Asking For Flowers – Kathleen Edwards

Asking For Flowers is Canadian alt-country singer Kathleen Edwards’s 3rd album, which was described as her finest work yet. I tend to agree. The 11 songs that she has crafted & sung for us on the album is some fine work by the Ottawa native indeed!

We start off with a song about being down on your luck in Buffalo, a song of going across the border to the US with your lover and then getting stuck and needing to get back. The Cheapest Key is Kathleen’s attempt at a pop-rock song and she does it better than most. An uptempo number about musicians and worshipping a rocker, it’s a crowd favourite.

Asking For Flowers, the title track, is a bitter look back at a relationship that was never on equal terms and has reached it’s end. The singer is bitter that her spouse/partner hadn’t been more engaged in their life and appreciative of her. Alicia Ross is about a girl, who was killed by her next dooor neighbour, and her case was well known in the media. Edwards sings the song from the perspective of the young woman during the last moments of her life and it’s mostly address to her mother.

Edwards best song ever, not just on this album, is the wonderful I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory – a song about friendship between two band mates. However one friend shines in the spotlight yet the other does a lot of the dirty work but gets very little credit. Edwards compares this duo with many things including the Great one, Wayne Gretsky, an NHL demi-god and his teammate Marty McSorley who was an enforcer assigned to protect the star.

Oil Man’s War is about a draft dodger who doesn’t want to go to Iraq and who leaves for Canada with his girlfriend. Sure As Shit is about a relationship.  Run is about a mother singing to her daughter on the eve of her wedding and giving a little warning about life. Oh Canada is a bitter song to Edwards’s countrymen to not look into the race or colour of a person before caring for them. Scared Of The Dark and Goodnight, California close out this mostly sombre record.

Since I’ve already posted the video for the song much earlier, here’s a live rendition of I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory!

The Big Thrill – Axxis

The Big Thrill was an album I bought way back in 1993 based solely on the recommendations of a friendly music store owner. And I have never regretted the purchase as it’s one of the strongest albums that I can remember listening to.

The band Axxis are based in Dortmund, Germany and for a while they outsold the Scorpions! The Big Thrill is probably their best album (based on other fans’ opinions – I’ve only heard the one album). So let’s take a look at why this is such a good album.

I’ve downloaded the album thru torrent and bang! Better World/Living In The Dark hits through my speakers like a hammer. It’s about the changing world and keeping an optimistic view on the changes. Against A Brick Wall starts with an Angus Youngish guitar riff and the thumping rhythm of bassist Markus Gfeller & Richard Michaelski’s drums hits you in the gut. Stay Don’t Leave Me is a love ballad which makes good use of Harry Oellers’s piano skills.

Every relationship between lovers is a little bit of love and war, right? The Germans agree and this uptempo number, Little War, is just about that. No Advice is an in your face, thumbing your nose at athourity and society. Another power ballad, Love Doesn’t Know Any Distance is melancholic and melodic. Probably the best song on the record, the ominous sounding Heaven’s Seventh Train, is mysterious and foreboding. I haven’t found any video for this track but if they had made one, it should be on a train, traveling at night through a snowy German forest.

Brother Moon is a call to the wild nature of humans, as is The Wolf. The Road To Never NeverLand is a war cry of the rock n’roll lifestyle that any rocker will enjoy. Nestlled amongst them is a mostly acoustic gem – Waterdrop! A guitar philosophical look at comparing a human and mankind to a waterdrop and the body of water on the Earth, it’s a beautiful masterpiece. The 11 songs are aided by the skillful & tasteful guitar chops of Walter Pietsch and the unique vocals of Bernhard Weiß.

Here Is What Is – Daniel Lanois

Acclaimed singer/songwriter/producer Daniel Lanois, known for producing some of the greatest albums of the last two decades. He also has his own solo stuff that has got him much acclaim. His 6th studio album Here Is What Is was first released in December 2007 as a high-quality download, and later released on CD on March 18, 2008.

It is the result of the same project that lead to the 2007 documentary “Here Is What Is” that premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival in September. We start off with Chest Of Drawers, a voice recording of Brian Eno speaking (as in the documentary). The  first song is Where Will I Be followed by Here Is What Is. The atmospheric, world weary tone is apparent in them and it’s sets the mood for the rest of the album.

The almost apologetic Not Fighting Anymore is beautiful and melancholic. Eno is then asked about how beauty is created out of nothing. The instrumental Blue Bus is fleshed out by the beautiful pedal steel guitar work of Lanois. Lovechild is a haunting piano instrumental, with just some words, that reminds of snowy arctic life, which then segues into pedal guitar. Harry is about a guy who needs some salvation. Bells Of Oxacana offer an interlude before a surprise in This May Be My Last Time – which is a old time blues number. Smoke #6 is another lovely instrumental.

I Like That is a slow & mellow request for the things that the singer desires. Duo Glide starts off with a steady drum beat, the bass and guitar follow to create a nice intro. Bladesteel is another instrumental. Moondog reminds me of Native Canadians tribes music. And the name ‘Moondog’ sounds like it could be the name of a Native. Brian Eno speaks with Lanois about anti-romanticism in Sacred And Secular. Lanois then tells us about his love for the pedal steel guitar, which he describes as his ‘church in a suitcase’, before he serendes us with some guitar playing.

The pedal steel guitar continues for a bit in Joy, when a more cheerful sounding organ takes over. The album closes with Luna Samba, a lot more happier and jazzy sounding number. Here Is What Is was recorded in Toronto, Los Angeles and Shreveport, LA with drummer Brian Blade (Joshua Redman, Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones) and pianist Garth Hudson (The Band) and captures Lanois’ signature musical sensibilities and virtuosity.

Chin Up Buttercup – Holly McNarland

The city of Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada) has produced some of my favourite artists – Chantal Kreviazuk, Neil Young & Crash Test Dummies. Adding to that list is Holly McNarland, an artist I knew very little about except for a few of her songs, including her wonderful Beautiful Blue. Now, I’ve got the chance to get a full album of her material; 2007’s Chin Up Buttercup. The album starts off with the distinctive corrosive guitar riff that defines So Cold, the rush of cold biting wind that rushes at you. This, her 5th album, deals with lyrics of motherhood, loss & everyday. Fly is another great track that duets acoustic & electric riffs equally well.

We move on to the instantly catchy Dadada and then onto the beautiful & dreamy Sweet Lazy. Both of these songs seem to be inspired by family life and motherhood. Her voice in the latter is especially expressive and describes visions of bliss. Every Single Time starts off with a happy beat and lyrics of missing someone when the person is not around.

Back to her original angst, she hits back with Dear Pain, a lyrical letter to the thing that hurts her the most. The ballad Dry As A Bone deals with personal loss and the feelings that come once all the tears are dried up. Bye Bye Boy is one of her best songs that deals with breakup, addressed to a former lover. The melancholic Mermaid deals with devotion & needing to special to someone (could easily be about a child).

The slowed down The Waltz is a nostalgic look back and a decision to not let that change the future. Memory Of A Man is totally different from any song that I have heard, due to the repetitive, almost meowing words that litter the song. We end with Sad Songs, a perfect end to the album that’s probably the most personal that she has done till date.

There aren’t many Holly videos available except for her 5 or 6 hits & for some amateur shot live clips on Youtube. Here’s the video for Every Single Time.

For My Friends – Blind Melon

As most alternative rock music fans from the 1990s will remember, Blind Melon went on a hiatus after the death of their charismatic singer Shannon Hoon in 1995. Since then they have released an album of back catalogue songs in Nico and a best of.

But what’s this? This little tidbit had escape my radar. An album of new songs was released in April, 2008. Joining hands with singer Travis Warren, the remainin 4 members of Blind Melon came out with For My Friends, which starts of with Warren sounding a lot like Hoon in the title track. The first single is about drinking with your friends and missing the good ole times. It is spoiled unnecessarily with a silly laughing fit on the part of Warren, that seems put on.

Musically the band sounds tight and I especially like the drums in With The Right Set Of Eyes. Wishing Well has got to be the best song on the album. It sounds lyrically like an anti-suicide song and has some great guitar playing on it. Sometimes comes off sounding like a Brit pop song; I think it’s the organ part that does it for me. It also has a lyrical tribute to Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain (you think this song is about you, don’t you). Tumbling Down sounds a lot like the old Blind Melon.

Down On The Pharmacy is an anti-drug song warning against abusing chemical substances that can catch up with you later. Make A Difference sounds Lennon-ish with political overtones. Harmful Belly is about the pain of love and the heartbreak when it dies. Folksy & jingle jangly acoustic guitars start of Last Laugh until the chorus break and more classic rock tinges take over. Hynotized is more 1970s retro rock and this shouldn’t come off a a surprise since the band has been influenced mostly by that period’s music.

Father Time does not sound much like the old Blind Melon but it’s an ok tune. So High is a mellow tune even with electric guitars. Album closer Chettum Street is a slowed down track about nostalgia.

There’s no No Rain on this album and I would have to place it as their 4th best record till date – but that’s ok. It’s still got plenty of tunes to please a rocker like me and appeal to my ballad side as well.

Blueslisted – JW Jones

From the Canadian capital of Ottawa, comes JW Jones, a blues singer & guitarist of a more traditional Chicago blues sound. In the last decade, he has released five albums and played in 13 countries, 4 continents, over 200 cities and over 800 club and festival appearances. He plays with a no frills all feel approach to his guitar playing.

Alright, let the music hit me! A cool sounding Double Eyed Whammy comes rushing through your speakers. It’s a fun sounding tune about a terrific woman that the singer wants to make his own. Looking The World Straight In The Eye is a combination of funk & RnB with maturity showing in the vocals and great guitar playing. Can’t Play A Playboy reminds me of 1950s flicks of street fights & gangs (in musicals ofcourse). The song is basically a warning to not play around with the protagonist. Similarly Mad About You sounds like it could have been off the soundtrack of movies like Grease!

Wasted Life is a lament about times & opportunity gone by on which guest guitarist Little Charlie Baty noodles out his jazzy style. Somebody’s Got To Burn is a darker song on vengeance with some intense riffing. Heavy Dosage, a West Coast swing number, allows Jones & his guest guitarists Baty & Junior Watson and the rhythm section to just stretch out into a jazz & swing vibe and belt out an instrumental. That’s Wrong Little Mama is a cover of a BB King original. Waiting On You is about waiting & getting impatient for your woman to get ready to have fun.

The Doctor is a fun danceable track about falling in love with a …… you guessed it, a doctor! In Out Of Service harmonica support this song about the cell phone blues. Anyone who waited for a call from their lover can relate. Bogart Bounces Again is a good instrumental lead by guitar but amiably supported by the drums, keys & bass and you can hear a horn section here & there. Silent Treatment & Tickets On Yourself bring the rear section of the cd and prove that there’s not a weak link in the entire lot.

Thoroughly enjoyable blues record. Here’s Jones playing Double Eyed Whammy live on stage.

Them Vs You Vs Me – Finger Eleven

Them vs You vs Me is the 5th studio album from Burlington, Ontario based alternative rock band Finger Eleven. The band decided to wait 3 years before putting out the follow up to the success of their 2003 eponymous album. In the interim the band had lengthy tours across Canada & the US and ventured into Europe & Australia and that ended only in 2005, leaving the band time for a well deserved breather and time off before thinking about new songs and a new album. The album was initially rumoured to be titled Sense of a Spark and is more in the vain of Letters from Chutney than previous Finger Eleven records.

The first time I heard the opening song & huge hit single Paralyser, I was stunned – was this Finger Eleven? It’s a disco-rock song that will make you want to dance across your room, pick up the tennis racket or mop and shake your booty. It’s been played numerous times in tv shows, ads, dance floors and who knows where else. The second single & second track on the album is Falling On, which is about facing your fears. The song has reached #1 on the MuchMusic Countdown.

We then come to a song about heart break and moving on after a love affair sours. I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague is my favourite song on the record and probably one of their best overall. It has a melodic & bittersweet guitar riff. Lost My Way is harder edged but still catchy with cleaner guitar hooks than usual. So-So Suicide is still upbeat despite the lyrics being of the more depressing kind.

Window Song is a slower, mostly acoustic song. The ‘da dum dum’ of the guitar (or is it the bass) that is played after the lines ‘I never said’ is one of the most haunting that I have ever heard. Sense Of A Spark is one of the weaker songs in the cd; however the band had initially planned on naming the album after this song. Talking To The Walls is another great song about heartbreak. This was the fourth single and video released from the album.

The bass lines & piano playing really make Change The World, which is a plea for love. Gather & Give has a catchy chorus, solid drums beats that make this an easy listening number. Lyrically it’s about being true to oneself and to the one that you love. Easy Life has this snaky guitar riff that leads the song into a much slower bridge/chorus section. Them vs You vs Me is about a tumultuous relationship and the infighting that can happen.

It’s got several good songs and a couple of really memorable ones. I’d give it a 4 out of 5. Watch the video for I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague.

Nothing Fancy – Jessie Farrell

Back in 2001 I made a chat friend who live in a farmhouse just outside of Vancouver, Canada. He was a big folk-rock & country music fan and he and I would exchange ideas and introduce each other to our fav bands. He also had a webpage where he would hosts pics of concerts & photos taken at autograph signing sessions. One of the artists he introduced me to was Jessie Farrell.

In 2002, Jessie released her debut album Today on an independent label in Canada. The songs were more of a folksy balladsy nature and I was able to download a couple of her songs for free from her website. Her voice and her beauty captivated me and I was an instant fan. 5 years later, Jessie turned country-pop and put out her second album Nothing Fancy. She also changes her appearance – gone are the dyed blond dreadlocks, she’s a stunning redhead with straight hair!

Alright, so on to the songs. We start off with the catchy & instantly memorable Let’s Talk About Love. The video, which I had embedded on a post here much earlier is as catchy and fun filled as the song. It’s a great way to introduce new fans to Jessie. Next we go to very playful & tongue in cheek I Guess – which is about dating 2 guys at the same time and not knowing whom to choose! Time for a ballad – listen to Fell Right Into You, a song about love that happens unexpectedly and comes just at the time that we need it.

Best Of Me is about giving your all in a relationship, even if your lover isn’t reciprocating the same way back to you. Lucky is a song about being happy with yourself and feeling glad to have what you have. Sorry For You is about refusing to let your friend or partner bring you down to the woeful level that they are at. Another love song is Falling Asleep (In Your Arms). Prettiest Things
is stating that all the best things and simple things lead back to the loved one.

I Am Rock is about facing your past problems and telling yourself that you are above such things at this point. Jessie probably leaves her best vocal performance for the last song, Coming Home (Juno’s Song) about a young girl’s longing for home. All songs are easy listening and will end up being favourites for many a year. I love the album; go get it and you will too.

Here’s the video for Let’s Talk About Love that I like so much.

Long Way Home – Anthony Gomes

Long Way Home is a collection of songs that didn’t quite make it to the final list of Anthony Gomes’s 2006 hit album Music Is The Medicine. However there was no excuse in just leaving them hanging around, so later that same year, he released it as a companion cd. So let’s check it out.

The album starts off with guitar wails loud & in your face as Bring It hits your speakers. A wah-wah pedal drenched guitar lead breaks, it’s a kinda war cry of asking you to put your actions where your mouth is. Without You is more of the smoky bar kinds blues, with a backup singers and piano, telling a lover that the world isn’t right without her in his life. Gomes has said that this is one of his favrouite tracks.

A little bit of slide guitar introduces us to the next track Hard Line To Ride

, which describes a tough woman to love. It’s almost a destructive relationship. Purple Whiskey Sack hairspray download is a down & dirty blues-rock song about fending for yourself and having no one to trust. I believe the purple sack is about Crown Whiskey. Long Way Home is a ballad about missing your loved one and knowing that it will take some doing to get back to them. It’s a gentle acoustic ballad with just guitars. Monday Salvation is another rock n’roll number with backup singers about getting redemption.

Mississippi Hurricane is a Southern Blues Rock number about a cheating woman who left a path of destruction in her wake. Morning Star starts off with a Middle Eastern/Indian intro before going to rock mode. Soul Power is a gospel number that screams ‘Memphis’ influences and features a killer piano riff from Dylan St.John. Tilt A Whirl is an ode to 60s & 70s rockabilly & rock n’roll numbers, almost surf rock (dare I say it). It doesn’t sound like leftovers, so blues fan – get yo ass out and guy it!

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Here’s a live performance by Anthony Gomes and his band The New Soul Cowboy. The second song is Purple Whiskey Sack.

Something Is Expected – Theresa Sokyrka

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Theresa Sokyrka is a lot like her voice – bouncy, cheerful, sweet & lovely. She’s a spirited & jovial person and it shows in her song. Her first claim to fame was being the runner-up in the second season of Canadian Idol. Since then she has released 3 albums. Something Is Expected is her second outing, released in 2006. Theresa took all the money she earned off her debut, These Old Charms, which was a covers album and put it into the creation of her all original showing.

The album starts off with the number Believe Me, a song berating the object of the singer’s affection. The album itself is more rockier than her usual style. Unrequitted love seems to be a common theme here; Bluebird, which just features her lovely sad voice accompanied by an organ is a woeful lament of not being loved back in return. The Enemy is a surprising dig at big music labels; not wanting to confrm to the ‘tits & ass’ and hip shaking of pop music, she states that ‘if you can’t market me, then I see you’ll see the end of me”.

Falling Out has a danceable beat, courtesy guitar & bass lines,  Here I Am is about the fame that accompanies celebrity status. This song also features Theresa singing in her famous scat style towards the end. River Bend is a ballad about longing to see more of the world. This is just a lovely song with longing lyrics. Sandy Eyes is a sweet song and her second single of the album.

Something Is Expected is the next track and it’s moody lead guitar break almost steals the show but for the almost psychedelic structure of the song. Tell Me Why is the best song in the album, with it’s laid back musical style and her introspective lyrics. I’m not sure who the ‘she’ is that is reffered to in the lyrics but I suspect it’s her soul or her music. Waiting is about accepting your short comings but it’s lyrics seem to tell that the far more experienced person is not necessarily the better person. Without Waking is another song that seems to be about the music industry and expectations. Yours Is Yours is about a jealous  lover (hidden meaning) who wants a lot but will not give or share.

Here’s Theresa singing Tell Me Why @ The Red Room in Vancouver.

Mediterranea – Johannes Linstead

Billboard’s New Age Music/World Music chart topping artist Johannes Linstead is a flamenco guitarist & instrumentalist who fuses virtuoso Spanish-style guitar with Afro-Cuban, Middle Eastern, and Latin American percussion and instrumentation. On his 5th cd Mediterranea Johannes plays Spanish Guitar, Bouzouki, Piano, Keyboards, Palmas & does Perussive Effects along with Production, Engineering, Arrangement, Graphic Design. The album also features musicians from countries as diverse as Greece, Syria, India, the Ukraine and others.

The cd starts off with the open & breezy Andalucia, a homage to the Mecca of flamenco music in Spain. You can almost smell the payeya & jamons cooking and taste the wines of the region as you sway to this song. Gentle guitars bring in the next track called Evening Embrace. Play this song while sitting on your balcony or terrace in the evening as the sun sets and there’s a cool breeze blowing at you. Much faster is the feiry Sangre Del Toro – towards the end it’s a jaw dropping duet of fast paced flamenco guitar by Linstead vs gypsy style violin by Vasyl Popadiouk!

The best song is the Greek sounding Ambrosia which is the highlight of the album and probably his best song ever. Then let Adelita lift your spirits as that joyous guitar playing dances in your ears and onto your heart. Tabu (not in reference to Bollywood actress Tabu – but wouldn’t you want to name a song after her?) is another playful & lovely tune that has me thinking of sand, cool sea water & sangrias on the beach. Hour Of The Lamps is a mix of Indian & Arabic sounding music, with the tabla for accompaniment. A standout track, it should be a live classic.

Motika is another dance number, full of life and helped along by a strong bass guitar rythmn. Close your eyes and experience the passion and mystique of faraway lands in songs like Journey To Alcazaba – a seven-minute masterpiece destined to become a classic among guitar aficionados. Johannes reveals his tender side in the romantic Estrellas Sobre Ella where guitars and violin swirl in melodic melancholy accented by beautiful vocalizations. Superb album by a superb musician.

Healthy In Paranoid Times – Our Lady Peace

Released in 2005, Healthy In Paranoid Times is the 6th studio album put out by post-rock Canadian band Our Lady Peace. As A huge fan (since 2001) of the Toronto based quartet, I was eager to get a copy of this but was unsuccessful until I was able to download it.

Let’s start, shall we? Angels/Losing/Sleep is the first track, second single and the song that has had most success in the US for the band. Lyrically, the song is about watching someone close to you having to go through the process of losing their faith. In this case, it could be religion (looks like the holy ghost is gone). Will The Future Blame Us, a loud and proud arena rocker that is tinged with enough social awareness as to not to make the song not seem cliché. Picture seems to be about documenting & capturing the things across the world on the protagonist’s travels. The ballady track uses photos as fractured bits of memory of personal & worldly strife. Catchy lead off single Where Are You is next, with its wonderfully ambigious lyrics, like Is it different now? Or did Jesus get it right? Or is the devil behind the light?

Wipe That Smile Of Your Face, which creates a wonderfully intense vibe with Maida’s political rant refreshingly to the point. The song is about, as Maida says in the live dvd, “being proud to be Canadian and hating the things that George W Bush has brought to the world”. Love And Trust and Boy are stark expressions of the hopelessness OLP feels as they seek a solution to the problems of the world. The former is driven by a pounding rhythm section and takes the form of a son speaking to his parents. The latter is about the inner voice telling us what to do and guiding us. Our conscience so to speak.
Apology, with it’s atmospheric instrumentals, is a gentle midnight breeze. I even think that the song should have been just an instrumental. World On A String is so-not like OLP musically. It seems to be influenced by Brit-pop of the 90s.  Don’t Stop is a desperate love song, in which the singer says that he is willing to show his devotion by giving up his life for his love. Circles should have been a single (if it was, I don’t think it was promoted much), it’s probably one of their best tracks ever. Mid-tempo song about changes & strife in personal lives. The album ends with the slow & haunting Al Genina (Leave A Light On) – a fitting way to finish the album. The anger and frustration, the desperation which pervades throughout the album resolves itself, at least to an extent.

It’s probably the most personal (lyrically at least) album of the band. I can’t wait for the new one, out in June. Till then enjoy the video for Will The Future Blame Us.


Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier – Corb Lund & The Hurtin’ Albertans

Highly anticipated by his fans, roots country singer Corb Lund and his band the Hurtin’ Albertans brings forth his 5th album after splitting up from alt-rock band The Odds. The album Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier reminds us of the courageous cavalrymen of the early wars and has a strange affinity to horses.

The first song, single & video I Wanna Be In The Cavalry starts off with a marching snare and it’s catchy chorus and well written lyrics that is infectious and paints a clear picture of a young man who dreams of being in the Cavalry. However the song ends on an ominous note when Corb changes the chorus to “And I won’t ride home no more”. We’ll soon see that there’s a flip side to that dream when it becomes a reality.

The title track is up next – a historical tribute to soldier on horses of the wars of the past. The semi-narrative style matches well to this somber tune as the song recalls the valiant victories of the brave men who fought the old fashioned way. Lament For Lester Cousins is a song about a man who after a hard life, settled down with a wife & kid but his past catches up to him. Lester’s wife & daughter are raped and Lester goes for revenge. Brother Brigham, Brother Young is a man’s confession to two priests. The Horse I Rode In On is a ballad about someone who gets on a horse after a long time but his joy on riding a horse again cannot hide his heartbreak on his love lost.

A Leader On Losing Control is  exactly that – a man confessing that he could not control his unruly men. The strangely titled Student Visas is about a reluctant gunner as his helicopter goes & who does not want to kill anymore. What That Song Means Now is about how something takes on different means or how something can mean a lot to you with the passage of time. Hard On Equipment/Tool For The Job is about a certain kind of worker/handyman. Family Reunion is about man looking forward to meeting his relatives after a long gap and hoping for a good time. It’s a tongue in cheek look at things that can go on at a reunion.

Especially A Paint is about love of horses. After the instrumental Ciesla’s Revenge, we have My Saddle Horse Has Died. I think this is a song more about the loss of a man’s youth or strength. It’s got a Mexican flavour with the trumpets native to that nation. And finally we have I Wanna Be In The Cavalry (Reprise) which tells of the hardships of war after the protagonist joins the war. The glamour is short-lived as he watches people die in front of him and he is not sure if he will survive. This is the lament of the soldier at war.

A wonderful album filled with memorable songs. Here’s the video to Family Reunion.

Unity – Anthony Gomes

Unity - Anthony GomesBlues is a way of life. It’s in your blood and the air you breathe. African-American slaves in the cotton fields of the American South maybe have sole claims over the creation of the musical genre we all have come to know & love, but EVERYONE’S GOT THE BLUES!

Perfect example is the case of one of the most popular blues-rock musicians around these days. Anthony Gomes is a Portuguese-Canadian from Toronto but he’s considered to be one of the leading lights of the genre. Released on August 27, 2002, Unity – his 3rd album overall, brought him a lot of critical acclaim & credits.

The funky rocking blues of When the Walls Come Down gets things started, although it’s a touch of sadness, felt after September 11th, 2001. The cd then segues into the utterly danceable Upside (To The Downside), which says that there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud. That even in the darkest times, there’s something good to come out of it. The emotional ballad Darkest Before The Dawn, a lament about a lost lover and the feeling of loneliness. This song is very popular as a singalong with his audiences. The funkiness returns in the form of Do Watchaya Want. The horn section emphasizes the danceable factor of this song.

A poignant & though provoking song, the acoustic If You Could Rule The World puts the question to the listener – would you & how would you change the situation if you had the chance? Blindog, yes it’s one word and not a typo on my side, is about asking someone to let go of dreams of granduer and take a chance on a poor boy. Going Down Slow is a piano driven slow gospel blues number, complete with a choir backing him. The song is about asking for salvation & help.

Unity starts off as acoustic (acoustiphonic lo-fi) before going into a full blown upbeat rhythmn & blues track, with backup singer & horn sections. It’s a song about universal brotherhood and harmony. Back to the down & dirty blues in Trash Talkin’ Jive, as Gomes says to a cheating woman to stop lying and come clean. Gomes then takes the popular term ‘lonely at the top’ and turns it around to claim that it’s Lonely At The Bottom too! It’s as if saying to the guy on top, “hey atleast you have your success”.

Gomes closes the album with a stylistic nod back to his second album, the acoustic Sweet Stringin’ Soul, cooling off with the country-blues of “Bad For You.

An accomplished & polished effort that will keep you company during the high times as well as the low. Worth ever cent you can spend on it. Here’s a live recording of Darkest Before The Down – it’s a poor quality camera maybe but the song will still shine.

Songs From The Sparkle Lounge – Def Leppard

Like a blast of nostalgia and hi-fives to the max – that’s how I would describe listening to Def Leppard’s latest album. They have nothing left to prove and they are doing what they love for themselves and their millions of fans. But for a band who have been around as long as they have, I’m surprised that this is just their 11th studio album. I shouldn’t be, cause I have all the other 10, but I still am. In the May 17, 2008 issue of Billboard magazine the album debuted at #5 on the Top 200 Album chart, selling about 55,000 copies. The album debuted at #1 on the Rock Album chart and the Hard Rock Album chart. And this album comes not too long after Yeah! (their tribute to their influences album) and a beefed up new Hits collection Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection.

A cool but harder sounding Go kicks off the record. The barage of guitars are enough to convince me of the direction that this album is going in – and I’m on board! Nine Lives is a fun and good first single, albeit a duet with country crooner Tim McGraw, who I usually don’t listen to. But the good ole Lep sound is back in full form over here and still sounds fresh & energetic. C’mon, C’mon is the second single and boasts a cool video. The lyrics don’t tax the brain – it’s about having a great time and sex is on the plate. We need a ballad now and they deliver with Love. But I wouldn’t label it as one of their best.

Tomorrow is a feel good, casual shrug of the shoulder and is worth listening to a few times before you write it off. Cruise Control has this cool bass line that holds the whole song together (screaming guitar solo non-withstanding). Hallucinate showcases the driving interlock of guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell’s bone cutting guitar licks. Only The Good Die Young should be their next single and is probably their best song on the record.

Bad Actress (Lindsay Lohan? Jennifer Lopez? Paris Hilton?) is about just that. A little punk song, perhaps with a bow to the 70s British scene. Come Undone is a vintage nod to their old swagger. The album’s final track Gotta Let It Go is dispensed with a flashy pulverizing chorus. The vocals of Joe Elliot sound about at his best, although he can’t really take it too high anymore. Rick Savage on bass & Rick Allen on the drums create the foundation for the guitarists to lay down layers of guitar work and some keyboards that add to the melody.

They are not going to lay any new ground but it’s a matter of sticking to your guns and being true to yourself. Def Leppard will continue to please anyone who wants that 80s sound, with a little updation, and pleasing choruses. I say ROCK ON with Nine Lives!

Dark Horse – Nickelback

Like a few bands before them, Nickelback has had their share of flack. For no apparent reason other than the fact that they are so successful, the 4 musicians get insults hurled at them. Well, they could care less! Why? Cause they are successful again & again. With their latest album Dark Horse, released Nov 19th, 2008, peaking at #2 in the US & #1 in their homeland of Canada, they can have the last laugh. Oh and certified platinum as of December 22, with sales of around 1,300,000.

We start off with a funky guitar riff that then moves on to the main riff, which lays an infectious groove that makes up the song Something In Your Mouth. Sexual innuendo has always been a big part of the lyrics of the band and it always will. We move on to another cool groove in Burn It To The Ground, a good ole rebelious war cry with drinks and overall anarchy. The next song is their first single off this album and the gem in the cd. Gotta Be Somebody is a foot tappi, high tempo, semi-ballad that is sure to their massive hit of this record. It’s all about waiting to find that special someone, something that I can relate to.

I’d Come For You is an apology to the one that the protagonist loves and has had a fight with. He is letting the person know that she always comes first no matter what. Next Go Round is about violence in a relationship, intense and bordering on the point of obsession. Just To Get High is about a person who lost his battle with drugs and going to get high all the time. The lyrics are from the point of someone who sees his friend do dangerous things just to feed the druggie in him. The song has a cool guitar solo. Never Gonna Be Alone is the obligatory “put your lighters in the air” love ballad professing devotion. They start sounding like Def Leppard from this point on. Not too much but enough for fans to notice.

Shakin’ Hands is about a woman who has slept her way to the top of Hollywood. She didn’t make it this far by shaking hands. S.E.X. is about…..you guessed it! It’s such a cool song that it could even replace the dance  floor hits in a discotheque and it starts of with these machine gun bursts of guitar riffs. If Today Was Your Last Day is a suggestion to change your outlook on life and rethink the way that you live yours. This Afternoon is about hanging out with your friends, smoking a little weed and having fun. It sounds like the band is unwinding after a long & weary world tour.

With the introduction of Mutt Lange on production, Nickelback sounds like a heavier Bryan Adams meets Def Leppard. Those overdubs and chorus of vocals that we are so familiar with. Luckily its not too much but it’s still obvious. It’s still a great album and their success runs is still going on strong. However I would like more songs like Animals from the last one. Here’s the video for Gotta Be Somebody.

Development – Antoine Dufour

Antoine Dufour is an artist I came across on Youtube, while searching for video of fellow acoustic finger style guitarist Don Ross. Suffice to say that the artistry & melody of Dufour has, with  recent CDs of original material that were released to critical acclaim, along with appearances and awards at major festivals, built a reputation for innovation and creativity. Dufour was born in the little town of l’Epiphane, near Montreal. He started playing guitar at the age of 15. He studied at the CEGEP of Joliette, where his teacher made him listen to Leo Kottke, Don Ross and Michael Hedges. His life and his vision of the guitar changed, and since then he has been completely devoted to fingerstyle steel string guitar. His musical style is a mix of the powerful rhythms of rock, the sensibility of classical music, a funky groove, and a pure folk melody. Development, his second solo cd on Candyrat Records, is a continuation of the journey he started with his first solo cd, Naissance.

The atmospheric ringing drone sound that he is famous for is apparent from the very first song, Development. The cd is a mostly a solo affair with the exception of two duets with friend and fiddle player Tommy Gauthier, the first of which is Spiritual Groove. Trust when I tell you this, that despite the excellent fiddle work by Gautheir on the cd track, the recording that Dufour does solo (available on Youtube) is far better.  Vibe rascal dvd is next andjust like it’s title, it really does set a vibe. Melancolie du Changement is another lovely tune that reminds you of home, family, friends & loved ones.

Edge Of Light reminds me a bit of Indian classical music, like sitar or sarod, and it’s melifuous & dreamy. Passage is the second track with Gautier and it’s a far away look at the distance one has travelled. Memories Of The Future, our featured track, is a gentle ballad that evokes plenty of emotions. It reminds me of a river flowing in the forest. A lot more lighter in feel is Wapus – I have no idea what it means but it’s joyful all the same with a jazzy feel to the track.

Inspirations is up next and is probably the weakest track on the album. Funky Tonk Guitar Trio is a great track, uptempo and foot tapping and he does a wonderful work with the tune, making the guitar sound like a sitar in places. We close of the album with Oh Yeah!, slowedr and more bluesier. It’s a fitting end to a wonderful guitar instrumental album. Go get it guys! In the meantime, enjoy Memories Of The Future.

Chinese Democracy – Guns n’Roses

Ladies & Gentlemen! Lo & behold, a new GnR album, Chinese Democracy, is finally upon us. Their first album since 1993’s all covers album and their first album of original material since 1991’s twin cd Use Your Illusion I & II is here. I got an mp3 version of it within the same day. It’s finally here. Remember 1991-92 when GnR was all the rage and everyone & their granny played songs like November Rain & Estranged? That might be hard to replicate but it just feels good to hear Axl screaming & screeching on these 14 songs, once again thumbing his nose at anything that pisses him off. The image that you see on the left – I don’t know but it seems like they have 3 or 4 album covers for this cd. Could I be wrong? I can’t be sure but I like this one the best and so it stays as the official image for the record. So let’s get on with it; a review of the album that took it’s own sweet time to get here. And about time too!

The cd sets off with Chinese Democracy, the title track and the first single released. Many fans have already heard the track either at one of their concerts or online. It cracks like a whip and stings you right in the face. Inspired by watching a movie about the Dalai Lama, this track criticizes the Chinese government’s treatment of it’s people. From there we move on to Shackler’s Revenge, starting off like a hip-hop blast. Is this actually a GnR record? Lyrically it’s about being pissed off and not wanting to be comforted. Better is the second single and is probably one of the best tracks, a love tragedy and about being alone. Street Of Dreams reminds me of Yesterdays in parts but the song is about longing and wanting the lover. The piano playing of Dizzy Reed is excellent here.

Next track, If You Want Me, seems so odd on a GnR track, I was like “what the fuck”? It features an artist known as Mase (damned if I know who the fuck that is) and it’s so weird to hear Axl singing this song. But nice guitar solo in here. There Was A Time is about the effects of the drug culture taking it’s toll on a person. Axl sings that there was a time when he would have done anything for this person but things change. Catcher In The Rye is a refrence to the famous book by J D Salinger and possibly also to Mark Chapman, John Lennon’s killer, who happened to be reading the book when he was arrested. Scarped sounds silly with it’s “ayaho” chant in chorus, telling the world to get out of their way.

Axl does more of “ahha” screams in the next song, Riyad And The Bedouins which is rumoured to be about 911. Sorry sounds so weird coming from GnR but I wonder if it’s the influence of all the new musicians. Or is Axl apologizing for the new style of music? The lyrics seems to be meant to antogonize someone. IRS is telling you that is no escaping from Axl; he will dog you till the very end. Ok, what is a title like Madagascar doing on a GnR album? It references a few movies. This I Love could very well be their smash hit ballad from this album if they pacakage it well with a suitable video to boot. Wonderful piano fills this song. We complete the album with Prostitute.

Ok, so they aren’t the GnR of old and with so many new members you can’t expect it to be so. Only Axl remains of the original 5 and only Dizzy remains from any of the previous albums. The guitar work of former member Buckehead, Ron Bumblefoot Thal, Richard Fortus, Paul Tobias & Robin Finck shine on certain tracks – but that’s what Axl had to do? Get a wall of guitars, an attacking 5 like a hockey lineup to replace what Slash & Izzy Stradlin did with ease (and Gilby Clarke in live shows for a few years)! You still think as to what this could have been, all those wasted years, Axl becoming a joke in music circles and all that negative jazz. Still, it’s got some golden moments. I’d rate it 3 out of 5 stars. And here’s a live performance of Better.