I was going to do a Top 10 list but honestly even after two weeks of thinking about it, these CD’s are the only ones that stick with me. I feel these are the best rock releases in 2013 and what great releases they are! This won’t be a surprise to some of you as I have been posting about some of these since the day they came out. Yes, they are that good!
I am not going to gush over these as some of them I have done reviews for already and I want you to make your own judgements. Give them a listen and if you like, buy the music and spread the word. They all need your support.
The debut CD from Maragold is perhaps the freshest most original sound I have heard from a rock band and years if not the last decade. The band featuring world renown guitarist Greg Howe and company could be the scariest set of musicians this side of Dream Theater on one CD this year. Relative unknown singer Mehgan Krauss is the real deal and sings circles around just about everyone out there right now. She should be a household name and God willing, will be. Part of the reason this took the top spot is the absolute surprise at how good this CD was as a whole. Everything from songwriting, hooks, playing and production were top notch. I was not expecting this from a guitar hero as so many have not come out with strong band CD’s in their career with the exception of the gentleman in the number 2 spot.
You can read the rest of my thoughts in the CD review I posted in April here: http://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/cd-review-maragold-by-maragold/
The Winery Dogs CD is a masterpiece of blues rock featuring guitar virtuoso and underrated singer Richie Kotzen, former Mr. Big band mate and bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan and of course Mike Portnoy widely regarded as one the best drummers alive today. They only reason this wasn’t #1 on my list is because it is basically a Richie Kotzen solo album. It wasn’t different enough from I hear from his usual work. Not that that is a bad thing, it just wasn’t as suprising as our #1 placement. I won’t bore you with my thoughts twice as you can read them in this CD Review I did here: http://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/the-winery-dogs-cd-review-by-david-lowry/
3. Steve Lukather – Transition
Legendary studio guitarist and founding member of the band Toto, Steve Lukather released his 6th solo CD Transition in 2013 and it is brilliant. Well pretty much everything Steve touches is but this CD really hit home with solid songwriting, relevant topics and a more natural guitar sound. As always Steve’s playing was melodic and amazing and his ability to evoke many different moods with music is a rare thing from most bands these days. Here is my CD review for Transition: http://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/cd-review-transitions-by-steve-lukather/
After all the drama settled and the band Queensryche was able to get their music out, it was a treat to the ears and it felt like coming home! This is the Queensryche CD we have been waiting for since “Empire.” The band has returned with a strong singer, strong songs and a revived sound that takes us back to classic Queensryche and puts a smile on all our faces.
Prog rock legends return in 2013 with the self-title “Dream Theater” and a return to a more melodic feel with less heaviness which isn’t a bad thing. Dream Theater broke through with 1992’s “Images and Words” one of my Top 3 CD’s of all time and this new CD has a bit of that in it. Dream Theater has come full circle with this project and the addition of Mike Mangini has fueled the creativity machine to bring forth the best Dream Theater effort in years. Don’t get me wrong, they have never put out a bad CD. This is just a touch above the more recent efforts.
6. Stryper – No More Hell to Pay
Stryper returns in full force on this CD! Their strongest effort since “To Hell With The Devil,” this is the CD we have been waiting for since the return of the band. Michael Sweet is in fine form vocally and the songs are hook laden and in your face at the same time. Stryper has always been a talented band and underrated musicians as well as excellent live performers. This CD just gives us reason to make sure and not the miss the tour!
This is the biggest surprise on this list as DeLana Stevens & The Beggar Saints are a local Nashville band that is trudging through this morass of a music business trying to make it. When they sent me this CD to listen to, I was blown away by how great the songs were. DeLana and her band learned what many do not, how to write a really, really good hook and rock song. It was so good, I did a review immediately. You can read that here: http://lowryagency.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/delana-stevens-and-the-beggar-saints-cd-review/. DeLana Stevens & company bring back a classic rock sound very much like Heart and Delana is one of the most powerful and accurate singers I have ever heard. Watch this band as I am hoping for big things to come for them.
DeLana Stevens has been a Nashville staple for years now and unfortunately Nashville isn’t really a rock town because they are sitting on one of the best voices I have heard in this town easily. I wrote an article on her live performance for Metalholic Magazine a year ago here: http://metalholic.com/delana-stevens-and-the-beggar-saints-tune-up-nashville/. Miss Stevens is simply one of the most underrated performers in Nashville period. Not only can she sing with the best of them but she is a better performer than almost all of them when it comes to actually emoting and connecting with the audience. When DeLana Stevens sings you feel it. Everywhere. This is the kind of vocalist that shakes your soul and brings feelings up out of you that make you want to blush at the minimum.
Her new CD “DeLana Stevens and The Beggar Saints” is a tour de force of smokey, sexy vocals on a bed of rock guitar and hook laden songs that most bands wish they could write and pull off. A song by DeLana Stevens and The Beggar Saints means a song that is for the song only. Nothing out of place. Nothing distracting. Just pure solid rock and roll with tinge of souther rock or country hear and there. There isn’t a week on track on this CD and makes you scratch your head in wonder WTF is going on with people to let this artist sit here while others with questionable ability become millionaires.
I don’t know DeLana’s story or how her career has gone, but I know this. She deserves a lot more than what she is getting press and attention wise. This is an artist with serious vocal chops and ability with a smart band behind her that support her musically like they should. If you are looking for an artist to get behind with drive, actual talent and great hit potential songs than this is the one. To say otherwise is completely foolish.
To write a proper review for this CD is almost impossible and would be incredibly long as I truly love every song and it is hit after hit. Let me just say, if you don’t buy this, you are missing something big.
Track 1 – Drown: A mid tempo rocker opened with a finger picked distorted guitar and and from the first line you already know this song is going to be good. A nice pre-chorus build that draws you straight into a great chorus. A very strong opening track that lays down the law and announces DeLana is here to rock you out of your boots.
Track 2 – Forbidden: The new single track opens with a slinky little guitar line with arpeggiated chords setting a nice tone from the start. The layers are nicely done here with plenty of space for the song to breathe. Another incredibly strong track that pulls you in a different direction but still rocks and has your ears orgasming at DeLana’s seductive voice. It’s almost like she is right there singing in your ear. Chills…….
Track 3 – Leave on the Lights: This track starts slower but yet somehow the intensity from DeLana’s vocals are always there. It’s like she is singing into your soul. Another strong effort and deeply engaging song.
Track 4 – Sidewalk Prophet: Big power chord opening with a shift to another slinky guitar line. A sexy, fun song that I am sure will lead to lots of dirty dancing on the floor.
Track 5 – Fantasy: a slow burner that opens with DeLana harmonizing with herself. A powerful song with a huge chorus and shows DeLana’s ability to keep that intensity in her vocals no matter where the song takes her.
Track 6 – Bohemian Grove: Another mid to slow tempo burn. A nice use of rhythm in both the music and vocal lines.
Track 7 – Damaged: Slow, a bit sad and real. DeLana brings out the things we want to say but never want to be vulnerable enough to do so.
Track 8 – I Got Even: A completely different feel for the intro. Slow, chordal as well as ringing open strings with DeLana’s vocals echoed. Jumps right into a up tempo, in your face chorus.
Track 9 – Nobody: A up beat song, one of my favorites actually. Great hook with a fun groove and breakdown section that sets up the return of the big chorus.
Track 10 – Give a Little: This is a raucous raise your beer party party song. A decent hook and an upbeat end to the CD with a “play” on words to be heard not told.
I don’t have the details of the CD as to who wrote the songs or who produced it but it is all top notch. Whom ever wrote the songs are very talented and the production is great. The band is I am sure much more capable than they show because they play only what is necessary for the song. There are bright spots for them but it’s all only to enhance the song and never a showmanship this. Complete musical maturity in the songwriting and playing. You never feel like you are listening to the same song on this CD like with so many artists. The writing is so well done and the hooks so completely their own and different, each song is it’s own experience and always for the better.
This is rock and roll at it’s best. Stripped down, sexy as hell and leaving space for the music and vocals to tug at your soul. I don’t like to compare one artist to another or say they are like so and so because it’s an injustice the artist I am reviewing. DeLana Stevens is the simply the best rock artist in Nashville. Her vocals can stand with anybody you can think of and her presence is big enough to tower above everything going on around her. It is her show and she owns it. More artists should learn this ability.
There is nothing packaged, corporate about this band. What you see is what you get and it’s everything we loved about the huge acts of the 70’s with today’s twist and possibly a better singer. Certainly one better than we are used to hearing today.
Get a free copy of the song “Forbidden” here: http://www.delanastevens.net/ and hear for yourself your next favorite artist.
The Lowry Agency is in no way associated with DeLana Stevens and The Beggar Saints. All statements are my opinion and mine alone.
EverAfter is a band out of New Jersey founded by former Heaven’s Edge guitarist Reggie Wu and Jim Drneck of Cinderella and Tangier. The project was released on August 1st, 2013 after a hiccup in the recording process and having to replace two members. Bass player Buddy Cash and vocalist Christopher Thomas stepped up to the plate to help make sure the project got completed. What you get is a solid modern hard rock debut from veteran players that should be a decent catalyst into opening up tour date possibilities and beginning that ever allusive fan base bands are always striving for.
Guitarist Wu was probably one of the 80’s most underrated and melodic players that just happened to hit at the time of the great demise that was grunge rock. I was very excited to hear this effort as I have always been a fan of Wu’s playing and melodic sensibility and phrasing. That guitar parts for the most part shine on this CD so I am definitely not let down here and the rhythm section is solid and provides a great back bone to songs through out.
While this is a solid effort on the part of Ever/After I am a little let down by the vocals on the slow parts. I am just not sold on the songs then and it feels strained and forced. Possibly a slight lack of control, like the singer has never really sang like that before and wasn’t totally comfortable with it. Admittedly I know nothing about Christopher Thomas as a vocalist so I could be way off. The production was a bit weak in spots for my taste but that is just my critical ear I am sure. It has a mix of polish and being a bit raw in spots somehow and I am still waiting for my ear to really grasp it.
Don’t get me wrong there are some hot spots on this CD and Wu and company have put together some well crafted pop/rock songs. There are hooks, nice layers and plenty of songs to crank up and dance to especially for the ladies.
The first song “Breakin’ Me” is a modern rock take with a slight punk feel that has a nice hook and might be where the vocals shine the most. Nothing is over done here and it’s laid out pretty nice with a little chaotic bridge to bring some weight to the lyrics.
The second track “Starin’ At The Gun” is another upbeat track with a good hook and a bit more flash from the mighty Wu on the git fiddle. A solid rocker but there are spots I feel the vocalist could of hit better.
Track 3 is “Can’t Stop Love” with an acoustic guitar opening and maybe the strongest statement from vocalist Christopher Thomas. This is definitely his high point on the CD and probably my favorite track on the CD. Nice hook, great parts and finally a vocal that sells it. There is a female back ground vocalist which is another bright spot. She has some nice lines and is a much better singer technically with great chops and a nice tone to her voice. Somebody should snap her up quick.
Track 7 “Best of Me” is another rocker that has a great feel and hook. A bit of a more melodic feel and slightly darker. This track shows Ever/After where they fit best. Rocking hard and letting the vocalist do what makes him shine the best, providing that rock growl with confidence.
EverAfter is a rock band with a lot of potential to make very good rock CD’s and with a bit more polish this CD could be even better. “A Beautiful Lie” has a lot of different feels in the songs which is nice and shows a good amount of not only instrumental maturity but songwriting maturity as well. When the let go and rock they shine brightly and could really be at the forefront of helping to bring rock back to the forefront of the music industry with some hard work and a better producer to bring out the best in the vocals.
I am giving this 7 out of 10 stars for some great hooks, solid radio ready songs and a solid rocking first effort.
To call The Winery Dogs a supergroup would be a injustice in my mind. Sometimes supergroups are set up to sell CD’s not that is a bad thing and certainly not all did that with that intention in mind, but sometimes it just seems like a ploy and most don’t last very long. Even though The Winery Dogs consist of three of the most world renowned musicians especially in the rock world, this doesn’t feel anything like a super group. The three piece power trio of bass legend Billy Sheehan, world renown drummer Mike Portnoy, and guitar virtuoso Richie Kotzen who is also the ridiculously talented singer brings us the biggest wall of sound sings King’s X burst on the scene back in the 1980’s. If for some reason you are not familiar with these musicians, just click on their names to view their website and history. You won’t find a more accomplished 3 piece on the planet.
Anyone who knows me knows that these three musicians are probably my top three favorite in the world so when I heard they were coming together to put out a CD I was excited beyond belief to say the least. Anyone who knows me also knows that my favorite musician in the world is Richie Kotzen and it is about time the world finally hear him on a platform that show cases more than just his guitar playing which is what he has long been considered one of the best players in the world. Richie Kotzen’s vocalizations are reminiscent of the Philadelphia soul last really heard by Daryl Hall. If you ever go back through Richie’s solo catalog and listen, you will be amazed at how this guy has remained under the radar for so long. Having interviewed Richie twice on my radio show “Live From Music City,” I can tell you this guy is as humble as they come and more talented than just about everyone who thinks they are God’s gift to music. Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy are no stranger to the musical limelight as they are widely interviewed for their well known virtuosity and have transcended their instruments in the mainstream to become household names in the music world.
The Winery Dogs are a classic rock trio that brings back the art of songwriting, melodies and bursts of virtuosity at just the right moments in songs which of course is a sign of musical maturity in their songwriting. Musicians like this could easily blow are minds with their virtuosity as it is specifically what all three are know for, but The Winery Dogs aren’t about that. This is rock at it finest level and one of the most poignant examples of how to be incredibly creative, have a completely unique sound, using virtuoso talent and musical knowledge to showcase all of it and put out one of the best rock CD’s in years let alone 2013.
The first single and track “Elevate” is an up tempo rocker with an incredibly hooky chorus that captures you right away with it’s charm and attitude. Richie and Billy have doubled instrumental lines that add something that in today’s rock that you don’t really hear anymore as well a very cool break down section again another lost art in todays rock songwriting. The versus are a nice contrast to the chorus as they have a slow, bluesy, slightly darker feel before bursting into the chorus which brings the song up to another level. Great rock song and great feel with of course amazing playing and a smoking melodic guitar solo by Richie.
The second single and also track “Desire” is another smoking rocker that opens with Richie vamping chords and then settles into a sexy groove pushed by just the bass and drums. The chorus drives the song into a new gear and rings with a simple catchiness that keeps you singing the song all day long in your head. The bridge really separates the rest of the song like a bridge should followed by a break down that showcases Billy and Richie again and keeps the song very fresh. The solo is a simple statement by Richie that is melodic with a slow build to a frenzy finish.
The CD’s fourth track “I’m No Angel” is my personal favorite on the CD and starts with a very sexy bluesy guitar line and by Richie that sets a mood that really allows the lyrics to stand out. The broody feel of the verse is highlighted by an up lifting pre-chorus and chorus. The way that the band highlights the parts of their songs with their melodic lines and creativity really shine in this song. Richie’s voice brings a haunted quality to the lyrics that make this song so relatable to many of us I am sure. Richie’s solo’s are melodic, phrased beautifully and as always tell a story within the story itself.
The sleeper track is “We Are One” a blistering rocker that strikes out on its own and screams single! The CD closes out with two ballads “The Dying” and “Regret.” Both songs are beautiful, haunting and show incredible depth in the songwriting.
Bottom line: This CD is what every musician who is serious about songwriting and learning to play should aspire to. Being able to play your instrument only allows you be more creative, add colors, textures, melodies and lines to enhance each songs “experience” for the listeners. Being able to create soundscapes should be the goal of every musician. The songwriting is top notch and this CD should not only reinforce the musical abilities of these musicians but showcase their songwriting in a new way that garners respect from the public as a whole. The Winery Dogs allow Richie to stand out and radiate his immense talent and this should solidify him as one the best all around musicians in music today as he does all the lead vocals, guitars and keys on this CD. He singing is among the best in rock today and let this be a statement to the world at how incredibly talented this man is. Take note world, this is simply one of the top 3 rock CD’s of 2013 besides Steve Lukather‘s “Transition” and Maragold ‘s (featuring guitar virtuoso Greg Howe and new vocal powerhouse Meghan Krauss) sef-titled CD . No where on the planet will you find a more talented, musical and gifted band than this. Go buy this now or forever miss out on one the best CD to come out in years.
Find out more about The Winery Dogs here:
Maragold is a rock band founded by guitar virtuoso Greg Howe and bassist Kevin Vicchione. For those not in the guitar community, Greg is a world renown player and has played with such artist as Justin Timberlake, N’Sync, Christina Aguilara, Michael Jackson, Rihana, Lady Antebellum, P Diddy, T-Pain, Salt and Peppa not to mention jazz fusion legends like Victor Wooton, Dennis Chambers and other world reknown players like Richie Kotzen and Stu Hamm. Actually Greg’s song “Jump Start” is my favorite guitar instrumental of all time. So needless to say I had high expectations when I heard about this project and holy shit does it deliver. Greg has the very rare ability to be a virtuoso and still play for the song. His solo’s are so amazing and vintage Greg but sound completely original in a sea of completely unoriginal players who all sound the same in today’s scene. You will never hear a “typical” lick or sound from Greg but you will be amazed and wonder why more players don’t strive for a unique voice like his.
First let me tell you about the other musicians on the project. Singer and relative newcomer Meghan Krauss is the best female rock singer to come out since Sass Jordan. This lady can sing with the best of them and evokes that excitement from inside you that you so rarely hear from singers anymore, as they are all canned and predictable. Meghan will knock you on your ass and remind you why you listen to rock in the first place.
Bass Player Kevin Vecchione is a SOLID player. Kevin is obviously capable of so much more and that is the beauty of his playing here. He plays exactly what is needed for the song, never anymore and drives the buss with drummer Gianluca Palmieri so that the pocket is strong and every song leads you like it should. I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more about Kevin in the years to come as opportunities arise to showcase his immense talent.
Drummer Gianluca Palmieri is the epitome of a “pocket” player on this CD. It’s so great to hear players that know how to play for the song no matter how good a musician they are. It can be very tempting to play too much or show off and while Gianluca plays some incredibly fresh grooves to allow you to see his true talent without showing off, it’s never over stated and is truly a part of the songwriting as opposed to just being a drum track. The rhythm section of Vecchione and Palmieri is as good as it gets and something all players should listen to and learn from.
The single “Evergreen Is Golder” is a straight out knock you on your ass “Hello world I am Meghan Krauss and I am going to kick your ass!” statement. A great rock song with a blistering solo and incredible hook. Written by Greg, Kevin and Greg’s brother Al Howe, this song is a hit single through and through. I hope to God someone gets behind this for radio. Hell I’ll push it myself.
“Saturday Sun” and “Lullaby” are other rockers that shine, no pun intended. Another high point for me was “Paradigm Tsunami.” This CD is not your typical rock record by any means. It has blues, jazz, rhythmic displacement and all kinds of cool elements that really bring out the color and flavor of the songs. Meghan takes advantage of every opportunity is now in the “best singer you have never heard” of category along with Richie Kotzen.
“Maragold” is a must buy CD and one of the top 2 CD releases of 2013 along with Steve Lukather’s new CD “Transition” and the best rock CD since “Forty Deuce” featuring Richie Kotzen. You can no longer say there aren’t any good rock bands anymore. Maragold may be just what the hurting rock genre needed, a good old shot of in your face, kicking your ass rock n’ roll. Thank God for Maragold.
Five out of Five ass kicking stars.
Go buy it now here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/evergreen-is-golder-single/id619283574 NOW!
I came to find Don Lappin through facebook and even though I follow guitar players, I wasn’t aware of Don’s playing until recently although being a fan of Michael Sweets (Stryper) I had probably heard Don before and didn’t realize it. Don is currently an Assistant Professor at the Berklee School of Music specializing in rock techniques for the guitar. Don has also played with musical greats such as Jon Finn, Chad Wackerman, Guthrie Govan and Jonathon Mover to tell you how talented he is. Don’s approach to the guitar incorporates a lot of tapping and 4 note-per-string playing which is slightly out of the norm and about as technical as I am going to get for this blog. This about the music and not his technique. You can contact Don for more information on that for you guitar nerds.
“Tapped In” is Don’s second solo release and it is full of stellar guitar work by this modern day guitar virtuoso. From the intro straight in the first song “Lappin it Up,” you know you are in for something very different for a guitar instrumental CD. I have done a few reviews of guitar instrumental CD’s and having listened to hundreds if not thousands of these guitar players, it is very hard to find one with their own distinct voice. The kind that once you hear them anywhere on any CD you know it’s them. Don has that unique voice. His playing is extremely fluid partially due to his tapping technique but also his mastery of his instrument of choice. Don is very melodic and his vamps are not your the tired typical power chord vamps that guitar players love to play over. After being sent so many bad CD’s to review, you almost dread getting another wanna be guitar shredder CD in the mail. Thankfully this is NOT one of those CD’s. There is a lot of creativity in every part of the songwriting on “Tapped In”.
The highlights on “Tapped In” for me are the songs “Lappin it Up, Captain’s Lady and A Song for Robert.” The first song “Lappin it Up” could possibly be the most original sounding guitar song I have heard in a long time, especially during the verses. It’s a fast paced groove with a different sonic texture then you’d expect and moves into some nice melodic lines and an uplifting chorus that is hooky. Laden with some tension coming out of the chorus to bring you back to earth, Don creates melodic passes that always keep the song fresh and interesting.
“Captain’s Lady” is a “pretty” song in the way Don constructs the melody from the opening. Although it’s a rock song, it has a light quality that brings you to a feeling of taking off in the chorus. One of the great things about artists like Don is you never know where the song is going to take you because they have so many tools in their arsenal. This keeps the songs fresh and invigorated which is great for longer instrumentals and can really show you that you don’t always have to have a typical ABABBABB type song to have a listener friendly tune. Great songwriters will keep you engaged at all times and Don does this very well.
“A Song for Robert” is a slow song that reminds me of the feeling I get when listening to an Eric Johnson composition. Don and Eric are completely different players and writers, but here Don achieves that same ability to create a musical picture that takes you away and creates that sonic landscape you can picture in your mind’s eye. It’s a beautiful song that will pass without you realizing it’s 9:29 long. That is effective songwriting when you get lost in the music and forget about time altogether.
“Tapped In” being Don’s first full length CD is an amazing effort with a great sense of melody phrasing and songwriting ability that is already very strong and I am sure will only get better as he puts out more CD’s. For fans of instrumental music, “Tapped In” should appeal to those that like listener friendly songs and tunes with a slight fusion feel for lack of a better term. You never really get thrown by anything here even though there are parts that shine with sparks of jazz influenced lead lines that drift from the main melody motif which again is another sign of solid songwriting.
I give “Tapped In” a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The only thing missing is that break out “Cliff’s of Dover” type song that just amazes your ears but also knocks you on your ass like nothing you have heard before.
You can purchase “Tapped In” here: http://donlappin.bandcamp.com/
You can find out more about Don Lappin here:
First of all let me say that I was introduced to Phoenix Drive from their former manager through artist showcases they did around Nashville. Each time I saw the band I was very impressed not only with their very positive attitude but also their have amazing vocals, harmonies, songwriting and playing ability. This band is no joke in any shape of the word. This is probably my favorite country band I have ever seen that didn’t already have a major record deal.
The CD “A Fool’s Melody” is a tour de force of melodic hooks and strong songwriting. The band has two lead singers in Jon Scott and Felicity Combs that have a pure vocal ability and the vocal harmonies all blend superbly together. Every musician is very solid which you expect in Nashville, but live I feel this band executes better as a unit than any other and sonically their tones and EQ are always nearly perfect and that comes through on this effort as everything is crystal clear, full of energy and has “live” feel to it. The CD has nine incredible songs and none of them suffer from lack of attention in my opinion. This is a complete CD with no filler tracks like I hear from a lot of country artists. Each track is melodic and feels like everything is exactly where it is supposed to be. I don’t feel any typical “Nashville” sound emanating from this CD in either its songwriting or production, which separates it from so many other releases.
The bright spots on the CD are hard for me to pick out as all the songs are really that good, but that being said “High Time, Trouble Down, She Ain’t Coming Home and A Fool’s Melody” are the strongest singles in my estimation. This CD in no way feels like a debut CD to me. It’s mature, well thought out and knows exactly when to lay back or let it all hang out.
“High Time” is an upbeat ditty that opens with a catchy acoustic riff and then into big vocals that remind me of Alabama’s greatness. Jon Scott provides a soulful vocal quality and with Felicity providing delightful drop of singing and their harmonies shine through in a big way. The energy in this song is infectious and you will be tapping your toes all the way through.
“Trouble Down” is Felicity’s time to shine. She has a gorgeous voice that makes you want to melt. This song is a sultry tune that gives a back woods feel with the pacing and instrumentation. The impact this song has live especially when the chorus kicks in is magical and it comes through here as well. This is one of my favorite songs of 2012 by far.
“She Ain’t Coming Home” is a mid tempo song that features Jon’s lead vocals again and the verse beautifully sets up the chorus. I love how they layered Jon’s and Felicity’s vocals through out the verse sections. The chorus is a great hook that grabs you and won’t let go.
“A Fool’s Melody” features a cool guitar intro and let me tell you guitarist Chris Combs can play. Combs is definitely one of my favorite undiscovered guitar players in any genre. The drums are played with brushes with a laid back vocal from Jon and Felicity but yet the tempo is upbeat with a great guitar line underneath to separate the vocal sections.
The band rounds out with Brian Powers on bass and background vocals who is a very capable player and singer in his own right and recent addition David Rollins on drums with adds the backbone and pocket needed. David is a veteran player with great chops and presence.
This is what a modern country CD should be. It gives a nod to its classic country roots but is modern with a fresh feel and not a pop CD like Taylor Swift or what so many people have gone for to get radio success. There is no doubt this is a country band but with a strong cross over appeal. Any of the four tracks I mentioned could, should and would be radio hits if the funding was behind it. A well done musical effort that should be on every country fans iPod.
5 out of 5 stars.
You can find out more about Phoenix Drive here: www.phoenixdrive.net
CD Review – “Transition” by Steve Lukather
For many of you, TOTO is a household name; for those of you born after 1985, maybe not. There is no denying TOTO is still a huge act internationally and world renown guitar player Steve Lukather is a huge part of their sound – from songwriting, singing, and, of course his legendary guitar playing. Steve is one of the most recorded guitar players in history – playing with the likes of Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Larry Carlton, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Eric Clapton and George Benson to name a few. A total of 602 album credits to date which by anyone’s standards is amazing.
“Transition” produced by Steve and CJ Vanston is Steve’s 6th solo record to date, not including a couple that are more Steve and friends releases. Having all these CD’s personally and being a huge fan, I was really looking forward to the release of “Transition” and let me tell you it doesn’t disappoint. Steve lets it all hang out on here and deals with some tough subjects such as all the criticism that artists (himself included) receive on a daily basis now that anyone can post anything on the internet.
The CD features an all-star cast of musicians such as Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers/Chicken Foot), Phil Collen (Def Leppard), Tal Wilkenfield, Richard Page (Mr. Mister), Nathan East, Leland Sklar, Greg Bissonette and Lenny Castro. The CD’s hot spots for me are “Judgment Day” and “Creep Motel.”
The first track is “Judgment Day” and the bright point in my opinion. This song is a four on the floor rock song with a blistering solo. It has it’s laid back moments of Steve finger pickings a simple rhythm, but very melodic lines are inserted throughout with a nice bridge/pre-chorus build ups to add weight to the chorus. The song is a message to all the Internet haters out there so take head all you-who-love-to-comment-online about your opinions of other peoples work.
The second track “Creep Motel” deals with the same issues and to me has a slight hint of a Steely Dan vibe in spots. This is a solid rock song with another amazing solo by Luke. As the title would indicate, it has a slinky feel with huge background vocals.
Steve has an uncanny ability to really evoke different moods with his music and does so again here well. Luke’s voice and playing are in fine form and show no signs of slowing down. His sense of melody and playing are something all musicians can learn from. He is definitely someone that knows when to play and when not to which is more important.
The song “Transition” is a great instrumental song written in 7/4 time that adds vocals late into the song. “Right The Wrong” and “Last Man Standing” all have great hooks and are definitely radio capable. All in all, this is a solid CD with not one filler song in its ranks. Well written, well produced with a great energy, and a more organic sound from the Steve Lukather. Songwriting is at the forefront of this CD, which as we all know, is something very lacking in today’s music scene.
I give this 5 out 5 stars.
You can purchase “Transition” here – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/transition/id584478886
View the EPK Video for Transition here. Transition EPK
Social media sites for Steve Lukather:
By David Lowry
I came across Gretchen Menn from a fellow guitar players post on Facebook and was instantly intrigued by what I heard. The reason it caught my attention is the person who posted it is one of my favorite new players and I trust his judgment when it come to guitar players and music. In a world full of guitar shredders all putting out their own CD’s it is hard to find those that truly stand out with a sense of melody, strong arranging, great phrasing and most importantly their own unique sound. We have been inundated with Yngwie Malsteen clones over the last 25 years so the guitar players that have worked hard to have their own voice are extremely rare to find and very gratifying to listen to usually. Gretchen has accomplished that feat in spades. On her first debut CD “Hale Souls,” Gretchen has managed to do what many guitar instrumentalists fail too, she doesn’t sound like a clone of anyone else.
Gretchen has added a mix of different guitar instrumentations on “Hale Souls” as which is a nice change of pace. It’s not in your face guitar the whole time; there is a violin instrumental called “Walking Shadow,” and acoustic diddy “Fast Crowd,” and a classically inspired song “Fading.” Gretchen has thrown rock, fusion, jazz, flatpicking, world music and classical all into this CD to give us a very well rounded effort and a strong look at how incredibly talented this musician is. Strong rock cuts like “Scrap Metal,” “Oleo Strut,” and “Valentino’s Victory Lap” burst out the gate with great feel, phrasing and just enough technique to quench us guitar instrumental freaks loves need for speed.
Gretchen has her own signature sound that harkens back to the early prog greats and a modern edge that makes it hard to classify her. Gretchen arrives with a very strong debut CD and shows great promise to make a name for herself early in her career to achieve the household name status so many of her guitar peers have sought for many years. “Hale Souls” doesn’t hit on all marks like the legendary “Tones” by Eric Johnson or Michael Lee Firkins self-titled CD does on it’s first time out but it’s an amazing first effort and Gretchen has let the guitar world know she his here to stay and ready to take it over. I find myself listening to it over and over again so I’ll rate it a solid 8 out of 10 stars and eagerly anticipate the next Gretchen Menn CD. This is a very brave and bold debut CD and it should be a part of every guitar enthusiast’s music collection.
Look for great things from this musician! You can find out more about Gretchen at http://www.gretchenmenn.com
By David Lowry
Agent Cooper is a prog rock band from Atlanta, GA that has a gentle throw back sound to some of the classic prog rock bands from the 60’s and 70’s in it’s heyday but at the same time has captured some of the modern sounds of today’s prog monsters with one exception. Agent Cooper understands how to write a hook and make a song radio friendly which many of today prog rockers don’t do either by design or not being able to step out of their own virtuosity and simplify things. Neither is bad, one way has a certain fan base just as the other does. I know when I listen to prog, I am not looking for three-minute songs that are just ear candy. Agent Cooper has done a great job of melding the two together and hopefully on their end being able to capture a much larger audience because of it.
“From The Ashes” is the bands third CD but first with this current line-up. It’s more of an EP really with six songs on it and “The Stand” being the strongest of the six in my personal opinion. It’s a happy song in its melodic structure but a very strong song lyrically in standing up for yourself. It’s an interesting contrast in the way the music is written and the way the lyrics provide a completely different feel. It is an acoustic based song with soaring vocals, an uplifting pre-chorus, a very strong chorus and the use of the B3 organ and keyboards are a nice thing to hear again in today’s music. It’s definitely something we don’t hear enough of with the younger musicians of today.
Agent Cooper have the ability to weave in and out of time changes, key changes and tempo’s with the best of them and it always provides an interesting ride through out the songs, which is really the point of a song. To take you on a journey, the great thing about Agent Cooper is it isn’t just a lyrical journey, it’s a sonic one as well. Singer Doug Busbee brings back a vocal styling sorely missed in today’s rock music. He does his predecessors proud and the band as a whole does a great job with harmony vocals. There are plenty of spots in the songs where this is a highlight and adds a rich color and depth to the music without it ever feeling like they are showing off. This can be said as a whole of all the music and the musicians. The musicianship was brilliant from everyone in the band and played so well that it never took anything away from the song.
I thoroughly enjoyed this EP and am really looking forward to hearing more from this exciting band. A truly stellar effort on their part to bring us a style of music we don’t get enough of. Thank you Agent Cooper for bringing back a style of music that harkens the greatness of the 70’s prog rockers but catapults it into the now.
You can find out more about Agent Cooper at www.agentcooper.com.
At the time of this writing The Lowry Agency and Agent Cooper have no affiliation.