Archive for the ‘What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today ?’ Category

PhantomPhantom is the current album from Chris Brockbank’s Phantom MK V (the 5th version of Phantom) – an album that has been out for almost a year now. Brockbank has had various incarnations of Phantom since the early 70s, and has been a stalwart on the Oz hard rock/blues scene for over 40 years.

I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the Blackmore infused heavy prog/blooze is at odds with the cover art – which I initially thought was an album by a Euro death metal band. Idiosyncrasies aside – musically what is presented here is an eclectic collection of heavy rock/blues tunes with broad appeal.

If you are fan of Deep Purple/Gillan consider this is an essential purchase. Tunes like ‘Rapid Fire’ will appeal to Blackmore and prog fans alike, with a savagely distinct Brockbank solo and typically strong vocal delivery by vocalist Steve Mulry (TMG – ex Black Label). This is a rock solid tune, and one of the highlights of the record. Like much of the other material, the Jon Lord-like keyboards feature heavily in the mix.

‘One O Clock’ follows the same stoic adherence to the classic Purple/Prog formulae. The playing is top notch, yet lacks a catchy hook. ‘Teresa’ saunters along to a more traditional blues line, yet doesn’t really go anywhere, and similarly, could benefit from a stronger hook on the chorus. The same can’t be said for ‘Teenage Fantasy’, which has more melody, a catchier chorus and a sturdy and clear Mulry vocal. It has the makings of a good heavy pop song, yet morphs into prog-wanderings which could have been trimmed.

I dig the riff heavy ‘So Clear’ with its heavy groove and Rainbowesque quality – yet again, there’s no hook on the chorus. With its mix of highs and lows (including towering verses) ‘Secret’ is out and out heavy rock joy – complete with a shredding solo. Curious to hear this stripped back, minus the keys, which at times are overrepresented in the mix. I get that keys/organ are a big part of the Phantom sound – and that’s not a criticism – just an objective observation. Hell, even Claude Schnell knew his place!

‘Keep On Rock n Rollin’ is pure 70’s hard rock – and a killer tune. Radio friendly, hooks – and more Borich than Blackmore! Get down, this one cooks.

In summary, there’s a lot to like about Phantom MK V. The players are all seasoned and the musicianship first rate. The sound is clear and crisp, and for fans of Purple (Blackmore and Lord in particular), this is a no risk proposition. There are engaging organ improvisations, Brockbank’s guitar attacks, and Mulry’s candid, strong vocals. There’s also some great heavy rock tunes, elements of prog, and enough appeal for blues fans too.

A lot of good songs here, yet if they have a bit more hook, a bit more punch/melody on the chorus – they could be great ones. Whilst some fans dig experimental jams/wanderings, I would like to see them reined in a little. A song can be controlled or even measured – without forsaking any expression. Having said that – still a first rate heavy rock album from a guy who has more than paid his dues. 7/10

Available now on Bad Reputation or via www.phantommkv.com

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Y’know five years back we reviewed the EP by Bitzer titled Oz Rock Six pack…you can hunt down that review on our blog – but I do wish to highlight a comment which my brother ended that review with – which stated ‘If you wanna taste of the glory days of Oz rock in 2013 – Bitzer deliver the goods in no uncertain terms. 10 out of 10′. Top marks there from my brother and high praise indeed – and if you one of those who purchased that EP, I’m sure you’ll be in agreeance that it was very well deserved. The good news is folks that in mid-2018 we have brand new material from Bitzer out and about and I gotta tell ya – this bunch of seasoned musicians have absolutely nailed it again. ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ is the name of the new album, a 10 song collection of some of the coolest and most iconic rock n roll tunage to ever come out of Australia.

Before we move on – I must highlight the fact that the players involved in this project are all top shelf, have a wealth of experience and boy does it show. Steve Mulry, Mick Arnold, Lucy De Soto, Steve King, Mick Adkins, Skenie, Mick O’Shea, Steve Edmonds…..

The names that are listed on their individual rock n roll resumes detailing their past outfits or bands they’ve played, recorded or been involved with – read like a chapter ripped straight from the Who’s Who of Australian Rock publication: Rose Tattoo, The Rogue Sharks, Billy Thorpe, Rose Carleo Band, The Poor, Black Label, Judge Mercy, Dragon, Choirboys, Judge Mercy, Kevin Borich, Swanee, TMG, The Pete Wells Band….I could go on but there’s no need as I’m sure you’ll agree – there’s some real heavyweights of Australian music namechecked amongst that gathering.

Countrymen, friends, lend me your ears because the song St Louis – which happens to be one of my all time favourite Easybeats tunes – kicks off ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ with great force and I cannot think of a better way to open the album. For me – it’s also a wonderful way to honour the great George Young who passed away in October of last year.  

Bitzer tackle ‘Down Payment Blues’ next with some raw, and inspired vocals by Skenie. It’s that very same sound – from that throat – which hooked me back in the very early 90’s when I first heard him and The Poor Boys on ‘What I’d Do (To get A Piece Of You)’. Love it. As a few of you out there might know drummer Mick O’Shea was apparently short-listed to replace Phil Rudd on the drum stool for AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust tour. The boys obviously went for the tried and tested and well credentialed Chris Slade – no complaints there. And no point in looking at what could’ve been but just let me state that if you listen to O’Shea’s thumping autodrive on ‘Down Payment Blues’ – he is on the beat and in the pocket. It’s there. 

Superman – an ace, lifted from the Vanda and Young deck was made famous by Alison McCallum back in 1972. It’s not an easy tune to tackle – yet on this version by Bitzer – Lucy De Soto’s vocals are spot on. Lucy’s got a strong voice – my brother at one point in time owned her two mid-80’s releases – it’s great stuff and she really makes this amped up version of ‘Superman’ her own. It’s Time – more people out there were aware of her.

Paul Hewson wrote or co-wrote some of Dragon’s best material – with many music fans considering Sunshine his finest moment. For me, this interpretation was the real surprise of the album – Mulry’s vocals, Steve Edmond’s lead guitar – I found the whole track downright mesmerising. Spend a quiet moment alone with this one via decent headphones and you’ll hopefully get what I mean. I just love this.

A faithful and tough-as-steel rendition of AC/DC’s ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ is up next and it cooks. Skenie again gives his all on this track and it’s great. So great that I’m calling this one of the most faithful takes of this song that you’re gonna hear. It’s pretty darn authentic yet it doesn’t in anyway ape the original found on Let there be Rock. Much of that authenticity is in part due to the well-oiled rhythm unit of King and O’Shea – a pair who know eachother’s playing inside out and it shows.

If you’ve always wondered what a heavied up version of Australian Crawl might sound like – then listen up. Bitzer once again hit the volume on Aussie Crawl’s ‘Things Don’t Seem’ – taken from their 1981 album Sirocco and crank the absolute hell of it. And that’s also what I love about an album like this – it makes you hear songs which you thought you knew so well – from a completely different angle – love it. Who knows, maybe Bitzer will take a stab at James Reyne’s Fall Of Rome in the future ?

Another of the highlights on ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ is a wonderful rendition of Spectrum’s I’ll Be Gone. Lucy De Soto’s vocals – combined with Mick Adkins stinging guitar give this a thumping country rock flavour and the results are what I’d call – catchy as all hell.

And this is just what I was just alluding to when looking over the Australian Crawl song…. you think you are familiar with a song like ‘I’ll be Gone’ and let’s face it, it gets played a helluva lot on the Golden Oldie stations here – but think again. Because the players in the Bitzer outfit will make you sit up and take notice of a song we all know so well. And in my book – that’s a pretty cool thing and I sure hope Mike Rudd gets to hear this version.

The tune – ‘I Remember When I Was Young’ written of course by Matt Taylor – is a track that suits Steve Mulry’s vocals so well – and it’s as if Taylor penned it with him in mind. John Farnham may’ve highlighted the tune on his 2005 songbook album, yet he didn’t do it justice like Bitzer do here and it gets the green light from me.

There is one further ‘Young, Young and Scott’ tune to check out and it’s a rollicking take of Dog Eat Dog. No need to reach for a thesaurus – this take kicks arse plan and simple and I reckon this foursome of Adkins, Skenie, King and O’Shea as a live unit could blow the doors off any live venue they played.  

The album closes out with a blazing and heavy-as-lead take of The Angels – Run For The Shelter, lifted from their often ignored 1984 album Two Minute Warning. If ever a song highlighted the vocal strength of Steve Mulry it’s this one – note perfect and in fine form on this gem penned by Rick Brewster and Brent Eccles.

To summarise – Blitzer once again have delivered the goods, breathing new life into some wonderful and well-known songs with an energy and passion which more people need to hear.

There is so much music being released these days – and it’s often the case that red hot rock n roll releases like this – often get lost in the frenzied world of social media. Once you check this material out – I just know you’re gonna want to spread the word about this album, because it really is damn good – and is deserving of more attention. Excuse the pun but ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ is ‘top dog’ amongst most other releases you’re gonna hear this year – highly recommended – and an album you need to ad to your rock n roll collection. 

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cover_smallToday we are looking at the new EP from Kings Of The Sun called ‘Built For Speed’ – and although it’s a new release per se, what it is in fact is a 6 track EP of previously unreleased demos that the band recorded in late December 1991 during the recording sessions for the ‘Resurrection’ album that was released on Mushroom Records in 1993.

In recent years both Hoad brothers, Clifford and Jeff have been out and about releasing a ton of great material under their own banners –  yet it was with the first two albums that Kings Of The Sun rose to international prominence – being 1988’s self titled album and 1990’s Full Frontal Attack. Yet what people may forget is that in 1993 the band released what I consider to be their best album, ‘Resurrection’, an album that didn’t garner anywhere near the attention it warranted – No doubt due to a musical landscape that had changed, and of course both music industry and media indifference – yet whatever the reasons – Resurrection is one standout Australian rock record that should have hit the top of the Billboard charts back then.

As I wrote back in 1995 when reviewing that album for the lost albums column in Vicious Kitten fanzine, If ever an album deserved to be included in a column dedicated to neglected music, then it’s definitely this one. Strap yourself in and hang on, cause this album is full of fast and furious rockers that  hurtle you towards a magical place, a place where heavy duty bass, sweet sounding Les Paul’s, and crashing drums all come together and unite in one almighty blaze of rock n roll fury ! Highlights on this album are many and every track is a gem. The Hoad brothers perfected their own unique songwriting style over the years, and this album reflects that high quality. Jeff Hoad is a natural front man. A pin-up boy who has the showmanship of classic-era David Lee Roth. Visually exciting and pulsating, this man has rock n roll in his veins. Jeff Hoad puts the ‘c’ in cool ! Like Levi’s or coca cola, the genuine article. Clifford drums spider-like, all arms and legs, reminiscent of Neal Smith from the Alice Cooper band.”

Which brings me back to the new EP ‘Built For Speed’ – The Resurrection Demo Sessions. There’s some great tunes on this, including the title track. Anthemic, big chorus, big riff – lot of melody – and like a lot of the other classic Kings material – it’s a song about cars and girls – and being a fan of both cars AND girls (as Andy Shernoff once wrote) it’s a rippin’ tune.

I also dig ‘Let Me Go Free’ – more of a power ballad, a plaintive lament in some ways, heavy on the minor chords with a big vocal delivery, super catchy and if given a full production – and in an ideal world – this could be a radio hit – still.  

If you dug the raunch ‘n’ roll of Kings Of The Sun hits such as Serpentine and Black Leather – Primitive Lust will also appeal to you – highlighted by some shredding guitar and funk rhythms that channel Ike Turner and a capital G for groove.  

The evocative and thought provoking Heaven And Hell is another good one – and much like the aforementioned ‘Let me Go Free’, its heavy on the minor chords which give it a contemplative, reflective feel but it leads into a catchy pre chorus and then an ever bigger chorus augmented by femme vocals. Quality song folks – and If you don’t believe you might try.

Absolutely love the big rock anthem that is ‘Madeline’ – killer riff, stack of melody, Stones raunch and a big hook – and as I’ve said a million times before, If a song aint got a hook – it aint worth a nickel. Set to a lyrical Lolita theme, it’s a tune you can dance too – that’s another litmus test of a great tune in my book. 

The Gray Brothers have been fans of the Hoad Brothers for many many years and anything they release is a buy without risk proposition, and comes wholly recommended. Built For Speed The Resurrection Demo Sessions gets two thumbs up from me and is available now for only $10 !

Get it from http://www.kingsofthesunband.com/

28167902_1527025150680585_7032983006911154360_nA couple of years ago, Sydney’s Scott Ginn re-emerged after 20 odd years out of the rock ‘n’ roll game. As fans of 1980s Sydney and Australian heavy rock, we here at Rockbrat were very familiar with Scott’s work , prominently with bands such as BOSS, The Breakers, Cheetah and Rags N Riches (Scott’s 1986 solo album ‘One Man Army’ comes highly recommended too). Sound wise, Rags N Riches combined the sass of Aerosmith, the flamboyance and licks of Lee Roth-era Van Halen, with the melody and hooks of Def Leppard. As great a live band they were, Rags N Riches never released a debut album, although they did record a lot of material during their four year existence from 89-93. This material sat on the shelves for years until Scott finally issued the band’s debut album, ‘Shipwrecked Out On The Streets’ in 2016. (Read about that here).

‘Shipwrecked Out On The Streets’ was a strong debut, yet this, the sophomore release for Rags N Riches is even better. Much like the debut album, ‘Heaven Is Only A Moment Away’ consists of material the band recorded from 89-93. Unlike the debut though, which reflected the band’s ‘big band meets hard rock’ sound, the new album is 100% melodic hard rock, more in the classic 1980’s Def Leppard style. All these years later and these songs still sound relevant, which is testament to the song writing, and Ginn’s knack of being able to pen catchy, melodic rock with hooks. Combine that with the scorching heavy rock guitar of Phil Bowley (Candy Harlots/Shy Thunder) and you start to wonder whether the fortunes of Rags N Riches may have been different had these tunes been released back in 1990, when hair metal (an apt but derogatory idiom in my opinion) was king.

‘Heaven Is Only A Moment Away’ contains 11 songs with four bonus cuts. Plenty of highlights too. The album opens with the monstrous, riff heavy title track, which reminds me a lot of classic Dio (particularly the addition of the Claude Schnell-like keyboards) and even Priest’s ‘Metal Gods’ at times. Reference points aside, this is an epic tune with a rippin’ Phil Bowley solo.  ‘Is This Really Love’ is a power ballad par excellence with a big sing-a-long chorus, tasty solo and harmonies aplenty. A great song then is still a great song now – radio friendly then, radio friendly now. Radio programmers pay attention. Absolutely love ‘We Stand On The Edge’ and ‘Last Days Of The World’, both penned during the writing of Scott’s ‘One Man Army’ album from ’86. Both lyrically evocative and super catchy melodic hard rock.  Scott Ginn has a great rock voice and a great range –and compliments Bowley’s tasteful lead guitar perfectly.  Fans of Aiz Lynch–era Candy Harlots will love the sleaze of ‘Cindy’s Working On The Streets’, resplendent with Bowley’s distinctive riffing – musical muscle that he brought to the Candy Harlots table when he replaced Marc Lee De Hugar way back when. Ripper tune, ultra-catchy and lyrically, one can assume that Cindy is a sister of ‘Maxine’. Possibly my favourite tune on the album, however that gong goes to ‘Chains Of Love’ – a super melodic AOR, Journey-like tune. HUGE sing-along chorus, catchy riff, great song. If you threw this into the playlist of any classic rock radio station, it would not be out of place amongst the more esteemed company , and listeners would be scrambling to find out who it is! There’s two versions of ‘Catch Me If You Can’, including the original demo. This was the first tune the band wrote and was always a live favourite. It still kick ass, as does ‘Take It To The Top’, another infectious rifforama with hooks aplenty.

Sonically, these songs sound full and loud, with the guitars up front – the way we like it. Not only has Ginn done a great job with production, the eye catching artwork is also an appealing visual accompaniment to the music.

If you dig original and catchy, melodic hard rock of the late 80s/early 90s – Rags N Riches are for you. If you dig classic rock – look no further. Significantly, the songs on ‘Heaven Is Only A Moment Away’ have stood the test of time and reaffirm that Australian hard rock bands of the 80s were as good as anything coming from the US or the UK at that time. Highly recommended. Note that Rags N Riches returned to the stage last year (including a support of BB Steal), and will be heading out again later this year to support the album’s release.

For more details on where to buy the album, head to Mazz-XT Music. You can also pick up the first Rags N Riches album ‘Shipwrecked Out On the Streets’ and Scott’s ‘One Man Army’ album on either CD ($10) or digital ($5).

To read a through interview Rockbrat conducted with Scott where he talks about his full rock ‘n’ roll history, click here.

 

 

R-1127520-1439560433-2587.jpegQuite possibly the most contrived record to ever be released in Oz rock history. Rank with artificiality, this lot couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes when they first burst on to the scene back in the late 80’s with their try-hard antics and wanna-be rock star shenanigans – and all these years later this smells as fetid as it did back then. Except worse. The songs have not aged well. Forgettable, bland, AOR, keyboard heavy, middle of the road babble that paradoxically, sounds sonically superb. Yet a first rate production, with Mark Opitz twiddling the knobs, still couldn’t save it. Put lipstick on a pig… it’s still a pig. Songs with zero-originality that are a direct carbon copy of all the worst of the LA Sunset Strip poseurs.  They even had a tune called “Bad Boys” (need loving too). Cringe. Puke.

In spite of having paid no dues, yet with Molly in their corner, Roxus were gifted with opening slot supports to international visitors Bon Jovi, Warrant and Poison in 89 and 90. Yet Australian audiences could smell a rat, and didn’t take to them – instead warming to the legitimate international sounds of Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns n Roses – denying this country of its own late 80’s hair metal home grown hard rock heroes.  If Roxus was the best Australia could come up with – that speaks volumes.

Roxus had a nauseatingly insipid power ballad called ‘Where Are You Now”, which Molly must have thought was destined to go to the top of the charts – both here and in North America – yet you can’t sell ice to eskimos – they already had enough Mr Bigs, Bad Englishes, Damn Yankees, Bon Jovis etc in the charts and didn’t need any D grade deceivers from the antipodes.

As the old saying goes, one swallow does not a summer make – and by 1993, with the Seattle bands having restored a sense of much needed order to things by killing off the bloated hair metal genre, bands like Roxus were rowing a boat with one oar.

The long hair, volume, cowboy boots and bandanas couldn’t hide the fact that Roxus were spurious with a capital S, and every bit as manufactured as New Kids On The Block, Backstreet Boys or any in the Stock Aitken Waterman camp. They should be gratified they had their Warhol moment –as brief as it was. Backstreet Boys, Nightstreet Boys. Yep.

When granted with such big name touring supports, it’s easy to see how the boys thought they were hot patoots –with the front man Juno Roxas in particular having a way over inflated opinion of himself and his singing abilities. So much so that Juno had another roll of the dice in 94 with the release of his ‘long awaited’ solo album called ‘Far From Here’, which came and went like a fat kid chasing an ice cream truck – and sunk faster than the Lusitania. Roxus did make an appearance at the Mushroom Records 25th anniversary concert in 1998 and in 2006, Juno Roxas performed with the Pat Cash All Star Band at the Australian Tennis Open. And here I was thinking his music career had faltered after the demise of Roxus. Where Are You Now ? Far From Here? Words never so prophetic.  Next!

denim5When you cast the magnifying class on 70s punk – the focus tends to be placed on the UK and the US.  Today I wanna hip you to a band from Turku, Finland who released one of THE long lost punk/hard rock albums of the mid 70s. This long lest gem sat long forgotten – certainly for those outside of Finland, yet it was given a re release on CD in 2014. If you dig Cream, ZZ Top, Mountain, Joplin,  Blue Cheer or the Ramones – Dead End 5 may be for you. The album opens with a blitzing cover of BOC’s ‘ME262’, and KISS’ – Let Me Go Rock N Roll’. The singer,  Annika Salminen went onto a successful solo career in Finland, and released a couple of solo albums under the name of Annika Andersson. The video below of a tune from the album, ‘Liekinheitin’ is a great example of the Dead End 5 sound. The album is recommended. And you thought Hanoi Rocks were the only hard rock band to come out of Finland ?

dirtyrhythmbandIn 1992 and even into 1993 – some bands just failed to recognise that the good ship hair metal had sailed, the gate had closed, and Kurt, Eddie and others had killed off the bloated hair metal excess that had reached its peak in 1991 with Guns n Roses’ overblown and over indulgent “Use Your Illusion” extravaganza. Like kids hanging on to the previous years out-of-fashion toys, there were a ton of bands in this period who still assumed that by donning the Cowboy boots, skintight jeans, flowing locks and open shirt – and singing about chicks and their dicks – guaranteed their ride to rock stardom. Bewilderingly, major labels were still throwing cash at these bands and rolling a thousand to one shot that one could still be the next G ‘n’ R. Snake eyes only.

These second or third wave bands including such names as Bangalore Choir, Casablanca, McQueen Street, Roxy Blue, Heavens Edge and the subject of today’s post – Dirty Rhythm. Dirty Rhythm hailed from Portland, Oregon and released their debut album, ‘Hard As A Rock’ in 1992. 26 years after its release, I’m sure plenty of people who look to be offended will find the album cover offensive. A well endowed blonde in denim shorts. In 2018, the rainbow types will tell you that this image objectifies women – yet in the age of 80’s big hair rock n roll – it was more about exalting the virtues of attractive women – note the distinction?

Having said that – the song is derivative and lacking originality. It has a guitar that squeals and an annoying widdly widdly solo – and he’s singing about his dick. Yawn. Check the lyrics. “I bet you give good loving, I bet you give good” ….and “Roll me over baby”, Hard as a rock, give it everything you got”. Dylan eat your heart out. Let me sink you with my pink torpedo.

There were bands like this on every street corner, plying an insipid flavorless style of hard rock, and reading off a blue print that had been copied dozens of time before hand. Sorry dudes.

I read somewhere that the album stiffed (ahem) due to zero promotion, and “had the label actually invested time and energy into this band they would have been as big as Slaughter or Fire House.” The big ones! I think Bullet Boys also had a song called ‘Hard As A Rock’ which was better, marginally.