Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chris Squire dead at 67

Christopher Russell Edward Squire
March 4, 1948 - June 28, 2015

Chris Squire, bassist and co-founding member of legendary progressive rock band Yes, passed away last night in Phoenix, Arizona after a short battle with acute erythroid leukemia- a rare form of leukemia. Squire was 67. Squire had announced his diagnosis on May 19 of this year and planned to take a break from performing while he underwent treatment. At the time of his passing, Squire was the only constant member in Yes- playing on all 21 of their studio albums. 

Squire was born in London, England in the suburb of Kingsbury. Even in his youth. Squire already had his future set on music as he sang in one or two boys' choirs. When it came to picking up the bass, Squire cited the Beatles and Paul McCartney as his inspiration. Sometime in the late 1960s, Squire met singer Jon Anderson. The two made a connection in their love for rock music, as well as vocal groups. In 1968, Yes was formed by Anderson and Squire, along with guitarist Peter Banks, drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Although Banks and Kaye would leave shortly into the beginning of the 1970s, the band went on with Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. The band were at their peak in the early 1970s with progressive rock classics such as Fragile and Close to the Edge. The band even scored a few hit singles with "Roundabout," "Long Distance Runaround," "I've Seen All Good People" and later in the 1980s- "Owner of a Lonely Heart." Throughout their near five decade career, Squire was the only member in Yes who had never left. Aside from Yes, Squire released one solo album- 1975's Fish Out of Water

It's sad to hear of Chris' passing. I can't say I'm too surprised, given how his peers who were diagnosed at his age didn't survive. What frustrates me the most about Chris' passing is that the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame have still NOT inducted Yes. They've been nominated a few times in the last few years but nope: they had to induct the young and healthy members of Green Day and Nirvana first. Chris is just one of several dozen musicians who've been screwed and didn't get to see themselves inducted. However, maybe it doesn't really matter: Chris stayed with his band till the very end. That's something to be proud of. 

Rest in peace, Chris. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Iron Maiden to release The Book of Souls in September

Heavy metal legends Iron Maiden have announced the release of their next studio album. The album, The Book of Souls, wil be Iron Madien's sixteenth studio album. Not only is it the band's first album since 2010's The Final Frontier but it's also the band's first ever double studio album. Consisting of 11 songs and clocking in at 92 minutes, it's the longest album Maiden have ever made. The album is slated for release on September 4.

It's good to hear that Maiden are releasing a new album. I really wanted to like The Final Frontier but it was difficult. It was okay but it was the production that made it hard to listen to. I've said it many times before: it wasn't because of any "loudness war." This was weird: the music sounded like it kept changing the volume manually. So this makes not want to get Maiden's new album However, there's been nothing else to listen to from this year so I will consider getting it or listen to it streaming.

The tracking list is as follows...

Disc 1
1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed of Light
3. The Great Unknown
4. The Red and the Black
5. When the River Runs Deep
6. The Book Of Souls

Disc 2
7. Death or Glory
8. Shadows of the Valley
9. Tears of a Clown
10. The Man of Sorrows
11. Empire of the Clouds

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rock Recap: The Doors and David Gilmour

Post Jim Morrison albums to be reissued 

After years of being out of print, Elektra Records will finally be releasing the Doors' two post Jim Morrison albums- Other Voices and Full Circle- on CD. The albums will be released together as a two-CD pack. In terms of the sound, the albums have been newly remastered by Doors engineer Bruce Botnick. Along with the two albums will be one bonus track called "Treetrunk," a single-only release that was the B-side to "Get Up And Dance" from Full Circle. No word on if there'll be any new liner notes but it is known that albums will receive vinyl reissues. The vinyl reissue of Full Circle will included the original foldout zoetrope  packaging. The two-pack set is set for release on September 4.

David Gilmour announces new solo album

Former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has officially announced the release of a new studio album. The album, Rattle That Lock, will be released in September of this year. It will be Gilmour's first studio album since 2006's On An Island. Overall, this is Gilmour's fourth solo album. With the release of the new album, Gilmour plans to tour starting in September. However, Gilmour doesn't plan to come to North America until 2016.  

Note: I'm aware I've been inactive on my blog for a month now. That's because of two reasons: one is that I've been focusing on selling records, as well as trying to deal with a lousy job at CVS. The other reason is that there really hasn't been any news lately on classic rockers that's worth posting here. Every day, I have the habit of checking Rolling Stone and Ultimate Classic Rock for news. In these last few months, there hasn't been anything.  For the last few months, there's been little to no news. Okay, so the Zeppelin reissues are still going but I usually post about things only if I'm going to buy them. I know that sounds stupid but in my defense, a lot has been written about the Zeppelin remasters- and even as a Zeppelin fan- I'm just not interested in spending money on something I already have. I've heard the remasters and I just don't hear any difference. The same goes for the Sticky Fingers remaster: I'm quite happy with the 1994 remaster and there's nothing incredible on the second disc.  For the last few months,   I have not forgotten about this blog and I will try my best to keep posting, for those who even read it.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ringo Starr- Postcards from Paradise album review

 Ringo Starr - Postcards From Paradise
Ring Starr
Postcards from Paradise
Rating: *** 1/2

Believe it or not, Ringo Starr will be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame this year for his solo career. Since the announcement, people have been asking one question: why? In Ringo’s defense, he is not being inducted as a performer but rather for “musical excellence.” While he didn’t have the strongest solo career, Ringo has never stopped working since the break-up of the Beatles. Whether he’s with his All Starr Band, on his solo albums or someone else’s album, Ringo is indeed a trailblazer. Ringo’s latest album, Postcards from Paradise, proves this point: it’s Starr’s 18th studio album, his first since 2012’s Ringo 2012. Compared to Ringo 2012, Postcards from Paradise is an improvement as the album is longer and doesn’t feel rushed (Ringo 2012 was less than half an hour). Still, the album is certainly not an instant classic. If anything, Ringo makes his albums for fun. With that being said, Postcards from Paradise is a fun album to listen to.

            When looking at the tracking list for the album, I was impressed to see that there wasn’t a song with “Liverpool” in the title. The opening track, “Rory and the Hurricanes,” might’ve mostly taken place in Liverpool. The song is a sweet autobiographical 50s rock n roll number about Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the band Ringo was in prior to joining the Beatles. While it might be seen as corny, I personally enjoy the song and love how Ringo is paying tribute to the band that gave him his start. The psychedelic reggae “You Bring the Party Down” is an interesting track: while this is Ringo’s song, it reminds me of a John Lennon solo track. During the chorus, I can easily imagine Lennon giving a hearty vocal performance (“I Found Out” comes to mind). If Lennon was an influence on the track, I would not be surprised.

            The next few tracks are, in my opinion, fall on the weak side. “Bridges” has a strong vocal performance from Ringo but nothing more while “Right Side of the Road” just doesn’t go anywhere. The title track, which is the album’s lead single, might be cringe-worthy for some listeners. The song is written in the form of a letter, with Ringo referencing Beatles songs Gene Shalit style. It’s not a bad song, mind you. In fact, it’s kind of cute in a way. The second half of the album is stronger. “Not Looking Back” is a beautiful slow ballad with solid lyrics while the guitar and keyboard led “Touch and Go” is simply catchy. The festive “Bamboula” features some impressive drumming, celebrating all things New Orleans. The reggae influence is strong on this album and can be heard throughout most of the album. This is certainly the case for “Island in the Sun,” as it features island steel drums and rousing saxophone playing.

            Overall, Postcards from Paradise is a fun album from Ringo Starr. When it comes to Ringo’s solo career, his work has always paled in contrast to the albums John, Paul and George have released. In terms of consistency, I’d say this is probably Ringo’s most solid album since 2008’s Liverpool 8. Whether you’re a Beatles and/or Ringo fan, you’ll enjoy this album.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cynthia Lennon dead at 75

Cynthia Powell Lennon
September 10, 1939-April 1, 2015

Cynthia Lennon, first wife of John Lennon, died on Wednesday April 1 after a battle with cancer. Lennon was 75. According to sources, Ms. Lennon died in her house in Spain with her son, Julian, by her side. 

Born Cynthia Powell, Ms. Lennon was the youngest of three children. At a young age, Cynthia was a promising young artist. When she was 17, her father passed away from lung cancer. A year later, Cynthia enrolled at the Liverpool College for Art in 1957. It was there where she met John Lennon. The two were friends at first, given Cynthia was engaged. When her engagement didn't work out, she and John started to date on and off in the next few year. John would later go on to be one of the founding members of the Beatles. Already, John had dropped out of college and set out to become a musician. While the band toured in Hamburg, John would stay in contact with Cynthia. By 1962, the Beatles had a record deal and were managed by Brian Epstein. However in August 1962, Cytnhia discovered she was pregnant with John's child. As the story goes, John immediately insisted they had to get married- which they did on August 23 of that year. Their child, John Charles Julian Lennon, was born on April 8, 1963.

At the time of Julian's birth, Beatlemania was just beginning to take over the world. As a result, John was not at home with his family as much. Sometimes, Cynthia would join her husband on tour but Epstein tried to keep the marriage on the down low. Cynthia would stay married to John until 1968 when the couple divorced, after John admitted to having an affair with Japanesse artist Yoko Ono as well as Cynthia admitting to having an affair with their friend, Magic Alex. John and Cynthia's divorce would go on to inspire Paul McCartney to pen the Beatles hit "Hey Jude," a song written as a message to Julian as a way to cope with the divorce of his parents. After her divorce from John, 
Cynthia would wed another three times: Roberto Bassanini (1970-1973), John Twist (1976-1983) and Noel Charles (2002-2013, when Charles passed). 

Even though she divorced from Lennon, she would briefly reconnected with him sometime during 1973-74 during Lennon's "Lost Weekend," when he was separated from Ono for 18 months. Lennon's partner, May Pang, encouraged Lennon to spend more time with Julian. As a result, Cynthia was sometimes present.  Cynthia would go on to write two books about Lennon: A Twist in Lennon in 1978 (a book that Lennon himself tried to stop from being published) and John in 2005. She also continued to raise Julian, as she attained full custody of him (Like his father, Julian went on to become a musician himself, releasing his debut Valotte in 1984).

Aside from writing two books on her life with Lennon, Cynthia would continue to be an active person in the world of the Beatles- making appearances in documentaries and turning up every now and then. In 1995, she released a single- covering Mary Hopkin's 1968 hit "Those Were The Days." (which Paul McCartney had written and produced). On October 9, 2010, she and Julian unveiled the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool in honor of what would've been Lennon's 70th birthday. The night before, Cynthia attended Julian's photo exhibition. Also in attendance was Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, John and Yoko's son. For one night, the Lennon clan were together in peace.

It is sad to hear of Cynthia's passing. From what I've read and heard over the years, she seemed like a well-spoken and intelligent woman. As Paul and Yoko have said, she raised Julian wonderfully, who is now a talented musician and photographer. With Cynthia's passing, she is the third Beatle wife to have passed away- the first two being Maureen Starkey in 1994 to leukemia and Linda McCartney in 1998 to breast cancer.

Rest in peace, Cynthia.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

In Memoriam: Andy Fraser (1952-2015) and AJ Pero (1959-2015)

I thought I'd take the time to write up obituaries for two musicians who passed away this week. I'm putting them here in one blog post so here we go...

Andrew McLan "Andy" Fraser
July 3, 1952-March 16, 2015

Andy Fraser, former bassist for UK rockers Free, passed away this Monday at his home in California. The cause of death is unknown but it has been known that Fraser had been battling with both HIV and cancer. Fraser was 62. Fraser was a bassist who got his start playing for blues legend John Mayall. Fraser was only 15 and was also mentored by blues musician Alexis Korner. In 1968, Fraser became one fourth of Free. Along with Fraser was singer Paul Rodgers, guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke. The band played up until their break-up in 1971 (although they briefly reunited in 1972 but without Fraser). Free found commercial success with the release of their third album, Fire and Water, which included the band's most popular song "All Right Now." The song was written by Fraser and Rodgers. For years, the song would become a classic rock radio staple.

After Free's split, Fraser joined a few other bands including Sharks and Toby, the former being formed with guitarist Chris Spedding and the latter a group formed with Sparks guitarist Adrian Fisher . Aside from releasing a few solo albums here and there, Fraser also focused on songwriting. For years, Fraser had been battling with HIV and was later diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. In 2005, Fraser came out as a homosexual. Before then, he'd been battling with his sexual orientation as well as his illnesses.   

Anthony Jude "AJ" Pero
October 14, 1959-March 20, 2015

AJ Pero, longtime drummer for New York hard rockers Twisted Sister, passed away on Friday this week. Pero had been discovered unresponsive on a tour bus in Poughkeepsie, New York as he was touring with super group Adrenaline Mob. According to Rolling Stone, paramedics rushed him over to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death is said to have been a heart attack. Pero was 55. Pero was one fifth of the classic line-up of Twisted Sister. Pero joined in 1982. His bandmates included singer Dee Snider, guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda and bassist Mark Mendoza. Pero joined just in time as the band was about to record their debut album Under the Blade, which was release later that year. This was followed by 1983's You Can't Stop Rock N Roll.

Twisted Sister reached their peak in 1984 with the massively successful Stay Hungry album. The album featured the hit singles, "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." Both singles were accompanied by MTV friendly videos, staring Mark Metcalf of Animal House fame. The band's popularity began to wane after the release of the unsuccessful follow up Come Out and Play. Pero left in 1986 while the band kept going until 1989. After leaving Twisted Sister, Pero participated in several project- one of them being Snider's S.M.F's. Twisted Sister would reunite in 1997 and once again in 2001 before finally deciding to officially reunite in 2003. The day before Pero's death, Twisted Sister had been confirmed to play at the Metal Meltdown, an LA festival slated for May 30 which also features Great White, Skid Row and Extreme on the bill.

It is sad to hear of the passings of Andy and AJ. They were great musicians and will be missed by many.

Rest in peace, Andy and AJ.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Daevid Allen dead at 77

Christopher David Allen
January 12, 1938 - March 13, 2015

Daevid Allen, founding member of psychedelic rock group Gong, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. Allen was 77. While Allen is best known for his work in Gong, Allen was one of the founding members of prog-rockers Soft Machine. Allen was a member from for only a year, as he was denied re-entry to the UK. Allen had stayed in Paris for too long while on tour with Soft Machine. Being Australian, he was not allowed to reconnect with his bandmates therefore forcing him out of the band. Allen returned to Paris in 1967, where he connected with Sorbonne professor Gilli Smyth. With Smyth and saxophonist Didier Malherbe, Gong was formed. 

While not commercial successful, Gong were able to attain a cult following amongst music fans. Of the albums in their discography, the band's most praised piece of work is their Radio Gnome trilogy- consisting of the albums Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You. The band went through several line-up changes, with Allen, Smyth and Malherbe as the core three members. The band would split in 1976 but would go on to spawn other Gong bands. This includes Smyth's Mother Gong, drummer Pierre Moerlen's Gong and Allen's Planet Gong. Gong reunited several times over the years (1991-2001, 2003-2006, 2007-present), with Allen at the helm along with other long-time members from the original group. The band's last album was 2014's I See You. In June 2014, Allen had a cyst removed from his neck. When it was discovered to be cancerous, Allen immediately underwent radiation. On February 5 of this year, Allen announced that the cancer had returned and had spread to his lungs. Allen chose not to have anymore surgery.  His doctors estimated he had six months to live. Allen would pass just a little over a month later. 

It's sad to hear of Daevid's passing. I had always heard of Gong and did become somewhat interested in their music but never got around to listening to it. He seemed to be devoted to his music as well as Gong's. Soon after he announced about his six months left to live, I immediately went online and listen to a few Gong albums. They were a unique band. Luckily, Allen left behind a pretty big body of work for music listeners to enjoy. 

Rest in peace, Daevid.