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.   

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dave Holland dead at 69

David Holland
April 5, 1948 - January 16, 2018

Dave Holland, former drummer for heavy metal legends Judas Priest, died last Tuesday at Hospital Unversitario Lucas Augusti in Lugo, Spain. The news was confirmed by the Spanish newspaper El Progreso. The cause of death is unknown at this point but the newspaper has revealed that Holland's body has already been cremated. Holland was 69 year old. 

Before becoming a drummer, Holland began his musical career at the age of six taking piano lessons. By the age of 14, Holland was performing in the Drumbeats. Holland's recording career started in 1966 when he played on Pinkerton's Assorted Colours' single "Mirror Mirror." By 1968, Holland was in a band called Finders Keepers. It was in Finders Keepers that Holland met guitarist Mel Galley and bassist/singer Glenn Hughes. These three men would go on to form the band Trapeze in 1969 with  multi-instrumentalist Terry Rowley and trumpeter John Jones. The band signed to the Moody Blues'  label Threshold Records and released their self-titled debut in 1970. Jones and Rowley left following the first album, leaving the band a trio. Just months after releasing their debut, this trio would release the follow up Medusa, an album that would go on to be regarded as an overlooked hard rock gem. Hughes would leave the band in 1973 while Holland stayed until 1979. 

In 1979, Holland joined Judas Priest- replacing drummer Les Binks. For the next ten years, Holland would serve as Judas Priest's drummer. Together, the band churned out classic albums such as British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith. Holland left the band in 1989 an was replaced by Scott Travis, who remains the band's drummer to this day. Going into the 1990s, Holland participated in two reunions of Trapeze- first in 1991 and then in 1993. Throughout the 1990s, Holland participated playing in different bands and even giving private drumming lessons. The last 15 years of Holland's life were perhaps his most difficult. In 2004, Holland was accused of several counts of sexual assault and an attempted rape against a 17 year old learning-disabled male student of Holland's. Holland, who came out as bisexual during this time, was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison. This lead Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi to remove Holland from a collaborative effort with Glenn Hughes- The 1996 DEP Sessions- which was released in 2004. By June 2012, Holland was released from prison and according to the BlabberMouth, Holland had been living in Lugo, Spain ever since then. Until his death, Holland always maintained his innocence of the 2004 incident. For the rest of his life, Holland lived in Spain and kept a low profile. 

At this time, no statement has been made by the members of Judas Priest. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fast Eddie Clarke dead at 67

Edward Allan Clarke
October 5, 1950 - January 10, 2018

Former Motorhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke has died. According to sources, Clarke passed away yesterday in a hospital after a battle with pneumonia. The news of Clarke's death was confirmed by Motorhead's Facebook page in a post, also adding that Clarke passed away peacefully. Clarke was 67. 

Clarke's career began at the age of fifteen, playing in several local bands. Prior to joining Motorhead, Clarke was in and out of several bands including Curtis Knight's Zeus and Blue Goose. With each of these bands, Clarke recorded an album or two with each of them from 1974 to 1975. Clark eventually joined Motorhead in 1976 after meeting drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor. The two are said to have met when Clarke was working on refitting a houseboat. Taylor introduced Clarke to Motorhead's bassist and frontman, Lemmy Kilmister. With that, Clarke was in the group. From 1976 to 1982, this line-up of Motorhead would go on to create the band's first five studio albums (Motorhead, Overkill, Bomber, Ace of Spades and Iron Fist). Many fans consider this line-up of Lemmy, Taylor and Clarke to be the band's classic line-up.

Clarke left Motorhead in 1982 following the release of Iron Fist. The following year, Clarke joined Fastway- a supergroup originally formed by him and UFO bassist Pete Way. Rounding out the line-up was former Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley and future Flogging Molly singer Dave King. Despite the band's revolving door of members, Clarke stuck with the group until their split in 1990. Fastway would reunite in 1997 and 2007. The band's last album was 2011's Dog Eat Dog, which featured singer Toby Jepson. Clarke's last album was his one and only solo effort- 2014's Make My Day-Back to the Blues. While Clarke kept busy throughout his career, he still found time to reunite with Motorhead for one-off performances over the years.

Clarke is the fourth former member of Motorhead to pass away. He his predeceased by guitarist Wurzel (2011) and his bandmates- Phil Taylor and Lemmy Kilmister (both 2015). 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ray Thomas dead at 76

Raymond Thomas
December 29, 1941 - January 4, 2018

Ray Thomas, co-founding member of prog rock legends the Moody Blues, has died. The news was confirmed by Thomas' label Cherry Red Records, who said the former Moody Blues flutist/singer passed away suddenly last Thursday in his home in Surrey after a long battle with prostate cancer- which Thomas had been diagnosed with since 2014. Thomas was 76 years old. 

Thomas began his career in music by joining the Birmingham Youth Choir sometime n the 1960s. Prior to the formation of the Moody Blues, Thomas was in several soul and blues groups. By 1963, Thomas was in El Riot and the Rebels with bassist John Lodge and keyboardist Mike Pinder.  The following year, The Moody Blues were formed- with Thomas, Pinder, drummer Graeme  Edge, guitarist Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick. The group would go through several line-up changes until 1967- when the group had found their classic line-up of Thomas, Pinder, Edge, Lodge and guitarist Justin Hayward. From 1967 to 1972, the band were at their peak with classic albums such as Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord and To Our Children's Children's Children. The band were even able to nab hit singles with "Nights in White Satin" and "Question." The classic line-up came to an end in 1978 when Pinder left the band. Thomas would stay with the group until 2002 when he decided to retire due to his declinging health. Aside from his music with the Moody Blues, Thomas released two solo albums: From Mighty Oaks in 1975 and Hopes, Wishes and Dreams in 1976. Shortly before his death, it was announced that the Moody Blues would be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame for the Class of 2018. 

Thomas is survived by his wife Lee, who he married in 2009. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017- Year in Review

2017 has been a decent year for my favorite music. Most of the releases that’ve come out have been pretty good but nothing really worth going crazy over. As always, I will analyze what I’ve gotten this year both new and old.

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


            Whereas my favorite album of last year was called Blackstar, my favorite from this year is by the hard rockers in Black Star Riders. As their third album, Heavy Fire is another impressive release from the Thin Lizzy spin-off band. The songs on here all sound like tunes that the late Phil Lynott might’ve churned out if he were still around. Heavy Fire is an interesting follow-up to 2015’s The Killer Instinct, which sounded like the band were trying to make a sound for themselves. With this new album, they’re back to the Lizzy sound- although with some different variations. While I still feel their debut is their best, Heavy Fire is still a great album.

Highlights: When the Night Comes In, Dancing With the Wrong Girl, Who Rides The Tiger, Letting Go Of Me

  Steel Panther - Lower the Bar
Steel Panther
Lower the Bar
Rating: *** ½

            Glam metal jokesters Steel Panther released their fourth album this year. Compared to their first three albums, Lower the Bar falls on the weak side. As to be expected with the band, they are showing no signs of changing anything when it comes to their lyrical content. There are some good songs on here during the first half but it’s the album’s second half that drags it down. Still, you can’t help but appreciate these guys for trying to make some retro sounding music.

Highlights: Anything Goes, Poontang Boomerang, I’ve Got What You Want, That’s When You Came In

  Alice Cooper - Paranormal
Alice Cooper
Rating: ****

            After nearly a decade of conceptual and themed albums, shock rocker Alice Cooper went back to basics this year with Paranormal. Alice hasn’t made a basic, no frills rock album since 2005’s Dirty Diamonds. With that in mind, this album may sound strange at first but it is a grower. Some of the songs feature the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band, which is always nice to hear.

Highlights: Genuine American Girl, Fireball, Paranoiac Personality, Fallen in Love  

  Accept - The Rise of Chaos
The Rise of Chaos
Rating: *** ½

            As their fourth album with Mark Tornillo, Accept have released another “balls to the wall” metal album. Of the four new albums, The Rise of Chaos is easily the weakest of the bunch. With the exception of some changes in the band’s line-up, nothing much has changed in Accept. Along with this being their fourth album with Tornillo, it’s also the band’s fourth album with producer Andy Sneap. While not a bad album, The Rise of Chaos isn’t anything special. Should the band make another album, it’s probably time for a different producer.

Highlights: The Rise of Chaos, Die By the Sword, Worlds Colliding, Carry the Weight

 Quiet Riot - Road Rage
Quiet Riot
Road Rage
Rating: *** ¾

            It’s been a decade since Quiet Riot frontman Kevin DuBrow passed away. Despite drummer Frankie Banali vowing the band’s end, Quiet Riot would eventually reform in 2010 with the Banali and the band’s last line-up all back in. Since 2010, the band have been through several different lead singers. For their first full-length studio album since 2006’s Rehab, the band are now fronted by former American Idol finalist James Durbin. While many might be skeptical about a new Quiet Riot album without the late DuBrow, Road Rage manages to be an enjoyable album. The production isn’t the best but the songs presented on here are all good- with Durbin’s vocals fitting in just fine.

Highlights: Freak Flag, Can’t Get Enough, Renegades, Roll This Joint

 Black Country Communion - BCCIV
Black Country Communion
Rating: *** ½  

            Five years after their split, Black Country Communion are back with their fourth album. BCC IV, like the albums before it, is an old-school hard rock sounding album. Glenn Hughes still sounds great after all of these years and the band sounds very tight. Still, this isn’t the most memorable album. It’s a good album but I’d be lying if I said I can remember all of the songs from the album. For what it is, it’s good.

Highlight: Over My Head, The Crow, Collide  

 Paul McCartney - Flowers in the Dirt
Paul McCartney
Flowers in the Dirt
Original album rating: *** ½ to ****
Bonus disc: ***

            After a two year delay, the Paul McCartney Archive Series continues with 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt. Considered a comeback for McCartney back in the day, the album features memorable tunes such as “My Brave Face” and “Put It There.” As always, the remastering is top notch. Compared to the other entries in the series, I can’t say this is one of my favorites. While Flowers is a very good album, I find myself not really caring about the bonus disc. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going back to this album.

 The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 
The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th Anniversary 2 CD edition)
Original album rating: *****
New remix rating: ****
Bonus disc rating: ****


            Sgt. Pepper dazzled music listeners when it was released in 1967. For its 50th anniversary, Apple and EMI have gone all out with a reissue campaign for this classic album. The two disc version of the reissue is surprisingly well done. The set features a new remix of the album created by Giles Martin, along with a disc of outtakes. Martin’s new mix of the album can be best described as a cross between the mono and stereo mixes, which is nice to have but we really didn’t need this. Personally, I find myself more interested in the second disc- which features an outtake for each of the album’s eleven tracks, sequenced in the original album’s order. For an album that’s been heard oh so many times, it’s fun to hear an alternate version of a classic album. Along with a booklet filled with insightful liner notes, you really get your money’s worth.

Archival releases
  Riot - The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1: 1976 - 1980
The Official Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1 (1976-1980)
Rating: ****


            Taken from the estate of the late Mark Reale, The Official Bootleg Box Set is a box set devoted to the live career of hard rock band Riot. This impressive six disc set features a little over four hours of music. While the audio/sound quality might not be the best, this set is being released more so for historic significance. With this set, the focus is on Riot and their career before and during the time they released Rock City and Narita. The second volume (which I already have) was scheduled to be released at the end of this year but it has been moved to early January.

Alice Cooper
Welcome to My Nightmare: Special Edition
Rating: ****

            Eagle Rock re-released Alice Cooper’s 1976 concert film Welcome to My Nightmare on DVD earlier this year. While the movie was released before in 2002, this new DVD also includes the 1975 TV Special The Nightmare- which has never been released on DVD before. It’s nice to have two interpretations of one album on one DVD, especially the TV special. While there are no special features, at least this is back in print.

Rest in Peace
Pete “Overend” Watts- bassist for Mott the Hoople
Geoff Nicholls- keyboardist for Black Sabbath
John Wetton- bassist for Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep and Asia
Chuck Berry
Chris Cornell- singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave
Gregg Allman- co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band
Anita Pallenberg- partner of Brian Jones and Keith Richards
Walter Becker- co-founder of Steely Dan
Fats Domino

Malcolm Young- rhythm guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2018- my thoughts

The inductees for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2018 were announced on Wednesday. Looking down the list, this is a pretty solid group of acts. Still, I do have some frustrations over who didn't get in but let's go over who did get the induction.

Bon Jovi- After winning the public vote in a landslide, Bon Jovi are now in the Hall. I'm really not a fan of Bon Jovi. In fact, they are probably one of the only bands I've ever bought music by and stopped listening to. I was always loyal to their glam metal years but in the last two decades or so, Bon Jovi don't even categorize as such. Even going back to their earlier material, I can't listen to it. Also coming from NJ myself, these guys are worshiped. However, I don't mind their induction into the Hall too much. Jon Bon Jovi himself seems like a decent guy and I'm also liking how Jann Wenner is angered by their induction. With these guys in, can the Hall now please look at other bands from NJ? I'd like to nominate the Misfits.

The Cars- I don't own any of their music but I'm very happy to hear that the Cars got inducted. These guys have been waiting for years to be inducted and this is long overdue. As for the music by the Cars, I don't mind it and would actually be open to listening to it. If one thing does annoy me, it's as to how much classic rock radio plays them. Still, good for them.

Dire Straits- Once again, we have another band here that I'm not all that crazy about. Still, I think they deserve their induction. I also have a soft spot for them given Mark Knopfler was one of Phil Lynott's friends. Speaking of which, can we get Thin Lizzy in the Hall already?

The Moody Blues-  After years and years of waiting, the Moody Blues have finally been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Formed in the mid 1960s, the Moody Blues have been around for some five decades. Those first few Moody Blues albums are really good and I think those alone are worthy of an induction.

Nina Simone- I have to be honest and admit I'm not familiar with her music. I know that she's gotten some buzz ever since a Netflix documentary about her was released. I've been meaning to watch it. The Hall lacks in female inductees so this is nice to see.

Along with these five artists, Sister Rosetta Tharpe has also been inducted as an early influence.

The 2018 Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is scheduled for April 14, 2018 in Cleveland.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Malcolm Young dead at 64

Malcolm Mitchell Young
January 6, 1953 - November 18, 2017
(photo credit: Wikicommons- click here for source)

Malcolm Young, rhythm guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock legends AC/DC, died Saturday morning after a three to four year battle with dementia. According to a statement released by the Young family, Young passed away peacefully with his family by his side. AC/DC released their own statement, saying "Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young." His passing is almost a month after the passing of older brother and producer, George Young- who passed on October 22. Young was 64 years old. 

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Malcolm was the seventh of eight children born to William and Margaret Young. Two years later, Malcolm's brother Angus was born. In 1963, most of the Young family would emigrate from Scotland to Australia. Growing up, Malcolm listened to rock music. He and his brother Angus got a glimpse of rock n roll stardom as their older brother George was a member of the Easybeats. During the early to mid 1960s, the Easybeats were fairly successful in Australia as they had several hit singles in the Australian top 10 charts- their most notable being "Friday on My Mind" in 1966. Given their brother's success, the Young brothers were in several bands throughout the late 1960s. By November 1973, Malcolm and Angus decided to join forces and form their own band. The brothers called their band AC/DC, after seeing the letters on their older sister Margaret's sewing machine. The band would go through many line up changes, with Malcolm and Angus being the only two consistent members. By 1975, the band were fronted by fellow Scotsman Bon Scott. With their older brother George and his former Easybeats bandmate Harry Vanda producing, AC/DC released their first few albums. These early albums featured future classics such as "TNT", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Let There Be Rock", and "Whole Lotta Rosie." All of these songs were written by the Young brothers and Scott. Along with being rhythm guitarist, Malcolm also served as the band's leader- with brother Angus serving as the band's mascot, decked out in a school boy's uniform. 

In 1979, the band released Highway to Hell. The album saw a more polished approached to the AC/DC sound and as a result, the band were on their way to reaching a more mainstream audience. Sadly in early 1980, the band were hit with a devastating blow when Bon Scott suddenly died at the age of 33 after a long night of drinking. With the blessing of Scott's family, AC/DC decided to continue on without Scott. Of the singers auditioned, the band hired former Geordie singer Brian Johnson. With Johnson, the band released Back in Black- which would go on to sell in the millions and become one of the best selling albums of all time. Given the album's success, AC/DC were able to continue with Johnson as their frontman. While he stayed in the band until his retirement, Malcolm briefly left the band in 1988 when he decided to enter rehab. Nephew Stevie Young would fill in for him for the band's two North American legs of their tour in support for Blow Up Your Video. During the later part of their career, AC/DC were honored with various awards- including an induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. 

In the last decade of his life, Malcolm's health slowly started to decline. Prior to the band recording and touring for 2008's Black Ice, Malcolm is said to have started struggling with his memory and concentration. By the end of the album's tour in 2010, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer, however, was detected early and was successfully removed. During the surgery, it was also discovered that Malcolm had a heart condition that would require him to have a pacemaker installed. In 2014, Malcolm was admitted to a nursing home to be treated for his dementia. With this, Malcolm was forced to retire from AC/DC. Nephew Stevie Young returned to AC/DC, this time as Malcolm's permanent replacement, who they recorded 2014's Rock or Bust with.  After Malcolm's retirement, the band were seemingly cursed with bad luck- with Phil Rudd's arrest for an attempted hit in 2014, Brian Johnson's  unceremonious firing due to a deafness scare and Cliff William's exit after the Rock or Bust tour in 2016. As of this writing, the future of AC/DC is unknown.

Malcolm is survived by his wife Linda and their two children, Cara and Ross. He is also survived by his sister Margaret and his brothers Angus, John and William.