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Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide [Review]

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Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide
2014, Big3 Records
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1. Taking On the World Tonight
2. All That’s Left (For Me To Prove)
3. The Cause
4. This Time
5. I’m Not Your Suicide
6. Coming Home
7. Miles Away
8. Strong
9. How To Live
10. Heart of Gold
11. Anybody Else
12. Unsuspecting
13. Heart of Gold (Duet with Electra Mustaine)

Musicians:
Michael Sweet – lead vocals, lead guitar
Kenny Aronoff – drums
John O’Boyle – Bass
Paul McNamara – Piano, B3, Moog, Keyboards
Pete Adams – Steel guitar

Guest Musicians:
Tony Harnell – Vocals (“Taking on the World Tonight”)
Kevin Max – Vocals (“This Time”)
Electra Mustaine – Vocals (“Heart of Gold”)
Chris Jericho – Vocals (“Anybody Else”)
Doug Aldrich – Guitar (“Anybody Else”)
Robert Sweet – Backing Vocals (“How to Live”)
Tim Gaines – Backing Vocals (“How to Live”)

I don’t know how Michael Sweet gets any rest. Stryper is constantly releasing albums (not that I’m complaining), he has a side-project with George Lynch and he continues to also pursue a solo career as evidenced by the release of I’m Not Your Suicide. Sweet’s powerful vocals are pretty recognizable so it’s hard to hear his voice and not think this is Stryper. The truth is that many of these songs could’ve ended up on a Stryper album. Sure, there’s nothing here that’s anywhere near as heavy as No More Hell to Pay but a good number of these tracks would fit in with Stryper’s typical style melodic rock. Michael even branches out a bit with a song like “Coming Home”, which sounds like an obvious play for the country stations. The result? Eh. The least liked song on the album for me. One of my favorite tracks is “This Time”, which I can’t help but getting a feeling of Electric Light Orchestra from.

There’s a number of interesting appearances on this album such as TNT’s Tony Harnell, Fozzy vocalist/WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, ex-Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and Electra Mustaine, Dave Mustaine’s daughter (How’d that come about about?).

The first half of the album is very strong. I found a lot of the second half didn’t strike the same chord with me that the first half did but overall this is a very good melodic rock/pop album that really wouldn’t sound too out of place as a part of the Stryper discography. Michael Sweet continues to show that he is one of the most gifted songwriters and vocalists in the world of rock today.

Highlights: “Taking On the World Tonight”, “All That’s Left (For Me to Prove)”, “The Cause”, “This Time”, “I’m Not Your Suicide”, “Miles Away”

Whitesnake – Made In Japan [Review]

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Whitesnake – Made In Japan
2013, Frontiers Records

Disc 1:
1. 
Best Years
2. Give Me All Your Love Tonight
3. Love Ain’t No Stranger
4. Is This Love
5. Steal Your Heart Away
6. Forevermore
7. Six String Showdown
8. Love Will Set You Free
9. Drum Solo
10. Fool For Your Loving
11. Here I Go Again
12. Still of the Night

Disc 2:
1. Love Will Set You Free
2. Steal Your Heart Away
3. Fare Thee Well [Acoustic Version]
4. One of These Days [Acoustic Version]
5. Lay Down Your Love
6. Evil Ways
7. Good To Be Bad [Acoustic Version]
8. Tell Me How [Acoustic Version]

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
Doug Aldrich – Guitar
Reb Beach – Guitar
Michael Devin – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums
Brian Ruedy – Keyboards

Produced by: Michael McIntyre, David Coverdale & Doug Aldrich

Made In Japan is Whitesnake’s fifth live album. Now, you may say to yourself, “Didn’t they just release a live album a few years ago?” They did. The album you’re thinking of is Live at Donington 1990 but that was an archive release. A “blast from the past”, if you will. Made In Japan is much more current having been recorded in October 2011 at the Loud Park Festival in Saitama City, Japan.

The entire recording was originally meant to be aired only on TV in Japan but Coverdale, Doug Aldrich and Frontiers Records liked what they heard & saw so much, that they decided the show deserved a worldwide CD/DVD/Blu-ray release. You can buy this show in various formats but I’ll be referring to the 2 CD portion only for this review and not the DVD or Blu-ray footage.

Luckily, Coverdale has never been content to live in the past. Sure, it took him a long time to revive Whitesnake, but now that he has, the band has delivered two of their best studio albums to date (Good to Be Bad and Forevermore) in the last few years. So it’s no surprise that Disc 1 (the actual Loud Park performance) pulls a combined four tracks from those two albums. The remaining tracks on Disc 1 are the typical ’80s hits but it’s great that Coverdale does’t tour strictly with a “greatest hits” set list.

The modern Whitesnake songs are so good and sound so much more powerful than anything of old. And I really have to give credit to Doug Aldrich for helping to restore the band to greatness. Actually, the entire band is amazing and really made the mighty ‘snake powerful and muscular again (make your own jokes, please).

Disc 2 is a very good collection of songs the band played during various sound checks while on tour in Japan.

You really can’t go wrong with Whitesnake (live or in the studio), especially when it comes to this era of the band.

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Buy the album at Amazon.com

Transformers: The Movie – OST (20th Anniversary Special Edition) [Review]

Transformers Soundtrack 20th

Transformers: The Movie – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [20th Anniversary Special Edition]
2007, Volcano Entertainment
(Original Release: 1987, Scotti Brothers Records)

1. “The Touch” (Stan Bush)
2. “Instruments Of Destruction” (N.R.G.)
3. “Death Of Optimus Prime” (Vince DiCola)
4. “Dare” (Stan Bush)
5. “Nothin’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” (Spectre General)
6. “The Transformers Theme” (Lion)
7. “Escape” (Vince DiCola)
8. “Hunger” (Spectre General)
9. “Autobot/Decepticon Battle” (Vince DiCola)
10. “Dare To Be Stupid” (“Weird Al” Yankovic)
11. “Unicron Medley” (Vince DiCola)
12. “Moon Base 2 – Shuttle Launch” (Vince DiCola)
13. “Megatron Must Be Stopped (Parts 1 & 2)” (Vince DiCola)
14. “The Transformers Theme [Alternate Version]” (Stan Bush)

I was a big Transformers fan back in the 1980s. In some respects, I still am, it’s just that I think the Michael Bay movies are terrible so I gave up on that film series after the second movie. 1986’s Transformers: The Movie still remains the best TF movie yet, IMO. Even if they pretty much killed off the entire classic roster of Autobots and replaced them within the span of 90 minutes or so. For my further thoughts on that controversial movie, check out the review I posted at my other blog. Just like the movie, the soundtrack is a big dumb mess (in a good way). It’s a mix of melodic rock, hair metal, instrumentals and Weird Al.

Stan Bush’s “The Touch” and “Dare” have always received high praise from AOR fans but I’ve struggled for years to understand how their connection with this movie was appropriate. Even as a kid when watching the movie, I didn’t really see what “The Touch” had to do with a battle scene. Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare to Be Stupid” seems even less appropriate during a Autobot/Decepticon battle unless it’s meant to be some kind of commentary on how senseless violence is (I highly doubt this is the case though). On their own, these three songs are actually not bad. They just don’t seem appropriate for the scenes which they were used in during the film.

Now, onto the really good stuff. Kicking things off with a harder edge than Stan Bush could is NRG’s “Instruments of Destruction”. Great ’80s metal track. I love it. Though a legit band, this song seems to be their  one moment of glory in the music world. Shame. Then we have two tracks from Spectre General: “Nothin’s Gonna Stand In Our Way” and “Hunger” (which later covered by King Kobra). Spectre General is actually Kick Axe but for legal reasons (I don’t know the details) they recorded as Spectre General for this soundtrack.

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Album art for the 1986 release

And then we have the best track on the entire album and I’m not kidding when I say it’s one of my favorite songs of all-time… “The Transformers Theme” by Lion! Lion was a glam metal act that is also best known for their participation on this but they are also known for having been one of the earliest bands for guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake/Dio/Burning Rain). The song is played during the opening credits and it’s a great way to kick off the movie. It’s a glammed up heavy metal version of the Transformers theme.

The rest of the tracks are very ’80s sounding electronic rock instrumentals that were heard in the movie and were composed by Vince DiCola. Most, if not all, of these instrumentals would go on to be used as background music during seasons three & four of the Transformers cartoon. Tracks 11-14 are exclusive to the anniversary edition of this album. Tracks 11, 12 & 13 are supposedly brand new scores (according to Wikipedia) but I’m pretty sure they can be heard in the movie. Track 14 is an alternate take of “The Transformers Theme” featuring Stan Bush. I really can’t stress enough how good DiCola’s score is. It ranges from upbeat and energetic to somber and haunting to foreboding.

Weird Al and Stan Bush still seem a bit out of place to me but the rest of the album is a great ’80s mix of metal and electronic rock. This is a fun soundtrack that really takes me back to my childhood and also brings back images of the movie itself. One of my all-time favorite soundtracks.

Buy the digital album at Amazon.com

Dio – The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2 [Review]

Dio – The Very Beast Of Vol. 2
(2012, Niji Entertainment)

1. Killing the Dragon
2. Push
3. The Eyes
4. Along Comes a Spider
5. Better in the Dark
6. Fever Dreams
7. Black
8. Feed My Head
9. Shivers
10. Hunter of the Heart (live)
11. One More for the Road
12. Lord of the Last Day
13. Electra
14. As Long as It’s Not About Love
15. This Is Your Life
16. Metal Will Never Die
17. The Prisoner of Paradise

Dio is no stranger to compilation albums (I’ve already reviewed one of them before). According to Wiki, this is the 12th (!!!) Dio compilation. The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2 I believe is the first to focus exclusively on Dio’s career post-1994. Predictably, it picks up where Warner Bros/Rhino Records’ The Very Beast of Dio left off by representing material from Dio’s last four studio albums: Angry Machines (1996), Magica (2000), Killing the Dragon (2002) and Master of the Moon (2004). Inferno: The Last In Live (1999) is also represented with a live version of the Angry Machines song “Hunter of the Heart” and Dio’s last recorded song, “Metal Will Never”, from cousin David “Rock” Feinstein’s Bitten By the Beast is here as well.

The last three Dio albums were all solid releases, Killing the Dragon particularly. The track list here is very well done though I would’ve included “Guilty”, “Cold Feet” and “Scream” (all from Killing the Dragon). But the real hook here isn’t that the final Dio albums are getting their own compilation. Nope. What’s notable about this release is the inclusion of the song “Electra”, an epic that was originally released on the extremely limited edition Tournado box set and was later meant to be included on Magica II (Ronnie had planned a Magica trilogy). It’s a classic slow evil Dio song and it’s great that it’s finally available to a larger market. That’s really the main reason to get this album if you’re already a hardcore Dio fan.

The other song to entice hardcore fans is the inclusion of “The Prisoner of Paradise”, which had previously only appeared on the Japanese pressing of Master of the Moon. This is another good track and it sounds like it could have come from Killing the Dragon.

The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2 is a great companion for Warner’s original Very Beast compilation. Ronnie James Dio still had a lot left in the tank throughout the 2000s even if sales from these albums don’t really express that. Certainly, I’d recommend a compilation of ’80s classics to anyone looking to get into Dio but you can’t go too wrong here either. “Electra”, “The Prisoner of Paradise” and “Metal Will Never Die” (for those who missed it) more than make up for the die-hards who feel compelled to buy this album. Recommended pick up for those three songs alone. Everyone else should already have all the other albums represented!

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Buy the album at Amazon.com

Whitesnake – Forevermore

Whitesnake – Forevermore [Classic Rock Fan Pack Exclusive Limited Edition] (2011, Classic Rock/Future Publishing)

1. “Steal Your Heart Away” … 5:18
2. “All Out Of Luck” … 5:28
3. “Love Will Set You Free” … 3:52
4. “Easier Said Than Done” … 5:12
5. “Tell Me How” … 4:41
6. “I Need You (Shine A Light)” … 3:49
7. “One Of These Days” … 4:53
8. “Love & Treat Me Right” … 4:14
9. “Dogs In The Street” … 3:48
10. “Fare Thee Well” … 5:18
11. “Whipping Boy Blues” … 5:01
12. “My Evil Ways” … 4:33
13. “Forevermore” …  7:24
BONUS TRACKS
14. “Slide It In (live)” … 5:06
15. “Cheap & Nasty (live)” … 4:35

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
Doug Aldrich – Guitar
Reb Beach – Guitar
Michael Devin – Bass
Brian Tichy – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Timothy Drury – Keyboards
Jasper Coverdale – Vocals

Producer: David Coverdale, Doug Aldrich and Michael McIntyre

Always a favorite of mine since the mid-90s, it wasn’t until the last two or three years or so that Whitesnake came to rise to the near top of my list of favorite bands. Of course, KISS is forever and always #1 in my book but David & Co. would be a strong contenders for my Top 3 and definitely make my Top 5. Being a HUGE fan of their last album, Good To Be Bad, I was more than ready for Forevermore to be released.

As often happens in this band, the line-up has changed a bit. Drummer Chris Frazier and bassist Uriah Duffy left the band in 2010 and were replaced Brian Tichy and Michael Devin respectively. Keyboardist Timothy Drury, who had been in the band since Coverdale brought back the Whitesnake name in 2002 also left in 2010 but was around to record the album. In the line notes, he is only credited as a “special guest” and has since been replaced by Brian Ruedy on stage. Though I would love to see Tommy Aldridge come back in on drums (he was a member from ’87-’91 and then ’02-’07), I’m basically happy as long as Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach are on guitars. I think the band has a much beefier guitar sound now with Aldrich and Beach yet they still are able to stay true to the band’s blues-rooted sounds and play the classic ‘snake songs wells.

The Coverdale/Aldrich partnership has proved very fruitful and is definitely one of the best partnerships David has ever had in this band. David has always kept great guitarists in Whitesnake but Aldrich’s time in the band has that something special to it and he has risen to become not only a songwriting partner with Coverdale but also co-producer of this album. I’m sure the day will come when Aldrich moves on to another project, I just hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon.

A bit of info about this particular version: UK’s Classic Rock magazine was offering a “Fan Pack”, also referred to as the “Snake Pack”, which included the album (featuring the alternate cover art you see above) with two bonus live tracks from the upcoming Live at Donington 1990 album, a poster of the band, a Whitesnake “Official Collector’s Pin Badge” and the coup de grace — a special Whitesnake edition of Classic Rock magazine. CR has done similar packages in the past for the release of Slash’s solo disc and Motorhead’s The World Is Yours. I should point out that the various retail editions of this album are available from Frontiers Records.

I haven’t read the magazine yet but I’m pretty anxious to. My favorite magazine putting the spotlight on one of my favorite bands, how could it go wrong? I also want to point out how cool the packaging of the album is. This version of the CD comes in a hardcover case that’s larger than your standard jewel case. Although most of the pages are full of “thanks”, there’s a cool shot of the band and the lyrics to “Forevermore” are included. All in all, it’s a classy package and it’s great to see Whitesnake get this type of treatment.

So what about the music?!? Well, if you’re a fan of Good To Be Bad, then you already like this album. David & Co. continue what they started there– bringing all eras of the band together into one powerful album. If anything, this album brings it back even more to the early Whitesnake days. Tons of the songs sound like pre-pop metal WS… but on steroids. “Steal Your Heart Away”, “I Need You (Shine A Light)”, “Love & Treat Me Right”, “Whipping Boy Blues” and “My Evil Ways” should put a smile on any fan that’s been listening since the early days.

“Love Will Set You Free”, “All Out Of Luck” and “Tell Me How” are perfect modern Whitesnake and would’ve been right at home on Good To Be Bad. “Dogs In The Street” sounds like a Slip of the Tongue-era rocker, it’s kinda generic but not bad. Probably my least favorite song on the album though. Also bringing to mind Slip of the Tongue is the ballad “Easier Said Than Done”. “One Of These Days” and “Fare Thee Well” are great acoustic driven ballads that sound like something off Restless Heart. “One Of These Days” especially has a great 1970s classic rock/country feel to it, reminding me of the Eagles. Then there’s the epic closer “Forevermore”. It has that Led Zeppelin vibe to it the band had during the late ’80s and probably wouldn’t be out of place on their 1987 album.

I really can’t recommend this album enough. I knew it was going to be very good but it has exceeded even my own expectations (which is probably why this review has been so long-winded). I LOVED Good To Be Bad but Forevermore is even better and Coverdale sounds as good as ever!

Highlights: “Steal Your Heart Away”, “Love Will Set You Free”, “Tell Me How”, “I Need You (Shine A Light)”, “One Of These Days”, “Love & Treat Me Right”, “Fare Thee Well, “Forevermore”

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Buy Forevermore (CD/DVD) (DIGIPACK) at Amazon.com

Whitesnake – Live: In the Shadow of the Blues

Whitesnake – Live: In the Shadow of the Blues (2008, Icarus Music – Argentina Import)
Original Release: 2006, SPV Records/Steamhammer Records

Disc One
1. “Bad Boys” … 6:22
2. “Slide It In” … 5:11
3. “Slow An’ Easy” … 6:54
4. “Love Ain’t No Stranger” … 4:31
5. “Judgement Day” … 5:34
6. “Is This Love” … 4:58
7. “Blues for Mylene ’06” … 3:31
8. “Snake Dance ’06” … 2:03
9. “Crying in the Rain” … 5:46
10. “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” … 8:44
11. “Fool for Your Loving” … 4:51
12. “Here I Go Again” … 5:53
13. “Still of the Night” … 8:38

Disc Two
1. “Burn – Stormbringer” … 8:38
2. “Give Me All Your Love” … 4:27
3. “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” … 5:10
4. “The Deeper the Love” … 4:31
5. “Ready an’ Willing” … 5:41
6. “Don’t Break My Heart Again” … 6:08
7. “Take Me with You” … 7:50
8. “Ready to Rock” … 4:19
9. “If You Want Me” … 4:08
10. “All I Want Is You” … 4:12
11. “Dog” … 3:27

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
Doug Aldrich – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Reb Beach – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Uriah Duffy – Bass, Backing Vocals
Tommy Aldridge – Drums
Timothy Drury – Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Producer: David Coverdale, Dough Aldrich, Michael McIntyre

Having heard this album shortly after its release, I’ve wanted this album just as long but it seems like this was one of those albums that must’ve had a small pressing because it quickly shot up in price around the internet. Thankfully it was reissued (though I didn’t realize I was buying a reissue at the time) so the price was about $7 or $8 when I finally bought it online.

Though I’ve claimed to be a Whitesnake fan for years, this album along with Good to Be Bad really cemented my status as a fan and quickly catapulted Whitesnake near the top of my favorites list. Since Coverdale reformed the band in 2002, he’s kept amazingly talented musicians in the band and this particular line-up is probably one of the most impressive and powerful versions of the band ever as evidenced on this album. I can even vouch for them in concert because I was lucky enough to see them on the Good to Be Bad Tour (though the awesome Tommy Aldridge was no longer on drums). They have such a powerful, meaty, energetic sound. The Coverdale/Aldrich pairing has really produced some great things and I think this band has rejuvenated David Coverdale.

The only bad thing I can say about a performance here is sometimes Coverdale is straining, not often, but it happens. Which is odd because I don’t remember him sounding like this at all in concert, he sounded phenomenal then. Still, even when not 100% on his game, Coverdale is a better singer than most.

I’m not sure exactly when or where this album was recorded. They album gives credits to the 2005 and 2006 touring production team so I’m guessing these songs were culled from various performances though you can’t tell. If this was meant to give the illusion of being one show (or if it was truly was), the sequencing is weird. Disc One plays like an entire show from beginning to end while Disc Two’s live tracks seem kind of random and surely they wouldn’t end a show with “Take Me With You”! I guess they wanted to fit all the major Whitesnake songs onto the first disc.

Now, as if you can’t guess by now, the live portion of this album is fantastic but here’s the real reason I bought this album: for the four brand new studio songs that showed off this powerful new line-up. “Ready to Rock”, “If You Want Me” and “Dog” are welcome entries into the Whitesnake catalog. Much like the entire Good to Be Bad album, they are an updated take on the old Whitesnake song. Amazing songs. The only one that falls kinda short is “All I Want Is You” which is a ballad that tries to replicate “Is This Love”.

Great live album with some great new studio songs… Definitely an essential Whitesnake album!

Highlights: “Slide It In”, “Slow & Easy”, “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Blues for Mylene ’06”, “Crying in the Rain”, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, “Still of the Night”, “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues”, “Ready to Rock”, “If You Want Me”, “Dog”

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