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Metal Excess Awards 2012

Despite 2012 being a year where a number of major classic rock acts reappeared with new albums (KISS, Van Halen, Aerosmith), I was slightly disappointed with the rock scene overall. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I’ve listened to less music in 2012 than I have compared to the previous 5 years or so. Whether it’s because I’m getting too old or getting too busy, I didn’t sit down and listen to or write about as much music as I have since I started this blog a few years back. I haven’t been paying attention to the world of hard rock & heavy metal as I should have. Forgive me. Maybe I can make up for it in 2013.
Anyway, here’s my contribution to the millions of “Best of 2012” lists that are already all over the internet!
Best Albums of 2012
As I said, 2012 didn’t seem like an incredibly bright year for rock releases but that doesn’t mean I’m knocking some of the cream of the crop. Rick Springfield (of all people!) delivered a classic album that I just had to give the #1 spot based on how much I played it. My Darkest Days had yet another incredibly strong release. Other than Hess at #7, the rest of the top 10 is made up of veteran artists who know how to get the job done.
1.Rick Springfield – Songs for the End of the World
2. My Darkest Days – Sick and Twisted Affair
3. KISS – Monster
4. Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
5. Aerosmith – Songs from Another Dimension!
6. Adler – Back From The Dead
7. Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage
8. Hess – Living In Yesterday
9. Slash – Apocalyptic Love
10. Dokken – Broken Bones
11. Great White – Elation
12. Richie Sambora – Aftermath of the Lowdown
13. Jorn – Bring Heavy Rock to the Land
14. Jack Blades – Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride
15. Trixter – New Audio Machine
16. Lita Ford – Living Like a Runaway
17. Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue
18. Hinder – Welcome to the Freak Show
19. Million Dollar Reload – A Sinner’s Saint
20. The Morning After – Legacy
21. Heart – Fanatic
22. Accept – Stalingrad
23. Papa Roach – The Connection
23. Zerokings – Kings of Self Destruction
24. Primal Fear – Unbreakable
25. Fozzy – Sin and Bones

Missed Them in 2012…

These are releases from 2012 that I’ve heard some songs from but I haven’t listened to the entire album yet. I wouldn’t have felt right trying to place them on the list without having heard the complete album. Look for reviews of these albums soon.

* Danko Jones – Rock and Roll is Black and Blue
* Black Country Communion – Afterglow
* L.A. Guns – Hollywood Forever (from what I’ve heard, this probably would’ve made my Top 10)
* Jettblack – Raining Rock
* The Last Vegas – Bad Decisions
* Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi: WhoCares
* Overkill – The Electric Age
* T & N – Slave to the Empire
* Lynch Mob – Sound Mountain Session EP

Best EP/Compilation/Cover/Singles

The “everything else” category.

1. Richard Marx – Christmas Spirit
2. Dio – The Very Beast of Dio, Vol. 2
3. Rod Stewart – Merry Christmas, Baby
4. John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – This Christmas
5. TSO – Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) EP
6. Dee Snider – Dee Does Broadway
7. Buckcherry – “Gluttony” [single]
8. Motley Crue – “Sex” [single]
9. Wildstreet – “Easy Does It” [single]

Most Anticipated in 2013

Judas Priest:   Slated for sometime in 2013, this is easily the most anticipated album for me. I’m looking forward to and hoping Priest will deliver a classic sounding metal album and forget about overblown concept records. It’s just a shame KK Downing isn’t along for the ride but I think having some young blood in Priest might actually help push them to be heavier, harder and faster. The same thing happened when Scott Travis joined the band. I’d still love to see Downing come back at some point though. Why not have six members of Judas Priest?

Buckcherry – Confessions (Feb. 19): The lead single “Gluttony” has already been released and I’m really enjoying it. These guys do not disappoint.

My Darkest Days (fall): These guys have released two of my favorite albums from the last few years and are already writing for a follow up to last year’s Sick and Twisted Affair with a new studio album in the fall. I’m hoping the recent departure of guitarist Sal Costa wouldn’t delay the release.

Avenged Sevenfold: No timetable for a new album other than 2013. The band is supposedly going to begin recording this month.

Motley Crue: Another “sometime in 2013″ release. The question is — LP or EP? Vince Neil has mentioned it will be an EP and that’s more in line with what Tommy Lee has stated he’d like for the band to release from now on. Nikki Sixx has been referring to the next Crue release as an “album”, so I guess we’ll see. The single they released in the summer (“Sex”) was decent and seems to fit in with the modern rock turn Crue has taken since 2005.

Black Sabbath: Originally meant for 2012, all kinds of legal issues and drama have slowed this one down. Pretty stupid if they don’t end up pulling Bill Ward in but I’m interested just because I’m a fan of Iommi & Butler. In fact, bring back Ward and get rid of Ozzy and I’d feel even better about this reunion album. My preference is still for Iommi & Butler to form a new band with either Tony Martin (long shot), Jorn Lande, Ian Gillan or Glenn Hughes.

Megadeth: I dunno… Megadeth is one of my all-time favorite bands so I’m always interested but with each release I’m finding less and less to like. Yes, they are getting heavier and faster. Perhaps they are the heaviest and fastest they’ve ever been but Dave seems to be forsaking melody to do it. Seems like he’d rather go off on political rants and conspiracy theories than write memorable songs.

AC/DC: One of those bands that myself & radio have played out to the point where I’m kinda numb to them. But, Black Ice was far better than I ever imagined it could be so I’m definitely interested in new music. This past spring Malcolm Young said a new album would be out in a “year or two”. Here’s hoping it’ll be released in 2013.

Tom Keifer (spring) – I’m a big fan of Cinderella. People have been asking for a new Cinderella album for over 10 years now. I’m not sure why Tom would decide to a solo release instead but I’m not going to complain.

Deep Purple: Ian Gillan said they were planning a new release. Hopefully they follow through!

Anthrax: I think it was Joey Belladonna who stated in interview this past summer than they wanted to release something new in 2013.

Hardcore Superstar – C’mon Take On Me (March 1)

Black Veil Brides – Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones (January 8): I surprisingly enjoyed their last album. Looking forward to hearing whether they’ve kept the same sound or going even more glam/power metal than before.

Crashdiet – The Savage Playground (late January)

Bon Jovi – What About Now (March 26): I’m not a fan of the lead single, “Because We Can”. I actually haven’t been a fan of the last few albums either but I was optimistic because I liked all four new songs they released with the deluxe version of their latest greatest hits compilation. I can’t help but get excited when a new Bon Jovi album is coming out but I would not be surprised if this album was only good for a ballad or two.

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock by Sammy Hagar (Book Review)

Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock
By Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin
(2011, It Books)

At 238 pages, I was able to read this one over the course of a week. Let me tell you, considering how long it usually takes me to read through a book, I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I’m not one of those people that can pick up a book and knock out most of it in one sitting. It usually takes me weeks to get just one book finished.

Anyway, Red is good light reading but it has some darker moments like when Sammy talks about his abusive alcoholic dad and his wife slowly having a nervous breakddown. Other moments like when Hagar talks about the VH reunion tour back in 2003 are just plain sad because of how out of it Eddie was at the time. But it’s weird because when Sammy talks about his dad it’s almost as if he is glorifying him, yet the Van Halen brothers come across as low-lifes.

For the most part, Sammy is pretty upbeat on his view of life but obviously still has issues with Van Halen. He seems so free-spirited and easy-going about everything in life… except his old band. Sammy even makes the (oft-repeated and ridiculous) claim that Van Hagar sold more albums than the DLR era. Not even close. Why do people continue to say this? The feather in the cap of Van Hagar is that their albums always debuted at #1, not that they sold more.

The book does not revolve entirely around Van Halen. Hagar talks about his childhood, working the club circuit, Montrose, solo career, Mexico and his various business ventures. If my memory serves correctly, there’s a few chapters that didn’t make the book that were posted online at one time. One dealt with the divorce from his first wive and the other involved some more shady business dealings with VH and the new manager they had taken on at the time (that Sammy was not getting along with).

A good read overall. There’s enough Van Halen drama for those that like their biographies to dish the dirt while giving us a deeper look into the world of Sammy Hagar. Recommended.

Buy ‘Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock’ at Amazon.com

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

Looking Forward to in 2012…

2012 is shaping up to be another spectacular year for rock music. This is a year that is going to see releases from KISS, Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Black Sabbath. WHAT YEAR IS THIS ?!?

In no particular order, here’s what I’m definitely picking up in 2o12:

AcceptStalingrad (April)
Accept really blew me away with Blood of the Nations. The band has proven there is life without Udo. In fact, I think many people would prefer the current line-up over the classic Accept roster at this point.

Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue (April)
These solid modern glam-metallers are currently in the studio working on their 3rd album.

KISS – Monster (Spring)
Obviously, this is the album I’m looking forward to most. Sonic Boom was a triumphant return to the studio for these guys, now that the wheels are well-oiled, I think Monster has potential to be even better.

SunstormEmotional Fire (February)
I missed out on the last Sunstorm despite good reviews. In the past year I’ve come to appreciate AOR/melodic rock more so I think I’m going to try out this Joe Lynn Turner-fronted side project when it’s released.

Crashdiet
No date yet set by these sleaze rockers but they are supposedly in the writing process now. I’m guessing sometime in the Fall.

Black Sabbath (Fall/Winter)
Another highly anticipated album for me because I’m really curious what it’s going to sound like. I’m not a big Ozzy fan, either as a solo artist or in Sabbath. I’d much rather see Iommi w/ Geezer go on to new projects (Iommi needs to give Tony Martin another call) but I still will be pre-ordering this one. My expectations aren’t all that high though given who is singing. I feel like he and Sharon are going to bring everyone else down to his mediocre level. Still, it’s exciting to know that new Iommi riffs and solos are coming.

Aerosmith (May)
So much prima donna drama in this camp over the last 5 years or so but hopefully that’s gone long enough to give us a new album. Granted,  I don’t really expect much from these guys in terms of, well… anything anymore. They’re kind of a joke at this point but with the legendary Jack Douglas back on as producer, I have no doubts that he’ll drag something out of them that’s better than the last studio album (2001’s Just Push Play).

Van Halen (February 7)
Geez, it was starting to look like the new Chinese Democracy, wasn’t it? No album title has been released yet but a release date has been and the first single will be released on January 10. Van Halen is another band that has become a joke over the years (despite the last tour getting rave reviews) but I have a good feeling about this album. The first album with Roth since 1984 and 1984! Rumored titles have been The Future and 2012 but I don’t think either will turn out to be true. Maybe IV though..?

Judas Priest
The band hasn’t definitely said a new album is coming in 2012 but they’ve been working on new material for a while now and seem to be looking at 2012 for releasing it. It’s a different songwriting dynamic now though. Instead of Halford/Downing/Tipton, it’s just Halford/Tipton. By all accounts, new guitarist Richie Faulkner is carrying his weight in a live setting so I think the album is going to turn out quite good. I do think it’s time the band delivers a straight ahead metal album though. Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus were good but not excellent. The band really hasn’t given the world that kick-ass classic metal album that they should’ve already done since Halford has come back. They really need a PainkillerHell Bent for Leather or British Steel at this point and keep it simple.

Primal Fear – Unbreakable (late January)
I have heard this album. It’s good. Plan on reviewing it soon.

Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage (late January)
See above. It’s great to have a new album out with Tony Martin on vocals.

Buckcherry
Maybe wishful thinking on my part but they were working on new material this past summer so hopefully something new will appear by next summer.

The Last Vegas The Other Side
No date announced yet but they recently released the free digital Other Side E.P. so I’d imagine we’ll have the new album by the spring.

Slash
His first solo album was one of the best records from the last few years and this time, Myles Kennedy is singing all the songs. Everything is written, all that’s left to do is record the songs so I’m guessing spring for this one as well.

Trans-Siberian OrchestraRomanov: What Kings Must Whisper
The second non-holiday from TSO, it was actually planned to be their first album way back in 1994 but they held on it while trying to get a Broadway musical out of it first. Night Castle was dark and cool while still keeping that trademark blend of metal, rock and classical music, I expect more of the same here.

Dokken
With a deal in place with Frontiers Records for the new album, I’m expecting something special despite never being a huge Dokken fan. Lightning Strikes Again was good enough for me to be interested in a follow-up. The plan, as of this past November, was to have recording completed by February.

Stryper
This album was actually delayed from this past year in favor of recording and releasing the excellent The Covering album of cover songs. According to Michael Sweet, two albums are in the works: the first will be an album of re-recordings (Why? Can we stop this trend, please?)  followed by an album of all-new material written in the same heavy, edgy vein as “God” from The Covering.

M-Pire of Evil
M-Pire of Evil is the renamed Primevil which itself was the reunited late ’80s/early ’90s line-up of Venom that featured Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on vocals/bass . I’m not well-versed on the comings and goings of the Venom roster but the “classic” line-up is split into two different bands right now. Conrad “Cronos” Lant is leading Venom with a few newer guys while the other two “classic” members (Jeff “Mantas” Dunn & Anthony “Abaddon” Bray) have hooked up again with Dolan for M-Pire of Evil.

They released an EP this past summer called The Creatures of the Black, which was pretty good and I liked the Prime Evil album (the only Venom release I’ve heard from this line-up) so I’m looking forward to a full length album. I couldn’t find anything resembling a release date but going by the band’s Facebook page, it should be soon because they’ve been teasing releasing the album cover.

Tooth And Nail (March)
The band that features 3/4 of the classic Dokken line-up. How does “Wild” Mick Brown still retain a position in Dokken while joining Tooth And Nail? Given Don Dokken’s reputation, you’d think he’d have been fired from Dokken by now. I mean, this band was named after a Dokken album and they’ve gloated over the fact that Don Dokken isn’t in the group (bassist Jeff Pilson will handle vocals). What’s weird is that on the band’s Facebook page, they list current Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy as a member as well… I guess he’s there for the live shows in case Brown has to go off and play in Dokken?

I’m probably forgetting a few more albums but oh well!

Chickenfoot – III

Chickenfoot – III [Classic Rock Fan Pack Exclusive Limited Edition] (2011, earMUSIC)

1. “Last Temptation” … 4:02
2. “Alright Alright” … 4:39
3. “Different Devil” … 4:24
4. “Up Next” … 4:33
5. “Lighten Up” … 5:12
6. “Come Closer” … 4:08
7. “Three and a Half Letters” … 4:07
8. “Big Foot” … 3:49
9. “Dubai Blues” … 5:02
10. “Something Going Wrong” … 5:16
Bonus Tracks
11. “Down the Drain” (Live in Phoenix) … 9:13
12. “Oh Yeah” (Live in Phoenix) … 6:23

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Joe Satriani – Guitar
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Chad Smith – Drums, Percussion

Producer: Chickenfoot & Mike Fraser

This super group’s debut was decent but nothing particularly thrilling. It sounded like a bunch of guys having fun but it didn’t really translate when it came to the songs in my opinion. Well, on Chickenfoot III (they skipped the second album) this very much feels more like a band that has written real songs and not bunch of guys jamming.

Because of how underwhelmed the debut left me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick this album up. I saw Classic Rock magazine was doing yet another “Fan Pack” release and figured if I ever was going to buy the album that I might as get the album that comes with a magazine. It’s a bit more bare bones than the Alice Cooper release (or even Whitesnake): 132-page 3-D magazine, a pack of 5 Chickenfoot guitar picks and a pair of 3-D glasses. The artwork inside and out of the album packaging are in 3-D as is the CD label itself but all of that I believe is standard with the first pressed copy of the album (just like the “heat sensitive” version of the debut).

Onto the music, what can you say as far as the playing goes? Sammy’s vocals sound just as good as ever, no one’s going to say Satriani can’t play guitar and Chad Smith is the perfect drummer for this type of band. Then you have Michael Anthony who in addition to bass is adding his usual fantastic backing vocals to help enhance things (the VH boys have some real balls letting him go based on backing vocals alone).

Like I said earlier, this very much feels like more of band now. Hagar says the first album came together very quickly while III was a much more laborious project. Well, if that means gelling better and Joe & Sammy writing better songs together… that’s fine by me! In fact, the only that I think fall a bit flat are “Dubai Blues” and “Lighten Up”. The rest of the album are just great rockers, good ballads (“Different Devil” sounds like something Van Hagar would’ve done), something socially relevant (“Three and a Half Letters”) and the albums ends with something a bit experimental that uses acoustic guitars and a banjo — the excellent “Something Going Wrong”.

Bonus live tracks are always kind of a throwaway to me. They are exclusive to this Fan Pack edition. “Down the Drain” and “Oh Yeah” may be two of the better songs from the debut but all they do is really highlight how mediocre that debut was and how much better this album is.

Chickenfoot’s III had revived my interest in this band after milquetoast debut, is one of the year’s best releases and I hope we get to see a third album (IV?) from these guy down the line.

Highlights: “Last Temptation”, “Alright Alright”, “Different Devil”, “Up Next”, “Come Closer”, “Three and a Half Letters”, “Big Foot”, “Something Going Wrong”

http://www.facebook.com/chickenfoot
http://www.chickenfoot.us/

Buy ‘III’ at Amazon.com!

Stryper – The Covering

Stryper – The Covering (2011, Big3 Records)

1. “Set Me Free” … 3:45
2. “Blackout” … 3:58
3. “Heaven and Hell” … 6:11
4. “Lights Out” … 3:44
5. “Carry On Wayward Son” … 5:16
6. “Highway Star” … 5:45
7. “Shout It Out Loud” … 3:15
8. “Over the Mountain” … 4:21
9. “The Trooper” … 3:53
10. “Breaking the Law” … 3:02
11. “On Fire” … 3:08
12. “Immigrant Song”  … 2:18
13. “God” … 4:55

Band:
Michael Sweet – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Oz Fox – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Timothy Gaines – Bass, Backing Vocals
Robert Sweet – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Charles Foley – Keyboards, Organ, Piano

Producer: Michael Sweet

And Stryper continues their trend for having AWFUL album covers. =P

Luckily, the album art is not a good indicator of the music itself because this is seriously one great album of covers! When I first heard it was going to be a cover album, I kind of rolled my eyes. That’s usually a sign that a band is slowing down and/or giving up on new material but then they started releasing all these samples and they sounded amazing. I guess the band has caught some flack from their Christian fanbase for having the gall to cover secular music and evil bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and KISS but whatever. Get over yourselves! Christian acts don’t need to be singing about God & Jesus in every single song. Just because you want to cover Van Halen and Scorpions it doesn’t mean you’ve turned your back on the Lord.

Anyway, what a great line-up of bands to cover! In order, they are: Sweet, Scorpions, Black Sabbath, UFO, Kansas, Deep Purple, KISS, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Van Halen and Led Zeppelin. The only original song of the bunch is “God” which is a fantastic hard rocker that just doesn’t let up and gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year.

It was Murder By Pride that pulled me onto the Stryper bandwagon. That was a very good album. Sometimes a veteran act seems to be going through the motions even when they release new material but that wasn’t the case then and even though the band is covering songs here, they still sound energetic and on fire. “God” gives me hope that maybe the band will put out an entirely new and original album later this year because they are on a roll.

The band stays pretty faithful to the source material only making slight alterations here and there but these are some killer covers. “Blackout” and “Lights Out” are pure fire and it’s interesting to hear Michael Sweet vocals on these songs. I think he’s got a unique singing style and it’s interesting hearing him find some middle ground between his own style and the styles in which these songs were originally sung.

One of the better cover albums I’ve heard. Essential pickup for 2011.

Highlights: “Set Me Free”, “Blackout”, “Lights Out”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “On Fire”, “God”

http://www.stryper.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Stryper

Buy ‘The Covering’ at Amazon.com

Looking Forward to in 2010…

2009 was good, can 2010 be better? With these albums penciled in for 2010 it looks like we’ll have another good year for rock ‘n’ roll because there’s tons I’m looking forward to! I’ve listed tentative release dates where I could.

Ratt – Infestation (March): Ratt is one of the best bands to spring from the L.A. metal scene, I can’t wait to hear some new music from that.

Scorpions – Sting In The Tail: Well, hopefully we’ll see some new Scorpions. They haven’t gotten a U.S. distribution deal yet, but in this day of the internet, I don’t foresee any problems getting my hands on an import. According to the band, they’re going back to their “early ’80s” sound and scrapping the modern style they had on Humanity: Hour I. That’s a shame because I remember Klaus Meine being pretty adamant about the band not writing anymore “eighties” songs and I like Humanity a lot (which seemed to imply there’d be a sequel). Oh well, I liked 2004’s Unbreakable a lot too (the band’s most recent attempt at having that classic Scorpions sound), so either style they want is good with me.

Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon (April 3): Edguy’s Tobias Sammet, one of my favorite vocalists, is back with his side project and he’s got two albums coming at us at once on the same day. The Scarecrow was really good and Sammet has tons of guest musicians lined up again, I just hope he hasn’t spread himself too thin by releasing two albums’ worth of material.

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VAN HALEN – 1984

Van Halen – 1984 [Remastered] (2000, Warner Bros. Records)
Original Release: 1984, Warner Bros. Records

1. “1984” … 1:07
2. “Jump” … 4:04
3. “Panama” … 3:32
4. “Top Jimmy” … 3:00
5. “Drop Dead Legs” … 4:14
6. “Hot for Teacher” … 4:44
7. “I’ll Wait” … 4:45
8. “Girl Gone Bad” … 4:35
9. “House of Pain” … 3:19

Band:
David Lee Roth – Lead Vocals
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Producer: Ted Templeman

What can I say about this album that hasn’t been said over the last 25 years plus for this diamond status (that’s 10 MILLION plus albums sold) album? It’s an undisputed rock classic and essential Van Halen (though I wouldn’t say it’s their best). It opened a lot of doors for rock ‘n’ roll to become even more mainstream and with keyboard-heavy songs like “1984”, “Jump” and “I’ll Wait”, the band blurred the line between hard rock and pop music than they ever had before. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Every song is great except one… “Top Jimmy”. That one has always been filler to my ears. I don’t hate it, it’s not even one of the band’s worst songs, but it really pales in comparison to the rest of the album. “House of Pain” sounds like something that would fit right in on Fair Warning and if “Drop Dead Legs” or “Girl Gone Bad” were released as singles, they would’ve been huge hits. Then again, at this point, pretty much anything with the band’s name on it would have been a hit.

It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite from this album. The four singles (“Jump”, “Panama”, “Hot for Teacher”, “I’ll Wait”) are the best. That’s the easy part, but I can’t say which of those four is superior. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child!

Though this was the peak of commercial success for the band, it was also one of their most tumultuous times internally and egos eventually forced David Lee Roth to quit the band and pursue a solo career in 1985. What’s funny about this is that a contributing factor to Dave leaving was that he apparently wasn’t happy with the poppy sound of the album and Eddie relying on keyboards so much but then in his own solo career he relied on covers of songs like “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo” and turned in a number of pop rock albums.

Highlights: C’mon, it’s 1984! Everything is a highlight… except “Top Jimmy”!

www.van-halen.com

VAN HALEN – Fair Warning

Van Halen – Fair Warning [Remastered] (2000, Warner Bros. Records)
Original Release: 1981, Warner Bros. Records

1. “Mean Street” … 4:55
2. “Dirty Movies” … 4:06
3. “Sinner’s Swing” … 3:08
4. “Hear About It Later” … 4:33
5. “Unchained” … 3:27
6. “Push Comes to Shove” … 3:48
7. “So This Is Love?” … 3:05
8. “Sunday Afternoon In The Park” … 2:00
9. “One Foot Out The Door” … 1:56

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

Producer: Ted Templeman

The group’s fourth album shows off a darker, meaner and heavier Van Halen, but this album is still a classic nonetheless. You can’t go wrong with any album from Roth’s first run in the band. Eddie wanted a more “serious” sound (Roth wanted more of a pop direction) for the band and has admitted in later years that he was heavily into cocaine & alcohol during the making of this album, so I guess that accounts for the darkness this album wallows in.

If you need any confirmation that this isn’t your typical “all smiles” Van Halen, just check out the obligatory Eddie instrumental “Sunday Afternoon In The Park”. Quite a departure from “Eruption” and “Spanish Fly”!

As with the case of many classics, there’s not a whole lot for me to say that hasn’t already been said (and said better). Every Roth-VH album is essential listening for any and all rock fans.

This is the least successful album of all the Roth/Hagar years as it “only” has gone double platinum and failed to spawn a big hit song at the time (though I’ve heard “Unchained” quite a lot on radio over the years).

The edition I have of this album is the remaster from 2000. The 2000 Van Halen remasters was one of those annoying remasters sereies where no thought was given to throwing a few bonus tracks on for the fans. You mean to tell me there’s no demos, b-sides, alternate takes or live tracks laying around? Give me a break.

Highlights: “Mean Street”, “Dirty Movies”, “Sinner’s Swing”, “Hear About It Later”, “Unchained”, “So This Is Love?”

www.van-halen.com

VAN HALEN – OU812

Van Halen – OU812 (1988, Warner Bros. Records)

1. “Mine All Mine” … 5:11
2. “When It’s Love” … 5:36
3. “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” … 4:28
4. “Cabo Wabo” … 7:04
5. “Source of Infection” … 3:58
6. “Feels So Good” … 4:27
7. “Finish What Ya Started” … 4:20
8. “Black and Blue” … 5:24
9. “Sucker in a 3 Piece” … 5:52
10. “A Apolitical Blues” … 3:50

Band:
Sammy Hagar – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Eddie Van Halen – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Michael Anthony – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alex Van Halen – Drums, Percussion

Produced by: Van Halen and Don Landee

Van Hagar Halen continues their descent into the “adult contemporary” genre, just take a look at that cover and tell me it doesn’t scream “BORING”. Looks like something from the ’60s or ’70s. It started with the band’s debut with Hagar on 1986’s 5150 (which was actually was a really good slick hard rock/pop album), but this time that fun vibe that album continued over from the David Lee Roth era is gone.

Sure, some of the good time subject matter is still here (sex, booze, partying in general), but it seems a bit more grown up and dark, if that’s possible when talking about having a good time. The album is definitely lifted by the great pop ballad “When It’s Love” and the awesome country-picking of “Finish What Ya Started” (two of my favorite Van Hagar songs).

OU812 is a really odd departure for the band that never really gets out of 2nd gear outside of “Source of Infection”, which sounds like the hard rockin’ Van Halen of old. Even more odd when you consider this album is sandwiched in between the two most fun and most Roth-like Van Hagar albums: 5150 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Highlights: “Mine All Mine”, “When It’s Love”, “Source of Infection”, “Feels So Good”, “Finish What Ya Started”

www.van-halen.com

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