Iron Maiden: Brave New World

With the return of Bruce Dickinson to the fold, Brave New World has been hyped as massive return to form for Maiden. So having given up on them several years ago, and not buying any of their albums released in the 90’s, I decided to give them a second chance. It does indeed attempt to re-create some of the classic Maiden sounds and riffs, but unfortunately does not compare with their earlier work on "Number of the Beast" or "Piece of Mind". In general the songs appear less catchy and the solo’s less intricate than the early days. There was talk of including some acoustic numbers (or even an entire acoustic album), but the band decided that what the majority of the fans would want is just the heavy stuff. Anyway the "Unplugged" concept seems to be less fashionable these days and many rock bands like Metallica and the Scorpions seem to prefer working with symphony orchestra’s instead. An idea first tried by Deep Purple to much greater effect in the early 70’s. Anyway, not really recommended unless you’re a die hard fan, not quite a Turkey, but a medium sized game bird at best. At least they didn’t include the cheesy rock ballad.

Gomez : Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline

Gomez’s third studio album in two years! Infact they have produced 3 albums (including a mercury prize winning debut), while Radiohead have been struggling to come up with something worthy enough to follow "OK Computer". So how did Gomez come up with something so quickly? Easy, they recorded a few new songs and filled the rest of the album up with some remixes of old songs and a few B-sides. This is however still a great album and these songs deserve to be made more accessible, rather tucked away somewhere harder to find. There is also some great variety in this record, the newer stuff has a more modern almost "dancey" feel to it, and is mixed with various other musical styles throughout the album including country, world music and the currently popular Latin style. As with other Gomez albums it gets better with more listening and like Captain Beefhearts "Trout Mask Replica" it may take a while to fully appreciate it.

Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes: Live at the Greek

I guess some people reckon Jimmy should stop pedaling his old Zeppelin classics and go and do something new instead. However the Crowes do an excellent job of inserting some new life into some great old songs. The set list is pretty impressive too; they chose to play some of the lesser-used Zeppelin Classics like "Hey hey what can do" together with "Ten years Gone" and "In my time of dying" from the legendary "Physical Graffiti". They also found room to record some great versions of some non-Zeppelin blues classics like "Shake your money maker" and Peter Greens "Oh Well" (part 1 only regrettably). All in all the Crowes provide a very confident musical backdrop and lead vocals for Jimmy’s wizardry. Although, for those of us who bought it on the internet under the belief that it would not be available in the shops, it’s a tad annoying now that it has got a normal retail release with an additional track.

Porcupine Tree: Voyage 34

Porcupine Tree have been around since the early 90’s and have just released their 6th Studio album, "Light-bulb Sun". However despite being regularly acclaimed as the next big thing they have still not properly broken through to the mainstream. Voyage 34 is actually and old track that was intended for the 2nd album "Up the Downstair". However, because there was no room to include this lengthy piece on the second album it was released on a pair of limited edition EP’s, but as it was one of the highlights of their live set it quickly became unavailable. The full-length 63-minute voyage is a transcript of Brian’s rocky 34th and final LSD trip. The first phase describes Brian’s gradual transformation into his anticipated nirvana state. It starts with a repetitive guitar riff unashamedly plagiarized from "Another brick in the wall (part 1)", this is followed by an excellent guitar piece before the trip slows down to become more ambient, slightly darker and moodier but generally just less eventful.