Category Archives: SONIC WAVES…Album Reviews

Occasionally I will throw down some reviews of albums that I thought were and still are cool to me…..hope you likey!

STYX: CRASH OF THE CROWN (2021)

 

Styx have released what I would consider one of the best releases of ’21 in the form of “Crash of The Crown” which is the bands 17th studio album.

15 tracks clocking in at just over 43 minutes which has Styx firing on all 6 cylinders as after all there are now 6 members in the band, well 7 if you count  producer Will Evankovich who is now touring with the band as a member.

“Crash of the Crown” has that throwback ’70s vibe. The production is killer as it sounds like it was recorded in ’79 and not ’21. Thats one of the best compliments I can say about what Tommy Shaw and JY have decided to do on this record.

The performances are top notch and if you’re looking for the “Babe” version of Styx better to pull out your copy of Cornerstone for that vibe.

The chops on “COTC” are stellar as Styx can blend the use of acoustic guitars with the electrics and we must not forget the vocals and harmonies.

These guys bought the “A-Game” in this release even releasing the vinyl copy in a gatefold as well.

Even the packaging features some morse code on it to decipher the clues. At first I though this was a printing glitch of my record lol, little did I know.

“A Monster” is a stellar track and if you want to hear a sample check that track out as Sucherman’s drums along with with Gowan’s lead vocals lifts this track almost off my turntable. Must also note a real slick guitar solo as well..

Those silly Styx-ster’s fooled me when they included in there tune “Save Us From Ourselves”,  Churchills rallying cry of the “We shall go on to the end” speech you know the one Iron Maiden uses at the start of Ace’s High. For a split second I was like …whut?

The title track is an interesting one as it features all three lead singers (Gowan-Shaw-JY) each taking a verse vocally which I believe is the first in the career of Styx which is now approaching 50  years!

I know there are the original fans want Dennis DeYoung back and quite frankly that isn’t going to happen and if it does it will be totally for the cash.

I can honestly say that after reading JY’s comments in the latest issue of Rock Candy that featured a 16 page cover feature on Styx.

Gowan has elevated this band as the cat can sing and is a fantastic keyboard wizard as well.

COTC is one fine listen and if you are in the mood for a band that gives its all on a record then do yourselves a favour and check this one out.

AC/DC: POWER UP (2020)

AC/DC was a band that needed to drop an album in the shitty year known as 2020 and they delivered a real fine slab of booze bar room rock.

“Power Up”

12 songs from the boy’s that are expertly dialled in by Brendan O’Brien and Mike Fraser.

 

Lot’s of highlights on here and what could I possibly add to an AC/DC album that already has not been said?

Nothing! I will add I love how AC/DC has always managed to capture that buzz saw approach of the guitars on they’re albums.

I’m going on memory here but I read some reviews where someone said  Brian Johnsons vocals sounded buried in the mix. Gah to that as the dude is over 70 and he’s competing against Marshall Amps!

You know people would be bitchin if there was no AC/DC album yet when there is people poke at it…

I was going to review this last winter but everyone was smashing out reviews quicker than Tbone hollering “Bartender!!” in regards to this record so I deiced to take a pass,

I thought I would wait it out til now as recently when I put on “Power Up” I wanted to see if I still dug it as much as I did last November when this album dropped.

The answer to that is a resounding YES! I can also honestly say that you could lead off Side 2 as Side 1 and it would still be a strong sounding album..

Lots of great tracks to sink your teeth into here folks…

“Rejection”, “Through The Mists of Time”, “Witch’s Spell” “Demon Fire” are stellar tracks on their own and how about what I consider end of the album GEMS like “Systems Down” and “Money Shot” are so good and yet they are at the back end of the album.

See what I mean as Side 1 and Side 2 being equal as far as strong  sides of music is concerned.

Power Up this one Folk’s!

 

George Lynch: Seamless (2021)

Curious George goes right outside the box on what I believe is his first all instrumental guitar album.

The 12 tracks rock and George keeps it real interesting  as he just doesn’t shred like it’s the end of the world. Course there is that but George makes this album real interesting with a bunch of tempo changes and a killer rhythm section along for the ride as well. (bassist Eric Loiselle and drummer Jimmy D’Anda)

01. “Quiver”
02. “Cola”
03. “TJ69”
04. “Death By A Thousand Licks”
05. “iThink”
06. “Sharks With Laser Beams”
07. “Octavia”
08. “Supersonic Hypnotic Groove Thing”
09. “Falling Apart”

Bonus Tracks:
10. “Blue Light Effect”
11. “House Of Eternal Return”
12. “The Weight”

Considering I have been listening George since 1983 when I hear these songs there is that tinge of the Dokken sound in ’em.

Fair enough as Lynch was a huge part on that sound and I could actually hear “The” Don singing over a lot of this stuff so its that close to actually being an Dokken or maybe a Lynch Mob record .

But it isn’t and fair enough as this is George’s deal and he delivers a real solid instrumental record and normally I do not go for this kind of thing, but Lynch proves me wrong and for that I salute him!

As I mentioned George does go off on tracks in the shred department like “Death By A Thousand Licks” and “Quiver.”

I have to add I really dig it that at times  Lynch goes right down in the power trio format during the solos.

What a talent this guy is still doing what he does!

Now go and crank “Cola!”

So good!

dEke’s Stream O Rater …..9/10

 

Robert Plant: Shaken ‘n’ Stirred (1985)

I have always been a sucker for a cool cover and Robert Plants ’85 release “Shaken n Stirred” is one of those.

After skipping ’83s “Principle of Moments” outright that year come ’85 I actually bought “Shaken n Stirred” on cassette tape as I figured it would be a great wake up tape for the trusty Walkman when I was peddling to work at 6am everyday on my  bike!

Once CDs became the rage I never sought this one out. It wasn’t of course until recently that as you know I ramped up my Rob collection of his solo stuff and decided to do a long overdue deep dive into the mans solo career.

Listening to Shaken n Stirred thirty six years later two things stand out to me.

1- Plant was trying to stay current with that overproduced rock sound of the day that was dominating the rock charts. He was not concerned whatsoever about maintaining any Zep influence on these albums by this point.

2- As a listener I can hear the direction on this albums sound with all the synth like action, crystal clear guitar and drums that he was headed into when he released ’88s brilliant (and I think Plant’s best) “Now And Zen” record.

I had caught the video of “Little By Little” on MuchMusic and being that I dug Roberts vocals (let’s face it, the man could sing the pages out of a history book and make it sound cool) I thought at the time I should take the plunge on tape which was cheaper than the vinyl.  Cost cutting measures I was on back then.

I didn’t mind this album at the time and I like it more now as I can hear where Robert was headed as the ’80s rolled on.

Sure this album is laced with synth driven tunes. The guitars of Robbie Blunt shine throughout as his picking reminds me of Andy Summers of The Police at times.

Plant and band were always experimenting and this album continues that path. “Kallalou Kallalou” is one of those tracks as the synth and drums carry the track same as “Pink And Black”.

It’s so easy to judge in 2021 and for that matter even back in ’85 but Robert was on a mission and really at the end of the day he really didn’t  give a shit what ya thought.

I’m sure the line of thinking was ‘You’re either with me or not” to keep changing with the times.

Now if you think the whole rock thing was ditched it was not.  “Trouble Your Money” and “Pink and Black” are the rock tracks here but don’t think for a minute Zep like rock songs. Different vibe totally.

Some changes not many were made by solo album three. Phil Collins was busy at this time, so all the drums were done by Richie Hayward and Tim Palmer was brought into the production end of things as well.

Also of note this album has nine tracks not eight like the previous two and this would also be the final appearance of this band as Robert by the time 1988 rolled around had a whole new band in place.

POLYCHUCK-SHADOWS EXPOSED (2021)

 

Thomas Polychuck is the name and delivering Linkin Park like nu-metal  vibes mixed with the shred of Yngwie J Malmsteen is the game. Might as well add his love of M.M.A as this dude kicks ass!

Polychuck hails from Montreal and has just released his debut EP  “Shadows Exposed” which  as you can tell by the two references I mentioned above, has a mix bag of rock up his sleeve!

The five songs that make up the EP are catchy tracks as they are great songs as opening track “Beating Myself Down” proves with almost a swinging honky tonk piano vibe mixed with a huge classic rock like verse.  Ladano in his review said the solo at the end will knock you on your ass!

“Exposure” is another great track that features another stellar power rock verse that has a super shred like solo that washes out into a total throwback synth like vibe that is so catchy. Almost prog like as the song ramps down. The video for “Exposure” has pulled in almost 30,000 views on YouTube so people are watching.

“In The Dark” as well begins with a swirl of beats and Polychuck shows us all that the dude has a stellar voice and yet another catchy chorus.  This fella knows the fine art of writing hooks!

Song number four “Driving Me Mad” has a mid tempo like feel but with a  swirl of guitar solos throughout the track. In saying that it works as you can really hear how great of a guitarist Polychuck is.

Wrapping things up is “Lights Out” which is another keys driven tune with some nice guitar riffing layering things nicely over the top. Basically adding icing to the cake.

Polychuck is one talented mofo as these five songs prove. I like the fact that he keeps things short n simple as the longest song checks in at 3:18 seconds!

I ask you all that follow this blog check out Polychucks “Shadows Exposed” on your preferred choice of streaming. Just add it to your library and expand your musical horizons!

Better yet…

Myself and Mikey will chatting with Polychuck tomorrow (Saturday August 1 at 1pm EST on MikeLebrain Youtube channel.)

Click the link below and follow Mike’s Channel…

 

 

Robert Plant: The Principle of Moments (1983)

I still remember seeing the adds for Plant’s second solo album “The Principle of Moments” in Circus Magazine as well as Creem and Hit Parader.

But that summer of ’83 when this album hit the racks in Thunder Bay  I wasn’t feeling it and it was nothing personal but as you may recall from my words on “Pictures At Eleven”, I didn’t really get that hard rock vibe that I was looking for.

Besides in 1983  my listening was to give you an example albums like “Holy Diver”, “Piece of Mind”, “Metal Health”, “Pyromania”, “Flick of The Switch” and I guess we could add “Synchronicity” in this mix as well!

Thats where my head was at sonically.

Even though the  two singles from “Principle of Moments”, “In The Mood” and “Big Log” were on rotation on MuchMusic. I still didn’t take the bait.

That is until now. I’m older not necessarily wiser but let’s get on this stuff as I can appreciate it now in 2021!

Let’s rewind to 1983 when Robert put this one out.

Plant was smart in bringing back the same production crew as well as the same band. If it ain’t broke Robert isn’t fixing it. More on that later.

While Robert still had a shade of Zep in couple of tracks on his debut. This album though sheds that sound pretty much throughout the albums eight tracks.

You can hear the influences of mainstream rock at the time on opening track “Other Arms”. A very crystal clear sound. The drums of Phil Collins and the guitars of Robbie Blunt shine on this album and throughout the record.

A pretty snappy straightforward bass line drives the single “In The Mood” while Blunt shines once again on the other single “Big Log”.

Plant though can sing any style and this album proves that point. “Wreckless Love” and “Other Arms” prove this theory as Plant had adapted himself by ’83 to the modern sounds of rock. (David Bowie did the same thing on his “Let’s Dance” release which ironically came out the same year as this album)

Speaking of Bowie. Robert and David were smart as they both changed with the times and that could be a reason why their solo careers thrived in the ’80s and did not stall.

This was another batch of songs from Robert that would have sailed over my head at the time of its release but I can honestly say its a good album and give the man his due as he was doing what he wanted to do.

You have to respect him for that.

Ok, if you recall earlier I mentioned Plant bringing back on “Principle” the same production team as he used on the “Pictures” album as well as each album had eight songs.

What is really wild and I’m not sure if this has been printed and I’m sure it has but like on the debut Plant solo album, Phil Collins drummed on six out of the album’s eight tracks.

Tracks four and seven from “Pictures… Slow Dancer and Like I’ve Never Been Gone” respectively  were handled by Cozy Powell(RIP) doing the drums on the debut album.

Now here’s the crazy part…

Tracks four and seven from “Principle… Wreckless Love and Stranger Here…Then Over There” respectively were handled by Barriemore Barlow.

Kinda funny that the running order on two different albums had the guest drummer on tracks four and seven on each record…

I think I need to hit up Robert for an explanation on this.

 

 

 

LEE AARON: RADIO ON! (2021)

Lee Aaron first came onto my radar way back in 1984 when the “Metal Queen” album was released and Lee made a name for herself playing across Canada as well as making inroads into Europe.

Now all these years later Lee and her stellar band consisting  of Sean Kelly – guitars, Dave Reimer – bass  and  John Cody – drums have released what I would consider Lee’s best album to date.

This album sounds huge and we all have Mike Fraser (Blue Murder, AC/DC, Coverdale-Page)  to thank as Mike helped dial in the sonics so you know the songs will sound mega coming through your speakers!

Radio On Tracklist.

Vampin’
Soul Breaker
Cmon
Mama Don’t Remember
Radio On
Soho Crawl
Devil’s Gold
Russian Doll
Great Big Love
Wasted
Had Me At Hello
Twenty One

I have always loved guitar driven hard rock songs and there are a lot to choose from on “Radio On !”.

Sean Kelly proves without a doubt what a fine talent on the six string he is.  Just listen to tracks like “Vampin” where after a short bluesy opening the band ramps right up flexing some serious musical muscle as Dave’s bass and John’s drums just lock in so tight. What a groove and of course Lee belt’s it out with her vocals.

Songs like “Cmon” and “Soul Breaker” have slick groove’s during the verses and Sean delivers great short n catchy solo’s in each of these songs which are total ear candy to my years.

The title track “Radio On!” has great summertime vibe with a real cool addition of keys in it but not enough to bury the other instruments. Another catchy chorus here folks. I think it’s safe to say a pattern is developing here.

“Soho Crawl” is a fun time party tune and I have always been a sucker for that kind of piano that helps pushes the song forward. Just a great tune and I think it’s safe to say that this  is what the world needs right now. (which are these kind of songs.)

I have to say that “Devils Gold” is one of my favourite tracks on “Radio On!”. The band musically spreading its wings and showing off their chops as Sean, Dave and John really lock it down when the tempo picks up.

“Russian Doll” is a great little ass kicker where Lee and the boys rock the house and if this song is played live it will bring the house down. Great boogie tune.

“Great Big Love” has a slow menacing groove where Lee has some great lyrics  which to me about how opposites attract.

Lee’s singing is superb throughout the whole album. Sure we all know  how she can sing the fast rocker tracks but where she shines are the slower tunes like the acoustic based “Wasted” which really goes to another level when the electric guitar kicks in and boy does it ever.  “Wasted” has one of my favourite guitar solo’s on “Radio On!” as Sean trades licks with Lee’s vocals before they take the gas off the pedal and the song plays out acoustically. I think of the Scorpions on this track as they are masters at doing ballads that open slow and slowly build and build up. Lee and the boys have that concept figured out on “Wasted”.

“Had Me At Hello” has that slinky like vibe that busts a move with a slick groove. (which there are many on this record)

“Radio On!” ends with the piano driven “Twenty One” which like a few other tracks on here picks up the pace as the song heads towards the finish line. I think it’s safe to say a few of us wish we were still twenty one.

Lee Aaron and her band should be very proud of this album as its truly a great rock record and I’m sure it will be making many year end lists this year.

Just saying!

Robert Plant: Pictures at Eleven (1982)

 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing a few Robert Plant solo albums along the way. Hope you all dig it..

The cool thing about Used Record Shops are when you walk into those kinds of places you have no idea or I have no idea what I’m looking for as you don’t know  what you will come across.

Case in point…

I had a week of holidays and since life is somewhat getting back to normal here in Thunder Bay I thought it may be time to hit local shop “Comix Plus” and see whats in the bins..

A few weeks back I reviewed Robert Plant’s “Knebworth” release and in those used bins was the first three Robert Plant solo releases starting with “Pictures at Eleven” .

The lightbulb in my noggin went off…

I already own Plant’s stellar 1988 release “Now And Zen” and before my eyeballs were Roberts previous three solo albums there for the taking the used record bins.

So I took!

Why not finish off my Plant vinyl collection with one stop shopping!

Bought all three (the other two being  ’83’s Principle of Moments and ’85’s Shaken N Stirred) which are in great shape and along with a copy of Cheap Tricks ‘All Shook Up’ I was out the door with said purchases in hand.

I have to admit I originally bought “Pictures At Eleven” back upon its release almost four decades ago.  At the time I was 15 and upon first hearing Led Zeppelin around that time I was expecting a huge bombastic rock sound from Plant as that what Zep was known for right?

Instead what I heard was not too much bombastic rock on the albums eight songs which is  no fault of Roberts as he wanted to distance himself from the sonic fury and musical chops of Zeppelin.

After all he was going solo…

In 1982 I didn’t get it but now a revisit and another go round with “Pictures At Eleven” in 2021 I get it.

First of all Robert put together a studio/live band that pretty much stayed together for the first three solo Plant records.

Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Robbie Blunt – Guitars
Jezz Woodroffe – Keyboards
Paul Martinez – Bass
Phil Collins – Drums

Yup! That Phil Collins who drums on six of the albums eight tracks and the two that Phil isn’t on the late very great Cozy Powell drummed on the other two. (more on that shortly).

Even though its Roberts band and his deal all the songs are a collaberative effort as Blunt basically is the the co writer on all the tracks. In case you’re wondering Collins is just the drummer on this album and Phil plays some great drums.

With Plant producing (along with Benji LeFerve and Pat Moran) you know the sonics would be great on this album as listen to those drums courtesy of Bonzo(RIP) on the Zep albums. Safe to say Robert picked up a trick or three of studio wizardry along the way.

“Burning Down One Side” opens the album and basically could have fit on Zeppelin’s final album “In Through The Out Door”. From there some songs go into a different territory for Robert like “Pledge Pin” which has a different vibe but some nice drumming by Phil and a sax solo to boot!

Guitarist Robbie Blunt became Plant’s new songwriting partner and together they cook up a pretty cool batch of tunes overall.

“Moonlight In Samosa” is a whole different feel almost ballad like but if Roberts footing the bill for this whole shebang I guess he can do as he pleases.

One thing I notice all theses years later is that Pictures At Eleven is an atmospheric record. No two songs sound alike and if you look at the song lengths many of them are pushing the five minute mark.

One tune that pushes the eight minute mark is the closet to Zep sounding track on here which is “Slow Dancer”. The drums are huge sounding and you have Powell to thank for that as he lays back but provides a huge sound. Just listen to those bass drums. Dude was a monster on the kit.

Not to be outdone Collins and Blunt hook up on the tune “Worse Than Detroit” where Robert even pulls out the harp as the song goes off into a jam at one point.

Cozy returns for “Like I Never Been Gone” which is another ballad like tune but Cozy as you know can lay down some huge drum sounds even on the slower tracks.

In the big picture of things this is a pretty good debut record from Plant.  Such a great listen and to my ol rocked out ears it doesn’t sound dated!

So there ya have it folk’s, 2021 and I have seen the light and it only took 39 years!

Give Robert credit though as his best friend (Bonzo) passed away in September 1980 yet Plant kept his feet moving in by putting together a new band and releasing a pretty decent debut in “Pictures At Eleven.”

KISS: OFF THE SOUNDBOARD:TOKYO 2001

I have to say that as a fan, Mean Gene and Starchild can frustrate me at times with all the silliness that they try and sell us diehards.

KISS though has done the right thing and have issued what hopefully will become a series of shows recorded directly off the soundboard that are now available to us domestically instead of buying bootlegs at inflated prices.

KISS Tokyo 2001 is just that. A killer live show. 21 songs the full meal deal and if you’re wondering, Paul Stanley’s voice is spot on throughout the show.

Now you could say do we need another KISS live album? Yup I say as if its going to be done in a bootleg style and features the full show than I’m onboard.

The real charm for me is four things..

1- This album features the short lived lineup of Stanley-Simmons- Frehley and Singer.

2- No “Beth”

3- Some rarely played songs like Ace’s “Talk To Me” and the Stanley’s solo version of “I Still Love You” are a couple of tracks you wouldn’t expect to hear.

4- Ace playing guitar on songs like “Heaven’s On Fire”, “I Love It Loud” and “Lick It Up” that the Spaceman was not originally on!

I could go on and talk about all the other tracks but thats why you have guys like Ladano and Snowman around. I let those boy’s do the heavy lifting and I take the easy way out!

Sure you get all the hits as well as you can see below by the track listing but it’s those little things that I mentioned above that make this soundboard recording one excellent spin.

I really hope at some point that KISS release other soundboard shows as I think Eric Carr should get his due with an official KISS live release.