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Steelheart – Steelheart

Steelheart – Steelheart (1990, MCA Records)

1. “Love Ain’t Easy” … 3:41
2. “Can’t Stop Me Lovin’ You” … 5:06
3. “Like Never Before” … 4:45
4. “I’ll Never Let You Go” … 6:21
5 .”Everybody Loves Eileen” … 6:20
6. “Sheila” … 7:40
7. “Gimme Gimme” … 5:23
8. “Rock’N Roll (I Just Wanna)” … 4:10
9. “She’s Gone” … 6:30
10. “Down n’ Dirty” … 6:42

Michael Matijevic – Vocals
Chris Risola – Guitar
Frank DiCostanzo – Guitar
James Ward – Bass
John Fowler – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Jai Winding – Piano

Producer: Mark Opitz

I officially became a Steelheart fan with Good 2B Alive but previous to that, I had heard and liked Tangled In Reins. Two years after hearing Good 2B Alive, I finally picked up the band’s debut.

I’ve always been put off by the cover. It’s a a bit… prissy and misleading. You’d think maybe it was another female hard rock act like Vixen or something. I guess someone else thought so too because there was a reissue with a different cover released in 1991.

Getting to the music, it’s the typical early ’90s slick hair metal sound that all the labels by this time were putting out but with one exception: Michael Matijevic. This guy is easily one of the most gifted (if not *the* most gifted) singers in the subgenre but also is a powerhouse in his own right compared with some of rock & metal’s legendary singers. If Steelheart were a HEAVY METAL band, Matijevic would be a legend. No doubt about it. But because Steelheart came late to the pop-metal game and did not achieve the same success as they might’ve had if they came out earlier, Steelheart is remembered as nothing more than a second-tier (at best) hair band by most people.

The music isn’t bad at all though, in fact, it’s really good. “Love Ain’t Easy” is a great rocker, “Can’t Stop Me Lovin’ You” is probably the album’s catchiest song, “I’ll Never Let You Go” puts the POWER in power ballad and then there’s the epic ballad “She’s Gone”. Those last three songs are Michael’s best vocal performances, I think, for this album. Without Michael, this album would still be very good but with him? I think this is one of pop-metal’s all-time best albums.

Bruce Dickinson (yes, that Bruce Dickinson) is credited as the album’s executive producer. Pretty cool!

Highlights: “Love Ain’t Easy”, “Can’t Stop Me Lovin’ You”, “Like Never Before”, “I’ll Never Let You Go”, “Everybody Loves Eileen”, “She’s Gone”

The Top Ten Albums of 2008 (#6-10)

2008 has been a phenomenal year in the rock & metal world. Legends returned with a vengeance and were met with  praise and success (AC/DC, Metallica, Motley Crue) and other legends returned to be met with confusion and/or slower than expected sales (Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses). There were a few surprises, and a few disappointment as well. Today, we take a look at #6-10, tomorrow #1-5.

6. Motley Crue – Saints of Los Angeles

The Crue really upped their game with this release. After hearing the new songs from Red, White and Crue, I was excited to hear a full new albums from these guys and they delivered. The title track is a killer Crue song and stands with all of the classics in their catalog. It also debuted with respectable sales and was supported by the fun and successful Crue Fest tour.

7. SteelHeart – Good 2B Alive

Out of nowhere, SteelHeart delivers in 2008! I was blown away by how good this album was. SteelHeart’s never been a bad band, so I didn’t expect anything horrible, but who knew modern hard rock and the 80s melodic hard rock sound could be fused together so perfectly? Milijenko Matijevic’s voice is STILL one of the most powerful in rock. Shame not many people seemed to notice this album when it came out. Many tracks were worthy of radio play.

8. Judas Priest – Nostradamus

I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed by this album (though not as much as others) when it first came out. Concept albums don’t do much for me in general, but after giving the album a few closer listens, it’s really grown on me. It’s still bloated, overproduced and has way too much filler in the form of instrumentals, but underneath all of that, between those two discs, is a very good Priest album.

9. Buckcherry – Black Butterfly

Another album that took me by surprise. I’ve always been a fan of the idea and image of Buckcherry more than the music itself, but Black Butterfly has definitely proven the band’s worthiness to me. From top the bottom, the album is enjoyable and the band has begun to broaden their tastes a bit. This album seems to have failed to replicate the success of their last album, 15, which is a shame because it’s superior in nearly every way.

10. Various Artists – We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year

Seriously. Who woulda thunk an indie release full of heavy metal takes on Christmas songs would be good, let alone great? I absolutely love this album and I know I’ll be playing it for years to come. I almost feel a bit guilty for ranking it above some of the honorable mentions, but when I’m having this much fun listening to an album, I can’t worry about that!

Honorable Mentions. A couple of albums that were very good, but as whole, didn’t receive as many listens and weren’t as consistent. Not bad albums by any means, all are worth picking up, but they just lacked that extra something to warrant a Top 10 spot.

Tesla – Forever More

A solid effort, but just didn’t come close to Into the Now for me.

Journey – Revelation

This was actually another nice surprise, but as good as it was, I’m a hard rock guy at heart, not an AOR guy.

Avantasia – The Scarecrow

Avantasia started off 2008 in a great way, and it almost made the list, but I my interests wanes listening to nothing but an album full of power metal. That’s why Edguy made the list and this album didn’t.

Extreme – Saudades de Rock

Really strong record that featured one of my favorite songs of the year (“King of the Ladies”). A bit too slow at times to get into the Top 10 though.

Stop by tomorrow as I present numbers 1-5 of 2008! And be sure to check out these fine sites for even more best of ’08 lists:

All Metal Resource
Bring Back Glam
Hard Rock Hideout
Hair Metal Mansion
Heavy Metal Addiction
Heavy Metal Time Machine
Imagine Echoes
Layla’s Classic Rock
The Metal Minute
The Ripple Effect
Rock And Roll and Meandering Nonsense
Rock Of Ages

STEELHEART – Good 2B Alive

SteelHeart – Good 2B Alive (2008, SteelHeart Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Samurai” … 5:33
2. “LOL” … 4:03
3. “Buried Unkind” … 4:56
4. “Twisted Future” … 5:11
5. “Shine a Light for Me” … 6:00
6. “I Breathe” … 4:22
7. “Underground” … 4:45
8. “You Showed Me How to Love” … 6:07
9. “Good 2B Alive” … 5:53
10. “G2BA” [acoustic] … 5:24

Miljenko Matijevic – Vocals, Guitar, String Composer
Chris Risola – Guitar (did not play on album)
Bill Lonero – Guitar (did not play on album)
Rev Jones – Bass
Michael Humbert – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Uros Raskovski – Guitar
Sigve Sjursen – Bass
Edward Roth – Keyboard
Barbara Christman – Composer, Conductor
John Dirth – Trumpet
Bobby Reed – Flute, Clarinet
Joseph Edelberg, Anna Matijasic, Jenny Bifano, Alice Talbot, Karen Shinozaki, Cary Koh – Violin
Lind Ghidossi-Deluca, Don Erlich – Viola
Devon Malone, Joseph Hebert – Cello

Produced by: Miljenko Matijevic

I’ve always been aware of SteelHeart, but up until last year, outside of “Love Ain’t Easy”, I’ll Never Let You Go” and “Can’t Stop Me Lovin’ You”, I wasn’t too familiar with them. I was missing out on a lot!

I was able to track down their first two albums, SteelHeart and Tangled In Reins, and both albums are very good melodic hard rock with that late 80s sound (though they both were released in the early 90s). “Michael” Matijevic (he has since returned to his original first name of Miljenko) was one of the most powerful voices to come from the “hair” scene.

His voice is just as strong today. SteelHeart rebounded in 2006 with the excellent Just A Taste EP (featuring Tracks 2, 3, 4, plus “We All Die Young” from 1996’s Wait) and in 2008, their full-fledged studio album, Good 2B Alive shows Miljenko is back with a vengeance. Those who are maybe expecting a nostalgia release full of late 80s hard rock won’t find it here. Miljenko has worked long and hard on delivering a great modern melodic hard rock album.

I remember first hearing “LOL” on XM Radio’s Boneyard channel earlier this year and it blew me away. Why this song wasn’t all over mainstream rock radio, I don’t know. “Shine a Light for Me” and “Good 2B Alive” are definitely single worthy as well. Even my fiancee is enjoying these songs (especially “LOL”) and we have totally different tastes when it comes to rock (she’s into the newer, blander bands more than I am).

As mentioned earlier, Miljenko’s voice is still in fine form and he can hit those high notes whenever he wants, but he doesn’t spend the who album doing that.

There are two versions of “Good 2B Alive”. Track 9 is a full-on hard rock song with some orchestral arrangements and the Track 10 version (simply titled “G2BA” on my copy) is a more soulful, acoustic take featuring a choir. Both tracks are very cool, and sometimes when a band includes two versions of one song, it feels cheap and lazy, but the takes on them are so different, I appreciate the inclusion of both.

If I’m not mistaken, I believe this album was originally going to be called Samurai.

FUN FACT: This album was recorded in Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of SteelHeart Studios. I just think this is really cool seeing as how that’s just a little over an hour away from my birth city of Lynchburg. =) Hey, we’ve got Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters and now we have Miljenko Matijevic!

Highlights: All of it. Seriously, one of 2008’s best albums.

2008: The Rock Strikes Back!

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time where all the bands are gearing up for a tour or they already are on tour. It’s also the time they start rolling out the new albums.

2008 kicked off in an awesome way with Avantasia’s The Scarecrow, but let’s take a look at other hopefuls and what’s out now, what will be out soon, and what will be out later in the year.

Jon Oliva’s Pain – Global Warning
Release Date: May 6?
I’m a fan of early Savatage (before they got all progressive), so I checked out Jon’s Tage Mahal hoping for a Savatage-worthy release. I didn’t get it. BUT… The songs I’ve heard on JOP’s MySpace page for this new album are pretty good and reviews are saying THIS album *is* worthy of Savatage. There’s some conflicting reports (at least to me) as to what day it has been/will be released. I’ve seen quite a few supposed release dates for March, April, and May. Amazon & CD Universe are listing May 6 though…

Whitesnake – Good to Be Bad
Release Date: April 15
While I don’t own it yet, I have been able to listen to this album numerous times in it’s entirety and it complete rocks. It stands right beside their 1987 self-titled and Slip of the Tongue. Great, great guitar work. I can already say this is one of the year’s best releases.

Def Leppard – Songs from the Sparkle Lounge
Release Date: April 29
A lot of places (such as Rolling Stone magazine) are giving the album so-so reviews. But I’m liking what I’ve heard so far and it seems like YEAH! really inspired Def Lep to rock again.

Dokken – Lightning Strikes Again
Release Date: May 13
Admittedly, I’ve never followed Dokken closely. I own Tooth and Nail, but I always found them a bit bland. They just didn’t stick out for me amongst other bands of the era. Again, thanks to MySpace, I’m able to hear the new stuff and I’m loving it. It definitely sounds like Dokken and I’m loving the song “Heart to Stone”.

Motley Crue – Saints of Los Angeles
Release Date: June 17
Crue Fest has been announced (I have my tickets for the 7/15 Detroit show) and the Crue has released their new single “Saints of Los Angeles” and it absolutely rocks. It has that old-school Motley sound, I can’t get enough of it. I can’t wait to get this album and to see them play it live.

Judas Priest – Nostradamus
Release Date: June 17
June 17th– the best day of the year in 2008! Priest AND Crue! The newly released song gives me hope.

Release Date: September
Okay, so St. Anger was a huge dud, but the band seems to realize and admit that now. They say they’re going old-school (somewhere between ...And Justice For All and the Black Album), but don’t all the veteran bands say that to keep the old-school fans coming back? Hopefully, they can pull it off. I’ll be buying it to find out.

Alice Cooper – Along Came A Spider
Release Date: July?
Alice really hasn’t disappointed over the years. He had a few missteps in the 80s, but everything from Trashed onward has been either solid or great. I wonder if they garage sound he went back to on The Eyes of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds will continue here. It was originally scheduled for May ’08, that date was pushed back a long time ago. His official website says it’ll be released sometime in the summer to coincide with the tour that starts in July.

Steelheart – Samurai
Release Date: 2008?
The Just A Taste EP was released in 2006 and featured three tracks from Samurai plus the original version of “We All Die Young” (before it was re-recorded for Rock Star). I can’t find any release date other anymore specific than 2008. I’ve heard the songs off the EP, and they’re great. Especially “LOL (Laughing Out Loud)” very heavy, very modern. Not what I was expecting from Steelheart, but that’s okay because it still rocks.

Release Date: Fall/Winter
Again, I can’t anything definite on this release other than “2008”, but I’m assuming it’ll be released in the fall. I’m really looking forward to this. Much like YEAH! inspired Def Leppard to start rocking again, I’m hoping Honkin’ On Bobo did the same for Aerosmith. Please no more trash like Just Push Play! “Devil’s Got A New Diguise” was classic Aerosmith, so hopefully we’ll get more of the same. Although, I’m reading some rumors that the album will be a mix of new material, plus re-recordings of older stuff that didn’t make any previous albums. That’s kinda lame if it’s true, why do I want to listen to stuff that wasn’t good enough the first time around?

Heaven and Hell
Release Date: 2008
I’m really looking forward to this one. The new songs they recorded for the Black Sabbath: The Dio Years compilation were really good and I’m always game for Black Sabbath without Ozzy. No definite date set, I’m not even sure if they’re recording anything right now, but Dio says 2008 and that’s good enough for me.

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