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.


But now there are no excuses to not hip yourself to Steve Hunter's stock in trade, his tone poems. He's just released a live rendering of his career highlights that include his brilliant 2013 solo outing, The Manhattan Blues Project, along with some other nuggets from the years, a beautiful rendition of SRV's Riviera Paradise, and of course, since Tony Levin's onboard, they role out a splendid cover of Solsbury Hill.

Tone poems are what you write when you're conveying beauty without using your eyes. You can close them, and still see in the topography of your mind exactly what it is the composer is showing you. This album may be best listened to with a the shades drawn, the lights dimmed, a glass of something you like in one hand, and your hand in another's. It's a sexy son of a gun.

There's nowhere to hide in a setting like this - you have three exceptional players, the aforementioned Levin, Windham hill hero Phil Aaberg on electric piano, and drummer Alvino Bennett (Stevie Wonder, Robun Trower, Chaka Khan) laying down a field of delightful tones, notes, and rhythms that embellish, but never intrude - while they are unobtrusive, remember, these guys are who they are, and their underpinnings are pristine and perfect - like I said, nowhere to hide here.


Steve Hunter has been doing this almost all of his life, so he naturally needs no place to hide - he calmly walks into a room with some very high line heavy hitters, takes a seat, plugs his Gretsch Custon Shop CVT guitars, and owns it for the next forty-five minutes with some of the most tuneful, lyrical, and distinct guitar playing you're ever going to hear. His songs are top shelf, his sound is sensational, and this trip through his tone poems is like a carriage ride through Central Park on the nicest night of the year.

Tone Poems Live is the kind of record that would have seen Steve playing to packed theaters in the seventies and eighties, when an instrumental record could garner some airplay, and there were still magazines, and a pipeline for great, if not singles based music to be heard. This is like a companion piece for Beck's Blow By Blow - it's a mellow, uncrushed walk through just what it is a guitar can do in the hands of a man who can feel, and hear every nuance that is available to him from this wire and this wood.

Hunter is playing great. His touch is superb, as you'll notice as you hear strings being bent on the metal frets, the pick and Hunter's fingers plucking the notes, and his always accurate and deliciously warm vibrato. This is the work of a master showing you exactly what he has accomplished in over forty years of playing with such people as those I've mentioned, and a great many others.


There's no point in going through this track by track - this is an album, a performance piece that should be listened to from beginning to end by someone who loves music, and most likely loves love. It's a very romantic record - there's no metallic leanings to be found, but those with metallic leanings may still find much to love in this vortex of stunning musicality. Hunter is the most lyrical and tuneful of guitar players, and you can hear every bend, every slur, and every chord change with stunning clarity. Like I said, there's nowhere to hide when it's you and three of the best accompanists you can get in a room that is dead silent save for your tone poems. Hunter blows the room away, and if you give him a few dollars and a listen, I'm sure you'll agree with everything I've written.

Great music is being made, of this there is no question - the only question that remains is 'Will good music be supported by its listeners?'

Steve Hunter has turned down the volume over the years, but the Marshall amps have been replaced with a sonority that makes sure they are never missed, and a beauty that may inspire you to write a poem of your own. Check out Tone Poems Live, it's a great trip.    

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.


Something's going on here, Mr. Jones, and it's not what we're being told. People are writing obituaries for rock, making out like somethings died, and all for their own unstated, greedy reasons - sure the business has changed tremendously, and things have been brutally hard, but in spite of the hardships, the music is getting stronger, there's a tremendous amount of cool projects springing up, and there is more light at the end of the tunnel that there has been in ages.

Good For Sumthin' is an album of almost alarmingly raw emotions, thoughts, and feelings. You can hear it in Eric Gales' lyrics, his voice, and in every note that comes out of his hands and guitar. This is a musical autobiography writ large, and it will be some time before I know whether it's more important for what he says, or how he says it. I've been calling Gales one of the world's very finest guitar players for a few years now, but while he's always been a fine singer and lyricist, he's now absolutely transcended where he's been, and he's setting the bar very high for the rest of the world. This is a great piece of work. Everything has come together, everything has aligned and we the listeners are the beneficiaries.


Come A Long Way is a stew of fiery funk, riveting rock, and much in the way of melody and stortelling. It's a proclamation that sets the stage - a mission statement set to great guitars and solid rhythms. Gales sings and speaks his story as he tells of twenty years in the business, and his arrival at the apex of his life to this point. His soloing is so strong and confident that you could almost be excused for not noticing the brilliance of the playing, but you won't - it keeps growing and growing through the track, and all the way to the end.

Almost classical composition and very interestingly harmonizes guitars ring in the autobiographical 1019, and it abruptly changes into a hard to pin down by genre tale of the path that's led Eric to this moment. You can clearly hear the sophistication of Saadiq's influence - the song morphs its way through style after style, without ever sounding contrived or clumsy - no, this is simply the sound of pure musical collaboration. The voice is perfectly matched to the guitars, and you can hear all the work that Gales is describing as he tells the story of his life. This is fiercely personal, but he's letting us all into his parlor, and letting us hear what he's become, and when those harmonized lines come back around, we feel like we're family.


Going Back To Memphis is a blues that rocks in a satisfyingly jazzy manner, and Gales is taking us along on his trip, and there's some very cool and sophisticated side steps that remind us that Eric listened to Steely Dan as much as he did Stax. His musicality is huge, and he manages to keep it very cozy. The flights of wicked technique never lose sight of the paying customer, and opposed to making the listener work, Gales makes it sound like a well dressed Sunday picnic. This is Eric Gales' soul that he's sharing. "Life's really grand, y'all."

Raphael Saadiq is good. He's real, real good. You can hear him all over this record, but not in the way you'd think - his brilliance as a producer is that he allows Eric Gales to be the best version of himself we've yet been witness to, and he's been damned good for a long, long time, just never quite this focused. Good For Sumthin' combines a lot of elements and again Gales is telling his story very directly - he's grateful, he's joyous, and he's playing and singing his ass off - he's good for sumthin', all right. This is healing medicine and Drs. Gales and Saadiq have written our prescription.


Remember that Hendrix thing I said earlier? Well, if you want to hear what I'm talking about go straight to Six Deep. This is as close in spirit to where Jimi stood when he was fronting the Band Of Gypsys as I've ever heard. It's deep blues via the rainbow bridge, and the electric church is back in session. The haunting chords and the blistering leads dance around each other like ghosts, and the drums on this track are just sublime as they push and pull Gales along. The guitar playing? Well, this is why I've been calling Eric one of the world's best for the last few years. Holy hell, y'all.

Things get very pretty with You Give Me Life, and I've had the privilege of standing beside Mr. Gales and his wife together, so I really get this one. Everything about this track sounds like true and beautiful love. The bass underpins things so well, and grounds this tune as it gently reaches for the stratosphere. Guitar, voice, words - they're all straight from the soul, and we should listen very closely to what can happen when you let go, and let the muse take you where she will.


Heaven's Gate gets more playful and rocking, and it's a street story about the seedier, darker side of things, part and parcel of the whole package. You don't make it to the light without getting through the dark of the night, and Gales has come through to the other side, and this is his cautionary tale. He's a teller of truths and morals. He gives credit where credit's due, and then he turns it all into a dance party of guitars, cymbals, and fatback bass.

Silky smooth pop had to make an appearance, right? Tonight (I'm Leaving) reminds me of everything I loved about Don Was' brilliant Was (Not Was), a band that combined soul singing, rhythmic perfection, great musicianship, and a socially aware commentary. This has one of the most gorgeous choruses you're going to hear this year or any other, and this one might just be the hit. Are there still hit singles? This is a hit single. How about that Ernie Isley inflected solo? Of course, Eric is nobody's guitar player besides his own, and this record should make that very clear. As he goes of over the final choruses, the album truly climaxes.


The acoustic guitar finally gets broken out on Show Me How, and I can't but think of Bill Withers' ability to get a message across with just a voice and a guitar. Gales is singing in such a straight forward, honest fashion that you can almost miss what a fine, fine vocalist he has become. Great layered harmonies and a military snare keep things interesting, and when Eric goes into his silken solo, he seals the deal.

A cover tune? I wouldn't have guessed, and didn't see it coming, but I'm glad he had the balls to get next to The Rolling Stones classic, Miss You. A bit slower, a bit more soulful, and maybe even a bit funkier than the original, and we're's speaking about one of the slowest, soulful, funkiest trips Jagger and company ever took. Was this Saadiq's idea? Eric's? Whoever pulled the trigger on this gets a huge nod of the hat, and my eternal respect. When he gets to the bridge, you're going to audibly gasp and get goosebumps, just like I just did.

Zakk Wylde! What are you doing here? He's onboard for Steep Climb, and he's brought his best game. It's not the pinched squalling harmonics, it's the fierce soulful southern bends, and the blinding speed, and sweet side of the wild man from Oz, and it fits like a glove. To take it to the top of the mountain takes some time, and it's gonna be a steep climb, but our man E is up for the job. The soloing on this number takes no prisoners.


To ride it off into the sunset, Eric is joined by Eric. Johnson that is, and if this matching seems incongruous, belief me, it's not. These two are listening to one another and it's actually a match made in guitar heaven.

So, what have we learned? First, what we probably already knew - Eric Gales is one of the most talented musicians stomping the tundra, and he's learned that with a little faith, a lot of love, and a few right friends you can accomplish anything - and what he has accomplished here, along with his sidekick producer Rapheal Saadiq, and his rhythm section (who is that rhythm section?) is an album that's going to blow a whole lot of minds, and may just end up being my favorite album of not just this year, but maybe the last few.

Rock Ain't Near Dead, and Eric Gales is here to tell you the news.  

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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sonata Arctica - Ecliptica Revisited: 15th Anniversary Edition - Better The Second Time Around


Sonata Arctica have delved into heir past and re-recorded their debut album, Ecliptica, originally recorded in 1999, and while I'm most generally opposed to such projects, they've done a great job and get high marks.

I'm playing catch up here, so bear with me. Somehow in the shuffle I had missed Sonata Arctica - for fifteen years. In fact, the Finnish melodic/power metallers were just in San Francisco less than two weeks ago. Damn my luck. This is one of the coolest bands I've stubbled across in ages, and I let them slip through my hands by dint of sheer ignorance. Well, I'm no stranger to sheer ignorance, but I'm not so daft as to not dig this band, and this album.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Front and Center Presents: Richard Thompson - Must See TV


First, a disclaimer. I've not watched television for many years. I own a television, but it's been in a storage facility for about eight years. Somewhere between living my life, and my becoming intolerant of the endless madness and brainwashing that has become so much of the mainstream media, I had checked out, and canceled further reservations. As a result, or at least in part, I had never heard of public television's Front and Center.

Each week, Front And Center presents an artist, much in the tradition of the show's forefathers, Soundstage, and Austin City Limits. Even now, I'm late to the party, and the first two episodes of the show's new season have already aired, but when I finally got around to checking out the promo episode I've been sent, I must say that I am completely blown away. It turns out that this show is a great example of what television should be, and could be.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Celebrating Jon Lord - An All Star Jam Worth Owning


Jon Lord cast a large shadow across this world, and he continues to do so from the next as his friends, family, and fans convene each year for The Sunflower Jam, an annual benefit for cancer awareness and research that was founded in 2006 by Jackie Paice (aka Mrs. Ian Paice). The charity and its annual gig has grown to the point that it now happens at the Royal Albert Hall, and this year's performances have just been released in a multi-format manner by earMUSIC ( release and packing info available here: http://www.celebratingjonlord.com).

The beauty of this release is that unlike many other all star jams, aside from the charity the Sunflower Jam exists for but one reason - to celebrate the life and music of Jon Lord, and it sounds wonderfully cohesive as a result. I'm reviewing the CD release. This is not just a gathering, it's a very cool double album that includes performances from Paul Weller, The Temperance Movement's Phil Campbell, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden, Glenn Hughes, Bruce Dickinson, Don Airey, Deep Purple, Rick Wakeman, and many others.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bernie Tormé - Bernie The Strat - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"People go on about rock stars, and all that - I mean, I could not give a fuck about any of that. I never have, and never will. It's about being able to play and record, you know?" ~ Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé is back! Mind you, he's never gone away, but he has released his first solo album in fifteen years, and I believe I even called it, "An absolute all time rock guitar classic (Flowers & Dirt Review)." It's a brilliant double album filled with great songs, impassioned vocals, and a tremendous amount of stunning guitar work. Making things even more exceptional is the fact that Bernie's album was the result of a super successful crowd funding project with PledgeMusic.

After I heard the record, I decided that I had to hear more about the coming and goings of this record, along with a smattering of reminiscences of the guitarist's stints with Ozzy Osbourne, and Gillan, with of course, Deep Purple frontman, Ian Gillan. Sticking with the DIY methods of today, I got ahold of Bernie directly, and he was kind enough to consent to my curiosities. It turns out that Mr. Tormé is a treasure trove of wit, wisdom, and rock biz experience, and anyone who reads the following will walk away as pleased as I.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mike LePond's Silent Assassins - This Is What A Solo Album Should Sound Like


Mike LePond has accomplished a great deal on his first solo album, Silent Assassins - he got the record written and recorded via crowd funding with a successful Kickstarter project, he gathered some great talent to assist him, and most importantly, he made an album that is a great listen for any fan of classic/power heavy metal.

LePond's day job for the last sixteen years has been that of bassist for Symphony X. In fact, he wrote this record on tour with the band, wisely using the endless hours of bus travel to compose the music, write the lyrics, and conceptualize Silent Assassins. I realize that on its face, the prospect of listening to a solo album from a bass player could seem fraught with the possibility of disappointment, but let me allay your fears. The album came to my desk highly recommended, and I'll gladly pass the recommendation on to you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Whitesnake - Live In 1984 - Back To The Bone - For Sykes' Sakes, This Boot Fits....


This is the one we've been waiting for for 30 years - documentary evidence of just how good Whitesnake was when guitarist John Sykes led Coverdale's army in league with Cozy Powell, Neil Murray, and the late great Jon Lord. We'll bow our heads for the loss of Powell and Lord (as well as Mel Galley) from this world's ranks, as they were giants of our times. Now, on with the show.

This is an interesting package, and I wish I could say that the DVD looks and sounds fantastic, but to be honest, I've no idea. In a great gaff that owes either to the vagaries of modern business costs, or (and I'd love to think this isn't the case) incredibly shortsightedness on the part of the producers/distributors, the press has only been issued the audio for the bonus CD from this set. That being said, I'm sure it's grand, as David Coverdale has always put his absolute best face forward with his product, but as one writer who has been consistently supportive and prides himself on telling it like it is, I won't attempt to mask my disappointment (and a bit of snarky pissed offedness) at not being able to actually tell my readers what the main event holds.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ross The Boss Friedman - Present At The Creation, And Still Creating - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


"For me, it's just my guitar, my amp, my heart, and my head." ~ Ross The Boss
Ross The Boss Friedman first entered my consciousness in the summer of 1975. The Dictators' debut album, Go Girl Crazy, came to me in a trade with future indie rock legend Robert Pollard, who dug whatever I gave him more than he dug the band's wrestling infused cover and outrageous liner notes, that referred to Friedman as Ross "The Boss" Funicello. Bob's mistake was in not first playing the record - Go Girl Crazy predated The Ramones by a year, and it married what would become punk rock with Beach Boys harmonies, hilarious lyrics, and the incredible proto-metal lead guitar playing of Ross The Boss. And that's just the beginning of the story.

After five years of being both smarter than their audience and ahead of their time, The Dictators went on hiatus, and through a combination of luck, hard work, imagination, and a recommendation by Ronnie James Dio, Friedman met bassist Joey DeMaio, and they forged the band that invented power metal, Manowar. Heavy metal would never be the same, but again, Ross The Boss was ahead of the curve, and while his band started a movement, and as often transpires, they never really got to lead that movement.

Fast forward twenty-five years to 2014, and Ross The Boss Friedman is still touring with The Dictators NYC, who are bigger than they've ever been, and he's also playing guitar for Death Dealer, who may just be the next big thing in classic metal. Wait a minute, have I heard that phrase before? Yeah, I have - The Next Big Thing was the first song on the Dictators first album, and its incendiary guitar solo by Mr. Funicello née Friedman made me go out and buy a Les Paul and a Marshall half stick. In short, it changed my life, and there was no looking back.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rival Sons - Rockin' The Fillmore, San Francisco, California

Myles Wright Photography
It's always a buzz to get that last minute message that asks if you can make it to a great show. It's even better when it's a band's first show in a legendary venue, and Rival Sons debut at The Fillmore couldn't have come off any better. They flat out rocked the joint.

Rival Sons are doing it the right way - they've been with the Earache Records since nearly the beginning (they did self release their first long player, Before The Fire, in 2009), they've had Dave Cobb on board as their producer for three albums running, and they have a management team behind them that kicks ass and takes names. They're growing up and developing as a band, and it appears that they're getting better by the minute. As I said - they are doing it the right way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Carl Verheyen - Mustang Run And The Musical Diaries - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


"I think what you have to do to pull off having a career in the music business is to not aim for stardom, but to aim for making a living. If you're strong enough, stardom will come, you know what I mean? The chances of being a Stevie Ray Vaughan is one in a million, but the chances of making it in the music business, living comfortably, providing for your family, and doing what you want to do for a living - if you have any talent at all - you can do that. It just takes hard work." ~ Carl Verheyen
Carl Verheyen has released his 13th solo album, Mustang Run on his Cranktone record label, and he's getting ready to head off to the UK and Europe for an extensive tour that will keep him busy until Thanksgiving (it's now the middle of September). He's one of the last of the true A-list session players in Los Angeles, been a member of classic rock legends Supertramp since 1985, records his solo albums in the best studios in Los Angeles, finds himself finally drug into the world of home studios and Pro Tools, and yet he can still be found in his basement on a Saturday morning giving a personal guitar lesson.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bernie Tormé - Flowers & Dirt - A Huge Success On Every Level


Rock Ain't Near Dead - if this is what death sounds like, bring it on....

Bernie Tormé is releasing his first solo record in fifteen years, his first studio work since 2008 on September 29th, and Flowers & Dirt proves to be an album well worth the wait. Definitely in my top ten for 2014 at this point. Maybe even an absolute all-time rock guitar classic - yes, I believe it is.

Tormé went the crowd funding route to get this package put together on PledgeMusic - his fans showed the love to the extent of 418% of his goal, and he's put together a fantastic package. It's almost an hour and a half of stunning straight up rock, and no matter where you drop the needle, you're going to be smiling from ear to damned ear. This is glorious rock, children, and Bernie's laying down one fine sermon after another. And God love him, he didn't cheap out on the artwork and packaging, it's top notch. I love a guy that gives a shit, and the Irish guitarist has delivered the goods in spades.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Vinnie Moore - The Pro's Pro - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


Vinnie Moore appears to be on quite an uphill climb - he's just released what I believe to be his finest work yet with the stunning debut of his new band Red Zone Rider, he's in the process of completing his six studio outing with heavy rock legends UFO, and he's got a new solo album in the can, ready for mixing and mastering. All of this should add up to a very busy 2015 for the veteran six stringer.

Red Zone Rider might just be the best new band of 2014, and their debut album (out September 16th) will most likely end up on a lot of year end top ten lists. Comprised of Moore, Kelly Keeling, and drummer Scot Coogan, the band has partnered up with Magna Carta Records, and longtime metal guru Mike Varney and they've got a winner on their hands. Every track on the album is rock solid, and the songs and performances are going to raise a lot of eyebrows in the world of hard rock.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spike - 100% Pure Frankie Miller - Molten Rock 'N' Soul Gold, 2014's Best?


Rock Ain't Near Dead....not even close, not as long as there's new records like this.

In which, Spike of The Quireboys goes solo with a set of never before heard Frankie Miller compositions with guests such as Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Tyler, Ian Hunter, one of God's rhythm sections in Free's Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser, Luke Morley, and a list of other UK rock luminaries, which will most likely end up on a great many year's end top tens.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest - Defender Of The Faith - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


"I think the skepticism that some people might have, or have had was just a testament to how passionate they are about the band, you know? There was a healthy amount of skepticism that comes from that passion, and I think that's a healthy thing. That's a testament to the fans. And thanks to the fans for trusting in the band, buying tickets, coming down to the show. Within 30 seconds, man - they had their hands up in the air, and they're screaming along. It was just instant really, so a big hat's off to them for doing that." ~ Richie Faulkner on Judas Priest's fans.
Richie Faulkner is still the new guy in Judas Priest, though he's been with the group for over three years. He made his debut in front of tens of millions of viewers on an episode of American Idol, he's played well over a hundred shows with the band, and he's now written and recorded the band's highest charting debut on the Billboard charts (#6) - but, he's still the new guy, and nobody gets what that means more than Mr. Faulkner. He's remarkably respectful to the band's history, legacy, and fans - he understands that the job he's taken is a revered position, and that no one would be stamped as approved without thoroughly having their mettle tested. After the last three years, it's extremely clear to see that the band made the proper choice when they hired him.

Foreigner - Thunder Valley Casino - Putting On The Hits In Fantastic Fashion


I'll admit that I was pretty disappointed to not see Foreigner main-man Mick Jones when the band took the stage last Friday night, but about three songs into the set, I realized that his absence did not prevent his band from putting on an absolute top shelf arena rock, greatest hits show.

Let's get a few points out of the way - this iteration of Foreigner has been together nearly ten years, and at least on tour, this is a greatest hits show (and they've had a bunch). Now, the whole classic rock band doing greatest hits tours thing can go a couple of ways. At it's worst, you've got bands filled with non-original members who have been hired for the lowest wage to crank out an uninspired show that exists only to milk fans for what they're worth. I've seen a lot of this, and I don't have to name names, but that's just the worst case scenario. At its best, you have an act like Foreigner - one original member (who did write the lion's share of their catalog), Mick Jones, who has assembled a cast of talented and inspired musicians who can play and perform not just as well as, but arguably even better than the original band.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

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


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

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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


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

Red Zone Rider - A Great Beginning


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

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

Friday, August 22, 2014

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


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

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ZZ Top + Jeff Beck = Guitar Nirvana


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

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

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

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


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

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

Thursday, August 7, 2014

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


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

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

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

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

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

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

Sunday, August 3, 2014

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


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

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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


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

Monday, July 28, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls - The Pride Of Metal


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

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blues Pills - A Flippin' Fantastic Debut


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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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


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

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

Monday, July 7, 2014

America, Meet Danny Bryant - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

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

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

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

Monday, June 30, 2014

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


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

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

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


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

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

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


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

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