Wednesday, May 30, 2012

TWISTED SISTER "You Can't Stop Rock N' Roll"

(c) 1983/2001 Atlantic Records

  1. The Kids Are Back
  2. Like A Knife In The Back
  3. Ride To Live, Live To Ride
  4. I Am (I'm Me)
  5. The Power And The Glory
  6. We're Gonna Make It
  7. I've Had Enough
  8. I'll Take You Alive
  9. You're Not Alone (Suzette's Song)
  10. You Can't Stop Rock N' Roll
  11. One Man Woman (reissue bonus)
  12. Four Barrell Heart Of Love (reissue bonus)
  13. Feel The Power (reissue bonus)
Dee Snider--Lead Vocals
Jay Jay French--Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda--Lead Guitars
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza--Bass, Backing Vocals
A.J. Pero--Drums, Percussion

One thing I love about doing classic reviews is seeing how these older albums stand the test of time.  I also really love being able to filter the music through the written word, when possible, which I am able to do today as I have just finished reading Dee Snider's autobiography, Shut Up And Give Me The Mic: A Twisted Memoir.  Quite often, these books give the listener a new insight, a new respect, even a new love, for the music being written about.

While most Twisted Sister fans will claim Stay Hungry as the pinnacle of the band's career, I have always favored You Can't Stop Rock N Roll as the best the band has ever offered.  To me, You Can't Stop... was the perfect balance between the heft and urgency of the debut album, Under The Blade, and the commercial appeal of Stay Hungry

As is the case with nearly everything Twisted Sister has ever done, there is an underlying rebellious tone that feeds the fist-pumping anthems, and a surprising amount of emotion that supplies the ballads (regardless of how few the band has in their catalog).  After reading the book, it is obvious where Snider dredged up the raw aggression for tracks such as "Like A Knife In The Back", "The Kids Are Back", and the band's first hit (albeit only really a hit in England), "I Am (I'm Me)".  However, nowhere is the band's, and especially Snider's drive, determination, frustration, and anger more perfectly channelled than on the title track, the truly classic "You Can't Stop Rock N Roll", which should be the theme song of any underdog band that is determined to make it out of the gutter and into the limelight!  ("We're Gonna Make It" should be number two on the soundtrack of a driven band, by the way...)  On the flipside, a song like "You're Not Alone (Suzette's song)", which is written about Snider's wife, shows a depth of emotion and songcrafting that is not as common among many of the MTV-spawned sound alikes that wrote from a paint-by-numbers formula more than from any real emotional state, whether that emotion was love, hate, anger, or desire.  In my opinion, it was this ability to express what he, and so many others like him, was feeling that set Snider apart from many of his contemporaries as a songwriter.  Granted, Twisted Sister's music was never the most intricate musically, but you have to admit it was catchy, anthemic, and everyone seemed to be able to find something on a Twisted album that they could relate to.  This album does that better than any other in the band's catalog, in my opinion. 

The 2001 reissue of You Can't Stop... (as well as the 2006 British reissue on Demolition Records) includes three bonus tracks, but it is pretty easy to hear why at least two of these were not included in the original release.  Of the three, "Feel The Power" is the strongest and shares the most with the rest of the album, so much so that I think it could have fit perfectly on this disc had the industry standard at the time not pretty much demanded that albums be ten songs in length, period.  The other two, "Four Barrell Heart Of Love" and "One Woman Man" are pure cheese that don't have the angst the rest of this album generally presents.  Still, if you have to make the choice, I would suggest picking up the reissue, especially if you are a person who wants to have all of the songs by a specific band.  Of course, if you are a completist, you have to have the original...AND the reissue, neither of which is overly difficult to find at a reasonable price.

To me, You Can't Stop Rock N Roll is easily in the top 50 heavy metal albums of all time and is one of two Twisted records I constantly find myself returning to (Stay Hungry also fits this bill).  While it did manage to sell gold (500,000 copies), this album never got the respect it so richly deserves.  For newer hard rock fans looking for a solid slice of metal history, or older fans who may have overlooked this album when it first came out, You Can't Stop Rock N Roll needs to be in your collection...and it needs played, loudly and often!

Rating:  A true classic, crank this to 9!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ATOM SMASH "Beautiful Alien"

(c) 2012 Panacea Records/Round Kid Records

  1. Beautiful Alien
  2. Square 1
  3. Hangman
  4. Good Times Dark Ages
  5. The World Is Ours
  6. Kiss From A Rose
  7. Don't You Forget It
  8. Cocaine Angel
  9. Hole In My Head
  10. 2012 Baby
  11. Kids Got Moves

Luke "Cowboy" Rice--Gutiars, Bass, Backing Vocals, Flute
Mark "Taco" Annino--Drums
Serg Sanchez--Vocals, Acoustic Guitars
"Crazy" David Carrey--Bass

Atom Smash have returned with a new set of what I can only describe as eclectic modern hard rock.  Do not read into that description that Atom Smash would have found themselves at home on alternative rock stations in the post-grunge 90's, because that is not what I am implying.  However, it is difficult to describe the overall sound of this band because they do not stick to one single formula throughout this new album, nor does it compare 100% with their 2010 breakout album, Love Is In The Missile, which featured their biggest hit to date, "Do Her Wrong".  Beautiful Alien finds the band in a far more experimental, yet still hard rocking, mode throughout much of this record, and with the seemingly odd choice of a cover of Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", these Florida-based rockers show that there may be more to the band than many people may have guessed if all they have been exposed to is the previously mentioned "Do Her Wrong".

Beautiful Alien features only two returning members from the previous album, but drummer "Taco" and frontman, Serg, do a great job of maintaining the band's style and sound throughout the album, and the new additions of "Cowboy" Luke Rice on guitars and "Crazy" David Carrey on bass round out a very solid musical base.  It's difficult to not enjoy the diversity of "Cowboy", especially, as the man brings not only his guitar and bass with him, but he also sings...and packs a mean flute as well (yes, he plays flute on the album...but don't worry, this isn't Jethro Tull!)

The album's lead single, "The World Is Ours" has been receiving solid airplay on hard rock radio and Sirius/XM satelite radio's Octane station, and is a logical follow-up, stylewise, to "Do Her Wrong".  "The World Is Ours" is a bit more melodic in nature than "Do Her...", but still features strong guitar-driven rock and Serg's emotive vocals on this positive, uplifting rocker.  Album opener and title track "Beautiful Alien" is a powerful, guitar-centered rocker that has just a hint of country-rock to its sound, especially in the use of a slide guitar and an almost twangy downbeat style that seems, well, rather alien on an album such as this, but works incredibly well.  "Hangman" has a somewhat U2-ish feel to it, especially in the way Serg approaches the vocals, and "Cocaine Angel" is a starkly beautiful, finger-picked acoustic guitar and drum number that really feels like a comfortable, lived-in song that I am guessing Serg and "Taco" have been toying with for some time now.  "Hole In My Head" is a great, hard rocking track with a bit of an off-kilter rhythm and some excellent guitar work that I think will find its way onto rock radio very soon.  Toss in the cover of Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", which is given a bit of a hard rock facelift but remains pretty faithful to the original, and you can see why I used the term eclectic in my opening paragraph of description.  there is no single style or sound that you can point to and determine, "hey, this is what Atom Smash is all about", because no two songs sound all that much like each other.  Perhaps this is what makes Beautiful Alien such an interesting listen; it is unpredictable and yet still feels comfortable and accessible, which wouldn't seem likely with the shift in band members that Atom Smash has encounterd.  But you know what?  It works.

A couple of tracks don't really do much for me, and both are found at the end of the disc.  "Kids Got Moves" should be, at least in my head, a FAR more uptempo rocker than it turns out to be, and "2012 Baby" just doesn't go anywhere..at least nowhere that I want to go.  Again, not deal-blowers as far as destroying the rest of the album, but definitely not the strength of the album by any means.

Now, I do have a couple of complaints (albeit rather small ones).  First...as I have stated a thousand and one times...I HATE DIGIPACKS, and this album comes in the most annoying kind...the slip-case digi that affords the disc all to many opportunities to be scratched or to fall out.  ARGH!  Secondly, there is a hidden, unnamed track at the end of "Kids Got Moves" that I really don't see any reason for inclusion here.  I don't know why bands put perfectly good...or totally useless...songs at the end of the last track, ESPECIALLY if they are going to hide it behind 6 or 7 minutes of static or silence.  This is just annoying, and all the more so when the track doesn't add anything to the album, as is the case here.  Finally, I really wish the lyrics were included here, as I think Serg definitely has some things to say on this album.  Granted, his vocals are clean and easy enough to understand 95% of the time, but there is just something about being able to sing along if the karaoke mood should strike.     

Atom Smash have managed to mature as songwriters while also retaining much of their hard-rocking identity from their debut album.  Beautiful Alien really is not like any other albums I have reviewed in the last six (or more) months, and while it will not melt your face off with blistering metallic intensity, it does rock hard in several places while still managing to be melodic and, as I labeled it earlier, eclectic, bordering on alternative in a couple of spots.  Not the best album of the year, but also nowhere near the worst, Atom Smash's Beautiful Alien strikes me as a good album to both rock out to and unwind with, all depending upon the track number that pops up on your stereo's display screen.  I don't know why they are no longer with Jive Records, but if it was the label's decision to let Atom Smash go...it was a bad decision.  This is a very talented band that I think is going to continue to grow and develop into one of the more unique bands in the hard rock scene.

While their musical approach is not likely to be every G2G fan's cup of tea, I think that many people will enjoy the off-the-beaten-path approach taken by this Florida unit.  I am one of the many who does not normally steer in this direction musically, but I found myself enjoying Beautiful Alien more and more with each listen, especially when I am in that frame of mind to hear something a little different than everyone else on the radio...
Rating:  Rock this at an entertaining...and musically skilled....6.5.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...Jack Russell of Great White (interview)


In case you had not heard, Jack Russell is alive and well and back on the road, doing what he does best...rocking out front of his band, Great White.  Of course, there have been some problems in the Great White world, with TWO versions of the band out there touring, but make no mistake, Jack Russell's Great White is THE Great White if you want to be able to hear all of the band's hits performed the way they should be by the only voice of this multi-platinum selling band.  After more than 30 years and 11 studio albums, Jack is still filled with a passion for his bluesy style of hard rock and he and his new band are ready to bring the true sound of Great White to a city near you they embark on a summer tour with Faster Pussycat, Bulletboys, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Lillian Axe on the American Rocks Tour.

Jack was kind enough to take some time out of his tour preparations to chat with me about all things Great White, pulling no punches when it comes to what he has gone through recently in regards to his health and his former bandmates.  So...let's Talk some Trash with Jack Russell of Great White!

G2G:  First, Jack, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.  It's a big thrill for me to get to speak to the singer for my favorite band of all time!

Jack Rusell:  Right on, thanks, we're just taking a couple of days off here before we get things rolling again.

G2G:  Very cool.  So how are things going with you?  I know you had some health issues here a while back.

Jack:  Yeah things are great.  I'm feeling good.  I've been out doing some shows...umm...yeah, we're doing good, man.

G2G:  How are things going with the new line-up?  I know there are some familiar faces for Great White fans, but also some new faces as well.  Who do you have going out on the road with you now?

Dario with Stephen Pearcey 2010
Jack:  Well, one of our lead guitar players is Matthew Johnson, who has played with the band before when Mark (Kendall) quit.  Umm, our other guitar player's name is Robby Lochner...he played with Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) in his band, Fight.  He's amazing...they are both amazing lead players.  Our bass player's name is Dario Seixas, and he played with Firehouse and Stephen Pearcey (Ratt).  And Derrick Pontier is on drums and he's played with Great White for a number of years.

G2G:  About Dario, I saw Great White play about, I don't know, ten years ago or something, with Firehouse opening, and I know Dario was with them then.  Is that how you two got introduced or how did that work out?

Jack:  Yeah, that's exactly what it was.  Good memory!  (laughing)

G2G:  That's cool.  Are there any plans to record with this line-up that you are touring with?  I've heard rumors of a live album maybe coming out.

Jack:  Yeah, absolutely, we're gonna do a live album and also a studio album.  We're working on some songs right now, and we're getting ready to start laying down some new music.  It really sounds like Great White...well, obviously, it's going to sound like Great White.

G2G:  So are you currently writing with the members of the band, then, or are you doing more stuff as a solo writer...?

Jack:  Umm, a little bit of both.  I'm doing some stuff on my own and then translating it to them (the band), you know, and some stuff I'm writing with our guitar players, Matthew and Robby, which is great.  You know, I can kind of take both schools and turn them into what I want, you know.  They both have different writing styles, which is great.

G2G:  Let's jump way back, if we can, for just a minute.  For those that aren't aware, how did Great White get its start?

Jack:  Yeah, uh, let's see.  Back in 1982, Mark and I were in a band called Dante Fox.  And we met...Don Dokken, who was a friend of ours because of our drummer, Gary Holland, who had played with Don Dokken in Europe, and Gary told him about this band he was in, and Dokken goes off and he loved my voice and he liked the band, so he talked to this guy who was a friend of his named Alan Niven.  Alan worked for a small record company, and he (Don) coaxed him (Alan) into coming down to see the band at the Whiskey Hollywood.  And, umm, so he brought him down and, you know, Alan liked the band and my voice, and he liked Mark's guitar playing, so he went and met with us at his record company.  And he said, well, you know, the one thing I don't like is the name, I think it's kind of whimpy.  And we were like, "aww, man".  And he said what about changing it to Great White, because he had heard me call Mark that...it was a nickname that I had for him when he played his solos, you know, "Mark Kendall, the Great White, on lead guitar", you know.  But we were like, why would we change the name and lose our following...we had like 200 people, you know (laughing).  So he convinced us by saying, you know, "record deal or not?".   So we changed the name, but we thought it was stupid, you know.  You know, I didn't mind it so much, because I had already came up with the nickname for Mark, you know, and I'm a big shark fan...you know, I've been fishing for sharks for as long as I can remember, and I still do, you know I've been diving with them...I'm just in love with them, I think they are amazing creatures.  So it wasn't so bad to me, and after a while we were like, "the name's kinda cool...we can live with it", and we kinda sucked it up and were like we can live with it anyhow.  And that's how we got our start...and then we got our first, uh, our first independent EP out and we sold like 20,000 units in L.A., and we had every label in town wanting to sign us, so it was ON after that, you know...

G2G:  It's funny you mention that first album because I have a radio promo copy of that first album sitting here on my desk...I'll have to bring it out for you to see when you come to town, it's a really cool piece.

Jack:  Yeah, man, that's nice to hear.  I'd love to see it...

G2G:  Jack, how do you think that Great White's been able to stay on the music radar for so long, more than 30 years now, when so many other bands have fallen off that were around at your same time?

Jack:  Well, you know, I think we wrote songs that were timeless.  It wasn't like, you know, we weren't like, "hey, okay, let's write some timeless songs", we've always written what we liked.  You know Mark and I would sit down with an idea and, you know, if we liked it we kept working on it and, you know, we recorded it.   Our thing was to, we used to just sit with an acoustic guitar and my voice, and then we knew it was a good song if it could work that way, you know...and I think it just...whatever it is we like about songs, I think we kind of have like John Q. Public ears, or whatever, because when you hear a song from a musician's standpoint, but also from a listener's standpoint, it seems what we like most other people seemed to like also, you know.  It works out well, and we've been fortunate over the years to have some songs that have stood the test of time, you know..."Save Your Love", "Rock Me", of course, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy"...songs of that nature have stayed around and are still valid today.

G2G:  Do you think some bands have kind of been a victim of trend hopping, which Great White never really did?  I mean, you guys always sounded like Great White.

Jack:  I think so.  I mean, I can think of a couple of bands off the top of my head, with Warrant being one where all of a sudden they were like kind of trying to turn into a heavy metal band, wearing all leather and stuff, and I was like to Jani, "what are you doin', man?"  I think a lot of bands did that, you know.  All of a sudden it was like, okay, all of a sudden people switched over to grunge and tried to be grungy, but the thing is you've gotta be yourself.  You're not gonna fool anybody, you're not gonna get all these young kids who are gonna start going "oh wow, these guys are so great now", you know, they're gonna be like, "hey, that's an 80's band...what are they tryin' to do?".  And then you're gonna lose your hardcore fans because you're not gonna be yourself.  We just always played what we liked, and we never liked grunge, so we never played it.  We decided we're not gonna change who we are, so we just stayed the course.  But, the band's always been very diverse through the years.  Some albums are kinda similar, and some albums are way different.  We've tried to expand our musical direction, and I think, the last couple of albums especially, are really diverse.  The last album, Rising, which you know, got kind of a lukewarm response with the overall population, I think it was a great record.  It has some really nice songs on there, you know, but I think it wasn't as raucous as some people were expecting, but nonetheless there were some quality songs on there.  And Back To The Rhythm, you know, was a great album, and to me, Can't Get There From Here was one of the greatest records we've ever done. 

G2G:  Yeah, I think that's a phenomonal album, I love that album...

Jack:  Thank you, man...thanks.

G2G:  Getting into Rising just a little bit, you know if people really followed Great White's career from start to finish, there's quite a bit that's parallel between an album like Rising and an earlier record like Sail Away, would you agree?
Jack:  Yeah, sure, in a way.  It (Rising) is just a little more, a little heavier, you know.  But, as far as songs, I think there's some great things, some beautiful melodies, on there...um, there's a song called "Down The Level" which I just adore, and all the stuff was written about stuff that was about where I was at, like on all the records, you know, where I was at spiritually, mentally, physically...you know, every record has pretty much been the story of my life at that particular point, and about what I'm doing.
G2G:  You have also released a couple of solo albums, so what made you decide to keep the Great White name going rather than just striking out as Jack Russell this time?

Jack:  Well, because, this IS Great White to me.  I um, you know, on December 10 (2011), as is all well-documented, I decided I was gonna leave the band and take the name.  I said, "look guys, I'm outta here...".  At first, you know, I just couldn't stand being at a point where nobody was calling me, nobody was talking to me, you know, and it was like, "well, okay, I wanna come back (after his illness)", but nobody's doing anything to get ahold of me.  So, after months and months of that, it was kind of easy to read the writing on the wall, you know.    So I decided, and I told them and our manager, "look, I'm not gonna sit there and you know, do this anymore, I'm taking the name of the band I started and I'm moving on."   And, basically, they didn't want to give up the name, so, now we're fighting for it.  So, you know, I mean for me, calling it Jack Russell's Great White is just so there's not confusion.  I could've called it Great White, but that would've really confused people, so...

G2G:  Absolutely.  Now, maybe this is a touchy question, but have you even heard Elation, the new disc from the "other" Great White yet? 

Jack:  I've heard some of it.  It doesn't sound like a Great White album.  There's some stuff on there I could tell was Mark playing guitar, but it does not sound like a Great White album, at all.  And, I'm being completely unbiased, because if I were just John Q. Public listener, I'd be like, "that's not Great White". Without my voice, it's not Great White.  What really, really sets a band apart is the singer; the voice is the only thing that really makes a band sound like a band, unless you're like Van Halen where you have such a really great guitar player people can go, "oh, that's Eddie Van Halen playing".  And Mark's a great guitar player, don't get me wrong, but I think for the most part the voice is the only thing that makes a band distinct, you know.  I mean there is so much to do with the way someone sings a song, and the sound of somebody's voice...I mean, you take Vince Neil out of Motley Crue, and you put in John Corabi, and okay, John Corabi's a better singer, but that didn't work out so well, because it's not Motley Crue.  And there's so many examples.  You take (Steven) Tyler out of Aerosmith, it's not Aerosmith.  You change the singer in a band and, to most people, it's not the same band.  They're like, "all right, change the name". 

G2G:  I agree, and it's been a frustrating situation for fans, too, I know.  I mean we now have the two Great Whites, we've had the two LA Guns for a while now, we had two Faster Pussycats going on, we essentially have two Dokken's going on now with Lynch and Brown and Pilson doing their thing together and Don, of course, owning the name and recording as Dokken.  It's been really frustrating from a fan's standpoint.  Have you been getting any frustration from the fans with your situation?

Jack:  No, none at all.  Our fans have been amazingly supportive and love the new band!  They're just flipping out over it.  I was expecting a lot more, you know, but none of that.  They've been super supportive, I haven't heard one bad thing.  You know, they come to shows, the do the meet-and-greets, and they are just loving the band, loving the players, loving the way the songs sound, you know, I mean, it's Great White.  The songs are being played as they were played on the album.

G2G:  How do you see this thing resolving itself?  Do you ever see yourself standing on stage with Mark and Audie and the others, all standing on-stage together?

Jack:  That, my friend, would be an act of God.

G2G:  And that's unfortunate...

Jack:  It is unfortunate, yeah.  It's hard because when you're in a band, it's like being in the Marines or something, you know what I mean.  And, you never leave a man behind.  Well, I got left behind.  You know, I was in the hospital...I'm dying in the hospital...and nobody called me, nobody came and saw me...well, actually Michael (Lardie) and our manager came by for five minutes as they were on their way to a casino.  Other than that, it was crickets chirping, you know, other than my wife and my cousin who were always there, you know.  And its sad, man, it's sad...it really, really is.  And it hurts...it still does.  I was crying just yesterday.  I did an interview with this guy and afterward I just started bawling and I was like, "man, this really sucks".  These guys were my friends, you know, forever, and all of a sudden, like one day, they're not, and it's like I don't understand why.  Is it like because you got somewhere before I did?  It's like "ouch, man...that hurts".  Anyway...

G2G:  Man, I can't even imagine being put in that position...

Jack:  Hey, what...what did you think of that album, the new Great White album these guys did without me?

G2G:  I think its terrible.  I reviewed it (see the review here) and as a Great White album, I think I gave it a 3.5 out of ten, and as an album in general, I think I gave it a 5.5.  I just think it's flat...I think it's lifeless. 

Jack:  Right...that's pretty much what I've read from others, that's pretty much been the consensus, and that's unfortunate, you know, because I would have expected more from Mark and those guys, you know.

G2G:  I think there's a couple of songs where I could really hear you energizing a couple of these songs, but with Terry (Ilous) singing, it doesn't sound like Great White, it doesn't sound like XYZ (Ilous's old band)...it sounds like they are trying to be Tesla or something. 

Jack:  Right..yeah, somebody else said that to me, too.  I'm just really saddened by the fact that they're taking the name, and they are doing this to it.  I mean they just totally screwed up the entire discography by putting the name on that album (Elation), and it's NOT a Great White album, I don't care what anybody says.  You know.  Sue me...it's not a Great White album...it's got our name on it, but to me, it's not, and I should know....I sang on all eleven of the real ones, you know.

G2G:  Speaking of singing, a couple of years back, you recorded a song called "Monkey Dance" for the group Liberty N Justice.  You remember that song?

Jack:  Yeah, yeah, yeah...that was actually pretty trippy, man.  It was fun.

G2G:  Do you have any specific recollections of that song?  We're good friends of Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice, and I was just curious what your memories of that song or that session were...

Jack:  (laughing)  Yeah, I remember when I first heard it I was like, "what the hell am I gonna do with this thing?"  (laughing)  But when I got done with it, and after I messed around with some of the melodies and stuff like that, I actually liked it.  It's actually a pretty funky, very cool tune.  Yeah, I really liked it.  I remember as I was recording it I was talking to the engineer about what I was wanting to do with it, and we started goofing around and doing some different stuff and changed some melodies and tried some different things, and yeah, it's actually a righteous song...

G2G:  It's actually been reissued, did you know that?  Liberty N Justice just put out a new album (Hell Is Coming To Breakfast), and that song is on there in an alternate mix form, so it has been given new life.
Jack:  Oh, right on, that's cool. 

G2G:  Now, you're currently part of the America Rocks tour, correct, with Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat, Bulletboys, and Lillian Axe?

Jack:  Yes sir...

G2G:  Have you played any dates yet?

Jack:  No, it starts on June 15th, actually...
G2G:  So you've been doing stuff on your own as Jack Russell's Great White then, correct?

Jack:  Yeah, it's all us, all Great White stuff.

G2G:  Do you see a lot of multi-generational families showing up at your shows?

Jack:  It's crazy, man!  It's amazing.  We're seeing three generations a lot now, especially at the all ages shows, you know. It's really incredible.  I mean, we see people who are 60 years old, and they got 40 year old kids...and they have 20 year old kids, and you're just like, "oh my God", you know.  It's really awesome.  We started noticing that a number of years back.  I remember Mark and I were talking about that.  One time we were driving out of a gig and there was this family waving us down, and they were like, "hey, I'm so-and-so, and this is my daughter...and she's her daughter...", and it was just crazy, but what a rush, you know. 

G2G:  Now, we're fortunate enough that you are going to be coming to our city on the 19th of June, here in North Platte, NE.  What can fans expect to hear from Jack Russell's Great White?

Jack:  You know, umm, just playing the hits, man.  It's going to sound like you want it to sound, but we've re-energized things.  This band really has a lot of energy and you know we changed some things around on intros and endings to add some spice to things so it doesn't sound like the exact same thing you've been hearing for the last 30 years or whatever, but it sounds just like it's supposed to sound, you know. 

G2G:  Any songs you've dusted off that you haven't played in a while?

Jack:  Man, I'm trying to think...well, we pulled "Call It Rock N Roll" out, which we hadn't done in quite a while, so we started playing that.  We're putting a couple more in the set this year.  There's just so many songs, you just look at the albums and go, "God, this is so hard just to play the hits!"  If you look back in the catalog, there have been quite a few hits, you know, so you gotta stick with those as much as possible, really.  And, with a show like this, where you're doing a big package tour you're not gonna have the ability to play two hour sets, you know, because there's so many bands you just put them all in there on rapid fire, you know. 

G2G:  Well, I know your show in North Platte is just you, just Great White, so you can play as much as you want for as long as you want!  Stay all night if you want!

Jack:  Right on!  I appreciate that, my brother.

G2G:  Do you ever get any calls to do the Led Zeppelin stuff?

Jack:  You know, Arttie, yeah, we do, and we incorporate a Zeppelin song in one of our songs, "On Your Knees", which we have been doing for quite a while now.  We've done it for a while now, but what's cool about it now...the way we did it before with the other band was not really the way it should have been done, it was just kind of like, you know, some chord changes and stuff, but now, with the new band, we're doing it exactly like the record, and it just sounds amazing.

G2G:  Do you tease the fans with any new stuff at all?

Jack:  No, you know, we're not playing anything new yet.  I don't wanna...you know, I wanna wait until we got something down and recorded.  I think we're just gonna take the first track and put it out there for free on YouTube, or somewhere, to let fans have a taste of coming attractions, you know. 

G2G:  Very cool...

Jack:  I think the live album we're just gonna put out for free.

G2G:  Hey, the trend right now seems to be everybody's writing these tell-all books, these autobiographies, so will we see a Jack Russell book out there sometime?

Jack:  Oh yeah, it's on the way.  We've been working on it for a while now.  It's just such an incredible story, man, I mean my life has been such an amazing adventure.  I mean, (laughing) it's like four or five of anyone else's books all in one, man.  I'm not actually blowing smoke, either...it truly has been amazing, starting when I was, when I was a young lad, all the way until recently, I mean...God...there are just so many things to talk about.  I should call the book "You're Not Gonna F**king Believe This", but I think I'm gonna call it "Dancing On The Edge", actually.

G2G:  Jack, how can people keep up with Jack Russell's Great White?  Do you have an official website or a fan club of some sort?

Jack:  Yeah, it's JacksGreatWhite.com and then there's also the Jack Russell Pirate Page on Facebook, and, of course, my own Facebook...

G2G:  And of course you're on Twitter now...

Jack:  Yeah, and at Twitter, exactly, thank you...

G2G:  And at your shows, do you do some sort of meet-and-greet with the people before the show, after the show, fan club members only...how do you work that?

Jack:  Absolutely, we wanna meet everybody.  We always do it after the show and its all free, and we'll do signings and everything.  We do it every night...

G2G:  Well Jack, unless you have something you want to specifically touch on, I've taken up more of your time than I planned on, I really appreciate it...

Jack:  No, no problem, I appreciate your time, man.  I want to thank people like you, and I want to thank all the fans, for making this transition, umm, very easy, and I'm very comfortable in what I'm doing now, and for people who come out to see a show, you're guaranteed to be blown away.

G2G:  Well, thanks, Jack, I appreciate the time...

Jack:  Absolutely, man, you're welcome.  If there's ever anything else you need, feel free to call.  God bless, brother.

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Well there you have it, folks...straight from Captain Jack's mouth!  Be sure to keep updated on all things Jack Russell and Jack Russell's Great White but checking out his webpage and by getting out there to support the band live!  Here are the first few dates in June for Jack Russell's Great White and the America Rocks Tour.

June 19 - North Platte, NE - Sculley's Shooters (Great White only)
June 20 - Loveland, CO - Phaze Events Center
June 22 - Savage, MN - Neisen's Concert Hall
June 24 - Vienna, WV - Yellow Beards
June 29 - Columbus, OH - Alrosa Villa
June 30 - Sayreville, NJ - Starland Ballroom

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CHERRI BOMB "This Is The End Of Control"

(c) 2012 Hollywood Records

  1. Take This Now
  2. Better This Way
  3. Raw. Real.
  4. Shake The Ground
  5. Too Many Faces
  6. Let It Go
  7. Sacrificial Lamb
  8. Act The Part
  9. Drawing A Blank
  10. Heart Is A Hole
  11. Paper Doll
  12. Hold On
Julia--Vocals, Guitar
Nia--Drums
Miranda--Guitar
Rena--Bass

While they claim they did NOT take their name from the song by the Runaways, it is hard not to draw comparisons between that classic all-female band, and Cherri Bomb.  Four members, all female?  Check.  Everyone in the band under the age of 20?  Check.  Hard driving, sometimes borderline punked up sound?  Check.  The look, the style, the sound to become media darlings?  Check. 

This IS the modern take on the Runaways!  Well...not quite....

To be fair, there are a couple of times when the Runaways come to mind, especially on tracks like the sassy garage-punk "Better This Way", and the sleazy snarling of "Raw. Real", especially during the verses.  There are also, however, moments where you feel like you could be listening to the Bangles ("Take This Now"), a female version of Foo Fighters ("Paper Dolls" and "Let It Go"), or even a Lady Zeppelin-esque band (check out the nasty riff on "Shake The Ground"!).  Album closer "Hold On" has a definite Kinks feel to it, especially with the main riff of the song.  When I go back and look at that list, it seems like the album might come off as a sonic mess, but it doesn't; it generally works pretty well, to be honest.  

For me, there are a couple of real stand-outs, a few good songs, and a couple of definite filler tracks here.  For me, the stand-out tracks would be the previously mentioned "Better This Way" and "Raw. Real." which are both excellent rockers with a lot of grit, snarl, and sass to them, "Heart Is A Hole" which is a very good, solid ballad with a lot of power and emotion to the vocals and a nice, catchy hook and some suprisingly inspired-sounding guitar work on this track.  "Shake The Ground" just flat-out-rocks, as well.  Among the good-if-not-great tracks would be "Act The Part", which has a vocal that reminds me a LOT of a young Joan Jett in presentation, if not in sneer, and "Drawing A Blank" sounds like so much of what is on modern rock stations now that it doesn't really set itself apart from the rest of today's musical landscape, which is not the case with most of what is present here, but it is well executed and I like the attitude of the lyrics.  As to the weaker tracks, "Too Many Faces" is just too alterna-rock to fit the rest of the project, at least the way I hear it; it kind of reminds me of something Garbage might have done (which might make sense with Cherri Bomb listing Garbage as one of their influences).  I don't see any real point in the opening 47 seconds of the album, although "Take This Now" definitely showcases a vocal harmony that, as I stated early on, reminds me a LOT of the Bangles.  I'm also not particularly enamored of "Sacrificial Lamb", and I can't really put my finger on why except to say it sounds kind of incomplete for some reason, and I don't like the effects that were applied to the vocals here.  Maybe the incompleteness is some of the immaturity of the band, as this is one of the songs that is credited to Cherri Bomb as far as songwriting.  Also, this is another track that takes on that buzzing sound to the guitars (or maybe its some form of keyboard work) that Garbage made popular a decade or so ago, and I just don't think it works here.      
    
Generally speaking, while a bit of the raw attitude of the Runaways is not present here, I think the overall musicianship and sound quality is actually ahead of where Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Cherie Currie, Jackie Fox, and Sandy West were at this same point in their young careers.  Cherri Bomb is generally a much tighter unit with their sound, and I think their guitar playing is quite a bit ahead of where Ford was on the Runaways' first effort.  When the vocals are left alone, I like the sound quality a lot, so I hope they continue in this vein and don't spend a lot of time, if any, exploring that effects-laden sound that is present in a couple of spots here.  The song structures are short and simple for the most part, with seven of the twelve tracks checking in at 3:00 or less, and that serves the style and attitude of these young ladies very well; when they get a bit long-winded, such as on "Too Many Faces", things tend to drag a bit (the exception would be the one true ballad here, "Heart Is A Hole"). 

These girls have definitely got a chance to really fill the all-girl band niche that hasn't been thoroughly explored (exploited?) since bands like Vixen rode the airwaves to at least moderate stardom.  With the guidance of former Hole member (and Motley Crue fill-in) Samantha Maloney, as their manager, Cherri Bomb have a significant leg up on other young acts as Maloney should be able to help her young charges navigate the treacherous waters of the music business.  They do need to work on crafting their own songs (they only wrote two of the tracks on this album, whereas Andy Dodd wrote 7 of them), but if these four can keep their egos in check, manage to maintain their friendships, and continue to grow as musicians, the sky may truly be the limit for Cherri Bomb.

If you like what you hear, join their "Bombsquad" at www.facebook.com/cherribombband

Rating:  Crank this to a pleasantly surprising 7 and keep your eyes on these young ladies as their star rises...

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

THE WRECKAGE "EP"

(c) 2011 The Wreckage
  1. Breaking Through
  2. If I Walk Away
  3. Don't Fall In Love (explicit)
  4. Don't Fall In Love (radio edit)
Grant Kendrick--Vocals
Mark Beckenhauer--Lead Guitar
Eric Whitney--Rhythm Guitar
Matt Oliver--Bass
Matt Denker--Drums


For many years, I have had people asking me, "Hey, Arttie, what Christian band sounds like so-and-so", which is cool as I have no issues with the question.  Now, however, for the first time that I can remember, I can go the other way; if someone asks me, "Hey, Arttie, what secular band sounds like Skillet?", I can tell them The Wreckage.

Hailing from Omaha, NE, The Wreckage is a modern hard rock band with an undeniable similarity in sound to the previously mentioned Christian band, Skillet.  In fact, I had a couple of people flat out ask me what Skillet record the track "Breaking Through" was from; the similarities are that stark.  Granted, there are no female vocals with The Wreckage, and there aren't the synthesized strings that Skillet sometimes uses, but it us uncanny how much the two bands sound alike, especially on the opening track, "Breaking Through".  I think a lot of it has to do with lead vocalist Grant Kendrick who could step in at any time for Skillet's John Cooper should the need arise.   

There is also an obvious connection and kinship with fellow Omaha-based hard rockers, Emphatic, as all three songs here were at least co-written by Emphatic's guitar player (and main songwriter) Justin McCain, who also had a hand in the recording, mixing, and mastering, as did Emphatic's keyboard player/sampler, Jeff Fenn.  It should also be noted that Emphatic's former drummer, Matt Denker, occupies the seat behind the kit for The Wreckage, so this is obviously something of a family affair.  Heck, Kendrick has even stepped up and helped out Emphatic on vocals on occasion.  How much closer can two bands get?

All three tracks here are straight-forward modern hard rock numbers featuring solid guitar work with a metallic edge, a tight rhythm section (especially on the drums), a bit of sampling, and the previously mentioned gritty-yet-clean vocal style.  For my money, "Breaking Through" is the strongest song here, although all are very solid, with "Don't Fall In Love" being released as a single.  Everything here would easily slip into the playlist on Sirius/XM's Octane station without anyone ever being the wiser about this being an independent release, as the production is top-notch and the sound quality is excellent.  My only complaint is I would like to hear some slower material on the next release, simply to hear the band tackling something a bit off their obvious beaten path, musically.  By the way, while they do have an additional song available on their Facebook, it is NOTHING like the material on this EP, as it is pretty much straight-up death metal and not likely to appeal to fans of this release.  Just be forewarned...

Omaha has become something of a hot bed in the Midwestern music scene, and I would not be at all shocked if The Wreckage becomes the next band to break big out of the Cornhusker state.  Having had the chance to see their live performance a few weeks ago, I can tell you that these guys bring it live with a high-energy stage show, so if you get the chance to check them out, you might want to do so now...before their ticket prices take a serious jump! Oh, and snag a couple of copies of this EP while you are there so you have one and have an extra to share!  Record labels looking for a new band with the right look and sound to fit modern rock radio need look no further than The Wreckage, who are primed and ready to step up to the next level.

Rating:  Granted, it is just an EP, but it's an independent effort and it is impressive.  Crank this to 7.5 and hang on for the full-length, as I think it will smoke!

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UPDATED 3/4/13:  Since the writing of this original review, things have heated up for these Omaha natives. I'd like to think I had something to do with this (although I did not), as The Wreckage has launched themselves into Sirius/XM's countdown on the Octane station.  At last check, The Wreckage's song "Breaking Through" was at number 4 and still climbing, so who knows what good is on the horizon for these great guys.  Best of luck from G2G!

ZEROKING "Kings Of Self Destruction"

(c) 2012 Vanity Music Group

  1. Dead Rockstar
  2. Forget Vegas
  3. She Said
  4. Showtime Revolution
  5. Southern Lady/Ex-Godiva
  6. Stone Cold Bitch
  7. Love Is Dead
  8. Kings Of Self Destruction
  9. Girls Of California
  10. The Party's Over
  11. Black Friday
  12. Valentine
  13. Leaving Los Angeles

Andy Haught--vocals
Shane Day--guitar
Paul First--bass
Chris Webb--drums
Additional Musician(s):
Stacee Lawson - vocals

Where the heck have I been that I missed Zeroking?!  This is the CD that I feel like I have been looking for for quite some time now!  These guys manage to take the look and feel of the 80's and blend it with a chunk of the modern rock sound, while also maintaining a sense of melody, groove, and a bit of the dirty raunch of bands like Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and LA Guns in much the same way Hinder, Underride, and Buckcherry have managed to do!  Understand, they don't sound clones of those Sunset Strip bands, at least in the version that we know now, but I have a feeling that this is what those classic bands may have sounded like if they had been born in 2003 instead of 1983.

Things kick off in a HUGE way with the insanely catchy "Dead Rockstar", which features some incredibly sassy vocals from Haught, who also contributes a deeper, snarled "you wanna party like a dead rockstar!" on the chorus, which works to great effect.  Dropping names like Prince, John Lennon, Hank Williams...and Ice-T?...into the lyrics is a cool maneuver, especially in the way its pulled off, and really sets the tone for the attitude most of this record will carry through to the end.  To be honest, this song alone kept me from getting this review done for quite some time as I had a very hard time getting to track two without repeating "Dead Rockstar" for the fifteenth or twentieth time.  This song is just so infectious that it was a difficult task moving on. Somebody needs to explain to me why radio stations and satelite stations aren't playing this song in heavy rotation NOW (of course radio would need to edit out the couple of f*bombs present in this modern sleazefest...). 

Once I did manage to get to the next track, I was taken aback just a bit, as "Forget Vegas" has a horn section (keyboards, I am sure) that gives it an almost ska feel, with a definite alternative pop-rock vibe to it, but maintaining a heavy bottom end that won't cause most G2G fans to stray.  Things get back on the more straight-forward rocking track with the modern hard rock sound of "She Said" which should be all over rock radio...but isn't!  In fact, there is no reason that "Dead Rockstar", "She Said", "Stone Cold Bitch", and even the Hinder-esque "Southern Lady/Ex-Godiva" with its heavier, more modern southern swagger, aren't all gracing the airwaves or the satelite radio realm (pay attention Sirius/XM!), as all are of equal or better quality than 90% of what is currently being passed off as good music today.  There are also a couple of great ballads here, with "Valentine" being a hauntingly melodic effort that combines piano and strings to great effect, along with an interesting guitar solo, an interesting combination that I think gives the track a different feel than many other "atmosphereic" pieces by other bands.  "Love Is Dead" is a similarly effective ballad, although this time it is due to the powerful addition of Stacee Lawson's vocals to this duet that should be heard by anyone who is a fan of the updated take on the power ballad.  Lawson will likely draw comparisons to a younger Stevie Nicks on this track, but I don't think that comparison does Lawson justice, but perhaps that is because I have never been a Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks fan, per se.  Other stand-out tracks include the bottom heavy raunch-and-roll of the title track, "Kings Of Self Destruction", the more alt-rock leaning, yet still heavy, "Black Friday", and the attitude-infused "Showtime Revolution".

To be fair, not every track here is a 100% out-of-the-park homerun.  In particular, I think the album closer, "Leaving Los Angeles" is too long and too much in the vein of something Sixx A.M. might have done, particularly on their first album.  Don't get me wrong; I like Sixx A.M....I  like Zeroking...they just don't fit togehter that well, at least on record.  It's not a terrible song, it just doesn't fit the flow of the rest of the album (which is probably why it is the last track here), and, again, at over 6:30, it starts to drag by the end of the track.  The lack of fit definition can also be applied to "Girls Of California", which I found to be the most modern rock sounding of all the tracks here (although it does come complete with an 80's lyrical mentality about sex, drugs, and hot California chicks...).  It should be noted neither of these songs classify as skippers, by any means; I just feel that they are not as solid as the other tracks.  "The Party's Over" also fits into this category:  not a bad song at all, just not one I would give to a friend as an example of what this band is all about or brings to the table (pure 80's fans, take note, this is probably the most "throwback" sounding of all the tracks here...).

There are three iTunes/Amazon mp3 bonus tracks, which I didn't list above, simply because they are just alternate takes on songs from the main album.  There is a studio outtake of "Valentine", a live-acoustic version of "Stone Cold Bitch" (which really did nothing for me), and the single edit version of "Girls Of California" (which I would not pick as one of the first five or six songs to release as a single...but who am I?).

Overall, this is one excellent record and one I would encourage all Glitter2Gutter readers to snap up.  The packaging is also top-notch, complete with lyrics, liner notes, thank-you's, etc.  Whether you are an old school 80's rocker or a more modern hard rock fan, you are sure to find yourself caught up in the rauch-and-swagger of this West Virginia outfit. 

Rating:  CRANK this sucker WAY UP!  Easily a crankable 9!!!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

7EVENTH TIME DOWN "Alive In You"



(c) 2011 BEC Recordings

  1. I Need Someone
  2. Alive In You
  3. What About Tonight
  4. Get Me To You
  5. World Changer
  6. Do You Believe
  7. Jesus Machine
  8. Love Parade
  9. Worship Jesus
  10. Rusty Nails
Mikey Howard--Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitars
Austin Miller--Drums, Gang Vocals
Eric Van Zant--Guitars, Gang Vocals
Cliff Williams--Bass, Backing Vocals, Gang Vocals
Scotty Wilbanks--Piano, Organ Programming, Tambourine, Additional Vocals

7eventh Time Down knows exactly who they are and what works for them, and they are unapologetic about it. When the sticker on the front of the album states that this CD would be a good one to recommend to fans of Daughtry or Shinedown, they are not kidding, especially on the Daughtry front. There are, in fact, times when 7eventh Time Down sound more like Daughtry than Daughtry does! I can also hear Nickelback here, especially on the ballads. So, what the purchaser/listener can expect is fairly solid modern radio rock that plays things fairly safe and doesn't do a lot to stretch the boundaries of their comfort zone, with one glaring exception (more later). This is both a good thing and a bad thing, however.

On the plus side, there is no question that 7TD is going to get some serious radio airplay, both on contemporary Christian rock stations and on open-minded modern rock radio...possibly even on satelite stations like Sirius/XM's Octane channel. The sound is that solid and that compatible with the Shinedowns, Daughtrys, Nickelbacks, Breaking Benjamins, etc. Mikey Howard has a very strong tenor that he can both sing and shout with, adding in the rougher edges when required. Songs like "I Need Someone", "Alive In You", "World Changer", "Do You Believe" and "What About Tonight" are all credible modern rock tracks that will sound right at home on your radio, with the title track really plunging into Nickelback territory on the chorus. Lyrically, 7TD does not shy away from what they believe, and most songs here feature solid faith-based (not Bible chapter-and-verse type) lyrics that at times jump into the praise and worship realm. This is especially true on songs like "Worship Jesus" and "Rusty Nails", with the first verse of "Rusty Nails" reading:

"Rusty nails in tender skin
And calloused hands of men
Pinning all that is so good
On two pieces of wood..."

This song, in particular, really shows the songwriting skill these guys have, even if it is also the least rocking tune on the disc.

Musically, the guitars are typically downtuned and fuzzed up, and the band is very tight, obviously having spent some time performing together. The leads offered up by Van Zant are bright and catchy, if not overly complex, and the rhythm playing is very well done. Miller and Williams are more than competent as a rhythm section, so the music is not a problem here, and is, once again, very comparable to most of what you find on modern rock radio.

The problem is that some of the songs come off as forced, at least to me. For example, "Jesus Machine"...I just don't get it, to be honest. Maybe it is my age showing a bit here, but the lyrics are just silly to me...

"We are the heart of the Jesus Machine,
I hope you know what that means.
Get on the bus, come and rock with us.
We are the heart of the Jesus Machine."

Uh, no, I guess I don't know "what that means". Were 7TD just looking for rhymes here? Also from that same song: "Faith is so bionic, You know you're gonna want it..." Ummm...okay???

"Get Me To You" has potential musically, but lyrically it is just incredibly cliche and sounds to me like a song that the band wrote at the last minute to get a full ten songs on the album. Not terrible, but nowhere near the strength of the first three or last two tracks.

The major roadblock for me (I can't even call it a bump in the road, because this just about caused me to stop altogether) is "Love Parade". This track sounds absolutely NOTHING like the rest of the album, with a funk-based style, a horn-section (well, programmed horns, anyway), and even more quirky lyrics ("I'm like a love-sick puppy, chasing you around") that just make this song an absolute skipper for me.

So, what do we have in the end? For me, this is a band that shows a LOT of promise, and they could have released a really good 6 or 7 song EP here. The production is solid, the packaging is decent, and the band obviously has musical talent and shows flashes of solid songwriting. However, the low points suck the high points down far enough that the entire project comes off as incomplete and somewhat mediocre, albeit with some nice, shining moment. I guess the fact that this disc is bargain-priced at $7.99 (at least at my local Christian bookstore) is a minor saving point, as that is about what it would cost to download the truly good songs from Amazon or iTunes.

Rating: Rock this at 6 but keep an eye on these guys if this is your style of music. I have a feeling their next effort will be a step forward.      

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LILLIAN AXE "XI: The Days Before Tomorrow"

(c) 2012 CME Records

  1. Babylon
  2. Death Comes Tomorrow
  3. Gather Up The Snow
  4. The Great Divide
  5. Take The Bullet
  6. Bow Your Head
  7. Caged In
  8. Soul Disease
  9. Lava On My Tongue
  10. My Apologies
  11. Untitled Bonus Track

Brian Jones--Lead Vocals
Steve Blaze--Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards
Sam Poitevent--Guitar, Vocals
Eric Morris--Bass
Ken Koudelka--Drums

Lillian Axe is one of those bands that you just really can't pigeonhole.  On the one hand they definitely have their history as something of a hair band, although musically they were always a step or two ahead of most of the other hair bands they were lumped in with and, ironically, had less commercial success because of it (at least in my opinion).  They were never a band to sing about the virtues of partying non-stop day and night, and as such, never really had any of the commercial radio anthems that propelled some one-or-two-hit-wonders to instant fame in the 80's and very early 90's.  On the other hand, Lillian Axe held a bit of a progressive-power metal edge a lot of their peers also never had (or at least didn't display on record), starting with their BRILLIANT sophomore album Love & War.  I one time steered a friend of mine towards Lillian Axe's Psychoschitzophrenia album as being something of a "Queensryche-meets-Savatage", which he came back fully agreeing with.  Granted, the band does not always fit into this mold, but again, this is the enigma that is Lillian Axe.  Just what kind of band are they?

Well, for one thing, Lillian Axe is a band that is always in some sort of flux, at least as far as revolving band members go.  Blaze is the only original member of the band left from their self-titled debut album, and Jones is at least the fourth lead vocalist in the 24 years since their first album (Ron Taylor was the original vocalist, followed by Derrick LeFevre, and then Ronny Munroe [now with Metal Church]).  Despite that fact, Lillian Axe has always sounded like Lillian Axe for the most part.  Sure, there have been growth spurts stylistically, such as the jump between the debut and Love & War, or in the continually more-progressive sound the band adopted following the fourteen-year lay off between 1993's Psychoschitzophrenia and 2007's Waters Rising (there was a live album in 2002), but generally speaking, you can pick a Lillian Axe album out of a line-up of their peers fairly easily.

XI: The Days Before Tomorrow is a continuation of the ever more progressive attitude Blaze has employed in his songwriting for the past fifteen to twenty years.  If you are at all familiar with the sound of Lillian Axe, then this album is going to feel familiar and comfortable musically, and Jones' voice, while not the one you might be expecting, certainly fits the mood and feel of the album and greets you like someone you are sure you have met before.  Right from the opening track, "Babylon", there is no doubt that Jones and Blaze are on the same page musically, as this driving track gets things started in pure Lillian Axe rocker fashion featuring a big, chugging guitar riff and a nice, melodic solo.  The progressive attitude shows up in the very next track, as "eath Comes Tomorrow" features more of that "Queensryche-meets-Savatage" sound that I mentioned before, especially with the opening guitars leading directly into some nice piano work, with Jones' rich tenor gliding over the top for the first verse, provoking the guitars to kick in once again in a very 'Tage style.  "Gather Up The Snow" is the closest to pure prog-rock that Blaze allows his band to go, and even then it stays closer to Queensryche than Kansas, Yes, or Asia or anything like that.  There is also a killer guitar solo embedded in this excellent song, showing Blaze to be an underappreciated player of this genre.  "Bow Your Head" is an impressive ballad that allows Jones to expand his vocals a bit, adding a hint of snarl in spots, soaring in others.  "Take The Bullet" starts off with a machine gun sound effect, but then carries on with a stop-start rhythm and some interesting vocal layering that again gives a progressive feel to this modernesque hard rocker which has some excellent fret runs nestled within.  "The Great Divide" is very atmospheric in places, but this is also a song that gives drummer Koudelka a chance to showcase his skills, which I think is a cool touch.  "Caged In" is pretty much a straight ahead hard-rocker, while "Soul Disease" has a galloping Iron Maiden feel for much of the track, again intermixed with hints of Queensryche.

The hidden bonus track, (which would actually be track 16 on the CD, as there are 5 blank tracks after "My Apologies") is an oddity and it is easy to understand why it was inserted as a bonus.  This song doesn't fit anything else on the album and it has a very atmospheric-yet-almost-electronica feel to it, as there are no drums, no real guitars, and just Jones vocals over a synthesizer track.  The album would have been just as well served to not have this track included, but it doesn't damage the overall brilliance of the record, either.  I'll likely skip it 95% of the time, however.

This new Lillian Axe album gives hope that things on the musical scene are not all cookie-cutter clones of the modern breakdown-laden, melody-lacking bands that are churning out what passes for hard rock these days.  Sure, there are some great bands out there doing some original stuff, but you have to admit there are a LOT of bands that flow into each other without the listener even knowing the band or song changed!  That is not the case with Lillian Axe at all.  If you are looking for something to restore your faith in well-written, well-executed music with one foot in the past and one solidly in the present, Lillian Axe's XI: The Days Before Tomorrow may be just what you are looking for.  Check it out and see if you don't agree...

Rating:  Crank this to a very worthy 8.5...maybe even a 9...



Thursday, May 10, 2012

GEORGE LYNCH "Legacy"


(c) 2012 Rat Pak Records
  1. Blood Drive
  2. Circulo Del Fuego
  3. Invoid
  4. The Road Ahead
George Lynch--All Guitars
Rev Jones--Bass
Michael Frowen--Drums

That George Lynch...what a tease!  Mr. Scary has returned, but not in the way you might think.  With Legacy, Lynch has dropped four all-instrumental songs on us, keeping our appetite whetted until a new Lynch Mob release, or until he puts out an album with T&N, the new project he has been working on with Mick Brown and Jeff Pilson (all formerly of Dokken). 

The only 100% new song here is the first track, "Blood Drive".  This driving rock number will be instantly recognizable as a George Lynch track, as his signature playing style is evident almost immediately, but he also mixes in a bit of the "Satch boogie" style of Joe Satriani.  I love this track and think it is by far the strongest of the four here.

The remaining three tracks are all re-titled, re-worked versions of older songs, although most people likely have never heard them.  A few years back, George offered a sort-of-demo EP release on his website which was called Hang 'Em High, but EXTREMELY limited numbers of these albums ever saw the light of day.  So, George took those three tracks, renamed them and touched them up a bit, offering them up here.  "Circulo Del Fuego" has a lot in common with the album opener, again being a full-on rocker with some absolutely killer axework backed by a solid rhythm section that never encroaches on the work that George is offering up.  This song reminds me a lot of the old "shred" albums of the 80's and 90's. 

"Invoid" has the most Dokken-esque feel to it of the songs here.  Think of the instrumental work George did with "Mr. Scary", but then speed things up just a hair and, once again, incorporate a bit of that old shred-mentality to the track, and you have a good idea of what this song brings to the table. 

Album closer, "The Road Ahead" is much more subdued, approaching ballad territory, but not quite getting there.  This has a more bluesy feel than the rest of the disc, and the "shred" is left out in favor of more melodic, soulful playing, which George pulls off nicely.  This is where an instrumental album really showcases an individual's talents on guitar, because we really have never got to hear this side of George in Dokken or Lynch Mob, so this is a really cool piece to hear.

Some people are going to moan and groan about the album's lenght (just a hair under 18 minutes), and others are going to grumble about three "rehashes" here...but screw 'em!  I'll take 18 minutes of quality material over a full length album with two decent songs, and as for the re-recorded material, 99.5% of the population never got to hear these songs anyway, so the complainers can either shut up and enjoy this little EP or they can skip it and wait for the new Lynch Mob release...which is also rumored to be an EP, by the way.  In the end, this is a great little tide-me-over until George's next effort and I anticipate spinning Legacy numerous times over the course of the summer. 

Rating:  Short, sweet, and to the point, this teaser should be cranked to 8.5 for maximum effect!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

GREAT WHITE "Elation"

(c) 2012 Frontiers Records

  1. (I've Got) Something For You
  2. Feelin' So Much Better
  3. Love Train
  4. Heart Of A Man
  5. Hard To Say Goodbye
  6. Resolution
  7. Shotgun Willie's
  8. Promise Land
  9. Lowdown (Bonus Track)
  10. Just For Tonight
  11. Love Is Enough
  12. Complicated
Mark Kendall--Guitars
Terry Ilous--Vocals
Michael Lardie--Guitars, Keyboards
Audie Desbrow--Drums
Scott Snyder--Bass

Elation.  An ironic title, because I can honestly say that for the first time I am NOT filled with elation when listening to a new album by my all-time favorite band, Great White.  I am sorry to say that this album is nothing short of a travesty, in my opinion, not simply because Jack Russell is not the singer (as he should be, no disrespect intended toward Ilous, whom I loved with XYZ...), but also because Kendall, Lardie, and Desbrow appear to have forgotten what the Great White sound is. 

For more than half of this album, Ilous comes across as a near-clone of Jeff Keith of Tesla, which I guess is okay considering this record sounds more akin to that band (which I love) than to Great White.  But that is the problem, also.  Never on this album do you feel like you are listening to a Great White record.  Not once.  There are a couple of "almosts", but it is as if soul of the band is gone, both stylistically and vocally.  The songs aren't necessarily bad, they just don't have any life to them.  The signature bluesy sound that has always been Great White is totally lacking now, even on songs that should be right up the band's alley.  For example, "Hard To Say Goodbye" is the type of ballad that Jack was known for absolutely owning, but Ilous, despite his best efforts, just doesn't pack the vocal punch that Russell would.  The same can be said of the acoustic closer, "Complicated", which aches for the performance that you can hear Jack delivering.

The rocking numbers suffer, as well.   Album opener, "(I've Got) Something For You" sounds more like something Night Ranger has been doing than a Great White song (no disrespect to Night Ranger intended).  "Heart Of A Man" is just plain boring, and the barroom boogie attempt of "Love Is Enough" fails to bring any life to the latter part of the album.  "Love Train" feels lifeless and flat, which is frustrating because in the past the band would have added in a big, fat bottom end groove that would have had this "train" chugging along nicely, but here, it seems the "train" is stuck in neutral as this mid-tempo number goes nowhere. 

To me, the best song, and the most Great White of the tracks, is "Shotgun Willie's", an uptempo number that, musically, sounds like it might have fit well on the Can't Get There From Here album.  Ilous' Keith impression continues here, but at least it works pretty well.  "Resolution" is another "almost Great White" track, reminding me a bit of "Mista Bone", but, as I mentioned with "Love Train", it is missing that groove that would have come so naturally on older releases, and, while Terry does a decent vocal turn here, you just KNOW Jack would have nailed the sass and attitude that this track is begging for.   "Lowdown" has a pretty good classic Great White vibe, but Terry's vocals just don't have the smoke and grit that Jack would have delivered here.  The same can be said for the only other track I can say I truly like, "Feelin' So Much Better"; Terry's vocals make it a solid, servicable track, but Jack's vocals would have owned this song.      

Seriously, I don't know why Kendall and Co. were so adamant about keeping the Great White name when they did everything in their power to not sound like Great White!   I mean, come on...four tracks out of twelve that bear even a passing resemblence to Great White?  Why bother?  Granted, I realize it is a marketing thing, but come on...at least make an effort to please the fans that have stuck with you for all these years, because it's not like teenagers and early-twenty-somethings are clamoring for the reunions of these 80's bands--it's the hard-core fanbase that snaps up most of these albums and attends the rock-reunion festivals that pop up across the country every summer.  I can say with all honesty that there is no way I will be attending a Great White concert with this current line-up, because this is simply not Great White now, and I have serious questions about the band's ability to pull off the classic material live while somehow incorporating this new style and sound into their show.  

Overall, this is not a terrible record...it's just a terrible Great White record and horribly disappointing.  If Elation had been released as a Kendall/Ilous side-project, I think it would have been a decent enough, solid-if-unspectacular, effort.  As it stands, this album is going to get more attention due to the dysfunctional state of the band than it is for the music recorded here.  Again, while not horrible musically, this is not a record that is going to be getting tons of airplay from me...or likely anyone else.  The one thing this record does, and does VERY well, is prove that Jack was the lifeblood, the heart, and the soul of Great White, no matter how much his former bandmates want to run him down on-line and in the media.  A major letdown from start to finish, with only brief stops at what could have been solid, if less-than-classic, Great White material.  

Come on, Jack...give us something to love, and do it soon!  PLEASE!!!

Rating:  As a Great White effort, TURN THIS DOWN to a 3.5.  Even if you can get around the fact that this no longer sounds like Great White, I still wouldn't turn this up past 5, as it just doesn't have much life for 2/3 of the album.