Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Apple Music - Should We Bite The Big Apple? Are They Streaming, Or Just Wringing It Out?


Well, the apple may just turn out to be the fruit from the stories in that book.

Apple Music kicked off yesterday, and it's a hands down winner over the other streamers in terms of catalog and convenience. Sonically, it's better than Spotify, but not as good as premium Tidal, but I don't know that that much matters in the big picture. The big question is still whether the streamers will pay artists their due.

The big question is this - will Apple, the most profitable tech firm on the planet do the right thing and figure out a way to properly pay artists? If they don't give up a bigger bite, their catalog will stop growing very soon, as it becomes economically unrealistic to expect bands to take the time to create and record new music with no hope of a pay out on the back end. Apple Music can afford to pay a fair percent, they have the deepest pockets in the world, but can they put their greed aside long enough to do the right thing? Lip service won't do, Mr. Cook - it's not going to take long for the artists to say what's what, and where it all shakes out.

The good things about Apple Music? It's the ultimate lending library - music on demand that includes everything except the real prize, Apple Records (when will The Beatles sign on? Probably as soon as the pay is right, that's when). Seriously, I had a tough time beating it yesterday as I searched out relative rarities by The Dictators, and Robert Pollard and came away smiling. OK, Robert Fripp is still wise to the ways of the greed head payouts, but this library is the most currently complete.

Sonically, Apple has chosen to go with 256 kbps (kilobits per second) AAC in opposition to most streamers' premiere choice of 320 kbps MP3 files. Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis compression technology, but I still liked the sound of Apple's better. AAC is a codec - a standardized format for digitally encoding and decoding music in a compressed format, similar to MP3. However, AAC was created specifically to retain better audio quality than MP3 at the same bit rates (i.e. to do more with less), and almost all listening tests confirm that it does so. So format matters just as much as bit rate. When I compared Apple to Spotify, I preferred Apple's audio by a small, but to my ear discernible difference. MP3 remains a nasty sound to these ears - I like hearing what was recorded, not a pale facsimile, which is all MP3 can accomplish. When I compare it to Tidal's high resolution output, Tidal was the very clear winner.

I used AC/DC's "The Jack" to do my test listening this morning - it allowed me to make the most informed decision I could make. Their High Voltage album is a sonic wonder, and it's good to see them on the streaming services. Remember - I'm never anti-streaming, I'm pro-musician. For those who can't or don't care about the differences in audio quality, well, I hope you enjoy your McDonalds. That's about the best analogy I can draw, food that tastes right versus a poor facsimile. I'm glad we all have choices.

I'm not sure how Apple Music will translate for owners of non-Apple equipment (PCs and other cell phones), and that may be a huge factor for the mainstream user. If they can make it work as well as the other streamers across all devices, they will destroy their competition.

Apple - when are you going to act like a grown up, and offer us who want it high resolution solutions? I'd pay double for the best audio I can hear, and that also means betted DACs in your devices. Currently, yours are pretty weak, and for the biggest and best company, that's pretty sad.

But, will they also choose to kill the golden goose?

As they crush their tech competition and increase their stake in the world, will Apple step up to the plate and start paying artists a living wage for their work? This is the only question I truly care about in this race. If recording artists aren't able to again make a fair profit on their wares, there will eventually cease to be good, new, original music. It truly takes money to make a great album. For whatever you may say about the evils of the old record label business format, I can tell you that if given the choice today, almost anyone who ever made a living making records would go back to it today. I have yet to interview an artist who likes the new model better. Quite frankly, the only people I've found who prefer the new ways are people who have never made a living off of their recordings, but have enjoyed listening to free music their whole lives.

I love the convenience and ease of streaming, and I do not think it is ever going to go away (or even that it should). I do know that unless the artists start getting paid a living wage, there eventually will be no professional quality recordings. Only half baked homemade product. Even the grunge crowd should remember that all those bands used real producers in real studios to make those disheveled wonders. Steve Albini is a nut job when it comes to most of this discussion for my money, but he is a great record maker, and without the largesse of the labels he could never have built that great studio of his. You need money to make great records - end of fucking discussion.

I will admit that I am not optimistic - the techies have yet to make the right choices in this matter, and if Apple doesn't, it will simply mean that the devil won, and the garden of Eden exists with the snakes and serpents devouring all that is good.

Tim Cook and Company - you have the power and the wherewithal to do the right thing. Goddamnit, if gays can get married (and I am deliriously happy about this fact!), then recording artists should be able to get paid fairly for their work - yeah, I will go right there with this argument, because I love music, I love musicians, and I am not politically correct, not even for a moment. Do the right thing, while you still can. Please don't let that book be right. Do not kill the golden goose, Apple Music.

Torches and pitchforks are an ugly option.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Beatles' Three Guitar Workout On "The End"


It was somewhat fitting, and the circle was completed when The Beatles wrapped up their career with a three guitar jam in the appropriately titled, “The End” on their Abbey Road album. After all, they had started their career as three guitarists playing together, and it seems a good place to wrap things up. 

It was Paul's song, and John Lennon said he wanted to do the solo himself initially, as he often enjoyed having a shot at being a lead guitarist (and he was usually brilliant when he chose to do so), but let’s let EMI/Abbey Road engineer and author Geoff Emerick tell the tale, as he was in the room when it happened:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Joe Satriani - Shockwave Supernova - Ziggy Played Guitar


It finally sounds like Satch is having fun. Shockwave Supernova is the guitarist's fifteenth studio album, and while it continues a very long winning streak of largely instrumental guitar records, there is a palpable difference at play here. It's almost as if he has released the need to work under the constraints of musical theory and composition, and to embrace his inner Jimi Hendrix. There are some familiarities to what's come before, of course, but there is also a freshness and a sense of relaxation as he flexes his musical muscles. It's almost as if he's finally mastered all the rules, laws, and science, and is just making music.

When he rocks out on this record, and he rocks out a lot, it all sounds a bit less precious and predetermined - it rocks. You still have a wide variety of stylistic range, in fact, the first four tunes are all as different as night and day, but they work together because Satriani transcends genre at every turn, and makes it Satch music.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Coverdale and Hughes, Now Schenker and Bonnet - What A Great, Great Week For Rock 'N' Roll Reunions!


This past week has truly moved me. The week saw not one, but two of the greatest combinations in hard rock history reunited amongst hugs, love, respect, and loud, beautiful music.

First we saw David Coverdale reunited with his partner in The Unrighteous Brothers, his Deep Purple bandmate Glenn Hughes onstage at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California on Tuesday, June 11 (last seen onstage together in 1976? I'm told they were last together onstage in 2000!),  and now we have videos coming in from Osaka, Japan wherein we see another amazing duo, Michael Schenker and Graham Bonnet reconvene for the first time in 33 years.


Never say never, they say, and both reunions were not just wonderful, they also make me pine for more of the same. I have had the privilege to speak and know all four of these characters a bit, and all rock 'n' roll excess and controversies long since left aside, I've heard all four express their love and respect of their old partners, and never a negative word. Having now seen them all together again onstage, I can't think that I'm alone in wishing, as a fan and curator of rock, that these titans of rock would somehow find a way to make some more music together in the autumn of their astonishing careers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Robben Ford Band with David Grissom, Matt Schofield - Live Without A Net! - Gig Report


Robben Ford Band featuring David Grissom with guest star Matt Schofield
Harris Center
Folsom, California
June 7, 2015

There's nothing like spending a warm Sunday evening in the company of three great guitarists. Robben Ford is on the road supporting his new album, Into The Sun, and he proved to be a magnanimous guitar god, as he shared his stage with David Grissom as co-guitarist for the West Coast dates, and the added treat of a few tunes with British guitar star Matt Schofield. Musical sparks flew from the beginning to the end, but let there be no doubt, this was Robben Ford's stage, and he commanded it like a king.

I had seen several days earlier notification that David Grissom would be joining the tour, but it wasn't very clear as to what his role would be, and I wrongly surmised that he would be supporting Ford as an opening act, when in fact he was there as a member of Ford's band. I was even more blown away when I found out that they would be hitting the road with zero rehearsals. He was joining Ford, bassist Brian Allen, and drummer Wes Little, who both were inspiring in their expert work as a rhythm section (especially in their solo sections, which revealed the wider scope of their stellar skills), and to think that they were covering the broad boundaries of Ford's immense musical palette without out rehearsals was most astonishing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

David Coverdale's Whitesnake - Reigning Champs of Classic Hard Rock? - The Purple Tour Examined


Whitesnake: The Purple Tour
Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
Santa Rosa, California
June 2, 2015

Whitesnake are on the road in America, and they are taking no prisoners. David Coverdale is fronting one of the strongest bands of his career, and while the show is all his, he shares the glory and plays well with the other kids in the playground. If this band shows up in your neck of the woods do not miss this tour.

Coverdale's well worn, classic British hard rock vocal pipes are in excellent condition, and his utter command of both audience and band posits him as possibly the best of his class. Whitesnake had the sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center For The Arts in Santa Rosa, California in the palm of his outstretched hands for two hours of heavy rock bliss. Much has been made of the condition of David's voice, but he sounded amazingly up close and personal on this night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Whitesnake - The Purple Album - Critics Be Damned, This Is Great Stuff


Whitesnake
The Purple Album
Frontiers Music srl
May 15, 2015

Whitesnake's The Purple Album is a solid, solid sender. It should be taken at face value and accepted for exactly what it is - this is David Coverdale revisiting his past, and in light of the fact that it looks like there is to be no reunification of that old troop, he's chosen to put up the best front possible and to simply play and sing the living hell out of these old chestnuts, and he's succeeded mightily.

Let's take a few minutes and deal with naysayers, critics, and those who will reflect negatively upon this album - some may think it best to dance around this 800 pound gorilla in the corner, but that's just not my style.

First, there is the matter of David Coverdale and his voice. I'm continually amazed that fans seem to think that a man is going to sound the same at the age of 63 that he did at the age of 22, and that's unrealistic and somewhat foolish. There's no question but that the man has used his voice over the years in much the same manner as an athlete, and there have been injuries, there has been wear and tear, and there is the matter of simply the ravages of time. However, on the flip side of that is the depth, dynamics, and phrasing that a singer learns and implements in a forty year career that can't be denied or discounted. Sure, there are places on this record in which studio technology is used to sweeten up certain spots, but there is less of this than many would assume. To my thinking and to my ears, this is a wonderful representation of what a hard rock vocalist can accomplish late in the game. David Coverdale has spent great time and effort to make the very best product he possibly can, sparing no expense, and he's done a fantastic job.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Michael Schenker / Temple Of Rock with Kirk Hammett - All Hail The Metal Gods! - Gig Review - Rockbar Theater, San José, California

Photo by Hidenori Saito

Michael Schenker / Temple Of Rock
Rockbar Theater
San José, California
May 3, 2015


Kirk Hammett finally got to play in front of a large audience with Michael Schenker and his colleagues in Temple Of Rock, and it was a historic rock 'n' roll moment.

When Kirk and Michael guested on Eddie Trunk's That Metal Show last month, Kirk said he wanted to come to the San José show, where he had just put on his FestEvil last month, and he stayed good to his word, coming out for two encores at the end of what had already been a brilliant evening.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society - Unblackened - The Sacramento Chapter Abides - Gig Review


Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society Unblackened Mass
Ace Of Spades
Sacramento, California
April 18, 2015

Zakk Wylde brought a special show to town last night with his Black Label Society, and their Unblackened Tour is a magnificent semi-acoustic resume for the ex-Osbourne guitar star. My mind is still reeling at the whole thing.

The Sacramento Chapter of the Black Label Society showed up en mass to Ace Of Spaces, and if anything, the club was oversold - though it mattered little to the County Sheriffs who were hanging out at the mouth of the club and the merch table all night. It's my opinion that they're paid to keep things in order, but they were more interested in checking out the music than giving anyone the business. And you couldn't blame them as the music was superb.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Michael Des Barres - The Last Guy Standing? - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


"I'm a great assassin playing Chuck Berry, and it's hilarious! We've got a great team together, and I get a shot, I've got a real shot at being the last guy standing, and to be the singer in the band, the house band at the apocalypse." ~ Michael Des Barres
The Key To The Universe is E major. It's also the title of Michael Des Barres' just released four star masterpiece of rock 'n' roll, and here is a man on a mission, spreading the word to every corner of the globe for at least three hours most days as a host on SiriusXM radio's Underground Garage, the legendary creation of "Little Steven" Van Zandt.

Des Barres' new album is the best of the veteran vocalist's career, and he's continuing on a meteoric upsurge that began a few years ago with several successful podcasts and a solo project entitled, Carnaby Street, and now finds an audience in the millions awaiting his words, thoughts, music, and more on an ever increasing level. The Key To The Universe sees Des Barres reunited with bassist Nigel Harrison (Silvered, Blondie) and producer Bob Rose (who collaborated with the singer on his vastly underrated, Somebody Up There Likes Me in 1986), but just as importantly sees new arrivals to the Des Barres camp in guitar whiz Dani Robinson, and drummer to the stars Clive Deamer (Robert Plant, Portishead, Radiohead) who contribute brilliantly to this album. This sounds like a band, and evidently they'll be hitting the road to prove just that.

I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Des Barres as he was completing work on the band's first video and prepping for the album's release, and one does not pass up a chance to speak directly with Michael Des Barres - it's like walking into the Church of British Rock Royalty and getting a sermon from atop the Himalayas. Amazingly free of pre-formulated pablum, and fresh with every answer, Des Barres is the very definition of a man living in the moment to help himself and his world awaken. This is one of those interviews in which somewhere along the way it became very apparent why I interview people - sometimes you come across an example of the breed that teaches, excites, inspires, and entertains us along the way if we will only listen!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mos Generator / Zed / Blackwülf - Rock Ain't Near Dead - RippleFest 2015 Gig Review - Oakland, CA


Mos Generator/Zed/Blackwülf
The Golden Bull Bar
Oakland, California
March 27, 2015

Have you ever gone back for seconds, and found it to be better than the first go around? Well, I know that it doesn't happen often, but I got lucky and that was just the case when I saw the mighty Mos Generator for the second time in a week at the label party of the year, RippleFest 2015 at the packed wall to wall Golden Bull Bar in downtown Oakland, California.

I had just seen Mos Generator play an abbreviated set in Sacramento two nights earlier, and even that brief set would have sated my rock 'n' roll hunger for a month, but to see them rip into a full throttle headlining set before a rapturous crowd set me completely right.

Michael Schenker/Temple Of Rock - Gig Review - The Boardwalk, Sacramento, CA

Photo by Anthony Crawford
Michael Schenker/Temple Of Rock
Gig Report (Plus Photo Gallery)
The Boardwalk
Sacramento, CA
April 1, 2015

I've augmented this gig report with a great many photographs courtesy of the wonderful members of the Facebook group "Michael Schenker".

Michael Schenker and his Temple Of Rock raised the ante for their Spirit On A Mission US Tour 2015 by bringing along to the states for the first time their recording and European touring partners from the classic era Scorpions, drummer Herman Rarebell and bassist Francis Buchholz, and it's paying off in spades. This show was the first of the tour, and while there were moments where it looked more like a dress rehearsal (understandably so, as the band had to cancel their first three shows and any prep when work visa issues slowed their entry into the US), but in fact, they had the crowd eating out of their hands from the moment they walked onstage until they strode of in victory two hours later.
Photo by Patrick John
As the band continues to morph into its own entity as Temple Of Rock, and less as the Michael Schenker Group, they are introducing more new material and depending less on the once mercurial guitarist's vast catalog of hard rock history with The Scorpions, UFO, and his own MSG imprint. Doogie White seems to be stepping up in his role as frontman more comfortably with each tour, and while it's still readily clear that he much prefers singing his own material to that of Schenker's past vocalists (and I don't blame him a bit for this, but many longtime fans do). He certainly put on a great show on this night.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dio Disciples, The Quart Of Blood Technique - Gig Review - Rockbar Theater, San José CA


A nearly three hour drive into the bay area for a gig on a Friday night - that's the kind of assignment you give yourself when you're a full time rock 'n' roll junky. However, my success had been so great the week before at RippleFest 2015 that a drive to the bay seemed like a small price for the dope my soul requires, and I was right. Dio Disciples brought it like they always do, and it's a good thing that I'm scrupulously (some would say neurotically) early to any event, as it meant I got to see a scorching hot set of rock from The Quart Of Blood Technique, who got the night off to a raging start.

Some of you will remember Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) from the 1983 film, Trading Places, in which the comedian enthralled a jail cell audience with his mysterious kung fu "quart of blood technique", and I gotta think that it's the perfect name for this four piece. The Quart Of Blood Technique was formed in 2012, and they've released their first long player, The Greatest Kicks, and it's a solid sender from start to finish, but where this bunch really shines is on the stage.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Legend of Uli Jon Roth and The Scorpions


"Just before he left the band, Michael Schenker asked me, in fact, to join The Scorpions. He told me what was going on with the UFO thing, which was supposed to be a secret. Then Rudolf Schenker rang me a couple weeks later, and said 'Did you know Michael has left the band,' and 'We've got this gig lined up, would you like to fill in?'" ~ Uli Roth

And so it was that Uli Jon (Ulrich) Roth joined The Scorpions, and in four short years the guitarist created a legacy that still dominates any discussion of what has been an incredibly varied, and productive career. In those years (1974-1978), Roth recorded five albums with The Scorpions, and arguably created a genre of rock guitar known as shred. This last comment may raise the hackles of fans of Blackmore, Page, Schenker, Beck, and Iommi, but Roth brought to the table some skills that none of these greats could quite claim.

Uli Roth took the Stratocaster and Marshall sound of Jimi Hendrix and injected it with a sense of precision, daring, and technique that had not previously been demonstrated. His speed was unparalleled, his knowledge and use of theory unique to the world of hard rock, and his whammy bar histrionics set the stage for Edward Van Halen.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Damo Fawsett of Slam Cartel - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview (Soundcloud Audio)


Guitarist Damo Fawsett joined Slam Cartel in 2014, and he came into a band that was becoming well established and had already built a significant fan base. The band is the brainchild of Terance Warville, and after several years he had decided to make some changes to the lineup, so he brought in Gary Moffat on lead vocals, who in turn recommended Fawsett for he lead guitar position.

Fawsett brings to the band a wealth of experience, having been gigging regularly across the UK and Europe for several decades in a wide variety of bands, sessions, and situations, including a stint with the reformed Sacrilege, and touring with Reagan Browne.  He's obviously got the nerve that goes with the job, as one of his first gigs was replacing the legendary Dave Kilminster, so stepping into a situation such as Slam Cartel, which is a bit different than what he's done before presents new challenges as he fits his style into an existing machine. The results seem to speak for themselves as the band's first single with the new lineup, the double A sides 'Vanishing Worlds'/'Hypnotized' which have received excellent reviews and airplay on both sides of the ocean. The band is currently on tour across the UK.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kiko Louriero Joins Megadeth


Kiko Loueiro has been named Megadeth's new guitarist. I had predicted as much several weeks ago when the guitarist had inadvertently left some clues, and rumors were being bandied about by many Internet sites. He will be Megadeth's tenth guitarist in the band's thirty year history, and he replaces the departed Chris Broderick, who left the band in the fall of 2014 claiming 'musical differences'.


Megadeth is preparing to go into the studio to begin work on their fifteenth album, and they are also being joined by drummer Chris Adler, who remains a full time member of Lamb Of God. He's replacing Shawn Drover who left the band on November 25, 2014.

Kiko Loureiro has been the lead guitarist for Brazilian power metal act Angra for just over twenty years, and eight albums. He also has a thriving solo career (four albums), and is a clinician for Ibanez Guitars who make his signature model guitars (KIKO10P and KIKO100P).


Being a member of Megadeth is one of the most challenging positions in all of the metal world, and the Daves Mustaine and Ellefson could not have chosen a better man for the job than Loureiro who brings an extraordinary resumé and a remarkable skill set to the band. Congratulations, Kiko!


Van Halen - Tokyo Dome In Concert - The Band Is Named Van Halen, And This Show Rocks


Van Halen
Tokyo Dome In Concert
Rhino Entertainment
Out now

Perspective. That's when you look at something through the proper set of eyes. When you hear with the right set of ears. That's what I've tried to do with the new live Van Halen live album, and it's working for me. Tokyo Dome In Concert is something we've been waiting for for decades, and it does not disappoint.

The 800 pund gorilla in this is Diamond Dave's voice, so let's talk about it. DLR was never about the notes, the tone, or the enunciation - he's the clown prince of hard rock, and he runs this three ring circus like a champ. He gives a great running commentary, supplying the words, and he cheerleads the finest family act in heavy rock history. 'Panama' is a great example as he talks about the weather, his bassist being in Tokyo for the first time, and his delivery is no better or worse than it was in the '80s. We've become so reactionary about old lineups and what we think we remember that we've lost track of what's right in our ears and eyes.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Red Dragon Cartel Name Michael Thomas Beck In Lead Vocalist Change Up


Darren James Smith is out of the band, and has returned to his band from Canada, Harem Scarem, and Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel have announced that Michael Thomas Beck will be joining the band on their upcoming US/Canada tour.

Smith made this comment on his Facebook page: "IT IS TRUE I LEFT RDC, KINDA COMPLICATED BUT I THINK IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. ONE DAY I'LL COMMENT MORE, FOR NOW 'THATS ALL FOLKS!!!'"

The band followed up several hours later with this announcement: "Red Dragon Cartel and singer Darren James Smith have officially parted ways. All scheduled shows will still take place as planned with Michael Thomas Beck (owner, engineer, and producer at SoundVision Recording Studio in Mesa, Arizona. He has worked with such acts as Soilwork, Marilyn Manson, The Black Dahlia Murder and Daath) on vocals. We would like to welcome Michael to RDC and we look forward to getting back on stage!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Andy Tillison - The Tangent and The Legacy of Prog Rock - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


Andy Tillison is the driving force behind the long running prog rock band The Tangent, who are about to release their new album, A Spark In The Aether, on April 20, 2015 on the Inside Out Music label. The album is said to be "a rallying cry to people to keep open minds about newer music in a world where remasters and re-issues are more eagerly anticipated than new material", and it is a powerful record that contains over an hour of some of the finest music I've heard this year. It's definitely a prog rock record, but that descriptor may be a bit too contained - The Tangent is a group of six amazingly talented musicians who are adept at any number of styles and genres, and this is an album that must be heard in its entirety to be appreciated. (full review to come shortly)

I was fortunate enough to be able to grab a rather last minute interview with Mr. Tillison, and being familiar with both his band and his elegant blogging, I leapt at the chance. Anytime I can speak with someone I consider a master at their work, I try to take full advantage of the opportunity. He did not disappoint, and our time together was only over too soon. However, in that time we covered a lot of ground, and I believe that you'll find this discussion as interesting and invigorating as I did.




Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Andy Fraser - A Life Well Lived


As soon as I heard the news I teared up. Andy Fraser has died. I wasn't a close friend or a relative, but still I felt like I'd been punched in the gut right at my assemblage point. I walk into the living room and told my wife, and she turned nearly white in an instant. She didn't actually know Andy Fraser either, but she got it - she felt what I was feeling, and understood all that it meant.

Andy Fraser was best known for his work as bassist and songwriter in the seminal British blues rock band, Free. Depending upon who's story you accept he wrote either most or all of their greatest hit, 'All Right Now'. He wrote their greatest riff with the brontosaurus bass line that defined 'Mr. Big'. He was an equal quarter of one of the greatest bands this planet has known, but he had left band by the time he was twenty. I vividly remember conversations with such great bassists as my friends Glenn Hughes and Carmine Rojas in which they spoke of the influence of Andy on their art, and for their love of him as a friend.

Chris Impellitteri - The Power and Passion of Metal - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


Chris Impellitteri has been leading the group Impellitteri since the late '80s, but he'll be quick to tell you that this is a band, and not the product of a drive for egotistical solo careerism. Though his greatest claim to fame is certainly that of being perhaps the world's fastest guitarist, he's more interested in songs, a band sound, pleasing his fans around the world, and making great records.

I had a chance to catch up with the guitarist at his Beverly Hills home, and I was enthralled as I listened to the dedicated and very seasoned musician speak. He shares credit, he thinks about the product he creates and releases to a tremendous degree, and he's as excited about his band's new album as he is reticent to seem too proud, or boastful - inshore, he's a very well rounded individual who knows what he wants, and works his fingers to the bone to get the results he seeks.

We discuss the new record Venom, his stellar band, his best friend relationship with his singer Rob Rock, his new partnership with Frontiers Music srl, equipment, and recording processes, and much, much more.




Venom
Release dates:
EU: April 17th 2015
US: April 21st 2015



Tracklisting: Venom; Empire Of Lies; We Own The Night; Nightmare; Face The Enemy; Dominoe Theory; Jehova; Rise; Time Machine; Holding On; Rock Through The Night*; Reach for the Sky*

*Bonus tracks

https://www.facebook.com/ChrisImpellitteri?fref=ts

Steve Overland of FM - Heroes and Villains - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


FM is one of the UK's most enduring bands, having trod the boards for over thirty years, and frontman Steve Overland has led the band every step of the way. On April 20th the band will begin a new partnership with Frontiers Music srl, and release their latest album, Heroes and Villains.


I had a chance to catch up with Overland in between gigs, and he was still abuzz with the band's reception at the HRH Festival on March 14, and indeed, the band's future. we spoke about the new album, life in a rock band, his band mates, and much much more. The band reconvened in 2007 after a dozen year hiatus, and they've been rapidly ascending the ranks of British rock once again, touring with such stalwarts as Journey, Thin Lizzy, Europe, and Foreigner, and now they seemed poised to return to the top shelf.



http://www.fmofficial.com/fmofficial/heroes-and-villains-preorder.html
http://www.fmofficial.com/fmofficial/index.html
https://www.facebook.com/FMofficial





Monday, March 16, 2015

Elliott Rubinson - CEO of Dean Guitars, Bassist To The Stars - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


The Elliott Rubinson story, when it is finally written will be one of talent, determination, hard work, and making the most of the cards you are dealt. He's currently the owner and CEO of Armadillo Enterprises, which owns and operates Dean Guitars, DDrums, and Luna Guitars, and he's also a touring bassist who's seen duty with such luminaries as Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, Vinnie Moore, Michael Angelo Batio, and Black Star Riders in the last few years.

He's done all of this without a master plan, but he's always worked very hard, and made the most of every opportunity. From selling guitars out of his apartment in college to operating a seven location chain of music instrument stores (Thoroughbred Music, 1976-1999), and eventually purchasing and reviving the massively successful Dean Guitars to getting back in the game as a working musician, he's focused on preparation and fearless forward thinking to great success.

After having dinner together before the San José date on the Extreme Guitar Tour (Uli Jon Roth, Vinnie Moore, Black Knight Rising), we agreed to catch up once the grueling tour was completed for a more serious chat. For not only did Robinson play with all three acts, the bands also played twenty seven shows in twenty eight days. All this while continuing to run his companies from the back of a tour bus.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Angra's Kiko Loureiro Favored To Join Megadeth As New Guitarist


Odds are that Megadeth has hired Brazilian shredder Kiko Loureiro as their new guitarist. Confirmation notwithstanding, Kiko and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine have left a Twitter trail of tweets that would seem to confirm my suspicions. Follow me here, if you will.

It all starts innocently enough when early in March, the guitarist starts following Dave Mustaine and Megadeth on Twitter:



New Regrets - EP - Punk Lives


New Regrets
EP
Bandcamp (available now)

New Regrets make no attempt to reinvent the wheel, but what they do they do as well anybody. Full throttle punk that sounds as tough and urgent as anything did in the seventies, and that's largely down to the presence of frontman Ed Pittman, who was there at the creation.

Ed Pittman at fifty-eight is still the same politically motivated nuclear folk rocker he's always been, going back to 1979 when his band Toxic Reasons exploded onto the punk rock scene and captured the attention of people like East Bay Ray, and the Zero Boys' Paul Mahern who each took a shot at recording the band. Pitman left the band after their first long player (Independence, Risky Records, 1982), but his time in the band left behind a legend that remains to this day. Pittman has the requisite (well, it was requisite until the punk pop cuties came along later and soiled the scenery) vitriol, and his ragged edge vocals belie a melodicism that always manages to keep anything he does at the top of the pack.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Wrecking Crew - The Great Tribute Finally Makes It To The Screen


"'The Wrecking Crew' documentary by Denny Tedesco is a must see. It opens our eyes to one of the most unique group of musicians in contemporary music. They are the well from which the rest of us have drawn." Leland Sklar.
You may be forgiven for not knowing Leland Sklar. His leonine visage may actually be more familiar, what with him having graced the stage as the 'go to' bassist for James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Genesis, Toto, and countless other acts for the last few decades. He should be better known for being one of the most recorded and talented musicians in modern history. Leland's skills as a session player are legendary - session players are musicians who, in the words of Wikipedia, "...are instrumental or vocal performers who are available to work with others at live performances or recording sessions. Usually such performers are not a permanent part of a musical ensemble and often do not achieve fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders." Boy, that's a little clinical, but it sure says a mouthful.

The records of acts that were the creations of marketing and record company executives, such as The Monkees, and The Archies are well known to have largely been the work of behind the scenes session players. However, not so well known is the work of unofficial and loosely membered groups (collectives?) known as The Funk Brothers, The Muscle Shoal Rhythm Section, The Nashville A-Team, The Section (which included Sklar), MFSB, and The Wrecking Crew. These six aggregations created records that sold more copies than most likely did The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Elvis combined.

The Funk Brothers - they were Motown's men, playing the music that made Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and many others so successful. In fact, many experts consider Motown bassist James Jamerson to have been the greatest session musician of all time. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were The Swampers mentioned in Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama - providing the soulful and muscular backing for Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, The Staple Singers, and most every other act that mattered out of the American South in that era. The Nashville A-Team owned the country & western charts throughout the 1950s and '60s. The Section defined the singer/songwriter sound out of California in the '70s. MFSB were TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), creators of the masterful tracks of The Stylistics, The O'Jays, Wilson Pickett, The Spinners, and Teddy Pendergrass.

Then there is The Wrecking Crew. This nickname was coined by Drummer Hal Blaine, perhaps long after the fact - allegedly echoing the words of the previous generation of serious, suit wearing, note reading sessioners who claimed that these young, unshaven upstarts with their noisy rock and roll would 'wreck the music business.'

The Wrecking Crew first became known as the team of musicians utilized by studio prodigy/pop producer Phil Spector. It featured a revolving team of talent that included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Carol Kaye, Tommy Tedesco, Barney Kessel, Hal Blaine, Howard Roberts, Al Casey, and many others. Whether the Crew's largest legend is The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, or maybe being the musicians who created Spector's famous 'Wall of Sound,' it may safely be said that no other group of musicians ever played on more hit records. To say that they were the major pop/rock music making machine of the American '60s and '70s is an accurate statement.

Leland Sklar adds, "The 'Wrecking Crew' were the guys, just before my run started. I was in a band in 1966, and when we went into the studio it was those guys who played on our record. I sat there looking through the window in United A studio, and was in awe. There was Hal Baine, Jim Gordon, Bobby West, Tommy Tedesco, Mike Deasey, Dennis Budimir, Mike Melvoine, Larry Knechtel, Mike Rubini, and others. Within three years I was working with these guys on a daily basis. They were my mentors. A more fun and giving bunch of characters you could not have asked for."

I'm sure that most of you reading this are aware that Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny, has made a full length documentary called The Wrecking Crew. I've just viewed a private copy, and I can tell you - it is the best film you will ever see about one of the most exciting times in musical history. It stands proudly beside Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the award winning documentary that so wonderfully told the story of Detroit's Funk Brothers, as a musical bookend to that fabulous era of record making. Tedesco has compiled an incredibly loving, and touching tribute to these musicians, their time, and their place in musical history.

Even though I already knew most of the stories the film tells before I ever saw it, I will still be going back and re-watching this documentary for years to come - for the sheer joy that it brings. Tedesco has done a fine, fine job of pacing, mixing interview clips compiled over the years with still photos, and filmed scenes from behind the scenes as the music was made. It is the kind of film that will have you wondering where the last two hours went. As I said, I knew most of these tales previously, but what an enjoyable flight to take, to finally be able to watch the telling of these anecdotes in such an entertaining way. Everyone I have talked to that has seen the film agrees - it is a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking.

Sadly, the days of the session player have largely passed. To a large degree, it died off alongside the record business. In fact, this movie is suffering for a lack of commercial release itself. It's been lauded far and wide, screened for thousands, but due to the huge expense of licensing the amazing music contained within (some 130 song clips), it remains unreleased. It seems that the record companies are so pinched for profits that they can't see the wisdom of foregoing a license fee, in spite of the fact that the movie will surely stir up an avalanche of sales for back catalog when the film does (if it does) get publicly released. If nothing else they should forgive the licensing as a thank you to the musicians involved, letting the players now get the well deserved credit that avoided them in their primes.

Denny Tedesco and his team are now showing the film in private screenings being sponsored around the country in order to raise the funds necessary for the film to be shown to the public. 

When I say that the film has garnered great and loving reviews, I kid not. Here's a sampling from some folks you may know:
"A wonderful, touching, and hilarious film about the unsung heroes of so many songs that you carry in your heart." Elvis Costello

"It was incredible! I felt like I was sitting right there with them at that table. It had everything that I wanted to see, and more that I didn't expect. Thank you for making this film!" Peter Frampton

"Denny Tedesco has given us an amazing look at a musical moment in history that everyone who loves rock and roll should see." Christopher Guest (director and star of Spinal Tap, and other great mockumentaries)

"The Wrecking Crew is in the league of the best music documentaries ever made!" Dan Forte, Vintage Guitar Magazine, Dec. 2009

"If I had known they were available, I would have used them on my records! The Wrecking Crew is the best documentary yet about the recording scene. I loved it." Steve Miller (Gangster of Love)

"They were the unsung heroes - if those guys were playing sessions today, they would be known, people would know about them. It would be something more than just session musicians." Cher

"I highly recommend this to everyone to see. It's terrific, hard hitting with the right punches, and filmed as only experienced, and fine filmmakers can do. I know your revealing film will be enjoyed and appreciated by the public for years to come." Carol Kaye
 Carol Kaye? Isn't she on record as being vehemently against this film?

She is, indeed, and as Leland Sklar has remarked about the situation, "I just don't get it!"

I do not doubt that there is a possibility that the name The Wrecking Crew may have come after the fact. And, as the film was made by Tedesco's son, I'm not too shocked if Tommy gets a lot of screen time, but I will add that the elder Mr. Tedesco introduced a great many of us to the realities and the existence of studio/session musicians many years ago in his brilliant columns in Guitar Player Magazine for so many years. Without the Tedescos, we might still be wondering who made all this great music.

Ms. Kay is treated fabulously in, and by this film. I would certainly call her one of its stars, and recognize her as one of the greatest musicians to ever record a note. Her legacy is as unquestionable as her occasionally bewildering and curmudgeonly ways. This is not the first time she has been embroiled in controversy, but I can't say that I've uncovered much to support her views of this film. Her issue seems largely to do with the name given this 'group' of musicians who dominated the '60s recording industry in LA, and her denied, but rather obvious dislike of Hal Blaine. I take no sides here, other than to state that as a very educated, and I like to think reasonable music writer I can only say that while obviously not perfect, this film is a stunning and wonderful tribute to those it portrays. I would hope that she and Danny Tedesco may someday settle their differences, and be friends again.

Before I actually watched the film, I experienced a degree of trepidation - had young Tedesco went off the reservation, and made something egregious that would in some way shame his proud father's past? I had certainly hoped not. I would be neither the writer I am, nor the musician I am were it not for Tommy Tedesco. His writing inspired me, making me believe that one could communicate honestly, and passionately, even without a degree in English. His guitar playing made me realize the value of not just knowing the notes, but how to make them beautiful. I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy at a well-known music store I helped manage in the late '80s. It was there that I learned the best lesson - that no matter who you were, no matter how far you had risen in your field, you could and should still be above all, a nice guy. Denny has done his father a great honor.

I'll close with a comment from studio guitar legend Mitch Holder that sums things up pretty well. Mitch, of course, nailed it on the first take.

Mitch Holder says, "Denny Tedesco has done a super human job in documenting the great group of studio musicians who carved out so many hits of the '60's. The fact that they all played together in the studio at the same time is almost a thing of the past now. Sure, it happens every now and then but not like it was done back then. The crossfire of ideas that developed recording that way are in evidence on all of those records. Denny's film takes you back to that golden era of recording for all of posterity."

If Denny Tedesco didn't get every nuance right, I'm OK with that. If Hal Blaine has somehow elevated himself in stature as he has raised the awareness of the story and plight of the session player, all is forgiven. This is a documentary film, I understand, but it is also a piece of entertainment. And it's a great piece of entertainment - one that will have you watching again, and again - and maybe even buying some old records. You're going to love this movie.

I hope that this fine film makes its way onto your screens - it is truly one of the best music documentaries I have ever seen, and it deserves its audience.


Here is a link to the movie's website. Contribute if you are able, or see if there is a possibility of holding a screening of the film in your neck of the woods: http://wreckingcrew.tv/


Great thanks to Leland Sklar, Denny Tedesco, and those who made my viewing possible.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nita Strauss - Alice Cooper, Ibanez Guitars, Hired Gun Doc, Solo Albums, and More - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


Nita Strauss had the type of year in 2014 of which dreams are made. She parlayed years of hard work with such acts as The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale, Critical Hit, and Jermaine Jackson into a job with one of the most prominent and prestigious touring bands in the world, Alice Cooper.

She took to it like baby to breast, and it seems to be the most natural fit in the world, as she emerges in photo after photo mugging with the king of shock rock and flying her Ibanez guitars like flags of victory, and never once taking the smile off of her face - and who could blame her, right? 2015 appears to be promising more of the same, and now there's even talk of a Nita Strauss solo album, which will certainly sweeten the pot. I caught up with Nita on a rare day off in the Hollywood hills of her hometown, Los Angeles.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Whitesnake - The Purple Album - Critics Be Damned, This Is Great Stuff


Whitesnake
The Purple Album
Frontiers Music srl
May 15, 2015

Whitesnake's The Purple Album is a solid, solid sender. It should be taken at face value and accepted for exactly what it is - this is David Coverdale revisiting his past, and in light of the fact that it looks like there is to be no reunification of that old troop, he's chosen to put up the best front possible and to simply play and sing the living hell out of these old chestnuts, and he's succeeded mightily.

Let's take a few minutes and deal with naysayers, critics, and those who will reflect negatively upon this album - some may think it best to dance around this 800 pound gorilla in the corner, but that's just not my style.

First, there is the matter of David Coverdale and his voice. I'm continually amazed that fans seem to think that a man is going to sound the same at the age of 63 that he did at the age of 22, and that's unrealistic and somewhat foolish. There's no question but that the man has used his voice over the years in much the same manner as an athlete, and there have been injuries, there has been wear and tear, and there is the matter of simply the ravages of time. However, on the flip side of that is the depth, dynamics, and phrasing that a singer learns and implements in a forty year career that can't be denied or discounted. Sure, there are places on this record in which studio technology is used to sweeten up certain spots, but there is less of this than many would assume. To my thinking and to my ears, this is a wonderful representation of what a hard rock vocalist can accomplish late in the game. David Coverdale has spent great time and effort to make the very best product he possibly can, sparing no expense, and he's done a fantastic job.

Judas Priest - Defenders Of The Faith (30th Anniversary Edition) - Nothing But The Best From The Best


Judas Priest
Defenders Of The Faith (30th Anniversary Edition)
Columbia/Legacy Records
March 10, 2015

There's something to be said for being the last guy standing. When the day is done, and all has been said, who is still standing tall in the saddle speaks the measure of the man. Judas Priest are out there, right now, proving it with a great new record and still amazing shows, and now they've unleashed one of the finest metal reissues I've had the pleasure to experience. The 30th anniversary edition of Defenders Of The Faith delivers the goods.

I'm going to go in reverse here, and start out by talking about the 'bonus material' of this package. It's a two disc live album that was recorded at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1984, and it is the logical follow up to the band's classic live set, Unleashed In The East. Plain put, this is one of the best live albums to come from perhaps the most fertile period in metal history.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Europe - War Of Kings - Perhaps Their Finest Hour


Europe
War Of Kings
UDR GmbH
March 6, 2015

War Of Kings might just be Europe's best record yet. The songs are top notch, the playing is as good as it's ever been, Joey Tempest is ever growing as a vocalist, and super producer Dave Cobb has gotten not just the band's best performances to date, but also their best sound ever.

The story of Europe is one of a slow steady rebuild - after a long (ten year) hiatus, the band reconvened in 2003, and since they have been slowly and steadily reinventing their legacy. War Of Kings is the latest chapter, and it sees the band continuing to re-channel the history of British and European hard rock in a modern contemporary fashion. Sometimes I believe that the world looks towards change for change's sake, but I often find that things turn out better when an artist simply refines and hones their strongpoints, and this is a method that has worked wonderfully for Europe. They get better with every record, and the tours get bigger and better.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Walter Trout - Coming Home To The Stage and Coming Back From A Life Threatening Liver Transplant - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


Walter Trout is preparing to return to the stage in June at no less of a venue than the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. After that he comes back to his own back yard to The Strand in San Juan Capistrano, California, and from there it's back on the road for another year of intense touring. Just business as usual for a veteran blues rocker, right?

Well, this would be business as usual for the veteran blues rocker if it were not for a debilitating illness and the resulting liver transplant that literally brought him back from death's door step. I'm not being overly dramatic, here, the man lost 160 pounds in the process, and when he first attempted to play his beloved Strat after the surgery, he had not the strength to push the string down to the fret to make a note. But, he's done it - he's back in the ring to take another swing! This is one of the most inspirational conversations I've ever had the pleasure and honor to be a part of, and I truly believe that in listening to Walter tell his tale you will be just as moved as I have been to experience this... Well, this miracle.



Monday, March 2, 2015

Wolfpakk - Rise Of The Animal - Jam Pakked All Star Metal Fun!


Wolfpakk
Rise Of The Animal
AFM Records
February 27, 2015

Wolfpakk's Rise Of The Animal is a most curious and enjoyable slice of classic metal. Alpha wolves Michael Voss and Mark Sweeney have again partnered up to bring more metal mayhem to the masses via their third chapter of their all star project.

Where else can you find Don Dokken, Michael Kiske, David Reese, Joe Lynn Turner, and Marc Storace all singing on the same album? Where else can one hope to find Jeff Watson, Bernie Tormé, John Norum, Doug Aldrich, and Axel Rudi Pell throwing down guitar tracks on the same disc? Not to mention stickmen the quality of Simon Phillips, Mike Terrana, Chris Slade, and Mark Schulman - yeah, this record is packed from beginning to end with talent, and Voss and Sweeney have written a fun filled bunch of heavy hitting tracks on which their guests can perform.

Eden's Curse - Live With The Curse - Give This One A Try, It's Brutally and Beautifully Good


Eden's Curse
Live With The Curse
AFM Records
March 13 (UK/Europe), March 14 (US)

Eden's Curse keeps getting better and better - each release, each lineup change, every hurdle they catapult seems to place them higher in the realm of modern classic metal. Live With The Curse is a most impressive live set which serves as a great 'story up to this point' document.

Fans of bands like Queensryche, Iron Maiden, and other melodic metal monsters (or even folks who wish Journey has a bit more oomph) will absolutely eat this up. Nikola Mijic came on board as lead vocalist for the band in 2013, and he's taken the band to a completely new level. New keyboardist Steve Williams (Dragonforce) also fits like a glove and supplies both tasty pads and some great interplay with guitarist and original band member Thorsten Koehne, who has been consistently brilliant since the band's inception almost ten years ago.

Paul Logue (Full Interview from 2013) is one of the founding fathers of the band (he originally formed the group with departed vocalist Michael Eden in 2006), and in addition to being an exceptional bassist, he's also one of the very best songwriters in the genre these days - it's the songs really comes down to, and where the band delivers the goods in spades. He's steered the band through four studio albums that have been consistently top notch, and he keeps getting better at his job as evidenced on 2013's Symphony Of Sin the band's latest long player which features heavily (eight tunes out of eighteen) on this new live opus.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Frank Hannon's Guitar Extravaganza and The Return of Atomik Tommy McClendon - Gig Review - Folsom, CA


Frank Hannon Band/When We Become Kings
The Powerhouse Pub
Folsom, California
Feb 28, 2015

Tucked away behind a high end pizza joint on a row of retail shops for social climbers there was a whiskey fueled rock 'n' roll party going on last night in the normally sleepy town of Folsom, California. For the paltry fee of twelve dollars (7.77£) the stuffed to capacity crowd at the Powerhouse Pub witnessed a long night of guitar heroics explode from the axes of headliner Frank Hannon (Tesla) and Atomik Tommy McClendon (UFO, SoulMotor) of the opening band When We Become Kings, and not a soul went home disappointed.

When We Become Kings is a new band that features the immense talents of veteran guitarist Tommy McClendon, best known for his two album stay in UFO in the mid-to-late '80s. He's joined by vocalist/guitarist Matt Sudfeld, bassist SJ Rehn, and hard hitting drummer Michael "Fro" Frowein, and their set of all original material covered a lot of ground, ranging from anthemic power pop to a more modern alt-rock 90s sound, but the evening's best moments came when they would contort into a sleek, hard riffing rock machine over which McClendon laid down solo after solo of melodic brilliance. It will be interesting to see what this band sounds like in the studio. Their identity was a little unclear due to the genre shifting nature of what they laid down, but there were many excellent moments to be found in their set.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Higher Resolution Revolution - MP3s Are Not The Way To Do Business With Record Reviewers


"This whole re-mastering process is a result of listening to Led Zeppelin on MP3. It almost sounds as if someone has got into the master tapes and done a really horrendous mix of it," Page said of the MP3 versions in a recent interview. "It just wasn't representative of what we'd done in the first place. So many textures were missing. The whole beauty of Led Zeppelin, the air of it, these instruments coming in here and here and over here, was just totally destroyed." ~ Jimmy Page

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I no longer have much desire to listen to mp3 files. They are a bastardization of music, and not something I wish to inflict upon myself anymore than I absolutely must.

I'm not sure where the slippery slope began, and I'm not sure that it even really matters. Somewhere along the line we all accepted a false premise and promise, and we were taken for a ride. In the desire for convenience and a deal, we lost sight of why we fell in love with music, exactly what it is supposed to sound like, and maybe more importantly, how it can make us feel. How it should make us feel.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whitesnake Set To Unleash 'The Purple Album' On May 15


David Coverdale enters the time machine, and he takes a stalwart band back in time to reimagine some of the best material from his years with rock legends Deep Purple this May, as he partners with Frontiers Records to release 'The Purple Album'.

Whitesnake is joined by guitarist Joel Hoekstra, who replaces Doug Aldrich, who left the band to spend more time with his son and other projects after a very lengthy tenure as Coverdale's right hand man. Also on board are Reb Beach (guitars), Michael Devin (bass), and Tommy Aldridge (drums) who are all returning members.

The first cut released is the video for 'Stormbringer', and it certainly makes a great impression. They stick somewhat to the script, but the guitars are a little more contemporary as they take the place of the inimitable Jon Lord's organ and synth work - but, the song retains it's original flavor, and Mr. Coverdale as always wraps up the prettiest gifts in rock. I can't imagine anyone not being over the moon about this one. Great memories with new twists in the right places - the production of this is superb.