About Me

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Born in the late 60's, Chesy 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. Chesy 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!!!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Vega - What The Hell Album Review


I know reviewing is open to interpretation, or misinterpretation for a few. You see, I’ve been trawling thru some reviews just to check if my personal lack of opinion is correct or not. For all I know I’m writing for about 30 people, I have no idea, but there's a few out there that haven’t liked What The Hell, and I just don’t understand what they hear that’s different to me

I’ve loved Melodic Rock/Classic Rock since I was 12 yrs old, and have loved the likes of Journey, Foreigner, and some lesser known, but equally talented bands – Joshua, Only Child, Icon. I could go on…quite a bit. Vega fall (for me anyway) clearly in this category.

I liked their debut, 'Kiss of Life', quite a bit. But in comparison, 'WTH' makes it look almost pedestrian in comparison. Vega this time round have a formula, that bloody works! Forget the odd cack song, Vega have definitely gone for the jugular and try to make every song a ‘’single’’,”anthem”, or a song just fit for an arena setting

Vega didn’t have the best of experiences with Frontiers for their debut, and the new album speaks volumes for their attitude with them. 'What The Hell' typifies their sound, all out stadium rock, finely crafted - with more hooks than a fishing tackle shop!!

Instantly memorable – songs like ‘What The hell’, ‘White Knuckle Ride’ and   are the equivalent of getting the chance to lick body chocolate off Kelly Brook’s knockers. And that’s something many a hot blooded male (and possibly some females) wouldn’t forget in a hurry! ‘WTH’ is sooo Def Leppard, that when he heard the songs (as reported elsewhere) Joe Elliott must have thought he’s written and recorded it in the past. They should have called it (WTH) the ‘Whoa, wooaas’ as there’s plenty of it scattered around. Take ‘Not There For You Tonight’, as a prime example. ‘Raise Your Game’ has a similar riff to Rainbow’s ‘Stranded’ crossed with Billy Idol.

A lot of bands overload the first half with great songs, but in Vega’s case they turn it up a notch for the last quarter in the most excellent ‘Saviour’ which has a bit of U2 thrown in for good measure, and album closer, and definite encore material, ‘Hands in the Air’.

Nick Workman's voice and the Martin brothers songwriting really hold the key to Vegas future. Excellently performed, produced and written. Leading the way for British anthemic rock since 2009!

I think that if Vega had settled on 10-12 songs instead of 14, we would be sitting on a classic in the modern, or any other era. As its 14 well crafted songs we will just have to settle on damned good instead!

Score 90/100

Audeat Samniare
White Knuckle Ride
What The Hell
Not There For You
Raise Ya Game
Fade In To The Flames
You Can’t Run
Bless My Soul
She Walks Alone
Turn It On
It’s Gonna Be Alright
Hands In the Air

Vega are

Nick Workman – Vocals
Tom Martin – Guitar /Bass
Dan Chantrey – Drums
James Martin – Synth

Rob Wylde – Bass (RYG,BMS, S)
Nick Horne – Lead Guitar on all except GBA
Alex Davies – Lead Guitar on GBA



Sunday, 21 April 2013

Moritz - SOS Album Review

I was very happy to say that I was present at the inaugural HRH AOR festival the other week. Why? Because all the bands were great, but a few really shone! One of those was Moritz. Moritz are a band that were just so unlucky back in the day. Founded in 1986 in London, UK. The band consisted of members from Icemon, Spitfire and LA Secrets(featuring Laurence Archer of Stampede/Grand Slam).

The band was fairly short lived and they split in 1988 and Ian, Greg & Andy became the core of AOR band If Only (review here - http://www.chesyrockreviews.com/2011/06/if-only-no-bed-of-roses.html ) while Peter went onto join Samson

The band returned in 2008 after the long awaited City Streets CD finally gained a release via the Harmony Factory label. The album consisted of the sought after so called Shadows of a Dream EP and some unreleased recordings. It received critical acclaim, prompting the guys to get back together. Perhaps the album cover put people off!! (Exhibit A at the bottom of the review). Its one of those has to be seen to be believed. Thankfully the guys have matured a bit and don’t give a toss about the image – just the music.

The band reformed with the original line-up, and released the excellent Undivided in 2011. I love this album, but in hindsight it sounds a little ‘flat’ when listening to the new opus ‘SOS’. Moritz have obviously eons of experience and this time have followed the ‘ if something’s worth doing, its worth doing right’ mantra. Throw more money doesn’t mean success I hear you say. But, its bloody well worked in this instance, AND it still probably hasn’t cost them a fortune.

Immediately, the album production sounds superior over Undivided, and, more importantly, everyone is bringing their A Game right from the off. ‘Fire’ or it should be named “On Fire” as Pete Scallan’s vocals immediately kick me in the teeth and he comes over a little Bon Scott/ Jimmy Barnes in sound, and that is one great sound I can tell ya.  The ante is upped immediately, and Fire becomes the ignition point for the whole album. ‘Cant Hide My Heart’ falls into now typical Moritz territory, smooth, classy, and a chorus that’s instantly memorable.  ‘Gonna Lose Her’ has more of a 70s funk groove than anything heard from them before and its nice to hear that its not all just AOR. Until that chorus……! Great, great song.

‘Remember Yesterday’ has a Foreigner feel to the beginning, completely different from the rest, but just as compelling. Its hard not to compare ‘Mercury Falling’ to Brian May as the guitar tones are exactly the same. ‘Amber Lee’ is one of the many highlights, very 80’s but a classy Radio friendly affair. ‘Caught Between Life & Light’ is the first ‘real’ ballad on the album; a mellow start building up to a really nice crescendo and a great solo from Nolan. If you’re gonna finish, then finish on a good ‘un, and title track ‘SOS’ does just that, a powerful Moritz modern day anthem!

Predominantly the main songwriter is Greg Hart, who based on his quality deserves to be sitting on a huge pot of money. Couple this with the excellent vocals of Scallan, the Flying V soloing of Mike Nolan, the great texture added by Andy Stewart, and the backbone of Ian Edwards, and John Tonks, and ''SOS'' makes for one of the best albums of the year, and its still only April. If this isn’t still in my or most other melodic rock lovers Top 5 come December I’ll eat this review!

An essential buy for 2013.

SCORE - 90/100

Tracklisting -

Can’t Hide My Heart
Gonna Lose Her
Remember Yesterday
Mercury Falling
Amber Lee
Caught Between Life & The Light
Flying Too Close To The Sun
Soul Of Fire

Buy the album here - http://moritzband.com/shop.php

Oh Yeah, here's the pic from the top of the review - Exhibit A!......with what looks like 'Robbin Crosby' from Ratt sat in the front!!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Top 50 Classic/Metal/Aor/Prog Albums of Mine (in no particular order!)

Before anyone kicks off - its just a list! Of Mine! My fave albums I can listen to from beginning to end without any bother whatsoever. No skipping, fast forwarding, all great from first to last. The one's in green? My all time faves....

Rainbow - Rising
Rainbow - Long Live Rock n Roll
Rainbow - Down To Earth
Deep Purple - In Rock
Deep Purple - Burn
ACDC - Back In Black
Autograph - Sign In Please
Airrace - Shaft Of Light
Alter Bridge - Blackbird
Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell
Coheed & Cambria - Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV - From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness
Coheed & Cambria - No World For Tomorrow
Valentine - st
Prophet - Cycle Of The Moon
Tradia - Trade Winds
Tyketto - Dont Come Easy
Dio - Holy Diver
Dio - The Last In Line
FM - Indiscreet
Iron Maiden - Number of The beast
Iron Maiden - Powerslave
Def Leppard - Pyromania
Journey - Frontiers
Dokken - Under Lock & Key
Montrose - st
Pearl Jam - Ten
Opeth -Ghost Reveries
Motley Crue - Dr Feelgood
Icon - Night Of The Crime
David lee Roth - Eat 'Em And Smile
Thin Lizzy - Live & Dangerous
Dream Theater - Images & Words
Queensryche - Mindcrime
Shinedown - The Sound Of Madness
Riverdogs - st
Romeos Daughter - ST
Scorpions - Lovedrive
Tesla - Mechanical Resonance   
Van Halen - I
Van Halen - 1984
UFO - The Wild, The Willing, and The Innocent
FM - Tough It Out
Foreigner - 4
Night Ranger - Man In Motion
Rush - 2112
Rush - Signals
Rush - Moving Pictures
Thunder - Backstreet Symphony
Whitesnake - Slide It In

Let the comments begin!!!!!!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Mia Klose - London Album Review

I recently caught Mia Klose ( not literally, she wasn’t throwing herself out of a burning bedroom or anything like that), I mean ‘caught’ as in seeing her perform at the inaugural HRH AOR festival the other weekend up in Rotherham’s Magna.

I was both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate as Mia was pretty damned good. Unfortunate, as I only managed to catch 3 songs due to a clash with the mighty headliners Tesla, and the fact that the 2nd stage was a bit piss poor and viewing was optional – now you see her now you don’t due to the room configuration! That gripe aside I was pretty keen in hearing more of this young Swedish starlet now housed in London.

So its, an appropriate album title then.  Based in one of the better cities to ply your trade, Mia definitely oozes 80s style rock/metal judging by the album cover. Does she look good? Hell Yeah! Does she sound good? Thankfully unlike some of the 80s starlets who looked great but couldn’t always sing, Mia can sing her ass off. And then some!

So, off to a very promising start indeed. Her music is a perfect fusion of metal and melody that screams radio hit, and her talent for style and visual expression frequently stops traffic.

Musically, think young Axl Rose, Madonna and Michael Monroe treading the hard rock floorboards of Skid Row, Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi, with a wardrobe that would impress any 80s rock Queens. Her sound takes you back to the 1980’s, golden era of metal and rock. Mia's vocals are powerful and controlled, backed by heavy guitar riffs and structured songwriting. The emphasis is on quality, and it shows in every aspect of her performance. I’m both amazed and very pleased that people as young as Mia are happy to peddle melodic rock. There’s not that many that make a decent living at it, but there’s always hope for artistes like Klose who with the right management / songs / attitude can and hopefully will make a go of it.

London plays on Klose’s strengths – opening track ‘Open Your Eyes’ takes me straight back to my legwarmers and spandex years of 1987 with the riffs of the likes of George Lynch and the layered vocal prowess and catchy chorus. ‘You Drive Me Crazy’ again is a no messin’ in yer face riff that brings comparisons to Sandi Saraya. I  don’t know who put the band together, but the guitar playing is pretty damn good. I suspect its like the old days where starlet has hired gunslingers, but I’m certain in this instance all had a hand in the making of London

My only issue so far, especially after hearing Mia perform ‘live’ and very capably, is that the songs are filled out with about 3 layers of Mia’s vocals, where if I’m honest, I would just like to hear her, on her own for some of the verses. If anything it seems a little over produced.

‘Living For Tomorrow’ has Guns ‘N’ Roses DnA all the way thru, and the high energy of ‘Lady Killer’ both stand out.

In true 80s vinyl style, ‘London’ weighs in at a very short 36 mins in which Mia has definitely gone for the whole 80s experience.  Never mind that, it’s the quality that really counts and Miss Klose has it in abundance

Its not perfect, as debuts go - but it’s a bloody good start

I look forward to another punchy album, hopefully soon, that will see Mia able to headline her own gigs and have a pretty decent set of songs to play. She’s definitely one to keep a close eye on

--> 79/100

Tracklisting - 

Open Your Eyes
You Drive Me Crazy
Living For Tomorrow
London's A Heartbreaker
Lady Killer
Never Too Late
City Of Rock



Thursday, 11 April 2013

HRH AOR - Magna, Rotherham, 7.4.13, Day 2 Review


When you talk about music being truly global, nothing brings it home more than the bands over the two days. For just the Sunday we have Finland, Sweden, Wales, England, Germany and the good 'ol US of A represented. And that’s just the main stage.

First on were that rather nice bunch of young ladies Barbe-Q-Barbies a cross between punk and rock….punk rock? Who have an attitude of the Ramones with the influence of AC/DC thrown in just to make a point. They are not a 5 minute wonder band either as these sassy Finns have been around since 2002, and their mantra is to kick the world in the nuts with their brand of music. They had a bit of a Blues Brothers start, with that crowd taking a while to warm to them, but by the time they hit their stride with 'STFU' (Shut The Fuck Up – and Dance! I think it’s a ballad??) they were home and dry and had kicked the Rotherham crowd well and truly in the nuts, and other body parts I cant mention on a family read website. I swear that venue was that cold for Barbe-Q-Barbies that I could see the nipples of the rhythm guitarist thru her leather jacket!!

Buffalo Summer hail from the little known rock province of Neath, that’s Neath in Wales but! Immediately they are likened to The Answer and Zep and for damned good reason – they have great songs, make no excuses for their influences and the end result is one of the highlights of day 2. Energetic, electric and in Andrew Hunt have a decent (really decent) frontman. Bassist Darren King looks like he wouldn’t be amiss in Mastodon, and must have his flat cap glued on considering the amount of headbanging he did. ‘A Horse Call Freedom’ immediately caught my ears first. From here on in I was hooked, as I wasn’t even supposed to be reviewing them, but their performance deserved one. BS are South Walian, but you’d think they were from the other ‘deep South’. The three new songs are a good example of where BS are going. Highlights were the very Southern ‘Down To The River’, ‘A Horse Called Freedom’ and ‘March Of The Buffalo’. These lads have a very bright future in front of them

I don’t know what it is about female fronted rock bands. Me personally? I love it! I was speaking with a few of my friends from South Wales (it must be the beer talking or something in the water) as they thought that Nubian Rose were poor!! In Sofia Lilja, Nubian Rose have one hell of a front woman. As gorgeous as a catwalk model, with a set of pipes that sends men (and dogs) weak at the knees, such is the pitch of her vocals. The banter in-between the songs was a bit fractured, and it will develop over time, but THE VOICE!! Damn!! If you want 80s sounding Metal in the vein of Rainbow, Ozzy, Dio etc then look no further….! As with any album, sometimes its better to catch the band live, and Nubian Rose are a multiple times improved (and I loved the album). With songs like ‘Reckless’, and the first ballad of the day ‘How Am I’, Nubian Rose are on a very quick upward trajectory. Half way thru the set, Sofia disappeared for a few moments and returned in a red, white and blue catsuit (she made an effort and a half to please the British crowd). If the UK ever has a Super Hero, this is what she has to look like. The better songs came in the second half, the new song ‘Higher & Higher’- great vocals, ‘Ever See Your Face’, the Rainbow-esque ‘All Your Love’ which gave more than a nod to Long Live Rock N Roll, and the anthemic ‘Mountain’. Hopefully it wont be too long before Nubian Rose return with a tour of their very own.

H.E.A.T. looked like the first band that really believe the hype, they look and sound the part, and since getting in singer Eric Gronwall, they have taken their quality up quite a few levels. Here to promote the excellent ‘Address The Nation’, they opened with ‘Breaking The Silence’, a song that Bon Jovi haven’t made the likes of for over ten years. Make that 20! It has got the punch and welly of anything written in the AOR heyday of the 80s and, rightly so. An immense opener, with Gronwall constantly on the move on the stage boxing his way thru the songs like a feral fighter! Judging by the audience a fair few had ploughed into the main hall to watch and they were correct in their estimation. I haven’t heard ‘1000 Miles’ for so long I though they were going to play Dio’s ‘Caught in the Middle’ as the opening riffs are identical. HEAT were definitely one of THE best bands of the whole weekend, and, as the first six piece of the day certainly made a huge difference, the wall of sound filled the arena, particularly, ‘Living On The Run’, catchy as baseball glove covered in superglue, and ‘Its All About Love Tonight’. If the US had a band like HEAT they would be huge, these Swedes will get to the same place but it may just take a little bit longer

UKs elder statesmen Ten were next to impress on the back of their latest (and in my opinion, greatest album to date), 'Heresy And Creed', playing music from right across their extensive career. Gary Hughes may not be the best singer in the world but he plays to his strengths and most of his compositions border on the grandiose and when coupled with a bloody decent band to bring them to life they are one of the finest bands plying their craft. Just check out guitarist Dan Mitchell who is one of the finest shredders there is and really kicks ass on the epic opener ‘Arabian Nights’, before tearing into ‘Gunrunning, and a ‘Spell (bound)’ on his ass unfortunately, but didn’t stop his flow, and a couple of early Ten classics in ‘Ten Fathoms Deep’ and ‘The Rose’ – which was pretty damn good. It wouldn’t be a Ten gig without a ballad and Ten had a bit of a ‘Godfather’ (similar piano riff) moment, in ‘Valentine’ which builds to a fine crescendo. Its hard to say that Ten finished the set with a couple of ‘epic’ numbers as Hughes just writes ‘em this way consistently, and we were properly treated to the Lizzy twin guitar led ‘Red’, before slightly overrunning for the ‘biggie’ – ‘The Name Of The Rose’. Great performance, just one criticism, Gary, please drop the leather glove mate. I lived thru Alvin Stardust, and it isn’t big, or clever!

I caught Summers last year at a gig that I don’t really want to discuss as the turnout was piss poor. However word had got around and they were greeted to a very full 2nd stage. Knowing the guys well, they wouldn’t miss the opportunity to grab the crowd by their legwarmers and give them all they had. With only one (very new album) to their credit, they got one redhead in the crowd VERY excited! They wear their Def Leppard fan club badges well and truly on their sleeves, and the net result is one great set of songs that hit you right between the eyes, then do a couple of laps around the room 30m – its really that small!) and then come and give you a good kick up the arse, just because they can!
It could be one of those gigs in the future that you can say that you were there when they played to about 150 people at HRH when they become really big. I certainly hope so as these lads have more catchy riffs on one album than most could muster up in ten years. Songs like ‘Girls’, ‘Steel Away’ and ‘Superhero’ deserve to be heard by an AOR lovin' audience and would have gone down well on the main stage. The biggest reception was saves for their stripped down version of  ‘Shot In The Dark’, with all singing a capella – another goosebump moment of the day. Trust me, go out and but their debut album 364, you will not be disappointed.

One of the bands I was eagerly awaiting to hear was Moritz. It’s been yonks (don’t think I’ve used this word since school, which is appropriate as the last time these guys were together I was in school!). Singer Pete Scallan commented that its been 27 yrs since their last proper gig, and you wouldn’t have known at all as they were one of the most polished bands of the day and were definitely out to enjoy themselves. They were high up on the bill on merit as they songs testify to the fact. Some bands take a while to get the audience warmed up but not these lads, they hit 0-60 by the end of the first riff with the crowd. Pete and all the guys were in excellent form, from the beginning of the first bar, right to the very end. I loved Undivided, but the new songs I caught, 'Remember Yesterday', 'SOS', 'Cant Hide My Heart', 'Gonna Lose Her' and Amber Lee' all show that Moritz have taken a bigger step in the right direction over Undivided. My only regret, they didn’t play Undivided! Maybe September at another festival I cant mention here.

Kip Winger was the first to play solo. I saw him years ago (6)when he just brought out ‘Songs From The Ocean Floor’ and I sware that this set was identical to that one. I was mesmerized then, as I was today. It takes some balls getting up there on your own as there's nowhere to hide. Talking of which I feel sorry for the bell end who got up to sing ‘Miles Away’ and only knew the words 'Miles Away', oh deary me! I'd have loved to have seen a full blown electric version of Winger, but I think a certain pair from MTV put paid to that notion years ago. Kip certainly is talented, has a great voice and was a welcome addition to the line up.

I dug out my cloak and staff and headed over to the dark side, or the Prog Main Stage as it was known. I prefer to call it the Farmfoods Zone, as I put my pint on the floor and within 10 mins it had nearly turned into a Slush Puppie. It’s supposed to be indoors FFS! It was colder than it was outside. I sware! Even the band I went to see the Prog headliners– The Von Hertzen Bros – complained about the cold, and they are from friggin’ Finland!!! I’m glad I did pop over as Von Hertzen Brothers were one of the best bands I’ve seen in quite some time, they were simply stunning! I wasn’t too sure what to expect as I'd only heard Stars Aligned and was bowled over by it. Everything else was a new experience. If you haven’t seen them before the guys are simply electric. They can be a bit difficult to follow as they divert from prog to metal to pop in a few bars, but if you open your mind to this eclectic fact then the rewards are immense. 'Flowers And Rust' was the first song to grab me by the throat, and is such a roller coaster of a number, soaring around the bitterly cold room warming the cockles. Kie von Hertzen had the right idea jumping around like a tazmanian devil (a possessed one at that). I prefer to know bands songs when reviewing, but Von Hertzen Brothers setlist became instantly memorable. 'Angel Eyes' suddenly explodes mid way for a killer guitar/synth solo. Mikko addressed the assembled audience to advise a song that is hardly played but was requested in the UK, the song? King Crimsons 21st Century Schizoid Man, the absolute jewel in the crown of the set, building into an enormous crescendo and had to be witnessed first hand. It wasn’t the largest audience but I sware it got one of the biggest cheers of the whole festival. After coming on really late Von Hertzen Brothers played well over their allotted time, and to be honest the organisers made the right decision as the last two songs were the icing on the cake (couldn’t eat it due to it being FROZEN!). To be fair, Von Hertzen Brothers could have played the AOR side, and no one would have complained, they were that good and their music crosses many genres. If I had to explain the gig in two words it would be ‘F*cking WOW!’

Over to the headliners Skid Row. Judging by the audience a fair few were here just to catch them. Even though current singer Johnny Solinger has been with them since 1998, I still hanker for Seb Bach. But I try to be objective. You see, the only thing is Johnny looked like he was fronting a cover band, with his black tank top and beer belly, even his various hats looked like the hair was sown onto the inside of them. OK, gripe over. The first half of the set was better than the second as most of the killer songs were here. It must be difficult trying to lay to rest the ghost of Bach and Solinger did a pretty good job. Dave ‘Snake’ Sabo and Scotty Hill both looked and sounded the part. But Rachel Bolan seemed a bit distant. 

Obviously the songs from the first two albums were what most people wanted to hear, and they didn’t disappoint – 'Slave To The Grind', '18 And Life' and 'Piece of Me' all kicked ass, and the new songs 'Let’s Go' and 'Kings Of Demolition' fitted in nicely, but I could have done without Bolan singing the Ramones’ 'Psycho Therapy'. The anthem 'Get The Fuck Out' was a great participation number, and they just had to finish with 'Youth Gone Wild' which sent the audience into raptures. Now, Solinger commented that they were here for the fans, and saying all the stuff we wanted to hear as fans but….they had almost 2 hrs allotted to them to perform, they arrived 20 mins late, and finished almost 30 mins early, and were out of the venue faster than a rat out of an aqueduct. I suspect they were in it for the money.

Last on (for the graveyard slot) was Jeff Scott Soto. I had fears that everyone might bugger off home as a fair few would have to work in a few hours time. Thankfully a fair few stayed behind (and bared the cold) and they were treated to one of the best gigs of the day. Jeff was here to promote his latest album Damage Control and throw in some nice surprises! Unfortunately Jeff did a Gary Hughes and nearly chinned himself good and proper and took him close on 30s to regain composure. Falling onto your ass doesn’t stop professionals as long in the tooth as JSS. The great man treated us to solo numbers, the title track ‘Damage Control’ and ‘Take You Down’ being stand outs. WET was represented with ‘One Love’, and he even had chance to fit in a great Talisman medley, and a couple of Steel Dragon tracks, the highlight being the addition of Nathan James joining him on ‘Stand Up’. Just look for it on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. I must admit that I didn’t want to stay until 2am, but realized after 2 songs that it was going to be worth sticking around for. I’m bloody glad I did!

Most of these bands are not wealthy people, but they bloody well should be. Most in fact look like they’ve come to a gig straight from their day job, as most are unpretentious, charming, and great at what they do, and look (in the majority) nothing like rock stars. That’s what I love about rock music in general, most are decent human beings happy to chat, sign things and have lots of photos taken without any fuss or bother

Looking back at the gigs, most bands either had new material to promote or had been active with relatively new music over the past 12 months. All new music was accepted as much as the old classics that everyone wanted to hear, and that in itself is great news, as the AOR community refuses to rest on its laurels and constantly forges onwards and upwards. As I finish this, the HRJH website moves HRH 2 to North Wales and hopefully a much warmer climate, and its only a mere 346 days,  19 hours, 41 mins , and 11secs until the next one. I (and many more) cannot wait for it, but they will have to go some way to top the line-up and quality of the performances of the two days.

Excellent festival!

All photos (except VHB, Summers) copyright Mark Lloyd

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

HRH AOR - Magna, Rotherham Saturday 6.4.13 Day 1 Review

Set within a colossal former steelworks, Magna also echoes with the rich industrial heritage of the UK steelmaking industry which once used the natural resources of earth, fire, water and air - to manufacture steel products which were shipped around the world. 

The steelworks closed in 1993 but the original building has been largely preserved as a monument to its industrial heritage. Impressive artefacts such as hulking hooks, winding passages, cupolas and cranes are still in position around the science adventure zones in Magna today. They are silent reminders of the cathedral-like building’s industrial past. A perfect backdrop to a religious gathering of Prog & AOR followers...

This weekend it wasn’t so much steel, as Metal (O.K. AOR and Prog) that was being forged to the impressive numbers amassed at the inaugural HRH AOR and Prog festival, and I was one of many lucky punters in attendance to witness this spectacle.

For those who thought Prog, and AOR in particular were genres both on their arses, forget it, as the venue was almost at capacity. I have to applaud the guys (and ladies) of Chic-PR / HRH in holding this festival, as it takes some balls (and other lady bits - OK I don’t need to go there but you know what I’m getting at) to set up a gig of this stature.

It was perfectly organized, with food (not expensive), a metal market where you could get great T-shirts from a bloke who at his age had no right to be wearing spandex; jacket patches, jewelry, bongs, and even on site massages. What more could you ask for!!!

So onto the show. It was decided to stay mainly in the AOR zone and a have decent attempt at one genre, than a half arsed review of both (with the exception of the Von Hertzen Bros).

Sat – Day 1

First up on the main stage (quite late) were local outfit Spill Sixteen. Even though behind schedule they managed to tear through their set in enough time and have time for their intro tape of Magnum’s theme tune. Highlight of the set were the impressive bluesy opener ‘Doing It Tonight’ with a very excited and animated singer in Steve, and are cross between a Bad Co and Mamas Boys vibe. Spill 16’s Bass drum was turned up to 15 as I could actually feel my hair moving (upstairs and downstairs!). Other notable offerings was the well received ‘Damned’, and new single ‘Come With Me’. If a twin Les Paul attack is right up your street with no nonsense rock and roll then Spill 16 deliver. Just cheer up guitarist, you know who you are (OK Its JJ). Spill Sixteen are ones to look out for in the future

If I thought S16 were good then Daylight Robbery took it up a notch or two. Instantly you see (and hear) their melodic rock influences and have more than a knack for writing a decent anthem or two, and in singer Tony Nicholl (ex-Rock$tar) the have a more than capable singer who can deliver polished vocals and any band that can provide me with 3/4/ or 5 part harmonies is already a winner in my books. From the Tyketto-esque 'Survivor Never Sleeps', and the mightily impressive 'Crossing the Great Divide', DR have quality in abundance with their chunky AOR riffs and fist pumping choruses. Very nice indeed!

Dante Fox were firsts for two reasons. 
1) First band with keyboard player in tow, and 
2) Sue Willets wielding a tambourine (the first of many over the weekend). I have a few DF albums and was wondering how they would come across live. My doubts were immediately extinguished as Willets’, vocals (despite her apologizing for her croakiness) were damned impressive. Tim Manford’s guitar playing was up there with the best, and also Sue’s banter was quite witty and relaxed. Most of the set came from ‘Under The Seven Skies’ with Sue showing her vocal chops on the excellent ‘Walking The Line’. Dante Fox were responsible for my first ‘goosebump’ moment of the day (many more were to follow over the course of the weekend) with the excellent rendition of ‘Limara’, I mean ‘Remember’, with Willets hitting a stellar note at the end that made me have a nice sit down and a calming cup of tea.

Now, once again the ante was upped considerably with the introduction of Romeos Daughter. I recently saw them play a relatively small gig last year (and were excellent), but its on these larger settings that they really show their star quality. In Craig Joiner, RD have an excellent songwriter and guitar player and in Leigh Matty the first front-person who was out centre stage thoroughly enjoying herself. Tonight RD are as tight as a gnats chuff, and its probably as best as I've ever witnessed. The sound was superb, and so hats off indeed to HRH. Everything was thrown at us (except my wedding dance song I must add!), classics both old and new - ,Bittersweet', 'Cannot Be The One', 'Trippin Out', 'Talking Love' and 'Alive' from 'Rapture', and 'Heaven.....' (2nd goosebump moment), 'Velvet Tongue',  'Inside Out', 'Cry Myself To Sleep' and the excellent 'Wild Child' from the debut (did I say they never played Hymn!). Tight BV's from the rest of the band lifted the songs further, and RD could have hit us with another 12 different songs such is the quality of their 3 albums

Danny Vaughn was up with an electric set for once. I love his acoustic renditions , because of its intimacy, but when you have a repertoire like Danny’s its rude not to show it off with an electric set, with a mix of solo (some not so well known) and a couple of Tyketto ('Meet Me In The Night', 'Battle Lines' & 'Seasons' – probably the best of the set judging by the audience reaction). It’s the solo songs that show the quality of Vaughn, from the country sounding 'Just Like That', to the anthemic 'Badlands Rain', and haunting opener, 'Bad Water'. Not be outdone, Danny’s vying with Leigh Matty for shiniest hair in melodic rock accolade. Result? A close second for Danny!

To be fair, Ive covered FM more than any other band, and I’m running out of platitudes for them. Once they stepped onto the stage the whole atmosphere changed. For once I chose to view from 2/3 back and it was the first time that most if not all the audience in the main arena came to life instantaneously and as one. Its 26 yrs since 'Indiscreet' was launched and the songs still sound as fresh today as they did back in '87. Come to think of it, they sound even better, with Steve Overland's voice the key to their success. This bloke is the UKs answer to Michael Bolton only he forgot to tell anyone in the UK. FM should have been huge, but to be honest, playing gigs like HRH AOR is all the accolades they need. The quality on offer means that the new songs ('Tough Love', 'Over You', and 'Crosstown Train') fit seamlessly into the set along with the classics – 'That Girl', 'Don’t Stop', 'Other Side Of Midnight' etc etc. I’m guessing FM played a fave ('Bad Luck') of the bloke standing right in front of me, as I’ve never seen a bloke dance like he did, EVER!! Once again the whole performance is a masterclass in British rock and quality songwriting. The FM guys really are getting better with age, and there’s not many that can say that!

Sacramento’s Tesla were up next. I don’t know if it was the local water, but a few pronounced then Tezla! It been a fair few years since I saw them last (supporting Leppard on the Hysteria tour) and the guys still all look and sound great. Whilst I never really classed them as AOR, Tesla are a class rock band. In the same fruitful vein as FM, Tesla prove that their latest (2008’s ‘I Wanna Live’ & ‘Breaking Free’) are up there with anything from their first 3 classic albums. Tesla are definitely at Magna to put on a show, with Jeff Keith a cross between Stephen Tyler and a clothed Iggy Pop, and the rest of the band ready to unleash their wrath on the Rotherham crowd. Thankfully Keith’s voice has hardly altered since ‘Mechanical Resonance’and the songs fit like a nice comfy pair of slippers. We are given 'Getting Better', the Frank Hannon wizardry on the theremin for the excellent 'Edison’s Medicine'. The final song being their ‘must play’ and the first Tesla song I ever heard, the barnstorming 'Modern Day Cowboy’.

 For the encore they played 'Little Suzi', but I must admit I was a little disappointed they didn’t play to the GTA (Grand Theft Auto) crowd in us all and hammering us with 'Comin Atcha Live', but that’s just me being a little picky.

I managed to catch about 3 songs from new Swedish starlet Mia Klose. Described as the Swedish bombshell of 80s rock – I severly doubt she was born in the 80s! To be fair the 2nd AOR stage was nothing short of poor to be honest. No stage provided for the bands, so if you weren’t in the front two rows you couldn’t see four fifths of bugger all. What I could glimpse is that Mia’s photos make her look a lot older than she is. One thing I am certain of is her ability. Supremely confident, great voice, and backed by her equally young gunslingers it will not be long at all before she is playing the big stage. Invite her back to the next one HRH, you wont be disappointed

Finishing off the day were UKs AOR young guns, Vega. Given an hour and 10 to make an impression, Vega hit them with both barrels filled with napalm, gunpowder and anthemic numbers. Vega both look and sound the part of the future of British AOR and they are ready to take on the Americans (hopefully) at their own game. These guys don’t have an axe to grind with the dreaded 2nd album syndrome as new tracks being aired tonight prove that they have developed and matured into a mighty fine ‘single’ machine. Highlights of theset are predominately the ‘new’ ones, with ‘Not There For You’, a sure fire single in the not too distant future, the Def Lep influenced ‘What The Hell’ a song with a biographical tone and more than a ringer for Leppard’s “..Sugar’, and the anthemic closer, 'Hands In The Air’. The Martin boys certainly have a ear for a catchy number or 11, and in adding Night By Night guitarist Ben Christo, filled out the Vega sound perfectly, and when all the lads can sing, it doesn’t make for a better experience than this

Highlights of the day – Daylight Robbery, Romeos Daughter, FM (again) and Tesla
Lowlights, the bloody cold, the venue was cold! More on that in Day 2 review…

All photos copyright Mark Lloyd

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Interview with Pierpaolo "Zorro11" Monti (Shining Line & Charming Grace / AOR all star projects)

CRR got the chance to get 15 mins with one of the brains, and sticks behind the new Charming Grace project, Mr Pierpaolo 'Zorro11' Monti. Charming Grace is a set of AOR songs with a twist, all duets!

CRR: First of all many congratulations on the new Charming Grace album. Its always a pleasure listening to melodic rock/aor, especially when theres a twist like it is here, played with duets!

PM: Hi Paul! Thank you so much for your so kind words and for this interview, I’m glad to be here discussing with you about Charming Grace!
Yes, as you correctly said Charming Grace represents something new in the melodic rock world… a full album of vocal duets, a things that no one never did before in this wonderful style of music.
The AOR & Melodic Rock scene is usually addicted to be old and unable to renovate itself, so for this reason I wanted to try something new which was cool in my opinion… I think we reached a very good result!

CRR: How on earth did you manage to get all of the people involved? Its quite a list you have.

PM: I had some experience gained in the past thanks to my previous album called Shining Line, another AOR all stars project with a line-up full of well-known guests from the melodic (hard)rock world. Today, thanks to the internet, it’s possible to start a lot of collaborations with different artists and musicians, and I think this is a great way to expand our creativity working together with a lot of experienced names of our beloved music!
I built in the latest years a good net of contacts in the melodic rock world, and I can say I love to contact every day new artists to propose them a possible collaboration together… it’s so exciting for me to involve in my music the old and new names of the scene that I listen every single day with their music!

CRR: Whilst on the subject, what made you think of the duet format? Did you have any other singers on speed dial ready to contact?

PM: As I was telling before, I consider this a totally successful experiment, it’s incredible to see how every single guest put its recognizable trademark in every song of Charming Grace, creating together with Dave some amazing vocal harmonies which represents for me the true quintessence of a project just like Charming Grace!
Regarding some other possible singers to contact, well my email never stop to operates every single day, it’s so exciting to come in contact with a lot of singers and musicians of the scene, and see if a collaboration together can born… it’s great!

CRR:And you also brought a known legend out of the AOR singers retirement home also (Im talking about Boulevards David Forbes)

PM: Yes, a true legend… Mr. David Forbes represents for me one of the most charismatic voices I heard in a lifetime, I couldn’t accept to leave his name forgotten after two amazing AOR masterpieces like the Boulevard’s cds!
Dave is an amazing singer and a wonderful human being… he immediately accepted to be part of the project, and I can say that it was one of the best days I lived in my life! I cannot believe I was starting to collaborate with one of my lifetime idols… I watched for a never ending time the pictures of the band on the two Boulevard albums in the past years, and now I have again a hard time in realizing that David is really part of Charming Grace! It’s unbelievable!

 CRR: Is it an easy project to undertake?

PM: Good question Paul. When you start an enormous project just like Charming Grace,  you know well from the start that you’ll have to face a lot of problems due to a lot of different factors.
It can happens that some guests can refuse to participate after their initial “yes”, that some of them can send you some wrong parts, or again that some recordings need to be postponed for various reasons, blocking the works of other guests that need to re-schedule their commitments.
Anyway I think that with the hard work and professionalism everything could be solved, it’s all in the passion you’re able to put in the work you’re done and in the sacrifices you’re disposed to do if you have to face some troubles… it’s all in the love you have for this amazing thing called music!

CRR: How much of a hold do have on all the performers/players?

PM: I can say that we leave total liberty to express every single guest in our song! We usually give a “basic line” as reference (for example Dave did the demo parts of all vocals for the singers), but we always ask to every guest to express himself in the best way possible adding or changing everything he feels right! After that we consider every single change done and we think carefully of what keeping for the best final result possible!

CRR: Did you allow them to take part in the writing process wherever possible?

PM: Well, we usually send a finished song to a guest, but we’re always opened to change it if we receive some cool suggestions from one of them!
For example one song’s title after the suggestion of one of the guests: the hint was really cool and we immediately accepted to change it!
I think that the key word to spread the creativity of everyone is “collaboration”: I hate to give orders just like a dictator, and I also hate if a guest pretend to do something by himself… the best result can be reached when you try to reach the same goal together!

CRR: I can imagine that it took some time to plan and to get everyone to play their parts?

PM: Yes, it’s been a long long work. Every guest has his personal life and career to pursue, so it can happens that it’s not easy to draw together a good schedule in respect of everyone’s commitments.
For this reason I think that a good plan it’s the basic thing for making a successful project… a lot of things can wrong for a big variety of factors, but if you did a good plan in the beginning you can face all the problems in a better way!

CRR: Did any travel over to you, or was it a case now of a lot of people working via the web and their garden sheds?

PM: With the low budgets of today, I think it would be impossible to travel for each one to collaborate “live” on a project like this. For this reason it’s thanks to the internet that we’re able to do these kind of collaborations, ‘cause with the improvement of the technological level everyone can record his parts and talk together from another side of the world.
In Charming Grace we have guests coming from USA, Sweden, Germany, UK, Brazil and so on… I think we need a major label budget to arrange a meeting with every single guest!

CRR: What are the memorable aspects of recording an album like this?

PM: It’s without doubt sharing the big passion for the same music! It’s collaborating together with people you watched for years on a cd booklet, and that you appreciate now more and more after they put their enthusiasm in your music giving their best for the success of the collaboration together! It’s discovering that many of them are keeping alive the fire for this art after a long career in the music biz, showing to the new generations the true love for the melodic rock world!

CRR: And come to think of it, the agonies and pitfalls?

PM: The bad moments are those which are opponents to the good ones… think for example to some guests who accept in the beginning to be part of the project, and then refuse to do their work few days before the deadline we fixed to receive their parts… maybe they don’t think to the big amount of problems they give us with this kind of behavior.

CRR: You’re involved in so many projects nowadays, is this how you have to set your stall in the 21st century, especially if you’re a melodic rock devotee. Especially Alessandro.....he's in everything!!
What else have you got plans for in 2013?

PM: I’m always active with my music, I write a lot of new music every single week and I’m always ready to start something new in every single moment!
For this moment I want to concentrate myself in the promotion of Charming Grace, but I’m sure that I won’t be able to stay quiet for too much time… so I think that I’ll need to start something soon within the end of the year! I don’t know exactly what, but I promise that you’ll be the first to know when I’ll decide it! LOL
Please let me spend just two words regarding Alessandro: he’s one of the most talented artists I’ve known in my life. He’s an amazing musician, a top class producer and finest songwriter… he’s in my opinion one of the key points for the future of the melodic rock scene, and I wish him of the best for an amazing an long career in music! He deserves it!

CRR: Also Pierpaolo, please feel free to add in anything else to may want to discuss

PM: Paul, I need to thank you so much for your important support, it means a lot to me in these hard times for the music scene! It’s thanks to fans like you that artists can make music again… U rock mate!
Charming Grace has been a wonderful adventure for us, it’s been a very demanding project but we’re very happy of the final result we’ve been able to reach!
I hope that the melodic rock fans could feel in this album the same emotions me, Dave and Amos had in creating it, it’s been done for the love of melodic rock music and it has inside a piece of our hearts and souls!

Many thanks for all Paul!!! Cheers!!!

So there you have it - drummer, songwriter, with a contact address book to kill for, and a really nice bloke, passionate about AOR / Melodic Rock. Long may the community continue to support people like Pierpaolo, carrying the AOR torch into the 21st Century!

Album review, here -  http://www.chesyrockreviews.com/2013/03/charming-grace-st-album-review.html