Plus we take a look at some vintage Thin Lizzy and deliver our verdict on new albums by Lionsex, Trillium, The Magnificent, Mecca and Funeral For A Friend.
A fifth Rush live album in eight years (if you include the low key 2006 Grace Under Pressure Tour release) might be seen as taking liberties with the band’s loyal and seemingly recession-proof fan base.
Yet had the Canadian trio opted against rolling out a permanent record of their finest tour in 20-plus years those same devotees would have been up in arms, demanding something more than YouTube clips and amateurish audio of the phenomenal Time Machine jaunt.
And, as is so often the case where Rush is concerned, there really is a genuine reason for investing in yet another live package from three of the world’s most consummate concert performers.
For starters there’s the Moving Pictures album delivered in its entirety – the rarely played The Camera Eye included – which is a must for any long-term follower of the prog rock masters. Pefectly complementing this year’s anniversary reissue of the original album, the set within a set comes alive – every track played with a new sense of love and affection.
Then there’s another chance to sit back and dissect new tunes Caravan and BU2B – neither of which will be available as album versions until the release of 2012’s Clockwork Angels. And for anyone fortunate enough to see the tour there’s another chance to enjoy the short films which had fans laughing in the aisles throughout 2011.
Yes you may already have more live Rush in your record collection than is healthy but there’s always space for some more. And if there isn’t then Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland is worth finding that space for. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Rise Of The Machine
As Scott Gorham, ably assisted by Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, continues to revamp and reappraise the Thin Lizzy back catalogue it’s easy to lose sight of what actually matters where one of rock’s most lauded acts is concerned.
Whether it’s the expanded editions of the band’s immense back catalogue, vinyl reproductions of classic records or various live recordings featuring the classic line-up, Lizzy’s glorious heritage is readily available and remains hugely popular.
But the secret is sifting out the classic rock wheat from the chaff.
Elliott again gains a credit – or more of a thanks – on At The BBC but the Leppard frontman’s involvement is a sound barometer that this is worth a gamble. And it is. Bringing together a raft of lost recordings and special appearances this brilliant collection casts Lizzy in an entirely different light and focuses on the band’s legendary musicianship.
There was no hiding place when you pitched up at the Beeb to do a 70s session – it was imperative that your music did the talking. And with Lynott at his creative peak each Lizzy song told a fascinating tale with the stories never presented more emotively than in the intimate surroundings of a BBC studio.
There are some genuine gems here – even within the basic two-disc collection – including a splendid John Peel session version of Suicide right through to set closer Still In Love With You from the Friday Rock Show. It’s often the case with Greatest Hits selections that die-hard fans will already own everything on offer – At The BBC is different and delightfully so. SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 BBCing Is Believing
Last time out Amanda Somerville was captured on a series of sparkling duets with ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske and the pair’s self-titled rushonrock rated 9/10 album represented much of the former’s best work to date.
What a disappointment, then, to report that Alloy does very little to highlight one of the finest female vocal talents on the melodic rock scene.
Somerville claims to be incredibly excited about her new pet project – to such an extent there’s an implication that Trillium could be her rock vehicle of choice in the years to come.
But if this is the start of some longer journey then it’s imperative that the Avantasia/Epica singer plots a safer route to the top.
At the heavier end of Somerville’s recognised scale, much of Alloy is more metal and less melodic rock. It works when she shrewdly hooks up with label mate Jorn Lande on the gritty and exhilarating Scream It – a classical and calming intro swiftly giving way to a growling Lande vocal.
But for the most part this is a patchy and frustrating record as songs like the chugging Coward and the generic pop metal of Mistaken (which always threatens to build into something big and beautiful only to retreat into its shell) fail to make the most of Somerville’s typically vibrant voice. SR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Alloy There!
It seems there’s no end to the conveyor belt of quality melodic rock emerging from Scandinavia and The Magnificent roll off the production line with all the style and swagger of an 80s throwback backed by record label riches, sell-out arena tours and MTV saturation coverage.
Of course if the new project featuring Circus Maximus’ Michael Eriksen and Finnish fret burner Torsti Spoof had been released 25 years ago then world domination would have been theirs for the taking. Fusing the vocal style of Here I Go Again-era David Coverdale and Prisoners In Paradise vintage Joey Tempest, the instantly likeable Eriksen produces the performance of his life. And that’s just the start where The Magnificent is concerned.
Memorable choruses, soaring guitar solos and stylistic keys make for some of the best retro melodic rock you’ll hear all year. For as long as Europe rely on a heavier, bluesier tone to keep the creative spark alive, The Magnificent are perfectly poised to fill the pop metal gap long since vacated by Tempest and company.
The title track to the band’s self-titled record – at this point it’s impossible to escape a name which smacks of supreme self-confidence – kicks off with a screeching intro and morphs into a sensational melodic-rock-by-numbers modern classic. Eriksen refuses to hold back and, with a set of pipes this good, why should he?
Ballad Angel doesn’t try to be anything other than the kind of song Coverdale insisted upon including on every album at the height of Whitesnake’s global domination. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does raise the bar where lighter-waving AOR wizardry is concerned.
Yet another release that will force hasty revisions of those ‘Best Of 2011’ lists, The Magnificent is simply that. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Sunny Eriksen
Naming your band after one of the most religiously significant cities in the world is either incredibly brave or utterly foolhardy.
If the idea is to attract attention to a melodic rock tour de force it works. Yet only the music itself will see the fans come flocking to Mecca – and on this evidence devotees of classy AOR will gravitate to this talented act in their droves.
In the first place Joe Vana’s decision to enlist the skills of his son Joey (on guitar and backing vocals) is no act of lazy nepotism. Together father and son are a mind-blowing amalgam of every 70s pop rock act that walked the planet and Undeniable could be a best of the best featuring Journey, Toto, Chicago and more.
Closing Time uses clever synths and a familiar AOR riff to take us right back to the early 80s while Mecca’s lighter moments evoke memories of Richard Marx’s chart-busting past.
Ten Lifetimes eschews any temptation for a punchy bass line in favour of a classy piano and toned down guitars which rise and fall in perfect harmony with Vana senior’s accomplished delivery.
In a year when AOR’s revival has exceeded all reasonable expectations it’s no wonder Frontiers have kept this wonderful release up their sleeves until the start of the pre-Christmas rush.
Making a late bid for album of the year and sounding better with every listen, Undeniable is under the radar no more. The Journey to Mecca has begun. SR
rushonrock rated: 10/10 Undeniably Brilliant
Put simply, we don’t. Get it, that is. Looking at the sleazy cover and digging deeper to discover some questionable promo shots its surely shouldn’t be too much to expect that Lionsex are sleaze-fuelled torch bearers for 2011’s return to the days of classic Guns N Roses and cheesy Motely Crue.
In fact there’s rarely been a more inappropriate band name in the annals of rock. This lot might talk the talk but they sing a load of shit.
Clearly suffering from a musical identity crisis, Get It… is an uncomfortable juxtaposition of post-grunge, nasty nu-metal, goth rock and only fleeting moments of girly sleaze. Singer Jef Leppard (please) sounds more like he should be fronting Sisters Of Mercy than a hair metal tribute act but, in truth, he probably couldn’t manage to do either.
With tracks like Smokin’ Out The Neighbourhood and Rip-off Britain it’s just impossible to know whether Lionsex take themselves too seriously or not seriously enough. But don’t bother thinking about that for too long – it’s just not worth it where this painfully clueless quartet is concerned.
Many albums pass through the hands of the rushonrock team each year but few test our patience quite so much. If we had a return address this would be straight back in the Jiffy bag and on its way home to rock n roll hell. Lionsex should probably be rough, nasty, hairy and messy: for all of their faux posturing this band threatens to be none of the above. SR
rushonrock rated: 2/10 (Please Don’t Ever) Get It…
Rather than issue an expanded edition of the critically acclaimed Welcome Home Armageddon those in-form boys at Funeral For A Friend have opted for the complimentary EP.
And at nine songs long it’s a refrshingly in-depth addition to one of the albums of 2011.
New song High Castle kicks things off with all of the anger and brutality of Rage Against The Machine at their creative peak. Then there’s the pumped up Strife cover of Will To Die which, in this context, is tailor-made to fit the FFAF blueprint for focused angst.
A stunning remix of Medicated hits the mark but it seems this is one band that can do no wrong after an introspective and creatively lean period pre-Welcome Home Arnageddon.
Rightly lauded by the rock and metal press for leaping on an unexpected renaissance and hammering home their advantage, FFAF head into 2012 as the rediscovered heroes of British alt rock. As far as keeping the pot boiling this meaty filler is a timely feast for fans old and new. SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 Hell Awaits