Monday 27 August 2018

Graham Bonnet Band, The Tivoli, Buckley 24.8.18

If you’re a fan of rock music (lets face it, why wouldn’t you be), then you would have to be under the age of 29 or been living in a cave for the last 40 yrs not to know the name Graham Bonnet. His star quickly shone when Ritchie Blackmore picked him from a pop quiz that Cozy Powell used to play intros to his record collection when Rainbow were down to a threesome after Dio, Daisley & Stone, and others had departed. The song, ‘Only One Woman’. ‘I want him’ stated Blackmore, and the rest they say, is history.

A very quick dalliance with MSG, but it spawned a belter of an album in Assault Attack, before forming his own band Alcatrazz. The guy has played alongside some great guitarists no doubt – Blackmore, Vai, Malmsteen, Impelliteri, Moody, Kulick, all of which is of no coincidence.

I last saw him about 15yrs ago in Crewe and he was blindingly good. 24.8.18 sees him at The Tivoli in Buckley and nudging 71. I have to state this as recently Steve Perry has popped his head up and announced a new album after a 25 yr absence. Perry is 69 and still sounds good. I’ll come back to this later.

Straight in with an Alcatrazz number ‘Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live’ Bonnet immediately
showed how good he was. A waif of a man, bit with the voice of a foghorn. If you doubted his age, or his stamina beforehand, don’t. It was laid to rest at the Tivoli. A 5 minute break ensued as Bonnet's drummer, Mark Benquechea decided he wanted a different drum kit. Bonnet swiftly whipped out a carrot, and not his wotsit unlike Sheffield and reminisced whilst the kit was rebuilt. ‘All Night Long’ followed and there were no worries regarding the notes, Bonnet is on form. With a guitarist like Kurt James, Bonnet has a foil who can play all the Malmsteen, Vai, Blackmore and Impelliteri parts with ease. Sure the solos were not identical, but the aforementioned never play the same solo twice anyway. The band were very tight but I’d like to have heard a bit more of the backing vocals on a couple of song and not just relying on a 70 yr old to pump out the vocals. Waldo was heard, but unless it was down to my positioning, Beth-Ami Heavenstone sounded like (or didn’t) like Lilly from Pitch Perfect. A reference for the kids there, methinks!

Highlights for me were ‘Night games’, the excellent ‘Desert Song’ (which is one of the best rock songs of all time), and the finale of ‘Lost In Hollywood’

I understand the need to drop in recently written songs, and a couple of fillers like ‘Goodnight and Goodbye’ and ‘Starcarr Lane’, AND, one of the crappiest guitar solos Ive ever witnessed! But when its at the expense of the likes of ‘Eyes Of The World’, ‘Samurai’, ‘Dancer’, ‘God Blessed Video’, ‘Sons and Lovers’, and ‘Hiroshima… ‘etc, then it could have gone from being a very good gig, to an exceptional gig, especially when some of these have been on the set list recently.

So, despite Perry being 69, I understand his album is ballad heavy. I even said myself recently, ‘you cant over expect anything from a bloke at this age’.  If that’s what Perry wants to do, then that’s great. But after seeing Bonnet sing full tilt (he cant do it any other way), for a solid 100 mins, then the ground rules have been re-set. You CAN hope/demand/expect some icons to be belting it out as they did 40 yrs ago.

If I were 70, I would be happy being able to stand up for 100 minutes, never mind belt out a set. Bonnet shows if you look after yourself, then you can beat the hands of time. Long may he continue, because these guys will not be around forever.

Pics courtesy of Jeff Price
Graham Bonnet Band -

Graham Bonnet – Vocals

Jimmy Waldo – Keyboards

Kurt James – Guitar

Beth-Ami Heavenstone – Bass

Mark Benquechea – Drums


Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live

All Night Long

Night games

California Air

Island In The Sun

Jet To Jet

Rock You To The Ground

Stand In Line

Starcarr Lane

Goodnight and Goodbye

Desert Song

Into The Night

Long island Tea

Assault Attack

Mirror Lies

Since You Been Gone

Lost In Hollywood

Saturday 25 August 2018

Groundbreaker - 'S/T' Album review

Groundbreaker - 'S/T'

You can spend £300m on a footy team and not guarantee any success. Can you put two European Masters of melodic rock together and bring guaranteed success? Not necessarily. It has worked here, and this is what Frontiers Don, Serafino Perugino has done in bringing Steve Overland and Robert Säll together to make Groundbreaker. Lets face it, it wasn’t going to be difficult to put a project together when both parties have experience in such matters - Säll with W.E.T., and Overland with Shadowman. So it wasn’t ever going to be abject failure. You know what they say, ‘form is temporary, but class is permanent’. Both these fellas are undoubtedly a class act.

The album started with a conversation happened between Frontiers President Serafino Perugino and Overland, eager to start a collaboration with new and exciting musicians from the European melodic rock scene. The idea was immediately work involve Robert Säll of Work of Art in the picture and use Alessandro Del Vecchio’s production. Overland immediately loved the material that was submitted and consequently they started to work on songs.

"I’m the main composer for about half of the songs but Ale and Steve wrote a lot as well,” tells Robert Säll. “I had to write songs with Steve´s voice in mind and that was new and very inspiring to me. But for any fan of FM or Work of Art, I think they will be very familiar with the sound of this record!"

With Säll writing 50% himself, then these songs have more than a Work Of Art and FM sound to them. One thing is for certain, these songs are as finely polished as the brass door knocker at Mr Sheene’s factory.

If you’re a fan of these guy already then it really is the biggest no brainer since you convinced yourself to buy legwarmers in the 80s. Its like settling down on the comfiest of sofas, or chatting with a best mate that you haven’t spoken with in years; you get my drift, right?

‘Over My Shoulder’ is pure melodic simplicity at its best, Overland is Overland, the Ronseal vocalist of his generation, singing with a soul and passion that few can match, and with Säll’s guitar its quickly realized that this is a match made in Heaven, well Italy. ‘Will It Make You Love Me’ sounds like it should be a ballad, but it’s a song with one of the hookiest choruses you’ll hear this year, and any other year. ‘Eighteen Till I Die’ and ‘Only Time Will Tell’ just pick up the batton and carry on the high quality, with the guitar, vocals and keyboard right up, front and centre. ‘Standing Up For Love’ has the parpy, moody opening, extends into a punchier and heavier track with some really nice harmonies; think Michael Bolton.  – not that one, the one before he became the housewives choice. Yes that one.

‘Tonight’ is the first (sort of) ballad on offer and it’s a good one, but not the best on here. The trophy goes to ‘Something Worth Fighting For’. If something like this attracts the attention of Mrs Chesworth on a first listen (who is by far the better reviewer out of the both of us) then I know it’s a good one, and the more I hear it, the more I like it. It’s like waterboarding, only in a fun way! It sounds familiar, like you’ve known it for years, and deserves to win an award, as its that good. Overland projects his vocal prowess, showing emotion and passion in his vocals, and in this one song alone, proves to the World why he is called ‘The Voice’.

This is one project that definitely has legs and could see the partnership blossoming and around for many years to come, and could outlive their current day jobs. In leaving the knob twiddling to Del Vecchio its enabled them to create one of the best melodic rock albums of the year, if not the best. I could imagine this in full Foreigner mode live, with a choir ramping it up to eleven! 

‘The Sound Of A Broken Heart’ highlights the assets of all here, its  everything coming together for the greater good. It’s the five guys working in harmony. ‘First Time’ comes with Overlands trademarked ‘whoa-ohhs’ and starts off as one song, and switches the chorus to a more powerful force and back again. It’s a nice  balance and very 80s. ‘The Days Of Our Life’ is an upbeat song and typical Summer song that would have dominated MTV. The album is over way too quickly with ‘The Way It Goes’ and I have pretty much run out of platitudes at this point.

Groundbreaker have come to the part with eleven songs all being of great quality, with not a duffer in sight, proving you don’t need to come armed with 17 songs and a running time of 75 mins. It’s the best 2635 seconds you will hear all year!

The keyboard sounds and overall production on this are just fab, and I have to give credit to Alessandro Del Vecchio.

Frontiers have been pumping out a lot of albums the last couple of years with many being average at best. There have been some nuggets from them along the way, but now’t comes close to this for the label.

Sod the young guns. Guys if you want to up your game then you need to be watching (and listening to) the older guard, as four of the best melodic rock albums this year have come from NHA, Airrace, Perfect Plan, and now Groundbreaker. They’ve upped their game, now up yours.

If you’re a fan of melodic rock, and you don’t like this, then you’re not listening hard enough.

Score – 9/10

Groundbreaker –
Robert Säll – Guitars
Steve Overland – Vocals
Nalley Pahlsson – Bass
Herman Furing – Drums
With Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards

Produced by Alessandro Del Vecchio

Tracklisting –
Over My Shoulder
Will It Make You Love Me
Eighteen ‘Til I Die
Only Time Will Tell
Standing Up For Love
Something Worth Fighting For
The Sound Of A Broken Heart
The First Time
The Days Of Our Life
The Way It Goes

Sunday 19 August 2018

Monster Truck - 'True Rockers' Album Review

Monster Truck – True Rockers

Monster Truck, whilst not brand new, are one of the newer guns so to speak who have pretty much hit the ground running and produce straight up, balls to the wall, heavy rock, with more than a bluesy feel to proceedings. 

Its been two years since the excellent ‘Sitting Pretty’ was released. Since then they have played over 150 shows supporting such luminaries as Nickelback, Billy Talent, and Deep Purple. During this time on the road MT took a recording rig out with them, sending songs back and forth to producer Dan Weller, the guys not wanting to waste any time when inspiration struck. Jon Harvey says ‘We want people to listen to it and have fun’ which pretty much sums up MTs mantra and style. Next year sees the guys cement 10 years together, and have achieved a huge amount in that time – for me it was seeing them play in support of their debut album in front of about 280 in a hot and sweaty Manchester, with me being that close to the band, it felt like I was on stage with them. You don’t get many gigs like that these days. In fact, my son had a Marvin Berry moment the first time he saw them at Download fist act on the stage. He calls me up and says ‘dad, you’ve got to listen to these’, and held the phone up for their first song. We were hooked.
So, its fair to say, I’ve watched (and listened) to them grow and develop almost from the beginning, and predicted great things from the Canadians. So what do we get with ‘True Rockers’ as my first experience with the video of ‘Evolution’ nearly put me off them completely! More on that song in a minute. Thankfully MT hit us with their unmistakeable force on opener and title track ‘True Rocker’, and it picks up straight where ‘Sitting Pretty’ left off – and it sees Harvey in full on Preacher mode….putting the word  of the Truck out in the streets along with the Reverand Dee of Snider. ‘Thundertruck’s opening keyboard riff is straight out of Rainbow’s ‘Kill The King’, before the MT wall of sound kicks in, and its so far, so very good. They lyrics are taken straight out of the iSpy book of clichéd rock lyrics, but who gives a truck, when its done as good as this?

A couple of few weeks back, a video for ‘Evolution’ broke. I trucking hated it. It sounded like Shinedown, and not the good version of Shinedown, it sounded like a watered down Shinedown. Living with it a bit longer an it has grown on me a little, but its so different to anything MT have done before, maybe I’m not giving the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think so. Thankfully, that’s as low as it gets for me, as they are firmly back on their feet with the Southern, down,dirty and whiskey soaked lyrics of ‘Devil Don’t Care’, teasing at first, before the harp and groove kick in. ‘Being Cool Is Over’ wears its riff on its sleeve, a punchy high octane number. Attitude is everything in rock n roll, and MT have it by the truck load (sorry), especially with Harvey’s gruff n blues vocals.
‘Young City Hearts’ is as near to commercial as Monster truck get. Its one for the mass US radio stations for sure. They have a big blues soaked ballad in ‘Undone’. When Monster Truck added a keyboardist in Brandon Bliss, it would be easy for him to be overpowered in their brand of music. Fair play, the organ is up front and centre and makes itself known on most of the tracks, especially this one. ‘In My Own World’ is fast and furious for the metal brigade, and ‘Denim Danger’ (great title) with its opening statement ‘whoooaaaah, this is our town, in this place we wear the crown’ (I think!), and is THE anthem for the MT massive. ‘Hurricane’ is what it is, a raucous track. Its like being assaulted with Harvey’s vocals and bass, Widermans riffs , and the blast of Kiely’s drumming. Finally we are on to ‘The Howlin’’, and it reminds me of classic Blackfoot, brooding to begin, then building up to a power and climax of harp, and Widerman’s guitar. A fitting end indeed.

Monster Truck draw on influencers from all over the last 4-5 decades, from the likes of MC5, Deep Purple, GFR, and even Metallica. Despite my dislike of ‘Evolution’, this is an album that should get them up to the next level and beyond. Plus the upcoming UK tour with Black Stone Cherry and The Cadillac Three wont do them any harm at all.

With ‘True Rocker’, its definitely a case of three times the charm. Definitely……as their Merch states...DO NOT FUCK WITH THE TRUCK!

Score 9/10

Monster truck are
Jon Harvey – Vocals, Bass
Jeremy Widerman – Guitar
Steve Kiely – Drums
Brandon Bliss – Keys

Tracklisting –
True Rocker
Devil Don’t Care
Being Cool Is Over
Young City Hearts
In My Own World
Denim Danger
The Howlin’

Wednesday 8 August 2018

The Radio Sun - 'Beautiful Strange' Album Review

The Radio Sun – Beautiful Strange

You have to give the lads of The Radio Sun a bit of credit. They have some serious work ethic. ‘Beautiful Strange’ is their 5th album in 5 yrs, 4 if you call it calendar years (think about it!).  Their fan-base has been growing with every passing release. I know this for absolute FACT. Their star has ascended these past three years appearing at HRH AOR, and ripping up with each and every appearance.

This isn’t being too critical, but I don’t think you will ever see an ‘Operation Mindcrime’ type album from TRS, or that time when Megadeth went a bit soft and did a proper melodic rock album. It’s just not in The Radio Suns make up to go all left field completely. They have a sound that is distinct, thank to Jason Olds pipes, and play to their power/pop-rock sensibilities. If you want change, then this is where Black Majesty, and Starchase come in. Despite that, I hark for a change.

For me, The Radio Sun is all about Summer rock, which in Australia is a bit more prolonged than Blighty (maybe not this year). And it’s the summer feel that you get from TRS at any time of year. This is mainly down to the fact that all they guys wade in with some sumptuous harmonies.

We join The Radio Sun on Sunset Strip in ’84 with their Hair Metal riffage and pulsating beat for ‘Hold On Tight’. Its at the heavier end of what TRS do, akin to the likes of Dokken or Ratt, and it’s the side I like of TRS the most. More metal riffs Janevski! Please?

‘Believe In Me’ is typical fare for these guys, the type of song they easily compose in their sleep. It’s all about the chorus and melody and its what they do ever so well. ‘Should Have Listened In My Sleep’ is definitely one of the highlights and demands repeat listens. Its positive vibe powers along, so dig out those hairbrushes (if you have any hair) and get stuck into some air vocals. ‘As Long As You Want Me’ should be one of the first and obvious choices for radio play. ‘Miss Wonderful’ is one of those songs where you just fall back and melt into the sound and the solo in particular. ‘Have You Got What It Takes’ is what I’m saying! I want this heavier and more of this edgier sound. Keep the melodies, ramp up the riffs. ‘I Don’t Want To See You Cry’ again typifies The Radio Sun, its upbeat, punchy enough and with a touch of pop. That said, I don’t think its possible to make Jason Old sound like there’s anger in his vocals! They work with the tools they have and produce results. ‘Hearts On Fire’ and ‘Five Years After’ are both melodic as hell. Title track ‘Beautiful Secret’ is a definite for the live set as the chorus is great. The riff is bugging me as it reminds me of a classic, but that’s what 51 does for you. It will come to me in about 3-4 months I’m sure. ‘Standing Tall United’ finishes with a quick shuffle of the feet and a quick one-two, with Janevski showing his chops.

I’m a fan of The Radio Sun, and I like what they do. As a live band they are even more fantastic and I’ve watched them grow into the band they are today. My gripe? Play me a song in five years and I may struggle to tell you what album its off. Its not a bad thing, but I would love to see just one album where TRS go for the kill, like a ‘Back For The Attack’, ‘To Hell With The Devil’, or ‘Invasion Of Your Privacy’. TRS have one of these in them, I’m certain of it. In the UK I would say that ‘Beautiful Strange’ (or any other TRS album) is a Ronseal album, i.e. it does what it says on the tin. BUT…just once, I want to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck, like the ‘Hold On Tight’ and ‘Have You Got What It Takes’, but at a more sustained level. Well done fellas.

Score – 8.5/10

The Radio Sun –
Jason Old – Vocals
Steve Janevski – Guitar
Anthony Wong – Bass
Gilbert Annese – Drums

Produced by Paul Laine

Tracklisting –
Hold On Tight
Believe In Me
Should Have Listened To My Heart
As Long As You Want Me
Out Of This World
Miss Wonderful
Have You Got What It Takes
I Don’t Want To See You Cry
Hearts On Fire
Beautiful Secret
Five Years After
Standing Tall United

 Web: www.facebook.com/TheRadioSun

Thursday 2 August 2018

King Company - 'Queen Of Hearts' Album Review


Queen of Hearts

The back story of King Company was news to me. Look, I’ll be honest I write reviews as someone who has never claimed to know every rock/melodic band in history so their story was news to me.

I’m lucky enough to be trusted to give a few new releases a listen and express an opinion. Like anyone else reading this, I’m a rock fan. It’s that simple, no agenda, no pre-conceptions, no bias and just try to give an honest personal view. Let’s face it, we all have differing tastes and one man’s meat is another man’s poison and I know many people who hate Poison, I blame Every Rose.

The history of King Company has a bit of everything, a drummer, Mirka ”Leka” Rantanen (Raskasta joulua, Warmen, ex-Thunderstone, ex-Kotipelto, etc) creating a band with people with whom he had worked with before and whom he knew as both good musicians and friends. I have no idea who these bands are but I will now check them out.

He recruited guitarist Antti Wirman, singer Pasi Rantanen, keyboardist Jari Pailamo and bassist Time Schleifer. They also had links to Mirka’s previous bands which would explain why they joined.

After a few live gigs the band finally released their debut album in 2016 - ”One For The Road”. A title that resonates with my life in Glasgow. It would be rude not to. The album got the band touring and off they went (or so they thought).

After a tour of Finland singer Pasi Rantanen suffered vocal issues that curtailed his future. He decided that as the band were ready to tour Spain and record a second album and he wasn’t, he’d step aside. In his place Italian-Argentinian Leonard F. Guillan took over vocals with Pasi acting as vocal producer.

And so Queen of Hearts was delivered.

Opening track “Queen of Hearts” hits you with a driving beat followed by guitars and the Guillan vocals all at high tempo. It blasts along with every band member playing their part. The vocals are spot on, Wirman hits the guitar solo at pace and the screaming Guillan ends the song with a yell that only dogs will hear. Nice. It’s a good way to announce that you have influences from Dio to er……bands that use keyboards to their finest use. 

“One day of your life” dare I say it has a real Scandinavian rock feel to it, again high paced and drums and bass combine superbly leading to a catchy chorus, not catchy in a pop way but more H.E.A.T or Eclipse like.(How to piss off Finnish folk is to compare them to their neighbours, it’s probably like calling Simple Minds, U2 and The Manic Street Preachers English). Guillan sings low and heavier vocals before moving up a couple of ranges to his more comfortable level.   

“Stars” is a solid ballad style song but heavier, the vocals ooze quality and the band provide a really strong backline of melodic beauty. It has a chorus that invites lighters to be held up but because of the pace there would probably be a wild fire incident. 

“Living in a hurricane” is suitably paced and the vocals and music match the title nicely. The guitar rips out a solo before the chorus returns the compliment.

The almost gloomy and heavy start of “Under the spell” leads into a hauntingly heavy track. The chorus and feel is atmospheric, nicely done lads.

“Never say goodbye” is slower but thankfully not a cover of Bon Jovi’s version. The drums play a prominent part (you’d never guess this was a drummers band!). It builds, the keyboards finally get a chance to shine and the chorus is strong and we finally hear some backing vocals/harmonies. The most AOR song yet, I loved it.

“Learn to fly” – nope not a Foo Fighter cover but a fast paced rock song. It didn’t want me to learn to fly, it didn’t quite crash land but it didn’t take off for me even though it rocked. I was checking for the emergency exits just in case.

“Berlin” is a slower paced track but still has the full band sound behind it. It’s a grower, the band can obviously play, the lyrics are pretty decent but there’s something missing for me but 3rd time around I’m almost converted.

“King for tonight” –the blurb said Magnum fans would like King Company, keyboards lead on this the first song that Magnum fans might relate to. OK it’s a bit heavier but it has that vibe and a sound and feel backed up by keyboards and guitars that gives you that upbeat feel.

“Living the dream” – proper melodic rock, acoustic guitar sound and haunting style vocals which show Guillan has a fine voice full of emotion. OK it’s a clichéd song title but the song lifts it above that.

“Arrival” is the last track. Is there some irony here? It’s a great finishing song, keyboards give it a great feel. It really does a great job of reminding you that this a proper band effort, the whole band gel in a way that highlights the best of the band.

·      Turn the vocals up, Guillan’s voice sometimes doesn’t get the chance to impress as much as it should do, as we say in Scotland, “he’s a good chanter” and could lift this album up further. I bet live he nails it, have faith in him.
·      Song titles – choose ones not used by previous bands especially if they were multimillion selling songs– Learn to Fly, Never say Goodbye etc, even ABBA had an album called Arrival. Your chances of being top of a Google search are screwed. That said I prefer your version of “Never Say Goodbye”.
·      Backing vocals – need more, you guys can do it, turn them up.

Plus points:
·      Even with the vocal levels the alum shows that Guillan can nail both high and low notes and his voice has depth and emotion
·      The band has a sound of real “togetherness”, it’s not 5 individuals trying to make an album.
·      It has a real proper feeling of rock from Finland
·      Drummers can lead a band (I’ve seen the photo of Mirka and he’d survive happily in any Glasgow back street without having to say a word)
·      I really liked this album, my wife described it as “noisy shite”. That is good considering her taste in music.

So after a few listens, my love of rock music by our cousins in Finland and Scandinavia is reassured. They don’t disappoint.
This album was an unexpected pleasure, the quality was up there, I can’t wait to see them live as I think they’ll be pretty immense. I’m making the assumption they are Finnish, OK King Company may have to be a support act but like Brother Firetribe and One Desire I’m sure they’ll make any band following them shite their pants.

I’ve seen a few support bands in my time who made it. I hope King Company join that company. What ever happened to Guns‘n’Roses, Y&T and Great White anyway? J

A solid 7/10…….if these boys gamble and come to the UK I’ll do my utmost to get to see them.

Lawrie Willcox


Queen Of Hearts
One Day Of Your Life
Living In A Hurricane
Under The Spell
Never Say Goodbye
Learn To Fly
King For Tonight
Living The Dream

PRODUCED BY: King Company
STUDIO: Beyond Abilities Studios, Soup Studios
RECORDED BY: Janne Wirman, Tero Kostermaa, Antti Wirman, Jari Pailamo
MIXED BY: Janne Wirman at Beyond Abilities Studios
MASTERED BY: Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios

Mirka Rantanen,
Antti Wirman,
Jari Pailamo,
Timo Schleifer,
Leonard F. Guillan