Tuesday, December 29, 2015

John Cale to re-release Music For a New Society, along with re-recorded version

Former Velvet Underground member John Cale will be re-releasing his 1982 album Music For a New Society on CD and vinyl on January 22. Along with the re-release of the 1982 album will be an album entitled M: FANS, a "visceral new reworking" of Music For a New Society that will "re-contextualizes the original songs into radical new forms to resonate with the digital age"  - according to his official website. Cale has also remastered the original 1982 album, which will feature several bonus tracks that will be available via download card. The album had been released on CD some two decades ago but that version has since gone out of print, with used copies selling for $40 to $50. The re-recorded album will be included as a second disc. The vinyl will be released as two separate albums, although buy can be purchased in a bundle. The albums can be pre-ordered through Cale's website and/or Amazon.com.

The tracking lists for the albums are as follows..

Music For a New Society (original album)
1. Taking Your Life In Your Hands
2. Thoughtless Kind
3. Sanctus (Sanities)
4. If You Were Still Around
5. Close Watch
6. Broken Bird
7. Chinese Envoy
8. Changes Made
9. Damn Life
10. Rise, Sam and Rimsky Korsakov
11. Library of Force (previously unreleased)- download
12. Chinese Envoy (outtakes)- download
13. Thoughtless Kind (outtakes)- download

M: FANS (new album)
1. Prelude
2. If You Were Still Around
3. Taking Your Life In Your Hands
4. Thoughtless Kind
5. Sanctus (Sanities Mix)
6. Broken Bird
7. Chinese Enoy
8. Changes Made
9. Library of Force
10. Close Watch
11. If You Were Still Around (Choir Reprise)
12. Back to the End

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lemmy Kilmister dead at 70

Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister
December 24, 1945-December 28, 2015

Lemmy Kilmister, legendary lead singer and frontman for metal band Motorhead, passed away earlier today. He was 70 years old. The news was confirmed by the surviving members of Motorhead, citing the bassist/singer had died after a short battle with "an extremely aggressive cancer." Earlier in August of this year, Motorhead had to cut a show short as Lemmy was having breathing problems. According to the band's statement, Lemmy had only known about his cancer since Saturday. The news of Lemmy's death was first reported by radio personality and That Metal Show host Eddie Trunk. 

Born on Christmas Eve of 1945, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister lived a life full of sex, drugs and rock n roll. Before become a famous musician, Lemmy was already active in music. From seeing the Beatles at the Cavern Club to even being a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, Lemmy was beginning to establish his place in rock. Eventually, he found himself playing bass for space rockers Hawkwind. From 1972 to 1975, Lemmy was in Hawkwind. During his time in the band, he played on the band's live classic Space Ritual and the band's best known song "Silver Machine," the latter of which he sang lead vocals on. After a drug bust during a North American tour in 1975, Lemmy was fired from Hawkwind. Not too long after being sacked from Hawkwind, Lemmy formed his own band- Motorhead, named after one of the last songs he wrote and performed with Hawkwind. With Motorhead, Lemmy was able to achieve success. Throughout the band's four decade career, Lemmy was the sole original member of the band. With hits such as "Ace of Spades," "Overkill," "Killed By Death" and "Iron Fist"- Motorhead were extremely influential with their combination of heavy metal and punk rock. The band released a total of 22 studio album, their last being this year's Bad Magic

It is devastating to hear of Lemmy's passing. If this obituary is seems to short, it's because I'm still trying to process this. It was well known that Lemmy was not healthy for some time in recent years, to the point where he couldn't perform any more. The guy had no plans to retire and I think that's something to admire: the guy kept going until the day he died. 

If you are reading this, I want you to immediately listen to some Motorhead... and make sure to play it LOUD. Loud enough so that Lemmy can hear you. 

Rest in peace, Lemmy. 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015: Year in Review

2015 has been another interesting year for classic rock and heavy metal music. Some good albums and even good movies have been released this year. As I have done in the past, I will review each music related thing I’ve purchased from this year of 2015.


New albums

 Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct
Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct
Rating: ****

            Black Star Riders came back this year with their sophomore effort, The Killer Instinct. While their name may not sound familiar, the band’s origins should be as this is the reunited Thin Lizzy under a different name (although of the five members, guitarist Scott Gorham is the only one who was in the Phil Lynott-led Lizzy). While I personally enjoy All Hell Breaks Loose more, that doesn’t make The Killer Instinct a bad album at all. It is a very strong effort from the band. Listening to this album, it sounds like the guy are trying to drift away from making Lizzy sounding songs and are now trying make a name for themselves. Even though some of these songs may not sound like Thin Lizzy songs, it has a lot heart. It’s safe to say Mr. Lynott would be proud.

Highlights: The Killer Instinct, Soldierstown, Finest Hour


  Ringo - Postcards From Paradise
Ringo Starr
Postcard from Paradise
Rating: *** ½

            Earlier this year, Ringo Starr was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame for “musical excellence.” While many have been scratching their heads over this, Ringo deserves it. While his solo career isn’t up to par with his bandmates’, Ringo is a trailblazer as he is still touring and making new music. What really matters is that he’s having fun.  Postcards from Paradise proves this point. Personally, I feel this is Ringo’s most consistent since Liverpool 8. The album has a strong reggae vibe, which I like. While the album isn’t an instant classic, it’s just a fun album.

Highlights: You Bring the Party Down, Island in the Sun, Rory and the Hurricanes



  Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls
Rating: ****

FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

            Iron Maiden came back this year with not only their first studio album in five years but their first ever double album. I have to admit I was skeptical about this, given I wasn’t too crazy about The Final Frontier. However, I gave this a listen and I was pleasantly surprised. Maiden are in fine form on this album. Each of the album’s 11 tracks have something different to offer, each tackling different themes. Musically, it’s a splendid 90 minute journey. 35 years after the release of their self-titled debut, Maiden still have it.

Highlights: Tears of a Clown, The Red and the Black, Speed of Light, Empire of the Clouds


 Hollywood Vampires - Hollywood Vampires
Alice Cooper/Hollywood Vampires
Hollywood Vampires
Rating: *** ½ (3.75-ish)

            Albums consisting only of cover tunes aren’t original. Alice Cooper, however, take on the covers album in a clever way. Hollywood Vampires is an album that’s dedicated to the deceased members of the drinking club of the same name, as well as other fallen comrades of Alice. While most of the songs on here are faithful to the originals, there’s something about this album that makes it appealing. The album boasts a slew of guests, including Paul McCartney, Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl, Slash and even actor Johnny Depp. Listening to this album, you can tell a lot of work went into it and it really is a labor of love.

Highlights: Itchycoo Park, Come and Get It, Raise the Dead, Dead Drunk Friends


  Keith Richards - Crosseyed Heart
Keith Richards
Crosseyed Heart
Rating: ***

            It has been ten years since the Rolling Stones have released a new studio album. While the band have confirmed they’re working on a new album, the band’s guitarist and co-founding member Keith Richards decided to release his third studio album. Released 23 years after Main Offender, Crosseyed Heart is a fun bluesy rock n roll album. While the album isn’t bad, it isn’t anything special. Richards sounds good and there are some good songs on here. The other thing worth noting is that this is the last album that Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys played on, as Keys passed away in December of last year.

Highlights: Trouble, Amenisa, Goodnight Irene


 W.A.S.P. - Golgotha
W.A.S.P.
Golgotha
Rating: ****

            Six years after their last album, W.A.S.P. are back with a brand new studio album. The album, Golgotha, is a natural sounding heavy W.A.S.P. album- featuring songs dealing with religious imagery. It’s no secret that lead singer Blackie Lawless is a born again Christian and has made this known throughout the last few years. Some fans are turned off by this. Personally, I don’t mind it. I think this is a great album and you can tell a lot of work went into this. It’s well worth listening to.

Highlights: Last Runaway, Miss You, Fallen Under, Golgotha

Rankings

1.      Iron Maiden- The Book of Souls
2.      Black Star Riders- The Killer Instinct
3.      W.A.S.P.- Golgotha
4.      Hollywood Vampires- Hollywood Vampires
5.      Ringo Starr- Postcards from Paradise
6.      Keith Richards- Crosseyed Heart

Archival releases/reissues

 The Doors - Other Voices + Full Circle
The Doors
Other Voices and Full Circle
Other Voices rating: *** ½
Full Circle rating: ***

            After years and years of waiting, diehard Doors fans can finally own legit CD copies of the band’s two albums made after Jim Morrison died. The albums have been newly remastered by longtime Doors producer/engineer Bruce Botnick and the booklet includes new liner notes from Rolling Stone’s David Fricke. There’s only one bonus track- “Tree Trunk,” which was released as the B-side to “Get Up and Dance” from Full Circle. While these two albums are certainly not as good as the first six with Morrison, they are honest efforts from the then three surviving members of the Doors. After owning vinyl rips for a couple of years, I’m happy to see these out.

Other Voices highlights: Eye of the Sun, Tightrope Ride, I’m Horny I’m Stoned, Hang On To Your Life
Full Circle highlights: Get Up and Dance, Verdilac, The Mosquito, Piano Bird


 Paul McCartney - Tug of War
 Paul McCartney - Pipes of Peace
Paul McCartney
Tug of War and Pipes of Piece
TOW rating: ****
TOW remix: ***
TOW bonus disc: ***
POP rating: *** ½
POP bonus disc: ***

            The Paul McCartney Archive Collection continued this year with the reissues of 1982’s Tug of War and 1983’s Pipes of Peace. Both albums were remastered and given a second disc of bonus tracks. For Tug of War, McCartney decided to remix the album. To make things more frustrating, the original mix is only included with the pricey deluxe edition. So with Tug of War, you’re getting a new mix of the album and the bonus disc in the standard edition. Personally, I prefer the original mix. After pre-ordering mine from Amazon, I was given a free MP3 version of the 1993 remaster- which is now replacing my copy of the 1988 CD issue. The original mix is warmer while the remix is too loud, with McCartney’s voice up front. The remastering on the remix is top notch but I don’t feel like it adds anything new. The bonus disc is nothing special as it consists of mostly demos that don’t sound too different from the versions on the album. Surprisingly, I find Pipes of Peace to be the better reissue. While I’m not crazy about this album, I do have a new appreciation for it after listening to the new remaster. Tug of War is the better album but I feel that of the two reissues, Pipes of Peace has more to offer: the remastering is strong and some of the material on the bonus disc is worth checking out.

 Frank Zappa & The Mothers - Roxy: The Movie
Frank Zappa
The Roxy Movie
Rating: ****

FAVORITE ARCHIVAL RELEASE OF THE YEAR

            Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were scheduled to play a couple of shows at the Roxy Theater in December 1973. The band were being recorded for a future live album and concert film TV special. The album, Roxy & Elsewhere, was released in 1974. The concert film, however, remained in the Zappa vault for years. Minutes into recording, there were technical difficulties in the filming of the concert. As a result, the audio and the video were not synchronized. While Zappa’s team had filmed all of the shows, it was too pricey and time consuming to edit it properly. Four decades later, the Zappa Family Trust has finally released what Zappa fans have considered to be the holy grail of Zappa on film: The Roxy Movie. Is it any good? It sure is. However, the camera angels in the movie are sometimes too close and the picture is blurry in other cases. Still, this is a wonderful concert film. Considering the circumstances, this is damn good.

Also included with the DVD is a CD of the movie’s audio mix, which is nice to have.


Movies

Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back: The Quiet Riot Story
Rating: ****

            In 1983, Quiet Riot had hit it big time when they released their best-selling album Metal Health. Only three years after the passing of singer Kevin DuBrow, drummer Frankie Banali decides to reform Quiet Riot with their last line-up and a new lead singer. What unfolds is a series of events- some flat out hilarious. Well Now You’re Here was a Kickstarter funded documentary and I’m a backer myself. I’m impressed with the final product. While this doesn’t cover everything about Quiet Riot, it should be enough to spark interest in the band.  


Keith Richards: Under the Influence
Rating: ****

            Keith Richards is arguably one of the greatest rock stars to have ever set foot on this planet. From his drug busts to his antics, many believe that Richards is lucky to be alive. Richards’ story has been told many times before. So what makes this documentary different? While it does give us insight to his life and career, the documentary dives deep into Richards’ musical influences and heroes. This documentary was filmed around the same time Richards recorded his studio album from this year, Crosseyed Heart. It is fun to listen to Richards speak and crack a joke here and there. He truly is a unique character.  

If you subscribe to Netflix Instant, you can stream it from there as it is considered a Netflix original.


RIP
Kim Fowley- singer/songwriter and manager of the Runaways
Sam Andrew- Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist
Daevid Allen- founder and leader of Gong
Andy Fraser- bassist of Free
AJ Pero- drummer for Twisted Sister
Cynthia Lennon- first wife of John Lennon
Chris Squire- bassist and co-founding member of Yes
Gail Zappa- wife and later widow of Frank Zappa
Steve Mackay- saxophonist for the Stooges
Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor- drummer for Motorhead

Scott Weiland- singer for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame- Class of 2016

The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 2016 were announced today. With the exception of one artist, the Class of 2016 has a great roster. Still, there are some problems here. I'll go down the list and give my take.


Cheap Trick- I'm pleasantly surprised to see that they made it in the Hall! This was their first time being nominated. They should've been a couple of years ago but now is a pretty good time. I really like Cheap Trick: they perfectly border along the lines of power pop and hard rock. My guess is the classic line-up of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos will get in. However, Carlos hasn't been touring with the band for a while now- with Nielsen's son Daxx filling in. So if they do perform at the ceremony, I'm not sure if they'll have the original line-up there.

Chicago- I've never been a fan of their music (I do like some of it though. They aren't a bad band at all). but I'm happy to hear that they are finally in the Hall. They should've been in there a long time ago. These guys won the public vote and that doesn't surprise me at all.

Deep Purple- This is the band I was pulling for the most. While the guys in the band don't seem to care, I'm happy for them because they should've been in a long time ago (like before Jon Lord died in 2012). These guys were up there with Led Zeppelin as one of the greatest hard rock bands of the 1970's. While the band may not have a discography as consistent as Zeppelin's, they are influential nevertheless.

Much to my surprise, the Hall is inducting other members of the band. I thought they'd only induct the Mach II line-up but they're inducting many of the guys from the band. The list includes: Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, Rod Evans, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes. Now if you're a Purple fan, you'll notice there are some names missing there: Nick Simper, Tommy Bolin, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Morse and Don Airey (I'm not including Joe Satriani given he was really a fill-in for Blackmore during the 1993-4 tour). Turner, Morse and Airey weren't in the band's original run from 1968 to 1976. Simper and Bolin, however, were. In fact, Simper was the original bassist for the band and played on the first three albums- just like Rod Evans, the original singer- who IS getting the induction. This is strange. I think all of the members from the band's original run should be inducted.

Steve Miller- I can't say I'm a fan but he deserves it. I'm not sure why it's being credited to just him and not his band but I'm good with this.

UPDATE (12/23): I looked at the Wikipedia page on the Steve Miller Band and they've had A LOT of members. I think it's safe to just induct Miller only.

NWA- This is the one exception. I don't care how much you try and break it down: NWA is NOT Rock n Roll. They are a hip hop group. This really pisses me off. If they were to have named the place the Music Hall of Fame, they would've gotten away with it. It's no surprise that they got in, given a critically acclaimed biopic on their career was released earlier this year.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Scott Weiland dead at 48

Scott Richard Weiland
October 27, 1967-December 3, 2015


Scott Weiland, best known as the singer for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was found dead last night in his tour bus. Weiland was 48 years old. The news broke late last night, reporting that the former Stone Temple Pilots singer was found dead in his tour bus at around 9 pm after going into cardiac arrest. Weiland was currently on tour with his band, the Wildabouts. Weiland was supposed to be perform at the Medina Entertainment Center in Medina, Minnesota. It has been reported that a small bag of cocaine belonging to Wildabouts bassist Tommy Black was found in the bedroom of the tour bus. Black has been arrested for suspected possession. 

Weiland was born Scott Richard Kline on October 27, 1967. His surname was changed after his stepfather adopted him when Weiland was five years old. In 1989, Weiland became one of the four founding members of Stone Temple Pilots along with brothers Robert and Dean DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz. The band would release five studio albums from 1992 to 2001, spawning hit singles such as "Sex Type Thing," "Plush," Vasoline," and "Interstate Love Song." The band split in 2001. Three years later, Weiland reemerged as the singer for super group- Velvet Revolver. Weiland was joined by Dave Kushner, Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum- the latter three all being former members of Gun N Roses. The band released two albums: Contraband in 2004 and Libertad  in 2007. Weiland left the band in 2008, leaving Velvet Revolver on the back burner. Velvet Revolver did reunite for a one-off gig in 2012 with Weiland but have been inactive since then. Stone Temple Pilots reunited in 2008 and released a self-titled studio album two years later. Weiland was fired from the band in 2013 and was replaced by Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington. Aside from STP and Velvet Revolver, Weiland did release four solo albums- his last being Blaster, which was released earlier this year. 
He even published an autobiography (co-written with  in 2011 entitled Not Dead & Not For Sale.

Weiland was married three times: Janina Castaneda (1994-2000), Mary Forsberg (2000-02) and Jamie Wachtel (since 2013). With Forberg, Weiland had two children: Noah (born 2000) and Lucy (born 2002). 

It is sad to here of Scott Weiland's passing. This was very sudden. I'm afraid the cause of death will probably be drug related. Based on what I've read about him, Scott struggled with substance abuse. Whatever the case may be, this is a tragic loss. 48 is just too young. 

Rest in peace, Scott.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor dead at 61

Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor
September 21, 1954 - November 11, 2015


Phil Taylor, former drummer of metal band Motorhead, passed away yesterday. Taylor was 61 years old. The news was confirmed by former Motorhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke, who said that Taylor had "been ill for sometime." 

Motorhead was formed in 1975 by bassist/singer Lemmy Kilmister, who had just been kicked out of space rock band Hawkwind. Taylor joined Motorhead in 1975, replacing original drummer Lucas Fox. By the follow year, Motorhead consisted of Kilmister, Taylor and Clarke. This line-up would go on to become the band's classic line-up, as they released five studio albums- including Overkill, Bomber and Ace of Spades. Taylor left the band in 1984 but would rejoin three years later. Taylor officially left the band for good in 1992 after Kilmister fired him for his poor performances. Aside from Motorhead, Taylor played in several other bands including Waysted and the Deviants. Before his passing, Taylor had reunited with Kilmister and Motorhead several times. The last time was in November of last year, where the current line-up of Motorhead were joined with Clarke and Taylor for a performance of "Ace of Spades." 

It's sad to hear of Phil's passing. He was a great drummer and I wasn't aware of his illness. Another thing that has occurred to me is that Motorhead still have yet to be inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Sadly, Phil won't be there. 

Rest in peace, Phil. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

W.A.S.P.- Golgotha album review

 W.A.S.P. - Golgotha
W.A.S.P.
Golgotha
Rating: ****

Heavy metal band W.A.S.P. are back with a brand new studio album. The album, Golgotha, is the band’s fifteenth studio album, as well as their first album since 2009’s Babylon. In fact, it’s the third album to come from this line-up of W.A.S.P.- consisting of singer and leader Blackie Lawless, guitarist Doug Blair, bassist Mike Duda and drummer Mike Dupke (who left the band shortly before the album was released). Lawless is keeping W.A.S.P. alive and well by touring constantly. For Golgotha, Lawless was able to spend more time in the studio and it has paid off: Golgotha is a damn good album.

            The album opens with the hard rocking “Scream.” Although it sounds a bit like “Crazy” from the last album, it is a great song nevertheless. The following track, “Last Runaway,” is better. From Blair’s blazing guitar work, Duda’s throbbing bass playing and Dupke’s thunderous drumming, it really is a strong song. “Miss You” is another highlight, a mini-epic in some ways as it transitions from a slow paced to a downright heavy tune. The lyrics are wonderful, as Lawless seems to question his faith and beliefs. “I found this thing that I make sing/Can you hear me now?” sings Lawless. “Why did you go and leave me alone?”

Lyrically, this album is religiously themed. There’s a reason why: in recent years, Lawless has considered himself a born-again Christian. Some longtime fans have been puzzled by this, as Lawless has reworked lyrics in older songs and chooses not to perform the controversial “Animal (F**k Like a Beast).”  Personally, I don’t mind the religious themes and imagery on this album. In fact, I think it benefits from it.  The aforementioned “Miss You” is an example, as is the head-banging “Fallen Under.” The song has a bouncy but rough feel and uses powerful religious imagery: “Pull me up from saints of darkness/Breath me back to life/Slave in hostage slain in bondage/Bathe me in your blood back alive.”  More religious themes can be found in the hard-hitting “Slaves of the New World Order” and the gritty “Eyes of My Maker.”

While a great album, Golgotha is weak in spots. Some of the songs on here sound like other songs from W.A.S.P.’s past. This is nothing new as Lawless has even admitted he’s reused old riffs. The aforementioned “Scream” is one while “Shotgun” is another: the latter is a good song but musically sounds like a continuation of “Last Runaway.” The opening for “Hero of the World” sounds like “The Rise” from the first Neon God album, but is otherwise a good song. The album closes out with the beckoning title track. Lawless and the band are in fine form here and it closes out the album fittingly, with Lawless bringing the album full circle. The chorus is pretty song too:  “Jesus, I need you now/Free me I’m lost somehow/Oh remember me today/I’m a leper left to hang/Oh yes I need you now/Jesus, I need you now.”

Overall, Golgotha is another great album from W.A.S.P. It sounds like Blackie and the guys put a lot of work into this album and it really has paid off. Personally, I think I enjoyed this more than Babylon. No matter what kind of W.A.S.P. fan you are, this album is definitely worth your time. 

Steve Mackay dead at 66

Steve Mackay
September 25, 1949-October 11, 2015

Saxophonist Steve Mackay has passed away. While the cause of death is not known, Mackay was rushed to Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California a month ago. At that time, Mackay was in critical condition as he had been battling sepsis. Mackay was 66 years old.

Mackay is probably best known for his work with Detriot proto-punk rockers the Stooges. Mackay appeared on the band's sophomore effort- 1970's Fun House. Mackay would rejoin the group when the band reunited with Iggy Pop and Ron and Scott Asheton in 2003. The Stooges would crank out two more studio albums with 2007's The Weirdness and 2013's Ready to Die. In 2009, Ron Asheton passed away. The band recruited Raw Power guitarist James Williamson to take over for Ron and continued to perform. Just last year in 2014, Scott Asheton passed away- leaving Pop as the sole surviving original member of the band. Since then, the band has been on hiatus- although Pop has performed some solo gigs earlier this year. Outside of the Stooges, Mackay worked with other artists such as the Violent Femmes and Snakefinger. Mackay was also able to release a few solo albums, his last being 2010's Sometimes Like This I Talk

Iggy Pop has released a statement on his Facebook page about Mackay's passing saying:

"Steve was a classic '60s American guy, full of generosity and love for anyone he met. Every time he put his sax to his lips and honked, he lightened my road and brightened the whole world. He was a credit to his group and his generation. To know him was to love him."

It's sad to hear of Steve's passing. I was not aware of him being in the hospital. He was a great musician. Fun House is my favorite album from the Stooges and he really spiced up the whole second side of that album ("1970," "Fun House," "LA Blues").

Rest in peace, Mr. MacKay.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2016 Nominees- My Thoughts

The nominees for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2016 were announced today. In total, the Hall has nominated 15 acts. This is also the Hall's fourth time in which they've allowed the public to chime in and cast their collective vote. In all honesty, this isn't a bad list of nominees. I'm really impressed with some of the choices they've made. However, only five acts will be inducted.

These are my thoughts on all of the acts.


My ballot
The Cars
Cheap Trick
Chicago
Deep Purple
Yes

These are the five that I would like to see get inducted. Obviously, I highly doubt this will be the five since the Hall like to make the inductees diverse. Deep Purple needs to go in already. They are probably the Hall's biggest snub. These guys have been waiting for so long, but then again they don't really seem to care if they get in. I think it's an insult that Jon Lord isn't alive to see the band inducted. The Hall should get it over with already. The same goes for Yes, as bassist and only consistent member Chris Squire passed away in June of this year. I'm surprised to see Cheap Trick pop up on the list. If they can get in, perhaps other power pop acts such as Big Star can get in. While I'm not a big fan of The Cars or Chicago, it's a joke that they've waited this long.

Sure, why not? 
The Smiths
Steve Miller
Nine Inch Nails
Janet Jackson

If I could pick a sixth act for my ballot, I would pick The Smiths. Nine Inch Nails have been pretty consistent. I'm not a fan Steve Miller but classic rock acts like him should be in. As for Janet Jackson, her music really isn't my thing (I like Michael's material more) but the Hall needs more women in it.

Meh
Chic
Chaka Khan
The JB's
Los Lobos
The Spinners

Once again, the Hall have lumped in a bunch of groups in that no one really cares about. This is Chic's TENTH TIME being nominated. If they don't get in this time, then I think the Hall should stop nominating them already. As for the others, I really don't care.

PISS OFF...but they're going to get in anyway
NWA

It makes me very sad that NWA are most likely going to get inducted in 2016. I've said it before: I hate rap and hip hop music. I really do. I can understand some R&B acts getting in and whatnot but I just don't think rap belongs in the Hall. Alas, the damage has already been done: Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys are already in. I think if the Hall has called themselves the Music Hall of Fame, then they would've gotten away with it. However with that, we'd need to have a shit ton of country and pop acts in there. So why is it I'm so convinced that NWA are going in? People are crazy about them and a biopic on them Straight Outta Compton has gotten positive reviews. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gail Zappa dead at 70

Adelaide Gail Zappa (nee Sloatman)
January 1, 1945-October 7, 2015


Gail Zappa, wife and widow of musician Frank Zappa, passed away today in her home. Mrs. Zappa was 70 years old. According to a statement posted by the official Frank Zappa website, Mrs. Zappa was surrounded by her children as she passed away peacefully. As for the cause of death, articles are reporting that Mrs. Zappa health was declining due to her battle with lung cancer.

Mrs. Zappa was born in 1945. Her father was a naval officer, in which he was a nuclear weapons research physicist. In kindergarten, Mrs. Zappa knew future Doors singer Jim Morrison, as his father was a naval officer as well. After graduating from college in New York in the mid 1960's, she hitchhiked to Los Angeles where she became interested in the music scene. Mrs. Zappa met her husband at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, where she was a secretary. The couple married in 1967 and would go on to have four children: Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. When her husband died in 1993, Mrs. Zappa became in charge of Frank's estate. Mrs. Zappa later created the Zappa Family Trust and was able to release a total of 38 posthumous albums by her husband, as well as reissues of his discography. Earlier this year, ZFT released Dance Me This, the 100th Zappa album released. Before her death, Mrs. Zappa had plans made for future releases- including a documentary and a release of the long lost Mothers' Roxy concert. At the same time, it was also revealed that Ahmet would be taking his mother's place. 

It is very sad to hear of Gail Zappa's passing. I was lucky enough to communicate with her a little in 2011, when she was taking in questions for her "Ask GZ" column on the Zappa site. I asked when the original Bat Chain Puller by Captain Beefheart would come out since I heard her talk about. She said it was coming soon. When I asked if I could share the news on my blog, she replied "Why not?" The album ended up coming out a year. I know there are many people who've said some nasty things about Gail. She was very protective of her husband's work but I think she carried out Frank's legacy quite well.  

Rest in peace, Mrs. Zappa. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Paul McCartney- Tug of War & Pipes of Peace reissue review

The Paul McCartney Archive Collection continues in 2015 with the reissues of 1982’s Tug of War and 1983’s Pipes of Peace. These two albums have been newly remastered as well. As with the previous entries in the collection, a second disc of bonus tracks comes along with the original album. Personally, I feel this is an overlooked time in Paul’s career and it’s nice to see it get some love with these reissues.

 Paul McCartney - Tug of War
Tug of War
Original Album Rating: ****
Remix rating: ***
Bonus audio rating: *** 1/2

            Released in 1982, Tug of War is an interesting album from Paul McCartney. Not only is it the first album he released after the break-up of Wings but it sees McCartney working with Beatles producer George Martin again- for the first time since Abbey Road in 1969. Now almost two decades after the release of Please Please Me, this was the final product the two came up with. Tug of War is considered by many to be one of Paul’s best and I would agree. Hit singles came out of “Ebony and Ivory” and “Take It Away.” The former is a duet with Stevie Wonder while the latter is a catchy, fun ska-flavored track. There are some wonderful album tracks on this album such as the 1950’s rock n roll of “Ballroom Dancing,” the funky “What’s That You’re Doing” and the powerful “Wanderlust.” Aside from “Take It Away,” my personal favorite song on the album is “Here Today,” a song Paul had written as a tribute to his former bandmate John Lennon, who was tragically murdered in late 1980. Paul was in the studio recording material for the album when he first heard of Lennon’s death. The lyrics are heartfelt, as McCartney expresses his admiration and love for his late songwriting partner.

            Unlike the other albums in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, Tug of War has received a new remix. From what’s been written online, Tug of War was recorded when digital recording was new. In short, Paul wanted to remix the album. As much as I hate to say it, I’m not crazy about the remix of Tug of War. I did do some sound comparisons with the original mix (the 1993 remaster, which Amazon gave me a free MP3 version of after pre-ordered the reissue) and the remix. Comparing the two in Audacity, Paul’s vocals are just too loud for the most part. The changes made in the remix aren’t anything too special. Still, the remastering is top notch. I just prefer the original mix. If you don’t care about which version you’re listening to, then you can go ahead and get this. The original mix is included with the super deluxe edition but the retail price for that is expensive. If you’re looking for the original mix, you can try finding the 1993 remaster or just get an older copy on vinyl.


I did take some notes while listening to the remix. Here’s my track-by-track analysis of the remix:  

1. Tug of War- vocals sound more up front, the orchestra might be a little over-the-top or loud 
2. Take It Away- Paul's vocals aren't double tracked or echo in the second verse. You also get to hear George Martin's piano playing in the bridges/instrumental bits. I feel the vocals and backing vocals bury the other instruments. I miss the ska feel. 
3. Somebody Who Cares- Paul's vocals are air-y, sounds a little more stripped down with the bass and drums there in the background 
4. What's That You're Doing?- The "Good morning" bits are less robotic. I thought there were less sound effects on here but in Audacity, it sounds funkier. 
5. Here Today- sounded more acoustic and had more echo. Paul sounds like he's the only one in the studio aside from the strings. 
6. Ballroom Dancing- Bass is strong but Paul's vocals are too loud and the piano is almost out of the mix. 
7. Pound is Sinking- eh more guitars? 
8. Wanderlust- Paul's vocals are too loud, the music does sound nice though 
9. Get It- a little stripped down, Paul and Carl Perkins' vocals sound balanced
10. Be What You See- N/A 
11. Dress Me Up As a Robber- eh hard to tell. Guitars sounded good on remix. 
12. Ebony and Ivory- Less reverb and/or electronic sounds, Paul and Stevie's vocals are up front and clearer.

The bonus disc doesn’t offer too much, with a run time of 32 minutes. Demos of the album’s tracks can be found on here. The demos are all fair but there isn’t anything special on there, although I will say the demo for “Take It Away” sounds slightly different from the album version (I think some of these demos will be familiar to avid bootleggers, so it might not be anything new for them). Along with the demos are some tracks that haven’t seen an official CD release before. There’s an alternate version of “Ebony and Ivory” with Paul singing the whole song and then two B side songs- “Rainclouds” and “I’ll Give You A Ring.”  

 Paul McCartney - Pipes of Peace
Pipes of Peace
Original Album Rating: *** 1/2
Bonus audio rating: ***

            Pipes of Peace received mixed reviews when it was released in 1983. Paul had George Martin producing again but critics didn’t see it as a worthy follow up to Tug of War. I have to admit that before getting this reissue, I didn’t think Pipes of Peace was a good album. I thought the first three or four songs were good and that was it. After listening to this remaster, I like it a little bit more and part of that has to do with the remastering (which I will get to later). Compared to Tug of War, it is a weak album but there are some good songs on here. “Say, Say, Say,” duet between Sir Paul and Michael Jackson, is the biggest song on this album- as it was a #1 hit duet for Paul. The title track is also solid pop tune and received some airplay back in the day. The album tracks vary from underrated to mediocre. Before listening to this remaster, I personally liked the self-observant “The Other Me” and fast-paced 80s pop sounds of “Keep Under Cover.” With the new remaster, I can now appreciate some of the other songs. I still can’t get into “Hey Hey,” “Tug of Peace,” or even the squeaky clean “So Bad.” However, I do enjoy the whimsical “Average Man” and “The Man,” which is another song that features Michael Jackson. It isn’t as fun as “Say, Say, Say” but the vocal harmonies are great and I love the opening guitar work on here.


 I think the remastering job has really made this a slightly better album. My other copy of Pipes of Peace was an issue from 1989. I always thought that copy sounded lifeless and too quiet. This is much louder but not too loud. It sounds perfect, I think. With the new remaster, I can appreciate the production here. Even the songs I don’t care for still sound great (especially “So Bad.” The bass and drums are wonderful.)  As for the second disc, it contains 31 minutes of material. It follows the same structure as the bonus disc for Tug of War, in that the tracks are organized from demos to actual tracks. The demos, once again, aren’t that great though “It’s Not On” and “Simple As That” might keep some completists happy as I’ve been reading these cannot be found on bootlegs. The B-side to “Say, Say, Say”- “Ode to a Koala Bear” makes its debut on CD. There is an interesting remix of “Say, Say, Say” on here, which features MJ singing some of Paul’s verses!  

Overall, these reissues of Tug of War and Pipes of Peace are good for what they are. However, I have to admit of the entries released in the Archive Collection- this is probably my least favorite release. I’m not saying that they are bad. Although I can applaud the effort, I really don’t see me going back to the remix of Tug of War. In terms of the music, the remix of Tug of War is great. When it comes to the better remaster and/or reissue, Pipes of Peace is slightly better as I feel it benefited from the remaster. I can do without the bonus audio but it’s still nice to own. The Paul McCartney Archive Collection will continue with 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt. While I will pick up the next reissue, I feel that Paul and the powers that be are holding back. I would love to see reissues of Red Rose Speedway and Back to the Egg: both would offer a lot of bonus audio and maybe even DVD releases of the James Paul McCartney and the Back to the Egg  TV Specials (though those would probably only come with the super deluxe editions for each album). In the meantime, enjoy these two new reissues. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Iron Maiden- The Book of Souls album review

 Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
Iron Maiden
The Book of Souls
Rating: **** (4.25-4.30)

It was in April 1980 when British heavy metal band Iron Maiden unleashed their self-titled debut album. 35 years and several line-ups later, Iron Maiden are still together performing before their rabid fan base. In this year of 2015, Maiden have released their sixteenth album. The album, The Book of Souls, is their first since 2010’s The Final Frontier. Personally, I found The Final Frontier difficult to listen to: the album’s mixing was distracting, there was some filler and the album’s runtime of 76 minutes didn’t help either. When I first heard that Maiden were releasing their first two-disc studio album- with a runtime of 92 minutes, I was skeptical. However, I listened to the album on Spotify the day it was released and I have to admit I was impressed: The Book of Souls is a damn good album. While it is a long album, all of the album’s eleven tracks are worth listening to.

            The album’s opener, “If Eternity Should Fail,” begins with the sounds of synthesizers before the band gets down to business and up the irons. In this song, frontman Bruce Dickinson sings of humanity’s downfall in this heavy track. Dickinson’s voice may sound hoarse at first but throughout the album, Dickinson gives a solid performance. Even as he approaches his 60s, the man knows how to take care of voice.

After the opening track, it’s a whole musical journey with Maiden. With two discs, The Book of Souls is an album full of Maiden goodness. In some cases, casual music listeners may think that Iron Maiden are one of those bands that play songs that all sound the same. This isn’t the case with The Book of Souls, as it’s an album that has Maiden interpreting their sounds in many different ways. Also with a title like The Book of Souls, one could approach the album as an actual book of souls: the eleven songs could be thought of as chapters in a book, each with something different to offer.

For a few songs, it seems that Maiden are showing their influences. The Deep Purple-esque rocker “Speed of Light” and the progressive metal sounding title track are examples of this. The former is the lead single for the album while the latter features Yes-like acoustics at the beginning and the end of the song (similar to “Roundabout”). Head banging tunes come out of heavy duty “When the River Runs Deep” and the hard-hitting “Death or Glory.” While the band might be recognized as a heavy metal band, Iron Maiden can even pull off heart-felt ballads. “Tears of a Clown” is an example of this. According to Bruce Dickinson in an interview, the song was interestingly inspired by the suicide of comedian Robin Williams last year. The song is well written, with strong lyrics that wonder why someone so funny would succumb to depression.   

For a double album, there are quite a number of epics that go over ten minutes. Of them, “The Red and the Black” might be my personal favorite: it begins with a flamenco-like guitar solo before it becomes heavy. The songs has this “Rimes of the Ancient Mariner” feel and the “whoa” vocal chants are a nice touch. The album even ends with an epic- the 18-minute “Empire of the Clouds. With poetic lyrics and an orchestra playing in the background, it closes out the album perfectly. 


The Book of Souls is a great album from Iron Maiden. Ever since CDs kicked off, artists have been able to make albums that go over 50 minutes. Some are able to do this well while others could’ve cut a few songs off the final product. Even today, some artists will continue to release albums that have a runtime of an hour or more. Iron Maiden felt the material they were working on was so strong; they had to release it all on one album. Maiden really pulled this off, although it isn’t too surprising: all six members in Maiden are excellent musicians. For a band that’s been together for almost four decades, Iron Maiden still have it. Need proof? Just listen to The Book of Souls

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hollywood Vampires album review

 Hollywood Vampires - Hollywood Vampires
Hollywood Vampires
Hollywood Vampires
Rating: *** 1/2


In the 1970s, there was a group of rock stars that would hang out every once in a while, trying to out-drink each other. They called themselves the Hollywood Vampires. The drinking club consisted of rock legends such as Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and John Lennon The president of the group was shock rocker Alice Cooper. Nearly four decades later, Cooper is one of the few surviving members of the group. Now in 2015, Cooper and many of his musician friends such as Joe Perry, Dave Grohl, Paul McCartney, Brian Johnson, Slash, Joe Walsh and even actor Johnny Depp have teamed up to make a star-studded tribute album to the fallen Vampires, as well as other rock legends Cooper was friends with. The album, Hollywood Vampires, is a neat salute to his friends. While many of the songs on here are a little too faithful to the originals, Cooper and company have put a lot of work into this project.

            The album opens with a narration by the late Christopher Lee, which leads into an original song “Raise the Dead.” It’s a great rocking tune with pretty good lyrics. Alice’s vocals are pretty solid too. From there on until the end, the album is a classic rock musical journey. Now let’s face it: cover albums are not very original. Given how Alice is known for making great conceptual albums, the idea to cover his fallen friends’ songs is pretty damn clever. Cover tunes can be done in two different ways: you can play the song faithfully or you can give your own take on the song (ex. Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends” or even X’s “Soul Kitchen”). For Hollywood Vampires, most of the songs follow along the lines of the former. Still, some of the covers here are worth listening to. “My Generation” follows the original but has this punk rock feel throughout while “Break On Through” has a cool twin lead guitar lick added to it.  However, the covers of John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” don’t offer anything new.

            Still, I can say I honestly like some of the covers here. Being a fan of Badfinger, the cover of “Come and Get It” featuring Alice and Paul McCartney (the song’s original writer) is good fun. While McCartney’s vocals do sound a little worn out, he gives a good performance of the song and it serves as a nice tribute to Pete Ham and Tom Evans (and even drummer Mike Gibbons). Alice’s take on T. Rex’s “Jeepster” is refreshing to hear and almost a different take on the song: the production on here is bigger and it’s played in a slightly different way. AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson shares lead vocals with Alice on “Whole Lotta Love” and “School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall.” Both tracks are strong, the latter being a piece that Alice has played live in his recent shows. Hearing the two songs mesh together is nice. However, it’s the cover of the Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park” that I find to be the best of the covers. Why? It’s a completely different take on the song. While the original was a simple acoustic ditty, Alice and company have been able to transform it into a fast-paced modern sounding track. It really is impressive. The album ends with a comedic loungey number “Dead Drunk Friends.” It’s a great song and it’s very Alice: he takes a subject as dark as alcoholism and makes it humorous.”


            Hollywood Vampires is simply a fun album. In all honesty, we really didn’t need to hear these songs re-recorded and could’ve stuck with the originals. Still, you can’t help but applaud Alice and company for putting so much work into an album like this. From now until the end of the year, Alice will be performing shows as the Hollywood Vampires with Joe Perry and Johnny Depp in the band. Could this lead to a tour or even a second album? It seems unlikely, given how long it took for this album to come out. For now, we can enjoy this new album.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Alice Cooper reveals release date for Hollywood Vampires project

Shock rocker Alice Cooper has been been working on a covers album project for a year or two now. It was later revealed through interviews that Cooper would be releasing the album as star-studded tribute to Cooper's deceased friends. Today, all of the details have been revealed for the album.

The album, Hollywood Vampires, will be released on September 11. The album's title comes from the name of a group of people Cooper hung out with and got drunk with. Members of this group included John Lennon, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Mickey Dolenz, Bernie Taupin and many others. Today, most of the people who were in the Hollywood Vampires are dead. With this album, Cooper pays tribute to the deceased members, as well as his other friends who have passed away. The album is not being released as an Alice Cooper album: the album features a slew of guest musicians including Paul McCartney, Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl, Brian Johnson, Perry Farrell, Robby Krieger and even actor Johnny Depp. Narrating the first track on the album is actor Christopher Lee, who passed away earlier this year. Producing the album is Alice's long-time producer, Bob Ezrin.

While not billed as an Alice Cooper solo album, Cooper sings on all of the album's tracks. The tracking list is as follows:

1. The Last Vampire (narration by Christopher Lee)
2. Raise the Dead
3. My Generation (cover of the Who, featuring Johnny Depp)
4. Whole Lotta Love (cover of Led Zeppelin, featuring Brian Johnson on co-lead vocals)
5. I've Got a Line On You (cover of Spirit, featuring Perry Farrell on co-lead vocals)
6. Five to One/Break On Through (cover of the Doors, featuring Robbie Krieger)
7. One/Jump Into The Fire (cover of Harry Nilsson, featuring Perry Farrell on co-lead vocals)
8. Come And Get It (cover of Badfinger, featuring Paul McCartney on co-lead vocals)
9. Jeepster (cover of T. Rex, featuring Joe Perry and Johnny Depp)
10. Cold Turkey (cover of John Lennon, featuring Joe Perry and Johnny Depp)
11. Manic Depression (cover of Jimi Hendrix, featuring Joe Perry and Johnny Depp)
12. Itchycoo Park (cover of Small Faces)
13. School's Out/Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2 (latter cover of Pink Floyd, w/ Brian Johnson)
14. Dead Drunk Friends

For more details on who played on the album, visit Ultimate Classic Rock's article on the album.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rock Recap: Keith Richards, David Gilmour, Paul McCartney and W.A.S.P.

Several different albums have been announced recently. Some of them have been known of for a while but the dates are now official for all of these. Below are all the detail on the four artists mentioned above. 

Keith Richards
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has announced the release of a new solo album. The album, Crosseyed Heart, is Richards' third album and his first since 1992's Main Offender. The album's first single, "Trouble," was released today. The album will be released on September 18. 



David Gilmour
Former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour has revealed more details on his upcoming solo album, Rattle That Lock. This will be Gilmour's first solo album since 2006's On an Island. Gilmour plans to tour for the album, although he won't be coming to North America until next year. The title track will be released tomorrow on July 17 while the album itself will be released on September 18. The tracking list is as follows:

1. 5 AM
2. Rattle That Lock
3. Faces of Stone
4. A Boat Lies Waiting
5. Dancing Right In Front of Me
6. In Any Tongue
7. Beauty 
8. The Girl In The Yellow Dress
9. Today
10. And Then...

Paul McCartney
The Paul McCartney Archive Collection will continue on September 18 with the reissues of 1982's Tug of War and 1983's Pipes of Peace. The two album will follow last year's reissues of Venus and Mars and Wings At The Speed of Sound. As with the other releases in the collection, the two albums are expected to have a standard 2 CD version, a vinyl version and a box set version. 

W.A.S.P.
Heavy metal band W.A.S.P. have finally announce the release date for their next studio album, Golgotha. This will be the band's first album since 2009's Babylon. Earlier this week, it was announced that drummer Mike Dupke had parted ways with the band. It is assumed that Dupke played on the new album before leaving.  A new drummer has yet to be announced. The tracking list is as follows:

1. Scream
2. Last Runaway
3. Shotgun
4. Miss You
5. Fallen Under
6. Slaves of the New World Order
7. Eyes of My Maker
8. Hero of the World
9. Golgotha

Golgotha will be released on October 2.