As the record industry prepares to take a break from releasing new music we deliver our penultimate batch of album reviews for 2011 – ahead of the annual RUSHONROCK Roll Of Honour!

Bringing up the rear at the end of another great year are those pretty boys from Houston (pictured), the Quireboys and Nightwish

Houston – Relaunch (Spinefarm)

Houston burst onto the AOR scene at the back end of last year and in a bid to keep the pot boiling ahead of their next studio album the devotees of all things cheesy have managed to cover some of the most sugary sweet pop rock this side of the mid-80s.

The Scandinavians’ love and respect for the true giants of AOR – including Michael Bolton, Airrace and New England – should strengthen their own burgeoning reputation as standard bearers for the revivalist genre.

But it says something (and we’re not sure whether it’s good or bad) that the two best tracks here are acoustic versions of Houston’s very own Truth Slips and 1000 Songs – two choice cuts from their self-titled debut and evidence of a band boasting genuine melodic talent.

A neat duet between Hank Erix and Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd is an added bonus and showcases the former as a genuinely emotive frontman far removed from the rather camp and over-excited individual often seen live. Relaunch isn’t an album to win Houston an army of new converts but it’ll keep the band’s existing fans waving their lighters well into 2012. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Cover Stars


Nightwish – Imaginaerum (Nuclear Blast)

Anette Olzon should finally be enjoying life as frontwoman with mega-selling Finnish symphonic metal stars Nightwish but her predecessor’s shadow still looms large.

And while this thrilling concept album is full of the band’s trademark bombast and operatic leanings it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this is a record made for Tarja Turunen. The one-time darling of Nightwish fans is doing just fine as a solo artist par excellence but even she must look at Imaginaerum and wonder what might have been.

It’s not that Olzon does a bad job with Tuomas Holopainen’s complicated concept – in fact the vocals are better than anything we’ve heard from the talented Swede in the past. But it’s obvious there’s no room for manoeuvre where Holopainen’s songwriting is concerned and he’s still writing for a different voice in a different era.

That won’t change anytime soon so what of the songs? The epic Song Of Myself tends to dominate despite emerging as the penultimate track on this meaty release. Clocking in at more than 13 minutes it could demand an album all of its own but if you’re new to Nightwish then this is a great place to start – the Finns pack everything including the kitchen sink into this stunning composition.

Olzon excels on Slow, Love, Slow and Rest Calm as she shrugs off the pressure and expectation associated with her dream job and revels in the opportunity to let rip in a typically controlled fashion.

Imaginaerum is wonderful, varied, vibrant and vital. But just imagine Tarja on board? SR

rushonrock rated: 8/10 Nightwishing On A Star


Quireboys – Live In Glasgow (CCP)

Currently available at gigs and via the band’s website this latest live album from the best rock n rollers in town proves what Quireboys fans already know – frontman Spike remains one of the most affable and consistent performers in the UK.

Out front in Glasgow he fills every gap between trademark hit with canny banter delivered in that familiar Geordie rasp. He’s no Sara Millican but Spike’s always been able to raise a smile and a Quireboys gig is all about having the night of your life in the company of some genuinely warm chaps.

This set is notable for the Quireboys’ recording debut of drummer Matt Goom – a gothic-looking tub thumper who could yet become the exception to the rule and survive more than two years in one of rock’s least stable seats.

Aside from that it’s more of the same and if you love this band then that’s exactly what you want. More of the banter, more of Keith Weir’s incredible tinkling, more of the twin-guitar joy served up by Paul Guerin and Guy Griffin and more of the feelgood factor this band brings every night without fail.

This month’s tour – including a timely stop at Hard Rock Hell V – went down a storm and one listen to Live In Glasgow will explain exactly why. The Quireboys are rock n roll. SR

rushonrock rated: 7/10 Glas Half Full