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.