Categories
Album reviews

Black Swan

BLACK SWAN – ‘GENERATION MIND’ (Frontiers) HARD ROCK

Something that Frontiers often gets criticised for is their “project” albums, where they gather a group of different musicians to make a record. The Italian label defend the practice by saying they are simply releasing new music, and sometimes they strike absolute gold. While some projects have been duds, I think most people would say the first couple of Sunstorm records with Joe Lynn Turner were well worth exploring. Revolution Saints also went down rather well, and quite a few people seemed to enjoy the Sweet & Lynch collaboration. However, Black Swan might be their greatest success.

Pitched as a “super-group” consisting of vocalist Robin McAuley (MSG), guitarist Reb Beach (Whitesnake), bassist Jeff Pilson (Foreigner) and drummer Matt Starr (Mr. Big) there was no weak link in personnel, and their debut album ‘Shake The World’ proved just that. Packed from start to finish with high quality Hard Rock, it was received with open arms, and talk of a follow-up soon started. ‘Generation Mind’ is that follow-up, and is just as good, if not better than its predecessor.

Vocally, McAuley is magnificent and absolutely owns the high octane ‘She Hides Behind’, while the title track shows how the band can mesh a hooky chorus with a solid riff. The bouncy bassline of ‘Eagles Fly’ is great, but ‘See You Cry’ is better still; a perfect example of what used to be known as radio-friendly Rock, plus it contains a glorious chorus.

Reb Beach shows exactly why he’s so highly thought of throughout this record, but honestly there’s no weak moment here – just great Rock songs like ‘Long Way Down’ that are performed and sung by top drawer talent. Crucially, and this is the reason why I think Black Swan sound so good, they have been allowed to write their own material. Frontiers can sometimes be guilty of flooding their records with in-house compositions which are often formulaic. Black Swan buck that trend, and as a result sound like an actual band rather than a sterile studio project.

The first record was great and this second is equally magnificent… if not more so. I really hope this quartet continue on, because the quality of their output makes them one of the jewels in Frontier’s crown (to my ears). Excellent!

James Gaden

Click here to buy from Amazon

Categories
Album reviews

Circle Of Friends

CIRCLE OF FRIENDS– ‘THE GARDEN’ (Escape) MELODIC ROCK

Conceived by Fireworks proprietor Bruce Mee, ‘The Garden’, which hopefully will just be the first release under the Circle Of Friends marque, started life as a personal tribute to his late mother Margaret, but has subsequently developed into something rather more.

Put together under the aegis of Escape Music’s head honcho Khalil Turk, the album offers up a frothy mix of unashamedly eighties-sounding Melodic Rock, a plethora of guest vocalists each adding their own slant to the songs. A smattering of guest guitarists – Joel Hoekstra, Tommy Denander and Steve Mann, amongst others – help provide the necessary foreground colour and structure to each track, whilst Wayne Banks (bass) and Josh Devine (drums) prove themselves to be a more-than-capable rhythm section.

Offering a mixture of covers and originals – the latter mostly written by Swedish song-writer Mikael Rosengren – it’s left to the inimitable Doro Pesch to set the ball rolling as only she can with robust opener ‘Little Piece Of Heaven’. It’s a moody, mid-paced pot-boiler of a song; its classic Bonfire-like sound, accentuated by that delicious Doro roar, hits an emotional high that is then maintained throughout.

Looking at the cover songs; as a big ABBA fan (like Bruce himself), I was immediately drawn to the muscular version of ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, with its sultry Robin Beck vocal. ‘Never Gonna Make Me Cry’ – a track from the debut Fierce Heart album – sees Beck’s spouse James Christian get in on the act, whilst the offbeat Blondie cover ’11:59’ (featuring Ellinor Asp from Hellinor) throws in a bit of a “New Wave meets Pop Rock” curveball. Pick of the bunch however, is the absolutely brilliant version of ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ which closes out the album, Robin McAuley making it all his own.

Not to be in any way overshadowed, the remaining originals also have plenty to say for themselves. The anthemic ‘Bad Blood’ is an obvious place to start; the shimmering, resonating roar of Jeff Scott Soto simply setting it alight. Then there’s the rousing ‘Trick Of The Light’ with erstwhile Headpins chanteuse Darby Mills. Finally, there’s the bright n’ breezy ‘Truth Or Dare’ with TAO’s Karen Fell, and the forthright self-penned ‘Take My Love To Heart’, featuring the dulcet tones of Jaime Kyle, which includes a great solo from Hoekstra.

Classic Melodic Rock your thing? You’ll love this then… nuff said!

Dave Cockett

Click here to buy from Amazon