Tag Archives: album review

Hard rock: album review – Voodoo Circle ‘Raised On Rock’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Inspired by the likes of Rainbow and Deep Purple, Germany’s Voodoo Circle have been delivering melodic hard rock for a decade now. Recently, Voodoo Circle underwent a metamorphosis that both of those aforementioned bands have had considerable experience of, namely a change in vocalist.

Herbie Langhans replaces David Readman as lead singer for this latest album – Raised On Rock. “I feel that the band sounds even more autonomous, a little less bluesy and much meatier with Herbie at the mic,” Alex Beyrodt, the band’s guitarist, founder and lead composer, enthuses. “This allowed me to work on ideas which would probably not really have suited his predecessor David Readman but are absolutely perfect for Herbie’s powerful voice.”

Virtuoso guitar combined with accessible melodies and unforgettable hooks is, as Ritchie Blackmore discovered long ago, an irresistible combination and there’s some good song-writing and quality musicianship on this album. ‘Running Away From Love’ deploys all of those tricks and opens the album in style. ‘Where Is The World We Love’ and ‘Chase Me Away’ show a slower, more reflective side of the band but, again, strong melodies, memorable choruses and passionate, soulful guitar solos leave their mark on the listener. The Blackmore-esque epic ‘Dreamchaser’ dates back to the earliest days of the band. Originally written for Voodoo Circle’s debut album Beyrodt wasn’t quite happy with the result but, finally, it takes its place on this album. “The arrangement of the number was changed and overhauled repeatedly over the years, now it’s matured to the point where it was ready for recording,” says Beyrodt.

Langhans has a voice perfectly suited for this type of material and long-term fans of the band should have no worries at all about accepting him into the fold. Meanwhile, for those who may be less familiar with Voodoo Circle but have an abiding love of beautifully-played melodic hard rock this is an album well worth checking out.

Released: 9th February 2018





Americana: album review – Orphan Colours ‘All On Red’

Back in the summer of 2010 I was one of many thousands at Fairport Convention’s Cropredy festival being wowed by the impressive talents and uplifting melodies of the then newly-formed alt-country outfit, ahab. Sadly, the pressures of holding it all together proved too much and the band split. Two of their number, Steve Llewellyn and Dave Burn, were not done yet, however. Together with ex Noah & The Whale guitarist Fred Abbott, Danny & The Champions of The World drummer Steve Brookes and bass player Graham Knight, they formed a new band Orphan Colours.

As Llewellyn explains, “At the end of 2013 both ahab and Noah & The Whale had been chewed up and spat out by the music business. We found ourselves out of a job despite both band’s upward trajectories. The toll of touring and hard graft was too much. Speaking for myself, I had a lot more to give and I wasn’t anywhere near done yet. I had a backlog of songs that weren’t fit for ahab and I wanted to get them out into the world. So despite having failed with ahab and the financial pressures I was under, I put every penny I had into this project.”

After a really promising EP ‘High Hopes’ in 2016 the band set to work on the live circuit but have now finally released their debut album. Compared to the up-tempo numbers of love and heartbreak from the ahab days, All On Red mines more of a classic, laid-back, country-rock vibe but the talent for strong melody, heart-warming vocals and infectious choruses is as evident as ever. The deliciously-sounding ‘Start Of Something’ which opens the albums gives you everything you would want from a great country rock song and from then on the album doesn’t falter.

“I had written my fair share of sensitive songs for ahab – about love and loss and all that, and there’s a few on here but I really wanted to bring a bit of rock n roll into the UK Americana scene and I feel like we’ve achieved a good balance on this record,” contends Llewellyn.

It was particularly nice to catch the band performing a few songs from the album as part of an in-store appearance at Bexhill’s Music’s Not Dead record store last Saturday (well three-fifths of them anyway – drummer, Steve Brookes, eschewing the chance to set up his kit on the tiny shop window stage and guitarist, Dave Burn, managing to damage his ankle falling of stage the night before). Gamely, the depleted gang honour the gig anyway and deliver an impressive, heartfelt performance. While only a small number of those crammed into the shop owned up to witnessing either Orphan Colours or ahab live before, it was encouraging to see that they had clearly won over a number of new fans.

All On Red is a very impressive debut album. Let’s hope the music world conspires to keep Orphan Colours around for a few years longer than it did their predecessors.

Released: 26th January 2018


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Related reviews:
ahab at Cropredy 2015
Orphan Colours in London 2016
Dave Burn – solo album review

Folk/Rock: album review – False Lights ‘Harmonograph’

This review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

In that beast known as folk rock we often find that the ’rock’ element tends to be closely rooted in whatever were the current rock influences of the period. Late ’60s Fairport Convention, mid ’70s Steeleye Span or late ’80s Oysterband all captured that Zeitgeist perfectly; and some classic albums came about as a result.

It is not unreasonable to insist, therefore, that if this melding of the two genres is to continue in a meaningful sense that it is time for some more contemporary influences to be embraced.

The first False Lights album Salvor was released in 2015 with a mission to make ’folk rock for the twenty-first century’ and won many fans as a result. Harmonograph continues in that vein and there is an unstoppable energy and momentum about the album from the very start.

Nearly all the tracks on the album are traditional songs from the folk canon, augmented with a couple of adaptations of traditional hymns alongside a tune composed by the group’s Tom Moore. The album is steeped in history and draws on some wonderful folk tunes but it celebrates traditional music without ever being constrained by it.

The lyrics to folk songs like Murder In The Red Barn remain as dramatic, as unforgiving and as brutal as ever; but being removed from any archetypal folk stylings in terms of delivery they are given a potency that is quite startling against a backdrop of jangly indie-sounding guitar and breezy, contemporary-sounding vocal delivery. It really makes the listener hang on to every word of every song.

A stellar line-up of Jim Moray, Sam Carter, Tom Moore, Archie Churchill-Moss, Barnaby Stradling and Stuart Provan means there is never any let up in quality and there is plenty of virtuoso musicianship as well as bags of energy and creativity.

This album is a clear demonstration that False Lights continue to impress and innovate on the road on which they started back in 2015. It does not mean that we have to put away our Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span or Oysterband albums but it does mean that in Harmonograph we have some twenty-first century folk rock that can easily stand proudly beside them.

Released: 2nd February 2018



Related reviews:
Moore, Moss, Rutter at Cecil Sharp House


Metal: album review – W.A.S.P. ‘Re-idolized (The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol)

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Moving away from the trashy, good-time, OTT lyrics of earlier albums, The Crimson Idol (released in 1993) saw Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. move into the territory of the concept  album.

The Crimson Idol tells the story of dispossessed teenager, Jonathan Steele, who becomes addicted to drink and drugs following the death of his brother and rejection by his parents. He turns his life around by becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star but still seeks acceptance from his parents. Trying and failing to reconcile with them the story ends with Steele committing suicide.

Now, some twenty-five years after it was first released, The Crimson Idol is back in the form of Re-idolized (The Soundtrack To The Crimson Idol). It’s a four-disc package that includes two CDs (the complete re-recording of the original album by the current W.A.S.P. line-up, including several tracks that were never included on the original album), along with DVD and Blue Ray versions of the hitherto unreleased Crimson Idol film. The album was originally intended to be accompanied by said film and several hundred hours of footage was shot at the time. Assembled here to create approximately 50 minutes of screen time it finally sees the light of day.

Filmed in grainy, evocative black and white, it is to be seen very much as an extended album-length video rather than (in contrast to say The Who’s Quadrophinia) a fully-formed rock film in its own right. As such, I’m not sure it’s something I would necessarily want to go and see at the cinema but it’s certainly a compelling visual memento of a very significant album in W.A.S.P.’s career.

For the CDs there is a definite energy and vitality about the recordings, even if I remain to be fully convinced of what overriding artistic point is being served by bands re-recording classic albums.  However, having seen the band perform the album in full on their recent UK tour, W.A.S.P. are definitely firing on all cylinders, Lawless’s voice is as powerful as ever, guitarist Doug Blair is an awesome player and it’s great to hear the album with the original missing songs fully restored to their rightful place in the story.

The serious W.A.S.P. fan will almost certainly want to buy this. For the more casual fan, whose interest in W.A.S.P. may have been rekindled by both the recent tour and the publicity around this release, the original version of The Crimson Idol (retailing at around half the price) may well suffice.

Released: February 2nd 2018



Related review:
W.A.S.P. at Hastings 2017


Metal: album review – Anvil ‘Pounding The Pavement’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here 

Few who have seen the brilliant ‘Story Of Anvil’ film could fail to fall in love with this band. But is being the world’s most loveable metal band enough to make you want to carry on buying their albums? On the evidence of the band’s latest offering the answer has got to be yes. Ahead of a UK tour in February ‘Pounding The Pavement’ is a very creditable offering. While it’s true there is no new equivalent of ‘Metal on Metal’ here there is plenty of typically Anvil-style good-time heavy metal, with tracks like ‘Smash Your Face’ and ‘Rock Your Shit’ delivering trademark crunching riffs and sing-along choruses.

Opening with ‘Bitch In A Box’ I did at first think come on guys it’s not 1981 any more but the album does also showcase some more mature lyrical themes.

The anthemic ‘Nanook Of The North’ explores the fate of Canada’s inuit population. As a Canadian band, we wanted to focus on more Canadian topics,” Kudlow explains; “I remembered a course at the College of Movie History, where I saw one of the first TV documentaries ever. I did some research on the internet and came across that strange overtone singing the Inuit do. I was totally awed and knew immediately what I had to do: write a song with that typical tribal feel. That college documentary was made some time during the 1920s and is called ‘Nanook Of The North’, named after the protagonist of the documentary. So I had found my title and the subject of the song.”

Another noteworthy track is ‘Warming Up’ with its Ballroom Blitz-style drum shuffle.

It’s clear that vocalist and guitarist, Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, and drummer, Robb Reiner, still love what they are doing and that there’s more to them than simply being endearing but unlikely stars in a tragi-comic blockbuster. Along with current bass player, Chris Robertson, Kudlow and Reiner are still rocking and still making decent new music. This album is well worth a listen.

Released: January 18th 2018




Folk: album review – Green Matthews ‘A Christmas Carol – A Folk Opera’

This review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Following in the footsteps of Fairport Convention’s Babbacombe Lee and Peter Bellamy’s The Transports, Green Matthews’ A Christmas Carol presents itself as a ’folk opera’. With twenty songs stretching over an hour, it retells the tale of Charles Dickens’ renowned Christmas story by putting new lyrics to well-known carols and traditional tunes.

Green Matthews are Chris Green, (vocals, guitar, mandocello, piano, accordion, bass guitar and drums) and Sophie Matthews (vocals, flute and English border bagpipes). For this album they are also joined by Pilgrims’ Way’s Jude Rees who joins the duo on melodeon and oboe.

Musically, the album brings to mind some of the much-celebrated Christmas albums by Maddy Prior and The Carnival Band, with their inventive arrangements of well-known carols and their vast array of different instruments. However, the latter have often spiced up their traditional Christmas fare by delving back in time and unearthing one or two obscure but captivating tunes to accompany the more familiar ones.

Although Green Matthews offer us beautiful, luscious arrangements of well-known tunes, it would perhaps have been nice to have heard a few less familiar ones, as well. One cannot fault the musicianship, however, and it is lovely to hear such tunes played so beautifully on such a well-produced album.

Lyrically, apart from a couple of clumsy lines here and there, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is translated into song in a thoroughly engaging and entertaining way. Vocally, the duo have sought to avoid the twin clichés of the “finger-in-the-ear folk voice” on the one hand and “musical theatre camp” on the other, we are assured in the album’s accompanying publicity. This they certainly achieve and the songs are delivered with sincerity and passion and a complete lack of affectation.

For those looking to expand their festive folk selections this year and wanting something a little different from the plethora of carol anthologies and traditional Christmas songs, this brand new folk opera based on Charles Dickens’ finest may well just do the trick – a worthy addition to any collection.

Released: November 2017





Folk/rock/renaissance: album review – Blackmore’s Night ‘Winter Carols’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Ritchie Blackmore’s move from the hard rock of Rainbow and Deep Purple to the renaissance folk of Blackmore’s Night, with his wife Candice, has always been controversial among rock fans,

When I reviewed the Blackmore’s Night compilation ‘To The Moon And Back’ for Get Ready To ROCK! back in the summer I concluded that in spite of there being much to like in their music I just wished they would exercise a bit more quality control on some of their more obvious material.

For the most part, this CD (a remastering of their 2006 2-CD Christmas album with three additional bonus tracks) definitely falls into that latter category. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and in spite of not having a religious bone in my body I do actually enjoy hearing Christmas carols. But when a musician of the calibre of Blackmore puts out an album of Christmas songs I expect him to push the boat out a bit creatively.

Maddy Prior and early music specialists The Carnival Band, for example, have put out some fabulous albums of Christmas music over the years, unearthing obscure 16th century carols or putting together fascinating arrangements of more familiar ones as well as introducing an even more fascinating array of centuries-old instruments.

Most of the arrangements on ‘Winter Carols’, however, are a predictable mix of treacly AOR meets twee medievalism. There are some stand-outs. ‘Wish You Were Here’ (not the Pink Floyd track but a cover of a song by Swedish band Rednex) has Blackmore picking up his electric guitar and beautifully executing some typically Blackmore-esque solos.

There’s also some lovely live versions of ‘Emmanuel’ and ‘We Three Kings’ which work really well but for the most part, I’m afraid, I found this album a bit too twee and a bit too predictable.

Released October 2017



Related reviews:
Blackmore’s Night – To The Moon & Back
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – live in Birmingham


Folk: album review – Pilgrims’ Way ‘Stand & Deliver’

This review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Following two previous albums (2011’s Wayside Courtesies and 2016’s Red Diesel) north west-based band Pilgrims’ Way are back with a third. There has been a line-up change since the last one, with Jude Rees now joining Tom Kitching, Edwin Beasant and Jon Loomes, but there has been no let-up in the band’s trademark vigour and verve.

Stand and Deliver is a concept album of sorts, that brings together a selection of traditional highwayman songs, always a rich and enduring source of material in English folk.

The album promises fifty different instruments across its eleven tracks and we hear oboe, bagpipes, flutes, recorders, hurdy gurdy, Jews’ harp, harmonica, concertina and melodeon, to name a few, as well as guitars, bass, drums and percussion.

In addition, the band cite almost as diverse a list of musical genres influencing their interpretations as they do instruments; from classic-era folk rock, through to Madchester, doom metal, disco and West End musicals.

The juxtaposition of the vocals of the three male members of the band alongside new member, Jude Rees, also adds to that sense of variety and contrast.

It is an ambitious project, for sure, and there could be a danger of something like this lacking coherence but the enthusiasm of the band and their combined musical talents definitely carry it through.

Material-wise, there is plenty that many folk fans will be familiar with, but the band definitely put their own stamp on well-known songs like Ibson, Gibson, Johnson and Cadgwith Anthem.

A sonically-menacing Saucy Bold Robber, with an arrangement inspired by a folk take on doom metal with some great vocals from Rees, is also another highlight.

The album finishes up with a spirited, tongue-in-cheek cover of the 1981 chart hit Stand and Deliver. How could any album about dandy highwaymen fail to pay tribute to Adam and the Ants?

Stand and Deliver is an ambitious album that is executed with style and panache. While there are obvious echoes back to some of the folk-rock albums of the classic early 70s period there is also something fresh, innovative and daring about Pilgrims’ Way that make this album a delight to listen to.

Released 20th October 2017





Folk: album review – Georgia Lewis ‘The Bird Who Sings Freedom’

This review was originally published in the October 2017 issue of fRoots magazine

Georgia Lewis won the 2015 Bromyard Festival ‘Future Of Young Folk’ and she has already packed in a nicely diverse range of projects into her musical CV so far, touring and recording with prog-rock band, Maschine and performing regularly with The Causeway Céilí Band as well as with her own trio, where Felix Miller (guitar) and Rowan Piggott (fiddle) have been accompanying Lewis on vocals and accordeon for the past five years.

‘The Bird Who Sings Freedom’ is Georgia Lewis’s debut album. Joining the regular trio are Tom Sweeney on double bass and Evan Carson on percussion. As well as thoughtful and innovative interpretations of traditional folk songs like Raggle Taggle Gypsies and Wife Of Usher’s Well, Lewis takes an inventive approach to sourcing other material. The title track, and album opener, is based on the words of poet and civil rights activist, Dr Maya Angelou, set to music by Seaford singer, Jerry Jordan, and covered by Lewis. Meanwhile, on True Lover she has a stab at setting an A.E. Houseman poem to music, with some pleasing results.

Until One Day, inspired by the forced separation of her great-grandparents during the war, is Lewis’s one wholly original composition and shows promise as a songwriter in both lyrics and melody.

It is also worth listening out for the fiddle contributions of Rowan Piggott, another rising star of the folk scene who has his own debut solo album out shortly. Piggott plays some suitably authentic-sounding traditional Swedish fiddle accompaniment on his own composition on the album: A Royal Game / Kungsleden.

A delicately expressive voice, Lewis’s final song, the murder ballad Lady Diamond, very much put me in mind of the way Sandy Denny might have approached and re-interpreted a traditional ballad like this. And that has got to be a huge recommendation from my point of view. An album worth checking out and a name worth keeping an eye on.

Released July 2017




Folk – album review – Peter Knight’s Gigspanner ‘The Wife Of Urban Law’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Folk rock icon, fiddle supremo and former Steeleye Span-er, Peter Knight, along with the rest of his trio Gigspanner have been busy lately. This is their second new album of the year. First, in the summer came a live album from the expanded line-up of the band (known as the Gigspanner Big Band) and now this autumn the trio release ‘The Wife Of Urban Law’.

For those unfamiliar with Knight’s current outfit (Gigspanner actually began as a side project to Steeleye Span but is now his main focus after leaving his former band four years ago), they veer more towards the folk end rather than the folk-rock end of the spectrum. However, to merely describe them as folk ignores the huge range of musical influences that are at play on a Gigspanner album; from English folk to eastern European, French, Cajun, African and even aboriginal influences.

This latest album continues in that vein and is as expansive and inventive as ever. Knight’s virtuoso fiddle is, of course, an intrinsic part of the overall Gigspanner sound but so, too, is the suitably atmospheric acoustic-electric guitar of Roger Flack and the absolutely spellbinding percussion of new boy, Sacha Trochet, who took over from original conga player, Vincent Salzfaas, recently.

Material-wise, imaginative interpretations of traditional folk songs like ‘Green Gravel’ and ‘Bold Riley’ sit alongside self-penned numbers like the lively ‘Urban’s Reel’ which opens the album and ‘Lament for the Wife of Urban Law’ based on an inscription on a 19th century Oxfordshire gravestone which gives the album its title.

Hypnotic, infectious, inventive and utterly, utterly unique, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner continue to shine and this is yet another superb album from the trio.

Released 31 October 2017



Previous reviews:
Gigspanner at Hastings 2017
Gigspanner Big Band at Hastings 2016
Gigspanner ‘Layers of Ages’ album
Steeleye Span in London 2015