Hard Rock

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Hard rock, or heavy rock, is a genre of rock music which is tied in with heavy metal at several levels. The hard rock sound is typically characterized by heavily distorted guitars, potent riffage, and strong and solid drums which, along with the bass, constitute the rhythm section, while the vocals are often aggressive and draw primarily on expression, as hard rock vocalists often incorporate screams, wails, growls, raspiness and falsetto voice and other techniques that one rarely encounters in types of popular music outside of the rock music sphere. Hard rock is heavier, more aggressive and harsher than pop rock and many other types of rock music and is thus based on the same aesthetic as much heavy metal music is.

Hard rock emerged in the mid 1960s and early 1970s as musicians within various rock subgenres of that era (such as, for instance, blues rock, progressive rock, psychedelic rock, southern rock, boogie rock and garage rock among others) began experimenting with distortion, heaviness, intensity and aggression. The sound that such artists developed would eventually become the sound associated with heavy metal music in general, and the early hard rock sound is often considered identical to the proto-metal sound, and, at the time, the terms ‘hard rock’, ‘heavy rock’, and ‘heavy metal’ were synonymous.

As artists like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and later Judas Priest, began to gradually move their music away from its blues roots and into darker territory, ‘heavy metal’ began to be used with reference to the type of music resulting from this darker and more intense type of rock music, while many other artists who contributed to the establishment of the proto-metal sound retained their blues influences, and also began incorporating other elements into their music, and by the 1980s, hard rock was generally considered more commercially oriented and more melodic than heavy metal music. The histories of hard rock and heavy metal remained intertwined, though, as many hard rock artists would often take their music into heavy metal territory and incorporate elements from various subtypes of heavy metal into their music, while heavy metal artists would continue to draw on influences from both contemporary and early hard rock. Also, many artists would experiment with both heavy metal music and hard rock, releasing albums and singles some of which fall under the hard rock rubric while others fall under the heavy metal rubric. In addition, several subgenres and movements in heavy metal have close associations with hard rock - for instance, many NWoBHM artists would extensively draw on hard rock (some even being more hard rock than heavy metal), while glam metal is often conflated with hard rock.

The term ‘hard rock’ is used in a number of different ways. Sometimes, it is used as an antonym of ‘soft rock’ which refers to pop rock, folk rock and other types of rock music which do not emphasize distorted guitars – this definition is very broad and includes any type of guitar-driven rock, not necessarily related to heavy metal music, including punk rock, grunge and even Brit pop. Another broad definition is the use of the term ‘hard rock’ with reference to heavy metal music in general, while a more specific use of the term is restricted to blues-based pentatonic rock music performed with intensity and heaviness on distorted guitars, thus excluding many artists who combine rock with elements from heavy metal. Another definition, which is the one that the MMA operates with, emphasizes the heaviness of hard rock compared to other types of rock music as well as its relation to metal, placing hard rock within the sphere of heavy metal music on the scale of heaviness and intensity underneath traditional heavy metal, but above other types of rock music. On this definition the ethos that characterizes heavy metal music in general, is applied to hard rock as well, thus largely excluding rock genres like punk rock and grunge rock (with exceptions, of course), as well as individual artists and releases whose sound cannot be said to bear any similarity to heavy metal music or to have any relation to heavy metal music at all. This definition cuts across rock music subgenres, and will thus include artists from, say, southern rock or AOR whose sound involves a considerable amount of heavy metal elements while excluding other southern rock or AOR artists that do not integrate heavy metal elements into their music.

Inclusive Hard Rock Genres

Heavy Psych Also known as Psychedelic Hard Rock or Hard Psych, heavy psych is a fusion genre between hard rock and psychedelic rock developed by acts such as Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge in the late 1960's. As such many early heavy psych acts can also be found under proto-metal on the MMA. Like with all hard rock on MMA, heavy psych acts are only included if they have been deemed to have a relevance to heavy metal music. Examples of later heavy psych acts include Blood Ceremony (whose work also leans into doom metal), Purson and Jess and the Ancient Ones.

Heavy Prog Also known as Progressive Hard Rock, heavy prog acts add a harder edge to their core progressive rock sound, which may or may not include metal elements as well, but are still primarily progressive rock artists. Like with all hard rock on MMA, heavy prog acts are only included if they have been deemed to have a relevance to heavy metal music, though as always this distinction need not apply to every release the artist has made. Examples of acts in the MMA database with heavy prog releases include Porcupine Tree, Arena and Touchstone.

Sub-genre collaborators (+ child sub-genres (except Heavy Alternative Rock) & shared with Heavy Metal and Glam Metal):
  • 666sharon666 (Leader)

Biography written by Time Signature. The Inclusive Genre section written by adg211288.

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GUN Gunsight

Album · 1969 · Hard Rock
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GUN had constructed one of the most prescient rock albums of the year 1968 as they found an early conjunct of the disparate styles of rock that were evolving past the status quo of the earlier part of the decade. Having crafted an angsty album that was an equal mix of early heavy metal, progressive rock and psychedelia with excellent compositions that were decked out with orchestrations, GUN surprisingly generated a UK top ten hit with their track “Race With The Devil,” a feat they would never repeat again and although their self-titled debut album failed to become the commercial smash that the lead single had, the band had been a staple of the famous UFO Club in London having performed with bands like Pink Floyd, Tomorrow and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. Despite having crafted an excellent debut album, it mostly went unnoticed but found enough interest that CBS Records was willing to gamble with a sophomore album.

GUNSIGHT came out in 1969, the year after the debut and found the band changing their formula around a bit. Still a power trio with the same exact line up of Paul (vocals, bass, arrangements) and Adrian Curtis (guitar) nee Gurvitz and Louis Farrell on drums, the band slung out another ten tracks but unfortunately with mostly stripped down production and less compelling material, GUNSIGHT was a major step down in quality. It immediately goes sour from the very first track “Head In The Clouds,” which tries to imitate the style on “Race With The Devil” with a busy guitar cranked up and hefty bass and drum bombast but the songwriting style had become noticeably generic. That invisible magic mojo that had made the debut work so brilliantly had just taken off never to come back.

As the album continues it shows a more simple blues approach “Drown Yourself In The River” and a touch of saccharine with “Angeline,” a slow ballad that found the symphonic touches in the mix once again. This one sounds like it could’ve been on the Led Zeppelin debut album except it lacks any conviction until the ending finds some of the most experimental touches as the symphonic background leads the melody while the backmasking of a guitar riff provides a cool experimental touch however the completely instrumental segment is fairly brief. “Dreams And Screams” probably sounds the most like the debut with a pummeling bass and drum groove and stellar bluesy guitar parts. This is by far the noisiest and most aggressive track where Farrell’s drum playing is tantamount to an early form of blastbeats as he incessantly abuses his percussive instruments. Nice vocals too. One of the better songs on board.

“Situation Vacant” is another track where Hawkwind would find future inspiration as it clearly provided a blueprint for their “Sea Of Holes” on “Warrior On The Edge Of Time.” In fact, many aspects of GUN’s two albums were adopted by Hawkwind which they perfected them but there is no doubt that the hypnotic repetitive groove here with lots of psychedelic bliss flittering around are the seeds of what would become Hawkwind’s signature sound. “Hobo” jumps into a Grateful Dead sounding style of country rock with a bluegrass type of drive and plenty of slide guitar. Sounds like a completely different band actually. Even the vocals sound more like Crosby, Stills and Nash than other GUN tracks.

“Lady Link Part One” is a near minute long instrumental that finds Adrian performing some stellar flamenco guitar. Although awkward and unrelated musically, this short track is a mere intro for “Oh Lady You” which is a rather insipid ballad in the beginning but begins to pick up by connecting to the intro with flamenco guitars. Probably one of the worst GUN tracks period as the song drags on and never really goes anywhere. It is followed by another near minute long instrumental outro “Lady Link Part Two” which is another flamenco guitar track. Ironically the two instrumental bookends are quite energetic while the middle track itself lollygags into tedium. They should’ve spiced it up a bit and it would’ve been much better. The closer “Long Haired Wildman” is a much better track as it provides some heavy rock heft, a nice melodic hook with bluesy guitar but once again is missing that extra edge that made the debut so special.

While GUNSIGHT is by no means a bad album, it is a major disappointment after the excellent debut. While the tracks here are decent and passable, the album doesn’t have the same flow and nothing on this one is better than the debut. Literally everything is a step down from the debut including the horrible album cover however once again this is all in comparison to the excellent debut. It occurs to me that GUNSIGHT sounds like a less developed album that should have preceded the debut. While the debut was ahead of its time, GUNSIGHT sounds like it has stagnated and feels dated especially given the leap of musical fortitude from the 68 to 69 timeline. That one year made all the difference in music history. This would be the end of the road for GUN. The sophomore album was a major flop and the band was booted from its label. The Curits (Gurvitz) brothers would continue on in a band called Three Man Army without Louis Farrell and that band would showcase various drummers.

The brothers would also work on projects with Cream drummer Ginger Baker and drummer Graeme Edge of the Moody Blues but as far the GUN project was concerned, this was the end of the line and if this dip in quality was a sign of things to come, a wise decision indeed. Like a pistol fired in a crowded nightclub, GUN had their quick flash of notoriety but as quickly as a bullet is fired, so too does it lose its momentum when it makes impact. Despite this rather generic sounding sophomore followup GUN has become more recognized as one of the early innovators of fusing the crossroads of early proto-metal with elements of psychedelic and progressive rock. Despite trying to fit in with a more standard sounding set of tracks on GUNSIGHT, the band simply couldn’t break through the momentum by all the artists who were receiving more support from the record companies. A true shame because GUN had as much potential as the best of them. Another case of lost opportunities. At least we got one stellar album from these guys in the form of their innovative eponymously titled debut.


Album · 1968 · Hard Rock
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The light-hearted rock that was popular in the 60s and catapulted by the phenomenal success of The Beatles slowly but surely grew more angsty as the decade progressed with new bands upping the heaviness, unleashing the psychedelia and weaving a tapestry of new sophistication. By 1968 The Jimi Hendrix Experience had developed a new flavor of high arts rock and roll that mixed the qualities of blues, rock, jazz and psychedelia and bands like The Mothers Of Invention were exploring highly experimental avenues that would lead to progressive rock. While a few of these bands are household names, others who were paramount in the scene of the era somehow faded into obscurity and have only been resurrected and re-examined in the modern era as the internet allows a more complete picture of the entirety of the musical world of yore.

One of these bands that was instrumental in finding a crossroads between the standard blues oriented rock, early heavy metal and the more progressive aspects of rock that would expand greatly after King Crimson’s debut “In The Court Of The Crimson King,” was the London based GUN also known as THE GUN. This power trio was led by two brothers who ironically went by two names. While born Adrian (guitarist) and Paul Curtis (bassist, vocalist, arranger) with their father’s last name, they would change instead to their mother’s maiden name and became Adrian and Paul Gurvitz and the band also did some name changing of its own. After forming as The Knack in 1965, they would get a little edgier in 1966 by becoming (THE) GUN. Louie Farrell would also join in on drums just before the name change and the power trio became one of the premier psychedelic acts at London’s famous UFO Club where they opened up for bands such as Pink Floyd, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and Tomorrow.

Their prominence caught the eye of CBS Records who immediately signed them and in 1968 their eponymously titled album was released and surprisingly immediately spawned a UK top 10 with the opener “Race With The Devil,” a feisty heavy rocker that in retrospect provided one of the earliest templates for the heavy metal rock scene that would erupt with bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath just a few years later. “Race With The Devil” is a dirty boogie rock stomper with hyperactive guitar riffs and a heavy bombastic bass and drums. The melodic charge is utterly addictive and the overall feel is more similar to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal that would emerge ten years down the road than anything from the 60s, however despite the lack of credits, GUN added symphonic and brass elements on top of their bizarre mix of heavy rock and psychedelia that also offered freaky solos and eclectic percussive. “Race With The Devil" is truly one of the heaviest songs that i’ve experienced from this early year. Heavier than Cream, Hendrix or even Iron Butterly, mostly because of the speedy delivery. Also notable is that the cover art was the very first of Roger Dean’s long and fruitful career.

Beyond the spirited opener, GUN shifts gears and tackles a variety of different styles to create one of the most diverse sounding albums of the year as well. “The Sad Saga Of The Boy And The Bee” creates a sonorous mix of jittery percussive drive, bluesy rock shuffle and highly melodic vocal delivery which adds the surprising ending of a synthesized keyboard run on speed but in a perfect mix with the melodic march that keeps the track hopping. While the all instrumental “Rupert’s Travels” takes an interesting side step with a mix of flamenco sounding guitar chords and orchestrated fluffiness, “Yellow Cab Man” delivers another whopping mix of heavy rock guitar, squealing solos, vocal melodies and pummeling percussion which laments the life of a cab driver struggling to make a living showing GUN was as much about the lyrical content as they were about the top notch musicianship that oozed out of every note and cadence. This one also cranks out some serious heavy psych blues licks that put Eric Clapton’s to shame.

“It Won’t Be Long (Heartbeat)” is quite the idiosyncratic piece as it displays a wide variety of highly energetic percussive madness and caffeinated guitar feedback and cacophonous uproar before calming down into a rather quirky track where the instruments and vocals are slightly dissonant from each other. The drumming simulates a heartbeat while the bizarre guitar riffs and slightly off vocals conspire to make the strangest sounding track on the album. Not only were GUN the heaviest band in town but they also crafted some highly experimental sounds as well. From experimental to more mainstream, “Sunshine” is the poppiest track on the album and sounds like it was designed to be a chart seeker. Perhaps the weakest track in terms of creativity but still a brilliant slice of sunshine pop with a pleasant melody, Beatles inspired vocal harmonies of all the members, a rich orchestrated backdrop and a nice bluesy touch of the guitars. After the penultimate closer “Rat Race” slowly drifts in with a piano driven melody and background vocals, the mid-tempo ballad begins to remind me of the Heartland rock that Bob Seger would come up with in about a decade but better. The other slower track suitable for single status.

The big treat comes with the album’s closer “Take Off,” the eleven minute heavy metal psychedelic prog highlight. It starts off with a countdown that counts backwards from ten with every number uttered in a different language. It is simultaneously psychedelic, progressive and heavy. On the psychedelic side it reminds me a lot of Hawkwind’s future antics with speedy groove laden hooks that hypnotically propel into repetitive riffs while spacey effects swish and swirl all over the place. On the heavy end of the spectrum, the tempo is turned way up and the guitars are set to maximum decibelage, feedback fuzz and heaviness. The vocals are distributed harmonically as well and set back a bit under the pummeling instrumental overdrive. On the progressive side of the equation, the track drifts into a psychedelic haze that allows the guitar to meander independently while the bombastic bass and drum pummel away. The track becomes more freeform in the middle reminding a bit of Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” and then a drum solo erupts before regaining full psychedelic form and going out in a bang.

Out of all the albums that are considered proto-prog and proto-metal, this debut by GUN is probably my absolute favorite as it finds the perfect confluence of many 60s styles but yet had the foresight to predict many forks in the road that would lead to the future. On the opening and closing tracks, it’s so easy to hear how the template would be exaggerated to create modern day metal whereas the experimental and psychedelic elements paint a picture of several strains of more progressive forms within the rock universe. In this album’s near forty minute run, so many ideas were ahead of their time but not only was GUN prescient in so many ways, they utterly rock the house with infectious melodies that are not only instantly contagious but implement the perfect instrumental interplay to guarantee the optimal heavy psych musical journey. The band would never repeat the success of their huge hit “Race With The Devil,” but they would release one more album “Gun Sight” the following year before disbanding. This one is not to be missed! One of the best rock albums of the entire 60s.

BABE RUTH First Base

Album · 1972 · Hard Rock
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Hatfield, England based guitarist / songwriter Alan Shacklock got his career started all the way back in 1963 with his first band The Juniors at the tender age of 12 but along the way until he would form his self-penned band Shacklock in 1970, he seemed to hook up with all the right players. He not only played with John Glascock of Jethro Tull and his brother Brian who would eventually join The Motels but also played with Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, Carl Palmer of ELP and the late great John Bonham of Led Zeppelin fame. It seemed like destiny was on his side right from the very start as he attracted one interesting character after another into his life. The band Shacklock was created to be that half way point between the possibilities of hard bluesy rock and progressive oriented rock.

While in the band called Shacklock, a young Alan Shacklock would attract the talents of Dave Hewitt (bass), Dick Powell (drums) and Dave Punshon (keyboards) but it wasn’t until they found the vocal charm of Janita “Jennie” Haan that the band would really hit their stride. Her inclusion into the mix of things literally changed the entire dynamic flow and it was at this point that the band Shacklock would become the band BABE RUTH, named after the US baseball extraordinaire. While Alan Shacklock had been writing songs for the BABE RUTH debut album FIRST BASE during the two years prior, it was the addition of Haan that sent the creativity into overdrive and then it seems like the doors opened and the red carpets were rolled out as the band found immediate interest from record labels like EMI / Capitol.

BABE RUTH would be treated like royalty as they recorded FIRST BASE at Abbey Road Studios with the assistance of such greats as Tony Clark, Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard and Cockney Rebel. They even commissioned the great album cover art wizard Roger Dean of Yes album fame to conjure up the cover artwork for FIRST BASE although i have to admit that it’s one of Dean’s less compelling works. While all the venture capitalists seemed to have faith in the ability of BABE RUTH’s unique mix of hard rock and prog, it was a surprise that the album did well in Canada by actually going gold, sold respectively in the US but failed to make a dent in the band’s native UK where prog rock was in comparison much more popular than North America. While the band may have made it to FIRST BASE, they failed to make a home run.

BABE RUTH carved out a unique slice of prog rock. While often deemed a hard rock album, FIRST BASE can’t quite be called a true heavy rocker despite having many tracks that do indeed rock hard and unleash the heavy guitar riffing with the accompanying bluesy soloing. For the most part, FIRST BASE is an intricately designed mix of sophisticated progressive chamber rock that happens to incorporate lots of the elements that were putting prog on the map during the early 70s. In addition, ethnic elements such as a stealthy supply of Latin percussion in the form of congas, bongos and the cabasa found their way into much of the album’s tracks. While heavy hitters such as the excellent opener “Well’s Fargo” are more aggressively guitar rock oriented, even here there is Latin percussion, a sizzling saxophone solo and interesting time signature chops that deviate from the standard hard rock bands of the era. This track has a funky soul flair that sort of reminds me of the Jackson Five actually.

The heavy heft of the title track however quickly gives way to the more sensual piano driven second track “The Runaways” which offers an ample supply of cello, oboe and symphonic arrangements. While “Wells Fargo” found Haan belting out her best Janis Joplin styled vocals, on “The Runaways” she croons tenderly sounding more like Annie Haslam of Renaissance than the blues rock diva of the previous track. An excellent rendition of the Mothers of Invention’s classic “King Kong” provides an interesting instrumental proggy jam for the band to take extra liberties that don’t quite work on vocal tracks. The band do wonders with another cover, the exquisite “Black Dog” that didn’t come from Led Zeppelin but rather country rocker Jesse Winchester. This beautiful piano based melodic track finds some fancy ivory tinkling, tasty soulful organ runs with the extra heft of syncopated hard rock guitar. Haan belts out some delicious vocal performances on this one.

The band’s most successful prog hit came in the form of “The Mexican” which found some air time on prog oriented formats. The track was primarily crafted by Shacklock but inserts various elements of an Ennio Morricone track (“Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu”). The track dishes out the expected Latin rhythms but also contains a vivacious series of guitar riffs that coalesce into the Morricone inspired soundtrack themes. As the album closes with the funky Hammond organ stabs in “The Joker,” Shacklock also reprises the heavy rock guitar riffs and Haan reverts back to her Janis Joplin shtick with her bad mama bluesy grit, however her vocal range is impressive as she can suddenly hit high notes and unexpected squeals.

For anyone looking exclusively for a hard rock album, they will surely be disappointed since hard rock is but one important element that is strewn about judiciously yet irregularly throughout the album. While the general gist is that the harder rocking tracks are less proggy and the proggy tracks are less heavy, the truth is that all the tracks have both elements to a certain degree. Really, the only heavy blues based rock tracks are “Wells Fargo,” “The Mexican” and “Joker” while the others are more steeped in the progressive rock compositional fortitude that only incorporates the heavier rock elements for a little contrast. Despite the odd mix of elements that BABE RUTH dished out on FIRST BASE, things flow together fairly smoothly and in the end and this is a rather unique sounding album as it takes many of the trends of the era including blues rock, hard rock, prog, jazz and chamber rock and stitch it all together very nicely. The highlight is surely the phenomenal vocal performances of Janita Haan which bring the album to a whole other level.

ATOMIC ROOSTER Death Walks Behind You

Album · 1971 · Hard Rock
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The late 60s had been a tumultuous ride for Hammond organ wizard, pianist and bassist Vincent Crane who had ridden high as part of the whacky Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, however Brown himself demanded to be the center of attention which left a bad taste in the mouths of the supporting musicians who were keeping him afloat. Crane jumped shipped and took drummer Carl Palmer (yes, THAT Carl Palmer) with him to form their own version of heavy soulful rock with a few prog curve balls. The answer came in the form of ATOMIC ROOSTER after snatching up bassist / vocalist / flautist / guitarist Nick Graham to form the new power trio. However, this new vision only lasted a mere album when they recorded and released the debut 
“Atomic Roooster,” before Carl Palmer decided that Crane’s musical vision wasn’t a good match. It wouldn’t be long before he would join Emerson, Lake & Palmer and become one of prog’s biggest stars.

Unfortunately Graham would jump ship as well and join Skin Alley which left Vincent Crane scrambling for suitable replacements. After scouring the musical world for the right talent to align forces with, Crane ultimately settled on Andromeda vocalist and guitarist John Du Cann who would handle the triple duties as guitarist, bassist and lead vocalist. For the near impossible task of replacing the jazz-rock master Carl Palmer, newbie Paul Hammond joined the crew and the new triumvirate of talent had been christened and the creative process began to take root. This all led to the next phase of ATOMIC ROOSTER which released the second album DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU a mere seven months after the debut in the same year of 1970 and the trio that appeared at this stage would be forever referred to as the “classic” lineup.

This sophomore offering is what is known as the most critically lauded, most popular and well known album of the entire ATOMIC ROOSTER canon with its instantly recognizable cover art of the William Blake monotype Nebuchadnezzar, a character that according to legend was a former ruler who lost his mind through hubris and reduced to animalistic insanity. The cover art wasn’t just a gloom and doom artistic photo op but actually provided inspiration for the darkened themes contained in the album’s eight track run. While Crane had been the main compositional writer on the debut, DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU finds an equal playing field with Du Cann writing and co-creating as much material as Crane. The result is a tremendously different sounding album that finds the balance of power working in favor of a more interesting and dynamic roster of musical treats. Sadly no songwriting from Hammond.

Despite the album residing on the heavier side of rock with progressive elements strewn about, the title track plays a beautiful mind trick by starting out with a creepy piano jingle accompanied by a weird series of guitar squeals which sets the darkened macabre tone of the album before it jumps into the more familiar guitar and organ dominated bluesy rock shuffles with the rather unorthodox songwriting procedures of the era. The immediate effect is that DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU is immediately more mesmerizing than the debut album with much more interesting guitar riffs, a better mix of keys and drums and the far superior vocal style of Du Cann whose vox box was tailor made for the part. At a playing time of over seven and a half minutes, the band manage to craft exquisite twists and turns in their boogie based heavy rock antics.

While the opening title track establishes ATOMIC ROOSTER as a veritable heavy rock band with a wealth of sophisticated tricks up their sleeve, the following instrumental “VUG” on the other hand showcases their prog chops with incessant time signature deviations, exquisite instrumental interplay and a flair of musical adventurism woefully absent from the album prior that only emerged a scant few months before. While primarily a rhythmic backdrop to showcase the supreme organ dominated gymnastics, scorching guitar solos are allowed to fire away unencumbered. The riff-laden hit single “Tomorrow Night” follows and changes gears to an almost Santana-esque percussive frenetic pace but it’s the intricate guitar parts that steal the show. The track made it all the way to No. 11 on the UK charts in 1971.

The secret to DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU’s amazing popularity is the diversity of the tracks. Every single one has its own personality and sounds completely different from what it just followed. “Seven Lonely Streets” (“7 Streets” on some albums) is the most straight forward rocker although rich with Hammond organ stabs. “Sleeping For Years” i starts with a blistering series of guitar tricks before erupting into another organ driven heavy rocker and has a rather Jethro Tullish vocal swagger to it actually. “I Can’t Take No More” reminds me of Jeff Lynne’s future ELO track “Don’t Bring Me Down” in the guitar melody department. One of the lesser tracks here. “Nobody Else” begins with freaky vocal effects before breaking into piano ballad territory. While clearly the mellowest track on the album, it has interesting time signatures and slight pauses between the piano notes. It picks up steam in the middle as it starts to rock.

The entire album really leads up to the impressive closer “Gershatzer” up to which the band members hold back their avant-garde urges and let em all gush out in this eight minute prog behemoth of a track. While starting out as a rather familiar organ led heavy guitar, bass and drum rocker, it quickly finds Hammond’s percussive drive taking on a new energetic level as he seems like he’s become a hundred times more caffeinated. Likewise, Crane finds some stellar piano shredding which turns into a series of absolutely bizarre experimental organ riffs. The track hops, skips and jumps from frenetic musical outbursts to placid calming slower piano runs. Overall the track reminds me of some of the symphonic prog that Focus would latch onto with tracks like “Eruption” on their second album, however much weirdness occurs on this grand finale which leaves little doubt that ATOMIC ROOSTER belongs in the prog universe.

DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU is a major step up in quality from the decent but not mind blowing debut album. The so-called classic lineup gels perfectly together as they create some of the most pleasing musical interplay within the beautifully crafted compositions. There is not a boring track on this one and if you find yourself with the re-mastered 2004 edition with bonus tracks, you’ll be treated to the B-Side “Play The Game,” the 1970 demo “The Devil’s Answer” as well asa several BBC Radio Session tracks. While the album is utterly essential and cream of the ATOMIC ROOSTER crop, these extra goodies make a great album even better. Unfortunately the quality heard on this sophomore album wouldn’t last very long. While the following “In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster” is an excellent followup, the band would fall into the mediocrity club fairly quickly. For this moment however, they crafted one of the best heavy rock albums of 1970.

NAZARETH Tattooed On My Brain

Album · 2018 · Hard Rock
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Kev Rowland
When I was young we used to have a record store in town, and in a glass frame on the wall they would put their record of the week. I can clearly remember seeing ‘Razamanaz’ there for the first time and wondering who could deliver a cover with that much power, and then I heard the title cut and it all became clear. With Dan McCafferty gargling broken glass and whisky, Darrell Sweet bashing the skins, Pete Agnew on bass and Manny Charlton riffing, the proud sons of Dunfermline could do no ill in my mind or ears. Criminally overlooked, their live album ‘Snaz’ (when the line-up had expanded to include second guitarist Billy Rankin and keyboard player John Locke) is still one of the very greatest in-concert albums ever released. Manny left in 1990, with Billy stepping into the shoes before Jimmy Murrison came onboard in 1994, and Darrell died far too young (51) from a heart attack, being replaced by none other than Pete’s son Lee. From 2002 – 2013 the quartet of McCafferty, Agnew, Agnew and Morrison continued to tour and record, but then the bombshell that McCafferty had to retire due to ill health. Given that Dan joined Pete in Shadettes (the name changed to Nazareth in 1969) back in 1965, it was quite a shock, so what next?

After a false start with singer Linton Osborne, the band are now back with Carl Sentence (Persian Risk) centre stage, and a new album for their new label. It’s a solid album, plenty of bottom end, plenty of hard riffs, but is it Nazareth? Well, those who have been buying their recent releases have put it into the charts in Austria and Switzerland, but there has been little or no success in the UK, US or Canada (which used to be a main market) for more than 35 years, and there is little here to suggest it was going to be a breakthrough. It is a nice album, yet there is little here in terms of hooks or anthems for fans to get their teeth into. However, Nazareth are not a band who survive on record sales, it is all about putting bums on seats, and while I am sure they will play a few songs from this on their 50th Anniversary tour, people will want to hear “Holiday”, “Dressed To Kill”, “Hair of the Dog”, “Razmanaz”, “This Flight Tonight”, “Telegram” and of course “Love Hurts”. Sentence isn’t McCafferty, so they will sound different to what people expect, but given that there isn’t anyone who can sound like Dan it is good that the band have moved away to someone who can certainly sing, but isn’t quite as gruff and raw.

Solid, fun, but not a touch on what they were doing in the Seventies.

hard rock movie reviews

THE WHO Quadrophenia: Live In London

Movie · 2014 · Hard Rock
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I was not sure before purchasing this DVD, if I was going to enjoy a live show with the complete double album of "Quadrophenia", because it was a long time ago that I listen to this album and if I remember, I didn't enjoy all the songs. Many years later, I didn't change my mind about this, there are some really good songs, like the title track, "Dr. Jimmy", "The Rock" and "Love Reign Over Me". The other tracks are not bad for what they are, good rock songs, but not as good as some songs of their entire discography. Fortunately, the show has some of those songs as bonus performance, including "Baba O'Riley", "Who are You" and "Won't get Fooled Again"

There's a lot of projections on the screen of the band from the old days. Nice touch to have included John Entwistle with a solo of one of his performance in the song "5:15". Not only you can see him on the screen, but you can actually hear his solo. In fact, his solo sounds more alive than the bass sound of the actual player Pino Palladino, who is rarely captured by the cameras and low in the mix. Also, during "Bell Boy", Keith Moon is singing on the screen.Those projections of the old days performances are only present in the "Quadrophenia" album and not in the bonus songs at the end. We have many musicians on the stage including horn players, Simon Townsend who signs like Pete in "Dirty Jobs". Also two keyboardists, but it's mostly the piano that we hear during this show.

It is easy to rate this, can't be 2 stars because it's not only for collectors, and can't be 4 stars because, that is not a progressive rock show. So it's a good 3 stars, nothing more. But those who enjoy "Quadrophenia" will have a ball with this DVD!

DEF LEPPARD Classic Albums: Hysteria

Movie · 2002 · Hard Rock
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The worst episode of all Classic Albums series (and I watched 25 of them)!

What is great about the series is that they explain track by track about the albums and show these tracks on a studio enviroment stripping them down and showing us details. Not here.

Hysteria have 12 tracks, but according to this documentary the album have only 7 tracks, and half of it the only feature on the movie is some video or live footage of the song, sometimes the band says 3 words about it though.

As I said, this series is supposed to go deep into Classic albums in the history of music and tell their secrets and details, and most of times they do an excellent job. Not here.

Not to mention that Hysteria might have sold 12 million copies but this is not a classic album at all, just a popular one in 1987. And we know this story in Pop music, right?

RUSH Replay X 3

Movie · 2006 · Hard Rock
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"Replay X3" is a terrific box set of the 3 earlier Rush VHS concerts and it has been mastered to provide great picture though not all widescreen unfortunately. The sound is excellent without any noteable dropout unlike the VHS antiques. The packaging is excellent, booklets included and all original art prints on the seperate covers. There is also a bonus CD of Grace Under Pressure which is worthwhile.

DVD 1 is Exit...Stage Left, a 1 hour concert from the early years or Rushtory when they had long hair, and features a strong setlist with the likes of Limelight, Tom Sawyer, and a rare appearance of the brilliant Xanadu. The usual suspects are here such as the wonderful Red Barchetta and quintessential Freewill along with lighters in the air stalwart crowd pleaser Closer To The Heart. It is always great to see them having fun with the instrumental YYZ and a real treat is to hear the medley at the end with By-Tor And The Snow Dog, In The End, In The Mood and 2112 edited together masterfully. The VHS or DVD delivers what it promises, Rush in their hey day with great quality sound and editing. The band look young of course and jump around a lot more and there were no signs of chicken rotisseries or clothes dryers back then, but a heck of a lot of lighting and laser effects more than makes up for it. The concert also comes with a lot of interview footage and voice overs between songs, and some footage of the band backstage while the songs play and that is a treat compared to the usual straight concert footage. Too short but quite sweet. A real blast from the past that will please Rushaholics.

DVD 2 is Grace Under Pressure, another of the earlier concert performances of Rush running for about an hour with a lot of songs from "Grace Under Pressure" of course and it is nice to hear these. It begins with a glorious opening with The Spirit Of Radio, and a noticeable glowing effect on the band especially the white shirts, as if Vaseline had been rubbed on the lens. This is the 80s and this effect was prominent on film clips of artists such as Nik Kershaw and Dire Straits or Duran Duran. It looks kind of weird on Rush as they were never pretty video boys. Unfortunately the fuzzy effect is prevalent throughout the recording, and it kind of annoys me, especially the way the bright lights phase over constantly. Lifeson wears a white sports jacket looking like the mad scientist of metal, Peart has a white T and red cap that he loses later, and Lee wears grey suit jacket and white T. The hair dos are 80s personified; Peart has a rat tail, Lee has a mullet and Lifeson has a Flock of Seagulls quiff. Oh well, it is what it is. The music is brilliant.

The Enemy Within is rarely heard live but sparked my memory and it's a great song. The Weapon is always fantastic, one of my favourites, and it begins with a Dracula character on screen telling people to put on their 3D glasses. Witch Hunt begins with a screening of a bunch of cultists burning books with torches. It is a great song from "Moving Pictures" recently heard in the Time Machine concerts. Lee's vocals are excellent throughout and the guitars are incredible. New World Man is another one rarely heard live recently and it is OK though not one of the better tracks from "Signals". Synths are heard here though no one seems to be playing them, so I suspect some recorded music was used. It was the age of the video clip and a clip is shown of some animation and a boy looking up to see a huge airship in the sky. Distant Early Warning follows and it is a great song from GUP, that has become a concert favourite. The clip shows the boy riding a missile and the laser light show follows.

Red Sector A is an awesome song and I loved hearing it on this DVD again, with one of the strongest melodies of the Rush catalogue. The laser show looks great here. The lyrics by Lee are terrific and when Lee sings "smoking gun" a massive explosion goes off causing the crowd to roar. The lyrics are actually based on family experience and is a homage to his mother and father that survived the holocaust. Though Lee re wrote the lyrics to have a broader perspective that it may apply to any holocaust like situation such as Rwanda. Closer To The Heart is always a crowd pleaser and the crowd know it well enough to drown out some of Lee's vocals. There were no mobile phones back then but plenty of lighters go up in the air.

The obligatory medley is here with a terrific merging of some classics, YYZ, Temples Of Syrinx, and Tom Sawyer. During YYZ the crowd are obsessed with air drumming throughout. Tom Sawyer features the Moving Pictures animation on the screen. It is nice to hear Lee be able to reach those high notes too in the chorus.

Vital Signs is one I have not seen live on other concerts till the "Moving Pictures" live concerts of recent years. When Lee takes off his jacket his white T glows like the rest of the band's halos. It is a weird effect really and perhaps the worse part of the DVD. It ends with Finding My Way and In The Mood, from the earliest album. it is a great crowd participation song with the crowd visible throughout, a guy even lights up a pipe at one stage. Overall, this is a great snippet of songs from the Rush 80s years, worth checking out for certain even if for nostalgia if nothing else.

DVD 3 is A Show Of Hands, a 90 minutes concert experience and as such way better than the previous DVDs available, namely "Exit Stage Left" and "Grace Under Pressure". It is excellent also due to the use of animations on the big screen and the overall setlist. The songs are from "Hold Your Fire" mostly and I believe they are better heard live than on that album so that is a drawcard of this particular DVD. It also has a very solid quality sound throughout and the band look great and have heaps of fun. From "Hold Your Fire" the songs appear, Mission, Prime Mover, Force Ten, and Turn The Page so there is a lot from their latest at the time.

Closer To The Heart is always present of course along with quintessential Tom Sawyer, and The Spirit of Radio. I always love to hear the magnificent Red Sector A and hard rocking Force Ten, and it was great to see them play Mission, another one rarely heard live on these DVDs.

Marathon, Territories and The Big Money from "Power Windows" are good rockers for the crowd to get into. The drum solo by Peart is terrific, with his vibes section and patented cymbal jazz splashes along with some incredible triplet work though his drums are still stationary in this era, and not as many.

The concert ends with a brilliant medley 2112, The Temples Of Syrinx, La Villa Strangiato and In The Mood. Overall a strong concert, one of the best live documents of the band and worth getting hold of above the rest.

The Grace Under Pressure Bonus CD, is a previously unreleased audio from the newly remastered Grace Under Pressure concert soundtrack and it is a fantastic Rush sound.

"Replay x3" is definitely worth getting as it houses 3 very good concerts of the early years and these are only available now with this set released in 2006.

RUSH Exit...Stage Left

Movie · 1981 · Hard Rock
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Exit...Stage Left is a 1 hour concert from the early years or Rushtory when they had long hair, and features a strong setlist with the likes of Limelight, Tom Sawyer, and a rare appearance of the brilliant Xanadu. The usual suspects are here such as the wonderful Red Barchetta and quintessential Freewill along with lighters in the air stalwart crowd pleaser Closer To The Heart. It is always great to see them having fun with the instrumental YYZ and a real treat is to hear the medley at the end with By-Tor And The Snow Dog, In The End, In The Mood and 2112 edited together masterfully. The VHS or DVD delivers what it promises, Rush in their hey day with great quality sound and editing. The band look young of course and jump around a lot more and there were no signs of chicken rotisseries or clothes dryers back then, but a heck of a lot of lighting and laser effects more than makes up for it. The concert also comes with a lot of interview footage and voice overs between songs, and some footage of the band backstage while the songs play and that is a treat compared to the usual straight concert footage. Too short but quite sweet. A real blast from the past that will please Rushaholics.

RUSH Snakes And Arrows Live

Movie · 2008 · Hard Rock
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This 3 CD package is a great concert experience that I will return to often. Everything works - from the excellent sound quality to the crystal clear picture. The stage itself is massive and there are incredible lighting effects, lasers and fire effects. The 3 split screens at times show each band member, and sometimes a visual effect to enhance the track being played. There are weird Rush-ian gimmicks, namely the 3 huge ovens full of rotating chickens that glow ominous red throughout the night. There is no reference to these except Lee says at the end of CD1 that they are no longer spring chickens so they need to take a break. At one point a weird chef appears to turn the chickens over. Similar in fact to the washing machines with rotating clothes in the 'Live in Rio' show. Other subtler things are on stage such as flanks of flowers around microphones, plastic dinosaurs around Lifeson's stacks and the piece de resistance is the miniature Stonehenge rock on Lee's keyboards - a nod in Spinal Tap's direction for sure. We see crowd shots and Lee takes home movies of them screaming Hello Canada - in fact we see many versions of him doing this from other shows. Peart is featured with a sizzling drum solo that is well above what normally occurs in solos. He uses gamelon style blocks and sound effect drums to enhance the solo and his kit rotates to add depth. I love when the jazz band kicks in and he plays full blown jazz metrical patterns - there is a standing ovation after this.

There are no lengthy lead solo sections where Lifeson plays by himself but there is a nice acoustic piece following the drum solo. Lifeson effortlessly plays all the songs with precision and finesse. Surely one of the greatest guitarists in the world.

Lee's vocals are excellent and as clear as ever. His bass pounds on every track. I noted its all mostly hard rock on this live show. The band play old favourites that every Rush fan adores such as 'Spirit of Radio' and 'Tom Sawyer' but they focus on 'Snakes and Arrows' album, virtually playing every song. This could have been problematic but I find these live versions even better than the studio versions. I was never a huge fan of S&A but this live concert really brings something special to these tracks. I like the film clips that break up the songs such as South Park's Cartman singing Tom Sawyer and the weird clips of babies in prams and a game of snakes and ladders.

The bonus features are fun, such as watching the clips without the band shots and the making of the clips which show Rush at their kookiest. Some of the extra live tracks are great too so overall this is a must see for any Rush fan. I recommend this as well as 'Live IN Rio' which are completely different experiences. This is not as good as 'Rio' due to the set list, but it is still a fantastic DVD package.

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