Thursday, June 28, 2012

KICK THE KANGAROO - Bits & Pieces (2003)

Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

KICK THE KANGAROO was formed at the beginning of the nineties in Denmark by high school mates who wanted to rock. The line-up included guitarist Søren Andersen who has played in the Glenn Hughes Band and many Scadinavian acts, and it's current Mike Tramp lead guitar man.

After 10 years playing together, the band debuted in 2000 with the self-produced 'Sounds Like a Bad Joke', followed in 2002 by this "Bits & Pieces".
Both spawned a couple radio hits in their homeland and Australia. Not strange, as they took the name Kick The Kangaroo as homage to Australian rock, which sound and style are impregnated in their music.
Indeed, Kick The Kangaroo plays a polished guitar-Rock&Pop with highly addictive melodies that reminds you aussie bands such as Invertigo or End Of Fashion, but also American radio rock in a style resembling 2000's Honeymoon Suite, Glen Burtnick and Mark Spiro or even late nineties Nelson.

The album starts with the uptempo, guitar driven melodic rock tune "Something Else" that echoes Mark Spiro's nineties material.
"Last Kiss" is an extremely commercial radio rocker, energetic and instantly catchy (on some places reminds me Neverland), which is followed by the wondrous "Human Inspiration", a contagious marching rock with a great refrain.
"I Would Do Anything" is more relaxed, with a more classic rock approach and some hints of Cheap Trick, but all wrapped into a modern sound.
"The Girl (I Really Loved)" has a brilliant pop-rock chorus where singer Michael Lund (who sports a velvety voice) drives the track in the vein of another Aussie band: Savage Garden.
We have other well crafted tunes mixing laid back sounds with more uptempos, being remarkable the party-ready "Smile" and the melodius and energetic "Perfect Day".

Kick The Kangaroo attracted the now defunct Swedish label Atenzia, and "Bits & Pieces" was re-released in 2003 with the hope to break them in other markets as well.
This Atenzia version has a different red coloured artwork and contains all songs from the original Danish release except for two; "Why" and "Goodbye" (I have added both tracks as bonuses) that were replaced by 3 songs from their debut (I Would Do Anything","The Girl I Really Loved" and "Straight To The Sun").

"Bits & Pieces" is a very good album in this style, with solid and well arranged songs plenty of fine melodies. Production is excellent, quite polished and organic.
Pretty rare and out of print.

01 - Something Else
02 - Last Kiss
03 - Human Inspiration
04 - I Would Do Anything
05 - The Girl (I Really Loved)
06 - Demons And Ghosts
07 - Smile
08 - Throw Me Out
09 - Perferct Day
10 - Think About The Rain
11 - Beautiful Someone
12 - Straight To The Sun
Extra tracks from the Danish release;
13 - Why
14 - Goodbye

Michael Lund: Lead vocals & add. guitar
Søren Andersen: Guitar & backing vocals
Lars Andresen: Keyboards & backing vocals
Jesper Haugaard: Bass & backing vocals
Rasmus Koch: Drums & backing vocals


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

JUMPSTREET - Follow Her Home Tonight (1984)

Requested by Kissmar

Hailing from Minneapolis, singer James Walsh (ex- Gypsy) founded JUMPSTREET in 1980 recruiting local musicians.
For the next 9 years the band toured the Upper-Midwest becoming one of the most sought after acts in the area.

In 1984 Jumpstreet released privately their sole album "Follow Her Home Tonight" (only vinyl) which won the 'Best Album of the Year' from the Minnesota Music Awards.
The band style is a mix of American AOR, West Coast and Radio-Rock with the classic sound and vibe of the era.
At the time, James Walsh was an experienced musician, having released four albums with Gypsy, one of them through a major label (MCA). "Follow Her Home Tonight" was produced by himself so expect a quality polished sound a bar above of the common indie releases.

As said, there's a blend of genres in this recording, although stylistically all are very close.
Title track "Follow Her Home Tonight" opens the vinyl in a classic rockin' AOR vein, a combustive tune delivering fantastic guitar riffs, marching rhythm and 'those' keyboards. The vocal line is strongly melodic and the chorus simply irresistible. I love this stuff, this track alone worth the entire disc.
Follower "Just A Waste Of Time" is more relaxed, a lite AOR leaning into a more mechanistic structure, supported by cloudy synths. Quite interesting track that reminds me an old Beau Coup song.
"How I Feel About You" is a very good West Coast ballad, although sonically is pretty soft melodic rock oriented in a The Synch / Sheriff / Freddy Curci style.
"(And They) Don't Even Know" has as well a West Coast foundation but on the uptempo side. The percussion and specially the pre-chorus recalls early Toto. This is a really finely elaborated track, much more than the first listen can expose.

'Side B' opens with a poppy tune. "Ordinary People" is a stylized funk / AC track, not 'ordinary' for sure. Driven by a pumping bass line, the general orchestration is truly pop but the arrangements and class in the playing are, as mentioned earlier, above of the expected for an indie band / album. A pop song, yes, but with tons of charm and quality.
"Someone Is Always On Your Mind" is a light and ethereal West Coast affair, where Sneaker and Donald Fagen comes to mind. Great harmony vocals here.
With "You Touch Me Here" Jumpstreet returns to quality rock oriented AOR, a killer track with the '80s 'horror / action movie' atmosphere that we all love. Think Franke And The Knockouts but more driving, particularly in the sharp guitar work. A winner!
Last track "New Romance (It's A Mystery to Me)" is a cover from Holly Knight's band Spider (also covered by Lisa Hartman in her 'Letterock' album). A cool and pleasant radio rocker.

"Follow Her Home Tonight" is an impressive recording considering its indie pedigree. Production is excellent and the arrangements have great emphasis on details, almost clinical.
At first listen it's easy listening and likeable, but after repeated playing and a more meticulous inspection you'll find a solid songwriting process and juicy instrumentation. A little gem I would say.
An obscure and extremely rare piece that deserves to be discovered.
Audio restored by me. Enjoy.

01 - Follow Her Home Tonight
02 - Just A Waste Of Time
03 - How I Feel About You
04 - (And They) Don't Even Know
05 - Ordinary People
06 - Someone Else Is Always On Your Mind
07 - You Touch Me Here
08 - New Romance (It's A Mystery)

James Walsh: Piano & All Lead Vocals
Bobby Jones: Bass & Vocals
Lee Holm: Guitars & Vocals
Rob Steinberg: Keyboards
Mark (Chico) Perez: Percussion & Vocals
Brad Swagger: Drums, Percussion
Pat Mackin: Sax Solos on 4, 5


Monday, June 11, 2012

BILLY KATT (Greatest American Hero) - Secret Smiles (1982)

Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

Eighties nostalgics should remember William Katt.
This prolific Hollywood actor always be remembered for his main role on 'The Greatest American Hero' TV series during 1981-86. But he has been part of major movies such as the classic 'Carrie' or the comedy / horror 'House (1986)' flick as well.

Due the success of 'Greatest American Hero' first season, his management decided to exploit William's vocal studies and inked a deal with MCA for a LP.
Released under the moniker 'Billy Katt', "Secret Smiles" failed to chart and quickly went out of print.
The truth is that William at the mic isn't bad at all. In fact many songs here are really well performed and production is fine. Style-wise this LP is basically radio rock & pop oriented with the typical early '80s sound.
The vinyl is a collector's piece among Westcoast fans, as some slow tunes here go in that direction. "China" is the 'action-movie' uptempo AOR track on the album, and a quite good one, in the Frank Stallone's 'Far From Over' vein.

OK, let me tell you this rip does not meet the quality standards of this blog, but the LP is so hard to find (and was requested by a reader) that I decided to post it anyway, after a restoring audio job by me. It sounds, at least, decent.
Nice cheesy '80s stuff.

01 - Sleeping Beauty
02 - A Girl Like You
03 - Secret Smiles
04 - China
05 - One Night
06 - Nobody's Fool
07 - Winter Love
08 - Wrote A Letter
09 - By The Sea

Vocals: William 'Billy' Katt
Guitars: Bobby Donati, John Goux, Billy Katt, John McFee, Steve Trovato
Keyboards: Sandy Berman
Bass: Mark B. Murphy
Drums: Chet McCracken, David Platshon
Percussion: Tony Papa
Strings, Horns: Mike Linn
Background Vocals : Mark B. Murphy, Sandy Berman, Rosemary Butler, Billy Katt, Billy Kirkland

BILLY KATT - Secret Smiles

Thursday, June 07, 2012

PUBLIC DOMAIN - Radio Nights (1997)

Requested in "Request & Fill Corner" section...

PUBLIC DOMAIN was a studio project put together by keyboard player David Young and singer Billy Trudel, who used to be Elton John's backing vocalist and has recorded with Warpipes and Marc Jordan among others.
The album is plenty of laid back, smooth AOR tunes mixed with '80s FM radio rock oriented songs, although the overall production sound is pretty nineties.
There are a tasteful blend of electric & acoustic guitars, traditional keyboards (not synth based) and of course beautiful vocal harmonies constructed by all the band members.

Billy Trudel has a soulful and melodic voice that shines on the slower numbers such as "Saving Grace", "No Shame" or "Confetti".
But the man also can rock on the uptempo tracks, as on the Tyketto-like title track "Radio Nights", the anthemic "Shadow Of Eden", the rocking "Immortal Way" that reminds me Kyle Vincent and the acoustically wrapped "Clues".
"Marching On" is a strong mid-tempo AOR track with a great vibe, sporting a radio ready chorus supported by layers of backing vocals.
The ballad "Crimes Of Passion" was written by Elton John / Bernie Taupin and given to Trudel to use for this album. A typical dramatic Taupin tune very well arranged and performed.

Well produced and recorded, "Radio Nights" is a warm and gentle album rich in good melodies. Maybe it takes a couple of listens to get it in its full depth, but when it does, you'll love it.

01 - Radio Nights
02 - No Shame
03 - If I Were You
04 - Saving Grace
05 - Immortal Way
06 - Clues
07 - China Rain
08 - Child In My Heart
09 - Shadow Of Eden
10 - Silence Of Your Heart
11 - Confetti
12 - Marching On
13 - Crimes Of Passion

Billy Trudel - Lead & backing vocals
David Young - Keyboards, backing vocals
Bruce Watson - Guitars, mandolin, backing vocals
Larry Antonino - Bass, backing vocals
Matt Laug - Drums, percussion

Stuart Mathis - additional backing vocals
Cameron Stone, Roland Hartwell - Strings
Jimmy Haun - additional guitar

PUBLIC DOMAIN - Radio Nights

Saturday, June 02, 2012

THE LADDER - ST [CD reissue] + demos (1986)

I will be short here.
THE LADDER was an studio project put together by keyboard player Joe Parente with his producer brother Lou. Atlantic / ATCO signed them and released their one and only album.
"The Ladder" features an awesome collection of killer rockin' AOR / Melodic Rock tunes with a first class production. To me, one of the best albums of these beloved genres during the '80s.
Excellent choruses, driven guitars, tons of synths / keyboards and bombastic drums courtesy of Joe Franco (Fiona, Vinnie Moore, Chilliwack). ALL songs are great, trust me.

"The Ladder" become a collector's item for years, with a limited bootleg Scandinavian release (unofficial) in the mid-nineties being the only way to get it on CD.
Luckily, a NY re-issue record label finally published "The Ladder" on CD in 2010, with a really good sound. Here it is for your listening pleasure (thanx Swazi!).
I have added as bonus some rare demos from 1987/88.
Seems original members of the project are working on 'The Ladder 2' right now... Can't Wait!
A Must Have.

01 - Daydreams At Night
02 - Double Shot Of Love
03 - Time Soldier
04 - Don't Turn Me Away
05 - Breakdown
06 - Standin'
07 - Women Have Secrets
08 - Lie To Me
09 - Lover
10 - Dancing In The Dark
11 - The Star (demo)
12 - City Of Women (demo)
13 - Heart Of Darkness (demo)
14 - Take Love On The Run (demo)
15 - Inherit The Wind (demo)

THE LADDER 1986 personnel

THE LADDER CD reissue + demos