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: ****


            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
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


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: ****


            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.


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.

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

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