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Trixter – New Audio Machine (Album Review)

Trixter – New Audio Machine
(2012, Frontiers Records)

1. Drag Me Down … 4:08
2. Get On It … 3:45
3. Dirty Love … 3:41
4. Machine … 3:35
5. Live For The Day … 3:38
6. Ride … 3:48
7. Physical Attraction … 3:52
8. Tattoos & Misery … 3:33
9. The Coolest Thing … 3:37
10. Save Your Soul … 4:03
11. Walk With A Stranger … 4:33

Band:
Peter Loran – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Steve Brown – Lead Guitar, Harmonica, Backing Vocals
P. J. Farley – Bass, Backing Vocals
Mark “Gus” Scott – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Producer: Trixter

Can you believe this is only Trixter’s third studio album? The last studio album they released was in 1992 and since then there’s been an album of covers, a live release and a compilation. Of course, the shortage of Trixter material is all due to the band being inactive from 1995-2007.

New Audio Machine shows they haven’t skipped a beat and it feels like a natural follow-up to their first two albums. Call it pop/rock, pop, melodic hard rock, pop-metal… who cares! Trixter has launched a fun and infectious collection of rock songs on a world that wasn’t exactly begging for a Trixter reunion but should welcome it just the same.

I loved the 40Ft. Ringo project that Steve Brown & PJ Farley started up back in the early ’00s but that was an obvious attempt to sound current and fit in with the popular power/punk/pop bands of the day. Luckily, New Audio Machine doesn’t try to play catch up with today’s rock scene. This is honest catchy melodic hard rock with big sing-along choruses. “Live For The Days” bears a slight resemblance to 40Ft. Ringo while a few numbers are rock/pop that could make it to Top 40 stations but it all feels natural. I don’t think Trixter was looking to be trendy at all. This is an album that takes you back in time but that feels natural too. It’s just Trixter being Trixter.

Not that these guys are all bubblegum and sunshine. “Machine” sounds like Motley Crue circa Dr. Feelgood, especially at the chorus, while “Drag Me Down” is a dirty rocker that reminds me of Blue Murder. “Ride” is another heavy number that’ll put anyone in the mood to hit the road and burn rubber.

“Walking With A Stranger” is a cover of a Skid Row song. Skid Row originally recorded the song during the sessions for their 1989 debut but it didn’t make it to the album. I can see why it didn’t make the cut. It’s so poppy and upbeat it sounds out of place as a Skid Row song but perfectly fits Trixter.

Every song here is a winner. Trixter has delivered.

Highlights: “Drag Me Down”, “Machine”, “Live For The Day”, “Ride”, “Tattoos & Misery”, “The Coolest Thing”, “Save Your Soul”

http://www.trixterrocks.com
http://www.facebook.com/trixterrocks

New Audio Machine

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth (Review)

Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
(2012, Interscope Records)

1. “Tattoo” … 4:44
2. “She’s the Woman” … 2:56
3. “You and Your Blues” … 3:43
4. “China Town” … 3:14
5. “Blood and Fire” .. 4:26
6. “Bullethead” … 2:30
7. “As Is” … 4:47
8. “Honeybabysweetiedoll” … 3:46
9. “The Trouble with Never” … 3:59
10. “Outta Space” … 2:53
11. “Stay Frosty” … 4:07
12. “Big River” … 3:50
13. “Beats Workin'” … 5:02

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

Producer: John Shanks & Van Halen

Well. Here we are. One of the most anticipated releases of the year by one of the biggest rock bands ever. A Different Kind of Truth is the first new Van Halen album in 14 years and it’s the first VH album with David Lee Roth in 28 years! To say that the band was under pressure to deliver is an understatement.

In order to help deal with such pressure and high expectations, the band dug back into their vault and grabbed old demos and song ideas and hammered them out into complete songs in order to keep in line with that classic DLR-era Van Halen sound (with lyrics completely rewritten by Roth). Ironically, this has drawn criticism from many VH fans who feel cheated over the fact that the album isn’t 100% new (you’ve got DLR back… isn’t that enough?). Well, it’s no surprise that when you’re as big as Van Halen and you’ve been around for so long, you’re always going to be compared to the early and “best” years and no matter what your intentions, there’s always going to be a loud group of “fans” that will tell you how much you now suck. Personally, I think it is a bit disappointing that this legendary band couldn’t be inspired and confident enough to come up with completely new material and that they needed to look at 30 year old demos. Ultimately, as long as the finished product is good, that’s what matters most. It’s not like they are the first band to use previously abandoned material.

As for the deal with Michael Anthony… Look, it’s a shame this isn’t a full reunion. Yes, it’d be nice for him to be on the album and in the band still but are we really going to gripe & moan over backing vocals? I’m not trying to downplay his contributions but it’s not like he was the songwriter or the public face of the group. It’s lame Eddie was enough of an insecure jerk to kick him out because of Michael’s friendship with Sammy Hagar (who has already said he doesn’t like this new album, no surprise there) but it’s not like his presence is that missed, IMO. His backing vocals are great but VH’s music stands on its own with or without him.

So, to the first single: “Tattoo”. When I first heard it, I thought, okay this is somewhat typical of VH’s poppier moments but is most reminiscent of something Roth might’ve done early in his solo career. It’s a fun song that I’ve ended up liking a lot, even though at first I thought it was really just above average. It’s definitely not like anything else on the album and now I can kinda see why it was chosen as the first single because it’s not as hard, heavy or fast as the rest of the album. Definitely the song that has the best chance get onto Top Forty station.

I can definitely say that if anyone is letting “Tattoo” influence their decision on checking out the album, don’t. This is a HEAVY album. Whether Eddie is using old solos or came up with some new stuff, he’s absolutely on fire throughout this album. For years people have been saying that Eddie had lost it thanks to his years of addiction but the guy can still go and proves himself to again be in an exclusive class of guitarists. Even if the material isn’t 100% new, just the fact that he can still play it so skillfully means something.

There’s been some criticism of Diamond Dave’s voice (which is nothing new) and while it obviously isn’t the 1980s anymore, he still sounds like Dave. I don’t have any problem with the vocals at all.

And if you want to know how this new VH line-up gels, just check out “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, which may be the heaviest song these guys have ever written and has a slight modern edge that the rest of the album doesn’t have. I would love to hear more songs written in that vein.

I think Van Halen have delivered a great disc to spin during the summertime… which is how every Van Halen album should be written — with summer in mind. This is a good album to play while you’re driving down the highway with the windows rolled down, out on the beach or washing your car. No disrespect to the Hagar years (which I liked), but Van Halen is at their best when they aren’t trying to change the world or make you think. Van Halen is best at writing party rock and that’s what the album is.  “Tattoo” is pop/rock, “Blood and Fire” reminds me of Van Halen II, “Bullethead” & “Honeybabysweetiedoll” are heavy, “Stay Frosty” is the successor to “Ice Cream Man”, the opening of “As Is” is reminiscent of “Everybody Wants Some” before EVH lets loose, “Big River” has that classic hard rock Van Halen sound… Forget when it was all written and just enjoy the music! This is the Van Halen that everyone has been waiting for and I’m liking it more and more with each listen.

Highlights: “Tattoo”, “You and Your Blues”, “China Town”, “Blood and Fire”, “As Is”, “Honeybabysweetiedoll”, “Big River”

http://www.van-halen.com
http://www.facebook.com/VanHalen

Buy ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ at Amazon.com

Def Leppard – X

Def Leppard – X (2002, Island Records)

1. “Now” … 3:58
2. “Unbelievable” … 3:58
3. “You’re So Beautiful” … 3:31
4. “Everyday” … 3:08
5. “Long Long Way To Go” … 4:38
6. “Four Letter Word” … 3:07
7. “Torn to Shreds” … 2:56
8. “Love Don’t Lie” … 4:46
9. “Gravity” … 2:33
10. “Cry” … 3:17
11. “Girl Like You” … 2:49
12. “Let Me Be the One” … 3:29
13. “Scar” … 4:59

Band:
Joe Elliott – lead vocals
Rick “Sav” Savage – bass guitar, vocals
Rick Allen – drums
Vivian Campbell – guitar, vocals
Phil Collen – guitar, vocals

Producer: Pete Woodroffe & Def Leppard

It’s been a long time coming but I finally sat down and gave this album another spin. I bought it as soon as it came out and probably gave it 4 or 5 spins before deciding it was a disappointing follow-up to Euphoria. 9 years later, I’m listening to it again. I would’ve actually checked it out (again) a few years earlier but I lost my copy and finally snagged another copy a year or two ago.

Euphoria was no slouch of an album. It’s their most recent album to go gold, “Promises” was a minor radio hit, the album was hailed as a return to form by fans & critics alike after the alternative leanings of Slang and the band was all over VH1 at the time enjoying the renewed popularity that many “eighties bands” were experiencing.

So why, then, did the band go in yet another direction by turning in their poppiest, softest-rocking album to date? Well, I guess the lure of the almighty dollar was just too much. Sure, they sold 500,000 copies of the last album but what about going double platinum like Bon Jovi did?

Obviously inspired by the success of Bon Jovi’s Crush and “It’s My Life”, Def Leppard recruited some of the very same songwriters that the boys from Jersey had partnered with on that 2000 release. Names like Max Martin, Andreas Carlsson and Wayne Hector were all over the place in the late ’90s/early ’00s as they wrote hits for a number of boy bands like Backstreet Boys and pop tarts like Britney Spears. The band was obviously content to just let the “hits” come to them as not a single member had a hand in writing “Unbelievable” or “Long Long Way to Go”!

It blew my mind at the time that Def Leppard was able to recover from the cold response for Slang by handing in Euphoria (one of their best albums, IMO) and then do another turnaround with X. I actually lost a bit of respect for the band at the time because it was such an obvious cash grab and phony attempt at staying relevant.

Nine years on, my judgment isn’t as clouded and I can look back and say there are a number of good tracks on this album despite a few tracks where the band tries to play the role of a boy band. Funny thing is, the songs I ended up liking most are on the first half of the album — the half that features lots of outside co-writing credits! Tracks 6-13 were all written by the band with only producer Pete Woodroffe stepping in to co-write a few songs.

The one song I instantly loved off this album was “Now”. To me, that is a classic Def Leppard sounding song and actually does sound like something to follow-up Euphoria with. “Scar” is another very good guitar-oriented song that rocks a bit harder than the rest and sounds close to something they might’ve done in the ’80s.

The album is full of mid-tempo numbers and ballads. It’s a complete pop album but I have a lot more respect for it now. It’s not a classic but it’s not bad at all and I upgrade it to “decent” and remove it’s previous status of “bland”. Maybe I’m going soft.

Highlights: “Now”, “Unbelievable”, “You’re So Beautiful”, “Everyday”, “Love Don’t Lie”, “Cry”, “Scar”

http://www.defleppard.com
http://www.facebook.com/defleppard

Buy ‘X’ on Amazon.com! (See all Pop Music CDs)

Heart – Red Velvet Car

Heart – Red Velvet Car (2010, Sony Music/Legacy Recordings)

1. “There You Go” … 3:36
2. “WTF” … 3:26
3. “Red Velvet Car” … 2:59
4. “Queen City” … 4:16
5. “Hey You” … 4:13
6. “Wheels” … 3:06
7. “Safronia’s Mark” … 4:03
8. “Death Valley” … 3:55
9. “Sunflower” … 3:42
10. “Sand” … 4:07

Band:
Ann Wilson – Lead Vocals, Flute, Backing Vocals
Nancy Wilson – Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Mandolin, Autoharp, Dobro
Ric Markmann – Bass
Ben Smith –  Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Ben Mink – Guitar, Gypsy Fiddle, Viola, Lap Steel, Backing Vocals
Craig Bartock – Dobro

Producer: Ben Mink

Really missed the boat on this one last year when it was released. I liked “WTF” a lot but many reviews I read about this album said it was mellow and laid-back so I made it a low priority and then eventually forgot about it. Thankfully, seeing Heart perform with Def Leppard recently has reignited my interest in the band. Along with buying a few of their older albums, I also wanted to hear what Heart sounds like today and was able to pick this one up pretty cheap.

I was also under the impression that a good portion of this album featured some re-recordings, another reason I was turned off from this album. Turns out I was wrong. All but “Sand” are brand new. That song originally appeared on the Wilson sisters’ Lovemongers side-project album Whirlygig in 1997.

I gotta say Red Velvet Car stands strong as a worthy chapter in the band’s history. So many of these songs sound like classic (1970s) Heart. “WTF” is right up there as one of my favorite Heart songs and while “There You Go” is a bit too mid-tempo to kick off an album, I think, it too fits the “classic Heart” mold. So the album is a bit laid back but that’s not really unexpected from Heart. They’ve always had a folksy vibe and have never shied away from acoustic-based rock and both are apparent here. Oh, and the Zeppelin influence is still here as well. Just listen to “Wheels” and “Death Valley”.

It’s not so much that the songs are slow (well, except for “Sand”), most are mid-tempo, they just aren’t heavy. There’s no “Magic Man”, “Crazy On You”, “Straight On” or “Barracuda” but that’s okay because a good song is a good song. The Wilson sisters are accomplished singers, musicians and songwriters. They know how to write great songs whether they rock hard or not. Rolling Stone compared the mellow vibe to that of Dog & Butterfly and I have to agree. I think any fan of that album would enjoy Red Velvet Car a lot. In fact, any fan of ’70s Heart will enjoy this album.

Better late than never that I picked this one up. One of the better albums from 2010.

Highlights: “There You Go”, “WTF”, “Queen City”, “Hey You”, “Wheels”, “Death Valley”

http://www.facebook.com/heart
http://www.heart-music.com/

Buy ‘Red Velvet Car’ at Amazon.com

The Cars – Move Like This

The Cars – Move Like This (2011, Hear Music)

1. “Blue Tip”
2. “Too Late”
3. “Keep On Knocking”
4. “Soon”
5. “Sad Song”
6. “Free”
7. “Drag On Forever”
8. “Take Another Look”
9. “It’s Only”
10. “Hits Me”

Band:
Ric Ocasek – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Elliot Easton – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Greg Hawkes – Keyboards, Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals
David Robinson – Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: Jacknife Lee and The Cars

Believe it or not, I’m actually a fan of The Cars. Maybe not a HUGE fan (I don’t own Heartbeat City or Door to Door) but I like the early albums a lot. Though new wave music has some charm, it isn’t really a type of music I’ve ever listened to intently. Sure, I love the plethora of new wave hits that bombarded radio in the early ’80s like anyone else but I never cared enough to delve deeper into the scene. But yet… there’s something about The Cars that appeals to me. It’s probably the fact that while they are new wave, they aren’t strictly new wave. I think I would become very bored with them if they were only that. They combine power pop, rock, pop, hard rock and new wave into one nice package. A riff is just as likely to come from the guitar as it is from the keyboard and I honestly don’t think they receive enough accolades for just how good their music is.

I’ve also always enjoyed Ric Ocasek’s vocals and lyrics. His vocals have always had this calm, cold almost disconnected feeling to them, as if he was simply an observer. Meanwhile, the meaning of his lyrics aren’t always clear (in fact, sometimes I think it’s just gibberish so it’ll rhyme but that’s par for the course in new wave) but I’ve always enjoyed reading along as the song plays.

Well, what can be said about this album? First of all, it is it the first Cars album since 1987. The original Cars disbanded in 1988 but in 2005 a bit of an odd thing happened — The New Cars formed. Yet, it only featured Cars members Greg Hawkes & Elliot Easton and rounding out the band were Todd Rundgren and frequent Rundgren collaborators Prairie Prince and Kasim Sulton. The group toured playing a mix of Rundgren and Cars tunes but did release a live album called It’s Alive that featured a three new studio tracks but it was predominantly filled with classic Cars tunes (two Rundgren tracks also made the cut). I guess there was more money to be made cashing in on The Cars’ name than Rundgren’s.

Well, The New Cars were done by 2007 and in 2010 the original Cars were back together (sadly, original bassist Benjamin Orr passed away in 2000). I’m not familiar with the details of this reunion. A Cars reunion had been rumored since the late ’90s but Ocasek always rebuffed such gossip and a part of the reason The New Cars formed is because he had no interest in doing such a reunion. So why now? I’m not sure. Whether it’s for personal or financial fulfillment Move Like This is no lazy effort. I have to think there’s more of an artistic than monetary reason for this reunion, otherwise I’m sure they could’ve floated by on the summer touring circuit just being a nostalgia act. But to record new and release new music? That exemplifies dedication and passion in this day and age in an industry that isn’t kind to aging acts… and is barely kind to the young ones!

More about the album itself, as soon as it opens with quirky upbeat “Blue Tip”, you know you’re listening to The Cars. While it isn’t my favorite song on the album,  it definitely sounds like something that could have come from the first few albums. To me, there’s no mistaking when you hear The Cars and that’s the great thing about this whole album — it’s like a lost Cars release! Even though this album still fits under new wave, because of all the other rock/pop influences I mentioned, it still has a timeless sound to it just like the band’s early releases do. Another great thing about The Cars are the ballads and they do not disappoint on this release. “Too Late”, “Soon” and “Take Another Look” are all fantastic moments on this album with “Too Late” being my favorite song on the whole release. The rest of the album is the usual high standard of upbeat sounding (if not lyrically) numbers we’ve come to expect from this band like “Sad Song”, “Free”, “Hits Me” and the aforementioned “Blue Tip”.

Ric has crafted something really special with Move Like This. It is a more than worthy addition to the band’s catalog and if any of these songs get played in a live setting, they’ll fit in seamlessly with the rest of the band’s classics. Casual fans probably won’t even be able to tell these are new songs.

Highlights: “Blue Tip”, “Too Late”, “Soon”, “Sad Song”, “Take Another Look”, “Hits Me”

www.thecars.org
www.facebook.com/thecars

Get ‘Move Like This’ at Amazon.com!

Marvelous 3 – Hey! Album

Marvelous 3 – Hey! Album (1998, Elektra Records)

1. “You’re So Yesterday” .. 3:56
2. “Freak of the Week” … 3:20
3. “Until You See” … 4:20
4. “Write It On Your Hand” … 3:23
5. “Let Me Go” … 3:21
6. Every Monday” … 3:06
7. “Indie Queen” … 4:52
8. “#27” … 2:51
9. “Mrs. Jackson” … 3:33
10. “Over Your Head” … 3:40
11. “Vampires In Love” … 4:01
12. “Lemonade” … 6:42

Band:
Butch Walker – Vocals, Guitar
Jayce Fincher – Bass
Doug Mitchell (aka – Mitch “Slug” McLee) – Drums

Producer: Butch Walker & Jim Ebert

The second album (first major label release) from the short-lived but fantastic power pop/rock group Marvelous 3. It was the only album to produce a hit single (“Freak of the Week”). I knew nothing about this band or album or “Freak of the Week” until I picked up ReadySexGo two years later but when I backtracked and bought this album, I ended up loving it almost as much as I love ReadySexGo.

Released in October of ’98, the album was actually self-released in early ’98 but then Elektra signed the band and the album was remixed and a few songs were dropped/added. “Cold As Hell” was on the original version of the album and later found its way onto ReadySexGo.

I don’t really know what to tell you if you can’t get into this album. Marvelous 3 is one of the catchiest bands of all time. Every song is a sing-along, whether it’s bombastic anthems like “Freak of the Week” and “You’re So Yesterday” or melancholy moments like “Until You See” and “Let Me Go”. Butch is a great vocalist and great lyricist. I’ve always loved the sense of humor, wordplay, self-deprecation and teenage emotions that come through in his lyrics. Sample from “Vampires In Love”: And now you know that I suck at this/and you suck at it too/And now we’re nothing more than/vampires in love

How this band never went on to sell millions of albums I’ll never know. Butch went on to become a successful songwriter/producer but he’s gone on a totally different path as a solo act, which is a shame. Anyone that’s a fan of power pop should love this album.

Highlights: “You’re So Yesterday”, “Freak Of The Week”, “Until You See”, “Write It On Your Hand”, “Let Me Go”, “Every Monday”, “Indie Queen”

Gunfire 76 – Casualties & Tragedies

Gunfire 76 – Casualties & Tragedies (2009, Wednesday 13, LLC)

1. “Let’s Kill The Hero” … 2:51
2. “Casualties And Tragedies” … 3:31
3. “Nothing’s All I Need” … 3:18
4. “Los Angel-Less” … 4:26
5. “Rocket To Nowhere” … 3:55
6. “Something For The Suffering” … 4:24
7. “One More Reason To Hate You” … 3:52
8. “Tell You Like It Is” … 3:40
9. “What Did You Expect” … 3:47
10. “Back To The Gutter” … 3:35
11. “Get Me Through The Night”  … 5:16

Band:
Wednesday 13 – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Roman Surman – Guitar
Jamie Hoover – Bass, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Jason West – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Ziad – Saxophone (“Back To The Gutter”)

Producer: Wednesday 13

I recently came across Gunfire 76 because they were one of Amazon.com’s recommendations while I was viewing another artist’s album page. I’ve started to discover many cool bands based on their recommends! The band is one of a seemingly endless number of side projects for Wednesday 13 (what’s his main project?). I never got into Murderdolls so I wasn’t sure if this was gonna be something for me. I click on the samples, thought they were pretty cool and ordered myself a copy.

On their MySpace page, Gunfire 76 cites New York Dolls, KISS, Deadboys and The Stooges as what they sound like and all of that is true and can be said for most projects Wednesday 13 is involved with but there’s a twist this time. Instead of the trashy horror punk Wednesday usually plays this album is glam rock meets classic rock meets punk rock. Lyrically, the album is a lot different too and while some song lyrics feature some of the signature angst from Mr. 13, there’s no B-grade horror movie lyrics to be found.

The whole album is just so catchy. Listen to “Los Angel-Less”, “Something For The Suffering”, “One More Reason To Hate You”, “Back To The Gutter” (love the saxophone!) and “Get Me Through The Night” and try to get those songs out of your head. A song like “Get Me Through The Night” comes off like a great lost ’70s glam rock classic, I can hear Starz or Angel playing something like this or even Alice Cooper while “Tell You Like It Is” gives me a KISS vibe circa Rock and Roll Over.

Wednesday 13 fans probably are already aware of this album but even if you’re not a fan of his usual stuff, anyone who like ’70s rock, glam and punk will really enjoy this one. Looking back, it’s easily one of the best albums of 2009. Nothing but fun from top to bottom… Too bad I didn’t listen to it until 2011!

Highlights: “Let’s Kill The Hero”, “Los Angel-less”, “Something For The Suffering”, “One More Reason To Hate You”, “Tell You Like It Is”, “What Did You Expect”, “Get Me Through The Night”

http://www.myspace.com/gunfire76/

SLASH – Slash

Slash (2010, EMI Label Services/Dik Hayd Records)

1. “Ghost” … 3:34
2. “Crucify the Dead” … 4:04
3. “Beautiful Dangerous” … 4:35
4. “Back from Cali” … 3:35
5. “Promise” … 4:41
6. “By the Sword” … 4:50
7. “Gotten” … 5:05
8. “Doctor Alibi” … 3:07
9. “Watch This Dave” … 3:46
10. “I Hold On” … 4:10
11. “Nothing to Say” … 5:27
12. “Starlight” … 5:35
13. “Saint is a Sinner Too” … 3:28
14. “We’re All Gonna Die” … 4:30

Musicians:
Slash – Guitar
Duff McKagan – Bass (Track 9)
Lemmy Kilmister – Vocals, Bass (Track 8 )
Chris Chaney – Bass (Tracks 1-8, 10-14)
Dave Grohl – Drums (Track 9)
Josh Freese – Drums (Tracks 1-8, 10, 11, 13, 14)
Leonard Castro – Percussion (Tracks 1, 3-7, 10, 14)
Izzy Stradlin – Guitar (Track 1)
Eric Valentine – Piano, Keyboards
Ian Astbury – Vocals (Track 1)
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals (Track 2)
Fergie – Vocals (Track 3)
Myles Kennedy – Vocals (Tracks 4 & 12)
Chris Cornell – Vocals (Track 5)
Andrew Stockdale – Vocals (Track 6)
Adam Levine – Vocals (Track 7)
Kid Rock – Vocals (Track 10)
M. Shadows – Vocals (Track 11)
Rocco DeLuca – Vocals (Track 12)
Iggy Pop – Vocals (Track 13)

Producer: Eric Valentine

Well, it’s finally here: “Slash & Friends” (the original working title for this project). The few reviews I’ve read are mixed. Some “fans” were crying out that it sucked and Slash had sold-out before it was even released and now that it has been released typically those same “fans” are still saying it sucks and Slash is a sell out. Then you have Classic Rock magazine, who has claimed it’s the first great rock album of the decade. This might sound like mighty fine praise to some but given that the album was released in April 2010 the statement seems less impressive and sounds more like hyperbole to help promote an album they have a vested interest in (the album was a free UK-exclusive gift with a special Slash-themed issue of Classic Rock).

For my money ($7.99 + free shipping from BestBuy.com!), this is indeed a great album and I don’t really get the “sell out” criticisms. Why is he a sell out? Because a GIRL sings on this album? Fergie has a great voice for rock ‘n’ roll and she proves it on “Beautiful Dangerous”. If anything, I can see maybe cries of selling out coming from Maroon 5’s Adam Levine singing “Gotten”. It’s a decent song but if I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a Maroon 5 song. Not much rock to it at all other than the solo. Then again, Slash has always flirted with pop stars. He’s a guy that doesn’t like to pigeon hole himself and goes to play with whoever wherever he thinks he’ll have fun. Nothing wrong with that. He’s not a sellout, he’s just not close-minded.

For the most part, it seems like every song was written with that song’s particular singer in mind. I know Slash already had ideas for songs before enlisting the troops but I’m also sure the songs were tailored to suit the vocalists. “Ghost” sounds like The Cult, “Crucify the Dead” sounds like the best Ozzy song in the last decade at least, “Promise” sounds like something Chris Cornell would have done in Audioslave, “Nothing to Say” could have been on Avenged Sevenfold’s last album and so on and so on. In a way, this is somewhat disappointing for those that were looking forward to a bluesier guitar hero effort or for something similar to Guns N’ Roses from Slash. There is NOTHING here that brings to mind anything GNR has done. I’m okay with that but maybe some backlash stems from people wanting Slash to have delivered something more akin to the original GNR since Axl has moved the hired Guns into heavier more industrial terrain.

Slash claims this is a rock album and for the most part he’s right but songs like “Gotten” and “Saint is a Sinner Too” are pure pop that I can’t imagine Slash would be playing without the chosen vocalists. I was worried myself when I saw the guest list for this album. The participants just seem so over the place I thought it would all be a big mess. Definitely not the case and there’s a surprisingly low amount of filler with the two Myles Kennedy songs “Back from Cali” and “Starlight” being the only ones that really fall short with me. Kennedy is from the band Alter Bridge and he’s the only singer that has two songs and I’m sure it’s because he’s the singer for Slash’s touring band while promoting this album.

Everything else is decent at the very least while “Nothing to Say” featuring Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows and the album’s lead “By the Sword” featuring Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale are my favorites. “By the Sword” has a cool Led Zeppelin/Pink Floyd classic hard rock sound to it.

Despite Slash’s insistence that this is a rock album, there’s a bit of genre jumping and he dips his feet (fret?) into the pop realm but it’s only done so in order to fit the singers. Even though this is a self-titled affair, Slash really isn’t the star here. There’s some good solos on this disc but this album isn’t built around them. It’s all about the songs as a whole and Slash (and friends) has delivered a very satisfying release that is much better than anything he did the first time he went “solo” with Slash’s Snakepit.

I do have two disappointments though: Dave Grohl drums on the album but does not sing (he apparently has a thing against singing on other peoples’ albums) and the U.S. version of this album does not feature “Baby Can’t Drive” featuring Alice Cooper and The Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger. It’s a pretty cool song so what gives ?!

Highlights: “Ghost”, “Crucify the Dead”, “Beautiful Dangerous”, “By the Sword”, “Watch This Dave”, “Nothing to Say”

http://www.slashonline.com/
http://www.myspace.com/slash

Buy it at Amazon.com
Buy it at CD Universe

ROCK SUGAR – Reimaginator

Rock Sugar – Reimaginator (2009, self-released)

1. “Don’t Stop the Sandman” … 5:00
2. “We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody” … 5:44
3. “Crazy Girl” … 3:46
4. “Voices in the Jungle” … 4:32
5. “Here Comes the Fool You Wanted” … 5:36
6. “Shook Me Like a Prayer” … 4:48
7. “Straight to Rock City” … 4:11
8. “Prayin’ for a Sweet Weekend” … 4:56
9. “Heaven and Heaven” … 4:38
10. “Breakin’ the Love” … 3:27
11. “I Love Sugar on Me” … 3:31
12. “Round and Separated” … 5:37
13. “Dreaming of a Whole Lotta Breakfast” … 4:04

Band:
Jess Harnell – Lead Vocals
Chuck Duran – Guitar, Bass, Backing Vocals, Lead Vocals (“Prayin’ for a Sweet Weekend”)
Alex Track – Drums, Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Producer: Rock Sugar

I can’t remember how exactly I came across this band but I remember months ago checking out their music video for “Don’t Stop the Sandman” and falling in love with what Rock Sugar was doing. And just what are they doing? Well, there’s an intentionally silly back story given to the band (ala Steel Panther or old school Fozzy) but the real deal is that they take one, two, three (or four!) completely different songs from the ’80s and rearrange them as one. This is where the album’s title Reimaginator comes into play.

Mash ups have been growing popular for years and you can find tons of them all over YouTube but this is the first I’ve heard of a band seamlessly recording the rearranged songs themselves (as opposed to the majority of mash up creators who just do some tricky editing on their computers with the original artists’ versions).

I hate to give away any of these mash ups (though some titles may be easier to figure out than others) but to give you an idea: “Don’t Stop the Sandman” is a hybrid of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”. And guess what? It works! There are more than a few surprise rearrangements as the world of rock ‘n’ roll meets pop. “Shook Me Like a Prayer” is one of my favorite tracks and features TWO AC/DC songs plus Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”. The result is amazingly fun!

For such a variety of voices to cover, vocalist Jess Harnell does a great job. It’s not easy to convincingly play the role of the likes of Axl Rose, Bryan Adams, James Hetfield, Steve Perry and Joe Elliot. His own vocal style comes through though of course, this isn’t a tribute group after all and his own style doesn’t disappoint. The production is just wonderful as well. I often don’t comment on the production of albums just because I don’t really have trained ears to do so but sometimes it is so good you can’t help but notice and that is the case here.

Rock Sugar is a project from three of the four members of Loud & Clear. Bassist Johnny Five has joined Rock Sugar since the recording of the album so I’m not sure if Loud & Clear is on hold or what but I hope there are plans for more “new” Rock Sugar material. There’s so many other classics out there and if any one is going to re-imagine them, I want it to be Rock Sugar!

Reimaginator is one of the most fun albums I’ve heard in awhile. A true feel good album, you can’t help but sing along to these mashed up anthems. Well worth picking up.

Highlights: “Don’t Stop the Sandman”, “Here Comes the Fool You Wanted”, “Shook Me Like a Prayer”, “Straight to Rock City”, “Prayin’ for a Sweet Weekend”, “Heaven & Heaven”, “Breakin’ the Love”, “I Love Sugar On Me”

http://www.rocksugarband.com
http://www.myspace.com/rocksugar

Buy ‘Reimaginator’ at Amazon.com

DEF LEPPARD – On Through the Night

Def Leppard – On Through the Night (1980, Mercury Records)

1. “Rock Brigade” (3:09)
2. “Hello America” (3:27)
3. “Sorrow Is A Woman” (3:54)
4. “It Could Be You” (2:33)
5. “Satellite” (4:28)
6. “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” (4:44)
7. “Wasted” (3:45)
8. “Rocks Off” (3:42)
9. “It Don’t Matter” (3:21)
10. “Answer to the Master” (3:13)
11. “Overture” (7:44)

Band:
Joe Elliott – Lead Vocals
Steve Clark – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Pete Willis – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Rick Savage – Bass, Backing Vocals
Rick Allen – Drums, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Chris Hughes – Synthesizer

Produced by: Tom Allom

Wait… What is this? Is this a Def Leppard album? Is this HEAVY METAL? “Yes” to both questions!

Despite Joe Elliott’s statements that Def Leppard were NEVER “heavy metal” (Seriously, Joe, are you trying to convince the fans or yourself?), this is indeed a heavy metal album. New Wave of British Heavy Metal, to be exact. I didn’t buy this album until far into being a fan of Def Leppard. I loved the “Mutt Lange sound” so much that hearing them do heavy metal wasn’t a top priority for me.

I’ve probably owned this album for about 7 or 8 years now and while I rarely listen to it, it’s a definite NWOBHM classic. I prefer the pop metal/glam rock sound the band would later evolve to, but you can’t deny the power behind metal classics like “Rock Brigade”, “It Could Be You”, “Rocks Off” and “Wasted” (my favorite song from this album). IF the band had continued in this heavy metal direction, they would’ve been doing just fine. More than likely, they wouldn’t have been as popular, but they could’ve been a great heavy metal band nonetheless.

You can really see how far Joe has come as a vocalist. He’s got the generic NWOBHM whiny/nasally vocals down here, but it pales in comparison to what he would do later. He’s not necessarily a great singer, but I’ve always enjoyed his voice.

Nearly 30 years after this album’s release, there are still some rock fans who call out for Def Leppard to “return to their roots” and get all New Wave of British Heavy Metal on us. Well, I think it is time to STOP saying that!

It’s been DECADES since On Through the Night and High ‘n’ Dry (which was somewhat of a bridge between this album and Pyromania anyway) and they were their first two albums. Many bands evolve as they continue to tour and record. Sometimes their “roots” aren’t really afforded the opportunity to shine until the band has proven themselves as a solid and bankable act. How many bands can say they sound exactly like they did on their first release? And would that even be a good thing to say? As far as I’m concerned, the sound they put in motion with legendary producer Mutt Lange is their “roots”. That sound has more in common with the glitter & glam rock they grew up on than this album does.

Longtime Judas Priest producer Tom Allom sat in the chair for these sessions. Not surprisingly, the band has kind of turned their back on this album, even going as far to say that High ‘n’ Dry is their first “real” release.

Highlights: “Rock Brigade”, “Sorrow Is A Woman”, “It Could Be You”, “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down”, “Wasted”, “Rocks Off”

www.defleppard.com
www.myspace.com/defleppard

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