Neurotic Outsiders – Neurotic Outsiders (1996)

neuroticoutsiders_14 out of 5 Stars!

When I learned in 1995 that Steve Jones (Sex Pistols/Chequered Past), Duff McKagan (Guns ‘N’ Roses), and Matt Sorum (The Cult/Guns ‘N’ Roses) had formed a new “supergroup” with John Taylor (Duran Duran/The Power Station), I had high expectations, even though I was mostly unfamiliar with John Taylor, and never a fan of either of his groups. Since I was a fan of the other musicians and their bands, however, those high expectations remained, and for the most part, the band’s debut album did not disappoint.

Loaded with loud, driving, and rebellious Hard Rock liberally crossing into Punk territory, yet with some lighter, melodic ingredients that actually reminded me of David Bowie’s Ziggy-era material (more on that later), the album simply slams nearly as thunderously as the Sex Pistols’ lone album—just listen to the single “Jerk” and you’ll see what I mean. Other Pistols-like tracks such as “Always Wrong,” “Nasty Ho,” “Good News,” “Six Feet Under,” and “Revolution” also barrel through the speakers with as much Punk nastiness as could be expected from a line-up featuring Steve Jones. The only difference from the Sex Pistols is that the vocals on this album (not the best, but at least passable) are actually “sung” and not “spat” in the tradition of the legendary Johnny Rotten (who is, by the way, actually mentioned within the lyrics of the song “Union,” along with other Sex Pistols members, including Steve Jones himself.). I also must mention the catchy song “Angelina,” where the sing-along choruses showed an almost “poppy” side to the band and made for another decent single.

Of the lighter tracks, the Bowie influence on “Better Way” brings to mind the classic track “Rock and Roll Suicide,” not only when it comes to the chord patterns in the verses, but the lead vocals, which sound similar to Bowie’s when he sang in the lower registers. Truth be told, however, several other lighter moments of this album (specifically the tracks “Union” and “Story of My Life”) are the weakest points of this collection for me, despite the occasional Bowie influences. I much prefer the brash, head-banging tracks that make up the majority of the album, where thankfully the ghost of the Sex Pistols seems to be the chief overall component, and I typically find myself cranking the stereo to “10,” reveling in the fullness of the guitars, the rambunctious bass and drums, and the rich and well-rounded production.

Sadly, this promising group never lasted long enough to produce another full-length studio album, only a short EP (Angelina) the following year, which also features the same catchy album track mentioned above, a version of “Jerk” with “clean” lyrics, along with a trio of new tunes. Regardless, this album was a fun discovery for me and made me yearn for more.

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Tokyo Blade – Night of the Blade (1984)

tokyoblade_nightblade4 out of 5 Stars!

Tokyo Blade was a U.K. band that arrived on the scene during the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” movement in the ’80s and proved it had not only the musical chops, with its thrilling double-guitar attack, a rollicking rhythm section, and a wide-ranging vocalist, but also the songwriting capabilities to create rather melodic and well-produced Heavy Metal during this period.

Night of the Blade, the band’s second album, is probably its finest achievement—highly appealing, generally consistent and driving, with some truly memorable songs, including the title track, along with “Lightning Strikes (Straight Through the Heart),” “Unleash the Beast,” “Dead of the Night,” “Love Struck,” and the epic Side A closer (and my favorite) “Warrior of the Rising Sun.” In fact, every single track on this release is well above average, including the two “destined to be hits” songs “Rock Me to the Limit” and “Someone to Love.” Even including these two latter songs—the more straightforward and commercial tracks—the group’s music often falls distinctly into a similar realm as Tygers of Pan Tang, Armored Saint, and Loudness, and offers up more than a touch of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest influences. In other words, the album features piercing guitar leads and raucous riffs throughout, quite plentiful for most Heavy Metal fans.

One warning note, however: my only complaint about this release is its rather short length (less than thirty-five minutes with only eight songs in total), so an additional track or two would have been most welcome.

Unfortunately, as often happens with talented groups like Tokyo Blade—those on the verge of success—the musicians followed the horrible advice of music producers and/or greedy record company executives, altered the band’s focus (and suffered endless lineup changes as a result) and never came close to matching the power of this album on any of its many subsequent, and inconsistent, releases. A shame.

Regardless, Night of the Blade remains an unheralded classic of the “NWOBHM” period.


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Gepetto – From Heaven To The Stars (2016)

gepetto_fromheaven3.5 out of 5 Stars!

From France, Gepetto is a new group that plays Prog-Rock of a less-demanding nature. In other words, don’t expect to hear numerous changes in time signatures throughout every track, or mile-a-minute guitar or keyboard solos bursting to the fore, or even highly complex song arrangements or dense instrumentation.

Instead, Gepetto’s music is generally laid-back and easily accessible Prog-Rock, songs with melodies of a lighter nature, lush keyboard washes (including Mellotron) and synth leads, with both melodic electric and acoustic guitar riffs over straight-forward and solid rhythms. It’s all rather pretty, somewhat “spacey” in places, with lyrics sung in both English and French. Indeed, for me, the cover art perfectly conveys the overall feeling of the music…gentle, breezy, fresh, and somewhat ethereal, similar in many ways to Steve Hogarth-era Marillion.

One note of caution, however…the vocals may be an acquired taste for some of the more demanding listeners. The singer has a rather lazy approach overall, being “less accurate” when it comes to striking precise notes or delivering some of his lines on the actual beat. As I said, it’s a “lazy approach,” which is not too horribly off-putting, but it does take some getting used to and is a bit unique when it comes to this style of Prog-Rock.