Zodiac Offers Even More Pure Guitar-Driven Rock On Its New Record

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Hiding Place, the second full length release from Germany’s Zodiac, is a solid follow-up to the band’s 2012 debut record, A Bit of Devil.  The band’s sophomore release picks up right where A Bit of Devil left off.  Right from the album’s outset, listeners are transported back in time to the golden era of real rock and roll and taken on a musical trip that would impress even older listeners that lived through that great age.  The band gets so much right throughout all nine of the songs collected for this record.  From the soaring guitar solos of Stephen Gall and front man Nick van Delft to Janosch Rathmer’s almost John Bonham-esque drumming to bassist Ruben Claro’s solid bass lines, so much can be said of this record.  Even the album’s lyrical side is noteworthy.  The band’s musicianship and lyrical finesse together make every song on this record a joy.  It would be impossible to examine each and every song.  Though, a few examples might work.  And what better place to start than with the album’s opener, ‘Downtown?”

‘Downtown’ is everything that makes blues-driven rock and roll so great.  It is bound to be a fan favorite with its straight forward energy and blues-based guitar riffs.  What makes this song so outstanding is the fact that just as with so many classic rock favorites, the band has made this more than just another rock song.  It’s a two-parter, with the first half being an anthem for a Saturday night on the town.  That’s especially the case considering that the band sings in the song’s chorus, “Bright lights are shining/Big city diamond/Where are you now…We’re going downtown/Where nobody knows your name.”  The chorus set against the song’s musical energy will loosen up even the person who has had the toughest of work weeks.  The jam session that makes up the song’s second half instantly conjures thoughts of rock’s greatest age.  One can close one’s eyes, take in the music, and see the band onstage jamming out together, and feeding off of the energy shared by its audiences in this segment of the song.  All of it together makes ‘Downtown’ the perfect choice to open the album.

‘Downtown’ is the perfect opener for Hiding Place.  It is certain to get any listener up and moving whether in their living room or with friends.  Just as certain to get listeners moving is the album’s third song, ‘Under My Bed.’  All four members of the band contribute their own element to make this song a hit.  The truly interesting thing about this song is how much vocalist Nick van Delft sounds like blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan in this song.  Bassist Ruben Claro’s funk-infused bass lines set against the SRV style guitar solos make this song stand out even more.  That’s not to discount drummer Janosch Rathmer’s work.  He keeps time through the song, not missing a beat as he adds his own flair to it.  As with ‘Downtown’ it would be easy to see this driving blues-based rocker being just as much of a fan favorite both on the album and in concert.

So much can be noted of the songs on Hiding Place as one can tell by now.  It would take far too long to examine each and every song on this record.  Though at least one more example can be shared showing what listeners can expect from this record.  That last example lies in the album’s penultimate song, ‘I Wanna Know.’  This song doesn’t have the same energy as ‘Downtown’ or ‘Under My Bed.’  It does boast its own energy and feel, though.  This is actually a good thing.  It’s good in that it proves the band’s slower songs can be just as enjoyable as those more up-tempo numbers.  What’s more, its contemplative lyrics are just as certain to catch listeners’ attention.  Van Delft sings in this song, ‘I wanna know/How my soul/Brought me on my knees/I wanna know/What to do/In times like these.”  The slightly slower yet equally hard musical side helps to illustrate the emotion that the band attempts to translate to listeners.  It’s one more part of the album that makes the whole presentation so fun for anyone that is a fan of pure, guitar driven rock and roll.  It’s not all that listeners have to look forward to, either.  The songs note noted here are just worthy of checking out, too.  The album is available now in stores and online.  Fans can also get a chance to hear the band’s music in person, too as the band tours in support of Hiding Place.  The band is currently in the midst of a European tour.  It will kick off the U.S. leg of its tour beginning November 14th in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The band will make a tour stop in North Carolina on Saturday, December 7th at Amos Southend in Charlotte.  The concert is scheduled for a 7pm start time.  More tour dates and news from the band is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Zodiac.Rock and http://www.zodiac-rock.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Keeps Soaring With Santana’s Latest Live Release

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision/Montreux Sounds

Thank goodness for Carlos Santana.  And Thank goodness for Eagle Rock Entertainment.  This has been stated before already with the 2012 release of Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011.  Now Eagle Rock has finished what it started with the release of Santana’s performance that same year with fellow guitar legend John McLaughlin (The Mahavishnu Orchestra).  It has already been noted of seeing Carlos Santana and company live before that to see these musicians perform live is to not just see a concert.  Seeing Carlos Santana and his band mates live is to truly take part in a musical experience.  That applies in this brand new release just as much as in Eagle Rock’s previous live Santana Blu-ray.  The musical experience is just one portion of what makes Santana & McLaughlin: Live at Montreux 2011 such a joy for music aficionados.  Tied directly into the experience is the show’s set list.  Just as with Santana’s previous live release via Eagle Rock, this show’s set list feels more like one giant jam session than a specifically structured set list.  This is far better than anyone could realize.  And lastly, audiences with HDTVs will appreciate the clarity of the recording’s sound and picture.  Those with surround sound home theater systems will especially appreciate that clarity.  Together with the set list and the general performance, it is one more factor that reminds audiences why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leader of the pack in live recordings.

Taking in a performance of Carlos Santana and his band mates is more than simply taking in a performance from the highly talented musicians.  Taking in a performance of these individuals is taking in a full musical experience.  This is just as true in Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination as it was on Carlos Santana: Greatest Hits Live at Montreux 2011.  It is incredible to see Santana and his band mates sharing the stage throughout the two-hour plus performance.  Unlike so many other bands out there today, Santana steps back on multiple occasions, allowing his band mates to get their fair share of time in the limelight.  Simply put, he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk, too.  Such humility, willingness to share the spotlight, and talent shows why Santana is still one of the greatest guitarists in modern music history.  Audiences that have not yet gotten to see Eagle Rock’s previous performance from Santana and company will be in awe at the talent of both drummers Dennis Chambers and Santana’s own wife, Cyndi Blackman Santana.  Blackman Santana’s skill with the sticks is unparalleled.  Watching her perform whether with the rest of the band or by herself on her drum solo is like watching controlled chaos.  By contrast, Chambers’ own performance behind his kit is the picture of talent and composure.  Chambers’ body language is one of someone that is entirely relaxed.  Yet his playing would seem otherwise.  It’s an amazing juxtaposition.  The band overall presents such talent throughout its performance. 

The band’s performance throughout the two-hour plus concert is the central point of the recording.  Also to be taken into consideration in the overall presentation is the show’s set list.  The set list for this concert was comprised largely of songs from the classic 1973 album, Love Devotion Surrender.  However, fans will also take note early on of the medley of songs including covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ and saxophonist John Coletrane’s ‘Peace on Earth’.  It even contains a cover of Albert Ayler’s ‘Our Prayer.’  The cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was the highest of highlights throughout the medley of tunes.  From the guitar work of both Santana and McLaughlin to David K. Matthews’ keyboards to every part in between, it is a cover that would make both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant proud if they see this performance.  The same can be said of the late John Bonham’s son, Jason, too.  While it’s a cover, one can’t help but think to one’s own self, which version is really better?  Zeppelin’s version or this updated take on the classic song?  That’s a tough call.  But what can be said is that it is just as good as the original, if not better.  It is an amazing point in the overall performance.  Audiences will of course each find their own moment that they will call their favorite.  This is just one of so many from which audiences will be able to choose.  And it’s just one of so many that make Invitation to Illumination such a joy for audiences of all ages.

The set list and the general performance work together with this new release to make it one of the year’s best live recordings.  There is one more factor that audiences should consider in examining what makes it one more expert release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  That factor is the presentation’s audio and video mix.  The audio and video mix of this presentation is right on par with each live recording already released so far by Eagle Rock Entertainment this year.  Those with home theater surround sound systems and the ability to set the audio on their HDTVs to a music setting will especially appreciate this.  Those audiences will be entirely enveloped by the concert and see just why taking in a performance by Carlos Santana and his band mates is in fact not just taking in a performance, but being part of a true musical experience.  Santana & McLaughlin: Invitation to Illumination Live at Montreux 2011 is available now in stores and online.  Fans can keep up with the latest news and more from Carlos Santana online at http://www.santana.com and http://www.facebook.com/carlossantana

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Metal Blade Strikes Gold Again With Brit Rockers’ New Album

COurtesy: Metal blade Records/Rise Above Records

We are currently living in the twenty-first century.  But don’t tell that to the British hard rock band Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell.  This British three-piece takes listeners back to the days of Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, and so many others from rock’s Golden Era.  From the opening moments of Mark of The beast, audiences know that there is something special about this band. 

What’s really intriguing about “Don’t Hear It, Fear It” is that while the songs on this album do have some lyrical content, it’s obvious that much more emphasis was placed on the music.  There is nothing wrong at all with this.  The emphasis on the album’s musical side is what makes the music that enjoyable for listeners.  The album’s opener, ‘Mark of The Beast’ is solid proof of that.  Drummer Bill Darlington’s playing on this song is right up there with Bonzo himself, the great John Bonham.  He echoes Bonham’s playing both stylistically and sound-wise thanks to the work of producer and mixer Drew Mudd and Chris Fielding along with Ed Turner.  Even vocalist/guitarist Johnny Gorilla seems to channel Tommy Iommi and Jimmy Page all at the same time.  The two together, along with vocalist Louis Wiggett’s vocals make this a solid opener for this album.

The band channels other classic rock stylings on ‘iDeath.’  This is another excellently rounded hard rock song that any true purist metal head will love.  Again, vocalist/guitarist Johnny Gorilla and drummer Bill Darlington take center stage with their talents on this semi-Motorhead style song.  The slower, sludge rock vibe from the song is a drastic change from so many of today’s hard rock acts with their down tuned crunching guitars and cookie monster style growls.  It’s only one more highlight that’s offered throughout the course of this almost hour long record.  Yes, it’s a short record.  But it’s a good record.  In a time when so much modern metal is dominating playlists everywhere, this is a record that has turned out to be another surprise success and another hit from Metal Blade Records in 2012 along with the likes of Horisont and Gypsyhawk.

“Don’t Hear It, Fear It” is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Metal Blade’s website at http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/band/admiral-sir-cloudesley-shovell.

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