UPDATED October 27, 2021



Currently settled in the UK, the extremely talented multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter MATT BACKER has lived all over the world, played with countless musicians (including JULIAN LENNON, BOB DYLAN, ELTON JOHN, ABC, etc.) and now releases his 4th album Backernalia. He plays a lot of instruments (guitar, bass, clarinet, Hammond organ, harmonica, harp, piano), but is best known as a gifted guitarist and also a strong lead singer, which we can clearly hear on his new album. Matt composes almost all of his songs on his own, except for a few songs that were written together with several guest co-songwriters. There are 15 songs on this new album, so there’s a lot to enjoy here and thankfully it’s also very diverse musically speaking and from start to finish the included material is of a very high level. Although Matt does a lot on his own, he gets help from a list of guest musicians, such as drummers Randy Morrow and Jim Kimberley, bassist Andy Carr, Rob Hughes on horns, Phil Taylor on piano, a few female singers and quite a lot more guests are joining Matt on this wonderful new album Backernalia. Opener TMI is a very strong uptempo bluesy southern rocker that has some slight memories of JOE BONAMASSA and KENNY WAYNE SHEPHARD, while following Hooked On Love is quite different, because this is a soulful R&B/Gospel ish midtempo piece with guest female singer LILY GONZALES. Middle Class White Boy has a lovely groovy laid-back bluesy rocksound, with also a touch of southern rock. The high level of these first 3 songs is kept until the end of the album, with as other highlights The Devil Washed His Hands Of Me (sounding like a STEELY DAN kinda laid-back tune sung by BILLY F. GIBBONS of ZZ TOP), the raw rocking THE BLACK KEYSish The Last Guitarist, the uptempo hardrocking Close Protection (FREE/BAD COMPANYish), The Eyes Have It (superb midtempo laid-back tune with a lot of soul, partly thanks also to guest female singer MARI WILSON), the catchy midtempo melodic rocker Life And Soul and the catchy classic rocker Mystic Rulers, with it’s FREE – All Right Now guitar riff. Please do yourself a favor and check out this wonderful British musician’s new solo album out a.s.a.p. at:


(Points: 8.6 out of 10)




TARAH WHO? is a female fronted rockband out of the American Prague, which is a small town not far from Oklahoma City in the USA. The band sent me a nice mini-CD titled Supposedly A Man, which contains 8 songs in total. The band is formed around Tarah G. Carpenter: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals, Theremin, Floor Tom, Coralie Hervé: Drums and Jason Orme: Guitar, Backing Vocals, Jew’s Harp, Shaker, Tambourine, Baritone. They already recorded quite some songs, but I believe this is their official debut CD. The included music is 90s inspired rock, with absolutely no compromise, so it does sound quit dark and edgy here and there, but Tarah has a great strong voice to sing the songs quite easily. This band totally rocks with a lot of great uptempo pieces, such as Bad Time, Swallow That Pill, the short punky La Petite Boche and the catchy Manners. TARAH WHO? is a good old fun classy punky female fronted rock and roll band with the attitude of PATTI SMITH, 70s BLONDIE or JOAN JETT and let’s hope they will release a lot more and of course that one day they will be able to tour around the world. Meanwhile, check out this band at: and and


(Points: 8.3 out of 10)




Although we don’t review that much Folk music, the new album of the Oxford/Sheffield duo SPIERS & BODEN is definitely an exception, because Fallow Ground is a sensational ultra-melodic folk record. The duo has been making music together since the late 1990s, although they both were already playing together in the same band before that, namely in the band BELLOWHEAD. Anyway, on the new album the English duo John Spiers (melodeon and concertina) and Jon Boden (vocals, fiddle and guitar while stamping the rhythm on a stomp box) present us a wonderful selection of 13 strong songs that resemble some of the best Folk Music I have heard in ages. The songs are a mix of covers of traditionals (instrumentals a lot) and self-written material (such as The Fog, Bailey Hill / Wittenham Clumps and Giant's Waltz / The Ironing Board Hornpipe, which is inspired by the beautiful Irish Giant's Causeway). There’s not a single dull moment here and the most interesting thing is that instrumental the two musicians create a fantastic sound as if a whole band is playing and along with Jon’s superb vocals, it is a pleasure to listen to songs like Bluey Drink, Butter & Cheese & All, Hind Horn and the titletrack Fallow Ground. Check it out for yourself at:


(Points: 8.3 out of 10)




Essex, UK based singer/songwriter LEE O’BRIEN did almost everything on his own on his new album This Is Me, except for the production and co-writing of the songs, because for that he got help from the legendary FRANCIS ROSSI of STATUS QUO. The resulting album is a fun cheerful upbeat melodic pop/rock album with a nostalgic feeling about it, yet still sounding fresh enough for the modern world. Opener I Was Told is a lovely classic 70s/80s inspired fun uptempo poprocker with a catchy chorus and very strong vocalwork of Lee. Don’t Need Anyone follows and is a bit rockier, kinda like 70s DAVID BOWIE meets 70s ROD STEWART. This is all cleverly done and if it was the 1970s I am sure Lee would have had major hits, but in this modern world it’s a bit harder to be an excellent musician, singer and composer, because you really have to be lucky to score a radio hit. Anyway, Lee does a great job and there’s a lot of great material on this mostly upbeat fun melodic pop/rock album, with as other highlights the 70s WINGS/PAUL MCCARTNEYish One Day, the JULIAN LENNON meets the catchy 80s midtempo pop/rocksound of TOM PETTY/ROY ORBISON produced JEFF LYNNE ish All In A Dream, and the lovely catchy early 80s uptempo poprockers You And I and Last Man Standing. Well done and a recommended album in case you like to hear normal traditional old school pop/rock with strong vocals and catchy memorable choruses. More info at:


(Points: 8.3 out of 10)




SOME VELVET MORNING is a band from North London, formed back in 2007, and Rough Seas is their 4th album so far. It took some time to finish this new album, because 2 of the 3 members of the band were with their family in a small coastal town on the Irish Coast when all hell broke loose due to corona in March 2020. Fast forward to the present day, the new album is finished and Desmond Lambert (singer - songwriter - guitarist – engineer), Rob Flanagan (drummer) and Gavin Lambert (bassist – vocalist and brother of Desmond) deliver a great piece of new music here. Opener Ghosts is a very strong start, a modern type of semi rocker that starts calm, but builds up in the best spirit of FLEET FOXES, so melting a bit of folk, pop and rock, with a focus on crystal clear vocals and a catchy poppy melodic chorus, while giving the beat a bombastic approach that will appeal to a lot of people out there. After this rather poppy starts, things get excited during the following bluesy raw midtempo rocker Rough Seas, which is a fantastic song that is pretty close to THE BLACK KEYS and GARY CLARK JR. SOME VELVET MORNING is clearly in the rock mood here and without a doubt it sounds quite sensational! By the way, the song changes into a catchy uptempo 70s ish piece towards the end, so it is quite an epic adventurous diverse song! The album continues with a mixture of poppier and rawer rocksongs and no matter what SOME VELVET MORNING is doing, it all sounds pretty good I would say. Other highlights are the superb calmer Butterfly, the THE WHITE STRIPESish rocker Good To See You, the midtempo 80s influenced melodic pop/rock of Love Begins and After Goodbye (with a slight COLDPLAY meets KEANE kinda touch) and the catchy early 80s danceable New Wave influenced Berlin. Concluded, a great radio-ready album to check out and for more info please go to: and


(Points: 8.5 out of 10)




Out of Italy comes singer and guitarist ELIANA CARGNELUTTI, and she is definitely one to check out a.s.a.p., because her 3rd album Aur represents high quality modern day female fronted heavy blues rock. Among the guests are ANA POPOVIC and ERIC STECKEL, so you can bet that Eliana has got all it takes to become huge. She already played with several well-known musicians, including the DEEP PURPLE drummer IAN PAICE. As soon as the first song Breathe Again starts, it is clear that we are dealing with a sensational and extremely talented singer and guitarist. The song itself is a lovely typical modern day retro heavy bluesrocker with a catchy chorus, like JOE BONAMASSA meets SAMANTHA FISH meets JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR. The material is here and there a bit lighter and also focused on a catchy melodic ‘pop’ chorus, such as can be heard during the following song Who Is The Monster?, yet always featuring cool guitar riffs. Other highlights on this excellent album are the superb soulful groovy I Don’t Know (featuring superb vocals of Eliana and a very catchy chorus besides a superb SANTANAish guitarsolo), the uptempo rocker I Won’t Change, the lovely semi melodic rocker Alone, which reminds me a bit of LEE AARON and HEART, and the closing track I Swear, which is a great AOR/Melodic Rockballad. All together, it's actually a very diverse album that has a lot to offer and I am really looking forward to catch this singer/guitarist live one day. Until then, check her out at: and


(Points: 8.3 out of 10)



As soon as the opening song Follow The River of the new album After Comes The Dark of the Canterbury based band GREEN DIESEL blasts through the speakers, it’s like we stepped in a time machine back to the 1970s, because this is basically picture perfect classic 1970 progressive folk rock in the style of such legendary acts like RENAISSANCE, FAIRPORT CONVENTION, LINDISFARNE, STEELEYE SPAN… Formed around Ellen Care (lead vocals and violin), Matt Dear lead guitar and vocals), Paul Dadswell (drums and vocals), Ben Holliday (bass) and Greg Ireland (guitar, bouzouki, dulcimer, mandolin, keyboards, percussion, vocals), GREEN DIESEL was formed back in 2009 and After Comes The Dark is their 4th album so far. It is a such a pleasure to listen to such good original music, because progfolk-rock is quite rare nowadays. KANSAS for example is slightly more AORish compared to their early work and a band like MOSTLY AUTUMN is also more proggy melodic rock orientated. GREEN DIESEL however is doing things exactly like it was done 45 years ago and if only the Balfolk nights in Rotterdam would still exist, they could have easily been on the bill.  From start to finish, this is the way to do it, instrumentally sounding classic folky, with proggy twists and superb crystal clear female vocals, and each and every song is all about melodies. Other highlights are Dusty Fairies, The White Hart, Katy Cruel and the titletrack After Comes The Dark. Fans of the aforementioned bands will absolutely love this album, so go check it out a.s.a.p. at:  

(Points: 8.4 out of 10)




Out of Nicosia, Cyprus comes the interesting band MONSIEUR DOUMANI, a trio formed in 2012, and so far they have established a strong following thanks to their 3 studio albums and their live performances. Pissourin is the 4th album of the band, and they are formed around Antonis Antoniou (Tzouras, Vocals, Electronics), Demetris Yiasemides (Trombone, Flute) and Andys Skordis (Guitar, Loops, Backing Vocals). The music of MONSIEUR DOUMANI is a mix of various styles, sometimes reminding me of ALTIN GUN (just listen to the song Kalikandjari for example), so there’s a psychedelic middle eastern/Mediterranean influence to be heard. World Music with elements of 70s psychedelic rock and traditional Cyprus influences is the main melting pot here, but actually MONSIEUR DOUMANI is one of those bands you need to check out for yourself, because they sound very original, especially when you listen to the superb Poulia. There are so many surprising elements to be heard and this band sounds like a rockband in disguise, meaning that they rock, but they will still appeal to fans of traditional music and World Music as well. They blend everything perfectly together, and besides the aforementioned songs, other highlights on their new album are Tiritichtas, the superb Koukkoufkiaos, Thamata (with a guest female singer) and Nychtopapparos, although actually every song is a winner here. Without a doubt, this is a band to watch out for in the near future and hopefully later this year I will be able to catch them live on stage when they come down to Rotterdam to perform. Of course the world might look entirely different by then due to the pandemic, so fingers crossed and meanwhile check them out at:


(Points: 8.7 out of 10)




Out of Italy comes the sensational guitarist FABRIZIO SAVINO, who already released several albums the past 10 years, performed all over the world with a lot of well-known musicians at various festivals, and now releases probably his finest work so far. Double bass player LUCA ALEMANNO and drummer SEBASTIAN MERK join him on The Rising Sun. 11 songs are included, of which 9 Fabrizio composed himself and the music fits somewhere between old school smooth jazz and modern calmer progressive rock (a song like No Ifs, No Ands, or Buts is basically pure prog). Calmer instrumental jazzy prog fusion is most of the time the name of the game here, with really fabulous relaxing smooth guitarplaying (like GEORGE BENSON, LEE RITENOUR meets STANLEY JORDAN), such as can be heard during the wonderful Rebirth and Skylark (HOGGY CARMICHAEL cover) as well as the jazzy April In Paris (VERNON DUKE cover). There is so much to enjoy here, because just listen to the beautiful haunting Wisdom and the smooth sensational Her Fears for example. This is of an incredible high level from start to finish, so it is basically a must-have album for anyone who likes precise guitarwork like the mentioned legendary guitarists. It fits right between smooth jazzy fusion and calmer prog, so it’s taking the best of both worlds! More info can be found at:


(Points: 8.7 out of 10)



Pink Moon is the last of 3 albums recorded by British songwriter NICK DRAKE, a legendary musician who left us way too soon in the early 1970s. DEMIAN DORELLI is an Italian pianoplayer who is currently living in the city of Cambridge, where Nick also once started his music career. Together with schoolmate and friend ALBERTO FABRIS, Demian recorded 11 piano-only songs that are a hommage to Nick's album Pink Moon. Demian gives his own twist to the original songs of Nick's classic album, which also featured Nick's vocals and guitarwork back then, but this tribute is now all done on 1 piano by the talented musician Demian. The result is interesting and fascinating. Fans of NICK DRAKE should really listen to the album a.s.a.p. More info at:

(Points: 8.0 out of 10)




The legendary JACKSON BROWNE found fame and fortune in the 1970s and early 1980s with his own music, but he also worked with almost all the big names in the singer/songwriter/Americana/heartland rock musicians throughout the past 50 years. He released his last studio album in 2014 and actually started working on this 15th solo album Downhill From Everywhere just before lockdown. Eventually it took over a year to actually finish and now it is released. Quite a few guests appear alongside Jackson on vocals and guitar, such as bassist BOB GLAUB, guitarist GREG LEISZ, drummer MAURICIO LEWAK and several more. Jackson’s voice is still amazing, sounding as good as in his old days, so he aged very well. 10 songs are included in total and after the calmer lovely start of Still Looking For Something that brings back memories of his classic 70s westcoast/singer-songwriter days, Jackson gets rocking on the following My Cleveland Heart. This is a superb uptempo rocker with a classic early 80s approach like Jackson also did in those days, so with a typical American Heartland Rock approach like also JOHN COUGAR, MICHAEL STANLEY and so many others did in the early 80s American radio rock days. Minutes To Downtown is up next and here we are in a very smooth midtempo AOR/Westcoast direction. A Human Touch introduce guest female singer LESLIE MENDELSON, and is a very nice calmer Americana/Singer-Songwriter ballad-duet with Jackson. Love Is Love is a beautiful song where Jackson shows he hasn’t lost any of his writing skills, while the song itself is a nice calmer pop/rock song in a sorta STING style. The titletrack Downhill From Everywhere is a great uptempo rocking song again, with however lyrics that are not so uplifting, because they are displaying the reality of the world where we live in and that’s as we all know not really positive concerning all the things happening in and to our world at the moment. Then we get to The Dreamer, an amazing laid-back Americana tune that does have a classic BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN meets THE EAGLES kinda feeling, yet with a sorta LOS LOBOS touch as well. Until Justice Is Real is back to rock again, because this is a great catchy uptempo classic American Heartland Rocker in the best classic JACKSON BROWNE style of the late 70s/early 80s. Up next is the beautiful calmer A Little Soon To Say and during the superb closing track A Song For Barcelona Jackson praises his love for the beautiful Spanish city Barcelona and also crosses western pop/rock with Latin/Spanish rhythms. Concluded, this is a wonderful return from one of the great American singer/songwriters around. More info can be found at:


(Points: 8.7 out of 10)




All Alone is already the 9th album of the American singer/songwriter STEVEN GRAVES who gathered around him a bunch of musicians, such as Travis Cruse on guitar, Doug Pettibone on guitar and pedal steel, Bill Walker on guitar, Russell Kreitman on keys, Will McDougal on keys, Robert Melendez on bass and backing vocals, Bryant Mills on drums, and Andrew Guterman on drums, and recorded this new album. The music is 70s orientated pop/Americana/singer/songwriter, but sadly Steven's vocals are not so strong I’m afraid. If we go through some of the songs, I need to mention Fire (a song that is quite representative for California right now), Rita (uptempo rocker), So Far Away (midtempo westcoast/Americana ish ballad), the swinging All Alone and the uptempo rocker I Can Be Free. However, the album’s finest songs are the uptempo melodic rockers Sitting Bull and the JACKSON BROWNEish Good People, which are both towards the end of the album. Vocally you really need to get used to his mediocre voice, but overall STEVEN GRAVES delivers a nice new album, which you can check out at:


(Points: 6.5 out of 10)




American singer/songwriter ANNIE GALLUP returns with another new album. I lost count somewhere along the way, because she releases quite a lot of albums (solo and as HAT CHECK GIRL), which is a good thing when the quality is of a high level and that’s thankfully also the case on her new album Oh Everything. With the help of other multi-instrumentalists (husband) PETER GALLWAY and HARVEY JONES, Annie presents 13 lovely new calmer singer-songwriter pieces on which she sings and also plays guitar and foot percussion here and there. A song like Rockabye reminds me a lot of SUZANNE VEGA and that’s perhaps the best comparison if you would like one, but actually Annie has developed her own style through the years. Her voice is calm and relaxed, sometimes whispering and talking, while sounding fragile like a female version of LEONARD COHEN during a song like Sleeplessness. You need to be aware that the music is very calm, poetic and lullaby ish, which is done perfectly well, but for some a bit too laid-back, although personally I think when she starts whispering, such as during the song I Dreamed, things does get quite exciting. Check out more info at:


(Points: 7.5 out of 10)



PAUL BENOIT is a gifted singer/songwriter/guitarist from Seattle who has built up a strong reputation as a performer through the years in his area and with his new album Beautiful Lies he should easily be able to reach a bigger audience for sure, because it sounds really good from start to finish. Paul is joined by Rebecca Young on bass, Ron Weinstein on Hammond B3 organ and Will Dowd on drums, while there are also several guest backing singers and musicians, including Jesse Dalton on acoustic bass and Noah Jeffries on violin and mandolin from the band THE DEER. 10 songs are included and overall it feels like a lovely trip through the American history of music, which is a melting pot of Americana, Singer-Songwriter, some rock and roll and a bit of blues. It sounds a bit dark here and there, yet more authentic than for example JOHN MAYER. The titletrack Beautiful Lies is an absolutely beautiful Americana-pop song that could easily become a huge hit. Paul is a fabulous singer and the songs he writes will please any fan of real music. Other highlights are the superb BRUCE SPRINGSTEENish The Score and Saddest Eyes, the lovely ultra-melancholic dark depressing bluesy ballad Let’s Pretend We’re In Love, the uptempo rocker Black Crow (kinda JOE JACKSON ish, with a lovely precise guitarsolo a la ERIC CLAPTON/JOHN MAYER) and Smoke. Paul has got all it takes to become a household name all over the world. Check it out for yourself at:

(Points: 8.5 out of 10)




Out of Hawaii comes ALLAN THOMAS, a singer-songwriter who delivers his 7th album with this The Journey. You don’t hear much music from Hawaii, so this makes it rather interesting to check out, because obviously the island’s influences can be heard on this nice singer-songwriter album The Journey. Allan has a good raspy voice, the music is cheerful and sounding tropical. Highlights among the 12 included songs are The Journey, Van (catchy jazzy vibe, pure STEELY DAN!), After The Storm, the instrumental It Goes Without Saying, the superb Love’s Way (lovely 70s westcoast-jazzy pop/rock fusion like once again STEELY DAN and the beautiful smooth songs So Far So Good and Change Of Plans. The music reminds a lot of the aforementioned STEELY DAN, yet with an own approach by Allan. On the other hand this comparison is not that strange, because the featured musicians include STEELY DAN/STING drummer Keith Carlock, and also bassist JIMMY JOHNSON (JAMES TAYLOR, ELTON JOHN) guitarist Dean Parks (ELTON JOHN, STEVIE WONDER, BOB DYLAN..), the legendary MICHAEL LANDAU (MILES DAVIS, JONI MITCHELL), YELLOWJACKETS composer and pianist Russell Ferrante, DAVID CROSBY pianist and producer James Raymond, the legendary MICHAEL RUFF on keys and guitarist Bryan Kessler. I personally enjoyed this summer ish record a lot and hopefully I will get to learn much more about this extremely talented musician from the beautiful island of Hawaii, especially since he already released his debut album way back in 1971!!!! Go and check out more info on Allan at:


(Points: 8.7 out of 10)




Although I am not a big fan of country music, since some of it usually goes more in a pop direction and the honky-tonk country is hard to listen to for more than just a few songs, but I do admire the country rock bands that throw in slight southern rock influences. In the past POCO, ALABAMA, BLACKHAWK, DOC HOLIDAY and such bands were sometimes flirting with southern rock, although they are mainly seen as country rock bands. BARD EDRINGTON V is an American singer/songwriter/guitarist with a sound closer to the aforementioned acts. Besides Bard, other involved musicians on the album Two Days In Terlingua are KARINA WILSON (vocals, violin, viola), BILL PALMER (vocals, bass), JIM PALMER (drums), ZOE WILCOX (vocals) and ALEX MCMAHON (pedal steel, guitar, banjo). 12 songs are included and it's really a pleasure to listen to this album, which has as highlights A New Day On The Farm (uptempo country americana), Strange Balloon (has a modern edge clearly, and is a fantasic song!), Ma Cherie (uptempo piece), Athena's Gaze (great midtempo light southern folk rocking), No Reason (nice ballad). There's lots of slower balladry ish songs, but on the other hand BARD EDRINGTON does it really well. He has a very strong voice, while the country rock is not too honky-tonk orientated, but also not too poppy either, so basically picture perfect! Check them out at:


(Points: 8.5 out of 10)




Now this is classic Folk with fun lyrics, sung very well and lyrically American singer/songwriter PAUL KAPLAN has definitely a sense of humor when listening to These Are The Days, a cover of the old classic, but with lyrics about the pandemic, which is way too funny! It gets even funnier with The Frozen Blogger, a hilarious song that you just need to hear! There's a mixture of old and new songs here, some of the 1982 songs are more serious and very melodic actually, because Life On This Planet is a lovely melodic folk piece for example. The songs from the recording sessions of Rising are also serious classic folk traditional with good vocalwork/close-harmony ish vocals. As mentioned, the 3 new songs here show a humoristic side of Paul, and I have to say that this is the best way to keep people entertained with folk music these days. Check for yourself at:


(Points: 8.2 out of 10)




THE BEAUTIFUL ART OF DECAY is a great new Swedish band with a lovely 4 tracks counting mini-CD titled Sounds Of A Promising Future. Opener Americans is a catchy uptempo modern sounding melodic rocker that does sound really good and is also very well-performed. Perhaps nothing new under the horizon here, this band is definitely doing things quite perfect to come up with a radio-ready sound that rocks big time, and both vocally and instrumentally it is of a very high level. Following Happiness Ever After is a great slow tune that recalls memories of DAVID BOWIE, while Stories is probably the strongest song. This song is also sounding a bit like DAVID BOWIE, to be exact in his 1980s Let’s Dance period, but it reminds me even of the retro new wave sound of bands like WHITE LIES and SLOW READERS CLUB. Closing track Enemies is another nice BOWIEish midtempo pop/rock piece. The CD has a massive crystal clear sound that should gain them definitely exposure, especially if you like any of the mentioned acts. Check them out at:


(Points: 8.6 out of 10)




Out of California comes the talented singer/songwriter MITCHELL MANBURG, who had DAVE RUDE of TESLA as a guitar teacher in his youth. After releasing a few EPs with a band called CASE HOP TALLY, Mitchell now releases a solo mini debut CD titled Laplace Resonance, The album starts and ends instrumentally, while in-between we can hear some nice calmer indie pop/rock during the songs At What Cost and Headlights. He has sorta an own identity, and I look forward to a full-length album sometime in the future. Meanwhile, check him out at:


(Points: 7.8 out of 10)




LADY PSYCHIATRIST'S BOOTH is an all-female trio band consisting of Ashley E Norton (lead singer of WHITHERWARD), Stephanie Groot (violinist of WHITHERWARD) and Laura Hall (music director of hit TV show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”). Together they recorded an interesting same titled debut album. Only 6 songs are included, so you could actually call it a mini-CD. The band has an own style that sounds quite melodic and vocally very strong. After the short intro, following Heritage Flakes is a great tune. It sounds extremely melodic, with really beautiful lead- and harmonyvocals. Only the drums are missing here and overall it reminds me a bit of CHALLENGE, in case you remember them, this means LADY PSYCHIATRIST'S BOOTH is almost unplugged AOR! Glory Box is excellent, quite original, and performed by a full blown rockband this would be an AOR/Melodic Rock dream, yet now it’s unplugged, which is also sounding sensational, so please check out this talented all-female band at:


(Points: 8.5 out of 10)




The album Let's Get Away by the singer/songwriter/country duo KALINEC & KJ is a nice  old school singer-songwriter folk/country with a focus on melodies that are beautiful sung by both. 10 songs are included and from start to finish it's a pleasure to listen to KALINEC & KJ, whom you can check out for yourself at:


(Points: 7.8 out of 10)




The German band HOT'N'NASTY has been around for a few decades now, and I believe Burn is their 4th album so far. The band had to replace their original lead singer a few years ago, because PATRICK PFAU sadly died in 2013. His replacement was ROBERT COLLINS, who also plays harp. The other members in the band are guitarist MALTE TRIEBSCH, bassist JACOB MULLER and drummer DOMINIQUE EHLERT. The new album Burn was recorded, mixed and mastered at the Megaphon Studios by Martin Meinschläfer (producer and recording engineer for Henrik Freischlader, Layla Zoe, Kai Strauss and Tommy Schneller), and musically speaking the band flirts with classic blues here and there, but is mainly playing heavy bluesrock and a bit of classic rock/southern rock, such as can be heard during the catchy LYNYRD SKYNYRD ish Superstar. The vocals are very strong, the guitarwork is groovy and bluesy, and the material definitely rocks. This is a great band to listen to and it doesn't surprise me they won a German music award for being the best Blues band. There's not a single weak song on their new album, because it has 13 awesome rockers and of course my favorites are the somewhat heavier tunes, such as the aforementioned Superstar, Dark City, Anyway The Wind Blow, Too Good To Be True and Too Much Babble. However, when the band slows things down to a bluesy GARY MOORE/WALTER TROUT affair such as during the lovely semi-ballads It Ain't Easy and closing track The Night Before, it shows the band's diversity. The guys have a great sound and I'll bet live on stage they will impress for sure and it's always great to see a band performing self-written material. HOT'N'NASTY has an own identity, but I think if you like your blues to rock a bit harder in a way we also know it from bands like BLACK STONE CHERRY, 70s WHITESNAKE, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, BLACKBERRY SMOKE, RIVAL SONS, JOE BONAMASSA etc. etc., then you will definitely like this band as well! Check them out at a.s.ap. at:


(Points: 8.6 out of 10)




Out of Sweden comes ZITTER, and they sent me their digital only release on CDR. It's the third album of the band so far, and features 9 new songs. We reviewed their previous 2 albums and Intoxicated World seems to follow the same direction. The band is formed around Fred Z (vocals & bass), B Gustaf (guitars) and MacCalico Adee (software drums), and it's a pity this album will not be officially released on LP or CD, because for people who are not familiar with them, ZITTER has a great melodic sleazy rock and roll sound that sounds like a cross between HANOI ROCKS and SHOTGUN MESSIAH. Most of the songs are uptempo and feature catchy hooks and melodic choruses to sing along to. The guys are very productive, because they released these 3 albums within the pandemic period, and all of them sound pretty good. This new album might be their best effort so far, so go check them out at:


(Points: 8.0 out of 10)



Just like his other bands and projects (such as ISGAARD and SINGLE CELLED ORGANISM), German singer/multi-instrumentalist JENS LUECK is specialized in all kinds of theories and thoughts about the world and it’s human beings, which he brings to life in his progressive rockmusicworld. SYRINX CALL is one of his acts, and it seems that the previous albums with this band/project were folk/classical music based, yet when listening to the new album Mirrorneuron, we are heading straight into high class progressive rock/symphonic rock of an incredible high level, and also here there is a concept story connecting all the songs together. The band/project consists of vocalists ISGAARD, DORIS PACKBIERS, VOLKER KUINKE and Jens himself, who also took care of the keys, drums, percussion, programing, acoustic guitar. The list of guest musicians is quite impressive, because (ex-) ELOY members Hannes Arkona (guitar, keys),Frank Börnemann (guitar) and Klaus-Peter Matziol (bass) and SYLVAN guitarist Jan Petersen make their appearance on this rather impressive sounding album. Here and there is has a slightly bombastic touch which is thanks to the classical music influence of a few other guests who play cello, flute and violin. The music is however as expected pure prog or perhaps 70s symphonic rock in its best tradition of classic 70s albums by ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, ELOY (of course), KAYAK, CAMEL, PINK FLOYD, etc. etc. From start to finish, this is a lovely album to enjoy if you’re into such timeless romantic music, which has as highlights Deceptive Illusion, Breakdown, Weird Resonance, the titletrack Mirrorneuron and Sweetness. Without a doubt, this album of SYRINX CALL is a must-have for the progfans! More info at:

(Points: 8.6 out of 10) 




Human is the 2019 album of the classically trained German singer ISGAARD, who already has had success in Germany and especially in the Philippines about 20 years ago. She has released quite a number of albums so far, and on this CD Human she is assisted by a list of well-seasoned musicians such as her partner JENS LUECK, who performed a lot of the instruments, but also a few other musicians are involved. The included music is lovely calmer epic light semi-prog (and a bit of 70s) balladry orientated, sounding quite theatrical and bombastic at times, yet with the focus on Isgaard’s wonderful high pitched vocals that remind me all together a lot of KAYAK when CINDY OUDSHOORN was singing with them, yet also with a sorta KATE BUSH/WITHIN TEMPTATION touch here and there, such as can be heard very well during the highlights of the album, which are I Couldn’t Say Goodbye, The Sun Comes Up Tomorrow (lovely), Black Swan (pure WITHIN TEMPTATION, fantastic bombastic tune), Your World Is Broken (huge AORish ballad, with a beautiful guitarsolo) and part 2 Fractioning of the epic prog closing track Borders. Concluded, this is a very nice album from Isgaard that should definitely appeal to the fans of the aforementioned acts. More info at:


(Points: 8.3 out of 10) 




Now this is a wonderful pure modern day progressive rockalbum that reminds me a lot of EVERON, PORCUPINE TREE, RPWL, RIVERSIDE, and such, with a nice mixture of beautiful soaring guitar melodies, laid-back yet exciting keyboardwork, a progressive rhythm section and melodic calm male and female vocals. The result is an interesting album for all the progfans out there. SINGLE CELLED ORGANISM is an one-man’s project from Hamburg, Germany, formed around drummer/multi-instrumentalist JENS LUECK, who wrote with his partner/companion ISGAARD MARKE this 2017 released debut album Splinter In The Eye about a girl who is part of an experiment to see what happens to a human life if from birth it never is surrounded by other human beings, lives inside one room the first 10 years of her life, being brought up by robots and only gets to see mass media on a screen after the robots leave. The result is a fascinating story that you can hear on this concept record of SINGLE CELLED ORGANISM. Other involved musicians are INGO SALZMANN (guitars), JAN PETERSEN (guitars, ex-SYLVAN), DIETER KOCH (acoustic guitar), VOLKER KUINKE (recorder), KATJA FLINTSCH (violin, viola), and ANNIKA STOLZE (violoncello). Although the whole album feels like one long lovely journey for the progfan, the absolute highlights are the proggy masterpieces New Horizon and Splinter In The Eye (a la RPWL and PINK FLOYD), the beautiful calmer KAYAKish Flies In My Head, and the instrumentals The Virus and closing track Epilogue (Her Poem). Without a doubt, a recommended progalbum to check out at: and


(Points: 8.4 out of 10) 




Out of Germany comes INNER AXIS, a band which has been around for a while now, with 2 album releases so far and now there is a fantastic CD-single titled Midnight Hunter that consists of 4 songs. Midnight Hunter is a superb piece of faster uptempo melodic Heavy Metal in classic Teutonic/German style of bands like GRAVESTONE, RUNNING WILD, NO TROUBLLE, NOISEHUNTER, etc., while following Steelbladed Avenger is speeding things up to sensational melodic Power Metal a la NOCTURNAL RITES meets MYSTIC PROPHECY and a bit of classic PRIEST. Performed and produced extremely well, the lead vocals of KAI HAGEMANN and shredding guitarwork of ZACHARIAS DROSOS and NINO HELFRICH also sound exceptionally strong, and along with the impressive 2 instrumental versions of the same songs, this INNER AXIS is a band to check out a.s.a.p. at:


(Points: 8.7 out of 10) 




The German band BODYGUERRA released their debut album in 2013, but it took another 8 years before a follow-up was released, however now their 2nd album Fire & Soul is available via FASTBALL MUSIC. The band is formed around guitarist GUIDO STOECKER, vocalist ELA STURM, bassist DANIJ PERL and drummer CHRISTIAN ANTWERPEN, and this new album was recorded, mixed and mastered by guitarist/producer ROLF MUNKES (TONY MARTIN, EMPIRE, RAZORBACK, CREMATORY, etc.), who also plays a solo on one of the songs. 13 tracks are on the album, and opener Stay Free shows right away that we are dealing here with a great classic traditional melodic hard/heavy rockband that reminds me a bit of the massively produced late 80s/early 90s German hardrock/metalsound of bands like BONFIRE, CHARON, VICE, KARO, BAD SISTER… The vocals of their female singer are quite nice, and highlights on Fire & Soul are Danger Zone (SINNERish, but then with female vocals of course), Magical Touch (strong melodic rocking song), Steelheart (lovely catchy uptempo melodic rocker a la ROUGH/DORO featuring a superb guitarsolo), the midtempo Soultrail, the DIo guitar riff driven uptempo melodic heavy rockers Breakout and Out Of Control and the excellent uptempo melodic rocker Believe (with its AORish chorus and Ela’s vocals like BONNIE TYLER meets STEVIE NICKS meets BELINDA CARLISLE, a clear 80s influenced piece). BODYGUERRA is a recommended band to check out if you’re into old-school guitar orientated (German) Melodic Hardrock. Check out more info at:


(Points: 8.0 out of 10) 




The German band UNFORGED is clearly influenced by the modern metalsound of bands like TRIVIUM, PANTERA, SLAYER and METALLICA, but also influences of American Metalcore of the past 20 years can be traced. We have seen all over the world millions of bands playing a style that fits somewhere between those influential bands, and UNFORGED is no exception to the rule. Most important however is the sound and production, and also if vocally all is in shape, then it becomes interesting and thankfully all those things are not bad on the CD Eye For An Eye of UNFORGED. I would however hear some more clean singing, because the growls and screams are sometimes getting a bit too much. However, as mentioned, the band does a great job and if you’re into the extreme modern metalsound, this is recommended to check out at:


(Points: -) 




Out of Philadelphia, USA comes the female fronted band THE END A.D., whom were formed back in 2014 and It’s All In Your Head is their 2nd EP so far. AMI FRIEND is clearly the person in charge here, because she can do a lot with her voice, but most of the time she has this ARCH ENEMY aggressive kinda tone in her voice, although she can also sing quite clean. Thankfully the music is slightly more melodic than ARCH ENEMY, and is actually close to Thrash Metal, yet with a modern Metal-Hardcore approach here and there, and also pure Heavy Metal can be heard during a song like Head. THE END A.D. is a nice band to check out if you’re a dedicated True Metal head! More info at:


(Points: 7.8 out of 10) 




TEAL is an Australian band, and their debut album is titled Hearth, which was actually already recorded back in 2013, and the band has meanwhile split up, with each of the members doing other things in the music industry. However, as part of the 10th year anniversary of their label BIRD'S ROBE RECORDS, it has been re-released. The included music is not bad, but vocally a bit over the top, sounding here and there like an emo singer meets the vocalist of LEPROUS. Musically TEAL takes elements of Emo, Metalcore and modern post-progrock to come up with a nice strong sound that is still quite melodic, and along with the American kinda modern rock approach, it does remind me a bit of TOOL meets a 90s Emocore band. Not bad at all and you can check out more at:  


(Points: 7.7 out of 10)  




The Australian band SYNTAX ERROR make their debut with Message, which is released through BIRD’S ROBE RECORDS. The Sydney based band comes up with a great fascinating modern sound during the 7 included songs on this first album. Opener Esoteric Transmissions is very nice instrumental modern post-progressive rocker, kinda like PORCUPINE TREE and OZRIC TENTACLES in a battle with LONG DISTANCE CALLING, so mostly dark, melancholic and quite calm actually, but building up to an exciting uptempo rocking climax that will please all proggies out there! Next song Time In Reverse introduce vocals, and they sound really good actually. Guitarist BEN AYLWARD has a really strong relaxing voice, making this song a lovely tune to listen to. There’s some RADIOHEAD to be heard in this song, but SYNTAX ERROR is definitely more proggy and cleaner in the vocal department. The other members in the band are drummer BEN EADIE, bassist PETER YATES and MATTHEW SYRES (guitar/theremin). The album was originally released in 2018, but it’s now worldwide available and therefore introducing this interesting band. They will release a follow-up in 2022, so that’s something to look forward to! Other highlights on this rather diverse debut album are the fantastic uptempo post-punk ish The Unknown (what if U2 and THE CURE went into a slightly more experimental direction back in the 1980s!), Depth Charged (interesting uptempo experimental post-punk-prog mixture) and the haunting melancholic midtempo Under The Ice. This band is mostly recommended to fans of modern (semi-instrumental) post-progrock at first sight, but as you can see there’s much more to enjoy here! More info at: 


(Points: 8.6 out of 10)  




ROPES OF NIGHT is a very exciting band that comes out of Cologne, Germany, and their debut album is titled Impossible Space. I’ll bet that if this was a band from the UK or Ireland, then they would have been hugely praised by the press. If you’re a fan of bands like INHALER, THE EDITORS, THE SLOW READERS CLUB, BLOSSOMS, INTERPOL, KILLING JOKE, etc., then you absolutely need to check out this album a.s.a.p. This is retro 80s new wave/post-punk at it’s very best! As soon as the opener Another Closing Door blasts through the speakers, you will be hooked for sure, because this is a sensational uptempo Post-Punk piece where everything sounds picture perfect, including the vocals of singer THOMAS SCHINDLER, who also plays the bass. The rest of the band consists of guitarist MARTIN STENGER, drummer MANUEL SCHAUB and guitarist/keyboardplayer RALPH SCHMIDT. It’s been some time for me to hear such a great Post-Punk album from start to finish, but ROPES OF NIGHT are definitely impressing all the way here on their first album Impossible Space. Recorded in the summer of corona pandemic year 2020, the 9 songs capture the best of early 80s post-punk/new wave you can imagine! Other highlights are Perfect Prison, Vanishing, What’s Done Is Done, Lunacy By Which We Kneel, Strange Moons and the superb closing track If Death Was A Color. Actually there’s no weak moment to be found, so please make sure not to miss this superb band, because their first album is an absolute winner that should be in everyone’s end-of-the-year album charts! More info at:  


(Points: 8.9 out of 10)  




DUMBSAINT is a 4-piece band from Sydney, Australia, and their new album Panama, In Ten Pieces was actually recorded back in 2014, and is now part of the 10th anniversary series of their label BIRD'S ROBE RECORDS. It's great to see this album now being released worldwide, because this band offers interesting heavy experimental instrumental modern post-prog / heavy rock / doomy metal, which is extremely complex and needs further listens before making up a good judgement. The band also creates cinematic/movies to accompany the music, so live on stage it is a thrill to watch and listen to this fascinating band. It's impossible to compare DUMBSAINT to any other band, which makes them of course very interesting to check out at:


(Points: 8.2 out of 10)  




The Californian singer/songwriter/guitarist SHANNON LAY has already released 3 solo albums and performed with the bands of FEELS and TY SEGALL. Ty also appears on her new album Geist, which is a beautiful calmer modern semi-acoustic orientated folk-pop-singer/songwriter ish record that sounds very impressive from start to finish. This is beautiful music that is sung perfectly by Shannon. A song like A Thread To Find is such an amazing song that could easily become a huge hit, although any song of the 10 included here is a pleasure to listen to. Awaken And Allow is an acapella song that even has a sorta Irish/Celtic touch a la ENYA, so there's still a lot to enjoy here, despite it being a very calm laid-back atmopsheric album. If you want to hear a calm album in this crazy mad and loud world, then this new SHANNON LAY album is definitely highly recommended! More info can be found at:


(Points: 8.3 out of 10)  




Out of Chicago comes the band LALA LALA, which is an indie pop/rock project of LILLIE WEST, and I Want The Door To Open is her 3rd album so far. It has a modern hi-tech electronic orientated indiepop sound, which sometimes has a very haunting and exciting approach such as during the song Color Of The Pool, but we can also trace cheerful uptempo pop/rock ish material such as during the excellent DIVER and how about the sensational Bliss Now!. It has great vocalwork, a handfull of catchy tunes, and the modern sound has the typical female fronted touch, so this is a highly recommended album! There's a guest male singer during Plate, but overall this is modern day female fronted hi-tech electonic pop/rock meets indie/wave at it's best. More info at: 


(Points: 8.4 out of 10)  



Here we have a very exciting British band with a retro sound that feels like we’re back in the 1970s in a time when funky rhythms were very common, and with the addition of a psychedelic rocking guitar, lush prog like melodies and strange synth sounds, it really feels that way. We have seen a lot more bands doing this the past few years, which was combining all these past sounds of krautrock, prog, afrofunk, jazz and avant-garde, and now we are being spoiled with some really remarkable original sounding new bands. VANISHING TWIN is one of those bands, and they are formed around songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist CATHY LUCAS, drummer VALENTINA MAGALETTI (BAT FOR LASHES), bassist SUSUMU MUKAI, and synth/guitar player PHIL MFU. The band’s sound is exciting and innovative, yet still reminding of the aforementioned long forgotten past sounds. Highlights on their new album Ookii Gekkou are the fantastic Phase One Million (ALTIN GUNish meets Krautrock), Zuum (featuring a cool middle eastern synth part a la ZENOBIA, yet it also has a SADE kinda vocal melody and a complicated jazzy drum rhythm), the weird 70s instrumental psychedelic spacey The Organism, the African tribal drum rhythm dominated In Cucina (which also features kraut meets jazz weirdness) and the catchy YELLO meets HUMAN LEAGUEish Light Vessel. I can only imagine that live on stage, VANISHING TWIN will easily take you into their hypnotical journey of all kinds of strange synth noises and sounds, but it somehow always feels very comfortable. Check them out at:    

(Points: 8.7 out of 10) 




Although the Canadian singer/songwriter SUZIE UNGERLEIDER has already released 9 albums (under the moniker OH SUSANNA), this is the first time I hear about this extremely talented musician, but it's also the first album under her own name. She is based in Vancouver, Canada, and on her new album My Name Is Suzie Ungergleider, she is assisted by producer JIM BRYSON, who also plays keys, guitars, percussion and bass. Other musicians joining Suzie and Jim are KERI LATIMER (harmonyvocals, theremin), PETER VON ALTHEN (drums), BAZIL DONOVAN (bass), CAM GIROUX (drums), PHILIPPE CHARBONNEAU (bass), SAMANTHA PARTON (harmonyvocals), KINLEY DOWLING (string arrangement, viola, violin) and KEVIN FOX (cello). Suzie wrote almost all of the 10 included songs by herself, and when listening to the shiny beautiful vinyl release of the album, it is clear that we are dealing here with a talented singer/songwriter. Opener Mount Royal is a beautiful calmer singer/songwriter piece based around the acoustic guitar and lovely voice of Suzie. She has a very pleasant voice to listen to, while the music is extremely melodic and when during the next song Pumpkins other instruments join in, we get to hear a sensational sound that fits somewhere between Americana, Classic Singer/Songwriter Pop and a touch of Folk. Summerbaby is another beautiful calmer singer/songwriter piece that reminds me a bit of SHARON CORR and FIRST AID KID. Hearts is a very calm peaceful lullaby song, while Baby Blues closes the album very nicely in a sorta semi pop/rock ballad direction that reminds me a bit of STEVIE NICKS.


Side-B opens with Disappear, a 70s calmer folky singer/songwriter piece a la MARIANNE FAITHFUL. Sweet Little Sparrow bring the drums back and it gives us a 'Spring' like happiness, because this is a very cheerful uptempo Americana pop/rock piece with lovely melodies, reminding a lot of FIRST AID KIT, THE WEBB SISTERS and THE STAVES. Here and there Suzie also reminds me of HEATHER NOVA and even a calmer KT TUNSTALL comes to mind sometimes. Things slow down again to an acoustic folk pop direction a la AMY MCDONALD during the beautiful North Star Sneakers. Roses has a slow shuffle pop/rock touch and closing track Ships is a very strong country ish pop/rock ballad with an emotional singing Suzie.


Without a doubt, Suzie needs to be heard by a lot more people, because this new album she released under her own name is a beautiful piece of calmer singer/songwriter, Americana, pop/folk in the tradition of all the classic female troubadours of the past and present day. Check her out at:


(Points: 8.5 out of 10)




Out of Austin, Texas comes the extremely talented JACKIE VENSON, who sings and plays guitar, keys and some drum sampling while she is assisted on her album Vintage Machine by drummer RODNEY HYDER and there are also guest appearances by TIM PALMER (guitar, bass) and CHRIS "FRENCHIE" SMITH (guitar, vocals). Jackie has already released quite a lot music the past few years, but this Vintage Machine is an official new CD I received. The included music is of an incredible high level! Basically it's funky retro 80s groovy soul injected pop/rock with a focus around Jackie's strong voice and lyrics, but it also features big massive synths in classic 80's mode, including the catchy hooks and memorable choruses (sometimes PRINCE comes to mind). On the other hand it also has the typical modern female pop edge thrown in quite clearly (FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE/DUA LIPA etc) and the album contains 8 songs and I have to say that they all sounds quite impressive. Jackie could easily become the next big mega superstar, because she has got all it takes to become huge. Her voice is just picture perfect and songs like Vintage Machine, Surrender and Go My Way are instant winners for today's retro 80s pop dominated radio charts. Sometimes I have to think about the early records of NENEH CHERRY, but then crossed with PRINCE and some nice guitar solo's here and there, although actually Jackie has an own identity which you can hear on this superb new album. Make sure not to miss this fantastic singer/songwriter/musician from Austin, Texas! Check her out at: and


(Points: 8.6 out of 10) 




El Grito is the 4th album of the Marseille, France based band CUMBIA CHICHARRA. I was not familiar with the band before, but this new album shows what an incredible band this is and they absolutely deserve a lot more attention. Their music is fun and groovy, sounding tropical and contains all kinds of influences. The band played all over the world and therefore picked up those various music/cultural influences from all kinds of regions, which you can clearly hear on this new album. There's Middle Eastern influences, but also Latin American rhythms are featured in most of the songs, but also traces of Urban, Caribbean, a bit of dance, jazz and pop/rock, and even a touch of Reggae can be heard in a song like Grito Animal. The band released their debut album in 2013 and I am safe to say a song like ?Quien Es? or the party winning closing track Polleromax could easily put them into a megastar status if radio picks it up of course. CUMBIA CHICHARRA is an extremely talented band and they are playing World Music without any borders, so you can discover everytime something new when you listen to their new album. I think live on stage this band will definitely impress a lot and they are definitely a guarantee for a huge happy party, which is also thanks to the use of all kinds of instruments (trumpets, synths, drums, guitars and much more), both male and female vocalwork (in Spanish) and the aforementioned latin, middle eastern, african and european mash-up of music and cultural influences. I have not heard such a strong World Music album in a long time as this wonderful new album of CUMBIA CHICHARRA, so make sure to check them out at:


(Points: 8.6 out of 10) 



Now here we have a sensational band from Florida with a classic late 80s/early 90s groovy melodic hardrock/hair metal sound. TSL has a superb singer by the name of Cam Canedy and the rest of the line-up of the band features Jeff Korb – Guitars, Luis Antonio Alicea – Drums and Ross Kevles - Bass Guitar. It’s a pity this is just a CDR and digital release only, because these guys sound like the next big deal in the melodic hardrockscene. 4 songs are on the EP Irreverent and all of them sound superb, although the midtempo semi-ballad Ressurect Me and the superb midtempo melodic rocker Leaving Alone sound like we’re back in 1990 when FIREHOUSE, SLAUGHTER and such ruled the MTV airways! They also remind me a bit of WINTER ROSE, if anyone remembers that JAMES LABRIE fronted band from the late 1980s, and countless other bands come to mind while listening to this superb band! Their EP was produced by PETER KLETT (guitarist/songwriter of 90s rockers CANDLEBOX) and let’s hope for an official CD or VINYL release of them in the future, because they show on these first 4 songs TSL is a name to remember! This is one of the most authentic Melodic Hardrockbands at the moment, with an incredible singer, an amazing guitarplayer and a handful of sensational songs. Go check them out a.s.a.p. at:

(Points: 9.0 out of 10) 




The corona pandemic also brought us positive things, because here and there musicians and bands reunited and recorded new material or went into their archives to release music that was never before available. In the case of GET SMART!, a Chicago, USA based band that was active in the 1980s, they recently reformed and now release a 6-tracks EP CD titled Oh Yeah No that contains unreleased material from 1987. The band managed to release 2 albums in the 1980s, but eventually split up towards the end of the 1980s. Musically speaking they blended early 80s Powerpop with typical 90s Alternative Rock/US College Rock (R.E.M./HUSKER DU/PIXIES) and after hearing this album I can honestly say that GET SMART! was ahead of their time, because all 6 songs still sound fresh, which might also be due to the fact that it was recorded by the late IAIN BURGESS (MINISTRY, NAKED RAYGUN…) and mixed by the legendary STEVE ALBINI (NIRVANA, PJ HARVEY, PIXIES…). The band has shared female/male vocals, so when bassist LISA WERTMAN CROWE sings, the sound is more akin to acts like PJ HARVEY, PATTI SMITH and THE PRETENDERS, while guitarist MARCUS KOCH’s vocals are giving it a pure R.E.M./PIXIESish sound, but the band is also not shy from some louder early 80s lite-post-punk here and there, such as can be heard during Oh yeah No and the catchy Paradise (even a bit THE KNACKish powerpop). Altogether, a nice record for sure, especially interesting for those who are already familiar with this band’s work from the 80s. Hopefully soon new material of GET SMART! Check them out at:


(Points: 8.0 out of 10) 




If it was up to me I would bet my money on the current Canadian music market, because there is so much talent out there in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. From the late 1970s until the early 1990s we were overwhelmed by countless sensational bands from Canada, of which RUSH, TRIUMPH, MAX WEBSTER, FM, BRYAN ADAMS, HAREM SCAREM, HONEYMOON SUITE, LOVERBOY, HAYWIRE are just a few that come to mind, but there were thousands more (all in my collection of course!). This period in music I would refer to as the Golden age of rock and roll for Canada, but somewhere in the early 90s fewer bands and albums made it to the European market, since the labels over here didn’t sign them anymore somehow. However, the past few years Canada is literally exploding with new high quality album releases, and the internet made it a lot easier to discover these mostly independent active bands. HARKNESS from North York/Toronto, Ontario is definitely a band to keep your eyes wide open for, because when listening to the opener of their debut album The Occasion, I was hearing one of the most original bands I have heard in a long time. It sounds refreshing, retro and also modern, taking the best of different music genres. That opening song is the title track The Ocassion, a lovely diverse tune that combines 70s progrock, late 60s psychedelic pop/rock and today’s modern dreampop/shoegaze. It reminds me a bit of TAME IMPALE, but you can trace much more during this long song. It’s like a trip through the music history, with here and there you can pick up influences of late 60s THE BEATLES, progrock parts of the MAX WEBSTER meets FM meets RUSH kind, and then the aforementioned TAME IMPALE similarities, but also on top of it all, there’s bombastic orchestration sounds every now and then. 10 more songs follow that are shorter, but nevertheless as good as that fantastic opening song, and despite mentioning other similar acts, HARKNESS has really created an own kinda identity after listening to the album a couple of times. This album is a must-have for anyone into real original but authentic 60s/70s inspired music like it was also done in the 1960s/1970s, with room for improvisation and experimental parts, such as can be heard very clearly during a song like Hymn, but never forgetting the melodies that make you want to return to a particular song (in a way it reminds me of a slighter darker version of GODLEY & CREME meets THE BEATLES‘ SGT. PEPPERS). HARKNESS is actually not a band, but a one-man’s band/project that is based around singer/songwriter/producer/artist HARKNESS. There are additional musicians to be heard as well, but it’s HARKNESS his project/band creation where he does most parts on his own (bass, drums, piano, guitar, vocals) and for all the strange noises you hear throughout the album, he hired local musicians to do that. I almost forget to mention that there’s also Funk elements to be heard a few times, such as during the JETT REBEL/PRINCE ish Shark Fin Soup, so basically there’s a lot to enjoy here and every time when revisiting it, you discover something new. Check it out for yourself at:


(Points: 8.3 out of 10) 



Out of Kyiv, Ukraine comes SINOPTIK, and The Calling is their 2nd album so far. I have to say that it sounds very impressive and original, while the included material is of an incredible high level. It ticks most of the boxes and musically speaking quite diverse, because they pick elements from both classic 70s prog and today’s stadium melodic hard/heavy rock. They have a huge international sound and in case you like for example MUSE, then why not give this band also a try when you hear a fantastic stadium progrocker like Apple Tree, a song which also shows the band’s love for other genres, because it also has parts that remind me a bit of HAKEN. Anyway, the 3-piece band is formed around Dmitriy Afanasiev - Guitar, Keys & Vocals, Ruslan Babayev – Drums & Backing Vocals and Aleksandr Savin – Bass & Backing Vocals, and it took them a while to release this new album, which is due to the political issues in Ukraine. This is extremely sad, because SINOPTIK is a sensational band that should gain a lot of support to become better known. In fact, this is one of the best bands I have ever heard out of the eastern European region! There’s not a single weak moment on The Calling, with as other highlights the Progmetal piece Black Soul Man, the straight-forward uptempo melodic heavy rocker Sell God’s Number and the dark post-proggy opener Le Menteur (TOOLish). You absolutely do not want to miss this amazing band, which you can check out at:

(Points: 8.7 out of 10) 




As soon as British singer/songwriter/guitarist PAUL ALEXANDER LOW starts singing, it is clear we are dealing with a gifted musician with a Golden voice, because he has the kinda classic AOR voice you would hear back in the old days when this kind of pop/rock was up in the charts and on the radio. Paul has a fantastic voice (a la DENNIS DE YOUNG, DAVE BALDWIN and RUSSELL HITCHCOCK!) and also his music is laid-back classic westcoast/AOR/Poprock orientated in the style of AMERICA, RICHARD MARX, DAVE BALDWIN, MARK FREE, STAN BUSH, JOHN PARR, JOHN FARNHAM, DAN LUCAS, BRYAN ADAMS and such. 13 songs are included on his debut album Sunshine After The Rain and it’s a nice mixture of calmer midtempo semi-ballad orientated pieces and a few uptempo rockier pieces, with as highlights the superb uptempo pure AOR rocker catchy Alien Race (incredible vocal melodies can be heard in this song!), the semi-AOR ballad Everyday hero (close to RICHARD MARX), the poppy friendly Americana ish Look Into My Garden (VENICE memories) and opener Better Life. Paul is assisted by MATT PLATT (keys, piano, hammond, cello), bassist JERRY SOFFE, drummer ROBERT BRIAN and a few others. He did a wonderful job here and fans of lite-AOR/Poprock a la 90s STAN BUSH, RICHARD MARX, DAVE BALDWIN and DAN LUCAS will absolutely fall in love instantly with the voice and songs of PAUL ALEXANDER LOW. In a different time and age, Paul would have been huge, because he is as good as RICHARD MARX, DENNIS DEYOUNG or BILLY JOEL for example. Hopefully he will get the chance to become well-known, because he is an amazing singer/songwriter with lovely classic 80s/early 90s aor/westcoast/pop. The only remark I could make is that the second part of the album is a bit calmer and more moving into 70s singer/songwriter pop here and there (a la JIM GROCE, such as can be heard during the beautiful World Created By You and even a bit AIR SUPPLY), so perhaps on a future record a few more uptempo rockier pieces would give the whole album a boost, but why complain actually, because Paul is a fantastic singer you need to check out at:


(Points: 8.7 out of 10)