Friday, 19 May 2017

Rock Goddess 'It's More Than Rock And Roll' EP Out Now!

34 years after their debut self titled album, the original line up of the NWOBHM band are back with a vengeance, giving us a taster of what's to come with a 3 track EP.

With Classic Rock's Malcolm Dome describing the three track EP as "A complete affirmation that they (Rock Goddess) are fully relevant to the hard rock scene in 2017”, fans won't be disappointed when they get their hands on a copy of the new material, due for release today.

Since their reformation a few years ago, sisters Jody and Julie Turner along with fellow original member Tracey Lamb have been gigging across the UK and Europe. Although they've mainly played material from their classic self-titled 1983 album and follow up, Hell Hath No Fury, we've heard the odd new song make an appearance during live performances since 2015, giving fans a glimmer of hope for an imminent release of a new record. As always, all good things come to those who wait. And now it's here!

The EP, entitled It's More Than Rock And Roll, has already seen the track, 'Back Off', given the live treatment, feeding the hunger of Rock Goddess gig attendees for new music. The rough and tough heavy metal with the distinctive vocals of Jody left fans in awe with an appetite for more.

The title track is a perfect opener to this long awaited release, encapsulating what music means to them and us. The first sign of those familiar vocal harmonies is bound to make listeners go weak at the knees.  'We're All Metal' is a fun track with a chorus that nods to the old school in style and feel.

Jody Turner and Tracey Lamb tell us about the musical process and how it feels for new Rock Goddess music to be out:

Born Again: Jody, you were adamant that it would be the original line-up of Rock Goddess to reform in 2013 and record again. How has it been for you, working together after the years apart?

Jody: Well we reformed quite a long time ago now, seems like we have never been apart! It was a very moving experience when we first got together. We played our first notes together as kids, that's pretty special, and that's the glue that holds us together, bonds that strong are unbreakable.

Tracey: When we first got together and rehearsed it felt weird but wonderful.
Now it feels like we've had no time apart. I feel we have the same energy, power and chemistry that we had back when we started.

Born Again: The new Rock Goddess EP is due for release later this month. What kind of feelings are running through your head, now that new music is finally going out there to the fans?

Tracey: I feel both delighted and very excited. It's been 4 years since our reformation and over 30 since we released any product. It feels more exciting this time around. Our supporters have been so patient.

Jody: A lot of feelings but excitement and anticipation are the main two. Little bit of trepidation as well, hoping people like it. That's always scary.

Born Again: Could you give us a brief outline of what was involved in the recording process? As in, where, when, with whom and for how long?

Jody: We recorded in Alaska Studios in London with engineer Santiago Morales and finished recording 2nd week in March. I produced the 3 tracks and then it was mixed and mastered by Wes Maebe after that. It was a cool process, there was a lot of excitement in the studio as the tracks developed. When we wrapped we celebrated with quite a lot of fizz!

Born Again: You've played various festivals, introducing newer tracks in your setlist. What has the general response been from your fans?

Jody: They are amazing. They are so supportive and encouraging. We love them all so much, they’re very special.

Tracey: The response has been overwhelming. We always observe what songs go down better than others. The crowd have always responded with excitement to new and old songs.

Born Again: Now that the Ep is available, naturally people will want to know when we can hear a full length album from Rock Goddess?

Jody: As you can imagine its been pretty hectic recently, but now we are planning the album, so watch this space ....

Order a CD copy of It's More Than Rock And Roll at:

Also available for download via Itunes

Make sure you get a ticket to the Rock Goddess EP show at the Borderline on June 23rd

Writer: M Godding

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Interview & Review: Ashbury at Keep It True Festival XX

Louise of Born Again meets with Rob Davis of Ashbury at Keep It True XX to talk about the best fans in the world, their place in the heavy metal scene and everything we can expect from Ashbury in the coming years, including info on their upcoming album. 

Louise Dornan: Well, welcome back. 
Rob Davis: Thank you very much, it's great to be back here at Keep it True for the 20th anniversary.
Louise: How is it to return after your last show?
Rob: Even more exciting than the first time. It seems that we're meeting more old friends than before, and the welcome is even warmer this time. We've had so many more vinyl re-issues that now I got more things to sign, which makes it more fun.
Louise: You've had a lot in-between! How does it feel to be so embraced by the European heavy metal scene? Is it overwhelming?
Rob: It's always overwhelming and in some ways, it's still a little bit of an enigma, because we are not a metal band. I feel like the hybrid cousin of the metal community because we are not a metal band, yet we are welcomed, embraced and treated like we are just one of the family. So, it's really wonderful.
Louise: What was it that made you realise that there was a surge in popularity for Ashbury and Endless Skies?
RobIt all started about 20 years ago, when record collectors started contacting my brother and I and wanting to know if they could get a hold of large amounts of the original 1983 vinyl. And when someone wants 100 copies, you know they are not keeping that for themselves. So, we asked “What are you doing with all of these?” and he goes “You've got quite a cult following in Europe”.
Louise: Was it one particular person or were there quite a few?
RobIt started out as one particular person, he was a collector in San Diego (California). He was the first one that contacted us and wanted to buy large amounts and we sold him a box of 50. Ten days later he called up and he wanted another one.
Louise: What year was that?
Rob: It was 1997
Louise: And it all spiralled from there?
Rob: Yes, to expand a little bit Louise, we never signed. Our objective in '83 with the album was to sign with a major label. Because there was no Internet, it was very hard to self promote and just from our own personal decisions we had no interest in signing with a small or moderate label. We weren't interested in that, we wanted a big label, and the big labels wanted to change us into something else. They didn't want what we had done with Endless Skies, they wanted to exploit our song writing and vocal harmonies to a real commercial sort of romantic love song type of duo. So, we never signed with anyone. We've never signed with a label.
Louise: But now you've made it here!
RobIt's all happened without doing that, it's happened just from the fans keeping the music alive, which makes the fans seem so much more important to us and so much more personal.
Louise: You seem to play regularly at home. How do those shows compare to these?
Rob: Well, what we do at home also besides playing as the full band Ashbury, my brother and I do what I call our musical day job, where we play a two piece show, just acoustic guitar and it's a lot of throwback covers. We play in restaurants and bars and get paid well so we can stay as musicians. By doing that, I don't have to go on the road at my age and much as I would like to, because if you do the math we did Endless Skies in '83 which is 34 years ago. It's easy to tell that I'm not young enough where I want to stay on the road for six months at a time.
Louise: That was actually my next question, have you ever had any thoughts about a headline US or European tour?
Rob: Yes, and it's still a possibility as long as my health holds up. Right now, we're concentrating on a new album, but we would definitely love to do something like that and play for more fans. Honestly, I can tell you right now, we have a lot of requests from several countries in Europe; Spain, Switzerland, Italy, some of the places that we haven't been yet, to come there and put together a whole tour. Right now, I'm looking for somebody who knows a bit more about it, I'm not a good band manager and yet it falls to me to do that. That's not one of my strong points, so to do something like that I'd have to hook up with somebody. Right now, Oliver Weinsheimer of Keep It True, just as a personal favour and because he's a fan of the band, has stepped in and helped us do some things and helping out with things like that. We have so many people treating us so nice, so many people reaching out to help; it's overwhelming, it's heart-warming and I almost get choked up trying to talk about it, because people are so good to us. We get treated as good as anyone can be treated.
We're welcomed with open arms at this festival. Bands that we've played with like Jag Panzer and Exciter and such, the fans, you can see them, are just rocking out. You can see the energy pouring out of them. And with us they come up to and go “You're the only band that's made me cry”. So, they're hard rocking, and with us they're standing there, singing and crying tears. It's a whole different thing, see, we're on the other side of the spectrum.
Louise: Has coming into the European heavy metal scene made you see your music in a different way?
RobIt's just made us feel very much more fortunate. It hasn't made us think that we need to be more like a metal band, because then we are not being true to ourselves or our writing. We stick with what we've always done; we write music from the heart and the soul. We leave the kick-butt metal to those that are already doing it. We'll stay on the road that we do and not try to become something that we're not. It seems to work right now, it's what the fans want.
Louise: Is it strange to be part of the heavy metal scene even though you're not a heavy metal band?
Rob: It's wonderful because it's the best fans in the world. We had a show in Tuscon (Arizona) one time; we had the metal fans come in from California, and they are up at the front of the stage you know. They're looking back at the people sitting down at the tables and having the waitresses bringing them drinks, saying, “What's wrong with you people? You're just sitting there!”. They're just not people who listen to metal, they like rock music, but they're not into the metal actions, so there is that contrast. But we love the metal fans the most. There's nothing like it, nothing like the energy they give you, the love they give you. There's just nothing like it. It is the best, to be included in that is a privilege, it's an honour. It fills us with humility and pride.
Louise: Who do you listen to the most and has it changed over the years or stayed pretty steady?
Rob: I listen to a lot more of the bands that we've played with; I just met the guitarist from Medieval Steel and told him “Hey, I've been listening to you guys on Spotify”. So there might have been some bands that would have just gone past me. Other than that, I still listen to a lot of classic rock. Jethro Tull has always been a big influence. I was listening to Black Sabbath when I was 17 years old and that was a huge influence, not that I could ever sound anything like them, but their music just moved me, it captured me. And, some of the bands that I call the Godfathers of metal; I even think Jethro Tull was a godfather of metal. Also, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, I still listen to all of that, all the classic rock. It's so easy for me to find new music as well now, the Internet makes it so easy to discover new bands and new-old bands.
Louise: So, you're writing some new music now, does it feel any different to writing music in the early 00s and the 80s?
RobNot really, but we have listened to the fans, they want something more like Endless Skies, and that's a big request. We can't re-create it, that can't be done, you can only record one album one time. But, at the same time we have tried to re-capture the feel of what the fans want and with staying true to our own music, our own writing style. We think that we are going to present much more of an album comparable to Endless Skies.
Louise: Is there any release date in mind?
Rob: We're planning on a late summer/early fall release. The album is completely written, completely arranged and it's going to be called Ashbury-Through the Eye of the Stygian Witches. It will have a song called 'Eye of the Stygian Witches', some of the other titles are 'Faceless Waters', 'Good Guitar', 'Celtic Cross', 'Out Of The Blue' and 'End Of All Time'.
M Godding:  Just touching on that, will there be instrumentals in between songs as done previously?
Rob: I think we only have one planned for this album. Randy (Davis) has written a song that we are keeping completely acoustic, with vocals. To me, it's by far the best melody he has ever written. He's also written one which we are going to debut here at Keep It True; 'Faceless Waters'. It is the closest thing, we weren't trying to do anything out of our style, but it's got a little bit of a Robin Trower blues to it and at the end it's the closest thing to heavy metal that we've ever done. That's the best way I can describe it. I hope you don't hear it and think “What? They didn't live up to that!” (laughs). We got the title from travelling over to Keep It True last time when we were flying over, at about 500 miles off the coast of Ireland, just looking down it came to Randy “I'm looking at the faceless waters and there's nothing looking back at me”.
The song 'Good Guitar', I actually wrote that, and not specifically about Randy although it may sound like it. It's just “he's a natural-born rock n roll star, he plays a good guitar”, and it's just a simple straight forward rocker. But, it's not specifically written about my brother being a guitar player, it's just written about every guy that picks up that guitar. He was the inspiration, just the way I see him through my eyes, playing guitar he's always made it look so effortless. I've tried and it's not easy. I watch so many great guitar players and they just make it look so simple, they can move you with that instrument.
Louise: Finally, do you prefer either of the two albums that you have released or are they both something special to you?
RobThey are both special, but I have to be completely honest, Endless Skies is like having your first-born. I wrote most of it, as a song writer I sat there my acoustic guitar and I write these songs in a simplistic form. Just the basic, raw, here it is, nothing but me playing the guitar, transferring the melody to Randy and the lyrics. He takes that simplistic thing I wrote and makes the full arrangement, drums, bass, guitars, dual guitars, whatever it ends up being arranged to, he puts that all into this little thing that I hand him. So, Endless Skies was written that way. Since it was the first, and it's still so embraced by the fans, I have to say that's probably always going to be my favourite.
Louise: It must be quite incredible to see something that you've created made into something else.

Rob: It is incredible. And even more incredible is, people sometimes say “what is the best part of all of this?”, the best part is when you get on stage and there's 300 or 3000 people or whatever, singing the lyrics of your songs with you, that for me is as good as it gets. That means that I did something that means something to someone, and it's going to last. That's priceless, that's something that you can wish for. You can't buy it, you can't make it happen, it has to happen naturally. That's the best part. Just knowing that I wrote something, like, last night at the pre-party, somebody came up and his words were “You changed my life, Endless Skies changed my life”. I don't know how to react or answer things like that, other than it makes your heart feel so good because you know whatever they are saying, or whatever they mean by that is a good thing, it's not a bad thing. 99 % of me doesn't believe I deserve it, but being part of that is really special.

Interview: Louise Dornan

Asbury review: Keep It True Festival (20th Anniversary)
Two years after their first appearance at the prestigious 'Keep It True' festival, Ashbury have been invited back to grace classic rock and heavy metal fans with their presence once again.

It was back in 2008 when I first heard Endless Skies. I remember the album really making an impression on me and I desperately tried to find the a vinyl copy, with no success. Luckily it's the days of the Internet so I was able to listen to the album online as much as I wanted.

Circumstances over the years meant that I was unable to catch any of Ashbury's previous European dates, so I resolved that I wasn't going to miss them again this year.

It's been a full on weekend so far in Lauda-Kรถnigshofen, but as soon as the crowd for Leather Leone begins to disperse, I'm darting through it to secure a spot at the front barrier as I don't want to miss anything. This was good thinking on my behalf because no sooner do I get a good position, than the influx of Ashbury fans arrive behind me.

Ashbury was formed in 1980, and Rob and Randy Davis have remained active as musicians over the years, regularly playing acoustic shows as Davis Brothers Ashbury. But it was their 1983 debut album, Endless Skies, that gave them a platform to reach a wider audience, first released on vinyl and then on CD, all achieved without having been signed by a label. Luckily for us fans, long gone are the days when you had to keep an eye out and fork out over £100 (British pounds) for an original vinyl copy; High Roller Records re-released a couple of (now sold out) batches of this record, with a 3rd pressing due out in July this year.

Humble as anything Rob and Randy walk out onto the stage grinning from ear to ear. Joining them are John Bujak (third guitar), Joey Moreno (bass) and John Gimmler (drums). The crowd is ecstatic for this much loved gem of a band, and this is evident as soon as the familiar intro to the 'The Warning' sounds through the hall. Everybody is singing along with Rob, and I myself am in a surreal daze, witnessing effortless guitar playing; all three guitars are in perfect timing with each other, with Randy nailing each and every intricate melody.

Ashbury come as a much needed break during the day from the hard and high energy sounds of heavy metal; a moment to bask in epic hard rock tinged with folk and progressive influences. John Bujak slots right in with the band, having moments to allow his own playing to shine whilst being respectful to the original songwriters Rob and Randy. All three guitarists are backed by a strong rhythm section.

'Take Your Love Away' follows before the soothing acoustic and soft electric intro to 'Hard Fight' delicately resonates around us with Randy singing, backed by the crowd. The brothers have a special partnership bonded by a passion for creativity and a love for music.

We are treated to more of our favourites from Endless Skies, including 'Mystery Man', 'Madman' and the title track 'Endless Skies'. All astonishingly well constructed songs with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars and vocal harmonies. In fact, I have no qualms saying that the whole album is magnificent, there is nothing you can fault. The album comes alive.

Ashbury's 2004 release Something Funny Going On is not neglected during the set with the upbeat 'The Cold Light Of Day', an album that was released 21 years later, collecting together material that was written during that time.

The crowd waits in anticipation as Rob announces that they have been working on new Ashbury material set for release in the late summer/ early fall. Titled Eye Of The Stygian Witches, they debut the track 'Good Guitar'. During Born Again's interview with Rob the previous day, I remember that he described it as a “Straight-forward rocker”. Any doubts that they could match their previous material vanishes immediately, and Rob was right, it is a classic rocker with that very distinctive Ashbury edge. They follow this immediately with 'Faceless Waters', and we are left in total awe at their ability to effortlessly create such excellent songs.

'Vengeance' ends the set, rivalling the heaviness of any of the 'heavy metal' bands on the bill.  It's been a sobering moment during the day, to be able to witness such a special band which has transcended musical genres.

Stay up-to-date with Ashbury news here, and for those who haven't heard their discography, please please do have a listen, you wont regret it!

Score: 5/5

Review: M Godding
Photography: Christophe Vernimmen

Monday, 15 May 2017

Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson join Paul Rodgers on stage in Oxford for incredible surprise performance.

Free fans enjoying the 'Songs of Yesterday' in Oxford with Paul Rodgers were treated to an incredible surprise in the form of two very special guests. As the band returned for their first of two encores, Rodgers casually announced that there would be two surprise appearances. With no further ado, none other than Led Zepellin’s Robert Plant and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson appeared on stage.
The trio immediately launched into a version of the frequently covered 'Money (That’s What I Want)'originally recorded in 1959 by Barrett Strong and chosen for tonight by Plant.
Despite signing off duties with AC/DC due to hearing issues, this small and relatively quiet theatre show posed no problem to Johnson as he belted out his distinctive vocals. The three took turns on lead vocal duties with each adding their own legendary influence to the blues/soul number. Plant delighted fans with a fantastic vocal and harmonica performance.
Everyone on stage seemed to be loving the moment with plenty of smiles and camaraderie. By the time the crowd had managed to process that this momentous event was actually happening, it was all over and Plant and Johnson left the stage to massive applause.
We can’t wait to see what the London date of the Free Spirit Tour has in store!
Writer: Louise Dornan
Photo: Louise Dornan

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Live Review: Uli Jon Roth at The Camden Underworld

Walking down the steps of The Camden Underworld, I think back to the last time I saw ex-Scorpions' guitar god Uli Jon Roth play at the now deceased Purple Turtle in Camden- there couldn't have been more than 20 people there! This time around, I am anxious to see whether or not Uli Jon Roth would receive the turn out he deserves, especially what with playing a very esteemed but cozy venue and treating his fans to a set list including songs from the brilliant Tokyo Tapes Revisited. 

As I enter, I am happy to see that a sea of London music fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Uli and for what I am expecting to be one of the best performances of 2017. 

My first position is stood in front of a man and his tripod and so I move a little closer, next to the annoyingly placed pillar and in good sight of both Uli and his band, made up of a keyboardist, drummer, bassist and 2 additional guitarist- all who seem to fit the bill perfectly. 

As Uli enters, he is greeted by a lively and excitable applause to which he looks very pleased. Uli has a natural mystifying aura which seems to warm the room up rapidly, as he somehow creates both an upbeat and solemn atmosphere, all at the same time. As his guitarist strikes the first chord to the opening track 'All Night Long', Uli shortly joins in with his distinctive lead guitar and the crowd are already bouncing along enthusiastically as guitarist and vocalist Niklas Turnman does a fantastic job on vocals. He shows off his own natural style but also with a slight touch of Scorpions' vocalist Klaus Meine in there too, to keep things familiar.

After a melodically beautiful (and very loud!) execution of 'Longing For Fire' from Scorpions' 1975 album In Trance, Uli informs us that he is about to welcome a very special guest on stage. Although a friend and I joke that it would be Klaus Meine coming out to join, we both had a feeling that it would be Inglorious singer and 'The Voice' contestant Nathan James- and indeed we are right. As the music starts up to one of the best tracks for really getting a crowd going and with one of the catchiest rock riffs ever written - 'Sails of Charon' gets feet stamping and air guitarists riffing. Despite some very questionable dancing from Nathan, he does a great job and it's clear that he and Uli share an on stage connection. 

Although there is no denying that Nathan James has an exceptional vocal range, guitarist Niklas Turnman delivers a more honest and fitting style for Uli's classic '70s heavy sound. However, once again Nathan joins us on stage for 'In Trance' (after accidentally coming on stage for 'We'll Burn the Sky'). This time around, it seems that Nathan needs quite a lot of direction from Uli, both lyrically and with the song structure. Perhaps though, this is just down to the little rehearsal time they've had what with Uli being such a busy man.

By the time Uli has reached the masterpiece 'Fly to the Rainbow', it seems as if his music muscle memory has taken complete control of him. He plays with such ease and ability that the music just flows naturally around the room as if he is sporting many arms. The crowd are silently still as they soak up the serene sounds, and even the rest of his band are transfixed as they stare in awe, almost without blinking. Uli continues to make his way through an absolutely perfect set list playing some seriously brilliant Scorpions gems including  'Dark Lady', 'Pictured Life', 'Sun In My Hand' and even 'Catch Your Train' from the masterpiece that is Virgin Killer. 

Uli disappointingly informs the crowd that he was unaware of the early curfew and so he'd have to wrap things up shortly. However, the disappointed feeling soon diminishes because Uli is now opening up with the softly played lead to one of my all time favourite tracks, 'Yellow Raven'. The hypnotic rendition makes the hairs on my arms stand up on and end and also provides ample opportunity for a soulful sing-a-long. Uli's band really do support him perfectly and their skill is showcased during this and many other tracks. 

As the set comes to an end, Uli plays homage to his inspiration Jimi Hendrix with 2 tracks which are no strangers to an UJR setlist- 'All Along the Watchtower' and 'Little Wing'. 

Watching Uli is a truly cosmic experience. In fact, finding an adjective to justify how truly brilliant an Uli Jon Roth show really is, is somewhat difficult. To really capture the mystification, one must experience it for themselves. So, ensure you're keeping your eyes peeled for any Uli Jon Roth gig announcements near you. Scorpions fan or not, you won't regret dedicating your time to this genius maestro.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Kayleigh MG

Photo: Michelle Godding