2015, Mailboat Records
1. “Let’s Go”
3. “Man Enough”
4. “We Belong”
6. “Sea of Love”
8. “All Time High”
9. “Battle of My Own”
10. “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted”
11. “Forever Young”
12. “Last Dance”
13. “Wings of an Angel”
14. “Blind Faith”
Joe Elliott – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Phil Collen – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Vivian Campbell – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rick Savage – Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rick Allen – Drums, Backing Vocals
Producer: Def Leppard
After hearing “Let’s Go”, I was pretty hopeful for this album. After all, I liked the three new studio songs included on Mirrorball and “Let’s Go” sounded like a continuation in that direction of the band returning back to their famous ’80s sound after having a slightly disappointing turn with ’70s glam-rock style of Songs from the Sparkle Lounge from 2008. Yes, it’s been seven years since the last studio album. Even the album art looks great and gives off the impression that the band is possibly maybe going to be a bit darker and rock a bit harder. Well, don’t judge an album by its cover art.
Breaking it down a bit:
– “Let’s Go” has been called “Pour Some Sugar On Me, Part 2”. Not quite as poppy, but yes, it bears some similarities and I’m completely okay with that. It’s definitely the one song on this albfum that sounds the most like the Def Leppard of the ’80s.
– “Energized” is the weird type of lame electronic pop song Joe Elliott would like the world to think that the band has always played. This one could’ve been on X, and it should’ve stayed there.
– “Man Enough” is funk rock, and that’s really weird to hear from Def Leppard, but it’s kinda cool.
– “We Belong” is a very nice ballad which has the nice surprise of the band trading off on vocals. Has anyone other than Joe ever had a lead vocal on a Def Leppard song before?
– “All Time High”. Almost sounds like something that you’d hear from the last two KISS albums. Straight forward meat and potato rocker full of positivity.
– “Battle of My Own” is a trippy acoustic rocker. Maybe something that channels a bit of Slang and Led Zeppelin.
– “Blind Faith” is a ballad that blooms late into a rocker and it that seems to be channeling “10538 Overture” by Electric Light Orchestra (which the band has covered).
As you can tell, the album is all over the place stylistically. Much like with Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, Def Leppard seems content to draw inspiration from the sounds of other bands instead of focusing on their own original sound. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is left up to the each individual listener.
All told, Def Leppard is a good album, and it’s that’s better their last two original studio albums (Sparkle Lounge and X) but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by it.
Highlights: “Let’s Go”, “Dangerous”, “Man Enough”, “We Belong”, “Forever Young”, “Blind Faith”
The rumors are swirling! Could they actually be true? Going by what various music websites are reporting, the “classic” line-up of Guns N’ Roses is due to announce a reunion tour any day/hour/minute now. It’s almost too good to be true, but I hope it all works out. I won’t hold my breath for a new studio album (although that would be the Holy Grail) but if they can get through a tour or a spot of big festival shows and get it on DVD, great.
As great as this news is, I’m slightly saddened because I guess this means the end of Axl’s “hired guns”. Sure, the original GNR run is the best, but I really loved Chinese Democracy and would have been content with more music in that vein. Basically, I just want Axl to keep making albums. Whether it’s solo, classic GNR or modern GNR.
Okay, so with GNR on everyone’s mind lately, I figured what better time to return to their discography and select the best of the best? Here’s what I think are the band’s best tunes. I’m excluding their various excellent covers because GNR has written so many great original tunes, they don’t need to hide behind cover songs (even if they did record an album full of them)!
It should come as no surprise that a whopping NINE TRACKS from the band’s debut album, Appetite for Destruction, are mentioned here. You can’t really argue with the placement of any of these tracks.
The sole song I from GN’R Lies, “Patience” is easily stands out from the pack on that album. This one came so quickly on the heels of Appetite for Destruction, it sounds like it could’ve easily fit in on that record.
In my opinion, history has not been kind to the first of the Use Your Illusion albums. The album seems a bit more crass and has a lot more filler that sees the band failing to capture the raw energy from their debut. I love the album, don’t get me wrong, but the songs don’t hope up as well when compared to the band’s best songs. Still, it delivered two monster ballads: “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry”. An alternate lyric version of “Don’t Cry” appears on Use Your Illusion II and it is just as good.
Unlike Use Your Illusion I, the second album to come out of those sessions holds up quite a bit better. Much better songwriting this time. Not a flawless album, but seven absolute classics come from it. I even think “Estranged” is a better epic than “November Rain”.
People probably won’t agree, but I think Chinese Democracy had a number of great tunes. I love the album but couldn’t justify putting those songs in a list that includes these other songs. That is, except for “This I Love”. It’s my favorite song off the album and one of GNR’s best ballads.
W.A.S.P. – Golgotha
2015, Napalm Records
2. Last Runaway
4. Miss You
5. Fallen Under
6. Slaves of the New World Order
7. Eyes of My Maker
8. Hero of the World
Blackie Lawless – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Doug Blair – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mike Duda – Bass
Mike Dupke – Drums
Producer: Blackie Lawless
Six years after Babylon, W.A.S.P. finally returns with Golgotha. Pretty sure Blackie has been talking about this album for a few years now and I’m glad it’s arrived at long last. I liked Babylon a lot (and thought that album went criminally unnoticed), so I was looking forward to new music from the band. Golgotha does not disappoint.
While Blackie is starting to show his age physically, his voice remains just as good as ever on record. He’s one of my favorite vocalists. When Blackie is singing, you know it’s Blackie and that’s no different here. A number of tracks here sound like they could’ve been on a W.A.S.P. album from the ’80s, such as the galloping “Last Runaway” (no pun intended) or the amazing ballad, “Miss You”. “Miss You” is certainly one of the best ballads Blackie has ever done.
This is an album sure to please ALL fans of W.A.S.P. unless you absolutely hate the fact that Blackie likes to allude to religion in his songs and no longer writes stuff like “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” or “Don’t Cry (Just Suck)”! Golgotha will never match the status of the band’s earlier efforts (nostalgia and all that) but this is truly one of the band’s best releases.
Highlights: “Scream”, “Last Runaway”, “Shotgun”, “Miss You”, “Fallen Under”, “Slaves of the New World Order”, “Golgotha”
2015, Universal Music Enterprise
1. “The Last Vampire”
2. “Raise the Dead”
3. “My Generation”
4. “Whole Lotta Love”
5. “I Got a Line on You”
6. “Five to One / Break On Through (To the Other Side)”
7. “One / Jump into the Fire”
8. “Come and Get It”
10. “Cold Turkey”
11. “Manic Depression”
12. “Itchycoo Park”
13. “School’s Out / Another Brick in the Wall”
14. “My Dead Drunk Friends”
Alice Cooper – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Backing Vocals
Justin Cortelyou – Keyboard
Johnny Depp – Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards
Dennis Dunaway – Bass
Bob Ezrin – Piano, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Perry Farrell – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Dave Grohl, Neil Smith, Glen Sobel, Zak Starkey – Drums
Tommy Henriksen – Guitar, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Brian Johnson – Vocals
Robby Krieger, Orianthi, Joe Perry, Slash, Joe Walsh – Guitar
Sir Christopher Lee – Vocals (spoken word)
Sir Paul McCartney – Lead Vocals, Piano, Bass
Kip Winger – Bass, Backing Vocals
Bruce Witkin – Guitar, Bass, Keyboard, Piano, Backing Vocals
The Hollywood Vampires are a supergroup project featuring Alice Cooper, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Hollywood A-list star Johnny Depp as the core members. The original “Hollywood Vampires” were a group of drinking buddies in the 1970s that included Cooper, Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin, former Beatles John Lennon & Ringo Star, The Who’s Keith Moon, The Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz and singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson.
This album was put together as a tribute to the the spirit of that original band of brothers, except this time without the alcohol. The track list features a variety of songs from the ’60s and ’70s. Tracks by The Who, Led Zeppelin, Badfinger, The Doors, Harry Nilsson, T. Rex, Plastic Ono Band, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Spirit, Jimi Hendrix, Small Faces are represented here along with two original tracks: “Raise the Dead” and “My Dead Drunk Friends”. There is also a spoken word intro my horror movie legend Christopher Lee.
Hollywood Vampires is a very cool album and while I may not be familiar (or even a fan of) some of the music choices, I can’t deny that it’s fun and great hearing an album featuring the likes of Alice Cooper, Brian Johnson, Slash, Joe Perry, Kip Winger, Paul McCartney, members of the original Alice Cooper band, Dave Grohl, etc. playing together. Obviously with a cast this big you can’t take everyone out on tour. For the live dates, the group consists of Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp, Tommy Henriksen, Bruce Witkin and former GNR members Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.
This is a fun effort and hopefully the Hollywood Vampires will release more albums like this in the future. I wonder though, Alice had been working on a cover album for a few years and I haven’t heard much about that lately. Could it be his album of covers morphed into this project?
Highlights: “Raise the Dead”, “I Got a Line On You”, “Come and Get It”, “Jeepster” “Itchycoo Park”, “School’s Out / Another Brick in the Wall”
Buckcherry – Rock ‘N’ Roll
2015, F Bomb Records
1. Bring It On Back
2. Tight Pants
3. Wish to Carry On
4. The Feeling Never Dies
6. The Madness
8. Rain’s Falling
9. Sex Appeal
10. Get With It
Josh Todd – Vocals
Keith Nelson – Guitar
Stevie D – Guitar
Kelly LeMieux – Bass
Xavier Muriel – Drums
Producer: Keith Nelson
After the band’s ambitious and fantastic Confessions album (which focused on the seven deadly sins), Buckcherry scales it back a bit and delivers a more fun and upbeat record this time around. Singer Josh Todd promised a “party album” after Confessions, and the guys delivered. I won’t take a genius to figure out what songs like “Tight Pants”, “Wood” and “Sex Appeal” are all about but the band manages to throw in a few musical surprises throughout the album.
While “Bring It On Back”, “Cradle”, “The Madness” and “Wish to Carry On” may be Buckcherry 101, “Tight Pants” makes use of horns and “The Feeling Never Dies” has a country twang to it. Additionally, “Rain’s Falling” has a bit of soulful funk going on with it, which isn’t surprising since Josh Todd said he was listening to a lot of ’70s soul music while writing for this album.
I embrace the length of this album: 10 songs clocking in at 37 minutes. I’m so tired of album spanning close to an album. Buckcherry gets in, does their job and gets out. Anyone who has ever liked Buckcherry will like Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Highlights: “Bring It On Back”, “Tight Pants”, “Wish to Carry On”, “The Feeling Never Dies”, “Cradle”, “The Madness”, “Wood”
Bon Jovi – Burning Bridges
2015, Mercury Records
1. A Teardrop to the Sea
2. We Don’t Run
3. Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning
4. We All Fall Down
5. Blind Love
6. Who Would You Die For
8. Life Is Beautiful
9. I’m Your Man
10. Burning Bridges
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
David Bryan – Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Accordion
Tico Torres – Drums, Backing Vocals
Hugh McDonald – Bass, Backing Vocals
John Shanks – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Lorenza Ponce – Viola, violin, cello
Mike Rew – Backing Vocals
Burning Bridges is an interesting project. It’s the band’s thirteenth studio album, yet the band is already working on a fourteenth “full-scale” studio release and there seems to be very little promotion for this album coming from the band. True, they did release “We Don’t Run” as a single and will presumably be featuring that song on their upcoming international tour, but the band’s official website, Facebook and Twitter pages make no mention of Burning Bridges. You can’t even buy it from the band’s official merchandise website.
Jon Bon Jovi has been quoted as saying this album is “for the fans”. Not sure what that means exactly or how that is. Burning Bridges is a collection of “songs that weren’t finished, that were finished, a couple of new ones,” according to Jon. From little information is out there about this album, these are songs that the band had worked on over the last 10 years. I’m not sure how much of a part former guitarist Richie Sambora had in this album. He’s credited with a co-write on “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” but I’m not sure if a single note of his is used on this album or if Jon called in the likes of touring guitarist Phil X or producer/songwriting partner John Shanks to fill-in.
Despite the oddness surrounding this album and the sadness that this is the last Bon Jovi album that Richie Sambora is going to have a part in (well, for now at least…), the songs are quite enjoyable. In the last 10 years, three of the four albums the band has released have been extremely bland and boring modern rock, IMO. So it’s surprising that I’m enjoying so many of these songs since their origins go back to a few of those albums, apparently.
For the last few years, I’ve found myself enjoying the modern Bon Jovi sound more and more. I still don’t care for Have a Nice Day, The Circle or Lost Highway, but What About Now was very good and I really liked the new songs that were included on Greatest Hits. Even those some of the songs from Burning Bridges must originate from some of the sessions of the albums that I don’t like, Burning Bridges itself is a very enjoyable effort as long as you can get past the fact that this band will never write another “Bad Medicine” or “You Give Love a Bad Name”. Most of the album is a fairly mellow affair full of ballads. The album even opens with a ballad! “We Don’t Run”, “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” and “I’m Your Man” are the only truly rambunctious songs on the entire album.
Oh, and about that cover? You’d think it would be a natural for it to be released on vinyl, right? NOPE. It’s available only on CD or digital download. WTF? Maybe at some point later it will be, but I doubt it. The CD comes in a cardboard slipcase and that’s it. There’s the track-listing on the back and that’s it. There’s no pictures, no printed lyrics, no insight as to the unique nature of this album or the songs, no band credits. It’s a bare-bones and, frankly, sad way for a multi-platinum act such as Bon Jovi to leave their record label of 30+ years. Jon has a few things to say about Mercury Records on the album’s last track (turns out Burning Bridges isn’t a reference to Richie Sambora at all) with a loose, rowdy acoustic sing-along number that has a vibe like Great White’s “Wasted Rock Ranger”.
Despite the odd treatment this release has been given by the band and (soon-to-be former?) record label, Burning Bridges is a very strong release for the band. The mood of the album may be a bit dour, melancholy and cynical and it could use a few more rockers (and Richie) but Burning Bridges is a great release for the year and gives me hope for what the band can accomplish with an all-new release in 2016.
Highlights: “A Teardrop in the Sea”, “We Don’t Run”, “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning”, “Blind Love”, “Who Would You Die For”, “Fingerprints”, “Burning Bridges”
A Light in the Black: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio
2015, Massacre Records
1. Sacred Heart
2. Kill the King
3. Evil Eyes
4. Heavy Metal Will Never Die
5. I Could Have Been a Dreamer
6. King of Rock ‘n’ Roll
7. One Night in the City
8. Neon Knights
9. Stand Up and Shout
1. A Light in the Black
2. Don’t Talk to Strangers
3. The Sign of the Southern Cross
4. Hungry for Heaven
6. The Last in Line
7. Time Machine
8. Kill the King
9. Holy Diver
10. Caught in the Middle
Five years after his passing, Ronnie James Dio’s presence in the world of heavy metal is still felt and heard via the endless live albums and tribute releases that arrive every year. While I think the releases of live material needs to be given a rest for a bit, I’m still interested in the tribute releases. It’s hard to fault anyone who wants to pay their respects to metal’s greatest vocalist. By my count, this is the fourth notable Dio tribute album with the previous ones being Jorn’s Dio, last year’s Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life and Joey DeMaio’s Magic: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio (which does not have Wendy Dio’s blessing).
Jorn’s tribute is my favorite of all the Dio tribute albums. This Is Your Life was pretty good (but had some bad moments), but I think A Light in the Black is a much more solid release than what was put together last year. This Is Your Life relied on star-power, and it was a great idea, but this is cool in that it’s a bunch of more obscure metal bands (all signed to Massacre Records) not straying too far from the script. I won’t list every band here but a few such as Crystal Ball, The Order, Circle of Silence, MessengeR, Gloryful and Rebellion make more than once appearance. I have no clue what any of these bands sound like when they play their own original tunes but they did a good job covering Dio’s career and it makes me want to check out their discography and see what their own stuff sounds like.
Well, except for Burden of Grief’s version of “Neon Knights”. Wow. That’s metal-core/death metal terrible. Couldn’t even finish that one. The music was fine, but those vocals… Arrrgh. Nor do I like Rebellion’s take on “I” which is more of the same, vocally. Shame since that’s one of my favorite Black Sabbath songs, ever. Though do a better job with their cover of “Kill the King”, though. Yes, there’s TWO versions of “Kill the King” here; MessengeR takes a crack at the song on the first disc.
This album covers all of Ronnie’s metal career (although it’d be nice if someone through in a metal version of his doo-wop days sometime): Rainbow, Sabbath and Dio. What’s interesting is the inclusion of David Feinstein’s “Metal Will Never Die” (covered by Gloryful), a sung which Ronnie guest spotted on for Feinstein’s Bitten By the Beast album, which I believe was the last song Ronnie ever recorded.
You don’t have to know any of these bands featured to enjoy this album. If you love the music of Ronnie James Dio and are interested in hearing how other vocalists do when tackling some of his classics, A Light in the Black is definitely worth a listen.
Highlights: “Sacred Heart” (Crystal Ball), “Kill the King” (MessengeR), “Evil Eyes” (Gun Barrel), “I Could Have Been a Dreamer” (The Order), “A Light in the Black” (Iron Fate), “The Sign of the Southern Cross” (Crystal Ball), “The Last In Line” (The Order)
Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King: Deathbat
2015, Warner Bros. Records
1. Andronikos Theme
2. Nightmare Theme
3. Unholy Theme
4. Bat Country Theme
5. Babylon Theme
6. Afterlife Theme
7. Heaven Theme
8. Wicked Theme
9. Warrior Theme
10. Andronikos Theme – 8-Bit
I typically don’t care about video game soundtracks but given that this is credited to Avenged Sevenfold (I’ve yet to play the game for myself), I decided it was worthy of a review. While the band’s last album, Hail to the King, was pretty lame, I’m still enough of a fan of the band (thanks to their self-titled release and Nightmare) that I found it interesting and worthwhile to check out a video game soundtrack that they were credited with.
Basically, if you’re a fan of video game soundtracks, I can’t imagine you not enjoying Deathbat. It totally reminds me of the type of RPG scores you’d hear from the the Final Fantasy games from the Super Nintendo or Sony PlayStation. The video game has actually gotten some decent reviews. I guess it’s kind of a dungeon crawerl/Diablo-type game. I plan on buying it at some point.
As for the soundtrack? Well, it’s good. I guess it’s what you’d expect from this genre of video games. Honestly, while the soundtrack was obviously inspired by Avenged Sevenfold, I’m not sure if they wrote this themselves though. It was released through Warner Bros. Records, the band’s label, but the band’s Wikipedia website doesn’t mention it at all. Not that Wikipedia is the end-all, be-all of information, but usually someone is on there making sure things are up to date and accurate.
Obviously, Hail to the King: Deathbat is only of interest to hardcore fans of the band and/or album. It’s more orchestral in arrangement than hard rock or heavy metal (it’s all instrumental as well) but it’s not bad as background noise for fans of video game music.
2015, Frontier Records
1. Back on My Trail
2. Turn Back Time
3. You’re Not Alone
4. Locked Out of Paradise
5. Way to the Sun
6. Dream On
7. Don’t Walk Away
8. Here Forever
9. Strangers to This Life
10. Better World
11. How to Mend a Broken Heart
12. In the Name of the Father (Fernando’s Song)
Deen Castronovo – Lead Vocals, Drums, Backing Vocals
Doug Aldrich – Guitar
Jack Blades – Bass, Backing Vocals
Arnel Pineda – Lead Vocals
Neal Schon – Guitar
Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Revolution Saints is another band in a long line of super-groups assembled at the request of Frontier Records, an Italian music label that specializes in melodic rock. As an American rock music fan, I find the names in this project to be a bit more interesting than the usual various European musicians that Frontier often employs. Night Ranger vocalist/bassist Jack Blades, former Whitesnake/Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich and Journey drummer Deen Castronovo sound like a good line-up to me.
When I first read who was in the group, I assumed Jack Blades would be singing, but not so. He does have co-lead vocals on a few songs and sings backing vocals but the majority of the album is sung by Castronovo as label president Serafino Perugino had been wanting a project with Deen on lead vocals for quite some time. Deen’s fellow Journey bandmates Arnel Pineda and Neal Schon also lend their talents to the album.
Revolution Saints is chock full o’ uplifting melodies and big vocals. A lot of that is thanks to in-house Frontier producer/songwriter/musician Alessandro Del Vecchio. As usual with these for-hire projects, the assembled players didn’t actually do much of the writing. Jack Blades, who I assumed would also be the creative force behind the band, only gets one co-writing credit. The rest of the songwriting on this release was done by Alessandro with assistance from others, such as W.E.T.‘s Erik Martensson.
I feel like Doug Aldrich is wasted to some degree playing melodic rock. The guy can shred and write some great riffs. His run in Whitesnake made me a huge fan, so it’s sad that he didn’t have much hand in what he’s playing here. Not that this is a sappy, slick and polished album. I would categorize Revolution Saints as a mix of melodic rock and melodic hard rock (yes, I think there’s a difference). While the styles of the individual players may not shine through in the songwriting or playing, this is still an album worth checking out for fans of melodic rock.
Highlights: “Back On My Trail”, “You’re Not Alone”, “Way to the Sun”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Here Forever”
Sammy Hagar & The Circle – At Your Service
2015, Mailboat Records
1. There’s Only One Way to Rock
2. Rock Candy
3. Good Times Bad Times
5. I Can’t Drive 55
6. Mikey bass solo
7. When It’s Love
8. Whole Lotta Love
9. Little White Lie
10. When the Levee Breaks
11. Jason solo/Moby Dick
12. Why Can’t This Be Love
13. Finish What Ya Started
14. Heavy Metal
15. Vic guitar solo
16. Best of Both Worlds
17. Right Now
18. Rock and Roll
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Vic Johnson – Guitar
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Jason Bonham – Drums
Yet another “and friends”-style release from the Red Rocker (see Cosmic Universal Fashion, Sammy Hagar & Friends and Lite Roast). Or is this a super group? I don’t know. The guy is obviously just killing time at this point in his career and doing whatever he thinks is fun. Live albums, acoustic cover albums, supergroup projects… whatever. The line-up here is actually pretty good: guitarist Vic Johnson (from Sammy’s The Waboritas backing band), Chickenfoot/ex-Van Halen bassist Micheal Anthony and highly respected journeyman drummer Jason Bonham.
At You Service is a live release recorded throughout 2014. I never knew these guys played together until this album came out, but apparently The Circle group was a small tour and this album is compilation of the dozen or so shows they did. I’m sure Sammy simply recruited whomever he felt like playing with. The set list focuses mostly on Hagar’s career (Montrose, Van Halen and solo work) but also features four Led Zeppelin songs. I’m quite sure that Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s son being in the band influenced that decision. The only portion of Hagar’s career that isn’t reflected is Chickenfoot.
All told, this isn’t a bad album if you’re a fan of live releases. Myself? I could take ’em or leave ’em but considering the line-up here, I was interested in hearing this one. Despite their ages, the voices of Hagar & Anthony don’t seem to show wear or tear. The Led Zeppelin numbers are done quite well, too. If Jimmy Page ever considered going out and doing a bunch of Zeppelin songs without Robert Plant, Sammy Hagar would be a pretty solid choice as the vocalist… certainly a much better choice than Steven Tyler!
Fans of Hagar’s entire career (and Zeppelin) should find plenty to enjoy here and hopefully this will lead to an original project from these guys.