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Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx [Review]

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Crazy Lixx – Crazy Lixx
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. Hell Raising Women
2. Sound of the Loud Minority
3. Outlaw
4. Girls of the ’80s
5. I Missed the Mark
6. All Looks, No Hooks
7. Ain’t No Rest in Rock N’ Roll
8. Call to Action
9. Heroes Are Forever
10. Psycho City
11. Wrecking Ball Crew

Band:
Danny Rexon – Lead Vocals
Andy Zata – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Edd Liam – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jens Sjoholm – Bass
Joel Cirera – Drums

Producer: Danny Rexon and Andy Zata

I love this album’s cover art. How awesome would it be to have that on a vinyl sleeve?

This self-titled effort is the Swedish band’s fourth release (third on the Frontiers label) and delivers more of the sleaze ‘n’ glam metal goods. I’ll admit, it took me a few spins before some of the songs really started to click with me but “Girls of the ’80s” was an obvious standout for me from the get-go.

I’ve seen a number of people comment that “Psycho City” reminds them of KISS… Not getting that at all, although I do think the song is one of the best from the album. One song that does remind me of a band is “Ain’t No Rest in Rock N’ Roll”, which has the band sounding a bit like an AC/DC clone.

Other highlights for me are “I Missed the Mark” and “All Looks, No Hooks”. Great melodic hard rock that at times reminds me of Danger Danger, just not as polished.

I heard all three of the band’s Frontiers Records releases. While I don’t think the band has delivered a knockout release just yet, all three have been good. Nothing here matches the intensity and catchiness of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” or “Church of Rock” (both from Riot Avenue) but this may be the band’s most consistent album yet.

 Highlights: “Hell Raising Women”, “Girls of the ’80s”, “I Missed the Mark”, “All Looks, No Hooks”, “Call to Action”, “Psycho City”

Mike Tramp – Museum [Review]

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Mike Tramp – Museum
2014, Target Records
Buy the album

1. Trust In Yourself
2. New World Coming
3. Down South
4. Better
5. Freedom
6. Commitment
7. And You Were Gone
8. Slave
9. Mother
10. Time For Me To Go

Producer: Soren Andersen & Mike Tramp

Mike Tramp returns with another heartfelt and emotional collection of acoustic rock/pop tracks. Last year’s Cobblestone Street was good but I enjoyed it less than I did 2011’s Stand Your Ground. Luckily, Museum is an improvement over last year’s effort and the music is slightly more upbeat (although the album is still very mellow and slow-tempo songs).

One thing I’ve always loved about Tramp are his lyrics. You can tell they are very personal to him. Whether he’s talking about his mother, his life growing up or making a statement about society, the lyrics are very intimate and you know he means them.

Tramp’s solo material is not something I pull out (or queue up) often, but when I do, I always end up enjoying it. I think you have to be in a more laid-back mood to listen to it. There’s no hard rock to be found here. If you’re expecting something to sound like White Lion, you really aren’t going to get it. The closest he gets to rocking out are the songs “Down South” and “Slave” which are very bluesy and sound like something you might hear from The Black Keys. The music is all acoustic-driven and while I prefer good ol’ riffing on an electric guitar, whenever I sit down and listen to Tramp’s solo material, it’s always an enjoyable experience.

Museum is not in-your-face and bombastic. Mike Tramp albums never are, but this is a good disc to spin if you’re just looking to kick back and relax or possibly get a little introspective.

Highlights: “Trust In Yourself”, “New World Coming”, “Better”, “Time For Me To Go”

Whitesnake – Live in ’84: Back to the Bone [Review]

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Whitesnake – Live in ’84: Back to the Bone
2014, Frontiers Records

Snakeskin Boots: The Best of the Bootlegs
1. Gambler
2. Guilty of Love
3. Love Ain’t No Stranger
4. Slow An’ Easy
5. Walking in the Shadow of the Blues
6. Ready An’ Willing
7. Guitar Solo
8. Crying in the Rain
9. Soldier of Fortune
Super-Rock Japan ’84
10. Love Ain’t No Stranger
11. Ready An’ Willing
12. Slow An’ Easy
Jon Lord’s Final Whitesnake Performance (Medley)
13. Gambler / Guilty of Love / Love Ain’t No Stranger / Ready An’ Willing

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
John Sykes – Guitar
Mel Galley – Guitar (Track #13)
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Jon Lord – Keyboards (Track #13)

Additional Musicians:
Richard Bailey – Keyboards (Tracks #1-12)

Producer: David Coverdale & Michael McIntyre

OH MY GOD. This is the fourth live Whitesnake album in three years. ENOUGH. I love this band, but ENOUGH. Just put out the new studio album already! Truth be told, Live in ’84 was released as a DVD/CD combo package but all I have to go buy is the digital version of the CD. The DVD features more performances than the audio version.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with this release anyway. Did we really need two live versions of “Guilty of Love”, “Slow an’ Easy”and “Gambler” along with THREE live versions of “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and “Ready an’ Willing”? I don’t get it. And there’s not much information about these tracks or this album in general other than they are bootlegs from 1984 that have been cleaned up by David Coverdale & Michael McIntyre.

From what I’ve pieced together by researching online, tracks 1-9 are random bootlegs (presumably the best) that Coverdale was able to track down from various dates of Whitesnake’s 1984 Slide It In world tour. Tracks 10-12 are from August of 1984 at a festival called Super-Rock, which was held in Japan. Bon Jovi, Scorpions, The Michael Schenker Group and Anvil also played at the festival. Tracks 1-12 feature the band as the four-piece of Coverdale, Sykes, Murray and Powell. Guitarist Mel Galley had broken his arm and sat out the rest of the tour while Jon Lord had already left the band. Richard Bailey toured with the band as keyboardist and played off-stage.

Finally, there’s track 13, which is a medley that features Jon Lord’s final performance in the band before rejoining Deep Purple.

This live version of “Crying in the Rain” is particularly notable. Despite the professional bootleg quality, it’s a much stronger sounding song than the studio version. Look, all of the music here is good. Live Whitesnake is always good. I just question their rapid-fire delivery of live albums and the repeating of songs on this DVD/CD. Seems like something more appropriate for a box set. Had the track list varied, I’d look more favorably upon Live in ’84. This is a decent album but I recommend it only to die-hards.

Highlights: “Guilty of Love”, “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Slow An’ Easy”, “Crying in the Rain”

Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two [EP Review]

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Skid Row – Rise of the Damnation Army – United World Rebellion: Chapter Two
2014, Megaforce Records
Buy the album

1. We Are the Damned
2. Give It the Gun
3. Catch Your Fall
4. Damnation Army
5. Zero Day
6. Sheer Heart Attack
7. Rats in the Cellar

Band:
Johnny Solinger – Lead Vocals
Dave “Snake” Sabo – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Scotti Hill – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rachel Bolan – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rob Hammersmith – Drums

Skid Row is back with the second installment of their United World Rebellion series of EPs, which I think is meant to be a trilogy. Personally, I think this is a great way for bands to go about releasing music — a steady stream of EPs and then maybe do a double or triple disc compilation later down the line.

Not sure why it took these guys seven years before they released new music but a fire has certainly been lit under them. I never bothered with Thickskin or Revolutions Per Minute because both albums were reviewed by mostly everyone as being poor or mediocre, but the United World Rebellion series shows the band still has a snotty punky attitude and continues to show why they were one of the heaviest of the “hair bands” back in the early 1990s. “We are the Damned” is a true headbanger and the best track on the album. Though I enjoyed the first United World Rebellion, I was caught off guard by how good this track is.

The band wraps up the second chapter by superbly covering a few Queen and Aerosmith classics. If you’re looking for something the band to try to recreate the past with some glossy hair metal, you’re not going to find it on these recent EPs but what you will get is good solid heavy metal and hard rock. If this is the type of music the band continues to release, I don’t have any interest in ever seeing them reunited for a nostalgia run with Sebastian Bach (who I happen to like as a solo artist anyway).

Highlights: “We are the Damned”, “Catch Your Fall”, “Zero Day”, “Sheer Heart Attack”, “Rats in the Cellar”

Winger – Better Days Comin’ [Review]

winger_-_better_day's_comin'Winger – Better Days Comin’
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”
2. “Queen Babylon”
3. “Rat Race”
4. “Better Days Comin'”
5. “Tin Soldier”
6. “Ever Wonder”
7. “So Long China”
8. “Storm in Me”
9. “Be Who You Are Now”
10. “Out of This World”

Band:
Kip Winger – Lead Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards
Reb Beach – Guitar, Backing Vocals
John Roth – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rod Morgenstein – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Cenk Eroglu – Keyboards
Marco Giovino – Percussion
Paula Winger – Vocals

Producer: Kip Winger, Jason Green & Dan Hubp

Better Days Comin’ sounds right at home next to the band’s previous two releases: IV and Karma. I personally always felt IV was a bit too boring, progressive and serious, but Better Days Comin’ seems to capture the “mature” vibe of that album a bit better either musically or lyrically with tracks like “Storm in Me”, “Tin Soldier”, “Be Who You Are Now” and “Rat Race” (which is probably the album’s best rocker). Similar to Karma though, the band is interjects some good old-fashioned fun with sex-charged tracks like “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine” and “Queen Babylon”.

“So Long China” is probably my favorite track and it’s one that has many Winger fans calling for a Kip Winger AOR album. “Out of This World” is another exceptional track and “Ever Wonder” is a classic deep-track Winger ballad. “Better Days Comin'” is pretty interesting. It starts out kinda trippy and Kip reminds me of Chris Cornell, then it breaks down into a funky rocker with the chorus. “Tin Soldier” reminds me a bit of something that Dream Theater might do (with about 8 minutes shaved off).

One particular thing I’ve noticed about this album are the lyrics. I will have to go back and check out the lyrics on their earlier releases again, but some of the words on Better Days Comin’ have really struck a chord with me. “Ever Wonder”, “So Long China”, “Out of this World” especially hit home with me.

This is one of those times where I like realy the album, but I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it so if you’re a Winger fan, go out and buy it or do whatever you have to do to listen to it. You won’t be disappointed.

Highlights: “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”, “Queen Babylon”, “Rat Race”, “Tin Soldier”, “Ever Wonder”, “So Long China”, “Be Who You Are Now”, “Out of This World”

Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell [Review]

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Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. “Hell Inside My Head”
2. “Harmony”
3. “All My Friends Are Dead”
4. “Temptation”
5. “Push Away”
6. “Dominator”
7. “Had Enough”
8. “Gun To A Knife Fight”
9. “Rock N’ Roll Is A Vicious Game”
10. “Taking Back Tomorrow”
11. “Disengaged”
12. “Forget You”

Musicians:
Sebastian Bach – Vocals
Devin Bronson – Guitar
Jeff George – Guitar
Steve Stevens -Guitar
John 5 – Guitar
Duff McKagan – Bass
Bob Marlette – Bass, Piano
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Franky Perez – Harmonica

Producer: Bob Marlette

The most recent outing from Sebastian Bach sees him recruiting a few other well-known musicians to help out. Steve Stevens, John 5 and Duff McKagan (who handled the majority of bass playing duties, I believe) all lend a hand in the recording and writing process of Give ‘Em Hell.

For the most part, this album continues down the path of modern hard rock & heavy metal that Baz has been walking on for quite some time. While Sebastian has publicly said he’d like to do a reunion with the rest of Skid Row, he isn’t spending his days as a solo act trying to recreate the vibe of his old band. Well, Skid Row was always heavier than the rest of the hair metal acts and heaviness is something Bach has retained as a solo artist but he’s not trying to put out new songs that sound like it’s still 1989.

In his mid-40s, Bach shows no sign of slowing down or softening up whether you’re talking about his approach to singing or the content of the songs themselves. Sebastian is a controversial figure at times due to his opinions but you can’t take away that he’s one of the best singers (if not THE best) of his generation. Bach is still going all out on vocals on this album and that’s a testament to his natural born abilities and training as a singer to still be able to do what he does after so many years.

As for the music itself, Give ‘Em Hell finds Sebastian doing exactly that — giving ’em hell. I don’t think this album is as melodic as his last two albums were but this is the most consistently heavy album Bach has done yet (the heaviest solo song he’s ever done would still probably be Angel Down‘s “American Metalhead”). Bobby Jarzombek is still a monster on the drums and the album is full of crunchy riffs.

There are two occasions when this album lets up: the power ballad “Had Enough” and “Rock N’ Roll is a Vicious Game” (an April Wine cover). After Bach’s last two albums delivered exception ballads, I was really looking forward to what, if any, ballads would appear here. Unfortunately, “Had Enough” falls a bit short in comparison to the likes of “I’m Alive”, “By Your Side” and “Falling Into You” but it is still a fine track. The April Wine cover is a song I’m not familiar with and given the style of the rest of the album, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not bad, just odd-sounding given that the rest of the album comes across as pretty modern rock/metal.

I have a big soft spot for Angel Down (that album still holds my favorite Sebastian Bach songs) but in addition to being consistently heavy, Give ‘Em Hell may be Bach’s most consistent album from a quality standpoint.

Highlights: “Hell Inside My Head”, “Temptation”, “Push Away”, “Dominator”, “Had Enough”, “Taking Back Tomorrow”, “Disengaged”, “Forget You”

Loud Lion – Die Tough [Review]

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 Loud Lion – Die Tough
2014, MelodicRock Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Love Will Break Your Heart
2. Lion’s Den
3. Lion Eyes
4. Die Tuff
5. Loud Lion Theme Song
6. Dawn Of The Dead
7. The Hills Have Eyes
8. Sunset Slip
9. None More Fast

Band:
Bleu – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Taylor Locke – Guitar
Adam Ross – Guitar
Allison Robertson – Guitar
John Fields – Bass
Maclaine Diemer – Keyboards, Guitar
Dylan Halacy – Drums

Producer: John Fields & Bleu

Loud Lion (Or is it LoudLion? I’ve seen it spelled both ways by the band and the record label…) is a project put together by indie rock/pop musician & producer Bleu along with some help from members of the Donnas, Rooney and Bang Camaro and a few others. Their goal? To emulate Def Leppard and the “Mutt Lange sound” just as good and as better as any band before them. Loud Lion… Def Leppard… get it? Bleu has another project that plays music in a style similar to Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) called L.E.O.

The band was first put together over 7 years ago. The handful of songs out there before the release of Die Tough were available on the band’s MySpace band years ago along with some appearances on a few movie soundtracks such as The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Balls of Fury. Loud Lion even covered Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” on the Balls of Fury soundtrack.

To my knowledge, “Lion’s Den”, “Lion Eyes”, “Sunset Slip” and “None More Fast” have never been released until now. I’m not sure if they are recent songs or if they came from the same sessions years back that produced much of the rest of the album. As far as I can tell, the rest of the tracks are the very same ones that were released years ago.

I know a Loud Lion album was supposed to happen a very long time ago. Not sure what happened there because it’s been about 7 years since Loud Lion first released some music. Even now in the wake of this album’s release the band’s Facebook & Twitter pages haven’t been updated since 2011.

I still love the previously released material the best but “Lion’s Den” and “Sunset Slip” are cool tracks. As Def Leppard is sometimes more prone to sounding like a ’70s glam rock band these days (C’mon, Joe, that’s what the Down ‘N’ Outz are for!), I am always in a welcoming mood for any group that wants to emulate what Def Leppard did with Mutt Lange in the 1980s. Similar to the KISS-like 1977, many of these tracks are meant to slightly remind you of a few Def Leppard classics. There’s enough of a difference to keep things interesting and for the songs to have their own identity while still invoking those familiar vibes and warm fuzzy feelings that you might get from listening to Def Leppard’s “Rocket” or “Love Bites”.

While much of the material isn’t exactly recent, it’s still great to finally see Loud Lion get an album release. Hopefully people take notice and Bleu will give us some new Loud Lion songs in the future. This is a must have release for fans of Def Leppard. It’s the greatest album Def Leppard never recorded!

Highlights: “Love Will Break Your Heart”, “Lion’s Den”, “Die Tuff”, “Loud Lion Theme Song”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Sunset Slip”

The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years [Album Review]

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The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
2011, Capitol Records
Originally Released: 1988, Capitol Records
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1. “Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper w/ Guns N’ Roses
2. “Bathroom Wall” – Faster Pussycat
3. “Cradle to the Grave” – Motörhead
4. “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” – Armored Saint
5. “Born to Be Wild” – Lizzy Borden
6. “In My Darkest Hour” – Megadeth
7. “Prophecy” – Queensrÿche
8. “The Brave” – Metal Church
9. “Foaming at the Mouth” – Rigor Mortis
10. “Colleen” – Seduce

Any metal-head worth their weight in steel is well aware of this documentary that was released in 1988. It’s a truly fascinating look at life as rocker in the 1980s. For better or worse, warts and all, it absolutely captures a time and a vibe & scene that can never truly be replicated no matter how “retro” a band may act.

As it stands, the soundtrack to The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a solid compilation. Sure, bands like Seduce and Rigor Mortis didn’t stand the test of time but when it comes to the ’80s metal scene, you can’t really argue against the inclusion of bands like Motorhead, Lizzy Borden, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Guns N’ Roses, Metal Church or even Faster Pussycat. It was all metal one way or another.

The documentary itself was actually what turned me on to Megadeth as they performed “In My Darkest Hour” in the film and it certainly made an impression on me.

The lack of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Poison, KISS or W.A.S.P. is a bit odd given how their stature and appearances in the documentary but the soundtrack isn’t meant to be all encompassing. If it was, we’d be putting up with having to listen to the likes of London, Tuff and Odin, too. A few tracks either start or end with audio clips from the film.

We could argue for hours over who truly deserves to be included on a compilation of ’80s metal but this soundtrack is just a taste of what that era had to offer and is meant to tie in most closely with bands featured in the documentary. Keep that in mind and what you’ve got is a good collection of ’80s rock & metal that will fit right in with your retro denim vest.

Highlights: “Under My Wheels”, “Bathroom Wall”, “Born to Be Wild”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Prophecy”

Babylon A.D. – Lost Sessions/Fresno CA 93 [Review]

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Babylon A.D. – Lost Sessions/Fresno, CA 93
2014, Apocalypse Records/Perris Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. Love Blind
2. While America Sleeps
3. Love Is a Mystery
4. Bang Go the Bells

Band:
Derek Davis – Vocals
Ron Freschi – Guitar
Danny De La Rosa – Guitar
Robb Reid – Bass
Jamey Pacheco – Drums

This EP is new release of old songs (even the re-recording of “Bang Go the Bells” is a few years old) but that doesn’t deter from the quality of music. Late bloomers in the ’80s hair metal scene, Babylon A.D. has regrouped yet again for a run of shows throughout 2014 and have given us this glimpse into “what could’ve been” with three unreleased tracks that were recorded in 1993 and a newer version of their signature song “Bang Go the Bells” that was recorded in 2010.

The first three tracks were recorded, presumably, for a third album. Ultimately, a third studio release from the band wouldn’t happen until 2002 with the release of  American Blitzkreig as the band became inactive in the face of the changing musical climate in the early 1990s.

“Love Blind” is a great rocker. It’s a shame this song got scuttled due to the rise of grunge and alternative music. The riff is great. Very catchy song.

“While America Sleeps” is okay but basically filler.

Clocking in at nearly 7 minutes, “Love Is a Mystery” seems like the band’s attempt at writing an epic ballad. Parts of it remind me of Great White but other parts have a dark vibe to it. It’s good.

Finally, we arrived at the 2010 rendition of “Bang Go the Bells”. It’s fine. Derek Davis’ voice may be slightly weaker but at least they didn’t try to reinvent the song and modernize it.

Fans of Babylon A.D. will enjoy this look back at what the band was up to in 1993. The physical CD price of $12+ is a bit ridiculous for four songs but you can score the MP3 album version for under $4.

Highlights: “Love Blind”, “Love Is a Mystery”

KISS – Hot In The Shade [Review]

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KISS – Hot In The Shade
1989, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Rise to It”
2. “Betrayed”
3. “Hide Your Heart”
4. “Prisoner of Love”
5. “Read My Body”
6. “Love’s a Slap in the Face”
7. “Forever”
8. “Silver Spoon”
9. “Cadillac Dreams”
10. “King of Hearts”
11. “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”
12. “You Love Me to Hate You”
13. “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell”
14. “Little Caesar”
15. “Boomerang”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Bass

Additional Musicians:
Tommy Thayer – Guitar (“Betrayed” & “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away”)
Phil Ashley – Keyboards
Kevin Valentine – Drums (“You Love Me to Hate You”)

Producer: Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley

Another very commercial album though not as slick as Crazy Nights, even if it did produce the ballad “Forever” (that Paul Stanley co-wrote with Michael Bolton) which reached #8 on the Billboard charts as a single and the band’s first major radio hit in years.

The main problem with Hot In The Shade is that at 15 songs, it’s just too much and there’s obvious filler like pretty much ever Gene song. “Cadillac Dreams”, “Prisoner of Love”, “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” and “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” could’ve easily been left off but I’m sure Gene wanted equal time to Paul, even if the quality wasn’t there.

“Hide My Heart” was the lead single and was a very minor hit. I actually remember hearing that song on the radio when I was a kid though. It wasn’t until years later when I got into KISS that my mind was blown  after having heard the song again for the first time in nearly 10 years — “That was KISS?!?”

Anyway, this album is underrated despite being a bit bloated. “Rise to It” and “Betrayed” sound like they could’ve come from the Asylum album, “Hide Your Heart” is a pop-metal masterpiece, “Read My Body” is an enjoyable Def Leppard rip-off, “Love’s a Slap in the Face” is the one good Gene song here, “Forever” is one of the greatest hair metal ballads ever and “Silver Spoon” and “King of Hearts” feature Paul in all his pop-metal glory. “King of Hearts” starts off reminding me of “Shocker” from soundtrack for the film of the same name (which Paul also sang on).

Hot In Shade is a fine 1980s glossy slab of hard rock but in the early 1990s, the band would decide to get a bit tougher with their next release.

Highlights: “Rise to It”, “Betrayed”, “Hide Your Heart”, “Read My Body”, “Love’s a Slap in the Face”, “Forever”, “Silver Spoon”,”King of Hearts”

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