Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

May 8, 2012

Katya ~ Rock Lives!

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Style: hard rock
Label: self-released
Year: 2011
Home: Los Angeles, California

Members: Katya ~ vocals/guitars/keyboards/effects

Additional: Brent Wroten ~ drums
Shoop, Maurice Verloop ~ bass

Guests: Paulo Gustavo, Adam Cohen ~ bass
Stephen Perkins, Gonzo Sandoval ~ drums
Jerry Peterson ~ saxophone
David Campbell, John Philip Shenale ~ string arrangements
Eliza James ~ violin

Rock chicks with electric guitars ... an exotic looking Russian blooded rock chick with Betty Page bangs, cleavage & a guitar. Does anyone pay any attention to the guitar? On an album you have no choice. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Katya knows how to look hot in the photo sessions ... & on 'America's Got Talent' & VH1's 'Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp' of which she's a cast member & having her video for "Laying In My Bed" as the opening sequence of MTV's 'Damage Control' & she even has her own clothing line ... but also rocks out with a great album dispelling any rumors that chicks with guitars shouldn't waste their time trying. The simply titled Rock Lives! is Katya's debut & comes out with a bang in many ways. Besides being mixed by one of the top names in the field, Bernie Grundman, whose credits include everyone from Michael Jackson to Leonard Cohen, on the album is an array of lesser known names with great resumes that include work with Jane's Addiction, Armored Saint, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Graham Bonnet, Tori Amos & even Burt Bacharach. But, for all the star-studded glamor Katya is no tv producer's creation. She started learning classical piano & having voice lessons at age 5, only to be soon consumed by the guitar & songwriting. Now in her album debut we see the result of this childhood of music. Rock Lives! opens with the cry of "Rock lives" followed by guitars winding up & moving into the opening declaration "The Power Of Rock & Roll" that's a bit of Joan Jett riffing guitars & rock cries ... with lots of echo on the vocals to give it extra punch. This is followed by a highly polished electrified rolling version of Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" with squeeky guitar bits & solo. It may not have the bluesy luster of Janis's iconic version but after two songs Katya has set the scene letting us know she's here for a fun rocking time without too much pretention & is going to take advantage of whatever is at her side whether its all-start players or studio effects & polish. Though, at this revelation she surprises the listener with an acoustic somber love ballad with strings, "Plugged In", that has more in common with Alanis Morissette & the 90's female singer-songwriter scene. Thus, Katya isn't so much about just a non-stop rock party but also about paying something of a tribute to those musicians she grew up with, let alone not letting the listener get too comfortable or the music too predictable. This more subdued style continues slowly building up over a couple songs (i.e. "Like A Dream (A Love Story)", "We Never Say Goodbye") in a dreamy path showing the value of album song order & climaxing with a guitar that reaches the highest notes in a solo & a chorus of overdubbed vocals that sounds like classic Heart. Though the problem with Rock Lives! is that the ballads have the strongest lyrics while the more straight forward rock songs are basic throw away lyrics declaring the cliched wonders of rock'n'roll that are essentially foundations for showing off Katya's guitar playing, which is top notch both on rhythm & lead & countless overdubs. It's a bit of a lyrical contrast that sometimes feels jarring, such as going from "I've a little ditty you can rock to baby/you gotta rock that roll/you gotta rock that roll" in "JLY" to "Hey sister/where're you going tonight/are you feeling lonely/I think you lost your fight" in the string/acoustic guitar ballad "Hey Sister" to "Laying In My Bed" with its Ani DeFranco-esque "Ice cube I like you/I remember my mother hubbard/having a heart attack when I shaved my head ... I was a Munster living with the Brady Bunch/i have no other other than I'm not the only crazy one." As for the guests, as the album is a guitar focused one & on which Katya handles all the duties the guests get a bit under-noticed. It's not like she brought a bunch of guitar soloists but instead a top notch often funky rhythm section & some string arrangers. One doesn't tend to pay attention to bass players so much. Bonus tracks are included of acoustic versions of three ballads. "Like A Dream (A Love Song)" is given an acoustic piano workout that is soft, lovely & to leave it off would be a horror as its luscious. It's the strongest of the three bonus & really the only one that is essential. "Plugged In", "Hey Sister" are given acoustic guitar workouts, sands the full band & thus are more just stripped down versions, but they give the album a ballad heavy feel & aren't different enough to really need to be included. Luckily, its the ballads that are the strongest lyrics & singing by Katya & showing her at her most diverse.

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