Friday, June 27, 2014

Quiet Riot- "10" review

 Quiet Riot - 10
Quiet Riot
Rating: *** 1/2 

            Two days after announcing its release, Quiet Riot’s new album has been released digitally. The album, 10, comes off as an oddly arranged album- featuring six new studio tracks with current lead singer Jizzy Pearl and four live tracks featuring the late Kevin DuBrow. While many have criticized drummer Frankie Banali’s choice to reform Quiet Riot in 2010, some longtime fans might be surprised by 10.

            This reunited version of Quiet Riot has been together since 2010. The band currently consists of singer Jizzy Pearl, guitarist Alex Grossi, bassist Chuck Wright and drummer Frankie Banali. Of the four members, casual fans might only be familiar with Banali as he is the only member of the Metal Health line-up in the band. Wright has been in and out of the band since before the classic line-up while Grossi joined in 2005. These three musicians were in the last line-up of Quiet Riot before singer Kevin DuBrow’s death in 2007. DuBrow once stated that this was his favorite version of Quiet Riot to play with, which is the reason why Banali decided to reform the new version of the band with Grossi and Wright. Since 2010, the band has been through two different lead singers: Mark Huff (2010-2012) and Scott Vodkun (2012-2013). The band’s current singer is Jizzy Pearl, formerly of Love/Hate and Ratt.

            The first six tracks on the album are all new songs featuring Pearl on vocals. The first of them, “Rock In Peace,” is a simple Zeppelin-esque rocker. Pearl’s vocals are remarkable similar to DuBrow’s. The lyrics make references to previous Quiet Riot songs, using the “Well now you’re here, there’s no way back” line from “Metal Health” in the chorus. “Bang for Your Buck” is a bouncy sounding track while “Back on You” is a crunchy fast-paced rocker. Both songs utilize vocal harmony sections, which brings back memories of the band’s albums made in the 1980s. Of the new tracks, “Backside of Water” and “Band Down” are weakest ones of the bunch. While they aren’t bad songs, nothing sticks out as different although Grossi’s solo on the latter is impressive. Grossi continues to show off his skills on the last of the studio tracks, “Dogbone Alley.”

            The last four tracks on the album are live cuts, featuring the late great Kevin DuBrow on lead vocals. These live tracks are from some of the last shows that DuBrow would ever play in his life. Banali made a wise choice in not picking live performances of the band’s hits. Instead, we have an eclectic bunch of tunes. “Put Up or Shut Up,” a cut from QR III, is more enjoyable live than in the studio. “Free” and “South of Heaven” from 2006’s Rehab are also featured on here. While Kevin’s vocals are sensational, the quality of the live recording could have been better (though this is probably the best we’re going to get). The album ends with a medley of British blues rock tunes, ranging from Humble Pie, the Jeff Beck Group and Led Zeppelin.

            Overall, 10 is a fun album to listen to. I’m quite surprised at how this turned out. I think fans who are skeptical about this new line-up should at least give it a listen. If the band ever did want to record a full-length studio album with Pearl, I’d be all for it.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Uriah Heep- "Outsider" album review

 Uriah Heep - Outsider
Uriah Heep
Rating: ****

In their 45th year, English prog rockers Uriah Heep have released their 24th studio album. The album, Outsider, is the band’s first album since 2011’s Into the Wild. This also the band’s first album since the passing of bassist Trevor Bolder, who lost his battle with cancer last year.  Like its predecessor, Outsider is another great album from Heep that delivers heavy tunes and sensational harmonies. Uriah Heep currently consists of singer Bernie Shaw (since 1986), guitarist Mick Box (since 1969, the band’s sole original member), bassist Davey Rimmer (since 2013), drummer Russell Gilbrook (since 2007) and keyboardist Phil Lanzon (since 1986).

            The album opens with the sonic “Speed of Sound.” Right off the bat, Heep are off to a good start: the lyrics are strong and Lanzon’s keyboard work is impressive. The lyrics describe how fast life goes by. “Sometimes I can’t keep my feet on the ground/I can’t let go,” sings Shaw. “My world is spinning just like the speed of sound/I can’t let go, it’s all that I know.” This is followed by the lead single, “One Minute.” The song opens as a piano-led song until the keyboards and guitar come in. I can’t help but notice that the guitar riff sounds somewhat similar to Heep’s classic “Bird of Prey.” While the song isn’t the best choice for a lead single, it is indeed a very catchy song.

            Heep continues to shine throughout the album. Throughout their 45 years together, Heep have teetered in between being a progressive rock band and a hard rock band. This is no exception on Outsider, as the band are really both. Hard rockers come in the form of “The Law” and the title track. The former has an impressive guitar solo from Box while the latter showcases Rimmer’s bass playing skills. The band, however, gets progressive on the beckoning “Is Anybody Gonna Help Me?” and the spacey “Kiss the Rainbow” (though the latter is less progressive). The band even dabbles in “jock rock” with “Rock the Foundation.” The chorus is particularly corny (“baby’s gonna rock the foundation/Cos’ baby’s doesn’t really care/Baby’s gonna cause a sensation/Cos’ baby wants a love affair”) but damn, is it catchy!

            “Looking at You” is another highlight from the album, with its fast-paced feel and soaring harmonies. Heep are known for their vocal harmonies, as it is present in a majority of their work. If someone needs to be convinced the band still has it, “Looking at You” will prove this. My personal favorite song off the album, however, is “Can’t Take That Away.” The song is a throwback to old school Heep, with a fast gallop ala “Look at Yourself” and “Easy Livin’.” The song has a strong carpe diem attitude with a chorus that Heepsters can live by: “There’s one thing in life that you do best/Just do it well/And you can’t take that away/No you can’t take that way.”

            Outsider is another great album from Uriah Heep. While I will admit I do enjoy Into the Wild more, this is a worthy follow up. It’s amazing that the band are still going after all these years. 45 years later, Uriah Heep are still very ‘eavy and very ‘umble!