Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent arrested for domestic violence

According the Rolling Stone and other sources, former Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent was arrested on Saturday in Tennessee for allegedly assaulting his wife and keeping the corpses of four dogs in containers at home. Vincent's wife, Diane Cusano (Cusano being Vinne's real last name), had rushed over to a Rutherford County Sheriff's office. Reports say that Mrs. Cusano smelt of alcohol and was covered in blood. Apparently, Vincent had smacked his wife and pulled her hair. He also thrown his wife to the ground, dragging her in a pile of broken glass. Cusano also said that the dead dogs were killed by their more aggressive dogs. Deputies who investigated the house did find the dead dogs. Cusano is healing from her wounds after being taken care of and the Rutherford Animal Welfare officers came to the house to investigate. Vincent was booked into the Rutherford County Detention Center at 11:30 pm on Saturday and was release 12 hours later after posting a $10,000 bond. Vincent is scheduled to appear at court on June 23. Vincent joined Kiss in 1982, replacing Ace Frehley. Vincent's character was the Egytian Warrior when he went on tour with Kiss on their tour for the Creatures of the Night album, which Vincent had co-written most of the songs for. The band removed the make-up in 1983 with the release of Lick It Up, which saw Vincent taking co-writer credit for eight of the album's ten songs. Vincent was fired in 1984 due to personal conflicts in the band. Vincent later formed the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, which lasted from 1986 to 1988.

I'll be honest: This news shook me a bit. Vinnie has been staying quiet for years. He did make his last public appearances around 1996 and 1997 at several Kiss Expos. Other than that, he's been suing Gene and Paul continuously since he says he isn't getting royalites for the songs he wrote with Kiss (Gene was quoted to saying that Vinnie never signed a contract to join Kiss, therefore making him an unofficial member in legal terms). I've read a bunch of things on Vinnie and get the feeling that the guy is a bit of an oddball. Still, I wish the best of luck to Vinnie. Hopefully, things will get better for him.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Joe Perry denies Aerosmith's appearance on American Idol finale, reveals info on band's new album

Last week, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry announced that the band will not make an appearance on the finale for American Idol on May 26 despite singer and Idol judge Steven Tyler saying the band would. Tyler had confirmed that the band would perform at the finale. According to Perry, he and the other three members of Aerosmith don't have any interest of playing on the show since they don't have anything to promote. Also, Perry says it would be impossible for the band to appear on the Season 10 finale of the Fox hit TV show since guitarist Brad Whitford has a gig that night with Experience Hendrix. Meanwhile, Aerosmith are still working on their long awaited 15th studio album and according to Perry, the band will be finished with recording in July and August. Perry has also confirmed that the new album is being produced by Jack Douglas. Douglas is no stranger to Aerosmith, as he had produced most of the band's earlier albums such as Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks, and Draw the Line just to name a few. Douglas did get credit as co-producer for the band's last studio album, which was 2004's Honkin' On a Bobo. Perry also stated that the band just might play on Idol next season.
It seems that there's still some lack of communication between Steven and Joe still. Guys, cut the crap and get rolling! Aerosmith fans have been waiting for a kick-ass album for the longest time. No offense but even though I don't own the newer albums (including Get A Grip, Nine Lives, and Just Push Play), hardcore fans want the real deal. No poppy songs. We want straight up, ass kicking rock n roll ala Toys and Rocks. I'm overjoyed to hear that Jack Douglas is producing the album and I agree with Perry: it's the "icing on the cake" indeed. As for not being on Idol, I could care less. I've mentioned before that Idol was once a guilty pleasure of mine but I gave up on it after Season 8, I think. I only saw some of this season and some of Steven's madness. Unfortunately, the new format is working and the show will be back in 2012. Still, Steven being on the show doesn't seem to be really slow the band down. I think I'll just wait for the new album, which doesn't look like it's coming out this year...or is it?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mick Jagger forms a unique supergroup

The Rolling Stones will turn 50 years old next year but singer Mick Jagger has announced a new side project. According to Rolling Stone and various other sources, Jagger has formed a supergroup called Super Heavy. This eclectic group includes Jagger, former Eurythmics member Dave Stewart, singer Joss Stone,  reggae singer (as well as Bob Marley's youngest child) Damian Marley, and Indian film composer A.R. Rahman. The group has been together for two years, actually. They have been working for the last 18 months on their debut album, which should be released sometime in September. Jagger and Stewart have been interviewed recently, saying this project has been very experimental. Though different from the Stones, Jagger is confident fans will like the group. As far as a tour next year, Keith Richards recently said that they could "if Mick and Charlie feel like I do", as Keith misses playing for a crowd. When Mick was asked about a tour next year, he chuckled and said "I don't have any announcement to make at the moment. I'm just, uh, ya know...just doing this right now."
Well this is very interesting. It is very experimental...sounds like something Brian Jones would've done as far as Indian music is concerned. Sure, I'll pick up the debut album. I've been enjoying the New York Dolls, Uriah Heep, and Anvil. Super Heavy are welcomed to join the club! As for a Stones tour, I would really like to see the band tour. 50 years is something to celebrate. I saw the guys in September 2002 during the Licks tour, which celebrated their 40th anniversary (God, has it been that long ago?). It was a fine show but I'd love to see them again. Also, I'd like to see another album from the Stones. If it's the last tour, at least they'll go out blazing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ram On: Paul McCartney's Ram is 40

 Paul McCartney - Ram
Paul McCartney
Rating: **** 1/2

           In 1970, the Beatles had broken up for good. For Paul McCartney, he had stopped making music for quite some time until May 17, 1971: on that day, he and his wife Linda released Paul’s second solo effort entitled Ram (it’s the only album credited as a Paul & Linda McCartney record). The album was critically praised and still is today. For many, Ram just might be Paul McCartney’s best solo album (not including the albums he did with Wings). For me, Ram ranks at #27 on my list of favorite albums (which also makes it my second favorite post Beatles album from any of the Beatles, with Plastic Ono Band beating it at #15). McCartney said in the 2001 Wingspan documentary that he thinks Ram is a very interesting album to look back on.
            When the Beatles broke up in April of 1970, Paul McCartney had released his first solo album entitled McCartney. The album was a success and it indeed put the “solo” in “solo album”: aside from backing vocals from Linda, McCartney plays every instrument on the album. After the release of McCartney, McCartney decided to take a break from the music business. He, his wife Linda, his adopted daughter Heather, and his newborn daughter Mary all left to live on a farm on the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland. During this time, people had thought the McCartney’s had disappeared for good. It turned out they were just on a holiday. However during this holiday, Paul and Linda started writing material for a future album. In the fall of 1970, the McCartney’s moved to New York and decided to record Ram there. Paul tried to form a little bit of a solo band during the making of Ram: he had guitarists Dave Spinoza and Hugh McCracken and drummer Denny Seiwell. Ram was also recorded in Los Angeles in February and March 1971.
            “Too Many People” is a great way to start a great album. As many die-hard Beatles fans know, the song is supposedly directed towards McCartney’s old pal John Lennon. In a 1984 interview with Playboy, McCartney admitted that the lyrics did take a dig at Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono. The lyric of “Too many people preaching practices” was directed at Lennon and Ono’s involvement in protests. There’s also the lyric of “That was your last mistake/You took your lucky break and broke it in two”.  At the time of its release, Lennon thought a lot of the songs on Ram were about him. Lennon would reply later in the year to McCartney with “How Do You Sleep” on Imagine. Still musically, “Too Many People” is one of Paul’s best. Just check out the instrumental break towards the end. Amazing! “3 Legs” is a bit of an oddball song and a reoccurring theme on the album. “My dog, he’s got three legs” sings McCartney. “But he can’t run”. The lyrics seem to be about betrayal and perhaps bullying (“You can knock me down with a feather, yes you could/But you know it’s not allowed”). “Ram On” appears twice on the album, both of which are short and simple. “Dear Boy” sounds like something Paul would’ve done on The White Album easily. Paul might’ve written it about how lucky he was to have Linda. However, John Lennon thought the song was another jab at him. No matter what the song is really about, “Dear Boy” is a wonderfully arranged musically and has some nice backing vocals from Linda. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is, of course, the hit single off the album. The first half of the song is slow and moody. The song gets more upbeat during the “Admiral Halsey” part, where Linda sings “Hands across the water/Heads across the sky”. According to Paul years later that “Uncle Albert” was based on his own uncle, saying that he was someone Paul recalled fondly and that the song came as a “nostalgia thing”. As for “Admiral Halsey”, McCartney cites he refers to William Halsey. The end of the song then leads into the energetic rocker, “Smile Away”. The song is more of a slow rocker and has some really nice harmonies.
            Side two kicks off with the harmonious “Heart of the Country”. The song is about a man looking for a home in the middle of the country. “Heart of the country/Where the holy people grow” sings Paul. “Heart of the country/Smell the grass in the meadow” One might think that the song could be loosely based on the McCartney’s trip to Scotland. “Monkberry Moon Delight” just might be one of the weirdest songs Paul ever wrote. The song is simply about nothing and could easily Paul’s “I Am the Walrus” in some way. One would assume that Paul and Linda were stoned when they wrote this one. How weird does this get: “When I leave my pajamas to Billy Budapest/And I don’t get the gist of your letter”. For me, “Monkberry Moon Delight” is certainly my cup of tea and is my personal favorite song off the album. I like how raw the song sounds and the drunken sound of Paul’s vocals, which sound very much like “Oh! Darling”. “Eat At Home” is a great song from the album. Paul and Linda sing this innocent little song together. Now listening to the song, there’s something raunchy about this song. In other words:  if you seriously think this song is about eating, think again. The bridge part of “And in the morning you bring to me/Love”. I really like how “love” is exaggerated. Things are taken down a notch with the wonderful, “Long Haired Lady”. Again, Paul and Linda do it again with the harmonies: “Sing your song/Love is long/Love is long”. After a reprise of “Ram On”, we arrive at the last song on the album “The Back Seat of My Car”. Believe it or not, the song started out as a Beatles song during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. A majority of Paul’s songs that didn’t become Beatles songs ended up on McCartney. “The Back Seat of My Car” fits perfectly on Ram. The lyrics are wonderful and in some way, it’s almost like a mini-epic. My personal favorite part of the song: the coda/ending of “We believe that we can’t be wrong”. It just sounds so beautiful and makes Ram a very warm-sounding album.
            Ram did very well in sales. It reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the US. Reviews for the album were mostly positive but there were those that were mixed, such as Rolling Stone. In June 1971, Paul asked Richard Hewson to orchestrate an instrumental version of Ram. The project was completed but remained shelved until 1977 (the album, Thrillington, was released under Paul’s pseudonym name Percy “Thrills” Thrillington). This was because in late 1971, Paul and Linda formed a new band called Wings. On Ram, Paul had tried forming a band but guitarists Hugh McCracken and Dave Spinoza did not want any part in this new band. Drummer Denny Seiwell agreed to join Wings, along with former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine. In December 1971, Wild Life was released. Now at 40 years old, Ram has certainly become a classic album. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Queen banned from Alaska high school due to Freddie Mercury's sexual orrentation

Just recently, crazy news has surfaced from Watsilla, Alaska. At Watsilla High School, principal Dwight Probasco has stopped the school's symphonic jazz choir from performing rock band Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" at the upcoming graduation ceremony. Why? Apparently, a parent complained to Probasco that the band's late lead singer Freddie Mercury was a gay man. So in short, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen has been banned since the singer and composer, Freddie Mercury, was a gay man. This news has made headlines and has even led to one angry choir member to get a LGBT support group nearby Anchorage to get involved, who helped her get this referred to an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. To avoid being a target of the ACLU, Probasco has allowed the choir to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody"...under one condition: the choir does not sing the the verse about Mercury killing a man. 
I was very angry when I heard this news. This just comes to show that there are people who are completely ignorant of the music and the people behind it. Well, then I suppose the school can't perform anything by Elton John, Liberace, or Aaron Copeland. In fact, I think Freddie wrote a song about Mr. Probasco 35 years ago (although it's really about Queen's former manager at the time). The song is called "Death On Two Legs". You're welcome. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Anvil's "Juggernaut of Justice" review

 Anvil - Juggernaut of Justice
Juggernaut of Justice
Rating: ****

Canadian metal band Anvil have been together for over 30 years as of 2011. The band's heavy sound influenced many, especially thrash metal bands like Metallica and all of the "Big 4". The band's second album, Metal on Metal, was released in 1982 and became an underground hit as did the follow up, Forged In Fire. The band almost disappeared and no one knew what happened to them. It turned out the band was still active in the 1990's and the 2000's. In 2009, the band were the subject of the award winning documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. The documentary, directed by Sacha Gervasi (a screenwriter who toured with the band as a roadie in the 1980's when he was just a teenager), tells the story of Anvil to some extent but documents the band from late 2005 till 2007. The band was broke and were going through hell. The band's last album, This Is Thirteen, was recorded during the time the documentary was filmed. The documentary has done a lot for Anvil: it has renewed interest in the band and introduced the music to more people. Anvil's current album, Juggernaut of Justice, is the band's 14th studio album. The band consists of original and founding members guitarist/inger Steve "Lips" Kudrow and drummer Robb Reiner, along with bassist Glenn Five (aka G5, he's been in the band since 1996). Juggernaut of Justice is a very heavy sounding album and sees a little bit of experimentation on some songs: Reiner tried his hand at jazz drumming for this album, influenced by drumming legends Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. 

The self titled track starts off the album with a marching guitar riff, probably in the vein of Judas Priest. Kudrow sings on all the songs but isn't known as a great singer but for the genre of heavy metal, he's pretty good. He is an impressive guitarist and this song is just one example. Many other songs like "On Fire", "Turn In Up", and "Not Afraid" also sound very much like old-school traditional heavy metal song ala Priest, Black Sabbath, or Iron Maiden. When you listen to these songs, it's easy to see how the guys in Metallica were influenced by these guys. Another highlight off the album impressive "balls-to-the-wall" head-banger "When All Hell Breaks Loose", which has some fast and furious guitar work from Kudrow.  One my my personal favorites is a song called "Fukeneh!" (pronounced like "Fuckin' Eh" but probably has creative spelling due to the correct spelling or a shirt that that Kudrow is frequently seen wearing), which could be in the running as the next great metal anthem. The guitar lick is catchy and the background chants in the chorus of "Fuckin' Eh!" gives the song a very rebellious vibe. If you happen to be a fan of older Anvil, check out "The Ride": it sounds very much like "March of the Crabs" from Metal on Metal except it has lyrics. "Conspiracy" has a funky sounding opening lick that lead the entire song, which makes it a stand out for me at least. "Paranormal" is the longest song off the album, clocking in at seven minutes, but it's a very interesting piece: think of it as Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral" meets Pink Floyd. How awesome is that? The last song, "Swing Thing", is another highlight. As mentioned before, Reiner does some jazz-like drumming on here. However, you can also hear a horn playing. Turns out the horn player is the album producer's (Bob Marlette) wife! So what you have is a combo of metal and jazz music. anvil might've started a new genre (which ex-Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach jokingly referred to as "horny metal" on That Metal Show). 

Juggernaut of Justice is a nice release from Anvil. The production is pretty good and the sound is phenomenal. Well done, Anvil! Fukeneh, indeed! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Major Pink Floyd campaign offers reissues and box sets

EMI have done it again: On September 27, EMI will start a major series of reissues from Pink Floyd. The campaign, titled Why Pink Floyd, will unveil new reissues and box sets that boast unreleased material. It took me a while to totally understand how it'll be broken down but here it is.

The Main Box Set, or Discovery editions

The box set, Discovery, will feature all 14 studio releases by the band. All of the albums have been digitally remastered and will have new packing, compared to the 1994 issues that are out now. All the releases will be sold individually as well. The albums include The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saurcerful of Secrets, More, Ummagumma, Atom Heart Mother, Meddle, Obscured by Clouds, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall, The Final Cut, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and The Division Bell.

These will all be released on September 27.

Experience Editions and Immersion Editions

Along with these reissues, there'll be other releases. For the albums Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall, they will also be released in a two-disc format (or in the case of The Wall, three). The extra discs will include never before released or heard tracks either live or in the studio. The two disc editions are being referred to as the Experience Editions.

The Immersion Editions are something die-hard fans may want to save up money on. These sets will take the three previously mentioned albums (Dark Side of The MoonWish You Were Here, and The Wall) and will be expanded to astounding SIX DISC box sets (for Wish You Were Here FIVE and for The Wall, SEVEN). Now what on earth is on these discs? Amazon will only give information for Wish You Were Here so I'll base everything on that, I guess.

The box sets will all come with the original album and the bonus disc given on the Experience Editions. The third disc is the album on a DVD Audio with a 5.1 mix and even a Quad mix (for WYWH at least). A regular DVD with "audio visual" content will be the fourth disc. The fifth (or last disc. I'm lost at this point) disc will be a Blu-Ray disc with everything the DVD has. Also included in these lavish box sets will be a hardback book designed by Storm Thorgerson with photos, a ticket replica, a backstage pass replica, marbles, coasters, collector's cards, art work from Thorgerson, and even a scarf!

Here are the release dates for all these things...

Dark Side of the Moon Experience and Immersion: September 27
Wish You Were Here Experience and Immersion: November 8
The Wall Experience and Immersion: February 28, 2012

Best of Collection and vinyl

A new compilation called A Foot In The Door will be released on November 8. The collection will feature 16 classic by the band.
All 14 of the albums should receive a vinyl release at some point.

This is massive, for sure. Also, I think it says something about EMI and Capitol: they need money...badly. I mean, this is just too much. I've said this before about reissuing: the listeners are not made of money! Just recently I've completed getting 14 of those albums (ending with Lapse and Bell, given they didn't have Roger Waters on them). I did (I'll admit) get Animals on iTunes and when Rick Wright passed, no one would take me out to get a legit version of Dark Side (I had a CD-R) so I got it off of Amazon's MP3 store. Everything else I have from the 1994 CD issues (aside from The Final Cut, Lapse, and Bell). Pink Floyd are my fourth favorite band (with The Who at third, Stones at second, and Beatles at first) of all time but this is ridiculous. Most likely, I won't get any of these because I'm happy with the 1994 issues unless it's given to me as a gift. I would like to check out the Dark Side box set though. Overall, I really see this as the record label's way of taking our money. Also, this was quite random since the band isn't celebrating any special anniversaries or anything. I think this might have been partially  a result from a lawsuit that the surviving members of Floyd  filed a year ago concerning the band's catalog being available on online digital music stores. Also, the tracking list for that compilation is weak. Personally, I think Echoes is the best introduction to the band's career. It worked for me almost ten years ago (has it really been that long?). If you don't have any albums by Floyd for some odd reason, then I guess this is worth looking at.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Paul McCartney is engaged

Former Beatle Paul McCartney has recently told People Magazine that he and his longtime girlfriend, Nancy Shevell, are engaged. McCartney, 68, has been with Shevell, a 51 year old business woman and NYC transit board member,  for four years. This will be McCartney's third marriage, a first for any Beatle. Before then, all four Beatles had been married twice. McCartney actually was the last of the four Beatles to get married. He was in a relationship with Jane Asher from 1964 till 1968. The two were engaged but it didn't last long. In 1969, McCartney married New York photographer Linda Eastman. Paul adopted Linda's daughter from her previous marriage, Heather. Paul and Linda had three children together: Mary (born 1969), Stella (born 1971) and James (born 1977). Paul and Linda were together until 1998 when Linda died after her battle with breast cancer. In 2002, Paul married model Heather Mills. Together, they had a daughter named Beatrice (born 2003). In 2006, the couple separated and by 2007, the divorce was final. 

I'm very surprised that Paul has decided to get married again. I can't stand Heather. I did meet her and Paul on April 16, 2002 and she did seem nice from that one meeting but other than that, she seems like a bitch. Nancy seems like a nice person. I wish both Paul and Nancy the best. Congrats!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Uriah Heep's "Into The Wild" review

 Uriah Heep - Into the Wild
Uriah Heep
Into The Wild
Rating: ****

It might be hard to believe but Uriah Heep have been together for over 40 years. Their new album, Into The Wild, is the band's twenty-third studio album, their last being 2009's collection of re-recordings Celebration. Much like their last original studio album, Wake The Sleeper, Uriah Heep show that they are still a powerful driving progressive rock band and almost a rebirth of the band's sound in the 1970's. The band currently consists of singer Bernie Shaw (since 1986), guitarist Mick Box (since 1969, making him the only original member), former David Bowie and Wishbone Ash bassist Trevor Bolder (1977-1981, 1983-present), drummer Russell Gilbrook (since 2007) and keyboardist Phil Lanzon (since 1985). Into The Wild is another great entry in the band's discography.  
Into The Wild opens with a very catchy tune called "Nail On The Head". It'll be stuck in your head, for sure. The lyrics are strong as is the music. Bernie Shaw's vocals are superb here and Mick Box delivers a wild guitar solo. The song is great but some people have pointed out something that's hard to ignore: the chorus sounds a bit like the Gap Band's "Oops Upside The Head". I really don't want to see a lawsuit breakout but I'm just putting it out there. "I Can See You" sounds a bit like "So Tired" from 1974's Wonderworld but whatever: the song is good. I love how it's very keyboard/organ driven. The self titled track opens with this droning keyboard sounds that eventually bursts into a fast-fueled rocker. The lyrics warn: "Don't cry little sister" and that there's "Red blood on the white snow". These lyrics create an image in your head, don't they?! "Money Talk" has this absolutely killer "stomping" rocker feel, lead by Russell Gilbrook's drumming and Phil Lanzon's keyboard playing. The chorus of "Down for the money" sounds wonderful as the band harmonizes on vocals. The instrumental section sounds something straight out of one of the band's earlier albums from the 1970's! Songs like "I'm Ready" and "Believe" give proof to what I previously said that there's till some "umph" in this band while a song like "Trail of Diamonds" is almost like a mini-epic, close in the vein of "July Morning" from 1971. "Southern Star" is just excellent, as it tells the tale of setting sail. The rising "Oh oh oh" vocals make it feel like somewhat of a sea shanty, except it's coming from a rock band. "Lost" sees bassist Trevor Bolder taking lead vocals, which isn't a first for Bolder. He's sung on a few Heep songs before and did sing for Wishbone Ash for a short time. Bolder has a nice voice and it's suited for progressive rock. "T-Bird Angel" might be the weakest song on the album but it's still got its strengths: its much like a "jock rock" kind of song, which is interesting. The album ends with the brilliant ballad (I refuse to call it a power ballad) "Kiss of Freedom". The chorus is well written: "We'll taste the kiss of freedom/It calls our name and everyone will shine/The truth is yours and mine". 
Into the Wild is a hell of a Uriah Heep album. If you are a fan, then why don't you have it now like I do? It's a powerful album from a great band. It shall not disappoint any Heepster, for sure. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Like A Loaded Gun: Aerosmith's Rocks at 35

 Aerosmith - Rocks
Rating: **** 1/2

It was 1976. Aerosmith had hit it big with their third album, Toys in the Attic, the year before. How could they follow it up? The band did just that in 1976 with their fourth studio album, Rocks. Many fans and critics alike agree that it’s the best album made by the bad boys from Boston. Rocks is my favorite Aerosmith album. For some time, it used to be Toys in the Attic. After a couple of listens, Rocks grew on me: it’s much rougher and edgier than Toys. It currently ranks at #30 on my list of favorite albums.
Aerosmith formed in 1970 in Boston. The band originally consisted of singer Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Ray Tabano, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer. Tabano got the axe very quickly and was replaced by Brad Whitford. In 1973, the band released their self-titled debut album on Columbia Records. Sales were somewhat disappointing although later in 1976, the band had a hit with “Dream On”.
The opening to “Back in the Saddle” is quite exciting: the song just keeps building up until Steven Tyler screams “I’M BACK!”. “Back in the Saddle” is, without a doubt, a kick ass rock n roll song. It’s mean and raw, for sure. The song has been used for sporting events to get the crowd pumped or it’s just something athletes would have cracked up in the locker room. The fact of the matter is that the song has nothing to do about sports: it’s about sex! However, it uses the idea of sex and cowboys: “Peelin’ off my boots and chaps/I’m saddle sore/Four bits gets you time the racks/I scream for more/Fool’s gold out of their mines/The girls are soaking wet/No tongue’s drier than mine/I’ll come when I get back”. Who writes this anyway?! According to sources, the whip effect heard on the song is actually a 30-foot chord from the studio and the crack is actually the fire of a cap gun. The band did try using a bullwhip but it didn’t work out! Tyler’s vocals are amazing on here and his screams and screeches make it an instant Aerosmith classic. For “Last Child”, you got a funk-rock combo that is oh-so-good. It’s really a cross between blues rock and funk or boogie music. The lyrics, however, are unclear. In the Walk This Way autobiography, I remember reading that “Last Child” is about the clap. I don’t see how it can be. To me, it seems to be written as a comparison between living in the city and living in the country. The guitar work of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford is just great. “Rats in the Cellar” is simple rough and rowdy rocker. In some ways, the song could describe that album as a whole. With lyrics like “Skin’s turning yellow”, one would think the song is about drugs. Bassist Tom Hamilton once said that the song the “take this thing the Yardbirds created, and making it balls to the wall”. One source says the song was inspired by death of the band’s drug dealer. “Combination” marks the first time Joe Perry gets solo songwriting credit to a track. The music is indeed rocking but the lyrics are pretty deep. The song seems to be about a person who can’t stop using his money on drugs.
“Sick as a Dog” starts off side two of the album. In this song, the lyrics seem to deal with young love. It’s either that or the idea of someone being sick or lusting for this one person (“You’re the only friend I got”). The next song, “Nobody’s Fault”, is easily one of the band’s best songs. It could also be the heaviest song they ever made. The opening is just a dark guitar sound before the music kicks in and gets heavy. The lyrics, written by Tyler and Whitford, preach of an Armageddon and how mankind has failed. Tyler preaches: “Eyes are full of desire/Mind is so ill at ease/Everything is on fire/Shit piled up to the knees/Out of rhyme or reason/Everyone’s to blame/Children of the season/Don’t be lame”. The chorus of “Sorry, you’re so sorry” sounds a tad bit pop but the harmonies on the vocals are just great. “Man has known/And now he’s blown it/Upside down and hell’s the only sound/We did an awful job/And now they say it’s nobody’s fault” Tyler continues to preach on. The song has been covered by thrash metal band Testament and former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash cites the song as one of his favorite Aerosmith songs. Drummer Joey Kramer thinks his drumming on this song is one of his personal best (and he’s right!). Both Kramer and Whitford  say that “Nobody’s Fault” is their favorite Aerosmith song. I must say that “Nobody’s Fault” is also my favorite Aerosmith song. “Get The Lead Out” is certainly not about Led Zeppelin but about a crush someone has on a girl. Tyler is clearly flirting: “Hey there good lookin’/What’cha got there cookin’”. The guitar playing on here is really cool. “Lick And A Promise” is fast little rocker, making it the shortest song on the album. According to Steven Tyler the song is about “going out and winning and audience. It’s a tough thing to do. It’s just one of our songs that’s just a real moment in time”. The Album then comes to a wonderful finish…with a ballad. “Home Tonight” is a tender reminder for the singer’s lover to “hold on real tight” since he’ll be “home tonight”.  With an album as rocking as Rocks, closing the album with a ballad seems to be risky. However, the result is beautiful.
Rocks ended up selling many copies and quickly reach platinum status. Radio DJ and That Metal Show host, Eddie Trunk, considers Rocks to be the best Aerosmith album. Former Guns N Roses guitarist Slash praised Rocks many times, saying it changed his life. While Slash was making an attempt to get laid by a hot girl in school, he was taken to her room and listened to records with her. When Rocks played, Slash was amazed. He guesses that he may’ve listened to the album “a half dozen times” in her bedroom and ignored the girl in the process.
“The whole purpose of my being there completely went out the window” he said in 2007.
Metallica guitarist/lead singer James Hetfield has stated that Rocks was an important influence in his music. He also said that it was because of Aerosmith, he started learning to play the guitar. It seems that Rocks is indeed an essential album for the hard rock genre. 35 years later, it’s still relevant. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Deep Bands: Love

 Love - Love
Picture: Cover of Love's debut album
Left to right: Alban "Snoopy" Pfisterer, Ken Forssi, Arthur Lee, Johnny Echols, and Bryan MacLean

There were a lot of bands in the West Coast area that made it big in the late 1960’s. However, there was one band in particular who could’ve been bigger. The band’s name was Love. Although they aren’t well known by casual music fans, Love’s music is still critically acclaimed by rock music critics alike. The band is now remembered as one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands ever and their leader, Arthur Lee, is seen as a “cult hero”.
            Arthur Taylor was born on March 7, 1945 in Memphis, Tennessee. Arthur’s father was Chester Taylor, a jazz cornet player, and his mother was Agnes Taylor, a school teacher. When Arthur was eight years old, his mother remarried to Clinton Lee. Clinton Lee adopted Arthur and therefore making Arthur Taylor now Arthur Lee. Lee, an African American, attended Dorsey High School. He was an excellent basketball player and did fine in school. While in high school, he met Johnny Echols, another African American. Lee and Echols were both guitarists and formed various bands together. In 1963, both of them had done various recordings and written a few songs. One time, they encountered Jimi Hendrix (a person who later became one of Lee’s friends). It wasn’t until 1965 when the two formed the Grass Roots. With Lee and Echols was bassist Johnny Fleckenstein, drummer Don Conka, and guitarist (also a roadie for the Byrds) Bryan MacLean. The group was able to stay as the Grass Roots…until they discovered there was another band called the Grass Roots. It’s not well cited as to how the band came up with the name. According to Lee in one interview, he said that when he changed the band’s name he wanted to do it with Love. In 1966, Fleckenstein left and was replaced by Ken Forssi. The band tried their best to keep Conka as their drummer but Conka had gone off to heavy drug taking. Conka was kicked out of the band and was later the inspiration for Lee’s song “Signed D.C.”, which appeared on the first Love album. Drummer Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer replaced Conka. The band had already been signed to Elektra Records by label president Jac Holtzman. Elektra Records were already known as a folk music label by that point until they signed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Love was Elektra’s next rock band. In 1966, their self titled debut album was released. The album was semi-successful, reaching #57 in the charts, and scored the band a hit single with their cover of Burt Bacharach’s “My Little Red Book”.
            The band’s line-up changed again in 1966 when the band hired drummer Michael Stuart. With Stuart on drums, Snoopy switched over to harpsichord. Woodwind player Tjay Cantrelli joined as a seventh member. The band were well known by this time throughout the Los Angeles area. It might be hard to believe today but the band actually lived and commuted in a castle. Musicians from other bands would stop by the castle to hang out or just to have a place to stay for the night. People such as Janis Joplin were frequent visitors. In early 1967 the band’s second album, Da Capo, was released. The album featured the single “7 and 7 Is”. The song dabbled in proto-punk rock and was a very difficult recording session for the band to sit through as no one could keep down the drum beat for the song (no one is for sure who played drums on the song: it could’ve been Snoopy or Arthur).  Da Capo only ended up charting at #80 and soon after the release, Snoopy and Cantrelli left the band. This left Love as a five-piece band. For the band’s third album, they would end up making one of the greatest rock albums ever made by anyone. The album was called Forever Changes and it was to be a big step in the band. When sessions began in June of 1967, Lee and MacLean were the only members playing. Producer Bruce Botnick had no choice but to get session musicians. When the whole band heard the two songs the session musicians had played (“Andmoreagain” and “The Daily Planet”), they weren’t happy at all. Tensions in the band were lowered a bit and together, the band made their most ambitious album ever. When the time came to had the horns and strings to a few of the songs, Arthur Lee picked David Angel. With poetic lyrics and beautiful arrangements, the band had high hopes for Forever Changes.  Sadly, it was not to be: Forever Changes, release in November 1967, only charted at #154. The reviews for the album were very positive but the album wasn’t widely known to exist. Elektra, however, had signed a band that Lee had suggested to Holtzman: the Doors. The Doors were big fans of Love and they always had one wish: they wanted to be as big as Love. When the Doors released their debut album in 1967 and had a hit with “Light My Fire”, the Doors had pretty much become much bigger than Love. The band tried to promote the album but Lee was reluctant to have the band go on tour. Lee preferred if the band just played in L.A. By 1968, everyone in the band (Echols, MacLean, Forrsi, and Stuart) abandoned Arthur Lee and left.
            Although his band had abandoned him in 1968, Arthur Lee formed a new version of Love that same year. With Lee was guitarist Jay Donnellan, bassist Frank Fayad, and drummer George Suranovich. This new version of Love were still a psychedelic rock band but tended to play more bluesy material, sometimes hard rock. According to Lee years later, he said that none of the new guys liked Forever Changes. In 1968, the band released Four Sail. The album flopped and Elektra dropped the band shortly after. Love were then signed to Blue Thumb Records. In 1969, Out Here was released. By that time, Donnellan left the band and was replaced by Gary Rowles. In 1970, guitarist Nooney Rickett was added to the band. That same year, False Start was released. The album featured a song called “The Everlasting First”, which had Jimi Hendrix jamming with the band (By the time of the album’s release, Hendrix had died). False Start did so poorly in the charts that it didn’t even make it to the Top 200. However, Lee was touring with this version of Love until 1971 when Lee decided to dissolve them. Everyone but Lee and Fayad left. Guitarist Craig Tarwater and drummer Don Poncher joined the band in 1971. Love was signed to Columbia Records at this point and had recorded a whole new album. However, the album was shelved and wasn’t released until 2009 as Love Lost. In 1972, Lee release his first solo album Vindicator. The album featured many of the members of Love at that point. In 1973, Lee formed yet another version of Love. This time in the band was guitarist Melvan Whittington, bassist Robert Rozelle, and drummer Joe Blocker. This line-up recorded Black Beauty (although some sites say that the album is not a Love album but really a Lee solo album). Like Love Lost, the album remained unreleased and was only released via bootlegs. Black Beauty will finally be released this year on June 7. In 1974, Lee split Love for good. Still, Lee kept reforming the band sporadically.
            From the 1980’s to the early 1990’s, Arthur Lee was on and off the music scene. He had released a solo album or two and performed with new versions of Love. In 1995, a compilation called Love Story was released and became a success. Interest in the band was renewed and there were plans for the original band to go on tour. However in 1996, plans were halted. In 1996, Lee was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Lee’s record wasn’t already that good, having already been convicted of drug possession years earlier. Lee was sentenced to a harsh 12 years in prison. Still, fans hoped for a reunion in so way. However those plans were ruined in 1998: both Ken Forssi and Bryan MacLean both died that year. In 2001, Lee was released from prison after the prosecutor at the trial was guilty of misconduct. Now free, Lee decided he would reform Love and tour for the 35th anniversary of Forever Changes. Lee was backed up by the members of rock band Baby Lemonade. Johnny Echols joined the band later on several occasions from 2002 to 2005. Now years later, Love were getting the respect they deserved. During this time, a group of Members of the British Parliament declared Forever Changes to be the one of the greatest albums ever made. Things were looking good until July 2005. Lee announced that he couldn’t tour with the band but didn’t say why. Echols and Baby Lemonade, however, continued to tour as The Love Band. In April 2006, it was announced that Lee had acute myeloid leukemia and that he was being treated for it. . Benefit shows were held, one even featuring Robert Plant, to help and support Lee’s sickness. Sadly on August 3, 2006, Arthur Lee passed away. He was survived by his wife, who was at his side when he died.  
            When Arthur Lee died in August 2006, tributes poured out everywhere. Ever since Lee’s death, more tributes have followed. On occasion, Johnny Echols and the members of Baby Lemonade will perform or tour for a while in tribute to Lee. In 2008, Forever Changes was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. As mentioned before, posthumous releases have taken place: Love Lost in 2009 and Black Beauty in 2011. As for the other members in Love, they are all doing fine. Drummer Michael Stuart wrote a book about his time in the band a while ago. Alban “Snoopy” Pfisterer currently lives by himself but in 2008, he released a solo album. As for the members of Love post Forever Changes, most of them are alive and doing well. As of April 2011, Love still haven’t been nominated to be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  

Recommended albums: Love, Da Capo, and Forever Changes

Personal thoughts: I’ll be honest: those are the only three albums I own by Love! Still even if I did have the others, those are the three I’d recommend getting. I have yet to purchase Four Sail, Out Here, and False Start. I first got Forever Changes in November 2006, I think it was. Arthur Lee had passed away and Alice Cooper, an avid Love fan, wouldn’t stop playing their music and talking about them. It took a couple of listens before I realized that Forever Changes is one of the greatest albums ever made. So this is a warning: don’t get Forever Changes thinking you’re going to like it when you first hear it. Let it grow on you. Love and Da Capo are both great albums as well.

Recommended songs: My Little Red Book, Signed DC, Can’t Explain, My Flash On You, 7 and 7 Is, She Comes In Colors, Stephanie Knows Who, Alone Again Or, A House is Not a Motel, The Red Telephone, Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark and Hilldale, Live and Let Live, You Set The Scene

Recommended compilations: There are two in print: their entry in the Definitive Rock and Best of Love.  Both have great song selections but Definitive Rock has two CDs. You decide.