Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jim Wilson - S/T

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-Nx5zPWlsvME/TwHU4XI5A1I/AAAAAAAABxI/t5AIwCMawRk/s400/Jim%2BWilson%2Bcover%2BJPEG.JPG

“Mr. Penfold, Mr. Corporate will see you now.”
“Thank you ma’am.  I’ll see myself in.”  I stood up, lifted my briefcase, and marched into the businessman’s office prepared for battle.
“Penfold, what took you so long?  I left that message on Jim’s phone three days ago.  You’re his representative.  What gives?”
“Mr. Wilson informed me of your message later that day Mr. Corporate.”
“Then you know we have some problems.”
“Yes, I’m aware.”
“Well did he tell you what the name of his album is going to be?  The president of my company, my boss, won’t authorize the production of this album without knowing the title ahead of time.”
“Mr. Wilson would like this album to be self-titled.”
“Not possible.  I can’t sell five million units to the jaded masses without a provocative title.  Did he give you any other options?”
“As a matter of fact, Mr. Wilson provided me with a couple of other titles to choose from.”
“And they are?”
“First, ‘It Sounds Like Old Music But I Just Wrote It’.”
“No can do.  It’s not sexy enough.  What else?”
“How about ‘Book Of James’?”
“Nope.  The only way I can sell a title like that is if it’s slapped on top of a contemporary Christian release.  Anything else?”
“He gave me one last title.  ‘If You Don’t Like It, I Don’t Care What You Think’.”
“All right, all right.  I get the point.  I’ll try to sell the whole self-titled thing to my boss when I speak to him this afternoon.  Now, about the production method…”
“Mr. Wilson understands the need to release this album on CD and through digital distribution, but he demands that his album be released on vinyl as well.”
“That’s preposterous!”
“Is it?”
“Yes!  Yes it is!  Penfold, do you have any idea what kind of people use turntables nowadays?”
“Yes Mr. Corporate.  Those are the music lovers who will absolutely flip their lid over this album.”
“Baloney!  Why would anyone buy a vinyl copy of this album over a CD or MP3?”
“I can offer a few compelling reasons.  But if you need something concrete, how about because the vinyl will have an extra song.”
“An extra song?!?  You’ve got to be kidding?!”
“Not at all.  Oh by the way, Mr. Wilson also recorded three more songs that he would like to be included with the vinyl.  They’re intended to go on a separate 7” 45.”
“All right Penfold…alright.  I surrender.  Now I need you to tell me which of these ridiculous demands Mr. Wilson is willing to negotiate.”
“I’m sorry.  Negotiate?”
“Yeah, what will Mr. Wilson give up in order to get us to put out his album?  Please tell me it’s the 45.”
“Mr. Corporate, there will be no negotiations.  You can either put out this album as Mr. Wilson requests, or he will do so himself.”
“Now that is an empty threat if I’ve ever heard one Penfold.  I mean really, put it out himself?”
“Yes.”
“Ha!  Penfold, you kill me.  Listen I’ll run this whole thing by the boss, but I think we both know what the answer is going to be.”
“Fair enough.  Just remember.  You had the chance to put out this amazing album, and you passed.  Have a nice day.”

Greetings waveriders.  Today I’m going to talk about a musician near and dear to my music worshipping heart.  His name is Jim Wilson and his music has been a constant companion in my listening life for a little more than a decade at this point.  As you might have surmised, I kind of like this guy’s work.  Just a little bit.

My listening relationship with Mr. Wilson began back in the year 2000 or 2001 when I first got into Rollins Band.  A good friend of mine had exposed me to their Get Some Go Again album, and I was hooked!  Well it turns out that this version of the Rollins Band was composed of Henry Rollins doing his thing in front of a band named Mother Superior.  Jim Wilson is the guitarist/vocalist in Mother Superior.  For reasons lost to time (this was before I began regularly attending concerts), I decided to go see Mother Superior when they came to town supporting Wayne Kramer of the MC5.  Boy was that the right decision!  Mother Superior played their guts out to a sparsely populated club with only me, a friend of mine who I dragged to the show, and their merch guy standing in front of the stage.  Let’s just say that I was extremely impressed!  After the show I purchased two of their albums (one of which is a member of my top five albums list located on the ‘Who We Be’ page of this website) and my personal music universe was forever changed.

In the years following that fateful day I have obtained almost everything by and associated with the members of MS.  Studio albums, bootlegs, side projects, demos, one-off home recordings, Christmas compilations…you name it, I’ve got it.  Unfortunately the last MS studio album came out back in 2008.  So when I discovered that Jim Wilson was putting out a solo album last year I became very excited, and very anxious.  Fanatics like me need our fix!  Happily I can report that Jim Wilson’s new self-titled release easily lives up to any and all expectations.

Now comes the hard part.  Trying to nail down this album’s overall sound is nearly impossible.  Don’t get me wrong, there are constants.  Jim Wilson’s soulful, earnest vocals and wonderful guitar playing make their presence known on every track.  No, the difficulties lie elsewhere.  You see, this is music made by a music fanatic.  These songs are the result of someone with a vast array of likes and influences, and the musical chops to follow his muse.  That means that the music gleefully jumps genres from song to song.  For instance “Bleeding” begins the album with some rock solid, mid-tempo rock and roll with soaring vocal choruses.  If you thought the next song would offer more of the same, you’re in for a surprise.  “Honest Mistake” is a stunningly beautiful country-tinged ballad featuring Daniel Lanois on pedal steel guitar.  What follows?  Obviously the buoyantly funky “Things Are Looking Up”.  Believe me waveriders; the variety doesn’t stop at track three.  Jim Wilson has created an album which provides a kaleidoscope of rock and roll sounds in one splendid package.  There is the barn-burner “Holding Out For Love”, the slithery “Killer”, and the evangelical “Let It Run Through You”.  “Bus 27” features a stupendously filthy main riff that stomps along with the weight of a giant, and “Cry Now (Pay Later)” featuring Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks is an almost purely synthesizer driven affair barring its elegant guitar solo.  You want variety?  You demand music of the highest quality?  Jim Wilson’s got what you need.

Waveriders if you are already familiar with Jim Wilson’s work you most likely own a copy of this album.  If on the other hand you have never heard of Jim Wilson before now you are in for a real treat.  The music that he creates is nothing short of magical!  If you like genuine rock and roll, you simply cannot go wrong.  Buy this album!

P.S.:  There are multiple ways to obtain this album.  You can download it off of iTunes, Amazon, or Rhapsody.  If you want a physical copy you can buy either the CD or the vinyl version from http://jimwilsonmusic.blogspot.com/ .  I recommend the vinyl as it does come with the bonus song and three song 7” 45 along with a download card!

--Penfold

Sample Here- http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Wilson/dp/B005ZS8798/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1325537634&sr=8-2


Big Bang - "Alive"

Taking off from my review of "Blue", "Alive" in it's entirety is exactly what I was saying last week -- the album challenges our existing idea of what the "Big Bang sound" is, and it makes us think. I was looking through people's comments of the EP, and a recurring theme is that it sounds far too pop, that they've abandoned their R&B beginnings. However, this isn't an album you can just listen to at a glance and say "okay, these synths sound like Big Bang, and this chord progression sounds like something from their previous albums" -- no, you can't just end it at the technical elements. You have to take those elements both individually and as a collective, and in as many combinations as you can think of. Just like what I said when I reviewed "Blue", you have to be in the right state of mind to both appreciate and understand this album. It will only make sense if you think about the music in relation to all the other factors this album was put out to.


Big Bang are seniors in the industry. They may be younger than DBSK, but at least 80% of the active groups now will consider them as seniors, and that includes the likes of SNSD, the Wonder Girls, and the acts who are already considered pretty up there. With seniority comes not only wisdom, but freedom. They no longer have to adhere completely to what the industry wants from them, they're free to experiment. But at the same time, they've been in K-Pop so long that that sound they had to adhere to has become their sound. That's where the challenge lies -- to find a balance between the two -- and that can only be done if they're completely sure of who they are, both as individuals and as a group.

The first thing you hear when you put it on is synths, autotune, and a catchy hook. That's the intro, "Alive", for you. What's interesting to note is that although it's very noisy and heavy, it's a perfect preface to "Blue". Technically speaking, it's probably because of the synths and the melodic nature of the intro that's present in "Blue" as well, but once again, half of that equation is based on feeling. It just feels right. "Blue" is gentle and very unassuming on the outside, what with the soft synths, that actually remind me of a haze or mist, but it packs a punch on the inside, courtesy of the bass and guitar lines. I compared it to water the last time, and that still stands -- you have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate it, but when you do everything makes sense.

We see the return of the fun Big Bang through "Love Dust". Take a truckload of notes, B1A4, this is how it's done. In reality, the more I listened to it, the more I was convinced that this is the complete opposite of "Blue". While you have to look underneath everything to see the beauty in "Blue", you actually have to look at the surface, and nothing but, when you listen to "Love Dust". The deeper you look, the less sense it makes. The instrumental just goes on and on and on, and that annoying "love dust" chanting keeps appearing, the verse practically stalls during the transition to the chorus, and the list goes on. You have to look at this as a whole, or chunks at least -- the melody is gorgeous, the production is spot-on, and the vocals were delivered flawlessly. Put that all together and you have a fun, lively song that I wouldn't mind playing at a party or a club, not because it's a bad song, but because it's fun yet it manages to be gorgeous. That doesn't make it a shallow song, in reality it makes this album even more of a challenge because you have to switch mindsets so much.

When I first heard "Bad Boy", the instrumental reminded me so much of Alicia Keys. What got me really excited about this though is the fact that it has the gentleness of "Blue" laced with a different kind of intensity as opposed to "Love Dust". It's a mature kind of intensity -- it's not in-your-face, but it's sure of yourself. "Bad Boy" reminds me of vanilla ice cream. It's not overpowering like those triple-chocolates or every-fruit-possible flavors, but vanilla is far from tasteless. It's very simple, basic, and because of that you're allowed to taste all the other features of ice cream you don't usually do -- the smoothness, the creaminess. The same goes for "Bad Boy". The melody is very simple, so it allows you to hear the tambourine, that gorgeous drum line, and gives you actual dynamics. It's laid-back but not lazy.

If I was to describe "No Fun" in one word, it would be "arrogant", because it really does sound arrogant. The very strong bass line, the repetitive nature of the instrumental and the whiny-ness of the vocals (which was done well) all give off that arrogant sound. Actually, it reminds me a lot of a Big Bang-ized Infinite, for that very reason. Like Infinite with stature and maturity.

Honestly, "Fantastic Baby" was the song I had the hardest time "reading", so to say -- I finished the entire review, but the space left for this was empty. Then it hit me, like it almost always does. This is the link between last year's mini-album and "Alive". That techno sound they were going for this year was intensified, but also allowed to mature. The hook is more effective, the synths more cohesive, the dynamics present, and the melody only second to everything else. The structure of the song is quite a lot to take in but it's not a song you take in bits, it's one you just take as it comes. This is their way of saying, "just because we've matured, doesn't mean we can't be trendy anymore." At the end of the day, they're still Big Bang -- trendy and fun.

Allow me to profess my love for "Wings", and how YG has finally taken advantage of Daesung's gorgeous voice. Gorgeous melody, simple instrumental that reminds me of "Viva La Vida" with more electric guitars, that stunning chorus that finally shows off Daesung's vocals, and of course, the mandatory synths throughout. It's as if Daesung knew that I'd die hearing his voice like this, but he just had to add in strings to kill me even more. It sounds like a Big Bang song, but it doesn't -- it sounds like a Daesung song, but at the end of the day Daesung is a part of Big Bang, and you can never take that away from him. This song is exactly that. The Daesung in it is obvious, but go deeper and the Big Bang becomes audible.

So, have you figured it out already? What makes this a Big Bang album? Even if you have, I'll say it anyway. I've been hinting at it since the beginning, and I've seriously been itching to say it. The reason why "Alive" sounds like a Big Bang album is because it sounds effortless. Sure, Big Bang are known for their fun, "running around stage" songs, but that went out the door long ago. Listening to this album in relation to everything else they've put out, the one thing that has managed to transcend all their releases, despite outside factors, is that sense of effortlessness. It manifests in different forms, whether it be like "Love Dust" where you're not supposed to think, or "Bad Boy" that shows you how much they've matured. Everything sounds so easy to Big Bang that this album is beyond the songs fitting like a glove, now it's as if the songs are a part of them. As a listener, the songs feel right in relationship to each other and because of that, the album is an absolute joy to listen to. Sure, it practically puts your brain through a roller coaster, but when you finally figure everything out it's such a joy. It's like getting a perfect score on a test you really slaved over for months, or getting in to college.

My favorite: "Wings"
Song(s) I'd listen to again: Everything else. Seriously.
My least favorite: N/A
Last words: Best release of the year so far. No one holds a candle to this.
The final verdict: 5/5

Primal Fear – Unbreakable


I’m an old fart, so when I was in junior high and high school, it was prime time for bands like Judas Priest, and I was barely out of high school when the classic Dio albums came out.  Back then, those bands were considered heavy metal, and when you think about what they were up against, they made some pretty heavy music at the time. 

The current label for this type of music is traditional metal, and the new album from Primal Fear is a great example of the genre.  I put this thing on and it took me back in time, and that is a very good thing.  There are a lot of bands that try their hand at the traditional stuff but they don’t always nail it.  “Unbreakable” by Primal Fear knocks it out of the park.

First off, as a drummer myself, I’ve gotta give mad props to the drums on this album.  Dude is all over it with some very tasty playing, never going over the top, but always playing exactly what the song calls for.  I really dig the drums on this.  The other thing I really appreciate about these “traditional” releases is that the production values are high and you can hear each instrument.  It’s a nice touch that makes the album better to listen to.

There are some very good tracks on this release.  Do you like the high energy, high powered stuff?  No worries, you can check out “Strike”, “Give ‘Em Hell”, or “And Then There Was Silence”.  I personally guarantee that any of those 3 numbers will get your blood pumping.   Or perhaps you’re in the mood for something a little more on the prog rock side of things.  Then take a listen to “Where Angels Die”.  It’s a great example of some solid rock with some prog leanings.  It won’t make you a Yes or King Crimson fan, but it provides some really good balance and variety to the album.

Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but you’re just a fool for the power ballad.  Well there’s one of those, too, and it’s actually quite good.  “Born Again” is the track you’ll want to listen to.  Honestly, though, there’s not a band song on the album and this is one I’ll be listening to many times over.  I have to share chuckle I had.  There is a song called “Blaze Of Glory”, which made me cringe momentarily in fear that it might be a cover of the Bon Jovi song of the same name, but fear not, it is an original and only shares the name.

For those of you really into your metal, you may remember a band called Sinner, with Mat Sinner as the main man.  He is the bass player and seems to be the primary song writer in Primal Fear, so if you enjoyed his previous output you’re gonna love this.

This is a release well worth checking out, especially if you’ve ever been a fan of 70’s and 80’s metal.  Not the hair metal stuff, just the traditional metal, formerly known as heavy metal.

 – ODIN




Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ripple Music Announces Sponsorship and Grand Prize Recording Contract for TBFM Factor 2012

 
Ripple Music, home of the "Best retro-rock and metal on the planet" is thrilled to announce it's sponsorship of TBFM Factor 2012 - the biggest "on-air" battle of the bands ever!

TBFM Factor 2012 is presented by internet radio station Total Biker FM, home of hard-driving rock n' roll. This is the second time the station has presented this competition. With so much talent out there TBFM wanted to help promote the top bands and hopefully give them the boost up the ladder that they deserve by setting up a fan voted competition.

In 2010, the station was not fully prepared for what turned out to be an amazing competition with over 4 million hits during the final week which crashed the servers TWICE! The competition was such a great success, they decided to bring it back in 2012, bigger, better and more prepared!

The competition is set over 15 weekly knockout weeks. Music from 10 bands each week will get airplay on the Sunday Show on Total Biker FM and then fans get to vote for one week on which band deserves a place in the final. After 15 weeks, a final place is given to a wildcard, which will be the highest voted for runner up from all the knockout stages.

On week 16 the epic final takes place. All 16 bands get featured on air on a special 4 hour show and then all week during all regular shows while fans vote again for the best band of the competition. The winning band will receive some great prizes including the top prize of an exclusive one album record deal with American label Ripple Music.

This is one lucky band's opportunity to join with Ripple Music and become a label-mate of such roaring artists as Mos Generator, Trucker Diablo, Stone Axe, Iron Claw, Grifter, Poobah, JPT Scare Band and Fen.

More prizes are on offer for the finalists ranging from musical equipment to website memberships to free record mastering. Registration closes on 31st March, 2012 and the competition gets under way on June 10th, 2012 with the grand final in September.

More information on the bands taking part, how to register, prizes and sponsors can be found at www.tbfmfactor.com

150 bands take part over 16 weeks… only one winner!
And a Ripple record contract is the Grand Prize!

Important dates are as follows:

Registration closes 31st March 2012
Qualifying Bands Line-Up announced 13th May 2012
Competition starts 10th June 2012 for 15 weeks
The final will be on 23rd September 2012
Winner announced 30th September 2012

The Single Life: Tuber - Smoked Up Notes


This was a sweet surprise. Thanks Racer.

I first discovered Tuber while Bandcamp browsing last year and I immediately downloaded their free, self-titled ep after streaming their four tracks of superb instrumental desert-rock music. This power trio from Greece offer up a touch of trippy with plenty of heavy guitars and pounding grooves, believe me.

I was more than happy to learn in Racer's email that Tuber have recently added a new single, "Smoked Up Notes", to their free digital catalog.

Nice. I love that title. It's perfect, especially for someone who calls himself 'Heddbuzz', right?

The song itself is excellent, too. "Smoked Up Notes" sounds amazing and it's almost seven minutes long. It starts out with hypnotic guitars and and a steady swagger but the heavy is just around the bend. And heavy it is. Uber-heavy. Tuber-heavy...and all smoked-up.

Yeah, man, I'll recommend Tuber to anyone who enjoys instrumental desert-rock. Check 'em out and download some free music already. Damn.

--Heddbuzz

http://www.tuber.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/tuberband
http://www.last.fm/music/Tuber?ac=tuber

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Single Life - Featuring The Enthusiasts, Mondo Ray, The Penetrators, PIle, and Acid FM/Space Mirrors

The Enthusiasts –Sinkin/Risin’ b/w Joanne

Mutated garage fuzz with a mean and beefy bottom end. The Enthusiasts know how to bring the rock into the garage rock vein.  Not content to settle on the fuzz and tin can vocals, the lads drop some big, near-stoner riffs, a nifty breakdown and a blur of a guitar solo into "Sinkin’/Risin’".  "Joanne" follow suit with a tasty, psychedelic guitar/vocal intro.

Coming from a “small town north of NYC”, this is the Enthusiasts second 7” platter.  Toss in a handcrafted, self-stapled sleeve and we got ourselves one tasty vinyl treat released on the band’s own Magic Sleeve Records.  Recommended for fans of Baby Woodrose and Dolly Rocker Movement. 

www.facebook.com/enthusiastsny




Mondo Ray - Hypnotized b/w Nothing

Another blast of garage fuzz this time courtesy of Windian Records.  What we got here is very simple. “Hypnotized” is about 2 minutes of absolute garage pop perfection.  Swirling organs form the background for a guitar, bass and drum attack.  Toss in a melody worthy of the best of Baby Woodrose and we got ourselves another winner.  Big time.  Flipside “Nothing” runs out on a sixties melody over a choppy, stuttering beat, and some nifty guitar work.   Seems to me that Mondo Ray are a couple of brothers, David Da Cruz on guitar, bass, and vox and Hugo Da Cruz on drums, organ and vox.  Don’t know what growing up was like in their house, but I’ll tell you, their parents certainly raised them right.  Also recommended for Baby Woodrose and Lorenzo Woodrose fans.

http://windianrecords.wordpress.com/



The Penetrators – Gotta Have Her b/w Baby, Dontcha Tell Me

Also sent in from Windian Records, The Penetrators took their music tutelage in a different garage.  No psychedelic flourishes here, these chaps trained under the watchful eye of headmaster The Sonics.  Fuzzed and amped, distorto R&B rains all over “Gotta Have Her,” making it sound like a lost, treasured gem from the 1960’s.   This song simply rocks in a sock-hop kinda way with some killer surf-guitar licks and barely-hangin-in-there vocals.  Great fun.    Flipside, “Baby, Dontcha Tell Me,” brims with a nascent rock fury, again bring on the Sonics, the Outsiders, the Standells.  You name it.  If it’s old school garage your looking for, the Penetratos deliver in spades.  Another winner from Windian.

http://windianrecords.wordpress.com/




Pile – Big Web b/w Afraid of Scissors

I’d not heard of Pile until Ripple’s good friend Dan Goldin of Exploding in Sound wrote to tell me that they were the first signing to his new record label, Exploding in Sound Records.  Well, Dan had already proven his good taste in music with Exploding in Sound’s killer comps, so of course, I had to check this band out.  What we have here is the band’s earlier 7” (on gleaming swirled green vinyl) originally released in 2010 (or 2011).  “Big Web” is a dirge of Velvet Underground inspiration in a post-hardcore kinda way.  Claustrophobic walls of guitar create sheets of sound as the tension and melody build.  Flipside, “Afraid of Home” lays down a similar vein with a pulsating bass line that literally drives the song.   I’m usually a bit leary of post-emo-hardcore-punk like this because it just becomes too whiny.  Thankfully, none of that happens here.  Soundscapes rather than songs are the story of the day, with vocals that build to a grind, not a whine.  Definitely, caught my attention to see what Exploding in Sound does next. 



Acid FM/Space Mirrors - Split 7"

This split comes as a nice looking package from Monster Fuzz Records and Acid Fuzz  (Monster Records’s own Sparky Simmons) leads of right into a cosmic journey of space rock proportions.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that I was playing some Hawkwind last week, because Acid FM take us right back into that galaxy with gleaming guitars, black-hole sized bass and nebulous riffs.  “Space Beyond Space,” is just what the title says, a rocket adventure into the cosmos of mid 80’s Huw Lloyd Langton solo material. The track rocks, though, it never slags, with its up-tempo pace, nice star-shattering lead guitar work and spacey vocals. Flip over and we get Space Mirrors’ odyssey of a psychedelic inner cosmos exploring “Dreams of Area 51.”  Just when the song seems like it’s settled into a pleasant mid-tempo vibe, a mean riff explodes throughout the chorus elevating this to true headbanging galaxies.  Lyrics of governmental conspiracies, terrifying secrets, and lurking darkness, and sung-spoken by Martyr Lucifer round out this mind-blowing platter.  Cool limited edition 7” on red vinyl in 300 copies

http://www.spacemirrors.com
http://www.monsterfuzzrecords.com 
http://www.acidfm.com

--Racer 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hard Riot - Living On A Fast Lane


OK, a show of hands please!  How many remember these lyrics - “Get cha motor runnin’.  Head out on the highway!  Lookin’ for adventure.  And whatever comes our way…”  If you guessed Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons you’re wrong, as bad ass as they were.  But if that image of a custom chopper roaring down a backroad is stuck in your cranium then you’re in the right place.  First there was Riot.  Then along came Quiet Riot.  And RiotGod!  Now there’s Hard Riot.  None of them have much to do with each other but it sounds pretty fuckin’ cool for an intro anyway… eh?  Like I’ve done my homework.

Here’s the straight goods with German rock’n’roll outfit Hard Riot on the Pitch Black label.  They’re not going to find a cure for cancer or solve world hunger anytime soon, but like many hard rockin’, straight shootin’ rock’n’roll bands before them they are making an impact.  People eat this fundamental shit up!  You heard it here first.  To start with, they’re redefining life on the road with their debut album by “Living On A Fast Lane”.   I’ve heard of living IN the fast lane, but never ON.  I commend them for their machismo and bravery but you have to admit, it must be difficult dodging traffic.  Especially with a full compliment of furniture and dishware.  And I’m guessing they actually came up with a way cool German name for the band, but Hard Riot was the genius that Google translator spat out.

Nevertheless, this fearless Teutonic  four piece kicks it into gear, pulls the throttle back and thrusts the rock’n’roll carburetors wide open on this release.  It’s essentially a collection of infectious, high octane rockers and “hoist your lighters (and/or mobile devices) in the air” anthems.  If you like the big crunchy riffs and searing vox all underscored by a thundering rhythm section, you’ve come to the right place.  Buckle up!
The lads kick off the top of the disc with a straight up, no bullshit, balls out rocker called GET READY.  Like I said, they’re not reinventing the wheel here but the song still boasts gritty, in your face vocals, a solid bridge and chorus.  Get ready?  Get ready for what?  HELLFIRE ROCK, that’s what!  This smokin’ little ditty has a “call to arms” style verse along the same lines as what you often hear from Ireland’s The Answer.  The 60 watt incandescent over your melon will flicker on when the AC/DC  “Whole Lotta Rosie” scent wafts in on the stop riff during the reprieve.  The ghost of “Riff Raff” also haunts some of the chord choices.  They offer up a solid, but not surprising chorus, and studied guitarist Andreas Rockrohr (Rock Roar?!... cool name) peels off the first of many tight, tidy solos on the album!  Good, hard edged guitar tones abound on this number.

Just when you thought you were in like flint staring down a backstage laminate, the boys come roaring (Rockrohr-ing?) back with the lumbering, gutsy rock anthem DON’T NEED YOU!  Is that so?  Well, guess what guys?  I don’t need you… oh, wait – the boys seem to attract an uber abundance of Claudia Schiffer/Heidi Klum-like supermodels to their electric live shows (could it be the Hai Karate aftershave?!...).  I take it back!  I DO need you guys.  And all your contagious, up front, fist pumping vocals backed by heart wrenching harmonies that genetically perfect women quiver over.

The ol’ stylus then hops over to the powerful NO SURRENDER complete with duel leads at the beginning distantly reminiscent of the infamous Iron Maiden sonic attack.  It houses another “call to action” chorus soaked in a beer blasted, blue collar sensibility and garnished with yet another tasteful solo that fits nicely within the framework of the song.

TEARS IN THE RAIN is one of my favourite tunes on the entire album.  It’s houses a simple but great, plodding, memorable riff.  The song is ripe with smokin’, pulverant guitar tones, up front primal vocals and fist pumping crowd participation.  When I initially saw the song title my first thought was it was going to be a sappy ballad, but it was anything but!  The Scorpions influence is abundant here, but the Hard Riot boys draw it out, open it up and make it their own.  They do what many bands are afraid to do nowadays.  They give the almighty riff some breathing room and allow it to resonate.  There’s a reflective reprieve in the middle instrumentally, but the guttural vocals don’t quit.  Vocalist Michael Gildner simply refuses to back down.  And like true blue, bonafide rockers, they liberate the rock’n’roll carburetors once again near the end, drop it down a gear and throw the throttle wide open!

TURN ON THE LIGHTS (I dropped the KY) is a solid, chugging rocker with lots of meat on the bone.  More kick ass solos abound, pooled with a nice reflective reprieve in the middle.

NOTHING BUT YOU is a well constructed acoustic ballad.  Definitely one for the mass of Bic lighters at a live show.  The Germanic linguistic influence leaks through here and there in the vocals but not to the point where it’s distracting.  There’s also some pleasant vocal harmonies in this number.  Essentially, it’s a great song to seal that illusive first date with, if ya know what I mean (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

TAKE ME DOWN boasts a great dirty riff!  And yet another SA-WEET solo!  Tasty chord transition too.  HARD WAY DOWN is a no bullshit, straight shootin’ rocker.  BLACK WIDOW offers up a delectable drawn out, crunching riff tied to a great bridge.  What’s this?  ANOTHER crisp solo in a long line of them from Mr. Rockrohr!  This beast is a total live, in unison fist pumper.  The finisher ROCK’N’ROLL OUTLAW is a peppy little rocker that captures a Four Horsemen/Ramones-esque (odd combo, I know) flavour along the lines of my favourite band’s killer tune “Can’t Stop Rockin’”.

I have to tip my hat to Producer Vagelis Maranis at Maranis Studios in Backnang, Germany for doing a solid job on the recording, production and mix.  The vocals and guitar sit way out front through most of the tracks, but there’s still some nice instrumental separation.  It feels very clean despite all the brash guitar and vocal tones.  

Hard Riot are the kind of band that would get everybody’s attention if they played the side stage at Wacken.  Folks would haul ass to find out who’s tearing it up.  As a good buddy of mine once said, “AC/DC is the small block Chevy of kick ass rock’n’roll”.  If that’s true, then Hard Riot is the dual piston V-Twin of rock’n’roll!  Hard Riot is Michael Gildner on vocals, Andreas Rockrohr on guitars, Mario Kleindienst on bass and Carmine Jaucci on drums.

--Teeder

Free track download at http://www.pitchblackrecords.com

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eddie Grey - The Love Thief Sessions

 

If I told you you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?  Was that an earthquake or did you just rock my world? Hello, I’m a thief and I’m here to steal your heart. 

Eddie Grey loves women.  Eddie Grey loves sex.  It is his inspiration.  He writes chick seduction music and he is not bashful about it.  He’s good at it, the writing and playing I mean, not the sex.  I have no idea about the sex.  His latest babe magnet is The Love Thief Sessions, eleven creative attempts to get a woman in Eddie’s pants.  It is all part of his marketing.  The CD even includes a passionate red card that describes each one of his musical womanly enticements.  Here, let Eddie tell you about the album -



So, ladies, I hope the day is as radiant as your smile. What does it feel like to be the most beautiful girl in the room?  If beauty were sunlight, you'd shine from a million light-years away.  My place or yours?

- Old School



Gotye- Making Mirrors



Unlike movies, it’s possible to make a solid or even a great third album. As a matter of fact, several of my all time favorite albums happen to be the third record in certain artists’ discography like Bruce Springsteen Born to Run, Green Day Dookie (the third studio album), Def Leppard Pyromania, The Ramones Rocket to Russia, The Clash London Calling and Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power. After careful thinking, I realized my favorite album for several artists in their entire catalog turned out to be their “third” album and included Metallica Master of Puppets, Radiohead OK Computer, Arcade Fire The Suburbs and The Smiths The Queen is Dead.

Before I even started composing this review I brainstormed what would work as the perfect label to call a third album, but to no avail. Even my extensive research proved inconclusive. As you can imagine, labeling albums beyond “debut” and “sophomore” became frustrating.  The possible vocabulary to describe subsequent albums proved preposterous. Personally, I wish there was an accurate term to describe a tremendous third album.

This is the case with Gotye’s latest release, Making Mirrors. Gotye has released two previous indie rock albums Boardface and Like Drawing Blood and is one-third of indie-pop band The Basics. For almost the past decade, this award winning singer-songwriter has been a force to reckon with and there are no signs of him wearing down. Gotye is here to stay.

An ingenious introspective album, Making Mirrors marks the beginning to a great new year. When the album initially came out late last year, Making Mirrors was only available as an import. When it comes to music, the word import is both my best friend and worst enemy. I prefer physically purchasing an item specifically made for my own region rather than owning an “overpriced album” just so I could possess an album earlier than everyone else. Now you know why I delayed writing this review.

In recent years, it seems the first track for certain albums, particularly for indie and alternative artists, will have “opening tracks” that act as a precursor and intro to the actual album like “Swords” off Zola Jesus’ Conatus. However, some mainstream artists use this gimmick of an “opening track” as a fun warm up like LMFAO “Rock the Beat II” off Sorry For Party Rocking. In either case I think it’s a great way to ignite interest in your fans and the anticipation is awesome. The titular track “Making Mirrors” is one such song. It’s a nice mellow tune easing you into the first great album of 2012.

The musical genius Gotye unleashes the unique “Easy Way Out” as his second track and it sounds like an acid infused, psychedelic-like version of The Beatles “Day Tripper.” For two minutes, this song will hook you immediately and just as quickly the tune abruptly ends without reaching a climax. Don’t make this song a “distant memory” because the album is just starting.

The lead single and third track featured on Making Mirrors is the critically acclaimed and extremely popular “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Maybe I’m a sucker with songs about bad breakups and relationships, but this song is catchy on so many levels it’s not even funny.  “Somebody That I Used to Know” is the first Gotye song to chart in the United States. As of this review, it’s steadily moving up the charts and is currently a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Somebody That I Used to Know” starts off with Gotye singing as someone reminiscing about his past flame in a caring and reflective  manner, but bursts through as a classic 80s pop song as though it were Sting during his days with The Police. One can even argue Gotye sounds like Phil Collins when he was the lead singer of Genesis once the chorus starts.

“But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened
And that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough.”

Kimbra’s collaboration on “Somebody That I Used to Know” enhances each single syllable she utters and makes me remember all my past relationships. This New Zealand vocalist oozes the emotional rollercoaster side of relationships and takes this song to a whole new level. Kimbra is another artist worth discovering if you don’t already know her.

“Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
And I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know”

There absolutely needs to be more songs with these two outstanding, outspoken sensational singers. I honestly could keep describing “Somebody That I Used to Know,” but I rather not bore you. By the way, Natasha Pincus needs a shout out and some recognition for directing a stunning modern masterpiece music video for “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

Gotye once again sounds like Sting on “Eyes Wide Open” and his luminous lyrics “So this is the end of the story/ Everything we had, everything we did…” are remarkable throughout the song. Somehow Gotye utilizes the best of the 80s pop scene by creating intelligent, inspiring tunes that transcends generations with its relevant adult themes such as hard breakups. As Wayne and Garth proclaimed to Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World, “I’m not worthy.”

Making Mirrors continues to stun listeners with its wide range of compelling compositions, but nothing seems too random.  The retro “I Feel Better” seems similar to Fitz and The Tantrums with its infectious soulful sound, while “In Your Light” has an acoustic guitar intro similar to George Michael’s “Faith.”  Other notable songs include “Bronte,” “Giving Me a Chance,” “State of the Art” and “Don't Worry, We'll Be Watching You” on this terrific 12 track album.

There are also additional tracks  available for individuals who pre-ordered the album on iTunes, including a remix of Gotye’s hit song “Somebody I Used to Know” by Faux Pas, "Dig Your Own Hole" and “Showdown Below My Sombrero" (only if you pre-ordered the CD/DVD version). Regardless of what version of the album you own or want to own, Making Mirrors exists as one of the Top 10 albums of 2012. Yes, I said it. Rest assured when it comes to compiling my “Best of List,” Making Mirrors will without a doubt be on that list.

--Mr Brownstone





Friday, February 24, 2012

Deadstar Assembly


Deadstar Assembly.

Where oh where do I start with this band? They're certainly one of my favorites. I found them, how all great discoveries are made, by accident a few years ago when I was eleven. The Youtube player was on shuffle and they popped up right after Spectrum-X. The video was for "Breathe For Me" off of their self-titled debut. It was moving, wonderful, and totally captured that helpless, I-just-need-something-to-believe-in angst. I was instantly captured by how rough, and yet melodic their sound was. Deadstar Assembly's second album Unsaved came out shortly after that, and you best believe I went right out, bought it, plunked myself down in my room, and didn't take those headphones off for days.

Deadstar Assembly is a strange culmination of all that's great about industrial metal, with touches of goth rock thrown in to create this hard-edged, enigmatic wall of sound that roars (quite literally) listeners down from the first notes of the album to the last verse of the last track. Their sound is completely unique, you know instantly when you are listening to a DSA song. I challenge anyone to find another band that is as innovative in the industrial metal scene today, or that has a better relationship with their fans.

I meet people all over that see my DSA buttons and go on and on about how they went to a concert, met the guys and they were so cool, and down-to-earth. In my personal experience, I asked them on Facebook if I could do a review, and I wasn't expecting to hear back for a few days, if at all, and they got back to me within an hour. From someone who has had her fair share of being disappointed and/or ignored by rockstars, that's pretty cool.

Their third album, Coat of Arms, is easily one of my favorite albums of all time. It's brash, it's completely different than anything else I've heard, it's in-your-face, it's "D"-all-of-the-above on the freakin' awesome scale. To list all the great songs from the album, I'd have to list them all. The first song I ever heard from DSA, "Breathe For Me" is on this album too, which is sort of confusing, but enjoyable all the same. My favorite track off of the album has got to be "F.Y.G." standing for, "Fuck Your God." This song does make me laugh, because, come on, when is the last time there was a band with enough guts to be like, "Yeah, we just said that, this is what we think, it doesn't matter what you think!" so blatently in a song? Now, before you jump on the "they hate christianity, attack!" bandwagon, from the band themselves, "FYG is about celebrity worship, nothing to do with religion. It pokes fun at the media making celebrities out of people that have no merit and contribute nothing. The prerequisite being money, beauty and a scandalous sex tape. Fascinating how people find Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian interesting."


Mid-January, Deadstar Assembly released a clip of a brand new song, "Blame It On the Devil." Holy fuck, hell was just unleashed through my speakers. It sounds fresh, different, and like it moves in a slightly different direction than past albums, but still has that innate DSA feel. Deadstar Assembly is still in the writing and recording stage of their fourth album, Adorned In Thorns. There is no specific release date right now, but according to the band's Facebook page, the album will be out sometime in 2012.

I really don't know what else I can say about this band besides they are phenomenal at what they do, and they are very special to me. Their music has helped me out in hard times, and still there to rock out to when I'm happy. I keep trying to think of bands that sound like DSA, but there really aren't any. If you like music that is brutal, hard-hitting, with goth overtones, and a strong backbone of electronic, this is definitely a band you will love, just like I do.

--Gorgeous Nightmare



NAPALM DEATH streams new album, "Utilitarian", online

Napalm Death on Facebook

In anticipation of the release of their new album, Utilitarian , on February 27th in Europe and February 28th in North America, the legendary NAPALM DEATH is now giving fans the chance to listen to their grindcore masterpiece online in its entirety! To join the album listening party, head here:

http://www.cmdistro.de/

Tom Waits - Nighthawks at the Diner

 Nighthawks at the Diner

I found Waits via his readings of Bukowski's works (to me Waits sounds exactly like Hank's poems were meant to sound when read aloud, versus the author's own readings, which to me just absolutely fail).

--and also via the Bulletboys' "Hang on St. Christopher," if we're being honest--

And though I really like several, this if by far my fave Waits album.

It's a live set, from 1975. Each song has an intro (meaning badinage with the audience before the actual song commences) and then the song itself.

This is the near-perfect intersection of poetry and music-- Waits essentially talks through many of these songs/tales, and the primary reason to keep listening is not the song, nor the melody (though those are good)-- but the narrative. See, in particular, "Big Joe and Phantom 309," with its ghost-storied tale, not unlike the tale of Large Marge from "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."

Think of it as a boozy "Prairie Home Companion."

It's a lounge act --but not in the derogatory, Bill Murray's SNL "Nick Winters the Lounge Singer" variety-- but in the most entertaining/ yet still sleazy version possible. If Waits isn't drunk while performing these tunes he's doing a great impersonation of it: witness his slurred and sung discussions of the local Los Angeles eateries, which, judging by the audience's response, are accurate and witty regardless.

It's a very relaxing, intimate, late-night piece of work.

Opening intro is all sax and piano and slurred speech-- and though there's an alto sax, it's not particularly "jazzy"-- the horn is just used to exaggerate the late-night atmosphere for the stories contained within the tunes.

This is background music (a term I hate; no music should be meant for the background), but in the best sense. Put this on and you'll drift off to sleep in the absolute best company.

And your subconscious will be absolutely laden with interesting tales.

Enjoy your luscious dreams.

--Horn

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Corrosion of Conformity


Man, I am stoked that this new Corrosion of Conformity album is so good! They were one of the first hardcore punk bands that I discovered on my own, thanks to the recommendation of Bob Muldowney in the pages of his Kick Ass fanzine in 1984. When Animosity came out a year later it was blasting on my stereo pretty much non-stop and I even interviewed drummer Reed Mullin for my high school newspaper. It was also one of the first "hardcore" tapes my friends who were into Ozzy/Dio/Priest/Scorps could tolerate. Well, at least most of it. Side two was a bit much for them but I loved it. So when it was announced that C.O.C.'s ever changing line up was reverting back to the Animosity trio of bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and Mullin I was very excited. I missed their NY show on the first go round but heard they were great. When it was announced that they were going to do a new record I really didn't know what to expect. I think the last C.O.C. album I heard all the way through was Blind and that was about 20 years ago.

Album opener "Psychic Vampire" starts off with a heavy groove before switching up with a fast punk part before returning to the groove. A very nice Bad Brains via Mahvishnu Orchestra way to begin. "River Of Stone" and the instrumental "El Lamento de las Cabras" are slower and moodier and make a fast thrasher like "Leeches" sound even faster and heavier. "Leeches" (sung by Reed) is really the only song similar to their vintage thrash era. Unsurprisingly, "The Doom" is slow and heavy but has some fast parts, too. C.O.C. was heavily into the first 2 Trouble albums when they came out when at a time when most metal fans were not into them. I always thought it was funny how a hardcore band got a lot of metallers into bands like Trouble and Saint Vitus because they'd wear their t-shirts.

The rest of the album is just kick ass heavy rock. Not fully metal, not punk, not classic rock. These guys always liked to play in the "beyond category" vein and that's what I really like about this album. The production is great, too. Woody's guitar tone is hard n heavy and blends well with Mike's booming bass. Reed's drumming is top notch. He throws in a lot of cool Clive Burr drum fills mixed in with some Earl from Bad Brains high hat work. There's even some "Pay To Cum" style cowbell!

I hope this album finds an audience. I know a lot of their fans are skeptical because Pepper Keenan isn't in the band right now and they probably never liked early C.O.C. They lost many their original hardcore fans after the Technocracy EP and this album might not win them back if all they like is punk rock. Their loss is my gain, I guess. I got my ticket for the NYC show on March 1 and I can't wait to see these guys rage the stage again.

--Woody

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Royal Hunt – Show Me How To Live


If you follow my reviews, you know that I’m a sucker for this power metal stuff that comes out of Europe.  Power metal bands there seem to be like Starbuck’s locations here in the US, on just about every street corner.  And I’m glad for that, because I dig this stuff.  One of these days I’m going to spend a summer in Europe, going to all the big outdoor festivals and listening to power metal until my head explodes.  And I will die happy.

Here we have Royal Hunt, and their new release “Show Me How To Live”.  Very good stuff indeed.  These guys have been around for 20 years now and this is their 11th release.  Can’t say I’ve heard all 11, but then again, how many bands can one actually keep track of and listen to everything they release?  Maybe you can do that, but I’m limited to just a few bands that actually do it that much for me.

Royal Hunt are best described as a symphonic, progressive metal band.  At least I think so anyway.  They are a Danish band, but this album marks the return of American vocalist DC Cooper, who performed on 2 previous releases but then went on his way to other things.  He is a very talented singer and his voice is perfect for this style of metal.  He has a good range and hits all the right notes in all the right places.

The music is very well written and performed.  The opening track, “One More Day”, is a standout track for me.  I really liked the way the song started with a theme, then built up and worked that theme back in forth for the duration of the track.  Other tracks that stood out to me are “Hard Rain’s Coming” and “Angel’s Gone”.  They provide some good variation on the album.  A lot of times power metal can suffer from all the tracks being the some sort of mid-tempo slog, so that by the time you finish listening to an album nothing really stands out.  These tracks provide some good tempo changes, subject matter, and some excellent playing.

My favorite track on the album is “Half Past Loneliness”.  This song has one of the catchiest melodies I’ve heard in a while and I found it stuck in my head all the time, even after just a couple of listens.  And there’s a killer guitar solo in there, too, so how can you go wrong?

One of the best things about writing these reviews is getting to catch up with a band that you haven’t heard from in a while and see what they are up to.  I’m really glad to have heard this release by Royal Hunt and to hear that they are still pumping out some quality metal.  Check this one out my friends, you will not be disappointed.  Unless, of course you are the average American metal fan who doesn’t really dig power metal.  Give this one a shot, though, it just might make you a believer.

-- ODIN





Big Bang - "Blue"

I've always been quite neutral towards Big Bang. While there have been those moments of pure and utter adoration for their material, and while I completely respect them and see them as extremely talented and more than worthy of their success, I wouldn't follow them to the ends of the earth. I'm in between adoring and hating them as a whole -- I have my likes and dislikes, but neither of them really overpower the other. Technically they're spot-on, but at the end of the day everything boils down to taste. And so does "Blue". I'm not head-over-heels for it, but I see the beauty in the song.

"Blue", although still completely Big Bang, is very different from almost all of the material we got from Big Bang in the past. Prior to this they were pretty much zipping through poles -- very intense uptempos or very sensual (for lack of a better term) R&B midtempos, rock-inspired numbers, or synth-heavy ones. "Blue" is right smack in the middle of all of that. There are a lot of things it's not, for starters it's an almost complete deviation from the fun, "let's run around stage" Big Bang we all know. For Big Bang standards, it's as if they sucked all the life out, but for regular standards that's still pretty good!

Basically my point is that Big Bang are maturing. Not in the superficial jump from album to album with the token "let's try this", but that turning point that encompasses the entire concept of Big Bang, from the material to the marketing, and even to the fans. If you think about it, Big Bang have been around for six years already. Six years! That's a century in idol years! (regardless of what country you're in) If their fans were thirteen or fourteen when they started out, in middle school/early high school, by now those fans would've already gotten into university or even started working. Even if you say that they constantly gain new, younger, fans, the majority of the Big Bang fans are already in their early 20's, and have much more mature tastes. They have to cater to those mature tastes, or at least start on it.

Interestingly enough, the only analogy I can think of for "Blue" is that it sounds a lot like water. You don't really think about water, and majority of the time you drink it because you have to, because it's free/cheap, or to flush something else down. When you do that it's tasteless (because duh, it's water) and it basically just goes right through you. But that's when you're not concentrating on it. When you think about it, or let's say when you're really thirsty, water tastes absolutely amazing. Am I right or am I right? And it's good for your body too.

"Blue" is exactly like that. If someone were to play this in a mall or a public place at regular volume no one would really notice it, and this morning I was listening to it in school and just on my laptop speakers, and honestly I was bored to death. I knew it was a pretty song, but that was about it. It was only when I came home and listened to it with headphones, really concentrated, and listened with the mindset of reviewing it, did everything else come out.

A possible technical justification of this is that yes, the vocals are on top of the entire track, and that's essentially what you hear in pop songs (what's called an "ad(vertisement) mix"), but the thing is, the melody is secondary. The intensity, and beauty, of the song comes in the way the melody, the rap, and the instruments all fuse together and deliver the entire song. The sung verses are very gentle, and if you're not thinking hard enough they can be mistaken for emotionless, but listen to what's behind them -- those almost flute-like synths, the raw but graceful "acoustic"/non-electric guitar whose line matches the bass -- there's so much happening. You have to listen to everything, but you also have to listen to the individual elements then relate them all to the whole, and that requires some kind, any kind, of critical thinking.

Which brings us back to my water analogy -- when you're thirsty, you think about what water will do to your body as a whole, but you also concentrate on the fact that it's refreshing and it actually tastes like something when you're thirsty. "Blue" has dimension, it has kick and it has dynamics, but you not only have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to hear those, you also have to be very critical. If you're not, it's just another mellow song, and in a sense it isn't that enjoyable. It's in that intellectual angle that I'm convinced that Big Bang are indeed maturing.

Just a side note, but I guess "Blue" emphasizes a point I always try to make -- that K-Pop isn't entirely stupid. The simple fact that there are people like me who write about K-Pop and take it seriously should be enough to prove that, but apparently it's not. K-Pop isn't stupid, and fans are not brainless. Whether it be in news, reviews, or even the music itself -- they all have to be produced with that mindset, because it's true. News writers think their readers are stupid, so they feed them with useless news, there are critics who think their readers are stupid as well, so they themselves stop thinking critically, and talent agencies along with the production staff think fans can't think for themselves, so they try to get away with putting out bad material. News flash people, you're the reason why the fans seem to have lost their brains, but you can also be the reason they start thinking critically.

4.5/5

Smart Music Presents Lesson One


First attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:

“Greetings everyone!”
“Mr. Penfold, why are you wearing that ridiculous wig?  And why are you wearing what appears to be a frilly long sleeved shirt that is at least two sizes too big for you along with some ancient looking flood pants and tights?”
“Excellent questions Billy!  I’m wearing clothing similar to what was fashionable back when Christopher Columbus set out to reach the East Indies.”
“What’s with the weird looking piano?”
“This isn’t a piano Chris.  It’s a harpsichord.  I’m going to play a song on it that will help you remember what we’re learning today.”

Subsequent Test Results – 64% Pass, 46% Fail

Second attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:

“Mr. Penfold, why are you wearing frayed overalls and a straw hat?”
“Well Patrick, today we are going to learn about America’s transition away from agriculture during the industrial revolution.  I’m going to play you all a song on my friend ‘Mr. Banjo’ here that I think you’ll find quite memorable.”

Subsequent Test Results – 37% Pass, 53% Fail

Third attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:

“Hahahahahahahaha!”
“May I ask what is so funny Ms. Jones?”
“You look ridiculous!”
“I’ll have you know that tie-dye shirts and bell bottom jeans were extremely popular in the late 1960s, the period of US history we are discussing today.  I’m going to play a flower-power classic on my guitar that should convey all the information you need to learn today.”

Subsequent Test Results – 55% Pass, 45% Fail

Aftermath:

“Okay class.  I give up.  My thinking was that I could use music as an effective teaching tool.  Your test scores however tell a much different story.  Do you all even like music?”
“Of course we like music Mr. Penfold.  But that music you’ve been playing for us is totally lame.”
“Lame, huh?  All right then.  What kind of music do you like then?”
“Hip-hop.”
“Ah, I see.”

A few days later:

“Class, I’d like for you to welcome a special guest who has joined us today.  His name is Lak and he is here to bust rhymes and teach you some history.”

Subsequent Test Results – 100% Pass

Waveriders it has been quite a while since I was last inside a public school classroom.  Years have gone by, but the passage of time has not changed two important facts.  First off, history was my favorite subject.  I love reading up on history!  Second, with the notable exception of a song used to remember the names and capital cities of Central and South American countries, the majority of educational music I’ve been subjected to has been terrible.  Okay maybe the word terrible is a bit harsh, but this music is definitely not geared for anyone over the age of eight.

With that in mind, perhaps you can understand my reluctance to listen to what is openly billed as an educational hip hop album.  In my mind I pictured a couple of guys dressed up in labcoats rapping poorly with high pitched voices about the alphabet and basic math.  Thankfully, my journalistic integrity got the best of me and I decided to give Lesson One a shot.  It’s my sworn duty as a Ripple Effect writer to stay open minded after all.  I hit play on my CD player and the first song, appropriately titled “Intro” began.  The music sounded solid from the start and then the first lyrical content hit my ears.

SmartMusic entertainment / Dis da movement / We aim to elevate your mindstate through music / We want to teach and inspire you to learn more / We know the classroom for some is a straight bore / We know the hood’s at the bottom of the money list / We know the block’s full of negative influences / We know some teachers care / We know some teachers don’t / We know some families provide strength when others won’t / We know it’s never fair / Some parents never there / We know some show love then act like they never cared / The world’s cold in the middle of the summer / And if you don’t elevate your mind you never come up / We make it easier to grasp your potential and get you to understand the battle you’re fighting is mental / It’s nothing when you think about it and give it attention / And you get it poppin’ while memorizin’ the lesson / You can steer your life in a whole different direction / You can put yourself where you want to be, no question / If you can comprehend what I’m saying you can do anything / This is Smart Music, we teach and entertain.

Okay then.  That was NOT what I was expecting!  I could get behind that sentiment one hundred percent!  Time for a little research.  Smart Music Entertainment is the brainchild of Larry ‘Lak’ Henderson.  Lak has been involved in making hip hop music for several years, but Lesson One is a new venture.  He surveyed the educational music landscape and saw the same thing I had.  Most of this music was completely childish or just plain bad.  Believing that hip hop music can be a very effective teaching tool, he took it upon himself to right the wrong and made this album.  The beauty of this music is that it will appeal to adult hip hop heads just as much as its teenage target market.

Lesson One is made up of ten songs and two bonus tracks.  These songs can be broken down into three different categories.  Songs like “First 25 Presidents” and “50 States” are purely informational.  “Cash Flow”, “It’s A War”, and “Drugs” reflect on issues currently facing the youth of America.  The other songs all deal with African American history.  “Slavery” features an emcee named Nyce who together with Lak lays out the vile institutions history in an aggressive, hard hitting manner.  “Kings & Queens” and “Moors” together provide a fleshed out genealogy that will prevent any African American child from feeling inferior to anyone else.  “Invent” and “Congress Women” each offer compelling examples of African American accomplishments that should provide plenty of motivation for kids striving to achieve greatness.

The bottom line here waveriders is that this album is good.  Very good!  If you like your hip hop to have a positive or meaningful message look no further than Smart Music’s Lesson One.  This is a solid album that you can buy for your child with full confidence in the lyrical content contained within.  If you don’t tell them it is an educational album, they’ll never know its true purpose!  They’ll just call it ‘dope’.  If that term is not cool anymore I apologize.  I am far from hip.  Worst case scenario, they don’t like the album and you get to keep it yourself!

--Penfold



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

EAGLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT TO RELEASE SANTANA LIVE AT MONTREUX 2011 ~ 2DVD SET AND BLU-RAY~ Santana Lands February 21 in a Captivating Set of Greatest Hits!



Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Santana Live At Montreux 2011 on a 2DVD set & Blu-ray in a exhilarating set of jazz, Latin, funk, soul and rock 'n' roll. The 23-song show weighs heavily on the side of the songs that fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist (inducted in 1998) have loved over the years.

Filmed in high-definition and recorded in DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM Stereo, it's a total jam-packed evening of percolating percussion, soaring lead guitar solos and the kind of funky bass/drum action that has kept this band in the forefront of popular music for over 40 years.

Live At Montreux 2011 is a career-spanning show that covers all the bases: from Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va," Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman," Babatunde Olatunji's "Jingo" and Willie Bobo's "Evil Ways" to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." Carlos Santana has always had a knack for making his cover versions become spectacularly his own. His interpretive flair reached its zenith with 2010's Guitar Heaven which contains his scintillating take on Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love." Add his numerous originals, including "Smooth" and "Maria Maria," his signature style of inspired and spiritual guitar playing and you have the kind of DVD that burns with intensity.

Extras include interviews with Carlos and Cindy Blackman Santana, and a very special peek behind-the-scenes. Guest artists include the husband/wife guitar team of Susan Tedeschi and Allman Brother Derek Trucks as well as drummer/wife Cindy Blackman Santana. Over three hours long, this is the Santana concert his fans have been waiting for!

For forty years and as many albums later, Santana has sold more than 90 million records and reached more than 100 million fans at concerts worldwide. To date, Santana has won ten Grammy® Awards, including a record-tying nine for a single project, 1999's Supernatural (including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for "Smooth"). In 1998, the group was ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose web page on their induction notes, "Guitarist Carlos Santana is one of rock's true virtuosos and guiding lights." Among many other honors, Carlos Santana has also been cited by Rolling Stone as #15 on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time." His last CD, Guitar Heaven... The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time (Arista) was released in 2010. Celebrating that chart debut, Santana joined the ranks of the Rolling Stones as the only musical act in chart history to score at least one Top 10 album in every decade beginning with the 1960s. "Guitar Heaven" was Santana's 29th Billboard Top 200 charting release, 12th Top 10 album debut and third Top 10 debut in the past 7 years.


Track Listing:
Disc 1:
1) Spark Of The Divine  
2) SOCC 
3) Back In Black  
4) Singing Winds, Crying Beasts  
5) Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen  
6) Oye Como Va  
7) Maria Maria  
8) Foo Foo  
9) Corazon Espinado / Guajira  
10) Benny & Cindy Solo  
11) Jingo  
12) Carlos Speaks / Novus  
13) Europa (Earth's Cry, Heaven's Smile)  / I Want You  
14) Batuka / No One To Depend On

Disc 2:
1) Duende / Open Invitation   
2) Make Somebody Happy / Right On Be Free  
3) Evil Ways / A Love Supreme  
4) Sunshine Of Your Love  
5) Smooth / Dame Tu Amor  
6) Soul Sacrifice / Dennis Drum Solo  
7) Samba Pa Ti  
8) Into The Night  
9) Love, Peace And Happiness / Freedom

Fuzz Manta - Opus II



Heavy, hippie hard rock. Right on.

There are a lot of great female-fronted rock bands emerging from the underground lately and one of my favorites is Denmark's Fuzz Manta, who add plenty of heavy blues and 70s psychedelia into the mix.

If Opus II hasn't been covered at the Ripple Effect already, then I apologize. First, it's a spectacular hard rock album by a solid band, and second, it was released early last year and Fuzz Manta already have a new one out. Hey, I can only work with what I have.

Now that I do have a promotional copy, it's time to finally show some love. On Opus II, Fuzz Manta promptly deliver eight tracks and 45 minutes of excellent hard rock goods.

"Motumann" kicks things off with fuzzy riffs and a hip-shaking groove. Sultry vocals. About halfway through the band break down into the psychedelic realm of rock before a blistering solo. Much of "Man With No Face" is up-tempo, with a Deep Purple feel, thanks to some well placed organ riffs, and the acoustic "Quiet Monday" immediately brings to mind ELP, and perhaps Led Zeppelin. This is one of my favorites, even though it's the most mellow.

It's too bad that "Lithia's Box" is only available on the cd and download versions. Not only is it one of the longest songs on Opus II, but it has some one of the heaviest, bluesy-ass riffs and I think it's one of the band's best, with killer breakdowns about five minutes in. I had thought about getting the vinyl but without this song...I don't know.

"Turn Around" just might be 'the one' for me, though. Super-heavy riffage here, man. I think Fuzz Manta bring it with best of them.

I've included a live performance of the last track, "Let Me Walk", so you can get a sense of the electricity generated by this band. The sounds quality isn't the greatest, but you can still feel the buzz throughout. I know I can.

Lene (vocals) has a captivating stage presence and reminds me of a young Grace Slick or Janis Joplin. She's as sexy as her voice, too.  Pelle (drums) doesn't even use his sticks during part of his incredible solo, about four minutes into the song. Check it out. He lays them down for a few and just uses his bare hands. Awesome. Freddy (guitar), sporting his YES shirt, and Morten (bass), with his hair flying all over, both give spectacular performances.

After the live video, listen to a few more tracks from Opus II here: http://soundcloud.com/fuzzmanta/sets/opus-ii-promo/ Or check out the band's website and Facebook page. Then get your cd or vinyl copy from Kozmik Artifactz, if you don't already have it. I sure hope to be writing about the latest release by Fuzz Manta in the near future.

Peace and love.

--Heddbuzz



http://www.fuzzmanta.com/

https://www.facebook.com/fuzzmanta

http://www.kozmik-artifactz.com/

Monday, February 20, 2012

Christian Mistress - Possession

 (Re-presenting a Horn review originally published on The Soda Shop)

Very like The Devil's Blood (i.e., highly capable female singer with traditional doom metal/ rock music background), but more 70s rock/metal, less 70s rock/pop. If that made any sense.

Shut up. You read this site. You knew very well what I meant.

"Over and over," a satanic T-rex, a heavier Kansas... "Pentagram and Crucifix," almost like a track from Danzig's eponymous debut (and very nearly as sweet) with its alternating time (i.e., downbeat to forebeat in the verse)... "Conviction" is an (improbably) Y&T-like ripper....

"The Way Beyond" fires up a lap steel-laced acoustic intro and slows things down for a minute or two, before igniting a "Children of the Grave"-esque riff--

seriously, if you're reading this site, you love stoner/doom riffs. This track alone would complete you sexually:

Guys: you could poke holes in a board with your dick after this one; girls, you could drown a toddler in your panties/knickers.

"Possession" has a great slinky riff not unlike (ironically) Danzig's "Possession,"  (though it's only reminiscent of it, at best), "Back to Gold" rocks and sways its hips like the best delta blues (Albert King, whaddya think of this?); "There is Nowhere" opens like a continuation of the end of "Symptom of the Universe" (funky, semi-tribal acoustics), "Haunted Hunted" has some freakin sweet twin lead harmonies, and closer "All Abandon" just rocks all-out, NWOBHM-ishly, then closes out this badass baby of a satanicish rock/ metal record with a dissonant, diabolus in musica of a final melody/riff.

All tracks, too, are nicely concise and brief (almost like they were radio-ready! ha! remember that?). No self-indulgent 10-minute tracks here. They can write songs and they do. It's a nice change from most doom/ metal acts.

All in all: this is really fun doom/stoner/tradition metal. And I'm sober as a nun right now.* Imagine if you were otherwise.

*He said, despairingly.

--Horn





Billy Joel - Piano Man (2 CD Legacy Edition)

 Piano Man (2 CD Legacy Edition)

There's no doubt about it.  Billy Joel deserves his place in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.  Just the work over his pivotal 3 albums, The Stranger, 52nd Street, and Glass Houses cements this.  But prior to those albums,in late 1973, Columbia Records released Billy Joel's first major album, Piano Man. The album went on to sell more than 4-times RIAA platinum to date, and is one of the corner-stones of Billy Joel's Columbia catalog of nearly 20 studio and live albums.

Still, back in the day, I could never get into Piano Man.  Yes, I loved the title track (more on that later) but the rest of album left me flat.  It is a strange album after all, not utilizing the Billy Joel band, but a bunch of California studio musicians.  Plus, there's this inexplicable country-western vibe to the album, so different from the NY street level storytelling of The Stranger.  Perhaps it was this bluegrass feel that turned me off. Or the muddied production.  Or the lack of a "Just the Way You Are."  Whatever, I couldn't get into it like the following three.

Almost four decades later, Piano Man (Legacy Edition) brings the 10-song album back in the spotlight.  Completely re-mastered, the album finally clicks for me.  Finally, the sound is where it's supposed to be, vibrant and clear and full of punch.  The bluegrass vibe of "Travelin' Prayer," works this time, sounding rousing and hopeful, as does the rest of the album.  Still, not as developed as Joel's later work, and not as important as the following three albums, Piano Man finally sounds like a fitting introduction to a man who had a major impact on American music.

 Then of course, there's the title track, "Piano Man," still one of my favorite songs of Joel's ever.  The Lonliness and despair he brings forth in his observations about the regulars at the bar in LA where he had a piano-bar residency for 6 months are spot on.  The emptiness is clear.  The longing is palpable.  When he sings in the voice of the bartender, "Bill, I believe this is killing me, as the smile ran away from his face." it's one of those transcendent moments in music for me (like Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle") where I actually feel moved to the brink of tears. He evokes that kind of emotion.  Amazing stuff.

But don't buy Piano Man for the remastered version of the album (even though it sounds better than ever before.)  If you're a Billy Joel fan, buy the Legacy Edition for the second CD, an entire previously unreleased 1972 live radio concert (predating Joel's Columbia signing by a year).

This concert is legendary in Joel's fans hearts, and launched his career.  Early support for Joel came from Philadelphia, specifically the top-rated FM station WMMR, which programmed a live concert series taped in the intimate Sigma Sound Studios. Billy recorded a concert for the series on April 15, 1972. Three of the 12 songs that he performed were destined for inclusion on his next album (more than a year and a half away) Piano Man: "Travelin Prayer," the Aaron Copland-esque "The Ballad Of Billy The Kid," and the notorious "Captain Jack." Tapes of the 'MMR concert made the rounds, with "Captain Jack" turning into an "underground" FM favorite. Some of those listeners happened to work for Columbia Records, and soon the groundwork was being laid for Billy Joel to come to New York and audition for the label. The rest is history.

But what fascinates me most about this show are how fully developed a talent Joel was at that early point in his career and how positively awkward he was as a performer.

Musically, his songs shine bright.  His playing was impeccable, his voice superb.  And his early rendition of "She's Got a Way," is breathtaking -- still one of his best melodies ever.  Yet, as a performer, this awkward kid from New York was a hilarious mess.  His between song banter is reduced to horribly, ill-fated jokes, stutters, awkwardness, and loud slurps from his mug of beer.  And I mean loud slurps.  May even be a burp or two in there.  Truthfully, his banter was so bad, it would be painful to listen to if I didn't know how it was going to all turn out for him years later.  Still, as a snapshot of a young artist, it's priceless.

Piano Man, will never be The Stranger to me, but in this version it's an album worthy of the space it takes up on my Billy Joel shelf. 

--Racer