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

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Musical Memories, Feels Like Summer!

I had a great summer day yesterday.  It was hot, very hot!  I waded in the cool waters, hung out on the deck, drank some cold drinks and listened to the laughter of my kids playing.  So in honour of my favourite season here are some songs that always make me think of summer memories.  This is a feature I would like to post here from time to time called Musical Memories.    

The following songs have some meaning in my own life and rouse up different memories and emotions.  They also take me back to hot summer nights and cool summer evenings no matter what time of year it is.

Summertime, Bon Jovi
This is the newest song on my list and comes from Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway album.  This was for the most part a very mellow effort but this is one of a few upbeat tracks on it.  I threw it on a playlist a couple of years ago for our annual Canada Day BBQ which includes many family and friends from near and far.  I was standing in front of the bbq, a spatula in one hand, an ice cold beer in the other, meat sizzling in front of me, surrounded by family and friends and in the background I heard Jon Bon Jovi proclaim “Feels something like summertime!”.  It certainly did!  Every time I hear this one I think of that near perfect moment.

Patio Lanterns, Kim Mitchell
Kim Mitchell had a lot of success in Canada in the eighties with a string of hits and albums.  From 1986 and from the album Shaking Like a Human Being comes this number from my high school days. It reminds me of a more innocent time, staying out late during summer holidays and crushes and summer loves.  That’s pretty much what the song is about and it just so happens I remember hearing it a lot during that exact phase of my life.

Summer Nights, Van Halen
If I had to pick one Van Halen era over another I choose the Davis Lee Roth albums.  Overall I like more songs with Dave on the vocals than Sammy.  But if I made a list of my favourite Van Halen albums, 5150, Sammy’s first album with the band, would be near the top.  I loved this album and played it a lot and this was one of my favourite tracks on it.  I am sure this album got heavy rotation from us over a few summers.  The song Summer Nights comes across like a summer anthem.  Hearing the song always takes me back to a simpler time.  Picture a crowd of care free teens hanging around a parking lot with a few cars pulled together, kicking around a hacky sack and this song blaring through one of the car stereos.  “Summer nights and my radio, that’s all we need baby, don’t ya know….”

Magic, The Cars
It was the summer of 1984 and The Cars were experiencing great success with the album Heartbeat City.  The opening lyrics of this song put you right in summer mode “Summer, it turns me upside down, summer summer summer, it’s like a miracle-go round.” I don’t think summer is actually referenced anymore in the song, but like quite a few songs by The Cars it has a fun summer feel to it.  The music video, also getting heavy rotation at the time, was set on a sunny day at pool side.  Lead singer Ric Ocesak spent the video walking on the water in the pool and in the end everyone else tried to join him but instead fell in and were cooled off.  I remember being in my parents’ house, flaked out on the cool basement floor staring at an old floor model T.V. seeing this video over and over again.  It seemed like anytime I came inside to escape the sun and turned on the TV and went straight for a music video program this one was always airing and I always enjoyed it.  When I hear that song now I can almost feel the cool damp floor on my back.

Here's to summer folks!!  Hope you are enjoying it!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Summer Reading, Nikki Sixx's The Heroin Diaries

I recently finished reading Nikki Sixx’s first best selling book, The Heroin Diaries, A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.  He has since gone on to write a second best seller titled This is Gonna Hurt.  The Heroin Diaries is a compelling read and a look into the mind of a broken man slipping further and further away from reality.  What makes it unique is it is actually Nikki’s diary that he wrote faithfully during the year 1987 when Motley Crue were touring to support the Girls, Girls, Girls album.

In his introductory remarks Nikki states that he wanted to publish this diary and write this book to hopefully warn and curb others.  You should be in awe and wonderment after reading this book as to how Nikki Sixx is even alive, so hopefully at least some who need to will take heed.  Even though we are reading someone’s diary, to me it still tells like a story.  It is as if we are inside someone’s mind (and in away I guess we are) and you can see the drug addiction and depression escalating until it reaches its climax towards the end.

In addition to the diary entries there are many current reflections throughout the book by Nikki Sixx himself, his Motley Crue bandmates, management, family, friends (including Slash from Guns N’ Roses at the time) and other characters from Nikki’s life.  At times it is even humorous as stories of the band’s antics are shared.  These funny antidotes are unfortunately at someone else’s expense, usually hotel management and staff.  Although it is mainly about addiction and depression you will get some inside details on the inner workings of the band, their relationship with each other and management and some of Nikki’s own opinions of other notable musicians, record companies, rock journalists, etc.  At times he is very insightful.

Motley Crue were probably at the height of their popularity at the time of this story playing in front of large sold out crowds and selling millions of albums.  But this book tells the age old tale that money, fame and success does not buy happiness.  Nikki has some concluding words in the book briefly taking the reader from the end of 1987 up to present time including his band’s successes and failures and his own personal woes and triumphs.  He certainly seems to be at peace with himself and has thankfully found sobriety.  He also continues to be successful and a creative force with two best selling books now written, Motley Crue continuing to tour successfully, a successful second band (Sixx A.M.), an avid photographer, a successful clothing line and radio show host (Sixx Sense).

Two more rock and roll books for me to finish this summer, Sammy Hagar’s Red and Sixx’s second offering This is Gonna Hurt.  Back to the deck!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Night Ranger's Somewhere in California

I was craving some new music.  I still thoroughly enjoy purchasing a new album and listening to it from beginning to end, one of life’s simple pleasures.  I am still a bit old school like that.  I do use itunes sometimes, but still often go for the complete recording, be it in disc or digital format. 

I was perusing the many other excellent blogs and sites as listed to the right and made some selections.  This particular recommendation came from the Hard Rock Hideout. It was an interesting choice for me; I never in my life purchased a Night Ranger recording.  For the most part I am only familiar with their singles in the eighties.  I was in the mood for some melodic hard rock, nothing too serious and nothing I had to put a great amount of thought or effort into.  It is summer and I am on holidays.  This disc fits the bill very well and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. 

It has a bit of an eighties feel to it and it’s definitely hard rock for the most part.  In fact, it is a bit more hard rock that I expected a Night Ranger disc to be.  Although the keyboards are a part of this band’s sound, it’s the guitar riffs and big choruses that make many of the songs infectious.   

It starts off with a great lead off track, Growing’ up in California, and I picture people in convertibles driving around with the top down and this one cranked.  That is the tone throughout much of the album.  The second song, Lay it on Me, is probably the heaviest and one of my favourites.  And the upbeat fun natured songs continue from there with another of my favourite tracks, Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight).  It slows down with a decent ballad on the fifth track with a song called Time of our Lives. It’s not a real slow ballad having more of a mid tempo pace.

I must admit at around track 8 or 9 (there are 11 songs in total) I start to get a little bored.  Maybe it's because it’s all starting to sound alike, or maybe the songs are not as strong.  I am not sure yet.  I should put the theory to the test and play the songs in reverse order, but either way I am really enjoying this disc! 

One great thing about this circle of blogs that I visit is listening to (or reading) what others have to say, others who also share a passion for music and for rock and roll in particular.  I probably would have never considered buying a Night Ranger album simply because over their 30 year career they haven’t found their way into my collection before now.  It’s funny how the seasons affect my listening mood sometimes; I was in the mood for some fun summer rock.  By reading Hard Rock Hideout’s review I had a very good idea that is what I was getting and it was exactly that.  Thanks again.

Grade: B 

Favourite tracks:  Growing up in California, Lay it on Me, Bye Bye Baby (not tonight),  No Time to Lose Ya

Sunday, 17 July 2011

More Van Halen Fun!

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I would have a bit more fun with this whole ultimate Van Halen concert with Extreme as the opening act fantasy thing (see blog entry below).  I put together a set list for what I have called the Best of Both Worlds tour (which was actually the name of one of their greatest hits packages, but seems to be the ideal name for this tour).  I have kept in mind the playing order and all.  I tried to be realistic with the number of songs, 24 in all including the encore.  Probably predictable for the most part with some of my own personal favorites thrown in, but here it is!  What would you do differently?

Extreme Setlist
Decadence Dance
Rest in Peace
Play with Me
Stop the World
More than Words
Hole Hearted
Get the Funk Out

Van Halen Set One (with David Lee Roth)
Running with the Devil
Ain’t Talking about Love
And the Cradle Will Rock
Janie’s Crying
Guitar Solo/Eruption
I’ll Wait
Drum solo and then a lead in to…
Hot for Teacher

Van Halen Set Two (with Sammy Hagar)
Good Enough
Pound Cake
Why Can’t This be Love
Summer Nights
Standing on top of the World
Cabo Wabo
Finish What You Started
Can’t Stop Loving You
Right Now

Gary:  Without You
Dave:  Dance the Night Away
Sammy:  Best of Both Worlds
All Three:  Melody including You Really Got Me/Ice Cream Man/Oh Pretty Woman

Thursday, 14 July 2011

My Plea to Van Halen!

There’s talk of a brand new Van Halen album with David Lee Roth, their first full length recording with him in 27 years, and a tour to boot.  I look forward to hearing the album and hopefully seeing the tour. 

But here’s my plea to Van Halen.  Are you listening Eddie?  Good.  Here it goes.

You have a great rock band!  You know that.  No.  You have an awesome and influential rock band with an allegiance of fans!  You know that.  You have two distinct eras in your band’s career with two different vocalists, the David Lee Roth years and the Sammy Hagar years.  Both were very successful with millions of albums sold.  You know all that! 

Here is what I want.  Get the following people in one room together:

(You) Eddie Van Halen
Alex Van Halen
Michael Anthony
Sammy Hagar
David Lee Roth

You are all grown men.  Let’s lay it on the line and work it all out.  Let’s get past the differences, riffs, insults and anything else that needs to go under the bridge.  Now, in the name of show business, in the name of rock and roll, plan the following tour.

Van Halen hits the stage and plays a set with David Lee Roth.  A brief intermission and they return to do another complete set with Sammy Hagar.  Wait.  There’s more.  We can’t forget about that one lone album (Van Halen III) when Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone joined the band on the mic.  Well, Extreme had a few solid albums and had some success themselves, so why not get that band together and have them be the opening act.  Now we are all under the one roof for an awesome night of rock and roll, an awesome night of Van Halen!

Wait.  Not done yet.  Let’s review.  Extreme has opened.  Then keeping with the chronological history of the band David Lee Roth provided the vocals for the first set.  Brief break and another set with Sammy Hagar.  Now we need an encore.  Let’s bring back Gary Cherone to sing a track off Van Halen III so everything is represented.  Then he passes the mic off to Dave who returns to sing another, who then passes it off to Sammy to sing again.  Now end it all off with a song that all three vocalists can perform on, maybe a cover. 

Tell me that wouldn’t be one awesome night and one massively successful tour.  It would be one that would go down in history, the rock event of the decade for sure. 

Ok Eddie.  I know you’re reading J.   Make the call!  See you at the show!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Taking a Ride on the Wildside (Motley Crue Concert Review, June 2011)

I never got many great shots during the concert, but here is one
of the band and crew taking a bow at the end of the show.

We had just finished listening to a great set from The New York Dolls and high energy performance from Poison and the headliners, Motley Crue, were yet to take the stage.  We were able to watch the crew get ready for Poison’s set, but not this time.  As soon as Poison’s stage was being disassembled a large white curtain was dropped and whatever was happening behind was a mystery. 

The show got off to a strange start.  Normally there is some warning or indication that the moment of the band’s entrance is near.  Not this time.  My wife and I were still seated and chatting when what sounded like a large gun shot was fired, the white curtain dropped and we were treated to the opening chords of Wildside from the Girls Girls Girls album.  An elaborate stage set appeared.  Drummer Tommy Lee was elevated behind the band.  Behind him was a large circular screen which was used for various images and tricks throughout the night.  The stage set extended up above all of this too.  There were stairs which vocalist Vince Neil was working his way down over as the rest of the boys were playing the opening riffs of the opening number.  There were platforms above which currently had two dancing girls who were also occasional background singers.  Far on the top there were smaller screens displaying various messages throughout the night. 

The visual appeal of this show continued.  There were flaming pentagrams, plenty of fireworks and the two girls appeared off and on throughout the night to take part, and it was even a little theatrical at times.  We were treated to all the songs and staples you would expect to hear at a Motley Crue concert, which was great for me being it was my first time seeing them.  I was also pleased to hear a couple extra songs off the Shout at the Devil album in addition to the standard title track and Looks That Kill.  They also threw in Too Young to Fall in Love and 10 Seconds to Love.  Overall, I wouldn’t have changed a thing in the setlist.

Vince addressed the crowd a few times throughout the evening thanking everyone for 30 years.  But he wasn’t the only one.  Tommy Lee and bassist Nikki Sixx also had a turn.  Tommy Lee actually had two.  First wasn’t too long into the show when he came down from his drumset and addressed us before playing the piano and giving us the song Home Sweet Home from the Theatre of Pain record.  He again had a few words later during the most unique drum solo I have ever seen. 

Tommy’s drumset was in the center of a round circular rollercoaster formation.  He began to play and began to circle round and round and upside down.  He then stopped, selected a willing audience participant and strapped her in next to them and played some more with both of them now upside down.

Bassist Nikki Sixx also had a turn addressing us, or as he called it, taking us to the church of Motley Crue.  He appeared alone on stage and asked everyone to sit down, or "sit the f*** down" because church is in session.  He also appeared humble and thankful to be sharing the stage with his bandmates whom he acknowledged one at a time.  He then apologized for all the "sick shit" they were going to do over the next 15 or 20 minutes.  He ordered us to our feet again, we obeyed, and the show continued. 

There wasn’t really anymore ‘sick shit’ compared to what we have seen already.  More fireworks, explosions and dancing girls.  At one point the two girls appeared on stage with flame throwers.  They continued to rock hard until the final number of the night, Kickstart My Heart from the Dr. Feelgood album was played.   Before the band and crew took their final bow of the night four buckets of blood were tossed into the first few rows of the crowd.  The band, the girls, and crew lined up and took a bow.  The crew left the stage and the four bandmates took one more bow and walked off.  No encore.  Motley Crew doesn’t do them.  But I have to say I was completely satisfied!

As I said in an earlier post it was a rock and roll circus to the max.  I loved it!  I actually walked away thinking how will that ever be topped.  I know I will see more great concerts, but for an in your face rock and roll spectacle that one will be very hard to beat.  

Motley Crue Setlist
Wildside, Saints of Los Angeles, Live Wire, Shout at the Devil, Same Ol'Situation (S.O.S.), Primal Scream, Home Sweet Home, Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), (Tommy Lee Drum solo), (Mick Mars Guitar solo), Looks That Kill, Dr. Feelgood, Too Young to Fall in Love, 10 Seconds to Love, Girls Girls Girls, Smokin in the Boys Room, Kickstart My Heart.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Nothing but a Good Time, Poison Concert Review (June 2011)

The crew getting the stage ready for Poison's performance

The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto was barely half full as the opening band of the evening, The New York Dolls played their set.  This was too bad because they were deinitely worth listening too as well.  As soon as they were done, the crew hit the stage and began preparing for Poison’s show and the seats all began to fill quickly.  The first thing displayed was a huge curtain behind the stage with a large Poison logo on it.  As soon as it was unveiled the waiting crowd gave a large ovation.  There was a catwalk behind Rikki Rocket’s drum set with two large silver 25's on either side commemorating the anniversary of the band.  Along the front of the catwalk other various Poison images were also displayed. 

Once all was ready the crew left the stage and we waited.  The background music was turned up and it was obvious we were moments away.  Guns n’ Roses Welcome to the Jungle and ACDC’s Highway to Hell were the two songs played as the anticipation grew.  When the music stopped someone walked on the stage with their face covered in some sort of bandana or ski mask.  With a can of spray paint he then wrote “Toronto” on one base drum and “Canada eh” on the other.  He pulled down his mask revealing that it was none other than Poison drummer Rikki Rocket.  A large ovation from the now capacity crowd and everyone rose to their feet.  Guitarist CC Deville and bassist Bobby Dall then emerged and for those familiar with Poison’s music the first few chords of The Valley of Lost Souls from the Flesh and Blood album were played.  Only the first few though as they quickly switched to Look What The Cat Dragged In, the title track from their debut release, with still no vocalist Bret Michaels on stage.   Moments into the song there was the first explosion and display of fireworks of the night and Bret appeared emerging up through the centre of the catwalk being slowly elevated and proclaiming in rock and roll fashion “Torontooooo”!

Throughout the evening there were plenty of fire works and explosions as the band energetically played through most of their hits in a set that lasted for about an hour.  And energetic they were!  All of them moved around the stage similar to what they may have done in their twenties and they definitely won the crowd over.  Bret addressed the crowd several times throughout the performance. He appeared humble as he thanked everyone for allowing them to spend 25 years playing their music together.  He also acknowledged his recent health problems and stated he recognized his is lucky to be alive and doing what he loves to do. 

It was a very fun show.  Poison were one of the ultimate party bands back in the day and that atmosphere was recreated for their time on stage as everyone often sang along and danced to the music.  It was a great atmosphere all round, the band appeared to he having a blast and we were right there with them.  That’s what it’s all about.

As their time on stage drew to close we were treated to three more of their signture songs.  Third from last was their biggest hit and one of the best sing along moments of the night, Every Rose has its Thorne.  The first half of the song was just Bret, his acoustic guitar and the crowd.  After the first chorus there were more explosions, fireworks and the rest of the band joined in.  Talk Dirty to Me and Nothing But a Good Time closed out the night.  The band left the stage to a huge ovation.  They sounded great and had fantastic stage presence.  What a night!!  And Motley Crue were yet to even take to the stage.  Stay tuned for my full recollection of that phase of the night.

Poison Setlist
Look What the Cat Dragged In, I Want Action, Ride the Wind, Your Mama Don’t Dance, (CC Deville guitar solo), Fallen Angel, Unskinny Bop, (Rikki Rocket drum solo), Every Rose has its Thorne, Talk Dirty to Me, Nothing but a Good Time.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Happy Canada Day!!

Sipping an early morning coffee on July 1st, Canada Day.  I flew home yesterday evening after spending most of the week in Toronto, Ontario.  I have much to write about including the rock and roll circus that was the New York Dolls, Poison and Motley Crue.  If you like the rock and roll spectacle type of show (which I do!), then this was that to the max.  I am going to write about each band’s performance separately and hope to do so in the next few days.

For now it’s off for some cool beverages and bbqing to celebrate this country’s birthday.  In honour of Canada here is a list of some of my own personal favourite Canadian acts:

Rush (prog rockers have been together over 30 years, currently on tour and I still haven’t seen them)
The Guess Who (one of the first Canadian bands to strike it big outside of the country)
Blue Rodeo (bit of rock, country and folk blended together, this band is a household name in Canada)
Great Big Sea (folk/rock band makes infectious music, great vocal harmonies and one put off one of the most energetic live performances I have ever seen)
Neil Young (Canadian legend needs know introduction)
Our Lady Peace (formed in the early nineties this band has been putting out strong releases ever since)
The Tragically Hip (One of my all time favourites, read more thoughts about them clicking here on the (Original) Rock Brigade Blog)

Happy Canada Day!!