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.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Vinnie Paul dead at 54

Vincent Paul Abbott
March 11, 1964 - June 22, 2018

Vinnie Paul, drummer and co-founder of Texas metal band Pantera, died late Friday night. No further details were provided in the statement posted to Pantera's Facebook page, which also asked for fans to respect the privacy of Paul's family during this time. Since the statement's post, the cause of death is still unknown. Paul was 54. 

Born Vincent Paul Abbott in Abliene, Texas, Paul and his younger brother "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott grew up listening to hard rock and heavy metal music. Music was already in the Abbott family as their father, Jerry, was a country singer. Come 1981, the Abbott brothers formed Pantera. It took a while for the brothers to find a stable line-up but by 1983, the band consisted of the Abbott brothers, bassist Rex Brown and singer Terry Glaze. The band released a few albums in the 1980s, all of which were glam metal efforts that sold little to nothing. By 1990, Glaze had left the band and was replaced by Phil Anselmo. With the release of their fifth album, Cowboys from Hell, the band had completely rebranded themselves with a heavier sound and image. Released in 1990, Cowboys from Hell was the band's breakthrough. It has since then been certified Gold and Platinum. Pantera were able to continue their success, making them one of the most popular metal bands of the 1990s. The band would release other hit albums such as Vulgar Display of Power (1992), Far Beyond Driven (1994) and The Great Southern Trendkill (1996). The band would stick together until their split in 2003. 

After the split of Pantera, the Abbott brothers formed a new band called Damageplan. The band's debut, New Found Glory, was released in early 2004. Sadly, tragedy struck the band on December 8, 2004 during a gig in Columbus, Ohio at the Alrosa Villa when Dimebag Darrell Abbott was murdered. Barely into the first song in the set, a 25 year old man named Nathan Gale walked up onto the stage and shot Darrell. Gale proceeded to fire 15 shots in total, killing three more people and injuring seven others, before Officer James Niggemeyer shot Gale from the other side of the stage. A fan and paramedics tried to revive Darrell but were unsuccessful. As a result of the tragedy, Damageplan ceased to be. 

After the death of his brother, Paul started his own record label- Big Vin Records- in 2006. Paul was hesitant about performing again but soon enough, Paul had joined the supergroup HellYeah that same year. For the next decade, HellYeah toured and recorded several albums. Their latest album is 2016's Unden!able. According to sources, the band had started recording their sixth album in November of last year. Whether or not the album was completed before Paul's death is unknown. 

This post will be updated and/or followed up once any additional information about Paul's passing has been revealed.

UPDATE (6/24/18): Vinnie Paul's family revealed that ex Pantera drummer died in his sleep. An autopsy will be performed before Paul's body is flown to Texas to be buried- where he is to be buried near his brother Darrell and mother Carolyn. BlabberMouth is also reporting that Paul had recorded his drumming for HellYeah's sixth studio album. Whether the album will be released later in the year or not is unknown at this point in time. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Paul McCartney to release Egypt Station in September

After a week or so of hints, it has been officially announced that Paul McCartney will release a new studio album in the fall. The album, Egypt Station, will be the former Beatle's first album since 2013's New. McCartney has already released two songs from the album as the first two singles- "I Don't Know" and "Come On To Me."

In the meantime, Beatles fans can look forward to the re-release of Yellow Submarine in theaters next month for its 50th. Fans can also expect a deluxe edition reissue of The White Album later in the year, which is being done for the iconic album's 50th anniversary. No word as to the content of the re-release but it should serve as a follow up to the campaign for Sgt. Pepper's 50th last year.

Egypt Station will be released on September 7 on Capitol Records.

Listen to the two new songs right here.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Danny Kirwan dead at 68

Daniel David Kirwan
May 13, 1950 - June 8, 2018

Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan died yesterday at the age of 68. The news broke late last night via Fleetwood Mac's Facebook page, with a statement from drummer Mick Fleetwood. In the statement, Fleetwood  described Kirwan as a "huge force" in the band's early years.

Born in Brixton, London, Kirwan started his musical career when he was only 16 years old- joining the band Boilerhouse in 1966. It was during his time in Boilerhouse that he met producer Mike Vernon. At that time, Vernon was Fleetwood Mac's producer. After watching Kirwan rehearse with Boilerhouse, Vernon passed this on to Fleetwood Mac guitarist/founder Peter Green. Green was impressed by the young Kirwan's playing. The two became friends as Boilerhouse would open for Fleetwood Mac in London venues. 

Come 1968, Green became interested in managing Boilerhouse professionally. When bassist Trevor Stevens and drummer Dave Terrey showed no interest, Green tried to find a rhythm section to accompany Kirwan. After several auditions, Green couldn't find the right people. By August 1968, the 18-year-old Kirwan had joined Fleetwood Mac as a fifth member. With Kirwan in the group, the band had another songwriter. Kirwan's first album with the band was 1969's Then Play On. Kirwan wrote half of the songs on the album- including "Coming Your Way" and "One Sunny Day." However, Then Play On would be the band's last with Green as he left the band shortly afterwards. The band decided to continue without Green. During this time, there were more changes to the band's line up. Kirwan would stay in the band until 1972, playing on the following albums:

Kiln House (1970)- the band's first with Peter Green and their last with guitarist Jeremy Spencer
Future Games (1971)- the band's first with Bob Welch and Christine McVie
Bare Trees (1972)

In his last years with Fleetwood Mac, Kirwan struggled with alcoholism and, according to some sources, would go days without eating. Kirwan's bizarre behavior came to a head in 1972 while on tour in the US. Kirwan got into an argument with guitarist Bob Welch that was so intense, Kirwan proceeded to bang his head and fists against the wall. He then proceeded to smash his guitar, after which he refused to go on stage. Kirwan was fired as a result.  

After his time in Fleetwood Mac, Kirwan embarked on a solo career. He would release three studio albums between 1975 and 1979. During the late 1970s, Kirwan struggled with mental issues. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Kirwan was homeless. According to an article from the Independent from 1993, Kirwan had been living in St. Mungo's Hostel for the homeless in London since 1989. In an interview in 2014 with Nightwatcher's House of Rock , former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer stated that he last saw Kirwan in 2001 for a morning meal in London- with Spencer's wife, Kirwan's ex-wife and Danny's son Dominic in attendance. Spencer also stated that Kirwan wasn't living "like a down and out tramp"- citing that Kirwan still played guitar and read. 

Below is the full statement from Mick Fleetwood:
"Today was greeted by the sad news of the passing of Danny Kirwan in London, England. Danny was a huge force in our early years. His love for the Blues led him to being asked to join Fleetwood Mac in 1968, where he made his musical home for many years. Danny’s true legacy, in my mind, will forever live on in the music he wrote and played so beautifully as a part of the foundation of Fleetwood Mac, that has now endured for over fifty years. Thank you, Danny Kirwan. You will forever be missed!"
~Mick Fleetwood and Fleetwood Mac

Monday, March 12, 2018

Judas Priest- Firepower album review

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

As they slowly approach their 50th anniversary, Judas Priest have released a brand new studio album. The album, Firepower, is the band’s first album since 2014’s Redeemer of Souls and their eighteenth studio album overall. On the production side, the band worked with producer Andy Sneap and even Tom Allom, who produced Priest’s studio work in the 1980s. From top to bottom, Firepower is a strong album and a worthy follow up to Redeemer of Souls.

            The album opens fittingly firing on all cylinders with the title track. Right from the start, it’s a brutal throwdown of heavy metal- complete with gallops, chugs and twin guitar harmonies from guitarists Ritchie Faulkner and Glenn Tipton. Singer Rob Halford shrieks his way through the song, as well as the entire album. Even at 66 years old, Halford’s voice still sounds solid. Some listeners might be impressed by Halford’s ability to hit those high notes, especially on songs such as the hard-hitting “Lightning Strikes” and the rapid fire “Flame Thrower.” The former is the lead single for the album while the latter has some top notch drumming from Scott Travis. With a title like Firepower, you would expect the songs from such an album to live up to that title. The album certainly does live up to its title with massive onslaughts of heavy metal delivered through songs such as the menacing “Evil Never Dies” and the guitar-driven “Traitors Gate.” While a heavy album throughout its near one hour runtime, the band are able to present different variations to the Judas Priest sound. Songs such as the militant “Rising from Ruins” and the hypnotic “Spectre” demonstrate the band’s ability in composing slower tunes while maintaining a heavy sound. Other songs on here sound as if the band are taking inspiration from their peers. The psychedelic “Children of the Sun” and the doom-ridden “Lone Wolf” both sound like songs Black Sabbath could’ve churned out back in the day. Like Redeemer of Souls, Firepower ends with a ballad- “Sea of Red.” While I prefer “Beginning of the End,” “Sea of Red” ends the album on a good note.

            Simply put, Firepower is another great album from Judas Priest. After four listens, I’m now finding myself preferring this over Redeemer of Souls. I still like Redeemer of Souls but I feel that Firepower is a more consistent album. With a new album out, the band will be touring in support of it. Prior to the album’s release, it was sadly announced that longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton would be retiring from live performing given his diagnosis with Parkinson ’s disease  ten years prior. While Andy Sneap will be filling in for him, Tipton will remain a member of Judas Priest. For the first time since their early years, Judas Priest will be touring without the twin guitar duo of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton- which is a massive loss. With an album as strong as Firepower, this would be a good album to go out with. Some fans are even asking for the band to hang it up. For the time being, I think we should just sit back and enjoy this new album.