Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lemmy movie review

 Lemmy - Lemmy
Rating: **** or **** 1/2 (I'm dead serious)

The reason why this movie isn't showing in all theaters is because it's too good for the theaters. This documentary on Lemmy Kilmister, simply titled Lemmy, could easily become one of the greatest movies about rock n roll ever made. Released about a year ago, Lemmy has been given a DVD release as well as a limited theatrical release. The DVD was released today on February 15, 2011. Movie critics have already been making a fuss over this movie and after watching it, it's easy to see why. This documentary brilliantly captures what makes Lemmy Kilmister one of rock n roll's icons. 

Lemmy was filmed over the course of about one or two years. According to the DVD booklet, the movie was filmed from April 2007 to December 2009. Like many rock documentaries today, the movie doesn't straight up tell you Lemmy's life from point A to point B. In between, there's some footage of Lemmy's everyday life. In the beginning of the movie, Lemmy talks about his influences. The movie then cuts to one of my favorite bits: Lemmy walking into a independent music store. He goes over to the section of the Beatles' remasters and takes a look at the stereo box set. He goes over to a clerk and asks if they have the mono box set. The clerk says no (it was hard to find the mono box set for weeks and weeks!). What does Lemmy do now? He browses through Pat Benatar. Luckily, the record store clerk runs over to Lemmy and gives him a copy of the Beatles mono box set. Lemmy thanks the store manager and she says she couldn't turn down a rock legend. A typical day for Lemmy. So, this movie shows Lemmy in present day (something like the scene mentioned above) and then cuts to something from the past. Dozens and dozens of artists were interviewed for this documentary including Lemmy's old band mates from the Rocking Vickers, Hawkwind, and of course Motorhead. They all talk about Lemmy's past and what it was like in those days. Lemmy's peers are also interviewed: Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper. Then there are interviews with those who Lemmy inspired: James Heitfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, Robert Trujillo (all from Metallica), Scott Ian, Slash, Matt Sorum, Duff McKagan, and Dave Grohl just to name a few. 

Lemmy's everyday life is captured brilliantly in this movie. We get a tour of his house. Now you'd think a guy as famous as Lemmy would have a mansion and the whole works. He doesn't. He lives by himself in a somewhat small and cluttered house. The walls are covered with gold and platinum records (some of them not belonging to Motorhead), posters, and even Nazi memorabilia. The latter is talked about in the movie. Lemmy turns out to be a real history buff and likes to collect such things. Lemmy himself is actually a very intelligent man, filled with wit and charisma. He saw the Beatles when they played at the Cavern Club and was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix. The man has seen a lot and has many stories to tell. One thing that is brought up over and over again is his lifestyle: Lemmy, who's currently 65, is still smoking and drinking. Unlike many rock stars, it seems to have not effect on Lemmy at all. Lemmy's son, Paul, is also interviewed. Paul shares a few stories about his father, most of which are hilarious. You'll also get to see Lemmy in the studio and on the stage. Even some his fans get a quick word. 

This review could go on and on.  If it did, you'd probably not have any interest of seeing the movie. If I haven't said it before, you must see this movie. No matter if you're not a fan of Motorhead (although it helps), you must see this movie. The DVD boasts up to an astounding three hours of bonus material. I haven't gotten through it all. The DVD set comes with two discs. On the movie disc, there's a 36 minute Motorhead show. The second disc seems to be filled with featurettes, all of which I still need to see. Lemmy is an amazing documentary and it is a must-see for all. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rush's Moving Pictures is 30

 Rush - Moving Pictures
Moving Pictures
Rating: ****

It was 1981. Canadian rock band, Rush, had been together for quite sometime. While they had some success, they still hadn't hit it big just yet. That would change in 1981 with the release of their eighth album Moving Pictures. Today, the album is considered the band's best. While that may sound like nothing, the band did perform the album in its entirety on their last tour. It just comes to show: the band likes it and the fans probably like it even more. 

Rush formed in 1968 with guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist/singer Jeff Jones, and drummer John Rutsey. Jones quit quickly and was replaced by bassist/singer and a school friend of Lifeson's, Geddy Lee. This line-up went on to record the band's debut album, which was release in 1974. Sales were a tad bit disappointing but the band had a cult following in the US with a minor hit, "Working Man". That was enough to allow the band to tour but Rutsey was forced to quit due to his diabetes and his dislike for touring. Lifeson and Lee were upset with Rutsey's choice but they understood (Rutsey later passed away in 2008). The band found a replacement in a young drummer named Neil Peart. Peart wowed Lifeson and Lee at his audition. Peart was in. Little did the band know but with Peart now in the band, this third incarnation of Rush would go on for over three decades. With Peart in, the band release albums like Fly By Night and Caress Of Steel. Neither of the albums did anything and if this fourth album did nothing, the band were doomed. In 1976, the band released 2112. The entire first side of the record was the epic self-titled track, written by Peart himself. 2112 boosted interest in the band and they were able to continue. For the albums after 2112, the band went more "out there" in terms of being a progressive rock band. By the time 1978's Hemispheres was released, the band decided that the music had gone over their heads. So for 1980's Permanent Waves, the band made the music a little more simple. An early example of things to come was the album's first song, "Spirit of the Radio".  In October 1980, the band were ready to record their next album. Little did they know, this album would turn out to be their biggest...

Moving Pictures opens with "Tom Sawyer", the band's best known song. The song was, of course, named after the Mark Twain character but the song has little to do with the character Twain created. Neil Peart had presented Lifeson and Lee the poem "Louis the Lawyer", written by Pye Dubois. The band decided to take the poem, expand it, and add music to it. The result: a classic rock/prog-rock masterpiece. Lee's vocals get higher by the chorus and Peart delivers an impossible-to-play drum solo in the song. Peart has admitted that  today, he can't play the solo perfectly as he did on the recording (which is was the closest thing to perfect!). "Red Barchetta" is quite a bizarre song about a sports car. Peart wrote most of the song around the short story "A Nice Morning Drive". The song is about a man who secretly drive this sports car on the weekends that his uncle keeps in his farm. This is all because the song is set in a future where most vehicles are banned due to "the Motor Law". Musically, this song is great and Lifeson's guitar work is something to listen closely to. "YYZ" is an instrumental track. YYZ is the identification code for Toronto, where the band lives. The rhythm and beat of the song was actually inspired by the sound those letter make in Morse code. Neil Peart noticed this and had the band make it into a song. Without a doubt, "YYZ" is one of Rush's best instrumentals. "Limelight" is, along with "Tom Sawyer", another radio friendly track. The song was written by Peart about his feelings being famous or in the limelight. The song sounds great is a very catchy. Lee's vocals sound great as well. Lifeson and Lee wrote the music to this song.

"The Camera Eye" starts off side two of the record. It is the longest song off the album, clocking in at almost 11 minutes. "Witch Hunt" is the first of four songs that make up Rush's "Fear series". Actually according to sources, "Witch Hunt" is part three in the series. The other parts ("The Enemy Within" from Grace Under Pressure, "The Weapon" by Signals, and "Freeze" from Vapor Trails). It has been said the all of these songs follow no story line but they all have to do with fear. In "Witch Hunt", the fear is based around manipulators and how they can use it on the ignorant. Much of this song is based from the Salem Witch trails in the late 1600's. The album's closer, "Vital Signs",  ends the album with a reggae feel. 

As of now, Moving Pictures is at #200 on my list of top 200 favorite albums. At first, I didn't what the big fuss over this album was about. For me, 2112 was the first Rush album I purchased. That one currently ranks higher. I think after listening to Moving Pictures and reading and hearing the stories behind the album, I think I'll have to swap this and 2112 around. Moving Pictures is probably the band's strongest effort. While I do like 2112, I think Moving Pictures is a bit more clear. Go ahead and yell at me all you want cause I don't give a crap. After listening to all of the Rush albums I own (four of them), Moving Pictures is the strongest of them. At least for me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guitar Hero R.I.P. (2005-2011)

Not only did we lose a guitar hero this week (Gary Moore) but we've also loss the actual video game franchise of the same name. That's right: According to Activision today in a statement to the press, they will no longer be making anymore new Guitar Hero games. Activision cited that the reason why they decided to pull the plug on the franchise is due to the poor and declining sales in not only Guitar Hero but the music game genre itself. The franchise's last release, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, sold poorly when released last fall. On the official website, Activision has an FAQ on what will now happen to the franchise. So far, we know there'll be no more downloadable content to add to the game as of February. However, stores will still continue to sell the games.

Well this is sad news but at the same time, it isn't. Also, it isn't too shocking. Sales for the game have been poor for years. I first got into the game in 2007 when I recieved Guitar Hero III as a Christmas gift. I instantly fell in love with the game and how it was almost renewing interest in my favorite bands. Suddenly, I felt like people would get this wonderful music. I've played the older game now and I think another reason why the franchise is ending is because it lost a lot of fans when III came out. The game was no longer being made by Harmonix and the look and feel of the game just wasn't the same. I think it was stupid to add the microphone and drums. It's called Guitar Hero! I don't think people have all the money, sadly. Also, this also means that Rock Band could be in trouble too. I really like Rock Band and don't want to see it go. Also, I hate how people today would rather play games like Halo or Call of Duty. I think someone would get a lot out of Guitar Hero and/or Rock Band. I mean, you don't really learn how to play an instrument but the game introduces some of the younger people to the older music. I think a kid would learn much more by playing a plastic guitar than pretending they're in the army and shooting people. Why do people want to play war games? We're still in a war with Iraq right now. Millions of soldiers have died. Why? I have no clue.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Riot's Fire Down Under is 30

 Riot - Fire Down Under
Fire Down Under
Rating: ****

In the crazy world of rock n roll, many bands have succeeded and have become superstars. Then there are those bands that barely scratch any surface and are ignored. A New York-based hard rock band named Riot, would build up a cult following amongst hard rock and heavy metal fans. Formed in 1975, Riot had already released two albums before the end of the 1970's: Rock City and Narita. The band's third album, Fire Down Under, was released on February 9, 1981. Fire Down Under turned out to be Riot's biggest album and Riot could've made it big. However management, ever changing record labels, and other bad luck kept the band from really making it. Still, Fire Down Under is considered by hard rock fans as a classic album in the genre and an overlooked one.

Riot formed in 1975 in New York. The band had one problem from the beginning: line-up stability. A line-up could last as long as one album. It turned out that guitarist Mark Reale and singer Guy Speranza would be the only original members who made it up to Fire Down Under. By 1981, Riot was in their fourth line-up. The band consisted of Reale, Speranza, guitarist Rick Ventura (joined in 1979), and new members bassist Kip Leming and drummer Sandy Slevin. The band had already been dropped by Capitol Records and management tried getting them signed to another label quickly. Eventually, Elektra Records released Fire Down Under and it managed to enter the Billboard top 100.

Fire Down Under starts off running with "Swords & Tequila", which opens with a killer guitar jangle. Speranza's vocals are powerful and an energy for the entire album. The self titled track is the shortest song on the album but it might be the heaviest off album: the band experiments with speed metal. Reale's solo is incredibly fast. "Feel The Same" softens things down a bit nicely. Speranza's singing on this song is outstanding. He goes from soft in the first verse and then starts letting it all out by the next verse. "Outlaw" is probably one of Riot's best known songs (if there is such a thing). The song had the potential of being a hit single, as the songs lyrics deal with the topic of gambling. With lyrics like "Bet your life on a silver ball/Spin it 'round the wheel/Will it land on the black or the red?/The outlaw's got no deal", the song is also well written. With catchy guitar licks and memorable lyrics, "Outlaw" should have been a hit. "Don't Bring Me Down" is a really nice rocker. The guitar work on here is hard to describe but it's got this "round-and-round" sound that's just insane. "Don't Hold Back" is another fast paced rocker that delivers. "Alter of the King" sounds has a Thin Lizzy-like feel to it: it has this wonderful, melodic guitar instrumental in the beginning. A minute and half in, the song gets straight to the rocking. "No Lies" is another slower song but the chugging of Reale and Ventura's guitar give the song an edgy feel to it. "Run For Your Life" is another fast paced rocker, which could be in the vein of speed metal. The album ends with an amazing guitar solo from Reale "Flashbacks", which also includes samples of speeches of Riot being mentioned (hence the title of the song).

Fire Down Under was a strong album indeed. However, it proved to be the band's last with Guy Speranza. In 1982, he left the band. It's been rumored that Speranza had a hard time melding the rock n roll life with his religion or that his girlfriend talked him out of it. Speranza eventually quit the music business and became an exterminator in Florida. Speranza later became diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and later died on November 8, 2003. Riot replaced Speranza with Rhett Forrester. Forrester sang on the band's next two albums, Restless Breed and Born In America (released in 1982 and 1983). Riot then faded away when an LA band called Quiet Riot became huge with their album Metal Health in 1983. In 1984, the band either broke up or went on hiatus. In 1986, Mark Reale resurrected the band (with a different line-up, of course) with singer Tony Moore fronting the band. In 1988, Riot came back screaming with Thundersteel. The album was considered as a comeback for the band and introduced people to the band. The band followed that album up with The Privilege of Power in 1990. Moore left the band in 1992 and the band went line-up crazy again (although they did have a secure line-up from 1992 till 1999). Still, Riot have stayed together and kept releasing studio albums. Since 2009, the Thundersteel era line-up have been reunited. Riot currently consists of singer Tony Moore (1986-1992, 2009-present), guitarists Mark Reale (only original member) and Mike Flyntz (1988-present), bassist Don Van Starvern, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek. This line-up is currently working on a new album (the band's first since 2006's Army Of One) that should be out sometime this year. 

In the end, Fire Down Under is a solid hard-rock album. For me, it ranks at #169 in my list of 200 favorite albums. That sounds about right given that I heard the album for the first time about a year or two ago. Overall, Fire Down Under is a classic album. Radio DJ and That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk lists Fire Down Under as one of his favorite albums. If you haven't listened to this album yet, what are you waiting for? Buy it!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gary Moore dead at 58

Gary Moore
April 4, 1952- February 6, 2011

Legendary guitarist Gary Moore was found dead this morning on February 6, 2011 while on vacation in Spain. Moore was staying at the Kempinski Hotel in Estepona, Spain. Moore was 58 years old. Moore's passing was confirmed by manager Adam Parsons. As of now, the cause of death is unknown.
Moore was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1952. One of the first bands Moore was in was a band called Skid Row (no relation to the American band of the same name). It was during his time in Skid Row that he met bassist Phil Lynott. Lynott, along with drummer Brian Downey and guitarist Eric Bell, went on to form Thin Lizzy in 1969. When Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell left suddenly in late 1973, Lynott asked Moore to replace him for the rest of the tour. Moore's first stay in the group was short, although he did get to contribute the guitar solo on the song "Still In Love With You", which was released in 1974 on the Night Life album. By that time, Moore had left and was replaced by guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. Moore was called in once again around late 1976 when Robertson had broken his hand in a fight. Moore stayed up until the band started recording Bad Reputation in 1977, which they mainly recorded as a trio. Robertson rejoined in 1977, only to leave again the following year. Moore was once again asked to join, this time as a permanent member of the band. This line-up released Black Rose: A Rock Legend in 1979. Black Rose is often thought by many to be one of the band's finest albums studio wise. Moore had a good stint with Lizzy but a little into the tour, Moore left. This was probably because he was more of a blues guitarist, not hard rock. Lynott and Moore would collaborate again in 1985 with the single "Out In The Fields". Moore then pursued a solo career, releasing both rock and blues albums. His most successful was probably 1990's Still Got The Blues. Moore had been still active in the music business. His last album was 2008's Bad For You Baby.
Current and former members of Thin Lizzy have shared their thoughts on Moore's passing. Former guitarist Eric Bell stated that he is "shocked" and that Moore seemed as if he was healthy. On the official Thin Lizzy page, both Scott Gorham and Brian Downey have made the following statements bellow:

"I am in total shock. I have known Gary since 1967 when he was in Platform Three and he's been an amazing friend ever since. It was a pleasure to play with Gary again in 2006 after his days with Lizzy.  He will always be in my thoughts and prayers and I just can't believe he is gone."- Brian Downey

"Playing with Gary during the Black Rose era was a great experience, he was a great player and a great guy. I will miss him."- Scott Gorham

As a huge Thin Lizzy fan, Gary's passing is a tragic loss for me and many other Lizzy fans. Gary was a great guitar player, as said before, and I think he has made his mark in both hard rock and blues music. Black Rose is my second favorite album from Thin Lizzy studio-wise, right behind Jailbreak

Rest in peace, Gary. 

Update 2/8/2011: It has been revealed today that post-mortem results have shown that Gary Moore may've died from a heart attack. According to Spanish police, the toxicology tests are yet to be done and that they are not thinking of Moore's death as suspicious. Also, a judge is expected to allow Moore's body to be brought back home.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

AC/DC's Let There Be Rock film to be out on DVD in June

It was reported last year that the AC/DC movie, Let There Be Rock, would be released on DVD at the beginning of 2011. I just checked radio DJ and That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk's Twitter page. According to one of his tweets, Let There Be Rock will be out on DVD in June. There'll also be some bonus material, which Trunk said he'll be in (he said it's been over a year since he was interviewed for the bonus material). What is it that makes Let There Be Rock so special? The movie, released in September 1980, documents the band's December 1979 performance at the Pavillion De Paris. Although the movie shares the same name of AC/DC's 1977 album, this movie has nothing to do with the album. The band had released Highway to Hell just a few months ago and were on tour. The movie isn't only a concert but it also has interviews with the band, in between, the performances. This movie also has shows a fine performance from Bon Scott, who would die in February of 1980. In the end, the movie is dedicated to him.

This is very cool news. I hadn't heard before that the movie would be out on DVD. I myself own it on VHS. It was one of the four or five things I got for my 11th birthday while on a shopping spree with my grandparents at Tower Records. Along with the Let There Be Rock album, this movie converted me into becoming an AC/DC fan (although Highway To Hell is my favorite album by the band). I'll be picking this up, for sure!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Janis Joplin's Pearl is 40

 Janis Joplin - Pearl
Janis Joplin
Rating: ****1/2

Just months after her untimely death, Janis Joplin's last album was released. The album, titled Pearl, was recorded from September 1970 till October 1970. Joplin died from a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970. Joplin was working on the album during the time her death. Luckily, she had previously recorded all the vocals for the songs except one. Her band, the Full Tilt Boogie Band, and Doors producer, Paul Rothchild, decided to finish up the album. In Joplin's lifetime, she had three albums out with her name on it: her two albums with Big Brother and her one solo album. However of the four albums she made, Pearl is the album people go back to. If there was one album that best defined Janis Joplin, it would probably be Pearl.

The album's opening track, "Move Over", is an energetic fueled track. Joplin's vocals are great in this rocker, which she wrote herself. "Move Over" is one of the album's highlights, as it has been covered by bands such as Slade and Cinderella. "Cry Baby" was another hit for Joplin. The song showcases Joplin's ability to sing softly then in the chorus, her voice would be soaring if not screaming. "A Woman Left Lonely" is a softer song but Joplin, as always, delivers. While Joplin might be great in this song, the Full Tilt Boogie Band play brilliantly. I mean, check out the organ solo (which is from Ken Pearson, according to sources. Hats off to you, man!). "Half Moon" switches up the mood back to upbeat. Once again, the musicianship in this song is great. The overall feeling of this song is funky, especially with the guitar riff. Also, have a listen to Joplin's vocals when she's belting "You're breaking the law!!" "Buried Alive in the Blues" is different from all the other songs off the album: it's instrumental. The reason why is because on the day Joplin died, she was supposed to record the vocals for the song. The reason why the instrumental track was left on the album is still a mystery to me. Still, this instrumental song gives the Full Tilt Boogie Band time to show off their skills. The song is really rocking and I've always liked it.

"My Baby" is probably the weakest song off the album but still, the song has its moments. Check out the chorus! "Me and Bobby McGee" is, of course, the #1 hit single off the album. The Kris Kristofferson-Fred Foster penned track has become one of Joplin's signature songs. Joplin's singing is great, especially when it gets closer to the end. "Mercedes Benz" is another unique track: Joplin is singing a capella. Co-written by Joplin, the song has become another one of Joplin's most memorable songs. You also got to love Joplin's cackling at the end. "Trust Me" is a deep cut off the album. Joplin's vocals are soulful and filled with emotion, while the Full Tilt Boogie Band burst out with this soul-fueled sound. "Get It While You Can" finishes the album off perfectly. With the Full Tilt Boogie Band rocking and Joplin belting in the end, you couldn't ask for a better ending.

As of now, Pearl ranks in my list of favorite albums at #38. It surprises me that a posthumous release would rank so high. I think this is because this is the album Janis wanted. Before she died, Janis was able to hear three finished songs: "Me and Bobby McGee", "Mercedes Benz", and "Get It While You Can". If Janis didn't like something about them, I'm sure it would've been in print. Pearl went to #1 in the Billboard charts and became Joplin's best selling album. Why is an album like Pearl so important? It's probably because it's one of the few posthumous albums that didn't get a bad rap (I mean, look at all the criticism Michael Jackson's  first posthumous album got). None of this was re-recorded. It was Janis Joplin, pure and simple. The sad thing about Pearl is that the album shows what could have been. Had Janis lived, she could've had a major comeback with this album. Still, the beauty of Pearl is probably because it best defines who Janis Joplin was.