Thursday, November 24, 2011

Riot- Immortal Soul review

 Riot - Immortal Soul
Immortal Soul
Rating: ****

New York rockers Riot have just released their latest album and it’s special for a various number of reasons: it’s the band’s first album in five years and it also sees the Thundersteel era line-up back together. Riot may not sound familiar but the album, Immortal Soul, is their fourteenth studio album. Based on the songs and sound, Immortal Soul is a very strong release for Riot.
            Riot formed around 1975 in New York. The band experienced many changes in their line-up but guitarist Mark Reale has been the only stable member of the band. From 1977 to 1981, the band cranked out three studio albums with original singer Guy Speranza (Rock City, Narita, and Fire Down Under). The third of them, Fire Down Under, is considered by many critics to be one of the most underrated hard rock albums of the time in 1981. Speranza left in 1981 and was replaced by Rhett Forrester. With Forrester, the band made another two albums (Restless Breed and Born in America) but the band had hit rock bottom financially in 1983. Also, a band called Quiet Riot was becoming popular and confusion happened often. The band either split or kept quiet until 1986 when Reale reformed the band with a new line-up. This new line-up included Reale, singer Tony Moore, bassist Don Van Stavern, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek. This incarnation of Riot released the power metal heavy Thundersteel, which achieved some commercial attention. When the band went on tour, guitarist Mike Flyntz joined. In 1990, the band released The Privilege of Power. It was the last album with Moore and/or Stavern on it as they left in 1992. Riot continued to release new music and tour, with Reale and Flyntz as stable members (Jarzombek was in and out). In 2008, the Thundersteel line-up of Reale, Moore, Stavern, Jarzombek and Flyntz reunited.
            Immortal Soul opens up quite fittingly with a song called “Riot”…by a band named Riot. It’s a very smart way to happen the album up: a very speed metal oriented sound and Moore screaming the lyrics, including the chorus “What’s it gonna take to make you riot?” “Still Your Man” sounds very much like a song that could’ve been from Thundersteel. The lyrics seem to be a sequel of sorts to the song “Johnny’s Back” from Thundersteel if you remember the lyrics to it (Don’t look now cause Johnny’s back again/I am your man!). In this song, we are reminded of Johnny: “Hey Johnny, brother take my hand/I remember, I am still your man!). According to sources, Johnny is the name of Riot’s seal mascot that can be seen on their album covers. Songs like “Crawling” and “Fall Before Me” are very “sludge” sounding metal tracks, which is pretty cool to hear Riot do. It’s different, that’s for sure. If one of these songs had to be chosen as a single, “Wings Are For Angels” would be my pick. Much like “Still You Man”, it sounds like something from Thundersteel. Also on this album is the biblical “Sins of the Father” and the Iron Maiden riddled self titled track. The latter is a really good song and one of my favorites off the album. “Whiskey Man” is another interesting track. Of all the songs off the album, I can sort of imagine Guy Speranza singing it (sadly, he wouldn’t be able to: he died in 2003). The album ends with the guitar-oriented “Echoes”.
            Immortal Soul is a very good album and it’s great to see this line-up of Riot back together again. Although I do prefer Fire Down Under and Thundersteel more, Immortal Soul is basically a kick-ass heavy metal album. Welcome back, Riot!

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991) and Eric Carr (1951-1991): 20 years later...

 Freddie Mercury - Mr. Bad Guy

Freddie Mercury (born as Farrokh Bulsara )
September 5, 1946-November 24, 1991

Freddie Mercury was the lead singer for Queen. For the 70's and the 80's, Queen become one of the most successful rock bands ever. Mercury was best known for his live performances, outfits on stage, and his incredible vocal range. Toward the late 1980's, Mercury had looking more frail and skinny. Tabloid papers speculated that Mercury had the AIDS disease. In private, Mercury told his fellow Queen bandmates that he was indeed sick but that he just wanted to continue with the music. On November 23, 1991, Mercury finally announced to the world that he had AIDS. He encouraged fans to join him in stopping the disease. A day later, Mercury was dead at 45 years old. Less than a year later, the surviving members of Queen held a tribute concert for Freddie. The concert raised money for AIDS awareness and research. 

 Eric Carr - Rockology
Eric Carr (born as Paul Charles Carvello)
July 12, 1950-November 24, 1991

Eric Carr had been the drummer for Kiss since 1980, replacing original drummer Peter Criss. Carr's persona was the Fox. In 1982, Kiss were in trouble. The idea came around that the band should remove their iconic make-up in 1983. While some thought it was a publicity stunt, the change ushered in a new era of Kiss. Even without the make-up, Kiss were still popular. Carr was known for his intense drumming style and he also adored the fans of Kiss, speaking to them and signing autographs. In early 1991, Carr had open heart surgery. Doctor discovered that Carr had cancer. On November 24, 1991, Eric Carr passed away. He was only 41 years old.  Carr was replaced by drummer Eric Singer. The band's 1992 album, Revenge, was dedicated to Carr. 

RIP Freddie and Eric!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thin Lizzy's At the BBC review

 Thin Lizzy - Live at the BBC
Thin Lizzy
At the BBC
Rating: ****

Universal have been treating Thin Lizzy fans to some nice releases this year, despite a majority of them being sold only in Europe. Deluxe editions of Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, and various other have been released this year. Also, a reunited version of the band has been touring this year. Why all these releases? It may have to do with the fact that earlier in January of this year marked 25 years since bassist and singer Phil Lynott passed away. Recently, Universal has offered another release and this one is pretty neat: it’s a collection of recordings the band did for the BBC since the beginning of their career till their farewell tour in 1983. Universal have offered two versions of this release, a two-disc version and an astounding six-disc plus one DVD version. In this review, I’ll be going into the two disc version. The album, At the BBC, is an impressive selection of highlights from the main box set. What makes this release unique is that as years go by, the BBC may choose to erase their older tapes. Luckily, many have been kept by the BBC and of course, the fans.  I know there are many readers who might only know Thin Lizzy for “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak”. Although they weren’t very popular in the US, Thin Lizzy are so much more than just one or two songs. To consider them as a “one-hit wonder” is laughable.
            The first disc consists on recordings from 1971 to 1974. During this time, Thin Lizzy were just a three-piece band and weren’t exactly the hard-rocking four-piece that would make them popular. The early Thin Lizzy music is rock music but much more folk rock, celtic rock, and sometimes hard rock. During these years, the band consisted of Lynott, drummer Brian Downey, and guitarist Eric Bell. Personally, I like the tracks that were recorded with BBC DJ John Peel. There was an album out a couple years back called The Peel Sessions, which is now out of print. This release reinstates them plus a few more goodies. The band does a very impressive rendition of “Whiskey in the Jar”, with Bell playing the exact same way he does on the studio recording (which wasn’t very easy in the first place). The song was Lizzy’s first hit when released in 1972. Some of the renditions of these songs are much more raw and up-close compared to the versions that are on the band’s studio albums. Examples of this would include “Vagabond of the Western World” and “Showdown”. Another thing I’ve noticed is that Lynott was a really good bassist. I mean, I thought so before but you can really hear him play on these recordings. There’s also an early version of the song “Suicide” from the 1975 Fighting album that’s nice to hear. Overall, the first disc is very good.
            Disc two consists of recordings from 1974 to 1983. This is the Thin Lizzy that became popular. The line-up this time is Lynott and Downey with guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. The thing that made Lizzy popular is that the band had both Gorham and Robertson playing lead guitars, giving Lizzy their signature sound. Once again, the John Peel sessions on this disc are amazing. “Jailbreak” sounds different from the studio recording since everything seems to be tuned down a bit. “Rosalie” sounds more bare bones when the studio version sounded a tiny bit overproduced. On the both discs, there’s this hiss in the recordings. For some, it might be annoying. I think the production is pretty good and that it’s all on purpose to give the songs an edgier song. “Bad Reputation” sounds really cool with both Gorham and Robertson playing spot on. The only problem I have with disc two is that there isn’t any material from the Black Rose album. Still, how can you fit all of the best material on two discs? The last four recordings are from the 1980’s, towards the end of the band’s career. Disc two might be stronger than the first disc due to it having better material.
            At the BBC is a very cool release from Universal. I don’t think everybody went out and bought the deluxe editions (I didn’t. Those deluxe editions aren’t cheap). Universal have given fans something that they may not have, which is what every record label should be doing nowadays instead of reissuing it over and over again. I would only recommend this album if you are a Thin Lizzy fan. If you are new to Thin Lizzy, this is going to be an odd introduction. I recommend that you stick with The Definitive Collection for now. If you want to get an actual album, I’d start with Jailbreak. If you like that, then get the others by Thin Lizzy from the 1970’s that followed it. Still, At the BBC is very good.  

The Rolling Stones' The Brussels Affair review

 The Rolling Stones - The Brussels Affair (Live 1973)

The Rolling Stones
The Brussels Affair (Live 1973)
Rating: **** 1/2

2012 will mark the 50 years since the formation of the Rolling Stones. Many would think that the band would be getting things together for a 50th anniversary tour. However, Mick Jagger has been denying it as he’s now focused with his super group, SuperHeavy. The band is scheduled to jam/rehearse before the year ends. While the current status of the Stones is unknown, the band is treating the fans to some goodies. Last year, the band gave Exile On Main St. a deluxe edition. The second disc gave fans a whole disc worth of unreleased material. Also, the long lost Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones movie finally got its DVD release (it even was in theaters for one night only). Some Girls will be getting the same treatment towards the end of November and a concert in Texas from 1978 will be released on DVD as well. Much to the surprise of fans, the band has launched their own archival site to release memorabilia and authentic bootleg recordings (for fans in the US, you’ll have to buy the shows from the new Google-Android music store). The band has selected a bootleg called The Brussels Affair (Live 1973) as the first release. It’s considered one of the best bootlegs out there on the Stones. The shows were recorded during their 1973 tour in support of their album, Goats Head Soup, on October 17 in Brussels, Belgium (the album seems to be a combination of the afternoon and night shows). It’s a brilliant release and the band is in fine form.

            The audience waits for the band to come onstage until they hear: “And now ladies and gentlemen…it’s the Rolling Stones!” The band jumps into “Brown Sugar”, which sounds just wonderful. Keith Richards and Mick Taylor are playing great on this one and perhaps the entire show. Songs like “Gimme Shelter” and “Tumbling Dice” are interesting to hear without any backing vocals. It’s just Mick singing all by himself, which is impressive. Another thing that people might be impressed by is Mick speaking in French to the audience. He’s sounds fantastic! It does sound funny too, hearing a British rocker trying to communicate to his fans. Keith takes over lead vocals for “Happy” from the Exile on Main St. album, which sounds nearly identical to the studio track. 

The Stones also play four songs from their then latest album, Goats Head Soup. For many fans, Goats Head Soup is one of the band’s most underrated albums. Hearing the songs performed live is quite interesting, considering some of them don’t get played often nowadays. For example, Mick doesn’t omit the John Wayne lyrics in “Star Star” (aka “Starfucker”), which the band decided to omit in later performances when Wayne became ill and died. Also, fans will get to hear one of the very few live performances of “Dancing With Mr. D” which is a real treat. Although a bit messy, the soul-infused “Heartbreaker” is absolutely killer. Just check out the short guitar solo. “Angie”, the album’s most popular song, is played as well. The band even goes into an 11 minute jam of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and get down-right bluesy in a 12 minute version of “Midnight Rambler”. Some other songs from Exile are played (“Rip This Joint” and “All Down The Line”) as well as a few singles (“Honky Tonk Women” and “Jumping Jack Flash”). The show ends with an amazing version of “Street Fighting Man”. It’s amazing for its raw energy and for the sound of the jangling guitars.

            If you are a fan of the Rolling Stones, it’s a no-brainer: you must get this. It’s a splendid show and if this is the way the band is going to celebrate their 50th anniversary by releasing bootlegs, I’m all for it. Plus, it’s only $4.99. You’ve got nothing to lose. Go and get it. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Official: Black Sabbath to reunite for new album and tour in 2012

As expected since last week, Black Sabbath have official announced today that they are back. The band made the announcement over at the Whiskey A Go Go in California. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward are back together and are ready to roll. The band are planning to record a new studio album, their first with Osbourne on it since 1978's Never Say Die. Producing the album will be renowned producer Rick Rubin. The album is expected to be released in the fall of 2012. The band will also be headlining for the Download Festival on June 10, 2012. As expected, a worldwide tour will happen sometime next year.
Well this is fantastic news. I'm very happy to see the first line-up reunited. It's about time!

Monday, November 7, 2011

All That Glitters Is Gold: Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV is 40

 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV
Rating: **** 1/2

1971 would turn out to be a big year for Led Zeppelin. The English hard rockers had been recording their next studio album that year. That album was released on November 8, 1971. The album’s title: it didn’t have one. There was no title anywhere on the front, spine, or back. The cover was of a grey background with a picture of an old man carrying sticks. The band members were also credited by four different symbols, one for each band member. One symbol read ZOSO. Therefore, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album is sometimes called ZOSO or the more popular Led Zeppelin IV (other titles: Four Symbols, The Runes, Untitled, The Hermit). Whatever the case may be, Led Zeppelin IV has become the band’s most successful album ever. It’s also one of the best selling albums in the world, selling over 37 million copies. There is no doubt that Led Zeppelin IV is one of the greatest albums ever made, but at the same time it can also be one of the most overrated albums of all time. How did four guys from England create a best seller? The best way to go into this album is to do the song-by-song review.
            Led Zeppelin formed in 1968. The band consisted of singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band released their thundering debut album towards the beginning of 1969. The album did okay in the charts but many critics, including Rolling Stone, negatively reacted to the album (although years later, they absolutely love it). Months later, the band released Led Zeppelin II. The album did even better than the debut and critics were much nicer this time around. The band even gained a hit single out of “Whole Lotta Love”, which reached #4 in the Billboard Hot 100 (although Led Zeppelin were a band who didn’t like releasing singles). The band started playing in bigger venues and gained more fans from all around. Led Zeppelin, at that time, were one of the heaviest bands in the world. So it came as a surprise when the band released Led Zeppelin III the following year in 1970. Unlike the first two albums, III was much more folk rock than it was hard rock. Both critics and fans were left scratching their heads as to why the band chose to make an album like this. Zeppelin kept this in mind for the fourth album: no one would be disappointed. Led Zeppelin started recording their fourth album over at the new Basing Street Studio owned by Island Studios. At that time, Jethro Tull were recording their next album Aqualung. Both bands were promised the latest in recording technology but both bands had a hard time recording there. Members of Fleetwood Mac suggested the band record elsewhere. So Zeppelin decided to record the album over in Headley Grange, a Victorian house. Using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, the band was able to make it there. Mixing took place in various locations. The album was recorded from December 1970 till March 1971.

Song by song review

1.      “Black Dog”- The album starts off with one of Led Zeppelin’s best known songs. The song is memorable for its main riff, which John Paul Jones takes credits for. Jones was looking for a sound that people couldn’t dance to but that was catchy and he was able to do just that. Originally, the band were going to play to Plant’s singing. Instead, Plant sings a cappella in the verses before the band kicks in. If one listens carefully, they may hear John Bonham tapping his drum sticks for timing. In live performance, the timing was changed to give Plant room to sing his bit. The song was supposedly named “Black Dog” after a black Labrador retriever that walked by Headley Grange often. The song’s lyrics have nothing to do about the dog (the band didn’t know his/her name!). According to Plant in an interview in 1975, the lyrics are very blatant and what he described as “lets-do-it-in-the-bath type things”. Plant’s vocals only took two takes, which is pretty impressive if you think of it. “Black Dog” is one of the best songs from the album easily. If there had to be a list of the greatest classic rock song, “Black Dog” would be on there easily.

2.      “Rock and Roll”- Just like “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll” is one of the band’s best known songs. It’s a simple twelve-bar blues track with the band just rocking out. Jimmy Page’s guitar playing is great and Plant’s vocals soar over everything. Listen to Bonham’s impressive drum solo at the end of the track. Overall, a standard rock track.

3.      “The Battle of Evermore”- Things slow down for the next song on the album with this very folk rock or celtic rock track. Page is playing mandolin and Jones is playing acoustic guitar. For the first and only time, a guest vocalist is on this song. Singing with Plant is Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention. The lyrics for this song are based on Scottish folklore that Plant had been reading about and there are references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The band had referenced Tolkien before on “Ramble On” from Led Zeppelin II. Adding Denny to the song was a wise thing to do: it gives the song a more celtic folk/rock kind of sound. Of the eight songs on the album, “The Battle of Evermore” is one of the more underrated of them. A unique song from the band’s catalogue.

4.      “Stairway to Heaven”- Over the years, “Stairway to Heaven” has been called many things. Some love the song and some just can’t listen to it anymore. It’s easily one of the band’s best songs and probably their most popular. The song also holds the record as the most requested song to be played on the radio and it’s also one of the first songs that a beginning guitar player will learn. There are some things that bother me about this song. While I think it’s my favorite from the album, it’s very overrated. Also, some people believe the iconic opening guitar riff was plagiarized. Led Zeppelin has been accused of plagiarism many times. In a rare situation, Zeppelin might’ve stolen something from their peers: a band called Spirit. In 1968 on Spirit’s debut album, there was an instrumental piece called “Taurus”. The piece was written and performed by guitarist Randy California. The guitar piece has an ascending guitar sound, very similar to “Stairway to Heaven”. In 1969, Zeppelin and Spirit went on tour together. It’s known that Zeppelin loved Spirit so much that they would perform “Fresh Garbage” during sound checks. Some believe that Jimmy Page robbed Randy California of credit. Page has denied copying California but many don’t buy it.  With all of this aside, “Stairway to Heaven” is a masterpiece. The song started life as a guitar piece that Page had. While he played it for the band by a fire side, Plant sat there writing the lyrics. According to Plant in an interview, the lyrics just came to him suddenly. He remembers writing on the piece of paper so fast that he almost fell out of his seat. The lyrics seem to be about a lady who keeps getting great things without asking for them or doing anything to get them. The song transitions into a more up tempo sound four minutes in. By the time Page plays his solo, “Stairway to Heaven” is a full blown hard rock masterpiece. Over the years, the song has built a legacy of its own and even gets referenced in movies (remember Wayne’s World?). “Stairway to Heaven” is indeed timeless.

5.      “Misty Mountain Hop”- This snazzy sounding track starts off the second side of the album. Jones is playing the electric piano in the beginning, which grabs up right there. The song seems to be about smoking marijuana. It talks about a walk in the park and stopping by hippies who ask “Hey boy, do you wanna score?” It seems that the people in song get busted by the police but are destined to pack their bags for Misty Mountain, “where the spirits fly”. Like “Ramble On” and a few others before, the song also references to Lord of the Rings. In some ways, “Misty Mountain Hop” could be thought of as a deep track and it’s a very good one.

6.      “Four Sticks”- Of all the songs on this album, “Four Sticks” is probably the most underrated of them. The song is known to have only been played once live by the band. The song’s title came from the fact that Bonham was playing with two sets of drumsticks. The lyrics, much like “Black Dog”, seem to be generic and very simple. Personally, it’s my least favorite from Led Zeppelin IV but there are some good parts in this song.

7.      “Going to California”- This wistful folk song is one of Led Zeppelin’s best love songs. The lyrics seem to be of remorse and regrets. Plant sings of visiting California and being told “there’s a girl out there/with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair”. Plant seems to question if he can put up with the craziness of groupies. Plant was married when Led Zeppelin was formed and was just 20 years old. Some believe the song is about singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell because of this lyric: “To find a queen without a king/They say she plays guitar and cries and sings”. That supposedly is referencing to Mitchell’s song “I Had a King”. Plant was later quoted to saying that the song might be embarrassing today but it was his life then. I think I saw something on VH1 Classic in the documentary Let’s Spend the Night Together, which has famed groupie Pamela Des Barnes going to interview former groupies. I remember there being one woman who said she was with Plant for a while and remembered being touched by this song. Obviously, Plant may’ve written the song about the groupies he had fallen for (and no mud sharks were involved in this, thank goodness. Don’t get it? Look it up). Page is on acoustic guitar and Jones is on mandolin. This is just a beautiful song.

8.      “When the Levee Breaks”- Led Zeppelin IV finishes off with this down-right bluesy tune. Compared to the other songs, “When the Levee Breaks” is the only cover tune on the album. The song was originally written and recorded by husband and wife Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. The song was written about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The original recording is a basic, fast-paced three minute blues tune. Years after its recording, Zeppelin decided to rework the song into a slow but heavy blues tune.  Comparing the two side by side, they don’t use the same exact lyrics but Zeppelin make “When the Levee Breaks” their own. The playing on here alone is amazing. Page, Jones, and Bonham are just brilliant...and Plant comes in wailing. It’s a fantastic way to end the album.

When Led Zeppelin released their fourth album in 1971, it was Page’s idea for the album to remain untitled. This was in response to the negative review of Led Zeppelin III. All that could be seen was a picture of a hermit with a walking stick. The band were all credited as four different symbols: one read ZOSO (Page), a triquetra with a circle (Jones), three interlocking circles (Bonham), and a feather in a circle (Plant). The album received very positive reviews from almost every major rock critics. It also sold millions of copies worldwide and peaked at #1 in UK and Canada. Strangely enough, the album only peaked at #2 in the US but has managed to become the third best selling album in the country.
I myself like Led Zeppelin IV very much. I have it charted at #22 in my list of favorite albums. It’s a great album and is easily one of the greatest hard rock albums ever made. Still, it’s massively overrated. For me, my favorite Led Zeppelin album will always be the debut (which I have at #6). Still, there’s no denying that Led Zeppelin IV is indeed a great album.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Black Sabbath to hold press conference 11/11/11

Today, the official Black Sabbath website simply has a picture of the band logo from 1971's Master of Reality and the date 11/11/11. According to Rolling, the band are scheduling a press conference in California at the Whiskey a Go Go to make a special announcement. The conference will be held on November 11 at 11:11 am and will be hosted by musician/music critic Henry Rollins. One would suspect that the announcement will a reunion tour with the original line-up of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. However, band members have continuously been denying rumors of a reunion tour. In February of this year, Butler announced that there have been no plans made for a reunion tour. In August, a reporter took out of context quotes from a recent interview with Iommi saying that Black Sabbath would reunite. Iommi quickly replied saying he said nothing about a reunion but didn't deny the idea either. Osbourne has been giving different stories for almost a year. The original line-up last played in 2005. In 2006, Iommi and Butler got back together with Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice to form a spin off band, Heaven & Hell. Heaven & Hell toured frequently and released an album in 2009, The Devil You Know. The band split soon after Ronnie James Dio's death to stomach cancer in May 2010. Since Dio's passing, rumors of a reunion of the original line-up have been on going. There have also been rumors of a new studio album. The original line-up's last studio album was 1978's Never Say Die.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Steel Panther "Balls Out" album review

Steel Panther - Balls Out
Steel Panther
Balls Out
Rating: ****

It's finally here: two years after their debut album Feel The Steel, comedic glam rockers Steel Panther have release their next album. The album, Balls Out, is another “blast from the past” sounding rock album. Balls Out features fourteen new songs from the guys and all of them sound great.
            Balls Out opens up with a weird but funny “In The Future”, which is basically comedian Dane Cook talking in a deep voice informing listeners of what will happen in the year 6969. “Supersonic Sex Machine” is a fittingly “balls to the wall” track with some great guitar work. Steel Panther are also on top of what's happening in pop culture. Take a song like “Just Like Tiger Woods”, which has some clever lyrics poking fun at the famed golfer: “Don't think about those 3 foot putts/And cover your tracks when you're banging sluts”. There's the Van Halen sounding “17 Girls In A Row”, which talks about the idea of a man having non-stop sex in the most absurd places, such as a grocery store. “If You Really, Really Love Me” is a very catchy short song that’s ready to be played on the radio. Sometimes, the sexual jokes get a little over the top. Examples of this can be songs like “It Won’t Suck Itself” and “Let Me Cum In”. Still, it’s all in good fun. Songs like “Tomorrow Night” are fun as well as humorous. It’s quite possible that had it been released some 25 years earlier, “Tomorrow Night” could've been a hit. It’s got a very catchy and very 80’s sounding chorus. Personal favorite lyric from the song: “The coach is fire but nobody cares/Charlie Sheen is winning in the bedroom upstairs!” There’s also the hair band power ballad “Why Can’t You Trust Me”. The song seems to be about a girlfriend who’s a little nosey. “Stop threatening the bitches on my Facebook page” sings Michael Starr. “Or I’m gonna rip your head off in a cocaine rage”. Another favorite: “Why you gotta check my prison history/Baby, why can’t just let it be a mystery/Besides everyone knows it was you/Who blew Justin Bieber at the petting zoo”. Other highlights include the Def Leppard-esque “That’s What Girls Are For”, the funny but true “Gold Digging Whore”, and the hilarious Motley Crue-styled ballad closer “Weenie Ride”. 
            If you like glam metal from the 1980’s and comedy, Steel Panther is the band for you! Balls Out is definitely worth checking out. If you don’t have it already, also pick up the debut Feel the Steel. Steel Panther are back and Balls Out certainly lives up to the title.

Lou Reed and Metallica's "Lulu"- album review

 Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu
Lou Reed and Metallica
Rating: ***

In the world of rock n roll, there are great ideas and terrible ideas for collaborations. Some are met with positive results and some just don’t work at all. With a collaboration like Lou Reed and Metallica, it can go either way: it’s going to be brilliant or it’s going to be the worst thing ever made. The album, Lulu, has been getting panned by both critics and fans. I can see why: it’s very difficult to sit through. For me, I’m in between about Lulu. Parts of it are really good and then there are some parts that terrible. For the eclectic and bizarre factor, I can honestly say that Lulu is a decent album for me. I know a bunch of people are going to think I’m crazy but I’m not crazy about this album. This is going to be a challenging listen for a lot of people.
            The history of this album actually starts in 1895. A man named Frank Wedekind wrote the play Erdgeist, or Earth Spirit. In 1905, he wrote another play called Die Buchse der Pandora, or Pandora’s Box. Wedekind referred to these plays as his “Lulu” plays, as both plays told the story of a tortured and abused ballerina of the same name. The plays would later become an opera and various other things. Robert Wilson, a theatre director, asked singer/songwriter Lou Reed to write a musical adaptation of the two plays. Reed agreed to do it. Around this time, Reed had jammed with Metallica at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th anniversary concerts in 2009. Reed got to talk to the band and everybody got along. Drummer Lars Ulrich remembered Reed calling out “Let’s do a record together!”. Ulrich thought Reed was joking but alas, he was not. Earlier this year in 2011, Lou Reed and the members of Metallica (guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet, bassist Robert Trujillo, and drummer Lars Ulrich) were in the studio. Reed had written both the lyrics and music. Metallica’s job was to play Reed’s music. The album was completed in four days (though the liner notes say it was recorded from April 2011 to June 2011) and this is the end result.

            If there was an award for most random opening lyric, “Brandenburg Gate” would probably take it: “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski/In the dark of the moon”. Fair enough, Lou. Once Lou is done singing the first two line, Metallica transitions the song to a heavier sound. Reed sings the lyrics while James Hetfield continuously sings in the background (and it can get annoying) “Small town girl”. In terms of the sound and maybe some of the lyrics, “Brandenburg Gate” opens the album brilliantly. Next up is “The View”, which fortunately has nothing to do with the Barbara Walters-hosted talk-show. The song was picked as the single for the album and when first released, the response wasn’t great. I’ll admit: “The View” is very difficult to listen to. However with music like this, it can get better once you listen to it over and over again. What may bother listeners about this song, as well as the rest of the album, is that Reed is reciting the lyrics rather than singing them. Metallica fans are going to hate this but for me, I’ve gotten use to it even before: Reed is an artist and in some ways, a poet. I will admit lyrics such as “I want you on the floor” sounds funny but Hetfield tops it off when he shouts “I AM THE TABLE!” No offense guys but that is flat-out hilarious! 

Still, “The View” is a decent song. “Pumping Blood” starts off with the beautiful sounds of violins playing until Metallica comes in with one their vamping or crunching sounds. When Reed goes into his “singing”, we got a song that sounds like a cross between something off Master of Puppets and something off Reed’s Berlin or even New York. It does get annoying towards the end but I think “Pumping Blood” is a good song. “Mistress Dread”, despite the heavy riffs, is excruciating to sit through. I dig the out-of-place lyrics Reed wrote, which seem to be about S&M and lesbians. Favorite lyric: “Please spit into my mouth/I’m forever in your swirl.” Still, I get a headache even listening to this song. Luckily, “Iced Honey” cures the headache for a while as it has a great sound and beat. In fact, “Iced Honey” might be my favorite song of the album. Disc one (oh yeah, I forgot: this album is 85 minutes long. Let that sink in…) ends with “Cheat On Me”. This song is more of a poetry track for Reed, which slowly evolves into a Metallica-sounding song. The lyrics are a bit monotonous and the song is eleven minutes long. They could’ve made this song much shorter.

            Disc two opens with “Frustration”, a great song for Metallica to just jam to. The guitar playing on this one is really good but Reed’s lyrics are a little out of place again. Unlike “Mistress Dread”, this one is much easier to listen to. Some of the lyrics are laughable: “To be dead to have no feeling/To be dry and spermless like a girl”. “Little Dog” is a very creepy song. Seriously. It’s just Reed singing to an acoustic guitar playing. This is how Reed describes a dog: “A puny body and a tiny dick/A little dog can make you sick”. Okay, so that wasn’t too bad…but the next verse: “If you got the money you can go to the top/The female dog don’t care what you got/As long as you can raise that little doggie face to a cold hearted pussy/You could have a taste”.  There are plenty of lyrics in this eight minute song but I think you got the idea of it. “Dragon” is another 11 minute song, mostly with Reed either ranting or reciting poetry. At the three minute mark, Metallica comes in with this great heavy sound. There also some more lovely lyrics: “The hair on your shoulders/The smell of your armpit/The taste of your vulva and everything on it/We all really love you/And you have no meaning”. As weird as those lyrics are, there is some truth in there. The album’s last song, “Junior Dad”, is a nice sounding song. It’s very melodic and soft. However there is one problem with this song: it goes on for 19 MINUTES! I’m not kidding. Go look it up. Reed’s lyrics and singing, however, are pretty good.

            Despite many flaws, Lulu is still a decent album. I know a lot of people hate it and think of it as garbage. Compared to talentless bitches like Miley Cyrus, whiney-ass wussies like Justin Bieber, or computerized shit like almost every rapper does now, Lulu stands out. In fact, I think everyone should at least listen to this album at least once. Both Lou Reed and Metallica have had lows in their careers. Reed had many flops over the years, the biggest probably being 1975’s Metal Machine Music (it’s a double album filled with guitar feedback). Metallica has also experienced releasing some disappointing albums, the most notable probably being 2003’s St. Anger. Overall, Lulu is a listening experience.

Also, I have some recommendations…

To those Metallica fans unfamiliar with Lou Reed’s music…pick up Transformer and Berlin.

To those Lou Reed fans unfamiliar with Metallica’s music…pick up Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets.