Gary Moore – Corridors of Power (1982)

garymoore_corridorspower4 out of  5 Stars!

I was always a fan of the late/great Gary Moore when it came to his guitar-playing with Thin Lizzy and (especially) Colosseum II, but after I purchased this album back in the early ’80s, I realized (and quickly began to appreciate) his fine vocal prowess as well. Indeed, many “guitar heroes” who issued solo albums either relied on other vocalists, or when tackling the vocal chores themselves, just didn’t quite “cut it.” Gary, on the other hand, had not only a more-than-acceptable voice, but a recognizable one as well, and his rather wide range allowed him to write a variety of material during his solo career.

On Corridors of Power, we have both kick-ass rockers bordering on Heavy Metal (“Don’t Take Me for a Loser,” “Gonna Break My Heart Again,” and “Cold Hearted” for example) and beautiful ballads with more than a touch of AOR (“Always Gonna Love You,” Falling in Love with You,” and the exceptional closing track “I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow”), and on all tracks, Gary’s vocals shine. Of course, Moore’s fretwork is outstanding throughout the album as well, most especially during the opening to the slamming track “End of the World,” where he proves his being elevated to the status of “guitar hero” was indeed no fluke. Also, Moore’s rendition of Free’s classic tune “Wishing Well” is perhaps one of the best versions of the song ever recorded, with Gary’s guitar fills and solos simply blazing.

Therefore, this is one of my favorites in Moore’s vast catalogue of solo releases, not only for the melodic and memorable material on offer, but for the musicians in Gary’s band at the time of this recording. We have not only keyboardist Tommy Eyre (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band / Zzebra / Riff Raff) and bassist Neil Murray (National Health / Whitesnake / Black Sabbath), but also the mighty and legendary drummer Ian Paice (Deep Purple / Whitesnake). So when it came to the musicianship on this album, every single member of the band was a well-seasoned KILLER, and it shows.

RIP Gary…your legend lives on!

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Cell15 – Chapter One (2014)

cell15_chapterone4.5 out of 5 Stars!

When I recently learned that Cell15 recruited several new members in preparation for its upcoming sophomore release, I surrendered to the temptation to listen to this band’s debut release yet again—for what must be the 100th time, it seems. But despite my numerous replays of Chapter One (which might have led to boredom long ago were this an album of shallower depth released by a band of lesser talent), I always manage to discover new bits and pieces of instrumentation I had previously missed, while sections of tracks or lyrics suddenly move me in unexpected ways. Therefore, no matter how many times I hear it, the music on this album still has the power to place a wide smile on my face, and with each fresh replay, heretofore undisclosed treasures are frequently revealed, which stirs up all the euphoria I typically experience when listening to only the most professional, stirring, and creative Progressive Rock for the first time.

Needless to say, since Chapter One contains such an engaging collection of songs (especially the catchy “Shadow Over Me,” which I contend sounds like a Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac ditty that got tossed into a musical blender with a Prog-Rock band such as Unitopia or Flower Kings), this is one album that quickly found a permanent place on my Smartphone. To me, Cell15 is similar to groups such as Barock Project, Magic Pie, Druckfarben, Seven Steps to the Green Door, and a host of other newer bands not only when it comes to the modern feel of the instrumentation and the energetic song arrangements, but also because one never quite knows what will pop up next in any given track, and this high unpredictability factor adds to the group’s level of excitement.

And now with bassist Dan MacDonald (Elephants of Scotland) and guitarist Shane Jones joining keyboardist/vocalist Robert Richardson (Hybrid Ice) and drummer Kevin Thomas, I can’t even imagine what magic Cell15 will create next. This is one exciting and skillful band, definitely worthy of attention in the Prog-Rock community, and this debut album is one amazing treasure chest of hidden gems.

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Last Crack – Burning Time (1991)

lastcrack_burningtime5 out of 5 Stars!

This has to be one of the most bizarre yet innovative bands I’ve ever encountered in the Heavy Metal genre. Both haunting and sinister, progressive and diverse, at times funky or driving while at other times mellow yet manic, the album Burning Time contains so many tracks that actually defy “normal” classification. Indeed, if the term “Psychotic Metal” was an actual musical genre, then this album would fit perfectly.

The unpredictable melodies, along with the ambitious instrumentation, song arrangements, and bizarre lyrics, are nothing short of a pure work of art, while the band’s singer on this album (a gifted guy simply named Buddo) is wholly unique when it comes to his style and delivery. And to know that this beautifully strange music came from the agricultural heartlands (Madison, Wisconsin, of all places) makes this release even more freakish and mind-bending…unless, of course, a high percentage of lunatic asylums frequently pop up in the middle of Wisconsin cornfields.

Regardless, this is a 5-Star masterpiece of gripping and memorable Metal for those craving adventurous musical territory…or perhaps those who savor taking a Tilt-A-Whirl ride in the mind of a madman.

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