Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we indulge ourselves with Dio reissues, new releases from Soulfly, Hysterica and Donnie Vie – and celebrate the towering talents of the late, great Ronnie Montrose.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Nobody has to be reminded about the greatness of the late Ronnie James Dio. But sometimes extolling his virtues can almost seem like a cliché, so it’s good to be prodded into recalling just how much supreme music he was responsible for during his lifetime. And the reissues by Universal of the first three Dio albums do this admirably. Holy Diver, The Last In Line and Sacred Heart are full of classic tunes, and each comes with a bonus CD stuffed full of material that’s well worth airing. Every collection needs these.
Howlin Rain cite Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and Steely Dan as influences. You hear why on The Russian Wilds (Agitated). But they’ve also got their own unmissable and unmistakable groove. This is an exciting, melodic yet edgy band, one who could easily become new American heroes in 2012. Already one of the best albums of the year.
Soulfly never let anyone down. And Enslaved (Roadrunner) continues their run of success. A return to ultra-heavy mode, after the more thought-provoking ambience of the last couple of releases, Max Cavalera et al still balance sheer ferocity with terrifyingly charismatic momentum. An object lesson how to be crushing without being overwhelming. This is a metal album that invites you to be part of the pit.
Hysterica are back with The Art Of Metal (Sound Pollution). And they throw about the polydecibel palettes with total commitment and brazen enthusiasm. It’s a mix of power metal and slightly more thoughtful gothic metal, with enough tunefulness to get feet tapping and sufficient rampant riffology to get heads shaking vociferously. These Swedish women know how to yank and crank.
Donnie Vie has made his reputation with Enuff Z’Nuff but he shows with new solo album Wrapped Around My Little Finger (Livewire/Cargo) that he can stand on his own. A little more thoughtful and sparse than perhaps one would expect from the Enuff camp, nonetheless it also has enough high-grade AOR moments to satisfy most tastes in this genre. Stylishly individual.
Alan Davey was once the bass player of Hawkwind, which is immediately obvious when you listen to Cyber Tooth (Earthquake Records). It has distinct space-rock touches but also manages to reach escape velocity and get away from too many Hawks comparisons. There’s an ominous ambience throughout that connects with the overall theme of a raging computer virus. Dark and deadly, this album proves Davey’s enduring talent is intact and spreading the cyber disease.
Candy were a powerpop band who should have been huge, as is proven by the reissue of their 1985 debut Whatever Happened To Fun… (Rock Candy). Circumstances conspired to ensure most people who now know the Candy name only do so because Gilby Clarke, later of Guns N’ Roses, was in the band. But this, their sole album is packed with bright (albeit limp-wristed) classic pop-rock. As good as anything at the time. They could have been the natural successors to The Knack, which is where they belonged. But instead they were overwhelmed by the smell of tattoo ink and biker fumes, which were starting to take over the Los Angeles scene at the time.
Finally, the untimely death of Ronnie Montrose is a reminder of just how much fine music the great guitarist was responsible for. Of course, there’s the self-titled Montrose debut album – one of the landmark hard rock releases – but don’t forget there’s also Gamma 2 from Gamma. Both reissues are available on the Rock Candy label and should seriously be celebrated. Separated by seven years, the 1973 Montrose record is rightly lauded and applauded everywhere. But the Gamma album is all too often overlooked, with outstanding tracks including Four Horsemen, Skin And Bone and the magnificently atmospheric Voyager – along with some scintillating keyboards from Jim Alcivar and powerful vocals to back up Montrose’s supreme guitar playing (kudos to frontman Davey Pattison, later of Robin Trower’s band). Both records represent the remarkable vision and gifts of a true giant. Rest in peace, Ronnie.
Tags: Alan Davey, Bruce Springsteen, Candy, Dio, Donnie Vie, Enuff Z’Nuff, Gamma, Gilby Clarke, Hawkwind, Howlin Rain, Hysterica, Jimi Hendrix, Max Cavalera, Montrose, Ronnie James Dio, Ronnie Montrose, Soulfly, Steely Dan, The Knack