Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012: Year in Review


Well, 2012 has come to a close. Personally, I’m quite surprised by how things have come out this year. It looks like I got more music compared to last year. Like previous years, I will sum up each album I got in one paragraph. This will also include albums I got a bit later and did not review when they came out.  The albums will also be split into two categories: new albums and archival/live albums.



New albums

  Ringo Starr - Ringo 2012
Ringo Starr
Ringo 2012
Rating: ***

            Not much is expected from Ringo Starr when it comes to his studio albums. Ringo 2012 is an example of this. The album is average at best but it’s still a fun album to listen to. Ringo decided to re-record “Wings” and “Step Lightly”, both of which are nice renditions. My favorite song might be “Wonderful” but everything else is just alright.


  Paul McCartney - Kisses on the Bottom
Paul McCartney
Kisses on the Bottom
Rating: *** ½

            It sounded great at first: two former Beatles would release new studio albums this year. In all honesty, Kisses on the Bottom is nice album but it isn’t the Paul McCartney we are used to. Still, Paul wanted to make an album like this for a long time: an American songbook. “My Valentine”, which is one of the two original songs on the album, is probably my favorite. Overall, it isn’t a bad album at all but I would want the next McCartney album to be a Paul McCartney album.



 Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth

Van Halen
A Different Kind of Truth
Rating: ****

            Van Halen are back! I’m not kidding. They really are. A Different Kind of Truth is the band’s first album in 14 years as well as their first album with singer David Lee Roth since 1984. It really is a return to the old-school Van Halen sound. With songs like “Blood and Fire”, “She’s the Woman”, “Bullethead”, and “Stay Frosty”, you’ve got yourself a very Van Halen sounding album. Even with original bassist Michael Anthony absent, Van Halen still rocks!

 Ian Anderson - Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?

Ian Anderson
Thick As A Brick 2
Rating: *** ½

            With the 40th anniversary of Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick this year, Ian Anderson decided to the released a “sequel” of some sort but as a solo album. The sequel explores the possibilities of what might’ve happened to Gerald Bostock, the boy who wrote the controversial long poem all those years ago. While an interesting idea, I’m really not a fan of sequels to classic albums. Considering what it’s up against, Thick as a Brick 2 can be considered one of the best sequels to a concept album.  

  Accept - Stalingrad
Accept
Stalingrad
Rating: ****

            Much to the surprise of some people, Accept reunited in 2009 with former TT Quick singer Mark Tornillo taking over for original singer Udo Dirkschider. The 2010 reunion album, Blood of the Nations, won both critics and fans over. Almost two years later, Accept released the follow-up Stalingrad. In all honesty, I didn’t listen to Blood of the Nations until two years after it was released. Blood of the Nations is a great album and Stalingrad is a pretty worthy follow up. Songs such as the self-titled track, “Shadow Soldiers”, and “Flash to Bang Time” are all heavy duty material. Still, I prefer Blood of the Nations but Stalingrad is a very good album.  



 Rush - Clockwork Angels

Rush
Clockwork Angels
Rating: ****

            In their four decades of being together, Rush are not a stranger to doing the conceptual song. However, Rush haven’t ever released a full-blown conceptual album…until now. Clockwork Angels, the band’s 19th studio album, is a remarkable piece of work. I’m just surprised at how much thought went into this one album. The album follows the concept of the voyages of a man living in a steampunk world. Songs like “Headlong Flight” and “The Wreckers” are up there with Rush’s best songs. “Seven Cities of Gold” is another personal favorite of mine. Overall, Rush have really impressed me with Clockwork Angels.



 Bob Dylan - Tempest

Bob Dylan
Tempest
Rating: ****

FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

            I have to say that I do like a good surprise. Bob Dylan has done just this with his 35th studio album, Tempest. I wasn’t crazy about his last studio effort, Together Through Life. It was painful to listen to because of Dylan’s shot voice (and because of this, I didn’t bother getting his Christmas album released later that year in 2009). On Tempest, Dylan’s voice has not changed. So what makes this album better? I would have to say it’s the songs. “Duquesne Whistle” is a dark but somehow warm approach to Dylan’s music. The entire album is like a modern day version of Blood on the Tracks, in my opinion. I do enjoy the 14 minute long self-titled track, which tells the story of the sinking of the Titanic. “Roll on John” is a heartfelt tribute to John Lennon while “Pay in Blood” is personally my favorite song off the album. At 71 year old, Bob Dylan is still a pretty cool guy.


  Ian Hunter - When I'm President
Ian Hunter
When I’m President
Rating: ****

            Ian Hunter returns with a simple little rock n roll album. Hunter’s solo career is a bit overlooked compared to his time in Mott the Hoople. When I’m President sees Hunter still at it and it’s just really good. There’s the boogey-fueled “Comfortable”, the brilliantly written self-titled track, and the hip shaker “What For”. I like this album.

  Steve Harris - British Lion
Steve Harris
British Lion
Rating: ***

            Much to the surprise of many people, Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris decided to release a solo album. The result is one of the most confusing albums I’ve ever listened to. Sure, this isn’t Iron Maiden. This is a Steve Harris solo album and his first too. So that allows him to do whatever he wants since it isn’t Iron Maiden. The problem is Harris’ choice in lead singer, Richard Taylor. Taylor has a good voice but it isn’t ballsy enough to tackle the heavier tracks. It’s just a really strange album but still, it isn’t bad at all.




 John Cale - Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
John Cale
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
Rating: ****

            John Cale decided to release an album this year, his first in seven years. Cale is one of those musicians who will try anything at least once (and you can expect that from a former member of the Velvet Underground). Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood sees Cale experimenting with electronic music and even dabbling in Autotune a bit too. Compared to the other albums in Cale’s solo career, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood does stick out. I really enjoy songs like “Face to the Sky” and the brilliantly written “December Rain”. Cale even works with Danger Mouse on “I Wanna Talk 2 U”. Overall, Shifty Adventures is a good album.


  KISS - Monster
Kiss
Monster
Rating: ****

            Four decades after their creation, Kiss have unleashed a monster of an album with Monster. The album heavy, hard-hitting rock n roll and it does tend to sound like their music back during the peak of their career. “Hell or Halleluiah”, “Freak”, “Long Way Down” and “The Devil Is Me” are all great. Even without the original line-up, Kiss still knows how to make a kick ass album.


  Neil Young - Psychedelic Pill
Neil Young
Psychedelic Pill
Rating: ****

            Neil Young and Crazy Horse released two albums this year. The second of them, Psychedelic Pill, is a sort of “blast from the past” sounding album. Young’s voice hasn’t really aged and the band sound great. The album certainly lives up to the title: it really is psychedelic. “Driftin’ Back”, “Ramada Inn”, and “Walk Like a Giant” are very long jams from Young and Crazy Horse, which does sort of get boring after a while. The self-titled track is pretty good as well. Overall, Psychedelic Pill is worth checking out.


  Aerosmith - Music From Another Dimension!
Aerosmith
Music From Another Dimension
Rating: ***

            As their first album of original material in 11 years, Aerosmith had a lot to make up for: pop-oriented albums, Steven Tyler’s stint on American Idol, and the feud between Tyler and Joe Perry. Even with original producer Jack Douglas’ presence, Music From Another Dimension isn’t the comeback album fans were expecting. Sure there are some good rockers like “Lover Alot”, “Legendary Child”, and “Street Jesus”.


2012 Albums Ranked

1. Bob Dylan- Tempest
2. Van Halen- A Different Kind of Truth
3. Rush- Clockwork Angels
4. Kiss- Monster
5. John Cale- Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
6. Ian Hunter- When I'm President
7. Neil Young- Psychedelic Pill
8. Accept- Stalingrad
9. Ian Anderson- Thick As A Brick 2
10. Paul McCartney- Kisses on the Bottom
11. Aerosmith- Music From Another Dimension
12. Steve Harris- British Lion
13. Ringo Starr- Ringo 2012 


Archival/Reissue/Live albums

The Rolling Stones
           
Google Play have released five more albums in the Rolling Stones bootleg series. Those albums are:

Hampton Coliseum (Live, 1981)- ****
L.A. Friday (Live, 1975)- **** ½
Tokyo Dome (Live, 1990)- ****
Light the Fuse (Live, 2005)- ****
Roundhay Park (Live, 1982)- ****

            All of these releases are very good and it’s a great way to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. Of those five released this year, L.A. Friday is my favorite. All of the other ones are great as well. Still the best in the series was the one released last year, The Brussels Affair, but these albums follow it up just fine.


  Captain Beefheart - Bat Chain Puller
Captain Beefheart
Bat Chain Puller
Rating: ****

FAVORITE ARCHIVAL RELEASE OF THE YEAR

            After years and years of being bootlegged, Captain Beefheart’s original 1976 Bat Chain Puller album has finally seen the light of day. Kept in the vaults by Frank Zappa’s estate, Gail Zappa was nice enough to release the long-awaited album. Listening to different renditions of songs such as “Bat Chain Puller”, “Harry Irene”, and “The Human Totem Pole” is just amazing. I really like the “new” songs too. My favorite song here is “Odd Jobs”, which is just a wonderful combination of spoken word poetry and rock music.

  Quiet Riot - Live! At the US Festival 1983
Quiet Riot
Live at the US Festival 1983
Rating: ****

            Quiet Riot’s performance at the US Festival in 1983 was finally released this year in a CD/DVD combo pack. The band plays an electrifying 40 minute set to a crowd of 500,000. The video has been brilliantly restored and remastered as well.


  Janis Joplin - The Pearl Sessions
Janis Joplin
The Pearl Sessions
Rating: ****

            While this might be seen as a cash-grab of sorts, The Pearl Sessions is actually a pretty good release from the Janis Joplin estate. While this does come with the original Pearl album, the real treat is the second disc which has outtakes and all kinds of goodies. Listening to the second disc, the listener might feel as if they are in the studio with Joplin.

 George Harrison - George Harrison: Living in the Material World

George Harrison
Early Takes- Volume 1
Rating: ****

            While really unnecessary, Early Takes is a surprisingly good release that ties in with the DVD release of the Martin Scorsese directed documentary on George Harrison. Hearing these songs stripped down is amazing.

  Paul McCartney - Ram
Paul McCartney (and Linda McCartney)
Ram
Rating (original album): **** ½
Rating (bonus disc): ****

            The McCartney Archive Collection continues with the reissue of the 1971 classic Ram. The original album sounds wonderful and the remastering is really top notch. The bonus disc is an improvement over some of the other bonus discs that have come with the three previous entries in the collection as we get song brand new songs. My personal favorite: “A Love For You”.

 Joey Ramone -

Joey Ramone
Ya Know?
Rating: ****

            Much to the surprise of some people, Joey Ramone did have enough material recorded to make another posthumous solo album. Ramone, who died in 2001, had been working on his first solo album Don’t Worry About Me at the time of his death. That album would be released in 2002. So a decade has passed and it turns out Ramone had more material recorded. I would give this a low four-star rating but the material on here isn’t bad at all. “Rock N Roll Is the Answer” is probably the strongest cut on here. The other tracks are pretty good.


 Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day

Led Zeppelin
Celebration Day
Rating: **** or **** ½

FAVORITE LIVE RELEASE OF THE YEAR

            Nearly five years later, Led Zeppelin have finally released their reunion concert from 2007 at London’s O2 Arena. Even after being apart for so long, the band are still able to play these classic songs. At times, the band does sound a bit sluggish but as the concert progresses the band gets better. Even at his age, Robert Plant can still sing the material. The surviving members (Plant, Page, and Jones) are also with Jason Bonham, who takes the place of his late father for this one-off performance.


In Memoriam
Bob Weston- guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Mark Reale- guitarist for and founding member of Riot
Michael Kramer- bassist for the MC5
Davy Jones- singer for the Monkees
Ronnie Montrose- guitarist for Montrose, Edgar Winter Group, Gamma
Levon Helm- drummer for the Band
Robin Gibb- member of the Bee Gees
Bob Welch- guitarist for Fleetwood Mac
Jon Lord- original keyboardist for Deep Purple
Ed Cassidy- drummer for Spirit

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2013

The 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been announced today. Six of the 15 acts nominated got in and I've got to be honest: this years list isn't all that great. In fact, it's disappointing. I'll go through each act and give my thoughts.


Rush- The Canadian prog rockers easily topped the fan ballot and are now inducted in the Hall. Formed around 1968, Rush have had their share of critics slamming them. However, their rabid fan base has kept the band going. Bassist/singer Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart have been together since 1974, one of the longest lasting line-ups in any rock band.

Heart- Heart are the other big name that were inducted. Fronted by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, Heart were one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970's. The band's popularity got a sudden boost towards the end of the 1980's and have been going ever since.

Randy Newman- Singer/songwriter Randy Newman is finally in. Newman said he didn't think he'd be alive when he got in but luckily he is.

Albert King- Who?

Donna Summer- Whatever. She was going to be inducted once she died.

Public Enemy- SERIOUSLY? What the hell? Didn't you get the memo, Rock Hall? NO MORE HIP HOP!


So that's all the inductees for 2013. I know that the Hall is trying to be diverse in their choices but the fact that Deep Purple and Joan Jett were nominated and didn't get inducted is just stupidity. From what I remember the fan ballot was...

Rush
Deep Purple
Joan Jett
Heart
Albert King
Donna Summer

See if it were the fans and only the fans, you'd have four legit ROCK acts and two other people.

I'm going to go ahead and list everybody who isn't in...

Deep Purple
Thin Lizzy
New York Dolls
Captain Beefheart
T. Rex
MC5
Lou Reed
Judas Priest
Iron Maiden
Jethro Tull
Yes
Warren Zevon
Motorhead
Kiss
Dio


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy dies

Ed Cassidy
May 4, 1923- December 6, 2012

Ed Cassidy, drummer for the psychedelic rock band Spirit, has died. He was 89 years old. The cause of death has not been disclosed.

Cassidy started his musical career in 1937 as a jazz drummer. He drummed for many jazz artists prior to forming Spirit in 1967 with his stepson Randy California. Spirit also consisted of singer Jay Ferguson, bassist Mark Andes, and keyboardist John Locke. Spirit released four albums between 1968 to 1971 before everyone but Cassidy and Locke left the band. Spirit would go on until 1973 and after this, Spirit would reunite with California and Cassidy at the helm. This continued until 1997 when California died after drowning in the ocean in a successful attempt at saving his son in a riptide. Locke died in 2006. 

I'm sad to hear of Ed's passing (aka Mr. Skin). Spirit are such an underrated band. The man lived a long life and he was a terrific drummer. 

RIP Mr. Skin.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Rolling Stones- Roundhay Park review

The Rolling Stones
Roundhay Park (Live, 1982)
Rating: ****

Google Play have released the sixth and, sadly, the last in the Rolling Stones Bootleg Series. The album Roundhay Park, is a nice show during the Rolling Stones' 1982 tour. The show took place in Leeds on July 25, 1982 at Roudhay Park. It was the last show of the 1982 tour and sadly, it would be the last time the band would play live with tour manager and long time pianist Ian Stewart, as he would die from a heart attack in 1985. 

The show is pretty good. The band run through their first 20 years quite impressively. All the performances are good and band sound great. However, I'm a bit disappointed in the choice of concert: the setlist is almost  exactly the same as Hampton Coliseum, being that the tour was still in support for Tattoo You. The only difference is that "Angie" is played and "Let It Bleed" and "Waiting on a Friend" are left out. 

Of the six albums released, I think Roundhay Park is not in my top favorites. Still of the shows released, I think this is the only one where the band is playing at an outdoor venue. That's pretty cool, in my opinion. If anyone from Google Play is reading this, I beg you to keep the series going. Don't stop now. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Transformed: Lou Reed's Transformer at 40

 Lou Reed - Transformer
Lou Reed
Transformer
1972
Rating: **** 1/2


By 1972, it appeared as if Lou Reed’s music career was over. His self-titled solo album failed to sell and he would soon be forgotten. Luckily, this all changed with the release of Reed’s second studio album Transformer. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, Transformer catapulted Lou Reed into superstardom.

            From 1965 to 1970, Lou Reed was a member of the Velvet Underground. The band released four albums in that time frame, all of which would be commercial flops but went on to influence the many bands that followed. After a playing a gig at Max’s Kansas City, Reed disappeared. He later announced that he was leaving the Velvet Underground and would retire from music. This changed when Reed decided to pursue a solo career.

In April 1972, Reed released his self-titled debut album. It was a flop but RCA gave Reed another chance with a second album. This was when David Bowie came to the rescue. By 1972, Bowie had achieved worldwide popularity with the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie was an avid fan of the Velvet Underground and wanted to help Reed make an album. Bowie had already saved the career of Mott the Hoople a few months earlier that year and with Bowie’s guitarist Mick Ronson, they produced Reed’s second album Transformer.

            The album opens with “Vicious”, a nice little rocker that could’ve easily been on a Velvet Underground album. The lyrics were said to be inspired by the Velvet Underground’s first manager Andy Warhol. According to Reed, Warhol asked Reed to write a song that was vicious. When Reed asked what Warhol meant, Warhol replied “Like you hit me with a flower”. Warhol’s quote worked its way into the song and Reed did write a song that was indeed vicious. “Andy’s Chest” is yet another song Reed wrote with Warhol in mind.  Of the album’s eleven tracks, “Andy’s Chest” actually started out as a Velvet Underground song. The song was written and inspired by the attempted assassination of Warhol by Valerie Solanas. Although Warhol survived the shooting, the song is still moving. “Perfect Day” is one of Reed’s best known songs, as it has been covered several times. The song might be about Reed’s own heroin addiction but still, the song has nice piano playing and nice lyrics. The song later became a #1 hit in the UK when it was re-recorded by the BBC as a charity single with an array of famous recording artists.  

            “Hangin’ Round” is a simple little tune that has Reed using his story-telling technique of his, introducing listeners to all sorts of characters. The first side ends with Reed’s most popular song, “Walk On the Wild Side”. The song was inspired by the Nelson Algren novel of the same name, published in 1956. Algren approached Reed to write song for a musical version of the novel that he was putting together. The musical never happened so Reed used the song for Transformer. The two bass lines in this song are played by session musician Herbie Flowers. He’s playing an upright bass and an electric bass, which overlap each other. Lyrically, the song is almost a tribute to the people that were at Warhol’s Factory in New York City. Reed name drops almost everybody in this song and the end result is just fantastic.

            Side two opens with the gender-bending “Make Up”. The sound of the song is a bit on the soft side but the chorus is a knock-out: “We’re coming out” sings Reed. “Out of our closets.” “Satellite of Love” is another highlight off the album and is seen as one of Reed’s best songs. The song began life as a Velvet Underground song but it ended up here on Transformer. The song seems to be about a man who watches the launch of a satellite and the jealousy of the man seeing the girl he likes going out with other men. So, there’s also sort of stalker side to this song too. Also if you listen closely to the end, you will hear Bowie singing those high notes. “Wagon Wheel” is a simple rocker while “New York Telephone Conversation” is a bizarre little ditty. “I’m So Free” is a bit of a deep cut. It’s got some great lyrics and Reed’s vocals are pretty good. The album closes out fittingly with the jazzy “Goodnight Ladies”.

            Transformer was released on November 8, 1972. The album saved Lou Reed a career. The album charted at #29 in the Billboard 200 while it charted at #13 in the UK Albums Chart. With the success of Transformer, Reed was able to continue and make more albums. The follow-up to Transformer was the conceptual 1973 album, Berlin. The albums Reed released after Berlin are really hit or miss. He’s released some good albums such as The Blue Mask, New York, and Magic and Loss. Reed has also released some weak albums such as Metal Machine Music. Reed’s most recent project was a collaboration with Metallica in 2011 with the conceptual Lulu, which received mixed to negative reviews. Still at 70 years old, Reed is still performing no matter what people think of him.

            As for Transformer, it remains a classic album. For me, I currently have Transformer at #59 on my list of favorite albums of all time. It’s just an album that you can listen to over and over again. It’s also, without a doubt, Reed’s best album.

Aerosmith- Music from Another Dimension review

 Aerosmith - Music From Another Dimension!
Aerosmith
Music from Another Dimension!
Rating: *** or *** 1/2


It has been eight years since Aerosmith have released a studio album. However since that album, Honkin’ On a Bobo, was a blues covers album. So, it has also been eleven years since the band released a studio album of original material (that album being Just Push Play). The band’s sound has changed in the span of over four decades, more recently being a little too commercial compared to Aerosmith’s glory days in the hard rocking 1970’s. The band’s latest album, Music from Another Dimension, isn’t the hard rocking album fans were expecting but still manages to be a very good album.
           
Aerosmith have been together since 1970. The current line-up (as well as the classic line-up) consists of singer Steven Tyler, guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer. The last three years for Aerosmith have been crazy. In November 2009, Perry announced that Tyler had left the band. Only a day later, Tyler said he wasn’t leaving the band. This led to a well publicized feud between Tyler and Perry, leaving the band’s future in question. An example of this would be in 2011 when Tyler joined the judges’ panel on the hit Fox singing competition, American Idol, which led to some harsh words from Perry. Tyler and Perry patched things up shortly before recording the new album.

The album opens with the rocker “Luv XXX” (reads “Love Three Times”). The song is pretty good and it’s just great to hear Aerosmith after all these years. My only problem with this song is that the chorus sounds a little too much like “Love in an Elevator”. Still, it’s a nice opener that’s almost a rehash of the band’s late 1980’s sound. As for the other 14 tracks, it gets pretty eclectic musically. This is both good and bad. I do enjoy the soul-infused “Oh Yeah” and the funky “Out Go the Lights”. There’s some great guitar work from Perry and Whitford on those two songs. There are also a few ballads…okay maybe one too many ballads. I’ve never been a fan of “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” so songs such as “What Could Have Been Love” and “Another Last Goodbye” are pretty mediocre pop songs. For me, the weakest of the songs is the country-flavored “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” which features American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. Underwood is a good singer but why couldn’t this song be on her album with Tyler as the guest?

Still, the album does redeem itself with several rockers. The aforementioned “Luv XXX” is an example. “Street Jesus” is a great bluesy hard rocker that sounds like it could have been a song on any of their earlier albums. Despite the cruddy production, the fast-paced “Lover Alot” is another highlight off the album. Perry even gets to take over lead vocals for “Freedom Fighter” and “Something”, both of which are strong. My personal favorite song off the album is the lead single, “Legendary Child”. The lyrics are autobiographical in a way with  Tyler singing about trading “them toys for other joys” (“Toys in the Attic”) and taking “a chance at a high school dance” (“Walk This Way”). The chorus is very reminiscent of the chorus in “Sweet Emotion”.

Music from Another Dimension is a pretty good album from Aerosmith. Still it all depends on what kind of Aerosmith fan you are. If you’re expecting another Toys in the Attic or Rocks, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you like Aerosmith no matter what, you may like this album. Personally, I think any Aerosmith is good but I do prefer the band’s material from the 1970’s more than what came after. This album was produced by Jack Douglas, the producer for those earlier albums. With Douglas, you’d expect the band to make another Toys, Rocks, or Draw the Line. This really isn’t the case but whatever this is, Music from Another Dimension isn’t bad. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Rolling Stones- Light The Fuse review

The Rolling Stones
Light The Fuse (Live 2005)
Rating: ****


With the Rolling Stones preparing for their upcoming shows at the end of the year, Google Play has released the next entry in the Stones Bootleg Series with a fifth album. This one, Light The Fuse, was recorded on August 10, 2005 in Toronto, Canada at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. It was the first show of their tour in promotion for their new album A Bigger Bang. The venue, just from pictures of the show, is pretty small compared to the stadiums the Stones get to play. 

The band runs through a 71 minute set with 14 songs. You get the live favorites such as "Brown Sugar", "Jumpin Jack Flash" and "Tumblin' Dice" and some songs from A Bigger Bang (just weeks before it was released). The performances of the new songs are pretty good, the strongest of them being "Rough Justice". The band dig up deep cuts such as "Live With Me" and songs like "She's So Cold" which hadn't been played in years by that point in time. Things get pretty funky when the band takes on Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" and Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful". 

Of the five albums released, I think Light The Fuse is at the bottom (which used to be occupied by Tokyo Dome). This isn't bad at all. I think all of the albums in the Stones Bootleg Series are awesome.  Light The Fuse is simply a great addition to the series. Once again, Google Play is selling the album for $4.99.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thin Lizzy decide not to release new album under the Lizzy name

A statement has been posted on the site for the reunited Thin Lizzy band concerning two things: touring and the new album. While the tour will wrap up towards the end of the year, Thin Lizzy have decided that the new studio album they've been working on this year will not be released under the Thin Lizzy name.

"Out of respect to Phil Lynott and the legacy he created, we have decided that we should not release a new album under the Thin Lizzy name" guitarist Scott Gorham said in the statement posted yesterday. Gorham went on to say that it was a difficult decision to make as they had put a lot of work into revamping Thin Lizzy. Gorham also says that he thinks Lynott would be proud of the new material and that the new music should be released sometime next year.

Guitarist/singer Ricky Warwick says that the end of this tour doesn't mean the end of the reunited Thin Lizzy, as they might play "odd shows" in 2013.

I think the guys have made  the right decision. When I heard they were recording a new album, I wasn't too happy about it as this version of Thin Lizzy is supposed to be a tribute band to the Thin Lizzy of the past fronted by the late great Phil Lynott. I'm actually surprised they are not going to release it as a Thin Lizzy album but it's a very wise choice. As for the reunited Thin Lizzy, I think they should still continue to perform. I saw them a year ago and they were great. They really do love the music and you can tell it when you see them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kiss- Monster album review

 KISS - Monster
Kiss
Monster
Rating: ****

For almost four decades, Kiss have been touring and making music. Their new album, Monster, is their 20th studio album and their first album since 2009’s Sonic Boom. In recent years, critics and even fans have criticized for the band choosing to continue instead of calling it a day. Some are not comfortable with the fact that the new members are wearing the make-up of previous members. Nevertheless, Monster is a great album from Kiss. While Sonic Boom was an attempt at capturing the band’s sound from the 1970’s, Monster can be seen as Kiss taking on the music world in the 21st century.

            Kiss formed around 1973 by bassist/singer Gene Simmons and guitarist/singer Paul Stanley. Along with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss, Kiss were one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970’s. In their forty year career, the band has been through several line-up changes, with Simmons and Stanley being the two sole original members. There was even a part of their career from 1983 till 1996 when the band decided to take off their iconic make-up. Kiss currently consists of Simmons (the Demon), Stanley (the Starchild), guitarist Tommy Thayer (since 2002, replacing Frehley and wearing the Spaceman make-up), and drummer Eric Singer (1992-1996, 2000-2002, 2004-present replacing Criss and wearing the Catman make-up).

            Monster opens with the strong rocker “Hell or Hallelujah”, which is the lead single for the album. The song has “Detroit Rock City”-like lyrics and great guitar work from Thayer. Stanley’s voice sounds pretty good and that’s saying a lot considering his voice has been shot for the last few years (Stanley had vocal surgery about a year ago so it seems to have helped). This is followed by the stomping beats of “Wall of Sound”, which is the first song sung by Simmons on the album. The song is okay as the lyrics tend to fall on the weak lyrics. Luckily, the same can’t be said for Stanley’s “Freak”. The song is a brilliantly written anthem of sorts. “And I love the clothes I wear/Let them laugh ‘cause I don’t care” sings Stanley. “It’s my cross I’m proud to bear/I’m a freak”. “Back to the Stone Age” might have a corny title but the music sounds like something the MC5 could churn out back in the day.  

Thayer and Singer also get to sing on the album. Thayer’s “Outta This World” is probably my least favorite song off the album while Singer’s “All For the Love of Rock N Roll” is slightly better. Other highlights off the album include Simmon’s hard-hitting “The Devil is Me” and “Long Way Down” which might be my favorite song off the album. It’s a Zeppelin-sounding rocker with chugging guitars and great drumming from Singer.

Monster is just simply a great album from Kiss. They did really work hard on this album. Kiss fans will definitely want to check this out (if they haven’t already) but I think people who are fans of the material Kiss came out with in the 1970’s might actually like this album. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

John Cale- Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood review

 John Cale - Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
John Cale
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
Rating: ****

Seven years after the release of his last album, John Cale has released his fifteenth studio album. For over four decades, Cale has been famous for being one of the founding members of legendary rock band the Velvet Underground and for his own solo material. In his long musical career, Cale isn’t afraid to try one genre at least once. With that being said, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood is a very good album. While it might not be a classic, it certainly is an impressive piece of work from the 70-year-old Cale.

            As mentioned before, Cale will try any genre at least once. This album sees Cale experimenting with electronic music. While that may sound like a turn off for most people, Cale makes it work. “I Wanna Talk 2 You” is the album’s first song and it’s great to hear Cale’s voice after all these years. Cale collaborates with Danger Mouse on the first track, which is pretty interesting. Hearing all the electronic sounds might be strange first but in the end, “I Wanna Talk 2 You” is a great track. “Scotland Yard” is a great sounding track. The song takes advantage of the electronic sounds used on this album. Cale’s voice on this track, although a bit aged, sounds like it did on his earlier albums. “Face to the Sky” might be my personal favorite song off the album. It’s interesting to hear Cale use Autotune (if not, then some other kind of sound effect makes his voice sound robotic) on one of his own tracks. The music itself makes the track even more brilliant and quiet catchy as well.  “December Rains”, at first, sounds like a weak track but the lyrics are actually quite clever. “With Google getting on your nerves/And politics left and right” sings Cale “Kiss your private life goodbye/Lights out say goodnight.” Cale also declares on this track “I’m trying to keep the noise down”. Sure you are, John. The second half of the album fall at little bit on the weak side but it’s pretty good. “Mothra” sounds like a song that could have been on Slow Dazzle, minus all the synthesizers and noises. “Living With You” is a song that’s begging to be played on the radio with its melodic feel.

            Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood is a very good album from John Cale. I’m pretty impressed that Cale can still make great music at 70 years old. If you are new a stranger to Cale’s solo career, don’t start here. I recommend you get Paris 1919, Fear, Slow Dazzle, and Helen of Troy first (the latter three can be purchased together on the two-disc set The Island Years). As for other Cale fans, you shouldn’t be disappointed.     

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 nominees


            It took a while for the Hall to announce the nominees for next year but here they are: 15 artists have been nominated. Five of them will be inducted in a ceremony that will take place in April of next year. For the first time ever, the Hall is letting the public have their say in who they want in. The Hall will then take the top five on December 5 in the fans’ ballot and take it into consideration with the big heads. I must say this year’s list of nominees: pretty good. Like I do as usual, I will split the fifteen artists into separate categories.

Get them in!: My ballot

Deep Purple- The British hard rock legends have finally been nominated. Formed in 1968, Deep Purple are considered one of the pioneering acts in the genre of heavy metal. The band hit their peak in the early 1970’s with albums such as Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head. The latter featured the hit single, “Smoke on the Water”. Deep Purple were also one of those bands that went through several line-up changes. Of the line-ups, the best of them was Mark II: singer Ian Gillian, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, bassist Roger Glover, drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist Jon Lord. The band split in 1976, but reunited in 1984. Since then, the band is still going on strong. As to which members the Hall will choose to induct, I think they’ll induct just the Mark II line-up. Sadly, a full-blown reunion is not possible since Lord passed earlier this year from cancer. The question is if Blackmore (who doesn’t perform rock music anymore) will be willing to join Gillian, Glover, and Paice for a one-off performance. We’ll have to wait and see.

Rush- I’m pleasantly surprised that the Hall has finally nominated the Canadian prog-rock trio. Formed in 1968, Rush have been together for a long time. While never a huge mainstream chart-topping act, Rush have managed to build a very loyal fan base as well as a cult following. The band have released 19 albums (their most recent being Clockwork Angels from this year). Albums such as 2112 and Moving Pictures are considered classics. Another thing to note is that since their second album in 1974 Fly By Night, the line-up in the band hasn’t changed. Rush consist of guitarist Alex Lifeson, bassist/singer Geddy Lee, and drummer Neil Peart. If inducted, it’ll obviously be those three getting in. The band also had bassist Jeff Jones (he was a member for a week, according to sources) and drummer John Rutsey (R.I.P.), who played on the band’s debut album.

Joan Jett and the Black Hearts- The Hall doesn’t have enough female artists in there. Joan Jett deserves to be in. After the split of the Runaways, Jett quickly got a new band together and found her own success as a solo artist. I still think the Runaways should be inducted first but if they can’t get in, Joan should.

Heart- Fronted by sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson, Heart found success in the mid-1970’s as one of the most successful rock groups of that time. The band made a comeback in the mid to late 1980’s with songs such as “Alone” and “Never”. They are still going today and deserve a place in the Hall.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band- I know very little about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. I know that they were extremely influential and that they were one of the first rock acts on Elektra Records. Just for seniority alone, they should be in.


Okay

Procol Harum- I’m surprised that the Hall decided to pick not one but TWO progressive rock acts. In all honesty, I’m not too familiar with Procol Harum’s work but they should’ve been in a long time ago.

Kraftwerk- The experimental kautrock band has finally received a nod from the Hall. Much like Procol Harum, I know very little but I wouldn’t mind seeing them get in.

Randy Newman- I’m surprised Randy Newman isn’t in yet. He’s a great songwriter. The guy has been teased about the sound of his voice but the guy is a pro.

If you must…
Donna Summer- It’s pretty much official: Donna is getting in this year. With all of her previous nominations and her death earlier this year, she’ll get in without any trouble. Still, I’m not too crazy about her music. In my previous times evaluating the Hall’s nods, I didn’t want Donna Summer in there. I don’t consider her as rock music. Still I’m going to admit it now (and I’m not just saying this just because she died): I’ve always liked “She Works Hard For the Money”. I remember at the time of her death Slash said he liked some of her music even though he doesn’t like disco. I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t get in.

Owl convention (Who?)

Albert King, Chic, The Marvelettes, The Meters- Listen: I’ve heard of these people before and I don’t really have a problem with R&B acts getting in the Hall. Still, I feel like the Hall goes a bit gaga over the R&B acts. I mean, I think they’re at the bottom of the barrel here. The Hall should focus more on the ROCK acts that aren’t in.

PISS OFF!

Public Enemy and NWA- You all know my feeling on rap music: I hate it. Don’t preach to me about genre politics and say “Oh, well rap is rock music because of this and that”. PU-LEASE! I know what I said about R&B and whatnot. I know that Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys are in already but I don’t want any more rap or hip hop in the Hall. It annoys the hell out of me. Please stop.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Turn Off the Light: The Doors' Strange Days is 45

 The Doors - Strange Days
The Doors
Strange Days
1967
Rating: **** 1/2


            In January 1967, the Doors has released their self-titled debut album. The album catapulted the band into superstardom and made the band a household name. Only eight months after the release of their debut album, the Doors released their sophomore effort entitled Strange Days on September 25, 1967. Much like the debut album, Strange Days was another hit album for the band. However, Strange Days is much different in terms of sound compared to the debut album: it’s much dark, moody, and depressing. Some people have gone on to say that Strange Days might be the best album the Doors ever made.

            The album starts with the self-titled track, which opens with a very spine-tingling keyboard playing from Ray Manzarek. You can tell that in between the debut album and Strange Days, the Doors have grown tighter as a band musically and even lyrically. The lyrics seem to question the hippie movement or society itself at that point in time. This is followed by the creepy “You’re Lost Little Girl”. Jim Morrison’s vocals on this song are superb and suite the darkness of the song. Much like “The Crystal Ship”, Morrison’s vocals are hypnotic almost. The bluesy “Love Me Two Times” is one of the most popular songs off the album. It’s very radio friendly (even classic rock radio stations still play it today) but still like every song on the album, it’s still pretty dark. Morrison almost shouts the lyrics while the keyboard solo from Manzarek is just wonderful. “Unhappy Girl” continues the dark feeling of the album, this time as a psychedelic rock song.

“Horse Latitudes” is different from all the other songs off the album as it’s basically a poem by Morrison. Apparently, it has been said the poem was one of the first things Morrison ever wrote. This is pretty hard to believe, even for Manzarek, who thought was “too mature”. Towards the end, the song gets a bit frantic to the point where you might just want to skip to the next song (yes, it’s that disturbing). “Horse Latitudes” segues into the calming “Moonlight Drive”. As the story goes, this was the song that Morrison sang to Manzarek while the two were on a beach. Once Morrison sang this to Manzarek, Manzarek immediately said they had to form a band. It’s a great song and the lyrics are very poetic. Morrison always thought of himself as a poet first, then a musician. Morrison’s vocals are sooth and Robby Krieger’s guitar solo fits right in there in the song.

            Side two starts with “People Are Strange”, which another highlight off the album. It’s a pretty catchy song that’s about alienation! Once again, the lyrics are almost poetic and that would be all Morrison’s doing. “My Eyes Have Seen You” is yet another moody track from the album. Krieger has an impressive guitar solo right after the “move upstairs” lyrics. Of all the ten songs off the album, “I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind” is probably the spookiest: the lyrics and even the music are downright depressing. The album wraps up with the eleven-minute “When The Music’s Over”. The song is an epic of sorts, with poetic lyrics from Morrison and even some impressive drumming from John Densmore. According to one source, Morrison found inspiration for the song from one of the clubs/bars the Doors were playing at in their early days. Apparently, he overheard the manager of the place tell someone that when the music’s over, they need to turn off the lights. Whatever the case might be, “When The Music’s Over” ends the album perfectly.

            Strange Days would be yet another hit album for the Doors. 45 years later, it’s still a great album. Still, I see that there is an argument over which album was better: the debut or Strange Days. Some might say the debut just for being the first album and for having the better songs. On the other hand, some people think Strange Days is better and really for one reason: all of the songs are dark and depressing. Sure the debut album was pretty dark but there were a few songs that were a bit pop-oriented (“I Looked At You” and/or “Take It As It Comes”). For me, the debut album is better but no matter what, Strange Days is an amazing album.