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Oliver, Graham: End of an Era

This solo album from the former lead guitarist of Saxon is a mixed bag of hard rock, blues, and modern day alternative, including a few remakes of old Saxon tunes and a couple Jimi Henrix covers for good measure. While the guitarist seems to still be in fine form, I question his use of musicians on this project, especially the band Bullrush, who inject a grunge/punk feel to many of these songs that clash with the obvious 80's metal style of Oliver.

Reworkings of Saxon staples such as "Never Surrender" and "Born to Rock 'N' Roll" are serviceable, but without the great Biff Byford on vocals they are missing some fire. Two great instrumentals, "Wamita", featuring some emotional guitar playing from Oliver, and "Golden Shred Jam", which has Oliver trading serious licks with Richard Spencer, are real highlights of the CD. One wonders what an all-instrumental affair from the guitarist might sound like. Many of the tracks with Bullrush just don't seem to work, like the generic "End of an Era", or the grungy roots rock of "Standing in the Rain." Even the Henrix covers are hit and miss, as "Can You See Me", "Love or Confusion", and "Sippin' Wine" all have hot guitar playing from Oliver, but are unfortunately ruined by weak vocals from Phil Hendriks. The most stirring Hendrix tribute here is an Oliver original, the instrumental "Ode to a Wild Blue Angel." Here the guitarist lays down some serious bluesy chops in the tradition of "Little Wing", and you could swear you hear the spirit of Jimi live on in Graham's guitar lines.

So if this sounds like three totally different albums in one, it really is. You have the nod to Oliver's Saxon roots (I failed to mention that original Saxon members Pete Gill and Steve Dawson make an appearance on "Never Surrender"), a few covers of his hero JImi Hendrix, and a batch of songs with grunge rockers Bullrush. I can't really give this one high marks, as the modern stuff with Bullrush just doesn't fit Oliver's guitar style to these ears, we've heard the Saxon stuff done better by that band, and the Henrix material needed a better vocalist. Without the few strong instrumentals, this would be a complete dud. Better luck next time Graham.

Added: January 5th 2003
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Angel Air Records
Hits: 2584
Language: english

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