Monday, April 30, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...JK Northrup (Interview)

Normally, I wouldn't put up two interviews so close together, but with the hoopla surrounding the new Liberty N Justice CD, Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, which JK had a large hand in completing, I thought now would be a good time to let the Glitter2Gutter readers get to know this man a bit better. So...let's talk some trash with JK Northrup...

G2G: JK, thanks for taking the time to chat with me and the Glitter2Gutter readers. What's been going on in the world of JK Northrup?

JK: Thanks for having me here Arttie, it's an honor! In my world right now, I am working with a lot of amazing artists. Been working and writing A LOT with the great Justin Murr on several projects including the brand new Liberty N' Justice Hell Is Coming To Breakfast album release, and the single "Stayin' Alive" which is just Kip Winger and me (just acoustic and vocal) which is being released on Itunes the same day, April 24th from the next Liberty N Justice two-disc album, The Cigar Chronicles, which doesn't have an official release date just yet. I also just put together the final mix and master of "Hot Child In The City" featuring Justin's daughter, Torrie, also on Itunes April 24. I have to give a shout out to Mark Lanoue and CJ Snare for their talents and contributions!!! Other than that, I'm just trying to fit in time to watch some baseball and spend time with my wife and family.

G2G: Baseball fan, huh? Probably the biggest Royals fan you'll talk to right here! Who do you root, root, root for?

JK: Well, I grew up and have lived most of life in Northern CA, so the answer is pretty obvious....Yankees!!! Just kidding...GO GIANTS!!!!!! Ever since I was a wee lad listening to the great Willie Mays on the radio, I listen to and watch every game I can and go to San Francisco to see them when possible.

G2G: My neighbor across the street flies the Giants flag proudly, so I have to see that black and orange on a regular basis.... I would imagine finding time to hit games has to be difficult, because you are one busy man! You seem to show up on someone's album every couple of months! Everyone else is unemployed, but that's not a problem for you, is it?

JK: (laughing) Very true that I am a bit in demand at the moment, which is complaints here....(JK pretends to fall asleep...) I'm awake now!  It is an honor to be involved with so many great artists, but I will take a day or two to go to the ballpark this year!

Ted Poley "Smile" 2007
G2G: For those who may not know, you have played with such names as Paul Shortino of Rough Cutt and, now, King Kobra...which is another band you have played with. You played with XYZ, with Cage, with Ted Poley of Danger Danger, and of course with Liberty N Justice now... That's an impressive resume... Right place at the right time? Have axe will travel? Huge rolodex of names? What's the scoop?

JK: I actually got my first break in 1982 when Bruce Turgon (bassist, songwriter with Lou Gramm and Foreigner) heard a tape of me playing and flew from LA to Redding, in Northern California, and offered me a spot as guitarist for his album demo for Pasha Records. Billy Thorpe of "Children Of The Sun" fame was producing. Quiet Riot was mixing Metal Health in the next room and got to meet all the guys. Billy had just released his latest album on Pasha and asked Bruce, Frankie Banali and myself to tour for it! From back yard parties to 15,000 people opening for Cheap Trick in one month. That's how it all started. Now, yes I do have a rolodex with quite a few names.

G2G: You sound like Justin Murr...I'd LOVE to see his rolodex! Speaking of Justin, how did you get hooked up with Liberty N Justice?

JK: I have no idea! Just kidding again... I was contacted to play guitars on the LnJ album Light It Up. I played on the title track with Phil Lewis (LA Guns) on vocals, then Justin asked me to do a solo on "Throwing Stones", that Vic Rivera produced. All of a sudden, I get this call from Justin asking, "Who the heck are you"?? (laughing) So then he wanted to see what I can do as a writer/producer and he challenged me to do a version of "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gee's...acoustically!!! I said, "I'll take that challenge" and then he kept giving me more and more...and more! Then asked me to write music to his lyric's and here we are today!

As it turns out, Kip Winger sang on the "Stayin' Alive" track and it's now being released as a sneak preview single on Itunes!! Very proud of that one. Anyway, now we can't stop creating together!!!! Justin is a great man and artist to work with

G2G: That says a lot considering some of the people you have collaborated with. Tell me about working with Paul Shortino on those two Shortino/Northrup discs. How did you get together and was that a studio -only project or did you guys play out some?

JK: I started working on the Back On Track album in 1990. I was signed to an indy label as a solo artist and it was intended to be a studio project. I had multiple drummers and bassists and was going to use different singers. My good friend James Kottak , who had played drums on several songs suggested I have Paul sing on one. I was already a big fan of Paul and had him come in to the studio. He sang on "Bye Bye To Love" and I was floored!!! He brought Sean McNabb (ex-Great White, Quiet Riot, Rough Cutt) to that session, also. Sean and Paul were in Quiet Riot together previously. We all clicked and we agreed that Paul should be the singer and then it became a band project. Paul, Sean, James and I did a lot of shows in the L.A. area and did a cross country tour as well. The Afterlife album was only a studio project, but a lot of great music came out of it! Proud of both albums!!! Paul is a great friend and certainly one of the greatest rock/blues singers in the industry. One of the best singers that I have had the pleasure of working with.

G2G: Yeah, I love that first album a lot...I even reviewed it here on Glitter2Gutter. Great disc. Hey, speaking of that first Shortino/Northrup disc, when or why did you switch your name from Jeff to JK? What gives?

JK: Ha ha, good question. I kind of hit a wall, career-wise, back around 1999-2000. My long time friend Richard Diaz, going back to 1983, kept saying to me, "Jeff, you should go by "JK" (my first and middle initials). He stated, "It just sounds heavier, more like Jake E Lee!!" I never paid much attention until I was contacted to release an old collection of songs with Johnny Edwards on vocals in 2001. The band was simply called Northrup (1987-89). I told the label that I would do it, but under the name "JK Northrup". I am now officially and professionally "JK", although my wife, some older friends and my parents will always call me Jeff. On a side note..Dionne Warwick changed the spelling of her last name in the early 60's from Warrick, to Warwick. The story goes that when she did, her career really took off! I can only dream to someday achieve the status she did, but things really did start clicking when I made the change.

Steffanie "Hideaway" 1985
G2G:  Huh...I tried spelling Arttie as RT for awhile, but I didn't notice an increase in the cool factor!  Anyway, I thought I pretty much owned all your stuff, but I was looking ar your discography and you have worked with some people I have never even heard of. Who the heck is Steffanie?

JK:  Steffanie is of Japanese-Hawaiian decent that was a recording artist from America, and was a star in Japan in the 80's-90's. She was signed to Warner-Pioneer Records. I recorded on and wrote songs for her first two albums...and I do mean VINYL!  Spent a few weeks in Japan doing live shows, recording the first album and shooting her videos. If you look up Steffanie on YouTube you will see several videos with me performing with her. Kind of the "Pat Benatar" of Japan! She is such a wonderful person.  Had my first taste of jokes Japan sitting around the table with the big suits from the label. Great time!!!

G2G:  Wow...vinyl and YouTube mentioned in the same times have changed the music biz, huh? Maybe you see things differently since you are also into the production side of things, so I have to ask: what's your take on the digital download world of music?   Killing the industry or just adapting to give modern music fans what they want?

JK:  That is the million dollar question for sure! For some of us it's more like the $50 question... No doubt the digital download and file sharing has taken it's toll on soooo many great recording artists in a negative way. Geez, I wish there was a way to file share pizza, or sushi, but it would put a lot of people out of work and business! Having said that, the digital domain is here and is not going away. It is a great way for artists to immediately let their fans hear and purchase their music, song by song, or an entire album! So like it or not, it is giving the modern fans what they want. I just wish there were more honest consumers that had more of a conscience.

G2G:  So, going forward, how is JK going to release music? As a digital single here and there, or are you going to hang onto the CD process as long as possible? Personally, I hate not having a disc and liner notes and all that in my hands. You would think there would be a happy medium somewhere...

JK:  Right now for me, it's both hard copies and digital downloads on all albums I have been a part of.   I agree that there is so much more value to any consumer to have a CD in hand...and now they are bringing back vinyl...and being able to read the liner notes. It let's them know more about the album and everyone involved with it. That brings the songs and the process of recording them to life! So much more personal, and I hope this will always continue. For example, "Reality TV" has become so the Kardashians...and it's all crap and fake, but the modern audience wants to know about it.   Music is so much more personal to each individual, so I have to have faith that the listener will want to know more about the behind the scenes of their favorite artists. I will always continue to put out hard copies for those that choose to want to know more about the songs. However, the long winded answer is "YES! There is a happy medium!", because some just want to enjoy the song and nothing else, and I am ok with that as long as they are buying and not pirating.

G2G:  All right, while we are on the topic of new material, tell me about your contributions to the Hell Is Coming To Breakfast release from Liberty N Justice, because you are all over this disc, correct?   I mean, you're on the title track, on "Whack A Mole", "Madhatter", "Stretch Armstrong" are just all over the place! You must have had a lot of fun working on this project, and the upcoming Cigar Chronicles, as these two efforts had to eat up a lot of time and creative juices...

JK:  Ok...I have to pull out the liner notes regarding the Hell Is Coming To Breakfast album (laughing) because I don't have the cd yet!   In a most humble and sincere answer--the songs I wrote with Justin are, "Hell Is Coming To Breakfast", "Mad Hatter", "Whack A Mole", "Nakatomi Plaza", "Stretch Armstrong" and "Sin".   Justin wrote the lyrics and I did the music. I performed all of the instruments on these songs, except for the solos on "Madhatter, "Nakatomi Plaza" and "Stretch Armstrong".   I sang on "Nakatomi Plaza", or at least I tried my best, I mixed and mastered every song except "Your Memory Just Won't Do", which was done by the great CJ Snare, and I only mastered the songs, "Monkey Dance", "Thy Will Be Done" and ”What Do You Believe?" which were mixed by others. A couple more shout-outs to Anthony Gravley for his excellent arrangements and recording of the songs, "Get Down" and "Thankful Heart", and to all of the great artists that brought all of these songs to life!    Fun???? Absolutely had, and am still having a great time with all of these songs.  The Cigar Chronicles is also going to be off the charts amazing!!!! Wow, hard to even express it in words. Justin always inspires me and certainly is the driving force for all that I have had the honor to be involved in on the LnJ records!. Yes, it has eaten up a lot of creative juices and time, but has also replenished them 10 fold!

G2G:  I know all artists say their songs are like children and they could never pick and choose, but can you pick one or two that you are particularly proud of?   Personally, and I have already told Justin this, I LOVE "Sin" and "Nakatomi Plaza" probably as much as any LnJ songs ever, which says a lot, since I have pretty much everything LnJ has ever done. Of course, I also love "Monkey Dance" since my all-time fave singer, Jack Russell, is on there.  What about you?  Any standouts?

JK:  You are right that each song is like we male musicians' version of giving birth...(laughing)! Some are so cute, some are butt ugly, but you still love them...some more than others.   However, as a pure song and the way it turned out stripped down, I would say "Sin" with just Jani and me together is powerful, especially with the lyrical content! I take a lot of personal pride in that one. But I also love the heavier, more modern, twisted stuff like "Stretch Armstrong" and "Whack A Mole". "Hell Is Coming To Breakfast" is just flat out RAWKIN!!! So, sorry I can't answer that question...(laughs)

G2G:  Coward! (Laughing)  When you aren't listening to mixes of all the LnJ songs you're working on, what is JK listening to these days?

JK:  To be honest, I listen to very little music outside of the studio these days!   I know that sounds odd, but I get to a point where I have been writing, mixing, playing etc., that I need to get away from it.   I do a lot of comparison listening to other finished mastered cd's, new and old, while I am working on any given project.  There are sooo many talented bands and artists that I do enjoy, though. I have always listened to almost all styles of music and have a deep appreciation for the classics and many modern bands. From Frank Sinatra to Disturbed, Elvis to The Foo Fighters, as long as it moves me, I will listen! The Beatles are my favorite band of all time. Melody, melody, melody!  My wife plays a wide variety of music at home on weekends, mostly relaxing music.

King Kobra "III" 1988
G2G:  Ever listen to any of your old stuff, like King Kobra or XYZ, stuff like that, or do you leave your stuff in the past and just move forward? I've talked to some artists who don't like to listen to a lot of their old material unless they are touring it, because they don't want to influence current stuff with old stuff.

JK:  I will admit, I do pull out some of the old stuff and listen! I am very proud of all of the past albums I have done and sometimes I need a reminder of the accomplishments I have achieved in my career. This is important because I am always striving to do something different, better, or at least hope I am not taking a step backwards.  I personally feel I am making a positive step forward at this time musically, and even in my playing!

G2G:  Anyone you are really hoping to get the chance to work with as you move forward?

JK:  Well I have put in a few calls to Paul McCartney and Robert Plant, but no call backs yet (laughing). Honestly, I haven't really thought about that. Other than Paul and Robert, there are a few female artists I would love to work with. Boy do I have some songs for Kelly Clarkson, or Carrie Underwood!   A little less rock than you would expect from me, but I write many different styles. I have been very fortunate to have worked with the many great artists already that I don't have much more of a wish list. Having said that, I am sure there will be many more in the near future.  There's just so much talent out there.

G2G:  More plans with LnJ, I'm hoping.

JK:  (Laughing)   I don't think Justin is going to get any sleep for a while.  We're  working on more songs as we speak!!  That is" I don't think Justin is going to let ME get any sleep".

G2G:  Well, JK, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with us... It's been a lot of fun, and I hope we can do this again sometime. Any closing thoughts or chunks of wisdom to leave Glitter2Gutter readers with?

JK:  Well first of all, thank you so much for having me here, it's been a pleasure for sure.   I would invite all that are interested to keep up to date with what I am up to on Facebook, or at, although I update more on FB.  There are many marvelous albums and projects I am working on coming up...  Stay tuned.....

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PETRA "Beyond Belief"

(c)1990 Dayspring Music

  1. Armed And Dangerous
  2. I Am On The Rock
  3. Creed
  4. Beyond Belief
  5. Love
  6. Underground
  7. Seen And Not Heard
  8. Last Daze
  9. What's In A Name
  10. Prayer
John Schlitt--Lead Vocals
Bob Hartman--Guitars
John Lawry--Keyboards
Ronny Cates--Bass
Louie Weaver--Drums

When a band has been around as long as Petra, they have likely seen many trends come and go...and possibly participated in a few, as well.  This is true of Petra.  Once John Schlitt replaced Greg X. Volz as lead vocalist, the band immediately went in more of a polished hard rock direction, which I love, versus the more folk-rock style that Volz often incorporated (although older Petra does have its solid classic rock moments as well).  By 1990, the more slickly polished sound of arena rock had become the big thing, and Petra was quick to jump on board with their new effort, Beyond Belief.  The results were...well...nah, the pun is just too easy.

Beyond Belief is one of those albums that fans either gravitate toward or turn their backs on.  The sound on this record is huge:  big guitars, pounding drums, slick production, juicy hooks, and plenty of powerful vocals that Schlitt delivers with style and conviction.  Some people will, of course, accuse Petra of selling out to the current trends, but really, Beyond Belief is a natural progression from On Fire! and even This Means War, with solid hard rock song writing backed by some excellent performances.  Yeah, the production is definitely more arena rock than classic rock, especially with the additional attention the keys get here, but overall, its just rocker after rocker after rocker flowing off this album, with only minor stops at the ballads the band has always incorporated, but which I have never really found myself overly drawn to.  I'm not sure why, but as a general rule, I am just not a fan of most Christian rocker's ballads as they tend to come off TOO sugary sweet for me, with no real bite.  Granted, this is not a 100% carved in stone rule, as I love some of the stuff Holy Soldier, Stryper, Rez, and some others have done, but for me, most of the time the ballads become skippers, even when the legendary Petra is involved.

Band founder, lead guitarist, and stalwart member, Bob Hartman, continues to be the main songwriter for the band, although this time he did get some help from former Kansas member/current Mastedon leader, John Elefante, who also produced the album with his brother, Dino.  Together, the Hartman writing and Elefante production brings to life the biggest sounding Petra album to this point in the band's career, and one that saw multiple Christian rock charting singles, including the hard rocker, "Seen And Not Heard", the slick AOR of the title track, the powerful melodic rocker, "Creed", and the ballad, "Prayer".    All are solid tracks, with "Creed" being a monster of a song in its full sound, melodic approach, and powerful lyrics, and "Seen And Not Heard" one of the best rockers on this effort.  I would also recommed "Armed And Dangerous", "Underground", and "Last Daze" as far as hard, yet melodic tracks that fans of Def Leppard's Hysteria and Adrenalize style should love.  "I Am On The Rock" and "What's In A Name" are also solid rock numbers, with "Rock" having a bit of a dance rhythm to it that a lot of people will find hard to resist tapping their feet or nodding their head to.

The two ballads, which are spread out evenly as the fifth and tenth tracks on the disc are pretty much standard Petra ballad material.  "Love" is my preference of the two, and is one of the very few Petra ballads I don't just automatically skip, although it also would never work its way onto a personal best-of compilation or anything.  As I mentioned previously, most Christian rock ballads are just to saccharine for my tastes, usually overblown with keyboards and lacking in solid guitar work.  There are very few instances where the words "power" and "ballad" come together on a Christian disc, which is unfortunate, and they certainly don't do that here, either.  Both deliver strong messages, and Schlitt's softer approach is gallant in its effort, but these songs, especially "Prayer" just leave me feeling flat, especially after the rest of this disc has pumped me up so much.

Overall, this is one of the Top Three Petra discs of all time (in my opinion, of course), and is a worthy addition to any melodic hard rock collection.  Hartman is a  more than capable guitar player, able to play solid rhythms and pull off some killer leads with equal skill, and it would be very hard to find a more powerful, charismatic vocalist than Schlitt, who formerly fronted classic rockers, Head East.  Lawry's keys are a nice polishing touch, not overpowering or so out-front that it changes the sound of the record, and Cates and Weaver are steady, if not flashy players throughout (although Cates does have some tasty bass lines on a couple of the dancier numbers).  Generally not hard to find, Beyond Belief is a nice pick-up for $8 to $10 and one that is likely to stay in rotation for most people for a considerable length of time.

Rating:  Crank this to a solid 7.5.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012


(c) 1992 Word Records

  1. Virtue & Vice
  2. Crazy
  3. Hallow's Eve
  4. Gimme Shelter
  5. Love Is On The Way
  6. Dead End Drive
  7. Tuesday Mourning
  8. Fairweather Friend
  9. Last Train
Steven Patrick--Vocals
Jamie Cramer--Guitars
Scott Soderstrom--Guitars
Andy Robbins--Bass
Terry "The Animal" Russell--Drums

Michael Cutting is gone, and Scott Sonderstrom is in on guitars, but other than that change, the Holy Soldier train kept rolling along with this, their sophomore release.  Sure, there is a bit more of a bluesy sound to this effort and a tad bit less "hair", but there is no mistaking that this is still Holy Soldier (trust me...there would be PLENTY of mistaking that fact on the next studio album).  Steven Patrick's soaring vocals are still in top form here, proving equally powerful on hard-edged rockers like "Virtue & Vice", "Crazy", "Hallow's Eve", and "Dead End Drive", as well as the soaring ballad work of "Tuesday Mourning".  It's interesting to hear Patrick tackle the Rolling Stones classic, "Gimme Shelter", and I really enjoy the Holy Solider spin on this song, but I am willing to bet that most Stones fans would shudder at the band's approach.  But, to my ears, nowhere does Patrick deliver a more complete performance than on the album-closing title track, "Last Train", which finds the singer delivering a mournful, bluesy moan approach he had not shown before.  When combined with the exceptionally powerful lyrics of this song, I think this last track, with this line-up, is truly the pinnacle of the band's career.   

Musically, I think the band really found their sound on this disc, finding that perfect balance between the Sunset Strip sound that got them their record deal and the blusier work that they incorporate on several tracks.  They do nothing to alienate their fan base, and, much like Cinderella altered their approach as they matured, Holy Soldier sound more like a band who is growing than they do a band in some sort of transitional or experimental phase (that would come later).  Soderstrom holds his own on guitar, and he and Cramer again deliver a brilliant axe-tandem that could compete with any duo of this genre, in my opinion.  Robbins and Russell provide a solid backbone for the music to be built upon, as well, and, as a band, these guys can write and execute a hook as well as anyone at the time.  In fact, had these guys been on a major label at the time, instead of the Christian-only label they were signed to, I find it hard to believe these guys would not have been all over hard rock and Top 40 radio, as well as MTV.  They had the look, the sound, the style, and, at one time, the fan following that major labels were after...they just also had an uncompromising message that they were not willing to sacrifice.  (Remember, there was just Stryper out on the frontline as far as Christian hard rock and metal goes at this time; there were no Skillet's, no Red's, no 12 Stones, and no Brian "Head" Welch to garner mainstream radio or video play.)

Produced once again by David Zaffiro, this album has a killer sound with nice, full production and a solid mix.  Band pictures and lyrics are included in the packaging, which is always a nice touch.  This disc is far more difficult to find than the self-titled disc, as this one has not been officially reissued, at least that I am aware of.  There are some bootlegs floating around there, quite often marketed as being "Brazilian imports" or "Russian imports", but none of these are band-endorsed as far as I know.  As such, plan on spending about $25-30, on average, for this increasingly rare disc, but trust me when I say it is well worth the money.

Rating:  Crank this one to a most excellent 9, with only nine songs likely being the reason it's not a 10!

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

SPLATTERS "Fear Of The Park"

(c) 2012 Atomic Stuff

  1. Intro
  2. Killer Clown
  3. Welcome To Zombieland
  4. Here Come The Monsters
  5. Die In A Leather Jacket
  6. Hope
  7. Why Do They Always Have To Die In This Way?
  8. Sinner In Heaven
  9. My Lucky 13
  10. Minotaury
  11. Dark Way

Drow - Lead Vocals, Guitars
Alex Damned - Lead Guitars & Backing Vocals
Mr. Sprinkler - Bass & Backing Vocals
Paul Destroyer - Drums

Despite the fact that Splatters hail from Italy, one of the burgeoning hotbeds of the New Wave of European Glam and Sleaze (as I affectionately refer to it), do not think that this band is going to instantly fit any preconceptions about who or what they are.  Splatters explore that bizarre genre that is often referred to as "horror punk", although I think "horror sleaze" is a tag that could also be used with these guys, similar in nature to the sound of Ragdolls, at least on most songs (there are a couple of definite exceptions).  There is definitely a punkish attitude and approach to a lot of the songs, but the music is performed with quite a bit more skill than the typical punk song, especially since there are true guitar solos and actual song structures present, which is not the case with a lot of punk bands.  For comparison, Splatters probably has more in common with the sleazier, more metallic stylings of Haunted Garage from the late 80's/early 90's, than they do with the neo-punk sounds a lot of band seem to be using lately.

The album tells a loose story about a haunted amusement park, and the song titles, for the most part, fit the theme very well. "Killer Clown", "Die In a Leather Jacket", "Welcome to Zombieland", and "Here Come The Monsters" all pretty much let you know where the album is coming from, and where it is headed, and the musical style of these tracks is pretty much the same throughout. The listener is blasted with punk-laden drum beats, some furious rhythm guitar and bass pounding, and then topped with moments of inspired guitar playing...and Drow's dominating, at times distracting, vocals.

Drow, is not going to win any awards for his crooning style, because it is non-existant.  In fact, his vocals, along with the drumming, are the two things that could be considerered to be pretty much punk throughout the entire disc.  With Drow, you rarely actually hear any singing, as he is always screaming, snarling, growling, or spitting out the lyrics.  The one exception to this rule would be the intro to "Why Do They..." where Drow finds himself very much in Alice Cooper delivery mode, showing he is capable of pulling off an on-key, non-gagged vocal line, but this is a rarity.  For the rest of the disc, even on his most laid back moments, such as the more spoken word style of delivery at the beginning of "Hope", Drow is still offering up more of a snarled whisper than anything else.   

The guitar playing on the album, as opposed to Drow's vocals, really do more to steer this project towards sleaze than they do punk.  There are multiple tasty little solos scattered throughout the project, and I get the feeling that if given the chance, Alex Damned could blister the finish off his fretboard, possibly melting the strings in the process.  The solo near the end of "Die In A Leather Jacket" is one such moment when he shows his ability to finger his way through some pretty cool 80's-inspired playing, but then the punkish drums kick back in, spoiling the moment, at least for me.  "Hope" has another great solo moment around the 2:10 moment that really leads me to believe Alex is a very gifted guitar player who might better ply his trade in a more traditional sleaze, or even glam, band.  He also rips of a scorching lead in "Sinner In Heaven" that is well worth giving a listen to...but not so good that I would advise someone to buy this album just to hear it.

At times, the music can seem pretty familiar, with "Sinner In Heaven" holding a strong Guns N Roses vibe throughout the guitar-heavy intro, for example, but then even these familiar sounding tracks morph into something completely different, usually hitting a break-neck punk-influenced pace or, as I mentioned, dropping off into some kind of hardcore breakdown.  To be honest, a lot of the songs kind of run into one another at times, due largely to the fact that they are all performed at nearly the same tempo.  Quite often only the off-tempo intros to the songs are the only thing that gives the listener any indication that a new track has started. 

There are a couple of stark exceptions to punk-by-numbers effort displayed on much of the record, wih the last two tracks being the most obvious.  Perhaps not coincientally, these are also the best two songs on the effort, along with parts of "Hope" and "Why Do They...".  "Minotaury" has a more typical middle-of-the-road sleazy groove to the bass, rhythm guitar, and drum line for much of the song, only really picking up the pace for the nice, if short, guitar solo.  The closing cut, "Dark Way", is the only ballad on the disc and it has some excellent guitar work on it, but it is recorded in such a way as to sound completely mono, rather than stereo, almost like it was done on an ancient four-track machine, or something.  This is a GREAT song that I sort of wish was given the full production treatment, as I think the band really finds their musical stride here.  It is an excellent way to close the record, and it gives me hope that the band can offer up some more musically interesting art on their next effort.

If the album featured more moments like the last two tracks, or the first half of songs like "Why Do They..." and "Hope", I think this could be a stand-out record.  However, there is too much samey-faux-punk mixed with B-movie horror themes for my liking here, and Splatters come off sounding so much like Ragdolls that I'm not sure I could distinguish one from the other.  I don't anticipate this being a heavy rotation disc for me, except maybe on Halloween...and not likely then, either.

Rating:  Overall, I would have to say rock this at a 5.5, which is probably being kind, but Alex's talent saves at least part of the disc for me.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

SOULICIT "Parking Lot Rockstar"

(c)2011 Thermal Entertainment

  1. Hell Yeah!
  2. Beauty Queen
  3. Parking Lot Rockstar
  4. Complicated
  5. You Are The Song
  6. Sticks And Stones
  7. Blow Me Away
  8. Too Cold To Pray
  9. Gettin' High
  10. Time To Fly
Darick Parsons--Lead Vocals, Guitars
Andrew Weaver--Bass
Dan Weaver--Lead Guitar, Vocals
Trent Boehner--Drums

These boys sure don't want to sound like they are from Kansas, Dorothy!  While they maintain a fairly clean-cut, Midwestern image, their music is definitely rougher around the edges than a lot of the twang most people might associate with Kansas.  No, a country act Soulicit is not.  While they don't reinvent the wheel or anything here, Soulicit delivers one of the better modern hard rock records to come out in the past year or so, and is a far sight better than, dare I say, the last effort by Theory Of A Deadman, the band Soulicit is most likely to draw comparisons to.

Tracks on this little gem range from the fist-pumping, gang-shouted "Hell Yeah!" which opens the disc, to the laid back, almost snarky crooner delivery of the tongue-in-cheek title track, "Parking Lot Rockstar", to the contemplative ballad, "Complicated".  All three of these are likely to see significant airplay on rock radio and SiriusXM Satelite Radio before this album has worn the tread off the tires, and that is with good reason.  This is a set of finely crafted songs performed by a band that obviously has some tales to tell, even if they are not exactly from the hotbed of the hard rock world.  The guys definitely know how to throw down a guitar lick, and can turn a lyrical verse with the best of them...but they also know how to use a bit of comical phrasing to make a song work, as well.  Take for example the straight-forward honesty of this line from "Beauty Queen": 

"She calls me drunk on a Friday night, she's like 'Blah, blah, blah, blah blah...'"

WHO HASN'T BEEN ON THE OTHER END OF THAT PHONE CALL (guys or gals)???  While some people may cringe at something so seemingly juvenile, I say its a slice of reality that keeps the songs here fresh and unpredictable despite the air of familiarity many of these songs will seem to have musically.  Again, Soulicit doesn't reinvent anything here; rather, they take the current Nickelback/Theory Of A Deadman musical trend and add-to and subtract-from it, crafting a muscular rock sound that easily shifts speeds and gears on this album.  Whereas their debut seemed a  bit more disjointed and struggled with the "couple of hits/lot of misses" syndrome of so many other current records, Parking Lot Rockstar flips that trend, with only a couple of lesser moments surrounded by a lot of upper-shelf material. Outside of the previously mentioned tracks, stand out tracks would have to include "Sticks And Stones" and "Too Cold To Pray", and "You Are The Song" is a track that I think a lot of people are going to latch onto quickly.  The two closing tracks are, in my opinion, the weakest, but neither is terrible.

Overall, I really like this album...a lot.  I've spun this disc numerous times over the past few weeks and it is one that only grows on me more with repeated listenings.  Definitely a good time summer disc and one that should be on your shopping list.

Rating:  Crank this to a really solid, fun 8!

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice (Interview)

With the upcoming release of the brand new Liberty N Justice album, Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, I thought it was a great time to deliver the first Glitter2Gutter interview! So, here to talk some trash is one of my favorite guys to talk to (mostly because he always wants to talk...), Justin Murr, the driving force behind Liberty N Justice:

G2G: Justin, first, thanks for taking the time to talk with me again. It's been a while since we've had chance to chat. What's been going on in Justin Murr's world?

Justin: Hey Arttie thanks for taking the time to chat! I think this is my third conversation with you, either here or on the Christian Metal Realm. Let's see musically we have Hell Is Coming To Breakfast being released in April, and our Before The Revolution: LNJ Best of the Early Years being released later this year both through Roxx Productions. Then, finally, we have finished recording my double cd The Cigar Chronicles which is just an incredible project!

Personally, since we last chatted my personal life was out of control.
But, God is just and has begun a restoration process in my life! By the way, congrats on your new baby, sir!!!

G2G: Thanks! My family has been blessed, and I am glad to hear things are getting better for you, as well. About the new record, Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, as I have told you, I am completely floored by the new acoustic version of "Sin", featuring the last recording made by Jani Lane. What made you think, "hey...let's tinker with an already great song?"

Justin: I love the full band version of "Sin", but JK Northrup and I thought how much more the words that Jani sang would stand out if we stripped the track down. It becomes almost haunting to hear Jani sing these words - almost confessional. Only a few people even know that when we wrote "Sin" we wrote it for Michael Sweet of Stryper. Michael, because of timing, turned it down and Keri Kelli emailed me and asked if I wanted Jani on any new songs! Looking back it really shows God is truly in control. Five weeks after recording his vocals Jani passed away and he left us some great music including the last thing he ever 100% finished recording, that being "Sin".

G2G: It is amazing how things like that find a way to happen. Now, before we get into any song specifics, I wanted to ask how Hell is Coming to Breakfast came about. I know many of the songs on Hell... were supposed to be on The Cigar Chronicles.

Justin: Yes, that's correct. We now have 36 songs recorded for Cigar. The project really changed, and to be 100% honest, two bigger record labels loved the project they just asked we remove six songs and replace them . You've heard the songs we replaced, so you know first hand how this project has changed, and I'm really excited for people to hear Cigar. It's my opus. I'm also excited for people to hear Hell, because these songs were in limbo and they are good songs, even if they are on the goofy side lyrically.

G2G: Was it frustrating for you to be told, "We don't like this song," or "we don't like that song" when you had put so much work into them? I mean, I know some of these songs that were cut were pretty much completely done and in the can, weren't they? Were you worried all that work was for naught?

Justin: The record was done. JK Northrup (King Kobra), CJ Snare (Firehouse) and I were shopping the project. It is what it is, but as an artist it allowed me to release two records. Plus, people hearing the four-tracks absolutely loved them, so that's a bonus.

G2G: Well, that is a positive way to look at it! So, let's talk about the music and performers a bit. I've heard TONS of demos now, so forgive me if I get the records confused a bit. Ron Keel makes another appearance on an LnJ record on "Cut Me, Mick", which may be the coolest track title EVER and is a great song! Which album will that be on and where does that song come from?

Justin: (Laughing) That song is going to be on The Cigar Chronicles. JK and I wrote the song. It is based on "Rocky", and the premise is "life is tough, but through faith, no matter how bad it looks, we have hope as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus!" And you are correct, this Ron's second appearance. He and Paul Shortino did a duet called "Say Uncle" on Chasing A Cure.

G2G: Another new track is "Stretch Armstrong", which is more modern sounding than most of your previous music. Was this a conscious musical decision on your part, to go a bit more modern?

Justin: When we started writing for Cigars..., I partnered up with JK Northrup and this is just how the songs came out. After coming off Chasing A Cure, I wanted a more aggressive, fun album and with the songs on Hell..., you get that. Also, Arttie, the last couple of demos I sent ya, "Broken Bones" and "Daddy Long Legs" both have a Van Halen vibe to them.....I guess what ever I'm listening to at that time is the style of my songs.

G2G: I definitely agree about the Van Halen vibe, which I thought was awesome! Tell us about the cover songs that you have chosen for these two projects. Was there any particular rhyme or reason for the songs you chose?

Justin: The cover side is really incredible; it's the reason "major" labels are interested in The Cigar Chronicles! Having CJ Snare sing an 80's or early 90's hit song just did not sound fun or interesting to me. But, taking Kip Winger and giving him "Staying Alive", but redoing it and making it this song where you know the lyrics, but we retooled the the sounded fun! We took pop classics and JK redid them in a way to make them more "now", you know what I mean!! You heard most of them in one form or another what do you think?

G2G: Personally, I love them. What I love the most is the fact that you didn't do the usual hair band material despite using hair band artists. I mean, you cover Hanson's "Mmm Bop ", after all! Who does that? (Laughing)

Justin: We did...and we got Jamie Rowe of Guardian to do the song!!!

G2G: Well, while we are dropping names, let's talk artists a little. Who are some names we can expect on Hell? Anyone new or unexpected?

Justin: (Laughing) No, not a lot of new artists on Hell... though CMR veteran, Chris "Alldat" Dickens from Mission Of One appears on "Madhatter".

G2G: Very cool. I love Chris...a great guy and a very good artist as well. Who have been some of your favorites to work with...and don't go for the easy Vic Rivera, CJ Snare, JK Northrup answers. No Jamie Rowe, either! Those don't require any effort or squirming on your part!

Justin: (Laughing) If I work with someone more then once then it was cool and not too painful! Ok, ok, ok...besides the ones you mentioned, Gunnar Nelson was a cool guy and went way beyond to deliver. Steve Brown, from Trixter, always gets great results and he's a good salesman. Tony Harnell's vocals are always insane.

G2G: Any big names that you still want or are close to pulling off?

Justin: (Laughing) Always prying for info, huh? I'm working on a huge guitar player and bass player, the drummer from Disturbed...lots of guys. The Cigar Chronicles is gonna have over 60 guest musicians! A bit off the subject, Arttie, I don't think LnJ gets the credit or respect we deserve...that we are just the guest musicians and not serious artists in our own right. That part's frustrating.

G2G: I honestly was getting there next, so I will go ahead and jump in here. I was going to ask if there is TOO MUCH focus on the guests and not enough on the project that brings the "names" on?

Justin: You know this is a delicate subject about something that makes me have a wide range of emotions. I never resented the attention the "names" bring to my project. Thanks to the "names" LnJ has sold over 100,000 units. I think what makes me mad or sad ow whatever, is the way LnJ is pigeon-holed and somewhat dismissed by a lot of people because they think it's not a real band or we are some sort of novelty. I think if you take the singers and other guest musicians off any LnJ project, I mean really strip it down, and you will find, in my opinion (and maybe I'm biased) some great songs! You've heard them. Anyone can think what they want, but in the last eight years I think the quality of our project is as good as, or outshines, my peers and we are only getting better! Light It Up was a great rock record it deserved alot more attention then what it got.

You know, Arttie, we've spoken several times and through the other interviews, most of the time I crack a joke or I tend to be light-hearted, but this is something else that really makes me mad...the way we are neglected by some. Some in the rock world say things about us because we are a Christian band, and then some people in the "Christian world" say we are not a Christian band, we just write positive songs! Give me a break. Listen to an LnJ CD and you tell me what we are...but at least listen first!

G2G: I completely agree on a couple of points you made there. First, Light It Up was a GREAT record with some phenomenal songs on it, as was the Independence Day record, for that matter. In all fairness, I don't think you have released a "bad" record yet. Second, I think your upcoming Before The Revolution project, which I think is a great name by the way, will really showcase the fact that this is not just a novelty band or some kind of sideshow guys write some great songs that can stand up without all the guest stars.

Justin: Thanks Arttie and I agree...I never minded if some1 listened to LnJ and did not like us for whatever's the ones that judge before even listening!

G2G: So, while we are on some sensitive ground, I will go ahead and you find yourself faced with closed-minded individuals who say, using Jani as an example, "how do you claim to be doing the Lord's work using a sinner like Jani Lane?" I would think that would get really old...

Justin: That gets really old, people don't get it. Who are they to say what God can and can't use?! These are the same people that think there so self righteous...they do nothing wrong and are the first to say and tell you when they think you are in the wrong! I have a test: fill the bathtub up with water and see if you can walk across it ...if you can't I'll leave my judgement and salvation to my Maker! By the way, God willing, if I do another LnJ record after Cigars... I'd like to do a praise and worship album.

G2G: Let's switch gears a bit. How has the industry changed in the years since LnJ really started to get noticed? Have you been able to benefit from the current, independent direction things seem to be permanently headed in or do you think LnJ would be better off in the world of big labels?

Justin: As an artist, however you can reach the people with your message is the best way to go! I'm all about integrity, and long as I'm not watering down or being told what not to write about, I am open to all deals that come our way! The Cigar Chronicles, which will be on a big label, will be LnJ's finest hour!

G2G: Justin, before we go, I want to address a couple of the GREAT tracks and titles on this album. "Nakatomi Plaza" comes to mind first. I love the way you work all the "Die Hard" movie references into this song...where did it come from? Are you THAT big of a John McClain fan?

Justin: After recording Chasing A Cure, I wanted to make a lyrically light-hearted record that rocked!
I'm a huge "Die Hard" and "Rocky" movie fan, so I wrote some fun songs with references to those movies and added a spiritual perspective. I like "Nakatomi Plaza". JK did a great job vocally and its one of my faves!

G2G: What about "Stretch Armstrong" and "Whack A Mole"? Again, great titles, great songs, and surprisingly powerful lyrics that are put forth in a fun way. What's the story here?

Justin: "Stretch Armstrong" is about knowing what's right, but doing what you know is wrong, stretching yourself to the point where regret fills your thoughts. "Whack-A-Mole" was inspired at Chuck-E-Cheese (laughing). It's about false religions and teachings that there is more than one way to Heaven besides asking Jesus for repentance.

G2G: Justin, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me again...I'm sure we will do it again before The Cigar Chronicles as well. For now, the big record is Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, which will be out on April 24 on Roxx Productions. If folks want to order the album, which can be purchased in a couple different packages, they can go to Roxx Productions Store Envy page.

Justin: Thanks, Arttie. It's been fun, as always...

To check out the Glitter2Gutter review of Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, just click here...

ZAKK WYLDE "Bringing Metal To The Children" (BOOK REVIEW)

(c) 2012 Morrow Books

I'm sure that when Zakk Wylde set out on his Viking-esque quest to conquer the metal world as a teenager, he had no designs on eventually becoming the author of one of the most brutally honest, and, at times, brutally vulgar, books about how to make your metal dreams come true.  Yet that is exactly what this modern day Norse Warrior delivers to his fans who he belovedly refers to as his Berserkers.  The book is equal parts informative, entertaining, and cringe-inducing language, as Wylde pulls no punches in discussing (often in the most colorful language possible) his alcohol-fueled rise from Ozzy Osbourne's  (whom Wylde refers to as The Boss) sideman to being the frontman for his own band, Black Label Society. 
For anyone who has read Forrest Griffin's book (you know, the UFC fighter...who is mentioned in the book), this book is going to have a very similar feel...the two co-authors interjecting their thoughts and opinions at seemingly random times.  In fact, sometimes I forget who is telling certain parts of the story and I have to go back and re-read a section here and there.  Sometimes various parts of the book don't seem to fit with the chapter they appear in until you have read all the way through, which can be a bit confusing, which is another characteristic this tome shares with Griffin's. 

At times, it almost feels like I am reading a script from Spinal Tap because so many of the things that Zakk (and his co-author, Eric Hendrikx) describe are so bizarre, so humorous, they almost don't seem possible (his first recording session, for example!) .  There are some pretty humours odds-and-ends here, such as Wylde's list of hair band songs he wishes he could hear Chris Cornell sing (Poison is on the list...twice...).  Additionally, the reader is treated to some information about the BLS band that many are totally unaware of, such as the meanings of the various patches worn on the band members' clothing.  There is a good deal of elbow-rubbing with famous individuals, including a late night, drunken phone call with Eddie Van Halen (which produced the Cornell list), Rob Zombie, the Alice In Chains guys, Snake from Skid Row, Lars from Metallica, numerous professional wrestlers (Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chris Jericho being the biggest names), the previously mentioned Forrest Griffin, and, of course, the Ozzman.

While I have never been a musician of any note...or seems to me that a lot of the advice Wylde delivers here to those who may be pursuing the metal god lifestyle is pretty solid, if delivered with a heavy dose of profanity.  With advise ranging from "Play What You Love and Moves You" to what to do when a metal groupie, or in this case, Japanese groupies, give you crabs (covered in the aptly titled section, "World Tour Survival Technique:  STDs, and I'm Not Talking About Stronger Than Death"), I think Wylde is legitimately attempting to provide up-and-coming rockstars with some honest, if humourous, insight into the roads he has travelled in his career.

One other thing of note is it should be OBVIOUS his wife must have a very special place in her heart for her Viking man, because some of the things he says about her, and the way he talks about her (and their sex life, in particular)...let's just say my wife would KILL ME!!  Again, not for the faint of heart, there is some pretty graphic language, ableit not pornographic language, that is used in these sections. 

There are some pretty cool photographs, both black and white and full color, along with various setlists, photocopies of hand-written lyrics, and magazine covers scattered throughout the book, which adds a nice touch.  The appendix of the book has a bunch of hilarious items thrown in, including several pages of Tweets between himself and "JDesus", Wylde's bass player, John DeServio.

I think it's safe to say that rabid BLS fans, and a lot of Ozzy fans, are going to find a lot to like about this book, but I think casual fans may find quite a bit about the man to like, also.  Many people may be shocked to learn that the man professes to have a deep faith in God and Jesus Christ, that he enjoys working out (and has been accused of being on steroids), and has actually quit drinking.  While Wylde may be just a bit too over-the-top for some...and FAR too vulgar for others...I think this is a book that deserves to be read.  Overall, I found this to be an entertaining and insightful book, but it wasn't a book that I could say I sat down and just ripped through from cover to cover; it took me some time to absorb it and take it all in.

Rating:  A solid read with plenty of metal anecdotes.  Make sure to brush up on your Viking and Norse mythology before tackling this book.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

DONNIE VIE "Wrapped Around My Middle Finger"

(c) 2012 Cargo Records

  1. Wrapped Around My Middle Finger
  2. Wunderland
  3. Lisa
  4. Daddy's Girl
  5. Now Ya Know
  6. No Escape
  7. Lil Wonder
  8. Flames Of Love
  9. Rattle On
  10. I Won't Let You Down
  11. Smokin' Hot Lollipop
Donnie Vie--Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Piano, Keys
Victor Alfaro--Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Kip Winger--Vocals, Bass on "Now You Know"
CJ Szuter--Additional Guitar and Vocals
Tim Tame--Additional Guitar
James Breker--Additional Bass

Bubblegum rock, jangle-pop metal, Beatle-metal...I don't care what kind of silly label you put on their music, Enuff Z'Nuff are undeniably one of the most musically recognizable, most melodic of the hair bands to come out of the late 80's and early 90's.  With unmatched harmonies, delicious guitar hooks, and catchy melodies, it is difficult to understand why this band really got no further than "Fly High, Michelle" and "New Thing", as far as hit songs goes.  And, for my money, the main reason that this band sounded as good as it did (and as good as it still does) is the vocal talent and songwriting abilities of this man, Donnie Vie.  On this, his third solo effort, Vie really finds his stride, mixing in the Beatle-esque sound Enuff Z'Nuff fans have come to expect with not-so-subtle hints of Cheap Trick and some slightly off-kilter rhythms that will have fans of the man's main gig salivating from note one. 

The first three songs here are kind of a mish-mash of sounds and style, possibly leading the impatient to dismiss this as an incomplete effort with no true direction.  Ahhh...but patience is a virtue, young grasshopper.  Just hang on.  It's true that things start off with the hardest rocking song on the disc with the toungue-in-cheek title track, "Wrapped Around My Middle Finger", a song about the trappings of being a superstar rocker, even if Vie has never really found himself fitting that category 100%.  This is probably the song that is the farthest from the tried-and-true Enuff Z'Nuff sound, yet it is still a very good song that I would love to hear Vie tackle for a complete album at some point.  Featuring a fairly heavy riff and a tight groove, "Wrapped..." is definitely not the glam-Beatles-pop most people likely came looking for.  But that changes quickly...

"Wunderland" gets things immediately headed in that Beatles-like direction with those catchy harmonies and poppy guitar work that Enuff fans will latch onto instantly.  But then track three, "Lisa", changes things up again.  While still retaining a retro sound to it, it isn't the Beatles I hear as much on this track as something more akin to a Partridge Family song, or maybe Monkees song.  It's hard to describe, really, but it is a solid track that fits the overall feel of this album well...if one can find a consistent style or theme running through the disc.

"Daddy's Girl" is a powerful acoustic ballad that I think just about any father can find something to relate to.  This is a song that could easily be found on the strongest Enuff Z'Nuff albums.  The same can be said of the other big ballad here, "Lil Wonder", which I would almost swear was a leftover track from the Strength recording sessions.

As good as those songs are, there is no doubt in my mind that the run-away top moment of this disc is the excellent rocker, "Now Ya Know", which features a killer guest vocal turn by one Mr. Kip Winger.  Winger tackles the verse lyrics here, with Vie handling the bridge vocals, and then the duo handles the chorus together.  The song structure here is somewhat odd, with the majority of the song being a really solid hard rocker, but then the poppier, janglier chorus interrupts things, but in a way that adds to the power of Kip's verse work.  If you can find somewhere to stream this track, do yourself a favor and check it out, because I am sure my words are not doing it proper service. 

Over the last half of the disc, there are a few songs that are not quite as catchy or memorable as the first five songs, but nothing stands out as being a wasted listen.  "No Escape" is another retro-feeling song, and "Rattle On" is a definite toe-tapper, even in its stripped-down, acoustic delivery. "Flames Of Love" has Enuff Z'Nuff dripping off of it, and "I Won't Let You Down" is a solid, if not overly memorable, slower tempo number that I don't think I would categorize as a ballad, but I would also never call a rocker.  The album's closer, "Smokin' Hot Lollipop" is a fun, catchy number complete with piano and an upbeat, almost Fine Young Cannibals sound to it (if you can imagine that!).

If you can get past the basically HORRIBLE cover art, there is a lot to like about this album.  It is definitely not a pure Enuff Z'Nuff album, but it also never strays so far from that style and sound that this feels like a completely different animal.  I would recommend anyone who likes Donnie and Chip's regular band should pick up Wrapped Around My Middle Finger, as this is solid jangle-pop-rock fun for 90% of the effort.

Rating:  Crank this to a fun 8.

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Friday, April 6, 2012


(c) 2012 M.I.A. Records

  1. More Than I Do
  2. Letting Go
  3. Dead Man Crawl
  4. Talk Me DOwn
  5. Halo
  6. For Worse Or Better
  7. The One
  8. Broken Glass
  9. Tuesday Down
  10. Such Is Life
  11. Old Souls
Michael Olivieri--Lead Vocals, Guitar, Piano,Wurlitzer, Percussion
Buzzy James--Guitar, Slide Dobro
Eric Von Herzen--Harmonica
K.K. Martin--Guitar, Pedal Steel, Mandolin
Paul Wilson--Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Dan Lucett--Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Keys
Tom Croucier--Bass, Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Larry Briner--Cello
Chris Wynaught--Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Clarinet
Rich Renzel--Hammond B3

It's a difficult task to categorize the Michael Olivieri Band, but I would sum it up like this:  take a chunk of Leatherwolf, mix in some country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, southern rock, and a touch of rhythm and blues, stir it up liberally...then TAKE OUT the Leatherwolf!  In fact, you would be better served in listening to this disc if you didn't see the name of the band, because people who come to this effort expecting to hear Leatherwolf-styled metal are going to be sorely disappointed.  Actually, anyone who is not open to anything other than hard rock or metal is not going to walk away from this disc satisfied at all, because it is not hard rock, it is NEVER metal, and it has more in common with blues, bluegrass, and jazz than it does anything.  Vocally, Olivieri never lets a scream rip or snarls his way through a track, either.  Instead he approaches these tracks with vocals that range from a soulful growl to a smokey, barroom rasp, showing that there is far more range and depth of emotion in his vocals than a lot of people may have anticipated.

There are some moments that have a rock feel to them, but it isn't hard rock.  For example, "Talk Me Down" has a definite Queen vibe to me, and "Broken Glass" has a somewhat Pink Floyd/Roger Daltry feel, especially in the atmospheric feel of the music.  But these songs are not the norm, as for most of the disc, Olivieri and company are more in bluesier territory, such as the dark "Dead Man Crawl", which features a Wurlitzer, harmonica, and some interesting vocal approaches that utilize moans, groans, sighs, and such.  "Halo" is another very blues-based track that fans of that genre are likely to really sink their teeth into. The lead single, and album opener, by contrast, has something of a bluegrass-meets-acoustic country feel to it, as you can check out in the video below, and "Letting Go" mines similar musical territory, although it goes a bit more into old school country mixed with blues.

It is VERY hard to pigeonhole the Michael Olivieri Band, which I think may be intentional.  The man, himself, even says in interviews that the album meanders across several different styles and directions, covering pretty much everything he is into EXCEPT metal.  Overall, if you came to the party looking to melt your face with some great 80's metal, or even some pulsing hard rock, you are gonna leave the party disappointed.  However, if you came with an open mind (and ear), and are willing to get a bit experimental with your music, you are quite possibly going to find something to like about this disc.  As someone who grew up with country in the house as a kid before discovering hard rock and metal, I can get a feel for where a lot of this album comes from, but I know not everyone will.  For that reason, I have to approach my ratings for this album in two ways--from the standpoint of the typical reader of Glitter2Gutter, and then from the standpoint of a music lover.  So....

Rating:  For most Glitter2Gutter readers, I'm going to tell you to turn this down to around a 4, because I don't want to do you a disservice and make you think you're going to find what you are after here.  For people who are just music fans, regardless of genre, I would turn this up (can't say rock it or crank it...those don't apply) to a 6.5 or 7.

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    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    LIBERTY N JUSTICE "Hell Is Coming To Breakfast"

    (c) 2012 Roxx Records

    1. Hell Is Coming To Breakfast--Seann Nichols (Adler's Appetite/Tarsha), JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ)
    2. Madhatter--Donnie Vie (Enuff Z'Nuff), JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Chris Dickens (Mission Of One), Tommy Denander
    3. Whack A Mole--Johnny Lima, JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Jerry Johnson (Saint), Richard Lynch (Saint)
    4. Thanksful Heart--Phillip Bardowell (Magdallan/Unruly Child), Lynn Louise Lowrey (Vixen/Testify), Anthony Gravely
    5. Nakatomi Plaza--JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Greg Bishop (X-Sinner), Scott Weisenborn (Testify)
    6. Stretch Armstrong--Louis St. August (Mass), JK Northrup (King Kobra/XYZ), Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper/Ratt/LA Guns)
    7. Get Down--Tony Mills (TNT/Shy), Mark Allen Lanoue (Chasing Karma/Biloxi), Anthony Gravley
    8. Your Memory Just Won't Do (previously unreleased on CD)--CJ Snare (Firehouse), Alex Grossi (Quiet Riot), David Cagle
    9. Thy Will Be Done (demo version)--Jamie Rowe (Guardian/Crunch)
    10. What Do You Believe?--Mike Ledesma (Far Cry), Vic Rivera (Crunch)
    11. Monkey Dance (Alternate Mix)--Jack Russell (Great White)
    12. Sin (Acoustic Version)--Jani Lane (Warrant)
    Justin Murr--Bass
    A LOT of famous people doing a lot of other things!

    Justin Murr and a bunch of his friends, namely Vic Rivera and JK Northrup, have been hard at work for the past couple of years on the next Liberty N Justice project The Cigar Chronicles, an ambitious, two-disc project of both new songs and cover tunes.  However, that process has taken much longer than initially planned, and Murr wasn't happy with leaving his fans without new LnJ music for that long.  Additionally, some of the songs that he had recorded for Chronicles didn't seem to fit the flow of that project, and the project's label asked that six songs be replaced.  So, rather than just discard the tracks, Justin took the songs to Roxx Productions, added in a couple of demos and alternate mixes, and...BAM...a new Liberty N Justice record was born!

    Now, don't misunderstand; just because the "major label" didn't want these songs, this does not mean that the songs on Hell Is Coming To Breakfast are secondary tracks or lesser in sound quality or style, because they are not.  In fact, several of these tracks are among the best I have ever heard come out of the LnJ camp, which says a lot, as I have probably heard more songs in more forms than anyone except Justin!  No, these songs are not leftovers or wannabe's at all.  Rather, these are songs that had to be heard, regardless of who put them out.  It would have been a horrible shame if this album had not been made and these songs had never had the chance to be heard.

    One thing that people will likely notice is that the songs are a bit more aggressive in nature than a lot of LnJ's previous material, and the production has a bit of a modern feel in several spots.  The songs still hold a melodic quality that fits well with the sound and style of the vocalists that have been chosen for this release, but there is no denying there is an edge not present on the Chasing A Cure album, for example.  Now, that edge does NOT carry over into the lyrics, at least in most cases, or the song titles, as these really show off a fun, goofy side of Liberty N Justice that many people may not have heard before.  With such great track titles as "Nakatomi Plaze" (Die Hard fans rejoice!), "Whack A Mole", and "Stretch Armstrong", it should be apparent that LnJ is mining some new territory here, or at least taking a new approach to delivering the Christian-based message that always shines through on Liberty N Justice songs.

    The album's title track starts things off in the right direction, with a powerful vocal performance by Seann Nichols, formerly known as Sheldon Tarsha of Adler's Appetite.  JK Northrup of King Kobra/XYZ handles the guitars here, as he does on several tracks on this album, and there is a nice solo in this track that should keep fans of the melodic LnJ style very happy.  The follow-up, "Mad Hatter", continues the album in this melodic direction with Donnie Vie's unmistakeable vocals shining on top of Northrup's smooth, melodic guitars.

    Track three is where things take a bit of a modern swerve off the typical LnJ musical path, but it works very well.  The most aggressive song on the album to this point, "Whack A Mole" really fits its title well, as this is a song that just keeps popping up in my head (and on my mp3 player), as it is extrodinarily catchy and features some great guitarwork from Northrup along with Jerry Johnson and Richard Lynch, both of Saint.  Lyrically, this song has a great message and the chorus is EXTREMELY infectious!  To be honest, I think I would enjoy hearing an album of nothing but this type of aggressive sounding music from Liberty N Justice, even if for just one album.  This is a well-executed, well-written song that people should give a chance before saying, "it's not my style".

    "Thankful Heart" steers things sharply back into the more melodic, more typical Liberty N Justice sound...and then takes things in an almost praise and worship direction.  I really like Bardowell's vocals on this cover of a Petra tune that, quite frankly, I had forgotten about.  The guitars, which are handled by Anthony Gravley, compliment the smooth vocal delivery nicely, with a cool little solo that fits the song perfectly, not trying to steal the spotlight from the rest of the track.  The blatantly Christian lyrics and keyboards are what push this song into that praise and worship sound that I mentioned, but LnJ keep just enough guitar and drum in the song to keep it from crossing over into pure P&W pop territory.  Again, this is a style I would like to see Liberty N Justice explore for a full album...a more contemporary praise and worship style.  An excellent song with a great message.

    Two of my three favorite tracks come up back-to-back next.  "Nakatomi Plaza" may win Best Song Title of the Year awards across the board, and "Stretch Armstrong" isn't far behind!  Titles aside, these are two smoking songs, again featuring a slightly more modern sound, that really show the power of this record.  "Nakatomi" has a definitely more aggressive attitude than most of the rest of the disc, especially in the buzzy guitars and the gritty vocal delivery.  I absolutely LOVE the way things from the Die Hard movies are worked into the lyrics, with Holly, the limo driver, yippee-ki-yay, and several other references popping up in lyrically relevant ways.  AWESOME song writing that, while exceptionally fun, also puts forth a great message.  This song, for me, would be the highlight of the disc were it nor for one other song, which I will get to in a bit.  "Stretch Armstrong" continues the more modern, yet still melodic, approach and features some killer axe-work from Keri Kelli.

    "Get Down" returns to more familiar LnJ territory as far as style goes, and Tony Mills (TNT/Shy) pulls off one of the best vocal performances of the disc, and Mark Allen Lanoue of Chasing Karma lays down some really nice lead guitar tracks for this song, with Anthony Gravley handling the rhythm and bass guitars.  (By the way, I had never heard of Lanoue or his band previously, so I sought them out after hearing this track and I have to say I am a fan and will be looking to review their material here very shortly!)  This is a cover of an Audio Adrenaline song, but I have to say I prefer this version to the original. 

    "Your Memory Just Won't Do" is a song that had never been released on CD before, and it is the last of the "new" songs on this collection.  Despite the fact that CJ Snare is credited on the track, the Firehouse singer does not handle vocal duty here; that distinction falls on David Cagle.  Never heard of him?  Me, either.  However, I can say this:  this self-proclaimed "demo singer" can hold his own vocally, delivering a smooth tenor to this acoustic track that also features Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot fame.  I am not really a fan of completely acoustic songs, especially on an album full of rockers, such as this disc, but this is a good song; it's just a bit out of place.  I think this would have worked really well on the Independence Day EP, which was comprised solely of acoustic/semi-acoustic numbers.  Not a skipper, but not overly memorable here, mostly because of the material that surrounds it.

    A couple of familiar tunes find their way onto this least familiar if you are already a fan of the band.  Jack Russell of Great White is featured on a reworked "alternate mix" of "Monkey Dance", which originally appeared a few years ago on the Independence Day album.  The vocal mix is the same, for the most part, but the music is tweaked a bit, especially on the bass line, giving the track a slightly more alternative, somewhat funky, feel.  I like this version, and have had a copy of it for quite some time, but I think I still prefer the original.  Another re-worked song is "What Do You Believe", which people who own the Light It Up album will recognize as "Do What You Believe".  Justin told me that this is the way the song was originally written, and there are some obvious lyrical changes here, especially with the different chorus, but musically it is not much different than the original.  Despite the fact that this is a demo version, vocally, Mike Ledesma from Far Cry does a very good job on this version, but it's almost unfair to have him follow CJ Snare of Firehouse who did the original album version of the track on Light It Up.  In all reality, it is almost like two different songs with the lyrical and vocalist changes, and the track stands up well here.  Also in demo form here is the song "Thy Will Be Done" which appeared originally on the Soundtrack Of A Soul album.  The big difference here is the change of vocalists; the original studio version featured Mark Slaughter and Pete Loran (Trixter), whereas this demo version, which was actually the scratch demo used to record the song, is performed by Jamie Rowe (Guardian/Crunch).  It's a tough call for me as to which version I prefer, as I am a BIG fan of Jamie's, but perhaps the fact that Mark and Pete's version is the one I heard first contributes to my preference for that version. 

    This brings me to the album's closing track, "Sin".  I am not sure I can do justice to the power of this track.  Anyone who has heard the electric version of this song knows how well it is written.  However, when the electricity and distortion is stripped away, and Jani Lane's vocals are given the full, haunting range of emotion that he poured into this song, it truly becomes something both breathtakingly beautiful and achingly painful to listen to at the same time.  Despite the fact that this song was not written with Jani Lane in mind (it was turned down by Stryper's Michael Sweet due to time constraints), Lane truly owns this song.  It sounds so confessional when he begs God to "let me be the man I could have been, the one You first breathed Your life into".  It is also a song that I think anyone who is truly honest with themselves can relate to, as we all have sins and shame and temptations and desires that are not in harmony with God's plan for us and, therefore,create a type of war within ourselves.  This lends itself even more to the enormously powerful line "on a hill called Calvary, I repent and end this war".  All of this emotion is magnified even further when you add in the fact that this is the last song Lane would ever record and you allow yourself to ask "was Jani right with God when he died?  Was this how he truly felt as a person?", because this is as close to a prayer set to music as I have encountered in a long, long time.  I still get chills when I listen to this track...and I have literally listened to it dozens and dozens of times. 

    Overall, this album may be a tad bit disjointed due to the various styles that are employed here, but that is part of the charm, I think.  This album is not meant to be a cohesive, completely smooth project, but more of a gift to the fans who have been patiently waiting for new Liberty N Justice material to tide them over until the Cigar Chronicles.  To this I need to add...The Cigar Chronicles has a lot to live up to in attempting to equal the best, strongest parts of Hell Is Coming To Breakfast!

    To pre-order the album, head over to Roxx Productions by clicking here.

    By the way, be sure to keep an eye our here or on the Christian Metal Realm for an exclusive interview with Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice!!!

    Rating:  A great effort and well worth picking up!  Crank this to 8...and set "Sin" and "Nakatomi Plaza" to multiple repeats!!!

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