Tuesday, September 2nd17.1°C
Under the Lights

In Review

YES - Heaven & Earth (Frontiers Records)
As I wrote in another column: “Heaven & Earth” is as fresh as a Spring morning! This is the latest offering from that veteran ensemble of musical talent that we have been saying “Yes” to for over forty years! What we have here, are eight absolutely stunning pieces of swirling-symphonic musical progressions that will lighten the heaviest of hearts amongst us! A literal and musical masterpiece!  “Heaven & Earth” may just be the album that re-invents “Yes” and introduces them to a whole new generation! Teaming up with legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker, “Yes” have delivered a complete musical statement that retains all the high marks this group have become known for. Yet, they have also breathed new life in their musical creations, finding new nuggets in their quest of musical expression. There is so much creativity within each track, and from each musician, that it truly boggles the mind! In a few words, “Heaven & Earth” is nothing short of beautiful and unique, just nothing quite like this in all of Heaven or on Earth!! Bruce Atkinson (90/100) 


They are back! Tesla are giving us the simple goods! “Simplicity” is all new and it is a no nonsense slice of Hard Rock from this musical force! Yes, guitar dominant still, the Tesla sound is just as hard and just as full of unique signatures as they were from the beginning. Melody? This quintet pulls melody out of the air and lay it all down effortlessly. Listening to “Simplicity” one could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking that this five piece must be brand new Rock Heroes and not the thirty year veterans that Tesla is. That is the energy level you are about to experience. Each and every track is a musical statement in of itself, no matter what Jeff is singing about or what musical emotion is being played out. Dave, Troy, Frank, and Brian just keep giving it and the combination is amazing! Each song builds in to the next, combining to give us one heck of a wild ride! Stand-out tracks? Well, all of them in fact, however a few of my favorites? “Cross My Heart”, MP3”, “Life Is A
River” and “Flip Side”. Tesla: simply enjoy! Bruce Atkinson (91/100)

This veteran Swiss group are about to close another chapter in their long and storied career. Yet, they are also readying for a brand new, exciting chapter to be added! “33 The Best Of” Shakra is a very ambitious release. Yes, this one is thirty-three tracks on two cd’s and contains three brand new heavenly pieces of Hard Rock! Unfortunately, just last month, John Prakesh announced that he was leaving the band-however Thom, Thomas and Roger and Dominik are pushing forward. But, we shouldn’t worry-as “33…” shows us that “Shakra” are not ready to throw in the towel! All stand out tracks, with thirty of them taken from the group’s nine albums… When you come upon the three brand new tracks, don’t be surprised that their next full-length album will hit that magic spot as well! “33 The Best Of” shows off every great piece of Hard Rock this five piece have created. Their attention to melody, dramatic lyrics and constant high energy is overflowing here. There are some rare pieces on
this release as well… So, this scribes advice? Embrace this release… Treasure it, as “33...” is full of gems from this top drawer Hard Rock five piece! Bruce Atkinson (90/100)

RIK PRIEM - Rik Priem’s Prime (Avenue of Allies)
For this young guitarist “Prime” is a very ambitious debut. Helped by musical mate Carsten Schulz of “Frozen Rain”, Rik’s dreams of a guitar-driven musical soundscape has been realised. Bringing in some of Europe’s finest musical craftsmen has also helped. Of course there is Carsten on vocals, Greet Margodt on keyboards, with Ramy Ali providing the pounding rhythms, with Vincent De Laat keeping pace on the bass and all four producing such solid material that Rik can soar from! “Prime” of course is a guitar album, and a guitar lover’s album! Rik’s talents on the fret board is just unbelievable!  Displaying a wide spectrum of style and influences, his skill blossoms, as does each other member of the band. A collection of thirteen tracks that offer up a variety and depth that will astound. Upon one listen it is hard to believe that this is Rik’s debut. Rik Priem is a rising star and “Prime” is his rocket, the line-up on this record are set to bring these tasteful explorations of sonic brilliance to the stage… So get ready for a rocket ride this Summer!! Bruce Atkinson (89/100)

Under The Lights

Upcoming Club/Concert Highlights:

The Blue Gator:   Zamboni Brothers:  Aug. 21st & 22nd 23rd  & Aug. 29th                                                           
Crosstown Bus:  Aug. 29th  & Aug. 30th 

Barking Parrot (Penticton):  Paul Gibbons:   Aug 29th  
Checkers Bar & Grill (Vernon):  The Keys:  Aug. 29th & Aug. 30th 
Doc Willoughby’s Downtown Pub:   Frankie McQueen:  Aug. 30th The Fangles:  Sept. 5th 
O'Flannigan's Pub:   (Live Music every Tuesday with Riaz and Friends)   Rockaholicks:   Aug 29th/30th     
Papa Wheely:  Sept. 5th & Sept. 6th 

Notable Concerts:    

Prospera  Place:    Alan Jackson  Sept. 25th   Sarah McLachlan:   Oct. 24th   
Kelowna Community Theatre:  Gordon Lightfoot:   Oct. 28th  
South Okanagan Events Centre:  John Fogerty:  November 27th  
Minstrel Café:  Maria Muldaur:  September 11th 


...if you have a musical story or news and would like me to write something… drop me a line at:  [email protected]  and let’s celebrate Kelowna’s rich and varied music community together!!.....


Shorts & Sides

As Summer wanes…here are some interesting notes:         

Although Dan McCafferty has retired from live performances, he hasn’t given up singing.  The latest recorded Work from Nazareth is testament to that!  “Rock N’ Roll Telephone” sees Dan up there with his best offerings.  The album is very muscular, and harkens back to another era of Nazareth.  These may be Mr. McCafferty’s swan songs—but what a song it is!!

The lead guitarist of Germany’s premiere Hard-rock outfit “Soul Doctor” has teamed up with the distinct Vocalist Keith Slack of “Steelhouse Lane” to bring us “Mother Road”.  This band is steeped in the late seventies hard rock sound, and delivers each performance with enough energy to power a small sized city.  If you happen across this release; “Mother Road” ‘Drive’…don’t hesitate to pick it up—you won’t be disappointed.

Officially, the “London Quireboys”—now simply “The Quireboys” are thirty years revitalised.  The group are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary with the release of “Black Eyed Sons”, and it is a rocker!  Seek out the deluxe package, as it contains two live performances—with one on DVD, and see for yourself why this group are considered to be the ‘unsung heroes’ of the UK!

Reaching in to hearts of music critics worldwide is the latest release from “Uriah Heep”!  Amazing that after all these years, and many line-up changes—this group is still cutting edge!  “Outsider” is the group’s latest and each composition goes from strength to strength.  With this record we are back to 1973, and that’s a good thing!



Under The Lights

Upcoming Club/Concert Highlights:

The Blue Gator:   Zamboni Brothers:  Aug. 21st & 22nd 23rd  & Aug. 29th                                                           Crosstown Bus:  Aug. 29th  & Aug. 30th

Barking Parrot (Penticton):  Steve Jones & the Patio Bandits:   Aug 22nd (5:30pm)    Paul Gibbons:   Aug 29th  

Checkers Bar & Grill (Vernon):  The Keys:  Aug. 29th & Aug. 30th

Doc Willoughby’s Downtown Pub:   Frankie McQueen:  Aug. 30th The Fangles:  Sept. 5th

O'Flannigan's Pub:   (Live Music every Tuesday with Riaz and Friends)   Radio Lifeline:  Aug. 22nd/Aug. 23rd    Rockaholicks:   Aug 29th/30th     Papa Wheely:  Sept. 5th & Sept. 6th

Prospera  Place:    Alan Jackson  Sept. 25th   Sarah McLachlan:   Oct. 24th   

Kelowna Community Theatre:  Gordon Lightfoot:   Oct. 28th 

South Okanagan Events Centre:  John Fogerty:  November 27th 

Minstrel Café:  Maria Muldaur:  September 11th

                 …if you have a musical story or news and would like me to write something… drop me a line at:  [email protected]  and let’s celebrate Kelowna’s rich and varied music community together!!.....

California Dreamin'

From out of the Pacific Northwest, a young guitarist had dreams of California, going there—looking for like minded musicians and making a record.  Now what’s wrong with that? Nothing!  Only it usually doesn’t happen that way…however for one Jeremy Brunner it did!  The founder of “X-Drive”, not only did Jeremy meet with success, he snatched a world-wide record deal to boot!  Here is the first part of his story…

Question: Let us begin with a question for Jeremy, being the founder of X-Drive, take us through your journey to this point, a worldwide deal with one of the finest labels in the land…

Answer: I originally started on piano, after hearing “Jump” for the first time. This really influenced me, and led me to start practicing on a borrowed guitar from a guy at a local radio station.  Fast forward a bit, and those beginnings were reflected in the X-Drive project. There were about 40 songs that I had written in various stages of development, but there were an early batch of 10 or so that I was determined to share. I'm honored to be working with Frontiers and surrounded by their alumni.

Q: Now, we have seasoned musicians surround you on this project.  How did you meet up with

James and Keith?

A: I think it was initially a phone call with Keith and then from there we started emailing each other, and sending tracks back and forth. I was referred to Keith by a journalist I had worked with in the past. I had auditioned quite a few other singers by that time, but none of them seemed to fit. After Keith sent me one song, I knew immediately he was the right voice for my music. I met James when he and Keith were playing in Lynch Mob and we needed a bass player for the studio. I was definitely a fan of some of his past work, especially White Lion.

Q: Bringing in Fred Fischer on drums, seems to be the icing on the cake, with “Get Your Rock On” being such a high energy record…

A: I've known Fred for a long time. He was in more than one local band, and I knew from the first time I saw him play that he was the drummer I wanted to use. He does bring energy, and I really admire his drumming skills and stage presence.

Q: I know that you have spent a lot of time in preparing and recording your debut…please take us through the steps.

A: I was working with some musicians who had been flying to Oregon from Los Angeles... and after a while, it seemed a better idea for me to be in L.A. At times, it was trying because there were different ideas that were attempted with different musicians, engineers, producers and studios, but it did take a while to find people that were able to understand the vision that I had for the record. Sometimes that took sticking to my guns, and ultimately, it came pretty close to what I was shooting for.

Q: Jeremy, you were able to work with another legend on this record, Andy Johns!  Tragically this was one of Andy’s last works, as we know he passed last year. Working with Andy must have been a lifetime experience…

A: It was. I spent a lot of time with him, and not just in the studio. In the time he was working on the project, he and I would talk for hours about his past work, and the legendary musicians that he worked with.  Stories of working with rock icons abounded. It really was an honor working with him. As a total unknown, I was so impressed at how gracious he was to me and how much deference and respect he gave.  He was a very genuine guy. I'll miss not being able to work with him again.  He really cared about the music.

Q: Realizing that “X-Drive” is a brand new band, are you planning to hit the road? If so, when and where?

A: All I can do right now is see where this goes. If X-Drive develops a wide enough fan base, who knows? I don't know what the future holds for touring,  as some of the musicians are already doing that with other bands right now.

Q: “Get Your Rock On” is an outstanding debut! I would imagine that with your worldwide deal with Frontiers, you have surpassed expectations with this first effort…

A: Thanks. I've been impressed with their achievements, and it was great dealing with them. They were very encouraging when Keith and I met with the label. It was not lost on me that I was new to the industry, and this was a big deal. They believed in my music, and I will always be thankful to everyone at Frontiers, especially Serafino and Mario for the opportunity


X-DRIVE - Get Your Rock On (Frontiers Records)                                   

His voice is unmistakable Keith St. John: ex-Montrose, fronts this brand new Los Angeles based quartet. His guitar stylings are precise, tasteful and rhythmic founding member of “X-Drive”, Jeremy Brunner, hailing from the Pacific Northwest… Jeremy put this group together with the afore mentioned St. John, and James Lomenzo on Bass and Drummer Fred Fischer. As testament to his far-reaching Talents, Jeremy was successful in signing a world-wide deal with Frontiers and “Get Your Rock On” is their debut. Twelve slices of no nonsense guitar driven rock, each number living all so well on the world’s stages! A tight, rhythmic group “X-Drive” takes us from one musical high to another. The record sounds “live” off the floor, I would imagine that there are many songs that are the result of only one or two takes! And all are Radio friendly and not in a forced way just natural driven rockers! As mentioned, Keith St. John’s voice is unmistakable and so strong. A great counterpoint to the

guitar explorations of Mr. Brunner! Couple this with the tight rhythmic playing of Fred and James, and we hear a fluid, pulsating and driven undertow that pushes each and every number! Overall, “Get Your Rock On” is a grand debut, and one that should musically fill the Summer air the world over! Bruce Atkinson (91/100)

Under The Lights

Upcoming Club/Concert Highlights:

The Blue Gator:   Rann Berry:  August 15th/16th     Zamboni Brothers:  Aug. 21st & 22nd 23rd    

Barking Parrot (Penticton):  Steve Jones & the Patio Bandits:   Aug 22nd (5:30pm)    Paul Gibbons:   Aug 29th  

Checkers Bar & Grill (Vernon):  Wheelhouse:  August 15th & 16th  

O'Flannigan's Pub:   (Live Music every Tuesday with Riaz and Friends)  Radio Lifeline:  Aug. 22nd/Aug. 23rd   Rockaholicks:   Aug 29th/30th    

Notable Concerts:    


Prospera  Place:    Sarah McLachlan:   Oct. 24th   

Kelowna Community Theatre:  Gordon Lightfoot:   Oct. 28th 

South Okanagan Events Centre:  John Fogerty:  November 27th 


                 …if you have a musical story or news and would like me to write something… drop me a line at:  [email protected]  and let’s celebrate Kelowna’s rich and varied music community together!!.....



The Hammer Will Fall Again

After a much deserved rest, the long standing Rock Veterans-“Hammerfall” are about to return to the world stage, completely energised and armed with a brand new set of songs!  I caught up with their drummer in July, and here is what Anders had to say!...

Bruce: Hammerfall is known for many things, fantastic, hard hitting music, no strangers to hard work and of course, a love for touring. As you and your band mates have journeyed, you have experienced some many highs and lows. And for the most part, these have strengthened the band. If you look through the years, what impact have all of these experiences had on the music directly?

Anders: Thank you! Well, sometimes the lows does more harm than good. But this separates the weak from the tough. The men from the mice. If you manage to go through it, it strengthens you. Like when you break a bone, they say it's stronger in the broken healed place (I heard lately this is a myth, but you know what I mean:)) The lows in Hammerfall's case made us believe in the true sound and stopped experimenting any longer. Back to the roots! Why fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed in the first place? Done and over with it. It happens to many bands though. You try to broaden your horizons after a while. It's natural, but stupid if you have something good going. But now back to basics!

Q: You are coming off of a much deserved break, over a year I believe and pointing to the new album, it seems that this break was just what the doctor ordered!

A: Two years even. Yes, it made everyone realize where the band comes from and what we should do.

Q: "(r)Evolution" seems to embrace some of your early creations, when writing this album, were you looking back to your roots?

A: Yes, absolutely! We tried to make a record that would be like a follow up to “Legacy of Kings”. Yet a bit modern somehow.

Q: I would imagine that after taking such a lengthy break, all of you were more than ready to get going. When did you actually start to record the new album?

A: The drums in February this year. But the songwriting started before that. So the break was really not really a break:-) People were busy creating.

Q: What if anything were you hoping to recapture from previous years in terms of sound, and methodology of recording?

A: Everything:-)

Q: So in keeping with the above question, what have you done that was similar to what has been done previous, and what have you done that would be different?

A: We used the producer from the two first records: Fredrik Nordström. That was a huge reason the album sounded like the first ones. His personality is a bit more"Swedish" than the others we had. We had hard working Germans before and they were great in all ways. Except one. They have a tendency to follow the leader (it is a common problem in Germany...and a strength as well. Depending how you look at it. In this case they buttered up to Oscar (founder and band leader). Just because they wanted to keep their job, I think. So there was a lot of one way communication going on. I don't think any of them, Oscar or the producers, realized themselves, but I personally think it harmed the end result slightly. It became too perfect somehow. Now with Nordström he was not sucking up to the leader so much. He spoke his mind and insisted on a lot of things. It's better for creativity. And his mix was more natural and powerful I think. Not so processed. Well, it's all what you prefer I guess, but I like when it sounds like a band playing.

Q: Now, upon listening to the new record, we can hear a renewed passion in Hammerfall, not that you have lost any, but knowing how hard you guys work, and how long the group has been together. How to you keep coming up with such passionate music?

A: People are passionate in their own ways. There are a lot of hidden aggression within the band members. And some open ones too:-) Not towards each other (so much:- )) but in general. It creates some tension in the music. Good ones! Metal should be aggressive!

Q: Speaking of hard work, you-as a band- are unbelievable Road Warriors!  You have logged more miles than most, consistently touring all across the globe.  How to you maintain that energy level? 

A: It's not that hard really. We travel comfortably and have a great crew. We just play a few hours a night. Again, it might be the hidden aggressions within peoples heads that make it possible to keep going.:-)

  Q: Obviously, we can expect another fantastic stage show in the months to come. Can you give us a sneak peek in what we can expect from the new Hammerfall show?

A: A huge drum kit with 21 drums and 20 cymbals. And some other stage things.... the others don't want me to tell you more:-)

Q: When do you start the tour?

A: Festivals like Wacken now in July. Then the 15:th of January in Germany. We might play South America before that but it's not yet confirmed when.

Q: With all that we have talked about, the longevity of the group, the amount of energy it takes to keep going and such. You must have a dedicated crew and organisation that continues to support you, not least-your record label.  Nuclear Blast has been a partner in your journey for how long now?

A: Nuclear blast is one of two big reasons we are where we are. They are like a sixth member. They believed in the band from the beginning and make a lot of smart decisions as well as a lot of hard work. The other reason is our booking Company, All Access, that early on spent countless late night hours promoting the band, creating stage sets as well as cominmg up with good strategic moves.

   Q: Again, I would imagine that having a label that has that amount of faith in you as musicians' actually enhances your creative atmosphere in both recording and touring.

A: Yes, it's is great to have a label with dedicated workers that love what they do. You should know, I assume! Frontiers also have a great reputation for exactly this kind of behaviour:-)

Bruce: As we wrap-up, thank-you so much Anders for taking the time to answer these questions. And after a well deserved rest, it is very good to have you and your mates back. A great new release and looking forward to the new tour.

Anders: Thank you!


HAMMERFALL - (r)Evolution (Nuclear Blast)

After a two year break, these heavy metal Swedes have returned with a vengeance! “r-Evolution” marks Hammerfall’s ninth studio album, and it is a scorcher! This record belies their years in the music industry, there is so much energy coming off these grooves, that you may need a seat-belt when listening! Rock-hard and intense, this collection of brand new expressions registers in the upper echelons of Rock-Metal. As we have come to expect, any Hammerfall song is complete with poignant messages, and “r-Evolution” is no exception! Hard-hitting, both musically and lyrically Hammerfall delivers. As we journey through this new creation, we are met with a familiar face right at the start; “Hector’s Hymn” sets the pace. We continue with such rockers as the title track, “Live Life Loud”, “Winter Is Coming” and much more. The signature sound of Hammerfall is still there, but the intensity is akin to their very first couple of albums! Seems the two-year rest was just what these musicians needed. Polished and re-forged, the group is offering up a total of eleven slices of melodic, molten metal that will keep you looking for more! Extraordinary talented musicians creating an extraordinary Recorded Work! Prepare yourself for a re-vitalised Hammerfall and take the next step in “r-Evolution”!! Bruce Atkinson (90/100)

Under The Lights

Upcoming Club/Concert Highlights:

The Blue Gator:    Zamboni Brothers:  August 7th   Jimmy LeGuilloux Band:   August 8th/9th  Rann Berry:  August 15th/16th      

Barking Parrot (Penticton):  Steve Jones & the Patio Bandits:   Aug 22nd (5:30pm)    Paul Gibbons:   Aug 29th  

Doc Willoughby's:    August 2nd    The Mean Threes:  August 8th      

O'Flannigan's Pub:   (Live Music every Tuesday with Riaz and Friends)    The Young 'Uns:   August 8th     Radio Lifeline:  Aug. 22nd/Aug. 23rd  Rockaholicks:   Aug 29th/30th    

Notable Concerts:    

South Okanagan Events Centre (Penticton):   Alice In Chains:  August 8th   

Prospera  Place:    Sarah McLachlan:   Oct. 24th   

Kelowna Community Theatre:  Gordon Lightfoot:   Oct. 28th 

South Okanagan Events Centre:  John Fogerty:  November 27th 


                 …if you have a musical story or news and would like me to write something… drop me a line at:  [email protected]  and let’s celebrate Kelowna’s rich and varied music community together!!.....

Read more Under the Lights articles

About the Author

We call him the Professor of Rock: With a career in music, television and media arts spanning 30 years, Atkinson knows music. He's traveled as a professional musician and he loves Rock 'N Roll. He is a music journalist who writes internationally for Frontier Records' Melodic Rock magazine and he owns FBA International a multifaceted management, consulting, promotional entity.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories

RSS this page.
(Click for RSS instructions.)