With no fewer than eight new releases jockying for position on the rushonrock decks this week competition has rarely been hotter.
Whether you fancy investing in one of three JSS records, the newie by Crucified Barbara (pictured), a return to form from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, some fret-burning magic courtesy of Nico’s Alchemy or the melodic rock of Place Vendome and label mates Balance there really is something for everyone this week.
JSS – Beautiful Mess (Frontiers)
It’s our album of the week and rightly so as former Journey man Jeff Scott Soto goes all mellow and moody on what he describes as his bid for mainstream success. Given the right breaks and some serious airplay there’s no reason why Beautiful Mess can’t carry JSS into rock’s big league but then life’s not always fair in the race to become music’s next big thing.
From start to finish this exercise in pure pop rock delivers. The quality of Scott Soto’s multi-faceted pipes has never been in doubt but here he proves he really can bridge the divide from hard rock to radio-friendly AOR in the blink of an eye. Sure this sounds like Lenny Kravitz at times but then that’s no bad thing. In fact big Len should be a little worried as the funk rock soul metal record of the year finally hits stores tomorrow.
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Beautiful Music
Crucified Barbara – Til Death Do Us Party (GMR Music)
Back when hair metal was the rock fashion of choice and bands like Vixen and Femme Fatale rooled the girly roost albums like this were 10 a penny. Sleazy, often cheesy but, overall, refreshingly bright and breezy there’s no reason to knock good old fashioned rock and roll with a female twist.
CB have got it off to a tee with this, their long-awaited second album, and there’s no reason why Til Death Do Us Party can’t build on the excellent work undertaken as support to Backyard Babies last year. Chock full of radio friendly anthems and delivered with enough quality to deter the sneering ‘girls can’t rock’ brigade this is a big step forward for the Stockholm quartet.
Download Sex Action, the excellent Jennyfer and Danger Danger if you’re not convinced. You’ll be buying the rest of the album quicker than you can dig out your old Lita Ford picture disc.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Barbed Winner
Nico’s Alchemy – Fundamental Darkness (Dirty Dog Records)
When this record first reached rushonrock it appeared to be the answer to our fret twiddling dreams. But it doesn’t quite scale the heights despite boasting one of the finest guitar heroes this side of Yngwie Malmsteen.
As a musician Nico Tamburella has it all but what he doesn’t have on Fundamental Darkness is a vocalist good enough to match his obvious talent. Singer Candido is seriously second division and his one-dimensional act does little to dispel the theory that this is an album which could have been so much more.
The solos on tracks like Save Me Jesus and Shine On make this record an essential purchase for true deotees of metal guitar but for the rest it’s nothing more than mediocre.
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Nic A Copy
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – The Century Of Self (Superball Music)
You can call this prog rock but at times it’s more than that and on occasion much less. Nevertheless, however you want to pigeon-hole the driving guitars, saoring keys, vital vocals and pounding rhythms sprayed across The Century Of Self there’s no doubt this record is something special.
Tracks like Isis Unveiled and Fields Of Coal are brave pieces of music bordering on the foolhardy. It is difficult to imagine …AYWKUBTTOD ever becoming FM-friendly radio whores but this album pitches them so far away from the mainstream that there might well be no way back.
Vocalist Conrad Keely and his mates probably couldn’t care less. But if the impenetrability of this monumental release means too few people learn to appreciate its briliance then that would be a crying shame.
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Self Belief
Balance – Equilibrium (Frontiers)
Frequently compared to Toto, Journey and Survivor, these stars of the late 70s still seem capable of pushing the melodic rock envelope in 2009.
On Equilibrium, the perenially fluid Balance bring a modern twist to their traditional AOR sound and serve up a pleasant, if hardly groundbreaking, platter of easy-listening rock. Featuring the three founder members – including the marvelous Bob Kulick – this is no In For The Count.
But Equilibrium proves Balance are still in the running, at the very least.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Balancing Act
JSS – Lost In The Translation Reissue (Frontiers)
This bonus-track laden reissue is the perfect companion to album of the week Beautiful Mess but don’t expect two peas in a rock pod. Lost In The Translation is a little edgier than its successor but is, nevertheless, a worthy addition to the JSS back catalogue.
Standout track Soul Divine crops up twice and it’s actually the bonus acoustic version which really stands the hairs on end. As usual with Scott Soto’s work there’s nothing to really fault here but there’s little doubt the versatile singer has made significant progress as a recording artsist since this record first hit stores.
Worth dipping into and great value with the added material. Try out the title track for a real taste of this album’s rocky flavour.
rushonrock rated: 6/10 Lost Gem
JSS – Prism Reissue (Frontiers)
Completing the hat-trick of this week’s Jeff Scott Soto records is the excellent Prism. If rock songs with an emotional edge are your bag then you’ll find a sackful right here from the heartfelt Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye to the brilliant By Your Side.
It swiftly becomes clear that this album is the blueprint for Beautiful Mess, more so than Lost In The Translation, and given a different era and a more receptive market this might have been the album to really break big Jeff.
As it is the reissue includes the emotive 2012, initially a Japanese bonus track, and a stoking live version of Stand Up. The JSS reissues are branded ‘luxury packages’ and for the most part they live up to the name.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 It’s Scott The Lot
Place Vendome – Streets Of Fire (Frontiers)
Best known as vocalist with German metallers Helloween during their commercially successful Keeper… years, vocalist Michael Kiske proves the old adage that while form may be temporary, class is permanent on this powerful melodic rock tour de force.
Forget the tragically toe-curling band name and instead immerse yourself in some of the strongest vocals you’ll hear all year as a range of world renowned songwriters add their nous and experience to a record which deserves to be heard.
Kiske has always been capable of belting out a cracking rock song and on Believer and Surrender Your Soul he does just that. It might not make the Helloween crowd entirely happy but this is a heavyweight release from an underrated singer.
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Place To Rock