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by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Michael Schenker Group - Be Aware Of Scorpions

Press so far has been effusive (OK, one guy who writes for our mag), and for good reason, Michael and his army of replaceable coming up with a scintillating, sensuous celebration of mainstream melodic rock that bristles with lively performances. Where to begin? Vocalist Chris Logan has a laid-back rock-starry slouch, a touch of the blues, able to sing high but rarely doing so; a highly emotive, interesting voice. Reverend Jones on bass: he plays bass. I'm sure he's up to snuff, but this isn't a bass record, or a bassy record, and thus, he doesn't leap out, having been recorded at low volume, puffy and soft. Drummer Jeff Martin however does indeed project, sounding rip-roaring live off the floor, hi-tech mix tempering the open vibe. And Schenker, sweet lord baby Jesus... wot a classy performance. Even though this is often an odd happy time party hair metal, his riffs are quintessential top drawer Schenker: highly melodic, Americanized old school Euro goth, a hybrid that this often antisocial nutcase owns (I've got what will be my third interview with him tonight, and amongst writer buds, it's getting to be a standing joke, which surly Michael will be on the end of the line). And check out these solos, not to mention the breaks and fills. Michael is the king, as the gorgeously composed No Turning Back solo will attest, or all of Blinded By Technology, which sounds like a cross between Love To Love and '90s Kansas, or Standin' On The Road, which contains a precious jewel of music (go wear it). It's a subtle, graceful chemistry here; those not into hair or him may find it all too AOR, but man chuck the pigeonholing and look specifically at the songs, the army of guitars, the drummer and the vocalist, and you will see... a bunch of hairy men trying to earn a living. Oh yeah, the bass guy too. He's hairy as well.
Rating 9

Sevendust - Retrospect

One of the swankiest and substantial DVDs I've seen yet (no indication about running time, but I think it's the longest I've got), no expense seems to be spared in creating Retrospect. Gritty, artistic graphics tie everything together, and the end result fulfills any Sevendust jones you might have. The anchor of the package is the album by album "Retrospect" chapter, but there is also a plethora of performance footage, including a boomy, not all that hi-fi live club set, two TV appearances (acoustic on Leno, electric on Conan), and three live tracks from three different venues, one being the band's inspiring Woodstock set. As well, you get the '97 EPK, and four of the band's music videos from over the years. An amazing package from a band doing brisk business now for a few years, Retrospect lets you into this band's emotional realm, and gets the point across that with a vocal weapon like Lajon, the sky's the limit. Overall highlight: footage from influential Boston outskirts studio Long View Farms.
Rating 8.5

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