Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa: Black Coffee (Provogue/Mascot)
The third collaboration between singer Beth Hart, Joe Bonamassa and Kevin 'Caveman' Shirley sees the modern guitar hero and the vocal powerhouse come back together for an album of covers that come from songs that have been written or covered by Edgar Winter, Ray Charles, Etta James, Steve Marriott, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Lucinda Williams, LaVern Baker. So a record of soul and blues covers from one of the best vocalists in the business and one of the most expressive guitarists around, the record welcomes back Anton Fig (Drums/Percussion), Ron Dziubla (Saxophone), Lee Thornburg (Horn Arrangements/Trumpet/Trombone).
It sees Reese Wynans (Keyboards), Michael Rhodes (Bass), Rob McNelley (Rhythm Guitar), Paulie Cerra (Saxophone), Mahalia Barnes (Backing Vocals), Jade Macrae (Backing Vocals) and Juanita Tippins (Backing vocals), jump in to fill out the ranks, it's who's who of co-conspirators from Joey Bones' past and they make for a formidable force. Opening with the parping brass infused soul of Give It Everything You Got this Edgar Winter song is not what you'd expect from a covers album due to it's lesser known nature. That was the point of this record so Bonamassa says “We’re trying not to dig into a playbook that’s been done many times, which is the old soul classics. We try and find a different spin on it; originally, it was about trying to find some songs that people didn’t know at all and bring them back to people’s attention.”
Consider it job done as LaVern Baker's Saved has gospel coming through it while Soul On Fire is a completely different beast. They channel Steve Marriott on their version of Black Coffee Hart giving that blues howl all she's got and there is jazz on Damn Your Eyes and Why Don't You Do It? This third record is a collection of under appreciated songs given the slick performance and production you'd expect from those involved, if musical treasure hunting is your thing and you can't resist a reinterpretation then Black Coffee will be your Cup 'O' Joe (and Beth). 8/10
Apparition: The Awakening (Wormholedeath/The Orchard/Aural Musics Group)
Apparition: A remarkable or unexpected appearance of someone or something. This pretty much explains also how I came about this band. I literally knew nothing about this band when their presskit dropped into our in box but thanks to a very impressive detailed biography they have been around the UK scene for 20 years with this record marking their 20th anniversary. It started life as a female vocal project by bassist David Homer and has seen many vocalists and musicians filter through its ranks with only really Homer the main constant, for this album he has retained a relatively steady line up since 2015.
The record features Fiona Creaby behind the mic she also featured on the band’s debut album in 2006 so you could say this is a reunion album. The music is as ghostly as their name, emotive, partly symphonic gothic metal with haunting classical/operatic vocals. Homer and the band; Ashley Guest (drums), Amy Lewis (guitar) and Paul Culley (guitar) are excellent backing for Creaby’s beautiful vocals, the delicate keys and piano highlight the elegance and plight of Home but the dual guitars bring the guts to Break The Chains and the brilliant Dames Of Darkness (monikered after the festival of the same name).
Moving between slower dramatic pieces and outright thumpers The Awakening can be viewed as a validation of why Apparition have lasted so long on the UK metal scene, they are very good at what they do, their mature Gothic metal is refined and classy, with gold standard performances from all involved here’s hoping they retain this line up going forward. 8/10
White Wizzard: Infernal Overdrive (M-Theory)
The history of White Wizzard is somewhat potted, essentially a solo project of bassist/songwriter Jon Leon, members of the band have formed or been involved with Holy Grail, Monument, Huntress, Iced Earth, Witherfall, Will Wallner/Vivian Vain and Omicida. They haven't released an album since 2013 and I for one thought the band was over, however undeterred Leon persevered with two one-man show singles before recruiting guitarist James J LaRue, who appeared on the band's debut EP and the band's most utilised vocalist Wyatt 'Screaming Demon' Anderson who sang on Over The Top and Flying Tigers. Along with new drummer Dylan Marks on the skins Jon Leon has gone right back to the beginning with Infernal Overdrive it's purely traditional NWOBHM styled heavy metal.
Thundering drums power through and the Demon screams starting the record off with the speed metal sound of the diesel fuelled title track, White Wizzard know NWOBHM inside and out and yes you have probably heard these sounds before but who cares WW do it with such deference that it's hard to find fault, from the galloping Storm The Shores which has Jon Leon pumping out bass licks like Steve Harris, there is an instrumental called Chasing Dragons, while The Illusions Tears and Critical Mass brings the progressive noise that came in on Flying Tigers. Infernal Overdrive is a welcome return for White Wizzard they are one of the catalyst bands for the NWOTHM that came about 10 years ago and again they show that they are a vital part of the scene. 8/10
Gleb Kolyadin: Self Titled (KScope)
Gleb Kolyadin will probably ring a few bells for those of you who are up on their KScope bands, he's the piano virtuoso that is one half of chamber prog band Iamthemorning, the Moscow based pianist has recorded two albums with Iamthemorning and on the back of them he has now produced a debut solo effort. The album is apparently "an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album's central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure" and you can hear that throughout with tonal shifts and linking passages that move the record along. It's not just Gleb on the record though he has the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison (King Crimson / Porcupine Tree) and Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) to anchor his incredible piano playing.
With complex jazz passages, chord structures and arpeggios that bring drama reserved for classical pieces the record is not metal or indeed rock (no guitars) but it has a gravitas especially when Theo Travis' (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) flutes and sax are left to let fly. The heaviest part of the record comes on Storyteller which features an explosive keyboard solo from Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), for a primarily instrumental album the tracks all seamlessly melds together as one long conceptual piece, that's not to say there aren't any vocals as both Mick Moss (Antimatter) and Steve Hogarth (Marillion) lend their voices to a couple of tracks. A beautiful record if you want something a little different Gleb Kolyadin is a triumphant debut solo album from an immensely talented individual. 8/10