Suzi Quatro, The Devil In Me (SPV Steamhammer 2021)

The unstoppable Suzi Quatro returns with a new studio album that pops and cracks with multifaceted looks at rock and roll.

The first album I ever heard from Suzi Quatro was Rock Hard (1980). There she stood on the cover wearing black leather and holding the fire engine red bass. At the time I assumed she played only hard rock, but as I started going through the earlier albums I quickly understood that she had already had an impressive career with big pop hits and a variety of albums in different styles. Whenever a new record came out from her it was a good day for me. Her music is not what I usually listen to if we go by the numbers, but I am a huge Suzi Quatro fan.

The album opens with a couple of bangers. “The Devil In Me” is a raucous rock and roll rambler with a Bob Seger spirit while “Hey Queenie” is more of a rock-sprouting lounge tune. The album takes a walk through a wide variety of styles and looks on differently seasoned rock hooks and structures. Every one of them has a familiar feel and a fresh take. The music is mostly upbeat and fast-paced, with a couple of reflective tracks and one straight-up ballad.

There are a several stand-outs for me on the record. “You Can’t Dream It” is one with its urgent pace and prominent bass work. “Do Ya Dance” hit me at an Alice Cooper angle in the 1970s sense. “Isolation Blues” is a soulful, meandering tune with a great saxophone part. And the closer, “Motor City Riders,” is the perfect guitar and piano rock and roll flashback to close the show. This album is a big win for every Suzi Quatro fan.

The Devil In Me is out now – hit the links below. Recommended.

Links.

Website, http://www.suziquatro.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Suziquatrorocks/

Label, https://shop.steamhammer.de/products/691043-suzi-quatro-the-devil-in-me

Suzi Quatro, The Devil In Me (SPV Steamhammer 2021)

Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories (earMUSIC 2021)

Rock and Roll icon Alice Cooper takes a nostalgic strut through the historic musical verity of Detroit.

I don’t have to tell you who Alice Cooper is, right? I have written many times about how his music, together with Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, and Nazareth, were the first sounds I heard that turned me toward the heavy. He did have a period of metal music, but that is not the way he started out and most of his work is in the hard rock lane with plenty of pop rock/metal orientation. Oh, and Shock Rock. Yeah. He did that first.

Cooper was born in 1943 and so he is now 73 years old. How is that affecting his musical composition and performance? Not in any apparent negative way, I can tell you that. I saw him at the Greek Theater in LA a couple summers ago and the show was amazing. The performance was just as energetic and exciting as it was decades ago. I don’t know how he still does it, but he definitely still does.

If you look at his recent studio albums, they are up to a high standard as well. The most recent one was Paranormal in 2017, and it is filled to the brim with rockers and bangers, crisp and cracking. He continues to cover a lot of the same subjects as he has in the past, and if anything he his music has become less gimmicky, leaning more towards a straight-forward rock approach.

There are fifteen tracks on the new album. Cooper’s voice is strong and familiar. And unique. The music is guitar driven hard rock, running radio length. There are a couple songs that are a little longer, but they are all designed to be digestible. There are a couple of stylistic homages in there, but mainly these songs are bangers that cook and move in all the right ways to get you on your feet and going. Songs that have a slower pace tend toward blues or mysteriousness. No ballads at all. The album is exactly what I was hoping for, and it is the perfect follow-up to Paranormal, showing that the quality of that album was no fluke.

When big live shows come back the first thing I am going to do is buy a ticket for wherever Alice Cooper is playing and go see him live again. I didn’t really need any additional motivation to make this oath, but Detroit Stories is nevertheless an extra push. Highly recommended.

You can get Detroit Stories starting now. There are many bundles and versions. The one I liked best is a basic one – the CD and DVD combo that includes A Paranormal Evening At The Olympia Paris. That was a great concert and if you didn’t pick it up already when it came out then here is a great chance to get the add-on.

Links.

Website, https://alicecooper.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AliceCooper/

Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories (earMUSIC 2021)

Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle review (Mongrel Records 2020)

The new album from Ruff Majik has the most direct Rock and Roll feel of their work to date.

The musicians credited on The Devil’s Cattle are Evert Snyman (guitar, bass, vocals, percussion, drums, and piano) and Johni Holiday (guitar, bass, and vocals), with Timothy Edwards and Xan Swart adding drums, Christiaan Van Reenen making an appearance on keyboards, and additional vocals by Vincent Houde. On their Bandcamp page, the creation of the new album is explained this way: “The Devils Cattle was written between Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bourlon, Berlin, and Oyster Bay in 2019, whilst Johni Holiday and [company] were hopping between locations during a very busy year.” The press materials state Ruff Majik is from South Africa, Bandcamp has them headquartered in Cottbus, Germany, and clearly they get around a lot during the creative process. Wherever in the world they might be from, at, or going to, it is the music that matters.

My first thought listening to this album was it made me of a heavy metal version of the White Stripes. The vocals and affectation are reminiscent of Jack White, and the music does have hints in that direction but the divergences are far greater than the confluences. The opening song is a ripper with a message that resonates, “All You Need Is Speed.” In the very next song, the talk-in sets the stage for a tale of woe in “Swine Tooth Grin,” and the gravity of the guitar riffs match the sentiment of the lyrics precisely. Each new track is a turn and a twist.

The album is long and expresses a variety of sentiments and stylistic careening during its course. I love the guitars which are both a comfort and a threat, and so are the vocals and, separately, the lyrics. Sometimes it feels like free association but not improvisation. The compositions have an intentionality that confounds the notion of haphazardry. Creativity lives a big life in this album, and it is completely different to anything else I have heard this year. Recommended.

The Devil’s Cattle is out now from Mongrel Records and getable through Bandcamp.

Links.

Band Bandcamp, https://ruffmajik.bandcamp.com/

Band website, http://www.ruffmajik.com

Band Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/ruffmajik

Label website, http://mongrelrecords.com

Label Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/mongrelrecords

Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle review (Mongrel Records 2020)

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Album number three from Cortez is Sell The Future and it rides a heavy wave of riff-powered demolition.

From the Boston area, Cortez has been releasing music since their 2006 demo. They have had a couple of lineup changes over the years, as most bands do. For Sell the Future, earliest members Jay Furlo (bass) and Scott O’Dowd {Scotty Fuse} (guitar) are joined by long time players Matt Harrington (vocals) and Alasdair Swan (guitar). Alexei Rodriguez (drums) is newest, dating from 2017 (if The Metal Archives has it facts straight).

Harrington’s voice is powerful and fierce when he wants it to be and yet he can attenuate it for different emotions and effects. The compositions rely on solid grooves and big riffs, with well-placed and clever lead breaks adding nuance to the work. The rippling and surprising percussion bursts that you hear from Rodriguez in unexpected places are a fundamental building block to the unique sound of the band.

“No Escape” is a banger, and the perfect choice for an up-tempo lead off song. The title track is next and sets a serious tone with a purposeful riff up front then pushes on with a heavy swagger. The tempo gets a switch in advance of the lead break, which flays the carcass of reason. “Look At You” has a driving rhythm that just won’t let you turn away, and if you are not hooked on this album by the time the third song is over, I don’t know what to say to you. I cannot pick a single favorite, but I will point to the way the songs dissimilarities enhance the set as a whole – listening to the furiously paced “Vanishing Point” right after “Sharpen The Spear,” which has a more plaintive structure, puts you off balance in just the right way for the closer, “Beyond.” This album was worth the wait. Highly recommended.

Sell the Future is out now. Bandcamp is a good place to look for the digital, and there are couple vinyl variants there, too.

Band photo by Bruce Bettis.

Links.

Ripple Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/sell-the-future

Cortez website, http://www.cortezboston.com/

Cortez Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cortezboston/

Cortez Soundcloud, https://soundcloud.com/cortezboston

Cortez, Sell The Future review (Ripple Music 2020)

Blue Öyster Cult, The Symbol Remains review (Frontiers Records 2020)

The iconic rock band Blue Öyster Cult releases its first full-length studio album in nineteen years.

Here is where I am coming from as far as Blue Öyster Cult goes. The first three albums are unassailable. As far as I am concerned, nothing serious can be said against them. After that, I have unpopular tastes with regard to the catalogue. Agents of Fortune (1976) is a classic, true, but I never really connected with Spectre (1977) or Mirrors (1979). I absolutely love the sequence of albums from the early 1980s: Cultosaurus Erectus (1980), Fire of Unknown Origin (1981), and The Revolution By Night (1983). Also Imaginos (1988) – an excellent reimagining. The other albums are good, and I listen to them still, but not as much as the ones on my list. Blue Öyster Cult has created a large catalogue of amazing music and some song or another of theirs is always in my rotation. They are one of my all-time favorite bands.

I’ve been waiting for The Symbol Remains anxiously, wanting new music I would really like to listen to. With so much great work that had come before, a reasonable person faces new music from a band that hasn’t put anything out in a long while with some trepidation. Like when Black Sabbath released 13 (2013). They had not released a full-length studio album as Black Sabbath for almost twenty years. I sweated that one, but 13 was excellent, and the band supported the album with a great tour. Fingers crossed, then, for the new Blue Öyster Cult. The band is Eric Bloom (vocals, guitar), Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (guitar), Richie Castellano (keys, guitar, vocals), Danny Miranda (bass), and Jules Radino (drums). With the two originals Bloom and Roeser, and the longtime bandmates Castellano, Miranda, and Radino, the lineup is rock solid.

The hour-long album starts with a banger, the single “That Was Me.” It has the kind of sound I was hoping for, from the crisp guitar work to the distinctive vocals. This is Blue Öyster Cult. The next two songs (also released as singles) show a tonally lighter side to the band, demonstrating their musicianship and compositional prowess. Throughout the album, their creativity is on display from the amazing guitar work on “Nightmare Epiphany” to the theatrical Danny Elfman-esque “Edge of the World.” “Florida Man” is a quiet song with a lyrical lead break and rich harmonies. “The Alchemist” is dark and heavy, pushing out heavy threatening riffs and a wicked fantasy narrative. “Secret Road” is a desert driving song that will make you see rattlesnakes in your sleep. The variety is intoxicating.

Having listened to The Symbol Remains three times in a row, I know now that I was wrong before – there was never anything to worry about. This is an excellent album. This is Rock and Roll. Highly recommended.

The new BÖC album is out now. You can listen on Spotify and buy on Amazon and other places. The important thing is to here it.

Band photos snagged from the official website.

Links.

Band website, www.blueoystercult.com/

Frontiers Records, http://www.frontiers.it/index.php

Blue Öyster Cult, The Symbol Remains review (Frontiers Records 2020)