Neal Smith, Shadow & the Thrill, Limousine Beach and Vicious Rooster

Neal Smith - Pop 85/95
Smith, the drummer and founding member of the original Alice Cooper Group, recently found in his archives tapes of songs he had recorded in the '80s and '90s that were in a pop style as opposed to the harder rock that fans expected of him, and that were never released until now. The original guitar tracks played by Jay Jesse Johnson ("Triple J") remain intact; this newly-polished version of the tracks also features Peter Catucci (of Smith's band Killsmith) on bass, Jeff Batter on keyboards and Smith on vocals, drums and synth drums, synthesizer and other keyboards. Smith notes the success of fellow drummer Phil Collins as an inspiration here, and while he doesn't quite hit those heights he does come close with cuts like "Dying to Love You" where the arrangement and vocals recall solo era Robert Plant; ditto on the aching "Love Sets the Night on Fire." Perhaps the nearest to a coulda-been-a-hit is "In a Heartbeat" which carries a Foreigner-like groove.

Shadow & the Thrill - Sugarbowl
Shadow & the Thrill is the duo of Tony Cardenas-Montana of Great White fame and Brentt Arcement, augmented here only by an additional bass player and a pianist on one song each and a host of background vocalists. Tony handles the lead vocals and the record starts with "Lovesong," a boisterous rocker that recalls solo David Lee Roth. "Misery" tunes into a classic rock vibe, with hints of the blues as Cardenas-Montana plays some slide guitar and blows blues harp on the cut. "The Grind" is a pop cut flavored with funky R&B flourishes and title cut "Sugarbowl" gets really swampy as it foresees the end of a love relationship. The guys also offer a sublime take on the Gnarls Barkley hit "Crazy."

Limousine Beach - Stealin' Wine + 2
This Pittsburgh-based five piece calls their music "sizzle rock," and you get an idea of what they mean by that on this three-song EP's title track, where a three guitar attack and Who-like drumming sets the scene for sweet, layered glamrock-ish vocals that'll have listeners singing along about stealing wine. "Hear You Calling" uses the KISS canon as inspiration while "Tiny Hunter" has a retro blues rock feel to it, recalling something that Foghat might have done. Only about seven minutes of music here but that's enough to jump on this band's fan wagon; hopefully there'll be a lot more from these guys coming soon.

Vicious Rooster - "The Moon is Dancing"
Here's a new single from Argentinian rocker Juan Abella who has released music as Vicious Rooster off and on for the past few years. Acoustic guitar and harmonica give the song a forlorn, sort of Neil Young-ish feeling at its beginning, and not unlike one of Young's cuts, the song shortly takes a psychedelic turn as electric guitar kicks in, turning "The Moon is Dancing" into what could be the soundtrack to a peyote-fueled lunar vision. Good stuff from this talented singer/songwriter.

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