Review: Singles Round Up

Another week, another fresh batch of hot new singles ticking all the boxes here at DGM Towers. Here are a few examples of what we have been listening to over the last few days; as usual, click on the artist’s name in bold and follow the link to the YouTube video/social media page.

What perfect timing for English songstress Elles Bailey to release a new single on the same weekend that the BBC decides to honour the legendary Linda Ronstadt with an evening of programs devoted to her incredible vocal talents. Elles singing in her lower register – on a blissfully chilled out track – sparks so many memories of Linda Ronstadt that the only thing to do after new single ‘Spinning Stopped’ (which deals with becoming a mother during the pandemic) ends – and after a multitude of replays – is to dust off Ronstadt’s 1974 ‘Heart Like A Wheel’ album and give it a spin. Ronstadt wasn’t comfortable with just one genre and could be found dipping her toes into Country, Americana, and Rock music – even recording a handful of Spanish-language albums, and Elles draws similar comparisons. Equally at home performing Blues music as she is Americana, and good old Rock ‘n’ Roll, two tracks from Elles are very rarely similar to each other, and ‘Spinning Stopped’ – which also features a gorgeous guitar tone from Joe Wilkins – is a total gem. Taken from the deluxe edition of Elle’s most recent album ‘Shining in the Half Light’ set to land 17th March ( the same day as the new U2 album – so delete yer Apple Music account just in case Bono leaves you an unwanted gift on Paddy’s Day).

With an appearance at Download Festival last year, as well as gaining high praise from BBC Introducing, Kerrang Radio, and Planet Rock, Horsham-based trio Blue Stragglers have been not-so-quietly going about their business over the last year or so, and are now gaining one foot up on the ladder. Debut album ‘Cautionary Tales of Excess’ is set for release later this year and in the meantime, the trio of Lee Martin (guitar/vocals), Ali Waite (bass), and Andy Head (drums/backing vocals) have blown the cobwebs off with the release of banging new single ‘Reactor’. Three minutes-plus of music that dips and darts in different directions, and just as the listener feels that they are getting the gist of ‘Reactor’, the band throws in a punky vocal, or a Biffy-style breakdown, and all bets are off. ‘Reactor’ works way much better the louder that it goes, and ultimately a track made for the live setting of a sweaty club somewhere, it does the job that it is supposed to do and piques enough interest to seek out more music from the trio.

Juno Award-winning, rock duo Crown Lands recently announced the forthcoming sophomore album ‘Fearless’ with the release of the 18-minute opus, “Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II”, and now the duo of Cody Bowles (vocals and drums) and Kevin Comeau (guitar, bass, and keys) have followed up said opus with the shorter (but as equally impressive) new single – ‘Lady Of The Lake’; the kind of single that finally shuts up wisened old farts that bemoan “they don’t make them like this anymore” whilst clutching their battered copies of ‘Led Zeppelin III’, or any early Rush album. But they do make them like this, and Bowles and Comeau prove that time and time again. Crown Lands offerings tend to work better when listened to as a complete album as they usually tell a tale, and ‘Fearless’ continues with that narrative, whilst seemingly going off in more of a prog-rock direction. ‘Lady Of The Lake’ is a real slow-burner and very seldom does the tempo increase, but what it does do is seriously whet the appetite for album number two. In the days of everything happening in a flash and attention spans lessening with each scroll through a page on a screen, Crown Lands are not in a hurry to reach their destination and allow the music to brew gently. The Rush influence is clear as ever, even down to the use of both a Mellotron and a Moog which according to Comeau “…give it that medieval-meets-outerspace fantastical quality…”. Tune in, and drop out.

Frontiers Records normally have the copyright on Rock and Metal supergroups but Nuclear Blast give them a run for their money with thrash metal supergroup Metal Allegiance, and now the highly respected German label brings a new supergroup to the table: Elegant Weapons. The brainchild of Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner, Elegant Weapons features Ronnie Romero (Rainbow, MSG) on vocals, and playing on the forthcoming debut album ‘Horns For A Halo’; Rex Brown (Pantera, Down) on bass, and Faulkner’s Judas Priest bandmate Scott Travis on drums – the latter two have been replaced in the line-up by Dave Rimmer (Uriah Heep), and Christopher Williams (Accept) respectively. Old-school hard rock is very much the order of business on lead single ‘Blind Leading The Blind’ and you are as likely to pick up a hint of Scorpions, and Thin Lizzy as you are a suggestion of Faulkner’s (and album producer Andy Sneap) day job with The Metal Gods. Faulkner’s guitar work is as impressive as ever, and some of his melodies really ping out thanks to Sneap’s nailed-on production, and the always-reliable Romero delivers a wonderfully restrained vocal performance that never over-reaches – instead allowing the guitar work from Faulkner to take centre stage. With Faulkner stating “Me and acoustic don’t really get along…”, it seems that this one really will go up to 11. Catch Elegant Weapons making their UK debut this summer at Steelhouse Festival in Wales.

Back in the day, James Brown wore the nickname “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” like a badge. And very well deserved it was. Steve Steinman is also deserving of wearing that title, for the musician, composer, and head vampire-in-chief of the success story that is the classic rock musical ‘Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock’ simply doesn’t stop. Another successful run of Vampires Rock will end in April (27 packed shows), with a few outings of his equally-as-successful Meat Loaf musical ‘Anything For Love’ in between. Later this year he will hit larger venues, including arenas, for ‘Vampires Rock Day of the Dead Symphonic’ which will feature no less than Nathan James on guest vocals. If that’s not enough, Steinman is also working on a new musical and as a taster has released the first single ‘A Vampires Tale’, alongside the stunning ‘Sin City’-inspired film noir video. Part-ballad and part-lament, ‘A Vampires Tale’ is full of the sweeping majesty that you would expect from Steve, and from the moment that a mournful cello introduces the track, the spirit of namesake and mentor Jim Steinman looms larger than life. Spotify could slip this into a Jim Steinman playlist alongside Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Pandora’s Box, and Steinman’s ‘Bad For Good’ solo album, and no one would be any the wiser. The arrangements are lavish, the vocals heartfelt, and with no major label backing behind him, Steve Steinman is living proof that tenacity and an indomitable spirit can sometimes win against the hype and marketing of a major label.

Scouring the poster for this year’s Desertfest Festival in London (May bank holiday weekend if you are interested), and whilst the line-up is indeed pretty damn special; one glaring omission from the poster would be much-touted Glasgow-based The Rhubarb. The Weegie sludge lords are the perfect match for Desertfest, and would light up any stage, at any venue, on any of the three days that the festival runs. Debut album ‘Symptom of Failure’ is almost here, and the latest single ‘Awful Deed’ is just about satisfying the urge for some quality stoner-sludge…just about. The co-vocals from Sean Maguire and Hannah White (who also brings the thick basslines to the party) are what gives ‘Awful Deed’ an edge over so many of The Rhubarb’s brothers and sisters in sludge. The drum work from Jack Donnelly is hypnotic, and those fuzzy riffs from guitarist Michael McConville are razor sharp – especially through a decent pair of cans. Some freaky effects on Maguire’s vocals will have the most paranoid stoners looking over their shoulder asking “Who’s there?!”. Expect ‘Symptom of Failure’ March 24th on MilkyBombRecords.

The name VELVETBOMB (all CAPS for a reason) suits Glasgow duo Rob (vocals/guitar) and Dac (drums) to a tee perfectly. When the duo are loud, they are very LOUD. They can also reign it in on softer tracks, but mostly VELVETBOMB are louder than shit. A band to call on if promoters need a local act to give the headliners a bit of a fright, VELVETBOMB have opened up for acts as varied as Kris Barras, The Picturebooks (a great fit), and Aussie nutters Black Aces, and each time punters discover the band for the first time, the usual question asked is “How can just two guys make such a noise?”. And after a few months of silence, the band are back with the gnarly, fuzz-filled new video ‘Unforgiven’ which was recently recorded and performed live at Venice Of The North Studio in Glasgow. With a few Marshall cabinets behind them, VELVETBOMB wail, they really wail. ‘Unforgiven’ features shades of proto-punk outfit MC5 in places, Soundgarden in others, and even maybe a touch of Budgie here and there, but all wrapped up in a ball of warm, fuzzy guitar licks and a big-ass drum sound. Coming in at just under three minutes, ‘Unforgiven’ doesn’t hang around. It gets in and slaps the listener around the chops and then gets back out again, pronto.

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