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Classic Rock News And Views
April 11, 2011
Although time does not allow to me to become familiar with all of the new “contemporary classic” artists that come onto the scene, I’m always happy to share news of artists that fall into that category and are appealing to my tastes. One such artist is Jeff Green, a California native who currently resides in Ireland.
Jeff’s background includes a stint with the Eagles tribute band Illegal Eagles, which he found himself fronting after being asked to join during 1997. His new album, Jessica, is likely to resonate with fans who share his passion for some of the classic groups that were influential in his own musical development. Yes, Rush, The Who and Pink Floyd are cited as some of Green’s most important influences, and are the influences he leaned on most heavily during the creation of Jessica.
Although the music that makes up Jessica may bring joy to fans, it was a result of Green’s own personal grief that he suffered due the tragic loss of his daughter during childbirth in 1996. Despite the tremendous grief he experienced, he was eventually able to come to peace with his grief and realize that he had to honor her the best way he knew how: With music.
The musical influences that led Green to become the kind of writer and performer he is probably goes a long way towards my appreciation for this album which might best be described as progressive rock with almost palpable pensive overtones. However, the musical content of this album is not limited to ballads, as might be assumed after knowing about the events that inspired it.
“Future,” the first track, features up-tempo segments with soaring guitars and a “classic” synthesizer piece that is certainly reminiscent of many hits from the 70’s and 80’s that are so familiar to many of us. “On This Night” delivers similar up-tempo content, once again featuring guitar and synthesizer that’s held together with solid performances by both the bass player and drummer. I certainly cannot find fault with the musicians Green enlisted to record this album with him.
The remaining ten tracks will escape my attempts to adequately describe them, but for me, I found something worthwhile in every one. In other words, it’s one of this albums I can just queue up and listen to from start to finish without any nagging desire to hit the “Forward Track” button. That’s not likely to be true for everyone, of course, but it’s these kinds of albums that are easy for me to talk about. When I come across something I don’t care for, I find it extraordinarily difficult to say too much beyond “I don’t care for it.”
Eleven years in the making, Jessica is not only a tribute to his daughter, but also an effort to help other parents who have to endure the pain that results from bearing a stillborn child. All proceeds from the sale of the album will be donated to Southend General Hospital for the purpose of constructing a dedicated space or bereavement room for grieving parents.
August 23, 2010
I’m undecided whether the number of new contemporary classic rock bands is on the increase or if I am simply just discovering more of them as the result of the contacts I make through this site. Either way, it has become abundantly clear to me that there are a good many of them out there and there are probably more on the way.
The existence of these groups can probably be explained a number of ways depending on who you are listening to. My take on it is that the “Golden Era” of rock, which for me represents the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s gave us the most original and best rock music of all time. On the other hand, talk to someone a decade or two older and you may get a different story. I get it. Taste in music is largely a generational thing and I’m glad to see increasing numbers of younger artists embracing the kind of music I grew up listening to.
The latest group to make themselves known to me is one out of North Carolina called Line of Fire. Described by their lead vocalist Shawn Pelata as “A Melodic Rock band in the vein of Journey/Boston,” this three piece act sounds as if they could have as easily come on the scene in 1977 instead of 2010. I find Pelata’s comparisons right on the money.
I recently got a change to listen to Line of Fire’s new album, Momentum, and the Boston influence jumped right out at me immediately. Journey to a lesser extent, but that comparison could certainly be made. There are few fleeting moments where even the Scorpions come to mind as well, particularly in the guitar work on track #3, “Give Me All.”
Momentum is a rather ironic name for the new album since that is exactly what the group lost as they set their mind to recording it some four years ago. Guitarist Nikki Dimage was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and was sidelined around the same time that Pelata’s wife was also dealing with serious health problems that kept her in the hospital for two months.
A change in the line-up as well as other factors beyond their control continued to dog the band following Dimage’s recovery and prevented them from spending much productive time in the studio until 2009.
Released on Indie label Tribunal Records and engineered by Jamie King, with Momentum the group was going for a less-processed and more pure sound akin to Boston’s debut album or Journey’s Departure.
I would conclude that they came pretty close. I think the mix is quite good, with my only complaint being that the drums could be a little stronger and allowed to contribute more to the “bottom” end of things. But that’s something that drummers probably always say. For those curious enough to find out exactly what it is I am talking about, take a listen to Journey’s “Girl Can’t Help It” from Raised on Radio.
My pick for the stand-out track on the album is track #2, “Obsession,” with track #6 “The Fire Never Dies” following at a close second. Added as a bonus track is Dokken’s “Breaking the Chains,” although I think Line of Fire’s original material stands fine on its own, but if that’s a song that’s near and dear to them for some reason, more power to them.
True classic rock fans are quite likely to appreciate this new album and can head on over to the group’s MySpace page to sample a few tracks. I feel quite comfortable saying that Momentum is an album well worth checking out. It’s another notable effort towards keeping “Real Rock” alive and well.
July 9, 2010
No, the headline has nothing to do with anyone’s weight. If you have not yet heard of them, Heavy Glow is another contemporary band that has that classic feel about them. After hearing them, it’s hard to argue that this trio doesn’t pull off a big sound, and pull it off quite well.
Heavy Glow, based in San Diego (man, I’m envious of the weather you guys have out there!) was founded by guitarist and lead vocalist Jared Mullins and bassist Joe Brooks who formed up in 2008.
There are more and more contemporary groups that seem to be embracing a classic sound these days – a development that’s certainly welcome by those of us that tire easily of many other current rock bands that sound pretty much the same.
That has to be key to classic rock’s longevity – there was no way you could mistake Journey for Kansas or Bad Company for Foreigner. You get the idea.
Maybe it’s just me, but I wasn’t too far into my first Heavy Glow track before one name popped into my head: Hendrix. I’m not trying to steer this down the tired old “that guy is no Hendrix” rat hole, but the gritty, raw guitar-bass-drums sound of this trio has a kind of Hendrix feel to it.
They’ve been compared to Queens of the Stone Age, Blue Cheer, and The Black Keys, but from a classic rock perspective, it’s hard for me to stop thinking Hendrix.
The group’s self-titled 2009 debut EP included six songs, and was produced by Stevie Salas. Frontman Mullins says the group strives for “hard-hitting, gritty, infectious and melodic rhythms to create a sound that is both informed by the past and undeniably modern.” Well said.
During 2009 Dan Kurtz joined the group as their new drummer, and they soon began work on their second EP, a 5-track collection titled The Filth & the Fury, which you can check out by following the links on the group’s web site. It was released this past January.
A real interesting tidbit regarding The Filth & the Fury is that it was basically recorded in one take. In other words, the tracks were laid down with the group all performing together in the same room over the course of six hours. I think recording five songs in six hours could be considered “one take,” when one considers the amount of multi-track overdubbing and other technological magic that goes into the making of so many other albums.
It’s really great to hear some of these contemporary rock groups adding a bit of classic style to their material and combining it with a more modern sound that strikes a nice balance between past and present. Heavy Glow is an excellent example of this welcome trend and is definitely worth checking out.
March 31, 2010
This is one of those instances where the subject matter strays away from what we normally consider “classic rock” and more towards what I like to call “contemporary classic rock.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with that reference, I use it to classify groups that sound as though they might have formed back in the 70’s or 80’s, but are actually contemporary bands.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I occasionally receive promotional copies of albums for review prior to their release. Unfortunately, most of what I receive appears to have been sent by promoters who have no idea that this site is about classic rock, and I get quite a few albums by contemporary groups that bear no resemblance to classic rock, and frankly, some that sound more like noise than music.
The most recent arrival landed in my mailbox about three days ago. I had never heard of the Steve Palmer Band, and I braced myself as I placed the CD in the player. Expecting the worst, I was actually pleasantly surprised after just a few short minutes listening to this new album. What’s even more surprising is that I listened to the entire album two or three times, and have listened to it a number of times since.
I think we’re all quite accustomed to comparisons to well-known artists when reading reviews of new artists, but fortunately the internet makes comparisons far less important these days. In many cases, potential fans can get a taste of a new artist’s material directly from a number of sources that are only as far away as their computer or smart phone.
With influences such as Kansas, Yes, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and James Taylor, it’s not hard to see why the group’s sound has that classic feel to it. The up tempo tracks have plenty of energy, but at the same time, they don’t quite cross the line into what I would consider “heavy.” More akin to Bad Company or Foreigner than to groups like Kansas or Rush, for example.
“Getting this CD out to the public is my lifelong dream,” Palmer says. “I am very happy with it and thrilled to try to get our sound out there and finally play in front of people.” If my impression is any indication, a lot of potential fans will also be very happy to discover this new group.
The Nashville-based group plans to embark on a cross-country tour following the release of Apparition on April 20th.
My personal favorites from this new album are the first track, “Living on the Streets” and the number seven track, “I Think I’m Falling in Love,” which brought to mind the work of Rush’s Alex Lifeson, thanks to the minor-key rhythm guitar work.
I’m no Simon Cowell, but I think this new act has a bright future ahead of them. Exhibiting just the right mix of classic style and commercial appeal, I think they will be well received by fans of genuine, old-style rock and roll.
March 2, 2010
Craig who? It’s not a name as recognizable as Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith, and technically, he’s not even a classic rock act. However, I’m including a review of this CD here not because I was paid (I wasn’t) and not because I got the CD for free (I did). It’s because it actually sounds pretty good.
I get promotional CDs and DVDs in the mail from time to time, and unfortunately, most of them are either completely unrelated to classic rock, or just something I don’t care for. In fact, it’s rare for me to get any more than 30 seconds or so into each song on most CDs I receive before they wind up in “the pile.”
That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to pop Craig Maher’s new CD, Propel, into my player and have it play from beginning to end. Was I jumping up and down about it? Not quite, but it’s a lot better than most of the other stuff that shows up. Heck, it’s actually pretty good.
Interestingly, Maher describes his music as “Cosmic Contemporary” and cites influences as “the best of the 60’s and the early 70’s rock scene and its ties to Eastern music, Mysticism, and spirituality.” He also credits artists such as U2, David Bowie and Lenny Kravitz as influences.
Certainly, some of the lyrics seem true to Maher’s notion of “Cosmic Contemporary,” but at the same time, there is little doubt that you are listening to a rock album.
Maher covers quite a bit of territory even though the CD might be considered a bit on the short side with just 8 tracks. From the hard-driving rhythm of the title track to the more flowing and laid-back tempo of “Ten Thousand Dreams.”
The eastern influence mentioned earlier makes its presence known in “Where I belong,” although not in sufficient quantity to detract from the track’s rock edge. It’s a passage that reminds me of what Max Webster did with the intro on “Beyond The Moon” from Mutiny Up My Sleeve.
Yeah, I know – a lot of you are thinking, “Huh?” (See the Broaden Your Classic Rock Horizons for more on Max Webster)
It’s clear that Maher has assembled a seasoned group of musicians and engineers to back him on this album. The performances are tight, and I find the mix and engineering to my liking.
Your best bet is to simply go to Maher’s MySpace page and get a taste of his music for yourself. The sample tracks should give anyone enough to make a decision on whether or not Propel should be part of their collection.