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Queensryche – Frequency Unknown [Review]

queensryche-frequency-410

Queensryche – Frequency Unknown
2013, Cleopatra Records/Deadline Music

1. “Cold”
2. “Dare”
3. “Give It to You”
4. “Slave”
5. “In the Hands of God”
6. “Running Backwards”
7. “Life Without You”
8. “Everything”
9. “Fallen”
10. “The Weight of the World”
11. “I Don’t Believe in Love”
12. “Empire”
13. “Jet City Woman”
14. “Silent Lucidity”

Band:
Geoff Tate – Lead Vocals
Kelly Gray – Guitar (solo on Track 1)
Robert Sarzo – Guitar (solo on Track 3)
Rudy Sarzo – Bass (Tracks 1, 5, and 9)
Simon Wright – Drums (Tracks 1 and 5)
Randy Gane – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5–6, and 8–10), Bass (Track 10)

Additional Musicians:
Craig Locicero – Guitar (Tracks 1–10)
Jason Slater – Bass (Tracks 2–4, and 6–8), Keyboards (Tracks 7–8)
Martín Irigoyen – Guitar, Bass, Drums (Tracks 11–14)
Paul Bostaph – Drums (Tracks 6–9)
Evan Bautista – Drums (Tracks 2–4, and 10)
Jason Slater – Theremin (solo on Track 2)
Chris Cannella – Guitar (solo on Track 4)
Ty Tabor – Guitar (solo on Tracks 5 and 8)
K.K. Downing – Guitar (solo on Track 6)
Brad Gillis – Guitar (solo on Track 7)
Dave Meniketti – Guitar (solo on Track 9)
Chris Poland – Guitar (solo on Track 10)

Producer: Jason Slater

Even though I’ve always considered the band to be one of the more bland and boring rock/metal outfits out there, the story of Queensryche has become quite interesting over the last year. I’m certain more people are discussing Queensryche now more than they have in probably 10, 15 or 20 years. I know I am. If you want a good overview of what’s been happening and why there are two groups claiming to be Queensryche, check out this excellent article (which has been spotlighted and given the stamp of approval by the La Torre version of the band).

Well, as the world continues to wait for the Todd La Torre version of Queensryche to release their album, the Geoff Tate line-up has released their own album. Geoff Tate is probably one of the least popular guys in the world of rock & metal right now, so it’s no surprise the bashing started as soon as sound clips were released. But rightfully so. The production was pretty bad on the preview clips that were released. Some of those issues seem to have been corrected now that the album has been released but Cleopatra Records is now offering to send an even more recently remixed copy of the album to anyone to can provide them with proof of purchase of Frequency Unknown. They made this announcement just weeks after the album hit the shelves. It’s a head-scratcher. Why the label didn’t just wait and release a properly remixed album, I don’t know.

And just take a look at the limited involvement of the “band” and the long list of additional musicians. It’s a guitar solo-bonanza! They might as well be called “Geoff Tate’s Queensryche” or maybe “The Geoff Tate Group”, “Geoff Tate & Friends” or “Just Geoff”. There’s really no “band” here at all. The making of this album looks like a revolving door of musicians. Heck, this version of the band has already lost Glen Drover and Bobby Blotzer (they only participated in live shows before splitting)!

Okay, enough nitpicking. It’s the music that matters, right? Well, despite never really having any preference towards anything Queensryche and despite the fact that I agree Tate comes off like an arrogant jerk, this album is actually decent. I know Dedicated to Chaos tried to go some weird rock/pop/dance/whatever route and the band was properly trashed for doing so but Tate doesn’t go that route with the not-so-subtly titled Frequency Unknown (come on, it’s FU with a big fist coming at you on the cover… a message to Tate-haters and former band mates I’m sure). No, Frequency Unknown is a hard rock album with a modern sound. I’m okay with that. I think no matter what, Tate was going to lose. He’s getting bashed for sounding modern but if he tried to make an album with the classic Queensryche sound he would’ve gotten bashed for that as well. The closest he comes to his days of old is with “In the Hands of God” and “The Weight of the World”, I think.

“Cold” is a great modern sounding hard rock song. When it first became available, I wanted to be able to laugh at how bad it was and then continue on with my day, but it’s become one of my favorite songs of the year. I can’t stop playing it. Other songs like “Life Without You” and “Everything” remain highlights for me.

The only thing that truly weighs the album down are the four re-recording of a few Queensryche classics that are tacked on at the end. Tate has pointblank said he re-recorded them for the money because the label wanted these songs for licensing purposes. It’s only Tate and Martin Irigoyen on these songs. The sore spot here is Geoff’s voice. He sounds fine on the FU material, never going out of his weakening range but he just can’t hit the notes on these older songs. The music sounds fine to my casual Queensryche listening ears but I’ve read other reviews of die-hards picking apart Irigoyen’s musicianship. The production definitely lacking on these four songs.

Overall, Frequency Unknown had the recipe for a true disaster but Tate and his army of musicians pulled through and delivered a solid modern hard rock album. Just don’t expect much from the re-recordings.

Highlights: “Cold”, “Give It to You”, “In the Hands of God”, “Life Without You”, “Everything”, “The Weight of the World”

http://www.queensryche.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Queensryche

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Dee Snider – Dee Does Broadway [Review]

Dee Snider – Dee Does Broadway
(2012, Razor & Tie)

1. “Cabaret”
2. “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”
3. “Big Spender”
4. “Mack the Knife”
5. “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”
6. “Music of the Night”
7. “The Joint Is Jumpin'”
8. “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”
9. “I Get a Kick Out of You”
10. “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame”
11. “Razzle Dazzle”
12. “Tonight/Somewhere”

Musicians:
Dee Snider – Vocals
Bob Kulick – Guitar
Rudy Sarzo – Bass
Brett Chassen – Drums, Backing Vocals
Doug Katsaros – Keyboard, Piano, Backing Bocals
Clay Aiken – Vocals (“Luck Be A Lady Tonight”)
Cyndi Lauper – Vocals (“Big Spender”)
Bebe Neuwirth – Vocals (“Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”)
Patti Lupone – Vocals (“Tonight/Somewhere”)
Jesse Blaze Snider – Vocals (“The Joint Is Jumpin'”)

Producer: Dee Snider, Bob Kulick & Brett Chassen

So the lead singer of Twisted Sister and writer/director of the horror movie Strangeland wants to do a rocked-out Broadway album? It actually doesn’t sound so out of place. Dee takes chances (A Twisted Christmas and the Halloween of equivalent of Trans-Siberian Orchestra– Van Helsing’s Curse) and it seems to work more often than not and Dee Does Broadway works. I could also see Alice Cooper doing something like that and making it work as well.

After all, Dee has always had a flair for the theatrics. That’s exactly what Twisted Sister was built upon. And it’s not like these Broadway numbers are played straight. They are given a heavy metal makeover and it all works incredibly well. “Whatever Lola Wants” sounds downright sinister with a heavy metal sheen added to it.

Snider’s voice still holds up too and he’s not doing some cheap lounge lizard act here. Definitely one of the best rock/metal vocalists of all-time. Much like Kevin DuBrow, I’ve always felt his voice was bigger & better than the band he’s famous for.

Dee’s duet with Cyndi Lauper on “Big Spender” is my favorite track here but there’s plenty of other worthy tracks. One of the most pleasantly surprising tracks of Dee’s duet with Clay Aiken on “Luck Be A Lady Tonight”. You figure if any song is gonna play it safe and traditional, it’ll be the Clay Aiken song. And it starts out that way. Then it turns into a blistering heavy metal track with Dee Snider sounding absolutely venomous and sharing some heavy metal screaming with Clay (who actually does a decent job!).

Dee Does Broadway is a really fun album that finds a middle ground between metal and musicals. Worth seeking out if that sounds like your type of thing.

Highlights: “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, “Big Spender”, “Mack the Knife”, “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”, “Luck Be A Lady Tonight”, “Tonight/Somewhere”

www.deesnider.com/
www.facebook.com/facedeesnider
Buy the album on Amazon.com

Whitesnake – Live At Donington 1990

Whitesnake – Live At Donington 1990 (2011, Frontiers Records)

Disc 1:
1. Slip Of The Tongue … 6:52
2. Slide It In … 5:03
3. Judgement Day … 5:56
4. Slow An’ Easy … 8:12
5. Kitten’s Got Claws … 4:58
6. Adagio For Strato … 3:08
7. Flying Dutchman Boogie … 4:02
8. Is This Love … 4:4
9. Cheap An’ Nasty … 4:31
10. Crying In The Rain … 13:28

Disc 2:
1. Fool For Your Loving … 6:02
2. For The Love Of God … 5:24
3. The Audience Is Listening … 3:02
4. Here I Go Again … 5:43
5. Bad Boys … 6:17
6. Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City … 8:26
7. Still Of The Night … 8:00

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
Steve Vai – Guitar
Adrian Vandenberg – Guitar
Rudy Sarzo – Bass
Tommy Aldridge – Drums

Hot on the heels of the excellent Forevermore is the release of live album that was recorded at the 1990 Monsters of Rock at Castle Donington (a show that included Aerosmith, Poison, the Quireboys and Thunder). At that time, Whitesnake was still touring in promotion of Slip of the TongueThere are no less than six tracks from that album played here and while that album is generally regarded as a misstep in the band’s catalog (though I think opinions have begun to mellow), the material seems to go over fairly well with this crowd.

I somewhat find it odd that Coverdale would choose to release this album right after a brand new studio album is released, especially considering he’s the only guy that appears on both albums. I also didn’t realize this show even existed and that there was any demand for it but apparently Whitesnake fans have been clamoring for an official release of this show for quite some time. That’s another thing I thought to be weird — a Slip of the Tongue-era live album? All of these guys are great musicians but that album was so polished I wasn’t sure how the band would come across live.

Sarzo, Vandenberg and Aldridge I have no problem with but Steve Vai? He’s never really seemed like a true ‘snake or a good fit to me and I’m not huge fan of his solo work so I thought maybe this concert would be a bit too flashy and technical, taking away the soul of the band. Happy to say that isn’t the case for the most part. Vai does get to show off with “For the Love of God” and “The Audience Is Listening” from his 1990 solo album Passion and Warfare and I have to say both songs stick out like a sore thumb in this set list despite the crowd’s appreciation for it. I much more prefer Vandenberg’s solo moments on “Adagio for Strato” and “Flying Dutchman Boogie”.

On the whole, this is a much more powerful sounding live performance than I was expecting. Though I never disliked the album, I’m appreciating the Slip of the Tongue songs on this disc a lot more after hearing live incarnations of them. The crowd is absolutely rabid (Whitesnake were the headliners) and they eat up an oldie like “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” (which was done surprisingly well)  just as much as they do “Slip of the Tongue” or “Crying In The Rain”. And of course I have to point out yet again Coverdale’s vocals. The guy is flat out amazing. As powerful as he STILL sounds to this day, he’s even more powerful during this show. A true rock legend and one of rock’s better vocalists of all time.

Though I don’t think this album tops the classic Live… In the Heart of the City from 1980 or Live: In the Shadow of the Blues from 2006, this album stands as a great document of how good the pop-metal era of the band could be and perhaps shows that time frame deserves much more credit than it is given. If you’re a fan of the self-titled/1987 album and Slip of the Tongue, this is well worth picking up.

Highlights: “Slip Of The Tongue”, “Judgement Day”, “Slow An’ Easy”, “Cheap An’ Nasty”, “Crying In The Rain”, “Bad Boys”, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, “Still of the Night”

http://www.whitesnake.com
http://www.facebook.com/Whitesnake.official

Buy ‘Live at Donington 1990’ at Amazon.com!

WHITESNAKE – Slip of the Tongue

Whitesnake – Slip of the Tongue (1989, Geffen Records)

1. “Slip of the Tongue” … 5:20
2. “Cheap an’ Nasty” … 3:28
3. “Fool for Your Loving” … 4:11
4. “Now You’re Gone” … 4:12
5. “Kittens Got Claws” … 5:02
6. “Wings of the Storm” … 5:01
7. “The Deeper the Love” … 4:22
8. “Judgment Day” … 5:16
9. “Slow Poke Music” … 3:59
10. “Sailing Ships” … 6:02

Band:
David Coverdale – Vocals
Steve Vai – Guitar
Adrian Vandenberg – Guitar
Rudy Sarzo – Bass
Tommy Aldridge – Drums

Producer: Mike Clink & Keith Olsen

Holy cow, what a line-up David gathered for this release! Guitar virtuoso Steve Vai (David Lee Roth),  Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot) and Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy, Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers Band). I left out guitarist Adrian Vandenberg because while he was still technically a member of the band, a wrist injury prevented him from taking part in the recording sessions (the liner notes mention this while still crediting him and Vai). Vai had replaced Vivian Campbell, who was fired in 1988 for a “negative attitude”, but I think Vivian made out okay finding a home with Def Leppard in 1992.

I’m not sure how much touring Vandenberg was able to for this album, but I was thinking Vai and Vandenberg would’ve made for an awesome guitar duo… Until while doing research for this album I read Vandenberg didn’t appreciate Steve’s flashy style, which he feels damaged this album.

I’ve wanted this one on CD for years, but kept putting it off because I know it by heart as I had the cassette for a long time. I know there’s remastered/20th Anniversary/DVD edition but why pay $20 for that when I can just get the original for $6? I don’t need any fancy fixin’s! The album isn’t that good.

But I will say this, I’m probably a bit more positive on this one than most people. It’s the culmination of the band’s pop metal years with the bluesy hard rock now totally stripped away but there’s still some good songs here. Tongue-in-cheek numbers like “Slip of the Tongue”, “Cheap An’ Nasty” and “Slow Poke Music” are classic Coverdale, in my opinion. It is really the ballads like “Now You’re Gone” and “Sailing Ships” that hike up the pop-metallic cheese level. Guilty pleasures for sure.

“Fool For Your Loving” is yet another old Whitesnake song David dusted off. The original song appeared on 1980’s Ready an’ Willing.

Not the first Whitesnake one should own, but I recommend it for anyone who is a fan of Slide It In and their 1987 self-titled release.

Highlights: “Slip of the Tongue”, “Cheap an’ Nasty”, “Fool for Your Loving”, “Now You’re Gone”, “The Deeper the Love”, “Judgment Day”

www.whitesnake.com
www.myspace.com/whitesnake

TIM RIPPER OWENS – Play My Game

Tim Ripper Owens – Play My Game (2009, SPV/Steamhammer Records)

1. “Starting Over” … 3:33
2. “Believe” … 4:35
3. “The Cover Up” … 4:30
4. “Pick Yourself Up” … 4:32
5. “It Is Me” … 2:53
6. “No Good Goodbyes” … 3:35
7. “The World Is Blind” … 4:50
8. “To Live Again” … 6:00
9. “The Light” … 4:36
10. “Play My Game” … 4:43
11. “Death Race” … 3:29
12. “The Shadows Are Alive” … 5:35

Band:
Tim “Ripper” Owens – Vocals

Additional Musicians:
Bob Kulick, Bruce Kulick, Carlos Cavazo, Chris Caffery, Doug Aldrich, Michael Wilton, Jeff Loomis, Steve Stevens – Guitar
Marco Mendoza, Billy Sheehan, Dave Ellefson, Rudy Sarzo, James Lomenzo, Tony Franklin – Bass
Simon Wright, Vinny Appice, Ray Luzier, Bobby Jarzombek – Drums

Produced by: Tim “Ripper” Owens, Bob Kulick, Brett Chassen

This is the debut solo album from ex-Judas Priest/ex-Iced Earth/current Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens and it’s a grower. On my initial casual listens, I wasn’t too impressed with it, but the more I listen to it, the more I’m liking it. It’s not an essential 2009 release, but it’s good and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Ripper.

Unfortunately, the sales on the album haven’t been too well. Not that I expected this album to get anywhere near Billboard’s top 100, but I figured it would sell a bit more than the reported 827 copies it sold in the first week of release. Ouch. Oh well, be proud, Ripper! You delivered a solid album. Hopefully, this will lead to even more down the line because I never understood why, after Priest, Ripper didn’t immediately fly solo. The closest he’s come to that is forming the band Beyond Fear, but I think just using his own name would’ve been more marketable (though apparently that’s not true anymore…).

I haven’t followed Owens’ career post-Priest, but to me, quite a number of these songs (“Starting Over” and “Believe” for example) sound like what he may have sung while keeping the seat warm for Rob Halford. “Play My Game” is my favorite track and it’s a pretty good tune to workout to.

Highlights: “Starting Over”, “Believe”, “Pick Yourself Up”, “It Is Me”, “No Good Goodbyes”, “To Live Again”, “Play My Game”

www.timripperowens.com
www.myspace.com/timripperowens

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