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Loud Lion – Die Tough [Review]

loudlion-dietough300

 Loud Lion – Die Tough
2014, MelodicRock Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Love Will Break Your Heart
2. Lion’s Den
3. Lion Eyes
4. Die Tuff
5. Loud Lion Theme Song
6. Dawn Of The Dead
7. The Hills Have Eyes
8. Sunset Slip
9. None More Fast

Band:
Bleu – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Taylor Locke – Guitar
Adam Ross – Guitar
Allison Robertson – Guitar
John Fields – Bass
Maclaine Diemer – Keyboards, Guitar
Dylan Halacy – Drums

Producer: John Fields & Bleu

Loud Lion (Or is it LoudLion? I’ve seen it spelled both ways by the band and the record label…) is a project put together by indie rock/pop musician & producer Bleu along with some help from members of the Donnas, Rooney and Bang Camaro and a few others. Their goal? To emulate Def Leppard and the “Mutt Lange sound” just as good and as better as any band before them. Loud Lion… Def Leppard… get it? Bleu has another project that plays music in a style similar to Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) called L.E.O.

The band was first put together over 7 years ago. The handful of songs out there before the release of Die Tough were available on the band’s MySpace band years ago along with some appearances on a few movie soundtracks such as The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Balls of Fury. Loud Lion even covered Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” on the Balls of Fury soundtrack.

To my knowledge, “Lion’s Den”, “Lion Eyes”, “Sunset Slip” and “None More Fast” have never been released until now. I’m not sure if they are recent songs or if they came from the same sessions years back that produced much of the rest of the album. As far as I can tell, the rest of the tracks are the very same ones that were released years ago.

I know a Loud Lion album was supposed to happen a very long time ago. Not sure what happened there because it’s been about 7 years since Loud Lion first released some music. Even now in the wake of this album’s release the band’s Facebook & Twitter pages haven’t been updated since 2011.

I still love the previously released material the best but “Lion’s Den” and “Sunset Slip” are cool tracks. As Def Leppard is sometimes more prone to sounding like a ’70s glam rock band these days (C’mon, Joe, that’s what the Down ‘N’ Outz are for!), I am always in a welcoming mood for any group that wants to emulate what Def Leppard did with Mutt Lange in the 1980s. Similar to the KISS-like 1977, many of these tracks are meant to slightly remind you of a few Def Leppard classics. There’s enough of a difference to keep things interesting and for the songs to have their own identity while still invoking those familiar vibes and warm fuzzy feelings that you might get from listening to Def Leppard’s “Rocket” or “Love Bites”.

While much of the material isn’t exactly recent, it’s still great to finally see Loud Lion get an album release. Hopefully people take notice and Bleu will give us some new Loud Lion songs in the future. This is a must have release for fans of Def Leppard. It’s the greatest album Def Leppard never recorded!

Highlights: “Love Will Break Your Heart”, “Lion’s Den”, “Die Tuff”, “Loud Lion Theme Song”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Sunset Slip”

Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red [Review]

Kelly-Clarkson-Wrapped-in-Red

Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red
2013, RCA Records
Buy the album

1. “Wrapped in Red”
2. “Underneath the Tree”
3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
4. “Run Run Rudolph”
5. “Please Come Home for Christmas (Bells Will Be Ringing)”
6. “Every Christmas”
7. “Blue Christmas”
8. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”
9. “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song)”
10. “White Christmas”
11. “My Favorite Things”
12. “4 Carats”
13. “Just for Now”
14. “Silent Night”

This will be the first time and probably only time (unless she releases another Christmas album) I’ll ever review a Kelly Clarkson album. I actually don’t mind Kelly Clarkson. She’s adorable, seems much more down to earth and girl-next-door than your normal pop star and her songs aren’t terrible and some even have a rock edge to them. I don’t own any of her albums but she’s tolerable. My only issue is she keeps dying her hair blonde! I don’t think it suits her. She’s much prettier as a brunette.

Anyway…

Five of the songs here are originals: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree” (which was released as the lead single), “Every Christmas”, “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” and “4 Carats”. They’re all pretty good songs. “Wrapped in Red” has an upbeat 1960s vibe to it. Reminds me of The Ronettes. “Underneath the Tree” is a modern holiday classic that brings to mind Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas album. “Every Christmas” seems like a modern retelling of “Baby, Please Come Home for Christmas” while “Winter’s Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” is what I call “American Eagle music”. Something that you’d hear playing at hipster stores like Old Navy or Aeropostale. “4 Carats” is a modern pop number.

The rest of the album is mostly comprised of old standards that are dusted off by Clarkson’s powerful vocals. We already know these songs are good. The question is always does the vocalist and does the arrangement do them justice? The answer is yes. Everyone else agrees too because the album was a success right out of the gate. It debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and has already been certified platinum.

With Wrapped in Red, Kelly Clarkson has turned in a classy holiday album that I’m sure I’ll revisit over the years. She is truly the only good thing to ever come out of American Idol.

Highlights: “Wrapped in Red”, “Underneath the Tree”, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Every Christmas”, “White Christmas”

http://www.kellyclarkson.com/
http://www.facebook.com/kellyclarkson

Alice Cooper – From the Inside [Review]

alice cooper_from the inside

Alice Cooper – From the Inside
1978, Warner Bros. Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “From the Inside”
2. “Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills”
3. “The Quiet Room”
4. “Nurse Rozetta”
6. “Millie and Billie”
7. “Serious”
8. “How You Gonna See Me Now”
9. “For Veronica’s Sake”
10. “Jackknife Johnny”
11. “Inmates (We’re All Crazy)”

Producer: David Foster

Though longtime producer Bob Ezrin and guitarist Steve Hunter are not involved in this album, Alice was able to retain the services of guitarist & songwriting partner Dick Wagner in addition to enlisting the aid of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and a young Steve Lukather. Frequent Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin co-wrote all lyrics with Alice. It’s no secret that this album was inspired by Alice’s time spent in the hospital while trying to become sober and that makes songs like “The Quiet Room” all the more haunting and the open and honest “How You Gonna See Me Now” all the more tender.

The previous album, Lace and Whiskey, was a bit out there for Alice, but I think From the Inside brings him a step closer to Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, at least. Still, some songs here are a sign of the times. “From the Inside” is a funky disco rock number while “How You Gonna See Me Now” is a soft rock ballad that fits right alongside “You and Me”. “Millie and Billie” is a typical late-1970s easy listening duet between Alice Cooper and a female singer.

There’s a fair number of rockers this time around though: “Nurse Rozetta” (possibly one of the sleaziest and most sexually-charged songs Alice has ever recorded), “Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills”, “Serious” and “For Veronica’s Sake”. The album ends on a mellow note with the ballad “Jackknife Johnny” and epically produced “Inmates (We’re All Crazy)”, which has a weird dreamy vibe to it that would’ve made it perfect for a musical or Lace and Whiskey.

“How You Gonna See Me Now” and “The Quiet Room” are two of my favorite Alice songs and there’s another of other enjoyable tracks here. That makes From the Inside a minor classic in my eyes.

Highlights: “From the Inside”, “The Quiet Room”, “Nurse Rozetta”, “Serious”, “How You Gonna See Me Now”

www.alicecooper.com
www.facebook.com/AliceCooper

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.

transformerssoundtrack

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

Bon Jovi – What About Now (Deluxe Edition) [Album Review]

bon-jovi-what-about-now-album-cover-1363035575

Bon Jovi – What About Now [Deluxe Edtion]
2013, Island Records

1. “Because We Can”
2. “I’m With You”
3. “What About Now”
4. “Pictures of You”
5. “Amen”
6. “That’s What the Water Made Me”
7. “What’s Left of Me”
8. “Army of One”
9. “Thick as Thieves”
10. “Beautiful World”
11. “Room at the End of the World”
12. “The Fighter”
Bonus Tracks:
13. “With These Two Hands”
14. “Into the Echo”
15. “Not Running Anymore”

Band:
Jon Bon Jovi – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Richie Sambora – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Hugh McDonald – Bass, backing Vocals
Tico Torres – Drums
David Bryan – Keyboards, Backing vocals

Producer: John Shanks, Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora

So after Greatest Hits came out in 2010 with four new tracks, I had high hopes for a new Bon Jovi studio album. Yes, I know those new tracks still represented and sounded like the “mature” and less-rocked out Bon Jovi we’ve known for the last 10 years or so, but I still liked them a lot. I guess it’s sign I’m getting older myself. Cut to the release of this album’s first single, “Because We Can”. It didn’t knock me out but I thought, “okay, this is decent”. Cut to samples of this album on Amazon.com and it sounded like such a downer and slow moving album. Granted, I was only hearing about 30 seconds of each song but my anticipating wasn’t as great anymore.

Cut to now..? I’m LOVING What About Now. It took about 3 spins before it all started to click with me. Again, this album is really no different than Have A Nice Day, Lost Highway or The Circle. It’s all within that same realm of “hey, look at us, we write thoughtful songs with social commentary and have no interest in playing hard rock anymore, so take us seriously”. But the difference here is that Bon Jovi’s need to be on the level with U2, Coldplay and (still) Bruce Springsteen is actually working for me this time.

The band is still writing anthems that the older and presumably more mature Bon Jovi demographic can enjoy (“Because We Can”, “What About Now”, “Army of One”) while still catering to the fans they gained with surprising success of the country/acoustic-tinged Lost Highway (“What’s Left of Me”, “The Fighter”). There’s also a number of mellow moments and ballads on the album. Perhaps too many but it doesn’t change the quality of the songs themselves. “Because We Can” is probably the most upbeat song on the album and I find myself wishing there were more bombastic moments like that. It’s a great way to open the album but the energy is downhill after that.

Despite the shift in style & attitude over the last decade, Bon Jovi has always offered up at least one classic sounding Bon Jovi ballad per album. I think “Thick As Thieves” is supposed to that one song on this release and while it’s a good song, it seems to fall short just a bit of what I think they were aiming for (perhaps they should’ve enlisted the aid of Desmond Child for that one).

Speaking of songwriting credits, Richie Sambora only has four credits on the standard version of the album. I won’t get too much up in arms about it because I do like the album but I think it’s a bit sad that Jon has relegated Richie (and everyone else in the band) to the status of basically being employees instead of band-mates. In this day and age, you play and write what Jon tells you to, I guess.

The bonus tracks are really good on this deluxe edition. “With These Two Hands” is another inspirational anthem, “Into the Echo” puts the band back into their thoughtful mood and “Not Running Anymore” is a somber Jon Bon Jovi song that he wrote and played solo for the movie Stand Up Guys that’s sure to please Lost Highway/Blaze of Glory fans.

While the band’s shift from hard rock & pop-metal to an adult contemporary act has been painful, with What About Now I think they’ve made the transformation a success. Is this a classic album or even what I want to hear from Bon Jovi? No, but it’s still a very good release and easily the best thing they’ve done since 2002’s Bounce.

Highlights: “Because We Can”, “I’m With You”, “Pictures of You”, “Amen”, “What About Now”, “Thick As Thieves”, “The Fighter”, “Into the Echo”, “Not Running Anymore”

http://www.bonjovi.com/
http://www.facebook.com/BonJovi

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby [Review]

Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby (Deluxe Edition)
2012, Verve Music Group

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
3. Winter Wonderland
4. White Christmas
5. Merry Christmas, Baby
6. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
7. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
8. Blue Christmas
9. Red-Suited Super Man
10. When You Wish Upon A Star
11. We Three Kings
12. Silent Night
13. Auld Lang Syne
Bonus Tracks
14. What Child Is This
15. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
16. Silver Bells

Producer: David Foster & Rod Stewart

For the past decade Rod Stewart has been content to become a crooner covering the “great American songbook” as well as Motown and rock ‘n’ roll staples. Despite having said in the past that he would never do a Christmas album, it was really only a matter of time before he did just that. Rod isn’t a rock star or a pop star anymore. He’s a crooner in the tradition of Crosby, Sinatra and Martin (just as Michael Buble is). You can’t be a crooner and not do a holiday album.

Rod has not been taking any chances in the past decade when covering the materials of others. The songs are played faithfully and in their traditional big-band fashion just with Rod’s raspy vocals laid over. A few exceptions would be songs like “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” or “Winter Wonderland” where the tempo is a bit slower. It’s easy listening background music at a Christmas party. Not that I’m complaining.

These songs are classics for a reason and in my opinion they don’t need to be remixed or refashioned into flamenco, country and dance songs. Just give someone with a great voice the mic and let’em sing. That’s exactly what’s been done with Merry Christmas, Baby.

As standard, there’s a few cameos on this album. Michael Buble appears on “Winter Wonderland”, Cee-Lo Green lends a hand on “Merry Christmas, Baby” and Mary J. Blige duets with Rod on “We Three Kings”.

While I can’t say I’ve ever really followed Rod’s career, he’s always had a great distinctive voice so it’s wonderful to hear to him put his vocal stamp on these timeless classics. There’s a couple of songs I didn’t really care for though. “Red-Suited Superman” being one and I felt the inclusion of “When You Wish Upon a Star” was out of place. Why not just save that for the next volume of his Great American Songbook series? That’s not really a Christmas song at all.

In any event, this is a good easy-listening Christmas album that’s well worth picking up for Chrirstmas traditionalists.

Highlights: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, “White Christmas”, “Silent Night”, “Auld Lang Syne”, “What Child Is This”

www.rodstewart.com
www.facebook.com/rodstewart

Buy the album at Amazon.com

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas [Review]

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas
2012, Universal Music Enterprises

1. Baby It’s Cold Outside
2. Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
3. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
4. This Christmas
5. Silent Night
6. The Christmas Waltz
7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
8. Winter Wonderland
9. White Christmas
10. I Think You Might Like It
11. The Christmas Song
12. Deck the Halls
13. Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here

Okay, this project sounded too campy to pass up. I mean, just look at that album cover! It’s a complete sugar overload of Christmas cookies and they embrace it. The pull is that you’re getting to hear John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John sing together 34 years after they first teamed in the movie Grease. And they’ve chosen to reunite over an album’s worth of classic Christmas songs. Somehow, it seems right.

I wasn’t sure what exactly was going to be going on with this album. Would the songs be played traditionally or would they shake things up? Well, it’s a bit of both. For example, for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” the male & female roles are reversed. Nice twist. “Silent Night” starts off with a flute and features some nice violin work as well.

There is only one song on the entire album that I am not a fan of and that’s only because I’ve never been a fan of this song: “This Christmas”. I just don’t like that song, no matter which artist is playing it. There is one original song here: “I Think You Might Like It”. It’s Christmas meets Grease. I think I might like it. It’s a true guilty pleasure.

There’s a few guest spots as well: Barbara Streisand (“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”), James Taylor (“Deck The Halls”), Kenny G (“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”), Cliff Richard (“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”) and Tony Bennett (“Winter Wonderland”).

I’m a fool for Christmas standards and as long as you don’t stray too far away from the traditional versions, I’m going to like what I’m hearing. Olivia’s voice is just as good as ever and John does a good job as well. They both really seem to be enjoying themselves on this project.

If you ever wanted to hear Danny & Sandy singing Christmas tunes, pick this album up. It’s a fun kitschy romp.

Highlights: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Silent Night”, “The Christmas Waltz”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Winter Wonderland”, “I Think You Might Like It”, “The Christmas Song”

http://www.travolta.com
http://olivianewton-john.com

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Rick Springfield – Songs for the End of the World [Review]

Rick Springfield – Songs for the End of the World
(2012, Universal Music Enterprises)

1. Wide Awake
2. Our Ship’s Sinking
3. I Hate Myself
4. You & Me
5. Gabriel
6. A Sign of Life
7. My Last Heartbeat
8. Joshua
9. Love Screws Me Up
10. I Found You
11. Depravity
12. One Way Street

Musicians:
Rick Springfield – Lead Vocals, Guitar
George Bernhardt – Guitar
Tim Pierce – Guitar
Dan Strain – Guitar
Matt Bissonette – Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Rodger Carter -Drums
George Nastos – Guitar
Richard Page – Vocals
John Waite – Vocals

Producer: Rick Springfield & Matt Bissonette

One of the biggest surprises of the year for me has been Songs for the End of the World. Sure, I know a handful of Rick Springfield’s hit and while I’ve never had a problem with them, I never felt truly compelled to seek out any of his albums. Well, I was aware this album was coming out but still wasn’t too interested in checking it out. Then I came across some extremely high praise for this album online and decided that I needed to see what the big deal was. My conclusion? This is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.

Now, I’m not someone who has followed Rick Springfield throughout his career so perhaps his fanbase already knew what to expect from Rick but for anyone who remembers him for “Jessie’s Girl’ and being an ’80s heartthrob on a soap opera, there is nothing retro or ’80s about this album. Springfield has crafted a near perfect masterpiece of modern rock/pop with Songs for the End of the World. If this album had been released by an artist half (or a third) his age, we’d probably have some big radio hits to talk about here. Sadly, that’s not how the music business works these days but at 63 years old, Rick’s voice is fantastic, the lyrics are excellent, the production is amazingly well done and the songs themselves dig their way into your brain and decide to make themselves at home.

If Rick’s back catalog is even half as good as this album, I’ve really really been missing out. I’ve seen a number of critics online stating this is easily his best album since returning to recording music in 1999 and some sites are even going as far to say it’s one of his best albums PERIOD.

The first four tracks are outstanding: “Wide Awake” is a great opener, “Our Ship’s Sinking” and “I Hate Myself” are fantastic anthems that should go over HUGE with a live crowd and “You & Me” is the type of pop/rock ballad that should be all over radio.

“My Last Heartbeat”, “Depravity”, “I Found You” all have a very modern, dark heavier edge to them. “I Found You” especially. A band of twenty-somethings should wish they could write this good. “Love Screws Me Up” is yet another classic anthem that is sure to go down great in a live setting.

“One Way Street” and “A Sign of Life” are good songs but they are the only songs that song a bit less modern but not in a “oh, that sounds like an ’80s song” kind of way. Maybe “timeless” is the correct word? The only two tracks that fall flat with me are the ballads “Joshua” and “Gabriel”. I just can’t get into ’em.

If you’re a fan of melodic rock, you really have to pick this album up. I’m converted based off this album alone.

Highlights: “Wide Awake”, “Our Ship’s Sinking”, “I Hate Myself”, “You & Me”, “My Last Heartbeat”, “Love Screws Me Up”, “I Found You”, “Depravity”

http://www.rickspringfield.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Official.Rick.Springfield

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Jack Blades – Rock ‘N Roll Ride (Album Review)

Jack Blades – Rock ‘N Roll Ride
(2012, Frontiers Records)

1. Back In The Game … 4:21
2. Rock ‘N Roll Ride … 4:18
3. Hardest Word To Say … 4:37
4. Anything For You … 4:06
5. Love Life … 4:28
6. West Hollywood … 4:11
7. Born For This … 4:32
8. Don’t Give Up … 3:08
9. Say You Will … 4:26
10. Rise And Shine … 3:43
11. Hey Now … 4:39

Musicians:
Jack Blades – Lead/Backing Vocals, Bass, Guitar
Joel Hoekstra – Guitar
Will Evankovich – Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Backing Vocals
Kelly Keagy – Drums
Brian Tichy – Drums
Eric Levy – Keyboards
Christian Matthew Cullen – Keyboards

After enjoying Night Ranger’s Somewhere In California so much, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I would enjoy Jack Blades’ latest solo effort Rock ‘N Roll Ride. I wasn’t wrong and Jack didn’t let me down! The album rocks a bit harder than Night Ranger, isn’t quite as polished or keyboard-heavy as Night Ranger can but Rock ‘N Roll Ride still fits under the same melodic hard rock category.

Much like Somewhere In California, this is great album to listen to during the summer. The whole album brings to mind to the beach, blue skies, bright sun shining down, road trips, friends and pure fun. “Love Life” and “Born For This” say it all. Great positive inspirational anthems that are perfect to enjoy under the warm sun.

“West Hollywood” is a song that I almost swore was a cover, it sounded so familiar, until I read in the press kit that it was inspired by The Beatles and was co-written with Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. There’s that same vibe familiarity with “Don’t Give Up”. That tune reminds me of Tom Petty. “Anything For You” also reminds me of The Beatles.

The ballad “Hardest Word To Say” is another fave but it sounds like something you’d hear on country radio these days (since country has basically become rock/pop). I can imagine Rascal Flatts doing this song. Maybe Jack should pursue a solo career as a country music artist? I’m serious, I would push that to country radio and see what happens. Back to the high energy stuff, “Back In The Game” and “Rock ‘N Roll Ride” are the hardest rocking numbers of the bunch and a good way to kick off the album. “Say You Will” is another fired up rocker.

Blades has developed a reputation as a great songwriter in the industry. He’s written and collaborated successfully with many artists and I’m glad he’s taken the time to develop songs for himself this time. Rock ‘N Roll Ride should be picked up by Night Ranger fans (after all, four-fifths of the band play on the album!) and any fan of melodic hard rock. Fun, uplifting rock album.

Highlights: “Rock ‘N Roll Ride”, “Hard Word To Say”, “Love Life”, “Born For This”, “Don’t Give Up”, “Say You Will”

http://www.jackblades.net/
http://www.facebook.com/JackBlades

Buy the album at Amazon.com

My Darkest Days – Sick And Twisted Affair (Album Review)

My Darkest Days – Sick And Twisted Affair
(2012,  Mercury Records)

1. Sick And Twisted Affair … 3:41
2. Save Yourself … 3:43
3. Casual Sex … 3:16
4. Stutter … 2:45
5. Nature Of The Beast … 3:03
6. Perfect … 3:51
7. Again … 3:38
8. Gone … 3:33
9. Love Crime … 2:59

Band:
Matt Walst – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Sal Costa – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brendan McMillan – Bass
Doug Oliver – Drums, Percussion
Reid Henry – Keyboard, Backing Vocals

Additional Musicians:
John 5 – Guitar (“Casual Sex”)
Barry Stock – Guitar (“Again”)

Producer: Joey Moi

Well, when something is working, why change it? Just like My Darkest Days’ self-titled debutSick And Twisted Affair has he same producer (sans Chad Kroeger), guest musicians and dirty catchy club-worthy hard rock numbers that deal with sex.

There is a deluxe edition that features extra tracks a few alternate mixes and the same cover art but colored differently (I prefer the deluxe edition’s color scheme). I haven’t heard the deluxe edition but I’m really loving the fact that there’s only 9 songs on the regular edition. Always leave ’em wanting more, never overstay your welcome. Helps to cut down on filler too.

Speaking of filler, the only track I would consider to be just that is the band’s cover of Joe & Mystikal’s “Stutter”. I loved their take on Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” on the last album but this one doesn’t work, IMO.

So getting to what does work, let’s start off with the lead single “Casual Sex”. Definitely the follow up to “Porn Star Dancing” and meant to appeal to the club scene but that’s okay because it rocks at the same time (and just like “Porn Star Dancing” there are pop and rock mixes available). With that song and others, I’m noticing keyboards being used a lot more. There’s very much a synth sound found on Sick And Twisted Affair”, “Love Crime” and “Again” where the band comes across like a sexier version of Orgy (not that orgies can’t be sexy).

More in the typical modern hard rock style there is “Nature of the Beast” which I would place as the weakest original track on the album.

It’s really hard to pick the best tracks because I find myself repeating each song 2 or 3 times. On this day alone I think I’ve listened to this album 6 or 7 times total. Virtually every song will stick in your head and take up space. There’s so much single potential here. “Love Crime”, “Again”, “Save Yourself” and “Gone” are ready for rock & pop stations. “Save Yourself” and “Gone” are the two ballads on the album, great songs and I can definitely see them blowing up big on the pop stations.

As with the debut, this album is going to be one of my favorite of the year. Great collection of hard rock that has broad appeal. If you were a fan of My Darkest Days’ first album, you’re going to be a fan of this one as well.

Highlights: “Sick And Twisted Affair”, “Save Yourself”, “Casual Sex”, “Perfect”, “Again”, “Gone”, “Love Crime”

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Buy the regular edition at Amazon.com Buy the deluxe edition at Amazon.com

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