Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week, we’ve got some old friends and some new ones. There are two reissues from a great American name, plus new albums from established names in the US and UK. Oh, and a bunch of Swedes who could be major trash rockers soon. And a photo book exposing the history of a band who appear to have been around for nearly forever.
Words: Malcolm Dome
One of the great bands of the past quarter-of-a-century, Queensryche have littered the years with some truly wonderful albums, including Operation: Mindcrime and Empire. Sadly, Dedicated To Chaos (Roadrunner) won’t be joining this elite. To be honest, it’s a huge disappointment. Especially when last album American Soldier (2009) was actually quite impressive. The problem is that the songs all sound half-formed, the production is too sparse and the band perform as if they’re none too sure what to do. Queensryche claim they let the spontaneity flow. Maybe they also needed to be a little more prepared for the studio?
Bai Bang are Swedish, and are the latest in a string of excellent AOR-style bands that particular country seems to be throwing out at an alarmingly furious rate to the rest of the world. At time reminiscent of Crashdiet, at others similar to Europe, on Livin’ My Dream (AOR Heaven) this lot show they can write really memorable tunes and deliver enough sleaze to avoid being too sugary or smooth. Another winner from the SWAOR division (that’s Swedish AOR, by the way).
Airrace should have been big in the 1980s. Now, it’s too late for them to really have mega success. But they keep making good albums. Back To The Start (Frontiers) continues this tradition. Essentially British, it also has an international melodic hard rock flavour. This lot write potent anthems, with Keith Murrell’s vocals proving powerfully provocative and Laurie Mansworth showing on lead guitar why he was once regarded so highly – and still should be.
John Wetton has a history that makes him among the most respected musicians around. The list of bands whom he’s graced down the years goes from King Crimson to Uriah Heep to UK to Asia. Raised In Captivity (Frontiers) shows his pedigree as he calls on mates like Robert Fripp, Eddie Jobson, Tony Kaye, Geoff Downes, Steve Hackett and Mick Box to help him out. Not an immediately vibey album, it improves subtantially after a few plays. While understated, it has class and delivers the rockier area of Wetton’s diversity.
The problem with the soundtrack CD for Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (Reprise) is that you have to wade through some utter rubbish to find the few gems here. Now, if only you could make this an EP, then you could ditch the nonsense and stick with Mastodon (who’ve covered ZZ Top’s Just Got Paid), Black Veil Brides and Goo Goo Dolls. Oh, and perhaps throw in Theory Of A Deadman as a bonus, As it is, you have to pay over the odds for those four isolated, albeit entertaining, moments.
Good to see two more Kansas albums getting the reissue treatment from the estimable Rock Candy label. Both 1982’s Vinyl Confessions and Drastic Measures (1983) see the band moving away from their more progressive roots and into a more AOR direction. Yet you can still hear the inimitable Kansas style, and vocalist John Elefante (who made his debut on …Confessions) certainly proved a worthy successor to Steve Walsh. Sure, there’s a more Christian strain to some of the lyrics. But that doesn’t detract from two crackers.
Finally, to an excellent book. Def Leppard: The Definitive Visual History (Chronicle) certainly lives up to the title. It follows Def Leppard’s career through the cameras of Ross Halfin, who started shooting the band in their very early days and captured them on stage, off stage and in all sorts of situations and moods. Whilst there are short essays from all of the band (and others), it’s the photos which tell the story – and they do it brilliantly. It’s hard to think there will ever be a better book on Leppard.
Tags: Airrace, Asia, Bai Bang, Black Veil Brides, Crashdiet, Def Leppard, Eddie Jobson, Europe, Geoff Downes, Goo Goo Dolls, John Elefante, John Wetton, Kansas, Keith Murrell, King Crimson, Laurie Mansworth, Mastodon, Mick Box, Queensryche, Robert Fripp, Steve Hackett, Steve Walsh, Theory Of A Deadman, Tony Kaye, UK, Uriah Heep, ZZ Top