What: elements of mellow Steve Perry, Richard Marx and Restless Heart
Sounds Like: all things West Coast AOR
Once again the little label from Spain Contante & Sonante has orchestrated another brilliant move by managing to bring Randy Goodrum, Dave Innis and Bruce Gaitsch together as a band aptly titled the acronym GIG. Pooling their songwriting talents along with Goodrum’s vocal and lyrical capabilities meshed with Dave Innis’ subtle piano work and harmonic vocals only to add the sublime guitar work of Bruce Gaitsch represent our passports into a Brave New World.
GIG band members have been associated with top musicians such as Steve Perry, Chicago, Peter Cetera, Richard Marx and Restless Heart which is a plethora of world class artists and bands. Needless to say there are elements of these artists that weave themselves into the DNA of GIG. Willing to put their reputations and musical egos aside GIG have managed to host a heavenly 48 minutes of astronomical acetate recording that will leave you hoping and praying this is not a one off event.
To pick any preferred moments from this eleven track recording would be a tremendous challenge. That said it does not hurt to start off with the delightful “Private O’Toole” where all the elements of GIG are on display from lyrical content along with Innis' piano merging with Gaitsch' restrained guitar work. Framed with harmonic vocals to die for, the song is about as subtle and sexy as a luscious lady’s long closely shaved legs with beautiful lines, tone and absolutely no edges.
A Brave New World is full of recording wonders that includes the even more reflective “Peddler, Pete” which is in somewhat contrast to the lightly rhythmic island sway of “Isle Of Pigs”. Contrary to the title it pays homage to the gorgeous peaceful island of Exuma that sits gently in the turquoise blue crystal clear oceans of the Bahamas. Needless to say Gaitsch and Innis’ guitar-piano interplay is gorgeous with George Hawkins Jr adding to the exotic element courtesy of his restrained but magical fretless bass work. GIG only manage to top that moment with the egoless move of closing the album out with “All I Ever Need” that features the golden vocals of the wonderful late Warren Wiebe courtesy of songwriter Michael Haddad.
Not all super groups are successful in harnessing their talents and producing a cohesive recording that would reflect the pooling of the aptitudes involved. But this delightful debut recording that hits the streets on April 30th 2018 is all about the music and not the egos. One can only hope that this is not a one off event and that GIG will be willing to continue to live in this Brave New World and that their spectacular super smooth debut album will lead to other recordings.
Who: Contante & Sonante
What: music steeped in the West Coast AOR genre
Sounds Like: all things West Coast AOR
Although this website is dedicated to undiscovered artists or rediscovered artists that we missed first time around why not about a record label too? That said Contante & Sonante based out of Madrid, Spain appears to be the perfect candidate of the little record label that can.
Directed by A&R executive Gabriel Raya the label is entering into its 14th year of exist focused not on quantity but rather creating and releasing limited editions of otherwise unavailable adult contemporary music. In fact one such artist who did not get his due prior to his untimely passing was David Foster’s (among others) demo singer Warren Wiebe who has always been a central inspiration driver for this label. The limited editions releases have always included at least one if not more tracks featuring this sorely overlooked golden voice or in the case of Tom Snow’s Original Demos release every single track,
The label has also included other Original Demos limited numbered edition series that has included the likes of Steve Dorff, Gardner & Fuller and most recently Burt Bacharach however the pivotal moment was the Tomi Malm produced and arranged tribute to David Foster. How the small intimate label Contante & Sonante managed to bring this all together with several pivotal artists is unclear. What is crystal clear is that despite the challenge of interpreting someone else’s craft and also via the complexity of multiple voices in a seamless fashion, Fly Away is not only a tribute to the great David Foster but also sets the standard of how a tribute album should be done.
Since then the label has upped their game with two albums of extreme high caliber. One of them again featuring Tomi Malm, this time his 2017 solo debut Walkin’ On Air. With the same high level execution found on Fly Away reappearing here throughout, but this time Malm's own compositions are the focal point. From cover, production, arrangements and songs all the way to the top performances, his solo debut is simply a stylistic startling stellar debut.
Apparently the above healthy trend continues with a new super group called the GIG featuring Randy Goodrum, Dave Innis and Bruce Gaitsch who are about to unleash their debut album Brave New World which will hit the streets on April 30th 2018. And the preliminary word on the street is that this is another superb delivery from the little label that can and does. Yes Contante & Sonante are living in a brave new world of their own taking the risk of quality versus quantity where less is certainly much much more.
Where: Atlanta, Georgia
What: the spirit of the early 70’s British Glitter Rock with a heavy influence of power pop punk.
Sounds Like: T.Rex, Slade and Sweet hyperlinked with the power pop punk of All American Rejects along with their own injections of attitude adrenaline.
Though the band is clearly born out of Atlanta Georgia, once the needle hits the vinyl (or whatever turntable you are using) all bets are off. Soaked in the spirits of the English 70’s the Biters sound far from being American. Just listen to the opening chords and multi layered harmonies to hear influences of The Sweet. And after the anthem of “Let It Roll” fades let the T.Rex reincarnated fat chords of “Stone Cold Love” vibrate and roll throughout your body.
But enough of some the band’s influence as while their sound has a great throwback feel to it there is no doubting their own injections of attitude adrenaline that gives the band a sense of urgency as they celebrate their brash punkish power pop sounds. If you manage to get through the toe tapping “Gypsy Rose” without moving then please call 911…you just might be dead. That said the Biters are more that capable of showing their soft underside of their musical belly. Check out the gorgeous “Hollywood” or for that matter the reflective acoustic closer “Goin’ Back To Georgia”.
Only their second full length recording, The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be clocks in fewer than 35 minutes with 10 concise no filler tracks all under 4 minutes or less. With this kind of music it could be strongly suggested that the Biters are the antithesis of their album title as the future is very bright for this band.
Who: Heaven & Earth
Where: Los Angeles CA
What: flying the proud flag of Classic Rock with an underlying blue feel to it
Sounds Like: shades of Deep Purple and the spectrum of the Rainbow and more recently their own voice
Stuart Smith’s Heaven & Earth found its origins back in 1997 deep in the Los Angeles valley when he released his self debut showing how having friends in high places gets you a long way in opening up doors in the music business. The student of Ritchie Blackmore not only pays homage to his teacher, but has since continued to develop his own style and no longer depends on his connections but has clearly dug deep and created his own cohesive band anchored in the vocals of Joe Retta.
Over two decades Heaven & Earth have managed to only release 4 full length recordings so needless to say the output frequency is extremely low. However the qualities of the recordings are polarized and are of exceptionally high quality. The latest recording is Hard To Kill with an ease to thrill that not only meets but exceeds its impressive predecessor Dig.
While the most obvious group additions come in the form of A1 session drummer Kenny Arnonoff, bassist Lynn Sorenson and keyboard player Ty Bailie seamlessly step in so much so that you essentially forget the top players they were replacing. Even more notable is that with the exception of a few songs credited to Retta and Smith alone, the songs credit the entire band which is reflected in a much unified planetary performance somewhere between heaven and earth.
As for the material itself, it is all killers and no fillers with the 48 minutes of playing time just flying by leaving you wanting more. But it is not just about the playing but also the presentation with a stunning artistic cd booklet along with an accompanying DVD. The stellar music opens up with the frantic “Hard To Kill” followed later by the toe tapping “Till It’s Over” complimented by “The Game Has Changed” which clearly shows Heaven & Earth are more than capable of moving you. Counter the above songs with the “L.A. Blues” (the title gives it away) along with the mid tempo “Bleed Me Dry” (the closest you get to a ballad), Hard To Kill gives you bit of everything.
Much like the prior release Dig, Heaven & Earth are still flying high the Classic Rock flag and creating music that is very familiar. However with Hard To Kill this band is showing more and more shades and hues of their own voice versus the color Purple or for that matter the Rainbow. With yet another stellar recording to their name completed, while by no means an undiscovered artist high recognition to Heaven & Earth is long way overdue.
Where: Philadelphia, PA
What: hard rock with a blues twist
Sounds Like: elements of Cinderella and early years of Whitesnake
Formed back in 1984 around the playing and composing of guitarist/songwriter Doug Gordon the band quickly released their self titled album back in 1985. Limited to a local release Gordon held onto only vocalist Bill Mattson and revisited the remaining line up. Four years later they not only had a record deal with Atco but also the infamous producer Andy Johns recording their impressive full fledge debut Four Winds.
Apparently much like their touring partners Cinderella, Tangier were neatly wrapped up with their alleged peers of the current Glam rock scene but this was far from the truth as to the description of Tangier’s music. Sure it was straight ahead rock and roll but it was lathered in the blues thus unlike the stereotype tag they had already been given. Nevertheless Four Winds garnered some critical and commercial success with minor hits from the mid tempo bluesy tracks “On The Line” and “Southbound Train”.
With vocalist Bill Matson out and Mike LeCompte in, both highly competent within their own right, the band seamlessly followed up with their equally impressive Stranded two years later placing them right in the grunge crossfire. Despite another minor hit courtesy of the title track the music scene was in major transition and needless to say Tangier disappeared to be one of the many casualties of the Glam versus Grunge war.
However, the small but critically acclaimed label Rock Candy have just recently re-released the remastered Four Winds and the official website as recently as November of last year are reporting of working on new material and quite possibly recording in the near future. Frankly considering their mislabeling and mistiming nothing would be better than hearing Tangier come out with fresh material as so many of us missed them first time around. Here is hoping the reports are accurate.
Who: Tomi Malm
What: music steeped in West Coast AOR
Sounds Like: elements of David Foster, Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire
Though 2017 accurately represents the year of Tomi Malm’s solo debut, this Finnish composer, orchestrator and producer has been involved in European based multimedia and television thematic scores for over 25 plus years. While we received a more comprehensive sneak peak at his capabilities back in 2009 on the excellent David Foster tribute album Fly Away it is not until now that Malm has managed to break the doors wide open with his debut solo album Walkin’ On Air courtesy of the small Spanish based label Contante & Sonante.
Much like the previously mentioned tribute album, Malm brings his solid production and arrangements with a cast of talented performers but instead of highlighting the songs of the great David Foster it is his own compositions that are in the spotlight this time around. Needless to say his solo debut is simply a stylistic startling stellar showcase of his endless abilities. Adding assistance from musicians such as Simon Phillips, John JR Robinson, Neil Stubenhaus, Robbie Buchannan, Eric Marienthal and Brandon Fields only furthers the cause. Add in the talents of vocalists Frank Adahl (featured on Fly Away), former Chicago vocalist Jason Scheff, Clif Magness, the underrated Jeff Pescetto (who was featured on David Foster’s solo album River Of Love) and even the late Warren Wiebe just to name a few only adds credence to magnitude of this solo debut.
Needless to say the influences of Foster, Chicago and Earth Wind & Fire are some of the molecules found in Malm’s musical DNA but he brings his own unique West Coast silky-smooth sounds with underlying jazz, R&B and progressive tendencies. From the progressive tinged “Favor” and heavily Earth Wind & Fire influenced “Let’s Get To It” contrasting with the mellow madness found on the Warren Wiebe’s elegant vocals on “Show Me A Sign” or the sublime “Wouldn’t It Be Kinder” co- written by Cecily Gardner only makes the album eclectic and compelling.
Tomi Malm’s Fly Away tribute album was magnificent using multiple voices and some special musical friends based on his arrangements of the “Hitmaker’s” compositions. With his debut solo album we have the same ingredients with stellar results but this time we are treated to Malm’s extraordinary compositions. The results are a listening experience that certainly transcends into a heavenly musical ascension that will have you Walkin On Air and looking for more to come from this new solo artist.
Who: Red Reign
Where: Richmond, VA
What: elements of classic rock, hard rock and progressive elements
Sounds Like: elements of Van Halen, glam rocks with a touch of accessible prog roots
Formed in the summer of 2013 by the singer guitarist Carlton “Bubba” McMichael and drummer Sammy Lee had already been participants of a cover band and decided it was time to reel in retreading retro covers and form their own band. With bassist Larry Moore added to the band, guitarist Steve Shred was the final piece to the puzzle with the band in full formation by 2015.
The above configuration was quickly followed up by the impressive debut Chasing Shadows produced by David Ivory of Halestorm fame but nevertheless did not receive a lot of attention. As a result the digi-pack self titled EP Red Reign was released with impressive artwork and a remixed reproduction of four tracks from the debut album as well as the moody melancholy new track “What Is Love For”. If you missed the debut this EP would be good place to start considering the execution and playing found here.
While Red Reign does not break any new territory if you do it with the passion and well accomplish performances as found here, then it should a well received recording. With Red Reign current pending tour dates veteran California based rockers Telsa and Kix then pay attention for dates and locate them in town close to you.
Who: Black Country Communion
Where: global super group with 2 Americans and 2 Englishmen
What: steeped in old school Classic Rock and blues with a modern twist
Sounds Like: elements of Purple, Zeppelin, Dream Theater with a touch of mainstream Bonamassa
Let’s be honest!! A band that is essentially tagged as a super-group is unlikely to endure very long. And with members from Purple, Dream Theater and the legendary Jason Bonham and Joe Bonamassa it has all the elements of being labeled a super group and a short term product. And despite their impressive 3 studio recordings they apparently were still unable to avoid the self destruct super group button. But recent rumblings would strongly suggest differently.
While their debut was back in 2010, three studio albums in less than 3 years plus a double live disc represented a ridiculous rate of impressive recordings with 2012’s Afterglow being their most impressive and last studio effort to date. Back then the tabloids indicated that all was not well in the BCC camp, with no indication that the album would receive any tour support, largely due to commitments for Joe Bonamassa to promote his own recently released solo album at the time. With the voice and prime architect Glenn Hughes apparently at odds with the lack of touring, BCC fell off the face off the earth. However, 2017 is a totally different year after 5 years of silence and all indications are that BCC will be returning with an emphatic roar.
With the tentative date of September 22nd, BCC managed to bring their creative collective minds together with producer Kevin Shirley once again at the sound board to release their 4th studio album BCC IV. With the official video “Collide” already out on You Tube all indications are that this album will rock and will be riddled with Led Zeppelin and Classic Rock influences that each member will bring to the table. From performance to sound production there are all indications that there will be a sense of a live takes and unity. Out late September please be on the lookout for what just might be another classic slice of BCC!!!
Who: Jim Daneker
Where: resides in Nashville TN by way of Allentown PA
What: New Age meets Classic Crossover with a mainstream bend
Sounds Like: trailer music meets E.S. Posthumus meets wordless Michael W Smith
While totally uninitiated as a solo artist, Jim Daneker has been around quite a while. His first break came back in the 90’s when he was offered a job as a technician with Christian artist Michael W Smith, which over a 21 year period progressed into being a keyboard and music director to the artist. Add to his musical experiences of scoring for trailers and movies, there is no doubting that both of these avenues have heavily influenced his new solo debut Ad Alta . His music is inspiring, emotional and moving with a valiant approach to his arrangements and production. But to stop here would be an erroneous shortcoming in attempting to explain the kaleidoscope of brilliant colorful musical motifs you are about to be engulfed by.
Daneker’s arrangements and compositional abilities throughout this hugely impressive debut album is nothing but bold and top shelf material. The emotional outpouring of melodies and full blown arrangements are larger than life from the moody opening track “The Adventure Begins” and its broad stroke orchestral arrangements countered in fine detailed instrumentation all the way to reflective closing “The Homecoming”. In between these impressive bookends you will uncover the piano driven melancholy ballad “For Those We Love” only to find yourself later engulfed in the almost worship like “Through The Fire” followed by Celtic toe tapping “Dance Of The Redeemed” that is more than just a jig in Irish pastures. The latter is an utter full on celebration that is interlaced with pounding percussion, Uillean pipes, whistle, Irish fiddle, and handclaps with Daneker’s arrangements that will make you soar.
Ad Alta in Latin translates “to the summit” and every gorgeous invigorating 67 minutes of this music will inspire you as you journey along these continuous musical mountain peaks of 15 delirious compositions. While the year is somewhat young Ad Alta is currently the clear candidate for instrumental album of the year. And even as the album concludes with the previously mentioned reflective moments in the form of “The Homecoming”, as it fades to conclusion you will be asking yourself “What just hit me and where is the dang repeat button!!!”
Who: Dead Daises (Live & Louder)
Where: from the land down under
infiltrated by former members of
Motley Crue, Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake
What: Classic Rock for a modern world
When: year of origin 2012
Sounds Like: all things good about Classic Rock
Originating from the land down under, since 2012 the band line-up has transformed significantly with David Lowy on rhythm guitar being the lone remaining original member left. The impressive self titled debut was released within a year of their formation and two years later their follow up album Revolucion upped their intensity along with a significant line-up change to include former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi and former Whitesnake/Thin Lizzy bass player Marco Mendoza. The album even featured former Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy on a few tracks who would make a full appearance on the crunching Make Some Noise third album to also include the golden guitarist Doug Aldrich also from Whitesnake.
After a revolving door of line-up changes it is wonderful to not only see a repeat cast appearance but a high energy live album titled Live & Louder promoting their last studio album Make Some Noise. However the band does not hesitate to play tracks from the Revolucion album represented by the rhythmic “Mexico”, the melodic “Something I Said”, “With You And I” and the cover “Midnight Moses”. Unfortunately the solo visit to the debut album is courtesy of the radio played “Lock N’Load" co-written by Slash. Otherwise the remainder of the energetic fireball impeccably performed live album focuses on the new record Make Some Noise and some incredibly covers including the frolicking frenetic Grand Funk Railroad song “American Band”. Speaking of frolicking check out the behind the scenes bonus DVD that clocks in close to 70 minutes of the band having a great time that appear to be a lock n’loaded, fun and focused good time well oiled rock and roll monster of a band. While the DVD is not a carbon copy of the live concert along with four musical videos it is by no means skimpy on material.
Live & Louder clearly focuses on their latest studio album Make Some Noise which includes the stunning “Long Way To Go”, “We All Fall Down”, Make Some Noise” and an even more ripped version of “Mainline”. Live & Louder is also a representation of what they are currently doing right now….heavy touring. And if for some reason this up and coming band happens to be coming to your town then do not hesitate to shell out some dollars and support this Classic Rock band for a modern world. Guaranteed they will make some noise live and louder!!!
New Artists coming at you all the time.