A blog dedicated to coverage of rock news, reviews of CD's/DVD's, live gigs and interviews with musicians who have made rock music great!
Coverage of hard rock, classic rock, AOR and popular melodic rock music across the genre.
This blog is the creation of Alun Williams, a Brit now living in Michigan whose previous credits include writing for the following sites:
and www.rocknrolluniverse.com (Now gone)
I hope you enjoy your visit here!
Chambers of Rock status The site is sadly now closed!
Tuesday 17th June, 2014
Since I still receive many enquiries and requests for reviews at the site, I
just thought I had better post an updated message at the site, to make it clear
to all that sadly 'Chambers of Rock' is indeed closed, until further notice.
Put simply, I just do not have time any longer outside of a hectic day job
and many activities with my young family. Perhaps if there were 48 hours in a
day it might work, but alas we all know this is not the case, even though it
feels like our work can be that way sometimes.
I did originally announce at the beginning of the year, the site's imminent
closure upon completion of some final reviews but since those reviews have
posted, people are assuming the site is still active. Sorry folks, but sadly
it is no more.
Once again, my immense thanks to all who have visited and supported the site
and of course to all the PR contacts, artist managers and artists themselves
that helped me do as much as I could with the site.
All my very best wishes to one and all and never stop rockin'
Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – ‘Bridge The Gap’ album review
Released on: inAkustik GmbH. Release date: Available now
Just so everyone understands, Michael Schenker - as anyone that has read Chambers of Rock before … - is without doubt, my all-time favourite guitarist.
When word had got out that he was releasing another album under the band project title ‘Temple of Rock’ again, I was of course excited with anticipation of what we would get this time around.
Well, this time there is a pretty straightforward lineup and it’s not so much of the all-star project that 2011 project was, that said, it is a strong lineup of players that Michael was touring Europe with over the past two or so years. Fronting the band is vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow, Tank, Yngwie J. Malmsteen), then long stay MSG member Wayne Findlay on Keys, Guitars and B/Vocals, Francis Buchholz (Scorpions) on bass and Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell (Scorpions) on drums. Impressive, eh?!
Obviously the European live dates went so well, the guys decided to record the next album together.
One element that kind of surprises me is with Herman Rarebell’s successful co-writes with the Scorpions – Rock You Like A Hurricane, Another Piece of Meat, Passion Rules The Game, Make It Real, Blackout and more! - that Michael did not ask for his input. Perhaps he and Doogie had already written the tracks, before they recorded them? Whatever the case, they make for a pretty strong song selection.
Opening intro is ‘Neptune Rising’ that has some nice guitar work over a chugging riff for just forty five seconds, before leading into ‘Where The Wild Winds Blow,’ a track that perhaps brings to mind more of the sound / structure that Michael pulled together on ‘In The Midst Of Beauty,’ an album I have come to enjoy more now than I did at the time. I actually prefer that to the ‘Temple of Rock’ release. ‘Where The Wild Wilds Blow’ is indeed is good solid track, capturing the familiar essence of great Schenker releases gone by.
‘Horizons’ next once more echoes how I feel about the previous track and it’s funny because Herman Rarebell’s playing typically I would never have compared to say Simon Phillips, but he really does a great job on this album and I think it is very similar in style on here to Phillips class playing. ‘Horizons’ is a great up tempo rocker with some great hooks. Nice!
This pattern indeed continues with ‘Lord of the Lost and Lonely’ next and it is certainly very reminiscent of classic MSG. Even some of Wayne Findlay’s touches bring to mind either Paul Raymond or Don Airey, although I still sometimes wish – As I’ve said before – that Findlay was a little more audible in the overall mixes, that said it takes nothing away from the class track.
Wonderful solo from Michael here, surprise, surprise …, not! The time change on the rhythm on this is clever, it effortless listening to it, but I wonder how long it took to get down.
‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Symphony’ hits you for six right off the bat. Up-tempo rocker with pounding bass, just crank it up guys! Solid rocker for sure, pummeling bass throughout, solid drums keyboards / Hammond flourishes here and there and of course Mr. Schenker’s solo spot. Perhaps the only thing that it could’ve maybe left out is Doogie White’s dodgy scream around the three minute mark.
To me there’s an almost Dio or Rainbow like feel about ‘To Live For The King,’ from its chug along riff, through semi-mystical elements to the way Doogie phrases the song, but of course Michael’s guitar work and little lead touches make it distinctly MSG.
A driving riff with drums and bass pushes ‘Land of Thunder’ in your face from the get go, dare I say a little (Iron) Maiden like to a degree in some respects and some rapid double kick drumming from Herman Rarebell, drives this super quick! The guitar has a harmonizer that also gives it a little of that Maiden vibe too.
Slowing things down a bit is the steady and much less frenetic side that brings ‘Temple of the Holy,’ with some little mystic twists, bringing to mind something again that Ritchie Blackmore would do from time to time in Rainbow and Michael’s solo even brought to mind Blackmore to a degree, although it did seem a perhaps little here and there in its whole presentation.
‘Shine On’ sounds a little dark like with its metallic verse riff and some of the kick drum fills and actually reminds me again at times like Ronnie James Dio (RIP).
Nice solo again from Michael if perhaps too brief.
With ‘Bridges We Have Burned’ next it opens with some nice melodic picking, before coming into the songs main groove, a little dark and edgy through each verse, then a familiar like uplifting chorus. Once again, Michael’s solo work doesn’t disappoint.
Sorry to have to say this, but I’m listening to a Michael Schenker album and next there’s a track that really does very little for me indeed. The punky like ‘Because You Lied’ is just off for me. Repetitive and disappointing, that’s all I can say.
A big reprieve comes with ‘Black Moon Rising’ next, even with its darkness as a slow and steady rocker. Perhaps quite Dio, almost Dio era Black Sabbath like to be honest here.
Final track of the album is ‘Dance for the Piper’ that has a much more familiar MSG like groove, nice one to end the disc with.
Overall an album that has grown on me, as I wasn’t sure what to think the first couple of times I heard it.
Once again Michael has teamed up with Michael Voss (Mad Max, Bonfire) and who has also sung on the last ‘Temple of Rock’ album, to co-produce the release and he seems to have found the perfect foil to work with generally.
I am sorry to say though that I really do not like the one track ‘Because You Lied’ and am surprised at its inclusion, but that’s just me.
As I’ve said many times before, I do love Michael’s guitar work though, it's so distinctive as well so that’s always good to hear for me and Doogie White’s voice, is one I’m not all that familiar with to be fair. I did hear the Rainbow album he did, but it was hit and miss with me, Tank I was never a fan of, I never heard him with Yngwie J. Malmsteen either.
The ‘Temple of Rock Live’ release was OK, but really didn’t blow me away, but again folks, this is just my opionion.
To my mind, it’s still a good album for the most part, but in places there are still times that I feel it’s just missing something …
Released on: Frontiers Records. Release date: Available now.
So this is another of my ‘wrapping things up here at Chambers of Rock, reviews,’ which should’ve been posted late last year, but … Regulars and longtime readers know the score and I’m not going to drag this review out longer, by going through the ‘whys’ again.
Anyway, yes Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet, Oz Fox and Tim Gaines got things together once more last year (2013) to record another new Stryper studio release, in ‘No More Hell To Pay.’
Over the past decade or so, the ‘yellow and black attack’ men have been kind of back and forth with their reunions, but I hope now that they are firmly back together for good, even if Michael has been doing his own solo thing in parallel of late. What the heck, why shouldn’t he?!
I did love the band’s tribute album to their influences ‘The Covering’ released in 2011, wonderful versions of some real rock classic tunes. Highly recommend that one to anyone!
The guys did re-record a bunch of their classics which was released earlier last year as ‘Second Coming,’ although I never got to hear the re-recordings, but based on their recent form I’m sure it was great!
This new one, ‘No More Hell To Pay,’ was finally released in November of last year …, yes, I know, slacker right?!
This is an absolute gem and they have really outdone themselves in my opinion, well maybe one track that I’m still not 100% sold on, but maybe that’s because it’s really pretty much too metal like. Yes, I know ..., I know ... The rest of the album really shows some top class melodic hard rock of the very finest variety! I mean seriously, I have found when I put this on in the car, I just don't want to stop playing it and find myself singing along all the time!
Opening track ‘Revelation’ intros with some nice harmonics and power chords before getting into the song proper. A great solid melodic rocker with a sweet solo!
There’s something a little Scorpions like to me about title track ‘No More Hell to Pay,’ but I won’t take anything away from Stryper on this track. I just love it and sing it over and over again even when I’m not playing the song, the chorus line comes to mind again and again. Just love the song's overall groove and the whole band’s sound is great and once more a very fine solo!
‘Saved By Love’ is next up and is a lot quicker than either of its predecessors, it just drives and really cruises! Love the passionate scream of the chorus line and the drumming is just so tight, almost (Judas) Priest like guitar sound, I would just love to jam this tune, wonderful! Totally rocks out!
Back on the cover trail next with the band’s interpretation of ‘Jesus Is Just Alright With Me,’ yes the old Doobie Brothers tune and yet again this one drives until it hits the bridge to ease back into some chugging, crunching riffs and then gets right back into it swing again and pretty much slams, with some sweet interplay on the guitars, nice!
Is it just me or are there moments when Michael Sweet sings, where he’s not unlike Dennis DeYoung?
That is no slant on the guy, as on so many songs here he totally shows what a great and varying range he has.
‘The One’ is a monster, beautiful power ballad that would be enough to blow away any AOR fan, I swear. Love the harmony guitar parts, beautiful and again, Michael’s voice, just great!
The metal approach next of ‘Legacy’ which start quite heavy before getting into the more melodic chorus, before getting back into its chugging, driving verse once more. I really can’t say enough about how wonderful the guitar solo work on this album is throughout and of course there’s more of that here. Very slick!
OK, now it’s ‘Marching Into Battle’ that I really can’t get into and maybe it’s because of its metallic, dare I say Metallica like sound, but to a degree …, sorry, Spinal Tap like metal. Just doesn’t work for me, still and I’ve listened to it many times now.
The band completely make up for it with the absolutely wonderful ‘Te Amo’ which drives in a very (Iron) Maiden like fashion with time changes but it’s just so melodic that it manages to capture the metal edge of say Maiden and yet remains so true to melodic hard rock that Stryper has down to a fine art. This track is just complete magic for me and is without doubt my favourite here, wonderful in every way!
Perhaps ‘Sticks and Stones’ has a bit of a cheesy title, but it’s a nice groove throughout both verse and chorus and keeps up with the pure strength of songwriting throughout the album. As cheesy perhaps as the title may be considered, it’s a really strong chorus once again. Another winner!
‘Water Into Wine’ of course derives from the bible verse, but it’s a very strong hard melodic rocker indeed, with as much passion and groove as anything here, perhaps even if it may give a little nod here and there to classic early Def Leppard. Big chanting choruses of course, no real solo here although guitars are howling throughout!
With ‘Sympathy’ it’s again a strong hard rocking gem through each verse and then big harmonious choruses and a truly wonderful soaring lead break before a bridge that takes things down quite a bit with two nice harmony lines and then it powers up to close the track out.
Closing track ‘Renewed’ has a riff not unlike something Priest would play, but Michael Sweet’s ever reaching vocals take your mind away from that somewhat but the track cruises before another time changing bridge to bring the tempo down and then it kicks into a nice up tempo groove and solo and proceeds to just kill it! Monster closer, love it!
Based on this absolutely storming release from Stryper it seems to me that there’s plenty more life in the band yet! There is apparently a special edition also available, with a bonus DVD that includes two music videos – ‘No More Hell To Pay’ and ‘Sympathy’ – and a documentary on the making of the album which I wish I had, but ah well.
As I said at the start, this album has taken me a while to finally get this review typed up and the chances are, most rock fans that would be likely to get this, got it some time back, but if you’re sitting on the fence, DON’T, get this it is to these ears an absolute gem!
Released on: Universal. Release date: Available now.
Yes, this is another album that I’m more than a little behind on getting it wrapped up with the release date ... Sorry, but that said, it seems it's release date seems to have been staggered all around the world and so maybe it's not all that old to everyone!
The Dead Daisies – That name, still not sold on … - is a band that was formed around ‘former’ Noiseworks / INXS lead vocalist Jon Stevens, who’s voice may not be everyone’s favorite, but I liked Noiseworks since back in the 90’s so it’s fine by me.
Stevens joined forces with ex-Mink (?) player David Lowy to start writing material for a new project, cue The Dead Daisies in a lineup currently also including guitarist Richard Fortus (Ex-Guns and Roses, Thin Lizzy), Dizzy Reed (Ex-Guns and Roses) on keys, Darryl Jones (Rolling Stones – He’d replaced Bill Wyman) on bass and drummer Charley Drayton (The X-pensive Winos/The Cult/Cold Chisel), is with the current touring band.
Clearly there’s some talent involved in this project, that has switched out the rhythm section already, as they have already had ex-Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Ted Nugent bassist Marco Mendoza onboard for a while and also drummer Alex Carapetis (Nine Inch Nails, Julian Casablancas).
The guys also roped in Slash (Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) to co-write and play on the first single released from the album, entitled ‘Lock ‘N’ Load’ and Slash distinct sound is clearly present throughout.
It’s a strange kind of mixture of tunes, not bad and certainly enjoyable perhaps with Jon Stevens influence it’s not that far removed from Noiseworks at times, no bad thing in my book.
‘It’s Gonna Take Time’ kicks things off here with some urgency and is rocky and almost a little punky too in its punchiness, that eases back for the chorus a little and there’s even a part that reminds me of Pink Floyd’s‘Time’ for a moment in the bridge section. Clever track, with a few turns this way and that.
The Slash featured track, ‘Lock ‘N’ Load’ is next and it has a great commercial groove to it, almost bordering a hint of blues with Slash’s style. Nice! Solid enough tune.
The single ‘Washington’ is next and to me perhaps gives a little nod towards the old classic track ‘American Woman,’ it’s certainly got a funky kind of groove about it. I like it! I love the keys work from Dizzy Reed, very Faces like, nice touch!
‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ really kind of reminds me of that Americana sound that John Mellencamp or Tom Petty sometimes tends to lean towards, but it’s got a certain tongue in cheek feel to it and an almost (Rolling) Stones like laid back groove too. Rock ‘n’ roll baby!
I love the melancholy feel about ‘Yesterday,’ it’s a really nice track. Kind of has a laid back Stonesy feel to it too and it seems to grow from a laid back number into something much more!
‘Writing On The Wall’ next is quite a laid back atmospheric number, still of course with a cool groove which it seems is something that comes quite naturally to Jon Stevens in his writing … Er, no pun intended here! Just after the midway point, there’s a little bridge that picks it up a little before easing back into the original groove.
Back to the more pop / rock punch with ‘Miles in Front of Me’ next, it’s not unlike opener ‘It’s Gonna Take Time’ at all, very similar indeed at first and then the chorus is a wonderfully smooth melodic groove. Nice, very catchy indeed! Some nice guitar flourishes too.
‘Bible Row’ is a little pop / rock / new wave number in style, quite up tempo and Dizzy Reed’s keys shine through a little more, and it’s got a nice groove to it too. Kind of a grower tune that may not get you right away, but as the album grows on you from a few more plays this one should too.
Next track ‘Man Overboard’ was actually I think the first song I heard from these guys, as a free download offered some time back. It’s a little off the wall perhaps, a little atmospheric with some punchy elements, but it’s like it never really gets into any pick up groove, but I still like it. Possibly this is down to how many times I’ve heard it!
With ‘Tomorrow’ next I hear quite a bit of a Noiseworks feel about it. Jon Stevens vocal has an edginess in it throughout the verses, laid back musically it tries to remain a little restrained, then in the chorus there’s even more smoothness to it. He almost sounds a little like Seal in the choruses actually, nothing wrong with that.
Sub-power ballad time next with ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ and no, it’s not the REO Speedwagon tune of the same name! It’s a nicely, almost Beatles’esque piano driven number. I like the little whistle part that tags along with the guitar solo, it’s different and overall the song has a certain magic to it, that makes you think ‘hit single’ about it with enough plays, but what do I know ..?!
Final track here is ‘Talk To Me’ and it’s quite an edgy number without getting too heavy. An interesting bridge that takes it down a little before getting back into its groove once again and then it wraps up the album.
It’s an album that I can quite happily play again and again and not get tired of at all. There’s points where it’s really catchy, others where it seems a little eclectic then it’s edgy too and also has it’s lulls, so it bounces around quite a bit.
I haven’t played any of my Noiseworks stuff in quite a while, so to hear Jon Stevens once again was a great reminder of the kick I got when I first heard them, time to dig some out again!
Does this sound like Noiseworks though? Well, with Jon’s vocal it’s hard not to draw some comparison, but Noiseworks switched things around quite a bit too so ... If you liked Noiseworks, you make up your own mind. It is an album that certainly takes a few different twists and turns here and there, that are maybe a little different from Noiseworks, so to me it’s fresh and I kind of like it! Is it out and out stunning, well …, that’s down to the individual of course and it’s not quite stunning for me, but it does have a refreshing kind of vibe.
Released on: Provogue / Mascot Records. Release date: Available now
So here’s the thing, when I first heard Mountain, many moons ago – ‘70’s - the song / tune was ‘Nantucket Sleigh ride’ and that was the one and only track I ever recall liking from Mountain, even though I once owned the ‘Twin Peaks’ album. They just never clicked with me, I really wish I could say different as they have a significant history / back catalogue and of course this was where one Leslie West came from. Understand this though, I always knew and respected Leslie West’s abilities, great player but Mountain to me, just weren’t my bag.
Then coming on a number of years, I recall my favourite guitar player Michael Schenker announced he was recording with Leslie West and methinks …, hmmm, what will this be like then … Well I heard the material and for me, it was alright but it was lacking something that really, really grabbed me and after playing this here album, might I say to death, I might just have to go back and revisit that material!
‘Still Climbing’ is one of those albums you get to hear and then kick yourself for not previously ‘paying attention before,’ what was I thinking?!
I also MUST get myself a copy of Leslie’s last album ‘Unusual Suspects,’ as if it’s a patch on this – Which it most certainly must be just based on Leslie’s special guests on that one alone. – it’s surely a winner! I mean that last album featured many of my personal favourite guitar players including Steve Lukather and Joe Bonamassa to name just two, it also featured major names like Slash, Billy Gibbons and Zakk Wylde, so right there is good reason to go and check it out.
‘Still Climbing’ features special guests once again with the likes of Jonny Lang, Johnny Winter, as well as perhaps two stranger choices in Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider and Creed / Alter Bridge man Mark Tremonti, impressive huh?! Something else to keep in mind too, is that Leslie West loves to woo audiences with his brand of rocking as well as sometime very soulful blues, so when the poor guy through his battle with diabetes lost his right leg (2011), you’d think it would really make him think twice about continuing on with this demanding career. Not a chance!
The guy has come back, guns a blazing if you will with two storming albums – As I said, I’ve read the reviews elsewhere on ‘Unusual Suspects,’ which got much praise and this one can rock you hard as well as move you soulfully. I’m telling you straight, it’s a great album.
Opening with the hard rocking groove of ‘Dyin’ Since The Day I was Born’ which just had me sold from the very first time it open up! Such a great hook and he’s ably supported here by his backing band. Hard hitting drums, pumping bass, a smidgen of keys somewhere in the mix and of course the man himself on lead vocals. Get this though, I have to say from the press release I don’t know who plays bass here or drums and my promo copy of the album did not give it either. Huge kudos to his band throughout though.
This album is also capturing his life story to a degree as well, look at the opener’s song title and it’s lyrics also tell quite the tale, so when I see that the next song is titled ‘Busted, Disgusted or Dead,’ there you have it right?! I mean this guy has really been through quite the grinder even beating off bladder cancer at one point. So on ‘Busted, Disgusted or Dead’Leslie trades slide guitar licks with yet another legendary player in Johnny Winter.
Have to tell you, this has such an awesome classic deep, yet dirty blues groove that it made me wonder if it wasn’t Joe Bonamassa on here. It’s just great, Leslie and Johnny lay it right on the line!
‘Fade into You’ opens with a soulful vocal line and some nice acoustic playing and then it kicks in and this just gives me goose bumps when the solo kicks in too. Not unlike Schenker’s style too. Love it! It’s funny you know as at times I’m even reminded by his vocal of Graham Bonnet, quite harsh, yet appropriate.
Creeping up on you is the approach of ‘Not Over You At All,’ and then it gathers a kind of sexy vibe if you will with some sax, I mean that’s really how it hits me. Love where the guitar follows the vocal line too, another little treat and the underlying Hammond organ is sweet. Good stuff indeed!
‘Tales of Woe’ is beautifully presented and is another soulful touch, led in with acoustic guidance and some beautifully – Again very reminiscent of Schenker – lead work. Nice!
Next up is a cover of Anthony Newley’s‘Feeling Good,’ again perhaps is a reference to his life experiences of late, especially the line, ‘It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,’ where it reflects on his life changes to try and perhaps improve his life in these latter years and why not, perhaps a little late Leslie but heck, with what you’ve battled man and how you’ve come out the other side with class playing like this, you go man! This track also features Dee Snider trading vocal lines with West and if I didn’t read it, I wouldn’t know it, Nicely done!
So I guess ‘Hatfield or McCoy’ meant nothing to me story wise but I guess there’s a story out there – I did actually notice a DVD with this title recently, but still know nothing more as I didn’t have time to stop and read the cover notes. – and this one follows a down and dirty groove and once more some slick guitar solo work.
Then perhaps a surprise when Leslie pulls out the Percy Sledge classic, ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and is joined by the soulful Jonny Lang to share vocals duties. Some wicked and soulful guitar touches here and once more the dueling comes into play a little. Great interpretation indeed!
An old Mountain number in ‘Long Red’ gets the redo treatment next and for this Leslie brought in his brother Larry West on bass and it brings it right up to date and I can say nothing wrong about this at all! Nice tune. Leslie maybe you could start redoing the whole Mountain back catalogue as I like how you do this very much!
OK, I know I’ve referenced Michael Schenker at least twice already but next track ‘Don’t Ever Let Me Go’ really reminds me in its style of something that was on the MSG comeback album ‘In The Midst Of Beauty.’Really love the plucking like, almost with a kind of Middle Eastern, exotic like little picking style solo licks, quite similar to Schenker and there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s a great rocking number indeed.
Then to close the album a little bass interpretation of ‘(Somewhere) Over The Rainbow’ entitled ‘Rev Jones Time’ so I’m guessing it’s ex-Schenker bassist Rev Jones on bass here. - Doesn't say in the notes ... Fun little closing number.
This really is as I said before a really great and enjoyable album that I could play again and again every day and never get tired of it at all. Nice one Leslie, so what’s next?
Last weekend, on Saturday 18th January, the world lost a true advocate of melodic rock / AOR music in Fergie Frederiksen.
Dennis 'Fergie' Frederiksen was one truly great singer, a wonderful talent who sadly lost his battle with cancer that he had been fighting since 2010.
My huge personal regret is that I never got to see Fergie performing live with one of my all time favourite bands Toto or another favourite band of mine, Mecca.
I never met or spoke to the guy, but have always admired the talent that he exuded.
I personally never discovered the guy's obvious talent until I first heard Toto's excellent 'Isolation' album released in 1984.
Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1951, his first success was with the Chicago born band Trillion, whose first album was released in 1978 and from the attention the band drew at the time, it landed them opening tour slots with both Styx and Heart.
He briefly worked with AOR legends Angel in 1981 before moving onto other things, as Angel fell apart soon after, although it was with Angel where he made a connection with Ricky Phillips, which turned out to be useful further into Fergie's career.
In 1982 he worked with Survivor singing background vocals on a number of tracks on their mega hit album 'Eye of the Tiger.'
In 1983 he joined La Roux and went on to appear on just one studio album with the band which was the release, 'So Fired Up' that produced the Frederiksen penned minor hit 'Carrie's Gone,' but once again it seemed Frederiksen's time with a band was short lived.
It was touching base once more with Ricky Phillips, that led to Fergie being introduced to Journey's Jonathan Cain, who along with Phillips and Cain's singing wife at the time Tané Cain put together the side project Abandon Shame.
Sadly, even with all the talent involved and famed producer Kevin Olsen, it once more did not last so long, no album completed - to my knowledge - just a handful of songs, some of which did make it onto the soundtrack of 'The Terminator' movie.
It was soon after this, that the Toto connection took place, since Fergie's old friend Ricky Phillips gave late Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro (RIP) a demo of Fergie's work, after Phillips learned of Toto letting lead singer Bobby Kimball go.
Sure enough Toto and Fergie clicked and they went on to complete the excellent 'Isolation' album in 1984. One of my all time favourites, ever! Which again was why I was deeply saddened when I learned a few years back of Fergie's illness.
He was also involved in the soundtrack album Toto did for the 'Dune' movie.
After parting ways with Toto, during early sessions of the 'Fahrenheit' album recording, Fergie decided to go out on the road solo touring playing Toto sets, which sadly created some issues between the two parties and the band took action to prevent Fergie from doing this any longer, due to Fergie performing songs that he had no part in writing.
For a few years, Fergie dropped out of the music scene before Fergie and Ricky Phillips reunited to create and release the Frederiksen / Phillips self titled album in 1995.
A dream record for many AOR fans, as it featured many name artists such as Neal Schon, Deen Castronova, Tim Pierce, Steve Farris, Bruce Gowdy, Bobby Blotzer and backing vocals from the likes of Robin McAuley and David Glen Eisley to name just a handful.
A solo album in the shape of 'Equilibrium' was release by Fergie in 1999 and it also featured a serious all star lineup and was equally well received by the genre.
Various side projects where he offered his services followed before Fergie next hooked up with Jim Peterik (Survivor) once again, who was putting together a new project with vocalist Joe Vana, fellow ex-Toto player in bassist David Hungate, Mike Aquino on guitars, Jimmy Nichols (Keys) and Shannon Forrest on drums.
The project name Mecca, the album the same name, 'Mecca!'
Released in 2002, it was quite Toto like with a twist, an album I enjoyed very much too.
Fergie then got back to involvement in various side projects before the nicely put together album under the project name Frederiksen / Denander as Fergie joined up with session guitarist Tommy Denander for 'Baptism of Fire'in 2007.
Other all star project work continued before the sad announcement in 2010 that Fergie had cancer.
Fergie was not going down without a fight though and released two very good albums indeed with 2011's 'Happiness is the Road' - a brave title for a man battling cancer - and last year's 'Any Given Moment,'Fergie was doing things in style until the bitter end.
He was scheduled to hopefully, perhaps optimistically, appear at last years Melodic Rock Fest 3 but alas it was not to be, as he was not well enough.
Sadly, as the statement 'all good things must come to an end' goes, last Saturday we lost a very, very good vocalist and musical talent indeed as Dennis 'Fergie' Frederiksen finally lost his four year battle with cancer.
He will be greatly missed by so many people in the melodic rock genre.
RIP Fergie, no more pain ... Thank you for so much wonderful music.
Thoughts and prayers and deepest sympathies go out to Fergie's family at this time.
So sorry for your loss and such a great loss.
A great vocal to remember Fergie by, his re-recorded version of the Toto classic track, 'Angel Don't Cry.'
Released on: Onori Entertainment. Release Date: Available now.
Richie Onori is not your typical frontman by any means, as the guy typically occupies the back seat, as the rhythm section foundation as drummer in both Steve Priest's version of The Sweet and the Stuart Smith led band, Heaven + Earth who in fact Onori has been a part of since their first album.
Having seen Onori with The Sweet on three occasions and with Heaven + Earth - Sadly only - once, he is a more than solid drummer!
Here's the thing though and perhaps to many people's surprise, the guy has actually put out two previous solo releases, the all-star 'Three Wishes' album in 2009 and then 'Days of Innocence' in 2012, prior to this his latest release here 'In The Name Of Freedom.' This new album actually features two songs from the ‘Three Wishes’ album redone, in ‘American Fighters’ and ‘Come Together We’re the U.S.A.’ which was originally titled simply ‘We’re the U.S.A.’
This latest album was also produced by Dave Jenkins who also twiddled the knobs on the latest Heaven + Earth release ‘Dig’ that Onori was of course a part of. Jenkins also adds backing vocals throughout too.
All the songs presented here were written by Richie Onori and he also sings, plays guitar, drums and harmonica on here. Not bad huh?
His guests on here include the slick guitarist Phil Woodward, various bass players such as Marvin Sperling, David Chamberlain, Mark Meadows and Will McGregor, Dave Jenkins also adds some Hammond B3 work and keyboards, also helping out on Hammond is Dickie Sims and John ‘J.T.’ Thomas, as well as Jon Greathouse on keys too. On Sax Chris Mostert, Trumpet work by Bill Lamb, Mark Josephson on violin and the list goes on with many more including a whole host of background singers - Sorry I didn't include everyone's name, on credits alone I could've gone on quite a bit! - so you get the picture, a lot went into this folks! Phew!
To open the album Richie has a recording of some crowd demonstration, protest or similar to tie in with the songs title and it’s apparent message, ‘Power To the People’ also includes a version of what Jimi Hendrix did with ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and what sounds like a bunch of 'young un’s' chanting a little sarcastic dig perhaps, with instead of ‘God Bless America’ or similar it's ‘God Bless G.E., God Bless Citigroup ...,’ you get the picture I’m sure. Richie’s vocal here is considerably edgier than on his last album, ‘Days of Innocence’ which was what he had told me was his intention with this album last year, when I chatted with him before a local Sweet gig in the Detroit area.
It’s certainly a much rockier affair from the get go this time around and I like it! ‘Power To The People’ is like a rallying of the troops call, for people to stand up for what they believe in and not be pushed around and it really has a lovely hook guitar riff that pops up again and again, edgy and a sweet lick!
It’s an album that has quite a retro type feel and sound to it indeed, but in a refreshing kind of way. It’s quite possible that people may not be too sure of Richie’s vocal, but it’s kind of unique and cool to me.
‘Hey You (You’d Better Think Again)’ is next and again there’s a message to the song. It’s kind of a funky rocking groove on the opening two numbers, that may not grab you right away, but really got my attention to want to listen to it again and then again. It’s got something, that’s rocky yet perhaps a little eclectic.
Sorry Richie, you may not like this but ‘Long Live Rock’ next has a real retro Alice Cooper type vibe about it right down to the opening line, ‘I turn it inside out, You’ve got me under my wheels …’ Ha! I love it Richie! That said the chorus line doesn’t follow the same path and it’s a pretty basic, straight forward catchy chorus. I love the intermittent guitar wailing throughout though, tasty playing. Something also that Richie has in abundance throughout the choruses is big harmony vocals.
‘American Fighters’ next has an almost Little Steven meets John Mellencamp feel to it, some Americana I guess, a little like the old Cat Stevens track ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ to a certain extent too Clearly another rallying song as well.. It’s one of those songs too that when you hear it, I’d go so far as to say if this suddenly got a little radio play, it could really get people’s attention and a chance that maybe, just maybe it could be a hit. When you hear it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
A song for the traditional American Indian next in ‘Buffalo Nation’ that again has perhaps more of that retro Alice Cooper – ‘Go To Hell’ – groove to it and a wonderfully soaring female vocal at one point too. It has a solid chug along groove throughout, even with maybe a nod to Pink Floyd with the songs layers throughout.
The project title song next in ‘Blues Messenger’ introduced with some underlying B3 and some melancholy acoustic guitar and then it kicks into a rocking groove briefly, before easing back a little through the second verse. The chorus is driven with some funk rocking B3 and once more big choral vocal, borderline gospel. This was what I meant about the eclectic feel to the album too.
It certainly has it’s rocking moments, but some soulful ones and Americana throughout. It is a retro vibe without any doubt, but what Richie has captured here has a kind of uniqueness about it that makes it interesting to want to listen to it again and – for me – again.
‘In The Name Of Freedom’ brings to mind Bob Marley, with its sub-reggae groove not really my bag, but it’s message and vibe just really kind of ties in with I think Richie was looking to achieve with the overall feel / vibe of the album.
Alright, ‘Come Together We’re The USA’ is a monster groove and I totally love the buildup intro and then it gets into its stride and it’s a track that has a lot going on throughout musically and vocally. It’s kind of like the album’s epic track with it’s up, down changes throughout. I kind of get the sense that maybe this is Richie’s (Bruce) Springsteen album, with its vibe throughout and the various messages that go with that.
‘The Answer’ is the final track here and it’s certainly an up-tempo number and once again a big vocal harmony chorus, but it’s got a nice groove throughout, some wonderful B3 jamming once more and is rocking closer.
As I’ve already mentioned before, throughout the album there is no question that Richie and his friends want to share a message or two with us all, so yes there is that to it which may perhaps put off more of the rockers that follow Richie when he plays with The Sweet or Heaven + Earth, but if your taste is a little more open minded then maybe try this.
My references to similarities to other songs / artists throughout, is the same with this album as it is with any other review I do, as often friends ask me ‘So what’s that new album from so and so like?’ If I simply say it’s really good or it rocks or even, it’s not for me, then they come back with yeah, but does it sound like anything or anyone else? So I never mean to insult any artist when I cross reference anyone else, I’m simply giving them a little pointer in my view.
I think Richie is a great guy, solid drummer and based on this album, not too shabby on the guitar either! Some people may not get his voice at once, but give it a chance with the sound he has here, you just maybe glad you did!
I love the albums he has played on, but as with many musicians there comes a time when they just want to do their thing and I thing Richie has more than earned that right to do just that.