David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

DavidBowie_ManSoldWorld4 out of 5 Stars!

The Man Who Sold the World was the first Bowie album I ever purchased, and it’s still one of my favorites (just shy of being equal to my fondness for the “Ziggy” era releases).

Regardless, this album is nothing if not unique within Bowie’s vast catalogue of platters, being his only album to truly border on Heavy Metal with tracks such as “She Shook Me Cold, “The Width of a Circle,” “Running Gun Blues,” “Saviour Machine,” and “The Supermen.”

With Mick Ronson performing his raw, somewhat psychedelic guitar gymnastics on many tracks, along with some acoustic and spacey bits tossed in that add haunting touches to several songs (“After All” and the title track instantly spring to mind), Bowie and his cohorts created a rather fascinating and experimental exercise in “Glam Metal” on The Man Who Sold the World that undoubtedly influenced countless Glam rockers in the years to come.

A true gem of the genre!

(RIP, sadly, to both David Bowie and Mick Ronson, rock legends forever!)

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D’Accord – D’Accord (2009)

DAccord_14 out of 5 Stars!

Upon first listen, one might think this Norwegian band existed about 40 years ago, since the music is eerily reminiscent of a time when the sound of Genesis or Yes using a Mellotron, for example, inspired so many music lovers to jump on the Prog-Rock bandwagon.

Along with the mighty Mellotron, the band also incorporates other vintage keyboards (Hammond, electric piano, etc.), flute and sax, and heavy guitar reverb that tips a hat toward Pink Floyd atmospherics. Indeed, D’Accord’s production brings to mind the olden days of analog recording equipment, and even the cover art on their three albums looks retro.

On this debut album, on lengthy tracks such as “Play by the Hall Rules,” “Time to Play,” and “Capitale Venditio,” the band reminds me of a Prog-Rock act such as Birth Control, Jethro Tull, or Genesis melding together with a Hard Rock troop such as Deep Purple, Bloodrock, or Uriah Heep. In many ways, D’Accord is similar to other “retro bands” like Siena Root, Presto Ballet, Black Bonzo, or Hypnos 69, successfully incorporating the classic sounds and production techniques of bands from the ’60s and ’70s, adding a touch of Stoner Rock, a bit of Psychedelic Rock, some Jazz-Rock, a whole lot of Heavy Prog, and whisking music lovers back to the time when Prog-Rock began.

Hell, when listening to this album, one can almost smell the weed burning in the background…

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Dust – Hard Attack (1972)

Dust_HardAttack4 out of 5 Stars!

From New York state, this power trio from the early ’70s released only two albums of blue-based and “acidy” Hard Rock with Psychedelic and Prog-Rock leanings before calling it a day.

Hard Attack, the band’s second and final release, shows Dust continuing on in the same fashion as its debut, with underrated guitarist/vocalist Richie Wise offering up both tasty acoustic guitar and proto-metal electric riffs, and bassist Kenny Aaronson (Derringer/HSAS/New York Dolls/etc.) and drummer Marky Ramone (Ramones/Wayne County) thundering along for the diverse and occasionally dramatic wild ride.

Sadly, Dust ended up becoming another promising band that never got its due before fading into obscurity, joining the ranks of May Blitz, Blue Cheer, Ursa Major, Sir Lord Baltimore, and a host of other forgotten groups of a similar nature.

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Druckfarben – Second Sound (2014)

Druckfarben_SecondSound4.5 out of 5 Stars!

This is easily one of my favorite newer Prog-Rock bands, a more recent discovery of mine. Heavily influenced by classic Yes with a healthy dose of Gentle Giant, Spock’s Beard, Utopia, Kansas, and other Symphonic Prog-Rock influences tossed into the mix, the oddly named Druckfarben from Canada also features an exceptional vocalist by the name of Phil Naro (current singer for the equally impressive Unified Past and the former vocalist of groups such as Talas and D Drive) and the amazing guitarist/violinist Ed Bernard (who released a solo album in 2015 where he plays every single instrument himself).

With obvious talent at its disposal, Druckfarben released its self-titled debut in 2011 and this sophomore effort in 2014, and both are near-perfect collections of tracks to make Prog-Rock lovers swoon, with glorious vocal harmonies, lustrous instrumentation, elaborate and intriguing keyboard-heavy song arrangements with inventive rhythmic twist and turns, and enough adept musicianship seemingly within each band members’ pinky fingers to make most groups of lesser capabilities grumble and cringe with envy.

Now I can only pray the members of Druckfarben are able (and motivated enough) to find the much-needed time in their busy schedules to rejoin at some point in the future to create even more material of such high caliber for perhaps a “Third Sound,” then a “Fourth Sound,” and so on and so on and so on.

In a word, terrific!

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Demian – Demian (1971)

Demian_14 out of 5 Stars!

Although originally from Texas, the obscure band once known as Bubble Puppy (yes, a silly name) moved to California and rechristened itself Demian, altered its style from mostly Psychedelic Rock to a gruffer and gutsier more Hard Rock/Blues Rock sound with Heavy Psych elements, and created one terrific album before disbanding and falling once again into obscurity.

On this release, mega-tasty guitars abound, with Demian’s sound/style being often comparable to other guitar-oriented groups from the early ’70s, such as Three Man Army, Fuzzy Duck, Josefus, Steamhammer, Wishbone Ash, and Mountain.

Unfortunately, this album is also difficult to locate, but it’s definitely worth the hunt.

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Diamond Dogs – Set Fire to It All (2012)

DiamondDogs_SetFire3.5 out of 5 Stars!

In the same spirit as The Quireboys, Dogs D’Amour, or The Black Crowes, as well as Rod Stewart/Faces and Rolling Stones before them, Sweden’s Diamond Dogs played straightforward Hard Rock, loaded with boogie guitars and tinkling pianos and a touch of Southern charm.

Remaining sadly obscure after nine studio albums and several EPs, Set Fire to It All, the band’s final album prior to calling it quits, shows Diamond Dogs rockin’ it to the limit on tracks such as “On the Sunny Side Again,” “Lay Me Down on Solid Ground,” “Each and Every Ballroom,” “Burn One Down,” and “Sweethearts for Christmas.”

Granted, there’s nothing new or innovative on offer here, just a slew of old-style rock ‘n’ roll, but it’s all rather fun even after so many decades of listening to this genre of music.

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Dali’s Dilemma – Manifesto for Futurism (1999)

DalisDilemma_Manifesto4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Dali’s Dilemma was a talented yet underappreciated and long-forgotten band from California that released only a single, highly enjoyable album before splitting.

After Dream Theater thankfully sliced a hole in the “grunge-obsessed” musical canvas of the ’90s, not only making a name for itself but also regenerating interest in the Prog genre, numerous new bands appeared shortly thereafter, showcasing a similar style of music yet with varying degrees of success. Several of my favorites of this “Revamped Prog” period included Aztec Jade, Lemur Voice, Cairo, Magellan, Shadow Gallery, Symphony X, Altura, Enchant, and Dali’s Dilemma, and each of these groups generated major excitement for legions of Prog fans (myself included) sick of the “grunge scene.”

Manifesto for Futurism is one album I played often, and still do for that matter, especially with the intricate song arrangements and often dazzling musicianship on these ten tracks, including standouts such as “Living in Fear,” “Miracles in Yesteryear,” “Ashen Days,” and “Within a Stare.”

Unfortunately, Dali’s Dilemma, like many other groups, got lost among the masses, especially when seemingly thousands of additional bands jumped on the Prog-bandwagon, but also (like Dali’s Dilemma) a ton of them happily left behind some savory, high-quality recordings such as Manifesto for Futurism, and New York’s acclaimed Magna Carta Records (who brought most of the aforementioned bands to the world’s attention—and sucked up much of my extra cash during the ’90s and into the new century, God love them) is one label that is sorely missed.

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Dreamscape – 5th Season (2007)

Dreamscape_5thSeason4 out of 5 Stars!

Although this German group released numerous albums of high-quality Prog-Rock/Prog-Metal since the late ’90s, Dreamscape could never seem to create a consistent sound for itself due to the revolving door of lead vocalists and musicians contributing from one album to the next.

Regardless, 5th Season (no shock, the band’s fifth studio release) is one of my favorite albums by the group, with either its third or fourth singer—I lost count by this time. But thanks to the well-rounded production, often-dazzling and creative musicianship, and wildly elaborate arrangements found on tracks such as “Deja Vu,” “Fed Up With,” “Phenomenon,” “Point Zero,” and the nearly fifteen-minute epic title track, the music will likely appeal to fans of diverse Prog-Rock/Prog-Metal groups such as Dream Theater, Section A, Altura, Circus Maximus, Subsignal, Poverty’s No Crime, Symphony X, etc.

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Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding (1998)

BruceDickinson_ChemicalWedding4.5 out of 5 Stars!

The Chemical Wedding is easily my favorite solo album by Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden/Samson), probably because it’s his heaviest, most consistent release. From opener “King in Crimson” to the final track “The Alchemist,” the album offers up a ton of thundering Metal, yet with some lighter moments of pure class, all expertly produced and performed, with Bruce belting out his heart along the way and proving why he’s considered rock ‘n’ roll royalty (at least in my eyes).

And with guitarist Adrian Smith (Iron Maiden) as well as guitarist Roy Z, bassist Eddie Casillas, and drummer David Ingraham (all from the band Tribe of Gypsies) bringing down the house on the previously mentioned tracks as well as on “Trumpets of Jericho,” “Gates of Urizen,” “Killing Floor,” “Jerusalem,” “Book of Thel,” and the title tune among others, The Chemical Wedding is a barrel of musical dynamite, pure Heavy Metal Gold, and (for me) easily matches the driving power of many Iron Maiden classics.

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Deep Purple – Made in Japan (1972)

deeppurple_madejapan5 out of 5 Stars!

In my eyes, this is probably the finest live albums of all freaking time, in any rock genre, and even today the album holds enormous and undeniable power.

Ian Gillan’s vocal performances are absolutely searing and jaw-dropping (just listen to his ear-piercing screams on “Child in Time,” or the way he vocally counter-punches Ritchie Blackmore’s ad-libbed riffs on “Strange Kind of Woman”), so it’s no wonder why the man was perhaps the biggest influence on my own musical career.

Plus, the other guys in the band ain’t too shabby either…indeed, geniuses, each and every single one of them, no doubt. “Highway Star” is especially driving, thanks to Ian Paice’s frantic drumming and Roger Glover’s thumping bass, and blows the studio version of this classic track out of the water, while the song “Lazy” is anything but, especially when it comes to Jon Lord’s crazy, free-form intro and Blackmore’s bluesy guitar noodling. And the side-long “Space Truckin’, with its wild and extended jamming, shows exactly what these stellar musicians could do when given the freedom to improvise on stage with no time limits. Simply amazing.

Anyone who claims to be a true fan of Hard Rock from the ’70s certainly has this album in their musical collection, and if they don’t, then FOR FREAKING SHAME. Without question, this album is a perfect 5 Stars…sheer brilliance and unrivaled excellence!!!

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