Monday, 26 December 2016

Top 10 Full length releases of 2016

It's that time again where we look back on the year that was and try to sift through the countless releases to try work out what we enjoyed most. This year was a little more difficult than others seeing as they were countless good releases which I enjoyed but I wanted to find the stuff that more than just good but a classic that will live up to repeated listening and at the end of next year I will still be listening to. So here it is the top 10 full length releases as chosen by one half of the Connections team:
Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation
 Joe Bonamassa - Blues of Desperation

It’s Joe Bonamassa doing what he does best. One of the many keepers of the flame of so called modern blues he keeps championing the genre pushing boundaries and paying tribute to the masters and does it all effortlessly

Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker
 Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker

He gifted us with one last album just weeks before his death. Admittedly I have never been his biggest fan but this album is flawless from start to finish.

Kylie Auldist - Family Tree
  Kylie Auldist - Family Tree

Everyone’s favourite funk/soul songstress goes 80’s pop on this release. What’s there not to like about this…? released just as This Girl (which is actually a Cooking on 3 Burners tune, let’s not forget that) was becoming a mega hit the timing could not have been more perfect

Justine Yap Band - Let Love

Soulful blues from local Melbourne band this album is an absolute pleasure to listen to and has been getting regular spins ever since I got my hands on it.

Matty T Wall - Blues Skies

While many of todays blues artists leanings are much more towards the the rock side of the blues, Matty’s are slightly more geared towards the funkier side of the blues. A very strong debut release which has been getting noticed the world overfor good reason

Dr Albert Flipout's one CAN band -
Don't you call my name

My favourite one man band does it again. Look past the initial novelty factor and you will quickly realise that this is a great songwriter who knows his craft & can write some serious choons 
Full review here

A funky soul release that sounds like it could have been released n the STAX label sometime in the mid 60’s. The Italy based Record Kicks label continue to release fantastic records that will fill the floor with people doing their best Northern Soul dance moves

Oz Noy - Who Gives A Funk

Collaborations abound on this release by Oz Noy who’s guitar virtuosity is up there with the best of them but he still knows the golden rule of “The Song Is King” Oz is a jack of all genres & a master of all of them. The title of this release says it all

Child - Blueside

Psych blues rockers Child pick up where they left off with their debut release & it’s everything you could expect it to be. If they continue releasing music of this calibre it won’t be long before they start getting noticed in a big way outside the land of OZ

Back In Blue - A Blues Tribute to AC/DC

A who's who of somewhat lesser know Australian artists (i.e. you won't find them being played on mainstream radio or on Sunday morning music TV programs) come together to pay tribute to perhaps the best known & best selling Australian album & all for a good cause.

Full review here

Well that's my list as it stands today, ask me tomorrow and it may be completely different. There's more than a few "honorable mentions" I could list but that may be a list for another time. 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Album Review: Albert Flipout's One Can Band - Don't You Call My Name

Albert Flipout's One Can Band -
Don't You Call My Name
Albert Flipout’s One CAN band (aka Mickey Pantelous) has just released a new album and it is everything we have come to expect from an Albert Flipout release. Don’t You Call My Name is album 3 released under the Albert Flipout moniker and is perhaps the most accessible of all Albert Flipout releases to date with catchy melodies which at times hide some slightly darker lyrical content.
A one man blues band of the highest order these songs have an infectious groove that you just can’t help but want to get up and dance to. Don’t You Call My Name is an album intended to both make you think about the state of the world we are living in while at the same time give you a pick me up if you are feeling down. Mickey has managed to find a sound uniquely his own with a distinct country blues twang, with added harmonica and kazoo, which will have you thinking "this kinda reminds me of…” before you realise that there’s no one else going around that quite has the same sound.
Kicking off proceedings with a song that proclaims “See me hanging from the ceiling, Take my body down” which perhaps references the suicides caused by the ongoing financial crisis in Europe, the lyrical content runs the gamut of topics from falling in love with a prostitute, to failed relationships and many other topics besides. Despite the varied subject matter Mickey has still managed to put together perhaps his most cohesive album.
Independently released you can hear why Mickey has been invited to play festivals throughout Europe and even in America (even though this one didn’t quite work out in the end). An artist that should be getting much more attention than what he is, if you like your blues with a healthy dose of country and a dash of cabaret this is an album that is worthy of your attention and one which you will almost certainly have on repeat for long after it’s initial release.
Look out for the Vinyl release in the coming months

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Album Review: Back In Blue - A Blues Tribute to AC/DC

A blues tribute to a classic Australian Rock album... an interesting idea? I certainly thought so.
With a list of players of this caliber this album was guaranteed to be good, but this is beyond just good it’s great. Of course, when listening to these reinterpretations of AC/DC’s classic Back In Black album you will almost certainly be comparing them to the original recordings released all those years ago and which have now surpassed the 20 Million mark in sales which begs the obvious question of "do these reinvented recordings live up to the originals?" Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you as I don’t think I have ever listened to Back In Black in full! (yes you read that right) What I do know, is that there are some absolute gems on this release.
Here’s is my track by track musings of the release, read on if you choose or base your to buy to not to buy verdict on my above paragraph.
Kicking off proceeding is local blues guitar hero Geoff Achison with Jane Michelle on Vocals playing a bluesy ballady version of the rocker Hells Bells. The song starts off with snippets of news stories regarding the death of Bon Scott which automatically gives you a feel for just how big a story this was back in the day. Geoff’s slide playing is of course great and Jane’s Voice is a hell of a powerful weapon but somehow this version seems to fall ever so slightly flat somehow. 
Things pick up from here with the Blues swagger of Shoot to Thrill, then it’s onto track 3 What You Do For Money Honey featuring the Vocal styling of Janis Joplin clone Gail Page with Jan Rynsaardt of The Arc Riders on Guitar. One of the highlights of the album the overdriven slide guitar together with Gail’s scratchy Vocals prove yet again that while "super producers" slave over layer upon layer of overdubs and trying to make everything sound as polished as possible sometimes all you need is one Guitar and a Singer and a stomping Blues tune to make people sit up and take notice.
Given The Dog a Bone gets a ZZ Top - La Grange style treatment with a somewhat strange Rap breakdown, Let Me Put My Love In You as performed by Shaun Kirk becomes a broody pine with a somewhat Love Ain’t No Stranger by Whitesnake feel to it.
Lachy Doley is up next once again using his croaky drawl to full effect on Back In Black on a stomping pedal to the metal version which is less blues and more rock minus the guitars but with some great Deep Purple-esque sounding fuzzed up Hammond Organ grooves and even an Organ solo. (Check out his live shows if you haven’t already people you won’t be disappointed).
If you have ever heard Sarah McLeod of The Superjesus perform her acoustic ballady version of You Shook Me All Night Long you might know roughly what to expect of 8 Ball Aitken’s interpretation of the song also. But while there are certain similarities between the 2 interpretations 8 Ball most definitely cranks the Blues factor up to 11 with another yearning type vocal delivery (with added ooh’s and ahh’s for effect) and some great reverb laden slide guitar playing. Lachy Doley once again makes an appearance on keys while Vika Bull’s backing vocals lift the tune into the stratosphere.
With only 3 songs to go you find yourself thinking this is too cool I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Have A Drink On Me is performed brilliantly by Genevieve Chadwick on acoustic guitar, no real re-interpretation here but there’s no need when the riffs work just as well on Acoustic as they do on a Cherry Red Gibson SG.
The rhythm section is where it’s at with Shake A Leg. The only thing to say about this tune is hot damn has it got a groove to it! Complete with Harmonica & Sax solos and outros which I’m still trying to figure out if I like or not (not that they’re badly performed or don’t fit the song per se it’s just that I think I might have preferred to hear that groove run straight through uninterrupted).
Last but most certainly not least (and according to some, leaving the best until last) comes Australian blues royalty with Lloyd Spiegel… It’s Lloyd Spiegel doing AC/DC, that’s all that need be said about this one!  
Once again this is a great idea executed very well. Add to this that all profits from this release will be donated to the Beyond Blue charity who do some great work for helping people suffering from depression as well as providing a better understanding of what depression is for people who perhaps have a “just snap out of it” mentality towards depression and you can’t go wrong.
Find it on Itunes or JB Hi-Fi online

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Album Review: The Dead Daisies - Make Some Noise

Relative newcomers on the heavy melodic rock scene The Dead Daisies are just one of the many bands flying the flag for this style of music and they do it very well. Anthemic, fist pumping, head banging arena rock tunes this is a band that knows their audience and delivers exactly what their fans want. Now this might sound to some people like something to be avoided at all costs but in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones "It's only Rock N Roll but I like it". 
I have been following John Corabi's career since his days in the band Union which was formed in partnership with ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and for my money he is one of the best singers and songwriters in the Hard Rock scene.
Together with songwriting partner David Lowy and the rest of his band mates in The Dead Daisies he has delivered one of the best (if not THE best) rock records of 2016. This album is pedal to the metal driving rock music with choruses that you can't help but sing along to.
The stunt guitar work provided by monster guitarist Doug Aldrich will have you reaching for your air guitar and dusting off your long neglected heavy rock records of yester-year to give them another spin and dream of playing to stadiums full of people singing every word of the songs your playing.
Add to this the rhythm section of Marco Mendoza and Brian Tichy who drive these tunes like an unstoppable freight train or rollercoaster which makes you feel like holding onto your seat for dear life and you have an album that is guaranteed to appeal to rock music fans the world over.
Feel good, middle finger in the air, FTW tunes with a couple of "topical" tunes thrown into the mix (ie. Long Way To Go and Song & A Prayer - which is probably the highlight of the disc for me), sure you could probably nit pick and say it's been done before or the lyrics could have used slightly more polishing but really what will that achieve?
Put this album on turn it up to 11 & rock the hell out!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Album Review: Tequila Mockingbyrd - Fight And Flight

Phwoah, does this album pack a punch or what??!! Having seen this band play a few times in the past I had purchased their debut EP the 1st time I saw them play, so I was very much looking forward to this release.
From the opening riff of the anthemic "I smell rock n roll” to the closing notes of “Good Time” this is feel good boozy rock music as it’s supposed to be played. Rose Tattoo meets The Screaming Jets meets The Baby Animals meets The Superjesus this band has all the right ingredients needed to bring back heavy distorted guitar riffage to the mainstream charts again (and I hope they do!). Full of piss and vinegar this is perfect getting ready for a big Saturday night music designed to be played at maximum volume.

The songs on the aptly titled Fight And Flight are primarily a celebration of the good things in life such as enjoying the weekend with friends but also send out the empowering message of grabbing life by the throat, which we all know but at times forget. The most telling sign of the quality of these tunes is that you will almost certainly be singing each and every chorus of each and every song after only one listen. Slick without being overproduced this is a brilliant debut guaranteed to get this band noticed and will almost certainly put them on the world stage.
If you’re of an age with the ladies delivering these tunes this album will most certainly strike a chord and if you happen to be past the age of regular Saturday night booze ups this will transport you back to that age.

“Clear the street because we’re coming through, side by side and two by two"

Monday, 2 May 2016

Some April gig highlights

Well as always it's been a great month of gig going in Melbourne town and there's been some doozys! (yes I did just use the word doozys) where to start, where to end, who to include and who to leave out? I am without a doubt going to forget something/someone but here's a short list of the stuff I can remember off the top of my head.

Z-Star Delta
Style: Psychedelic-Acoustic-Blues-Rock
Hailing from the UK this duo know how to paint a picture with and take to you on a journey with their storytelling style lyrics. Using loops and effects to build layers of interweaving sounds which help you visualize the images the songs convey this was their 2nd tour of OZ in as many years and I was stoked to finally catch them as I had only seen the flyers for their last tour after the fact. Think of what The Doors might sound like if Jim had a drum kit in front of him while Robby played his bottleneck style blues licks and you might get an idea of what they sound like. Hopefully they will be back sooner rather than later and they will get noticed by much larger audience. Miss them at your peril!

Lachy Doley
Style: Progressive Blues, Rock and Soul

I've lost count of how many times I've seen Lachy doing his thing at Bar 303 in Northcote. There was a bit of a question mark hanging over this show as although Lachy has been doing shows at 303 for around five years or so the last few
shows have been slightly down in attendance so he was pre-selling tickets this time around and had to sell at least 50 of them for the show to go ahead. Thankfully he did and the show did go ahead. He's played with the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Mahalia Barnes, Powderfinger, The Dead Daisies and even former Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes has specifically asked for his services. Playing the only whammy clavinet known to exist in Australia his croaky vocal drawl was used to full effect as always. As many times as I have seen him play he always gives his all and always wins over new fans at the night and this time around was no different. People were lining up at the end of the gig to buy his CD's and to say how much they enjoyed his show. Why he is not playing sold out shows to rooms of a much larger capacity stills boggles the mind.

Backwood Creatures
Style: Jamming Swamp Blues

Wahooooooo what a ride that was! You know a band is good when they are jamming on stage and it all sounds pre-planned. Although all 3 members of the band are smoking hot musicians the highlight for me was Grant Cummerford playing is Bass as if he was the lead guitarist. While it's not unheard of for the bass to be used as a lead instrument I've never seen it played in quite this way before. This may have been my 1st time seeing these guys play but it most certainly won't be the last.

Kumar Shome
Style: Stunt Guitar Instrumentals

Not the 1st time I've seen Kumar play but the 1st time I've caught him playing his own tunes. I'm guessing that Kumar has not heard the saying "the notes you don't play are just as important as the ones you do" because I think he played every note known to man in every combination possible during the 60 or so minutes he was on stage. Now this may sound horrible to some people but as a kid who grew up worshiping the playing of people like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen and their like this was like being transported back 20 years and watching the fingers of these guitar heroes in wide eyed wonder. All this being said make no mistake, even though the guitar wankery factor was turned up to 11 Kumar still knows how to play with feel and know which notes to play and which notes not to. This was by no means a free for all and composition was/is still king in his musical ethos. Special mention also to the 2nd guitarist in the band Mickey Chan who also got to show off his shredding skills.

Well there's just 4 of the many shows I did attend and while I have been on a bit of a blues rock kick as of late I still subscribe to the theory of there are only 2 types of music, good and bad, regardless of what genre label you choose to attach to them. With the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Stonnington Jazz Festival just around the corner I imagine the shows I will be talking about in the coming months will be of a different style.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Interview: Ty Taylor of Vintage Trouble

Ty Taylor of Vintage Trouble took some time to speak about the upcoming shows in Australia and you can listen to the interview here

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Live review: Vampillia live @ The Evelyn Hotel - 11 March 2016

"What on earth did I just witness? That didn't really happen, did it? Such a thing couldn't possibly exist in this world can it?!"
This is what I was was asking myself after walking out of the Evelyn Hotel the other day at the end of the show put on by the 10 piece band Vampillia who were visiting our shores from the land of the rising sun. No matter what words I use I doubt there's any way to accurately describe what these guys are all about, I will however do my best.
Describing themselves as a "Brutal Orchestra" this only touches on one facet of what this band does. The music they play has elements of brutal Thrash Metal (never something I've gone out of my way to listen to), Classical, Funk, Opera and many other things besides (including a comedy act to kick off proceedings). I'm not sure how it's possible to effortlessly shift from one of these genres to the other and have it not sound out of place but also perfectly natural yet somehow Vampillia are able to do it.

They only way I can think to describe the unique experience that is listening to music by Vampillia is something like this: Image you're taking a nice little boat ride on calm crystal blue ocean waters, enjoying the sun on your face, the cloudless blue skies and the soft bobbing of your little boat on the tiny little waves as said waves lap against the bow. You suddenly hear the boom of thunder not too far off so look up to the sky and see black storm clouds rolling in at a rapid pace. Frantically you try to turn your boat around to try head back to shore knowing full well that you'll never make it in time but damned if your not gonna try! the waves slowly get bigger and bigger and before long the storm is upon you tossing you around like a rag doll. You hang on for dear life hoping the storm will pass over soon (is that a patch of blue sky you spot just behind the black clouds?) thankfully the storm does quickly pass and your boat is left bobbing on the water again (albeit at a much funkier pace) and your heart rate has gone up by something like 100 BPM. "Well that wasn't so bad after all" you think to yourself, so you check the what the weather is supposed to be like for the rest the day and see the forecast is for clear skies and only a slight breeze "Might as well head back out" you think to yourself "Maybe I'll even drop a line into the water and see if I can catch my dinner". So back out into the water you head to do exactly that. You find what looks like the perfect spot amidst a school of fish, drop anchor, cast your line and all is well with the world again. "Huh...? That wasn't thunder I just heard was it...?" You look up to the sky... "Ah shit!"
When the ordeal is finally all over and you have both feet back on solid ground you start to head back home thinking "I never want to go through anything like that ever again" straight after which you say to yourself "I wonder what the weather is going to be like tomorrow?"
If this description sheds no light for you well then you can simply click here to listen back to Vampillia's live performance on PBS FM here in Melbourne.
Thanks to Chris Pearson host of Pojama People for putting me onto this band. And while I doubt you will hear Vampillia played on the Connections show anytime soon I still highly recommend catching them next time they are in the magical land of OZ just to see what they are all about. Credit also to all the opening acts
Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Ruins Alone and co-headliners Laura  who also put on a great show.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Album Review: Legs Electric - Legs Electric

Wow... just... wow... When I was in my teens it seemed there was a plethora of melodic heavy rock bands on the radio but as the years moved on, grunge took over and then (mainstream) radio decided that rock music was no longer cool and stopped playing it. Well, just because this style of music has stopped being played on the radio that doesn't mean that there aren't great bands around playing this style of music, you just have to dig a little deeper than what you used to. Legs Electric are just one of the many Australian bands keeping the rock alive.
Hailing from Perth, prepare to be blown away by the sheer power these ladies deliver. Heavy riffs abound on their debut 5 track EP fittingly titled Maximum Rock n Roll but while you can expect to hear heavy riffs, distorted guitars and big guitar solos, make no mistake, the emphasis is most definitely on melody! Names like KISS, Pat Benatar, Vixen, Harem Scarem and others come to mind. From start to finish this EP is a rollicking ride with catchy anthemic choruses just like you used to hear coming through your radio speakers all those years ago. The highest compliment I can pay this band is that as soon as I finished listening to the 5 songs they have to offer, I automatically wanted to listed to them again... so I happily did exactly that, and was even about to hit the play button a 3rd time.
If this is any indication of what we can expect to hear from these ladies in the future, then I am very much looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. If only I hadn't discovered them on the last day of their east coast visit. Please hurry back girls, if the songs sound this powerful on record I can't wait to hear what they sound like live!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Album Reviw: Dana Fuchs - Broken Down Acoustic Sessions

So I just discovered this awesome singer that's new on the scene and I just had to tell the world how awesome she is. Her name is Dana Fuchs... what's that...? she's not new...? OK, well she's kinda new... What's that you say...? She released her 1st album in 2003? Well why didn't somebody tell me about her before dammit?!
OK I admit it, I dropped the ball on this one. Dana has been around for a while now and her name will probably be familiar to many but once again for me it was a case of, "I'll get around to it when I have the time" and then never did. Just recently her name popped up again with the release of her latest album Broken Down Acoustic Sessions so I figured I'd finally see what she was all about. As the title of the album suggests these songs are acoustic interpretations of songs which appear on some of her previous releases plus some extra's.
Dana has a voice that is instantly recognisable, a gravelly rasp that will almost immediately draw comparisons to Janis Joplin. In fact, Dana has actually played Janis in a stage production Love, Janis and you can see why she would have been chosen do to so, given that at times you can almost be mistaken that you are listening to Janis herself. While the comparisons are justified, make no mistake, Dana is not to be simply dismissed as just another Janis clone. She owns these songs and sings with feel and emotion that draws you in and makes you listen intently to what she is delivering. Mixing blues, soul and pop with a slight hint of country this album is perfect lazy, rainy day listening. Primarily made up of ballads and mid-tempo tunes this is not an album that you will be turning up to 11 so as to piss off the neighbours, but damned if it isn't a toe tapper, a tear jerker and well, just an awesome album all round.
Having released her last 4 albums on the German label Ruf who also have/had Samantha Fish, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Devon Allman and many other modern blues artists on their roster, this should give you an idea what to expect. In short this yet another quality blues release from a brilliant artist that should be getting a hell of a lot more attention than what she is.
If you have not heard Dana Fuchs before, this is a damn good place to start.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Album Review: Thunder - Wonder Days

2015 release Wonder Days by rockers, Thunder
Ever come across a release that just completely changes your life and lifts the musical bar to a whole other level? Well if this is what you want to hear, then I would recommend looking elsewhere because you won't find it here. What? Huh? What's the point of this review? I hear you asking! Bear with me on this one and you'll see where I'm going.
Is this an earth shattering, ground breaking release that will forever change the face of music and which will be remembered for years to come? Well OK no it probably won't be BUT if you are looking for an album of rocking tunes that you can sing along to and which will transport you back to when you were a teenager singing into a hair brush or playing air guitar with a tennis racquet in front of your bedroom mirror (which is exactly what this album aims to do) then this release is for you.
The opening lines of the title track with which the album begins are "First day of school they called me a disgrace, They didn't like the long hair" which should give you an idea of what to expect
Thunder have been releasing albums since the early 90's however this is the 1st of their albums I have heard. The riffs are big, the choruses are just as big and the guitar solos are showy without being over the top (no unnecessary Yngwie Malmsteen style wankery to be heard.)
There's the obligatory ballads to break up the pace of the album the 1st one "The Rain" coming just 3 songs into the album is a great little acoustic ditty with added piano and mandolin giving it a distinctly Led Zeppelin feel before picking up again with Black Water a song about a "respectable wife" who's looking for some excitement in her life and decides to run away with a "streetwise seventeen" year old (now that's deep!).
If you are familiar with Thunder you will probably know exactly what you can expect from this release and if you are not familiar with Thunder, well... you will probably still know exactly what to expect from this release. This is rock music for the here and now with no thought of how long it will last which is perfectly fine.
Thunder have achieved exactly what they set out to do with this release which is to deliver footstomping, fist pumping, arena rock. If this is your thing then this is a highly recommended release. You can check their discography to date here in the meantime I'm off to track down some of these said releases.
P.S. if you listen to this and you like what you hear I also highly recommend tracking down the albums by The Union which is guitarist Luke Morley's other band and how I came to discover these guys.