Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dick Wagner dead at 71

Richard Allen "Dick" Wagner
December 14, 1942-July 30, 2014

Guitarist Dick Wagner, best known for his work with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed, died Wednesday July 30 from respiratory failure. He was 71 year old. Just two weeks before his death, Wagner had undergone heart surgery to unblock an artery. After the surgery, Wagner contracted a lung infection. 

Wagner, born in Iowa, started out playing in several bands before being asked by producer Bob Ezrin to perform on Lou Reed's 1973 concept album Berlin. Along with performing on the album, Wagner toured with Reed during this time. One of the Reed's shows that year was captured on the 1974 live release Rock N Roll Animal. In 1975, Wagner played on Alice Cooper's debut solo album Welcome to My Nightmare. As he had done with Reed, Wagner performed in Cooper's solo band for Nightmare's lavish tour. During the show, Wagner and guitarist Steve Hunter would have a guitar duel during "The Black Widow." This, as well as the rest of Cooper's Nightmare tour, were filmed for the 1975 concert film of the same name. 

With Cooper, Wagner contributed to most of his early work as a solo artist. Together, the two wrote several songs including a series of chart topping ballads: "Only Women Bleed" from Welcome to My Nightmare, "I Never Cry" from Alice Cooper Goes to Hell and "You and Me" from Lace and Whiskey. Other highlights in Wagner's career include guesting on Aerosmith's rendition of "Train Kept A' Rollin" and performing on Kiss' Destroyer, when guitarist Ace Frehley didn't show up. 

I'm sad to hear of Dick's passing. I did know before that he was sick and would undergo surgery. It isn't too much of a surprise but it is indeed a significant loss in the world of rock music. I wish he got more recognition because he did deserve it. 

Rest in peace, Dick. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mama Cass Elliot (1941-1974)- 40 years later

"Mama" Cass Elliot
September 19, 1941-July 29, 1974

Singer Cass Elliot, one fourth of the folk rock group the Mamas and the Papas, died on July 29, 1974- 40 years ago today- at the age of 32. Elliot was well known for her high range singing voice, which allowed her to embark on a short but successful solo career.

            Cass Elliot was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. Referred to her friends as Cass, she attended George Washington High School where she became known for acting and performing in most of the school’s plays and musicals. It wasn’t until she began attending American University when she pursued a career in singer. Sometime in the early 1960’s, she would meet musician Tim Rose. She, Rose and musician James Hendricks would later form the folk group the Big 3. After only a few years together, the Big 3 fell apart when Rose left. Elliot and Hendricks, who were married in 1963, formed a new group called the Mugwumps with Zal Yanovasky (future member of the Lovin’ Spoonful) and Denny Doherty. After only one album together, the Mugwumps split in 1964. Along with the group’s split, Elliot and Hendricks divorced.

            Even though the Mugwumps fell apart quickly, Denny Doherty kept in touch with Elliot as they had become close friends. Doherty soon joined a folk group named the New Journeymen, with guitarist John Phillips and his wife Michelle. While in the Virgin Islands, the group met up with Elliot. Doherty tried many times to convince Phillips that Elliot should join the group, but Phillips was reluctant as he didn’t think Elliot could hit the high notes the group needed. Legend has it that soon after this, Elliot was struck in the head with a lead pipe that fell from the ceiling of the bar she was working at, as there was construction work being done nearby. Soon after the incident, Elliot was able to hit the high notes Phillips wanted. With that, Elliot was in the newly named group the Mamas and the Papas in 1965.

            Dunhill Records signed the Mamas and the Papas in 1965. From 1965 to 1968, the group would release four studio albums. Hit singles came from songs such as “California Dreamin’,” “Monday, Monday,” “I Saw Her Again,” “Creeque Alley,” and “Dedicated to the One I Love.” The group split in 1968, aside from reuniting briefly to record a reunion album in 1971. Elliot gained a head start to her solo career with “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” a song that was from the Mamas and the Papas 1968 album The Papas and the Mamas but the record label decided to release it as a Mama Cass single. In her solo career, Elliot made five studio albums and dozens of television appearances- easily making her the most successful member of the Mamas and the Papas after their split.

            On the evening of July 28, 1974, Cass Elliot was in a flat that was on loan from singer Harry Nilsson- London, No. 12 at 9 Curzon Place, Shepherd Market, Mayfair. For the last two weeks, she had performed a series of sold-out concerts at the London Palladium. She decided to call former band mate Michelle Phillips, overjoyed that she received standing ovations every night. After this, she retired for the night. On the evening of July 29, 1974, Cass Elliot died in her sleep. The official cause of death was said to be a heart attack, although urban legend says that Elliot died after choking to death on a ham sandwich. This urban legend is said to have started after early reports of the discovery of Elliot’s body had been made. Police did indeed find a half-eaten ham sandwich on a plate. The urban legend was deemed false as the autopsy later proved that there was no food found in her windpipe. Further research would show that Elliot had lost 80 pounds in eight months, as she was on her own “one meal a week” diet. At the time of her death, Elliot was survived by her parents, sister and daughter Owen Vanessa (the identity of father had never been revealed to the public, although Michelle Phillips has said she helped Owen find her biological father years later). Four years after Elliot's death, Keith Moon, drummer for the Who, died in the same flat. 

            Now four decades after her death, the music of Cass Elliot is still celebrated today- whether it be her music with the Mamas and the Papas or the music she made during her solo career. It’s hard to imagine what Elliot would be doing today if she were still alive. Would the Mamas and the Papas have ever reunited with the original line-up? It’s hard to say. Sadly in 2001, John Phillips lost his battle with cancer. Nearly six years later, Denny Doherty passed away. This leaves Michelle Phillips the sole-surviving member of the group. While the Mamas and the Papas might not be around, they left behind an impressive collection of music. I think it’s safe to say that no one will ever forget Mama Cass.

Rest in peace, Cass...

Paul McCartney to reissue "Venus and Mars" and "Wings At The Speed of Sound" Sept. 23

Paul McCartney fans have known for a while that the next two entries in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection will be two albums he recorded with Wings: 1975's Venus and Mars and 1976's Wings At the Speed of Sound. Today, a press release has revealed that both albums will be reissued on September 23rd in various formats.

Both albums will be given separate standard two-disc packaging, with the first disc being the original albums newly remastered and the second disc being bonus tracks. As with the previous entries in the collection, the albums will also receive three-disc editions with a hardback book filled with rare photos, ticket and poster replicas and new interviews with McCartney. The third discs for the box sets will be a DVD, including video footage from the time the albums were released.

Below are details (via Rolling on each release.

Venus and Mars 

Disc One (original album)
1. Venus and Mars
2. Rock Show
3. Love In Song
4. You Gave Me The Answer
5. Magneto and Titanium Man
6. Letting Go
7. Venus and Mars- Reprise
8. Spirits of Ancient Egypt
9. Medicine Jar
10. Call Me Back Again
11. Listen to What the Man Said
12. Treat Her Gently- Lonely Old People
13. Crossroads

Disc Two (bonus tracks)
1. Junior's Farm
2. Sally G
3. Walking in the Park With Eloise
4. Bridge on the River Suite
5. My Carnival
6. Going to New Orleans (My Carnival)
7. Hey Diddle (Ernie Winfrey Mix)
8. Let's Love
9. Soily (From One Hand Clapping)
10. Baby Face (From One Hand Clapping)
11. Lunch Box/Odd Sox
12. 4th of July
13. Rock Show (Old Version)
14. Letting Go (Single Edit)

Disc Three (DVD- only with the box set)
1. Recording "My Carnival"
2. Bon Voyaguer
3. Wings at Elstree
4. Venus and Mars TV Ad

Wings At the Speed of Sound

Disc One (original album)
1. Let 'Em In
2. The Note You Never Wrote
3. She's My Baby
4. Beware My Love
5. Wino Junko
6. Silly Love Songs
7. Cook of the House
8. Time to Hide
9. Must Do Something About It
10. San Ferry Anne
11. Warm and Beautiful

Disc Two (bonus tracks)
1. Silly Love Songs (Demo)
2. She's My Baby (Demo)
3. Message to Joe
4. Beware My Love (John Bonham Version)
5. Must Do Something About It (Paul's Version)
6. Let 'Em In (Demo)
7. Warm and Beautiful (Instrumental Demo)

Disc Three (DVD- only with the box set)
1. "Silly Love Songs" music video
2. Wings Over Wembley
3. Wings in Venice 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Riot V to release Unleash the Fire in October

Riot V have officially announced the release of their new album. The album, Unleash the Fire, will be the first album released under the Riot V name. Although not popular in their homeland of the US, the original Riot band are well known amongst hardcore hard rock and heavy metal fans. The band were formed in New York by guitarist Mark Reale in 1975. The band cranked out three studio albums with original singer, Guy Speranza and another two with Speranza's replacement, Rhett Forrester. Reale gave the band new life in 1988 when he revamped the band with the power metal sounding Thundersteel. The band kept going until early 2012, when Reale died after a life-long battle with Crohn's Disease. The band carried on, changing their name to Riot V, as it represents the "fifth phase" of the band. The new band have been on tour since early this year.

The band currently consists of...

Todd Michael Hall- vocals
Mike Flynz- guitar
Nick Lee- guitar
Donnie Van Stavern- bass
Frank Gilchreist- drums

The album will be released sometime in late August on SPV/Steamhammer.

Tracking list
1. Ride Hard Live Free
2. Metal Warrior
3. Fall From the Sky
4. Bring the Hammer Down
5. Unleash the Fire
6. Land of the Rising Sun
7. Kill To Survive
8. Return of the Outlaw
9. Immortal
10. Take Me Back
11. Fight Fight Fight
12. Until We Meet Again
13. Thundersteel (bonus track)

UPDATE: Riot's Facebook page confirms that the new album will be released October 27 in Europe and October 28 in North America.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Johnny Winter dead at 70

John Dawson Winter
February 23, 1943-July 16, 2014

Legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter died yesterday in Zurich, Germany. He was 70 years old. The guitarist was found dead in his hotel room, as he had been on tour. It was already known before he passed that Winter was in poor health. 

Winter rose to fame in the late 1960's as a talented guitarist. Winter struck out for his bluesy style of playing and his long white hair, as he (as well as his brother Edgar) was born with albinism. He was discovered by session musician Mike Bloomfield, which then led to Winter getting signed to Columbia Records. In August 1969, Winter was one of the many musicians who played at the original Woodstock Music Festival. Throughout his career, Winter released some 20 studio albums. In terms of commercial success, Winter did originally record "Rock N Roll, Hoochie Coo," which was later made a hit by Rick Derringer. In the late 1970's, Winter was able to produce a series of comeback albums for Muddy Waters. Before his death, Winter had already planned for a new album for release. That album, Step Back, will be released posthumously on September 2. 

It's very sad to hear of Johnny Winter's passing. I can't say I was a fan of his work but I can say he was a very talent musician. It's sad to know that a person like him is no long with us. 

Rest in peace, Johnny. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Tommy Ramone dead at 65

Thomas Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone
January 29, 1949-July 11, 2014

Drummer Tommy Ramone, the last surviving original member of legendary punk rock band the Ramones, died yesterday after a battle with bile duct cancer. Ramone was 65. A spokesperson confirmed that the former Ramones drummer had been in hospice care since receiving treatment for his cancer. Ramone, born Erdellyi Tamas in Budapest, was one quarter of the original line-up of the Ramones. With singer Joey Ramone, guitarist Johnny Ramone and bassist Dee Dee Ramone, the Ramones were formed in 1974. Their influential debut album, released in 1976, had finally achieved gold status earlier this year. Ramone would play on the band's next two albums, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia until he left in 1978. Although Ramone left, he would later go on to produce several of the band's other albums including Road to Ruin and Too Tough To Die

It's very sad to hear that Tommy has passed away. With Tommy's passing, all four of the original members of the Ramones have died. Joey died from lymphoma in 2001, Dee Dee died from a cocaine overdose the following year in 2002 and Johnny died from prostate cancer in 2004. Even though Tommy wasn't in the band for very long, he had an important role in what made the Ramones such a great band. The surviving members of the Ramones (all replacement members) are now Marky, Richie and CJ (you can also throw in Clem Burke, aka Elvis Ramone, but he was in the band for two shows!). 

Rest in peace, Tommy. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Judas Priest- "Redeemer of Souls" album review

 Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls
Judas Priest
Redeemer of Souls
Rating: ****

Think about this: how many bands have embarked on farewell tours and actually meant it? There aren't too many. In some cases, bands might call off the break up as they feel they have some unfinished business. When it comes to Judas Priest, this is certainly the case. The proof can be found on their new studio album, Redeemer of Souls. Despite having their Epitaph World Tour in 2011, the pioneering English heavy metal band is still going strong. Redeemer of Souls is the band's first studio album since 2008's conceptual album Nostradamus, an album that puzzled many Priest fans. This is also the band's first album without original member and guitarist KK Downing, who surprisingly left in 2011 before the Epitaph World Tour. His replacement, Richie Faulkner, has given the band a much needed kick-in-the-pants: Redeemer of Souls is one hell of an album.

            The band gets down to business with "Dragonaut," a rip roaring opener with a great chugging guitar riff. The song is, in short, Priest doing classic Priest. Singer Rob Halford sounds great, and that's saying a lot considering the metal god is 62 years old. While one might notice his voice has certainly seen better days, I'd say Halford sounds better than most of his peers throughout the album. The title track, the lead single off the album, is another hard rocker. Although it does sound an awful lot like "Hell Patrol" from Painkiller, it's still an impressive track. Priest certainly knows how to pack their songs with a punch. "Halls of Valhalla" is an example of this, featuring thunderous drumming from Scott Travis and an impressive twin guitar solo from guitarists Richie Faulkner and Glenn Tippton. Halford even throws in a few screams, along with some growling vocals. Priest continues to deliver the goods on the guitar heavy "Down in Flames," the galloping "Battle Cry," and the sludge metal sounds of "Hell & Back," which features an impressive bass line from bassist (as well as sole original member) Ian Hill.

            While Redeemer of Souls is a solid album throughout, the album has its drawbacks. First of all, the production isn't the best but this is expected as many modern day CDs suffer from what is called the "loudness war." The album is also an hour long, which means there is some filler. Still, some good can be found in the weaker songs. "Sword of Damocles" has too much going on musically but the song is great lyrically. "March of the Damned" suffers from the opposite problem, but it can be enjoyed for the guitar work alone. The rest of the album is pretty strong, which make up for the weaker tracks. The hard-hitting "Metalizer" certainly lives up to its name while the Hendrix-esque "Crossfire" is good fun. The album surprisingly ends with the slow ballad "Beginning of the End." The song is so impressive, it almost harkens back to the band's early material, ala Sad Wings of Destiny era.

            Redeemer of Souls is an impressive album from a legendary band. I have to have that I didn't really expect this from the band. Fans will want to pick this one up. Personally, this might be their most consistent since Painkiller. I think it's safe to say that Judas Priest are back. For those who think otherwise: you've got another thing coming.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pink Floyd confirm "The Endless River" album's release

Over the weekend, it was leaked by Polly Samson (aka Mrs. David Gilmour) that there would be a new Pink Floyd studio album out soon. After numerous reports since Samson's Twitter post, Pink Floyd's Facebook page has confirmed the album's release. The album, The Endless River, is an album of previously unreleased material from 1994. This material was recorded almost after the band had finished recording  1994's The Division Bell. The album is also said to be the last recording sessions featuring keyboardist Rick Wright, who passed away in 2008 after a battle with cancer. It has also been confirmed that previous reports on guitarist David Gilmour making a solo album were false: in reality, he and drummer Nick Mason are in the studio right now remixing the album. The Endless River is slated for an October release.

I'm excited to hear of this news but I'm still a little worried. It's great that we'll be getting an album of never before released material but from what I'm reading, these sessions (referred to by Mason as "The Big Spliff") were not for a Pink Floyd album. This was a different project So in a nutshell: this is a studio album of recording sessions for an unreleased album that are now being passed off as a brand new Pink Floyd album. It does make me feel better that Gilmour and Mason are actually in the studio working on the album, but who knows how much of this work is actually brand new. Keep in mind that I'm still excited about this album, but not as excited as everybody else.

As for Roger Waters' involvement in this project, it's not happening. Don't get me wrong: I would love to see Roger record new bass tracks for the album but I highly doubt this will happen. He had left the band in 1983 after The Final Cut. From what I understand, Waters and Gilmour are on good terms so you never know. As for any plans for a tour, I wouldn't hold your breath. Even though my expectation are low, I'm looking forward to this new album.