Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Black Star Riders- All Hell Breaks Loose album review

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks Loose
Black Star Riders
All Hell Breaks Loose
Rating: ****

Black Star Riders have released their debut album. While the name might not be familiar, the band’s origins are. In short, Black Star Riders is the new name for the reunited Thin Lizzy. The album, All Hell Breaks Loose, is a hard-hitting rock album that could quite possibly be mistaken as a new Thin Lizzy album: the songs, for the most part, sound like they were made by Thin Lizzy. Out of respect to Lynott, the band decided to not record this album under the Thin Lizzy name. Still, All Hell Breaks Loose manages to be an enjoyable album that Thin Lizzy fans of old should listen to.

Black Star Riders consists of guitarist/singer Ricky Warwick, guitarist Scott Gorham, guitarist Damon Johnson, bassist Marco Mendoza and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. It should be noted that of the five members, Gorham is the only member that was in the original Thin Lizzy with Lynott. Still, the new guys seem to be huge fans of Thin Lizzy’s work and are all great musicians.

The self titled track is a simple badass rocking opener. The guitar riff sounds similar to the one in the Lizzy classic “Sha La La La” except a little more aggressive. Gorham and Johnson shine throughout the album, using the trademark Lizzy dual lead guitar sound to its advantage. An example of this can be found in “Bound for Glory”. The song sounds an awful lot like something Thin Lizzy would’ve made back in the day. Warwick’s vocals, especially on this song, could be mistaken as Lynott’s at times. Of the 11 songs on the album, “Bound for Glory” is probably my personal favorite song.

While “Bound for Glory” might be the most Thin Lizzy-ish track on the album, that doesn’t mean the rest of the album isn’t. Take a song like “Hey Judas”, which is a great character-type song. Fans of Lizzy will know that Lynott liked writing songs about all sorts of characters such as Johnny the Fox and Valentino the gambling man. While partially based off Judas Iscariot, “Hey Judas” is a well-written song with Lynott in mind. The same could be said about the rough rocking “Valley of the Stones”, the bluesy flavored “Someday Salvation”, and the military-riddled “Before the War”- all of which are based around history, another subject Lynott held close to his heart.

As Thin Lizzy were originally an Irish rock band, the new band doesn’t shy away from this fact. “Kingdom of the Lost” is a very Irish/Celtic influenced battle cry, complete with Irish whistles and even bodhrans drums. “This home is not our home from home/This land is not for free” sings Warwick. “No matter where I work or roam/Won’t bring my country back to me”. Other highlights on the album include the cowbell-driven “Hoodoo Voodoo” and bass heavy closer “Blues Ain’t So Bad”.

All Hell Breaks Loose is an impressive debut effort from Black Star Riders. The album could almost been seen as a love letter to Lynott: from its Lizzy sound to even its title (a lyric in “Jailbreak”), it is a touching tribute. I’m sure that the late great Phil Lynott is looking down on the band, with a smile on his face; very proud.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Paul McCartney and Wings- Wings Over America remaster/reissue review

 Wings - Wings Over America
Paul McCartney and Wings
Wings Over America
Rating: ****

In 1976, Paul McCartney and Wings were on fire. McCartney had truly hit the peak of his post-Beatles around this time and is probably the most success any member the Beatles has seen since their break-up in 1970. To showcase this period in time, the Paul McCartney Archive Collection has chosen to reissue and remaster the 1976 live album, Wings Over America. MPL has also gone out of their way to reissue the album’s concert film counterpart, Rockshow, on DVD/Blu-Ray (which will come out June 11) as well as a limited theatrical release. This is also the first time since 1990 that the album has been reissued on CD.

            Much like the reissue of McCartney II, this is my first time owning a copy of Wings Over America on CD. However, I have had a vinyl copy passed on from some family members for years but I barely ever listened to it. So for this review, I will not be able to make comparisons to a previous master of the album.

            Wings Over America is an interesting live album. After listening to it, I think it’s a very good live album but there are some things that this album lacks compared to other live albums. For one thing, the sound of the live recording isn’t all that great. Its fine but I think I’m more familiar with the audio from the Rockshow film, which I still have a bootleg VHS copy of. The biggest thing that sticks out for me on this live album is that there is no dialogue or onstage banter heard in between songs. Onstage banter, for me, is one of the many things that make a live album what it is. I know from watching Rockshow dozens of times as a ten year old boy that there was indeed onstage banter in between songs.

            Still, this can be forgotten since the music pretty much makes up for it. McCartney and Wings were at the peak of their career with what is considered by many to be the best line-up the band ever had with the core three members (Paul, Linda, and guitarist Denny Laine) with guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English. Wings play a total of 28 songs, which vary from Beatles tunes to Wings tunes and several other pieces.

            Wings songs such as “Rockshow”, “Jet”, “Let Me Roll It” and “Band On the Run” all sound great live. Some songs such as “Magneto and Titanium Man”, “Silly Love Songs”, and “Maybe I’m Amazed” sound better than their studio version. The Beatles songs are played nicely, “I’ve Just Seen a Face” probably standing out the most.  McCartney also lets his fellow Wings bandmates get their chance to shine. McCulloch performs “Medicine Jar”, a personal favorite of mine being that I am a fan of McCulloch’s work inside and outside of Wings. Laine also gets to perform a few songs including “Spirits of Ancient Egypt”, “Time to Hide”, and even “Go Now” the hit song he penned during his brief stint in the Moody Blues. The band also plays Simons & Garfunkel’s “Richard Cory” in their acoustic set and ends the album with the rocker “Soily”. I’ve said before that I can’t say if this is better or worse than previously release. However, I will say that throughout the entire album the bass and drums sound amazing.

            I received an advanced release of this album from my college’s radio station. Along with the album comes a DVD which features the 1979 TV documentary Wings Over the World, making its debut appearance on home video. This DVD will only come with the lavishly packaged box set for this album which features picture books, backstage pass replicas, and a bonus CD of the band performing at the Cow Palace.

            As for the aforementioned documentary, it’s pretty good. The documentary shows McCartney and Wings on and off stage. The live performances are pretty much the same exact ones seen in Rockshow except abridged. It’s kind of fun to see the band behind the scenes riding horses, playing games, and goofing around when their private plane arrives at the wrong airport. This documentary is shown in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is great given how releases like this are usually cut and made into a widescreen presentation (which, unfortunately, looks like the case for the re-release of Rockshow). The documentary is also remastered and looks fantastic. If you are unable to afford the money for the box set, the documentary is all over YouTube to watch.

            Overall, Wings Over America is another fine entry in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection. It’s a fantastic way to show how great McCartney and Wings were. Another thing to note is that this remaster is dedicated to Linda McCartney and Jimmy McCulloch, which I find very touching. Whether or not you already have this album on CD, it’s well worth it to get this new remaster.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trevor Bolder dead at 62

Trevor Bolder
June 9, 1950-May 21, 2013

Bassist Trevor Bolder died today after a long battle with cancer. Bolder was 62 years old. While his name may not sound familiar, Bolder played with rock royalty through the span of his musical career. In 1971, Bolder joined David Bowie's Spiders from Mars band. With Bowie, Bolder played on classic albums such as Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Aladdin Sane. Bolder left Bowie in 1973. Bolder would, however, later play on several solo album by Bowie bandmate Mick Ronson. 

In 1977, Bolder joined prog-rockers Uriah Heep replacing John Wetton. Bolder joined the band at same time new lead singer John Lawton did, replacing original singer David Byron. Bolder would stay with Uriah Heep up until 1981 when he joined Wishbone Ash for one album 1982's Twin Barrels Burning. In 1983, Bolder rejoined Uriah Heep and remained a member until his death. Of the 23 studio albums Heep has released in their long career, Bolder has been on 13 of them the last being 2011's Into the Wild. Before his death, Bolder had announced he would temporarily leave the band until he was done with his treatment. Currently, bassist Dave Rimmer is taking Bolder's place but it is unknown if he is now his permanent replacement. 

It is very sad to hear of Trevor's passing. He was a very good bassist and I'm fortunate enough to have seen him with Uriah Heep in 2011. Another thing to note is that current singer for Heep, Bernie Shaw, is undergoing surgery and is being temporarily replaced by Lawton. My condolences go out to his family and friends, especially the members of Uriah Heep. 

RIP Trevor.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ray Manzarek dead at 74

Ray Manzarek
February 12, 1939- May 20, 2013

Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the legendary rock band The Doors, had died today in Rosenheim, Germany  Manzarek was 74 years old. As for cause of death, Manzarek had been battling with bile duct cancer for some time. 

Manzarek is best known for being one fourth of the American rock band the Doors. Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison met in UCLA, both studying film. The two became fast friends and after Morrison sang what would become "Moonlight Drive", Manzarek insisted they form a band. Along with guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore, the Doors were formed in 1965. The band's classic self-titled debut put them on the map thanks to the #1 hit single, "Light My Fire". As a keyboardist, Manzarek was quite different from others. The Doors never had a bassist and this was because the bass was coming from Manzarek's bass organ. His double-decker styled keyboards would become one of the many things that made the Doors what they were.

After Morrison's sudden death in 1971, the band continued on as a three-piece band and released two studio albums. In 1973, the band split. Manzarek would go on to have a solo career as well as produce the first four studio albums of Los Angeles punk rockers, X. Manzarek would occasionally reunite with his former bandmates in the Doors, first in 1978 for the American Prayer album and later in 2002 sans Densmore. Densmore filed a lawsuit against Manzarek and Krieger, barring use of the Doors name. Densmore and Morrison's estate won and Manzarek and Krieger were left performing as Riders on the Storm and later as the Manzarek-Krieger Band. 

I'm very saddened by the passing of Ray. The Doors are my favorite American band and Ray has always been my favorite keyboardist. I was lucky enough to see Riders on the Storm in 2008, and Ray was just hilarious. In documentaries, I liked hearing him talk about Jim and share all sorts of stories. He was a pretty smart guy and it's sad to hear of his passing. He will be missed.

RIP Ray.