Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: Year in Review



           Another year has come and gone. Some albums were released this year. Overall, I find myself liking the albums I purchased this year compared to last year. So here we go: everything this from year reviewed in short.


NEW RELEASES

  W.A.S.P. - ReIdolized (The Soundtrack to the Crimson Idol)


W.A.S.P.
Re-Idolized
Rating: ***

            Delayed one year to the 25th anniversary of W.A.S.P.’s The Crimson Idol, Re-Idolized is what it sounds like: a re-recorded version of The Crimson Idol. However, Re-Idolized has some new songs attached to it- which were supposedly meant for the original album but weren’t recorded. While Re-Idolized isn’t bad, it isn’t anything special. It looks like there might’ve been an attempt at reissuing the album but for whatever reason, Blackie Lawless couldn’t do so. Also included with the re-recorded album is the new “movie” adaptation of the album- which, again, isn’t anything special: it’s just re-edits all of the footage shot from the Crimson Idol music videos. No disrespect to Blackie and the guys but I’ll stick with the original album.

  Judas Priest - Firepower
Judas Priest
Firepower
Rating: ****

FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

            Despite the news of Glenn Tipton’s live retirement, the guys in Judas Priest have managed to record a worthy follow up to 2014’s Redeemer of Souls. From top to bottom, Firepower is a killer album from the legendary metal band. While Redeemer of Souls is still good, Priest have managed to top themselves here. Guitarist Ritchie Faulkner has really pumped some fresh blood into the band as the riffs for this album are sensational. Even as he approaches his 70s, singer Rob Halford can still belt out those high notes.

Highlights: Lightning Strikes, Spectre, Children of the Sun, Rising from Ruins


 Riot V - Armor of Light
Riot V
Armor of Light
Rating: ****

            Following 2014’s Unleash the Fire, Armor of Light is a killer follow up from hard rock/metal band. Whereas Unleash the Fire was a nostalgic tribute Mark Reale, the music on Armor of Light is more in the vein of Thundersteel-era Riot- although there are some surprises along the way. Guitarist Mike Flynz and bassist Donnie Van Stavern have continued to wave the Riot flag since Reale’s passing- with Todd Michael Hall serving as the front man. Overall, Armor of Light is another solid installment to the Riot discography.

Highlights: Heart of a Lion, Ready to Shine, Victory, Caught in the Witches Eyes, Messiah
 


 The Residents - I Am a Resident!\
The Residents
I Am a Resident!
Rating: *** ½

            While 2018 has seen the reissues of early Residents album, the group have also released a new album. For this project, the group asked for their fans to send in their covers of the group’s music. Taking from the covers given, the group has remixed it all into a single album. Similar to how the band dissected rock n roll tunes on Third Reich N Roll, the band has now done the same thing except with their own music. While some fans tend to stick with the group’s earlier material, I say that this is worth a listen.

 Paul McCartney - Egypt Station
Paul McCartney
Egypt Station
Rating: *** ¾ to ****

            While not as consistent as 2013’s New, Paul McCartney’s newest studio effort is still a welcome entry to the former Beatle’s discography. Production wise, it follows where New left off. When it comes to the songs, McCartney has offered a fairly diverse batch of tunes- while following the theme of traveling. While Egypt Station has a little bit of everything on it, the album could’ve easily been shorter. Some songs are just weak (Fuh You) while others drag out. Nevertheless, Egypt Station has more highs than lows- which make for a pleasant listen.

Highlights: Despite Repeated Warning, Come On To Me, Who Cares, Happy With You, Hand in Hand


  Dream Child - Until Death Do We Meet Again
Dream Child
Until Death Do We Meet Again
Rating: *** ¾

            Now eight years after Ronnie James Dio’s passing, the surviving members of the man’s namesake band have reunited to record this album. Guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Simon Wright have teamed up with singer Diego Valdez. Together, they are Dream Child. Their debut release, Until Death Do We Meet Again, is a solid release. However, it isn’t without its downsides. While consistent, the album is very long for a debut release. Clocking in at 70 minutes, this might underwhelm some listeners. Valdez's vocals might sound strange on a first listen to some listeners. His pipes are similar to that of Dio’s on several songs here, with some songs sounding like something from Dio’s days in Rainbow. While a lengthy album, all Dio fans should give Dream Child a chance.

  Uriah Heep - Living the Dream
Uriah Heep
Living the Dream
Rating: ****

            Nearing their 50th anniversary, Uriah Heep have released their 24th studio album. While I gave it positive marks upon its release, I was also holding back on 2014’s Outsider: while it did feature some good music, it was lacking on the prog rock element of the band’s sound. This element was very much present on Wake the Sleeper and Into the Wild. With Outsider, the band leaned a little more toward their hard rock element. With Living the Dream, Heep are back in full form with another set of keyboard/organ driven hard rock tunes.

Highlights: Rocks in the Road, Waters Flowin’, Grazed by Heaven, Goodbye to Innocence, Knocking at My Door

  Yoko Ono - Warzone
Yoko Ono
Warzone
Rating: *** ½ to *** ¾

            Now 85 years old, Yoko Ono has released another studio album- her first since 2013’s Take Me To The Land of Hell. Unlike her previous albums from the 21st century, Ono decided to re-record some of her earlier songs. In doing so, Warzone can be seen as Ono’s message to the world in 2018. Looking down the tracking list, Ono has not only re-recorded but has also re-interpreted these songs- most of them with a minimalistic approach. Almost half of the songs on here were originally from Ono’s 1985 album Starpeace- an album made in response to then President Ronald Regan’s Star Wars Program. While a dated concept for an album, the songs from it are frighteningly relevant to today. While a chaotic collection of tunes, Ono ends the album with a heartfelt cover of her late husband’s signature song “Imagine.” While it isn’t perfect, I wouldn’t mind if this ended up being Ono’s last album.

Highlights: Imagine, Hell in Paradise, Children Power, Teddy Bear


Ranking
1.      Judas Priest- Firepower
2.      Uriah Heep- Living the Dream
3.      Riot V- Armor of Light
4.      Paul McCartney- Egypt Station
5.      Dream Child- Until Death Do We Meet Again
6.      Yoko Ono- Warzone
7.      The Residents- I Am A Resident!
8.      W.A.S.P.- Re-Idolized



REISSUES/REMASTERS


The Residents
Meet the Residents, Third Reich, Fingerprince, Duck Stab
Rating: **** (for all four + extras)

FAVORITE RE-RELEASE OF THE YEAR

            Cherry Red Records have reissued four albums by performance artists the Residents. The group’s first four albums have been newly remastered and each comes with a plethora of bonus tracks.

To read a more in-depth review on these reissues, feel free to read my reviews on them via Pop Culture Beast.

For the reviews on Meet the Residents and Third Reich N Roll, click here.
Fore the reviews on Fingerprince and Duck Stab, click here
 

 Wings - Wild Life
 Paul McCartney & Wings - Red Rose Speedway

Paul McCartney & Wings
Wild Life & Red Rose Speedway
Wild Life rating: ***
Red Rose Speedway rating: *** ¾
Bonus tracks: *** for WL, **** for RRS

            Wing’s first two albums were re-released as the two new entries to the Paul McCartney Archive Collection. As always, both albums sound great- even if they aren’t the best albums in McCartney’s career.  However, it’s the reissue of Red Rose Speedway that really stands out- as it boasts all of the unreleased songs from the recording sessions. With Red Rose originally intended as a double album, there’s a nice batch of new Wings tunes for all fans to enjoy.

  The Beatles - The Beatles and Esher Demos
The Beatles
The White Album Remix
Remixed album: *** ½
Bonus disc: *** ¾

            The Beatles’ self-titled album, known lovingly as the White Album, turned 50 this year. Following up last year’s remix of Sgt. Pepper, Giles Martin has created a new remix of the The White Album. While not a bad remix, I have the same feelings as I did with Sgt. Pepper’s remix: it’s nice to have but we really didn’t need this. The bonus disc of the Esther tapes, however, is a nice to see officially released.


ARCHIVAL
 Riot - The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2: 1980 - 1990

Riot
The Official Bootleg Box Set Vol. 2
Rating: ****
                             
                              Cherry Red Records followed up last year’s box set of Riot bootlegs with a continuation. This set, consisting of recordings from the band’s career from 1981 to 1990, is a nicely assembled box set. The sound quality hasn’t changed but it’s great to have Riot’s live material released in these two great box sets.       


MOVIES/DVD

For my reviews on the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, please read it here.

For my review on the John Lennon Imagine/Gimme Some Truth DVD, please read it here.

Both of these links direct to my original articles posted on Pop Culture Beast.


Rest In Peace
Ray Thomas- singer/flutist for the Moody Blues
Fast
 Eddie Clark- guitarist for Motorhead and Fastway
Dave Holland- drummer for Judas Priest
Danny Kirwan- guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Vinnie Paul- drummer for Pantera
Marty Balin- singer for Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship

Friday, December 14, 2018

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2019- My Thoughts

Back in October of this year, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame nominees were announced. While I usually post my thoughts on the bands nominated, I didn't do that this year. Why? Well, there's a number of reasons: the nominations weren't too exciting, I work now, I write for another website, laziness, etc. I think I don't need to repeat myself over and over because I'll almost always say the same things about the bands nominated. I don't get a lot of readers these days- which is another thing. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy posting things to my blog every year but I've just gotten lazy these last few years. Besides, this blog features A LOT of my writing.

Now that I've rambled far longer than I should've, here's what I will do: I'll give my thoughts on the bands that've been inducted. Again, my opinion really hasn't changed but I think this year has a fairly good batch of bands.

The Cure- I'm not a fan of their music but their induction is fairly overdue. They were very influential and Robert Smith is one of those iconic figures in rock music. I'm really not that knowledgable on them but they deserved this.

Def Leppard- The tradition of inducting the fan poll winner continues as the English hard rockers are now in the Hall. While I'm not too crazy over Def Leppard's music, I do have Pyromania and Hysteria in my collection. While some of their influences have yet to be inducted, I think this is well earned. There's also the slight possibility of their induction leading to their influences getting in next. Singer Joe Elliot is a massive fan of 70s British rock that never really cracked here in the US- including T. Rex and Thin Lizzy. Who knows? Maybe they could encourage this.

Janet Jackson- While not exactly rock, I can understand Janet Jackson's induction. She was very popular during the mid to late 1980s. The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson have been in for years now so I guess it makes sense to induct her. I probably would've had someone else take her place but I don't mind this.

Stevie Nicks- The Hall picked two female solo artists this year. If any of the members of Fleetwood Mac were going to get inducted for their solo career, Stevie Nicks deserved it the most: she's had a fairly successful solo career and a good number of hits. Good for her.

Radiohead- Here's where some people are gonna disagree with me: Radiohead are in too early. I mean, maybe this is the right time to induct them. After all, their music has been oh so praised over the years. Still, there's dozens of others bands that haven't gotten in the Hall yet that should've been in there years ago. From what I'm to understand, the band aren't too crazy about being inducted either and might not attend the ceremony.

Roxy Music- I was surprised to see Roxy Music get nominated this year. Given their lack of success here in the US, I didn't think the Hall would consider them- even though I thought they deserve it. Again, I'm not too crazy about their music but I do own most of their music. Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno are two big names that haven't been recognized by the Hall until now, which I think is a shame. Roxy had a good career, with several hits singles and albums from around 1971 till their split in the 1980s. I'm happy that they're in.

The Zombies- While they weren't around for long in their original run, the Zombies have released some great music. Okay so they only released a few albums but Odessey and Oracle is such an iconic album.

The induction ceremonies will take place in Brooklyn on March 29, 2019.

Paul McCartney & Wings- Wild Life & Red Rose Speedway Reissue Review

After last year’s delayed reissue of Flowers in the Dirt, the Paul McCartney Archive Collection is back with two new reissues. For this year, MPL and the powers that be have remastered and reissued the first two Wings albums- Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway. As always, each album is backed up with a second disc filled with bonus tracks. While neither are perfect, both albums have some good songs on them. After listening to both reissues, I think these are two welcomed entries in the Archive Collection.

  Wings - Wild Life
Wild Life (1971)
Album rating: ***
Bonus audio rating: ***

            Towards the end of 1971, Paul McCartney had two post Beatles albums under his belt: McCartney (1970) and Ram (1971)- the latter of which he made with wife Linda. During the Ram sessions, McCartney had a solo band. When McCartney wanted his band to stay long term, drummer Denny Seiwell was the only one interested. With Seiwell on board, McCartney decided that he wanted to have another guitarist singer/songwriter to work with, which he found in guitarist Denny Laine- who at that point was best known for his short tenure in the Moody Blues. McCartney rounded up the new band by recruiting wife Linda join the new band as the keyboardist. With that, Wings was formed.  Their debut album, Wild Life, was released in December 1971. Despite the hype surrounding McCartney’s new band, the album received mixed reviews. Personally, I have to say that this is the weakest of Wings’ seven studio albums. While I like it a little more with the new remaster, it’s still an uninspired effort from McCartney.

            In terms of its production and approach, Wild Life does sound like the natural successor to Ram: it’s very simple and laid back. However, Ram took some time to record. With Wild Life, it was recorded within one week. Listening to the album, it certainly sounds like something that was lazily slapped together. Just listen to the opening track- “Mumbo”: it’s basically Wings jamming away while McCartney is improvising the most nonsensical lyrics. The nonsense continues with “Bip Bop”- which features some of the worst lyrics McCartney has written in his career. Another downside to Wild Life is that it doesn’t have a lot of rockers. Ram had a good share of them but Wild Life is lacking in them for the most part. Despite the album’s downsides, McCartney and Wings manage to offer some good songs here. The band’s reggae flavored cover of Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange” is my personal favorite from the album. I also like the protest themed titled track and the mellow sounds of “Tomorrow.” The album’s closer, the piano heavy “Dear Friend,” is another highlight as it served as McCartney’s response to the attacks John Lennon was making towards his former bandmate around that time.

            As with the albums before it, the new remaster sounds very strong. Prior to this, my only ownership of Wild Life was a vinyl copy and an MP3 rip of that copy. The same goes for Red Rose Speedway: these remasters sound amazing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the bass and drums are really strong on these remasters. Even though I’m not fond of Wild Life, it’s a great sounding album. It’s a shame that the songs on the album are mostly mediocre.

            The bonus disc for Wild Life features 42 minutes of music, which is pretty surprising coming from an album that was rushed. However unsurprisingly, most of the bonus tracks here are just okay at best. I do enjoy some of the home demos featuring Paul and Linda, harmonizing as their children are heard playing in the background.  Also featured on here is the controversial single “Give Ireland Back to the Irish.” Prior to this release, I hadn’t really heard the song. I think it’s a great song as it features that rocking sound missing from Wild Life.


 Paul McCartney & Wings - Red Rose Speedway
Red Rose Speedway (1973)
Album rating: *** ¾
Reconstructed Double Album rating: *** ¾ to ****
Bonus audio rating: ****

            In 1972, McCartney added guitarist Henry McCullough to the band as a fifth member. Prior to joining the band, the Irish born McCullough was best known for playing in Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. With McCullough added to the band, Wings went on tour. They would release several singles before finally releasing an album in May 1973. As their sophomore effort, Red Rose Speedway is a much better album than Wild Life. While it has its weaknesses, this is an overall better album.

            Red Rose Speedway hits the ground running with the rocking “Big Barn Bed.” It’s a catchy rock tune with splendid guitar licks from Laine and McCullough. Other highlights include the R&B/soul inspired “Get On The Right Thing” and the mini-epic ballad “Little Lamb Dragonfly”- the latter of which features a strong vocal performance from McCartney. The album’s best known song, however, is the #1 hit single “My Love.” Written by McCartney as a love song to Linda, the song is still played live by McCartney to this day. McCullough shines on the song during the instrumental break with a soaring guitar solo, which McCartney has praised the now late guitarist for. While a more consistent album than Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway has some weaknesses. The album features one too many slow songs. While those songs are fine, this album could’ve used some more rockers. If you watch or listen to concerts from around that time, Wings were a rock band. When the album tries to offer rock songs later on, it’s in the form of “Loup (First Indian On the Moon),” a very lazy space themed jam. Aside from McCartney’s bass playing on the song, it could’ve been left off the album.  The album ends decently with the medley of “Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cuff.” While it’s a lengthy batch of tunes, it closes out the album nicely.

Believe it or not, Red Rose Speedway was originally planned to be a double album. In an effort to make a commercially successful product, it was left as a standard single album. This is most likely why the album received the criticism that it did: it was meant to be something else. For Red Rose Speedway’s reissue, MPL went all out and included almost all of the songs cut from the original double album. In the album’s box set form, one of the many discs is the double album configuration- entitled Red Rose Speedway: Reconstructed. While that disc is exclusive to the box set, you can still create the Reconstructed tracking list with the lower priced 2-disc reissue with an iTunes playlist. So is Reconstructed any good? Overall- yes, it is. It has a nice variety of songs and is more consistent than whatever ended up coming out in 1973. Some of the songs here should’ve been released back in the day. Personally, I like the all out rocker “Night Out,” Denny Laine’s “I Would Only Smile” and the Elvis Presley/Beach Boys inspired “I Lie Around.” Some of these songs have been released on previous reissues of Red Rose Speedway. This includes “The Mess,” Linda’s “Seaside Woman” and the aforementioned “I Lie Around.” While more consistent, it’s easy to see why Red Rose Speedway ended up being a single album: this is a lot of music to digest. It’s not bad, mind you, but it’s just a lot. Nevertheless, Reconstructed is a nice companion piece to the 1973 album.

Along with the Red Rose outtakes, the bonus audio disc also includes all of the singles and non-album tracks from around the time the album was released. This includes singles such as the banned drug rocker “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Live And Let Die”- the band’s theme for the 1973 James Bond movie of the same name. The bonus audio disc for Red Rose Speedway has a runtime of nearly 70 minutes, making this the longest of the bonus audio discs in the Archive Collection to date. This is, hands down, my favorite bonus disc in the series: not only does it offer you the singles but you also get a whole slew of unreleased tracks.

            Overall, these reissues of Wings’ first two albums are very good. While this is leaning heavily on all of the extras on Red Rose Speedway, I always look forward to these reissues every year. As with Flowers in the Dirt before it, there is no insert announcing what the next albums in the series will be. Looking over Paul’s discography, London Town and Back to the Egg might be the next two released. For the time being, we can enjoy these two new entries.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Marty Balin dead at 76

Marty Balin (born Martyn Jerel Buchwald)
January 30, 1942 - September 27, 2018


Marty Balin, singer and founding member of Jefferson Airplane, passed away on Thursday. The news was confirmed by Balin's family and rep, saying wife Susan was by his side. Balin was 76. While the cause of death is not known at this time, Balin's  health had been declining the last two years. 

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Balin was the son of Joseph and Eugenia (nee Talbot) Buchwald. Balin's father was Jewish while his mother was Episcopalian. In 1962, Balin changed his name to Marty Balin when starting out his career as a musician. He released several singles on Challenge Records before joining the folk quartet The Town Criers in 1964. In 1965, Balin had purchased a former pizza parlor on Fillmore Street- turning it into a music club called the Matrix. Jefferson Airplane came to be after Balin met fellow musician Paul Kantner at the Drinking Gourd- another music club. Balin and Kantner would team up to form a a house band for the Matrix. That band would end up becoming Jefferson Airplane- who officially formed in 1965. 

After singer Grace Slick replace original co-lead singer Signe Toly Anderson in 1966, the wheels were in motion. The band would go on to achieve success with the band's sophomore effort Surrealistic Pillow in 1967. The album was a hit, thanks in part to hit singles such as "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." Throughout the late 1960s, Jefferson Airplane would become one of the most successful bands to come out of the East Coast- along with bands such as the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company- just to name a few. The band would released three more studio albums together and performing at three major music festivals: Monterrey Pop in 1967, Woodstock in 1969 and Altamont in 1969. Balin left the band in 1971. When the band changed their name to Jefferson Starship, Balin rejoined in 1974. As Jefferson Starship, the band would top the charts again with "Miracles" from the 1975 best seller Red Octopus. Balin left again in 1978, although he would rejoin the band (as Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation) many years later on/off . 

Aside from the Jefferson bands, Balin had a solo career. In 1981, Balin released his first solo album- Balin. The album featured two top 40 hits "Hearts" and "Atlanta Lady"- both of which were written by singer/songwriter Jesse Barish. In the 1990s and 2000s when not touring with Jefferson Starship, Balin would release several other solo albums- his last being 2016's The Greatest Love. While on tour in March 2016, Balin entered Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York City after complaining of chest pains. Balin ended up undergoing open-heart surgery, triple-bypass and valve-replacement surgery. In total, Balin stayed in the hospital for three months. Back in August of this year, Balin filed a lawsuit against the hospital for malpractice. According to the lawsuit, Balin had suffered vocal cord damage, loss of his thumb and half of this tongue- along with loss of mobility in his left hand. 

In his life, Balin was married three times. In 1963, he married Victoria Martin. With her, he had a daughter named Jennifer. In 1989, Balin married again- this time to Karen Deal, who was the mother of his second daughter Delaney. Balin was married to Deal until her death in 2010. Prior to his death, Balin was married to Susan Joy Balin (nee Finkelstein). 

Balin is predeceased by six former Jefferson Airplane-Starship members: Papa John Creech in 1994, Skip Spencer in 1999, Spencer Dryden in 2005, Joey Covington in 2013, along with Paul Katner and Signe Toly Anderson- who both died on the same day in January 2016. 

RIP, Marty.



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Uriah Heep- Living the Dream album review

 Uriah Heep - Living the Dream
Uriah Heep
Living the Dream
Rating: ****

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of UK rock band Uriah Heep. For 2018, the band have released their 25th studio album. The album, Living the Dream, is the band's first album since 2014's Outsider. While I gave it a positive review years ago, Outsider has not aged as well as their other music from the 21st century. Even when it came out, I felt that Outsider was missing something that Wake the Sleeper and Into the Wild had. With Living the Dream, this is an all around great album from the guys in Heep. Compared to Outsider, Living the Dream is a more inspired effort and is a well-welcomed new entry to the band's very 'eavy, very 'umble discography. 

The album opens with the blazing "Grazed by Heaven," which also serves as the lead single for the album. Right off the bat, the band are all in fine form- firing on all cylinders on this keyboard-driven rocker. Looking down the tracking list, Living the Dream has a little bit of everything a fan would want from in a Heep album. You want more keyboard-riddled rockers? Check out "It's All Been Said" and the title track. The former has a "July Morning" feel to it while the latter features those sensational Heep vocal harmonies. Heep's vocal harmonies have been a key ingredient to the band's sound since the beginning. Many of the songs on the album rely on them to some extent, some more than others. When it comes to haunting "Knocking at My Door," the harmonies are accompanied by drummer Russell Gilbrook pounding away at the skins.

The songwriting here is also top-notch. While not necessarily a concept album, the songs on Living the Dream deal with magical and mystical themes- which a majority of their earlier work relies on. Take the chorus from the aforementioned title track for example:

"I've got the sun and the moon on one hand/The star as they're falling down in the other" sings Bernie Shaw. "You can rely on me to show you the way"

More magic and mysticism can be found on the story song "Waters Flowin'." Lyrically, the song tells the tale of an encounter with a Pied Piper-esque character. From its prog folk approach to its heavenly vocal harmonies, "Waters Flowin'" is one my personal favorites from the album. If slower tunes aren't your thing, Heep should keep you happy with some fine hard rockers in the form of fast paced "Goodbye to Innocence"and  the hypnotic "Falling Under Your Spell." Both tunes utilize in what I like to call the Heep shuffle- that walking trot sound which can be found Heep classic such as "Look at Yourself" and "Easy Livin'." However of the album's ten songs, "Rocks In The Road" is my personal favorite. It's an eight minute epic, as it transitions from standard rock tune to an all out instrumental battle.

From beginning to end, Living the Dream is an impressive effort from Uriah Heep. The band have always been a fine line between keyboard-driven hard rock and progressive rock. With Outsider, I think the band leaned more towards the hard rock side. With Living the Dream, the band found that balance again between hard rock and progressive rock- which is what makes Heep stand out among their peers. If this ends up being the last album they make, this is a great way to go out: very 'eavy and very 'umble. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Paul McCartney- Egypt Station album review

 Paul McCartney - Egypt Station
Paul McCartney
Egypt Station
Rating: *** 1/2 (or *** 3/4)

Nearly five decades after the Beatles’ split, Paul McCartney has had quite the career. Whether it be with his band Wings or by himself, the man has delivered a somewhat consistent discography. When it comes to his latest album, Egypt Station, it’s another solid effort from Sir Paul. Not only is this McCartney’s first album since 2013’s New, it’s also his first album on Capitol Records since 2005’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. While it isn’t a perfect album, there’s something for everyone here on Egypt Station.

            The album follows a traveling theme, as seen on the album’s cover. From time to time, you’ll hear some atmospheric tracks that make you feel like you’re at a station of some sort. The album opens with the piano driven lead single “I Don’t Know,” which sets the mood of the album nicely. Lyrically, the song fits the travel and transportation theme going on, as McCartney wonders where his life is headed. McCartney’s voice here, as well as the rest of the album, sounds worn and tired at times. At 76 years old, McCartney isn’t getting any younger. Like his peers, it shouldn’t matter what his voice sounds like if the songwriting is good- which in this case it is. From there on, Egypt Station is a splendid road trip with Sir Paul as he delivers some fine pop tunes here. The second lead single, “Come On to Me,” sounds like a lost cut from the Ram album as it’s a nifty bopping rock tune. Musically, McCartney’s backing band is in fine form throughout the album and “Come On to Me” is the go-to track to prove that.

Like New before it, McCartney uses nostalgia effectively here- with several of the songs here sounding like ones from earlier in his career. While some listeners might see this as lack of creativity, McCartney is able to pull this off. For example, “Happy With You” has a “Mother Nature’s Son” vibe to it given it’s laid back approach while “Who Cares” sounds like a rocker Wings could’ve churned out in the 1970s. While the album has this loose theme of travel, there’s quite the number of love songs here. This includes songs such as “Confidante” and “Hand in Hand.” The former tells the sweet tale of an old flame while the latter is semi-autobiographical as McCartney sings about “walking through life and making our plans.” At 76, McCartney has been performing for six decades. Now being married to wife Nancy Shevell since 2011, the song could be seen as McCartney thinking out the rest of life and growing old with Nancy.

            If Egypt Station were a road trip, it would have a few speed bumps along the way. At 57 minutes, Egypt Station is a fairly long album. While they aren’t bad, “Do It Now” and “Caesar Rock” didn’t need to be on this album. The former is simply plain while the latter is somewhat of a mess. Then there’s “Fuh You,” another one of the singles from the album. Co-written with producer Ryan Tedder, it’s one of the album’s weakest songs. While it is catchy, the song’s chorus of “I just want it fuh you” is cringe-worthy alone as it sounds like McCartney is saying something dirtier. Despite its weak spots, the album manages to save the best for last with “Despite Repeated Warnings.” The mini-epic tells the story of a sea captain’s blind leadership as he decides to sail near an iceberg. Lyrically, the song is symbolic of politicians- most notably President Donald Trump. At some seven minutes long, it is an epic that has to be heard.

            Egypt Station is another fine album from Paul McCartney. I’m a little surprised by how much this has grown on me. It isn’t a perfect album, though. There is some filler here that could’ve been cut easily. Comparing this to New, I personally prefer New over Egypt Station. However, this doesn’t mean Egypt Station should be looked over. If you liked New or any of Paul’s other albums in the 2000s, you’ll probably enjoy this. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Yoko Ono to release Warzone in October

Artist Yoko Ono has announced that she will be releasing a new studio album in the fall. The album, Warzone, will be Ono's first album since 2013's Take Me To The Land of Hell. However, Warzone is not entirely new as the album will feature re-recordings of Ono's songs from 1970 to 2009. It's also been revealed that Ono, who turned 85 in February, has also recorded a cover of her late husband John Lennon's hit "Imagine." The album's title comes from a hardcore punk influenced song that appeared on her 1996 album Rising. The re-recording of the title track was posted online today, which you can listen to down below- along with the original version.

Warzone will be released on October 19.