Alex Skolnick Trio: Live Unbound (Skol Productions)
Released back in September 2016, this seven track live release from the Testament shredder’s American Jazz trio is something completely different. Five original tracks combined with two interesting covers recorded live in Hanover in 2014 make for pretty easy listening. I’m not much of a jazz fan but AST, the line up completed by drummer Matt Zebroski and bassist Nathan Peck, do some smooth work.
The covers include a ten minute freestyle version of Aerosmith’s Dream On, complete with an astonishing Jimmy Page Zeppelin break down in the middle section and Scorpions Still Lovin’ You, a beautiful track in its own right but given the 20 minute extended jazz odyssey in style. Although at times it almost gets a bit Richard Cheese, overall, this is pure relaxation and with some fabulous guitar work from one of the harder working and underrated axe heroes of the past 30 years. Nice! 8/10
Big Wreck: Grace Street (Warner Music Canada)
I must be honest, I’d never heard of Big Wreck before Grace Street landed on the mat. A Canadian/American four piece who formed in 1994, disbanded in 2002 before reforming in 2010, Big Wreck are powered by Ian Thornley, who formed the band and who is the vocalist, lead guitarist and keyboard player. He is joined by Brian Doherty on rhythm guitar, David McMillan on bass and drummer Chuck Keeping. Big Wreck moves between Queen, Muse and The Von Hertzen Brothers along with the pop rock sound of Keane, Travis and Snow Patrol et al thrown in for good measure. Grace Street is a long album, with 13 tracks and just under 70 minutes and whilst the tunes are pleasant enough, with opening salvo It Comes As No Surprise and One Good Piece Of Me decent light rock tunes, as the album progresses it just becomes a little boring.
Thornley’s high pitched alto delivery, akin to some of the AOR giants of the 80s (think Roger Hodgson of Supertramp) is an acquired taste. Big Wreck’s alternative rock sound is crisply produced but veers too much towards the mainstream with songs such as Tomorrow Down and You Don’t Even Know a little too polished for me. The lyrical content focuses very much on the positive and negative aspects of relationships. By half way through the album I was flagging with the repetitive nature of what is undoubtedly a highly-crafted album. Not my cup of tea. 6/10
Razzmattazz: Digging For Gold (Good Night Music)
German outfit Razzmattazz’s approach is routine. Mix Van Halen and AC/DC, a dash of Nazareth and churn out 12 tracks of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll. Absolutely nothing original here at all, with tracks like Expect No Mercy, Holy Molly and opener Bad Girls, Good Loving about as basic as you can get. It’s okay, reasonably well produced and performed and does what it says on the tin.
The ballads suck balls mind, with Back To You bringing up a bit of sick in the mouth despite some decent lead work. Not dreadful, just average. However, any band that offer a dog bandana and an umbrella amongst their merch wins a bonus point. 5/10