CD Scavenger Hunt – August, September, October, November & December update

It’s been a long time since I posted anything here at Heavy Metal Addiction…..a real long time! Sorry to all my loyal readers but I just haven’t had the time or the inspiration to write about anything Hard Rock or Heavy Metal but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been buying my fair share of music! Seeing that we are at the end of the year, I figured it was about time I posted something and why not be a full update of everything I’ve bought since August? Enjoy and please leave some comments…..

(WARNING — This is going to be a long post!)

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August update

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Rainbow – Difficult To Cure (1981/1999 remaster) – $8
Fozzy – Sin & Bones (2012) - $13
Loudness – Eye To Dawn (2012) – $13
In This Moment – Blood (2012) – $10
Jackyl – Best In Show (2012 Best Buy Deluxe Edition) – $10
MSG – The Michael Schenker Story Live (1997/2001 re-release) – $0
Loverboy – Rock N Roll Revival (2012) – $0
Baroness – Red Album (2007) – $0
House Of Lords – Sahara (1990) – $0
Marshall Law – Power Games (1992) – $0
Headcat – Walk The Walk…Talk The Talk (2011) – $0
Exciter – Unveiling The Wicked (1986) – $0
Enuff Z’nuff – Welcome To Blue Island (2003) – $0
Zyklon – Aeon (2003) – $0
Ozzy Osbourne – Black Rain (Tour Edition) (2007) - $0
707 – The Bridge (2004) – $0
707 – Anthology (2009) – $0
Starz – Brightest Starz (2000) – $0
Petra – Still Means War (2002) – $0
Rob Zombie – The Sinister Urge (2001) – $0
Sentenced – The Cold White Light (2002) – $0
Frameshift – An Absence Of Empathy (2005) – $0
KISS – Destroyer Resurrected (2012) – $13
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975) – $0
Helix – Breaking Loose (1979) – $26.50 used
Mass – Voices In The Night (1989) – $9 used
Tokyo Blade – Camp 334 E.P. (2012) – $3 (iTunes download)

Where to begin? Obviously August was a good month! One thing that happens evey August is that my birthday rolls around and I get a lot of gift cards to Newbury Comics, my favorite record store, so that will account for all the CDs with zeros for amounts. Let’s analyze these purchases…..

I bought the new albums by Fozzy, Loudness, In This Moment, and KISS on the day of release and on sale…..I had to have the new Destroyer Resurrected the moment the doors to Newbury Comics opened because my KISS collection isn’t complete without the latest new album! The Bruce Springsteen disc was a gift from my best friend’s son who loves Springsteen and is trying to turn me on to his music. I like myself some Bruce, mostly the stuff I hear on classic rock radio, but this is the album I would pick to start getting into The Boss if I were buying it myself. The Helix and Mass CDs were auctions I won on ebay from the same seller, both are original pressings and the Helix album is especially rare and it’s been on my radar for a long time. The last album listed is a digital only E.P. by NWOBHM legends Tokyo Blade that I got from iTunes. I have NEVER bought anything from iTunes because I believe in physical media but there are no plans to release this on any other format so I had to bite the bullet and spend the $3. On to the freebies…..

Birthday = gift cards. I decided to head up to a different Newbury Comics, this time Norwood, MA, to see if there were any bargains to be had. Now this is the BIG Newbury Comics so they have excellent selection when I make the 45 minute trip a few times a year and right off the bat I found a used copy of Baroness – Red Album (2007) for what would have been $10 ($14 for the regular priced one that was there. Among the other highlights from this shopping trip, the Michael Schenker Group live double disc rerelease that would have been $14, the new Loverboy album that would have been $13 on sale ($20 regular price!), and a tour edition copy of Ozzy’s Black Rain used that has all the bonus material for all the different versions of the original album for a mere $6 used price. Of course I padded the collection with used CDs that ranged in price from $2 to $8 but they were all free for me.

September update

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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Last of a Dyin’ Breed (2012 Deluxe Edition) – $10
Judas Priest – Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition (2012) – $14
The Darkness – Hot Cakes (2012) – $16
Cloudscape – New Era (2012) – $15
ZZ Top – La Futura (2012) – $0
Steve Harris – British Lion (2012) – $13
Bullet – Full Pull (2012) – $13
Dokken – Broken Bones (2012) – $0

As September hits we have back to school for the kids, house preperations for winter, the beginning of football season and fantasy football and starting to think of the holidays…..that means money is at a premium and CDs have to wait. I was able to pick up some new releases in my two trips to the record store in September and I caught a great sale at the end of the month – Buy 2 get 1 Free on all regular and sale priced CDs.

On my 1st trip of the month, I had to have the deluxe edition of the new Lynyrd Skynyrd CD to get the 4 bonus tracks and was lucky to grab the last sale priced copy they had for $10 which saved me $7. Take a listen to the Skynyrd records with Johnny Van Zant on vocals, they are all excellent and rival the classic 70s era of Skynyrd with his late brother Ronnie fronting the band. Of course the legend of Skynyrd back in the day overshadows everything newer but the quality is definitely there. The other major purchase was the 30th Anniversary Edition of the classic Screaming For Vengeance from Metal legends Judas Priest. I love all the bonuses on these special anniversary releases and it makes it worth it to re-buy the album, this time around the big deal was the included DVD of Priest’s performance at the US Festival in 1983 but the live tracks and the bonus studio track ‘Prisoner Of Your Eyes’ add to the value. You can’t beat $14 for a CD/DVD combo and I still saved $3 buying it on sale.

The 2nd trip of the month was towards the end but that’s where I caught the special sale and picked up a bunch of new releases I was waiting on. My strategy is to always group the CDs by price from high to low so when I get to the register I get some of the higher priced CDs free. I had been waiting on Hot Cakes from The Darkness and missed the sale price so I had to pay the full $16 regular price and the new Cloudscape was the same deal at $15 regular price but I put them together with the new ZZ Top to get that one free and saved $14 right off the bat! The $14 was the sale price for ZZ Top but regular price was $17 so I really saved $17 in the long run. My second grouping was the new Steve Harris solo album ($13 sale/$17 regular) + the new Bullet ($13 sale/$17 regular) with the new Dokken ($12 sale/$18 regular) for free and saved more money. You have to love those Frontiers Records albums that are $17+ regular price, I would have choked if I had to pay that much for the new Dokken! At least I got it on a double sale!

October update

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KISS – Monster (2012) – $12
KISS – Monster (2012) – $15 (Wal-Mart exclusive limted edition zine-pak)
Arch Enemy – Stigmata (1998) – $4 used
Allen-Lande – The Revenge (2007) – $8 used
Dream Evil – Evilized (2003) – $8 used
Rob Rock – Garden Of Chaos (2007) – $8 used
Motorhead – March Or Die (1992) – $4 used
Cloudscape – Crimson Skies (2006) – $4 used
Kotipelto – Serenity (2007) – $4 used
Dragonforce – The Power Within (2012) – $13
Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2 (2 CD/DVD/Blu) (2012) - $18
Ten – Heresy And Creed (2012) – $12
Sister Sin – Now And Forever (2012) – $12
Night Ranger – 24 Strings & A Drummer (CD/DVD) (2012) - $10
The Sword – Apocryphon (2012 Deluxe Edition) – $12
Praying Mantis – Time Tells No Lies (1980/2011 remaster) – $13.50 (Ebay)

September was a slow CD buying month but October’s prospects improved and there were a few new releases that were must haves. Starting the month of right was the new KISS album…..Monster. I was out front banging on the door fo the record store so I could get this album as soon as the store opened, got it on sale for $12 and saved $4 off the regular price. Of course, KISS is my favorite band and they can’t do anything simple so I ran over to Wal-Mart right after to buy the limited edition zinepak exclusive to Wal-Mart.

My second CD hunt was at the Newbury Comics in Warwick, RI (about 20 mins from home) when the family and I were out for the day and they allowed me to go and search. Actually, they dropped me off and went to the Target down the road! Nothing is better when you walk into a record store and you start to find a lot of cheap CDs that you’ve been looking for…..obviously, I hit the store after someone dumped part of their collection because I’d never seen these CDs at this location before. Right away I found a copy of the latest Dragonforce record, The Power Within (2012), still on sale for $13 while the other two copies with it were regular price at $19. Then I started through the Metal section in alphabetical order and I found the Allen-Lande, Cloudscape and Dream Evil all used and immeadiately crossed them off my want list. I only had $60 in disposable CD income so I had to make wise purchases and I already had $33 worth of discs in my hand so I had to ignore some more higher priced used gems but I did make my way over to a sale table towards the front of the store. Score! Arch Enemy for $4 used, Motorhead for $4 used and Kotipelto for $4 used and Rob Rock for $8 used…..the Motorhead – March Or Die was a missing album in my collection and both the Kotipelto and Rob Rock CDs replaced very plain promotional CDs I received from the record label years earlier. I spent $53 on this trip so i was pretty psyched to come under budget just a little.

The last trip of the month also included an Ebay auction I actually won while I was in the record store! New releases everywhere during the last week of the month: the new Motorhead, Ten, Sister Sin, Night Ranger and The Sword were all high priority buys and the Ebay auction was the Praying Mantis reissue from Rock Candy Records. I saved $35 off the regular prices of the new releases by buying them on sale the day of release with the biggest savings coming from the Motorhead – The World Is Ours Vol.2 release at $12 off. I also saved $6 on the Ten CD and $8 on the Night Ranger (both imports from Frontiers Records), $3 on the new Sister Sin and another $6 on the limited edition of the new CD from The Sword.

November update

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Mob Rules – Cannibal Nation (2012) – $14
Aerosmith – Music From Another Dimension (Deluxe Edition) (2012) – $20
Kamelot – Silverthorn (Deluxe Edition) (2012) – $0
Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves (2012) – $13
Twisted Sister – A Twisted Xmas Live In Las Vegas (2012) – $0
Butcher Babies – Butcher Babies E.P. (2012) – $5 (from Butcher Babies merchandise website)

Another slow month with the holidays looming…..I only made one trip to the record store but I made it count when they had a “Buy 2 get 1 Free” sale on all CDs. Of course they ring the CDs from highest to lowest so I paid for the limited edition version of the new Aerosmith record and the new One Direction limited edition new album (I have a daughter that loves that boy band!) for $20 each and I got the new Kamelot – Silverthorn limited edition for free. I forget what the regular price on the One Direction CD was but that wouldn’t count here but the regular on the Aerosmith was a crazy $29 and the new Kamelot was on sale for $18 but the regular price would have been $22. My second bundle at this sale was the new Mob Rules album for $14 and the new Geoff Tate solo album for $13, both on sale, and I got the new Twisted Sister live Xmas album from Las Vegas for free. The Twisted Sister CD was on sale for $12 with a regular price of $16 and both the Mob Rules and Geoff tate albums had a regular price of $18. The last purchase I made was the debut E.P. from the Butcher Babies for $5. I had been hearing a lot about the band on various podcasts and I finally decided to pick up the E.P. towards the end of the month.

December update

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King Kobra – Ready To Strike (1985) – $8
King Kobra – Thrill Of A Lifetime (1986) – $8
U.D.O. – Live In Sofia (2CD/DVD) (2012) – $14
Bloodbound – In The Name Of Metal (2012) – $14
Municipal Waste – Massive Aggressive (2009) - $10 used
Ring Of Fire – The Oracle (2001) - $10 used
Tankard – Beast Of Bourbon (2004) – $0 used
Avian – Ashes And Madness (2009) - $10 used
Overkill – Feel The Fire (1985) – $9 used
Doro – Classic Diamonds (2004) – $0 used
Iced Earth – The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Pt.2) (2008) – $8 used
Municipal Waste – Hazardous Mutations (2005) – $8 used
Tristania – Midwinter Tears (CD/DVD) (2005) – $0 used
Grave Digger – 25 To Live (2CD) (2005) – $7 used
Grave Digger – Rheingold (2003) – $7 used
Gwar – Live From Mt. Fuji (2005) – $0 used
Scorpions – Taken By Force (1977) – $6 used
Overlorde – Return Of The Snow Giant (2004) – $6 used
Tristania – Ashes (2005) – $0 used
Straight Line Stitch – When Skies Wash Ashore (2008) – $6 used
Fates Warning – Inside Out (1994) – $4 used
Tristania – World Of Glass (2001) – $0 used

With the Christmas holiday looming, there was no extra money for CD shopping during December but that’s OK because the end of the year is always the slowest time for new releases. I knew there was a shopping spree coming at the end of the year because of all the gift cards I get to Newbury Comics for holiday gifts. This year was no exception, I netted $135 in gift cards so I held out as long as I could after Christmas (3 days!) and I was able to catch a year end used CD sale, Buy 2 Used CDs and Get 1 Free! The strategy for gift cards and a great sale was to get as much music as possible and to get some of those used CDs that I’d been passing over in my travels and, seeing that everything was basically free and nothing coming out of pocket, I spent a long time combing every rack in the Warwick, RI Newbury Comics. I put up all the prices above, including the sale freebies, so you could get an idea of what I would have spent.

I couldn’t pass on the King Kobra CDs because both were recent reissues in album style cardboard sleeves and brand new sealed at awesome cheap prices…..turns out they should have been $17.99 instead of $7.99 but that’s OK with me! I also couldn’t pass up the latest U.D.O. 2CD/DVD live release, Live In Sofia (2012), or the latest release from Bloodbound…..both were still on sale and they weren’t at my normal closer location. Both of these were $18 regular price so I saved $4 on each theoretically. So those are the new CDs, on to the used!

I put everything up by price because that’s how the store separates them and denotes the free ones. I like the fact that they give you a free CD closest to the price of the ones you buy so the Tankard CD should have been $10 used but it was free because the Municipal Waste and Ring Of Fire CDs were the same price. Obviously, I picked up a lot of back catalog from Municipal Waste, Grave Digger and Tristania with the biggest bargains being the two Municipal Waste and two Grave Digger CDs because you never see these albums used and, if you do, they are $12+ used because of the demand for Municipal Waste and Grave Digger is usually imports. Of the $0 CDs, the Tankard shuld have been $10, Tristania and Doro were $8 each, Gwar and another Tristania were $6 each and the last Tristania was $4 used. The final total on this hunt was $135 all paid with gift cards so I paid nothing out of pocket and I saved an additional $42 on the free used CDs!

Final 2012 Totals

Total (year) = $1804

Average Price (per item) = $7.71

Total CDs (year) = 227

Total DVDs (year) = 5

Total Blu-Rays (year) = 1

Total iTunes Downloads (year) = 1

Just a quick analysis…..

Compared to 2011, I bought 85 more items (227 this year and 142 last year) and I spent $659 more than I did the previous year. My DVD total is low because a lot of bands/labels are packaging DVDs or Blu-Rays with live CDs now and I count those as CD packages. Also, 2012 was the first time I bought a Blu-Ray and paid for an iTunes download. I’m not sure what 2013 will hold for CD hunting but I’m hoping that I find more gems, fill a lot of holes in my collection, acquire more and spend less.

Let the hunt continue!

Metal Mixtape – 5/6/12

Tale of the Tape
Ipod 120
9983 songs (858 albums)

  1. Gwar – ‘Parting Shot’ – Lust In Space (2009)
  2. Thunder – ‘An Englishman On Holiday’ – Backstreet Symphony (1990)
  3. AC/DC – ‘Walk All Over You’ – Highway To Hell (1979)
  4. Night Ranger – ‘Penny’ – Dawn Patrol (1982)
  5. Saxon – ‘Rockin’ Again’  – Innocence Is No Excuse (1985)
  6. AC/DC – ‘Live Wire’ – High Voltage (1975)
  7. Accept – ‘Sick, Dirty And Mean’ – Objection Overruled (1993)
  8. Black Country Communion – ‘Stand (At The Burning Tree)’ – Black Country (2010)
  9. Extreme – ‘Play With Me’ – Extreme (1989)
  10. Airbourne – ‘No Way But The Hard Way’ – No Guts, No Glory (2010)
  11. Megadeth – ‘Guns, Drugs & Money’ – Th1rt3en (2011)
  12. Riot – ‘Heart Of Fire’ – Rock City (1977)
  13. The Doors – ‘Back Door Man’ – The Doors (1967)
  14. KISS – ‘Lick It Up’ – Jikogu Retsuden (2008)
  15. Buckcherry – ‘Cream’ – Black Butterfly (2008)
  16. UFO – ‘Borderline’ – High Stakes And Dangerous Men (1992)
  17. Symfonia – ‘Rhapsody In Black’ – In Paradisum (2011)
  18. Blue Tears – ‘Innocent Kiss’ – Blue Tears (1990)
  19. Primal Fear – ‘Conviction’ – Unbreakable (2012)
  20. Tesla – ‘I Wanna Live’ – Forever More (2008)
  21. Accept – ‘Bound To Fail’ – Metal Heart (1985)
  22. Autograph – ‘Everytime I Dream’ – Loud & Clear (1987)
  23. Yngwie J. Malmsteen – ‘Now Is The Time’ – Odyssey (1988)
  24. Anvil – ‘Shadow Zone’ – Forged In Fire (1983)
  25. Chickenfoot – ‘Down The Drain’ – Chickenfoot (2009)

Bonus Track — Def Leppard – Switch 625 – High ‘N” Dry (1981)

The Top 25 Albums of 2011

I think I say the same things every year when I write the introduction to my Best of the Year list…..this year was one of the greatest years for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! More and more new albums come out from a wide variety of bands and 2011 was no exception, this was the biggest year for Heavy Metal Addiction as far as promotional review copies go. Usually, I physically buy all my new albums but this year I partnered with more labels, more promotional people and more bands and I received more albums for review than any other year. Honestly, I couldn’t keep up and I came nowhere close to listening to all of them properly. Looking at the piles on my desk, the boxes next to it and the separate iTunes folder I reserve for promo downloads, it’s easy to estimate that I have more new 2011 albums submitted to Heavy Metal Addiction than in 2010! Add in all the new releases I bought on my weekly trips to the record stores, and my daily online searches, and it’s fair to estimate that the total number of new releases is on par with what I had for 2010. Unfortunately, I’ve let the website go a little in the last couple of years so, while I’ve been listening to almost everything, I just haven’t posted about it.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 25 was the same criteria I’ve used for the last few years: the album had to be a studio album (not a live record, best of, or covers collection) AND the album had to be released in 2011. Just like previous years, an album that was released in 2010 internationally, but was released in the U.S. in 2011, qualified as a 2011 album…..basically I went by the date on the back of the CD! There are plenty of albums that got late U.S. releases and there may be a few in this countdown. 

The ranking of the Top 25 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom Line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I could have continued with a Top 40 list but I got so far behind listening and writing so there are definitely albums I haven’t heard yet or didn’t give proper time to. We’re talking a couple hundred albums though so anything that got missed might end up in an expanded “Albums I Missed in 2011″ post during next year’s awards week. Just like last year, I will be splitting the Top 25 into three posts so it’s easier to read. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 25 Albums of 2011:

25. Nelson – Lightning Strikes Twice (2011)
24. Michael Monroe – Sensory Overdrive (2011)
23. U.D.O. – Rev-Raptor (2011)
22. Riot – Immortal Soul (2011)
21. Tokyo Blade – Thousand Men Strong (2011)

Starting at the bottom of the countdown is the new Nelson album that surprised me with it’s huge melodic hooks and vocals, former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe’s latest solo album that I bought late in the year but ended up enjoying a lot and the steadiness of U.D.O.’s Traditional Metal REV-RAPTOR. I still can’t figure out what a “rev-raptor” is aside from the machine on the cover but there you go. Two huge surprises were from Riot and Tokyo Blade! Riot scored #22 with a solid record from the THUNDERSTEEL-era lineup (a record I was looking forward to big time!) but the band had to endure the loss of Riot founder/guitarist Mark Reale…..at least he left a lasting legacy with this last album. The big surprise was NWOBHM legends Tokyo Blade, who came out of nowhere with THOUSAND MEN STRONG, one of the biggest comebacks of 2011! I’ve been a Tokyo Blade fan for a long time but I really didn’t expect much when I heard the band was releasing a new album but I was completely surprised and excited, sounds like old school NWOBHM with a modern touch.

20. Stratovarius – Elysium (2011)
19. Journey – Eclipse (2011)
18. Iced Earth – Dystopia (2011)
17. Royal Hunt – Show Me How To Live (2011)
16. Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions (2011)

I came late to the Stratovarius party even though I’ve acquired a few albums over the years, ELYSIUM was another epic Power Metal record. Journey’s ECLIPSE was a leader for the Top 5 this year but, as other bands released new records, and I kept comparing this album to 2008′s REVELATION, ECLIPSE fell a little. It’s still a solid AOR album Arnel Pineda still shines as the new Steve Perry but it wasn’t as good as REVELATION. Iced Earth made another vocalist change adding Stu Block from Into Eternity but they released one hell of an album with DYSTOPIA…..another late year purchase that might have gone higher with more time. Same for Royal Hunt but their reunion with D.C. Cooper is just what I needed to add their new Progressive/Power Metal album into the Top 25. I know a lot of fans of the more extreme side of Metal look at Arch Enemy as somewhat of a commercial band, especially with Angela Gossow front and center, but they are still kind of new to me. As I open myself up to more extreme bands, a band like Arch Enemy is a good starting point. I’m more of a Traditional/Power Metal fan and a AOR/Hard Rock fan but KHAOS LEGIONS sounded great to my ears and I had to rate it higher than some of my favorite bands (Iced Earth, Royal Hunt, Riot).

15. Anvil – Juggernaut Of Justice (2011)
14. Scheepers – Scheepers (2011)
13. Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
12. Chickenfoot – III (2011)
11. Sebastian Bach – Kicking & Screaming (2011)

Gotta give some love to Anvil because THIS IS THIRTEEN (2007) was a great comeback album (even though they never left!) even without the movie and they had four busy years to release a follow-up. JUGGERNAUT OF JUSTICE continued where THIS IS THIRTEEN left off and exceeded all my expectations…..great to see the band still getting success even with the movie hoopla dying out, hard work pays off! Ralf Scheepers didn’t stray too far from the more commercial side of Primal Fear’s last few albums but his first solo album was just as good as those. What can you say about Dream Theater? They always release one great record after another and, yes, Mike Portnoy is a huge loss on drums but Mike Mangini does a great job! Another big surprise in 2011 was the new Chickenfoot album, III, because I didn’t really feel the debut album. Not to say I didn’t like the first Chickenfoot record but the songs weren’t as catchy, as memorable. On III, the songs instantly stuck too me and the harmonies were awesome between Mike Anthony and Sammy, they can take the “supergroup” label off and just be a band now. Talk about a comeback! Sebastian Bach came back and kicked his former band in the teeth with this new solo album, KICKING & SCREAMING.  Baz sounds as great as he ever did and his band is blazing! I always get disappointed with Baz because I always think he should be doing more music than interviews, or reality shows, or VH-1 related things but he really came back strong with this record.

10. Warrant – Rockaholic (2011)
9. Saxon – Call To Arms (2011)
8. Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011)
7. Motorhead – The World Is Yours (2011)
6. Black Country Communion – 2 (2011)

Despite original singer Jani Lane passing away, Warrant recruited former Lynch Mob singer Robert Mason (who replaced Black ‘N Blue singer Jamie St. James) and released a wicked Hard Rock record with ROCKAHOLIC. The first two songs, ‘Sex Ain’t Love’ and ‘Innocence Gone’, are two of the best Hard Rock songs of the year! Saxon is one of my Top 5 favorite bands of all time and they released another great album with CALL TO ARMS. I was a little worried when I read they were stripping back their current sound for something more like the early ’80s because they have released a string of great Traditional/Power Metal albums since 1997′s UNLEASH THE BEAST…..the good news is that the old NWOBHM guard still maintained their excellent track record of the last 15 years! I’ve been a Night Ranger fan since the early ’80s and I thought they easily made the best Melodic Rock record of 2011 after one spin of the new album, once I heard this album, the  Journey and Nelson records started to pale in comparison. Like Saxon, Motorhead is a favorite band and a staple when it comes to my year end countdowns. You know what you’re going to get from Motorhead before they album is released but you know it’s going to rip your face off and punch you in the gut! Lemmy, Mikkey and Phil just keep making great album after great album every other year…..see you in 2013 Motorhead! Coming is at #6, and just missing the Top 5 by a hair, is the sophomore album by Black Country Communion (the other supergroup in the countdown). Just hearing Glenn Hughes sing ’70s styled Hard Rock is enough to catapult any band or album into year end lists but the songs are so good and the performances so perfect that I knew this was going to be a top album of 2011 after the first spin. Hard working band too, this album came out a year after the debut, they released a live record and DVD and have toured constantly…..that’s old school work ethic and it pays off.

5. Whitesnake – Forevermore (2011)
4. Mr. Big – What If… (2011)
3. Anthrax – Worship Music (2011)
2. Michael Schenker – Temple Of Rock (2011)

Making the Top 5 is no easy task when hundreds, if not thousands, of new albums get released each year but these four albums had the #1 spot on my countdown and really put me to task to pick the best album of 2011. Whitesnake started the year off with the album to beat, FOREVERMORE being a continuation of GOOD TO BE BAD but just a shade behind that awesome 2008 album. Maybe it’s because FOREVERMORE didn’t have 11 years of waiting and then hit you between the eyes but the new album did keep David Coverdale and the band at the top again. This year’s countdown has a lot of Hard Rock comebacks with Baz and Warrant turning in solid albums but Mr. Big really made the superior Hard Rock album of 2011 and then toured the album hard with more than just a few making the live set. I expected nothing from a new Mr. Big album but WHAT IF…. was a great album from a band reuniting and not just going out for the quick nostalgia buck. I’ll tell you what, they were definitely one of the best concerts I saw this past year too! Mr. Bog would have had the top album of 2011, and the best comeback of 2011, if Anthrax decided not to release WORSHIP MUSIC! Are you kidding me? WORSHIP MUSIC is an album that should be my top record of 2011 because it’s so good, so thrashy, so hard and so melodic all rolled into one. The band is tight as usual, no problems there, but the wild card in all of this was whether the band reuniting with Joey Belladonna would make a difference. No offense to the John Bush-era of Anthrax but Belladonna is just a better fit! Joey sounds as good as he ever has, the band sounds as brutal as ever and there isn’t a throwaway song on the album. A lot of year end countdown’s have Anthrax at the top of the list and, in a year of comebacks, they have the best one but the band got trumped by one of my favorite guitarists of all-time…..Michael Schenker! The #2 album of 2011, and a serious contender for the #1 spot right to the end, was Schenker’s new TEMPLE OF ROCK solo album. Is it the Michael Schenker Group? Is it him by himself, hence a solo album? TEMPLE OF ROCK follows the lead of 2006′s TALES OF ROCK ‘N ROLL where Michael and his regular backing band teamed up with another new vocalist for the half of the new album and then did a few songs each with a different singer from Michael’s career. This time around it’s new singer Michael Voss for 10 of the 12 new songs with Robin McAuley and Doogie White each singing one…..I kind of expected Gary Barden to fit in here somewhere considering he’s done Michael’s last two albums but he’s not here. Voss sounds great, the guitar is pure Schenker mastery and the songs are all well written with big memorable hooks and solos. Best song on the album is the McAuley led ‘Lover’s Sinfony’, which I got to see live when the band came through town, with a close second being ‘Miss Claustraphobia’ performed by Michael Voss. Michael Schenker had some rough years since the mid-’90s but the guy is such a talented musician, so prolific on guitar, that the music is a reflection of the man’s genius. Definitely a tough task to beat out anyone in the Top 5, especially Anthrax, but Schenker and company came out of nowhere and blew me away.

Up until the last minute, up until I had written this post this far, I finally made the decision to place the next album as the best album of 2011…..the top album of 2011 is…..

(drum roll please…..)

#1

Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011)

This was a hard one to call with the Top 5 albums being so good and Anthrax and Michael Schenker being in a virtual three-way tie with Alice Cooper right up until the end. Actually, I didn’t make up my mind until I gave each album a spin one last time before I wrote this up. In the end…..Alice is the winner!

WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE is not a sequel to the iconic WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE (1975) but a continuation of Alice’s nightmares…..that’s exactly how this album won. Alice and producer Bob Ezrin weren’t trying to best one of the greatest Rock albums of all-time, they were trying to continue the tale and putting a current spin on what Alice would be dreaming about 37 years later! Turns out Alice’s nightmares just get worse! Every song on the album is well written with the usual Alice Cooper trademark humor and horror mix, the production is perfect and the performances are flawless. There are more than a few guest stars, including the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band and notable names like Vince Gill and Ke$ha, and they all move into the dreamworld effortlessly. I was especially impressed with the reunion of the original Alice Cooper band members because it just shows how much impact the original band had and how much creativity they still have because they are all great musicians. Now Alice Cooper is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and now Alice has a #1 album at Heavy Metal Addiction…..what could be better?

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011)

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011, Frontiers Records)

  1. Growin’ Up In California
  2. Lay It On Me
  3. Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)
  4. Follow Your Heart
  5. Time Of Our Lives
  6. No Time To Lose
  7. Live For Today
  8. It’s Not Over
  9. End Of The Day
  10. Rock N’ Roll Tonite
  11. Say It With Love

Band Lineup:
Jack Blades – Lead Vocals & Bass
Brad Gillis – Guitars 
Kelly Keagy – Lead Vocals & Drums
Joel Hoekstra – Guitars
Eric Levy – Keyboards & Piano

Additional Musicians:
Will Evankovich – Guitars on ‘Growin’ Up In California’

Producers: Night Ranger
Executive Producer: James Blades

Country: USA

Total Time = 54:24

Night Ranger
Frontiers Records

Night Ranger is back again with their new studio album, SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA, and it’s another album that follows the traditional Night Ranger melodic rock sound. If you go back and listen to the band’s back catalogue then you know that Night Ranger just isn’t a ballad band as they have been pigeon-holed as since the multi-platinum success that followed their biggest hit, ‘Sister Christian’, back in 1983. What Night Ranger have always been at their core is a twin guitar Rock band and they have always written solid uptempo Rock songs that highlight the guitars. On a lot of their past records, some of my favorite songs and some of their best songs are ones that weren’t singles…..Night Ranger has always been about the whole album and they always create albums of high quality songs.

The opening track ‘Growin’ Up In California’ is a pure Hard Rock song with a great trade-off between guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra that reminds me of classic songs like ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ and ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ from back in the day. What a great way to start a record! Uptempo Hard Rock that’s so easy to sing to with it’s infectious hooks, the solos are blistering and the lyrics give a nod back to the late ’70s and ’80s when these guys were up and coming. ‘Lay It On Me’ continues the guitar driven Rock sound with a song that sounds very Damn Yankees (is there really that much different between either band with Jack Blades as the main guy?) crossed with a little Bon Jovi maybe. Big gang choruses with heavy drums and big guitars, including another guitar solo that reminds you Mr. Brad Gillis was once in Ozzy’s band! Definitely a great heavy track. Asking for three in a row would be truly great because you know that a ballad is coming eventually and ‘Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)’ continues the uptempo Rock with even more guitar! What I like about ‘Bye Bye Baby’ the most is the vocal harmonies…..Kelly Keagy and Jack Blades have always been a solid team trading off vocals and you can hear their harmonies brilliantly. That’s another great Night Ranger trademark…..two solid lead singers. The opening of ‘Follow Your Heart’ has this cool ’70s feel to it and, if you listen closely, you can detect a similarity in parts of the guitar and drums after the bass and keyboard intro that have a touch of Judas Priest’s ‘The Sentinel’. It’s very slight but listen for it. ‘Follow Your Heart’ is another heavy track with a very basic riff and modern sound and it would easily fit on more modern HOLE IN THE SUN but the classic ’80s Night Ranger sound filters in and out with the vocal trade-offs and harmonies around the chorus. I really like that swirling twin guitar riff that runs through the song, you can tell that the Gillis/Hoekstra guitar tandem is just as solid as the classic team of Gillis and former guitarist Jeff Watson.

No Night Ranger album is complete without ballads and ‘Time Of Our Lives’ is another great Night Ranger ballad and it could become one of their signature songs live. Kelly Keagy did lead vocals on ‘Sister Christian’ and ‘Goodbye’ back in the ’80s and he’s still a phenomenal singer bringing passion to the ballads and it’s no exception here. Of course, the harmonies with Kelly and Jack are present throughout the song and the chorus is absolutely huge but the piano work is really great, Eric Levy filling the sound out with a superb performance giving it that touch of beauty. No time to rest after a great ballad because ‘No Time To Lose’ cranks the guitars again throughout this anthemic sounding rocker that has one of the catchiest chrouses on the album. Everytime I hear this song, the foot starts tapping, the fist starts pumping a little and I’m singing right along. Most of the songs on this album are exactly like that, they get you right away and the melodies and harmonies are hard to get out of your brain! Another great set of duelling guitar harmonies that give the song such a big sound. Things slow down slightly with ‘Live For Today’, more mid-tempo but still very melodic. Definitely a song that fits more along the modern style off the previous album HOLE IN THE SUN but it also has this slight trace of ’60s psychedelia. Actually, ‘Live For Today’ reminds me of the SEVEN album from 1998 and that would easily fit with songs like ‘Panic In Jane’, ‘Sea Of Love’ and ‘Peace Sign’. ‘It’s Not Over’ is another melodic rocker with Kelly Keagy on vocals and follows the formula of the rest of the uptempo rocker on the album. This is that one song where I feel like there’s something missing or that it’s all a bit too much of the same thing. This isn’t a bad song, I just feel like I’ve already heard it a couple times already.

The opening to ‘End Of The Day’ casts away that “sameness” from other songs on the album, it has a touch of acoustic country-fried twang to it but it leads into a definite modern riff with a bit of feedback and it moves into more modern territory. It’s sounds a little more edgy compared to the rest of the album, maybe it’s Kelly Keagy’s vocal because he’s got that great gritty delivery. When I first heard ‘End Of The Day’, I pulled Kelly’s two solo albums and compared, this could easily fit on either. I like the tone of the guitars, not completely clean but still expertly played. This is a great song and it definitely stands out. The band gives us a rock anthem with ‘Rock N’ Roll Tonite’ and it needs to be immeadiately added to their live set. I like the underlying Hammond organ under the guitars and the ’70s sounding guitars…..Night Ranger always have fun as a band live and they play some covers and medleys during their shows and I think that ‘Rock N’ Roll Tonite’ is a product of that, this would be a great set opener. Last song on the album is another solid uptempo Hard Rock song, ‘Say It With Love’, that capitalizes on those trademark harmonies the band is known for. I almost could compare this with the opening song ‘Grownin’ Up In California’ in some parts and it really ends the album on a high note.

Bottom Line:
Leading up to the release of SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA, one of the press releases I read said that Night Ranger was going to return to their classic Melodic Rock sound. I’ve been a fan of the band since 1982, has Night Ranger ever deviated from the sound that made them popular? I’ll admit that 2008′s HOLE IN THE SUN is a little more modern and experimental compared to the classic MIDNIGHT MADNESS (1983) or 7 WISHES (1985) from their platinum era but Night Ranger has been creating the same brand of Melodic Rock all along….take a listen to their late ’90s albums NEVERLAND (1997) and SEVEN (1998) and you will here classic ’80s Night Ranger. SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA is another successful album with a bunch of catchy Rock songs that are well-written, have excellent vocals and great guitars. I’ll bet a lot of people forget that Night Ranger at it’s core is a twin lead guitar band and the highlight on SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA is the attention paid to getting the guitars of Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra in your face! SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA is one of the better Night Ranger albums since the ’80s and it would have been the natural follow-up to SEVEN (1998). There have only been two new studio albums since the ’90s and I hope that the energy and quality of this album keeps the band in that creative mindset for years to come…..Night Ranger makes great records, bottom line. This album is highly recommended.

Favorite Songs:
‘Grownin’ Up In California’, ‘Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)’, ‘Time Of Our Lives’, ‘No Time To Lose’, ‘End Of The Day’

CD Scavenger Hunt (June update)

It’s been a slow year so far for buying CDs and collecting but I made up for the last few months with a quality buying spree in June. There were a bunch of new releases on sale, a few hidden bargains in the used CD racks, trips to a few different record stores and the discovery of my childhood record store re-opening in the local flea market! June was definitely a good month for the Hunt…..

Luke’s Record Exchange (@ The Big Flea Market in Cumberland, RI)

Luke’s Record Exchange was my childhood record store that got me started as a record store regular and a CD scavenger hunt expert. Unfortunately, the long time Pawtucket, RI location closed a few months ago for good but a chance trip to The Big Flea Market in a neighboring town provided a link to my record store past…..Luke’s re-opened as a large booth. Prices were pretty good: 50% off the stickered price on all CDs! My oldest daughter loves music and has the record store addiction like her dad and she absolutely loved searching the racks and dark corners that the original Luke’s store had. I’ve tried to teach my oldest daughter as much about Metal and collecting as possible, now it’s up to her to decide what direction to go in.

Hair Of The Dog – Rise (2000) – $7: I started scouring the racks of CDs Luke’s had and I found plenty that used to be at their store and plenty that I already owned but with 50% off you have to buy something. I saw this Hair Of The Dog CD and remembered the name from the late ’90s editions of Metal Edge magazine so I snatched this up to try the band out. When I got home I realized I mixed up Hair Of The Dog with another band, American Dog, but a quick check of my back issues and this purchase was worth making. I’ve read some positive reviews online on Hair Of The Dog, and the band was signed to Spitfire Records back in 2000 (a label with plenty of Hard Rock bands and reissues) so I will definitely check them out when I get around ripping the cellophane off the case! Regular stickered price was $14 so it was really $7 for a brand new sealed copy of RISE. Saved $7.

Vince Neil – Live At The Whiskey: One Night Only (2003) – $6: I always meant to buy this live album when it came out but I had read some bad reviews and I decided against it back then. I did keep it on the want list just in case I came across a used copy somewhere. Over the years I’ve seen this album still at regular price anywhere from $12 to $15 and I’ve passed each time. I’ve seen Vince Neil in concert twice with his solo band and he’s been just OK performance wise and the set is always dominated by the big Motley Crue hits so it’s no surprise to only get one Vince solo song (‘Look In Her Eyes’) on this live record. maybe if there was more from EXPOSED (1993) or CARVED IN STONE (1995) then this would have been a more essential buy. Like I said, you can’t beat 50% off so I finally filled a hole in the Vince Neil solo collection. Another brand new sealed copy stickered at $12, the 50% off making it $6. Saved $6.

Wal-Mart

Def Leppard – Mirror Ball (Live & More) (2011) – $10: I hate going to Wal-Mart! In my life there is no reason to ever set foot in one but some of my favorite bands like KISS, AC/DC, Journey and now Def Leppard have forced me to enter the worst shopping place on earth to buy their exclusive releases! Sure, I could have someone else go in and buy it for me, or maybe buy it online, but sometimes we must sacrifice for the thrill of the Hunt! Definitely an old school move by the Leps with the old bulky multi-disc packaging for their double disc live record with the bonus DVD included. I’ve seen Def Lep on every tour since the 1999 EUPHORIA Tour and I saw them back in the day on the HYSTERIA Tour in 1988 so I know how good these guys are live. It’s a little surprising that it’s taken 31 years to finally get an official live album from Def Leppard but it looks like the band’s last few successful tours have finally given it to us. This was more about the new songs for me and their are three of them on Disc 2. The only positive thing I can say about the Wal-Mart experience is that the price can’t be beat…..$10 is a small price to pay for 21 live tracks, 3 new studio songs and a DVD.

Newbury Comics

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade (Special Edition) (2011) – $12: I already own UNDER THE BLADE on CD and on vinyl but I had to pick this up because of all the bonuses included. First, this is the original mix of UNDER THE BLADE as heard on the original Secret Records pressing (the 1985 reissue is remixed) so that saves the vinyl. Second, the RUFF CUTTS E.P. (1982) is the bonus on the CD. The RUFF CUTTS vinyl is easy to find but high in price for a mint copy, it’s nice getting the music on CD. Finally, the bonus DVD is the band’s performance at th 1982 Reading Festival. This is how you do a reissue! Unfortunately, some of the other Twisted Sister reissues on Armoury Records leave a lot to be desired as far as bonus material but this reissue was worth getting even at the regular price of $16. I bought this the day it was released so I got the $12 sale price saving $4.

Black Stone Cherry – Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea (2011) – $10: Black Stone Cherry is one of those newer bands that I’ve followed from their first album to present but I haven’t really gotten totally into them. I have the band’s first two albums, and I enjoy them, but the band hasn’t had the staying power for me to keep coming back. I’m hoping that BETWEEN THE DEVIL & THE DEEP BLUE SEA breaks that cycle and also forces me to revisit the band’s first two records for a fresh listen. Good band and good music but I’m just not completely hooked. This was another day of release purchase to get the sale price of $10 and save $4 but even the $14 regular price seems reasonable. Of course, the day I purchased the album, I get home from the record store and check my email and find a link from Roadrunner Records PR dept for a download of the album so i could review it! I would have bought the album anyway.

Warrant – Rockaholic (2011) – $13: Frontiers Records was kind enough to send me a download of the album for review so I have been enjoying ROCKAHOLIC for a few months prior to it’s U.S. release. In most cases when I receive a promo download for review, I buy the album for my collection if I enjoy it so I caved on buying the new Warrant. For me Warrant has a stigma…..the Jani Lane stigma. Back in the ’80s, I liked Warrant like most Hard Rock fans tuned in to FM radio and MTV but I started to really dislike the band after I got the internet in 1998 and started reading about all the dumb ass things Jani Lane used to do (cancel concert, quit and rejoin, go onstage drunk, etc). Anyway, after seeing the band reunite on the Poison summer tour a few years ago, I had hope but Jani screwed it up again and again. I thought the band’s move to replace Jani with Jaime St. James from Black ‘N Blue for BORN AGAIN (2006) was a great move resulting in a solid record. This time around it’s Robert Mason (formerly of Lynch Mob) replacing Jani (again!) and Jaime (who has a reformed Black ‘N Blue) at the mic and it’s a solid album that actually charted on Billboard’s Top Hard rock Albums Chart at #22! It’s such a good record that I would have easily paid the $17 import price but I saved $4 by waiting for the U.S. release.

Whitesnake – Live At Donington 1990 (Special Edition Box Set 2CD/DVD) (2011) – $16: Again, thanks to Frontiers Records, I was able to preview the CD portion of LIVE AT DONINGTON 1990 for a few weeks before it was released but this special edition wasn’t one I was going to miss adding to my collection. Recorded on 8/18/1990 at the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington Park, this is Whitesnake at it’s chart-topping best: a live album with mostly all the big hits from 1984 to 1990 and a DVD of the exact performance all packaged it a double gatefold CD digipak with full color graphics and booklet. Remember how big Whitesnake was back then? Well their bands before them were The Quireboys, Thunder, Poison and Aerosmith! Import prices online were around $25 plus shipping at most shops but the U.S. release was a regular $20…..I bought it day of release so I saved $4.

Hammerfall – Infected (2011) – $10: I had no idea that Hammerfall was releasing a new album until about a week before the release date…..and I have been following the band since 1998! It’s no secret that I’m a big Power Metal guy and Hammerfall has been one of my favorites since the Power Metal resurgence of the late ’90s so this was a no-brainer purchase for me. “No-brainer”…..that’s a funny way of putting it because the concept here seems to be zombies and being infected as one. It’s a different direction for Hammerfall but one I’m hoping to enjoy as much as their last few records. I’m a little puzzled by the lack of vibrant graphics and no sign of Hector, the band’s knight mascot that has been on every album cover, but if it’s something different then why not try it? Regular price was $16 so I saved $6 buying the album the day of release but I was lucky to get a copy because there were only two copies available when I hit the new release rack at the shop.

U.D.O. – Rev-Raptor (2011) – $12: Here’s another album that I received a promtional download for so I could review it but I added it to my want list. I’ve been an U.D.O. fan since he formed the band after his time in Accept so I’m going to buy every album that comes out but I really wanted to get the European limited edition with the bonus tracks but the online shops sold out quick and I didn’t really want to drop around $25 for a couple extra songs and a couple videos. I’ll give Udo Dirkschneider credit, he knows how to do it Gene Simmons style because there were four pressings of REV-RAPTOR: the regular jewel case, the limited edition European with 2 bonus tracks & videos, the Japanese with different bonus tracks and the special box set with a t-shirt and other souvenirs. I wish there was an easier way to get all the bonus material instead of having to buy to high price imports but I’m happy with my U.S. version. Regular price was $16, sale price was $12, saved $4.

Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions (2 CD Limited Edition) (2011) – $14: It’s only been recently that I’ve really gotten into Arch Enemy so this new album is kind of a new start for me. There’s been a lot of press on KHAOS LEGIONS so I’m hoping that it’s as good as the older material I’ve been listening to. What makes this release interesting is that there are 2 versions: the regular jewel case or the limited edition with a 4 track bonus disc and a code for a free t-shirt. I was grabbing the double disc version but what astounded me was the regular prices: $16 for the single, $25 for the double! Good thing I buy the new releases the day they come out because I save a lot of money…..in this case, the single disce was on sale for $11 and the limited edition for $14. How could I not buy the limited edition and save $11? Add in the free t-shirt and it’s a great buy even if I have to pay the shipping for the shirt and then give it to my daughter because I can’t fit in an XL!

Pagan’s Mind – Heavenly Ecstacy (2011) – $12: I got into Pagan’s Mind with 2007′s GOD EQUATION but I really haven’t gone back and tried to acquire the band’s previous releases. I like the band and I’m a fan of Progressive Metal but Pagan’s Mind just hasn’t taken hold in my listening rotation, hopefully that will change with this new album. This is another band that I didn’t know was releasing a new album but I was pleasantly surprised to find out in the Newbury Comics weekly newsletter. There are two versions of this album too: the single disc or the limited edition with 2 bonus tracks. When I went to the record store the day of release they only had the limited edition (the version I was buying anyway!) and they had plenty of copies. Regular price was a high $17 for the two extra songs but the sale price was only $12 for a savings of $5. I have been to the record store since I purchased this in the middle of June and I still haven’t seen the standard version but I assume that it’s without the bonus tracks and priced around $15 regular price.

Black Country Communion – 2 (2011) – $13: Black Country Communion is Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham…..now that’s a supergroup! The debut BCC album was awesome and made my list of the Top 30 Albums of 2010 at #5 so I was surprised when I read that the band had a new record ready to go. I waited on buying the first BCC album and ended up paying full price, the sting of that purchase was easier to take because the album was so good, but I wasn’t waiting around this time. Day of release and on sale for $13, I pulled the trigger. I like the old school stadium rock sound BCC has and Glenn Hughes keeps sounding better as he gets older while I am totally into Bonamassa’s guitar sound and now checking out his solo material…..good to see this album get on the U.S. Hot 100 chart with it’s debut. Regular price was an expensive $17 so I was glad to get the sale price and save $4.

Alestorm – Back Through Time (2011) – $13: Alestorm is another band I’ve followed from the beginning and I’ve grown to enjoy their Pirate Metal that’s a continuation of what Running Wild was doing a decade plus before. The thing is that the pirate themes and concepts are going to wear thin on the ultra serious metal fans but it’s all done well and in good fun so I don’t mind dropping a few bucks for good pirate party. I ended up buying the special edition of this album too with the hardbound book packaging and the two bonus tracks that are included. I didn’t see a regular jewel case edition at the record store but I read only that it exists. I actually almost pre-ordered this online through Napalm Records with the free t-shirt but they didn’t have the 2XL I need, the price on that package was $25 with shipping. Regular price for the special edition was $17 at the shop but I bought this on sale for $13 saving myself $4.

AC/DC – Live At River Plate DVD (2011) – $12: I’ve had my eye on this concert DVD for a few weeks but I never picked it up because the local shop had a ton of copies for weeks and the sale price kept going. Usually they take off the sale price after a couple week but they had so many copies of this DVD that the sale price was still there about a month after release. I had a little extra money to burn so I went to go pick up a copy but there was only two left this time! I’m not sure if the shop had a run on them all of a sudden or maybe transferred some to other locations but where there were many stood only two and one copy was regular price $15. Lucky for me the other copy still had the sale sticker on it so I knew that I’d be getting the price I wanted. Sure enough, when I got to the register, the DVD rang regular price but they price adjusted to the $12 sale price and I saved $3. I saw the Black Ice Tour in Foxboro, MA so LIVE AT THE RIVER PLATE will be a nice tour souvenir.

Night Ranger – Somewhere In California (2011) – $14: This is another album that I’ve had the promotional download for through Frontiers Records but I decided to pick the album up for the collection. I remember when DAWN PATROL came out back in 1982 and I was a fan of the band straight through to the break-up and reformation in the late ’90s…..this is another no-brainer purchase for me. I didn’t really get into the band’s last album, HOLE IN THE SUN (2008), right away because of the more modern sound the band used but it was still Night Ranger and it grew on me. From what I’ve read and my initial spin, SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA sounds like classic ’80s Night Ranger. I caught the band’s tour last year in Connecticut and it was a high energy show and the band sounded great, maybe taking that energy into the studio proved successful? Regular price here was $17 because it’s technically an import but I got it on sale for $14 and saved $3.

Symphony X – Iconoclast (2 CD Special Edition) (2011) – $13: I haven’t really listened to Symphony X since 2002′s THE ODYSSEY and I had no idea that they were releasing a new album (I’ve got to keep up on my Metal news!) so I was a little hesitant when i saw this album in the new release rack at the record store. Do I take a chance on a band that has released only two records since 2002? I noticed that there were two versions of this CD also (a trend for June I think!): the single disc and the special edition digipak that’s two CDs and has extra songs. I’m a sucker for bonus tracks and the sale price for this version was only $2 more than the regular so I snatched it up! I also noticed that there were a lot of copies of both versions of the album, a lot of which are still unsold and still onsale in mid-July. Regular price for the special edition was $19 so I saved $6 on the day of release. I’m hoping ICONOCLAST is a surprise record for me this year.

Queensryche – Dedicated To Chaos (Deluxe Edition) (2011) – $16: Another deluxe/special/limited edition for June’s hunt! Things with Queensryche have been hit or miss since 1994′s PROMISED LAND but I really enjoyed AMERICAN SOLDIER (2009) and I’m hoping that DEDICATED TO CHAOS is a continuation of the quality material I know the band is capable of. The wild card here is Geoff Tate and the direction his writing and leadership takes the band, one look at the back cover and seeing a bald Tate could either be a bad sign of he’s channelling his friend Rob Halford. Either way, I’ve been a fan of the band since the QUEENSRYCHE E.P. (1982) and THE WARNING (1984) so I’m always going to support the band. I bought the deluxe version for the three extra songs for only $3 more than the standard version. If you’re going to spend $13, why not just spend the $16 and get the whole package? Regular price for the deluxe version was a scary $22 so there was no way I was going to let a sale price pass me by with an opportunity to save $6 on an album I would easily buy.

Zebra – No Tellin’ Lies (1984) – $6 used: This was easily my bargain of the month and well worth the time spent digging through the used sections. I had gone to a different Newbury Comics location that had better selection than my usual store with my daughter and niece so I gave them each some money to shop so I could dive into the used bins. Unfortunately, I own most of the discs I found but NO TELLIN’ LIES, Zebra’s second album, was sitting there at a perfect price at $6 used! I’m not passing that up especially since all the Zebra records are on my want list so I can replace my cassettes. I was particularly psyched about finding a Zebra album because they had just played a local club in Massachusetts back in May (that I missed!) and the band’s hit from the first album, ‘Tell Me What You Want’, has been all over the local rock stations. My online research tells me that an original Atlantic Records pressing of this CD retails at about $15 if you can find it and the double disc reissue with the band’s third album, 3.V (1986), goes for around the same price and is easier to find. My digging saved me about $9.

Zebra – 3.V (1986) – $10 used: When out on a CD hunt always be mindful that where there’s one Zebra CD, there could be another! Zebras travels in herds don’t they? Seeing that I had good luck finding NO TELLIN’ LIES in the used bins, I decided to take the hunt over to the “Misc. Z” section of the Rock/Pop bins and there it was…..bargain #2 of June…..Zebra’s thierd album, 3.V from 1986! Here’s another pristine original pressing that goes for the same $15 alone or in the latest reissue with NO TELLIN’ LIES so I wasn’t about to pass it up! I haven’t seen original pressings of these Zebra albums in local record stores in at least ten years so I’m hoping that the recent concert at Showcase Live made some people clean out their collections. I’m not saying Zebra is a bad band, quite the contrary, but you would be surprised how many people dump their collections after a concert comes through town or the extra used stock the stores have in back makes it to the sales floor. Either way, it pads my collection and gets the want list a little shorter. Spending $10 for a used CD is a little high but I was sure I wouldn’t see it again and I still saved $5 off what would be a $15 regular price.

Helix – Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984/2009 reissue) – $20: Now this was a big purchase but a necessary one. Ever since I rediscovered Helix back in 2005 when I bought lead singer Brian Vollmer’s autobiography Gimme An R!, I have been snapping up a lot of their back catalogue. Rock Candy Records in the U.K. are a great reissue label that takes great care in releasing high quality reissues of classic albums by working alongside the artist in getting the album back in the stores. In the case of WALKIN’ THE RAZOR’S EDGE, I do have a cassette that is well worn and I have the single ‘Rock You’ on an ’80s Metal compilation CD so I’ve been content to wait out the last couple years and get this reissue at a good price. Depending where you look online, you can get this reissue anywhere between $15 and $25 plus shipping charges, that’s too high. When I saw the record store actually stocked the album, I jumped on it despite the price. I figured I’d pay at least $20 on the low end of the online price so I decided to buy it now instead of having to wait a week or two because of the mail services.

Total = $239

Total (year) = $559

Average Price (per item) = $10.75

Total Savings (month) = $97

Total Savings (year) = $336

Total CDs (year) = 49

Total DVDs (year) = 2

Total Box Sets (year) = 0

Total LPs (year) = 1

 

Night Ranger in concert at the Mohegan Sun Wolf Den (Uncasville, CT) – 8/17/10

Tuesday night I finally had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands for the first time…..after 27 years, I finally got to see Night Ranger in concert! I have been a Night Ranger fan since the band’s debut album, DAWN PATROL, was released in 1982 and I caught the first video for ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’. Once the band released their second album, MIDNIGHT MADNESS (1983), I was hooked! I grew up with FM radio and MTV and the three singles from that album were everywhere: ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’, ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ and ‘Sister Christian’. Add in albums like 7 Wishes (1985) and BIG LIFE (1987) and Night Ranger rocked me through the ’80s…..but I never saw them in concert. Times change and when the ’90s came, I lost touch of Night Ranger until I got back into fanzines, and got connected to the Internet in the Fall of 1998, that’s when I became tuned into their new albums NEVERLAND (1997) and SEVEN (1998) but I still missed opportunities to see the band live. As it turns out, Night Ranger visits Mohegan Sun every year and I have never gone! If it wasn’t for my friend giving me the heads up, and a well timed week’s vacation, I might have missed out again!

Night Ranger setlist:

This Boy Needs To Rock (w/part of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’)
Sing Me Away
You’re Gonna Hear From Me
Rumours In The Air
Coming Of Age (Damn Yankees cover)
Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne cover)
The Secret Of My Success

(A quick jam of partial songs from each member’s first concert)
The Doors – ‘Roadhouse Blues’ (Kelly Keagy)
Led Zeppelin – ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ (Brad Gillis)
Iron Maiden – ‘The Trooper’ (Joel Hoekstra)
Van Halen – ‘Jump’ (Christian Cullen)
Jimi Hendrix – ‘Purple Haze’ (Jack Blades)

Sentimental Street (w/keyboard solo intro)
Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight
High Enough (Damn Yankess cover)
Four In The Morning
When You Close Your Eyes
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me

Encore:
Sister Christian
(You Can Still) Rock In America

This was another free show at the Wolf Den in the middle of the Mohegan Sun Casino, that meant standing in line for few hours if we wanted to actually get inside because capacity is 400. The Wolf Den is more of a lounge than an arena with it’s tables and bar but many people do get up at the front of the stage on the floor. My friend and I got a late start to the casino but we had plenty of time for a great dinner and we got in line with about an hour until showtime. One thing I knew from the Ace Frehley concert in March was, if the Wolf Den was full, people would be standing outside the arena in the open views from the slot machines. We were in line about 15 minutes when I saw an usher start to talk to people at the front…..turns out the Den was full and we were all on standby! That was my cue to take up residence on the outside railing of the arena with full view of the stage. If it wasn’t for the waist high log barrier, we would have been about 10-12 rows back, stage right corner!

The show was great! Night Ranger played a set full of hit singles like ‘Sing Me Away’, ‘Four In The Morning’. ‘Sentimental Street’ and ‘When You Close Your Eyes’ and they threw in a deep track from 7 WISHES, ‘This Boy Needs To Rock’, and a song from their last album HOLE IN THE SUN (1998), ‘You’re Gonna Hear From Me’. All the Night Ranger songs got a ton of applause, it’s amazing to remember just how many hits and radio singles these guys got back in the day, but the two songs that got a HUGE round of cheers were the two Damn Yankees songs: ‘Coming Of Age’ & ‘High Enough’. Going into the show I hadn’t checked the setlist online so I had no idea they played some Damn Yankees. I’m not surprised they pulled those two out, they were big hits for Jack Blades in the early ’90s and they fit perfectly in the Night Ranger set. The band was tight, played great and looked to be having a great time on stage.

The band included a few surprises by doing a few partial covers and a full performance of Ozzy’s ‘Crazy Train’. Opening song ‘This Boy Needs To Rock’ had a quick partial performance of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ and introduced their cover of ‘Crazy Train’ by reminding everyone that Brad Gillis replaced the late Randy Rhoads on tour and played on the live album SPEAK OF THE DEVIL (1982)…..hearing Gillis’ version of ‘Crazy Train’ was flawless and the band did a solid job. Midway through the set, the band started talking about their first concerts and they went to each member and played a partial cover from each band. This took a few minutes, and I would have preferred another Night Ranger song, but the band were enjoying themselves and the crowd gave good applause for the quick pieces of ‘Roadhouse Blues’, ‘Rock ‘n’Roll’, ‘The Trooper’, ‘Jump’ and ‘Purple Haze’. Normally I would go on about my dislike of covers but Night Ranger only put in partial performances, and the ‘Crazy Train’ cover was really good, so I didn’t mind like I usually do. The encore was perfect…..the band’s biggest hit, ‘Sister Christian’, and their anthem, ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’…..a great way to end the show!

You couldn’t ask for more, the band played all their hits (although ‘Goodbye’ was missing!) and their more popular album tracks. I thought it was great to include the two Damn Yankees hits and I was psyched to hear a song from the band’s most recent album. I would have easily traded ‘Crazy Train’ and the mid-set covers jam for ‘Goodbye’ or a couple of songs from either NEVERLAND (1997) or SEVEN (1998) but they weren’t as intrusive live as they would be on a new studio album. Fifteen songs and a covers jam packed into a solid 90 minute performance with a good crowd, can’t beat that! All in all, a great concert…..and it was FREE! Too bad I had to wait 27 years to finally see Night Ranger live…..that won’t happen again!

The Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16-#30)

2008 was another great year for new Hard Rock and Heavy Metal albums and I was lucky to have heard a great many of them. There were hundreds of new albums released by hundreds of bands over a wide range of Metal genres, it was very hard to keep up especially when I’m spending my hard-earned cash! Unfortunately, I can’t buy every new album so there are more than a few that I have missed. I buy a lot of music but the failing economy took it’s toll on my music budget. I was very lucky to have caught the attention of many labels, PR firms, and bands sending in their CDs for review (to all of them I would like to extend a very grateful THANK YOU), without these promotions I would have never heard some great releases.

The only criteria I followed for my Top 30 was that the album had to be a studio album, not a live record, best of, or covers collection. The ranking of the Top 30 is based solely on my enjoyment of the album and not some scientific formula. Bottom line: I had to like it! There were so many releases this year that I doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into two posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here it is, my Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#16 – #30):

#16

motorhead-motorizerMotörhead - Motörizer

The only thing that Motörhead does year in and year out is make really good Heavy Metal albums and this year is no exception. MOTÖRIZER isn’t groundbreaking, it sounds just like all the other Motörhead records before it, but it’s a solid consistent effort from a band that is legendary but never gets the success it deserves. Any year with a new Motörhead album in it is a good one.

#17

acdc-black-iceAC/DC – Black Ice

It only took 8 years but AC/DC finally came roaring back with a really strong album in BLACK ICE. It’s more Blues than in your face Hard Rock but the typical AC/DC punch is still there. Brian Johnson sounds like he turned back the hands of time and the team of Angus & Malcolm Young on guitars still has the fire that burned in the ’70s & ’80s. A great comeback!

#18

Gypsy Pistoleros - Para Siempre (2008)Gypsy Pistoleros – Para Siempre

Technically, PARA SIEMPRE is a reissue of the Gypsy Pistoleros’ debut, WILD, BEAUTIFUL, DAMNED (2007), remastered with two additional songs added in. I wasn’t sold on taking traditional music from Spain and mixing it into a Hard Rock blender but the Pistoleros do a great job of channelling the Crue, GNR, and Hanoi Rocks mixed with flamenco and Spanish music. I’m half Colombian so I dig the Spanish influences and I really like the mix of English & Spanish (the band calls it “Spanglish”) to give it an added dimension.

#19

jorn-lonely-are-the-brave-2008Jorn – Lonely Are The Brave

Jorn Lande continues to make some of the best Metal records of the last decade and LONELY ARE THE BRAVE is no exception. Jorn is a monster vocally and the surrounding cast is as solid as they come. Unfortunately, I bought this very late in the year so I haven’t had much time to enjoy it.

#20

Brainstorm - Downburst (2008)Brainstorm – Downburst

Another great album from one of the most underrated bands in Heavy Metal. Brainstorm plays great epic Power Metal but DOWNBURST shows a band that is willing to evolve it’s sound and becoming more dynamic. It’s not a groundbreaking album but the band follows the path laid down by Primal Fear and Kamelot.

#21

dokken-lightning-strikes-again-2008Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again

Dokken’s best album since 1999′s ERASE THE SLATE, the band continues to play melodic Hard Rock with a great musicianship and songwriting. Jon Levin adds some George Lynch style playing back into the overall Dokken sound and the rhythm section of Barry Sparks and Mick Brown is as solid as ever. Don Dokken’s vocals are a little underwhelming because he doesn’t hit the highs he used to and there really isn’t a solid backing track. Still a very good album.

#22

nightranger-holeinthesun-usa coverNight Ranger – Hole In The Sun

HOLE IN THE SUN is a more modern sounding Night Ranger but there is still the trademark melodic sound that made them a big success back in their ’80s heyday. Best performance on the album goes to drummer/singer Kelly Keagy because his vocals were excellent. This album didn’t really get me at first but it grew on me as I played it more.

#23

temujin-1000-tears-2008Temujin – 1000 Tears

I’m a big fan of female-fronted Gothic/Ambient Metal and Temujin debuts with an album that has the guitars leading the way and the vocals keeping the listener entranced. Temujin vocalist Kelly has a beautiful voice that reminds me of The Gathering’s Anneke Van Giersbergen in that her performance is powerful without going over the top. A solid debut.

#24

tyr-landTýr – Land

LAND was my first experience listening to Týr and I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes the terms Pagan Metal or Viking Metal throws fans off but what really is happening is Metal mixed with Nordic influences. Týr blends traditional folk to their Metal and uses their native language, as well as choir style backing vocals, to enhance their sound. This album got me into a whole new genre of Metal.

#25

Pharaoh - Be Gone (2008)Pharaoh – Be Gone

Pharaoh creates gool old traditional U.S. Metal based on good guitars, a solid rhythm section and good vocals. The band puts the power forward but you get the general idea after the first few songs. The album gets better as it continues and the band stretches out a little.

#26

the-sword-gods-of-the-earth (2008)The Sword – Gods Of The Earth

I didn’t get into The Sword’s first album but, when I put on this new album, I immeadiately heard what I was missing. GODS OF THE EARTH has an early Thrash and NWOBHM element added to a sludgy Doom Metal groove. It’s a very heavy record that’s grown on me all year long.

#27

Griffen - Linked In Eternity (2008)Griffen – Linked In Eternity

I found out about Griffen because of my obsession with ’80s Swedish metallers Torch: two current members of Torch are in Griffen. Technically, LINKED IN ETERNITY is a promo demo E.P. but it’s done so well I’m throwing it in the countdown. The band plays a really good blend of Traditional Metal and melodic Hard Rock so I have no idea how these guys aren’t signed to a label.

#28

uli-jon-roth-under-a-dark-skyUli Jon Roth – Under A Dark Sky

Anytime guitar maestro Uli Jon Roth releases a new album it’s a good year! How can you deny the talent of a man that was so unsatisfied with regular guitars that he went out and invented one (the Sky Guitar) that suited his ability? I gues you could call this a true Rock opera with all the classical elements and orchestral movements but the underlying focus is Roth’s playing.

#29

Black Tide - Light From Above (2008)Black Tide – Light From Above

A strong debut from a band whose members are only a couple years removed from high school. I was surprised with all the old school Metal influences in the music from such a young band. What the band lacks in experience they more than make up for in attitude and energy. A solid debut.

#30

metallica-death-magneticMetallica – Death Magnetic

See what happens when a band goes back and listens to their previous records, they make a Heavy Metal album! This is the album that Metallica needed to make to prove that they can still play Metal. Some of the songs are a little long but that’s a small complaint, the songs are really good…..better than I expected. Hopefully Metallica continues in this direction.

——————————————————————————————–

Please check out the Top 30 Albums of 2008 (#1-#15) for the other half of my Top 30 list.

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In case my list wasn’t enough, or you simply don’t agree, some other great Music blogs have listed their Top Albums of 2008:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hair Metal Mansion

Hard Rock Hideout
Heavy Metal Time Machine

Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
Metal Excess

The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense

Rock Of Ages

Night Ranger – Hole In The Sun (2008)

Night Ranger – Hole In The Sun (2008, VH-1 Classic)

  1. Tell Your Vision
  2. Drama Queen
  3. You’re Gonna Hear From Me
  4. Whatever Happened
  5. There Is Life
  6. Rockstar
  7. Hole In The Sun
  8. Fool In Me
  9. White Knuckle Ride
  10. Revelation 4AM
  11. Wrap It Up
  12. Being
  13. Don’t Tell Me You Love Me (acoustic version)*
  14. Sister Christian (acoustic version)*

(* bonus track)

Band Lineup:
Kelly Keagy – Drums, Lead Vocals
Jack Blades – Bass, Lead Vocals
Jeff Watson – Guitars, Vocals
Brad Gillis – Guitars, Vocals
Michael Lardie – Keyboards, Vocals

Total Time = 1:03:42

Night Ranger official website
Night Ranger MySpace page
VH-1 Classic Records

(NOTE — Original release in Europe & Japan was April 2007)

It’s hard to believe that it’s taken almost a year for Night Ranger to secure a U.S. distribution deal for their ninth studio album, HOLE IN THE SUN, but the album has finally arrived on American shores to celebrate the band’s 25 year anniversary. Night Ranger has seen the highs and lows of the fickle music business: riding chart success in the mid-’80s with five Top 20 singles and four platinum albums to disbanding at the end of the decade. As Night Ranger ended, singer/bassist Jack Blades went on to more platinum excess with Damn Yankees and guitarists Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson explored solo careers.  Drummer/singer Kelly Keagy soldiered on in the early ’90s under the Night Ranger banner, with Gillis & Watson joining him, but it wasn’t until the reunion trend started in 1996 that the original Night Ranger lineup (including keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald) reformed. The reunion saw a resurgence in the band’s popularity overseas and the band released two studio albums: NEVERLAND (1997) & SEVEN (1998). Both albums were a return to the AOR/Melodic Rock stylings that sold out arenas and put their videos on heavy MTV rotation.

So what has really changed in 9-10 years? More lineup changes! Alan Fitzgerald has moved forward to a career as Van Halen’s hidden touring keyboardist and has continued to release new music with Alliance, he was replaced on the album with keyboardist Michael Lardie (Great White). Jeff Watson is working on a solo career again and had a cameo appearance in Disney’s ‘Enchanted’ movie although he did write & perform on HOLE IN THE SUN. The touring lineup right now consists of Blades, Gillis, Keagy and newcomers Joel Hoekstra (guitar) and Christian Cullen (keyboards). Jack Blades has been producing and performing with Tommy Shaw (Shaw/Blades) and Kelly Keagy released two solo albums – TIME PASSES (2001) & I’M ALIVE (2007).

‘Tell Your Vision’ kicks things off with a big guitar/drum sound that reminds me of the band’s DAWN PATROL (1982) roots. Kelly Keagy handles the gritty vocals with Jack Blades harmonizing in at the bridge and chorus. One strong point the band has always had is the blending of the two vocal styles and it still works well as ‘Tell Your Vision’ sounds like the early ’80s melodic rock the band became famous for. ‘Drama Queen’ is another upbeat rocker that’s guitar driven and sounds similar to their more modern work on SEVEN. ‘Drama Queen’ is really a showcase for the guitars as Gillis and Watson trade solos mid-way through the song and continue to weave in and out of the main riff. Another guitar showcase is ‘You’re Gonna Hear From Me’, no surprise as it’s co-written by Brad Gillis with Jack Blades. It’s heavy for Night Ranger, less melodic, and there’s a bit of what seems like a stadium chant of “Hey!” after the solo. If there’s one song that’s not typical Night Ranger, it’s this one. Musically it’s good but I just can’t get into it.

Pure melodic Night Ranger revives with the Jack Blades led ‘Whatever Happened’ that recalls the classic ’80s sound that was resurrected on NEVERLAND and SEVEN. ‘There Is Life’ is the first ballad of the album with Mr. Sister Christian himself, Kelly Keagy, putting in a fine vocal over a gentle Lardie piano. If you’ve heard a Night Ranger ballad before then you know what to expect but I hear more of Kelly’s solo work on this track, especially from I’M ALIVE (2007). ‘Rockstar’ is another Blades/Keagy vocal trade-off but the sound reminds me of some Red Hot Chili Peppered sound during the verses moving into typical Ranger harmonies for the bridge and chorus. Again, the guitar work is excellent and the solos are effortlessly done but the song has an experimental quality like some of the songs on SEVEN. The title track is an upbeat rocker that sounds similar to ‘Sea Of Love’ from SEVEN, especially when Blades and Keagy sing together throughout the song. ‘Hole In the Sun’ is another melodic, catchy tune but I’ve heard it all before.

‘Fool In Me’ is ballad #2 and is just basic percussion, acoustic guitar, and Kelly Keagy’s vocals. Of course the harmonies with Jack Blades are there and it sounds like a song from Kelly’s solo albums or from Shaw/Blades – INFLUENCE (2007). ‘White Knuckle Ride’ is another gritty guitar song that has a push and pull to it with the guitars but they cut out for some of the verses leaving the vocal alone. I’m not sure about the keyboards here, there is an annoying “beep” that you can hear throughout the song that just distracts me. I would pair this with ‘You’re Gonna Hear From Me’ as two songs I’m just not enjoying off this album. ‘Revelation AM’ sounds like a leftover from Keagy’s TIME PASSES solo record…..solid vocals, personal lyrics, and acoustic driven with a touch of power chords come the chorus. The song is part ballad (verses) and mid-tempo (chorus) and is a nice blend of the overall Night Ranger sound. The acoustic guitars shine, especially at the solo. Brad Gillis penned two songs by himself (he also co-wrote three others) so guitarist Jeff Watson steps to the plate with two songs he wrote: ‘Wrap It Up’ & ‘Being’. The first song is a guitar driven tune that sounds like more DAWN PATROL-era Night Ranger with more Keagy grit, the solos are especially good on this song. ‘Being’ starts with a harmony vocal and a quiet acoustic guitar with soft percussion. It’s a good ballad but three on one album is sometimes too much but Night Ranger has always been able to pull off a good ballad…..kind of like the Scorpions! ‘Being’ is soft and subdued and kind off ends the album on a quiet, laid back note that threw me off because the bulk of the record is so guitar driven.

The U.S. release not only gets new artwork but it also gets two bonus tracks with unplugged versions of two big Night Ranger hits: ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ and ‘Sister Christian’. Fans already know these two songs well and these new versions are basically the same as the originals except for the acoustics. The Japanese release in April 2007 already had the unplugged ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’ included as a bonus track and the European version didn’t include either.

Bottom Line:
Night Ranger does AOR and Melodic Rock well and HOLE IN THE SUN is a continuation of that pedigree. Most of the songs are uptempo and guitar driven with solid twin riffs and impressive solos. Keagy and Blades don’t really break a ton of new ground as a rhythm section, they do a good job keeping the songs together, but they shine as songwriters and vocalists. The album’s best performance goes to Kelly Keagy for his lead vocals, I was impressed that he was the primary vocalist on most of the album, he sounds the same as he did in the classic era but with a little more grit. Blades is no slouch vocally as he handles his lead vocals well as usual but the strong point is always the vocal trade-offs and harmonies the guys have always excelled at. There are a few experimental and modern traits to some of the songs but overall it’s melodic rock that Night Ranger has always done. The first couple of spins really didn’t grab me but the album has really grown on me with subsequent listens, it’s a continuation of what the band did on their two reunion albums. I’m not really sure what the delay was on a U.S. deal for the album but it seems like the band has lost some momentum because the Japanese and Euro editions have been widely available online. The new artwork doesn’t really fit for me, it fits the title but it doesn’t fit the band. Obviously they needed to make a change from the original silhouette cover with the latest lineup changes but it just doesn’t fit for me.

Favorite songs: ‘Tell Your Vision’, ‘There Is Life’, ‘Revelation AM’, ‘Drama Queen’, ‘Fool In Me’

Current playlist – 6/30/08

It’s nice having my wife home on vacation from work…..today she decided to take the kids to the lake for the day to give me a break. I’m the stay-at-home Dad during the day and then I work at night, my quiet time is in the dark hours of the late night/early morning when everyone is sleeping.

So what do you do when the wife and kids leave for the day and all you have is the dog? You listen to as much music as possible!

Judas Priest – Nostradamus (2008): There is so much debate on this album but I can’t stop listening to it, there is just so much to take in at once. Overall, I like it.

Motley Crue – Saints Of Los Angeles (2008): Playing this non-stop since Tuesday and I like it but there are a few songs that are filler…..then again, every Motley Crue album has some filler!

Night Ranger – Hole In The Sun (2008): Finally getting a release Tuesday (July 1) but it’s been out for about a year in Europe and Japan. It’s a more modern flavored AOR affair but there are still a lot of the trademark Night Ranger sound.

Infernophonic – Spark It Up (2007): Solid female fronted Hard Rock with a lot of guitars. I’ve been enjoying this all week so thanks to the band for sending it in, a review to come soon.

The Doors – Morrison Hotel (1970): I like me some Classic Rock and I have been a big Doors guy since I was a kid. How could you not turn on the local Rock station and not hear The Doors back in the early ’80s? This is my favorite Doors record, favorites here are ‘Blue Sunday’, ‘Ship Of Fools’, ‘Land Ho!’, ‘The Spy, ‘Indian Summer’. I used to sing ‘Indian Summer’ to my oldest daughter when she was a newborn.

The Doors – Waiting For The Sun (1968): Keeping with the Doors kick, I pulled this album out just to hear ‘Spanish Caravan’, ‘Yes, The River Knows’ and ‘Five To One’ but I listened to the whole thing. I love the riff in ‘Five To One’, you know the one Ace Frehley borrowed for ‘She’?

Krokus – Metal Rendezvous (1980): I have been on a huge Krokus kick the last couple of weeks. Many people think this is the debut but it’s actually the band’s 4th record, it is the debut of Marc Storace on lead vocals though. ‘Bedside Radio’, ‘Tokyo Nights’, & ‘Heatstrokes’ were big time players on the old boombox back in the day!

Armed Forces – Let There Be Metal (1984): I was looking through some old Metal Forces magazines from back in the day (I collect those too!) and the ad for this Brooklyn, New York Metal band stared me right in the face! I remembered this from my record store experiences as a kid but I have never heard it. Thanks to the good people at Vibrations Of Doom who were kind enough to post the E.P. up for everyone’s listening pleasure.

Armed Force – Heavy Artillery (1986): Well…..after a demo, Armed Forces split and became Armed Force. Original band name, huh? Lineup change at singer and drummer from the Armed Forces days and the sound is more Hard Rock than the E.P. Thanks again to Vibrations Of Doom who have this album up also for everyone’s listening pleasure.

Press Release: Night Ranger – Hole In The Sun to be released July 1, 2008 on VH1 Classic Records

NIGHT RANGER RETURNS WITH EIGHTH STUDIO ALBUM,

‘HOLE IN THE SUN,’

DUE OUT JULY 1 ON VH1 CLASSIC RECORDS;

BAND REMEMBERS TRIP TO GUANTANAMO BAY;

WORLD TOUR KICKED OFF APRIL 19 IN TOKYO

 

 

 

April 21, 2008 — There are a lot of reasons to celebrate the July 1 release of Night Ranger’s HOLE IN THE SUN, notably that it marks the band’s first studio album in a decade and commemorates the pioneering hard rock outfit’s 25th anniversary as a band.  The best reason, as has been the case throughout Night Ranger’s heralded career, is to celebrate the music itself.

 

“People will hear this record and recognize our dual blazing guitars and vocals, and big choruses and melodic verses, because that’s definitely how you can describe this album,” explains singer/bassist Jack Blades of the self-produced new release, the band’s eighth studio album, and first for VH1 Classic Records.  “It’s new Night Ranger, but in a lot of ways it’s classic Night Ranger.”

 

Guitars grind and swirl through the unrelenting opener “Tell Your Vision,” delivering a progressively-fueled crush that sets the tone for the eleven new tracks that follow, from Keagy’s Jim Morrison-like soft parade of vocals atop the blinding guitars of “Drama Queen” and the blitzing melodic charge of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me,” through the enduring depths of the piano-driven power ballad “There is Life,” and back again.  HOLE IN THE SUN rings with the vibrancy of vintage Night Ranger, yet echoes with a modern relevance that endures throughout the album.

 

“We wanted to sound new, but still keep our roots,” says Keagy of the new release.  “We grew up in the ‘70s, when pop music was really starting to thrive. Sometimes it drove you crazy because the songs were so poppy that you couldn’t get them out of your head, but they were still amazing songs.  We wanted to portray some of that on this album.”

 

While there is definitely a pop glisten to HOLE IN THE SUN, there’s also a heavy dynamic that plants the band firmly in the millennium.  “Brad brought in a lot of great ideas, some more modern-sounding things, but we were still able to keep that melodic sense in the songs.  We wanted a lot of songs like ‘Drama Queen,’ great, gritty songs that reestablish our roots in hard rock,” continues Keagy.

 

Night Ranger—original members bassist/vocalist Jack Blades, drummer/vocalist Kelly Keagy and guitarist Brad Gillis along with guitarist Joel Hoekstra and keyboardist Christian Cullen—will be on the road throughout 2008, including a stop in Pryor, OK on Friday, July 11 to perform as part of Rocklahoma.  They’ll also be doing various shows with Styx & Boston, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner and Cinderella & Warrant. 

 

The band has been touring all over the world the past few months, including a stop at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to perform for the men and women stationed there.  For Night Ranger, it was a life changing experience. 

 

As Keagy described, “There could not have been a more proud moment in my career then when we stepped foot on Guantanamo Bay to play for the troops there.  We all had mixed emotions about going and we didn’t really know what they do there.  Well we certainly found out, but the world should know that the people that are being held should be there because they are (I believe) the most dangerous people on this Earth.  We heard the facts in a briefing given by one of the highest ranking officers on the base.  It was amazing!  To the men and women that work so very hard to keep us safe from the kinds of things that happened on 911, I salute you.”

 

Going to Guantanamo Bay Cuba to play for the troops is right up there as one of the wildest things Night Ranger has ever done,” Blades continues. “We’ve been all over the world, but never have we sung “You Can Still Rock In America” in a Communist country with armed Cubans watching us in guard towers just a few clicks away. Everyone was so appreciative of us being there, and seeing them rock out was the greatest. We were given a tour of the detention facilities, got the REAL story first-hand and went face-to-face with the detainees (nice stare-down moment that I shall not soon forget). Saw it all and it made us even more appreciative for what our soldiers, sailors, marines and airman are doing to keep us safe. They’re doing their part, so we’ll keep doing our part.  Rock in America baby!”

 

Says Gillis of the band’s current tour plans:  “We started with our classic backline with the American flag and the Night Ranger logo, and then we built it all up from there – bigger lights, bigger sound, bigger everything!  We’ve got the ramps, the vintage t-shirts, the old-school Night Ranger antics, and it’s going to be nothing but fun.”

 

Night Ranger has left an indelible mark on the music world thanks to a number of best-selling albums—starting with their 1982 DAWN PATROL debut–that sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.  The band’s popularity has been fueled by an impressive string of instantly recognizable hit singles and signature album tracks, including Sister Christian,” (You Can Still) Rock In America,” When You Close Your Eyes,” “Sentimental Street,” “Goodbye” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.”  Harnessing the frenetic drive of heavy metal to hook-laden rock songs, throwing in a stunning twin lead guitar team, and melodious, radio-friendly power ballads, Night Ranger inspired new descriptive phrases such as “melodic metal” and “metal power pop.”

 

“Music is constantly evolving and changing, and people need to keep evolving in life, spirit, soul and everything, or you might as well pack it in,” notes Blades. “That’s why I’m so proud of Night Ranger, and that’s why we will continue to evolve. With this new album, we’re just going to roll with it, have a blast doing it, and keep playing as long as it’s fun, and as long as people want to come out and hear us play. There are still a lot of people out there that want to get up and sing, ‘motorin’…’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,’ ‘You Can Still Rock in America,’ the list goes on and on…”

 

Check out Night Ranger at any of the following stops.  More dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

DATE                CITY                                         VENUE

 

Sat 4/19            Tokyo, Japan                             Akasaka Blitz

Sun 4/20           Tokyo, Japan                             Akasaka Blitz

Tue 4/22            Shibuya, Japan                          Shibuya C.C. Lemon Hall

Wed 4/23          Nagoya, Japan                           Nagoya Aichi Kinro Kaikan

Thu 4/24            Osaka, Japan                            IMP Hall

Sun 5/11           Oklahoma City, OK                    Zoo Amphitheatre (REO Speedwagon)

Thu 5/22            Trinidad, CA                              Cher-Ae Heights Casino

Sun 5/25           St. Louis, MO                            Soldiers Memorial Park

Sat 6/7              West Wendover, NV                   Montego Bay Casino & Resort

Sat 6/14            San Juan, PR                            Anfiteatro Tito Puente

Thu 6/19            Oshkosh, WI                             Waterfest Concert Series

Fri 6/20             Brookville, IN                             Bicentennial Celebration

Sat 6/21            Sioux City, IA                            The Awesome Biker Rally

Sun 6/22           The Woodlands, TX                    Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (Styx/Boston)

Sat 6/28            Cheyenne, WY                          William H. Brimmer Amphitheatre

Wed 7/2            Arlington Heights, IL                   Frontier Days Festival

Thu 7/3             Hays, KS                                  Frontier Park

Fri 7/4               Glenview, IL                               Great Lakes Naval Base

Sat 7/5              Kettering, OH                            Fraze Pavilion at Lincoln Park

Sun 7/6             San Jose, CA                            Discovery Meadow Park

Fri 7/11             Pryor, OK                                  Rocklahoma

Sat 7/12            Grapevine, TX                            Glass Cactus at Gaylord Texan

Sat 7/19            Fort Smith, AR                          Harry E. Kelly Park

Fri 7/25             St. Clair, MI                               Palmer Park

Sat 7/26            Maquoketa, IA                           Jackson County Fair Iowa

Sun 7/27           Lake Ozark, MO                        Horny Toad Entertainment Complex

Sat 8/2              Rifle, CO                                   Garfield County Fair

Sat 8/9              Windsor, ONT.                           Lakeshore Soccer Park

Sun 8/10           Des Moines, IA                          Iowa State Fair/Grandstand (Cinderella/Warrant)

Sun 8/17           St. Joseph, MO                         Trails West Festival

Sat 8/23            Tower, MN                                 Fortune Bay Casino

Sat 8/30            Pittsburgh, PA                           Heinz Field

Sun 8/31           Sparks, NV                               John Ascuaga’s Nugget – Parkin

Sun 9/28           Jackpot, NV                              Cactus Petes Casino/Ameristar Amp (Foreigner)

Wed 10/1          Tulsa, OK                                  Tulsa State Fair

 

www.nightranger.com

www.myspace.com/nightranger

www.vh1classic.com

 

Press Release: Night Ranger- Live In Japan 2007 (2 CD set) due on December 26th.

From Melodicrock.com:

For the first time in their long and rich history, Night Ranger will release a double live CD, recorded on their 2007 Japanese tour.

Live In Japan 2007 was recorded during the band’s June, 2006 show at the C.C. Lemon Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo and will feature the following track listing:

CD1: ‘This Boy Needs To Rock’, ‘Tell Your Vision’, ‘Sing Me Away’, ‘Touch Of Madness’, ‘Drama Queen’, ‘Rumors In The Air’, ‘Seven Wishes’, ‘Secret Of My Success’, ‘There Is Life’, ‘Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight’, ‘Sentimental Street’.

CD2: ‘Forever All Over Again’, ‘High Enough’, ‘Goodbye’, ‘Whatever Happened’, ‘Four In The Morning’, ‘When You Close Your Eyes’, ‘Don’t Tell Me You Love Me’, ‘Sister Christian’, ‘Your Gonna Hear From Me’, ‘(You Can Still) Rock In America’.

The line-up for this tour was Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy, Brad Gillis, Reb Beach and Christian Cullen.

The 2CD set is released December 26th.

The band’s latest studio album, Hole In The Sun, gets a US domestic release in January, 2008, via VH1 Classics.