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)

Metallica
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 www.livemetallica.com. 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

Encore
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.