Whitesnake – The Purple Album [Review]

purplealbum

Whitesnake – The Purple Album
2015, Frontiers Records

Buy the album

1. “Burn”
2. “You Fool No One” (interpolating “Itchy Fingers”)
3. “Love Child”
4. “Sail Away” (featuring “Elegy for Jon”)
5. “The Gypsy”
6. “Lady Double Dealer”
7. “Mistreated”
8. “Holy Man”
9. “Might Just Take Your Life”
10. “You Keep On Moving”
11. “Soldier of Fortune”
12. “Lay Down Stay Down”
13. “Stormbringer”
Bonus Tracks:
14. Lady Luck
15. Comin’ Home

Band:
David Coverdale – Lead Vocals
Reb Beach – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Michael Devon – Bass, Harmonica, Backing Vocals
Tommy Aldridge – Drums
Derek Hilland – Keyboards

Producers: David Coverdale, Reb Beach & Michael McIntyre

After a steady stream of live releases, I was looking forward to hearing a brand-new Whitesnake studio album. I had known the band had been working on writing & recording tracks for the untitled album but I was assuming what they were going to give us would new and original Whitesnake tracks. Instead, when The Purple Album was announced, to say I was a bit deflated would be an understatement. For whatever reason, David Coverdale decided to have Whitesnake cover songs from his time in Deep Purple. Basically, the sounds have been record with a much beefier sound that’s very in line with what Whitesnake has been doing the last 10 years ago or so and some of the songs have been slightly re-worked.

In theory, I don’t have too much of a problem with any of this. I’ve read some comments online that consider it blasphemous that Whitesnake would record a bunch of Deep Purple songs and plenty of reviewers knocking this album and saying the band didn’t do a good job. Personally, I don’t care if Whitesnake releases an album of Deep Purple covers. But that’s just it. I don’t care. It just seems like a throwaway and irrelevant album to me, no more of less important than the various live albums they’ve released in the last few years. Having said that, being the Whitesnake fan that I am, I was always going to give this album at least one spin.

Now would’ve really made this album interesting is if Coverdale decided to record some songs from the Mark II line-up that featured Ian Gillan on vocals (at least as a fun bonus track). THAT would’ve made for a fascinating listen.

I’m really wondering what happened during all the time that Coverdale said they were working on the new album because I know they were at least writing material when Doug Aldrich was still in the band. What happened to that material? Was he only writing rearrangements for this album? And, oh yeah, Doug Aldrich is gone from the band. I’ve felt he was an essential part of the band since David brought Whitesnake back but the split seems amicable as Doug wanted to move on to new projects. His replacement? Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra. Okay. At least Tommy Aldridge has returned to the band and is still a monster on the drums.

While The Purple Album doesn’t seem all that necessary, when you get down to the music, it’s fairly enjoyable. In fact, I can digest some of these tracks much more easily now that they have been updated production-wise. Take Deep Purple songs, give them the production of Whitesnake’s last two studio efforts, Good to Be Bad and Forevermore and that’s The Purple Album. Coverdale’s voice is much more weathered by this point but I think that’s a good thing. He has more soul in his voice than he ever did and I think on some of these tracks it provides for a better vocal performance and feeling than what he could’ve provided in the 1970s.

At the end of the day, while I’m disappointed I’m not listening to new Whitesnake material, The Purple Album has turned out to be a pretty good album in it’s own right.

Highlights: “Burn”, “Love Child”, “Sail Away”, “The Gypsy”, “Lady Double Dealer”, “Mistreated”, “Might Just Take Your Life”, “You Keep On Moving”, “Soldier of Fortune”, “Stormbringer”

Beauvoir / Free – American Trash [Review]

beauvoirfree-americantrashBeauvoir / Free – American Trash
2015, Frontiers Records

Buy the album

1. Angels Cry
2. Morning After
3. American Trash
4. Whiplash
5. Just Breathe
6. Shotgun to the Heart
7. Never Give Up
8. Cold Dark December
9. It’s Never Too Late
10. She’s a KO
11. There’s No Starting Over

Musicians:
Jean Beauvoir – Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, Drums
Micki Free – Guitar

Being a fan of KISS, Jean Beauvoir is a name I’ve been familiar with for quite some time. He co-wrote a couple of songs with Paul Stanley back in the ’80s for KISS and was a member of the shock rock group, The Plasmatics, but that’s ALL I knew. Micki Free is another name I’ve read from time to time, but his name did not bring to my mind any particular project he ever worked on. After becoming aware of this album, I was surprised to find that Beauvoir worked a lot with the Ramones and that Micki Free was a member of the funk/soul group Shalamar. Kinda seems odd that these two would be involved in an melodic rock project for Frontiers Records but then again, more research told me these two previously formed a melodic rock group called Crown of Thorns back in the ’90s.

I came in with zero expectations and very little understanding of what the team of Jean Beauvoir and Micki Free had to offer. What they’ve delivered with American Trash is nothing short of a melodic hard rock gem even though the second half of the album fails to live up to the quality of the first half. There’s plenty of hard riffing going on overall and I really enjoy Beauvoir’s voice which at times reminds me of Lenny Kravitz. My favorite tracks are “Angels Cry”, which is a killer heavy song to open the album with and “Just Breathe” is one of the best power ballads I’ve heard in the last few years.

I’m not sure if American Trash is done in the same exact style as their Crown of Thorns group, but I’m thinking I need to check their old collaborations out and I hope there’s more to come from Beauvoir/Free.

Highlights: “Angels Cry”, “Morning After”, “American Trash”, “Just Breathe”, “Shotgun to the Heart”

Night Demon – Curse of the Damned [Review]

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Night Demon – Curse of the Damned
2015, Century Media Records

Buy the album

1. Screams in the Night
2. Curse of the Damned
3. Satan
4. Full Speed Ahead
5. The Howling Man
6. Heavy Metal Heat
7. Livin’ Dangerous
8. Mastermind
9. Run for Your Life
10. Killer
11. Save Me Now
12. Road Racin’
13. The Chalice ’15

Band:
Jarvis Leatherby – Vocals, Bass
Brent Woodward – Guitar
Dustin Squires – Drums

Producers:
Night Demon, Roger Camero & Armand Tambouris

Confession: I bought this album by accident. While I still buy albums (vinyl, CD AND digital) I generally reserve my money for my favorite bands or when building up my vinyl collection. I came across a list of the top metal albums of 2015 so far and this album was on it. A lot of time I stream music from Spotify but since Century Media isn’t a partner with Spotify, that wasn’t possible for this release. I had some credit at Amazon.com to use on digital music and I accidentally bought the album when I was hoping I’d first be told how much credit was available to use.

Going by the awesome cheesy “evil” album artwork, I was expecting raw, nasty ’80s metal sound that probably focused too much on sounding “evil”. Well, while Night Demon is firmly planted in the new wave of traditional heavy metal category, they aren’t out to shock and offend. So don’t let the cover fool you — the band isn’t as dark, demonic and over-the-top as the artwork would suggest. It’s all in good fun. Sure, they have songs called “Curse of the Damned”, “Satan” and “Killer” but they also have songs titled “Road Racin'”, “The Howling Man” and “Heavy Metal Heat”.

This trio of California metal-heads cites UFO, Riot and Diamond Head as influences. Knowing that gives the listener a good idea of what they’ll be sounding like. The Diamond Head influence is readily apparent indeed. To my knowledge, Curse of the Damned is the band’s debut LP (a self-titled EP was released in 2012) and it’s a great score for them to have a European label deal with Steamhammer/SPV while being on the Century Media label in the U.S.

Night Demon’s Curse of the Damned is an enjoyable album that fans of the new wave of British heavy metal and the new wave of traditional heavy metal should be able to appreciate. I don’t think Night Demon is going to blow anyone away within the confines of the music they are playing but they’re sure to be appreciated by old school metal-heads.

Highlights: “Screams in the Night”, “The Howling Man”, “Heavy Metal Heat”, “Livin’ Dangerous”, “Save Me Now”

The Darkness – The Last of Our Kind [Review]

thedarknessalbumlastcd-1The Darkness – The Last of Our Kind
2015, Canary Dwarf Records

Buy the album

1. Barbarian
2. Open Fire
3. Last of Our Kind
4. Roaring Waters
5. Wheels of the Machine
6. Mighty Wings
7. Mudslide
8. Sarah O’Sarah
9. Hammer & Tongs
10. Conquerors

Band:
Justin Hawkins – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Dan Hawkins – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Frankie Poullain – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rufus Tiger Taylor – Drums

Producer: Dan Hawkins

For their first two albums, The Darkness showed glimpses of brilliance. Both a parody and loving tribute to British glam rock, prog rock, classic rock and L.A. glam metal of the 1970s and 1980s, they were a unique group with a unique singer and some very silly lyrics. Combine elements of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with Mott the Hoople and Queen (funny that Roger Taylor’s son, Rufus, is now their drummer) and that’s kind of what The Darkness sounds like.

Unfortunately, the band became a parody themselves when they fell victim to their own excess, success and egos and broke in 2006. They reunited in 2011 and released Hot Cakes the following year. To be fair, it’s an album I never gave a serious listen to despite having loved their first two albums. What little I have heard never impressed me enough to listen to the rest of it.

The Last of Our Kind is the band’s fourth release and something compelled me to give this release a more serious shot. I’m glad I did. This album has the band spreading out their song a bit (although it’s always kinda been all over the place) from the heavy metal “Barbarian” to the Cult-like “Open Fire” to “Mighty Wings”, which would make ELO’s Jeff Lynne proud, to the Zeppelin-esque “Roaring Water” to the southern rock of “Mudslide”. It’s riffs, falsetto singing, gang vocals and melodies galore. I’d like to point out that while Justin Hawkins is still singing in that falsetto style that made many people take notice of the band, he seems a bit more restrained and less over-the-top with it. Sometimes (especially on the first album) it seemed like his singing style was a gimmick that overshadowed the music but The Darkness doesn’t come across that way anymore.

There’s lots of classic tracks from the bands first two albums, but this may be their most consistent release yet.

Highlights: “Barbarian”, “Open Fire”, “Last of Our Kind”, “Wheels of the Machine”, “Mighty Wings”, “Sarah O’Sarah”, “Conquerors”

House of Lords – Indestructible [Review]

HOUSE OF LORDS inde COVER

House of Lords – Indestructible
2015, Frontiers Records

Buy the album

1. Go to Hell
2. Indestructible
3. Pillar of Salt
4. 100mph
5. Call My Bluff
6. We Will Always Be One
7. Die To Tell
8. Another Dawn
9. Eye of the Storm
10. Ain’t Suicidal
11. Stand and Deliver

Band:
James Christian – Vocals
Jimi Bell – Guitars
Chris McCarvill – Bass
BJ Zampa – Drums

House of Lords are on a roll. Just last year they released the excellent Precious Metal and now the band is back with Indestructible. Last year’s release saw my faith being renewed in the band after what I felt was a disappointing release (Big Money) and their latest and tenth release only solidifies my confidence in the band. I have to wonder if parts of Indestructible were at least written, if not recorded, at the same time as the Precious Metal sessions.

Just as Precious Metal delivered a few new classics to the House of Lords catalog, so does Indestructible. “Another Dawn” and “Eye of Storm” are killer tracks. Both songs embody what House of Lords are all about — amazing production, incredible melodies, some heaviness and big choruses. Meanwhile, the band is delivering some of their hardest material in years with tracks like “Go to Hell”, “Ain’t Suicidal” and “Stand and Deliver” while still delivering on great ballads (“We Will Always Be One”).

What else is there to say? If you like House of Lords, you’ll like (and probably love) Indestructible. It’s amazing that one band has been able to stay so consistent in quality throughout their career.

Highlights: “Die to Tell”, “Indestructible”, “We Will Always Be One”, “Another Dawn”, “Eye of the Storm”, “Ain’t Suicidal”, “Stand and Deliver”

The Protomen – The Cover Up [Review]

Protomen+the+cover+up+they+just+released+their+newst+album_bb33d1_5434925

The Protomen – The Cover Up
2015, Sound Machine Records

1. Pick Up
2. Because the Night
3. Princes of the Universe
4. Mr. Roboto
5. No Easy Way Out
6. Last Stop
7. In the Air Tonight
8. I Drove All Night
9. Total Eclipse of the Heart
10. Hunted
11. The Trooper
12. I Still Believe (Great Design)
13. Results
14. Danger Zone
15. Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)

Band:
Raul Panther III – Vocals, multi-instruments
Murphy Weller – Bass Synthesizer
Commander B. Hawkins Jr. – Synthesizer, Vocoder, Percussion
TURBO LOVER – Vocals, Guitar
Sir Robert Bakker – Guitar
Ringo Segundo – Guitar
The Gambler – Vocals
Reanimator – Drums
K.I.L.R.O.Y. – Percussion

Originally issued in 2014 as a digital download EP, The Cover Up was upgraded to a full-length album and released on CD, vinyl and cassette (!) in 2015. For anyone not familiar with The Protomen, they are like a mash-up of rock opera and ’80s-influenced electronic music. Based out of Nashville they play a lot of cover songs (Queen, mostly) and also write their own original songs (generally based on Mega Man video game series). They’ve released a live album of Queen songs in the past but with The Cover Up, the band covers a variety of artists. Iron Maiden, Phil Collins, Styx, Queen, Cyndi Lauper, Patti Smith, Kenny Loggins, Bonnie Tyler, etc.

It’s quite an interesting selection but the Protomen make it all work. The group flows seamlessly through these various rock, metal and pop genres. I was especially excited to see the band covers Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” which is from the Rocky IV movie and soundtrack. It doesn’t disappoint. This one is a major reworking from the original — it’s slowed down a bit and given a mariachi flavor. Very cool. Their cover of Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the 1980 movie Flash Gordon is great stuff as well.

The artwork for The Cover Up is done in a mock movie poster style and technically the full title of this album is The Cover Up (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). Whether this soundtrack is ever accompanied by an actual movie is anyone’s guess but I’ve read speculation online in regards to a movie happening at some place. In fact, many of the songs covered here originally appeared on movie soundtracks themselves.

Highlights: “Because the Night”, “Princes of the Universe”, “No Easy Way Out”, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, “Danger Zone”

Judas Priest – British Steel [Album Review]

1980 - British Steel

Judas Priest – British Steel [Remastered]
2001, Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings
Original Release: 1980, Columbia Records

Buy the album

1. “Rapid Fire”
2. “Metal Gods”
3. “Breaking the Law”
4. “Grinder”
5. “United”
6. “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise”
7. “Living After Midnight”
8. “The Rage” 4:44
9. “Steeler” 4:30
Bonus Tracks:
10. “Red, White & Blue”
11. “Grinder”

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
K.K. Downing – Guitar
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Dave Holland – Drums

Producer: Tom Allom

There’s a lot of classic albums that I own but for some reason I never got around to reviewing. British Steel is one of those albums though I could’ve sworn I reviewed it before. But what can I say about this classic release that hasn’t already been said millions of times? While still being heavy metal, British Steel saw Judas Priest entering the 1980’s with a less-technical, more commercial sound. “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” are two of the ultimate metal anthems and both enjoyed mainstream success while “United” was another anthem with a huge chorus.

That’s not to say there aren’t some other interesting tracks either. “Rapid Fire” is one of my favorite Priest songs and is an amazing choice to open the album (though it was the second track on the original 1980 issue). “Grinder” and “Steeler” are typical Priest-style metal and I mean that in a good way. Then there’s the very interesting “The Rage” with stands out for its portions that have a reggae vibe, almost sound like something The Police would do before morphing into a plodding metal number.

The 2001 remastered edition comes with two bonus tracks. A live version of “Grinder” from the Long Beach Arena in 1984 and a studio track called “Red, White & Blue” which was meant to be on the purposed double album Twin Turbos project (which was stripped down to one album and called Turbo). One thing that bothers me about these 2001 edition bonus tracks is that their placement seems kinda random. “Red, White & Blue” sounds very polished and very out of place with the rest of the tracks but it’s still cool that it saw the light of day.

While I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” again, the album is a classic from top to bottom and began the commercial rise of Judas Priest. Shame on any fan of classic metal that doesn’t own this one.

Judas Priest ‘British Steel’ coffee by Dark Matter Coffee

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With a few extra bucks to spare, I decided to order Dark Matter Coffee’s limited edition Judas Priest ‘British Steel’ coffee.

20150427_204712

The bonus was that each order includes a cassingle featuring “Grinder” (What else?) from British Steel and “Snakebite” from the bonus edition of Redeemer of Souls.

What can I say? I’m no coffee connoisseur but if you’re a big fan of Judas Priest and coffee and want the cool exclusive cassingle, this is a must-buy. Head on over to DarkMatterCoffee.com and see if you can still order a bag!

My order # was 6666!

Scorpions – Return to Forever [Review]

RTF-CoverScorpions – Return to Forever [Deluxe Edition]
2015, Sony Music/RCA Records

Buy the album

1. Going Out With a Bang
2. We Built This House
3. Rock My Car
4. House of Cards
5. All For One
6. Rock ‘N’ Roll Band
7. Catch Your Luck and Play
8. Rollin’ Home
9. Hard Rockin’ the Place
10. Eye of the Storm
11. The Scratch
12. Gypsy Life
Bonus Tracks
13. The World We Used to Know
14. Dancing With the Moonlight
15. When the Truth is a Lie
16. Who We Are

Band:
Klaus Meine — Lead Vocals
Rudolf Schenker — Guitar, Backing Vocals
Matthias Jabs — Guitar, Backing Vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda — Bass, Backing Vocals
James Kottak — Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: Mikael Nord Andersson & Martin Hansen

Much like Van Halen’s Tokyo Dome in Concert, I originally was hoping to purchase this album on vinyl. I think the vinyl version is only available as an import though, thus its cost was pretty high when the album first came out. Still, I ultimately ended up purchasing this album twice! I bought the standard CD jewel case edition and then discovered there was a deluxe CD edition digibook that included four bonus tracks. This version was also an import but I was able to go over to Amazon UK and pick it up for the exact same price that I bought the basic U.S. version for.

I’ve given the album a number of spins. The story behind this release is that the band went looking over all unused material and ideas to help create this album. I know there was some controversy over Van Halen doing that for A Different Kind of Truth but I have no problem with bands doing this as long as the music is good. I would prefer these veteran bands enhance and revamp old unused material that tries to capture their glory days rather than go the Aerosmith route of using a million outside writers in a pointless struggle to sound current and relevant (um… other than “Rollin’ Home” which would sound right at home on a modern pop station).

And it’s not as if the album is made up entirely of old songs. “Going Out with a Bang” and “Rock This House” are brand new and two of my favorite songs on the album. The deluxe edition bonus track “Dancing With the Moonlight” is an electric version of a song that the band debuted in acoustic form on last years MTV Unplugged release. This electric version is much, much more enjoyable. The bonus tracks are all pretty good. Well, “When The Truth Is A Lie” is a bit of filler but I like the rest, especially the ballad “Who We Are”. What’s sad is that what is probably the best song the band recorded for this album, “Delirious”, is exclusive to iTunes supposedly. It’s a shame. It’s a really great rocker that should’ve been on the standard release. Japan has two exclusives: “One and One is Three” and “Crazy Ride”. The very definition of filler tracks, so no loss there.

After the Eye II Eye debacle, the band caught a second wind in the studio beginning with 2003’s Unbreakable. What followed after that was the incredible Humanity: Hour I (2007), Sting in the Tail (2010). Return to Forever fits in right alongside Sting in the Tail but after listening to this album many times, I think it at least ranks above that album if not Unbreakable as well. Obviously, the band isn’t going to fully reclaim their glory days of Animal MagnetismBlackout, Love at First Sting or Lovedrive but anyone who liked those albums and also enjoyed Savage AmusementCrazy WorldUnbreakable and Sting in the Tail should be able to find more than a few enjoyable songs here.

I don’t know what’s in store for the band after this. I thought Sting in the Tail would have been a good album to go out on and I think Return to Forever is an even stronger album to close their legacy on studio recordings. The thing is, this album is so good I hope the band keeps recording new music!

Highlights: “Going Out With a Bang”, “We Built This House”, “House of Cards”, “All For One”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Band”, “Rollin’ Home”, “Eye of the Storm”, “Gypsy Life”, “The World We Used to Know”, “Who We Are”

Van Halen – Tokyo Dome In Concert [Review]

Van_Halen_Tokyo_Dome_Live_In_Concert

Van Halen – Tokyo Dome In Concert
2015, Rhino Records

Buy the album

Disc One:
1. “Unchained”
2. “Runnin’ With the Devil”
3. “She’s the Woman”
4. “I’m the One”
5. “Tattoo”
6. “Everybody Wants Some!!”
7. “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”
8. “China Town”
9. “Hear About It Later”
10. “(Oh) Pretty Woman”
11. “Drum Struck”
12. “You Really Got Me”

Disc Two:
1. “Dance the Night Away”
2. “I’ll Wait”
3. “And the Cradle Will Rock…”
4. “Hot for Teacher”
5. “Women in Love…”
6. “Romeo Delight”
7. “Mean Street”
8. “Beautiful Girls”
9. “Ice Cream Man”
10. “Panama”
11. “Eruption”
12. “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love”
13. “Jump”

Band:
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Wolfgang Van Halen – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums

Producer: Van Halen

I was hoping to own this one on vinyl but the price is ridiculous. I think the suggest retail price is around $70 but I’ve also seen it priced around $100 online as well. Hey, I realize it’s a four-album set, but that’s way too much to pay, IMO. It would’ve been nice to have this album in vinyl form for the album art alone. I love the art deco style. Hopefully the price will drop on this album and I can pick it up somedya.

Recorded on June 21, 2013, Tokyo Dome In Concert (at times referred to as as Tokyo Dome Live In Concert) is the band’s second live album but their first with David Lee Roth. The only other previous live album was 1993’s Live: Right Here, Right Now and that one featured Sammy Hagar on vocals. From what I’ve read, there were ZERO touch-ups or overdubs done on this recording in the studio. Warts and all, this is supposedly the entire show as it was live. We’ve heard that from bands before. I always expect some touch-ups to be done. It doesn’t really bother me but I think it’d be a really cool thing if the band didn’t try to clean up anything here.

There’s certainly some parts with Diamond Dave’s voice is weak but I think he does a fine job overall. Dave was never the most technically gifted singer. He’s a showman. That’s always been his draw but his voice has always fit the songs. He’s not hitting the notes perfectly, but he never could in a live setting anyway. I think he sounds just as good here as he ever did.

The set list is exactly what I’d want to hear from Van Halen. All of the hits plus a few songs from A Different Kind of Truth thrown in. The new songs fit in just fine with the older material. I recently gave A Different Kind of Truth another spin and I think I like it even more than I did when it originally came out. Totally captures the classic era of VH.

Tokyo Dome In Concert is a no-brainer pick up for any Van Halen fan. It’s got the songs you want to hear, Eddie is playing great, Diamond Dave’s charisma carries him through where his voice doesn’t and it’s a great concert in general.

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