Category Archives: CD Reviews

Adrenaline Mob-Dearly Departed

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If you look at my past reviews you can see I am not the biggest fan of Adrenaline Mob. In fact I think the band may have taken on their namesake and put a hit out me. So it must seem odd that once again I am tackling their newest. Call it self flagellation or more likely that it’s February and there is not a lot out. Dearly Departed is a mini-LP mostly made up of covers or acoustic numbers. They did this right after their debut album and I like this idea. Alice In Chains did it and I think it’s a nice way of staying in the public eye without milking the cow.

Let’s address the covers first. Dearly Departed kicks off with Pat Travers’ “Snorting Whiskey”. This is a blazing cover and it had me rethinking my attitude towards the band by the time it hit the chorus. It is a balls out rockin’ version of this 70’s classic and you can hear the band enjoying themselves. Especially guitarist Mike Orlando who sounds like a mixture of an Allman brother and an 80’s shredder on here. Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down” also gets the treatment and it is a good one. The feeling is like this is a fun practice room song that they just decided to record. I applaud the guys for choosing some not too obvious songs. However, just because it is a surprising choice does not mean it is a good one. Case in point is their version of “Devil Went Down To Georgia”. It sounds exactly as you would imagine and it’s not nearly as clever as it needed to be. The last cover on here is a “Black Sabbath Medley”. It is about as original sounding as that title. One highlight is drummer AJ Pero channeling his inner Animal and going bat shit insane on it. There needs to be a moratorium on bands covering Sabbath, Metallica, and Slayer. Just don’t do it. You will always be compared to the original and in doing so will always be lacking.

Along with the covers, the other draw is the three acoustic interpretations on here. Each one of them being very good. Russell Allen really gets a chance to show off his voice on them. “Crystal Clear” and “Angel Sky” have full band accompaniment on them but the acoustic vibe is still there and the stripped down quality is delicious. As good as those versions are, “All On The Line” is legendary. With just Russell and Mike alone with a guitar the emotion really comes through. Really beautiful and powerful.

Dearly Departed is rounded out with a radio edit of the title track. Taking off that extra minute really streamlined the song and makes modern rock keeper. “Gets You Through The Night” is an unreleased track from Men Of Honor. It is a little peppier and reminds me of Saliva or Nickelback and I’m not saying that in a good way. It proves the adage that if the song was any good it would have been on the album.

I guess Dearly Departed has opened my eyes to Adrenaline Mob. I really like how the band is able to mix modern hard rock with classic rock sensibilities. Hopefully it will continue on their next release. My one small complaint is I think Dearly Departed should be a bit cheaper. It’s only $1 less than a regular album so I dropped it down one because of that.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Sweet & Lynch-Only To Rise

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Geez, another project album?

Really?

This one features Michael Sweet of Stryper fame on vocals joined by the magical fingers of guitarist George Lynch. Somehow these two men who have been creating music for most of their lives came up with the name Sweet & Lynch.

Ugh.

That “moniker” does not reek of creative genius for the prospective buyer. Band name aside, the prospect of these two guys working together is intriguing. The last Stryper album was good as was Michael’s subsequent solo offering. The same can be said of George’s latest output. The two Lynch Mob EP’s were terrific and his other project band, KXM, was on many people’s Top 10 lists. Also have to mention that the band is rounded out with the rhythm section of James Lomenzo and Brian Tichy. Two very capable veterans that have played together and with a variety of acts,

One of the main reasons this intrigued me so much was to hear Michael Sweet away from Stryper’s safety net. I was never really a big fan of them. The religious stuff was a bit too heavy handed plus the outfits were just silly. The prospect of him being able to shun those restraints is very appealing.

Sweet & Lynch sound exactly as you might think, a more melodic sounding Lynch Mob. At times it does sound a bit more Stryper-ish. That is heard right from the get go on “The Wish”. It gets a bit slinkier on “Dying Rose” with it’s Lynch Mob sound but Michael’s voice gives it that something extra. His high pitched vocals return on “Recover”. With George’s playing it really hearkens back to the glory days. Now the track that George shows off the most on is “Divine”. The guitar sound is so nasty sounding it’s almost pornographic. Only To Rise ends with the title track, probably my favorite song on the album. Brian Tichy’s double bass drumming really amps it up and makes it one of the heaviest tracks any of the guys has done.

With the pedigree of these two you expect a power ballad. Naturally there are a couple with “Love Stay” being the best. The rhythm section really help and takes a song that could have been very generic into something a lot more interesting. “Me Without You” is a nice one as well, though it seem to echo Dokken’s “Alone Again”.

Purely accidental I’m sure.

Sadly there are a couple of misses here. “Stretch in Numbers” sounds like they never knew which way to take the song. The keyboard is so out front you wonder if George just forgot to play on it. Then there’s “Hero Zero” which has some of the silliest lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. The hero is a zero, he’s just a highwayman. That’s bad. So bad that it ruins what could of been a good song.

It’s a shame that the new release shelf has been flooded with so many of these projects. I think fans may have soured on the gimmick-ness of these “dream projects” and in turn they overlook the ones that are actually good. Sweet & Lynch is one of those good ones with Only To Rise delivering on it’s promise of mixing together Stryper and Dokken into a audibly tasty treat. If you are a fan of either of those bands I recommend Sweet & Lynch wholeheartedly.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Rated X-Rated X

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The other project featuring an Appice in it is Rated X. This group has Carmine Appice on the drumstool. He has been in so many bands that it’s probably easier to name who he hasn’t been in. He is best know for Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, and King Kobra. The singer for Rated X is Joe Lynn Turner who fronted Rainbow during the MTV days. Rounding out the quartet is Tony Franklin the fretless bass maestro from Blue Murder and The Firm and guitarist Karl Cochran.

There are a lot similarities between Rated X and the other Appice project WAMI. Both singers have sung with Yngwie and Rainbow. Both bassist have played with Carmine in Blue Murder. And oddly, the least know of each group is the guitar player. However the big difference is that Cochran and Joe Lynn Turner have been playing together for awhile. Unfortunately Karl suffered a stroke midway through recording so Nikolo Kotzev of Brazen Abbot filled in for him.

Rated X offers up some classic sounding hard rock that sounds fittingly like a cross between Rainbow and Blue Murder. What makes this group standout from the others is that the familiarity between the members gives it more of a band feel and less of a studio one. The album kicks off with “Get Back My Crown” and “This Is Who I Am” and seems like a fitting declaration for a group of guys trying to reclaim their spot in the game. The keys on it really adds to the Rainbow feel. They’re also evident on “Fire & Ice” with it’s big chorus and bigger organ. (Don’t laugh, I’m talking about the musical instrument.)

The Blue Murder pedigree shines through on several tracks too. Some of it comes from Tony Franklin’s signature fretless bass sound. “Lhasa” has the same big epic song feel to it as “Valley Of The Kings”. Then there just some straight up rockers in “Devil In Disguise” and “Piece Of Mind” where Rated X is making there own statement.

To be fair there are a coupe of stinkers. “You Are The Music” reeks of “we need a ballad here” thinking. “Maybe Tonight” is a bland soft rocker. It almost seems that if they slow down it falls apart but they do a great job on “Our Love Is Over”. It’s a nice ballad that really shows off Karl’s playing. There is also an acoustic version that is just Joe Lynn and a piano and it is beautiful. It’s amazing to hear his voice still sounding that good.

What makes Rated X so much better than all the other project bands is that they seem to want to be a band. The extensive demoing and work they did before recording is evident. The cohesiveness comes through the speakers and the band has made an album worthy of their collective legacies.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-but it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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WAMI-Kill The King

WAMI
All-star projects seem to be the rage in the rock/metal world these days. It seems like a new one comes out every other week. Usually they are put together to do an album and then everyone goes their separate ways. I guess the record company pays these guys enough for a couple weeks work and the label makes a couple bucks and just maybe, someone can catch lightning in a bottle. Interestingly, there are two new ones that feature each of the Appice brothers on them.
The not so imaginatively named WAMI, made up of singer Doogie White, drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Marco Mendoza, and guitarist Iggy Gwadera. White Appice Mendoza Iggy=WAMI, get it? Yeah, exactly. You may know Doogie from singing for Yngwie and Rainbow. Marco Mendoza was in Blue Murder and Whitesnake. Vinny Appice has spent time in Black Sabbath, Dio, and Kill Devil Hill. Izzy is an unknown Polish guitarist that Marco saw and was so impressed he wanted to work with him. The other guys followed and we get Kill The King.
Kill The King is made up of 11 classic sounding hard rock tracks. Since 3 of the 4 guys are veteran players, execution will not be a problem. Doogie White sounds like a mix between Dio and Biff Byford of Saxon and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s ends up sounding derivative. Maybe if he showed a bit more flair and power, it would have soundes better. It’s the same with Iggy’s guitar playing. It’s not bad it’s just not that engaging. I don’t know if it’s his lack of experience or maybe being intimidated by who he was playing with. Either way, he comes across as very unimaginative.
It’s a shame because there are some good bones here. “Young Blood” and “Heart of Steel” are a couple of nice rockers. “Exodus (The Red Sea Crossing)” is an attempt at doing a big epic song. The rest, while not bad are just kind of there. After listening to it a couple times, it comes across as unreleased Rainbow tracks.
The big drawback to these projects is that they’re not bands. One guy has most of the material, they maybe rehearse together, record it, and everyone goes there own way. If WAMI could have had a couple of months together to demo this and then record it, I think Kill The King would be a vastly different record. Alas, it is what it is.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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In This Moment-Black Widow

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Black Widow is the newest album from In This Moment and is a a big moment for the band. Pardon the pun. While the band has developed a nice following, there is the perception it has mainly to do with Maria Brink being at the forefront of every promo picture. Although she is quite attractive, Maria is undoubtedly a good singer and lyricist. While she may not be afraid to play up her feminine wiles, she is definitely Metal. The struggle is, if they are artists or just a reason to sell posters and t-shirts.

Black Widow starts with the prefect song for this band, “Sex Metal Barbie”. No matter what one may think of the song, “Sex Metal Barbie” is one of the greatest titles ever. It’s one of those phrases that when you hear it you kick yourself for not coming up with it first. Title aside, it is a really good song that seems to mix In This Moment’s favoring of Korn and Manson. Plus like many of their songs, Maria Brink adds some personal lyrics to it. It addresses her experiences of being an attractive and strong woman in the male dominated Metal scene.

The real strength to Black Widow is Maria’s ability to convey her feelings. I sort of feel that this album is something that as an older male, is not necessarily meant for me. One reason why In This Moment has attracted such a ardent fan base is they address the plight of the female metal fans. There is a huge amount of women out there that have not had someone speak to them. “Dirty Pretty” and “Natural Born Sinner” are two more songs dealing with sexuality that coming from any male singer might not have the same resonance. Then there’s “Into The Darkness” not necessarily a song but a spoken word piece of an emotionally abusive relationship that is very powerful.

You can see that In This Moment can be very powerful but sometimes they get a little too big for their britches. They really want to connect emotionally but sometimes Maria’s attempt at singing emotionally comes across as silly. Her soft whisper that is half a whimper gets annoying quick. Most apparently on “Out Of Hell” , a song that is an insight into two people living on the street. She is trying to convey that there is a way out and she will stand with them but her delivery is so manipulative that it’s the audio equivalent of the Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial. I’m not saying that I think she is being fake. She just goes over the top and the producer or someone should have stepped in.

When listening to Black Widow I had flashbacks to the No Doubt video where the guys in the band were standing to the side while Gwen was getting photographed. There are no killer riffs or solos, just songs. While that is good in theory, at times it does seem like the songs were Maria Brink and a backup band. There is a lot to like about Black Widow and you have to give In This Moment a lot of credit. This was a big opportunity for the and at least they swung for the fences.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…

$14.99-Regularly Priced CD

$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon

$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify

$0-Not worth the drive space

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Audrey Horne-Pure Heavy

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If you know the name Audrey Horne, you are either a Twin Peaks fan or from Norway. There are 5 guys who are both and have a band known as Audrey Horne that have just released their newest album Pure Heavy. I have never heard them before but I saw that this is a side project of guys in Enslaved and Sahg and was quite intrigued. I love when black metal or death metal musicians have projects outside their genre. Ihshan of Emperor has released some brilliant instrumental music while Shagrath of Dimmu Borgir has Chrome Division a hard rock version of Sons Of Anarchy except their not whiny pussies like the guys on the TV show.
On my first listening of Pure Heavy, the first thing I noticed was the singer Toschie. It wasn’t that he was great or horrible, he’s pretty good, but it was why it sounded so familiar. At times he reminded me of Kelly Keagy from Night Ranger and on certain choruses I could hear some Ozzy. After a couple more tracks it finally hit me, he sounds like Brent Hinds of Mastodon. Musically the band sounds like a nice modern take on 70’s hard rock. Lots of KISS and Thin Lizzy influence along with some more flairs thrown in. Opening track “Wolf in my Heart” has that Lizzy dueling guitar sound down so much I had to look to make sure Scott Gorham didn’t play on it. The twin guitars of Ice Dale and Thomas Tofthagen are on display again on “Out Of The City” and “Volcano Girl”. The former is the perfect driving with the top down song, as seen in their puppet laden video while the later track has a much more modern sound. “Diamond” has a slow acoustic intro until it kicks into a very Dio-like main riff. “Gravity” is the track where I believe the Brent Hinds similarity hit me. Really evident on the choruses with the song sounding like Mastodon if it was more of a hard rock band.
That is meant as a compliment.
I will admit the album did start to drag towards the end. It’s not that it was bad but the influences were becoming too much when they probably could have used a couple more tracks like “Gravity”. Then again only idiots like me listen to albums all the way through anymore. There is a lot to like about Audrey Horne’s Pure Heavy. Some really choice guitar melodies on display incorporated with very catchy familiar yet fresh rock songs. Don’t know what it is about that area but they are better at American rock than America is.

PS

They got Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth to drive around in a classic Lincoln with suicide doors and that is a pretty damn cool.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-buy it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Pink Floyd-The Endless River

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Like most of the world, I’ve been a fan of Pink Floyd. Listening to The Wall is still an amazing experience after all these days. And the albums they did without Roger are really good. “Learning To Fly” is the perfectly amalgam of Floyd and pop. Everyone knows of the animosity between Roger Waters and David Gilmour, so the prospect of having any new Pink Floyd music was very very remote. Add in that keyboardist Richard Wright had recently passed away, it seemed even more remote. So everyone was shocked when it was announced that there would be a new Pink Floyd album coming out. David announced that The Endless River would be made of up tracks left over from The Division Bell sessions.
This is a tough task that David and drummer Nick Mason decided to undertake. Material that is left over was left over for a reason. Add in that your using material from a guy that is no longer on this mortal plane. When the album starts you hear signature Pink Floyd sounds. Big keys holding one note for a ling time while David Gilmour noodles. It’s very atmospheric and transcendent.
For about 10 minutes.
And then it continues and continues doing the same thing. It’s nice and relaxing but gets monotonous after a bit. The tracks are grouped together on “sides” and then “parts”. There is only one song with vocals the fittingly titled “Side 4 Pt.4 Louder Than Words”. The Endless River only kicks up the tempo on the three non-”Side” tracks but they are instrumental.
After listening to the album it is obvious that these were leftover tracks. There’s no real theme, no excitement, no emotion, no feel, nothing.
Nada.
Zilch.
This seems like something that a label would do and not David Gilmour. He wants it to be a fitting swansong for Richard Wright but comes across like a cash cow for his accountant. If David would have released an EP or added some of these tracks onto a Best Of or Live album as incentive, I would understand. What you get here is a bunch of tracks you think you’ve heard of before but and not really sure where. The Endless River is 60 minutes of glorified New Age music that is a very unfitting swansong for a legendary rock band.
Sometimes it best to leave things in the vault.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-buy it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Big Trouble-Long Start To A Short Career

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After finding this under the pile of other new releases, several things came to mind. Why does the name Big Trouble sound familiar? How old is this? Is this another reissue of a lost album? If this is new how in the hell how has no one used this name before?
This EP from Big Trouble is new material but they are an old band. Long Start To A Short Career was released on Retrospect a label that specializes in finding demo’s and albums from bands that never quite made it. Big Trouble is one of those bands that got close but never got their “big break”. Despite creating a substantial following in the Southeast the dastardly flannel wearing boys from Seattle shifted the musical winds.
Upon listening to Long Start, this sounds like they are left over songs from 2 decades ago. “What’s Going On?” is very reminiscent of Roth era Van Halen complete with a wise cracking banter. It makes me think of all those Swedish and Norwegian bands that are coming out now sounding like they are 1989 LA bands playing at Gazzari’s. Everyone seems to be a parody of one another. Not a scintilla of originality and worst of it’s boring. I can handle something being unoriginal, everyone rips off everyone, but when it is boring that is unforgivable.
The best track on here is “Now You See Me” a solid rock tune. Basic song with a nice hook and no overtly sexual lyrics from a guy in his mid to late 40’s. Hey, I’m the same age so I know how creepy it is. That’s kind of a problem with bands like this doing 80’s hard rock. David Lee Roth and Taime Downe can get away with overtly sexual stuff because that’s what they’re known for, they built up cache. Bob in Detroit sounds really icky to anyone not knowing who he is.
I almost feel bad hammering these guys because they got back together and made something. That is to be commended. However, I wish they would do more songs like “Now You See Me” and less of “Candyland”.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-buy it as a used CD

$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators-World On Fire

Slash_-_World_on_Fire

 

You have to give Slash a lot of credit. Out of all the members of Guns N Roses he has had the most success. From Snakepit to Velvet Revolver to this new band. I really do like them but I really hate the name. The quartet is billed as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. So out of the four guys, two get mentioned. The Conspirators must feel like Andrew Ridgley when Wham started getting referred to as Wham featuring George Michael.

World On Fire is their second album they has made. If you’ve never heard Myles Kennedy sing before, The Alter Bridge singer is a nice fit and has a very unique high pitched style similar to Axl but with a bit more modern feel. The Conspirators are the rhythm section of Todd Kearns on bass and drummer Brent Fitz behind the throne. Brent was in Union the tragically overlooked band that also had John Corabi and Bruce Kulick in it.

 

There’s a lot to like on this album. It kicks off amazingly with the title track, a perfect mix of classic and modern hard rock. I think the band is at its’ best when it does that. At times it does feel like it is at odds with itself. You start off with the aforementioned track then it’s followed by “Shadow Life”a decent rocker but very dour. It seems that they wanted to show how modern they were right upfront. Being diverse is great but that song placement is not. Especially since it’s followed by another great rockin’ track in “Automatic Overdrive”. I think that song along with others like “Wicked Stone” are a nice representation of the melding of Slash’s and Myles hard rock backgrounds.

 

One of my favorites is “Bent To Fly” which is best described as an upbeat power ballad. It has a lot of beef to it but enough sensitivity and slowness for the ladies. Just like the ad for Monster Ballads said “Every bad boy has a soft side.”

 

If you look at the liner notes you can see that all the songs I mentioned are at the very beginning. You will also see that there are 17 tracks on World On Fire. 17!! SEVENTEEN!! That is a lot for a single disc, actually it’s too much. I think an album is best with 10-12 songs. So World on Fire has 5 to 7 too many tracks. That excess is obvious as the songs are not necessarily bad but just blah. If the album ended with “Dirty Girl” it would have been great. The back half has two songs over 6 minutes a piece. Ugh. I hate to criticize an artist for giving the fans too much but if they would have whittled the album down a bit it would have been a much better experience.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-but it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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Jeff LaBar-One For The Road

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I guess it’s fitting that Cinderella’s guitarist Jeff Labar has released a solo album since his band mate Tom Keiffer put one out last year. Now it’s common knowledge that Tom was the main man and songwriter and his album highlighted that. So expectations could reasonably be low for Jeff’s solo debut One For The Road. After a couple listens a couple things pop out. One, Jeff is a big Led Zeppelin fan and has no qualms with paying homage. Two, there is no way I would let him date my sister.
The Zeppelin thing first. There is no mistake that Jimmy Page played a major influence in Jeff’s musical awakening. The instrumental “Ode To Page” is a clear nod in both music and title. The piece evokes the acoustic openings of several Zep classics. “Muse” also has that same fell but more of the meat of the song. “Hello or Goodbye” is a terrific power ballad that reminds me of John Corabi. The rest of the album is made up of solid but uneventful hard rock songs. They’re the kinds of songs that you don’t seek out but don’t fast forward when the pop up on iTunes. Jeff does not have the strongest of voices but he does a good job in knowing what he can do.
Now onto why I said I wouldn’t let Jeff date my sister. Using real life experiences as lyrical material is nothing new. Jeff used his marriage and subsequent divorce as the inspiration for “No Strings”. Fine. Where my worry comes from is “Asking For A Beating”. The song is clearly about a crappy relationship with a woman. It’s a really good catchy song but when you have a chorus of “you’re asking for a beating” your ears kind of perk up. Maybe it’s because we had the Ray Rice incident in the news recently but this did not seem like the wisest song title or lyric choice. I do realize that he’s not referencing beating a woman but just the trials and tribulations of dating. Like I said it’s a really good song but someone should have said “how about we try a different phrase?”
One For The Road is only 7 songs long so it’s more a mini-LP than EP. As a whole it shows a lot of promise from Jeff. It has done real well on its’ first week so hopefully this will spur Jeff to do more music. Since it has been nearly two decades from the last release of new material from Cinderella he should have lots of ideas stored up.

Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-buy it as a used CD
$1.00-streaming it on Spotify
$0-Not worth the drive space

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