STRIKTLY FOR KONNISSUERS 05-01-00

There are three essential Commandments:  

Respect The Elders.

Embrace The New.

Encourage The Impractical and Improbable, Without Bias. -David Fricke”

 Official Nonsense:

 Editor and John Kalodner - Kurt Torster

John Kalodner-John Kalodner:

Carrie Borzillo (All Star Daily News)
DJ Klaus Brandlhuber (RockTracks)
Marty Dodge (http://www.lupusandco.com)
Jason Grubbs
Tim Henderson (Brave Words)
Martin Hennessy III (80's Nuts)
Ian McIntosh (AOR Basement)
Mark Orsted (Heavens Smiling - Where Harmony & Melody Unite)
Dave Reynolds
Alex Richter (Hard N' Fast)

All e-mail should be directed to ktorster@yahoo.com.

Snail mail address for press kits & CDs, porno tapes, t-shirts, DVDs, action figures, HotWheels cars, money, booze, naked pictures of your wife or girlfriends, etc.:

SFK c/o Kurt Torster
68 Lindbergh Blvd
Bloomfield, NJ 07003 USA

Like what ya see? Subscribe to SFK or send a blank e-mail to sfkrock-subscribe@egroups.com.

Hate us? Unsubscribe to SFK by sending a blank e-mail to sfkrock-unsubscribe@egroups.com.

The SFK Homepage
The SFK Message Base

SFK on ICQ: 20817821
SFK on AIM: kurtors

The SFK FTP Username: sfkrock Password: rocksfk

Like This Newsletter? Click to Recommend-It (r)

Terms And Conditions:

You are free to pass along this copy of SFK to whomever you wish (through either e-mail or print out). You are also free to take news and reviews with the stipulation that you let your readers know where it came from (and sending a copy to us would be nice!).

Legal Disclaimer:

Reading this e-zine may cause oily spotting, gas with discharge, urgent need to go to the bathroom, oily or fatty stools, an oily discharge, increased number of bowel movements, and inability to control bowel movements.

The Escape Clause:

We here at SFK hold the right to print any and all E-mail sent to us unless you specifically state not to.

Kurt's Krap:

SFK is super proud to announce that the one and only Dave Renyolds will be writing reviews for us. For those who don’t know, Dave wrote for all the big melodic and hard rock mags and is well respected in the industry.

Forgot to mention this (I think), but special thanks to the guys in Raine for the cool shirts and hats. Any band that’s got anything cool like that…we like…a lot. So, I’m whoring a bit but T-shirts are always welcome around here at the SFK offices and are put to good use (and I’m not just talking about washing my car).

I’ve been batting around the idea of bring back some sort of rating system…opinions anyone?

Not to get too into politics, but holy shit…did anyone read that interview with actor Chevy Chase where he says socialism is good…Cuba is model proof. Yikes! No wonder his talk show failed.

OK…this was one of those forwarded email jokes that I found so fucking amusing…pass it around and enjoy:

The following is an excerpt from a children's book, Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, by Dav Pilkey. The evil professor forces everyone to assume new names.

Use the first letter of your first name to determine your NEW first name:
a = stinky, b = lumpy, c = buttercup, d = gidget, e = crusty, f = greasy, g = fluffy, h = cheeseball, i = chim-chim, j = poopsie, k = flunky, l = booger, m = pinky, n = zippy, o = goober, p = doofus, q = slimy, r = loopy, s = snotty, t = falafel, u = dorkey, v = squeezit, w = oprah, x = skipper, y = dinky, z = zsa-zsa

Use the first letter of your last name to determine the first half of your new last name:
a = diaper, b = toilet, c = giggle, d = bubble, e = girdle, f = barf, g = lizard, h = waffle, i = cootie, j = monkey, k = potty, l = liver, m = banana, n = rhino, o = burger, p = hamster, q = toad, r = gizzard, s = pizza, t = gerbil, u = chicken, v = pickle, w = chuckle, x = tofu, y = gorilla, z = stinker

Use the last letter of your last name to determine the second half of your new last name:
a = head, b = mouth, c = face, d = nose, e = tush, f = breath, g = pants, h = shorts, i = lips, j = honker, k = butt, l = brain, m = tushie, n = chunks, o = hiney, p = biscuits, q = toes, r = buns, s = fanny, t = sniffer, u = sprinkles, v = kisser, w = squirt, x = humperdinck, y = brains, z = juice

Thus, for example, SFK’s new name is Snotty Barf Butt.

News Bytes:

Look for Bon Jovi to be playing a series of club dates to coincide with the release of “Crush”. They will also be playing some shows with the Goo Goo Dolls. Rumor has it that Hanson will be opening their North America arena tour later this summer.

There’s talk that the BMG and Columbia House CD clubs may merge. So exactly how many CD’s can I get for a penny now?

Wow! A whole week and no Van Halen rumors. Yawn…

A great article on the fallout of the Metallica vs. Napster suit can be read at Wired. Me thinks if the mighty Metallica would concentrate on making some decent tunes again instead of worrying about their bank accounts, we’d all be much happier. Rock/rap group Limp Biscuit will be doing a set of free concerts, sponsored by Napster. Says Fred Durst, "We could care less about the older generation's need to do business as usual. We care more about what our fans want, and our fans want music on the Internet.” Musically they still suck, but that is a pretty cool take on the situation. Lars and crew could learn something.

James Hetfield will be lending a hand, along with Kid Rock, to the new Damn Yankees album. Supposedly Tommy Shaw will start participate in recording the album, but Damon Johnson will take his spot on tour.

A couple of Motley Crue links for you. The site for the Maximum Rock tour (w/Megadeth and Anthrax) is up as well as Nikki’s side project, .58 Music.

Look for the announcement soon that Melissa Etheridge will be playing the role of Janis Joplin in the biopic, a part she was seemingly born to play.

You can grab MP3 samples of tracks from the upcoming Poison album “Power To The People” at Bret Michael’s website.

There was a rumor going around that Nine Inch Nails would be opening for Iron Maiden in the US that is untrue, according the management on both sides. The latest NIN video for “Starfuckers, Inc.” takes shots at people like Fred Durst, Courtney Love, Mariah Cary and Puff Daddy giving it little hope of ever airing on MTV. Maiden’s single for “The Wicker Man” is due May 8.

May 2 at 7PM you can meet Billy Joel at the Tower Records in Lincoln Center in New York. Billy’s there to promote his new live greatest hits album.

Legacy has just released newly mastered versions of five James Taylor albums: "J.T.", "That's Why I'm Here", "Dad Loves His Work", "Flag" and "Never Die Young".

Sammy Hagar’s latest, due October 13, is set to be titled “Ten Thirteen”, in honor of both the release date and the rocker’s birthday. He has scrapped plans for live and hits sets.

June will see the Japanese release of Black Crowes Best Of”. Tracklisting when I get it.

Thanks to Ken Drew for this bit on The Call: The band will be releasing in May a live disc titled “Live Under The Red Moon” (recorded during the Red Moon tour in 1990). Tracks include Floating Back, A Swin In The Ocean, This Is Your Life, I Don't Wanna, You Run, Family, Same Ol Story, Even Now, Red Moon, Oklahoma, You Were There, I Still Believe (Great Design) and Let The Day Begin. If the album sells well enough, the band may reissue their studio albums.

Thanks to Greg Latiolais for some Lillian Axe news: Lillian Axe will reform to play a date in Dallas, TX. Stephen Pearcy's new project is scheduled to open. Near Life Experience is continuing work on their new CD.  It should be out in the fall. Steve Blaze is also at work on his first solo CD.

Mike Tramp fans can check out a new, extensive interview covering his career from inception to present as well as notes and pictures from the first stop on his US tour at http://www153.pair.com/mayhem/allmike.html.

Upcoming Mars Electric tour dates (next week a review of their INCREDIBLE debut album):

5/08    Blue Note - Columbia, MO ( w/ Collapsis )

5/10    Elbo Room - Chicago, IL ( w/ Collapsis )

5/11    The Patio - Indianapolis, IN ( w/ Collapsis )

5/12    Metropolis - Flint, MI ( w/ Collapsis & Grain of Sanity )

5/13    The Intersection - Grand Rapids, MI ( w/ Collapsis )

5/14    Shelter - Detroit, MI ( w/ Collapsis )

5/16    Club Laga - Pittsburgh, PA ( w/ Collapsis )

5/17    Alley Katz - Richmond, VA ( w/ Collapsis )

5/19    Southside Music Hall - Mobile, AL

5/20    Miss. Coast Coliseum - Biloxi, MS ( w/ Live, Rollins Band, Caroline's Spine)

5/21    FL Springfest - Pensacola, FL ( w/ Live, 3 Doors Down, Box Top's)

5/24    Jack Legs Speakeasy - Nashville, TN ( w/ Collapsis )

6/02    Pig Pen - Clinton, IA

6/16    City Stages - Birmingham, AL

7/14    M Squarred - Pittsburgh, PA

Noteworthy New Releases:

GREGG BISSONETTE - Submarine (w/Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Robben Ford, Steve Stevens and others)
JULES SHEAR - Allow Me
STARZ - The Best of
SUPER TRANSATLANTIC – Shuttlecock
Various Artists - Welcome To VH1 Storytellers

Moldy Oldys:

[What’s kicking old school on the SFK Deck O’ Death this week:]

Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque, Queen – Rocks, Jellyfish – The Greatest, Paul McCartney – All The Best, Material Issue – Freak City

Kurt’s Picks:

Gladhands – La Di Da, Big Deal, 1997
[Similarities: anything and everything from the 70s, Enuff Z’nuff, Jellyfish]
Imagine taking almost everything good musically from the 70s and throwing it in a blender. Gladhands would probably be that result. A band so unashamedly influenced by 70s music yet they take so many different fragments of it that they have created a genre all their own. With songs at times sounding like artists as diverse as Player, The Orleans, Big Star, Cheap Trick or any other “AM Gold”, this is an astounding collection of instantly memorable songs that stay with you long after the disc is over. The harmonies are some of the best I’ve heard and the vocals Jeff Carlson are smooth and sugary. Whether it’s the instant hit feel of “Smallsville” or the top-down summer feel of “Forget All About It” or the rocked up “Gore Girls” (a tribute to Al and Tipper’s girls) or the Bee Gee’s-ish “Rebound” (about the closest you’ll find to a ballad here) there is not a moment that doesn’t leave you wanting more. What’s even better is at no time does this ever feel retro or even dated. The album is done so well that it feels like it could fit in with any variety of formats. Perfect is a word that gets thrown around sometimes a little to easily. Not here…this is about as perfect a collection of pop rock that has ever hit my ears. Brilliantly essential.

Andrew Gold – Leftovers, Quarkbrain, 1998
[Similarities: Howard Jones, The Police, Steve Winwood]
This is an interesting release. Up until this disc dropped in my mailbox, I only knew of Andrew through his 70s AOR meets pop hit “Lonely Boy”. But a visit to his website shows he was, if anything, very prolific. This set is pretty much a compilation of songs that Andrew has had sitting around and didn’t know what to do with. Lucky for us as there is some pop brilliance to be found here. Fans of 80s pop, the kind of which dominated MTV, will find heaven here. Other than the out of place showtune “What A Gentleman Does” (just not my thing), there’s really not a bad moment among the twelve rather innocuous songs here. All very upbeat, tracks like Brit-pop bounce of “Tail Lights”, the Sting-like ballads “Falling Down” and “A River In Time” and rocker “Guilty” bring back memories of a more innocent time in music that is well recreated here. And songs like the Beach Boys-ish romp of “Marcella” or the inspiring “Love Will Have It’s Way With You” are flat out fun pop rock that always leaves a good taste in your ears (and remind me a lot of the incredible Jellyfish). Andrew has a fine smooth voice and is backed admirably by the musicians helping him out. The production is also very crisp. Must say, impressive for leftovers from someone I thought long gone. [Spread in between each track is funny answering machine messages, which could come in handy if your name is actually Andrew…]

Julian Lennon – Photograph Smile, 4tune, 1998
[Similarities: The Beatles (or Lennon specifically), Tal Bachman]
With the help of Mark Spiro, the son of John lays down a discs worth of tracks that sound like lost Beatles’ tunes. But as much hope as I held out, this album just dragged right into snoresville. Bogged down by an overabundance of ballads, I honestly kept tuning out as little held my interest. Now granted, there are some OK tunes here but overall the whole thing wears really thin over the course of the fourteen songs offered. It took a couple of listens before anything began to stick. And even then, it’s not what I would call memorable. If the entire album had more of an upbeat sound like “Walls” or “And She Cries”, then that would be a good thing. But, sadly, this seems like a mix of old tracks that got polished up and thrown out for release. And he sometimes tries WAY to hard to sound like dear ol’ dad…at times comically so (“Way To Your Heart” practically rips “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” note for note). What an utter disappointment.

Saigon Kick – The Best Of, Mayhem, 1998
[Similarities: Extreme, Lillian Axe, King’s X]
If anything, this collection proves what a diverse band SK was. Playing with any number of sounds, from straight ahead arena rock (like “What You Say” and my fave, “All I Want”) to crushing heavy rock (the throbbing “The Lizard” and “Russian Girl”) to Beatlesque pop (the big harmonies of “Colors” and the emotional “I Love You”) to an almost alternarock sound (“Hostile Youth” and the electronic beats of “Water”), this Florida mob should be known as so much more than those “Love Is On The Way” guys (their lone hit). Their curse just may have been their diversity as it’s unfortunate most couldn’t see past what they assumed to be a “hair metal” band and just enjoyed the music for what it was…Saigon Kick. Spotlighting the four albums of their short-lived career, these guys really had the talent and chops to take it to another level. No matter the style they’re playing, at no time do they ever lose sight of the melody, and in that makes these eighteen songs all the more precious. A perfect primer to another “shoulda been” contender.

Two Fires – Two Fires, Frontiers/Now & Then, 2000
[Similarities: Journey, The Storm, Foreigner]
There’s a fine line between sounding like another musical artist and outright cloning (which in my opinion is killing the genre). At times, Two Fires sounds dangerously close to like The Storm or Journey (and in more than just Kevin Chalfant’s vocals). But they straddle the fence so closely that I think they just stay on the right side of originality enough to consider this a classic. I’ve lived with this disc for a week now and instead of getting weaker, it got stronger and that helped separate it in my mind between the two worlds. Starting off with the musicianship, Josh Ramos lends some beautiful and restrained leads to the songs that are reminiscent of Neil Schon or Carlos Santana. Much has been made in the past of Kevin Chalfant’s resemblance to Steve Perry, so no need to rehash it again. He sounds great and his vocals have a sort of smoldering smokiness to them that gives all the songs a little bit of roughness. And, Kenny Aarnoff’s drumming is as tight and powerful as ever. While some songs come off as immediate (the soaring opener “My Love Will Be There”, the big sounding “A Man’s Gotta Do” and the super smooth “Never Stop Loving You”), others take some nurturing (the soul meets AOR ballad “When Love Is Gone” or the Ted Poley-like “Alyssia”) but either way the results are worth it. Plus, I have to single out the timely “Summer Of Love”, a song which gave me chills it was so good and is far and away my favorite here. My only real gripe here is in the production, which to my ears could have used a little more low end to beef up the sound a bit. I guess the song titles could have used a dose of originality too. But that’s small potatoes. Alongside Vaughn and Danger Danger, this becomes another AOR essential of 2000…and with releases from Journey and Bon Jovi on the way, the year is shaping up to be the strongest in quite a while.

Von Groove – Driving Off The Edge Of The World, MTM, 2000
[Similarities: Hardline, Billy Squier, Whitesnake]
I gotta start off by saying I’ve never really been a big fan of this trio. I know they have a decent sized following, but to me most of the time what they’re doing is just so generic that it’s easy forgotten. So, if anything, this gives me a somewhat fresh perspective on which to base a review. On a quick listen this disc proves to be some stomping hard rock that has a very classic feel to it. And what’s better, repeated listens hold up rather well. While a lot of this still feels very generic to me, it’s so well executed that when songs stand out…they really stand out. When the band just let loose, like on the BIG sounding “Slide” or “Control”, the results put aside any of my jaded feelings. The great instrumental “Jack The Riffer” actually reminds me of those great early 80s compositions from Rush (ala “YYZ”). I’ve read some other reviews saying this has a modern feel to it. If anything, I think the opposite is true. The songs remind me of the sound of the time when artists like Billy Squier, Ted Nugent and their like were releasing consistent and quality hard rock that may not be all that original but (for lack of a better term) “kick ass”. Fans of their older work will appreciate it more than those who liked their last, mor AORish album. This set just may have been the catalyst for me to go back and rediscover the rest of their work as maybe I can listen to it now with a different set of ears.

(Re)Views >From The Hill:

Starz - ‘Greatest Hits Live’, GB Music GB1003

Purely on the strength of the numerous live tapes doing the rounds in the late 70s and early 80s Starz had to be one of the most exciting, yet criminally underrated, bands to ever emerge from the United States. ‘Greatest Hits Live’ gathers together tracks from three of the finest ever live recordings made by the quintet and opens with the complete eight song set recorded for radio in Cleveland during 1976.

Seven of these songs were on the Metal Blade/Roadrunner issued ‘Live In Action’ album  - ‘Night Crawler’ being the omission, but here the performance is uninterrupted and depicts a band clearly on fire. Guitarists Richie Ranno and Brendan Harkin weave heaven made sonic tapestries. And frontman Michael Lee Smith tells tales of groupies (‘Detroit Girls’, the title of which is changed here to ‘Cleveland Girls’ to match the host city), teenage prostitution (‘Fallen Angel’), serial murder (‘Night Crawler’) and mercy killing (‘Pull The Plug’).

It’s interesting to note that Smith sings in an almost narrative style peculiar to this most special of bands. And let’s not forget the contributions of the rhythm team of bassist Peter Sweval and the gloriously moustached Joe X Dube on drums!

Following on from the rousing finale of ‘Boys In Action’ the scene shifts to 1978, as we find our heroes in Louisville, Kentucky. It was here that Starz cut one of the greatest unofficial live albums of all-time, released only as a radio promo by Capitol Records. The bulk of the record was officially issued as part of the aforementioned ‘Live In Action’ set, but lost something in the transition.

Three tracks, ‘She’, ‘Anyway That You Want It’ and ‘Cherry Baby’ have been chosen here, with Starz given a more commercial edge to their sound thanks to a polished production job and more radio oriented songs. Incidentally, ‘Anyway…’ wasn’t on the original album but takes its place on the re-issue of the full show available on CD directly from Richie Ranno’s ‘Collector’s Items’ mail order outlet (www.erols.com/starzcentral).

The final six tracks are culled from another infamously blistering performance from Starz. Here they are caught at the El Mocambo club in Toronto, Canada, whilst promoting fourth album ‘Coliseum Rock’. By this time, Orville Davis and Bobby Messano had replaced Sweval and Harkin respectively. The likes of ‘Rock Six Times’, ‘Take Me’ and ‘It’s A Riot’ add further weight to the argument that Starz should’ve been absolutely bloody huge. Only problem was that this was the era of Kiss. Curiously, Starz shared management with Kiss….. This CD s worth full marks for the Cleveland tracks alone. Think of the rest as equally special bonus tracks! - DR

Kim Mitchell - ‘Kimosabe’, Chinook/Oasis 99057 0001-9

The wonderfully titled ‘Kimosabe’ is Kim Mitchell’s first album since the tremendous ‘Itch’. And it finds the Canadian rock icon teaming up with former Coney Hatch man Andy Curran in a songwriting partnership that is

clearly just as great as the one Kim has enjoyed for decades, both as a solo artist and with old act Max Webster, with lyricist Pye Dubois.

Opener ‘Monkey Shine’ kicks butt in the same manner as ‘Go For A Soda’ from ‘Akimbo Alogo’ but with a terrifically melodic bridge. From here Kim delivers a combination of equally uptempo numbers with more languid tunes to create an album that, frankly, is a tad too short!

The title track, featuring Curran on backing vox, is one of the heavier songs. And, despite the deceptive start, ‘Blow Me A Kiss’ also gives it large, in a similar manner to the hardest of Kim’s work on the superb ‘Rockland’ opus.

The more chilled side to Mr Mitchell comes up for air with ‘Cellophane’, ‘Autumn Colours’ and ‘Two Steps Home’. And Dalbello fans might like to learn that the great one turns up contributing to the bluesy ‘Get Back What’s Gone ’!

Yet Kim saves the best ‘til last. ‘Skinny Buddah’ is simply terrific, with a singalong chorus and an extended jam session to conclude with. Now, isn’t it time Kim’s fans were put out of their misery and licensing problems are resolved so that his brilliant debut mini album of 1982 vintage finally hits the racks on CD?! - DR

Pink Cream 69 - ‘Sonic Dynamite’, Massacre Records

Far and away the best album Pink Cream 69 have ever recorded, the Anglo-German-Greek alliance have even gone as far as probably recorded one of the year’s finest hard rock albums. Man, did I really say that?!

In the days of former vocalist Andy Deris (now with Helloween), PC69 used to be known as World Kup 66 by scoffing British journos (a reference to the England soccer team’s famous victory over West Germany in the World Cup final that year). But the recruitment of British born vocalist David Readman changed everything. To the point where even the most cynical of observers are now really beginning to sit up and take notice.

Whilst ‘Sea Of Madness’ still retains an element of Germanic authority, specifically with attention to the chorus, the ferocious guitarwork recalls Jake E Lee in his Ozzy days.

Some serious time has clearly been spent by PC69 on perfecting their songwriting skills, and although the band’s title track is unashamedly all big hair and leather, there’s a real class about it. And, from this point on, the record just keeps getting better and better, culminating in a stirring metallized version of Sting’s ‘Truth Hits Everybody’!

But, to backtrack a little, both ‘Waiting For The Dawn’ and ‘Lost In Illusions’ appear to haunt the same dark alleys as Warrant’s underrated ‘Dog Eat Dog’ album, whilst there’s a hint of Queensryche in the bold ‘Speed Of Light’. This latter track is, in fact, one of the best songs on the record, a fist-punching anthem built upon a solid drum and bass backbone.

‘Let The Thunder Reside’, meantime, is a truly excellent ballad, very American in feel and really pushing home the fact that PC69 have perfected their craft, being the best song of its type PC69 have ever put their name to.

And, so far as vocalist Readman is concerned, this is surely his best work. I mean, the man even comes across like the great Derek St Holmes a little on ‘Face Of An Angel’!! PC69 clearly have a winner here! - DR

Young & Fabulous! - ‘Young & Fabulous!’, Vanity V2000

Recommended to me by Richie Ranno, like Spinal Tap meeting the B52s at a screening of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ New York’s Young & Fabulous! play it for platform booted kicks.The colourful sextet offer some good songs and amusing ideas. Where else will you hear a hybrid of Black Sabbath and Madonna than on Y&F’s inspired ‘Black Madonna’?! And you can’t argue with a song entitled ‘I Get More Pussy Than Frank Sinatra’?! Mind you, the glam punk of ‘Go Go Psycho Barbie Dolls’ is sure to incur the wrath of Mattel, always protective of the doll’s image…. - DR

Oasis - Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, (Sony Music, 2000)

Love 'em or hate 'em the wonder twins from England have returned with their fourth studio album 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants'. A lot has been made in the press of the bands turn from an overindulgent rock n' roll lifestyle to a focused, serious musical endeavor with this release.  The reaction I've seen from most quarters is that this album represents a turning point, done in impressive fashion.  I have to disagree...

I've thought in the past that the Gallagher brothers put out some albums which merited attention, particularly 'What's The Story (Morning Glory)?'.  I've listened to this album several times to give the band the benefit of the doubt, but have to conclude that it is a lukewarm release.  Opening with a meandering musical track 'Fucking In The Bushes' the album moves into standard Oasis territory with 'Go Let It Out' and works its way through 10 tracks in total.  There is the usual mix of swaggering rockers like 'I Can See A Liar' and lighter fare ('Roll It Over', 'Where Did It All Go Wrong').  The problem is in many instances the tracks lack the cohesion of a good pop song, meandering pointlessly and carrying on past the point where the song should have ended.  And the album lacks any stellar singles which you are likely to return to.

If you've enjoyed past Oasis albums, you'll probably find this release satisfying but casual listeners aren't going to find anything to draw them to the band with this release. – JG

Dio: Magica, Spitfire Records

[similarities: Rainbow, Helloween, Axel Rudi Pell, Therion]

With the release of Magica, the Dio band sees the return of Jimmy Bain and Craig Goldy, this seems to have stopped the rot evident in the lame "Angry Machines."  Pounding the skins is one-time AC/DC and Dio member Simon Wright. The band with Dio on vocals is a powerful quarter indeed. A welcome return to form.

Magica is a concept album, telling the story of a land that falls to the forces of evil and then frees itself by, you guessed it, magic. Included, for those so inclined, is a short story of the same name and for those who cant be bothered to read, the whole story is read aloud at the end of the disc. The man himself reads the story, and does it well, making it easy to listen to and enjoy. This is a very complete package for a disc, with 71 minutes and 14 tracks of content.  Well worth the money, even before you consider the music on hand.

Dio has returned to the sword and sorcery of his past, reminding one of his first few albums as a solo artist. This disc has an epic quality to it, that is most pleasing to those who like this sort of thing. I number amongst those always in the mood for a good epic yarn. The two stand out tracks for me are "Fever Dreams" and "As Long as its Not about Love", the later could be released as a power ballad, if Spitfire were so inclined, "As Long" has a wonderful bluesy feel, with an acoustic intro that matches Dio’s mournful singing, before kicking it into higher gear, that becomes almost Winger-like in feel. "Fever Dreams" really reminds the listener of Dio fronted Rainbow or a classic of "Sacred Heart" proportions. "Losing my Insanity" begins as if it were off one of Richie Blackmore’s "Blackmore’s Night" albums with flutes, lutes and acoustic guitar, before kicking into something more in tune with what you would expect, it ends the same way it began.

Much of this album is very symphonic, without going to the over the top of level of Malmsteen or some of the German, techno metal bands. It helps that Dio’s voice is distinct enough that one does not have to wonder who is singing. In a sense, Dio has returned to his signature sound, rather than the semi-modern sounds that were attempted on "Angry Machines." Dio has remembered its roots and produced the album many of us have been looking forward to since the less immediate album "Dream Evil".  Essential for Dio fans of old, and a damn good addition to any hard rock fans’ CD library.

Ultimately, if you are a fan of the diminutive singer’s past then you will like this album. While it is a concept album, most of the songs stand out on their own perfect well. "Magica" stands up and is a pleasurable listen.  It is nice to have the Dio of old back, long may he remain. - MD

Axel Rudi Pell: The Masquerade Ball, SPV

[similarities: Rainbow, Helloween, MSG, Malmsteen ]

The press bumf on this says that it is Pell’s most mature album to date. For once the PR is right on target, ARP has in the past had a reputation of following in the OTT footsteps of Malmsteen and other guitar wankers. On this album, he seems to have made an effort to write some good songs to go with his guitar pyrotechnics. He manages to produce something that reflects both Schenker, Malmsteen and Blackmore at their best, while avoiding all the pratfalls they have fallen in.  While Pell claims a hero-worship of Blackmore, his playing on this album reminds me more of Michael Schenker than the erstwhile Deep Purple/Rainbow six-stringer.

John Gioeli sounds a lot like Robin McCauley, circa McCauley Schenker Group. Gioeli, formerly lent his pipes to another guitar god’s music in Neil Schons’ Hardline. As a fan of Hardline’s short lived career, it was great to hear this guy again. He manages to match his lead guitarist’s licks very well, and neither dominates any songs on this album.  As with Hardline and Malmsteen at his eighties best (former: Malmsteen drummer Mike Terrana pounds this skins), almost every track on this album is catchy as hell and sticks in your head well after the album has finished.

The first of such catchy tunes is "Voodoo Nights", whose intro peaks your interest right away and carries you along on this driving rock track, complete with the required slow bit in the middle. Another fave of mine is the title track, with its epic vocal/keyboard intro, before adding a wailing guitar and then the whole band. Once it gets going the rhythm section keeps up an impressive backing that reaches in and takes hold. From the first listen this bugger stuck with me, popping up in my head several times during the next day.  To add to its epic quality, there is a male voice choir backing vocal. This 10 minute long epic flows along and never bogs down, and is a definite highlight of the album.

"Tear Down the Wall" is pacy little rocking track, that is very 80s heavy metal, and would make a great driving track.  "The Line" opens with a wonderful acoustic/keyboard pairing that soars majestically in all its power balladry. Gioeli, never manages to overpower the beauty of this track with his singing. ‘The Temple of the Holy" is almost of a continuation of "The Line", with its piano/vocal intro, and similar feel, without being repetitive. To end the album ARP covers Uriah Heep’s track "July Morning" which perfectly with the rest of the album and songs as fresh as the day it was written.

Unlike many albums from guitar virtuosos, this is truly a band effort, and all the parts meld well together to produce one of the best hard rock albums I have heard in a while. There are no filler or duffer tracks on this 10 track, 68 minute CD, and not once does it bog down in guitar hysterics. I think it is time for rest of the world to find out what the German’s have known for so long, Axel Rudi Pell has reached the heights of his guitar heroes and is finally able to produce the quality album he always wanted.  While Malmsteen has gone to seed and Schenker has lost the plot, Pell has taken the guitar mantle, improved on it and made it his own.  In short: this is a damn good album and by far the best Pell has ever done. - MD

AOR Basement (Ian McIntosh):

Remember I mentioned the new album by Seattle-based Treason a few weeks back? Watch out for it (it's called "Age of Reason") - I've only listened to it once quickly so far but it's pretty impressive. Watch struck me as particularly refreshing is that the band have not followed many of their current contemporaries by progressive getting more and more heavy. Instead, the new one emphasis their more melodic side while still having some nifty dynamics. Surf over to http://www.treason.net for more details, and a review ill follow at the AOR Basement web site in the next few weeks.

Ex- Cinema Face frontman Frank LaMagna has a new web site at www.francoworld.faithweb.com which is worth having a look at. Frank is still shopping about for a few deal for his solo album under the name "Franco" but has demo pressings available at present. It's a slight departure from Cinema Face as it sounds more organic while doing away with the layers of keyboards Cinema Face were synonymous with. It's still very recognizably the name songwriter, however, and well worth a listen.

Ex Touch man Doug Howard's Stun Leer are starting mixing their second album now. Look for it to be out late in the summer on MTM. Initial indications are that it'll follow a fairly different direction from the first album and place lots of emphasis on the guitar work. Should be another interesting release: good as the first Stun Leer album was. I'm not sure if I would have been comfortable with a second one sounding the same. Certainly sounds like they want to expand the boundaries of their sound, and it's genuinely refreshing to hear someone wanting to move forward rather than taking the easy option and resting on their laurels.

Feedback:

From: mraor@mail.com
Subject: hey hey
Hey Kurt. Been a long time reader of SFK and never wrote before. I just wanted to drop you a line of thanks. AOR is my musical passion but thanks to you I’ve learned to like a lot of other things. Bands like Kyle Vincent and Jellyfish is awesome and I never would have known about them! It’s great that you not only focus on AOR but now write about pop and other stuff. It’s especially good to know that I’m not the only one who likes a lot of those guilty pleasures you rave about like seventies music. Keep it up!

[Huh huh…keep it up…huh huh. Seriously though, thanks.]

From: DSmpardos@aol.com

It has been nice reading all different stuff about music.

[More thanks…]

From: Michael Paul <80schild@prodigy.net>

Subject: boston brats

hey kurt, I'm begging you to take a listen to the boston Brats..I'm telling you, IMOP, this is the best stuff to come out since def leppard hysteria..you can hear a few MP3s at www.mp3.com/thebrats..They were recently # 1 on the mp3.com alternative/metal charts..I have seen these guys live 5 times and they remind me of a cross between the crue and guns n roses.. Again, I am begging you to have a listen..You won't be sorry..

From: Marty Dodge <aidodge@ctel.net>
Subject: Eric Carr...
In response to the letter on Eric Carr: Actually according to the press release, Eric Carr only sings lead on 6 of the 11 tracks on the album. "All 11 never released songs (six of which feature Eric on lead vocals) were recorded during his years with Kiss" Only one of the remaining 5 tracks is an instrumental piece, so Kulick does sing on the album. Of course the press release may have been wrong.

[Feedback to feedback?]

From: "Dan Harding" <dharding@uiuc.edu>
Subject: How many different Vaughn discs are out there?
Ok, I've read a few people's accounts and reviews of the new Vaughn disc, and Kurt's review is completely different from anyone else's I've read. Is there like, a "European Mix" and a "Japanese Mix" thing going on here?

If Kurt likes it this much, I'm wondering if Vaughn sounds like Matchbox 20 or the Goo Goo Dolls....

[I guess there are traces of GGD or M20, but this is arena rock through and through, much like the 90s Bon Jovi. From the reviews I’ve read, I don’t think I’ve said anything all that different. Anyone expecting “Don’t Come Easy” part 2 might be disappointed, but this is a natural progression from “Strength In Numbers”.]

From: Troy Bell <govtmule@mail1.scottsboro.org>
Subject: Note-worthy New Releases
Kurt, I just wanted to let you know the KISS - Alive IV has not been released yet.  It was listed in the referenced part of this week's E-zine, but it's still waiting. Thanks for everything you do.

[Thanks for the correction…]