About Me

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Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom
Born in the late 60's, Paul hails from a Welsh mining village with a long name and was pretty glad when he got the Hell out of there. He got into Rock/Metal in about 1980, thanks to a TISWAS related incident (Rainbow video for All Night Long) and thankfully has never looked back. Paul often sang solo in the school choir, but thanks to a puberty related incident his voice is now completely bolloxed, although in his own head Paul thinks he sounds like a blend of Coverdale and Dio (R.I.P). He was brought up on the classics - Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Rush, Whitesnake and loved melodic rock and the Hair Bands of the 80's. (Nowadays, he has progressed a little and prefers a more technical and/or progressive metal - Dream Theater, Rush, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Spock's Beard. He hates Black and Death Metal (can't stand the grunting) but for some unknown reason loves the magnificent Opeth! He wont stop this blog until his beloved FM finally play the likes of the NEC as a headlining act!!!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Rainbow - Rising (Deluxe Edition)

Every Home Should Have One!

May 2011 sees the 35th (yes 35th ) anniversary of Rainbow’s Rising album, an album underrated by many, but today sounds as great as it ever did, and then some. To be totally honest I have to nail my colours to the mast. Rising was the first ‘proper’ album I purchased along with ‘Deepest Purple’ back in 1980. It’s this album that set me on my way for all the music I love still today. It is a classic piece of work, and a testament to the work of Blackmore and Dio, who really should have created more than they did. Blackmore tinkered way too much, as this was THE definitive Rainbow line up. Fed up with the lounge-esque Elf line-up, some steel was added with the force of Cozy Powell’s drumming, the pounding bass of Jimmy Bain, and Tony Carey who could match Blackmore’s classical dexterity note for note and was no longer the ‘Ritchie and Ronnie’ show. ‘Rising’ captured the band at their peak. Even the album sleeve was a work of art. Ken Kelly’s iconic work was meant to grace an album cover. Somewhat diminished on CD, it still remains a striking piece – the little touches of a guard in the corner looking out to the sea, and an owl perched on top of the cliffs.

If there ever was a starting point to tell people what albums to listen to (from any era of rock) ‘Rising’ would be high upon my list. Not just for a glimpse into the many faces of Rainbow, but  Rock/Metal in general – this was a heavy as Rainbow ever got. A couple of years later, this formula was lost trying to chase chart success in the US., which some may argue was a better version. I wholeheartedly disagree despite my love for JLT.  When people talk about Metal in the 70s, Sabbath, Priest and Led Zep come to the fore, but, Rainbow’s ‘Rising’ is an album whose quality dictates that it should be talked about in the same vein. Rising went on to achieve formidable chart success reaching number 48 in the U.S. and an impressive number 6 in the U.K. This was the album that saw Rainbow equalling anything that Blackmore's previous band, Deep Purple had ever produced. 1-0 Ritchie!

Weighing in at just 33mins and 28secs (’76 era meant that any more than 40mins equalled a loss in quality) and just 6 songs, ‘Rising’ literally rose above the parapet with an album of pure unadulterated quality. Right from the off you can tell that 'Rising' is a thing of beauty, and it’s the sound of a band on FIRE. Carey’s majestic Minimoog solo intro to Tarot Woman was apparently his first take, before Blackmore’s riff, and Powell’s blistering drum beat kicks in. Ronnie James Dio has never sounded better (or more ferocious), and Blackmore’s playing was sublime. Even the (so called) lesser talked about tracks like ‘Run With The Wolf’ lamenting, ‘’there’s a hole in the sky, something evil’s passing by’’ and ‘Do You Close Your Eyes’ are classics nonetheless. ‘Starstruck’,a song that made the live set-up is about a Blackmore stalker. The undoubted star of the album was the epic Eastern sounding 'Stargazer'. Blackmore had recently taken up to playing the cello, and used it as a compositional tool, the riff came from practising with his newfound instrument. The track is eight and a half minutes of exquisite power and absolute majesty. It combines Blackmore’s love of classical music, together with Dio’s vivid fantasy inspired lyrics ‘’see how he glides, why he’s lighter than air’’, ‘’my eyes are bleeding’’ and ‘’Where is your staaaar, is it far, is it far,  faaaaarrrr’’, with Blackmore’s uninhibited guitar playing and slide work highlighting the whole piece. Last up is the (almost) equally impressive ‘A Light In The Black’ which is a much faster song than anything previous.
Cozy thundered his way thru the album, and the addition of Bain and Carey was a masterstroke. Dio complemented Blackmore’s style perfectly and the bloke literally sung his arse off – did he ever sound better than this?

To be totally honest there is little difference between the two mixes, or little to be said either. The NY mix comes across with a more ‘cleaner’ sound than the LA version. Disc 2 contains Rough mixes of all the tracks on the album, with a Sound Board Tour rehearsal version of 'Stargazer' thrown in for good measure. They include nuances as to why they were deemed Rough mix versions

The CD package has been lovingly put together, with detailed sleeve notes, pics that weren’t on the original album, all still in a gatefold style version similar to the original (only smaller). Any self respecting Rainbow (or any Rock fan come to think of it) fan will lovingly enjoy the overall package. For me, it’s one of those albums in the ‘every home should have one’ stable. It really is that good!

100/100

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Dream Theater Drummer Update - Part 1 (aka American 'Drum' Idol)


Today sees the start of an epic journey with DREAM THEATER. Part one of an intimate look at the band's search for a replacement for their infamous stixmen Mike Portnoy has launched today. Head on over to hear from the band how the news of Mike's departure was broken to the band and the start of the process to find someone who not only has the technical ability to play the Dream Theater back catalogue but who also has right chemistry with the remaining members.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Roy Khan Quits Kamelot

Taken from Kamelot's website

Kamelot statement

With a heavy heart we can now announce that Roy Khan has chosen to leave the band. We wanted to give him ample time for this kind of decision, due to his recent burnout and also the amount of amazing times we have shared with him in Kamelot. We respectfully accept his resignation from the band and wish him the best in his future endeavors. The timing is actually good since we feel the uncertainty the fans have had can now be laid to rest and the band can move on to finding a new singer. “The tour is going great so far and the fans have been amazing throughout this entire process” – adds keyboardist Oliver Palotai. With the new tour already in progress, Kamelot has already begun the search for a new vocalist. “I have a few guys in mind”, said band founder Thomas Youngblood. “And as you can imagine, it is a very important decision. There are some amazing singers that have already contacted us on this but we will take our time to find the right person”. Due to the overwhelming success of the recent shows in South America, we are pleased to announce new shows in November/December for Europe (stay tuned).
* The band headlines the Print de Temps Festival tonight and will play a Amsterdam (nearing sold-out) concert tomorrow followed by a full headliner tour with special guests Evergrey, Amaranthe and Sons of Seasons. (* Guest vocalists Fabio Lione and Tommy Karevik). Thank you for your support and see you on tour!!
Thomas, Casey, Oliver and Sean

American Idol -I'm Guilty as Charged!

Considering that every fibre in my body is saying 'dont do it Chesy', Ive been an avid watcher of AI since Season 5 (Winner, Taylor Hicks), and I dont think I have missed a single episode since. Yes there have been some extremely good and bad & ugly moments, and despite the contrary I have kept an eye out for albums by some good artists (if you can ever call a Cowell/Lythgoe act an artiste), notably Chris Daughtry, a Season 5 fourth placed Idol, Adam Lambert, S8 runner-up to Kris Allen, and Crystal Bowersox, the S9 runner up to Lee DeWyse. For your info, one of the bad and ugly was Sanjaya Malakar, who was kept in the competition purely down to his different weekly hairstyles - I shit you not!

Anywho, my reason for this short opinionated blug is to state that this years judges - Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and the 'absolutely entertaining in his own right' Steven Tyler have picked the strongest set of contestents in the last 10 seasons. In fact any one of the top 10 could win the competition. From the 'One Trick Pony' stylings of Scotty McCreery (every week is country week!), to the Luther Vandross-like Jacob 'Diva' Lusk, Haley Reinhart, a Janis Joplin style singer, and the double bass playing Casey Abrams (the only contestant to be voted back in by the judges after his elimination by the SFB - thats shit for brains - voting public of America). My tip? The absolutely bonkers, but extremely talented James Durbin. A tourettes wielding Metal Head trying to bring back Metal to the masses all on his own in the US of A

So far, we have been treated to Sammy Hagar's 'Heavy Metal' (feat. Zakk Wylde); Muse's 'Uprising', Stevie Wonder's 'Living For The City',   Bon Jovi's 'I'll Be There For You', and Judas Priest's 'You've Got Another Thing Comin'' to name but a few.

He has a range that most rock vocalists would give one of their nuts for - In Durbin's case, he already sounds like he has. Except for the week he kept it understated on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', each week he has tried to up the stakes both vocally and visually

Whether he wins or not remains to be seen, but I'm certain the bloke will be making a shitload of money and will be a household name sometime soon. Rest assured he will shift more units than the overall winner. I for one hopes he makes the final week as Tyler has promised him a duet should he get there. Vote Durbin, America!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Prog Rock Film never previously aired

See attached film which will be of interest to followers of Prog Rock. Filmed in 2002 by David Robin, he interviews Neal Morse, Steve Hackett, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Simon Phillips, Roine Stolt, and many many more that you would expect from this genre of music. Essential viewing

http://www.vimeo.com/21318405

Top 50 Albums of Mine (in no particular order!) except maybe the first 10!!

1. Rainbow - Rising
2. Rainbow - Long Live Rock n Roll
3. Deep Purple - In Rock
4. Deep Purple - Burn
5. Dio - Holy Diver
6. Autograph - Sign In Please
7. Tyketto - Dont Come Easy
8. Alter Bridge - Blackbird
9. Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell
10. Coheed & Cambria - Good Apollo Im Burning Star IV - From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness
11. Valentine - st
12. Van Halen - st
13. Only Child - st
14. Porcupine Tree - The Incident
15. Aviator - st
16. Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime
17. FM - Indiscreet
18. Foreigner -4
19. Journey - Escape
20. Giant - Last of the Runaways
21. Def Leppard - Hysteria
22. ACDC - Back In Black
23. Diving For Pearls - st
24. King Kobra - Ready To Strike
25. Kings X - Gretchen Goes To Nebraska
26. Icon - Night of the Crime
27. Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
28. Tesla - Mechanical Resonance
29. Shinedown - The Sound Of Madness
30. Riverdogs - st
31. Rush - Moving Pictures
32. Scorpions - Love At First Sting
33. David Lee Roth - Eat Em And Smile
34. Romeos Daughter - st
35. Whitesnake - 1987
36. Tradia - Trade Winds
37. Damn Yankees - st
38. Jimmy Barnes - Freight Train Heart
39. Dream Theater - Images and Words
40. Strangeways - Native Sons
41. Iron Maiden - Powerslave
42. Shadowking - st
43. Saraya - st
44. Dokken - Under Lock and Key
45. Hellsongs - Hymns in the Key of 666
46. Kamelot - The Black Halo
47. Opeth - Damnation
48. Motley Crue - Dr Feelgood
49. Prophet - Cycle Of The Moon
50. Thunder - Backstreet Symphony

So feel free to criticise, attack, enjoy or make suggestions (no doubt Ive forgotten a fair few of my faves)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

David Garrett - Rock Symphonies

'Baroque and Roll'

Ever heard of David Garrett? Neither had I until this week. Unless you’re a daytime telly watcher (Daybreak or This Morning, or even the final of Dancing On Ice), I suspect he has housewives all over the UK trembling at the knees, and possibly other places I can’t mention here! I personally blame Amazon. I was looking for some cd’s, and then later that day I received an ‘Amazon Recommends...’ email. I checked the bloke up, looked cool enough, and then checked out the track listing and his own website. Not quite a one man Apocalyptica, or should that be Apocalyptic-i.

Unfortunately he’s been described as the David Beckham of the classical world. Seeing as he is a Guinness 2010 World Record Holder for the fastest playing of a violin, he is the Chris Impelliteri of all things violin. For those wanting to know, it was an amazing 13 notes a second.

Apart from gracing the covers of Vogue, appearing on Armani catwalks, a former GQ man of the year, the face of Audi, and an ambassador for Sony and Montblanc, he is one extremely talented bloke. He upped and left his German home aged 17 to learn at the renowned NY Julliard School of Music, ended up $25k in debt as his parents refused to support him. I bet they have warmed to him now.

Cover songs are one thing, but to do the same with a crossover album, that’s a complete new ball game. ‘Rock Symphonies’ brings together DG’s two main passions, classical and RAWK! Recorded with the City OF Prague Orchestra, ‘Rock Symphonies’ is a tribute to Garrett’s favourite bands and composers – Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and some more modern masters in Page (Led Zep) , Cobain (Nirvana), Hetfield (Metallica) and McCartney.  But despite Garrett’s reservations about ‘crossover’ music, probably Classical to Rock is one of the easier ones to succeed. Let’s face it many a guitarist counts the likes of Bach, Beethoven etc as major influences. Quite a few Rock/Metal institutions have gone out on the road and succeeded with a full blown orchestra in tow  - Metallica, Scorpions, Rainbow, to name just three.  Go back 200 years and the likes of Hammett, Blackmore and Schenker would be Classical greats and their music cited as influences in the 21st Century.

Its great for Garrett and for the rock community is that he is plugging the likes of ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ which would never ever be considered by a patron of his music otherwise. He has also cleverly picked songs which make the crossover effortlessly, but in saying that Rock Music is a natural successor to the classical genre. Kashmir, for example is just dying to be made into a classical piece

It’s one thing to play fast, but another to play with technique and feeling. Thankfully Garrett is not just eyeliner and highlights. He is on extremely talented dude, and then some. Where Apolalyptica was once purely cellos, Garrett sets his stall out immediately on Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ with backing from the City of Prague Orchestra, talented guitarists Marcus Wolf and Franck Van Der Heijden (also Garretts Conductor), drummer Jeff Lipstein, and bassist Jeff Allen. Along for the ride on ‘Walk This Way’ is the über- talented Aussie Orianthi (who deserves to be huge in her own right), and sheds like only she can, and is great interplay between the two virtuosos.  Intertwined with the rock covers are some beefed up classical pieces – ‘The 5th’ currently used on a Cadbury’s Fingers ad, and is a piece that I would expect the likes of Within Temptation to pomp up. Garret plays a nice twist on ‘Vivaldi vs. Vertigo’. Although I’m not U2’s biggest fan (or a fan of them at all come to think of it) both tunes fit well with each other confirming yet again the classical / rock balance is one and the same.

And on it goes. It is consistently good from start to end, even if he does finish with Quo’s ‘Rockin All Over The World’.

As an added bonus the album comes with a live concert from his home country with an orchestra of many, and an audience of thousands. You then see just how good Garrett really is. Right from the off, from the first piece of Kashmir, where he casually walks through the crowd to the stage, he holds every member of the audience in the palm of his hand – you can see that Garrett really is a special talent indeed.

Some metal fans may think it’s a bit twee, but let’s face it Garrett won’t mind one little bit, if it means bringing home the bacon in huge amounts, and gaining worldwide recognition along the way. He is bringing rock and metal to an otherwise unsuspecting audience and they are loving every minuet (see what I did there!) of it. That in itself is a great thing

Next time I want to see him paying homage to some home grown rock from the likes of the might Scorpions and Rammstein. Then I will be one happy bunny indeed

92/100

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Big Life - ST


BIG LIFE is a new project featuring the talents of the UK's melodic rock genius, Steve Newman (NEWMAN) and ex PRAYING MANTIS frontman, Mark Thompson-Smith.
Steve Newman’s reputation in the Melodic Rock circuit is impressive - with eight immense NEWMAN albums released in the last decade, the latest being the highly acclaimed “The Art Of Balance”. Add to this his work on other albums with artists such as ATLANTIC, STEVE OVERLAND, EDEN, AOR PROJECT, FROZEN RAIN, FAR CRY, GRAND ILLUSION and PHENOMENA as both performer and engineer/producer.

Mark Thompson-Smith re-emerges from the shadows after a lengthy period out of the limelight to more than demonstrate that time has not dulled his impressive vocal powers. Best known as the singer with Praying Mantis in the early 90's and as guest vocalist in The Sweet in 2005, he has also featured as frontman for various 80's UK bands such as IDOL RICH, TOUCHE and  FLIGHT 19.
The early 90's also saw Mark working in America with Mike Walsh (DEPARTURE) and legendary keyboardist Dave Rosenthal (RAINBOW/RED DAWN/BILLY JOEL), spending two exciting years performing and recording the later released and now much sought after solo album, “A Far Cry From New Jersey”.

Returning to the UK in 1993, as the grunge band tsunami swept away the US melodic rock scene, Mark joined PRAYING MANTIS recording the impressive “Only The Children Cry” EP and completed a successful tour of Japan before leaving the band in 1994. The guys are joined by Rob McEwen, the outstanding drumming talent on the last three NEWMAN albums

I’m not au fait with Thompson-Smith’s previous output I must admit, but, after the first few lines of opener ‘Dying Day’ I was completely won over with his melodic tone and the whole vibe  of ‘DD’reminds me of Prophet’s wonderous ‘Cycle of the Moon – which for me is high praise indeed. ‘Close To You ‘ starts with this classic 8os Keyboard and combined guitar intro and has a chorus that most musicians would give their left nut to come up with a polished style like this. ‘Better Man’ continues in this rich vein, a hook laden modern belter.

‘Calling’ opens up with this great ‘Eastern/Asian’ intro which flits throughout the whole song. Again Newman sets up a classic bridge/chorus for Thompson-Smith to shine. ‘I’ll Still Be Here’ is their first foray into mid-tempo ballad land, again with an instantly ingrained tune. ‘Feel Alive picks up the pace, before the classy ‘Deep Water’ with soulful outro soloing from Newman. ‘Leavers’ mixes it up a little, with its acoustic opening and rocking the next. ‘Taking Me Down’ reverts back to the great Newman sound and instantly catchable chorus. Final track, ‘Nothing Without You’ rounds off proceedings nicely, a stripped and toned down number with just Thompson-Smith, an acoustic guitar and the odd drum fill. The album has an bonus track in ‘Special Relationship’, a headbanger and foot tapper from the old school of rock

Just one listen of ‘Big Life’ is enough to get into your head. Most of the songs have huge melodic riffs, melting soloing, and instantly catchy choruses. Newman has the recipe for cooking up great melodic rock numbers, and in Thompson-Smith has found the perfect foil for his blend of music.

Newman has been fairly prolific over the years, and with Thompson-Smith appearing from the wilderness of rock, Big Life I hope will be aptly named as this album deserves to be huge for the pair of them

With certain publications releasing AOR offshoots, GLEE representations of Journey and other classic melodic rock songs, reformations coming thick and fast,  AOR is in the best shape it’s been for a number of years. What with recent albums from UK based bands such as Moritz, Vega, and now Big Life, the Brits are taking it to their US counterparts and showing them how its done. Thirty-love to us Brits, lets see what the likes of Journey can respond with

9.5/10