Vocalist John Payne will be familiar to most as having been the singer with Asia between 1991 and 2006. For a lot of people, he’s often that bloke who “isn’t John Wetton”. A somewhat unfair tag, maybe, but prog and AOR fans aren’t exactly known for being open to change, especially where a favourite vocalist is concerned. Despite Payne being treated by some as an “also ran” or some kind of stand in until Wetton returned (which he eventually did), it doesn’t change the fact that Asia’s 1992 album, ‘Aqua’ is their best work (‘Little Rich Boy’ and ‘Who Will Stop The Rain?’ are amazing songs) and in many ways, 2006’s ‘Arena’ remains one of the band’s most musically rich works, with a few tracks veering away from their pomp style and drawing influence from the smoother sounds of Toto. Unless you’re completely ignorant (like those people who have somehow written off over thirty years of a Fish-free Marillion after hearing three songs in 1989), John Payne’s contribution to Asia cannot and should not be undervalued.
Likened to early Replacements meeting with Johnny Thunders, the Dogmatics were very much a cult band on the Boston rock ‘n’ roll/power pop scene in the 80s. During their original run, they toured with Dinosaur Jr., The Bangles, Hoodoo Gurus, The Fleshtones and dozens of other well known rock bands. Tragedy struck in 1986 when bassist Paul O’Halloran died in a motorbike accident and with just two studio albums to their credit, the band called time on their short career. [A twenty track anthology, ‘1981-86’, brings together twenty Dogmatics recordings and is the ultimate primer for anyone unfamiliar with their work.]
It’s been well known for a while that Molly Tuttle is one of the biggest and brightest talents among young artists in the Americana scene, but the couple of tracks that have been released ahead of her covers album shows how well she’s able to adapt her talents to other people’s material. We’ve already heard her interpretations of Grateful Dead and Neil Young songs, but here is something unexpected…and quite special.
The fashion for bands playing “complete album” live shows presents a double edged sword. On the negative side, this robs fans of the excitement and mystery of what the night’s setlist might bring. On the plus side, such a practice means that long neglected gems are given a live airing. In the case of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘45th Anniversary: Live In London’ the latter definitely applies. Not only is their debut record is a stone cold classic, but it features several tunes that aren’t necessarily regular fixtures in their live sets, which lends this recording an instant vitality.
It’s hard to underestimate the impact Slade had in their prime. With their hybrid of hard rock volume and glammy kitsch they spent a huge amount of time in the UK top 40 between 1972-1984 and they were a phenomenal live act.