Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Rock & Roll Is Dead...Long Live Rock & Roll!...

"Rock is finally dead."
                                    Gene Simmons, 
                                         Esquire Magazine, 
                                         September 4, 2014

A few months ago, While being interviewed by his son, Nick Simmons, for the Esquire piece, Gene Simmons of Kiss lamented that rock and roll as we know it is dead.  And if you read the piece he makes very good points about how hard it is for a rock band to get started and find success in today's market.  He went on about how file-sharing helped kill it [which I agree completely] and how bands used to be able to develop over time.  Gone are the days where a band can take the time to nurture it's sound and develop organically, because the record labels want a hit. 

I have touched on this before but what struck me was that Slash responded to Mr. Simmons' comments and I liked what he had to say.  He didn't disagree with the point, but he did say that while it is harder to make it, if you are truly a musician who wants to make a living making music, make it about the music and nothing else. His comments can be read HERE...

I took some time off after initially writing this, and had the opportunity with my fiance to see two bands live that really made me think that Rock and Roll is far from dead.  Again, you have to be willing to look for it, buy it, and make everyone you know that likes this type of music listen to it.  It's only then that we can make sure this type of music we love survives.  Used to be we would trade tapes, now we share YouTube videos.  Whatever it takes!

My first of the two shows was a band that I have looked forward to seeing for a while, and they splintered off their North American tour with Within Temptation to play some shows farther south.  I had the pleasure of seeing Amaranthe at the State Theater in St. Petersburg, Florida on October 30th. 

This Swedish/Danish band has been described as metal with a more pop oriented chorus.  Clean lead vocalists Elize Ryd and Jake E. are joined by "unclean" vocalist/grunter/screamer Henrik Englund.  The musical backbone is guitarist Olof Morck, bassist Johan Andreassen, and drummer Morten Lowe Sorenson.  Keyboards were sampled for the show, and barring a few technical hitches with the sound the band came off extremely well.  The crowd was small but loyal and sang along with everything.  The three vocalists shared the spotlight pretty well, and all three sounded great.  Morck and Andreassen showed off their chops and Sorensen's solo kicked some ass too.  

The songs were spot on and the band just kept the momentum throughout the show.  Playing a mix of the first three albums they opened with "Digital World" off the new release "Massive Addictive" and kept the momentum going until about 2/3 into the show where they played the ballad "Amaranthine" off of the debut, which really showcased Ryd's outstanding vocals.  

They encored with "Dynamite" off of "Massive Addictive", "Drop Dead Cynical" also off their latest release and getting a lot of airplay recently on Sirius satellite's "Octane" station, and finishing with a bang doing the title track from their second record "The Nexus."

My only complaint about the show, and it's with the theater and not the band, is that the venue has a "boombox in a trashcan" kind of acoustic to it, at least that what my ears are hearing.  Things bounce too much and the overall sound mix was louder than I think it should have been.  Maybe I've finally hit that point where if it's too loud you're too old...but I think the band deserves to sound as great as it can, without the hindrance of a bad mix or volume.  

I had the pleasure of meeting them after the show and I really could not have found a more friendly, gracious, and personable group of people.  Each came out and signed basically everything you asked them too and took pictures and not once acted or looked like this was above them.  They really showed how much they appreciate their fans.  And while I've always loved the band, I came away with a great deal of respect for them as well.  They rocked hard, and really wanted to give you a show.  I spoke to guitarist Olof Morck after the show and asked him about a live record from this band, he said it's something they have been talking about and we may see something along those lines in the near future.  I certainly hope so...

Just two weeks later we took in Halestorm at the Mahaffey Theater also in St. Petersburg, FL.  This time I had no complaints about the sound.  The Mahaffey is a true theater [complete with private boxes] and the acoustics are outstanding.  The band was in top form and were on a small tour with other Nashville bands "The Dead Deads" and "New Medicine".  They were taking a break from recording their third full length release out this Spring.  

Opening with just Lzzy Hale doing an a capella version of "She Don't Mind" off of the new release the band then kicked into "Love Bites [So Do I]" off of their latest The Strange Case Of....  They played predominantly of the latest record and only 4 songs from the debut, performing "It's Not You", "Innocence", "Familiar Taste Of Poison" and "I Get Off."  

There were a few covers thrown in from their "ReAniMate" covers albums. On Judas Priests' "Dissident Aggressor" Lzzy Hale really nailed it and the band did Ronnie James Dio proud with their version of "Straight Through The Heart" of off "This Is Your Life - A Tribute To Ronnie James Dio"

The band was tight and they all looked like they were having a great time with the crowd.  Lzzy did a solo version of "Break In" with just the electric piano and Arejay Hale's drum solo really got the crowd going.  

Overall you could not have asked for a better show.  The sound was great, the song selection kicked and Lzzy Hale is one hell of a vocalist.  This girl has got some lungs!... and she makes it all look so effortless.  She dedicated "Daughters Of Darkness" to all the girls in the audience, telling them that they can be anything they want to be in the world..and then kicked into it...

The closing song of "The Strange Case Of..." is "Here's To Us" and it's how they finished their encore after performing "I Like It Heavy" off of the forthcoming album.  I don't know if they recorded it thinking it would be one of the best closing songs ever, but I have a feeling they will be playing it last for a very long time.  Thanks for the great show and I certainly look forward to the new record!...

Which brings us around to some great music that has been released recently that certainly backs up the sentiment that although to the American music industry rock may be dead...to the fans rock and roll is alive and well.  And to kick off our recall of releases we start with Slash himself, along with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators, with their latest "World On Fire"...

For the year 2014 I'm calling the "World On Fire" the rock album of the year.  17 tracks, 77 minutes including an instrumental, and not a filler track on it.  Reviews have been mixed, mostly positive, but I don't really pay attention to them anyway.  Most of the time someone tries to come across as an authority and blah blah blah you to death about their knowledge of the artist, and more importantly, how the record should have sounded.  Complete crap.  If you like great hard rock from one of the world's premier guitarists, this is the record for you. If not, you're probably not reading this anyway.

The opening title track is a blistering hard rock anthem, and the band is in high gear from the first note.  The synergy of Slash, Kennedy, bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz is nothing short of spectacular.  

Over the 17 tracks you find a mixture of rock, slow groove, introspection, monster riffs and great soloing [particularly on the instrumental "Safari Inn." 

 My favorites aside from the title track include "Wicked Stone", "Shadow Life", "Battleground", "Unholy" and "30 Years To Life" [which opens sounding like "Paradise City" mixed with Pretty Reckless' "Heaven Knows" and then the riff kicks in.] 77 minutes never sounded so good.  

Some heavy hitters in the rock [which includes melodic rock/hard rock] category for 2014 also include... [In no particular order...]

Altitudes & Attitude [Anthrax Bassist Frank Bello and Megadeth Bassist Dave Ellefson] Great EP!

Sixx.A.M. - Modern Vintage - Back with a great 3rd release.  They borrow from the 70's and particularly Cheap Trick on this one... [and a great cover of The Cars' "Drive"...] 

Poets Of The Fall - Jealous Gods [The Greatest Finnish Hard Rock Band You Never Heard But Should!!...]

Ace Frehley - Space Invader [Space Ace Is Back!]

Black Label Society - Catacombs Of The Black Vatican

L.R.S. - Down To The Core[Tommi LaVerdi from 21 Guns, Josh Ramos from The Storm/Hardline and Michael Shotten of Von Groove/Airtime]

Mr. Big - ...The Stories We Could Tell... [Drummer Pat Torpey is suffering from the onset of Parkinson's Disease, and the drums were recorded electronically with his patterns and sounds as he has become unable to play...and this record still kicks major ass!]

House Of Lords - Precious Metal

California Breed [Drummer Jason Bonham [Airrace/Bonham/Black Country Communion], Vocalist Glenn Hughes [Deep Purple/Trapeze/Black Country Communion] and Guitarist Andrew Watt]
Red - Release The Panic Recalibrated

Rubicon Cross [Furyon Guitarist Chris Green and Firehouse Vocalist C.J. Snare]

Jeff LaBar [Cinderella] - One For The Road

KXM [George Lynch [Dokken/Lynch Mob], DUg Pinnick [King's X] and Ray Luzier [Korn]

Night Ranger - High Road

Skid Row - Rise Of The Damnation Army - United World Rebellion: Chapter Two

W.E.T. - Live In Stockholm

H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls

Red Dragon Cartel

Winery Dogs - Unleashed In Japan

Vandenberg's Moonkings [Vandenberg/Whitesnake guitarist Adrian Vandenberg is back with a new band and great record...]

Unisonic - Light Of Dawn

Tesla - Simplicity

Red Zone Rider [Shredder/UFO guitarist Vinnie Moore, Baton Rouge/Blue Murder Vocalist [and playing fretless bass] Kelly Keeling and Brides of Destruction drummer Scott Coogan]

Neal Schon - So U

Winger - Better Days Comin'

Brother Firetribe - Diamond In The Firepit

Gotthard - Bang!

W.A.M.I. - Kill The King [Doogie White[Rainbow/Michael Schenker/Yngwie Malmsteen],Vinnie Appice [Black Sabbath/Dio], Marco Mendoza [Whitesnake], Iggy [Anti-Tank Nun]

Work Of Art - Framework

Kix - Rock Your Face Off

Buckcherry - F**K

Charm City Devils - Battles

X-Drive - Get Your Rock On

Texas Hippie Coalition - Ride On

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie

Rated X [Blue Murder rhythm section of drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tony Franklin with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals and Carl Cochran on guitar...]

Black Veil Brides - Black Veil Brides

Whitesnake - Live In '84 Back To The Bone

The Treatment - Running With Dogs

Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways

Nickelback - No Fixed Address

Lynch Mob - Sun Red Sun

Joe Satriani - The Complete Studio Recordings [Box Set]

AC/DC - Rock Or Bust

2014 was also the year of the lady... many female led bands [or bands with at least one lead singer...] released some great new material this year... Even bands that took the year off were represented... Halestorm's Lzzy Hale makes a guest appearance on Lindsey Stirling's release and Nightwish's Floor Jansen appears with Timo Tolkki's Avalon [in the Metal section...] Elize Ryd made the list twice with her band Amaranthe and also Timo Tolkki's Avalon...

Pretty Reckless - Going To Hell

Delain - The Human Contradiction

Lindsey Stirling - Shatter Me

Xandria - Sacrificium

Within Temptation - Hydra

Lacuna Coil - Broken Crown Halo

Epica - The Quantum Enigma

Amaranthe - Massive Addictive

Anette Olzon - Shine

Kobra & The Lotus - High Priestess

Arch Enemy - War Eternal

Moonland - Moonland

Adrenaline Rush - Adrenaline Rush

Within Temptation - Let Us Burn: Elements & Hydra Live In Concert

Liv Kristine [Leave's Eyes] - Vervain

Angelica [Angelica Rylin from The Murder Of My Sweet] - Thrive


Flying Colors - Second Nature

Yes - Heaven & Earth

Genesis - R-Kive [Box set with both band and solo material]

Pink Floyd - The Endless River

Threshold - For The Journey

Trevor Rabin - Live In LA [re-issue or the 2003 release]

Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope


Iced Earth - Plagues Of Babylon

Adrenaline Mob - Men Of Honor

Accept - Blind Rage

Dream Theater - Breaking The Fourth Wall: Live From The Boston Opera House

Opeth - Pale Communion

Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Sebastian Bach - Give 'Em Hell

Suicide Silence - You Can't Stop Me

Edguy - Space Police -Defenders Of The Crown-

Ronnie James Dio - This Is Your Life

Pretty Maids - Louder Than Ever

Gamma Ray - Empire Of The Undead

Motionless In White - Reincarnate

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls

Steel Panther - All You Can Eat

Marty Friedman - Inferno

Gus G. - I Am The Fire [Ozzy/Firewind guitarist]

Hammerfall - [r]Evolution

Vanden Plas - Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld - Path One

DragonForce - Maximum Overload

Tuomas Holopainen - Music Inspired By The Life And Times Of Scrooge

Timo Tolkki's Avalon - Age Of The Apocalypse

Primal Fear - Delivering The Black

Axel Rudi Pell - Into The Storm

Iron Maiden [Vinyl Single Re-releases]

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter

Fozzy - Do You Wanna Start A War?

Jaded Heart - Fight The System

Allen/Lande - The Great Divide

Ozzy Osbourne - Memoirs Of A Madman [Compilation]

Riot [V] - Unleash The Fire

Machine Head - Bloodstone & Diamonds

TNT - 30th Anniversary 1982-2012 Live In Concert

John5 - Careful With That Axe

Angra - Secret Garden

Missed It The First Time Around... 

Serenity - War Of Ages [2013] 

Serenity's War Of Ages was on my list of wants for a while and I finally got to it this past fall...and I wish I had bought it in 2013!.  Great production, the addition of the outstanding vocals of Clementine Delauney, and excellent musicianship and songs... This is still in rotation regardless of what comes in and out of the player.  Symphonic Metal at it's best!

Masterplan - Novum Initium [2013]

I was a fan of Masterplan with Jorn Lande on vocals for the first two, and I really like MK II with former Riot singer Mike DiMeo, but I never got around to finishing the catalog.  I picked up Time To Be King with Jorn back on vocals and finally Novum Initium with vocalist Rick Altzi.  I first heard Altzi on Magnus Karlsson's record and found him to have a strong voice with at times a touch or two of Jeff Scott Soto, of whom I'm a fan... so I picked this up and was not disappointed.  Great hard rock and Altzi may not be Jorn, but he certainly holds his own while adding his own sound.  You won't be disappointed.  

Rush - Grace Under Pressure 1984 Tour [2006]

I am a huge Rush fan... Live shows... all the recordings purchased multiple times... vinyl, cassette [multiple times], first edition cds, remaster cd's, recently the Atlantic box remasters with Vapor Trails Remixed... So why the delay?... I'm not a video watcher.  I have many recordings where I bought the dvd/cd set just for the audio and haven't once watched the live videos [guilty here with Dream Theater as well...] So when I picked up the Atlantic Box I saw that they had finally released the Grace Under Pressure Tour disc separately in 2006...and I forgot completely about it. I kept saying I was going to buy it back then and found most likely a few hundred others in it's place and then just moved forward without a second thought...  So what did I miss? I missed what is without a doubt in my mind the best recorded live Rush cd in the catalog.  Whether you're a fan of phase 3 Rush [Signals/Grace/Power Windows/Hold Your Fire] or not you will still enjoy how crisp sounding the songs from Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures sound.  Geddy Lee sounds outstanding here.  I wish they had recorded all the tours and released them.  I'd line up for them... I do love the fact that they recorded all of Moving Pictures for the last round of live records, but I wish they had done it from the 1980 tour, before age and time changed Geddy's voice. The songs really sound great here, and Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson play at their usual best.  If you are a casual fan you may or may not enjoy it...if you are a longtime fan and don't have this already definitely pick it up...

Some other notable happenings in 2014...

1] January 26th - Black Sabbath receive the "Best Metal Perfomance" Grammy for "God Is Dead?"

2] January 28th - Motley Crue sign a "Cessation Of Tour" agreement which states that they will no longer tour ever after their current tour wraps up in 2015. [Jury still out on whether or not someone will pay them a ton of money to reunite down the road...]

3] February 6th - The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund announce Dio tribute album to pay tribute to the life and music of Dio.  Artists included on the tribute include Corey Taylor from Slipknot, Metallica, Motorhead, Rob Halford from Judas Priest, Killswitch Engage, Halestorm, Anthrax and Adrenaline Mob. [Pick this up if you haven't already!]

4] March 17th - Angela Gossow departs from Arch Enemy, she is replaced by Alissa White-Gluz [The Agonist]. She remains as the bands management.

5] March 27th - Christine McVie rejoins Fleetwood Mac for the first time in 16 years.

6] April 10th - Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame [Shame] inducts Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Kiss, Hall & Oates, Cat Stevens and Linda Ronstadt.

7] May 16th - As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis is sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot to kill his wife. 

8] June 8th - Exodus announce the departure of singer Rob Dukes.  His replacement is former Exodus singer Steve "Zetro" Souza, who sang for them from '86-'92 and from '02-'04.

9] July 10th - Garth Brooks announces a new record and tour.  The record will be his first in 13 years.

10] November 25th - Drummer Shawn Drover Announces his departure from Megadeth, citing a desire to pursue other musical interests.

11] One day later, November 26th, Guitarist Chris Broderick also announces his departure from Megadeth, citing musical differences.

We lost a few members of the Rock & Roll community this year including...

1] Dennis "Fergie" Frederiksen [Toto, LeRoux] [62]
2] Pete Seeger [94]
3] Dave "Oderus Urungus" Brockie [Gwar] - Opioid Overdose [50]
4] Randy Coven [bassist] [Ark, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen] [54]
5] Dick Wagner [Alice Cooper] - Respiratory Failure [71]
6] Casey Casem [82] [I grew up listening to that voice on America's Top 40..]
7] Johnny Winter [70]
8] Jimi Jamison [Cobra, Survivor] [63]
9] Jack Bruce [Cream] [71]
10] Wayne Static [Static-X] [48]
11] Joe Cocker [70]

Thanks for the music...you will be missed!

Sooooo... to sum it all up..."Rock & Roll Is Dead".... I'll try to remember that when I've got any of the above albums cranked up... Like I said...you have to know it's out there...and take the time to find it!... 

And now for something completely different... ;-)

Thanks For Coming Along For The Ride...