Reviews June/03

Bob Catley / When Empires burn / FR CD 150


Bob Catley playing Heavy Metal ? - but without losing his touch of melody! Tracklisting:The Torment (intro); Children of the Circle; Gonna live forever; The Prophecy; I'll be your Fool; Every Beat of my Heart; When Empires burn; Meaning of Love; This is the Day; Someday Utopia; My America.

Bob Catley has made one hell of an album with "When Empires burn" - this record will be very hard to beat as a top 10 for this year!
In the info material following this fourth solo record by Hard Rain & Magnum vocalist Bob Catley states: "This is my Heavy Metal album. I've always wanted to do something like this." and it is possible that this albums has a wider span from the hard rocking dark tracks like "The Prophecy" which is almost Ronnie James Dio-esque with a big dramatic mid section to big power ballads like "Every Beat of my Heart" but there are footprints of classic Catley all over it. Following Mr. Catley there are keyboardist/producer/co-writer Paul Hodson, guitarist Vince O'Regan, bass player Al Barrow and drummer Jamie Little. Especially Paul Hodson from fellow British melodic flagship Ten has made a very good impression as the new music-mate to Bob - replacing Gary Hughes, who very much was a big part of the sound of the first three solo efforts.
All in all I think this album is everything imaginable with Bob Catley - a very strong and tight production, very strong melodies with catchy hook lines, great musicians to back it up and above all that Catleys majestical voice - which is the best in years. There are NOTHING but memorable tracks here and let me start with my personal favorites - "Gonna live forever" is an absolute arena rocker to the core and already a classic in spe in my collection, "Every Beat of my Heart" is this big layered ballad that only Catley can do that convincing and the slower "My America" with an almost Celtic feeling towards it.
It was a refreshing thing to do -replacing Hughes with Paul Hodson - Catley has returned with a majestic statement. On places almost Dio-esque but without mentioning the dragons, lost maidens and warriors (thank God) but with a very powerful production adding the grand keyboard sound and multi layered vocals to a heavy guitar, drum and bass foundation. This record has it all drama, melodies and tightness - great!

David Shankle Group / Ashes to Ashes / 0148802ERE


David Shankle Group - former Manowar guitarist on his own! Tracklisting:Ashes to Ashes; A Raven at Midnight; The Widows Grief; The Widow's Peak; Calling all Heroes; Curse of the Pharaoh; The tolling of the Bell; Secrets; Madness; Back to Heaven; Masquerade; The Magic of the Chords; Voice of Authority + Ashes to Ashes (video); Calling all Heroes (video).

David Shankle Group (DSG) is based around former Manowar guitarist David Shankle, he was the shredder in the loudest band on Earth from 1988 to 1995. He left to go to Roosevelt Music University in Chicago to study jazz and classical guitar, and now has more than hundred students!
Joining the guitar mastro is long time friend and vocalist extra-ordinaire Trace Edward Zaber who has the voice to back it up, Eddy Bethishou on keyboards, Brian Gordon on bass and Eddie Foltz on drums. And the virtuosity of these 5 musicians resemples the partnership in bands like Stratovarius, Royal Hunt and/or Artension - it is heavy though melodic and BIG.
"Ashes to Ashes" features a wide mix of melodic heavy metal songs, speedy instrumentals and of course some big ballads with all the works - classical guitar and majestic vocals. The track "Ashes to Ashes" is the perfect opener with its uptempo riff - also as a video on the CD, and is followed by a lot of great rockers and ballads like the two-faced The Widows Grief/The Widows Peak which opens with a acustic anthem and then goes into a good clean heavy tune. The peak of the album to me is the balladsque "Calling all Heroes" with its acustic intro which is a masterpiece of a composition - and has traces of classical music towards it, too.
If you have a soft spot - like me - for big, bigger, biggest compositions and shredding guitars, virtuos keyboards, high pitched majestic vocals and thundering drums DSG is right up your alley!

Ken Tamplin & Friends / Wake the Nations / Now & Then


Ken Tamplin - with a lot of of friends! Tracklisting:The Story of Love; We've Jihad enough; Falling Houses; The Man with a Plan; Hare Kristians; Wake the Nations; God in Heaven; Peace on Earth; Mystery; Cell Phone Freaks; Livin' large; Eleven People; Saints and Heroes; Waiting for your Love; Every Day is precious; Come together; Sing; Freedom.

Ken Tamplin has done it again - made a classic record. This time with a bunch of great musical friends. His trademarks like catchy melodies, ponding rhythms, complex anthemic choruses and classy performances Tamplin really wakes the Nation.
The special guest are in a row: Marty Friedman, Doug Aldridge, Reb Beach, Kee Marcello, Ritchie Kotzen, Jeff Watson, Matthias IA Eklundh, Pete Lesperence, Jeff Scott Soto, Scott Van Zen, Howie Simon, Stevie Salas, Philip Bardowell and in his "regular" band there are Glenn Sobel on drums, Daniel Pearson on bass and Ed Roth on keyboards.
From the very opener "The Story of Love" which includes Jeff Scott Soto, Philip Bardowell and Scott Van Zen we are on the right track here - and 18 tracks later (!) there are a guest guitar solo by former Europe axe slinger Kee Marcello and in between there are a lot of songs for you rock lovers out there who like Paul Rodgers, Lou Gramm, David Coverdale and/or Sammy Hagar - who is Ken Tamplin's cousin.
As you can see - also by the tracklist - there are alot of tracks here, but who am I complaining over to many numbers of good clean family entertainment with positive though ironic lyrics. You can say a lot of thing about Ken Tamplin - but he always has a matter and a course to follow. Like it or not - I like it a lot!

Steen Peitersen 1999-2003