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Kevin Andrews - A Manhattan Day in the Life

Caprice International Records
The subtitle to this album is "Broadway Pop and Theater Rock." Indeed, there is a kind of kitschy, campy showbiz vibe present throughout this disc. But I must be missing something. I just donít get it! The songs are flat and very one dimensional. The arrangements are cluttered and tend to obscure the tunes instead of allowing them to blossom and develop. This stuff would probably really fly on the Dr. Demento show but as far as straight pop, itís hard to say. But, Iíll say this, Kevin Andrews seems like an interesting "personality" that might shine better in a different context like hip-hop, for example.
- Eric Harabadian


Artension - Forces of Nature

Shrapnel Records
If you are looking for a technical sort of band with metal and progressive overtones, this band delivers! Artension is a five piece outfit headed by Ukranian keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij and Swedish guitarist Roger Staffelbach. Rounded out by powerful vocalist John West and a dynamite rhythm section, the band proves effective in their blend of western rock and neo-classical styles. Kind of a cross between classic Deep Purple, Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force. Artension will grab you from the first note and take you on one wild and wooly ride!!!
- Eric Harabadian

Borislav Mitic - Borislav Mitic

Shrapnel Records
Yugoslavian guitarist Mitic is a young up and coming "musician" in the best sense of that word. Primarily self-taught, the twenty-nine year old Serbian whiz is a master of classical, rock and improvisational stylings. Combining the tonality of Blackmore, Hendrix or Malmsteen with the grace and elegance of Bach and Paganini, Borislav is a singular force to be reckoned with. Backed by a tight and effective bass and drum team he takes the listener on a journey filled with lush symphonic textures, multi-cultural delights and grooving ambience. I give this album one of my highest recommendations!!!
- Eric Harabadian

Texas - The Hush

Mercury/Grand Central Records
Swimming for shore in "In Our Lifetime," grooviní on a "Sunday Afternoon," and reminding us to take the time to love on "The Day Before I Went Away," Sharleen Spiteri makes you dance and breaks your heart.  The follow-up to the multi-platinum White On Blonde has just as much potential as its predecessor. With a voice as strong as pop diva Celine Dion, and supreme mixing, leaving a sound with a trace of Prince (the greatest influence on Spiteri), Texas will leave you in awe.
- Tyler Moore

Overmars - Highlife

Lightyear Entertainment
Frontman Brendan Freeney believes his band is moving "from a dark place or period to a light one." With intriguing lyrics, distinguished blues/soul guitar licks, and an emotional air about their music, they can attract some attention. The New York based band just wants to "write good songs (and be part) of a good album." If you appreciate music that is written from the heart and soul, they have succeeded.
- Tyler Moore

Fireside - Hello Kids

Startracks/House of Kicks
Fireside are a distinguished Swedish emocore/punk band, and Hello Kids (a 2 CD affair) documents their rare songs, favorite album tracks, B-sides and unused songs. CD 2 is a set of covers by the band, their chosen subjects including Duran Duran and Prince. Angular basslines and awkward guitar parts are mixed perfectly with interesting chord patterns, while the whole sound is pinned down by Åströmís perfectly sung vocals and intelligently written lyrics.
- John Boileau

The Innocence Mission - Birds of My Neighborhood

Kneeling Elephant Records
The Innocence Mission have once again concocted a palette full of memorable swirling melodies that evoke time, place and spirit. On their fourth album, both traditional and electrified folk preside over the Victorian rock of their past. A definite purchase for aficionados of Neil Young, John Denver (they cover "Follow Me"), Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon.
- Keith Abbott


 

Human Drama - Solemn Sun Setting

Hollows Hill Sound Recordings
This CD from Human Drama is, in a word, fantastic. Singer/songwriter Johnny Indovina writes, performs, orchestrates, and sings some of the most incredible Gothic rock I have ever heard, adding to it a dynamic maturity (the key word throughout the CD is Ďdramaí), and some really wicked orchestration. Human Drama succeeds where the more pretentious Gothic rock fails; on this CD, the art, poetry, and beauty are real. This is a CD that Iíve listened to over and over because itís just that good; a short review canít do it justice.
- Vic Gemmingen

Night & Day - "Danteís Girl" (single)

Jive Records
Night & Dayís two strong voices share the spotlight for one strong song from The Wood soundtrack. The slow jams from Flint are real nice.
- Vic Gemmingen

Will Haven - WHVN

Revelation Records
Grab your combat boots, this album will get you running for the mosh pit! You can hear Will Havenís influences all over the hard-core musical spectrum. Grady Avenell, lead vocals, has a voice that will make any Clutch fan jealous. Instrumentally, they range from Type O Negativeís lead-ins, to Coal Chamber-style guitar riffs. Each song has a definite style of its own, and every one will make fans of the hard-core scene grateful.
- Kelly Shellhaas

Copperpot - Copperpot

Windward Records
This album is full of Stevie Ray Vaughn style guitar riffs and deep bluesy vocals that will be very popular with classic guitar rock fans of all ages. Musically, there is not much variance in the songs, but each one is full of meaningful lyrics and is sung with emotion. This blues and rock combination is perfect for those of you who still like to rock, but are not into the mosh pit crowd.
- Kelly Shellhaas

Jake Andrews - Time to Burn

Jericho/Sire Records
Roughly in the last few years there has been quite a significant emergence of young guitar heroes. One need only check out Jonny Lang or Kenny Wayne Shepherd to see evidence of that. But then there are some exceptional artists that come along that stand alone from the pack. Though only eighteen, roots oriented guitarist and vocalist Jake Andrews approaches his music with a bravado and maturity that far belies his age. Time to Burn is a virtual cornucopia of blues, soul, ballads and jazz stylings that showcases an artist in rare form. Obvious comparisons to Texas greats like the Vaughn brothers or Johnny Winter will be evident but the kid remains on his own as well. While his guitar playing is tasteful and heartfelt, Andrews' songwriting skills and smooth, earthy vocals are simply sublime! If Jake sounds this good at the dawn of his career, imagine what he'll be like in a year or two. I know I'll be hanging around to find out!
- Eric Harabadian

Richie Kotzen - Bi-Polar Blues

Shrapnel Records
Guitarist Richie Kotzen has dabbled in a variety of musical arenas, be it working with Stuart Hamm and Steve Smith on a progressive fusion album, doing soundtrack work for films or recording and touring with pop-metal stars Poison. 1999 finds Kotzen going back to the source, paying homage to blues greats like Robert Johnson and B.B. King as well as exhibiting his own original writing talents. The talented multi-instrumentalist also plays bass, piano and even some drums. The results are a mixture of tunes that are mellow and relaxed yet retain an authentic retro sound and texture. A must for blues lovers everywhere!!!
- Eric Harabadian

Zakk Wylde/Black Label Society - Sonic Brew

Spitfire Records
Former Ozzy Osbourne cohort Zakk Wylde returns with his third release finding the metal-edged axeman composing all the material and covering most of the other instruments and vocals. The result is a dark and brooding record heavy on nihilistic lyrics and aggressive attitude. This "sonic brew" packs one industrial strength wallop to be sure!!!
- Eric Harabadian

Greg Howe - Ascend

Shrapnel Records
Greg Howe has been on the independent progressive rock scene for well over a decade, earning kudos and praise -- from fans and colleagues alike -- along the way. His latest, Ascend, should continue that allegiance, for it is an awesome display of virtuosity mixed with style, substance and taste. Greg deftly handles the majority of guitar and bass chores accompanied, most ably, by drummer Jon Doman, guitarist Prashant Aswani (on one track) and Artension's Vitalij Kuprij on keyboards. Some magic moments include a brilliant interpretation of Rush's "La Villa Strangiato," the classically influenced guitar-synth piece "Her Dance," and the metal-edged guitar duel with Aswani on "Full Throttle." A must for guitar aficionados everywhere!
- Eric Harabadian

Stroke 9 - Nasty Little Thoughts

Cherry/Universal Records
The first thing you notice about Stroke 9 is just how whiny Luke Esterkynís vocals are. "Oh something better happen to these feelings," he sings in his customarily lost voice "that Iím going through." For such a garage-y sounding band, one wonders why Jerry Harrison (formerly of Talking Heads) and Robert Hine even stooped to produce it. Music history has degenerated from protest singers... to complainers.
- Dan MacIntosh

Cork - Speed of Thought

Lightyear Entertainment
Cork is billed as a new band featuring former Spin Doctor Eric Shenkman, and this former MD of spin certainly has his surgical gloves all over this recording. He wrote much of the lyrics, played guitar and bass, and sang lead vocals -- not to mention acting as producer, along with former Mountain stick man Corky Laing. And another thing, this classic rock-leaning disc also features former Hendrix bassist Noel Redding. Rock on, old men!
- Dan MacIntosh

Spin Doctors - Here Comes The Bride

DAS/Universal Records
In case you havenít heard yet, Spin Doctorsí singer Chris Barron now has a rare paralysis of the vocal chords that might prevent him from ever singing again. If this is to be his swan song, though, he sure has made the best of it. "Here Comes The Bride" is a funky and smart recording; one that also features the authentic R&B accreditation of Ivan Neville on keyboards and vocals. Letís hope itís not to be a short marriage.
- Dan MacIntosh

Portable - Secret Life

TVT Records
Although Portable isnít pictured wearing skinny ties with their suits on the back cover of this debut album, the pogo-ing rhythm of the opener "Whatís Wrong" certainly connects them to some sort of a new wave ancestry. Furthermore, the album also features guest vocals from Teri Nunn of Berlin, fresh from her recent VH1 Where Are They Now segment. Produced by Matt Wallace (Paul Westerberg, Faith No More), Portable might just be worth taking along for the ride.
- Dan MacIntosh

Neil Della Torre Jr. - Love Standards

Neil Della Torre Jr., God bless him, sure loves classic American songs. Looking not unlike a í50s romantic movie idol, Della Torre gives it all heís got to "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Over The Rainbow" and "These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)." His voice is pleasing enough, but his decision to replace a proper orchestra with synth strings is unforgivable. Maybe he oughta be in pictures, after all.
- Dan MacIntosh

Soulmotor - Soulmotor

CMC International Records
If Metallica were to become born again atheists, they might sound something like Soulmotor. The opener doesnít exactly rant against God, but it gets mighty close. Perhaps having never heard the expression ďDonít kill the messenger,Ē this grinding metal outfit takes out all of its aggression out on a helpless "Guardian Angel." Might be the perfect soundtrack for the anti-series "Touched Up An Angel," or to listen to while laughing at Benny Hinn crusades on the tube.
- Dan MacIntosh

G. Love & Special Sauce - Philadelphonic

Okeh/550 Music
Philadelphonic is another helping of G. Loveís blues, rap and soul stew. Although G gets extra credit points for originality, one wonders if he has even a snowballís chance in hell of ever finding an audience. He raps too much for blues purists, yet thereís too much real blues in his sound to attract your typical hip-hop fan. Nevertheless, his style is a tasty treat for the exotic eater.
- Dan MacIntosh

Britney Spears - "(You Drive Me) Crazy [The Stop Remix]" single

Jive Records
For most true music fans, Britney Spears is nothing more than a teen with a boob job. But this track from a movie with the same name is actually quite catchy. In fact, itís a dead-ringer for a lost Abba track. This may be due to the fact that it was written and produced by Swedes. The lyrics donít say much, but neither did any Abba music, for that matter. Itís fine for a few listens, but if it becomes a big hit, be prepared to be driven crazy.
- Dan MacIntosh

Rose Polenzani - Anybody

Daemon Records
In a time where teen screams and girls oí spice cram the pop charts, it seems as if there might not be enough room for the serious thoughts of Rose Polenzani. With help from the Indigo Girls on one cut ("Or"), this Chicago native comes off as a passionate and literate singer/songwriter. "Mollyís Lily," for example, is taken in part straight from the court records of the Salem witch trials. Take my advice little girls, this stuffís better than pimple cream.
- Dan MacIntosh

Art Of Noise - The Seduction Of Claude Debussy

ZTT/Universal Records
>From the same group that gave the world the catchy "Close To The Edit," Art Of Noise has now recorded the soundtrack to a film biography on the life of French composer Claude Debussy that was never made. Sporting drum & bass, operatic female vocals, and spoken word help from actor John Hurt, I guarantee this sounds like nothing youíve ever heard before. If Debussy really would've dug it, though, is a completely different matter altogether.
- Dan MacIntosh

Jason Sellers - A Matter of Time

BNA Records
This fresh-faced Jason Sellers looks too young to have already been married and divorced from the female country star Lee Ann Womack. Although heís yet one more stellar writer trying to make it with his own name on the marquee, he doesnít yet sound jaded by his lack of solo success up to now. He opens with the hopeful "A Matter Of Time," and includes a standout duet with Pam Tillis on the old Jones/Wynette "Golden Ring."
- Dan MacIntosh

Joey Welz - City of Stone

Caprice International Records
Itís not surprising that Joey Welz was once one of Bill Haleyís original Comets, because he has seemingly come from outer-space. This poorly recorded album is divided into a hard pop half, and an alternative country side. The pop section sounds like The Pet Shop Boys for the senior set, overflowing with bad synth work, and the country selections donít sound anything like any country music Iíve ever heard.
 - Dan MacIntosh

Jim Lauderdale - Onward Through it All

RCA Records
Jim Lauderdale is probably best known as the man behind a truckload of George Straight chart-toppers. But this prolific songwriter is also a soulful singer, and with "Onward Through it All" (already his 8th solo release!) he wraps his thick as molasses vocal chords around songs of love ("I Already Loved You") and hope ("Trust (Guiding Star)"), proving once again how he deserves to be more than just another name on somebodyís album credits.
- Dan MacIntosh

Alabama - Twentieth Century

RCA Records
When music historians look back upon country hit makers of the 20th Century, theyíll certainly remember the 40+ bona fide hits for the group Alabama. But they wonít recall this harmless quartet for its ideas. Especially-as on this albumís title cut-when the 20th Century is summed up with the words "wasnít all that bad." Furthermore, this unremarkable release-both lyrically and musically-should be filed under "isnít all that good."
- Dan MacIntosh

Lonestar - Lonely Grill

BNA Records
On an album that already sports a monster hit ("Amazed"), the casual country fan probably wants to know what else this quartet has up its sleeve. Although "Saturday Night" includes some fine fiddling, and "Donít Letís Talk About Lisa" is filled chockfull of cornball humor, this recording doesnít lay claim to very much original ground. After listening to it all the way through, one is left feeling well short of amazed.
- Dan MacIntosh


NOTE: Due to space constraints, the following reviews were not included in the print edition of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter.  These reviews are only available here in the online edition.

The Dickies - Dogs From The Hare That Bit US

Triple X Records
Itís now 1999, and some 22 years later, the Los Angeles based band The Dickies are still rocking... hard! I was introduced to The Dickies this summer in a bar in Jersey, and now I am hooked. So I ask myself, what can a band like The Dickies bring to such classics as "Thereís A Place" by The Beatles and "Let Me Out" by The Knack, well Iíll tell you, they made them their own!

The intro to this mayhem of tradition gets you into the fantasyland to take you through the next 8 songs. Leonard Phillips vocals give these songs such a melodic kick, that itís hard not to listen to each track a few times to soak them in. Backed by a strong, talented band which includes Stan Lee (guitar), Rick Dasher (bass/vocals), Travis Johnson (drums) and Dave Teague (guitar) gives these old favorites, the Dickies punky, raunchy flavor they deserve.

I am not a big fan of cover tunes but this album has given me a new found fondness to this art, especially when they are done as well as these. If you are like me, and have been kept in the dark about this band up until this point, if I were you I would open the door wide because luckily for us these guys ainít going away anytime soon! Better late then never!

- Lauren Faccidomo

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