Tag Archives: cd album reviews

Calling Apollo – Vessels Review

14 Feb

calling apollo vessels

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Forming just over a year ago, though not becoming fully formed until earlier this year, Calling Apollo are a five piece progressive rock band based around South Wales. Mind you, that’s progressive rock in very much the modern sense of the term, and their sound encapsulates a little more than that in itself anyway. As stated the five piece became a fully formed five earlier this year, and have just released the debut EP they’ve been working toward since then.

Though currently unsigned, and very much a rarity on the live circuit at the moment, it’s clear from the five tracks on display here that the band have been very much focussing on honing their craft first and foremost. Something that becomes pretty much abundantly clear with the first track Youth in Motion as it slowly builds from a subtly swirling atmosphere and sampled speech seemingly lost under water or on the airwaves, then instantaneously starts proper.

It’s at this point you’re introduced to the band’s impressive technical abilities, and also vocalist Christian James Neale’s distinctive, well, vocals – obviously. Something that may divide some listeners as it lies in close proximity to the singings style of Cedric Bixler-Zavala of Mars Volta/At The Drive-In, or even Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria, but less operatic and with a little bit of Johnny Whitney from Jaguar Love/The Blood Brothers.

However, regardless of your feelings towards Neale’s vocal style, you cannot deny his ability with melody. Something that can be heard in clear evidence on the EPs fourth track Wasted Life, a track in which he offers possibly his best vocal performance of the EP that’s actually pretty impassioned. Though, the track also a good display of the tight unit playing behind him as they sail between an almost Tool like groove into soaring and emotive atmospherics seamlessly.

The band describe their sound as a combination melodic structures, ambience, and aggression, and it’s hard not to agree on this EP, as all bases are covered; the ambience and atmospherics of serene interlude Green; the melancholic but melodically uplifting blend of alt rock, post rock and post-hardcore that is Ghost of Everything; the screamo hints that Poison The Feed boasts between frenetic riffs, tension, and just plain silly technical abilities alongside a little taste of classic progressive rock through its arrangements.

As debut EPs go, this is surprisingly well crafted, it isn’t wholly polished, as it’s still a little rough around the edges but then it was recorded in guitarist Kevin Williams’ bedroom. Regardless, it’s a really enjoyable EP. Think a little bit if Mars Volta had maintained a little more of At The Drive-In’s spirit as opposed to extensive psychedelic wig outs with a Latino flavour, but also add into the mix the kind of ambience and experimentation of The Sounds of Animals Fighting, but real catchy when it needs to be.

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Wille & The Bandits Live London Review & Interview

16 Jan


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was two bandits short of a band when I sat down with Wille in a red be-curtained anteroom at The Islington to discuss the imminent live performance and the new album ‘Grow’.

When I asked Wille to outline a Banditine gig, he described the experience as a “dynamic” journey, explaining that even though they had the songs to perform an entirely “bouncy” and upbeat show, they prefer to put their audience through their emotional paces. Certainly the heavy-rock centred numbers and the reggae-fusion material had the crowd at their most animated. However there was an engagement with the slower, introspective songs which had a trance-inducing hypnotism.

As I listened to ‘Grow’ on the Tube, getting hot and bothered on my way to North London, I could almost have been trekking through an African savannah, caught in a Caribbean heat wave or mopping my brow in a Deep-South jazz cafe owing to the global journey the album undertakes.

Incredible genre-jumping from heavy-rock/reggae fusions to blues and bluegrass demanded instrumentation to match. Matthew Brooks swapped seamlessly from 6-string guitar to electric double bass, while Andrew Naumann played the djembe (a ‘goblet’ drum) and the ‘ordinary’ drums sometimes simultaneously! Just to hammer the point home that he was a one-man bandit in a band of one-man bands he also used a tongue-drum for good measure. Wille explained beforehand that “carrying around so many instruments can be a pain” but that “music [was like] painting, the more colours in your pallet, the more texture you can use…” I asked Wille if he knew how many instruments appeared on ‘Grow’ and he replied “are we counting the drum kit as one instrument?” It was clearly a question he hadn’t considered before and he gave up the count at eighteen.

I inquired whether they learnt new instruments for fun or do they try and match them to new ideas for songs? “We just go on YouTube, and if we find a really cool instrument, you can usually find someone selling it somewhere”. This magpie approach, taking advantage of the ubiquity of digital music, appears to have grown their world-music sound.

‘Dylan-esque’ is a label quite often ascribed to Wille’s lyrics, and resonates most noticeably for me in ‘Still Go Marching In”, an anti-war song with the refrain “when will that rainbow, when will that rainbow come?” Wille told me that “people like to frame music in terms of comparisons, which is fair enough” but while he agreed it was humbling to be compared to Seasick Steve or Bob Dylan, “at the end of the day it’s your message”.

The gig drew to a close with ‘Angel’, a 12-minute instrumental on the album, but “quite a bit longer live” Wille chuckled. This was, I discovered, the song that was closest to his heart during a live performance as it explores the passing of his mother: “although it’s an instrumental it has a real journey for me”. With this insight into the music I listened more closely as the band spiralled in electronic sprawls and Matt wailed bluesily on the 6-string, lapping up the applause to his solo.

I was still contemplating the penultimate song, the quite spiritual ‘Angel’ as the underground sign of the same name passed over my head. This marked the start of my journey away from the venue and back to civilisation, cynicism and commercial society from which I had blissfully escaped for a few hours.

WATB have “something for everyone” in their sheer range of musical styles and genre-fusions. There are still tickets for the remainder of the album tour and I heartily suggest you go and that you are not put off by the label ‘heavy-rock’. The crowd consisted of all ages, all appreciating the technical musicianship and thoughtful lyrics.

‘Grow’ is available via iTunes and in CD format via the band’s website.

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Boys Like Girls – Crazy World Album Review

13 Apr


Boys Like Girls are a Pop/Punk/Alternative/Rock band from the United States and have had two albums (Boys Like Girls & Love Drunk) released prior to this one on review today. Crazy World was released on the 11th December 2012 and sees the band take a slight detour away from their usual pop/punk routine. The album features definite country influences which I think enhance the album as a whole, and makes them stand out from the sea of American pop/rock bands. It also allows them to appeal to a large audience, which is always good.

Boys Like Girls took a break from working together after their second album released in 2010 and parted ways with their bassist Bryan Donahue in 2011. They hired his replacement Morgan Dorr in 2012 and then proceeded to release the first single ‘Be Your Everything’ on 14th August 2012.

So, onto the tracks…

We begin with ‘The First Time’ which provides a good start to the album. It provides familiarity with their older style of music for previous fans, and is good enough to draw you in if you haven’t heard of them before. An excellent start it would seem. ‘Life Of The Party’ is perhaps the catchiest song on the album. Easy to learn lyrics, a great beat and an upbeat happy vibe surround the second track. All round a fantastic track which is one of my favourites from this release. I particularly like one of the final phrases being, “You smell that? It smells like Boys Like Girls is back!” I didn’t know they had a particular scent… Next up is the title track ‘Crazy World’. So far this is the closest glimpse of the country/pop vibe seeping into their sound. I think it enhances it overall as it is a much gentler, more down to earth sound compared to their two previous albums. The lead single ‘Be Your Everything’ is by and large a love song. It’s poignant and feels like it has been written from the heart. Great lead single and should have achieved higher than 43 on the US Pop chart. ‘Stuck In The Middle’ keeps the calm and peaceful mood for another heartfelt song. Slightly more up tempo than Be Your Everything, but is still a warming song.

‘Cheated’ flips the mood away from the previous two tracks and raises the tempo once more. More pop/rock returning here but again the vocals keep a slight country twang compared to their previous pop/punk style. ‘Shoot’ has the most relevance to a country audience as it seamlessly adds their own pop/rock twist to the genre. I like what they’ve done and the merging of pop and country works well. It’s definitely more pop than country, but only just. ‘Leaving California’ takes us back to the more relaxed slow songs of earlier. Not much else new to add as its tempo increases slightly towards the end but still keeps the sombre tone.

‘Take Me Home’ brings back the pop for another rocky hit. A very marketable sound as it has a broad appeal to many ears. Good all round song, and another favourite of mine. ‘Red Cup Hands Up Long Brown Hair’ brings back the party vibe heard earlier in the album for an upbeat ending to the release. Incredibly catchy chorus which will go down well live and I can see this becoming a fan favourite for the tour. It also reintroduces a country element along with a more rocky style. Finally we have ‘Hey You’. This is, in my view, the best song on the album. Why, you may ask? It combines both downbeat and upbeat melodies perfectly and has relatable lyrics which will appeal to everyone. ‘Hey You’ has a purely musical outro which provides an excellent crescendo to an all-round brilliant album.

Overall this album shows great progression for the band and sounds well produced and well thought out. From me this album gets a well deserved 5/5. A definite must buy if you like the US pop/rock scene.

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Drizabone Soul Family – The Recipe Of Life Album Review

25 Nov

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Since the revival of the Drizabone Soul Family back in 2010 with the awaited album All The Way, there had not been much action since their prime years of 1991-1995 where they created and remixed chart topping singles. This included their own Real Love which reached #16 in the UK and the infamous remix of R&B star Shanice’s I Love Your Smile which reached #2 in the US and UK alike. keeping in mind this remix doing much better than the original. They are now back with The Recipe Of Life to be released the end of November having come a long way since their creation and peak years of the 1990′s.

The new album is said to play on the styles of different era’s, including reworked tracks which originally featured back in the 90′s and others containing 70′s disco beats and montages to take you back to a different time so to speak. The soul and R&B band is set to create something easy listening with added funk and jazz, which is always nice to hear. You don’t get many group’s now a days trying to relive their golden years with much success. Take Lionel Richie’s recent attempt or even Jeff Lynne’s rework of ELO songs. Still great but evident lack of commercial success. Unfortunately The Recipe Of Life might be something to follow suit. It’s always hard to evaluate or rate and album as you ultimately need something to compare it to. Usually I would rate something by it’s originality, creativity, professional sound or even amount of evident talent, you know, the general. The down side is, The Drizabone Soul Family ticks all those boxes and even is on par to its golden hits. So FYI, if I appear to be harsh, it will only be due to my critical nature. Otherwise everything would get 5 star..

Track 1, Brightest Star is a soft introduction to the album. A very 90′s theme of an introduction build up containing light, funky guitar chords, light cymbal tapping and deep feeling and emotion of vocals without actual words (yet), you know what I mean. An enjoyable song with much feeling and thought with the vocals as well as the song construction. The use of a female vocalist adds to the era and the easy listening nature. Perfect.. if only. Now the critical part. There is no fault in this song whatsoever. Absolutely perfect. However I would fail to put it into my iTunes playlist and I think that’s where this album may falter. To where an artist like Olly Murs can take these funky guitar riffs or classic double bass guitar or even similar lyric construction like what is used in Brightest Star, he still brings in that essence that gives the modern twist. The Drizabone Soul family is pure nostalgia. Risk comparison but hopefully you get the picture.

Track 5 New York City Lights is certainly more experimental and upbeat with the nostalgia. A simple but effective theme, one that could create powerful imagery simply down to the topic and its large association with lyrics used. As described there are beats, stings and riffs you would find in a 70′s disco. (As far as I am aware from playing GTA Vice City anyway). Preferably my favourite song of the album however again, not something I would want popping up on my iTunes. I would always prefer to listen to something with more kick, more energy. For those who have previously played TimeSplitters, you would expect to hear this song during the ending credits. Weird to say but hopefulyy you will think the same. Maybe it’s just me but its a rare occasion for me to turn on the radio or listen to music for the need to listen to something easy listening. I like classical, I like metal and easy listening, is well.. easy to listen to, but it would never be at the top of my music list. I would rather not listen to anything to calm myself down. Hopefully I am not alone in this feeling.

Track 7 Smile Baby has a different style. A type of Bubl swing to it and that’s not just because it uses a male vocalist. Its very dancey with the typical Drizabone Soul family beats of light guitar riffs and drum beat. An excellent track where the song revolves around the vocals and lyrics. With other orchestral instruments and backing vocals to support this, it’s quite a powerful song. Almost creating that Wham Christmas festival feeling of smiles and happiness, as lame as that makes me sound.

Thoughts? Its a great album. Drizabone Soul Family certainly have talent. Every song has the a difference in its theme, mood and style however always comes back to that soul, funk and easy listening essence. As you may have gathered from reading this which might be an age thing, if you like the older style R&B and easy listening funk then The Recipe Of Life is perfect for you. I for one, think its a great, diverse album however I haven’t been taken in by the hype.

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