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Blackwolf 'Taking Root EP' (self released) 4.5/5

I first encountered Bristol hard rockers Blackwolf about 18 months back when their self titled demo ep dropped into my inbox. That was a cracking offering, it picked up a lot of airplay on the show and got me, and many of the good folk of radioland interested in the band. Since then they have wowed crowds all over the West Country, chalked a show stopping performance at last years Bulldog Bash and got themselves a bit of a reputation as being one of UK's ones to watch. Now we have their first official release in the form of this rather cool four track ep.

Taking their cue from the likes of AC/DC, Airbourne, classic Aerosmith, early Def Leppard and even the likes of The Little Angels (the vocalist here don't half remind me of Toby Jebson), Blackwolf play no bullshit, heads down, air guitar a go-go, sledgehammer subtle, old school hard rock and they play it very well indeed. Of the four cuts on offer here everyone is a nice little hard rocking gem that just demands to be listened to. You get the balls out bounce of Stairway Ticket, the bang grind boogie of Finding Fables, AC/DC meets Black Alice rock out of Wayward One and NWOBHMesque Seeds. All of which are first rate rockers that show that Blackwolf have a musical maturity many more established acts would sell their right arms for.

A damn fine ep indeed, and one that will win this lot a heap of friends and hopefully open the door for them to go on to the recognition and fame they richly deserve.

Very Highly Recommended

For fans of - AC/DC, Wolf Mother, Airbourne, Aerosmith, Dedringer, Def Leppard.......

Asia - 'XXX' (froniters) 5/5

Supergroups tend be short lived on the whole. Widowmaker, Three, GTR, The Law... there is an endless list of outfits featuring the best of rocks good and the great that promised much but  only struggled on for an album, sometimes two then vanished. However there are exceptions to the rule, and Asia are one such exception. Formed way back in 1982 by Carl Palmer (Atomic Rooster / ELP), Geoff Downes (Yes / The Buggles), Steve Howe (Yes) and John Wetton (UK, King Crimson, Uriah Heap, Wishbone Ash and many many more), Asia put out an eponymous debut album - a record that is now days viewed as one of the classic albums of all time - and then followed it up with the equally impressive Alpha a year or two later. Since then the name Asia has never gone away, but the band since then has always had a fluid line up with various members coming and going through the years. But now the original four have reunited for a 30th anniversary tour and this rather tasty album release.

Now I will declare an interest and say I've been a big fan of Asia ever since that first album hit the stacks and so I was more than a bit excited when I first got wind that this one was on the cards. And I am glad to say I'm not disappointed. From the opening cut, Tomorrow The World, right through to the closer, Ghost Of A Chance this is one great record that manages to capture all the magic and uplifting feel good vibes of those first two albums in fine style. There are nine cuts on offer here and everyone is a winner, we get I Know How You Feel where Geoff Downes keys gives the whole thing a kind of Supertramp feel, the truly wonderful Bury Me In Willow, when Mr Wettons heart felt vocal delivery and emotive lyrics move you to the very core and lift the soul on sonic wings at the same time; and the driving No Religion where Carl Palmers distinctive drumming drive the whole thing along in fine style and give Steve Howe room for some truly remarkable lead guitar work. If fact there isn't a weak track on show here at all.

All the classic Asia trade marks are hear, nice accessible poppy prog rock tunes, expert musicianship, huge soundscapes, big uplifting choruses and enough catchy hooks to keep a velcro factory on over time for months. I will keep saying it, this is one damn fine record, a classic in the making. An album that stands proud alongside those first two Asia albums, and although I don't like saying it (after all I am quite fond of albums like Astra, Aria and Aura) the best thing Asia have issued since 1984.

All in all a damn near as perfect album as you can expect from these guys, and with Yes seemingly changing line ups every two weeks, ELP on hiatus and Mr Wetton  currently on a solo career, I for one would like to see this classic Asia line up sticking around a bit and doing a few more like this.

A True Classic

For fans of... Yes, It Bites, Journey,  Supertramp, Boston etc....