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.