Thursday, November 19, 2015

Leslie West - Soundcheck - No Sign Of Going Gently Into That Good Night

Leslie West
Prologue Records/Mascot Label Group
November 20, 2015
"On my tombstone, it should read, 'Leslie West: It's Neither Major Nor Minor.'" ~ Leslie West
Over the last eight years, Leslie West has delivered four excellent, excellent albums, and he continues to ratchet it up with Soundcheck, an album that manages to hit everything on the menu of what you want from Leslie West. Not as many original tunes as we've gotten used to seeing, but the covers are all done with great taste, and some damned good creative change making on some classic numbers. Believe me, Soundcheck is what you came for from Leslie West.

It think this album sees the definitive version of Leslie's recorded guitar playing and legendary tone.  I know he's not out to sell a textbook, but if you were looking to buy one, this would be a great purchase. And it's not just tone and technique - his note placement and choice of notes has never sounded better, and he's still progressing as a musician with each release, how many guys can say that at the tender young age of 69?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Dictators NYC - Supply And Demand - Rock Ain't Near Dead™!

Holy hell! The new single by The Dictators NYC, the long venerated rock 'n' roll institution, is a force of nature.

"Supply And Demand", b/w a live rendition of the MC5 classic, "Kick Out The Jams" is as much fun as you will have listening to rock 'n' roll in 2015. From the Who approved crushing chords that announce its arrival to Ross The Boss Friedman's self described "Chuck Berry on steroids" Les Paul/Marshall howl to Handsome Dick Manitoba's superb rock 'n' roll manifesto lyrics and delivery, this sizzling piece of rock delivers on the promise of the past, the present, and future of this thing we love, this thing called rock 'n' roll. This dynamic duo have stepped up and not just matched, but added to this great band's legacy.

Bassist/producer Dean Rispler may be the secret weapon that takes it all over the top - you know The Dictators' veterans are on board - I've got to tell you, drummer J.P. "Thunderbolt" Patterson has never sounded better or more powerful behind the kit, and longtime collaborator Daniel Rey will rip your head off with his hard hitting rhythm guitar work, but it's Rispler's throbbing bassline and in-your-face, crystal clear and crushing production (with the aid of engineer Jesse Cannon) that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Death Dealer - Hallowed Ground - Best Metal Album Of 2015?

Death Dealer
Hallowed Ground
Sweden Music Group
October 2, 2015

Death Dealer has crushed the sophomore jinx. The sophomore jinx. At least that's what it's called in America. In the United Kingdom, it's often referred to as the second year's blues, in Australia it's known as the sophomore slump. At any rate, it is a term that addresses a second effort that is weaker than the first. Whether it's in terms of an athlete's performance, a student's second year, or a musician's second album, it is a reality that has haunted since time immemorial.

Hallowed Ground is the band's second album, and it's a runaway contender for best metal album of 2015. As much as I've enjoyed Iron Maiden's latest, I will admit that a part of that love is tied to nostalgia and very much wanting to love something. Maybe that's the difference between it and Hallowed Ground - Death Dealer comes across like someone's first band, and I am taken back to the first time I saw Eddie The Head grace an album cover, reminded of how I felt when I first heard Def Leppard's On Through The Night. It's excitement is thrilling, and it hits you like a ton of bricks. It makes me feel like a kid again, and metal is reborn.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Scorpions and Queensryche - A Great Night Of Classic Metal For The Masses - San José, California

Scorpions/Queensryche Gig Report
SAP Center, San José, California
Rocktober 1, 2015

I can't imagine a better way to ring in Rocktober than by seeing two exceptional classic metal bands in fine, fine form.

Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker have found the fountain of youth, and they nearly wore out their sixty foot walkway as they put on the hits for a nearly sold out crowd at the 18,000 seat SAP Center arena in San José, California. But first came the mighty Queensryche.

Queensryche is a band that has spent the last several years rebuilding after the controversy filled departure of frontman Geoff Tate, and all that I can say is that they are doing a magnificent job of moving the legacy forward with two excellent albums, and a regular spate of road work. The original core members, guitarist Michael Wilton, drummer Scott Rockenfield, and bassist Eddie Jackson have not lost a step, and enough credit cannot be heaped upon this bunch for not only revitalizing this great classic metal outfit, but for also moving it into the future with newcomers Parker Lindgren on second guitar and the new star of the show, frontman vocalist Todd La Torre. Michael Wilton proved again that he is among the unheralded guitar heroes in all of rock with his riffs, solos, and presence.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Joel Hoekstra - Have Guitar, Will Travel - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"I do believe you can create your own luck to a degree through hard work. The harder you work, the luckier you get." ~ Joel Hoekstra
You could be forgiven for not knowing of Joel Hoekstra before he showed up this summer electrifying audiences around America this summer with Whitesnake's shockingly successful "The Purple Tour." His rise in the world of rock has been a slow, steady climb that saw him go from a Broadway show (Rock Of Ages) to MTV hitmakers Night Ranger, then to even bigger stages with the Trans Siberian Orchestra, before he landed his first true star turn as a member of David Coverdale's long running legend of Whitesnake in 2015. His overnight success has at last arrived after thousands of gigs.

Hoekstra will be the first tell you that luck may be a small factor in this equation that has seen his star rise, but he'd also tell you that it's really all about the work - whether it's a basic love for playing the guitar, or the desire to be a part of something larger than one's self, it will all go to naught without great bits of perspiration, the choice lubricant of dreams.

No sooner than Hoekstra has wrapped up his debut tour with the 'Snakes, he is now overseeing myriad details as Frontiers Records prepares to launch his latest solo project, Joel Hoekstra's 13 - Dying To Live on October, 16, 2015, that includes a group of musicians (Tony Franklin, Vinny Appice, Derek Sherinian, Russell Allen, and Jeff Scott Soto) that certainly ranks as powerful a rock machine as you could imagine. The album is a straight up, no chaser hard rock album that is in Hoekstra's words, "Good, solid rock stuff, tastefully played by great players."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Neal Morse - Morsefest! 2014 - Five Hours Of Glorious Prog

Neal Morse has done it again. After being asked to do a performance in his home church by his pastor (an idea which Morse initially thought impossible due to logistics), the idea wouldn't go away, in fact it grew, and it all blossomed into Morsefest! 2014, a 2 DVD/4 CD/ package that features over five hours of progressive rock brilliance by Morse, his stellar band, and a host of cameo appearances (most notably his brother and former Spock's Beard bandmate Alan Morse).

Not being one to do anything with less than a complete effort, Morse elected to perform his first two solo albums (Testimony from 2003, and One from 2004) on consecutive nights, and he even flew in Rich Mouser, who did the original mixes on both records, to do the front of house sound. Considering that the albums had never been played front to back by a live band, it is Herculean to consider the daunting task for everyone involved. Over five hours of performances rehearsed for two shows. The quality of these five hours is astonishing - Neal Morse has done it again.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kelakos - A Missing Link In Seventies Rock History - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Kelakos is one of those great bands that sometimes fall through the cracks of history. They've just released Uncorked: Rare Tracks From A Vintage '70s Band, a set of tunes originally recorded between 1976-1978, and when you hear it, you'll wonder why these guys weren't on The Midnight Special cranking out the same type of eclectic, soul stirring rock as the Allman Brothers Band, Steely Dan, and other legends of the times. Better late than never, we can now hear what should have been a big hits at the time.

The band was filled to the brim with talent - drummer Carl Canedy has been a hard rock/heavy metal legend for many decades, and bassist Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. went on to a remarkable career in Washington, D.C.. While his bass playing and singing can compete with anyone of his era, Bloomfield instead opted towards a path that would see him most notably appointed Assistant Secretary Of State for Political-Military Affairs by President George W. Bush in 2001. Guitarist Mark Sisson, and singer/guitarist/songwriter George Kelakos Haberstroh have never stopped playing music, and continue to work together almost forty years later, proving that the love of music never dies, in spite of the pains that can be caused by the industry.

I recently had a chance to speak with George Kelakos Haberstroh, and it was one of those experiences best called life affirming for all the right reasons. It would be only too easy for a musician to respond to a fickle market with bitterness and acrimony, but Haberstroh has instead chosen to taking the high road by putting the past behind, and getting on with the task of honing his God given skills, and continuing to follow his muse with an attitude that is wonderfully refreshing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cracker - They're An American Band ( And One Of The Best) - Gig Report

Photo by Kristie Brown Gripp

Cracker w/ Victor Krummenacher
Palms Playhouse
July 7, 2015

Cracker is one of those rare and few bands that can get their audience to come from near and far on a weekday evening, fill a room with rock 'n' roll lovers in an ancient room in a relatively sleepy town, and create the party of the week just days after a big party holiday.

The band's fans call themselves the Cracker Crumbs, and when they gather it's always a joyous celebration. Every band has its fans, but the Crumbs are a special lot. They know the words to all the songs, they sing and dance the whole night through, and it resembles a high school reunion (at least the way we wish they were) as much as a rock show.

Steve Lukather Offers Up Some Real Talk On The Music Business As It Stands Today (Includes New Commentary From Luke)

Last Friday something kind of strange happened on my Facebook wall. It seems that someone 'liked' a photo I had posted way back in 2013 of Steve Lukather of Toto, Ringo Starr's All Starr Band (and probably a million recording sessions). Attached to the photo was a rant that Lukather had written concerning the state of the music business at that time.

Since last week the photo has been shared almost 6,000 times, and it has received some 1,200 comments, and those comments have been 95% in agreement with what Luke had to say.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Beatles' Three Guitar Workout On "The End"

It was somewhat fitting, and the circle was completed when The Beatles wrapped up their career with a three guitar jam in the appropriately titled, “The End” on their Abbey Road album. After all, they had started their career as three guitarists playing together, and it seems a good place to wrap things up. 

It was Paul's song, and John Lennon said he wanted to do the solo himself initially, as he often enjoyed having a shot at being a lead guitarist (and he was usually brilliant when he chose to do so), but let’s let EMI/Abbey Road engineer and author Geoff Emerick tell the tale, as he was in the room when it happened:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Joe Satriani - Shockwave Supernova - Ziggy Played Guitar

It finally sounds like Satch is having fun. Shockwave Supernova is the guitarist's fifteenth studio album, and while it continues a very long winning streak of largely instrumental guitar records, there is a palpable difference at play here. It's almost as if he has released the need to work under the constraints of musical theory and composition, and to embrace his inner Jimi Hendrix. There are some familiarities to what's come before, of course, but there is also a freshness and a sense of relaxation as he flexes his musical muscles. It's almost as if he's finally mastered all the rules, laws, and science, and is just making music.

When he rocks out on this record, and he rocks out a lot, it all sounds a bit less precious and predetermined - it rocks. You still have a wide variety of stylistic range, in fact, the first four tunes are all as different as night and day, but they work together because Satriani transcends genre at every turn, and makes it Satch music.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Coverdale and Hughes, Now Schenker and Bonnet - What A Great, Great Week For Rock 'N' Roll Reunions!

This past week has truly moved me. The week saw not one, but two of the greatest combinations in hard rock history reunited amongst hugs, love, respect, and loud, beautiful music.

First we saw David Coverdale reunited with his partner in The Unrighteous Brothers, his Deep Purple bandmate Glenn Hughes onstage at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California on Tuesday, June 11 (last seen onstage together in 1976? I'm told they were last together onstage in 2000!),  and now we have videos coming in from Osaka, Japan wherein we see another amazing duo, Michael Schenker and Graham Bonnet reconvene for the first time in 33 years.

Never say never, they say, and both reunions were not just wonderful, they also make me pine for more of the same. I have had the privilege to speak and know all four of these characters a bit, and all rock 'n' roll excess and controversies long since left aside, I've heard all four express their love and respect of their old partners, and never a negative word. Having now seen them all together again onstage, I can't think that I'm alone in wishing, as a fan and curator of rock, that these titans of rock would somehow find a way to make some more music together in the autumn of their astonishing careers.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Robben Ford Band with David Grissom, Matt Schofield - Live Without A Net! - Gig Report

Robben Ford Band featuring David Grissom with guest star Matt Schofield
Harris Center
Folsom, California
June 7, 2015

There's nothing like spending a warm Sunday evening in the company of three great guitarists. Robben Ford is on the road supporting his new album, Into The Sun, and he proved to be a magnanimous guitar god, as he shared his stage with David Grissom as co-guitarist for the West Coast dates, and the added treat of a few tunes with British guitar star Matt Schofield. Musical sparks flew from the beginning to the end, but let there be no doubt, this was Robben Ford's stage, and he commanded it like a king.

I had seen several days earlier notification that David Grissom would be joining the tour, but it wasn't very clear as to what his role would be, and I wrongly surmised that he would be supporting Ford as an opening act, when in fact he was there as a member of Ford's band. I was even more blown away when I found out that they would be hitting the road with zero rehearsals. He was joining Ford, bassist Brian Allen, and drummer Wes Little, who both were inspiring in their expert work as a rhythm section (especially in their solo sections, which revealed the wider scope of their stellar skills), and to think that they were covering the broad boundaries of Ford's immense musical palette without out rehearsals was most astonishing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

David Coverdale's Whitesnake - Reigning Champs of Classic Hard Rock? - The Purple Tour Examined

Whitesnake: The Purple Tour
Wells Fargo Center For The Arts
Santa Rosa, California
June 2, 2015

Whitesnake are on the road in America, and they are taking no prisoners. David Coverdale is fronting one of the strongest bands of his career, and while the show is all his, he shares the glory and plays well with the other kids in the playground. If this band shows up in your neck of the woods do not miss this tour.

Coverdale's well worn, classic British hard rock vocal pipes are in excellent condition, and his utter command of both audience and band posits him as possibly the best of his class. Whitesnake had the sold out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center For The Arts in Santa Rosa, California in the palm of his outstretched hands for two hours of heavy rock bliss. Much has been made of the condition of David's voice, but he sounded amazingly up close and personal on this night.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Whitesnake - The Purple Album - Critics Be Damned, This Is Great Stuff

The Purple Album
Frontiers Music srl
May 15, 2015

Whitesnake's The Purple Album is a solid, solid sender. It should be taken at face value and accepted for exactly what it is - this is David Coverdale revisiting his past, and in light of the fact that it looks like there is to be no reunification of that old troop, he's chosen to put up the best front possible and to simply play and sing the living hell out of these old chestnuts, and he's succeeded mightily.

Let's take a few minutes and deal with naysayers, critics, and those who will reflect negatively upon this album - some may think it best to dance around this 800 pound gorilla in the corner, but that's just not my style.

First, there is the matter of David Coverdale and his voice. I'm continually amazed that fans seem to think that a man is going to sound the same at the age of 63 that he did at the age of 22, and that's unrealistic and somewhat foolish. There's no question but that the man has used his voice over the years in much the same manner as an athlete, and there have been injuries, there has been wear and tear, and there is the matter of simply the ravages of time. However, on the flip side of that is the depth, dynamics, and phrasing that a singer learns and implements in a forty year career that can't be denied or discounted. Sure, there are places on this record in which studio technology is used to sweeten up certain spots, but there is less of this than many would assume. To my thinking and to my ears, this is a wonderful representation of what a hard rock vocalist can accomplish late in the game. David Coverdale has spent great time and effort to make the very best product he possibly can, sparing no expense, and he's done a fantastic job.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Michael Schenker / Temple Of Rock with Kirk Hammett - All Hail The Metal Gods! - Gig Review - Rockbar Theater, San José, California

Photo by Hidenori Saito

Michael Schenker / Temple Of Rock
Rockbar Theater
San José, California
May 3, 2015

Kirk Hammett finally got to play in front of a large audience with Michael Schenker and his colleagues in Temple Of Rock, and it was a historic rock 'n' roll moment.

When Kirk and Michael guested on Eddie Trunk's That Metal Show last month, Kirk said he wanted to come to the San José show, where he had just put on his FestEvil last month, and he stayed good to his word, coming out for two encores at the end of what had already been a brilliant evening.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society - Unblackened - The Sacramento Chapter Abides - Gig Review

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society Unblackened Mass
Ace Of Spades
Sacramento, California
April 18, 2015

Zakk Wylde brought a special show to town last night with his Black Label Society, and their Unblackened Tour is a magnificent semi-acoustic resume for the ex-Osbourne guitar star. My mind is still reeling at the whole thing.

The Sacramento Chapter of the Black Label Society showed up en mass to Ace Of Spaces, and if anything, the club was oversold - though it mattered little to the County Sheriffs who were hanging out at the mouth of the club and the merch table all night. It's my opinion that they're paid to keep things in order, but they were more interested in checking out the music than giving anyone the business. And you couldn't blame them as the music was superb.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Michael Des Barres - The Last Guy Standing? - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"I'm a great assassin playing Chuck Berry, and it's hilarious! We've got a great team together, and I get a shot, I've got a real shot at being the last guy standing, and to be the singer in the band, the house band at the apocalypse." ~ Michael Des Barres
The Key To The Universe is E major. It's also the title of Michael Des Barres' just released four star masterpiece of rock 'n' roll, and here is a man on a mission, spreading the word to every corner of the globe for at least three hours most days as a host on SiriusXM radio's Underground Garage, the legendary creation of "Little Steven" Van Zandt.

Des Barres' new album is the best of the veteran vocalist's career, and he's continuing on a meteoric upsurge that began a few years ago with several successful podcasts and a solo project entitled, Carnaby Street, and now finds an audience in the millions awaiting his words, thoughts, music, and more on an ever increasing level. The Key To The Universe sees Des Barres reunited with bassist Nigel Harrison (Silvered, Blondie) and producer Bob Rose (who collaborated with the singer on his vastly underrated, Somebody Up There Likes Me in 1986), but just as importantly sees new arrivals to the Des Barres camp in guitar whiz Dani Robinson, and drummer to the stars Clive Deamer (Robert Plant, Portishead, Radiohead) who contribute brilliantly to this album. This sounds like a band, and evidently they'll be hitting the road to prove just that.

I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Des Barres as he was completing work on the band's first video and prepping for the album's release, and one does not pass up a chance to speak directly with Michael Des Barres - it's like walking into the Church of British Rock Royalty and getting a sermon from atop the Himalayas. Amazingly free of pre-formulated pablum, and fresh with every answer, Des Barres is the very definition of a man living in the moment to help himself and his world awaken. This is one of those interviews in which somewhere along the way it became very apparent why I interview people - sometimes you come across an example of the breed that teaches, excites, inspires, and entertains us along the way if we will only listen!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mos Generator / Zed / Blackwülf - Rock Ain't Near Dead - RippleFest 2015 Gig Review - Oakland, CA

Mos Generator/Zed/Blackwülf
The Golden Bull Bar
Oakland, California
March 27, 2015

Have you ever gone back for seconds, and found it to be better than the first go around? Well, I know that it doesn't happen often, but I got lucky and that was just the case when I saw the mighty Mos Generator for the second time in a week at the label party of the year, RippleFest 2015 at the packed wall to wall Golden Bull Bar in downtown Oakland, California.

I had just seen Mos Generator play an abbreviated set in Sacramento two nights earlier, and even that brief set would have sated my rock 'n' roll hunger for a month, but to see them rip into a full throttle headlining set before a rapturous crowd set me completely right.

Michael Schenker/Temple Of Rock - Gig Review - The Boardwalk, Sacramento, CA

Photo by Anthony Crawford
Michael Schenker/Temple Of Rock
Gig Report (Plus Photo Gallery)
The Boardwalk
Sacramento, CA
April 1, 2015

I've augmented this gig report with a great many photographs courtesy of the wonderful members of the Facebook group "Michael Schenker".

Michael Schenker and his Temple Of Rock raised the ante for their Spirit On A Mission US Tour 2015 by bringing along to the states for the first time their recording and European touring partners from the classic era Scorpions, drummer Herman Rarebell and bassist Francis Buchholz, and it's paying off in spades. This show was the first of the tour, and while there were moments where it looked more like a dress rehearsal (understandably so, as the band had to cancel their first three shows and any prep when work visa issues slowed their entry into the US), but in fact, they had the crowd eating out of their hands from the moment they walked onstage until they strode of in victory two hours later.
Photo by Patrick John
As the band continues to morph into its own entity as Temple Of Rock, and less as the Michael Schenker Group, they are introducing more new material and depending less on the once mercurial guitarist's vast catalog of hard rock history with The Scorpions, UFO, and his own MSG imprint. Doogie White seems to be stepping up in his role as frontman more comfortably with each tour, and while it's still readily clear that he much prefers singing his own material to that of Schenker's past vocalists (and I don't blame him a bit for this, but many longtime fans do). He certainly put on a great show on this night.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Dio Disciples, The Quart Of Blood Technique - Gig Review - Rockbar Theater, San José CA

A nearly three hour drive into the bay area for a gig on a Friday night - that's the kind of assignment you give yourself when you're a full time rock 'n' roll junky. However, my success had been so great the week before at RippleFest 2015 that a drive to the bay seemed like a small price for the dope my soul requires, and I was right. Dio Disciples brought it like they always do, and it's a good thing that I'm scrupulously (some would say neurotically) early to any event, as it meant I got to see a scorching hot set of rock from The Quart Of Blood Technique, who got the night off to a raging start.

Some of you will remember Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) from the 1983 film, Trading Places, in which the comedian enthralled a jail cell audience with his mysterious kung fu "quart of blood technique", and I gotta think that it's the perfect name for this four piece. The Quart Of Blood Technique was formed in 2012, and they've released their first long player, The Greatest Kicks, and it's a solid sender from start to finish, but where this bunch really shines is on the stage.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Legend of Uli Jon Roth and The Scorpions

"Just before he left the band, Michael Schenker asked me, in fact, to join The Scorpions. He told me what was going on with the UFO thing, which was supposed to be a secret. Then Rudolf Schenker rang me a couple weeks later, and said 'Did you know Michael has left the band,' and 'We've got this gig lined up, would you like to fill in?'" ~ Uli Roth

And so it was that Uli Jon (Ulrich) Roth joined The Scorpions, and in four short years the guitarist created a legacy that still dominates any discussion of what has been an incredibly varied, and productive career. In those years (1974-1978), Roth recorded five albums with The Scorpions, and arguably created a genre of rock guitar known as shred. This last comment may raise the hackles of fans of Blackmore, Page, Schenker, Beck, and Iommi, but Roth brought to the table some skills that none of these greats could quite claim.

Uli Roth took the Stratocaster and Marshall sound of Jimi Hendrix and injected it with a sense of precision, daring, and technique that had not previously been demonstrated. His speed was unparalleled, his knowledge and use of theory unique to the world of hard rock, and his whammy bar histrionics set the stage for Edward Van Halen.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Damo Fawsett of Slam Cartel - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview (Soundcloud Audio)

Guitarist Damo Fawsett joined Slam Cartel in 2014, and he came into a band that was becoming well established and had already built a significant fan base. The band is the brainchild of Terance Warville, and after several years he had decided to make some changes to the lineup, so he brought in Gary Moffat on lead vocals, who in turn recommended Fawsett for he lead guitar position.

Fawsett brings to the band a wealth of experience, having been gigging regularly across the UK and Europe for several decades in a wide variety of bands, sessions, and situations, including a stint with the reformed Sacrilege, and touring with Reagan Browne.  He's obviously got the nerve that goes with the job, as one of his first gigs was replacing the legendary Dave Kilminster, so stepping into a situation such as Slam Cartel, which is a bit different than what he's done before presents new challenges as he fits his style into an existing machine. The results seem to speak for themselves as the band's first single with the new lineup, the double A sides 'Vanishing Worlds'/'Hypnotized' which have received excellent reviews and airplay on both sides of the ocean. The band is currently on tour across the UK.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kiko Louriero Joins Megadeth

Kiko Loueiro has been named Megadeth's new guitarist. I had predicted as much several weeks ago when the guitarist had inadvertently left some clues, and rumors were being bandied about by many Internet sites. He will be Megadeth's tenth guitarist in the band's thirty year history, and he replaces the departed Chris Broderick, who left the band in the fall of 2014 claiming 'musical differences'.

Megadeth is preparing to go into the studio to begin work on their fifteenth album, and they are also being joined by drummer Chris Adler, who remains a full time member of Lamb Of God. He's replacing Shawn Drover who left the band on November 25, 2014.

Kiko Loureiro has been the lead guitarist for Brazilian power metal act Angra for just over twenty years, and eight albums. He also has a thriving solo career (four albums), and is a clinician for Ibanez Guitars who make his signature model guitars (KIKO10P and KIKO100P).

Being a member of Megadeth is one of the most challenging positions in all of the metal world, and the Daves Mustaine and Ellefson could not have chosen a better man for the job than Loureiro who brings an extraordinary resumé and a remarkable skill set to the band. Congratulations, Kiko!

Van Halen - Tokyo Dome In Concert - The Band Is Named Van Halen, And This Show Rocks

Van Halen
Tokyo Dome In Concert
Rhino Entertainment
Out now

Perspective. That's when you look at something through the proper set of eyes. When you hear with the right set of ears. That's what I've tried to do with the new live Van Halen live album, and it's working for me. Tokyo Dome In Concert is something we've been waiting for for decades, and it does not disappoint.

The 800 pund gorilla in this is Diamond Dave's voice, so let's talk about it. DLR was never about the notes, the tone, or the enunciation - he's the clown prince of hard rock, and he runs this three ring circus like a champ. He gives a great running commentary, supplying the words, and he cheerleads the finest family act in heavy rock history. 'Panama' is a great example as he talks about the weather, his bassist being in Tokyo for the first time, and his delivery is no better or worse than it was in the '80s. We've become so reactionary about old lineups and what we think we remember that we've lost track of what's right in our ears and eyes.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Red Dragon Cartel Name Michael Thomas Beck In Lead Vocalist Change Up

Darren James Smith is out of the band, and has returned to his band from Canada, Harem Scarem, and Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel have announced that Michael Thomas Beck will be joining the band on their upcoming US/Canada tour.


The band followed up several hours later with this announcement: "Red Dragon Cartel and singer Darren James Smith have officially parted ways. All scheduled shows will still take place as planned with Michael Thomas Beck (owner, engineer, and producer at SoundVision Recording Studio in Mesa, Arizona. He has worked with such acts as Soilwork, Marilyn Manson, The Black Dahlia Murder and Daath) on vocals. We would like to welcome Michael to RDC and we look forward to getting back on stage!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Andy Tillison - The Tangent and The Legacy of Prog Rock - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Andy Tillison is the driving force behind the long running prog rock band The Tangent, who are about to release their new album, A Spark In The Aether, on April 20, 2015 on the Inside Out Music label. The album is said to be "a rallying cry to people to keep open minds about newer music in a world where remasters and re-issues are more eagerly anticipated than new material", and it is a powerful record that contains over an hour of some of the finest music I've heard this year. It's definitely a prog rock record, but that descriptor may be a bit too contained - The Tangent is a group of six amazingly talented musicians who are adept at any number of styles and genres, and this is an album that must be heard in its entirety to be appreciated. (full review to come shortly)

I was fortunate enough to be able to grab a rather last minute interview with Mr. Tillison, and being familiar with both his band and his elegant blogging, I leapt at the chance. Anytime I can speak with someone I consider a master at their work, I try to take full advantage of the opportunity. He did not disappoint, and our time together was only over too soon. However, in that time we covered a lot of ground, and I believe that you'll find this discussion as interesting and invigorating as I did.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Andy Fraser - A Life Well Lived

As soon as I heard the news I teared up. Andy Fraser has died. I wasn't a close friend or a relative, but still I felt like I'd been punched in the gut right at my assemblage point. I walk into the living room and told my wife, and she turned nearly white in an instant. She didn't actually know Andy Fraser either, but she got it - she felt what I was feeling, and understood all that it meant.

Andy Fraser was best known for his work as bassist and songwriter in the seminal British blues rock band, Free. Depending upon who's story you accept he wrote either most or all of their greatest hit, 'All Right Now'. He wrote their greatest riff with the brontosaurus bass line that defined 'Mr. Big'. He was an equal quarter of one of the greatest bands this planet has known, but he had left band by the time he was twenty. I vividly remember conversations with such great bassists as my friends Glenn Hughes and Carmine Rojas in which they spoke of the influence of Andy on their art, and for their love of him as a friend.

Chris Impellitteri - The Power and Passion of Metal - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Chris Impellitteri has been leading the group Impellitteri since the late '80s, but he'll be quick to tell you that this is a band, and not the product of a drive for egotistical solo careerism. Though his greatest claim to fame is certainly that of being perhaps the world's fastest guitarist, he's more interested in songs, a band sound, pleasing his fans around the world, and making great records.

I had a chance to catch up with the guitarist at his Beverly Hills home, and I was enthralled as I listened to the dedicated and very seasoned musician speak. He shares credit, he thinks about the product he creates and releases to a tremendous degree, and he's as excited about his band's new album as he is reticent to seem too proud, or boastful - inshore, he's a very well rounded individual who knows what he wants, and works his fingers to the bone to get the results he seeks.

We discuss the new record Venom, his stellar band, his best friend relationship with his singer Rob Rock, his new partnership with Frontiers Music srl, equipment, and recording processes, and much, much more.

Release dates:
EU: April 17th 2015
US: April 21st 2015

Tracklisting: Venom; Empire Of Lies; We Own The Night; Nightmare; Face The Enemy; Dominoe Theory; Jehova; Rise; Time Machine; Holding On; Rock Through The Night*; Reach for the Sky*

*Bonus tracks

Steve Overland of FM - Heroes and Villains - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

FM is one of the UK's most enduring bands, having trod the boards for over thirty years, and frontman Steve Overland has led the band every step of the way. On April 20th the band will begin a new partnership with Frontiers Music srl, and release their latest album, Heroes and Villains.

I had a chance to catch up with Overland in between gigs, and he was still abuzz with the band's reception at the HRH Festival on March 14, and indeed, the band's future. we spoke about the new album, life in a rock band, his band mates, and much much more. The band reconvened in 2007 after a dozen year hiatus, and they've been rapidly ascending the ranks of British rock once again, touring with such stalwarts as Journey, Thin Lizzy, Europe, and Foreigner, and now they seemed poised to return to the top shelf.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Elliott Rubinson - CEO of Dean Guitars, Bassist To The Stars - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

The Elliott Rubinson story, when it is finally written will be one of talent, determination, hard work, and making the most of the cards you are dealt. He's currently the owner and CEO of Armadillo Enterprises, which owns and operates Dean Guitars, DDrums, and Luna Guitars, and he's also a touring bassist who's seen duty with such luminaries as Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker, Vinnie Moore, Michael Angelo Batio, and Black Star Riders in the last few years.

He's done all of this without a master plan, but he's always worked very hard, and made the most of every opportunity. From selling guitars out of his apartment in college to operating a seven location chain of music instrument stores (Thoroughbred Music, 1976-1999), and eventually purchasing and reviving the massively successful Dean Guitars to getting back in the game as a working musician, he's focused on preparation and fearless forward thinking to great success.

After having dinner together before the San José date on the Extreme Guitar Tour (Uli Jon Roth, Vinnie Moore, Black Knight Rising), we agreed to catch up once the grueling tour was completed for a more serious chat. For not only did Robinson play with all three acts, the bands also played twenty seven shows in twenty eight days. All this while continuing to run his companies from the back of a tour bus.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Angra's Kiko Loureiro Favored To Join Megadeth As New Guitarist

Odds are that Megadeth has hired Brazilian shredder Kiko Loureiro as their new guitarist. Confirmation notwithstanding, Kiko and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine have left a Twitter trail of tweets that would seem to confirm my suspicions. Follow me here, if you will.

It all starts innocently enough when early in March, the guitarist starts following Dave Mustaine and Megadeth on Twitter:

New Regrets - EP - Punk Lives

New Regrets
Bandcamp (available now)

New Regrets make no attempt to reinvent the wheel, but what they do they do as well anybody. Full throttle punk that sounds as tough and urgent as anything did in the seventies, and that's largely down to the presence of frontman Ed Pittman, who was there at the creation.

Ed Pittman at fifty-eight is still the same politically motivated nuclear folk rocker he's always been, going back to 1979 when his band Toxic Reasons exploded onto the punk rock scene and captured the attention of people like East Bay Ray, and the Zero Boys' Paul Mahern who each took a shot at recording the band. Pitman left the band after their first long player (Independence, Risky Records, 1982), but his time in the band left behind a legend that remains to this day. Pittman has the requisite (well, it was requisite until the punk pop cuties came along later and soiled the scenery) vitriol, and his ragged edge vocals belie a melodicism that always manages to keep anything he does at the top of the pack.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Wrecking Crew - The Great Tribute Finally Makes It To The Screen

"'The Wrecking Crew' documentary by Denny Tedesco is a must see. It opens our eyes to one of the most unique group of musicians in contemporary music. They are the well from which the rest of us have drawn." Leland Sklar.
You may be forgiven for not knowing Leland Sklar. His leonine visage may actually be more familiar, what with him having graced the stage as the 'go to' bassist for James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Genesis, Toto, and countless other acts for the last few decades. He should be better known for being one of the most recorded and talented musicians in modern history. Leland's skills as a session player are legendary - session players are musicians who, in the words of Wikipedia, "...are instrumental or vocal performers who are available to work with others at live performances or recording sessions. Usually such performers are not a permanent part of a musical ensemble and often do not achieve fame in their own right as soloists or bandleaders." Boy, that's a little clinical, but it sure says a mouthful.

The records of acts that were the creations of marketing and record company executives, such as The Monkees, and The Archies are well known to have largely been the work of behind the scenes session players. However, not so well known is the work of unofficial and loosely membered groups (collectives?) known as The Funk Brothers, The Muscle Shoal Rhythm Section, The Nashville A-Team, The Section (which included Sklar), MFSB, and The Wrecking Crew. These six aggregations created records that sold more copies than most likely did The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Elvis combined.

The Funk Brothers - they were Motown's men, playing the music that made Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and many others so successful. In fact, many experts consider Motown bassist James Jamerson to have been the greatest session musician of all time. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section were The Swampers mentioned in Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama - providing the soulful and muscular backing for Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, The Staple Singers, and most every other act that mattered out of the American South in that era. The Nashville A-Team owned the country & western charts throughout the 1950s and '60s. The Section defined the singer/songwriter sound out of California in the '70s. MFSB were TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), creators of the masterful tracks of The Stylistics, The O'Jays, Wilson Pickett, The Spinners, and Teddy Pendergrass.

Then there is The Wrecking Crew. This nickname was coined by Drummer Hal Blaine, perhaps long after the fact - allegedly echoing the words of the previous generation of serious, suit wearing, note reading sessioners who claimed that these young, unshaven upstarts with their noisy rock and roll would 'wreck the music business.'

The Wrecking Crew first became known as the team of musicians utilized by studio prodigy/pop producer Phil Spector. It featured a revolving team of talent that included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Carol Kaye, Tommy Tedesco, Barney Kessel, Hal Blaine, Howard Roberts, Al Casey, and many others. Whether the Crew's largest legend is The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, or maybe being the musicians who created Spector's famous 'Wall of Sound,' it may safely be said that no other group of musicians ever played on more hit records. To say that they were the major pop/rock music making machine of the American '60s and '70s is an accurate statement.

Leland Sklar adds, "The 'Wrecking Crew' were the guys, just before my run started. I was in a band in 1966, and when we went into the studio it was those guys who played on our record. I sat there looking through the window in United A studio, and was in awe. There was Hal Baine, Jim Gordon, Bobby West, Tommy Tedesco, Mike Deasey, Dennis Budimir, Mike Melvoine, Larry Knechtel, Mike Rubini, and others. Within three years I was working with these guys on a daily basis. They were my mentors. A more fun and giving bunch of characters you could not have asked for."

I'm sure that most of you reading this are aware that Tommy Tedesco's son, Denny, has made a full length documentary called The Wrecking Crew. I've just viewed a private copy, and I can tell you - it is the best film you will ever see about one of the most exciting times in musical history. It stands proudly beside Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the award winning documentary that so wonderfully told the story of Detroit's Funk Brothers, as a musical bookend to that fabulous era of record making. Tedesco has compiled an incredibly loving, and touching tribute to these musicians, their time, and their place in musical history.

Even though I already knew most of the stories the film tells before I ever saw it, I will still be going back and re-watching this documentary for years to come - for the sheer joy that it brings. Tedesco has done a fine, fine job of pacing, mixing interview clips compiled over the years with still photos, and filmed scenes from behind the scenes as the music was made. It is the kind of film that will have you wondering where the last two hours went. As I said, I knew most of these tales previously, but what an enjoyable flight to take, to finally be able to watch the telling of these anecdotes in such an entertaining way. Everyone I have talked to that has seen the film agrees - it is a masterpiece of documentary filmmaking.

Sadly, the days of the session player have largely passed. To a large degree, it died off alongside the record business. In fact, this movie is suffering for a lack of commercial release itself. It's been lauded far and wide, screened for thousands, but due to the huge expense of licensing the amazing music contained within (some 130 song clips), it remains unreleased. It seems that the record companies are so pinched for profits that they can't see the wisdom of foregoing a license fee, in spite of the fact that the movie will surely stir up an avalanche of sales for back catalog when the film does (if it does) get publicly released. If nothing else they should forgive the licensing as a thank you to the musicians involved, letting the players now get the well deserved credit that avoided them in their primes.

Denny Tedesco and his team are now showing the film in private screenings being sponsored around the country in order to raise the funds necessary for the film to be shown to the public. 

When I say that the film has garnered great and loving reviews, I kid not. Here's a sampling from some folks you may know:
"A wonderful, touching, and hilarious film about the unsung heroes of so many songs that you carry in your heart." Elvis Costello

"It was incredible! I felt like I was sitting right there with them at that table. It had everything that I wanted to see, and more that I didn't expect. Thank you for making this film!" Peter Frampton

"Denny Tedesco has given us an amazing look at a musical moment in history that everyone who loves rock and roll should see." Christopher Guest (director and star of Spinal Tap, and other great mockumentaries)

"The Wrecking Crew is in the league of the best music documentaries ever made!" Dan Forte, Vintage Guitar Magazine, Dec. 2009

"If I had known they were available, I would have used them on my records! The Wrecking Crew is the best documentary yet about the recording scene. I loved it." Steve Miller (Gangster of Love)

"They were the unsung heroes - if those guys were playing sessions today, they would be known, people would know about them. It would be something more than just session musicians." Cher

"I highly recommend this to everyone to see. It's terrific, hard hitting with the right punches, and filmed as only experienced, and fine filmmakers can do. I know your revealing film will be enjoyed and appreciated by the public for years to come." Carol Kaye
 Carol Kaye? Isn't she on record as being vehemently against this film?

She is, indeed, and as Leland Sklar has remarked about the situation, "I just don't get it!"

I do not doubt that there is a possibility that the name The Wrecking Crew may have come after the fact. And, as the film was made by Tedesco's son, I'm not too shocked if Tommy gets a lot of screen time, but I will add that the elder Mr. Tedesco introduced a great many of us to the realities and the existence of studio/session musicians many years ago in his brilliant columns in Guitar Player Magazine for so many years. Without the Tedescos, we might still be wondering who made all this great music.

Ms. Kay is treated fabulously in, and by this film. I would certainly call her one of its stars, and recognize her as one of the greatest musicians to ever record a note. Her legacy is as unquestionable as her occasionally bewildering and curmudgeonly ways. This is not the first time she has been embroiled in controversy, but I can't say that I've uncovered much to support her views of this film. Her issue seems largely to do with the name given this 'group' of musicians who dominated the '60s recording industry in LA, and her denied, but rather obvious dislike of Hal Blaine. I take no sides here, other than to state that as a very educated, and I like to think reasonable music writer I can only say that while obviously not perfect, this film is a stunning and wonderful tribute to those it portrays. I would hope that she and Danny Tedesco may someday settle their differences, and be friends again.

Before I actually watched the film, I experienced a degree of trepidation - had young Tedesco went off the reservation, and made something egregious that would in some way shame his proud father's past? I had certainly hoped not. I would be neither the writer I am, nor the musician I am were it not for Tommy Tedesco. His writing inspired me, making me believe that one could communicate honestly, and passionately, even without a degree in English. His guitar playing made me realize the value of not just knowing the notes, but how to make them beautiful. I had the pleasure of meeting Tommy at a well-known music store I helped manage in the late '80s. It was there that I learned the best lesson - that no matter who you were, no matter how far you had risen in your field, you could and should still be above all, a nice guy. Denny has done his father a great honor.

I'll close with a comment from studio guitar legend Mitch Holder that sums things up pretty well. Mitch, of course, nailed it on the first take.

Mitch Holder says, "Denny Tedesco has done a super human job in documenting the great group of studio musicians who carved out so many hits of the '60's. The fact that they all played together in the studio at the same time is almost a thing of the past now. Sure, it happens every now and then but not like it was done back then. The crossfire of ideas that developed recording that way are in evidence on all of those records. Denny's film takes you back to that golden era of recording for all of posterity."

If Denny Tedesco didn't get every nuance right, I'm OK with that. If Hal Blaine has somehow elevated himself in stature as he has raised the awareness of the story and plight of the session player, all is forgiven. This is a documentary film, I understand, but it is also a piece of entertainment. And it's a great piece of entertainment - one that will have you watching again, and again - and maybe even buying some old records. You're going to love this movie.

I hope that this fine film makes its way onto your screens - it is truly one of the best music documentaries I have ever seen, and it deserves its audience.

Here is a link to the movie's website. Contribute if you are able, or see if there is a possibility of holding a screening of the film in your neck of the woods:

Great thanks to Leland Sklar, Denny Tedesco, and those who made my viewing possible.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nita Strauss - Alice Cooper, Ibanez Guitars, Hired Gun Doc, Solo Albums, and More - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Nita Strauss had the type of year in 2014 of which dreams are made. She parlayed years of hard work with such acts as The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale, Critical Hit, and Jermaine Jackson into a job with one of the most prominent and prestigious touring bands in the world, Alice Cooper.

She took to it like baby to breast, and it seems to be the most natural fit in the world, as she emerges in photo after photo mugging with the king of shock rock and flying her Ibanez guitars like flags of victory, and never once taking the smile off of her face - and who could blame her, right? 2015 appears to be promising more of the same, and now there's even talk of a Nita Strauss solo album, which will certainly sweeten the pot. I caught up with Nita on a rare day off in the Hollywood hills of her hometown, Los Angeles.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Whitesnake - The Purple Album - Critics Be Damned, This Is Great Stuff

The Purple Album
Frontiers Music srl
May 15, 2015

Whitesnake's The Purple Album is a solid, solid sender. It should be taken at face value and accepted for exactly what it is - this is David Coverdale revisiting his past, and in light of the fact that it looks like there is to be no reunification of that old troop, he's chosen to put up the best front possible and to simply play and sing the living hell out of these old chestnuts, and he's succeeded mightily.

Let's take a few minutes and deal with naysayers, critics, and those who will reflect negatively upon this album - some may think it best to dance around this 800 pound gorilla in the corner, but that's just not my style.

First, there is the matter of David Coverdale and his voice. I'm continually amazed that fans seem to think that a man is going to sound the same at the age of 63 that he did at the age of 22, and that's unrealistic and somewhat foolish. There's no question but that the man has used his voice over the years in much the same manner as an athlete, and there have been injuries, there has been wear and tear, and there is the matter of simply the ravages of time. However, on the flip side of that is the depth, dynamics, and phrasing that a singer learns and implements in a forty year career that can't be denied or discounted. Sure, there are places on this record in which studio technology is used to sweeten up certain spots, but there is less of this than many would assume. To my thinking and to my ears, this is a wonderful representation of what a hard rock vocalist can accomplish late in the game. David Coverdale has spent great time and effort to make the very best product he possibly can, sparing no expense, and he's done a fantastic job.