Bat Out Of Hell musical

The musical Bat Out Of Hell follows Strat, the forever young leader of The Lost who has fallen for Raven, daughter of Falco, the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian (basically a private tower block to keep the riff raff out!). It is written by Jim Steinman and of course features many of his songs sung by Meat Loaf on the legendary ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ album and ‘Bat Out Of Hell 2’. The stage set is very inventive and impressive – I won’t give any spoilers! You don’t go to musicals like this for a plot, more to see the spectacle and hear the classic songs sung by a very talented cast. Being a Jim Steinman production you know it will be OTT and there are motorbikes, flames – all manner of audio and visual effects.

At times the show reminded me a little of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ (and of course Meat Loaf appeared and sang in the film) with some camp humour and various cast members in a state of undress. Songs like ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ and ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’ worked particularly well on stage, plus of course the show’s title song was a literally show stopper. Simple really, go see the show as it has it all – the songs, the cast and the spectacle. One of the few shows I have come away from and immediately wished I could see it again.

Go see it before it closes its limited run on 22 August and then it is off to Canada.

Gig review: BOOTLEG BEATLES – Royal Albert Hall, 1 June 2017

The Bootleg Beatles were performing tonight with the Liverpool Philharmonic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic albums of all time, ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The sold out Royal Albert Hall provides a suitably grandiose setting for the evening.

The poet Roger McGough started the evening off with a potted history of the Beatles and their musical influences which led up to the making of the album. Of course Roger McGough is no stranger himself to the pop charts having been a member of the Scaffold (who also featured Paul McCartney’s brother Mike in their ranks). He had an easy storytelling style adding in a few one liners and some of his poetry.

The Bootleg Beatles have been touring since 1980 and feature none of the original members – perhaps that makes them a tribute act of themselves?!

Having a full orchestra was a master stroke as they played a series of snippets from songs that influenced the Beatles. After this the Bootleg Beatles took to the stage, each one dressed as the Beatles appeared on the album cover. Strange to think that for such a classic album the original band never performed it live.

Read the full review here

A beginner’s guide to Queen…

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Queen, along with ELO, are my two favourite bands out of the many bands and artists I enjoy listening to. I have been a fan of Queen since first seeing their classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ video on ‘Top Of The Pops’ back in 1975 at the tender age of seven! It would be a few more years until I got my hands on some vinyl by the band and this came in the shape of 1980’s ‘The Game’ which I eagerly opened on Christmas Day and have played regularly ever since. For me this is my favourite Queen album and the band’s first to use synths, something they were always proud of stating they didn’t use on pervious albums. There are the obvious hits ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ but for me tracks like ‘Save Me’, ‘Play The Game’, ‘Rock It (Prime Jive)’ and ‘Dragon Attack’ (with a great Roger Taylor drum solo) that make this album classic to these ears.

Of course Queen started way earlier than 1980 and after the pre-Queen band Smile folded (click here for an interview with Smile member TIM STAFFELL) the band unleashed their self-titled debut album in 1973. Some cracking hard rockers on here like ‘Liar’ (again some neat drumming form Roger Taylor on this one) and ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. By ‘Queen II’ with its White and Black side the band start to hit their stride – listen to ‘March Of The Black Queen’ or ‘Ogre Battle’, big guitar riffs and some of the heaviest songs the band have recorded. There is some light relief though in the beautiful ‘Father To Son’.

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‘Sheer Heart Attack’ is after ‘The Game’ my next fave Queen album. Check out Brian May’s guitar orchestra on ‘Now I’m Here’ or the pomptastic ‘Lap Of The Gods’ (both parts). As ever Queen will tackle any genre they fancy and ‘Bring Back Leroy Brown’ recalls the 1930’s in the US. ‘A Night At The Opera’ followed and features the classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But again the delights lie in Queen’s ability to cross genres with the blissful ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ and ‘Good Company’ with Brian May on ukulele. ‘A Day At The Races’ (like its predecessor ‘ANATO’ getting its title from a Marx Brothers film) is a mixed bag – ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy’ are classics and listening again to ‘Drowse’ it has grown on me over the years – never liked it much when I first heard it.

‘News Of The World’ has the two crowd anthems ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’ plus the almost punk like ‘Sheer Heart Attack’. ‘Jazz’ sees a slight dip although ‘Bicycle Race’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ make it worth getting. ‘The Game’ and a soundtrack to ‘Flash Gordon’ came next, the latter is for fans only bar the hit single ‘Flash’ and ‘The Battle’ just to hear Brian Blessed’s voice! One to avoid is ‘Hot Space’, an ill advised attempt at funk although ‘Put Out The Fire’ and ‘Action This Day’ are good but ‘Cool Cat’ is frankly shit.

1984 saw ‘The Works’ with the band back in the top 10 singles thanks to ‘Radio Ga-Ga’. ‘Keep On Passing The Open Windows’ and ‘Hammer To Fall’ are classics – lots of guitar, the band’s layered harmonies – superb stuff! ‘A Kind Of Magic’ was part soundtrack to the excellent fantasy film ‘Highlander’ but ‘Pain Is So Close To Pleasure’ is quite possibly the worst thing the band have ever recorded – imagine Freddie Mercury fronting the Supremes! ‘The Miracle’ has its moments with the title track, ‘I Want It All’ and ‘Invisible Man’. But a few too many fillers on here like ‘Scandal’ and ‘My Baby Does Me’. ‘Innuendo’ the final studio album released before Freddie Mercury’s death saw the band return to their epic, pomp rock in the title track which along with ‘Headlong’ and ‘Days Of Our Lives’ (which always brings a tear to my eyes, a very heartfelt goodbye from Freddie) see Queen back on top of their game. ‘Made In Heaven’ saw the band complete songs Freddie had started including ‘Heaven For Everyone’ and ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’. A very mellow and reflective album and a fitting end to the Freddie Mercury years.

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Brain May and Roger Taylor have continued with Paul Rodgers (FREE/BAD COMPANY) on vocals. Some Queen fans don’t like this especially as Paul Rodgers sings some Free and Bad Company songs  when the band play live. Now they have US singer Adam Lambert fronting them, a much more flamboyant character and certainly matches Freddie in the showmanship stakes. Roger’s son Rufus (also a member of the Darkness) joins him on drums when they play live. No new material has been released with Lambert, although never say never…

Quick mention to their live releases – buy any with confidence bar ‘Live Magic’ which is edited and not worth getting unless you are a completist. ‘Live Killers’ is the one for me though – I still remember school lunch hours spent air guitaring to this one along with two fellow Queen nutters, one of whom loved to launch himself off a desk during the heavy bit in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…

A beginner’s guide to Blue Oyster Cult

Posted this one back in 2008 on the Rock ‘N’ Roll Oatcake. Thought I would re-visit it as the band play UK dates next month, including their first dates outside of London for nearly five years. Still no likelihood of a new album, the band say there is no market for new material from them. However, I’d say there is even as they could use a crowdfunding source to pay for the recording and even an EP would be welcome. Even Styx have managed to record their first new album of all new songs, ‘The Journey’ in sixteen years and Cheap Trick are hitting a real purple patch releasing another new album in June, ‘We’re All Alright!’ hot on the heels of last year’s excellent album ‘Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello’.

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Formed from the late 60’s band Soft White Underbelly BOC are often dubbed ‘the thinking man’s heavy metal band’. But for me they are much more hard rock and even melodic rock than metal! I have never quite twigged with their earlier albums bar the excellent ‘Secret Treaties’ album, their first ‘must have’ in my book. Although the ‘Agents Of Fortune’ album had ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ on it, overall it is a 6/10.

What you need instead is ‘Spectres’ with ‘Golden Age Of Leather’, the 60’s pop rocker ‘Fireworks’ and the awesome ‘Godzilla’. ‘Fire Of Unknown Origin'(1981) is another must have with ‘Joan Crawford’ and ‘In Thee’. Also grab ‘Cultosarus Erectus'(1980) with the wicked ‘Lips In Hills’ and ‘Black Blade’.

But their finest albums for me are ‘Revolution By Night’ (1983) and ‘Imaginos’ (1988). The latter is more Albert Bouchard, then BOC drummer joined by BOC and many session players including Joe Satrianni.

Eric Bloom & Buck Dharma keep the flame alive playing biker bars and hog roasts in the US plus regular UK & European tours.  Sadly keys/guitarist Allen Lanier passed away in 2013. 

On a side note if you ever see an album by Deadringer called ‘Electrocution Of The Heart’ grab it as it features BOC’s Buck Dharma plus ex-BOC bassist Joe Bouchard & ex-Alice Cooper Band members with Charlie Huhn on vocals. Cracking 80’s hard rock album!

…and they tour the UK in June…

17/06 Indigo, London
25/06 MANCHESTER Academy Oxford Road
26/06 NEWCASTLE Northumbria University
28/06 NOTTINGHAM Rock City
29/06 GLASGOW O2 ABC

MICHAEL BOLTON – Everybody’s Crazy

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Originally released back in 1985 this is a classic melodic rock/AOR album from Michael Bolton before he became the housewives’ choice following a more soul/easy listening path. Mind you that way made him very famous and helped sell lots of albums!

Listening to this one again following the announcement of his ‘From The Cinema’ collection due next year on February 10 via Frontiers. The album features a host of top notch session players seen on many a linear note on melodic rock albums of the 80’s. Musicians included sax player Mark Rivera, Mark Mangold (Touch/Drive, She Said), Bruce Kulick (Kiss) and Terry Brock (Strangeways), plus most of cult melodic rock band Balance, namely Denis Feldman, Peppy Castro and Chuck Burghi (Rainbow).

Not a duff song on here from the rocking title track through to the ballad ‘Call My Name’, Michael Bolton shows off his immense vocal talent. The synths/keys are all over ‘Can’t Turn It Off’, complete with some blistering guitar solos from Bruce Kulick – a prime example of classy 80’s melodic rock.

The hair and musical style may have changed, but he still has the voice and maybe one day he will fancy rocking out again…

ELBOW – Leaders of the Free World

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Originally released in 2005, this is Elbow’s third album and for me their best to date. Guy Garvey has a wonderfully emotive vocal, very distinctive and ideally suited to the band’s music. Picks on here are the title tack and ‘Forget Myself’, plus ‘Station Approach’ which is a moving tale of the homecoming of Guy Garvey to his native Bury. ‘Mexican Standoff’ is about the meeting between you, your partner and your partner’s ex set to a musical backing of flamenco handclaps! The band cite Genesis, Radiohead and Talk Talk as influences and you can certainly hear bits of these bands throughout the album.

Elbow are now an arena straddling beast and I must admit I didn’t take to their last album, however they have a fine catalogue of music and this album is a good a place as any to start if you are new to their music.

DEMON – British Standard Approved

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Demon’s fourth album was originally released in 1985 and sadly shortly after it was recorded guitarist Mal Spooner passed away. Spooner was joined on the album by vocalist Dave Hill and drummer John Wright from the previous album, ‘The Plague’ and two new members – keyboards player Steve Watts and bassist Gavin Sutherland (of the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver fame).

It is a progressive rock album at its heart, with a basis on a last great ship and a farewell to the British Empire. The boat on the album’s cover looks like the ‘Titanic’ and their are references to the boat on certain songs. The band really expanded their musical sound on here, be it a recorder added to the wonderful ‘Touching The Ice’ (one of the band’s finest songs in my humble opinion) or the more upbeat and commercial rock of ‘Wonderland’. The band really went to town on the special effects and musical arrangements.

If you enjoy progressive rock this album comes highly recommended, along with the band’s ‘The Plague’ album.