All posts by Darren Johnson

About Darren Johnson

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Folk: EP review – The Tweed Project ‘The Tweed Project’

This review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

The Tweed Project was originally formed in 2015, aiming to both celebrate and fuse English and Scottish traditional music. After a few years on the back-burner The Tweed Project is now back, performing a short tour last autumn and releasing this EP. With a new line-up, Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar are joined by vocalist Josie Duncan, guitarist Pablo Lafuente, piper and whistle player Ali Levack and percussionist Evan Carson.

Josie Duncan sings beautifully, whether it’s in English on songs like Dick Gaughan’s ‘Both Sides the Tweed’ whose message of friendship flourishing on both sides of the famous river straddling the English and Scottish borders is something of a musical manifesto for the band; or in Gaelic as on the wonderfully frenetic ‘B’fhearr leam fhin’. There is some splendid playing on the release, too, as one would expect from an EP packed full of past Young Folk Award winners. The combination of pipes, fiddle, guitar and percussion makes for some wonderfully atmospheric moods created throughout the EP’s six tracks.

For admirers of Greg Russell’s superb singing voice he makes just one lead vocal contribution, singing on the final track ‘Turn That Page Again’. A song about hope and optimism for the future, it concludes the EP in style.

With a refreshed and revitalised line-up and a release just brimming with virtuoso musicality, love and passion it is wonderful to experience the creativity of the Tweed Project flowing once more.

Released: Haystack Records 18th October 2019

https://thetweedprojectband.com/

The-TWeed-Project-EP

Related reviews:

Album review – Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar ‘Utopia and Wasteland’
Luke Jackson and Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar at Cecil Sharp House 2016
Greg Russell and Rex Preston at The Green Note 2015
Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar at The Green Note 2014

Singer-songwriter: album review – Lorraine Jordan ‘Send My Soul’

Send My Soul is the fifth studio album from singer song-writer Lorraine Jordan. Memorably described as ‘Celtic soul’ her music builds on her family’s Irish roots while also embracing more contemporary influences.

It’s a combination that works fantastically well and from the moment you put it on the album oozes soulful sophistication and captivating musicality. Indeed, such is the powerfully understated beauty of the title track that I had to double-check that this was a brand new song and not a modern interpretation of a long lost gospel soul classic.

Lorraine_PR2-scaled

Not only is Jordan is a talented songwriter with a passionate soulful voice she’s succeeded in assembling a suitably talented line-up of musicians for the album. Jordan’s own guitar and bouzouki playing is complimented by a sensitive yet wondrous accompaniment of mandolin, piano, strings, whistle and percussion that help give these songs such a unique Celtic-inspired flavour.

If Celtic soul is truly a thing then ‘Send My Soul’ is surely a classic of the genre. Jordan has delivered an exquisitely appealing album here.

Released: October 2019 by Hazellville Music

https://www.lorrainejordan.net/

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Review: The Clash – London Calling exhibition at the Museum of London

Moving out of London four years ago if I find myself at a loose end for a couple of hours on my visits to the capital these days I often try to fit in an exhibition. And as far as music lovers go there have been plenty to choose from in recent years, giving me opportunities to enjoy the Stones and Pink Floyd exhibitions, not to mention the exhibition on late 60s counter-culture ‘So You Want a Revolution?’ at the V&A and the ‘Rebel Sounds’ exhibition on music in war-zones at the Imperial War Museum. For that archetypal London band, the Clash, though there can only be one venue. So in the lull between Christmas and New Year I found myself getting a tube to the Museum of London to check out the ‘London Calling’ exhibition.

At first, seeing all the information panels about the band in 1979 and I thought I’d started at the wrong place. Other band exhibitions I’d seen always tended to feature some ‘early days’ displays – but then it dawned on me that the entire exhibition was dedicated to celebrating the Clash’s era-defining London Calling album rather than the entire band’s history. Released in December 1979 the exhibition celebrates the album’s fortieth anniversary. Ah, it all makes sense now!

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It’s a small, compact exhibition taking up just a single gallery at the museum but it’s packed full of memorabilia: Paul Simonon’s smashed-up bass and Joe Strummer’s notebooks along with lyrics, stage gear, photographs and artwork. The latter looms large. With an album cover as iconic as this they absolutely go to town on the familiar pink and green typeface (borrowed from Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut album for RCA) and grainy black and white photos. There’s a nice little section on album producer, the late Guy Stevens, whose insane approach to production on the early Mott The Hoople albums so impressed Mott mega-fan, Mick Jones.

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You don’t really need more than thirty minutes or so to take it all in but it’s an insightful exhibition that’s well worth taking a look at – and it’s all completely free.

The Clash: London Calling exhibition runs until 19th April 2020

https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/london-calling-40-years-clash

 

2019 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

I wish everyone a happy New Year and give my special thanks to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2019. Looking back over the year, here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2019. A bit of a 70s theme going on here as we look at icons of glam rock, heavy rock, folk rock and punk rock…

1. Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 25-28 January 2019

The sixth annual classic rock weekend at Butlins including Eric Bell, Scarlet Rebels (pictured above), Geordie and Oliver-Dawson Saxon. Full review here

2. Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

If this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Full review here

3. News: All change at The Sweet

With little creative input from me I simply endeavoured to keep fans rapidly updated on changes in the band by publishing the band’s official statement. Full post here

4. Six recently revived rock bands that are turning out to be dynamite

Focusing on Atomic Rooster, Lindisfarne, Geordie, Satan’s Empire, Rock Goddess and Towers of London. Full post here

5. Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary, Ashford 13/4/19

Lining up alongside Maddy Prior are Julian Littman, Andrew Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey and Benji Kirkpatrick. Talented players all, they bring a fantastic assortment of instruments, sounds and techniques with them, not to mention a rich array of voices. Full review here

6. Live review: Slade at Concorde 2, Brighton 21/9/19

Dave Hill is, of course, Dave Hill. Eccentrically-dressed as ever: a diminutive figure bouncing all over the stage, delivering the familiar solos and holding the whole thing together. Full review here

7. Interview with Andy Scott ahead of Sweet’s 2019 UK winter tour

The new line-up, the winter tour, the split in the early 80s, keeping in touch with Steve Priest and Rock Against Cancer I was delighted to have a long chat with Andy. Full interview here

8. Live review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 4/4/19

Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Full review here

9. Steeleye Span at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 21/11/19

A second trip to see Steeleye Span this year and a second review that seemed to rack up the hits. Full review here

10. Live review: Glen Matlock headlines Hastings Fat Tuesday 5/3/19

A bona fide rock ‘n’ roll icon. Performing in the pub. Free entry. On a Tuesday night. It can only be Hastings Fat Tuesday. Full review here

Here’s to 2020!

Best wishes

Darren

 

 

 

Live review: Sweet at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 21/12/19

My last gig of the year and my first time seeing the Sweet with their all-new line-up. I’d seen the previous line-up (Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland Pete Lincoln and Tony O’Hora) many times but when I interviewed Andy Scott recently he was positively brimming about how much the new line-up rocked. Lincoln and O’Hara are gone, replaced by Paul Manzi (ex Cats in Space) on lead vocals and Lee Small on bass – and, assisting temporarily, Sweet alumni and ex MSG man Steve Mann on keyboards/rhythm guitar.

Scott promised that as well as the glam singles this new line-up would certainly be delving into the hard rock side of the band’s persona. The Sweet Fanny Adams and Desolation Boulevard albums are duly raided for tracks like ‘Burn On The Flame’, ‘AC/DC’, ‘Sweet FA’ and ‘Set Me Free’ and acoustic versions of the band’s early bubblegum singles are abandoned.

Impressions: the new-look band are definitely fired up, the band rock hard (whether delivering the glam singles or the classic album tracks) while still maintaining those exquisite harmony vocals that are such an essential element of the overall sound. On top of that it has to be stressed that Manzi is just an incredible, incredible front-man. Unlike the previous line-up the vocalist does not have an instrument in his hands and uses every single minute of the gig to zip all over the stage and engage the audience in the most direct way possible.

It’s also very satisfying to see the Sweet boys filling out this considerable venue, too. We might be besides the sea and it might be late December but this is not some Christmas package tour in some rundown venue squeezed in between the tribute acts and the panto but rather a high-octane rock show in the prestigious (and packed out) Grade I listed De La Warr Pavilion.

Of course, we get all the big hits as well: ‘Hellraiser’. The Six Teens’, Wig Wam Bam’, ‘Fox On the Run’ et al and the band encored with some exceptionally energetic delivery of ‘Blockbuster’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’. The band have proved, beyond doubt, that there’s plenty of life left in the Sweet yet – and, as Andy Scott tells the audience this new version of the band is just in its infancy. We want Sweet!

Set-list:

Action
New York Groove
Hell Raiser
Burn on the Flame
The Six Teens
Peppermint Twist
AC/DC
Turn It Down
Sweet F.A.
Set Me Free
Teenage Rampage
Wig-Wam Bam
Little Willy
Love Is Like Oxygen
Fox on the Run
Blockbuster
The Ballroom Blitz

Sweet Bexhill pic

http://www.thesweet.com/

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

Review: Rainbow and Sweet, Birmingham 2017

Review: Sweet, Bilston 2016

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Review: Sweet at Dartford 2015

Review: Sweet at Bilston 2014

Interview with singer-songwriter Dan Korn of folk/acoustic duo Dan Korn & Joe Sharp

Released back in July Polaris is the new album from singer-songwriter Dan Korn and classically-trained musician Joe Sharp. The two first worked together in 2010, collaborating on a number of releases. Polaris is their first release as a duo, although there have been hundreds of shows across the UK and Europe in recent years and a tour of the US. I caught up with Dan Korn recently to discuss the album, their work as a duo and next steps.

For those who haven’t heard the album how would you describe Polaris and what particular highlights would you point listeners to?

Polaris is an album of ten new songs recorded live at Roedean Moira House Studios in Eastbourne. We see it as an intimate exploration of love and identity in the modern world.

We were keen to capture the raw energy of our live performances by recording the album live. We are the only two musicians on the album, though we play a number of acoustic instruments.

I have different favourite moments from time to time, but at the moment I am particularly fond of the track Idaho, which was conceived in a chilly tent in a campsite off an Idaho Highway. I toured in the US in the summer of 2016 and shivering in that tent was definitely a low point of the tour. It’s a hopeful song though, imagining a time in the future when my ex-girlfriend and I will be friends again and we’ll be able to sit on a park bench together and laugh at the past.

Another highlight for me is Joe’s song, The Promise, the final track on the album. It’s the only song I don’t play guitar on, which makes it both liberating and nerve-wracking to play live. It’s a beautiful song and a great way to finish the record.

This is your first release as a duo but you’ve worked together on a number of projects. How did you first begin working together?

We started working together back in 2010. I was going into the studio to record my debut EP, Dustbowl. We felt a couple of tracks would benefit from the addition of some brass. Joe was a friend of a friend and a trumpet player by trade, so we asked him to play trumpet and flugelhorn on the record. He did so with aplomb. We soon became firm friends and musical collaborators, though Joe has mostly played bass and supplied backing vocals since then.

And you’ve been performing live together as a duo for several years with hundreds of gigs behind you. Was it a conscious creative decision to wait for a while before releasing an album or was it just the way things turned out?

Our setup has evolved considerably over the years. In different configurations, we have recorded two EPs and one LP before this one. Between 2016 and 2018, I toured a lot my own and accumulated quite a few new songs. Joe had a couple of songs he wanted to record too. We were playing better together than ever, so it felt like the right time to enter the studio. For it to be a duo project felt like the most honest and authentic way to go about things at that time.

What have been some of your most memorable gigs?

In 2015, the full band went on a UK tour to promote the release of our Of The Sea LP. We were in Inverness, in a tiny venue with a miniature stage we were somehow all supposed to fit on with a drum-kit. It was a pretty rowdy audience. At one point during the set, we couldn’t help but notice a man’s glass eye fall out and roll across the floor in front of the stage. We watched him proceed to pick it up, blow on it and pop it back in!

The final concert of a tour often turns out to be a favourite. By this time, you’re in great nick because you’ve been playing so much. You’re tired of course, but there’s a feeling of throwing caution to the wind. You don’t have to get up and play again tomorrow, you can just enjoy it. In the days that follow, the post-tour blues will descend as you try to reintegrate yourself into humdrum life. The absence of the adrenaline you have grown accustomed to experiencing performing on stage can be quite difficult to deal with.

In recent years, we have loved playing house concerts, particularly in Germany, where there is a pretty well established scene. It can be a very intimate experience, where you can literally hear the audience breathing. You can’t get away with much. You have to be able to chat in between songs. It’s a really good way to develop your performance skills. I’d recommend it as a good avenue to explore for any singer-songwriter, learning his or her craft.

Name some of the artists that have particularly influenced you.

At the moment, I’m really enjoying Cate Le Bon and Bill Callahan. I went to a Villagers gig in Rotterdam recently, which I found very inspiring.

Given the extremely positive reviews for Polaris when it was released in the summer what are your future plans now, both as a duo and as individual artists?

We’ve been working on another full band album for the last couple of years. It’s being recorded by our guitarist Bob Turley at his Cosy Studios in Kent, where we recorded Of The Sea. We each live in different places and have a lot going on, so it’s a good thing we’re not in any great rush to release it. We’re getting together over Christmas to review things and to work out what our next steps should be. It will be quite different from anything we’ve released before. Watch this space!

Polaris cover

Polaris was released on 19th July 2019 and is available via the duo’s website 

http://www.dankornjoesharp.com/

Photo credits: Carsten Bunnemann

 

Hard rock: album review – Burnt Out Wreck ‘This Is Hell’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

After an extremely well-received 2017 debut ‘Swallow’, some barnstorming festival appearances and support slots for the likes of Anvil, Burnt Out Wreck – the band created by former Heavy Pettin’ drummer Gary Moat – ratchet up their impact with a second album.

While Heavy Pettin’ in the 80s (who had their back catalogue re-released recently) took their musical cues from the more polished classic rock albums of the previous decade, Burnt Out Wreck channel the down-n-dirty spirit of Bon Scott and early AC/DC.

As Moat says when I interviewed him for GRTR recently, “At 15/16 AC/DC were just the best thing in the world and Bon Scott was amazing. And so that’s why I sing like that, not because I wanted to copy what he was doing but just because that’s the way that my voice developed.”

As well as Moat on lead vocals the band are: Alex Carmichael on bass, Paul Gray on drums, Adrian Dunn on lead guitar and backing vocals, and Miles Goodman on rhythm Guitar and backing vocals. Moat’s vocal style developed in Mother’s Ruin, the band he put together in the early 90s following the demise of Heavy Pettin’. However, around five years ago he put Mother’s Ruin to bed in order to concentrate on songwriting. A number of songs that had lain half-written were finally completed for this album.

From the faux-dramatic introduction and killer riff on ‘Positive’ to the relentless boogie and tongue-in-cheek lyrics of ‘Paddywack’ to the seen-it-all-done-it-all-tales of rock ‘n’ roll life in ‘Guitars Electrified’ it blasts out the speakers like some long lost AC/DC album circa 1976. But the guys deliver with passion and conviction, Moat proves himself a very able songwriter and vocalist and Burnt Out Wreck easily demonstrate that they are far more than a poor man’s pastiche.

This Is Hell is a perfect album of sleazy, hard-hitting, in-your-face bluesy hard rock. Sure, it sounds like AC/DC but even if Angus and co. do release another album it’s not going to sound like this. Buy it!

https://www.burntoutwreck.com/

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Related posts:

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

 

Live review: Diamond Head and Uriah Heep at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 6/12/19

Bexhill’s Grade 1 listed modernist masterpiece have had a really impressive programme this year. In the last couple of months I’ve been here to see Justin Hayward and Glenn Hughes – and I’m rounding off the year with a trip to see the Sweet. But tonight we have not one but two classic British hard rock acts.

Filling the support slot for Uriah Heep on this tour are New Wave Of British Heavy Metal veterans Diamond Head. Quite the heaviest band I’ve seen on the De La Warr stage they hit the crowd with classics like ‘In The Heat of The Night’, ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ and ‘Am I Evil’. As with Heep themselves, it’s the lead guitarist who is the mainstay of the band through many line-up changes. But, like Heep’s Mick Box, Brian Tatler has assembled a talented group of musicians and a strong vocalist in Danish-born Rasmus Bom Andersen and they deliver a powerful set. They work the Heep audience nicely and get a very warm response in return.

https://www.diamondheadofficial.com/

With one exception the songs performed by Uriah Heep tonight are either very, very old or very, very new. Apart from ‘Too Scared To Run’, when the band completely re-invented its sound in the early 80s, the set is either songs from the band’s classic early 70s Byron- fronted era or from the band’s latest album Living The Dream.

After experimenting with a more modern sound (the 80s production sheen of the band’s albums from that period now sounds terribly dated, ironically) with the Heep of today it is forever 1972 – in all its progged up, Hammond pounding, era-defining glory. And that is exactly how we love it!

Vocalist Bernie Shaw and Keyboard player Phil Lanzon may have only come on board in the mid 80s – a good decade after the band’s golden period of the early 70s – but they completely get what the classic Heep sound is all about and know exactly what to deliver, whether that’s on songs originally performed by David Byron and Ken Hensley or songs from their latest album. Following the retirement and tragic death of Lee Kerslake and Trevor Bolder respectively, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bass-player Davey Rimmer have also prove worthy additions to the band. Tracks like set opener ‘Grazed by Heaven’ from their recent album sit neatly alongside those from the Demons & Wizards and Look at Yourself albums.

When it comes to introducing one of the real highlights of the set, Mick Box recalls the time the band were in the studio but he had to take a few days out due to contracting some sort of bug. When he returned the band had worked up three separate pieces. Box, however, observed that all three were in the same key and suggested joining the them together and adding a dramatic introduction to create something really special. ‘July Morning’ was born. The band deliver a truly majestic rendition tonight. That’s followed by a much less complex but no less memorable ‘Lady In Black’, Box donning his acoustic guitar and the crowd all joining in with this folky strum-along.

Back for a quick encore of ‘Sunrise’ and the glorious ‘Easy Livin’ the band have certainly delighted their Bexhill audience tonight.

http://www.uriah-heep.com/newa/index.php

Set-list:

Grazed by Heaven
Too Scared to Run
Living the Dream
Take Away My Soul
Rainbow Demon
Rocks in the Road
Gypsy
Look at Yourself
July Morning
Lady in Black
Sunrise
Easy Livin’

Related reviews:

Uriah Heep, London 2014
Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Interview with Andy Scott ahead of Sweet’s 2019 UK winter tour

This is a longer full-length version of an interview piece that was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

Ahead of their gig at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on December 21st Darren Johnson talks to the Sweet’s Andy Scott who, along with Brian Connolly, Mick Tucker and Steve Priest, was part of the classic 1970s line-up and continues the band to this day.

DJ: The Sweet are well-known for their glam rock singles but there was always a hard rock albums side to the band’s persona as well. Will both of those elements be represented on this current tour?

AS: Yes – more so on this tour than the last one. We’ve had a slight revamp of the band. This revised line-up is certainly more akin to that. A couple of younger guys who are, shall we say, keeping us on our toes again. I would never, ever recommend changing two members of a band. I remember reading an interview with Mick Fleetwood who I got to know in the 70s just before they went to LA and he was saying they were going out there not knowing where the future lay. And he even said to me let’s see what happens. Then I saw what had gone on about two years later and heard, basically, they were looking for a replacement for Peter Green and they’ve got Christine McVie back in the band. They just haven’t got a guitar player who can sing. And it came with the two of them. Stevie Nicks as well (as Lindsey Buckingham). And just look at the way that burst open. So, in my head, I’m thinking Pete Lincoln left to pursue this outfit he’d been using shall we say as a back-up tool to Sweet with two other lead singers from other bands . And all of a sudden that’s taking off and I could see what’s on the horizon. There’s going to have to be a choice made here. And I knew which way he’d probably go because he’d been playing bass and singing with us. And he’s now doing this – because he’s a terrific guitar player and he’s now with a team of people where they’re all in at the starting point. And I thought – well we’re going to have to replace him. Now luckily we had Paul Manzi on the back-burner because he had depped – he’d come in and done a couple of gigs for us so he was an obvious choice.

And then Tony O’Hora at the end of August the bombshell was, “I’m leaving.” And Bruce (Bisland – Sweet’s drummer) and I, who’ve known him for years, were like – oh God, not again. Because we’d had this with him a couple of times, only this time I said there’s only so much you can cry wolf – you know. So I said – I’ll accept it but you’re gonna have to tell me what’s going on. And he didn’t. And then we were doing a couple of gigs in Poland and the Czech Republic and he just walked. So we ended up doing a couple of gigs with my guitar tech on bass and we managed to get Steve Mann who’d been playing with Michael Schenker to come out and finish the dates with us. It was a revelation to see Paul Manzi standing there with no guitar in his hand as a lead singer so the first thing I had to do when I got back – there was was one person on my list of people to call and that was Lee Small. I rang him and he jumped at the chance and so we now have Lee and Paul in the band. And on a temporary basis – but it could become permanent – we have Steve Mann back in the band as the second guitar/keyboard player. And it’s really, really gelling. And now we’ve done three shows in Denmark, one or two in Germany and four in England. We’ve only done nine gigs and my son who’s my sound engineer – I have to take his word because the sound he gets out is always remarkable – he said ‘It’s the best it’s been, Dad’.

Clearly, the line-up change has given the band a new energy but has it led to a change in the set-list, too?

Yes. The driving force for the acoustic part of the set last time we toured was basically me and Pete. And we felt like we ought to go for a bit more like it used to be in the 70s when we did a festival set. You’d get down to the nitty gritty. You play a couple of the heavier rock tunes that people want to hear so that’s what’s happening. It’s a work-in-progress. There will be a new Sweet album next year and we’ll see where we go from there.

And you’re coming to Bexhill on the 21st December which is the last night of the tour. Is that last night of a tour always a bit special or a bit of a relief – or both?

Well it depends who’s around – but I usually try and get some of my mates and anyone who wants to come to the gig and sing a bit or play or whatever. You just never know what happens on a night like this.

The other surviving member of the classic 70s line-up Steve Priest has his own version of the Sweet in America. I believe you tried to get him to join you on stage for the band’s 50th anniversary last year?

I mean look – we can all be angry young men and even grumpy old men. I just don’t like the idea that you can’t mellow in later life. I just don’t know what gets into Steve once in a while. We have contact – every time that I go over to LA, which I do on holiday these days because we don’t do anything in America – he has changed the dynamic of that. He doesn’t do a lot either – but having spoken to a couple of friends of mine who are promoters and stuff in America I said I don’t want to come back there unless it’s as organised as the gigs we do in Europe. And it seems you need specialist help over there. The country is so big you’re not going to end up using your own equipment. Friends of mine in Uriah Heep still go out there and Mick (Box) says you’ve got to get a different head on.

So you’re in touch with Steve Priest but no chance of you performing together?

Well I think the moment has passed. At the end of 2017 I remember I wished him a Merry Christmas and I then said if something’s going to happen it’s going to be next year isn’t it? You know, the fiftieth anniversary of the inception of the band. And then I never heard anything. Then I got a message from him at the beginning of 2018 saying “We are getting involved with a new agent who thinks it might be a good idea if you and I did something.” And my answer to him was sod your agent what do you think about it? If you fancy doing it then we’ve got a starting point but to just do it because your agent says “you should do this, Steve” is coming at it from the wrong angle, I think. I could see where that was going. I would say yes let’s do something but all of a sudden all the rules and regulations come out. And really, if we’re going to do stuff like this, if he’s coming to Europe we have a collaboration and he does it the European way. And I go out to America and I do it the American way – as long as somebody looks after me. But there has to be some kind of continuity within the band as well. And one of the funniest things was a friend of mine from Germany who contacted him said “Would you be willing to come and do a festival?” And the first thing he said was “As long as I can bring my guitar player.” And so we laughed about that. And that never went anywhere. So now I’d much rather be in touch with him saying “Hello, how are you? How are the knees?” you know. And him saying “How are you? How’s your health?”

Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (writers of many of the hit singles for Sweet) obviously left a huge, huge impact on the band and left you with a slew of songs that people will always link to Sweet. Do you keep in touch with either of them?

Well yeah, I’m in touch with Mike because Mike is still a little bit of a mentor for Suzi (Quatro) and whenever I’ve been in the producer’s chair I talk to Mike about various things. He’s written songs that were on Back To The Drive which was one of her albums. And I’m hoping, because we’ve got a new album that’s coming out, that Mike and I might sit down together. A few years ago he was angling, “Well that could have been a Sweet single.” And we might be able to revamp or maybe write a song together. There’s a man who’s mellowed a little bit and kind of enjoying life again. And I’ve heard he’s back in the UK so, you know, all is possible. I’ve not fallen out with anybody. Life’s too short!

I always thought that Sweet missed a major opportunity for a come-back ion the early to mid 80s? Slade were back in the charts again. Queen were huge. Glam metal was taking off the States but it was the one time in the past 50 years that Sweet were AWOL?

Well you can look at it from all sides. Timing was absolutely everything. We’d reached a point in 81/82 where Steve was now living in America. He didn’t want to be in England. He didn’t want to come back. He feels, so somebody’s told me – I haven’t read all of his book he never sent me a copy – but it’s in there. I remember Mick Tucker saying to me “I don’t know where he got half of his stuff from.” but I said “Look it’s his personal view, Mick. You’ve got to let everybody have that.” It’s almost as if he’s forced to come back to England to record the last album in a studio in West London and he was put up in a hotel that was like a student hostel in Chelsea. And I thought well he stayed with me a little bit of the time and, yes, he was in that hotel for a while because, you know, it was easier and Mick had his problems with his first marriage. And it was a time when, I guess because we were still living our lives in England – this is the way he probably views it, at weekends we would take some time for ourselves and he would be left to his own devices. And any normal guy would be out having dinner with some mates you hadn’t seen for years but I guess he got the feeling that he was just being abandoned. So from that point of view, when the tour finished at the end of 81 – I think it was Glasgow University – we never heard from Steve for ages. He came back to England and it was that next year when Mick had a tragedy. His first wife died. It was a misadventure where she died in the bath. I think she had a glass of wine and was on some medication and he got back to the house and found her there. Well you wouldn’t wish that on anybody, would you? And so he didn’t want to do anything. And I was still out there – producing and writing and playing on other people’s records. And I managed to get a solo deal – first of all with Virgin then it turned out to be Statik. The guy from Virgin had left to form his own label. So for a couple of years – 83/84 – I was releasing some solo singles. And then in 85 – well at the end of 84 – I bumped into our old agent and he was looking after us in 81. And he said, “Oh I’ve got a bone to pick with you. I keep getting loads of enquiries. Are you still working with the Sweet? I didn’t know where you were.” And it just so happened that his office was literally up the Harrow Road from where I was living in Maida Vale.

Then you did the Live at the Marquee album?

Exactly. I managed to get Mick out of retirement. Steve was even at least saying the right things but Mick said ‘He’s not coming back’ so luckily I rehearsed a bass player. The guy who ended up in Sweet actually Mal McNulty. We were using him to rehearse and I said he may not be coming and he said “you’re a mate of mine. I love this”. And, of course, we went to Australia with Mal and the rest is history. We had Paul Mario Day as singer and Phil Lanzon who’s now with Uriah Heep on keyboards.

And with changes of personnel the band has continued to this day.

Yeah. We’ve had a few people come and go but when you look back over thirty-odd, almost forty years of reformation when you say you’ve had six singers hat doesn’t sound too bad really does it?

Other bands have gone through far more haven’t they. Probably Sabbath have gone through far more.

[Laughs]. Well they had a little concept going didn’t they? A new lead singer for nearly every tour.

You’ve had a couple of major scares with prostrate cancer and you’ve been open about that and done a lot for awareness through Rock Against Cancer. How are things health-wise these days?

Pretty good. In fact, I’m due another PSA test so I’d better get that organised hadn’t I? And the other thing is Rock Against Cancer will be coming back next year. It’s coming back on the 12th and 13th of September in the same venue in Wiltshire at All Cannings near Devizes. So it’ll be Rock Against Cancer 8. And it might well be the last one. We’re looking at the moment to see who can come back from previous years and making a real bonanza of a gig you know.

The Sweet play Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday 21st December 2019.

Tickets: https://www.dlwp.com/event/the-sweet/

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Related posts:

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

Review: Rainbow and Sweet, Birmingham 2017

Review: Sweet, Bilston 2016

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Review: Sweet at Dartford 2015

Review: Sweet at Bilston 2014

 

 

Heavy metal: album review – Quiet Riot ‘Hollywood Cowboys’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

“After nearly ten years since the loss of his friend and co-founding member and bandmate Kevin DuBrow, and with careful consideration, soul searching and with the blessings and support of Kevin DuBrow’s family, Frankie has moved forward with the band to bring the fans a new record!” announce Quiet Riot as they release their latest album Hollywood Cowboys.

Always best known for their 1983 smash album Metal Health which included the hit cover of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ a song that finally brought the delights of Slade to an American audience, the band is now led by drummer and long-term member Frankie Banali who was part of the Metal Health line-up and has played on every subsequent Quiet Riot release since. Banali is joined by bassist, Chuck Wright, who’s been part of the band, on and off, since the early 80s and guitarist, Alex Grossi, who has been with Quiet Riot since 2004. Vocals are, once again, handled by James Durbin, who also sang on the band’s last studio album (2017′s Road Rage).

With a smoother and more melodic feel than the raunch of DuBrow’s vocals, Durbin a former American Idol frontrunner, has himself now left the band it’s been reported. There are some decent songs on this album and some powerful but hummable fast-paced hard rock. It includes one or two surprises as well. The slower, smouldering, bluesy feel of ‘Roll On’ is actually one of the real treats on the album.

Former lead singer Kevin DuBrow was such an essential component of Quiet Riot that debate will always be a matter of debate among classic-era fans as to whether, without him, it’s really Quiet Riot or not. Nevertheless, this latest release to bear the band’s imprint is an album of likeable, if somewhat generic, 80s-influenced heavy metal.

Released: Frontiers 8th November 2019

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https://quietriot.band/