Monday, 12 December 2011

Where did November go??

Well it’s hard to believe I went the full month of November without a post.  Such is life, it gets very busy sometimes!  Fall is always that way for me.  I hope to have some posts up real soon.  The holidays are right around the corner, which usually means some downtime and some time to check out some new music.  Since I was a young lad Santa has always brought me music for Christmas.  It started with LPs, then cassettes, followed by CDs and the last couple of years it has been itunes gift cards. It is evident now I will forever remain a rocker.  What medium will Santa use to bring me music in 20 years, 10 years or even 5 years…things change so fast!  It’s all good.  Thank you Santa!
If you are a holiday celebrator in the next few weeks I hope you are enjoying it to the fullest.  If you do not recognize the holidays then I hope your life continues to run smoothly and happily.   Cheers to all!!
I should be back sooner and later.  There is always much to discuss in the world of rock!!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Metallica and Lou Reed thoughts...well not on the music.’s been a while since an update.  Thought I would take a few minutes to weigh in on the new Metallica/Lou Reed project.  I believe it’s available to listen to in its entirety online and will be available for purchase soon.  Before I go on, I haven’t heard it yet, not a single note. But I have read a great amount of reaction to this upcoming release and most of it very negative.
I have no problem with someone listening to this, saying they don’t like it, and sharing their opinion.  But many have been condemning Metallica for quite some time now just for doing this.  I don’t get it.  I don’t know if I will like this or not, but I am looking forward to hearing it.  And I do respect Metallica for daring to do something different and not just sticking to the same heavy metal formula that they have for years, not that there is anything wrong with that.  I think it marks the measure of a true artist who dares to go out on a limb, step outside their element and paint a completely different scene. 
Many (not all) metal enthusiasts subscribe to the “death to all but metal” school of thought and the mere mention of these legends stepping outside of the genre is sacrilege to them.  Just because they are trying something different doesn’t mean they won’t be back doing what they do best with another excellent metal album in time I am sure.  So I say if it doesn’t appeal to you, let them (the band) have their fun and wait for them to return.  Some are far too harsh claiming they’ve lost respect and will never support the band again.  Really?
I for one will be checking it out.  My curiosity is certainly peaked.  I may hate it, I may love it.  It doesn’t matter, as with all new music I will still enjoying spinning it at least once and offering up some thoughts.  Stay tuned...have a Happy Halloween everyone!!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Beyond the Lighted Stage

Beyond the Lighted Stage is a great documentary and a must see for any Rush fan.  Even if you are only a casual fan I would recommend this film; you will learn plenty about the Canadian trio and gain much respect for their accomplishments over their 30 year career.
The movie takes us from the early days by briefly profiling each band member’s beginnings as school kids and young adults.  It contains interviews with family members and also has Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson walking around some of their old stomping grounds.  Bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson have been friends since childhood forming a close bond in junior high school.  World renowned drummer Neil Peart entered the scene a little later but his family life and beginnings as an artist are also profiled. 
The film moves at a very nice pace and we do not get bogged down with lengthy profiles of childhood memories and family life.  Soon it is taking us through the first tours and recording of the first few albums including the break through, 2112.  Many artists are featured throughout the film offering comments on Rush including Jack Black, Billy Corgan, Sebastian Bach, Trent Reznor and many others.  It is obvious that there early work was a huge influence on these folks as many of them were impressionable kids at the time.  Gene Simmons also weighs in on the band.  During Rush’s beginnings they filled the opening slot on a lengthy tour for Kiss.
The movie takes us through many phases of Rush’s career and there are several, which is part of the appeal of this band.  The different directions and sounds are all discussed throughout, again moving at a nice pace and never becoming boring.  Also featured in the movie is the band's mass appeal and their loyal fan base that has helped them stand the test of time.  Rush has never really been mainstream yet continues to be touring force playing to large crowds all over the world.
Towards the end of the movie it details a very dark time for the band as they were forced to deal with personal tragedy when drummer Neil Peart suffered the loss of his daughter and wife.  This horrific time is detailed as Peart goes on a bit of a spiritual journey leading him back to recording and performing with Rush after about a 4 year hiatus.
I have always been a fan of Rush and this movies solidifies what makes them so great.  Never fitting any sort of category, having their own unique sound yet continuing to change it and evolve, doing things their own way and continuing to be very relevant for three decades and counting. 
All in all it’s a great rock documentary about a great band!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Welcome 2 My Nightmare, Review

If you follow my twitter account you know already that this is going to be a very a favourable review.  I fell in love with this album pretty quickly.  I had been anticipating it for some time now as the original 1975 Welcome to My Nightmare is a favourite of mine. 
I love this recording for the same reasons as I love the 1975 original.  First of all, it is a concept album.  I admit to being a bit of a sucker for concept albums.  I love listening to an CD in its entirety as a complete work of art and the concept album completely plays into that.
Furthermore, like the first, this CD contains many different musical styles throughout.  Hard rock, ballads, a touch of disco (although done somewhat sarcastically), southern rock, seventies, and others are all thrown in the blender that is the album.   Having said that, this is predominantly a hard rock record.  There are also some different instruments used throughout as well as various sound bites and narrations for an overall quirky, humorous and fun adventure.  
I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about the story here, I don’t want to give too much of it away for anyone who may want to indulge but a few brief details none the less.  It opens with our main character (is it Alice or Steven or are they one in the same, I was never quite sure) fighting sleep.  He eventually succumbs to tiredness and the nightmare continues. Throughout the ride we get tons of typical twisted Alice Cooper imagery.  I won’t reveal how it ends.
As for the songs themselves just a few highlights as well.  It opens in similar fashion as the original release with a bit of a creepy slow to mid temp introduction to the story.  This track, titled I Am Made of You will not become the classic like the opening Welcome to my Nightmare title track on the 1975 record, but it is an awesome tune. 
There are several rockers on here including track number two, Caffeine.  It fits in here as the protagonist of the story is still fighting sleep.  Other rockers include Runaway Train and I’ll Bite Your Face Off.  There is also the much talked about duet with Kesha titled What Baby Wants, another great tune on the disc.  This one is also a harder rocker and Kesha’s vocals fit in perfectly.
Also worth mentioning is the song, Underture.  It is an instrumental number that blends together many of the melodies from this current recording as well as those from the original 1975 Nightmare. 
Although I often use the word disc in this and all my reviews, I actually purchased this one on itunes and with it came a near 20 minute track of Alice talking and taking us through the album one song at a time.  He talks about the influences and musical style of each number and walks us through the story one step at a time.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this too. 
I often find when you are anticipating something for a long time it can never live up to the hype.  Well for me, this one did.  I have read some mixed reviews out there, but I think just like the first one, it’s great fun and very worthy of being called a sequel to the original classic. 
Grade:  A +
Favoutite Tracks:  Put it on and let it play from start to finish.  But I do particularly enjoy I am Made of You, Caffeine, and I Gotta Get Outta Here.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Thoughts on the REM Split

The whole REM breakup thing troubles me a bit.  I did enjoy REM’s music over the years.  I was never a fanatical fan, but I own a few of their CDs and understand their significance and why many people adore them.   That is not what troubles me however.  This band has been together for 31 years.  For the most part they have had the same line up at its core, continued to be successful and make good music.  So why put it out there that you are split?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Why not just say you are currently not active and there are no current plans to tour or record?    If you come back again great, if not, then fine.  Heck, even use the word retirement.  But using the words like “broke up” and “split” after a 31 year legacy just doesn’t seem right to me. 
Maybe I am just agonizing over semantics and word choice.  Maybe there is the inevitable reunion tour in 5 years.  In any event, congrats to REM on 31 years and good luck on whatever is next, even a reunion tour. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Rock Rock Til You Drop

Musical Memories, A True Story Featuring Def Leppard

How life has changed.  Once upon a time there is little I would have done short of selling my soul to see a rock concert.  I recall my first opportunity to see my beloved Def Leppard.  All of 20 years old at the time I had just spend virtually all of my teenage years growing up to the sounds of Pyromania, Hysteria as well as their earlier two efforts High n’ Dry and On Through the Night. 

When I heard this concert was rolling into town excitement and stress overwhelmed me at once.  The concert was to take place in August and I had a bit of a drive from my hometown to get to the city where the concert was to be held.  In the spring and fall I lived in the city while attending university but during the summer months I returned home, found a job and tried to save a few pennies to assist in furthering my education. 

This particular summer I was doing quite well.  My boss had taken quite a liking to me and I logged many hours and as a result was banking more than I was used to.  My boss was as good man with a good sense of humour but he appreciated young men with a strong work ethic.  The type who were up early and worked late and not concerned with foolishness such as attending rock concerts.  I suppose at the time he viewed me as one of them.  I did appreciate the hours and the money, but now I knew to attend this concert, this monumental life event, I had to request time off.  I didn’t think he would appreciate it, he had counted on me so much through that summer and there were others who could have used the time, but he chose me again and again.  What was I to do?

I reasoned it out over and over again in my own mind and really there was no choice.  I could not miss this concert.  The concert was to take place in mid August and I would have worked for about two more weeks after that before returning to college.  I decided that if necessary I would simply quit my summer job and sacrifice my last two weeks pay in order to guarantee my time off to see Def Leppard.  It was a sad but true decision I had come to.  I really could have used that last two weeks pay.  But then again…Def Leppard.  I would have let a man down who had come to respect me and helped me out so much.  But then again…Def Leppard.  And worst of all, my parents helped me out as much as they could financially and this extra money would also take some of the burden off of them.  But then again…….it was Def Leppard!!

With the decision made late one Saturday evening I was at the local bar when who should stroll in but my boss.  I had spent many a Saturday evening there that summer, but never seen him there once.  Little did I know that the rock gods were intervening that night.  He was apparently attending the bachelor party of a friend and he was also more obviously feeling the effects of many consumed beverages.  When he saw me his drunken face lit up.  He began to buy me many beers and tell me how awesome I was.  There was a lot of work that needed to be done that summer and not everyone could be counted on and apparently I had answered the call.  Little did he know I was about to leave him high n’dry (lame Def Leppard pun). 

In the drunken conversation he made reference if there anything I needed just let him know.  Well…..thanks to a bit of “liquid courage” I went on to explain that I knew it would be an inconvenience but I could use a day or two off.  He wanted to know what was up….attending a wedding?….family reunion?  Well I was smart enough not to lie and explained to him that there was this band I always liked and it would be neat to see them in concert.  And yes, I can actually remember using the word “neat”.  With a pat on the back and as a reward for all my hard work I had his blessing. 

I probably didn’t handle the days leading up to the concert very well because I never spoke of this promise until the day before my time off and neither did he.  I was getting ready to check out for the day and wouldn’t you know it he says he needs me earlier the next morning and we would probably punch a late one.  “Good chance to get a bit more overtime pay” was the exclamation point on his sentence.  Well I had no choice but to lay my trump card.  “Don’t you remember?  You gave me a couple days off.”  He looked confused, hesitated, then said that he did.  But I really don’t think he had any recollection.

Off I went and enjoyed the concert to the fullest.  It seemed like a bit of a pilgrimage. Seeing my heroes up close and personal playing all the songs that were the soundtrack my teenage years was a bit of a religious experience.    I was back to work two days later and the relationship with my boss was not damaged in the least.  In fact, he called looking for me the following summer. 

I got to see them perform again 16 years later when I flew half way across the country to check them out.  The second experience was just as enjoyable as the first and again was a sort of pilgrimage like experience.  I didn’t however, risk or jeopardize my now well established teaching career to get there, nor could I. 

But there was a day that I would have dropped everything that was important to me just to rock out for a couple of hours.  That’s the power of music!  That’s the power of rock and roll!!  And although I could never sell out my family or colleagues for it anymore, it is still the reason why I remain an avid fan (bit of a nut actually).  It is still why I get excited about putting on a pair of headphones and getting lost in a new album or cranking up the stereo so loud in the car that I can hear nothing else but the music. 

I still attend the occasional rock concert, if it doesn’t conflict with work or my kids’ hockey practices or music lessons. But perhaps because I am a grounded career and family man, the escape is even more important to me now than when I was in my youth.  I need still rock and roll like I hope it needs me.

See you next Def Leppard would say...Rock Rock Til You Drop!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Theory of a Deadman's The Truth Is (Review)

The last few records I have reviewed on this blog have been all old school.  It was time to check out something that was released this year so I turned to Theory of a Deadman’s latest effort, The Truth Is.
This is their forth release and the first one I have purchased.  Up to now I have been tempted to check out their music, I have heard some of their songs on the radio.  Some I have liked and others I was not too keen on.  I was in the mood for some no nonsense rock and roll and something new so it was time to try this band out. 
Well, if it’s quantity you like you certainly get your money’s worth here with 19 tracks if you get the album only bonus tracks.  If not you are getting 12 songs in total.  And in my opinion the quality is great too with the album fully entertaining me from start to finish.  The music itself is certainly straight up rock and roll and its fun!  I have used fun to describe recent albums like Night Ranger’s latest and Def Leppard’s Mirrorball.  But it is a different kind of fun, it’s a little heavier for the most part but still melodic.  Lyrically it is definitely the most fun record I have heard in a while.  Songs like Lowlife, The Bitch Came Back, Gentlemen and The Truth Is (I lied About Everything) are filled with humorous themes, clever lyrics and catchy guitar riffs.  The parental advisory label is well earned here with some of the themes and plenty of F bombs dropped throughout, all in good humour.
There are also songs like Can’t Get You Out of my Head, a solid power ballad.  In addition to this tune there are also tracks like Easy to Love You and Love is Hell to fit into the power ballad category.  Although I am not sure if with lyrics such as “Love is hell, love is shit ....” would make the song qualify as a ballad.  You also get additional acoustic versions of Can’t Get You Out of my Head and Easy to Love You included in the bonus tracks. 
In addition to the songs I have mentioned all the rest in between work for me too.  Songs like Hurricane, When We Were Men and Drag Me to Hell take a break from the humour and offer more serious themes and lyrics with great the power chords and riffs continuing.
So the end result here is I am glad I purchased Theory of a Deadman.  I may even try out some of their previous work.  I have read mixed reviews on The Truth Is, but I like it and I can’t really compare it to their earlier albums.  I have been having fun with this one for a while now and the truth is...this is good rock and roll.  Ha, lame ending....see ya next time!
Grade A
Favourite Tracks:  Lowlife, The Truth Is (I lied About Everything), Hurricane   

Friday, 9 September 2011

This is Gonna Hurt Book Review

I recently tweeted that I feel like I spent the summer with Nikki Sixx.  It started back in June when I picked up a copy of Sixx AM’s latest CD This is Gonna Hurt.  I loved it and it has been a bit of a fixture in my car and ipod ever since.  I then got to see Motley Crue play live, read Sixx’s first book The Heroin Diaries and I’ve completed the latest, titled the same as the Sixx AM album, This is Gonna Hurt.

This book is a very different offering from the first book by Sixx and very different from any other book I have read by a rock star.  First of all in addition to Sixx’s words this is also a collection of photography.  Sixx is an avid photographer and throughout the book there are many pictures captured through his “distorted lens”, as he describes it.  The pictures are usually of something or someone that the majority of people would care not to display in the dining room or above the couch in your living room.  But that is just Sixx’s point.  He sees beauty in things we normally don’t and challenges us all to do the same. 

Reading this book will take you to several different places.  It opens with a chapter on Sixx’s love of photography.  He tells us how he came to discover the hobby and shares stories of some of his more interesting and stranger photo shoots.  Throughout the rest of the book you will read some about his childhood and family life and how it affected him.  The most compelling I found to be thoughts on his now passed on sister who was never a part of his life.  He also gets a little into his three fellow bandmates, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars.  He doesn’t leave Sixx AM out either and talks about the formation of that band and the creative processes that has ensued.  And he puts his own emotions on the pages when talking about finding love again and the heartbreak that followed after the relationship ended.

Apart from all of the above Sixx also shares his own views and philosophies on life.  It’s nothing too Earth shattering but I will admit at times he can be compelling and thought provoking.  And such is that when it comes to philosophizing life I think; it doesn’t have to be too deep to make sense.  Everything Sixx says on such matters makes total sense and it doesn’t hurt to ponder these things at any given moment in your life.  Wait a minute….this is suppose to hurt according to Sixx.  Well, you know what I mean.

The book ends in similar fashion as the Heroin Diaries by Sixx offers some of his own diary entries from a 2009 tour with Motley Crue.  Very interesting to compare the diary here with the diary he wrote in 1987 as provided to us in the Heroin Diaries.  The later is full of references to excessive drug use, alcohol consumption and endless sex and the more recent reflects on life, work and seeking out strange places and people to photograph. 

All in all it was another interesting read from an interesting man.  I think Sixx tweeted earlier this summer that there will a third book in the works as well, but I’m not sure what this one will be about.  I am impressed enough by the first two to be interested enough to give whatever he writes a chance next time too. 

Have a great weekend everyone!!

Friday, 2 September 2011

School House Rock, Part Three

Happy Labour Day weekend everyone!!  It’s really the end of summer now.  Back to school for me next week.  Today I have just two songs featured in the final instalment of my School House Rock selections.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!! 

Another Brick in the Wall, by Pink Floyd

This is another no brainer to be included on a school rock song list.  What can I really say about this Pink Floyd classic.  The song tells of an education system that simply treats us all the same, haves us all regurgitate the same information and does not account for any uniqueness.  We are all just bricks in the wall, serving a greater "good".  Fortunately the education system I currently work in has come a long way and we recognize and celebrate the individual strengths and unique attributes of each student.   As a system we may have a ways to go but we are getting there.  Ok, now I am starting to sound preachy.  I’ll end this one by simply saying I love the walking hammers in this video, for some reason they scared the crap out of me as a kid!

Grade 9, by Barnaked Ladies

Canada’s Barenaked Ladies gives us this boppy little number about the awkwardness of adolescence.  Like many of their songs it contains good humour but at the same time I bet there is many a person out there who can relate to the experiences in this tune, me being one of them.   One of the lines in the songs says “I guess I shouldn’t tell them that I like Duran Duran”.  Yes, I was and forever will be a rocker.  At the same time I secretly loved it when my favourite music video programs would play Duran Duran and Michael Jackson .   But I dare not admit that in the halls of the school with my acid wash jean jacket laced with sewed on patches of Def Leppard, Ratt, Van Halen and Quiet Riot.  The Barenaked Ladies continue to record and perform, but Steven Paige, one of the band’s lead vocalists has left leaving the quintet a foursome. 

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

School House Rock, Part Two

Part two of my School House Rock songs to commemorate the opening of school next week.  Three more songs featured below starting with a double dose of Alice Cooper. 
Great American Success Story, Alice Cooper
Today I am presenting a pair of Alice Cooper tunes to the list.  I am beginning with the lesser known of the two from the 1986 album Constrictor.  The song is an upbeat rocker that tells the story of a down and out person trying to turn his life around, clean up and go back to school.  As the song progresses it appears he certainly did make it back to school.  However, once he is there it appears he simply gets infatuated with his female teacher.  I always liked this song and I always liked this album.  I only recently learned that Kip Winger, from the 80’s band Winger played base on Constrictor. really do learn something new everyday. 
School’s Out, Alice Cooper
This song most definitely has to be on any list of school rock songs.  It is a rock anthem that I probably should be writing about in June at school’s end and not now.  The song was originally included on Alice Cooper’s fifth album of the same name released in 1972.  This was when Alice Cooper was known as a band and not a solo artist.  In a school I worked at for 8 years we would play this one through the P.A. system as the students would exit the building on the last day.  Some of us would be standing in the doorway with high fives, handshakes and the occasional hug.  I would see the gleam in the eyes of my students and I know they saw the same in mine.  With much mutual respect for each other (I hope) we smile, bid farewell and at the same time have an understanding that we are glad to be taking a break from each other too. 
Teacher Teacher, by 38 Special
38 Special released this song in 1984 as part of the movie Teachers soundtrack.  The song is a great catchy rock track and if you watch the movie it is actually played in just about its entirety during the opening credits.  I re-watched this moving this summer and I loved it.  Some of it hits school life dead on and some of the themes ring through to this day.   As for 38 Special, this is my favourite song by them although they’ve had other catchy radio friendly singles such as Caught Up In You, Hold on Loosely and Back Where You Belong.  A friend of mine had a greatest hits CD and it was a decent collection of songs.  As an aside I have used the song Teacher Teacher as one of my custom ring tones for anyone who is a work colleague of mine.  
One more installation of School House Rock songs to come!

Monday, 29 August 2011

School House Rock, Part One

I am a teacher and I love my work immensely, but yes one of the perks with the territory is a lengthy summer vacation.  Summer 2011 is about to come to a close and in a matter of days I will be back in the classroom with my students.   In honour of the reopening of school I thought all week I would feature some songs with school, students and teachers as part of the themes somehow.

The songs that will be featured are a collection of songs that I recall hearing at some point in my life quite frequently.  When I decided to do this I quickly jotted down a list, there are tons more.  After I completed my own list I did a quick google search and there are hundreds, many of which I had forgotten about.
In any event, here are the first three from my musical memory repertoire.  I started with three songs about school all of which in some way deal with promiscuity.  Stayed tuned for others throughout the week.

High School Confidential, by Rough Trade

This smooth moving song was one of Canadian band Rough Trade’s biggest hits. Rough Trade was essentially a duo featuring Carol Pope and Kevan Staples.  This song came from their 1980 album Avoid Freud and proved to be their commercial break through.  The song’s music and lyrics has a very sexy and provocative feel to it.  Apparently, the song met some controversy at the time because of some lesbian themes.  Being I was only 9 years old when this song hit the airwaves I didn’t pay too much attention but later when I was in high school and attending university I would hear this song a lot.  Anytime there were older guys around at parties with one of their mix tapes this song was often played.  The band Rough Trade had some success with a couple of albums that followed but since the late 80’s/early 90’s have just played in a serious of reunion shows. 

Hot for Teacher, by Van Halen

Keeping with the provocative themes on the first set of school related songs is this rocker from Van Halen from the hit album 1984.  I love Van Halen and I love this album.  This cassette was in my first dozen or so purchases when I started to become a serious collector.  This song is classic Van Halen, the opening drums, the lead in classic Eddie Van Halen guitar and David Lee Roth screams.  The video itself was fun too, much of it set in a classroom where the students ogled over their scantily dressed teacher dancing on her desk.  The eighties....

Don’t Stand So Close To Me, by The Police
Keeping with sexual tension comes this one from The Police but with more serious themes and lyrics.  This song first appeared on The Police’s third album Zenyatta Mondatta.  The track tells of a student’s yearning for her young teacher and perhaps some yearning of him for her too.  The tension between the two ensues and as result there is much talk, rumours and accusations around the classrooms, hallways and staffroom.   The song was re-recorded as part of a 1986 greatest hits package and is toned down particularly during the chorus, which was a little boppy in the original.  The music in this new version gives the song a more serious overall mood.

Back later this week with more School House Rock!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

My thoughts for the next Def Leppard tour

Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of one of the biggest selling albums of the 80s, Def Leppard's Hysteria. 
Some artists have decided to play an entire album from their repertoire on a tour.  Well here's a great idea for a tour next summer for Def Leppard.  They, like other bands, come under some criticism for not mixing up the setlist too much over the years.  That is an interesting debate in itself and one I will not get into right now.  I always thought they should play a few extra songs from Hysteria.  After all, it did sell over 10 million copies, so chances are a lot of people in your audience would be familiar with anything from that record. 
Well let's go one better than that and hit the road in 2012 and play the entire thing from start to finish.  The album clocks in at a little over an hour.  To be precise my old CD player used to display 62:40 as total playing length every time I loaded it.  The band could hit the stage starting with the opening chords of the first track Women and proceed through the 11 that follow until the last one Love and Affection is complete.  Assuming this would take them a little over hour it could allow for a brief intermission and they could return for another set of songs from the rest of their recordings including the other massively selling album, Pyromania.
Some cons to this could be that although Hysteria had 7 singles released, 6 of them would be played during the first 30 minutes or so of the show.  Tracks one through six were all singles, the only exception being the title track, Hysteria, the tenth song on the album.  Normally there would be some build up to signature songs such as the number one smash Love Bites and the massively popular Pour Some Sugar On Me, but here they would be songs 4 and 5 respectively.  Of course they could always mix up the playing order too, but that would take away from the purity of playing a classic album live. 
There would still be plenty to hang on four if it is just the hits you are there for.  The second set could contain staples from Pyromania such as Rock of Ages, Foolin’ and Photograph.  There are also songs such as Do you Wanna Get Rocked, Two Steps Behind and Bringin on the Heartbreak from their catalogue for more sing-along moments. 
Playing Hysteria in its entirety just makes sense to me.  It should satisfy fans who want to hear all the hits.  It also causes them to change their setlist slightly and maybe silence some (some) of the critics.  And it deservedly marks the anniversary of one of the most recognizable and successful rock albums in the last 30 years. 

So come on Def Leppard let's hit the road again next summer and do this thing.  I think it would be very well received.  Here's my proposed setlist for you.  The first set being the Hysteria album and the second being some staples and some personal favorites thrown in.

Set One: Hystreria album in its entirity
Women, Rocket, Animal, Love Bites, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Armageddon It, Gods of War, Don't Shoot Shotgun, Run Riot, Hysteria, Excitable, Love and Affection.
Set Two
Let It Go (from High N' Dry), Foolin (from Pyromania), Rock On (from Yeah!), Wasted(from On Through the Night), Promises(from Euphoria), Nine Lives(from Songs from the Sparkle Lounge) , Two Steps Behind(from Retro-Active), Bringing on the Heartbreak(from High N' Dry), Photograph(from Pyromania), Rock of Ages(from Pyromania)

Encore:  Do you Wanna Get Rocked(from Adrenalize)

I am torn to what the opening number of the second set should be, as always, Rock Rock til you Drop (from Pyromania) is a good choice used by them as an opening many times.  Other candidates could also be Stage Fright(from Pyromania) or Undefeated(from Mirrorball) being used on their current tour as their concert opener.

Friday, 19 August 2011

What a Rush!

Turning the clock back on two classic albums from a classic band.

After spinning 1975’s Welcome to my Nightmare by Alice Cooper for a few listens I got inspired to stay in that decade and moved on to Rush’s 2112 also released in 1975, which further inspired me to stay with the band and spend some time with 1981’s Moving Pictures.

Hailing from my homeland Canada, the trio of musicians have been a mainstay in the business for over 30 years.  On a recent poll by Rolling Stone magazine they were voted the number one prog rock band of all time by a landslide.  Rush continues to have an allegiance of loyal fans and they continue to tour the world to large crowds putting off electrifying performances. 

The album 2112 is their forth release and a concept album, sort of.  It opens with a twenty plus minute track titled 2112.  This is the concept piece of the album.  It is broken down into seven parts each with its own subtitle.  The song tells the story of a futuristic world ruled by the priests of Syrinx where there is no music, among other things.  The protagonist of the story finds a guitar, learns to play it and presents it to the priests hoping for change. 

The song is certainly one of my favourites.  Musically it moves in many different directions and I have always enjoyed the story written by lyricist and drummer for the band, Neil Peart.  One of my favourite parts of the song is when vocalist Geddy Lee is singing in the voice of two different characters, the protagonist who has found the guitar and the priest who quickly dismisses and condemns the discovery.  Geddy sings the part of the guitar’s discoverer in a more mild tone and then switches to his trademark high pitched shrill as the priest continues to condemn the finding.  This musical conversation goes back and forth for some time.

After the opening number is complete there are five additional stand alone tracks that do not relate to the concept of the opening number.  Each one is a solid Rush song in its own right.  The album clocks in at just under 40 minutes.

Next up is 1981’s Moving Pictures, their most successful release to date.  It contains only 7 songs and in total also clocks in under 40 minutes .  They don’t make them like this anymore.  I would much rather hear an album with less songs if they are all stellar.  I like the days of 10 songs per album.  I guess as time moves on I am getting more and more old school all the time.  I digress…

Back to Moving Pictures.  The album opens with arguably their most well known song, Tom Sawyer.  It keeps moving from there with my favourite song on the album called Red Barchette.  Although not an epic piece like 2112's Overture, Red Barchette has plenty of imagery created by the songs lyrics and music and also tells the strory of a futuristic world where some vehicles have been outlawed.  The next track shows off the band's musicianship again with a great instrumental number called YYZ.  Next up is another of their signature and well known songs, Limelight.  There is also another lengthy piece next, clocking in at called The Camera Eye.  I love the lengthy epic songs that we don’t see enough of anymore either.  The album closes out with two final numbers, Witch Hunt and Vital Signs

The album, like 2112 showcases the talents of the band, lyrically and musically.  On their most recent tour Moving Pictures was played in its entirety.  I would love to see the same for 2112 sometime too.  Both are fantastic records but I will give the slight edge to 2112.   

Grade:  A +
Favourite Tracks:  Hard to pick one here, but all of the 2112 track, A Passage to Bangkok and Lessons.

Moving Pictures
Grade A
Favourite Tracks: YYZ, Red Barchette and The Camera Eye.

Although I select favourtite tracks here I recommend setting aside some time and playing each of these albums from start to finish. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Welcome to My Nightmare

Anticipating Alice Cooper’s September release Welcome 2 My Nightmare got me in the mood to fire up the original 1975 release Welcome to my Nightmare.  I never actually owned a copy of this album until a couple of years ago.  I have followed Alice Cooper’s career and being an 80s teenager the first album I ever owned by Cooper was 1986’s Constrictor.  It contained the single He’s Back (the Man Behind the Mask) which was featured in Friday the 13th Part VI:  Jason Lives.      

I enjoyed this album and picked up some other Alice Cooper recordings, but a couple of years ago when perusing a used CD store I cam across 1975’s Welcome to my Nightmare.  I went home, lay back with my head phones on and listened to it from start to finish.  I had heard most, if not all the songs before, but this was the first time I listened to the concept album in its entirety in one sitting.  I have several times since and it very quickly became a favourite of mine.  In addition to being a concept album centering around the tribulations of a character named Steven it has some great Alice Cooper music.

There are different styles, instruments and sounds throughout the album.  It makes for a very intriguing and enjoyable listen.  Your hard rockers are on here with tracks such as Devil’s Food, Black Widow and Cold Ethyl.  Your ballads are there including the well known Only Women Bleed.  Then are your strange and quirky songs with that B-movie or haunted house sounding keyboards such as Steven.  You will also hear horn sections and other assortments of sounds and effects including a spoken word narration from Vincent Price.  Alice himself changes his voice at times singing in a high pitched creepy childlike voice assuming the role of Steven. 

All in all there is never a dull moment on the record.  I enjoy listening to the music, the concept and the imagery Alice creates.  Of everything I’ve heard from Alice Cooper this one is far and above my favourite. 

Grade:  A +

Favourite Tracks:  Hard to pick but I will go with Devil’s Food, Black Widow and Department of Youth.  But for me this album is best enjoyed as a complete package.

Friday, 12 August 2011

RIP Jani Lane

There are many tributes all over today for the passing of former Warrant front man Jani Lane at the age of 47.  Like most I was first introduced to Lane in 1989 when Warrant released their debut album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  I was vacationing in Florida at the time and saw the video for Down Boys on MTV and was instantly hooked.  I left our hotel room walked to a store and bought the CD.  This album turned out to be one of my favourites from the opening 32 Pennies, to the first single Down Boys, the power ballads Heaven and Some Times She Cries and the hard rockin’ title track.   The disc got lot of play from me and continues to be one my favourites from that era, an all round fun feel to it.
Watching the videos at the time it was obvious that Lane was a great performer and front man.  He had the look, the moves and the voice.  Although I never embraced any of Warrant’s releases as much as their debut I continued to follow their career, including Lane’s solo efforts. 

Unfortunately we have heard the last of Lane's musical efforts.  Condolences extended to family, friends and band mates. 

Jani Lane and Warrent music video for Down Boys. 
Long live the spirit of the 80's and the spirit of Jani Lane
and others who have left us too soon.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

More Good Reading, Sammy Hagar's Red

I recently finished Sammy Hagar’s life tale that he titled, what else but Red of course.  Hearing about the life of the Red Rocker from his own perspective proved to be another great read.  Sammy takes us through it all from his childhood and family life, to his days with the band Montrose, his first solo albums, his first stint with Van Halen, their split, the reunion, life after the second split and everything in between.

I enjoyed every chapter in this book.  The beginning pages of such books that talk about the childhood can sometimes bore me.  Let’s face it; we want to hear the stories about the making of the albums and tales from the road.  But I enjoyed Sammy’s early memoirs too.  From the early beginnings you can start to see Sammy’s strong work ethic that is evident throughout the rest of his book and his entire career. 

Throughout the book you will also learn about Sammy Hagar, the businessman.  I knew he had successful businesses but I didn’t know he was an entrepreneur so early in his career.  There are stories of him attempting such ventures in the mountain bike business, a clothing line and many others, some successful and some not.  I found all these stories entertaining as well. 

But there is no denying the meat of the book contains the rock and roll tales which make up the bulk of it.  As you would expect it isn’t too kind to Eddie Van Halen.  But Sammy appears honest enough giving Eddie his due throughout.  He speaks of Eddie’s charming nature and brilliant musicianship, but also the opposing stories of his outlandish behaviour, controlling nature and alcoholism.  Then of course there is a chapter discussing the tour when he and David Lee Roth went out on the road together, both as solo artists.  Again, not a lot of kind words shared about Roth. 

He doesn’t spare himself either and shares stories of his own debauchery from the road of a rock and roll star.  But all in all Sammy holds it together through good times and bad.  Today he sits on a fortune with successful business ventures and has found new musical happiness with the bands the Wabos and most recently Chickenfoot (new album due out in September).

If you enjoy these rock and roll biographies I highly recommend this one.  Before I read this one I finished Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries.   There are less jaw dropping moments in Red (although there are a few), but I found it to be just as interesting and enjoyable of a read.

Since finishing this book I have already turned to reading Nikki Sixx’s latest book, This is Gonna Hurt, details to follow. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Rock and Roll Blood!!

I had a road trip today with my two sons.  Me and my nine year old visited one of my favourite music stores to buy a CD for part of the drive.  It has an extensive used section and we were both flipping through seeing if something would catch our eye.  I told my boy he could pick something out.  He found a Black Eyed Peas’ disc, Avril Lavigne and a greatest hits Twisted Sister CD. 

The first two pop selections he found in the stacks he would know from school and the radio.  But his familiarity with Twisted Sister comes from my own version of the school of rock. I have spent hours with my sons going through my CD collection, listening to the old tracks and sharing stories with them.  Dee Snider’s face from my Stay Hungry disc is unforgettable and thanks to Sponge Bob he was more than familiar with I Wanna Rock.  If you are unfamilar in one of the final scenes of the Sponge Bob movie he wails this song.  I also played We’re Not Going To Take It for him on more than one occasion.

Well, I held the three selections in my hand, swallowed hard, and said he could have whichever one he wanted.  After a very brief pause, which played out a little longer in my mind, he selected Twisted Sister.  He said he liked the music he heard by them more.  I was so proud.  I walked to the checkout with a lump in my throat, paid for the purchase and we were on our way.   

On our drive, in addition to the anthems We’re Not Going to Take It and I Wanna Rock we listened to songs I haven’t heard in years such as Stay Hungry, Leader of the Pack, Under the Blade, You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll and I’ll Never Grow Up, Now.  I enjoyed every song of the hard grinding straight up in your face metal to the fullest. 

I don’t know if my son’s selection was my influence or Sponge Bob’s, but I’ll take the credit (no disrespect to the Sponge).  In honour of Twisted Sister I am including this Blast from the Past.  I don’t think this song is one of their more well known ones, but I was always fond of it.  It is not on our new CD and I googled Twisted Sister’s recent setlists and they don’t play it.  It is a song titled Hot Love from 1987’s Love is for Suckers album.  As always, long live rock and roll!

Twisted Sister, Hot Love from 1987's Love is for Suckers.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Everything Old is New Again

A few upcoming releases from classic rockers that I am looking forward to!

Welcome 2 My Nightmare, Alice Cooper
Coming in September is Alice Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the sequel to the 1975 release Welcome to my Nightmare.  The original Nightmare release was a concept album that took us through the nightmare and/or life of a character named Steven.  I had heard the original Welcome to My Nightmare a few times but never owned my own copy until a couple of years ago.  It was only then that I gained a true appreciation for it and it quickly became a favourite. 

Alice’s most recent release, 2008’s Along Came a Spider, was also a concept album that tells us the story of a serial killer going by the name of Spider.  Interestingly, the character of Steven is mentioned on a few of Alice’s albums and again during the spoken word epilogue on Along Came a Spider.  Some speculate that Spider and Steven are the same person.  Both these albums are favourites of mine.  Check out my review of Along Came a Spider by clicking here. 

Welcome 2 My Nightmare is due out in September and is said to be about what else but another Nightmare, but this one worse than the first promises Alice.  (Aside:  I turn 40 in September, is this some sort of omen?)  Will we see the return of Steven?  Spider?  Going to be interesting to see what Alice has in store for us this time. 

I hope to see Alice perform in concert someday but I am not holding my breath.  I have attempted to see him in concert three times and twice had tickets purchased!  Different life circumstances prevented me from attending all these concerts.  I think over the next few days I am going to break out the original 1975 classic and the 2008 Spider album (his 25th release) and have a listen to both.

Van Halen
Next up is another of my all time favourite bands, Van Halen.  A new album is apparently recorded and back is the original line up with David Lee Roth on the vocals.  Well not really the original line up because out of course is Michael Anthony on the bass and in is Eddie’s son Wolfgang making a triple threat of Van Halen’s in the band with brother Alex still on the drums. 

There is some talk and information starting to leak around the Internet about the album that is now apparently now in the mixing phases.  There is talk of a return to that classic Van Halen sound from those early recordings.  I hope so.  I love those old songs and to this day I still find myself needing an occasional fix of tunes such as Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love, Janie’s Crying, Unchained, And The Cradle Will Rock among others.  As much as I like Sammy Hagar I rarely revisit the albums recorded with him with the exception of 5150 at times.  I am excited to hear this new Van Halen release and hopefully some new classic sounding songs for me to add to that list of old favourites.  This release will also no doubt bring about a tour that I would love to see.

Next up is another Aerosmith album.  The boys are currently recording their 15th studio release.  It wasn’t too long ago we were wondering if we would ever see this.  It has been quite a career and quite the few years for Aerosmith.  There was the public feuding between guitarist Joe Perry and vocalist Steven Tyler causing us to speculate if Tyler’s days with Aerosmith were done.  Of course Tyler remained in the spotlight with his much talked about fall off the stage during a concert and his newest job as a judge on American Idol.

I was first introduced to Aerosmith in 1987 when they appeared on MTV and Muchmusic (in Canada) with RUN DMC singing their classic hit Walk This Way.  Soon after they released what I consider to be classics of that decade, Permanent Vacation and Pump.  Both were fixtures in my CD player for years.  I also went back and experienced older releases from the band including the classic 1975 release Toys in the Attic. 

Thankfully the boys got themselves together and I am looking forward to hearing what they have to offer up this time.  If you pay attention to some of their comments on the Internet and on Twitter things are apparently going well and they are having a great time making new music.  This is another band that I have not seen perform and are on my lists of concerts. 

What are the chances of me achieving a hat trick of the concerts above this year?  What a great 40th birthday gift it would be!  For now it’s back to listening to some older efforts of all three and enjoying the final full month of my 30s. 

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Switching Gears in the Red Velvet Car

I say switching gears because this is often what this 13th studio release from Heart does, it presents us with a few different sounds and styles throughout.  And for me that’s the appeal of this strong record from the band.  I never get tired or bored of the same thing over and over again.  It opens up with a strong track, There You Go, which has a bit of an upbeat groovy sound to it with a steady acoustic guitar riff taking us through.  Next up we switch gears for a hard hitting rock track called WTF which fits very well with the band’s 70’s classics Magic Man, Barracuda and Crazy On You.  Switch gears again and we are listening to a slow and sultry title track.

On this record we are hearing a bit of hard rock, a touch of folk, and a dash of blues.  Anne’s vocals sound as great as ever as well as the guitar work from sister Nancy.  Even though there are different sounds and styles presented it all blends together nicely making for a great overall appeal.  As noted, there is a touch of hard rock here, but this album as a whole is on the mellower side.  But if you are in the mood to wind down and drift off these songs are great.

There are songs I like better than others on here but I can play this one from start to finish, no filler.

Grade:  A –
Favourite tracks:  WTF, Hey You, Queen City, Sunflower