"Publisher's Corner"

by Geoff Wilbur
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Smartbomb ca - Savor the Moment

Creativeman Disc
Either these guys are just cranking out the discs, or my sense of the passage of time is a bit off. In any case, Smartbomb ca has released another disc full of energetic, light, catchy, poppy, alternative guitar rock from the mainstream/crossover end of the punk tradition. Youíll be smiliní, your toesíll be tappiní and, once youíve heard the songs a few times, youíll find yourself singiní along to these chartable gems. And these guys have again snagged some neat anime for the CD sleeves (and the CD itself).

Lillian Axe - Fields of Yesterday

Z Records
Just when you thought theyíd gone forever, Lillian Axe releases Fields of Yesterday, aptly named because the 12 songs are actually previously unreleased tracks drawn from master tapes recorded over four years from 1989 through 1992... and supported by a reunion tour. A shining example of Lillian Axe at its classically-based melodic hard rock best, this CD is a welcome surprise addition to any Axe fanís collection and a worthy introduction for the uninitiated. For those unfamiliar with L.A., songs like "For Crying Out Loud" and "Death Valley Daze" feature good examples of Ron Taylorís identifiable vocals mixing with solid, melodic guitar rock and little musical extras that can only be added by talented, knowledgeable musicians.

Tex Svengali - Adonai Elohim El Camino

Opulence!, P.O. Box 2071, Wilmington, NC 28402
Like one great big barroom jam, Tex Svengali blends some blues-based, angry rock guitars with a punk sensibility for a really raw, raucous disc. "Gimme That Love Now Baby" has the feeling of an end-of-the-night multi-band jam. >From this CD, Iím sure Tex Svengali keeps the college barrooms jumping Ďtil closing time.

Babylon A.D. - Live In Your Face

Apocalypse Records
This 12-track CD opens with my favorite Babylon A.D. song, the energetic, almost anthemic "Bang Go the Bells." In addition to many B.A.D. favorites, this disc closes with "Girls Got Rhythm" and "Rats in the Cellar" in true arena rock band style. Also of note on the disc is the heartfelt ballad "Down the River of No Return."

Thumb - Nitros City

Wings Music Entertainment
Some tracks on Nitros City, like "Shallow Grave," are distorted, wall-of-noise, '90s-style hard rock that hints at hooks without fully diving into 'em. And yet on other tracks, like "All Save the Day," the song structure suggests a strong jazz influence, or at least a jazz-influenced progressive rock influence. My favorite song on the album is "Untitled," a somewhat psychedelic guitar rock track that melds the band's two extremes.

Cry - Cry

Wings Music Entertainment
Crisp, melodic album-opener "Shady" suggests a melding of classic-styled rock with fifties/sixties harmonies. "Interlude" is reminiscent of experimental psychedelia. "Johnny" is a more late '90s mix of the two, with wall-of-sound psychedelia packaged into a rhythmically catchy song package. As with Thumb, Cry's songs cover a very broad style range, so it's hard to pin down a "Cry style," but the music is all tight, well-performed, and from-the-heart.

The Tamperer featuring Maya Davis - If You Buy This Record Your Life Will Be Better

Jive Records
An insistent, undeniably danceable music bed backs this song whose minimal vocals combined with the beat do remind the listener of early Madonna. Dance club fare at its "funnest."

Black Label Society - Sonic Brew

Spitfire Records
Founded in 1998, the Black Label Society consists of Zakk Wylde (Proprietor & Brewmaster), Phil Ondich (Mashing), and Ron Albert and Howard Albert (Taste Testing and Blending). Aside from silliness, this band featuring ex-Ozzy axeman Wylde specializes in aggressively heavy rock with enough melody to satisfy both camps of headbangers. This CD matches up well with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Days of the New.

Lonestar - Lonely Grill

BNA Records
Disc number three from Lonestar again delivers music that, even without paying attention to the lyrics, feels good to listen to. Ballads like "Amazed," "Tell Her," and "Smile" and uptempo tracks like "What About Now" have warmth and heart and should be guaranteed chart-toppers. I also kind of like the lyrical spin to the title track.

Tiles - Presents of Mind

Magna Carta Records
Readers of Geoff Wilbur's Renegade Newsletter over the years know Tiles. In February 1995, our Industry Edition featured an interview with then-unsigned rock group. The last CD, Fence the Clear, gained worldwide distribution. Now, with this debut on prog rock heavyweight label Magna Carta, Tiles is poised for even broader success. And the band's often experimental, always tuneful, somewhat heavy brand of prog rock remains a treat to the ear. This is a metro Detroit area band of musicians' musicians whose songs don't require a degree in music theory to enjoy.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Running With Scissors

Volcano Entertainment
Is it possible he's only getting better? He certainly hasn't lost a step from the early days of "Another One Rides the Bus" and "Stop Draggin' My Car Around." Album-opening alternate Star Wars: Episode I theme "The Saga Begins" (to the tune of "American Pie") is a lyrical masterpiece, while "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi" and "Jerry Springer" (a parody of "One Week") are classic Weird Al. The requisite polka medley -- titled "Polka Power!" on this CD -- is a joy as always. And, while I'm not sure yet which of the non-direct-parody songs will become my favorite (or will match my affinity for "Cable TV"), "My Baby's in Love With Eddie Vedder" and the way-too-weird "Truck Drivin' Song" are good candidates.

Joe Lynn Turner - Under Cover 2

Shrapnel Records
When one of rock's great voices covers some of rock's favorite songs, it's worth taking notice. Former Deep Purple/Rainbow/Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force vocalist Joe Lynn Turner checks in with some spirited cover tunes on this 13-track CD. Personal faves include "Wishing Well," "Waiting For a Girl Like You," "The Boys are Back in Town," and "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo."

Dokken - Erase the Slate

CMC International Records
This disc is reminiscent of the power with a hint of melody (which can't be helped when Don pours it on vocally) that attracted legions of fans to Breaking the Chains. The addition of ex-Winger axeslinger Reb Beach to the line-up was inspired, his guitar wizardry complementing Don Dokken's vocals particularly well on rockers like "Change the World" and a cool, rockified cover of "One." This disc also includes a strong new entry in the guitar-drenched ballad sweepstakes -- "Who Believes." Also of note, Mick Brown makes his lead vocal debut on "Crazy Mary Goes Round." I guess I shouldn't be surprised by his raw, melodic, very "rock singer"; the band has always been known for its strong harmonies.

Mindy McCready - I'm Not So Tough

BNA Records
Slated to hit stores September 14th (right around the time you'll get this publication), this disc contains an already-hit single, the Matraca Berg/Marshall Chapman-penned "All I Want is Everything," plus ten more songs from top songwriters showcasing Mindy's very-country, energetically '90s, enticing vocals. Other songs to watch (listen) for are heartfelt ballad "Dream On" and mid-tempo toe-tapper "I've Got a Feeling."

Paul Shortino & the Rhythm Junkies - Stand or Fall

Music Works Entertainment Corp.
You may know Paul as the former lead singer of Rough Cutt, but this disc shows where that edge to his voice has its most obvious fit -- the blues. This disc of blues rock leans toward the blues, with Paulís voice taking on a natural, gravelly shimmer. Think Rough Cutt meets a Gospel choir at the blues. Nice, powerful stuff.

Kenny Chesney - Everywhere We Go

BNA Records
>From the powerful "How Forever Feels" to "You Had Me From Hello," which would be more moving if the phrase wasnít still so fresh from Jerry McGuire, Kennyís insistent, emotional vocals power a disc full of heartstring-tuggers that call forth vivid memories in the listenerís mind, even of events that never happened to the listener. Perhaps when government spies, directed by aliens from outer space, begin implanting false memories in peopleís minds, theyíll use Kennyís voice. Oh, wait, this is a music publication not a "conspiracy newsletter," isnít it? Maybe one will pay me a little cash for a chance to reprint this review... (While I may not be a conspiracy theorist, I'm certainly an opportunist.)

Bitter Love featuring Brian Zimmerman - The Accuser

Caprice International Records
This disc has a bit fuller, broader sound than typically results from Capriceís usually rough-edged recording style. Distorted vocal howls can be heard among the moderately psychedelic mid-tempo rock, with the end result harkening back to the seventies, blending guitar pop with a hint of a punk flavoring. The hollow guitar and vocal distortion on the CD works to best effect on the steadily heavy rock track "The Babylon Whore."

The Bacon Brothers - Getting There

Helena Music Co./Bluxo Records
Yeah, you could pick up this CD just because youíre curious to hear what Kevin Bacon and his brother sound like, but if youíre a fan of strumming, folky adult contemporary music somewhere between the Rembrandts and piano man Joshua Kadison, youíll find a favorite disc on the musical merits alone. The musicís energetic and fun to listen to, to a certain degree even when itís mellow and pensive... and it has that melancholy Rembrandt-esque edge.

Bad Attitude - Riddles

Attack Records
You first read about Bad Attitude in our Industry Edition. Then, last fall, you read about the bandís record deal with Attack Records, a label who also first discovered Bad Attitude in the pages of the Renegade. Now, at long last, the debut album of powerful, timeless, straight-ahead, blues-based, arena hard rock band Bad Attitude is on the streets, and itís been worth the wait! The guitars grind, the vocals growl, and the energy and emotion pour from every chord. Personal favorites are "Wheel of Fire" and "Not For Me."

Slaughter - Back to Reality

CMC International Records
Good olí Slaughter! This CD is the sort of fun, energetic, melodic hard rock for which Slaughter is best known. There may be a little more blues rock edge to the songs, but if there is, itís just barely there. Energetic, rockiní slow songs "Love is Forever" and "Nothin Left to Lose" are great radio fodder, while "All Fired Up" and "Take Me Away" are strong faster tracks.

Pat Benatar - Synchronistic Wanderings (Recorded Anthology 1979 to 1999)

Chrysalis/Capitol Records
20 years. 3 discs. 53 tracks. From "Heartbreaker" to two versions of "Love is a Battlefield" to soundtrack cuts, tribute album tracks, outtakes, and a B-side, this anthology tackles Pat Benatarís career in a manner fit for any rock fanís stereo. As the vinyl gets worn, songs like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and "Precious Time" are now more accessible parts of my collection, while I no longer hear "Sometimes the Good Guys Finish First" only when watching my videotape of The Secret of My Success. Great voice. Long career. If youíre a rocker, youíve gotta get this 3-CD set.


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.

Martina McBride - Emotion

RCA Records
McBride exudes an indie rock sentiment in the Sheryl Crow-ish sounding album-opener "Do What You Do." Donít fear, though, itís just an edge. The disc is clearly country, albeit folky country, and in that context, so is the first track. Strong songwriting drives this CD. The biggest hit on this CD has to be "Loveís the Only House." (Of course, by the time you read this review, youíll already know that.)

Dan Fogelberg - The First Christmas Morning

Chicago Records
Fogelberg proves that he has a great voice for Christmas songs, mixing traditional favorites, new songs, and some old-but-not-so-airwave-saturating tunes.  There's an original, medieval feel pervading most of this recording.  Personal favorite performances include "The First Christmas Morning," "I Saw Three Ships," "In the Bleak Mid-Winter," and the floating, flowing, soaring instrumental "Snowfall."

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