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Old 06-23-2013, 11:57 AM   #1831 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
As a dyed-in-the-wool Bon Jovi fanatic I bought it when it came out. Just haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. So much to get through. Will try to make time over the next few weeks; perhaps I'll post it in my Micro-Reviews thread...
Cool, link me if/when you review it.
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Old 06-24-2013, 11:47 AM   #1832 (permalink)
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Perhaps one of the greatest stars of the NWOBHM that never were, Diamond Head had a rough time of it (I swear, first person that makes a pun about "rough diamonds"....) and never quite cracked the scene in the same way their contemporaries did. However, unlike other bands we have looked at in this series who "sold out" to the American way of doing things and changed their formula to suit the lucrative US market, Diamond Head weren't big in the USA either. They're fondly thought of here, and indeed acknowledged as a major influence on bands such as Metallica and Megadeth, but their own material hasn't exactly gone down in the ranks of classic heavy metal. To find out why this should be, we need to go back, as we always do, to the beginning.

Formed as one of those schoolfriends bands, Diamond Head were something of an oddity in that they refused, in the main, to play cover versions, which is almost always how most bands get their start. Formed by Brian Tatler and with longtime member Sean Harris joining as vocalist soon afterwards, they wrote their own songs and gigged anywhere they could. Turning down major label interest (what? It's true, apparently!) Harris's mother, Linda, who was at the time one of their co-management team and appeared to be calling the shots, had the band signed to an independent label on which they put out their first album, the no-frills, almost blank in terms of packaging "Lightning to the nations". The album was only made available originally through mail order, the idea being that the songs thereon would attract major label interest (huh? Again. I thought they had an offer and turned it down, now they're looking for a label? You can begin to see why Diamond Head may have been doomed from the beginning) but it was their live shows that ended up being the attraction. Support slots with two of the biggest bands around at the time, AC/DC and the emerging kings of the NWOBHM, Iron Maiden, at least made sure plenty of fans got to hear their music, but you can't help wondering what might have happened had they taken the deal they had been offered originally.

Lightning to the nations --- Diamond Head --- 1980 (Happy Face)


There's a punchy powerful guitar riff to start us off and this quickly ramps up to a full boogie rock rhythm as the title track opens the album, a track which would reappear on their second album. Sean Harris has a singular vocal style, almost crying the lyric and certainly with a distinctive voice that would not be mistaken for anyone else. Quite reminds me of a certain Mister Plant, actually. Brian Tatler immediately establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with on the guitar, with some quite Maidenesque riffing, while the rhythm section do what rhythm sections do. Although there are only seven tracks on the album, some are quite long, with the longest checking in at over nine minutes, almost unheard of for a metal band at the time. There are three over six minutes, and "The prince" is one of them. Not hard to see why Metallica were interested in covering this: it simply flies along, with some incredible shredding by Tatler and a powerful driving drumbeat from Duncan Scott.

Cool little bass twiddly bit in it too, just so we don't forget about Colin Kimberley, and though Tatler really excels on the guitar here it's again Harris who grabs the attention with his polished delivery, easily remaining the centre of attention. A very clear, crisp production considering this was self-recorded (originally on a four-track!) and self-financed and released. Guitar gets bluesy then quickly funky and then picks up the rocking beat again as Scott pounds away with gusto on the skins. Superb little solo from Brian, and this is a great song to headbang to. It's followed by the epic, nine-minute-plus "Sucking my love", which trundles along like the best of Creedence or Molly Hatchet, with Tatler throwing in a solo reminscent of Thin Lizzy, the song maintaining the fast pace of its predecessor, if not quite as breakneck in tempo. A very progressive rocklike interval then, very Marillion in fact, although they would not release their first album for another three years, so it's either a coincidence or my favourite band half-inched that riff!

The nine minutes and change just fly by and suddenly we're into "Am I evil?", another track they would reprise on their second album. Opening with the famous intro to Holst's "Mars, the bringer of war" from his "Planets suite", it's a great dramatic little number that just goes crazy with a frankly incredible guitar solo at the end. I'm listening now to see if it's any different to the version that appears on "Borrowed time", and ....not really no. Few vocal inflections are different, it's a little more polished on the next album but otherwise it's pretty much the same song. "Sweet and innocent" has again a Thin Lizzy "Fighting"-era style to it, kind of "Do anything you want to do" feel, but to be honest I find it the weakest track on the album; it's also the shortest, at just over three minutes. Then we have their signature song, "It's electric", and indeed it is. This song just pulses with power, energy and vitality, and must have been a real crowd-pleaser. More excellent shredding from Brian (didn't notice any of that on the previous song), and if things had worked out for the lads this should I think have been the song that broke them, but it never happened. The album then closes on "Helpless", with a big fast grinding guitar and to me a sense of Rory Gallagher's "Just hit town" about it. Great riproaring ending to an album you would never believe had been recorded in six months on such cheap equipment (though I'm sure the version I'm listening to now is a remastered one, as apparently all the original one thousand copies of the debut were lost in Germany), and would be similarly hard-pressed to accept did not lead to a massive surge in popularity for this talented band.

TRACKLISTING

1. Lightning to the nations
2. The Prince
3. Sucking my love
4. Am I evil?
5. Sweet and innocent
6. It's electric
7. Helpless

Well, to be fair, their profile did increase after this, but more on the back of the reception to their gigs than due to any huge album sales. In 1982 they were signed to MCA who released their second album, the epic "Borrowed time", which used the story of Michael Moorcock's fantasy hero Elric of Melnibone as its basic theme, and again featured only seven tracks, two of which, as already noted, were reissues of ones from "Lightning to the nations". Odd, really, when you consider how much material the band had stored up. Still, perhaps they felt these were some of their strongest, and possibly best-known and loved songs. At any rate, I have already reviewed this album in depth so I won't be looking at it here, but if you want to read my review that's here http://www.musicbanter.com/members-j...ml#post1080675.

"Borrowed time" catapulted Diamond Head into the album charts for the first and last time, breaking into the top thirty, and their popularity was now such that they could headline their own major concerts. However they then shot themselves in the foot, and in a way you have to have a problem finding any sympathy for them. Bored of singing and writing straight heavy metal, they decided to change direction and turned in a more progressive one, with their third album therefore not being the huge success it could and should have been, and failing utterly to capitalise on "Borrowed time"'s positive reception. In fact, "Canterbury" was seen to be so removed from their previous work that it alienated fans, who turned away from the band, the album failing to make it into the top thirty. However they did not learn from this, as will be related later. Right now I want to look again at this album, which I mini-reviewed for "Bitesize" some time ago.

Canterbury --- Diamond Head --- 1983 (MCA)


Originally to have been the title of the album, "Making music" starts off heavy enough, with clanging guitar and pounding drums, though you can hear the metal riffs are being toned back and a more sort of progressive style is entering Tatler's playing. Good anthemic chanted chorus I feel, and not the biggest shift so far from their other work, with more Lizzyesque guitar and Harris as ever on fine form vocally. Mind you, I can hear Irish band Aslan strongly in here. "Out of phase" though changes everything, with a more indie-rock, almost verging on pop sound: nothing heavy about this, it's almost The Housemartins! Kind of a return to metal then with the Dioesque "Kingmaker", which sounds as if it has keyboards, though none are credited. A very eastern/Egyptian sound to it, a slow grinder with a sort of chorus chant running through the whole thing. It's very repetitive I have to say, and it runs into "One more night", which sounds like it doesn't know if it wants to be a rock song or an indie one, kind of bits and pieces of rockabilly thrown into the mix too. Oh dear. It's certainly catchy, but for me it just isn't Diamond Head. Now that was definitely a piano! I defy anyone to tell me that was not a glissando on the keys!

"To the devil his due", up next, opens on a soft little acoustic guitar piece, accompanied by wailing electric, with a real smooth hook and certainly the standout on the album so far. Reminds me of the material on "Borrowed time", a slowburning cruncher with a feel of progressive metal and real emotion and power in it. Returning to that album's theme, "Knight of the swords" digs again into Moorcock's repertoire for its subject matter. This time it's Corum, another facet of the Eternal Champion (seriously: read the books. You won't regret it) and the song itself has echoes of the title track to the prior album in it, a mid-paced track that trips along nicely and has a smouldering guitar line to it with a great vocal performance by Sean Harris.

"Ishmael" has more progressive rock in it, and a guitar riff which seems very close to BOC's classic "Don't fear the Reaper", a thumping drumbeat and a mostly lower register for Harris vocally. Eastern influences here too, quite Rainbow in places. More straight ahead rock then for "I need your love", which ups the tempo and involves some great guitar work from Brian, another shouted chorus and then we're into the closer, and title track, which opens on soft piano --- definitely piano --- which reminds me of the later work of Neil Hannon with the Divine Comedy. Very medieval sound to it, also brings to mind some of the work of Manowar and Virgin Steele. Trumpeting keyboards add to the sound and it's very slow and low-key until halfway in when there's a big cymbal wave and everything takes off on the back of Tatler's guitar as the percussion ups the stakes. Strange little closer, if I'm honest.

TRACKLISTING

1. Making music
2. Out of phase
3. Kingmaker
4. One more night
5. To the devil his due
6. Knight of the swords
7. Ishmael
8. I need your love
9. Canterbury

After listening to it again I concur with what I said when I looked at this for "Bitesize". I can see some differences in Diamond Head's style from the previous two albums, but I don't mark a huge departure for this album. There are some, shall we say, unexpected influences on it, certainly, but it's not after all like they went and recorded "Hot space" or "Never say die!" Still, the fans didn't like it and it served to show the guys that they should head back in the direction of heavy met --- oh wait, no it didn't! Undeterred by the lukewarm reception to their third album, Diamond Head went about recording their fourth, which was never released, moving even further away from metal and into a softer, less guitar-led sound as they lost both drummer and bass player and having replaced Scott and Kimberley, recruited a keyboard player. Er, guys, weren't you listening to your fans? They did not want keys, prog rock or less guitar solos: they wanted you to go back to your roots, the music that had won them for you in the first place!

Dropped by MCA after the disappointing album sales for "Canterbury", the boys were hard at work on "Flight east", with Harris starting to write songs that had a more religious bent (way to win back the hardcore fans there, Sean!) but when it became clear no label was interested in their new direction, and money was running out the guys decided to call it a day, for now, and split in 1985.
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Old 06-26-2013, 04:02 AM   #1833 (permalink)
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Metallica's citing of them as an influence however, coupled with equal praise from rival band Megadeth, meant Diamond Head were not forgotten, and in 1991 they reformed just long enough to release their fourth proper album. Heading back out on the road they played alongside the new young guns who had quoted them as influences, but oh! Ten years is a long time in rock and/or roll, and unfortunately their exended stay away from the scene meant that the new fans who were getting into Metallica thought that Diamond Head were playing cover songs by their heroes, while in fact the reverse was true. Despite this setback, DH persevered and in 1993 they put out their fourth album, "Death and progress".

Death and progress --- Diamond Head --- 1993 (Castle Music)

Due to the contacts they had made on the road over the years, and also the fact that they were earning such plaudits from the emerging new stars of the metal scene, Harris and Tatler were able to call on the services of Black Sabbath legend Tony Iommi as well as Megadeth's Dave Mustaine to help out with their new album. Tony plays on, and helped write, the opening track while Mustaine plays guitar on "Truckin'".

And it's "Starcrossed (Lovers of the night)" that gets us going, with a soft, luxuriant, laidback guitar with an unmistakable Sabbath feel to it. No surprise then when it suddenly explodes into life and the master cranks out the riffs with the ease of a professional of over twenty years. The song is much heavier, a return to the sound Diamond Head pursued on their debut and second album, with hard, chugging guitar and Harris sounding happy to be singing again. Great solo of course, as you would expect. In the last minute it really ramps up the tempo, Harris bellowing out the vocal as it cannons along. "Truckin'" is a faster song from the start, just as heavy but in a different way, with fine fretwork from Dave Mustaine, and a somewhat political/ecological lyric. Nice bluesy guitar solo in the midsection as Mustaine shows he can do more than just shred.

In four albums so far we haven't yet really had a ballad, unless you count the extended blues ending to "Don't you ever leave me", and this isn't one either, though it is a slower song than they have up to now played. "Calling your name (The light)" is a heavy cruncher with definite balladic elements, but I couldn't in fairness call it a love song. Superb soaring solo from Tatler, and a real dramatic and passionate feel to the song. This album is also their longest to date in terms of tracks, with ten in all, but the shortest in terms of song lengths, with only half of those over four minutes and none over five. "I can't help myself" has a boogie, swinging rhythm to it, reminscent of the best of Led Zep, while "Paradise" gets the tempo high again with a fast headshaker that nods back to their debut while yet retaining enough commercial appeal to have made it a decent candidate for a single, were any released from this album. Touch of Guns'n'Roses there too, if you listen.

"Dust" has a certain anthemic quality, another fast rocker with some great guitar work and fast percussion, and a slightly progressive twist to the last minute or so, then a nice introspective guitar opens "Run" with some really solid vocal harmonies. It of course doesn't stay low-key for long, as Tatler's guitar winds up and fires off, and the song becomes a hard cruncher with kind of AOR overtones; would maybe have been another good choice for a single. Very catchy. There's a pounding drum and droning keyboard intro then to "Wild on the streets", which rocks along once it gets going, a real air-guitar song. Great dual solo (dualo?) from the keys and Tatler's axe --- wish I knew who was playing those keyboards. Everything slows down then in a track you would think Iommi had had a hand in ---- maybe he did, though it's uncredited if so --- as it has a real dark Sabbath feel. "Damnation Street" has a thick, insistent bass and chunky guitar with a wailed vocal from Sean Harris, then a guitar fading in takes us to the closer, "Home", another quite Zep song, reminiscent in places of "Whole lotta love", with a great beat and some soaring guitar.

TRACKLISTING

1. Starcrossed (Lovers of the night)
2. Truckin'
3. Calling your name (The light)
4. I can't help myself
5. Paradise
6. Dust
7. Run
8. Wild on the streets
9. Damnation Street
10. Home

This isn't a bad album at all; maybe not the sort of thing you expect when a band comes back after a decade away. I mean, they've had a long time to get their sound sorted, and write new material. So does it knock my socks off? Not quite, but it's not a disappointment either. I just think that those who were into Diamond Head before they broke up would probably be happy with this, while those who didn't know of them might think it was a good album certainly, but wonder what all the fuss was about? The Second Coming of Diamond Head? Ah, not quite.

The band however did themselves no favours when they appeared at Milton Keynes in support of Metallica and Megadeth that year. Harris came out on stage dressed as Death, and later confirmed this was to make the comment that the NWOBHM was dead. Well, considering it was this movement that gave them --- and a lot of other new bands --- their start, this seems to be either a very smug or ungrateful thing to say. It obviously didn't go down well with the fans, either their own or those of either of the thrash giants, and the set they played was poor, this mostly down to lack of rehearsal time as well as Tatler being unwell. The following year they split for the second time, and this time the hiatus would last six years.

As the new millennium arrived Diamond Head came back for a third shot at fame. However creative differences between Harris and the rest of the band over the next album's direction, and the fact that he wanted it to be marketed unattached to the Diamond Head name, as a totally new band (has he any idea about the power of a fanbase, this guy?) led to the singer's departure from the band soon after. He was replaced by Nick Tart in 2003, and the band released their fifth album, and the first one without Harris, two years later. Sadly I don't have the time to review that, as I want to end on their so-far-last album, but it's widely regarded as a departure in style from their original albums and seems to be set out as some sort of basic concept album.

After more extensive touring, including a tribute to the thirtieth anniversary of the NWOBHM, perhaps by way of a sort of apology for Sean Harris's ill-thought-out stunt in 1993, Diamond Head released their fifth album, which so far has been the last one.

What's in your head? --- Diamond Head --- 2007 (Cargo)

Ah, the hands have turned full circle! The first thing I think of when listening to the opener on this album is .... Metallica. How ironic: the band who influenced the millions-selling thrash act are now being influenced by the very thing they influenced! "Skin on skin" is a totally different animal to anything Diamond Head have recorded prior to this, with a much darker, grindier feel than I've been used to hearing from them. There is probably overspill from their previous collaboration with the great Iommi some years previous, true --- there is a certain Sabbath feel to this track --- but mostly it's I have to say a Metallica rip-off, which I find sad. This is also my first chance to hear new boy Nick Tart, and while he's a good singer I have to say he hasn't the presence of Sean Harris, who I feel is a big loss to the band. Tart is certainly making his mark on the band though, as he helps to write every song on the album, most of which are co-written by Tatler. "I feel no pain" is a little faster but kind of a continuation of the opener, though there is a nice guitar hook in it that reminds me of some of the better moments from "Canterbury".

The next track more or less harks back to their debut, and "This planet and me" is a good solid rocker with some nice atmospheric guitar work at the start and some real fretburning as it goes along. "Reign supreme" is the first DH song in years to bring that old "Whoa-oh-oh-oh" chorus back, and it's nice to hear as it evokes memories of their early efforts during the NWOBHM era. It's quite a brooder though, lot of Sabbath in it, with hard growling guitar and punching drums, Tart snarling out the vocal with ease, and I'm beginning to miss Sean Harris just a little less as I listen to this new lad. Great storming guitar start to "Killing me", and it rocks along nicely. I'd like to say that they've shaken off the Metallica soundalike influence now, though we're only halfway through the album so it could return. Hopefully not though: I prefer my Diamond Head unrefined and original.

There's also a welcome return for the Thin Lizzy style on the guitar, possibly due to the addition of Andy Abberley on guitar, and then an acoustic opening to "Tonight" with a good boogie vibe to it, though I'm not mad about "Pray for me", just seems a little derivative. The title track reminds me of the classic "Borrowed time" album, a mid-paced grinder with a bitter little vocal from Tart, and a nice melodic guitar line from Tatler, though "Nothing to lose", with its telling lines "I'm not the same man/ You knew before" tells a story of a band desperately trying to prove they don't have to prove anything, if that makes sense... Great guitar solo from Brian, with what also sounds like a squeaky keyboard solo, though again none are credited. Sounds like we may finally be getting a ballad when "Calling out" begins with a relaxed acoustic intro and soft vocal, but Diamond Head seem determined to have no truck with such love songs, and the song breaks out into a sharp rocker, though it does go back into ballad territory for the verse, then rocks out for the chorus: kind of hard to get a proper handle on. The closer then is "Victim", which kicks the tempo back up and leaves you in no doubt these guys are a metal band.

TRACKLISTING

1. Skin on skin
2. I feel no plain
3. This planet and me
4. Reign supreme
5. Killing me
6. Tonight
7. Pray for me
8. What's in your head?
9. Nothing to lose
10. Calling out
11. VIctim

Yeah, it's a decent enough album, but the point about it at this stage is, does anyone care enough to buy it? Yeah of course they do, but what I mean is, has anyone been waiting for this? It seems to me that Diamond Head have been, down the years, the architects of their own destruction, or have at least stood in the way of their own ambition. There's no question that they have the talent to have gone much further, to have made a big splash around the time Maiden, Saxon, Leppard and others were getting their names out there, but they seem to have gone about it all wrong. From alienating their fans, first through a change in musical direction that clearly did not work and their refusal to see that, to two breakups, a stay away from the scene which was far too long to survive their memory, and the skewed view of them from Metallica and Megadeth fans, leaving Diamond Head in the odd, perhaps unique position of covering their own songs, this band seem to have done everything wrong.

Would you let your mother manage your band? Their problems do seem to have stemmed from that originally, when they were counselled against signing with one of the majors, a decision that came back to haunt them, but the real stumbling block for me seems to have been either a short attention span or overreaching ambition. Diamond Head said they soon got bored with heavy metal, and after two well-received albums it seems heavy metal got bored with them. Once the fans lose interest it's hard to get them back, so you have to work really hard and ... break up for ten years.

Looks to me like Diamond Head shot out their own lights, and ended up living on borrowed time. If the title of their last album --- six years ago now: is there likely to be another? --- is taken literally, you would have to wonder what is in their head? Regret? Frustration? A wish that they had done things differently? Or did they just think the NWOBHM scene treated them badly? Well, if you're going to lampoon and disrespect the image of the movement that put you and your fellow bands where they are today, I'm sad to say you really do deserve all you get.

In the final part of this series I'll be talking about one of my other favourite artistes of this era, the much-maligned Tygers of Pan Tang, and looking at their rapid slide from promising beginnings into AOR mediocrity and eventual obscurity, a clear message that it's not always wise to do what the label thinks you should. Also an exercise in loyalty, or the lack of it. I'll also check out Samson and, to be patriotic about it, one of the only Irish acts that qualifies, Mama's Boys. Hopefully it won't take me a year this time! This is not necessarily a joke.
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Old 07-01-2013, 05:42 PM   #1834 (permalink)
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Just as there are thousands of bands and artistes who made it, there are at least probably ten times that many who didn't, or who had one success and then faded away, the almost proverbial one-hit-wonders. In this section I want to pay tribute to some of these bands and artistes, many of whom I listened to when growing up, some of whom had the odd hit single but most of whom either disbanded early or stumbled on through a career not exactly glittering with success, to end up in the one-ninety-nine bargain bin or the second-hand record shelf.


Pilot (1973-1978)

Yeah, in case you couldn't guess from the unfeasibly wide flares in the above picture, this band plied their short trade in the seventies. Surprisingly enough, Pilot had some notable members: Ian Bairnson and David Paton would later go on to work with the Alan Parsons Project, while Stuart Tosh, in addition to joining the APP would also be part of 10cc. Paton and Billy Lyall, founders of the band, had both previously been in teenybopper sensation The Bay City Rollers. Pilot were formed in Glasgow in 1973 and hit their first major success with the single "Magic", which almost gave them a top ten hit, though it did considerably better in the US, where it hit the number five slot. Canada, however, was where the single enjoyed its best success, climbing right to the very top of the charts.

Over their relatively short career Pilot released four albums, with the final one being re-recorded in 2002 when Bairnson and Paton resurrected the band, and put out under a new name, "Blue yonder", with a few extra tracks and one or two left off the original, which had been titled "Two's a crowd", to reflect the fact that by the time they got around to recording it the rest of Pilot had moved on, and only the duo were left to do the album.

As I'm already working on several large projects at the moment, I don't intend to write in-depth reviews of these albums, but I do want to listen to them all, or all that I can track down: some of these bands are very obscure, and finding their material ---- in some cases, any of it --- may prove challenging. But with Spotify, Grooveshark and of course YouTube to help me, I hope to be able to examine a reasonable crosssection of each artiste's work. The reviews will be very short, just an impression really, unless something really strikes me. Think the Batlord crossed with Urban and you'll get some sort of idea about the style of thing I'm aiming for. Actually, don't think of that: put that image out of your mind before you have nightmares! But you get the idea, I hope. So anyway, on with Pilot, the first band I want to check out.

From the album of the same name (1974)

Okay, before we begin, bear in mind this is not rock. This is seventies, softcore, watered-down MOR music, the sort of thing that would be guaranteed to be played on the radio. Inoffensive, unimaginative, parent-friendly music that even so managed to be catchy and singable. The lyrics were okay but nothing special and even having the likes of future APP and 10cc alumni in Pilot did not in any way make them a rock band. We're not treading in Unknown Soldier territory here, despite the seventies setting. This was the kind of music you would hear on "Top of the Pops" but hardly "The Old Grey Whistle Test", and hardcore religious evangelists would have little if anything to complain about. If one word described Pilot's music, it would have to be "safe".

At least, that's the conclusion I've come to after painstaking research involving their only hit singles. Perhaps I'm wrong and this music has a harder edge than I expect it to, but if so I will be quite surprised. Let's see if I get quite surprised.

Well the opening did kind of take me by surprise with a big guitar intro, but it quickly settled into Air Supply/Bread territory, and although it's nice to hear the voice I've always associated with the Alan Parsons Project, it's not a huge jolt, and the annoying handclaps are, well, annoying. Nice song with a catchy hook, and indeed one of their not so successful singles from the album, "Just a smile" is a decent starter, but it's only when the big hit gets going that things get a bit more interesting. Almost synthpop before synths were much in vogue, but again it has a great hook and a sort of snarly guitar in it reminiscent of the likes of the Kinks, this mostly due to Bairnson, who only features on this and one other track, having joined the band late. The guitar on the rest of the songs is supplied by Paton, with Billy Lyall handling the perky keyboards, some vocals and the odd flute. Nice acoustic strummed guitar and lazy piano opening a kind of lurching "Lucky for some", where we get to hear Lyall's rather nice flute (oo-eer missus!) for the first time and it certainly adds something to the song. Kind of a country, folky feel to it, quite relaxed really.

"Girl next door" sounds totally Supertramp, with an uptempo piano leading the melody, though I can of course hear elements that would slide into the work of the APP later, especially the bassline and the crooned backing vocals. Trumpet from David Mason is another touch the APP would work into many of their songs, albeit that would be on synth whereas here it's the real thing. "Lovely lady smile", the first ballad, is pure James Taylor while "Sooner or later", despite the fact that Alan Parsons would use the title in a later album, is uptempo but pretty forgettable really. Nice jangly piano, again touches of Supertramp and also little hints of Genesis at times. Speaking of that jangly piano, it's getting a bit overdone: here it is again taking command in "Don't speak loudly". Again I can hear the style that would become that of the APP evolving here, but by "Over the moon" I'm distinctly not, and I'm getting more than a little bored. I can see how anyone buying this album on the strength of the hit single would probably have felt a little let down, as that's the definite highlight.

Nice use of the trumpet again on that track, but the similarities to what would become the APP are becoming not only more evident but a little annoying. Not that you can blame Pilot for that, but it does sort of feel like I'm listening to one of Parsons's early efforts. Bit of semi-sleazy rock in "Never give up", but the chorus devolves into a generic pop one with overtones of the Beatles, while again Supertramp influences are all over "High into the sky", and even the second and last contribution from Ian Bairnson can't save this annoying happy-clappy piece of ... ahem, anyway, on we go to "Auntie Iris", and with a title like that I'm not expecting much, and I'm not wrong. Kind of like having your brains bashed out with a large bunch of flowers while someone forcefeeds you camomile tea. What is the point of the song? Thankfully it's very short (though not short enough) but then I'm just totally unexpectedly blown away to hear the closer, "Sky blue", and realise that Bairnson took the opening guitar riff in its entireity for Alan Parsons' solo "On air" album, for the song, wait for it, "Blue blue sky"! Even the keyboard part is the same! Man: twenty years before that album was released and he had that riff. You have to give him respect for that.

But overall, though this is a powerful and fitting closer, the title fitting in with the band's name, I find this a pretty weak album, although to be honest I wasn't expecting to be that impressed anyway. And I apologise: this review, such as it is, was nothing like Batlord and Urban, combined or separate: either or both of them would probably kick my arse and call me a pussy. Yeah, I find it hard to keep things short; just look at some of the reviews in "Bitesize"! Oh well.

TRACKLISTING

1. Just a smile
2. Magic
3. Lucky for some
4. Girl next door
5. Lovely lady smile
6. Sooner or later
7. Don't speak loudly
8. Over the moon
9. Never give up
10. High into the sky
11. Auntie Iris
12. Sky blue

Second Flight (1975)

Oh dear! This starts with a squeaky, friendly keyboard arpeggio and more Beatles/Supertramp style, pretty throwaway really as "You're my number 1" does not inspire confidence, with "Love is" another soppy love song which is pretty much the opener just slowed down. Well, that's not fair, but it's quite similar. Man, this is sickly sweet: think my teeth are beginning to hurt. Oh there's some decent guitar to soothe me. That bouncy piano is driving me mad. Oh no, the guitar's gone now. Sigh. Seems David Paton wrote both of these solo; I know he can write better but these are definitely not his finest hour. Much better is the slightly rockier "Call me round", which I think was a single, though information on Pilot is pretty hard to come across after their first album. This is also the first song on the album where Ian Bairnson joins in on the writing, and it really shows. Very commercial certainly, but nowhere near as cloying as the first two tracks. I also realise I know this song, which is why I think it may have been a single. Let me check: yeah, it was. Just fell short of the top thirty too. No wonder I recognise it. Decent song.

"55 degrees north by 3 degrees west" is the first track without any input from Paton, it's Billy Lyall and Bairnson collaborating and in fact it's Pilot's first instrumental. Not bad, but it sounds like the theme to some seventies cop show or lawyer show. Nice display by Bairnson on the guitar and even the squeaky, almost hysterical keyboard of Lyall is not too annoying. But it is annoying. Paton's back on his own then for two songs in the middle of which Lyall writes his own. The first Paton number is a nice little acoustic ballad called "To you alone", very lounge music really, with a certain Spanish tint to the percussion, while "Do me good" is Lyall's first of four solo compositions on the album, a heavier song, in the very broadest sense of the word. Nice guitar solo raises it almost to the status of rock, though not quite, then Paton's next contribution is "Heard it all before", which is beginning to become something of a motif with this album. And indeed I have; it's quite similar to a few songs on the debut album, though it has some nice sort of talkbox or vocoder or some sort of effect on it that at least gives the song some needed punch.

And on it goes. "Bad to me" is an uptempo APP style song which is enjoyable on one level but a little empty on others, while "You're devotion" goes back more or less to the feel of the first two tracks, though there is a squealing, rockish guitar in there. Mind you, for all I've put Paton down, it has to be admitted that it was he who wrote their big hit single. "January", up next, took them to number one and so is their best known track and the one for which they will probably be tagged as one-hit-wonders. It's a fast, poppy song with a great hook, quite simple as many of the top hits are, but it's clearly in a class of its own here, as nothing else touches it. Also has another cool guitar solo in it and a sweet riff running right though it. Why didn't they write more songs like this? Even the handclaps don't bug me, and they usually do.

However what does bug me is the awful, awful "Passion piece", which has no passion I can see, other than a passion it should be over. Bloody flute! And twenties style music too. Not to mention Billy Lyall, in addition to writing it, decides to sing it too. God how I hate this! The album finally comes to an end with "Dear artist", another Lyall effort but miles better, a nice piano ballad which does its best to make you forget "Passion piece", and mostly succeeds. At least Paton manages to wrest the mike from his grasp: don't let that man sing again, please!

TRACKLISTING


1. You're my number 1
2. Love is
3. Call me round
4. 55 degrees north by 3 degrees west
5. To you alone
6. Do me good
7. Heard it all before
8. Bad to me
9. You're devotion
10. January
11. Passion piece
12. Dear artist

Morin Heights (1975)


You certainly can't fault this band for their output. Two albums in 1975 and their next hits the shelves the following year. It has a certain funk element in it as it opens on "Hold on", the tracks much shorter with only one over four minutes and a few barely over two. "Canada" has that by now familiar sort of marching piano and funky bass with trumpeting keys (or maybe they're real trumpets) and a guitar passage that would crop up later on APP albums like "Pyramid" and "Stereotomy", and "First after me" is a little grittier, with the guitar taking control mostly. "Steps" then is a nice ballad, built on a soft jangly guitar and some nice vocal harmonies. Actually sounds rather a lot like "Gemini" off the "Eye in the sky" album.

More of a rocker then is "Mover", and though I can't confirm this I think it might be Billy Lyall singing here; certainly doesn't sound like Paton. The excessive reverb on it though gets on my nerves, and I don't consider it that great a song to begin with. "Penny in my pocket" is a little better, though not much to be fair; it's all pretty mediocre as far as these ears are concerned. Great guitar solo all right. "Lies and lies" has a heavy piano line leading it and is more uptempo, tending sort of towards the rock end of the spectrum and with a powerful vocal from David Paton. Piano too leads "Running water", the first song on the album to make any impression upon me. A lovely slow sensual ballad with real promise, kind of puts me in mind of ELO, and of course APP; precursor to "Time" perhaps?

"Trembling" is another ballad but owes a lot to Floyd's "Any colour you like" --- well, Alan Parsons did work on "Dark side of the moon", and I think he may have produced this album, though perhaps not. Nevertheless, the similarities are impossible to ignore; they almost took parts of the guitar melody directly from the piece. "Maniac (come back)" then takes things up several notches with an uptempo bopper with some more great guitar from Bairnson, and the album closes on "Too many hopes", one more ballad very much in the Alan Parsons mode. I don't know: maybe this would have been a better album if they had spread out the ballads over it instead of bunching them all up in one --- oh hold on. The closer just got a bit more punchy in the chorus. So it's one of those songs that once again doesn't know and can't decide what it wants to be. Says it all about this band really.

TRACKLISTING

1. Hold on
2. Canada
3. First after me
4. Steps
5. The mover
6. Penny in my pocket
7. Lies and lies
8. Running water
9. Trembling
10. Maniac (come back)
11. Too many hopes

Two's a crowd (1977)

There's something of a slightly more orchestral arrangement to the opener on what would be Pilot's last album, and the sound that would become that of the Alan Parsons Project continues to evolve on "Get up and go", with a nice solo from Ian Bairnson and a boppy uptempo happy feel to it; quite good actually. Bily Lyall had by now left the band, so it was basically the core of Bairnson and Paton, and to be honest it shows. Second track, "Library door" is a nice sort of acoustic ballad driven on what sounds like a nice soft accordion (may be keys of course) and contains one of those riffs that was to become the signature sound of the APP. Recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios and with Alan Parsons in the producer's chair, it's already sounding like Pilot's best album. Mind you, "Creeping round midnight" is more like something off the last album, or the one before that: boppy pop tune with a squidgy bass line but a bit lacking somehow.

"One good reason why", a song whose title would be used on a later APP album, is another lovely ballad, while "There's a place" is pure seventies slow disco really, very generic, kind of David Cassidyesque, which is not to say I don't like it but I could live without it. Ditto "The other side"; it's okay but a bit lightweight. Yes I know we're talking about Pilot, but still. Another nice ballad in "Monday Tuesday", very Bread in nature, with again some gorgeous orchestration. "Ten feet tall" is like something off Sergeant Pepper's but showcases the occasionally manic voice Paton would use on the odd APP track later, and it has an interesting almost tuba-like sound on it.

There's quite a progressive feel to "Evil eye", and you can really feel the APP sound just really taking over now: it's almost eighty percent a Parsons album at this point, with "Mr Do or Die" proving the point with a very familiar bassline and melody, despite the innate funkiness of it. Kind of more like the stuff Alan attempted solo in the nineties really. The album then ends on "Big screen kill", with a big rolling drum into and slide guitar, a final ballad to close the final Pilot album.

TRACKLISTING


1. Get up and go
2. Library door
3. Creeping around midnight
4. One good reason why
5. There's a place
6. The other side
7. Monday Tuesday
8. Ten feet tall
9. Evil eye
10. Mr. Do or Die
11. Big screen kill

So that's Pilot, a band who had two big hits in the mid seventies then disbanded, but each in their own way went on to find fame, apart from poor Billy Lyall, whose singing I so slagged off, who succumbed to an AIDS-releated illness and died in 1989. I'm not really sure why Paton and Bairnson decided to re-record this last album again, twenty-five years later, but they did and it was retitled "Blue yonder" (more imagery that would find its way into Alan Parsons's second solo album), I guess symbolising that Pilot the band had gone to that great aircraft graveyard in the sky. I wouldn't say they were integral to the seventies pop music scene, but then, without them we might not have had the distinctive sounds of the Alan Parsons Project, to say nothing of 10cc. From such small beginnings, eh?

Next time I'll be looking at another British pop band who had one big hit, but who recorded six albums, a bunch of lads called Jigsaw.
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Old 07-05-2013, 04:13 PM   #1835 (permalink)
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Nice Diamond Head review, the problem with Diamond Head was quite simply that they did everything wrong. They used a family member as a manager instead of a professional, dished out their debut album in a cheap and bland cover in an age where metal sold by its album cover (just look at every big album cover around at that time) refused to gig in London as they felt they didn't need to and were soon relegated to supporting bands that didn't even come close to their own talent. When they finally got a break, instead of building on it they then decided to go and record Canterbury, very much the type of album a metal band puts out when they've already made it big and not the type of album that metal needed from the band. Personally I think their debut is one of the top 10 metal albums ever recorded.

Several years later and thanks to the Metallica connection, they then got another chance of success but both bad luck and bad decisions blew it for them again.

I once read that at the time they were seen as the next Led Zeppelin by the music press, but I think that referred to their talent and not so much their actual sound.
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Old 07-05-2013, 05:50 PM   #1836 (permalink)
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I'm one of those people who buys certain magazines (no, not those type!) which come with a free disc, and I almost never bother listening to it. This could very well be a mistake, as these discs can have some really good music on it that I will miss by not at least spinning the damn thing. So this section is going to look at such discs, the ones I've collected and any new ones I get, and see what's on them. I'll be picking one track off a disc, probably at random, and talking about it and the artiste associated with it, finding out all I can about him her or them, and letting you know why I rate or don't rate it. Given my tastes you'll not be surprised to hear that these will mostly be progressive rock or metal songs, with some AOR thrown in and perhaps the odd classic rock tune too. Sure we'll see how it goes. If nothing else, at least I'll manage to listen to the damn things!

So this is the first track I'm going to pick, from a CD that came free with "Classic Rock presents Prog" (don't anyone say the acronym should be CRAP!) and it's from a band who call themselves The Windmill.

This, then, is the CD. They call their prog selections "Prognosis" (clever, eh?) and this is Prognosis 10

which came free with the April 2010 issue of CRpP (yeah, that far back!)

Don't be afraid
The Windmill
From the album "To be continued" (2010) on Helping Hand Records

Well, so much for the source, but what of the music? Well seems the Windmill are from Holland --- nah, just kidding! They're from that other country well-known for such structures, er, Norway. They've been together since 2001, but have taken nine years to release their first album. Well, strictly speaking only five: they began recording it in 2005, having spent the intervening four years gigging and writing material, as well as going through lineup changes. As of 2010, their personell consisted of:
Jean Robert Vilta (Founder) --- Vocals and keyboards
Morten Clason (Founding Member) --- Vocals, keyboards, sax, flute, guitars
Arnfinn Isakssen (Founding Member) --- Bass
Stig Andre Clason --- Guitar
Erik Borgen --- Guitars
Sam Arne Noland --- Drums

Under this lineup the band released "To be continued", from which this track is taken. The album only has six tracks, but in true prog rock style one (this one) is ten minutes long while another clocks in at a hefty twenty-four minutes, or a few seconds shy of that. Because of the ups and downs with personell while the album was being recorded there are two drummers credited here, one of whom has left, plus a guitarist who has also departed.

The Windmill's music is best described as neo-progressive rock pulling from the influences of the greats like Genesis, Yes and Floyd, yet with a curiously up to date sound. Their second album was only recently released, so this is not a band who are given to churning out substandard albums it would seem, although to be fair I've only heard this one track. Try as I might I can't track down a decently-priced copy of either album, but Spotify has them both so I'm shortly to indulge. As it happens, the second album, which is called, rather appropriately given the title of the debut, "The Continuation", has even less tracks on it than "To be continued..." with only five, although this time there's a twelve minuter and a twenty-five minute track!


But to the track in hand. As I say, it's from their debut album "To be continued" and runs for just a few seconds over ten minutes, so it's a good introduction to the band. It opens with soft rolling synth quickly punctutated by sharp percussion and then gentle flutework from Morten Clason, before the song settles down into a nice little piano-driven tune with measured drumming, and the vocals of Jean Vilta are clear and warm with I believe a touch of the singer from Also Eden, not that you'd know him unless you read my review of their "Differences as light" album a good while back. Guitars are quite restrained but definitely audible. I would say personally the contribution from Clason's flutes is something I could do without: it's almost like they're just there for the sake of being there, and certainly don't add anything to the song, in fact to my mind they take from the general feel of it except as the piece moves into its second movement with hard guitars breaking through and stirring organ work.

A nice instrumental break which showcases the varied talents of this band, the flutes this time firing off in concert with the guitar riffs while the organ booms behind them. There's almost a flute solo then around the fifth minute before guitar takes over, then hands back over to flute again. This time the guitar follows the flute, and it's a nice progression. Clason's flutework is definitely more palatable when it's soft and pastoral than when he tries to make it a little more aggressive a la Jethro Tull perhaps. Nice guitar solo at the seventh minute, then Clason does just what I have been talking about and don't like, making the flute too punchy and upfront. As we hit the eighth minute Vilta comes back in accompanied by gentle piano, soon joined by rising guitar as the song heads towards its final part, with a nice guitar and vocal ending, though Clason's flute trails away as the final instrument you hear.

It's perhaps a little overlong. Ten minutes for a song that could easily have been compressed into five without losing too much of its shape or meaning, and I do have to wonder what I'm in for when I sample the longer tracks on both albums. It's a nice song though and I certainly remember it as being the highlight of this disc, along with Also Eden, Touchstone and Syzygy. I never quite realised before though how annoying the flute is. It's not that the song doesn't need flute --- well, it doesn't really --- but it's just used in the wrong way, as far as I can see. Soft, luxuriant flute yes, hard, abrasive, look-at-me flute no. That aside though it's a great track that has led me to check out the album and once I have had a chance to do that it will probably end up being reviewed here or in "Bitesize".

Does it show the craft of five years' writing? I'd say it shows that it definitely wasn't thrown together over a wet weekend in Margate. The problem, if there is one, may lie in the fact that maybe it was worked on for too long, and has been a little overproduced. But a very good effort for a first example from a relatively new band.
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Old 07-06-2013, 02:01 AM   #1837 (permalink)
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I thought that was Richard Gere on the cover of Rock Prog.
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:25 AM   #1838 (permalink)
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Roger Waters, but yeah, I can see how you thought that.
Interesting you see Diamond Head pretty much the same way I do: ruined by mummy-management, poor promotion and an arrogance in their own fanbase that eventually lost it to them. The final straw was the "Grim Reaper" stunt: what a tool! DH could have been so so much more, but when a band (only starting out) gets ideas above their station it's a slippery slope.

I thought it was hilarious that the Metallica fans thought Diamond Head were covering Metallica when in fact it was their own song Metallica had covered! Just shows you, perception is everything!
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Old 07-06-2013, 02:41 PM   #1839 (permalink)
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Hey dude, if I sent you an album, would you review it? BTW, the possible albums I'd like to send you are...

Dragonforce - Inhumane Rampage
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
Queen - Hot Space
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Old 07-07-2013, 08:34 AM   #1840 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Hey dude, if I sent you an album, would you review it? BTW, the possible albums I'd like to send you are...

Dragonforce - Inhumane Rampage
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
Queen - Hot Space
Ok well Inhuman Rampage I've already done if I recall, Paul McCartney I don't like (not a Beatles fan) and I tend not to review albums I don't have an interest in. Queen: meh, I've heard bad things about Hot Space but I might give it a go. I've a massive backlog though so it wouldn't be any time soon.
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