Thursday, March 19, 2015

Red Dragon Cartel Name Michael Thomas Beck In Lead Vocalist Change Up

Darren James Smith is out of the band, and has returned to his band from Canada, Harem Scarem, and Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel have announced that Michael Thomas Beck will be joining the band on their upcoming US/Canada tour.


The band followed up several hours later with this announcement: "Red Dragon Cartel and singer Darren James Smith have officially parted ways. All scheduled shows will still take place as planned with Michael Thomas Beck (owner, engineer, and producer at SoundVision Recording Studio in Mesa, Arizona. He has worked with such acts as Soilwork, Marilyn Manson, The Black Dahlia Murder and Daath) on vocals. We would like to welcome Michael to RDC and we look forward to getting back on stage!"

This comes as no great shock, as many of Jake E. Lee's biggest fans have never warmed up to the brash lead vocalist since he famously blew the band's first show in Hollywood at The Whisky A Go Go back in December of 2013. I had seen the band just days later in San Diego, and Smith put on a fine show, but first impressions are tough to overcome, and the band has not been seen as steady since, with a slate of cancellations and mixed reviews. However, through it all, Jake E. Lee has been regularly astounding, and his return to the scene is still a great thing for fans of rock guitar.

There were rumors to the effect that Lynch Mob's Oni Logan would be taking over, but they turned out to be just that. I spoke with Oni yesterday, however, and he expressed a definite interest in working with Jake E. Lee at some point, having previously been offered the opportunity to fill in for Smith for a host of shows in the LA are in January, but on too short a notice to make it work.

I then reached out to someone who was very closely involved with the band in its earliest stages unbeknownst that they were no longer involved with Red Dragon Cartel, and they made this rather scathing comment:

"I am not involved anymore with them, too complicated, but their singer is the same from the day one it didn't change. That's a dysfunctional band anyway, Jake is useless, and Ron Mancuso messed up with the band and he was fired. I met Oni at the band's first gig when the band's singer (Smith) was drunk and wasted and sucked, but he (Logan) is a great singer. Cheers!"

Red Dragon Cartel commence their US/Canadian tour on April 16, 2015 in Miami, Florida. I've a sense that this story is far from over, so stay tuned....

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Andy Tillison - The Tangent and The Legacy of Prog Rock - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Andy Tillison is the driving force behind the long running prog rock band The Tangent, who are about to release their new album, A Spark In The Aether, on April 20, 2015 on the Inside Out Music label. The album is said to be "a rallying cry to people to keep open minds about newer music in a world where remasters and re-issues are more eagerly anticipated than new material", and it is a powerful record that contains over an hour of some of the finest music I've heard this year. It's definitely a prog rock record, but that descriptor may be a bit too contained - The Tangent is a group of six amazingly talented musicians who are adept at any number of styles and genres, and this is an album that must be heard in its entirety to be appreciated. (full review to come shortly)

I was fortunate enough to be able to grab a rather last minute interview with Mr. Tillison, and being familiar with both his band and his elegant blogging, I leapt at the chance. Anytime I can speak with someone I consider a master at their work, I try to take full advantage of the opportunity. He did not disappoint, and our time together was only over too soon. However, in that time we covered a lot of ground, and I believe that you'll find this discussion as interesting and invigorating as I did.

The album is getting great reviews, and I'd advise you to dive right in and buy yourself a copy. Tillison is as much a historian as he is a visionary musician, and his sense of both history and the current scene is revelatory. He's a huge fan of classic prog (and many other types of music), but he's also very much a proponent and champion of the young bands who are carrying the progressive rock flag into the future. He's made fourteen albums all told with The Tangent, and A Spark In The Aether is a fabulous way to discover the band, as it certainly nods its head to the band's history as it blazes new trails into the next generation - there's no filler to be found, and the band is absolutely breathtaking as it simply outplays the competition as it converts Tillison's tales and tunes into an amazing musical travelogue.

Great thanks to all at Inside Out Music (especially Roie), Andy Tillison, and Pete Prown at Vintage Guitar Magazine for putting me on this great trail.

The Tangent on Facebook
album pre-order link

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Andy Fraser - A Life Well Lived

As soon as I heard the news I teared up. Andy Fraser has died. I wasn't a close friend or a relative, but still I felt like I'd been punched in the gut right at my assemblage point. I walk into the living room and told my wife, and she turned nearly white in an instant. She didn't actually know Andy Fraser either, but she got it - she felt what I was feeling, and understood all that it meant.

Andy Fraser was best known for his work as bassist and songwriter in the seminal British blues rock band, Free. Depending upon who's story you accept he wrote either most or all of their greatest hit, 'All Right Now'. He wrote their greatest riff with the brontosaurus bass line that defined 'Mr. Big'. He was an equal quarter of one of the greatest bands this planet has known, but he had left band by the time he was twenty. I vividly remember conversations with such great bassists as my friends Glenn Hughes and Carmine Rojas in which they spoke of the influence of Andy on their art, and for their love of him as a friend.

He certainly made his mark, and the groove he left in the pavement we call rock 'n' roll is as deep and wide as you will find. After leaving Free he was involved in several projects that always promised, but never quite delivered, given the vagaries of the industry. Andy never stopped making incredibly soulful music. Later in life his music became much more activist in nature, but never less compelling.

But it was his humanity that captured me. I was always a fan, of that there was never any doubt, but it was only when I came in contact with Andy as a man that I truly found the complete value of this incredible being. It's a well known story, but at one point after having two wonderful children and trying his best at a conventional lifestyle that Andy Fraser finally figured out, and was able to admit and live the life of a gay male. He conquered having AIDS, fought to return to health after nearly dying all together too soon, and became an amazing role model for anyone facing societal challenges of this nature - he was who he was, and his behavior was certainly that of a supreme role model.

I believe, though I can't say for certain that he always hoped for a Free reunion - it was discussed several years ago, and he was definitely on board, but we were never able to make more of it than an interesting discussion, because how do you replace Paul Kossoff? Names were kicked around, and I got some very positive feedback from key players, but some things are just not meant to be.

I had some very nice electronic conversations with Andy over the last few years, and he was always amazingly open, honest, and to the point. I regret that we never did that interview that we spoke of on several occasions, but we were waiting for the right time, and sometimes the right time just doesn't come.

Nonetheless, I was stunned, saddened, and shocked to hear of his death - I'm still reeling from the death of Toto's Mike Porcaro on Sunday, and now this. We'll always have their great music, and nothing lasts forever, but I am certainly reminded this week of what is real, and what matters. Andy Fraser had an impact upon me through his being a being of love and light, one that was filled with empathy and compassion, and now his death only serves to remind me to love a bit better, hug a bit tighter, and tell everyone who I love, and that's everyone, that I love them all the more - for one day, that option will no longer be available, until we meet again.

Rest in power, Andy - you made me a better man....

Chris Impellitteri - The Power and Passion of Metal - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Chris Impellitteri has been leading the group Impellitteri since the late '80s, but he'll be quick to tell you that this is a band, and not the product of a drive for egotistical solo careerism. Though his greatest claim to fame is certainly that of being perhaps the world's fastest guitarist, he's more interested in songs, a band sound, pleasing his fans around the world, and making great records.

I had a chance to catch up with the guitarist at his Beverly Hills home, and I was enthralled as I listened to the dedicated and very seasoned musician speak. He shares credit, he thinks about the product he creates and releases to a tremendous degree, and he's as excited about his band's new album as he is reticent to seem too proud, or boastful - inshore, he's a very well rounded individual who knows what he wants, and works his fingers to the bone to get the results he seeks.

We discuss the new record Venom, his stellar band, his best friend relationship with his singer Rob Rock, his new partnership with Frontiers Music srl, equipment, and recording processes, and much, much more.

Release dates:
EU: April 17th 2015
US: April 21st 2015

Tracklisting: Venom; Empire Of Lies; We Own The Night; Nightmare; Face The Enemy; Dominoe Theory; Jehova; Rise; Time Machine; Holding On; Rock Through The Night*; Reach for the Sky*

*Bonus tracks

Steve Overland of FM - Heroes and Villains - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

FM is one of the UK's most enduring bands, having trod the boards for over thirty years, and frontman Steve Overland has led the band every step of the way. On April 20th the band will begin a new partnership with Frontiers Music srl, and release their latest album, Heroes and Villains.

I had a chance to catch up with Overland in between gigs, and he was still abuzz with the band's reception at the HRH Festival on March 14, and indeed, the band's future. we spoke about the new album, life in a rock band, his band mates, and much much more. The band reconvened in 2007 after a dozen year hiatus, and they've been rapidly ascending the ranks of British rock once again, touring with such stalwarts as Journey, Thin Lizzy, Europe, and Foreigner, and now they seemed poised to return to the top shelf.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Elliott Rubinson - CEO of Dean Guitars, Bassist To The Stars - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

The Elliott Rubinson story, when it is finally written will be one of talent, determination, hard work, and making the most of the cards you are dealt. He's currently the owner and CEO of Armadillo Enterprises, which owns and operates Dean Guitars, DDrums, and Luna Guitars, and he's also a touring bassist who's seen duty with such luminaries as Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, Vinnie Moore, Michael Angelo Batio, and Black Star Riders in the last few years.

He's done all of this without a master plan, but he's always worked very hard, and made the most of every opportunity. From selling guitars out of his apartment in college to operating a seven location chain of music instrument stores (Thoroughbred Music, 1976-1999), and eventually purchasing and reviving the massively successful Dean Guitars to getting back in the game as a working musician, he's focused on preparation and fearless forward thinking to great success.

After having dinner together before the San José date on the Extreme Guitar Tour (Uli Jon Roth, Vinnie Moore, Black Knight Rising), we agreed to catch up once the grueling tour was completed for a more serious chat. For not only did Robinson play with all three acts, the bands also played twenty seven shows in twenty eight days. All this while continuing to run his companies from the back of a tour bus.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Angra's Kiko Loureiro Favored To Join Megadeth As New Guitarist

Odds are that Megadeth has hired Brazilian shredder Kiko Loureiro as their new guitarist. Confirmation notwithstanding, Kiko and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine have left a Twitter trail of tweets that would seem to confirm my suspicions. Follow me here, if you will.

It all starts innocently enough when early in March, the guitarist starts following Dave Mustaine and Megadeth on Twitter:

New Regrets - EP - Punk Lives

New Regrets
Bandcamp (available now)

New Regrets make no attempt to reinvent the wheel, but what they do they do as well anybody. Full throttle punk that sounds as tough and urgent as anything did in the seventies, and that's largely down to the presence of frontman Ed Pittman, who was there at the creation.

Ed Pittman at fifty-eight is still the same politically motivated nuclear folk rocker he's always been, going back to 1979 when his band Toxic Reasons exploded onto the punk rock scene and captured the attention of people like East Bay Ray, and the Zero Boys' Paul Mahern who each took a shot at recording the band. Pitman left the band after their first long player (Independence, Risky Records, 1982), but his time in the band left behind a legend that remains to this day. Pittman has the requisite (well, it was requisite until the punk pop cuties came along later and soiled the scenery) vitriol, and his ragged edge vocals belie a melodicism that always manages to keep anything he does at the top of the pack.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Wrecking Crew - The Great Tribute Finally Makes It To The Screen

"'The Wrecking Crew' documentary by Denny Tedesco is a must see. It opens our eyes to one of the most unique group of musicians in contemporary music. They are the well from which the rest of us have drawn." Leland Sklar.
You may be forgiven for not knowing Leland Sklar. His leonine visage may actually be more familiar, what with him having graced the stage as the 'go to' bassist for James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Genesis, Toto, and countless other acts for the last few decades. He should be better known for being one of the most recorded and talented musicians in modern history. Leland's skills as a session player are legendary - session players are musicians who, in the words of Wikipedia, "...are instrumental or vocal performers who are available to work with others at live performances or recording sessions. Usually such performers are not a permanent part of a musical ensemble and often do not achieve fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders." Boy, that's a little clinical, but it sure says a mouthful.

The records of acts that were the creations of marketing and record company executives, such as The Monkees, and The Archies are well known to have largely been the work of behind the scenes session players. However, not so well known is the work of unofficial and loosely membered groups (collectives?) known as The Funk Brothers, The Muscle Shoal Rhythm Section, The Nashville A-Team, The Section (which included Sklar), MFSB, and The Wrecking Crew. These six aggregations created records that sold more copies than most likely did The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Elvis combined.

The Funk Brothers - they were Motown's men, playing the music that made Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and many others so successful. In fact, many experts consider Motown bassist James Jamerson to have been the greatest session musician of all time. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were The Swampers mentioned in Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama - providing the soulful and muscular backing for Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, The Staple Singers, and most every other act that mattered out of the American South in that era. The Nashville A-Team owned the country & western charts throughout the 1950s and '60s. The Section defined the singer/songwriter sound out of California in the '70s. MFSB were TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), creators of the masterful tracks of The Stylistics, The O'Jays, Wilson Pickett, The Spinners, and Teddy Pendergrass.

Then there is The Wrecking Crew. This nickname was coined by Drummer Hal Blaine, perhaps long after the fact - allegedly echoing the words of the previous generation of serious, suit wearing, note reading sessioners who claimed that these young, unshaven upstarts with their noisy rock and roll would 'wreck the music business.'

The Wrecking Crew first became known as the team of musicians utilized by studio prodigy/pop producer Phil Spector. It featured a revolving team of talent that included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Carol Kaye, Tommy Tedesco, Barney Kessel, Hal Blaine, Howard Roberts, Al Casey, and many others. Whether the Crew's largest legend is The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, or maybe being the musicians who created Spector's famous 'Wall of Sound,' it may safely be said that no other group of musicians ever played on more hit records. To say that they were the major pop/rock music making machine of the American '60s and '70s is an accurate statement.

Leland Sklar adds, "The 'Wrecking Crew' were the guys, just before my run started. I was in a band in 1966, and when we went into the studio it was those guys who played on our record. I sat there looking through the window in United A studio, and was in awe. There was Hal Baine, Jim Gordon, Bobby West, Tommy Tedesco, Mike Deasey, Dennis Budimir, Mike Melvoine, Larry Knechtel, Mike Rubini, and others. Within three years I was working with these guys on a daily basis. They were my mentors. A more fun and giving bunch of characters you could not have asked for."

I'm sure that most of you reading this are aware that Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny, has made a full length documentary called The Wrecking Crew. I've just viewed a private copy, and I can tell you - it is the best film you will ever see about one of the most exciting times in musical history. It stands proudly beside Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the award winning documentary that so wonderfully told the story of Detroit's Funk Brothers, as a musical bookend to that fabulous era of record making. Tedesco has compiled an incredibly loving, and touching tribute to these musicians, their time, and their place in musical history.

Even though I already knew most of the stories the film tells before I ever saw it, I will still be going back and re-watching this documentary for years to come - for the sheer joy that it brings. Tedesco has done a fine, fine job of pacing, mixing interview clips compiled over the years with still photos, and filmed scenes from behind the scenes as the music was made. It is the kind of film that will have you wondering where the last two hours went. As I said, I knew most of these tales previously, but what an enjoyable flight to take, to finally be able to watch the telling of these anecdotes in such an entertaining way. Everyone I have talked to that has seen the film agrees - it is a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking.

Sadly, the days of the session player have largely passed. To a large degree, it died off alongside the record business. In fact, this movie is suffering for a lack of commercial release itself. It's been lauded far and wide, screened for thousands, but due to the huge expense of licensing the amazing music contained within (some 130 song clips), it remains unreleased. It seems that the record companies are so pinched for profits that they can't see the wisdom of foregoing a license fee, in spite of the fact that the movie will surely stir up an avalanche of sales for back catalog when the film does (if it does) get publicly released. If nothing else they should forgive the licensing as a thank you to the musicians involved, letting the players now get the well deserved credit that avoided them in their primes.

Denny Tedesco and his team are now showing the film in private screenings being sponsored around the country in order to raise the funds necessary for the film to be shown to the public. 

When I say that the film has garnered great and loving reviews, I kid not. Here's a sampling from some folks you may know:
"A wonderful, touching, and hilarious film about the unsung heroes of so many songs that you carry in your heart." Elvis Costello

"It was incredible! I felt like I was sitting right there with them at that table. It had everything that I wanted to see, and more that I didn't expect. Thank you for making this film!" Peter Frampton

"Denny Tedesco has given us an amazing look at a musical moment in history that everyone who loves rock and roll should see." Christopher Guest (director and star of Spinal Tap, and other great mockumentaries)

"The Wrecking Crew is in the league of the best music documentaries ever made!" Dan Forte, Vintage Guitar Magazine, Dec. 2009

"If I had known they were available, I would have used them on my records! The Wrecking Crew is the best documentary yet about the recording scene. I loved it." Steve Miller (Gangster of Love)

"They were the unsung heroes - if those guys were playing sessions today, they would be known, people would know about them. It would be something more than just session musicians." Cher

"I highly recommend this to everyone to see. It's terrific, hard hitting with the right punches, and filmed as only experienced, and fine filmmakers can do. I know your revealing film will be enjoyed and appreciated by the public for years to come." Carol Kaye
 Carol Kaye? Isn't she on record as being vehemently against this film?

She is, indeed, and as Leland Sklar has remarked about the situation, "I just don't get it!"

I do not doubt that there is a possibility that the name The Wrecking Crew may have come after the fact. And, as the film was made by Tedesco's son, I'm not too shocked if Tommy gets a lot of screen time, but I will add that the elder Mr. Tedesco introduced a great many of us to the realities and the existence of studio/session musicians many years ago in his brilliant columns in Guitar Player Magazine for so many years. Without the Tedescos, we might still be wondering who made all this great music.

Ms. Kay is treated fabulously in, and by this film. I would certainly call her one of its stars, and recognize her as one of the greatest musicians to ever record a note. Her legacy is as unquestionable as her occasionally bewildering and curmudgeonly ways. This is not the first time she has been embroiled in controversy, but I can't say that I've uncovered much to support her views of this film. Her issue seems largely to do with the name given this 'group' of musicians who dominated the '60s recording industry in LA, and her denied, but rather obvious dislike of Hal Blaine. I take no sides here, other than to state that as a very educated, and I like to think reasonable music writer I can only say that while obviously not perfect, this film is a stunning and wonderful tribute to those it portrays. I would hope that she and Danny Tedesco may someday settle their differences, and be friends again.

Before I actually watched the film, I experienced a degree of trepidation - had young Tedesco went off the reservation, and made something egregious that would in some way shame his proud father's past? I had certainly hoped not. I would be neither the writer I am, nor the musician I am were it not for Tommy Tedesco. His writing inspired me, making me believe that one could communicate honestly, and passionately, even without a degree in English. His guitar playing made me realize the value of not just knowing the notes, but how to make them beautiful. I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy at a well-known music store I helped manage in the late '80s. It was there that I learned the best lesson - that no matter who you were, no matter how far you had risen in your field, you could and should still be above all, a nice guy. Denny has done his father a great honor.

I'll close with a comment from studio guitar legend Mitch Holder that sums things up pretty well. Mitch, of course, nailed it on the first take.

Mitch Holder says, "Denny Tedesco has done a super human job in documenting the great group of studio musicians who carved out so many hits of the '60's. The fact that they all played together in the studio at the same time is almost a thing of the past now. Sure, it happens every now and then but not like it was done back then. The crossfire of ideas that developed recording that way are in evidence on all of those records. Denny's film takes you back to that golden era of recording for all of posterity."

If Denny Tedesco didn't get every nuance right, I'm OK with that. If Hal Blaine has somehow elevated himself in stature as he has raised the awareness of the story and plight of the session player, all is forgiven. This is a documentary film, I understand, but it is also a piece of entertainment. And it's a great piece of entertainment - one that will have you watching again, and again - and maybe even buying some old records. You're going to love this movie.

I hope that this fine film makes its way onto your screens - it is truly one of the best music documentaries I have ever seen, and it deserves its audience.

Here is a link to the movie's website. Contribute if you are able, or see if there is a possibility of holding a screening of the film in your neck of the woods:

Great thanks to Leland Sklar, Denny Tedesco, and those who made my viewing possible.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nita Strauss - Alice Cooper, Ibanez Guitars, Hired Gun Doc, Solo Albums, and More - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Nita Strauss had the type of year in 2014 of which dreams are made. She parlayed years of hard work with such acts as The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale, Critical Hit, and Jermaine Jackson into a job with one of the most prominent and prestigious touring bands in the world, Alice Cooper.

She took to it like baby to breast, and it seems to be the most natural fit in the world, as she emerges in photo after photo mugging with the king of shock rock and flying her Ibanez guitars like flags of victory, and never once taking the smile off of her face - and who could blame her, right? 2015 appears to be promising more of the same, and now there's even talk of a Nita Strauss solo album, which will certainly sweeten the pot. I caught up with Nita on a rare day off in the Hollywood hills of her hometown, Los Angeles.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Whitesnake - The Purple Album - Critics Be Damned, This Is Great Stuff

The Purple Album
Frontiers Music srl
May 15, 2015

Whitesnake's The Purple Album is a solid, solid sender. It should be taken at face value and accepted for exactly what it is - this is David Coverdale revisiting his past, and in light of the fact that it looks like there is to be no reunification of that old troop, he's chosen to put up the best front possible and to simply play and sing the living hell out of these old chestnuts, and he's succeeded mightily.

Let's take a few minutes and deal with naysayers, critics, and those who will reflect negatively upon this album - some may think it best to dance around this 800 pound gorilla in the corner, but that's just not my style.

First, there is the matter of David Coverdale and his voice. I'm continually amazed that fans seem to think that a man is going to sound the same at the age of 63 that he did at the age of 22, and that's unrealistic and somewhat foolish. There's no question but that the man has used his voice over the years in much the same manner as an athlete, and there have been injuries, there has been wear and tear, and there is the matter of simply the ravages of time. However, on the flip side of that is the depth, dynamics, and phrasing that a singer learns and implements in a forty year career that can't be denied or discounted. Sure, there are places on this record in which studio technology is used to sweeten up certain spots, but there is less of this than many would assume. To my thinking and to my ears, this is a wonderful representation of what a hard rock vocalist can accomplish late in the game. David Coverdale has spent great time and effort to make the very best product he possibly can, sparing no expense, and he's done a fantastic job.

Judas Priest - Defenders Of The Faith (30th Anniversary Edition) - Nothing But The Best From The Best

Judas Priest
Defenders Of The Faith (30th Anniversary Edition)
Columbia/Legacy Records
March 10, 2015

There's something to be said for being the last guy standing. When the day is done, and all has been said, who is still standing tall in the saddle speaks the measure of the man. Judas Priest are out there, right now, proving it with a great new record and still amazing shows, and now they've unleashed one of the finest metal reissues I've had the pleasure to experience. The 30th anniversary edition of Defenders Of The Faith delivers the goods.

I'm going to go in reverse here, and start out by talking about the 'bonus material' of this package. It's a two disc live album that was recorded at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1984, and it is the logical follow up to the band's classic live set, Unleashed In The East. Plain put, this is one of the best live albums to come from perhaps the most fertile period in metal history.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Europe - War Of Kings - Perhaps Their Finest Hour

War Of Kings
March 6, 2015

War Of Kings might just be Europe's best record yet. The songs are top notch, the playing is as good as it's ever been, Joey Tempest is ever growing as a vocalist, and super producer Dave Cobb has gotten not just the band's best performances to date, but also their best sound ever.

The story of Europe is one of a slow steady rebuild - after a long (ten year) hiatus, the band reconvened in 2003, and since they have been slowly and steadily reinventing their legacy. War Of Kings is the latest chapter, and it sees the band continuing to re-channel the history of British and European hard rock in a modern contemporary fashion. Sometimes I believe that the world looks towards change for change's sake, but I often find that things turn out better when an artist simply refines and hones their strongpoints, and this is a method that has worked wonderfully for Europe. They get better with every record, and the tours get bigger and better.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Walter Trout - Coming Home To The Stage and Coming Back From A Life Threatening Liver Transplant - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Walter Trout is preparing to return to the stage in June at no less of a venue than the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. After that he comes back to his own back yard to The Strand in San Juan Capistrano, California, and from there it's back on the road for another year of intense touring. Just business as usual for a veteran blues rocker, right?

Well, this would be business as usual for the veteran blues rocker if it were not for a debilitating illness and the resulting liver transplant that literally brought him back from death's door step. I'm not being overly dramatic, here, the man lost 160 pounds in the process, and when he first attempted to play his beloved Strat after the surgery, he had not the strength to push the string down to the fret to make a note. But, he's done it - he's back in the ring to take another swing! This is one of the most inspirational conversations I've ever had the pleasure and honor to be a part of, and I truly believe that in listening to Walter tell his tale you will be just as moved as I have been to experience this... Well, this miracle.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Wolfpakk - Rise Of The Animal - Jam Pakked All Star Metal Fun!

Rise Of The Animal
AFM Records
February 27, 2015

Wolfpakk's Rise Of The Animal is a most curious and enjoyable slice of classic metal. Alpha wolves Michael Voss and Mark Sweeney have again partnered up to bring more metal mayhem to the masses via their third chapter of their all star project.

Where else can you find Don Dokken, Michael Kiske, David Reese, Joe Lynn Turner, and Marc Storace all singing on the same album? Where else can one hope to find Jeff Watson, Bernie Tormé, John Norum, Doug Aldrich, and Axel Rudi Pell throwing down guitar tracks on the same disc? Not to mention stickmen the quality of Simon Phillips, Mike Terrana, Chris Slade, and Mark Schulman - yeah, this record is packed from beginning to end with talent, and Voss and Sweeney have written a fun filled bunch of heavy hitting tracks on which their guests can perform.

Eden's Curse - Live With The Curse - Give This One A Try, It's Brutally and Beautifully Good

Eden's Curse
Live With The Curse
AFM Records
March 13 (UK/Europe), March 14 (US)

Eden's Curse keeps getting better and better - each release, each lineup change, every hurdle they catapult seems to place them higher in the realm of modern classic metal. Live With The Curse is a most impressive live set which serves as a great 'story up to this point' document.

Fans of bands like Queensryche, Iron Maiden, and other melodic metal monsters (or even folks who wish Journey has a bit more oomph) will absolutely eat this up. Nikola Mijic came on board as lead vocalist for the band in 2013, and he's taken the band to a completely new level. New keyboardist Steve Williams (Dragonforce) also fits like a glove and supplies both tasty pads and some great interplay with guitarist and original band member Thorsten Koehne, who has been consistently brilliant since the band's inception almost ten years ago.

Paul Logue (Full Interview from 2013) is one of the founding fathers of the band (he originally formed the group with departed vocalist Michael Eden in 2006), and in addition to being an exceptional bassist, he's also one of the very best songwriters in the genre these days - it's the songs really comes down to, and where the band delivers the goods in spades. He's steered the band through four studio albums that have been consistently top notch, and he keeps getting better at his job as evidenced on 2013's Symphony Of Sin the band's latest long player which features heavily (eight tunes out of eighteen) on this new live opus.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Frank Hannon's Guitar Extravaganza and The Return of Atomik Tommy McClendon - Gig Review - Folsom, CA

Frank Hannon Band/When We Become Kings
The Powerhouse Pub
Folsom, California
Feb 28, 2015

Tucked away behind a high end pizza joint on a row of retail shops for social climbers there was a whiskey fueled rock 'n' roll party going on last night in the normally sleepy town of Folsom, California. For the paltry fee of twelve dollars (7.77£) the stuffed to capacity crowd at the Powerhouse Pub witnessed a long night of guitar heroics explode from the axes of headliner Frank Hannon (Tesla) and Atomik Tommy McClendon (UFO, SoulMotor) of the opening band When We Become Kings, and not a soul went home disappointed.

When We Become Kings is a new band that features the immense talents of veteran guitarist Tommy McClendon, best known for his two album stay in UFO in the mid-to-late '80s. He's joined by vocalist/guitarist Matt Sudfeld, bassist SJ Rehn, and hard hitting drummer Michael "Fro" Frowein, and their set of all original material covered a lot of ground, ranging from anthemic power pop to a more modern alt-rock 90s sound, but the evening's best moments came when they would contort into a sleek, hard riffing rock machine over which McClendon laid down solo after solo of melodic brilliance. It will be interesting to see what this band sounds like in the studio. Their identity was a little unclear due to the genre shifting nature of what they laid down, but there were many excellent moments to be found in their set.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Higher Resolution Revolution - MP3s Are Not The Way To Do Business With Record Reviewers

"This whole re-mastering process is a result of listening to Led Zeppelin on MP3. It almost sounds as if someone has got into the master tapes and done a really horrendous mix of it," Page said of the MP3 versions in a recent interview. "It just wasn't representative of what we'd done in the first place. So many textures were missing. The whole beauty of Led Zeppelin, the air of it, these instruments coming in here and here and over here, was just totally destroyed." ~ Jimmy Page

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I no longer have much desire to listen to mp3 files. They are a bastardization of music, and not something I wish to inflict upon myself anymore than I absolutely must.

I'm not sure where the slippery slope began, and I'm not sure that it even really matters. Somewhere along the line we all accepted a false premise and promise, and we were taken for a ride. In the desire for convenience and a deal, we lost sight of why we fell in love with music, exactly what it is supposed to sound like, and maybe more importantly, how it can make us feel. How it should make us feel.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Whitesnake Set To Unleash 'The Purple Album' On May 15

David Coverdale enters the time machine, and he takes a stalwart band back in time to reimagine some of the best material from his years with rock legends Deep Purple this May, as he partners with Frontiers Records to release 'The Purple Album'.

Whitesnake is joined by guitarist Joel Hoekstra, who replaces Doug Aldrich, who left the band to spend more time with his son and other projects after a very lengthy tenure as Coverdale's right hand man. Also on board are Reb Beach (guitars), Michael Devin (bass), and Tommy Aldridge (drums) who are all returning members.

The first cut released is the video for 'Stormbringer', and it certainly makes a great impression. They stick somewhat to the script, but the guitars are a little more contemporary as they take the place of the inimitable Jon Lord's organ and synth work - but, the song retains it's original flavor, and Mr. Coverdale as always wraps up the prettiest gifts in rock. I can't imagine anyone not being over the moon about this one. Great memories with new twists in the right places - the production of this is superb.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Michael Des Barres - The Key To The Universe - Brilliant Rock 'N' Roll Is Alive And Well

Michael Des Barres
The Key To The Universe
FOD Records
April 2015

Michael Des Barres' The Key To The Universe is one of those increasingly rare records that makes you remember why we love rock 'n' roll - in fact, it forces you to remember why we love rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll that reminds you that the best rock 'n' roll resides both in the head, and below the waist. This record is a blast.

Continuing his musical resurgence that began in 2011 with the excellent Carnaby Street album, and followed by 2013's incendiary Hot n Sticky Live set, Michael Des Barres has unleashed an album that is the best of his long and storied career. Written and recorded over five weeks in the stately Forum Music Village studio in Rome, the record marries Des Barres' velvety shards of broken glass vocals with a band that is absolutely smoldering on the verge of explosion, and a producer (Bob Rose) who has managed to keep it raw, but with a simple beauty that dazzles. The intensity is palpable - this foursome provides an incredible amount of ear candy that well decorates the 'heart on the sleeve' stories that are being told. The music makes you feel like you're living the song, as all great rock should. This is where the story should be at this point - this is where rock is meant to go.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Udo Dirkschneider of U.D.O. - Decadent - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Udo Dirkschneider has been leading his heavy metal battleship U.D.O. for three decades, and the band has never sounded better than they do on their new album, Decadent. It's the first album for their new guitar team of Andrey Smirnov and Kasperi Heikkinen, and they've delivered a marvelous update on the band's sound.

I spoke with Udo from his home in Ibiza as his band gets ready to head out for long season of touring, and for the first time they will feature Udo's twenty-one year old son Sven on the drums. One way to keep yourself sharp, and young is to tour the world and make records with a top flight bunch of rockers, and Dirkschneider is certainly doing that. He discusses all that and more in this episode of The Rock Guitar Daily Interview.

(My Review of U.D.O.'s Decadent)
U.D.O. Facebook

Brad Gillis of Night Ranger - Heading For Islington 02 - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Brad Gillis has been blowing minds for a quarter of a century with his guitar histrionics within the song based hard rock juggernaught, Night Ranger. The band is getting ready to assault the UK with their long string of hits and heavy guitars at the London 02 Academy Islington on March 12 before they hit the Hard Rock Hell Festival on the following Saturday.

I caught up with Brad at his home in Northern California as he made preparations for the UK shows which will be the first overseas jaunt for the band since they were rejoined by Keri Kelli on co-lead guitar - even though Keri has played in Night Ranger in the past, Gillis explains that it's a lot of work to break in a new band members for their stunning displays of guitar work. That, and much, much more in The Rock Guitar Daily Interview.

24 HOUR BOX OFFICE: 08440 249 01000

Michael Schenker - Spirit On A Mission - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Michael Schenker has enjoyed a career that has now been going on long enough to indicate that he's with us for the long haul, and that's great news for any lover of the electric guitar. The legendary hard rocker has spent time with Scorpions, flown in a UFO, his own Michael Schenker Groups, the McAuley/Schenker Group, a solid solo career, and now his incipient Temple Of Rock.

This interview is special because it is supplied with queries directly from his fan base - most particularly the Michael Schenker Facebook group that was set up by myself several years ago to serve as a clearing house for all things Schenker social media. The one thing the group demanded was that this interview steer clear of the run of the mill, usual 'we have a new album, and here's the script' message that so often plagues a press junket, and we certainly succeeded on that mission.

Michael talks about his long and satisfying relationship with Dean Guitars, the effect of having all of his gear and the computers that contained three quarters of a completed album stolen midstream, his desire to perhaps have a signature line of guitar amps to call his own, how being a major influence on a generation of guitarists is not that big a deal, and why the much ballyhooed Schenker Brothers album is probably an idea whose time will now not come.

Michael Schenker/Temple Of Rock Official Facebook page

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Danko Jones - Fire Music - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Danko Jones is on the steady incline - he's been driving his self titled rock 'n' roll roadshow for nearly twenty years, and he appears to be reaching new heights with his band's latest release, Fire Music. This band is a direct link to the lineage of great groups such as The Ramones and Motorhead - they keep things simple with great riffs and a good story, but they manage to continually improve the delivery of the message that rock ain't dead. Overwhelmingly positive reviews for Fire Music indicate that this album stands proudly next to anything in the band's catalog, and should prove to be the next step in the band's ongoing success.

I had a chance to catch up with Danko in the midst of his just finishing up some dates in his homeland of Canada, the release of the new album, and preparations for an extensive spring and summer touring season. If you get a chance, check out Danko's excellent podcasts - he's a fascinating guy who does a great job chatting with some of the most fascinating rockers on the planet. Fire Music is an album that should find a way into your collection if you a fan of hard rock with great riffs, songs, and you need a reminder that Rock Ain't Near Dead.

You can find Fire Music at the links below:

CD (Amazon):
LP (Amazon):

Monday, February 16, 2015

Nightwish - Élan (new single) - More Brilliant Symphonic Melodic Metal For The Masses

Élan - new single
Nuclear Blast Records
Endless Forms Most Beautiful - new album due March 27, 2015

Nightwish are back, and this is no surprise as the almost three quarters of a million viewers of their new video single 'Élan' can certainly testify, and it would appear that the assimilation of singer Floor Jansen into the band has been a resounding success. The band's new album Endless Forms Most Beautiful is due March 27, and they've just released the first single and video from the record.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nita Strauss - Alice Cooper, Ibanez Guitars, Hired Gun Doc, Solo Albums, and More - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Nita Strauss had the type of year in 2014 of which dreams are made. She parlayed years of hard work with such acts as The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale, Critical Hit, and Jermaine Jackson into a job with one of the most prominent and prestigious touring bands in the world, Alice Cooper.

She took to it like baby to breast, and it seems to be the most natural fit in the world, as she emerges in photo after photo mugging with the king of shock rock and flying her Ibanez guitars like flags of victory, and never once taking the smile off of her face - and who could blame her, right? 2015 appears to be promising more of the same, and now there's even talk of a Nita Strauss solo album, which will certainly sweeten the pot. I caught up with Nita on a rare day off in the Hollywood hills of her hometown, Los Angeles.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

PONO Music Player - High Res Is Real - Me and Neil Walking Down A Lonely Street

"It's the difference between just hearing music, and feeling music."

PONO is righteous - the music side of things is just great. And that's what matters the most. High resolution audio files must be at least a part of the future, if we are to have a decent future for quality audio. When I heard Zeppelin in high resolution on this device it removed any doubt - PONO is like having a fantastic stereo system in your hand for 400 bucks. It does what they said it would do.

Blindsided? No, I saw it coming. Was it a dream? No, it feels entirely too real. Was it my imagination? No, my imagination's not that good. I saw what I saw, but what I'm seeing is something I hadn't expected. I'm naive that way. But, what I hear is exactly what I had hoped I would hear.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Graham Bonnet - private i (The Archives: Vol.1) - Outrageously Gorgeous Psyche Pop Nuggets From 1975

Graham Bonnet
private i (The Archives: Vol. 1)
Out now

Who'd of thunk it? Rock powerhouse vocalist Graham Bonnet had a serious past before he flew over the Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore to become many great guitarists' voice in the remaining years of the twentieth century, and he's just now released a tremendously cool archive of some previously unreleased earlier efforts.

His hardcore fans may be perplexed by this release, but its real audience should be the fans of bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, Big Star, early Bee Gees, and other purveyors of gorgeous pop nuggets. Great melodies, the expected fantastic vocal range and dynamics, big keys, strings, and most surprisingly some stunningly adventurous songwriting. This is a lost treasure of time, and I guess better late than never applies. This album goes a long way towards explaining why Bonnet was once offered the lead vocalist position in Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra. private i (The Archives: Vol. 1) is an iTunes release at this point, and I'd recommend you buy it. Now.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

U.D.O. - Decadent - The Good Reverend Dirkschneider Delivers The Good Word Once Again

AFM Records
February 3, 2015

Udo Dirkschneider is the Woody Guthrie of metal. He put your 'Balls To The Wall' back in 1984 with Accept, and he never came back - ever since, it's been Udo against evil, and it's only a shame that most aren't paying more attention.

If they were, they'd notice that the guy can't put out a bad record. His albums are heavy, they're musically nutritious, his rhythm section is never less powerful than a carrier, and the man himself is still perfecting his guttural, yet beautiful sound. It's the sound of righteous indignation. Metal Heart, indeed.

Decadent is U.D.O.'s fifteenth studio album, and it's a strong one. The band is writing the music as a team, and the lyrical content is being handled by Udo and his longtime right hand man, Fitty Wienhold, who also provides some of the tastiest and best toned bass work around to the festivities. But, this is metal, and it's down to the riff isn't it? Well, Dirkschneider did a brilliant bit of recruiting and he came up with two winners in the writing, riffing, and solo departments in Andrey Smirnov, and Kasperi Heikkinen for his guitar team. You could even throw any track on Decadent onto a classic Accept album, and not much would seem tremendously off kilter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Neil Young Dies For The Sins Of Others - F**k A Bunch Of Manipulators, Here's The Rest Of What The Man Said

"It's a niche, and it's a great niche and it's a wonderful thing and I hope people continue to enjoy vinyl and it continues to grow, because it's a good thing." A portion of the rest of Neil's statement on vinyl that you're not being shown on most sites.
Neil Young is getting it from all sides. He's being castigated, and all but crucified for speaking his truth. And it's all the sins of others. That's right - the actions of others have all but put him on the cross, whether they know it, or care to admit it. They've've made so many so rich for doing so little that now they must assassinate the character of one of our greatest artists to protect what they now see as theirs. The Empire of the mp3 is striking out at Young like nothing I've seen in my lifetime.

I'm reading attack piece after attack piece coming from the mainstream (both tech sites and entertainment sources like Billboard) relating to PONO, Young's new high resolution audio player and service. I've not heard a PONO yet, but I am about to change that. I'll have a unit in my hands tomorrow, then I'll test it myself and among friends, and only then I will form an opinion. I understand that no one in the mainstream has a reason to see Pono succeed - but then, when was the last time you saw the mainstream contribute to making anything of higher quality? I'll trust my own test, thanks.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Guitar Center Is Fine (For Today) - Eric Gardner's Presumptive Obituary

Eric Garland has been a harsh critic of the policies and management of Guitar Center, Inc. for some time. He posted this presumptive story about the possibility of the end of the world's largest musical instrument retailer, and shortly thereafter his story and site went down. You can be assured that nothing has happened at Guitar Center that would indicate its death - these are only Eric's opinions and speculations, but they make for a fascinating read. This is the copy from Eric Garland's web site (Eric's site is now back up and running -



This is an obituary for Guitar Center, a chain of big box musical instrument stores that was captured and infected by private equity during a national trend of greed and reckless expansionism in the late-1990s and early-2000s. The company started as a Los Angeles organ store, became a successful purveyor of guitars after the Beatles arrived in the United States, evolved into a national competitor over a period of decades, and shall finish, with sad poetry, as the symbol of everything dysfunctional about American corporate finance, management, and retail in the modern age. Its demise is really the end of a generation of business managers, illustrating how they lost their moral compass as well as any ability to lead individual companies or national economies into a stable, rational, prosperous future. This story will focus on the final days of this one company, but it is really about our painful transition to an economic system that obeys objective reality and serves people in a durable, holistic manner.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Uli Jon Roth - Scorpions Revisited - The Godfather Of Shred, But Much, Much More

Uli Jon Roth
Scorpions Revisited
UDR Records
March 10, 2015

The big news here is that Uli Jon Roth is playing guitar and singing as well, if not better than ever. The German maestro has been touring for several seasons now celebrating the 40th anniversary of his joining The Scorpions, a band he helped take to the very brink of international stardom before he exited the group to follow his own muse, and now he's documented the current state of his musicianship, his fine band, and the durability of some of the most adventurous hard rock music ever written and recorded.

Uli Jon Roth is a legend - he was there at the creation of a guitar movement that came to be known by the unfortunate name of shred, and in all actuality he may have been the first guitarist who married the feral excitement and soul of Jimi Hendrix with a sophisticated sense of harmony and the technique that had previously been left in the realm of serious jazz guitarists. No one had quite mastered the use of the Fender Stratocaster's tremolo bridge system - even Hendrix never approached the sheer mastery that Roth achieved with his customized extra sturdy arm that enabled him to wrestle dynamics and drama out of the instrument, and allowed him to find the full expression of his almost endless bends, pull ups and dips. Even that instrument itself ultimately found itself supplanted by Roth's self designed Dean Sky Guitars which with their scalloped frets, seven strings, and fully functional 34 frets, allowed the guitar to keep up with the imagination of its player.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Richie Kotzen - A Musician's Life - The Rock Guitar Interview

He wouldn't say no to Jimmy Page. If Jimmy called Richie to make a new record, Mr. Kotzen would report to duty....

Richie Kotzen has just released Cannibals, his twentieth solo album, and it's another great example of the man's incredible musicianship - this is a more adventurous, funky, and personal release than his recent work with last year's biggest new band, The Winery Dogs, with whom he has recently been busy writing for their second album.

I had a chance to chat with Richie about this album, his work with The Winery Dogs, his writing and creative processes, how the wholesale changes in the music business has actually helped artists like himself, his influences and inspirations, his exciting new multi-effects unit that he's partnered with Tech 21 to develop (Tech 21 RK5 Fly Rig), and how he's ended up being a Marshall amp guy again.

Randy Bachman - Heavy Blues Done Right - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Randy Bachman first told me about his Heavy Blues album almost a year ago, and it was absolutely worth the wait - producer Kevin Shirley took the reigns, Bachman writes, plays, and sings as well if not better than ever, his rhythm section of Dale Anne Brendan (drums) and Anna Roddick (bass) make a holy noise that evokes memories of bands like Cream and The Who, and there's a slate of cameo appearances by such six string luminaries as Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Rudolph, Scott Holiday (Rival Sons), and even the late, great Jeff Healey.

(Rock Guitar Daily's review of Randy Bachman's Heavy Blues)

I had a great chat with Randy this morning, and he gave me the low down on his Heavy Blues from A to Z here on The Rock Guitar Daily Interview on Soundcloud.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pete Way - A New Solo Album, UFO, And Vinnie Moore's Shorts - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

The legendary Pete Way talks about his many years with UFO, his new solo album, the mysterious Mr. Squirrel, and selling Vinnie Moore's shorts at the merch table in Prague....

My chat with Pete is fairly far reaching, and ranges from UFO's earliest days, the effect of Michael Schenker joining that band, his time with Fastway, touring with Ozzy Osbourne, and much more on The Rock Guitar Daily Interview On Soundcloud.

Randy Bachman - Heavy Blues - This Is How I Like My Blues

Randy Bachman
Heavy Blues
Linus Entertainment
April 14, 2015

Randy Bachman has hit another home run - after a few years of supporting his extremely successful career retrospective Every Song Tells A Story with his Vinyl Tap tours, his very successful Vinyl Tap radio show, and keeping the long running Bachman/Turner franchise alive, he's now unveiling yet another new trick with an explosive set of originals done in the guise of classic blues rock vein under the title, Heavy Blues.

This album is exactly how I happen to like my blues - Bachman has wrapped his heavy blues in a lot of great melody, a slamming rhythm section, down and dirty rhythm guitar tones (dare I say filthy?), and some screaming guitar solos from himself and a slate of bona fide six string superstars. Kevin Shirley's no frills, 'in your face' production works perfectly here, and in a move that is either brilliant serendipity or extremely shrewd and wonderful marketing, Bachman is joined on the record by a sexy couple of serious slammers in the way of drummer Dale Anne Brendon and bassist Anna Ruddick, who not only look great, but who also do a fair approximation of The Ox and The Loon. Make no bones about it, they are both fabulous players. Yeah, this is how I like my blues....

Monday, January 26, 2015

Uli Jon Roth Leads The Extreme Guitar Tour To A Tremendous Victory!

Extreme Guitar Tour
Uli Jon Roth, Vinnie Moore, Black Knights Rising
Rockbar Theater
San Jose, California, USA
January 25, 2015

Uli Jon Roth proved that he is perhaps the best of the best of his generation of guitarists, and he was joined by mad axe men Vinnie Moore, and Craig Goldy, who combined to put on one of the most successful package tours in recent memory.

The guitarists were the men of the hour, but the evening's all around MVP just might be bassist/guitar manufacturer Elliott 'Dean' Rubinson who covered the four string end of the spectrum with a trio of his own tasty instruments for all three of tour's main bands.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Robin Trower - Something's About To Change - Trower's Sermon On Soulful Blues

Robin Trower
Something's About To Change
Manhaton/V12 Records
March 9, 2015

Is it my imagination, or is Robin Trower really getting better with every new record? His last outing, 2013's Roots And Branches was a super solid sender, but there's something about Something's About To Change that rings much more true, more direct, and more to the point. It is also a great sounding record - I've been on a tear about record production of late, and this is how it should be done.

This is truly a Robin Trower solo record - he not only masterfully wields his signature Fender  Stratocasters (which have never sounded better), but he's also supplying soulful fatback bass, and singing in a style and fashion that must certainly have his old pal Jack Bruce smiling down upon him from the cosmos. He's joined by Luke Smith on a very sultry Hammond organ, Chris Taggart's tasty drum work, and longtime producer Livingston Brown, but as picture perfect as their support is, this is all about Trower, who has long since graduated from being touted as a Hendrixian dietary replacement when he exploded on the six string scene in the early seventies to being the UK's senior king of the blues. He's never stood out this far, writing, singing, and playing wise, but it serves him very well, for this well runs deep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment - A Scientist Succeeds At Art

The Neal Morse Band
The Grand Experiment
February 16, 2015
Inside Out Music

Of course, Neal Morse is amongst the most gifted musicians amongst us, but I am calling him a scientist for having the fearless wonderment that brings great ideas from thought to fruition. The Grand Experiment is a stunningly good record - it has great, instantly hummable tunes, enlightening and uplifting lyrics, brilliant singing, some of the best ensemble playing you're likely to hear, and maybe most important to me, it is a great sounding album.

The Grand Experiment marks the first time Neal Morse has ever walked into a recording studio with the intention of making an album, but having nothing written, nor prepared. You would not guess that in a million years to hear it, this album is extremely coherent, cohesive, and complete. That being said, this is the Neal Morse Band, and the credit must be parsed out to everyone onboard. Mike Portnoy brings his always exciting rums, and he's singing more and more these days on his projects, and that's a great thing. Randy George, well, he just might be my favorite bassist these days - his tone, taste, and chops always astound me, and he is on fire here. Keyboardist Bill Hubauer is a prog lover's dream, wrapping every tune in a wonderful tapestry of tones, and guitarist Eric Gillette brings some shredding rock skills along to keep things from ever getting too mired in all the pastoral beauty. Everyone is firing on all cylinders, and there is a great feeling of unity, which can be rare in these times of too often short budgets and time restrictions. This feels just right.

Uriah Heep - Live At Koko - Still One Great Band

Uriah Heep
Live At Koko
(Frontiers Records srl)
February 20, 2015

God bless Mick Box - there's something to be said for being the last man standing, and this man has managed to keep his ship afloat through thick and thin for forty-five years. He and his fine band deserve your love. Uriah Heep never got their due as critic's darlings, but they've been thrilling audiences and listeners in the same style since day one. Live At Koko continues that legacy in fantastic form - nobody's resting on their laurels, and everyone's giving 110%.

Bernie Shaw has been at the helm of this hard rock juggernaught for just under thirty years, and he's in as good a voice as he was the day he joined. he brings not just great tone, pitch, and phrasing to the gig, he also brings a sense of theatricality that makes a Heep show an occasion. He's one of hard rock's best frontmen, and he is vastly underrated. He puts on great shows, makes excellent records, and never displays less than a tremendous respect for the legacy that is Heep's before his joining.