GIANT – Shifting Time

There’s no debating the fact that the first two Giant albums are genre classics. 1989’s ‘Last of The Runaways’ set out the band’s stall with some massive choruses and equally massive guitar parts, and it’s lesser appreciated follow up – 1992’s ‘Time To Burn’ – showed how truly great melodic rock could stand firm against a shifting musical tide. Tracks like ‘Stay’ and ‘Save Me Tonight’ cemented Giant’s contribution to the AOR cause, and Dann Huff’s guitar work, as always, sounded terrific. An unexpected comeback in 2001 resulted in the ‘Giant III’ album, which was an enjoyable affair, but not on the same level as the band’s original work. In many ways, that’s where the Giant story should have ended. However, the name was revived in the late noughties, and an album release (‘Promised Land’, featuring Strangeways vocalist Terry Brock), appeared in 2010. On the surface, there were some enjoyable tunes, but in truth, it suggested that there’s no real Giant without Dann’s distinctive guitar tone and vocal presence taking the lead.

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MAGNUM – The Monster Roars

Following the release of their ‘Princess Alice & The Broken Arrow’ album in 2007, Magnum settled into a vein of huge, sometimes bombastic melodic rock that carried a little more of a European flavour than the sounds of their eighties peak. The songs became bigger, longer, even more narrative, and although the hooks weren’t always as immediate as the best parts of the beloved ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’ or ‘Vigilante’, at their heart, there was always something “distinctively Magnum”. Obviously, this had much to do with Tony Clarkin’s song writing, having written the lion’s share of everything since the 70s, but Bob Catley’s friendly vocal presence could never be undervalued. Over the years, other band members came and went – each one bringing something great and different to the Magnum sound – but it was often the work of these two creative friends that kept the heart of the band pumping, much to the delight of fans.

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PRAYING MANTIS – Katharsis

In terms of classic old school melodic metal, Praying Mantis need no introduction. Chris and Tino Troy have been part of the British rock and metal scene since the early days of the NWOBHM and their band has remained one those hard working acts that can often be relied upon for a decent listen, even if their albums aren’t perfect. By picking up any Praying Mantis LP, you’re guaranteed to hear at least a half dozen riff based belters and at least one more AOR-centric number which, quite often, marks its place as a genuine highlight on any given release. Parts of their 2015 long player ‘Legacy’ – their third for Frontiers Records – presented the Troy brothers in a slightly heavier frame of mind than their 80s selves, and new vocalist Jaycee Cuijpers showed a tendency for over-singing at times, but in terms of song writing it was a more than solid offering. If nothing else, it more than showed there to be plenty of life left in the veteran rockers. 2018’s ‘Gravity’ wasn’t quite on the same level, but offered enough in the way of sizeable riffs and retro hooks to appeal to long-time fans and newer listeners alike.

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CHEAP CASSETTES – Ever Since Ever Since

When Cheap Cassettes first appeared on the power pop scene with their ‘All Anxious All The Time’ album, they didn’t really sound ready to be appreciated by the world at large. The demo quality recordings had spirit, but the song writing wasn’t great, and the overall package lacked the necessary hooks to make it memorable. A few of years on, the ‘See Her In Action’ EP was a massive improvement on every level. The short collection of songs provided riff after riff of classic retro sounds; the choruses were big and – overall – Cheap Cassettes’ quick and cheap approach to recording showed a massive confidence. For lovers of middle period Replacements, Boston heroes Watts and The Dirty Truckers, the Cheapos were now pretty much guaranteed to bring a thrill or six.

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LAND OF GYPSIES – Land Of Gypsies

Best known as the singer with melodic hard rockers XYZ, Terry Ilous is blessed with a fantastic set of vocal pipes. His recorded output mightn’t be as extensive as many of his peers, but you can usually rely on him for a great album. The Bridger release from 2012 is the only possible exception to this rule, and even then, that was no fault of Terry’s; he often did his best with the largely unremarkable material, even if he sometimes sounded understated compared to his former self.

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