The third album from Michael Thompson Band, 2019’s ‘Love & Beyond’ was a bit of a disappointment. The material showed that Thompson was still a fine guitarist and in AOR terms it featured a few strong songs, but it just didn’t flow too well. An over-reliance on short instrumental links proved distracting and each one of those sounded like a half finished musical idea thrown onto the record in order to bulk it out. It wasn’t a patch on 1989’s ‘How Long’, but then, it was never going to be as good as that. In AOR terms, that record is a very hard act to follow.
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.
TNT are one of those bands that are absolutely beloved by some melodic rock fans. Even into the 90s and against changing musical fashions, their late 80s albums ‘Tell No Tales’ (1987) and ‘Intuition’ (1989) continued to have some very vocal supporters. In lots of ways, it’s easy to see why since guitarist Ronnie Le Tekro always played in a very inventive way and in melodic metal terms, those albums carry a frightening amount of energy. None of that really matters if you were one of those people who didn’t really like Tony Harnell’s vocal style, of course. Much like the younger Geoff Tate, Harnell had a tendency to tackle everything at full pelt and with a huge banshee wail.
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.
In 2015, The Murder of My Sweet released a terrible concept album called ‘Beth Out of Hell‘ which their record company likened to ELO and Queen. A brave but foolish claim: in reality, the album sounded a fourth rate Nightwish and it’s hard to imagine even the most staunch Euro metal fan would’ve enjoyed such a charmless, generic set of songs. Its follow up, 2017’s ‘Echoes of The Aftermath‘, was much better in that it actually gave a concession to some more melodic material, but even so, it still wasn’t the kind of record that would set the world alight. None of the band’s shortcomings lay with singer Angelica Rylin. She has a great voice, and as demonstrated on her solo album from 2013, she’s capable of using it far better than The Murder of My Sweet’s general bombast ever seemed to allow.