Saturday, June 27, 2009

Grand Halls 26

CROSSWIND – “Stompin’ Ground” CD ’98 (Surf, US) – To quote Phil Mogg from the new UFO album (something I’m always keen to do), “Now picture this…here’s the story.” I’m on vacation a month ago with my family. Williamsburg, VA to be exact. After a day at the Ripley’s Museum, the wife & kids hit the pool and I decided to hit nearby Plan 9 Music, believe it or not. After a trip thru the “New CD’s,” snagging a couple goodies like Leprous & Voivod, I couldn’t resist the “Used” & “Local” sections. The former earned the 2007 disc by The Clay People for me & a Kiss anthology for my 7 year old daughter (gotta get her started right…she loves old…and brand new Metallica too, so I guess I’m doing something right). From the latter bin came…wait for it…CROSSWIND – “Stompin’ Ground.” I know, I can hear a pin drop right now ‘cause everybody’s waiting for the punch line, eh? What the hell is CROSSWIND, Ray?

Truth is, I didn’t know either. The cover looked hyper-obscure, the band had (well, 3 of the 4) long hair, the line-up was guitar-bass-drums-etc. and there were several songs in the 6-minute mark. With the price being only $ 5, I slipped it into the stack. Glad I did and I’ll tell you why.

Later that night, I’m sitting back at the hotel, everybody’s crashed out. I’m laying back with the portable Realm-O-Matic, deciding on my pick to end the day with. This here CROSSWIND disc comes sliding out of the bag & I take a little harder look. First off, the band was from Charlotte, NC…so they end up, 11 years later, buried in a “Local” section in VA. I scan the back of the CD…”Recorded at Reflections Studios Church, Jan 10th-11th, 1997.” The tray card explains further that this is CROSSWIND’s second album and that they recorded it in this former church that friends bought to convert into a recording studio. Seems everyone told them their 1st record was good but they really brought the mail live so they decided to take 2 days, get a bunch of family, beer, etc. together and record their sophomore platter in this church/studio. Then I finally notice the inlay card is signed by 2 band members. Ok, minds made up, folks, this is what we’re spinning tonight!

I press “play” and the first cut pulls me in like a 100-foot hydro-electric magnet. Raw-assed riffs come flying out of the speakers courtesy of guitarist Scottie Jordan. Scottie Pippen? Michael Jordan? Well maybe not, but this guy has a seriously bad-assed tone and when he cuts into the solo later in the song, I’m salivating like the pet of a boy named Pavlov. Granted, there are a few songs over the course of this 11-track platter that Jordan doesn’t completely unload on. When he does, he prefers to set the listener’s ears on fire and then scrape them off the sides of his/her head with a rusty putty knife. Honestly, this Michael kicks ass like a volatile cross between, yes our good UFO-friend Vinnie Moore & Stevie Ray V. Now let’s talk about the vocals of Dana Hall. At first, I didn’t realize that the vocalist in CROSSWIND was a lady. Hey, the pics are small and let’s face it, “Dana” can be a male/female name. But I gotta tell you, if you only seek out this CD for one reason alone, let it be Ms. Hall’s voice. This girl absolutely lays down the business and testifies to the Lord throughout the entirety of “Stompin’ Ground.” She gives mad-Axl a run for his money in the GNR-styled aforementioned opener…then the fun really starts.

Check out the very next number, “I’m Down.” Holy shit, is this a lost track from Humble Pie – “Rockin’ The Filmore?” Hall comes off like a badder-than-hell cross between prime-time Janis Joplin and the late Steve Marriott and when she hauls off and belts out “Where you want me!” leading straight into a massive, saw-toothed Jordan guitar onslaught, well I’m thinking I’m not going to be missing the Lincoln I dropped on this baby. And it continues…such good songs, man. The 6 minute ballad “Find My Own” follows, Jordan’s patient chording supplying a sweet base for Dana to open up her soul. Here, Jordan’s guitar is very reminiscent of the best of Rich Robinson and, in fact, the entire feel of the song is very much in the early Black Crowes/”Sticky Fingers” vibe. Elsewhere there’s nary a weak spot to be found. How ‘bout the plaintive, heart-rending ballad “Do Ya,” stretching across it’s 6-minute length with Scottie Jordan’s thoughtful, jazzy 6-string musings, later in the song turning into something Robin Trower woulda done in a song like “Daydream.” But don’t think for a minute that CROSSWIND was just about ballads. Feel the thundering rifferama of “Money Talks.” Dana Hall totally lets loose here, even adding a bit of good ol’ Bon. When she announces “Down on your knees, boy, I’m all over you,” complete with a gleam-in-her-eye chuckle, I’m actually just as afraid as I am turned on. Jordan’s solo in this one is completely over-the-top silly-fucking great! Elsewhere, more epics like the gorgeous 7-minute “End Of The World” and “Remains” spend equal time with butt-smackers like “Too Shy” & “Harder Than Stone.” Everywhere along the way, the album continues to serve several different purposes: 1) It’s an absolute clinic for hard rock vocalists of every age, put on by Dana Hall. This lady did not just know how to sing, she knew how to wrest every single ounce of emotion from her voice & lay it on the stage. 2) It’s a snapshot of a guitarist, in Scottie Jordan, who could’ve been in a very elite league had he continued on the route he’d embarked upon here. 3) This entire band (completed by Rich Barefoot – bass/vocals, Danny Ross – drums, Scott C. – keyboards) knew how to not only put together great songs but deliver them with massive confidence in a raw format. Picture this: A classic. Find it now.
Five Dollars, Ten Stars

Friday, June 19, 2009

Scandanavian Smak-Down

ABRAMIS BRAMA – “Smakar Sondag” CD ’09 (Transubstans, Swe) – If I didn’t know anything about Sweden’s ABRAMIS BRAMA going into this, a few things would dawn on me upon looking at the cover. 1) Each of the 5 guys has a beard, most of them long and skuzzy. That is a very good thing. 2) Four of the five guys has very long hair. The one who doesn’t, has a shaved head, which counts as long hair when at least 3 of the other guys have it. Keep up with the rules, folks. 3) Four of the five guys are wearing black. 4) There are 2 guitarists & one is playing a Flying V. That guy is left-handed, which looks bad-assed as hell. Etc. So, like I said, had I known nothing about ABRAMIS BRAMA beforehand, these would have all been excellent omens…except I already knew they kick butt. I just didn’t realize how much.

“Smakar Sondag” is ABRAMIS BRAMA’s 5th album and, people, let’s go right for the gonads here. That’s what AB has done, because this disc “smaks” their other platters (great as they are) right in the nuts. First of all, the band has upped the ante on a couple fronts. First, they replaced drummer Fredrik Jansson with Trisse of Grand Magus. Plus, they’ve added a 2nd guitarist, Rob Johansson from fellow Swedish maulers Backdraft. Shit, that’s like owning a baseball team and replacing your catcher with Joe Mauer, then throwing in Mark Teixeira for some spice in the middle of the lineup. With those…ahem…minor adjustments taken care of, ABRAMIS BRAMA proceed to plug in, turn up and blow their last (and quite good) album “Rubicon” into dust. Opener “Kylan Kommer Inifran” roars into action with a nasty, churning riff that would’ve made Mark Farner proud in 1971 and when Trisse kicks in with the cowbell, you’d be forgiven for becoming an instant fan-boy. The band is completely on fire from the very beginning & then at around 2:12, they do one of the things I always loved about ‘70’s bands that’s become a lost art. They launch into a massive rhythm shift and turn into a mega-organic freight train. Think Grand Funk “Live” and “Into The Sun” and you might be close. At the end of this fast section, the addition of new guitarist Johansson pays super-early dividends as he & Peo Andersson lock into a killer double lead take on the song’s melody theme.

In truth, I could easily go track-by-track through this cranium-crunching hard rock behemoth and write that much about each cut. Just like the best of those who went before ‘em (Sabs, Budgie, Purple, etc.) this crew make each song a stand-out event with it’s own personality. Check out the title cut, starting out like the bastard son of Mountain & Toad, the track then takes a couple second jazzy turn before jazz sax player Jonas Kullhammar steps in long enough for you to think you’re listening to a lost cut from the debut Chicago Transit Authority record. Listen to the way Kullhammer actually does a harmony lead with the guitarists on this before the song returns to it’s initial sledgehammer riff. (Lotsa hammers there, I know!). And before you think AB is nothing but mega-distortion and leaden axes, settle back for the cryptically entitled “N.E.J.” This features a sweet acoustic guitar figure reminiscent of Page on “Over The Hills & Far Away.” Not only that, the guest vox by Meldrum’s Moa Holmsten bring a Sandy Denny-esque folk feel to the number that goes down real nice. But don’t get the idea the ABRAMIS boys are going soft on us here! Sure, Ulf Torkelsson gets to flex his considerable pipes on the 7 minutes of haunting closer “Kommer Hem,” but listen to the band rage like hell on pillagers like “Forbjuden Frukt” or the mammoth 10+ minute epic “Med Ont Forsat.” This one has enough changes & ball-breaking heavy-ass guitars to give Budgie’s “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” a run for it’s money.

Like I said, it would be no problem whatsoever for me to go through this record song-by-song and write an entire paragraph about each entry. They’re all that good. But why listen to me ranting and raving about an album that you really just need to buy now and listen to at least 100 times before tomorrow, then call in sick from work and listen to a hundred more times. About the only things I can add that make this damn thing even cooler are: 1) The lyrics are all in Swedish, which rules ‘cause I absolutely love it when a foreign band says “fuck you” to English & sings in their own tongue and 2) The album cover, which rules and you can see above. Buy or fucking die. Swedish Meat Ball Crusher

MANGROVE – “Endless Skies” CD ’09 (Transubstans, Swe) – Funny thing in this band’s bio: the band includes 2 members of Sideburn and they’re recommended to fans of, among others, Mustache. No beards mentioned and perhaps that’s why they’re not nearly as good as Abramis Brama. Ok, maybe that’s not totally fair, as there aren’t many units handing down an aural beat-down like “Smakar Sondag” these days. Seriously, MANGROVE are a 3-piece and they do a decent job of powering through 3-5 minute stoner-hard rock anthems like “Universal Time” & “Endless Skies” here. Guitarist Magnus Jernstrom comes up with some cool Hendrix-y/Trower-ish riffs and licks here. A couple minor gripes are the repeated practice of suddenly adding a guitar track here & there, obviously for dramatic purposes, but it makes it kinda irritating to have to listen to the record with your hand on the volume knob. Secondly, by the time you get to about the 5th track, something starts making you think “Didn’t we hear this riff a couple tunes ago?” Still, MANGROVE rock pretty hard on a lot of this record and make me interested to hear what they’ve got in store next. Partly Sunny
NOTE: URL’s for Record Heaven & Transubstans follow Abramis review above.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Oh, Oh, Oh...It's Magic

ADMIRAL BROWNING – “Magic Elixir” CD ’09 (Private, US) – Instrumental rock is a funny thing. Why, just the other day I was in stitches listening to a Joe Satriani album. Um…just kidding….about being in stitches AND listening to a Joe Satriani album, ‘cause if I did the latter I’d probably be in a coma rather than laughing. And see…that’s the funny thing. I generally really love good playin’…good singin’, too as Grand Funk once said, but I digress. Good playing does not necessarily equate with good listening. A guy like Satriani can rip and shred for ages and if it isn’t in the context of a song that makes any sense, well, it just doesn’t compute with me. I mean, I can listen to the Allman’s percolate through a 25 minute version of “Whippin’ Post” anyday…because it’s a fucking song. They interpret, they extrapolate, and most of the song is instrumental…but there’s gotta be something TO it and, often, with all-instrumental bands, they forget that basic tenet. That however is not the case with Middletown, Maryland’s ADMIRAL BROWNING. See, having gotten my attention captured with their last full-length opus, “Dead Pets,” they’ve now pared down (from a 4-piece to a trio) and have me under the influence of their “Magic Elixir.”

The first thing of note is that ADMIRAL BROWNING consider this disc to be an EP. At 35 minutes, I’d say that’s a pretty damn strong EP! Whatever you want to call it, strong is the word as it opens with the massive 9 minute “Vortexer.” Here the band (Matt Legrow – guitar, Ron McGinnis – bass & Tim Otis – drums) set the tension levels well above “stun.” The cut begins with a slow, mounting, ascending series of riffs. One almost gets the impression of a huge beast, trudging up the ice-laden slopes of a distant mountain in Nepal or some such place. Or perhaps that’s just me…but it sure works like that, because suddenly, part the way through, the beast reaches the flatlands and begins to gallop, McGinnis & Otis laying down a thundering, organic rhythm while Legrow piles riff on top of riff in a sledgehammer fest of ass-busting. Things then slow and Matt proceeds to deliver one of the most interesting guitar solos of this year. It’s double-tracked and played in such a way that it has an oriental vibe, taking me away to a land of Chinese temples on a mist-shrouded hillside. Again, maybe that’s just my fertile imagination but the point is, when instrumental music can create these kinds of thoughts, it’s powerful stuff. This kind of wonderful creativity continues through “Magic Elixir.” There’s the stunning melodic section of “Ol’ Martini Man” that reminds me of a riff BOC’s Buck Dharma would author. There’s deft back-porch pickin’ of “No Good Stones,” made into an unsettling tapestry by way of some odd vocal samples. Then, sit back for the sprawling 13 minute masterpiece of “Speaking In Tones,” a virtual tour through everything ADMIRAL as the band ventures through dark & haunting places, sometimes quiet & plaintive, sometimes jazzy, sometimes roaring like Scorps “Lonesome Crow” on steroids or something that could’ve easily found seating in Hairy Chapter’s “Can’t Get Through.” For good measure, the boys finish things off with a couple minute jam of wild wah-wah proportions that’ll bust yer butt & scrape the paint off the walls. Instrumental rock a funny thing? Maybe sometimes, but ADMIRAL BROWNING is no joke!
A Sonic Tonic

DORO – “Fear No Evil” CD ’09 (AFM, Ger) – When you come right down to it, there isn’t a whole lot out there as un-trendy as this brand new studio disc from DORO PESCH, now 20 some years on in her career. For all the flavour-of-the-month-underground-indie-webmeister-come-latelys who fancy themselves all cutting-edge & that, this must be as far off their maps as land was to Amelia Earhart. The fact is, back in the day when DORO’s band Warlock trod the Euro stages, your’s truly paid her little mind in favour of the burgeoning thrash & death scene. And yet today, “Fear No Evil” is spinning furiously in the Realm-o-Matic, coming across as one of the freshest voices of 2009. How so? Simply, this is as good an old-school heavy metal album as you can get. Deep spoken voices announcing “I know you’re scared ‘cause I smell your pain!”…thunderous sound effects…a song featuring back-up vox by everyone from Biff Byford to Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy) to Liv of Girlschool. Sound corny? You betcha…but it sounds great too. The band here draw in every true feel & vibe from Priest to Manowar to Accept and spit it out in a 3-D, tecnicolour version of their own in titles like “Running From The Devil,” the blistering “On The Run” and (quite natch) “The Night Of The Warlock.” Just Joe Taylor’s guitar solo alone in the former is enough to make me think of the days of leather pants (None in 38 waist? Shit…), studded armbands and pointy guitars. M-E-T-A-L! In fact, the whole thing gives me the idea of what Ross The Boss was trying to do with his recent solo effort and yet this album actually realizes that heroic goal. Last but not least, Ms. PESCH’s vocals are outstanding. She doesn’t sound a day over 25 as her pipes power through a track like “I Lay My Head Upon My Sword” and yet become passionate & emotive on “Herzblut” & “25 Years.” Is “Fear No Evil” breaking uncharted ground? Will it have shoegazers mumbling “Dude, it’s so forward-thinking, man?” Nope. But it’s pure, top-drawer heavy metal and a barrel-load of fun to boot! No Fear!

UFO – “The Visitor” CD ’09 (SPV, Eng) – To begin with, I was very sad to hear about Pete Way’s non-involvement with this new UFO album. Not only is it disorienting to read the line-up on the tray card and find absent the etched-in-stone “Pete Way – bass” imprint…but you worry about him as a man. Apparently he’s got some serious health issues and attending to them kept him out of the studio this time, not to mention live performances. Still, worries about his long-time mate notwithstanding, Phil Mogg must be feeling pretty good about things at the moment. Not only has his band left the turmoil of Herr Schenker well in the rearview mirror, they’ve turned in an absolute blinder with “The Visitor.” I’ve got to admit, when I first heard Vinnie Moore was stepping into the UFO guitar slot several years back, I got a knot in my stomach. Having thought Moore to be a by-the-numbers Julliard-type shredder, I had visions of UFO-by-way-of-Rising-Force and, as an admitted fan-boy of “Force It” & “Obsession,” my blood ran cold. Upon hearing the band’s maiden voyage with Vinnie, “You Are Here,” however, I was more than pleased. Here Moore not only incorporated a helluva lot more blues into his style but he seemed to be a nice writing foil for Mogg, the pair coming up with some really good tunes. Next came “The Monkey Puzzle” and I was even more impressed. VM was fitting into the band even more so with his addition of things like melodic intros, interludes and such things that, while reminding of Michael, had their own style as well. Now comes “The Visitor” and we see a line-up that’s not only gelled but produced a damn classic in the process.

From the very beginning, this album has my rapt attention. Vinnie Moore opens proceedings by introducing “Saving Me” with a slide solo that coulda had held the inscription B. Gibbons. But before you get too comfortable, the band (good ol’ drummer Andy Parker is back joining the boys along with Paul Raymond – keys and Peter Pichl – bass) launch into a number than’ll have you throwing your fist in the air. Moore’s jagged, chunka-chords take you right back to “Obsession,” Mogg’s vocals have a swagger I haven’t heard in years and when the guitar solo kicks in, well I’m digging through the boxes in the basement for my old UFO shirt. As we move through the album there are so many things to dwell on, so many things to enjoy: the soaring melodies of “On The Waterfront,” the rough-&-ready rawk of “Hell Driver” and the breathtaking chorus in “Stop Breaking Down” are just some signposts along a wonderful 10 song journey. Then you’ve got the funk-laden “Living Proof,” the driving self-confessional of “Can’t Buy A Thrill” (no, not a Steely Dan reference) and the stunningly beautiful “Forsaken,” which must contain Phil Mogg’s most riveting vocal in 20 years. It all ends with “Stranger In Town,” a perfect book-end for “Saving Me,” with it’s hacksaw chords and outlaw feel.

Through the entire album a few things demand constant attention with their consistent presence. The first is Phil Mogg’s vocal & lyrical performance. Here is a guy who has never been given enough due as a rock singer, in my opinion. Thank God a recent issue of Classic Rock Magazine gave him props as one of the best in the business. It’s about fucking time, after 30-some years. His rich, sonorous voice has stayed true to course, deepening a tad if anything and it sounds as good as ever here. Let’s also talk about Phil’s lyrics. No one ever does and it’s a crime. He’s a guy with a gift of street poetry and personal expression that rivals that of another Phil (Mr. Lynott). Just listen to his powerful wistfulness on “Stop Breaking Down” and Bon-like toughness on “Rock Ready.” He’s the man. Second we are long past thinking about Vinnie Moore as a replacement for Schenker. He has cemented himself as UFO guitarist and the work he does here only puts a massive exclamation point on that fact. I’m impressed as hell at the way this guy can go from unleashing a torrent of heavy riffs one minute, slide into an acoustic segue that’ll bring tears to your eyes and finish you off with a lead run that goes from scalding treble rawness to Clapton-like brown-woman-blues in a second. And it makes sense. Tie it all together with the Mogg-Moore team dropping 10 new absolutely wonderful & varied songs on you (many described above) and you’ll experience this in all it’s glory: one of the greatest UFO albums ever! Heaven & Hell, listen to this and take note: Either shit or get off the pot. A Permanent Resident At The Realm

VINNIE MOORE – “To The Core” CD ’09 (Mascot, US) – Well, well, well. Mr. MOORE has been a busy bee. Not only has he kicked ass to the max with his performance on the new UFO disc but he’s also taken the time to issue this, his latest solo release. Without any doubt, VINNIE has moved long past his old days as a neo-classical-inspired shredder. The early album I had by him, “Mind’s Eye” was certainly impressive from a technical standpoint, as was his work on at least one Vicious Rumors album. However, not one to be convinced by a lot of fretboard wanking, I was more than pleased to see how he’d evolved upon joining UFO, incorporating a lot more blues & feel into his style, seeing it flower massively over his 3 records with them thusfar. We see much musical diversity being flexed on MOORE’s new “To The Core” as well. While I’ll probably always prefer the band-oriented song writing approach prevalent in UFO, I’ve got to hand it to VINNIE here, he’s made an instrumental guitar album that’s fun to listen to. Within the space of 11 cuts on this disc, you’ve got everything from butt-kicking metal to bluesy hard rock to jazzy fusion to…yes, even a bit o’techno…and it works! My favourite cuts are the length workouts of “Soul Caravan” and “Into The Open Highway” where Mr. M can open the jets and explore the frets but overall, this is a nice listen, buoyed by the solid backing band of Van Romaine –drums, Tim Lehner – keys and John Deservio – bass. It’s not going to budge “The Visitor” from the Realm-O-Matic and it’s no “Magic Elixir” but “To The Core” is cool. Six Solid Strings

CAUSTIC CASANOVA – “Imminent Eminence” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Ghosts! That’s what it is! I’ve finally figured it out! How else can I explain that, once again, I had a CD mysteriously move from one pile to another, fooling me into believing I already reviewed it…thus the fact that I’m just getting to something this band sent me months ago. But I’m hoping all is forgiven because this is a pretty cool little item. Actually, I’m not sure “little” is the word as this thing times in at very close to the max playing time for the 80-minute recordable medium. Oft-times, such album-lengths make me nervous, sometimes they make me weary and too often they bore me to tears. Still, CAUSTIC CASANOVA (from the nation’s capital) has a lot to say and they say it really well. A trio (Francis Beringer – bass / vox, Michael Wolitz – guitar / vox, Stefaine Zaenker – drums), they bring in a slew of influences ranging from the distorted noise-rawk of Sonic Youth to the pop-grunge of Queens Of The Stone Age to the occasional leaden Sabbathy rhythm to vocals that run the gamut from parts country to Brit-pop to even stage-struttin’-Plant-isms. They succeed because they end up bringing ALL that stuff in and, somehow, still not sounding directly like any of them. Listen to a cut like “Anhedonia” or, say, “The Town Crier.” Can you say they sound like anything you’ve really heard before? Another thing CC does that I like is that, while some of their stuff appears to slide by without hooks, a 2nd listen will let that elusive memorable series of notes take hold in your brain. CAUSTIC CASANOVA are a band that stand out to me because I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything quite like them before. Come to think of it, that’s some pretty decent praise and I urge you to give this bunch a real shot. This album may be a lot to take in at once…I’m still getting new stuff out of it each time through. In the long run, I think you’ll be glad you dropped ‘em a line. Different DC’er’s

Friday, June 5, 2009

Grand Halls 25

SAILOR FREE – “The Fifth Door” CD ’94 (The Labyrinth, Ita) – Ask anybody! Go ahead, ask anybody, you scallywag! Really, you ask anyone what I would’ve said in 1994 had you mentioned the country Italy. Two words would have come out of my pie-hole and they would’ve been “Paul Chain.” Maybe in any year, but sure as hell in the early ‘90’s Italy’s underground son of gloom & doom, Paul Chain was right on the tip of my tongue. Proof positive is that my 15 year old son was named after him. And yet…that wasn’t all that was happening in that boot-shaped land of fine food and art. Another was this 2nd release from the unheralded band called SAILOR FREE.

SAILOR FREE appear to have been from Rome (after all, that’s where their fan club address was shown on the CD and where the album was recorded). Already, that’s pretty damn cool. Rome. I’m seeing visions of the Coliseum, gladiator, all that shit. There were 4 gladiators…er…musicians in SAILOR FREE by the names of: David Petrosino (vocals, piano, mellotron…cool!., minimoog, VSC3, Vox organ, etc.), The Hook (!!!) (electric & acoustic guitar), Stefano Tony (drums, percussion) & Alphonso Nini (bass). They also have an album prior to this one which I’ve yet to be able to obtain but today we’re here to talk about “The Fifth Door.”

I picked up this CD from a prog rock dealer at a convention and, to be honest, was expecting something rather different than I got. The band name, title and ethereal artwork made me think I was in store for something like Yes’ “Drama” or even Gentle Giant. Had I known it would roll like this, I’d’ve been willing to pay a lot more than the $6 I spent. Opening with a haunting intro entitled shockingly “Intro II,” SAILOR FREE tear into “Wild.” This very un-proggy opener is borne on a heavy riff not unlike Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules.” Damn, I’m liking! The heavy rock continues on with “The Token,” a longer cut at nearly 6:00 and more mid-paced, cruising along on a rhythm that could’ve shown up on Side 3 of “Physical Graffiti.” The band make an art out of melodic yet heavy rock over during the early part of this album, often combining crunching chords & wah-wah leads with subtle keys and vocals that remind this writer of the old Wishbone Ash’s Martin Turner. But before you think that SAILOR FREE are a leopard that can’t change spots, check out the psych-laden title cut, “The Fairy Queen” and “A Miracle.” All in the 6 minute range, they give the band opportunity to extrapolate from their style and forge a super-unique sound. I point to the middle of those selections, “The Fairy Queen” in particular. Here they take a journey that begins in very mellow fashion and leads the listener on a path of increasing intensity that will have you wondering “How’d we get here from there?” once the heavy riffs kick in. While David Petrosino’s vox & keys seem to guide the band’s songs & direction, it’s The Hook’s powerful guitar work that’s the engine.

“The Fifth Door” is an album that begs to be listened to in it’s entirety. Much like more known gems like “Argus” and “A Farewell To Kings,” it’s the kind of record that is composed of individual songs yet sees them fuse together in a wonderful flow that is such a joy to listen to from beginning to end. My only negative thought, every time I listen to this overlooked masterpiece is just that: why don’t more people know about this baby?! It’s a classic must-find for fans of hard rock, prog and more! 10.0