Friday, May 28, 2021



(c) 2021 AFM Records

  1. I'll Be Your Hero
  2. Where Dragons Fly
  3. Rain of Fury (Live)
  4. The Courage To Forgive (Live)
  5. The Wind, The Rain and The Moon
  6. Senza Un Addio
  7. Sin Un Adios
  8. La Force de Me Battre
Giacomo Voli--Lead Vocals
Alex Staropoli--Keyboards
Roby De Micheli--Guitars
Alessandro Sala--Bass
Manu Lotter--Drums

Ah, epic symphonic power metal!  Either you love it or you wonder "why in the heck do they put so much effort into just one song?"   Me, I tend to be in the first category, although there is an obvious division of talent between GREAT symphonic power metal and groups who try hard but come up short.  Fortunately, I have always found Rhapsody of Fire to be in the GREAT category, and I have actually followed the band since their 2000 album, Dawn Of Victory, when they were simply known as Rhapsody.  Since their start, the band has released a dozen studio albums, has (amicably) broken off into two versions of the band (one being original guitarist and founding member, Luca Turilli's, version, the other being original keyboardist/composer, Alex Staropoli's, version), and has performed in numerous countries on multiple continents, performing their pioneering brand of symphonic heavy metal to hundreds of thousands of fans.

With I'll Be Your Hero, Staropoli's version of Rhapsody Of Fire continues the thee-part saga they started with 2019's The Eighth Mountain, which was the first studio recording to feature new lead vocalist Voli and drummer Lotter.  On this EP, the band continues to prove that they are the true masters of this style of over-the-top metal, combining blistering speed with symphonic progression and operatic vocals, with layers of backing vocals, strings, and keyboards rounding out impressively powerful compositions that find Staropoli in excellent fashion!  For many, there was great doubt about the continuation of Rhapsody of Fire without Turilli, but for my money, The Eighth Mountain was an excellent record and possibly their best since my all-time favorite from the band, 2002's Power of the Dragonflame, or certainly since 2004's Symphony of Enchanted Lands II!  For fans of power metal, that is saying a lot, I realize, but I felt Rhapsody of Fire was perhaps getting too progressive and leaving behind some of the true power that the early records had.  With what I am hearing on this EP, that should not be a problem in the future of the band!  The lead single, and EP title track, "I'll Be Your Hero" kicks off with Voli's excellent voice opening things up, singing "One day, I'll be your hero" with multiple layers of backing vocals, before he unleashes an ear-piercing scream and the band is off and running!  Staropoli's keyboards weave an interesting tapestry of musical textures upon which the fierce rhythm guitars from de Micheli and the galloping drums from Lotter thunder.  The bass is a solid presence throughout the track, and de Micheli proves he is no slouch in the soloing department, as well, as he delivers a scorching string-bender that is the perfect blend of speed and power.  But for me, this EP was as much about finding out whether Voli could continue in the fine fashion he had established with The Eighth Mountain, or if he was merely a flash in the pan.  Granted, it is only one (new) song, but that song is nearly perfect and Voli's delivery is spot on.  To say I am more than intrigued for the new full-length album is an understatement!

As for the rest of this EP, there is a lot to take in.  "Where Dragon's Fly" is a re-recording of a track that was previously only available as a Japanese bonus track, and fans who have been longing to own the song can now do so.  Musically, it doesn't really fit in with "I'll Be Your Hero", but it was never intended to.  What you have here is a folkish ballad with flute and some Middle Eastern-sounding string work enhanced by big, powerful chorus sections, all brought together in a way that is not unlike something Blind Guardian has done in the past.  Additionally, it showcases what Voli can do with a song that some may already be familiar with, and to say he was impressive would be an understatement.

Likewise, Voli's handling of the two live tracks here is equally impressive.  In fact, the two live tracks here...both taken from The Eighth Mountain...may be the highlight of this EP, to be honest, as these tracks really showcase just how well the band is able to pull off their musical adventures in the live setting.  The production on both is darn near perfect, and if forced, I'd say I probably prefer "Rain of Fury" with Lotter's INSANE drum work leaving me nearly slack-jawed, but "The Courage To Forgive" is also excellent and almost note-perfect, and its big, powerful chorus really comes across in this live format.

The last track...well, the last FOUR tracks...also come from The Eighth Mountain, as all four are versions of the same song, "The Wind, The Rain, and The Moon".  The song is a great one, don't get me wrong, and I can see why it was included as it again showcases Voli's powerful delivery.  But, do we need to hear the same song in Spanish, Italian, and well as English?  Some might say it's me being an American, but I honestly don't see the need here.  I mean, we have over 20 minutes of the same song here!  Yeesh!  However, I am sure fans in countries that speak those languages, and especially in the band's home country of Italy, these versions may be far more appreciated than they are by me, and I do have a skip button if necessary.  I think the disc space may have been better utilized with another B-side re-recording or bonus track, or possibly another live track or two.

Your appreciation of this EP and the song it is built upon is going to be largely dependent upon your appreciation for the style.  If you are already a Rhapsody Of Fire fan, or a fan of epic power metal like Helloween, Blind Guardian, and perhaps Stratovarius or Sonata Arctica, you are most likely going to be highly excited by what is offered here, especially since, as I mentioned, a lot of the speed and power that was starting to wane a bit in the twenty-teen years seems to be returning.  If, however, you are more into the classic power metal genre, Rhapsody Of Fire is probably a bit over the top for you and may prove too much for you to really grasp.  And that's okay.  The band and genre is not for everyone.  But for those who love the big epic tales, the sweeping sagas, and the metal soundtrack that Rhapsody Of Fire and their ilk provide, I would imagine I'll Be Your Hero will be blasting in the background as you cast your 20-sided dice or shuffle your Magic: The Gathering deck!  (Whoa...did I just geek out there for a second or what?!)

Rating:  Crankable, to be sure!  I give it an 8!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

NIGHT RANGER "Live In Michigan 1984: King Biscuit Flower Hour"


(c) 2019 Alive The Live (Japan)

  1. Intro/Touch Of Madness
  2. Rumor's In The Air
  3. Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight
  4. Call My Name
  5. When You Close Your Eyes
  6. Passion Play
  7. Sister Christian
  8. Sing Me Away
  9. Night Ranger
  10. Night Ranger (Reprise)/Don't Tell Me You Love Me
  11. Band Intros/(You Can Still) Rock In America
Jack Blades--Lead Vocals, Bass
Brad Gillis--Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jeff Watson--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Alan Fitzgerald--Keyboards
Kelly Keagy--Lead Vocals, Drums

It is truly hard for me to believe that Night Ranger is more than 40 years old, and that their first album, Dawn Patrol, will hit that four decades mark next year!  Being a fan of the band for as long as I can remember, Night Ranger has long been one of those bands that I always sought to keep a complete discography of.  However, it wasn't until the Covid Summer of 2020 that I discovered there was at least one live album missing from my collection--their King Biscuit Flower Hour release from 1984.

As a kid, I used to listen to these King Biscuit Flower Hour shows on a rock station I could tune in on my parents' stereo, and I knew that Night Ranger had performed on the show but I was unaware of any high quality recordings of the show.  I knew there were bootlegs of this show out there, but apparently a Japanese label known as Alive The Live has obtained the rights to properly release a lot of these King Biscuit Flower Hour releases, complete with artwork and liner notes, so I jumped at the chance to snag it.

Keeping in mind that this recording is nearly 40 years old (the notes say the show was from August 8, 1984), this is an EXCELLENT live recording of Night Ranger when they were really starting to take off on their own.  Recorded at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI while on the Midnight Madness Tour, this set really showcases a hungry young band that is really hitting their stride.  Think about where Night Ranger was at this time, musically:  "(You Can Still) Rock In America" had proven the band wasn't a fluke on their first record, "Sister Christian" was a massive hit, and "When You Close Your Eyes" was about to break big, as well, and the band was playing to very large audiences as headliners by this time.  The band is exceptionally tight, Gillis and Watson absolutely tear things up on guitars, and Blades...well, he sounds like Jack Blades, whom I regard as one of the truly great, classic voices of 80s hard rock.  Keagy sounds great, also, and I am struck by how powerful the backing vocals are on throughout this recording, as this was back in the days of, you know, actually performing your backing vocals!      

The track listing here is a lot of fun, especially the non-singles that were chosen for inclusion here, as many of them are songs that don't see much in the way of live play now.  Of course, when a band is more than a dozen albums into their career, the hits become more important to the live shows than the album cuts, so its fun to hear "Call My Name" from Dawn Patrol, or "Passion Play", with it's extended guitar solo from Jeff Watson, or even "Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight", which used to get quite a bit of live love, but has been dropped in recent years, especially on shorter set shows.  Blades does some playing around with the lyrical phrasing to "Sister Christian", which will throw the home karaoke crowd off, but to me, these kinds of things only serve to add to the charm of a live recording.  There is also a brief feedback issue at the beginning of that song, and it sounds to me like Jack may have studio-dubbed the song's intro at a later point, as when he is finally able to get through introducing the song, the audience sound is completely gone for a moment.  Still, this is a small issue, and takes nothing away from the enjoyment of this rare show.

For the most part, there is very little gapping between the tracks here, although there is an obvious fade after "Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight" and a VERY sharp intro to "Call My Name" which leads me to believe there was some stage banter edited out to keep the show short enough to air.  There is also what sounds to be an edit in the encore between the introduction of the band and the lead-in to "(You Can Still) Rock In America", but again, this is likely insignificant to just about anyone who didn't spend years in radio, editing, and production classes, and again was probably done due to program time restrictions.  Of course, the extended drum solo from Keagy on "Night Ranger" could have been a timing issue, as well, but I'm glad that was left alone as these are the concert experience items that always kept my attention as a teen and even today.  Sure I want to hear the hits, but I also want to hear and see something that is NOT on the CD I can crank up at any given time at home.  This CD does a really good job with the flow to keep this sounding as live as possible, and the minor interruptions are mostly negligible.  

I have been told that this is, perhaps, still considered a bootleg, as there is some question as to the legality of Alive The Live and their releases, but they have done a nice job here with the overall package.  Considering Night Ranger and King Biscuit both reportedly had a lot of their old material destroyed in separate fires several years ago, I'll snap up a package like this anytime I can if the quality is solid.  Live In Michigan 1984: King Biscuit Flower Hour goes beyond being "solid" and well into "excellent" live recording territory and is well-worth picking up if you are into live shows.

Rating:  Highly crankable, bootleg or not.  Crank this to an 8!

Sunday, May 9, 2021

HOT LAUNDRY "Shake, Slide, Twist EP"


(c) 2021 Die Laughing Records/Golden Robot Records

  1. Shake
  2. What Would I Do
  3. Satisfied
  4. Glitter And Gold
Janette Lopez--Lead Vocals
Ileath Bridges--Backing Vocals
Gena Serey--Backing Vocals

Grady Hord--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Neil Young--Bass
Thor DSR--Drums

And now for something COMPLETELY different...ladies and gentlemen, I give you....HOT LAUNDRY!

Don't be mislead by the EP's cover and think that this is some kind of parody artwork, because it is not.  Hot Laundry is unlike anything you have likely heard in a very, very long time, as they mix surf rock, Motown girl bands, 60s guitar rock, and the early punk stylings of MC5 into something fresh and fun and altogether different from anything else I have come across in years!  

If you have never seen old 1960s girl group videos from back in the day, you always had the lead singer flanked by two or three other girls who were backing singers and dancers, with the band somewhere off stage.  The Ronettes, the Crystals, the Shirelles, and of course, Diana Ross and the Supremes, were among the most popular, although readers of Glitter2Gutter may be most familiar with these ladies. The Shangri Las...

Of course, when Twisted Sister covered that song, it nearly killed their career...

But, I digress....

The whole point of that little musical nostalgia trip was to set up this short visual of just what Hot Laundry is all about, with their little teaser promo for Shake, Slide, Twist...

After watching that, you may be thinking, "okay, so what's the joke here?"  But the thing is, there is no joke!   This is exactly who Hot Laundry is!!!  What you just saw is exactly what the band is about, and exactly what you get with Shake, Slide, Twist!

The EP kicks of with "Shake", and as soon as the surf rock guitars kick in...with an added helping of is immediately apparent this is not going to be your normal musical ride!  Add in the snarling attitude of Janette Lopez's vocals (along with her Motown-inspired backing vocalists/dancers) and you have something truly unique to behold, both visually and musically.  Top all of it off with a healthy dose of snide, tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo as Lopez sings:

"Everybody wants to be a Bad Ass Bitch 
You know what I want, I wanna scratch my itch.... 
Come on!  Put your sugar in my bowl!"

What self-respecting sleaze fan isn't going to love a couple of lyrical lines like that?!  The guitars are edgy and rock hard, with a GREAT 60s acid-rock solo after the second chorus run, and the drums are sharp and snappy with an absolutely killer tone.  As hard as it was for me to believe when I first tracked through this song, I found myself actually digging what this group was doing...and hitting repeat!  Check out the lyrics video below...

"What Would I Do?" continues the 60s rock fun, albeit in a much punchier, more amped-up style than bands utilized 60 years ago.  Lots of Rolling Stones-influenced boogie rock with that girl group sensibility...and the ability to rhyme "nitty gritty" with "get down on itty"...fill this swagger-filled romp that really allows Lopez to utilize her slightly nasal sneer of a voice to its full effect.  A trippy guitar solo is also dropped on the listener before the last couple of runs through the chorus on this Happy Days meets a mosh pit track, and it should be 100% apparent by now that this is not a fluke at all; this is who Hot Laundry is.

"Satisfied" is filled with more of the same, with the sparkling backing vocals from Ileath and Gena given a bit of extra attention, as is the bass work from Neil Young (no, not THAT Neil Young), and we get another period-perfect guitar solo from Hord who really proves himself to be a skilled axeman on this EP.  Still, its the sass and overall vocal prowess of Lopez that is on display here, combining an Aretha Franklin power with a Mick Jagger strut as the rest of the band rocks its way through another solid dose of 60s inspired guitar rock.  

Some fun handclaps open "Glitter And Gold" (they pop up several times throughout the track), and the dance-worthy, funkified groove comes busting forward on the EP's closer.  Tell me, do you "wanna dance with the devil"?  Because if you do, apparently he's a friend of Hot Laundry's...or at least a friend of Janette Lopez...and according to the song, your options are getting down and boogie-ing with the Prince of Darkness or going to Heaven.  You choose!  Even if you choose Heaven here, there's no denying this track is a hell of a lot of fun, as is the entirety of Shake, Slide, Twist.  

So, do I like it?  Is it good?  Will YOU like it?  Well..."yes", "yes", and "maybe", in that order.  Look, if you are pigeon-holed into glam or sleaze or thrash or whatever, then don't bother with Hot Laundry because you are not going to get it, you're not going to like it, and you are going to think I am completely off my rocker.  But, if like me, you appreciate hard-edged music from various eras and genres, then I think there is a very good chance you are going to have a lot of fun with Hot Laundry. I have to say that I would LOVE to see these ladies live, as I'm betting they put on a heck of a show!  Additionally, I have to also say that I am likely going to be tracking down their back catalog, as I want to hear what else Hot Laundry has to offer!  This is something special, even if it comes at you out of left field...via San Francisco...

Rating:  A really, really fun listen that is worth cranking to 8, especially if you are willing to get outside your comfort zone!