Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Riot guitarist Mark Reale dead at 56

Mark Reale
June 7, 1955- January 25, 2012

Mark Reale, guitarist and founding member of New York hard rockers Riot, has passed away. He was 56 years old. Reale had been entered into a San Antonio hospital on January 11 after suffering from a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, which put Reale into a coma. Along with this, Reale had been battling with Crohn's Disease for his entire life. With gigs to play, the four other members of Riot continued without him in promoton of their latest album Immortal Soul

Reale was one of the co-founding members of Riot when they formed in 1975 in New York. Despite numerous line-up changes, singer Guy Speranza was the lead singer for the band's first three album. The third, Fire Down Under, is considered by many music critics to be one of the most overlooked albums of the hard rock genre. Speranza would leave in 1981 and was replaced by singer Rhett Forrester. With Forrester, the band made Restless Breed and Born In America. The band went on hiatus for a few years but around 1986, Reale had put together a new version of Riot. This power metal oriented Riot released Thundersteel in 1988 and have been active ever since. Throughout the band's history, Reale has been the only stable member in the band. In 2011, the Thundersteel line-up released the album Immortal Soul

I'm very saddened by the news of Mark's passing. He was a great guitarist and was the guy who kept Riot going. This isn't a first for Riot: Guy Speranza and Rhett Forrester have also died. Guy died from pancreatic cancer in 2003 while Rhett was tragically murdered in 1994. As for the future of Riot going on, that's up to them. I mean, Mark was the last original member left but Immortal Soul was such a great album. Perhaps the remaining guys in Riot can continue to perform but not under the Riot name. Still, I would think Mark would want the guys to go on with the tour. No matter what happens, we have lost a great guitarist. 

Rest in peace, Mark. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kiss' Music From The Elder to become a movie

30 years after its release, Kiss' Music From 'The Elder' will become a feature length film. UK-based independent film maker and musician Seb Hunter is at the helm of this project. Hunter came around to getting into Kiss around the late 1970's. He cited The Elder as his favorite Kiss album, even though it was a flop. According to Hunter, the movie is set to be made as a "post apocalyptic road movie" and that filming will begin sometime this summer. Two websites have been set up, one for information on the movie and the other on a book about The Elder to be released sometime in spring 2012.

Music From 'The Elder' was released by Kiss in 1981. The album was produced by Bob Ezrin, who had produced the band's classic Destroyer in 1976. Ezrin was enjoying the success of Pink Floyd's The Wall, which he had produced. Also at this time, Kiss had new drummer Eric Carr in the band. When touring in Australia in 1980, the band had in their mind to make a heavy album. That quickly changed when Ezrin wasn't impressed with the material the band had come up with. He suggested to the band to make a concept album, using one of Gene Simmons' story ideas that he had been trying to pitch to people in Hollywood: the story of a boy who becomes a warrior. Kiss had high hopes for the album and even went as far to planning a movie based on the album starring Christopher Makepeace. When released in 1981, the album was a critical and commercial flop. With that, Kiss abandoned the plans for a movie and decided not to tour in support for the album. Instead, the band did appear on the short-lived late night variety show Fridays and performed three songs from the album. Aside from playing "A World Without Heroes" at a few Kiss Konventions and on MTV Unplugged, the band has not performed an entire song from The Elder in concert.

I'm all for this idea. The Elder isn't a masterpiece or whatever but as a Kiss fan, it has a special place in my heart. Some of the songs are really great, even if it doesn't sound like Kiss. From what I'm reading, Hunter is waiting for an authorization or thumbs up from Kiss' Management. Even though they dismissed the album many times, I think Gene and Paul will help with this project. It would be for the fans and yes, Gene can enjoy the money they make off of it. I've already donated to this project. Below are the two links to the sites I mentioned before.

Monday, January 23, 2012

You Gotta Be Crazy: Pink Floyd's Animals at 35

 Pink Floyd - Animals
Pink Floyd
Rating: **** 1/2

The late 1970’s were an interesting time in rock music. Punk rock was now the coolest thing around and anything that wasn’t punk was frowned upon. When it came to a band like Pink Floyd, they were hated by the punk rock bands. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols went as far as to wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt and writing the words “I hate” on it. Believe it or not, Pink Floyd released their next album around this time. The album, Animals, was released on January 23, 1977 in the UK (and February 12 in the US). It was the band’s tenth release and the band’s follow up to 1975’s Wish You Were Here. Upon its release, the album received mixed to positive reviews from music critics. For Pink Floyd fans, it was another classic. While the album was another hit for the band, Animals seems to fly under the radar with the better sales and acclaim for Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and 1979’s The Wall. Still, Animals is a masterpiece in its own way.
            Since 1973, Pink Floyd were enjoying their sudden boost in fame. Their eighth album, Dark Side of the Moon, wasn’t only a hit in their homeland of the UK but Floyd had finally managed to attract American audiences. The follow-up, Wish You Were Here, was another hit album for the band when release in 1975. By this time, Pink Floyd were up there as one of most popular rock bands. Since 1968, Pink Floyd consisted of bassist Roger Waters, guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist Rick Wright. The band had suffered from having to let go of founding member, Syd Barrett, who was the creative force behind the band’s debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Ever since becoming a four-piece band, Pink Floyd worked it out together on how they would continue to make music. While Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here saw the band working together, it was Waters who could have been seen as the leader of the band.  When it came time to make another album, Waters was at the helm of the project. Like Dark Side and Wish You Were Here before it, Animals was going to be yet another conceptual album. Dark Side of the Moon was about the everyday life of a human being while Wish You Were Here was about the music industry and Syd Barrett. Animals was loosely based on the George Orwell novel, Animal Farm. While Animal Farm was about Stalinism, Animals dealt with capitalism. The album was recorded from April 1976 till December 1976 at Britannia Row Studios. The studio had been made by Pink Floyd after they purchased the three storey church halls at 35 Britannia Row.
            “Pigs on the Wing Part 1” is the introduction to the album, clocking in a little over a minute. The song serves a great opener for the album. As to what the song is about, drummer Nick Mason personally thinks Roger Waters wrote it to his new girlfriend (soon to be wife). Waters confirmed this later on. The lyrics concern about Waters, as he wonders who will care for him in this dystopian future in which animals rule the world. The last song off side one is “Dogs”, which is the only song on the album that isn’t entirely written by Roger Waters. The song began life in 1974 as “You Gotta Be Crazy” and was written by David Gilmour. Waters and Gilmour tweaked a few things and made it into a 17-minute track. For the album, dogs represent the combative forces and business people in the world. The first few verses seem to be about a business person, while the last couple of verses seem to compare and contrast the previous lyrics to dogs. Lyrics such as “fitted with collar and chain” and “given a pat on the back” sound a lot like how a dog is treated. The lyrics to this song and pretty much the entire album will have you thinking, even 35 years later. Another thing to note is the guitar solos in the middle at 3:42 and 14:09 are just mind blowing.
            Side two begins with “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”. “Pigs on the Wing” didn’t necessarily talk about pigs but this song certainly does. According to Waters, the song is about the social ladder and a way of seeing society as pigs. AllMusic critic Mike DeGagne has an interesting way of looking at this song: each of the three verses are about a different pig, which would explain where the “Three Different Ones” bit came from. The first pig is thought to be a businessman, perhaps like the ones in “Dogs”. The second pig could be describing Margaret Thatcher, someone who Roger Waters didn’t care for at all (for more examples, listen to The Final Cut). If the second pig is Thatcher, then it sounds about right: she is described as a “bus stop rat bag” and a “fucked up old hag”. The third and final pig is social activist Mary Whitehouse. It has to be because her name is in the lyrics (“Mary you’re nearly a treat”). Towards the end, Gilmour uses a talk box for his guitar. “Sheep” is another great song and it could be my personal favorite off the album. The sheep are depicted as the mindless and stupid people in society who don’t know what is happening (“Now things are really what they seem/No, this is no bad dream”). The song was originally titled “Raving and Drooling”, which could clue in as to what the sheep represent on the album. Around 6:25 into the song, you can hear the voice of someone (Waters) reciting Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”) but the later part is a parody of it. The sounds of the guitars towards 8:07 are just beautiful, with the way they harmonize. “Pig on the Wing Part 2” wraps up the entire album. Much like the first part, it is a little over a minute but the lyrics have been changed up: it seems to be a message of hope that the singer in the song will find a shelter “from pigs on the wing”.
            Like the Pink Floyd albums before it, Animals had a unique album cover and packaging concept. Art group Hipgnosis sketched out an idea for the album artwork but it wasn’t what the band had in mind at all: the cover was of a boy walking into his parents’ bedroom, watching them have sex "like animals". It was Waters’ idea to have the cover picture taken over at the Battersea Power Station. Ballon Fabrik made a pig balloon as Waters’ idea was to have the pig fly over the Battersea Power Station. An attempt was made on December 2 but the pig balloon did not work due to the weather. The pig landed in Kent and was recovered by a farmer, who claimed it had scared his cows. Three days in, work continued but it turned out the best work was from day one. An image of a pig was superimposed for the final product.
             Animals did fairly well in the charts. It peaked at #2 in the UK and #3 in the US. Reviews for the album were generally positive but some were mixed. Rolling Stone reviewer Frank Rose didn’t like the album and thought of its message as “pointless and tedious”. The band toured in support for the album, playing the entire album.
            Personally, I absolutely love Animals. I have it charted at #28 in my list of favorite albums. This also makes it my third favorite album by Pink Floyd, the other two beating are Wish You Were Here (#25) and Dark Side of the Moon (#5). Animals is such a clever album with a wonderful concept. The follow up to this album, The Wall, has almost made this album overlooked by major critics. While The Wall may have sold  more copies, Animals is the superior album. From the concept to the sound and presentation, Animals is a classic album. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mark Reale- in a coma

Riot guitarist Mark Reale is now in a coma after being admitted to a San Antonio hospital from complications of Crohn's disease a week ago. The guitarist was reportedly condition critical but just today, it was announced Reale is now in a coma after suffering from a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. Riot, meanwhile, continue to tour as a four piece band.

At this time, all I can say is that this doesn't look good at all. Everybody please pray for Mark to come out of the coma. I think that is all we can do now.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Set the Night on Fire: The Doors' debut at 45

 The Doors - The Doors
The Doors
The Doors
Rating: **** 1/2 or *****

On January 4, 1967, a band from LA released their self-titled debut album. That band was the Doors. Formed in 1965, the Doors already had a following in LA as the house band for the Whiskey A Go Go. The album, The Doors, was praised and today it still is. Not only is it considered one of the best debut album from a band but it’s also considered one of the best albums of all time. For me, I have The Doors placed at #10 on my list of favorite albums. It’s a great album and I’ll go into this album song-by-song.
            The Doors were formed in 1965 by UCLA students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek. It was in the summer of 1965 when the band formed. According to Manzarek, he and Morrison were on the beach. Morrison had told Manzarek that he had written some songs. Manzarek wanted Morrison to sing them but Morrison was shy. Eventually, Morrison sang to what would later become “Moonlight Drive”. Right there, Manzarek said they should form a band. Manzarek knew drummer John Densmore from a previous band. With Densmore help, he knew guitarist Robby Krieger from a meditation class. The band tried to find a bassist but Manzarek discovered a bass organ, which he played with the keyboards. The Doors quickly started playing shows and even got the money to record a demo. By 1967, The Doors were the house band for the Whiskey A Go Go. It was at the Whiskey where Elektra Records president Jac Holtzman saw the band at the suggestion of Arthur Lee of Love, who were signed to Elektra. In August 1967, the Doors were signed to Elektra Records and began work on their first album. Producing the album was Paul Rothchild, who had also produced Love and other Elektra artists. The band recorded the album from August 24 till August 31.

1.      “Break On Through (To The Other Side)”- The first Doors album begins to the sounds of John Densmore playing a bossa nova drum beat. According to Densmore in the Classic Albums episode on this album, he appreciated the music coming from Brazil. “Break On Through” is a great way to open up the album and it introduces people to the Doors as the first song on the first album. The lyrics are poetic and seem to be written by Jim Morrison. Morrison did attend UCLA to study film but according to Manzarek and many others, Morrison seemed to be much more of a poet. The guitar riff is quite catchy. According to Robby Krieger, he was inspired by the guitar riff in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s “Shake Your Money Maker”. When listening to the Butterfield track, it doesn’t sound exactly like “Break On Through” but it is a variation of that riff. Manzarek’s work on the keyboards is outstanding and possibly with Krieger, they really lead the song. In fact, all four members of the band really contributed to this song in their own way. It might be my favorite song by the band.

2.      “Soul Kitchen”- This funk-tinged track is a favorite amongst Doors fans. Krieger has said before that the guitar playing in “Soul Kitchen” was inspired by funk music and what he was trying to do was recreate a James Brown horn section. The lyrics are another thing: they seem to talk about the night life and staying all night at club. The song is funky, but still sounds very eerie. Once again, “Soul Kitchen” is a great song.

3.      “The Crystal Ship”- It’s amazing at how many of the Doors’ best songs are on their debut album, and the order they fall in. “The Crystal Ship” is a very dreamy-sounding song, almost hypnotic. The lyrics seem to be Jim’s. According to Densmore, Morrison said that he had the melodies in his head yet Morrison wasn’t a guy seen playing an instrument. Engineer Bruce Botnick said that Jim sang this song through a Telefunken U-47. According to the band and others, Morrison was a big Frank Sinatra fan. In this song, Jim is crooning the song and it does sound like something that Sinatra would have done.

4.      “Twentieth Century Fox”- This is a song you probably won’t spot on too many compilations of the Doors music but this is one of their best album tracks. “Twentieth Century Fox” might be thought of as too poppy or commercial and they might be right. Still, this is a really great track: Morrison’s vocals are awesome and Manzarek’s keyboard playing is really psychedelic sounding. Very underrated.

5.      “Alabama Song”- Believe it or not, this is a cover song done by the Doors. “Alabama Song” was written by Bertolt Brechet and Kurt Weill around the 1930’s. It appeared in the opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany and it’s sung by the character Jenny and her prostitute friends. It seems like such a strange song to cover and the band didn’t see how they could cover it. The band worked it out by playing the music differently. It seems that the band nailed it and you would have never guessed it was a cover (that is, if you didn’t look at the song credits). Mazarek’s organ playing has this very cool sounding “oom-pa” beat to it and Morrison works his magic with the vocals. Easily one of the band’s best songs.

6.      “Light My Fire”- Of all the songs off the album, “Light My Fire” is the most popular as it was a #1 hit for the band. The song, like every other original composition, is credited to the Doors. The song was actually written by Robby Krieger. The story goes that after a band rehearsal, Morrison told the band to go home and all write a song. Krieger came back with this song written and the rest of the band helped expand on it. According to Krieger, the second verse of the song was written by Morrison. Manzarek’s keyboard work is amazing and the way the song opens was all his idea. The song was a #1 hit but it had to be cut down for radio and also to fit onto a 45 record. Later in the year, the Doors performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show. The band was told at the last minute to omit the lyric “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher”. It’s unknown what was going on in Morrison’s head but he didn’t change it, which caused the show to not invite the Doors to play again. While some might think it is overrated, “Light My Fire” is a classic.

7.        “Back Door Man”- This, like “Alabama Song”, is a cover song. This time, the Doors are covering Willie Dixon’s classic “Back Door Man”. The song is down-right bluesy and could best be described as blues done Doors style. It also became a live favorite and during the instrumental bit, Morrison would improvise on the spot.

8.      “I Looked At You”- The Doors are known for their dark and, sometimes, depressing sound. When there is an upbeat poppy song like “I Looked At You” on a Doors album, many people aren’t going to like it. In fact, it might be the weakest track off the album easily. Still, the song has its strengths. It is very catchy and Morrison’s vocals are pretty good.

9.      “End of the Night”- Jim Morrison will not only be remembered as the singer of the Doors but as one of the greatest songwriters/artists of all time. A song like “End of the Night” is a perfect example of Morrison’s writing, not only as a songwriter but as a poet. Listen to the lyrics: they are very eerie and spooky. Death was a topic Morrison seemed to like writing about often. His vocals are good to and Manzarek’s keyboard playing is hauntingly good.

10.  “Take It As It Comes”- Along with “I Looked At You”, “Take It As It Comes” seems to be another Doors song from this album that gets little love. I actually think it’s a decent song: the lyrics are pretty good and it’s very psychedelic vibe (like all the other songs on the album). I really like Jim’s vocals on this one and in some ways, this song is a bit dark. Believe it or not, the Ramones would later cover this for their 1992 album Mondo Bizzaro. One of the band’s most underrated, in my opinion.

11.  “The End”- It is as epic as the Doors will get: a song called “The End” and it’s at the end of their debut album. This song was done in one take and it was recorded live in the studio (according to Ray, most of the first album is). In a 1969 interview, Jim said that he thinks of the song as “goodbye to childhood” or to a girl. The middle part of the song was improvised by Morrison himself. There’s a part in the song when Morrison says “Father/Yes son?/I want to kill you” and then “Mother, I want to…” According to John Densmore, Morrison was crying at one point after babbling “Kill the father, fuck the mother” asking if anyone understood him. Many believe that Morrison might have been influenced by Oedipus complex, which was a psychoanalytic theory term to describe a boy’s desire to kill his father and have sex with his mother. Oedipus was coined by Sigmund Freud after he had seen the play Oedipus the King. Whatever the case might be, the song runs at nearly 12 minutes. The song would later be used in the 1979 Francis Ford Coppola movie Apocalypse Now. The song’s appearance in the movie would help regenerate interest in the music of the Doors. Without a doubt, “The End” is an amazing song.

            When released in 1967, The Doors didn’t really take off until the band had a #1 hit single with “Light My Fire”. By that time, the album had peaked at #2 in the charts. Only a few months after the release of their debut album, the Doors released their sophomore effort. That album, Strange Days, was another hit album. In fact, there are some people who prefer Strange Days more than the debut album given that Strange Days is much darker. Still, the debut album is viewed by many as the best album the Doors ever made. The Doors would continue to tour and make music till the end of the 1960’s and in the beginning of the 1970’s. Things came to a halt on July 3, 1971 when Jim Morrison died under mysterious circumstances. The band continued on without Morrison for a while but it wasn’t the same: the band called it quits in 1973. Four decades after the death of Jim Morrison, his music with the Doors has become more popular than it was back in the day.

The Doors is definitely one of my all time favorite albums. I have it charted at #10, which is saying a lot. Not only is it one of my favorite albums but it looks like it’s my favorite album by an American band. It’s a great introduction to a fantastic band and the music is just great. The Doors is an example of why music in the late 1960’s was so important.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Riot guitarist Mark Reale in critical condition

Mark Reale, founding member and guitarist for New York rockers Riot, is reportedly in critical condition due to complications from Crohn's disease. Reale has been admitted to a hospital in San Antonio and has been left in Intensive Care Unit. According to a statement from the band on their official website, Reale has been battling with Crohn's disease for most of his life and that recently Reale had been in pain during rehearsals for the band's upcoming tour. The band has also admitted that the band's second guitarist Mike Flyntz recorded a majority of the guitar work on the band's latest album Immortal Soul, which was released late last year. The band have noted that there's a possibility that Reale will not be able to perform with the band for the upcoming 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise. They have also noted that if they have to, they will have to perform as a four piece band. In the history of Riot, Reale has been the band's only stable member since the band formed in 1975. The line-up of Riot that is currently together is the band's Thundersteel era line-up. Along with Reale is singer Tony Moore, guitarist Mike Flyntz, bassist Don Van Stavern, and drummer Bobby Jarzombek.
Okay, this flat out sucks. First Tony Iommi and now Mark. What the hell is going on here?



Monday, January 9, 2012

Tony Iommi diagnosed with lymphoma

Guitarist and founding member of Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi, has been diagnosed with what is believed to be early stages of lymphoma. Black Sabbath's publicist has stated that his bandmates would like to send positive vibes to the 63 year-old guitarist. Just two months ago, Black Sabbath announced they would have a reunion tour with the original line-up and a new studio album produced by Rick Rubin. The band are slated to perform their first gig on May 18. With Iommi's diagnosis, the tour and album might be postponed though nothing has been said. According to the band's publicist, Iommi remains upbeat while doctors come up with the best treatment.
I'm not going to lie: I'm close to tears right now. My biggest fear is that Tony will end up like Ronnie James Dio, who lost his battle to stomach cancer in 2010. However, I've read that what Ronnie did was wrong: he did not get screened when his doctors asked him to. If these are early stages of lymphoma, Tony might have a chance. Still, I'm not a doctor. All we can do now is pray for Tony to get better so he can kick some ass with Black Sabbath this year on the road.


Friday, January 6, 2012

David Lee Roth reveals title of new Van Halen album

Van Halen will be releasing their new on February 7 and just recently, singer David Lee Roth has announced the title for the new studio album: A Different Kind of Truth. Roth also announced a few shows that the band will be playing in New York for their 2012 tour.
A Different Kind of Truth is already a historic release for Van Halen. It is the band's first studio album in 14 years, the last being 1998's Van Halen III which featured Gary Cherone as the lead singer. Also, the album is also Van Halen's first album with Roth in 28 years, his last being 1984's 1984. A Different Kind of Truth is also the band's first album without bassist Michael Anthony, as he was replaced by Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang (aka Wolfie).
I'm not very interested in the 2012 tour. I've seen Van Halen twice: once with Sammy Hagar in 2004 and once with Dave and without Michael in 2007. If I were to see Van Halen again, Michael has got to be there with David, Eddie, and Alex but that is very unlikely to happen. Still, I'll get the new album. The title, in my opinion, is not bad. I think it fits in with the other studio album titles.

Van Halen
Van Halen II
Women and Children First
Fair Warning
Diver Down
For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Van Halen III
A Different Kind of Truth

I have all the Van Halen albums except Balance and Van Halen III but I don't think it really matters.