Classic Rock’s New Release Round-Up
This week, there are new Ozzy and The Enid albums, live recordings from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nutz, plus a Therapy? reissue.
Words: Malcolm Dome
A new Ozzy album is greeted rather like a Christmas visit from your dotty great aunt. On the one hand, it could provide real entertainment. On the other…gawd, has she been on the whiskey again? She’s snoring on the sofa, with her knickers round her ankles!
So, what to make of Scream (Sony). It introduces us to new guitarist Gus G., who overplays a lot of the time, presumably to convince us of his worth in replacing Zakk Wylde. For different reasons, taking over from the Wylde man is as difficult as the task handed to Jake E. Lee of replacing Randy Rhoads all those years ago. Ozzy’s voice, meantime, sometimes sounds bewildered, while at other points it roars.
The songs? They range from the OK to… the alright. Nothing makes you cringe. Nor is there anything truly spectacular. But you know what… we need Ozzy. And while we’d all love him to make another classic – and he came closer on last album Black Rain – we’ll settle for this, because it means he’s still out there doing it.
During their brief tenure (only four years), earthtone9 were among the most inventive underground metal band around. Some of what they did was so individual and complex that it really should have become a blueprint for progressive metal. Now, eight years after their demise, they’ve brought out the compilation Inside Embers Grow, and they still sound ahead of the game. Order the CD from www.earthtone9.co.uk
Keith Airey is a guitarist who’s played with a load of diverse artists, from The Zombies to Tom Jones and Nik Kershaw. Now he’s got his own project, Aireya 51, and debut album Crimson Tear (AML Records) is a cracking, classy blues-rock collection.
Joined by older brother Don (yep, the keyboards master) and bass playing daughter Olivia, plus Rod Argent (again on keyboards) and drummer Steve Rodford, he really has delivered a genuinely impressive album. It snaps and hums with top level conviction. And not an ABBA influence in sight (a little in joke!).
Therapy? released a mature, dark album last year titled Crooked Timber (DR2). Now, it’s be re-released in what’s term a deluxe gold edition. Apart from the fact that the sleeve is now golden, there are also extra tracks. Really the original music should have been enough to make this a big seller. It’s the band’s best album since 1995′s Infernal Love.
The Enid are among the most resolutely individual, eccentric yet focused of all the British progressive bands. Their music has always been classical in nature, led by some beautiful piano moments from Robert John Godfrey. And new album Journey’s End (Endworks) is a stunning work – perhaps the most satisfying Enid album since 1983′s Something Wicked This Way Comes. There’s a fervent momentum here, with a balance between the sheering grace of much of the music and an underlying thread of darkness. A truly special record.
Lynyrd Skynyrd have always been value for money live. And One More From The Road remains a true classic. But it’s hard to understand quite why they’ve now decided to release Live From Freedom Hall (Roadrunner). It’s a decent recording from 2007, but that’s just the point – it’s three years old. In fact, two of band – bassist Ean Evans and keyboard player Billy Powell have subsequently died. Far from being essential, this is more a case of throwing something out just to keep the name ticking over. Annoyingly, the band were so much better than this album would suggest when they toured here recently.
Nutz were one of those 70s Brit bands who were good enough to make a major impact, but never quite got the breaks to do so. Not unlike, say, Budgie. Well, they’re back together now, and so Tightened Up! (Market Square) is somewhat justified. It’s a live recording from a Nottingham club in 1977, and is actually rather good. The band are hard and focused, with a transatlantic twang to many of the songs. When you hear this, it’s hard to believe that Nutz were destined to fail – barely a footnote in rock history.
Now David Byron did make his mark, via Uriah Heep. But what happened after the singer was fired from Heep in 1976 was a catalogue of projects which foundered and ultimately sank. However, under the name of the David Byron Band, he did release the underrated On The Rocks (Angel Air) in 1981. Now reissued, it is a truly classy, dynamic record with songs that would have done justice to Foreigner or Journey at the time. It has an international vibe, with Byron’s vocals as good as anything he did with Heep.
Tags: Abba, Aireya 51, Billy Powell, Budgie, David Byron, David Byron Band, Don Airey, Ean Evans, earthtone9, Foreigner, Gus G, Jake E. Lee, Journey, Keith Airey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nik Kershaw, Nutz, Olivia Airey, ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Robert John Godfrey, Rod Argent, Steve Rodford, The Enid, the Zombies, Therapy?, Tom Jones, Uriah Heep, Zakk Wylde