Classic Rock Bottom

My Latest Streaming Experiences: 
May 2021 Edition of new releases by Legendary artists break the record for this year's rating. But, do we have, finally, a 10 out of 10 album? (Scroll down to read my thoughts on them).
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Original Post:

Why?

Because it's got to be out there, and someone needs to find it. My new year's resolution was not to buy new releases in 2021, because I have no room left to store the CDs. In order to stick to my plan, I had to cease digging through the news, quit streaming, and ultimately stop buying CDs. However, music didn't stop existing, and whether I liked it or not I couldn't escape being exposed to it.

So, I streamed a few. No harm there. It's still not a buy (for now) and I think I can resist the urge on a great many GOOD albums, but what about those rare, perfect, 10 out of 10 releases that sneak up on you once in a while? Would I be able to zip my pocket tight on them? I don't know. I guess I'll cross that bridge when it happens. In a meantime, you can follow my quest here, Month-by-Month.

Note: I rate albums on a scale of 1 to 10, with 0.5 increments. Listening to a release on my home stereo could increase my final rating by 0.5 or even 1 whole point in comparison to my initial grading of the same album via streaming experience.

Note 2: I'm only going to stream "in your face" projects, meaning well-known acts (to me). Sucks to be a completely new band/artist in this scenario, but I'm joining the ranks of my peers in a Cult of Groupies for Legends. (You know who they are). That being said, I consider my knowledge well above the average groupie, so, here and there you'll still find an act you haven't heard of yet. Also... last year I sampled a bit over 1000 new releases of different genres. To blend in with my fellow groupies, that number will greatly dwindle. In the month of January, there was only 
FOOOORE!

4. THE DEAD DAISIES - Holy Ground
Thanks to Hughes the vocals are better, yet, nothing special. Music is the same as before. No hooks, decent but short solos, and "middle of the road" tenure. I like the cover. That's a purty skull. The two crows are a nice touch too.
My steaming experience: 4.5 out of 10.

3. WIG WAM - Never Say Die
LORDI gets all the glory for winning the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest as the first Hard Rock band to achieve that, but WIG WAM paved the road. Unfortunately, pioneers usually take one for the team. And WIG WAM did that in 2005 reaching position #9 in that year's contest. Following that success, they released 3 more albums before quitting, and I like them all. Naturally, I was excited to hear them reuniting and even their first single sounded great. I had high hopes. However, this is not the same music from their 2005 era nor the one reminiscent of their last album from 2012. No. This album shows all the signs of Serafino Perugino's meddling (Frontiers Records director). Wouldn't be surprised if the band came together on his initiative. The album sounds more like a run of the mill Frontiers record. 
My steaming experience: 5 out of 10.

2. THE MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP - Immortal
Great opening track and a few outstanding followups see the guitar legend return to catchy songs. The arrangements are great, and so are the vocal performances. Lots of guests too. The only song that doesn't blend well with the rest of them for me, is the Scorpions cover "In Search Of The Peace Of Mind" which also closes the album with a sole dull moment. 
My steaming experience: 6.5 out of 10.

1. ACCEPT - Too Mean To Die
After listening to the singles released prior to the album, I got this feeling "something is off". Now, after streaming the album, as a whole it actually plays well. The tunes are more memorable and less predictable than on their previous album, and they left their 2 greatest songs for last. "Not My Problem" is a catchy anthem, in line with their best efforts, while "Samson And Deliah" is a great "band instrumental". My only complaint would be the absence of the true triple-guitar attack. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of guitars and great solo's as well, just not bouncing left-right-and-center off your speakers, if you know what I mean.
My steaming experience: 7 out of 10.

Feel free to add your thoughts, reviews, and quests to find the perfect record.

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The quest continues.
Coincidentally, there were again 4 albums I've been exposed to browsing the interweb this month. Let's see how they fare.

4. DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION ‎– Halcyon Hymns
Very laid-back album. One can even say, relaxing. Perhaps a perfect background tool for your five-o'clock tea. Unfortunately, someone stole my cup.
My streaming experience: 3 out of 10

3. TRANSATLANTIC ‎– The Absolute Universe - The Breath Of Life (Abridged Version)
A supergroup of musicians that heavily rely on their bandmates to make a great record. (Roine Stolt depends on The Flower Kings / Neal Morse on Spock's Beard / Pete Trewavas on Marillion, and Mike Portnoy on Dream Theater). The question is: can they feed off of each other to replicate those heights? The answer at hand is... not this time. Progressive Rock is a demanding genre that can either excite me above all other styles of music or alternately ride on the thin ice of boring me to sleep. Without a unique vocal deliverance (let's face it, these guys are below average singers, no exceptions), and neither one of them a "virtuoso" of their instruments (maybe Portnoy), the only thing that could save this TransAtlantic company is strong memorable songs. While not bad in that department, there isn't a single tune I want to hear again. A solid 4 rating is elevated with an extra point for the neat idea of making different versions of the same song that aren't "acoustic", or the always lame "orchestral" versions. Too bad they weren't interesting enough to make me sit through them all.
My streaming experience: 5 out of 10

2. ALICE COOPER ‎– Detroit Stories
Alice Cooper is one of the very rare artists whose projects were either black or white for me. I either like 'em or I don't care for them. Never in the middle, though. Until now, that is. But there is always the first time for everything. Detroit Stories leans on the sound of Classic Rock, which is welcome news, but the songs aren't that interesting in themselves. Nothing really jumped off my speakers.
My streaming experience: 5.5 out of 10

1. JOEL HOEKSTRA'S 13 ‎– Running Games
You know those albums where the artists choose the weakest track to name the whole project after, falsely elevating the song's importance? Well, this is one of those albums. Luckily the rest of the tracks range from good to great. Perhaps a bit more leaning towards the AOR rather than Hard Rock, but this isn't my biggest complaint. Not having a single Instrumental whereas I would expect at least a couple of them on a Hoekstra album would be a quarrel worth mentioning. That being said, if your expectations are limited to vocal tracks, you should bravely dive into this one.
My streaming experience: 6.5 out of 10

I have the Hoekstra album but haven’t listened to it.  I plan on doing so this week.

Cooper may be a purchase, I just haven’t made up my mind.

I don’t see the other two as interesting so I will likely never hear them.

Well... share your thoughts on the Hoekstra CD, once you get to it.

I don't find myself at all surprised that there isn't an instrumental track on the Joel Hoekstra's 13 album. There wasn't one on the first album Dying To Live either. 

I'm still waiting for my copy to show up but I'll be reviewing it for KNAC when it does.

He did make 3 Instrumental albums prior to Dying To Live, so that is where my expectation comes from but I guess the distinction is the 'S 13.

I just read through the post. What is the second section? Is that just a previous post attached to this one? It’s the one where you mention Joel Hoekstra’s new album.

Anyway, for this one, the only album I have is The Dead Daisies. It bookends well for me, but the in between is unremarkable for the most part. The cover of 30 Days In The Hole is fair, but why pick a well known song?

The Accept album is probably the only other one you listed that I would be interested in hearing.

Accept remains the best album I heard this year.

5. BONNIE TYLER ‎– The Best Is Yet to Come
This album comes with a "Pure 80s Love" sticker, that fits perfectly what you hear here. Starts out strong as well, but before you know it, takes a sharp turn towards uninspired ballads and pointless covers. Granny goes soft on us.
My streaming experience: 4 out of 10

4. NOORA LOUHIMO EXPERIENCE ‎– Eternal Wheel Of Time And Space
Not exactly a legend, I know, but I consider her the BEST singer in today's music. I did... that is. Until now. Let's not beat around the bushes and say when I heard she is doing a solo album, secretly, I expected Noora to team up with Anton Kabanen again, in order to challenge her talent properly. Although I can't say who wrote these songs (the ones that are original), I doubt it is the ex- Battle Beast, now Beast In Black originator. While very varied in styles, the whole project reminds me of that White Lion guy going solo, whose similar projects in feel and sound also don't excite me much. Shame.
My streaming EXPERIENCE: 4.5 out of 10

3. SUZI QUATRO ‎– The Devil In Me
Suzi never compromised the feel-good attitude in her music, even though it wasn't always milk and honey Rock 'N' Roll throw at her. Consistent, is what you can still expect from her. If you want to party then look no further for songs for your corroboree. You get exactly what you expect from Suzi. The songs are mostly up-tempo, and those work better for me than the few where she slowed the rhythm down.
My streaming experience: 6 out of 10

2. SMITH / KOTZEN ‎– S / K
The Buggles song "Video Killed The Radio Star" perfectly describes the way I felt after streaming this album. The two guitarists' first music videos, left me underwhelmed. However, the streaming did improve my opinion about the collaboration. Probably has to do a bit with the bad sound quality Youtube is known for, because this album, while not perfect, it's quite good. The guitars are great and in places even innovative. The singing style on a few songs is tailor-made to please the modern listener but mostly sits in the '70s. It was a pleasant surprise, for once.
My streaming experience: 6.5 out of 10

1. THUNDER ‎– All The Right Noises
What led me to notice this band in the 90s was the fact that I was looking for "things" Andy Taylor might have been involved in that resembled a Hard Rock/AOR music style. This is how I noticed he produced the first two albums for these Brits. Since then they fell off my radar. Naturally, I was curious to hear what they sounded these days. And I have to say that even without Andy's production they still got it! The album doesn't come across as a Hard Rock release, it's closer to Classic Rock, but I have no problem with that. What matters is the songs, and they do sound great.
My streaming experience: 7 out of 10

I haven't heard the new Thunder album yet. But I did love their Wonder Days album. It was my top release the year it came out.

I'm not sure why I didn't pay more attention to them, since I loved their first 2 CDs. I should probably revisit their catalog.



4. PETER FRAMPTON BAND – Frampton Forgets The Words
The only Frampton music I owned was the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Soundtrack double album, so you can say I'm not familiar with his work, but when I heard he is releasing an Instrumental album, I had to check it out. Not bad, however, 2 things prevented me to truly enjoy it. First, it's all covers. Granted, I only heard half of the originals, which meant the rest came across as new but then comes the second hindrance; they are all low-key, dragging tunes completely out of my wheelhouse. I'm much more impressed with the title and the cover of the album than its content. The title is funny, and the cover image is well... witty.
My streaming experience: 5 out of 10

3. CHEAP TRICK – In Another World
Full disclosure: I was never a big fan of the band. Sure, I have a 4 Disc Set to fill my hat with every cheap trick imaginable... plus the Heavy Metal Soundtrack with their two best tracks ever, but I never felt a need to expand beyond those tricks. That being said, I do check out their new releases, and while the last few burst with energy, they did come across as a desperate cry to be seen as "not old yet". IAW has less power than its predecessor, and the Pop orientation does yield a somewhat more pleasant listening experience, yet still fails to turn me into a fan.
My streaming experience: 5.5 out of 10

2. CACTUS – Tightrope
Cactus does not try to reinvent the wheel with its new album. It's a Classic Rock sounding piece of work from start to finish, and the more I look at the cover image the more I feel the music coincides with the tightrope walker's position: slightly past the middle of the distance. To that end, I did enjoy this one-way attraction.
My streaming experience: 6.5 out of 10

1. GARY MOORE – How Blue Can You Get
You don't know how much you miss something until it's gone. One of the most underrated guitarists left us in 2011, and the void of his clean and gorgeously melodic guitar tone was never filled again. Gary Moore changed the style of music he performed in, few times over his career, but he never compromised the instantly recognizable sound only he was able to summon from the instrument most people hang around their neck. When "Still Got The Blues" came out in 1990, there was no shortage of praise for his latest transformation, so it's no surprise that this posthumous album of unreleased materials is centered around the Blues as well. I got to be honest, I did expect subpar songs and somewhat muddy production to surface, but man... was I wrong on both counts. There are 8 songs on the album (4 covers + 4 originals) of the highest quality, to remind us what a Gibson can sound like when handled by a true Legend.
My streaming experience: 7 out of 10


3. ROBIN McAULEY – Standing On The Edge

The first two tracks rushed back the memories of the McAuley Schenker Group, although not as guitar-driven and majestic as the sound of the good old days but the intention was unmistakable. Unfortunately, the next 3 tracks mellowed down with unimpressive Ballads. These are followed by another uptempo, and the momentum is killed once again with few Power Ballad wannabees. The album closes strong with a dual of rocking tunes, but at this point, it's too little too late. File this under another project by Serafino Perugino, produced by Alessandro Del Vecchio album.
My streaming experience: 4.5 out of 10

2. OSSIAN – A Teljesség (The Completeness)
Ossian is one of the HUngarian Heavy Metal pioneers. Although, you wouldn't know that from this album. For the last 3-4 studio releases they have been gravitating towards AOR, and this album is nothing but. Not bad, they certainly got the melodic parts down to the tee, however, I feel that Endre Paksi's vocals complete (pun intended) the faster, and heavier tracks with fewer gaps to desire. The band always treats its fans with one or two Instrumentals. I'm glad to hear this tradition continues, since "Enged El" (Let It Go) is the highlight of the album.
My streaming experience: 6 out of 10

1. KAYAK – Out Of This World
Much more familiar with the name Kayak than with their catalog. I'm hard-pressed to remember even a single song this Dutch Symphonic band released, but I can't. Strange, since they've been releasing albums since 1973, so they definitely check the box for the Legend status. 18 albums in, and I'm giving the band's first full listen. It's very commercial. Easy to digest. The songs are moderately complex, yet accessible. The 15 tracks are progressing with ease. Makes me wonder what did I miss?
My streaming experience: 9 out of 10

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