Welcome to the meandering musical insights of Aaron Joy (me!), formerly known as the Roman Midnight Music Blog. Here you'll find nearly 750 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie, good & bad, U.S. & foreign. A new review every Monday.

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January 30, 2023

Aerosmith ~ Honkin' On Bobo (album review) ... Blues on speed!

Style: blues-rock, cover, tribute
Label: Columbia
Year: 2004
Home: n/a

Members: Steven Tyler ~ lead vocals/harmonica/piano/percussion
Joe Perry ~ lead guitar/vocals
Brad Whitford ~ guitars
Tom Hamilton ~ bass
Joey Kramer ~ drums

Additional: Tracy Bonham ~ b. vocals
Johnnie Johnson ~ piano
The Memphis Horns ~ brass
Paul Santo ~ piano/electric piano/organ

Aerosmith turns in a balls to the wall blues album covering classic blues cuts ... which ends up sounding like a rock band that knows the blues, but hasn't played the real blues & in turn creates a train wreck that succeeds in a few places almost by accident.  They have one foot in the blues, but Aerosmith is firmly a rock band. Its honorable that they want to recognize their roots by making a blues album with classic songs, versus writing a bluesy rock album like Merzy or Cinderella, but what was their goal? Was it to play great blistering blues? Was it to interpret old songs? Was it to give a rock feel to blues songs? Was it to have fun? I think they did have fun, but as for the other questions I can't give much answer. I heard this when it came out & never wanted to hear any more from them. Listening to it years later I still don't like it for the same reasons, & I say this having changed my listening interests over this time. I found & now find again this album to not be bluesy, but just noisy. It wasn't particularly great rock, but filler songs on the B-side. This is farther away from the blues than they've ever made. Its blues for people who don't know the blues, thus they won't know how bad it is. While its an example of a bad blues album by a great rock band. While this album is full of wonderful blues classics, but I doubt anyone will walk away knowing this. I doubt anyone will hum "You Gotta Move" or want to hear the original. I hope they don't want to hear the original, as they'll realize how Aerosmith jettisoned everything great about the song & turned it into rock filler fluff. For example, "Road Runner" is a classic song with a great memorable riff. The riff is completely drowned out here & doubtful anyone will come away humming it. While, is that an excess of cymbals in the song, as the rhythm section just feels like a wash of indistinct sound ... or was this album poorly mixed? Likely a bit of both, as what blues song has a drum solo? This sounds like a no talent bar band trying to play a song one drunken night. I feel bad that Aerosmith likely worked hard to sound this bad. The Jeff Beck-esque guitar solo that uses all the foot pedals to create lots of sounds just demonstrates what a mess this is. We know its a mess, but thanks for driving the point home. Whose idea was it to break the solo up into numerous sounds? Is this an attempt to have emotion knowing the blues is all about feeling? Complete failure to do anything but twist knobs in the studio & make the biggest wall of sound ever. Every instrument in this bad bar band is trying to play over each other. Nobody is listening to each other. No instrument stands out. Its amateur blues hour. The fact is, "Dream On" had more feeling than this entire record, so there's no need for this to be a train wreck or a show off situation of how many sounds your instrument can make. "Shame, Shame, Shame" features wild guitar playing that might be interesting if the rest of the band was giving it a platform that was interesting. Not a mess of everyone trying to play the blues as fast as possible with no groove, not letting any instrument breathe, not giving any hook a moment to shine, not caring about any sense of melody. Were they on speed when they recorded this? What drugs were they on? I can just imagine Willy Dixon with his big upright bass telling his band to play as fast as possible. Actually, no, I can't, as it defies reality. When jazz pianist Bill Evans started playing fast near the end of his career it was because he thought that's what people wanted in jazz - flash over substance. Only before he died did he slow down again & realize he had it wrong, & that playing fast isn't better. The album ends with "Jesus Is On The Mainline", which attempts to be Delaney & Bonnie's Motel Shot in a big rollicking gospel choir with acoustic guitar, but it couldn't sound more out of place, not to mention contrived. There's nothing gospel or choir-like about Aerosmith, & having a female lead the group made it more out of place. Its like if the next AC/DC album was promoted as retro & closed with an all female a cappella doo-wop outing. If this is an experiment in music making, than I'll give it some points, as it has more in common with drugged out albums of the '60's & '70's for me than anything remotely like the blues. I should say, in high school & college I was a super jazz and blues fan. My life changed the day I heard Robert Johnson & I started learning guitar to play him. I love the blues. I can't get into this. I've seen reviews praise this album, but after a couple listens both at the time of release & over a decade later I don't believe the reviewers are listening to the same album. Maybe they just refuse to acknowledge the fact Aerosmith made a stinker after two decades of great albums. They are a great band & it hurts to confess they failed, but confess it. There are a few decent moments. Two, to be precise. "Never Loved A Girl" has the music is slowed down, the Hammond organ is given space, the guitars subtle, the drums laid back, the band knows when to play & when not, Tyler sings his heart out as one of rock's most iconic singers, & there's even a horn line. If the entire album was like this than it would be one of their greatest albums ever, hands-down. This song was crafted & is wonderful blues. The song is golden & worth including on hits compilations by them. For Joe, who sings, it might be one of his greatest songs on record. "Back Back Train" is an interesting moment with Joe & Tracy Bonham on backing vocals. It is sincerely haunting & raw. Though, I begin to think maybe Joe should have been in charge & not Stephen. But, that's it. Nothing else on this album I found anything but disturbingly bad & embarrassing. Though, points to Stephen singing his heart out in wonderful form. He's one of our most emotive singers, but the material doesn't do him any justice.

January 23, 2023

The Smithereeens ~ 11 (album review) ... What is this?

Style: pop, rock
Label: Capitol
Year: 1989
Home: n/a

Members: Pat DiNizio ~ vocals/guitars/string
Jim Babjak ~ guitars 
Dennis Diken ~ drums
Mike Mesaros ~ bass
Additional: Michael Hamilton ~ guitars
Belinda Carlisle, the Honeys, Maria Vidal ~ b. vocals
Kenny Margolis ~ keyboards/accordion/harpsichord 
Ed Stasium ~ b. vocals/percussion
Gerri Sutyak ~ cello

I've heard the Smithereens before & wasn't thrilled either initially or on repeated listens. A friend raved about them, but I didn't hear what he heard. That was almost 20 yrs ago, so I thought I'd give them another listen with their third release. This was purely randomly chosen. I'm still not hearing it. The problem I've always had with them is their lyrics are very much pop oriented, yet the guitars are more like this noisy over-driven punk thing. I figure that they are trying to create pop with a different musical context, reaching out to both fan groups, but to me it sounds like something is missing. The music is bland & does nothing but drone on, making every song sound alike. Any snap to the lyrics are lost as they have nothing to support them or add to them or accentuate to them. Are they trying to be a garage band? Nirvana sounded like a garage band, but did something musically more interesting. "Baby Be Good" has such non-gritty soft lyrics that I'm confused even more by what audience the band is reaching for. Then I hear a song like "Blue Period" that has acoustic guitars & strings. Its interesting, but so out of context I don't know where this song came from. It's also kinda bland. Nick Cave did this better with "Where The Wild Roses Grow." Actually, lots of bands did everything here better. If these lyrics were by XTC or some other quirky band of the era I think I'd appreciate them more. This is for some audience out there, but not me.

January 16, 2023

Cloudkicker ~ ]]][[[ (EP) (album review) ... Where the groove meets the mood!

Style: dub, instrumental, shoegaze, experimental, heavy metal
Label: self-released
Year: 2010
Home: Columbus, Ohio

Members: Ben Sharp ~ all instruments

Hypnotic instrumentals that pull the listener in through polyphonic & polyrhythmic arrangements heavily repeated & full of drones that make them sound simpler than they are or maybe more complicated than they are ... but definitely out of the musical ordinary. The instrumental sections of Built To Spill or Radiohead might be in the same class or some of the dub music out there that doesn't rely on DJ manipulation. This is where technical playing meets the groove, where the mood created is seemingly the most important factor, not the flash or the lyrics or the technical prowess. But, creating a mood can sometimes be the most difficult part of composing, particularly in a style as abstract as this & with only one man behind the dashboard. But, what originally got my attention was obviously the title of the album & then the songs themselves: '#', '%,' '$'. As mysterious as the music! Music like this is a welcome addition to any music library as in some ways this is the closest rock may ever come to classical music, which is probably some of the most emotional music around that doesn't spur emotions via words. Further, this, along with the also experimental Sunn 0))), I find more inspirational & on a deeper level than most of the music I regularly turn to. The fact that all of Cloudkicker's music is so far freely available really says a lot about the music, too.

January 9, 2023

Europe ~ Bag Of Bones (album review) ... The best musical pieces of Europe together in one great album!

Style: blues-rock
Label: earMUSIC
Year: 2012
Home: Sweden

Members: Joey Tempest ~ vocals/acoustic guitars
John Norum ~ guitars
John Leven ~ bass
Mic Michaeli ~ keyboards/b. vocals
Ian Haugland ~ drums/b. vocals

Guest: Joe Bonamassa ~ slide guitar

Additional: Anton Fig ~ percussion
Jeff Bova ~ orchestration

This is promoted as a blues album, but I worry some might see that & bail on it. I would call it more a rock album with some bluesy ingredients. This is more blues like how Bad Company & Cinderella handle the blues, that is letting the bluesy aspect of the rock template come to the surface, stripping back the pounding rock riffs & pulling out some acoustic guitars. I would promote it more as a back to square one album. It takes a little bit from all of their career, cuts away the junk & turns out what I would call the best album I've heard from them. This is the fourth studio album I've reviewed & compared to what I've heard: this is their masterpiece. All you need is this & if its your introduction you'll likely to be a fan. Maybe it gets better, but I can't imagine how. Let me know in the comments. "Not Supposed To Sing The Blues" might be one of their best songs, right there with "The Final Countdown", if not better. For those who haven't read my other reviews, I called Europe musical chameleons great at imitation, but lacking distinctiveness & personality, though their later day albums are more solid affairs than The Final Countdown. I change my tune here, as this is everything I was looking for before. This oozes personality & distinctiveness. Whatever they did to make this album they should keep doing. They finally hit on perfection. The energy is high, the creativity wild, the musical diversity wide, the music rocks hard, the groove is strong. Everything comes together so perfectly that when the acoustic guitars are introduced it sounds natural & not like they're doing an obligatory power ballad. I previously reviewed post-comeback albums Last Look At Eden & Start From The Dark. There's bits of those albums here, but they've streamlined their sound & in the process taken things up a notch. Those two albums had them aiming to sound like they are metal & grunge, respectively, but they came off as imitative. Here its like they're not being anyone but themselves. They know they're not a blues band & there's no blues scene they're trying to tap into, so they're just free to be. I feel like since day one Europe has always been trying to be someone other than them. They finally just played music & its a great experience. Bag Of Bones has the hard rock of Last Look At Eden, but isn't indistinct metal like that felt for me. While it has the emotional quality of Start From The Dark, but doesn't overdose on the depressing vibes like I felt that album did in its attempt to be a grunge thing. This album finds the right balance. This feels less like a blues album, & more a best of Europe album with a few unexpected sparkles (i.e. sitar break on "Firebox" & the acoustic guitars). Though, like their other albums, no filler. Every song is strong, which is an amazing feat.

January 2, 2023

Accept ~ Too Mean To Die (album review) .... NWOBHM flashback!

(Click on heading to visit official website.)

Style: heavy metal, power metal
Label: Nuclear Blast
Year: 2021
Home: Germany

Members: Mark Tornillo ~ vocals
Wolf Hoffmann ~ lead guitar
Uwe Lulis, Philip Shouse ~ rhythm guitars
Martin Motnik ~ bass
Christopher Williams ~ drums

I've reviewed a few early Accept & some U.D.O. albums, confessing surprise at how enjoyable they were, but I figured I had to be fair & review a post Udo album. This is the band's 16th album & the fifth with frontman Mark Tornillo. It also features a new bassist & rhythm guitarist. Tornillo's voice isn't too far a stretch from Udo, barely a hop. Perhaps its Udo's twin brother with a bit of Brian Johnson from AC/DC thrown in. Which means, if you like early Accept than don't be afraid to check out current Accept. There will be more here that is familiar than not. What will be here? A brutal attack of intense proportions that likely got missed by many metalheads in the world of Covid 2020 where all eyes were on other things. Too Mean To Die is as if the band looked at their career, looked at what made them & their peers successful, forgot about trends or what anyone else is doing, & just blasted it old school like no time had passed. Its old school being classic NWOBHM metal. Straight to the point. Nothing fancy. Nobody is re-inventing the wheel, but just rocking the template. The drums provide the backbone. The singer growls, but not too much. The rest of the group chomps away at riff after riff like a vulture swooping down. It was an enjoyable 50 minutes. Yet, having said that, the songs are largely forgettable as you feel like you've heard them all before in decades past by other bands. Sometimes I found myself thinking 'this sounds exactly like somebody, now who is it?' Thankfully the band stays away from the blues, as with Tornillo they'd likely sound too much like AC/DC. The songs could be more memorable, as the riffs were plentiful but the hooks few. Everything sorta blends into everything else, & stand-out moments were likely because this sounded too much like classic moody Accept. This is essentially one of those albums that you'll enjoy listening to, but you likely won't remember it. The one moment you will remember is maybe the anthem power ballad "The Best Is Yet To Come", but more because it feels out of place, like a different band & you've heard better. Too Mean To Die is good metal that hits most of the right buttons & not much more.

December 26, 2022

Cheap Trick ~ Greatest Hits: Japanese Singles Collection (hits comp) (album review) ... Deep cuts & beloved hits!

Style: hard rock, pop rock
Label: Sony Japan
Year: 2018
Home: n/a

Members: Robin Zander ~ vocals/rhythm guitar
Rick Nielsen ~ guitar/b. vocals/keyboards 
Tom Petersson ~ bass/b. vocals 
Bun E. Carlos ~ drums

Additional: Jai Winding, Paul Klinberg, Kim Bullard ~ keyboards
Mark Radice ~ keyboards/vocals
Steve Lukather, Todd Rundgren ~ guitars

I've never been a huge fan, as their songs have been a bit too pop for me. I'm more interested in the how to, than the what is. Everyone knows the famed multi-necked guitars of Rick Nielsen, but bassist Tom Petersson has a unique custom bass & sound I'm a bit envious of, speaking as a fellow bassist. They aren't my thing, but I appreciate the fact that they've made some classic ear worms, which you end up enjoying even if its not your style. I also give them credit for making all their early music themselves without an array of session players. They are creative & talented, no doubt. I will listen to them, but do not actively seek them out. I will confess I really enjoyed their 2017 album We're All Alright!, which I wanted to hear having not heard anything they had done since the '90's. It deserves a revisit & review here. I don't know how this album is reflective of their current sound, as the pop music Cheap Trick excelled in has come & gone from the charts. This leads me to the problem I have always had with them. I call them pop rock, but are they?  Pop love ballad lyrics with careening guitar solos feels so contradictory & mismatched o me. I'm reminded of the Smithereens, who I recently reviewed & called out for the same reason. Are they rock, punk, pop? I could never get what Cheap Trick was trying for, while their sound went through changes making them more unpredictable & hard to pinpoint. This might be why I enjoyed We're All Alright!, as it leaned more ragged punkish than pop. Also, his is where Greatest Hits: Japanese Single Collection is actually good for someone like me. It includes the live versions of "I Want You To Want Me", a "Ain't That A Shame," plus the U.S. hit singles "Surrender", "Voices", "Dream Police", "Stop This Game", "If You Want My Love", "Tonight It's You", "The Flame", "Don't Be Cruel", "Can't Stop Fallin' Into Love". It also includes lesser known songs. There is the punkish "Clock Strikes Ten", punk meets rockabilly "California Man", "Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace" with a great thumping bass, the rolling pop song "Everything Works If You Let It", the rockin' "(Love Comes) A Tumblin’ Down", the new wave-esque "Dancing The Night Away", the pop ballads "Ghost Town" & "Wherever Would I Be", & soundtrack contributions "Mighty Wings"& "Stop That Thief." The hits are nice to hear, but these deep cuts I enjoyed so much more. They sounded like a whole different band. Having not heard much beyond the hits I didn't know this side of the band existed in years past. I'm actually impressed by their musical range the band has tried after hyearing these deep cuts. All but the last four named I enjoyed. Dump the keyboards I maybe would have enjoyed them more. These additions make this hits comp a worthwhile purchase. This hits collection, one of many to choose from, includes all the singles released in Japan between 1977 & 1990 while on Epic. More precisely, every album is represented here from their debut to 1990's Busted, which also is before the departure of drummer Bun E. Carlos. There are a few songs missing that were hits in the U.S., like "She's Tight", but the deep cuts make up for it. I had a domestic hits comp years ago that didn't have these songs on it. I wish it did. This includes the versions released in America, a bit odd as this is a Japanese label, & it feels almost like they are catering to both countries. These are the original mixes, no remastering. The DVD, which I haven't seen, has the music videos & clips from their Budokan concert, & was previously released as the Every Trick In The Book DVD. I don't review music video DVDs here.

December 19, 2022

ESP (aka Eric Singer Project) ~ ESP (aka self-titled) (album review)

Style: covers, tribute, hard rock, classic rock
Label: n/a
Year: 1999
Home: n/a

Members: Eric Singer ~ drums/vocals
Bruce Kulick ~ guitar/bass/b. vocals
John Corabi ~ vocals/guitar/bass/piano
Karl Cochran ~ vocals/guitar/bass

Guest: Ace Frehley ~ lead guitar

Additional: Nicky Lemmons ~ keyboards
Roberta Freeman ~ b. vocals

I'll be honest. I've heard numerous albums by Bruce Kulick, both by Kiss & not, yet I wouldn't know it was him if you didn't tell me. There's nothing that makes me recognize his playing from any other playing. There's no riffing blues like Slash, or weird playing like Steve Vai & Allan Holdsworth, or even super melodic playing by Al Pitrelli. He's a good riffer who can pretty much play anything, & was great in Kiss, but I can't find anything about him that carries across all his work. As for Eric Singer, I've never been able to recognize drummers. Even when I took a jazz class in college where the test was to hear a series of drummers. Based on the sound of their hi-hat or a snare or playing style we had to name who it was in 4 bars. I couldn't. As for guitarist & vocalist Karl Cochran on this album, I don't know him. Well, that's not true. He's on a lot of albums by Joe Lynn Turner, many of which I own, but I can't remember anything about him or the songs. I actually got the albums for Al Pitrelli, who does have a recognizable style. While John Corabi I of course know, but wouldn't recognize & have no opinion about him. So, coming into this I hesitate. Its a supergroup with musicians who I do not consider to have a distinctive sounds ... doing covers of classic rock songs. So, having said all that, the outcome is a group of non-distinct players who end up not having a distinct sound knocking down distinctive songs by a few notches. This album feels like a pub band doing covers. Nothing more. The songs don't feel like they've really been given a completely different or unique feel, or anything other than being generic hard rock playing. Or, I should say, they feel like a typical bar band cranking out the tunes trying to rock, but not necessarily trying to sound like the originals or anything beyond what is possible for them to do. Not to mention covering Johnny Winter, Hendrix & Deep Purple with play-by-the-numbers blues solos doesn't exactly capture the feel of those musicians or songs. While "S.O.S. (Too Bad)" sounds nothing like Aerosmith. I guess, I should give them credit for interpreting a song completely different from the original ... but in this case they not just sound nothing like the original, but took out the stomp & groove. I can't compliment turning a deep cut into a boring rock song. Congrats on knocking the original down a few notches? While whoever is playing guitar on "Won't Get Fooled Again" is far too stiff to properly imitate the loose wristed Pete Townshend. This is the School Of Rock version. I can't see any reason to listen to this album. I mean, a version of Kiss' "Goin' Blind" that sounds like Kiss, but with a rougher sounder singer? I'll just listen to the original! The most interesting thing was hearing Eric Singer sing on songs by Little Feat, Humble Pie, Kiss & Montrose. He's got a rasp that makes me feel he likely did justice to performing "Beth" with Kiss. Also, the R&B take on Hendrix's "Changes" was interesting.

December 12, 2022

Iron Maiden ~ Virtual XI (album review) ... Can't wait for this album to end!

Style: hard rock, heavy metal
Label: EMI
Year: 1998
Home: England

Members: Steve Harris ~ bass/keyboards
Blaze Bayley ~ lead vocals

Dave Murray, Janick Gers ~ guitars
Nicko McBrain ~ drums

Additional: Michael Kenney ~ keyboards


Iron Maiden's second & last album with Blaze Bayley on vocals. Where to start? First, honesty: I'm a super casual listener of Maiden. You're not getting insider's insights here. I've only heard 3 albums by them, two of which are on this blog, & the other is The Final Frontier I had mixed feelings over. I have heard stuff by the members outside the band, though. I enjoy Paul Di'Anno's stuff. I've also never seen a concert video of them other than clips. They aren't bad. I don't hate them. I just have never been bitten by the exploration bug, as there's so much music out there & so little time. But, after listening to the Virtual XI I want to listen to more of their albums. No, Virtual XI hasn't made me a fan. I simply want to know if they are ... if they could be ... if this is ... okay, I'll say it, given their reputation they can't be this bad. I want to know if the other albums are such a slog. Putting their reputation aside, & since I can't compare any of their classic albums to this, its not good from a general point of view. Or, let me rephrase. Its not bad.  Its far far from the worst album I've tortured myself with. But, I drafted this review 24 hours ago & now can't remember a single song from the album, nor a lyric, nor a riff, nor anything other than it just never seemed to end. I remember feeling bored by it & wondering why their producer didn't step in with a pair of scissors, meant literally in cutting away reels of tape. Which means before I post this review I'll have to listen again, as I'm now re-writing a review of music I can't remember. Given I have a head full of songs that I can recall in seconds, which is pretty scary how my mind remembers all that, given I can remember lyrics from something I heard decades ago, given all the trivia I also retain, given listening to some musicians has made me an instant fan, if I can't remember something a day later than it must be pretty bad. The rest of this review is going to be a re-write of the notes I took hearing this album yesterday. I always like to think that Maiden is such a musical powerhouse that even without Bruce Dickinson wailing away things will be alright with Steve Harris' rolling bass lines, his interesting lyrics & the intertwining guitar parts. While I don't know them well, I think of the Maiden crew as a dynamic entity that is bigger than any one player. Yet, listening to Virtual XI my opinion might be in error. Maybe its the songs themselves, but without Dickinson something is dramatically lost. The vocals don't feel quite up to par, but neither do the songs nor the band. Using the opener "Futureal" as an example, its not a bad song but its not something I need to hear again. There's still the tongue-twisting fast moving lyrics & bouncing music, but it dies before it ends. Bayley is a good competent singer, but he doesn't have the dynamics of Dickinson, nor does he have a particularly memorable voice, also like Dickinson, nor a particular phrasing style. Due to these three things he doesn't bring anything much to the table, which means he doesn't have anything to give to the song. Thus, it never really takes off, but just plods along. He can sing well, no question on that, but he doesn't add to the dynamics I think of when I think of Maiden. He doesn't even sound very inspired. The music isn't driving him. The lyrics aren't emotionally grabbing him. He's just singing & not giving any energy or feeling to it. I'm actually bored listening to him & I hate to say that about a singer, particularly one who obviously knows how to sing. To clarify, one doesn't need dynamics or Whitney Houston chops to have emotion. Listen to jazz sing Jimmy Durante for someone with an average voice but a wonderful since of nuance & feeling. Its about using what you have to express as much as you can. I don't know the history of the band, so I'm asking if he was the best Maiden had to choose from. Did they owe someone a favor & thus got stuck with him? Or, were things going back & he was figuratively mailing in his performance counting the days to his departure? Paycheck collected, next! At least when Phil Collins was replaced in Genesis Ray Wilson brought a new distinct sound to the band, both loved & hated by fans, but Bayley doesn't seem to be offering anything other than an ability to sing in key. I picture him as the guy you hire for a wedding covers band. One need only hunt up live versions of "Futureal" with Bruce to hear how the song may not be the best Maiden have ever done, but with a shot of some vocal dynamics its much better. "Futureal" sadly sets the tone for the album, which is more like a dirge. It goes on & on, but goes nowhere, with the good moments all musical & all lost in the clutter. I really hate to lay the blame all at the singer's feet, but really there's nothing here that grabs me & says to me this is a legendary band I want to hear more of. There is also one other problem. The lyrics. Harris gets credit for all but one song, while Bayley gets some writing credit. This is not inspired writing, or if it was the arrangements are mailed in doing the writing no favors. Maybe this is good writing for the band, but the arrangements are ruining everything. I don't know, but I'm so tired of hearing the last minutes of a song consisting of Bayley repeating one line over & over with no vocal variation. Those last 3 words are the key. Bayley drones, but I'd rather hear the shimmer of a tambura than this wedding singer. Anyways, I plan to get married with an Elvis impersonator doing the singing. So, I'm not looking for a wedding band. Where was the producer with a pair of scissors going, 'We shall end the song here, not way over here.' One of the things I think many bands do wrong is they don't know when to end a song. Sometimes you don't need to drag it out or add in yet another solo or repeated chorus. I speak from experience helping guitarist Allen Peterson with his second solo album. Nobody was listening to the entire songs in their original form or having much good to say about the album. He was distraught. Having heard the album many times both in his house & his truck while we drove around, I told him to crop at least a minute or two off each song. Just ditch some solos & extra lyric repetitions. He did, hesitantly I'll confess, & suddenly everyone was more attentive. What was happening, he found, was the songs were indeed too long & people were getting bored. There was no surprise in the last couple minutes. That's what is happening here with Virtual XI. & when you're bored you get forgetful of what you've just listened to, then you're going into the next song bored. If you're going into the next song bored, you not hearing what good parts there are. So, if the guitarist has a good solo, nobody is really in tune with the album to hear it. I'll confess on my first listen to this album I couldn't make it to the end in one sitting. Generic rock with a generic bored singer. Though, "Lightning Strikes Twice" is worth a mention, as I enjoyed that, but it just makes me want to hear Bruce attempt it. All the above is based on my previous day's listen. Finishing this up now I've listened to the album 2.5 times in total. It hasn't improved with age. On today's front to back listen I'll add one more thought. I enjoyed "The Educated Fool" & "Don't Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger", though they aren't going into my playlist & didn't lift the album up. Also, to note, after my last listen I went & listened to The Final Frontier. Not becoming a Maiden fan. I basically come to the same conclusion I always have: I like a few singles, but not rushing to hear complete albums. But, I do plan to listen to more of them before solidifying this opinion, such as Powerslave & maybe a few other classics. I do like to do my due diligence.

December 5, 2022

Ratt ~ Invasion Of Your Privacy (album review) ... The Cement Pirate on the prowl!

Style: hard rock, glam metal
Label: Portrait
Year: 1999
Home: n/a

Members: Stephen Pearcy ~ vocals
Warren DeMartini ~ guitar/b. vocals
Robbie Crane ~ bass/b. vocals
Bobby Blotzer ~ drums

I've been on a Ratt kick lately going back to re-listen. This often happens with this band, as I can't just hear one album. Yet, I've discovered I really don't like Dancing Undercover & Ratt, known amongst fans as 1999, outside of two songs. Those albums are to me where the Ratt template hits its very close walls. Infestation is a great comeback, but with their comeback albums as 50/50%  good/bad I worry about any future music they might create. So, now I've been turning back the clock to the universally acclaimed early albums. On their second album Invasion Of Your Privacy I was struck by something immediately I didn't hear on any of the above albums. I wrote in my review that on Infestation Pearcy is singing great, but there's something missing there that I didn't realize is missing that I now hear with this classic album. There, Pearcy doesn't growl, he just sings. I don't know if I ever noticed this before, but I'm pretty sure I felt it. Pearcy has a growl that pretty much makes Ratt who they are. When he sings on "What You Give Is What You Get" I imagine someone like a criminal crawling through an alley, their back hunched over with a weapon hidden under a jacket. Or, a rapist stalking a victim in the dark. He sounds menacing, which might be partly where his nickname of the Cement Pirate came from, in addition to his Adam Ant-like early glam image. "Got Me On The Line", "Between The Eyes", "Dangerous But Worth The Risk", & "You're In Love" also feature this growl. Yes, Ratt had two great guitar players, addictive rhythms, memorable sing-along lyrics, but there are times they sound like every other band with a big sound & tenor singer churning out power ballads. But, when Pearcy growls like a hunter & digs into the song something magical comes through. Not all songs follow this approach. Some are just straight ahead rockers, but enough of the songs have such an emotional punch it lifts up the rest. Also, the songs just really are great, but there might be more here than many recognize & it explains where later albums failed.

November 28, 2022

Havok ~ Time Is Up (album review) ... Brutal heart attack in the making!

Style: thrash, speed metal, heavy metal
Label: Candlelight Records
Year: 2011
Home: Denver, Colorado

Members: David Sanchez ~ vocals/guitars
Reece Scruggs ~ lead guitar/b. vocals
Jesse de los Santos ~ bass/b. vocals
Pete Webber ~ drums


I'd never heard of Havok when I stumbled up on this album on youtube. It seems they've been together since 2004 & continue to pound the skins, though with a regularly changing membership leaving only one original member. Time Is Up is their second release, following their 2009 debut. 3 albums followed in 2013, 2017 & 2020, which might explain why I've not heard of them as they've not had the regular output like other bands. To their credit they have toured with Primal Fear, Sepultura, Anthrax, 3 Inches Of Blood, Mayhem, Exodus, Testament, Cannibal Corpse, Symphony X, among others. Time Is Up, according to wikipedia, was a critical favorite & called a defining moment of the New Wave Of Thrash Metal of the mid-2000's. I'm feeling really out of touch, as I didn't know there was a thrash revival, though I was also living abroad for a few years & unaware of new American releases. I'm also not the biggest thrash fan in general, though I love Megadeth. Yet, even if I'm not a huge fan, these guys are brutal & heart attack inducing. If you like Slayer you'll like them. Actually, you'll love this, as they actually sound more like Slayer than not. That translates to good but not so creative music. This is pretty much by the book thrash. Pounding double bass to give you a heart attack, hardcore riffing & shredding, nimble finger whammy bar solos, & understandable shouted lyrics of revolution. Its good, but the songs blend together & you'll not likely remember anything unique about this band to set them apart after the fact. They sound like classic thrash, almost too much, but are worth hearing for the crunch & fierceness. "Fatal Intervention", the early Megadeth-esque "Killing Tendencies & the guitar onslaught "D.O.A." are a few highlights that stood out to me. Check these 3 tracks out if you don't know if you want to hear it all. If you like these, than tune in for the rest. Its not bad, but its not history making or template breaking.

November 21, 2022

Night Ranger ~ 7 Wishes (album review) ... My one wish is you hear this forgotten AOR delight!

Style: hard rock, AOR
Year: 1985
Label: MCA
Home: San Francisco, California

Members: Jack Blades ~ bass, lead vocals
Kelly Keagy ~ drums/lead vocals
Brad Gillis, Jeff Watson ~ guitars
Alan Fitzgerald ~ keyboards/b. vocals

Additional: Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, Kevin Charles, David Sykes, Fishdog ~ b. vocals

Aside from their classic "Sister Christian", I've only heard Night Ranger's 2011 album Somewhere In California with original members Jack Blades, Brad Gillis, & Kelly Keagy, plus guitarist Joel Hoekstra & keyboardist Eric Levy. In my review I said it was chock full of wild guitar playing one expects from Hoekstra, but for me it was more about the guitar fireworks than memorable songs. Out of curiosity I now decided to go back into time with their third album & classic line-up. Coming in the shadow of "Sister Christian," this album hit number 10 & featured numerous singles. It continued their transition into a popular arena touring band. First, you can't judge a band on one song. If you don't believe me than tell me what music you might hear from Guns N' Roses after hearing only "My World" or the Rolling Stones after "Might As Well Get Juiced" or Queen after "Body Language." I once knew someone who didn't listen to the Stones as she didn't like country music, having only heard one song from them. "Sister Christian" I listened to before hearing this, but it didn't really give me any preparation of what the band sounds like, other than they basically have set the bar high for power ballads. I'm also 100% sure they didn't make an entire album of these types songs. So, what did they do & what did I find? Well, you can't judge them at all via that one song. Don't try. They also didn't make an album trying to do that song ten more times.What they do is some great melodic rock & I like many of these songs better. The title track opens the album & is a funky & lyrically mystical song you'll want to hear over & over. The band is a super melodic AOR outing with layers of keyboards & guitars that mesh everything together in something more like Survivor or Supertramp or less proggy Asia, than the L.A. glam scene some might lump them in with. The keyboards get as much time as the guitars & its creates a whole new feeling compared to what other bands were doing in 1985. The result is a really good pop AOR outing that feels more about creating great songs than knocking your face off with big vocals & big guitars. Every rock keyboardist needs to listen to this to prove to their band mates how to use the piano as more than a backing instrument or something just to introduce songs with. If its not obvious I liked this classic outing much more than Somewhere In California.

November 14, 2022

Mark St. John ~ Magic Bullet Theory (album review) ... Breathtaking but exhausting from the former Kiss man!

Style: hard rock, instrumental, acoustic, power metal, heavy metal
Label: Loss Ness Monster Recordings
Year: 2003
Home: n/a

Members: Mark St. John ~ guitars/mandolin/banjo/bazooka/balalaika
Michael Norton ~ Bass
Dave Goode ~ drums

I really liked St. John's playing with Kiss on Animalize. Its a shame he was not able to continue with them. After Kiss he would move through a few bands, do some live recordings & demos, but never have any commercial break through before his untimely death. Magic Bullet Theory was an instrumental album which became his unintended final album. This was produced & completely composed by Mark, with Michael Norton on bass & Dave Goode on drums. Mark also plays the mandolin, banjo, bazooka, balalaika, which says this might get spicy. "AWOL" had previously appeared on the 1999 self-titled EP by the Mark St. John Project featuring Talas vocalist Phil Naro. I reviewed the Vinnie Vincent Invasion saying that I wish he had dumped the singing & just done an instrumental album along the lines of Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani & many of his shredder peers. I found his playing often didn't mesh with the music, & the singing, while at times good, was distracting. Mark turns in exactly what I called for Vinnie to make - guitars, more guitars, one foot in song structure & the other in noodlefest, & just a musical onslaught with little to distract from the reason we are here. There's no attempt to make this look like a band. No attempt to make radio hits. Its all Mark all the time, & a few guys you'll barely notice keeping the beat. Vinnie would end up doing an album like this, but after the fact. Given Mark's reputation I'm shocked it took so long for him to make such an album, but at least he did. The album has two musical sides that one might not expect, though technically the two sides are rotated between each other. There's the electric songs & a collection of acoustic outings. The electric songs all sorta feel the same, like a wild man of guitar gone wild with no limits. They are hard to distinguish. The acoustic bits are really the highlight. Each one covers a different acoustic style. You never hear a guitarist of Mark's caliber go to town on acoustic guitar, or at least not on a handful of very distinct sounding tracks. When I say 'go to town', I mean play so fast that I can't imagine his fingers not being in pain. I didn't know you could play the acoustic this fast without something breaking. First, the electric side. Sadly, summarizing one song will essentially cover the whole terrain. "AWOL" opens the album fast & furious with whammy bar fury Kerry King would approve of. There is a composition here & not just rambling directionless playing, though its not the intricate compositions of Joe Satriani nor the weird acrobatics of Steve Vai. This is more in the Eric Johnson & Jason Becker category, with as many flourishes as one can fit into a song under 4 minutes without having to call 911. Michael & Dave stay pretty out of the way. The drum beat is simple, the bass line outlining some semblance of a melody through the chords. There is some underlying guitar rhythms, but more so just there to fill the air than to craft something interesting to interact with. This is all about Mark flying as fast as possible across the fretboard without pause. There is an unexpected break where he plays with the harmonics & the band pulls back. It gives this song some much needed breathing space. All the electric songs pretty much could be described the same. The lead guitar soars without stop, the rhythm section is unnoticeable, song structures are loose. One thing that can be said is while he's playing its not all screaming notes above the 12th fret. He's covering the entire fretboard like Yngwie might, with some re-occurring riffs that provide a home base to spin off of. This is undoubtedly a guitar player's album. At times its awesome. Other times its hard to follow. Sometimes its tedious. But, a few songs into the album & listener burnout is likely to happen as you swear everything starts to sound alike. It would be great to hear him pause sometimes in the lead part. The lead guitar sounds like one long sound. This goes for every electric song. Its amazing playing, no doubt, but the music lacks tension, build-up & release. This also goes for every song. Pausing would allow a little more of the riffs to come through, versus riff going into noodling, touching on riff, noodle noodle, do something else, then end the song suddenly. That's another problem. All the songs essentially just stop as though someone in the control booth is waving them to stop. When you've played every note on the guitar, how do you actually finish? The directionless playing might be fascinating, it means in terms of overall composition the unexpected dynamic bridges end up being highlight. They're the part that allows you to hear something different & allows the song to breathe. A 12 bar bridge shouldn't be the highlight. The fact is none of the songs actually have any climactic moments, so the bridges take on that role. Since the songs go nowhere musically they actually can't climax. "The Lone Gunman" & "Wait No More" are big criminals of this charge, as they give up rambling for just being endlessly monotonous, almost like Mark decided to write a traditional song but left off the vocals & strong melody. This also is evident on the acoustic song "Utopian Trip" which almost feels like an imitation of Steve Howe, but just with repeating patterns. Speaking of the acoustic songs: they are the best & most musically interesting parts. A whole album of acoustic songs would have been cool. They suffer from the same speed, monotony & zero climax issues, but without the whammy bar & other effects they feel very different. Also, every acoustic song is different. "Bourbon Street" is an acoustic tour-de-force that sounds like a jazz song played so fast you're sure Mark's fingers are going to slip off the strings. I'm not even sure they didn't a few times. Just two guitars & a basic rhythm jazz-esque section in what is a fascinating musical trip. Though, there's not much of a song here, just like the electric songs. While it ends just as poorly. Thus, it aims for some great heights, but seems to give up just before reaching the top. I find it shocking how it just throws away the endings, like they don't matter. All things said, its my favorite track on the album next to "Baghdad". "Baghdad" goes for a mix of John McLaughlin with generic Indian & Middle Eastern flavors. Its fascinating, as someone who loves Indian music, but anyone who knows about the sitar knows that its not always played fast. Mark is absolutely twanging his strings like they are a sitar, though with no real concept of what makes up Indian ragas other than bending some notes. Its not speed, but flavor. Sadly, he has no slow parts, no contemplative parts, just an obvious imitation. As it is, its just the flavor of Indian & Middle Eastern music, as it doesn't actually follow any of the musical rules. Though, kudos for trying. Its a fascinating if flawed track. I wish the electric songs had this much creativity. "Utopian Trip" is another acoustic song, but clearly in the power ballad style as electric guitars whammy bar in almost obnoxiously. Power ballad might not be right, given there's a banjo playing part of the rhythm trying to boost it. The title track also incorporates an acoustic guitar into the rhythm for the power ballad approach, but is an under-utilized instrument here. Obviously Mark is trying to explore the instrument as much as possible both as a lead & rhythm instrument, but why couldn't he do this with his electric tracks? "Walking On A Call" ends the album trying for a straight forward style of folk playing. But, by this time you've heard pretty much every trick Mark has: play fast. Its no longer impressive. Its really sad. If he had some reigning in, more interplay with the other instruments & more focus on song structure I think this would be an amazing album, versus something that is largely forgotten.

November 7, 2022

Honeymoon Suite ~ Racing After Midnight (album review) ... Bad ass Vinnie Vincent meets Deep Purple guitarist!

Style: hard rock, glam metal
Label: Warner Bros
Year: 1988
Home: Ontario, Canada
Members: Johnnie Dee ~ lead vocals
Dermot "Derry" Grehan ~ guitars/b. vocals
Dave Betts ~ drums
Gary Lalonde ~ bass
Rob Preuss ~ keyboards

Additional: Michael McDonald ~ b. vocals
Ted Templeman, Bobby LaKind ~ percussion

By the book '80's rock with a slight bluesy edge. I'd like to hear more of the bluesy edge. Actually, I'd like to just hear more personality, blues or whatever. The singer does break the '80's stereotype with a baritone & not a screaming tenor. Though, he sings a bit uninspired. I don't know if that's because a producer didn't push him emotionally, as singing is as much about expressing feeling as saying words, or maybe the lyrics didn't inspire him, or maybe he wasn't confident.  He's a good singer but sounds lost, like if this wasn't so over-stuffed & lacking any breathing room maybe he'd be better off. Which leads me to the one thing about this album I completely recommend hearing: the guitarist, Dermot "Derry" Grehan! For him alone you need to slog through this album. Wild, in your face, & messy in a Vinnie Vincent meets Deep Purple way that is madness in six strings. He is so good that I'd be interested in hearing his other bands the Dexrays & LoveJunk. Check out "Love Fever" with a funky R&B-esque guitar rhythm, soaring leads, & an equally funky synthesizer. It's a highlight of the album & has more personality than the other tracks combined. Which makes me wonder what the producer was thinking? If you have such a strong track, why not make more in its mold, versus just an album of bland imitative filler? "Love Fever" sounds nothing like any '80's band, yet the rest of the album dies a fast death due to the fact other bands have done this same sound with soundalike songs far far better. What's worse is how the producer decided to make the keyboards the focus on multiple songs, pushing the guitars away, to create some made-for-the-charts-but-not-much-else power ballads. Though, I do appreciate hearing keyboards higher in the mix overall, as rock keyboardists are unsung heroes, yet Honeymoon Suite has a guitarist who need not to be drowned under bad songwriting & music that isn't half as wild as his worst solo. Why do wet noodle ballad powers when you have a Vinnie Vincent in your ranks? That's like making Steve Howe the lead singer of Yes with Jon Anderson doing backing vocals, simply because there's others famous singing guitarists. What are you thinking? Formed in 1981 with their album debut coming in 1984, Honeymoon Suite had hits in both America & Canada largely buoyed by being featured on the TV show Miami Vice & in the movies Lethal Weapon, The Wraith with Charlie Sheen, & One Crazy Summer with John Cusak. This album was produced by Van Halen's producer Ted Templeman, but it was the first not to make waves in America. Likely because it sounds so much like so many other bands, but without the oompf outside of the guitars! This might be just over 30 minutes long, but its so lacklaster that its a slog. No wonder Grehan isn't more famous, as not everyone will have the patience to get through this. Not to mention "Love Fever" comes halfway in. I sometimes wonder what bands like this would have sounded like if they hadn't tried so hard to sound like a band that desperately wanted to sound like all the commercially successful bands, bands by the way who are successful as they have some personality or put forward what makes them unique. Hint hint. The band continues to this day, with their latest single coming in 2019, though with numerous line-up changes & no further U.S. impact.

October 31, 2022

Ratt ~ Out Of The Cellar (album review) ... & into your musical hearts!

Style: hard rock, glam metal
Label: Atlantic

Year: 1984
Home: Los Angeles, California

Members: Stephen Pearcy ~ vocals
Robbin Crosby, Warren DeMartini ~ guitars/b. vocals
Juan Croucier ~ bass/b. vocals
Bobby Blotzer ~ drums

Ratt had been around for awhile, but hasn't always gotten the credit as a first generation L.A. hair metal due to the timing of their debut full length album Out Of The Cellar. That is too bad ... luckily for them they came out the door with this near '80's masterpiece to cement their place in history. If you love '80's hair metal & either don't own this album or have not heard it, than you've missed an album that is a right of passage. You likely know the hit "Round & Round", with its iconic MTV video, but if you haven't heard the rest of the album than you're missing a classic album. In the days since controversies might have marred their reputation, but back in the day Ratt was huge & everyone loved them. The band had already done an EP, thus they had a chance to work on their sound by the time of their formal full length debut. Any band would kill for a debut this strong. Ironically, the follow-up is considered even better by some fans, but this album instantly put them on the map. Steven Pearcy's vocals might be considered whiney by some, but his vocals are instantly recognizable & different in a sea of screaming tenors. The guy had high pitched singing voice, but didn't scream or go into tenor like so many of his peers. He also had an arsenal of great lines to sing, whether they were his lyrics or from his bandmates. The riffs are huge & memorable, with solos to match. For example, the opening of "Back For More" with the bass, guitars & drums just launch into a huge opening that will blow your speakers up. Ratt had two great guitarists with different styles. The late Robbin Crosby was wild, while Warren DeMartini threw in little nuances that often get missed by non-musicians but put him in the higher echelons of players. While the band had a strong rhythm section up there with Van Halen, featuring bassist/songwriter Juan Croucier & drummer Bobby Blotzer. Check out Juan's playing on "Back For More" & his slides on "The Morning After" that give both songs a drive. The album is also full of hits, kinda like Nirvana's Nevermind or Electric Light Orchestra's A New World Record, where its one great song after another & the weak points are almost not talking about. More importantly, these aren't hits because they were played on the radio & Billboard decided they were hits, but because they are genuinely great songs that instantly grab you. I'm a huge Ratt fan & love Stephen solo stuff. I'm proud of that fact & the band is worth my adoration. If you're not a fan or don't know their music, what are you waiting for? Also to note, the late Tawny Kitaen is the cover model, who is famous for also appearing in the Whitesnake videos. She was Robbin's girlfriend at the time.

October 24, 2022

Blaze Bayley’s The Foundry ~ Live In Texas 2014 (live) (album review) ... Playing Iron Maiden the way I wanted him to!

Style: hard rock
Label: self-released
Year: 2014
Home: n/a

Members: Blaze Bayley ~ vocals
Rick Plester ~ guitar
John Moyer ~ bass
James Kottak, A.J. Pero ~ drums

First, its nice to hear an actual live album where I can hear every instrument & I know its actually live. The audience sounds are minimal, but when Blaze Bayley's voice cracks trying to hit a note in "Voices From The Past" there's a subtle pleasure that follows. The history of live albums is a history of partially live & lots of overdubs, so a real live album is a nice change of pace. It also shows the musician willing to show warts & all. That minor point being said, this outing goes under the name the Foundry, but I have a hard time seeing this as anything but Blaze's latest live band. I just add it to the list of names he's used, including his own, the Blaze Bayley Band & BLAZE. The prominence of Iron Maiden & his solo songs leads me to make this deduction. Plus, the fact it started as a Blaze tour where he was offered a strong all-star backing band, versus forming or joining a band to tour with. The clincher evidence is that the Foundry has a changing membership often based on what country Blaze is touring. It has included guitarists Rick Plester & M.G. Jones, bassists John Moyer & Matt MacLean, drummers Bobby Jarzombek, A.J. Pero, James Kottack & Bill League. All these folks were missing for a Mexico tour where Blaze was backed up by the metal band Overfire, while for 2 Canadian tours he was backed up Insurgent Inc & Maiden Quebec. If he had gone to other countries & brought at least one guy with him I might be more tempted to say this is an actual band. While it doesn't have any studio albums to give it the status of a Nine Inch Nails or Whitesnake, which is essentially one guy & hired hands rotating through. I’m guessing his humbleness led to wanting to call this a band to bring recognition to the excellent musicians he has with him, though its all cover tunes so we don't really get to hear what these guys can do together. Given this outing includes Blaze, famous for his time in Iron Maiden, plus Disturbed's bassist, drummers from the Scorpions & Twisted Sister, & a guitarist from Black Symphony & Blaze's solo group. If Blaze really wanted to make this less about him & more about a band, then there's one thing he could do without going into the studio: play more songs by the other members. Of the 16 songs 5 are solo cuts, 6 are from his gig with Iron Maiden, 2 are from his pre-Maiden band Wolfsbane. What's left is a Twisted Sister cover, representing Twisted drummer A.J. Pero who also gets a drum solo, & a Judas Priest cover, though no one was involved with Priest. Why not do a Disturbed song? That would be perfect in the set-list. Or the Scorpions? Or, more by Twisted? Instead of Priest's "Breaking The Law" they could have done one of the other bands. Likely everyone knew the chords to that song, so they did it, as its a standard cover bands rock out to ... I speak from experience. Speaking of which, keep it in the rehearsal studio. Its all about the hook, but doesn't give any musician much to chew on. Blaze tries hard to sing it with some distinction, but it ends the album on a weak note. Imagine ending on "Rock You Like A Hurricane" by the Scorpions instead. That would be a showstopper & make this more like a band. Membership & music choices aside, this is actually a really good live album. I don't know Blaze's solo stuff & only his second Maiden album, & had not heard of Wolfsbane before this, so I likely am not the right audience. Even so, it was a great listen. Blaze sings wonderfully & really is more than a typical screamer like so many of his peers. One can hear little nuances in his singing to round out the lyrics. I like the way he sings. He has way of phrasing that’s like he’s swallowing each word. I mean, pronouncing & trying to hit notes & give each word feeling, which so many don't do. I think the work Blaze did with Maiden was not his best. I believe they gave him weak material to work with & its not suited to his tone or style of singing. I think he gets lost in the songs. Yet, here he shines the way I felt he should have back in the day. With one guitar the songs are stripped back. They feel like Maiden, but don't sound like Maiden. Its like a band inspired by, but not imitating Maiden. The songs give him room to breathe & aren't rushing along the speed metal corridor while he's jogging. He fills the air & is not swallowed by the music. A few particular notes. Wolfsbane's "(Tough As) Steel" has a blistering finger shredding solo lasting 3.5 minutes that moves through grooving & soloing in a wonderful way that is so much better than just endless notes. The songs "The Brave", "The Launch" & "Voices From The Past" are all worth a listen. As for what Maiden songs, for Maiden fans, he does "Lord Of The Flies," "Futureal," "The Clansman," "Man On The Edge," "Wasted Years" & "The Trooper." "Wasted Years" is a highlight as Blaze really stretches for some tough notes, but makes up for any weakness by keeping them ringing long. "Futureal" I've often felt would be great live. To me it limped along & went too long in the studio. Here the song is driving the way I wanted it to when I first heard it. It has the energy that was missing in the original recording. This album was handed out only at shows, but is worth finding & one hopes he'll make it more public.