Alpha Rev – Bloom

Alpha Rev – Bloom
Kirtland Records
The latest CD from Austin’s Alpha Rev proves that the Texas music mecca has not run out of innovative bands. This fivesome fronted by former Endochine singer-songwriter Casey McPherson creates eerily beautiful soundscapes layered with subtle instrumental intensities that caress or roar at just the right places. Songs like the lush harmonic “Eden Home”, snarling but tempered emotion of “I Will Come”, syncopated pop of “Crystal Colorado” and dark Americana edge of “Lonely Man” showcase the eclectic songwriting abilities, McPherson’s vocal range and prolific emotive control, and the instrumental prowess of the band members. The first single “Sing Loud” entices you to do just that, with an intoxicating, uplifting pulse. The lyrics throughout are highly thought-provoking, often tugging at your heartstrings while delving deeper into the furthest reaches of your soul. Throbbing with ethereal life, “Bloom” may be an apt title that could open further eyes and ears to this band and their music. – MW



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Soundgarden – King Animal

Soundgarden – King Animal
Universal Republic – B0017683-02
There could not have been a more apropos title to the lead track off Soundgarden’s first studio release in sixteen years. “Been Away Too Long” may at first seem a tad pompous, but one listen to the thirteen songs here and you will be convinced that Soundgarden was a band that was missed. They don’t really break any new ground, nor do they need to as the seething power and core intensity makes the music sound as fresh as it did over two decades ago when the Seattle foursome was at the forefront of the grunge explosion. Chris Cornell’s voice is in excellent form and the band displays the same musical tightness and exuberance evident on early works like “Badmotorfinger” and “Louder Than Love.” It is obvious they have not skipped a beat stylistically, musically, and particularly writing wise. With only a couple songs that even toy with the outer edges of what may be considered “commercial”, the best aspect is that every song here is strongly written and conceived. There is not really what I would call a weak song on this album. As far as heavy rock goes, it rivals most of what is out there these days from newer bands; the “old” dogs can definitely teach the new ones a few tricks here. So if it is true Soundgarden has been away too long, then “King Animal” is a nuclear-fueled statement that they are back and will hopefully be here for a long time. – MW


Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed in Blood

Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed in Blood
Born and Bred Records – DKM2-532420
“The boys are back and there’s gonna be trouble” is the guttural howl that invites you into the musical ballroom brawl of the latest from Dropkick Murphys. This kind of trouble you will like, as with their eighth release, the Beantown punksters have not mellowed a bit. If anything, they have become louder, rowdier, and bolder. The signature blend of Celtic instrumentation, incendiary guitars and potent vocal ejaculations take on an unbridled intensity while keeping the unruly fun aspect intact. The lyrics are in your face brash and often laced with humor – I defy you not to laugh at the hilarious albeit twisted words of “The Season’s Upon Us”. The band also pushes the songwriting envelope in all directions, so when you add that to the factor of placing more grit and fire into music that already has enough grit and fire to level half the bars in Southie, you know that Dropkick Murphys are at the top of their game. Their game may not quite be for everyone, but if you have not delved into this band yet and like to flat out rock but also respect talent in songwriting and musicianship, this is a perfect CD to give them a shot (with a bar back of Guinness that is). – MW



AC/DC – Live at River Plate
Columbia – 88765-41175-2
There are some bands that just exemplify the moniker “arena rock”. Then there are bands like AC/DC who not only exemplify that term, but unabashedly underline it with the power of half a dozen nuclear reactors. A live AC/DC album means you are going to hear the usual songs that are played on every tour (“Highway to Hell”, “Back In Black”, “Dirty Deeds”, etc.) as well as some new songs and a deep track nugget or two. Where they deliver on this CD recorded during the “Black Ice Tour” in Spain is…well…everywhere. The newest material takes its first spin on polycarbonate and sounds excellent, and the veteran rockers pull out some older favorites such as “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be” and “The Jack”. The true mark in AC/DC’s greatness though is that those songs we hear a million times on the radio or in concert are just as (if not more) explosive as they have ever been. You can hear them on other albums yet they sound fresh and full of life decades after they took their first live spin. To boil it down, an AC/DC live album is like meeting up with an old friend who hasn’t changed much, but you still love their best qualities. And AC/DC’s best quality is to always rock as hard as they possibly can. – MW


Live at River Plate – AC/DC

Fanatic – Heart

Heart – Fanatic
Legacy – 88725440992
Heart has always been known as that band from the Northwest with two women who really know how to rock. That hasn’t changed a bit with their latest effort “Fanatic”. The heavier tracks here are some of the more intense ones the Wilson sisters and their cohorts have produced in years, including the gritty title track, grunge blues fusing “Skin and Bones” and full steam ahead rocker “59 Crunch”. Songs like “Walkin’ Good” and “Rock Deep (Vancouver)” show that they can still handle melodic ballads with harmony and emotion. Ann’s voice has not lost anything, showing incredible range and control whether melting your heart with a mellow croon or blistering the walls with a power wail. Overall, Heart stretches the songwriting envelope with “Fanatic” and while there may not be the typified radio hit here, the songs are all strong enough to stand on their own thus making the album one that can be enjoyed from start to finish. – MW


Tune In To MIND Radio: A tribute to multi-talented vocalist Kelly Keeling


For those who don’t know of Kelly Keeling, he is one of those journeymen rock vocalists who has immense talent but has not always received the recognition he deserves. “Tune In To Mind Radio” tributes Keeling with an eclectic collection of songs that nod to another faucet of Keeling’s abilities – his prolific songwriting. “Perfect Day” originally featured on “Carmine Appice’s Guitar Zeus” kicks off the CD with an edgier alt-rock slant arranged by Atlanta based Anthony Z’sler, and features the original Guitar Zeus rhythm tandem of Appice and bassist Tony Franklin. “Rising of the Snake”, originally from Keeling’s solo CD “Giving Sight To The Eye”, retains the hard-hitting, metal-grunge punch fueled by vocalist/guitarist Park Sipes of NC based band Sunset Strip. “Free”, with the original version making an appearance in the indie movie “Kill Speed”, is a powerful acoustic ballad interpreted by North Carolinian Marty Paris (Barbarian Way), who also recorded the Paris Keeling project with Keeling. There are also three wonderful instrumental takes of Keeling’s works here. “Morning Song” is turned into a stunningly beautiful piano ballad by veteran new age pianist Jeffrey Michael. Greg “Cos” Cerenzia cranks up a hard rocking take on “In And Out of Time” that shows excellent guitar work without being too flashy. New age guitarist Dominic Gaudious contributes his own originally written tribute “Hombre Salvaje,” a rocking, funky repast with just the right touch of didjeridoo. This highly enjoyable collection of songs is a great tribute to Keeling as it is itself a microcosm of the eclectic songwriting styles and deep pool of talents he possesses. Any fan of Kelly Keeling should love this, as well as fans of the musicians who performed on it, and people who just love good, highly listenable songs from multiple genres.; – MW

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