Thursday 18 October 2018

Firmo - 'Rehab' Review

Firmo – Rehab

After the critical and fans' acclaim received with the release of Room Experience in 2015 (fronted by PC69 vocalist David Readman), Gianluca was invited by the Street Symphonies' label team to express himself also as singer in a dedicated solo release, in order to show another side of his musical personality. With a finalized line-up of skilled and talented musicians, recruited specifically for backing Gianluca in this solo adventure The result is shown in twelve melodic rock songs, where Gianluca finally had the chance to share his personal singing style coached by the skills and experience of vocal producer Davide "Dave Rox" Barbieri (Raintimes, Room Experience, Wheels Of Fire, Charming Grace). 

Gianluca says: "Beside the fact that it allows me to sing my own songs, this record for me is both a test and an achievement. A test because It’s the first time that I’m in charge for everything concerning the production of a record. And it is an achievement because I had the chance to work shoulder to shoulder in the studio with some amazing musicians, but also the luck to find a label that allowed me (and supported me) to work with no artistic boundaries and even make some unusual choices to follow my different musical influences and tastes. I feel the result is very personal and though it’s far from being perfect, it sure is my perfect rehab from being put in any frame. And as today I couldn’t be happier than this". 

‘Place For My Judgement Day’ is very Eurovision in its melody, and is a decent opener. Having never heard Firmo sing anything other than BVs, I didn’t know what to expect. Last time I heard a keyboardist do vocals, it was Jonathan Cain, and lets just say there's a reason he plays the piano! Gianluca's vocals are a bit raw and rough around the edges, but I have to give the guy a lot of credit as it takes some balls stepping up and putting yourself out there with vocals, writing, etc. So, well done so far. ‘Heart Of Stone’ is an acoustic and mellow offering with a good chorus and is a good slow burn and deserves repeated listens. Shadows and Lights’ again falls on the side of ballad, and has leanings toward Bon Jovi and surely that is not a bad comparison to make! Nothing is jumping out at me so far, but I have to stop expecting a ‘melodic rock’ album. With ‘Maybe Forever’ its definitely a song (and an album) for all occasions. You find yourself happily tapping away to the beat. 

‘No Prisoners’ is the first time we get the mid-paced rocker. Built around Firmo’s keyboard riff, it proves to don’t need a heavy guitar riff to make an entrance. ‘Didn’t Wanna Care’ has a warm presence and is Marx like (Richard, not Karl!). ‘Unbreakable’ is another up-tempo number that pings along nicely. I really like ‘Cowboys Once, Cowboys Forever’ a ballad anthem by any other name, and the guitar solo makes it shine the brightest so far. ‘Rehab’ has a positive, happy vibe and I like all the whoa-ohs that are thrown in. It’s a good choice for the first single. If the album had more of a country twang to its sound it would sound even better, but that’s just my personal preference.

After the first listen, I admit I felt a bit ‘meh’, but once you settle in, it’s a good ride. It doesn’t settle for a specific genre, it’s a mix up of sounds and styles that Firmo has aimed for in having no boundaries and it makes for a good 50 minutes spent in Gianluc Firmo's presence. It’s a little too ballad-y for my liking, but it will be well received if you like the softer and personal side. Its an album I clearly did not expect, but its been a very good surprise. He can expect endorsements from Zippo lighters any time soon!

In fact, I'm full of admiration for Firmo. He does not have the best vocals you’ll hear this side of Lou Gramm, but he knows fully well what he can hit and works within his range. Less have made more out of their skill-set. I look forward to hearing how he develops away from Room Experience.

Think of him as the go to housewives choice for Italian singer songwriters! Well done mate.

Score 8/10

A Place For Judgement Day
Heart Of Stone
Shadows And Lights
Maybe Forever
No Prisoners
Didn’t WannaCare
Don’t Dare To Call It Love
Cowboys Once, Cowboys Forever
Until Forever Comes

Friday 5 October 2018

Newman - 'Decade II' Album Review

WOW AND WOW!! Newman are definitely a band worth spending a few shekels on.

2018 is the 20th anniversary of Newman. Steve Newman (leader singer guitarist and songwriter) decided to celebrate this with "Decade II" following the same format as the first Decade release. A 2 CD 34 track album covering the bands history from 2007 to the present. Disc 1 features 17 songs from the 2007 album “Primitive Soul” through “The Art Of Balance”, “Under Southern Skies”, “Siren”, and finally the 2015 album “The Elegance Machine”. Disc 2 features another 17 songs, some that were written and even recorded, but not included

I was asked by the bold Chesy (Paul Chesworth) to review the Newman release. He told me “I think is this the kind of stuff that’s right up your street”. He wasn’t wrong. What he never told me was that there was 34 tracks on the Decades album(s). Let’s just say that whilst I’ve seen the band live I was probably not 100% engaged as I talked to mates as they did their thing at Firefest. This album highlighted to me how ignorant I was and whilst I’ve always enjoyed them I never fully appreciated how good the music is……until now.

Obviously if you’re a Newman fan you know the first 17 tracks but fuck it, I’ll review it as if you’re a Newman virgin. Newman are simply superb, there are heavy rock tracks, they have ballads, blues and a whole lot in-between. I won’t insult you by reviewing every song, I will share my favourites, this is difficult because there are so many songs that leave a real imprint. Give it a chance, I will guarantee you’ll find at least a couple of dozen tracks you’ll like.

Reviewing an album is a challenge, reviewing 34 tracks is mental. To be honest I don’t know any band who has recorded 34 perfect tracks. AC/DC did 'Back in Black', 'Powerage', 'Highway To Hell' but that isn’t 34 or perfect.The CD kicks off on a high tempo right away with 'Hero To Zero', 'Heading For Your Heart' and 'Ghost In The Night' (which is a melodic rock master piece). Possibly my favourite tracks are 'Feel Her Again' and 'Stay With Me', the latter similar in sound and feel to the Hardline track “Stay” which I think is awesome. The slow build up and a chorus that had me bouncing around the kitchen. Stunningly good. FFS, the chorus is magnificent and the song just flies away with a superb solo. It must be melodic magnificence as my wife (who is a boy band junkie) asked me to play it again.

“The Elegance Machine” is a wonderful mix of guitars and vocals and then we get “Killing Machine” which is so Magnum-like I’m tempted to send this to Bob Catley and Tony Clarkin for verification it’s not them. The keyboards and layered vocals are just sublime. 'Primitive Soul' is so Van Halen with the opening riff of Panama I nearly spat my Guinness over the keyboard (other stouts are available). The song is superb, that’s why Newman are so good, they take and re-use the best and make it their own.

'Fire With Fire' has a touch of Whitesnake when Coverdale could sing and the snake played real blues. It highlights the diversity of Newman perfectly.The first CD really is awesome. If it was a set list then I’d bite your hand off for a ticket, I would say front row but I’d need a beer and pee and lose my spot.

“She Walks In Silence” is a song with a massively powerful message: “ She walks in silence, it’s all that she can do and he turns to violence”. Bloody hell, what a well written song that highlights that domestic abuse happens all the time, It reminds me of “Never Again” by Nickelback or “Punch and Judy” by Fish. Personally I think any man who raises his hand to a woman is no real man. “Had Enough” is another proper melodic rock tune with an underlying frustration eloquently described. Newman are one decent band, they play songs that remind me of Dio, Hardline, Journey, especially “World Keeps Turning”..

“Crossed My Heart” is an emotional filled classic, simple structure and a tear jerker, a song about bereavement. “When you crossed my heart, I hoped I’d die with you, we lived on borrowed time, you were gone too soon”. It reminded me of my Dad who passed away 20 years ago and it hit a real nerve, I’m not ashamed to admit this song made me have some dust in my eye. (I will also admit I didn’t expect to die with him even though his driving was hair raising at times!). “Does It Feel The Same” is a superb ballad, the Newman voice is haunting and stunning with poignant lyrics as does “A Witness To Loves Decline”. This band have great songs coming out of their ears. “Never Becomes Again” is yet another proper rock track, it has the riffs and vocals that makes me realise why I love melodic rock so much.

34 tracks to cover 10 years? Keep going for another 10 years because the music is timeless.

To be given the chance to listen to these 34 tracks and offer an opinion is a humbling experience.

A solid 8/10

 Review by Lawrie

Track list:
Cd 1:
01 Hero To Zero,
02 Heading For Your Heart,
03 Ghost In The Night,
04 Feel Her Again,
05 Stay With Me,
06 The Elegance Machine,
07 Killing Me,
08 Primitive Soul,
09 Endless,
10 Fire With Fire,
11 Scar Of Love,
12 15 Minute Revolution,
13 She Walks In Silence,
14 Under Southern Skies,
15 Had Enough,
16 Tumble Down,
17 For The Man I Am

Cd 2:
01 Breaking The Barrier,
02 Girl Found Love,
03 Liar,
04 One More Night With You,
05 Fight No More,
06 She's The Woman,
07 Nightmare,
08 Angel,
09 World Keeps Turning,
10 In Too Deep,
11 The More I Love,
12 Crossed My Heart,
13 A Witness To Love's Decline,
14 Does It Feel The Same?,
15 Race Of A Lifetime,
16 Never Becomes Again,
17 My Fantasy