All posts by Darren Johnson

About Darren Johnson

PR, writing, campaigning and blogging

News: Best of Heavy Pettin released 27th November

Following a reissue of the band’s three 1980s albums a year ago, a fourteen-track Best Of Heavy Pettin compilation is set to be released on 27th November.

The compilation features tracks taken from the Scottish hard rockers’ three studio albums: Lettin Loose, Rock Ain’t Dead and The Big Bang, including the hit singles ‘Love Times Love’, ‘In and Out of Love’ and ‘Rock Me’.

The cover is a previously unseen photo by David Plastik taken at The Louder Sound festival in France in 1984. Ross Muir provides liner notes on the band’s history.

The group dissolved in 1988 with the final album, The Big Bang, being released the following year. Heavy Pettin reformed in 2017. The new version of the band, featuring original members Gordon Bonnar and Hamie, recently recorded a 4-track EP, the first batch of new material bearing the band’s name in over 30 years.

Original Heavy Pettin drummer, Gary Moat, meanwhile, now fronts his own band, Burnt Out Wreck, who have released two well-received albums: Swallow in 2017 and This Is Hell in 2019.

Delivering punchy yet polished hard rock Heavy Pettin were often regarded as a cut above many of their contemporaries in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is good to see their legacy given the treatment it deserves, with this new compilation now joining the reissues of their original three studio albums.

Best Of Heavy Pettin – Track List:

  1. IN AND OUT OF LOVE
  2. SOLE SURVIVOR
  3. BORN TO BURN
  4. NORTHWINDS
  5. LOVE TIMES LOVE
  6. LONELY PEOPLE
  7. DEVIL IN HER EYES
  8. TWO HEARTS
  9. CHINA BOY
  10. 10.DON’T CALL IT LOVE
  11. ROCK ME
  12. THROW A PARTY
  13. ROCK AIN’T DEAD
  14. HELL IS BEAUTIFUL

Best of Heavy Pettin released 27th November 2020 by Burnt Out Wreckords/Cherry Red

Order link: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/heavy-pettin-best-of/

Related posts:

This Is Hell – Album Review

Interview with Gary Moat

Heavy Pettin Reissues

Anvil / Burnt Out Wreck / VOiD at The Underworld, Camden 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock Weekender 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock All Dayer 2018

‘O’ the new album from Orianthi released 6th November

Fans of guitar whizz Orianthi can look forward to a new album. Released on 6th November on the Frontiers label ‘O’ will be Orianthi’s first studio album in seven years and follows her recent signing to the Italian based rock/metal label.

“It is a very inspired album, with things kept pretty raw. I didn’t overthink it,” explains Orianthi. “Marti [Frederiksen, producer, mixer, co-songwriter] and I wanted to create a unique sound and vibe with every track and we experimented a lot with synths and different guitar tones. Lyrically, a lot of this record comes from life experience and other people’s stories. It’s going to be so fun to play these songs live!”

‘Impulsive’ a single and video from the forthcoming album was recently released.

The Australian vocalist/guitarist first came to public attention back in 2009 when ‘According to You’ became an international hit for the then 24-year old. She soon became a go-to player for a number of the best known rock celebs, including Alice Cooper, Carlos Santana and Steve Vai and was also slated to appear as part of Michael Jackson’s planned series of concert dates at the O2 until the singer’s shock death put an end to that.

“I am thrilled about this new chapter with Frontiers!” she adds. “Their passion and enthusiasm for music is such a great reminder of why I love creating music. I couldn’t be more excited to release my upcoming album with them.”

Line-up:
Orianthi Panagaris (Guitars, Vocals, Programming)
Evan Frederiksen (Drums, Bass)
Marti Frederiksen (Percussion, Programming, Bass on Track 3)

‘O’ is released on 6th November 2020 by Frontiers

https://iamorianthi.com/

News: Bands with beer -Burnt Out Wreck latest to launch their own bespoke brew

UK hard rock outfit Burnt Out Wreck, fronted by former Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat, are the latest band to announce their own line in alcoholic beverages. The band have teamed up with Staffordshire-based brewers Lymestone Brewery to produce a 7% ABV Indian Pale Ale called ‘Burnt Out Wreck’.

“Music and beer go hand in hand and so we are super excited to announce the collaboration between Lymestone Brewery and Burnt Out Wreck. Twelve perfect beers to go with the perfect album This is Hell,” say the band.

“When Claire reached out to us to collaborate with the band to produce a beer, we were more than happy to get involved,” adds brewery boss Ian Bradford. “We love the band and the album so it’s a real treat for us to be able to do this together.”

“The beer is not for the fainthearted!” they warn. “Three powerful US hops dominate this monster of an American Pale Ale. From its crisp Maris Otter base to its massive hoppy finish this is a beer that will have you on the edge of your seat.”

To order your case of ‘Burnt Out Wreck’ you can head over to www.lymestonebrewery.net

And if you’ve not bought your copy of This Is Hell yet you can read the review here and then head straight over to their website www.burntoutwreck.com to pick up your copy.

Stop Press:

You can now also buy Burnt Out Wreck cider – a 6% sweet cider made from Herefordshire apples and pears available here

Related posts:

This Is Hell – Album Review

Interview with Gary Moat

Heavy Pettin Reissues

Anvil / Burnt Out Wreck / VOiD at The Underworld, Camden 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock Weekender 2018

Burnt Out Wreck at Classic Rock All Dayer 2018

Review: ‘EP #3’ the latest release from Polish prog rockers Karrakan

Karrakan are a progressive rock outfit who come from a small town called Ostrołęka in the North-East of Poland. The band recorded their first EP in 2016, more a basic hard rock approach that incorporate blues scales and heavy metal riffs. However, the addition of a saxophone into the mix even back then signalled a likely future direction into more proggy territory.

Their second release EP #2, released in 2019 continued down such a path with more complex compositions and more evident prog approach.

Karrakan are now onto their third release, the imaginatively-titled EP #3 – no-one can accuse these guys of lacking consistency when it comes to nomenclature!

“EP #3 contains ‘only’ 3 songs,” say the band, “but they are loaded with variety of musical assets. Thick distorted guitars, odd rhythmic divisions, vocal harmonies, acoustic interludes and… saxophone, which works surprisingly well with all the heavy sound.”

Incorporating blues, jazz, classical and metal influences the band are developing something of a unique approach: tastefully-executed guitar solos and that infamous saxophone interplay with some much harder-edged riffing and there’s also sprinklings of more gentle, folky acoustic guitar here and there, too.

The first track ‘The Shape of Infinity’ incorporates growled pseudo death metal vocals which I’m not convinced entirely work, while the final track ‘Allocation of Beauty’ has a far more conventional melodic rock-style vocal which is considerably better suited to the nature of the material in my view. The middle track ‘Panto Dance’ meanwhile is entirely instrumental and the most obviously proggy composition on the three-track EP.

Karrakan are:

Piotr Sierzputowski – guitar/vocals

Jan Sierzputowski – saxophone

Domink Górski – drums

Kamil Badeja – bass

As well as promoting this current EP the band are also busy writing material for their debut full-length album. It will be interesting to watch how Karrakan develop and I wish the guys luck.

https://www.facebook.com/Karrakan.ostroleka/

Folk: album review – Jenny Sturgeon ‘The Living Mountain’

The Living Mountain was written by Aberdonian Nan Shepherd, in the last years of the Second World War and it sat in her desk drawer until it was published in 1977,” writes Jenny Sturgeon in the album sleeve-notes.

Inspired by Shepherd’s memoir, once described by the Guardian as “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain,” Sturgeon’s album of the same name celebrates Shepherd’s nature writing and the Cairngorms mountain range in the eastern Highlands. Each of the twelve songs on the album take their titles from the chapter headings in Shepherd’s celebrated volume.

From the gentle birdsong and low mournful dulcimer hum of the opening track ‘The Plateau’ to the hypnotic piano and slowly pounding percussion of the final song ‘Being’, Sturgeon uncannily captures a sense of the beauty, bleakness and wonder that this very special landscape instils. Ten of the twelve songs are inspired directly by Shepherd’s writing while the remaining two are Shepherd’s own poems, set to music.

Joining Sturgeon who plays piano, harmonium , dulcimer, whistle and guitar are Mairi Campbell (viola and vocals), Su-a Lee (cello), Grant Anderson (bass and vocals) with additional field recordings from Jez Riley-French and Magnus Robb.

Beautifully sung and exquisitely played The Living Mountain is a captivating celebration of the natural world and timeless and inspirational nature writing.

Released: October 16th 2020

https://www.jennysturgeonmusic.com/

Folk: album review: Pat Walsh ‘Simply Whistle’

Simply Whistle pretty much does what it says on the tin. For the past five decades Pat Walsh has been part of the north-west traditional music scene and across each of its nineteen tracks this album puts Walsh’s tin whistle and her beautiful jigs, reels and flings centre-stage.

Walsh was born to an Irish family in Manchester in the mid 1950s. This beautifully-packaged CD with its informative twelve-page booklet details not only the background to the tunes, both the traditional numbers and original compositions, but also Walsh’s own life story and her abiding love of traditional music.

“I have tried to describe the really important part that Irish traditional music has played in my life,” she says in the sleeve-notes. “And my enduring passion for playing and listening to it. I have often wished that my great grandfather John Ryder, the fiddle player from Longford had done something similar for later generations to read. If my grandchildren or their children get the bug for trad music, I hope they find that this memoir and the tunes fill in the back story, or maybe even it will pique their interest. Either way, this is for them.”

Produced by Mike McGoldrick, who has played alongside Walsh and also features on the album, the production retains a clean and simple feel which works so well. Within seconds of putting the album on Walsh’s evocative playing has immediately transported you to another time and place.

Released: 14th September 2020

https://www.patwalshwhistle.com/

Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!

While I’ve no intention of buying it myself (given I’ve got more Slade albums, Slade singles, Slade reissues and Slade compilations than you can shake a stick at) I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album chart last Friday.

This is the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.

What has been nice, and clearly what has helped with sales, is all four original members working to publicise the release and celebrate the band’s shared legacy – even if they do not all see eye to eye these days.

While some bands of a certain vintage split into two rival camps, with Slade it’s all been a bit more complicated. Noddy doesn’t get on with Jim these days but rubs along just fine with Dave and Don. Jim doesn’t have time for Nod or Dave but is on good terms with Don, sending the latter heartfelt good wishes when he suffered a stroke earlier this year. Dave doesn’t get on with Jim and had a pretty acrimonious falling out with Don earlier this year, too, when he sacked him as drummer from his continuing version of Slade. But Dave does get on well with Nod, the two keeping in touch with one another by phone through lockdown. Don, meanwhile, gets on just fine with Jim and Nod in spite of that big falling out with Dave. Got all that?

Still, it’s nice that the four of them put on a united front to promote Cum On Feel The Hitz which collects most of Slade’s singles from 1970 to 1991. The double CD comprises 43 tracks, while the double vinyl features 24.

Noddy: “It’s been remastered. They sound bloody great and there’s a double vinyl out as well. The record company wanted to do it. They wanted to make it a definitive collection, which it pretty much is. In this time of lockdown, I think people need a bit of Slade. We always put a smile on people’s faces. This is the perfect time to cheer people up. Hopefully it’ll reach a new generation too.”

Dave: “The thinking behind it is that BMG signed us for this big deal and really when you’re looking at something like this you’re almost giving us a reappraisal of how many hits we really had.”

Jim: “I’m absolutely thrilled with the chart placing of ‘Cum On Feel The Hitz’ tonight. Many thanks to all the fans for buying the CDs, vinyl and downloading the album. Great to see it in the Top Ten. Rock on!”

Don: “This is fantastic news! I never thought that I’d see us back in the Top Ten again. I was told earlier that BMG thought the album would enter the charts around #7 or #8 – and if it’s been confirmed that the official position in the UK chart is number 8 then that’s great!”

Cheers guys – great to see you back in the charts!

Related posts:

Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar

EP review – Jim Lea ‘Lost In Space’

Interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Jim Lea at the Robin 2, Bilston 2017

Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

Slade at Donnington 1981

Slade at White Rock Theatre, Hastings 2015

Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Slade at Brighton 2019

Photo montage of band members courtesy of Slade Facebook group

‘Confess’ by Rob Halford – a gay heavy metal fan reviews the Metal God’s autobiography

I’ve read enough rock autobiographies over the years to know the score: boy from working class background, boy joins a band, struggles along for a few years, makes it big, fame, alcohol and/or drug addiction, groupies galore, several wives, numerous girlfriends, sobriety, reflection and, finally, publishing deal. Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford’s ‘Confess’, however, is a rock confessional with a difference. The wives and girlfriends are notable by their absence and Halford tells his tale as an out and proud gay man.

As someone who became a Judas Priest fan not long after my dad brought home a newly-released copy of ‘British Steel’ back when I was a young teenager, and as someone who has known they were gay from around that same time I was particularly keen to read Halford’s memoir.

Halford’s down-to-earth-working class upbringing in Walsall is easy to identify with. Coincidentally, although the two have never met, he lived just a couple of streets away from Noddy Holder’s family home, another musical hero of mine. Indeed, many of the place names were already familiar to me from Holder’s own autobiography. (The pub that Halford mentions as the location of his local bus stop as a kid is the same pub where the classic Slade foursome held their first ever rehearsal – trivia fans).

As Halford starts to metamorphosis from council estate kid to heavy metal rock god I certainly felt a sense of exhilaration as his dreams are achieved – such as the era-defining success of that iconic British Steel album, for example.

For much of the book, though, I also felt a sense of immense sadness. This paragraph, where he reflects on the state of his life in 1980 – by which time he was in his late 20s – is a telling one:

“It was five years since I’d been seeing Jason. Apart from the odd snatched random fumble I had been alone ever since… not just alone but forced to supress my longings, my needs, myself.”

When I think back to my own life at that stage, I had already met my partner. We’d bought a flat and been living together for several years by then. I was born fifteen years after Halford and my modest brush with life in the public eye never obliged me to hide my own sexuality. However, it’s not difficult to really grasp the pain and evident loneliness that Halford was going through. He does eventually find personal as well as professional fulfilment albeit that there are dysfunctional relationships, tragedy addiction along the way.

There is also a fair bit of revelatory gossip and down to earth black country humour to keep the reader entertained. However, there are a many segments that are deeply, deeply moving, too: Halford’s obvious joy at the emotions he experiences performing sober for the first time, the palpable relief he feels when he first publicly comes out back in the late 90s and the excitement he feels reuniting with Priest in the early 00s.

‘Confess’ does not always make for easy reading. There is a real sadness to parts of it but Rob Halford’s warmth and humanity shine through. Absolutely one of the best rock biogs in ages.

Published: Headline Publishing 29th September 2020

Related posts:

Album review : Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls

Live review: Judas Priest at Brixton Academy 2015

Live review: Les Binks’ Priesthood at Minehead 2020

The day my dad went on Radio Lancashire to talk about Dr. Feelgood

BT payphone engineer, music fanatic and familiar figure around many Preston pubs, but until then someone with zero broadcasting experience, some time in the early 00s my dad found himself being invited on BBC Radio Lancashire for a one hour special on Dr. Feelgood.

My dad was, indeed, a huge fan of Dr. Feelgood just as he was a huge fan of many bands but I think one of his regular drunken Saturday night conversations about bands and rock music ended up with an invitation from one of the presenters to take part in a show.

Happily, a friend of his recorded it at the time and I recently rediscovered my copy.

“Alan Johnson has popped in to see tell us all about Dr. Feelgood. We’re doing a feature on Dr Feelgood and he’s ably assisted by Andy Stones,” the show starts off.

As well as playing tracks like ‘Back In the Night’, Down At The Doctors’ and ‘Milk and Alcohol’ the discussion meanders through the band’s early years with Wilko Johnson, then the illness and death of frontman Lee Brilleaux as well as the continuation of the band by Brilleaux’s former bandmates and a new frontman.

My dad reminds the presenter they did, in fact once make the Top 10 singles chart before being asked whether what they play is blues. “Not in the true sense,” is my dad’s rejoinder. “It’s just really good-time music, blues or not.”

The show draws to a close. There’s time for my dad to choose one last song. He says it has to be ‘Milk and Alcohol’ and he recounts his abiding image of frontman, Lee, on stage.

The hour is nearly up.

“Thanks for coming in,” says the presenter.

“I’m getting used to it,” says my dad.

“It can be a bit daunting sitting here with all the microphones and the gremlins,” the presenter says reassuringly.

“Without a pint,” my dad observes.

And with that the show comes to an end. I believe this was the sum total of my dad’s entire broadcasting experience. But I’ve got a recording of the show for posterity and it is comforting to be able to hear his voice. Here’s that clip of him talking about that abiding image of Lee Brilleaux on stage.

Folk: album review – Joshua Burnell ‘Flowers Where The Horses Sleep’

From trad folk to prog rock to avant-garde pop there are many influences at play on Flowers Where The Horses Sleep, the latest album from singer-songwriter, Joshua Burnell.

Following his well-received folk-rock interpretations of traditional song on his two previous albums, Burnell returns to original compositions.

“Having dedicated the past three years to rearranging traditional material, I wanted to build on that experience to produce an album of folk songs for a modern audience,” says Burnell. “The songs were all inspired by people past and present and explore humankind’s remarkable ability to find beauty, even in the hardest of times.”

Nicely packaged with beautiful cover art, the album takes its title from the recollections of a Japanese-American woman who was interned during World War II and spoke of the prisoners growing flowers in the stables they were obliged to take residence in, bringing beauty to the ugliness surrounding them.

Burnell himself is a talented multi-instrumentalist and his impressive musicianship is as much in evidence on this album as his gentle but beguiling vocals. Guests on the album include Frances Sladen on lead and backing vocals, Nathan Greaves on electric guitar and Katriona Gilmore on fiddle and mandarin.

Flowers Where The Horses Sleep takes us on quite a musical journey from the gentle acoustic strumming of opener ‘Labels’ to the lush grand piano of closing track ‘Two Stars’ with many detours along the way. It’s testimony both to Burnell’s creativity and his love of traditional material, however, that for all the quirky left-field musical influences, these freshly-composed songs still manage to retain a strong folk sensibility.

Released: 4th September 2020