Tuesday, July 29, 2014

JOSEPH WILLIAMS - Joseph Williams [Complete Edition +3] Cool-092 (2002)

JOSEPH WILLIAMS - Joseph Williams [Complete Edition +3] Cool-092 (2002) obi
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

Son of one of the most important film score composers in Hollywood's history, JOSEPH WILLIAMS started his musical career in the seventies singing singles, backing vocals as sessionist and recording countless demos.
John became famous, of course, as Toto's lead singer since 1986, but he recorded his first, self-titled solo album in 1981-82.

"Joseph Williams", the LP, is a faithful representative of the L.A. session / AOR Westcoast sound of its era, featuring excellent musicians like Michael Landau, Steve Lukather, Robbie Buchanan, Jay Gruska and many more.
Strangely, it wasn't pressed on CD until Japanese label Cool Sound reissued the album in 1998, on one of their first efforts as 'record reissue' company. It was augmented by themselves in 2002, with this "Joseph Williams [Complete Edition +3]" including three bonus tracks - yes, there's a print error on the cover.

JOSEPH WILLIAMS - Joseph Williams [Complete Edition +3] Cool-092 (2002) back cover

Although not reaching the full vocal potential he developed later in Toto, this 1981 recording shows Joseph Williams colourful set of pipes and great sense for melodic harmonies.

01 - What Is She Hiding
02 - That First Night
03 - Takin' It
04 - One More Chance
05 - I Didn't Do It
06 - This Girl
07 - Something Special
08 - Nothing's Lost
09 - Make Some Time
10 - Anything You Say (bonus track)
11 - You Forever (bonus track)
12 - I Didn't Do It [Alternate Take] (bonus track)

Vocals: Joseph Williams
Keyboards: Robbie Buchanan, David Garfield, Michael Omartian
Guitars: Steve Lukather, Michael Landau
Bass: Jay Gruska, Dean Cortez Moog
Drums: Mark T. Williams
Percussion: Lenny Castro
Sax: Steve Tavaglione
Horns: Jerry Hey, Chuck Findley, Larry Williams, Jim Horn
Background Vocals: Richard Page, Steve George, Tommy Funderburk

Joseph Williams [Complete Edition +3]

Monday, July 28, 2014

VELOCITY - Impact 1997 / Activator 2001

VELOCITY - Impact 1997 / Activator 2001 Japan release
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

It was not easy to make Melodic Hard Rock in the USA during the second half of the '90s, but guitarist / vocalist David Victor (now in Tom Scholz's Boston) was one of the few carrying the flag with his band VELOCITY.

Their debut "Impact" truly does justice to its name, full of punchy melodic rockers and killer mid-tempo / ballads.
Victor is an awesome vocalist and arranger, Chris Dodge delivers some assasin six-string solos, while the kickin' drumming is provided by Pat Torpey (Mr. Big). There's not a single weak track on this record, very well produced with a crisp sound.
As curiosity, this should be one the albums with more distinct artwork versions in Rock history. Originally issued in the US in 1997, it was released in Europe, Japan and again in America in 1998, all with different covers.

VELOCITY - Impact 1997 / Activator 2001 US and European covers

This is a HQ rip from the Japanese press, but the artwork from all are included just for fun.
Additionally, there's VELOCITY's second effort from 2011, the EP "Activator", not melodic as the debut but still interesting, a little more modern sounding and heavy riff-oriented, where David Victor plays all the instruments.
Killer stuff.

Impact 1997
01 - You Don't Amaze Me Anymore
02 - Julia Ann
03 - Supernatural Lover
04 - She's Been Around
05 - Janine
06 - Riot Goin' On
07 - More Than Tonight
08 - Love Is Dangerous
09 - One Minute To Midnight
10 - Open Road

David Victor - lead & backing vocals, guitar, bass
Chris Dodge - lead guitar
Pat Torpey - drums

Activator 2001
VELOCITY Activator 2001

01 - Stay
02 - Beautiful and Useless
03 - Alive
04 - You
05 - Stranger

David Victor - vocals, all instruments

VELOCITY - Impact 1997 / Activator 2001

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RUSS TAFF - Walls Of Glass [Japanese remaster] (1983)

RUSS TAFF - Walls Of Glass [Japanese remaster] (1983)
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

Singer and composer RUSS TAFF made a name by himself as vocalist for The Imperials and stated a solo career with is record from 1983: "Walls Of Glass".
Taff is one of the more versatile artists from Christian music movement with a highly respectable success into the secular charts, specially during the '80s.

I have already posted on the blog Russ Taff's second album 'Medals', a true AOR little gem. This "Walls Of Glass", as said, was released previously and cemented his abilities as composer and performer.
Seems when Taff announced he quit The Imperials there were many 'big cats' eager to record with him on his debut "Walls Of Glass". Just check the personnel: master Michael Landau on guitar, king of groove Jeff Porcaro, Nathan East, Abraham Laboriel, Bill Champlin, James Newton Howard, even Franke Previte from Franke & The Knockouts contributing harmony vocals... impressive session musicians.

Conducted & arranged by talented Robbie Buchanan (who also play several instruments) and produced with a crystal clear sound by Bill Schnee (Huey Lewis, Boz Scaggs, Franke & The Knockouts), "Walls Of Glass" is a wonderful record.
This one is more Westcoast oriented than 'Medals' (more radio-AOR), but the exact definition would be 'L.A. session' sound.
Long time deleted, Russ Taff's "Walls Of Glass" was remastered some years ago by the specialzed Japanese label Cool Sound. But it's out to print again, and it's really hard to find.
First half of the '80s quality AOR.

01 - Tell Them
02 - Walls Of Glass
03 - Jeremiah
04 - Pure In Heart
05 - We Will Stand
06 - I Want To Change
07 - Inside Look
08 - Just Believe
09 - Kathryn's Song
10 - Unto The Lamb

Vocals – Russ Taff
Keyboards, Synth Bass – Robbie Buchanan
Guitar – Marty Walsh, Michael Landau, James Hollihan
Keyboards, Synths, Piano – Robbie Buchanan
Keyboards – Bill George
Piano, Synths – James Newton Howard
Synths – Michael Omartian
Bass – Nathan East, Richard Hopkins, Abraham Laboriel
Drums – Jeff Porcaro, Mike Baird, John Hammond
Horns – Charlie Loper, Ernie Watts, Gary Grant, Jerry Hey
Saxophone [Sax Solo] – Ernie Watts
Harmony Vocals – Franke Previte
Backing Vocals – Bill Champlin, Carmen Twillie, Tamara Champlin, Arnold McCuller, David Lasley, Bonnie Bramlett, Russell Taff

RUSS TAFF Walls Of Glass Japanese remaster

Monday, July 14, 2014

AIRBORNE - The Dig (1981 - 2003)

AIRBORNE - The Dig (1981 - 2003) front
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

One of the best (and more underrated) bands from the seminal AOR movement in the late seventies were, undoubtedly, Americans AIRBORNE.
Their one and only self-titled debut is a marvellous slice of energetic pompy AOR.

Airborne was assembled by the then young musician Beau Hill, who went on to become one of the greatest producers of the '80s.
The release of 'Airborne' was delayed due to executive label problems, so meanwhile the band started to record the pre-production demos of new material for a second album.
But the debut did not sold well, and Columbia Records dropped the band.

It was not until 2001 when guitarist David Zychek called Beau Hill asking for these long time shelved recordings. Thanks to modern technology they were able to restore most of the songs, adding a few new bits to complete the package.
So, the second, unreleased Airborne record was released under the title "The Dig".

AIRBORNE - The Dig (1981 - 2003) back

The sound quality is a mixed bag, ranging from very good to some 'demo' output, but the real thing here are the songs, really enjoyble late '70s / early '80s AOR tunes like "Stranger", "Bored With Russia", "Livin' on the Inside", "Witch Hunter", and the Boston-inspired ballad "Whenever I'm With You".
Pomp rules.

01 - Neon Hotel
02 - Stranger
03 - Livin' on the Inside
04 - Good Boys
05 - Talk to Me
06 - Backseat Driver
07 - Whenever I'm With You
08 - Bionic
09 - Idiot Kid
10 - Bored with Russia
11 - Say Please
12 - Witch Hunter
13 - Miss Directed
14 - Broken English
15 - Get it While You Can

Beau Hill: guitar, keyboards, vocals
David Zychek: guitar, keyboards, vocals
Rick Allen: bass, vocals
Gary Pavlica: drums percussion, vocals


Friday, July 11, 2014

MICHAEL SEMBELLO - Caravan Of Dreams [Japanese release] (1992)

MICHAEL SEMBELLO - Caravan Of Dreams [Japanese release] (1992)
Requested in "REQUEST & FILL CORNER" section...

MICHAEL SEMBELLO had fulminating success in 1983 with his song 'Maniac', included in the movie Flashdance. Then he spent much of his career writing and performing music for movies and TV shows, but releasing a 'solo artist' album from time to time.
After the very good 'Without Walls' presented on this blog, the next record took three years to arrive: this "Caravan Of Dreams", only released in Japan in 1992.

MICHAEL SEMBELLO - Caravan Of Dreams [Japanese release] (1992) cd photo

Still retaining Sembello's commercial, rock&pop characteristic '80s sound, this new venture was much more mature, Adult Contemporary oriented, with lots of WestCoast smooth arrangements and mid-tempo tunes mostly co-written with talented keyboard player Brian O'Doherty.
A consummate (and obsessive) producer, Michael Sembello always guarantee a first class studio work, everything sounds pristine here.

MICHAEL SEMBELLO - Caravan Of Dreams [Japanese release] (1992) back cover

What I particularly love on this record are the guitars - the rhythm guitars - handled by two specialists in this matter, the perfect Jennifer Batten and the versatile Tim Drury (WhiteSnake).
Hard to find - out of print CD, and a very nice listen / addition to your collection.

01 - Heavy Weather
02 - Where We Gonna Dance
03 - Thing Called Love
04 - Movers & Shakers
05 - Passion
06 - Black Rain (Miles To Go)
07 - Winter Of Our Love
08 - Shangri-La
09 - State Of My Heart
10 - The Cure For Love
11 - The Harder Love Falls
12 - Where Are We Now

Michael Sembello: vocals, keyboards, programming
Jennifer Batten, Tim Drury: guitars
Danny Sembello: keyboards, backing vocals
Brian O'Doherty: keyboards, backing vocals, arrangements
Chris Papastephanou, Joe Milner: keyboards
Richard Elliot: Saxophone solo on 6, 9
Wilkins, Cruz Sembello, Kali Milner: backing vocals


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

ICON - Night Of The Crime [remastered] (1985) + STEPHEN CLIFFORD Search For The Truth (1994)

ICON - Night Of The Crime [remastered] (1985) + STEPHEN CLIFFORD Search For The Truth (1994)
Requested & re-posted

"Night Of The Crime" by Phoenix, US based quintet ICON is a cult classic album, rated as one of the best rockin' AOR / Melodic Hard Rock albums of all time in an early Kerrang Magazine survey.
And I can only agree. In fact, this is my favourite album of ALL times.
Yes, there's many magnificent and/or groundbreaking recordings in rock history, but being myself particularly fan of the AOR/MR/HR genres, "Night Of The Crime" is a goldmine, on all aspects.

First of all, comprises like-no-other in one single disc all these '80s musical styles with class. Icon were many steps above than the rest of the pack in their songwriting abilities, helped here by the talented Bob Halligan Jr. who co-wrote no less than six of the ten songs on the album.
You have stunning AOR rockers with massive keyboards such as "Naked Eyes", "Missing" or the awesome mid-tempo "Frozen Tears".
If you want lush melodic rockers check out the irresistible "Danger Calling", "Shot At My Heart" or "Raise The Hammer".

And there's more; "Hungry For Love" is a melodic+hard gem, "Out For Blood" is pure double-lead guitar American Eighties Hard Rock, the 'hair' style is covered on "Hungry For Love" and on the superb (just perfect) "The Whites Of Their Eyes". Even the 'arena rock anthem' is represented with "Rock My Radio".
"Night Of The Crime" is a perfect compendium of all these sub-genres that ruled the middle of the glorious decade.

ICON - Night Of The Crime [remastered] (1985) cd photo

Second reason; the musicianship is out of this world.
Vocalist Stephen Clifford has a dynamic, powerful range reaching impossible octaves, the bass is fat, round and precise, Pat Dixon's drumming agile & smashing (both contribute to the excellent harmony vocal arrangements) and John Aquilino's lead guitars are melodic yet punchy, with a rich tone.
But the 'brain' of this exciting band is the skillful Dan Wexler. This underrated musician is the orchestrator here; his guitar riffs, sublime keyboards and the great use of the synth guitar (unusual in this kind of material) are the foundation of the band's style.
Discovered by Alice Cooper (who helped to get Icon's signed by Capitol Rec.) while he was still in high school in Arizona and playing in the first incarnation of the band (The Schoolboys), Dan has played, written and arranged songs anonymously for many major acts during the '80s & '90s.

An then you have another remarkable aspect: this is how a rock album SHOULD SOUND.
Produced by legend Eddie Kramer (Kiss, Hendrix, Beatles) who has provided a polished, glazed, brilliant sound, and mixed & engineered by the best of all times: Mr. Ron Nevison (Survivor, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Damn Yankees), "Night Of The Crime" is, sound-wise, one of the best representation (again) of the Eighties.

Still remember when I bought the cassette at the end of '85 attracted by the cover artwork. Incredibly, "Night Of The Crime" was released in my country (at a time when anything metal-related was ignored here) and although I read about the band in a magazine, I did not know what to expect.
After the first listen I was in Heaven with my jaw hanging. Immediately bought the vinyl, then the CD a couple years after. Of course the Axe Killer (a small French label) 2000's re-edition as well and finally this superb Rock Candy remaster.
That's why I am posting this diamond here, as many people are asking if this final edition worth the purchase. The answer is definitively Yes!

ICON - Night Of The Crime [remastered] (1985) back cover

The Rock Candy edition is 'really' remastered from the master tapes with a sharper, perfectly balanced sound, really close to the warm vinyl harmonics.
Seems it has become pretty scarce now, so if you find it at a fair price go and get it with your eyes closed.
I never rate an album or the artistic talent of a band/musician (who I am to do it), just like the music or not.
This time, I'll take a little license; "Night Of The Crime" is a 10/10.

To make this re-post more interesting, I've added a bonus. Stephen Clifford left the band after this recording, and dedicated his time to religion. However, at the beginning of the Nineties started a solo career in Xian music, recording an album entitled "Search For The Truth" in 1994 but never officially released.
Even though much more relaxed and melodic rock oriented than the Icon material, it's an enjoyable 5-track recording and a must have for fans.

01 - Naked Eyes
02 - Missing
03 - Danger Calling
04 - Shot At My Heart
05 - Out For Blood
06 - Raise The Hammer
07 - Frozen Tears
08 - The Whites Of Their Eyes
09 - Hungry For Love
10 - Rock My Radio

Stephen Clifford - Lead and Backing Vocals
Dan Wexler - Guitars, Keyboards, Synth Guitar
John Aquilino - Guitars
Tracy Wallach - Bass, Backing Vocals
Pat Dixon - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals


Stephen Clifford "Search For The Truth" (1994)
1 - The Whole World's Watching
2 - Change My Life
3 - I Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death
4 - Here For A Lifetime
5 - It's You Lord

ICON Night Of The Crime + Stephen Clifford solo