Saturday, October 31, 2009

Random Thoughts, Halloween and Michael Jackson

Well it’s been such a busy couple of weeks I haven’t been able to pay attention to my blog. So I thought I would take just a few minutes and sit down in front of the computer and jot down some random lines to let everyone know I am still here. My kids had birthdays last weekend. I remember having a birthday party as a kid, but for some reason this seemed like it was a full weekend event for my two. This weekend they are both excited about Halloween, and wouldn’t you know they are sick. Such is life, rotten timing.

Speaking of Halloween, in one of my high school English classes on Friday I broke out Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and tried a dramatic reading followed by a showing of the now classic Simpson’s version narrated by James Earl Jones. From there we started talking about people’s fascination with this time of year and the genre of horror. Somehow Michael Jackson crept into the conversation and I couldn’t resist playing the Thriller video for a Halloween treat.

I haven’t spoke about the King of Pop on this blog, so now is as good a time as any. Back in the 80’s I loved the hair bands, the hard rock and the heavy metal. But I was a secret Michael Jackson fan. I just found the sounds of the Thriller record so infectious and impossible to resist. After spinning such bands as Quiet Riot and Def Leppard, I would spend a little time with the now pop classic sounds of Jackson. I had Jackson’s album Bad too and liked It just as much.

Friday’s viewing of Thriller was the first time I sat and watched a Michael Jackson video in a long time. He was unquestionably talented. Later that evening at home I ended up on YouTube watching other videos by the late superstar. Most of the songs and videos hold up to this day and are arguably far better than most current pop artists could ever hope to produce.

I’ll choose not to comment on the controversy that surrounded his life. Whatever he was, or whatever he wasn’t, Michael Jackson the entertainer managed to get this rock and roller enjoying pop music for a while. No other pop artist has ever done that since.

Have a Happy Halloween everyone!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blast from the Past Time

Anyone remember this one? The band…Grim Reaper. The song…Rock You to Hell. My friend had this cassette and for a while we played this song over and over again. And that was my own history with the band. It started and ended in the year 1987. One song. One video. One year. 1987.

However, earlier this week I found myself humming this tune. I have no idea why other than it was buried somewhere deep inside my subconscious and it decided to make a sudden plunge forward into the land of the living. My brain tells me to hum it and later that evening I was in front of Youtube listening to the song and watching the video. Then my own natural curiosity forced me to fire up Google to discover more about the band named after the Angel of Death.

I now know more about them than I ever did. They actually formed in the late 70’s/early 80’s and began recording. They released three albums, and their third and final recording, Rock You to Hell, contains the title track that has submersed out of nowhere in my head. In more recent years the band has got back together and has played some live shows.

So there you have it, a very brief history of a band from a very casual fan who knows very little about them. I’d be curious to hear from anymore who remembers them or knows more about them then I do! Have a good one!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Anvil The Story of Anvil

I have been anticipating watching this one since I first saw the trailers. I remember Anvil well from back in the eighties. Songs such as Metal on Metal and Mad Dog got some pretty steady airplay in Canada. Since those days I knew some things about Anvil and also made some assumptions. I knew that they were still in existence. I knew they have continued to put out albums and play live. I also knew that their early work was influential on some acts that have gone on to become metal legends. What I assumed then, is that they although they faded far from the spotlight and were definitely not rock stars, they probably managed to scrape together a modest living for themselves thanks to a cult following and live shows.

Boy was I wrong on the assumptions. This movie details every brutal detail. It begins with a brief history of the band and some comments from quite a few legends. Lars Ulrich from Metallica, Lemmy from Motorhead, and Slash all talk of their affection for Anvil and explain the band’s influence on the genre of metal. Flash to the next scene and there’s Steve Kudlow (Lips) driving to work….as a deliver person for a food catering company. Although Anvil is still in existence, to make a living and provide for their families they are forced to work in very unglamorous jobs.

Lips and Robb Reiner are the two original members of Anvil who as kids vowed to do this until they were old men. Now in their fifties, the movie documents how they have stuck to this promise. I won’t mention all of the details but some of what you will see is an absolutely awful tour of Europe with some terrible gigs, trying to gain funding for their new album and the recording of it and a look at their unconditional love for each other and their families.

The person that fascinated me the most here is Lips. He comes across as a fifty year old kid and you can’t help but root for him through his frustrations and failures. He is for the most part kind, polite and optimistic. But he occasionally loses control and is an emotional wreck. His counterpart, Reiner, is equally committed and passionate to their craft, but keeps his emotions a little more grounded.

The movie is hilarious, heartbreaking, eye opening, fun and I could keep going on. It has it all. I am not sure you can find two as committed and devoted to their music. The exposure they have gained from this film has apparently done the group no harm. I will be following and rooting for them. May the dream never die! I highly recommend this movie!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pearl Jam's Backspacer

I haven't reviewed anything in a while, but this past week I have been listening to the newest release from one of my favorite bands, Pearl Jam. The new record, titled Backspacer, is the first since their self titled effort in 2006.

I didn't really embrace the 2006 disc, but I'm not sure if I didn't like it, or if I just didn't listen to it enough. Pearl Jam sometimes requires a few spins before it really starts to grow on me. I often go from liking to loving a lot of their music.

However, I found Backspacer to have more of an instant effect on me compared to any of Pearl Jam's other releases with the exception of some of their earliest efforts. The songs are a little more melodic and may be easier to take to for those who do not usually embrace alternative bands and perfer straight up rock and roll.

Having said that, I don't want to be misleading. This is still very much a Pearl Jam record and a great one at that. Eddie Vedder is unmistakable as always. He may be one of my favorite vocalists. I have always loved Eddie's haunting vocals on slower and, well, haunting Peal Jam tracks. There are a few of those on here too including Just Breathe and The End.

And of course there are plenty of straight up in your face rock tracks including a great opening number called Gonna See My Friend, as well as The Fixer, Supersonic and others. It's a very solid rock record that I enjoyed on the first listen that should also have some staying power with me too.

Grade A. Favorite tracks: Gonna See My Friend, Supersonic, Just Breathe.

As an aside, I have always listed my favorite tracks when reviewing a CD. I am not sure if I should do that because it often changes. However, the tracks listed are certainly those that are striking me as favorites at the moment.

Have a great week!!