3.2 – The Rules Have Changed

Shortly after the demise of the short-lived Emerson Lake & Powell, keyboard maestro Keith Emerson and drummer Carl Palmer teamed up with ex-Hush multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry to form the melodic rock outfit 3. Their sole album, 1988’s ‘To The Power of Three’ presented a great selection of melodic tunes with occasional progressive flourishes, but despite yielding a US hit single, the album itself wasn’t a commercial success on either side of the Atlantic.

By the early nineties, Keith and Carl had reunited with their old bandmate Greg Lake, whilst Berry embarked on what was to be a very prolific decade of recording. He recorded albums with AOR band Alliance, contributed to several progressive rock tribute albums and even re-booted his solo career. His 1992 release ‘Pilgrimage To A Point’ is a melodic rock/accessible prog classic and in ‘Last Ride Into The Sun’ (an unreleased leftover from the 3 days) even gave prog rock fans something infinitely more proggy than the commercially driven 3 album had allowed.

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GRAHAM BONNET BAND – Meanwhile…Back In The Garage

Graham Bonnet is the epitome of a hard working vocalist. Active since the 60s, whether solo or part of a band, by the beginning of 2018 he’d contributed lead vocals to a staggering twenty three studio albums. As with any artist with such a long career the results are variable, ranging from the essential (his own ‘Line Up‘, Rainbow’s ‘Down To Earth‘ and the Graham Bonnet Band’s ‘The Book‘) to the workmanlike (most of the 90s releases) to the flat out awful (Blackthorne, Impelliteri’s ‘System X’). Whatever the result, it’s almost impossible not to be impressed by Bonnet’s work ethic and tenacity.

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SUNSTORM – The Road To Hell

Between 2006 and 2012, legendary rock vocalist Joe Lynn Turner lent his talents to three great albums by Sunstorm; releases which celebrated his many years on the melodic rock scene as well as added to his impressive catalogue. 2012’s ‘Emotional Fire’ was especially interesting as it revisited Joe’s 80s legacy, presenting covers of songs on which he’d originally contributed backing vocals. In the hands of Sunstorm, Michael Bolton’s ‘Gina’ and ‘You Wouldn’t Know Love’ (a big hit for Cher, and old a final voyage into rock for “old two haircuts” himself) sounded as good as ever. Although 2016’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ was an enjoyable record and a worthy addition to the Sunstorm catalogue, it gained more of a mixed response for a couple of reasons: firstly, it had a rockier feel and furthermore, it was effectively Sunstorm in name only – Turner was now fronting a completely different band.

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PRAYING MANTIS – Gravity

In 2015, Praying Mantis broke a six year silence with their tenth album ‘Legacy’. A welcome surprise, the album was not only their first with new vocalist John ‘JayCee’ Cuijpers, a man with a big presence and someone who appeared to be a perfect fit for the band, but also the strongest Mantis offering for a very long time. For the most part, the album featured memorable rockers that allowed the band’s trademark twin lead guitars to shine and also presented some very melodic hooks showing the band could still truly hit the mark. 2018’s ‘Gravity’ – obviously – follows a very similar path lyrically, musically and stylistically. After all, it’s not so much that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but with an album as good as ‘Legacy’, Praying Mantis would have been foolish to mess too much with a winning formula. However, although this second album with JayCee offers a few tracks that are a little less inspiring, on the whole, it’s a great return.

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JIZZY PEARL – All You Need Is Soul

Upon release in 2014, Jizzy Pearl’s EP ‘Crucified’ was incredibly well received by the online rock press, with many thinking it was the former Love/Hate frontman’s best work for a many a year. Although only a six tracker, it did indeed manage to capture a lot of the energies of his younger self, something probably amplified by a short playing time. With no room for filler, he really made an impression, so you’d think Pearl would’ve been keen to keep up the momentum and really capitalise on its success, but it took him almost four years to craft a follow up. Prior to release, he claimed that follow up, 2018’s ‘All You Need Is Soul’ had all the excitement of his former band’s ‘Blackout In The Red Room’ debut. Big talk indeed, but it seems that no matter how much time passes, that album is still very much the benchmark for everything that’s followed.

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