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!!!

Sunday 27 April 2014

Michael Sweet - "Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed" Biography Review

Michael Sweet, with Dave Rose & Doug Van Pelt

Michael Sweet is best known as the singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer for Christian rock pioneers Stryper, selling over 10 million albums worldwide. In addition to Stryper, Sweet has had a successful solo career, and he served as the guitarist and co-vocalist for the legendary classic rock band Boston from 2007-2011.

Sweet continues to record and tour with Stryper, as well as touring and recording as a solo artist, all the while making frequent trips to Nashville where he is writing with some of the biggest music writers in the business. 

“After 30 years in this business, I feel honored and blessed to be able to continue doing what it is I love, making music,” said Sweet. “I’m extremely thankful to have the greatest fans in the world. God has blessed me with this talent and I plan to continue on this path as long as I can draw breath."

Sweet’s autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed, chronicles an amazing 30-year career and includes endorsements from Eddie Trunk, Dave Mustaine, Larry the Cable Guy, Jeordie White and Chris Jericho.

So without trying to spoil it too much, what can we learn that we don’t already know, or more importantly anything new and interesting. Starting with the obvious we learn a lot in just the very first chapter which he later expands on in greater detail throughout his book – he has been fairly successful; leaving Stryper and going bankrupt to the tune of $2m; topping the Christian music charts; reuniting with Stryper; joining multi-platinum selling Boston, losing his wife Kyle to cancer; getting married; recording more Styper & solo material, oh….and writing this!

To some, Stryper are a joke; to others, a guilty pleasure. To me, they are one of the best rock bands on the planet, and in Michael Sweet they have a guy who has one of the best voices in rock/metal, or any other type of music that’s on our little planet – and he’s a shit hot guitarist to boot.

We come to learn that Michael comes from a very loving and encouraging family; Robert is technically his half brother; and  he could (probably still can) be bribed to sing for homemade banana ice cream. Early on, just to play a gig, they even mowed  a lawn to play at a garden party. A run in with their guitarist ensued and they vowed never to have anything to do with him again. The guitarist...Richard Martinez…aka Ox Fox.

It's not news to anyone that Michael and the guys are committed to God. It does surprise me though that MS gives him (God) credit for all that Stryper and Michael have achieved. As a full-blown atheist I do have a lot of skepticism about faith, but also a hell of a lot of respect and jealousy that someone like Michael (and others) put so much faith in God and his work. ‘Curve Balls’ such as getting a record deal, son Michael Jr being born, charting, touring, selling shitloads of records, joining Boston, are all classed as unexpected gifts from God. I also believe that good things come to those who work hard, and not all of Stryper’s success can surely be attributed to a higher purpose?

I did learn two things that we personally both share. Firstly, that ‘Soldiers…’ is his (and my) favourite album; secondly, and more importantly, that toilet paper should dispense from the bottom (chuckle) and not the top!

The heartbreaking side of Michaels story and life is losing his wife Kyle to stage 4 Ovarian cancer. It’s hard not to shed a tear as he handles this side of the story with delicacy and a lot of heartfelt love which carries over to the reader. But, every cloud they say…., and that silver lining appeared quite quickly in finding Lisa Champagne and the current love and happiness that they have for each other. In 2010 MS was diagnosed with ADHD. I’m exasperated how he and Ton Scholtz actually managed to get anything done during his tenure in the band.

MS in 2013 is obviously in a good place. Happily married to Lisa, Stryper are reformed as the ‘classic’ line-up, touring successfully,

Happily for me it’s not a preach-fest. Michael does talk at great length about his relationship (both good and bad) with God, how he goes along with HIS (God’s) plan, that HIS plan is not our plan, and it is perfect and beyond our comprehension, if we just open our hearts and let him in. Never throughout the course does he push this belief on the reader

Michael chose the title aptly, as ‘Honestly’..is a very honest account of his life so far. It will be interesting to hear the other guys take on matters published here – arguments with other members, Michaels drinking, Michael & Roberts mum being manager and party to losing $2m, firing Tim, management issues, and many other topical issues. There’s no real ‘shock’ stories ( go read ‘The Dirt’ if you want that), it is just an interesting story about a genuinely honest and forthright guy.

I am certain there’s a few more chapters on the Sweet biography to add in the years to come as someone with such an opinion on matters, with a varied and exciting lifestyle compared to most people, deserves to be heard and read by a wider audience. I am convinced there’s a lot more to come still from Michael Sweet, and I am certain it is all good.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Michael Sweet - "I'm Not Your Suicide" Album Review

Michael Sweet is best known as the singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer for Christian rock pioneers Stryper, selling over 10 million albums worldwide. He’s been bankrupt, but I’ll save that for the biog review! In addition to Stryper, Sweet has had a successful solo career, and he served as the guitarist and co-vocalist for the legendary classic rock band BOSTON from 2007-2011.

The future remains bright for a man who has endured heartbreaking tribulations throughout his life and career, including the 2009 passing of his wife of more than 22 years, Kyle. In 2010, Sweet remarried to Lisa Champagne-Sweet, a woman he describes as “a Godsend and the one who fits perfectly by my side.” 

Sweet continues to record and tour with Stryper, as well as touring and recording as a solo artist, all the while making frequent trips to Nashville where he is writing with some of the biggest music writers in the business. 

It’s a busy, busy time for Michael Sweet. A live Stryper CD/DVD for Frontiers; a supergroup recording with Messers Lynch, Lomenzo and Tichy; his first autobiography, Honestly: My Life and Stryper Revealed (due May 6th), and this, ‘I’m Not Your Suicide’, his long awaited and highly anticipated solo album – for me anyway, and hopefully a few more Sweet fans!

Sweet leans on a few of his mates to wade in for an added bit of clout – Tony Harnell’s unmistakable tone hollar’s out on the opening and quite heavy ‘Taking On The World Tonight’, and trades vocal riffs with Sweet. Few people today have a voice as good as they did 30 yrs ago, but these two stalwarts of rock still cut the metal mustard!  For a moment, on This Time, I was certain Sweet was duetting with Freddie Mercury. It even starts a little like ‘The Show Must Go On’. Ive never heard anything by Kevin Max before, but Messers Taylor and May can ditch Adam Lambert and fill in with Max! Sweets has great control with his vocals, holding back when needed, not always relying on the high notes to do his songs justice. This Time talks about ‘never letting IT slip away’ and whilst most of Sweets content revolves around a higher purpose, its not carried out in a ‘preachy’ way. 

‘All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)’ again sets its sights on the darker and heavier side of Sweets style, and this one chugs along quite nicely with a catchy chorus. The song that kicked this album off for me was the intro a few weeks earlier of the first single, and I must admit, one of Sweets finest songs committed to CD (I’d like to say vinyl). It doesn’t start as anything particularly special, but once the bridge kicks in, it becomes an anthem for the converted. I haven’t stopped singing this for weeks. I say ‘singing’ – my version is more like murdering.

‘I’m Not Your Suicide’ is the recent new single and again follows a similar format to ‘The Cause’ and tells you that, no matter what someone may say or do to you to try to belittle and beat you down…and through the strength that you have and that God gives to you, rise above and remember there is a long life and a great, perfect, beautiful plan for you.” Michael proudly supports www.childhelp.org with this

'Coming Home' is a song that could easily cross over to Country especially with that nice lap steel guitar resounding in the background. Any song about ‘Home’ in the US is something that resonates with people, this is one sone that should be a single without doubt.

‘How To Live’ features Sweet's Stryper alumni’s Robert Sweet and Tim Gaines. It’s a power ballad of the highest order and again builds crescendo throughout the course of the song. ‘Heart Of Gold’ shows that Nashville influence is his songwriting, but with a Hammond. 'Anybody Else' features Whitesnake’s (and potential Stryper guitarist many years ago – read the book!) Doug Aldrich and ex WWF star Chris Jericho (Fozzy vocalist), and proves to be a definite highlight of the album. The star count obviously increased the ‘rock-out’ ratio considerably, with Jericho showing that he’s a perfect foil (and match) for Sweet. 'Unsuspecting' is THE ‘killer, rock out with your cock out’ track on '…Suicide,' and sees Sweet hitting all the high notes, but its driven by a full on riff and doesn’t abate from start to finish.

There’s a bonus track to finish the album off – Dave Mustaine’s daughter Electra sits on for a duet on 'Heart Of Gold', and adds a delicate and nice twist to the sole Sweet version and is a ‘true’ bonus song

Its been a while coming from Sweet, but I'm pleased to say this will definitely please the Sweet and Stryper faithful. He’s an honest performer who wears his heart (of gold) on his sleeve, and writes meaningful and lyrics. Whether or not you choose to listen to them and extract your own meaning is entirely up to the listener. Me, I prefer a good tune any day of the week, and ‘I’m Not Your Suicide’ is chock full of them!

SCORE 85/100

Tracklisting - 

Taking on the World Tonight (featuring Tony Harnell)
All That's Left (For Me To Prove)
The Cause
This Time (featuring Kevin Max)
I'm Not Your Suicide (co-written with Blair Daly)
Coming Home
Miles Away
How to Live (featuring Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines of Stryper) 
Heart of Gold 
Anybody Else (featuring Chris Jericho and Doug Aldrich)
Heart of Gold (featuring Electra Mustaine) **Bonus Track

Monday 21 April 2014

H.E.A.T. - Tearing Down The Walls Album Review

Released April 14th

It was only a couple of years ago when H.E.A.T.'s last album, got people a little excited in the trouser department, with many listing it in their top albums of the year. After a critically exclaimed album such as ‘Address The Nation’, could the young Swedes match, if not better it?

Since enlisting Swedish Idol winner Eric Gronwall a couple of years ago, H.E.A.T. haven’t really looked back. He is a perfect foil for them; young, athletic performances, but more importantly he has a killer set of vocals. Making them one of Europe (and soon the World’s) hottest properties, and the best thing to come out of Sweden since SAAB and ABBA.

Opening track, ‘The Point Of No Return’ is an anthem of killer proportions. It has all the flair and overblown pomposity that is fast becoming a H.E.A.T. official trademark - instantly memorable with more hooks than most can muster on a whole album. This song is huge. If you think that this song has its best song as the opener like many do then you’re wrong. 'A Shot At Redemption' takes the quality up quite a few notches – part Bryan Adams, and part Bon Jovi (Slippery era), H.E.A.T. bring their 'A' game to songwriting and performing, with 'Redemption' surely marked as a live highlight. 'Inferno' has a hook and bass line that just punches you in the nuts and refuses to let go – like a shark chomping on his fave food (poodles I think?)

'Tearing Down The Walls' again is the Swedes go at a power ballad – think mega band Aerosmith doing ‘Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ and you’re in the right area. 'Mannequin Show' has an eerie 80s shock horror keyboard sound, making it sound like Britney meets Abba! Not in a bad way I have to add. It surely cant be me that’s picking up on the Britney influence. 'We Will Never Die' is another slab of musical anthem-ness. HEAT have a tried and tested “whooa!’ formula and they are sticking to it.

'All The Nights' is a beautifully constructed ballad for all types and generations. As I'm getting older Im getting less tolerant for ballads. In this instance it’s a perfect foil for the power of what has proceeded and what is to come. Gronwall shines with his emotive and fragile vocals. 'Eye For An Eye' – blah, blah! Catchy as all the others! Blah! Shit!!!!! It’s hard to come up with new platitudes when each track is as good as the last. 'Enemy In Me' sees the lads go a bit sleazy Shinedown on it, before coming back for the stadum anthem 'Laughing At Tomorrow'.

Not wanting just to please the rock fraternity, I'm certain that H.E.A.T. are one of those bands that could make the crossover. Lets face it JBJ has done fuck all of interest the past 10 years or so. The young guns are ready to take over the world, and their name is HEAT!

When you have listened to as many albums as I have these past 30-odd years, it’s a little difficult to give out top marks, especially when rock music was in its ascendency in the 80s. If there is better album in 2014 than this, then I will show my arse in M&S shop window come December!! Not a duff track on it.

Score - 98/100 (After a few more listens, this could well be full marks!)

Tracklisting -
The Point Of No Return
A Shot At Redemption
The Wreckoning
Tearing Down The Walls
Mannequin Show
We Will Never Die
All The Nights
Eye For An Eye
Enemy In Me
Laughing At Tomorrow

Friday 18 April 2014

Foreigner, Europe, FM - Wolves Civic 15.4.14

Foreigner, Europe, FM - Wolves Civic - 15th April 2014

So, the Foreigner / Europe / FM tour comes to the Wolves Civic for the last night of what seems like a very successful UK tour. Thankfully the music appreciating public have turned out very early to catch UK openers, the mighty FM. With only a handful of songs (those where town locals have 6 fingers!) to make their mark, FM hit the crowd with both barrels - 'That Girl', 'Closer To Heaven' and 'Burning My Heart Down' are obvious faves, but the new guard of songs, especially 'Crosstown Train' is received as well as the old. When you have a guy with a set of pipes as good as Steve Overland, then you'll never have an issue pleasing an AOR crowd

FM's Steve Overland - "I think I can see me mum!"

Europe come on to a bit more spit and polish, with there own set. Joey Tempest (from a distance) looks like Kenny Everetts impression of the Bee Gees. Even from the back of the hall, all I could see was hair and perfect teeth! I always felt Europe to be on the cheesier side of the melodic rock highway, but its definitely the newer, edgier songs that make me sit up and want to listen some more. If their future is the like of 'Last Look At Eden', 'Riches To Rags', and 'Firebox', then its is very bright and healthy one indeed!

Joey Tempest - "let me see...you put your left leg in!"

Foreigner were the best band on the Journey tour a few years back. After that performance I vowed to catch them on their headline tour which was a given after such stellar performances. Foreigner in 2014 is essentially the Kelly Hansen show. It should also be the Mick Jones show also, but on every date he has been noticably absent for the first 4 songs (illness). Kelly handles the absence so well it hardly shows, but when Mick does show for 'Feel Like The First Time', the ante is definitely upped.

Two things that definitely stand out are the harmonies - Pilson, Gimble, Jones and Bluestein harmonising their arses off, making it sound like you are in the middle of DD7.1 surround sound, and secondly (and more importantly) the songs. Jones was a recent inductee into the Songwiters Hall of Fame, and on the evidence of his back catalogue, its an obvious choice - 'Cold As Ice', 'Waiting For A Girl Like You', 'Hot Blooded', 'Head Games' etc all are killer classic rock anthems.  Highlights for me personally were the excellent 'Starrider', 'Juke Box Hero', and the extended version of 'Urgent'. If only they would cease to continue with the keyboard/drum solos, and fit in another 2 songs which would give them a perfect performance!

The Wolverhampton Community Choir (aka FM and some of Europe) appear for 'I Want To Know What Love Is', before bringing the house down with Hot Blooded
Hansen prowls the stage like a man half his age (so Im guessing thats 24!), and when you also have a guy in your ranks like Thom Gimble - guitar, keyboard, flute (yes, flute) and kickass sax player, then you can play any song to its full potential.

Hansen prowls the stage like a man half his age (so Im guessing thats 24!), and when you also have a guy in your ranks like Thom Gimble - guitar, keyboard, flute (yes, flute) and kickass sax player, then you can play any song to its full potential.

When Hansen walked thru Jones' door a few years back, he (Jones) must have thought he'd found his pension and meal ticket for the foreseeable future. In Hansen, you have a guy that has all the style, panache and engagement with the audience that very few can muster. It also helps that he's a very funny motherfucker and a good looking dude. Most of all he's got the VOICE! If you have heard Foreigner on the radio over the years and had never seen Lou Gramm, then you would never know that this isnt him. That is the very highest complement I can give.
If you thought Foreigner were here just to get some money (then you could be correct), but for what a lot of people outside of the rock crowd think they are a dinosaur band then they are sorely mistaken. Foreigner are immense!

Photographs Copyright Mark Lloyd - Amplified Gig Photography

Sunday 13 April 2014

Winger - 'Better Days Comin'' Album Review

One of the most misunderstood Hard Rock bands to emerge from the 1980’s is returning with their highly anticipated sixth studio album. Comprised of original members Kip Winger on vocals/bass, Reb Beach on guitar, Rod Morgenstein on drums, plus long-term guitarist John Roth, Winger is releasing Better Days Comin’, their first album for five years. They will be promoting it with a main stage appearance at Download Festival, and the inaugural Frontiers Festival in Milan at the beginning of May.

Winger formed in 1987 and soared to immediate success with their 1988 self-titled release. The album spawned the hit singles ‘Seventeen’ and ‘Headed For A Heartbreak’ and achieved platinum sales status. Winger also stayed on the Billboard Top 200 chart for over 60 weeks where it peaked at #21. Their next album, ‘In The Heart Of The Young’, also achieved platinum status and contained the singles ‘Can’t Get Enuff’ and ‘Miles Away’. The change in musical climate of the mid-90’s, compounded with unprovoked ridicule on MTV’s popular Beavis and Butthead, led the band to go on hiatus in 1994. In 2001, the band reunited and have not looked back since. Winger has made a name for themselves with relentless touring, while winning back fans and critics alike because of their exceptional musicianship, Kip Winger’s powerful vocals and the band’s incredible songwriting. 

"On ‘Better Days Comin’’ we drew from our past to elaborate on our future. The band is stronger than ever and very excited about the music on this record,” explains front man Kip Winger. “We feel this album exemplifies the true sound of the band in every way."

I’d heard on the grapevine that Better Days Comin’ was a return to form for the NYC outfit. If the likes of Seventeen, HFAH, Easy Come Easy Go, and Down Incognito rock your Winger world the this new one will fit in very nicely with your album collection, as it’s a good as anything they have ever done, and that’s saying something. Whilst many 90s bands are living firmly on their past status Winger are driving theirs forward with aplomb. 

‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’ is perfect evidence of why Winger in 2014 are kicking ass – and that is down to Kip Wingers voice – its completely unchanged and sounding better than it ever did. Couple this instrument in itself with the dual guitar attack of Messers Roth and Beach, and the rhythmic and powerful drumming of Rod Morgenstein, and it truly is a beautiful thing to behold. ‘Queen Babylon’ is a modern day classic – classic Winger with a ‘Pull’ vibe, also the harmonics on ‘Rat Race’, just make me go all ‘goosey!’. Title Track ‘BDC’ has a soulful/gospel vibe to proceedings and is a step back from the first three but a nice and welcome change to the flow. ‘Tin Soldier’ starts off rather nice, with a technical prog riff, showing their musical prowess off, proving they are (and never were) just a hair metal band, with Morgensteins drumming driving the whole song forward and is probably one of the highlights for me personally.

‘Ever Wonder’ sees the guys get their laid back groove on, but after this BDC fails to set the very high standards of the first half. That said, its still good, but the first half was stunning!!

From the opening riff of album opener ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’ to the final outro lick of  ‘Out Of This World,’ it is clear Winger is back and better than ever. Hard rocking songs like ‘Queen Babylon,’ progressive rock moments like ‘Tin Soldier,’ and touching ballads like ‘Ever Wonder’ display the band’s diversity while always centering on great songs. The debut single from ‘Better Days Comin’’ is the adrenaline fueled rocker ‘Rat Race’ that showcases some of the band’s best work of their 25 year career. 

Better Days Comin’? On this evidence, abso-fuckin-lutely! 

Score – 90/100

Release Dates
Europe – April 18th
Tracklisting: Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine; Queen Babylon; Rat Race; Better Days Comin'; Tin Soldier; Ever Wonder; So Long China; Storm In Me; Be Who You Are, Now; Another Beautiful Day (*); Out Of This World.

Kip Winger – bass guitar, vocals
Reb Beach - guitars
Rod Morgenstein - drums
John Roth - guitars
VIDEO : Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tOzsssTtDU
VIDEO : Rat Race    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp57jqoKJ7E


Three Lions - ST Album Review

Three Lions came about when the three musicians were introduced to each other by Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino. They hit it off straight away and immediately set about writing material for an album, with Alessandro Del Vecchio on production duties.  (I'm sure this bloke owes Serafino a shitload of money as his names on everything Frontiers related!)

Musically, ‘Three Lions’ is British Hard Rock at its best! Mixing the melodic approach of early TEN with the classic musical heritage of UFO, THIN LIZZY and WHITESNAKE, these guys are about to take the Melodic Hard Rock scene by storm!

“We were all determined to make the best album possible and are immensely proud of the songs that have made it onto the final record,” says Nigel Bailey. 

Based on who’s involved, you might expect some polish from the Dare guys, and your estimation would be right on the mark. The album gets off to a belting start, with opener ‘Trouble In A Red Dress’ setting fire to the turntable with a killer opening lick from Burns. Couple this with the anthemic chorus and the net result is an AOR-sters wet dream!  The quality refuses to drop with ‘Hold Me Down’ with Baileys vocals proving to be a perfect foil for the slick guitar moves of Burns and the tight knit groove. 

‘Twisted Soul’ sees the 3 set the AOR dial to heavy, giving a nice change in pace and welly. Baileys vocals are powerful and nice n soulful, with nice intonation (I lerant this word from watching American Idol!). Along with ‘Twisted..’ I prefer it when the punchy numbers come in strong, such as the razor sharp ‘Holy Water’, and ‘Hellfire Highway which is straight out of the Ten songbook.  If you fancy your melodic rock at bit softer and ballad-y then look no further than ‘Winter Sun’, ‘Two Hearts Beat As One’ and ’Made For One Another’. 

From the eastern influenced ‘Kathmandu’, to the driving power of ‘Hellfire Highway’ and ‘Twisted Soul’, to the heartfelt ballads ‘Made For One Another’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’, the band deliver passionate performances.  It will certainly ring true to followers of Ten and Dare in particular. Special credit has to be given to Baileys vocals who will make Three Lions the pride of their pack!

If the album would have been 2 or 3 songs shorter, it would be a stunning debut.  Instead it's just bloody damn good!

Score - 90/100

Release dates:
Europe: April 18th  2014
North America: April 22nd 2014

Tracklisting: Trouble In A Red Dress; Hold Me Down; Twisted Soul; Winter Sun; Just A Man; Holy Water;  Two Hearts Beat As One; Kathmandu; Made For One Another; Magdalene; Don’t Let Me Fall; Hellfire Highway; Sicilian Kiss.

Nigel Bailey – lead vocal and bass
Greg Morgan – drums
Vinny Burns – guitars, keyboards

Produced by Alessandro Del Vecchio