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!!!

Thursday 29 March 2018

Palace Of The King - 'Get Right With Your Maker' Album Review

Palace Of The King – Get Right With Your Maker

Every now and then, a band fires a shot across my boughs, one that I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing before, and proves to be an absolute delight. This is Palace of the King, with their third album ‘Get Right With Your Maker’. They are an Aussie band and hail from Melbourne, they average 100 gigs a year and it shows here. They have also supported fellow rockers Airbourne.

Not many bands would have the confidence or balls to open up with a seven minute epic scale song, but POTK have no such worries. Is pure, unadulterated classic rock – and I am immediately reminded of a similarity to Scorpion Child – as POTK throw all their musical classic rock weaponry into ‘I Am The Storm’. It has some great organ and guitar work, joining Tim Henwood’s great vocals for an aural soundscape, of 70s sounding rock. On this Henwood even sounds similar to Scorpion Childs Aryn Jonathon Black. Even the mid section ivory tinkling shows touches of The Doors, giving it a psychedelic feel.

'It's Been A Long Time Coming' is the second single from GRWYM, its drenched in nostalgia, with a bit of a Nuff Z’Nuff sound to vocals. They show that its not a single track sound, and show they have more strings to their bow on ‘Sold Me Down The River’ which has a 70s funk sound, as does ‘Dog With A Bone’. Its like being hit with a one-two sucker punch, as the songs come thick and fast, with not a drop in quality to be seen (or heard), ‘Said The Spider To The Bird’, ‘Move Through The Fire’, and ‘The Serpent’ all have the hallmarks of band who are as tight as a nut that been tightened with superglue! Its all pretty damn good as the rhythm section of Travis Dragani and Anthony Licciardi drive this beast forward. It’s the kind of band and music, that would sound fucking huge at a live gig. Scrub that, the riff and bass line on the song Horizon are mega. I could feel it moving my trousers, in a good way!!! The pacing of the album is excellent, ‘Fly Like An Eagle is short and sweet, but what they cram into a song under 3 minute is just great,  a pounding at your core effort. Finally we get a POTK showcase with ‘Back On My Feet Again’.  Its only 3.46 short, but its  type of song that could easily take up half a set!

Where’s the other five minutes of song gone? Bands used to do this quite often, but we actually get a hidden track, a title track ‘Get Right With Your Maker’, a song that lends to The Black Crowes, or The Temperance Movement in an acoustic blues style.

The album cover even bears more than a passing resemblance to Scorpion Childs last album to the point of plagiarism!

If you’re new to them, like me, then you’re in for a fucking treat. If you’re already a fan, what are you waiting for. For fans of 70s influenced rock, and the likes of Rival Sons The Black Crowes and Scorpion Child. As you can tell, what they are doing isn’t exactly new (what is?), but what they do, they do it so fucking well!!

Rock is meant to be played loud, but none more than this dirty, and beautiful beast. Crank it up and enjoy!!

Score 9/10

I Am The Storm
It’s Been A Long Time Coming
Sold Me Down The River
A Dog With A Bone
Said The Spider To The Bird
Move Through The Fire
The Serpent
Fly Like An Evil
Back On My Feet Again (+ hidden track)

Palace Of The King Are
Tim Henwood – Vocals/Guitar
Sean Johnston – Keys/Guitar
Travis Dragani – Drums
Anthony Licciardi – Bass


See what I mean????

Perfect Plan - 'All Rise' Album Review

Perfect Plan – All Rise

There are a few certainties in life – the obvious ones like death, taxes, nurses and Sunderland AFC to let you down. Then there’s the others such as Sweden produces probably the best melodic rock bands in the world.

Please don’t scream out “Nurses? You misogynist sexist git #metoo” because it was a nurse that told me that. I forget his name.

Anyway bands such as Europe, H.E.A.T, Eclipse are prime examples of classic Swedish Melodic Rock and there are times when I think I might have some Swedish blood in me because I am a massive fan despite the irony of many having such a US soft rock style.

When I received the latest release from Sweden by a band from Örnsköldsvik called Perfect Plan I was at a loss. Apparently Örnsköldsvik is halfway up the coast from Stockholm (I’d been there once) and on the coast across from Finland. Perfect Plan? Never heard of them.

The blurb I got with the album told me the band had been going since 2014 but this was their first album. The picture of the band gave no real clues but if this was going to be a death metal album I wouldn’t have been shocked, how bloody wrong was I.

First impressions and all that went out the window as ‘Bad City Woman’ blasts off with a piece of awesome melodic rock, the guitar riff sets the tone and then the vocal of Kent Hilli comes blasting in. His voice is sublime, it has range, depth and power. The song is a triumph, it has a superb hook of a chorus and the voice of Hilli is outstanding. It was so good I replayed it again immediately to double check it was that good. Trust me it is.

My fear that they had played their ace too soon was dispelled as the keyboards of Leif Ehlin kicked off ‘In and Out of Love’. A slower but layered song with real depth to the music that builds to a superb sing-a-long chorus. As with ‘Bad City Woman’ the guitar solo of Rolf Nordström compliments the songs showing his undoubted skill but not taking over the feel of the song.

‘Stone Cold Lover’ maintains the feel of the album with the backing vocals supporting the outstanding Hilli voice. Another superb melodic rock song, decent stuff indeed.

By now I was captured and mesmerised. The keyboards and kinda bluesy feel to Gone too Far reminded me of something the new Whitesnake only sniffed at. This was cemented by ‘What Goes Around’ with a chorus of “She’s breaking me, taking me, bringing me down, what goes around comes around” snapped out in time to fit the music perfectly.

‘Too Late’ opens with a Europe-esque keyboard intro. It’s then I realised how the keyboards had underpinned the songs in an unobtrusive way but without them the tracks wouldn’t be as multi-dimensional as they are. Also top marks for using the correct version of “Too” as opposed to “to” or “two”. Grammatically and musically excellent.

‘Can’t Turn Back’ is a wonderfully upbeat song with typical melodic rock style. “We Can’t Turn back to love that’s gone” should surely be miserable but oh no, this is a bouncing tune that back in the 80s would have had me screaming it out with real life experience passion. The guitar sounds, vibe and feel actually make it a song of hope for the future (or maybe that’s just my warped memories!).

‘Never Surrender’ is not a cover of the song by Saxon with the same name. Don’t get me wrong the Saxon song is raw and from the heart, this song is a modern more polished tune from the heart but definitely not British Heavy Metal. It has a driving rock sound but Saxon doing wonderful backing vocals and a keyboard? Not that I remember.

‘1985’ sums up All Rise as an album and its massive nod to how albums by AOR bands in 1985 sounded. It has the overtly US rock style lyrics but with a superb modern sound. The Hilli voice and range is immense, where the f*ck has he been all this time?

‘What Can I Do’ is another superbly crafted piece of the 80s sound and again I just feel a Whitesnake influence, the chorus and backing vocals, key change and keyboard solo just simply make me smile and take me back to a more innocent (and personally a more stupid) time of my life.

‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ ends 11 tracks of wonderful nostalgia mixed with a modern sound, yet another melodic bounce along “if you have a pulse” track.

Perfect Plan are not quite a breath of fresh air but they are certainly refreshing. Judging by their picture they aren’t a bunch of kids, instead I get the feeling these are a bunch of well accomplished musicians who have taken their time to release an album of pure melodic quality. The 3 years from formation to All Rise has been well worth waiting for.

Oh maybe the song titles and lyrics may be slightly clichéd but I tell you what, a cliché doesn’t mean a lack of quality and it definitely isn’t second rate or wrong. This is a release that I know many of my AOR friends will wet their pants over (no pun intended) because it is that good.

To those going to Frontiers in Milan, don’t you dare miss these, they are proper quality and you won’t be disappointed. If Kent Hilli is as awesome as he is on this album you’re in for a treat.

Given that it’s Easter I think a solid 8.5 that will “All Rise” to a 9 on Easter Sunday is appropriate. See what I did there, badly?

Score - 8.5/10

Review by - Lawrie Willcox 

Bad City Woman
In And Out Of Love
Stone Cold Lover
Gone Too Far
What Goes Around
Too Late
Can’t Turn Back
Never Surrender
What Can I Do
Heaven In Your Eyes

Saturday 24 March 2018

Dokken - 'Return To The East - Live 2016'

Dokken – ‘Return To The East – Live 2016’

Of all the bands from the 80s that came and went, then came and went, and came back again, the one that did it for me, more than any other U.S. band, or any other Country come to think of it, was Dokken. One of their songs appeared on a mix tape done for me by my mate, and I was hooked, like a salmon. I even got a newsagent in Wrexham to get me Hit Parader from the U.S. every month so I could catch up on all the Dokken in-house fighting. For a band so bloody good, I could never understand why Dokken and Lynch hated each other’s guts. They were a match made in heaven, yet they seemed unable to be in the same room together. When they went their separate ways they could not match the heights that Dokken made - Don Dokken went solo, Lynch and Brown became Lynch Mob, and Pilson did ........find out and insert here.

I absorbed every bit of newsprint, I hammered the albums (both vinyl and CD) to a point where ‘yes you can, you can wear out a CD. Fuck You, Tomorrows World!’ They were not a Hair Metal band. Yes, they had the hair, and the outfits, but from 81-89, they were one of the best heavy metal/hard rock bands on the planet

I’ve heard recent ‘best of’ albums, that have been down tuned and re-recorded to meet Don Dokken’s vocal range, after his operation, and if I’m honest, they are not a patch on the originals. In fact, a more recent version of events where T&N (Lynch, Brown and Pilson) re-recorded some Dokken classics and became a Poundland version of Dokken.  What it did conclude for me is that the classic ‘Dokken’ sound, comes from none other than the man himself. So because of the past vocal issues, (there is video evidence of regaining some of his range), and anecdotes from friends who have seen Dokken in more recent times, I’ve not wanted to see Dokken as it would ruin my 1980’s God-like opinion I had of him. Until now.....

Never mind the recent snow issue the was the ‘Beast From The east’, Dokken fashioned this phrase way back in ’89, what we have now is the companion piece and follow up to the blisteringly good ‘BFTE’, with ‘Return To The East - Live 2016’. This is just an opinion, but I guess that an absolute shit load of money from the lucrative Japanese market put the seminal line-up together, as I never thought I’d see the day when this would happen, but was surprised when it was announced. This comment from DD taken from ‘The Classic metal Show’ ‘’I don't see why I need to go back in time and do this. What's the point? If it's just for money, they know how I feel about that. And there's more to life than money. You can live in a mansion and drive a Ferrari and be miserable. And I said, 'I'm not interested.’’ I honestly don’t believe this for a single second.

I wanted to see the four of them perform again, but had severe doubts it would take place what with Pilson being happily ensconced in Foreigner, and probably had a small window when all the timings fell into place and converged for a few gigs.

Here it is, almost two years down the line from when it was recorded, and I wondered to myself, would it be good, great, average, or just plain ‘shite’. Well reader, I have to say that ‘RTTE-Live 2016’ is a pale imitation to the Dokken of the 1980s. Sure, musically and harmony wise the Dokken of 2016 is as it was 30 years ago. Lynch nails all the solos, to pin point accuracy of the originals and is on imperious form. Pilson and Browns backing vocals are good, and make up for the shortcomings in Don Dokken’s range. All semblance of a high note from the original is pretty much wiped away and discarded like the come on a porn stars tits. If you can get over what’s left Don Dokken’s vocal range, then it could make for pleasant listening.

For me I was just left lamenting the glory days of Dokken.

Just like ‘BFTE’, ‘RTTE’ has a new Dokken track in tow. ‘Its Another day’ has all the Dokken hallmarks that we have come to love, it has the Dokken sound of old, a good riff, which is tuned to work well with Dokken’s range; you don’t get the upper register or ‘Dokken wail’ of old, but you get everything else. It has the feel of ‘Alone Again’ or ‘Will The Sun Rise’ but is a distant relative of the aforementioned. The like part kicks off with the classic ‘Kiss of Death’ and if you are waiting for a classic rendition, it’s not to be found here. Everything is down-tuned to assist Dons vocals. You are singing along, then when it sums to the chorus of ‘Kiss of DEAAAATTTTHHHHH!’ its nowhere to be seen (or heard). ‘The Hunter’ even sees the BVs much lower than the originals, and I know that Pilson can still hit the original notes. If he did then it would further expose how far DDs vocals have dropped.

I can’t say that the performance is being dialed in as I only have the audio, but classics like ‘Unchain The Night’, ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘Dream Warriors’ are all pale imitations of the originals. There’s only one ‘live’ track that made me sit up and take notice, and that is ‘Alone Again’ as the original was not a ‘scream and wail’ effort. It is a fairly reasonable replication, but asking the crowd to sing along in ALL the parts where you expect a wail, shows up what is lacking here. But one decent-average rendition out of 15 just isn’t good enough. All of the harmonies for ‘Its Not Love’ are coming from Lynch, Brown & Pilson. We are even subjected to a poor ‘sing-a-long with Don’ passage and even a bass solo. Really?!

‘In My Dreams’ 2016 is out there in YouTube land (ABOVE) for all to witness. So I will not add further to this when you can witness for yourselves the out of sync, lacklustre vocals. The album finishes with two studio acoustic tracks - ‘Heaven Sent’ and ‘Will The Sun Rise’ and along with ‘Its Another day’, are the best songs on this, because they are tailor measured to Don Dokken’s current range, and they actually carry over very well indeed. Which in itself is a sad thing whereby the best tracks on a live album are the studio songs. As a live album, ‘Return To The East’ fails on numerous levels.


All I can say is that the Japanese must be very easily pleased. Whether it’s a case of being ‘in the moment’ which gigs can have a tendency to do, you get taken along with the emotion. Listening to just the audio, I can’t see what the enjoyment and crowd hysteria is about.

Frontiers are offering this an a couple of different (and nicely packaged) version for the US and EU markets, a box set which includes a tee shirt, CD and DVD. This is strictly for collectors, as this does not sit alongside the Dokken back catalogue at all well. Fans can stick up for Dokken as much as they like, but watch the two versions of ‘In My Dreams’ above and tell me I’m not wrong!

Return To The East? I wish it was a single ticket.

Score 5/10


It’s Another day (New Studio Track)

Kiss Of Death

The Hunter

Unchain The Night

When Heaven Comes Down

Breakin’ The Chains

Into The Fire

Dream Warriors

Tooth And Nail

Alone Again (intro)

Alone Again

It’s Not Love

In My Dreams

Heaven Sent (Acoustic Studio Bonus Track)

Will The Sun Rise (Acoustic Studio Bonus Track)


Don Dokken – Vocals/ Guitar

George Lynch – Guitars

Jeff Pilson – Bass

Mick Brown – Drums


CATALOG# FR CDVD 860 / BARCODE 8024391086049
CATALOG# FR BR 860 / BARCODE 8024391086087
- 2 LP
CATALOG # FR LP 860 / BARCODE 8024391086056
CATALOG # FR BS 860 / BARCODE 8024391086063
RELEASE DATE 20th April 2018

Thursday 22 March 2018

Kim Wilde - 'Here Come The Aliens' Album Review

Kim Wilde  - Here Comes The Aliens

For those of us of a certain age and a rock/pop inclination, Kim Wilde was one of the artists in the early 80s who made an impact when 'Kids In America' was released.

It possibly helped that Ms Wilde was stunning besides being capable of belting out a rock/pop anthem that has stood the test of time, oh that and the fact I was a spotty immature hormonal teenager. 

It was probably the closest thing to a rock song that I remember by a female artist that year.

To be honest as the 80s progressed I lost interest in pop music as rock began to consume my world. However as the years have progressed I’ve gone soft (or mellowed and broadened my musical taste as I prefer to call it) so it came as a pleasant surprise when I was asked to listen to 'Here Comes The Aliens' by “THE Kim Wilde, you know, the real one”.

The album cleverly starts with the sound of a radio being tuned to different channels with that crackle and hiss that youngsters of today’s digital age won’t understand. The guitar kicks in and '1969' starts and it’s a decent catchy track with its roots firmly set in the 80s (and includes the album title in the chorus).  

It becomes clear very early on that over the years Ms Wilde has not suffered from her voice losing any of its distinctive sound, there are even tracks where she lays it bare and it delivers in style.

'Pop Don’t Stop' follows and shock horror, it’s a pure pop song even down to having a keyboard intro that is so Buggles that the video will most probably kill the radio star. I suppose there is a clue in the title and Kim (oooh look at me getting all personal) is ably supported on the vocals by brother Ricky and it’s as pop as you can get.

The album is like a nostalgic trip back to the 80s but with a modern twist added, the synth based tracks such as 'Stereo Shot', 'Yours Til the End' and 'Addicted To You' firmly offer a nod in the direction of disco/dance with catchy choruses to match. You can imagine certain tracks making it onto a Miami Vice re-make without being out of place.

'Birthday' and 'Rock the Paradiso' are massively upbeat good time songs. They are in the same vein as Kids in America but competently stand up in their own right. 'Rock the Paradiso' in particular has a real B-52 Love Shack vibe to it, proper rock guitars and a bounce along catchy chorus.

For me the stand out track on the album and the least “poppy” is 'Solstice'. It starts with a mournful Celtic style lament with Kim’s voice absolutely nailing a haunting verse before the piano gently enters and the following lines are delivered:

“They didn’t make it home, now her hand drops the phone;

She stands so paralysed;

Your washing’s on the bed, the last words that was said;

Now she’s screaming, she’s screaming, she’s screaming”;

The song then moves into a Carpenter-esque chorus never losing the feeling of loss, sadness and emotion. It’s a track that screams out “give me a decent budget for a video to accompany this and I’ll give you a massive hit”. It really is that good.

In conclusion, if you miss (or missed) the 80s and want to reminisce but with newly written songs with a modern take then you’ll love this. Well unless you’re my wife who stated after hearing just a couple of tracks “It’s inoffensive”. WTF!! I don’t think you can be more offensive with a review if you tried. Her view has nothing to do with the fact that she is also a 50 something blonde, oh no, not at all……much.

Whilst 80s pop is not totally my thing, the album has hidden treasures such as Solstice and a range of 80s styles all in one album. To put it in context, I think this album will allow Kim Wilde to tour and not rely on a short set of the original 1980s hits she plays at the revival concerts.

I hope to see it played live in Glasgow in April, I really hope it translates to the live environment.

Whilst the album has synth/disco/rock moments just forget the snap and crackle, this is POP. I’ll get my coat……..

7 out of 10 – 80s aficionados will strongly disagree. .

Lawrie Willcox 

Pop Don't Stop
Kandy Krush
Stereo Shot
Yours Til' The End
Addicted To You
Cyber Nation War
A Different Story
Rock The paradiso

Monday 19 March 2018

W.E.T. - 'Earthrage' Album Review

 W.E.T. - Earthrage

When I was lucky enough to be asked if interested in writing a music review my reply was "Yep, just set the expectations low and you'll not be too disappointed, oh what artist/album are we considering?

W.E.T. – ‘Earthrage’. No pressure then.

For any non-Melodic Rock fans, W.E.T are a melodic rock fan's wet (pun intended) dream of a super group. The name W.E.T comes from the bands the members play in: Work of Art, Eclipse and Talisman (see what they did there?)

The main protagonists are Jeff Scott Soto of JSS/Talisman/Journey/Malmsteen “and more projects I can mention” fame, Eric Mårtensson (Eclipse/Ammunition/Nordic Union), Robert Sall (Work of Art), Magnus Henriksson (Eclipse) and Robban Back (Mustasch).

I've got the previous W.E.T. albums namely “W.E.T”. and “Rise Up” seen them play at Firefest as well as seeing JSS and Eclipse in their own right. They've never disappointed.

Anyway, forget the past, let's consider the future, how have the years affected their chemistry? Can they still deliver? You better believe they can. ‘Earthrage’ is a stunning album of melodic rock with the obligatory riffs, solos and soaring vocals.

The opening track ‘Watch the Fire’ kicks off with a gentle kind of menacing riff that grows with the guitars kicking in and ramping up the intensity. Erik's vocals come in setting the tone and then JSS kicks in with his distinctive and powerful voice and the song then takes off. WOW, just WOW!!

A band that has the strength of 2 powerful vocalists supported by musicians at their best is something special. I'm not going to appraise every single song in detail but take it as read there isn't a weak track.

There is definitely a massive Eclipse influence on the songs (obviously as Mårtensson produced, recorded and mixed the album) and when coupled with the Jeff Scott Soto lead vocals and the Sall keyboards it takes on a character of its own.

‘Kings of the Thunder Road’ is a perfect example, the Soto ability to take a song, raise the stakes and hit the notes is something magical. He does it time and again. Take a clichéd song title and then blow it to pieces. Driving guitars with the Soto voice, supported by the layered backing vocals is a winner. For me it’s a song that would grace a Rocky film with Soto singing and marching up the road as the supporting cast fall in behind his massively powerful voice and then the guitars step up beside to him to blast out a solo and then they all fall in step to the chorus. Amazing stuff.

Don't get me wrong, whilst ‘Earthrage’ is Eclipse influenced, it is not an Eclipse album, the combined talents ensure that this is a W.E.T album through and through.

‘Elegantly Wasted’ is a superb 3 minute piece of angst. The lines "I meet your tantrums with a smile, won't lose my cool or lose my style" followed by "another glass of wine and I'll be fine" resonated with my wife. "Has he met me?" she asked. Obviously not because whilst she’s been wasted it’s never been elegantly.

‘Urgent’ ups the tempo as does ‘Dangerous’. ‘Calling Out Your Name’ starts slowly but it builds and as we in Glasgow would say, the chorus is a belter. A word of advice, if you work in a quiet office then don’t play this in your headphones when pretending to be working, one of my colleagues thought I was having a stroke.

As you would expect and hope there are the slower songs and for me ‘Heart is on the Line’ is simply beautiful. Yes, beautiful. Oh take the piss, I don't care, I'm old, big and ugly enough to take it.

It is a heartfelt ballad and the softer side of JSS showing off his vocal skills without getting twee or even worse, X-Factor winner like. The killer guitar solo to back it up and the backing vocals scream out that this would, God forbid, be a radio friendly hit.

‘The Burning Pain of Love’ isn't as I first feared a song about an STD or a urinary infection. Instead it's a classic mix of guitar and keyboards with a haunting layered vocal chorus. It leads into the final track that doesn't exactly slip off the tongue – ‘The Never-Ending Retraceable Dream’. A stunning finish to the album.

Quality from start to finish, top song writing and delivery, catchier than a dose and surely there must be live shows planned because this is simply too good to listen to without a few hundred other like-minded fans.

In conclusion, welcome back W.E.T, I've missed you. I listened to Earthrage the first time in nervous anticipation just in case the hype and expectation would end up in disappointment. Shame on me for ever doubting.

I doubt I'll hear better this year but the gauntlet has been thrown down. I'll be right here waiting as Richard Marx sang.                

Score  9.5/10

Review by Lawrie Willcox

1. Watch The Fire 
2. Burn
3. Kings On Thunder Road
4. Elegantly Wasted
5. Urgent
6. Dangerous
7. Calling Out Your Name
8. Heart Is On The Line
9. I Don’t Wanna Play That Game
10. The Burning Pain Of Love
11. The Neverending Retraceable Dream


He also makes a mean cup of tea!!!!!

Erik Mårtensson: Guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals
Jeff Scott Soto: Vocals
Robert Säll: Keyboards
Magnus Henriksson: Guitar
Robban Bäck: Drums
Additional guitar solo on “Urgent”: Thomas Larsson

Sunday 18 March 2018

No Hot Ashes - 'No Hot Ashes' Album Review

No Hot Ashes – NHA

I think quite a lot of the Melodic Rock /AOR community could easily name a band that back in the day 83-91, that could have been a household name, only to fall by the wayside and then fade into obscurity. Loads of bands took a wrong turn  (like Spinal Tap) that wasn’t their fault, it just didn’t happen. A few from this period have decided to dip their toe in the water and make a ripple. Some are riding the crest of a wave, and this is what I hopefully expect No Hot Ashes to do. There’s a cluster of bands in the UK that stand head and shoulders above the rest (Angels or Kings, Moritz, Vega, Dante Fox, Blood Red Saints, Airrace, and FM), and on this standing, I expect No Hot Ashes to join them.

Formed in 1983, they were influenced by all the great bands, Journey, Foreigner, Whitesnake, Lizzy and Ozzy. They put out their first single ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ in 86. Around this period they landed support slots with Mama’s Boys, Magnum, Girlschool, and Steve Marriott.

They managed to sign a record deal in 1988, joining Motorhead, Girlschool and Hawkwind on the roster of talent, recording their first album later that year. The band upped sticks and headed off to London (with a stick and knotted hankie) to be nearer to their record company. Like many, what began with a new hope, ended in disaster, as the album was never released.

Fast forward to September 2013 where NHA formed for a one off tribute gig, which has snowballed from here. Since this, NHA have supported Aerosmith, Foreigner, UFO, and Scorpions, and have had a UK four with FM and Romeos Daughter and have graced some major festival stages along the way.

I’ve banged on about AOR on a few reviews over the years where bands who want to do a melodic rock album should go and listen to some of the classics and steal (borrow) the best bits and make it into their own style. I’m not saying they have blatantly stolen riffs, far from it, but this album is 100% Melodic rock/AOR and will be jumping to the sharp end come the ‘Best of’ tables come December.

NHA have combined, great riffs, melody, twin guitars, excellent vocals, and parpy keyboards adding touches in ALL the right places. Just listen to opening track ‘Come Alive’ and tell me this isn’t great. If you hadn’t seen any pics, I would swear that Eamon Nancarrow was mid twenties and decked out like the fifth member of Steel Panther. His vocals belie his age, they are fresh, and with a great melody. The song includes a little keyboard refrain that reminds me of ‘Jane’ and ‘Fools Game’. We are definitely on the right track here folks! ‘Good To Look Back’ is a bona fide statement, but NHA are definitely in the now and will be looking forward from here on in. Nancarrow shows his chops after the solo hitting notes and length that few can muster. ‘Satisfied’ is a song that will be anthem-like in their live shows with its great solo and bluesy feel.  As a melodic rock band, it wouldn’t be one without a ballad in tow.  In this case, it’s ‘Boulders’, and reminds me of Tough It Out-ere FM. ‘I’m Back’ is one of NHA’s gems that survived the 80s, and you can see why it is here. Halfway in and its clearly the song of the album so far. Nancarrow wails like a Banshee, and if that’s replicated in a gig, I’ll gladly buy the bloke a pint! It is 80s heaven, where keyboards tussle with guitars for prime real estate, where bands like Journey and Foreigner live, and so do NHA.

‘Glow’ has a pulsating and crunchy riff and sees them on the heavier side of AOR before the melodic chorus kicks in, building to its guitar solo. ‘Over Again’ sets out its stall with its lush harmonies and guitar work. As we get to the sharp end, NHA has a couple of faster paced rockers in ‘Johnny Redhead’ the final track, ‘Running Red Lights’. Sandwiched between these is the brown sauce to your bacon butty, an excellent cover of Rick Springfield’s ‘Souls’ and fits NHA’s style like Alvin Stardust’s glove!!

What I like about this, is that its been 35 years in the making, and it sounds like that have given blood, sweat and tears to every song. They have not overplayed it either, and at just 10 tracks, there is not a filler in sight, when they could have had a tendency to put 15 songs on it, and make it a bit ‘meh!’

Credit to No Hot Ashes for giving it another bash. Melodic rock is crying out for quality bands and albums, and you can look no further than this.

For any fan of melodic rock, there are two books that recount this period, and they will have you reminiscing, laughing out loud, and possibly crying. One is Tony Bell’s ‘Life In The Bus Lane’; the other is by NHA’s Eamon Nancarrow ‘Hollywood Star’. In fact if I were Frontiers I would send a copy of this out with every album.

Tragically NHA lost their bassist Paul Boyd to cancer in January 2017. Paul plays bass on all the tracks and this is a fitting epitaph, and No Hot Ashes are respectfully dedicating to Paul’s memory.

Score 8.5/10

Come Alive
Good To Look Back
I’m Back
Over Again
Jonny Redhead
Running Red Lights

No Hot Ashes –
Paul Boyd – Bass
Tommy Dickson – Keys
Niall Diver – Guitar
Davey Irvine – Guitar
Eamon Nancarrow – Vocals
Steve Strange – Drums

Saturday 17 March 2018

HRH AOR VI - Hafan Y Mor, Saturday 19th March 2018 (Part Review)

Saturday 10th March 2018

I could not be there for the full day, so managed to cram in 4 bands. First up were The Idol Dead. These are another band that I’d never come across before, but full marks to the organisers for getting them on the bill. Again there were as far away to AOR, than Bulletboys are to enjoyment. They reminded of Teenage Casket Company from 2016 that came on and blew the place up. The Idol Dead were no different. To say they had the audience in the palm of their hands was a massive understatement. No solos as such, but they had some of the best songs and riffs this side of the Pennines, all played out with an attitude and swagger bigger than Snowdon. They are on tour in May, I strongly advise you to get your arses over to see them. The highlights of their set were ‘Blackout Girl’ which reminds me of early Coheed & Cambria, and the wonderfully titled C.H.I.M.S.A. (Christopher Hitchens Is My Spiritual Animal). If they had dropped the mic at the end, it would have rounded off a near perfect performance.

Blood Red Saints were on first on the main stage. My worries that they might not be playing to a decent crowd were thankfully the opposite. The room was pretty much filled out and BRS deserve to play in front of numbers like this. They had 45 minutes to make statement, call it 35 if you can shut Pete Godfrey up. That’s a big part of the show. ‘Another Freak’ from their latest album was a stormer, a lot of bands try to write anthems, and very few can do it better than BRS, especially on ‘Mercy’ with the harmonies from Chemney, Naylor and Revill making it a killer. The band were trying to move on quickly and pack the songs in, but stopping Pete Godfrey  from joking, as like trying  to stop Mr Creosote from having a ‘weffer thin mint!’

Pete royally took the piss out of Rob Naylor’s voice (who, when asked to say something, stated he had a sore throat), with Pete commenting ‘you sound gay, where did you lose your voice? In the men’s toilets? ‘

The large venue suits these bands to a tee, as this is probably the best I have seen BRS perform. Amongst the golden nuggets was a brief rendition of Take That’s ‘Back For Good’. Follow this up with ‘Live and Die’ and ‘Kicking Up Dust’ and the set was glorious. God help who had to follow this

So, from the Blood Red Saints to one of France’s patron saints, the all female Joan ov Ark. I would stake (see what I did there) a good amount of money that a lot of the punters were like me, and were a new experience. Despite having to follow Ted Bovis and the BRS, Joan ov Arc were out to prove a point, that it’s not just the blokes who can kick ass. The crowd had faded by the time they entered the stage. From what little I’d seen of them on YouTube, it was nothing when compared to their live performance. The vocals courtesy of Sam Walker were both powerful and ear-bleedingly high. Her sister Shelley (lead guitar), looked as if she wanted to prove a point. There was a bit of overplaying, but I can easily forgive that especially when they want to showcase their talents in a setting like this. Four songs in and the crowd had returned, and they were very well received. They proved that they could mix it up, with the more soulful vocals of bassist Laura Ozholl taking lead on a couple of songs. An anthem for the girls was proclaimed, and it kame with a killer riff, and clearly one of the best songs of the set. They chose to finish their set with an all-time classic, Freebird. It takes some balls to play a track like this, so it was a good job than none were present, and they knocked it out of the park, with Shelly Walker showing how good a guitarist she is.

My final band of the festival was up next, and what a band, and performance it was from Wales’ own Nev MacDonald of Hand of Dimes. I felt a bit like Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire, as he had me at ‘Hello’. Very few singers have this talent; and Nev is one talented bloke. He sings effortlessly, and for me, it was THE vocal performance of the weekend. Joining him from eons back was Andy Robbins (ex-Skin and Jagged Edge). The area was as full as it was for a headliner and it was only 4pm. The set was only seven songs, but fook me, what a seven songs it proved to be! I was lucky to catch him a few years back at Steelhouse in 2013, so it was great to them higher up the bill. ‘Looking at You’ is a classic, and had the whole crowd in raptures. To be honest, Nev could have sung ‘Shaddup Ya Face’ and I’d like it at this point. Hand of Dimes was on fire (damn I should have used that for Joan ov Arc), and in ‘Jacobs Ladder’, a soulful blues number that borders on perfect. It is without doubt their finest work. It was their final track that almost took the roof off the place, Skin’s ‘House Of Love’. It was commented that Nev MacDonald should be a household name. Well, he is in the Buckley household.

Hand of Dimes came a close second to Night Ranger, and join Blood Red Saints, The Idol Dead, and Aaron Buchanan and The Cult Classics as the stand out acts of AOR VI.

I’m hopeful that the guys at HRH will come up trumps next year and deliver the goods as an AOR festival. To many bands were either not AOR or were on the wrong stage (especially Midnite City and Degreed). On the way home, we talked about this in detail, and Styx would be the choice. One of the few bands that can still cut it and matches the high standard of Night Ranger.

The festival goes from strength to strength, they have a brand that doesn’t necessarily cater to the AOR crowd, in a good way.