The First 75: A personal perspective (issues 16-30)

Fireworks Magazine - The first 75: Issues 16-30

(by Paul Jerome Smith)

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Neil Daniels
joined the writing team from the following issue (16: July/August 2004) and once again it comprised 68 pages, but also more of them in colour. Gene Simmons featured on the cover and was one of the main interviewees, along with Ann Wilson of Heart, Blackie Lawless of WASP and Herman Li of Dragonforce. My contribution to this issue comprised reviews of the new Flower Kings DVD and new albums by Runrig, Quecia, Asperity, Erik Norlander, TNA, Empty Tremor, Dreamaker, Deacon Street Project, The Treat, The Quill, Wiz and Magenta.

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: October/November 2004 saw another slight page increase - to 72 - and one of my all-time favourite bands - Rush - on the cover. James was still experimenting with page layouts, probably the most extreme from him coming with the Mike Rutherford interview by Andy Brailsford on page 6. If you have your copy to hand - go and have a look!! For the first time I reviewed no fewer than three DVDs for an issue: by Lana Lane, Narnia and The Hellacopters. My interviews with Magenta and Arjen Anthony Lucassen also appeared as did reviews of new albums by Therion, Karnataka, Strangefish, Lana Lane, Majesty, Sacred Steel, Steel Prophet, Highlord, Celesty along with special large format CD reissues from Spock's Beard, Pallas and Roine Stolt. Interviews with Threshold, Rush, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marillion Nightwish, Magnum and UFO among many others help to make this the best issue of Fireworks thus far, in my opinion.

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Richie Blackmore graced the cover of 18 (December 2004/January 2005), and the interview inside with him and Candice Night confirmed their ongoing preference to speak with Fireworks Magazine when other publications were shunned. The aforementioned John Tucker (famed for his authoritative knowledge about the NWOBHM and more besides) joined the writing team from this issue. The magazine title also gained a strapline for the first time ('The Melodic Rock Magazine' - although this rather ignored the far greater breadth of genres, including melodic metal music, that appear as part of the staple diet provided by Fireworks). Bruce tells me that the strapline was added after complaint of an ACTUAL Fireworks Magazine (well, fanzine) that had the same name and was complaining about our magazine being called FIREWORKS but having nothing to do with Fireworks (hence his jokey comments about Mayfair and Penthouse magazines being NOTHING to do with the property market. There's was never available in shops ... so was hard to see the basis of the continual complaining .... Phil Ashcroft had suggested some alternatives to the one finally chosen, and these were listed by Bruce in his Editorial. I rather liked 'Home of THE Kieran Dargan', 'We Interview The People You Thought Were Dead' and 'Ignored By Millions Since 2000'!! There was nothing from me in this issue (apart from my Playlist) as I was hospitalised for two weeks and then recuperating in the period leading up to the deadline for submissions. However, the magazine did fine without me and there was another great selection of interviews including ones with Chris Caffery, Dio, Europe, Danny Vaughn and Blackmore's Night.

April/May 2005 saw the appearance of 68-page issue 19, and with it the announcement of the very first Firefest that was to be held on Saturday May 7th. Nick Hinton joined the Fireworks team (where is he now?) Some of you may remember Nick as being the guy behind the excellent Virtuosa magazine that ran for 24 issues during the noughties. This issue was also notable for having both a free CD and DVD (this latter being provided by Classic Rock Productions - as explained by Bruce in his Editorial) as well as another stellar line-up of interviews including ones with Soul SirkUS, Whitesnake, Joe Satriani, Neal Morse, Derek Sherinian and Richie Kotzen, in addition to the second half of the one with Blackmore's Night. I returned from my late 2004 indisposition with reviews of new releases from Tara's Secret, Erik Norlander, Magenta, Moonlight Agony, Steel Attack, Red Wine, Manticora, Black Abyss, Scott Mosher, Guardians Of Time, Corridor, Forgotten Tales, Arwen, Ghost Machinery and Chastain.

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20: June/July 2005 had 64 pages (plus an 8 page pull-out programme for Firefest 2005) and Buz Gaden, the brother of James, provided his first contributions. Interviews included ones with Shy, Paul Gilbert, Dare, Kamelot, Scorpions, Legs Diamond and Doogie White. My review contributions to the issue covered albums by Dream Aria, Mennen, Porcupine Tree, The Yards, Nick Magnus, Dark Sky, the compilation album Ars Longa Vita Brevis, Dark Seed, Live and Corrosion Of usual eclectic mixture!!

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A second Firefest (on 26 November) was announced in issue 21 (Sept/Oct 2005) and was also a massive 92 pages! It was also the first to include Dave Bott as a contributing writer. Reviews of lots of festivals were included: the inaugural Firefest plus Sweden Rock, Rock Never Stops and Download. An absolutely huge line-up of interviews included ones with Alice Cooper (also the cover star for this issue), Motorhead, Fozzy, Enchant, Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen, Styx, Royal Hunt, Shadow Gallery, Robin Beck and Blue Tears...and many more besides including mine with Steve Williams of Power Quest. This issue carried the shortest review I have ever written: of the new album by Jack Frost, titled 'Wannadie Songs'. My review simply read "Precisely......"!! Other albums receiving a more usual coverage from me came from John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Wire Daisies ("A majestic debut release" that receives regular plays to this day), Power Quest, Redemption, Powergod, Twyster, Falconer, Timeless Miracle, Mortal Love, Demon, Rebellion and Epica.

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A "mere" 72 pages greeted purchasers of 22: Jan/Feb 2006, the first to trial the diagonal filmic strip in the lower part of the cover, which on this occasion showed Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation. In his Editorial, Bruce revealed that HMV had ceased stocking Fireworks and a consequent reduction of a third in the number of distributed copies led him to have to rein in the amount of colour pages. Ray Paul joined the writing team from this issue, while my contributions were once again focused upon new album releases, and I covered The Mystery Hall, Airless, Baltimoore, Conquest Of Steel, Griffin, Credo and Highland Glory. Some great interviews included ones with Gamma Ray, Deep Purple, Lars Eric Mattsson (yes, that's two t's AND two s's!!), Within Temptation, LA Guns, Jizzy Pearl and Mind's Eye.

For me, the 80-page issue 23 (Apr/May 2006) with David Coverdale on the cover was something of a landmark. I had no fewer than THREE interviews included: with Strangefish, Ray Turrell of Area 39 and a follow-up interview with Lars Eric Mattsson which focused upon his Lion Music label and was to crystallise into an idea for a series about the record labels providing music within the genres that Fireworks covers. Other key interviews in the issue included ones with Crystal Ball, Toto, Bob Catley, Whitesnake, Wig Wam, Edguy, Mickie Free and Lacuna Coil. My selection of album reviews covered new releases from Strangefish, Milan Polak, Simone Fioretta, Area 39, Avian, Brave New World, Dawnrider, Dogpound, Dungeon, Rob Van Der Loo's Freak Neil Inc., Galloglass, Gun Barrel, Listeria and Locomotive Breath plus a reissue from De Gladas Kapell and a DVD from Lana Lane! Quite a lot of work in there from me for that issue!! It was also the one where Mick Burgess made his debut as a contributing writer.

Number 24 continued with 80 pages and came with two free CDs of fantastic music! Dated July/August 2006, key interviews with Nightwish (and including the band's open letter to Tarja!), Bonfire, Evergrey, Jim Peterik, Rage, Foreigner, Survivor, Warrant, Vanden Plas and Russ Valory were published. Besides reviewing the reissue of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Gimme Back My Bullets', and helping Phil Ashcroft review the first Progpower UK festival, held at the magnificent venue of The Centaur at Cheltenham Racecourse, I turned my attention to reviewing new platters from Cryptic Vision, Moonstone, Pure Reason Revolution, Chariot, Coste Apetrea, Atargatis, Sphere Of Souls, Majesty and Rivera/Bomma.

The quarter century of issues was reached with the November/December 2006 magazine (25), with Meat Loaf on the cover. This had 88 pages and was available at Firefest 3 headlined by Winger and Gotthard. On the subject of festivals, this issue included a massive reviews of the Bang Your Head, Sweden Rock, Rock Of Ages and Monsters Of Rock festivals, none of which I attended! My contributions for this issue comprised a review of the Nightwish DVD 'End Of An Era' and Eric Norlander & Friends DVD 'Live In St Petersburg'. CDs covered were by Blind Guardian, Code Of Perfection, Thunderbolt, Saracen, Magenta, Robin George, Tara's Secret, Oni Logan, Sabaton, Bombay Black and Ezra. There were lots of mouth-watering interviews of course, including ones with Kevin Chalfant, Mike Slamer, Graham Bonnet, John Waite, Jon Oliva...and, of course Meat Loaf!

Issue 26 (January/February 2007) saw a price rise - to £4.50 - still a bargain for its 80 pages plus two free CDs. One of these featured artists on the F2 label and in conjunction with a double colour page spread assembled by me and covering Magenta, Credo, Ezra and Chimpan A, I also provided longer interviews elsewhere in the issue with all four of these bands! It was also the issue that contained the first instalment of the long running series that I produced and covering the record labels whose music the magazine featured. In the first one I interviewed Georg Siegl of AOR Heaven. In addition to all of this I managed to review new albums by Wuthering Heights, Wolverine, Manticora, Falconer, Nick May, Chimpan A and Rocket Scientists as well. Phew!! There were also interviews with Europe, Pretty Maids, Hammerfall and Spock's Beard included in this marvellous issue of Fireworks.

27: April/May 2007 had a picture of Journey (with Jeff Scott Soto!) on the front cover. This was "only" a 72-page edition, but once again came with two free CDs! There was an interesting interview with Neil Schon about the future of Journey! Other notable interviews were ones with Jimi Jamison, Jorn Lande, Therion and Styx. I had interviews with Erik Norlander and Tara's Secret and the second record label covered in the new series was Escape Music. I reviewed new albums from Greylevel, Sirenia, Pain Of Salvation, Uli John Roth, Yes, Lana Lane and Erik Norlander. Firefest IV was announced.

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If the previous issue had been a little on the "light" side, 28 (July/August 2007) more than made up for it, comprising 92 pages AND a 16 page supplement containing all the album reviews! In this I had only a small number of reviews: albums from The Reasoning, Bombay Black, Razorback and Chris Caffery. The label series covered Kivel Records and I interviewed Chris Caffery, Bombay Black and Razorback. I also provided a review of a Robert Plant DVD. Of course, in such a large issue, there were lots of great interviews, and I've decided it would be churlish to pick out just a few to mention. But as a clue: Dream Theater were on the cover! Oh, and there were a further two free CDs with this issue!! It was also the one where Alan Holloway (another ex-Hard Roxx writer, as mentioned earlier) made his first appearance....

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Promotion for Firefest IV was well to the fore in the Sept/Oct 2007 issue (29) which had an imposing picture of Heaven & Hell on the cover and an interesting feature inside along with ones covering Tommy Denander, Tesla, Primal Fear, Marillion, Symphony X, Porcupine Tree and Eden's Curse among many others - including ones with The Reasoning and ex-Pain Of Salvation bassist Kristoffer Gildenlow that I had undertaken. The fourth instalment of the labels series featured an interview with Magna Carta President, Peter Morticelli. My reviews in this issue covered reissues from Rare Bird and Eyewitness and new releases from Porcupine Tree, Devin Townsend, Autumn, Mermaid Kiss, Awake, Dial, Pavlov's Dog and David Surkamp, Magenta and Manticora. Another free CD was provided with this issue and had over 70 minutes of diverse music from across the genres covered by the magazine. Major festival reviews were abundant: Sweden Rock, Bang Your Head and Download all getting extensive coverage in this 96 page issue.

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88 pages comprised issue 30 (Dec 2007/Jan 2008): and another with two free CDs! More festival reviews appeared: Rocklahoma, Kvinsdal Rock, Earthshaker and Ankkarock all being covered for the first time along with Bloodstock Open Air and United Forces Of Rock, and I hadn't attended any of 'em!! However, I did produce interviews with (the unusual) Diablo Swing Orchestra and (the gentle) Mermaid Kiss and also (the supergroup) Amaran's Plight while Thomas Weber of AFM Records responded to my questions for the next instalment of the Labels series. Some key interviews in this issues covered Jaded Heart, Foreigner, Scorpions, Ted Nugent, Tarja Turunen, Nightwish (who were featured on the cover of this issue), John Parr and David Readman. I managed reviews of two DVDs (by The Tangent and Rick Wakeman) along with new CDs from Amaran's Plight, Lucifer Was, Runrig, Mehida, (The Lord Weird) Slough Feg, Shadow Circus, Diablo Swing Orchestra and Amorphis.

Continue reading:

Issues 1 - 15
Issues 31 - 45
Issues 46 - 60
Issues 61 - 75

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