With a name like that, various 70s glam heroes cited as key influences and an album due out in July entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Glitter Suit it’s probably not too much of a coincidence that the paths of Darren’s Music Blog and Velvet Insane would eventually cross.
The Swedish-based band were formed in 2013 by guitarist Jesper Lindgren and describe themselves as a three-piece gang of rockers that reinvented glam rock by mixing the pop harmonies of the 70’s with the heavy sound of today. There have been changes in personnel and switches in record companies along the way but the band’s fortunes received a significant boost when they signed to a deal with Wild Kingdom/Sound Pollution earlier this year.
On the record deal the band commented:
“It feels inspiring and exciting to have signed a deal with Wild Kingdom. After working our asses off for years jumping around on different record companies it feels like we finally found our home. Wild Kingdom got the distinct rock ’n’ roll vein that we all love. Together we have made this glammy high energy rock ’n’ roll album that we feel very proud of. A wam bam beat that will knock you of your feet.”
An initial single and video, the wonderfully-titled ‘Backstreet Liberace’, from the forthcoming album was released back in May to great acclaim. All pounding piano keys, big handclaps, infectious riffs and catchy choruses there’s plenty to love about this.
‘Backstreet Liberace’ was then followed up with a second single from second single and music video ‘Sound of Sirens’ released 11th June. With a change of pace here they define it as 60’s pop gem made for the modern day.
Of the latest single the band say:
“We feel very proud about this catchy singalong pop gem and that it shows a slightly different side of Velvet Insane. Strongly influenced by The Beatles and 60’s pop music it gives you shivers and shows our passion and love for all kinds of music. A song we really looking forward to playing live and feel the energy from the audience in the future. With the video, we want to celebrate where we come from: the 70’s. Kiss, ABBA, Slade and glam rock/pop in general have meant so much to us in our musical upbringing. 1970’s influences in pictures and music but with the sound of today.”
The track is written by the legendary Sulo Karlsson of the Diamond Dogs who also produced and wrote the tracks together with the band on the upcoming album.
After performing a one-off gig together in November 2019 it was announced last year that three former member of Judas Priest, guitarist KK Downing, vocalist Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and drummer Les Binks, would be working together more permanently as part of KK’s Priest.
Downing, of course, had severed his long-standing ties with Judas Priest back in 2011, citing a breakdown in band relations. Owens’ own eight-year tenure in the band, came to a conclusion in 2003 when lead singer, Rob Halford, returned. Binks, meanwhile, left Judas Priest in 1979 after recording three classic albums (Stained Glass, Killing Machine and Unleased In The East) following a row over money with the band’s management.
Binks, who had already been touring with his own outfit Les Binks’ Priesthood – performing songs from his time in the band, has unfortunately had to put activities on hold due to a wrist injury. Downing and Owens, however, are now raring to go with a new single ‘Hellfire Thunderbolt’ released this week, an album Sermons Of The Sinner set for release on 20th August this year, with live dates to be announced as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Downing:“We are delighted to finally be able to release our first track to the world. It gives a real flavour of the sound and showcases the amazing players I’ve got in this band.We can’t wait for the fans to hear the record.”
Joining Downing on guitar and Owens on vocals, are Tony Newton (Voodoo Six) on bass, A.J. Mills (Hostile) on guitar and Sean Elg (DeathRiders/Cage) on drums. It is hoped Binks will make special guest live appearances when the band tours.
Downing notes that Sermons Of The Sinner is an album that celebrates his classic metal roots and encourages us to cherish those iconic pioneers whom we still have with us. He jokes that KK’s Priest is “like a new old band. Or an old new band.”
“The whole concept is the fact that I continue proudly to be who I am and what I am and do what I do,” declares Downing. “It’s been nearly 10 years. I’m back making music.”
Downing continues:“The ultimate message is we’ve moved away from this music that we loved for so long and we’re so dedicated to, and now we’re in a situation where lots of people are actually passing away. We’ve lost a lot of great people – Dio, Lemmy, I could go on – and that’s gonna be accelerated over the coming years. Basically, enjoy everything that’s left of this brand of metal including from me. It’s not going to last forever.”
The new single certainly captures a lot of the energy, attitude and sound of classic Judas Priest and there’s more than enough room in the classic rock and metal scene for bands to thrive. This has got to be good news for Priest fans. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on this band as well as Judas Priest itself. Let’s make the most of them while we’ve still got them.
KK’s Priest is set to tour worldwide as soon as current restrictions are lifted. Details of touring to be announced.
Dave Good is a Kent-based blues rock guitarist who played his first gig aged just 13, growing up on the likes of Jimi Hendrix, the Stones, Peter Green, The Rev Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck and Rory Gallagher.
Blues guitarist Norman Beaker, who has played with the likes of Chris Farlowe, Larry Garner and Van Morrison, says of him:
“Dave Good manages to cross seamlessly from the down home acoustic blues through Chicago and on to Rock Blues. All played with taste and conviction.’’
Dave has been working with Charlie Creese (pictured) at Magpie Studios in Kent over the past four years. Charlie is a gifted engineer and a talented musician in his own right. Dave and Charlie have spent this last few months prepping a number of Dave’s songs at Dave’s studio, ready to record a new album in June.
Between them they have agreed a nine-track album.
Dave says: “This project has taken far too long to pull together due to lockdown etc…!!”
“I’m really wanting to get it down and finished and out there.”
Charlie will be playing bass, Tim Robins will be on drums and Dave will be doing guitars and vocals. Dave will also be joined on vocals by Pip Bowers, an incredible vocalist and arranger.
A number of guest players will also be featured including Nick Bold and guest guitarist, Robin Burrows.
Where The Wind Blows is the second album from Elana Pira. Not unusually for a Scottish folk release it features a number of traditional Scottish and Gaelic melodies alongside familiar favourites like Francis McPeake’s ‘Wild Mountain’s Thyme’ and Tom Paxton’s ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’. It’s an album of Scottish folk with a twist, however. Hailing from Sardinia, Piras inherited her father’s love of singing from an early age and began performing professionally in Italy when young.
“I think when you begin on a path so young, it just becomes an unquestionable part of the fabric of your life and your whole being. Making music is as natural as breathing for me,” she says.
Piras moved to the UK aged 18, where she co-founded and toured with the London Bulgarian choir. It was in 2006, however, following a move to Scotland and a position at the Royal Scottish Academy of Art that her love of Scottish music really began to make itself felt. Immersing herself in the local music scene Piras became a popular fixture at festivals and released her debut album in 2010. Journey was predominantly an album of traditional Scottish music but also included songs from Ireland, Sardinia and Bulgaria.
Being visually impaired since birth, Elena believes it has enabled her to impart a very special meaning to her folk music. She also feels a particular affinity to Scots, Irish and Gaelic folk and maintains that nothing can compare to it in terms of being able to convey the beauty and hardship of a land and its people and its ability to transport both performer and audience into its melodies and narrative.
Where The Wind Blows is Elena Pira’s second album and very much continues the journey she embarked upon with her debut release – exploring and interpreting traditional Scottish music. Recorded in a shed that was repurposed as a recording studio, the project has drawn in a number of talented musicians. As the pandemic threw up the now familiar range of logistical challenges, some of the album’s collaborators also contributed their parts from similarly unconventional locations. Perseverance has its rewards, however, and we are left with an exceptional album.
With a pure clear voice, a self-evident love for the Gaelic language and an instinctive feel for interpreting the material in her own unique way, Elena Pira brings something that’s both precious and meaningful to the Scottish folk scene.
Where The Wind Blows was released 20th November 2020
Personal, amusing, heart-breaking, making a point, performances from the duo Milton Hide have always been memorable, strong in melody and full of hooks. Storytellers at heart, many of their songs are grounded in traditional English song, whilst others are rooted in other folk traditions, such as Appalachian, Klezmer and popular music. Emerging out of the East Sussex open mic and folk club circuit five years ago, the acoustic duo picked up many plaudits for their debut EP, Little Fish, released in 2018.
Now husband and wife duo, Jim and Josie Tipler, are set to release their first full-length album: Temperature’s Rising. All the songs on the album are self-penned originals that Milton Hide have performed live over the past few years.
Josie Tipler: “The name of the album and title track, Temperature’s Rising, seemed very appropriate when we started to work on the album. Greta Thunberg was making news and climate activists were very prominent in the media. Also, there was a lot of protesting going on – anger over US elections and Brexit. Added to which I was in the midst of menopause and suffering frequent hot flushes. All in all, the temperature was metaphorically and actually rising. Little did we know it was going to be even more appropriate as the global pandemic took hold.”
The line-up of musicians appearing on the album are all people the duo have met through playing live. Being unable to come into the studio because of Covid-19 restrictions, the guest musicians all provided their parts to producer, John Fowler, which he then weaved into the songs utilising his incredible editing skills.
Jim Tipler:“We perform as an acoustic duo but, as with our previous EP release, we made the decision to simply present each song in the way we feel best suits it. For some, this is pretty much as we perform it live, for others, we have given it a full band treatment.”
“We asked John Fowler to record and produce it as we had previously worked well with him on a single, Say It All The Time. We knew John would not be afraid to add instrumentation where required and can also play really well. The advantage of working with other musicians is that they pick up on things in your music that you sometimes don’t notice yourself. We love John’s enthusiasm and amazing attention to detail. It was a great symbiosis and a lot of fun! That said, we had to complete the album, using social distancing – spacing ourselves out in the studio as well as doing some recording ourselves in our home studio.”
Milton Hide are:
Jim Tipler – guitars, vocals and piano
Josie Tipler – vocals, clarinet, cajon and xylophone
The full line-up of album guests is:
John Fowler from Dandelion Charm – engineer/producer and multi-instrumentalist: guitars, bass, keyboards and drums
Clare Fowler from Dandelion Charm – backing vocals
Bruce Knapp from Moltenamba – guitars
Fred Gregory from Hatful of Rain – mandolin
Phil Jones from Hatful of Rain – string bass
Ian McIlroy from Rough Chowder – accordion
Simon Yapp from Ian Roland Subtown Set – Fiddle
Artwork for the album was created by Hastings artist Helen Bryant who uses bright inks and watercolours with pen outlines to produce unique striking imagery.
1. ‘Temperature’s Rising’ – with a full band this is a rock track that was inspired by the first Women’s March after the inauguration of President Trump and the marches against Brexit, with the popular slogan “Bridges, not walls”
2. ‘A Little Piece Of Mind’ – is an ode to menopause and mid-life crisis.
3. ‘Littlefield’ – was the first single released from the album, late 2020. Whilst walking the dog one dreary depressing evening, Jim spotted a light in the window of a house that had been empty for many months. It cheered him up.
4. ‘Riding The Whale’ – describes Jim’s childhood memories of playing games on the beach with his dad
5. ‘Making Progress’ – a bit of a rant about stresses of the modern world – work, capitalism, the media and politics.
6. ‘Buckle Up’ – inspired by the true story of Sergeant Paul Meyer USAF, who ‘borrowed’ a C130 transport aircraft to fly from England back to his newly-wed wife in Virginia. A tale of extreme love and homesickness.
7. ‘Turnaround’ – the band often get lost and we now see this as a metaphor for our life. You can always change the road you’re on if you think you’re getting nowhere.
8. ‘Something You Don’t See Everyday’ – A social comment on the irony of becoming desensitised to daily horrors served up to us by modern media platforms. (contains a swearword – radio edit available)
9. ‘Spacetime’ – Professor Brian Cox explained the theory of spacetime on a documentary that Jim watched late one night. It made perfect sense after a large glass of Irish whiskey. This is Jim’s memory of the explanation.
10. ‘Say It All The Time’ – describes a black mood walk on the South Downs. Previously released as a single and re-mixed and mastered for the album.
11. ‘The Ghosts Of Milton Hide’ – written as a retrospective warning to our own children to avoid the woods after dark.
12. ‘Took To Wing (Nightingale)’ – an original modern fable about a woman seeking refuge from abuse and finding freedom in the forest. A finale to the album.
Milton Hide – what they say:
“…A superior folk-club act with a great deal of potential.” Rock’n’Reel magazine
“…high in melodic quality, perfectly-matched voices and rich with storytelling…” Folk Words
“Lovely stuff”Mike Harding
“This is a surprisingly enchanting EP” Northern Sky Magazine
“This is one of those mini-albums which goes straight onto my playlists in its entirety, with its thought-provoking lyrics and catchy tunes.” Trevor Oxborrow – The Folk Show
New studio album scheduled for release this summer
Former Rainbow vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced that his forthcoming album will feature ex-bandmate Don Airey. The two who performed together on the classic Down To Earth album back in 1979 will appear on a new album Graham Bonnet solo album. Bonnet is currently recording with bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass), Conrad Pesinato (guitar) and Mark Zonder (drums). In addition to the core band and the legendary Rainbow and Deep Purple keyboardist, more special guests will be announced in the coming weeks.
Bonnet says: “Similar to the first two albums with my band, it will reflect different eras of my career, but with a contemporary twist. Also, we have some heavy hitting guests including Don Airey and others yet to be announced. I’m very excited to be playing on an album again with Don. Aside from being my longtime 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. “
He adds: “I’m also delighted to be playing with the 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; guitarist Conrado Pesinato, whose innate musical style elicits some of my best songwriting, and the iconic Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) on drums.”
The album is anticipated to be released in summer 2021 and will be Bonnet’s third release with Frontiers Music – following the Graham Bonnet Band albums The Book and Meanwhile, Back In The Garage.
Sweet have released a new video for their current single ‘Still Got The Rock’. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi. You can read my interview with Andy Scott about how the new line-up came about here.
Sweet’s new album, Isolation Boulevard, recorded within the necessary constraints imposed by the Covid-19 global pandemic, plays on the title of the mid-70s album by the band’s classic line-up: Desolation Boulevard.
In a statement on the band’s Facebook page, Sweet’s Andy Scott says:
“Once again you, the hard-core Sweet fans have stepped up and reacted positively to the new album Isolation Boulevard. The cover artwork tips a hat to Desolation Boulevard, 1975 and the band’s first Headline Tours in the USA. The comparison between the old and new is obvious as they are both a compilation of the best of Sweet’s recordings, satisfaction guaranteed.“
“Let’s go back to February 2020 and the world was just getting reports of a new virus, identified as Covid 19. Reaction to the news was slow at the start. I had some news of my own that I was dreading at this time, my cancer had returned. After our Denmark trip in March where we had a show cancelled due to new virus rules on social distancing, I started my treatment during the first lockdown in late March. This meant I was out of action until July/August and was naturally kept in total isolation. I have come through all clear thankfully and am looking forward to getting to grips with some new material next year when we as a band can be all together in a studio without restrictions.“
“The new album Isolation Boulevard was put together between lockdowns in September and October. It was pointed out to me that it had been more than 5 years since our last successful album release and as we hadn’t got Paul or Lee on any recordings especially the hits, we had better put that right as soon as possible. Most of the recording and editing was done in my studio and the results speak for themselves. The drum tracks and new bass lines are very powerful, the guitars are so clear you can hear the plectrum hit the strings and the vocal performances from Paul and Lee are perfection personified. Bruce and I cannot believe how lucky we are that this line up has hit the ground sprinting never mind running. I would personally like to sing the praises of Tom Cory, TC from the Novatines for his technical know-how and engineering skills during the recording of the album. Genius!“
“So, there you have it. Enjoy the single and album and with any luck we may just get back on the road next year.”
The ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format on 8th December 2020. 18th December will see the digital release of the album Isolation Boulevard. There will be a limited-edition colour vinyl of both to pre-order on the release dates with delivery early in 2021. There will also be a CD format of the album available sometime in the new year.
Andy Scott – All Guitars, Synthesizers and Vocals Bruce Bisland – Drums and Vocals Paul Manzi – Lead Vocals Lee Small – Bass Guitar and Vocals Guest Musicians – Steve Mann – Keyboards on Love is Like Oxygen Producer – Andy Scott Engineer – Tom “TC” Cory Studio assistance – Kevin Smith Recorded, Edited and Mixed at Black Rock Studio, Wiltshire
While I’ve no intention of buying it myself (given I’ve got more Slade albums, Slade singles, Slade reissues and Slade compilations than you can shake a stick at) I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album chart last Friday.
This is the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.
What has been nice, and clearly what has helped with sales, is all four original members working to publicise the release and celebrate the band’s shared legacy – even if they do not all see eye to eye these days.
While some bands of a certain vintage split into two rival camps, with Slade it’s all been a bit more complicated. Noddy doesn’t get on with Jim these days but rubs along just fine with Dave and Don. Jim doesn’t have time for Nod or Dave but is on good terms with Don, sending the latter heartfelt good wishes when he suffered a stroke earlier this year. Dave doesn’t get on with Jim and had a pretty acrimonious falling out with Don earlier this year, too, when he sacked him as drummer from his continuing version of Slade. But Dave does get on well with Nod, the two keeping in touch with one another by phone through lockdown. Don, meanwhile, gets on just fine with Jim and Nod in spite of that big falling out with Dave. Got all that?
Still, it’s nice that the four of them put on a united front to promote Cum On Feel The Hitz which collects most of Slade’s singles from 1970 to 1991. The double CD comprises 43 tracks, while the double vinyl features 24.
Noddy: “It’s been remastered. They sound bloody great and there’s a double vinyl out as well. The record company wanted to do it. They wanted to make it a definitive collection, which it pretty much is. In this time of lockdown, I think people need a bit of Slade. We always put a smile on people’s faces. This is the perfect time to cheer people up. Hopefully it’ll reach a new generation too.”
Dave: “The thinking behind it is that BMG signed us for this big deal and really when you’re looking at something like this you’re almost giving us a reappraisal of how many hits we really had.”
Jim:“I’m absolutely thrilled with the chart placing of ‘Cum On Feel The Hitz’ tonight. Many thanks to all the fans for buying the CDs, vinyl and downloading the album. Great to see it in the Top Ten. Rock on!”
Don: “This is fantastic news! I never thought that I’d see us back in the Top Ten again. I was told earlier that BMG thought the album would enter the charts around #7 or #8 – and if it’s been confirmed that the official position in the UK chart is number 8 then that’s great!”
Cheers guys – great to see you back in the charts!
Following a trio of live albums released this year since signing to the Frontiers label, US hard rockers Blue Öyster Cult are set to release their first new studio album in almost two decades,
The Symbol Remains is due out on 9th October. A new single from the album, ‘Tainted Blood’, written by Eric Bloom and Richie Castellano, is also now available.
The sessions for ‘The Symbol Remains’ began in earnest last year. “As the song demos emerged, we realised there was as much if not more variety in style and content on this record as any in our history,” states BÖC lead vocalist/guitarist Eric Bloom. “We embraced this and the thing tying all the disparate elements together is the band’s sound and performance.”
“The album title comes from a quote of an old Sandy Pearlman (BÖC producer and manager) lyric, which basically we are using to show that the band is back and still rocking after all these years. To me, it means we’re still here and doing what we do,” he adds.
“The goal was for the new music to stand up to the quality and vitality of our legacy recordings and I believe we have successfully achieved that,” says founding member Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser. “Other than that, the sound of our voices and style of our writing and playing can’t help but sound familiar to fans of our work.”
On the album the two members from BÖC’s ‘classic era’, vocalist/lead guitarist Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Eric Bloom – both of whom have been with the band from the late 60s, are joined by Danny Mirando on bass/backing vocals, Richie Castellano on guitar/keyboards and Jules Radino on drums.
“We have wanted to record the current line-up for some time and the result of us giving our all on this album speaks for itself,” says Roeser. “The Covid-19 lockdown slowed the completion of the record and we were prevented from travelling and collaborating in person, although luckily we had already done the basic tracking. We resorted to video conferencing and producing each other over the internet and are fortunate that the technology exists to do that, plus some live performance cancellations gave us a little more time to carefully consider the finishing touches. We sent the album out to be mixed by Tom Lord-Alge and we also worked together over the internet on that.”
By way of marking forty years since the emergence of the infamous masked drummer ‘Thunderstick’, who became the iconic figure for the then burgeoning ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ movement, his eponymously-named band are ready to release their first ever official live album. The limited-edition CD will be released by Roulette Records on 20th March.
Thunderstick’s alter ego and creator Barry Graham Purkis announces:“I am so happy to announce that after 40 years of ‘Thunderstick’ a live album will be released this month to celebrate. Comprising both Thunderstick and Samson material with the odd ‘cover’ thrown in for good measure, there has never been any official recordings of the band in concert before so for us this is pretty damn special..!!”
Lead singer Raven Blackwing adds: “I am really excited about the upcoming release of our live album ‘Something Wicked This Way Came’ Thunderstick live in France. The whole gig was a blast from start to finish with so many new friends made, a beautiful way for me to cherish that memory of that performance. It’s my first album with the band and I’m really hoping that people listening to it will pick up on the enjoyment that I and the guys had on stage that night. Much love Raven xx”
Recorded live in France in November 2019 the album features a full concert with the following track listing:
Riding With The Angels
Go Sleep With the Enemy (I Dare Ya)
Dark Night Black Light Monologue Teenage Suicide)
Dark Night Black Light
Blackwing …… The Curse
Dark Princess Thunder
Best known for his time with Samson and an early Iron Maiden Barry Graham Purkis (AKA Thunderstick) has been the legendary icon for the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) scene since the late 70s. His eponymously named band, renowned for its female fronted power rock and theatricality, have a considerable heritage. The band played live and recorded for six years both in the UK and in the United States until playing their last gig in October 1986.
Then In 2016 former lead vocalist, Jodee Valentine, tragically died. In recognition of her memory Barry decided to record some songs that Jodee had performed live. This became the ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ album, the first new Thunderstick product in over thirty years. It was released in July 2017 to enthusiastic reviews worldwide. Following the success of the album Barry put a live band together who have brought the Thunderstick magic to a series of festival dates and live gigs. Now signed to Roulette Records an eagerly-anticipated follow-up studio album is currently being recorded and is scheduled for release in July 2020.
Baz Crowcroft, the band’s resident artist has, once again, delivered spectacular artwork for the album. He was responsible for the artwork on the last album as well as the recent single ‘Go Sleep With The Enemy’. He will, of course, also be creating artwork for the forthcoming new studio album in the summer.
The full Thunderstick band line-up is:
Vocals – Raven Blackwing
Drums – Barry Graham Purkis aka Thunderstick
Guitar – Vinny Konrad
Guitar – Lee Quenby
Bass – Rex Thunderbolt