Thursday, July 31, 2008

A couple of quick CD reviews: Foo Fighters and Sloan

The great music keeps rolling along. Here are two quick reviews of a couple albums I have been listening to this week.

Foo Fighters’ Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace was out in 2007. I didn’t get around to picking it up until a couple of months after its release, and didn’t get to give a few good start to end spins until a couple of months after that. What wasted time it was because this is one great record. The Foo Fighters continue to display their talents as musicians and songwriters, as well as their show off their diversity. The album has great melodic rockers, slow and mid tempo acoustic numbers and even some sultry piano. I can’t say there is a weak track on here. Grade A+

Favorite Tracks: The Pretender, Let it Die, Stranger Things Have Happened, Summers End, The Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners

Hailing from Canada’s east coast come alternative rockers Sloan. Not sure how many readers outside of Canada are aware of this band, but they have been recording and touring in the great white north since the early 90’s. Their most recent release is titled Parallel Play and simply put is one great fun summer record. There are many times during this album that I can picture 5 people in a convertible, swaying their heads back and forth in unison as they drive to the beach. But to clarify for those not familiar with their work, this is not the Beach Boys. This is for the most part uplifting alternative rock and roll. Grade B+.

Favorite Tracks: Believe in Me, Cheap Champagne, The Dogs, Living the Dream

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Past Concert Experiences - Def Leppard, 1992

I’ll be seeing Def Leppard perform in a little over a week and will be reviewing that show right here of course. So I thought what a great time to reflect upon my first Def Leppard concert back in 1992. I have written about this show briefly before, but here’s a more thorough review, as well as my memory serves me.

I grew up with Def Leppard since the Pyromania days and I was pumped to have the chance to see my teenage idols perform live. They were towards the end of the tour supporting the Adrenalize album, and a huge crowd gathered for this outdoor concert. They were the headliners that evening for a show that also included April Wine, Ugly Kid Joe and Meat Loaf.

I was not overly interested in any of the other performers, but watched them all. Briefly, my thoughts on the supporting acts were as follows. April Wine did not put off a good performance and the sound left much to be desired. Ugly Kid Joe had a few moments and were mildly entertaining. I did have their America’s Least Wanted album, and thought it was ‘OK’ at best. ‘OK’ best described their set that night too. Next up was Meat Loaf. I am not, and never was, a fan of Meat Loaf’s music. However, for the 60 plus minutes he performed that evening, he was very entertaining. He displayed great stage presence, got the audience into it and sounded spot on. This was an outdoor concert, and during Meat Loaf’s set I politely edged my way forward. By the time the crew were setting up for Def Leppard there was nothing in front of me but the stage.

It was just dark by the time Def Leppard hit the stage, which served well for the laser lights that danced through the air during the show. The band walked out and the first two notes of Rock Rock ‘Til You Drop (from Pyromania) were struck. A strobe light flashed in the darkness as Joe Elliot literally jumped up and down over and over again while the song’s intro was played. Once the stage was fully lit Joe grabbed the mic while wearing a plain white t-shit with the word ‘Slut’ right across it’s front.

Watching this concert was very similar to watching their ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ and ‘Armageddon It’ concert videos. They looked and often acted the same. But if they were just going through the motions that night, you certainly couldn’t tell. The band had plenty of energy and fantastic stage presence. Base player Rick Savage seemed to do the most to connect with those of us in front, as he spent most of his time in between songs passing out high fives to us all. Joe did speak to the crowd on a few occasions throughout the show, but for the most it was one song after another.

The setlist that night was as follows. They opened with Rock Rock Til You Drop, Women was second, and Another Hit and Run (from High and Dry) was third. From here I can’t recall the exact order but they performed Rocket, Animal, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Armageddon It, Hysteria, Foolin’, Two Steps Behind, Make Love Like a Man, and Bringin’ on the Heartbreak. They closed the set with Do You Wanna Get Rocked? After a brief intermission they played two numbers for the encore, first Love Bites and then ended the night with Rock of Ages. The band sounded great as they performed all of these songs. One criticism the band has met over the years is that Joe Elliot’s vocals can be shaky at times. Not the case for this show, as good a singer as Joe can be, he was this evening. There was a lengthy ovation after the final number of the night.

I can’t say much negative about this concert. It would have been nice if they played a little longer, but it was an outdoor concert in the middle of a city and didn’t start until dark. Also, they didn’t play one of their signature songs from Pyromania, Photograph. Apparently, that song has found its way back into their set list. So how will Def Leppard 1992 compare to Def Leppard 2008? Stayed tuned, in less than two weeks I should have a full review of the new show posted.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rockin' Movies

There have been many memorable movies centered around the world of rock and other musical genres. Here is my personal top 10. I haven’t included musicals or documentaries (real ones anyway). Enjoy.

10. Rock Star
I was really looking forward to this one after seeing the trailers, but it didn’t live up to the hype for me. However, I did enjoy the idea of a regular guy, who could be any one of us who loves music, getting the chance to become the new lead singer of his all time favorite band. Also, the band in the movie, Steel Dragon, could have easily been one of several hair bands I listened to back in the 80’s. For those reasons, it makes my list.

9. High Fidelity
Although this movie’s plot centers around the main character’s breakup with his girlfriend and his other five most memorable splits, it is the conversations in the record store where most of the movie is set that gets it on my list. The banter between actor’s Jack Black and Todd Louiso and the customers in the store as they show off their musical knowledge and create their top 5 lists, make this one worth the price of admission.

8. The Doors
It’s been a while since I seen this movie. But what I remember most about the film is Val Kilmer’s haunting portrayal of Jim Morrison. Oliver Stone directs this movie that covers the rise and fall of the famous band and lead singer.

7. The Commitments
Set in Ireland, it follows a group of unemployed people who form a band. It also features great performances, both acting and musical. The Commitments, containing at least some of the actors in the film, are now a real touring band.

6. Walk the Line
Great acting, great singing, great story, this movie had it all. The Johnny Cash biopic was popular with critics and audiences alike, and it was easy to see why.

5. School of Rock
I just loved Jack Black in this movie as he portrayed a man obsessed with rock music and refusing to let it go even in the slightest way. Jack Black’s rants on the real and true purpose of rock and roll – stickin’ it to the man, are priceless. Apparently there is a School of Rock 2 in the works.

4. Wayne’s World
If there was a character I ever related to in the movies it was Wayne Campbell. For a few years in my life, I was very similar to Wayne, including his musical interests, and fashion choices (hat, hair, t-shit and jeans). I saw this one on opening night and the theatre was full of enthusiasts. There were moments of applause and cheers; it was almost like being at a rock concert. The sequel was not as strong, but also provided a lot of laughs and was a memorable film as well.

3. Almost Famous
I loved this movie. The plot covers the adventures of a teenage boy who gets a chance to write a story for Rolling Stone on an up and coming band, Stillwater. It is a coming of age movie, but it’s also fun to watch the portrayal of the band, and the boy’s interaction with them and their crew. It features a great scene when everyone on the tour bus, tired and haggard from the road, breaks into Elton John’s Tiny Dancer.

2. Hard Core Logo
This is a fantastic Canadian movie. It is a mock documentary that follows the trials of a punk rock band called Hard Core Logo. The movie is a dark and tragic tale, and stars Hugh Dillon as the band’s troubled lead singer. Dillon is also known for fronting the Canadian band The Headstones, who had some success in the 90’s. An awesome movie!!

1. Spinal Tap
This is not only my favorite movie on this list, but possibly my favorite of all time. I have seen this movie many many times. If I see it on TV, my initial reaction is – oh no, not this again. But after I watch for 30 seconds I am hooked and usually finish it right to the end. It is hilarious and contains one classic scene and line after another. I actually had the chance to see Spinal Tap perform in the early 90’s and they sounded great and were as funny as ever.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Revelation and other Journey Memories

Journey is back with another new singer, a new album, and some old stuff repackaged and re-recorded all in a two CD set called Revelation. I never considered myself a big Journey fan. My memories of Journey mainly consist of a greatest hits cassette that one of my friends owned and insisted on playing in the car on a few college road trips, much to the dismay of the rest of us. Every time the cassette was inserted I used to shudder at the thought of hearing Don’t Stop Believing one more time. However, despite of this, there was a time or two we could have created one of those classic movie scenes where everyone breaks into song, similar to Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World or Elton John’s Tiny Dancer in Almost Famous. Picture five guys crammed into a Chevy Cavalier with bad moustaches and bad mullets wailing Don’t Stop Believing to the top of our lungs. I digress.

I am not sure if there is a lot of buzz about this latest Journey offering or not, but it seemed like everywhere I turned, I was reading something about the new album. Curiosity got the better of me and echoes of Don’t Stop Believing from days gone by would not stop running through my head, so I made the purchase. It contains a CD of brand new material and a second CD of all the old hits. But it’s just not the old hits digitally re-mastered and put into a new case, they actually went into the studio and re-recorded them all with their new lead singer, Arnel Pineda. Take that Steve Perry.

No mistake, the new material makes for a fun album. Listening to it made me feel like I was in the early to mid 80’s again. The guitars, keyboards and high-pitched vocals are all unmistakably Journey. There is a good mixture of upbeat tunes with the classic sounding Journey ballads. Towards the end of the disc, I find it starts to wear a little thin for me, but before it’s done there is an interesting instrumental track called The Journey (Revelation) that I like. If you are a fan of Journey, I don’t think you will be disappointed here.

The second CD contains all the songs that you would want to hear at a Journey concert, Don’t Stop Believing, Faithfully, Open Arms, Anyway You Want It, etc. In re-recording these hits they’ve stayed very true to the originals, but the sound quality has naturally improved and they have a bit of a fresh feel to them. Arnel Pineda does them all justice, and many times it sounds as if Steve Perry himself is still on vocals. It makes for another very fun disc.

Overall, a strong offering and it was better than what I ever expected it to be. This one will definitely get some playing time from me. I even attempted to serenade my wife in the car with the new version of Don’t Stop Believing in the background. Steve Perry or Arnel Pineda I was not, but at least my moustache and mullet are gone. I give the album a grade of a strong B.

Favorite Tracks: Never Walk Away, Like a Sunshower, Change for the Better, The Journey (Revelation) and yes…Don’t Stop Believing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Life, Death, Love and Freedom by John Mellencamp

Wow!! That was my first reaction to this latest recording from John Mellencamp, Life, Death, Love and Freedom. I haven’t paid much attention to Mellencamp since I last owned The Lonesome Jubilee in the late 80’s. I’ve heard all the singles since, and some of the other songs, but never really embraced any of it. However, I was in the mood for something a little different, and picked up this one on a whim after reading the review over at Layla’s Classic Rock Faves.

This album is truly unique and if I had to pick only one word to describe it, it would be haunting. Gone are the pop radio friendly singles and what’s left is a folk rock collection of powerful, emotional and raw songs. The opening track, Longest Days, is a stripped down acoustic gem. It sets the somber and dark tone that follows right through to the end of the album. In some earlier posts I talked of my affection for Blue Rodeo and Neil Young. For the same reasons I like those artists, I like this recording. For the rest of the summer, it will be this CD that I listen to when I am sitting on the deck as dusk turns to dark and relinquish in the peacefulness of the quiet evenings that I enjoy so much this time of year.

If you are looking for something to put on at a party or have a sing-a-long to in the same vein as R.O.C.K in the USA, Jack and Diane, Pink Houses, or the many other popular Mellencamp tracks, then forget about this one. But if you want to sit back and be taken away in the melancholy of some great music and lyrics, then purchase this disc. For what it is, it is a near masterpiece. Grade A+

Favorite Tracks: Longest Days, Young Without Lovers, Jena, Mean

Friday, July 25, 2008

Past Concert Experiences - Our Lady Peace, 1994

In 1994 Our Lady Peace were just starting to make some noise and touring in support of their debut release, Naveed. The night I saw them was not in a large arena, but in a campus gymnasium with about 1000 others crammed into this small venue. I had owned their debut album and liked it very much and hoped I was in for a treat that night. A band full of energy and anger walked out on stage ready to put off a show. Over the years, the angry side of the band has waned, but that’s ok to my taste. The band was also very loud, something I rarely complain about at a concert. But it was not a good loud, the sound was often distorted and muffled. Perhaps this was not the fault of the band so much as it was the venue they were playing in. Throughout the night the crowd got livelier and livelier with the amount of alcohol being consumed no doubt playing a role. This was on campus after all, and at times there were as many people in front of the bar as there was in front of the stage. It wasn’t long before the body surfing began and the bouncers decided, or were ordered, to remove those involved from the premises. At this point the music stopped and lead vocalist Raine Maida screams into the microphone that those guys bought a ticket like everyone else and they had to come back. He said the band would not play another note until they returned. The band just kind of stood on the stage, did nothing and waited. The bouncers, for a few moments, did the same thing on the floor. They looked at each other and wondered what to do. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that the band was serious, the removed patrons were soon returned and the show continued. There was no music for about 10 minutes at least. As the band played on we heard just about the entire Naveed CD, but the sound still left much to be desired. All in all, it was an interesting night, but overall, not a great concert. I am sure Our Lady Peace put off many great shows over the years, and the many great songs they now have to draw from must help. In fact I have seen some great live footage of them over the years, but this one show early in their career did not work for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oh Canada

There has been no shortage of great rock produced by Canadian talent. Although there are many, here is my personal top five.

5. Our Lady Peace.
I got to see this band play live in their early days and although the show had some interesting moments, I wasn’t wowed. I plan on sharing this show’s experience with everyone at a later time when I write about other past concert experiences. Over the years Our Lady Peace won me over as they continued to produce good music that I started to like more and more. They have no one album that I can say is super, but they are all at very least good. I have pulled tracks from each disc and made up my own Our Lady Peace compilation. If you are new to their music, check out their greatest hits package called A Decade. It also contains a DVD featuring some great concert footage, unlike my experience.

Favorite Album: Clumsy. A great effort containing mostly all strong songs.

4. Neil Young
To be honest, I debated even putting Neil Young on this list. One may question that, but this is a list of personal favorites only. I can go months and months without even listening to Neil Young, or ever wanting to. Many people either love or hate Young’s music. But there have been periods in my life where I have listened to a lot of his music and enjoyed it thoroughly. Some nights, when sitting and relaxing on the deck on a clear and quiet summer’s evening, there is nothing else that should be played other than a Neil Young album. There is no question of his uniqueness as an artist, ability as a songwriter and influence on many other musicians. Because there were periods in my life when I thought Neil Young was the best thing to happen to music, he has to go on my list.

Favorite Album: Harvest Moon. My favorite simply because I listened to this one the most on many an evening as described above.

3. Blue Rodeo
They might not seem to fit with most of the other bands on this blog, as they do cross over into country and folk-rock. However, when listening through Blue Rodeo’s body of work you can also hear influences of Neil Young, The Band and when that organ gets going at times, it even sounds like the Doors. They are one of those bands with the ability to take you away with a haunting song, stir up some old emotions and take you back to a certain time in your life, as if a song was written just for you. Jim Cuddy and Geoff Keelor are crafty songwriters and storytellers. I have a mix CD comprised of my favorite Blue Rode songs, and when the mood is right, it’s just about the most perfect thing I can play.

Favorite Album: Five Days in May. Captures those haunting and emotional songs at their best.

2. Rush
It’s also hard to describe in words Rush’s musical style. They are often labeled as a progressive rock band, although over their thirty plus years in the business there is evidence of other styles and influences as well. I simply classify them as a great rock band, and one of Canada’s longest and most well known success stories. I first started listening to Rush in the 1980’s when Hold Your Fire was released. The track Time Stands Still on that album remains one of my favorite Rush songs to this day. Rush, of course, is also known for their famous and one of the world’s greatest drummers, Neil Peart. Rush continues to tour successfully and record and I am just waiting for them to come round these parts to see the show.

Favorite Album: Moving Pictures. Their biggest selling and I agree with the masses on this one.

1. Tragically Hip
My favorite Canadian band bar none. I own every Hip CD and they all rank from very good to awesome. There is the odd song that I could leave or take, but I can’t say this band has put out anything that deserves to be permanently shelved. The band has reached superstar and legendary status in Canada, but never found that same level of success elsewhere. Back in the mid 90’s they did appear on Saturday Night Live and were introduced by fellow Canadian, Dan Ackroyd, as the next big thing. However, it didn’t happen in the US. In Canada, despite the fact of being a much smaller market, their popularity did not wane, and they continue to thrive. If you like hard, but not heavy, alternative rock and great lyrics, you can't go wrong with The Hip.

Favorite Album: Road Apples. Although Fully Completely is regarded by many as their best, for me is a close second. Road Apples sounds more raw compared to the production value Fully Completely and all the songs are great.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Couple of Quick Judas Priest Reviews

Judas Priest has been back with Rob Halford on vocals now for some time. They have released two albums since his return, 2005’s Angel of Retribution and 2008’s Nostradamus. They are one of my favorite metal bands and here are my reviews of these most recent two efforts.

Angel of Retribution
It’s amazing to think with a body of work as impressive as Judas Priest that I could sit this disc, put out just over 30 years after their first, close to the top. This is classic Priest all the way. It opens with a killer first track, Judas Rising, and it pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the ride through. The double kick on the drums, crushing guitars and Halford’s screams are all there. Track two, Deal with the Devil, is just as heavy but a little more melodic in nature and is one of my favorites. But it doesn’t stop there, pick any track on this one, and I can say something good about it. It does end with an odd number, a long epic song about the Lochness Monster. There is an excellent mid-tempo track called Worth Fighting For and a slow acoustic song called Angel. They all work. If you like Judas Priest, I feel confident in saying you will love Angel of Retribution. Grade A+.

Favorite Tracks: Judas Rising, Deal With the Devil, Worth Fighting For, Revolution, Angel

Nostradamus is a monstrous piece of work. A two CD set concept album based on the life of the prophet Nostradamus. Every time I hear of an upcoming concept album I get excited, but I’m not sure why. I always end up caring very little about whatever the concept is and simply enjoying or disliking the music, just as I would with any other record.

Nostradamus has that usual effect of a concept album on me and I find myself paying little attention to the theme at all. However, this album is still a great accomplishment. With two CDs of mostly strong songs you shouldn’t be disappointed. However, be warned if you enjoy the heavy stuff, this one is a little more mellow, and it is a different Priest album for sure. Make no mistake, this is still metal, it is still Priest, but there are more of the heavy thumping mid-tempo tracks and slower songs throughout. Overall, I enjoy Nostradamus, but not near as much as their previous release. The concept doesn’t work for me, but the music in most places does. The first disc in this set is the stronger and my favorite tracks are listed below. Grade B.

Favorite Tracks: Prophecy, Revelations, War, Visions, Conquest

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Alice Cooper Thoughts

I bought Alice Cooper tickets a few days ago. He in an artist I always wanted to see perform, and despite the fact he has been in my neck of the woods a few times, I have continued to miss each show. So this time I won’t be denied and already have my tickets for an October concert. I have only ever owned three Alice Cooper albums, 1986’s Constrictor, A Fist Full of Alice (live) and the Beast of Alice Cooper (a compilation), none of which I have loved, but all have enjoyed. However, he is one artist whose persona intrigues me as much as his music. I love listening to an Alice Cooper interview. He is intelligent and well spoken and speaks of Alice as another person. Alice is merely a character he created and continues to perform.

Alice Cooper’s career continues to thrive. He continues to record, tour and hosts a great syndicated radio show called Nights with Alice Cooper. My favorite part of the show is Alice’s interviews. Hearing Alice chat with other classic rockers and share stories is fascinating. It's much better than a conventional interview with just another media personality.

As I write this now I am listening to his newest CD, Along Came a Spider, that it set to be released on July 29th. However, it is available to listen to in its entirety right now on Alice’s MySpace page. I won’t review it just yet, but I will probably get a copy and give it a few good listens before the show, as I am sure he will perform some new tracks. However, it’s Alice's classics I want to hear, Billion Dollar Babies, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Only Women Bleed and my favorite – I’m Eighteen. If you want to check out his new CD or his radio show follow the links below.

Alice Cooper's MySpace Page
Nights With Alice Cooper Radio Show

Monday, July 21, 2008

Runnin' Wild in the Summer

The last few days I’ve been playing Airbourne’s Runnin’ Wild CD in my car. This may prove to be a bit of a mistake during the summer months, as my foot tends to fall a little too hard on the accelerator when listening. It’s just that kind of disc. Turn it on, turn it up, and try to take your time – it will be difficult when listing to Runnin’ Wild. Hailing from Australia, Airborne offer us sounds of much needed no nonsense hard-hitting rock and roll. Running Wild is a fantastic listen from start to finish.

There are going to be obvious comparisons to ACDC. The raspy voice of lead vocalist Joel O’Keefe, the catchy guitar riffs and even the solos sound “ACDC’ish”. Despite of this, it still sounds fresh to me. There isn’t a ballad or mid tempo track on the album, it’s one ear catchy hard rocker after another. If there is one criticism of the album, it is just that, the band starts to sound a bit like a one trick pony. But hey, it works for ACDC, and I love the sound of this band, and I love this album. Grade A.

I look forward to hearing future albums from Airbourne and hope their success and following continues to grow in North America.

Favorite Tracks: Stand Up for Rock and Roll, Runnin’ Wild, Diamond in the Rough, Fat City

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Def Leppard and Poison Feud

There’s an interesting war of words playing out between Poison and Def Leppard. It always troubles me when bands start doing this, and it amazes me how fueled fans get over it all. All bands have a fan base and have something to offer those who enjoy listening to their music. I’ve always come from the school of thought just like what you like, and you shouldn’t have to defend it. Many of my metalhead friends can’t handle the fact that I love metal, but also listen to Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, etc. I always say why not?

On the Def Leppard website it is indicated that this is not a serious feud, but mostly friendly banter. I guess it’s all good publicity for those involved either way. If you want to check it out head on over to the Def Leppard website where they provide a decent summary and links to get all the details. Not being biased here either, at the time of writing this, I couldn’t find anything on the Poison website on the matter.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Entertainment Weekly and the 1980s

Entertainment Weekly recently published a copy of their popular magazine that revealed their choices for the “new classics”. The top 100 movies, albums, TV programs, and books in the last 25 years were ranked.

The choice for their number one classic album in the last quarter of a century was Prince’s Purple Rain. After some reflection, this was a decent selection. Prince is not normally of my personal taste, but I do respect the man’s musical ability. Purple Rain was also a strong album, a rockin’ album, and I admit to having owned the cassette. It is the only Prince album I have ever purchased.

However I write this entry to take exception to the lack of true 80’s hard rock on the list. For a time hard rock and hair bands reigned supreme and if you are going to pay tribute to the last 25 years, you should acknowledge all of the fads and phases. The only album I can find in the top 100 from this genre is Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction coming in at number 30. Definitely should be on this list, perhaps even higher.

I can understand this is a list of 100 albums from all musical genres over the last 25 years and must have been difficult to put together. But I thought a few more from the “hair band generation” should have been presented. What about Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet or one of the biggest selling albums of the time, Def Leppard’s Hysteria? The only heavy metal album I can find there is Metallica’s self titled 1991 release. What about an Iron Maiden or a Judas Priest entry? They were, and continue to be, highly influential metal acts. The complete list of Entertainment Weekly’s choices can be found here.

Without our further ado, here are my top 10 hard rock/heavy metal albums released in the 80’s. My list is different than Entertainment Weekly’s, in that it covers the 80’s only and it is strictly a personal top 10 list of favorites from that time.

10. Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi. Being a teenager at the time it was hard not to get into this. Still the most fun record they’re ever put out.
9. Open Up and Say Ahhh, Poison. This band doesn’t have a lot of strong albums, but this one plays start to finish as a great party record. And I partied to it often.
8. Permanent Vacation, Aerosmith. Successfully launched the band’s comeback and another great party album. One of the band’s strongest efforts too.
7. Appetite for Destruction, Guns N’ Roses. Gun’s N’ Roses exploded onto the scene while supporting this release. This is a fantastic hard rock album. For me, it was the only strong release the band ever put out, I did not embrace another G N’R record after this debut.
6. And Justice for All, Metallica. This is the one that turned me onto metal. I heard this and was immediately addicted. From here I went back and started listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and have been in love with metal ever since.
5. Road Apples, The Tragically Hip. No other band has a complete body of work that I thoroughly enjoy as much as the Hip’s (with the exception of Iron Maiden). Road Apples was the first for me and is still one of my favorites.
4. Pyromania, Def Leppard. If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know of my affection for Def Leppard. This is the one that got me hooked on the band and hard guitar driven rock.
3. Turbo, Judas Priest. They are Masters of Metal. After Metallica got me into the genre this album, as well as others by Priest, soon followed.
2. Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden. One of my all time favorite bands. Once I started listening to this album I wanted all the rest of their material. Like the Hip, this band also has a huge collection of work, all that I enjoy thoroughly.
1. Hysteria Def Leppard. The long wait between Pyromania and this record did not disappoint. The album did represent the transition from a hard rock band to more of a pop/rock sound. However, it was the CD of my youth and the one disc I have listened from start to finish more than any other.

I’ve just decided lists are hard to do, so I can appreciate Entertainment Weekly’s efforts even more. I am looking at my list above and I can’t believe that Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil and Van Halen’s 1984 are not there. Difficult, but still fun, what are your favorites from that time?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time to reflect on some concert experiences

I have seen a lot of concerts from small acts-small venues to larger names-larger arenas. As many that I have seen there are still more that I have not and still hope to get the opportunity. To me a rock concert is a special experience, almost holy in a way. After you have seen many concerts over the years, there are different reasons why some stand out over others. Maybe it’s a just an all time favorite artist, or a band that simply came out and rocked you, or just the opposite – one that stunk the place out. Although there are many I may eventually write about, here are just three that stood out to me for different reasons.

Platinum Blonde
I am sure this one is surprising you. Either you are saying a) your kidding??!!!? or b) who’s Platinum Blonde? Just in case you selected b, if you grew up in Canada the early 80s, you knew this band well. For a few years they were superstars and they were my first rock concert. This was the first time I was ever crammed into an arena with 10 000 other people and witnessed the big stage, the lights, the explosives and at the time, the stardom of the band. I often joke that it was a life changing experience for me. From that night on there was no turning back and I have been hooked on the experience ever since. As for Platinum Blonde, well, their star faded a few years later. However, I still say their first album, Standing in the Dark, is a great listen. It was produced by David Tickle, who also worked with Prince, The Police, Sheryl Crow and others. Unfortunately Platinum Blonde’s other efforts do not stand up. No matter what they were, or were not, the magic of that first concert will live on for me.

Def Leppard
As a teenager, I worshipped Def Leppard. I was immediately hooked on the sounds of Pyromania and shortly after had their first two releases, On Through the Night and High on Dry, in my possession. I had a bit of a wait for the next release, but it was well worth it when Hysteria finally hit the shelves. I didn’t get to see the band during any of their tours supporting these records, but when they hit the stage after the release of Andrenalize I got my chance. I was obviously very excited as I anticipated this show. Because I was such a big fan, it was one of those concerts where the band probably couldn’t have done anything wrong for me, I was just so glad to be seeing my teenage idols perform (front row too I may add). I am happy to say that they did not disappoint anyone in the audience that night. A lively crowd sang along to all their hits and the boys gave it everything they had. It is always special when you see anyone you have been such a big fan of for a long time, and even more special when the artist gives such a great performance. In less than a month I will be seeing Def Leppard in concert for the second time and it will no doubt be somewhat of a different experience for me. But I must admit the anticipation is building again to levels that it did first time around. Stay tuned for a review of the show.

Pearl Jam
The night I saw Pearl Jam play all the stars aligned to make another truly magical experience. I have never been in an arena where you could sense such a high level of anticipation and excitement from the audience while waiting for the band. The place was obviously full of people who felt the same way about Pearl Jam as I did about Def Leppard. As I sat and waited, I wondered why type of set list the band might play. I had my own dream set list for the concert, but had no idea what to expect. When the lights went down, and after the loudest ovation I ever heard from a crowd occurred, the band broke into one song after another that I wanted to hear. After the first 10 or 12 songs, the band had me hooked, and did play some material I wasn’t overly familiar with. But as I said, I was hooked by then and into the show. The crowd tremendously continued to show their appreciation and enthusiasm. Later in the show, they played more familiar material, some cover songs, and Eddie Vedder entertained us with some funny antidotes and stories. Also the in total length of the show was not quite three hours, but close. An awesome night all round!

As always feel free to send along some of yours. What was your favorite concert? What was your worst?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Motely Crue's Saints of Los Angles

The Crue are back with a band new album and tour to boot. I have given the entire CD a few complete listens now and my first thoughts are the bad boys of rock have put out a decent recording, but not a classic Crue album by any means. The album is titled Saints of Los Angles, and most of the songs have recognizable themes to match this name. There are typical Crue lyrics to keep their image in tact from “I’d rather be face down in the dirt with a bullet in my head” to “This ain’t no love song, this is a f*** song”.

The album does not contain any fist pumping, head banging anthems, as Motley Crue have been famous for over the years. However, there are also no songs here that stand out as very weak either. For me, it plays as a collection of mediocre songs. It is heavy, for which I will give credit to the band, and there is no attempt at obvious commercialization here.

However, I still feel after another few plays, this one may not find its way back to my CD player very often. Decent, but not super. Grade B - .

I am going to miss Motley Crue’s performance in Toronto this summer by about two weeks, which disappoints me. Any readers have plans to see them this summer, or have done so already? If so, drop me a line.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poison's Latest Release Disappoints

Poison, one the 80s best party bands, offers up 13 cover tunes on their latest release, Poison’D. I must admit, when I heard about this project I was looking forward to it, but unfortunately it disappoints. A couple of years ago Def Leppard also released a cover album titled Yeah. This record offered a collection of mostly slightly obscure cover songs and was not one cliché after another. The songs sounded great and the album was pleasantly fresh and exciting. Poison’s attempt brings forth the opposite affect.

The songs here sound nothing better than a cover band on a Saturday night in a small town bar. The selections consist of mostly already overplayed clichés such as Little Willy, What I Like About You, Just What I Needed and Squeeze Box. Again, maybe it’s just personal taste and circumstances talking here, because I’ve heard the aforementioned songs, and others on this album, belted out many a night in a smokey nightclub, during a string of summers working in a small Canadian town.

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Poison, because back in their prime, I was also in mine, and partied to their music often. Unfortunately, I have nothing really good to say about this recording. I give it a D.

This is a band I would love to see perform live and I am guessing still put off a very fun show. I would love to hear from anyone who has seen them in the last couple of years and what your thoughts were on the experience. Drop me a line if you have.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Songs from the Sparkle Lounge and other Def Leppard thoughts

For years now Def Leppard fans have been waiting for “the album”, as in a return the pop/rock melodies and harmonies that made them for a while, arguably the biggest band in the world. Songs from the Sparkle Lounge may be it, or as close to it as fans will ever get. In many cases bands that have sold as many albums as Def Leppard, have at least one or two albums that defined them, and although they have created strong material since, have never fully matched those signature recordings. In Def Leppard’s case fans will never get another Hysteria or Pyromania, but Songs from the Sparkle Lounge offers a collection of melody drive rock songs that will surely have some lasting stay in your CD player, IPOD or MP3 player.

The album starts with one of the stronger tracks, Go and then leads in the commercial pop driven sounds of the first single, Nine Lives, featuring country recording artist Tim Mcgraw. From here the album offers the second single and another catchy tune called C’mon, C’mon. This album certainly won’t give us 7 singles as Hysteria did, but after track three I continued to find a collection of songs that I liked more and more with each listen. Many of them have catchy choruses, Def Leppard harmonies, and an odd sound bite here and there as we heard on some tracks back in the Hysteria days (Rocket, Love Bites, Gods of War). This album gives us just one ballad, a song called Love. After many listens through the Sparkle Lounge, this is the one track that doesn’t work for me, and I now find myself skipping that one track only. The song does go into some interesting directions, almost epic in places. I’ve heard it compared to Queen and the similarities are definitely there. But whatever reason for me, it is my least favourite.

Another strong point from this latest Def Leppard offering is as I am listening, I can hear the band performing these songs live and really selling them. I hope on their current tour they offer a few tracks from the Sparkle Lounge, because many of these songs would definitely lend themselves well to a concert performance. One thing Def Leppard always had going for them is the ability to put off a great live show. I’ve only had the opportunity to see them once back on the Seven Day Weekend Tour, supporting the Adrenalize album. But from reviews I have read over the years, even some of the band’s critics have a difficult time knocking their live show.

Def Leppard have put out some decent albums in the past few years. I thought X was decent, and Yeah, although all covers, was an awesome listen. Excluding Yeah from the list, and ranking Def Leppard albums comprised of original material, I place Songs from the Sparkle Lounge in 4th in my list of favorites as follows: Hysteria, Pyromania (very close second), High and Dry, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. As a grade I give Songs from the Sparkle Lounge a strong B+.

I will be getting the opportunity to see Def Leppard live again later this summer and will post my thoughts on the show here. That same show will also feature Billy Idol as the supporting act, another who I am very curious to see perform and will also offer my opinions for you all.

Ed Who? Edguy. That's who!

Looking for something new and rockin’ – Edguy is the ticket. I say new, as in new to probably a lot of North Americans. These guys are huge in their homeland of Germany and other parts, and should be all over the world. Although most definitely fitting the classification of a metal band, they fit the hard rock category too, if you care to make that distinction. Their songs pound through clever, often humorous and tongue in cheek lyrics that lead up to a catchy sing along huge chorus. They are the type of band metalheads can listen to, yet so could fans of such acts as Van Halen, Motley Crue and the even softer Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. If you want to make comparisons to other artists you may hear elements of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Queen – all in one song. They are the best find for me in the last ten years bar none.

I have no one album to recommend to start with, but check out songs such as Judas at the Opera, Superheroes, Lavatory Love Machine, Spooks in the Attic, and the Piper Never Dies, just to get going. If you’re a fan of hard guitar driven rock and roll that is melodic in nature, you won’t be disappointed with Edguy. Check them out!

Great Music Found on Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway

Dare I say best Bon Jovi album ever. No. But I must admit, that after the first listen I was leaning in that direction. This is a very strong offering from the band, and certainly their strongest effort in the last 10 years or more. The band is to be credited with staying in the spotlight, evolving and yet staying true to themselves. And this album is an excellent representation of that. There is unquestionably a matured sound, but it is still Bon Jovi. I always admire when a band can pull off this feat.

The one thing that brought this album down for me was the overall mellow feel it has after a few listens, which is why I quickly changed my “best Bon Jovi album ever” thoughts. This is just personal taste however, and although the songs are strong, and there are upbeat tracks, I would prefer an overall livelier feel.

The album opens with the strong first single, Lost Highway, and then moves into one of the best Bon Jovi songs recorded in a long time, Summertime. It is an upbeat feel good rocker that is sure to get you tapping your feet. I hope this one remains part of their set list. It would also make a great single and video, but unfortunately I am guessing we may be treated to a string of ballads to hit the airwaves and video channels. I have never been a big fan of Bon Jovi’s ballads, not even back in the Slippery When Wet and New Jersey days. Lost Highway has plenty of them, and it is why the album will not rank up with Slippery or New Jersey for me.

However, this is personal taste only, and this is still most definitely a fantastic record. I am giving it a grade of B, but I am sure there are many who will score it higher. I think by giving us strong recordings and great live shows, Bon Jovi has shown no signs of slowing down and are to be commended for it. I suspect they will be around for many years to come.

Favourite Tracks: Lost Highway, Summertime, Whole Lot of Leavin’, Any Other Day.