Neal Smith will always be best remembered for his time spent as the drummer in the original Alice Cooper group between 1968 and 1974. Once seen, the image of that band becomes indelible. Not just for a body-stocking wearing, snake-wielding frontman, either. At their 1973 peak, Smith’s presence was like witnessing a blonde octopus attacking a drum kit. He allegedly always made sure his kit was one drum bigger than Keith Moon’s. There’s no denying that this man was a rhythmic god.
Arriving on the scene in 1982 at the tail end of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Sacrilege were originally active as a gigging band for five years. Although they played London’s legendary Marquee at their peak, in many ways, they were just one of hundreds of bands at that time who never “made it” in the truest sense. During their original life-span, they never recorded an album, and so by the end of the nineties, they seemed destined to be all but forgotten.
Back in the 90s, Neal Morse was one of the most talented people to emerge on the prog rock scene. With elements of Gentle Giant and Yes mixed with the Morse Brothers’ distinctive own style, Spock’s Beard gave prog a real kick up the arse with their first three albums. Their third album ‘The Kindness of Strangers’, especially, marked the band as one of the new breed of greats since it blended some great proggy ideas with the pop charms of Jellyfish and Crowded House to create a record that mixed excess with a truckload of melody. It was a disc they would never better. In the early 2000s, Neal found religion and left the band for a solo career. His albums from then on featured some reasonable music but divided fans due to some very heavy handed and preachy lyrical concerns.
Paradise Asylum released their debut EP ‘The Storm Queen Cometh’ in 2013. The release was recorded on a meagre budget and vocalist Carla Warnes sang fairly flat throughout, but a couple of tracks demonstrated a can-do attitude that showed that even when they got it wrong, the band clearly loved playing together. Subsequent releases trod pretty much the same path.
At their best, the original eight man UB40 were an unstoppable band of brothers taking reggae music to every corner of the globe. With millions of record sales to their credit, it has been said that – save for Bob Marley – they were the genre’s most successful ambassadors. Some may knock 1983’s ‘Labour of Love’ as a lightweight covers record or middle class dinner party music, but it’s unlikely that those detractors have ever even heard Eric Donaldson’s version of ‘Cherry Oh Baby’ or Laurel Aitken’s ‘Guilty’, let alone Dandy Livingstone’s own ‘Version Girl’, so in many ways, in making a covers record, UB40 were making a more than valid musical point. Their 1980-89 catalogue is peerless. The many albums they released between 1991-2008 also have points of interest.
In 2008, the unthinkable happened: vocalist/guitarist Ali Campbell left the band. Keyboard player Mickey Virtue joined him. The six other band members were joined by vocalist Duncan Campbell and embarked on the next phase of their career. In 2013, the ever popular Astro jumped ship and joined Ali and Mickey in their musical endeavours, leaving behind what he dubbed “a rudderless ship”.