Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MICHAEL SCHENKER 30th ANNIVERSARY TOUR PICTORIAL

Michael Schenker is a legendary and brilliant guitarist. Michael is best known for his work as lead guitarist in UFO and for his solo band, the Michael Schenker Group. However before that he was a founding member of the Scorpions with his brother Rudolph. There is very little argument that he is one of the greatest hard rock and metal guitarists of all time.

Michael Schenker released "By Invitation Only" this month. It is an album of covers that Michael recorded with various guest musicians and vocalists. Unfortunately none of these recordings are new and have been released on other Michael Schenker releases or compilations. You can read about the previous releases of this material as well as get a listing of the performers on each song by following this link:
   http://www.smnnews.com/2011/05/17/michael-schenker-by-invitation-only-covers-album-detailed/

Since there is nothing new here to review or discuss I've decided to share with you a number of photographs I took of the Michael Schenker Group 30th anniversary tour performances in New York City in 2010. They feature Michael, Gary Barden and legendary drummer Carmine Appice. Enjoy.


SOUNDCHECK






SHOWTIME






































Monday, June 27, 2011

QUEENSRYCHE -CD- DEDICATED TO CHAOS

Before even getting into any detail, for any youngsters interested in or buying this record, this is not your father's Queensryche.

Queensryche formed in Bellevue, Washington in 1981. The current lineup consists of original members vocalist Geoff Tate, Michael Wilton on guitar, bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield. Guitarist Parker Lundgren, who joined in 2009, rounds out the band on guitar.

"Dedicated To Chaos" is the Twelfth studio album from Queensryche. As I alluded to above "Dedicated To Chaos" does not have the sound or style that Queensryche had through 1990's "Empire". To be fair their sound started to go in a different direction than what you expected from them with "Empire" but only on a couple of tracks or so. The Queensryche hard and heavy sound that blasted onto the scene with their self-titled 1982 EP and maintained through their 1988 masterpiece "Operation: Mindcrime" was some of the best mix of hard rock and heavy metal out there. They started to tinker with their direction with "Empire" and by the time we were handed 2003's "Tribe" they had completely transformed their sound to that of a progressive rock and roll band. That's all well and good and it shows their creativity and ability to broaden their musical horizons. There was always still signs of their metal roots and hard rock style riffs to keep their loyal long time fans interested. "Dedicated To Chaos" however leaves that hard and heavy sound in the rear view mirror.

This is quite definitely an experimental album for Queensryche. It is possible that i could alienate some of their long time fans who were hoping that they would return to their loud and proud roots but Queensryche has been experimenting since 1994's "Promise Land" and it should not be that much of a shock that they are experimenting again. If they released "Dedicated To Chaos" and credited it to a new name other than Queensryche it probably would receive a lot more favorable reviews than it has already. It's a pleasant listen and their playing is as tight as ever. It's just not "The Warning" or "Operation: Mindcrime". Odds are if they made a true hard rock album it would never live up to those albums either and the reviews would be harping on that issue. As someone who loved early Queensryche and after seeing them open for Iron Maiden five nights in a row in 1985 I thought for sure they were going to be as big as Maiden and their peers this leaves me a little conflicted on how I feel about the direction they have taken.

I did say that if you look at it as a new body of work without Queensryche colored glasses it's a pleasant listen. Chaos is appropriate as part of the title too because the album seems to jump from one style to the next at times. The first track, "Get Started" is the most rocking track on the album. Although horns have been used in the past, Geoff Tate on saxophone on the track "Higher" might leave Queensryche faithful scratching their head. "Around The World" has a very 60s feel to it and leads you to suspect this album is very influenced with what these guys grew up listening to on the radio. There is also "Retail Therapy" which hints the most at the old Queensryche sound.

If you can approach listening to this album without the jaded view of comparing it to Queensryche of old and can listen to it as a separate entity then you'll find it to be entertaining but it probably won't make your best of 2011 list. There is also a "Special Edition" with four bonus tracks available.

QUEENSRYCHE - DEDICATED TO CHAOS COMPLETE TRACK LISTING:

1. Get Started
2. Hot Spot Junkie
3. Got It Bad
4. Higher
5. Wot We Do
6. Around the World
7. Drive
8. At the Edge
9. I Take You
10. Retail Therapy
11. The Lie
12. Big Noize
 
Released June 28, 2001 on Roadrunner Records/Loud & Proud Records

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

JOURNEY -CD- ECLIPSE

Journey has released "Eclipse" their fourteenth studio album of new material and the first in three years. This twelve track collection was written by the writing team of Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain with two of the songs additionally co-written with Arnel Pineda. "Eclipse" is also the second studio album featuring Pineda on vocals.

"Eclipse" has a sound and feel that is as close to the classic Journey that you remember from the 80s since 1986's "Raised On Radio". Since then how many times have we heard the great Neal Schon talk about how they were going to go back to their roots and record a full blown rock and roll album only to be disappointed by another collection of sappy ballads and weak sounding tunes? Four or five if you count the "Red 13" EP by my count. There is no disappointment in that respect here as "Eclipse" is a rock and roll album in the spirit of the classic Journey, the 1975-1986 Journey.

Now a classic Journey album isn't without its flaws. Neal Schon, a brilliant axeman, often over plays a solo. I've always thought his brilliant playing and heavy sound was too powerful for the style of band Journey was and is. Journey I always felt teetered on the power rock/pop threshold as a band but Neal's playing was that of a metal or hard rock style. Still if you see them live the highlight is watching Neal shred his heart out in spite of what style song they are playing. In addition to that on this album you'll find "Tantra" the expected 80s style power ballad. It is totally unnecessary and sort of clutters the album. The highlight of the track is the aforementioned Neal Schon's huge solo. To be fair there are not a lot of albums that everyone loves every track anyhow.

Now for the good and there is a lot more good here than anything else. "Eclipse" has hooks, great arrangements and melodies which are all evident on the opening track, "City Of Hope" which will grab you and have you singing along after just a couple of listens. In my humble opinion I'd say that "Chain Of Love" is the best song on the album. Cain's gentle and soft playing on piano, along with Pineda's spot on vocals set up some of Schon's best riffs on the album. There is some real good music here and a strong instrumental finish with "Venus".  If you were a fan of Journey in their 80s heyday this album is going to sound familiar to you and will entertain you. This is that straight up classic AOR album we'd been promised so many times before. Some may call it a negative but I call it a positive that nine of the twelve tracks are over five minutes in length, six of them are actually over six minutes in length. Longer songs for me tend to tell more of a story and tend to be better pieces of music. To each their own I guess.

One more note on this album. Everyone already knows that Arnel Pineda sing similarly in sound and style to Steve Perry. When I listen to this album with no visual it is quite eerie how much you think you are listening to a Steve Perry era Journey record. It's almost scary how much he sounds like Steve. For Journey fans, that's a good thing.

JOURNEY - ECLIPSE COMPLETE TRACK LISTING:

  1. City of Hope
  2. Edge of the Moment
  3. Chain of Love
  4. Tantra
  5. Anything is Possible
  6. Resonate
  7. She’s a Mystery
  8. Human Feel
  9. Ritual
  10. To Whom it May Concern
  11. Someone
  12. Venus
Released May 24, 2011 on Fingers Of Joy Music.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NIGHT RANGER -CD- SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA

It's been nearly three decades since "Dawn Patrol", the debut album by Night Ranger released in 1982. Originally called Ranger they were forced to change their name before the first pressing was shipped when it was discovered there was already a country band named ranger. They had recorded the Jack Blades song "Night Ranger" for the release and that inspired them to just add night and become Night Ranger.

Night Ranger actually rose from the ashes of the band Rubicon when bassist/vocalist Jack Blades, guitarist Brad Gillis and drummer Kelly Keagy decided to form a hard rock trio. They later added former Montrose and off-stage Van Halen touring keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald. They then added second guitarist Jeff Watson. The quintet that would become Night Ranger was set. That first release, "Dawn Patrol" really did rock and although looking back it was more power rock than hard rock it certainly had a hard rock style with the twin killing licks of Gillis and Watson. Night Ranger intended to keep that sound as their calling card with their second release, "Midnight Madness" in 1983. They released the hard rocking, guitar inspired "(You Can Still) Rock In America" as the first single. After all, in their hearts they were a hard rock band. But in  the 80s record companies had a formula for their hard rock artists and that formula called for the power ballad and for that power ballad to be their second single. I think they did this because they thought it attracted the female audience. So Night Ranger, being the dutiful artist under contract released "Sister Christian" which changed the perception of the band forever to the mainstream and to what was expected from them by their record label.

"Sister Christian" became a massive mainstream success. It was on the Billboard singles chart for twenty-four weeks peaking at number five. "Sister Christian" also was in very heavy rotation on MTV. Yes in the 1980s Music Television aired music. "Sister Christian" would prove to be the band's biggest success and also the biggest thorn in the side of their long planned intentions of being a hard rock band. Now the record label wanted them to do whole albums of Sister Christian type material. While the band welcomed the success they didn't feel they were a ballad band, they rocked.

Night Ranger would release five albums in the 80s selling over ten million albums. Their first three albums were certified platinum. They never received the acclaim or success of "Sister Christian" and put them in a no win situation. That ballad and its success chased away their hard rock fans while they continued to carry on as a rock band and the masses that flocked to them specifically for the ballad did not go for the heavier stuff.

Night Ranger would disband in 1989 with its members pursuing solo and group projects. They would reunite in the latter half of the next decade and although there have been a number of lineup changes since the original three of Blades, Keagy and Gillis are still the power behind the band which is still going strong today with guitarist Joel Hoekstra and keyboardist Eric Levy filling out the rest of the current lineup.

Night Ranger have released "Somewhere In California", their tenth studio release and their first new material in four years. "somewhere In California" is somewhat of a pleasant surprise. Being true to what they always wanted to be this album is chock full of melodic rock songs. Arena rock style anthems that are all radio friendly. Lots of the hooks and riffs that remind me of when it all started with "Dawn Patrol" nearly thirty years ago.

The album kicks off with "Growin' Up In California" which has the leg thumping rhythm you'd want in a song while cruising up the pacific Coast Highway with the top down. this is followed by the heavier "Lay It On Me" follows which gives us the first taste of some great fret work by Gillis and Hoekstra. The best, to me, being "It's Not Over". The ballad does rear its ugly head here in the from of "Time Of Our Lives". It's not a bad song but it is not going to threaten "Sister Christian" for most successful Night Ranger ballad either. The rest of the album is filled with some catchy rockers and very good lead and solo guitar pieces. Brad Gillis has never received the credit for how talented a shredder he is. People forget he stepped in as Ozzy's touring guitarist after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads and was brilliant. He is also the axeman you hear on Ozzy's "Speak Of The Devil" album.

We've been very lucky with all the great music being released lately from the metal, hard rock and power rock veterans we know and love. It's a real pleasant surprise we can add "Somewhere In California" to that growing list.

NIGHT RANGER - SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA COMPLETE TRACK LISTING:

01. Growin' Up In California
02. Lay It On Me
03. Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)
04. Follow Your Heart
05. Time Of Our Lives
06. No time To Lose Ya
07. Live For Today
08. It's Not Over
09. End Of The day
10. Rock N' Roll Tonite
11. Say It With Love

Monday, June 20, 2011

MICHAEL MONROE -CD- SENSORY OVERDRIVE

It's been a month since its release but I've finally been able to give Michael Monroe's latest solo record, "Sensory Overdrive" a good listen and I'm glad I did. "Sensory Overdrive" very well may be the equal to Michael's greatest solo effort, 1989's "Not Fakin" It" which is one of my favorite albums and certainly one of the most underrated albums of that era.

For those of you who may not know, Michael Monroe is a Finnish vocalist and multi-instrumentalist who first found fame and success with the glam punk outfit Hanoi Rocks which formed in 1979. Hanoi Rocks disbanded in 1985 after the tragic and sudden death of their drummer, Nicholas Dingley, better known as Razzle. Razzle was killed in a a two car crash in which he was a passenger in Motley Crue's Vince Neil's car. Both were drunk and on a beer run from Vince's house. Vince was driving and they crashed into a car coming from the opposite direction. Vince and the occupants in the opposing vehicle were all injured but survived. Sadly Razzle was pronounced dead in the ER.

After the band broke up Michael began his solo career with the release of "Nights Are So Long" in 1987. However it was his second solo release, "Not Fakin' It" in 1989 that spawned the single "Death, Jail or Rock 'N' Roll". The single was a moderate hit and a video for it was done for MTV but Michael never reached the heights his vocal mastery and song writing skills should have. He released four other solo records through 2003.

In addition to his solo work Michael was also part of the all-star side projects Jerusalem Slim and Demolition 23.Which released albums in 1992 and 1994 respectively. Michael served as front man on both.

Hanoi Rocks reformed with Michael and one other original member, guitarist Andy McCoy in 2002 and Hanoi Rocks continued on until 2009.  It seemed the best time as any for Michael to rediscover his solo career. A live album, "Another Night In The Sun: Live In Helsinki" was released in 2010. That live show was recorded in June of 2010 with Michael's new solo band and featured Sam Yaffa on bass and vocals. Sam was Michael's old friend and band mate from Hanoi Rocks. Michael's solo band also included well known drummer Karl Rosquist, guitarist Steve Conte and guitarist Ginger of The Wildhearts. This is the same lineup that would record and release 2011's "Sensory Overdrive".

"Sensory Overdrive" kicks off with the in your face "Trick Of The Wrist" a song with great energy and Michael's vocals are still strong and equally as energetic. Then before you know what's hit you comes "78" which is definitely a product of "ginger" being in the band and has very much a Wildhearts feel to it. An amazing riff this is one of those songs that make me think arena rock anthem of the 80s. Just fist pumping, feet stomping fun. Another great riff can be found on the edgier bluesier "Modern Day Miracle". This album is filled with great songs. Rocking songs. Also there is no such thing as a bad album that features Lemmy and this one has Lemmy guesting on "Debauchery As A Fine Art ". This was co-written by Lemmy and is really a refined version of "Motorheaded For a Fall" that appeared on the live album last year.

A lot of folks are stating this is better than "Not Fakin' It" and maybe it is but that is an album that will always be Michael's best work in my opinion. This eleven track collection though is certainly as close to being that good. Check it out and let me know what you think.

It should be noted that on June 17, 2011 Ginger performed his last show with Michael Monroe and his band. Michael was coy on his replacement and the new guitarist will not be officially announced until Tuesday June 20th. Reports have said it's Dregen of Backyard Babies fame.

MICHAEL MONROE - SENSORY OVERDRIVE COMPLETE TRACK LISTING:

1 Trick Of The Wrist
2 ’78
3 Got Blood ?
4 Superpowered Superfly
5 Modern Day Miracle
6 Bombs Away
7 All You Need
8 Later Won’t Wait
9 Gone, Baby Gone
10 Center Of Your Heart
11 Debauchery As A Fine Art

Saturday, June 18, 2011

CLARENCE CLEMONS - R.I.P. BIG MAN



THE FOLLOWING IS FROM BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN'S OFFICIAL SITE:


"It is with overwhelming sadness that we inform our friends and fans that at 7:00 tonight, Saturday, June 18, our beloved friend and bandmate, Clarence Clemons passed away. The cause was complications from his stroke of last Sunday, June 12th.

Bruce Springsteen said of Clarence: Clarence lived a wonderful life. He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage. His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly forty years. He was my great friend, my partner, and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band. "

Friday, June 17, 2011

OZZY OSBOURNE -CD REISSUES- THE BLIZZARD OF OZZ YEARS

Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness has once again reissued his first two solo studio albums. Thankfully this latest reissue has restored the original bass and drum tracks performed by Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake respectively. This is actually the fourth time these classic albums have been reissued in CD format. For those of you who question whether or not to even bother with this latest reissue if you own any of the others or are still enjoying the originals on vinyl or cassette I can say they finally reissued these treasures correctly.

In 1980, after his permanent firing from Black Sabbath, Ozzy made his second attempt at forming his own solo band this time with the working name of The Blizzard Of Ozz. The original lineup for The Blizzard Of Ozz consisted of the aforementioned Daisley and Kerslake of Uriah Heep fame on bass and drums, Don Airey on keyboards and a young guitarist named Randy Rhoads who was in Quiet Riot. This was before Quiet Riot had much or any success. Due to record company decision making their debut album was called Blizzard Of Ozz but simply credited under Ozzy Osbourne.

The second release by Ozzy and his band, "Diary Of A Madman" was released on November 7, 1981 and was the last album recorded by Ozzy with Randy Rhoads before Randy's tragic death in 1982. "Diary Of A Madman" is not without controversy. Although Daisley and Kerslake recorded the album it was bassist Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge credited on the release. The omission of Daisley and Kerslake continued with the August 22, 1995 CD reissue with Sarzo and Aldridge still being credited for Daisley and Kerslake's work. In a stranger move, when "Diary Of A Madman" was reissued again in when the original Daisley bass tracks and Kerslake drum tracks were removed and rerecorded by bassist Robert Trujillo and drummer Mike Bordin.

Now, for the 30th Anniversary Sony has released "Diary Of A Madman: Legacy Edition" with the original bass and drum tracks restored. This is great for fans and with advances in technology this is without question the best sounding version of this classic album I have ever listened to. Unfortunately Daisley and Kerslake are still not properly credited as once again, like the original release and first reissue it is Sarzo and Aldridge getting the nod in the credits.

As I mentioned this release sounds fantastic. They really cleaned it up well. Obviously if you have the 2002 version you owe yourself to hear this record in its original form. If you have earlier releases this is a cleaner better sounding copy but it is not going to be different of course. What might get you though is the bonus live tracks that come with the legacy edition. It is a recording of a show during the Blizzard Of Ozz tour. It is the same tour that was used for the "Tribute" release but it is a different show or shows. Much better sound to me as well compared to tribute and a must have for Randy Rhoads fanatics such as my self.

I did not really cover the "Blizzard Of Ozz" album here but it too is reissued with the original bass and drum tracks in place. Wrongly credited of course. This disc does not come with a live bonus CD like Diary but it does have its own extras. Three extra tracks to be exact. “You Looking at Me, Looking at You,” which was a B-side not included on the original release or previous reissue. A super remix of "Goodbye To Romance" which really puts Randy and Ozzy front and center and may actually improve on the original. Lastly a seventy-four second recording of Randy going off on a solo. Again, another must have for you Rhoads fanatics.
Again, these albums are thirty years old and are not going to be a new release to many people but if you love Ozzy, if you love Randy or just want the best sounding version of these albums for your collection you need to go out and get them. They are also part of a 30th Anniversary Box Set Collection.

OZZY OSBOURNE BLIZZARD OF OZZ (EXPANDED EDITION) COMPLETE TRACK LISTING:

1. I Don't Know
2. Crazy Train
3. Goodbye To Romance
4. Dee
5. Suicide Solution
6. Mr. Crowley
7. Revelation (Mother Earth)
8. Steal Away (The Night)
9. You Looking At Me, Looking At You
10.Goodbye To Romance (2010 Guitar and Vocal Remix)
11.RR (Outtake From Blizzard Of Ozz Sessions)
OZZY OSBOURNE DIARY OF A MADMAN: LEGACY EDITION COMPLETE TRACK LISTING:

Diary Of A Madman
1. Over The Mountain
2. Flying High Again
3. You Can’t Kill Rock And Roll
4. Believer
5. Little Dolls
6. Tonight
7. S.A.T.O.
8. Diary Of A Madman

Ozzy Live (Previously Unreleased - recorded on the Blizzard of Ozz tour)
1. I Don’t Know
2. Crazy Train
3. Believer
4. Mr. Crowley
5. Flying High Again
6. Revelation (Mother Earth)
7. Steal Away (The Night)
8. Suicide Solution
9. Iron Man
10. Children Of The Grave
11. Paranoid

Both Released May 31, 2011 on Sony Legacy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

TONY MACALPINE -CD- TONY MACALPINE

Legendary guitar wizard Tony MacAlpine releases his first solo record in ten years. This self-titled release offers a great listen to some of the most impressive shredding you will ever hear. Tony is simply put one of the greatest guitar masters ever. His performance on this album shows that not only does he still have that magic with his six string but it also shows off his skill on the seven and eight string guitars, bass and keyboards. Truly showing off his artistic abilities and truly making this a solo record. This all instrumental release does feature drummers Marco Minnemann(tracks 3, 4, 8 & 12) and Virgil Donati(tracks 1, 5 & 10) and also the bass playing of Phillip Bynoe on "OLUDENIZ"..

Tony MacAlpine has a storied past and a trail of unbelievably great albums. Both as a solo artist and as a member of many other projects. I first fell in love with Tony's dizzying intricate playing style in 1986 when he was a member of the project M.A.R.S. which was an acronym for the last names of this group, Tony MacAlpine, Tommy Aldridge, Rob Rock and Rudy Sarzo. Their one album was called "Project: Driver". This is a terrific album all around and I highly recommend it. When I listened to it back in 1986 I was blown away most by the guitar playing. That turned me on to Tony's first solo record, "Edge Of Sanity". After getting my hands on that I was hooked and have been a die hard Tony fan ever since. There is a plethora of material out there with Tony's virtuoso guitar playing and I urge you to listen to it all. His playing never is anything but unbelievable and somehow most of the collaborations he has been a part of were tremendous recordings overall. If you play guitar, or tried to play guitar like I did before I accepted the fact I didn't have the ear to make music like the ear I had to love good music you'll love all of his work.

Tony comes flying out of the gate on this release with "Serpens Cauda". This is powerful hard rocking track all the way through with his melodic solo playing over it. The relentless powerful sound doesn't stop there. There are no throw away tracks on this record. My favorite song at the moment off the disc is "Dream Mechanism". It's not quite as heavy as the first few tracks but it rocks. It has a great flow to it and it gives you that mental feeling of escape you only get from a song that is unique and in a way magical. Like your rock to have a bluesy feel? Then you're going to love "Blue Maserati". You headbangers will also let loose on "10 Seconds To Mercury". There is not a disappointing track here, every one stands tall on its own. You're going to love the masterful musicianship performed throughout. You are going to love this record.

Tony states the following in the liner notes:
     "My desire was to write an instrumental guitar album, and the urge to once again create and define myself as a solo artist has returned with a vengeance".

Tony, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

TONY MACALPINE - TONY MACALPINE COMPLETE TRACK LISTING

01. Serpens Cauda
02. Oludeniz
03. Fire Mountain
04. Dream Mechanism
05. 10 Seconds To Mercury
06. Flowers For Monday
07. Angel Of Twilight
08. Blue Maserati
09. Pyrokinesis
10. Summer Palace
11. Salar De Uyuni
12. The Dedication
Released June 21, 2011 on Favored Nations


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

SAXON -CD- CALL TO ARMS

Legendary heavy metal rockers Saxon return with "Call To Arms". Why isn't Saxon a household name? How is this enigmatic band formed in 1976 and part of the new wave of British heavy metal as big as some of its hard rocking peers? It's difficult to put your finger on it. Sure they had record label issues and money issues but at the end of the day they had the most important ingredients, talent and a number of terrific albums with some great songs. Even with classic metal tracks like "Power And The Glory", "Heavy Metal Thunder", "Princess Of The Night" and the unforgettable anthem "Denim And Leather" Saxon never could get over the hump to being a mainstream success. It's too bad because most, there are one or two forgettable releases, of their albums are great listens and there are a lot of metal heads out there missing out. Hopefully this new release will get enough attention to turn everyone on to Saxon's classics filled back catalog. Saxon's current lineup is Biff Byford who has been the vocalist since their 1976 inception as well as fellow original member Paul Quinn on guitar. They are joined by Doug Scarratt also on guitar, Nigel Glockler on drums and bassist Nibbs Carter.

Saxon treats us to new material with the release of "Call To Arms". First the bad news. There seems to be way too much production help on Biff's vocals. We don't know if he was having voice issues at the time of recording but this is not pure Biff and there are eighteen previous studio albums to verify that. It is clearly Biff and it is hard to describe but it's like he's singing into something. Granted the man is sixty years old now and probably can't wail or hit high notes like he used to but whatever they tried to do to spruce up his vocals are noticeable and if they are noticeable it's not a good job.

Now for the good. This is a straight up heavy metal album. No flirtations with pop music here. Exactly what you would expect from this veteran outfit. As with their past Saxon offers up a great mix of hard rock and metal sounds throughout this album. Foot thumping tracks like "Hammer of The Gods" to more nostalgic Saxon style tracks like "Back In '79" to the very New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sounding "Ballad Of The Working Man". Saxon takes you on a musical journey that although is new material could pass as a soundtrack of their long rich head banging history.

Keyboardist Don Airey makes a guest appearance on this release and one of the tracks he is featured on is "When Doomsday Comes". With Don currently being in Deep Purple it is not a surprise that this track will have you thinking it's very much DP influenced. Let's not forget the tandem guitar attack of Quinn and Scarratt. The riffs are plentiful and the solos are solid and will satisfy you guitar nuts out there. Glockler and Carter also offer up a solid rhythm section keeping all the tracks together.

This will never be mistaken for one of Saxon's greatest albums. Only because they have such an extensive history of great music. "Call To Arms" still stands up as a quality release. Do yourself a favor if you haven't already and expose yourself to this legendary band. You will not be disappointed.

SAXON - CALL TO ARMS COMPLETE TRACK LISTING

01. Hammer Of The Gods
02. Back In ‘79
03. Surviving Against The Odds
04. Mists Of Avalon
05. Call To Arms
06. Chasing The Bullet
07. Afterburning
08. When Doomsday Comes
09. No Rest For The Wicked
10. Ballad Of The Working Man
11. Call To Arms (orchestral version)

Released June 14, 2011 on EMI Import

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION -CD- 2

Black Country Communion, often referred to as a super group, consists of Glenn Hughes on vocals and bass, Jason Bonham on drums, Derek Sherinian on keyboards and Joe Bonamassa on guitar. Their latest release, "2", is the follow-up to their self-titled debut which was only just released nine months ago. The release of "2" also coincides with Black Country Communion's summer tour.

The great thing about such a fine collection of musicians as BCC is their talents allow them to put together a collection of tunes like the eleven tracks here that vary in style as you listen to them. Now there may be a lot of other bands that could do that but it's a good chance their fan base wouldn't accept it. With the varied styles and varied musical pasts of the BCC members it probably should have been expected let alone understood. There probably is not going to be a hit single on this record and that's more because of the way songs become hit singles these days than the tracks themselves because every song here is certainly above average. Unlike many albums, great albums at that, "2" is an album you'll find easy to listen to in its entirety on the first listen.

There may be a number of styles and sounds featured here but there is one consistency with all eleven tracks and that is they all rock and rock hard. A classic hard rock sound kicks things off with "The Outsider" and then one of my favorite vocal performances by Hughes on "Man In The Middle". Hughes' vocal prowess is evident throughout the album as is the guitar mastery of Bonamassa. Some other of the highlights are the blues-hard rock feel of "Smokestack Woman", "The Battle For Hadrian's Wall" and the funky bass driven "Crossfire". There is also "Save Me" which is a Led Zeppelinesque track that Jason Bonham originally worked on with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

BCC has given us two quality albums in just a nine month span. No sophomore jinx with this talent. There is no way to predict what may come down the road but Black Country Communion sound like they are here to stay. A super group indeed.

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION - 2 COMPLETE TRACK LISTING

01 The Outsider
02 Man In The Middle
03 The Battle For Hadrian's Wall
04 Save Me
05 Smokestack Woman
06 Faithless
07 An Ordinary Son
08 I Can See Your Spirit
09 Little Secret
10 Crossfire
11 Cold
Released June 14, 2011 on J & R Adventures.


TONY MACALPINE - PREVIEW NEW TRACK FROM SOON TO BE RELEASED ALBUM

The legendary guitarist, Tony MacAlpine had the track "Fire Mountain" premiered on 99.9 FM KISW Seattle's Metal Shop this past Saturday night. "Fire Mountain" is the first track from his forthcoming album due out June 21. Check back later in the week for a full review of the complete album. You can hear "Fire Mountain" on Metal Shop by going to the link below. It plays around the 15:30 mark. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

http://www2.kisw.com/listen/metal-shop-june-11th-2011-hour-3

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WHITESNAKE -CD- LIVE AT DONINGTON 1990

Everyone is aware of the Download Festival these days. Some but not all are aware that this festival used to be called the Monsters Of Rock Festival at Castle Donington. It was on August 18, 1990 that the Monsters Of Rock Festival at Castle Donington was headlined by David Coverdale's Whitesnake. The all-star lineup for Whitesnake at the time was David on vocals of course, Steve Vai and Adrian Vandenberg on guitar, Rudy Sarzo on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums. No offense to the current lineup or the many other Whitesnake lineups but I think this was without question the most impressive lineup David ever had behind him. That August night was recorded live. Now Whitesnake and Frontiers Records are releasing this legendary live show on CD for the first time more than twenty years after the fact.

This two disc set contains seventeen live tracks of hair metal classics. I'm going to keep my own disappointment that "Love Ain't No Stranger" was not played this night to a minimum. I think that tune plays well live. It's quite a different band and sound than what Coverdale probably imagined. Whitesnake transformed from a blues soaked rock band to the cliche hair metal band. The thing with Whitesnake though is that they were damn good at being a hair metal band and this lineup of over the top players only added to it.

The great thing about this collection is that it captures Whitesnake in their prime. At the top of their game and at the top of their popularity. After all they headlined over Aerosmith at this festival. Too many bands release a live record late in  their history and instead of offering up something from their prime like Whitesnake they give you something more recent which tends to show their age and thus is not as necessary to be in your collection. Coverdale worked very closely with Frontiers to get this out and to get this out right. All their hits are here. "Still Of The Night" and "Here I Go Again" of course. Great versions of "Slow An' Easy" and "Slide It In".  You also get other classic songs like "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City" and "Judgement Day". Interestingly the majority of the songs at this show over twenty years ago still make up a large portion of their set list today. You get the whole show including guitar and drum solos. It's as good as it could be without actually having been there.

Whitesnake recently released an album of new material, "Forevermore" and are out touring in support of it. I've seen the current tour twice and they sound great but as you would expect a lot different than twenty years ago and with a new lineup. David still has a great voice and is a super front man but he'd be hard pressed not to admit it's not like when he was in his prime and this album gives you a chance to either remember David in his prime or hear him in his prime for the first time.

WHITESNAKE LIVE AT DONINGTON 1990 COMPLETE TRACK LISTING
DISC 1
1. Slip Of The Tongue
2. Slide It In
3. Judgement Day
4. Slow An Easy
5. Kitten's Got Claws
6. Adagio For Strato
7. Flying Dutchman Boogie
8. Is This Love
9. Cheap An' Nasty
10. Crying In The Rain (featuring Tommy Aldridge Drum Solo).

DISC 2
1. Fool For Your Loving
2. For The Love Of God
3. The Audience Is Listening
4. Here I Go Again
5. Bad Boys
6. Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City
7. Still Of The Night.

Released June 7, 2011 on Frontiers Records.
Frontiers also released this concert on DVD also on Frontiers Records. I bet David looks young!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

DEF LEPPARD -CD- MIRRORBALL LIVE & MORE

Def Leppard, the English rock and roll band formed in 1977 have finally released a double live album. This long awaited live album also includes three new studio tracks. Although a lot of fans, myself included, would've liked to have seen a live release from the early to mid-80s years when they reached their highest highs. However if you take Def Leppard's 34 year old career as a whole you could make the case that this is in fact their definitive live collection of their greatest hits.

Mirrorball Live & More was recorded during the 2008 & 2009 touring years. The lineup during these recordings is the same lineup that has been together since 1992 when former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell joined the band permanently replacing the late Steve Clark. The remainder of the lineup is founding members Joe Elliott and Rick Savage, Rick Allen and Phil Collen.

Now Def Leppard is certainly a controversial band among music fans. Not for their lyrics or their political affiliations but for the range in genre from when they first broke on the scene with 1980's "On Through The Night" with a hard rock sound and part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. This sound was also evident in their next two released. 1981's "High 'N' Dry" and their greatest work, the crazy successful "Pyromania" released in 1983. It was from there that they started to augment their sound. Sadly, and many people don't give this enough thought, it is because their drummer, Rick Allen,  tragically lost one arm. It was the loyalty of his band mates waiting for his return that not only helped Rick recover and resume his passion for drumming but required the band to augment their sound to meet Rick's new style of drumming. This is really a beautiful story and although Def Leppard is far from ending their career it is also a story with a fairytale ending.

Def Leppard became more of a rock band immediately after the return of Rick Allen and ultimately evolved into more of a pop music band that also flirted with a little country too. That is all well and good though the die hard metal heads not only had a hard time accepting Def Leppard moving in that direction they had their reasons and valid ones. Def Leppard never found the commercial success that they did in the early years but have weathered a lot of changes in the musical landscape, the tragic death of Steve Clark and thanks to Steve Jobs an entire new way that the music industry was looked at and run.

All of that can be forgotten for the live recordings offered here. There is something for fans of the entire Def Leppard catalog. "Rock! Rock! Till You Drop" will still rock you till you drop. "Love Bites" is still as hauntingly melodic as ever. "Too Late For Love" & "Foolin" still sound like the 1983 hits that they are and of course "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Photograph" still sound like the timeless classics they are. This is Def Leppard. Live, raw and powerful. Regardless of what song they are performing. Mirrorball reflects this beautifully.

I've been fortunate enough to see Def Leppard live in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's and each and every time they have given a tremendous performance. This comes through on Mirrorball. If you have not been fortunate enough to see them live this is definitely a record that will let you know how they sound live.

In addition to the twenty one live tracks Def Leppard have included three new studio tracks on this release. They are the Phil Collen penned "It's All About Believin'", Rick Savage's "Kings Of The World" and the Joe Elliott written "Undefeated". The latter features a powerful drum sound and an anthem chorus worthy of some of Lep's greatest arena sing along songs. Joe Elliott has described "Kings Of The World" as having a "Queen-type vocal". I'd say the song as a whole is a Queen-type thing. The addition of these three studio tracks signal that Def Leppard can still rock and have a lot more of it to offer.

DEF LEPPARD MIRRORBALL LIVE & MORE COMPLETE TRACK LISTING

Disc 1
1. Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
2. Rocket
3. Animal
4. C'Mon C'Mon
5. Make Love Like A Man
6. Too Late For Love
7. Foolin'
8. Nine Lives
9. Love Bites
10. Rock On

Disc 2
1. Two Steps Behind
2. Bringin' On The Heartbreak
3. Switch 625
4. Hysteria
5. Armageddon It
6. Photograph
7. Pour Some Sugar On Me
8. Rock Of Ages
9. Let's Get Rocked
10. Action
11. Bad Actress
12. Undefeated
13. Kings Of The World
14. It's All About Believin'

Released June 7, 2011 in the U.S. exclusively at Walmart and Sam's Club (Walmart/Sam's Club edition has bonus DVD)

Monday, June 6, 2011

IRON MAIDEN -CD- FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: THE BEST OF 1990-2010

Heavy metal legends Iron Maiden have always followed the beat of their own drum. Their monster-sized success is indisputable. All with little radio airplay, MTV rotation and even less from critics, Iron Maiden became one of the biggest rock and roll bands in the world and still are today. The consistency in their music and their loyalty to their loyal fan base is matched by very few in music industry. All that said there will still be many of you out there scratching your head at not only another compilation album but its timing as well.

The timing of this release is the only thing that I question. It was a mere ten months ago when Iron Maiden released their fifteenth studio release, "The Final Frontier". In the past you would expect a full blown world tour in support of a new studio album from Maiden. However their road support for "The Final Frontier" ended in Florida this past April with their only scheduled 2011 tour dates in the U.S.. Surprising since Maiden have always toured the entire U.S. back and forth in support of new material and often hitting the major cities twice. Also surprising is that this new compilation sort of signals the end of "The Final Frontier" push and on to other things which is too bad because it is a great collection of tunes and that is not what we usually get from our heroes at this point in their careers. We usually get what we are talking about, another live or best of release.

"From Here To Eternity: The Best Of 1990-2010" is the fifteenth live or compilation release from Iron Maiden. Interesting note here is that this time period encompasses the five years that Blaze Bayley (1994-1999) his voice is not heard on this release at all. The few tracks from that period are on here as live tracks with Bruce Dickinson handling the vocals as he does on all the other tracks in which he was the original singer to begin with. I love Maiden, I love Maiden with Brice over any of the other four singers they have had in this band but to be fair if you are going to have a best of 1990-2010 and include Bayley songs then the best of version is with him on vocals. Essentially you are trying to erase his part in Maiden history and who knows what would have become of the band had he not stepped in for those five years. I can't gush more about this band and my love for it but I think this was a mistake on their part.

Putting the multi-million sellers of their heyday behind them Maiden give us a collection here spanning the years 1990-2010. If you left this band after those golden years of both metal and Maiden then this collection is for you. Reintroduce yourself to the strong song writing this band has always had, the core sound that is so unmistakeably Maiden and of course the chance to hear Maiden that is new to you. If you have been with the band through it all and you have every studio album and all of the nine live releases there is nothing new here and it may not be worth picking up. However if there is someone you want to turn on to Maiden this collection is a perfect compliment to go with the legendary classics of the 80s.

One thing is very clear when you listen to this collection from the past twenty years and that is Iron Maiden has made great music all along. From their self titled debut all the way through "The Final Frontier". Their most loyal fans have always known that. "From Here To Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010" is a strong and powerful brag book for "Eddie" to show off what his boys have done the last two decades. for those who for some odd reason weren't listening.

IRON MAIDEN FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: THE BEST OF 1990-2010 COMPLETE TRACK LISTING

Disc One: 01. The Wicker Man
02. Holy Smoke
03. El Dorado
04. Paschendale
05. Different World
06. Man On The Edge (live)
07. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
08. Blood Brothers
09. Rainmaker
10. Sign Of The Cross (live)
11. Brave New World
12. Fear Of The Dark (live)
Disc Two: 01. Be Quick Or Be Dead
02. Tailgunner
03. No More Lies
04. Coming Home
05. The Clansman (live)
06. For The Greater Good Of God
07. These Colours Don't Run
08. Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter
09. Afraid To Shoot Strangers
10. Dance Of Death
11. When The Wild Wind Blows
Released June 7, 2011 on Universal

Saturday, June 4, 2011

AC/DC -Blu-Ray DVD- LET THERE BE ROCK

Legendary rockers AC/DC released "Live At River Plate" on Blu-Ray DVD last month which documented a 3-night stop in Argentina during their highly successful and most recent world tour in support of the 2008 release "Black Ice". This month finds another release of another AC/DC concert film. "Let There Be Rock" the legendary 1980 concert film is finally available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

There will be three versions of the concert film DVD released. The standard DVD which contains just the concert film. Then there will be limited edition collector's editions in both Standard DVD and Blu-Ray DVD. The limited edition will include a 32 page custom mini book, a custom guitar pick and ten postcards with images from the show.

Filmed in December 1979 at the Pavilion De Paris this 13 song concert film features the band's legendary late singer, Bon Scott, during their Highway To Hell tour. The flamboyant Bon Scott would die just two months later due to acute alcohol poisoning.

For some reason the style for filming at the time had a lot of behind the scenes footage and interviews of the band inserted in between songs so the concert is not viewed straight through. This is a slight annoyance to me because you get into the performance then there is a clip of Angus or Bon or Malcolm or Phil and so on. More often these are separate from the film and you can watch just the performance portion from start to finish without interruption. It's easy to get past that slight annoyance because the boys are smoking in this set and you can truly appreciate the mastery Bon Scott had as a front man. It is also the moment this great band was on the cusp of super stardom. Sadly their much talented front man would not make the trip. More astoundingly they still made that leap to super stardom after losing their leader and replacing him with Brian Johnson.

This film was actually released theatrically. I remember it having a pretty decent run at the famed Ziegfield theatre in New York City. I went twice. It was the only chance I got to see them with Bon at the helm. Most people who see this film will wonder what it would've been like to see this incredible performer in person. It also enforces the amazing story of this band that they were able to rise above the cloud of his passing and become the superstars he had them on the cusp of becoming.

I've mentioned already how great a performance this is. A lot of the early hits are here. "Whole Lotta Rosie", "Highway To Hell" and the title track. All AC/DC staple to this day. "Shot Down In Flames" is one of my all time favorite songs. Brian Johnson does a great job with it and I love Brian but this was a Bon song and it is great to see him tearing this one up live even if it is just a recording. Thirteen tracks in all and of course all of Angus' antics are here too. Strip tease included. This DVD is a must for any AC/DC fan. It is also a great documentation of the legend that is Bon Scott.

AC/DC LET THERE BE ROCK (FILM) COMPLETE TRACK LISTING

01. Live Wire
02. Shot Down in Flames
03. Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
04. Sin City
05. Walk All over You
06. Bad Boy Boogie
07. The Jack
08. Highway to Hell
09. Girls Got Rhythm
10. High Voltage
11. Whole Lotta Rosie
12. Rocker
13. Let There Be Rock


Released June 7, 2011 on Warner Home Video


AC/DC BLACK ICE TOUR PICTORIAL

These are photos from the AC/DC Black Ice tour taken between October 2008 and October 2009 in New York City, Philadelphia and Wilkes Barre.