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Old 06-03-2013, 07:01 AM   #301 (permalink)
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1976

For most of the years so far it has always been about which albums to leave off the Top 10 and at times it has been a real struggle trying to decide, but in the case of 1976 that has not been so and I actually struggled to find quality albums for the year! As far as the heavy music genre went 1976 was a very poor year and easily the worst year I’ve featured so far. As always there are classic albums near the top of the list, but I really struggled to find good enough albums for the lower end of the list and ended putting releases that would not have even been considered in other years, as there was just so many mediocre and disappointing albums released within the heavy genre for the year. At the top end of the spectrum giants such as Led Zeppelin were a sure case of how the mighty had fallen as evidenced on the mediocre and dull Presence, Black Sabbath firmly believed that a great band could do anything and were serving us up a portion of Technical Drivel and Deep Purple were no more. Budgie had lost their fire, Uriah Heep their focus, Nazareth had totally lost the plot and I’ve no idea what UFO were thinking about when the released Heavy Petting! The new debut albums were an average to woeful bunch from artists like Y&T, Granmax, Starz, Lone Star, Taste, Sammy Hagar, Krokus and Bow Wow which were all artists that really needed to do better and in a lot of cases could. Luckily it was bands like Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy and Kiss that kept the ship afloat and Rainbow were certainly one of the most creative and one of the very best throughout the year. Elsewhere to a degree the same thing was occurring, as the prog scene had dried up unless it happened to be Rush and polished bands like the Eagles and newbies Boston were leading the way forward and ruling on the charts. The most creative stuff was coming from the art rock genre by artists like Patti Smith and course most crucially punk had now reared its head with the arrival of the Ramones debut.

*By 1976 the amount of albums that were coming out and being described as hard rock was quite astounding and it seemed like parameters were failry non-existent as well. The reality was that a lot of these bands were primarily rock acts that had some heavy songs, had added a heavy backdrop to their sound or were just going through a transition period that included putting out a heavier album than normal, rather than being a hard rock band in the vein of either Led Zeppelin and UFO etc. So bands like Boston and Heart amongst many I've seen on various musical lists don't really belong on this list and would fit far better on an AOR list. Also the year saw the release of 2112 by Rush and yet again that goes better on a progressive rock list than here. I also some time ago eliminated bluesy artists such as Humble Pie who had featured early on as I felt their sound didn't fit here anymore. I've also largely ignored southern rock and the heavier aspirations of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd who I feel at the end of the day are still very much southern rock and not hard rock. From 1977 I aim to tighten the parameters even more, as heavy metal starts to become a more prominent moniker for some bands than hard rock and any hard rock band that I include needs to be nearer the heavier end of the spectrum as well, so 1976 might be the final year where I feature albums at the lighter end of the spectrum*
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Old 06-08-2013, 07:19 AM   #302 (permalink)
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10. Ian Gillan Band Child in Time 1976 (Polydor)
Jazz-Rock Fusion

Look to the future and an odd step in time.


Overview

Ian Gillan would be the first of the so-called giants of the heavy genre of the 1970s to start a solo career and release a solo album, Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourne were still a few years off from doing this. This solo career of course had been laid in his path through his sacking from Deep Purple rather than through choice, the sacking had largely been due to his constant creative bust-ups with Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. It was thought initially that Ian Gillan would stick with past glories and return to the Deep Purple sound of old circa Machine Head 1972, but instead he carried on the funk induced sound that Glenn Hughes had brought to the band and just decided to thump up the volume a notch or two in places! Funk though of course was not exactly a novelty for Ian Gillan, as a funky sound had already been hinted at by Deep Purple on the Fireball album several years earlier. Fireball had often regarded as a ‘sore thumb’ of an album by the Mk.II line-up of the band, but was always loved by Ian Gillan himself and I was always a big fan of it as well. In surely what was a commercial ploy the Ian Gillan debut was named after the classic Deep Purple track “Child in Time” and given a musical overhaul by Ian Gillan on this album. When it came to a selection of backing musicians the name ‘Ian Gillan’ was certainly going to attract a quality set of musicians for the album. These include the always excellent John Gustafson ex Quatermass and Hard Stuff etc who was the best known band-wise and then there were quality session musicians in Ray Fenwick, Mark Nauseef and Mike Moran, along with a number of other uncredited musicians who appear on the album. The album would unsurprisingly be produced by Roger Glover now a full-time producer and surely one of the busiest producers on the scene along with Jack Douglas at the time. When it came to album material, it really was a band effort as all the principal band members along with Roger Glover were contributing here. The album would also turn out to be one of the harder rocking offerings in the Ian Gillan discography and after this he would continue to stay with the jazz-fusion style of this album.

Ian Gillan- Vocals
Ray Fenwick- Guitar
John Gustafsson- Bass
Mike Moran-Keyboards
Mark Nauseef- Drums

Production- Roger Glover

Album
Lay Me Down
- From the word go there is a heavy rhythm section evident here and Ian Gillan enters proceedings without too much bravado by his standards. The song also feels like a simple album opener rather than an opening statement. You Make Me Feel So Good- I saw a review that stated that this song sounded similar to something that Sly Stone would’ve recorded, but as I’m not familiar with Sly Stone that much so I’ll take their word for it. Shame- At just 2 plus minutes this essentially feels like typical album filler. My Baby Loves Me- A song that doesn’t really go anywhere but drives itself along at a steady pace. Down the Road- the first real obvious vocal dominant track on the album and the best song on the first side of the album. Child in Time- The showpiece track of the album and a cover of the classic Deep Purple epic from the In Rock album. Let it Slide- A jazz rock number that is also atmospheric in its execution and at 11 plus minutes is a real quality bit of work.

Verdict
Child in Time represents a strong blend of a funky rhythm heavy sound, which at times accommodates Ian Gillan’s voice rather than Ian Gillan simply taking centre stage. On the album’s second track “You Make Me Feel So Good” we can see a more experimental slow plodding side of the album and this is a heavy number with another high dosage of funk and I think this song may well sum up the scope of the album as a whole. “Down the Road” the side closer shows a certain maturity by Ian Gillan and is probably the best song on what is not an overly strong first side of an album. The simple fact of the matter is, that the type of sound that Ian Gillan is trying to put out here, was certainly more suited to the talents of an artist like Glenn Hughes who cut this type of thing better! Now when we go onto the second side of the album, this is where the album actually does cut it and its two songs a cover of “Child in Time” and “Let it Slide” are essentially the highlights of the album. "Child in Time" is a heartfelt cover of the original and the guitar of Ray Fenwick is the real highlight here, as his guitar gives the song a luxurious and warm feel, making it a different song in essence from the original. “Let it Slide” is lengthy album piece dominated by its feel and atmospherics and sits perfectly with “Child in Time”. In some ways the quality distribution of this album which favours its second side, is similar to the well-known Iron Butterfly In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album, which also suffered from an average first side and only really took off with its classics title track which dominated the second side of that album. This is also an album that gives over to repeated listens, but I’ll be clear now and say, that despite the album offering us a dense and mature feel and with a lot of talent on show with its array of session musicians the album is far from being a classic. The album though, does offer us an interesting insight in to what Ian Gillan was doing at this time, which might surprise some people who were probably not familiar with what the special one was doing around this time! Child in Time stands as an interesting start to Ian Gillan’s solo career, rather than a sounding like the high profile debut that could’ve been expected from him.

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Old 06-08-2013, 09:38 AM   #303 (permalink)
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At the time, jazz rock seemed a strange style for Ian Gillan to adopt for the first stage of his solo work - I expected an album of full-on shouting. So, despite the quality musicians involved, it was disappointing. The later Mr Universe album was credited to Gillan (the band) and, although it had a horrible production, was far more in keeping with what everyone expected. In addition, the performance at Reading 1981, showed that Gillan could come up with great music without Deep Purple (even if it did include Smoke on the Water). His live shows were very atmospheric and Glory Road continued the style.

With hindsight, the Child in Time album does not seem so bad, but the remastered Mr Universe is the solo album to which I keep returning. When Deep Purple reformed in 1984, for Knebworth and Perfect Strangers, they were better than ever. Sadly, it didn't last. Listening to Ian Gillan's new EP, Vincent Price, the Bob Ezrin production seems to be turning him into Alice Cooper!

Fireball is a great album and I also like Who Do We Think We Are? Both have a sort of funk-blues feel, especially with Fools and Place In the Line. Both tracks are massively underrated in favour of Black Night, Smoke On the Water, Child in Time, etc.
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Old 06-08-2013, 09:47 AM   #304 (permalink)
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I've always thought that version of Child In Time is what it would have sounded had Pink Floyd been Ian Gillan's backing band instead of Deep Purple.
I don't really listen to that album much. I find myself listening to Clear Air Turbulence a lot more.
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Old 06-08-2013, 10:26 AM   #305 (permalink)
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At the time, jazz rock seemed a strange style for Ian Gillan to adopt for the first stage of his solo work - I expected an album of full-on shouting. So, despite the quality musicians involved, it was disappointing. The later Mr Universe album was credited to Gillan (the band) and, although it had a horrible production, was far more in keeping with what everyone expected. In addition, the performance at Reading 1981, showed that Gillan could come up with great music without Deep Purple (even if it did include Smoke on the Water). His live shows were very atmospheric and Glory Road continued the style.

With hindsight, the Child in Time album does not seem so bad, but the remastered Mr Universe is the solo album to which I keep returning. When Deep Purple reformed in 1984, for Knebworth and Perfect Strangers, they were better than ever. Sadly, it didn't last. Listening to Ian Gillan's new EP, Vincent Price, the Bob Ezrin production seems to be turning him into Alice Cooper!

Fireball is a great album and I also like Who Do We Think We Are? Both have a sort of funk-blues feel, especially with Fools and Place In the Line. Both tracks are massively underrated in favour of Black Night, Smoke On the Water, Child in Time, etc.
I always thought that Mr.Universe was the best solo album that Ian Gillan ever did, It was also produced by a number of lesser known producers which probably didn't help things in that respect. Again you have a lot of experience from this period of having seen these artists like Ian Gillan live, I never saw Deep Purple in concert until many years later. I also never thought of Perfect Strangers as a good album but I do remember that it had some great starting off tracks before fading quite a bit, but when I re-listen to it I'll see what I think of it again, as I've seen quite of lot of reviews mainly positive about it recently.

Well Bob Ezrin is Bob Ezrin when it comes to production and he really made Alice Cooper the star that he was in the 1970s and he also gave Kiss on their Destroyer album in 1976 (there best album imo) the Ezrin workover as well, but then again I'm a big fan of Bob Ezrin as a producer because besides producing he often used to write material and play on the albums that he produced, must admit I didn't know he was working with Deep Purple now!

Fireball was always one of my favourite DP albums even though quality wise it's a notch below Machine Head and In Rock and as for Who Do You Think We Are? I think that's a shambles of an album and the whole thing sounds like a bad studio session, they should've never released it as there was nowhere near enough quality material.

Also do you know that Armageddon album I posted just a page back? As it's the kind of thing I imagine you either really liking or at least appreciating. If you haven't heard it then do so.

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I've always thought that version of Child In Time is what it would have sounded had Pink Floyd been Ian Gillan's backing band instead of Deep Purple.
I don't really listen to that album much. I find myself listening to Clear Air Turbulence a lot more.
Good point as it does have an atmospheric feel that Pink Floyd could have offered and I guess the same could be said for "Let it Slide" As for Clear Air Turbulence I think I've only listened to that once but I know I've pencilled it in to listen to for 1977.
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Old 06-08-2013, 12:39 PM   #306 (permalink)
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I think Who Do We Think We Are? has plenty of good tracks: Woman From Tokyo, Mary Long, Rat Bat Blue and (my favourite) Place in the Line. Perfect Strangers is a great album and does not have a weak track, although, admittedly, Gillan's lyrics leave a bit to be desired. I also think there are good things to be found on House of Blue Light and The Battle Rages On. Nobody's Perfect has a great version of Hush with Ian Gillan on lead vocals, while the In the Absence of Pink: Knebworth '85 (not released until 1991) is a strong live companion to Perfect Strangers. I love Deep Purple and would rather have material from them on an off day, than most bands on a good day. Sadly, I never saw them live. I had plans to see them (I think) around the time Tommy Bolin joined, but it fell through.

I do know the Armageddon album, although I overlooked it at the time. Keith Relf was a member of the early and best Renaissance. They (the original Renaissance) continued as Illusion, with Jane Relf in place of Keith. Bobby Caldwell, who always seemed to miss the boat, was also a member of Armageddon.

US, have you heard DT's Made in Japan? The combination of DP and DT is great!
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Old 06-08-2013, 12:58 PM   #307 (permalink)
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Some gems from Deep Purple with Gillan and Blackmore:







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Old 06-08-2013, 04:08 PM   #308 (permalink)
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09. Piper Piper 1976 (A&M)
Hard Rock

Rock meets candy in a melodic shuffle.


Overview

The band are best remembered for being a vehicle for future solo artist Billy Squier who was popular for a while in the 1980s with his brand of guitar based melodic hard rock. Billy Squier was originally in several bands in the early 1970s, including being in the Sidewinders with then future NY Dolls drummer Jerry Nolan, before going onto to form Piper in the mid-1970s. Musically the band had their stall well and truly set out by quickly bedding down with the sound that they wanted to put out, which was basically a hard rock meets glam rock style sound and with a strong eye on commercialism. Sadly for them commercial success wasn’t immediately on the cards and it took Billy Squier to go solo a few years later to achieve that aim. Their lack of success probably wasn’t through lack of trying or opportunities, as the band had plenty of exposure in the 1976 to 1977 period. They had served as an opening act for the likes of both Kiss and the Electric Light Orchestra at the time and their honest hard rock approach, with a dash of past hard rock icons and glam rock made them easy on the ear as well. Their debut album would certainly fall at the melodic end of the hard rock spectrum and has a surprising array of pop hooks as well, a style that would serve future solo artist Billy Squier quite well in the 1980s. Billy Squier himself was certainly one of a new breed of numerous guitarist/vocalists that would go solo in the second half of the 1970s in a trend that had already been set by the likes of Rick Derringer stateside. It was probable that the Rick Derringer debut may well have had an influence on the Piper debut as there are some similarities between the two albums and Billy Squier as an artist certainly proved to be more melodic and more refined than some of his nearest contemporaries such as Sammy Hagar or Ted Nugent. The album itself had a proven producer in John Anthony who had worked with some of the biggest names in the business in Van der Graaf Generator, Genesis, Roxy Music and Queen. The album itself certainly has his touch buried in the proceedings and it stands as a fair slice of hard rock candy.

Billy Squier- Guitar/Vocals
Alan Nolan- Guitar
Tommy Gunn- Guitar
Danny McGary- Bass
Richie Fontana- Drums

Production- John Anthony

Album
Out of Control-
A solid album opener with a dominant vocal approach by frontman Billy Squier and the song really has a fairly infectious sound circa 1976! What’cha Gonna Do?- One of the best tracks on the album with its accomplished mix of hard rock meets glam rock and does the business as they say. The Road- One of the more accomplished songs on the album, which moves along quite nicely and ends with a hard rock workout near the end, an obvious choice for a single here. Sail Away- On some of the songs there is a slight detection of a bluesy southern rock sound and this song is certainly one of those, but when Billy Squier’s vocals kick in that southern rock feel quickly disappears. Who’s Your Boyfriend?(I Got a Feelin’)- A great example of the band’s pop sensibilities with this hooky bubble-gum style track. Telephone Relation- Another obvious choice for a single here with its fuzzy backdrop. Last Time- A cover of the Rolling Stones’ song and regarded as one of the lesser efforts on the album. 42nd Street- One of the hard rock centric numbers on the album and one of the best on the b-side of the album. Can’t Live Without Ya (Can’t Live Without Ya)- A decent album closer to a steady album.

Verdict
In a year of medicocre debut albums, the Piper debut was certainly a cut above the rest despite its lack of originality. Piper to their credit though, gave us a cohesive sound across the breadth of an album with a fair amount of quality and with no obvious weaknesses The song compositions are lengthy for a band of their type and they do tend to drag here and there, but there is certainly a musical prowess by the band members to stay focused on the majority of the tracks. Billy Squier serves us up a Mick Jagger style approach and certainly adopts a cock-sure approach with his vocals and his singing shows surprisingly good range on most of the tracks. The musical arrangements of the band are tight overall and the album should appeal to both melodic hard rock fans of the era, as it would also to fans of the UK glam scene of the early 1970s as well. The strength of the Piper debut is that it stands out as a cut above the rest in what was a very average year, but in its defence the songs are tight and the band never get bogged down in trying to fill these songs out. Overall the compositions are mostly penned by Billy Squier, whose compositions were basic in their approach and with a strong eye on commercialism, but they also had infectious pop hooks that were given backbone with some hard rock muscle. Whilst the album is not essential in any way, it’s still an enjoyable listen for anybody into melodic hard rock of the era. I also saw on a website from a music reviewer at the time, calling this one of the best American debuts by a heavy band in the 1970s, all I can say is that opinion is extremely far-fetched…. but then again I’ve heard of lesser albums than this being handed out such great plaudits as well! Piper themselves were short lived and only managed to put out one more album after their debut and that was the inferior Can’t Wait the following year.

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Old 06-08-2013, 04:17 PM   #309 (permalink)
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I think Who Do We Think We Are? has plenty of good tracks: Woman From Tokyo, Mary Long, Rat Bat Blue and (my favourite) Place in the Line. Perfect Strangers is a great album and does not have a weak track, although, admittedly, Gillan's lyrics leave a bit to be desired. I also think there are good things to be found on House of Blue Light and The Battle Rages On. Nobody's Perfect has a great version of Hush with Ian Gillan on lead vocals, while the In the Absence of Pink: Knebworth '85 (not released until 1991) is a strong live companion to Perfect Strangers. I love Deep Purple and would rather have material from them on an off day, than most bands on a good day. Sadly, I never saw them live. I had plans to see them (I think) around the time Tommy Bolin joined, but it fell through.
"Woman from Tokyo" is the only good song on the album and I don't like "Mary Long" at all and there is a section of "Place in Line" which sounds like Bob Dylan and that put me right off the song I'm actually looking forward when the time comes to listen to the Deep Purple releases of the 1980s and I can remember that Joe Lynn Turner called "The Battle Rages On" as "The Cattle Grazes On". Also it would've been great to have seen them with Tommy Bolin in the line-up.

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I do know the Armageddon album, although I overlooked it at the time. Keith Relf was a member of the early and best Renaissance. They (the original Renaissance) continued as Illusion, with Jane Relf in place of Keith. Bobby Caldwell, who always seemed to miss the boat, was also a member of Armageddon.
The album was relatively new to me but I was so impressed with its grandiose feel and really is a fusion of progressive rock and hard rock into one.

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US, have you heard DT's Made in Japan? The combination of DP and DT is great!
I've heard most of Dream Theaters' studio and live stuff but not that release
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:51 AM   #310 (permalink)
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08. Moxy Moxy 1976 (Polydor)
Hard Rock
Baby don't hesitate........it's getting late!


Overview

The Moxy debut turned out to be easily one of the best hard rock debut releases over the 1975 to 1976 period and believe me a lot were released! The current problem at the time, was that ‘hard rock’ had finally broken big stateside initially with the British wave of bands led by Led Zeppelin and now bands like Aerosmith and Kiss were leading the charge there. Hence the current problem, as around 50% of these new North American bands simply tried to duplicate both the Aerosmith and Kiss sound, but most of the time they would fall well short of this. The other 40% had decided to give us a basic hard rock approach name-checking previous hard rock icons, but usually fell well short on creativity. Luckily though there was a redeeming 10% who knew what they were doing and had the talent to pull it off, Canadian band Moxy were one such outfit in this respect. Originally this album had been released back in their native Canada in 1975, but luckily I’ve qualified it for this year thanks to the fact that it got its rest of the world release in 1976! Moxy were originally formed by Buzz Shearman after his previous band Leigh Ashford had folded and thanks to his musical links the new Moxy line-up quickly got a deal with Polydor Canada and set about recording this debut set. Now the album has something of a conundrum attached to it, in that super-duper guitarist Tommy Bolin whose praises I’ve sung often enough here had added extra guitar parts to the album. His presence on the album was purely coincidental rather than planned, as when Moxy were recording this album in California, Tommy Bolin just happened to be in the next recording studio and was said to have been really impressed with what he was hearing and would then add some of his own guitar work to the album. This now begs the question of just how good this album would’ve been without Tommy Bolin featuring on guitar and would the album have had the same quality if he hadn’t featured? The album was an instant success in terms of getting airplay and its quality was head and shoulders above most other bands new on the hard rock scene at the time, but alas as is often the case the early fire that surrounded the band quickly diminished, as their second release also out in 1976 just didn’t have the songs, despite being produced by the ever productive Jack Douglas who failed to spark the band. The album cover is also great with its simple black and white style and it certainly denotes that the album is heavy, I'm guessing AC/DC may have picked up on this album style as well.

Buzz Shearman- Vocals
Earl Johnson- Guitar
Buddy Caine- Guitar
Terry Juric- Bass
Bill Wade- Drums

Tommy Bolin- Guitar solos

Production- Mark Smith

Album
Fantasy- With an almost film-score start, the song soon mellows out but the song constantly maintains its subdued heavy backdrop, before a guitar solo by Tommy Bolin guides the song out. Sail on Sail Away- Some nice guitar plucking to start the song before phasing us into a heavy section and then back into a mellow section again, but ultimately the song ends up as a heavy effort in the end. Can’t You See I’m a Star- Now things start to sound a lot cooler, as the song is a fairly infectious hard rock stunner with some great vocals by Buzz Shearman and one of the best on the album. Moon Rider (Moonrider)- This Led Zeppelin inspired track follows on from the quality of the previous track and gives us some of Tommy Bolin’s best guitar work on the album, I’m certain that Rush at a much later date ripped part of this song, but who can blame them when a song is this good! Time to Move On- A steady song but nothing to set the world alight with. Still I Wonder- Another slowish and heavy workout and probably the best of its type on the album. Train- Another one of the overtly Led Zeppelin style tracks on the album and again they do it well here. Out of the Darkness- Slow, heavy and a real pounding mother….. hell this is what’s it’s all about!

Verdict
First up this is a strong album in most facets and from the opening track the feel of the album is quickly embraced, as most of the songs have that slow, often mellow and then heavy style backdrop where it matters. The opening track “Fantasy” encompasses most of the above and is further highlighted by one of the Tommy Bolin’s solos on the album. The second track “Sail on Sail Away” is a great combination of mellow meets heavy and is focused on strong rhythm changes within the song. By the time of the third track “Can’t You See I’m a Star” things start to sound really cool now and the song is almost Led Zeppelin in its style and in its execution, and then the band take us one step further up the ladder with the epic “Moon Rider (Moonrider)” and Buzz Shearman gives a display of what hard rock singing is all about here, whilst Tommy Bolin drop his pants again! Overall the majority of the tracks tend to veer themselves to the slower and heavier side of the hard rock spectrum and songs like “Still I Wonder” and “Train” are prime examples of this, but of this style it’s the album closer “Out of the Darkness” that steals the show here in this respect. Overall the album does have a couple of tracks that seem to just exist, rather than sounding as good as they could have done and a song like “Time to Move on” is a perfect example of this, where the guitar work overly dominates the rest of the track. The Moxy debut in many ways kind of reminds me of the Hard Stuff debut Bulletproof, which was released a few years earlier and previously reviewed by me. Both albums display an honest sounding hard rock effort full of solid tracks, but with enough variety in tempo to keep the listener interested all the way through. One of the stars of the album is certainly vocalist Buzz Shearman who sounds like a muscled up version of Geddy Lee at times but with a Robert Plant type swagger to his voice. On the slower tracks he hold his own, but it’s when things get heavier and sweatier that Buzz Shearman shows us his worth in the vocal department, but the ultimate failure of the band basically denied us one of the great heavy vocalists of the time.

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Last edited by Unknown Soldier; 06-11-2013 at 07:53 AM.
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