Friday, January 30, 2015
James Williamson changed the world of rock with his guitar playing and writing back in the seventies with Iggy Pop & The Stooges, and he's returned to the same world raising as much of a ruckus as ever in The Stooges' reunion and now he's released his most ambitious solo project to date. Re-Licked sees James and a star studded cast revisiting some of The Stooges' greatest rarities and outtakes.
We had a great chat about all of this, and also got into some subjects such as Williamson's after music career as a high powered executive for Sony (served as the company's vice president of technical standards), and his experiences as a songwriter and producer. Les Pauls and Marshall amps make it into the conversation as they must when one talks James Williamson, and there's much more as well across this 45 minute journey.
Uli Jon Roth
March 10, 2015
The big news here is that Uli Jon Roth is playing guitar and singing as well, if not better than ever. The German maestro has been touring for several seasons now celebrating the 40th anniversary of his joining The Scorpions, a band he helped take to the very brink of international stardom before he exited the group to follow his own muse, and now he's documented the current state of his musicianship, his fine band, and the durability of some of the most adventurous hard rock music ever written and recorded.
Uli Jon Roth is a legend - he was there at the creation of a guitar movement that came to be known by the unfortunate name of shred, and in all actuality he may have been the first guitarist who married the feral excitement and soul of Jimi Hendrix with a sophisticated sense of harmony and the technique that had previously been left in the realm of serious jazz guitarists. No one had quite mastered the use of the Fender Stratocaster's tremolo bridge system - even Hendrix never approached the sheer mastery that Roth achieved with his customized extra sturdy arm that enabled him to wrestle dynamics and drama out of the instrument that allowed him to find the full expression of his almost endless bends, pull ups and dips. Even that instrument itself ultimately found itself supplanted by Roth's self designed Sky Guitars which with their scalloped frets, seven strings, and fully functional 34 frets, allowed the guitar to keep up with the imagination of its player.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
He wouldn't say no to Jimmy Page. If Jimmy called Richie to make a new record, Mr. Kotzen would report to duty....
Richie Kotzen has just released Cannibals, his twentieth solo album, and it's another great example of the man's incredible musicianship - this is a more adventurous, funky, and personal release than his recent work with last year's biggest new band, The Winery Dogs, with whom he has recently been busy writing for their second album.
I had a chance to chat with Richie about this album, his work with The Winery Dogs, his writing and creative processes, how the wholesale changes in the music business has actually helped artists like himself, his influences and inspirations, his exciting new multi-effects unit that he's partnered with Tech 21 to develop (Tech 21 RK5 Fly Rig), and how he's ended up being a Marshall amp guy again.
Randy Bachman first told me about his Heavy Blues album almost a year ago, and it was absolutely worth the wait - producer Kevin Shirley took the reigns, Bachman writes, plays, and sings as well if not better than ever, his rhythm section of Dale Anne Brendan (drums) and Anna Roddick (bass) make a holy noise that evokes memories of bands like Cream and The Who, and there's a slate of cameo appearances by such six string luminaries as Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Rudolph, Scott Holiday (Rival Sons), and even the late, great Jeff Healey.
(Rock Guitar Daily's review of Randy Bachman's Heavy Blues)
I had a great chat with Randy this morning, and he gave me the low down on his Heavy Blues from A to Z here on The Rock Guitar Daily Interview on Soundcloud.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The legendary Pete Way talks about his many years with UFO, his new solo album, the mysterious Mr. Squirrel, and selling Vinnie Moore's shorts at the merch table in Prague....
April 14, 2015
Randy Bachman has hit another home run - after a few years of supporting his extremely successful career retrospective Every Song Tells A Story with his Vinyl Tap tours, his very successful Vinyl Tap radio show, and keeping the long running Bachman/Turner franchise alive, he's now unveiling yet another new trick with an explosive set of originals done in the guise of classic blues rock vein under the title, Heavy Blues.
This album is exactly how I happen to like my blues - Bachman has wrapped his heavy blues in a lot of great melody, a slamming rhythm section, down and dirty rhythm guitar tones (dare I say filthy?), and some screaming guitar solos from himself and a slate of bona fide six string superstars. Kevin Shirley's no frills, 'in your face' production works perfectly here, and in a move that is either brilliant serendipity or extremely shrewd and wonderful marketing, Bachman is joined on the record by a sexy couple of serious slammers in the way of drummer Dale Anne Brendon and bassist Anna Ruddick, who not only look great, but who also do a fair approximation of The Ox and The Loon. Make no bones about it, they are both fabulous players. Yeah, this is how I like my blues....
Monday, January 26, 2015
Extreme Guitar Tour
Uli Jon Roth, Vinnie Moore, Black Knights Rising
San Jose, California, USA
January 25, 2015
Uli Jon Roth proved that he is perhaps the best of the best of his generation of guitarists, and he was joined by mad axe men Vinnie Moore, and Craig Goldy, who combined to put on one of the most successful package tours in recent memory.
The guitarists were the men of the hour, but the evening's all around MVP just might be bassist/guitar manufacturer Elliott 'Dean' Rubinson who covered the four string end of the spectrum with a trio of his own tasty instruments for all three of tour's main bands.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Something's About To Change
March 9, 2015
Is it my imagination, or is Robin Trower really getting better with every new record? His last outing, 2013's Roots And Branches was a super solid sender, but there's something about Something's About To Change that rings much more true, more direct, and more to the point. It is also a great sounding record - I've been on a tear about record production of late, and this is how it should be done.
This is truly a Robin Trower solo record - he not only masterfully wields his signature Fender Stratocasters (which have never sounded better), but he's also supplying soulful fatback bass, and singing in a style and fashion that must certainly have his old pal Jack Bruce smiling down upon him from the cosmos. He's joined by Luke Smith on a very sultry Hammond organ, Chris Taggart's tasty drum work, and longtime producer Livingston Brown, but as picture perfect as their support is, this is all about Trower, who has long since graduated from being touted as a Hendrixian dietary replacement when he exploded on the six string scene in the early seventies to being the UK's senior king of the blues. He's never stood out this far, writing, singing, and playing wise, but it serves him very well, for this well runs deep.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Neal Morse Band
The Grand Experiment
February 16, 2015
Inside Out Music
Of course, Neal Morse is amongst the most gifted musicians amongst us, but I am calling him a scientist for having the fearless wonderment that brings great ideas from thought to fruition. The Grand Experiment is a stunningly good record - it has great, instantly hummable tunes, enlightening and uplifting lyrics, brilliant singing, some of the best ensemble playing you're likely to hear, and maybe most important to me, it is a great sounding album.
The Grand Experiment marks the first time Neal Morse has ever walked into a recording studio with the intention of making an album, but having nothing written, nor prepared. You would not guess that in a million years to hear it, this album is extremely coherent, cohesive, and complete. That being said, this is the Neal Morse Band, and the credit must be parsed out to everyone onboard. Mike Portnoy brings his always exciting rums, and he's singing more and more these days on his projects, and that's a great thing. Randy George, well, he just might be my favorite bassist these days - his tone, taste, and chops always astound me, and he is on fire here. Keyboardist Bill Hubauer is a prog lover's dream, wrapping every tune in a wonderful tapestry of tones, and guitarist Eric Gillette brings some shredding rock skills along to keep things from ever getting too mired in all the pastoral beauty. Everyone is firing on all cylinders, and there is a great feeling of unity, which can be rare in these times of too often short budgets and time restrictions. This feels just right.
Live At Koko
(Frontiers Records srl)
February 20, 2015
God bless Mick Box - there's something to be said for being the last man standing, and this man has managed to keep his ship afloat through thick and thin for forty-five years. He and his fine band deserve your love. Uriah Heep never got their due as critic's darlings, but they've been thrilling audiences and listeners in the same style since day one. Live At Koko continues that legacy in fantastic form - nobody's resting on their laurels, and everyone's giving 110%.
Bernie Shaw has been at the helm of this hard rock juggernaught for just under thirty years, and he's in as good a voice as he was the day he joined. he brings not just great tone, pitch, and phrasing to the gig, he also brings a sense of theatricality that makes a Heep show an occasion. He's one of hard rock's best frontmen, and he is vastly underrated. He puts on great shows, makes excellent records, and never displays less than a tremendous respect for the legacy that is Heep's before his joining.
Monday, January 19, 2015
Toto XIV is yet another excellent album from Toto. They're the same hard to classify act that has been putting out their sophisticated blend of progressive pop, rock, and jazz since the late seventies, and they continue to grow as purveyors of smart music for the masses.
The set opening 'Running Out Of Time' would have been a big MTV hit - it's got great guitar playing, a rumbling rhythm section with killer drumming, and a fine melody being sung by a great vocalist. Well, it won't be a hit today for the simple reason that there is not a place for it to be a hit. There's no real avenue for this middle aged band to get the attention they so richly deserve, but I think that art is to a degree its own reward, and on that count Toto, a band that's no stranger to the fickle mysteries of pop success, have been beating the odds since day one.
This latest iteration of the band sees the return of bassist David Hungate, a new drummer in Keith Carlock (Steely Dan), vocalist Joseph Williams, and original members Steve Lukather, David Paich, and Steve Porcaro. They are still the same tireless workers who spend endless hours in the studio honing their craft - you know what and who you are listening to the minute the needle hits the grooves, and they are as fearless and adventurous as they've ever been. There's no resting on laurels, or reaching back to recreate formulas - this is a much more politically topical, and mature bunch than the band that topped the charts in the early '80s.
"I will argue until somebody puts me in a pine box that there are not two people on this planet with more respect and more humility about an opportunity like this than Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson. There's just not.
"We have a commitment to that that we bring every time we sit down to write a song, write a riff, write a lyric, working on harmony parts, whatever it is - there is no way we would ever do something consciously to tarnish that legacy and that name." Damon Johnson on the legacy of Thin Lizzy.
Damon Johnson takes his job very seriously. Not that he doesn't have a great time writing songs and performing them with Black Star Riders, he definitely does, but he's also fiercely proud and protective of all that that means. It's a band that rose from the remnants of the legendary Thin Lizzy, and in spite of many world tours, and now two great albums under the new name, there may still be those who cannot make the leap from the past to the present, but Johnson more than understands it, he even manages to be humbly appreciative of the feelings of those with whom he may not see eye to eye.
(Listen along on Soundcloud!)
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock - Spirit On A Mission - Schenker Is Primed For A Return To The Top
Michael Schenker is playing as well as ever - his re-emergence is still heading up that hill, and every indication is that he's ready for another run at the upper bracket. Spirit On A Mission is the latest chapter of his return to rock 'n' roll grace, and the man is truly inspiring. In a world that's way too short of current guitar heroes, Michael and George Lynch seem to be the current kings of 'can do no wrong'.
Spirit On A Mission is an album ripe with juicy, new guitar riffs - I often say that the hardest job in rock is reinventing the wheel called the riff, and Michael is still finding new ways to revivify the form. It's shame that this is not one of the better examples I have heard of an album capturing his signature guitar tones. Great writing, great playing, and great performances abound, but disappointing production haunts this album. Perhaps having your entire of arsenal of guitars and a half finished album stolen was just too much to overcome, but there is a bunch of fantastic playing that I am hearing on this album that sounds like it's been covered with a wet blanket. It's time to up the ante and get a better support team in - the music deserves better than it's been getting.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
After a great first album, the departure of a superstar drummer, and very little touring, California Breed is extinct. Guitarist/singer, and songwriter Andrew Watt posted this statement on the band's Facebook page:
"To the California Breed fans here...I put everything I had into this band...all I can say is I was in it for the long hall...I have a lot of new music for you guys...going to be announcing my plans soon...I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you supporting us, buying our music, coming to our shows...this is not the end...it is truly the beginning...cannot wait to continue the quest to bring rock n roll back to the people that are hungry for it...what an amazing learning experience for me here and introduction to an amazing world of people and fans that share love for the same thing."
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
The Dictators NYC
The Blue Lamp, Sacramento, California, USA
January 13, 2015
I'm still reeling. It's that great feeling you get when you wake up feeling like you got hit by a train, but you liked it.
The Dictators NYC might just be the best live lineup that this long running legendary band has yet presented. Frontman Dick Manitoba, guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman, and stickman JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson have kept this hard rock juggernaught alive through thick and thin, and they are just now hitting their peak. That's a lot to ask of the band that may have arguably and unintentionally invented punk rock way back in 1973, but they are more than up for the task, and they have added some incredible firepower in the guise of legendary New York producer/guitarist Daniel Rey (The Ramones, and too many others to mention), and another longtime NYC record producer, Dean Rispler on bass - this band is the daisy cutter of rock 'n roll. What they are is one of the absolutely best rock bands on the planet.
We gathered in the backroom of The Blue Lamp in Sacramento, California using the ice machine's motor for a room heater, and wondered what kind of crowd would turn up on a deserted downtown street corner on a Tuesday evening in January, but by showtime there were several hundred of the faithful gathered and ready to rock. And rock they did - this was one of the best, most inspiring shows I've seen, and I've been seeing shows for over forty years now.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct
Nuclear Blast Records
February 20, 2015
Black Star Riders are back, and they are bad. The band soundly defeats the sophomore jinx by beating their impressive 2013 debut with their new album, The Killer Instinct.
The blood of Thin Lizzy still runs through the veins of this outfit, but they are now very much their own band with their own sound that cozies up to the legacy quite nicely. This record sounds more sure of itself than its predecessor, and I think that's down to touring under their own name, growing together as writers and a band, and a big nod goes to producer Nick Raskulinecz, who has captured a much, much more organic sound than was found on their debut.
Pat Travers Band
Live At The Iridium NYC
Frontiers Records srl
January 23, 2015
Pat Travers has always realized the importance of having a great band. He still does, and Travers and company are hitting it hard, and on the mark with their new Live At The Iridium NYC set. As seventies guitar heroes go, Pat is still delivering the goods in spades. Coming off a very strong studio release (Can Do), the man and his band are on fire and still kicking ass. This is definitely not an oldies act.
Travers' trademark tone is largely unchanged and his love for the heavier groove is still in tact, and that's a beautiful thing. He never mails it in, or rests on staid pentatonic licks, he's still one of the sleeker models of his era, and he keeps himself in check by having a very hot handed co-guitarist in the band in Kirk McKim, who supplies great twin leads with the man, and some stunningly good rhythm work - when either player takes a solo, the other guy is digging in and pushing it all further down the road.
Monday, December 29, 2014
What a great way to end 2014. There's so much to tell about this show that I'm almost at a loss as to where to begin....
Let's start with the music - that is, after all, why we were all there. This is the tenth annual Christmas thru New Years jaunt through California for this tour, and the capacity crowd at The Independent in San Francisco stated quite loudly that they got it right. Both bands played headline length sets with Cracker opening the show, Camper Van Beethoven closing, then Cracker coming back for a show ending encore, and both put on shows that clearly defined why both are so revered, respected.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
While on a break from touring this year, the members of the live touring version of The Stooges (James Williamson, Steve McKay, Mike Watt, and drummer Toby Dammit) got together and recorded songs that were originally penned by Iggy Pop and James Williamson in 1973/74 as the follow up to their quintessential album Raw Power. While a number of these tracks have found their way onto inferior sounding bootlegs and unofficial releases over the years, they are never properly recorded since the band didn't have a recording deal at the time. ~ James Williamson's .com
Iggy demurred, so James went ahead and did it - people have long clamored to hear what was left over from the demise of punk rock's original legends, so we are the joyful recipients of what may have been, and it's a great trip.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Paul Raymond is celebrating his golden anniversary as a professional musician, and to do so he's got a brand new career retrospective solo album, Rewind 50, another new UFO album (A Conspiracy of Stars), and tours scheduled with both bands leading well into 2015.
After fifty years on the boards, Raymond shows no signs of slowing down, and in fact, he's playing as well as ever, his singing voice has actually gotten stronger as the years have gone passing by, and he's looking great as he begins his second half century.
I caught up with Paul to discuss Rewind 50, and to catch up with the big end to 2014, so we agreed to stick with the new, and to then pick up this conversation again after the first of the year, at which time we'll focus on his long history with the legendary UFO, MSG, and the many legends attached to those classic rock institutions.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Paul Raymond has been supplying rock with style, class, and sophistication for nigh on fifty years, and with Rewind 50 he takes a loving look back on what he's delivered. It's a tasty take on a lot of great music that is a great joy to hear.
There are a few classics on tap that you'll know, but there's also a lot of chestnuts that will fill in some blanks, and some that will even further enlighten you to his great career with such rock stalwarts as UFO, MSG, Waysted, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, and even a never before heard Terry Reid song which is worth the price of admission alone for any true lover of rock.
The best parts of this record are the quality of the songwriting, and Raymond's gruff but soulfully sweet vocals. You can hear remnants of forty years next to Phil Mogg, and there's a large dose of classic British soul lurking in his smokey smooth voice. He's joined by some of the same mates that helped him record 2012's excellent Terms & Conditions album (See review here), and they provide more than competent support. This is one of 2014's more pleasant surprises.
Brian May's Red Special: The Story Of The Home-Made Guitar That Rocked Queen And The World is unquestionably the guitar book of the year.
Who knew that Brian May and his father actually built a custom winding machine with which to construct the pickups (later replaced with Burns Tri-Sonics) for the famed Red Special? Or that Brian actually let co-author Simon Bradley, and his longtime guitar technician and right hand man Pete Malandrone dismantle the Red Special for the purpose of photographing and documenting details for this spectacular book?
Friday, November 28, 2014
Supergroup power trios are becoming increasingly common, and to my ears these combinations are making some of the best records I'm hearing - now we have Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Doug Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake), and Journey's Deen Castronova on drums and fabulous lead vocals gathering under the aegis of Frontiers Records as the Revolution Saints. They've made a great record, but in order to take it beyond sales that will occur between now and Christmas they will have to take it to the streets.
Revolution Saints attack with extreme ferocity, I'll give them that. To a degree, this is Deen Castronova's record - mind you Aldrich, and Blades are right there with him, but after singing a few songs on Neal Schon's So U album earlier this year, he's stepped up to take on a full album as not just a great drummer, but also as an equally adept vocalist. He's good enough to sing for any melodic rock band on the planet, and here he's going for the throat.
If you dig melodic hard rock bands in the vein of Journey, and Night Ranger, but you wish they'd turn the rock up just a bit, this will be just the band and the record for you. Everyone has brought their 'A' game, the instrumentation hits as hard as the vocals, and at the end of the day we have a surefire winner.
Revolution Saints - OK, you've made a great record, now go out and play it.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Cracker has never sounded better, cooler, more vital - or more important. In a time in which many acts weigh the option of recording new material at all, Cracker releases a double album featuring two sides of the band that stands proudly next to anything in their catalog. Disc one presents the band's rock roots, disc two is a Cracker twist on country music, but it's all just Cracker soul.
Cracker soul - I caught a case way back in '92. It came when I saw that Jim Keltner had played on a few tracks on a band's first album, so I figured that if one of the world's great drummers saw fit, it was probably something I should check out. Sure enough, it was a sublime stew of rock, roots, country, and yes, their own inimitable Cracker soul. This double disc package is chock full of it. Get some.
Monday, November 24, 2014
AC/DC may be going through it, but it sounds like it's all worth the wait. Rock Or Bust is streaming now for free on iTunes (http://www.acdc.com/us/news/stream-rock-or-bust).
"With their high voltage guitar power and rowdy, hard partying anthems, AC/DC has carved out a legacy as one of the most ferocious bands in rock history. The group's 15th studio album, Rock Or Bust, roars to life with the forceful title track before blasting through a set that includes the scorching single, 'Play Ball.' The album also marks the debut of rhythm guitarist Stevie Young - the nephew of founding members Malcolm and Angus Young." - iTunes
This thing sounds great - Angus is on fire, Brian Johnson is full of anthems, the drums sound like a healthy Phil Rudd, and new boy Stevie is perfect, not like a clone of Malcolm, but just different enough to be a damned good replacement. The band has been through travails after travail on the lead up to roll out, but it sounds unstoppable to my ears - the best studio work from this bunch since too, too long. This could have followed up any of their eighties classics, and been a winner.
Expected release date is December 2, 2014, but of course, you can pre-order at iTunes now. Listen for free - buy to support the future of rock 'n' roll.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Glyn Johns: Sound Man is the autobiography of famed record producer/engineer Glyn Johns, and it's a must read for anyone who loves classic rock 'n' roll. Johns' resumé includes the biggest acts in rock history - The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Class, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and a legion of others, and he spreads them all out across the whole of this well written book.
You can tell by the way that Johns has laid out his history that he's no stranger to putting together lengthy, complex projects, and as I said, this is an absolute must read, but I do wish that he had hired as demanding an editor as he is known for being as a record maker. While there's hardly a dull moment, and what's there is concise, accurate, and well written, the only problem I have with the book is what it leaves out in its all too brief 286 pages.
Judas Priest are currently on fire. Just a few years ago, they were said to be on their last legs, but then they went and hired guitarist Richie Faulkner to replace the departed K.K. Downing, and their Epitaph tour turned for an initial eight shows into 119, a brilliant new album (Redeemer Of Souls), and what appears to be becoming another huge tour. Never count out Judas Priest - they are still delivering the goods in a most satisfactory fashion.
Rob Halford has been fronting Judas Priest for a great many decades - how Halford goes, so goes the Priest, and he's in great shape these days. Sprinkling new cuts from the new album throughout the set, he delivers them with much aplomb, and they fit perfectly alongside the classics in the band's set list. Halford is one of those guys who has chosen to take care of his instrument - he might not hit every high note that he could once claim as his own, but he knows exactly what he can hit, and he knows well what notes to sing in their stead. He's as masterful a frontman as has ever trod the stage, and he may just be the greatest lead singer in the history of heavy metal.
Friday, November 14, 2014
I had a few great conversations earlier this year with singer Oni Logan about the direction of his career. We discussed collaborations with guitarists, possible band lineups, this, that, and the other, and I think that the real fruit of these discussions can now be heard with the announcement that Oni and longtime collaborator George Lynch are again seeing eye to eye, and that Lynch Mob is riding once again.
It turns out that Logan already had a very ideal band situation with Lynch Mob, and of all the possibilities, this reformation made the most sense. Lynch has been on fire creatively for some time, but for all the brilliant side projects he's scored with over the last year, his own Lynch Mob franchise was going sideways with constant lineup changes and instability. Logan has been working regularly with the Dio Disciples, but his talents lend themselves to much more than a tribute band (even though the Disciples do a fantastic job as a tribute band). His voice is actually getting better and he's phrasing better than ever - this is a guy whose best work is yet to come.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
A few months back I had written about how I thought that the current iteration of Foreigner, in spite of retaining only one original member (songwriter/guitarist Mick Jones), ranked as the finest lineup to ever sail under that name. Now there is convenient evidence that can be found to support my supposition with in the soon to be released 'Foreigner: The Best Of 4 & More', a live album recorded just last month in Atlantic City that includes the majority of the band's biggest ever album, 4 which contained more hits than misses, and some of the band's biggest hits.
If you never liked Foreigner this isn't going to change anything. If you already love the band, you don't need convincing, but if you're like me, and you thought the band never lived up to the promise of their hits as a live band, and you need some convincing, this is all the proof you need. If you liked Foreigner's hits, this might be the best record they've ever made. These songs have never sounded better in a live setting.
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.