Category Archives: Classic Rock

Magnum – Les Morts Dansant (Song Review)

“Gather round reluctant marksmen”

Magnum. The minute the weather starts getting cooler I reach for this veritable comfort-blanket of a band. Here’s Les Morts Dansant, the centrepiece from their excellent 1985 album On A Storyteller’s Night. Set in WWI, the song describes the execution of a British soldier who has refused to leave the trenches and go over the top. The song title translates as “the dancing dead” as it illustrates the pirouette of the dying soldier as he’s riddled with bullets from the firing squad. It’s a horrific topic but Magnum’s keen moral sense ensures the song is written and performed eloquently and compassionately. Bob Catley sings movingly with his heart on his sleeve as warm keyboards and celestial guitars gradually build to a climax of Baba O’Riley-style power chords. The album cover depicts a wizard relating a fireside tale to a bunch of captivated dwarfs and Les Morts Dansant is basically the musical equivalent. Spellbinding storytelling from a magical band.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Montrose – Montrose (Review)

Montrose – Montrose (2017 Deluxe Edition)

Sammy Hagar has always been a divisive figure, not least for being the interloper who dared replace Dave Lee Roth in Van Halen. But when Hagar supporters find themselves unable to convince anyone of Van Hagar’s merits or the quality of his various other outings, they can always rely on one thing: the 1973 debut album from Montrose. It’s an unassailable classic of 70s man rock and one of the earliest examples of party-hearty American metal. Other 70s hard rockers would enjoy more fame and rewards but Montrose‘s cult influence would be heard everywhere from the clubs of the LA glam scene to the garages of the NWOBHM.

So kudos to Sammy for his charismatic vocals and songwriting contribution (“I gave love a chance and it shit back in my face”). But the real star of the show is the band’s guitarist and founder Ronnie Montrose. His superior playing and hot rod riffing is timeless and, in tandem with producer Ted Templeman, he colours the band’s meat and potatoes simplicity with a deceptively rich range of tones. From the spacey, hard-charging Zep chug of Space Station #5 and the revved up intro to Bad Motor Scooter to the monster-plod bludgeon of Rock Candy, Montrose is a treasure-trove of stealable guitar parts and sounds. The old-timey Good Rocking Tonight and One Thing On My Mind lean towards filler but both are served up with charm and stop the album from getting too po-faced.

Unfortunately, Montrose couldn’t make it last. One more (underrated) album later, Sammy would be fired. And he wouldn’t be involved with anything quite this good again. But it can be 1973 forever. Just take your top off, stick on Montrose and rock the nation.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

Pentagram – Relentless (Song Review)

“Take you to hell and won’t say hello”

Pentagram were formed in 1971 and are renowned as early doom pioneers but nearly 15 years passed before the cult US band was able to rise from the underground and put out their first album. It was worth the wait. The 1985 self-released debut was originally just called Pentagram but in 1993 it was reissued by Peaceville Records and renamed Relentless after this awesome track. Relentless was penned by charismatic guitarist Victor Griffin and has a walloping tone and simple, strident riff that fully lives up to the promise of the song’s title. The lyrics are a bit clunky but endearingly catchy and they’re a good vehicle for the ‘Ram’s wayward frontman Bobby Liebling to strut his swaggering, streetwise stuff. But the real joy here is the riffin’ of Griffin. His electric axe is gonna knock you on your back.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Candlemass – Dark Are The Veils Of Death: Single (Review)

Candlemass – Dark Are The Veils Of Death (2017)

The Dark Are The Veils Of Death 7″ was released in 2017 to celebrate 30 years of Peaceville Records and features two rare working versions of tracks from Candlemass’ classic 1988 album Nightfall. But although Dark Are The Veils Of Death would become one of the band’s greatest tunes, they hadn’t quite nailed it down here. Messiah Marcolin sounds great but seems to be making the lyrics up and throws the song title in at a different spot than it appears in the final version. Also, short-lived guitarist Mike Wead appears, which is historically interesting, but you can also hear why his noodly playing didn’t quite fit the bill in comparison to Lars Johansson’s molten soloing on the album. The B-Side features the funereal instrumental Codex Gigax: decent enough music but pointless as a standalone side of vinyl.

Recorded on a ghetto blaster, it’s lo-fi stuff but it has a blustery power. It’s just odd material for a single as you will rarely listen to this, if at all. And if you’re into Candlemass enough to buy this then you will have bought the later 3CD reissue of Nightfall that included these recordings (and much more). So this single was worth owning for about seven months. Dark are the travails of the music collector.

HMO Rating: 2 Out Of 5

Led Zeppelin – Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Song Review)

“Babe, babe, babe, babe, babe, babe, baby, baby”

I didn’t mention Babe I’m Gonna Leave You when I reviewed Led Zep’s debut platter. It didn’t swing my verdict one way or the other. It’s not the best song on the album and it’s not the worst. But I was listening to Led Zeppelin again today and a lot of the album’s characteristics are summed up in this one song. It’s a great example of the album’s light and shade, folk and rock. A lovely acoustic part alternates with a cool heavy part where Boaby “Robert” Plant lets rip with roaring vocals. But it’s also a great example of why I got so bored of the album so quickly. The light and heavy parts both have the same chord progression which means this overlong song doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. And neither does the narrator. By the end of the tune, no-one has left anyone. After the 17th-or-so “baby” I’m the one getting itchy feet.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

UFO – Too Much Of Nothing (Song Review)

“One of life’s delinquents”

HMO salutes Pete Way who has sadly just passed away aged 69. He’d played in a few different acts and as a solo artist but round these parts he’ll always be the iconic, polka-dotted delinquent in UFO. I’d usually use a post like this to highlight some sort of instrumental prowess but he wasn’t really that kind of player. His main thing was being larger than life. Cool as fuck outfits. Cool as fuck posing. But that’s not to put down his musical abilities. His playing gave UFO’s songs a good kick up the arse and he was a talented writer too. Check out Too Much Of Nothing. It’s a rare example of a UFO tune that was solely written by Way. Taken from their 1975 album Force It, it’s a dirty down-trodden rocker with a carefree lift in its chorus. And there’s a good bit of the Way persona in the lyrics: overdoses, habits, just rolling along. It’s not one of the band’s standout moments but it’s a great deep cut and it holds its own on an album that is stacked to the gills with classics. So there was more to Way than just throwing shapes. But still… there’s a reason I own a Firebird bass. Because Pete Way was cool as fuck.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Trapeze – Jury (Song Review)

“Point now your finger of scorn”

I was listening to Cirith Ungol’s King Of The Dead today and reading through the liner notes. In the booklet their guitarist Greg Lindstrom said they got the idea for their song Finger Of Scorn from a line in a Trapeze song called Jury. It’s a cool bit of trivia for any keen Ungolians out there but it also shows those Cirith Ungol guys have great taste because Jury is an awesome track. It’s taken from Trapeze’s second album Medusa and it’s one of those gripping light/shade tracks in the vein of what Budgie, UFO, Priest and the like were also up to in the early/mid 70s. Peaceful pastoral acoustics are disturbed by a riff of monster proportions. And HMO-favourite Glenn Hughes is on spine-chilling vocal form, especially in the heavier parts where his delivery of lines like “the writing’s on the wall” will give you pure metal goosebumps.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

(And just to add to all the Trapeze excitement, I’ve now noticed that Cherry Red/Purple Records are putting out deluxe 3CD reissues of the band’s first three albums in September. Medusa included.)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (Review)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)

They would go on to enjoy insane, enormo-success and an inflated reputation as the One Band To Rule Them All but Led Zeppelin’s first flight was a rickety, low budget affair. Their S/T 1969 debut album was knocked out in just 36 hours for less than two grand, which is not bad going considering it became a seminal work in the early history of “heavy”. Before Black Sabbath and before In Rock, Led Zep dished out dark, powerful riff-based rock on tracks like the bewitching Dazed And Confused. But there are both good times and bad times to be had on Led Zeppelin. Communication Breakdown is a superb proto-Paranoid metal chug but Good Times, Bad Times‘ powerful rhythm section and Your Time Is Gonna Come‘s dreamy mix of acoustic guitar and organ can’t disguise the band’s dated, hippy songcraft. Elsewhere, the famously sticky-fingered Brits resort to mining other artists’ material. This approach works well on tracks like How Many More Times, where Zep supercharge the blues with swingingly heavy results. But it also results in stodgy workouts like I Can’t Quit You Baby and Black Mountain Side, a folk arrangement that shows good taste but lacks imagination. The album’s thudding rock power makes Led Zeppelin a notably heavy debut but it’s also heavy in mood: a monochrome moroseness that, mixed with some weak and old-fashioned material, makes repeat listens an increasingly dreary experience. Better would come when Zep’s creativity and vision caught up with the power of their delivery.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

 

Deep Purple – Throw My Bones (Song Review)

“You do your thing, you do your best”

Deep Purple have been a huge part of my musical life. For years I would have said they were my favourite band. But I’ve not been a big fan of their current MkVIII lineup and I’ve been fairly certain that I wasn’t going to even bother with their upcoming album Whoosh! But now I’ve heard their new song Throw My Bones and… just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. On one hand it’s still MkVIII doing what they do: mild funky rock, smug vamping and Steve Morse’s interchangeable guitar solos. But on the other hand, its joyful, playful feel and catchy chorus has got me wanting to hear more. I’ve been listening to their last album inFinite again and whoosh! I’m looking forward to the new Deep Purple album.

HMO Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5

(Throw My Bones is available on the free CD that comes with the latest issue of Classic Rock Magazine along with two live bonus tracks from 2017)

Fleetwood Mac – The Green Manalishi: Live 1970 (Song Review)

“Come sneaking around, trying to drive me mad”

HMO salutes Peter Green, who has died aged 73. There are many superb tunes I could pick as a tribute to the gifted guitarist, vocalist and founder of Fleetwood Mac. I toyed with Sandy Mary, Oh Well, Jumping At Shadows, Man Of The World and I Loved Another Woman: all personal faves. But given this is a metal site I’m going to go with The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown). Even if you’re not familiar with Fleetwood Mac, I’m sure you all know this song from Judas Priest’s cover versions on Hell Bent For Leather and Unleashed In The East. They turned it into a great souped-up rocker and their interpretation is very enjoyable. But I don’t think this song was really intended to be enjoyable. It was written during a period of LSD-induced mental health struggles and was inspired by a particularly vivid nightmare which Green interpreted as being about the evil of money and success. The Mac version is as dark, ominous and anguished as its subject matter. Doubly so on this extended live take recorded in Boston in 1970. It’s a musical dark night of the soul. Enjoy!

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5