Thursday, January 5, 2017
Yeah, over the holidays I got a glimpse. A listen to Eric Gales's new album, Middle Of The Road, soon to be released on Mascot Records. Enough to tell you this. For Eric Gales and his audience, this one is a game changer.
Eric Gales breaks it down on this album like he never has, and we have a record that evokes the memories of not just guitar heroes, but of popular music's highest points. Ray Charles. Little Richard. Miles Davis. Stevie Wonder. John Lennon.
What? John Lennon? How's that?
Well, this record is raw. Four on the floor, wall to wall, and straight to the heart. Much like Lennon's Plastic Ono Band album that laid the musician's life out in as plain a language as anyone could imagine, this album tells the truth. Fabrizio Grossi's production is brilliant - sparse and directly in your face, delivering Gale's message, which might be the most important thing about this project. This is about how we live our lives, and what we have to share with one another. A thing called love. And it's wrapped in melody, harmony, and grace.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
TrueFire works. They've been a leader in the online guitar lessons since 1991, and with over a million pupils and collaborations with over 600 instructors, they are the state of the art. Their course library contains over 25,000 interactive guitar lessons that cover just about anything a player could want.
In The Jam is just what it says - it is an unparalleled jamming/learning experience in the online arena. It's mind boggling to see what they have put together with this latest edition/addition. I've been spending some quality time with the Robbin Ford Sessions these past few weeks, and I am still just blown away at what is available here, and what has been accomplished by all involved.
Included in this massive, but ultra easy to navigate tutorial is eleven chapters. These chapters include a welcome and explanation/introduction by your host Robben Ford, and ten tracks from Robben's 2014 album, A Day In Nashville. The album covers a lot of ground from rock, jazz, blues, some country, as Robben says, "There's something for everybody." Indeed there is - each track contains audio and video tracks of everything Ford plays, including commentary that let's you know not just what and how he's playing what he's playing, but also why he's making the musical choices throughout. If that was all you got here, it would be a tremendous value, but we're only getting started.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
As good as it gets. Last night amongst more looming news, The Dictators NYC put on one of the greatest straight ahead rock 'n' roll performances I have ever witnessed. It had it all - a charismatic frontman, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, inciting the crowd, reciting the rock poetry, and singing his ass off, Ross "The Boss" Friedman putting on a brilliant hard rock guitar clinic about a half foot from my face, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson on ridiculously impassioned drums and hearty backup vocals, the brutal but sophisticated bass attack of Dean "The Dream" Rispler, and one of New York's finest, Daniel Rey (Hey, somebody get this guy a nickname!) on second guitar and vocals. Yes, as good as it gets.
Here's my disclaimer: I've been a big fan of The Dictators since 1975, when they unleashed Go Girl Crazy to a somewhat disinterested public. Some say The Dictators invented punk rock, and no less a connoisseur than the king of garage rock love, Steven Van Zandt (aka "Little Steven", or "Miami Steve") called the band, "The connective tissue between the eras of The MC5, New York Dolls, and the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s." When I first heard them, I was an impressionable young guitar slinger, and I wasn't sure what the hell they were, but I knew they had balls, a great sense of humor, songs for days, chops galore, and I knew that I dug it all. Well, that all rings true to this day, and I can claim no sense of critical judgement here - I am an unabashed fan, and that's what I went looking for last night, because my soul was in need of something that would take me back to 1975, my personal summer of love. Elections be damned.
Monday, November 7, 2016
|Photo by Steve Rizzari|
There is nothing tougher for a performer than doing a full night of music with just voice, and guitar. In fact, it's always been something I've tended to avoid due to the difficulty involved, and how seldom I've seen it work - it's asks a tremendous amount of the artist, of the audience, and very few artists can pull it off. This being said, Johnny Hickman has the chops as a writer, a player, and a singer to pull it off, but to be honest, where the rubber hits the road is in his ability to draw the audience into every tale he tells as a performer and a personality. He's one with his audience, there is very little separation between the stage and the crowd, they are all in it together, it's almost like a team sport. You can see just how much he is enjoying doing what he does, and the loving response from the crowd is right inline with this.
"Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed." ~ Lars Ulrich - MetallicaDiamond Head kicked off the first night of their American tour last week in San Francisco, and they were marvelous. Reinvigorated by vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, and lead by the unflaggingly brilliant guitar work of founder Brian Tatler, the band gave a performance that got them a enthusiastic welcome back to the states by a pleased as punch audience.
Brian Tatler has always been incredibly scrupulous about the way his band Diamond Head has presented itself. While he's managed to keep the band's standards very high, it has perhaps come at the price of having his band being acclaimed as one of the most influential acts to come out of the NWOBHM scene in the early 80s, but also an act that has been absent as often as it's been on the boards. The good news is that this iteration of Diamond Head is as mighty as any that has come before it, and having a relatively new frontman who owes nothing to the past while giving it great respect results in a band that can play old and new songs that seamlessly live together in the new set.
As with many bands of a certain vintage, Diamond Head now sports a combination of players who run the gamut from being present at the creation (Tatler) to a brand new bassist (Dean Ashton). Then there is the brilliant man behind the drums, Karl Wilcox, who has been with the band for nearly twenty of the last twenty-five years. I've said it many times in the past, but a great drummer is an essential element in rock 'n' roll, and Wilcox is a very underrated stickman. Musical, powerful, and visual - these are the elements that every kid who picks up a set of sticks should learn. Rounding things out you have Andy (Abbz) Abberley on second guitar (2006), and the aforementioned Ras out front. They are a very cohesive unit, and a great blend onstage. Again, a testament to Tatler's unswerving demand for the best he can present for his brand and band.
Friday, October 28, 2016
|Star Shots Photography|
Irish guitar legend Bernie Tormé has just announced that he’s mounting his third consecutive campaign to release new music (Dublin Cowboy three cd package) via the PledgeMusic platform. (http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/bernietorme2017)
Dublin Cowboy is an ambitious three CD set that includes an electric studio album, an acoustic album, and a live set - an big bargain in light of the fact that Bernie’s first two pledge music projects were such complete successes for both the fans and the man.
As most know, Tormé made his bones over the years as an electrifying guitarist in the classic Gillan lineups, and with his famed tour of duty with Ozzy Osbourne in the immediate and tragic aftermath of Randy Rhoads death, as well as his own very successful solo career and the band, Tormé.
“I'm so psyched to be doing my third crowd-funded album on Pledgemusic, and in celebration of number three it’s also a triple album. Triple offender! Titled 'Dublin Cowboy' - because that’s what I am, its going to be a studio album, acoustic album, and a live album altogether in a dinky little slip-box. It’s a totally new experience for me, and that’s the best thing about it! It'll be released in March 2017, and we'll be rocking it live throughout the UK in April 2017. Can't wait!” ~ Bernie Tormé
http://metaltalk.net/columns/20107233.php - Flowers & Dirt review
http://metaltalk.net/columns/20107233.php - Torme Interview
Bernie Tormé - Biography
Guitar legend, blues rock psychedelic shredmeister, glam punk sleaze rock frontman: Bernie Tormé has enjoyed a long and remarkable career. Hit records, world tours and international acclaim came as lead guitarist in Gillan. Bernie stepped in for Ozzy Osbourne in the aftermath of guitar legend Randy Rhoads' tragic death before going on to front Electric Gypsies and Tormé. Teaming up with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Iron Maiden's drummer Clive Burr he formed Desperado and later reunited with ex-Gillan colleague, John McCoy and drummer Robin Guy in Guy McCoy Tormé (GMT). More recently, Bernie Tormé has been touring with Chris Heilmann (bass) and Ian Harris (drums) releasing two critically-acclaimed solo albums,'Flowers & Dirt' (2014) and 'Blackheart' (2015). Both were crowdfunded, connecting Bernie directly with his fans.
Bernie: “In the past you were pretty distant and separated from your fans with a record label in between. Making these albums with pledge campaigns has been a great experience. I like having the connection with fans and getting the feedback direct on making an album.”
His love of performing is still strong: “I feel very lucky, very blessed, to be able to still perform live and as long as I can keep doing it I will!”
It has been said of Irish guitarist Bernie Tormé that he plays his Stratocaster through a Marshall as though he knew them in a previous life. Dublin-born Bernie learned his trade from local heroes such as Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore and Eric Bell before moving to London in 74, where he initially played with heavy pub rockers Scrapyard, and then formed the Bernie Tormé Band in 76. The BTB toured with Bob Geldof's Boomtown Rats and Billy Idol's Generation X among many others.
In early 79 Bernie joined ex Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan's band Gillan, and was crucial to the band's success as guitar hero foil to Ian's soaring vocals. While a member of Gillan he wrote and played on four top ten albums and many hit singles, including Gillan's biggest selling singles, 'New Orleans' and ‘Trouble'.
After his stint with Gillan, Bernie joined Ozzy Osbourne on the Diary Of A Madman tour in the US, standing in for the legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads who had been tragically killed in an air crash just days beforehand. Madison Square Garden was among the gigs that Bernie played with Ozzy: A young Zakk Wylde who was present in the audience has been quoted in interviews as saying 'Bernie rocked'.
Bernie's ﬁrst solo album 'Turn Out The Lights' was released in the UK, Europe and Japan in 1982 shortly after his return from Ozzy's US tour. He continued playing gigs in the UK and Europe through the remainder of 82 and 83, when his second solo album 'Electric Gypsies' was released, the album's title being drawn from the name of his three-piece touring band.
Bernie also found time during this period to tour Europe and record with legendary keyboard player Vincent Crane (ex-The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) as a member of psychedelic doom rockers Atomic Rooster.
In the mid 80's Bernie worked with ex-Girl and LA Guns front man Phil Lewis in Tormé. The band released four albums, including the cult classic 'Back to Babylon' which, like the 'Electric Gypsies' album, made waves in Japan. Following Phil Lewis's departure, Bernie teamed up with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Iron Maiden's drummer Clive Burr to form Desperado, writing with Snider and recording the album 'Ace'. Bernie then recorded three albums with Guy McCoy Torme (GMT) featuring bassist man mountain John McCoy (also ex Gillan), and drummer Robin Guy. Bernie. During this period Bernie also worked with German band 'Silver', playing lead guitar on three albums.
In 2013 Bernie started playing solo gigs again returning, once more, to his favoured format of the three piece line-up. 2014 saw the release of the critically acclaimed 'Flowers & Dirt' double album and a UK tour, followed by 'Blackheart' in 2015 and a further successful UK tour.
Bernie Torme has recorded over 24 albums in his career to date as a solo artist or band member.
Bernie Tormé 2017 Tour Dates
Sat 1st April SOUTH SHIELDS The Unionist Club
Sun 2nd April GLASGOW Nice n Sleazy
Mon 3rd April EDINBURGH Bannermans
Tues 4th April GRIMSBY Yardbirds
Wed 5th April MANCHESTER FAC251
Thurs 6th April WOLVERHAMPTON The Robin 2
Fri 7th April LONDON The Borderline
Sat 8th April BRIGHTON The Prince Albert
Monday, October 17, 2016
"This album is the first kind of a complete Glenn Hughes album." ~ Glenn HughesGlenn Hughes continues to defy the odds, and the laws of nature. Resonate is going to end up on a lot of those top ten albums lists we'll be seeing come January. It's going to be a lot of writers's best album of the year. Out on November 4th on Frontiers Music srl, this album sets the bar very high for whatever comes next.
The career of Glenn Hughes has roller coasted quite a bit over the last few years, but as bands have unraveled and health issues have thrown obstacles at the unbreakable 'Voice Of Rock," he's kept the quality of his music on an incline the likes of which I've never seen. Let me explain.
As artists age, it's very common for time to take it's toll on both the quality, and the quantity of output. It's incredibly difficult to continually grow as a writer when you've been at it for decades, and along with the hinderance of a full catalogue, there is the sheer wear on one's physicality. Time takes its toll on things like voices, joints, and all the rest. This is nature at work, and I am always mystified by so many supposed music lovers's refusal to acknowledge these things when they are considering the lifetime achievements of an artist when seen from the beginning of the third act.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
|Photo By Holger Kling|
#rockaintdead. There, I said it, I've been saying it for ages, and now I'm joined in saying it by my very dear friend, Glenn Hughes, as he not only espouses it, but he also proves it every night out on his first ever American tour as a solo artist.
I've never seen Hughes better than on this night at The Ritz in downtown San José, California.
I first laid eyes on Glenn Hughes when he was in Deep Purple, on February 13, 1974 at a big hockey arena in the Midwest of America located at Dayton, Ohio. It's somewhat ironic that they are tearing down my hallowed home of early rock just this week, after an incredible run that began when The Rolling Stones desecrated the site in 1964. As one of the first musicians I saw playing on that stage, Glenn Hughes is still defining not just what rock is, but where it's at. There's nothing retro about what I saw in San Jose, California last night, it was state of the art.
He could have played it safe, and played a set of wall to wall Deep Purple and Black Country Communion, perhaps his most commercially successful products, but no - whether it was when he was deconstructing his reputation with a fall from grace so large he's today able to quip, "I don't remember the eighties," or in choosing a band challenging setlist comprised of selections from every era of his 47 year career, Glenn Hughes has never played it safe. It's go for the throat, or don't go at all.
|Photo By Gavin Lowery|
On drums we have the larger than life Pontus Engborg, and at a towering six foot four the Swedish stickman commands the throne like a king. His exuberance, power, and precision are perfect for the job. Like Anderson, Engborg is as entertaining as he is musical, and he's definitely the man for the job.
We arrived at the gig early enough to catch the band doing their pre-VIP meet and greet soundcheck, and got a preview of what was in store. Hughes was onstage, still critiquing and fine tuning the band a month into the tour, and you can tell that his attention to detail pays off in big dividends, as the band is as powerful as a locomotive, and still sophisticated and precise. We stuck around to witness the meet and greet, and while these are always a point of contention for some purists, it was clear that both the band and the fans were having a great time communing with "The Voice Of Rock," so who's to judge. Check it out when it comes your way, it's more than worth it, and the package the band gives away is most generous.
|Photo By Stewart Westwood|
We didn't get a taste of the new sounds on this evening (one can't let the cat out of the bag on a new project unless one wants it on YouTube months before release), but what we did get was a career retrospective that was mind blowing in it's depth and coherency. It's remarkable that the first song Hughes ever wrote, the Trapeze classic, "Medusa", sits so well with the latest material he's recorded forty years later, but somehow it all works.
Kicking off the show, it's "Way Back To The Bone" from 1972, then it's ten years later with the Hughes/Thrall classic track "Muscle And Blood" from that great one off album from 1982, and Hughes and company are in it to the hilt. In spite of a heart surgery, and double knee replacement since I last was him perform, Glenn Hughes continues to be a force of nature. His vocals grew increasingly powerful as the night progressed, and he stalked the stage with the energy and passion of a man forty years younger.
Then it's into the twenty-first century with "Orion" from 2005's Soul Mover album, and it's to Soren Anderson's great credit that he not only covers the bases of so many great guitarists that came before him in Hughes's various iterations and bands, but he manages to change up everything just enough so that his personality as a player shines through, and this points straight to the fact that this coming up solo album from Hughes will be a treat, as it's the first record with the man for Anderson.
|Photo By David Wala|
"Medusa" has long been a centerpiece of any Hughes show for years, and tonight was no exception. After Glenn talked the audience through another sermon of peace, love, and happiness, he spoke of a young man in his mother's kitchen writing songs for his first band at the tender age of 17. If you weren't aware of the song's heritage and history, you'd never known it wasn't written last week, and this band manages to make everything sound up to date and born again. The kids have got nothing on this one.
In advance of next years return, Black Country Communion was represented with a raging version of "One Last Soul" from the band's 2010 debut, and it never fails to get the crowd swaying with it's huge groove, and sensual melodies. Then Anderson throws on a flashy white Strat to round out the set with the title track from "Soul Mover."
Before you know it the main set is done, and the band is off the stage. There is never, not for one second any question about encores. Everyone knows they are coming, and everyone plays their part in this vaunted piece of rock ritual. Lighters come out, fists are raised in the air, and the volume of the room goes up accordingly.
Hughes rips into his brand new Yamaha signature bass, and you know you're on your way back to the "Black Country". Again, it's up to Anderson to conjure the sounds and signature riffs of another, and he does Joe Bonamassa proud with a careening solo that raises the whole affair up another notch, and you're left wondering if there is anything this band can't do. They're left with only one place to go, and when Anderson tears off the intro to "Burn", it's all over but the crying. This is one of those shows you just hate to see end, but it's time to go, and the house lights are on.
Since we're now rating gigs in terms of not just performance (this gig report is also running simultaneously at MetalTalk.Net), but also volume and sound, let's take a moment to discuss this. The Ritz in San José is a square box of a room that is long and narrow, and in the hands of a lesser soundman, it could have been tough to contain the sheer horsepower of this power trio, but the stalwart crew was more than up to the task, and it sounded very good. Hughes was raving about the sound of his bass rig in the room at soundcheck, and you could see, feel, and hear it in his performance. He was pumped up by what he heard, and it played straight into his performance, and it's seldom noted, but while the world knows Hughes is as great a singer that has ever walked the planet, he is very underrated as a bassist. All this being said, it was as loud as Gideon's Trumpet, and it rang like a bell. Fantastic stuff, the stuff rock is made of when it's made right.
Way Back To the Bone
Muscle and Blood
Touch My Life
First Step of Love
Can't Stop The Flood
One Last Soul
You Keep On Moving
Thursday, July 7, 2016
An American Writer Asks Why It Takes A British Ex-Pat to Ask, "What's Going On?" Michael Des Barres Has The Answer
America has not been this divided in my lifetime. Not even close. We're barreling towards the most contentious (for many, many reasons) presidential election of our generation, there's violence in our streets, we are being divided in every way imaginable, and for all intents and purposes, it would appear that the wheels are falling off the wagon of The American Dream. Michael Des Barres's new single, an incendiary cover of Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On?" confronts these issues in an incredibly timely and head-on manner.
What gives Michael Des Barres the right?
Michael Des Barres has lived in America for over thirty-five years, and for a member of British nobility (He is officially, Lord Marquis Michael Philip Des Barres) that speaks volumes. He's lived in America for the sole reason that he dearly loves it. His radio show can be heard on the greatest mainstream rock 'n' roll radio station on the planet, Little Steven's Underground Garage, and he's been a fixture on the scene in Hollywood as a rocker and an actor since the early seventies. You want to talk credibility? The guy has it in spades, so he's well within his rights to now ask, "What's Going On?"
The Marvin Gaye classic is Des Barres latest solo release on his own Humble Servant, Inc label, and both the song and its accompanying video could not be more timely, or rock a bit harder. Des Barres is joined by his old bandmate and legendary drummer, Clem Burke (Blondie, Chequered Past), and together they make a divine racket. The guitars bristle, the beat is savage, and Des Barres is in fantastic voice. He's also been gifted with an exceptional video (directed by Marianne Spellman) that shows how little things have really changed (and perhaps gone backwards) in the great American experiment and experience.
Des Barres is currently working on an album's worth of both classic and original protest songs for our times, and if this single is any indication (and it is), it's going to be a barnburner. Bring your torches and pitchforks, but make sure they are metaphysical, as Des Barres's message at the end of the day is that we all must learn to love one another and to practice this always. Believing in love has always been the formative philosophy of any protest worth its weight, and it's what the world needs now more than ever.
So, my question seems to have been answered. Perhaps the reason that it's necessary for an ex-pat Brit to kick off the return of the protest song in a country steeped in the tradition is that it sometimes takes the perception of an observer from outside the situation to see it clearest. Michael Des Barres has grabbed the bull by its horns and is leading the charge on this day in which America must truly ask, "What's Going On?" He's inside, and he's looking out. With love.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Glenn Hughes is in his car rolling down the highway, giving me the update on all things Hughes, when he gets a text from his pal, David Coverdale. Turns out that the pair still have no reasonable idea of what to expect this coming Friday (April 8, 2016) at their induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Brooklyn. However, two things are quite clear - these two will bring a great sense of fashion (I believe it's Armani for one, and I know it's John Varvatos for the other), and a lot of class to the proceedings, regardless of all else.
I've spoken with Glenn Hughes several times over the last few months, and his take on the difficulties involved with Deep Purple's induction have been predictably sane and solid. He absolutely gets that the band that has been Purple for the past many years must be the band that takes the stage, and that they have unquestionably earned the right, but he would also dearly love to be able to get onstage with any living member of the band, and to sing a bit on that night for the band's fans. Regardless of what actually transpires, Hughes says that he knows that Coverdale and himself shall greet it all, and all involved with a smile and sincere handshake. It will sure be interesting to see how it all goes down.
Monday, March 28, 2016
March 26, 2016
The Independent, San Francisco, CA, USA
If ever there was a night that should have been recorded for a live record, it would have been this one.
UFO has been rocking American audiences with much regularity for some forty years, and I've never seen this iteration of the band put on a better performance. The sold out crowd at The Independent in San Francisco was in great voice for the last show of the band's current US tour and the walls reverberated as loudly as ever as they sang along on most choruses. This evening was an unabashed love fest, the likes of which I hope we will soon see again.
Monday, March 14, 2016
"People said, 'Pinetop, it looks like you ought to have plenty of money.' How you gonna have plenty of money when you a sideman? No way!" ~ Pinetop Perkins (July 7, 1913 - March 21, 2011)
SIDEMEN: Long Road To Glory opened this past week to unanimous rave reviews and acclaim at the SXSW Film festival, and while it is a great film, likely as good a musical documentary as you'll see released this year, it's also a movie that has a great story of its own.
In his 97 years on earth, Pinetop Perkins never made himself a rich man by playing the piano, but he still went out of this life a rich man, celebrated by fans, friends, getting some of the acclaim due an artist of his stature by way of his third Grammy Award in 2011, and now having his tale told in this passionate documentary.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Supersonic Blues Machine - West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco - The Blues Rock Record To Beat For 2016
Supersonic Blues Machine is that rarest of beasts, a cameo packed blues rock album on which the core band and the tunes actually supersede the weight of the heavies who stop by to lend their support. And now, let me raise the stakes even higher - every cameo is worthy of being on the guests's own albums, nobody here brought anything except their A-game.This just might be the blues rock album to beat in 2016.
The core band is made up of Fabrizio Grossi, the project's visionary bassist/songwriter/producer, Texas guitar legend/vocalist Lance Lopez, and everybody's drummer of choice Kenny Aronoff. The list of guests is a who's who of musical legends, starting with The Righteous Reverend Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, and Chris Duarté. Grossi has done the near impossible in creating an album with a tremendously diverse cast that never sounds like anything less than a band. In a day and age in which budgets and time constraints often cause projects such as this to go off the rails, this one surfs high up on the waves of glory.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Prologue Records/Mascot Label Group
November 20, 2015
"On my tombstone, it should read, 'Leslie West: It's Neither Major Nor Minor.'" ~ Leslie WestOver the last eight years, Leslie West has delivered four excellent, excellent albums, and he continues to ratchet it up with Soundcheck, an album that manages to hit everything on the menu of what you want from Leslie West. Not as many original tunes as we've gotten used to seeing, but the covers are all done with great taste, and some damned good creative change making on some classic numbers. Believe me, Soundcheck is what you came for from Leslie West.
It think this album sees the definitive version of Leslie's recorded guitar playing and legendary tone. I know he's not out to sell a textbook, but if you were looking to buy one, this would be a great purchase. And it's not just tone and technique - his note placement and choice of notes has never sounded better, and he's still progressing as a musician with each release, how many guys can say that at the tender young age of 69?
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Holy hell! The new single by The Dictators NYC, the long venerated rock 'n' roll institution, is a force of nature.
"Supply And Demand", b/w a live rendition of the MC5 classic, "Kick Out The Jams" is as much fun as you will have listening to rock 'n' roll in 2015. From the Who approved crushing chords that announce its arrival to Ross The Boss Friedman's self described "Chuck Berry on steroids" Les Paul/Marshall howl to Handsome Dick Manitoba's superb rock 'n' roll manifesto lyrics and delivery, this sizzling piece of rock delivers on the promise of the past, the present, and future of this thing we love, this thing called rock 'n' roll. This dynamic duo have stepped up and not just matched, but added to this great band's legacy.
Bassist/producer Dean Rispler may be the secret weapon that takes it all over the top - you know The Dictators' veterans are on board - I've got to tell you, drummer J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson has never sounded better or more powerful behind the kit, and longtime collaborator Daniel Rey will rip your head off with his hard hitting rhythm guitar work, but it's Rispler's throbbing bassline and in-your-face, crystal clear and crushing production (with the aid of engineer Jesse Cannon) that will have you smiling from ear to ear.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Sweden Music Group
October 2, 2015
Death Dealer has crushed the sophomore jinx. The sophomore jinx. At least that's what it's called in America. In the United Kingdom, it's often referred to as the second year's blues, in Australia it's known as the sophomore slump. At any rate, it is a term that addresses a second effort that is weaker than the first. Whether it's in terms of an athlete's performance, a student's second year, or a musician's second album, it is a reality that has haunted since time immemorial.
Hallowed Ground is the band's second album, and it's a runaway contender for best metal album of 2015. As much as I've enjoyed Iron Maiden's latest, I will admit that a part of that love is tied to nostalgia and very much wanting to love something. Maybe that's the difference between it and Hallowed Ground - Death Dealer comes across like someone's first band, and I am taken back to the first time I saw Eddie The Head grace an album cover, reminded of how I felt when I first heard Def Leppard's On Through The Night. It's excitement is thrilling, and it hits you like a ton of bricks. It makes me feel like a kid again, and metal is reborn.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Scorpions/Queensryche Gig Report
SAP Center, San José, California
Rocktober 1, 2015
I can't imagine a better way to ring in Rocktober than by seeing two exceptional classic metal bands in fine, fine form.
Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have found the fountain of youth, and they nearly wore out their sixty foot walkway as they put on the hits for a nearly sold out crowd at the 18,000 seat SAP Center arena in San José, California. But first came the mighty Queensryche.
Queensryche is a band that has spent the last several years rebuilding after the controversy filled departure of frontman Geoff Tate, and all that I can say is that they are doing a magnificent job of moving the legacy forward with two excellent albums, and a regular spate of road work. The original core members, guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and bassist Eddie Jackson have not lost a step, and enough credit cannot be heaped upon this bunch for not only revitalizing this great classic metal outfit, but for also moving it into the future with newcomers Parker Lindgren on second guitar and the new star of the show, frontman vocalist Todd La Torre. Michael Wilton proved again that he is among the unheralded guitar heroes in all of rock with his riffs, solos, and presence.
Monday, September 21, 2015
"I do believe you can create your own luck to a degree through hard work. The harder you work, the luckier you get." ~ Joel HoekstraYou could be forgiven for not knowing of Joel Hoekstra before he showed up this summer electrifying audiences around America this summer with Whitesnake's shockingly successful "The Purple Tour." His rise in the world of rock has been a slow, steady climb that saw him go from a Broadway show (Rock Of Ages) to MTV hitmakers Night Ranger, then to even bigger stages with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, before he landed his first true star turn as a member of David Coverdale's long running legend of Whitesnake in 2015. His overnight success has at last arrived after thousands of gigs.
Hoekstra will be the first tell you that luck may be a small factor in this equation that has seen his star rise, but he'd also tell you that it's really all about the work - whether it's a basic love for playing the guitar, or the desire to be a part of something larger than one's self, it will all go to naught without great bits of perspiration, the choice lubricant of dreams.
No sooner than Hoekstra has wrapped up his debut tour with the 'Snakes, he is now overseeing myriad details as Frontiers Records prepares to launch his latest solo project, Joel Hoekstra's 13 - Dying To Live on October, 16, 2015, that includes a group of musicians (Tony Franklin, Vinny Appice, Derek Sherinian, Russell Allen, and Jeff Scott Soto) that certainly ranks as powerful a rock machine as you could imagine. The album is a straight up, no chaser hard rock album that is in Hoekstra's words, "Good, solid rock stuff, tastefully played by great players."
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Neal Morse has done it again. After being asked to do a performance in his home church by his pastor (an idea which Morse initially thought impossible due to logistics), the idea wouldn't go away, in fact it grew, and it all blossomed into Morsefest! 2014, a 2 DVD/4 CD/ package that features over five hours of progressive rock brilliance by Morse, his stellar band, and a host of cameo appearances (most notably his brother and former Spock's Beard bandmate Alan Morse).
Not being one to do anything with less than a complete effort, Morse elected to perform his first two solo albums (Testimony from 2003, and One from 2004) on consecutive nights, and he even flew in Rich Mouser, who did the original mixes on both records, to do the front of house sound. Considering that the albums had never been played front to back by a live band, it is Herculean to consider the daunting task for everyone involved. Over five hours of performances rehearsed for two shows. The quality of these five hours is astonishing - Neal Morse has done it again.
Monday, August 10, 2015
Kelakos is one of those great bands that sometimes fall through the cracks of history. They've just released Uncorked: Rare Tracks From A Vintage '70s Band, a set of tunes originally recorded between 1976-1978, and when you hear it, you'll wonder why these guys weren't on The Midnight Special cranking out the same type of eclectic, soul stirring rock as the Allman Brothers Band, Steely Dan, and other legends of the times. Better late than never, we can now hear what should have been a big hits at the time.
The band was filled to the brim with talent - drummer Carl Canedy has been a hard rock/heavy metal legend for many decades, and bassist Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. went on to a remarkable career in Washington, D.C.. While his bass playing and singing can compete with anyone of his era, Bloomfield instead opted towards a path that would see him most notably appointed Assistant Secretary Of State for Political-Military Affairs by President George W. Bush in 2001. Guitarist Mark Sisson, and singer/guitarist/songwriter George Kelakos Haberstroh have never stopped playing music, and continue to work together almost forty years later, proving that the love of music never dies, in spite of the pains that can be caused by the industry.
I recently had a chance to speak with George Kelakos Haberstroh, and it was one of those experiences best called life affirming for all the right reasons. It would be only too easy for a musician to respond to a fickle market with bitterness and acrimony, but Haberstroh has instead chosen to taking the high road by putting the past behind, and getting on with the task of honing his God given skills, and continuing to follow his muse with an attitude that is wonderfully refreshing.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
|Photo by Kristie Brown Gripp|
Cracker w/ Victor Krummenacher
July 7, 2015
Cracker is one of those rare and few bands that can get their audience to come from near and far on a weekday evening, fill a room with rock 'n' roll lovers in an ancient room in a relatively sleepy town, and create the party of the week just days after a big party holiday.
The band's fans call themselves the Cracker Crumbs, and when they gather it's always a joyous celebration. Every band has its fans, but the Crumbs are a special lot. They know the words to all the songs, they sing and dance the whole night through, and it resembles a high school reunion (at least the way we wish they were) as much as a rock show.
Steve Lukather Offers Up Some Real Talk On The Music Business As It Stands Today (Includes New Commentary From Luke)
Since last week the photo has been shared almost 6,000 times, and it has received some 1,200 comments, and those comments have been 95% in agreement with what Luke had to say.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
It was somewhat fitting, and the circle was completed when The Beatles wrapped up their career with a three guitar jam in the appropriately titled, “The End” on their Abbey Road album. After all, they had started their career as three guitarists playing together, and it seems a good place to wrap things up.
It was Paul's song, and John Lennon said he wanted to do the solo himself initially, as he often enjoyed having a shot at being a lead guitarist (and he was usually brilliant when he chose to do so), but let’s let EMI/Abbey Road engineer and author Geoff Emerick tell the tale, as he was in the room when it happened:
“There were quite a few empty bars to fill after Ringo’s drum solo on “The End” [Abbey Road], and George Harrison said, ‘Well, a guitar solo is the obvious thing.’
“There were quite a few empty bars to fill after Ringo’s drum solo on “The End” [Abbey Road], and George Harrison said, ‘Well, a guitar solo is the obvious thing.’
“‘Yes, but this time you should let me play it,’ said John, half seriously. He loved playing lead guitar, but he knew he didn’t have the finesse of either George or Paul, so he rarely took a solo on record.
“‘I know,’ he said mischievously, unwilling to let the idea go, ‘why don’t we all play the solo? We can take turns and trade licks.’
"George looked dubious, but Paul embraced the idea, and he upped the ante further by suggesting the three of them play their solos live. Paul announced that he wanted to take the first solo, and as it was his song, the others deferred. Ever competitive, John said he had a great idea for an ending. So, as always, poor George was overshadowed by his two band mates, and got the middle spot by default.
“While they were practicing, I took great care to craft a different, distinctive sound for each Beatle, so it would be apparent to the listener that it was three individuals playing, and not just one person taking an extended solo. They were each playing a different guitar through a different amp, so it wasn’t all that difficult to achieve. I lined the three amps in a row—there was no need for a great deal of separation, because they were all going to be recorded on a single track.
“Incredibly, after just a brief period of rehearsal, they nailed it in a single take.
“For me, that session was undoubtedly the high point of the summer of 1969, and listening to those guitar solos never fails to bring a smile to my face.” Geoff Emerick, Here, There, And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Beatles.
The beauty of “The End” is that there is not a sense of competition between the players, so much as there is a collaboration. By all counts it was a joyous occasion enjoyed by all three guitarists. While Paul and George’s solos are excellent examples of the style of melodic hard blues rock that was being played on stages around London at the time, John Lennon’s take on things is much more simplistic and crude. It is Paul’s song, so he gets the first slot, and his playing is not very far from what Harrison is doing in the middle position, and this has caused great confusion amongst listeners for decades.
Three amps were lined up side by side, and I am assuming they were recent issue silverfaced Fender Twin Reverbs, but this is again difficult to verify. George was almost certainly playing his red 1957 Gibson Les Paul Standard, a guitar which had started its life as a Goldtop model that went through the hands of The Loving Spoonfuls' John Sebastian, blues rock guitarist Rick Derringer, and a refinish before it ended up in the possession of Eric Clapton (who used the guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps") who went on to make the guitar a gift to George in early August of 1968. The guitar is still in the possession of George Harrison's estate. John was undoubtably playing his 1965 Epiphone Casino (serial number 328393) which was famously stripped of its sunburst finish, and is still owned by Yoko Ono Lennon - the Lennon estate has the guitar in its inventory under the designation, “The Revolution Guitar”. While I have not found a definitive answer on what guitar Paul McCartney used for this session, with various usually reliable sources saying it was either his Epiphone Casino or Fender Esquire. I’ve listened very closely time and time again, comparing it between different tracks Paul has played with both guitars, and I’m very familiar with both instruments as a player, but I cannot with any confidence saying which is actually on this track. The guitars were played live, and they were obviously playing very loudly - you simply get those bold, aggressive tones out quiet amplifiers.
Let’s look at the solos themselves:
In the first round, Paul and George both tear off slices of highly energized riffs that sound almost as if this could be the work of a single guitarist. Both parts are evokative of the playing of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix at the time, and are even very similar in tone. But then, in comes Lennon with brutally effective rhythmic stabs at his guitar that establish his very singular voice as a lead guitarist. He’s making it howl, not sing.
In the second round you start to see more stylistic differences between Paul and George, as Paul continues to sound very contemporary with the hot British rock guitarists of the day, and now George answers with a very tasty double-stop outing (a double-stop is when a guitarist plays a melodic section of a song using two notes, as opposed to a single note or a chord (three or more notes)) that is very reminiscent of the soul music coming out of the American South. Paul and George's tones are also more noticeably different with Harrison's being a bit softer and smoother than his playing on his first go round. Perhaps he had switched to his Les Paul's rhythm (or neck) pickup from his lead (or bridge) pickup. Next, John steps it up a bit and fires off a brilliant volley of bent low notes in a seething homage to Link Wray.
“His travelling record collection includes albums by Bo Diddley (three), Chuck Berry (two), Lenny Bruce (six), the Mothers (everything), Paul McCartney (Ram – and it's been played at least once), and Link Wray (with cover inscribed "To John and Yoko – thanks for remembering – Peace, Link Wray").
“The story behind the Wray inscription is that John and Yoko were getting out of the lift at 1700 Broadway, which houses Allen Klein's office, when they were confronted by Wray, who was going up to Polydor's offices in the same building.
“Wray apparently said, ‘Hey – John and Yoko.’ John didn't say anything to him, but turned to Yoko and breathed: ‘Yoko, that's Link Wray. Without him…’”, Richard Williams, Uncut Magazine, 1998.
For the third and final round, we see Paul go very guttural in his playing with a staggering, stuttering statement that he picks very aggressively and very close to the guitar’s bridge, giving it a taut, staccato tone that would not sound out of place on a Jimmy Page solo from early days of Led Zeppelin. George’s gorgeous climb up the neck suggests his very soon to be exploration of the slide guitar (which he had been hinting at in his playing, and in his love for Indian music for several years), but it’s just the musical motion you’re hearing here as he manipulates the strings with just his fingers and a pick. John wraps it up with a rave up that is the perfect marriage of where rock ’n’ roll guitar had started for him, and where rock guitar would go in the future.
Everyone simply did what it was that they did as guitar players, without any real time or thought being given to anything other than having a play. They had seemingly come full circle to once again meet The Beatles.
Here is a video of the isolated guitars from the track, and below is a clickable time schedule for who starts playing at what point (the soloing starts at the 1:03 mark):
George #1: 1:07
John #1: 1:10
Paul #2: 1:14
George #2: 1:19
John #2: 1:22
Paul #3: 1:27
George #3: 1:30
John #3: 1:34
Monday, June 22, 2015
It finally sounds like Satch is having fun. Shockwave Supernova is the guitarist's fifteenth studio album, and while it continues a very long winning streak of largely instrumental guitar records, there is a palpable difference at play here. It's almost as if he has released the need to work under the constraints of musical theory and composition, and to embrace his inner Jimi Hendrix. There are some familiarities to what's come before, of course, but there is also a freshness and a sense of relaxation as he flexes his musical muscles. It's almost as if he's finally mastered all the rules, laws, and science, and is just making music.
When he rocks out on this record, and he rocks out a lot, it all sounds a bit less precious and predetermined - it rocks. You still have a wide variety of stylistic range, in fact, the first four tunes are all as different as night and day, but they work together because Satriani transcends genre at every turn, and makes it Satch music.
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Coverdale and Hughes, Now Schenker and Bonnet - What A Great, Great Week For Rock 'N' Roll Reunions!
This past week has truly moved me. The week saw not one, but two of the greatest combinations in hard rock history reunited amongst hugs, love, respect, and loud, beautiful music.
First we saw David Coverdale reunited with his partner in The Unrighteous Brothers, his Deep Purple bandmate Glenn Hughes onstage at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California on Tuesday, June 11 (last seen onstage together in 1976? I'm told they were last together onstage in 2000!), and now we have videos coming in from Osaka, Japan wherein we see another amazing duo, Michael Schenker and Graham Bonnet reconvene for the first time in 33 years.
Never say never, they say, and both reunions were not just wonderful, they also make me pine for more of the same. I have had the privilege to speak and know all four of these characters a bit, and all rock 'n' roll excess and controversies long since left aside, I've heard all four express their love and respect of their old partners, and never a negative word. Having now seen them all together again onstage, I can't think that I'm alone in wishing, as a fan and curator of rock, that these titans of rock would somehow find a way to make some more music together in the autumn of their astonishing careers.
Monday, June 8, 2015
Robben Ford Band featuring David Grissom with guest star Matt Schofield
June 7, 2015
There's nothing like spending a warm Sunday evening in the company of three great guitarists. Robben Ford is on the road supporting his new album, Into The Sun, and he proved to be a magnanimous guitar god, as he shared his stage with David Grissom as co-guitarist for the West Coast dates, and the added treat of a few tunes with British guitar star Matt Schofield. Musical sparks flew from the beginning to the end, but let there be no doubt, this was Robben Ford's stage, and he commanded it like a king.
I had seen several days earlier notification that David Grissom would be joining the tour, but it wasn't very clear as to what his role would be, and I wrongly surmised that he would be supporting Ford as an opening act, when in fact he was there as a member of Ford's band. I was even more blown away when I found out that they would be hitting the road with zero rehearsals. He was joining Ford, bassist Brian Allen, and drummer Wes Little, who both were inspiring in their expert work as a rhythm section (especially in their solo sections, which revealed the wider scope of their stellar skills), and to think that they were covering the broad boundaries of Ford's immense musical palette without out rehearsals was most astonishing.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Whitesnake: The Purple Tour
Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
Santa Rosa, California
June 2, 2015
Whitesnake are on the road in America, and they are taking no prisoners. David Coverdale is fronting one of the strongest bands of his career, and while the show is all his, he shares the glory and plays well with the other kids in the playground. If this band shows up in your neck of the woods do not miss this tour.
Coverdale's well worn, classic British hard rock vocal pipes are in excellent condition, and his utter command of both audience and band posits him as possibly the best of his class. Whitesnake had the sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center For The Arts in Santa Rosa, California in the palm of his outstretched hands for two hours of heavy rock bliss. Much has been made of the condition of David's voice, but he sounded amazingly up close and personal on this night.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The Purple Album
Frontiers Music srl
May 15, 2015
Whitesnake's The Purple Album is a solid, solid sender. It should be taken at face value and accepted for exactly what it is - this is David Coverdale revisiting his past, and in light of the fact that it looks like there is to be no reunification of that old troop, he's chosen to put up the best front possible and to simply play and sing the living hell out of these old chestnuts, and he's succeeded mightily.
Let's take a few minutes and deal with naysayers, critics, and those who will reflect negatively upon this album - some may think it best to dance around this 800 pound gorilla in the corner, but that's just not my style.
First, there is the matter of David Coverdale and his voice. I'm continually amazed that fans seem to think that a man is going to sound the same at the age of 63 that he did at the age of 22, and that's unrealistic and somewhat foolish. There's no question but that the man has used his voice over the years in much the same manner as an athlete, and there have been injuries, there has been wear and tear, and there is the matter of simply the ravages of time. However, on the flip side of that is the depth, dynamics, and phrasing that a singer learns and implements in a forty year career that can't be denied or discounted. Sure, there are places on this record in which studio technology is used to sweeten up certain spots, but there is less of this than many would assume. To my thinking and to my ears, this is a wonderful representation of what a hard rock vocalist can accomplish late in the game. David Coverdale has spent great time and effort to make the very best product he possibly can, sparing no expense, and he's done a fantastic job.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Michael Schenker / Temple Of Rock with Kirk Hammett - All Hail The Metal Gods! - Gig Review - Rockbar Theater, San José, California
|Photo by Hidenori Saito|
Michael Schenker / Temple Of Rock
San José, California
May 3, 2015
Kirk Hammett finally got to play in front of a large audience with Michael Schenker and his colleagues in Temple Of Rock, and it was a historic rock 'n' roll moment.
When Kirk and Michael guested on Eddie Trunk's That Metal Show last month, Kirk said he wanted to come to the San José show, where he had just put on his FestEvil last month, and he stayed good to his word, coming out for two encores at the end of what had already been a brilliant evening.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society Unblackened Mass
Ace Of Spades
April 18, 2015
Zakk Wylde brought a special show to town last night with his Black Label Society, and their Unblackened Tour is a magnificent semi-acoustic resume for the ex-Osbourne guitar star. My mind is still reeling at the whole thing.
The Sacramento Chapter of the Black Label Society showed up en mass to Ace Of Spaces, and if anything, the club was oversold - though it mattered little to the County Sheriffs who were hanging out at the mouth of the club and the merch table all night. It's my opinion that they're paid to keep things in order, but they were more interested in checking out the music than giving anyone the business. And you couldn't blame them as the music was superb.
Friday, April 10, 2015
"I'm a great assassin playing Chuck Berry, and it's hilarious! We've got a great team together, and I get a shot, I've got a real shot at being the last guy standing, and to be the singer in the band, the house band at the apocalypse." ~ Michael Des BarresThe Key To The Universe is E major. It's also the title of Michael Des Barres' just released four star masterpiece of rock 'n' roll, and here is a man on a mission, spreading the word to every corner of the globe for at least three hours most days as a host on SiriusXM radio's Underground Garage, the legendary creation of "Little Steven" Van Zandt.
Des Barres' new album is the best of the veteran vocalist's career, and he's continuing on a meteoric upsurge that began a few years ago with several successful podcasts and a solo project entitled, Carnaby Street, and now finds an audience in the millions awaiting his words, thoughts, music, and more on an ever increasing level. The Key To The Universe sees Des Barres reunited with bassist Nigel Harrison (Silvered, Blondie) and producer Bob Rose (who collaborated with the singer on his vastly underrated, Somebody Up There Likes Me in 1986), but just as importantly sees new arrivals to the Des Barres camp in guitar whiz Dani Robinson, and drummer to the stars Clive Deamer (Robert Plant, Portishead, Radiohead) who contribute brilliantly to this album. This sounds like a band, and evidently they'll be hitting the road to prove just that.
I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Des Barres as he was completing work on the band's first video and prepping for the album's release, and one does not pass up a chance to speak directly with Michael Des Barres - it's like walking into the Church of British Rock Royalty and getting a sermon from atop the Himalayas. Amazingly free of pre-formulated pablum, and fresh with every answer, Des Barres is the very definition of a man living in the moment to help himself and his world awaken. This is one of those interviews in which somewhere along the way it became very apparent why I interview people - sometimes you come across an example of the breed that teaches, excites, inspires, and entertains us along the way if we will only listen!
One begins such things with greetings and pleasantries, and it's always a joy to speak with someone who has no walls set up around him, and a healthy curiosity of other human beings:
Michael Des Barres: "I'm terrific, man. How lovely to talk with you again, how are you, Tony? Is your family good? You should come visit me and my crew sometime soon."
I brought the meeting to order by asking Michael to tell me what someone can expect from The Key To The Universe:
Michael Des Barres: "A punch in the face.
"A punch in the face with a great deal of affection. One of the songs on the album is called "I Want Love To Punch Me In The Face", which is very important because I think that we're in a coma. I think the country is in a coma of fear and repetition, and we need to be woken up. And the only thing that's going to wake us up is the notion of love and compassion for everybody around us, and if we don't have that, we're fucked.
"I mean, we can't go to Syria and solve their problems, but we can play music and get on another frequency, and that's what the album is about. The Key To The Universe sounds glib, and it is glib - I could say, people have asked me, 'What is the key to the universe', and I've said, 'E major!'
"But, I've also said, love your community and support it, be there for your friends and your family because without that little pebble that you throw in that lake of tranquility, there won't be any tranquility, because you have to take care of those around you.
"Now this record, to me, is the most important record I've ever made, and for many reasons. The most important is that I had the most fun making it.
"I was flown to Rome to work with my old friend Nigel Harrison, and my old producer Bob Rose. Clive Deamer on drums from Robert Plant's band and Radiohead, and Dani Robinson on guitar - the best new guitarist I've ever heard. It's a guitar, bass, drums rock 'n' roll record, and it was made in a studio that was built for an orchestra, and Morricone to do all those spaghetti western scores, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, so on and so forth - a massive room with guitar, bass, and drums, just like in the old days.
"We made it looking in each others' eyes in this beautiful city, in this timeless place, and I am so excited about people hearing this. Carnaby Street was the opening act, this is the headliner."
I was curious as to how a figure so immersed (at least seemingly) in the culture of Los Angeles came to record his new album with a decidedly non-angeleno cast in an exotic locale:
Michael Des Barres: "I think when you say I'm immersed in LA culture, you know, I'm immersed in entertainment, and the idea that I live where I can express myself best.
"I am really very oppositional to what Hollywood stands for, I'm from the Iggy Pop school of life. I don't subscribe to the rules and regulations, and never have. And when you say I'm immersed in this lifestyle, what has happened is that I've been immersed in movies, and television, and making music - now, if I could do that in the foothills of Lake Tahoe, believe you me, I would, and in my head? I am.
"But, my body has to be in the gym and then on the set by 5 a.m., so that would be a hell of a commute!
"But, the short answer to your question is, Bob Rose, who produced this record, produced a record of mine years ago, right after The Power Station, called Somebody Up There Likes Me. On that record with me were The Tower Of Power Horns, Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols, Andy Taylor of Duran, and Jim Keltner on drums, Nigel on bass, so we go back a long way. An incredible band. He (Rose) had went to Italy and was tremendously successful in recording Italian and European rock bands, and Julian Lennon.
"He called me out of the blue this summer, and he said, 'Michael, I have the resources to make the record I've always wanted to make with you, and that is a balls to the wall record - would you like to come to Rome and do that?"
"And I said, "Uh....yeah." I said I would love to, especially with Nigel, and I went there armed with twenty sets of lyrics perhaps, no music, one song I had written for the album, and we created it in the studio.
"You know, I did Linda Perry's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head', which she wrote, it's our first single, and I just finished the video for that with David Russeau, who is a brilliant five time VMA (Video Music Awards) nominee, a very accomplished director, so everybody involved was really, really committed to making as best a rock 'n' roll record as we could, and when I say rock 'n' roll, we're talking about music that beats below the waist - you know what I like, more than anybody! You've been so supportive of my trip, you know what I'm trying to do.
"I'm trying to bring the heartbeat below the waist back! I'm trying to bring rock 'n' roll back, never mind sexy! It's a diminishing breed, and I'm the last man standing, in a way, that hasn't had a face lift, hahaha!"
Talking about being immersed I asked Michael whether being so involved in the garage rock universe that is Underground Garage had informed the in your face, balls to the wall nature of The Key To The Universe:
Michael Des Barres: "You know, trust you to be so perceptive.
"Yes, it's been incredibly informed, because, you know, Tony, I know that you love music, and you support music - well, I do too! I support music.
"Not just my own, I'm talking about like albums, so like the last year we've spent with Little Steven, playing to six million people a day, music that they love, and that I love. So of course, it is going to inform what I did in Rome, and what I could boil it down to is the idea that it's the essence of it.
"I use this metaphor often - if you look at the great painters, they end up doing a few brushstrokes, and it means everything - and that's what I'm trying to do. To minimize all of the affectation, and all of the ad libbing, and all of the posturing of rock 'n' roll, and trying to sing a fucking song. And do nothing but that.
"And, have the band play the fucking song with no virtuosity, just groove. Frequency and energy that is so entertaining and provocative, and all those wonderful things about rock 'n' roll, just simplify, simplify, and that is what I've learned from the playlists that Little Steven has created over the years, and that I am privileged to be a part of.
"Never for one moment did I think I'd be asked to contribute, but now, I can't imagine a world in which I didn't play music for others - that has informed my work."
One of the best things about The Key To The Universe is the guitar playing of Dani Robinson - he comes on like the perfect combination of Hendrix, Steve Jones, and Mick Ronson, steeped in rock history, punk energy, and melody, but with an eye towards the stars, fearlessly taking song after song to the stratosphere - Des Barres is not the only preacher in this church of music and love:
Michael Des Barres: "Well, thank you, Tony - you're a guitar player, you know.
"I played it for Steve Jones, and he lost his mind. Steve Jones is one of the sharpest people I know, certainly one of the most intelligent, and he has just a genius about him, and here's the first thing he said. 'Michael, who the fuck is that guitar player?'
"And there is a reason for that. Because, this guy... we just did the video, and we've been playing between setups. Dude. When we go out live, people are going to lose their minds when they see this guy.
"He's sort of Hendrix-y, but it's like tomorrow. It's like the way that Hendrix was this futuristic blues player, and it's the same with Dani. Dani has his feet firmly planted in the blues, and he's reaching for the stars, and he is the key to the universe.
"Bob Rose found him in Prague, and had him play on Julian's album, and he said, 'OK, I think you and Michael Des Barres would be pretty good'.
"I've always needed a foil, you know?
"I had Monarch in Detective, but you've got to have a great guitar player, otherwise, you're lost. And I've found one, and as you've said, nobody's really hip to him, but the response to this record has been bigger than I have ever experienced, plus, we have international distribution, and a huge team behind it.
"People are going to know who he is, and for that reason alone, this project makes me happy."
The fact that this band will be playing shows pleases me to no end - I'm hearing too many great rock 'n' roll records of late that aren't getting the honor and pleasure of being played upon the road on stages, and for the people, so it's fantastic to hear that this record will be played live:
Michael Des Barres: "Oh, big time.
"I'm going out to do a promotional tour for the media for the next month here and in Europe - already American radio has embraced it, the Linda Perry song, and "I Want Love To Punch Me In The Face" have gone to radio, and in Europe, it's an even bigger reaction in the UK and Germany because Murdoc (His character in television's MacGyver) was really big in Europe, and now they've got this guy that kills people on the telly playing rock 'n' roll music, and they seem to be delighted with that!
"I'm a great assassin playing Chuck Berry, and it's hilarious! We've got a great team together, and I get a shot, I've got a real shot at being the last guy standing, and to be the singer in the band, the house band at the apocalypse."
So, we have this man who was a child actor (To Sir With Love) who became a rockstar (Silverhead, Detective, Checkered Past, The Power Station), who then went back to being a huge television star (MacGyver), only later to re-emerge as a very real voice of a generation as an on air communicator of all things rock, love, and compassion. What made Des Barres go to the microphone now as a quite brilliant commentator/spokesman:
Michael Des Barres: "Well, first of all, thank you so much, coming from you that means a great deal to me.
"I have a lot of energy?
"And, I'm sick to death of playing punks and rock stars on television, and killers.
"I wanted to express myself in my own words, Tony. And, the only way I could do that is on the internet. So, I started out on the internet very humbly, interviewing friends, who just happen to be famous, and I got an audience - and from that audience Steven Van Zandt's wife heard me, and recommended me to Little Steven.
"When Andrew Loog Oldham broke his leg and couldn't do the shows, Steven called me, and said, 'Michael, you know, we've been watching and listening to you on the internet, would you like to substitute for Andrew?', and I said, 'Yeah.' Because, as you said, I had done all these Roots and Branches, and things on the web, and I really loved doing it, and I did it for nothing - nobody paid me to do this, so, Steven called me up, and I said sure.
"So, I did it for six weeks, while Andrew got better, well, Andrew then decided that he didn't want to come back, and Steven asked me if I would take over the morning slot, on his Underground Garage, and it was like one of the great days of my life! I admire him so enormously, and now I have this platform that reaches so many people.
"Everyday, three hours a day, and I do it from my home, and the difference is, and why I am doing it is because I've got a chance to talk, you know how I love to talk! Now, I could talk about stuff that people are interested in, and that's music, and then I could use that to potentially talk about sex, and the psychology of our culture, and why Brian Jones was important, and why Muddy Waters has a statue in the town's square, and so on, and so on, and that's what I do.
"And it makes me happy."
And, it is here where we get to the heart of the matter. If you've come along this far, you can now congratulate yourself on making it to where it really gets good.
We've made the case in conversation for the fact that The Key To The Universe is an album that must now be heard, that there's no place better for a fire breathing advocate of rock 'n' roll such as Michael Des Barres than on Little Steven's Underground Garage, but all that is a preamble for what really counts. It's when Des Barres talks about his life, your life, our lives, and when he examines the human condition that we see what compels this man to seek the highest mountains from which to communicate, be it the air waves or via rock 'n' roll records:
Michael Des Barres: "Well, everything I say is a surprise, so therefore, I'm not only turning you on, I'm turning me on - I promise you this.
"I am just a vehicle, a vessel, if you will, on something that is going down that is way bigger than I am, and when I say this stuff that I say, and I write the stuff that I write, and the thousands of people who respond to what I'm saying and writing is in and of itself satisfying. Because, what I am underscoring, what I want to believe, and what I wish for is the things that I write about.
"Sometimes I feel it, sometimes I really do feel that way, and at other times I plug into a source that enables me to get to what people want.
"See... everybody wants to be kind - if you ask anybody to do something for you, they'll knock themselves out to do it, but nobody asks.
"Because, they don't feel they're worthy of asking. So, my mission is to make people feel good about themselves - strong enough mentally, physically, and spiritually to be able to ask for help. Therefore, they are then giving help by asking someone, who then gets self esteem from that request. Make sense?
"When you are asked to do something, you feel good about yourself. Now that ties in with my whole idea of unity - of a divine unification of us all, and that's all God is, God is the unification of our higher selves. It's not Charlton Heston! It's not some mythical figure sitting on a cloud looking complacent!
"It's our higher intelligence unified, we can still remain individuals within that paradigm.
"So, I don't know, man... It's like On The Road To Damascus, I had a flash! And I just explained it to you."
Michael Des Barres' heart is not too hard to find - he wears it on his sleeve, unafraid of getting it handled a bit. That's one of the great things about the new album. The Key To The Universe is straight up tough, rough and ready rock 'n' roll, but it's also got that rock 'n' roll heart that is always willing to love enough to get hurt. I wondered aloud if perhaps the lack of vulnerability and heart are not exactly what is missing in this age of corporate rock:
Michael Des Barres: "Yes, absolutely, utterly and completely.
"The most attractive thing to people is vulnerability, because that way, you're letting people in - I don't profess to be an arrogant man. I can be!
"But, there's another word for it, it's called confidence. If you can get up there to play in front of two million people with just twenty minutes of rehearsal, you know the story (the story of which he refers, is, of course, the tale of his coming to front the supergroup The Power Station at Live Aid in 1985, at that point the largest rock event in history)!
"That taught me a huge lesson, which is, it's not about me. It's about entertainment, it's about a conversation between you and the audience, so, in terms of vulnerability on this record? You bet!
"It's about being dumped, it's about, oh my god, "Burning In Water, Drowning In Flames" that is a terrific lyric - it's not by me, it's by Jeff Silbar, a wonderful writer, and I wanted to explore... Carnaby Street (Des Barres' 2012 solo album) was a cocksure record, I just wanted to shake my ass, and tell them what time it was on a rock 'n' roll street level, but this record goes a lot deeper than that lyrically, which you have observed, and I believe that's gone. It's all, I'm bringing back sexy, I got a big dick, I can drink more champagne than you, my cigars are the biggest cigars ever made, Lamborghini makes my cigars.
"I mean, what the fuck?
"Are we in the school yard? My dick is bigger, my God is bigger, my daddy's bigger and will beat up your daddy?
"I'm not going to play around in a playground, and get my knees muddied up in some brawl with some idiot, some judgmental fool, some racist mad man - dude, I'm here to explore the human condition, I'm not here to piss around in some absurd sandbox, unless I'm working with Brian Wilson!"
Michael Des Barres has led by any measure an interesting life, and I wrapped up our conversation with a question - What moment was the most surprising?:
Michael Des Barres: "This fucking moment, Tony.
"Right here surprises me, because I don't know what I'm going to say, I don't know what you are going to ask, but I know one thing - I know it's going to be smart and informed, and that's why I'm taking this call with you. I'm not going to talk to everyone about this stuff, I'm not going out there, and proselytizing some pre-arranged speech. Those days are over, I don't need that anymore. I've got to stay in the moment, and surprise myself, and surprise you, and the audience.
"I think "Yesterday's Casanova" is a song that I think sets the direction I'm going in, I'm going to get really heavy with this stuff, and live, it's going to be The Who, it's going to be very powerful live, and Tony, I'd love for you to see it - the record is the best record I've ever made, but live, I think it's really going to move people.
"I've never been in a room with people that were so good, and really focused, and that's what happened. Written and recorded in five weeks - it's not how fast you do something, it's how committed you are.
"When you have a producer like Bob Rose, and a band like this, magic happens, and we got lucky - I'm so happy, and so grateful, and so delighted to talk with you, Tony, thank you for talking with me. Give my best to your family, and we'll see you in LA."Class dismissed. I'd have paid to have done this one.