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.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Toto - XIV - Still Playing For Keeps

Toto XIV is yet another excellent album from Toto. They're the same hard to classify act that has been putting out their sophisticated blend of progressive pop, rock, and jazz since the late seventies, and they continue to grow as purveyors of smart music for the masses.

The set opening 'Running Out Of Time' would have been a big MTV hit - it's got great guitar playing, a rumbling rhythm section with killer drumming, and a fine melody being sung by a great vocalist. Well, it won't be a hit today for the simple reason that there is not a place for it to be a hit. There's no real avenue for this middle aged band to get the attention they so richly deserve, but I think that art is to a degree its own reward, and on that count Toto, a band that's no stranger to the fickle mysteries of pop success, have been beating the odds since day one.

This latest iteration of the band sees the return of bassist David Hungate, a new drummer in Keith Carlock (Steely Dan), vocalist Joseph Williams, and original members Steve Lukather, David Paich, and Steve Porcaro. They are still the same tireless workers who spend endless hours in the studio honing their craft - you know what and who you are listening to the minute the needle hits the grooves, and they are as fearless and adventurous as they've ever been. There's no resting on laurels, or reaching back to recreate formulas - this is a much more politically topical, and mature bunch than the band that topped the charts in the early '80s.

Damon Johnson - Paying It Forward With Black Star Riders - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"I will argue until somebody puts me in a pine box that there are not two people on this planet with more respect and more humility about an opportunity like this than Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson. There's just not. 
"We have a commitment to that that we bring every time we sit down to write a song, write a riff, write a lyric, working on harmony parts, whatever it is - there is no way we would ever do something consciously to tarnish that legacy and that name." Damon Johnson on the legacy of Thin Lizzy.

Damon Johnson takes his job very seriously. Not that he doesn't have a great time writing songs and performing them with Black Star Riders, he definitely does, but he's also fiercely proud and protective of all that that means. It's a band that rose from the remnants of the legendary Thin Lizzy, and in spite of many world tours, and now two great albums under the new name, there may still be those who cannot make the leap from the past to the present, but Johnson more than understands it, he even manages to be humbly appreciative of the feelings of those with whom he may not see eye to eye.

(Listen along on Soundcloud!)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock - Spirit On A Mission - Schenker Is Primed For A Return To The Top

Michael Schenker is playing as well as ever - his re-emergence is still heading up that hill, and every indication is that he's ready for another run at the upper bracket. Spirit On A Mission is the latest chapter of his return to rock 'n' roll grace, and the man is truly inspiring. In a world that's way too short of current guitar heroes, Michael and George Lynch seem to be the current kings of 'can do no wrong'.

Spirit On A Mission is an album ripe with juicy, new guitar riffs - I often say that the hardest job in rock is reinventing the wheel called the riff, and Michael is still finding new ways to revivify the form. It's shame that this is not one of the better examples I have heard of an album capturing his signature guitar tones. Great writing, great playing, and great performances abound, but disappointing production haunts this album. Perhaps having your entire of arsenal of guitars and a half finished album stolen was just too much to overcome, but there is a bunch of fantastic playing that I am hearing on this album that sounds like it's been covered with a wet blanket. It's time to up the ante and get a better support team in - the music deserves better than it's been getting.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

California Breed Has Gone The Way Of Black Country Communion

After a great first album, the departure of a superstar drummer, and very little touring, California Breed is extinct. Guitarist/singer, and songwriter Andrew Watt posted this statement on the band's Facebook page:

"To the California Breed fans here...I put everything I had into this band...all I can say is I was in it for the long hall...I have a lot of new music for you guys...going to be announcing my plans soon...I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you supporting us, buying our music, coming to our shows...this is not the is truly the beginning...cannot wait to continue the quest to bring rock n roll back to the people that are hungry for it...what an amazing learning experience for me here and introduction to an amazing world of people and fans that share love for the same thing."
Andrew Watt

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Dictators NYC - Better Than Ever, And They Were Already The Kings of New York

The Dictators NYC
The Blue Lamp, Sacramento, California, USA
January 13, 2015

I'm still reeling. It's that great feeling you get when you wake up feeling like you got hit by a train, but you liked it.

The Dictators NYC might just be the best live lineup that this long running legendary band has yet presented. Frontman Dick Manitoba, guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman, and stickman JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson have kept this hard rock juggernaught alive through thick and thin, and they are just now hitting their peak. That's a lot to ask of the band that may have arguably and unintentionally invented punk rock way back in 1973, but they are more than up for the task, and they have added some incredible firepower in the guise of legendary New York producer/guitarist Daniel Rey (The Ramones, and too many others to mention), and another longtime NYC record producer, Dean Rispler on bass - this band is the daisy cutter of rock 'n roll. What they are is one of the absolutely best rock bands on the planet.

We gathered in the backroom of The Blue Lamp in Sacramento, California using the ice machine's motor for a room heater, and wondered what kind of crowd would turn up on a deserted downtown street corner on a Tuesday evening in January, but by showtime there were several hundred of the faithful gathered and ready to rock. And rock they did - this was one of the best, most inspiring shows I've seen, and I've been seeing shows for over forty years now.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct - It's Gonna Be Hard To Beat This One

Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct
Nuclear Blast Records
February 20, 2015

Black Star Riders are back, and they are bad. The band soundly defeats the sophomore jinx by beating their impressive 2013 debut with their new album, The Killer Instinct.

The blood of Thin Lizzy still runs through the veins of this outfit, but they are now very much their own band with their own sound that cozies up to the legacy quite nicely. This record sounds more sure of itself than its predecessor, and I think that's down to touring under their own name, growing together as writers and a band, and a big nod goes to producer Nick Raskulinecz, who has captured a much, much more organic sound than was found on their debut.

Pat Travers Band - Live At The Iridium NYC - Kicking As Hard As Ever

Pat Travers Band
Live At The Iridium NYC
Frontiers Records srl
January 23, 2015

Pat Travers has always realized the importance of having a great band. He still does, and Travers and company are hitting it hard, and on the mark with their new Live At The Iridium NYC set. As seventies guitar heroes go, Pat is still delivering the goods in spades. Coming off a very strong studio release (Can Do), the man and his band are on fire and still kicking ass. This is definitely not an oldies act.

Travers' trademark tone is largely unchanged and his love for the heavier groove is still in tact, and that's a beautiful thing. He never mails it in, or rests on staid pentatonic licks, he's still one of the sleeker models of his era, and he keeps himself in check by having a very hot handed co-guitarist in the band in Kirk McKim, who supplies great twin leads with the man, and some stunningly good rhythm work - when either player takes a solo, the other guy is digging in and pushing it all further down the road.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cracker & Camper Van Beethoven - True Grit In Frisco - Gig Report

What a great way to end 2014. There's so much to tell about this show that I'm almost at a loss as to where to begin....

Let's start with the music - that is, after all, why we were all there. This is the tenth annual Christmas thru New Years jaunt through California for this tour, and the capacity crowd at The Independent in San Francisco stated quite loudly that they got it right. Both bands played headline length sets with Cracker opening the show, Camper Van Beethoven closing, then Cracker coming back for a show ending encore, and both put on shows that clearly defined why both are so revered, respected.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

James Williamson - Re-Licked - Blazing Some Past Masters (The Great Lost Stooge's Album?)

While on a break from touring this year, the members of the live touring version of The Stooges (James Williamson, Steve McKay, Mike Watt, and drummer Toby Dammit) got together and recorded songs that were originally penned by Iggy Pop and James Williamson in 1973/74 as the follow up to their quintessential album Raw Power. While a number of these tracks have found their way onto inferior sounding bootlegs and unofficial releases over the years, they are never properly recorded since the band didn't have a recording deal at the time. ~ James Williamson's .com

Iggy demurred, so James went ahead and did it - people have long clamored to hear what was left over from the demise of punk rock's original legends, so we are the joyful recipients of what may have been, and it's a great trip.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paul Raymond - 50 Years On The Boards - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview (Part I)

Paul Raymond is celebrating his golden anniversary as a professional musician, and to do so he's got a brand new career retrospective solo album, Rewind 50, another new UFO album (A Conspiracy of Stars), and tours scheduled with both bands leading well into 2015.

After fifty years on the boards, Raymond shows no signs of slowing down, and in fact, he's playing as well as ever, his singing voice has actually gotten stronger as the years have gone passing by, and he's looking great as he begins his second half century.

I caught up with Paul to discuss Rewind 50, and to catch up with the big end to 2014, so we agreed to stick with the new, and to then pick up this conversation again after the first of the year, at which time we'll focus on his long history with the legendary UFO, MSG, and the many legends attached to those classic rock institutions.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Paul Raymond - Rewind 50 - A Loving Look Back

Paul Raymond has been supplying rock with style, class, and sophistication for nigh on fifty years, and with Rewind 50 he takes a loving look back on what he's delivered. It's a tasty take on a lot of great music that is a great joy to hear.

There are a few classics on tap that you'll know, but there's also a lot of chestnuts that will fill in some blanks, and some that will even further enlighten you to his great career with such rock stalwarts as UFO, MSG, Waysted, Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, and even a never before heard Terry Reid song which is worth the price of admission alone for any true lover of rock.

The best parts of this record are the quality of the songwriting, and Raymond's gruff but soulfully sweet vocals. You can hear remnants of forty years next to Phil Mogg, and there's a large dose of classic British soul lurking in his smokey smooth voice. He's joined by some of the same mates that helped him record 2012's excellent Terms & Conditions album (See review here), and they provide more than competent support. This is one of 2014's more pleasant surprises.

Brian May's Red Special - A Fabulous Book For Every Guitar Fan

Brian May's Red Special: The Story Of The Home-Made Guitar That Rocked Queen And The World is unquestionably the guitar book of the year.

Who knew that Brian May and his father actually built a custom winding machine with which to construct the pickups (later replaced with Burns Tri-Sonics) for the famed Red Special? Or that Brian actually let co-author Simon Bradley, and his longtime guitar technician and right hand man Pete Malandrone dismantle the Red Special for the purpose of photographing and documenting details for this spectacular book?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Revolution Saints - Melodic Power Trio Supreme

Supergroup power trios are becoming increasingly common, and to my ears these combinations are making some of the best records I'm hearing - now we have Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Doug Aldrich (ex-Whitesnake), and Journey's Deen Castronova on drums and fabulous lead vocals gathering under the aegis of Frontiers Records as the Revolution Saints. They've made a great record, but in order to take it beyond sales that will occur between now and Christmas they will have to take it to the streets.

Revolution Saints attack with extreme ferocity, I'll give them that. To a degree, this is Deen Castronova's record - mind you Aldrich, and Blades are right there with him, but after singing a few songs on Neal Schon's So U album earlier this year, he's stepped up to take on a full album as not just a great drummer, but also as an equally adept vocalist. He's good enough to sing for any melodic rock band on the planet, and here he's going for the throat.

If you dig melodic hard rock bands in the vein of Journey, and Night Ranger, but you wish they'd turn the rock up just a bit, this will be just the band and the record for you. Everyone has brought their 'A' game, the instrumentation hits as hard as the vocals, and at the end of the day we have a surefire winner.

Revolution Saints - OK, you've made a great record, now go out and play it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cracker - Berkeley to Bakersfield - Where Gold Can Still Be Found

Cracker has never sounded better, cooler, more vital - or more important. In a time in which many acts weigh the option of recording new material at all, Cracker releases a double album featuring two sides of the band that stands proudly next to anything in their catalog. Disc one presents the band's rock roots, disc two is a Cracker twist on country music, but it's all just Cracker soul.

Cracker soul - I caught a case way back in '92. It came when I saw that Jim Keltner had played on a few tracks on a band's first album, so I figured that if one of the world's great drummers saw fit, it was probably something I should check out. Sure enough, it was a sublime stew of rock, roots, country, and yes, their own inimitable Cracker soul. This double disc package is chock full of it. Get some.

Monday, November 24, 2014

AC/DC: Rock Or Bust Streaming Now On iTunes - And It Sounds Damned Good

AC/DC may be going through it, but it sounds like it's all worth the wait. Rock Or Bust is streaming now for free on iTunes (

"With their high voltage guitar power and rowdy, hard partying anthems, AC/DC has carved out a legacy as one of the most ferocious bands in rock history. The group's 15th studio album, Rock Or Bust, roars to life with the forceful title track before blasting through a set that includes the scorching single, 'Play Ball.' The album also marks the debut of rhythm guitarist Stevie Young - the nephew of founding members Malcolm and Angus Young." - iTunes

This thing sounds great - Angus is on fire, Brian Johnson is full of anthems, the drums sound like a healthy Phil Rudd, and new boy Stevie is perfect, not like a clone of Malcolm, but just different enough to be a damned good replacement. The band has been through travails after travail on the lead up to roll out, but it sounds unstoppable to my ears - the best studio work from this bunch since too, too long. This could have followed up any of their eighties classics, and been a winner.

Expected release date is December 2, 2014, but of course, you can pre-order at iTunes now. Listen for free - buy to support the future of rock 'n' roll.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Glyn Johns: Sound Man - Sonic Sound Bites That Make You Want More

Glyn Johns: Sound Man is the autobiography of famed record producer/engineer Glyn Johns, and it's a must read for anyone who loves classic rock 'n' roll. Johns' resumé includes the biggest acts in rock history - The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Class, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and a legion of others, and he spreads them all out across the whole of this well written book.

You can tell by the way that Johns has laid out his history that he's no stranger to putting together lengthy, complex projects, and as I said, this is an absolute must read, but I do wish that he had hired as demanding an editor as he is known for being as a record maker. While there's hardly a dull moment, and what's there is concise, accurate, and well written, the only problem I have with the book is what it leaves out in its all too brief 286 pages.

Judas Priest - Still Heavy Metal's Best Show - San Jose, California November 16th, 2014

Judas Priest are currently on fire. Just a few years ago, they were said to be on their last legs, but then they went and hired guitarist Richie Faulkner to replace the departed K.K. Downing, and their Epitaph tour turned for an initial eight shows into 119, a brilliant new album (Redeemer Of Souls), and what appears to be becoming another huge tour. Never count out Judas Priest - they are still delivering the goods in a most satisfactory fashion.

Rob Halford has been fronting Judas Priest for a great many decades - how Halford goes, so goes the Priest, and he's in great shape these days. Sprinkling new cuts from the new album throughout the set, he delivers them with much aplomb, and they fit perfectly alongside the classics in the band's set list. Halford is one of those guys who has chosen to take care of his instrument - he might not hit every high note that he could once claim as his own, but he knows exactly what he can hit, and he knows well what notes to sing in their stead. He's as masterful a frontman as has ever trod the stage, and he may just be the greatest lead singer in the history of heavy metal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lynch Mob - Burning Sky Makes The Case

I had a few great conversations earlier this year with singer Oni Logan about the direction of his career. We discussed collaborations with guitarists, possible band lineups, this, that, and the other, and I think that the real fruit of these discussions can now be heard with the announcement that Oni and longtime collaborator George Lynch are again seeing eye to eye, and that Lynch Mob is riding once again.

It turns out that Logan already had a very ideal band situation with Lynch Mob, and of all the possibilities, this reformation made the most sense. Lynch has been on fire creatively for some time, but for all the brilliant side projects he's scored with over the last year, his own Lynch Mob franchise was going sideways with constant lineup changes and instability. Logan has been working regularly with the Dio Disciples, but his talents lend themselves to much more than a tribute band (even though the Disciples do a fantastic job as a tribute band). His voice is actually getting better and he's phrasing better than ever - this is a guy whose best work is yet to come.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Foreigner: The Best Of 4 & More - Delivering The Goods

A few months back I had written about how I thought that the current iteration of Foreigner, in spite of retaining only one original member (songwriter/guitarist Mick Jones), ranked as the finest lineup to ever sail under that name. Now there is convenient evidence that can be found to support my supposition with in the soon to be released 'Foreigner: The Best Of 4 & More', a live album recorded just last month in Atlantic City that includes the majority of the band's biggest ever album, 4 which contained more hits than misses, and some of the band's biggest hits.

If you never liked Foreigner this isn't going to change anything. If you already love the band, you don't need convincing, but if you're like me, and you thought the band never lived up to the promise of their hits as a live band, and you need some convincing, this is all the proof you need. If you liked Foreigner's hits, this might be the best record they've ever made. These songs have never sounded better in a live setting.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Johnny Hickman - Live In The Living Room - Granite Bay, California

Johnny Hickman came, and boy did he conquer.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time it was quite like this. Not a single cell phone video. No cell phone photos. Everyone in the room singing along with many of the songs. Nothing but a room full of friends enjoying a night of great live music. This was the good old days.

House concerts are somewhat the rage, and while I've seen a few excellent examples (Gladgirl Shelly's house shows in Dayton, Ohio come to mind), Johnny Hickman's show in Granite Bay, California took the prize. The only solo show I can even compare it to from personal experience was seeing Dave Edmunds one spectacular evening down in Austin, Texas about a dozen years ago, and I have to say even that now resides in second place.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

VHF - Very High Frequency - Much More Than Meets The Eye

VHF is the brainchild of drummer T. Vinny Vinciguerra (the T is for Todd) - at first glance you could be thinking this to be just another bloated, instrumental shred-fest, but in reality you'd be dead wrong, very much off the mark, and maybe you'd miss one of the coolest little side trips of 2014.

I know what you probably thought, so let's get that 800 pound gorilla out of the corner and into the center of the room. You may have thought that an ambitious drummer went out and bought up some high level, high priced talent and indulged his rock 'n' roll fantasy - to a degree you'd be right, and beyond criticism for seeing what appears to be apparent, but then when you find out what's really happening, things are what they seem, but aren't at all what you'd expect.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Steve Hunter - Tone Poems Live - Lyrics Need Not Apply

Steve Hunter is a legend amongst us guitarists, and has been since the mid-seventies for most of us. You could be excused for not knowing that until Hunter came in with the loping, bubbling, gently cascading riff that is the melody of Peter Gabriel's first solo commercial breakthrough hit Solsbury Hill, that it was a tune that was about to be left off an album. Or, that when Aerosmith's homegrown guitarists couldn't or wouldn't, in came Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, and they became the light that lit up FM radio with brilliant and fiery leads that left the band's fans wondering what happened when they couldn't recreate the guitar magic that made Train Kept A Rollin' such a staple of its time.

Yes, you could be excused for not knowing that Hunter's stinging sweet guitar playing and his creative compositional skills created the famed intro that placed Lou Reed high on the charts with a suddenly sensational live version of Sweet Jane, a song that had long lived in rock's most perplexing poet's catalog until Hunter's first famed tone poem lifted Lou's lines above the din. He was there with Alice Cooper for some of his biggest records and tours, as well, but you could be excused for not knowing this.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Eric Gales - Good For Sumthin' - Gonna Be Hard To Beat This One

Eric Gales was right - he's been very excited about his new album as he wrote and recorded it, and now I know exactly why. I know he's been working non-stop for the last several years, and he's been getting closer and closer to unearthing something that reveals exactly who and what he is, not just as an artist, but also as a man. Good For Sumthin'? Yeah, he's good for sumthin' - he's made one of the most musical, personal, and moving albums that I've heard in a long time. An album that evokes the memory of James Marshall Hendrix in more ways than one. More on this very unfair, but not inaccurate comparison, later.

The stars line up just right - they've been moving for the last few years to get where they're going. Gales got his personal life more solidly squared away, made a couple of great albums with the power trio Pinnick Gales Pridgen, released a very compelling album with his homegrown trio, and maybe in the final move to make alignment he was gifted in having Raphael Saadiq produce his new solo album, and what an album it is.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jimmy Barnes - Hindsight - As Good A Voice As There Is, And A Notable Cast Take A Long Look Back

Jimmy Barnes' Hindsight is a great way to ease your way into a vast and wonderful world - it's a look back by one of the planet's best singers, and he's brought along a lot of marquee names to point out that he's been doing it right for 30 years, and this is a fantastic way to celebrate the anniversary.

There's every chance that you've no idea who Jimmy Barnes is, or if you do you think he's a guy that did a song with Bonamassa for a Deep Purple tribute album, or maybe some work with Steve Morse and the guys from Ozzy's band back in the day, and if that's the limit to your exposure, you ain't gonna catch it - and you really need to catch it.

The real story is that Jimmy Barnes has been one of the world's greatest vocalists for decades, and the guys who want to work with him do it for just that reason. One of the joys of this record for American listeners will be the two fisted joy of discovering not just Barnes, but many of his co-conspirators on this collection of songs from the singer's past. You know the names of Journey, Joe Bonamassa, Little Steven, but their are plenty of acts on this record performing alongside the star of the show who will be new and exciting discoveries for the uninitiated. Also, much credit should be given to producer Kevin Shirley for keeping this project sounding cohesive and focused as different casts show up for nearly every one of these great tunes from Barnes' extensive catalogue.

Anthrax - Chile On Hell - Would You Expect Any Less?

Holy hell - it's been a rough unveiling for Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian's new autobiography. I don't know, or even care to know the ins and outs of it at all, but it seems like the guy has been doing PR reparations every time I look up. Well, to be honest, I could not care less about who did who, and how many times - I'm in it for the music, for the show, and definitely not for the drama. I'll leave that for those sad folks who count their clicks. I write about rock, not about the bullshit.

That brings us to the latest from Anthrax - Chile On Hell, the band's latest DVD release, which I don't actually get to see, as the label, and by proxy the band thinks that journalists only need to hear and not see their product - I only have the audio tracks, but I'm supposed to somehow make a judgement on a DVD release. Well, it just so happens that I've just seen Anthrax in Northern California, so I can assume the DVD is a fair representation of their show, which I will describe as best I can as I hose the piss from the label off my disrespected shoes. The CDs rock.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The PRS Electric Guitar Book: 30th Anniversary Edition - A Grand Look At A Classic Brand

Paul Reed Smith is the youngest of the classic guitar manufacturers, but he's always been at the top of the class when it's come to quality and innovation. When I heard this book was coming to my desk, I half wondered if, given the relatively unchanged look the line has maintained, there was really enough to hold my attention in a retrospective. I shouldn't have worried - the book is as beautiful as you would imagine, but the story is also fascinating. Your mind will boggle when you realize just how much innovation and passion has went into the engineering side of making PRS one of the best of the best.

Dave Burrluck is one of the finest journalists remaining in the world of guitar magazines - he's currently Gear Reviews Editor of Guitarist, Total Guitar, and Guitarist Presents Acoustic magazines, he's written several excellent books, and he's been top shelf for a great many years. He's just released his latest edition of The PRS Electric Guitar Book (earlier editions - 1999, 2002, 2007) along with Hal Leonard's Backbeat Books. He's the perfect guy for the gig, and he's written the perfect book for the brand.

Dave Kilminster - ...and THE TRUTH will set you free... - Art For Art's Sake

Dave Kilminster returns with another excellent solo record that continues to display that he's above all, an artist. Touring with Roger Waters on his spectacular The Wall tours has enabled Kilminster to be seen by untold millions, and if he was a calculating cat, he could take the easy road, do an album that would ape the Pink Floyd legacy, and ride it to the bank. Instead, he chooses to spend his time off the road to chase his muse merrily around the recording studio, and play what's on his mind.

...And THE TRUTH Shall Set You Free... is a heady record - of course, coming from one of the world's most highly regarded virtuosos, it's filled to the brim with fantastic guitar playing, but it's not flash for flash's sake, it's art for art's sake, and it's museum worthy. The guitar solos alone make this one worthy of great regard, but the real story is what's going on leading up to the inevitable trips that seem to always end in blissful and mind-blowing explorations of guitar playing that redeem all. Lyrically, the album is deep, and complicated. With titles like Messiah, Save Me, Thieves, and The Fallen, you'd hardly expect a light hearted romp, and this is clearly not. That being said, it's a great trip, full of majestic music, soothing to the soul in it's hope seeking walk through the dark.