Alannah Myles – Black Velvet (2007)

AlannahMyles_BlackVelvet2 out of 5 Stars!

Being a die-hard fans of Alannah Myles’s first four albums, I had been looking forward to hearing this “comeback” release after her ten-year absence. Unfortunately, although a few of the tracks contain some decent melodies, and Alannah’s voice is still in fine shape, the modernized production simply ruins most of the songs.

Indeed, the horribly overproduced remake of “Black Velvet” is nowhere near as engaging or as moody as the original version on Alannah’s splendid debut, and not even close to being rock ‘n’ roll, but pure Pop. In the ’90s, Alannah’s albums contained some decent Hard Rock with AOR mixed in, with a touch of Blues and Country Rock as additional spices. Now, however, it sounds as if some “brainiac” got it into their head that Alannah should reinvent herself as a Pop diva, and to tell the truth, I believe the music world has already suffered more than enough with generic dime-a-dozen singers such as Katy Perry or Britney Spears or whoever is the Pop diva of the moment, with all the electronic percussion, computerized musicianship, and overproduced synth Pop/Dance crap. Seriously, the song “Trouble” (at its core) is certainly reminiscent of some of Alannah’s former “blues-based” Hard Rock—such as the track “Rocking Horse” from her second album—but here, the studio filters on her vocals, and the overall electronic sound effects of crickets and white noise overlaying the instrumentation truly decimate the bluegrass-inspired song. What the heck was the producer of this mess thinking?

Therefore I ask, where is the “Hard Rock band” sound that Alannah’s previous albums possessed? Long gone and certainly not present on this album, that’s for sure. If I wanted to listen to some god-awful stylized Pop music by whichever diva is reigning over the Pop charts nowadays, I would have purchased one of their albums. As I said, Alannah obviously still has the vocal prowess—the only reason I grudgingly gave the album 2 Stars—but the horribly cold and calculating, modernized and sinfully sterile Pop ambience destroys any semblance of entertainment. A crying shame.

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Outside – Naked (2016)

outside_naked2 out of 5 Stars!

Warning: the genre label of “Progressive Rock” used on several music-related websites when it comes to describing this album is sadly inaccurate. On 2016’s Naked, Outside has lost nearly all of its former Neo-Prog sound from the days of the Freedom album in 2002, and now the band seems to be an Alternative Rock act with only a few Progressive Rock touches, such as during the ending section of “The Plague is Back” and, perhaps, the middle chunk of “Merry Go Round.” But trust me, I’m being generous when seeking out the potential Prog-Rock here. Therefore, here’s a second warning for fans of the group’s Freedom album: Neo-Prog fans expecting to hear anything similar to groups such as Genesis or Marillion or IQ, etc., will be sorely disappointed.

On Naked, the vocals (obviously performed by a different singer from the band’s 2002 release) are borderline “out of key” throughout most of the album and delivered in a lazy style, which, based on my rather limited experience with Alternative Rock, is unfortunately the type of tuneless, lethargic vocal style I frequently associate with this genre (and the reason I don’t gravitate toward this genre either). Moreover, the musicianship is also just “average,” with almost zero in the way of any Neo-Prog guitar or keyboard tones one might expect, with the song arrangements and melodies being, in many respects, ultra simplistic and similar sounding.

I’m not sure what happened within the band that its style would change so drastically from the Freedom album…I’m assuming it has to do with some members leaving the fold and new members (with their individual non-Progressive influences) joining. Be that as it may, the years have obviously not been kind to Outside when it comes to its former Neo-Prog sound, songwriting abilities, or general creativity. The band seems to have “regressed” instead of “progressed.” For an Alternative Rock band, however, the “new” Outside is probably “acceptable,” but sadly, this is not the style of music I can truly appreciate.

Perihelion Ship – A Rare Thunderstorm in Spring (2016)

PerihelionShip_RareThunderstorm2 out of 5 Stars!

Some decent material here when it comes to the music and the musicianship, including the use of Mellotron during some blistering Metal passages.

The one thing that truly turns me off more than anything else, however, is the use of annoying growl/beast/death vocals. Nothing ruins a song for me more than this tuneless guttural shrieking crap, so I’m sorry to say, this album gets lower marks for the use of this “noise.” Completely unnecessary also, since the singer (when actually singing) has a fine voice.

Regardless, for those who may not mind this nonsense when it comes to the vocals, and are lovers of head-pounding Metal with major Progressive sections and orchestration, you will probably enjoy this album.

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The Savage Rose – In The Plain (1968)

SavageRose_InPlain2 out of 5 Stars!

I really wanted to love this album, especially after reading numerous plaudits regarding the female singer, Annisette Koppel, and how the band was supposedly so innovative (“sooo ahead of its time”) for a late-sixties’ group.

But in general, I find The Savage Rose a rather unimpressive Psychedelic/Blues Rock band from Denmark, hardly ahead of its time, but instead reminding me on occasion of groups such as Big Brother & The Holding Company or Jefferson Airplane (especially when the band incorporates loose “gang vocals” on several tracks, such as on the verses of “Long Before I was Born” or the Gospel-inspired “I’m Walking Through the Door”). Oddly enough, they come across more like a West Coast (San Francisco) band instead of a European one. Both jazz and country overtones pop up from time to time (“Evenings Child,” for instance), with piano/organ being dominant on most tracks as opposed to guitar (similar to the keys/guitar balance used by Procol Harem). Also, there’s the often-forceful vocals of its lead singer to consider. And here is where, to me, the main problem lies with the band overall. Certainly, Annisette has a unique style, but after a while her raspy voice with its powerful vibrato (especially when she’s singing in the rafters) can get somewhat annoying.

I have only this, the band’s second album, and perhaps the shrill vocals are less dominant on the debut album or subsequent releases, but I will likely never know as the singing pretty much turned me off enough to not want to investigate any further material. Additionally, The Savage Rose is also considered somewhat of a Progressive Rock band, but in truth, I heard very little on this album in the way of Prog-Rock content (except perhaps a sprinkling during the final song “A Trial in Our Native Town”). Therefore, despite the genre label appearing on many music-related websites in association with this album, lovers of Prog-Rock should definitely beware.

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Three Dog Night – American Pastime (1976)

ThreeDogNight_AmericanPastime2 out of 5 Stars!

A band on death’s doorstep.

Any semblance of brilliance the band once possessed had utterly vanished by the time this album came out.

Shortly afterward, Danny Hutton (who appears on only one track—”Mellow Down”—as a lead vocalist) left the band and they were forced to perform with Jay Gruska as the third vocalist (thankfully that didn’t last long) to promote the album.

The actual band itself consisted mostly of studio musician types as well.

Avoid this album at all costs, even if you’re a die-hard fan. An ugly end to a great band.

Seven Kingdoms – Seven Kingdoms (2010)

SevenKingdoms_SevenKingdoms2 out of 5 Stars!

Let’s see what we have here…

— Female Vocalist – better than average = 4 stars

— Decent musicianship = 4 stars

— Hellish and stupid growl vocals that destroy every song in which they appear and immediately have me hitting the “STOP” button because they are soooo freaking irritating and offensive = 0.5 star (at best)

— Idiotic and CHEEEEZZZZY lyrics (marching into battle with blazing swords of steel, fight and die for the glorious kingdom, lift your thundering hammers of bullshit, blah, blah, blah and yawn, yawn, yawn), everything that has been done a zillion times before by a zillion other power metal bands = 1 star (at best)

That pretty much sums it up…a band with potential due to their talented female vocalist and their decent musicianship that are, sadly, completely unoriginal, employing all the horrific stereotypes (unnecessary beast vocals and childish lyrics) that make this genre so prone to parody.

Jane – III (1974)

Jane_32 out of 5 Stars!

A HUGE step down from their first two albums. Instead of progressing from where they left off, they seem to be regressing. Their first album contained some interesting Hard Rock mixed with a touch of Progressive Rock, even though the songs were made up of mostly 3-chord patterns, nothing at all adventurous, but pleasant enough. Then the second album expanded their style a bit, added more variety when it came to the keyboard sounds, and the chord patterns became a tad more developed, the songs more structured and adventurous.

And then this? For pity’s sake, the opening track “Comin’ Again” is nothing more than nearly 10 minutes of the same two chords played over and over and over and over again. Boring!  This is not even close to Progressive Rock, as this album is labeled at different music-review websites, but instead the band comes off as a Hard Rock-ish “garage band” whose members seem to be just learning their instruments. Lame, boring, and scary how a band that at first showed promise and steady progression in their development could suddenly have regressed to the point where they come off as nothing more than amateurs, and untalented ones at that.

Thankfully the band bounced back with their next release. Meanwhile, this is one album to avoid, a glaring mistake, a jarring interlude in their otherwise decent catalogue of early releases.

Hand – Kintsugi (2014)

Hand_Kintsugi2 out of 5 Stars!

I felt this a rather strange merging of Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Gothic Rock, and Alternative Rock with a female lead vocalist. Can’t quite pinpoint a specific style.

And upon listening to the album, I can’t say I was too impressed. The mishmash of styles doesn’t gel for me at all, but gives the album a rather disjointed feel, leaving me a tad unnerved. Additionally, the lack of diverse melodies, with the vocalist sticking to a limited range of notes (basically the same two octaves), and her slightly off-key delivery on several lines (along with some weird phasing effects on her voice), and some noisy production on several tracks as well as some (intentional?) discordant guitars, etc., also adds to the off-putting feel of the album.

Bottom line?…I doubt I will investigate further into this band’s back catalogue.

British Lions – Trouble With Women (1980)

BritishLions_Trouble2 out of 5 Stars!

When grabbing the debut album by British Lions, a “Mott” fan might hope (or be reasonably assured) that “something” similar would be on offer. And that proved very true. Although not exactly “Mott The Hoople” or even “Mott,” the original British Lions release offered a bunch of similar musical/style traits to the aforementioned bands so that the transition was nothing too shocking.

But this release?…Trouble With Women? Sorry, but this WAS shocking. Perhaps toooooo shocking of a change for most fans, since the album sunk faster than the RMS Titanic when it originally came out.

After many years, when one would hope that time might lesson that original shock, sadly, it has not. Even to this day, upon a fresh “rehearing,” this album fails on soooo many levels. This is not even close to a “Mott The Hoople” release, not even a spit’s throw from a “Mott” release, but a shadow of the former “Mott” glory, that it is perhaps best to avoid at all costs…apart from the “purists” among us who crave anything pertaining to “Mott.”

Not an even “average” unknown band could achieve such low levels. Sooo sad, especially from a band that had such promise!