Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
Lots of diversity this week. Two members of famed bands go solo. One of the biggest prog names in the world are back sans their high profile drummer. A German guitarist goes all teary and there’s a British band who are big in Germany, but mean nothing here – yet. Oh, and some Scanda AOR and prog.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Dream Theater face a moment of truth with new album A Dramatic Turn Of Events (Roadrunner). This is their first release without drummer Mike Portnoy. But with Mike Mangini in his place, the band not only sound as powerful and sophisticated as ever, but almost as if a huge weight has been lifted. Hey, the Dreamers even feel relaxed on what is certainly an impressive album.
German guitar hero Axel Rudi Pell can clearly play and has a gift for writing decent tunes. But do we need an entire album of ballads? Well, that’s what we get on The Ballads IV (SPV/Steamhammer). It’s incredibly his fourth collection of such music, and while some of Pell’s own material works reasonably enough, his attempts to turn covers of Holy Diver and Love Gun into soppy soporific soapsuds is risible. Besides, an entire album at a sedate pace is just a little too daunting.
Deep Purple keyboard master Don Airey is in top form on All Out (Mascot). While there’s plenty of opportunity for the man to show his dexterity, diversity and depth, nonetheless what makes the differences is that it is not an album about keyboard solos, but some fine songs. The guitarists include Joe Bonamassa, Bernie Marsden and younger brother Keith Airey, all of whom are given the chance to shine as well. Maybe, Airey’s finest solo work to date.
Work Of Art already have a formidable reputation in the AOR world, thanks to their debut album Artwork. Now the Swedes are back with In Progress (Frontiers), delivering yet more classy, stylish and utterly compulsive music. This is definitely among the melodic hard rock releases of the year.
Status Quo keyboard player Andy Bown doesn’t put out too many solo albums. In fact, Unfinished Business (Cherry Red) is his first for over 30 years. Now, whether it’s been worth the wait is a moot point, but there’s no doubting the vibrancy of this collection of unpretentious songs. Well written and thoughtfully played, this is British rock ’n’ roll with an early 70s punch and a lot of enthusiasm. Quo fans will find a lot of this record thoroughly enjoyable.
British proggers Cosmograf are led by multi-instrumentalist Robin Armstrong. And on When Age Has Done Its Duty (Festival Music), there’s no doubting the individuality or creativity of what he achieves. You hear motifs that bring to mind so many of the pioneering giants. But he also has a firm grasp on how to combine finesse and power in a modern idiom. With It Bites drummer Bob Dalton involved, this is an album to savour.
The Brew are essentially a blues-rock band, who are never afraid to dabble with a little hint of jazz or progressive music. The British trio are certainly on top of their game with The Third Floor (Jazzhaus), maintaining a raw, live sound throughout on an album that actually brings to mind the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. Feted in Germany and across Europe, it’s about time they got noticed at home.
FreddieGredde is the solo project of one Fredrik Larsson, a Swede who shows such a versatility and melodic mastery on Thirteen Eight (White Knight). He’s a progressive rocker who has an inate appreciation for the power of a simple tune. So, what you get are songs that have a warm complexity, yet are also easily hummable in a shower or bath (if that’s your thing). Not far removed from Europe on a prog rock crusade. A redoubtable debut.
Tags: Andy Bown, Axel Rudi Pell, Bernie Marsden, Bob Dalton, Cosmograf, Cream, Deep Purple, Don Airey, Dream Theater, FreddieGredde, Fredrik Larsson, It Bites, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joe Bonamassa, Keith Airey, Mark Mangini, Mike Portnoy, Robin Armstrong, Status Quo, The Brew, Work Of Art