Sunday, October 26, 2014
Johnny Hickman came, and boy did he conquer.
Honestly, I can't remember the last time it was quite like this. Not a single cell phone video. No cell phone photos. Everyone in the room singing along with many of the songs. Nothing but a room full of friends enjoying a night of great live music. This was the good old days.
House concerts are somewhat the rage, and while I've seen a few excellent examples (Gladgirl Shelly's house shows in Dayton, Ohio come to mind), Johnny Hickman's show in Granite Bay, California took the prize. The only solo show I can even compare it to from personal experience was seeing Dave Edmunds one spectacular evening down in Austin, Texas about a dozen years ago, and I have to say even that now resides in second place.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
VHF is the brainchild of drummer T. Vinny Vinciguerra (the T is for Todd) - at first glance you could be thinking this to be just another bloated, instrumental shred-fest, but in reality you'd be dead wrong, very much off the mark, and maybe you'd miss one of the coolest little side trips of 2014.
I know what you probably thought, so let's get that 800 pound gorilla out of the corner and into the center of the room. You may have thought that an ambitious drummer went out and bought up some high level, high priced talent and indulged his rock 'n' roll fantasy - to a degree you'd be right, and beyond criticism for seeing what appears to be apparent, but then when you find out what's really happening, things are what they seem, but aren't at all what you'd expect.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Steve Hunter is a legend amongst us guitarists, and has been since the mid-seventies for most of us. You could be excused for not knowing that until Hunter came in with the loping, bubbling, gently cascading riff that is the melody of Peter Gabriel's first solo commercial breakthrough hit Solsbury Hill, that it was a tune that was about to be left off an album. Or, that when Aerosmith's homegrown guitarists couldn't or wouldn't, in came Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, and they became the light that lit up FM radio with brilliant and fiery leads that left the band's fans wondering what happened when they couldn't recreate the guitar magic that made Train Kept A Rollin' such a staple of its time.
Yes, you could be excused for not knowing that Hunter's stinging sweet guitar playing and his creative compositional skills created the famed intro that placed Lou Reed high on the charts with a suddenly sensational live version of Sweet Jane, a song that had long lived in rock's most perplexing poet's catalog until Hunter's first famed tone poem lifted Lou's lines above the din. He was there with Alice Cooper for some of his biggest records and tours, as well, but you could be excused for not knowing this.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Eric Gales was right - he's been very excited about his new album as he wrote and recorded it, and now I know exactly why. I know he's been working non-stop for the last several years, and he's been getting closer and closer to unearthing something that reveals exactly who and what he is, not just as an artist, but also as a man. Good For Sumthin'? Yeah, he's good for sumthin' - he's made one of the most musical, personal, and moving albums that I've heard in a long time. An album that evokes the memory of James Marshall Hendrix in more ways than one. More on this very unfair, but not inaccurate comparison, later.
The stars line up just right - they've been moving for the last few years to get where they're going. Gales got his personal life more solidly squared away, made a couple of great albums with the power trio Pinnick Gales Pridgen, released a very compelling album with his homegrown trio, and maybe in the final move to make alignment he was gifted in having Raphael Saadiq produce his new solo album, and what an album it is.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Jimmy Barnes' Hindsight is a great way to ease your way into a vast and wonderful world - it's a look back by one of the planet's best singers, and he's brought along a lot of marquee names to point out that he's been doing it right for 30 years, and this is a fantastic way to celebrate the anniversary.
There's every chance that you've no idea who Jimmy Barnes is, or if you do you think he's a guy that did a song with Bonamassa for a Deep Purple tribute album, or maybe some work with Steve Morse and the guys from Ozzy's band back in the day, and if that's the limit to your exposure, you ain't gonna catch it - and you really need to catch it.
The real story is that Jimmy Barnes has been one of the world's greatest vocalists for decades, and the guys who want to work with him do it for just that reason. One of the joys of this record for American listeners will be the two fisted joy of discovering not just Barnes, but many of his co-conspirators on this collection of songs from the singer's past. You know the names of Journey, Joe Bonamassa, Little Steven, but their are plenty of acts on this record performing alongside the star of the show who will be new and exciting discoveries for the uninitiated. Also, much credit should be given to producer Kevin Shirley for keeping this project sounding cohesive and focused as different casts show up for nearly every one of these great tunes from Barnes' extensive catalogue.
Holy hell - it's been a rough unveiling for Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian's new autobiography. I don't know, or even care to know the ins and outs of it at all, but it seems like the guy has been doing PR reparations every time I look up. Well, to be honest, I could not care less about who did who, and how many times - I'm in it for the music, for the show, and definitely not for the drama. I'll leave that for those sad folks who count their clicks. I write about rock, not about the bullshit.
That brings us to the latest from Anthrax - Chile On Hell, the band's latest DVD release, which I don't actually get to see, as the label, and by proxy the band thinks that journalists only need to hear and not see their product - I only have the audio tracks, but I'm supposed to somehow make a judgement on a DVD release. Well, it just so happens that I've just seen Anthrax in Northern California, so I can assume the DVD is a fair representation of their show, which I will describe as best I can as I hose the piss from the label off my disrespected shoes. The CDs rock.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Paul Reed Smith is the youngest of the classic guitar manufacturers, but he's always been at the top of the class when it's come to quality and innovation. When I heard this book was coming to my desk, I half wondered if, given the relatively unchanged look the line has maintained, there was really enough to hold my attention in a retrospective. I shouldn't have worried - the book is as beautiful as you would imagine, but the story is also fascinating. Your mind will boggle when you realize just how much innovation and passion has went into the engineering side of making PRS one of the best of the best.
Dave Burrluck is one of the finest journalists remaining in the world of guitar magazines - he's currently Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist, Total Guitar, and Guitarist Presents Acoustic magazines, he's written several excellent books, and he's been top shelf for a great many years. He's just released his latest edition of The PRS Electric Guitar Book (earlier editions - 1999, 2002, 2007) along with Hal Leonard's Backbeat Books. He's the perfect guy for the gig, and he's written the perfect book for the brand.
Dave Kilminster returns with another excellent solo record that continues to display that he's above all, an artist. Touring with Roger Waters on his spectacular The Wall tours has enabled Kilminster to be seen by untold millions, and if he was a calculating cat, he could take the easy road, do an album that would ape the Pink Floyd legacy, and ride it to the bank. Instead, he chooses to spend his time off the road to chase his muse merrily around the recording studio, and play what's on his mind.
...And THE TRUTH Shall Set You Free... is a heady record - of course, coming from one of the world's most highly regarded virtuosos, it's filled to the brim with fantastic guitar playing, but it's not flash for flash's sake, it's art for art's sake, and it's museum worthy. The guitar solos alone make this one worthy of great regard, but the real story is what's going on leading up to the inevitable trips that seem to always end in blissful and mind-blowing explorations of guitar playing that redeem all. Lyrically, the album is deep, and complicated. With titles like Messiah, Save Me, Thieves, and The Fallen, you'd hardly expect a light hearted romp, and this is clearly not. That being said, it's a great trip, full of majestic music, soothing to the soul in it's hope seeking walk through the dark.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Sonata Arctica have delved into heir past and re-recorded their debut album, Ecliptica, originally recorded in 1999, and while I'm most generally opposed to such projects, they've done a great job and get high marks.
I'm playing catch up here, so bear with me. Somehow in the shuffle I had missed Sonata Arctica - for fifteen years. In fact, the Finnish melodic/power metallers were just in San Francisco less than two weeks ago. Damn my luck. This is one of the coolest bands I've stubbled across in ages, and I let them slip through my hands by dint of sheer ignorance. Well, I'm no stranger to sheer ignorance, but I'm not so daft as to not dig this band, and this album.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
First, a disclaimer. I've not watched television for many years. I own a television, but it's been in a storage facility for about eight years. Somewhere between living my life, and my becoming intolerant of the endless madness and brainwashing that has become so much of the mainstream media, I had checked out, and canceled further reservations. As a result, or at least in part, I had never heard of public television's Front and Center.
Each week, Front And Center presents an artist, much in the tradition of the show's forefathers, Soundstage, and Austin City Limits. Even now, I'm late to the party, and the first two episodes of the show's new season have already aired, but when I finally got around to checking out the promo episode I've been sent, I must say that I am completely blown away. It turns out that this show is a great example of what television should be, and could be.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Jon Lord cast a large shadow across this world, and he continues to do so from the next as his friends, family, and fans convene each year for The Sunflower Jam, an annual benefit for cancer awareness and research that was founded in 2006 by Jackie Paice (aka Mrs. Ian Paice). The charity and its annual gig has grown to the point that it now happens at the Royal Albert Hall, and this year's performances have just been released in a multi-format manner by earMUSIC ( release and packing info available here: http://www.celebratingjonlord.com).
The beauty of this release is that unlike many other all star jams, aside from the charity the Sunflower Jam exists for but one reason - to celebrate the life and music of Jon Lord, and it sounds wonderfully cohesive as a result. I'm reviewing the CD release. This is not just a gathering, it's a very cool double album that includes performances from Paul Weller, The Temperance Movement's Phil Campbell, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden, Glenn Hughes, Bruce Dickinson, Don Airey, Deep Purple, Rick Wakeman, and many others.
Friday, October 3, 2014
"People go on about rock stars, and all that - I mean, I could not give a fuck about any of that. I never have, and never will. It's about being able to play and record, you know?" ~ Bernie Tormé
Bernie Tormé is back! Mind you, he's never gone away, but he has released his first solo album in fifteen years, and I believe I even called it, "An absolute all time rock guitar classic (Flowers & Dirt Review)." It's a brilliant double album filled with great songs, impassioned vocals, and a tremendous amount of stunning guitar work. Making things even more exceptional is the fact that Bernie's album was the result of a super successful crowd funding project with PledgeMusic.
After I heard the record, I decided that I had to hear more about the coming and goings of this record, along with a smattering of reminiscences of the guitarist's stints with Ozzy Osbourne, and Gillan, with of course, Deep Purple frontman, Ian Gillan. Sticking with the DIY methods of today, I got ahold of Bernie directly, and he was kind enough to consent to my curiosities. It turns out that Mr. Tormé is a treasure trove of wit, wisdom, and rock biz experience, and anyone who reads the following will walk away as pleased as I.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Mike LePond has accomplished a great deal on his first solo album, Silent Assassins - he got the record written and recorded via crowd funding with a successful Kickstarter project, he gathered some great talent to assist him, and most importantly, he made an album that is a great listen for any fan of classic/power heavy metal.
LePond's day job for the last sixteen years has been that of bassist for Symphony X. In fact, he wrote this record on tour with the band, wisely using the endless hours of bus travel to compose the music, write the lyrics, and conceptualize Silent Assassins. I realize that on its face, the prospect of listening to a solo album from a bass player could seem fraught with the possibility of disappointment, but let me allay your fears. The album came to my desk highly recommended, and I'll gladly pass the recommendation on to you.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
This is the one we've been waiting for for 30 years - documentary evidence of just how good Whitesnake was when guitarist John Sykes led Coverdale's army in league with Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, and the late great Jon Lord. We'll bow our heads for the loss of Powell and Lord (as well as Mel Galley) from this world's ranks, as they were giants of our times. Now, on with the show.
This is an interesting package, and I wish I could say that the DVD looks and sounds fantastic, but to be honest, I've no idea. In a great gaff that owes either to the vagaries of modern business costs, or (and I'd love to think this isn't the case) incredibly shortsightedness on the part of the producers/distributors, the press has only been issued the audio for the bonus CD from this set. That being said, I'm sure it's grand, as David Coverdale has always put his absolute best face forward with his product, but as one writer who has been consistently supportive and prides himself on telling it like it is, I won't attempt to mask my disappointment (and a bit of snarky pissed offedness) at not being able to actually tell my readers what the main event holds.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Ross The Boss Friedman - Present At The Creation, And Still Creating - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview
"For me, it's just my guitar, my amp, my heart, and my head." ~ Ross The BossRoss The Boss Friedman first entered my consciousness in the summer of 1975. The Dictators' debut album, Go Girl Crazy, came to me in a trade with future indie rock legend Robert Pollard, who dug whatever I gave him more than he dug the band's wrestling infused cover and outrageous liner notes, that referred to Friedman as Ross "The Boss" Funicello. Bob's mistake was in not first playing the record - Go Girl Crazy predated The Ramones by a year, and it married what would become punk rock with Beach Boys harmonies, hilarious lyrics, and the incredible proto-metal lead guitar playing of Ross The Boss. And that's just the beginning of the story.
After five years of being both smarter than their audience and ahead of their time, The Dictators went on hiatus, and through a combination of luck, hard work, imagination, and a recommendation by Ronnie James Dio, Friedman met bassist Joey DeMaio, and they forged the band that invented power metal, Manowar. Heavy metal would never be the same, but again, Ross The Boss was ahead of the curve, and while his band started a movement, and as often transpires, they never really got to lead that movement.
Fast forward twenty-five years to 2014, and Ross The Boss Friedman is still touring with The Dictators NYC, who are bigger than they've ever been, and he's also playing guitar for Death Dealer, who may just be the next big thing in classic metal. Wait a minute, have I heard that phrase before? Yeah, I have - The Next Big Thing was the first song on the Dictators first album, and its incendiary guitar solo by Mr. Funicello née Friedman made me go out and buy a Les Paul and a Marshall half stick. In short, it changed my life, and there was no looking back.
Friday, September 26, 2014
|Myles Wright Photography|
Rival Sons are doing it the right way - they've been with the Earache Records since nearly the beginning (they did self release their first long player, Before The Fire, in 2009), they've had Dave Cobb on board as their producer for three albums running, and they have a management team behind them that kicks ass and takes names. They're growing up and developing as a band, and it appears that they're getting better by the minute. As I said - they are doing it the right way.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
"I think what you have to do to pull off having a career in the music business is to not aim for stardom, but to aim for making a living. If you're strong enough, stardom will come, you know what I mean? The chances of being a Stevie Ray Vaughan is one in a million, but the chances of making it in the music business, living comfortably, providing for your family, and doing what you want to do for a living - if you have any talent at all - you can do that. It just takes hard work." ~ Carl VerheyenCarl Verheyen has released his 13th solo album, Mustang Run on his Cranktone record label, and he's getting ready to head off to the UK and Europe for an extensive tour that will keep him busy until Thanksgiving (it's now the middle of September). He's one of the last of the true A-list session players in Los Angeles, been a member of classic rock legends Supertramp since 1985, records his solo albums in the best studios in Los Angeles, finds himself finally drug into the world of home studios and Pro Tools, and yet he can still be found in his basement on a Saturday morning giving a personal guitar lesson.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Rock Ain't Near Dead - if this is what death sounds like, bring it on....
Bernie Tormé is releasing his first solo record in fifteen years, his first studio work since 2008 on September 29th, and Flowers & Dirt proves to be an album well worth the wait. Definitely in my top ten for 2014 at this point. Maybe even an absolute all-time rock guitar classic - yes, I believe it is.
Tormé went the crowd funding route to get this package put together on PledgeMusic - his fans showed the love to the extent of 418% of his goal, and he's put together a fantastic package. It's almost an hour and a half of stunning straight up rock, and no matter where you drop the needle, you're going to be smiling from ear to damned ear. This is glorious rock, children, and Bernie's laying down one fine sermon after another. And God love him, he didn't cheap out on the artwork and packaging, it's top notch. I love a guy that gives a shit, and the Irish guitarist has delivered the goods in spades.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Vinnie Moore appears to be on quite an uphill climb - he's just released what I believe to be his finest work yet with the stunning debut of his new band Red Zone Rider, he's in the process of completing his six studio outing with heavy rock legends UFO, and he's got a new solo album in the can, ready for mixing and mastering. All of this should add up to a very busy 2015 for the veteran six stringer.
Red Zone Rider might just be the best new band of 2014, and their debut album (out September 16th) will most likely end up on a lot of year end top ten lists. Comprised of Moore, Kelly Keeling, and drummer Scot Coogan, the band has partnered up with Magna Carta Records, and longtime metal guru Mike Varney and they've got a winner on their hands. Every track on the album is rock solid, and the songs and performances are going to raise a lot of eyebrows in the world of hard rock.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Rock Ain't Near Dead....not even close, not as long as there's new records like this.
In which, Spike of The Quireboys goes solo with a set of never before heard Frankie Miller compositions with guests such as Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Tyler, Ian Hunter, one of God's rhythm sections in Free's Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser, Luke Morley, and a list of other UK rock luminaries, which will most likely end up on a great many year's end top tens.
Monday, September 8, 2014
"I think the skepticism that some people might have, or have had was just a testament to how passionate they are about the band, you know? There was a healthy amount of skepticism that comes from that passion, and I think that's a healthy thing. That's a testament to the fans. And thanks to the fans for trusting in the band, buying tickets, coming down to the show. Within 30 seconds, man - they had their hands up in the air, and they're screaming along. It was just instant really, so a big hat's off to them for doing that." ~ Richie Faulkner on Judas Priest's fans.Richie Faulkner is still the new guy in Judas Priest, though he's been with the group for over three years. He made his debut in front of tens of millions of viewers on an episode of American Idol, he's played well over a hundred shows with the band, and he's now written and recorded the band's highest charting debut on the Billboard charts (#6) - but, he's still the new guy, and nobody gets what that means more than Mr. Faulkner. He's remarkably respectful to the band's history, legacy, and fans - he understands that the job he's taken is a revered position, and that no one would be stamped as approved without thoroughly having their mettle tested. After the last three years, it's extremely clear to see that the band made the proper choice when they hired him.
I'll admit that I was pretty disappointed to not see Foreigner main-man Mick Jones when the band took the stage last Friday night, but about three songs into the set, I realized that his absence did not prevent his band from putting on an absolute top shelf arena rock, greatest hits show.
Let's get a few points out of the way - this iteration of Foreigner has been together nearly ten years, and at least on tour, this is a greatest hits show (and they've had a bunch). Now, the whole classic rock band doing greatest hits tours thing can go a couple of ways. At it's worst, you've got bands filled with non-original members who have been hired for the lowest wage to crank out an uninspired show that exists only to milk fans for what they're worth. I've seen a lot of this, and I don't have to name names, but that's just the worst case scenario. At its best, you have an act like Foreigner - one original member (who did write the lion's share of their catalog), Mick Jones, who has assembled a cast of talented and inspired musicians who can play and perform not just as well as, but arguably even better than the original band.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Slash has perhaps made his most powerful statement since walking onto the world stage with Guns 'N' Roses Appetite For Destruction way back in 1987. He's finally once again put the whole package together, and he's got the perfect team on World On Fire helping him to put it all across.
In a world reduced to mp3 files and ear buds, it's good to hear that some bands and acts are still doing it right, and making records that sound great. Slash has raised the bar another notch higher with his new album, World On Fire. Teaming up again with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, and bringing on for production duties longtime Kennedy collaborator Michael "Elvis" Baskette, everyone's favorite top hat has blessed us with an album filled with great guitars (excellent riffs, solos, and songs), state of the art vocals, and a throbbing rhythm section. This record is jumping out of my ancient studio monitors, and they're howling and thumbing like a Marshall 4X12 - and that's exactly how it should be.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
"Neil (Young) looked me dead in the eye, and he said, 'If you're gonna do a new album, don't do the same old shit and call it a new album."
"Kevin Shirley said to me, 'If I'm going to produce you, you have to promise me one thing. That you will do everything I say, you will not interfere, and you'll keep your mouth shut.'Randy Bachman has sold over 40,000,000 records. He's played before millions of adoring fans. He's been in two of classic rock's most enduring bands (The Guess Who, and Bachman Turner Overdrive), and he's done it his way, every step of the way. So, while it may seem unusual for me to start this interview with him quoting two rock icons, I think it's instructive - in spite of unquestionable and unflagging success, Bachman still knows how to listen, and how to take heed of wise and good counsel.
Red Zone Rider's first album is a solid success - great playing, great singing, inspired songwriting, and much promise. It may even end up in my year end Top 10.
It's somewhat apropos that this album was produced by Northern California's original metal guru, Mike Varney for Magna Carta Records, because it brings to mind many memories of NorCal giants such as Montrose, early Journey, and Y&T. Soulful, bluesy hard rock can be found here in spades, and this album is a great combination of inspired writing and stellar performances. Kelly Keeling, Vinnie Moore, and Scot Coogan have collaborated to create an excellent first effort, and a fine platform from which to build - a super solid album that has even more promise in terms of what the future may hold.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Mr. Big hits the nail right on the head with ...The Stories We Could Tell, the band's eighth studio outing, an album that stands proudly beside anything from their days as a platinum selling act, and might just be their best yet.
I'm not sure why, but the band sounds like they're a little hungrier on this record, and they've come out firing on all cylinders. Not that they ever fail to do yeoman like work, their last album, 2011's What If... was filled with great songs and performances, but the record sounded a bit rushed and more canned. You put on ...The Stories We Could Tell, and it sounds a lot like a band in a room looking to make things happen. Very direct, very hungry, and as always filled to the brim with great individual performances by four of rock's sharpest shooters.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
ZZ Top/Jeff Beck
The Mountain Winery
August 12, 2014
Jeff Beck started it, ZZ Top proved it, and then they consummated the marriage - the blues did have a baby, and they called it rock 'n' roll.
The sense of awe and joy was palpable in the arena. Whether it was Jeff Beck's great band smiling ear to ear at the gift of being onstage with their boss and hero, or Billy Gibbons looks of unabashed glee at having the legendarily nimble fingered Beck as his lead guitarist for his band's encores, or Beck looking incredibly proud of his young band, and also quite chuffed to be sharing the stage with classic rock's greatest 'lil old band from Texas, it was a perfect night of guitar driven rock 'n' roll.
Friday, August 8, 2014
Thanks, Paul - your new record is seriously, seriously fun.
It sounds as if, in his never ending quest to marry melody with mind-blowing chops, Paul Gilbert has allowed us into the workstation of his mind. Stone Pushing Uphill Man is his new solo instrumental record, and it's filled with familiar tunes re-done Paul-style.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Randy Bachman is one of those guys we all know, whether we know him, or not. His guitar, voice, and songs have been heard by countless millions of rock 'n' roll fans for coming on 50 years. First, he wrote four million selling singles with The Guess Who, then he went on to win four Juno Awards and sell millions of records with the seventies concert favorites, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He's sold over 40 million records. He's been satirized by Homer Simpson, covered by Lenny Kravitz, and his surname was even adapted as a nom de plume by author Stephen King (Richard Bachman). Yeah, that Randy Bachman (pronounced Back-man).
If you don't know the name, you know the songs - American Woman, Takin' Care Of Business, These Eyes, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, No Sugar Tonight, Let It Ride, Laughing, and others are all etched in your musical memories, and Bachman has followed in the footsteps of such songwriting heavyweights as Ray Davies and Greg Lake to present his history in storyteller form with his new DVD/CD package, Vinyl Tap Tour - Every Song Tells A Story.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
|Photo by Jeff Katz|
In the interim he did what he's always done - he took care of business. He wrote and recorded a new album, The Blues Came Callin', co-wrote with Henry Yates a new biography, Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout, he's the subject of an in progress documentary film, and he has even managed to keep his longtime band on the road and working. He may not play a single gig this year, but he still has more than enough to keep someone quite busy, all while fighting a life threatening liver failure.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Calfornia Breed - Bonham Out, Joey Castillo In - Bonham: "I wasn't going to be bullied into touring"
Last Friday morning an ominous post showed up upon the official Facebook Page of California Breed - it stated that Joey Castillo would be appearing with the band for all announced dates.
Soon after, the band's website displayed two lineups, one with Joey Castille as the band's 'live' lineup drummer, and a second with Jason Bonham as the group's 'studio' drummer. However, by the end of the day it had unraveled, and it now appears that Bonham is clearly out, and Castillo is the new stickman for California Breed.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I'm saddened today by the death of Dick Wagner - best known as the guitarist who co-wrote Only Women Bleed with shock rock king Alice Cooper, Wagner was one of the greatest unknown guitarists of his era. He was 71.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Ace Frehley - a guy with a point to prove, and boy has he proved it. Space Invader is the fun rock record of the Summer of 2014. Endless riffs, stinging solos that say 'Ace,' and maybe the best sound I've heard on a hard rock mix this year. The album could have easily been called Kiss This. It's the best album out of the KISS camp since the seventies.
Before I get into this album, I gotta say that this makes my mouth drool for what could have been. If only KISS had been able to play in their original iteration at the RRHoF, the band could have called it a day that night, and been revered for the next hundred years. Sober for over seven years, Frehley is playing better than ever, and it sounds like he's having a fantastic time while he's at it. Whatever the reasons, they sure weren't about musical abilities. We'll always be the less for this tremendous missed opportunity.
That Metal Show Presents: Anthrax, Living Colour, Corey Taylor - Gig Review - Thunder Valley Casino, Northern California
|Frank Bello, Corey Glover, Scott Ian|
Classic rock and metal are alive and well in the burgeoning world of gambling and gaming. Where once these genres filled arenas and theaters, time has marched on and many great bands and shows have been relegated to being draws for casinos. The downside is the fact that like it or not, time marches on and no great music stays in the mainstream forever - the upside is that these casinos have better sound, stages, lights, and facilities than their counterparts ever had, they keep these acts earning, and they provide a place for people to see some great entertainment by some very viable bands.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Judas Priest gives a shit. They show up, they suit up, and they bring it - 40 years later they are still delivering the goods. Redeemer Of Souls is a proud testament to a band that has never rested on its laurels, and while I hope it's not their last, if it were it would be a grand way in which to go.
There's a great set of bookends happening here - frontman of frontmen Rob Halford pours his soul into every moment in an effort to prove he is still the king, and he's joined by new kid on the block Richie Faulkner, who proves his mettle by faithfully filling the metal shoes of one of the genre's legends, the now departed K.K. Downing. As one man is approaching the end of a long and unquestionably brilliant career, another has appeared to carry the torch into the future. This is a passing on of a tremendous legacy, and both men have done their best, and it's damned glorious.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Blues Pills have been simmering for a few years, and now with the release of their debut long player they have achieved a full boil. The nascent band of youngsters from Sweden consistently write and play beyond their years, and there's no weak links to be found - in fact, this goes straight into my top five for 2014 at this point.
No plodding blues rock to be found here, this is bluesy rock all right, but it swings and moves in a glorious manner that only makes singing sensation Elin Larsson and guitar star Dorian Sorriaux shine all the more. These two toss the spotlight back and forth like no duo in recent times, and when they riff together it's heaven. People tend to refer to new bands in old terms, and I'm OK with that, but this bunch would sound great in any era that I've lived through. Unquestionably, this is one of the most powerful debut releases in the last decade.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Recordings That Demand Your Attention by Greg Prato - A Great Reminder!
They say you should write what you know, and again and again, Greg Prato has done just that. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Classic Rock Magazine, and he's just released his twelfth book, Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Records That Demand Your Attention, a loving look at 354 undervalued albums that have left an indelible impression on the author's mind.
Greg has an very comfortable conversational manner of writing, electing to go for the direct approach, as opposed to the pseudo-intellectual, 'I'm so clever and erudite' path that so many scribes choose to meander down. This is a fun, entertaining, and educational read that will well serve those who just want good information and a little direction.
Monday, July 7, 2014
|Photo by Marco van Rooijen|
Talk about your Cinderella stories - just months ago, things seemed pretty bleak in the tale of Danny Bryant and his mentor and friend, Walter Trout. The pair have been friends for twenty years, and they had hoped to tour America together in 2014, but Walter Trout's liver had other ideas, and the blues guitar legend found himself in an induced coma as his body waited on the possibility of a donor organ being found before his old liver completely surrendered. Touring wasn't even on the menu as Trout's mortal coil seemed in peril.
Well, the world wasn't quite through with Walter Trout, and Walter Trout certainly isn't through with this world. The circumstances have turned around very nicely - a donor liver was found, fans, friends and family have contributed over $240,000 to help defray the tremendous financial burdens, the surgery was a success, Walter is on the road to recovery, and now British guitar wiz Danny Bryant is coming to America for the first time to headline a month of shows fronting Walter's longtime band, and it would seem that from the ashes of what could have been a sad ending there has risen a new day's dawn.
Monday, June 30, 2014
There's a lot to be saying for being the last guy standing. This theory is put paid by Howard Kaylan's incredibly entertaining memoir, Shell Shocked. It would appear that Turtles don't move fast, but they are in for the duration.
Jim Hendrix, John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Frank Zappa, Harry Nilsson, and many other friends and associates of Kaylan's may have left us too soon, but the voice of Happy Together is still here and going strong, and we are the beneficiaries. Shell Shocked joins autobiographical treatments by such classic rockers as guitar legend Dick Wagner, and Humble Pie's Jerry Shirley as books by names you might not know, but who all helped write the book we call the history of rock 'n' roll.
Friday, June 27, 2014
As always, it began innocently enough. We were working behind the counter at the Guitar Center in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. We had just moved the store into its new mega-location from the low rent ghetto of a store I hired into, and we were getting ready for our grand opening.
I had gone off to the warehouse to count some stock, and when I returned one of my co-workers, a GIT student with silver blonde hair that was stacked to the moon and frozen in place with simple syrup was arguing with a gentleman over some pricing on a few guitar effects pedals. The man said that they were just some toys for his 'git-ar.'
Sunburst is definitely a book to own, but it makes me pine for something more. If you've been interested in guitars for more than ten minutes, I'm sure you are familiar with Tony Bacon's works, and this is more of the same. Essential, but not exceptional. If I sound like I'm of two minds here, I most definitely am. Please read on....
Bacon is nothing if not consistent - his books are unerringly accurate, and he knows how to layout a story, but they also lend themselves to a 'just the facts, ma'am,' conclusion. He is an aggregator - there's not much here that will be revelatory, but it's a great primer and one that should be on every guitar buff's book shelf. The stories are all here, they're all accurate, and there's enough technical information in his Reference List to make this essential material for every guitar shop.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Influence is the best record of Philip Sayce's career, edging out even last season's impeccably rocking Steamroller. Putting paid the notion that you can keep a good man down, Sayce may not have gotten the breaks with his last outing, but he's kept his nose to the grindstone, and he's combined with his producer and friend Dave Cobb to make yet another brilliant record.
Half covers/half original tunes penned by Sayce and Cobb (who also adds tasteful bass to the tracks), Influence is a brilliant production - it's sonically sensational, the arrangements are just that, and when they went to the library they scoured the shelves for rare nuggets and eschewed the temptation to rest on other hit maker's laurels. If this album doesn't make Sayce a star I'll eat my hat.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
|Photo by Matthew Sturtevant|
"It was a long process, and I was very adamant that I had the opportunity to use it in the studio, and a lot of gigs to make sure it worked equally well in each situation, because I think if you spend that much money on an amplifier, it ought to be useful live, and in the studio, and that has not always been the case with amps in the past." ~ David Grissom on his signature series PRS amplifiersDavid Grissom truly lives the guitar life. He's played with Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, The Dixie Chicks, sessioned for the likes of Ringo Starr, Robben Ford, Chris Isaak, written hits for Trish Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack and others. He also has a solid solo career with four long players under his belt, including his latest, the excellent, How It Feels To Fly, which is a must hear that includes a half hour live set from his residency at Austin's legendary Saxon Pub, that includes a fabulous cover of ZZ Top's Funky Dogs And Nasty Kings, and a wickedly cool nine minute workout of the Allman Brothers' Jessica - oh yeah, did I mention he once subbed for Dickey Betts with the brothers?
As if that wasn't enough he's also designer of top flight gear in conjunction with Paul Reed Smith Guitars and Amps, doing almost ground-up work on his signature series DGT guitars, and the new DG Custom 30 and 50 watt powerhouse amps. He'll claim to not be a very technical guy, but by the time you're through reading you'll have a fine appreciation for his attention to the smallest details, and his innate ability to know what he wants to feel and hear from his equipment onstage, and in the studio. I've seen too many signature model instruments that just had a different finish and the star's name emblazoned upon them - it's refreshing to learn so much from someone who took the time to really make his signature models something very special.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
The Dagger is a side project that appears to be becoming much more than that for this group of Swedish death metal all stars. They've been writing together for several years, all the while looking for the right voice to present their thoughtful reflection on the sounds of classic '80s metal, and in Jani Kataja, they've obviously found the right guy.
Their self titled long player is a great listen, and I hope they've only begun. Guitarist David Blomqvist is a stunner, and he worships at the alter of Blackmore, Roth, and Murray, and his riff writing is top notch, especially when one takes into consideration just how tough it is to write in a genre which has been on tap for over 30 years. Sure, he completely apes the guitar/keyboard solo from a Rainbow classic on their very first track, but it's old enough so that only a few of us dinosaurs will recollect it, and some kids will hear a ripping good musical interlude.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Who'd have thunk? Bloody brilliant. Not feral, as The Who once was, but stunningly beautiful. Daltrey is on fire, and this is the perfect document for the greatness of Peter Townshend's right hand. Holy shit good....If you ever dug The Who, even for a moment, buy this.
I love having my mind blown. Especially when I don't expect it. I had recently been sent a trailer type clip which impressed me tremendously, but I was still unprepared for the sheer breadth of this document. This past month started off well enough with the release of the new Zeppelin remasters/nuggets collection, and this is just icing on the cake. It's most telling that two of rock's original wonders are putting out the most exciting and vibrant packages that are crossing my desk. If you're one of the twelve people who have never figured out the genius of Pete Townshend and The Who, I implore you to check this one out.
Monday, June 9, 2014
Live In Antwerp
Nuclear Blast Records
Kadavar serves themselves well with the excellent live set, and set the stag for where this German band of rockers goes next.
As I often do, when confronted with a newer band's offerings that suggest a strong connection to rock's long distance past, I'll A/B them next to the actual artifacts of the past to see how they stand up. I put Kadavar's latest, Live In Antwerp, up next to The Who's Live At Leeds, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath, and I think it makes the case for rock being quite alive and well.
Friday, June 6, 2014
"I think we kind of have a point to prove here. We want to get away from the twelve day thing, just to see what we can do given the chance to go in and make a proper album - the way we were used to making albums, right?" ~ Scott Gorham on recording the next Black Star Riders album in the Fall with Def Leppard's Joe ElliottAt a very young 63 years old, Scott Gorham still has things to prove. While many of his contemporaries have decided to pack in making records, and doing anything but greatest hits shows on the road, this California native is in for all intents and purposes new band, writing songs for a new album, and touring America under a brand new banner.
Friday, May 30, 2014
Rock 'N' Roll is alive and well. I went to the mountain, got the sermon, and I am here to spread the gospel. I saw the history of British rock played out with an American twist as Glenn Hughes returned victoriously to the stage of the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood after a 44 year absence, and he brought with him, Jason Bonham, the son of the greatest hard rock drummer in history, who is currently state of the art at his art, and they brought with them the new messiah of rock, 23 year old wunderkind Andrew Watt, who played and looked the part of the second coming of the rock star circa 2014. They tore the joint up, and love was in the air.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
The Last Hombres were the only band Levon Helm ever joined as a member after the end of The Band, and that speaks volumes. The band also worked with Rick Danko, but the fact that they were revered by key members of maybe the best roots music ensemble ever is just my way of drawing you in - what's germane is the band's excellent new record, Odd Fellows Rest, which you will thank me for pointing out later.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Rival Sons continue to mine gold on Great Western Valkyrie, their fifth long player with producer Dave Cobb, making meaningful rock in the heart of a country music wasteland called Nashville.
To review this record, I attempted to time travel in my mind, back to 1970, where I imagine placing Rival Sons right in the middle of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Free, to see how they would have fared. These seem to be the points I see struck by most writers, so I figure those are the glasses I'll put on to look into the distant past to see how the present stands up.