The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Announcing March Metal Madness, CD Shelf Cleanup and Is Kiss' Revenge Their Last Greatest Moment?

Coming to the masses this March...

March Metal Madness is coming your way starting March 5th.

Get ready for March Metal Madness. What is it? Well, join the four Knights of the Rock Table: Heavy Metal Time Machine, Hard Rock Hideout, Heavy Metal Addiction, and Pulses, Verses and other Flotsam for four huge 20th anniversary reviews. That’s right, each Monday in March each of these four bloggers will be reviewing the same 1987 release on their respective blogs. Only the album choices have been discussed so our opinions on these albums may be very different. So check in each week in March to see our take on some releases that are cornerstones of most good Hard Rock and Metal collections.

First week-Whitesnake-s/t on Monday, March 5th
Second week-Dio-Dream Evil on Monday, March 12th
Third week-Testament-The Legacy on Monday, March 19th
Fourth week-Kiss-Crazy nights on Monday, March 26

From the shelf...

Airged L'amh - The Silver Arm - Very solid power metal from Greece, where they put a little extra into their metal. Some of the best neoclassical/orchestral metal can be found here. This one is a good metallic into glory ride, 'nuff said. Worth Keeping

Alabama Thunderpussy - Fulton Hill - And you thought Nashville Pussy was a funny name... Both of these southern bands are terrific at what they do; Nashville Pussy is probably best categorized as redneck punk with metal overtones, while ATP is, to me, Skynard for the sludge generation. They can be bombastic, doomy, bluesy and roadhousy in one fell swoop. Fulton Hill wastes not a single minute; this one goes for the throat and then offers to buy you a beer afterwards. Indispensable

Alabama Thunderpussy - Open Fire - Brand new album for 2007 and it's getting a nice push. With a new vocalist in the fold, ATP turns up the amps and crushes the snot out of their sound. It's far more raw than their previous stuff and still they cling to some of the southern rock principles that fuels them. This album is loud as hell and to add to the fun, they opt for a Conan-inspired fantasy battle cover that's just as in-your-face... Worth Keeping

Alice in Chains - Facelift - I'm finally at the point again where I can listen to Alice in Chains. Radio overkill soured their appeal to my ears for a long time and seriously, it's been a few years since I've touched my AIC discs. The separation has done me well. Facelift is just as invigorating as I remember it when hearing a guitarist I'd met play along to the album, and mostly accurately, to boot. "Man in the Box" is a timeless rock classic, but for me, it's all about "We Die Young" and "Love, Hate, Love." Scarrrrrryyyyy's on the wall.... Indispensable

Alice in Chains - Dirt - This is one mean and nasty album and it reminded me why I ever cared about Alice in Chains. Next to Queenryche and Soundgarden, this is Seattle's finest. The radio has certainly done more to piss me off with this album than Facelift, but it is still a great album. "Angry Chair" is one of their finest songs ever. Worth Keeping

Alice in Chains - Jar of Flies - Starts off sounding like Alice in Chains' most important body of work, then tapers off lackadaisically on the last three songs, though still with credible musicianship. "Rotten Apple" and "Nutshell" remain some of the best songwriting Alice in Chains ever put down, as well as "I Stay Away." I've finally lifted my anger towards "No Excuses," because I loved it when it came out, then hated it when rock radio put more wear and tear on it than a beat up '68 Nova. Too bad; this EP could've been AIC's statement piece. Worth Keeping

After strolling through the eighties in a non-makeup existence, Kiss defied the odds by keeping in the limelight despite the outward modifications and the then-current alterations to their sound. Lick it Up and Animalize were very solid rock albums in the eighties, while the next two albums Asylum and Crazy Nights went for the commercial path and scored big. Part of the success was the talented duo of Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick, who were instrumental in keeping Kiss fresh and alive (pun intended) during the metal explosion of the eighties.

When Eric Carr died, I took it kind of hard. I really looked up to him as I'd started drumming after high school graduation and I always respected how much his playing opened up Kiss' sound, making them a little less one-dimensional. No disrespect to Peter Criss, but Carr was far superior; battle their drum solos and you'll get all you need. Or listen to Carr's work on "King of the Mountain" from Asylum, and you'll realize how his drum rolls and fills were so important to Kiss maintaining a viable career in the rock business without their trademark gimmickry to rely upon once their rock 'n roll roots disippated on The Elder, Dynasty and Unmasked.

One of the kinder gestures Kiss did before riding the sellout freight train was to release 1992's Revenge. Recorded in honor of Eric Carr, Revenge was one of their best non-makeup efforts and in my opinion, their last great moment as a band. Despite the fact that Kiss borrows liberally from Led Zeppelin on Revenge, as well as from their own catalog, Revenge has a lot of heart to it ala the opening track "Unholy," which is perhaps Gene Simmons' best anthem songs since "God of Thunder."

Of course, there's the traditional smut on songs like "Take it Off" and "I Just Wanna," but that's Kiss for you; sex was always part of the game, and perhaps nothing will ever top the gleefully trashy "Ladies Room" despite their raunchiest efforts like "I Just Wanna," where Paul nearly says "fuck" like a cocktease on the choruses. It was much better than the stupid "Let's Put the X in Sex" because there was more danger to the song and much more slink.

With Eric Singer (later to be used as a scab Peter Criss) filling in on the drums, he keeps the pulse going on "Tough Love," "Spit" "Domino" and "Thou Shalt Not," all songs that may be a little hunky dory in comparison to more superior rock albums of the day, but for 1992 when metal was gasping its last breath, to hear Kiss sound like they give a damn, that's pretty freaking good for me, even with the silly "God Gave Rock & Roll to You," and its even sillier reprise at the end.

Revenge's tribute to Carr comes on "Carr Jam 1981," which is a nice little sliver of the man's prowess, but if you seek out video footage of the day, beginning with his time on the Creatures of the Night tour all the way through the Crazy Nights tour, you'll learn even better that Carr was one of the greatest rock drummers of the modern age. It's quite fitting this his surviving bandmates put forth an honest effort in his memory. It's also fitting that Kiss' last genuine moment of greatest ended right here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back from Computer Crash and CD Shelf Cleanup Continues

Hola, amigos y amigas...

Yours truly suffered a complete computer crash over the weekend including the hard drive and CD Rom. Through the generosity and hard work of one of my closest friends--not to mention a late night with pizza and reconfiguration last night, I am back up and running. I literally pissed my weekend away trying to fix the son of a whore after buying a new hard drive, but enough of that. Aside from a little bit of lost data and the inconvience of many lost emails, I'm grateful to be back in the saddle--thanks, Lipdude, I owe you one! Also, due thanks to my friend Matt, who also came through for me when the chips were down. You guys are selfless beyond words and I admire you.

So let's move on with CD Shelf Cleanup, and then I'll get back to the Kiss Revenge topic I'd planned for Saturday tomorrow. Thanks to you all for checking in on the last post, let's hope there's smoother sailing from here. We're still in the A's and will be for quite a bit longer, and you're going to end up seeing a few out of order, mostly because one was misfiled and a couple others I didn't get to listen to because of all the chaos. In fact, aside from what I have posted here, I only listened to Dio Master of the Moon quite a few times over the weekend and a lot of Annihilator yesterday (I guess because I'm getting antsy to get to them--or him, if you prefer)...

Afro Celt Sound System - Vol. 1 - Sound Magic - I'm a real geek for Celtic music, because I have a strong quarter of Scot-Irish in me that really flexes a lot, especially musically. In fact, my wife and I are trying to learn to play the bodrahn (a Celtic hand drum), but anywho, this is a CD I sampled at a Tower Records (remember those?) in Virginia after covering the 2005 Road Rage Tour...I was in the mood for something weird and offbeat, and that's what this is, a head-on collision between Celtic instrumentation and tribal and modified dance beats. It's cooler than it sounds and not quite as gimmicky as one would be led to believe. Worth Keeping

The Agony Scene - self titled - Speaking of the 2005 Road Rage Tour, this is one of the bands that was on the bill with 3 Inches of Blood, Still Remains and Trivium. I interviewed all four bands, but I remember these guys and Still Remains being the nicest, though all of them were a lot of fun in their own right. The debut album for The Agony Scene is a mere shade of the power they would exude on their next, and for a prototype metalcore band, they skimp on the breakdown (thank God) and opt for hardnosed groove. This album is a building block as it sounds more like the bands currently agro-ing their way along the scene, but The Agony Scene would soon get so much better. Worth Keeping

The Agony Scene - The Darkest Red - I was blown away when the advance on this came to me. As I mentioned before, this album is a driving tempest of energy, sparkled mostly by the amazing drumming of Brent Masters, who is a little mechanical gremlin on that kit. Filled with the usual bag of melodic choruses amidst the raging verses, The Agony Scene are far superior to most of their contemporaries because they release the hounds on this album and it's a hell of a listen. Indispensable

Ahab - The Call of the Wretched Sea - Admittedly, it took me a little bit to review this album when it came to me because I so mad that another metal band was doing a take on Moby Dick. What could this band do that Mastodon hadn't already? Well, they could put a doom spin on Moby Dick and tap into the more horrific points of the story. The Call of the Wretched Sea is a gloomy dirge of doom metal and it works gloriously. Guess there's room for two after all... Worth Keeping

Air - Moon Safari - Air is a pair of French artisans who mostly dabble in electronic music, but what they do is very special; they're not techno, they're not house, they're not hip hop. They're music revisionists using the medium what it was meant for; an exploration into current theory with an adventurist's spirit. Moon Safari is a glorious foray in soundscapes and cosmic grooves utilizing old swing and seventies pop motifs. Sound confusing? Good. Indispensable

Air - The Virgin Suicides - One of the reasons the movie The Virgin Suicides is one of my all-time favorite movies is this cryptic and forlorn score brilliantly conceived by Air. They capture the whole teen angst syndrome in music better than anyone I've heard, and I literally plunge into the seventies as a child listening to this music because that's the sound they opt for, putting you in a seventies lounge with low lighting and a sour disposition. This album is nearly as depressing as The Cure's Pornography, yet its salvation is its subtle hope. And the song "Playground Love" is just incredible. Indispensable

Al B. Sure - Sexy Versus - I know, call me a pussy, I probably deserve it. I found this for two bucks at a yard sale and I was in an R&B exploration phase at the time. It should automatically be rejected for the cheesy name and title, and I expected to give this the boot right off the bat, but I still fell sucker for a few of the songs on what is mostly a filler bubblegum soul record. On the Bubble

Alexisonfire - Watch Out! - Amazing to see how much emo punk has cluttered the scene these days and frankly, I'm sick of it all, so much I almost tossed this one into the box of rejects as well. The Berni Wrightson-like artwork on this disc is terrific, and while it's an emo album, there's something a little different from the script that pauses me, so I'll give in another cursory listen one day. On the Bubble

So on the next batch of CD Shelf, I'll be backtracking to a pair of Alabama Thunderpussy albums, Airged L'amh and hopefully I'll be on-track alphabetically. Hope you all are well out there...

Friday, February 23, 2007

CD Shelf Clean-Up Continues and Thoughts After Kissology

If you really like the extreme side of metal, I just had the new Beneath the Massacre album bleed me eardrums...go get some if you have the stomach...

Let's continue on with CD Shelf Cleanup before hitting the topic of the day...

Act of Gods - Stench of Centuries - This French death/grind band was another of the first promos I got sent way back and I haven't heard much about them since. This'll give you a freakin' headache with the jackhammer beats, puking vocals, all the good standards that makes extreme metal what it is... There's some good moments on this disc, but most of it is clattery as hell. Horns up for "Cathedral of Flesh" and "Resistance" and I'll give these guys credit for giving it all they have on this disc. On the Bubble

Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain - This, on the other hand, is pure brilliance. Finishing as one of my year-end favorites of 2006, if Agalloch is categorical black metal, then fuck, let's have more of it! This is not your prototype black metal, which I think the categorization does Agalloch a disservice. They are one of the most articulate metal bands out there right now, filled with deep, lush progression and spurts of bombast, making this a delectable listening experience. Indispensable

Age of Silence - Acceleration - Like Subterranean Masquerade, this is a side project of some of The End Records' brightest musicians, particularly Andy Winter from Winds. This is a stylish, textured album of conceptual metal that is smartly written and filled with deep layers of non-metal instrumentalization that makes it a breathtaking endeavor. Indispensable

Age of Silence - Complications EP - Sequel to Acceleration, this EP is more prog rock oriented than metal with progressive overtones as its predecessor. As part of a trilogy, I suppose this would make it indispensible, but the third chapter has yet to see the light of day, so I'll reserve judgment then. Worth Keeping

Agent Orange - Living In Darkness - Old school Cali punk band is one of the better ones of its day; features covers of classic surf songs in-between the other tracks. Worth Keeping

Agent Steel - Omega Conspiracy - Anyone besides Mark remember this band? Agent Steel was a small-time British power metal/thrash band whose eighties catalog is out-of-print, I believe. Mark, your input on that? This album was marked a comeback for Agent Steel in 1999. In general, it's a tight-knit, well-recorded album that has plenty of life musically, even if Bruce Hall's vocals tend to grate. Worth Keeping

Okay, so last weekend I finished watching the first installment of the Kissology DVDs, 1974-1977, which to me was invaluable at face value because Kiss was my favorite band for a very long time, and to see old makeup footage that I wasn't privy to as a child was a chance to pretend I was there.

Despite the fact I've been mad as hell at Kiss--particularly Gene and Paul--for being exploitive money grubbers and for trying to pass off an extended "farewell tour" that included a scab Peter and Ace (despite them being world class metal musicans Eric Singer and Black 'n Blue's Tommy Thayer), this DVD is the first thing I've been interested in from them in ages. I've refused to part with my money to them in quite some time, and since I had a gift certificate, that made it easier for me to stick to my guns and still get this DVD, which suddenly became as important to me as owning a handful of 60's era Amazing Spider-Man comics.

I sat mostly in awe of the Kiss spectacle and marveled at how hungry they were in the early years, and how the choreography was so exciting, particularly how Gene, Ace and Paul would line up and gesticulate in unison with their instruments...such a good sell, such an energetic performance, I can't imagine what the audiences back then thought of such a thing as it was just taking flight.

The longer I watched Kissology, I began to notice, however, that the whole Kiss machine was just one big script that allotted for very little deviation, everything from Gene plucking deep bass notes that one, told you the blood about to spew, and two, the next song was automatically going to be "100,000 Years." Another thing is how cheesy Paul Stanley's between-song banter was, not to mention decades-long redundant. Yeah, most of us like a little taste of the alcohol, Paul...he asked us even in 1989 when I saw them on the Crazy Nights tour. What's that mean? It's Cold Gin time again! It seemed so Groundhog Day (the movie)-ish to witness such a long bit of repetition that you have to wonder if Paul thought of it as simply going through the motions. "Whoooo! How you doin' out there? Are you havin' fun? Now I know if you believe in rock 'n roll like you say you believe in rock 'n roll..." yadda yadda yadda...

The Kiss stage revue seemed so rigid then that they used the same exact player formation during the instrumental section of "Black Diamond" where Ace kneels in front of Gene and Paul, who hoist and drop their stringed weapons for every show, and I mean every show all the way to 1977 when the DVD stops. Can you imagine being a performer having to do the same thing for years? I try to equate it to Broadway when a cast does the same show, the same choreography, the same routine almost every single day and night for however long the show is welcome to stay.

On the other hand, no matter how frequently I laughed at all of this sameness, I still couldn't wait for Gene to breathe the fire, for Ace to let the smoke out of his Fender and for Peter to just get down wit' it on his solos that aren't so flashy as what would come along in the eighties, but hell, he was still the man! I never got tired of playing that solo from Alive II in the middle of "God of Thunder" and I probably never will.

Remember the Kiss trading cards? This one was one of my favorites...

I won't forget the time I saw Kiss, even if it was a non-makeup show; my cousin got me front row tickets, and even though Gene kicked off the huge bedsheet I labored hours over after I tossed it up on the stage as a gift to the band (like they didn't have enough of those, right?), Bruce Kulick saw my disheartened face, pointed down to me and threw me a pick that I was lucky to get with a huge mob trying to mug it away from me. That's the Kiss I once loved...

Tomorrow, I'm going to posit another Kiss topic...was Revenge Kiss' true last moment of greatness? Join me, won'tcha?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Buzzworthy Metal Releases and CD Shelf Cleanup Continues...

Some new faces have dropped by recently, so thank you very much for showing up. The support means more than you know.

For my metal readers, here's a few metal new albums that I think are the current cream of the crop:

Phazm - Antebellum Death 'n Roll
Laethora - March of the Parasite
Impious - Holy Murder Masquerade
Destruction - Thrash Anthems
The Hidden Hand - The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote
Psyopus - Our Puzzling Encounters Considered
Chimaira - Resurrection
Static-X - Cannibal
Mesiah's Kiss - Dragonheart

Check it, check it, check it, check it out...

So we last left off with three of the Bon Scott era AC/DC albums on the CD Shelf Cleanup project, all marked as Indispensible, and this is where pick up now...

AC/DC - Highway to Hell - Another blogger mentioned this album begins AC/DC's strut towards the mainstream and I had to give that a lot of thought, because I remember this album creating a stink back in the day, just for title, much less Angus Young's devil horns and tail. I actually find the cover artwork for If You Want Blood, You've Got It with Angus impaling himself with his guitar more vulgar, but because this album created such a ruckus in the mainstream I think said blooger has point to certain latitudes. This album is hardly what one would consider Billboard Top 10 material, but it is a legendary rock album and it kicks as much ass as its predecessors with perhaps more swagger and confidence. Definitely one of my favorite AC/DC albums. Indispensable

AC/DC - Back in Black - Alright, here's where I'm probably going to get in trouble. I'm so much a Bon Scott purist, hearing Brian Johnson in the same listening session really tweaks me. Normally I tend to isolate the two so I give Johnson his fair due. This was obviously a critical point for the band following the death of Scott and the anger of his passing is more than evident on Back in Black. This is a very dark album that was moody for its day but for some reason, it has appealed to music fans from all walks of life, be it rock, metal, rap, alternative, country, whatever; everyone loves this album, and that's why it sort of drags it down a notch for me. The first time I heard "You Shook Me All Night Long" was out of someone's apartment and I sat on the grass outside and listened, realizing even at age 10 it was a dirty song, so I was hooked then. Now I don't ever want to hear it. I always skip the track. This really is an excellent album but overplay and overhype has taken some of its starch out for me. This is easily AC/DC's most accessible album aside from the stomach-churning Money Talks. Just wait until we get to Six Feet Under's death metal cover of this album... Worth Keeping

AC/DC - For Those About to Rock - Those who saw AC/DC on this tour would always talk about it, because the introduction of those blaring cannons live had to have been amazing for its time. This is about where I stop with AC/DC; it's a mostly solid album that rocks hard when it finds its engines, but it also begins the cycle of repetition that plagues this band the rest of its career...I may one day revisit Fly on the Wall and Flick of the Switch since I had them originally... Worth Keeping

Across Tundras - Dark Songs of the Prarie - Very challenging atmospheric metal album with shades of doom...this can be a rough listen in spots, but the payoffs are rewarding. Worth Keeping

Bryan Adams - So Far, So Good - I've always had a soft spot for Bryan Adams, though I'd never buy his full-length albums. The man has talent for writing catchy rock songs and ballads. His smartness is that despite finding commercial success with his ballads, at least he was savvy enough to throw in the rockers to keep a broad audience. Thank God, because I was scared he was turning into another Phil Collins at one point. Lots of good, warmhearted songs on this compilation. I'm most affected by the early eighties-to-mid stuff where he broke through like "Run to You," "Cuts Like a Knife" and "Summer of '69" Worth Keeping

Adema - self-titled - Oh, my... I often look at that brief period in the late nineties and early 2000s when Korn, Drowning Pool, Godsmack and Limp Bizkit shattered the rock world with the "nu-metal" movement and I laugh at how quickly it came and faded, even faster than grunge, it seems. Adema is one of the reasons why. Cashing in the fame of his famous half-brother Jonathan Davis of Korn, Luke Caraccioli can't help it apparently as he blatantly sings like Davis and Adema just wrangles through the same singular riffs without Korn's depth and punch. This one just pissed me off because I didn't think it was too bad back then. I believe I'm told Adema has modified its sound, which will allow me to give them a break whenever that comes along, but for this album, it has overstayed its welcome. The Tribe Has Spoken, It's Time For You to Go

Aerosmith - Get a Grip - Yep, that's right, you only see one Aerosmith CD in my collection. Sacrilege, right? One day, when I've come to terms with having been force-fed the Aerosmith catalog via classic rock radio, then I will begin to reassemble the old catalog and affix them to my collection because those are terrific albums that truly belong here. As for the resurrection years of Aerosmith beginning with the yawn that was Done With Mirrors, Get a Grip is still the only one that I haven't grown bored with, again, due to mainstream overplay...Janie's Got a Gun and I'm gonna hire her to shoot the next DJ that plays the song. In the meantime, I'll just shut up and dance. Worth Keeping

Afro-Cuban All-Stars - A Toda Cuba le Gusta - I'm always on the hunt for good drum and percussion albums so I can just soak and learn for whenever I get motivated to play again. This ensemble is made up of different generations of musicians dedicated to keeping the percussion big band sound's not too far off from Desi Arnaz's band, but there's far more depth and less flash, though still full of accessibility. Play this at your job like I did and watch the weird stares you get. Priceless. Indispensable

Against Me! - Searching for a Former Clarity - I'm not convinced Against Me! is the next Clash as some writers have touted them to be, but this is a very exciting punk band that follows no rules or trends, as The Clash themselves did, so that's the biggest parallel I would draw. I'm not sure I can fully describe what Against Me! does, but they could be working man's pub music one minute, and raging anarchists the next. That's music that matters. Worth Keeping

So how are you folks digging this exercise? Is this informational or at least entertaining enough to keep going? I plan to keep at it so I can rid myself of certain albums I won't ever listen to again, but the fun part has been sharing my results with you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Revew of Canned Heat DVD for AMP Magazine

I have some more results of the CD Shelf Clean-Up for ya'll, but for now, this is from my next upcoming column in AMP magazine. I do a sublet at the end of my reviews of current releases called "Metal 101" and sometimes new releases of older bands gets stuck in here if I think it's a good representation for people to learn from...


Live at Montreaux 1973
Eagle Vision
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Hopefully you all have taken enough of a journey in your heavy metal exploration to realize that the blues is one of the form’s core principles, much as the blues is directly responsible for the fifties rock ‘n roll revolution, which of course is metal’s true forefather. Renowned as one of the great American heavy blues bands, CANNED HEAT is sometimes forgotten in the grand analysis of hard music. At least BLUE CHEER is starting to get recognized more and more, but you can’t bring up one and leave the other omitted. After all, even before LED ZEPPELIN a healthy rivalry existed between CANNED HEAT and BLUE CHEER for honors as the loudest band in the world, which CANNED HEAT won for a brief moment in rock history. When you see classic photos of guitar gods striking poses in front of towering Marshall stacks, give thanks—or blame if you like—to these two bands, although of late it appears to be hip to return to Orange cabinets.

Like Leslie West and MOUNTAIN, the legend of CANNED HEAT extends far beyond their memorable performance at the original Woodstock, much less their festival anthem “Goin’ Up the Country” that can be heard in shrewd advertisements looking to lure baby boomers into stock and retirement portfolios. Already to this point notorious for being locked up for drug possession (which surviving member “Fito” de la Parra recounts as being a police plant), CANNED HEAT crashed onto the sixties rock scene as a working class bunch of mugs who played loud, dirty blues and boogie with shades of acid rock, and as their celebrity grew, so did their amplitude as well as their lengthy solo sections during famous jam sessions known as “The Boogie.” Heretofore CANNED HEAT should be given full due for their place in metal history, as they should also be considered forerunners to ZZ TOP.

Live at Montreaux 1973 captures CANNED HEAT at a point in time where many bands might’ve fallen to pieces from the turbulence they were forced to deal with. With members swirling through the turnstiles and the unfortunate suicide of musical genius and key songwriter Alan Wilson, the CANNED HEAT depicted on this DVD features a slightly slimmer (but much scruffier) Bob “The Bear” Hite, who seems to be bearing some of the brunt of the speedballs that would later do him in. On the other hand, The Bear looks positively overjoyed at this gig as CANNED HEAT is in full sync on standards like “On the Road Again,” “Let’s Work Together” and “Rock and Roll Music” in a time period following their Hooker and Heat collaboration with blues legend John Lee Hooker. There’s a certain swagger to CANNED HEAT at this point from having been recognized by not only Hooker, but the blues community at large and whereas older CANNED HEAT footage shows the band as excitable ruffians onstage, there’s a more relaxed candor here.

In this performance, unsung blues persona Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown checks in for a three song guest spot and he literally takes over the set with his stage gesticulations and his impressive prowess on the guitar, the harmonica and even the violin, which he astonishingly makes sound like a guitar’s sonic reverb at times. For good measure, Brown displays his string slapping technique that would be made famous by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the bass. To see what Brown does on the guitar almost makes you forget this is CANNED HEAT’s show.

Included is a two-and-a-half hour documentary “Boogie With Canned Heat – The Canned Heat Story,” mostly narrated by Fito. Seriously, if you think you’ve seen turmoil in a rock documentary, nestle in and pay close attention; this story is long but difficult to turn away from. In summation, if CANNED HEAT’s legacy is primarily vested in the blues, let us not forget that heavy metal owes them alms as well…

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ricky Martin Gives Bush the Finger (and I like it)

First, a little bidness outta the way:

CD Shelf Clean-Up:

AC/DC - High Voltage - Just from the opening licks of "It's a Long Way to the Top If You Wanna Rock 'n Roll," this album asserts itself with sheer confidence and it uses bagpipes for good measure! See, Jonathan Davis of Korn wasn't the first rocker to do it. This album is raw but polished, primal but focused. And one million AC/DC fans screaming "'Cause I'm TNT!" couldn't be wrong. Indispensable

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock - To me, this, Highway to Hell and Dirty Deeds are the definitive AC/DC albums. By far the loudest of the Bon Scott era albums and this one moves and shakes on all cylinders. The CD splits up the title track and "Whole Lotta Rosie," which were run back-to-back on my old cassette. Such thunder was almost too much to handle in one sitting. It never grows old and "Whole Lotta Rosie" has yet to be dethroned as my favorite all-time song ever. Indispensable

AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - One of the meanest hard rock riffs of all-time, "Dirty Deeds" is a definite statement of rock at its grimiest, while the hilariously cheeky and lowbrow "Big Balls" was like a secret code between us young'uns over our confused parents. Indispensable

Okay, so almost nobody cares about Ricky Martin in the United States anymore, not until he puts out another pop album. I'm not a fan of his music, honestly, and I could care less if he's gay or not. After Rob Halford proudly came out and everyone got over the intial shock (please, what shock?) the metal community has protected Halford as the god he don't fuck with that man, period.

And if he keeps at this pace, Ricky Martin may just get into that protected status. During a recent concert in San Juan, Martin reportedly hoisted his finger middle finger during a song entitled "Asignatura Pendiente," which included the line "a picture with Bush." The photo in question, of course, was a shameless photo op for Bush on his 2001 inaugration, which Martin performed at.

Obviously, Martin has regretted being associated with Bush and made no bones about his thoughts now. In defending his elevated bird, Martin has stated "My convictions of peace and life go beyond any government and political agenda and as long as I have a voice onstage and offstage, I will always condemn war and those who promulgate it."

Did you know the US-seized Puerto Ricans can be drafted by the United States Army? Granted, they don't have to pay any federal taxes and thus have no voting power in this country, but isn't that a little hypocritical to be able to pluck random Puerto Ricans like Risk or Stratego pawns and send them off to war and be able to claim it constitutional? God forbid there really be a draft, but you can't really blame Ricky Martin when you think about it.

Of course, this means the right wing won't be dancing la vida loca anytime soon, but there's always The Electric Slide, Strokin' and the unspeakably embarassing Macarena for them to make idiots of themselves at weddings, graduation parties and Republican fund raising events. Seriously, I am trying to cut down on my political banter, but still, this photo does make you want to puke, doesn't it?

AP Photo

And don't worry, Ricky, everyone in America crucified the Dixie Chicks for doing the right thing and they were eventually rewarded with multiple Grammys this year. Stick to your convictions.

Monday, February 19, 2007

CD Shelf Clean-Up Continued and a Little Toilet Humor

Rollin' rollin' rollin'.....

Accept - Breaker - From a heavy metal standpoint, this 1981 release is one of Accept's most critical albums because it prefaced the pivotal Restless and Wild (which I have gone for too long in replacing my cassette to CD) and it signaled the strength of what was to come from one of power metal's greatest units. Breaker is where Accept found their confidence after their not bad self-titled debut and I'm a Rebel, so from this point-of-view, it's mandatory listening, though their mid-eighties albums are the ones of most significance. And Mark, the barbed wire through the girl's ears on the cover of Breaker ought to be included in your "Judge the Album Cover" series. Worth Keeping

Accept - Balls to the Wall - Seriously, do you remember the first time you heard the song, much less the entire album? It was like getting away with murder behind your parents' backs, and once you were caught growling the chorus "You get your balls to the wall, man!!!" what did your parents do? Mine rolled their eyes and closed the door. Indispensable

Accept - Metal Heart - This is actually my favorite Accept album and some might argue it's their most commercial, though I would argue that the subsequent album Russian Roulette was their most commercial. This album just drives from start and hardly lets off the gas. I always thought of James Bond whenever I heard "Teach Us to Survive" and I still. Sing with me peeps, "He is a midnight mover..." Indispensable

Accept - Objection Overruled - This album came during that shaky period when Accept scaled down to four in light of nearly breaking up altogether. Of course that came along anyway, but at least the remnants manage to put out another hiccup and Objection Overruled is what you would expect for a band in trouble and no longer on a major label; moments of traditional Accept brilliance and a little too much reliance on past glory. "I Don't Wanna Be Like You" is "Balls to the Wall" rewritten without the dirtiness. Still, it's Accept! Worth Keeping

The Accused - Grinning Like An Undertaker - God bless the idiot at Record and Tape Traders who put this gem into the bargain bin for .99 cents! Best album for a buck I've ever bought, period. This crossover punk/thrash band had a brief run in the late eighties and early nineties and their sound was like Crumbsuckers, Cro Mags and Bad Brains mashed together with a funk element or two. Vocalist Blaine Cook (aka Blaine Fartz) had an unmistakable similarity to HR of the Bad Brains, which made The Accused even more savory. I saw Lamb of God's Randy Blythe wearing an Accused shirt on Headbangers Ball this past weekend; at least he had more foresight than the numbnut who didn't do his homework at the record store. One man's trash is another man's treasure... Worth Keeping

Acumen Nation - Anticore - Okay, I'm going to be out of order alphabetically, but so be it. I only reviewed this in AMP a couple of months back and I was quite favorable to it. I'm not sure why it didn't grab me as hard this time around. Acumen Nation is an industrial metal unit with the piss and vinegar of Casey Chaos and Amen with intelligent lyrics and some very good programming to keep this thing pretty heavy. Somehow, though, this listen just didn't shake, rattle and roll me, probably because it sounds a lot of what's going on in mainstream metal lately, only with some digial sanitizer amidst the boisterous yelling. On the Bubble

AC/DC - '74 Jailbreak - So now we get to one of the bands a lot of you are waiting for, I'm sure. I've always loved this EP, even though you can hear a lot of other bands in these early recordings, such as Them's "Gloria" on "Jailbreak" or the New York Dolls on "Show Business," but it's all good, because these are noncommittal early career jams that gives us a taste of what was to come during the Bon Scott era. I can't resist the really jumpy cover of Joe Williams' blues classic "Baby Please Don't Go." Besides, anytime I can hear Bon sing just puts me right at ease. Worth Keeping

And here's a hilarious little morsel my cousin sent me....

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Commence CD Shelf Clean-Up!

I have various things I want to discuss in upcoming blog entries such as a couple of Kiss topics, the shocking circumstances behind Barry White's death and random goodies--or flotsam, if you like. Coming up in March, myself and three other of your favorite hard rock/metal bloggers are getting together for a roundtable discussion of four albums from 1987 that we picked. Stayed tuned for March Metal Madness featuring the 4 Knights of the Rock Table...

In the meantime, I worked pretty hard on my articles the past two days, so I put some college hockey on mute and grabbed the first six CDs on my shelf to begin CD Shelf Clean-Up.

Remember, I have about 2600 CDs and they're painstakingly alphabetized to-boot, so I anticipate this being an extensive project that I hope to keep running in place of "Today's Vibes" that I've been preluding my entries with. I think this is going to be a fun exercise and it'll keep my gears spinning in my journalism life, and hopefully you'll enjoy watching this process. Here's how it'll work...

I'll attempt to listen to every CD I own and decide its fate as to whether it'll stay, go or temporarily remain for future decision. I will give each CD a very brief writeup followed by a rating of one of the following:

Indispensable - self-explanatory; this sucker's going nowhere, so long as I have anything to say about it

Worth Keeping - may not be indispensible, but still enjoyable

On the Bubble - these are CDs I will require more thought as to whether they'll be allowed to stay

The Tribe Has Spoken...It's Time For You to Go - I'm sure you get the idea.

So let's put the first four CDs I spun this morning to the test:

Abba - 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection - My coolness factor gets tested out the gate, yeesh. There's no escaping music you grew up with unless it's so horrid it's unspeakable. In some ways, that's how I feel about Abba, yet there's no denying they were masters of the hook, so much they deserve their place in pop rock history. These are some very dangerous songs. Any more than this risks severe meltdown of hipness. Worth Keeping

The Abominable Iron Sloth - self-titled - Sludge metal featuring members of Will Haven and Ghostride. Played in the same low key throughout the album, but it's plenty loud and has hints of southern boogie through it. Gets in and gets out. Worth Keeping

Aborted - The Haematobic EP - Belgian techincal death metal band is notorious for its mildly offensive name plus its debut album title The Purity of Perversion. All that aside, the four studio tracks on this EP are nearly flawless, high quality death metal songs. Unfortunately the two live tracks are of poor quality. This was one of the first promo albums I was ever sent in late 2003. Perfect time to revisit this album as their latest album Slaughtered & Apperatus: A Methodical Overture arrived in my mailbox last week. Worth Keeping

Above the Law - Black Mafia Life - Came out in 1992 as one of the scores of gangsta rap albums that came on the heels of NWA and Ice-T. I really struggled with this album because it was fun for what it was when I got it, but the motherfucker (to coin the album's favorite word outside of the "n" word) does not hold up well at all now, mostly due to its datedness. It sounds every bit like a Snoop or Dr. Dre album using all of the same samples, and also Above the Law just drenches the album with samples overtop its only strong suit, which are driving beats that is the only reason to keep it spinning. The final deciding factor is that this album just has nothing of value to say through its "pimp clinic," which is the main complaint I have with most rap artists of today. So unfortunately, I have my first victim... The Tribe Has Spoken...It's Time For You to Go

The Absence - From Your Grave - Terrific metal band from the same area of Florida as Cannibal Corpse. The Absence have a rare perfection of combining Swedish death metal with North American thrash. Seamless writing, melodic guitar work, nods to Testatment in spots, this one made my year-end best of 2005. I also interviewed drummer Jeramie Kling who was doubling as a pizza delivery guy when the album came out. That's as metal as it gets, my friends... Indispensable

The Acacia Strain - The Dead Walk - So many younger metal bands in the underground today are relying on tricky time signature swaps and brain-swirling chaotic song arrangements, mostly sculpted around breakdowns galore. The reason The Acacia Strain gets away with it is because of their sheer heaviness and subtle melody that reveals upon multiple listens. Otherwise, this album is just b-r-u-t-a-l. Worth Keeping

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dokken - Back for the Attack: 20 Years Later and a new blog feature upcoming

Today's Vibes:

Minor Threat - Complete Discography
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
Isis - In the Absence of Truth
Nekromantix - Dead Girls Don't Cry
Nekromantix - Night of the Loving Dead
Nekromantix - Brought Back to Life
Otep - Ascension advance
Leaders of the New School - A Future Without a Past...
Grave Digger - Liberty or Death

Before we get into the main topic today, I would like to introduce a new feature to PVAOF that I'm going to call "CD Shelf Clean-Up." I have over 2600 CDs and my wife is pretty patient about it, to be honest. She could easily walk outta here just because my music is so cumbersome. Every so often while scanning the shelves, I keep thinking "Really, am I ever going to listen to that again?" So in the upcoming posts, I'm going to mix in a project where I listen to every CD and determine whether it stays or goes from the wall. This will, of course, be a VERY long process, so hopefully you'll find it fun and you'll get a peek at how eclectic (and downright weird) my music collection is.

Pause to pet the cats, who are suddenly very needy of affection at the moment...

I've been waiting all week for Metal Mark to post his write-up of Dokken's classic Tooth and Nail album, one that is not only Dokken's finest hour, but it stands the test of time, despite having a gritty and raw sound. In fact, Tooth and Nail is the powerhouse metal classic it is because of those qualities, plus they were hungry as hell on that album. Please visit Mark's blog at Heavy Metal Time Machine, which you can click on the side here to vault to.

While "Alone Again" and "Into the Fire" were modest hits for Dokken off of Tooth and Nail, it was the following album Under Lock and Key where Dokken blew the roof off of the hard rock scene and made them legends of their time. Elektra saw their selling power and gave them serious production money and that is why Under Lock and Key sounds far more polished than its predecessor. Yielding the still-great ballad "In My Dreams" and the slinky "It's Not Love," Under Lock and Key was a far slicker album that perhaps sees Dokken as a less-hungry entity, and the trend would continue by the time 1987's Back for the Attack arrived.

By the time Back for the Attack came out, the metal world was abuzz with reports of the power struggle raging in the Dokken camp between Don Dokken and guitar maestro George Lynch. Don was obviously starstruck with the success of "In My Dreams" and perhaps he was looking to cash in on the formula, or even more so, Elektra wanted the band to exploit it to full force, and therefore audiences received a heavy dose of the ballad on Back for the Attack.

If it wasn't a ballad that oozed on Back for the Attack, it was a lot of slower-paced anthemic rock jams like "Night by Night," "Cry of the Gypsy," "Standing in the Shadows" and "Lost Behind the Wall." The album gets downright syrupy on "So Many Tears," "Stop Fighting Love" and the throwaway "Burning Like a Flame," which made my nauseating love songs list a couple of posts earlier.

Herein is the inherent flaw of Back for the Attack. Despite starting off with the brisk power metal groove of "Kiss of Death" and then getting into a catchy strut on "Prisoner," the album kind of plods along through formulaic love songs given life mostly by George Lynch's flamboyant solos and Jeff Pilson's driving bass. Pilson's work is a little noncommittal on Back for the Attack, much as the album itself is, however, the trio of Pilson, Lynch and drummer Mick Brown really sparkle on the breathtaking instrumental "Mr. Scary," which Lynch and Pilson wrote together. Say what you will about a song that doesn't have Don Dokken's influence on it. I think Don's voice is one of the standouts in metal history, which is another reason I was always quite loyal to the band, but let the evidence show that Don was a product of his success.

Christ, a Cassingle? Oi, remember those?

Back for the Attack ends with the guilty pleasure theme song from Nightmare on Elm Street 3, "Dream Warriors," also written by the Pilson/Lynch tag-team. The video for this song is cheesy as all hell, with Dokken saving the movie cast from Freddy Krueger by blaring him into oblivion. Yeah, right. Maybe they could've done it with "Turn On the Action" from Tooth and Nail, or "'Til the Livin' End" from Under Lock and Key, but "Dream Warriors" is hardly a bombastic song to nail a steel-taloned serial murderer with! Weird how this was the only video Dokken released from this album, and the video arrived on MTV before Back for the Attack came out. I specifically remember getting the 33 vinyl single of "Dream Warriors" long before the album was released. Obviously people were more interested in promoting Freddy Krueger than Back for the Attack.

So why do I listen to Back for the Attack so much? Probably because the production is so sharp and the songs are so clean you at least have to admire the technical aspects to the album. Of course, such perfection also makes it starchy and almost lifeless. In some ways, Back for the Attack is one of the whiniest albums of the eighties metal scene and still there's a strange charm about it. Maybe beccause "Mr. Scary" kicks so much ass, or maybe that despite the fact that "Heaven Sent" is such bubblegum drivel, the guitars are so smooth and effective you have to listen. It's too bad that this album marks a point of no return for Dokken's future, as it became a blueprint for many wannabe hard rock pop stars. Play the love song, throw in the obligatory flashy guitar solo, mug the camera, get laid. At least Dokken sold it better than most.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lynch the Groundhog

I envy children, because they've yet to discover how much winter sucks for an adult. Every time it snows, sleets, ices or whatever inconvenient wintery precipitation litters our planets, I keep wishing I was 8 years old when my friends and I would crawl through the barbed wire fence to McGruder's farm and go sledding. McGruder never minded, so long as we left his horses alone. Of course, the fateful day came when I cut my face up in the barbed wire, nearly taking one of my pupils out of its socket, so perhaps lying face down in bloody snow has likewise soured my mood. Or maybe it was the time I beat the shit out of two friends who pelted me with snowballs when I was in a really foul mood to begin with. Bullying is not my style; it was just a nasty reaction to two boys who wouldn't heed my warnings.

I do remember the joy of being off from school and watching the tube most of the day, running and diving into snow mounds, playing a fumble-ridden game of football, where tackling was mandatory, even on missed catches, trying to stuff snow down the necks of the neighborhood girls, using stop signs as snowball target practice, ambushing friends at their porches and doing homework at the very last minute as most kids do today, I'm sure. But when the news presents snowfalls as nostalgic for the children, I find myself giving the tube the finger because all winter means to me anymore is that I have to break my back shoveling, that I have to worry about getting pulverized on the road, that I have to worry about my wife and family being stuck in the middle of the mess, just the mere fact there's any responsibility at all!

Granted, snow can be so pretty, but only on the weekend when there's little to do other than get up at your leisure, fire up the kettle for some chai or hot chocolate, shovel without having to worry about getting to work on time, and then snuggling under blankets to do what comes natural to adults...fall asleep to classic tv reruns...

However, so far this winter I've had a banged-up truck from sliding off the road, half of my body sore from yesterday's ice chopping that didn't amount to squat, a bruised elbow from falling on the ice tonight and my wife's car having broken windshield wipers. I don't care what the kids get out of it, winter is worthless as far as I'm concerned. That butterball rodent Phil is a stinking liar... bring on spring, dammit!

Photos (c) 2007 Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cool and Nauseating Love Songs

So it's Valentine's Day in the east coast ice tundra. I already spun out trying to get to work this morning and I could just do without the whole damned winter concept other than the fact I'm being graciously allowed to stay home today and I get to hang out with my wife, which is a pretty amazing feat these days. My only real bitch is that my wife's job is closed and I'd arranged to have flowers delivered to her today...after taking 5 years off from such predictability...dammit I knew I should've gone for the chocolate thong instead!!!

Anyway, it's that kinda day where forced enclosure hopefully brightens the romantic moods and instead of closing myself in the office with a bunch of metal promos to irritate wifey with, I'm going to keep it low-key with her and just for the hell of it, I've been thinking of cool and nauseating love songs. Obviously, there's just far too many to get into one post, which I will leave in your capable hands, dear readership, so I'll relegate my choices to five picks per category and get down to bidness...

Cool Love Songs:

1. "Space Age Love Song" - Flock of Seagulls
2. "Damn U" - Prince
3. "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" - Barry White
4. "Let's Stay Together" - Al Green
5. "Alone Again" - Dokken

Nauseting Love Songs:

1. "Heaven" - Warrant
2. "Burning Like a Flame" - Dokken (that's special when you can get a vote in both the cool and nauseating categories)
3. "All Night Long (All Night)" - Lionel Richie
4. "Lady" - Kenny Rogers
5. "Love of a Lifetime" - Firehouse

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Midday Nap May Help Your Heart

Today's Vibes:

Yusef - An Other Cup
Nekromantix - Brought Back to Life
Down By Law - Fly the Flag
Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime
Prince - Musicology
Forty Acres - Broken Promise

I didn't click on the video clip associated with this headline, but it did snag my attention nonetheless. In particular when I heard a brief news byte on the radio while waiting for my Sirius radio to kick on in the truck that talked about a proposal to rid the practice of the siesta in Latin America. Damn 24-7 America... Must we impose our round-the-clock democratic No-Doze popping caramel macchiato-flavored insomnia on the rest of the world? Let the evidence depicted in these photos be the judge...

Now comes this little tidbit that a midday nap may positively affect your heart. Now, my wife and her boss would laugh at this since they're teachers in a day care center. One, they have an elderly employee who I fear may have Alzheimer's, and the poor lass falls asleep in a chair at least once a day on the job. Guess she's good company for the children during nap time. Two, if they were all to follow suit during nap time, who'd be minding the store? I can't even imagine looking at all of those sleeping tykes and not wanting to curl up on the floor under my own blankie.

Can you imagine taking a midday nap in this country unless you're retired, a domesticate or on vacay? Granted, there was a time I went out on lunch breaks with a book and frequently passed out, normally when I was having a stressful day. Of course, where I'm at now, it's uncommon to take a full lunch break, much less a nap. The norm is to eat at your desk and keep on working, and this seems to be a growing trend. Ask the mall food courts.

The art of the power nap seems en vogue for those of skill and fortune to be able to slip away for 20 minutes and nod off without getting caught, but who is afforded such luxuries? An archivist? A botanist? Someone working at Pixar, the lucky shits...

Perhaps this is why we're all so damned exhausted-looking when we're off-the-clock. I believe The Hooters (a one-hit wonder 80s band, not the bar) had it fairly accurate with their song "All You Zombies." Or maybe some of us (myself being guilty as hell until this past December when I simply crashed and burned from the repeat practice) are polyphasic sleep artists, coasting on proverbial fumes after a 3 or 4 hour night's sleep.

Would a midday nap help the heart as posited here? Doubtful, particularly since most work environments today keep the heart racing due to pressure, demands, deadlines and continuous stress that normally clogs the day and forces overtime. If one were to say that a midday nap might help reduce wear and tear on the body, who is actually going to trade that in for the extra half hour in the early evening, particularly when they're already behind from ringing telephones or endless workload? Therefore, is this proposal something of validity or just a load of bunk? Probably bunk if job security rings like a mantra in your head...

Just a little food for thought...

BTW, the pics are taken by Jackie Chan of people dozing on one of his film sets, very funny

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Albums Reconsidered: Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Today's vibes:

Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Impious - Holy Murder Masquerade advance
The Jam - Compact Snap
Isis - In the Absence of Truth
Domino - Domino
Jamiroquai - Traveling Without Moving
The Cryptkeeper Five - The Rise of Palace Depression/Darker Days

Before we get into today's post, hope ya'll like the new look. I also wanted to wish my friends Bob, Linda and Sophia love and peace on the christening of your son Nicholas Eldon...

At the reception, Bob and I were discussing the Red Hot Chili Peppers as I'd mentioned I am currently reading Anthony Keidis' book Scar Tissue. If you want to see what rock 'n roll debauchery is all about, Keidis pulls no punches whatsoever. I really fell hard for the Chilis in the late eighties. Mother's Milk is still one of my absolute favorite albums as is Freaky Styley, which grew on me over the years. I remember how kinetic and frenzied the Chili Peppers were during the Mother's Milk era and how the addition of Chad Smith and John Frusciante amped them up as a band, particularly in their live performance, which is the greatest live spectacle I've ever seen.

At time their follow-up album Blood Sugar Sex Magik came out in 1991, I was so excited that I walked from the college campus I was at to the record store a few miles away just to get it. What I heard then pissed me right the fuck off. It reminded me of the great wait for Def Leppard's Hysteria and how utterly upset I was when it finally came out.

Over the years, I learned to appreciate Blood Sugar Sex Magik but was still quite annoyed that it became a pop culture phenomenon. Yet another underground band robbed from me, I droned like a whiny kid. Indeed, Rick Rubin commercialized the Chilis in ways I don't even think they knew how to produce from themselves at the time. I was so mad that it was all slow, low-key, poppy, fully lacking the robust energy of Mother's Milk, and yet I failed to key in back then on the deep, rich funk textures that Rubin yanked out of them. It was as if he'd consulted George Clinton (who produced Freaky Styley) and then took it to another level. Still, there was no denying the fact that this was a pop album, taboo in my eyes for a very long time.

I think because I was so moved by Keidis' explanations over some of the songs on Blood Sugar Sex Magik in his book that I decided to give the album another listen after a 5 or 6 year layoff. I listened with my critic's ears this time, which served me well all the way up to "Give it Away." I mean, I've always thought that "Power of Equality" was the statement piece on this album, one that I used to bitch ought to have been trimmed down to an EP since the fucker was so long and I then was annoyed by many of the songs. Now I'm really tripping and grooving on "If You Have to Ask," "Mellowship Slinky in B Major" and "Funky Monks," while finally giving due credit to "Breaking the Girl" and "I Could Have Lied" as the epics they were, particularly "Breaking the Girl," which is a complete Keidis confessional. In particular, I was keying in on Chad Smith's amazing drumming on this song; no longer was I bashing the track as a Zeppelin ripoff. The sublets Smith rolls beneath the main tempo is astonishing, and the full band jam on the breakdown is really kick ass.

"Suck My Kiss" was always my snicker song, but back then I actually thought that "Give It Away" was one of the few tracks that should've main my proposed EP scale down. Nuh uh. I now hear this for what Keidis and the Chilis intended it to be: a mindless, droning party song. Only Keidis' smart-tuned raps are worth keying into, and you know, that's a big letdown--for me, anyway.

I remember at one point surrendering my hatred towards the remainder of the album after "Give It Away." It was the artistic half, I once thought. Well, with the exception of the still-incredible "Under the Bridge," the second half of Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a hit and miss affair. "The Greeting Song" is still real jumpy to my ears, particularly Flea's bass slapping that has me waning over the older days, while "My Lovely Man" is real slick with its heavy parts brought down to mellow choruses, then with an eruptive funk jam that is still exciting to me. But now, I'm no longer feeling all of "Apache Rose Peacock," nor am I all that down with the title track; I think Anthony's low-pitched rambling is cool, but the metallic choruses annoyed me then and it annoys me now, because the Chilis are not a metal band. There's no rule saying they can't fuse some metal into their music; it worked quite well on The Uplift Mofo Party Plan and Mother's Milk, but on the title track, when the Chilis try to get metal, it sounds forced.

"Sir Psycho Sexy" is an irredeemable clunker but I still laugh my ass off over it and I never fail to divert my attention to that xylophone part that helps legitimze an otherwise throwaway piece. Still what it all boils down to on Blood Sugar Sex Magik is that it is considered indispensible modern music because "Under the Bridge" is one of the best songs of the nineties, and certainly one of the Chili Peppers' greatest songs, and when you read about Anthony's influence for the song, it cuts even deeper. The sad paradox is that "Under the Bridge" is perhaps the Chili Peppers' most accessible song that just about everyone knows. In other words, it's commercial pop, and yet its strength makes it a genuine rock classic, and I don't know I'm comfortable with that shaky duality, but there you have it.

So in summation, I would have to say that Blood Sugar Sex Magik still tweaks me in places, most of which is different from what used to irk me about this album. I wonder how I'll feel about it in another 5-10 years...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Speakerphone Hell

Today's Vibes:

Static-X - Wisconsin Death Trip
Static-X - Machine
Static-X - Shadow Zone
Static-X - Start a War
Speedealer - Here Comes Death
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magic
Prince - The Vault...Old Friends 4 Sale
Start Your Engines compilation

I've had a few goofy moments in my interviewing gigs, but tonight might be considered an ultimate goof. I had Wayne Static of Static-X tonight and his management is promptly on my phone at the appointed time, I was in a good mood, ready to roll and looking forward to the chat. I've always liked this band so it makes it doubly pleasurable in that aspect.

I go to punch up my speakerphone, I'm calling out to it and all I hear is female voice going "Hello?" over and over again. Christ, what's up with that? I wonder. I lose her altogether, the panic starts in. Phone rings again and luckily I had the cordless down with me, so I'm talking to my rep and trying not to sound like a moron. After all, I've done this over 200 times now, so I sort of consider myself a pro at this point. Well, even the pros get knocked down to reality from time-to-time...

I'm thinking it's the batteries for the speakerphone so I'm hurriedly changing them and chatting stupidly to my rep. I'm getting nothing. More embarassed small talk. I try to reach out to the phone jack, the cord comes out and drops behind my drums. I try to save face by saying it's behind the drums, as if that makes it sound like I'm a musician and not just a journalist who's severely cocking up at this point...Lord, what a dolt!

I dash upstairs to my officer speakerphone which has been fritzing lately too. I take the rep's number because I know I'm going to lose her by trying the other phone. "Seriously, I usually have my act together," I joke. She's getting a little antsy because she's ready to go home after patching me through to Wayne. Sure enough, I try the other phone and lose the call.

I'm freaking out at this point because I hate to look bad, and miraculously my wife comes in with sushi, bless her sweet heart, and all I can do is holler about how badly I'm dropping the ball on this interview. Phone rings again, my rep is definitely annoyed and asks if I want to reschedule.

Fortunately, my wife saves the day by whipping out her cell phone which has a speakerphone on it, so finally the interview with Wayne went down, though a little late, but he was quite congenial and laid-back and it all went well in the end, but Jesus, did I feel like a total goofball tonight! Not even my first interview with Geoff Tate was this idiotic on my part...or maybe it was and even more, but that's another story for another post...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lordi - The Arockalypse

Today's Vibes:

Helmet - Meantime
Lordi - The Arockalypse
Prince - Come
Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich - Krupa and Rich
Rocket From the Crypt - Scream Dracula Scream
Mushroomhead - XIII
Sting - Songs From the Labyrinth
Static X - Cannibal advance
The Hidden Hand - The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote advance
Dol Ammad - Ocean Dynamics

Good God, I'm so behind on my assignments and I'm late on my column for AMP magazine. Thankfully, so are my editors! Here is my Skullcrusher of the Month award winner for March '07:

The Arockalypse
The End Records

Already the legend of LORDI is weaving by the month it seems. Call ‘em a GWAR knockoff if you wish, but these Finnish ghoul rockers have a lot going for them. In Finland, they have their own credit card, their own soft drink (Lordi Cola) and they recently defended their country at the 2006 Eurovision Awards by winning the whole kielbasa. It should be noted that Finland had previously finished last at the awards for years straight and ironically won with a group of shocksters that many of its conservative citizens cried foul over. Probably the same idiots accusing Prince of making a phallus with his guitar at the Super Bowl, one he’s used since the mid-nineties, Jesus wept…

If all of this sounds as ridiculous as an album entitled The Arockalypse, it most certainly is, but the truth of the matter is that LORDI kicks ass! Pounding straightforward metal jams with a heavy dose of the eighties—in particular Raise Your Fist and Yell era Alice Cooper—LORDI creates dumb but infectious tunes that’ll grab you quicker than you’ll expect. I’m telling you right now, there’s no escaping “Who’s Your Daddy?” despite its comical misogyny because it’s ironically catchy as hell. Even though you’ll be laughing at the sheer stupidity of “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” you’ll be singing the damned thing in due time! Ditto for “Night of the Loving Dead,” “Would You Love a Monsterman,” “The Chainsaw Buffet,” “Good to Be Bad” “The Kids Wanna Play With the Dead” and “Supermonsters (The Anthem of the Phantoms).”

The reason The Arockalypse works is that LORDI is unapologetic about liberally borrowing from the old school of hard rock and metal, so much that they wrangle up some cool guests of the past featuring Dee Snider and Jay Jay French of TWISTED SISTER, former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick and ACCEPT’s Udo Dirkschneider. You end up applauding LORDI for their audacity because all of this retro love is deliciously entertaining within its outlandish context.

The Arockalypse opens similarly to Wendy O. Williams’ PLASMATICS-credited Maggots: The Record by creating a fictitious cataclysmic horror montage that includes Dee Snider as a newscaster. From there, Mr. Lordi growls and yowls while Amen the Unstoppable Mummy nails hard struck chords and sharp solos galore, driving The Arockalypse with their posse Ox the Hellbull, Awa the Vampire Countess and Kita the Alien Manbeast keeping a steady pulse all the way through the album.

Okay, so maybe they’re not quite as cool-sounding as Oderus Urungus, Beefcake the Mighty or Balsac, the Jaws of Death, but what LORDI has going for them is some pretty good talent musically and a bucketload of rock-fueled energy. And anyone who tells you to kiss their bones as LORDI does is pretty danged killer in their own right.


Monday, February 05, 2007

What Purple Rain Means to Me

Today's Vibes:

Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Steppenwolf - 7
Prince - Sign O' the Times
Prince - Dirty Mind
Pelican - Australasia
Mr. Bungle - California
Wendy O. Williams - W.O.W.
The Hidden Hand - The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote advance

Last night at the Super Bowl Prince delivered the best halftime show I personally have ever seen, with Paul McCartney from a couple years back being the second best. I was very happy to see Prince in such a confident spot even in the rain down in Florida. His rebirth through the Jehovah's Witnesses has really impacted his musicianship, so much that he's less worried about guitar proficiency as he is feeling what he's playing. It's a moving experience in itself, but as soon as Prince hit "Purple Rain," I was feeling nostalgic and a little weepy--in a good way, honestly. To hear everyone in Dolphins Stadium sing with Prince is so uplifting and to hear of so many people crying during the same is amazing.

On the 20th anniversary DVD of the movie Purple Rain, there are interview spots with The Revolution, who give their insights during that period of time and the thing that really struck me was Wendy and Lisa telling about when they laid down "Purple Rain" on film and when there was a break, they found a homeless woman standing outside of the club crying over the song's beauty.

I remember when Prince infiltrated contemporary rock radio in 1983 and 1984, even the hard rock stations were playing "Let's Go Crazy" and "Purple Rain" in between Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and Boston. It was really something to see this man so widely embraced by the music listening community when Purple Rain emerged that I think most people forgot what a huge cultural event it was.

On a personal level, when I think of "Purple Rain" the song, I think of an old friend I haven't seen since the late eighties, a girl I fell in love with after being friends with her a couple years beforehand.

Her name was Beth and I was at first more friends with her brother, which is how we came to meet and initially I was just looked at as her brother's creepy heavy metal friend that she was skittish around for awhile. The more I became a permanent fixture at their house, however, the more she accepted me, and it soon came to pass that her brother would lock himself in his bedroom whenever I'd come over and Beth felt obligated to entertain me.

Beth's brother at the time was very abusive towards her. I remember the first time we met he kept smacking his younger sister on the butt and then he invited me to do the same, to the point of peer pressure. Those were some ugly times and I felt very sorry for Beth because I shuddered to think what might've happened when I wasn't around. None of my business, I kept saying to myself, even when he'd wallop her right in front of me. Beth was always so sad looking for the longest time and here is where Prince fits into the story.

Beth would sit on the curb after fighting with her brother and she'd play the Purple Rain tape over and over and over again on a little tape player to obviously escape her troubles. After her brother started ignoring me much of the time, I would go sit on the curb and join Beth. She was surprised I liked Prince, so she'd let me stay and we'd start talking about life and what we wanted out of it, what we hated in it, and we developed our unspoken little bond that neither really acknowledged at first. Beth's favorite song was "Take Me With U" and she'd frequently daydream about finding the right man to sweep her away with that song playing. Eventually I wanted to be that guy.

It was always when "Purple Rain" came on that my love blossomed for Beth because one, I was a sentimental romantic sap, and two, it just seemed like we spewed some of our most meaningful words when it was on.

I kept my feelings shut for a long time. I certainly had that weirded out feeling about having a crush on my buddy's sister and I felt that Beth still thought I was a scuzball that she could be friends with but nothing more. However, the more we became friends, the looser she was around me. Even when she started dating this goon from another neighborhood that was brought in to match me in football, I knew it was a temporary thing because he treated her like shit as well and while Beth was insecure at first and took a lot of it, she soon wised up--and I remember putting my two cents in.

The day came when I was going over there to see Beth and not her brother and we'd go vanish on walks and just talk and talk and I felt her begin to trust me. I was really smitten by her at this point and still we had Prince playing pretty often, even as he was releasing his follow-up album Around the World In a Day, which we were all confused by, but I warmed up to it soon enough.

I got up the nerve to ask Beth out on a real date one day after I carved her name into a tree that us kids in the neighborhood had tried to build a treehouse in. It was a sanctuary for me and I would daydream about Beth by myself perched way up in that tree. I showed her what I'd done and asked if she'd go out on a date. To my surprise, Beth agreed.

However... I got a call the next day and Beth told me that we would be ruining our future friendship by going out on a date. Maybe she was trying to be nice and not hurt my feelings by initially accepting or maybe she just freaked out at the last minute. By the time I hung up, I knew our friendship had just been forever altered by my merely asking her out. I was right to assume that. That night I played "Purple Rain" four times in a row and sulked quietly in my room.

We saw less of each other as you might expect, and I almost never saw her brother either because he'd sold himself out trying to appease a rich boy clique that made fun of him to his face and doubly behind his back. It was a shame because we'd had such a great friendship, his family accepted me and I was constantly invited to dinner or to go out to the movies. His stepfather took me to see Pale Rider because I'd split wood for him, it was just that kind of special friendship that just blows up for no damn reason other than simply growing up.

Beth signed my yearbook in 1988 when I graduated and we both had developed our own separate lives even though being within a few long strides of each other. I remember her being prettier than ever, happier as a whole, and I still wanted her. She wrote a cheerful, loving message to me and of course, leaving the usual "Keep in Touch" addendum that means jack shit in the high school microcosm. To this day, I haven't seen trail of her. I think about Beth frequently, wondering if she found her Prince to ride her off on a cycle with "Take Me With U" playing inside her gorgeous head, her brown locks flowing in the wind. Yeah, I had it bad for her, more than she ever knew. As I am happily married, I hope Beth found herself a good man and not someone who treats her like a punching bag.

Of course, whenever I hear "Purple Rain" anymore, the most painful line of the song for me is "it's such a shame our friendship had to end." Amen, brother, amen...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rising Above Life's Pain

Today's Vibes:

Prince - Purple Rain
Prince - Parade
The Esoteric - Subverter
Novembre - Materia
Holy Moses - Queen of Siam
Onslaught - Killing Peace advance

Yesterday was a quiet day for me as I had my fingers frozen to fight a wart outbreak I've been battling with a few years. I'm starting to make headway, but the treatments are painful as hell and I'm no good for most of a day when they get treated.

I'm trying to put a very bad month behind me and move on in a positive direction, try to fix problems that are in our laps, try to seek out new avenues and directions, try to get my wife health insurance much less healthy, try to devote my attention towards the foster/adoption classes we go to each week, try to figure out how the bills are going to get paid, you know how it goes... It's life, and people do try to keep you down whether it's intentional or not; it's a test of fortitude to rise above it and be yourself and fight the obstacles they want to throw in your face because it pleases them or they just don't want to deal with your problems, so you're pushed out of the equation.

Since my hands were throbbing, I watched three movies that kind of underscored these emotions and I took healing from them: V for Vendetta, Memoirs of a Geisha and Purple Rain.

In all of these films, there's an underlying story about struggling beneath oppression, struggling to be heard, struggling for independence, struggling to make it through life's obstacles. V for Vendetta is a harsher encapsulation, but the film is magnificent and inspiring to certain latitudes that in order to fight for your own sense of worth, you have to believe in yourself; the rest will fall into place. Of course, this story is violent and extreme, but I did take inspiration that it teaches you to always be true to yourself, no matter what the evil majority might want to squash from you.

Memoirs of a Geisha is such a beautiful movie and I was smitten by the photography and Ziyi Zhang, but most importantly, it showed that despite incredible odds against her, Zhang could fight her external demons through a random act of kindness that would alter her life forever. No matter how good or bad life got, she was no longer submissive to the abusive reality she faced and in the end, her biggest desire becomes reality.

While Purple Rain may not be the masterpiece the latter two films are, it is definitely a rock masterpiece and I don't have to get into that aspect too deeply because I'm a major Prince fan and it would be just me gushing about his greatness as a musician. The fact that The Kid (Prince) manages to get out of his ego enough to realize that there's more to the world than his internal conflicts puts his character into the performance of a lifetime when he's facing the skids. Because he developed enough character to try out Wendy and Lisa's song in the film, the stripping of his anger and his ego produced something of greater worth, the song "Purple Rain." In the end, it comes down to belief in yourself and the ability to seek the greater truth that wins out.

Prince will be playing the halftime show today, and while I did love Paul McCartney's gig from a couple years back, this is the first time I'm going to wear a Prince shirt instead of a football jersey on Super Bowl Sunday because I am so happy for him as a longtime fan who defended him even when nobody cared about him, even when he went through his symbol phase. While he's a pure genius and I'm just a humble little soul looking to sustain a life off of writing (that will hopefully happen one day), I identify with Prince because if nothing else, he has the guts to keep persevering, no matter the odds or how bad the pain is...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What Comes to Mind With This Picture?

Today's Vibes:

Wendy O. Williams - W.O.W.
Plasmatics - Maggots: The Record
The Police - Reggatta de Blanc
L.A. Guns - L.A. Guns
Billy Morris Band - Billy Morris Band
Lamb of God - As the Palaces Burn
Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come
Otep - The Ascension advance

This is a picture I took in October:

For now, I'll keep secret what it is. What's amazing about this image is that from a certain vantage point, it looks like a common thing, but I tinkered with my zoom until this image came through. I was so stricken by the end result I wish I had a band again so this could be the album cover. It's so trippy I stared at it for almost ten minutes straight.

Moreover, I'm interested on what everyone's take on it is. Perhaps I'm being far too naive since the general idea is rather obvious, but the psychedelic overtone was somewhat intentional and more so lucky and I hope it opens a channel inside your minds as it did mine...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Name One Song That Gets You in the Mood

Today's Vibes:

Hot Water Music - Caution
Lard - The Last Temptation of Reid
Static-X - Cannibal advance
Motley Crue - New Tattoo
Novembers Doom - The Novella Reservoir advance
The Lashes - Get It
Night Kills the Day - The Study of Man... advance

We're getting closer to Valentine's Day, so go with your heart and not your mind and come up with one song that puts you right in the mood...

I'm going with Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More Baby"