Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quiet Riot "Live at the US Festival 1983" Review

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

Shout Factory has released a CD/DVD combo pack of Quiet Riot's performance at the US Festival in 1983. Quiet Riot were the first band to play on Heavy Metal Day, which was on May 29, 1983. The band performed in the afternoon to a crowd of 500,000 people. This archival release is a nice thing to have and it's also an important part of Quiet Riot's history. 

The band's set consists of eight to nine songs, making it a solid 40 minute set. The band run through songs off their 1983 album, Metal Health. It was the band's debut album in America, as two albums by the band back in the 1970's were only released in Japan (both which featured Randy Rhoads). The band open their set with "Danger Zone", a song that didn't make the original Metal Health album (a studio version can be found on the 2001 reissue of the album).

The band is full of energy, especially singer Kevin DuBrow. All of the songs are performed pretty much the same as they were on Metal Health. "Love's a Bitch" does sound a bit different and "Slick Black Cadillac" is lacking the fading in backing vocals. Still, Quiet Riot play a rough and tough set. The audience seem to be enjoying the show as well, especially when the band goes into "Cum On Feel The Noize", which was the hit single off the album.

Drummer Frankie Banali is playing brilliantly, which is somewhat similar to how John Bonham of Led Zeppelin played. Guitarist Carlos Cavazo shows off his guitar playing throughout the show. The guitar solo, "Battle Axe", is a great example of his. Bassist Rudy Sarzo is just a monster, furiously slapping the bass and head banging. As mentioned before, DuBrow is just amazing. Until his passing in 2007, DuBrow was infamous for being very brutally honest in various metal magazines. This doesn't matter: DuBrow was a great singer. His vocals are similar to Steve Marriot's. Also, the guy knew how to work the stage and get people pumped up. Watching the DVD, DuBrow is decked out in red spandex and suspenders, with red Converse sneakers. DuBrow was certainly a character and nearly five years after his passing, he is sorely missed. 

If you are a fan of Quiet Riot, you should get this CD/DVD set. It's nice to have, especially the DVD. If you happened to be one of those 500,000 people that were there that day, this makes a great souvenir. Shout Factory seem to be releasing other performance from the US Festival as well. Personally, I'm happy with my purchase. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Beatles' Yellow Submarine to be re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray in May

Yellow Submarine, the 1968 animated motion picture based on the music of the Beatles, is being re-released on DVD and for the first time, on Blu-Ray. The movie was last released in 1999 on VHS and DVD. The release date for the new DVD and Blu-Ray is May 29 (May 28 for everyone except North America). The movie has been remastered and restored by Triage Motion Picture Services to 4K digital resolution. Unlike most movies that are cleaned up today, no computer software has been used to clean the picture due to the nature of the hand-drawn animation. It was cleaned by hand, frame by frame. The special features seem to be the same as the 1999 release:

-a seven minute feature "Mod Odyssey"
-original theatrical trailer
-audio commentary by John Coates and Heinz Edelmann
-16 page booklet written by John Lasseter
-reproduction of animated film cels

A soundtrack for the movie will be released the same day.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Randy Rhoads (1956-1982)- 30 Years Later

Randall William Rhoads
December 6, 1956- March 19, 1982

It has been 30 years since guitarist Randy Rhoads' untimely death. Rhoads was and is still considered one of the greatest guitarists of his time. Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956 in Santa Monica, California. Rhoads grew up in a musical family and was classically trained. Around 1973, Rhoads formed a band of his own with his best friend Kelly Garni. Garni didn't know how to play an instrument so Rhoads taught him to play the bass. Rhoads and Garni later found drummer Drew Forsyth and singer Kevin DuBrow. The band called themselves Quiet Riot and by the late 1970's, the band had made a name for themselves around the LA area. CBS Records took notice of the band and signed them. The band recorded their first two albums (Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II) almost back to back. After the release of their debut album, Garni quit and was replaced by bassist Rudy Sarzo. Sarzo may appear on the cover of Quiet Riot II but it is Garni who actually plays on the album. By 1979, the band had called it a day. Word got out about Rhoads and soon enough, Rhoads auditioned to be in former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne's band. Osbourne loved him and Rhoads got the job. Also in Osbourne's solo band was bassist Bob Daisley and former Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake. In 1980, Osbourne released his debut solo album Blizzard of Ozz. The album was a huge success and achieved gold status. Only months after the release of the album, Osbourne and the band went right back into the studio to record the follow up. The album, Diary of a Madman, was released in 1981. Before the album was released, Daisley and Kerslake were fired. Kerslake was replaced by drummer Tommy Aldridge. Rhoads suggested his old buddy from Quiet Riot, Rudy Sarzo, to audition as the new bassist. According to Sarzo's 2007 autobiography Off the Rails, he was hired on the spot. Osbourne and his band continued to tour, sometimes playing to sold out crowds. 
On the day of March 19, 1982, the band were in Florida as they had a show to play the very next day. The tour bus stopped on a small piece of property owned by a man named Jerry Calhoun. On the property, there was an airstrip of planes and helicopters. It just so happened that the tour bus driver owned one of the jet planes and offered the people on the bus a ride. The driver, Andrew Aycock, first gave keyboardist Don Airey and a manager a ride. That ride went all well. For the next ride, Rhoads and the band's hairdresser Rachel Youngblood decided to go on. The people on the tour bus were awoken by a huge bang. The noise was so loud that the windows of the tour bus had broken. The jet plane that Aycock was flying had crashed into Calhoun's house, instantly killing everyone on board. Rhoads was only 25 years old. An autopsy later showed that Aycock had cocaine in his system before flying the plane. The tragedy hit the music scene hard, especially the LA scene who had come to love Randy. Osbourne resumed the tour with future Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis taking over for Rhoads. 
Meanwhile in LA, DuBrow had formed a new version of Quiet Riot. According to Sarzo, he and Rhoads had given their blessing to DuBrow to use the Quiet Riot name. With DuBrow was drummer Frankie Banali, guitarist Carlos Cavazo, and bassist Chuck Wright. The band were signed once again by Sony and CBS Records, only this time under the label Pasha Records. After completing his tenure with Osbourne, Sarzo asked to rejoin the group. Sarzo came just in time: Quiet Riot were already at work on their American debut Metal Health. The album was released in March 1983. By November, Metal Health had done something that no other metal album had done before: it was at #1 in the Billboard Charts, knocking down Michael Jackson's Thriller for a few weeks. Metal Health sold over six million copies thanks to the success of the self-titled track and the band's cover of Slade's "Cum On Feel The Noize". Osbourne was also able to comeback with his third album Bark at the Moon.
Although he died young, Rhoads' legacy has managed to live on. Many guitarists have cited Rhoads as an influence. No one knows what would have happened had Rhoads still been alive today but the music he made speaks for itself. 

RIP Randy!
Fly on! Thunderbird, fly!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Rolling Stones move 50th Anniversary tour to 2013

It was announced today that the Rolling Stones have decided to set their 50th anniversary tour for next year. Rolling Stone magazine announced the news after conducting separate interviews with singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards. According to Richards, the band isn't ready. According to various other sources, the band might be making this decision due to Richards' health. One concert business source says that the band don't want to do too much traveling out of concern for Richards' health. An example of this would be to do a 10 show stint at various major venues around the world such as Madison Square Garden and Staples Center.  Stones fans can look forward to a few thing other things in the future: Richards is currently working on a new album. Also, the band are having director Brett Morgen take lead in an upcoming documentary on the band. The  documentary will be released sometime in September of this year. Morgen is quoted to saying that they have 50 hours worth of interviews and are going through never before seen footage. Also, Richards says that former bassist Bill Wyman might be up for join the band on their 50th anniversary tour. 
As much as it sucks that the Stones won't tour this year, we still have things to look forward to. I'm very interested in seeing what this documentary offers. The story of the band has been told before in 25x5 but it could use an update! I would also like to see more archival releases like The Brussels Affair and Hampton Coliseum. This should all be worth the wait.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

The World's Behind You: The Velvet Underground & Nico at 45

 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground & Nico
Rating: **** 1/2 or *****

While the British Invasion had taken up most of the early 1960’s, the next half of the decade would see the emergence of more American rock bands. Over in New York, it was in 1965 when a band called the Velvet Underground was formed. On March 12, 1967 the band released their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. The album was considered a flop back in the day but 45 years later, the album has been considered as one of the greatest albums ever made. Some music critics think that the album was one of the early examples of what would later become punk rock music. For me, The Velvet Underground & Nico ranks at #14 in my list of favorite albums.
            The Velvet Underground were formed in 1965 in New York. The band consisted of guitarist/singer/songwriter Lou Reed, Welsh multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Angus MacLise. The band played their first gig at Summit High School in New Jersey but now too long after, MacLise left the band. MacLise was replaced by drummer Maureen “Mo” Tucker. Besides being the only woman in the band, Tucker was also an interesting drummer: she used trash can lids as her cymbals and would stand up while drumming. The Velvet Underground were able to make a name for themselves around New York until they caught the attention of renowned artist Andy Warhol “discovered” them. Warhol offered to be the band’s manager and helped them get a record deal with MGM’s Verve Records. He also suggested to the band to add German singer, Nico, to the band. The band was reluctant to add Nico. At first, Warhol suggested that Nico be the lead singer for the band which they turned down. Instead, Nico did join the band and would end up singing lead vocals for three songs that Reed had written for her to sing. The band also became a part of Warhol’s multimedia road show, Exploding Plastic Inevitable. The album was recorded from April 1966 to November 1966 in various locations with Tom Wilson and Warhol as producer.
            “Sunday Morning” serves as the first track off the album. It’s unlike many of the other songs from the album as it is somewhat pop friendly while still being psychedelic. Reed found some inspiration for the song from Warhol: the line of “Watch out/The world’s behind you” was inspired by Warhol’s suggestion for Reed to “get paranoid”. The song has a very melodic feel and it is indeed a highlight from the album. Next up is the drug-dealing tale of “I’m Waiting for the Man”, a grim look at the street life in New York. “I’m waiting for my man” sings Reed. “Twenty six dollars in my hand”. Reed mentions the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street, where the drug deal is taking. The sound of the song would fall along the line of garage rock, as the guitar and bass hum loudly in this track. It’s easily one of the band’s best known songs, as it has been covered by dozens of artists in later years. “Femme Fatale” is the first of three songs that features Nico on lead vocals. Although sung by Nico, it was confirmed years later that Reed wrote the song about Warhol star Edie Sedgwick (a request made by Warhol). Nico’s vocals are very unique and in some ways, it makes the song darker. Things get trippy during “Venus in Furs”, a song that touches upon the topic of sadomasochism. “Shiny, shiny/Shiny boots of leather” sings Reed to the screeching sounds of Cale’s viola. The hypnotic sound of Cale’s viola, the sound of Reed’s Ostrich guitar, and the lyrics make this my personal favorite song from the album. “Run, Run, Run" continues the experimental sound of the album in the form of standard rock and roll. According to one site, Reed wrote the song on the back of an envelope when the band were on their way to play at the CafĂ© Bizarre. This might see the beginning of Reed using characters in his songs (Seasick Sarah, Teenage Mary, Margarita Passion, Beardless Harry). Side one ends with “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, the second song to feature Nico on lead vocals. The sound of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” is quite astonishing: not only is Reed playing an ostrich guitar again but Cale is playing tone clusters on a prepared piano, with a chain of paper clips intertwined with the piano strings. Nico’s vocals were original recorded as one track but for the final mix, her vocals are double tracked. With Nico’s vocals double tracked, it gives the song a more psychedelic feeling.
            Side two begins with what might be the Velvet Underground’s most praised song: “Heroin”. The song’s structure is very clever as it starts off slow before it picks up pace, making it sound like what it feels like when someone takes the drug. “When I put a spike into my vein/I tell you that things aren’t quite the same” sings Reed. Towards the end, the song gets very frantic as Cale is at it again with his screeching viola. The somewhat soul infused “There She Goes Again” follows. Reed is accompanied by backing vocals of Cale and Morrison, giving the song a kind of a 1950’s rock and roll sound to it. “I’ll Be Your Mirror” is the last of the three songs to feature Nico on lead vocals. According to Sterling Morrison in an interview, it took a while for the band to get Nico to sing the song the way the band wanted it to sound. It came to the point when Nico burst into tears but she gave it another try and this is what you here. Probably out of all the Nico songs, her vocal performance on this song is the best. “The Black Angel’s Death Song” is another experimental sounding track. Reed sings to the sound of Cale’s viola playing. There is audio feedback throughout the entire song. The breaks in which you here the “hissing” sounds is actually Cale hissing into the microphone. The album ends with the protopunk sounds of “European Son”. While it may be punk rock sounding, it is also very experimental (probably as experimental as the album gets). The song starts off normal for a minute until a loud crash is heard. The loud crash was actually created by Cale, by hitting a stack of plates with a metal chair. The rest of the song is improvised and uses feedback and distortion as much as it can.
            When released in March 1967, The Velvet Underground & Nico barely even charted. It debuted on the charts in May at #199. The album peaked at #171 in December before falling out of the charts in January 1968.  The album barely received any feedback from the critics (though the reviews that were published were positive). All of this was most likely due to the lack of promotion from Verve Records. By the end of the year, a fall out between the Velvet Underground and Warhol resulted in the end of their partnership. When Warhol stopped managing the band, Nico left with him. In January 1968, the band released their second album White Light/White Heat. Musically, White Light/White Heat was a heavier album and much louder than the debut. Still, the album didn’t do anything. Cale left the band later that year after a creative dispute between him and Reed. He was replaced by guitarist Doug Yule. With Reed’s direction, the band released a self titled album in 1969. It was a departure from the first albums as it was mellower and more acoustically driven. Verve dropped the band in 1970 and Atlantic Records took the band under their wing. Atlantic Records, however, asked for the band to make their next album “loaded with hits”. The resulting album, Loaded, was release in the fall of 1970. By that time, Reed had left the band. It came to the point where Yule was the only member left. Yule continued using the Velvet Underground name until 1973 when the band split.
            A decade or two later, the Velvet Underground finally managed to scratch the surface long after the band had split. Today, the band’s music is seen as influential and a precursor to punk rock music. The Velvet Underground & Nico album is now seen by almost every major music magazine as one of the greatest and most important album ever made in rock music. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at #13 in their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2006, the Library of Congress added it to their National Recording Registry. I have The Velvet Underground & Nico ranked at #14 on my list of favorite albums. It’s just an amazing album that was certainly ahead of its time. I first listened to it around November 2006 and I loved it. It was different and strange, which made me like it almost instantly. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ronnie Montrose dead at 64

Ronnie Montrose
November 29, 1947- March 3, 2012

Guitarist Ronnie Montrose, probably best known as a member of his band Montrose, passed away yesterday after a short battle with prostate cancer. Ronnie was 64 years old. Montrose got his start by playing for Van Morrison briefly in the early 1970's. He then joined the Edgar Winter Group shortly after along with Winter, guitarist/singer Dan Hartman and drummer Chuck Ruff. The band's 1972 release, They Only Come At Night, was a commercial success thanks to the hit singles "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein". Montrose left in 1973 to form his own band Montrose. With him was bassist Bill Church, drummer Denny Carmassi, and singer Sammy Hagar. The band's self-titled debut, released in 1973, was a flop in the charts but it (in some ways) gained a cult following among hard rock fans. Songs such as "Rock the Nation", "Bad Motor Scooter", and "Rock Candy" became hard rock classics. Though the band's line-up kept changing, Ronnie and Carmassi were on all four Montrose albums from 1973 to 1978. By 1978, the band split but Ronnie reformed the band briefly in 1987 with a completely different line-up. In 1978, Ronnie formed the band Gamma. Gamma made three albums before splitting in 1983. Ronnie would reunite with the original line-up of Montrose on Hagar's 1997 album Marching to Mars. Since 2002, Ronnie had been playing with a new version of Montrose. In late 2009, Ronnie revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and by 2010, he thought he had fought his battle. Sadly, it took his life yesterday.

This year has been too crazy: Mark Reale, Michael Davis, Davy Jones, and now Ronnie. I'll put it plain and simple: this sucks. While typing this blog, I've been cranking up the first Montrose album. Also another thing I've noticed: every member (except for Edgar Winter and maybe Rick Derringer) of the Edgar Winter Group has died: Dan Hartman died from AIDS in 1994, Chuck Ruff died just last October, and now Ronnie has died. Ronnie was a great guitarist and he will be missed by many. 

RIP Ronnie
You have certainly rocked the nation.