Tag Archives: rock

Book review: ‘Rock History: the Musician’s Perspective’ by Dr Rob Brosh

When an American academic, Dr Rob Brosh of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, got in touch to see if I was interested in reviewing the textbook he had written for music students, my first thought was, “Why me?” I play music all day long but can’t hold a tune for the life of me. I read about music, write about music and think about music but have never had any pretensions to being a musician and barely know one end of an instrument to another. Music history always fascinates me, however, so I emailed Rob back and told him I’d be very interested in reading his book.

In the pre-internet days I used to devour rock encyclopaedias – books like The NME Book of Rock, The Virgin Encyclopaedia of Seventies Music and The All-Music Guide To Rock. Huge, lengthy tomes that I would constantly dipping in and out of to find out background information on bands and artists that I was newly discovering. There’s something about the old rock encyclopaedia format in Brosh’s book but rather than an A-to-Z directory this book takes us through the evolution of rock music genre by genre.

I found ‘Rock History: the Musician’s Perspective’ absolutely gripping and read it cover to cover. It does three main things.

Firstly, it gives us a detailed overview of the vast range of music genres that fall within the canon of rock music and how each developed from the development of rock and roll itself, through blues rock, psychedelia, hard rock, folk rock, punk rock and many, many more. What I thought came across brilliantly in the early part of the book is the dynamics of how successive waves of musicians in the US and the UK influenced one another, sending new musical trends back and forth across the Atlantic as rock music involved from its earliest foundations.

Secondly, it gives us a concise but fascinating overview of many of the key artists within each of those genres, for example detailing how bands came together, how they developed their own style and giving us some memorable highlights from their careers. The fact that it’s arranged by genre rather than artist obviously makes it a little trickier to look up individual artists than the old encyclopaedia format did, but the internet has largely rendered that format obsolete now I guess anyway. However, it more than makes up for that by being able to place the evolution of individual artists into the wider context of the evolution of key genres and styles. I was definitely picking up new insights in this way and learning new facts so it’s obviously going to be a great resource for students.

The third thing the book does is focus in on particular songs, providing insights into the structure of them and how certain sounds were achieved. This last element is where you get the musician’s perspective and while some of it went over my head as a non-musician most of it didn’t! I definitely learnt a lot and ended up playing many of the songs that were being discussed in detail and it all started making a lot of sense.

This decidedly non-musician’s review of a musician’s perspective on the history of rock music is therefore a very positive one. Highly recommended.

Published by DDG Publishing, 2018

Always out to rock out: this week’s featured artist – Ryan O’Donovan

Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ryan O’Donovan, is a Sussex-based musician who has built up a solid reputation through the learning disabled music scene. Whether it’s providing backing vocals and guitar for Beat Express, vocals and lead guitar for Zombie Crash (both bands of which are managed by Brighton-based charity Carousel that facilitate learning disabled people in the arts), lead vocals for Lost Asylum or venturing place to place solo, as his favourite saying goes, he is always out to rock out.

During the past year or so through lockdown, Ryan has attracted a significant following through a variety of online events, hosted by the likes of Carousel, Gig Buddies and, most recently, Electric Umbrella – as well as his own regular ‘Rockin at Home With Ryan’ online gigs.

I caught up with Ryan recently to discuss his musical background, influences and what inspires his song-writing.

How I got into music:

The way I got into music was rather extraordinary. I did terribly at it in school and college, I’ve never done a good job of reading musical notation or scores, yet I always seemed to be able to pick up sounds, pitches and keys by ear and identify them that way, which made me a very projective type when using my voice. I can still remember one or two examples of feedback from teachers highlighting how I put the most effort in to singing during nativity plays (I was in a Church of England primary school). According to my mum, as a baby I was even able to sing back (or more so hum at that age) a tune on the radio in perfect key with it! I grew up seeing my dad’s guitars on the walls here and there and hearing him practice; around the time I was born, he had a short-lived stint as the lead vocalist of a band called Blue Parish, though he only got as far as one gig with them where he was plagued by stage fright and never performed in another gig. Still, it would later be an influence, as well as my mum’s brothers being guitar players in their own time. I even later on heard that my great-grandmother (mother to my paternal grandma) was involved in theatre.

As well as those influences, the music of Busted made me want to pick up a guitar all the more, as well as seeing the cast of Rock School get going as a group (albeit temporary) under the coaching and guidance of Kiss’s Gene Simmons. With a few pointers on the tuning of whatever guitar I could borrow from my dad, I started playing songs I knew when I was 15; not by looking up any tabs or scores, but by remembering what key the songs were in and played the notes from there. Anything else I learned in pointers here and there over the years to come.

My musical influences:

My influences as they are now depend on which band, or any kind of group capacity, that I’m active with. As a solo artist, my influences (in alphabetical order so that I don’t miss anyone significant) include the likes of Alanis Morrisette, Alter Bridge, Avril Lavigne, Black Stone Cherry, Busted, Def Leppard, Fightstar, Fozzy, Godsmack, Guns N’ Roses, Kid Rock, Linkin Park, Nickelback, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Puddle of Mudd, Saliva and Queen. It was music I grew to love that typically involved heavy guitar playing to varying degrees – and made me want to be more and more of the sort myself.

What inspires me to write:

Aside from the musical influences of artists I’ve talked about as well as my family’s influence, there are varying inspirations for me to write songs. I started by writing an abstract collection of songs that had more fun with whatever was on my mind at the time. Then I wrote songs reflecting my insecurity with being a single man, in varying tones of looking at where I was both in a positive and negative light. Now I write about my own personal acknowledgements towards seasonal traditions, when not writing about my main life experiences in hindsight. But most of all, my main inspiration is how far I’ve come along, especially now that I’ve been playing guitar for half my life and only developed along the way as a musician, performer and individual. This IS my life’s main worth, as nothing else has stood the test of time with me like my way as a musician. And I have nothing else in mind other than to live this lifestyle to the full and make the most of it all. That’s why my saying is “Always out to rock out”.

Listen to Ryan at:

https://ryanodonovan.bandcamp.com/

https://www.reverbnation.com/ryanodonovan

https://youtube.com/channel/UCroYd2l9grairvgyZXqZwIg

News: Cardiff rock duo Falling Nine release cover of Sweet classic ‘Fox On The Run’

Falling Nine are a two-piece rock project from Cardiff consisting of David Lydiard (Vocals, Guitars, Synths) & Steven Watts (Guitars, Bass, Drums, Synths). Releasing their debut EP back in 2007 they’ve had numerous releases since then and the pair has been joined by several collaborators.

For their latest release they take on the mighty Sweet classic ‘Fox On The Run’ which was the glam heroes’ first self-written smash hit in 1975 after stepping away from song-writing team Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn.

Falling Nine frontman David Lydiard explains: “I hadn’t heard the song for ages and one day during a trip down a YouTube rabbit hole I came across a live cover by the Chili Peppers with John singing. It had a raw, punk energy to it, and being a massive Frusciante fanboy, I instantly loved it. So I put up a very rough, live acoustic version of it on our YouTube Channel, just for a bit of fun. During lockdown, Steve (Watts) stumbled across it, tells me that he likes it, and asked me if I fancy recording a full version of it, and here we are.”

‘Fox on the Run’ is Falling Nine’s first new release in four years. “Sometimes life gets in the way, which is why we’ve taken so long between this and our last record (2016’s ‘Atonement’), but priorities have shifted and we’re pumped to be working on new music again.”

Falling Nine are:

David Lydiard – Vocals / Guitars / Synths

Steven Watts – Guitars / Bass / Drums

Guest lead guitarist Justin Larner was also enlisted by the duo and contributes his own original solo, giving the Sweet classic a twenty-first century makeover.

“Justin is an incredible guitar player and I’ve been a fan of his tone and his playing since first hearing him when he played with Grand Ultra, says Lydiard. “We wanted a solo that kicks you in the arse and Justin nailed it 100%.”

Fox on the Run’ was released on 27th November 2020 and is available on all streaming platforms

Link: https://ampl.ink/b1YaV

https://www.facebook.com/fallingnineband

Related posts:

Interview with Andy Scott

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

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

News: The Isolation Sessions – Danny Stoakes and Craig Joiner release new video ‘Blodeuwedd the Owl’

As part of the charity fund-raising initiative the Isolation Sessions, Danny Stoakes and Romeo’s Daughter guitarist Craig Joiner have released a new video to promote the song ‘Blodeuwedd the Owl’. Based on an old Welsh folk tale, with lyrics by Damh The Bard, the song tells the tragic story of Blodeuwedd – a woman who plots, along with her lover, to kill her husband. The song is a collaboration with Romeo’s Daughter guitarist Craig Joiner and see’s Danny and Craig sharing vocals with Craig also playing lead guitar and mandolin on the track.

From heavy metal to country, rock and roll to folk The Isolation Sessions is a digital album project aimed at raising money for The National Emergencies Trust Covid Appeal. Assembled by Danny Stoakes, the album features imaginative reworkings of ten of Stoakes’ favourite songs in collaboration with a host of different artists. These include Craig Joiner, Voodoo Six’s Matt Pearce and Tygers of Pan Tang’s Craig Ellis. Other tracks released include covers of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, AC/DC’s ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ and The Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.

The National Emergencies Trust collaborates with charities and other bodies to raise and distribute money and support victims during times of a domestic disaster.

Donate and order The Isolation Sessions via: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/theisolationsessions

Or via Progressive Gears Bandcamp (NB. Bandcamp take a 10% distribution charge):
https://progressivegears.bandcamp.com/album/the-isolation-sessions

Soul/pop/rock: album review – John Wallace Wheatley ‘Spent the Morning Watching TV and Looking Through My Phone’

Having made a noteworthy impact on the UK Americana scene and garnering many favourable reviews as part of Suburban Dirt, their frontman John Wallace Wheatley is open about seeking out a complete change in musical direction for his first solo album: Spent the Morning Watching TV and Looking Through My Phone. “I got bored of mandolins, banjos and hipsters wearing cowboy shirts and singing about mountains, trees and birds,” he confessed to one interviewer recently.

The acoustic guitars and cowboy shirts are out and, picking up his electric guitar, Wheatley delivers an album of perfectly crafted, bitter-sweet, soulful pop-rock.

With ten self-composed songs, including one co-written with cousin Donald Wheatley, John Wallace Wheatley’s tender, soulful vocals and warmly evocative guitar and piano playing instantly transport you back to some of popular music’s most memorable eras. It’s immediately evident that Wheatley is well-suited to this change in musical direction and he’s come up with the songs to boot. Moreover, the team he’s assembled for this solo project, particularly Andy Fairlough’s work on the mellotron, provide for some lush, exquisite, multi-layered, musical textures.

As a lyricist Wheatley doesn’t do either lightweight or upbeat. Themes include death, self-doubt and existential crisis and two of the songs are inspired by a visit to a cemetery and the chance discovery of a gravestone bearing his own name. For soulful pop-rock with intelligent song-writing, sincere vocal delivery and gorgeous instrumentation, time spent immersing oneself in this album could prove immeasurably more satisfying than a morning spent watching TV and looking through your phone.

Released: 27th November 2020

https://www.facebook.com/johnbumbag/

News: ‘Something on Me’ – new album from Snowy White due out 9th October

A new album from blues-infused guitar legend Snowy White and his band The White Flames is due out on 9th October this year.

In advance of next month’s full album release, ‘I Wish I Could’ a delicious slice of virtuoso blues combined with White’s characteristically laid-back and personal lyrics is now available as a single.

Most famous for his 1983 worldwide hit ‘Bird of Paradise’ from his debut solo album, White has developed his own unique style of ‘English’ blues, a combination of clear, clean blues phrases and harder-edged contemporary rock riffs.

In the seventies he toured the east coast of America, getting as far south as New Orleans and discovering the life of a touring musician was one that suited him. By that time he had become friendly with former Fleetwood Mac guitar legend, Peter Green, and they spent a lot of time jamming together. In the Autumn of 1976 he was invited to tour America and Europe with Pink Floyd and the following year went on to guest on the solo album of Floyd’s keyboard player Rick Wright. In 1979 White accompanied Peter Green on his return to the studio after several years away and the album ‘In the Skies’ was the result. Further work with Pink Floyd ensued which was then followed by a three year stint in Thin Lizzy, leaving in 1982 to commence his solo career.

White’s first solo album was entitled White Flames and included the aforementioned ‘Bird of Paradise’ smash. In 1987 White put together a blues-orientated outfit, the Blues Agency, recording two albums. In the 90s White then toured and recorded with two Dutch-Indonesian musicians, Juan van Emmerloot (drums/percussion) and Walter Latupeirissa (bass and rhythm guitar). As The White Flames they recorded a string of albums, including No Faith Required, Restless, The Way It Is and Realistic, performing all over Europe.

A long stint then followed working with Roger Waters once more,which included Waters’ Dark Side Of The Moon and Wall’ tours. In between tours White founded the Snowy White Blues Project, recording the albums ‘In Our Time Of Living’ and ‘In Our Time…Live’.

White’s most recent solo album, The Situation came out in 2018. The new album Something On Me features Thomas White on drums, Rowan Bassett on bass and appearances by various other White Flames.

http://www.snowywhite.com/

Uriah Heep’s 50th anniversary – interview with Mick Box

Uriah Heep celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. An anniversary tour, like pretty much everything else this year, has now been rescheduled for 2021 but Greater Manchester Rock Radio’s Tony Charles recently caught up with Heep’s Mick Box to reflect on the band’s past half century.

In a fascinating hour-long programme that GMRR have shared with me for this blog, Mick and Tony takes us through the band’s entire history starting with the very early days and the band’s formation. The classic David Byron-fronted years of the early to mid 70s are discussed in some detail, of course, but Box’s reflections on the years that came after that are definitely worth hearing.

Talking about the late 70’s and the band’s temporary implosion following the release of the Conquest album in 1980, Box reflects: “I’ll tell you what it was. I think the writing got a bit too poppy. We started off as a rock band and then you got songs like ‘Free Me’ and ‘Come Back To Me’ and although they were good songs we didn’t really associate them with Uriah Heep if you like and I think a lot of fans fell by the wayside because we lost that rocking edge.”

Uriah Heep bounced back in 1982 with a new line-up and the Abominog album. Box looks back on that now as: “Very much an album of the 80s in its production, in its writing and everything and we had great success with it.”

In more recent years the band has returned to a more classic sound with the last album Living The Dream receiving heaps of praise. Box: “With Living The Dream we had a great producer Jay Rushton and what he did was he kept the heritage of the band and all the trademarks that the band is known for – with the five-part harmony and the wah-wah guitar, the solos, the Hammond organ – and he kept all of those elements but he had a wonderful way of blending them to make them sound very modern.”

Thanks to Tony Charles and Greater Manchester Rock Radio – you can listen to the full hour-long interview on soundcloud here:

Related posts:

Uriah Heep, London 2014

Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Uriah Heep, Bexhill 2019

Are you an aspiring Radio DJ? Introducing Greater Manchester Rock Radio

Glam-punk: album review: Tiny Bit of Giant’s Blood ‘Gigantosaur’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Following ‘Dram A’ a five-track EP released back in 2018 Gigantosaur is the debut full-length album from US-based self-styled glam punks Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood. A curious but likeable album from this gloriously eccentric bunch, the likes of Queen, Bowie and Van Halen are hailed as influences. Such influences are clearly evident but there’s also plenty of Ramones-style attitude and a sprinkling of over the top Tubes-style outlandishness and some Mott-style craziness that gives the album that punk edge.

Tiny Bit Of Giant’s Blood are Tony Rogers – vocals/keyboards, John Scholvin – guitar/vocals, Jackie Schimmel – bass/vocals, and Larry Beers – drums/vocals.

‘Girl Over Here’ is one of the stand-out tracks and one of those where the glam influences are most obvious. Punchy and hook-laden, it put me in mind of Transformer-era Lou Reed with early Stooges-style attitude and Queen-esque backing vocals. One of the more out and out punk tracks is the wonderfully off-the-wall ‘Mick Jagger Carries My Boots’. The album also includes a raggedly anarchic cover of ‘If You Want Blood’ which manages to sound absolutely nothing like AC/DC yet manages to sound inspired. If you’re going to do a cover an all-time classic rock song there’s absolutely no point in making it sound like a copy of the original so they just take this brilliantly-written song, ignore what was recorded originally and apply their own unique formula. They pretty much pull it off.

Gigantosaur is definitely something a little different. Taking a sideways look at some great elements of rock history and coming up with something quirky, fun and just that bit crazy do check out Tiny Bit of Giant’s Blood.

Released: 22nd May 2020 by Jumbo Records

https://www.tinybitofgiantsblood.com/

Rock/Americana: album review – Lee Gallagher & The Halleluja ‘L.A. Yesterday’

Taking inspiration from that the likes of The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Buffalo Springfield, Lee Gallagher lays out his own take on that cosmic California sound with his latest album L.A. Yesterday. It’s all majestic-sounding piano, nifty guitar licks and laid-back California vibes. With Gallagher’s emotive, highly expressive vocals (he’s been compared to everyone from Steve Marriott, to Tom Petty to Neil Young) and his not inconsiderable songwriting skills it makes for an instantly appealing mix.

The music I play is always centred on rock and roll,” Gallagher reflects. “It’s very much rooted in what was a period of awakening – the late 60s/early 70s. So many obscure artists. So many mega artists. Just a lot of great art.”

Gallagher began his singing career in the bars of Southern Ohio but making the move from the mid-west to the sunshine state he soaked up those west coast influences and eventually put together a band, The Hallelujah. An EP and a full-length album followed and, with a slight shift in personnel, L.A. Yesterday is the outfit’s third release.

Recorded at Palomino Sound, a vintage 70s Los Angeles studio, Lee Gallagher (vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica) is joined by long-time collaborators Kirby Hammel (keyboards) and Jimmy Dewald (bass) along with new additions Jason Soda (lead guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, mandolin and Hammond organ) and Will Scott (drums).

Combining elements of psychedelia, Americana and good old rock and roll L.A. Yesterday is a luscious slice of vintage California. As Gallagher says: “Play it very loud rolling down the highway or simply melting into your favourite chair.”

Released: 24th July 2020

https://www.leegallaghermusic.com/

News: 40th anniversary re-release for Hunter/Ronson/Van-Zandt-produced classic by the Iron City Houserockers

Forty years ago former Mott and Bowie alumni Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson teamed up with Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny), co-producers the Slimmer Twins (Steve Popovich Sr. and Marty Mooney) and the Iron City Houserockers to create the band’s legendary second album Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive).

Hailed by Rolling Stone magazine at the time as “a new American classic” Cleveland International Records is now releasing the album as an expanded 40th anniversary deluxe reissue on 22nd May.

iron Get-Out-Alive-CD-Cover

Although their debut album Love’s So Tough essentially took the band’s live show and brought it to the studio, they were looking for something more far-reaching for the follow-up. Lead singer Joe Grushecky wrote the title track ‘Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive)’ at the time Pittsburgh’s steel industry was “going down the chutes,” he says. 

“I started really zeroing in on the characters of Pittsburgh, the people who lived in my neighbourhoods, the guys who were coming out and seeing us play every night,” says Grushecky. “The whole identity of Pittsburgh was changing.”

During one particular show, as the audience was becoming a bit too enthusiastic, Grushecky told a fan, “Man, have a good time, but get out alive!” He suddenly realised he had a great song title, which ended up becoming the moniker for the album as a whole.

Iron-City-Houserockers-01

Grushecky credits Van Zandt for making him a better writer by encouraging him to make every lyric of every song count and guiding him through that process. “Steve was great with arranging,” he says. “He gave invaluable input and ideas to the band.”

Ronson and Hunter may have looked the archetypal rock and roll stars of the day, but Grushecky recalls the reality being somewhat different. “They were salt of the earth guys and they were a team,” he says. “You could tell the strong affection they had for each other. It was an honour for me to work with both of them. I’ll say that to my dying days. It was just a tremendous experience for me.”

Ian Hunter looks back fondly on his time working with the band:

“Joe and the Houserockers were and are an actual rock and roll band. So many ‘rock and roll’ bands are not real – they just look and act like they are – and fool people most of the time. These guys are for real – and what a lovely man Joe is.”

Iron-City-Houserockers-04

In the liner notes Grushecky offers his own reflection of the record that emerged:

“We had great songs and the band was smoking,” he writes. “We all knew something special was happening. The results were a mixture of Pittsburgh rock and roll, Jersey Shore savvy and soul, and English mystic and muscle. Add a dash of Cleveland moxie and an anything goes attitude and a legendary album was born.”

The core group was Grushecky on vocals and guitar, Gil Snyder on piano and vocals, Ned E. Rankin on drums, Art Nardini on bass, Marc Reisman on harmonica and background vocals, and new recruit Eddie Britt on guitar, who replaced founding member Gary Scalese following an injury.

Featuring many of the Houserockers’ signature tunes like ‘Pumping Iron, ‘Junior’s Bar’, and, of course, the title track, the album is released by legendary indie label Cleveland as a remastered two-CD set that includes a bonus disc with 16 previously unreleased tracks of demos and other rarities. The new vinyl edition will include a download card of those same 16 tracks to go with a vinyl replica of the original album.

Cleveland International Records was originally launched in 1977 by Steve Popovich and was relaunched in 2019 by Popovich’s son.

More information at www.clevelandinternational.com

Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive) is released on 22nd May 2020

Related posts:

Cleveland Rocks – iconic independent record label relaunches

Mott The Hoople at Shepherds Bush Empire 2019

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2016

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 2016

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014