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Sep 30


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Kingsmeadow in Kingston-upon-Thames…

Any of you know where I am taking this?

Just a couple of you, I see. Well, it is the home of Football League Two newcomers, AFC Wimbledon. It is also the only football ground in the country to my knowledge named for a record company, and for sponsorship purposes Kingsmeadow is known as The Cherry Red Records Stadium.

Having talked about Rock Candy and BGO in my previous two Blogs, this time I am going to discuss the splendid Cherry Red Records – and the main differences from those labels are

(a) there is a plethora of different labels under the CR umbrella, some of which have more artists than others with greater interest to Rocktopia (and Fireworks Magazine) readers, although there are some surprises tucked away in the sub catalogues of labels such as LEMON and Rev Ola, as I will explain…

(b) some of the labels now include brand new releases in addition to reissues: ESOTERIC ANTENNAE and HNE being pre-eminent here from my perspective. In fact, Cherry Red started out as a label that issued new recordings, the first release appearing in 1978 and

(c) Cherry Red is mad about football (something you might have gathered from the opening of this piece) and started ‘The Football Collectors Series’ nearly 20 years ago to pull together all football related releases! I must admit that this side of things has completely escaped my notice…but there are now around 50 such releases with collections of songs of most of the Premier League clubs!

A little history for those of you who like that sort of thing (if you want more, you’ll find it on t’ Web).…Firstly, the name of the company. The track ‘Cherry Red’ on the Groundhogs album ‘Split’ (great track incidentally!) seems to have been responsible for this, and the record label that tentatively began in 1978 grew from a promotions company of the same name. One of the company’s three founders, Iain McNay remains with Cherry Red as its Chairman, while Adam Velasco, the Managing Director has “only” been with the company since 1992, apparently starting out as office junior, packing orders and making cups of tea (that’s the way to do it!!)

The Cherry Red family of record labels include the following (there are more, quite a few of which are currently inactive) –

7Ts - the label for all things seventies and beyond! Amongst the label’s discography are albums by 10CC, Blackfoot Sue, Bonnie Tyler, Ian Hunter, Suzi Quatro and Sweet – but also Donnie Osmond, Nolan Sisters and The Partridge Family: so care is needed!

Anagram – focuses upon Punk, Psychobilly and Goth. I admit to having a Sham 69 vinyl album that has been re-released here on CD, but have nothing else from this label’s discography. However, if you like (for example) Alien Sex Fiend, Demented Are Go, Frantic Flintstones and Peter & The Test Tube Babies then go and have a look!

Atomhenge – the home of pioneering psychedelic and classic rock – and primarily Hawkwind and their offshoot projects. For me, the Robert Calvert releases such as ‘Captain Lockheed & The Starfighters’ and ‘Lucky Leif & The Longships’ are as interesting as any Hawkwind album, excepting perhaps ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’ (to be found here as a standard edition, a three disc expanded edition and a Super Deluxe Box set special edition.

Big Break (and its new offshoot Hot Shot) is a focus for classic black dance music - psychedelic soul and jazz though funk and Philly soul, on to disco and then to street soul, pop dance and electro. There’s little or nothing here to attract the dedicated Fireworks and Rocktopia cognoscenti, I think…

Cherry Red - “the original home of independent thinking music” focuses upon “finest indie, alternative, punk & pop music created over the last five decades.” There is a HUGE label discography – but I’m really focused here upon the broad family of labels that operate under the Cheery Red umbrella…so all I can recommend is that you explore the CR catalogue for yourselves!

él – now this label has a truly diverse discography: “a serious-minded look at history, seasoned with the bravura style of the original label”. Avoid unless Blossom Dearie, Elmer Bernstein, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Michel LeGrand, Tito Puente and so much more besides happen to float your boat!

Esoteric – “Established in 2007 and label managed by Mark Powell, Esoteric Recordings is the home of Progressive, Psychedelic & Classic Rock, with all releases finely packaged and remastered from the best possible sources to ensure the highest possible audio quality…” There really are some grand re-releases here and among my favourites are ones from the Climax Blues Band, Denny Gerard (his sole albuim is a peach), Gordon Giltrap (the trio of releases ‘Visionary’, ‘Perilous’ and ‘Fear Of The Dark’ are essential treasures in my opinion), Hapshash & The Coloured Coat (whose two album precisely define “esoteric”!) and String Driven Thing (whose track ‘It’s A Game’ from ‘The Machine That Died’ is one of my all-time favourites).

Esoteric Antennae – a new offshoot from Esoteric has recently been added to the range of labels and here the focus is upon releasing brand new albums by well-known progressive and classic rock artists and newly emerging acts within these genres. The first release was ‘Diving Bell’ from Sanguine Hum in March 2012 and other notable releases subsequently have come from John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest, Panic Room, Gordon Giltrap & Oliver Wakeman, Steve Hackett, Squackett, Ken Hensley, Lifesigns, The Reasoning and Nick Magnus among others…Both Esoteric labels have plenty to interest us at Fireworks and Rocktopia.

Grapefruit – this is what is described as Cherry Red’s “bespoke psych/garage-era imprint, devoted to issuing single-artist career anthologies (The Herd, The Sorrows, The Knickerbockers) and definitive versions of rare and/or classic albums (Duncan Browne’s debut, Skip Bifferty, Tinkerbell’s Fairydust) dating from the 1966-70 timeframe, with all releases boasting sympathetic artwork, rare photos, detailed liner notes and from-the-masters sound quality”. The discography numbers 29 releases at the time of writing, but I am delighted to have the ones by Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera (including the wildly variable material contained on their first two albums, plus tracks from another early album that was never released – because the associated film never made it to release either!), John’s Children (including ‘ Desdemona’, one of the most incredible psych tracks of 1967, written by Marc Bolan who was at that time a member of the band), The Herd (featuring a very young Peter Frampton) and Skip Bifferty, a Newcastle band that went on to become the (only very slightly) more famous Heavy Jelly, were managed by Sharon Osbourne’s father Don Arden and whose first single ‘On Love’ was another of those fantastic 1967 releases!

Hear No Evil – the newish hard rock and heavy metal member of the Cherry Red family and fronted by Hugh Gilmour (also bass guitarist in the band Pig Iron). The rapidly expanding catalogue already has releases by (amongst others) 21 Guns, Accept, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Hellion, Ken Hensley & Live Fire, Terraplane, Touchstone and Uriah Heep. One for our readers to keep a close eye upon, methinks!

Ironbird – this is another newish member of the Cherry Red family of labels, and another one to keep an eye upon as its focus is also rock…to hard rock…to metal. There are just over a dozen reissues so far, but include ones by Britny Fox, CoC, Dangerous Toys, Europe, Mind Funk, Riot and Warrant.

Lemon – established in 2003, this label releases classic rock and new wave albums from the 70s to the present. Look out for albums by 38 Special, Aldo Nova, Bachmann Turner Overdrive (the 2 on 1 release of ‘Not Fragile’ and ‘Four Wheel Drive’ is an absolute doozy!), Humble Pie, Vinegar Joe (featuring the incredible Elkie Brooks…if you’ve never heard ‘Black Smoke Rising From The Calumet’ on ‘Six Star General’ (CDLEM03) then I beg you to rectify the omission!) and The Wildhearts (and many, many others…)

Now Sounds – a label name strangely at odds with their discography that focuses upon “the golden era of popular music (1964-1972) via soft psychedelia, Brill Building, breezy harmony pop, Wilsonian-sploitation, girl groups, Spectorian sound and his imitators, folk rock, downer folk psych, Bacharock, Wrecking Crew/anything recorded at Gold Star Studios, and the best in new music”… Well, there’s the wonderful harmonies of The Association, the “feeling groovy” sounds of Harper’s Bizarre, the Mamas & The Papas and the utterly bizarre Tiny Tim amongst the sonic treasures to be discovered here. I can only suggest, “investigate with care”!!

Rev-Ola – this label is no longer releasing any new material, but there’s a huge discography, from which I personally have great albums by The Appletree Theatre (‘Playback’), Captain Beefheart (‘Safe As Milk’), Dave Mason (‘Alone Together’), Eric Burdon & The Animals (‘Winds Of Change’), Honeybus (‘Story’), H P Lovecraft (‘Dreams In The Witch House’), The Merry-Go-Round (‘Listen, Listen’) and The Pozo-Seco Singers (‘Time For…’) Hidden among these albums are several of my top 100 songs of all time – they’re that good (but do remember that I have a very eclectic musical palette!!)

R.P.M. – This label has been in existence for nearly 25 years and specialises in reissues from the 1960s to mid 1970's, principally from UK music archives, and my most recent addition from the label is the 3CD box by The Artwoods (‘Steady Getting’ It’) about which I will be saying much more in a future Blog. There is a huge discography, and I strongly recommend having a good look. I personally only have two other releases on this label so far (by The Mojos and Arrival) but you will be amazed at what else is in there…

T-Bird – here you will find Bluegrass, Country, Country Rock, Rockabilly, Rock n’ Roll and all points in between, so there may be something for a couple of Fireworks Magazine and Rocktopia readers. Included in the discography so fare are albums by The Charlie Daniels Band, Hot Tuna, The Men They Couldn’t Hang and (the one that I have) the self-titled release from Nona Hendryx (although her ‘Skindiver’ album is the one more likely to appeal to readers here…)

You will find reviews of quite a few of the labels’ key new issues reviewed at Rocktopia (and initially in Fireworks, of course) and you can get a good discount for purchasing multiple CDs direct from Cherry Red – go and have a look at and see for yourselves.

I shall return to looking at some record labels in due course. My next few Blogs are going to be more observational…and, oh yes, Firefest, The Final Fling beckons. See you there, I hope….

Aug 06


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More travels and the glorious weather – forcing me to go outside (!!) – have somewhat delayed this next chapter of my musical ramblings….

Anyway, I am disparaged by some for cataloguing my music library as illustrated by this small section from my listing:

May 30


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The image of me in my previous Blog (a selfie: yes, I’m getting more used to this technology thingy!!) showed me standing in front of just a small part of my collection of CDs and DVDs. If you visit me, once you get through the front door you are greeted with a scene that resembles something similar to one of those – you know – old-fashioned places, known as record stores! To me, it is something of a shrine. Digital purchases interest me not one jot and physical purchases are now causing me an embarrassment as to where to put them all, while keeping some semblance of order and an ability to find everything fairly quickly. 

And it’s not just new music that I am buying, but reissues as well: and there are some really excellent labels whose primary focus is upon providing CD releases of albums that have never been available in that format, difficult to obtain in that format, or have been in great need of a careful re-mastering.

You will not need me to say too much about ROCK CANDY RECORDS as new additions to their now extensive catalogue are usually reviewed in Fireworks and then appear here on Rocktopia. The current list (end of May 2014) comprises the following, plus Vandenberg’s ‘Alibi’ for which the catalogue number is required (as the one shown on the label’s web site currently conflicts with another release):

CANDY001 Riot - Narita
CANDY002 Helix - No Rest For The Wicked
CANDY003 Icon - Night Of The Crime
CANDY004 Doc Holliday - Doc Holliday Rides Again..
CANDY005 Coney Hatch - Coney Hatch
CANDY006 1994 - 1994
CANDY007 Plasmatics - Coup D 'eTat
CANDY008 Billy Squier - Tale Of The Tape
CANDY009 John Waite - Ignition
CANDY010 Coney Hatch - Outta Hand
CANDY011 Stampede - Hurricane Town
CANDY012 Ram Jam - Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Ram
CANDY013 Lita Ford - Lita
CANDY014 Ted Nugent - Double Live Gonzo
CANDY015 Autograph - Loud And Clear
CANDY016 Armored Saint - March Of The Saint
CANDY017 Storm - Storm
CANDY018 Hughes And Thrall - Hughes And Thrall
CANDY019 Storm - Storm
CANDY020 Ted Nugent - Weekend Warriors
CANDY021 Ted Nugent - Scream Dream
CANDY022 Diving For Pearls - Diving For Pearls
CANDY023 Johnny Van Zant Band - No More Dirty Deals
CANDY024 Balance - In For The Count CANDY025 Preview - Preview
CANDY026 Sea Hags - Sea Hags
CANDY027 The Throbs - The Language Of Thieves And Vagabonds
CANDY028 Zodiac Mindwarp - Tattooed Beat Messiah
CANDY029 Money - First Investment
CANDY030 Romeos Daughter - Romeos Daughter
CANDY031 Reckless - Reckless
CANDY032 Mothers Finest - Mothers Finest
CANDY033 Michael Bolton - Everybodys Crazy
CANDY034 Danny Joe Brown Band - Danny Joe Brown Band
CANDY035 Doc Holliday - Doc Holliday
CANDY036 Molly Hatchet - Beatin' The Odds
CANDY037 Eric Martin - I'm Only Foolin' Myself
CANDY038 Desmond Child And Rouge - Runners In The Night
CANDY039 Touch - Touch
CANDY040 Rick Springfield - Living In Oz
CANDY041 Rick Springfield - Tao
CANDY042 Cobra - First Strike
CANDY043 Autograph - Sign In Please
CANDY044 Face Dancer - This World
CANDY045 Trillion - Clear Approach
CANDY046 iTen - Taking A Cold Look
CANDY047 Billy Satellite - Billy Satellite
CANDY048 Cats In Boots - Kicked And Klawed
CANDY049 Helix - Walkin' The Razors Edge
CANDY050 Channel - Channel
CANDY051 Starcastle - Citadel
CANDY052 Sammy Hagar - Street Machine
CANDY053 The Babys - Head First
CANDY054 The Babys - On The Edge
CANDY055 The Babys - Union Jacks
CANDY056 Raging Slab - Raging Slab
CANDY057 Circus Of Power - Circus Of Power
CANDY058 Trigger - Trigger
CANDY059 Grand Prix - Grand Prix
CANDY060 Teaze - One Night Stands
CANDY061 Airrace - Shaft Of Light
CANDY062 Montrose - Montrose
CANDY063 Fandango - Cadillac
CANDY064 Autograph - That's The Stuff
CANDY065 Reggie Knighton Band - Reggie Knighton Band
CANDY066 Balance - Balance
CANDY067 Trillion - Trillion
CANDY068 Detective - Detective
CANDY069 Virginia Wolf - Virginia Wolf
CANDY070 Virginia Wolf - Push
CANDY071 Badlands - Badlands
CANDY072 Badlands - Voodoo Highway
CANDY073 Export - Contraband
CANDY074 Export - Living In Fear Of The Private Eye
CANDY075 The Godz - The Godz
CANDY076 Barry Goudreau - Barry Goudreau
CANDY077 Steve Walsh - Schemer Dreamer
CANDY078 1994 - Please Stand By
CANDY079 Quiet Riot - III
CANDY080 Quiet Riot - QR
CANDY081 Survivor - Survivor
CANDY082 Survivor - Premonition
CANDY083 Heavens Edge - Heavens Edge
CANDY084 Melidian - Lost In The Wild
CANDY085 Circus Of Power - Vices
CANDY086 Burning Tree - Burning Tree
CANDY087 Survivor - Caught In The Game
CANDY088 Survivor - Vital Signs
CANDY089 Starcastle - Starcastle
CANDY090 Starcastle - Fountains Of Light
CANDY091 Lake, Greg - Greg Lake
CANDY092 Lake, Greg - Manoeuvres
CANDY093 Survivor - When Seconds Count
CANDY094 Survivor - Too Hot To Sleep
CANDY095 Kansas - Vinyl Confessions
CANDY096 Kansas - Drastic Measures
CANDY097 Romeos Daughter - Delectable
CANDY098 Strangeways - Strangeways
CANDY099 Strangeways - Walk In The Fire
CANDY100 Strangeways - Native Sons
CANDY101 Buck Dharma - Flat Out 
CANDY102 The Strand - The Strand
CANDY103 Stan Bush - Stan Bush
CANDY104 Stan Bush & Barrage - Stan Bush & Barrage
CANDY105 Vandenberg - Vandenberg
CANDY106 Max Webster - Max Webster
CANDY107 Max Webster - High Class In Borrowed Shoes
CANDY108 Max Webster - Mutiny Up My Sleeve
CANDY109 Harlequin - Love Crimes
CANDY110 More - Blood And Thunder
CANDY111 Angel City - Face To Face (US Comp)
CANDY112 More - Warhead
CANDY113 Gamma - Gamma 2
CANDY114 Electric Angels - Electric Angels
CANDY115 Armored Saint - Delirious Nomad
CANDY116 Lone Star - Lone Star
CANDY117 Lone Star - Firing On All Six
CANDY118 Skin (UK) - Skin
CANDY119 Orion The Hunter - Orion The Hunter
CANDY120 Candy - Whatever Happened To Fun?
CANDY121 Praying Mantis - Time Tells No Lies
CANDY122 Dakota - Dakota
CANDY123 Dakota - Runaway
CANDY124 Grand Prix - Samurai
CANDY125 Le Roux - Up
CANDY126 Sheriff - Sheriff
CANDY127 Phantom Rocker & Slick - Phantom Rocker & Slick
CANDY128 Harlequin - One False Move
CANDY129 Fastway - Fastway
CANDY130 Smashed Gladys - Social Intercourse
CANDY131 Helix - Long Way To Heaven
CANDY132 Helix - Wild In The Streets
CANDY133 Aldo Nova - Aldo Nova
CANDY134 Aldo Nova - Subject
CANDY135 Lightning Raiders – Sweet Addiction
CANDY136 Wireless - Positively Human, Relatively Sane
CANDY137 Wireless - No Static
CANDY138 Van Zant, Johnny (Band) - Round Two
CANDY139 Van Zant, Johnny (Band) - The Last Of The Wild Ones
CANDY140 DeSario, Teri - Caught
CANDY141 L.A Guns - L.A Guns
CANDY142 L.A Guns - Cocked And Loaded
CANDY143 FM - Indiscreet
CANDY144 FM - Tough It Out
CANDY145 Quiet Riot - Metal Health
CANDY146 Quiet Riot - Condition Critical
CANDY147 Roadmaster - Sweet Music
CANDY148 Roadmaster - Hey World
CANDY149 Roadmaster - Fortress
CANDY150 Blackfoot - Flyin' High
CANDY151 Lionheart - Hot Tonight
CANDY152 Paris - Paris
CANDY153 Angel - Angel
CANDY154 Angel - Helluva Band
CANDY155 Angel - On Earth As It Is In Heaven
CANDY156 Derringer – Sweet Evil
CANDY157 Streetheart - Drugstore Dancer
CANDY158 Streetheart - Dancing With Danger
CANDY160 SPYS - Behind Enemy Lines
CANDY161 The Outlaws – Bring It Back Alive
CANDY162 Outlaws – Soldiers Of Fortune
CANDY163 Jefferson Starship - Freedom At Point Zero
CANDY164 Head East – Live!
CANDY165 Freddie Salem & The Wild Cats – Catdance
CANDY166 Zebra - Zebra
CANDY167 Zebra - No Tellin’ Lies
CANDY168 Wild Horses – Wild Horses
CANDY169 Wild Horses – Stand Your Ground
CANDY170 Le Roux – Last Safe Place
CANDY171 Le Roux – So Fired Up
CANDY172 Eddie Money – Eddie Money
CANDY173 Eddie Money – Life For The Taking
CANDY174 Eddie Money – Playing For Keeps
CANDY175 Eddie Money – No Control
CANDY176 REO Speedwagon – You Can Tune A Piano But You Can’t Tuna Fish
CANDY177 REO Speedwagon – Nine Lives
CANDY178 Charlie – Good Morning America
CANDY179 Blackfoot – Strikes
CANDY180 Blackfoot – Tomcattin’
CANDY181 Blue Murder – Blue Murder
CANDY182 Chevy – The Taker
CANDY183 Dark Star – Dark Star
CANDY184 Blackfoot - Marauder
CANDY185 Blackfoot – Live Highway Song
CANDY186 21 Guns - Salute
CANDY187 Randy Hansen – Randy Hansen
CANDY188 Honeymoon Suite – Honeymoon Suite
CANDY189 Billy Thorpe – East Of Eden’s Gate
CANDY190 Aviary - Aviary
CANDY191 Gamma – 1
CANDY192 Dokken – Breaking The Chains
CANDY193 Dokken – Tooth & Nail
CANDY194 Dokken – Under Lock And Key
CANDY195 Tommy Shaw - Ambition
CANDY197 Vandenberg – Heading For A Storm
CANDY198 Ian Thomas Band - Glider
CANDY199 Ian Thomas Band – The Runner
CANDY201 Streets – 1st
CANDY202 Streets – Crimes In Mind
CANDY204 Airborne - Airborne
CANDY205 New England – Explorer Suite
CANDY206 Speedway Blvd – Speedway Blvd
CANDY207 White Sister – White Sister
CANDY208 REO Speedwagon – Good Trouble
CANDY209 REO Speedwagon – Wheels Are Turnin’
CANDY210 Steve Stevens – Atomic Playboys
CANDY212 Ratt – Out Of The Cellar
CANDY213 Ratt – Dancing Under Cover
CANDY214 Honeymoon Suite – The Big Prize
CANDY215 Honeymoon Suite – Racing After Midnight
CANDY216 Frehley’s Comet – Second Sighting
CANDY217 Ace Frehley – Trouble Walkin’ CANDY218 Tangier – Four Winds
CANDY219 Shakin’ Street – Shakin’ Street
CANDY220 Faster Pussycat – Faster Pussycat
CANDY221 Toto - Toto
CANDY222 Toto - Hydra
CANDY223 Toto – Turn Back
CANDY225 Lou Gramm – Long Hard Look
CANDY226 Kerry Livgren – Seeds Of Change
CANDY227 Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog
CANDY228 Rick Springfield – Rock Of Life
CANDY229 Gamma - 3
CANDY230 Dirty Looks – Cool From The Wire
CANDY232 Kings X – Out Of The Silent Planet
CANDY234 Georgia Satellites – Georgia Satellites
CANDY235 Fiona - Fiona
CANDY236 Fiona – Beyond The Pale
CANDY237 Fiona – Heart Like A Gun
CANDY238 Lynch Mob – Wicked Sensation
CANDY239 Ambrosia – One Eighty
CANDY240 Ambrosia – Road Island
CANDY241 Fortress – Hands In The Till
CANDY247 Krokus – Metal Rendezvous
CANDY248 Krokus - Hardware
CANDY249 Krokus – One Vice At A Time

There are some wonderful albums here and any self respecting fan of melodic rock and closely associated genres might almost make a decent collection of great music (including more than a few surprises but also a few duds, I’m sorry to say!) from past eras by purchasing nothing but RC releases, and the list becomes more captivating with each and every month that passes. With nearly 250 albums now released by the label in its main series (and there is now a fledgling HARD ROCK CANDY series out there too!) I would certainly be interested to hear which of these albums are your favourites (and also least favourites) and your reasons why. Please contribute to the relevant Rocktopia forum thread.

Two aspects that generally make the reissues on ROCK CANDY such a pleasure to have are (a) the much enhanced sound quality from a top quality re-mastering process and (b) the very worthy essay included in the accompanying booklet: some of which are written by members of the Fireworks Magazine / team.

However, unlike some other reissue labels, the Rock Candy ones tend to stick to the track listing of the original albums rather than adding some tasty extra material. With some of the releases elsewhere, it can – of course - be argued that this extra material is actually quite ordinary and add nothing to the original release…that is unless one is really seeking this sort of otherwise obscure recordings. So, it’s pretty much a case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.

As for my favourite RC reissue?? Well, that’s a bloody hard question to answer, but marginally it has to be CANDY104: Stan Bush & Barrage. It’s as close to being the perfect melodic rock album that’s it’s possible to get in my humble opinion. My biggest disappointment? My choice is CANDY037: Eric Martin – ‘I'm Only Foolin' Myself’. I did not get to hear Eric’s sophomore album when it was released back in 1987 (following his self-titled debut in 1985) but having been a fan of Mr Big thought it was one I should to add to my music library. But truthfully, despite sourcing songs from a wide range of talented writers and having a galaxy of talented musicians across the ten tracks, it really doesn’t cut the mustard for me and Dave Cockett’s assessment that the album can “hardly be called a classic hard rock album…” is a fair one – although Dave does go on to suggest that “it is a great pop rock/R&B album….featuring one of the finest rock voices of his generation”. I certainly would not quibble with this final point – and perhaps it is a darned good job that ‘I’m Only Foolin’ Myself’ failed to sell significantly back in 1987, otherwise we might not have got those great Mr Big albums – nor the fabulous Tak Matsumoto Group album, ‘TMG1’ that Frontiers released back in 2004 (and if you don’t know this one, I really do earnestly urge you to seek it out pronto!)

‘Till the next time….

Paul Jerome Smith
(30 May 2014)

May 19


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As I keyboard these words, it is six months since I handed over the reins of Editing the Reviews section of Fireworks and Rocktopia to Dave Scott, and the outcome of his labours may be seen in Fireworks #62 and #63. I think that the transfer of responsibilities has been seamless, and the superb team of writers has certainly risen to the challenge of having a much younger and more computer literate boss! You’d be blown away if you saw one of Dave’s spreadsheets… 

As for me, well I haven’t gone away, and am still helping “behind the scenes” and not having to fill my brains with the bi-monthly reviews grind (actually a lot of fun, but a grind nevertheless) I am trying to contribute developmental thoughts: some of which I am pleased are accepted. Of course Fireworks is not my magazine and Rocktopia is not my website, but I remain committed and keen to ensure that they become truly and successfully embedded into supporting the music scene and genres that we cover. This is done without any allegiance or affiliation to any labels or PR companies, and the views published remain those of enthusiastic music lovers all of whom give of their time quite freely: as volunteers. When you read a positive review of an album, there is no question of the writer having been paid to say what they have: it is their honest, personal opinion.

It can be quite a battle to grow an independent title (details available on request!!) but it is gratifying to know that Firework’s printing and distribution company is helping to explore new overseas markets in which to retail the magazine.

Rocktopia is also growing and evolving. We are not trying to compete with any of the much more established sites, but we are attempting to provide more choice and I think that Rocktopia is unique in being a fully fledged (as opposed to shadow) partner to a currently published printed magazine.

However, there is a lot to be done, so if you have IT skills, an interest in the music we cover AND have some time available to contribute/help on a regular basis, then please do let us know by registering your interest via my Rocktopia e-mail address. There’s no payment for helping, but you can be guaranteed some “perks”!! 

One change for Rocktopia is my Blog, which has appeared only spasmodically since the start of the site. I now have more time to spend upon this so I plan for it to appear more frequently in the future. It is also going to have a purely musical focus, and I plan to write mostly (but not entirely) about reissues and the reissue labels and in a way that complements what may or may not have been written in reviews. Some of what I have to say may occasionally be irreverent and controversial but most importantly I hope it will be somewhere you will wish to drop into on a regular basis when you notice I have added some more ramblings. 

That’s it for now, but the first of my new style Blogs will appear here soon. 

Paul Jerome Smith
(19 May 2014)

Sep 10


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I was recently looking at an on-line feature that listed and showed the ten most beautiful beaches in the world worth visiting. Well, they got it completely wrong. I should know; I’ve been there and the ten beaches shown pale in comparison with the beach at Cape Tribulation in northern Queensland, in the Daintree National Park – and where one of the world’s oldest tropical jungle and another of the world’s great natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef come into close association.

Jul 09


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I sometimes (make that “often”) wonder about the music industry; it seems not to know what to do next.  However, it does seem to come up with some crazy ideas which are surely the outcome of some “executives” sitting round a table either too full of falling down water, or of some alternative substance…and I’m not going to go there!

Recently I was discussing with someone from an independent promotions company representing up and coming bands, some of whose releases are reviewed in the main reviews section of Fireworks and then here at Rocktopia and he was telling me that I would not believe some of the nonsense his clients have been told.

So I asked him for a “for instance” and the following details some of the things that I would not believe. And to be frank, they have left me aghast, bewildered and just a little bit angry!
This is what I was sent that one band had told him:

"We all know there are no such things as once upon a time in this world and above all in the music business where sharks and charlatans gather and seek fresh blood and souls to steal. But even stepping into the ring with eyes widen open and big dreams locked away safe is all too often a zero sum game for a band these days as the industry thrashes about trying to find a new working model."

"Such a band had a vision, raised the funds to record an album with a name producer, one of name and considerable achievement, in order to bring a completed album to the table, thus lessening any investment risk for a label. However the result has been beyond parody, with labels falling over themselves wanting the album, yet attaching such conditions to any contract that walking away is the only option for sake of pocket and sanity and love of music; one label wanted to release the album but wanted "100 % of publishing in view of the risk we are taking", another expected the band to hand over in excess of £4k for a marketing and PR budget; yet another said "love the album but can you re-record it at your expense with our in-house producer"; "we expect you to tour to support the album but we will not offer any tour support but we want a % of merchandise sales"…the litany rolls on as desperation bites like a shark in need of a light snack. "

"As previously observed no band is really looking for once upon a time, but equally something approaching equable business practice in light of what many bands are actually bringing to the table would be a nice change - though as rare as rocking horse poop."

I shudder to think that this could possibly be any of the labels whose releases those of you reading this hold dear, and whose releases you often purchase. I do not know which labels the band is referring to…but I do worry that it might be!

What to make of it?  Well as I have said, a variety of reactions fomented in my mind – but overall simply one of incredulity, although from my experience of being associated with the oft fondly remembered Now & Then Records I really should not be surprised at all.  It’s all just like a recurring bad dream, with the only difference being that we are talking about reality.

Do I have “the new working model” for the music industry? Sadly not; all I do know is that I have seen far too many decisions that beggar belief… Perhaps I am too washed up in the backwater that is AOR and melodic rock, although my personal taste extends well beyond this narrow strip of the beach, and even encompasses some of the palm trees that provide some shade and respite from the unbelievable amount of crap that crosses my desk and computer as Reviews Editor. I even have to turn away some releases that in another time might have made it for review. There is quite simply far too much stuff out there competing for the ever-reducing disposable income that purchasers of music in our quite small scene have available. I guess the working model must be something like throwing a clod of mud at a wall, and see what sticks…

But of course, there are more and more independent releases too, and the sad tale above will help to explain why this is. What does seem to be a promising route for such music is the Pledge system, but so far this is not something with which I have become involved.

You, dear reader, may have some thoughts about all this – so, do please comment in the Rocktopia Forums.

Apr 17


PJS Posted by: PJS in MyBlog | Comment (1)
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Sorry, but I continue to lead a very full life (thank goodness) and squeezing in the time to write another Blog continues to be something of a challenge. I do know that the next one may not happen for a while, as I am heading off on some travels during May and June…

Feb 05


PJS Posted by: PJS in MyBlog | Comment (1)
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So, the line-up for Firefest 2012 has now been announced; and what a cracking weekend it looks like being. I think the guys have really excelled themselves this time and I am amazed by the appearance of SANTERS. I have all four of their extremely desirable albums in the Japanese-released box set from 1998 that I managed to find for a very decent price a few years later. I know this is a band that many will not know. As for me, it is Brighton Rock and XYZ that will provide a musical education, for I have (as I type this) not heard anything by either band.

Looking back at Firefest 2011: well, what an amazing weekend that turned out to be. As some of you will know, I work with a team of super guys (Gary Marshall, Ian Johnson, Steven Reid, David Hill and Nigel Kay -- we are collectively known as "The Jumblies") as part of the festival's front of house crew. This time I personally spent more time behind the scenes watching various processes than I did watching the bands. Indeed, the only full sets I saw were of the bands I was reviewing for Fireworks and Burrn! Magazines (Houston and Vega) and there were a number I didn't see at all. What needs to be remarked is just what a smooth and well-run event it has turned into, and I'm not being sycophantic in remarking thus. I do see lots of praise from many people following the Festival each year, but looking at the interlocking of all the parts that go to make the Festival what it is, I think that the unique camaraderie and sheer hard work and determination of everyone involved ensuring the festival is as great an experience as possible is quite possibly unique. The fact that this is a great social occasion as well as an amazing musical feast is also fundamental to its success. It is growing year by year and the good vibes of the weekend are being spread around the melodic rock community and more and more bands seem to be keen to get involved, I understand.

Rock City may have become the established home of the Festival for now, but I do know that there was very serious consideration of at least one other venue in another city (NOT London!) this time. The early curfew for the shows on each day is a particularly irksome matter and there are other factors about which I am not going to write here that are not ideal, and which could be positively addressed by staging the Festival elsewhere. And yet, for every gain, there would inevitably be losses, not least because of the links built up over the past few years in Nottingham and of the understanding of how the Rock City venue works and of using it to our advantage in that respect.

Returning to last year's Festival, I do want to commend all the wonderful "AORsters" who attended this year's festival.

Except one!

I don't know the guy's name but he arrived at the entrance to Rock City on the Friday evening having missed Serpentine, Houston and Terry Brock. He demanded a refund because he had been scouring Nottingham Trent University for the venue at which the show was being held there...

I did notice that Rock City was very full on the Friday night...but I guess there's always one who lives their life in a complete haze! What really gets me in Society these days is the inability of some people to accept their culpability for a particular situation. It always has to be someone else's fault!

There, I do occasionally have a rant!

One of the things I really enjoy is meeting up with friends and acquaintances, amongst whom are Sue and Marty Moffatt. Marty is, as many of you will know, a really fabulous photographer and he and Sue Ashcroft both produce official shots of the entire show. Sue Moffatt stations herself at the reception desk for much of the weekend, and as such has to be counted as an honorary Jumbly! As anyone who has ever shared her company will know, she has a wicked sense of humour and time spent in her vicinity quickly passes!

It is also great meeting the musicians from the melodic rock scene and there are two from Firefest 2011 I would particularly like to mention here: Alessandro del Vecchio and Issa. I have long been an admirer of Ale's work -- both as a musician, a producer, a composer and (I think this is lesser known) a vocal coach. A brief conversation at Firefest has been followed by numerous e-mails between us and a glimpse into his very busy schedule. He has several projects on the go at the moment and I will be talking with him about these and so much more for a forthcoming feature in Fireworks.

Issa always seemed to be somewhere near the Firefest reception desk in the foyer of Rock City: usually (but not always) in the company of her husband James Martin (Vega). She really is a very lovely person, and a complete ladette!! I had expected to see her name in the line-up for 2012, given that she had so thoroughly soaked up the atmosphere (along with a few cans) but I guess it's more likely for 2013 especially if Vega put in a return appearance then.

As I put the finishing touches to this edition of 'Another Moment...' I am sat at the computer with more than a modicum of frustration. I was due to be attending tonight's gig at the Classic Rock Society with Bruce, but in a winter that has (here in Bury) been remarkably free of snow, just after 1100 this morning the predicted heavy snow began. And seven hours later it is still bucketing down. As the journey from here to Rotherham necessitates crossing over the Pennines, we decided that it might not be a sensible idea to venture out. I dare it to snow in four weeks time when I am next due at the CRS (for the BOTYS); on that occasion I will be going in the company of my pal Mark Ryan. He has a 4WD there's an idea for when Bruce decides to replace his rear-wheel drive Lexus that seems to slide all over the place as soon as the words "snow" and "ice" are uttered!

Appearing at the CRS tonight is the wonderful British prog band CREDO. Their 2011 album 'Against Reason' topped my personal best of the year list. As only the first five appear in forthcoming (and landmark) issue 50 of Fireworks, here is the full Top 10:

1. CREDO -- Against Reason
2. SHY -- Shy
3. SUBSIGNAL -- Touchstones
4. SEAN FILKINS -- War & Peace And Other Short Stories
5. NIGHTWISH -- Imaginaerum
6. THE MAGNIFICENT -- The Magnificent
7. TOBY HITCHCOCK -- Mercury's Down
8. MECCA -- Undeniable
9. COSMOGRAPH -- When Age Has Done Its Duty
10. ROB MORATTI -- Victory

Also in contention (in alphabetical order) were...

AMARANTHE -- Amaranthe
AMORPHIS -- The Beginning Of Times
EDEN'S CURSE -- Trinity
LIONVILLE -- Lionville
MAGIC PIE -- The Suffering Joy
MAGNUM -- The Visitation
MANNING -- Margaret's Children
PRESTO BALLET -- Invisible Places
TEN -- Stormwarning
WORK OF ART -- In Progress

That's it for this time. I keep promising that the next one will not be such a long time a coming! We'll see...

PJS 040212

Oct 31


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Feb 21


PJS Posted by: PJS in MyBlog | Comment (14)
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The delay in appearance of this instalment of my Blog is entirely due to my being a numpty when I originally tried to post it onto the Rocktopia site a few weeks ago. I obviously didn’t do it right, as everything duly disappeared – most of you will have had something similar happen to you in the computer age and it is a major leaning experience at the time, but moreover quite dispiriting.

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