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

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 :: The Alan Weuters Alliance – This is My Life

An alternative sounding, New York based folk rock group offer up their first foray into the mainstream market.


The Alan Weuters Alliance

The Alan Weuters Alliance - This is My Life © Cherrybomb Records

For those who would like to enjoy a more alternative, softer, riff based rock album, The Alan Weuters Alliance’s This is My Life is the perfect place to start. Blending an enchantingly harmonising and layered sound with rich lyrics and storytelling, this New York based group is a wonderful introduction to more contemporary folk and classic rock.

The first thing that is individual about The Alan Weuters Alliance is the seemingly stark individual sound that the group has been able to produce on what would appear to be a shoestring budget. The eponymous Alan Weuters is a thirty five year veteran of the New York music scene, playing with some great musicians including Steve Coronel, an original member of KISS’ Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley’s original group; Wicked Lester. With a distinctly higher-toned voice and electro/acoustic sounding folk guitar, This is My Life is a perfect introduction to the band that seeks to promote themselves internationally.

The opening three tracks of the album emerge to the listener like an old boat, sifting through the morning mist, the introductions of “This is my Life,” “Living on the Edge” and the “Aquariana” have the listener tapping and bobbing with the upbeat riffs and lyric ladened track which follows. Although not primarily based on the softer sounding folk oriented style, “Great Accuser,” “Troubles (For the rest of your life)” are much more bluesy and harder rock based, the latter a fine example of the versatility of playing style, song writing and riff work. This song also provides a wonderful solo towards the end of the track, the only problem being that the chorus has been layered over it. This does not however detract from the clearly brilliant playing style of Alan as he takes the fret board for a walk.

Primarily dealing with the lonesomeness and sometimes hardships of existence, This is My Life is a twelve-track album that takes the listener through the broad spectrum of life’s emotions. Acting like a road weary muse to the listener, the band sings and plays with real emotion invested into the songs. As so often can be the case when dealing with folk based music, folk rock especially, the message can seem rather hackneyed and clichéd. Abandoning the more resentful and patronizing tone, This is My Life is a much more fun sounding, jollier offering to the market.

Aligning themselves with the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and John Lennon as both influences and contemporary sounds, The Alan Weuters Alliance is worth more than a brief listen. Providing the listener with a wide array of material that is sure to suit longer standing fans of folk and harder rock along with casual listeners. The wonderful, harder hitting cover of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Sounds of Silence” is the highlight of the album. Not to detract from the rest of the material there, the thought of a cover being the best track in this case does not signify less quality of the rest of the album, pays a respectful homage to the original and the band justice. For those who would like an alternative sounding but more traditionally based folk rock album, The Alan Weuters Alliance’ This is My Life is the perfect place to start.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s official website on myspace and record label site: http://www.myspace.com/alanwautersalliance, http://www.cherrybombrecords.com/artist_detail.php?id=4

Classic Rock – Who says its dead!

Classic rock and roll, an old dog with very sharp teeth!


 
Angus Young of AC/DC

Angus Young and AC/DC are still favourites. Photo www.ishootshows.com Copyright © 2009 Todd Owyoung

“Rock n roll aint noise pollution, rock n roll aint gonna die” The screeching voice of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson sings the signature lines to the 1980 hit from the Australian rockers. The line is from a song that bring ups the rear end of arguably the most famous classic rock album, and certainly the best selling, of all time, Back in Black. Regarded as little more than a traditionally blues based filler song, the band, or any of the listening fans, know that, after some thirty years after its initial release, the song would become a signature anthem and epitome of what classic rock music has become.

It is not an unknown fact in the current music industry that there is still a thriving market for aging rockers. Many accredit this to the saturated markets of pop and RnB for delivering their same act re-packaged, re-dressed and re-branded every few years. This has led to a boom in the indie scene, house and electro pop markets as listeners seek out new and more creative forms of music. But a side effect of this has seen a recurring theme of fans, of all ages, screaming for classic rock and roll music. But it would be unfair to lay the credit and responsibility for rock’s inclination at the glitter drenched feet of the pop industry. The truth is that classic rock is just a great way of having fun and is genuinely good to listen to.

For the most part, standard rock will compromise of three main topics, women, drinking and a jolly old knees up. The variants on these themes differ depending on the sentimentality or in some cases the degree of which drug induced bedlam has been declared norm, of the band but always remain true to the classic rock fundamentals. It is no wonder then that in a world suffering the biggest financial crisis and unemployment at their highest in decades that the seemingly utopian lifestyle of partying, girls and late night hotel shenanigans has become a predominant escapist fantasy of the modern world.

Leading the charge of assault on the heavily powdered, complacent fortress of popular dirge are a number of aging bands still pumping out loud static from their marshal stacks. AC/DC treated long time fans and new listeners to their 2008 offering, Black Ice, their first album since 2000. Although not perfect by any means and pallid in comparison to their heyday albums, the album resorted to a more straight edged, crowd pleasing format. The band’s previous two efforts had been more aimed at longer, more established fan bases. 2009 has also produced new material from the likes of Alice in Chains, Foreigner and KISS, who’s Sonic Boom album released in October was more than a blatant nod to their glory days of the late 1970s and 80s. As far back as 2007 with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin reforming as a tribute to the late Atlantic Records mogul Ahmet Ertgrun, millions of fans, old and new, clamoured for only a few thousand tickets. This style of frenzy has been replicated across the world as the aging bands have gone on tour to promote their new work, usually selling out within moments. This shows that there is still a lot of life left in the old shaggy dog.

The future is mixed for the classic rock industry. On one hand there is new material readily available for fans of any generation to enjoy from some of the best known and loved masters of the game. On the other hand, however, the men and women of this age of music are now nearing their 60s and beyond bringing into question who will take the beer stained guitar and amplifiers when they are retired. Regardless of the future, enough of our heroes have taught us not to think about it, the desire and willingness to pay for classic rock music is still very much alive. With new techniques of recording, production, indie and popular favourite Mark Ronson contributed to Foreigner’s latest album, and easier access to rock music continuing to change and simplify, the industry truly does look like it will never die.

By Jonathan Whitelaw


For more info on the bands in this article, check out their official websites: www.acdc.com, www.kissonline.com, www.foreigneronline.com and www.ledzeppelin.com. Also http://www.ishootshows.com