Review Rundown: LA Guns, One Less Reason, Hell Or Highwater, Park Lane, Gregory Issacs

This new edition of the Review Rundown looks at new releases from LA Guns, One Less Reason, Hell Or Highwater, and Park Lane, as well as a tribute record to the work of Gregory Issacs.

File Under: Today’s Stars Looking to the Past
Various Artists - We Remember Gregory Issacs (VP Records): We Remember Gregory Issacs, a tribute paying homage to the late Jamaican singer helmed by saxophonist and producer Dean Fraser, features vocal versions of several of Isaacs' signature tunes sung by contemporary Jamaican vocalists. We Remember Gregory Issacs, a double disc affair, starts off with various contemporary artists tackling some of Issacs’ strongest works, including “Night Nurse,” performed by Romain Virgo, “Front Door,” performed by Tarrus Riley, “Mr. Brown,” by Jah Cure, “Hard Drugs,” performed by Busy Signal, and “Border,” as done by Duane Stephenson. Etana’s take on “My Only Lover” also serves as a highlight here, though the true selling point of We Remember Gregory Issacs is the second disc in which Fraser himself emerges from behind the mixing board to perform each and every one of these song instrumentally, whose considerable talents with a saxophone in hand pretty much know no end. We Remember Gregory Issacs has the potential to reintroduce the legendary work of Issacs to the world and make Issacs relevant again in the eyes and the minds of today’s new generation of reggae lovers. (  
Grade: B-
Go Download: “Night Nurse”

File Under: Hard Rock Lights Out
L.A. Guns – Acoustic Gypsy Live (Favored Nations): No matter the band, no matter the songs, acoustic albums are pretty much hit or miss regardless. In the case of L.A. Guns and their new acoustic offering Acoustic Gypsy Live, in order to fully enjoy the album, you have the take the good with the bad as it were because not all of Guns catalog lends itself to an acoustic makeover. Such is the case with the tracks “Sex Action” and “Rip and Tear,” two songs that sound a better fit with a full electric accompaniment, though the guitar solo housed within the former makes up for its shortcomings in the acoustic department. On the flip side, “Ballad of Jayne” and “Crystal Eyes” could not sound better unplugged and sound more haunting and more powerful with the power turned out. “Over the Edge” represents the strongest cut off of Acoustic Gypsy Live, and for those looking for more than simple redeux’s, the band offer up a new tune in “Little Soldier” and a couple of excellent covers in Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine” and Nazareth’s “Love Hurts.” Even though Jizzy Pearl handles vocal duties on Acoustic Gypsy Live, it makes no difference (he’s since left the fold), and it’s nice to see Tracii Guns doing what he does best with a guitar, albeit acoustic, in his hands. Whether you’re a fan of L.A. Guns I or L.A. Guns II, Acoustic Gypsy Live is worth a listen. (
Grade: C+
Go Download: “Over the Edge”

File Under: Modern Rock
One Less Reason - Faces & Four Letter Words (Arsenic): Let’s make one thing perfectly clear from the start – One Less reason’s Faces & Four Letter Words is a good record, and there’s a good chance you’ll agree while you’re listening, which is the ultimate downfall for the record. It’s a quality listen, though you’ll probably have a hard time remembering it after you move onto another record. It’s sort of a case of right place, wrong time for One Less Reason, a promising up and comer in the rock game. They’re in the right place with Faces & Four Letter Words, though at the wrong time because there’s at least another few dozen or so high quality rock releases usurping this band’s place in the spotlight. It’s evident that One Less reason has the chops to get the job done and its clear they have a keen eye for what works. They know how to assemble a good modern rock song, oft-resembling a young Crossfade circa 2004, though there seems to be too many times throughout Faces & Four Letter Words where the band suffers a power outage, moments of staunch, radio-drenched balladeering in which you’ll have a hard time telling One Less Reason apart from 3 Doors Down or Shinedown (“If You Want Me,” “Someday,” “A Day to Be Alone”), and definitely not enough displays of guitar driven rock intensity (“What You Are,” “Faces”). Unfortunately for OLR and Faces & Four Letter Words, their penultimate cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” is very good, too good actually because its perhaps the best song on the album, creating yet another obstacle for Faces & Four Letter Words in the long run. (
Grade: C+
Go Download: “Relax”

File Under: Rock
Hell Or Highwater – Begin Again: Begin Again, the high-powered debut from Atreyu’s Brandon Saller’s new plaything Hell Or Highwater, is opened with two of its better cuts in “Gimme Love” and “Hail Mary!,” two tracks that immediately show that with Saller a star is born. Sure, fans of Atreyu know the drummer/vocalist has got some quality pipes, but now he longer is shrouded in darkness, no longer remaining hidden behind a wall of drums – he is front and center in Hell Or Highwater. With the subsequent “Terrorized In the Night” and “Tragedy,” HOH seems content coming out guns ablaze, though the initial momentum tires andluster fades a bit as Begin Again progresses, as the album eventually gives way to a wash of forgettable, mid-tempo rockers that ultimately fall to the wayside (“Rocky Waters Edge,” “When the Morning Comes”). Even an appearance from Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows can’t save “Go Alone” from obscurity. HOH pick themselves up by their bootstraps towards the end of the record as “We All Wanna Go Home,” the album’s final sendoff employs big hooks, anthemic vocals and excellent soloing, sending Begin Again out on a high note, an album that clearly shows this band has some things to build off of. And while Begin Again shows some signs of inconsistency that can be chalked up to growing pains, it sure made one hell of a mark. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Gimme Love”

File Under: Melodic Rock
Park Lane - Letters From the Fire (Hayfield Records): From his days spent conducting frenetic and groundbreaking jazz/metal fusion (or “urban fusion” for those fans out there) act Candiria, to his short-lived, yet overlooked time in the promising Christian act Hope Kills Fear, Carley Coma has remained one of the most recognizable and talented throats in the game. And as frontman for his latest day job, the newly formed Park Lane, Coma continues to dazzle when a microphone is present, which is all too obvious on the bands debut, the powerful Letters From the Fire. The album’s first triumvirate of songs (“the Edge,” “Silence,” “Love Again”) represent the albums three strongest tracks and Coma’s three best post-Candiria cuts. That’s by no means a disservice to the rest of this record – it’s not meant as a slight by any means – nor should you plan on abandoning ship and hit the stop button after “Love Again” fades – there’s still quality left to be heard throughout the rest of Letters From the Fire, a remaining portion which ebbs and flows steadily through waves of guitar driven melodic rock full of deep seated grooves and apparent atmospherics able to create lush and vibrant soundscapes (“Mirrors,” “My Escape,” “Failure”) and tempered, heart-on-sleeve moments of sheer emotionality (“Never Alone,” “A Lonely Shade of Red,” “All You Have”). Regardless of which side of Letters From the Fire you prefer, you can rest assure it’s a complete listen. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: “Silence”