Monday, September 30, 2019

Blockbuster "Losing Gravity" Winning At Every Level!

Big. Pompous. Bombastic. Melodic. Memorable. Fun. Familiar. Loud. Original. These words perfectly describe the brand new album by the Finnish rock band Blockbuster. Their debut album on Frontiers Records entitled "Losing Gravity", proves that there are new note combinations that can be found.

Honestly I wasn't prepared for the level of songwriting and uniqueness of this record. Musically Blockbuster borrows from all the best things. Glam, hard rock, punk, pop, and lite metal all play a significant role in defining this band. Lead guitarist Elias Salo is unapologetic in his love for elongated chords. The band marries this guitar sound with a wall of vocals which include well placed shouts and hollers.

The arena is already packed out on track one, "Out In The City", with all of the aforementioned effects and a guitar solo that kicks some large buttocks. The production is remarkably clean. This only makes the ride more audible and enjoyable. "Gone By The Morning" is a two pronged guitar attack helped along by lead vocalist Aarni Metsapelto who also mans a guitar. Original riffs, addictive leads and complete musical thoughts. "Flammable" leans a tad toward punk as drummer Jaako Metsapelto is all over the kit, driving, crashing and leading the other boys through another tasty melodic rock nugget. "Back From The Shadows" is another jump and shout anthem, that features an infectious bass line from Joonas Arrpe who is juxtaposed by another string breaking electric guitar solo.

"Losing Gravity" finds the band in mid-tempo acoustic guitar bliss. The level of pop proficiency here is Abba-like. This might be the best new song I've heard this year. And check out that extended guitar solo. Lots of depth and emotion there. The seat belt sign lights up again for the rockin' "Sweet Mary Jane". Is this a girl or some substance bringing your soul down to the depths of depravity? The chord changes are fascinating and rival Angus Young's best ideas. "Somebody To Shock" continues the perfect string of melodic greatness with more sweet choruses and catchy refrains. It might take another band a whole career to come up with this many good songs.

"Walking Like A Dog" borrows a bit from Smashmouth's "Walking On The Sun". It's not that the chords are all that similar, it's more the structure of the song, and the chunks of audio candy that create a mild deja vu experience. "Move" was the first track I was able to hear from this album and it's got hit single written all over it. Probably because of the solo vocal parts, the giant hook and the glam infused chorus. There are na-na-na-na-na-nas and even a Queen lyrical reference. We've arrived on planet perfect album.

"Would You Do It Again" has a fuzzy guitar tone that opens up and gets bigger as the song builds. Stylistically taking from new wave and punk but still mainstream and melodic. "Bulletproof" is track 11. And the band hasn't lost a step. The opening riff is a cross between "Candy-O" by The Cars and something by Led Zeppelin. And that might be an apt way to summarize all of the mysterious mayhem on "Losing Gravity". You could be a Kiss fan and love this. You could be a Thin Lizzy fan or a Def Leppard fan or prone to the pop rockers of the 80's.

Blockbuster is my favorite album of 2019 thus far. There are 11 potential hit singles. There are 11 very catchy, original songs in a world where people are starting to think all of the good note combinations have been used up. Not so. Blockbuster has raised the bar for this current generation. It would not be out of place to say this is on par with what Boston did on their debut album. They obviously picked their band name correctly. This is a Blockbuster.

Blockbuster Will Make You Move On This One

Every so often a riff comes along that gets your attention and then sticks in your brain and is hard to shake out. Honestly when I first heard this song it didn't register how original it was. My subconsciousness had stored it away. I stumbled upon it a second time, thanks to the record label, Frontiers, who are often a persistent bunch when it comes to promotions. I will eventually have to review the whole album from this new band from Finland. For now, we relish in one of the most addictive guitar riffs of 2019. The sound is part glam rock, part hard rock, part 1970's, part 1980's, and part modern rock. The production is lean enough for the rock purists, while busy enough to engage today's radio audience. What is hard to ignore is the original hook, one that truly doesn't remind me of another song. Which in and of itself, is a massive achievement. And lastly, this is one damn fun song. Play it loud and play it often. It's guaranteed to get stuck in your cranium.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Huey Lewis Is Back With "Your Love Is Killing Me"

As a huge fan of this band, I have to temper my bias with an honest assessment. This is the band's first new original material since their highly overlooked Plan B album from 2001. This is a more stripped down News with bluesy instrumentation and some great horns. Huey still sounds like Huey which is to say his voice hasn't changed so much that he is hard to recognize. I say that because many older singers hardly remember their younger selves. The song itself is catchy and like much of what this band does, is instantaneously memorable and fun. The guitar and harmonica work is excellent and the production values are pure and uncluttered. All and all a wonderful addition to the Huey canon. A new album is on the way soon. And this is a nice preview.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Beyond Imagination Is Authentic West Coast Magic

In recent years, producer, arranger, guitarist, and west coast icon Jay Graydon has lent his talents out to a growing number of Swedish quality rock bands that have parroted the music once made here in the states. The latest band to catch Graydon's ears is a Malmo based band called Beyond Imagination. Graydon lends his guitar work to an incredible slice of 1981 called "Say Is This Love". The tune also features some robust saxophone and Viktor Johansson's smooth vocals.

"Traces of Laughter" is a tad more muscular but alternates between pure AOR and West Coast. What's very apparent is B.I. can write and arrange songs with powerful, captivating hooks. They use effective keyboard flourishes to augment some already very convincing music. "I Can't Find Enough Reasons" is perfect for those rainy nights both musically and lyrically. Andreas Baro plays the sax with smooth jazz bravado. Emanuel Nyman mans the drum kit and is an anchor to the rhythm and overall feel of this album. He and Baro do double time as players and producers.

"Inside Your Eyes" is reminiscent of a Chicago (the band) power ballad, with a bigger drum beat and romantic lyrics about true love. Tim Carlstedt lays down a note perfect guitar solo. The band shifts gears for "Driving Along The Coast". The guitar tone is rocked up, and the band strays mercilessly into old fashioned AOR. "Change The Way" has a gigantic guitar hook intro, followed by a more jazzy vocal arrangement. The horns are used effectively throughout this collection. You just know the band was influenced by the aforementioned Chicago and maybe Earth Wind and Fire.

 "I Want To Be Love" begins with more memorable power chords and then ascends to a loftier melody and harmony vocals. The chorus is strong and is filled with 80's top 40 enzymes. The synth based "Courage At Heart" hints at new wave pop bands from 35 years ago. Think Naked Eyes, A-ha and Cutting Crew. B.I. has still managed to keep things original though. There is no blatant plagiarism, just nods to style.

"Love of My Youth" is a slow, smoke filled room number that takes a light stab at Michael Franks or even Tony Bennett. This diversity is what makes this debut album a real joy to listen to. "Stay With Me Tonight" sounds like a lost Al Jarreau track with a tropical vibe. The concluding "Spirit of Freedom" is an instrumental track that echoes the best of smooth jazz from the likes of Fattburger or Spyro Gyra. What's a little different is the overall structure of the song which is much in the pop vein of things.

Beyond Imagination's debut record is clearly a tribute to the world's once great melodic past. All done with an incredible attention to detail. The Swedes continue to be pioneers in this format that was once only reserved for the experts in southern California. This is one big fat treat for your ears. Slap on the some headphones and use your imagination!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Will Jacobs and Marcos Coll Are Making Some Sweet Noise

Taking Our Time is a brand new album by blues rock duo Will Jacobs and Marcos Coll. Coll plays the harmonica. Jacobs plays guitar and sings. Like many American born and bred musicians, they set off to make a living in Europe. Their new album will make fans of traditional Chicago blues very happy. But this music should also appeal to the rock traditionalist as well.

The highlights include the funky opener, "It Ain't Safe". Jacobs makes his guitar talk in different tones throughout this project. "Goin' To Berlin" is a more traditional number with Coll's harmonica blaring alongside a thumping, familiar guitar riff. But guitar fans will enjoy the instrumental jam that ensues. "What You Doin'" returns to the funkiness of the opening track.

Vocally, Jacobs is a cross between Robert Cray and Lenny Kravitz. The simplicity of the arrangements and the live music feel make these songs very memorable. The band rocks out a busy instrumental called "C.J.'s Bounce". "Stranded" returns to some hardcore Chicago style with some stellar harmonica. Jacobs brings the funk back on "Hey Baby", which is really one of the more fun and memorable tracks on this collection. "Blues Cazorla Boogie" is a Chicago blues and swing hybrid. The dance floor is open and these two blues masters do not disappoint.

"One Too Many Times" is another classic blues riff and a familiar tale of being kicked to the curb. The boys then swarm in with their respective instruments and make a decent ruckus. "Goin' To Berlin" (recorded live) is the album's closing track. It's more of a front porch burner and it shows that these gentleman can bring it live. All and all a tasty little collection of catchy blues nuggets and certainly a worthy addition to your collection of blues staples.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Age of Reflection's "A New Dawn" is Old School 80's Melodic Rock With A Modern Twist

Age of Reflection is another Swedish band with it's roots firmly planted in the 1980's. Lead vocalist Lars Nygren's vocals add a layer of emotion to a very solid and polished sound. Nygren has something unique in his vocal delivery that separates him from other singers. Maybe it's a touch of Paul Stanley in his prime mixed with the late Jani Lane from Warrant. Guitarist Jonas Nordqvist has been influenced by Neal Schon, Josh Ramos and Steve Vai. On "A New Dawn", the band picks up right where they finished on 2017's "In The Heat of The Night".

If you are a fan of big dramatic arrangements, scorching guitar solos and soaring emotive vocals, this is the band for you. "Aurora" is a melodic shredding instrumental intro that leads into the album's centerpiece, "A New Dawn". This one-two punch could be the perfect night driving FM radio staple. "Stay With Me" is a mid-tempo rocker, well written and guitar driven. Lars singing style is very lyrical. His voice seems to body surf over the melody, being whisked along on each little twist and turn.

"Here I Stand" faces down negative consequences and regret and pleads with it's audience. It's backdrop is a melodic current that will sweep you away. "Until Death Do Us Part" is a rocking marriage song, declarative and bold. The band rides these lyrical themes with waves of sonic power. Nygren's voice and the harmonies of his band mates keep your ears in the game. "What if I Break" is a surprising acoustic power ballad contemplating the ups and downs of a confused relationship. The band's vocal prowess is on full display here.

One of the most surprising moments on the album is the band's remake of the Cutting Crew's "I Just Died In Your Arms". The band rocks it up a bit but it's actually very faithful to the original. Other highlights on this record include "Go" and "Write It On The Wall".

What I like about this band is that they write songs that have staying power. There are a few sonic curve balls. And the musicianship is top notch. The difficulty for this band is the struggle to get airplay and to be noticed. Radio is not user friendly right now and bands like Age of Reflection can get lost in the shuffle. But overall another stellar offering by this band from Stockholm. Look for the album to drop September 27th via AOR Heaven Records.

Goodbye Eddie

I was a wet behind the ears music director programming the music for the number one radio station on Cape Cod. I think it was 1988. The traffic director (who is basically like a receptionist, greeter, task assigner, all of the above person) called the production studio to tell me that Eddie Money was on the phone and needed to speak to me. My response to her was, "yeah sure". She said, "he says he's Eddie Money". I said, "fine, patch him though". The voice on the line says, "Davey, this is Eddie, the money man!"
Immediately I knew it was really him. We talked about Richie Zito, who produced his latest album Nothing To Lose. He mentioned that he needed a vacation and was planning to spend time with his wife and his kids. He thanked me profusely for helping the song The Love In Your Eyes climb to #1 on the mainstream rock charts. Admittedly, it's not Eddie's best track, but was a radio staple for us for several weeks. He was as affable and funny as he is on TV and in interviews. He told me he would eventually make it to the Cape for a visit, that it would be a perfect place for his family to spend some time on the beach. He was a working class Joe from New York who was destined to be a cop but he quit and followed his dreams to California. 
They don't make them like Eddie Money anymore. He loved R&B music, rock and the blues. He ended up being a constant presence on the radio until the grunge scene killed his radio career. Like all good blue collar workers, he hit the road hard and was there right up until the doctors pulled him off. I'm sitting here cranking all of these Money tunes that meant so much to me then. Today they mean even more to me than they did then. 
Rest in peace Edward Joseph Mahoney. You will be missed but thankfully you gave us a lifetime's worth of unforgettable music.
- Davey

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Defiants Defy Convention By Going Back To What's Great About Rock

The Defiants are the offspring Danger Danger who were a casualty of the grunge rock scene. One of many steeped in a melodic rock tradition that peaked right around 1989. Glam rockers were adding strains of funk and blues to their singable anthems. Times were good. And then came Kurt Cobain and the party ground to a halt. Here and there with fits and starts, this music has continued to find a home, mostly in Europe. American fans have largely been shut out of the party since terrestrial radio went dark.

The Defiants pick up where the party ended. Their new album, called Zokusho (which is a Japanese word meaning sequel) makes for some rather impressive ear stimulation. "Love Is The Killer", a song Bon Jovi would reject today, but a song his fans will embrace opens side one. The big choruses, the cacophony of keyboard sounds, and those lyrics, ripped right from the pages of a late 80's Soap Opera Digest - this is what the New Jersey faithful have been waiting for.

Guitarist Rob Marcello tricks out his guitar for all the needed effects along with piercing, precise solos. Singer Paul Laine is amazingly well equipped to ride these notes high into  places older bands fear to tread. Steve West assaults his drum kit with high octane accuracy. "Hollywood In The Headlights" is the PERFECT southern California summertime anthem. These days good songwriting is hard to find, but not on this album. An instant hit single for a world corrected for lousy tastes. There are rich harmonies, complete musical ideas and guitar solos to ice the cake with.

"Fallin' For You" is a tad more muscular but still manages to be catchy as hell. The apple doesn't fall far from the Danger Danger tree.  There are a few modern touches, but nothing to disrupt the musical synergy. "Hold On Tonight" is a lush mid-tempo radio ready half-ballad employing every great 80's cliche with unabashed love for the genre. "Allnighter" has a more modern approach, much like something W.E.T. might record. The big hooks and choruses immerse the ears in what could be a great live in concert track."U X'D My Heart" invokes Mr. Big's "Just Take My Heart" via a sparse guitar intro followed by big bold and decisive hooks. Again the subject matter is about women breaking hearts and the like. It's as if the band has joyfully chosen not to delve into any topics that would bum people out in 2019.

"It Goes Fast" adds a nice pop sheen to an uptempo drum pounder. The melodies here are all advanced songwriting honors class. "Stay", "Alive" and the bar closer, "Drink Up!" all rock out in style without slowing down. No power ballads here, just glam oriented pop metal with zero filler. This record should be loved by fans of Poison, Kiss, Danger Danger, Ratt, Firehouse, Mr. Big, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Van Halen. There are a few bands making this kind of music, but none of them are writing and arranging songs of this caliber. "Zokusho" is the best melodic rock album of 2019 thus far.