Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Year in Review

Well, we've come to the end of another year of music. How was it, you ask? It could've been worse. There were a few new albums I bought from my favorite artists and some well done reissues. Sadly, we had to say our goodbyes to some music legends. Believe it or not, this was what 2010 was like.

Albums



 Ringo Starr - Y Not
Ringo Starr
Y Not
Rating: ***

Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th birthday this year. In January of this year, he released an album called Y Not. Let me get one thing straight: I love all the Beatles equally. However I've got to be honest when I say that Ringo's albums tend to be on the weak side (excluding his 1973 Ringo album and maybe even Goodnight Vienna). Still, Y Not isn't bad at all. There are some good songs on here. The best of them is "Walk With You", which features Ringo's old friend Sir Paul McCartney on backing vocals.

 Slash - Slash
Slash
Slash
Rating: *** 1/2 or ****

On paper, it sounds like a good idea: take a bunch of Slash's rock n roll buddies, put them in a studio, and record an album. The result: Disappointing at first but as time goes by, I'm enjoying the album more. Each song, except two, have a different lead singer. Slash makes some magic with legends such as Ozzy Osbourne ("Crucify the Dead") and Lemmy ("Doctor Alibi"). Then there are some songs that Slash does with newer acts such as Myles Kennedy ("Back from Cali" and "Starlight") and even Fergie ("Beautiful Dangerous", which is a kick-ass song and shows that Fergie has what it takes to front a rock band...though she may have to work on her bladder control). However my favorite song on here is "We're All Gonna Die", which is sung by the one and only Iggy Pop. A very entertaining album, for sure.

 Ratt - Infestation
Ratt
Infestation
Rating: ****

I've got to be honest: Although this album was released in April, I just bought it yesterday! Still, I've got to say this is a really great album. Infestation is Ratt's first album in 11 years. Original members Stephen Pearcy, Warren DeMartini, and Bobby Blotzer are joined by long time bassist Robbie Crane and former Quiet Riot axeman Carlos Cavazo. This is a very "old-school" sounding Ratt album as it follows in the vein of the band's first two albums, Out of the Cellar and Invasion of Your Privacy. From a first listen, I can say my favorite songs are "Best of Me", "Eat Me Up Alive", "As Good As It Gets", and "Garden of Eden". Overall, a great album!

 Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden
The Final Frontier
Rating: *** 1/2

Iron Maiden's latest album is actually their longest to date, as it clocks in at almost 76 minutes. Also, there's something up with the mixing of this album. Still, Maiden have managed to make a decent album. There are a couple of good songs. If you're new to the band, go and get The Number of the Beast and Powerslave for more simple music.


 Robert Plant - Band of Joy
Robert Plant
Band of Joy
Rating: *** 1/2

Although Led Zeppelin performed a one-off gig in 2007, people will still not shut up about a reunion tour. What was keeping them from doing this? Their lead singer, Robert Plant. In 2007, Plant collaborated with country chick Alison Krauss. This unlikely duo actually scored a Grammy or two in 2009. Now in 2010, Plant decides to reform his pre-Zeppelin group, Band of Joy. This album is pretty good. If you're expecting some kick-ass hard rock on this album, forget it. The album shows off Plant's ability to sing Americana and folk music. There are a few good songs: "Angel Dance", "Monkey", and "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" just to name a few. 

 Ron Wood - I Feel Like Playing
Ron Wood
I Feel Like Playing
Rating: ****

Despite a bitter split from his wife of 20 years, dating teenage models, and his constant drinking habits, Woody has actually made a great album here! The Rolling Stone's guitarist made this album with a few of his friends and the outcome is surprisingly good. The songs are all good and the sound is fantastic. 


Reissues/Archival Releases

Jimi Hendrix
Reissues (Are You Experienced?, Axis: As Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland, First Rays of the New Rising Sun)
Are You Experienced? Rating: **** 1/2
Electric Ladyland and First Rays of the New Rising Sun Rating: ****

Due to the excitement over the new Valleys of Neptune album, Jimi's estate and adopted sister Janie Hendrix decided to reissue most of Hendrix's classic albums. Although these albums are still great, these reissues were completely unnecessary. There really isn't a change in sound. I only got them since I own Experienced and Ladyland on CD-R copied from other CDs. The reissues do come with a bonus DVD, where Jimi's band mates and managers are interviewed (most of who are dead: Noel Redding, Chas Chandler, Mitch Mitchel). The DVD's are slightly interesting but still, there was no need for these reissues. What bothers me about the Hendrix estate is their need to release something every 15 minutes. At this rate, Jimi Hendrix almost like Tupac: Where the hell is all this material coming from?! 


The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, Paul McCartney and Wings
  Exile On Main Street, Raw Power, and Band on the Run
Exile and Band Rating: **** 1/2
Raw Power Rating: **** 1/2

The reason why I put all these reissues together is because they all have something in common: they were released in similar ways. Along with the original albums, these reissues came with and extra disc or two of goodies. So I'll judge by both the original album and the extras.

Original Album
For the Stones and Wings, there isn't too much of a change in the sound. Of the two, Band On the Run needed the remaster treatment more. Both albums sound great and are still timeless classics. The only thing about Band On the Run is that it stays true to the UK release of the album, meaning that "Helen Wheels" (which was the eighth track on the US and international releases) is missing but can be found on the second disc. Still, I was able to work things out the way I wanted it to be. For Raw Power, this was a very special release. If you are a fan of Iggy and/or the Stooges, you may know that Raw Power was re-released and remixed by Iggy himself in 1997. Iggy's remix has been met with mixed reviews. Some complain that Iggy's remix is too "muddy" and was just way too loud. The original album's mix, produced by David Bowie, was released on CD back in the late 80's but has been out of the print...until now. While this release is important, Bowie's mix is very quiet and it sounds like there wasn't any remastering done on this mix. Honestly, I prefer Iggy's remix. I mean, they don't call it Raw Power for nothing right? Can you feel it?

Bonus Disc (s)
For Exile, the deluxe edition comes with a disc of ten previously unreleased tracks from the 1972 sessions. The songs are impressive. Of them, "Plundered My Soul" is my favorite along with "Pass the Wine". As for Wings, there are unreleased cuts from the documentary One Hand Clapping plus some singles. Raw Power comes with the infamous live bootleg Georgia Peaches. Also, Band on The Run has a brilliant DVD. Along with promo videos and other things, the long lost One Hand Clapping documentary has finally seen the light of day.

John Lennon
Reissues (Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Sometime In New York City, Mind Games, Walls and Bridges, Rock N Roll, Double Fantasy, and Milk and Honey)
Walls and Bridges and Double Fantasy: Stripped Down Rating: ****
Sometime In New York City and Rock N Roll: *** 1/2

The Lennon reissues this year honor what would've been his 70th birthday. Again, these reissues weren't necessary but whatever. I just bought what I didn't have. All the albums are good. I do own Double Fantasy but my copy was old and I wanted to hear the stripped version. Well worth the money!

Dio
Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987
Rating: ****

A very good archival release from the greatest singer in metal music. I want to get this post over with so click here for my review from November.

What to expect in 2011
The New York Dolls will have an album out in March. Alice Cooper will have one out at some point. Also we may get albums from Van Halen, Riot, and Kiss. As for reissues, there should be more from Paul McCartney and Queen's first five albums will be reissued in March.

Rest In Peace
Doug Fieger (1952-2010)- frontman for The Knack. Click here for short obituary. 
Alex Chilton (1950-2010)- Singer/songwriter from legendary power pop band, Big Star.
Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)- Singer for Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio. Click here for obituary and click here for another tribute.
Pete Quaife (1943-2010)- Original bassist for The Kinks. Click here for short obituary.
Bill Aucoin (1943-2010)- First manager for Kiss. Click here for obituary.
Andy Hummel (1951-2010)- Bassist for Big Star.
Captain Beefheart/Don Van Vliet (1941-2010)- Avant-garde musician that was ahead of his time. Click here for obituary and tribute. Below is a tribute video of me talking.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Captain Beefheart dead at 69

Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart
January 15, 1941- December 17, 2010


Don Van Vliet, better known by his fans as Captain Beefheart, died today from complications of multiple sclerosis. He was 69 years old. His passing was officially announced by the Michael Werner Gallery, a New York based art gallery who accepted Vliet's artwork. Vliet was a man musically ahead of his time. In 1965, he formed the Magic Band. Vliet was also a childhood friend of Frank Zappa. Zappa and Vliet would listen to blues records. Vliet was heavily influenced by Howlin' Wolf, which influenced Vliet's singing. His debut album Safe As Milk, released in 1967, is probably one of the best debut albums ever made. The album had the elements of psychedelic music, garage rock, blues, and experimental music. However the highest point of Vliet's life was probably the release of his third album in 1969, Trout Mask Replica. The album was produced by Zappa, which allowed Vliet and his band artistic freedom. Songs like "Ella Guru" and "Moonlight on Vermont" are avant garde gold. There are also a number of stories that surround the making of the album. The band isolated themselves in a house for several months rehearsing the album and eventually recording it in four hours. That album was followed up by Lick My Decals Off, Baby in 1970. 

Vliet returned to his blues roots on albums like The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. Vliet's next two albums weren't that great critically and financially (Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams). Those albums were a bit too commercial and were a far cry from the experimental material. That would change in 1978 when Vliet hired a new, younger Magic Band and made three albums. The last of them, Ice Cream For Crow, released in 1982- was Vliet's swan song. He retired from the music business and remained out of the spotlight. He spent the rest of his life painting, which Vliet had loved to do since he was a child. In his last year, Vliet was wheelchair bound. Vliet is survived by his wife of 40 years, Jan.

This is incredibly sad news. A major loss in the world of music. It was only in January of this year that I started listening to his music. It has had a huge impact on me and as a result, I've got all 12 of his album. Don might be gone but his music will live on forever.

Rest in peace, Don. Say hello to Frank for us!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New York Dolls announce release of new studio album

There might be only two original members left in the New York Dolls but that doesn't stop them from touring and making music. Recently, it has been announced that the band will release their fifth studio album. The album, Dancing Backward in High Heels, is set for released on March 15, 2011. This marks the band's first album since 2009's Cause I Sez So. The New York Dolls have been reunited since 2006, with the release of the critically praised reunion album One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This. The two surviving members of the band are singer David Johansen and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain. Original members guitarist Johnny Thunders, bassist Arthur Kane, and drummers Billy Murica and Jerry Nolan are all dead. Johansen and Sylvain continue to tour with Hanoi Rocks bassist Sami Yaffa, guitarist Steve Conte, and drummer Brian Delaney.

This is very surprising news. It's been only half a year since Cause I Sez So was released and now we got another album. I know there are many fans of the original Dolls who do not approve of the reformed Dolls. Many fans would rather have this reformed version change their name to anything except the New York Dolls. This is my opinion: it's a shame that Johnny, Arthur, Jerry, and Billy are no longer with us. However, there is a younger generation of fans who'd like to see the Dolls. I approve of this reunion because I believe that David and Sylvain truly love this music. Sure it isn't like the 70's material but I'd take the Dolls over any of today's crap. I will buy this album, for sure!

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2011

The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2011 inductees were supposed to be announced on tomorrow but three days before they were announced, Hits Daily Double leaked the five inductees. This year is very different compared to last year. The nominees this year mainly included singer/songwriters but of the this list is pretty good. There are three "finallys", one who got in a little early, and one is an "owl artist" (who-who-who-who).

Alice Cooper
http://www.flickr.c
Finally after years and years of being ignored, the one and only Alice Cooper is now in the Hall of Fame. Not only is Alice going in but his band of the same name is going in with him. Alice Cooper was born Vincent Furnier in February 1948. In 1969, he and four other guys formed a band called Alice Cooper, which Furnier would use as his stage name. With Cooper vocals, the band also included guitarists Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith. Frank Zappa signed them to his Straight Records label and released two poorly received albums. When Warner Brothers bought out Straight and signed the band, their third album Love It To Death became a huge success thanks to the
 hit single "I'm Eighteen". With this album, the band started using the theatrics in rock n roll. With more hit albums like Killer, School's Out, and Billion Dollar Babies the band became infamous for their stage shows which included dead babies, snakes, and hangings. The Alice Cooper band broke up in 1974 but Alice embarked on a solo career starting with 1975's Welcome to My Nightmare. Alice had early success with his solo career and had some hits with ballads like "Only Women Bleed", "I Never Cry" and "You and Me". Many of Cooper's solo albums are conceptual and are ignored by many major critics (examples: From the Inside, Dada, The Last Temptation). In some ways, Alice has a cult following. He did make a comeback with the 1989 hit single "Poison". A born again Christian, Cooper is still performs at the age of 62. In his spare time, he plays golf and hosts his own syndicated radio show Nights With Alice Cooper.

Alice has told Rolling Stone that he was "elated" when he heard the news. Alice also seems excited about next year: along with his induction into the Hall, he'll be releasing Welcome to My Nightmare II. When asked if he and the original band  (Alice, Michael, Dennis, and Neal. Glen Buxton passed away in 1997) will get to play, he said yes.


Neil Diamond

It's hard to imagine but Neil Diamond hasn't been in the Hall for a long time...until now. A songwriter and performer of his stature should have gotten in a LONG time ago. Neil Diamond began his career writing songs for other groups. He even wrote the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit of Me, A Little Bit of You". Diamond was probably at his peak in the 1970's with hits like "Sweet Caroline", "Holly Holy", "Cracklin' Rose", and "Song Sung Blue". Diamond, who turns 70 in January, still performs. According to Rolling Stone, Diamond has said his induction has made him "feel lucky".


Tom Waits
His name may sound unfamiliar but Tom Waits has had a long and interesting career. Waits started out as a simple jazz and blues singer in the early parts of his career. In the 1980's, Waits got into rock music and started to experiment in different genres. Some of his best known albums include Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. Waits has won a few Grammys and his music has somewhat of a cult following. Waits could be compared to Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart when it comes to his experimental material. I'm glad Tom is getting in and I just recently purchased Rain Dogs. The only thing that bothers me with this early induction is that I think Captain Beefheart should've got in first then Tom Waits. It's a outstanding album! The Hall is pretty screwed up anyway with who they choose to induct first. From what I know, Beefheart is a big influence on Waits so now as a member of the Hall, he does get to vote in future ceremonies. Maybe Waits could start a campaign for Beefheart. I would!

Dr. John
The blues legend is finally getting into the Hall. Dr. John is probably best known by his classic album Gris Gris and his bluesy song "I Walk on Gilded Splinters", which has been covered by bands like Humble Pie and The Allman Brothers Band. Dr. John is told Rolling Stone that he was "very shocked" when he heard about the news. He didn't think he would get in. 



Darlene Love
Darlene Love is a R&B and soul singer. Aside from that, I have no idea who she is or why she's being inducted (some think it's because Little Steven Van Zandt has been pushing for her to get in, just like he did with the Hollies). Love did sing back-up for Phil Spector records and had a solo career. In the Rolling Stone article, Love sounds very happy and says that she owes Phil Spector her career. Damn right.

Overall, this year's roster isn't bad but not as good as last year. The inductions of Alice Cooper and Tom Waits could hopefully make the nominations for 2012 better. I hope Alice could start a campaign to get Love (the band, with Arthur Lee) into the Hall and Waits could try and get Captain Beefheart. Also with Alice in, this probably opens the doors for more early heavy metal and/or 70's rock bands in (ala Kiss, T. Rex, Judas Priest, Rush).

Update (12/15/10): It was announced that there are three other inductees. Leon Russell is being inducted in the Sidemen category while Jac Holzman (founder of Elektra Records) and Art Rupe (founder of Specialty Records) are being inducted as Non-Performers. The ceremony will take place in March 2011.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Dream is Over: John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band is 40

John Lennon - John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band
John Lennon
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
1970
Rating: **** 1/2

In April 1970, the Beatles had officially broken up. However for John Lennon, the end of the band he started had already happened before then. By 1969, he already had a new band: the Plastic Ono Band. The band’s line-up changed constantly but John and his new wife, Yoko Ono, were the two stable members. When the time came to make his first solo album, Lennon wrote very personal songs based on the 30 years of this life. That album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, is widely considered his best album. The album was raw, honest, and heartfelt. In my list of my top 200 albums, Plastic Ono Band ranks at #15. This makes it my favorite solo album by a Beatle. The fortieth anniversary also falls closely to the thirtieth anniversary of Lennon’s murder. This article will go into this classic album.

Although this was Lennon’s first solo album, Lennon had already released a few albums before this one. From 1968 to 1969, John and Yoko released four albums. The first three, however, were avant garde albums that did nothing and are disliked by almost every Beatles fan. Their fourth, Live Peace in Toronto 1969, was better but still nothing impressive. Soon after the split of the Beatles, John and Yoko started primal therapy for four months with the help of Arthur Janov. The therapy had a great affect on both John and Yoko. It then inspired the couple to make their own albums and release them on the same day. For Yoko, her album was experimental and, for the most part on her album, is screaming. For John’s album, he wrote songs about the hard times in his life. Whatever John got out of the therapy, he put into the Plastic Ono Band album, which was recorded from September 26 to October 23. On December 11, 1970 both John and Yoko released their albums both titled Plastic Ono Band. The album covers were almost identical as well. On John’s cover, he is resting his head on Yoko’s lap while sitting under a tree. On Yoko’s cover, it’s the other way around.

The sound you hear at the beginning of “Mother” is of a tolling bell. The song is, of course, about Lennon’s mother. Lennon had a rough childhood. His parents split when he was just three years old. Although Lennon chose to live with his mother Julia, he was placed in the care of Julia’s sister Mimi. When Lennon became a teenager, he formed a new relationship with his mother. Sadly when Lennon was 17, Julia was killed after being hit by a vehicle. Lennon never got to know his father well, although Alfred Lennon lived up until 1976. When Lennon sings this song, you can hear the pain in his voice. Don’t believe me? Listen to the ending: “Mama don’t GO/DADDY COME HOME!”. “Hold On” is a very short and simple song. While writing this article, I’ve just learned that in the middle of the song Lennon says something. I knew this but could never figure it out. According to an author, Lennon says “Cookie” in the middle of the song in reference to Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.

“I Found Out” is a song basically about Lennon’s negative view on false religions. He even mentions the Hare Krishna (“Oh Hare Krishna/Got nothing on you”). The song has minimal use of instruments. All you hear is Lennon on guitar, Klaus Voormann on bass, and Ringo on the drums. Speaking of which, Ringo said years later in the Classic Albums episode for this album that he’s proud of his performance on that song. “Working Class Hero” is one of Lennon’s most critically praised songs. The song, according to Lennon in interview with Rolling Stone, about working class people being put or processed into middle classes. The only instrument in this song is John’s acoustic guitar. The song gained infamy on radio stations since it used the f-word twice, which is still bleeped out today.

“Isolation” is probably about the idea of being alone or scared. When I read the lyrics, Lennon seems to be concerned with the future of the world. The song is very piano driven, as is the next song “Remember”. This song is said to be about reflecting on memories both good and bad. The end of the song is interesting: John sings “Remember/Remember/The Fifth of November?”, followed by the sound of an explosion. According to Lennon, this was ad-libbed. What Lennon is referring to is actually Guy Fawkes Night. “Love” is a song with lyrics so simple, it’s beautiful. “Well, Well, Well” is easily the heaviest song off the album. The song has distortion like “I Found Out” and has Lennon screaming at one point. The lyrics are pretty bizarre. I mean how many songs are there that are about eating dinner, watching the sky and revolution? “Look At Me” was written back during the White Album sessions while the closes the album. “God is a concept” sings John, “By which we measure our pain”. The song basically is about what Lennon believes in and it’s not religion. He doesn’t believe in magic, I Ching, Bible, tarot, Hitler, Jesus, Kennedy, Buddha, mantra, Gita, yoga, kings, Elvis, Zimmerman (Dylan) and even the Beatles.

“I just believe in me/Yoko and me”.

The last line in the song: “The dream is over”. The album officially wraps up with “My Mummy’s Dead”, which lasts for less than a minute.

Plastic Ono Band is not only Lennon’s best album but it’s also one of the best albums ever made. With the success of this album, Lennon was able to continue making more music. In 1971, he followed up Plastic Ono Band with Imagine. Imagine was even bigger. While Plastic Ono Band is now 40 years old, it has also been 30 years since Lennon was murdered. We still listen to all of his music with and without the Beatles. I think it’s safe to say that Plastic Ono Band is the statement of John Winston Ono Lennon. Period.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

If You Were Here Today- John Lennon's death: 30 years later

John Lennon
October 9, 1940- December 8, 1980


December 8, 1980 was just your average ordinary day. People went to work and children went to school. At this time in music history, new wave was in. However, rock n roll was still here and staying alive. For John Lennon, he was ready to begin the next chapter in his life. He’d just turn 40 back in October. He had a new album out, his first in five years. He had a family, who were living in New York City. His wife, Yoko Ono, and their child, Sean, were just some of the many things going on for him. He even thought about going on tour again. However on that cold night of December 8, 1980, the unthinkable happened. Within an hour, the world first learned about the sad news. For some people, they found out the next day: John Lennon had died. However, it wasn’t of a drug overdose. He wasn’t sick nor did he kill himself. Lennon, of all people, had been shot and murdered in cold blood. Even today, Lennon’s murder remains probably the worst day in music history. Last year, I wrote about how the death of Michael Jackson was similar to Lennon’s death. This year, I will focus on why Lennon’s murder is still relevant to pop culture.

The people who were born after 1980 won’t know what it was like when John Lennon was murdered. I happen to be one of them. However, I’ve been a fan of the Beatles for a decade and I can safely say that I have an idea on how that day was. It was horrible. What the younger generation doesn’t understand is that John’s didn’t pass away: he was murdered. At that time in the world of music, murder was unheard of. It seemed that before that day in 1980, it was presidents or people of high power getting murdered. Before Lennon, there weren’t too many famous musicians who had been murdered (aside from Sam Cooke) . When Lennon was murdered, it was a big deal. Not only was it a musician but it was a former Beatle. By 1980, the members of the Beatles seemed to be all in good health (forget about any supposed drug taking or drinking) and were still active in the music business ten years after their split. The idea of one of the Beatles dying was never thought of; unless you were one of those people who thought Paul was dead. The stereotypical rock star dies usually from a drug overdose in their home at the favorable age of 27. John Lennon didn’t fit this stereotype.

It wasn’t really John’s fault that he died. If it was, it may have to do with the fact that he was living in New York City. John didn’t live in a mansion or penthouse. He wasn’t living much of the high life for several years. Since 1975, John was a self-declared “househusband” and living in an apartment at the Dakota. For someone with his level of star power, it wasn’t usual to be living in the city. Some people may think that if Lennon hadn’t decided to live in the US, he’d still be alive. I’m not too sure about that. Lennon’s murderer (whose name will not be mentioned at all in this article out of respect for Paul, Ringo, Yoko, and John’s other family and friends) was determined to go out and meet Lennon. Who knows if things would’ve changed? The fact is that Lennon was murdered and there was no way out of that. There are, however, people who believe Lennon’s murder was all planned by the CIA due to his fight to stay in the US. This is totally false although these people do have some valid points. About a year ago, there was a man going around saying that Stephen King (yes, the author) killed John Lennon. Believe it or not, the guy actually got a book self-published, showcasing supposed evidence.

I recently did some reading on Lennon’s murder and found out things I hadn’t known or noticed before. Upon hearing the news of Lennon’s death, two people committed suicide. The people were a 16-year-old girl and 31-year-old man. Also, John’s first son Julian was 17 when his father was murdered. Ironically when John was 17, his mother was killed unexpectedly after being hit by a car. John was just getting to know his mother and Julian was just getting to know his father.

Since Lennon’s murder, there have been a number of rock musicians that have also been murdered. Cactus lead singer Rusty Day was shot and murdered, along with his son and a guest, in 1982 after bad business with a drug dealer. Session musician and record producer Felix Pappalardi was shot and murdered by his wife in 1983. In 1994 former Riot singer Rhett Forrester was shot and killed after refusing to give up his vehicle in a carjack attempt. However the most notable is probably the murder of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who was shot and killed on December 8 2004, exactly 24 years after Lennon’s murder. However compared to Lennon, Dimebag was shot onstage during a performance with his new band Damageplan. The shooter killed a few other people before a policeman gunned him down. I’m not trying to say that John’s murder inspired these other murders. I’m trying to point out that there has been violence before John passed away and after John passed away. There will always violence, bullying, and problems in the world. This year, there have been all those reports on the people who committed suicide just because they were teased about their sexual orientation. There’ve been a number of terrible events for the last ten years: the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and a few others. It seems to me that many people have forgotten John’s message: peace and love. I think if everyone remembers John’s message, the world would be a better place.

I leave you now with a timeline I wrote two years ago. I hope you enjoy it. Rest in peace, John.

Note there are some historic errors in this timeline. I'll fix them later.

John Lennon Timeline: Life of a Beatle

October 9, 1940- John Winston Lennon is born in Liverpool to Alfred and Julia Lennon.

c.1943-1945- John’s parents split. John, only a kid then, wanted to be with his father but when he saw his mother cry, he ran back to her and decided to stay with his mother. John would rarely see his father in his life ever again. Sometime later, Julia meets and marries another man. She felt as if she couldn’t take care of him. So, she has her sister Mimi and her husband take care of John.

c. 1950- When John turns ten, his uncle gives him a harmonica.


c. 1954-1956- By this time, John’s uncle has died. Aunt Mimi is left a widow and in charge of the teenage Lennon, who is now obsessed with the newest craze: rock n roll. The leader of it all was Elvis Presley, who John looked up to the most of anybody. John is also a trouble-maker and his school can’t take any more. With that, John is kicked out and goes to Art College. While John hated it, he met his friend Stuart Sutcliff and his soon-to-be girlfriend Cynthia Powell. Also during this time, Julia tries to renew a relationship with her son. Sadly, Julia is killed by a drunk driver in 1957.

July 17, 1957- John’s skiffle band, the Quarrymen, play a gig. Watching the show is James Paul McCartney, who is known as Paul McCartney. Paul meets John after the show. Paul decides to play music for John and plays “25 Rock” by Eddie Cochran. John is impressed and knows he has talent. Sooner or later, he asked Paul to join. According to John, he said yes the next day.

c.1958-1959- John and Paul form a new group. Paul suggests to John to have his friend, George Harrison, to play guitar in the band. John is reluctant at first, complaining he’s too young. Paul doesn’t give up and one night, the three are on a double decker bus. George had his guitar and that night, John changed his mind. Stuart is also made bassist of the band, despite his lack of knowledge on how to play.

c.1959-1961- Johnny and the Moondogs become the Beatles. Long story short, Pete Best becomes drummer and then the band tour Germany. The tour is a successful but Paul, George, and Pete are all deported for different reasons. George was too young to play at one club while Paul and Pete got in trouble for burning a condom to a hotel wall. John goes back home but Stuart stays to marry Astrid Kirster, a girl who had given the boys their "mop-top" hair cut. Stuart later dies in 1961.

c.1961-1963- Paul switches to bass. The band is eventually discovered by Brian Epstein, who becomes their manager. After a few record labels, the band is finally signed to EMI records. Producer George Martin loves them although he produces classical music. However, Pete Best is sacked for not being a good drummer! Ringo Starr takes his place and the rest is history.

c.1963- It is thought that both John and Brian went on a holiday. It has been rumored that the two experimented/engaged in homosexual acts, as Brian was gay. Over the years, this rumor has been denied. In an interview, John said he let Brian "have a whack" (or masturbation). This has been talked about for many years and even was made into a movie later in the 1990’s.

1963- John and his girlfriend, Cynthia Powell, had been together for some time. One day, Cynthia tearfully reveals to John that she’s pregnant with John’s child. John immediately insists that they get married. John and Cynthia do marry and on April 8, 1963, Julian Lennon (born as John Charles Julian Lennon) is born.

1963-1966- Beatlemania takes off. With the release of the song “Please, Please Me” and an album of the same name, the Beatles become instantly popular. However, it isn’t until 1964 when “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” hits the chart at #1 in America. The Beatles go to America in February and appear on the Ed Sullivan show. The show draws up to 70 million viewers. Besides releasing albums and hit singles, the band appears in two films about them. The first is A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and the second is Help! (1965). Both films are directed by Richard Lester. John also tries to write poetry. His first book is In His Own Write and the second is A Spaniard In The Works. By 1966, touring takes its toll.

1966- An out-of-context quote made by John causes an uproar in America. John says in the statement that the Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ. Radio stations start to ban the Beatles and hold record burnings. John does apologize but it doesn’t do much. The Beatles play their last concert to the public this year in Candlestick Park. The band then takes a break. John gets to star in the Richard Lester film How I Won The War.

November 9, 1966- John goes to an Indica Art Gallery, which is done by Japanese artist Yoko Ono. John enjoys the art but Yoko has no idea who he is. John is still married but it won’t be long…

1967- The Beatles, all sporting mustaches now, record their next two singles “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane”. Both songs are related to John as he lived near these places as a kid. The band then record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is critically praised. John even writes what is probably the most complex thing ever done by the Beatles: “A Day In The Life”

1967- The Beatles meet the Maharishi Yogi but Brian Epstein suddenly dies. The band direct a film and an album called Magical Mystery Tour. The film is only shown in the UK on Boxing Day and shown in black and white. The film is panned while the music is actually great!

1967-1968- The Beatles go to Rishikesh to meet the Maharishi again but leave after a few weeks. The band even makes a record label: Apple. Before this, Yoko Ono comes to England to promote her short film Film No.4, which infamously is just pictures of over 300 butts. Yoko remembers John and asks for music for her next film. Long story short, John and Yoko begin to have an affair until Cynthia discovers this. John and Cynthia divorce in 1968. Cynthia remarries and is left to care for five-year-old Julian, although John shares custody of him. With this John brings Yoko to the studio during the recording of the album The Beatles, better known as The White Album. That album is released the same year.

1968- John and Yoko released an avant-garde album called Two Virgins. The album consists of weird sounds and noises hours before the couple made love for the first time. The cover causes quite a controversy as it depicts a picture of John and Yoko completely naked. Despite the album being covered in a paper bag, the album doesn’t do anything.

1969- The Beatles work on what will become the 1970 Let It Be album. Tensions are high during this time. The Beatles even perform on the roof of Apple, which lasts for only a half hour before the police arrive. John and Yoko are still close. In March, the couple gets married. On their honeymoon, the two decide to sit in bed. This is the beginning of many bed-ins, in protest to stop the war in Vietnam. Some think John and Yoko are nuts but they manage to make a great single called “Give Peace A Chance”. By the end of this year, Abbey Road is the last Beatles album recorded.

1970- The Beatles are now managed by Allen Klien, who managed the Rolling Stones (but the Stones hated him). Klien screws up both the band and Apple Records all together. In April 1970, Paul issues a statement that he has quit the band. Not only this but he’s also filed a lawsuit to end the partnership. The Beatles are no more.

1970- Even before this year, John and Yoko form the Plastic Ono Band. The band consists of guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Klaus Voormann (friend from Germany years and also the artist for the Revolver album cover), and future Yes drummer Alan White.

1970- Both John and Yoko release albums called Plastic Ono Band. John’s album is a personal one. The album opens with “Mother”, a slow song that deals with John’s dead mother and his missing father. “Working Class Hero” becomes infamous for using the word "f**k" twice. John refuses to edit it when asked to. John’s first album is critically praised.

1971- John releases his next album Imagine. The album and the self-titled track are both a success. On the Imagine album, the song “How Do You Sleep?”, which was a hate song written to Paul. Ironically, George Harrison plays on the song! Paul tried to resolve the tension with a song called “Dear Friend” on his album Wild Life with his new band Wings. This year also sees the start of John’s fight to stay in the US, which I won’t go into too much detail about.

1971-1972- John and Yoko start posting billboards reading “War Is Over! If You Want It”. This was in protest to stop the Vietnam War and to promote their new single, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”. Today, the song is still seen as a Christmas song.

1972- John and Yoko attend a protest to free war-activist, John Sinclair, who was convicted of using marijuana. John wrote an original song called “John Sinclair” and as a result, Sinclair was let go of the next day! This song and many other political songs appear on Sometime In New York City. This was John and Yoko’s collaboration with a New York band called Elephant’s Memory. The album received poor reviews and still does today.

1973- Mind Games is released. Tired of John’s antics, Yoko splits from John. The couple does not divorce. Instead, Yoko puts John on a plan to get him sober in a Japanese tradition (I didn't make this up. Larry Kane said it!). Since he wouldn’t have a partner, Yoko pairs John up with her friend May Pang. The next 18 months of John’s life are often referred to as his so-called "Lost Weekend".

1974-1975- John releases Walls And Bridges. John slowly starts to get sober. Part of this plan was to have him make up old relationships. May Pang often tried to have Julian come over and spend time with his dad, which rarely happened before. They spent one day in Disneyland, with Cynthia present. The pairing worked somehow as Julian plays drums on the song “Ya-Ya” from the Walls And Bridges album. In 1975, John releases Rock N Roll, a tribute to the music he grew up to. During sessions, John meets Paul in person for the first time in years. It’s not really known what went on but bootlegs of the old friends have been spread around. The last time John and Paul meet is in 1975. John also collaborates with Elton John on “Whatever Gets You through the Night”, which went to #1 in the Billboard charts. John had told Elton if the song went #1, he'd play on stage with him. This happens and becomes the last time John Lennon performs live.

1975- At the Grammy Awards, John and Yoko are seen together in public for the first time since 1973. John is now sober and he and Yoko were in love again. It came to the point when Yoko was pregnant. This wasn’t the first time Yoko was pregnant with John’s child. Back in the late 1960’s, Yoko suffered from two miscarriages. After the second, she was told she’d never have any more children. Yoko did have one daughter from husband Tony Cox. Her name is Kyoko. She was seen with John and Yoko during the Bed-In. Kyoko went missing after her father took her. Yoko wouldn’t see her until 1998. Anyway, John was excited to be a dad again.

October 9, 1975- John turns not only turns 35 but Yoko gives birth to Sean Taro Ono Lennon that day. Also on the same day, John is finally accepted to live in the US. John was extremely happy. However, he wanted to be with his new son. Beatlemania was at its height when Julian was born, leaving no time for John to be with him. John didn’t want to repeat history. So in 1975, John announced he was retiring from the music business all together to be with his new family.

1975-1980- For five years, John Lennon remained out of the spotlight and lived in an apartment at the Dakota in New York with Yoko and Sean. John referred these years as his "fatherhood years" as he was taking care of Sean. The family would take vacations and on occasion, Julian spent time with his father and his new family. Over this period in time, John and Yoko are writing new material for a new album. John sends the songs on a tape to producer Jack Douglas. Douglas liked the songs and in 1980, John begins working again.

October 9, 1980- John turns 40 years old while Sean turns five years old.

November 1980- John and Yoko’s new album, Double Fantasy, is released. The album is praised for the effort put into it. John, at this time, starts thinking of a tour. However, no one is prepared for what is to come.


December 8, 1980- (CAUTION: This part might get intense and a bit graphic. For those of you who are very sensitive, you’ve been warned.)

In the morning, John and Yoko go to a photo shoot to have a picture taken for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The cover has the couple lying on a bed. Yoko is clothed while John, naked, is in a fetal position kissing her. Later that day, the couple stop by the studio by the Record Plant studio. Yoko is working on her newest single “Walking On Thin Ice”. In the studio office, a radio station interviews John and Yoko. John is in high spirits and after the interview, the couple leaves. In the limousine, John doesn’t want to go out to dinner. He wanted to go back home to kiss Sean goodnight. So, the limo pulled up by the Dakota at around 10:50 pm. Yoko got out first and while walking, she noticed a man. The man nodded to her as he had met her earlier that night. She nods back. John then walks and sees the man and remembers him too. John keeps walking until a voice asks, “Mr. Lennon?”

John slightly turned his head around. Suddenly, the man had whipped out a gun and fired seven bullets. Five of them hit John in the back. John stumbled his way up the stairs yelling “I’m shot!” and collapsed on the ground. Yoko screamed, asking for someone to call 911.

The police arrive to arrest the man and to also get John to the hospital quick. The police car drove to the Kennedy Hospital, where doctors were shocked that it was actually John Lennon who was the patient. Doctors tried their hardest to cure John. They even massaged his heart by opening his chest. The doctors then saw there was no hope: one of the bullets had pierced John’s aorta, which cause him to lose more than 50% of his blood. By 11:20 pm that night, John Winston Ono Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival from gunshot.

John’s death was a shock to everyone, even to the three other Beatles. A couple of days later, Yoko Ono announced there wouldn’t be a funeral for John. All she asked was for ten minutes of silence in memory of John. Lennon’s killer was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He was viable for parole four times, most recently in August 2008. He was, of course, denied all four times. He’ll be up again for parole in 2010. As a fan, I wish that no one mentions the name of John’s killer. He is a bastard for what he did and gets no love from me at all.

AFTERLIFE

Ever since that terrible day, John Lennon has been remembered all around the world in so many ways. Paul, George, and Ringo reunited in 1994 for the Anthology project. Sadly in 2001, George Harrison lost his battle with cancer. Yoko Ono has made a memorial for John in Central Park. It’s called Strawberry Fields, named after the place John used to go to in Liverpool as a kid. For music listeners, the place is better known as one of the Beatles' hits. A huge circle that says IMAGINE in the middle has been the gathering place for all Beatles fans during the 9/11 attacks and George’s passing. Many just visit because they love the music.

John’s sons, Julian and Sean, have both followed in the footsteps of their father and have released some great music. In 2007, Yoko unveiled the Peace Tower in Iceland. This tower will shine a light every year on his birthday and on the day of his death.


Ronnie James Dio autobiography due for release in Spring 2012

Before he succumbed to stomach cancer in May 2010, Ronnie James Dio was working on an autobiography. It has recently been announced that the book will be published by MTV Books (at least they're putting out things related to music) in spring of 2012. Manager and widow of Ronnie, Wendy Dio, explained that she had until June 2011 to complete the book. According to Wendy on VH1Classic Rock Nights, Ronnie hand wrote almost everything and didn't use a computer. Wendy also has stated that the book was three quarters written before Ronnie passed away. According to the article on Eddie Trunk's site, the book will feature some 50 pictures spanning almost five decades of Dio's career. Wendy Dio has also stated her late husband was a good storyteller.
This is awesome but 2012? That'll take a while. Still, there's no doubt I'll pick up this book. How can you possible turn down reading a book written by the greatest singer in heavy metal music? If you do and you call yourself a fan, what the hell are you thinking? This should be good!

Judas Priest announce their Farewell Tour

According to Rolling Stone, Judas Priest have announced that their next tour in 2011 will be their last one. The band announced today that this will be their last world tour and promise fans that "With all guns blazing and amps cranked to 11", Judas Priest will go out with a bang. So far, only eight European dates for the summer have been announced but more should be coming.

When I read this on Rolling Stone, I literally gasped. This f*cking sucks! 2010 has been a highly disappointing year for my genre of music and maybe even music itself. This just ruins my day. Judas Priest are one of my my favorite bands ever and I love their music dearly. In the article from Rolling Stone, they did mention a number of phony farewell tours: the Who, Phish, Kiss, Cher, and others have all gone back to touring. However with the Scorpions also disbanding earlier this year, maybe Priest are picking the right time to quit. The band formed in 1969 with KK Downing and Ian Hill as the founding members. Along the way, they picked up Glenn Tipton and the metal god Rob Halford. In the 1990's, they hired Scott Travis. The band's last studio album, a concept album called Nostradamus, was a bit too epic for some fans although I can't say since I don't own the album. If Priest can give us one last album that's straight up ass kicking, balls to the wall, no bullshit album that's in the veins of Stained Class, British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance, Defenders of the Faith, and Painkiller then I can move on with my life. I will try my damnedest to see them, no matter where or when. It means "some heads are gonna roll" or even if it means "breaking the law", I will see the metal gods!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Beatles' Help! and Rubber Soul- 45 years later

The Beatles - Help!
The Beatles
Help!
1965
Rating: ****

Note: My entry is late since this album was released on August 6, 1965. Still, I had to do this before I reviewed Rubber Soul.

By the end of 1964, the Beatles had achieved enormous success and were the most popular band in the world at that point in time. With four albums and a motion picture under their belts, the Beatles were on a roll. In 1965, the band were ready to go and film their second motion picture Eight Arms to Hold You. However, that title was quickly changed to Help! The movie featured seven new songs by the boys. The movie itself was wacky. In this movie, the Beatles are on the run from a religious cult who want one of Ringo's rings, which happens to be a sacrificial ring. The songs in the movie and on the album are wonderful. First off, you got the self-titled track which is very catchy. In the Anthology doc, all the surviving Beatles think that John wrote the songs out of paranoia. "The Night Before" is a nice song from Paul while "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" is simply beautiful. John's voice blends in with the accoustic guitars nicely. George even gets to sing two songs, "I Need You" and "You Like Me Too Much". Of them, "I Need You" is the better one. "Another Girl" is a nice little song while "You're Gonna Lose That Girl" is just amazing. John's raspy and soulful vocals lead this song. Ringo's bongo playing makes the song even better. "Ticket to Ride" is another hit off the album, which is too catchy that it's infectious. Ringo takes vocals on the Buck Owens classic "Act Naturally". "Tell Me What You See" and "I've Just Seen A Face" are brilliant pop songs. Paul steals the show with the ballad "Yesterday". The album closes a bit weakly with a cover of "Dizzy Miss Lizzie". Overall, Help! is a wonderful album. Of my Top 200 albums, it ranks at #79.

The Beatles - Rubber Soul
The Beatles
Rubber Soul
1965
Rating: **** 1/2

Released on December 3, 1965 Rubber Soul marks the beginning of the band's maturity in songwriting. While the songs were still pop and catchy, the songs have more meaning than the band's previous material and sounds as if the band were given a little artistic freedom. The album kicks off with "Drive My Car", a catchy Paul written song. "Norwegian Bird" is a major highlight on the album as it features George playing the sitar, which George had started getting into during the filming of Help! "You Won't See Me" feels like filler but is still great. John writes some of the album's strongest songs such as "Nowhere Man" and "Girl". The best of them, however, has to be "In My Life" which is a beautifully written song. The song is very moving and emotional: little did John know, he would be dead within the next 15 years. Paul writes some nice songs on here such as the ballad "Michelle". "I'm Looking Through You" is said to have been written about Paul's girlfriend Jane Asher. Paul showed his love for her in "And I Love Her". Some fans and critics believe in this song, Paul was wondering if Asher had changed from the person he loved (as fate had it, Paul and Jane split in 1968 and Paul ended up marrying Linda Eastman in 1969). George gets better with his song writing on two songs: "Think For Yourself" and "If I Need Someone". Ringo even gets some input on the album but instead of singing a Lennon/McCartney song or a cover, he sings "What Goes On" which is credited to Lennon/McCartney/Starkey. Overall, Rubber Soul is a pop-rock masterpiece. In my top 200, it ranks at #45.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Michael Jackson's Vision DVD Review

Michael Jackon's Vision
Rating: ****

Michael Jackson did have a vision. It shows in all of the iconic music videos that he made in his career. Recently, all of Jackson’s videos have been released on the new DVD set Michael Jackson’s Vision. The set boasts three discs and 42 music videos. For most Jackson fans, this is something we’ve been waiting for.

The music videos of Michael Jackson have been released on home video before. In the late 1990’s, two collections called HIStory were released on VHS and DVD. Also in 2003, there was the Number Ones DVD to support the compilation of the same name. However, these sets didn’t include all of Jackson’s videos. With the popularity of YouTube and other video sharing sites, all of Jackson’s videos were able to be seen. Still, to have the missing videos on a physical DVD was not possible…until now.

Before I get to the features in this set, I want to start off with my main negative: the screen formatting of the actual videos. The back of the DVD case reads that the DVDs are formatted for widescreen TVs. A majority of Jackson’s videos were filmed in the 4:3 ratio, which is the main ratio for full screen. To support the widescreen videos and to enhance the quality, the full screen videos are placed in the center of the screen. Depending on what kind of DVD player or TV you have, the video might be surrounded by not two but four black bars. This is extremely annoying for many people. I find it that if you use a “zoom in” feature on your TV remote or DVD player, the top and bottom bars can go away. The black bars on the left and right can’t be removed. For the videos that were shot in widescreen, the screen is normal and has black bars on the top and bottom. If Michael Jackson had a vision, I’m sure it wasn’t surrounded by four black bars.

As for the actual content on the DVDs, it’s great. Disc 1 is probably the best of the two or three that are in the set. Disc 1 features material from Jackson’s three essential albums: Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad. All of these videos are in full screen, as described before. Still, try not to focus too much on the negatives: enjoy the videos. The videos for “She’s Out Of My Life”, “Dirty Diana”, and a few others are making their debut on DVD. The videos for “Smooth Criminal”, “Speed Demon”, “Come Together”, and “Leave Me Alone” are all pulled from Jackson’s 1988 movie Moonwalker. Disc 2 features material from the albums Dangerous, HIStory, Blood on the Dance Floor, and Invincible. Videos like “Remember the Time”, “Jam”, and others are all in widescreen. A few music videos have made their debut on DVD, including the whole 12 minutes of “You Rock My World” which features a cameo from the legendary Marlon Brando. Although the video isn’t in the ranks of “Billie Jean” or even “Thriller”, it’s still relevant. The third disc is actually a bonus disc. This one only has seven videos on it. The first three are promo videos from the Jacksons, which aren’t anything special. Jackson’s duet with Paul McCartney “Say, Say, Say” is on here. Although it’s incredibly corny, I love it because it was intended to be that way. The prison cell version of “They Don’t Care About Us” makes more sense than the one that was shown on TV. Also on here is a video called “Why” which is by the group 3T. 3T is a group that consists of Tito Jackson’s three sons. For “Why”, their Uncle Michael got to sing with them and appear in the actual video that is shown. The last video is “One More Chance”. This video, before then, was never released. The song, featured as the new track on the Number Ones compilation, was filmed in Las Vegas in 2003. The video was going to be released but before that could happen, police raided Neverland Ranch which would lead to Jackson’s 2004-2005 child molestation trial. The video isn’t that special in content. It’s basically an audience standing on a stage, while they watch Michael perform where they should be sitting.

Is it worth it to get Michael Jackson’s Visions? It really depends on what kind of fan you are. If you want everything the King of Pop has done, go and get it now. If you just want certain videos, you’re probably better off with the HIStory DVDs or Number Ones. Despite the whole formatting issue, this is an impressive release from the estate of Michael Jackson. Go out and get it!


Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Not Always Going to be This Grey: George Harrison's All Things Must Pass is 40

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass
George Harrison
All Things Must Pass
1970
Rating: **** 1/2

In April of 1970, the Beatles were no more. They had broken up and gone off with their own solo careers. Each member was now able to have artistic freedom without any fighting, which was what the Beatles had been in their last months together. For George Harrison, making a new album meant inviting all of his friends and releasing it as a triple disc set (which can now, luckily, fit all onto two CDs). Of the twelve studio albums Harrison made, All Things Must Pass is arguably his greatest. There’s a great variety of songs and they really show the true musician Harrison was.

All Things Must Pass wasn’t Harrison’s first solo album. In 1968, Harrison released Wonderwall Music which was a soundtrack to the movie of the same name (minus the “music” part). In 1969, Harrison got experimental on Electronic Sounds, which featured nothing but some forty minutes of synthesizers. All Things Must Pass is, for many fans, Harrison’s real first album. Many of the songs on the album were from the Beatles days, specifically from The White Album and Let It Be sessions.

The opening track, “I’d Have You Anytime”, is a wonderful opener. Harrison plays brilliantly on slide guitar and the lyrics are great. “My Sweet Lord” is probably the most popular song off the album, as it was the first #1 solo single for a Beatle. The background “Halleluiah” vocals give the song a very religious vibe. Harrison was sued a couple of years later, since Harrison had supposedly plagiarized the Chiffon’s hit “He’s So Fine”. Harrison’s manager and former Beatles manager, Allen Klien, was playing from both sides and may’ve started the lawsuit just for the money. Harrison ended up owning the rights for “He’s So Fine” and that was that. “Wah-Wah” is impressive for its guitar work from Harrison and his best friend, Eric Clapton, while “Isn’t It A Pity” is one of Harrison’s best ballads and also became a hit for him. “What Is Life” has a really catchy opening that’ll leave you hooked and wanting more. The music and lyrics are wonderful and I think this just might be my favorite song off the album. George also covers the Bob Dylan song, “If Not For You”. While I have yet to hear the original, this song sounds as if it’s George’s. “Behind That Locked Door” is a bit bluesy as George plays slide guitar (or is that a ukulele). The sound is hallow and echoes, which makes it special. “Let It Down” is a bit of a rocker that goes back to the Let It Be sessions while “Run of the Mill” concludes the first disc nicely.

The second disc opens with “Beware of Darkness”, a very chilling song. “Watch out now” sings George at the beginning of each verse. As always, George is shining on guitar. The next two songs are, in some way, autobiographical. “Apple Scruffs” is supposedly about Beatle fans that would wait outside of Apple Corps or Abbey Road Studios. “Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let it Roll)” is about the man himself, who was the original owner of George’s mansion Friar Park. “Awaiting on You All” follows in the same vein as “My Sweet Lord” but this time, there’s a lot more going on instrument wise. The song suggests that by “chanting the name of lord” you’ll be free. “All Things Must Pass” was rehearsed during the Let It Be sessions. This song shows how great George was at writing moving songs. “I Dig Love” is a bit dull but the second version of “Isn’t It A Pity” makes up for it. The album ends with the powerful “Hear Me Lord”. However, it isn’t really the end of the album. The third record (or today, it’s on the second disc) is a whole blues jam with George’s fans. Like most jam sessions, it goes on for a long time and it’s easy to lose interest.

All Things Must Pass earned George Harrison a hit album in the charts. Due to the album’s success, Harrison was able to continue his success with more wonderful music. In 2001, George Harrison reissued the album with bonus tracks and a new front cover, now in color. Harrison even re-recorded “My Sweet Lord” as a bonus track. Harrison died on November 29, 2001 after his long battle with cancer. All Things Must Pass is, without a doubt, George’s finest piece of work.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Axl Roses sues "Guitar Hero" for use of Slash and music in game

Axl Rose has been known to do some crazy things. This might top the list. Recently, Rose has sued Guitar Hero makers Activision for $20 million. Why? In the company's 2007 release of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock the game not only features "Welcome to the Jungle" but also features former guitarist Slash as a playable character. Rose had said Activision could use "Welcome to the Jungle" only if the game didn't include songs from Velvet Revolver, the supergroup that Slash (along with former GNR band mates Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum) is in. The game offered songs by Velvet Revolver to download. Rose's hate for Slash is showing clearly. In 2009 when Rose was asked whether he'd perform with any of his former GNR band mate, Rose described Slash as "a cancer and better removed, avoided".
Axl, Axl, Axl. Why are you doing this? Just kiss and make up with Slash. Thanks.

Note: This is my 100th post!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Queen's A Night At The Opera is 35

Queen - A Night at the Opera
Queen
A Night At The Opera
1975
Rating: ****

By 1975, Queen were still a new rock band trying to make it big. Formed in 1971, the band consisted of singer Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor. The band had already released three albums: Queen, Queen II, and Sheer Heart Attack. The band did have a few hit singles with "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Killer Queen" but still, the band hadn't really hit it big. That would change in 1975 when the band released A Night At The Opera. Released in 1975, the album was named after the Marx Brothers movie of the same name. The album boosted Queen to rock n roll stardom. Today, critics consider A Night At The Opera to be the band's best album.

The album opens with the bizarrely titled "Death on Two Legs". According to sources, the song was written by Mercury around 1972 out of his hate for Queen's former manager. With a lyric like "But now you can kiss my ass goodbye" sounds like Freddie is mad! "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon" and "Seaside Rendezvous" are both wonderfully weird while Roger Taylor's "I'm In Love With My Car" may have an amusing title but the song is really rocking. "You're My Best Friend" is one of Queen's best love songs, which was written by John Deacon. "'39" is a very catchy song while "Sweet Lady" has some great guitar work from Brian May. "The Prophet Song" might go on a bit too long but it's still enjoyable. "Love of My Life" is a wonderful ballad written by Mercury, who wrote it for his girlfriend (Mercury was bisexual) at the time. "Good Company" isn't very memorable but "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the best song off the album. The song, written by Mercury, is a six minute epic that showcases what Queen did best. The song itself isn't really about anything, nor could Mercury say what it was about before he passed away. "Bohemian Rhapsody" isn't only one of Queen's best songs but it's also one of the greatest songs ever made in rock history. From it's ballad-esque beginning to it's rocking finish, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a winner. The album, however, closes with the short and sweet "God Save The Queen".

A Night At The Opera currently sits at #52 of my top 200 favorite albums. I really do like this album and it's also my favorite from Queen. The success of this album and "Bohemian Rhapsody" would help the band go on for over a decade until 1991 when Mercury died from AIDS on November 24, 1991. For the 19th anniversery of Mercury's passing, this is my tribute to probably the greatest singer/front man in rock history.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Official: The Beatles are on iTunes!

Yesterday on Apple.com, the site's main page read "Tomorrow is another day...that you'll never forget". People were speculating what the announcement could be. Rolling Stone were hoping for a $10 monthly subscription for iTunes accounts. I myself thought "What if the Beatles came to iTunes?" I had no idea that I was right.

This is no joke: After many years of waiting, the Beatles are finally on iTunes. All 13 of the band's albums are available for $12.99, except The Beatles and Past Masters Vol. 1 and 2 which are $19.99. The price for one songs is $1.29. All the albums are from the critically praised remasters released last year. Each album also comes with the mini-documentaries just like the CDs had embedded on them (and if you bought the box set, you got a DVD with all of the docs on there). The price for the box set is $149.00. The albums also include the booklets, which are in a digital form iTunes calls iTunes LP. Also available are the Red and Blue albums which both sell for $19.99.

This is a huge day in Beatles history and iTunes history. I still can't believe the Beatles are on iTunes. A decade after I became a fan of this amazing band, their music is now on the internet to legally download. Also, you got most of the Beatles' solo careers up there as well. Still, this day doesn't do much for me. I already have the box set from last year, which I'm VERY happy with. My only fear with iTunes is that the new generation of fans won't get to know what it's like to own the albums on CD, even vinyl. I know that every true Beatles fan already own that box set. The packaging is gorgeous and worth every penny. It may not be the same but I hope putting the band on iTunes will introduce a new generation of fans to the greatest band of all time.

Below are statements made by Paul and Ringo, as well as John and George's widows Yoko and Olivia.

“We’re really excited to bring the Beatles’ music to iTunes. It’s fantastic to see the songs we originally released on vinyl receive as much love in the digital world as they did the first time around.”- Sir Paul McCartney (well said, Paul!)

“I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when the Beatles are coming to iTunes” At last, if you want it—you can get it now—The Beatles from Liverpool to now! Peace and Love, Ringo.” - Ringo Starr (as for autographs...PISS OFF! Just kidding! We love you, Ringo!)

“In the joyful spirit of Give Peace A Chance, I think it is so appropriate that we are doing this on John’s 70th birthday year,”- Yoko Ono (I 100% agree with Yoko. It does feel so right with John's 70th and the 30th anniversary of his passing that we honor the band he started)

“The Beatles on iTunes—Bravo!”- Olivia Harrison (That's it, Olivia? How do you think George would react? Still, good to hear from you. Don't get me wrong: Olivia kicks ass. Both metaphorically and physically)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Paul McCartney & Wings Band On The Run reissue review

Wings - Band on the Run
Paul McCartney & Wings
Band On The Run
1973
Album rating: **** 1/2
Bonus CD rating: ****
Bonus DVD rating: **** 1/2

In 2009, the Beatles catalogue was reissued and remastered for the first time since the albums were first issued on CD in 1987. This year, John Lennon’s solo albums and most of Apple Records’ acts albums have gotten the remaster/reissue treatment. Now, it’s Paul McCartney’s turn. However compared to the other Beatle-related reissues, McCartney’s reissues are being released by Macca’s MPL label and his new record label since 2007, Hear Music (which are associated with Starbucks. Yes, the coffee place). MPL and Hear Music have started “The Paul McCartney Archive Collection” with 1973’s Band On The Run. The albums have been released in four different versions. I bought the deluxe edition, which includes two CDs and a DVD. If you already own Band On The Run and are wondering if you should repurchase this new version, read this please.

First, I’ll start with the original album on the first disc. From what I’ve read, Band On The Run has been reissued a few times before on CD. The first time was 1987, then 1993, and then in 1999 for a special 25th anniversary edition. Before this, I’ve owned the 1987 master. Before I overwrote the old tracks with the new tracks on iTunes, I did a bit of a sound comparison. The 1987 masters aren’t bad at all. In fact, they are quite loud. When I heard the 2010 tracks, those are a bit louder. Still, I transferred the album. Overall, the album sounds great. I haven’t discovered anything new like I did with the Beatles reissues last year (which are required to get no matter who you are. Those old versions from 1987 were butchered compared to the new ones, although they aren’t particularly bad). I can say though that when you listen to the album, it feels like you’re in the studio with Paul, Linda, and Denny. There’s also a lot more emphasis on the bass playing. One thing that threw me off was that the song “Helen Wheels” was missing from the first disc. Instead, it’s on the second disc. Just as I figured, the US and international version of the album include the song as the eighth of ten tracks. This new reissue is following the UK release, which doesn’t have the song. If you use iTunes, this can be simply fixed after changing some info around without getting rid of your song count for the original album (read below for more info on how to do this, that is if it really bothers you). Aside from this, the new remaster album is still great. I just wish that they kept the fans from the US in mind.

The second disc has ten songs on it. One of them is “Helen Wheels”, as mentioned before. Another song on the disc is “Country Dreamer”, which is just alright. Also, there’s the song “Zoo Gang”, which Wings recorded for the short lived TV series of the same name. “Zoo Gang” previously appeared as a bonus track on Venus And Mars. I did another sound comparison, since I own Venus And Mars (as well as everything else Paul made with Wings except Wings Over America, which I do have on vinyl). The two tracks sound exactly the same. They are both just as loud. I mean, that was just from one brief listen. The other songs are a few songs from the 1974 documentary One Hand Clapping. The DVD actually has some great material on it. The DVD runs for some 90 minutes. First, you got the original promo videos for “Band On the Run”, “Mamunia”, and “Helen Wheels”. The first two aren’t anything amazing, although the first video does have is an artsy video with Beatles pictures in it. “Helen Wheels” is nothing much either but the picture looks really good. They did a fine job remastering that one!

However, the real treat on the DVD is the full-length 50 minute 1974 documentary, One Hand Clapping. Excluding bootlegs, the documentary has never been released. The quality of the video for the documentary is just alright. Still, it’s a golden nugget for die-hards. The documentary is of Wings rehearsing with their new line-up in 1974. At that time, Paul hired guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton. You get to see the band play Wings songs old and new, even unreleased. You also get to hear a bit from each member. As most of you probably know, I’m an avid fan of Jimmy McCulloch and just seeing how young he was in this is amazing. This also the first time I’ve heard anything from Geoff Britton, since he was only in the band for about six months. The DVD also includes a promotional video for the album and a 15 minute feature of the day the album’s iconic album cover.

Should you get the new Band On The Run reissue, although you own it already? It depends what kind of fan you are of Paul. You can get the single disc version but this deluxe edition is a real treat and it’s not expensive. If you are a die-hard Beatles fan or Paul fan, go and get this now. Also, there’s more to come from the Paul McCartney Archives Collection. With the album came a small paper showing pictures of future releases. These are the six albums that are pictured: McCartney, Ram, Venus And Mars, Wings At the Speed of Sound, Wings Over America, and McCartney II. No release date is given. I don’t think I’ll repurchase Venus And Mars and At the Speed of Sound unless they offer something that grabs me. Ram is my all time favorite album by Macca. I already own McCartney but my copy is scratched up just a bit. I do have Wings Over America on vinyl but it’s a bit scratchy. I’d love to buy it. Stay tuned for more McCartney!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Queen sign to Universal, reissues coming out next year

Recently, the three surviving members of Queen ended their 40 year stay with EMI and have now switched to Universal. Now that Queen is on Universal, the label plans to reissue 15 Queen albums. Starting in March 2011, Universal will reissue the band's first five albums which include:

Queen
Queen II
Sheer Heart Attack
A Night at the Opera
A Day at the Races

This is all being done in honor of the band's 40th anniversary since forming. There is no word on when the other albums will be released.

I'm a bit confused here. EMI have loss another one of their acts. First Paul McCartney, then the Rolling Stones, and now Queen. It must suck to be EMI. As for the reissues, I'm not sure if I'm going to get them. I own all of those five albums in different ways. I've got Queen II, Opera, and Races all on CD. I transfered the cassette of Queen to digital and got Sheer Heart Attack on iTunes (which is now on a CD-R, of course). The last time the Queen albums were touched was in 1991. That's nearly a 20 year difference. I think I'm happy with what I've got for now. Universal did the same thing with the Stones a year ago and not too many people liked the new reissue. For the Stones, I didn't get them. I'm already happy with what I got by them. The sound on them is great. I did, however, get Exile On Main Street just for that second disc.