Adrian Smith is best known as the most tasteful (in my opinion!) guitarist in a band you may have heard of, Iron Maiden. He has written some of the band’s best material (also in my opinion!), and when he left Maiden in 1990 to pursue a solo career with his band Adrian Smith and Project (A.S.A.P.), Maiden’s downhill trajectory soon followed. When he returned to the Maiden fold in 1999 (along with vocalist Bruce Dickinson) they became the biggest metal band on the planet again.

Before he took Dennis Stratton’s place in Iron Maiden back in 1980, Smith was the lead vocalist and guitarist in his own band Urchin, who themselves had some limited success. Smith’s vocal prowess has been highlighted with Maiden over the years as a more than capable backing vocalist, and he sang lead vocals on the fantastic B side to ‘Wasted Years’ – ‘Reach Out’ back in 86.

He shares vocal and guitar (bass and lead) duties on this collaboration with former Mike Varney prodigy, Poison, Mr Big and Winery Dogs guitarist/vocalist Richie Kotzen. Kotzen’s first ever concert experience was Iron Maiden’s renowned World Slavery tour back in 1985 and he’s come full circle by writing and performing with one of the guys on that very stage. Not that he’s been a slouch himself with a pedigree that’s world class.

The pair met in an LA restaurant (as you do), got chatting, jamming, writing, and recording and the result is an album that shows both Smith and Kotzen in a light we haven’t seen before. A stylish blend of classic rock, blues rock, and straight up R & B mixed with the combined talents of Smith and Kotzen produces a strong album with some fantastic performances.

The album was produced by Smith and Kotzen themselves with long time Maiden producer Kevin Shirley handling mixing duties. Smith’s Maiden buddy Nicko McBrain makes a guest appearance on the track ‘Solar Fire’ and Tal Bergman (Billy Idol, Simple Minds) lends his tub thumping talents to the songs ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘I Wanna Stay’ and ‘Til Tomorrow’. Kotzen plays drums on the remaining songs…so talented, makes me sick! Ha ha!

Opening up with ‘Taking My Chances’ and ‘Running’ there’s a definite nod to the bands of the 70s that have obviously influenced the duo. Bad Company and Free come to mind with some great bluesy licks. It’s not hard to differentiate between Smith and Kotzen in both voice and guitar styles, Smith has a more refined vocal style while Kotzen has echoes of the late, great Chris Cornell is his delivery. ‘Scars’ is the standout track for me with it’s haunting melody and Hendrix style lead work. This one sticks in your mind after a few plays, the guys trading licks at will. Great stuff.

‘Some People’ lays down a thick groove with an almost funky feel. More guitar wizardry is again tastefully added to the track without overpowering the song. ‘Glory Road’ is a straight-ahead rocker with some added swagger and lyrics about how to be successful in a band, (they should know!) A catchy, sing a long chorus make this another highlight. You can feel the chemistry between the pair, and it translates well onto record even though they recorded much of the album with five thousand miles between them due to the pandemic.

‘Solar Fire’ really benefits from sticksman McBrain’s powerhouse drumming, you certainly know he’s there! There’s a throwback to his days with the Pat Travers Band here, a great 70s vibe. ‘You Don’t Know Me’ is another track that has a less is more approach that works well. The songs aren’t just vehicles for the pair to show off their chops, they really are playing for the songs. That said, this track is a little on the long side. ‘I Wanna Stay’ really shows how soulful Smith can be, he really does have a fantastic voice which wouldn’t work in the Maiden set up. The album closes with ‘Til Tomorrow’ another classy number with an almost dreamlike quality. Apparently, the recording sessions left the duo with ‘tracks to spare’ so I’m sure this album won’t be a one off.

The guys really want to take the project out on the road when restrictions are (finally) lifted and I think these songs will work fantastically in the live arena. As Richie says, “When the time is right, and it’s safe, we’ll have a conversation about some players – male or female – that will help us take this to the next level and bring the music to the stage. We both want to play live, we both miss it terribly actually. Before all this stuff happened I said I was ready to take a break from the road – but I’m sure as hell ready to go now!”

Aren’t we all Richie, aren’t we all…..

 

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Author: Kenny Kendrick

Sons of Apollo who recently released their second studio album – MMXX which went to No. 2 in the UK Rock Chart. They have just launched the video for Asphyxiation

European tour starts on 28th February in Gernany – their only UK date will be at The Islington Assembly Hall in London on 19th March.

SONS OF APOLLO–former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force)—recently released their second studio album ‘MMXX’ to much acclaim, before undertaking a successful North American headline tour.
Europe 2020
Fri 2/28 Karlsuhe, Germany Crystal Ballroom
Sat 2/29 Karlsruhe, Germany Crystal Ballroom
Mon 3/2 Drammen, Norway Union Scene
Tue 3/3 Gothenburg, Sweden Traedgarn
Thu 3/5 Kyiv, Ukraine N.A.U Theatre
Sat 3/7 Moscow, Russia RED
Sun 3/8 St Petersburg, Russia Aurora
Tue 3/10 Pratteln, Switzerland Z7
Wed 3/11 Milan, Italy Live Club
Fri 3/13 Bilbao, Spain Santana 27
Sat 3/14 Barcelona, Spain Razzmatazz 2
Sun 3/15 Madrid, Spain La Riviera
Tue 3/17 Marseille, France Cepac Silo
Wed 3/18 Paris, France Machine du Moulin Rouge
Thu 3/19 London, U.K. Islington Assembly Hall
Fri 3/21 Eindhoven, Netherlands Prognosis Festival
Sun 3/22 Show Brno, Czech Republic Sono
Tue 3/24 Kosice, Slovakia Colosseum
Wed 3/25 Budapest, Hungary Barba Negra
South America 2020
Sat 4/18 São Paulo, Brazil Tom Brasil
Sun 4/19 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Circo Voador
Tues 4/21 Santiago, Chile Blondie
Thu 4/23 Buenos Aires, Argentina Teatro Flores
Produced by The Del Fuvio Brothers (Portnoy and Sherinian), ‘MMXX’ is available as a standard CD package, Limited Edition 2 CD package (which includes instrumental mixes and a cappella excerpts), 2 LP + CD package, and on all digital formats.
Order the album here: https://soa.lnk.to/MMXX
SONS OF APOLLO online:
www.sonsofapollo.com
www.facebook.com/SonsOfApollo1
www.Twitter.com/SonsOfApollo1
www.instagram.com/sonsofapollo1

Ben Hughes.

Eric Martin, the voice of Mr. Big. The last time I saw this guy live would’ve been a Mr. Big show in 1991 I reckon, at Newport Centre with The Throbs supporting.  Now that was a mismatch of two bands for a tour if ever there was one. One of the biggest commercial rock bands of the time with a bunch of sleazy New York miscreants with a love of the New York Dolls and Alice Cooper. Damn, I loved The Throbs, but that’s another story.

Mr. Big was a massive band then, you can’t deny the power of ‘To Be With You’ as a hit single. And while times have changed, this is an intimate gig for a singer/songwriter who can still pull the crowds with his band and as a solo artist.

 

I wasn’t even going to go to this gig, but somehow, in some crazy turn of events, my best buddy Matt managed to blag the support slot tonight at The Brudenell in Leeds.

Now, Matt was the frontman of a Britpop-era band from Grimsby called Twist, who “coulda been contenders, Charlie!” They had the looks, they lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but more importantly they had the songs, good songs that stand the test of time to this day. Imagine jangly Americana influenced Britpop, coming on like Love or The Byrds, fuelled by too much weed, good speed and spot-on vocal harmonies. The only band I can remember who was doing that at the time was The Montrose Avenue. Sadly for them, it wasn’t to be and as with so many great bands, they split before their time.

Giving up music for 20 years, Matt is back with his former band member and songwriting partner Paul Gorry, making music in the band The Badrocks, whose sound is more influenced by the dark countrified tales of Alabama 3 and Nick Cave. Matt is now in the process of testing these songs out in a live environment.

Now Matt will tell you himself he is no guitar player, but when you have great songs, a proper good voice and the conviction to perform to your best, it’s amazing what you can pull off.

Mixing up his recent countrified influenced songs such as the drug-fuelled opener ‘All I Want’ and recent single ‘Watching Me’ with older choice Twist cuts such as ‘Charlie’s Girl’ and ‘The Pin-Down Song’ it seems to go down a treat. The crowd knows none of the material of course, but interestingly they are not talking to each other, they are actually listening, and each song gets a great response with polite applause.

Ok, I’m slightly biased of course as I have watched him write and re-work these songs over the past 12 months, but after seeing the crowd response tonight; I would say I’m not the only one who thinks he has something good going on.

 

Eric Martin is a man who definitely has something good going on. Mr Big still pull the crowds on a regular basis, he himself is big in Japan and he still looks way younger than his years. Whatever it is he’s taking, I want some of that!

This intimate acoustic tour sees him joining up with guitarist David Cotterill from the metal band Demon. A strange collaboration you may think, but actually, the pair complements each other perfectly. The duo both play guitar and David provides backing vocals in a set that covers Martin’s solo material and of course the hits of Mr Big.

You could call Eric Martin an elder statesman of rock ‘n’ roll these days. He regales us with stories and jokes about his travels from back in the day (or even last week) between songs, as he sips on his beer and gets David to tune his guitar.

I am unfamiliar with the solo material, to be honest, but the likes of ‘Fragile’ and newbie ‘Back In Blue’ sound mighty good to these ears. We are here for the Mr Big hits though and he does not disappoint. ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’ goes down as well as you would expect, even if he does forget a verse, and ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’ (minus any drills) is a personal highlight.

As an introduction to ‘Shine’ (from the Richie Kotzen era of Mr Big), Eric tells us about playing a gig in Richie’s hometown and how he rang him up, as there is actually a statue erected in his honour there!

Each night on this tour, the duo are joined for several songs by guitar player Simon Kaviani and some female vocals courtesy of Mel Tem, who even gets to sing a verse on ‘that’ song, you know the one, right? There are covers too. I forgot that Mr Big covered ’30 Days in the Hole’ it’s a great choice of cover, as is Cat Stevens ‘Wild World’, a song that is perfectly complemented by Eric’s voice.

 

To be fair, it’s a great set and Eric Martin is much more entertaining than I thought he would be. Humble, down to earth and quite amusing for a 57-year-old American rock star. Seriously though, he still has the voice and the energy of a man half his age and the songs are a testament to his legacy. The crowd came to hear the hits and I feel they got far more than they expected.

Buy Eric Martin Here