The Best

Michael Monroe

The Best

Spinefarm Records

http://www.spinefarmrecords.com

Release date:  July 7, 2017

Michael Monroe has earned his status as a rock n’ roll icon.  From his historic and influential early days with Hanoi Rocks to his latest release, Monroe has been a fixture on the international rock scene since 1981.  His ever-evolving sound has ranged from a glam metal take on the Rolling Stones to New York Dolls style punk rock, and David Bowie style pop.  Thirty years after his first solo release Finland’s most prolific rock export The Best offers fans exactly what the name would suggest – a mammoth collection of greatest hits, lost treasures and even a new track. 

With a total of 29 songs, clocking in at an hour and fourty-four minutes long, it’s impossible to cover each song in this collection, and there are no bad tracks that are easily skipped.  Forgotten gems like the Cheap Trick influenced title track to Monroe’s solo debut Nights Are So Long and “Hammersmith Palais” the criminally overlooked rock/punk project Demolition 23 (that gave the world only a single album, The Best reunites us with old friends lost at the back of the CD collection.   Back in 1989 MTV introduced Michael Monroe to the world  via the video for “Dead, Jail or Rock n’ Roll” featuring Axl Rose, and hearing this track brings me right back to staring at the brightly lit tube hearing the Finn for the first time.  Fans of more recent releases will find favorites like “The Ballad of the Lower East Side” and “Old King’s Road.”  Every era of Monroe’s career is represented. 

Beyond just gathering together some of Michael Monroe’s best tracks, fans will find some extras to add value to this release.  Monroe has worked with some legendary artists over the years.  The Best includes the saccharin pop “It’s A Lie,” a collaboration with Dead Boys/Lords of the New Church vocalist Stiv Bators, is unlike anything else in Monroe’s catalog.  Slash of Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver fame lends guitar work to a cover of the Steppenwolf classic “Magic Carpet Ride.”  Unreleased tracks “Fist Fulla Dynamite” and “Simpletown” are the kind of rockers fans would expect, and new track “One Foot Outta the Grave” shows just how alive Monroe’s career is, over three decades from where it began. 

Hits collections can be a bit tricky.  They either focus on radio hits while sacrificing the artist’s best work, or they include bonus tracks that are throwaways that were unworthy of release in the first place.  The Best breaks the mold, offering a truly great selection of songs, both hits and deep cuts.  The remastering done on these tracks makes them flow seamlessly, sounding like they were meant to be delivered in a single package.  The new and unreleased tracks in this collection are every bit as good as anything Michael Monroe has put out, and shows that the man has more great music left in him.  The Best is a truly outstanding collection that reminds me just why I’ve been a fan of Michael Monroe for so many years. 

Reviewed by Jim1340

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#MichaelMonroe #BestOf #SpinefarmRecords #GlamPunk #Jim1340

 

 

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Louder Harder Faster

Warrant

Louder Harder Faster

Frontiers Music

Release Date: May 12, 2017

www.WarrantRocks.com

If I’m being honest, Warrant is one of, if not my favorite Rock band of all time. Dog Eat Dog and Belly to Belly, Vol. 1 are prime examples of legendary albums that never got their due because of the changing times. But that was then and this is now. For the last several years the original band have been fronted by Robert Mason (Lynch Mob), who made his recorded debut on the band’s last release, Rockaholic.

The first thing I noticed here is that the songs are pretty much all up-tempo, straight ahead rockers. They definitely rock, but they don’t seem to stick with me the way I’m used to. “Only Broken Heart” is a good example of what I mean. Mason sings his ass off and the guitars are off-the-hook but the chorus never really takes off. It’s like it can’t quite get over the hump. The title track is a moment that really rips it up though. It’s straight-on with a great guitar riff and a big ol’ gang vocal on the chorus. “New Rebellion” is another moment that rises to the occasion with big, dirty guitars and a slightly Grunge-laced vocal. It’s heavy in an Ultraphobic kinda way that makes you wish that maybe the band had a few more songs like this on Louder Harder Faster. “Big Sandy” is up right after and the duo of songs make for the album’s best moment. “Big Sandy” is an eighties rocker with innuendo heavy lyrics, hand claps, and the one catchy as hell chorus on the album in my opinion.

I want to love this. Rockaholic didn’t move me much and I was really hoping that this one could turn the ship around. I mean, the band sound great here and Mason has a great Rock voice, but it just never gets to the mountaintop in my opinion. That said, this is a good batch of songs that is much more in tune with early Warrant than the band’s last two efforts (I just miss those big hooks!). It’s Warrant so it certainly deserves a listen from Rock fans. And who knows? You might very well enjoy it more than I am.

 

Reviewed by mark1340

#WarrantRocks #LouderHarderFaster #FrontiersMusic #mark1340 #RockMusic

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Blue Room

Jonathan Cavier

Blue Room

Peach Candle Flame

Release Date: April 21, 2017

www.CavierMusic.com

Pop Singer-Songwriter Jonathan Cavier returns with his sophomore release, Blue Room. Cavier showed some promising chops on his debut, Premier, and Blue Room refines his sound a little more, just as I had hoped. Fans may also remember him as one half of Pop duo EyeTalk, whom he toured and recorded with for years. What I like about Cavier’s music is how it transports me back to the songwriting of bands like Mr. Mister, Talk Talk, Go West, with maybe a little Glass Tiger in there as well. Cavier refines that sound a lot here, but he also strips it back, in essence making it much more his own.

“Somebody Like You” is one of my favorite examples.  The gentle sway is a deceiving vehicle for the song, as it travels through intimate lyrical territory that is part love song and part soul-search. The up-tempo “Phoenix” is another highlight. It’s a bit of an odd tune because it features breathy, understated vocals but also has a big anthemic musical feel that sticks with you long after the album has moved on. “Edge of a Singularity” is another moment that certainly stands out to me, partly because it fully embraces everything great about the 80’s Pop scene (keyboards, catchy as hell, and horns!) and partly because it’s instrumental. You just don’t hear many instrumentals on Pop albums and this tune will make you wonder why. Cavier also fully embraces this influence on “Hollywood.”

Of course, the lead single “When You Come Around” is a highlight as well. Cavier lets his voice soar a little more here and it fills out the acoustic base of the song nicely. The song has a beautiful sound that sort of blossoms throughout the journey. It’s hopeful sounding and is another tune that could easily fit into the love song category of any Top 40 station.

Overall, this is a big step from 2016’s Premier. I think the music still sounds a little thin overall, like it’s not sure if it really wants to be Singer-Songwriter or if it wants to go on full on Pop. Either way though, there are some really good songs here that are similar to the aforementioned bands, or maybe a stripped-down version of St. Lucia. If you enjoy any of that, then you should give Blue Room some time.

Reviewed by mark1340

 

 #JonathanCavier #BlueRoom #mark1340 #CavierMusic

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Live & Louder

The Dead Daisies

Live & Louder

SPV/Spitfire Music

Release Date:  May 9, 2017

www.TheDeadDaisies.com

While The Dead Daisies may have begun as David Lowy’s revolving door collective, the past couple of years have turned it into a finely tuned Rock and Roll beast. Live & Louder is taken from the band’s 2016 European tour and features John Corabi, Brian Tichy, Marco Mendoza, and Doug Aldrich in addition to Lowy. I could list the numerous bands that all of these guys have been in, but, realistically, if you don’t recognize those names then this probably isn’t the album for you.

Live & Louder is a mix of old and new Dead Daisies tunes with a few covers thrown in for good measure. It’s high energy Rock and Roll from start to finish. If you are looking for a modern twist on the tunes live, then look elsewhere because, if anything, they sound even more “classic rock” here. There are a few moments that get a little bar room cheesy (I’m looking at you “Make Some Noise”) but, for the most part, this is a just a straightforward trip from some veteran players.

While there isn’t a dull moment on this album, some performances certainly stand out to me more than others. “Song and a Prayer” is my favorite, with it’s great lead guitar work and catchy-as-hell melody. It boggles my mind as to why this hasn’t been a huge hit. The band’s cover of “Fortunate Son” follows it up brilliantly. I’m not a fan of CCR at all, so the fact that Dead Daises make me love this song says a lot about how well they do it! “Last Time I Saw the Sun” is another of my favorite tracks here with its slightly dissonant sound and slide-guitar bits. The western style lyrics will surely bring a smile to ZZ Top fans’ faces as well.

The album also includes a DVD that has a “Behind-The-Scenes” feature. It’s pretty much a compilation of cool moments from the tour intermixed with interview footage of the band members.  It’s cool to watch it but it isn’t something you’ll come back to often unless you are a super fan.

I have always heard that these guys are a helluva live band and this album goes a long way to proving that point. I wasn’t super in love with their last studio album but there’s a lot more energy here. As a matter of fact, I love Corabi’s voice anyway but he is outstanding here. He’s a much bluesier singer live and it brings a lot of heart to many of the tunes here.  He and Aldrich are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

 

Reviewed by mark1340

#TheDeadDaisies #SPV #SpitfireMusic #mark1340

 

 

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Cold Blooded Cover

Strange Karma

Cold Blooded (Vinyl)

Independent

Release Date: March 7, 2017

www.StrangeKarma.net

Australian rockers, Strange Karma are on fire with their debut Cold Blooded. The power trio combine Classic Rock elements with the more aggressive side of eighties Hard Rock and add in a few twists that give it a modern edge. Every song here sounds like it’s straight from the concert stage and the Side A/Side B classic structure is a great trip down memory lane.

The album opens with the gritty rockers “Freedom” and “Devil From the Moon” (the albums lead single). Both lean more towards the Classic Rock sound and get your energy up right from the get go. It’s “Crying For Your Love” that really caught my ear though. It’s piano-driven, with intermittent explosive guitar soloing, and vocalist Martin Strange really shows what a powerhouse vocalist he is on this song. It’s like Queen meets Dog Eat Dog era Warrant. The ballad “I Believe (London Town)” is another highpoint from Side A, with the piano, again, giving it an edge that really catches your ear.

Side B kicks off with the emotional, acoustically driven, “Heartbeat.” It reminds me so much of the bands that came out right at the end of the eighties/beginning of the nineties that were making such interesting and powerful music that was completely ignored due to the coming of Grunge. It’s a little dark and completely fascinating musically, while also holding on to that anthemic quality that I loved about the music I grew up on.  “Hey Man” is another highlight from Side B. This one goes full on Classic Rock, intertwining the electric and acoustic guitars. It’s a straightforward sing-along anthem that makes you want to roll down the windows on a sunny day and scream along (think Sweet or Supertramp).

Overall, this is an excellent Rock N’ Roll record. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. Even though it’s a great album just to jam out to, repeated listens reveal new things each time, showing that these guys have some serious chops. Some would argue that there really isn’t a Hard Rock market anymore, but if you, like me, still seek out new stuff then you should check out Strange Karma.

 

Reviewed by mark1340

#StrangeKarma #RockNRoll #mark1340 #AustraliaRocks

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