VARIOUS ARTISTS – Once Upon A Time In The Midlands: The Bostin’ Sounds Of Brumrock 1966-1974

When thinking of the rock sounds to emerge from Birmingham and surrounding areas, it’s all too easy to think of Slade and their chart topping stompers, of Roy Wood and his flamboyant take on glam rock, and of heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. All of those bands really helped to put the Midlands on the map – that could never be disputed – but Brum and its surrounding neighbourhoods offered British music so much more throughout the sixties and seventies. ‘Once Upon A Time In The Midlands’ brings together various heroes, forgotten gems, period rarities, and even the occasional hit in a brilliantly compiled 3CD package that’ll educate as much as entertain.

Although the three discs aren’t in a strict chronological order, this collection has a definite flow, moving through psych and beat groups, into a world of seventies rock and finally ending up with the glam-ish sounds of Blackfoot Sue and an early tune from Judas Priest. As always with these sets, though, ‘Bostin’ Sounds’ works best when approached as a curate’s egg, with the listener dropping in at random on a couple of old favourites and discovering something old – yet new – along the way.

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LORD – Undercovers Vol. 1

Covers albums can be a hit and miss prospect. For every band willing to take risks, there are three dozen hacking out uninspired versions of other peoples’ songs in the name of a quick buck. As proven by Jorn Lande, metal based covers albums can be an even trickier thing to pull off successfully, since not everything needs – or even suits – being “heavied up” in the name of entertainment. In fact, the experience of hearing Lande wail his way through Don Henley’s ‘New York Minute’ could be enough to put you off metal oriented covers albums for life…

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JOEYDIABOLIC – Through Soundwaves Vol. 4 EP

JoeyDiabolic is a self-described “alternative musician”. At the beginning of 2021, he released an EP entitled ‘Through Soundwaves Vol 3’ where he offered covers of tracks by Anthrax, White Zombie and others, mixing heavy riffs with darkwave synth sounds and occasional gothic vocals. On the negative side, there wasn’t much about any of it you could actually call “alternative” at the time of release. However, for listeners that happened to be in their mid forties, the recordings still offered a welcome nostalgic bent. It also introduced listeners to JoeyDiabolic’s horror fixations. Aside from a tip of the hat to the mighty Rob Zombie, the EP’s self penned intro ‘Son of A Hundred Maniacs’ referenced Freddy Kruger, and it’s that Wes Craven creation that provides the heart of this follow up, released just a short while later.

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JUDAS PRIEST – Point Of Entry

By the time Judas Priest entered the 1980s – their second decade as recording artists – the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was in full flow. As has been written many times before, their sixth studio album ‘British Steel’ is a genuine metal classic, more than able of standing proudly alongside Iron Maiden’s self titled debut and Saxon’s ‘Wheels of Steel’ as one of the greatest heavy albums of that year. No matter how much great music Priest had up their collective sleeve, that would always be a hard act to follow.

In 1981, Priest had high hopes of repeating ‘British Steel’s’ commercial success with another timeless set. Being the first time the band had actually re-entered the studio with the same line-up, in theory, they should have been a stronger unit than ever. However, the resulting album, ‘Point of Entry’ (released in February ’81) initially sounds weaker than Priest’s previous couple of albums and although parts of it seem very formulaic on the surface, in reality, their seventh LP features a couple of musical experiments that show a band attempting to branch out. Regardless of some interesting material, though, it’s no match for its immediate predecessors (‘British Steel’ and ‘Killing Machine’); that said, it’s far from the bad album its sometimes suggested to be.
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TRAPEZE – You Are The Music, We’re Just The Band

For a lot of rock fans, Glenn Hughes first came to prominence when he joined Deep Purple in 1974. In the few years leading up to that big breakthrough, he’d spent time working as bassist/vocalist with British rock band Trapeze. Although not big sellers, their first two albums were solid affairs, that showcased some talented musicians. 1970’s ‘Trapeze’ (produced by Moody Blues man John Lodge) presented a five piece band indulging in 60s freakouts and although enjoyable in its own way, almost felt dated by the time of its release in the May of that year. With Black Sabbath’s debut (released three months earlier) opening up new avenues for rock and the release of Deep Purple’s ‘In Rock’ literally a few weeks away, it was clear that Trapeze already sounded like yesterday’s men. By November, Trapeze had undergone an overhaul in both line up and sound and for their second album,‘Medusa’, the band’s core of Glenn Hughes (vox/bass), Mel Galley (guitar) and Dave Holland (drums) had reinvented themselves as a hard rocking power trio, cranking riffs in a style that often sounded like a tougher version of Free. With the previous hazy psychedelia having morphed into something harder and clearer, Hughes’s vocals were allowed to truly soar for the first time. A solid album, ‘Medusa’ showed a band who were truly on their way, but the best was yet to come…

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