Classic Rock’s New Release Round-Up
It’s a real melting pot this week, with top-notch reissues from Detective, Triumph, Thor and Big Big Train; the comeback album from Stone Temple Pilots; a power-packed curiosity from White Trash UK; and a heap of weirdness from Fen, Ufomammut, Parade and Ougenweide!
Detective’s self-titled 1977 debut album has been reissued on the Rock Candy label, and quite simply it’s is the greatest album Led Zeppelin never made. (No wonder the record originally emerged on Zep’s Swan Song label.) Detective’s sound is dense and uncompromising; guitarist Michael Monarch is the archetypal sloppy leviathan; John Hyde is as gonzo as Bonzo. With frontman Michael Des Barres howling like a wounded warrior – just listen to him go ‘OH-HOOO-OOOH!’ on Got Enough Love – several of the songs here could duke it out with Kashmir or Trampled Underfoot… and emerge battered, bruised but unbowed. We’ve got one major quibble, however: the crisp remastering job. For example, previously buried horns (we’re not talking of the forehead variety) are now ridiculously upfront.
Time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Thor’s Only The Strong (now reissued via Finland’s amazing Ektro label), the album widely regarded as The Mighty One’s best. If you forget the hot water bottle gimmicks and focus on the music, you’ll discover some of the finest commercial heavy metal anthems of our time. Knock ‘Em Down, Let The Blood Run Red and the cataclysmic When Gods Collide are chant-along Norse shanties of the highest order. Uncannily, Thor also predicted the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions with Thunder On The Tundra.
The comeback album from Stone Temple Pilots (self-titled, on the Atlantic label) shows that the band’s frontman, Scott Weiland, remains something of a chameleon of music. Uncertain in his own skin, he wears a variety of others: decadent rock star, lounge lizard, cross-dresser and so on. STP’s traditional skills remain: Take A Load Off has the kind of spiralling, hazy melody that characterised Fall To Pieces; Peacoat, perhaps the best song here, gets hypnotically trippy on the same grand scale as Interstate Love Song. This is a strong but curiously rootless album that reflects the rootlessness surrounding the band and its singer. The search for Scott Weiland continues.
Brum-based hoodlums White Trash UK recorded their amusing titled Greatest Hits Album (Evil Boy) in 1996 for German label Noise International. It has never been released – until now. WT featured Lee Pistolero on vocals (now with Gypsy Pistoleros), a pair of proggers in guitarist Mark Westwood (Shadowlands/Martin Orford) and bassist John Jowitt (IQ/Frost), and metal thrashin’ mad drummer Paul Brookes (Benediction/Bolthrower/ Marshall Law). If someone told you this was a set of Dolls and Stooges demos, you’d believe them. The My Generation-esque Baby’s Got A Bomb blows you out of your pram; Dead Hillbilly will have Buddy Ebsen squirming in his grave; Crowman finds Pistolero gurning maniacally, sounding like Patton one minute (the FNM frontman, not the general) and Holton the next. Seriously fine.
We’re big supporters of Bournemouth proggers Big Big Train here at Classic Rock, so we’re delighted to report that two reissues from the band have just arrived on platform three. Gathering Speed (English Electric Recordings) dates from 2004 and tells the story of one of the Battle Of Britain’s fighter boys. The album’s seven tracks really capture the indomitable spirit of a handlebar-moustached RAF type, and there’s a solemn longing for times-gone-by that adds both a piquancy and a poignancy to proceedings. The Difference Machine (from 2007, also on English Electric Recordings) is harder-edged and features guests including Pete Trewavas (Marillion), Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard, Genesis, Tears For Fears) and Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard). It revolves around three epic tracks: Perfect Cosmic Storm, Pick Up If You’re There and Saltwater Falling On Uneven Ground. However, some might argue that the more concise closing song, the elegiac Summer’s Lease, is the real pièce de résistance. (It still lasts for seven minutes, though.)
And so to Trails Out Of Gloom by Fen (Ripple Music). If you’ve ever been to the Fens of Norfolk, you’ll know what a swampy wilderness it is – so both band and album are aptly titled. But strangely, this lot hail from Vancouver, not renowned for its low-lying agricultural land. Still, if you like your prog dark and aggressive, and if your tastes veer from Porcupine Tree to Tool, these could be trails worth following.
Ufomammut combines the abbreviation of Unidentified Flying Object with the Italian for mammoth. The band being Italian themselves, they urge you to pronounce their name ‘oofomammoot’. Eve (Supernatural Cat), their fifth studio album, is dedicated to the first woman on Earth (i.e. Eve) and mixes whacked-out Floydian cosmology with Kyuss-style riffage.
Parade is the brainchild of guitarist Chris Johnson (Fish, Mostly Autumn). The Fabric (www.paradeband.com) features loads of star names from UK prog, among them Anne-Marie Helder of Panic Room. Songs such as The Diamond and Facing Down sound fragile at first, then unfold to reveal a jarring undercurrent, male/female voices intertwining both delightfully and mysteriously. Very good.
If you’ve never heard of Ougenweide, you’ll be surprised to hear they’ve been going since 1970. Their new album is called Herzsprung (Bureau B). The Germans say they’re ‘pioneers of the medieval folk subgenre’ and use ancient instruments such as the Triton horn and Kishno koto (no, we’ve no idea either) to back up their claim. They actually sound a lot like Norway’s Lumsk to these ears, which is high praise indeed.
As famous for their stage show as they were their singing drummer, Triumph always suffered from comparison to Toronto’s favourite sons, Rush. Unfairly, actually, even if some of the band’s vocals were comparable to Geddy Lee’s distinctive yelp, because Triumph were a tougher sounding proposition altogether, slicker somehow and more contained. Greatest Hits Remixed (Frontiers) is a 14-song collection that goes straight to their commercial heart, as does the DVD that accompanies it, with one North American hit after the other. Oddly whimsical in songs, like the wilfully optimistic Magic Power and the gentle call to arms Hold On (the latter could have gone to No.1 in America had Boston covered it), are perfectly balanced by the steely Allied Forces, the excellently OTT I Live For The Weekend and the punchy guitar workout that is Never Surrender.