With the onset of February we are getting a little busier. 2nd, Protest The Hero, 6th Del Amitri, 9th Molly Hatchet, 14th Monster Magnet, 15th Dream Theater, 19th, Sons Of Icarus, 20th Skyclad, 25th Soulfly, 26th Cadillac Three

And maybe a couple more to be added.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Best of 2011: Part 2 - The Albums

So following on from yesterday's best 25 songs, here are the best 25 albums of 2011.

I heard over 370 albums from 2011, and picking the best wasn't easy.

The worst were Glamour of the Kill and Metallica/Lou Reed, but here, in reverse order are the 25 that really floated my boat!

As always, feel free to argue, thats what Twitter is for.

So in reverse order are the top 25:

25.Neonfly Outshine The Sun
24.Black Country Communion II
23.Graveyard Hisengen Blues
22,Whitesnake Forevermore
21,Lazarus AD Black Rivers Flow
20.In Solitude The World.The Flesh. The Devil
19.The Treatment This Might Hurt
18,White Wizzard Flying Tigers
17,Rival Sons Pressure And Time
16,Malefice Awaken the Tides
15,Morbid Angel Illud Divinum Insanus
14.Exit Ten Give Me Infinity
13,Dream Theater A Dramatic Turn Of Events
12,Michael Monroe Sensory Overdrive [UK version]
11.Sylosis Edge Of The Earth
10.Electric Boys And Them Boys Done Swang
9.Evile Five Serpent's Teeth
8.Saxon Call To Arms
7.Megadeth TH1RT3EN
6.Iced Earth Dystopia
5.Black Spiders Sons Of The North
4.Gentleman's Pistols At Her Majesty's Pleasure
3.Anthrax Worship Music
2.Mastodon The Hunter
1.Symphony X Iconoclast

Friday, 30 December 2011

The End of Year Awards: Part One - The Songs

Its that time of year when all the magazines have an end of year poll.
So I thought RTM should be no exception, and over the next three days I will include my run down of the best 25 songs, best 25 albums and the best 20 gigs of 2011.

Starting tonight with the songs.

The main list is not in order of preference but rather in the order of a rather spiffing playlist I made on my Ipod (something me and may mate Donnie from www.visionsfromthearkside.blogspot.com do every year) but I will put a top five below

Tomorrow will be the top 25 albums, before I  finish on New Years day with a rundown of the best 20 gigs – seeing as that what I concern myself with reviewing on RTM I thought I would leave that until last. These are in preference order.

So maybe your favourite is on here, maybe it isn’t – if you want to argue with me on Twitter about it go ahead.

For the record though, the top five best songs of the year are:

5. Trick of the Wrist: Michael Monroe

4. Devil You Know: Anthrax

3: Misery Loves Company: The Trews

2. Life: Exit Ten

1. Curl of the Burl: Mastodon

                                                                                                                                                                                                The playlist is as follows:

Living In Sin Again
Gentleman's Pistols
At Her Majesty's Pleasure
Trick Of The Wrist
Michael Monroe
Sensory Overdrive [UK version]
The Devil You Know
Worship Music
Blood Of The Kings
Black Spiders
Sons Of The North
I Think I Saw A U.F.O
Outshine The Sun
Five Serpent's Teeth
The Devil's Rain
The King I Was
The New Black
II: Better In Black
Build Me Up, Break Me Down
Dream Theater
A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Hammer of the Gods
Call To Arms
Soul On fire
Saint Jude
Diary Of A Soul Fiend

Awaken the Tides
Misery Loves Company
The Trews
Hope & Ruin
Iced Earth
Black Rivers Flow
Lazarus A.D.
Black Rivers Flow
Tear It Down
Burn Halo
Up From The Ashes
All Over The Road
Rival Sons
Pressure And Time
Sands Of Time
Edge Of The Earth
Living A Lie
Union Black
Electric Boys
And Them Boys Done Swang
Arms of the Sea
Black Swan
Exit Ten
Give Me Infinity
Curl Of The Burl
The Hunter
Electric Messiah
Symphony X

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

THUNDER Christmas Show @Rock City Nottingham 20/12/11

When Thunder announced another retirement in 2009, there was disbelief amongst fans.
That disbelief came on two fronts. Firstly, with the band as popular as ever, no one could quite believe they were quitting again (ostensibly because frontman Danny Bowes wanted to concentrate on his day jobs of gig booking and managing bands) and secondly, no one believed that they wouldn’t be back.

So no one was too surprised when partial reformation was announced in summer so the band could play the High Voltage festival, that rapturously received performance has led to these Christmas shows – something the group often did. The first (which RTM couldn’t make) sold out so quickly that a second night was announced. This sold out too. The public, it seems, have missed Thunder.

As always at these things, the five-piece play two sets. The first is an acoustic, almost knockabout section, which sees them kick off with a bluesy “Everybody Wants Her,” and take in covers from the likes of Queen (“You’re My Best Friend”) and Rod Stewart (“You Wear It Well”).

The highlights, though are the different versions of Thunder favourites. Pete Shoulder, singer/guitarist with The Union – a band which contains both Thunder guitarist Luke Morley and Bassist Chris Childs - is guesting tonight, together with a couple of backing singers and a Hammond Organ player, and he adds his voice to a stunning “Once in a Lifetime” to provide an obvious peak, before “Just Another Suicide” brings things to a close.

After a short break (“We are just off to put our sparkly boob tubes on” says Danny) the stools are gone and the amps are plugged in. And this is what we came for.

Part two begins with “Loser,” a track that has always summed up the ethos of the band perfectly. Catchy, with a massive sing-a-long chorus, it is a tale of boy-gets-girl, ending with the line “I’m just a loser with a band.” Thunder have always been quintessentially British working class heroes, acutely aware they are privileged to be on stage rather than in the audience, and this probably accounts for their enduring popularity.

From here it is a romp through their greatest hits, their hymn to self-abuse, “The Devil Made Me Do It” is followed by a song about longing for something new “Higher Ground,” which sounds so fresh that it is easy to forget that it is over 20 years old.

There is a magnificent rendition of “Like A Satellite,” which ends with a Thin Lizzy-esque twin guitar solo from Morley and Ben Matthews, the anti-drugs "Eveybody's Laughing" and an unexpected cover of “Live and Let Die,” before “I Love You More Than Rock and Roll” brings the curtain down the main set.

An encore of “Better Man,” as usual, sees drummer Harry James take centre stage, before the ubiquitous – and always magnificent - “Dirty Love” leaves everyone with huge smiles on their faces.

That songs normally ends things but it is Christmas after all, so “Merry Christmas Everybody” performs those duties – and sees the band joined by giant inflatable Santas all over the place.

Time moves on. Morley and Childs have the aforementioned The Union, James drums with Magnum and other bands and Bowes is a busy man, but it would be a real shame if Thunder became a Christmas cabaret act. This is one of the finest rock bands on the planet; with a back catalogue to equal most and this show proves they still have plenty to offer.

Like the t-shirt they are selling downstairs says: Thunder, a great British Tradition.

Monday, 19 December 2011

SAINT JUDE, Fighting Wolves @ Birmingham Academy 2 18/12/11

Fighting Wolves have been making some waves recently. Their song “One Minute More” has been getting plenty of airplay on Planet Rock, and its not hard to see why. A catchy, rollicking, Classic Rock tune it is also the standout song in the cannon. Its not that the others are bad by any means, its just that it is the best thing they have got by a mile.
That said, the three piece are a band to keep an eye on in 2012 as their entertaining set does hint at a promising future.

The term “making waves” can comfortably be applied to Saint Jude too. That this gig is in the Academy 2 and not the little room next door is no mean feat and with celebrity endorsement from the likes of the Stones Ronnie Wood and Jimmy Page in the bag and Management from Thunder vocalist Danny Bowes, their star is definitely on the rise.

This short tour is a way for them to round off a year which has seen them gain much critical acclaim for debut album “Diary of a Soul Fiend” –  a version of which was given away last month in Classic Rock Magazine.

However - and lets be honest here - the patronage of Wood, Page and anybody else matters for nothing if the songs don’t cut it and they certainly do

Their trump card is front-woman Lynne Jackaman, the public face of the group. She possesses a quite astonishing voice, and is a very charismatic figure. But there is more to the group than the singer, the band behind her contains blues guitar hero Marcus Bonafanti and he together with fellow axeman Ivor Sims are more than content to leave her in the limelight while they kick out the blues licks in the shadows. Joining them are bassist Scott Wiber and drummer Lee Cook, with the band becoming a six piece on occasion with the addition of a Hammond Organ player.

Kicking off their 75 minute set with the Stones-esque “Little Queen” is a shrewd move as it showcases their talents perfectly. Jackaman explains that they intend to play some new songs this evening that may or may not form part of their second album – due to land next year. The new stuff sounds good too, with a track called “Sweet Melody” complete with a harmonica solo, probably sounds like the most immediate.

Not surprisingly it’s the “….Soul Fiend” stuff that sounds best, though. “Pleased To Meet You,” – which sees Jackaman sing “I’ll be rising, as you are going down,” positively oozes sex and the largely acoustic duo of “Angel” and “Down and Out” showcase the versatility of the band, while main set closer “Soul on Fire” is perhaps Saint Jude’s best known track and it is expertly delivered and puts the gloss on a fine evening.

Rather like Rival Sons and Graveyard Saint Jude aren’t re-inventing the wheel, but they are finding a way to make the old stuff sound fresh and exciting again.

Retro never sounded quite so good.

Friday, 16 December 2011

GINGER AND FRIENDS, Hawk Eyes @Wolves Wulfrun 15/12/11

Even if, like me, you think the only good thing about Christmas is the four football matches that come in ten days there are certain traditions that have to be upheld at this time of year.
So along with lying my out of my work’s Christmas do and generally not doing anything remotely sociable there is the Ginger Christmas show.

It used to be Wildhearts Christmas Show but those days – for now at least – appear to be over, so the Ginger Christmas show is the next best thing.

First though, Hawk Eyes and the Leeds band acquit themselves reasonably well. Blessed with a couple of very fine songs indeed, in the Groop Dogdrill-esque “Scorpieau” and the post-hardcore romp of “I Hate This Do You Like It?” the band formally known as Chickenhawk are a decent way to spend half an hour waiting for Ginger.

One day the history of the man known to his mother as David Walls will be written (indeed RTM would love to do it if anyone so desired…) and as such there is not time or space to list his achievements and misdemeanors over the last 20 thrilling years.

What is certain, though, is that with the Wildhearts and his various offshoots Ginger has excited us, thrilled us, left us baffled, annoyed us, deliberately anatagonised us …and left us with a collection of the finest music ever made.

He has also kept a loyal hardcore following, most of whom rabidly and slavishly buy his records – and that is what tonight is about. This is Ginger (and Friends) preaching to – and celebrating with – the converted.

And boy, does he have a lot of friends! The band is a six piece. Long time companions Denzil and Jon Poole are there on drums and bass respectively. They are joined by Black Halos/Loyalties man Rich James, Chris Catalyst both playing guitars and a woman called Ingrid who dances and sings backing vocals. The rather chaotic look to all this is topped off by Mr. Wildheart himself wearing Kiss make up for the first few songs. Drink, you suspect, has been taken. It could be an odd night.

The vibe coming from this tour is to expect the unexpected. Not just the Wildhearts greatest hits that these shows sometimes become. Even allowing for that when the band take to the stage to the opening strands of “Inglorious,” It’s still something of a shock. They won’t play the whole thing, surely? They do. And they follow it with “The Hard Way.” This is not just Ginger going through the motions with some mates; this is a night for the anoraks like me to rejoice.

And we do just that for 85 glorious minutes as B sides (“Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”) mix with seldom played stuff like “Splattermania,” “Something Weird (Going On In My Head) and “Inner City Overture.”

There are some of the staples played, of course, with “Vanilla Radio” as chirpy as ever, a fluffed “Suckerpunch” and a closing one-two of “29X The Pain” and “I Wanna Go Where The People Go,” while “This Revolution Will Be Televised” is transformed into a sing-a-long about You Tube sensation Fenton the dog.

Tonight is Ginger and Friends having fun, taking chances and its all the better for it. If we must usher in the festive season we might as well do it like this.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

MARILLION, Tin Spirits @Birmingham Institute 13/12/11

Tonight is one of those nights where you might feel like an outsider.

In fact, I should imagine that this is what it feels like to be at an Iron Maiden gig if you aren’t totally besotted with the band.

This you see, is a Marillion show. And more than that, its RTM’s first ever Marillion show and if that’s not enough, whisper it quietly, we aren’t totally familiar with every nuance of every song in the back catalogue.

Marillion, are one of those bands, like Maiden that people don’t just enjoy, but they live. This is something that Tin Spirits  are well acquainted with. The Spirits were the opening act at this years Marillion weekender, so they know what they are up against.

The group might have former XTC man Dave Gregory amongst their ranks, but that doesn’t cut any ice around here. It helps then, that actually their brand of Prog rock is actually very good. As well as their own material (“this one goes on for 13 minutes, so its gotta be good, right?” Says frontman Daniel Steinhardt) they play a smattering of covers, with a particularly impressive “Tom Sawyer” and a nod to the XTC back catalogue with “Senses Working Overtime.”

But what everyone is waiting for is Marillion. Probably the biggest underground band in Britain, their days at the top are way behind them. Now they run things like a cottage industry. They release their own records, do what they like – tonight is even promoted by Marillion, - they have an army of loyal followers and, as such is all but sold out.

They kick things off with a haunting and slow building “Splintering Heart,” singer Steve Hogarth starting solo before being joined by the rest of the band, that sets the tone for the set. Superbly played and rapturously received, here is an evening that is not going to disappoint.

Hogarth is an entertaining and engaging frontman, taking the mishap when his piano isn’t connected to an amp in his stride, and the band behind him is in fine form. Steve Rothery’s guitar work is stunning and is ably backed up by Mark Kelly on the keys.

Highlights are difficult to pick out but a magnificent “Man of a Thousand Faces” is close to being the standout, as is set closer “Neverland.”

There’s a costume change for the first encore “The Invisible Man” before a second which sees Hogarth say to the crowd “shut up while we play the hit single” and the unmistakable opening bars of “Kayleigh” transform the place into a giant party, which “Three Minute Boy” does nothing to diminish.

At this point you realise over two hours has flown by as the masters of Brit Prog rock have given a masterclass. I might be an outsider, but when something is this good you can’t fail to enjoy it.

DOGS D'amour, Lucky Strikes @Academy 3 Birmingham 11/12/11

When Lucky Strikes stroll out on stage dressed in their shirts and suits and with a fiddle player you are not quite sure what to expect. What you get is actually a pretty entertaining set from a rather quirky English folk band.

The Southend band use the fiddle as the lead instrument, which is interesting, an accordion solo fills one of the tracks and there is a song about Southend Pier. Not the sort of band RTM usually sees, but one which we are glad we were there early enough for.

For Dogs D’amour this is something of a hometown show. Tyla is a native of Wolverhampton and he has been a rather erratic fixture of the British Rock scene for getting on for 25 years. At various points in those decades the Dogs have been both hotly tipped and disbanded and are one of a slew of excellent British bands – the Wildhearts being the most obvious example – that would have achieved more if they hadn’t pressed the self destruct button just once too often.

But now they are resurrected – with the usual totally different line-up - for a small pre-Christmas jaunt, and if not quite ready to take on the world again they are at least here for a good time.

Or at least so it seems initially, with a convivial Tyla leading the crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for his sister before getting down to business. And that business initially is booming. “Supreme Creation” and “Last Bandit” are good ways to start any show after all, and when you follow up with “Heroine” you are looking at a damn fine evening.

But then the sound suddenly becomes dreadful, with a horrible screeching feedback rendering Timo Kalito’s guitar work unlistenable. The notoriously volatile front man gets agitated. “This place needs a lot of work doing to it,” he says, before cutting the song short.

“No Gypsy Blood” is dedicated to Jackie Leven, the Scottish folk singer who died recently but when the only response from the crowd is “who’s that?” Tyla sneers, “Wikipedia.”

They encore with “How Come It Never Rains” and “Satellite Kid” but the sound gremlins have returned and neither sounds too great. “Happy Christmas” says Tyla “we’ll see you again.” But when they do, I will bet you it is not at the Academy.

Not, you suspect, an evening that anyone connected with The Dogs enjoyed too much, but I hope Trisha had a good birthday anyway.

Blaze Bayley, Disarm Goliath @Route 44 Birmingham 10/11/12

It is one of life’s horrible ironies that when RTM walks into Route 44 Blaze Bayley is at the Merchandise stand saying hello to people, and while he is doing this Iron Maiden’s “Wicker Man” is blasting out through the speakers.

There isn’t time for the back story here, but Blaze has been to the top as the singer of the worlds greatest band, now he’s well….at the other end of the scale, playing to 50 people in Acocks Green. “Your time has come” sings Bruce Dickinson – the man who Blaze replaced and then subsequently replaced him again in 2000 – and Blaze surely wouldn’t be human if he didn’t have a pang of jealousy.

2011 has been a challenging year for the singer, one which has seen him disband the previous incarnation of the group due to financial pressures (a real shame as they were fantastic), have to battle the bailiffs and go back to a full time job.

Thankfully at least it is ending on a high, though, with the reunited Wolfsbane playing sold out shows and releasing a brilliant and ambitious new album and the resumption of his other career as a solo artist – this is the more metal of the two, and the incarnation, you suspect, that Blaze himself prefers.

He has certainly got a fine support band for this pre-Christmas trek. Stourbridge’s Disarm Goliath . The five piece have long been – in the RTM’s opinion anyway – the best unsigned band in the Midlands, and now they are ready to spread the word further afield.

You know the drill, you know the reference points, Priest, Maiden, Dio, a little bit of Merciful Fate here and there, but it is delivered with such conviction and skill that a little familiarity does no harm at all. “Who Rules The Night” and “Enter The Abyss” are standout moments and augur well for the upcoming debut album and they find time to air “Breaking the Law” too. Magnificent. Now lets make them stars shall we?!

If there was any justice in the world Blaze Bayley would be a star too, but he seems genuinely appreciative of the support he gets from his loyal followers, thanking us “for giving me the opportunity to share my songs with people who love this music.”

He deserves more, of course, in 2008 he released the “Man Who Would Not Die” album, which is right up there with any metal album of the last 10 years, and as always he plays a smattering from this record together with some from the more recent “Promise and Terror” with “Watching The Night Sky” particularly impressive.

“Ghost in the Machine” is delivered with its usual passion and “Kill and Destroy” is turned into a singalong, it is a magnificent and uplifting collection of songs.

The problem – if that be the right word – is the spectre of Maiden itself and those years he spent behind the mic stand in the 1990s.  Stellar solo song “Voices from the Past” always seems apt when it’s sung, because Blaze peppers these shows with songs from his Irons days, and they are excellent of course, but “Virus” aside, which is a welcome addition, you want him to leave the history behind and focus on his own superb repertoire. A fact he acknowledges himself when he admits he will be moving away from so many Maiden songs next time around.

The Blaze Bayley band returns next year with a World Tour and an album entitled King of Metal. And, whilst that name might not be quite true, he definitely remains the Crown Prince and beating heart of its underground.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Dan Baird and Homemade Sin @Leicester Musician 9/12/11

In the late 80s I was given a Chart Show Rock compilation. On that three tape collection there was a track called “Battleship Chains” by The Georgia Satellites. I couldn’t stop playing it. It sounded fun, it sounded exciting, it sounded magnificent.

The experience led me to investigate the Satellites (I vividly remember dragging my Dad to the library so I could get their album “Open All Night”) then as I got older I discovered Credence Clearwater Revival and Dan Baird’s solo material and it sounded fun, it sounded exciting and magnificent.

And so it is, over twenty years later that RTM finds itself in Leicester watching the former Satellites front man Dan Baird playing a gig with his band Homemade Sin. It is the first time in those two decades of following Dan that I have seen him headline, indeed the only other time I have seen him live was at the much-missed JB’s with The Quireboys a couple of years ago.

Happily the venue itself is exactly the sort of place this type of music needs. Essentially a pub with a stage at one end, The Musician is the sort of place where music matters.

You suspect it matters to Dan and Homemade Sin too, you just know that the group has a decent record collection and do this for the love of it. That’s what you hope anyway.

They definitely are a band that thrives on spontaneity. From my vantage point, I am surprised that there is no setlist. But this, it emerges later, is how thing are done round here. So alongside original material like “Damn Thing To Be Done” and “Julie And Lucky” an impromptu cover of “Honky Tonk Woman” is played just for fun.

It helps that in guitarist Warner E Hodges (of Jason and the Scorchers) Baird has found his perfect foil, a fantastically talented man, Hodges is perhaps the most gregarious of the band, whirling around like some demented Pete Townshend during Satellites classic “Railroad Steel,” which along with “Two For Tuesday” from the most recent album forms sort of the centerpiece of the gig.

Not that Bassist Keith Christopher and drummer Mauro Magellan are slouches either and the band is clearly enjoying each others company as both get their turns in the spotlight.

After a cover of “Tears of a Clown” (Baird telling the crowd “I call the set, I will play it if I want”) its time for “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” and “Shelia, Shelia,” both Satellite staples.

Despite the curfew having long since passed there is time for an encore, and after “Younger Face” the evening closes on, if we are being honest, on its only duff note. A cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless” a fine song in its own right, of course and expertly played, but not the sort of track to close a night such as this.

Dan Baird and Homemade Sin are the sort of band that deserve to be household names, but equally they are the sort of band that you are glad aren’t, so you can see them in a place like this. And maybe, just maybe, that’s what they think too.

This is the sort of evening that makes you remember why you love rock 'n' roll in the first place. Now I can say for sure that Dan Baird is exciting, fun and magnificent.

Whitesnake @Wolves Civic Hall 8/12/11

David Coverdale has had a birthday since he was last in these parts. “I was a sprightly 59 the last time I saw you,” he says. “Now I am 60….”

Not that onset of old age has dampened his libido, within minutes, he is thanking a woman at the front for showing her “magnificent breasts” to him as they “are all the inspiration I need.” But ever the English country Gent soon after that he is accepting a Christmas presents from the audience. And so it is in the world of Whitesnake.

By any stretch of the imagination Coverdale’s 60th year has been a good one. New album “Forevermore” has received much critical acclaim and tonight is Whitesnake’s second nearly sold-out show at this venue in six months, it is also the last night of the World Tour.

This incarnation of Whitesnake is as good as any, since the heydey. Twin guitarists Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich are supremely talented, and drummer Brian Tichhy is a flamboyant presence behind the kit. The elephant in the room, however is Coverdale himself, because whilst the old boy looks good and remains a front man of the highest order,  his voice was, shall we say, a little hit and miss at that show in June.

So it is a relief then that he seems on form as the opening strands of “Bad Boys” hit. The set list is more or less the same as last time, but that’s not really an issue when you are dealing with a stellar back catalogue such as the one Whitesnake posses.

As before, after around 45 minutes, the front man disappears and the guitarists duel, then it’s the drummer’s turn (and if you want to see a drum solo played with knives then look no further…I am not kidding!)

It is the second half of the mammoth two hour 10 minutes set that sees the band cut loose. The band intros include snippets of songs as diverse as Hendrix’s “Fire” and “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. There’s an impromptu rendition of “Slide it In” (we are only putting it in a little bit” says Coverdale.)

Then it happens. Santa turns up and begins chucking goodie bags into the crowd, which is all fine and very cheesy, before all eyes turn stage right. “We have a surprise for you ladies and gentlemen,” says David, “Santa has brought my old friend Bernie Marsden with him” and the veteran former ‘Snake – who has been appearing occasionally with the band after making up with Coverdale – is back playing “Fool For You Lovin’” and “Still of the Night” and it becomes less of a gig and more of a celebration.

There is a nod to the front man’s Deep Purple days with a run through of “Burn” before  a life affirming evening of genuine warmth ends with Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White(snake) Christmas.”

As the man himself might well say, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Whitesnake in your stocking.