Posts Tagged ‘Rob Halford’

halfordIII - wintersongs

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

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

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

Producer: Roy Z.

Country: USA/U.K.

Total Time = 41:24

Halford
Halford MySpace page

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another week…..more new releases…..another Hunt!

Went to the local record store to grab the new releases from Queensryche and The Answer but a couple of surprises were in store at great prices!

queensryche_americansoldierQueensryche – American Soldier (2009) – $12.88: Always been a Queensryche fan, straight from the days of the first E.P. and RAGE FOR ORDER, so I always support a new album from the band. Another new record that’s another concept album so I’m going into it with a little hesitation but I like the subject matter: U.S. soldiers coming back after tours in the Middle East…..a topic very relevant today. Fingers are crossed that this is a good record, I haven’t read any reviews going in.

the_answer_-_everyday_demons_coverThe Answer – Everyday Demons (2009) – $9.99: I bought this based on the hype and the sale price. I figure if The Answer sucks then I’m only out ten bucks! I’ve read all the reviews on RISE (2006) and the hype surrounding this new record, I also hear the band is performing well opening for AC/DC. I usually tend to stay away from the current media darlings but I find myself interested enough to blow some cash…..fingers crossed on this one too.

halford-resurrection-2009-remasteredHalford – Resurrection (2009 remastered) – $14: Like any good fan of Rob Halford, I went out and bought RESURRECTION when it came out originally back in 2000 and it’s a great album. Of course, Metal-Is (a division of Sanctuary Records I believe) is defunct and Rob owns his catalog so the reissue was unavoidable. So why buy it? Four new songs tacked in the middle of it that were part of the release to iTunes back in 2006. Just a heads up…..LIVE INSURRECTION (2001) was remastered/reissued too but there are no extra tunes on it, I’m waiting to see what Halford does with CRUCIBLE (2002).

grave-digger-liberty-or-deathGrave Digger – Liberty Or Death (2007) – $9 used: I’m starting to fill in some holes in the Grave Digger collection but finding the albums locally is a pain. This CD was just traded in for store credit and I watched the guy price it up and I snatched it! A bargain at $9! The odd thing is that my CD says the year is 2006 but every website I’ve checked, including the band’s website, lists it as 2007.

alice-cooper-raise-your-fist-and-yellAlice Cooper – Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987) – $7: Sealed original press of this mid-80s Alice classic for seven bucks…..not bad. I thought I already had this CD but I was armed and ready with my database of my collection (I’ve been able to input up to letter D!) and it wasn’t there! I’ve seen this CD sitting in the rack for months at a great price and I’m surprised nobody bought it. I grabbed it and double checked my collection…..not there! Later on, I went through a shoebox that holds the remainder of my old cassettes and there was RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL on tape…..I knew I had it somehow.

One of the things that I didn’t do much of in 2008 was buy and watch Metal DVDs. I’m not really sure what the problem was, some really good DVDs were released, but I just kept going with CDs. I decided to correct the situation with all the gift cards and cash I got for Xmas.

I took a trip down to my local record store to kill the gift cards first. My major purchase was one of those USB turntables so I can rip vinyl for preservation purposes and my MP3 player. They were $100 but 20% off with the weekly coupon so I used $80 in gift cards to cover it. Armed with a lone gift card for $20, and another coupon, I made my way to the music DVD section…..

manowar-hell-on-earth-part-3Manowar – Hell On Earth Part III (2003) – $16 used: There were two copies of this 2 DVD set: one new for $30 and this one for $16. I’ll take half price any day! I have the first Hell On Earth DVD and it was awesome because Joey DeMaio decided to pack it with content and extras. Part 3 is no exception, it clocks in at 5 1/2 hours WITH over 2 hours of bonus material! Close to 8 hours of Manowar? I hope I’m reading that correctly!

manowar-hell-on-earth-part-2-fire-and-bloodManowar – Hell On Earth Part II: Fire And Blood (2002) – $0 used: If you have Hell On Earth Part 1 and Part 3 then you need to buy Part 2. This DVD has been very hard to come by in my area over the last few years because it always sells out as soon as it comes in to the local shop. For the Xmas season this year, they ordered two brand new copies of Part 2…..one sold the week before Xmas (yes, I keep track of these things!) but the new copy was there the day after Xmas for $25. The good news was that they had a used copy too for half price ($12) so I grabbed it. The tricky part comes at the register…..I had a coupon for 20% off any used DVD (limit 3 DVDs) so the clerk rang both DVDs and took the coupon off but it brought my total to $17 (tax included). Turns out the coupon took the whole price off Part 2 and the guy couldn’t get it to work right. After deleting the transaction twice and trying the ringing it a couple more times, the guy gave up and said “Merry Xmas”. So I got Part 2 for free!

With all the gift cards used I decided to hit Ebay to compare prices with what I saw in the record store. All the new Halford DVDs were on my list this time around…..

fightwarwordsfilmFight – War Of Words The Film (limited edition) (2007) – $16: I’m a huge Rob Halford fan and I am into all of his bands (except Two) so this DVD/CD set should have been bought when it came out but it was so pricey. Halford.com had it for $21 + shipping and the local shop priced it at $28 so I put it off. One of my favorite Ebay sellers got a bunch of new copies and started the bidding at $13. Add the $3 shipping and I’m a happy Metalhead…..

fight-into-the-pit-dvd1Fight – Into The Pit (limited edition) (2008) - $16: One DVD and 3 CDs for close to 2/3 off, that’s a great deal! The record store had it for $40 and Halford.com had it for $39 + shipping so I went with the same Ebay seller and the same exact price as the War Of Words Film DVD. If I was a happy Metalhead before, I’m even happier…..

halfordrockinrioHalford – Resurrection World Tour: Live At Rock In Rio III (2008) – $15: Seeing that my favorite Ebay vendor had Rock In Rio III also I decided to complete the set. Both Halford.com and the record store had this for $25 so I got another good deal. Now I’m an ecstatic Metahead…..with a tons of DVDs to watch!

Total = $65  (I saved $85 by buying used and checking Ebay!)

It’s been awhile since I had a long weekend off so I decided to do my best and relax, listen to some music and get back on track with the website. The good news is that the laptop is fixed, all it needed was a little compressed air into the fans and it works! So here’s what I’ve listened to this weekend and what I have on tap for late night tonight…….

Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider (2008): Alice is one of my favorite artists but I really haven’t given this album much play since it’s release. I’m really not sure why because he has had an excellent track record with his last 4 records. I’ve been spinning this more than any album lately and I’m really starting to get into it. Alice is just creepy and this serial killer concept is great.

J.C. Cinel – Before My Eyes (2008): Very cool acoustic melodic rock from singer/songwriter J.C. Cinel. This is kind of light because it’s all acoustic and it has a lot of Country influences in it. It kind of has a Jon Bon Jovi/bret Michaels solo vibe to it but a lot better. I’m a sucker for good acoustic guitar and there’s plenty of it here!

Uriah Heep – Wake The Sleeper (2008): I picked this up a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t tear the wrapping until today. Heep is one of those legendary bands that I always try to get into but I never buy their albums because I find something else. I read some reviews online and grabbed it. Too early to make a judgement after one spin.

Metallica – Death Magnetic (2008): I bought this the day it come out, listened to it a half dozen times and moved on. I really want to like this album but I haven’t been able to get into it.

Judas Priest – Jugulator (1997): I thought that this was a great album when it first came out. It’s very heavy and Tim Owens does a great job singing, even if the Halford comparisons are there. With all the news on Owens leaving Iced Earth and joining Yngwie Malmsteen for a new record, I decided to go back 11 years and hear how everything started. Some solid tunes here: ‘Burn In Hell’, ‘Jugulator’, ‘Cathedral Spires’…..the whole album is top notch, I just think people couldn’t get by the Owens vs. Halford debate.

‘Burn In Hell’

Two – Voyeurs (1998): Rob Halford + Trent Reznor + John 5 (John Lowery) = one big mess! I bought this in the hopes that Halford would answer Priest’s JUGULATOR but this ended up being one of the worst albums I’ve ever bought! I give Halford credit for trying something new but Industrial Metal isn’t his thing, he was trying to emulate Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails and failed miserably.

Round 1 to Judas Priest!

Halford – Resurrection (2000): A huge comeback! The Two project sucked and I think Rob Halford knew it so he went back to his Metal roots and made sure everyone knew it. The title track signals the return but ‘Silent Screams’ is a gem. I also really dig the duet with Bruce Dickinson on ‘The One You Love To Hate’.

Judas Priest – Demolition (2001): Priest was in the middle of making this album when Halford dropped his RESURRECTION bombshell, after hearing that comeback I just knew that Priest would have a tough time competing. Some good tracks here, ‘Feed On Me’ is the best, but the album feels disjointed. This doesn’t even compare to JUGULATOR so forget the comparison to RESURRECTION. When I went to get this album out I noticed that I have four copies: the promo advance, the regular U.S. CD, the Japanese pressing (1 bonus track) and the Australian Tour Edition (3 bonus tracks, one being the bonus from the Japanese release).

Round 2 to Halford!

Rose Tattoo – Blood Brothers (Special Tour Edition w/DVD) (2008): I only gave this one spin but it was good to hear Angry Anderson and the boys again. This one is on my list for late night listening.

Girlschool – Legacy (2008): This album is out out in a couple of weeks, in a month for the U.S. I always liked Girlschool, they came in with the NWOBHM and I always seem to acquire their albums. This is the album I’m holding for later tonight after the NFL game…..I’m betting it’s good.

So I made it to the show Friday night, here’s how the night went…..

The Plan:
A few months ago, I received a copy of Testament’s new record, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, for review. I listened to the album, wrote the review, and passed the link along to my contact in the band’s promotional camp. I also happened to mention that I was planning on catching the show and that I would send a concert review as well. I received an email back from the promo people that I was invited to see the show as Testament’s guests. Very cool! Now this is back in May so fast forward to the beginning of last week and I email my contact in the Testament organization to confirm that I am all set: two tickets, Testament’s guest list, show my ID, enjoy the show!

The Journey:
I was flying solo to the show but I decided to invite my brother to come along. My brother is five years younger than I am, and he is not a Metalhead, but he knows all the stuff from my brainwashing him as a young child. The plan is for him to take the bus from Port Authority in New York City to the casino and we’ll hook up. Plans changed mid-week and he decided to take the bus all the way to Providence so we could hang a little more on the hour drive to the casino. No problem…..

My brother’s bus was to arrive at 5:15 giving us almost two hours to drive, get the tix, sit in our seats and relax. I get a call from him around 5, the bus is stuck in traffic and it will be a 30 minute delay. No problem. I get another call at 5:30, the bus hasn’t moved, it’s going to be 6. No problem. The third call comes 15 minutes later…..go without me. Now I can’t do that to my own brother (although I did consider it!) so I waited. Around 7pm, my brother’s bus arrives. In the meantime, Testament has just taken the stage! We are an hour away so now I’m just trying to make it in time for Heaven & Hell.

The Tickets:
I made the drive in an hour easily, cars do great things when you put the pedal to the metal! So we park in the garage behind the arena and I can hear Heaven & Hell on stage! So we run through the casino to the call window. I give my name and ID to the girl at the window and she tells me that I AM NOT ON THE TESTAMENT LIST! I give her the name of my contact and she was nice enough to check all of the guest lists, the tickets that hadn’t been picked up, and she even tried to get me a pair of tickets anyway because the show was half over. Unfortunately her boss said no. So we are screwed and Plan B is to pull out the VISA card and drop close to $200 for a pair (tix were $85 & $65). As we were debating the next move to Dio belting out ‘Die Young’, an intoxicated gambler comes over with a pair of tickets to sell. He had gotten comps for gambling so much but his wife didn’t want to go, the offer was $50 for the pair. SOLD!

Heaven & Hell:
We got into the arena just as Ronnie was introducing ‘Heaven & Hell’. We had great seats on the Iommi/Tipton side (stage left for the band, right if you’re facing it) and we were halfway down in the “high-rollers” section. We caught the last two songs of the Heaven & Hell set and they were really good: ‘Heaven & Hell’ & ‘Neon Knights’. Lucky for me I had seen the tour twice last year so I knew what to expect. I’ll say this though, from the two songs I heard, it sounds like Ronnie James Dio has strengthened his voice. The last few years he has sounded like he was straining, especially on the highs. When the band left the stage it was off to the t-shirt stand for a tour shirt. $40 got me my Heaven & Hell shirt with the U.S. dates on the back and the album cover on the front. I flirted with the idea of double dipping and also getting a NOSTRADAMUS tour shirt but another $40 was too much.

Judas Priest:
“Friday night and the Priest is back!” I saw Judas Priest twice on the ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION tour, once here at the Mohegan Sun Arena, so I expected a great show. I had seen the setlist online from the previous tour stops so I knew what was coming:

Dawn Of Creation (intro)
Prophecy
Metal Gods
Eat Me Alive
Between The Hammer And The Anvil
Devil’s Child
Breaking The Law
Hell Patrol
Dissident Aggressor
Angel
The Hellion / Electric Eye
Rock Hard, Ride Free
Painkiller

ENCORE:
Hell Bent For Leather (w/motorcycle)
The Green Manalishi
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming

This was a solid setlist geared towards dieheards like myself. I have to give Priest credit, they could have easily come out and played their most popular songs but they kept it fresh for themselves and threw in some album tracks. ‘Dawn Of Creation’ was a tape straight off the NOSTRADAMUS album but ‘Prophecy’ came off really well live. I was honestly expecting a couple more tunes from the new record but a shorter time slot stopped that even though they were the headliner. What I don’t like is Rob Halford’s staring at the ground during new songs and songs he hasn’t done for a while. My guess is he’s using notes or a teleprompter (like Ozzy!) but it was extremely annoying to have him looking at his boots and clutching the mic with both hands for half the set! He did the same thing on the last tour, especially during the songs from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION.

‘Metal Gods’ is a classic I never get sick of hearing but getting ‘Eat Me Alive’ off DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH was a treat, DEFENDERS is my favorite Priest record. My brother had forgotten that song and was in hysterics watching me scream the words while all the high rolling gamblers stood motionless and emotional-less. ‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’ was another welcome addition to the set from the PAINKILLER album and the band was in fine form. ‘Devil’s Child’ was up next and that’s another favorite for me (off SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE). I tried to match wits with Halford on the high notes but he won easily as my voice cracked and I barely sputtered out the last few lines. I could do without ‘Breaking The Law’ but I understand the band has to play some of their big songs to keep the casual fans happy. Halford needs a new intro for that song because the one he has is easily 25 years old! It was good though, very well done.

By this time I’ve already forgotten the setlists I saw online so when another deep track from PAINKILLER, ‘Hell Patrol’, was announced by Halford, I went ballistic! Most shows I see have the bands play 2 to 4 new songs and a classic set but here we are mid-set of Judas Priest and they are laying waste with songs that haven’t played live in many a year! ‘Hell Patrol’ was blistering even if Rob was looking at his boots/notes/teleprompter the whole time. He came alive again for the ultra-heavy ’70s classic ‘Dissident Aggressor’ (from SIN AFTER SIN) but went back to his position in the middle of Glenn & KK for ‘Angel’. Not sure why ‘Angel’ made the set, especially with a new record out, but I guess they still enjoy playing songs from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION. It was good. I liked that album a lot so I didn’t mind at all but the crowd overall hit a quiet spot. Up to that point the crowd was rabid, especially the many diehards, so I guess they needed a little break.

The crowd rose again when ‘The Hellion’ came from the P.A. and Priest tore into ‘Electric Eye’. The band opened with this duo on the last tour so it’s always a highlight of the show and one of their more popular songs. DEFENDERS track #2 came with ‘Rock Hard, Ride Free’ and I completely lost my voice! That’s an album track, I’d expect to hear ‘Freewheel Burning’ when they do a DEFENDERS song but I was psyched for ‘Rock Hard’. There was some audience participation initiated from Rob so that took away from the overall performance but that is how 99% of the bands keep the crowds into the show: “Let’s get the crowd singing along.” It’s good that they kept the fans involved because Priest then hit everyone over the head with a killer version of ‘Painkiller’ which destroyed what little voice I had left.

The encore started with Halford riding his Harley on stage in full regalia for ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ and the surprise of ‘The Green Manalishi’. Normally, the second song of the encore is reserved for the hit ‘Living After Midnight’ but they thankfully cut it from the set for the Fleetwood Mac cover from 1978′s HELL BENT FOR LEATHER. The band could have easily just stopped right there because they had put in a masterful performance but they had to play their anthem from SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE: ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’. There’s nothing I can say bad about this song, it’s like KISS playing ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ or Iron Maiden playing ‘Run To The Hills’, people expect it and want it. The band didn’t disappoint and there was some audience participation sing-a-long again.

Bottom Line:
With all the bad luck that started at 5pm, everything turned out for the better. We got in and saw Judas Priest play a superb concert geared for diehards. I don’t think you could ask for more variety wise although if they had played ‘Grinder’, ‘Riding On The Wind’, or ‘Sinner’ in place of ‘Breaking The Law’ I would have been much happier. No complaints though. The band was tight: Ian Hill & Scott Travis are a killer rhythm section, Glenn & KK are one of the best guitar tandems in Metal history, and Rob Halford took a page from the Dio playbook and sounded stronger than he did the last tour. Now if he could just look into the crowd instead of at the floor on the less popular songs! All in all, a good show…..too bad we missed Testament and most of Sabbath.

(And just to keep things clear, I don’t like the name Heaven & Hell. It will always be Black Sabbath to me! I don’t know what spell Ozzy has over Tony Iommi (who owns the name Black Sabbath) but I don’t think it’s fair to the music to call it something different than what it is.)