At the end of 2020, George Lynch and Jeff Pilson released ‘Heavy Hitters’, a well meaning but not especially good covers album, on which the 80s legends took all manner of material and made it heavier. Not everything will withstand being made into a massive rock tune, and hearing the two ex-Dokken men cranking their way through Martha & The Vandellas’ ‘Nowhere To Run’ with distorted vocals was especially grim. Likewise, the world didn’t need Duran Duran’s perfect pop tune ‘Ordinary World’ reworked in a sub grunge mould, or the Joan Osborne hit ‘One of Us’ presented as an unimaginative hard rock trudge. However, the musicians clearly had fun mauling other peoples’ material, and three years later, decided to foist a second volume of covers upon everyone. Thankfully, ‘Heavy Hitters II’ is a massive improvement on its predecessor.
When it comes to consistency and quality, a new record from King Kobra doesn’t come with any guarantees. Their 1984 debut is a fun melodic metal affair, and its timely delivered follow up ‘Thrill of A Lifetime’ is a decent melodic rock LP, but beyond that, their catalogue is largely pretty bad. 1988’s ‘King Kobra III’ is loaded with tuneless metal fare that’s blighted further by terrible vocals from Johnny Edwards (a poor substitute for the absent Mark Free), and the band’s first two reunion albums (2011’s ‘King Kobra’ and 2013’s ‘King Kobra II’) are heavily weighted towards party metal workouts full of really embarrassing and clichéd lyrics.
Thin Lizzy were an exceptional rock band. The classic mid 70s line up managed to capture lightning in a bottle with Phil Lynott’s charisma and the trademark twin guitar sounds of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. Even when the band shifted line-ups to include Snowy White and, latterly, John Sykes for a heavier sound, they were still a top tier rock band. True legends.
Larry Wallis was one of rock’s nearly men. He was a member of UFO for about three weeks in 1972. He adopted the guitarist’s role in the Pink Fairies later in the decade, by which time, the band were arguably past their best. He recorded a riff-based single, ‘Police Car’ for Stiff Records in 1977 that failed to chart. Even in terms of other Stiff product from the time, it’s not always the most celebrated.
Right from her big US breakthrough in 2011, Samantha Fish has been one of those artists who could often be relied upon for a quality product. Carving out a niche in dirty blues rock on her earlier albums, the guitarist/vocalist often sounds more interesting than the plagiaristic Joe Bonamassa and more charismatic than many blues performers. Moving forward, she branched out into R&B (2017’s ‘Chills & Fever’ and 2019’s ‘Kill Or Be Kind’) and even a bit of country (2017’s Belle of The West’). At her very best, her work sounds like a homage to the bluesiest side Bonnie Raitt colliding with early ZZ Top – a fiery concoction that allows for some brilliantly impassioned vocals and hefty slide playing. Even at her worst, occasionally phoning in blues rockers with more balls than brains, her sense of presence and a strong vocal style is enough to maintain interest.
This live release from 2022 will certainly please fans who’ve not been quite so enamoured with Sam’s softer side and musical curveballs in the few years leading up to its release. A seven song set recorded without an audience, the prosaically titled ‘Live’ presents seven tracks from ‘Kill Or Be Kind’ in a very natural state. The lack of overdubs allows the material to breathe, and the one-take recordings more than show Fish’s vocal talents at their absolute sharpest.