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ROCK MUSIC REVIEWS – NEW, CLASSICS, RE-ISSUES & MORE

CD REVIEWS 1997-1999 – CANADIAN ARTISTS

COREY HART / COREY HART

SONY CANADA 4874412

OVERALL: 93%

This record has been out in Corey’s native Canada for over a year now, but for those who haven’t heard it, or have thought about looking out for it – this review is to encourage you to do so!

Corey has rounded up the core AOR and session talent of the LA scene to record one smooth ass record. Featured on this his 6th solo album are Kenny Aronoff, Tim Pierce, Michael Thompson, Dean Parks, Mike Brignardello, John Pierce and Michael Landau.

This record is the best and most consistent record since Corey’s debut. It is a much more mature sound, has less guitars, but contains some of the best written AOR tunes ever.

The album is as soft as a wimpy westcoast record can get yet is has class and style that is unparalleled.

Corey’s voice has seldomly sounded so composed and so strong and more than makes up for a couple of patchy records a couple of years back.

Black Cloud Rain is one of the best tracks he has ever recorded and has some of the most emotional and passionate vocals I have heard for a long while.

Someone continues that with some great production and a wonderful mix of keyboards, guitars and several layers of overdubs.

Much of the album is acoustic drive, but it is mixed with electric guitars and a million-dollar sound.

I cannot pick out highlights as every track is as good as the last. Some are more up-tempo than the last, and some are moodier than others.

but none are fillers and each one has a unique catchy-ness that keep you coming back for more.

The Canadian king of AOR regains his crown. I just hope that his next album gets a worldwide release so more people can appreciate how good a song writer he is.

Find it and buy it!


TOM COCHRANE/SONGS OF A CIRCLING SPIRIT

EMI MUSIC CANADA 72438 37239 04

1. Lunatic Fringe 2. Paper Tigers 3. Good Man, Feeling Bad 4. Brave And Crazy 5. All The King’s Men 6. Dreamer’s Dream 7. Human Race 8. Napoleon Sheds His Skin 9. White Hot 10. Boy Inside The Man 11. Washed Away 12. I Wish You Well

Tom Cochrane has never been afraid to experiment. In 1989 he toured with a Canadian symphony orchestra and from that tour released the album ‘Symphony Sessions’. The greatest hits live set gave radical reworking of some of his great songs, and gave them new life. There has also been a three CD box set with a taste of some acoustic live performances. With the great popularity of acoustic or unplugged performances, it is no surprise that in between albums, TC has toured acoustically and recorded those shows for this record. And once again, new life and passion has been injected into some of his classic tunes. To impress me even more, there is a selection of tunes from 1995’s album of the year – Tom’s ‘Ragged Ass Road’.

The crowd has been mixed out so the songs stand on their own, and I have to say, even with a biased view, this is a great compile of songs that show just what a hugely underrated singer/songwriter Cochrane is.

Some of these tunes have been given the standard unplugged treatment, such as Lunatic Fringe, Napoleon Sheds His Skin and White Hot. But there are also some really stripped back reworking such classics as Boy Inside The Man, Good Man Feeling Bad and Brave And Crazy. The highlights for me are the newer tracks and Tom’s interpretation of these. Paper Tigers, and I Wish You Well are both slowed right down, and from ‘Mad Mad World’, Washed Away and All The Kings Men are huge.

Fans of Tom are not going to need convincing to buy this. It shows the true class of his songs and once again plays the hits in a new light.

New fans may also find this a great way of introducing themselves to an artist with a now impressive catalogue. If you want something a little louder, go buy ‘Ragged Ass Road’. That is one fine record.


HAREM SCAREM/KARMA CLEANSING

WEA CANADA

1. Believe 2. Die Off Hard 3. Hail Hail 4. Cages 5. The Mirror 6. Morning Grey 7. Victim Of Fate 8. Rain 9. I Won’t Be There 10. Karma Cleansing          

You can read my original review of the Japan release of this record in Archive Reviews (Page 2). The album has been given a new cover, new title and slightly adjusted for reasons known only to the band and the label. For Canada, the album is ‘Karma Cleansing’, and has the added feature of two different tracks from the ‘Believe’ release.

The bad news is that two tracks have been left off. The instrumental ‘Baby With A Nail Gun’ and the track sung by drummer Darren, ‘Staying Away’. Now that is really unfortunate, cause they are great songs. On an album that barely passes 45 minutes, there appears no good reason to leave tracks off.

Any which way we have 2 new tracks to make us go out and buy another copy of the album. ‘Cages’ is a fast paced track, in a similar vein to the title track ‘Karma Cleansing’ – alternatively tinged, but retaining some melody.

‘The Mirror’ is one of the bands more trippy Beatles influenced numbers, with a mellow verse, but more up-tempo chorus.

Neither track makes the album any better, although they are enjoyable, but taking the other two tracks off, actually makes it a little less enjoyable.

A few marks off the original ‘Believe’ review for doing just that.


GOWAN/AU QUEBEC

GPCD-1110

1. You’re A Strange Animal 2. Cosmetics 3. Dedication 4. Pigeon 5. Laura 6. I’ll Be There In A Minute 7. Pour Un Instant 8. Stephanie (Studio Track) 9. Pour Un Instant (Studio Track) 10. The Good Catches Up 11. Guerrilla Soldier 12. Lost Brotherhood 13. Moonlight Desires 14. A Criminal World 15. You’ll Be With Me

Much like the Harem Scarem review, this album is more or less an alternative to a previous release. Within Review Archive Page 2, you will find the review for Sololive. This is much the same, but recorded for French Canada, in Quebec.

For a Lawrence Gowan fan there is enough here to make this a necessary addition to your collection, or as a companion to the Sololive record.

It is a new concert, where Gowan speaks French between songs, and has the same great vibe that Sololive featured. There are a few different tracks performed live, ‘Lost Brotherhood’, ‘Laura’, ‘I’ll Be There In A Minute’ and ‘Pigeon’. Not only that, but there are two new French studio tracks, one of which is also included in the concert performance.

Great vibe, great songs, and equally as essential as the Sololive record. Buy it from the Gowan web site.


BLOOD RED FLOWER/LAST LINK TO THE WORLD

UNPLUGGED AND WIRED MUSIC CANADA

1. Cautionary Tale 2. Stand Inside Your Mind 3. Celestial 4. Dogs Of Doom 5. Open Invitation 6. One Million Light Years Away 7. Yes It Pays 8. Love And Hate 9. Silent Partners 10. Break Free

Blood Red Flower is Canadian Phil Naro’s new project.

The band have produced one of this years more adventurous albums.

For both good and bad, Phil has left the AOR field of his previous project NARO’s ‘Press Play’ for a darker more progressive 90’s hard rock.

I say both good and bad, because it is a shame to leave the great Press Play behind, but it turns out okay, for Blood Red Flower is very good.

It certainly won’t appeal to all that have enjoyed Phil’s previous exploits, but will appeal to those who are looking for something different or something a little more complex.

Blood Red Flower is progressive without being Dream Theater, modern without being Soundgarden, and complex without being Yes.

So if you throw a little of all of the above together, you may get a feel for the flavour of the very original Blood Red Flower.

The sound is sharp, and the album well produced. If you are looking for a piece of contemporary original 90’s hard rock, I suggest you look into this band.


ALDO NOVA/NOVA’S DREAM

BMG/RCA CANADA 74321-41410-2

1. My Soul To Keep 2. Is There Anybody There 3. Dreamwalk 4. Are You Inexperienced 5. Excuse Me While I Scream 6. The Pressure’s Killing Me 7. Pressure Cooker 8. Falling Back 9. Freedom 10. Where Am I Now? 11. Elaye 12. Dada 13. Coming Home 14. Lighting Up 15. Mary Jane 16. Carlito’s Way 17. Wake Up! 18. the End

Now this is a bloody great record! It has come as a real surprise, as I have only just learnt of it’s existence. It was released last year, for Canada only.

Those hardcore AOR fans out there will remember Aldo from his classic Twitch album, full of all the hooks and choruses that we expect from a big release. He disappeared for a couple of years before resurfacing with Jon Bon Jovi producing his harder edge Blood On The Bricks album. Since then Aldo has been doing session work in Canada, and is part of Celine Dion’s recording and touring band, and can be heard on her last couple of records and video’s.

Inbetween playing for Celine he recorded this mainly instrumental album in his basement studio. Now I am not really into instrumental albums, aside from Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain and Tim Pierce’s solo albums. But let me tell you, if you also like those albums, and enjoy a little passion and brilliant musicianship in your albums, this is another essential purchase. Aldo weaves his way through 18 tracks, varying from 22 seconds to nine minutes in length, playing his little heart out, with great variety in the songs. Tracks like Dreamwalk, Freedom and The End feature amazing slow guitar work, with some awesome solos, while other tracks, Excuse Me While I Scream and Pressure Cooker rock along at a great pace. Inbetween there are mini songs offering different flavours to keep everything fresh and original. Everything from some spoken words, Aldo singing (missed that voice!!), some female backing vocals, and even some Monks chanting.

Allround a varied and entertaining and breath takingly well written album. Here’s hoping there is a new AOR album in the works. Meantime, this will keep you more than happy!


GOWAN/SOLOLIVE – NO KILT TONIGHT

ALGAE RECORDS LG 10001-2

1. You’re A Strange Animal 2. Soul’s Road 3. Dedication 4. Cosmetics 5. Imagine 6. Pathetique 7. The King Chanticleer Rag 8. The Lumberjack Song 9. Dancing On My Own Ground 10. Guerrilla Soldier 11. Cry On My Soldier 12. Moonlight Desires 13. A Criminal World 14. You’ll Be With Me

Now this is a great record! Basically for fans of Lawrence Gowan only, this is a live album recorded late last year before an intimate crowd in Gowan’s home town in Toronto. It features the man himself on stage with only the aid of a grand piano and occasionally an acoustic guitar. Gowan runs through 11 of his own tracks and a few covers (bizarre ones at that – but it is a really fun night), and banters between the songs, much to the delight of the very enthusiastic crowd.

Gowan is one heavily underrated artist, as he is a fantastic piano player, great singer and brilliant lyricist. His albums have always been a highlight of my record collection, and this is no different. I recommend that you search out some of his works, and if you already own some, add this to your collection. Tracks like ‘Soul’s Road’, ‘Moonlight Desires’, ‘Cry On My Shoulder’ and ‘You’ll Be With Me’ are emotion at their best.

Strangely enough, and to the credit of Gowan, the absence of a band do not effect this record one little bit, he easily carries the attention of the crowd, and us the listener, on his own, and I can only hope that he hurries back to the studio soon. Available only through the web site, go and check it out. Awesome.