Review :: ’77 – High Decibels

Dig out your denim


Thrashing drums, whiplash inducing head banging and a sphincter clenching devotion to blistering guitar solos and riffs. Not the usual adjectives reserved for sunny Spain. Shove the paella back in the oven, put away the sunscreen, hard rock n roll is back, lock up your daughters.

By that, of course, the triumphant return of ’77 has occurred. Hailed on M&B as the champions of a dying breed, the cymbal crashing cacophony from Catalonia have produced their follow up to 2010’s 21st Century Rock with a much glossier, slicker produced and still irresistibly thrown back (and up) to the glory days of pub rock.

High Decibels is this highly touted follow up. Less than a sequel and more of a rebranded, better equipped version of the first installment, this album marks a much more professional, intensely matured taste of the band’s talent.  The first difference is the more intensified sense of individual identity. This is hardly surprising. In the eighteen months since their last release, the band have moved from an AC/DC tribute act who played their own material to an act in their own right.

Expanding from their native Spain, this summer sees a continental tour that takes in Germany and Sweden. As profile has risen, so too has the ambition of this four piece outfit. With tracks like “Back Door Man,” “This Girl is on Fire” and “Melting in a Spoon,” a more sinister, edgier vibe is shown here. With lofty ambition comes the same mix of catchy blues riffs, solid solos and the sleaze fuelled harmonies that would make your mother blush.

The near nine minute opus “Promised Land” stands as a testimony to how far this band has come since their debut. Split into multiple parts of changing pace, eclectic imagery and the fundamental three riff hooks that force smiles onto the most maudlin of rock fans, the aspiration of such a project is plain to see. Evoking memories of Bad Company, early KISS and even Led Zeppelin in one song is not something regularly attempted, less carried off. “Promised Land,” however, skirts the line between success and disaster with enough majesty and arrogance that the whole operatic ethos comes off with a plom. The jam session approach, casual riffing and constantly changing tempo and medley is an audio delight.

When 21st Century Rock appeared, there were many who rolled their hypothetical eyes at “another seventies throwback, completely out of touch with the modern music listener.” An unfair but altogether more realistic view of the industry and the chances of such an act. However, defying such criticism and producing a follow up as strong, layered and arguably defining like High Decibels has done nothing short of place ’77 in as strong as position they could hope for. The much cleaner production, bigger, bolder sound and broader audience (the album is available on iTunes) reach will provide an excellent starting point for what should be a big year for the band.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The band’s official website has all relevant information. High Decibels is also available on iTunes: http://www.myspace.com/seventysevenrocks

Review :: AC/DC – Scotland’s Family Jewels Exhibition

“The best present your mother will receive this Christmas”


Celebrating a band who are almost forty years old is not something that can and is taken lightly. In fact there are very few groups who have a) lasted as long, b) stand the sight of each other after so long, c) have a career that justifies such a celebration and d) still has the captivation of the paying public. But that is exactly what AC/DC have done in the form of AC/DC: Scotland’s Family Jewels.


Arriving on the cusp of the world infamous Scottish Winter, the exhibition comes to an end this weekend, February 12th. But rather than a review, M&B will take a look at the evocative nature and tribute of the exhibition that, like the band themselves, came and conquered quietly without hype or fuss.

Featuring everything from ticket stubs to glossy photographs. Rare LP covers to cardboard cutouts and beyond, the exhibition, aptly titles Scotland’s Family Jewels is a no nonsense, balls to the wall effort that has become synonymous with the group since their initial success right through to their world domination. Charting the rise and rise of the band from humble beginning through an intricate web of photos, letters and paraphernalia, viewers are given access all areas to exhibits in an approachable and hands on fashion.

Of course the exhibition is Bon Scott intensive. As fitting a tribute as any could be made to one of the most instantly recognizable, sadly missed figures in rock and roll. Few have embedded themselves more within the rock collective consciousness than Scott did in the short time we got to know him but of that there is a wealth of enjoyment and pleasure to be found.

Making up the majority of sampled work on display are private letters to family members, postcards, clothing and previously unreleased photographs of the singer. Touching messages to his sister and others reveal what has always been known about Bon. That he was a caring, conscious and genuine human being who lived and loved the way he wanted, when he wanted and with who he wanted. That the world saw the brash and bold, charismatic lout who loved all things sleazy and down right rotten was an epitome of what he was as a person. As has been written many, many times both before and since his untimely death in 1980, Bon was a man people could not help but like and love. As comfortable in front of ten people down the pub as he was before 10,000 at Wembley Stadium through this unique insight, fans get the opportunity to be vindicated in the adulation and praise.

However, there is a darker side to this glorification. When walking through the gallery’s aptly dark, dingy and overtly branded exhibit halls, the pictures of Bon and co stare back with all the guile and sheen of record label produced gloss. The personal objects of Bon’s, his jacket, sweater, private photographs and his passport are tokens of the other side of the fence that hit home he was just another man like those who worship at his alter.

To be given a look at the personal items that belonged to a man dead 32 years has a strangely prophetic and almost eerie quality. Suddenly the boldness and machismo are gone and the day-to-day hum drummery of a larger than life character is laid bare in a Perspex cabinet. Suddenly the toll of his death becomes that little bit more real and the stark honesty and bitterness of what might have been become all together apparent. To see his items, his handwriting, a window into his thoughts makes the loss altogether more tragic and terrifying.

Journalism and endless tributes can only conjure up as good an image as their creator to describe the man but his possessions make for a grim but sobering reality. It is therefore any wonder that the rest of the band are able to speak about his passing and further compliments their creative driving force that continued. The exhibition brings a whole new appreciation to Back in Black the album designed and conceived as a tribute to him and further promotes how brilliant a job Brian Johnson did in, as he would always say, “filling in” for the irreplaceable.

As maudlin as all this may be, the exhibition is, if nothing else an extraordinarily thorough shrine to the exalted masters of rock. Comprising of multiple projector screens throughout the exhibit that feature rare concert footage along with more recognized gigs such as the Monster of Rock 1991 headline and the Black Ice World Tour. A myriad of posters, album covers, collectables, backstage passes, Angus Bucks and guitars, the exhibition offers hardcore fans of the group an intriguing insight beyond the blazing cannons and inflatable women but also offers more casual listeners and viewers a genuinely inviting chance to see the amassed work of one of the most instantly recognizable bands and brands on the planet.

From Glasgow the exhibition moves on to Seattle, Washington where North American fans will be able to ogle until their hearts are content.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The exhibition ran from September 2011 – February 2012 at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Highlights can be found on the exhibition’s official website http://www.acdcfamilyjewels.com/

Here Are The Champions

Here We Go! Here We Go! Here We Go!

In anticipation of the oncoming football season, storming its way through the blissfully quiet summer like some rampaging, infidelity charged super beast, Moon&Back Music cobbles together a little Sunday league team so as not to miss out.
Although the glittering stars of our team are accomplished musicians, song writers and artists in their own right, many have had, in their past incarnations, chances to perform on a professional sporting stage. So grab your black and orange scarf, choke down a half time pie and prepare to cheer for M&B FC, the bookie’s favorite to end in tears before a ball has been kicked!


Goalkeeper – Zakk Wylde

Keeping the nets for this maudlin mash-up of musical millionaires is the ever-controversial guitar wild man, previously of Ozzy Osbourne’s troupe and Black Label Society. He has the important job of keeping out the opposition with his frankly gargantuan hands, best, of course, for screeching up and down the fret board to such timeless classics as “Hellraiser” and “Miracle Man”.


Wing-Backs – Keith Moon (The Who) & Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

Taking up a smaller, yet still noticeably important defensive role are two drummers to complete the back four. Lars Ulrich was a highly touted tennis player in his youth before the “glamour” of thrash metal dragged him away bringing at least some sporting and athletic prowess to a team sadly lacking in that department. Keith Moon was… well Keith Moon.


Centre-Backs – John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) & Steven Adler (Guns n Roses)

For the heart of defense there are none bigger, bruisier or boozier than Bonham and Adler. Known more for their off stage antics, be it smashing through hotel walls or feeding incredulous fish into parts unknown of bewildered groupies, these two get the nod at the back from the gaffer, purely for their raucous plans for the team Christmas night out.


Wingers – Angus Young (AC/DC) & Bob Marley

Using the age old tactic of speed and skill, Young and Marley get their call up to this prestigious and well followed ball club with names that have the fans in the stands cheering and screaming for a piece of the action. Angus with his hyperactive, duck walking antics to leave any defender in his dust and Bob, who was an accomplished footballer in his native Jamaica. They aren’t half bad guitarists either as it happens.


Central Midfield – Rod Stewart & Liam Gallagher (Oasis)

The Oasis front man is one of the more prominent football fans in the music industry, his well publicized adulation for Manchester City, along with his brother Noel, has recently become more feverant and public. Nothing, of course, to do with the team’s recent success and economic sky rocket… A true fan.

Hot Rod, despite being cursed with the affliction of being both a football fan and Scottish, take pride amongst place at the heart of midfield, gifted with the captain’s armband. Who else could it be?


Forwards – Joan Jett (The Runaways) & Michael Hutchence (INXS)

In the interest of equal rights and a glaringly obvious tip to the recent Women’s World Cup in Germany, Joan Jett, Punk Queen’s temper who no woman, a quite a few men, dare to cross brings a tempestuous, thrashing attitude in front of opposition goal.

Partnered with smooth talking, self choking Michael Hutchence because every successful team needs a deceased sex symbol.


Manager – Brian Johnson (AC/DC)

The Geordie warbler gets the dugout hot seat, he provides his own flat cap.


Medics – Steven Tyler & Joe Perry (Aerosmith)

When injuries strike, who better than the Toxic Twins to provide something a little more stimulating than a slice of orange and the magic sponge

Jonathan Whitelaw


All pictures are copyright their original owners. All acts mentioned can be found at their official websites.

Brothers In Arms – Famous Siblings In Rock N Roll

Here a beady eye is cast over the fractious family ties that bind some of rock’s greatest bands together.


Eddie and Alex Van Halen

The world of rock and roll can be a very strange place indeed. Twenty four hour parties, thousands of adulating fans baying for blood at the sight of their fans and midgets carrying trays of cocaine merely for the convenience of their height. It stands as a good trait therefore to have somebody by your side during this rollercoaster ride of drugs, debauchery and general excess. Who else then would fit the bill than that of a loving sibling. Here the tenuous, tender and sometimes terrible sibling relationships in hard rock music are explored.


Siblings have a very special, cerebral connection with each other, that is a known biological fact. But, as most readers are aware, this volatile chemistry of shared genetics, backgrounds and other family members more often than not will result in violent, murderous rage between them. Add in the wonderfully out of control pastiche of rock and roll and the results tend to be very, very exciting.

Kicking off this list of genetically similar, musical mayhem is the Young brothers of AC/DC. Arguably two of the most successful, in terms of both musical ability and net gross income, Malcolm and Angus Young have been wowing fans with their balls to the wall, toe tapping, bar brawling, three chord riffs for almost forty years. With the honour of having sold over 200 million albums worldwide in a career that spans five decades, the Young brothers are responsible for such hits as “Back in Black”, “Hells Bells”, “You shook me all Night Long” and of course “Highway to Hell.” They are also notable for having remained in their original band with each other for their duration, a testimony to the harmony and musical vision the two siblings share.

Taking one for the girls next are Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. In the long and storied history of rock and roll there have been few, if any, sister teams who have created such a lasting legacy as the Wilsons. Starting their careers as folk oriented, post hippy lyricists, Ann and Nancy formed Heart and took a much harder, edgier direction in the late seventies that has carried on to this very day, their signature song “Barracuda” coming in 1977. With a whopping thirteen albums intermittently spaced from 1973 onwards, the latest being 2010’s Red Velvet Car, the Wilson sisters have remained a strong, iron willed backbone to the Seattle music scene since their inception. A little lesbacious controversy in the late 70s rumouring the two to be lovers also makes them cool.

Fast forwarding to a much more recent and altogether heavier sounding band are Pantera. Formed by brothers Vinnie Paul and “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, the heavy, thrash and groove metal pioneers and industry leaders are still considered major players from the early days of commercially recognized heavy metal music. Although the band split in 2003 after twenty two years and nine albums later, Pantera’s legacy can still be seen in the city and town centers all across the globe as generation after generation of young teenage blod lusters feed off of their organically grown metal mania. Their thrashing drums and blistering guitar shredding is no more apparent than on hits such as “Cowboys from Hell”, “Walk” and “I’m Broken.”

Last and by no means least are the Van Halens of, surprise surprise, Van Hagar… Halen rather. Along with the Youngs, the Van Halens are two of the most commericially successful sibling combos in all of music, not just harder rock and airwave metal. With Eddie on guitar and Alex on drums, the dutch ex patriot brothers skyrocketed to success off of the back of a string of hugely successful albums in the 1980s. Famed as much for their off stage antics as they were on, along with “Diamond” David Lee Roth their front man and all round hellraiser, the Van Halens scored with the excellent combination of genuine, classically trained musical ability and the love for the rock and roll lifestyle. Must listenable hits include “Runnin’ with the Devil”, “Panama”, “Women in Love” and “Drop Dead Legs”. In keeping with true rock and roll tradition, the band still tours with Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass.

Of course these are but a fraction of the sibling combos that have gone on to forge the embittered, bile spewing world of rock and roll. Honorable mentions go to John and Tome Fogherty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ray and Dave Davies of The Kinks and of course Duane and Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers band whom without we would never have “Jessica”. Or put another way, Top Gear would be even worse.

Jonathan Whitelaw


More info can be found at the bands’ official websites: http://www.acdc.com, http://www.heart-music.com, http://www.pantera.com and http://www.van-halen.com

Rock’s Classics :: AC/DC – Let Me Put My Love into You.

One of AC/DC’s most overlooked classics, this track comes from a plethora of classics to choose from. It is with its quiet dignity and lack of airtime that make this song one of the very best.


AC/DC

AC/DC Circa 1980

After a brief hiatus, the beady eye of interest and nosiness casts its glare onto a classic song from a classic era of a classic band… How couldn’t this have been more acknowledged than it is? Swamped amongst hard hitting rock classics such as “Hells Bells” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and of course “Back in Black” we have “Let Me Put My Love into You” by AC/DC, a bastion of less being more and the variance of three chord hard rock.


The world of 1980 was a very different place compared to today. Musically the planet was in a way still reeling from the fall out of sixties as the airwaves were filled with countless disco badgers and hounds that would pollute anything with ears. The Eagles had called it quits in 1980, as did Led Zeppelin amongst others, two behemoths of their respective genres becoming dormant and leaving large spaces that may never be filled. Riding the wave of their massively successful breakout album Highway to Hell, AC/DC suffered a monumental and almost catastrophic disaster in the form of lead singer Bon Scott’s demise at the tender age of 33, dying as he lived, partying. But in true rock and roll fashion, the Australian hard rockers decided the best way to pay tribute to the late Scott was to soldier on and keep going as he would have wanted. Geordie screamer Brian Johnson stepped into the fray and brought his own brand of grass roots, salt of the earth experience to the already blue collar band. The end result was Back in Black which would go on to be the second best selling album of all time, the scale of which can be seen considering the best is Michael Jackson’s seminal work Thriller.

Which brings the action neatly to the subject of this profile. Perhaps most famous for being the lead in track for the decisive “Back in Black”, “Let Me Put My Love into You.” Is a creeping, looming song that has an unassuming menace to its tone, lyrics and overall performance. As the title suggests there is no deep meaning, ambiguous or even, dare it be said, creative undercurrent to the song that makes it all the more enjoyable. Coming from a band who makes no qualms about their love for all things fornicated and party oriented, the song is an unusually barefaced, stark statement of the formula they have mastered and kept blasting out of their amps for almost forty years.

Even from the geography of the song on the album, “Let Me Put my Love into You.” Is a stark difference from the previous four tracks that precede it. In this sense, the song acts as a bridge for the two separate acts of the album as a whole, representing a transition from the first half of the album into the second, no mean feat considering the lasting impact of songs such as “Back in Black”, “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Rock and Roll Aint Noise Pollution” all major staples of AC/DC’s legacy and hard rock trend setters. With the distinctly sedated three chord riff and pounding bassline, “Let me Put my Love into You.” Strikes the listener immediately as a break from the norm and stands as a testimony to the artists’ ability to create a wonderful sound in a less is more fashion, more so considering both the band’s track record and the genre’s more demanding, loud and fierce tendencies.

It is with all of these factors that the song builds itself up quietly and unassumingly on an album that is literally chocked full of classics from start to finish. “Let Me Put My Love into You.” Is therefore a wonderful track that delivers to fans and new listeners alike both an excellent rock track and a piece of production and tactical musical ability. From an album that has been noted as one of the best ever and from an era of music that is now considered transitional in its depiction, Back in Black can still be considered a fitting tribute from a band to their fallen hero and a must listen to anybody interested in music.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Have a look at AC/DC’s official website for details of tours and availability of discography” http://www.acdc.com

Album Review :: ’77 – 21st Century Rock

Hailing from the sunny shores of Barcelona, a new wave of old rock gets ready to devour the recently resurrected scene.


'77

'77 - 21st Century Rock © Listenable Records / Weight Recordings

As a general rule of thumb employed by most things in life, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In music, however, this does not always suffice as imitation can often lead to a somewhat black balled attitude held towards any artist seen “copying” other artists in either sound, style or material. The world of hard rock, thankfully, does not adhere to these or any other rules. It is with great pleasure that Spanish rockers ’77 release their first fully fledged album 21st Century Rock, a sleazy hard rock album that harkens back to the golden era of the late 1970s where singers were hairy, bare chested beasts, drummers were drunk and guitars sweated spinal fluid as their fingers danced across the fretboard.


Hailing from Barcelona, Spain, ’77 are the latest produce in the vein of classic rockers AC/DC, KISS, Alice Cooper and The Scorpions. With their bold as brass approach to sleazy licks, lyrics and riffs, this refreshingly old take on rock music makes the listener feel like they have travelled through a temporal portal in the fabric of the space time continuum, landing smack down in the middle of 1978 and desperately seeking a pair of crotch hugging jeans, a main full of hair and a fetching fur lined, sleeveless denim jacket… rivets and all.

Kicking off their debut album, ’77 take to the studio with “Gimme Rock n Roll” a less than original sounding title for what is essentially a classic blues based rock number, designed for driving down roads at loud volume. More of the same is continued with “Hardworking Liar” and “Shake it Up”, the latter being a much meaner sounding, growling number, the screaming lead guitar, an SG of course, of LG Valeta careering over the lumbering and brooding rhythm like an angry eagle on the hunt.

The highlight of the ten track album comes with the eponymous “21st Century Rock”, its initial ghostly guitar intro a testimony to the musical ability of the band and their producers. Designed as the group’s anthem, this final offering from their debut album is a wonderfully crafted, lyric heavy song destined to get audiences sweaty, raucous and jumping for joy as the upbeat tempo makes the listener tap their feet uncontrollably along in time. The solo is a blistering blast all across the fretboard and the backing vocals from the percussion section reiterate the down and dirty nature of the band and its roots in working class, pub rock.

Upon listening to 21st Century Rock it is easy to slip the rose tinted glasses on and regard it as nothing more than a less than fractious tribute to the rock scene of the late seventies. Despite the title of the album, it would appear that ’77 are very much still in love with an era of music that has long since faded into memory. Lead singer Armand Valeta has the uncanny ability to sound very much like the late, great Bon Scott in both pitch and tone, something that has not been achieved since Scott’s death in 1980. However, it should be noted that this is not necessarily a bad thing so long as the fans and music industry do not regard this as nothing more than a tribute as opposed to an original band trying and playing their best. It is therefore an important point to be noted that ’77 ARE an original band, who have opened for Airbourne on their Spanish legs of a world tour, and should therefore be treated thusly.

21st Century Rock is an excellent album for fans of the sleaze and hard rock genres of music. Although not well documented in recent years, it is therefore refreshing to hear a raw and guttural form of this type of music. Excellently produced and ingeniously and lovingly crafted, ’77 are a band on the up who deserve as much mainstream success as they dare to achieve.

Jonathan Whitelaw


For more band information, availability of the album and tour dates check out their website: http://www.myspace.com/seventysevenrocks

Rock’s Classics :: Def Leppard – Photograph

Sheffield’s answer to Bon Jovi give us a taste of their talents as we focus our lens on “Photograph”


def leppard

Def Leppard © Def Leppard

The plundering of rock’s heavily ladened vault of classics continues with a distinctly metal flavored favorite from Sheffield’s finest, Def Leppard. From the height of their popularity in 1983, “Photograph” has become one of the most distinct and easily recognizable tracks from a band that achieved most of their success across the pond in the USA than in Britain. Taking into account their vast repertoire of hits and popular anthems from a career that has spanned thirty three years, “Photograph” remains one of the most popularly played rock songs on American and British radio stations since its first release in the early eighties.


Def Leppard has a somewhat mixed opinion in fans of the classic rock genre. Sometimes considered too metal to be harder rock, the ever raging debate as to where hard rock ends and metal begins is a seemingly unanswerable question, bands like Def Leppard, AC/DC and others seemed to spend the decade of the eighties continually crossing the divide and releasing material, sometimes on the same album, that was ambiguous and genre hopping. Thus with the release of Pyromania in 1983, Def Leppard capped off their monumental rise to prominence with as ambiguous an album that could be possibly created.

Consisting of songs such as “Foolin” and “Rock of Ages”, Def Leppard’s third studio album would prove to be the catapult that would propel the band into the mainstream in the US and everywhere else almost immediately. With a cleanly produced sound that emulated American rock bands such as Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, Def Leppard were very quickly embraced by the early dawn of the hair metal fans that were emerging on the music scene. “Photograph” however had the advantage of being a song firmly rooted in a classic rock topic, lyrics and three-chord riff with the production values and overall sound of the emerging soft metal genre.

Produced by the now legendary “Mutt” Lange, “Photograph” is a song that immediately grabs the attention of the listener with its streamlined guitars and almost rattled percussion, the distinction between the instruments and sections of the band being stark and defined. Written as a tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, lead singer Joe Elliot and the rest of the band; Rick Savage on bass, Steve Clark on guitars, Pete Willis, who was dismissed part way through recording of the album but not before laying down all rhythm sections for songs, and finally “Mutt” Lange all contributed to the creation of the song. Elliot’s vocals are typically on form, his relatively high voice lending a perfect compliment to the glossy production of the song and album as a whole. The song immediately entered the band’s set list for the subsequent tour for the Pyromania tour and was decided to be the lead single from the album although all would be hugely successful.

It would be the live versions of this song, however, that would ultimately lead to its immortalisation into the classic rock archive. Since its live debut in 1983, “Photograph” ingrained itself as a must see event and part of Def Leppard shows and set lists. The height of this popularity came in its live recording in the Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield in 1993 as part of a much wider concert that was seen as a huge thank you and praise to the band’s hometown roots and original fan base. The performance is, quite frankly, fantastic; Elliot and the rest all on top form, obviously driven on by the sold out home crowd. It should be noted that by this point, drummer Rick Allen had lost his arm in an accident but did not let this mar his performances, a customized drum kit rigged up for him as he rose, and continues to rise, to the challenge. A testimony to the songs enduring popularity is the recent collaboration in 2008 where the band teamed with the country and pop star Taylor Swift, “Photograph” amongst a number of Leppard hits. Although not as good as the original version or subsequent live performances by the band, the introduction of a popular singer from another music genre no less has introduced the song to a whole new generation of fans. It is with a great shame then that the song was not as big a hit in the UK compared to its huge success in the US, a fact that disappointed lead singer Elliot. Nonetheless, “Photograph” remains an underrated classic from an era of rock music that can so often be dismissed as filled with pulp and corporate garbage.

Jonathan Whitelaw


As ever, discography, tours and band info can be found on the official website: http://www.defleppard.com

Album Review :: Airbourne – No Guts, No Glory

No change please, we’re rockers. Airbourne’s return to studio work stands and delivers.


Airbourne

Airbourne - No Guts, No Glory © Airbourne/Roadrunner Records

In a world dominated by uncertainty, it is important to appreciate the smaller, infrequent moments that often can pass us by. With a volatile financial climate, seemingly constant threat of imminent doom and the frankly violent level of boredom offered by the likes of The X Factor and other degenerates, it is heart warming to be treated to the brilliantly performed, excellently produced and wonderfully fun latest release from hard Ozzy rockers Airbourne.

Since they emerged on the major market in 2006 with their debut album Runnin’ Wild Airbourne have quickly rocketed up the rankings and become one of the world’s most popular hard rock acts of the last ten years. Aligned very much in the style of the countrymen AC/DC and with frequent nods to other such classic rock gods as KISS, Van Helen, Bad Company and Whitesnake, these lads certainly know how to get a good party going. With a deliciously grimy blend of pseudo blues based, three chord riffs, eye wateringly accurate bass and a drum line that boils the very beer in your belly, Airbourne consistently deliver in the studio and on the road where they have been relentlessly touring since Runnin’ Wild debuted. It is therefore with great anticipation, excitement and aplomb that their second album No Guts, No Glory hits the shops in Europe on March 8th, April 22nd globally.

Kicking off the album with three traditional rock tracks are “No way but the hard way,” the album’s first single release, “Raise the Flag” and the oddly haunting “Born to Kill” the last of which opens the album with a creepy, screeching solo guitar intro before crunching down to a hard as nails, beaten and bruised rock anthem. Continuing in the vein of their previous album, and those of their aged predecessors, No Guts, No Glory is seeped in the style of songs that, as so many have said before, “The wives don’t get to know about”. Concentrating on all the debauchery, hard drinking, smoking and illicit bad behaviour that hard rock has built its own reputation on, the album more than heartily delivers on both the theme and playing styles that fans have now come to expect of this band. It is perhaps only a shame then that only really Airbourne and a very small handful of others are still producing this style of music. Honourable mention of course go to The Answer who, although not nearly as hard or successful, have at least remained true to the hard rock vein, more than can be said of the likes of Wolfmother and The Steroephonics.

As fine and dandy hard rocking, questionably easy riffs and shouty lyrics can be, No Guts, No Glory also aptly displays the wide array of talent Airbourne have when it comes to pace, lyricism and durability. Widely publicised during the build up to the release of this album, lead singer/guitarist Joel O’Keeffe stated that the band lived in the studio, eating, sleeping and existing during the recording of the album, much akin to the likes of Bruce Springsteen during his heyday. With high octane numbers like “It Aint over till its Over,” “Devils Child” and “Rattle your Bones,” the last two only available on the special edition album, it is surprising and refreshing to have a track like “Bottom of the Well” where the tempo is much more relaxed and melodic, the passion and conviction still very much present.

Couple these along with an epic range in subject matter and the album that stands at a whopping thirteen tracks, eighteen on the special edition, delivers on pretty much every front. The excellent summer anthem “White Line Fever” is sure to be played all throughout the warm months on rock stations the world over. This unashamedly crass feast of excess is stark in comparison to the endearingly heart felt “Steel Town” an ode to working class cities and towns and the bands’ own little tribute to their heritage and lifestyles and their audience.

In all, No Guts, No Glory is an excellent, triumphant return to the market for Airbourne. With a subsequent world tour following and the band gaining an excellent, healthy fan base all over the planet, Airbourne are very much poised to take the step from being sole soldiers on the hard rock front lines to upper echelon, fully fledged members of the community. It is often said that any artist, in any genre, needs a really good, solid, stand out studio performance on which to fundamentally launch their careers from. Now, it would seem, Airbourne have just that.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s website: http://www.airbournerock.com

Album Review :: Airbourne – Ready To Rock

Australia’s Hard Rock heirs to the throne’s often overlooked EP is a lost gem, tragically overlooked.


Airbourne

Ready to Rock by Airbourne © Airbourne

With their second full album now less than a week away from general release here in Europe, April 20th in the States, Airbourne are the latest and most recent rock success story form Australia. Where their first album Runnin Wild was a success story all across the globe, this up and coming piece No Guts, No Glory is set to sky rocket their popularity. However, for more discerning fans there is the EP Ready to Rock available for consideration and definitely worth listening to.

Hailing from Warrnambool in Australia, this four set outfit consist of Joel and Ryan O’Keeffe on lead vocals/guitar and drums respectively, rhythm guitarist David Roads and bassist Justin Streets, all young, fun loving guys who have a penchant for debauchery, hard drinking and all kinds of fornication. It is no surprise then that they have been described by many as being heavily influenced by AC/DC, their first album often unfairly antagonized and mocked as being too much of a tribute. However, with a massing fan base, there would appear to be a vast majority of listeners out there who would claim that to be a good thing, the other ozzy rockers now pushing on a bit.

Having achieved their popular status from their first album Runnin Wild it now often overlooked that it was their inaugural EP that brought them to the attention of Capitol Records. Released in 2004, Ready to Rock heralded a triumphant debut into the less than populated world of heavy rock. With traditional sounding “Three Chord” riffs, Airbourne hearken themselves back to a simpler, cruder time when rock music was in its infancy.

The eponymous opening track “Ready to Rock” coupled with “Stand and Deliver” are run of the mill hard rock songs, the brothers gelling well with the percussion and rhythm section, a solid foundational opening for the rest of the EP. Other excellent sounds come in the form of “Come on Down” a great little pub anthem and a must for any pre-night out warm up playlist. “Runnin’ Hot” and “Women on Top” which, as the popular advert used to say, does exactly as it says on the tin. The jewel in the sweaty, static and beer soaked crown comes in the form of “When the girl gets hot (The love don’t stop)”. Apart from having a frankly awesome classic rock title and subject matter, the opening, almost haunting guitar riff of Joel O’Keeffe leaves the listener wondering how this band had gone so long without being snapped up by a major record label. Couple that with the frankly brilliant production behind both the song and the rest of the album, the boys do an excellent job of getting the right mix of sleazy, grimy sounding Gibson SG with thunderous drums and a thumping bass line.

In all, although perhaps more of a tribute to AC/DC and other classic rock bands that made the mid seventies to early nineties so memorable for this music than their first official release, Ready to Rock is never the less a wonderful introduction to the Australian outfit. Not as widely available as it perhaps should be, the songs on the EP are slowly and surely being bled into the western market via exclusive downloads and bonus tracks on re-releases of the Runnin Wild album. The upcoming album, released March 8TH, and subsequent tour are set to send Airbourne into the upper echelons of hard rock stardom and with a lot of life and fight left in this band, let us hope that they are ready to accept the responsibility of being hard rock’s royal dynasty for the next four decades.

N.B Look out for the review of No Guts, No Glory coming soon.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s official website at: http://www.airbournerock.com

The Super Bowl Halftime show – A future rock classic?

The Super Bowl halftime show, glamorous, spectacular and it would now seem an annual place for classic rockers to show off their stuff.


The Who

The Who, Roger Daltrey & Pete Townsend (c) AP Photo/Rob Carr

The annual spectacular known as the Super Bowl has often provided highs and lows both on and off the field for sporting fans and casual viewers alike. As the trend of the event being watched by ever increasing amounts of hundreds of millions of people globally, it is interesting to note that the spectacle of the half time show has come to rely on aging rockers in recent years. The Who are the latest to join the long list of performers in the forty four year history of the event, joining others who have carved a path of glory on one of the world’s biggest stages.

Save perhaps for the opening and closing ceremonies of World Cups and summer Olympic games, the annual Super Bowl of American football provides one of the grandest stages on which an artist can be asked to perform at. Of course only the biggest and brightest names are chosen for the half time show, usually comprising of a whirlwind stage being erected and typical American glitz and fireworks. It is compelling and interesting to note however that since 2005 megastars of the classic rock genre have graced the stage and delivered memorable performances, perhaps not for the artists themselves but certainly for the Super Bowl audiences.

Beginning this current trend was Paul McCartney in the early months of 2005. With a typical medley of his more famous songs including “Baby you can drive my car” “Get Back” and “Live and Let die” the decision to go for a vintage rock act, Sir Paul of course hot off of endorsing the iPod at the time, was heralded as a bold move considering the predominantly RnB and hip hop dominated music scene of the era. Criticism of the performance were mainly down to the distinctly flat sounding production of the clearly pre-recorded set list, the typical NFL and American broadcasting paranoia that when the cameras were on, never trust a rocker, even one in his sixties.

This was followed in 2006 with the ever enduring Rolling Stones. Like Macca before them, The Stones, led by the increasingly thinning, handbag face of Mick Jagger, this performance still showed many critics of the group, who have failed to release anything of great note in what seems like a lifetime, that they could still get the job done. The band had come under some criticism having publicly lambasted The Eagles that year for apparently over charging fans to see them play a “best of” set list, confusing considering Jagger et al had been doing that for the better part of forty years. Typical crowd pleasers like “Start Me Up” and ”(I can’t get no) satisfaction” were included as Jagger stomped around the giant lip logo stage, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood being propped up by their guitars and Charlie Watts looking distinctly bored on drums.

Next in 2007 and 2008 were Prince and Tom Petty respectively. For Prince this was a return to a stage he had graced in his heyday and for Tom Petty a chance to take a break from his ‘King of the Hill’ acting and perform to the predominantly American audience that he enjoys huge popularity with. Highlights of the performances were a thrilling rendition of “All along the watchtower” and “Purple Rain” from Prince, although once again The Artist was upstaged by his flamboyant symbol guitar which dazzled the flashing camera bulbs. Petty’s highlights were, in truth, the entire set including “Free Fallin’” “Won’t back Down” and an obvious “American Girl”. The usual lack of enthusiasm displayed by the crowd, 71000 plus strong, taking away a little from the well performed shows put on by both acts.

Which brings the list neatly to last year’s performance from The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Singing his ever popular “Born to Run” and “Glory Days” the press at the time took the surprising turn of lambasting their hero for not playing “Born in the USA”, The Boss seemingly still a little embittered by his blatantly social issue based song being used by George Bush snr’ presidential campaign in the early 1990s.

So it would appear that the popularity of rock music is as powerful a selling tool as it is a predominantly thriving music culture and scene. Although it must be stated that the performers and artists contributions to the Super Bowl halftime shows were by no means “classic’ on their parts, it still remains one of the most watched events of the sporting and televisual year and to have classic rock represented in such a large way can only be good. This begs the question as to how long this trend will continue, and also who will fill the pretty big shoes already. The likes of U2, Phil Collins, ZZ Top and Michael Jackson have also headlined the event and with KISS, AC/DC and others now refinding their form, surely it must only be a matter of time before the powers at be make the Super Bowl halftime show a kick ass rock fest to keep the frothing fans thirsty for more.

Jonathan Whitelaw


All of the above performances can be found on YouTube. Band Links: http://www.thewho.com, http://www.rollingstones.com, http://www.tompetty.com, http://www.lotusflow3r.com, http://www.brucespringsteen.net, http://www.youtube.com