• Moon Playlist: 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

    21 Jul 2009, 6:34

    In honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing that put the first men on the moon - which occurred 40 years ago this afternoon (OK, yesterday afternoon by the time I post this...) - a special Moon-themed playlist!

    These are the final songs to run through Manic Monday this week:
    Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bad Moon Rising
    Godsmack: Moon Baby
    Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Black Moon
    The Doors: Moonlight Drive
    Artie Shaw Orchestra: Moonglow
    Blue Öyster Cult: Moon Crazy
    Glenn Miller: Moonlight Serenade
    Iron Maiden: Moonshild
    Blackmore's Night: Shadow Of The Moon
    Kamelot: Moonlight
    The Beatles: Mr. Moonlight
    Thin Lizzy: Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)
    Joe Satriani: Big Bad Moon
    George Harrison: Here Comes the Moon
    The Police: Walking on the Moon

    Did you have a chance to follow along at We Choose The Moon? I had it streaming in the background from about 8AM this morning (the 20th), and even at Mission+40 Years, it made for compelling listening for a tech geek like myself that missed it the first time around. I lost all sense of productivity as the actual landing approached, and found it riveting at 20:17 UTC (4:17PM local) and Neil Armstrong's first step onto the moon at 02:56 UTC (11:56PM local). Now that the landing is complete, you can stream any stage of the 100:44:45 journey from launch to landing, on demand.

    At Mission+40 years, the Apollo 11 crew members: Buzz Aldrin, left, Michael Collins, second from left, and Neil Armstrong, with NASA Mission Control creator and former NASA Johnson Space Centre director Chris Kraft at right.

    \m/ (`°_°´) \m/
  • Song Of The Day - 30 Apr 2009: Waiting for The Roar

    21 Jul 2009, 6:28

    Fastway / Waiting For The Roar / Waiting For The Roar (1) / ? 1986

    OK, so I obliquely (or was it obtusely?) referred to Fastway before but have yet to choose a SotD by them! Not really an excuse for that, so here 'tis.

    It would have been easy to choose something from the self-titled debut, which is probably the best known album owing to oft-played tracks Say What You Will or their cover of Uriah Heep's Easy Livin'.

    But I have to choose the album-opening* title track to their far lesser-known third album because it's easily my favorite, scoring a solid 70% RDF. (And I see I inexcusably failed to include it in the list of HMs for the AotY Awards for 1986 - now amended.) For a very long time this album wasn't available at all, but it was re-issued in 2006 by the Beat Goes On label.

    Everything about this album is good, from the playing, to the songwriting, to the great hard-rocking vocals from Dave King. I still have a hard time believing that this is the same guy that fronts Flogging Molly these days. Doesn't sound at all like the same guy!

    Other than this selection, check out The World Waits For You and Little By Little. All of them here courtesy of youtube since Last has none of them available.

    Not sure how the pics relate to the song, but easy on the eyes, anyway...

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/

    *Don't pay any attention to the track order listed on this album's page. It ain't right, but it ain't even right on the CD cover itself! If you happen to ever find a copy, you'll easily be able to figure out the correct order, though.
  • Song Of The Day - 29 Apr 2009: Teeth Of The Hydra

    21 Jul 2009, 6:25

    Omen / Teeth of the Hydra / The Curse (6) / Oct 1986

    Despite the fact that I still buy CDs as often as I can, sometimes I just get tired of waiting around to find a copy locally. Buying online is OK when you really want something you rate very highly, but what I like best about the era of legal DRM-free downloads is being able to purchase just those few tracks off those rather "limited" albums and cassettes purchased all those years ago for which I don't really want a CD replacement. And it's a pretty sizeable list.

    This album is one of those. I remember Omen getting a fair bit of airplay on Z-Rock back in the day, and still have the cassette of this purchased at that time. It contributes just three tracks to the library: this selection, Holy Martyr, and Destiny.

    Omen was definitely a product of the 80s and an 80s band. They've apparently been somewhat still active over the last ten years or so, but they have only released two albums in the last 20 years that I can see. I really liked two things about this band: the guitar work of Kenny Powell and the vocals of original singer J.D. Kimball, whom (I think) is now dead. I might be interested in the first two albums before this one, but I doubt anything else from this band will be added to the collection in the future.

    If you want to track down a CD, I think this only exists as one of those 2-on-1 discs with the Nightmares EP.

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/
  • Song Of The Day - 28 Apr 2009: Bible Black

    21 Jul 2009, 6:22

    Heaven And Hell / Bible Black / The Devil You Know (3) / Apr 2009

    Album Review

    First, let's start with a look at vocalists: With the release of this much-anticipated fourth studio album of Ronnie James Dio-fronted Black Sabbath - the first complete album of new studio material from this lineup since 1992's Dehumanizer and the first from any Sabbath lineup since 1995's little-heard Forbidden* - RJD is once again moving toward reclaiming the distinction of being the second-longest serving vocalist for the band. (Or is he? Does it count if under the new "Heaven and Hell" name?)

    Not a lot of people know that RJD is in third place, perhaps assuming he's second because he's the second best-known after OzzY and the Sabbath albums of the later 80s and 1990s are still relatively ignored or not as well known. But since 1994's Cross Purposes, Tony Martin** has held that honor, breaking the tie with RJD after Dehumaizer gave them three apiece. Anyway, the release of this album continues a favorable trend: a fairly rapid pace of releases from this lineup, particularly in comparison to the last 15 years of this band***

    My favorite pleasant surprise of this album is that it features a good amount of solo work from Tony Iommi. Tony is of course the master of the metal riff, but not generally known for his soloing. There's some great stuff here, though. As with other Dio-era Sabbath albums, Dio's swords & sorcery lyrics don't even attempt to make an appearance here, yet he sounds no less compelling a narrator than he does delivering Dio material, and some of the songs actually have some well-written lyrics.

    Top 3 Selections
    Bible Black: It's for good reason that the selection of the day was the first single. It's got the long-storied "black arts" obsession of Sabbath, it's epic and dark, and tells a great theatrical story. Actually, Dio is given to quite a bit of theatricality here, which turns some people off, but I think accepting his performace for who he is. Dio is at his best here, and this sone one of my favorite songs in the entire Dio-Sabbath catalog. Also great heavy work on the kit from Vinnie Appice.

    Rock And Roll Angel: Actually, this song has very good lyrics, but it isn't immediately compelling. Tony's solo at the mid-point of the song saves it, and actually make it the excellent track it is. Also has a great acoustic solo to close it out. (Sounds nothing like Rock and Roll Children, but I still think of that song when I hear this!)

    Neverwhere: More good solo work from Tony, but some really nice bass work from Geezer Butler. This is basically the one good solid up-tempo rocker on the album.

    Overall, my only criticism is that the album plods a bit too much. It's because it's intended to be doomy, but most of the songs lack a true feel - a bit too bright for that. So the album could have used a couple more up-tempo tracks to break it up a little bit. Some of the best songs from the Sabbath catalog are up-tempo classic cuts like Wishing Well or Turn Up the Night. I was hoping for at least another one here to rival those. I don't think we got it, but this album will stand the test of time.

    I rank it behind Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, but easily ahead of Dehumanizer.

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/

    *Forbidden is the only Sabbath album that I do not own and in fact, have never even heard. It has never been released here in the United States, though it can be obtained without too much trouble as an import. In fact, I didn't even know the vocals for it were also done by Tony Martin until I was looking into it for this review, and I figured RJD was moving back into a tie with Tony with the release of The Devil You Know. Forbidden has been much-maligned, particularly the opening track The Illusion of Power which features the rap talents of Ice-T. The reviews here are not universally excoriating, however. So...what am I missing? I occasionally see used copies of it at the shops, so it wouldn't cost too much, but I've got a very long list ahead of it. I'll entertain arguments for moving it up, if anyone cares to convince me to check it out.

    **Don't discount the oft-overlooked and rarely-praised work with Tony Martin! The five albums that he did with them are not as good as the best Ozzy-era or Dio-era albums by a long shot, but those eras do have their weak spots that are trumped by the best work from Tony's time with the band. The albums are even less well-known that the single albums fronted by Ian Gillan (Born Again) or Glenn Hughes (Seventh Star), but I think they deserve more attention than that. His first one, The Eternal Idol, only came in with two red-dotted tracks, but that's also all I gave to Dehumanizer!

    ***After the aborted attempt to do something with Ozzy in 2001 following the successful run of reunion performances on Ozzfest in the second half of the 1990s and the two new songs for Reunion, things just stalled for another five years. They did tour Ozzfest again in 2004-2005, which is when I finally saw the original Sabbath lineup, but there was no serious effort for new material until they finally decided to move on from working with Ozzy. They've been actively developing new material since the three new songs on The Dio Years, including while touring, and apparently they already have enough for yet another album. If you happened to see the May issue of Decibel, this interview gave some insight into why things just don't move forward with Ozzy:

    "If we were with Ozzy and I came in with the killer riff of all time, Ozzy wouldn't even think of doing it because I'm not the guitarist and that's the way he thinks," Butler said. "When we tried to do a Sabbth album in 2001, we all gave each other CDs of our riffs or song ideas. Ozzy didn't even listen to mine. Because I'm not a guitarist, he felt I shouldn't be playing guitar. That's why it was so bloody hard to write anything. If we'd written The Devil You Know with Ozzy, we'd still be working on the first track."
  • Song Of The Day - 27 Apr 2009: Primitive Future

    21 Jul 2009, 6:20

    Sepultura / Primitive Future / Beneath the Remains (9) / Sep 1989

    Did you honor National Record Store Day on April 18th? (This was just in the U.S., I believe.)

    This selection comes from one of the very best Sepultura albums, but one which I did not own in any format until this year's Record Store Day! (Shameful, I know...) I actually checked out a new place that day, My Mind's Eye, on Cleveland's near west side (that's not me in the picture!), and celebrated both the day and my first visit there by finally picking up a copy of this.

    The word for this album is brutal. And the second word is maybe punishing. But both of those meant in the best possible way. This is where and converge, in all its pounding glory. This was Sepultura's first record with a real contract, and the tighter production showcases them well. Particularly Igor Cavalera's relentless drums and the sweet riffs of Andreas Kisser. I think it all comes together most excellently in a track like today's selection - a three-way meeting of thrash, death, and speed!

    Speaking of those drums...the best thing about my find was that it was the 1997 remaster, which included as bonus tracks the drum tracks for Inner Self and Mass Hypnosis! It's not really just the drums since the other instruments are there, too, but there's Max Cavalera's vocals are absent. So you can use them as karaoke!

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/
  • Song Of The Day - 26 Apr 2009: Still...You Turn Me On [Live at California Jam 1974]

    8 Jun 2009, 14:11

    Emerson, Lake and Palmer / Still...You Turn Me On [Live at California Jam, 06 Apr 1974] / Beyond The Beginning [DVD, disc 2] (2) / Jun 2005

    This is the third of three posts honoring the 35th Anniversary of California Jam on April 6th, which I failed at the time to highlight. The first and second posts covered the sets of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, the latter who co-headlined with ELP.

    In both of those previous posts I raised the point that while the show was largely simulcast on FM radio and television by ABC, it was not officially recorded and released. For many years, only the Deep Purple set was available. However, in mid-2005, a 2-DVD set called Beyond the Beginning finally saw the release of the entire 45-minute ELP set on the second disc.

    The ELP set featured a "magical" sequence following Karn Evil 9: 3rd Impression of Keith Emerson playing the piano while spinning in mid-air, setting a standard for highlight special effects for decades to come:

    The personal highlight for me though is today's selection, Greg Lake's solo performance of my favorite ELP song:

    In closing this series of posts, I mention a very good resource. If you don't know much about California Jam overall and want some great insights as well as a listen to several performances from the show, you're in luck. Mike Stark of WPMD's Rock 50* conducted this interview with Don E. Branker, one of the principal organizers and the promoter of California Jam, in early April just before the 35th anniversary. The two-hour show included many excerpts of interviews and performances from the ABC broadcast, and Don gives a good rundown on the backstory behind the organizing and running of the event.

    Check out the great insight from Bill Ward at an hour into the show, including his retelling of literally having his breath taken away at the first roar of the crowd as he tried to count into the start of "War Pigs" at the start of their set.

    And pay close attention to the final two minutes of the pocast for a big announcement for California Jam fans, coming April 6, 2010. (...crossing fingers...)

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/

    *Rock 50 is an internet-only college radio program broadcast from WPMD (Cerritos College) in California. Mike Stark is the regular host, and once a month he welcomes Bill Ward as his co-host, who spins some of his favorite metal and talks about things related to himself and Black Sabbath. A lot of what Bill says publicly about Sabbath is heard on this show. You can catch Rock 50 each Saturday from 11AM to 1PM Pacific Time.
  • Song Of The Day - 25 Apr 2009: Burn [Live at California Jam 1974]

    8 Jun 2009, 14:07

    Deep Purple / Burn [Live at California Jam, 06 Apr 1974] / Deep Purple: Live in California '74 [DVD] (2) / Jan 2006

    This is the second of three posts honoring the 35th Anniversary of California Jam on April 6th, which I failed at the time to highlight.

    In the first post, I covered Black Sabbath's peformance. Deep Purple followed them on the California Jam bill. As I mentioned previously, California Jam was not a rock festival that was properly recorded, other than some of it being simulcast on ABC with audio on FM radio. However, unlike Black Sabbath's performance, which has never been released in its entirety, the entire Deep Purple set was finally released on DVD in 2005 as Deep Purple: Live In California '74. (This was actually a re-release of a 1981 laser disc.)

    As popular as Black Sabbath were at the time, Deep Purple were monster sellers. And yet, they were also a band in flux, having recently parted ways with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. Their performance at California Jam was actually the high point of their tour to support Burn, the first album of the Mark III lineup with a 23-year old David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals.

    Playing to 200,000 people (200,000! festivals in Europe and Latin America still draw that many, but I can't imagine something that huge in the States today!!) was a real baptism of fire, especially for Coverdale, but he and the rest of the band not only handle the pressure, they play one of the all-time storied live sets. (Some of this was previously touched on in the discussion thread for my birthday salute to David Coverdale last Sep 22nd.)

    Don't go out of your way to get the DVD or pay more than a few bucks for it, because the quality isn't that great. It would be good to have in your collection of concert films and rock docs if you're like me and have a library of those, but you can watch most of it in an evening online.

    This is their opening performance of "Burn" to get you started:

    Here is the rest of the Deep Purple setlist for that evening, including five of the songs from Burn:
    Might Just Take Your Life
    Lay Down, Stay Down (not included on the original release of the show)
    Smoke on the Water
    You Fool No One (opened with Lazy and closed out with The Mule)
    Space Truckin’ (a/k/a "Smoke on the Infield" - really! look up the video for this one to see Ritchie's wild destruction that extended this to nearly 30 minutes)

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/
  • Song Of The Day - 24 Apr 2009: Killing Yourself To Live [Live at California Jam 1974]

    8 Jun 2009, 14:02

    Black Sabbath / Killing Yourself to Live [Live at California Jam, 06 Apr 1974] (unreleased)

    The 35th Anniversary of California Jam* was April 6th, and I failed at the time to mark it. So this and the next two posts honor that milestone event as a "California Jam Weekend"

    Black Sabbath were the first of the three groups that I'll highlight in these posts to take the stage, playing four songs: War Pigs, Paranoid, "Killing Yourself to Live" and Children of the Grave, though I'm not sure of this order. (I didn't actually see this show, living in Cleveland and being just 3 years old at the time...)

    Unlike some of the other massive rock festivals that marked the late 60s and 1970s, California Jam was not recorded. A good portion of it was simulcast live ABC (can you imagine that today, other than the big charity events?), but to my knowledge, the footage of Black Sabbath's performance has never been released in its entirety.

    You can scrounge around on youtube and the like for interview clips and some of Sabbath's performance, but it sure would be nice to get the complete set on DVD. I was actually hoping that would be an element of Past Lives when it came out and would have made a great companion for those two discs, but we're still waiting.

    The closest we get is on the 1992 documentary The Black Sabbath Story, Vol. 1: 1970-1978, which includes the performance of "Children of the Grave"

    Here at least is the performance of today's selection:

    Black Sabbath were arguably at the peak of their popularity and prowess at this time. Amazing how lucid and intelligible OzzY is, isn't it? Bill Ward is an amazing maniacal, hairy monster! And look! It's Tony Iommi totally sans facial hair! Also somewhat amusing juxtaposition of Sabbath's dark themes and music with the bright sunny day, performing under a shiny, happy rainbow! All of this after having just arrived the night before direct from England.

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/

    *This is a link to Scott Lifshine's site, which is apparently somewhat suspect and controversial! Hopefully we'll be getting something with a bit more verifiable provenance before too much longer. Stay tuned for the next two posts...
  • Song of The Day - 23 Apr 2009: Locomotive Breath

    8 Jun 2009, 13:59

    Jethro Tull / Locomotive Breath / Aqualung (10) / Mar 1971

    Whether it's been in my reviews and AotY Awards for the 1970s or in threads of other selections from classic 60s/70s artists, I've sometimes been asked about my thoughts on Jethro Tull or advised to check this-or-that out.

    Well, it's not that Jethro Tull are completely unknown to me. And certainly not to all metal fans since their "amazing upset" of Metallica for the 1989 (and only) Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy.

    Rather, it's just that I don't like them all that much. It has nothing to do with Ian Anderson's flute. (I can accept some flute in "metal" - I like Solitude, anyway...) Maybe it's because the music of Tull references twee subjects that I just don't know much about, and so I can't follow along all that well.

    Really, though, it's just that most of their music doesn't really, well, rock all that much. OK, Crest Of A Knave does a little (atypically lots of guitar - and thus maybe the consideration for the Grammy - but drum machines...)

    Not everything I listen to rawks, but considering their peers of the time and what they were releasing, it just sort of pales... The sole standout is this classic. All three of my favorite Jethro Tull songs are on this. It stands well among such contemporaries as IV and Master of Reality, and maybe that's why it's probably the most-admired of their albums. But this album is about the extent of what they contribute to my collection.

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/
  • Song Of The Day - 22 Apr 2009: All I Want

    8 Jun 2009, 13:54

    Lynch Mob / All I Want / Wicked Sensation (4) / Oct 1990

    In my review of Psycho Motel's State of Mind, I mentioned that the song Killing Time reminded me of Lynch Mob, c. 1990, which was the time of this album.

    George Lynch took his massive ego out of Dokken, where it was continually clashing with the similarly-massive ego of Don Dokken, and formed a new outlet for his ego and his chops on the guitar. Mick Brown went with him on drums, and they brought in Oni Logan on vocals.

    It's Solli's vocals on the Psycho Motel song that remind me of Oni's vocals and the groovy funk that infused Lynch Mob's work, and this selection is probably the best on the album to represent that. The band and this debut album got quite a bit of recognition at the time, though it was largely a victim of changing currents in the music scene at the dawn of the 1990s. That's particularly true of the solid, 1992 self-titled follow-up album, which was entirely overlooked in the era of grunge.

    Still, the band had its following, particularly for fans of George and those fans who weren't getting a satisfying dose of guitar from Don Dokken's solo work (it really is there, but I'll touch on Up From The Ashes another time). George and Mick reunited with Don and Jeff Pilson in 1995 for the rather weak Dysfunctional (27.3% RDF), but that was the extent of the reunion. Mick Brown stayed on with Dokken and is still with them, but George was out again just a couple of years later.

    George's most ill-advised work was 1999's Smoke This, which sounded nothing like the first two albums and is centered on a faddish rap-metal style of the time. This decade saw Revolution, which features harder versions of both Dokken and Lynch Mob tracks and may be of interest to fans of both bands. Since then, George has been following the path of several other guitar masters with complicated personalities and focusing his efforts on serving as a guitar wizard instructor, though he did team up with Oni Logan again to play at last year's Rocklahoma.

    \m/ (ò_ó) \m/