The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1-#10)

We finally made it to the Top 10!

Something you may have noticed by now is that some of my favorite bands are missing from the countdown so far…..guess where they are?

2009 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 am still very lucky to have 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 and discovered some new bands. I have totalled up the CDs and there were 125 albums up for this year’s honors!

The only criteria I followed for my Top 40 was that 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 2009. In the beginning of the year I decided that an album that was released in 2008, but was released in 2009 for the U.S., qualified as a 2009 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 40 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 more than doubled the list this year so I will be splitting it into three posts. Be sure to check out the links to the album reviews. So here is part 3, my Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#1 – #10):

#10

Wolf – Ravenous (2009): I completely missed 2006’s BLACK FLAME so I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this latest album from Wolf. Needless to say, I was blown away and I immeadiately knew that this was going to be one of the best albums of the year. Wolf has this classic retro Metal sound with major influences from Iron Maiden, Helloween and Judas Priest so I ate this up immeadiately! The songs are all excellent and the twin lead guitars really make this album what it is, especially at the solos. I have been singing along, headbanging and playing air guitar to RAVENOUS since March and it definitely set the bar high to get into this year’s Top 10.

#9

Cheap Trick – The Latest (2009): THE LATEST album from Cheap Trick turned out to be the biggest comeback of the year from a band that never really went away! Cheap Trick has always been one of the most underrated Classic Rock bands coming out of the mid-’70s/early ’80s and I always make the huge mistake about waiting to buy their new records until a few weeks after they are released. This year was no different and I waited until I caught part of their opening performance on Def Leppard’s summer tour before I picked it up. The odds were against the band when they basically started the album off with a Slade cover (‘When The Lights Are Out’) but it turned out to be one of the best songs of the year for me! Cheap Trick has always been a band with excellent musicianship and songwriting skills and THE LATEST is just another example of how great this band is. If I could describe this album in one word: Beautiful. After I gave this album a full listen, I played it again to make sure my ears didn’t deceive me…..I knew immeadiately that this was one of the best records of the year.

#8

Sunstorm – House Of Dreams (2009): The Joe Lynn Turner factor! There is no doubt in my mind that JLT could sing me the menu at a McDonald’s and I would absolutely worship it! This is the best AOR/Melodic Rock album of the year without a shred of doubt…..it’s like it came straight from 1985. Now a lot of people are going to say that the album sounds too retro, too ’80s, too keyboard friendly but that is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Add in some awesome songwriter like Jim Peterik and Desmond Child lending a hand and you’ve got AOR gold, I swear if this record came out 25 years ago then it would have been a Top 10, multi-platinum album. The sound is Joe Lynn Turner meets Survivor meets Journey meets Pride Of Lions…..just plain old feel food melodic music that has great overall songwriting and musicianship (the guitars and keyboards complimenting each other perfectly) to go along with one of the greatest singing voices in all of Rock.

#7

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): One of my most highly anticipated albums of 2009, Heaven & Hell (or Black Sabbath if you want) did not disappoint with their first true full-length album since 1992’s DEHUMANIZER. As many of you know, my favorite incarnation of Black Sabbath is the Ronnie James Dio era and it’s safe to say that Black Sabbath as a whole is one of my favorite bands of all-time. When I gave THE DEVIL YOU KNOW it’s inaugural couple of listens I was a little disappointed by the lack of fast and furious Metal songs like previous classic ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘The Mob Rules’ but I kept listening and it turned out that this is one heavy Doom record with a few well-placed fast numbers (‘Double The Pain’, ‘Eating The Cannibals’) to break the heaviness up a bit. Tony Iommi continues to write the best Metal riffs and Dio continues to sing better than vocalists half, even two-thirds, his age! The rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice are still as high-powered and brutal as ever and hearing them in concert proved to be a thunderous experience. Say what you want about this album not being HEAVEN & HELL (1980) or MOB RULES (1981), THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is definitely a great Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell album that can easily sit alongside those classics.

#6

UFO – The Visitor (2009): Another one of my favorite bands…..one of Top 5 in fact! There is now way I could have a Best of 2009 countdown without putting in THE VISITOR because it was easily in the running for my favorite record of the year since I got it. You have to give UFO credit, they have been doing it longer than most of their peers (40 years and counting!) and they consistently put out solid records. Since the band reunited in 1995 with the classic lineup, there have been many lineup changes but the mainstay is founder and singer Phil Mogg who puts in a brilliant performance vocally and as a songwriter…..no one writes or turns a clever phrase quite like Phil. The lineup still isn’t stable with founding bassist Pete Way out again due to health reasons and founding drummer Andy Parker coming back again to replace Jason Bonham when he left for Foreigner. Vinnie Moore proves that hes is more than capable of handling the guitar duties and holding back the Michael Schenker legend while Paul Raymond continues to be an integral part of the UFO sound on keybords, guitars and harmonies. Not a bad song on the album and well worth checking out.

#5

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): I received the promo for INTO THE LABYRINTH in December 2008 and I reviewed it mid-January…..I almost declared this the album of the year right there! Saxon has been one of the most consistent bands from the early days of the NWOBHM movement and, since 1997, have released some great albums that combine pure Power Metal with that classic NWOBHM style. Take the first two songs from the album, ‘Battalions Of Steel’ and ‘Live To Rock': the first is Traditional/Power Metal and the latter is pure NWOBHM as if it was 1981. What Saxon is doing is what I keep emphasizing throughout this year’s countdown…..they are expanding/enhancing their trademark sound. You have to evolve and Saxon is showing a lot of the younger Metal bands out there just how to do it. Any other year and this would be my favorite album but there was stiff competition this year and a Top 5 showing is not bad at all.

#4

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I had been reading all about Johnny Lima and this album for a couple of months before i actually broke down and ordered it from Johnny’s website. First, let me give Johnny a ton of credit for emailing me within 10 minutes of my order and personally thanking me and then sending the CD out same day including an autograph. Then he emails me a couple days later to make sure the album arrived! Keeping a connection with the fans is what it’s about and Johnny Lima gained an instant fan. And the music is good too! After spinning this once I knew this would be the best Glam/Hard Rock album of the year. If you like Poison, Def Leppard, early Bon Jovi, Dokken, Ratt, Cinderella and Motley Crue then you are definitely going to find a song on LIVIN’ OUT LOUD that could easily fit into any of the bands’ catalog. That’s not to say that the album is a carbon copy of what these big bands have done in the past rather it’s a statement that revisiting and reinterpreting the classic ’80s Hard Rock style is OK. That’s something that these bigger bands are afraid to do! Every song is catchy with a ton of hooks, big harmonies and great guitar…..this is the kind of record that is so infectious that you can’t help but sing along and have a great time. This was a major contender for the top spot for 2009.

#3

Sacred Oath – s/t (2009): Early in the year I started to read more and more about Sacred Oath and their forthcoming new album being an iTunes exclusive…..I don’t download, I buy CDs, so I didn’t pay much attention to the press releases. Then I read that the band was releasing the album on CD on their own label so I emailed the band for the release date. I received a promo copy in late May/early June and was completely blown away! Like I said in the review, if you took Metallica, Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Armored Saint, Diamond Head and Metal Church and rolled them all into one, you would get Sacred Oath. The band takes influences from all the great bands and blends them together for an American Metal feast that goes from Heavy Metal to Power Metal to Progressive Metal and then the NWOBHM. It’s a huge sound to live up to and the album does just that. Searing riffs, pounding rhythm section and soaring vocals added to great songwriting…..it’s a wonder why the band broke up 20 years ago, I’d bet they would have been huge. Well, they are huge this year because this was my #1 album hands down until the next two in the countdown showed up. This record is still in my weekly playlist, I don’t see it leaving anytime soon, and ‘High And Mighty’ is one of my favorite songs of the year.

#2

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Ace Frehley has always been my favorite member of KISS and, with KISS being my favorite band, anything a current of former member of KISS does is a big deal. The last time Ace released a solo album was TROUBLE WALKIN’ in 1989…..20 years later ANOMALY has finally arrived! I have followed Ace’s career in and out of KISS since I was a little kid and he has talked about a new record since the early ’90s but nothing has ever come of it. Then there was the KISS reunion that lasted 6+ years and Ace started talking about a new solo record after he left the band in 2002 but nothing was released again. The only time I believed that Ace was releasing anything was when the album cover was released in June…..but would an actual record come out? September 15, 2009…..I was outside Best Buy before the store opened to get my hands on ANOMALY. One listen was all it took to hear that Ace Frehley had made a huge comeback with his solo career, ANOMALY is a well-written Hard Rock album and Ace sounds as focused as ever. Of all the albums he’s released as a solo artist or in Frehley’s Comet, ANOMALY ranks just below his KISS solo album. ‘Foxy & Free’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Pain In The Neck’ and even the cover of Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’ are all solid Hard Rock songs that are catchy and full of that signature Ace guitar tone. The surprises here are the acoutically driven ballads like ‘Change The World’ & ‘A Little Below The Angels’ that show Ace’s diversity. This whole album is top notch from the music, to the album cover Ace designed to the special digipak packaging that tuens into a pyramid. I gave this album a ton of listening time and I still haven’t taken it out of my daily rotation! When I started to make this year end best of list I installed ANOMALY near the top because I enjoyed it so much. The bottom line on this list is that I enjoy the album and, between the excellent songs and my KISS worship, Ace Frehley has gained the #2 spot for 2009.

One album to go everyone! The #1 album is next but before I get to it let me say again how great this year was for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal…..my Best of 2009 list, along with the other websites’ lists, will attest to that. I’ve listened to more new releases this year than any other year that I can remember and this year’s list was a hard one to make, there were so many really good albums that got left out of the countdown so maybe next year I will expand again to a Top 50. Let’s move on though to my pick for the Top Album of 2009…..

#1

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009)

So what album did you all expect? Of course my top album for 2009 is the new KISS record! I’m a KISS diehard after all! Seriously though, of all the 2009 albums I listened to this year, SONIC BOOM was the one I wanted the most, listened to the most, and enjoyed the most. Any year that your favorite band releases a new album is a good year but I had no hopes that KISS would actually follow through with releasing an album of all new material. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have been saying that they weren’t interested in releasing a new album for the last 7 years and I had no reason to doubt their conviction. Who knows why they did now? Maybe Paul Stanley liked working on his solo album a couple years ago? Maybe the Wal-Mart deal was in place ahead of time? Maybe they were just bored? Who cares! The bottom line is that KISS has released an album that is their very best since REVENGE (1992) and it completely blows away the reunion album PSYCHO CIRCUS (1998). I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from SONIC BOOM because most KISS albums are half good songs and half filler. If the band was dead set against releasing a new record, why should they release a quality one? First thing the band did right was give Paul Stanley full control in the studio…..he’s the one that guided the band from 1983 to 1992 and his track record as a producer, performer and songwriter are proof enough. Ever notice that all the singles in the ’80s were Paul’s songs? After Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley is my favorite and I have always told people the he is the talent in KISS. The second thing the band did right was actually write. Paul & Gene actually wrote songs, and performed them, together for the first time in a long time in addition to what they brought in individually. The songs are high quality, catchy and there is an element of true ’70s KISS mixed with the KISS of today. Third thing the band did correctly was to involve Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the writing and in the singing to make it a true band effort. Nothing beats a band unit, compare SONIC BOOM and the sham that is PSYCHO CIRCUS and the winner is clear. I bought this album at my local Wal-Mart on October 6 (day of release) and I have played it everyday, many times more than once. I have been a diehard KISS fan since 1978, I’ve lived and died with this band and I am actually proud of them for releasing such a great record. I haven’t felt this good about KISS’ future since REVENGE and the 1996/1997 Reunion Tour…..SONIC BOOM is my favorite album of 2009!

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Please check out The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#11-#25) and The Top 40 Albums of 2009 (#26-#40) for the rest of this year’s countdown.

Start of vacation Mixtape

So I got to listen to a few CDs today but I got lazy and didn’t really want to change discs in the stereo so I plugged in the iPod and hit Shuffle. Here’s the first 20 songs…..

  1. Twisted Sister – ‘Leader Of The Pack’ (1985)
  2. Black ‘N Blue – ‘Action’ (1984)
  3. Saxon – ‘Denim And Leather’ (1981)
  4. D.C. Cooper – ‘Chained’ (1999)
  5. Mogg-Way – ‘Fortune Town’ (1997)
  6. Anvil – ‘Bondage’ (1981)
  7. UFO – ‘A Self-Made Man’ (1995)
  8. Dio – ‘Otherworld’ (2000)
  9. FarCry – ‘Heaven’ (2009)
  10. KISS – ‘Get All You Can Take’ (1984)
  11. Tygers Of Pan Tang – ‘Euthanasia’ (1980)
  12. Balance Of Power – ‘Miracles And Dreams’ (1999)
  13. Lillian Axe – ‘The 2nd Of May’ (2007)
  14. AC/DC – ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’ (1977)
  15. Phil Vincent – ‘How Long’ (2008)
  16. Iron Maiden – The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner’ (1986)
  17. KISS – ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ (1987)
  18. Bullet – ‘No Mercy’ (1983)
  19. Black Sabbath – ‘No Stranger To Love’ (1986)
  20. Loudness – ‘Gravity’ (2008)

Bonus Track: Whitesnake – ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’ (1984)

Current Playlist

I may have let the blog go downhill a little but I have definitely been listening to a lot of music…..a lot of new releases that I’ve picked up recently. This has been another great year for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal! Here’s a sample of what I’ve been spinning…..

KISS – Sonic Boom (2009): Of course I’m listening to the new KISS record! Nothing is better than your favorite band releasing a new album and this is 11 years in the making. I have to admit that I didn’t really get into SONIC BOOM after the first couple of spins but I’ve given it a lot of time and I’m starting to really enjoy it.

Ace Frehley – Anomaly (2009): Of course I’m listening to the new Ace album! So far I like it a lot better then KISS’ SONIC BOOM, he beat them to the punch by releasing his new album first. Ace always had the talent, he just lacked the focus, ANOMALY proves that.

Queensryche – American Soldier (2009): I have this annoying habit of picking up albums when they are released and not listening to them, this is the case of the new Queensryche record. I’ve had it, it’s been sitting on my desk, it’s was still wrapped in the cellophane. I ended up putting it in and was impressed with the overall concept and performance. I wasn’t digging the idea of another Queensryche concept album but I’m really enjoying it.

Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009): I wanted to start getting into more extreme styles of Metal so I started picking up different Death & Black Metal bands up over the last few weeks. I’ve given this only a couple of spins and I’m not really sure what to make of it. Black Metal isn’t my first genre of choice but I’m keeping my mind, and ears, open.

Johnny Lima – Livin’ Out Loud (2009): I’ve been listening to this a lot over the last few weeks. It’s really good melodic hard Rock that leans toward Def Leppard, Poison, Dokken and Bon Jovi…..one of my favorite albums this year.

Lita Ford – Wicked Wonderland (2009): The Queen Of Metal’s big comeback! I’ve given it two spins and I’m not overly impressed. Could be a grower so I’ll give it some more time.

Spinal Tap – Back From The Dead (2009): Love the movie, love the soundtrack, love BREAK LIKE THE WIND (1992). I’m not sure if Tap’s brand of comic Metal is what we need in 2009 but it’s a cool break from the ultra-serious way the scene usually is. I could have gone for a straight up new record but I’ll take the re-done classics as a bonus.

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): I still can’t get enough of this album, one of my favorites of the year. I still wish there were more faster songs though.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): One of my top albums since it came out back in January. Saxon is one of those bands that I can never get enough of and INTO THE LABYRINTH satisfies both the old school NWOBHM fan in me as well as the Power Metal fan in me. This will definitely be in the running for this year’s best.

Ted Poley – Greatestits (2009): Search for the cover and you’ll understand the spelling! 2 CDs, 23 songs, all spanning Ted Poley’s career after Danger Danger. There are some excellent songs here and now I’m making a list of all the Poley projects I don’t have and need to buy.

Current Playlist

I’m trying to catch up on a lot of listening to some of the newer releases that I haven’t gotten to yet but having the collection organized has been a challenge. Everytime I grab an album to put into the Collectorz cataloging software or iTunes, I find another that I haven’t heard in a long time! Then I find a band I forgot about and I pull out all of their albums! Will it ever end?

UFO – The Visitor (2009): This hasn’t left my rotation since I got the advance from SPV a few weeks ago and I don’t think it’s going to leave anytime soon. One of the best albums of the year for me.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): I had the advance in December and I haven’t put it down yet…..album of the year for me but UFO is challenging!

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Play My Game (2009): A great comeback for the Ripper, its good to hear him doing his own thing and not being a hired hand. I like the Iced Earth and Malmsteen albums but I think Ripper has to make a mark with his solo career or Beyond Fear.

Beyond Fear – s/t (2006): More of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens doing his own thing instead of being a hired frontman. I listened to the album and realized that this was easily one of the best pieces of work Owens has produced. It hasn’t grown stale since it’s release, it still sounds feash and I think that’s because Ripper had the control.

Chickenfoot – s/t (2009): Sammy Hagar & Michael Anthony…..that’s enough to sell me on this album but then you add Joe Satriani and Chad Smith. This isn’t Van Halen, solo Hagar or a Red Hot Chili Pepper thing, this is an actual new band with some good Hard Rocks songs from solid performers. So far it’s better than I thought.

As Cities Burn – Hell Or High Water (2009): One of the worst albums I’ve heard so far this year! The album cover screams Metal but As Cities Burn is a Christian Rock/Indie/Progressive/Modern Rock band and there is just nothing heavy or hard to the music. It sounds too much like what is already clogging Rock radio: mainstream modern Rock with no substance. I wanted to give this another chance but it was a tough listen.

Joe Lynn Turner – Rescue You (1985): JLT’s first solo album after Ritchie Blackmore ended Rainbow. I haven’t listened to this in years and I just got the CD in from a nice seller on Ebay.

Iron Maiden – (various albums): Basically I pulled out all my Maiden albums and started spinning them on the stereo. At work, I put the iPod on “shuffle” and listened to Maiden out of order and had some cool playlists. The new DVD documentary and live CD, FLIGHT 666, come out Tuesday and I want to be ready!

AC/DC – Back In Black (1980): I never pull out BACK IN BLACK because I can tune in to any Rock radio station in my local area and I guarantee I will hear the whole album by the end of the day! There’s nothing wrong with BACK IN BLACK, it’s just that I know it all by heart and it’s completely overplayed. So why is it in my current playlist? My 10 year old daughter loves the album and she absolutley begs me to play it! At least she knows about good music!

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969): I’ve always been a Stones fan and LET IT BLEED has been my favorite Stones record for a long time. I heard ‘Monkey Man’ on one of the radio stations as a “deep track” and I pulled the album out as soon as I got home!

The first iPod playlist!

Well I finally did it…..I bought an iPod!

My Dell DJ 30 has served me above and beyond the call of duty and it finally died a noble death. I was listening to my DJ at work last week and the headphone jack fell out of the unit. Turns out the solder that held the actual jack in place had come loose and that’s why I kept thinking my headphones were dying. I was getting volume from one ear on the headphones unless I packed the jack with aluminum foil, a temporary fix. Then it happened…..I pulled the headphones out to put in a little more foil and the entire piece came out! R.I.P. Dell DJ……..

So I went to Best Buy last Saturday and dropped the $250 for an iPod 120gb and $40 for the 2 yr. warranty (if anything happens to it, I can bring it back and get a fresh one). I’ve been loading albums into iTunes but I don’t have nearly as many as I had in the Dell. Here’s what I have in the iPod because it’s all I’ve listened to…..

Great White – Rising (2009): I still haven’t given up on this album even though it’s a little too mellow. It’s definitely a grower and I’m beginning to enjoy it more everytime I play it.

Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): Here’s another album that I haven’t given up on yet especially since I kind of knew what to expect. Hammerfall plays straight ahead Power Metal and they don’t stray far from their formula…..that can be either refreshing or redundant depending on the quality of the material. This album gets more refreshing everytime I spin it.

Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens – Play My Game (2009): This new record comes out next week and I was lucky to get it in the mail Saturday afternoon. I’ve only given it one full spin so far.

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): The album of the year for me so far!

UFO – The Visitor (2009): Another album I was lucky to receive in the mail a full month before it’s release…..all UFO has done since 1995’s WALK ON WATER is release high quality albums and THE VISITOR is no exception.

Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know (2009): This album was probably one of the most anticpated of 2009 for me next to the new Saxon. I’ve been playing this non-stop but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet…..probably sometime this week.

Accept – Predator (1996): Accept’s final studio album and probably their most confusing since EAT THE HEAT (1989). I remember I picked this up the week it came out because I had read about it in a fanzine and Accept were one of my formative bands back in the ’80s. I figured that I was going to get a Metal album but PREDATOR is a mix of different styles, the best track being the first: ‘Hard Attack’. The biggest problem I had was that Udo didn’t sing every song on the album, bassist Peter Baltes sang lead on three tunes and had a primary role on the backing vocals. At the time I loved it save for a couple of tunes…..13 years later I can hear a few more filler tracks but there is some good material too.

My Top 5 Concerts

I’m starting to gear up for the Summer 2009 concert season, I already have my Def Leppard/Poison and Judas Priest/Whitesnake tix. I went online today to see who else is coming to the New England area and it got me thinking about all the concerts I’ve been to and which ones were my favorites. So I pulled out all of my ticket stubs and I realized I’m missing a few of the early tours I saw when I was a kid but I remember the shows like it was yesterday! So here we go, my Top 5 Concerts…..make sure you check out some of the ticket prices!

1. KISS – Reunion Tour (Boston, MA) – 7/30/1996 – $50: Wouldn’t it figure that a diehard KISS fan would put KISS at the top of the list?! But it’s true, the Reunion show in Boston is the best concert I’ve ever seen. I never got the chance to see the band in makeup but I had seen them several times without it…..but it was the reunion with Ace & Peter and it was the “holy grail” for KISS fans. Two nights went on sale for the show at the Fleet Center but we got shut out…..this was back in the days of actually CALLING Ticketmaster! So we got shut out. The good news was that my best friend’s father had the right connections at the Fleet Center and we were able to get reserved seats on the Ace side of the stage, one section from the exact side, in the lower arena. We were so close that you could see the facial expressions! The section in front of us was the V.I.P. section and members of Boston, Aerosmith, and Extreme were in attendance. I forget who opened (didn’t matter), and the actual show is still a blur, but I screamed so loud and sang every word at the top of my lungs that I ended up damaging my vocal chords and I lost my voice for a month! All in the name of Rock ‘N’ Roll! This was the first of four shows I would catch on this tour.

2. Saxon & U.D.O. – Metalhead & Holy Tour (Warwick, RI) – 10/31/2000 – $40: This show was at The Station Nightclub…..yes the same Station that had the tragic fire during the Great White concert. The Station was a nice small bar that got all the Metal bands for our area. What a great place to watch a show! Anyway, I was online now so I knew the show was coming and I bought my ticket at the local Strawberries Records. Getting U.D.O. in as an opener was a huge bonus. It was Halloween night so I headed over to the venue around 6pm and had a beer, at the bar was Biff Byford and Doug Scarratt from Saxon and Fitty Weinhold from U.D.O., so I was able to meet the guys and get autographs. No cameras were allowed in and I couldn’t get the guys to leave the bar and come outside while I got the camera from the car. All nice guys, a pleasure to talk to, they all autographed my show flyer. The show was awesome, I was right at the front in front of Biff’s mic stand and Saxon played two solid hours! Unfortunately U.D.O.’s set was cut short (7 songs) because the local band they had open ran late taking down their gear. I ended up with a Metalhead Tour shirt, a Holy Tour shirt, and a Wheels Of Steel long sleeve shirt…..the guy running the merch booth was Udo’s brother, Peter Dirkschneider, who was in Vanize. I ended up hanging around after the show and got a guitar pick from Nibbs Carter from Saxon and another flyer.

3. KISS w/Ted Nugent – Crazy Nights Tour (Providence, RI) – 12/12/1987 – $16.50: This was the first time I saw KISS live, I was 15 years old, and it was at my home arena the Providence Civic Center. I missed the Lick It Up, Animalize & Asylum tours when they came through because my parents thought I was too young but I started going to concerts shortly after I missed the Asylum tour. By December ’87 I was a concert veteran! I remember my friend smuggled in a tape recorder to bootleg the show and I still have that old cassette somewhere. I lived and died KISS so when the band took the stage after their intro, I was in hysterics! Great show, they played a lot of older tunes and six off CRAZY NIGHTS. As for Terrible Ted…..he was solid but I had already seen him open for Aerosmith in ’86 so I was glad to hear him play but just wanted KISS…..nothing beats the first time I heard the KISS intro with my own ears.

4. UFO & Blue Oyster Cult – You Are Here Tour (Hampton Beach, NH) – 9/25/2004 – $26: I’m a big UFO fan and when this stop on the tour was announced I grabbed a ticket and took a vacation day at work! The problem was that the tour got delayed, it was orginally supposed to be on 5/1 but there was a problem with Pete Way’s visa, etc. The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom is about a two hour drive from my home in Pawtucket, RI so I packed a lunch and hooked up the CD player and jammed all the way there! There was an opening act but I forget who they were (Healing Sixes maybe?). UFO and BOC were trading headline positions that tour so UFO came on first and played all the classics and a bunch off YOU ARE HERE in around two hours. I was camped in my usual spot in front of the stage but near Vinnie Moore’s side. Towards the end of the encore, I made my way more towards the side of the stage where the band entered and exited from. When the show was done, the band came off stage and by the barrier I was near and I was able to high five Vinnie Moore, Paul Raymond, and Barry Sparks. I ended up buying a shirt and hat, I where the hat all the time (I need a replacement, come back again guys!). As for BOC…..I ended up watching most of their show from the bar and I cut out early before the encore so I could get a move on home.

5. Aerosmith – Nine Lives Tour (Boston, MA) – 12/31/1997 – $39.25: Aerosmith & New Year’s Eve = a huge party! This show was at the Fleet Center in Boston and, if you live in New England, you know not to drive into downtown Boston on New Year’s Eve! This was the 2nd show of a two night stand at the Fleet Center and it was a 21 song party complete with a countdown to 1998 in the middle of the show with balloons, confetti, etc. By ’97, I’d seen Aerosmith on every tour since the Done With Mirrors tour in early ’86 so I knew it would be a good show. It turned out to be a great show because the band went over the top to give their hometown fans a New Year’s Eve to remember. The opening acts were The Upper Crust (a local Boston Hard Rock band that dressed in French renaissance gear with powdered wigs) and Days Of The New (who sucked). The original opening band was supposed to be Talk Show (Stone Temple Pilots without Scott Weiland) and I remember my best friend getting all upset when Talk Show pulled out but he loved Days Of The New too. I watched The Upper Crust, took a nap during Days Of the New (we had been doing some drinking during the day in some Irish pubs) and was refreshed for a 2 hour Aerosmith show. My 1o yr old daughter wears my Nine Lives tour shirt now!

Iron Maiden & The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal DVD (2008)

ironmaidenandnewwaveofbyw4

Iron Maiden & The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal DVD (2008, Sexy Intellectual Productions)

(Region 0, NTSC, Total Running Time = 157 minutes)

When I was a kid in the early ’80s and I started getting serious about Heavy Metal, many of the bands that I started listening to were from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon, Samson and Girlschool were all playing on my stereo and their pictures were hanging on my walls alongside KISS, Judas Priest and AC/DC. As I got older, I discovered a lot of other new bands from the NWOBHM and older Metal bands that benefited from the movement. Judas Priest, AC/DC, Motorhead and even Black Sabbath saw a resurgence at the beginning of the ’80s due to the NWOBHM explosion.

For those not familiar with the NWOBHM here’s a quick simple explanation:

By the late ’70s, big time Arena Rock acts like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, KISS, and Aerosmith were viewed as dinosaurs of the music world and the newest musical fads were Disco and Punk. In the U.K., the Punk movement was a phenomenon and the do-it-yourself rebellious attitude influenced an entire movement of kids forming bands and trying to do something different. Taking a cue from the “dinosaur” bands, these new musicians actually learned to play their instruments well, something many Punks didn’t bother with, and set out to “make it”. The music was loud, raw and heavy and took influences from all styles of music. The biggest bands to come out of the NWOBHM were Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon but there were literally hundreds of bands popping up all over England almost overnight and the new Metal movement made it’s mark.

What this DVD tries to accomplish is to chronicle the history of the NWOBHM from interviews with some of the movement’s players and Rock journalists of the time. There are interviews with Paul Di’anno and Dennis Stratton (Iron Maiden), Brian Tatler (Diamond Head), Thunderstick (Samson), Rob Weir (Tygers Of Pan Tang), Tino & Chris Troy (Praying Mantis) and Girlschool. These are band members that lived the experience and they shed a personal light on what it was like starting out and continuing on with their careers. Other interviews come from journalists Geoff Barton, Malcolm Dome, Jerry Ewing and Joel McIver who all had a first had account of the Metal climate of the time and they add critical review to different aspects and bands of the movement. Of course a retrospective DVD on the NWOBHM would not be complete without the insight of Neil Kay, the Heavy metal DJ who formed the Soundhouse club and who almost single-handedly spearheaded the NWOBHM with his love of well-played Rock. If it wasn’t for Neil Kay, would bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon be playing to millions to this day?

This DVD packs in a ton of rare footage from newsreels, concerts and studio sessions to give an inside historical look at the beginnings of the new Metal genre. There are plenty of interviews and commentaries as well as a bonus section that includes some extended interviews, the NWOBHM and BBC Radio 1, and a interactive challenge game. Like I said, I’m a big fan of the NWOBHM so anything that gives a historical perspective is at the top of my list, the only complaint I have is that there wasn’t much said about some of the lesser known, and less successful, bands of the genre. I would have liked to hear a little more on Rock Goddess, Tokyo Blade, Angel Witch, Jaguar, and many of the rest but there’s only so much time to a DVD! Honestly, you could make a multiple DVD set, or an entire series, exploring the numerous NWOBHM bands but it would get out of focus. This DVD focuses on the more well-known bands, the most successful bands, and moves on from there. No matter what, it’s one of the best DVDs I’ve seen in a long time.

Just a quick word to the wise here: you may have noticed that the DVD title uses Iron Maiden? If you’re looking for footage of the current lineup of Iron Maiden, or a lot of Maiden footage, then I would go out and buy a Maiden DVD. There is a good size portion of the DVD dedicated to the rise of Iron Maiden, they were the biggest and most successful band of the NWOBHM, but the current lineup of Maiden, their management and their label have not authorized this DVD. There is some audio and video of early Maiden but the official stuff is under the cpyright control of the band. It’s still an awesome DVD!

Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of the NWOBHM, then you should run right out and buy this! If you’re a Metal fan and enjoy learning about the history of Metal, then this is an absolute must! What really makes this DVD is the genuine love of the NWOBHM music that everyone involved with it has. These band members and journalists were right in the thick of the movement when things were new and ideas were fresh and their enthusiasm in talking about it all makes it genuine. For me, this DVD was a great companion piece to The NWOBHM Encyclopedia (by Malc MacMillan) reference book. I’ve had that book since it was published in 2001 and it has been an invaluable resource in my quest for picking up NWOBHM albums, I recommend finding that too!

For more info on the NWOBHM, check out these websites:

NWOBHM.info
The Old School Metal Show
Encyclopedia Metallum: The Metal Archives

Weekend Playlist

The only good thing about inventory week at work is that I get the entire weekend off! Faced with plenty of time on my hands, and a lot of new CDs, I spent a lot of time in front of the stereo…..

Edguy – Tinnitus Sanctus (2009): I just realized that I made the new Edguy March’s album of the month and I never got around to reviewing it! I’ve been spending a lot of time on this CD all week and I can’t get passed some of the juvenile lyrics but so far I like the album.

Nashville Pussy – From Hell To Texas (2009): I started on Nashville Pussy with their first record, LET THEM EAT PUSSY (1998), but I never got into them past 2000’s HIGH AS HELL. I got this CD in the mail and I really got into it…..look for a review this week.

Siren’s Gate – Haunt Me (2008): I enjoy all forms of female-fronted Metal but I do like the atmospheric/gothic/orchestrated style the best. Bands like The Gathering, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Lana Lane and After Forever all occupy space in my collection. Siren’s Gate is in the same mold as the bands and this E.P. is a more like a demo but still pretty good. Review coming…..

Great White – Rising (2009): I just got this in the mail the other day and I broke the cellophane and gave it a single spin.

Hammerfall – No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009): Just like the new Great White, I got this CD in Saturday afternoon so it only got the first spin this weekend.

My 10 yr. old daughter is starting to raid Daddy’s CD collection and sample different bands so I had to teach Metal 101 to her a little over the weekend. I pulled out a few greatest hits/live albums to give her an idea of what some bands sounded like but she started looking on her own. Here are some of the albums she picked out and we listened to…..her Twisted Sister obsession is still going strong!

Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid (1991)

Saxon – Denim & Leather (1981)

AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)

Motorhead – Everything Louder Than Everyone Else (1998)

Scorpions – Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years (1997)

Desperado – Bloodied, But Unbowed (1996)

Dee Snider – Never Let The Bastards Wear You Down (2000)

Twisted Sister – Still Hungry (2004)

Anvil – Anthology Of Anvil (2000)

Current playlist

I haven’t been spinning a whole lot of music lately, for some strange reason I have been getting a little bored with it all. Then I heard an old song on the radio the other day and it brought the passion back right away. So here’s what’s in my rotation right now…..

Extreme – s/t (1989): The old song I heard was ‘Mutha (Don’t Wanna Go To School Today)’ and I went and pulled the CD from the racks and its been getting a daily spin or two. Good memories attached to this album, mostly old friends from high school, etc.

Rose Tattoo – Blood Brothers (2008): This album is still in the rotation but only when I walk the dog so its getting a daily spin. I wish I could do my best of 2008 list over again because I would slot this one high.

Saxon – Into the Labyrinth (2009): So far my album of the year!

The Cotton Soeterboek Band – Twisted (2008): Like an idiot, I’ve ignored this album even though it’s been towards the top of the growing pile for months. This album is the reason why I love Rock music, it has that infectious groove to it that keeps you listening. Pure Classic Rock with a Blues base…..this is the kind of music I want to hear on the radio! It has a mid-’70s Rock sound and that’s what makes it so fresh to me. Another album I’d like to get in that best of list if I could do it all over again.

In Shadows Reign – Phoenix (2008 demo): This young Norwegian Metal band was kind enough to send me their demo via email and I have been giving this some serious listens. I really like the guitar tone, it has a NWOBHM sound to it like old Iron Maiden, Diamond Head or Tygers Of Pan Tang.

Sepultura – A-lex (2009): I keep giving this some spins and I am still up in the air on this one. Not sure if I dig it or hate it. I’ve never been a big Sepultura fan but I seem to have all their releases…..go figure. A-LEX is a long record, maybe I’m just not getting it because there is so much?

Cornerstone – Head Over Heels (2008): A real good Rock album that has been in the pile too and I’m only getting to it now.

Axiom – A Means To An End (2008): Solid Progressive Metal album that has been in the pile for awhile but I have been spinning it a lot.

Motley Crue – Saints Of Los Angeles (2008): I’m going to see the Crue next Friday (3/13) at Mohegan Sun Arena so I’ve been gearing up with old Motley but I wanted to revisit SOLA because I wasn’t too impressed when I gave it a lot of airplay over the summer. I was disappointed either so I need to give it another shot.

Current playlist

I took most the last two weeks off because my laptop finally died and I have been completely bored with the whole blogging thing. When it stops being fun for me, I need a break. So I listened to a lot of music and didn’t really care too much for writing.

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009): I bought this the day it came out and it hasn’t left the rotation, I’m giving it heavy airtime and i should have a review soon.

Saxon – Into the Labyrinth (2009): Hasn’t left the regular rotation yet and it’s still my favorite album of 2009 so far!

Buckcherry – Black Butterfly (2008): I bought this when it came out back in 2008 but I never really got around to giving it a lot of spins. I’ve been a Buckcherry fan BEFORE they released their first album so I hate it when they get stuck in that overly sexed up first single. I like ‘Too Drunk’ but the rest of the album is good too.

Rose Tattoo – Blood Brothers (2008): This is another disc I got back in 2008 that I didn’t give much time to. This is a great record that has stayed with Saxon in my 2009 rotation and I will go as far as saying that this album is better than AC/DC’s BLACK ICE.

Ozzy Osbourne – (all albums): I decided to have a listen to Ozzy’s OZZMOSIS (1995) and I ended up pulling all the albums out and gave them all a spin. I was having a good time until I came to DOWN TO EARTH (2001) and I heard how mediocre it is (I liked it at the time). When I spun BLACK RAIN (2007), I realized that DOWN TO EARTH was better than I thought!

Twisted Sister – (all albums): My 10 yr old daughter is on a Twisted Sister binge and she has me listening to all the old records with her. Aside from skipping a few overplayed tracks, the first 3 albums are solid, COME OUT AND PLAY (1985) sucks, and LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS (1987) is better than I remembered.

Motley Crue – (all albums): I scored tickets to the upcoming show in Connecticut in March so I got all the Crue albums out and had a party!

CD Scavenger Hunt – Catching up already in 2009!

Here we go….. we are only one month into 2009 and I have been picking up some good CDs every week online, in stores and from Ebay. So here’s what I’ve bought so far this year…..

Record Store

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009) – $11.88: I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of the album back in December but I had to go out and buy the proper CD because Saxon is one of my favorite bands. Unfortunately the local shop only had the regular version and not the limited edition with the bonus DVD. I’ll get that one eventually…..

Grand Magus – Iron Will (2008) – $15: I saw this album on a ton of year end best of lists so I put it on my want list. I hit the record store to get the new saxon and I found this CD in the section reserved for picks from the staff.

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009) – $11.88: I had to get this album after I was shut out from picking up the PRAY E.P. that was released two weeks earlier. I’ve been a Grave Digger fan since around ’85 and I always like their new albums. The version I bought was the limited edition digipak that includes a bonus cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’.

Iron Fire – To The Grave (2009) – $11.88: The new Iron Fire was released the same day as the new Grave Digger (both bands are on Napalm Records) and the were both on sale for $11.88. Just like BALLADS OF A HANGMAN, TO THE GRAVE came in a limited edition digipak with a bonus track…..’Blacksmith Of Thunder’.

Alestorm – Leviathan E.P. (2009) – $7: I have wanted to check out Alestorm for a long time but I never got around to buying CAPTAIN MORGAN’S Revenge (2008) last year. I figured spending 7 bucks on the E.P. would be a good introduction.

Edguy – Tinnitus Sanctus (2009) – $10: Tobias Sammet is a very busy guy with new albums from Avantasia and Edguy in one year. Technically, this record was released in December 2008 everywhere but North America and there is a limited edition 2CD set that includes a live show and videos. Unfortunately the record shop only had the regular edition but you can’t beat a $10 sale price!

Twisted Sister – Under the Blade (1982/1999 reissue) – $10: I thought I had this in my collection already but I was wrong. My 10 yr. old daughter, who is obsessed with Twisted Sister, pointed out the missing album to me a couple of weeks ago so that put UNDER THE BLADE at the top of the want list. Talk about pressure…..my kid wouldn’t stop talking about it and how I needed to buy it. I was looking through a markdown/sale bin just before checking out and I found it. I went home and loaded it into my daughter’s iPod before she got home from school.

Ebay/Online

Eden’s Curse – Seven Deadly Sins E.P. (2008) and The Second Coming (2008) – $20: I have wanted to give Eden’s Curse a try ever since Melodicrock.com listed the band’s self-titled debut in their Top 5 albums of 2007. The same website is offering special deals for visitors through an Artist Of The Week feature so I was able to get both albums for $20, a great deal! Now I need to pick up that first album!

Bittersweet – Loaded Up (1988-1992) – $13: One night last week I was searching local bands from Rhode Island (my home state) and stumbled upon Bittersweet. Taking a closer look, I noticed they were signed to Retrospect Records and an official CD of 20 songs from ’88-’92 was released recently. I checked out their MySpace page to hear samples and everything sounded really good so I went to the Retrospect website and Ebay and I won the album for $10 ($3 shipping)…..I saved $5 off the CD price by purchasing on Ebay and the seller is really the guy that runs Retrospect Records. I can’t wait to hear this album.

Loudness – Metal Mad (2008) – $18.55: I featured this album in my WANTED! column back in September 2008 and I have been on the lookout for this album for a full year. METAL MAD was released in Japan back in late February 2008 and it never got a distribution deal for North America, prices were around $35 average (shipping included) to get an import copy from Japan. Starting price on this one was $5 and I put in a high bid of $20. The seller is located in New Jersey, about an 8 hour drive from Rhode Island, so the mail should only take a few days. I won the CD for $15.55 and the shipping was $3…..a steal!

Current Playlist

Here’s what I’ve been listening to in the last week or so (reviews are coming for most of these)……

Sepultura – A-lex (2009): I’m not the biggest Sepultura fan but I have most of the early albums with Max Cavalera. When Max left and Derrick Greene came in, I started to forget about the band. I’ve had the album for a month now and I’ve been giving it a lot of play.

Kreator – Hordes Of Chaos (2009): Hard to believe that it’s been four years since ENEMY OF GOD (2005) but Kreator is back. I got this around the same time as the new Sepultura so I’ve been giving the good old Thrash on HORDES OF CHAOS a lot of play.

Suidakra – Crógacht (2009): I have never heard anything from Suidakra before and a combination of Black Metal and Death Metal isn’t really my style of choice but I received an advance copy and I will have a review soon.

Axiom – A Means To An End (2008): This debut album from Sacramento’s Axiom came out at the end of November 2008 but the logjam of CDs on my desk pushed this to the new year. So far it’s solid Progressive Metal and I will have a review of this soon. More info at Axiomband.net

Saxon – Into The Labyrinth (2009): My favorite album of the year so far! I know we’re only one month into 2009 but Saxon are one of my Top 5 favorite bands of all-time and they have really had a strong run of albums since 1997. This will easily land in my year end best of list for 2009.

Grave Digger – Ballads Of A Hangman (2009): I’ve been a Grave Digger fan since way back around WITCH HUNTER in ’85 so this new record was a must to pick up last week. It’s also the Album Of the Month for February 2009 so a review will come this week.

Twisted Sister – Under The Blade (1982): I haven’t heard this album in a long time and I thought I had it in my collection but I didn’t. Picked this up last week and this has been the main album playing in my house because my 10 yr old daughter is obsessed with all things Twisted Sister. Not sure how that happened. I have to give my daughter credit, she knows her TS and she pointed out to me that this CD (Spitfire reissue from 1999) is the re-mixed version of the album that was released in 1985 and not the original. I have no idea how she knew that but she needs to hear the original!

Metallica – Death Magnetic (2008): Even though this album made my Top 30 Albums of 2008 at #30, I really never gave this album as much time as I should have. Metallica is arguably the biggest Heavy Metal band on the planet and I put DEATH MAGNETIC aside quickly. Now that I’ve had a chance to have some fresh listens, I’m starting to enjoy it more.

Ratt – Out Of The Cellar (1984): I am participating in a debut album tournament at the Hair Metal Mansion and OUT OF THE CELLAR has been voted into the final so I’ve been spinning this for comparison to…..

Cinderella – Night Songs (1986): …..who is Ratt’s opponent. I think both albums are truly solid debuts but after some serious listening I have to go with my gut and pick Ratt.