June 3, 2015 Vandenberg’s MoonKings – Moonkings (Album Review)
Adrian Vandenberg, the world-renowned Dutch Rock god, has put down his paint brush and swapped his easel for his guitar once more. Vandenberg began his music career in 1978 with Dutch band Teaser, but is best known for his work with Whitesnake, with whom he played for over ten years, just when the band’s popularity had reached the US. Having not recorded anything since 1997’s Whitesnake offering, Restless Heart, in 2013 Vandenberg put together a new band, Vandenberg’s Moonkings, and set to making a brand new Rock album. Joining Vandenberg in the studio to create Moonkings were bandmates Jan Hoving (vocals), Mart Nijen-Es (drums), and Sem Christoffel (bass). Vandenberg produced the album himself with engineering and mixing by Steve Bartlett and Ronald Prent. What they came out of the studio with Vandenberg describes as “the best record” he has ever made. Signed to Mascot Records, Moonkings was released in February of 2014 and even a year later, Rock fans are starting to discover this gem.
The first track, “Lust and Lies,” establishes style and feel of the album with the sublime guitars one might expect of Vandenberg. Hoving’s vocal style is somewhat similar to David Coverdale’s, and the overall sound is that of 1980’s Stadium Rock, music from a time before Grunge and Metalcore. The next song, “Close to You,” begs to have the crowd singing along. “Close To You” is the epitome of 80’s Power Rock with huge guitar riffs, thundering drums, and vocals that sound like the singer’s jeans are a little too tight. “Good Thing” has the addition of female backing vocals, giving the chorus a little more soul and some great vibes. Next up is “Breathing,” a sweet and harmonious power ballad rich in melody and sentimentality. Packing a few more punches, “Steal Away” is ballsy and emphasizes Hoving’s impressive vocal range; it is catchy and full of energy. “Line of Fire” has big hooks and stadium potential with delicate melodies underlining the intensity of the chorus. Meanwhile, “Out of Reach,” a charming ballad about being away from a loved one, features some delightful acoustic guitar and gentle drum beats. “Feel It” is rhythmic and uplifting, and the drums are captivating in this track. “Leave This Town” is a classic rip-roaring song in which the traditional themes of the hobo lifestyle of the musician come to the fore. Full of symbolism and hope, “One Step Behind” is very atmospheric and even includes the sounds of a thunderstorm. In contrast, “Leeches” is dark, while “Nothing Touches,” full of familiar sounds and fun, is a good time Rock and Roll track with a dirty laugh and a wink to the ’80s. Lastly, “Sailing Ships,” featuring a guest appearance by David Coverdale, is a charismatic song, soothing and calm, made all the more delectable with the velvet voice of Coverdale. This is by far the standout track of the album, not because Hoving’s vocal ability is lacking — he does an admirable job throughout — but because the songwriting here is in a different league.
Moonkings offers a journey back in time to when Rock was king, stadiums were full of long-haired fans in denim, and people were generally less angry and cynical. Maybe that is nostalgia talking, but it is a solid album. With top class musicianship, it’s expertly created and very enjoyable, especially with that last track taking it to another level. CrypticRock gives Moonkings 4.5 out of 5 stars.