KXM – Circle Of Dolls

Over the years, dUg Pinnick has put his name to some fantastic albums. His long career with King’s X has afforded him a legendary status. Likewise, guitarist George Lynch has performed on some great material. Even at times when Dokken’s material didn’t hit the mark back in the 80s, Lynch’s lead guitar work was almost always terrific. In theory, a union between the two should have created hard rock gold, but unfortunately, the first two albums released by KXM – their supergroup with KoЯn’s Ray Luzier – were patchy affairs. 2017’s ‘Scatterbrain’ was an improvement on the 2014 debut, but still fell a little short in direct comparison to anything by King’s X at their very best. The bulk of this third album – their first for Frontiers Records – follows suit with another hit and miss collection of heavyweight rockers.

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BIG RIVER – Redemption

Released over three years after the band’s formation, Big River’s debut album was a long time coming. Between 2016 and 2019, the band spent what seemed to be an eternity playing small venues on the UK’s south coast. The constant live work made sense, no matter how small a venue; there’s no point in spending money on recording before there’s an audience. Having been guitarist with several grassroots rock acts before Big River were even a twinkle of an idea, that’s something that band founder Damo Fawsett knows only too well. Three years of gigging eventually paid off, though, when in 2019 Big River scored support slots with both John Corabi (ex-The Scream/Union/Motley Crue) and Marco Mendoza (Dead Daisies/Black Star Riders).

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BLACKTHORNE – Afterlife

Following his departure from Rainbow in 1980, Graham Bonnet carried on his musical journey. In 1981 he recorded his fourth solo album (‘Line Up’) and in 1982 replaced Gary Barden as the voice of the Michael Schenker Group. In 1983, Bonnet joined Alcatrazz, with whom he recorded three albums. Their 1985 disc ‘Disturbing The Peace’ (featuring Steve Vai) ranks alongside Rainbow’s ‘Down To Earth’ as a career high point for the prolific vocalist. After brief stints providing vocals for Forcefield (a band featuring his old Rainbow mate Cozy Powell), Pretty Maids and Chris Impelliteri, he landed a job in 1991 as the frontman for an all-star rock band named Blackthorne.

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ROXY BLUE – Roxy Blue

With overtones of Warrant, Trixter and other vaguely sleazy bands, Roxy Blue’s 1992 debut album ‘Want Some’ became a firm favourite among fans of the glammier end of the melodic rock scale. With a really catchy set of songs and solid musicianship, it was the kind of album that deserved better than just cult status. Over the passing decades, it’s never seemed to get the same rose tinted love as, say, Warrant’s ‘Dog Eat Dog’, It’s Alive’s ‘Earthquake Visions’ or Kingofthehill, but if approached in the right mood, it’s every bit as good as other similar stuff from the period. Disappearing not long after, Roxy Blue seemed destined to join Outlaw Blood, Warp Drive and countless others in the “one album band” stakes. Despite frontman Todd Poole continuing to write songs, as the next few years came and went, they seemed about as likely to record a second album as Ted Nugent becoming a progressive minded vegan.

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SAMSON – Bright Lights: The Albums 1979-1981

In some people’s minds, Samson are often considered either a second division act of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, or simply “that band that Bruce Dickinson used to be in”. While neither is technically incorrect – historically, most NWOBHM bands are now second division compared to scene titans Iron Maiden and Saxon, and Bruce was in the band – such basic thinking does Samson a massive disservice. By the time they’d recorded their debut album in 1979, the band were actually at the forefront of the emerging scene. They were one of the first to release a full length album and despite some fluctuation in early line-ups, at their best, they could more than hold their own when it came to hard rock entertainment.

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