Carmine Appice – Guitar Zeus

Carmine Appice – Guitar Zeus
Rocker Records
Legendary rock drummer Carmine Appice has reissued his Guitar Zeus project, and album recorded over ten years ago that if you did not know about then, you really need to check it out now. Created with the help of co-writing cohorts Kelly Keeling (vocals, rhythm guitars, keys) and Tony Franklin (bass), Guitar Zeus brought in some of the world’s greatest guitarists to rip loose some seriously powerful rock music. Just to peak your interest a bit more he kicks off the CD with an unreleased track, “ Mothers Space,” an intense burner featuring the shredding of Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. From there, Carmine chooses a delectable feast of eleven tracks from the original recording. “Gonna Rain” has a subtle funk groove with powerful licks from Bon Jovi axeman Richie Sambora. The mix of radio hooks and grunge edginess are fueled by the the undeniable snarl of Queen’s Brian May in “Nobody New.” “Where You Belong” takes blues to a sonic level beyond 11 on the dial, with maniacally twisted licks by Slash, and some of Keeling’s most intense vocal work on the disc. “Code 19” explodes in the high megaton range with fiery solos and fat cords by Zakk Wylde, and also is one of the many great examples of why Tony Franklin is called the the “Fretless Monster.” The who’s who list of guitarists on the rest of the tracks is impressive; Steve Morse, Neal Schon, Yngwie Mamlsteen, the Nuge, Vivian Campbell, Mick Mars, John Norum, with further guest slots by Dug Pinnick and Edgar Winter. Yeah, there are tons of stars here, including of course the guy behind the double bass drum kit thrashing the thundering beats and intense fills he has always been famous for. But the star power definitely matches the power of the music. There are copious amounts of talent and passion that went into every second of this work. If you did not get a chance to check out Guitar Zeus when it was first released, there is absolutely no reason to miss it now if you love rock guitar playing, singing, bass work, and drumming at its absolute best. Also available as a digital release with even more of the original GZ songs. -MW


7 Miles To Pittsburgh

7 Miles to Pittsburgh
Something very potent is brewing in the Netherlands. Elegy bassist Martin Helmantel and Komatsu guitarist Joris Lindner enlisted sonic rock vocalist Andrew Elt, known from his days with Atlantic recording artists Sleeze Beez and indie acts The Moon and Gin On The Rocks, to write some evocative tunes. Collectively called 7 Miles To Pittsburgh, this exciting music will hit you with the force of a nuclear-fueled Saturn V. “Same Size” kicks off the disc with an edgy fire that screams “power trio” in a very fervent fashion. “Earth Dance” has a heady juxtaposition of gritty crunch and melodic flourishes. Even the mellow songs seethe with power – or in the case of “Lost And Found” – will blow away any preconceived notions you have about the term “power ballad.” “Grams” is the mellowest track, but it is intriguingly catchy, soothing, and intense. The music has an overall progressive feel with touches of grunge, blues, and just good old hard rock. Andrew’s voice is in excellent form, still possessing the powerful pyrotechnics from his aforementioned bands, adeptly conveying all lyrics as thought-provoking to topical to home-spun. Joris pulls double-duty on the CD, tearing loose with his prodigious guitar chops (anyone who misses REAL guitar soloing needs to hear this guy) as he joins Martin to drive the tornadic rhythm machine. This is an excellent marriage of songwriting prowess, vocal and musical talent. And there is an obvious unbridled passion to create music that pushes the envelope, yet can still have a comfortingly familiar element to it. Hopefully, we will hear much more from these musicians in the near future. – MW


Rik Emmett & Resolution 9 – Res 9

Rik Emmett & Resolution 9 – Res 9
Provogue Records
Guitarist/vocalist Rik Emmett has been involved in various solo projects since his departure from Canadian power trio Triumph. If anyone questions Rik has lost his rocker’s edge because he has been involved in more acoustic-oriented recordings and tours for several years, strap in and crank “Res 9” on and you will receive your answer. “Stand Still” flat out roars from your speakers to launch the CD with the force of a dozen Saturn-Vs. “Human Race” is reminiscent of the hooky but potent rocking hits that made Triumph so popular and also features a guest appearance by a guitarist from another “somewhat” famous Canadian trio Alex Lifeson. “I Sing” is an emotive and sonic power ballad featuring the soaring pipes of Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie. Even the mellower songs here have a subtle intensity, and often not-so-subtly crank it up as in the haunting blues-tinged “The Ghost Of Shadow Town.” Lifeson joins again for the prog-fueled opus “End Of The Line” before the CD ends with Triumph bandmate Gil Moore joining in for the bare-bones sweet groove of “Grand Parade.” There is a great mixture of hard-driving rock tunes and mellow vibes throughout the well-written CD and Rik’s musical cohorts in Resolution 9 have serious chops. Vocally, Rik is in excellent form with his range and versatility shining throughout, perhaps most noticeable when comparing the searing lead track with the more croon-like ending track. So yes, Rik is still rocking and doing a few other things that may not be flat-out rock, but are still very ear-opening music. Even if Triumph doesn’t manage to do a full-fledged reunion at some point, you know you will still get reliably excellent music from one of the architects of that great trio. – MW


Moossa – Right Way Round

It is very hard these days to pigeon-hole any band into the genre of “jam band.” The term has become more ambiguous over the years, straying in multiple tendrils from the original trunk that sprung from the roots of the Grateful Dead. Veteran Richmond, Virginia rockers Moossa have been classified as “jam” before and some of that description does fit as they have that uncanny knack combining a sort of loose abandon with undoubtable musical prowess, blended with various root influences. After a hiatus of several years Moossa returns with “Right Way Round,” and it can be very simply defined as flat-out, great, enjoyable music. There is a delectable flow throughout the ten tracks with music that can simultaneously sooth you and entice you to get up and boogie. A soul/R&B influence is prominent here, obvious at the onset when you experience the opening strains of the title track. The subtle influences branche out from there with the bawdy bluesiness of “Petrified,” reggae-kissed “Nothing But a Name,” and funkified “The Coming Of Dawn.” Ryan Davis, Moossa’s groovin’ bassist, experienced an extremely creative songwriting phase, penning all but one of the tunes on the CD. Singer Nancy Waldman adds serious spice to many of the songs with her own soulful vocal chops. Guitarist Trey Batts pays compliment to John Moossa’s vocals, Telecaster, and acoustic guitar with his extraordinary work on the Strat, and adds a further vocal dimension on a couple songs. Drummer Dennis Vignola melds in perfectly with Ryan’s bass work to drive the rhythmic boogie. This may be the best line-up Moossa has had since their inception, showing why if you do wish to call their music “jam” it is in no way a slight to the band as that is often a nod to bands who have stellar musical capabilities. To me, it feels much more like the “retro soul” genre the band has deemed its music. Moossa easily fits into the category of having incredible musical talent, a quirky approach to songwriting, and the way to translate the obvious joy they experience in creating their music so the listener can also experience joy as well. – MW


Jim Crean – Insatiable

Jim Crean – Insatiable
Rocker Records – RKR-1143
There is no denying that Jim Crean knows how to rock. A lot of his friends know this about him. That is why they are joining him on his latest potent release “Insatiable.” We are talking about friends like Mike Tramp, Frank DiMino, Tony Franklin, Phil Lewis, the late-great Jimmy Bain, the Appice brothers Carmine and Vinny, and many other well-known rockers. When you can rock like Jim and possess his songwriting talents, you can draw those kind of folks into your recording sessions. What Jim creates here is powerful magic – music that blends the perfect amount of seething intensities and melodic sensibilities. Take a song such as “Touch” for example: the grittiness of the powerful guitar snarl is nicely balanced by harmonic vocals and the right waft of hookiness. “Follow Your Heart” rips your head off with a relentless attack, but still snares your soul with fervent vocal passages. The quasi-ballad “Miss Me” has a kiss of prog rock leanings that has a comforting and epic feel to it. Jim also creates some excellent cover versions from bands his cohorts on the recording were members of including exciting takes on the L.A. Guns nugget “Over The Edge” and Dio’s “Caught In The Middle” featuring one of the last studio appearances of bassist Jimmy Bain. Jim’s talents are firing on all cylinders from his sonic but melodic vocal pyrotechnics to his prolific songwriting capabilities. This is pure hard rock at its finest, proving once again that Jim Crean is more than up to the task of rocking at the same high level of some of the best in the business. – MW

Steve Grimm – Bad Boys Bad Girls

Steve Grimm – Bad Boys Bad Girls
One of Milwaukee’s most famous bad boys is still cranking out the tunes decades since he first co-founded the “band Milwaukee made famous.” When Steve Grimm kicks off his latest effort with “You And Me Against The World,” it is plainly obvious he has not lost any of his passion to rock, with a delectable mix of edginess and harmonic hooks. “Saints And Sinners” has a snarling intensity while “American Legs” cuts loose a nasty boogie quality with both songs harkening back to the early days of Bad Boy. Steve is quite adept at showing an occasional mellower facet to his songwriting, particularly noticeable in the rootsy “Broken” and the subtly potent power ballad “End Of The Story.” The tunes prove Steve’s songwriting strength has not diminished in the slightest, and his lyrics feature thought-provoking and absorbing stories coming from his heart and experiences. His talents are also nicely augmented by several well-respected Milwaukee area musicians including part-time fellow Bad Boy bassist Craig Evans and “bad girl” Char Fiore. People tend to wonder whenever Steve releases a new album, “is Bad Boy going to do anything new?” I will not make assumptions, but instead will say that if you want to hear some great tunes from one of the architects of those Beer City legends that still have a lot of life, punch, and grit to to them, check out “Bad Boys Bad Girls.” Steve and his cohorts will more than satisfy your cravings. – MW

KainAndAble – KaneAndAble I/Vibrations

KainAndAble – KaneAndAble I/Vibrations
Spinning World Records
J. Thomas Edward & Matthew O’Keefe began their songwriting collaboration just a couple years ago, and it is quite apparent that their styles and talents mesh wonderfully. They have an eclectic taste in music which is why they decided to release two simultaneous debuts under the moniker of KainAndAble. The first CD is the more energetic CD, blending styles such as alt rock, folk, R&B and Americana into a heady stew of music that often has a brilliant simplicity melded with subtle intricacies. Songs such as “Get Off,” “Better Late Than Never” and “Misery Loves Company” have a deft touch of hookiness while still being edgy and innovative. “Vibrations” is a more acoustic based CD with mellower often haunting vibes, particularly noticeable on the lead track “Hollywood In The Daylight.” Some of the ballads here like “Dreams” and “Sooner Or Later” really stand out, making you think of some of the greats like Cat Stevens and Woody Guthrie. Yes, there is a lot to digest with two CDs and many styles present, but this duo ties it all together masterfully. An act to definitely keep an eye out for if this hefty but highly enjoyable debut tandem is any indication. – MW



King Kobra – King Kobra II

King Kobra – King Kobra II
Frontiers Records
This album by hard rocking supergroup King Kobra, a somewhat overlooked band that was a lot better than many bands back in the day, still rocks a lot harder now than many of their contemporaries. Perhaps it’s because of the reunion of four of the original members; guitarists David Michael-Philips and Mick Sweda, bassist Johnny Rod, and drumming legend/founder Carmine Appice. Enlisting the prodigious vocal talents of Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot), the power is unleashed full throttle from the first chords of “Hell On Wheels” and does not let up throughout the CD. Songs like “Have A Good Time” and “The Crunch” are good time hard rock party tunes. “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” is one of those fist pumping songs that will test how many calcium deposits you have in your neck. “Take Me Back” is a blues-edged power ballad that flat out scorches. Definitely not a band short on talented players, the boys are all in top form here, with plenty of powerful riffs, blistering solos, thundering rhythms and soaring but gritty vocal work. It is an effort that makes you hope there will be more to come from these guys, because none have them have lost their ability to flat out rock. – MW

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