Concert Review: Soundgarden, Kansas City May 14, 2017

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*Photo taken by your intrepid blogger

My friend’s younger brother, who I call Young Goodman Brown for no good reason, emailed a couple of months ago. He lives in Tulsa now and is a successful orthopedic doctor. And here I remember him as high school kid with a bleach blonde mullet. Time passes quickly, folks. Young Goodman Brown was excited about this year’s line-up for Rocklahoma, the annual hard rock/heavy metal festival held out in some field in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. He’s always trying to convince his brother and I to come down there. After using “the Google” to find the line up, I too was impressed. The Cult was playing this year and you know how much I dig the Cult. I was surprised to also see Soundgarden on the line-up. It’s always great when a band gets back together. At the time it was the only gig they had scheduled but I knew they’d have to be doing some sort of spring/summer tour. Nobody goes out for just one gig.

To my delight and Young Goodman Brown’s disappointment, I found out that Soundgarden was indeed touring more extensively and better yet, coming to Kansas City. There would be no heavy metal camping in Oklahoma for me this year. I was a little shocked a band as heavy as Soundgarden was playing at Kansas City’s venerable Starlight Theater – it’s usually the host of Broadway type musical theater, my parents have season tickets every year, but not so last night. Right before I left for college my parents took me out there for the first time to see Elton John, which was actually awesome (much to my surprise at the time) which tells you Soundgarden isn’t the usual Starlight fare. The Rock Chick, my old friend Steven and I snapped up tickets as soon as they went on sale and Ubered out there last night. I even saw my stereo guy out there and he’s a bigger music junkie than even I am. I knew this would be a special evening.

I will say, the evening started off with the opening act, The John Dillinger Escape Plan and it was not a good start. It was three guys pounding their instruments while the lead “singer” screamed at the crowd. I literally told the beer guy I felt like I’d done something wrong and was in trouble. The lead singer was that angry… It’s hard being Catholic. It’s best to spend the time the opening act is on stage in the beer garden like I did last night. In the interest of full disclosure, I did take ear plugs out there… I knew this was going to be a loud evening.

I’m embarrassed to admit, I forget how heavy and how hard rocking Soundgarden is. I tend to think of them along with the other great grunge bands like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. And while all those guys rocked hard with an almost punk sensibility, none of them rocked as hard as Soundgarden. I remember thinking back in the 90s that they were the Sabbath of the grunge movement. My buddy Steven told me last night he heard someone say that on MTV so my “Sabbath” analogy may not be purely original, although I sure thought I came up with it. These guys rock with a fucking vengeance. Why they’re not in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame is a mystery and perhaps even a scandal.

I knew Chris Cornell was a great front man, that’s expected. His vocals are simply amazing live. I was blown away by his singing. I went out there thinking, “Well, Cornell is awesome, but Thayil will be the hero of the evening.” Kim Thayil, the lead guitar player is one of those great, great guitar gods you never hear anything about. He’s quiet, unassuming, and just shreds. He was laying thick slabs of monster riffs in the most laid back manner. He also plays some intricate, beautiful solos. The guy is the definition of virtuoso. However, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with him as I was with drummer Matt Cameron, which is saying a lot. Cameron is the engine that drives this band. After seeing last night I must say he ranks up there with Neal Peart or Tommy Lee, two of my favorite hard rock drummers. His back beat with Ben Shepherd’s loud, insistent bass guitar was the rock-bed, solid foundation from which Cornell and Thayil soar. Their chemistry is fabulous. Cornell kept having issues with his ear buds and at one time had to run backstage. The first time that happened, Cameron played a great, brief drum solo to cover for Chris. The second time it happened, the whole band joined in on a improvisational jam. I like the moments when things fuck up on stage almost as much as the precision moments.

The opening track, “Incessant Mace,” was a track I was not familiar with. My history with these guys only goes back as far as ‘Batmotorfinger,’ so the opening track wasn’t in my memory bank. Usually when I see a show, I’m such a completist I know every tune they’re playing, which I will say, helps me enjoy the show more. “Incessant Mace” is a slow rolling heavy rock number. I didn’t know it but I really enjoyed it. They played a couple other tunes I didn’t know, which I enjoyed, but then they hit their stride when they played “Spoonman.” Cameron really had the chance to shine on that one. They actually opened with the beginning of “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” which I wish they’d played in it’s entirety.

After “Spoonman” they launched into “Outshined,” a muscular, slow dirge-y “Black Hole Sun,” and then the hard “By Crooked Steps” from the great, overlooked comeback LP, ‘King Animal.’ The band played tunes from their entire career. It’d be easy at this point for them to come out and play most of ‘Superunknown’ and phone it in. These guys played all over their catalog and played with passion. “Rusty Cage” is a Rock Chick favorite and I can now say it’s one of my favorite since I heard it in all it’s glory last night. Steven turned to me last night after “Jesus Christ Pose,” and said, “I never really liked that tune until this very moment, seeing it live.” Support live music folks, it’ll change your perspective of the music and the songs. You haven’t experienced a song until you’ve heard it live.

“Fell On Black Days” was a particularly high point for me. The song came out when I was going through some bad shit, and the song means a lot to me personally. I’d announced it’s the only tune I’d be disappointed not hearing. They did not disappoint. It was built around Cornell’s fabulous vocal. I was blown away. It was truly the high point in an exceptional concert. Cornell actually played a lot more guitar than I expected last night and I have to admit, he can play. Cornell said at one point, before the encore, that his grandparents lived in Kansas City and it was always a special place to him. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seemed genuine and it was a really nice moment. Then they launched into the encore tune, “Slaves and Bulldozers,” which Cornell said was named by a 5 year old. If you want a hard rock/heavy metal clinic, put on “Slaves and Bulldozers.” It led to a feedback frenzy as each band member slowly left the stage.

This was an exceptional night and an exceptional performance. These guys are just astonishingly good. From guitar solos to vocals to drums, there were so many jaw-dropping moments. It was so heavy and so loud I felt like I was in college again. Never underestimate master musicians practicing their craft. If you’re in a city lucky enough to be on this Soundgarden tour, do yourself a favor and get a ticket. Buy the ticket, enjoy th ride! Hell, I might even go down and camp in Nowhere, Oklahoma to see them again… and that’s saying something.

Cheers!

Artist Lookback – Ozzy & Randy Rhoads: A Match Made In 80s Metal Heaven

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I had an odd history with Black Sabbath. When I first became a music obsessive, my mother’s friend Mrs. Smith (name obscured to protect the guilty), a busty, hard drinking smoker, brought a hand full of albums over to the house. She said these were the records her kids were listening to and to be friendly she thought she’d bring some music over to share with me and I could record it to cassette tapes if I so desired. I have to applaud Mrs. Smith for doing that, she was a nice if a bit unstable woman. When I saw the records I couldn’t help but think, “Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs Robinson?” I mean, I was 14 years old, all I thought about was sex and rock n roll and of course, more sex. And Mrs Smith sizable breasts were enough to be distracting…But, as usual I digress.

When I started sorting through this sudden windfall of vinyl, I realized it was all stuff I’d never heard of. My musical exploration was pretty nascent at the time. I was still a Stones, ZZ Top, bluesy rock kind of guy. The stack of records included Motorhead, Black Sabbath (‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ jumps out in my memory), and Judas Priest. This was all the current hard rock/heavy metal of the day. Just looking at the (at the time) frightening album art, I couldn’t help but think, “what the fuck is going on at the Smith house?” When I dropped the needle on “British Steel” and the music exploded out of the speakers, I thought I’d broken something on my stereo. I couldn’t help but imagine cigarette smoke filled rooms, loud screaming music and pagan sacrifices going on over there. I felt for the only time in my life, that perhaps I needed to start paying attention in mass on Sunday. Needless to say I quickly returned the Satanic musical collection to Mrs. Smith without taping any of it, which in retrospect is a shame.

Less than year later, I heard the song “Neon Nights” on the radio. Ah, I do long for those days when you could turn on a radio station like KY/102 in Kansas City and actually hear the latest in great rock n’ roll. Obviously “Neon Nights” was not the Ozzy version of Black Sabbath but the Ronnie James Dio fronted version of the band. I didn’t know Sabbath, Dio or Ozzy from Adam, as the saying goes, even though only months prior the boozy, Satanic Mrs. Smith had brought a couple of their albums to the house. I’d pretty much repressed that weird afternoon. Well, except the low cut blouse Mrs. Smith was wearing… paging Dr Freud.

I immediately ran out and bought Black Sabbath’s LP, ‘Heaven And Hell’ and absolutely loved it. I even loved the album art, a picture of angels playing poker and smoking like Mrs. Smith… Hmmm, I sense a pattern. I played the heck out of that classic LP. The fact that it scared my parents made it all the better. As far as I knew this new Black Sabbath was the only Black Sabbath. I had no idea that for years Ozzy Osbourne had been the front man of Sabbath or that he’d either quit or been fired for substance abuse. The now famous story of Ozzy languishing in a filthy LA hotel room until Sharon Arden (soon to be Osbourne) showed up to resurrect his career was something I’d never heard.

About six months after ‘Heaven And Hell’ came out, I was over at my friend Matthew’s house drinking a few afternoon beers while he burned some local herbs for medicinal purposes and he pulled out a new LP he’d purchased by this Ozzy guy, ‘Blizzard of Ozz.’ I had no idea who this Ozzy was but I loved the guitar work on this album. I’d heard “Crazy Train” on the radio, you couldn’t escape that tune, and I liked it, but the album was even better. “Mr. Crowley” was an immediate favorite. “I Don’t Know,” the opening track hooked me right away. I quickly grabbed the liner notes and read that the lead guitarist, who wrote the music was Randy Rhoads. Unlike Iommi, who was all riffs with the enormous solo interlude, Randy played like Eddie Van Halen, the man is all over the fret board. Those two, Eddie and Randy, created the blueprint for the rest of 80s metal bands. A charismatic lead singer and a speed merchant guitarist were all the parts you needed to be successful. Many emulated that sound but few got it down the way these guys did. Ozzy and Randy Rhoads were a match made in 80s Metal Heaven. I can’t explain the excitement of hearing Randy play for the first time. Something exploded in my temple. My world had been changed, the axis had altered.

‘Blizzard of Ozz’ is a must have LP for any metal enthusiast. I remember that afternoon at Matthew’s house reading the lyrics for “No Bone Movies” which is actually a condemnation of porn, something you don’t think you’d hear in 80s metal. “Suicide Solution” was about the death of the great, great Bon Scott by drinking misadventure, and not the call to kill yourself the small-minded Religious Right tried to label it. The band actually had some deep lyrics to go with the magic guitar work. ‘Blizzard’ is a stone cold classic and I immediately committed it to a cassette tape that Matthew gave me and played it in my car until the tape broke.

My first vinyl Ozzy purchase, was the follow-up LP, ‘Diary of a Madman.’ Often times great bands struggle on their second LP, the famous “sophomore slump.” Not so with Ozzy and Randy. In many ways I like ‘Diary’ better than ‘Blizzard.’ The first two tracks, “Over the Mountain” and “Flying High Again” rank amongst my favorite songs ever. When Ozzy sings, “mama’s gonna worry, I’ve been a bad, bad boy, no use saying sorry, it’s something that I enjoy,” he completely summed up my teenage years. Many people have purchased ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ but to truly understand this band, you have to have ‘Diary of a Madman.’ The title track, “Believer” and “S.A.T.O.” are all on my desert island metal list. The centerpiece of the album for me was “You Can’t Kill Rock N Roll.” It’s a determined statement of purpose and as a budding young rock enthusiast, it became my National Anthem. Unfortunately, that song’s title proved untrue. While on tour in support of ‘Diary’ Randy Rhoads was killed in an airplane crash misadventure. One of the truly gifted rock guitarists stolen away at the tender age of 26. He didn’t even make it to the 27 Club.

At that point, I feared the Ozzy/Randy partnership had ended and we’d hear no more from that great combination. Not so! Years later Ozzy released the fabulous live album ‘Tribute’ which features live recordings of Randy Rhoads and the rest of his ‘Blizzard’/’Diary’ era band. To the amazing selection of tunes on the Ozzy/Randy LPs, the band does fantastic versions of the Ozzy Sabbath tunes “Paranoid” and “Children of the Grave,” the latter of which may be the definitive version of that song. This album stands as a living testament to the truly symbiotic nature of Randy’s guitar and Ozzy’s vocals. This is not only one of Ozzy’s best albums, it’s one of the best live albums ever, by anyone. It gets a high recommendation from BourbonAndVinyl.

If you’re like me, and Spring Fever has started to set in, the only thing that will cure it is heavy metal. If you needs some good, vintage, 80s, Heavy Metal look no further than these three albums. If Ozzy had given up recording after the untimely death of Randy Rhoads, these three albums would still encompass what would be considered an amazing career. Luckily Ozzy kept going. The guy has an eye for guitar talent almost unrivaled. He recorded with Jake E Lee, Zakk Wylde, and as has been recently reported Steve Stevens of Billy Idol fame. That should be interesting. Many think of Ozzy as a daft, old, reality TV star. These albums remind us of what a true force of nature he once was… with Randy at his side, he could do no wrong… well except that whole plane crash thing… (too soon?)

Turn it up loud, and as always, Cheers!

The Moving HBO Documentary: Eagles of Death Metal: Mon Amis (Our Friends), Bravo!

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I remember the horrible Paris attacks of November 13th, 2015 as if it were yesterday. I chronicled my feelings, mostly simmering rage, in these very pages. While I’m not a religious man, there are things I hold sacred. Along with my family, rock n roll and concerts are one of those things. The communal joining together for an evening of food, drink and music is as close to a church as I’ll ever get (on purpose, at least). So, when the terrorists chose to attack cafes, a football game, and a rock concert, it was as if for the first time, they’d walked into my church with guns. The senseless murder of 89 people in the Bataclan during Eagles of Death Metal’s show particularly upset me, and is why I wrote the post, “My Heart Is In the Bataclan.”

U2 had been scheduled to perform live in Paris and broadcast that concert on HBO but postponed the show due to the attack. They were seen placing flowers at the memorial for the fallen outside the Bataclan. Is there any greater rock n roll ambassadors of Peace than the guys in U2? If I ever met U2, I’d have to use the words of my favorite TV policeman Kojak, “Who Loves Ya Baby.” I remember my friend Steven saying to me, the last time we saw U2 in a stadium in St Louis, “These guys are the soundtrack to our lives.” True dat, Steven. I was thrilled when toward the end of the HBO broadcast concert, U2 brought up the members of Eagles of Death Metal to play the show they were robbed of. It was a beautiful moment which I also chronicled in the pages of B&V.

This Monday, I happened to be watching HBO with the Rock Chick… we happened to love ‘The Young Pope,’ which has some great music, I might add. Afterwards on HBO was a documentary about Eagles of Death Metal and that tragic evening at the Bataclan. I had no idea it was coming on, fate must have willed me to see it. The title is ‘Eagles of Death Metal: Mon Amis (Our Friends)’ and I recommend that everyone see it. It was healing, cathartic and entertaining all at the same time. I’m not too proud to admit that during portions of the show, I had tears in my eyes.

As a back drop to the events at the Bataclan the documentary starts with the history of Eagles of Death Metal. Josh Homme, more famously the genius behind Queens of the Stone Age, and Jesse Hughes, lead singer/guitarist for EODM were high school buddies. I thought it was very cool how their friendship is the very fabric this band was created from. Jesse and Josh record the albums and then Jesse takes the band out on the road. Josh joins on drums when he can, schedule permitting. He was scheduled to be with them the night of the Bataclan attack, but had stayed home in the States for the birth of his child.

The title of the documentary, ‘Mon Amis (Our Friends)’ really sums up the relationship this band has with their fans. They’re a good time, funny, hard rocking band and their fans are some of the most dedicated out there. I had never really heard much of their music prior to all of this, though I was a QOTSA fan. The relationship these guys have with their fans is something special, making the events of November 13th that much worse.

When they finally got to the story of the concert at the Bataclan, they bring in some of the survivors of the attacks. They talk about their love for the band and they talk about the awful, frightening events of that night. It was bone chilling, but you could tell these people needed to talk about it to heal. One of the things that struck both the Rock Chick and I was how close the killers got to the band. I had always heard, “the band got out” before it got dangerous. That is not accurate at all. The guitar player actually hid in the shower of the dressing room while the terrorists kicked at the door to try and get to him. It was very clear from the tearful interviews that Jesse Hughes gives, that this is a band with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Jesse peaked through the curtain and his description of what he saw, people being mown down, is heart stopping.

In a brief snippet, the makers of the documentary interview Bono and the Edge of U2. Bon really summed it up, much better than I did in my B&V post a year and half ago, when he said, “this was an attack on a lifestyle, a lifestyle they hate.” Well said, Bono, well said.

While EODM playing at the U2 concert a few weeks after the Bataclan attack was healing, it was time for Eagles of Death Metal to come back and complete the show they never got to finish. Playing at the Bataclan would have probably been too traumatic, so the documentary chronicles their prep and return to Paris to play at the Olympia theater. They brought back anybody from the Bataclan who was willing and able to attend – and who could blame those who didn’t feel like going back to a concert… the bastards who pulled off the attack have likely ruined that part of those fans lives. To watch Jesse and the band, this time including Josh, come outside the theater prior to the show to greet and hug the fans was another beautiful moment. It just underscores how close this band is to their fans, to their friends, “mon amis.”

This was really a great documentary and I applaud HBO. I also applaud all those fans who survived and attended the EODM’s return to Paris. And I especially applaud the Eagles of Death Metal. May they rock and roll forever! Again, everyone who loves rock and roll, heavy metal and hard rock should see this movie.

Don’t let the bastards drag you down….

Cheers!

LP Look Back: The Overlooked Gem, AC/DC’s “Powerage”

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We’ve reached that dreaded time of year when the holidays have descended up on us, and bands have stopped releasing new albums. Oh sure, I’ve spent most of the past few weeks listening to the superb new Stones album, “Blue and Lonesome,” but as I found myself shut in because of the snow and ice outside, cabin fever has set in. Which is odd, because I’ve only been shut in since I got out of bed this morning. I began to flip through my album collection but I didn’t get any farther than the A’s… more specifically, AC/DC.

Is there a joy more pure and wonderful than listening to AC/DC? They’re just a fun band. When I first met my wife, the Rock Chick, one of the first things I liked about her was she was one of the first chicks I’d ever met who knew the difference between the Bon Scott-era AC/DC and the Brian Johnson-era. Most women I’d known didn’t know the difference. It was the Rock Chick who got me back into AC/DC, who I thought were spent creatively after “For Those About To Rock,” when she turned me onto “The Razor’s Edge” and more importantly “Stiff Upper Lip” which are great, great late period albums. The first concert I ever took the Rock Chick to was AC/DC on the “Stiff Upper Lip” Tour… ah, fond memories. That was a  wonderful evening with Angus’ guitar solos and women taking their tops off… and that was just on the ride down to the show…

I will admit, if the Rock Chick has a flaw musically it’s her complete dismissal of the Bon Scott-era of AC/DC. Although I will give her credit for loving “If You Want Blood, You Got It.” As most people know, Bon was the original, charismatic lead singer of AC/DC. He tragically died sleeping in the back seat of a car after a night of drinking when he choked on his own vomit. Which frankly, is how I think every great rock star should go out. The man has been described as a “street poet” and for once I think they got that one right. His lyrics about the grimier, darker side of life are nothing short of brilliant – the Nobel Committee ought to put on the “Highway To Hell” LP and start considering following up the Dylan nomination with Bon… but as usual, I digress.

Most people focus on the Brian Johnson-era of AC/DC’s career probably because a) it’s lasted longer and b) they were much more popular during Brian’s tenure. After “Back In Black,” one of the best selling albums of all time, AC/DC became international superstars. I can see where that kind of LP sales could eclipse the earlier, lesser-known work. If you look at the macro picture though, under Bon Scott, the band was headed that way. With each successive album, from “High Voltage” to “Dirty Deeds” to “Let There Be Rock” AC/DC’s following and stature continued to grow. While they didn’t even tour in the US until 1977, hitting small venues no less, like CBGB and the Whiskey (underscoring once again, if I could time travel, I’d spend all my time at concerts), they were building toward that eventual breakthrough which came in the form of “Highway To Hell.” While everybody loves “Back In Black” it was “Highway” that broke them. If you listen to Bon’s lyrics you can discern several things… he truly believed he was battling for rock and roll as an art form and that he was going to go to Hell for doing that. Although it certainly seems like  he was having an extraordinarily good time doing so. One could imagine him crossing the River Styx, with his shirt off and a bottle of Old Crow whiskey in his hand, howling…”Don’t stop meeee!”

Eventually, after “Back In Black” people began to go back and discover AC/DC’s earlier albums and many, many of their songs began to get airplay that before weren’t getting much play at all. The early albums added depth and context for “Back In Black.” And while all that is great, there is one album that for reasons that are inexplicable to me, remains overlooked. That album is “Powerage.” Maybe it’s the odd cover art. I absolutely love this dark, dark record. I realize that there wasn’t really a discernible single on the record. I realize that “Highway To Hell” eclipsed everything that came before it but to overlook “Powerage” is criminal. Keith Richards, of all people, has been quoted as saying “Powerage” is his favorite AC/DC album, and frankly does anybody need more of an endorsement than that?

As the 70’s went on, as I mentioned, AC/DC’s fame and fortune continued to increase on the international rock scene. They opened for Black Sabbath… wouldn’t you have loved to drink with Ozzy and Bon back then? I know I would… They were gaining attention, especially in Europe. They were poised to break through in a big way… and then it’s like Bon Scott knew the end was near, and right before the breakthrough, they paused and went into the studio and recorded a dark and foreboding LP, “Powerage”….and it’s fucking brilliant.

This album finds Bon’s lyrical gifts beginning to blossom. The LP opens with what was ostensibly the first single, “Rock N Roll Damnation.” It starts the LP off with a MONSTER riff… and then Bon comes in with, “They say that you play too loud, well baby that’s tough.” The chip on Bon’s shoulder is as big as a car. This song sets the table and signals, this is going to be a dark ride and Bon has some scores to settle. I really don’t think of AC/DC as a “singles” band and frankly I think “Powerage” is an album that you need to listen to in it’s entirety, like Pink Floyd. It sets a mood. I listen to this album and I just want to take a shot of whiskey and do some brawling… and I haven’t been in a fight since grade school and I lost that one.

“Down Payment Blues” and “Gimme a Bullet To Bite On” are just great tunes. In “Down Payment Blues” Bon sings, “I got myself a Cadillac but I can’t afford the gasoline.” This is dirty, dirty bloozy rock. “Gimme a Bullet…” is a classic Bon break up song… He’s got a “pain in his heart” and he’s calling for a bullet to bite on… and he’s going to make believe it’s his ex… I think we’ve all been there…

The centerpiece of this record, for me, is the tune “Gone Shootin’.” The riff is infectious. The dark story about a man lamenting that his girl friend has gone out in their bad neighborhood to score herion is harrowing, but the way Bon growls, “My baby’s gone shootin’… she’s gone, gone, gone,” it brings chills to my spine. Likely the subject matter kept that one off the radio… it’s the heart and soul of this record. It is my all time favorite AC/DC tune.

I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t mention the amazing lead guitar playing of Angus Young. With Malcolm Young on rhythm guitar, these guys lay down gargantuan riffs throughout the album. The song “Up To My Neck In You” may be Angus’ finest hour as a guitarist. “Riff Raff” is a colossus of a guitar party. The Young brothers set the scene with their one of their best riffs as Bon takes us into “Sin City” another gem of a song on this album. The guitar riff on that song makes me feel like I’m in the car with the band at the city limits of Las Vegas… and some shit is going down. There isn’t a bad song on this record. The frantic LP ender, “Kicked In The Teeth Again” is a break neck hard rocker… You can barely keep up with Angus’ solos on that one. These guys don’t really slow down at all on this record.

I’ve turned a few of my esteemed rock friends onto this album, Matthew and Stormin’ out in Denver and both of them at some point have turned to me and said some version of, “how did I miss this album?” You true rock guys out there, and you know who you are, should do yourselves a favor and get this record on the turntable as soon as you can. You will not regret it…

As always my friends, on this cold, cold winter day, stay warm, pour something brown and murky, put on “Powerage” and enjoy… Although don’t give into that mood to start brawling… I’m a pacifist… a lover, not a fighter.

Cheers!

LP Review: The Dead Daises, “Make Some Noise”

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Maybe it was the release of Metallica’s hard, heavy metal single, “Hardwired” that put me in a hard rock/heavy metal mood, but all weekend long I found myself searching out something loud to listen to. I needed some “rawk!” Maybe something a little less punishingly hard than the excellent “Hardwired…” I needed some 80’s style metal. Luckily, my friend Drummer Blake reached out and mentioned a band to me that I’ve been hearing about lately, the Dead Daisies. I had some vague ideas that they were a hard rock band but wasn’t sure what to expect. Drummer Blake assured me, “all members (of the Dead Daisies) are monster players.” Man, he wasn’t kidding.

The Dead Daisies are almost more of a musical collective than a band, sort of like the Queens of the Stone Age. They have some members who seem more or less permanent but they’ve had quite a few folks revolve in and out during their brief history. Members past and present have played with Motley Crue, Whitesnake, GnR, Thin Lizzy, INXS, the Cult and even some of the backing members of the Rolling Stones and Xpensive Winos. That’s quite a pedigree, if I do say so myself.

Is it possible for a band to be a “Supergroup” if its members all come from bigger bands, but no one has ever heard of these particular musicians? The most well known guy currently in the band is John Corabi who is most known for his one LP stint as lead singer of Motley Crue… and here I thought Corabi was a rock and roll footnote… boy, was I wrong. Doug Aldrich is the lead guitarist (who actually came in to replace Richard Fortus who left with Dizzy Reed to rejoin GnR on their spectacular reunion tour). Aldrich apparently played guitar with Whitesnake and Dio and the guy can shred. The line up is filled out by Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy) on bass, Brian Tichy (Whitesnake) drums and David Lowy on rhythm guitar.

“Make Some Noise,” their current album, which came out on August 5th is a hard rock party. I really had a lot of fun listening to this album this weekend. The music reminds me of Slash’s last solo album with Myles Kennedy, “World On Fire.” That’s not to say Aldrich is as good as Slash, nobody is as good on lead as Slash but Aldrich can play. The tunes on this album have a similar sound. “Long Way To Go” kicks the album off like a cannon shot. It may be my favorite song on here. But there are many stand outs here – “Last Time I Saw the Sun,” “Mainline,” and “Freedom” are all kick ass, upbeat hard rock tunes. These guys rock like it’s 1987 again and I mean that as a compliment. In one tune I even heard somebody mention cocaine… ah, the 80’s.

The band does two really great covers, CCR’s “Fortunate Son” in what may be the most muscular, rocking version of that song ever done, and The Who’s “Join Together” to end the album. Full disclosure: I love both of those songs, so I’m prejudiced, but those covers are perfect for this band. I especially like to turn up the volume on “Fortunate Son.” The title track, “Make Some Noise” is a shout along stomper that could have been lifted from a Quiet Riot album… Ah, the flashbacks…Needless today, there are no ballads here…If you rock this well, who needs to slow it down for the chicks.

I’m not seeing a lot about these guys in the music press or hearing any of this great rock and roll on the radio, terrestrial or satellite, but if you dig hard rock, do yourself a favor and check out “Make Some Noise.” I found myself smiling all weekend while I listened to this album. Pour yourself something strong and that smile might even cross your face too!

Double Devil Horns to all of you!

Cheers!

Sammy Hagar’s Other Bands: Montrose And Chickenfoot

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*Yes, that’s Sammy Hagar in the back, on the right. Shirts on guys… jeez.

 I went for my morning walk in the park today… I usually like to run, which is painful for others to watch, but I somehow hobbled myself with a lingering calf injury a few weeks ago. I suspect it was caused by standing for 2 and half hours at the Guns N Roses concert which means it was totally worth it. As I was walking along, I saw a guy complete his jog and immediately fire up a Marlboro Red, because nothing says physical fitness like strong tobacco. Hey, we don’t judge anybody’s vices here at B&V and I was surprised at my less than generous reaction to this guy. I’ve been in an edgy mood all week, likely caused by pressures my corporate overlords have been applying of late… There’s only one thing that will cure this mood. There are just times in life I need to hear some good old fashion, hard rock. Played loudly.

There’s a time for introspection. There’s a time for listening to well thought out, intricate lyrics. There’s a time for Dylan’s early protest songs. And then there’s a time for screaming, tortured guitar and drums that crash like Boston traffic on that weird corner on Comm Ave. There are many options for hard rock when I’m in this mood, but I need some good time music. In this troubled time, I need some Sammy Hagar.

There are generally two groups of Hagar fans. There are those of us who were on the bandwagon when he emerged on his solo career as the Red Rocker. His career didn’t really take off until his magnum opus, “Standing Hampton.” That album still sounds great today. I can’t hear “Baby’s On Fire” and not flash back to a girl I knew high school… but those records are sealed until 25 years after I’m dead. The “Three Lock Box” and “VOA” LPs followed up “Standing Hampton” and Hagar was on a roll. He was a staple on early MTV and his song “I Can’t Drive 55” became an anthem for those of us challenged by speed limits. I’ve always viewed them as more of a guideline really… except in school zones. Let’s protect the kiddo’s. Hagar was a consistent, hard rock, no nonsense guy. I really liked him as a solo artist.

The second type of Hagar fan, are those who know him from his time in Van Halen. No one was more surprised than I was when Sammy joined Eddie and the boys in what we all called Van Hagar. Well, I’m guessing David Lee Roth might have been more surprised than I was. The Rock Chick didn’t like Van Hagar and while she put together an excellent Van Halen playlist for my car, there is nary a Van Hagar song on the list. What can I say, she’s a purist. My buddy, the General (name obscured to protect the guilty), always complained about Sammy being in Van Halen, “Roth used to do kung fu on stage, Sammy shows up in capri pants and does aerobics.” He sorta had a point now that I look back on it. While I never thought Van Hagar was as good as the original line up in Van Halen I still thought it was a solid band. It was just different. Like the RHCP’s without Frusciante, the basic DNA of the band had changed. But I still think songs like “Summer Nights,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Black And Blue,” and “Don’t Tell Me What Love Can Do” were kick ass tunes. These guys put out a solid set of LPs.

Both of these Hagar camps tend to overlook the fact that Sammy has been in a couple of other bands. Hagar’s career started when he joined the band Montrose as lead singer. I don’t know why but Montrose is one of those seemingly forgotten bands. Later in his career Sammy formed the “supergroup” Chickenfoot with guitar wizard Joe Satriani which is an extraordinarily overlooked band in my opinion. Say what you want about Sammy Hagar, he certainly knows how to pick lead guitarists to work with. It’s a Hall of Fame line up: Ronnie Montrose, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani. All he’s missing is Hendrix… So today I want to quickly look back at these two forgotten bands because when you need some good, solid hard rock, these are two bands you can turn to.

Montrose, 1973-1974

Ronnie Montrose who had been mostly a session guitarist formed Montrose in 1973. He recruited fellow session man Bill Church to play bass and Denny Carmassi on drums. Sammy knew Denny and he was in. While this line-up only put out two albums, they were amazing records. You can’t hear Montrose’s loud guitar on their self titled first album without scratching your head over the fact that he’d played guitar on “Tupelo Honey” for Van Morrison. The guitar work on “Montrose” is heavy, heavy. Big fat chords and soaring solos. That first album was hugely influential. Oddly I never heard the great song “Bad Motor Scooter” until I got satellite radio. It never got played on the radio in KC, which is criminal.  “Rock The Nation” is a fabulous rock n roll call to arms. “Rock Candy” is a giant slab of hard rock. “One Thing On My Mind” despite it’s simpleton lyrics has a great guitar riff and a fabulous solo from Montrose. These guys even pull off a harder rocking version of Elvis’ “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” There was a moment in the early 70s when there was a break between the mostly British, heavy blues acts like Zeppelin and Cream and a new, non-bluesy, straight ahead, harder rock sound. I think this album may be the key to that leap. It’s what Jeff Beck called, “heavy  music.” This is a must have album.

“Paper Money” was the difficult second album. There are so many groups that have trouble on the sophomore album, call it the sophomore slump. “Paper Money” is no exception. It seems like Montrose wanted to go in a different direction creatively. There are acoustic guitars, like on the great Stones cover “Connection” and keyboard textures. Even the drum sound is different. That’s not to say this isn’t a good solid album. The title track and the great songs “The Dreamer” and “I Got The Fire” which sound more like the first album, are first rate tunes. “Underground,” the first track on the album is great, but you immediately pick up on the different sound Montrose were striving for. It wasn’t as hard as the first record. But alas, you can tell they were struggling to come up with enough material (like the old saying goes, “you have your whole life to write the first album, you have 2 months to write the second”) as filler like the trippy instrumental “Starliner” proves. On their European tour to support “Paper Money” Hagar and Montrose started to fight, probably over creative direction, and Hagar split. Carmassi and Church soon followed to join Hagar’s solo band. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if they’d just stayed together. Like GnR I feel like there was an opportunity missed here.

Chickenfoot, 2009-2011

When I heard Hagar had formed a band with Joe Satriani on guitar, Michael Anthony of VH fame on bass and Chad Smith from the RHCP’s on drums, I admit, I was skeptical. I read early reviews and they complained that Satriani’s cool precision was ill-matched with Sammy’s sloppy, party guy approach. Both Smith and Anthony were the weaker links in their respective rhythm sections (Flea’s bass being more dominating and Alex Van Halen’s drumming being similarly more dominant). In essence the critics claimed the sum was less than it’s parts. Luckily I’m not a pasty, black turtleneck-in-the-summer, musical-intellectual critic from NY. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I like to consider myself a tad more… sanguine.

While I remained skeptical about Chickenfoot, a buddy of mine slipped me a copy of their first album, “Chickenfoot” and I was hooked. Again, this wasn’t like hearing “Led Zeppelin II” for the first time, but it was solid, meat-and-potatoes rock and roll. Satriani is truly the star on this first record. He sounds like he’s having a blast while tearing out solo’s that will melt your face off. “Sexy Little Thing,” “Turnin’ Left,” and “My Kind of Girl” will bore into your brain. I even like the ending, epic ballad, “Future In the Past.” You can’t go wrong popping this record on the stereo.

The ironically named second album, “III” is just as solid. I do not understand why this album was universally ignored. I never heard any of this record on the radio, satellite or otherwise. I read the other day Satriani was ready to do some more new music but Sammy said, “I don’t want to work that hard for six months to create music no one will hear.” These are the kind of records B&V was started for… “Last Temptation” starts the record on with a  great rock song. Hagar told Satriani to listen to the Black Keys before they did this record as he wanted that kind of sound. I don’t hear that connection but what a great place to start. “Alright Alright” has silly lyrics but is still a great rock song (lyrically you have to remember it was Hagar who wrote the stupidest lyric ever: “only time will tell if we stand the test of time,” read that over a few times). “Dubai Blues” is a great, dirty-blues rocker. I really like the tune “Come Closer” and I even dig the mid tempo ballad “Something Going Wrong.” That one might be my favorite. Alas now Satriani is back doing solo stuff and Hagar is on to his next band project with Anthony, the Circle, which features Jason Bonham on drums. They already put out a live album and Hagar says he digs their vibe and wants to get them in the studio. With Chad Smith on tour supporting the weak new RHCPs album, it looks like we’ll be waiting for that third Chickenfoot album which will likely be called “VI” because why not….

Do yourself a favor if you have a hankering for some great hard rock. Check out Montrose and Chickenfoot. Me, I’m considering pouring a nice, brown murky fluid into a tumbler and putting “Standing Hampton” on the turntable… “Baby’s On Fire” has me inspired in ways the Rock Chick will likely abhor…heh heh…. Rock Out, people. It’s all we can do in these troubled times…

Cheers!