Disc Reviews

by Max Ink Staff Writers


Cold Black River - Tales Of Death And The Devil

Cold Black River - Tales Of Death And The Devil

Cold Black River

Album title: Tales Of Death And The Devil
By Sal Serio
Posted: Nov 2018
Label: Cold Black River
(256) Page Views

Today we discuss the 3rd album from Madison’s resident purveyors of doom metal, Cold Black River. In a nutshell, the formula remains the same but the songcraft continues to improve. Generally speaking, “doom” compositions have a tendency to bog down with plodding riffs that take forever to reward with thrills and audience payoff, kind of like a porno that never reaches the climax. Fortunately this CBR release includes all the money shots in the final edit, which is to say thank goodness there truly IS a happy ending here!

A rock trio is like the opposite of a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It’s only got three components. Four, if you count the vocals. Every one of the ingredients has to be of the highest quality, and all have to pull their own weight. Most importantly, each one must compliment each other and complete the big picture. I feel like CBR understands that, and with each successive visit to the studio they’ve executed a more impressive “painting”.

I’d like to see this progression continue on to the next CBR project. Since the doom genre can be so predictable and formulaic, I think this group can continue to set themselves apart from the pack with this trend toward increased creativity in their song structure, proving there really is room for “artistic vision” within the context of hard rock music.

Recommended tracks: “Keep Rollin’”, “Among The Stars”, “Anywhere Ya Wanna”.

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Rocket Paloma - Mother Mountain

Rocket Paloma - Mother Mountain

Rocket Paloma

Album title: Mother Mountain
By John Noyd
Posted: Sep 2018
Label: Rocket Paloma
(840) Page Views

Compatible collaborations rattle well-staged rampages raising unrestrained purple haze alongside brawling blues-rock blazes and crazy red-hot moxie; breaking through the clouds, “Mother Mountain,” conquers in slinky kicks and roaring riffs. Rolling around in run-away swamp-pomp, incendiary rockabilly and wild-heart honky-tonk, the Milwaukee quartet flourishes in action-packed patchwork, peppering buzz-saw indie-rock collages with gypsy-kissed folk while coaxing toasty teases from lusty bell-bottom ballads tricked out in whammy bars and wah-wah pedals. Fronting frontier jangle inside spider-web solos, Rocket Paloma’s meandering melodies, walking bass and hip-swinging rhythms swim in box-canyon avalanches of extended send-offs, climatic sass and rousing, empowered crowd-pleasers. A rouge rock ‘n roll rodeo greased in raucous talk and smokin’ woke adventures, “Mother,” snakes its way shedding sinful skins with playful hints and sizzling mischief.

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Pink Fairies - Resident Reptiles

Pink Fairies - Resident Reptiles

Pink Fairies

Album title: Resident Reptiles
By Sal Serio
Posted: Aug 2018
Label: Purple Pyramid
(791) Page Views

Pink Fairies, the English proto-punk psychedelic biker-rock band, formed in 1970. Paul Rudolph was the founding guitarist/vocalist and subsequent line-ups included members of The Pretty Things, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hawkwind, and The Move. Reunions of various personnel occurred throughout the 2000s and 2010s, but now the Pink Fairies are back with an all-star band consisting of Rudolph, ex-Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey, and original Motörhead drummer Lucas Fox!

The electroshock energy of this collaboration pops a white-hot spark out of the speakers from the very first power-chord and the intensity continues to build as these 8 songs progress. This trio communicates their gritty intent like a familiar group of old hooligans that have a strong desire to take care of unfinished business.

The bottom line is that if you gravitate toward the heavy pre-punk UK bands of the early-to-mid 1970s, and wish there was a 2018 release with the same reckless and relentless attitude – straight out of the garage and the pubs and smack full-frontal in to your face - then this is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Vinyl LP aficionados will be pleased to note the presence of pink vinyl pressings, as well as the CD and digital-file formats.

Recommended tracks: “Mirage”, “Lone Wolf”, “Whipping Boy”, “Monkey Chatter”

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Stimuli - They Are We

Stimuli - They Are We

Stimuli

Album title: They Are We
By Sal Serio
Posted: Aug 2018
Label: Stimuli Music
(906) Page Views

Stimuli is an appropriate name for these new Bay-area hard rockers, because this music covers so many emotions, textures, and cultural styles. These are compelling sounds, it inspires and it rocks, and also offers pause for contemplation.

‘They Are We’ is the debut release by this trio, and if you hear a Native American influence, it is no accident. Band leaders Jimmy Tomahawk and Tai Hake spice up their heavy electrified sound with traditional Native American flute and acoustic guitar, along with less traditional Theremin, synthesizers, and sitar. The end result is a pulsating intense groove not unlike the best of the more intelligent 90s-era hard rock bands, if they were also infused with a significant indigenous cultural connection.

At the end of the day it’s Tomahawk’s voice and guitar that really drives these songs, and without question there is some radio friendly material here. I only hope these guys keep their chins up,  stick out the rigors of the road, and keep plugging away at self promotion. If they can secure the right support and backing Stimuli could eventually be the next big thing.

Recommended tracks: “The New Dream”, “Sandstorm”, “Fire In Disguise”, and “Pill For The Pill”.

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Brittany Shane - Brittany Shane

Brittany Shane - Brittany Shane

Brittany Shane

Album title: Brittany Shane
By John Noyd
Posted: Aug 2018
Label: Painted Lady Records
(1019) Page Views

Supported by an able-bodied posse of seasoned players, steady, centered Baraboo native and Austin transplant Brittany Shane keeps a level-head, if just this side of a second wind, on her crackling new mini-album. A pleasant collection upon first listen and a rewarding restorative after many more, Brittany’s brave-face grace and double-down directness connects the half-dozen tracks into a rich song-cycle orbiting love’s push and pull. A singer-songwriter, dancer and Mom; all parts of Shane’s personality come together in this self-titled work with poise, discipline and affection apparent in every line. A beacon projecting calm resolve and soft-spoken strength, Shane’s patience reins in the crashing guitars, restless rhythms and runaway twang to make her sixth album a testament to taming wild hearts and reaping life’s treasures.

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Martin Turner - The Beauty Of Chaos: Live At The Citadel

Martin Turner - The Beauty Of Chaos: Live At The Citadel

Martin Turner

Album title: The Beauty Of Chaos: Live At The Citadel
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2018
Label: Cherry Red / Dirty Dog Discs
(818) Page Views

Classic rock fans undoubtedly know the name Martin Turner as a founding member of Wishbone Ash, and Turner certainly doesn’t deny his role in that band’s seminal 1970s catalog. In fact, Turner’s current release, the 2-CD / DVD live set ‘The Beauty Of Chaos’ is a brilliant document of Turner’s band performing their most recent studio album ‘Written In The Stars’ in it’s entirety, along with a heap of supplemental material, all culled from the Wishbone Ash initial decade, 1970-1980 (which Turner joking refers to as “old hippie music”).

It should not be understated how excellent the vocal harmonies are in this live concert, with Turner’s lead being supplemented by guitarist Danny Willson (ex-Showaddywaddy) and drummer Tim Brown. This quartet is extremely competent, especially evident in the sinewy guitar interplay between Willson and Misha Nikolic. The tone of the guitars is like fine crystal, pure and pristine, with Turner’s melodic bass parts acting at times like a third guitar in the extended instrumental passages. Historians may be interested that Turner’s white Gibson Thunderbird bass guitar was purchased from the late musician Pete Overend Watts of Mott The Hoople fame.

The featured new material is quite enjoyable contemporary-sounding hard rock, however the rubber really hits the road when the performance travels in to Wishbone Ash territory, as the quiet intro portion of “The Pilgrim” segues in to polyrhythmic prog rock of the highest degree. The DVD, which includes the entire concert as well as band interview, is highlighted by inventive multi-camera videography and spectacular surround sound audio.

Recommended tracks: “The Beauty Of Chaos”, “Written In The Stars”, “The Pilgrim”, “The King Will Come”, “Sometime World”, “F.U.B.B.”, “You See Red”, and “Doctor”.

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Chaos Revolution Theory - Chaos Revolution Theory

Chaos Revolution Theory - Chaos Revolution Theory

Chaos Revolution Theory

Album title: Chaos Revolution Theory
By Sal Serio
Posted: Jun 2018
Label: Chaos Revolution Theory
(974) Page Views

Madison-based original rock band Chaos Revolution Theory are busy guys. This latest CD, their 6th release overall, is a double disc 14 song offering that even has two different versions of the cover artwork! CRT actually has their next album already in the can, having recently recorded it in Austin, TX. This current self-titled double album was recorded split between Austin, and Madison’s Acme Studios, engineered here by Tim Consequence. The recording and mixing is crystalline, bringing these performances to life.

Guitarist and vocalist Nick Stanecki writes CRT’s songs. The lyrical content is like everyman’s ruminations. Thoughts filled with wanderlust and acknowledgment of the day-to-day things many might not take the time to appreciate: topics such as travel, food, nature, and relationships. Musically, it’s a stripped-down hard rock approach with touches of blues, country, reggae, and Latin music, accentuated by pulsating drum / percussion crescendos and explosive lead guitar solos. Musical cameos are provided by Bryan Moll of Subatomic (guitar), and Adam Ziertan of Mojo Radio (harmonica).

My constructive criticism for CRT is in the vocal department. I’d encourage the guys to consider adding a vocalist, although I “get it” when the songwriter wants to sing his own compositions. However, Stanecki’s vocal range is limited, which gives the songs a “samey” sort of feel. A dedicated singer could potentially offer the songs a distinct personality and take this music in to more memorable territory. Still, a fine release, overall.

Recommended tracks: “Trip I’m On”, “Hub City”, “La Hacienda”, and “Aztec”.

The “Chaos Revolution Theory” CD release party is Friday, July 6 at Mr. Roberts Bar in Madison, with special guest The Rotten Tommys.

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Gentle Brontosaurus - Bees of the Invisible

Gentle Brontosaurus - Bees of the Invisible

Gentle Brontosaurus

Album title: Bees of the Invisible
By John Noyd
Posted: May 2018
Label: self-release
(985) Page Views

Cheeky geek-chic carnivals bounce around melodic lynch-pin symmetry as sprightly study-hall party-dolls packing wistful epiphanies dance through modern problems with modest jigsaw bop topped in college philosophy and soft-spoken anecdotes flashing dazzling indie-rock panache. Populated in good-natured sages frolicking with cunning wit, rosy prose and deadpan incantations, the happy-go-lucky, “Bees,” breezes through all-night sock-hops in feng shui love-shacks filling in the shadows with coy, sideway glances and wise, wide-eyed ironies. Variety spikes the politely subversive album as sweet, folk-pop doo-wop rigged in nifty guitar licks erupt between caroling harmonies; pithy shifts thick with shuffling percussion, roller-rink synths and throat-grabbing brass.  Find Gentle Brontosaurus closing out the Cottonwood Stage at the Marquette Waterfront Festival June 10th and playing one of the last Frequency shows June 20th.

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The Rotten Tommys - Shake It!

The Rotten Tommys - Shake It!

The Rotten Tommys

Album title: Shake It!
By Sal Serio
Posted: May 2018
Label: To The Core Records
(722) Page Views

Madison’s The Rotten Tommys are back with their new CD, ‘Shake It!’, as they attack the specter of the sophomore slump with both barrels burning. This new CD hosts louder guitars, better crafted songwriting, and much improved sound engineering. Plus, MORE is always better, right? The first Tommys release was 10 songs and 26 minutes, and now we have 13 songs in 39 minutes. Bonus!

Right off the bat, you’ve got to love a song about a Mad Rollin’ Doll, especially when it opens with chords reminiscent of the Sex Pistols. “Devil’s Night” is unique, with a spoken word, almost film noir Private Dick narrative feel to it. Well, maybe if Wayne Kramer was a private detective! “Shake It” has a 60’s style mod-surf styled riff, with classic Phil Spector “Wall Of Sound” styled background vocals. Also, “Shevil” features a similar retro sound, with evil laughter sprinkled in for good measure, reminding me of Poison Ivy from The Cramps, who holds a near and dear place in my heart.

In the Constructive Criticism category: the faux vinyl noises on “Shevil” are a tad annoying…. if you want crackles, just press vinyl! Also, sometimes the swears seem just to be for the sake of saying a swear word. Don’t try so hard, take the high road… and it’s classier to not use songs to bash ex-lovers, or other members of the opposite sex in general.

Better efforts: “Casualty” has more open-ended societal themed lyrics that could be applicable to a wider populous. The mid-song tempo-shift and slide guitar solo is pretty cool. “Wolfman” is up-tempo fun rock song with mass appeal. Almost has a hot rod challenge grudge match feel… like the soundtrack to a scene in a Russ Meyer or Roger Corman film.

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Josh Rouse - Love In The Modern Age

Josh Rouse - Love In The Modern Age

Josh Rouse

Album title: Love In The Modern Age
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2018
Label: Yep Roc
(851) Page Views

Ray-Ban suntans frolic in soft-rock cakewalks while country-club dreamers stalk satin-sheet streets heading towards an afternoon at the beach as light, bubbly synths swim in sleek, sophisticated lounge-songs detailing deceptively effortless pleasures behind subtle tropical bop. Songwriter, expatriate, voyeur, Rouse’s playful purrs coax vacuum-sealed feelings from zip-locked pop topped in carefree dares and cavalier lyrics. Cozy, sax-filled jazz slathered in break-through-the-clouds chords play against mellow morning-after melodies and beach-ball bass for a sublime, refined album. Hovering between impeccable replicas of golden moments and respectful revisions of dependable dilemmas, “Love,” captures signature originality under multiple traditions fusing infallible nostalgia and unapologetic novelty to timeless tunes packed in memorable tempos. Hear Rouse up close and personal, when he performs May 20th at Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee’s Back Room. 

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Paul Draper - Spooky Action

Paul Draper - Spooky Action

Paul Draper

Album title: Spooky Action
By John Noyd
Posted: Apr 2018
Label: Kscope
(856) Page Views

Creamy chaos greets cinematic passion and sultry cosmic rumbles as high-voltage glam-rock meets sky-rocketing British blues-soul in the luminous, “Spooky.” Gorgeous orchestrated mayhem simmers at the ready as Draper’s cat-like stream of consciousness purrs in curious psychoanalytical diversions while submerging in flirtatious, vexing espionage. Slinging honeyed cunning for transcendent repentance and luscious bluster for martyred catharsis, the cumulative effect is staggering. Front-man for nineties alt-rock icons Mansun, Draper finishes his limited American tour at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater May 3rd opening up for the King of Prog-Rock, Steve Wilson. Rare as is Paul’s stateside appearance, rarer still is his presenting Mansun classics and his new album scaled down to just him and a sideman. Surely, a night of sonic pyrotechnics from both parties on the bill.

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The Groucho Marx - Mikado

The Groucho Marx - Mikado

The Groucho Marx

Album title: Mikado
By Gregory Harutyunyan
Posted: Apr 2018
Label: Video Artists International Inc.
(1117) Page Views

Everyone knows who Julius “Groucho” Marx is. Sarcasm and mayhem are often attached to his name, whether with his brothers, through the “You Bet Your Life” television show, movies, or books. The little man, hunched over with the mustache and cigar are iconic. Period. Everyone has a favorite “Groucho” line. Mine coincides with the Beatles 1964 appearance at the Hollywood Bowl, at a plush dinner party, a “meet and greet” for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills with the trending phenomena of the moment. Television interviewers collared attendees, as they went into the gated grounds when along comes “Groucho.” They gush on and on about how excited he must be to get close to the Four Moptops, and how it will impact his life forever. “No. I came for the food,” he said.

Some of the more interesting stories come from his later years, as related by raconteurs, Dick Cavett and Paul Krassner. It seemed that anyone visiting his home would be subjected to endless recorded playbacks of Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas, whichever one happened to catch his ear for the moment. Marx loved anything with a high literary content, witnessed by his own verbal barrages and writings, and the musicals offered brilliant wordplay that meshed with his own fascination of the English language.

What makes this so interesting was that Marx got to fulfill a lifelong dream in playing Ko-Ko, opposite Helen Traubel, in a 1960 Bell Telephone Hour color adaptation. In the 1950s-60s, the Bell System sponsored a now-legendary series of musical programs on NBC, among which was this condensed version of The Mikado, directed and adapted by Martyn Green.The production, long considered a lost television relic, took on a life of its own over the decades. It was held in the clutches of certain collectors and circulated in poor quality videotape transfers, with holes in the signal creating a snowy effect from poor tracking. It was rumored that the New York Museum of Modern Art held a copy in their own holdings but it was never confirmed. The poor quality versions were equally as hard to find, until VAI stepped into the picture, so to speak. They had been working with Marx Estate, found legal entanglements to sort though, and yet, kept plodding along.

The result was a 2012 release of the 60-minute television production in black and white (the color broadcast has yet to be found) with nearly 46 minutes of extra supplements. Marx’s performance was fairly straight-forward, due to the comic nature of the character, but he still tosses in asides that are pure “Groucho,” such as when he is interrupted in his thoughts by another character, “What’s the matter? Can’t you see I’m busy soliloquizing?”  Watching this production, nearly 50 years after it first aired, almost makes you question the sanity of your parents and broadcasters concerning entertainment. In 1885, when it was first performed, sensibilities were a little different. Marx is the main draw here, and the restoration of the original source materials is stunning for what it is…a beautiful transfer.

And for the story itself? A quick synopsis:Nanki-Poo, the son of the royal mikado, arrives in Titipu disguised as a peasant and looking for Yum-Yum. Without telling the truth about who he is, Nanki-Poo explains that several months earlier he had fallen in love with Yum-Yum; however she was already betrothed to Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, and he saw that his suit was hopeless. However, he has since learned that Ko-Ko has been condemned to death for flirting; and he has come to find Yum-Yum, his true love.

Nanki-Poo’s high hopes are dashed once more when Pish-Tush, a noble lord, informs him that Ko-Ko was reprieved and raised to the rank of lord high executioner. Pooh-Bah, first lord of the treasury, lord chief justice, commander-in-chief, etc., enters next, and he also holds out no hope for Nanki-Poo. Then Ko-Ko himself enters, ready to execute “plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large.”

Next enters Yum-Yum, who reluctantly allows Ko-Ko to kiss her, even though she doesn’t love him; however, she catches sight of Nanki-Poo and rushes over to him. Nanki-Poo, expecting an angry reaction from Ko-Ko, blurts out that he loves Yum-Yum. “Anger!” responds Ko-Ko. “Not a bit, my boy. Why, I love her myself.”

The crowd departs, and Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo are left alone. He confides to her that he is really the son of the mikado, but, ordered by his father to marry Katisha, an elderly lady of the court, he has fled. However, they realize the hopelessness of their situation—and, sadly, they part.
Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pish-Tush enter, bearing a letter from the mikado which complains that no executions have taken place in Titipu for a year and, unless somebody is beheaded within the month, Titipu will be reduced to a mere village.

Nanki-Poo decides that his only option is to commit suicide, but Ko-Ko persuades Nanki Poo to let him behead him instead. To clinch the deal, Ko-Ko even agrees to let Nanki-Poo marry Yum-Yum, providing he agrees to be executed in one month.

As wedding preparations progress, Ko-Ko arrives with bad news: he has learned that the law dictates that when a man is beheaded, his wife must be buried alive. Yum-Yum, while not wishing to appear selfish, points out that this revelation does change things. In despair, Nanki-Poo pulls out a dagger and threatens to kill himself if Ko-Ko doesn’t agree to behead him now. However, Ko-Ko can’t; he can’t kill anything, not even a fly. Then, just before the mikado arrives, they come up with a solution: Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum will be married and will go into hiding, while everyone pretends that the execution has taken place.

When the mikado and Katisha arrive, he is pleased that an execution has taken place, but admits that his real purpose in visiting is to find his son. Katisha spots the name on the execution certificate—Nanki-Poo!—and the mikado, while agreeing that a mistake has certainly been made, says that killing the royal heir involves a horrible death. Nanki-Poo surreptitiously suggests that Ko-Ko marry Katisha; that way Nanki-Poo can come back to life, no one will be killed, and Katisha will be off his back. Ko-Ko, while unenthusiastic, agrees. All are happy, except the mikado, who says that now no one has been executed. Ko-Ko comes up with the explanation: “When your majesty says, ‘let a thing be done,’ it’s as good as done—practically is done—because your majesty’s word is law.” The mikado is satisfied, and everyone happily sings the finale. 

There, and don’t say we didn’t tell you.

To order directly from VAI, go to: http://www.vaimusic.com/product/4554.html

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