Thursday, December 27, 2012

ADLER "Back From The Dead"




(c) 2012 New Ocean Media

  1. Back From The Dead
  2. Own Worst Enemy
  3. Another Version Of The Truth
  4. The One That You Hated
  5. Good To Be Bad
  6. Just Don't Ask
  7. Blown Away
  8. Waterfall
  9. Habit
  10. Your Diamonds
  11. Dead Wrong
Jacob Bunton--Lead Vocals, Mandolin, Guitar, Piano
Lonny Paul--Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Johnny Martin--Bass, Backing Vocals
Steven Adler--Drums and Percussion

Additional Musicians
Jeff Pilson--Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Slash--solo on "Just Don't Ask"
John 5--solo on "Good To Be Bad"
Michael Lord--Piano on "Waterfall"


I am always a bit leery of bands who use the name of one of their members for some reason.  I mean, yeah, things worked out pretty well for Van Halen, and Dokken has done well enough, even if they have had their personnel problems.  But usually, it comes across as just a grab to play off the strength of that person's name and the project ends up being a showcase for one guy with the others just being hired guns or bit players.  Adler had every chance for that to happen, as Steven Adler is not only a former member of one of the biggest hard rock bands to ever blast the planet, but he lived on that legacy for several years after being relieved of the drummer's seat in Guns N Roses with his own personal GnR tribute band, Adler's Appetite.  But in spite of the recipe for potential disaster, this album comes out smoking, cranks up the intensity, and never looks back in a no-holds-barred effort to make the listener completely forget what they may have thought they were going to hear when they picked up a Steven Adler project.

Perhaps the first thing I should do is dispense with the word "project", because that is not what Adler is.  Adler is a band, period.  This is patently obvious when the album is given it's first spin-through.  There is a cohesion to the band that is missing in most pieced-together project albums.  This is due in large part to the fact that the songwriting was handled by lead vocalist Jacob Bunton and lead guitar player Lonny Paul, with contributions from Dokken bassist, Jeff Pilson, who not only handled all of the bass tracks on the album but also produced it (Adler picked the songs that were used but did not contribute any credited writing).

Another important aspect of this band, and this album, is that neither makes an attempt at being the next Guns N Roses.  Jacob sounds nothing like Axl, and none of these songs sound anything like an Appetite... or an  ...Illusion song.  While it is easy to hear Bunton performing the lower-range GnR classics such as "Mr. Brownstone" or "Live And Let Die" in a live setting, he is himself 100% on this record, owing more to his approach in his other band, Lynam, than to anything that GnR ever did.  Likewise, the music is melodic and catchy, but owes more to modern radio rock than to the underbelly of 1985 Hollywood.  Don't take that to mean that there is no sense of urgency to the music, or that it lacks bite and grit, but this is an album with HUGE production and a modern slant to the sound, but without the bland sameness of sound that so many albums seem to have now.  Each track here sets itself apart from the others, with songs running the gamut here from the intense, upbeat, blues-rock of the title track, "Back From The Dead", to the bass-driven thump of "Dead Wrong", to the jaunty, sassy sing-along of "Good To Be Bad".  Back From The Dead truly has no weak spots, no bad songs, and no filler tracks to these ears, as all have the potential to garner the attention of active rock, modern rock, and satellite rock stations 

Just because everything here is good, don't think that means nothing stands out.  The three biggest numbers for me are the sweeping, emotion-drenched "Just Don't Ask", which features a certain top-hatted axe slinger contributing a HUGE melodic solo that only Slash can deliver, the equally powerful and melodic "Waterfall", and the totally out-of-left-field "Your Diamonds" which, as Bunton explains in a G2G interview, was written with 70's-era Journey in mind (trust me, you can't miss the inspiration once you have heard the song).  "Own Worst Enemy" is another big time number with gospel-styled backing vocals on the chorus and a big, Lonny Paul guitar hook that just embeds itself in the listener's brain.  Similarly, "Another Version Of The Truth" features a big, powerful chorus, a catchy hook, and a driving rhythm that is very hard to get out of your head once you have given it your full attention.  "Habit", the semi-biographical story of Adler (the man) is another infectious track that builds over the top of some solid, crashing drums and a great guitar riff before dropping into a sparse arrangement for the verses then kicking back into full-blaster mode on the choruses.      

I have heard some ignorant fools bag on this album as lacking in the GnR sound, but those people miss the point.  This is NOT Guns N Roses any more than Slash's solo stuff (or Duff's...or Izzy's...) is Guns N Roses.  Perhaps Adler brought some of this upon himself with his Adler's Appetite years, but people need to understand from the very moment they push play on this disc that there is NO intent, NO desire, NO effort to sound like Guns N Roses here.  This distinction is one of the big reasons Adler, the man, didn't want the band to be named after him; he wanted this band to stand on it's own.  If you are willing to be fair and honest with this record, then stand on it's own is what it does.  If, however, you are looking for "Welcome To The Jungle" or "Sweet Child O' Mine", you are going to be sorely disappointed...and you are going to miss out on one of the best records of the year.

Rating:  Pure crankability here!  Crank Back From The Dead to a smoking 9!

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MOTORFINGERS "Black Mirror"

(c) 2012 logic(il)logic Records
  1. Bastards And Saints
  2. Dust Over Stone
  3. In My Dreams
  4. Mad Crime
  5. My Soul
  6. Lost
  7. Fallen Brother
  8. Out Of Control
  9. Here I Am
Andrea "Spy" Spezzani--Guitars
Max Barbolini--Guitars
Claudio "Clay" Corrado--Vocals
Mauree "NOX" Novelli--Bass
Alex Gualdi--Drums
Hailing from Modena, Italy, Motorfingers is one of the most recent additions to the slew of talented bands coming out of Europe.  Like many of their contemporaries, Motorfingers combines and obvious love for the Hollywood scene, albeit the more sleazy underbelly side, with an appreciation for modern production technology and a dose of today's hard rock sound.  The result is an definite contender for Glitter2Gutter's Top 12 of 2012!  This is a seriously good, extremely solid effort that I have not tired of since first popping it into my CD player!  Quality material, talented musicians, and a singer who does not attempt to sound like everyone else out there in the New Wave of European Glam and Sleaze movement, gives Motorfingers a gritty, dirty edge that fans of Guns N Roses, classic Aerosmith, Dangerous Toys, and more modern bands like Nasty Idols and Crashdiet, will appreciate.
I will be honest that I was a bit concerned for the album as a whole when I heard the vocal approach taken on the opening track, as there was more of a modern slant here than I was hoping for.  Oddly enough, it is really only on this track that this vocal style is used and the rest of the album is stronger for it.  I might not even have noticed so much had this track been buried lower in the tracklisting...say, down around track seven or eight, and "Dust Over Stone" was given the chance to shine as the lead in for this album.  From this point on, solid songwriting, excellent guitar work, and a generally hard-rocking, uptempo approach keeps this album "motoring" along.  The previously mentioned "Dust Over Stone" is a great example of the guitar prowess displayed on this effort, with equally talented displays being put forth on tracks such as "Lost" (which throws a HUGE nod to bands like Iron Maiden with its chorus), "Mad Crime" and one of my personal favorites, "Out Of Control".   "Fallen Brother" is the other true highlight for me, as this is a solid, emotion-laden ballad that shows a depth that many bands seem to be missing from some of their slower tunes.

If I had to pick an track that really didn't do things for me (outside of the opener), I would probably have to go with "In My Dreams" which drifts too far into the modern radio rock sound for my liking.  Now, I am NOT against the modern hard rock sound, as readers of this site know, but I don't like it when a band seems to jump styles, which is what happens here.  It sounds like the band makes an obvious stab at radio with this song, which is understandable, but it just messes up the flow of the album, at least for me.  The track has a fairly catch chorus which sure sounds like the band is singing "Captain America!", but I don't really see how this would fit the rest of the song, and the musicianship is top-notch, but I just don't feel that it goes with everything else here.  I don't skip the song, but I don't skip TO it, either.  To be fair, if the band had done an entire album in this style and with this approach, I think it would be a fine effort as well, but I appreciate the sound and style that the rest of the album takes without this detour.

This isn't a perfect album, but it is definitely well worth picking up, especially if you are a fan of the modern sleaze sound coming out of Europe today.  It is a bit shorter than I would have liked, especially with the opener being one of the low points of the disc, at least to my ears.  I cannot comment on the packaging of the album as my copy is a promo copy that, despite the inclusion of the front cover artwork, utilizes the interior as a press kit for media outlets.  As such, I have no idea if lyrics, pictures, or credits are included, BUT, logic(il)logic Records tends to have decent packaging for their releases. 

Rating:  Crankable, no doubt, but I just feel like there could have been a bit more.  Still, an 8 for a debut album is a solid first effort and possibly enough to make our year-end list!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Talkin' Trash with JACOB BUNTON (Adler/Lynam)





Jacob Bunton, the lead vocalist for ADLER, and also the man behind the microphone for Lynam, was kind enough to take a few moments this holiday season to talk about being in a band with the legendary drummer from Guns N Roses, some of his favorite music, the music industry as it is today...oh, and what it was like to hang out with a certain top-hatted guitar slinger!!!  Sit back and enjoy as we talk some trash with Jacob Bunton!!!

Glitter2Gutter:  Jacob, I want to thank you for taking the time to call us during this busy time of year.  Did I interrupt your Christmas shopping or anything?

Jacob:  No, no, man, I'm glad to do it.  I'm actually in the studio right now working on some new music...

G2G:  New Adler stuff already, or maybe something for your old band, Lynam?

Jacob:  Actually, I'm doing a project with a project with a friend of mine.  I'm always making music, you know, it's what I've done my whole life so as long as I'm able to be creative I'm happy. (laughs)

G2G:  That's good to hear!  Let's just jump right into it then...  Adler's album Back From The Dead dropped just a couple of weeks ago and things seem to be going well for you guys so far.  How has the response from the fans and from radio been for you?

Jacob:  We have been blown away by everybody, from radio and the media, such as yourself, and of course the fans.  You know, the biggest thing for Steven (Adler) was that he wanted the Guns N Roses fans to really love what he's doing now, and he has achieved that I would say, because the response has been incredible from all of his old fans and from our fans as a new band.  It's been exciting.  It's just, uh...it's been overwhelming, really.

G2G:  How did you end up being in this band.  I know you were in Lynam before, and I assume you are still working with those guys also, so how did things come together?

(Jacob, front and center, with Lynam)
Jacob:  Yeah, I'm still with Lynam as well, and am doing both bands.  As far as the way things came together, um, in August of last year...I was really good friends with Jani Lane of Warrant, and when he passed away, I flew out here to the Key Club to his memorial out in L.A., and I met Lonny from the band through a mutual friend, the album's mixer, Jay Ruston.  Lonny told me that Steven was tired of doing Adler's Appetite, because, you know, Steven had been going around doing the Guns N Roses songs for several years and he had played those songs for so long that he wanted to do a brand new project with new music.  So, um, Lonny was familiar with my voice, and Steven was also, so we met at the hotel and talked and, you know, pretty much just started creating music.

G2G:  So how big of a thrill was that for you?  Did you grow up a Guns N Roses fan?

Jacob:  Dude, they were on my wall for my whole life!  (laughs)  It was them, you know, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Kiss...um, you know, all of them...Cinderella, Poison, all those bands.  And, um, Appetite For Destruction has always been my favorite album of all times.  So, yeah, it was a huge thrill...you know, probably the biggest thrill of my whole life was being in the recording studio and looking out and seeing Steven Adler, Slash, and Jeff Pilson all there and I was like, "God, what am I doing here?!" (laughs)  It was cool!

G2G:  Yeah, you have Guns N Roses there and Dokken all in the same room....

Jacob:  That's right...it was amazing...(laughs)  I still can't believe it, really.

G2G:  Can you tell me a little bit about the writing process?  I know you were involved in a considerable amount of writing for this project, correct?

Jacob:  Yeah, man.  The way that it worked was me and Lonny started emailing song ideas back and forth to each other.  I was in Birmingham, Alabama...I'm actually out here in L.A. now because we have a show Monday night at the House Of Blues, but I still live in Birmingham while the rest of the guys live out here.  So, anyway, we would email ideas back and forth and then in January we started recording the record, and, um, when I flew out here me and Lonny got into the same room and started working on some songs from scratch.  Jeff Pilson also co-wrote a couple of songs with us, which was cool.  You know, a lot of people go, "well, I struggle, you know, I've got writer's block" or whatever, but knock on wood, for us it was very easy for the music to just come out, you know.

G2G:  What was the process for getting Mr. Pilson involved?  Was that a group decision or did Steven have some friendship connections there...?

Jacob:  That was actually Lonny.  I tell everybody this, that Lonny is absolutely the MVP of this band, like hands down.  He reached out to Jeff and Jeff was like, "yeah, I'd love to play bass" and then Lonny heard some of Jeff's production stuff and so he asked him, "do you wanna produce this thing, too?" (laughs)  Jeff ended up producing it, so, yeah, Lonny set all that stuff up, and he hooked me up with the band when we met at the Key Club that night, so, yeah, he is definitely the most instrumental part of the band as far as all of that goes.

G2G:  Now, Jeff played bass on the record but that was before Johnny was in the band, right?

Jacob:  Yeah, Johnny Martin is our bass player now and he's amazing, but Jeff played the stuff on the record...

G2G:  Now, you mentioned Slash before so I gotta ask...were you in the studio when he was actually recording his part?

Jacob:  Oh yeah, man! (laughs) He came in...you know, him and Steven have been best friends since like grade school...so, yeah, Steven asked him to come over and we sent him the track "Just Don't Ask", which is the one he plays on, because we felt that the ballad would be the best thing to put him on, you know.  His solos are just so, like...nobody can touch Slash on ballads, you know.  I mean, you can just hear it on stuff, like when "Sweet Child Of Mine" comes on the radio, you just know it's Slash.  We definitely wanted that soulful, melodic playing on "Just Don't Ask".  So, he came to the studio and...you know, there's a funny story here.  We were having a little get together at Jeff Pilson's house, and Slash ended up coming over...but he went to the wrong house!  (laughs)  Picture this; picture a freakin' knock on your door at eleven o'clock at night and you walk to the door and it's Slash standing there! (laughs)  So, Slash told us later he was like, "So, uh, where's the party?", and the guy is standing at the door and yells back into the house, "Honey!  Slash is at the door!" (laughs)  It turned out it was Jeff's next door neighbor, so he pointed Slash down the road and told him how to get to the house.  I thought that was pretty funny...I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall, you know. (laughs)
(Slash...WITH his top hat)
G2G:  Absolutely!  Now, I gotta know, did he have the top hat in the studio?

Jacob:  Nope, nope, he didn't...he had, uh, a baseball cap on, no top hat though.

G2G:  That's almost a let-down, isn't it?

Jacob:  No, man...Slash can wear whatever he wants, I was just happy getting to meet him! (laughs)

G2G:  Tell me about getting to work with John 5.  How did that all come together and work out?

Jacob:  That was Steven.  I guess his wife and John's wife are good friends and John 5, obviously, was a big Guns N Roses fan, like I was, and John and Steven knew each other, but once he got to the studio he actually had to remind Steven that they had hung out together several times many years ago, but Steven had no recollection of it because, you know, so many of those years are just a haze for Steven, you know. 

G2G:  Well, yeah, I suppose...

Jacob:  So, John walks into the room and, you know, I was kind of amazed to see his guitar and his board and stuff.  You know, when I think of John 5 and all his stuff, I always thought his playing had to be full of tons of effects, but his pedal board was actually just so simple.  It was like a yellow overdrive pedal, a tuner, a wah pedal, and one of those blue chorus pedals.  And the dude was like, all the effects sounds he gets are just that blue chorus pedal turned all the way up and it creates that extra chorus effect that he gets.  He's not as effect-heavy as you would think he was, he's just an amazing player that knows how to get the sound he wants.

G2G:  Well, that's interesting.  I guess I was kind of like you and assumed he used a lot of effects, but since I'm not a guitar player at all, I really didn't know what it would take to get that sound out of his guitar.

Jacob:  No man, not at all.  He's got a very small, simple pedal board which is the same pedal board he used with (Marilyn) Manson and David Lee Roth and Rob Zombie...it's just his sound and he's just an amazing player.

G2G:  So, are you guys out touring the new record then or are you just doing hit and miss dates?

Jacob:  Right now, we're just doing sporadic dates, you know like I said we've got this date on Monday, and then next year we plan on going everywhere.  We're actually going to Japan with Duff...we're doing all kinds of stuff next year and I'm really looking forward to it.

G2G:  Now, I've heard rumors that there might be a surprise GnR song or two dropped in the set.

Jacob:  Yep.  Anytime you play in a band with former GnR members, there are going to have to be some GnR songs, you know.  It's just expected from the fan base.  So, we'll definitely play all the songs on our record, but we'll also probably do at least two GnR songs.  It's the same when Slash plays, you know, he does his solo stuff but he still has to throw in the other songs.  And I don't mind it at all, you know, like I said before, my favorite stuff in the world is on that Appetite record and it's just an honor for me to play it, you know.

G2G:  I can tell you that when I was listening to this record the very first time, and I heard your voice, I thought to myself that you would just rip up a song like "Mr. Brownstone".

Jacob:  Ah, thanks man.  I appreciate that.

G2G:  Now you said you are still working with Lynam, also.  Are there plans for a new record or some playing with those guys as well?

Jacob:  Uh, eventually we are going to do a new EP.  We actually stopped recording records.  Thank You, Goodnight was our last record...it was a full-length, live record...and we made the announcement that that was going to be our last full length.  And that confused a lot of people, you know, because they were like, "well, if you're not breaking up, why aren't you doing any more records?"  It's just the way the chemistry has gone, you know.  It's like now, for us, instead of feeling like we have to go in and do a whole new record we can go in and do two or three new songs that we all love and feel strongly about, and throw it up on iTunes of something like that.  Now, I, myself, personally, I still love listening to actual record records, you know, but the majority of people, the way the get music now, it's just different and we don't feel like there's a need to put out full length albums now, at least for us.

G2G:  So what are you listening to now when you get a chance to step away from your new music or from Adler?  What does' Jacob listen to?

Jacob:  My musical taste is all over the place.  Like, I listen to a lot of bluegrass and country, like, I love Brad Paisley, I love the new band Florida-Georgia Line.  On the rock side, I love Foxy Shazam!  In fact, that new record is one of my favorites of 2012, that Church Of Rock And Roll, which I think is just an amazing record.  And then I love a lot of the old-school bands that have released new records, you know, the new Aerosmith, new Van Halen, I love both of those records. 

G2G:  That's funny that you mentioned Aerosmith because I was going to ask what you thought of that new record.

Jacob:  My favorite song is that...I think it's track number three...that song "Beautiful".  It's crazy because the chorus, it's like Tyler's doing a rap over the verses and then you've got this big, beautiful melodic chorus.  And the guitar part, it's just so schizophrenic, it's just...  Man, I tell you what, what I think they should have done is get the two surviving members of Run-DMC and had them doing the chorus while Steven was doing the rap part, kind of bringing everything full-circle from "Walk This Way" back in the 80's, you know.

G2G:  I'm going to have to try to create that in my head the next time I pop that record in...

Jacob:  (laughs) Exactly...exactly....

G2G:  Back to your new record...as we mentioned earlier, you had your hand in writing several of the songs on this album, and every artist that I have ever talked to seems to use the whole, "my songs are like my children" analogy, but if you HAD to pick a favorite, or even a couple of favorites off of Back From The Dead, what would they be?

Jacob:  (laughs)  Yeah, I know what you mean with that "songs are like your children" thing.  Umm...for me, it changes almost on a day to day basis.  I really love "The One That You Hated", which was the first song that me and Lonny wrote together.  I also really love "Your Diamonds", I wrote that sitting at my piano back home in Birmingham, and Steven wanted a song that had kind of an old, 70's Journey vibe, so I sat down and wrote that which I think turned out real well.  And, um, I love "Just Don't Ask" because I love the fact that I wrote the song and two of my favorite people, both Steven Adler and Slash, both played on it. (laughs)  So...I guess that's three, but really it changes all the time...like you said, it's hard to choose between your children... (laughs)

G2G:  Well, you not only picked three songs, you actually picked three of my favorites off the disc.  You know, with "Your Diamonds", I didn't even really think about it until you said that, but it does have a somewhat retro sound to it with that kind of fat, (laughing) I don't know if "sexy" is the right word or not...

Jacob:  (laughing) Yeah, man...

G2G:  I don't know if that was the direction you were going with that song, but that's kind of what pops into my mind...

Jacob:  Yeah, that's the direction Steven wanted one of the songs to go and "Your Diamonds" just kind of fit that, um, fit that part, I think.  You know, me and Lonny wrote the songs on the record, and then Steven picked out the songs he wanted to use. Ultimately it was his decision on the songs that got put on the record.

G2G:  One thing that impressed me when I listened to the album was, despite that fact that obviously Steven's name is the band and is out there on the front of the record, you actually sound like a band and not a project.  That really impressed me because I think it would have been easy for this to become a vehicle for Steven to just keep his name out there doing covers or songs that sounded like GnR songs.

Jacob:  Thank you very much, man.  That's the way we always approached it, you know.  Steven actually wanted a band name and we just could never agree on what to call the band.  He was just adamant that he didn't want the name "Adler".  In fact, Steven really wanted to use the name "No Quarter", which we all hated. (laughs)  We HATED the name.  We were all like, "that's just awful!"  And, you know, we looked it up and there was like a Led Zeppelin tribute band, and we were like, "no, we are not calling ourselves 'No Quarter'".  Steven was like, "no, man, it means we aren't going to...", and we were like, "we know what it means and NO, it's awful!"  (laughing)  I mean, come on...No Quarter?  It sounds like, you know, you're at Starbucks and your total comes to $1.75 and all you have is a buck fifty and you look at the guy and go, "Sorry, No Quarter".  (laughs)  Of something costs a dollar twenty-five and you give him two bucks because you got no quarter.  (laughs)  That name is horrible...  Don't you think?

G2G:  I'm staying out of it!  (laughs)

Jacob:  (laughs)  Yeah, man, it was bad.  But, eventually, we all agreed on Adler and it stuck and, you know...hey, Slash did it, and I think it just makes sense. 

G2G:  Well, yeah, I mean we have the band Adler, we have Slash, we have Duff with his own thing, and I know Izzy recorded as Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds, right?

Jacob:  Yeah, that's right.  All we really need is Axl now, and I think he's got the perfect name, you know, just using his initials from W. Axl Rose would be the coolest, you know, W.A.R. so he could have "WAR" for a band name...

G2G: Since he's obviously NOT Guns N Roses now...

Jacob: (laughs) Well, yeah...

G2G:  So, who wrote the majority of the lyrics on this album then?  I love the lyrics to the song "Habit", for example, and I think "Just Don't Ask" is a phenomenal song, and yeah, Slash really adds to it, but I think it's a great song in it's own right even without the solo Slash adds...

Jacob:  Well, thank you very much for saying that.  I wrote the song "Just Don't Ask", the music and lyrics and everything, and Lonny wrote "Habit", so, a lot of songs we did collaborate on, but you just happened to pick two of the songs that we wrote individually and you can really see our different writing styles, I think, but they are both really good songs in my opinion.  I like "Habit" a lot, too, because it's pretty much Steven's story, you know.

G2G:  We all know the music industry has changed so much over the years, and videos really aren't what they used to be, but does any song on this album just scream "video" to you?

Jacob:  Yeah, when I'm writing, especially after an album has been mixed, I listen back and can see a video for every song, really, you know.  Umm...

G2G:  ...because to me, "Just Don't Ask" is one that really begs for a video, I think.  It has that classic feel that a really good video song has, that just lends itself to a story type of video, not just a performance shot or something.

Jacob:  Thank you for saying that.  Yeah, I mean, when I listen back to that song, and all the songs really, I have all kinds of imagery running through my head for videos...

G2G:  What's your take on the way that music works now.  You've mentioned that you're a fan of albums but let's be honest, that's not the way that people get their music now.  The piracy thing is obviously an issue, but is there also an upside to being able to get your music out to the people immediately, or is just really filled with a lot of negatives?

Jacob:  Me, personally, I think there's a plus side to it, as well.  When you're a kid, you don't know anything about money and you don't know anything about the business side of music, and when they hear something they like, you know, they just want to get it.  And, as a musician, you know, when you plug your guitar in and you make something you want to get it out there for people to hear.  And, again, the kids don't even realize that people get paid for putting that music together, they just want to hear your stuff, you know.  I think that's one way to look at it, but I know there are so many ways to look at things.  You know, for me, I just like to play and get the music out there, but I understand where all the artists are coming from, you know, that used to sell millions of records and now they don't so their income has dropped, you know, a lot in some cases.  I've, uh, (laughs), I've never had that problem, you know...I've never seen my income diminish that much, so I just like people to hear what we're doing, but, again, I do understand the business side of it, too.

G2G:  You kind of touched on what I was going to ask next...the days of the platinum album are long gone for most artists unless your, I don't know, a Nickelback or someone like that.  So, how does a band like Adler define success, at least to you?

Jacob:  I guess that really depends on what success means to you.  For me, Adler is already a huge success because we created something to the best of our ability and that we are really proud of...and the fans like it.  To me, that's success, because we're all really happy for that.  As far as commercial standards, it's very hard for a rock band to have success by commercial standards.  You know, there are just very few true rock stations left in the country, you know, because most radio has either gone Top 40, or Hip Hop, or country, or even talk radio, and things are just completely different than they were when I was a kid, or when Steven was in GnR...or even just ten years ago, you know.  So, success is up to the individual, at least to me...

G2G;  To touch on the radio thing, like you said, radio, at least terrestrial radio, has really moved on from the rock format, but satellite radio has really taken off and exploded.  Have you guys been able to embrace that?  I know that Sirius/XM on the Octane station has played your stuff quite a bit.

Jacob:  Yeah, the two rock stations that are on Sirius and XM, um, Octane and Boneyard, have both been really, really supportive of us, and even Hair Nation, because of Eddie Trunk's show, has supported us as well.  Eddie has really been a big supporter and we appreciate him more than he could ever know.  You know, we appreciate everyone that's helped us out, yourself included, Arttie.  All of you guys get the word out about us and allow us to be able to do what we do, and we appreciate it more than you could ever know.  So, yeah, we've done our best to embrace that and all kinds of media, and we've been lucky so far in how we've been able to do that.

G2G:  So, what would you like to tell fans that are just coming to the band, or maybe coming out to a live Adler show, what would you like them to know about Adler?

Jacob:  We are a brand new band, so if you are expecting to hear all Guns N Roses songs because Steven was there, that's not what we're doing.  It's a brand new bandm similar to what Slash has got, or whatever, and we're a brand new band and we just happen to have a former member of Guns N Roses in the band.  If you like good, solid rock music then come to the show.  I think that you'll really like the show and you'll have a lot of fun.  And, if I may, I'd like to tell everybody to like our page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Adlermusic , and on Twitter to follow us @Adlerrocks, and then our website is www.Adlerrocks.com .

G2G:  Well, Jacob, I want to thank you again for taking the time to give us a call.  The new album, Back From The Dead by Adler is out in stores and on-line now, and I wish you all the success in the world and a Merry Christmas to you, my friend.

Jacob:  Thank you, too, man.  It's been fun.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM LIBERTY N JUSTICE!!! (Free Song Giveaway)

(c) 2012 LnJ/Roxx Productions
 
1.  The Grinch
 
Justin Murr--Bass
David Cagle--Vocals
JK Northrup--Guitars
Eric Rango--Keyboards
Michael Feighan--Drums
 
 
Just in time for Christmas, Liberty N Justice have put together and released their first song as a full band!  However, don't let the fact that this is a humorous Christmas song fool you, as the band flexes its muscle with this fun little number.  Of particular note are the powerful vocals of Mr. Cagle, who has just enough grit to his voice to really drive this song home, as well as the guitar work of JK Northrup.  I really don't know what else to say other than that Northrup is an absolute BEAST on the guitar and how this guy never got tagged with the "guitar god" label back in the 80's and early 90's is anyone's guess.  Top notch performances, crisp production...AND A FREE DOWNLOAD!!!!  What more can you ask for this Christmas?!  Just jump over HERE, fill in a couple of blanks, and "The Grinch" will be rocking you around your own Christmas tree, regardless of if you are on the naughty or nice list!  And, hey...if you like what you hear, tip the guys a buck or two to help make more music available at a future date!
 
Rating:  Cranked FULL of holiday cheer!  Get it before it's gone!!!
 
Merry Christmas!!!
 

Monday, December 3, 2012

TWO-BIT THIEF "Another Sad Story In The Big City"

(c) 1990 Combat Records
  1. City Boys
  2. Industry
  3. Love/Hate
  4. Hard Times
  5. Broken Hearts
  6. Folsom Prison Blues
  7. Desperado
  8. Broke Again
  9. One Sad Day
  10. Modern Revolution
  11. Crime
  12. Remedy
 
Andy Andersen--Vocals
Chris Scaparro--Guitars
Ron Shipes--Guitars
Rick Strahl--Bass
Eric Brecht--Drums
 
San Fracisco was the home of this extremely overlooked sleaze act from the late 1980's.  Perhaps that was largely due to the fact that San Francisco was more well-known for their thrash metal acts than anything else.  Considering the fact that several members of this band were in a thrash act that didn't quite make it, you would think that maybe they still had a fan base that might cross over, but sadly that was not the case and Two-Bit Thief is one of several excellent bands that are relegated to the "Who Are These Guys?" bin at your local used CD store.  If you happen to stumble upon Another Sad Story In The Big City, however, I strongly encourage you to pick it up.  Sleaze fans will not be disappointed in what they feast their ears upon from the very first spin!
 
One thing of note with Two-Bit Thief is the fact that these guys play their sleaze fast and loud....with an emphasis on fast.  It is obvious that the speed/thrash thing was still coursing through their veins when Two-Bit Thief put this album together because it is one non-stop break-neck track after another with only the quasi-hit single, "Broken Hearts", slowing things down at all, and this track is still a long way from ballad territory.  Even Johnny Cash is given the sleaze/thrash treatment on the band's ripping, "Folsom Prison Blues".  I like to tell people this band sounds like Dangerous Toys mixed with LA Guns with the love-child of Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat and Phil Lewis of LA Guns doing the singing with a sore throat...all while on speed!  Honestly, I think that's a pretty fair description.
 
The guitar work on this album is of special note, as I think Scaparro and Shipes made a formidible rhythm/lead tandem, with several solos dripping with that southern-fried slimy sound, such as on the snark "Love/Hate".  It's not so much about flash and flair with these guys as it is about attitude and grit, which is cool, as 1990 was about the time too many of the hair bands started to all sound the same and oversaturate the market.  Had more bands gone the gritty, grimey road that Two-Bit Thief chose to travel, it was possible that the scene may have survived a bit longer, regardless of what was happening in Seattle.
 
Stand out cuts would have to include the album opener, "City Boys", the cover of "Folson Prison Blues", the LA Guns-esque "Industry", "Hard Times", and one of the cooler tracks to come out of the scene (in my opinion), "Desperado" which has an AWESOME chorus breakdown that I absolutely love!  The cowbell intro of  "One Sad Day" kicks off another LA Guns-inspired track that is also one of my personal highlights from this underrated disc.  At times the disc does suffer from a bit of sameness, as I think the speed with which the band delivers their sleaze starts to run the songs into one another.  One or two more mid-tempo numbers would have broken things up a bit, but I'm not one to complain that a band rocked too hard and didn't throw in enough ballads...but one true ballad may not have been a bad thing.  
 
I'm not going to tell you this is the best album ever crafted, but it is one of the better albums you have probably never heard...or at least that you haven't heard in a long time.  If you own it, dust it off and see if you don't plan to do so more frequently, and if you don't own it, it generally isn't too hard to come by for under $15 on eBay or Amazon.
 
For your listening/viewing pleasure, here is the band's mini stab at fame:
 
 
 
Rating:  Overlooked, underappreciated, and worth a second listen, crank this to 7.5.
 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ADDICTION FOR DESTRUCTION "Neon Light Resurrection"

(c) 2012 R.W.A. Music Company
  1. My Resistance
  2. Rock 'N Roll To You
  3. On My Needle
  4. Neon Light Resurrection
  5. Nervous Breakdown
  6. Jane Is Insane
  7. Jaded Heart
  8. Fellin' fine
  9. Can't Wait
  10. (I Don't Care) You're Nothing
Tom Spice--Lead and Backing Vocals
D. McKay--Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Henning N Nielsen--Guitars, Backing Vocals (touring)
Andrey "Zvon" Zvonkov--Guitars (recording)
Krock--Drums


Additional Musicians:

Daniel Izmaylov--Guitars, Backing Vocals on "Feelin' Fine"
Nikolay Stravinsky--Backing Vocals
Karnina Nazarova--Backing Vocals on "Rock N Roll To You" and "Feelin' Fine"
Tatiana Shishkova--Female Vocals on "On My Needle:
Igor Bardashev--Percussion
V. Kozhekin--Harmonica on "Jane Is Insane"

Addiction For Destruction is the latest Russian sleaze band to cross my desk in the past year, following John Galt and Shit Rave.  Unlike those two bands, however, Addiction For Destruction has released a full-length physical CD and has received distribution support from Demon Doll Records and Atomic Stuff, which should help to get their music out to the people who may want to hear it.  The question is, of course, SHOULD people want to hear it? 

If all that mattered was appearance, style, and attitude, Addiction For Destruction would have it made before you even pushed play on your CD player.  Obviously the band borrowed their name from the Guns N Roses classic Appetite For Destruction, which is not an uncommon tactic of bands trying to make a name for themselves, so I guess you could give them some style points for at least having a good idea of who they want to emulate.  Then, simply judging them by their photos, they have the tattoos and long hair (well, 3 out of 4 do...) to go with the denim and leather, so that is in their favor as well.  But there have been a lot of bands that looked the part but simply couldn't play the part...or even play their instruments, for that matter...through the years, which was what I feared from this band, to be honest.

Of particular strength here is the guitar playing of Andrey "Zvon" Zvonkov.  Zvon has a firm grasp on the 80's sleaze sound, but he adds enough of a modern touch to keep  Neon Light Resurrection from sounding like a clone of something from that decade. In fact, Zvon seems to almost seamlessly blend the 80's sleaze sound with the more modern sound that I so often refer to here as the New Wave Of European Glam and Sleaze.  Think Guns N Roses or Faster Pussycat meets Crashdiet and Nasty Idols and you will have a good idea of Zvon's sound.  It's too bad that he is either no longer in the band or, perhaps, is only a studio member of the band, because he is the strongest part of the band overall and the main reason I was able to get through the first few cuts of less-than-stellar English translations, cookie cutter drum patterns, and derivative sounding songs.

The opener isn't horrible, and once you get adjusted to the lower-range sneer of Spice's vocals, it is actually a decent rocker and not a bad way to start off.  However, things go downhill from there, especially on the extremely cliche "Rock N Roll To You" or the unfocused pomp of "On My Needle."  To be honest, by the time these two tracks had rolled out, I was starting to wonder what it would take to get through the rest of the album.

I'm glad I stuck around for the second half of the album as it is by far stronger than the first five tracks.  Starting with "Nervous Breakdown", the band seems to find a groove and settles into a nice, aggressive, sleazy rhythm that I wish the entire album contained.  I kind of wonder if these later songs aren't older songs that the band is more comfortable with and that the first few tracks were put together so that the band had an entire album worth of material.  "Jane Is Insane" is a very catchy song that I like quite a bit, even if the lyrics are a bit odd.  One line that I think is actually pretty cool is when Spice sings, "Devil in her eyes and a smile like a stain".  That's some imagry I can honestly say I have never heard used before.  "Jane Is Insane" and "Feelin' Fine" fight over the rights as the best song on the album, with "Feelin' Fine" being a pretty cool, aggressive rock track that would serve the band well as a single and possible video, as I think it is the song most likely to attract the rock crowd these Moscow natives appear to be angling for.  The other two songs of note on this album also show up on this latter half of the disc, and both in the form of acoustic numbers.  "Jaded Heart" has some pretty nice guitar work, although Spice's vocals are a bit strained in spots.  Album closer, "(I Don't Care) You're Nothin'" is a bit cliched once again, but Spice's vocals work better here and, again, the song structure is solid and the track itself is above average.

The production is solid, which is a bonus, and there are not any major problems with the mix on the record, with the guitars sounding clean in the right spots and nice and grimy where it matters.  Additionally, the vocals are not buried in the mix or blaring so far out in front that the instruments get drowned out.  One thing that I will say about the vocals, however, is it sounds like numerous layers of vocals were used in a lot of spots, even on the lead vocals, which gives them an odd sound in places.  This is especially noticable on "My Resistance", for example, where it almost sounds like gang vocals are being used even for the verses.  It's odd, to say the least.

The packaging is top notch on this effort, so it's obvious some thought went into the project as a whole.  All of the lyrics are included in the full-color, 12-page booklet that also includes multiple band photos, credits, and thank-yous.  A very nice touch to this overall product.

Musically, Addiction For Destruction is better than Shit Rave but not as solid as John Galt, as far as the Russian rockers of this past year go.  As far as the overall entire product, however, Addiction For Destruction is MILES ahead of their peers.

Rating:  An above average first effort from a band that will only improve with more time to gel...and a better translation dictionary so the lyrics don't come across as so cliche.  Rock this at a decent 6 and keep an eye out for Addiction For Destruction in the future.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

BLUSH, STEVEN "American Hair Metal" (Book Review)

(c) 2006 Feral House
 
 
With "American Hair Metal", author Steven Blush has created a glossy look at the Hollywood Sunset Strip scene of the mid-to-late 1980's, when big hair, makeup, and spandex ruled the scene for both guys and gals.  At a fairly substantial 176 pages, the book has a lot of room to share a wealth of information about the scene, the bands, the groupies, and the music, especially since this is a coffee table format book that is nearly 8 inches tall and almost 10.5 inches wide.  Sadly, at least for me, most of the book is given to sharing photos of the bands, many of which could be found in other magazines or books, and not a lot of time or page space was devoted to actual content.  Oh, sure, there are a lot of cool quotes from various band members, and there is a brief glimpse into the earliest incarnations of the hair metal movement, a la the glam bands of the late 1970s' such as KISS and New York Dolls, the more classic 70's rockers like Van Halen, Aerosmith, and even Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC, and the label feeding frenzy that took place when everyone was trying to sign the next Poison or Warrant, but really, that is about all for substance, and even that is slim pickings, covering only about half the book's pages (and even less than half of the book's content area).
 
I was really disappointed that more attention wasn't given to the lesser known or unsigned bands of the "American Hair Metal" scene as I think this would have been the perfect format for that.   Where is Tryx, for example?  Or Wildside?  Or Wildboys?  Or Masque?  Notice the book doesn't call itself "Hollywood Hair Metal", so why are none of the east coast bands really talked about all that much?  What about the European bands (a few are given some metion, but not much) of the scene?
 
Also, I really took issue with the chapter (perhaps glossary is a better term) that the book calls "The Hair Bands", making it appear as if this is going to be some sort of definitive list of some sort.  Trust me when I say it is not.  For all of the Glitter2Gutter readers, I ask you, is it even possible to have a true "list" of the hair metal bands that only starts with Black N Blue and then ends with Winger?  Seems to me we are missing several bands there....  Also, another list called "More Essential Hair Cuts" lists such classic hits as "I Want My Heavy Metal" by Adam Bomb, "American Kix" by Candy, "Drop The Bomb" by London, and "Under The Influence" by Sven Gali, to name but a few.  Now, I don't dispute that these are good songs, but "essential"?  NONE of the bands I just listed made the book's "The Hair Bands" list, but they have essential songs?  Interesting...
 
At the end of the day, this is nothing more than a picture book with a bit of dialog, a lot of artist ramblings about various topics, and little else of any kind of substance...but perhaps that is as it should be.  After all, no one believes anything of any substance came out of the 80's or the hair metal scene anyway, right?  So why should this book be any different?  
 
Rating:  "American Hair Metal" is a decent "flip-through book" that owners may casually thumb through once or twice, but otherwise it is likely to gather dust on a bookshelf.  There are better, more informative books out there. 
 
 

RICK SPRINGFIELD "Songs For The End Of The World"

(c) 2012 Universal Music

  1. Wide Awake
  2. Our Ship's Sinking
  3. I Hate Myself
  4. You & Me
  5. Gabriel
  6. A Sign Of Life
  7. My Last Heartbreak
  8. Joshua
  9. Love Screws Me Up
  10. I Found You
  11. Depravity
  12. One Way Street

Rick Springfield--Lead Vocals, Guitars
George Bernhardt--Guitars
Matt Bissonette--Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Rodger Carter--Drums

Every now and then, a CD shows up in my mailbox that is just completely out of left field, or at least seemingly so.  I get everything from the deepest, darkest death metal to some stuff that I'm not entirely sure is even music.  So, when Rick Springfield's latest CD showed up a few weeks back, I wasn't necessarily surprised, but I wasn't really expecting much out of it, either.  Hey, I'm not gonna deny that Springfield was one of my guilty pop-rock pleasures of the 80's, as he had just enough guitar edge to his rocking stuff to satisfy my hard rock ear...and just enough pop to interest the girls that I was interested in!  Seriously, if most people here are honest with themselves (and I'm not asking you to say it out loud, just don't lie to yourself...), we've all cranked "Jessie's Girl", "Love Somebody", "Everything For You", and possibly "Celebrate Youth" more than a few times.  That being said, I had pretty much written the guy off since I had last heard him on his 2004 album Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance as it just didn't do anything for me and he came across as an angry, bitter mid-50's rocker (he was 55 at the time) that was trying to sound relevant.  And to be completely candid, I expected the same thing here.
 
WRONG!
 
On Songs For The End Of The World, the listener finds Springfield not turning his back on his power pop past (say that five times fast!), but instead embracing it and then pulling it forward.  Every rocker here sounds like something Springfield could have done in the 80's but with more modern production, harder edged guitars (at least in places), and a bit of a modern rock sneer mixed in with numerous arena-rock anthems and a smattering of ballads.  In places this album reminds me a lot of the latest efforts from Night Ranger and Journey as far as the melodic approach and how "hard" the album is, but the lyrical content tends to be much darker, more introspective, and not at all tied to the 80's attitude that so many retro acts seem to be desperately holding onto.

Take for example the opening track on this album, "Wide Awake".  A tight drumroll and a fuzzed-up modern guitar lick start the track off, and the verse lyrics are spit out in a snarling, almost angry style before colliding with a very poppish, sing-along chorus, with Springfield seeking "what it is to be a kid again".  The follow-up track, "Our Ship's Sinking" has a big hook from the outset, a bit of a modern radio rock approach to the guitar tones, and a huge, bright sound with a positive attitude to the lyrics that belies the song's title.  The album's lead single, "I Hate Myself", has a much more retro-rock approach to it, especially in the guitar tone, but the attitude is youthful and powerfully delivered, the guitar hook is fresh, and the song is not dated or tired sounding at all.  "A Sign Of Life" is another song that sounds like it could have been taken from a mid-80's writing session but then given new life with some beefed up production and just a hint of modern guitar tuning, producing a strong mid-tempo rocker that will likely keep the listener's head nodding and toes tapping.  "My Last Heartbeat" is another aggressive rocker with some interesting effects and some of Springfield's angriest vocals on the disc. 

Never forgetting where he came from, yet refusing to be contained by the past, Springfield moves effortlessly from a track like "Love Screws Me Up", which finds Springfield dropping the F*BOMB of all things (gasp!) in a cool, jangly number that has a definite retro feel, then moving on to the much darker sounding "I Found You" which carries a far more modern vibe musically and production-wise. 

Every song here checks in at under four minutes long, so Springfield knows how to keep things short and to the point, which I think is to his benefit, as the songs don't come across as bloated or pompous at all.  Instead, a strong focus on melody, catchy hooks, and interesting-if-not-complicated rhythms keep the album moving along nicely, even on the slower moments such as the fantastic "Gabriel" or the previously mentioned "I Found You". 

This is not the Rick Springfield that those of us who survived the 80's are likely to recall when his name is mentioned.  Rather than imploring us to "Love Somebody", Springfield now tells us that "Love Screws Me Up", and instead of "Jessie's Girl" we get "Joshua", but that's okay.  Springfield has expanded his musical voice, expressing angst and aggression and frustration that would never have found their way into his hits of 25 or 30 years ago.  While his voice doesn't sound like it has aged at all, there is no way the Springfield of old would have even considered approaching an edgy track like "Depravity", with it's screeching guitar and plaintive lyrcs. 

It's too bad that Top 40 radio is going to ignore this effort, and modern rock radio doesn't have the guts to play music from a 63 year-old heartthrob from the 80's because, all in all, this is one of the best releases of 2012, regardless of genre.  Chock full of hooks and harmonies, Songs For The End Of The World is the biggest surprise of the year for me so far, and we're running out of time for that to change since it is November already.

The packaging is top notch, complete with credits and lyrics, which frequent readers will know is always a plus for me.  Additionally, this is a digitally enhanced CD, so there is a lot of bonus material that can be accessed with your computer, which is always cool. There are also supposed to be four different versions of the cover art floating around, although I have only seen two; I am not sure if the variant covers mean certain discs have bonus tracks, or if some covers are in more limited quantities than others and, thus, more collectible.

Metalheads will want to avoid this disc at all costs (as if I needed to tell you that), but for readers of this site that appreciate good, catchy, melodic rock that hits hard at times and also knows when to back off a bit, I would imagine that Songs For The End Of The World is going to be something that you will find yourself returning to again and again. 

Rating:  I am as shocked as anyone, but I would say crank this to a surprising 8.5...but you have to be willing to be open-minded and not just write this off as soon as you see it's Springfield!
 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SCOTT STAPP "Sinner's Creed: A Memoir" (Book Review)

(c) 2012 Tyndale Books

Love them or hate them, it is impossible to deny that Creed is one of the biggest rock acts of the past twenty years, selling more than 40 million copies of their four multiplatinum studio albums.  As such, the band's lead singer, Scott Stapp, who has also sold more than two million copies of his solo album, The Great Divide, is one of the most beloved...and most loathed...singers of that same time frame.  Never one to shy away from a fight (which he talks about in this memoir), Stapp steps up to the plate to deliver, along with co-author David Ritz, a solid, extremely readable account of the triumphs and struggles of this not-yet 40-year-old megastar.

Without giving away too much detail, Stapp tells of his abandonment by his biological father, the abusive relationship with his step-father, the rise, fall, and disbanding of Creed, the semi-suicidal accident that nearly claimed his life...and how a rapper saved his life!  From the band's early days as Naked Toddler ("The name didn't go over well..." p. 98), to Brian Marshall's departure, to the creation of Alter Bridge (which Stapp never mentions by name), the various stages of the band's career are discussed from Stapp's unique point of view as the man out front...and then out of the band.  The singer also discusses the meanings behind numerous Creed songs, his frustration with the band being labelled  a "Christian band" ("we didn't want to be Stryper..." p. 136) despite the fact that he is a profound Christian who writes deeply spiritual, often prayerful lyrics, and how his wife and children have saved his life on multiple occasions.  He also discusses in candid detail his struggles with drugs and alcohol, multiple rehab stints, and how he finally surrendered everything to God in order to salvage his life, career, and family.

Included at the end of the book are the lyrics to all of the songs that Stapp has written for Creed throughout the years.  Oddly, however, the lyrics to his solo album are NOT included.  I am not sure why; perhaps this was simply an oversight.  It is a nice inclusion for people who are following along as he writes the book and wants to get further reference to the lyrics he frequently quotes throughout.

Another little unique twist to this book is the inclusion of a free download of a previously unreleased Stapp song, the title track to this book, "Sinner's Creed".  Not sure if this will be a part of the next Stapp solo release (which he mentions here) or the next Creed studio album (also hinted at), but it is a solid track that will be loved by Creed/Stapp fans...and just as equally hated by those who can't stand the band or the man.

Again, a very solidly written book that brings to light Stapp's side of some of the controversy that has surrounded him and Creed through the years.  More than that, though, this is a book about a Christian man's struggle to reconcile the rock n' roll lifestyle he admittedly lived (and abused) with the faith that he claims he always carried with him, and his ultimate understanding that he could not have it both ways and that something would have to be sacrificed if he was to survive.

Definitely not a tell-all, not a slanderous account, and not a sordid details type of book, but a compelling page-turner that I finished in just a few days time.  Recommended reading for fans of Stapp or Creed, or for anyone looking for a positive, faith-based book about overcoming personal struggles and demons.  

(294 pages, hardcover)




Monday, November 19, 2012

JEFF KEITH "Country Music Friends EP"

(c) 2012 Jeff Keith Country Recordings
 
  1. Same Ol' Cowboy
  2. Life Is Just A Roller Coaster Ride
  3. I Can't Let Go
  4. Life On The Road
  5. Oklahoma Bound
  6. Oh Hell
  7. CMF Interviews
CMF is:  Jeff Keith, Kent Goodson, Pat Boone
 
Additional musicians:  Penn Pennington, Herb Shucher, Billy Contreras, Ray Von Rotz
 
Backing Vocals:  Jeff Keith, Penn Pennington, Sheila Fowler
 
For people who may be inclined to pick up this little EP from Tesla frontman, Jeff Keith, be warned:  THIS IS NOT A ROCK RECORD AT ALL.  I know, I know, people will say, "Well, duh, it says 'country music friends' on the cover", but I cannot overstate this fact: THIS IS NOT A ROCK RECORD AT ALL.  It is not Keith and some current country superstars doing Tesla songs, or Keith covering songs of some of todays country acts.  This is Jeff Keith doing straight-up, OLD-SCHOOL country music.  The music on this EP owes more to old George Jones or even Hank Williams, Sr. than it does to anything on country music radio today, as there is not a single hint of rock in the country music contained here.  This is country music that is rooted more in the acoustic country sounds of the 50's and 60's, and which many people would have labeled "country western music" prior to the Outlaw Country movement (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Jr., etc.), the Urban Cowboy movement (Dan Seals, Conway Twitty, Mickey Gilley, etc.) of the late-70's/early 80's, or the New Hat movement (Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, etc.) of the late 80's/early 90's.
 
While not bad for what it is, I highly doubt more than 10% or 15% of Glitter2Gutter readers will find much to take away from this effort.  Sure, Keith still sounds much the same, although he has added a "country twang" to his vocal approach, and he does a humorous job of name-dropping numerous Tesla songs in the humrous "Same Ol' Cowboy" (if you hear this song, see how many Tesla titles you come up with...), but nothing here is going to intrigue people who are looking for anything even remotely Tesla in nature.  Likewise, fans of the current rock-infused country sound of Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, Zane Lewis, or Big & Rich, for example, will also find very little to like on this effort, as there is none of the drive, pomp, or power of the music these acts possess. 
 
As someone who grew up with Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, Conway Twitty, and CW McCall, among numerous others, blaring off the turn table in my parents' home of the early 1970's, I can appreciate a bit of old school country from time to time (love Haggard and Cash to this day).  And as someone who was a country radio DJ for several years, I can also appreciate a good deal of the more rock-edged country of the 90's and today, even if I am not what I would ever call a fan (though I do dig Eric Church's music).  However, it is unlikely I will ever pull this EP out again, instead filing it away, slipping it in alongside the Tesla discs that I still repeatedly pull out and will continue to play for many more years.   
 
The packaging is of virtually no quality at all, as it comes in a simple cardboard slip-case with no liner notes to speak of and zero lyrics.  The information doesn't even tell you who is playing what instrument.  Also included on the CD is the last track, the "CMF Interviews" which is Keith and others explaining how the project came together.  I had to laugh because Keith's "aw, shucks, I'm just an Oklahoma good-ole-boy" schtick wore pretty thin on the very first listen and I haven't played it again....and neither will anyone else who picks this up, most likely.

For any who are curious, mine was one of the first batch ordered, so it came autographed.  I believe these have all been sold out, but you can check his country music site store; perhaps more will be sold eventually.  If you are open-minded to all kinds of music, or if you are a Tesla completist who has to have everything any band member has ever done, you can get the CD at www.jeffkeithcountry.com for just $10, and digital downloads are also available, I believe.
 
Rating:  It's almost unfair to put this on the standard Glitter2Gutter rating scale, as it really has nothing in common with anything else here, but to be fair and honest to the rockers here, turn this down to a 2, giving it just a spin or two to play "name that Tesla title" on the opening track.  After that, I'd just turn it off.
 
(Disclaimer:  if you are open-minded musically, and can appreciate old-school country, I would be willing to bet there are more than a few people who would "rock this" at a 6 or so...)
 
     

Thursday, November 15, 2012

LIBERTY N JUSTICE "The Cigar Chronicles: Volume 1-The Covers"

 
(c)2012 Liberty N Justice Productions

  1. "Ice Ice Baby" featuring Seann Nichols (Adler's Appetite/Tarsha) and Eddie Ojeda (Twisted Sister)  Originally recorded by Vanilla Ice
  2. "I Can't Dance" featuring Stevie Rachelle (Tuff) Originally recorded by Genesis
  3. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" featuring CJ Snare (Firehouse/Rubicon Cross), George Lynch (Dokken/Lynch Mob/T&N), and Jeff Pilson (Dokken/T&N/Foreigner)  Originally recorded by U2
  4. "Stayin' Alive" featuring Kip Winger (Winger)  Originally recorded by the Bee Gees
  5. "YMCA" featuring Kelly Keeling (Baton Rouge/Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Chris Dickens (Mission Of One), and Neil Zaza  Originally recorded by The Village People
  6. "Iris" featuring Tony Harnell (TNT/Westworld), and Alex Grossi (Quiet Riot/Hotel Diablo) Originally recorded by The Goo Goo Dolls
  7. "You're So Vain" featuring Phil Lewis (L.A. Guns), and Chris Green (Rubicon Cross/Furyon)  Originally recorded by Carley Simon
  8. "Queen Of The Night" featuring Selena McVey and Brooke St. James (Tyketto)  Originally recorded by Whitney Houston
  9. "Blame It On The Rain" featuring Andrew Freeman (Hurricane/Offspring/30 Stones), Pete Fry (FarCry), and Eric Rango (Liberty N Justice)  Originally recorded by Milli Vanilli
  10. "Bye Bye Bye" featuring Chaz West (Bonham) and Jeff LaBar (Cinderella)  Originally recorded by N'Sync
  11. "Dancing On The Ceiling" featuring James Christian (House of Lords)  Originally recorded by Lionel Richie
  12. "Stuck In The Middle With You" featuring Larry Worley (Fear Not), Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Guns N Roses), Andy Robbins (Holy Soldier/Joe Lynn Turner), and Anthony Gravely (Wind-up Rocket)  Originally recorded by Stealer's Wheel
  13. "Mmm Bop" featuring Jamie Rowe (Guardian/Adrian Gale), Anthony Gravely (Wind-up Rocket), and Roxx Hunter  Originally recorded by Hanson

Where to begin...  As readers of this site know, I am NOT a fan of covers albums.  First, the same dozen songs have been re-recorded and re-made so many times that I don't even like the original any longer!  Second, I get tired of hearing bands just go through the motions, adding zero in the way of creativity or original approach.  All we end up getting is a tired version of a song that sounds pretty darn close to the original but with a different lead singer and maybe a different guitar solo.  And third...well, honestly, covers albums have just been done to death.  So, when Justin Murr told me that Liberty N Justice was going to tackle a covers album as half of the massive Cigar Chronicles effort, I can't tell you I was overly enthused.

And then I played it...

Now, I'm not going to tell you I was immediately made a convert from covers-album-skeptic into rabid-must-have fan, but there are a few things about this particular project that puts it head and shoulders above any other covers project I have heard in YEARS!  First, the song selection is completely...and I mean COMPLETELY...unmatched by anything I have ever come across.  Never have I found a hard rock project that so unashamedly tackled everyone from U2 to Whitney Houston to the Bee Gees and Village People to HANSON, for crying out loud!  HANSON?!  But you know what, it all works.  To hear Kip Winger not only absolutely own  a KILLER acoustic version of "Stayin' Alive" vocally, but to also hear it turned into something that was nearly unrecognizable until the chorus kicked in is truly amazing to hear.  Hands down the best track on this collection and one that I have hit repeat on multiple times...

I would also challenge just about anyone to identify what Seann Nichols and Eddie Ojeda warped "Ice Ice Baby" into (hint...there's no Queen rip-off on this version!). For that matter, Stevie Rachelle brings an angry, sleazy edge to "I Can't Dance" that I don't think Genesis probably EVER considered, and he pulls off another of the top tracks on the disc as a result!  CJ Snare of Firehouse rips into a killer modern take on of U2's monster hit "Pride", and Lionel Richie only wishes he had the pipes of James Christian (House of Lords) who simply transforms the slick 80's pop of "Dancing On The Ceiling" into a surprisingly fun melodic hard rock track with a nice groove.  "Iris", which was already a decent crossover rock hit for the Goo Goo Dolls, is reworked and buzzed-up a bit on the guitars and Tony Harnell's vocals bring a power to the track that was not as evident in the original.  Is it better?  Depends on your personal choice, but this version is definitely a harder rocker with less top 40 aspirations and more of a rock attitude.  Likewise, Phil Lewis and Chris Green turn in a nice effort on "You're So Vain", going in a definitely more Faster Pussycat-than-Carly Simon version on this classic tune.  This version is more modern feeling than Pussycat's version, and Green's guitar has a fuzzed-up tone that definitely alters the feel of the track a bit, but not in a bad way, and Lewis' vocals slither all over this number oh-so-snidely, really giving it a grimey, sleazy feel, which is nice.  I'm not a big fan of the programmed drums, but this is pretty easily overlooked on this number.

One of the more surprising moments for me was the cover of Whitney Houston's "Queen Of The Night".  First, I am not a fan of Houston at all, so I'm not sure I could have told you that she did this song originally, although I know I have heard it.  But the "tough chick" vocal approach of Selena McVey really dominate this song which also features some tasty guitar work from Brooke St. James of Tyketto fame.  The programming in this track also works pretty well to give some depth to the track which I think may have come across as pretty sparse sounding without it.  Like I said, I was surprised by how much I like this track and even more surprised when I found out it was a Houston track.

Likewise, the power ballad take on Milli Vanilli's "Blame It On The Rain" is a DEFINITE upgrade, with a very nice vocal performance from former Offspring touring guitar player and Hurricane lead vocalist, Andrew Freeman.  There is a nice piano line in this track and Pete Fry from FarCry does an excellent job of not overshadowing the track with his understated-yet-capable guitar playing.  New permanent Liberty N Justice drummer Eric Rango also contributes his formidible skills to this track which I think is among the top three or four moments on this effort.

There are a couple of songs that don't quite hit the mark for me, but even these are at least given an honest effort and not just dialed in for a paycheck.  As an example, N'Sync's megahit "Bye Bye Bye" has a semi-industrial feel to it that I have a hard time wrapping my head around, although Cinderella's Jeff LaBar does have an interesting guitar tone and approach here, and Chaz West's angrier vocal style definitely changes the boy band's pop tone.  I'm also not 100% sold on this version of "YMCA", to be honest.  Yeah, the original is cheesy, but its CLASSIC CHEESE and is such a fun sing-along that it is nearly impossible to improve upon.  This is a viable effort to update it and turn it into a hard rocking number, but without the campy approach of the original, I think the effort is lost in translation despite my love for just about anything that Kelly Keeling does vocally.

One other thing that really brings this project together for me is the overall feel of the production.  JK Northrup handled the production on this project, with CJ Snare twisting the knobs and doing the mixing.  Each of these songs is crisp and clear with solid, clean production that doesn't vary in sound quality, volume level, or clarity from track to track.  That is one of the most annoying things for me with a lot of covers or tribute albums; the production just sucks!  Not the case here, as Mr. Northrup and Mr. Snare prove they are more than capable behind the production board.  Hats off to JK, CJ, (sounds like an alphabet!) and all who helped bring this body  of work to life in the editing room and on and mixing boards.

Overall, while I still prefer the originals disc of this two disc package, this is a very nice contribution from yet another incredible cast of performers and musicians.  People who are looking for tired sounding reproductions of their all-time favorites need to look elsewhere as nothing here is left untouched or unaltered in an attempt to pump new life and new feel into these tracks.  You may have cringed at some of the originals, but I challenge you to give these rejuvinated versions a fair chance and say that you don't have at least an improved perspective on the N'Syncs and Hansons of the world!

Rating:  This is a very crankable disc filled with fantastic performances and some awesome re-writes on a decidedly unusual collection of covers.  Solidly performed and produced, this should turn some heads once people catch the lyrics looping through their brains!  Crank this to 8.5!

For more on the Cigar Chronicles Volume 2--The Originals disc, click here!

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

T&N "Slave To The Empire"

(c) 2012 RatPak Records
 
  1. Slave To The Empire
  2. Sweet Unknown
  3. Tooth & Nail (featuring Dug Pinnick of King's X)
  4. It's Not Love (featuring Robert Mason of Warrant)
  5. Rhythm Of The Soul
  6. When Eagles Die
  7. Into The Fire
  8. Alone Again (featuring Sebastian Bach)
  9. Mind Control
  10. Kiss Of Death (featuring Ripper Owens)
  11. Jesus Train
  12. Access Denied
 
George Lynch--Guitars
Jeff Pilson--Bass, Lead and Backing Vocals
"Wild" Mick Brown--Drums on tracks 3, 4, 7, 8, and 10
Brian Tichy--Drums
 
"Don't think of this as Dokken without Don...that's misleading."  That is a direct quote from long-time Dokken bassist, and current T&N bottom-end banger and vocalist, Jeff Pilson.  That quote says way more than people may think about this project, as I, and many others I would have to guess, were not really sure what we would be getting when we popped Slave To The Empire into the CD player for the first time.  And how could people not be a bit confused...even put off?  I mean, seriously, we have three members of classic-era Dokken performing five classic Dokken tracks alongside seven new compositions.  Add in the fact that the joking-running title of this album was Dump The Chump in reference to Lynch's bad-blood relationship with Don Dokken, and there is bound to be some confusion and possible concern.

Musically, this album is at it's best when it focuses on new, original material.  Case in point is the excellent album opener and title track, "Slave To The Empire".  (By the way, does anyone else find it odd that the opening track here is "Slave To The Empire" and the opener on the new Dokken is "Empire"?!  Hmmmm....  Anyway...moving on.)  I was planning on an album very similar in style to the Lynch/Pilson project from a couple of years ago, but that is not the case, at least at the outset.  The band sounds like it has rewound to about 1988 on this number with the writing style and approach, yet this uptempo rocker remains fresh with modern production techniques.  Lynch is in fine form here, Tichy is excellent on drums, and Pilson sounds eerily similar to lower-range Don Dokken on vocals.  I love this track and love the direction this song seemingly had the album headed.  Other tracks have a bit more of a Lynch/Pilson feel to them, mixing a more down-tuned modern feel with that still classic-era Dokken writing style.  The more mid-tempo number "Sweet Unknown" is such a number, utilizing a somewhat alternative-yet-still-melodic vibe that reminds me of Lynch/Pilson mixed with Dysfunctional era Dokken.  Some effects are used on Pilson's vocals in a few places here, which I don't particularly care for, and George is a bit more subdued in his solo approach here, but all-in-all, it's a decent song with some very strong vocal harmonies.  I suspect it will throw a few listeners for a loop as it doesn't necessarily fit all that well with the re-makes or the more classic-sounding material contained in a couple of the new songs.  "Jesus Train" leaves me kind of flat, to be honest, and is my least favorite track on the album. Decidedly uptempo with a really good drum sound and a bit of a boogie-woogie feel to the rhythm guitars, I just don't get anything from the song emotionally, and this is where I think Pilson's vocals are at their worst. This is the only song I consider skipping, although I rarely do that simply because there is only one song left, and that is "Access Denied".  "Access Denied" wraps up the disc with the most modern sounding of all the tracks here.  It is good that it is at the end of the disc, not because it needs to be skipped or buried, but simply because I think the listener may be more open to hearing something this un-Dokken sounding by the time they have gotten through the rest of the album.  Much like my comments about "Sweet Unknown", Dokken purists are probably not really going to know what to make of this song, but if given a chance it will likely grown on at least half of the people who hear it and accept it for what it is. 

On the other hand, "When Eagles Die" captures the band seeming to reach back into more classic-era Dokken as far as it's approach goes, utilizing that sparse-yet-powerful approach that Dokken used on such hits as "Alone Again", for example.  Once again, Pilson proves he is no slouch on lead vocals (and shows why his backing vox are sorely missed in Dokken now), and George lets loose with one of the more signature solos on this album.  "Rhythm Of The Soul" is neck-and-neck with the title track as far as the best new song on this album, as this groove-laden number is extremely catchy and really has a Back For The Attack feel to the guitars but is a bit darker vocally, reminding me of the angrier tone used on Shadowlife or Dysfunctional.  Pilson is especially impressive here, and once again the vocal harmonies are top-notch.  George pulls off yet another impressive solo on this number, and Pilson and Tichy lock in on a nice driving groove that propels this song throughout the five plus minutes of this excellent track.  This is EXACTLY what I would love to hear an album full of!

What I don't want...or need...to hear are the cover versions of classic Dokken songs found on the other five tracks here.  I really don't get the point, first of all.  If you are going to position yourself as a new, totally separate band from Dokken, why go to the trouble of reminding people of who you USED to be?  Then, to top it off, to bring in singers from the classic Dokken era to record the vocals for four of the five re-recordings really just rubs me wrong.  Is this the band saying, "see, we could have done these songs without you" or what?  Well,  Bas does a great job, Ripper sounds very strong, and Mason and Pinnick are passable in their takes on classic tracks, but they are NOT classic-era Dokken (although Bas is close), and once again, I just don't see the point.  Are Lynch, Pilson, and Brown just trying to prove they can still play these songs?  If so, save it for the concert venues, please.  As it is, the best of the re-recorded songs/covers/whatever you want to call them is easily Bach's take on "Alone Again".  This is the best his voice has sounded in quite some time as there is no apparent strain even when he reaches up for the highest notes here, and it does make me wonder what this band would sound like with Bas as the full-time vocalist.  Ripper makes "Kiss Of Death" into a weird Priest-meets-Dio-meets-Dokken song that, much to my surprise, works pretty well...but it does take a few listens to truly appreciate.  Pilson takes the microphone for "Into The Fire", which is probably the most "damn, this IS Dokken!" sounding of all the remakes (although, once again, Bas' take is dang close also...).  It is scary to hear how much Jeff sounds like Don when he wants to/needs to, and I'm betting T&N could do an entire live set of Dokken songs, both catalog and classic, and casual fans would not know the difference...  George changes the solo on this track quite a bit, even adding in a few different little tricks and nuances in an altered last third of the song, but it still works well and actually breathes a bit of fresh air into the lungs of this 25 year old track.

That being said...

T&N is NOT Dokken. That is the best...and worst....thing I can think of to say about this record. I have no problems with the band recording new material together, and I really like it for the most part.  And, if they want to record Dokken material, I am sure they don't give a hoot about my objections, and a lot of Dokken fans might not care, either.  I personally think the guys would have been better served dusting off lesser-known Dokken songs than some of the biggest songs of their career.  However, to be legit, these guys have to make it on their own, not on a legacy that Jeff and George don't apparently want to be a part of, and which Mick has never left (he's still Dokken's drummer, as of the last album and only plays on the re-recordings on this disc).

In the end, I'm not totally disappointed, but I'm not totally satisified, either.
 
Rating:  Rock this at 6 for what it is as a package.  If they would have left the "not a Dokken tribute band" greatest hits cuts off, we would likely be cranking this at a 7.5 or so.

How does this compare to the new Dokken?  Check that review here....

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