Sea of Tranquility (USA), January 2010, Jon Neudorf, 3,5 stars
Chinawhite are a Dutch band that play melodic heavy progressive rock in the vein of Rush, Saga (especially their heavier material), Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, although it is the latter band that they most closely resemble mostly due to the heavy riffs and loads of Hammond. This is old school 70s style heavy rock that should appeal to fans of the above mentioned bands. Challenges is their fourth full length album.
The band’s line-up includes Peter Cox (guitars), Don Feltges (vocals), Sander Stappers (bass), Rolf "Fuchs" Vossen (keyboards) and Hans in `t Zandt (drums). The music presented on Challenges is a pure hard rock with a few moments of progginess along the way. This album is loaded with Hammond, hence the Deep Purple comparison. Some songs are nicely orchestrated and most contain fine guitar riffs that gives this album that extra sizzle.
In "Challenges/Dreams of a Child" the heavy guitar riffs and raging Hammond morph into a lovely piano melody and vocals. This leads to my only complaint. At times the vocals seem to be buried a little low in the mix and do not come across as forceful as they should which is a shame as I do like Feltges’ voice. That being said this is a minor annoyance which will hopefully improve on their next release.
Other highlights include the emotive guitar solo in "My Venus Rising" and the tight riffs and ripping solos in the rocking "The Storm Rages On". Feltges gives one of his best performances in the melodic "I Am I", a mid-tempo number loaded with excellent Hammond.
This is another one of those albums geared towards fans of 70s hard rock and metal of which I am a fan, so needless to say I liked this record. If that includes you, well, you know what you have to do.
Heavy Hardes (D), January 2010, Holgi, 5/6
So, this disc actually came to me by a mistake. Or perhaps not. In the early days when we met at evening events we disco enemies went "to the music" – that meant watching more or less competent cover bands which played a stew of hits and classics. There were the typical Song and Dance representatives of course, but also quite rockier Combos and during the beloved "metal round" the cow always flew. Long ago, and a name from those days came back me to me with this combo: Chinawhite; some guys who were known for their very rocking (always under the corresponding conditions) appearance. So just caught the CD and was disappointed at first – these guys come from the Netherlands, so hardly identical to the Band, which played at the Untermain. But their history proved exciting: they have been around since 1987 (fits) and used to perform songs a la Whitesnake, Toto and Queen, enriched by capable hits of prog giants such as Rush, Saga and Marillion. With this mixture they visited Holland, Belgium and also Germany in the early 1990s – perhaps they were surely. Who knows! However, the band always explored their own songwriting, already in 1995 a 5 track demo was recorded with originals and after several years the debut A Dragon’s Birth was released on which no cover versions were found. 2000 saw the release of second album Breathe Fire and after some lineup change and a break they started working on the now present long player in 2007. Offered is a mixture of all the names in their history: a massive 70s list towards Deep Purple and Rainbow – and song Number 3, "My Venus Rising" one may think for some time to enjoy a good cover version of the piece with the same title from Black Sabbath. Melodic prog rock is what you get here, addressing names such as Rush and Saga, but also with Dream Theater, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep as hard references. The Hammond squeaks properly, the guitar harmonizes well – only the singing voice of Don Feltges is mixed into the background. Maybe because he is not quite of the same level? This is hard to decide, because he’s often simply too quiet. But that is the only weakness – otherwise a nice sign of life from a time when such Combos were firmly booked for Saturday nights.
The weakest link from Chinawhite is singer Don Feltges. He strains his voice and therefore shouts too much. Musically speaking Chinawhite is an interesting band, at least if you like melodic Prog rock; the organ parts recall good old Deep Purple. Chinawhite are at their best in up tempo songs like “Challenges”, “Inside” and “The Storm Rages On”, where especially the guitar solos from Peter Cox add an extra dimension to the songs. Stinkers are the syrupy “How Many Miles” and the last 4 minutes – containing sea sounds – of the last song “Wings Of The Wind”. I think Chinawhite have a lot more to offer, but it isn’t all coming through. Better luck next time. (Martien Koolen)
Background Magazine (NL), January 2010, Cor Smeets
After recording many EP’s and the album Breathe Fire in 2000, Challenges is the second full-length effort of Dutch hard rockers Chinawhite. Nowadays the band consists of Peter Cox (guitar, vocals), Don Feltges (lead vocals), Sander Stappers (bass guitar) Rolf Vossen (keyboards) and Hans in ‘t Zandt (drums) of which three members playing already more than twenty years together. Thus, you may expect some quality here. The eleven songs on Challenges vary in length from almost four to over eight minutes, all together more than one hour of classic hard rock music. You can describe their musical style as melodic heavy rock influenced by seventies and eighties bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Van Halen and Whitesnake. However, I also noticed influences of AOR-music.
I listened several times to the eleven compositions. On the one hand, all songs are quite catchy but on the other hand, they lack originality. The band plays very tight and there’s nothing wrong with the guitar licks and the Hammond-solos, but sadly, I also have to conclude that the production has not been done properly. Don Feltges screams and shouts a lot, but his voice is hardly audible. It sounds as if the guitar and the Hammond try to drown the singer who’s singing in another room. The instrumental parts are well performed, but that’s not enough to call it a good album after all.
Chinawhite is a very enthusiastic band playing nice songs, but next time they need a producer who’s able to lift the group to a higher sound quality level. Challenges certainly is not an album I’ll play a lot. For the moment, I think Chinawhite is a typical live band playing a nice thirty-minute set just before the headliner…
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The Dutch Chinawhite does not bring me a fabulous first-run experience. Interesting, that Chinese influences in the artwork, but also pretty kitsch. That said, the middle of the foldable digipack shows a cool psychedelic image of a pyramid in a purple sea. In any case, I was not very enthusiastic at first sight. Then on to the record. It starts with a moderate fusion of kitschy dreamy vocals and keyboards. When the band starts it much better. Once again, hardly special prog rock with an unsightly keyboard part. A moment later when it is cools down with a piano piece I get a much more positive perception, and the singing is not bad. During the song, my opinion alters, and I am a bit more positive about Challenges. Until they decide to pull an orchestral keyboard part out of the closet. The idea is fun, but it sounds just ineffectual. In addition on all the following numbers a couple of such a keyboard parts pop up, During the rest of the 66 minute album there are no real drop outs, but also no real highlights as well. Practice of singing and instrument handling passes the test, but also nothing jumps out. Variety cannot be denied, but in terms of sound, production, and (memorable) melodies there is room for improvement. To the extent that a band which has been around since the end of the 1980s has reason to care about criticism, of course. (Jacob Jan Kamminga)
Challenges is Chinawhite`s tenth official release. In their early days, Chinawhite released some cassettes which are not available anymore. Some of these old recordings are summarized on the album DEMO’S 1990-2005, which can be downloaded on the site. Challenges is Chinewhite`s third official cd.
Chinawhite was founded in 1987. Some musicians of those early days are still present in the current line-up. In those early days, Chinawhite concentrated on playing “melodic rock with symphonic frill and groovy rythms”. They performed songs of among others Rush, Saga and Marillion. But they wanted to do more live performances so the band members decided to play also more well-known Top 100 covers. During the years, Chinawhite builded up a solid reputation and this leads to a lot of gigs together with bands like Uriah Heep and The Golden Earring. In the meanwhile, some changes in the line-up took place, Don Feltges (Lead Vocals) enters the band in 1993 and Sander Stappers becomes the new Bass player in 2003. The other members are Peter Cox (Guitar and Vocals), Rolf Vossen (keyboards) and Hans in `t Zand (Drums).
The recording of the new album Challenges started in 2007 and it is released in November 2009. The songs on the album are again a step forward if you compare these to the older songs which can be downloaded from the website. Peter Cox (guitar) is responsible for most of the songs. Challenges is an album which needs more time to discover and to unravel all these compositions. One of my favorites is My Venus Rising, with nice keyboard and guitar parts. In my opinion, it is more progressive rock than symphonic rock because of the complexity that some songs show. I think it is an album to check out for fans of music from Saga, Rush etc. Something what I also want to mention is the very nice artwork!
Challenges has become an album that I will listen more to in the future. (Jordy Brouwers)
The new disk of Dutch band Chinawhite is a nice one, but could have been good. The eleven songs on "Challenges" contain a number of nice ideas but these are not refined enough to make it a top album. As a whole it has strong guitar riffs, good drumwork, a Hammond organ, a didgeridoo plus beautiful arrangements from guitar player Peter Cox but it is not quite finished. It is known that there aren’t many good rock singers in The Netherlands, so a lot of bands just have to do with what is available, as do Chinawhite. It seems singer Don Feltges was put aside in a small booth and in a song like ‘Stranger’, built on a strong riff, he is barely audible. Or he screams like mad and strains his voice. Not only in this song though, for example listen to ‘Wings Of The Wind’.
The band exists since 1989 and has been together for a long time (since 1993 in this line up) and released several demo’s and 2 mini-cd’s. They also delivered 2 songs to the sampler ‘Southern Comfort – 12 beauties oet Limburg’. The band rocks out heavily in songs like ‘Challenges – Dreams Of A Child’, ‘Inside’, ‘The Storm Rages On’ (beautiful composition with lots of timechanges), or the log ‘I Am I’ but also have frivolous songs like ‘Dive With A Dolphin’. As a whole the material can be described as melodic prog rock and it contains elements of bands like Saga, Rush, Deep Purple en Uriah Heep. Too bad the (intro) riff of ‘How Many Miles’ was taken from Joe Jackson’s ‘The Harder They Come’ , else it might have been a hit. The 4 minutes of sea sound at the end were better left off. Chinawhite obviously has potential, but need a better production and singer to really hit the mark. (Arco)
Dutch band Chinawhite exists for over 20 years. Key members are Rolf Vossen (keyboards), Hans in ‘t Zandt (drums) and especially Peter Cox (guitars/vocals) who plays a big part in the compositions. The 11 songs equal over an hour of music and the songs vary in length from almost 4 to over 8 minutes. About 10 years ago, the first full length album was released, and before that only demo’s and an EP. After a beautiful symphonic and orchestral overture the true face of the band becomes "visible". Melodic hard rock seems the starting point of this band. The band proclaims this album will be liked by fans of Rush, Saga, Dream Theater, Threshold, Deep Purple or Uriah Heep. I can only agree to the last 2 of them. And then mainly the latter (during their sting with Pete Goalby, early 80’s), due to the regular use of a screaming Hammond, though the compositions and vocals bare similarities as well. The production could have been better, because the vocals of singer Don Feltges are unclear and often low in the mix, while the riffing and rhythm guitars are too loud for my taste. The twists and sometimes heavy orchestrations however leave no doubt about the progressive and symphonic interests of the band. Not strange considering knowing that Chinawhite used to cover Camel, Marillion and Kansas. Especially the orchestral parts and the subtle piano parts are very nice. A wink to Kansas is found in the tracks Inside and Wings Of The Wind. Ideas enough, but writing a catchy song without bearing too much resemblance proves difficult. The singing is more hard rock oriented than symphonic thus leans more towards forcing than clear and melodic. An external producer might have been able to lift more out of this enthusiastic group. What rests is a praiseworthy and courageous attempt, but I am afraid the main public won’t warm up to this release. (Menno von Brucken Fock )
Album of the week
In the week of december 6, Challenges was Album of the week as this playlist shows. Thank you Jerome!