ARS78For more than 40 years, Johnny Kannis has been on the front lines of Australian rock n roll. From his time as Radio Birdman’s MC and back up singer – to countless years and tours of duty with the Hitmen, Kannis has earned his place as one of Oz rock’s most indomitable and electrifying front men. On episode 78 of the Australian Rock Show we dig into the Johnny Kannis story and talk about everything from recording with the Hitmen, appearing on Countdown, the Moronic Inferno album, the upcoming shows in November and much much more. It’s dancing time ! Check out this episode !

Music by: the Hitmen, Johnny Kannis, Radio Birdman

 

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Episode 77 – Release The Hounds Interview

Posted: September 29, 2017 by rockbrat in Uncategorized

Powerhouse Sydney outfit Release the Hounds have been cranking hi-octane, gasoline fuelled rock n roll for some time. Their blazing new album ‘Fret Rattle’ has just been released, gaining them many new fans. On episode 77 of The Australian Rock Show we chat with lead guitarist Brett, who gives us the low-down on one of Australia’s most promising hard rock outfits. Play loud !

Music by: Release The Hounds, AC/DC

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solo-elektro-cover“A post psychedelic Phil Spector style wall of sound. Solo Elektro flies the flag for a psychedelic indie blues artist who is only truly happy when he finds new exciting outlets for his oeuvre. It’s an album shot through with raw, brash, kick ass stoner rock with a blues heart’ Pete Feenstra – ‘Get Ready To Rock’ 

Solo Elektro is aware winning guitarist Gwyn Ashton’s new lo-fi garage one-man distort blue rock album. Full of chord crunching fuzz guitar, dirty octave dividers and slamming kick drum, it’s a 100% recorded in one take recording – sounding retro with a modern evolution.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. At Rockbrat, we have long considered Gwyn to be one of Australian rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest treasures, and with Solo Elektro, he has released one hell of an innovative blues/rock album bursting with an originality that is bound to re-energize even the most jaded of rock fans who thought they have heard it all before.

For those that weren’t paying attention the first time – here’s a quick intro, although fans of blues guitar greats like Junior Wells, Rory Gallagher, Steve Morse and Albert Lee can skip over this part as they are no doubt familiar with the highly respected Gwyn. Over the years Ashton has played onstage with everyone from Mick Fleetwood, Hubert Sumlin, Marc Ford to Canned Heat and has opened for Rory Gallagher, Ray Charles, Robin Trower, Vanilla Fudge, Wishbone Ash, Van Morrison, Jeff Healey, Tony Joe White, Johnny Winter, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, John Hammond and Pat Travers to name but a few.  Just pause for a second and read over those names again. I’m here to tell you, Ashton is every bit as good any of those guys. Musical prowess aside, one of Ashton’s most endearing features (not including his humility – as he is one of the most unassuming, down to earth guys you could ever hope to meet), is that he breathes rock ‘n’ roll and it is his lifeblood. He is one prolific guy, who makes things happen for himself. He has never been one to sit around and wait for opportunity to come a knockin- instead – in true troubadour style, he takes his music to the people – all over the globe, and has done for years. He is always on the road. He has a bunch of albums out – all worthy of your attention. Prohibition, Radiogram, Fang It! and Heat to name but a few. Throw a dart at any of those and you are guaranteed to hit a bullseye.

Which brings me to the new album, Solo Elektro. Gwyn gives new meaning to the phrase – one man band, as he often performs solo – armed only with voice, guitar and bass drum. Solo Elektro features just those core ingredients – and it comes up trumps. Whilst he still maintains a blues backbone – he continues to push beyond any traditional musical confines, exploring new possibilities and sounds. This is one truly progressive artist who musically, cannot be pigeonholed.

Prior to the recording of this album, Gwyn came into possession of the bass drum used by Bill Ward to record Sabbath’s eponymous debut album. More than a fun fact, Gwyn uses this bass drum on the recording of the album, channeling Ward, and more than a little Iommi in fact – into the whole melting pot.  So in the midst of a Central European tour, Gwyn sets up his mobile recording equipment in a room in the Czech Republic and hits the record button. With the aim of capturing his live sound to disc, without any overdubs, he painstakingly spent each day experimenting and recording each song until the performance, timing and inspiration met to produce the ‘magic’ take.

The album opens with the stunning ‘Metaphysical Journey’, a psychedelic epic that would make Allen Ginsberg proud. Lots of effects – but the key is the intertwining of the vocal over each guitar note. What a trip. Great tune.  There’s also the riff heavy crunch of ‘She Won’t Tell Me’ – resplendently melodic and super catchy. ‘Dawn Of Tomorrow’ is evocative, spacious and dreamy – with a Rick Parfitt riff mid song. Love it. Blues pedants will dig ‘Please Allow Me’ whilst hard rock fans will be won over by the rifforama and rawness of  ‘In Your Blood’. Broad appeal people. 11 tracks and something for even the most discerning rock fan. There’s enough flanging, phasing and fuzz effects to appease fans of 60s Brit pysch and blues rock fans alike, yet if I’m forced to pick, I’ll go with ‘Shine Lover Shine’ as the album’s plumb. I dig the energy and full on approach to this tune. It’s got a ballsy chorus and seductiveness in the slide playing that just does it for me. This smokes.

A ground breaking rock album in every sense of the world. Christmas has come early – THE Australian album of the year. 10 out of 10.

Solo Elektro is released October 20, 2017 on Fab Tone Records UK. For more details, go to gwynashton.com

Listen to an interview with Gwyn Ashton on The Australian Rock Show from March 2016 here

kiss-hide-your-heart-1989-11

Where’s the firing sqaud ? Critics take aim….

1989 was indeed the year for hidden hearts. In that year, there were four artists alone who released versions of the Desmond Child/Paul Stanley penned epic, ‘Hide Your Heart’ – yet which one is the best ?

Hide Your Heart – although co penned by Stanley – is total Desmond Child, which means it sounds a lot like Bon Jovi – which is why Paul wanted in. In the second part of the 80s, he badly wanted KISS to be as big as Joisey’s finest.

Ironically, “Hide Your Heart” was originally rejected for Kiss’ 1987 album Crazy Nights, with Stanley offering the song to other artists, with Bonnie Tyler recording it first for her album Hide Your Heart. Kiss’ version of “Hide Your Heart” is the third of four versions released in 1989. The first version was by Molly Hatchet on their album Lightning Strikes Twice, released on September 6. The second version was by Ace Frehley, featuring on his fourth studio album, Trouble Walkin’, which was released only four days before Kiss’ Hot in the Shade.  The last version of the song was by Robin Beck, released on November 9 on her album Trouble Or Nothin’.

The most two well-known versions of the songs are of course Kiss’ version, which appeared on their god awful album from 1989, ‘Hot In The Shade’, and Bonnie Tyler’s version, which was her biggest hit since ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ – can’t have too many songs with heart in the title one might say. Tyler’s version was released on 9 May 1988, and was  produced by Desmond Child. Recorded in Woodstock, I think Joe Lynn also provided back-up vocals on her album. Bonnie’s version is good, but it’s not the best. You wanted the best ? As much as someone like Michael Brandvold would have you believe, Kiss’ version is not the best version of the tune nor a KI$$ classic. It was however, probably the best song off the Hot In The Shade album, and objectively, was the best thing Kiss had done since Animalize, although some pundits would also argue that Kiss had released nothing of significance after they took the grease paint off. ‘Hide Your Heart’ was a sign of better things to come for the unmasked marauders, with the Revenge album soon to follow, clearly Kiss’ strongest and most consistent album throughout the entire 1980s shootin’ match. Blinkered Kiss drones will no doubt disagree, but albums such as Animalize, the horrendous Asylum and Hot In The Shade were patchy at best. As has been written elsewhere on this blog, rock trailblazers in the 70s they may have been, Kiss were a featureless hard rock band in the 80s who followed the trends set by Bon Jovi. Desmond again.  Kiss were out of ideas, and with Hot In The Shade, were digging deep into the cliché bag. Gene produced such enduring song writing masterpieces as ‘The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away’, ‘Cadillac Dreams’, ‘Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Boomerang’. Bob Dylan eat your heart out.

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Kiss in Cairo? World Slavery Tour this ain’t.

In the live environment, things didn’t improve. Not only did you get the highly hackneyed Farter Pussycat opening the show, when the house lights dimmed, the large sphincter, I mean Sphinx on stage, opened its mouth and hundreds of laser beams shot out, while our four rock warriors stood posing number 9 in the silhouette…………and the children dance to the Pipes of Pan – Stonehenge. I guess Stanley figured that Maiden had had success with Egyptian mythology, so he reckoned this may be the path to take. Yet Paul forgot that Maiden were top shelf song writers, and lyricists, in a class all their own. Powerslave is based on Egyptian history. Kiss put sunglasses on the sphinx. Nuff said.

Hide Your Heart IS total Bon Jovi. How can it not be when it was penned by Desmond Child and follows his same successfully proven formulae of ‘big chorus rock anthem’.  If Desmond had of co-written this one with Jon and Richie – as opposed to Stanley – hypothetically, Hide Your Heart may just have climbed all the way to number 1. It is in the same league as Bad Medicine, You Give Love, Livin On A Prayer etc etc. I love those first two Desmond Child & Rouge albums by the way, Runners In The Night from 1979 in particular. I used to own both on vinyl and played them to death. Runners In The Night is a great hard rock record, clean hard rock with a stack of melody and originality, massive femme chorus’ AND three smoking hot brunettes. What was not to like ?  So Kiss’ version is better than Bonnie’s, and Paul probably thought he was headed for the pointy end of the hit parade with Jon and Richie – yet there were another couple of versions of ‘Hide Your Heart’ that surpass KISS’

Southern Rockers Molly Hatchet included a version of Hide Your Heart on their 1989 album, Lightning Strikes Twice, that stays pretty true to the original- yet is anything but southern rock, although the solo shreds. Incidentally, this was the first Molly Hatchet to be released without founding member Dave Hlubek, who recently passed away. Godspeed Dave.

Kiss’ former and most famous axeman – Ace Frehley included a version of ‘Hide Your Heart’ on his Trouble Walkin’ LP. Ace is not the world’s best vocalist – and his version of the song is not as polished as his former band mates, and that’s what gives it more appeal.

For a start – you can tell its Ace playing – it sounds like his Les Paul. Eddie Kramer’s production is not as lush as Desmond Child or as overproduced as Ron Nevison, thank God, and that gives his version more coarseness. Possibly, Ace was sozzled and not up to writing a decent hit – as the first two singles off this album were covers, Hide Your Heart, and ‘Do Ya’ an ELO cover. Just saying. As this was released at the same time as Kiss’ it caused Kiss konfusion in many circles – yet maybe Ace thought he too was gonna have a big hit with it. One can only wonder how both Ace and Kiss came to release versions of the same song on separate albums only days apart. Clearly there was no communication happening. Even the Beatles and Stones used to communicate with each other to make sure they didn’t  drop new albums at the same time. It mattered little. Ace would soon return to the clubs for a few more years before the 1996 KI$$ reunion.

Before I get to my preferred version of this tune, let’s put the magnifying glass over the third song writer of the tune – one Holly Knight.  Holly Knight was a native of the Big Apple, and was in a band called Spider in the early 80s (with Anton Fig on drums – there is always a KISS connection). Spider were managed by Bill Aucoin (more connections), and were on Dreamland Records, the record company of Aussie Mike Chapman, who encouraged her to move to LA and hone her skills as a songwriter. And that she did. She penned hits for Tina Turner, “Better Be Good to Me” and ‘The Best’ as well as Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield” . Amongst a slew of other songs she wrote, she also wrote a tune for Barnesy, “Between Two Fires” and the Divinyls ‘Pleasure and Pain’ which Mr Rockbrat probably already knew.

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Image (c) R. Beck

Which leads me to the version of the song which I consider to be the best – and that is Robin Beck’s version. Like Knight, Robin Beck was also from the Big Apple, and had been in the scene since the late 70s. She topped the singles chart in the United Kingdom in 1988, and Germany in 1989, with her single “First Time”, which had come to the public’s attention via its use in a Coca-Cola commercial. It has a big chorus, and is a big power ballad with a strong hook. Beck spent several years as a backing singer, supporting Melissa Manchester, Chaka Khan, and (Aussie) Leo Sayer.  Beck also contributed backing vocals to Cher’s “If I could Turn Back Time. Beck’s album from 1989, Trouble Or Nothin’ was, not surprisingly, produced by Desmond Child – so it was even less surprising that he snuck a version of ‘Hide Your Heart’ on there. Roll the dice again, surely one version has to fly right ? If not Bonnie, or Kiss, then maybe Beck ? Child  was no schmuck. Ca-ching. Incidentally – one of Child’s other tunes Beck recorded for this album was “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” which Child wrote, and was recorded by Bonnie Tyler for her 1986 album ‘Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire’. The song was re-written as “You Give Love a Bad Name” for Bon Jovi after he was dissatisfied with “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)”‘s chart success. Double ca-ching. Tommy and Gina, Tito, Johnny, Rosa – it all starts to get a little muddled after a while- yet not if you are picking up the song writing cheque. Plagiarism is not plagiarism if you are re lifting your own song right.

Beck’s version of Hide Your Heart  has considerable guitar muscle, but is not overly produced – and is lifted above the other versions due to her strong and gutsy vocal. She really belts this out. There is a lot of solid material on Trouble Or Nothin, and it’s worthy of your attention. She has a sturdy classic rock voice, and continues to release new music to this day. Its a shame her version of ‘Hide Your heart’ stiffed in the charts – no doubt cos there were so many other versions doing the rounds – notably by KISS who did get some chart action with their version. Couple of fun facts to finish with. Beck’s ninth album, ‘Love Is Coming’, will be released on October 13, 2017, and her husband is James Christian of House of Lords. For those with longer memories, Christian was in a Connecticut prog rock band in the 70s called  Jasper Wrath who were contenders for a while there.  Check out http://www.robinbeckrocks.com

So there you have it: In order

5. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of, I mean, ‘Hide Your Heart’ –

4. KISS – Hide Your Heart  

3. Molly Hatchet – Hide Your Heart

2. Ace Frehley – Hide Your Heart

1. Robin Beck – Hide Your Heart

 

 

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On episode 76 of The Australian Rock Show we crank new tunage from Sydney’s Release The Hounds, Gwyn Ashton and also Joe Matera. A long-lost, Steve Prestwich penned Cold Chisel track gets an airing, and we spin some mid-70’s rock n roll raunch from Rabbit. Rock news, gig dates, reviews, rants and more !

Music by: Release The Hounds, Gwyn Ashton, Joe Matera, Rabbit, Cold Chisel, The Grapes (thanks to Gavin Rennick for the donation)

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bootleggers-front-hms-tape-bottom-2There’s a ton of live albums out there, yet when the best rock ‘n’ roll band in the world releases a new live record, it’s time to pay attention. This live album is a little bit special, and without going into the whole story, here’s the reason why. This live album is pulled from Dan Baird & Homemade Sin’s show at Bootleggers Bar, Kendal, a town in Cumbria, England (for the benefit of those who have never set foot in ol’ Blighty). Homemade Sin (HMS) were in the midst of a UK/Euro Tour when Dan Baird got sick. Bad sick. So much so, that within 24 hours of this gig on 26 July 2017, Dan was in hospital being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

For anyone who has ever seen Dan Baird & Homemade Sin live, you know that they are the real deal. Ain’t no better live band anywhere. They deliver the goods EVERY show. In fact, you could release any of their gigs as a live CD  – and it would come up trumps – so if you put on hold for a second the reason for the release of this CD – this gig in Auld Grey Town is as good as any. It’s a double CD with nice packaging, liner notes and live photos. CD 1 has 17 tracks, the first 12 of which comprise the first set. There are many highlights. Opening with the one-two punch of ‘Younger Face’ and ‘Little Darlin’, there’s no respite as HMS launch into ‘Knocked Out Cold’, ‘Licka Sense’ and ‘Shake It Till It’s Sore’, three killer tunes pulled from my 2017 album of the year, ‘Rollercoaster’. (Read my review for that album here). Warner Hodges’ wailing guitar on ‘Knocked Out Cold’ is pretty damn palatable.

With exhaustion setting in, ‘Thousand Little Pieces’ gives Dan Baird the opportunity to catch his breath. Dan was no doubt feeling the effects of CMM, but you wouldn’t know it from this performance. He gives no excuses, no quarter given – just sings his heart out – and gives 100% as he always has.  Faced with the same situation, I’ve known other musicians who would have either cancelled, cut the set short, or provided an excuse. Not DB, one of a kind – and speaks volumes about the man’s convictions. Total respect. The band know how much Dan was struggling, so they all pick up their performances and give a little extra, with Warner Hodges in particular shouldering a lot more of the vocals. Dan hits the A chord and insists the crowd sing-along and help him out with ‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself’. They dutifully oblige. There’s a tribute by Warner Hodges to Jonty Martindale, a pillar of the Kendal live music scene and owner of Bootleggers who passed away suddenly in April this year.  ‘Movin Right Along’, another couldabeen/shouldabeen hit from the ‘Get Loud’ album rocks aplenty, before the band take it up a gear to finish the set on a high with two bonafide Dan Baird classics, ‘Julie and Lucky’ and ‘I Love You Period’.

If you are new to the world of Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, ‘The Red Wristband Special’ CD is as good an introduction to the man and his music as any album in his back catalogue.  Long-time DB fans however, will appreciate the five bonus tracks on CD 1. ‘Way Too Soon’ an outtake from the aforementioned ‘Rollercoaster’ album is a great tune with a smokin’ riff. Co-penned by Brad Pemberton. As well as being a monster drummer (currently with Steve Earle), he is no slouch in the song writing department either. ‘You Been On My Mind’, a previously unreleased Dan Baird demo also gets the thumbs up. Melodic, catchy, singalong chorus and memorable lyrics.  Also included is  ‘I’m Never Alone’, a brand new tune from Warner Hodges which will be included on his soon to be released solo album. Man this good. Cross Petty with Cheap Trick and you are on the money. Can’t wait for the album!

Whilst Dan Baird is in respite and being treated for CLL, Homemade Sin are touring throughout the US and Europe with the great Joe Blanton out front and filling in for Dan. Blanton plays in a Nashville band called The Bluefields (also with Baird, Hodges and the aforementioned Pemberton) and is one of my favourite frontmen/songwriters. Some of the material he penned with the Bluefields (for example ‘Trainwreck’ and ‘If Not Now When’) are unknown classics that should be scoring airplay the world over. This cat has a penchant for melody, and the inclusion of one of his previously unreleased tunes, ‘That Was Now This Is Then’ hits another bullseye. Total Chuck Berry/Stones/Quo/Fogerty. Smoking tune. How about a solo album Joe ?  CD 1 is rounded out by ‘Falling’, a plaintive Mauro Magellan tune off his ‘4 Corners of Sweet Hell’ CD with much appeal.

CD  2 consists of the second set of the night, and opens with another classic from Rollercoaster, ‘The Other Side’, before the audience are treated to a couple of Satellites classics, ‘I Dunno’ (with Warner singing his absolute heart out) and ‘Six Years Gone’. I’ve written elsewhere about the greatness of ‘Crooked Smile’ a tune off the first Homemade Sin album. Live, it is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and rightly so. This song is huge, and evokes images  of Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the early 70s – and then some. The song belongs to Hodges – and is quite possibly the best 10 minutes of rock n roll that you are ever likely to see. In this brief period he finesses, shreds, bends, motors, taps and still finds time to throw his Les Paul over his shoulder, as he has been doing since the early Scorchers days. If you want to know why Hodges is so good – go watch this on YouTube.  The rapturous response from the crowd at Bootleggers tells me what I already knew – they got to see something just that little bit special. Why don’t more people know this song ? Go listen. It’s beyond superlatives. The ultimate tribute/commentary to Carny folk, ‘Fairground People’ gets another green tick, and then, the audience are treated to ‘Hell And Back’, a bitchin’ hard rocker from Warner Hodges’ 2014 solo album, ‘Gunslinger’.

‘Thin Disguise’, one of my all-time favourite Baird songs, and another of the couldabeen/shouldabeen hits from ‘Get Loud’ (see above) sounds hot, before a punishing version of ‘Railroad Steel’ ends proceedings. What a killer set. The between song banter is also left in, and I’m glad about that, as it makes the listener feel that they were there. ‘The Red Wrist Band Special’ is a live statement from the best band in the world.  Its warts and all. Its dog eared, its imperfect – but it hits you in the heart and soul like no other rock n roll can. There’s a realness, a legitimacy, and notably, a humility to Dan Baird & Homemade Sin that today’s artists clearly lack. You could have an army of Ed Sheerans and I’ll take one Dan Baird any day of the week. The CD scores 10 out of 10.

Having grown up in the halcyon period of Oz hard rock – when bands like AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, The Angels, (Angel City), Divinyls, Cold Chisel etc  reigned supreme, I will probably never be swayed from my opinion that Australia produced the best live rock n roll bands in the world. After all these years, I can honestly say, hand on heart,  that guys like Dan Baird, Warner Hodges and Homemade Sin are also in that illustrious group. For they are quite simply – the best of the best.

The Red Wrist Band Special CD is available now from JCPL Music.

Click here to read a review of Dan Baird And Homemade Sin live in Australia from 22 April, 2017.

Click here to listen to an interview Cowboy Col conducted with Dan Baird at Newcastle, Australia on The Australian Rock Show.

band-photoAs many astute rock fans would be aware, legendary British outfit Dr.  Feelgood will be hitting Australia in May 2018. The good folks at M.G.M (those who brought the great Dan Baird & Homemade Sin out to Australia earlier this year), are looking for corporate sponsors for the Dr Feelgood Tour. If you are a company or organisation who would like to get involved, and get behind even one Dr. Feelgood show in your city or state, now is the time to act. Please download the attached sponsorship form M G M SPONSOR Dr Feelgood 2018, or contact Jim at MGM for more info.