Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Undiscovered Soul

You'll come to find out why I find 'Undiscovered Soul' a very apt title for this blog post. Anyone who listens to music of any genre will no doubt have heard of the long haired rock 'n' roll machine that is Bon Jovi. This band have been releasing multi platinum albums for 30 years now and have become well known for hits such as 'Livin on A Prayer', 'It's My Life' and 'You Give Love A Bad Name'. Despite having millions of fans across the globe there are also millions of people who either dislike or just don't take interest in this great band. But love them or hate them, what can't be denied is that each band member is a world class rock musician in his own right and so I arrive at the topic of this blog post: Lead guitarist Richie Sambora...

Bon Jovi fans will already be aware that Richie recently left the band, whether it be on a permanent basis or otherwise. This is sad news for fans such as I but I won't be dwelling on that here. Instead I hope to raise awareness of Sambora as a solo artist and musician in his own right. Many Bon Jovi fans buy a ticket  to a show based on Richie's presence in the band alone so it is no surprise that he is capable of releasing some great music of his own.

First of all, don't go thinking that his music is just a re-hash of Bon Jovi with a different vocalist. It's far more soulful and differs in style depending on which of the three albums you listen too but each one has an Americana feel to it. Richie is a superb guitarist and upon listening to his records you maybe surprised to find he has an unbelievably good and powerful voice too (better than Jon Bon Jovi's in my opinion).

The Stranger in this town album was released during a 17 month Bon Jovi hiatus in 1991. It didn't top the charts and likely flew under the radar of most non- Bon Jovi fans. It may not have contained the ingredients which make a top ten album but the infusion of blues rock, soul and americana make for an incredible mix of both rock anthems and ballads alike. This album has its own atmosphere and it could not have been titled any better. You can really hear these songs echoing through the deserted, midnight streets of some small town out in the midwestern countryside. Maybe this is just the romantic in me but I can just picture Richie sat on his guitar case by the side of some dusty road on the outskirts of town, playing his songs for the moon and the stars. The album opener 'Rest In Peace' is arguably the weakest song on the album but by no means is it a skipper. A murky yet atmospheric number which really sets the tone for the album where Richie exhibits some of the licks and guitar work he has become famous for. The high points of the album are the title track which really sets the scene for the album, 'Ballad of Youth' displays some very intricate guitar playing whilst being one of the more up-tempo, anthemic numbers on the record with Richie singing about the struggles of growing up and living for the moment. 'Father Time' is the power ballad on the record and also my personal favourite about love lost and hearts broken with a powerful chorus, Richie really showing off his vocal range. Other numbers of note are 'Rosie' which as a track written for Bon Jovi's New Jersey album and 'Church of Desire'. Rosie is the most Jovi-like song on the record, very catchy with the typical riffs that you might expect from a Bon Jovi song. I could talk about each song in more detail but I won't. All you need to realise is that there are no fillers on this album and if you like blues, soul and rock'n'roll it is well worth listening to over and over again.

For his second album Richie left behind the echoing power ballads from 'Stranger in this Town' and opted for a cleaner sounding heartland rock album. Reflecting back on his previous album Richie said he was coming down from a really soulful place' and not necessarily writing for anyone else but himself. The songs of heartache and struggle are in the past and there is a real positive, feel good factor to this album with a cleaner sound to boot. Even the few songs that deal with adversity seem to have an 'everything will be ok' feel to them. These songs seem effortless and the majority of songs on this album make for a great listen as you speed down the highway with the top down. Kicking off with a strong biographical number called 'Made in America', an uplifting tune to set the scene, it becomes clear straight away that this album has been written to be noticed. Heartfelt love songs such as 'In it for Love' provide welcome breaks from rockier numbers such as 'Who I Am' and 'If God Was A Woman' and you really get the impression that Richie means what he's singing, as if the emotions in those songs are held dear to his heart. That comes through with his delivery on the vocals. Richie has retained his ability to create an atmosphere with within select songs on this record. 'Harlem Rain' really captures a loneliness on the 'streets of pain' which is reminiscent of the setting for Stranger in This Town and the title track 'Undiscoverd Soul' is an epic track to finish the album, its characters dealing with adversity as they try to make it in 'the great unknown'. This an album full of typical Richie Sambora riffs, it retains the soulful nature of his vocals and contains no throw away tracks. Of the three he has released, this is the album most likely to appeal to a wider audience.

In 2012 Richie released his third album 'Aftermath of the Lowdown'. Its ok... it doesn't hit the heights of his first two and so I'd only buy it after you've enjoyed the earlier records. I feel that this album takes several elements of the previous two whilst exploring some different themes and throwing in a few curve balls for good measure. This album does have a few throw away tracks, which I'm not sure I understand too well. 'Burn That Candle Down' and  'Sugar Daddy' come to mind here and in some places the lyrics just don't stand up against Richie's earlier work. Having said that, you get this with a lot of artists so if you don't mind skipping a few tracks there are still some gems to be discovered. The lead single' Every Road Leads Home To You' and another track 'I'll Always Walk Beside You 'are both very good songs. 'Seven Years Gone' is very reminiscent of the vibe i felt on Undiscovered Soul so its nice to be reminded that Richie is still capable of producing credible songs. Perhaps my favourite song on this album is the closer 'Backseat Driver'. For those who have had somebody walk all over you this is your rebellion song and even for those who haven't this is a real fun rocker which will have you singing into your steering wheel. Whilst Richie may have lost his way slightly with this album it is still well worth a listen. For me it didn't retain a similar theme throughout so I suppose I see it as a bit of a mongrel, his lyrics let him down at times and on the odd song he tries too hard to squeeze in long solo parts which perhaps weren't necessary.

 In terms of musicianship and vocals Richie's still got it. Bon Jovi's recent albums haven't really done it for me like they used to so I'm starting to think that maybe this break up could allow Richie to spread his wings a little more and develop as more of a solo artist. I'm of course sad to see such a prominent figure of one of my favourite bands depart but I also know I'm powerless to change it so I will appreciate the great music I've experienced over the years and just hope for the best for all the Bon Jovi guys in the future.

The way I see it, Richie Sambora IS an undiscovered soul. Bon Jovi aside, he has had the tallent (over the past couple of decades) to stand up as a credible solo artist in his own right but I would guess that most of his own album and ticket sales will have been made to those within the Bon Jovi fan circle. If only more people could hear some of this music then many would feel much better for it...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Here I Go Again

So it’s been a while since I wrote on this blog...  about 14 months actually and I can’t believe how quickly time has gone. I guess I got a little bit bored of it somewhere along the way and put it down for a while.  I’m kind of regretting that now as I feel that there are a lot of musical topics which I would have written about during this hiatus I’ve taken: I went to perhaps the best gig of my life when I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium, there have been 2 Gaslight Anthem tours, the 2012 Revival Tour and all of my favourite bands have released new material in that meantime, I’ve also discovered a whole horde of new artists which I hope to tell you about in future posts.

A little closer to home I continue to work on and record my own music. I’ve left the days of posting to You Tube behind now. I don’t look back on those videos fondly anymore.  I’ve progressed as a guitar player and a singer a lot since then and they far from represent my best work so I only really direct listeners towards my Soundcloud page these days. Over the past year I’ve written many songs but two in particular ‘Floyd’ and ‘Living with Ghosts’ represent some of my best work to date so I hope you manage to find them at some point. Here is a link to my artist page on facebook (another product of the last year).

My music page

Anyway, getting to the point, I’m hoping to pick up where I left off again now but with a bit more focus and structure to my posts. The purpose of this blog all along has been to promote music which is perhaps lesser known to a lot of people, share my opinions on certain topics and also to promote my own music. I found I was starting to mix in aspects of my personal life, sporting events, anecdotes unrelated to music and other shit that really took some credibility away from the reason I started the blog in the first place. All that extra stuff is getting thrown out now! This blog will now focus only on things related to music be it my own or someone else’s. The posts will be more focused. I intend to dedicate a lot of the posts specifically to one band/ singer/ songwriter and simply write about them in order to help promote them, I may dedicate the odd post to a particular tour that I’ve been on or to my own work but the overall aim is to inform and educate just as its always been. I hope to regain the readers that I may have lost during my hiatus and if I’m lucky pick up some new readers along the way. This can be a good occasional hobby if you get into it.

Different attitude to blogging but still the same blue jeans and white T shirts. Heres to new beginnings...

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Midnight Sessions

The Midnight Sessions is a small project I've been working on slowly over the last couple of months. My usual approach to recording my voice is that I'll sing out, to my voice's full capacity I guess. Its louder but then again it suits the style I usually play in. Usually when recording demos of my songs or covers of other peoples songs I will do it all on separate tracks. Recording the rhythm guitar part first then recording the lead guitar over it and then the vocals over that etc.

These sessions take a much more simplistic and effortless approach to recording. It came from one night where I couldn't sleep. It was late and I just began strumming gently with my fingers and singing quietly so as not to disturb my parents who had guests round to the house. I guess I just liked singing these songs much quieter than I would usually belt them out so after playing a couple I just hit record and did about 3 or 4. Over the next month I just did couple more in the same style here and there and put them to a cd.

These recordings were done in one take. The sound is intended to be very raw, unrehearsed, meaningful put you to sleep kind of music. All the songs are covers from varying artists such as Ryan Adams, the Gaslight Anthem, Augustana and a few others so I'm just putting this cover of Gaslight Anthem's 'American Slang' out as a sampler for you to listen and I hope you like it. This isn't how I'd play it live, remember its for quiet time. Anyone who wants the full CD can have one just message me. Thanks for taking a look.

Alex Magrath - American Slang Cover (Click here)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Best Songs of 2011

Following on from last weeks list of Best Albums released this year, the next installment is my twenty best songs of 2011. There is a twist though.....
The songs don't necessarilly have to have been released in 2011, this list is based on when I first heard the song. If I heard it this year for the first time or if its at the top of my most played list on i tunes then it is eligible. You get me? To make it more interesting and less repetitive I'm only allowing myself one song per artist. Here we go:

1. Against Me! - Because of The Shame
2. Chuck Ragan - Meet You In The Middle
3. Olin and The Moon - Say Goodbye
4. The Horrible Crowes - Ladykiller
5. Chamberlain - Raise It High
6. Ryan Adams - Lucky Now
7. Jack Savoretti - Once Upon A Street
8. Two Cow Garage - Jackson, Don't You Worry
9. Augustana - Shot In The Dark
10.  Dave Hause - Meet Me At The Lanes
11. 3 Doors Down - Every Time You Go
12. Lucero - What Are You Willing To Lose
13. The Wallflowers - Three Marlenas
14. R.E.M. - Uberlin
15. Dan Andriano - This Light
16. Richard Thompson - 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
17. Brian Fallon - Goodnight Irene
18. The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You
19. Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
20. Nashville Skyline - Carry You Home

The last one won a toss up against Wakey! Wakey! - Dance So Good, can't have them all...

I hope you all take time look up some of these songs, create this same playlist on spotify, re-jig the order, whatever you want  but its full of good songs!

I should really charge for providing this useful and informative service so make the most of it while its still free!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Best albums of 2011!

This week you get my favourite albums released this year and if you have some time, definitely look up some of thesealbums and the songs recommended:

1. The Horrible Crowes - Elsie

Superb lyricism and some fanatastic melodies make for a very sedate, tranquil album about heartbreak, focusing particularly on two of snger Brian Fallon's ex girlfriends and finally on his wife in 'I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together'. Brian shows what fantastic range he has as he ranges from whispers right up to the wails of 'Mary Ann' a more up tempo agressive number. Besides 'Mary Ann' the other 11 songs are very easy listening perfect for times of relaxation and reflection. Highlight songs: 'Behold The Hurricane', 'Ladykiller' and 'Blood Loss'

2. Chuck Ragan - Covering Ground

A typical Chuck Ragan folk album, based around the acoustic guitar with the superb musicianship of Jon Gaunt (fiddle) andn Joe Ginsberg (upright bass). It particularly focuses on life on the road, the camaraderie of bandmates and the travelling life of a singer songwriter and is in my opinion his best solo album to date. I think theres a real good feel about the album, the kind of songs to keep you warm on these cold winter nights. Highlight Songs: 'Meet You In The Middle', 'Nothing Left To prove' and 'Wish On The Moon'

3. Against Me! - White Crosses/ Black Crosses

White Crosses was released in 2010 but still counts as it was re-released this year with its acoustic accompaniment 'Black Crosses'. I was new to Against Me until this year as I slowly discover more and more of these lesser known punk bands. Singer Tom Gabel mixes upbeat punk rock with his unique and direct lyrics which have had me singing at my steering wheel for months now. While many old school Against Me! fans beleive the band have sold out, I think its their best work. Black crosses is essentially the same album but the songs are either acoustic versions or demos. Highlight Songs: 'Because of The Shame', 'White Crosses' and 'Bitter Divisions'

4. Augustana - Augustana (eponymously titled)

This is Augustana's fourth album and whilst not perhaps hitting the critical heights of previous albums I think its a solid album that has dominated my playlists this year. I think Dan Layus' song writing has definitely improved with each album they have released. The songs are mostly love songs but that isn't to say that they are all slow numbers. Very easy album  to listen to, very melodic and Dan Layus has a great voice, its just a shame that the band have had difficulties with their lineup. I sincerely hope there is a future for this band... Highlight Songs: 'Shot in The Dark', ' Steal Your Heart' and 'Wrong Side of Love'.

5. Dave Hause - Resolutions

New to the music of Dave Hause and The Loved Ones this year I decided to check him out before the Revival Tour and found myself enjoying what he was writing about. I found they were songs about the realities of life, road accidents, friends going through hard times, how we drift from all of our old friends and re-unite to reminisce. Its good music about real stuff, not the heavier punk rock that The Loved Ones produce. Great to chill out to. Highlight Songs: 'Meet Me at The lanes', 'C'mon Kid' and 'Pray for Tuscon'/

6. 3 Doors Down - Time of My Life

A return to form for 3DD in my opinion. Their previous self titled effort didn't really hit the mark for me except for three or four tracks. This album is lots better. A good rocky, upbeat album with some anthemic songs in it. Although this is irrelevant to the music I would say the front cover to this album is my favourite album artwork of the year too. Highlight songs: 'Everytime You Go', 'Believer' and 'When You're Young'

7. Olin and The Moon - Footsteps

I'm sorry to say that I only discovered this band through the TV Show 'One Tree Hill'but I'm glad I did. Singer David LaBrel croaks his way through 15 songs. As with most albums on this playlist its very easy listening stuff rangeing from very slow mournful songs to cheery upbeat acoustic rock. These guys still haven't been discovered by many, they don't even have a proper Wikipedia page as far as I can see but it goes to show that the underground scene hides lots of hidden treasures like these. Highlight Songs: 'Say Goodbye', 'Not In Love' and That Light'

8. Dan Andriano in The Emergency Room - Hurricane Season

To complete the Revival Tour quartet set, Dan Andriano was entirely new to me until September when I was impressed with his soulful voice. This is his first solo album and its very good. The songs are mostly love songs, talking about missing your significant other but the lyrics are well written and meaningful and again, this is another very easy to listen album. If you're not sure Ive sold it to you, check the following songs out perhaps before committing to the whole album: 'This Light', 'Hurricane Season' and 'Me and Denver'.

9. R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

R.E.M.'s last few studio albums have been slammed in most articles I have read but I think they were still doing ok. No, they may not hit the heights of 'Automatic for the People' but there are still plenty of songs on this (their final studio album) to keep their fans entertained. Some are typically upbeat with Michael Stipe's, confusing lyrics and unusual song subjects and some are more heartfelt a good mix and well worth a buy! I was planning to write about their break up but never got around to it. To make my top ten can be tribute enough... Highlight Songs: 'Uberlin', 'It Happened Today' and 'Oh My Heart'.

10. Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire

I had been warned about Ryan Adams haviing varying styles of music depending on which album you buy but I heard him play 'Lucky Now' acoustically and had to buy the album as I thought it was one of the best songs I'd heard this year. The rest of the album was what I expected, its a very slow and meaningful album for quiet times but there are some good songs worth listening: 'Lucky Now', 'Come Home' and 'Chains of Love'

There are many albums released this year that I have intended but not got around to listening to. Im sure this list would have been slightly different but here it is. I hope you take the time to look a few of these songs up on Spotify, i tunes, you tube etc.

Next week I'll be giving my top 20 songs that I have discovered in 2011... Stay tuned.