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Dave Burn – Nothing Is As It Seems Award winner

Dave Burn
Nothing Is As It Seems
by Mark Machlay at 23 August 2021, 3:35 PM

The UK-based Dave Burn has been leading a pretty prolific career since just before the turn of the century, releasing his seventeenth solo record entitled “Nothing Is As It Seems” early this past June. Having an early passion for the music of classic rock made famous by FREE, LED ZEPPELIN, JIMI HENDRIX, MOUNTAIN and especially UFO, he received his first guitar at age 12, carried that love all the way through school. Once he got out, he spent all his time pursuing music, whether that was writing, recording, teaching or playing live. He cut his teeth spending years working in the Northeast of England’s pub and club circuit and utilizing all the tricks of his idols like playing the guitar with his teeth, behind the head, with a violin bow, even a cordless drill. The hard work paid off and he joined a band called NOBODY’S FOOL. He played with them for five years, releasing the album “Little Black Dress” in 1999 and recording a second “Turn the Page” which was sadly never released.

Unfortunately, after the band broke up, Burns went through some personal turmoil – his marriage would break up in 2002 and his brother Bernie that fueled his early musical inspiration passed away – and would take until 2003 to return to his solo career. He soon joined up with an old friend to put together a UFO tribute band called UUFO and would release three albums with them and his musical fire was rekindled, releasing several solo albums throughout 2004 and 2005 and continually releasing a new solo album every 1-2 years ever since. “Nothing Is As It Seems” is quite the poignant and apt title for Burn’s latest work as it is the first in which he will feature vocals. Vocalist Lee Small joins him who also carries quite a pedigree with him. Small has recorded and performed with a vast number of rocks bands such as LIONHEART, NATIVE CAIN and PRIDE just to name a few of the numerous groups. In addition, he has guested with MAGNUM, DANTE FOX, ICONIC EYE, GINGER, THE WILDHEARTS, and PULSE. Lee, himself a multi-instrumentalist, also provides keys and strings on the track “Darkest Hour”.

Putting aside a few production issues I heard, Dave Burn’s first foray into writing a solo album with vocals is a pretty decent melodic rock album even if the sound is a bit dated. Burn’s guitar style reminds me of 80’s shredders that often used a harsher, grittier, approach to their solos but were undeniably technically brilliant. These would include Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker, and Gary Moore. But Burn is able to excel in one area in that he doesn’t try to ram way too many notes into a passage as to be near unintelligible and he is able to make riffs that are singable so they’ll be stuck in your head for days. This is especially evident on the first of only two instrumental tracks, “Hit The Ground Running” which makes me imagine an 80’s action drama television show theme music with iconic riffing and especially impressive, melodic soloing. While the second instrumental, “Boat to Samarkland” is slower, more emotional tune but never drags with each guitar line leading you on to the next section, like a calm boat ride, rolling along calmly on the sea, longing for adventure.

Lee’s vocals are a surprisingly nice complement to the guitar virtuoso, especially “Made of Stone” which sounds like an outtake from a latter BLACK SABBATH “Seventh Star”-era when the band worked with Glenn Hughes. But even on the softer “Labyrinth” – complete with soft piano intro – the two complement each other so well it makes for an epic of a hard rock ballad. Unfortunately, the compression on the drums makes for really inconsistent dynamics between all the instruments and other odd volume issues, it made listening feel a little harsh, not to mention the odd cutting in/out edits made in the opening of the first track. That didn’t really diminish the album enough for me though and I think Dave Burn has a really unique guitarist’s voice among the many virtuosos still making music today.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 8
Production: 6

4 Star Rating

1. Right of Passage
2. Darkest Hour
3. Into The Light
4. Labyrinth
5. Hit the Ground Running
6. Before You Cry
7. Made of Stone
8. Passing of Time
9. Kick You Upside Down
10. Always
11. Understand
12. Boat to Samarkland
Lee Small – All Vocals. Additional Lyrics and all Vocal Melodies – Keys and strings on “Darkest Hour”
Dave Burn – Guitars, Bass, Drum Prog. Keys & Strings. Lyrics & Music, Engineering & Production
Record Label: Independent


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