Classic Rock’s New Release Round-Up
Come inside for our verdicts on newies from White Wizzard, Taste, Panzer Princess and Native Window, and re-releases from Peter Hammill and Riot.
The first album you gotta buy in the New Year is White Wizzard‘s amazingly brilliant Over The Top (Earache). They might be from Los Angeles, but this lot are clearly connoisseurs of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Like all the best NWOBHM, OTT crackles with livewire enthusiasm; it’s blissfully naïve, delightfully underproduced and impregnated with a deep-rooted affection for the music that’s provided the unlikely inspiration for these Californians. The main reference point is Iron Maiden – complex duelling guitars and all – but there are also portions of Praying Mantis, whiffs of Weapon, soupcons of Saracen and hints of many other second-tier NWOBHM acts. Highly recommended.
Remember Rory Gallagher’s band, Taste? Well, they’ve got back together. (Without Rory, obviously, who sadly died in 1995.) However, this might just be the most pointless re-formation of all time because Wall To Wall (Bad Reputation) is a shockingly produced record full of the most miserable-sounding blues. A coupla songs (Devil’s Woman, Pretty Woman Of Mine) offer a vague approximation of Rory’s signature doodling but otherwise this has all the flavour of boiled bacon and cabbage. In the seedy backroom of an Oirish drinking den Taste might just about be acceptable – otherwise, forget it.
That’s the bad news out of the way. Now for a bit more of the good… in the form of Sweden’s delightfully named Panzer Princess, and their equally delightfully named album Oh No, It’s Panzer Princess (www.panzerprincess.com). The members are Tank Hooker, Simon LaRue, Kelly Morgue and Sir Alex (taking time out from his Man Utd duties no doubt). The band sound like a pick’n'mix of Hanoi Rocks, New York Dolls and Heavy Metal Kids (fuck the E-chords, bring on the E-numbers). This racket-strewn record has track titles like Asshole, Bastard (Son Of A Bitch) and Gag Me, Cuff Me. Oh yeah, and the singer has a peroxide mohican. What more can I say? This tanks in the best possible way.
Are you a fan of Kansas? If so, you should check out Native Window. Eyepatched guitarist Richard Williams, a founder member of the Dust In The Wind hit-makers, is joined on NW’s self-titled debut album by drummer Phil Ehart (another Kansas original), singer/bassist Billy Greer and violinist David Ragsdale. Interestingly, their record label, Star City, is run by Jeff Glixman, who produced some of Kansas’s best-selling releases. They sound like a class act, don’t they? And they don’t disappoint, concocting an array of glossy, emotion-charged anthems in the shapes of Still (We Go On), Blood In The Water and the soul-wrenching An Ocean Away. Alright, it’s a bit Mike & The Mechanics in places, but so what? Find out more at www.nativewindow.com
The reissuing of Peter Hammill‘s seemingly endless back catalogue continues with Roaring Forties (Fie). This gem from 1994 is one of the Van der Graaf Generator man’s most accessible offerings. Of the tracks on offer The Gift Of Fire is weirdly reminiscent of Chris Rea’s Road To Hell, while You Can’t Want What You Always Get… rocks out to such an extent it could almost be dubbed ‘Hammill goes AC/DC’. The centrepiece is 20-minute epic A Headlong Stretch, a tortured trip that recalls VdGG’s A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers in the scale of its ambition. Why, it even contains the line: ‘We come to grief, we hit the reef.’ Hammill’s albums X My Heart (1996) and This (1998) have also been re-released.
New Yorkers Riot will always hold a special place in any discerning rock fan’s heart. They played the inaugural Monster Of Rock festival in 1980 and early albums Rock City and Narita were a winning amalgam of slick US rock’n’roll and raw NWOBHM sensibilities. The band’s albums Thundersteel (1988) and The Privilege Of Power (1990) have been re-released as a double-pack by the estimable Ironbird label. (Note to fans: there’s no Guy Speranza on vocals, and his successor, the underrated and undeniably maniacal Rhett Forrester, doesn’t feature either. Both RIP, by the way.) Thundersteel is regarded by some as one of the first speed metal albums but in reality it just sounds like a tinny, poor man’s Judas Priest. Some say Riot lost the plot with the experimental The Privilege Of Power but today it sounds like an undiscovered classic. It’s full of weird between-song patter (branded ‘unintelligible nonsense’ in Malcolm Dome’s sleeve notes) and includes cameos from The Brecker Brothers and the Tower Of Power horns. Even so, the Accept-like Metal Soldiers is totally triumphant, while Black Leather And Glittering Steel is rightly regarded as the 82nd greatest song title of all time.