Category Archives: Rock music

Rock bands and music

Hard rock: album review – Graham Bonnet Band ‘Day Out In Nowhere’

Much as I hugely appreciate Ronnie James Dio’s genre-defining mark as lead singer of Rainbow, Graham Bonnet’s own stint on vocals neatly coincided with my early teens and thus the time I was starting to get really into rock music. I’ve always had a real soft spot for Bonnet, therefore. Rainbow’s Down To Earth and Bonnet’s subsequent solo album, Line Up, are still albums I enjoy playing, along with his later output for MSG and Alcatrazz.

He continued to record throughout the 90s and into the early 00s but then it seemed to go rather quiet for Bonnet in terms of new material. In recent years, however, there’s been a prolific and energetic release schedule. As well two reunion albums with Michael Schenker and a new Alcatrazz release, he’s now also on to his third album with the Graham Bonnet Band. Day Out In Nowhere follows The Book, released in 2016, and Meanwhile, Back In The Garage released two years later.

This latest Graham Bonnet Band album sees him recording, once again, with long-time members, Beth-Ami Heavenstone  on bass and Conrado Pesinato on guitar, alongside newer members, Alessandro Bertoni on keyboards and Shane Gaalaas on drums. Day Out In Nowhere also sees a host of guest appearances, too: Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore), John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie), Mike Tempesta (Powerman 5000), Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson) and, most notably, Bonnet’s former Rainbow bandmate, Don Airey (now with Deep Purple, of course) who provides his trademark Hammond on one track, ‘It’s Just A Frickin’ Song’.

Bonnet: “Similar to the first two albums, it will reflect different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist. I’m also delighted to be playing with original members of the Graham Bonnet Band, Beth-Ami Heavenstone who has been my constant partner (on and off stage) since meeting back in 2012 and guitarist Conrado Pesinato, who’s innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting.”

Day Out In Nowhere is classy, polished, melodic hard rock, that proves to be just the vehicle for Bonnet’s distinctive and equally classy vocals. Bonnet claims that the albums fronting his eponymously-named band more accurately reflect his original vision for a reunited Alcatrazz, with the  guitar pyrotechnics dialled down just a little and more emphasis placed on well-constructed songs and intelligently-written lyrics. That’s exactly what we get here. It’s not to say there’s not some superb guitar from the ever-reliable, Conrado Pesinato, but it does show strong melody and well-crafted songs are at the heart of what makes for an essential Graham Bonnet album.

Bonnet’s lyrics across the eleven tracks tackle everything from alcoholism to the state of the world. The final track, however, the dramatic and theatrical-sounding ‘Suzi’, is something of a leftfield turn and a complete change of pace, with Bonnet backed not by a rock band but by an orchestra.

Now in his mid-seventies, Graham Bonnet is clearly on something of a roll at this late stage in his career. Whether you are the more casual fan of his most celebrated albums from the late 70s and early 80s or a dedicated fan who’s loyally followed each and every stage of his long career, there’s lots to like in Day Out In Nowhere. It deserves to do well.

Day Out In Nowhere – tracklisting:

Imposter

Twelve Steps To Heaven

Brave New World (ft. Roy Z)

Uncle John

Day Out In Nowhere

The Sky Is Alive

David’s Mom

When We’re Asleep (ft. Mike Tempesta, John Tempesta)

It’s Just A Frickin’ Song (ft. Don Airey)

Jester (ft. Jeff Loomis)

Suzy (Orchestra)

Released: 13th May 2022 by Frontiers

https://www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic

Related posts:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2017

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 2016

Graham Bonnet Band at The Garage, Islington 2014

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at Birmingham Genting Arena 2017

Book review: ‘Denim & Leather: The Rise And Fall Of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ by Michael Hann

My early teen years neatly coincided with the ascendancy of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). I missed the first Monsters of Rock at Donington in 1980 but was there for the second. I went out to get the first issue of Kerrang! (which I still have) and bought (or taped) albums by many of the bands featured in this book. Unlike many other genres or musical movements that I’ve grown to love over the years, this one perfectly aligned with the period when I was seriously getting hooked on music for the first time.

Taking the form of a transcribed oral history, Denim & Leather features contributions from a plethora of figures, from artists to managers to promoters to writers to fans, who were around during the short life of this grassroots phenomenon which gave a much-needed shot in the arm to the world of hard rock at the tail end of the 1970s and the dawn of the 1980s.

Sometimes books of this nature, featuring an endless stream of quotes and half-remembered (and often contradictory) anecdotes but little in the way of context or analysis, can be a bit of an exhausting and not always particularly satisfying read. But Denim & Leather is cleverly done and author, Michael Hann, has skilfully organised it in a way that allows for clear narratives to emerge. The various chapters take us through key events chronologically but also give us an in-depth look at particular aspects of the scene. There’s chapters on the importance of things like The Friday Rock Show, Sounds and later Kerrang! mag as well as the first ever Monsters of Rock Festival but it also looks at some of the less rose-tinted aspects of the scene, like the all too frequent misogyny.

Wisely, the book doesn’t get too hung up on rigid definitions of what is and what isn’t NWOBHM and there is a chapter devoted to the influence the movement had on that trio of post-Purple bands, Rainbow, Whitesnake and Gillan, as well as lots of mentions of Judas Priest, whose members were all making music well before NWOBHM became a thing although they certainly benefited from it.

Given the importance the two bands had in influencing the later sub-genres of thrash metal and black metal respectively, there’s a whole chapter devoted to Diamond Head and another whole chapter devoted to Venom. I never really got the whole extreme metal thing, personally. But at the other end of the spectrum I never really bought into that overproduced very Americanised direction that Def Leppard soon headed in either. That also takes up a considerable chunk of the book and, in the end, is what pretty much did for NWOBHM.

For me, NWOBHM was at its very best when it melded the uncompromising heaviness of the first generation of heavy rock acts with the catchy choruses and three-minute tunes of the early 70s glam rock scene and the DIY ‘get-up-and-do-it’ spirit of the punk era. The bands that most closely adhered to that template were the ones I warmed to the most – and still do. My favourite quote in the book – from former Saxon bass man, Steve Dawson, thus perfectly sums up why I always had more love for Saxon than Iron Maiden:

“Without sounding elitist, I think the tunes we wrote were more catchy songs. Not just a riff with some fucking twat screaming. A lot of the so-called NWOBHM wrote riffs with singing, and not songs – melodic tunes that you could whistle. Iron Maiden were sort of in that bracket to me.“

Denim & Leather is a well-researched and highly readable look at a crucial but often overlooked period in rock and metal history, with many insightful, entertaining, thought-provoking and occasionally downright disturbing contributions from some of the key players in the NWOBHM scene at the time.

Published: February 2022 by Constable

Shallow: the new single from UK Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore

Released: 29 April 2022

“I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love”

London-based Americana singer-storyteller, Little Lore, won many, many plaudits, bags of airplay and glowing reviews for her debut EP as a solo artist last December.

“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals” – Maverick magazine on the Little Lore EP

The eponymously-titled Little Lore EP followed two well-received releases as part of her previous musical outfit – the duo, Duffy & Bird.

Now, Little Lore, (aka Tricia Duffy) returns with a brand-new single. ‘Shallow’ channels the spirit of Kurt Cobain, throws in some classic Neil Young influences and marries them up with Little Lore’s trademark vocals and thought-provoking lyrics to produce an exhilarating slice of Americana that really swings. 

Little Lore: “I wrote this song during that big news week when it was all coming out about how Boris had attended parties at Downing Street while people were dying alone, and also that Prince Andrew was trying to avoid his day in court with Virginia Giuffre. I was thinking about how so many men in power can let us down, whether that be politicians, princes, CEOs or the men that we trust and love. So I decided to juxtapose the idea of being let down by people in power with heartbreak and this song is the result. It is probably a bit on the opaque side from a political point of view… but there are a few lines that give us some clues. When I talk about eating lies with dinner, I’m really thinking about the Six O’Clock news when so many people sit down to watch the headlines over their evening meal – we ate Bojo’s lies with our dinner. “There’s no truth, no-one remembers who said what to the man on the yacht” – we know that only a very small subsection of society can afford even a day on a yacht so that was directly inspired by Andrew (formerly known as Prince).”

“Finally, I had been reading a lot of Jeanette Winterson. In Sexing The Cherry she wrote about the impact it has on society when the King is executed. In her story, Charles II is beheaded and she describes how the entire country goes into freefall. Everything they could predict and understand is derailed in one instant – life becomes very unpredictable. The same thing has been happening in this country for a while now, with Brexit, the pandemic, the uncertainty of political power, it is impossible to predict so many things, to see the future clearly. I write: “The King is dead, and with his head futures altered, wounds are salted.” The whole song is designed to make use of a subtext style with the use of triplets where the last line is the realisation comment.”

Once again, Little Lore’s emotive vocals and compelling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.

Little Lore: “Musically, I had a swing vibe in my head when I came to record the guide track for Oli to work with. He really enjoyed that idea and built on it. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but the song has no minor chords in it at all, so we discussed allowing ourselves to be influenced by Kurt Cobain as he famously rarely used any minor chords in his writing. Couple that grit with my Americana style and a bit of Neil Young influence thrown in, too, and I think we have a driving, swinging song that tells a story of the shallow coward that let everyone down.”

Released on 29 April, the single is available in all the main digital formats via from https://littlelore.uk or https://littlelore.bandcamp.com 

About Little Lore:

Little Lore is a London based, Indie-Americana singer-storyteller whose songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging. You’ll want to listen twice. When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen.

Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician, Al Bird. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further. Little Lore was born. Her debut solo EP, Little Lore, was released in 2021 to glowing reviews. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds.

Release information:

Produced by Oli Deakin (Lowpines), vocals recorded in his home studio in Ealing London. Artwork created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littleloremusic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littleloremusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littleloremusic/

Related post:

Little Lore: the magical new project from UK Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy

Live review: Suzi Quatro at the Royal Albert Hall 20/4/22

Given I’d spent a good chunk of 2021 and the first part of 2022 living and breathing all things Suzi Quatro, the timing of the celebratory Royal Albert Hall concert  couldn’t have been more perfect. Coming, as it did, just weeks after getting the final draft of Suzi Quatro in the 1970s off to the publishers, Suzi’s gig at the Royal Albert Hall was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time.

There is no support tonight, just Suzi and her band in this packed iconic venue, performing two sets equally packed with hits and other highlights from across her fifty-year solo career. Kicking off with ‘The Wild One’, the hits rolled thick and fast: ‘I May Be Too Young’, ‘Daytona Demon’, ‘Tear Me Apart’, Mama’s Boy’, ‘Stumblin’ In’ and ’48 Crash’. The backing band is polished and versatile and sounding great – and if you’ve not encountered Suzi Quatro live for some considerable years or your main memories are of seeing her performing on Top Of The Pops, the band now encompasses a brass section and backing singers.

Photo credit: Gary Cosby

We were promised some additional special guests, too, and I half-wondered whether Chris Norman would be brought on stage to reprise his role in ‘Stumblin’ In’ but it’s the guitarist, Tim, who gets to sing the duet instead. We don’t have to wait too long for the first special guest to appear, however, as Suzi brings up her guitarist son, Richard Tuckey, who worked with her on her two most recent albums, 2019’s No Control and last year’s The Devil In Me. Both albums picked up very favourable reviews at the time and together they perform a song from each. The mother and son dynamic works incredibly well, both in the studio and live on stage, recapturing the energy and raunch of Quatro’s early solo career and adding a contemporary edge. After the classic Chinn-Chapman glam era, this new Quatro/Tuckey partnership is fast becoming my next favourite chapter of Suzi’s long career.

We don’t have to wait long for the next set of special guests to appear, either. Paying tribute to the great bands that were around in the 1970s, Suzi welcomes her next two guests: Sweet’s Andy Scott and Slade’s Don Powell. The three worked together a few years ago, of course, releasing the excellent Quatro, Scott & Powell album back in 2017 and undertaking a successful tour of Australia. This will be the first time a British audience has had the chance to see the three perform together, however. Launching into ‘Slow Down’ from the trio’s album together they give us a gloriously energetic slice of 1950s rock and roll, followed by a blistering cover of Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’. I do hope we get to see more of this glam-era power trio in the not too distant future.

In a complete change of pace, and to prove that she can do soft, emotive balladry as well as any of them, Suzi sits alone at the piano for the final song of the first set, a beautiful rendition of ‘Can I Be Your Girl’ from the Unreleased Emotion album which is dedicated to her mother and father.

The second half sees more vintage hits as well as more songs from the new album. Indeed, the set opens with that wonderful tribute to her Detroit home-town, ‘Motor City Riders’, from The Devil In Me. Although she will always be best known for the thumping, raucous sounds of the Chinn and Chapman early ‘70s hits, Suzi Quatro’s illustrious back catalogue explores a range of styles and genres. Suzi and the band delve into a number of these tonight, including the funk groove of ‘Your Mamma Won’t Like Me’, the heavily new wave -influenced ‘She’s In Love With You’ and the country rock of ‘If You Can’t Give Me Love’, as well as more traditional Quatro fayre in the form of ‘Can The Can’ and ‘Devil Gate Drive’.

By the time we hear these two, of course, it’s a sign that things are starting to draw to a close, sadly. There’s just time for a riotous rendition of Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Rock n Roller’ before a complete change of mood, once again, this time with a cover of the Eagles ‘Desperado’.

Photo credit: Gary Cosby

Almost fifty years since she had her first big hit and almost forty years since I first saw her at Reading Festival when I was seventeen, Suzi Quatro gives a masterclass of a performance tonight. Still rocking, still singing, still pumping out those powerful bass sounds and still the consummate entertainer, Suzi Quatro definitely still has it.

My book Suzi Quatro in the 1970s will be published by Sonicbond Publishing on 28th July 2022. Details here

Set-list:

First half:

The Wild One

I May Be Too Young

Daytona Demon

Tear Me Apart

Mama’s Boy

Stumblin’ In

48 Crash

No Soul/No Control (with Richard Tuckey)

The Devil In Me (with Richard Tuckey)

Slow Down (with Andy Scott and Don Powell)

Rockin’ in the Free World (with Andy Scott and Don Powell)

Can I Be Your Girl?

Second half:

Motor City Riders

I Sold My Soul Today

Rock Hard

She’s in Love With You

Your Mamma Won’t Like Me

Too Big

Glycerine Queen

Can the Can

Devil Gate Drive

If You Can’t Give Me Love

Sweet Little Rock & Roller

Desperado

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

Interview with Don Powell

New book: ‘Suzi Quatro In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson coming in July 2022

New single from Graham Bonnet out now ahead of new studio album in May

Former Rainbow, MSG and Alkatrazz lead vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced his forthcoming studio album will be released on 13th May. Ahead of the album, a new single and video, ‘Imposter’, is out today (8th March).

On the album, entitled Day Out In Nowhere, Bonnet is joined by his regular bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass) and Conrado Pesinato (guitar) along with keyboardist Alessandro Bertoni and drummer Shane Gaalaas.

Bonnet: “In a similar way to the first two [GBB] albums, this new record reflects different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist,” states Bonnet. “I’m also delighted to be playing with original band members Beth-Ami Heavenstone, who has been my constant partner on and off stage since we met in 2012, plus Conrado Pesinato, whose innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting. They were also both involved in the album production, which helped make the whole process seamless.”

The album also features guest contributions and co-writing credits from the likes of Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, Nevermore), John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie), Mike Tempesta (Powerman 5000), Roy Z (Halford, Bruce Dickinson).

One particularly significant guest is current Deep Purple keyboard player, Don Airey, who, of course, played alongside Bonnet on the classic 1979 Rainbow album, Down To Earth.

Bonnet: ” I’m very excited to be playing on an album again with Don. Aside from being my long-time friend and former bandmate, he is one of the most incredible musicians I have ever had the pleasure to play with, he’s a ‘real’ keyboard player and a classically trained pianist.

The album follows his three recent critically-acclaimed albums: The Book in 2016 and Meanwhile, Back in the Garage in 2018, plus a  2020 reunion album with Graham Bonnet’s Alcatrazz entitled Born Innocent.

DAY OUT IN NOWHERE
TRACKLISTING

1  Imposter
2  12 Steps to Heaven
3  Brave New World feat Roy Z
4  Uncle John
5  Day Out In Nowhere
6  The Sky is Alive
7  David’s Mom
8  When We’re Asleep feat Mike Tempesta & John Tempesta
9  It’s Just a Frickin’ Song feat Don Airey
10  Jester feat Jeff Loomis, Kyle Hughes
11  Suzy

Released by Frontiers on 13th May 2022

https://www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic

Related posts:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire 2017

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 2016

Graham Bonnet Band at The Garage, Islington 2014

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at Birmingham Genting Arena 2017

Deep Purple at the O2, London 2015

Loud, proud and still going: new album from Nazareth due out on 15th April

Veteran Scottish hard-rock band, Nazareth, have released a new single, ‘Strange Days’, ahead of a brand-new studio album out on 15th April.

Surviving The Law is the band’s twenty-fourth album since Nazareth formed in 1968 in Dunfermline. After the departure of founding vocalist, Dan McCafferty, in 2013 – for health reasons, there were some questions about the band’s future viability with new vocalist, Linton Osborne, joining and then rapidly leaving after less than a year. However, with the arrival of new lead singer, Carl Sentance, the band found a new lease of life. Sentence has brought a real energy to the band and Nazareth continues to be a popular live draw and their 2018 album, Tattooed On My Brain, picked up dozens of favourable reviews.

The band today are founding member, Pete Agnew (bass), Carl Sentance (vocals), Jimmy Murrison (guitar) and Lee Agnew (drums). All four members have contributed their share of song-writing and, like the previous album, this latest one has been produced by Yann Rouiller at Sub Station in the band’s home town of Dunfermline, Scotland.

Surviving The Law – tracklisting:

1  Strange Days

2  You Gotta Pass It Around

3  Runaway

4  Better Leave It Out

5  Mind Bomb

6  Sweet Kiss

7  Falling In Love

8  Waiting For The World To End

9  Let The Whisky Flow

10  Sinner

11  Ciggies And Booze

12  Psycho Skies

13  Love Breaks

14  You Made Me

Released by Frontiers: 15th April 2022

http://nazarethdirect.co.uk/

New book: ‘Suzi Quatro In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson coming in July 2022

Following my biography on The Sweet last year, I’m absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to write a second book for the Decades series published by Sonicbond.

Suzi Quatro In The 1970s will be published at the end of July and is available for pre-order on Amazon here. It will also be available from other retailers and via the publisher’s own online shop in due course.

The synopsis on Amazon hopefully gives you a flavour of what’s in store:

‘If you talk about the ‘70s, I was a hardworking artist. I did nothing but tour – recording, touring, TV, you know. I had constant jetlag. Constant black shadows under my eyes but, oh, what a ride! What a wonderful ride. And I’m still doing it now.’ Suzi Quatro

With a succession of hit singles, including eight UK top twenty hits and two number ones, sell-out tours and six studio albums, Suzi Quatro was an enduring presence throughout the 1970s, the decade that saw her move away from being part of an all-girl band in Detroit and relocate to England for a solo career that challenged old stereotypes and helped redefine the image of the female rock icon.

Taking each year in turn this book takes a detailed look at Suzi Quatro’s career throughout the decade where she enjoyed her greatest successes, including a comprehensive overview of each album and single released during that period, her touring schedule and her frequent media appearances, including that famous guest role in Happy Days. As well as making extensive use of press archives from the era, Suzi Quatro In The 1970s also includes personal reflections from an exclusive interview with Suzi herself.

Related post:

Book: The Sweet in the 1970s

21st Century Exposé: New EP from Tim Izzard celebrates fifty years of Glam Rock

A year on from the release of his well-received debut album last year, Sussex-based singer-songwriter/musician, Tim Izzard, has a brand-new EP out. 21st Century Exposé builds on the themes explored in Izzard’s debut album, Starlight Rendezvous, an album of original songs inspired by David Bowie in at the height of his Ziggy period. 21st Century Exposé is a full-on celebration of the glam era in all its glory and the sparkling, luminous trail it has left across music of many different genres over the past fifty years.

Tim Izzard: “Starlight Rendezvous had its origins very much rooted in Glam-era Bowie. The follow-up EP, 21st Century Exposé further celebrates the man and the old and current glam scene, mixing up old school new wave, power-pop, glam, neo-glam, futuristic ballads and a slice of cabaret to muse on twenty-first century living.”

The lead song on the new EP is the wonderful ‘Glam Rock Star’, a tribute to glam rock’s first half-century – a genre that is still influencing music today.

Izzard: “Whilst it is recognised that T. Rex’s 1971 No.1 Hot Love gave birth to UK glam rock it was in 1972 that it escaped into the playground with Bowie, Roxy, Alice Cooper, Mott, Slade and many others pushing the musical and make-up boundaries! I still remember vividly watching an alien Bowie perform Starman on TOTP and later on the futuristic , 50’s throw-back of Virginia Plain by Roxy Music. Fifty years on and there are still many bands and artists producing new glam and neo-glam music such as the UK’s The Voltz, Sweden’s SilverGlam and, in the US, Creem Circus and Gyasi. Like the influence of Bowie on my music you can hear Bolan’s vocal, Mick Ronson’s guitar or the wall of sound of Slade and much more in the ‘New’ Glam sound.”

Released 24th January 2022

21st Century Exposé can be found on Bandcamp at: https://timizzard.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TimIzzardMusic/

Related post:

Tim Izzard and the new glammed-up Ziggy-esque album ‘Starlight Rendezvous’

Live review: the final ever Giants of Rock, Minehead 21-23 January 2022

This month saw a return to Minehead for what would turn out to be the last of the Giants of Rock weekends which have been running off-season at Butlins for the past eight years. I missed the first one, back in 2014, because I’d already committed to going to Skegness Butlins for the Rock and Blues weekend that year and, obviously, we all missed the one last year because it was cancelled due to Covid – but other than that it’s been an essential date in my gig calendar every year.

In truth, and no disrespect to any individual act playing, the festival line-up was starting to look a little threadbare. Past weekends had given us the likes of Uriah Heep, Michael Schenker and Ian Hunter but Butlins’ capacity for signing up genuine bona fide rock giants seemed to be on the wane somewhat. Admittedly, simple demographics have meant that performers from that classic era of classic rock (post-Beatles – pre-punk: 1969-1975) are becoming more and more of a rarity but Giants of Rock also seemed to be getting stuck in a bit of a rut with the same promoter relying on the same small roster of acts year in year out.

I was pondering whether this might be the last time I book but in the end the decision was made for me. From next year the slot previously filled by Giants of Rock will be given over to Bootleg Ball described in the publicity as “A tribute to the giants of rock – featuring the best tributes to the biggest rock bands on the planet past and present.” I’m not snobbish about tribute acts, I’ve seen some great tribute bands locally down here in Hastings but the idea that I’m going to make a 500-mile round trip to the West Country to see tribute acts is a non-starter, particularly when there are so many other festivals like Hard Rock Hell and Cornwall Rocks to choose from. I can see the attraction from Butlins’ perspective though. As well as aiming to hold on to some of the loyal Giants of Rock audience they’ll be able to substantially up attendance figures by appealing to the lucrative stag and hen market and those large groups that you get on so many other Butlins weekends on the look-out for some tongue-in-cheek fun.

Knowing it would be the last Giants of Rock did mean the weekend was tinged with a touch of sadness. One of the truly wonderful things about Giants of Rock is the strong sense of community that has built up amongst regular attendees. I therefore wanted this last hurrah to be a memorable one – thankfully it was.

Friday

I have some vague memories of seeing Ten Years After at Reading Festival as a 17yo in 1983. They were already well into ‘heritage act’ status even then but other than inheriting an Alvin Lee best-of CD from my dad, I mainly know them via Slade’s wonderful cover of ‘Hear Me Calling’ on the Slade Alive album. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect tonight. The late Alvin Lee had left the band a good ten years before his untimely death in 2013 and I recall reading of a further split in the ranks more recently. So I really had little idea what the Ten Years After of 2022 would have to offer and I’d done no research beforehand – but, my, they are absolutely mind-blowing. Still with original keyboard player, Chick Churchill, and original drummer, Ric Lee, vocalist/guitarist Marcus Bonfanti is a stunning blues rock performer who exudes energy and the interplay between him and keyboardist Chick Churchill is a thing of immense beauty and absolutely joyful to watch. This was definitely one of my “oh wow” highlights of the entire weekend and I will certainly be on the lookout to see them again – they were just incredible. Ironically, in the other room another band that I also remember from Reading in 1983 was on stage – Big Country. I never really got into them at the time and catching the end of their set while waiting for Praying Mantis, I can report that they still don’t really do much for me now either. They certainly had a packed-out room and an enthusiastic crowd though. Praying Mantis, on the other hand, lived up to all expectations and, once again, delivered a superb set of polished melodic metal.

Saturday

At festivals I tend to have a policy of trying not to cram in so many bands that I’m completely knackered before the end of the evening and end up missing acts I really want to see later on. As such, it was a leisurely start on the Saturday but I made it in time for Sad Café who were the last of the three acts on the main stage in the afternoon. Bizarrely, Sad Café were another band I remember seeing at Reading in 1983 so it seemed appropriate to give them a go for old time’s sake. I lasted about three songs but they weren’t doing anything at all for me I’m afraid so a catch-up with old friends outside the venue became the preferred alternative before heading off to the Introducing Stage. This year, the stage had moved from the cramped but intimate surroundings of Jaks bar to the big Skyline Pavilion. The acoustics are not good, it’s draughty as hell and while it’s still daylight it has all the atmosphere of a shopping centre on a rainy afternoon. Nevertheless, bluesy mother and daughter -fronted combo Lee Ainley’s Blues Storm impressed me enough for me to buy their recent CD – Evolution. Sussex-based (so fairly local to me) I look forward to seeing more of them. By 5pm it was now dark, there was a sizeable crowd and a more gig-like atmosphere for the next act: Matt Long and the Revenant Ones. Hard riffs, powerful songs and catchy choruses this classic power trio of Matt Long (guitars and vocals), Adam Pyke (bass) and Kev Hickman (drums) immediately had the crowd going and soon had me heading straight to the merch desk. I wanted to buy The Other Side their debut album – but they’d forgot to bring any! Never mind, I’ve just ordered one online as I write…

Saturday evening became a bit of a Giants of Rock nostalgia-fest with three acts that have very much become must-sees whenever they’ve been on. First, there is ex-Argent guitarist John Verity with his trademark blend of stunning blues rock solo compositions and classic hard rock covers.

John Verity

Next, we have the reformed Atomic Rooster which includes vocalist Pete French and guitarist Steve Boltz from the band’s early 70s era. Filling Vincent Crane’s shoes is a hard ask but Adrian Gautrey does an incredible job on Hammond organ bringing those signature heavy keyboard licks to a live set. I’d absolutely love to see them release a live CD from the modern-day Atomic Rooster. If you’re reading this please take this as a formal request. The final of my trio of past GOR favourites tonight is Geordie. Reformed in 2018, original members Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums) have given Brian Johnson’s pre-AC/DC band a fresh reboot and are joined by Steve Dawson (guitar) and Mark Wright (vocals). Originally notching up a handful of hit singles as an early 70s glam rock act before evolving into more traditional hard rock album territory in the years that followed, the band pull off both personas superbly and provide a perfect end to the evening.

Sunday

Young twenty-something Swiss guitarist, Félix Rabin, was one of the winners of the Introducing Stage in 2020 and he is back this year with the first slot of the day on the main stage. I missed him last time around but his incredible stage presence and virtuoso guitar skills make him a obvious winner with the crowd. As soon as he’s finished there is a huge queue forming at the merch desk. Unlike Matt Long, Félix Rabin did remember to bring along a big box of albums but they still managed to sell out before I could get to the head of the queue to buy one – definitely a name to watch. I stayed around for prog rock outfit the John Hackett Band but my energy levels dropped and after a couple of songs and some very obvious sound problems I sloped off for a long snooze. I was back in time for the awesome Gorilla Riot on the Introducing Stage. Frontman vocalist/guitarist Arjun Bhishma is gloriously cocky, cheekily irreverent and hugely talented. The band are an instant hit and their brand of raunchy, sleazy, bluesy rock and roll is delivered to perfection.

Gorilla Riot

Sunday evening’s entertainment is centred around another Giants Of Rock favourite Wille and The Bandits followed by Nazareth and Vambo. It meant missing the excellent King King but I’d already seen them just before Christmas and some good-time party rock and roll that the rejuvenated Nazareth provide in spades seemed just the ticket for the last night of the last ever Giants of Rock.

So that is that. Thank you Butlins Minehead. You’ve given me some incredible memories over the last seven years – from spending time back-stage with one of my all-time musical heroes, Ian Hunter, to meeting a very amiable Uriah Heep in the chippy, to discovering a host of superb bands like Hells Gazelles and Scarlet Rebels, to witnessing incredible performances from iconic performers like Procol Harum and the Pretty Things. And perhaps, most of all, the annual Giants of Rock weekend has helped build an incredibly friendly and welcoming community of rock fans, ably fostered by an extremely active Facebook group throughout the year. I am certain that some of that magic will long outlive the festival itself.

Thank you Giants of Rock and to everyone who has helped to make it special over the past eight years.

Giants of Rock 2020

Giants of Rock 2019

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Graham Bonnet at Giants of Rock 2016

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Procol Harum at Giants of Rock 2016

Bernie Marsden at Giants of Rock 2015

Slade at Giants of Rock 2015

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2015

Big River return with new single: ‘The Long Way’ released 28th January

Kent-based heavy blues band Big River come back with another new single towards the end of January.

‘The Long Way‘ is the second song to be released from Big River’s forthcoming EP and follows the excellent ‘Don’t Hold Out’ released last Autumn. ‘Beautiful Trauma’ the band’s eagerly-anticipated five-track EP is scheduled for release in the Spring.

I’ve long been a fan of Big River’s riff-heavy classic blues rock and forthcoming single ‘The Long Way’ is testimony as to why I’m predicting a bright future for the band in the months ahead. Their decision to team up with Adam Barron last year (ex Mick Ralphs Band and former Voice contestant) has seen the band go from strength to strength, both as performers and as song-writers. Certainly I look forward to hearing the full EP but check out the new single here.

“There’s many more where this came from,” Big River assure us.

Guitarist, Damo Fawsett: “We’ve played this song a few times in the later gigs of 2021 & it’s an ‘All out’ Rocker, from the moment the opening riff kicks in you can see on people’s faces they’re going to like what’s coming, and it just keeps on building.”

Big River are: Adam Barron (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass), Joe Martin (drums / backing vocals). They will be touring the UK from March 2022 onwards with dates throughout the year.

‘The Long Way’ single released on all digital platforms 28th January 2022

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Live review – Big River at The Carlisle, Hastings 2021

Single review – Big River – Don’t Hold Out

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016