when a musician has his chops together. Pidgeman has been around making music for the requisite amount of time to know what works sonically and what doesn't. Ally that to a marked preference for good, old fashioned rock music and folks we have a winner. Me rock animal, you may not be, but Craig Matthews (aka Pidgeman) also happens to be a very decent pop songwriter into the bargain.

Intoxication, as you may know, comes in many varieties (but always avoid the brown ones) and this song is about lustful intoxication and what better musical genre to illustrate the point than ball to the walls old school rock music. There is no doubt in my mind that Pidgeman has improved immensely musically and technically in getting in his vision, the real surprise is how much he has come on as a vocalist and I certainly wouldn't have been of that opinion back in 2007 when I first met him. Fact is, Pidgeman has turned into a rockers rocker, know what I mean. Yet another class act having been through the mill to get there... Puts fire in the music, that's for sure.

Highly Recommended Rock.

The American Mood - Artist Overview

Hear The Track Here

As many of you know, I spent several years living, working and travelling through America (or to be more accurate North America) and cam to know and love both the country and the people in it. I look back on that time with fond memories because, funnily enough, the usual American musical experience is one poor musicians everywhere would recognise. The struggle for gigs, rehearsal space, rentals etc. We forget, in this digital age, that there are still musicians out there taking this hard, hard road. One of the hardest gigs is something I have only seen in America; the so-called lounge act and that is what attracted me to this band.

See, like everything else in life, there are lounge acts and there are lounge acts. In my time, I've seen some really, really dire stuff but that is also the nature of the market, the music is secondary to the selling of booze/whatEVAH. Takes a rare band to light up a lounge bar successfully and judging by the few tracks on the American Mood's website, they would definitely do the trick. If you want to save time, have a listen to tracks one and two on the site, that shows perfectly what this band is about. Musically it's a tad too middle of the road for me, but that doesn't stop the musicianship and professional delivery and production shining through.

There isn't much info about the band but it does sound like a tight bunch, and one that has much experience, although maybe not all in lounge bars. There is a very professional touch to the tracks, which I suspect comes from some painstaking recording and production work. Overall, it's probably best that you like American music in general, and the American style of songwriting for all that (this is just about Americana enough to get by with me) but there is no doubting the quality of the work on display here. Of special note is the vocalist who has a warm, full-blooded voice that fits the material perfectly.

American Mood? Rocking. ...and Recommended.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ralph Atkinson - When Love Comes

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There are some unkind souls out there who would chastise me thoroughly for showing favouritism towards any particular musicians and - despite my gentle tone - I would agree. See I can't help it if musicians like Raplh Atkinson (and that other guys we wi(ll)- hint - not mention) manage to get themselves reviewed more than once a month, blame them I say. After all, if you push out more musical babies than say, the cabbage aphid (Ed: yep he's been Googling again!), it's highly likely you will crop up a time or two. Besides, I don't give a **** because I actually like Ralph Atkinson's warm and easy style, as far as I am concerned I'll take him in collab or solo like When Love Comes. The root of that appeal, I have to say, is that Ralph is my kind of musician.


Ever since I met him (as it were) back in 2009, he has enhanced my own listening pleasure immensely, but nowhere more so than when he's got the blues close to hand. Having said that, listen to the first few bars of this track and tell me that isn't the blues. Listening any further will involve a massive swerve into (of all things) reggae. Sounds odd I know, but by God it works a treat. As many of you are aware, Jamaican music has played as big a part of my life as rock so as hard as I am in rock criticism, it applies to reggae even more so. It has to ring true, ya know. So while When Love Comes isn't what I would strictly term reggae, more like Eric Clapton's version, which was based on Bob Marley and so on...

That's nerdy nitpicking mainly concerned about the musical integrity of a piece. What is not in dispute - in any way whatsover - is how brilliant this track is on that rock pop reggae way. Clapton himself would give his right arm for a song of this quality, and Ralph even has the right band to back him on it. Unfortunately for ol' Eric, Ralph also happens to be a much better vocalist, so there won't be much for him to do other than strumming a few chords but hey, I guess he is used to this... (Ed: it's OK Eric, we love you really) Ralph Atkinson, in my very 'umble opinion, just keeps getting better and better with each track and this - guaranteed - is the proverbial dogs danglies...


Weylin's Slayer Orchestra - Addiction

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It's taken me a while to catch on to what Weylin's Slayer Orchestra is about (Ed: oh there's a surprise not...) but I think I finally have a handle on this musician and I find myself liking what he's doing more and more. The reason I state that with such evident satisfaction is because of the way we started. I think because of the Instrumentals:Game & Soundtrack label he works under, it had me convinced that I wouldn't like what he did and I think that was true of the first couple of tracks, although that changed rapidly after Endless Night (March 2011) which showed that, despite orchestral and/or soundtrack trappings, underneath was a rock metal monster...

When I say I am a rock animal, you'd better believe it. Not just of the old school either, I am very interested in heavy metal German bands like Rammstein and their ilk, as well as any number of goth rock musicians - to me it's all life affirming rock music. That realisation is what has made the difference in my approach to Weylin's particular style, and maybe the reason why I think Addiction is the best thing I have heard from him yet - even the orchestral parts are metal based and ya just can't fault that can you?

Over the past for tracks Weylin has done well, couple of Highly Recommended's, but not as yet - to my ears - delivered anything of the kind of compositional quality I generally expect from tracks that I give the highest rating too, but damn it this even changed that game. Tight is the word to use here, everything meshes together perfectly and even the bugbear of tracks past, the drums, pull their weight. Taken as a whole Addiction is a very solid piece of work, and is a dark, powerful track that has a heart of solid rock. Damn, at this rate I might even be coerced into thinking that guitar shredding does indeed have a purpose.

Excellent job. MUST HAVE metallic/orchestral epic.

GStarr Produced - Rocker

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A new name to me from Soundclick GStarr Produced is not, as you may have suspected, a hip hop musician. No sirree, just another scurrilous rock and roll animal specialising in rock from the old school. What again?, you sigh, yet another old fart reliving his no doubt sordid past? Personally, speaking as yet another etc, I like to think that I am making my best music now, and I think a lot of other people feel the same. Sure, talent is a great thing to have, but I'll take a dash of experience with that if you wouldn't mind; it tends to smooth out the rough edges. Obviously not quite the case for rock music because it about rough edges, but in that case IMHO it just makes the groove keener. OK, now I've stood up for all old farts everywhere, lets see what this one has to offer... (Ed: I hope he realises you are joking Gilmore, or it'll be a visit from the boys methinks...)

Grant Starr is the star (Ed: oh good grief!) of the show apparently, having written the song and (of course) producing but he's helped by - at my count - four other obviously talented musicians; Ed and Jason Kocol, Paul Anthony and Dave Townsend. So, if you like old school rock (with a decided American feel to it) then this is going to go down well. If, however, you think old farts should just be content with being put out to pasture, you can just **** off out of it. Rocker, in common with the genre, sounds great at really high volumes, even though the production left much to be desired (of which more later), and the song itself is very decent - for a balls to the wall rock song.

You may have detected a note of negativity in my tone, and you'd be right. See, here is how I see the backstory to this track.. This was a recorded demo, either recent or (God forbid) recorded back in the day. If it was recent, the style and context are damn near spot on, and much respect for getting that right. The track (and song) therefore sound dated, both technically and musically. I would have been proud to have made this track back in that distant day, but these days - like many listeners - I expect a lot, lot more. So while Rocker is enjoyable stroll down memory lane, I'd like to hear what these guys are up to today - unless I'm totally wrong and this is a new recording.

Good rock song for sure. Recommended.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Whitman Speck - Permanent Disguise

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In a world seemingly swamped in crazed, bloodthirsty mofos, it takes a real nut job to stand out. In which case, step forward Whitman Speck, bloodthirsty mofo-in-cheif. Certainly one of the sickest, illest (and I don't mean that in a nice way necessarily) horrorcore rappers I've ever encountered. Where other urban rappers might be talking about offing their gang rivals, people like Whitman Speck doesn't stoop that low. He has all of us in his sights. Yeah, now you are paying attention innit? The truth is that Whitman Speck is a brutal, violent rapper in style and in content and anyone who doesn't like it better start running right now. Now being the pussycat I am, there should be no way I would like this at all.

So why does Whitman Speck get so many Must Haves?

Well, yes, I am a chicken and live in mortal fear of the man, but that doesn't quite cover it. Fact is, Whitman Speck is a class act in a veritable sea of wannabees. Sure his lyrical content is hardcore, as you would expect but its in the marriage of his words and the music he uses that singles this rapper out for such praise. 'Still needs a bit more work, but it's not bad' he says about Permanent Disguise and he's right because I have certainly heard him tighter musically and vocally, but definitely the bare bones of a KILLER Whitman Speck is right here. As well as the usual buckets of blood and sex and profanity galore....

'Yeah, yeah but he's drop dead gorgeous' is the main hook here and I wonder where he came across this segment of the track because I'd like to hear the original. If anything the track itself is rock, with a pop overtone coming in the female sung sections, and to be honest, I could have done with more of the power I can hear this track has. The vocal itself has a boomy quality to it in parts but I suppose all these things will be rectified at some point and then - believe me - this track will take no prisoners. Prisoners aren't Whitman's thing anyway, he prefers slicing and dicing them innit? Oh, and sex on a plate. Don't say you haven't been warned. Banging track though.

Highly recommended nonetheless. Great song.

The Perms - High School High

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Over the past couple of years the review requests to my blog have gone from a trickle to a flood but what's most surprising about it is that the standard and quality of the work is generally of a very high standard. Matter of fact, the blog has introduced me (and my readers) to some really interesting and different music, albeit from musicians I'd never heard of before. So, let me introduce The Perms (who have been hanging around for a review since May!), an Canadian indie rock trio who are a new name to me, comprising of Shane and Chad Smith and John Huver. Formed in 1998 and having released several previous albums, I expected much.... (Ed: uh oh)

Like a lot of Canadian bands. The Perms seem to have soaked up the essence of what makes their southern neighbour one of the main markets for rock of the old school. Listening to their tracks is like hanging with old friends from the Beach Boys, Cars, Boston, Cheap Trick et al and - to be brutally honest - it doesn't always travel that well over this side of the pond. Much more to the point, for someone like me, it has to ring true and thankfully High School High does that and more.

Certainly if the influences I have mentioned whet your appetite then you definitely need to introduce yourself to these guys. High School High is the first track from their latest album album Sofia Nights and if this is any indication, the album should do extremely well, especially among our transatlantic cousins. After all, the line 'got my hightops and walkman and I'm ready to rock it' just reeks of Americana, and so does the rest of the track. Damn fine tune, and a very professional approach.

Highly Recommended poppy Indie.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Yolande Strauss - I Can't Wait

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Funnily enough, I don't really know that many musicians from South Africa which, considering my range, is a bit puzzling. I know that South Africa is bursting with good musicians, commercial or otherwise but maybe that's just a pointer for me not to be so lazy about searching out musicians from there. God knows I get enough from elsewhere. Yolande Strauss, in case you were wondering is a South African singer/songwriter who was first introduced to us though some magic collaborations with Alchemystic - of all people. I use those words deliberately because their musical styles were so different it shouldn't have worked, but it did and it was knockout stuff.

Being a singer/songwriter generally means working with other people and Yolande has a remarkable knack of getting the right people on the right tracks to deliver the sound and style she has. Take, for example, Samson (May 2010). At first sight it didn't seem much and - moreover - it was a ballad. Red rags, bulls...know what I mean? Nonetheless the very thing that has always impressed me about Yolande is that she can and does carry it off, and with great style. Definitely a songwriter to spend time getting to know. I Can't Wait, however, is not on the Reverbnation page but it is on ITunes and CD Baby and you know what that means... It's also attributed to Miller, Strauss, Wong too.

Lyrics were supplied by Casia Wong, music is from Yolande and Gary Miller, Gary, of course has worked with Yolande before and I could have sworn I'd reviewed one of those too. Now, we've already established that there is a stylistic divide between what I like and what Yolande does, but that doesn't stop me appreciating how good she is at what she is doing. Smooth sophistication is the aim here, and it's achieved very well although the intro has some problems getting going and I'm not all that sure it works to drag an unwilling listener into it. Once Yolande starts singing, all is forgiven. Got to admit that she does handle this love song business extremely well even if old rock philistines like me prefer bleeding ears to bleeding hearts...

Smooth, and oozing naughtiness... Highly Recommended lurve song.

Andrey Mischenko - June

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Andrey Mischenko, as you may have guessed, is a Russian musician who I have reviewed a fair few times by now, although not always with happy results. I suspect that because I automatically assumed that Andrey was a classical musician from the first track I ever heard, now I think that is the side of his work I appreciate most. Certainly his forays into prog rock didn't ring any bells with me but prog rock never does. Having said that, classically inclined music shares one trait with prog rock that is generally a bit of a problem to people, that of length. (Ed: you can't say that!!!) So, if you think you can just stroll over and have a quick listen to this track while reading this better have thirteen minutes and change to spare...

Yep, you read that right.

So while I freely admit that I haven't spent the amount of time with this track that I would have with a three minute song, June happens to tap right into my mood when I'm in a more reflective place which, admittedly, isn't often. Considering that I don't like most soundtrack work because it doesn't have the right classical ring about it, this is where Andrey Mischenko wins above score writers. I don't know, maybe it's just me but when he does classical style music I really connect to it, and June had be doing that big time. Considering it's running time (better than saying length again innit.......DOH!!!) those thirteen minutes do seem to melt away with whatever mood you were in when you started to listen.

For me, that is the pre-requisite element, it's where the music does indeed calm the savage breast. June is light and delicate in feel, nowhere does it get into orchestral overload, but each part and section clear, crisp and precise. I think I remember reading somewhere that Andrey was using a decent classical instrumentation program and the choices he brings to bear on this track certainly testify to how well it renders the sounds. Soooo, if you happen to want a nice cup of tea, a plate of biccies and a bit of rest then let me suggest you snuggle down with June, who will calm your fevered brow - whatever that means...

Highly Recommended (but l-o-n-g) modern classical.

Densyl - Hanging Eleven

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Cast your mind back to that scene in the greatest rock movie ever made where members of Spinal Tap are explaining the unique nature of their amplifiers, what we have here with Densyl is something akin to that. Hanging ten is a well known surfing maneuver and literally means hanging your toes of the board. Well, Densyl went one better, grew an extra digit, got together with Ralph Atkinson and come up with a surfing track. I kid you not. You may remember they also collaborated on Spring Is Here (June 2011) which definitely got my attention and showed that they work well together.

AAhhh, but can they surf the surf?

My early listening years were marked by band such as The Ventures who IMHO were making surf music before it was even called that, although it was obviously The Beach Boys who scored the biggest recognition factor but for me surf music will always be instrumental, and guitar led at that. Stands to reason then that I'm gonna get in a snit if Hanging Eleven doesn't come up to the glory my memory has supplied, given any other musicians there might have been some blood on the floor by now. However, I've had much experience with both Densyl and Ralph in their solo guises and know that neither of them does anything lightly, care and attention as much as fun, ya know?

Special mention, I think, should be paid to Ralph Atkinson who has the sound, tone and delivery of the period down. D-o-w-n. Fact is, Hanging Eleven could soundtrack a surf movie no problem and - as a musical exercise - this is a great track to do, and to listen to. You may have noticed a hint of caution there and rightly so because although I, Densyl and Ralph may appreciate the wonders of the genre there is no disguising that it is a niche, and a small one at that. None the less, if a sun-filled, breezy bolt of guitar driven energy sounds like just the thing, go get some....

Highly Recommended Surf music (I kid you not)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sandro Cuzzetto - Blind Mans Bluff

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Sandro Cuzzetto, despite all appearances name wise, is a Canadian musician we've some across from time to time. A resident of Kamloops, the same city that harbours Cam's Even Song as it happens and - as I seem to mention in every review - they have a lot in common. Perfect Timing (March 2011) was the last track I heard and very good it was too, showing a serious musician at work. Like Cameron Bastedo, Sandro is a Christian Rock musician so there's always a lot more going on with his tracks than a drive by listen would show, much less to really appreciate the work and effort this musician pours into the track.

The only blot on this cosy and idyllic scene is that Sandro has been known to dabble down in the prog rock box of tricks and indeed, there are some suspiciously proggy interludes in Blind Mans Bluff. Mind you, the track is labelled Latin, and to be honest that one really throws me a curveball because about the only latin thing it has going for it (other than Sandro's name of course) is that it sounds a bit like Carlos Santana when the guitar licks need sorting. To my ears, this is pure unadulterated classic rock in every note of its body - and bloody good classic rock at that.

What?? What?? Why are you looking at me like that?? I said that it was proggy in some parts didn't? You know I don't hold with the big hair, platforms and hissy fit ego brigade so obviously it isn't THAT proggy, and - can't believe I'm going to say this - it's actually quite clever. Not as clever as the track itself which sounds and is the business, and is probably the best I have heard from this musician yet AND we didn't have to wait ages for it either... See, the sun is shining...the people are happy and Sandro Cuzzetto speeds up his output level. Things couldn't be smoother so start looking for potholes.... ;)

Highly Recommended Classic Rock (it is, it is)

Fear 2 Stop - Spin Cycle

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Fear 2 Stop were a bit more than their usual gung-ho selves this month, slamming a decidedly sticky Spin Cycle through my front door on Review Morning, definitely not the best time to be gung-ho for me, I can tell you. Mind you, there are some who would say, get stuff like this out of the way ASAP but I personally like Fear 2 Stop because, well, they are unstoppable. Certainly veterans at this online musical lark, their music can often sound coarse and abrasive and I do see that argument, and the one about it sounding like cats caught in a meat grinder but hey, t'was ever thus with Fear 2 Stop.

Surprisingly enough they have mellowed somewhat over the years but you'll still need a strong musical constitution to get anything other than earache from it. Strong words, you might think, but fire up Spin Cycle yourself and we'll howl through it together. What you are hearing would be something you will definitely not have heard before if Fear 2 Stop is a new to you, and you might never want to undergo the experience again. No shame in that. Showing fear is a natural reaction when faced with something that could very easily drive you out of your mind. There again, I am a child of the 1960's so I lost my mind a long, long time ago...

Hey!! Maybe I have Fear 2 Stop immunity!! I always knew all those drugs were doing me the world of good. Now, where was I? Aaah, losing my mind... If you of a nervous disposition I would consider giving this track (or indeed ANY) Fear 2 Stop track a massive body swerve. Put simpler, run away screaming will make it so much easier in the long run. I really liked their return to style on Blown (June 2011) and this, although definitely more discordant, still has all the hallmarks of a classic Fear 2 Stop mashup and it certainly doesn't sound as alien to me as I suppose it must to new listeners. To me, and people who have known this trio for a while, it's like an ongoing conversation with an old friend...

Weird and wonderful, but definitely not for wusses... Highly Recommended wtf'ry.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wwolves - For Victory LP

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Wwolves have a lot in common with Barricades Rise musically, as indeed do Hhymn. It's no surprise then that all three bands come from the same general area of the UK, the Midlands, which has a long tradition of spitting out world class musicians (well, nothing else to do innit?). For Victory is the upcoming new album release from this Derby based band and shows a much more rounded sound and style than I remember from It's Morning/Something's Got To Give (April 2011). The songs are still as strong though and that is what counts more than anything and For Victory is stuffed with good ones from the opening accapella Valley Of Amber.

I love the adventurous nature of the bands I have mentioned, especially given the genres they are working in but - I have to say - Wwolves have surpassed themselves with this excellent collection of pop rock songs (with added instrumentation and then some!) For my money Wwolves ultimate sound has much to do with America than the mundane everyday of Derby where a man is a man and a whippet is STILL a rat on a string. I keep getting a The Band connection and I think that has more to do with their use of pedal steel guitar and violin - a very country sound, ya know. Still, I do have taste for country (as in Americana) and I think Wwolves deserve some credit for hitting the nail so squarely on the head.

Here is yet another album where every track justly deserves to be there, and is definitely one of those albums that really should be heard as a piece. As it is, I still have trouble making up my mind which track I like most because it's all so good. It's a given you won't like it if heavy rock is your staple diet, but who knows the strength of the songs may win some diehards over. For someone who likes music that is well thought out, arranged and performed then you'd be hard pressed to find much better than this. I am certain that American radio stations (internet ones anyway) will lap up this material because it is eminently radio friendly...

In an odd kinda way;) Highly Recommended indeed.

Barricades Rise - All I Have Is Here LP

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Seems to me that the UK has an abundance of very decent Alternative bands, at least judging by the flood of requests I am getting. My first two reviews this month are of two of those bands who are coming up for milestone status. First up is Barricades Rise who I first came across with their Blueprints EP (June 2008) but it was with the subsequent album - You and Your Adored (August 2009) - that really showed my what this duo were capable of. Considering that everything on these tracks was home recorded and produced, both projects deserved the high ratings I subsequently gave them. They followed that with another blindingly good EP - No Love Lost (May 2010) and here we are mid-2011 and they are right on schedule with their next album, All I Have Is Here...

Now read on...(as they say)

Whenever I hear people bemoaning the lack of good music I can only shake my head in wonder, and point them to musicians (and songwriters) like Barricades Rise and the new album shows a growing confidence and maturity. The first time it really became obvious was with track two, Always Yours, a really terrific song set in an acoustic setting that is strangely reminiscent of early Rod Stewart (solo mode). Mind you, the song is killer. The basic components of a Barricades Rise track are usually acoustically based, and - as I've mentioned before - there is always a tinge of traditional folk about it. Nonetheless, the songs are pure, out-and-out pleasure, as a quick blast of Making Faces From Clouds will readily confirm. There again, it has to be said, I do actually like this style of acoustic music, especially when you have some finely honed songs to deliver.

What makes it all work, at least for me, is that both Jonathan Coates and Michael McEntee are very good musicians and vocalists and the ease they have with each other shows in the music. Johnathon, mind you, has a natural rock voice that will drag even the most unwilling to encounter life as seen from the barricades.. A lot of the tracks have a gleeful joyousness about it, but that is often the way with more traditionally based music. They could be singing about mass murderers but the music would still slap a smile on your face. I defy you to listen to Folk Songs and Jazz Bands, and not be entranced at how something so intricate could slide down so easily, but I could say the same about almost the whole project. UK music is alive, well, kicking butt and taking names and Barricades Rise prove it perfectly.

Highly Recommended Acoustic treats!!