WANTED: Billy Idol – Happy Holidays (2006)

WANTED

 Billy Idol – Happy Holidays (2006)

It’s that time of year again…..Christmas time! I’m a sucker for holiday albums and holiday music so finding out that Billy Idol released a holiday album a couple years ago places it at the top of my holiday list! Who doesn’t want to hear Billy Idol sing ‘Frosty The Snowman’, ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Jingle Bell Rock’? The album has 17 holiday classics and it’s a definite if you are a fan of different holiday albums. Look at that album cover! It’s priceless…..worth the price paid just to see Billy in his suit jacket! Usually this runs between $15 -$25 depending on the seller and location. The international version has a different cover but the same tracklisting.

CD Scavenger Hunt – more catching up!

I have a few CD purchases to update from the last month and a few on the way when they arrive in the mail! There are a few Ebay purchases and a big one from Newbury Comics on a great sale!

Ebay

Tokyo Blade – Night Of The Blade (1984/1997 reissue) – $13: Cross another High Vaultage release off the list! I could just kick myself for not buying these High Vaultage reissues 12 years ago when they first came out, back then they were $15-$20 at the import record store. Now they are out of print and harder to find. This reissue has the original album with original vocalist Alan Marsh and includes 8 bonus tracks from three different EPs.

Autograph – Buzz (2003) – $11: Cross another CD off the WANTED list! I have been looking for this Autograph album basically since it came out. I saw it as an import in the record stores for $20 and I always passed on it. Now it’s harder to find and it goes for a higher price on Ebay. I was able to get this CD cheaper because the seller misspelled the album title by one “Z”.

Eden’s Curse – s/t (2007) – $9: Eden’s Curse has been on my radar since this debut album and I actually have their last two albums. Everytime I go to order this album online, it’s out of stock. Everytime I would watch an auction, the price would skyrocket in a bidding war. The seller that I bought this from had a bunch of these up for sale so I was able to pick this up at the $7 starting price with $2 shipping…..a great deal!

Twenty 4 Seven – Destination Everywhere (2002) – $7: Another CD off the want list and another CD that I should have bought years ago. This band features Bobby Blotzer (Ratt), John Corabi (ex-The Scream, ex-Motley Crue, ex-Ratt, ex-Union) and Robert Marcello (ex-Obsession, ex-Iron Horse, current Danger Danger). I read reviews on this disc back when it came out and I always meant to grab it but never did. The online ordering price is usually $15 + shipping but I got this from the same seller as Eden’s Curse for $5 plus $2 shipping…..another great deal!

Talon – Fallen Angels (2008) – $9: I had this on my want list when it came out in 2008 but I never got around to it. I read some good reviews online hailing it as one of the best albums of the year so I bumped it up the list but I never found it in the stores and the online ordering price was always around $20. This is the 3rd CD I bought from the same seller, and just like Eden’s Curse & Twenty 4 Seven, he had a ton of these up for auction at once. The deal was too good to pass up for $7 and the cheap shipping!

Newbury Comics

Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009) – $13: I haven’t picked up a Bon Jovi album on the day of release since CRUSH back in 2000…..even then I hadn’t bought a Bon Jovi album on the day of release since NEW JERSEY in 1988! For some reason I wanted this album. Maybe it was the media blitz the band put out? Maybe it was the various documentaries I watched on cable TV? Maybe it was seeing my wife’s excitement at the tour announcement? For some reason I wanted it…..maybe to believe that Bon Jovi had returned to their old form? I was wrong…..read my review. At least it came with a bonus DVD for value.

Halford – III: Winter Songs (2009) – $13: I will buy anything Rob Halford puts his name on because he is one of my favorite singers and Judas Priest is my second favorite band. It’s the holiday season so why not a holiday record from Halford? I was going to preorder this through the Halford website but I forgot. I was able to pick this up at a decent sale price that ended up being cheaper than buying direct from the Metal God but not by much. Read my review…..it’s the Album Of The Month for November!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Night Castle (2009) – $12: I’ve been waiting for the new TSO album for the whole year! They had a free download of one track at the beginning of the year and they delayed the album’s release to coincide with the band’s annual holiday tour. NIGHT CASTLE is a double disc set but it’s not a holiday album, it’s a concept album. TSO is usually known for their holiday music but they have branched out before on BEETHOVEN’S LAST NIGHT in 2000. It’s definitely mandatory listening, especially when one of my favorite singers, Jeff Scott Soto, is involved! Hard to believe it’s been 5 years since their last record.

Slayer – World Painted Blood (2009) – $10: If Slayer releases a new album, you buy it! I waited a week to get this one and I opted to buy the regular version instead of the deluxe with the bonus DVD and packaging…..I ended up saving an additional $10 by picking up the regular version. I haven’t even cracked the cellophane on this one yet because I have so many albums to listen to! I will probably get to listen to it this week.

I was going to Newbury Comics anyway but I ended up getting an email from the store with their new weekly “Flash Sale”…..buy 1 used CD, get 1 free. How can you pass that up? There was a limit to how many you could get (5 used and 5 free) so I searched every used bin they had but I could only come up with 3 discs and 3 free…..that’s what happens with a big collection! The very cool thing about the sale was that they charged you for the most expensive used CD and then they gave you the next most expensive free…..and so on. Usually the protocol is they charge you for the most expensive CDs and give you the cheaper ones free. I ended up saving more than I thought the way they did it this time!

King Diamond – Abigail (1987/2005 reissue) – $14 used: I’m filling the holes in my King Diamond and Mercyful Fate collections and ABIGAIL was on the list. I had my choice: the original pressing single CD for $10 or the deluxe reissue with the bonus tracks and bonus DVD for $14…..I went with the reissue because it was pure value. So I got the ABIGAIL album, 4 bonus tracks, and a DVD with 7 songs from Sweden in ’87 and 3 videos…..a great deal!

Slayer – Reign In Blood (1986) – $11 used (FREE): Saved $11 right off the bat with the sale! A lot of you are wondering how I don’t already have REIGN IN BLOOD in my collection and I admit it’s a MAJOR oversight on my part. I had it on cassette back in the day and I thought I had it on CD already. I’ve been filling the holes in my Slayer collection so when I saw it was missing I bumped it to the top of my list. Not bad getting it for nothing!

3 Inches Of Blood – Advance & Vanquish (2004) – $11 used: I started my 3 Inches Of Blood collection with their second record FIRE UP THE BLADES (2007) and I have picked up their new album and the reissue of their first independent record this year. I have been waiting to get ADVANCE & VANQUISH for a decent price for a long time, it’s usually $16-$18 regular price and I’ve never seen it used. This was the first used CD I found.

Metal Church – The Dark (1986) – $8 used (FREE): Another awesome free CD and that brings my savings up to $19! Of course this is another classic record that you might be wondering how I don’t have it in my collection. This CD replaces a long worn out cassette. The crazy thing about this CD’s price is that there were two other used copies but for higher prices. I went with the cheaper used disc trying to save extra money but the way the sale worked out I got it for nothing.

The Doors – L.A. Woman (1971) – $7 used: I’ve always been a big Doors fan and L.A. WOMAN has been that missing record for years. The singles are all on various greatest hits packages but I needed the actual album to complete the Jim Morrison led discography (I haven’t bothered to seek out the vinyl albums the band released after he died). I wasn’t going to pick this up because it’s always there used but I went through the entire store and it came down to this being one of the only albums I didn’t already own.

Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys (Part 1) (1987/2006 reissue) – $7 used (FREE): I already own KEEPER (Part 1) on CD but I started picking up the expanded reissues back in 2006 when I filled in some holes in the Helloween collection. I’m a sucker for bonus tracks and this expanded reissue has four bonus tracksand deluxe packaging. Normally I find these reissues for $20 in the stores so I couldn’t pass up finding one used in perfect condition and getting it free.

Chickenfoot – s/t (2009)

Chickenfoot - self-titled (2009)

Chickenfoot – s/t (2009, Redline Entertainment)

  1. Avenida Revolution
  2. Soap On A Rope
  3. Sexy Little Thing
  4. Oh Yeah
  5. Runnin’ Out
  6. Get It Up
  7. Down The Drain
  8. My Kinda Girl
  9. Learning To Fall
  10. Turnin’ Left
  11. Future In The Past
  12. Bitten By The Wolf

Band Lineup:
Sammy Hagar – Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass
Joe Satriani – Guitar
Chad Smith – Drums

Producers: Chickenfoot & Andy Johns

Country: USA

Total Time = 57:47

Chickenfoot
Chickenfoot MySpace page

Supergroup.

That simple word can mean either quick success or complete bomb when used in the Rock world. How many “supergroups” have gone on to great heights and impacting the music world? Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young come to mind, so does Cream and Blind Faith. Maybe throw Bad Company and Asia in there too? I’m sure there’s a few bands I’m missing but for every Cream, Bad Co. or Asia there’s a Contraband or a Bad English. Now you might say: “Hey, Bad English had a couple of hits!”…..I say name their second album and did it have any hits. The “supergroup” either hits it big quick or dies a miserable death. Needless to say when I heard that Sammy Hagar (ex-Van Halen, ex-Montrose), Michael Anthony (ex-Van Halen), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Joe Satriani were forming a brand new band, a “supergroup”, I was a little wary as well as curious.

The roots of Chickenfoot took hold back in 2002 when Hagar and Anthony started playing together with Journey guitarist Neal Schon and Journey drummer Deen Castronovo and called themselves Planet US. A little later on, the band added Joe Satriani in on second lead guitar. Basically this was a fun project for the members between the Van Halen reunion with Hagar and the recording of Journey’s album GENERATIONS (2005). Even though there was interest in keeping the project alive, the committments to Van Halen, Journey and Satriani’s solo career put the project on hold. As a result of nothing coming out Planet US, Schon created Soul SirkUS (a band with Jeff Scott Soto on vocals) in 2005 to release some of the material that was written for Planet US and, after touring extensively with Van Halen and Hagar’s solo band, Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony revived the idea and started jamming with Satriani and Smith…..now you have Chickenfoot!

When I first heard about Chickenfoot I was excited. Even though I’m firmly in the Roth camp, I still enjoyed the Sammy Hagar version of Van Halen. With Van Halen on the backburner, I figured the Hagar/Anthony team would provide a solid base to get some good solid Melodic Hard Rock. It’s not hard to figure out that aside from Eddie Van Halen’s innovative guitar heroics the sound of Van Halen was Sammy’s voice backed by Michael’s solid harmonies. The winning combination is enhanced by a great guitar player in his own right with Satriani and probably one of the most underrated drummers in Rock with Smith. I figured I’d play this album and hear some really great Hard Rock with superb vocals and guitar. I was close!

I’ve listened to this album since it came out a lot but everytime I get halfway through it feels like something is missing. All the songs sound great, the production is top notch. The vocals are the highlight, Hagar proving that he can get it done better than ever at age 62 and Anthony chiming in with trademark harmonies. Smith pounds away and Satriani doesn’t shred as expected but he finds a smooth, Bluesy groove and plays with ease…..you can tell that the guys are all having fun playing together. The problem with the album is the songs…..they all sound the same save for a couple of tracks. The defining mark of each musician is that their careers have had great memorable songs full of life, hooks and melody. The problem with Chickenfoot is that none of the songs are memorable, there is really nothing here that gets me singing along and bringing me back for more. Songs like ‘Avenida Revolution’, ‘Soap On A Rope’ and ‘Get It Up’ are decent enough Hard Rock songs but there isn’t that hook that draws me in. Except for maybe a couple of songs, everything sounds more like a jam and in a couple of cases unfinished ideas. ‘Sexy Little Thing’ has that melody and hook that comes close to the kind of Hard Rock we’re used to from a Sammy Hagar fronted band. Same goes for ‘My Kinda Girl’ but this song is even better and could easily fit on a Van Halen album or a Sammy solo record, easily the best song on the album and should be the first single. Great harmonies and cool licks from Satriani add to the overall sound and it’s good to hear Mike Anthony singing on the background vocals…..a strong point of the Van Halen sound for decades. The third song that really stands out to me is the quiet ballad ‘Learning To Fall’ that reminds me of parts of the hit ‘Give To Live’ from Sammy’s 1987 solo album. This is probably Sammy’s best and most passionate vocal performance of the entire album, definitely a single in the making if it gets to radio.

Bottom Line:
I was looking forward to this album, to the next big supergroup, but I definitely came away disappointed. I spent a lot of time with this album because I like all the players involved and I’m a Sammy Hagar fan. If I look at my CD collection, I have all his Van Halen albums and almost all his solo records and the all have some pretty solid songs. Unfortunately, this debut album for Chickenfoot sounds like a collection of album tracks from Sammy’s solo records. You know the songs…..the ones that never make it to radio or the concert hall. I don’t want to say “filler” because that brings up a negative connotation, even though there are a few “fillers” on this album, overall it’s harder to take in. Most of the 11 songs don’t have that memorable melody or hook that keeps us tuned in, there’s not much that’s really catchy and gets you singing along. Some of the songs do grow on you after repeated listens but I lost interest after a while because there just wasn’t enough to hold my attention. This may not be the last Chickenfoot album because it’s selling decently, I just hope the guys in the band decide to follow a more commercial direction next time around.

Favorite Songs:
‘My Kinda Girl’, ‘Sexy Little Thing’, ‘Learning To Fall’

Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009)

bon_jovi_-_the_circle

Bon Jovi – The Circle (2009, Universal/Island)

  1. We Weren’t Born To Follow
  2. When We Were Beautiful
  3. Work For The Working Man
  4. Superman Tonight
  5. Bullet
  6. Thorn In My Side
  7. Live Before You Die
  8. BrokenPromiseLand
  9. Love’s The Only Rule
  10. Fast Cars
  11. Happy Now
  12. Learn To Love

Band Lineup:
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals
Richie Sambora – Guitars & Backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums & Percussion
David Bryan  – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Hugh MacDonald – Bass
Charlie Judge – additional Keyboards & Strings

Produced by: John Shanks, Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora

Country: USA

Total Time = 52:49

Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi MySpace page

I’ve been a Bon Jovi fan from way back in ’83 but I haven’t really been into the band for a few years now. Back when I was a kid, I was into the debut album and 7800° FAHRENHEIT (1985) right away with hard Rock songs like ‘She Don’t Know Me’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Tokyo Road’ and ‘In & Out Of Love’. Of course I followed the band through SLIPPERY WHEN WET (1986) and NEW JERSEY (1988), even catching both tours when they came through Rhode Island. The I lost touch of Bon Jovi. It wasn’t until their comeback album CRUSH (2000), and the hit single ‘It’s My Life’, that I bought a new Bon Jovi album. Since CRUSH, I haven’t really bothered with the band anymore due to the changes in their sound. Gone are most of the Hard Rock trademarks that made the band the success it is today and in are more Pop, Country and singer/songwriter influences…..a more mature sound for a more mature audience. I’ve let the last three studio albums pass by despite a couple of catchy single but, for some strange reason, I wanted to pick this album up right away!

THE CIRCLE opens with the ‘We Weren’t Born to Follow’, a song that has that big Arena Rock sound but it sounds very similar to ‘It’s My Life’ from 2000 with some similar parts of ‘Born To Be My Baby’ on the chorus. It’s a very catchy song, uptempo and melodic with that feel good vibe that Bon Jovi does so well. Same thing goes with ‘Work For The Working Man’, it has that classic sound that mimics the mega-hit ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ especially on the bass line! Another big song for the concert circuit and possible radio single that channels fellow New Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen’s working class songwriting. I have always wondered what would happen if The Boss, JBJ and John Mellencamp would come up with if they sat in a room together and write a song, they all follow the same pattern. Sandwiched between these two rockers is the light ballad ‘When We Were Beautiful’ (also the title of the accompanying DVD). I’m not really sure what to make of this song, its definitely a radio song because it’s very Pop and pretty and Jon’s vocals are pretty good…..it has a big/full sound but it’s way too light for my tastes. I feel the same way about ‘Superman Tonight’, it has a big sound and there are some Rock flashes there but it sounds too mainstream, too Pop Rock, as if the band is going out of there way to get radio and VH-1 airplay. It’s not a bad song, the chorus saves it, but it’s not something I like.

The opening guitar of ‘Bullet’ signals a Hard Rock tune and this is the closest we’re going to get. The guitars and drums make the song and I am waiting for the harder edge to prevail but it’s more melodic and contemporary overall. The guitar solo is one of the best on the album and the harmonies are spot on, I think the lyrics and the arrangement waste the solid riffs. ‘Thorn In My Side’ starts off very ballad-like but it picks up steam and become a solid rocker. I like this one, it keeps an edge to the album and shows that Bon Jovi can still Rock a bit. Ballad time comes in with ‘Live Before You Die’ complete with emotional singing from Jon and perfect harmonies on the chorus. The orchestration and keyboards are well done and the song does build up harder in spots…..it’s not a bad song at all and the lyrics tell a story, something this band has never had a problem doing. ‘BrokenPromiseLand’ sounds pretty much like the rest of the other songs on the album and the song title bugs me, not one of my favorites. If you think that Bon Jovi copying their own songs is a problem then the opening to ‘Love’s The Only Rule’ sounds like a keyboard loop of Neil Diamond’s ‘Coming To America’…..and it annoyingly runs through the entire song. The song isn’t too bad at all, it actually has some rocking moments but David Bryan’s keyboards are a little overbearing.

I’m not really sure what the band is attempting with ‘Fast Cars’. The song title had me hoping for a Hard Rock song but it’s more like a Pop Rock song with plenty of keyboards that some band half their age would release. I read many reviews online that compared this song to Coldplay. Having never heard any Coldplay songs, I can’t confirm that but it can’t be good either. ‘Happy Now’ follows the rest of the uptempo songs on the album but it really doesn’t resonate with me, it sounds like everything else and doesn’t have much impact. The last song is ‘Learn To Love’ and it’s another ballad with some excellent harmonies and a big sound on the chorus but it kind of ends THE CIRCLE on a down note. Not that it’s a bad song but it just slowly ends, i’d rather end on a high note with an uptempo rocker.

Bottom Line:
I really wanted to pick up this new Bon Jovi album and I definitely wanted to give it a fair shot because the last few songs I’ve heard on the radio from previous releases were pretty good. The band has shown flashes of their ’80s success recently with catchy melodic rockers ont he radio, I was hoping for a lot of that on THE CIRCLE. The band delivers some but not a lot. There is a more contemporary sound, a lighter sound, that seems like the band is more concerned with the more commercial Pop Rock style of today rather than the Hard Rock style that put them on the map. Bon Jovi has always been about the songs and the JBJ/Sambora writing team has done a good job in creating songs with good melodies, insightful lyrics and trademark harmonies…..it’s just that after a while all the songs start to sound the same. I understand the band has long since removed itself from writing party rock anthems like ‘Bad Medicine’ and ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ to go in a more mature and sincere direction but I kind of hoped that a little more fire would be lit into the songs. Long time fans of the band will really enjoy this album and I can see a lot of these songs getting some time on stage during the band’s upcoming tour but fans of the ’80s Hard Rock style will be disappointed. There are some songs that lean back into that ’80s style but THE CIRCLE as a whole is directed more to contemporary Pop Rock with flashes of a harder edge mixed in. This definitely isn’t the worst Bon Jovi album but it also isn’t their best. I’d call it an average album for me, nothing to get too excited about and nothing overly surprising.

Favorite Songs:
‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’, ‘Working For The Working Man’, ‘Thorn In My Side’, ‘Live Before You Die’

Halford III – Winter Songs (2009)

halfordIII - wintersongs

Halford III – Winter Songs (2009, Metal God Records)

  1. Get Into The Spirit
  2. We Three Kings
  3. Oh Come O Come Emanuel
  4. Winter Song
  5. What Child Is This?
  6. Christmas For Everyone
  7. I Don’t Care
  8. Light Of The World
  9. Oh Holy Night
  10. Come All Ye Faithful

Band Lineup:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Roy Z. – Guitars
‘Metal’ Mike Chlasciak – Guitars
Mike Davis – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Ed Roth – Keyboards

Producer: Roy Z.

Country: USA/U.K.

Total Time = 41:24

Halford
Halford MySpace page

Aside from my Heavy Metal collecting, I have this obsession with Christmas music. As soon as Halloween passes every year I wait impatiently for the two lite rock radio stations in my area to switch over to their holiday format of ’round the clock Christmas music. I know it’s sickening to drive around singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ two months before the big day but I do it! The other thing I like to do is collect holiday albums from Rock and Metal bands. It started with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra but I’ve added many holiday albums from other bands, the latest being the third studio effort from Halford – WINTER SONGS.

Most Metal fans see the name Rob Halford and immeadiately think of Judas Priest…..somehow I can’t see the Priest doing renditions of Christmas songs! The other thing you think of when you talk Rob Halford is his soaring vocals that have carried him through almost four decades of Metal mayhem…..again, soaring Metal vocals and Christmas songs seem polar opposites. I’m sure many fans out there have been asking themselves what Rob and his band are thinking. The Halford band has been one of the best new Metal bands over the last 9 years and the two studio albums the band released (RESURRECTION in 2000 & CRUCIBLE in 2002) are extremely good. So it’s natural to wonder why Rob Halford would take time off from his current tenure in Judas Priest and take his solo band on a journey of holiday originals and covers. The answer is simple: because he wants to! I’ve read many interviews over the years with Rob and he has always said that he would like to try and do different styles of music so why not do a holiday themed album?

The opening song ‘Get Into the Spirit’ sounds exactly like a regular Halford song: plenty of guitar, pounding drums and those trademark Rob Halford vocals. If you put this on either RESURRECTION or CRUCIBLE it would fit in with no problem. The traditional ‘We Three Kings’ has turned metallic and works really well with some really cool guitars solos added in for good measure, Halford’s voice fits the song well. Same with ‘Oh Come O Come Emanuel’, the metallic version Halford puts on it really fits the song and Rob starts to stretch that voice out a bit. The best song on the album for me is ‘Winter Song’, a song written and originally performed by Sara Bareilles. Halford is backed by a piano, acoustic guitar and some subtle percussion…..and that’s it! There really isn’t much to the song at first but it builds up with some orchestration and it’s really just a love song. The Metal God doing a love song? Well…..yeah and it’s goo too! I immeadiately noticed how versatile and good Rob’s singing voice is, he can basically sing whatever he wants and do it well. I’m so used to hearing him sing ‘Victim Of Changes’ or ‘Painkiller’ but he really nails this track down with plenty of emotion and melody. It may not be Metal but it is one of my favorite performances of halford’s entire career and I have been a long time fan.

The next 6 songs are half original material and half holiday classics. ‘What Child Is This?’ stays close to the original and has a very Trans-Siberian Orchestra sound to it…..I wonder if TSO producer Paul O’Neill will consider Rob for a new TSO holiday album? I really enjoy the guitar in this song as well. ‘Christmas For Everyone’ is a rocked up original that has this Pop feel to it, like a ’60s Beach Boys feel. Sounds weird doesn’t it? It’s definitely something different. Same thing with ‘I Don’t Care’, it’s different and sounds like something from years past, almost a kinship with the Judas Priest cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ from RAM IT DOWN in 1988. The track has that early Rock ‘n’ Roll sound to it but with Metal guitars. The last original is ‘Light Of The World’ and this is another great performance from Rob and the band. It’s a ballad with orchestration and acoustic guitars mixed with subdued electric, a very Progressive Rock sounding song in the same style as a Lana Lane, Rocket Scientists, or Ayreon. I could see ‘Light Of The World’ fitting in somewhere on Judas Priest’s last studio record NOSTRADAMUS because of that Progressive sound. The last two songs are traditional holiday songs, ‘Oh Holy Night’ and ‘Come All Ye Faithful’. Both songs are performed pretty much like the originals just with a more metallic base…..Rob’s vocals really soar throughout both songs and, if you look at the whole album, the vocals are superb on all the traditional holiday covers as well.

Bottom Line:
This is definitely something different from the Metal God but it’s also a solid effort. Halford’s voice is as versatile as it is powerful and he really puts in a masterful performance on the entire album, it makes me appreciate his singing even more. The Halford band is tight as ever and they are able to go from pure Metal to quieter, more subtle tones for some of the quieter songs. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the album because I wasn’t sure just how it would turn out, the Halford band and holiday music isn’t something you normally put together. I like all the songs on the album with maybe two originals (‘Christmas For Everyone’ & ‘I Don’t Care’) falling short of the high standard. They work well within the contaxt of the album but they are the weakest songs when compared to some of the majestic performances surrounding them. If Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Billy Idol and Twisted Sister can pull it off then a band as talented as halford can too. This is definitely a winner as far as holiday albums go and as for Halford albums go. It may not be the Metal of RESURRECTION but there is plenty here to please Metalheads and Christmas music fans alike.

Favorite Songs:
‘Winter Song’, ‘Light Of The World’, ‘Get Into The Spirit’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘Oh Holy Night’

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009)

queensryche_americansoldier

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009, Rhino Records)

  1. Sliver
  2. Unafraid
  3. Hundred Mile Stare
  4. At 30,000 Ft.
  5. A Dead Man’s Words
  6. The Killer
  7. Middle Of Hell
  8. If I Were King
  9. Man Down!
  10. Remember Me
  11. Home Again
  12. The Voice

Band Lineup:
Geoff Tate – Vocals & Horns
Michael Wilton – Guitars
Ed Jackson – Bass
Scott Rockenfield – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Emily Tate – Vocals on ‘Home Again’
Jason Ames – Vocals on ‘Sliver’ and ‘If I Were King’
A.J. Frato – Vocals on ‘Sliver’
Vincent Solano – Vocals on ‘A Dead Man’s Words’
Randy Gane – Keyboards
Kelly Gray – Guitars
Damon Johnson – Guitars

Producers: Jason Slater & Kelly Gray

Country: USA

Total Time = 60:31

Queensryche
Queensryche MySpace page
Rhino Records

I have been a fan of Queensryche since the beginning. I remember hearing the QUEENSRYCHE E.P. (1983) and THE WARNING (1984) on a local record store turntable when they came out and I remember waiting in line for EMPIRE (1990). Queensryche has been a band I have followed for a long time…..but time has taken it’s toll! I loved every album through PROMISED LAND (1994) and I rush out to get HEAR IN THE NOW FRONTIER (1997) when there was a resurgence in Metal with all the reunions. By ’97, the band’s sound had changed, especially Geoff Tate’s voice, to a more modern and darker sound. Gone were Tate’s soaring vocals and blistering guitar solos, instead we got a more subdued Queensryche, concerned more with the storytelling of concept albums and a modern sound. There has still been good songs on some of their later records but the last three studio albums (including 2006′s OPERATION: MINDCRIME II) and the TAKE COVER (2007) covers album (that I actually liked) have left a bitter taste with most fans. So can Queensryche make us believe again? Personally, I wasn’t sure. I ran out and bought the album the day it came out in March but I didn’t really give it much of a listen. I think I was prejudging the album based on previous poor efforts but I’ve given this more time and the album has grown on me.

AMERICAN SOLDIER is another concept record, this time centered around the experiences of U.S. soldiers during war. Geoff Tate spent months interviewing veterans of WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East conflicts to get a better understanding of how a soldier thinks and how war effects them. Obviously, this topic is actually relevant to the times we live in. Queensryche believes in a certain formula and conceptual albums are what they will probably continue to do. I wasn’t sure if another concept album would be the formula for success considering every album gets compared to the landmark OPERATION: MINDCRIME (1988). The other concern was the sound. The band abandoned Heavy Metal a long time ago for a darker, layered, modern Progressive Rock sound that has more to do with multi-dimensional mid-tempo epics than an all-out Metal assault. For me, I liked the album concept but I wasn’t sure how it would translate musically because Heavy Metal and war usually go hand in hand with a more brutal sound.

I was right about the overall sound. Most of the songs fall into the epic mid-tempo and ballad category with an emphasis on multi-layered instruments and orchestrations. Tate’s voice retains his post-EMPIRE sound with his lower register being the focal point instead of his high screams. I think Geoff Tate has lost a little as far as range (see the band in concert to see what I mean) but he still has a strong singing voice that suits the material well. For this concept and these songs his voice is a perfect fit…..it has that low, dark, brooding sound that comes alive with a few higher flourishes here and there. For once in a long time, I think Tate has done a solid job. The songs’ music falls into a progressive style with a lot of different layers but simpler than say a Dream Theater or a Shadow Gallery, it’s almost like Queensryche is going for a harder, more epic Pink Floyd style. There’s plenty of guitars, bass and drums but there is orchestration and strings, as well as, spoken word and voiceovers from veterans and soldiers. Even Geoff Tate adds in his saxophone playing to a few songs!

Because there is a set formula, most of the songs on AMERICAN SOLDIER sound the same. ‘Sliver’ starts the album out with a modern sound and ‘Unafraid’ sounds definitely like Hard Rock but the song is made up mostly of sound effects and voiceovers from soldiers. I like ‘Unafraid’ because it lends a personal element to the song/album with the soldiers’ voices, the chorus is simple but one of the heavier ones on the album. The slower epic style begins with ‘Hundred Mile Stare’, a song that I find repetitive but decent, and ‘At 30,000 Ft.’, probably my favorite song of the album. ‘At 30,000 Ft.’ is about pilots delivering their payload and being high above the skynot seeing the carnage that results. It’s a very peaceful ballad styled song that contrasts the subject matter perfectly and moves into a harder edge with the bridge and chorus. You can almost feel the emotion of a pilot alone in the sky simply flying and pressing a button to unload bombs, never seeing what happens when they hit the ground. Best song on the album. A close second would be the haunting ‘Dead Man’s Words’, it’s almost hypnotic in it’s brooding dark delivery.

‘The Killer’ is an uptempo modern Rock song that could have easily come from Q2K (1999) or TRIBE (2003) but it’s a little repetitive for me, it sounds like the rest of the album. Same thing with ‘Middle Of Hell’ with it’s almost soothing trippy sound that contrasts with the subject matter and song title, it’s almost like experiencing battle in slow motion? ‘If I Were King’ has more soldier voiceovers starting the song by telling the horrors of seeing a buddy die in combat. The song stays in that mid-tempo/ballad style Queensryche has perfected with the guitars and tempo getting heavier just for the chorus. ‘Man Down!’ is almost a repeat of ‘If I Were King’ with the soldier voiceover starting the track but this is actually the heaviest and better songs on the album! It reminds me of parts of HEAR IN THE NOW FRONTIER or Q2K, definitely a welcome sound to hear a heavier uptempo song. Usually the ballads are used to break up the hard rocker, Queensryche flips that formula for better or worse. ‘Remember Me’ is another ballad with a soldier voice over to start the song, it’s too similar to other songs on the album. Same thing wirth ‘Home Again’, another quick spoken word intro but this song is the best ballad on the album. Geoff Tate’s daughter Emily makes her vocal debut on this song and it fits well with the image of a father and daughter exchanging letters while he is stationed away at war. Definitely one of the more emotional and beautiful songs on the album, this would be a single if this were back in the late ’80s/early ’90s. It’s definitely one of the more mellow songs on the album, as well as one of my favorites. I have two daughters, and I have two nieces who lost their dad during combat times, so it tugged on the heartstrings for me. Last song is ‘The Voice’ and it is thick with orchestration and sounds like the other epics on the album…..it’s a decent song with some heavy guitar flourishes but not enough to make it stand out.

Bottom Line:
My review above may not reflect it but I actually enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER, the first Queensyrche album I have liked since 1997. I have given the album a serious critical listen and also just let the album play. Sometimes you can hear something you missed if you just let the album play in the background and flow rather than sit on top of the stereo and pick out every detail! If you are expecting the Metal version of Queensryche and go looking for it in AMERICAN SOLDIER then you will be disappointed. If you just play the record, forget old songs like ‘Queen Of The Reich’ and ‘Take Hold Of The Flame’, and let the music flow then you might appreciate the album more. The Queensryche we knew was great but they are never coming back, the Queensryche of today still makes good music but it’s just different…..slower and layered. I think that more people will like this album if they forget about the old Queensryche sound and OPERATION: MINDCRIME. One of the major problems the band has had has been songwriting and the concept of seeing war through soldiers’ eyes is a good one. The songs are good although some are repetitive in style and the music is definitely epic and grand with plenty of different styles. Overall…..a better effort than I expected but not much Metal. Definitely worth a try, the album continues to grow on me and  I enjoy it more as a full album as I hear it.

Favorite Songs:
‘Unafraid’, ‘At 30,000 Ft.’, ‘Dead Man’s Words’, ‘Man Down!’, ‘Home Again’

Spinal Tap – Back From The Dead (2009)

Spinal_Tap_Back_from_the_Dead

Spinal Tap – Back From The Dead (2009, The Spuzzle Group)

  1. Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight
  2. Back From The Dead
  3. (Funky) Sex Farm
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Creation
  5. Jazz Oddyssey I
  6. Gimme Some Money
  7. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare
  8. Heavy Duty
  9. America
  10. Jazz Oddyssey II
  11. (Listen To The) Flower People (Reggae Stylee)
  12. Hell Hole
  13. Big Bottom
  14. Celtic Blues
  15. Jazz Oddyssey III
  16. Warmer Than Hell
  17. Stonehenge
  18. Short And Sweet
  19. Cups And Cakes

Band Lineup:
Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) – Lead Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar & Vocals
David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) – Lead Vocals, Guitars & Piano
Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) – Bass & Vocals
“Caucasian” Jeffrey Vanston (C.J. Vanston) – Keyboards
Gregg Bissonette – Drums

Producers: C.J. Vanston

Country: United Kingdom

Total Time = 66:11

Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap MySpace page

Spinal Tap is back celebrating the 25th anniversary of the This Is Spinal Tap documentary with a new album, BACK FROM THE DEAD and tour. BACK FROM THE DEAD follows the current trend of bands re-recording new versions of their old hits and adding a few new songs but to make this album really special Spinal Tap put out an elaborate package that included a bonus DVD and a digipak that folds out into a diorama of the band performing on stage with the famed Stonehenge. It’s actually a pretty cool concept but I haven’t pulled the diorama together!

If you have the This Is Spinal Tap movie soundtrack then you know what the original songs sound like. The re-recorded versions are almost identical to the originals with a couple of exceptions: ‘Sex Farm’ has tuned into ‘(Funky) Sex Farm’ with the obvious Funk beat and ‘(Listen To The) Flower People’ has received a Reggae treatment. Spinal Tap has never been a band without fun so these new versions are very cool, especially ‘(Funky) Sex Farm’ with it’s horns and deep voiced background vocals. A surprise appearance of ‘Jazz Oddyssey’ is included on this record also…..but in three parts. ‘Jazz Oddyssey’ was performed briefly during the film but now all Tap fans can rejoice by having the entire work (written by bassist Derek Smalls) on one album…..in three parts. The five new songs fit in well with the band’s classics: ‘Back From The Dead’ was a digital single from 2000, ‘Warmer Than Hell’ was released online also but in 2007, and both are big sounding Rock songs as is ‘Rock ‘n’Roll Nightmare’. ‘Celtic Blues’ is an A capella song that has a quick bit of band discussion at the end and is the shortest song on the album clocking in at 1:25 while ‘Short And Sweet’ turns out to be the record’s epic at 6:35 and has a late ’60s/early ’70s Blues/Rock ‘n’ Roll sound and some long solos! It’s all a lot of fun and pure Tap!

Bottom Line:
If you’ve seen the movie then you get the joke…..but the band is quite serious. I still watch This Is Spinal Tap on DVD regularly and I bust out my cassette copy of the movie soundtrack for some plays in the car (it’s one of my last cassettes!) so the classics are always good to hear and these new versions are almost identical save for a couple fun changes. The five new songs fit in perfectly and have the same Spinal Tap sound and direction. If you haven’t seen the movie…..watch it. If you’re familiar with the movie and haven’t picked up the soundtrack then pick this up and get a solid overview of Spinal Tap’s music plus some new material.

Favorite Songs:
Re-recorded Classics – ‘Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight’, ‘(Funky) Sex Farm’, ‘Big Bottom’, ‘Hell Hole’

New Songs – ‘Back From The Dead’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare’, Warmer Than Hell’

Jazz Oddyssey – I, II, & III

Twisted Sister w/Chain Drive, Woodland Creatures & View Of A Burning City in concert at the Plymouth Memorial Hall (Plymouth, MA) – 11/6/09

Twisted Sister - 11-6-09

Twisted Fucking Sister!!!

Last night I took my daughter to Plymouth, MA to see her favorite band, and one of mine from back in the day…..Twisted Sister. I found out about the concert back in May and bought the tickets immeadiately because Twisted Sister really doesn’t play that many gigs each year. The show was originally scheduled for September 12 but a postponement due to injury brought us to last night at the Plymouth Memorial Hall.

There were three local opening bands before the main event: Chain Drive, Woodland Creatures and View Of A Burning City. I knew nothing about any of the openers but I kind of figured that they would all be Rock bands. Chain Drive was the first band to play and they were pretty good…..melodic Hard Rock played with a lot of energy and obvious talent. I was so impressed by their set that I meant to go to their merch table and pick up a CD if they had them…..unfortunately, I left right after Twisted Sister so I never got a CD. Good solid Hard Rock though, I can’t say enough about them. I noticed a DJ turntable onstage when we made it to our seats initially so I was a little worried that one of the bands was Rap-Rock or Nu-Metal and I was right. Woodland Creatures was like a bad Linkin Park/Papa Roach/Limp Bizkit imitation. I don’t like Rap-Metal so I didn’t care for any of the Rap music these guys pulled off. The shining moment of their set was when my section jointly gave them the finger…..the band was completely out of it’s element. Last band was View Of A Burning City and they were one of those screaming Hardcore/Metal bands that you couldn’t understand at all. They had the craziest bassist, who played in his black socks, that always looked like he was going to fall over! At least they were Metal of some sort and I did pick up their CD & T-shirt combo for $5…..yes, I said $5! Of all the openers the clear winner was Chain Drive.

Twisted Sister setlist:

Stay Hungry
We’re Not Gonna Take It
Burn In Hell
Horror-terria (The Beginning):
a) Captain Howdy
b) Street Justice
I Wanna Rock
The Price
Don’t Let Me Down
The Beast (w/drum solo)
S.M.F.

Encore:
Come Out And Play
30
Under The Blade
You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll

Twisted Sister is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of STAY HUNGRY and they are doing what bands like Judas Priest and Motley Crue are doing by playing their iconic album in it’s entirety. What a show to see! Dee Snider said that, after this show in Plymouth, some of these songs would never be played again so it was a great performance to see. My daughter’s favorite album is STAY HUNGRY, and she knows it word for word, so singing along with Dee and my daughter was pretty cool. I forgot a few of the words but my daughter put on a flawless performance! So did the band! Twisted Sister ripped through all 10 songs off the album as if they were playing them back in 1984. The whole album was a highlight for me but finally hearing ‘Burn In Hell’, ‘The Price’ and ‘Stay Hungry’ live along with the Hard Rock anthems ‘I Wanna Rock’, ‘S.M.F.’ and ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ was mind blowing. Of course the band had the audience in the palm of their hands, there was a ton of energy coming from the audience. There were families, diehard SMFs, Metal fans, Goth rockers, Rappers and people that looked like they were out for dinner and a movie…..all these people were raising their fists and shouting “I wanna rock!” at the tops of their lungs.

The band left the stage after they finished the STAY HUNGRY seet but came back quickly for an awesome encore of three album title tracks and their new song ’30′ (off the new STAY HUNGRY 25th Anniversary reissue), that Dee said had never been played live before. Very cool! My daughter was on edge when she knew Twisted Sister had a new song so she made sure I bought my STAY HUNGRY reissue and burned it into her iPod…..she knew the song better than anyone else besides Dee himself! I knew they would play ‘You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll’ for the final song but it was a treat to get ‘Come Out And Play’ and ‘Under The Blade’. My daughter and I had our hopes up for some other classics like ‘Bad Boys (of Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ and ‘Destroyer’ from UNDER THE BLADE (1982) and ‘Be Chrool To Your Scuel’ from COME OUT AND PLAY (1985) but the band played a short set (14 songs) but a powerful one. I can’t complain about the set at all because it was like travelling back in time for me and it was a dream come true for my daughter. I left the arena last night with a new respect for a things Twisted Sister and became a bigger fan than I already was. If anyone has the chance to catch any of their shows, go for it! It may sound like I’m gushing about the show but it was seriously that great, probably one of the best shows I’ve seen in the last 10 years!

WANTED: Black Sabbath – Past Lives (2002)

WANTED

Black Sabbath - Past Lives (2002)

Black Sabbath – Past Lives (2002)

I’ve been on a major Black Sabbath kick for two weeks now and I realized that this live album is missing from my collection. This is a 2 disc set featuring the unofficial LIVE AT LAST (1980) live album on the first CD and some other notable Sabbath live tracks on the second CD from the famed Paris 1970 show and Asbury Park, New Jersey 1975. I already have LIVE AT LAST on CD so what I want is the live tracks from the second disc. I’m not a big bootleg concert trader so I wouldn’t mind hearing some of the Paris 1970 show I’ve read about in Sabbath forums over the years. Plus, I can’t stand knowing that my Black Sabbath collection has a hole in it! There are 2 versions of the album: standard jewel case and deluxe limited edition digipak. The difference between the two is that the digipak offers different packagaing and graphics, a pull out poster and a guitar pick…..there is no difference in the music. I’ll probably pick up the jewel case version…..

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009)

Lita Ford - Wicked Wonderland (2009)

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009, JLRG Entertaiment)

  1. Crave
  2. Piece (Hell Yeah)
  3. Patriotic S.O.B.
  4. Scream 4 Me
  5. Inside
  6. Wicked Wonderland
  7. Indulge
  8. Love
  9. Betrayal
  10. Scared
  11. Truth
  12. Everything
  13. Bed
  14. Garden (bonus track)
  15. Push (bonus track)

Musicians:
Lita Ford – Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar
Jim Gillette – Vocals
Greg Hampton – Bass, Synth, Rhythm Guitar
Stet Howland – Drums
Chris Collier – Drums (tracks 1 & 11)

Producers: Lita Ford, Jim Gillette, Grag Hampton

Country: USA

Total Time = 65:35

Lita Ford
Lita Ford MySpace page

I have been a Lita Ford fan since the ’80s so I was pretty psyched to hear that she was finally going to make a new album after 14+ years since she released BLACK (1995). Where has Lita been? She’s been living in the Caribbean and raising a family with her husband Jim Gillette (lead singer of Nitro). Lita’s been out of the spotlight for years, even turning down offers to do VH-1 reality shows! The only thing that had me interested in this comeback was her appearance on Twisted Sister’s A TWISTED CHRISTMAS (2006) dueting on ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’. Outside of that, my only interest in Lita was getting some of here older albums on CD to fill the holes in my collection. When I heard that we were getting a new album, I was pretty psyched. I still like most of Lita’s older albums like DANCIN’ ON THE EDGE (1984), LITA (1988) and STILETTO (1990) so I was hoping we would get a new album that kind of reflected that signature sound.

So I put WICKED WONDERLAND in the stereo and I was shocked at how different Lita’s sound has become. I have nothing against artists/bands updating their sound to be more modern or relevant but there usually is an underlying part of their classic sound. Typical Lita Ford fans, and your average Hard Rock fans, are going to expect some of that popular ’80s Hard Rock sound that made Lita the success she is. Not on this album! Lita and her husband Jim have taken all our expectations of big guitars, soaring vocals and melodic Hard Rock anthems and replaced them with an alternative/industrial sound complete with multi-tracked vocal enhancements, sound effects, fuzzed guitars and rap/dance style flourishes kicked in. Add in co-lead vocals from Gillette and then take the overtly sexual lyrics about Lita & Jim’s private life and you get a mess. I’m all for Lita collaborating with her husband (who has an enourmous set of pipes, remember Nitro and the wine glass shattering?) but Jim really doesn’t add anything here except for growls and enhanced grungy singing…..I wouldn’t even call it singing, more spoken word at times. I’m all for sexual lyrics, that’s what 90% of the ’80s were about, but I really don’t need to get a musical snapshot of Lita & Jim going at it. I’m just not really sure what kind of direction Lita was going for. She says she wanted to make a heavy modern album but does that mean you take out all of the elements that make a good song? Even her vocals are spotty and I thought she had a good voice back in the day. I would go song by song but everything sounds the same to me and that’s definitely not good. The production is good but the material is awful.

Bottom Line:
A wasted comeback. I expected a heavy album, a modern Hard Rock album, but where is the Lita Ford we all knew from back in her ’80s heyday? Is she still in the Caribbean? This just isn’t a Lita Ford album. I’ve given this a lot of spins so I could find something positive but I just can’t find one song I remotely like. Everything sounds the same from the down-tuned guitars, to the vocals being messed with, to the industrial metal feel, to the terrible lyrics. Did I cover everything? Lita had the chance to make a good Metal record with an updated sound showcasing her excellent talents on guitar and vocals but she has easily squandered the opportunity. This has to be one of the biggest disappointments for me of the last four years of this website…..if this isn’t my Worst Album of 2009 then I don’t know what will top it!

Favorite Songs: none