Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper to be reissued for its 50th

After weeks and weeks of speculation, it's official: the Beatles' 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band will be reissued in various forms- in celebration of the iconic album's 50th anniversary. Rumors had spread about there being a re-release of the album earlier this year, with reports claiming that the new reissue will add the singles "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" to the album. A video of the reissue campaign was leaked early yesterday but the content on the set has now been revealed.

The album will be released in these various formats...

-a standard one disc edition with the original album remastered.

-a deluxe two disc edition, featuring the original album remaster and a bonus disc of unreleased session recordings for the album.

-a super deluxe edition with six discs- 4 CDs, 1 DVD and 1 Blu-ray disc. This has everything the deluxe edition has along with another disc of session recordings and the mono mix. The DVD and Blu-ray will feature a new 5.1 surround sound audio mix of the album completed by Giles Martin (son of the late Sir George Martin), along with "Strawberry Field Forever" and "Penny Lane." Also included on the DVD and Blu-ray are promotional videos and an unreleased documentary. The set also comes with a 144 page book and several poster reproductions.

Digital and vinyl LP versions of the standard and deluxe editions will be released as well.

The Sgt. Pepper reissues are set for release on May 26.

The content featured on is as follows- with notes on which tracks were officially released before

Disc One (the original album, remastered)
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

Disc Two (sessions/outtakes)
1. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 1 (originally on Anthology 2)
2. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 4
3. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 7 (originally on Anthology 2, though with an edit piece)
4. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 26
5. Strawberry Fields Forever- Stereo/Giles Martin Mix
6. When I'm Sixty-Four- Take 2
7. Penny Lane- Take 6
8. Penny Lane- Vocal Overdubs and Speech
9. Penny Lane- Stereo/Giles Martin Mix
10. A Day In The Life- Take 1 (originally on Anthology 2)
11. A Day In The Life- Take 2 (originally on Anthology 2)
12. A Day In The Life- Orchestra Overdub (originally on Anthology 2)
13. A Day In The Life- Hummed Last Chord
14. A Day In The Life- The Last Chord
15. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band- Take 1
16. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band- Take 9
17. Good Morning, Good Morning- Take 1
18. Good Morning, Good Morning- Take 8 (originally on Anthology 2)

Disc Three (sessions/outtakes)
1. Fixing a Hole- Take 1
2. Fixing a Hole- Speech and Take 3
3. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!- Speech + Take 1(originally on Anthology 2), Take 4 & Speech
4. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!- Take 7 (originally on Anthology 2)
5. Lovely Rita- Speech and Take 9
6. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds- Take 1 and Speech
7. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds- Speech
8. Getting Better- Take 1
9. Getting Better- Take 12
10. Within You Without You- Take 1
11. Within You Without You- George Coaching the Musicians
12. She's Leaving Home- Take 1
13. She's Leaving Home- Take 6
14. With a Little Help From My Friends- Take 1
15. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)- Speech and Take 8

Disc Four (Mono)
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life
14. Strawberry Field Forever
15. Penny Lane
16. A Day In The Life- First Mono Mix
17. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds- Original Mono Mix
18. She's Leaving Home- First Mono Mix
19. Penny Lane- Capitol Records Mono Mix

Disc Five and Six (DVD and Blu-ray disc, w/ surround audio mixes and bonus videos)
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life
14. Strawberry Field Forever
15. Penny Lane
The Making of Sgt. Pepper- a 1992 documentary
A Day In The Life (promo video)
Strawberry Field Forever (promo video)
Penny Lane (promo video)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Steel Panther- Lower the Bar album review

 Steel Panther - Lower the Bar
Steel Panther
Lower the Bar
Rating: *** 1/2

Over the past year or so, I’ve been questioning myself as to why I like Steel Panther. There are some people that don’t like them and for valid reasons: their songs are juvenile, explicit and revolve around the same theme. How can people find this funny?  While I can see where these people are coming from, I still like the band. While they can be overly explicit, the band is doing something different: they’re a throwback to 1980s glam metal and they’re having a laugh about it. They’re just a fun band. Their latest effort, Lower the Bar, is their fourth album- following up 2014’s All You Can Eat. Compared to their last three albums, Lower the Bar isn’t as consistent. However, it still manages to be a solid album from the band.

            The album opens with the balls out rocker “Goin’ in the Backdoor.” Right off the bat, the band are in fine form- especially guitarist Satchel. It’s a really cooking tune with surprisingly solid lyrics: “Back doors never got a welcome mat” sings frontman Michael Starr. “But that never stops me cause I’m a gutter rat.” “Anything Goes,” the lead single off the album, is a pretty good tune. The song is another glam metal throwback- complete with dual lead guitar riffs. Lyrically, the song is about kinky sex- whether that involves sending a Go Pro “up your own butt hole” or banging “a hung midget in Niagara Falls.” Steel Panther continue to deliver the goods on “Poontang Boomerang” and “Wrong Side of the Tracks.” The former has a catchy chorus filled with great glam metal hooks while the latter has more impressive guitar from Satchel. The 1980s throwbacks also come in the form the melodic acoustic power ballad “That’s When You Came In.”

            The second half of the album, as much as I hate to say it, is just okay. They’re not terrible but compared to the first five tracks, these songs aren’t as strong. “Wasted Too Much Time” doesn’t offer anything new lyrically nor does “Walk of Shame.” However, the songs are pretty good musically- with the former having some nice melodic harmonies and the latter being a surprisingly bluesy tune. I do enjoy “I Got What You Want,” which is yet another glam metal throwback- complete with sensational melodic harmonies and a killer bass line from the band’s flamboyant bassist Lexxi Foxx. The album closes out with a cover of the Cheap Trick tune “She’s Tight.” While it’s not too different from the original, it’s a fun cover.

            Despite its downsides, Lower the Bar is still a decent album from Steel Panther. I’ve noticed that with this album, the songs weren’t as overly explicit as on All You Can Eat and some of the previous albums- so I’ll give credit for that. If you enjoyed the first three Steel Panther albums, you should enjoy this new batch of tunes. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Paul McCartney- Flowers in the Dirt reissue album review

 Paul McCartney - Flowers in the Dirt
Paul McCartney
Flowers in the Dirt
Rating (original album): *** 1/2 to 3.75
Bonus disc rating: ***

After a year long delay, the next entry the Paul McCartney Archive Collection has finally been released. For the tenth entry in the series, MPL have reissued McCartney’s 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt. Like the albums before it, the album has been newly remastered and features a second disc of bonus tracks.

            Released in 1989, Flowers in the Dirt was considered by many to be a little bit of a comeback for McCartney. Looking at his output in the 1980s, the critics hadn’t been easy on the former Beatle: while McCartney did release the 1982 George Martin produced Tug of War, the albums that followed it were met with mixed to negative reviews. McCartney even made a movie, Give My Regards to Broadstreet, which tanked at the box office in 1984. For what it is, Flowers in the Dirt is pretty solid album. It has a good batch of tunes that McCartney sadly doesn’t play in his shows anymore.

The album opens with the energetic “My Brave Face.” It’s a catchy pop tune and is my favorite song from the album. From there on out, the album is pretty diverse. Personally, I find myself preferring the first half of the album. For the first side, you have ballads in the form of “Distractions” and “Put It There.” The former features great vocal work from McCartney while the latter has beautiful orchestration from none other than George Martin. McCartney leaves time for guest appearances on this album. McCartney collaborated with singer Elvis Costello on this album, as Costello co-wrote four of the album’s tracks. Costello appears as the second vocalist on heartbroken slow rocker “You Want Her Too.” Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour guests on “We Got Married.” Gilmour really shines on (no pun intended) the track during the rocking second part of the song.  The second side is where I feel the album starts to decline a little. It starts off with the wonderful “Figure of Eight” and the catchy “This One” but the songs that follow it (“Don’t Be Careless Love,” “That Day is Done” and “How Many People”) are okay at best. However, the album closes with the Beach Boys-esque “Motor of Love.” While the last song on the CD version is “Ou Est Le Soleil,” “Motor of Love” sounds more like a closing songs: with the wonderful vocal harmonies and six minute running time, you get the sense of the closure.

In terms of the remastering, the powers that be have done it again. My previous copy of Flowers in the Dirt is a scratched up CD-R that I burned from a family friend’s original CD. For the few songs I was able to salvage, the main difference I can see and hear in Audicity is that it’s a lot louder- but not too loud. It doesn’t sound dramatically different but for what it is, this sounds really good.

The bonus disc for Flowers in the Dirt consists of nine demo tracks, clocking in at around 30 minutes. When it comes to bootleg albums, Flowers in the Dirt has had a number of them. The ones offered on the two-disc version are good, with a few of the songs being new to me. However, I don’t see myself wanting to come back to these demos. As always, there’s a super deluxe version of the album released with even more songs and a DVD. 

            Overall, I enjoyed this revisit of Flowers in the Dirt. It’s a good album and I think the remaster sound great. Sadly unlike the other albums in the archive collection, there is no insert on which album will be the next one released. This is disappointing as I’ve always looked forward to seeing those. Could this be the last album reissued for the archive collection? I doubt it: there are still a few albums that I think deserve a reissue- specifically Red Rose Speedway and Back to the Egg. While Flowers in the Dirt isn’t album I go back to often, I might have to come back to it a little more often now.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quiet Riot to release Road Rage on April 21 [UPDATED: Album release postponed]

Hard rock band, Quiet Riot, will be releasing a brand new studio album. The album, Road Rage, will be the band's first album since 2014's 10. However, this will be the band's first full length studio album since 2006's Rehab- as 10 consisted of six new studio tracks with singer Jizzy Pearl and four live tracks with the late Kevin DuBrow. With Pearl leaving the band at the end of last year, this new album will feature former Adler's Appetite singer Seann Nicols. This reunited version of Quiet Riot formed in 2010, almost three years after the tragic death of original singer Kevin DuBrow. With the blessing of DuBrow's mother, drummer Frankie Banali reformed the band with the other surviving members of the band's last line up: guitarist Alex Grossi (who joined in 2004) and bassist Chuck Wright (who has been in and out of the band since 1982). The band has been through four lead singer since 2010: Mark Huff (2010-2011), Scott Vokoun (2012-2013), Jizzy Pearl (2013-2016) and now Seann Nicols. Road Rage is set to be released on April 21 on Frontiers Music Srl, with a tour to follow this summer.

The tracking list is as follows...

1. Nothing But Trouble
2. Let It Go
3. Snake Charmer
4. Hey Lil' Sister
5. I Don't Need You Anymore
6. Sledge Hammer
7. Never You Mind
8. Empty Rooms
9. Dirty Money
10. The Seeker
11. Road Rage

UPDATE (4/4/2017): Sometime towards the end of February, it was announced that Quiet Riot had hired a new lead singer in the form of James Durbin. Durbin is perhaps best known for being a finalist on the tenth season of American Idol in 2011. Durbin, who has been open about his struggles with Asperger's Syndrome and Tourette's, was a fan favorite during his season. While Durbin didn't win his season, Durbin was signed to a record label and has released a few albums since his time on Idol. According to sources, Frankie Banali was wanting Durbin to join the band for the longest time. However, Durbin was unavailable until now. After only a few months in the band, singer Seann Nicols is no long in Quiet Riot and is now the singer for Bobby Blotzer's version of Ratt.

With Durbin in the band, the release of Road Rage has been postponed so that the band can go back in the studio and re-record the songs with Durbin. Durbin has already received high praise from many people, including Dr. Terry DuBrow- younger brother of the late original QR frontman Kevin DuBrow. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Black Star Riders- Heavy Fire album review

 Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire
Black Star Riders
Heavy Fire
Rating: ****

Hard rock band Black Star Riders are back with their third studio album. The album, Heavy Fire, is the follow up to 2015’s The Killer Instinct. The band, who are fronted by Ricky Warwick, are a spin off band of the reunited Thin Lizzy. While guitarist Scott Gorham is the only member who played in the band’s first run with the late Phil Lynott, the other members are well versed in Lizzy songs. All through last year in 2016, Warwick and Gorham toured under the Lizzy name celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Jailbreak album- as well as honoring their leader Phil Lynott 30 years after his death. With the Thin Lizzy shows completed, the focus is now on Heavy Fire. After listening to the album a couple of times, it’s safe to say this is yet another great album from Black Star Riders.

            The album kicks off with the chugging sways of the title track. The band are in fine form, firing on all cylinders by the chorus. Warwick gives an impressive vocal performance as he is able to phrase the wordy lyrics- a gift that the late Phil Lynott had. If it could be compared to another song- think of fast phrasing from Lynott in the Lizzy classic “It’s Only Money.” The album’s lead single, “When The Night Comes In,” is different from the previous lead singles. While it sounds like the traditional Lizzy song with sweet guitar harmonies, the song utilizes in female backup singers during the chorus and bridge- giving the song a soulful feel. With The Killer Instinct, the band maintained the Thin Lizzy sound but it also sounded like they were trying to make a sound for themselves. With Heavy Fire, the songs lean more towards the Lizzy sound. Examples include “Who Rides The Tiger” and “Testify or Say Goodbye.” The former is a tough hard-hitting rocker while the latter is wonderfully melodic as Gorham and Damon Johnson work that dual lead guitar sound. Many of the songs here stay true to what Lynott loved to write about such as war (“True Blue Kid”), hopeless romantics (“Dancing With the Wrong Girl”) or both (“Cold War Love”). While Warwick, Gorham and Johnson get to showcase their talents the most, bassist Robbie Crane and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso still get to shine. DeGrasso drums his heart out on “Dancing With The Wrong Girl” while Crane plays the prowling bass line on “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed.” All five members get to shine one last time on the album’s energetic closer “Letting Go of Me.”

            Heavy Fire is simply another hard rocking album from Black Star Riders. When put against All Hell Breaks Loose and The Killer Instinct, you can’t really compare them by much: these three albums have all been consistent from beginning to end. If you’re new to the band but loved Thin Lizzy back in the day, I’d say pick up this album and their other two. If they’ve got a fourth album in them, I say bring it on.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

John Wetton dead at 67

John Kenneth Wetton
June 12, 1949  - January 31, 2017

John Wetton, bassist for King Crimson and many other bands, passed away this morning in his sleep after a long battle with colon cancer. Wetton was 67 years old. 

In his early career, Wetton was in several different bands. Some of his early bands included Mogul Thrash, Renaissance and Family. Shortly after his brief stay in Family, Wetton joined prog rockers King Crimson as their bassist and lead singer. While still successful at the time, the three albums that followed the band's iconic debut album received lukewarm responses. With Wetton, King Crimson released a trio of well received albums- Larks' Tongue In Aspic (1973), Starless and Bible Black (1974) and Red (1974). Wenton was with the band until guitarist and founding member Robert Fripp announced the split in 1974 (the band would reunite years later but Wetton didn't rejoin). 

After the split of King Crimson, Wetton joined Uriah Heep in 1975- replacing bassist Gary Thain. Wetton would record two albums with the band- Return to Fantasy (1975) and High and Mighty (1976)- before leaving in 1977.  From 1977 to 1981, Wetton was in the short-lived supergroup UK and briefly joined Wishbone Ash for their 1981 album Number the Brave. Wetton also started a solo career- his debut being 1980's Caught in the Crossfire. It wasn't until 1981 when Wetton found himself working with Yes guitarist Steve Howe, ELP drummer Carl Palmer and Buggles/Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes. This new band would become the supergroup Asia- who achieved commercial success with the release of their self-titled debut, which featured the hit single "Heat of the Moment." Asia would split in 1986 but reunited on/off over the years since 1989. In 2007, Wetton's health started to decline due to a heart condition- which Wetton attributed to his battle with alcoholism. In May 2015, Wetton underwent surgery to have a cancerous growth removed. Earlier this month, Wetton announced he would not be taking part in Asia's 2017 tour with Journey, with current Yes bassist Billy Sherwood filling in for him. 

Wetton is survived by his wife Lisa, his son Dylan, his brother Robert and his mother Peggy. 

It's sad to hear about Mr. Wetton's passing. He was an immensely talented bassist and it's amazing to look at his long list of credits. The man left us with some great music.

May he rest in peace. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Geoff Nicholls dead at 68

Geoffrey James Nicholls
February 28, 1948 - January 28, 2017

Former Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls died this morning after a long battle with lung cancer. Nicholls was 68 years old. According to Blabbermouth, Nicholls' cancer was said to be in remission but Nicholls had succumbed to the side effects of the chemotherapy. 

Nicholls joined Black Sabbath in 1979. At that point in time, the band had hired former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio to replace original singer Ozzy Osbourne. Nicholls' first album with the band was 1980's Heaven and Hell. Throughout his time in the band, Nicholls was often credited as an unofficial member- as he didn't appear in promotional band pictures. However by the mid 1980s, Nicholls was in pictures with the band. Whether he was an unofficial member or not, Nicholls was in Black Sabbath for many years from 1979 to 2004. Prior to joining Sabbath, Nicholls played keyboards for heavy metal band Quartz from 1974 to 1979. 

Tributes have been posted by the social media pages for the members of Black Sabbath. 

Tony Iommi: I'm so saddened to hear the loss of one of my dearest and closest friends Geoff Nicholls. He's been suffering for a while now with lung cancer and he lost his battle this morning. Geoff and I have always been very close and he has been a real true friend to me and support me all the way for nearly 40 years. I will miss him dearly and he will live in my heart until we meet again. Rest in Peace my dead friend. 

Geezer Butler: Very sad to hear of old friend and Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls' passing. RIP Geoff. 

Ozzy Osbourne: Geoff Nicholls was a great friend of mine for a long time. He will be greatly missed. I'm very saddened at the news. 

Tony Martin (Sabbath singer 1987-91 and 1993-95): Saddened to hear of the passing of Geoff Nicholls...keyboard player and friend from Sabbath...Safe journey mate.