Thursday, August 28, 2014

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators - World On Fire - Reaching To New Heights

Slash has perhaps made his most powerful statement since walking onto the world stage with Guns 'N' Roses Appetite For Destruction way back in 1987. He's finally once again put the whole package together, and he's got the perfect team on World On Fire helping him to put it all across.

In a world reduced to mp3 files and ear buds, it's good to hear that some bands and acts are still doing it right, and making records that sound great. Slash has raised the bar another notch higher with his new album, World On Fire. Teaming up again with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, and bringing on for production duties longtime Kennedy collaborator Michael "Elvis" Baskette, everyone's favorite top hat has blessed us with an album filled with great guitars (excellent riffs, solos, and songs), state of the art vocals, and a throbbing rhythm section. This record is jumping out of my ancient studio monitors, and they're howling and thumbing like a Marshall 4X12 - and that's exactly how it should be.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Randy Bachman - Still Learning New Tricks - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"Neil (Young) looked me dead in the eye, and he said, 'If you're gonna do a new album, don't do the same old shit and call it a new album."  
"Kevin Shirley said to me, 'If I'm going to produce you, you have to promise me one thing. That you will do everything I say, you will not interfere, and you'll keep your mouth shut.'                              
Randy Bachman has sold over 40,000,000 records. He's played before millions of adoring fans. He's been in two of classic rock's most enduring bands (The Guess Who, and Bachman Turner Overdrive), and he's done it his way, every step of the way. So, while it may seem unusual for me to start this interview with him quoting two rock icons, I think it's instructive -  in spite of unquestionable and unflagging success, Bachman still knows how to listen, and how to take heed of wise and good counsel.

He's currently crossing North America with Frampton's Guitar Circus, his own solo shows with his successful, Every Song Tells A Story evenings - in which he tells the tales and plays the hits that have kept him in the limelight for very nearly 50 years, and more shows with old BTO partner Fred Turner.

But that's not all - he's soon to start working on a series of shows with a symphonic setting of his vast catalog (Bachman Symphonic Overdrive), and perhaps the most exciting news is his soon to be released Hard Blues, an album that is being produced by the aforementioned Kevin Shirley. An album inspired by a conversation with his lifelong friend Neil Young, an album which features an earthshaking female rhythm section (Dale Anne Brendon on drums, and bassist Anna Ruddick), and guest appearances by Young, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holliday, and a posthumous appearance by Canadian blues legend Jeff Healey.

I caught up with the Canadian rock legend last week before he was due to hit the road for some heavy touring. I started off our chat by asking about his reaction to performing his Vinyl Tap: Every Song Tells A Story on tour:

Randy Bachman: "Very Surprised! It's like telling little kids bed time stories, and they're on the edges of their seats, listening with wide eyes. 
"So telling the stories behind these songs is quite amazing. Behind me is a montage, a visual of stills and videos that are kind of taking you to the era that I'm talking about when the songs were written in the '60s and '70s, showing the hairstyles, the clothes, and it kind of puts everybody in the moment, right? 
"Then the stories are there, the band's onstage, and we slam into the songs. My reaction has come from watching the faces of smiles, astonishment, and sometimes tears from bringing back old memories."

I then asked Randy about the genesis of this show:

Randy Bachman: "Well, a couple of things prompted it. 
"One was seeing Ray Davies, like twelve years ago in London, doing a thing he called, Storytelling. It was him alone onstage with a guitar, and another guy backing him up on another guitar, telling how he wrote The Kinks' songs, and how his brother had plugged into a little tape recorder and got the distortion for You Really Got Me, and stuff like that. 
"I went backstage to see him after that show, and it was amazing. I told him how great I thought it was, and he said, 'Well, you could do a better show that I can, you've got more hits than me. So that stuck in my head. 
"Then, when I got back to Canada, I got asked to do a show for the Canadian Cancer Society - a big, high level, dress-up show where there were $2500 a plate dinners, auctioning off Harley-Davidsons, and things like that, to raise money. But they said, 'We want you to play, everybody took a vote and we want to hear you play, but we don't want you to blow everyone's face off with rock 'n' roll. It's a black tie thing, so, can you do something acoustic? 
"Well, I thought, my songs aren't really going to make it acoustically, they're really electric songs, so I'll do this thing where I'll tell a story. I'd already told these stories to DJs one at a time - I'd do an interview, and the DJ would say, 'She's Come Undun' is my favorite song, how'd you write it?' Then I'd tell that story and a week later another DJ would ask about American Woman, so I put them all together chronologically, and made this evening. 
"So, I did that, the society raised a lot of money, and then people came up to me later and said, 'Gee, if you put this down on CD or DVD, we'd buy a dozen copies and send them to our family and friends all over the world,' because everybody knows these songs, but they take on way more meaning when you tell how, or why you wrote them, or what instigated them. 
"I did that quite a while ago, and did a tour, but it got revitalized just by public demand because of the Internet, and my radio show, which is on every Saturday night (see link at bottom), where I tell the stories behind other songs not my own, but to put my own together, and to do this tour grew on such a roll last spring. When we were doing this, my manager said, 'Why don't we record this as a DVD?' 
"So, we did that, and we've put it out - to my astonishment, it went double or triple platinum in Canada, which has now triggered a US release, as well as the UK, UE, and Australia. So I'm dealing with this right now, and I'm pretty amazed at the whole thing."

At this point I mention to Bachman that I've heard from many people via social media that they would love to see the show, but the show isn't coming anywhere near them, a situation that is becoming more common in the States:

Randy Bachman: "I could see doing a show like this anytime! 
"We're doing about ten in the middle of October, all around the Toronto area, because of the demand. Those are all on our calendar, so we could definitely do more next year in the States. We're getting the phone calls from radio stations and theaters - it has to be kind of a theater show, because it has to be a kind of theater show, it's gotta be 12-1400 seaters, because there's an intimacy involved. I'm telling stories, and there's no script, no teleprompters, it's just me doing that. So I can't really do much bigger places. 
"It's like a comedian, you can't really go out and make 10,000 people laugh, if there's guys fighting in the background, or something. You need everybody looking at you. I'd be into doing that in the states!"

Bachman is taking his Vinyl Tap show to the Hollywood Bowl this week, so I had to ask him what it was like to be in a band with Ringo Starr, who's other band had made such a splash there a few decades ago:

Randy Bachman: "It was very surreal! 
"When he phoned me, let's see, he phoned me on a Thursday morning - the day before I had been watching PBS, and it was one of their fundraisers. They were playing Help!, and A Hard Day's Night back to back, and then they hadfootage of how they were made, talks with Richard Lester and the other producers. 
"I really loved Hard Day's Night, so I'm watching this over and over, I loved the songs, and I loved the outtakes. 
"Then, the next morning, my phone rings, and a voice says (doing a great Ringo imitation), 'Hi, this is Ringo Starr, would you join my band?' I say, 'Sure,' and hung up. 
"So, the phone rings again, and the voice says, 'Hello? This is Ringo Starr, I'm calling from Monaco, I really want you to be in my band.' I say, 'OK, OK, I need your number so I can call you back.' 
"He gives me this weird phone number. I call the operator, and she says, 'Yeah, this is from Monaco.' 
"So, I call this number, and it's Ringo Starr, and he personally asks me to be in his band with John Entwistle, Mark Farner, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Billy Preston, and his son Zakk on drums. That was the band, so it was kind of surreal, and I was the lead guitar player. 
"Ringo had left out a lot of his songs from the setlist. So I went to him, and said, 'You know, I'm a real fan of yours, so if I came I'd want to hear you sing, I Wanna Be Your Man, I want to hear you sing, Boys - that song changed the world for every drummer. Every drummer in every band at that time got to sing, Boys, because you weren't that great of a singer, but you're a singing drummer, and everybody loves you.' So, he threw them back into the set. 
"To lead him off on those songs every night, and to play those solos - it was really kind of amazing. 
"You know, I was kind of lobbying to get more money, and the promoter said to me, 'When this is over, you will have said, and you'll always say that you would have done it for nothing.' and I say that to you now, I would have done it for nothing. To be on the road with these guys for ten months. 
"The stories we told each other about how we all got shafted by the labels, managers, the crooks out there. 
"We'd set down and John Entwistle would say, 'You got screwed, man!' There's be a four million pound story, and then Ringo would say, 'Brian Epstein sold us down the river! He went to New York City to do a deal for The Beatles' mercy, and he said no split but 90/10. And, then he turned around and took the 10% for The Beatles, that's how silly Brian Epstein was!' 
"But there we were, all together, playing, each of us doing dour or five of our hit songs! I got to play Boris The Spider every night with John Entwistle, and My Wife, and a couple other songs, and all the great songs I got to play of Ringo's, doing Get Back with Billy Preston on the organ. It was really amazing!"

Getting back to Every Song Tells a Story, I ask Bachman what was next for him and his crack band of Winnipeg's finest:

Randy Bachman: "Now we're getting ready to do a symphonic gig this October, where we're being backed by symphonies doing my music, almost like this show, but with symphonic arrangements - different tempos, and some different reincarnations of the songs. So the same guys are fitting into that template, as well. I'm having a great time reinventing and reinvigorating my hit songs. That one's being called, Bachman Symphonic Overdrive! 
"It's really something to go back to your hometown where this DVD was shot, where it's full of family and friends, radio and press who have watched you growing up your whole life, and the musicians who inspired you, and then you inspired. We'll shoot this in December in Winnipeg, and that'll bout on DVD next year."
Speaking of Winnipeg, I asked Randy what was happening in Canada that created a scene that spawned Neil Young, Burton Cummings, and Randy Bachman, some of rock's most enduring talents in a very short period of time:
Randy Bachman: "I think either an alien ship landed there in the '40s, a space ship that spawned a Neil Young, a Burton Cummings, a Randy Bachman. Or, there's something in the snow! Not the water!"
Bachman with Fred Gretsch
You can't talk to Randy Bachman without talking about his connection to Gretsch guitars. It's one of the best pieces of guitar lore out there - this could make for an interview of its own, but it's too good to edit down for the convenience of readers who think 400 words makes an article:

Randy Bachman: "Well, the first guitar I got, of course, I got a little Harmony for thirty or forty bucks from the Sears catalog, just a little F-hole Harmony to learn chords, and stuff. 
"And then I saw a guy play in town, in Winnipeg. His name was Lenny Breau, and he was an incredible guitar player. He was a year older than me, and had just moved to town. He had been playing professionally since he was ten, in his family's band. 
"His family was a traveling band, they had a Cadillac that pulled a Jetstream trailer behind them. When I met him he was sixteen, and he had been playing since he was six! 
"He played all the Chet Atkins, merle Travis finger style guitar on a G Brand Gretsch.Then I saw Elvis on TV, and I realized that Scotty Moore plays the same guitar as this guy Lenny Breau. So, the first guitar I wanted was an orange 6120 Gretsch. I saved my money - washing cars, mowing lawns, baby sitting, delivering newspapers, until I got the $400 to buy that Gretsch. 
"That Gretsch layer on Shakin' All Over (1964), and the same guitar played on Takin' Care Of Business. And I played it on a lot of records in between. But those were the two big hits I played it on. 
"Then, in 1976, that guitar was stolen from a studio in Toronto, Phase One Studios, where I was recording a BTO album. And on my search to find this stolen guitar - because I had worked so hard to get it, when I took that guitar on the road, I took a chain and two padlocks. 
"I would take that guitar every night, and put it next to the toilet, and put the chain through the guitar case handle, around the guitar twice, and around the toilet, then lock it with two padlocks. If anyone wanted to steal it, they couldn't open up the case, because the chain went around the case twice, and it was chained to the toilet. They'd have to tear the toilet out of the floor, and they'd have a gigantic flood! 
"So, I give the guitar to a roadie for ten minutes. From the studio to put into the van. Then he leaves it in a Holiday Inn for 10 minutes, it gets stolen, and I never see it again. 
"I go on a quest to get this Gretsch back. I call the Ontario police, I call the mounties, I call the border patrol, I give everybody the description and the serial number of the guitar, yet I never get it back. But I have all these guys calling me, and saying, 'Well, we didn't get your orange Gretsch, but we got a green one traded in.' 
"No one wanted Gretsch guitars because they're unreliable, and the bridges fall off because they weren't pegged - they just sat on the arched top, so you had to put on your own sticky tape under there, or a lot of guys put little finishing screws into the top of the bridge, but nobody really wanted Gretsch then, so I'd end up buying them for nostalgia's sake. I end up having six, then twelve, then twenty. It became my mid-life crisis on the road. 
"Everybody heard I was looking for this Gretsch, but they wouldn't bring me my Gretsch, they'd bring me any old Gretsch, and it'd be a hundred or two hundred bucks. They weren't a lot of money at the time, so I just bought them. Find the guitar that doesn't exist, and buy it. 
"Then I became called a Gretsch expert. I had them all, I had hundreds of them hanging on the walls of my basement - as one of my kids would grow up, leave the house and go to college, or get married, wow- another room! I'd take their bedroom and turn it into a shrine, hang 50 Gretsch guitars on the walls, and on stands. 
"Then one day I got  a call from Fred Gretsch. 
"This is like in the nineties, and he said, 'I got the name back to Gretsch Guitars, because it had been owned by Baldwin for some time. I always had the Gretsch drums name, but now I can make Gretsch Guitars again, but I don't have any templates, they were destroyed in a fire. You've got the ultimate Gretsch collection, can I copy your guitars?' 
"He came to my house with a guy from Pete's Music in Minneapolis, and they looked at all my guitars and they were blown away. I had 350 Gretsch guitars. He asked if they could take two or three at a time, get them calibrated, calculated, and calipered, and we'll make the new Gretsch's from your collection. 
"I said, 'Yeah, I won't charge you for this, but what I want is prototype #1 for each guitar when you make it, and I want to compare it to mine, and if there's any corrections, you can make the corrections, blah, blah, blah.... So, I ended up with all the prototypes. Then about ten years go by, and Fred calls me up again. He says, 'How are you doing with the Gretsch collection?' 
"I said that I had added to it, and there were now 385. Fred says, 'Wow! You know, Fender has this museum, Rickenbacker has a museum, Framus, Hofner, they all have museums in their home towns. You own the Gretsch museum. Can I buy your collection?' 
"By then, I had so much hassle from my wife to sell this collection, which I never used! You know, 350 guitars - you can't play them all! I had them all in cases, carefully labeled, it's like a library of beautiful books that you never read. You're too busy reading the Rolling Stone, or the latest guitar magazine.  So now is the time to sell them. 
"I sold Fred Gretsch the entire collection - this was about five or six years ago. How many guys can sell their mid-life crisis? I don't know, but I sold mine, and made money doing it. I actually just got word that he has donated that collection to the Country Music Hall Of Fame in Nashville. It's being documented now, and shipped there. They're doing little placards for everything. I'm going to go there and narrate a DVD documentary called, The Randy Bachman Gretsch Guitar Collection. 
"So that's my connection with Fred Gretsch! This weird obsession of mine became an incredible investment. I couldn't afford the old Les Pauls, and Fender Stratocasters. I've got a '59 Les Paul, my American Woman Les Paul that's probably worth a million bucks today, and my '54 Strat, I've got them, I've got a '52 Tele. But they're not something I'd collect like Joe Bonamassa, who's got a bunch of '59s, and Billy Gibbons, who has about twenty '59s. I was insane in my own world, but it did pay off quite incredibly!"
Photo by Zoltan Katona
Speaking of blues rock legends, I wanted to hear the story of Heavy Blues, Bachman's recently recorded, soon to be released (no date at this time) album of all original power trio blues rock. There's a lot of excitement building up over this project, and I was anxious to hear what Randy had to say about it:

Randy Bachman: "Yeah, I got inducted into the Country Musicians Hall Of Fame last January, so I went down there thrilled, and Peter Frampton was inducted, Duane Eddy, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, Kenny Wayne Shepherd came down to sit in for Stevie, Billy Gibbons was there, Neil Young was there because his pedal steel player, Ben Keith had died, and Neil was there speaking for him.  
"I've known Neil since we were teenagers. When I met Lenny Breau in Winnipeg, I met Neil at about the same time. 
"So we're there, and Neil says to me, 'What have you been doing lately?' I said, 'I don't know, I just got an offer from True North Records, which is a really great label in Toronto, for a worldwide deal to do a new album.' 
"And Neil looks me dead in the eye, and he said, ''If you're gonna do a new album, don't do the same old shit and call it a new album.' 
"He said, 'Don't do the same old thing, and say it's new. It's just more of the same stuff, you have to be fearless and you have to be ferocious. Reinvent yourself. Get different guitars, different amps, write different songs, get a new band, make a new Randy Bachman, and make me proud! Do something totally whack-o, out of your box, and off the rails.' 
"So, consequently, I came back home, and I saw an incredible drummer playing in the pit of the orchestra at Tommy. I was sitting next to Pete Townshend - it was exactly a year ago last July. I'm sitting there next to Pete Townshend at Stratford, Ontario, and they were premiering the new version of Tommy there. It's all digital backdrops and screens, and everything. 
"Townshend looks over at me, and says, 'That drummer is incredible, it sounds like Keith Moon!' 
"We opened the program, and it said the drummer was Dale Brendon. I said, 'Pete, I think this drummer is a chick, I think it's Dale Anne Brendon.'  
"After the show, we go backstage, and sure enough, it's Dale Anne Brendon, I've known her for about ten years. So, Pete meets her, and he thinks she's the new Keith Moon. I said to her later, 'When I met you ten years ago I wanted to approach you, but now I really want to do a project with you. I have one on the table, and I want to do a blues album, how about you and me, drums and guitar? I have some old Supro and Silvertone guitars and amps. I want to get an old retro sound like the '50s.' She says, 'I'm in!' 
"So, I tell my manager, and he freaks out and says you can't do a White Stripes or a Black Keys, you'd be copying them, why don't you do a power trio? So I find a girl bass player who plays in a Toronto band called Ladies Of The Canyon, who I saw play at the Junos - it was like four chicks doing Crazy Horse. 
"Blazing country rock guitars, long hair, flannel shirts, ripped jeans, really smokin'! I liked the bass player, her name is Anna Ruddick, so I called her up and invited her to dinner with my manager, and I come to find out she has a degree in standup bass from McGill University in Montreal. I invited the two girls together, they'd never met - we have dinner one night, I say here's ten demos I've written, and I want you to listen to them briefly. 
"Kevin Shirley, who's one of the greatest producers now in the world, he's doing me a favor, taking some time out of his calendar - he's booked for the next two years, and he comes to Toronto for five days. We've got to record an album in five days, it's live off the floor. 
"I get the band together, I play my demos once or twice, we do tow or three takes before I record live guitar, bass, and drums. I tell them that in the songs to hang tight, but when it's the solos and the outros, they can do all the Keith Moon, John Entwistle, John Bonham, Jack Bruce stuff they want on bass and drums, and they absolutely blow me away!  
"I send an e-mail to Neil, who's canceling his gig in Tel Aviv, he's supposed to be doing a show there, but he's canceling.  
"I said, 'Neil, I've done what you told me to do, I've done a new album, and reinvented myself with two girls.' 
"He e-mails me back, 'I would like to be on this album.' 
"So, he's going to be jointing us on one of the new songs, Frampton's playing a cut, I have Joe Bonamassa on a couple of cuts, I've got Scott Holliday of Rival Sons, who are really good friends, and I've got Jeff Healey, the great Canadian blues legend - his wife is letting me use some tracks that he and I cut at Massey Hall in Toronto before his death. I took some riffs he played and laid them into a new song of mine - it's amazing, it's just flipping amazing!  
"The album is called Heavy Blues. Because that is what it is. when I first wanted to do a blues album, I was going to do like some Jimmy Reed, and things like that, but Kevin Shirley kept saying, 'It's already been done!' Every song I wanted to do, he'd say it had already been done. 
"He said, 'Write a new one - take the old Jimmy Reed, and make it heavier, we're going to call this Heavy Blues. 
"So it's almost like the music from the '60s, when it began being played heavier, and louder - it became heavy rock. I've taken these blues templates, like Bo Diddley, some Howlin' Wolf, re-did my own licks and riffs around them,  and created some new songs around them. 
"Kevin Shirley said to me, 'If I'm going to produce you, you have to promise me one thing. That you will do everything I say, you will not interfere, and you'll keep your mouth shut.'
I said, 'What do you mean?'  He said, 'When I made a deal with Joe Bonamassa to work with him, I said you have to trust my instincts. That you are not the all to end all - I am the all to end all for you, and I can get stuff out of you.' 
"So, when Joe Bonamassa said to Kevin, 'I'll trust you, I want you to produce me,' the first thing Kevin Shirley said was, 'Fire your band. Get a new band.' 
"So, when I gave Kevin Shirley the go ahead to produce me, he got better vocals and guitar playing, and better sound out of me than I could ever have gotten out of myself."

It would appear that old dogs do learn new tricks, and that's what keeps them at the front of the pack.

Red Zone Rider - A Great Beginning

Red Zone Rider's first album is a solid success - great playing, great singing, inspired songwriting, and much promise. It may even end up in my year end Top 10.

It's somewhat apropos that this album was produced by Northern California's original metal guru, Mike Varney for Magna Carta Records, because it brings to mind many memories of NorCal giants such as Montrose, early Journey, and Y&T. Soulful, bluesy hard rock can be found here in spades, and this album is a great combination of inspired writing and stellar performances. Kelly Keeling, Vinnie Moore, and Scot Coogan have collaborated to create an excellent first effort, and a fine platform from which to build - a super solid album that has even more promise in terms of what the future may hold.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mr. Big - ...Stories We Could Tell - The Band's Best Yet...

Mr. Big hits the nail right on the head with ...The Stories We Could Tell, the band's eighth studio outing, an album that stands proudly beside anything from their days as a platinum selling act, and might just be their best yet.

I'm not sure why, but the band sounds like they're a little hungrier on this record, and they've come out firing on all cylinders. Not that they ever fail to do yeoman like work, their last album, 2011's What If... was filled with great songs and performances, but the record sounded a bit rushed and more canned. You put on ...The Stories We Could Tell, and it sounds a lot like a band in a room looking to make things happen. Very direct, very hungry, and as always filled to the brim with great individual performances by four of rock's sharpest shooters.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ZZ Top + Jeff Beck = Guitar Nirvana

ZZ Top/Jeff Beck
The Mountain Winery
Saratoga, California
August 12, 2014

Jeff Beck started it, ZZ Top proved it, and then they consummated the marriage - the blues did have a baby, and they called it rock 'n' roll.

The sense of awe and joy was palpable in the arena. Whether it was Jeff Beck's great band smiling ear to ear at the gift of being onstage with their boss and hero, or Billy Gibbons looks of unabashed glee at having the legendarily nimble fingered Beck as his lead guitarist for his band's encores, or Beck looking incredibly proud of his young band, and also quite chuffed to be sharing the stage with classic rock's greatest 'lil old band from Texas, it was a perfect night of guitar driven rock 'n' roll.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Paul Gilbert - Stone Pushing Uphill Man - Fun, Fun, Fun

Thanks, Paul - your new record is seriously, seriously fun.

It sounds as if, in his never ending quest to marry melody with mind-blowing chops, Paul Gilbert has allowed us into the workstation of his mind. Stone Pushing Uphill Man is his new solo instrumental record, and it's filled with familiar tunes re-done Paul-style.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Randy Bachman - Vinyl Tap Tour - Every Song Tells A Story: Pure Canadian Gold

Randy Bachman is one of those guys we all know, whether we know him, or not. His guitar, voice, and songs have been heard by countless millions of rock 'n' roll fans for coming on 50 years. First, he wrote four million selling singles with The Guess Who, then he went on to win four Juno Awards and sell millions of records with the seventies concert favorites, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He's sold over 40 million records. He's been satirized by Homer Simpson, covered by Lenny Kravitz, and his surname was even adapted as a nom de plume by author Stephen King (Richard Bachman). Yeah, that Randy Bachman (pronounced Back-man).

If you don't know the name, you know the songs - American Woman, Takin' Care Of Business, These Eyes, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, No Sugar Tonight, Let It Ride, Laughing, and others are all etched in your musical memories, and Bachman has followed in the footsteps of such songwriting heavyweights as Ray Davies and Greg Lake to present his history in storyteller form with his new DVD/CD package, Vinyl Tap Tour - Every Song Tells A Story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Walter Trout - On The Mend! - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Jeff Katz
Today Walter Trout is on the mend, but it was not long ago that things were looking somewhat bleak for the blues rock legend. In less than a year Walter lost over a hundred pounds, his hard earned callouses, much of his physical strength, and very nearly his life, but he came back to win the race and acquire a new liver with which to fight the good fight of recuperation, which he is now doing.

In the interim he did what he's always done - he took care of business. He wrote and recorded a new album, The Blues Came Callin', co-wrote with Henry Yates a new biography, Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout, he's the subject of an in progress documentary film, and he has even managed to keep his longtime band on the road and working. He may not play a single gig this year, but he still has more than enough to keep someone quite busy, all while fighting a life threatening liver failure.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Calfornia Breed - Bonham Out, Joey Castillo In - Bonham: "I wasn't going to be bullied into touring"

Last Friday morning an ominous post showed up upon the official Facebook Page of California Breed - it stated that Joey Castillo would be appearing with the band for all announced dates.

Soon after, the band's website displayed two lineups, one with Joey Castille as the band's 'live' lineup drummer, and a second with Jason Bonham as the group's 'studio' drummer. However, by the end of the day it had unraveled, and it now appears that Bonham is clearly out, and Castillo is the new stickman for California Breed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dick Wagner Dead at 71 - Rest In Peace, My Friend....

I'm saddened today by the death of Dick Wagner - best known as the guitarist who co-wrote Only Women Bleed with shock rock king Alice Cooper, Wagner was one of the greatest unknown guitarists  of his era. He was 71.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ace Frehley - Space Invader: Ace Hits A Home Run With Quintessential New York Arena Rock

Ace Frehley - a guy with a point to prove, and boy has he proved it. Space Invader is the fun rock record of the Summer of 2014. Endless riffs, stinging solos that say 'Ace,' and maybe the best sound I've heard on a hard rock mix this year. The album could have easily been called Kiss This. It's the best album out of the KISS camp since the seventies.

Before I get into this album, I gotta say that this makes my mouth drool for what could have been. If only KISS had been able to play in their original iteration at the RRHoF, the band could have called it a day that night, and been revered for the next hundred years. Sober for over seven years, Frehley is playing better than ever, and it sounds like he's having a fantastic time while he's at it. Whatever the reasons, they sure weren't about musical abilities. We'll always be the less for this tremendous missed opportunity.

That Metal Show Presents: Anthrax, Living Colour, Corey Taylor - Gig Review - Thunder Valley Casino, Northern California

Frank Bello, Corey Glover, Scott Ian
Living Colour remains to this minute one of the greatest rock bands on God's green earth, and it says much about Anthrax that they were able follow Vernon Reid's bunch onto the stage and continue to blow folks away. Corey Taylor? Scott Ian's nu-metal pal showed that he's equally at home with an acoustic guitar and a microphone as he is fronting brutally hard rock.

Classic rock and metal are alive and well in the burgeoning world of gambling and gaming. Where once these genres filled arenas and theaters, time has marched on and many great bands and shows have been relegated to being draws for casinos. The downside is the fact that like it or not, time marches on and no great music stays in the mainstream forever - the upside is that these casinos have better sound, stages, lights, and facilities than their counterparts ever had, they keep these acts earning, and they provide a place for people to see some great entertainment by some very viable bands.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls - The Pride Of Metal

Judas Priest gives a shit. They show up, they suit up, and they bring it - 40 years later they are still delivering the goods. Redeemer Of Souls is a proud testament to a band that has never rested on its laurels, and while I hope it's not their last, if it were it would be a grand way in which to go.

There's a great set of bookends happening here - frontman of frontmen Rob Halford pours his soul into every moment in an effort to prove he is still the king, and he's joined by new kid on the block Richie Faulkner, who proves his mettle by faithfully filling the metal shoes of one of the genre's legends, the now departed K.K. Downing. As one man is approaching the end of a long and unquestionably brilliant career, another has appeared to carry the torch into the future. This is a passing on of a tremendous legacy, and both men have done their best, and it's damned glorious.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blues Pills - A Flippin' Fantastic Debut

Blues Pills have been simmering for a few years, and now with the release of their debut long player they have achieved a full boil. The nascent band of youngsters from Sweden consistently write and play beyond their years, and there's no weak links to be found - in fact, this goes straight into my top five for 2014 at this point.

No plodding blues rock to be found here, this is bluesy rock all right, but it swings and moves in a glorious manner that only makes singing sensation Elin Larsson and guitar star Dorian Sorriaux shine all the more. These two toss the spotlight back and forth like no duo in recent times, and when they riff together it's heaven. People tend to refer to new bands in old terms, and I'm OK with that, but this bunch would sound great in any era that I've lived through. Unquestionably, this is one of the most powerful debut releases in the last decade.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Recordings That Demand Your Attention by Greg Prato - A Great Reminder!

They say you should write what you know, and again and again, Greg Prato has done just that. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Classic Rock Magazine, and he's just released his twelfth book, Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Records That Demand Your Attention, a loving look at 354 undervalued albums that have left an indelible impression on the author's mind.

Greg has an very comfortable conversational manner of writing, electing to go for the direct approach, as opposed to the pseudo-intellectual, 'I'm so clever and erudite' path that so many scribes choose to meander down. This is a fun, entertaining, and educational read that will well serve those who just want good information and a little direction.

Monday, July 7, 2014

America, Meet Danny Bryant - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Marco van Rooijen
Danny Bryant is a very special, exciting, and exceptional musician, but his longtime relationship with blues legend Walter Trout may be even more special. In their relationship there are lessons in life itself.

Talk about your Cinderella stories - just months ago, things seemed pretty bleak in the tale of Danny Bryant and his mentor and friend, Walter Trout. The pair have been friends for twenty years, and they had hoped to tour America together in 2014, but Walter Trout's liver had other ideas, and the blues guitar legend found himself in an induced coma as his body waited on the possibility of a donor organ being found before his old liver completely surrendered. Touring wasn't even on the menu as Trout's mortal coil seemed in peril.

Well, the world wasn't quite through with Walter Trout, and Walter Trout certainly isn't through with this world. The circumstances have turned around very nicely - a donor liver was found, fans, friends and family have contributed over $240,000 to help defray the tremendous financial burdens, the surgery was a success, Walter is on the road to recovery, and now British guitar wiz Danny Bryant is coming to America for the first time to headline a month of shows fronting Walter's longtime band, and it would seem that from the ashes of what could have been a sad ending there has risen a new day's dawn.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shell Shocked - Howard Kaylan - It's A Turtle's Life

There's a lot to be saying for being the last guy standing. This theory is put paid by Howard Kaylan's incredibly entertaining memoir, Shell Shocked. It would appear that Turtles don't move fast, but they are in for the duration.

Jim Hendrix, John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Frank Zappa, Harry Nilsson, and many other friends and associates of Kaylan's may have left us too soon, but the voice of Happy Together is still here and going strong, and we are the beneficiaries. Shell Shocked joins autobiographical treatments by such classic rockers as guitar legend Dick Wagner, and Humble Pie's Jerry Shirley as books by names you might not know, but who all helped write the book we call the history of rock 'n' roll.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bobby Womack - Rest In Peace, Brother....A Brief Remembrance

As always, it began innocently enough. We were working behind the counter at the Guitar Center in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. We had just moved the store into its new mega-location from the low rent ghetto of a store I hired into, and we were getting ready for our grand opening.

I had gone off to the warehouse to count some stock, and when I returned one of my co-workers, a GIT student with silver blonde hair that was stacked to the moon and frozen in place with simple syrup was arguing with a gentleman over some pricing on a few guitar effects pedals. The man said that they were just some toys for his 'git-ar.'

Sunburst - How The Gibson Les Paul Became A Legendary Guitar - Tony Bacon

Sunburst is definitely a book to own, but it makes me pine for something more. If you've been interested in guitars for more than ten minutes, I'm sure you are familiar with Tony Bacon's works, and this is more of the same. Essential, but not exceptional. If I sound like I'm of two minds here, I most definitely am. Please read on....

Bacon is nothing if not consistent - his books are unerringly accurate, and he knows how to layout a story, but they also lend themselves to a 'just the facts, ma'am,' conclusion. He is an aggregator - there's not much here that will be revelatory, but it's a great primer and one that should be on every guitar buff's book shelf. The stories are all here, they're all accurate, and there's enough technical information in his Reference List to make this essential material for every guitar shop.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Philip Sayce - Influence - His Best Yet - The Kid Ain't Going Down, Ain't Going Away

Influence is the best record of Philip Sayce's career, edging out even last season's impeccably rocking Steamroller. Putting paid the notion that you can keep a good man down, Sayce may not have gotten the breaks with his last outing, but he's kept his nose to the grindstone, and he's combined with his producer and friend Dave Cobb to make yet another brilliant record.

Half covers/half original tunes penned by Sayce and Cobb (who also adds tasteful bass to the tracks), Influence is a brilliant production - it's sonically sensational, the arrangements are just that, and when they went to the library they scoured the shelves for rare nuggets and eschewed the temptation to rest on other hit maker's laurels. If this album doesn't make Sayce a star I'll eat my hat.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

David Grissom - Living The Guitar Life - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Matthew Sturtevant
"It was a long process, and I was very adamant that I had the opportunity to use it in the studio, and a lot of gigs to make sure it worked equally well in each situation, because I think if you spend that much money on an amplifier, it ought to be useful live, and in the studio, and that has not always been the case with amps in the past." ~ David Grissom on his signature series PRS amplifiers 
David Grissom truly lives the guitar life. He's played with Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, The Dixie Chicks, sessioned for the likes of Ringo Starr, Robben Ford, Chris Isaak, written hits for Trish Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack and others. He also has a solid solo career with four long players under his belt, including his latest, the excellent, How It Feels To Fly, which is a must hear that includes a half hour live set from his residency at Austin's legendary Saxon Pub, that includes a fabulous cover of ZZ Top's Funky Dogs And Nasty Kings, and a wickedly cool nine minute workout of the Allman Brothers' Jessica - oh yeah, did I mention he once subbed for Dickey Betts with the brothers?

As if that wasn't enough he's also designer of top flight gear in conjunction with Paul Reed Smith Guitars and Amps, doing almost ground-up work on his signature series DGT guitars, and the new DG Custom 30 and 50 watt powerhouse amps. He'll claim to not be a very technical guy, but by the time you're through reading you'll have a fine appreciation for his attention to the smallest details, and his innate ability to know what he wants to feel and hear from his equipment onstage, and in the studio. I've seen too many signature model instruments that just had a different finish and the star's name emblazoned upon them - it's refreshing to learn so much from someone who took the time to really make his signature models something very special.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Dagger - Death Metallers Go Back To A Melodic Metal Place In Time

The Dagger is a side project that appears to be becoming much more than that for this group of Swedish death metal all stars. They've been writing together for several years, all the while looking for the right voice to present their thoughtful reflection on the sounds of classic '80s metal, and in Jani Kataja, they've obviously found the right guy.

Their self titled long player is a great listen, and I hope they've only begun. Guitarist David Blomqvist is a stunner, and he worships at the alter of Blackmore, Roth, and Murray, and his riff writing is top notch, especially when one takes into consideration just how tough it is to write in a genre which has been on tap for over 30 years. Sure, he completely apes the guitar/keyboard solo from a Rainbow classic on their very first track, but it's old enough so that only a few of us dinosaurs will recollect it, and some kids will hear a ripping good musical interlude.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Who - Quadrophenia - Live In London - Bloody Brilliant

Who'd have thunk? Bloody brilliant. Not feral, as The Who once was, but stunningly beautiful. Daltrey is on fire, and this is the perfect document for the greatness of Peter Townshend's right hand. Holy shit good....If you ever dug The Who, even for a moment, buy this.

I love having my mind blown. Especially when I don't expect it. I had recently been sent a trailer type clip which impressed me tremendously, but I was still unprepared for the sheer breadth of this document. This past month started off well enough with the release of the new Zeppelin remasters/nuggets collection, and this is just icing on the cake. It's most telling that two of rock's original wonders are putting out the most exciting and vibrant packages that are crossing my desk. If you're one of the twelve people who have never figured out the genius of Pete Townshend and The Who, I implore you to check this one out.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kadavar - Live In Antwerp - You'll Want This One

Live In Antwerp
Nuclear Blast Records

Kadavar serves themselves well with the excellent live set, and set the stag for where this German band of rockers goes next.

As I often do, when confronted with a newer band's offerings that suggest a strong connection to rock's long distance past, I'll A/B them next to the actual artifacts of the past to see how they stand up. I put Kadavar's latest, Live In Antwerp, up next to The Who's Live At Leeds, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath, and I think it makes the case for rock being quite alive and well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Scott Gorham - Still Proving It - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

 "I think we kind of have a point to prove here. We want to get away from the twelve day thing, just to see what we can do given the chance to go in and make a proper album - the way we were used to making albums, right?" ~ Scott Gorham on recording the next Black Star Riders album in the Fall with Def Leppard's Joe Elliott
At a very young 63 years old, Scott Gorham still has things to prove. While many of his contemporaries have decided to pack in making records, and doing anything but greatest hits shows on the road, this California native is in for all intents and purposes new band, writing songs for a new album, and touring America under a brand new banner.

Friday, May 30, 2014

California Breed - The Father, The Son, The Holy Ghost - Rock Ain't Near Dead....

Rock 'N' Roll is alive and well. I went to the mountain, got the sermon, and I am here to spread the gospel. I saw the history of British rock played out with an American twist as Glenn Hughes returned victoriously to the stage of the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood after a 44 year absence, and he brought with him, Jason Bonham, the son of the greatest hard rock drummer in history, who is currently state of the art at his art, and they brought with them the new messiah of rock, 23 year old wunderkind Andrew Watt, who played and looked the part of the second coming of the rock star circa 2014. They tore the joint up, and love was in the air.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Last Hombres - Odd Fellows Rest - Levon Helm Sure Had Good Taste

The Last Hombres were the only band Levon Helm ever joined as a member after the end of The Band, and that speaks volumes. The band also worked with Rick Danko, but the fact that they were revered by key members of maybe the best roots music ensemble ever is just my way of drawing you in - what's germane is the band's excellent new record, Odd Fellows Rest, which you will thank me for pointing out later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie - A Good Band Gets Great

Rival Sons continue to mine gold on Great Western Valkyrie, their fifth long player with producer Dave Cobb, making meaningful rock in the heart of a country music wasteland called Nashville.

To review this record, I attempted to time travel in my mind, back to 1970, where I imagine placing Rival Sons right in the middle of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Free, to see how they would have fared. These seem to be the points I see struck by most writers, so I figure those are the glasses I'll put on to look into the distant past to see how the present stands up.

Monday, May 19, 2014

PGP 2 - Pinnick Gales Pridgen Do It Again, and Even More Brilliantly

PGP 2 finds Pinnick Gales Pridgen back again, and perhaps they've not only beaten the sophomore jinx, maybe they've beaten even their superb first effort.

In a time in which many are saying that even to consider making an album is a misguided move fraught with danger, dUg Pinnick puts out four records that stand proudly beside anything in his catalogue. People say the guitar is a tired and dying instrument, but somehow Eric Gales makes music sound undiscovered and beautiful every time he picks up his axe. Drums have been a thing of the past ever since rap raised its head, yet Thomas Pridgen remains inventive and vital in a host of various genres and bands. Rock Ain't Near Dead - and it was never proven with more aplomb than on PGP 2, the second effort by Pinnick Gales Pridgen. The Left Hand Gang is back, and they are bad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joe Satriani - Strange Beautiful Music, and The Complete Studio Collection

Joe Satriani sails into summer with a great package that should satisfy both the loyal and the neophyte Satch fan. Whether you've been there since the first EP like I have, or you're just getting into the realm of shred's smartest head, this package is all you'll need until Joe returns to the studio. The book is an encyclopedic look at Joe Satriani's catalogue by the master himself, and The Complete Studio Collection, re-mastered in 24-bit/96kHz High Resolution-Audio by longtime Satriani studio partner John Cuniberti and overseen by Joe himself, speaks for itself - even the less than expected mp3 files that Sony sees fit to dump on reviewers they obviously have less than love for sound great (more on that later).

Black Star Riders - Harlow's, Sacramento, California - Scott Gorham Proves His Point

Scott Gorham has a point to prove, and he's proving it. And, he just might be the best rhythm guitar player in the world on any stage, on any given night.

It's a small club, and the stage is smaller yet. The band has half their gear onstage, their soundman is not their own, and it's a Monday night crowd. This could discourage a lesser band, but Black Star Riders performed as if it was the biggest arena in the world and this was the only audience that ever mattered. I've not often seen a band so intent, so committed to their performance - Black Star Riders came and conquered.

Monday, May 12, 2014

California Breed - Zen and the Art of Glenn Hughes

Glenn Hughes is excited about California Breed. Glenn Hughes is very excited about California Breed.

Coming on the heels of the musically successful, but born to lose Black Country Communion, his new band is set to launch their debut album and their inaugural shows, and his excitement is well deserved. In the face of the possibility of restarting the failed supergroup, he looked away from an incredible A-list of world class guitarists offering to be the next in line, and instead took the road less traveled with a virtually unknown kid, the 23 year old Andrew Watt. The results are spectacular - this band sounds dangerous.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Motorhead and Graveyard Rock The Warfield Theater: Lemmy Takes The Day

Lemmy Kilminster led his team to the battlefield once more, and rode away victorious. Long live Lemmy.

The sold-out crowd at San Francisco's Warfield Theater is an experienced, well-dressed rock audience. Everyone here is here for the music, the sights, the sounds, and the lights, and they too walk away victorious. No one knew exactly what to expect from Motorhead, what with their hard living leader reported to be unwell, and having many unfortunate cancellations behind them from the last year. What we got was an amazing performance from start to finish, and a reaffirmation of all that's right with rock.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dewa Budjana - Surya Namaskar - The Future Of Fusion In 2014

Surya Namaskar is destined to be a fusion classic. Dewa Budjana brings together tremendous guitar playing skills and equally impressive talent as a composer - add two fusion superstars (Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Johnson) to the mix, throw in mix master Robert Feist (he engineered Allan Holdsworth's greatest records), and you have the perfect ingredients for success, and succeed this troop has.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nita Strauss - Much More Than A Maiden - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Nita Strauss has been a figure on the West Coast guitar scene for years - when not channeling Dave Murray's sound, style, and licks onstage with The Iron Maidens, she might be found recording rocking classical renditions of various video games with Critical Hit, or maybe even on the road playing some hard funk with Jermaine Jackson. She is definitely not one to let grass grow under her feet - she even finds time to work with her co-guitarist and longtime friend/roommate Courtney Cox in not just the Maidens, but also Lorraine Lewis's reformed Femme Fatale who hit the waves between March 29-April 2 for the incredible (and sold out) Monsters of Rock Cruise, in which they'll be showing off both FF, and The Maidens.

Monday, March 17, 2014

California Breed - Well Worth The Wait, This Is A Brand New Breed - Review

Rock Ain't Near Dead - that's been my mantra for a while, and I am now more convinced than ever. California Breed is a fantastic album by a fantastic band. It's new breed, if you will - it doesn't sound like Deep Purple, Black Country Communion, or anything that preceded it. Hughes and Bonham have done some of their best work yet, and the avenue of guitar heroes has a new kid on the block in Andrew Watt.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Buffalo Killers - Heavy Reverie - Radio Ready, Willing, and Able

Buffalo Killers are back with Heavy Reverie, and they're going for the throat with a record that should situate the band for full throttle rock stardom. They've brought along a new label (Sun Pedal Recordings - Warner Music Group), a new producer (the legendary Jim Wirt), and hell, they even mixed it on the Neve console that gave birth to Michael Jackson's Thriller demos.

Friday, March 7, 2014

KXM - Supergroup? Hell Yes.

Korn + King's X + Lynch Mob = KXM = synergy.
syn-er-gy: noun 1. the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts.
In my old age, I'm learning to not be too quick to judge, to not shoot from the hip without looking closely at what I'm shooting. And in this case, that concept has served me very well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nalle Colt - Vintage Trouble - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Neil Kitson
Vintage Trouble is perhaps the world's biggest unsigned act, and that's no mistake. From day one they've done things their own way, and it worked like a charm for the hard working four piece from Los Angeles. Having played for millions of fans over the last few years to taking over the late night airwaves, the band has played their cards to perfection. Now, it's time for all that to change.

Nalle Colt is the band's guitarist, and writer of some of the sharpest dressed rock to find its way into the public consciousness in ages. He explained to me recently how the band's hard work, and the guidance of maybe the best management team on the planet (McGhee Entertainment) has led them to their next chapter and their second album, and perhaps a date with the unlikely, but incredibly impressive pairing of Jack White and Don Was. Nalle also told me how he came to the Les Paul, Revival Amps, and he delivered a great message on the power of hard work and gratitude.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Philip Morgan Lewis - The Whistleblower - A Timely Tale and Video

Philip Morgan Lewis returns with a new single, The Whistleblower, and it is already getting serious airplay here in the States, and in his UK homeland. The message is certainly one that many are thinking these days, in which the good guys have been put on the run by the powers that be.

Lewis is a regular one man band, playing everything here with the exception of Clive "B" Smart's excellent as always slide guitars, and some nice background vocals by Little A and VICK E. Lewis produced the record, played the instruments, and produced and edited the video. And, that's him on the skateboard in the video!

I was big on Morgan Lewis' Karma Comedown EP last year, and it appears there's no slowing down now. Karma Comedown received great press and airplay last year, and it seems that his bold, bluesy style has caught more than a few ears.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jon Herington - Much More Than Just Steely Dan's 'Go To' Guitarist - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"I found out that one of the most amazing opportunities anyone can have in a musical career is this repeat chance, years and years in a row, again and again, to play the same music with a top notch band. Music with room to improvise, and to play it at high stakes, where an audience is expecting a high caliber of musicianship night after night, year after year. It's amazing what you can accumulate over the years if you are working consciously to get better at it." ~ Jon Herington on touring with Steely Dan

Jon Herington is certainly best known for being a guitarist for Steely Dan, and various Dan related solo projects and off-shoot bands for nigh on fifteen years, but he's also led his own band for over twenty years and five albums, including a record (2012's Time On My Hands) that Vintage Guitar Magazine called, 'One of the best albums of the year, but of the past decade,' and rightfully so.

Monday, February 24, 2014

KISS - Opportunity Missed?

I'm jumping on the bandwagon on this one, something I rarely do, but I may as well say my piece. The fact that KISS is not playing their own induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with the original lineup is a crime against their fans, and a great opportunity missed.

George Lynch - A Good Effort But A Too Tame Mob in Sacramento

Keith St. John saved the night. A last minute addition to Lynch's mob, St. John stepped in and did a great job in an otherwise extremely lackluster night at The Boardwalk in Sacramento.

In what seems to have become a recurring theme George Lynch again found himself without a lead singer on the eve of a tour. Whether Tad Gonzales walked, or was shown the door, no one seems to know, but regardless of the details, it certainly doesn't look good, and it doesn't make for great rock and roll. It wasn't that long ago that original Lynch Mob vocalist Oni Logan bailed on the band just hours before a flight, and had to be replaced by LA veteran Chaz West. It begs a few questions, but first, some praise for Keith St. John.