The Protomen – The Cover Up [Review]

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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.

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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.

Wolfpakk – Rise of the Animal [Review]

WP_ROTA_2400x2400Wolfpakk – Rise of the Animal
2015, AFM Records
Buy the album

1. Rider Of The Storm
2. Sock It To Me
3. Monkey On Your Back
4. Highlands
5. Black Wolf
6. Somewhere Beyond
7. Running Out Of Time
8. Grizzly Man
9. High Roller
10. Rise Of The Animal
11. Universe

Musicians:
Michael Voss, Mark Sweeney, Michael Kiske, Andi Deris, Ted Poley, Joe Lynn Turner, Rick Altzi, David Reece, Charlie Huhn, Don Dokken, Marc Storace, Michaela Schober, Jean-Marc Viller – Lead Vocals
Michael Voss, Bob Daisley, Al Barrow, Barend Courbois – Bass
Jeff Watson, Ryan Roxie, Bernie Torme, John Norum, Doug Aldrich, Axel Rudi Pell, Martin Rauber – Guitar
Mike Terrana, Mark Schulman, Simon Philips, Chris Slade, Gereon Homann – Drums
Chris Ivo – Keyboards

Producer: Mark Sweeney & Michael Voss

Wolfpakk is an all-star melodic hard rock/metal project put together a few years back by vocalists Mark Sweeney (ex-Crystal Ball) and Michael Voss (ex-Casanova). I won’t repeat all of the musicians involved but Rise of the Animal features an exceptional line-up of guest musicians like Doug Aldrich, Joe Lynn Turner, David Reece (!), Don Dokken, Michael Kiske, Axel Rudi Pell and Bob Daisley.

Honestly, I checked out this album based on the cover art and the band name (another ‘Wolf’ band!) alone. I didn’t realize until reading up on Wolfpakk that they are more of a project than a legit band. Or if they are a band, you can distill it down to simply Sweeney & Voss (who write the songs as well) as the guest musicians change from album to album.

So, for an album that includes such a large guest list, the cohesiveness of the album is very impressive. Not even the different vocalists take you out of the moment. It all works. Rise of the Animal flows together as a great collection of melodic hard rock and melodic metal, great guitar solos and soaring vocals with large catchy choruses.

Rise of the Animal is a powerfully and skillfully made block of melodic metal and rock that won’t disappoint you if you’re a fan of the artists involved. The album was a very pleasant surprise to me that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Highlights: “Rider of the Storm”, “Sock It to Me”, “Black Wolf”, “Running Out of Time”, “High Roller”, “Rise of the Animal”, “Universe”

Various Artists – Live and Heavy [Review]

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Various Artists – Live and Heavy
1981, NEMS Records

1. Deep Purple – “Smoke on the Water”
2. Nazareth – “Razamanaz”
3. Motorhead – “White Line Fever”
4. Def Leppard – “Rocks Off”
5. Rainbow – “All Night Long”
6. Status Quo – “Roll Over Lay Down”
7. Whitesnake – “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”
8. UFO – “Lights Out in London”
9. Gillan – “Unchain Your Brain”
10. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”

What a brutal album cover that totally screams “heavy metal”. I picked this one up on vinyl in great condition for only $1 at a local flea market annex shop called Fort Walton Beach Vintage Records. Live and Heavy is a compilation put out by the British label NEMS that, unsurprisingly, features live tracks by UK rock bands. Had this been released a year or two later, I’m sure it would’ve been full of NWOBHM bands but instead we get bands that are more closely associated with ’70s hard rock and heavy metal.

This compilation has a killer line-up: Gillan-era Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, UFO (“Lights Out” is titled “Lights Out in London” on this release), Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, Motorhead… some of the very best heavy rock bands England has to offer. Even Def Leppard makes an appearance. Pretty good deal for such a new and young band (at the time) to get a track compiled with a number of other legendary bands.

Had this been a compilation of studio tracks, I probably would’ve passed. I’m not big on live album but for a collection of live cuts from these specific bands, I figured it was worth a buck.

The inner sleeve lists the various dates and venues these tracks were recorded. Always good to have that info. I was afraid this was going to be a super low-budget compilation that wouldn’t even bother.

This is a good pick-up for fans of hard rock from the 1970s and early 1980s.

Highlights: “Smoke on the Water”, “All Night Long”, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, “Lights Out in London”

Momoiro Clover Z vs. KISS – Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina [EP Review]

kissmomoirocdcover

Momoiro Clover Z vs. KISS – Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina
2015, King Records/Evil Line Records

Buy the album

1. “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina”
2. “Rock and Roll All Nite”
3. “SAMURAI SON”
4. “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” [off vocals version]
5. “Rock and Roll All Nite” [off vocals version]
6. “SAMURAI SON” [off vocals version]

Musicians:
KISS
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Tommy Thayer – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Eric Singer – Drums, Backing Vocals

Momoiro Clover Z

Kanako Momota – Vocals
Shiori Tamai – Vocals
Ayaka Sasaki – Vocals
Momoka Ariyasu – Vocals
Reni Takagi – Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Narasaki – Guitar
Greg Collins – Synth

Producers: Paul Stanley & Greg Collins

Ordered this one off of CDBaby.com of all places. Never thought I’d see a KISS release on CDBaby! In truth, this is a Japanese import released through Japan’s King Records label and Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina is collaborative effort between KISS and Momoiro Clover Z, a popular J-pop girl group in Japan. Why? As Paul Stanley, “Why not?” It’s a great bit of PR and marketing though as this project was released right about the time KISS went on a brief tour of Japan.

“Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” is a pretty catchy song. The music is especially good. Momoiro Clover Z handles the lead vocals while KISS helps out in the chorus. Then there’s the cover of “Rock and Roll All Nite”, which again features Clover Z on the vocals with a few musical nods to other KISS songs such as “Love Gun” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”. “SAMURAI SON” is a reworking of “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina”, featuring Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons on lead vocals, new lyrics and the Clover Z girls on backing vocals.

The “off vocals” versions are what you’d guess they are: instrumentals.

I know people will laugh at or hate this project because #1: it’s KISS and #2: it’s KISS teaming up with a Japanese pop girl group but the songs are actually kinda fun. It’s a quirky one-off thing and it’s not the band selling out or anything like that. They’ve been at this for 40+ years now, I don’t blame them for wanting to try something different. And this is definitely different. If you’re still longing for the days of Ace & Peter, then go back to your old vinyl record collection but I’m a fan of all eras of KISS and this is an odd yet entertaining release as far as I’m concerned.

The album comes in two different editions. One for KISS and one for Momoiro Clover Z. Of course I picked the KISS version. It’s a pretty nice package with a clear slip cover, nice insert and cardstock featuring credits & lyrics and even the CD’s artwork is pretty cool.

Retiring my Motley Crue t-shirt

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Well, it’s had a good 10 year run, but it’s time that I retire my Motley Crue shirt that I picked up on the band’s Carnival of Sin tour back in 2005. Over the years, the shirt became one of my favorite shirts to sleep in but it’s become too ripped and ratty to continue on. It’s become pretty faded as well but that doesn’t bother me as much as the large holes in the armpits!

Sweet & Lynch – Only to Rise [Review]

61lIvlJe4+LSweet & Lynch – Only to Rise
2015, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. The Wish
2. Dying Rose
3. Love Stays
4. Time Will Tell
5. Rescue Me
6. Me Without You
7. Recover
8. Divine
9. September
10. Strength in Numbers
11. Hero-Zero
12. Only to Rise

Band:
Michael Sweet – Vocals, Guitar
George Lynch – Guitar
James LoMenzo – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums

Producer: Michael Sweet

Sweet & Lynch is supergroup in a long line of supergroups put together at the request of the Italy-based melodic rock label Frontiers Records. The difference this time is that I can actually pronounce the names and know who all of these guys are! Also, in contract to many of Frontier’s other all-star projects, Michael Sweet offered to take over as producer and he and George Lynch co-wrote all of the songs. Generally, for these label projects the album would use outside songwriters and producers.

Looking at the band roster I have to say that Sweet & Lynch is as strong of a rock supergroup as there has been in awhile. While Stryper’s Michael Sweet and Dokken/Lynch Mob’s George Lynch are obviously the focal point, the names of bassist James LoMenzo (White Lion / Megadeth / Black Label Society) and journeyman drummer Brian Tichy (Whitesnake) should be recognizable to more than a few hard rock fans.

As for the music, Sweet Lynch stays within the realm of what made them popular. I wouldn’t put this album on the level of the last few Stryper & Sweet solo albums, but fans of Stryper, Dokken and/or Lynch Mob, should find no trouble enjoying this melodic hard rockin’ album.

Highlights: “Love Stays”, “Time Will Tell”, “Me Without You”, “Recover”, “Only to Rise”

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