Sunday, 26 June 2011

It's almost show time!

Well folks I am off for a brief vacation touching down in Canada’s largest city, Toronto. During my brief stay I will be taking in a major league baseball game watching my favourite Toronto Blue Jays take on the Pittsburgh Pirates.  And although I always welcome any opportunity to attend and enjoy a major league sporting event, more importantly I will also be taking in the New York Dolls, Poison and Motley Crue.

On an earlier post back on the (Original) Rock Brigade Blog I talked about the element of surprise being gone from concert events.  I find it hard not to snoop around Youtube or online concert reviews and as a result you can really get a feel for the whole show before you even get there.  It’s no trouble to find a setlist, what songs are turned into acoustic numbers, opening and close out tunes and any other surprises the event may have in store.

This time around I have purposely resisted all temptation to snoop.  And it’s been tough.  The boys from Motley Crue and Brett Michaels from Poison hit their Twitter accounts heavily with reviews, photos and other tidbits of information.  I want to experience this concert like I did in days before the Internet.  I want to be as surprised as I can be when I attend this show.

Assuming my plans go as planned I’ll be back after my trip to share the experiences with you all.  Until then – enjoy yourselves, summer is here!!

Monday, 20 June 2011

RIP Clarence Clemons

The world of music lost Clarence Clemons from the E-Street Band last weekend.  I am sure anyone who has spent time watching any of the Bruce Springsteen videos he appeared in or any live footage has images of Clemons burned in their memory.  He certainly appeared to have a larger than life stage presence.  He always had a smile on his face had and always seemed to be enjoying his work immensely.

I make reference to videos and live footage because I have never seen the band, or the man, perform live.  I have mental list of acts I want to work through seeing and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band are near the top.  Sadly if that happens now, there will be a large void not to be filled.  In fact, it will not feel quite the same.

There are many tributes pouring in from musicians from different genres and so there should be.  I came across this obscure track today from a 1999 Alice Cooper tribute album.  It features Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot on vocals and of course Clarence Clemmons on the sax.

Condolences to his fellow band mates, family and friends.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Bringing Back the Grade

When I restarted this blog I made the decision that when I reviewed albums this time around I would not assign them a rating, but rather just discuss the recording and give some thoughts, either positive or negative.  In the (Original) Rock Brigade Blog I used a letter grade – I am a teacher after all. 

However, after further reflection I thought it would be more fun to reinstate the grade.  You put yourself out there a bit more, and sometimes you look back and think you were off in your original assessment, but that’s ok too.

On my favourite sports channel, TSN, respected hockey annalist Bob Mackenzie proclaimed he did not like doing playoff predictions and would not make them.  I thought that the fun of the broadcasters on TSN was the banter and the discussion between them about their individual choices of winners and losers.  My CD reviewing system is the same thing.  Putting that final stamp of a grade on it creates more discussion allowing us all to offer up our differing or similar opinions.  In other words, not "wimping out" and leaving the grade off it.

So far I have been blogging this time around I have reviewed two dics, This is Gonna Hurt by Sixx AM and Mirrorball by Def Leppard.  See more detailed thoughts in my original reviews below but because neither has a letter grade, here it goes.

This is Gonna Hurt suits my tasts perfectly.  There may be a couple songs on there I don’t like as much as the others, but there is nothing on there I dislike or nothing on that I feel the need to skip over when playing from start to finish.  Grade A+

I also don’t feel the need to skip over anything on Def Leppard’s Mirrorball.  But again, this is a live album, so it acts like a bit of a greatest hits CD too.  Still, it’s a fun record and sounds great.  Grade:  A

There you go.  See all my other letter grades on the (Original) Rock Brigade Blog by clicking here. 

Class dismissed for today. :)

Friday, 10 June 2011

Take a look into the Mirrorball

I have written about Def Leppard several times on my (Original) Rock Brigade Blog and since I have made "my comeback" this is the second time in just four posts.  I have followed their career from the near beginnings as closely as I have followed any band.  I have their complete catalogue and for a stretch there were a few albums I couldn’t really get into.  Slang, Euphoria and X all had their moments and when I listen to them now I tend to favour them more than at the time of their release.  But they didn’t grab me like the music they played when I was in my younger years. 

However, in recent years in my opinion they have put out some very solid recordings.  For me it really started again with Yeah!, the 2006 release of all cover songs.  I was hesitant about a covers album, but I faithfully buy all Def Leppard releases.  To my surprise this one quickly gained heavy rotation from me.  Most of the covers were not clich├ęd and it was a very fun record.  Then came Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, the 2008 release of all new original material.  In my opinion this was their best effort since the mega selling Hysteria.  

Now after over 30 years in the business they release they first full length live album, Mirrorball.  This one has two CDs worth of live tracks, plus three new songs and a bonus DVD.  I was curious to how this one would come across because of Def Leppard’s known signature slick produced studio sounds. It works and it works very well.

All their hits that we have heard many times are on this one, but in many cases they sound fresh again.  Some songs come across as more upbeat than they do in their original format. The songs Animal and Hysteria, for example, are both great mid-tempo songs from the Hysteria record.  On Mirrorball the songs have more of a lively (no pun intended) feel to them and more of a jump to them.  It is refreshing to hear the multilayers of the original versions of many of these songs stripped down and sounding so great in their live format.  Def Leppard have also been known for putting off a great live show and it is captured here nicely. 

There are a few songs on here that the casual fan may not be familiar with including Switch 625 (an instrumental number from the 1981 album High n Dry), three songs in total from The Sparkle Lounge record and Action, from 1993’s Retroactive album.  There are 21 live tracks in total (most of them very familar) plus the three aditional new songs.  I would have liked to have heard another track or two from High n’Dry or even something from On Through The Night, their very first full length album.

The three new studio recorded songs are also solid tracks.   The first, Undefeated, has a guitar riff on the verses that almost keeps with that stripped down feel but moves into the normal vocal blends that we often find in Def Leppard songs.  It is a catchy tune and I heard vocalist Joe Elliot mention in an interview that they may use it as their opening number on their summer tour.  The song’s opening steady drum beats that lead into the guitar riff makes it a good choice for that purpose for sure.  The second new track, Kings of the World,  has a Queen like feel to it being laced with numerous vocal harmonies.  The final new song, It’s All About Believing, also has a catchy riff and that unmistakable Def Leppard sound.  

The DVD is fun enough to watch too.  There are some live performances and some backstage behind the scenes footage, including some banter between the guys and Billy Idol when he opened up for them on some dates during the Sparkle Lounge tour. 

In my pervious post I had said that I hoped this would be a fun record to play while relaxing on the deck with summer fast approaching.  It is that for sure.  If you catch Def Leppard live this summer on tour with Heart I would love to hear about it. 

For all my other Def Leppard thoughts in my blog posts including a couple of concert reviews click here.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Some things to look forward to...

Over the past two years life has been crazy for me.  So crazy that I got away from doing this (blogging) and other simple pleasures that I normally enjoy.  My whole life I considered myself someone who was “in the know” on all things rock.  I followed religiously and passionately.  Then I got away from it all, not because I wanted to, just because circumstances forced me to.  Point being, things have now levelled off for me and I am again reading, listening, taking note of the rock world and enjoying resurrecting this blog once again.  So….if you (former reader) are reading again or are a new reader and have anything to recommend that I may have missed the last couple of years please let me know.  Having said that…here are couple things I am looking forward to and will be discussing in more detail right here soon.

If you read my first incarnation of this blog, which I now refer to as The (Original) Rock Brigade Blog, you will know of my affection for Def Leppard.  During my formable years ‘the Leps’reigned supreme and they have certainly worked their way back into the mainstream. They have performed with Tim Mcgraw and Taylor Swift.  They have also appeared on Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen, Dancing With the Stars and even made an appearance on The Celebrity Apprentice.  There are now about to release Mirrorball, a live album including three new tracks.  They have been asked many times about a live album and now finally it comes to light for the first time in their 30 plus years as a band.  It contains most of their hits and I am looking forwarding to hearing how it will all sound.  I am hoping with summer fast approaching that it will be a fun one to pop on when spending those warm evenings on the deck.  Included with this is a DVD containing concert and backstage footage.

I had the opportunity to see Def Leppard perform live twice, and was disappointed neither time.  I planned on touching down in Toronto some time this summer and noticed that Def Leppard were stopping there on their summer tour with supporting act Heart.  However, I opted out and decided to travel there when Motley Crue, Poison and The New York Dolls roll in on their summer tour.  

Back in the day (during my formable years) I also listened to Motley Crue and Poison religiously and continue to follow the careers of both.  I hesitate to mention that I even have tickets.  Plans, sometimes, someway, find a way to fall apart.  However, I have vowed not to become a pessimist and have my tickets for the big show.  This should be rock spectacle times 10.  It is being billed as Motley Crue’s 30th anniversary tour and Poison’s 25th.  Nikki Sixx keeps hyping the tour on his Twitter feed and he is making it sound like it is going to be a dandy.  Motley Crue actually had an online poll open for a while allowing fans to vote on their setlist.  I am hoping for a lot of the hits and standards with a few obscure ones thrown in since this is my first ever Crue show.  I do think it is a very cool idea to allow fans to have some direct input on the songs they will play.  Assuming everything works out and I am in Toronto for the show on June 28th  (optimistic optimistic) I will post detailed concert thoughts right here!

Stayed tuned!! 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

It's Sixx A.M!!

My latest obsession is This is Gonna Hurt, the second album from Motley Crue bassist Nikki’s Sixx’s side project, Sixx A.M.  The band also features guitar work from DJ Ashba and excellent vocals from James Michael. 

I love this album - no filler here for me!  Put it on and let it play, from the opening title track right to the final song Skin, 11 songs in total.  Most of the songs are heavy/hard with catchy riffs and big melodic sing-a-long choruses, just the way I like it.  However, there are a few exceptions that dabble on the softer side.  One of my favourites is Sure Feels Right.  It is a slower to mid tempo song that is hard to resist tapping your foot to and maybe swaying your head back and forth with.  There is also the song Smile, a slower acoustic number and it ends off with the slow and haunting song Skin. This first single, The Lies of the Beautiful People, received a lot of positive reviews and it is a great song, but is just one of many great song on this one in my opinion.

Nikki Sixx is a very interesting guy.  In addition to this project and being the bassist from one of the world’s most notorious rock bands, Motley Crue, he has become a photographer, hosts a really cool radio show (Sixx Sense) and is a best selling author.  Check out the Heroin Diaries and his latest book, also called This is Gonna Hurt.  I have a copy of this one but haven’t had a chance to read it yet.  It also contains a number of Nikki’s photographs and some poems/lyrics from some of Sixx A.M. songs.  From just skimming this one and look at some of the pictures, Nikki’s perspective on things is certainly worth paying attention to.  Themes in the book appear to go hand in hand with the songs on this album.  In many ways the album acts like a soundtrack to the book.  Nikki often encourages us to look at the world in a different way than the norm and to see beauty in things we usually turn our heads away from.  I can’t wait to delve into the book and read it in its entirety. 

I am looking forward to seeing Nikki in person when he plays the bass for Motley Crue on their summer tour with Poison and The New York Dolls. 

I’ll leave this one with the song Are You With Me Now from this highly recommended album.  One of my favourite rock albums in a while!!  Check it out!!