HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Various Artists - Beyond Inspiration: A Tribute To Uli Jon Roth
(Lion Music)

Given the marked decrease in quality of tribute albums as of late (surprisingly, Nuclear Blast's Maiden and Metallica included - yeesh!), it's cool to see a rock solid one emerge, this being a sprightly, well-recorded, triumphantly executed celebration of the legendary Scorpions guitarist. In fact, the versions of Electric Sun and early Scorps compositions here are so sensuous, that the album actually possesses the ability to send people back to those albums for a rediscovery of a man that Lion boss Lars Eric Mattsson succinctly and perceptively calls "the missing link between classical music and Hendrix." Hidden beneath all the buoyant, creative guitar lines are all sorts of crazy drum performances, along with a phalanx of vocal obscurants that in composite, manage to blur the lines between Klaus and Uli, creating a package that quite interestingly, finds the commonalities between the two voices. Axe merchants include James Byrd, Alex Masi, Tony Hernando, Torben Enevoldsen, Petrossi Dushan, Rolf Mukes and Mattsson himself, but it is the ethereal, exotic songs (and you) that really win out here.
Rating 7.5

Condition Red - II
(Lion Music)

This erstwhile sub-supergroup's second album is a much more personable, sensual affair indeed, II advancing unapologetically through drum-dominant, classical-drenched progressive metal, spiced uniquely with the female vocals of Ella Grussner, who also adds well-appointed violin in spots. But yeah, it's funny, even though you've got Alex Masi and Lars Eric Mattsson turning in fiery yet very musical guitar runs everywhere, it is drummer Gerald Kloos (Tony Martin, Rolf Munkes) that is the shifty, spicy, shifting ground beneath each skillfully restrained track (or at least, those with drums - some songs on here all an almost refreshing medieval folk). All told, it's quite the complicated yet highly accessible, workable, novel alloy, the key to the record being the two-phased airiness of the arrangements and Grussner's clear, clean, understated, almost contemplative vocals, an airiness that Kloos tries to obscure, but Masi and Mattsson dutifully hold dear.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 5