Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017- Year in Review

2017 has been a decent year for my favorite music. Most of the releases that’ve come out have been pretty good but nothing really worth going crazy over. As always, I will analyze what I’ve gotten this year both new and old.

New albums
Black Star Riders - Heavy Fire
Black Star Riders
Heavy Fire
Rating: ****


            Whereas my favorite album of last year was called Blackstar, my favorite from this year is by the hard rockers in Black Star Riders. As their third album, Heavy Fire is another impressive release from the Thin Lizzy spin-off band. The songs on here all sound like tunes that the late Phil Lynott might’ve churned out if he were still around. Heavy Fire is an interesting follow-up to 2015’s The Killer Instinct, which sounded like the band were trying to make a sound for themselves. With this new album, they’re back to the Lizzy sound- although with some different variations. While I still feel their debut is their best, Heavy Fire is still a great album.

Highlights: When the Night Comes In, Dancing With the Wrong Girl, Who Rides The Tiger, Letting Go Of Me

  Steel Panther - Lower the Bar
Steel Panther
Lower the Bar
Rating: *** ½

            Glam metal jokesters Steel Panther released their fourth album this year. Compared to their first three albums, Lower the Bar falls on the weak side. As to be expected with the band, they are showing no signs of changing anything when it comes to their lyrical content. There are some good songs on here during the first half but it’s the album’s second half that drags it down. Still, you can’t help but appreciate these guys for trying to make some retro sounding music.

Highlights: Anything Goes, Poontang Boomerang, I’ve Got What You Want, That’s When You Came In

  Alice Cooper - Paranormal
Alice Cooper
Rating: ****

            After nearly a decade of conceptual and themed albums, shock rocker Alice Cooper went back to basics this year with Paranormal. Alice hasn’t made a basic, no frills rock album since 2005’s Dirty Diamonds. With that in mind, this album may sound strange at first but it is a grower. Some of the songs feature the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band, which is always nice to hear.

Highlights: Genuine American Girl, Fireball, Paranoiac Personality, Fallen in Love  

  Accept - The Rise of Chaos
The Rise of Chaos
Rating: *** ½

            As their fourth album with Mark Tornillo, Accept have released another “balls to the wall” metal album. Of the four new albums, The Rise of Chaos is easily the weakest of the bunch. With the exception of some changes in the band’s line-up, nothing much has changed in Accept. Along with this being their fourth album with Tornillo, it’s also the band’s fourth album with producer Andy Sneap. While not a bad album, The Rise of Chaos isn’t anything special. Should the band make another album, it’s probably time for a different producer.

Highlights: The Rise of Chaos, Die By the Sword, Worlds Colliding, Carry the Weight

 Quiet Riot - Road Rage
Quiet Riot
Road Rage
Rating: *** ¾

            It’s been a decade since Quiet Riot frontman Kevin DuBrow passed away. Despite drummer Frankie Banali vowing the band’s end, Quiet Riot would eventually reform in 2010 with the Banali and the band’s last line-up all back in. Since 2010, the band have been through several different lead singers. For their first full-length studio album since 2006’s Rehab, the band are now fronted by former American Idol finalist James Durbin. While many might be skeptical about a new Quiet Riot album without the late DuBrow, Road Rage manages to be an enjoyable album. The production isn’t the best but the songs presented on here are all good- with Durbin’s vocals fitting in just fine.

Highlights: Freak Flag, Can’t Get Enough, Renegades, Roll This Joint

 Black Country Communion - BCCIV
Black Country Communion
Rating: *** ½  

            Five years after their split, Black Country Communion are back with their fourth album. BCC IV, like the albums before it, is an old-school hard rock sounding album. Glenn Hughes still sounds great after all of these years and the band sounds very tight. Still, this isn’t the most memorable album. It’s a good album but I’d be lying if I said I can remember all of the songs from the album. For what it is, it’s good.

Highlight: Over My Head, The Crow, Collide  

 Paul McCartney - Flowers in the Dirt
Paul McCartney
Flowers in the Dirt
Original album rating: *** ½ to ****
Bonus disc: ***

            After a two year delay, the Paul McCartney Archive Series continues with 1989’s Flowers in the Dirt. Considered a comeback for McCartney back in the day, the album features memorable tunes such as “My Brave Face” and “Put It There.” As always, the remastering is top notch. Compared to the other entries in the series, I can’t say this is one of my favorites. While Flowers is a very good album, I find myself not really caring about the bonus disc. Nevertheless, I enjoyed going back to this album.

 The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 
The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th Anniversary 2 CD edition)
Original album rating: *****
New remix rating: ****
Bonus disc rating: ****


            Sgt. Pepper dazzled music listeners when it was released in 1967. For its 50th anniversary, Apple and EMI have gone all out with a reissue campaign for this classic album. The two disc version of the reissue is surprisingly well done. The set features a new remix of the album created by Giles Martin, along with a disc of outtakes. Martin’s new mix of the album can be best described as a cross between the mono and stereo mixes, which is nice to have but we really didn’t need this. Personally, I find myself more interested in the second disc- which features an outtake for each of the album’s eleven tracks, sequenced in the original album’s order. For an album that’s been heard oh so many times, it’s fun to hear an alternate version of a classic album. Along with a booklet filled with insightful liner notes, you really get your money’s worth.

Archival releases
  Riot - The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 1: 1976 - 1980
The Official Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1 (1976-1980)
Rating: ****


            Taken from the estate of the late Mark Reale, The Official Bootleg Box Set is a box set devoted to the live career of hard rock band Riot. This impressive six disc set features a little over four hours of music. While the audio/sound quality might not be the best, this set is being released more so for historic significance. With this set, the focus is on Riot and their career before and during the time they released Rock City and Narita. The second volume (which I already have) was scheduled to be released at the end of this year but it has been moved to early January.

Alice Cooper
Welcome to My Nightmare: Special Edition
Rating: ****

            Eagle Rock re-released Alice Cooper’s 1976 concert film Welcome to My Nightmare on DVD earlier this year. While the movie was released before in 2002, this new DVD also includes the 1975 TV Special The Nightmare- which has never been released on DVD before. It’s nice to have two interpretations of one album on one DVD, especially the TV special. While there are no special features, at least this is back in print.

Rest in Peace
Pete “Overend” Watts- bassist for Mott the Hoople
Geoff Nicholls- keyboardist for Black Sabbath
John Wetton- bassist for Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep and Asia
Chuck Berry
Chris Cornell- singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave
Gregg Allman- co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band
Anita Pallenberg- partner of Brian Jones and Keith Richards
Walter Becker- co-founder of Steely Dan
Fats Domino

Malcolm Young- rhythm guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame: Class of 2018- my thoughts

The inductees for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2018 were announced on Wednesday. Looking down the list, this is a pretty solid group of acts. Still, I do have some frustrations over who didn't get in but let's go over who did get the induction.

Bon Jovi- After winning the public vote in a landslide, Bon Jovi are now in the Hall. I'm really not a fan of Bon Jovi. In fact, they are probably one of the only bands I've ever bought music by and stopped listening to. I was always loyal to their glam metal years but in the last two decades or so, Bon Jovi don't even categorize as such. Even going back to their earlier material, I can't listen to it. Also coming from NJ myself, these guys are worshiped. However, I don't mind their induction into the Hall too much. Jon Bon Jovi himself seems like a decent guy and I'm also liking how Jann Wenner is angered by their induction. With these guys in, can the Hall now please look at other bands from NJ? I'd like to nominate the Misfits.

The Cars- I don't own any of their music but I'm very happy to hear that the Cars got inducted. These guys have been waiting for years to be inducted and this is long overdue. As for the music by the Cars, I don't mind it and would actually be open to listening to it. If one thing does annoy me, it's as to how much classic rock radio plays them. Still, good for them.

Dire Straits- Once again, we have another band here that I'm not all that crazy about. Still, I think they deserve their induction. I also have a soft spot for them given Mark Knopfler was one of Phil Lynott's friends. Speaking of which, can we get Thin Lizzy in the Hall already?

The Moody Blues-  After years and years of waiting, the Moody Blues have finally been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Formed in the mid 1960s, the Moody Blues have been around for some five decades. Those first few Moody Blues albums are really good and I think those alone are worthy of an induction.

Nina Simone- I have to be honest and admit I'm not familiar with her music. I know that she's gotten some buzz ever since a Netflix documentary about her was released. I've been meaning to watch it. The Hall lacks in female inductees so this is nice to see.

Along with these five artists, Sister Rosetta Tharpe has also been inducted as an early influence.

The 2018 Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is scheduled for April 14, 2018 in Cleveland.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Malcolm Young dead at 64

Malcolm Mitchell Young
January 6, 1953 - November 18, 2017
(photo credit: Wikicommons- click here for source)

Malcolm Young, rhythm guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock legends AC/DC, died Saturday morning after a three to four year battle with dementia. According to a statement released by the Young family, Young passed away peacefully with his family by his side. AC/DC released their own statement, saying "Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young." His passing is almost a month after the passing of older brother and producer, George Young- who passed on October 22. Young was 64 years old. 

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Malcolm was the seventh of eight children born to William and Margaret Young. Two years later, Malcolm's brother Angus was born. In 1963, most of the Young family would emigrate from Scotland to Australia. Growing up, Malcolm listened to rock music. He and his brother Angus got a glimpse of rock n roll stardom as their older brother George was a member of the Easybeats. During the early to mid 1960s, the Easybeats were fairly successful in Australia as they had several hit singles in the Australian top 10 charts- their most notable being "Friday on My Mind" in 1966. Given their brother's success, the Young brothers were in several bands throughout the late 1960s. By November 1973, Malcolm and Angus decided to join forces and form their own band. The brothers called their band AC/DC, after seeing the letters on their older sister Margaret's sewing machine. The band would go through many line up changes, with Malcolm and Angus being the only two consistent members. By 1975, the band were fronted by fellow Scotsman Bon Scott. With their older brother George and his former Easybeats bandmate Harry Vanda producing, AC/DC released their first few albums. These early albums featured future classics such as "TNT", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Let There Be Rock", and "Whole Lotta Rosie." All of these songs were written by the Young brothers and Scott. Along with being rhythm guitarist, Malcolm also served as the band's leader- with brother Angus serving as the band's mascot, decked out in a school boy's uniform. 

In 1979, the band released Highway to Hell. The album saw a more polished approached to the AC/DC sound and as a result, the band were on their way to reaching a more mainstream audience. Sadly in early 1980, the band were hit with a devastating blow when Bon Scott suddenly died at the age of 33 after a long night of drinking. With the blessing of Scott's family, AC/DC decided to continue on without Scott. Of the singers auditioned, the band hired former Geordie singer Brian Johnson. With Johnson, the band released Back in Black- which would go on to sell in the millions and become one of the best selling albums of all time. Given the album's success, AC/DC were able to continue with Johnson as their frontman. While he stayed in the band until his retirement, Malcolm briefly left the band in 1988 when he decided to enter rehab. Nephew Stevie Young would fill in for him for the band's two North American legs of their tour in support for Blow Up Your Video. During the later part of their career, AC/DC were honored with various awards- including an induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. 

In the last decade of his life, Malcolm's health slowly started to decline. Prior to the band recording and touring for 2008's Black Ice, Malcolm is said to have started struggling with his memory and concentration. By the end of the album's tour in 2010, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer, however, was detected early and was successfully removed. During the surgery, it was also discovered that Malcolm had a heart condition that would require him to have a pacemaker installed. In 2014, Malcolm was admitted to a nursing home to be treated for his dementia. With this, Malcolm was forced to retire from AC/DC. Nephew Stevie Young returned to AC/DC, this time as Malcolm's permanent replacement, who they recorded 2014's Rock or Bust with.  After Malcolm's retirement, the band were seemingly cursed with bad luck- with Phil Rudd's arrest for an attempted hit in 2014, Brian Johnson's  unceremonious firing due to a deafness scare and Cliff William's exit after the Rock or Bust tour in 2016. As of this writing, the future of AC/DC is unknown.

Malcolm is survived by his wife Linda and their two children, Cara and Ross. He is also survived by his sister Margaret and his brothers Angus, John and William.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rock N Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Nominees- My Thoughts

The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame have announced the nominees have been announced today and much to my surprise, this isn't a bad list of nominees. It still has its problems but there are some good names here. Once again, I'll break it down into different categories and give my thoughts along the way.

Let 'em in: My Ballot
Kate Bush
Judas Priest
The Moody Blues
The Zombies

The Zombies and the MC5 have been nominated once again while Kate Bush, Judas Priest and the Moody Blues are all receiving their first nominations. I'm particularly impressed by Kate Bush's nod as she's not too famous here in the US. I think we can thank Steve Miller for ripping the Hall a new one when he called them out for not having enough women in the Hall. So if she's there just because of that- bravo.

Why not?
The Cars
Depeche Mode
Dire Straits
J. Geils Band
Link Wray
Nina Simone

A few other artists here are seeing their first nominations. I'm not really a fan of any of these ats here but I wouldn't mind seeing them inducted. For the J. Geils Band, this nomination comes just months after the death of J. Geils. That's something to keep in mind because the Hall has been known to induct acts after a member dies. With Link Wray, the guy has been on the ballot for years. I would have no problem with him being inducted. I know next to nothing about Nina Simone but I think that documentary from Netfix a few years ago might be helping her.

Bon Jovi
Rage Against the Machine
Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Bon Jovi are one of the few bands (if not, only) that I've gone from liking to disliking. I liked their 80s stuff but now as the years go on, I just can't stand them. To think these guys were considered glam metal at one point in their career is weird. Like Springsteen, maybe it's because they're from my home state and I find them to be overrated. As for Radiohead and Rage, they're probably going to get inducted in a heartbeat. I don't really have any opinion about either band, although I do like Tom Morello since the guy has been outspoken about Kiss and the MC5.  As for Sister Rosetta Tharpe, I don't know what to say.

Wasted spots
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
The Meters

The Hall has chosen two previous nominees once again. Luckily, the Hall has not nominated Chic- given Nile Rodgers' induction last year. I think these two are the new Chic: they probably won't get in and keep getting nominated until the Hall gets tired.

LL Cool J

Don't really need to keep repeating myself. For those new to my blog: I hate rap.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Tom Petty dead at 66

Thomas Earl Petty
October 20, 1950 - October 2, 2017
(photo credit- click here)

Legendary singer/songwriter Tom Petty died today after suffering from complications of cardiac arrest. Petty was found unconscious in full cardiac arrest early on Monday morning in his home in Malibu, after which he was rushed to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. Earlier in the day, CBS News had prematurely announced the singer's death- leading to a surge of social media posts. The story was denied hours later after the LAPD announced that Petty had not passed and was still in critical condition- having been taken off life support. Petty's manager Tony Dimitriades confirmed the news just hours later, saying in a statement to the press that the singer died "peacefully at 8:40 pm PST surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends. Petty was 66 years old.

Born in Gainesville, Florida, Tom Petty was only ten years old when he met Elvis Presley on the set of Presley's movie Follow That Dream. After seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, Petty knew he wanted to become a musician. By 1970, Petty and guitarist Tom Leadon formed Mudcrutch. Along with Petty and Leadon was singer Jim Lenehan, guitarist Mike Campbell and drummer Randall March. During their original run together, the band didn't release any albums- although the band would reunite nearly three decades later in 2007.

After Mudcrutch's split in 1975, Petty brought in ex-Mudcrutch members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. Together, they would end up forming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Petty and the band would go on the achieve commercial success with hit songs such as "American Girl," "Breakdown," "Refugee," "Don't Do Me Like That," and "Don't Come Around Here No More." Petty was also able to achieve success with a solo album or two, his most popular being 1989's Full Moon Fever- which featured classic rock radio staples such as "Free Fallin'," "I Won't Back Down," and "Runnin' Down a Dream." One year prior to the album's release, Petty joined the Traveling Wilburys supergroup with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison. The band's debut, Volume 1, was a commercial success- featuring hits such as "Handle With Care" and "End of the Line." Despite the passing of Roy Orbison shortly after the album's release, the band made another album in 1990 confusingly titled Volume 3.

In his career, Petty released thirteen studio albums with the Heartbreakers and three solo albums. In his life, Petty was married twice. From 1974 to 1996, Petty was married to Jane Benyo. Together, the couple had two daughters- Adria and Anna Kim. In 2001, Petty married Dana York. Through her, Petty had a stepson Dylan- York's son from her previous marriage.

The full statement from Tony Dimitriades was posted on Twitter. Below is the full text:

"On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend, Tom Petty.

"He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40 PM PST surrounded by family, his bandmates, and his friends."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Walter Becker dead at 67

Walter Carl Becker
February 20, 1950 - September 3, 2017

Walter Becker, musician and co-founder of Steely Dan, died today. Becker's death was announced on his official website. Becker was 67. At this time, the cause of death is unknown. 

Becker was born in Queens, New York. Having graduated from high school in 1967, Becker pursued a career in music. Originally starting on saxophone, he switched to guitar and was shown by fellow musician and future Spirit guitarist Randy California how to play the blues. While attending Bard College in Annadale-on-Hudson, New York, Becker met musician Donald Fagen. Together, Becker and Fagen were in several groups before finally forming Steely Dan around 1971. From 1972 to 1981, Steely Dan became one of the most commercially successful bands of all time. Their combination of rock and jazz music made them stand out compared to their peers. The band would have hits with "Reelin' in the Years," "Do It Again," "Dirty Work," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" and "Hey Nineteen." The band broke up in 1981 but Fagen and Becker would reunite in 1993 and release another two studio albums in 2000 and 2003. Becker also managed to release two solo albums,  11 Tracks of Wack in 1994 and Circus Money in 2008.

Becker is survived by his wife and two children. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Accept- The Rise of Chaos album review

 Accept - The Rise of Chaos
The Rise of Chaos
Rating: *** 1/2

When Accept reunited with former TT Quick lead singer Mark Tornillo in 2009, many fans didn’t think it would work. Without original singer Udo Dirkscheider, it seemed as if this reunion was pointless.  Accept made those people eat those words in 2010 with the release of Blood of the Nations, the band’s first album with Tornillo. Much to the surprise of many people, Blood of the Nations was a great album and Tornillo was accepted as the band’s lead singer. The band were able to follow this up with 2012’s Stalingrad and 2014’s Blind Rage- both of which received fairly positive reviews as well. The band’s latest album, The Rise of Chaos, is their fourth album with Tornillo. As much as it pains me to say this, The Rise of Chaos is just okay. Don’t get me wrong: the music on here is another brutal onslaught heavy tunes delivered by the German metal band.  Still, it feels like it’s missing something that the three previous albums had. While the weakest of the four Tornillo albums, The Rise of Chaos still manages to have some decent tunes.

While not up to par with the previous openers, “Die by the Sword” is still a decent tune: it has a killer guitar riff and the lyrics are relevant to today- as they question what has become of humanity.  The title track continues the apocalyptic theme (with the focus now on survival) while the hard hitting “No Regrets” features some impressive drumming from Christopher Williams. As far as the weaker songs go, there are two in particular that stick out. The first of them is “Koolaid,” a song that (sadly) isn’t about the flavored drink mix but instead a biographical song about Jim Jones and the 1978 Jonestown massacre. While the story fits with the album’s theme, it’s hard to take seriously when you hear the chorus of “Don’t drink the Koolaid.”  The second clunker is “Analog Man,” an anthem for the generation who can’t buy into today’s technology. The lyrics are extremely cringe-worthy, with Tornillo sings such lyrics as “My cell phone is smart than me” and “Don’t need no Wi-Fi/Just want my Hi-Fi.” The last few songs, however, balance the album out. “Worlds Colliding” is pleasantly melodic while “Carry the Weight” just might be my favorite song from the album lyrically. “Don’t carry the weight of world on your shoulders” warns Tornillo, as he sings about the world as it stands today- with mentions of global warming, bombings and earthquakes.

Overall, The Rise of Chaos is a very average album from Accept. If this review is too short for any reason, it’s because I don’t think there’s anything here to review. It isn’t a bad album but then again, it isn’t a classic. It’s just another album from Accept and that’s all. It’s worth at a listen at least. Personally, I don’t see myself coming back to this album all that much. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Alice Cooper- Paranormal album review

 Alice Cooper - Paranormal
Alice Cooper
Rating: *** 1/2

This review was originally posted on Pop Culture Beast on July 30th, 2017. 

It’s been a while since Alice Cooper has released no frills, non-conceptual hard rock album. Alice’s last two projects, 2015’s Hollywood Vampires and 2011’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, were both albums with a concept or a theme- with the former being an all star covers album and the latter being a sequel to Alice’s 1975 solo debut. Alice’s latest album, Paranormal, sees the shock rock icon going back to basics. While it isn’t a perfect album, Paranormal still features some kick ass rock music.

            There are twelve new studio tracks on Paranormal. Some of the songs on here are infused with 1970s classic rock. This can be found on songs such as the organ-heavy “Fireball” and the glam rock hooks of “Private Public Breakdown.” The album’s lead single, “Paranoiac Personality,” is also worth noting- as it’s a sinister sounding rock tune with a killer plodding bass line. While Alice is known for writing some down-right scary tunes, the man’s sense of humor must also be acknowledged. Over the years, Alice has written some funny songs. The bluesy “Fallen in Love” can now be added to that list, as Alice exclaims “I’ve fallen in love and I can’t get up!”

            Paranormal isn’t without its weaknesses. While long-time producer Bob Ezrin was at the helm for this album, the production here isn’t the best- which is to be expected with modern day audio mastering. There’s also this religious overtone/theme on a few songs, some of which I think are the weakest tracks on here. This includes the Southern rock influenced “Dynamite Road” and the jazzy “Holy Water.” Still, the album closes out nicely with three new songs featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band. The band shows off their chops on the guitar heavy rocker “Rats” and the anthem-driven “You And All of Your Friends.” Strangely enough, my favorite of these songs is the R&B/doo-wop inspired “Genuine American Girl.” Not only is it my favorite of the songs featuring the original band but it’s also my favorite song on the album. This is yet another funny song from Alice, as he describes himself in all of his feminine glory. “I’m only 30 out of 50 shades of grey” sings Alice. “What do you say?”

            For what it is, Paranormal is a decent album. It might not be one of his most consistent albums but you have to give Alice credit for trying to go back to basics. The album also comes with six live bonus tracks recorded last year in Columbus, Ohio. Speaking of touring, Alice will be on the road in support of the album. Alice has also stated that he will begin work next year on an all originals second album with the Hollywood Vampires super group.  For time being, fans can listen to Paranormal.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare" DVD set for release in September

Alice Cooper's 1976 concert film Welcome to My Nightmare will be re-released on DVD on September 8. Not only will this new DVD release feature the movie but it will also feature the 1975 ABC TV Special Alice Cooper: The Nightmare- which is seeing its debut release on DVD. 

Released in 1975 after the split of the original Alice Cooper band, Welcome to My Nightmare served as Alice's first album as a solo artist. The album, produced by Bob Ezrin, revolves around the concept of the nightmares of a boy named Steven- a character that would later go on to appear on some of Alice's other albums. The album was a hit when released in 1975, featuring classics such as the title track, "The Black Widow" and "Only Women Bleed." The success of the album lead to the 1975 TV special and the 1976 concert film. 

Alice Cooper: The Nightmare first aired on April 25, 1975 on ABC. The special plays out as a visual representation of the album, as Alice goes from one musical number to another. Legendary actor Vincent Price is also in the special, as he was also featured as a guest on the album- giving the narration leading into "The Black Widow." The special was last released in 1983 on VHS and Betamax. Prior to the upcoming DVD release, the special had been widely bootlegged amongst fans. 

The 1976 concert film was shot during Alice's tour in support of the album- with the shows coming from performances at the Wembley Arena on September 11-12, 1975. The movie was a failure at the box office but found a second life as a midnight movie years later. Unlike The Nightmare, the concert film was released on DVD back in 2002 but that release has since then gone out of print. 

The tracking lists for both releases are as follows: 

Welcome to My Nightmare (1976 concert film)
1. The Awakening
2. Welcome to My Nightmare
3. Years Ago
4. No More Mr. Nice Guy
5. I'm Eighteen
6. Some Folks
7. Cold Ethyl 
8. Only Women Bleed
9. Billion Dollar Babies
10. Devil's Food
11. The Black Widow
12. Steven
13. Escape 
14. School's Out
15. Department of Youth

Run time: 84 minutes

Alice Cooper: The Nightmare (1975 TV special)
1. Welcome to My Nightmare
2. Devil's Food
3. Some Folks
4. Only Women Bleed
5. Cold Ethyl
6. The Black Widow
7. Years Ago
8. Department of Youth 
9. Years Ago (Reprise)
10. Steven
11. The Awakening
12. Ballad of Dwight Fry
13. Escape
14. The Awakening (Reprise)

Run time: 66 minutes

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Anita Pallenberg dead at 73

Anita Pallenberg
January 25, 1944 - June 13, 2017

Italian-German actress/model Anita Pallenberg, former partner to Brian Jones and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, died today. At this moment in time, the cause of death is unknown. Pallenberg was 73.  

Born in Rome in 1944, Pallenberg started her career as a model at 16 after being expelled from school. During this time, she lived in Rome, Germany and New York. It was during her time in New York City at she was seen with the people from Andy Warhol's Factory. In her life, Pallenberg appeared in some dozen films. Her best known movies including the 1968 Roger Vadim sci-fi flick Barbarella and the 1970  Donald Cammell-Nicols Roeg mind-bending crime drama Performance. The former starred Jane Fonda while the latter was Mick Jagger's acting debut. Over the years, both of these movies became cult favorites.    

In the music world, Pallenberg is perhaps best known for her association with the Rolling Stones. She first met the band in 1965 when they were touring in Munich while Pallenberg was on a modelling assignment. Around that time, Pallenberg started a relationship with guitarist Brian Jones. The couple were together until 1967 when Jones was said to have been violent towards Pallenberg while on vacation in Morocco. Soon after her split with Jones, Pallenberg started a relationship with guitarist Keith Richards. From 1967 to 1979, Richards and Pallenberg were together. Though they never married, Pallenberg gave birth to three of Richards' children: Marlon (born 1969), Dandelion Angela (born 1972, who goes by her middle name) and Tara Jo Jo Gunne- who died ten weeks after his birth. Tara's death is said to have been from either SIDS or pneumonia. Even after their split, Richards and Pallenberg were still close. Richards would later marry model Patti Hansen, who he has been married to since 1983.

After her relationship with Richards ended, Pallenberg struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. She stopped drinking in 1987 (with the exception of a relapse in 2004 after a second hip surgery) and was able to stay sober from drugs around 2000.  Prior to her death, Pallenberg was suffering from Hepatitis C. Despite her health struggles, Pallenberg was able to appear a few more movies in the late 2000s. 

Pallenberg is survived by two children (Marlon and Angela) and five grandchildren. 

It's sad to hear of Ms. Pallenberg's death. Performance is one of my favorite movies, which she's fairly good in. I can't say I've seen any of her other movies but it's just sad to hear that someone in the Stones camp has died. 

Rest in peace, Anita. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Beatles- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 2 CD Anniversary Edition review

 The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 2 CD Anniversary Edition
Original album rating: *****
Remix rating: a low ****
Sessions disc rating: ****

It might be hard to believe but it has been 50 years since the Beatles released their iconic 1967 masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. With an album this historically significant, this anniversary is one that’s worth celebrating. To celebrate, a massive reissue of the 1967 album has been released on a wide variety of formats. Of the many variations out there, the 2 CD version is probably the one to get- not only for its price but for its content.

            The first disc is a new remix of the album completed by Giles Martin, son of the late George Martin. The last time the Beatles album were reissued and remastered was in 2009- which was a pretty big deal as the albums hadn’t been touched since 1987 when they were first released on CD. Instead, Giles Martin has presented us with a remix of the album- which can be best described as a cross between the stereo and mono mixes of the album. Most Beatles fans will probably know that back in the day, the Beatles and George Martin put more effort and work into the mono mixes of their albums- given that mono records were still the norm at that point. This changed for the bands last two albums- Abbey Road and Let It Be- which were both mixed in stereo. Before then, the stereo mixes were done by other people. Today, those stereo mixes are still the ones that are sold in stores as the main albums. With that, a lot of listeners are missing out on what the music sounds like in mono.

            On a first listen, the remix just sounds okay. I’ve noticed that the vocals are more upfront in this remix- kind of like what was done with Let It Be with Let It Be…Naked in 2003. However, this isn’t necessarily a stripped down version of Sgt. Pepper as you can still clearly hear the instruments. There’s more emphasis put on the bass and drums on almost every song too. The one song that sounds drastically different from the 2009 remaster is “She’s Leaving Home,” which takes after the mono version and is played at a faster speed. When comparing the remix with the 2009 remaster in Audacity, the remix is much louder- but not too loud. Switching back and forth to the two tracks, it sounded as if the audio had been transferred to 3D when listening to the remix. So on a second listen; I can say I enjoyed the remix a little more. I’ve been able to pick up on little things here and there that I never noticed before on the album, which is cool. While it wasn’t necessary, the remix is still nice to have.

            The second disc consists entirely of outtakes from the album’s sessions. Of the two discs, I find myself liking the second disc more: it has an outtake for each of the 13 songs and they are sequenced in the same order as the original album. Whereas the remix sounds slightly different, this is a really cool alternate version of Sgt. Pepper in outtake form. A few outtakes from the Pepper sessions have been released before on the Anthology 2 set. For this second disc, a good portion of it has not been officially released before. This alternate version of Sgt. Pepper reminds me of what Rhino Records did with the T. Rex albums a couple of years ago, in that they’d give you the original album on the first disc and an alternate version on the second disc. With an album like Sgt. Pepper, I’ve listened to the original album oh so many times. So this second disc is more fun for me, personally. The second disc also comes with new mixes for “Strawberry Field Forever” and “Penny Lane,” which are also accompanied by an outtake or two each.

            If you’re a long time Beatles fan and can’t decide on which version of this reissue to get, I’d say go for this two disc version: you get a little bit of everything. As per usual with these big reissues, there is a bigger set available for diehard fans. The super deluxe edition of Sgt. Pepper comes with six discs- four CDs, a DVD and a Blu-Ray- along with a 144 page picture book and reprints of posters. This sells for a little over $100. I typically don’t buy box sets devoted to just one album so the two disc version does it for me. You don’t get the DVD or Blu-Ray but you do get the remix and a disc of sessions, along with a colorful booklet full of insightful liner notes- all for a little under $20. No matter what version you choose to purchase, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.   

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell dead at 52

Chris Cornell 
(born Christopher John Boyle)
July 20, 1964 - May 17, 2017

Singer/songwriter Chris Cornell, lead singer for Soundgarden and Audioslave, died last night in Detroit, Michigan. According to his representative, Cornell died after performing a concert with Soundgarden. At this time, the cause of death is unknown. Cornell was 52. 

Cornell was born in Seattle, Washington. One of six children in his family, Cornell became interested in music after listening to the Beatles for a period of two years. Struggling with anxiety, rock music was an escape for Cornell. After dropping out of high school, Cornell took a few odd jobs before deciding to become a musician. Prior to forming Soundgarden, Cornell had been in the Shemps. It was in the Shemps that Cornell met bassist Hiro Yamamonto and guitarist Kim Thayil. In 1984, the trio had formed Soundgarden- although it wasn't until 1988 when the band released their debut album Ultramega OK. The band were at their peak when the line-up of Cornell, Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron came together around 1990 after Shepherd joined. This line-up would release two best-selling albums, Badmotorfinger in 1992 and Superunknown in 1994. Along with Nirvana and Alice in Chains, Soundgarden became one of the many successful grunge rock bands to come out of Seattle. Some of the band's best known songs include "Rusty Cage," "Outshined," "Spoonman" and "Black Hole Sun."  

Soundgarden broke up in 1997 but Cornell would quickly resurfaced in the supergroup Audioslave with Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk.  From 2002 to 2006, the band would release three albums. In 2006, Cornell scored a solo hit single with "You Know My Name"- the theme tune to the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale. Cornell reunited with Soundgarden in 2010, which resulted in the band releasing a new studio album King Animal in 2012.  

In his life, Cornell was married twice. His first wife was Soundgarden manager Susan Silver. With Silver, Cornell had a daughter- Lillian (born 2000). The couple divorced in 2004. Cornell's second wife (and now widow) was publicist Vicky Karayiannis. With her, Cornell had another two children- Toni (born 2004) and Christopher (born 2005). 

It's a bummer to wake up and learn of Mr. Cornell's death. He was a great singer and he was fairly young. This is a surprise. Still, the guy left behind a whole catalog of music during his time here. 

RIP, Mr. Cornell.

Update (2:52 EDT): Wayne County Medical in Michigan have released a statement to the press- officially ruling Chris Cornell's death as a suicide-by-hanging. A full autopsy, however, has not been completed yet.

More details on Cornell's death have been revealed, with sources ranging from the Detroit Free Press to police statements. After his performance with Soundgarden Wednesday night, Cornell was checked in at the MGM Grand Casino in downtown Detroit. Sometime at midnight, a friend of Cornell's family had discovered Cornell his hotel bathroom. A 911 call was received over at the Detroit Police Department on soon after on Thursday morning, according to director Michael Woody. By the time units arrived, the officers were greeted by the family friend, after which the officers entered the hotel room and saw Cornell laying in the bathroom. Cornell was unresponsive and pronounced dead. It has been also been reported that when Cornell was discovered, he was found with a band around his neck. Other reports have said that at the end of Soundgarden's concert, Cornell sang part of "In My Time of Dying," a song best known by Led Zeppelin from their 1975 album Physical Graffiti. Cornell had inserted the song into the last song the band performed- "Slaves and Bulldozers."  


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Metallica Electrifies Philadelphia- Concert Review (May 12, 2017)

Live in Philadelphia at the Lincoln Financial Field
May 12, 2017
(picture here taken in 2008, via this link

After a long eight years, Metallica returned to Philadelphia on May 12, 2017 for a concert at the Lincoln Financial Field. The iconic metal band are currently on tour in support of their latest album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. With a nearly full arena, Metallica gave their fans a concert full of classics, new tracks and pyrotechnics.

            Metallica are currently touring with Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold. However, Avenged Sevenfold did not play last night- as the band opted out since member Synyster Gates had to take a plane home as his wife had gone into labor earlier than expected. With this, Volbeat were the only opening act. Personally, I didn’t see too much of their set. Unlike most concerts, I was lucky enough to have the VIP experience- the Whiplash experience to be exact. Along with getting free things such as a shirt and poster, there were impressive mini-museums devoted to the band’s history and their 2013 concert film Through the Never. I mostly checked out the history exhibit- the Memory Remains. Most of the exhibit was contained in these stage equipment-looking display pieces, all of them with pullout drawers- which would have items inside of them behind glass. Each drawer was labeled and devoted to something different. Some of the items in these drawers included pictures, set lists, old school flyers, backstage passes, touring itineraries and items from each of the members’ personal collections. There were also standard display cases, showing more pictures and even a few gold and platinum records. It’s really impressive that the band have been able to preserve their history over the years.

            A little after 9 pm, the lights went down and the audience went crazy. Even on a drizzly, chilly spring evening, Metallica fans were ready for a two hour onslaught of heavy metal music. After a video intro taken from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, the screens lit up with images of the artwork for Hardwired. The band hit the stage and charged into the album’s title track. Right off the bat, the band were in fine form. Even though a new song, the audience was still singing along- especially with the song’s chorus: “We’re so fucked/Shit out of luck/Hardwired to self destruct!” After playing “Atlas, Rise,” frontman James Hetfield spoke to the crowd- setting the tone for the night.  

“We don’t give a shit what you’ve done in your life.” Hetfield said. “We don’t care what you’re wearing right now. We don’t care what color you are. What religion you believe in or political shit. We don’t need any of that shit. You are here tonight as the Metallica family, alright? All are welcome. We’re all here to celebrate live music and life. Are you with us?!”

             The audience heartily replied in the form of cheers and shouts. With that out of the way, the band continued the concert- firing on all cylinders. The set list for the show consisted of fan favorites from the first five Metallica albums- along with some songs from the aforementioned Hardwired. In total, the band played five songs from the album. With the new songs, the band presented them with full force and aggression. During “Now That We’re Dead,” four over-sized hand drums were wheeled out- which each of the band members proceeded to pound on in unison. For “Moth into Flame,” the pyrotechnics came out- including a flame that slithered back n forth from the middle of the main stage.

“We’re gonna make sure this microphone is working” Hetfield said jokingly prior to playing the song, in reference to the band’s technical difficulty-riddled performance of the song with singer Lady Gaga at the Grammy’s earlier this year.

            While the new songs were nice to hear, the fans went wild when the classics were played. The band played five songs from their 1991 self titled album (aka The Black Album), which was a huge success when released back in the day. Some fans felt the band had sold out when The Black Album came out, as the band were making radio friendly music. Judging by the reactions from the audience that night, I think it’s safe to say that this crowd treasures those songs. Fans were singing along to the melodic “The Unforgiven” while gentlemen cuddled with their sweethearts during “Nothing Else Matters.” Audience participation came in the form of “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” “Master of Puppets” and “Creeping Death” while songs such as “Motorbreath” and “Seek and Destroy” had some fans moshing.

On the big screens during each song, there were some wonderful visuals to go with each of them. For the newer songs, footage from the music videos were used. For their first three albums, Metallica didn’t make music videos. For these songs, they were presented with animated sequences- all of which were impressive. For the army-themed “One,” fireworks and explosions went off- recreating the atmosphere from the studio track. Guitarist Kirk Hammet and bassist Robert Trujillo each got to shine with their solos. Surprisingly, Trujillo started playing “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”- the bass solo played by Metallica’s beloved bassist- the late Cliff Burton- on the band’s debut Kill ‘Em All. As Trujillo played, the big screen showed archival video footage of Burton- which got a huge reaction from the fans, some even shouting “Cliff!” I thought this was a beautiful tribute to their late friend and it’s touching to see the band still paying tribute to him now three decades after his untimely death.

The band performed three songs for the encore: “Battery,” “Nothing Else Matters” and ending it with what might be the band’s most popular song- “Enter Sandman.” As the band wrapped up “Enter Sandman,” a series of fireworks and explosions went off to close out the concert for good. After Hetfield spoke to the crowd, each of the members got the chance to speak. Drummer Lars Ulrich probably best summed up what most people were probably thinking.

“Eight long years. Am I the only one here who thinks that maybe Metallica should show up in Philadelphia a little more than eight fucking years?!” Ulrich asked to a huge reaction of approval from the audience. “Metallica loves you Philly. We will see you very soon!”

            Even more than 30 years into their career, Metallica still knows how to put on a damn good show. If Metallica comes to a town near you, go and see them when you can.

            If you’re reading this and you have seen Metallica during this tour, go and check out their website There, you can go and purchase an audio recording of the concert you attended on various digital formats or on CD.  

Set list
1.      Hardwired
2.      Atlas, Rise
3.      For Whom the Bell Tolls
4.      Creeping Death
5.      The Unforgiven
6.      Now That We’re Dead
7.      Moth into Flame
8.      Wherever I May Roam
9.      Halo on Fire
10.  Kirk and Robert solos (“I Disappear” and “Anesthesia” included)
11.  Motorbreath
12.  Sad but True
13.  One
14.  Master of Puppets
15.  Fade to Black
16.  Seek and Destroy

17.  Battery
18.  Nothing Else Matters
19.  Enter Sandman

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Alice Cooper to release "Paranormal" in July

Shock rocker Alice Cooper has announced that will be released a new studio album later this year. The album, Paranormal, will be Cooper's  27th studio album released (with his first seven albums being by the original band). Paranormal will be the first Alice Cooper album since 2011's Welcome 2 My Nightmare and his first album since the 2015 covers project with the Hollywood Vampires- a band Cooper formed with Aerosmith's Joe Perry and actor Johnny Depp.

Paranormal is already boasting quite the roster when it comes to special guests. In an interview with radio show host Eddie Trunk, Cooper revealed that ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr will appear on the album. Along with this, the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band (Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith) have written and played on three of the album's tracks. Cooper has also announce he plans to tour in support of the album this year. Cooper is even planning another Hollywood Vampires album with all original material- which they will start recording in 2018 as Johnny Depp is busy making five movies this year.

I'm excited to hear another album from Alice. However, I must've misread something last year: I was under the impression that he was recording a new album with the Alice Cooper band. I guess the person who wrote the article must've misunderstood something. Despite this, I'm still pumped.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper to be reissued for its 50th

After weeks and weeks of speculation, it's official: the Beatles' 1967 masterpiece Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band will be reissued in various forms- in celebration of the iconic album's 50th anniversary. Rumors had spread about there being a re-release of the album earlier this year, with reports claiming that the new reissue will add the singles "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" to the album. A video of the reissue campaign was leaked early yesterday but the content on the set has now been revealed.

The album will be released in these various formats...

-a standard one disc edition with the original album remastered.

-a deluxe two disc edition, featuring the original album remaster and a bonus disc of unreleased session recordings for the album.

-a super deluxe edition with six discs- 4 CDs, 1 DVD and 1 Blu-ray disc. This has everything the deluxe edition has along with another disc of session recordings and the mono mix. The DVD and Blu-ray will feature a new 5.1 surround sound audio mix of the album completed by Giles Martin (son of the late Sir George Martin), along with "Strawberry Field Forever" and "Penny Lane." Also included on the DVD and Blu-ray are promotional videos and an unreleased documentary. The set also comes with a 144 page book and several poster reproductions.

Digital and vinyl LP versions of the standard and deluxe editions will be released as well.

The Sgt. Pepper reissues are set for release on May 26.

The content featured on is as follows- with notes on which tracks were officially released before

Disc One (the original album, remastered)
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life

Disc Two (sessions/outtakes)
1. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 1 (originally on Anthology 2)
2. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 4
3. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 7 (originally on Anthology 2, though with an edit piece)
4. Strawberry Fields Forever- Take 26
5. Strawberry Fields Forever- Stereo/Giles Martin Mix
6. When I'm Sixty-Four- Take 2
7. Penny Lane- Take 6
8. Penny Lane- Vocal Overdubs and Speech
9. Penny Lane- Stereo/Giles Martin Mix
10. A Day In The Life- Take 1 (originally on Anthology 2)
11. A Day In The Life- Take 2 (originally on Anthology 2)
12. A Day In The Life- Orchestra Overdub (originally on Anthology 2)
13. A Day In The Life- Hummed Last Chord
14. A Day In The Life- The Last Chord
15. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band- Take 1
16. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band- Take 9
17. Good Morning, Good Morning- Take 1
18. Good Morning, Good Morning- Take 8 (originally on Anthology 2)

Disc Three (sessions/outtakes)
1. Fixing a Hole- Take 1
2. Fixing a Hole- Speech and Take 3
3. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!- Speech + Take 1(originally on Anthology 2), Take 4 & Speech
4. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!- Take 7 (originally on Anthology 2)
5. Lovely Rita- Speech and Take 9
6. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds- Take 1 and Speech
7. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds- Speech
8. Getting Better- Take 1
9. Getting Better- Take 12
10. Within You Without You- Take 1
11. Within You Without You- George Coaching the Musicians
12. She's Leaving Home- Take 1
13. She's Leaving Home- Take 6
14. With a Little Help From My Friends- Take 1
15. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)- Speech and Take 8

Disc Four (Mono)
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life
14. Strawberry Field Forever
15. Penny Lane
16. A Day In The Life- First Mono Mix
17. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds- Original Mono Mix
18. She's Leaving Home- First Mono Mix
19. Penny Lane- Capitol Records Mono Mix

Disc Five and Six (DVD and Blu-ray disc, w/ surround audio mixes and bonus videos)
1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. With A Little Help from My Friends
3. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
4. Getting Better
5. Fixing a Hole
6. She's Leaving Home
7. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
8. Within You Without You
9. When I'm Sixty-Four
10. Lovely Rita
11. Good Morning, Good Morning
12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
13. A Day In The Life
14. Strawberry Field Forever
15. Penny Lane
The Making of Sgt. Pepper- a 1992 documentary
A Day In The Life (promo video)
Strawberry Field Forever (promo video)
Penny Lane (promo video)