LISSIE – Thank You To The Flowers EP

Lissie’s full length debut, 2010’s ‘Catching A Tiger’, gained the American singer-songwriter well deserved worldwide acclaim. With its mix of adult pop, a few country tinges and an obvious Stevie Nicks influence, she captured the imaginations of the adult rock-pop audience with some timeless sounding tunes. Although her 2013 follow up ‘Back To Forever’ scored another UK top twenty chart placing, it wasn’t enough for Columbia Records who subsequently dropped Lissie from their roster following its release. Finding a new home with Cooking Vinyl (the ever reliable home for artists who’d previously ended high profile contracts), she released a further two albums in 2016 and 2018. Even though these discs (‘My Wild West’ and ‘Castles’) did not appear to gain as much press attention, they were equally successful – and especially so in the UK, where ‘Castles’ earnt Lissie her first top ten placing.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Vol 4 (Redux)

In September 2020, Zakk Sabbath released their long-awaited ‘Vertigo’ album, on which legendary guitarist Zakk Wylde and friends recreated the Black Sabbath debut as faithfully as possible. Everything was well played, but with the band taking such a traditional stance, there were moments where you’d wonder why you’d ever choose to listen to it over the original recording. There were a couple of tracks of great interest, however, such as ‘Wicked World’ where the band loosened their grip on self-imposed authenticity and added more of their own flair and ‘N.I.B.’ which proved that Zakk Wylde plus and indestructible riff will often result in something great. The album was well received by fans, and despite any misgivings about long-term interest, it was important that the band got a studio recording under their collective belt after working the live circuit for so many years.

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KEVIN ROWLAND – My Beauty

Picture the scene: the twentieth century is in its death throes. Britpop is over. Most of the Seattle bands have stopped being headline news. Nu-metal is a thing. Eminem has proven that Beastie Boys don’t have the monopoly on saleable white rap. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have parted company with Dave Navarro, welcomed back John Frusciante and begun a slow journey into mediocrity. For the first time in a few years, the musical landscape doesn’t seem to have a dominant force.

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JORN – Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing The Classics

Jorn Lande is no stranger to cover versions. In 2006, he released an album’s worth of covers in tribute to the legendary Ronnie James Dio. Ten years on, he released ‘Heavy Rock Radio’, a tribute to some of his other favourites and influences. Unfortunately, ‘Heavy Rock Radio‘ wasn’t very good at all. A couple of tunes might’ve just about passed muster in terms of hard rock reworkings and – predictably – the obligatory Dio-related song fared quite well, but overall, it was a bit of a turkey. Making things heavier doesn’t necessarily make things better (unless you ask a particularly unadventurous metalhead) and in a rocked up cover of ‘Hotel California’, Lande truly hit rock bottom by giving the world a reggae metal hybrid that no-one with ears deserved to hear.

Jorn obviously had fun making that record – terrible as most of it might have been – and he enters his fifth decade as a recording artist with a second volume of reworked favourites. ‘Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing The Classics’ is an improvement on its predecessor, but then, in many respecrs, it would have struggled to have been worse. It’s actually about fifty percent better, but still makes for an incredibly patchy record.

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L.A. GUNS – Another Xmas In Hell EP

In the US, Christmas music is big business. You can find a festive album to suit pretty much every one of your holiday moods. There are countless Christmas albums from country artists; you can play it traditionally with the easy listening approach with She & Him’s retro pop or Lowen & Navarro’s world of log fires and woolly jumpers. You can opt for retro rock ‘n’ roll and a swingin’ yuletide with the brilliant Brian Setzer, or even funky festivities with James Brown. In a world where even Bad Religion – a punk band fronted by one of the world’s most outspoken athiest academics – have a Christmas album, the gloves are off. We live in a post-irony world.

In December 2019, L.A. Guns’ ‘Another Xmas In Hell’ appeared on streaming services with little to no fanfare. A five track release, it finds the US hard rockers putting their own slant on a couple of very familiar festive favourites and a couple of lesser known gems.

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