Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ZZ Top + Jeff Beck = Guitar Nirvana


ZZ Top/Jeff Beck
The Mountain Winery
Saratoga, California
August 12, 2014

Jeff Beck started it, ZZ Top proved it, and then they consummated the marriage - the blues did have a baby, and they called it rock 'n' roll.

The sense of awe and joy was palpable in the arena. Whether it was Jeff Beck's great band smiling ear to ear at the gift of being onstage with their boss and hero, or Billy Gibbons looks of unabashed glee at having the legendarily nimble fingered Beck as his lead guitarist for his band's encores, or Beck looking incredibly proud of his young band, and also quite chuffed to be sharing the stage with classic rock's greatest 'lil old band from Texas, it was a perfect night of guitar driven rock 'n' roll.


If I've seen a better show, I'm not sure when, where, or who it may have been. Maybe it was the perfect setting at the truly awe inspiring Mountain Winery, a venue that sits about a mile high above a backdrop of beautiful Northern California - the place is a natural wonder, and the stage, lights, and sound were stupendous. But even more beautiful was watching one of the original British guitar heroes truly teaming up with one of America's greatest bands to put on a show that was simply perfect.

Jeff Beck may or may not be the greatest living guitarist, but if you said he was, few would argue. He remains a force of nature, pulling wondrous sounds from his trusty Fenders and Marshall amps - in my estimation the only guitarist with as significant a personal signature was Jimi Hendrix, who Beck quoted several times on this night, and never more brilliantly than when he and Southern soul shouter Jimmy Hall brought down the house with a blistering Little Wing. They actually even topped that moment, though, with a spellbinding take on the Sam Cooke classic, A Change Is Gonna Come - if you didn't get goose bumps from this one, you may want to check your pulse.

Beck owned the evening's first half with a soul rendering take of The Beatles' A Day In The Life. I've heard him play it a hundred times, and I'm amazed anew with each listen. On this night, Beck once again played with equal parts fury and beauty, coaxing soaring notes as if by magic. I don't know why, or what has brought Beck back into the spotlight after so many years as a relative recluse, but it's to our benefit that he has chosen to do so.


Jeff's band for this tour consists of bassist Rhonda Smith, guitarist Nicolas Meier (whose solo work is quite brilliant), drummer Jonathan Joseph, and the aforementioned Jimmy Hall.

Jimmy Hall is an astounding soul stylist, and he's retained the unbridled skills he first unleashed on audiences in the distant seventies with Southern rockers, Wet Willie. As I mentioned above, his take on Sam Cooke's soul classic, A Change Is Gonna Come, was akin to watching a miracle in action. Beck could have about anyone he wanted fronting his band and he wanted Jimmy Hall - 'nuff said. Rhonda Smith is a solid groove on bass, and delivered some nice vocal parts. Her musical marriage with stickman Joseph is sublime - not as chops heavy as past Beck bands, but a perfect choice for a rhythm section in a band that is more song based. When they locked in, you didn't get released until they released you, and you didn't mind a bit.

Especially notable in this lineup is guitarist Nicolas Meier. The Swiss born six stringer must know he's in a band with a boss who is both demanding, and a dazzling innovator, so he does his job to pristine, precise, perfection - whether he's accompanying softly on a Godin acoustic-electric, playing wistful Hendrixian rhythms on the soul train, or bashing out heavy chords through his Marshall half stack, he's supplying just what his band needs, and for a musician with skills that are quite frankly blinding to relegate himself to this position in this band speaks volumes for his superb and humble musicianship. The looks of joy on the face of this band were worth the price of admission. Were they having even more fun than the well-heeled, wine sipping  Silicon Valley crowd? Maybe.

Jeff Beck Setlist:

1.   Loaded
2.   Nine
3.   You Know You Know (Mahavishnu Orchestra cover)
4.   Yemin (Nicolas Meier)
5.   You Never Know
6.   Big Block
7.   A Day In The Life
8.   Morning Dew
9.   Why Give It Away
10.  A Change Is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke cover)
11.  Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix cover)
12.  Goin' Down
13.  Rollin' and Tumblin

The sun went down, the roadies set the stage (an incredibly appropriate and fashionable setting for rock's sharp dressed men), and from the moment the lights went down, the evening belonged to ZZ Top.


I'd call this the Goldtop Tour if I had to give it a name, and while he always has superb tone, I'm of the opinion that Billy Gibbons never sounds better than when he wields a Gibson Les Paul. Gibbons is in fantastic shape - looking great, and playing quite frankly better than I have ever heard him play. He truly proved that he is one of rock 'n' roll's greatest riff and songwriters - often not given his due, he's a recognizable as Keith when he hits any of his iconic intros. I don't know if it's the presence of Beck on this tour, but Gibbons' solos cut like knives on every tune, and he appears incredibly inspired. The tone and the touch are perfect. I keep using that word because it is the right word.

Dusty Hill has mended well from the surgery that sidelined the band for a few dates earlier in the summer, and his subtle mastery of the Fender four string is as big a part of the indefinable ZZ Top sound. His voice is in great shape, and he looked like he was having the time of his life as a bashed his strings and belted out his blues. There is no going through the motions on this tour - this is currently one of the planet's greatest power trios.

Frank Beard. He should be on everyone's list of favorite drummer. He's a lot like Stones stickman Charlie Watts - neither is particularly fancy, but with either taken out of the equation, their respective bands would simply not be even remotely the same bands. Again and again he kept stealing my eyes from the front of the stage flash, and with every beat he drove this group like the best pilot in any man's air force.

And oh yeah, the songs. The setlist (see below) is filled with platinum classics, but recent catalog adds such as Chartreuse, Flying High, and I Gotsa Get Paid stand proudly beside anything the band has done. Perhaps it's the humor and the image, but this band has never gotten their due as songsmiths, and they are every bit as great as America classics like Petty, and Fogerty. Simply the best that this continent has to offer (So then I have to throw in Neil Young, right?). The only thing wrong with the set was that it wasn't longer, or that perhaps it ever had to end.


Then it was time for the coups de gras - the evening had to end, but the death was merciful. In fact it was joyfully rapturous.

The band walked back on, but with a Brit in tow, and the truest fireworks were unveiled. Watching Jeff Beck play lead guitar with ZZ Top is something that every single person who has ever loved rock 'n' roll even for a moment should have the opportunity to witness. Kicking off the extended encore with the bands' signature song, La Grange, it was great to hear Beck take the first solo, and take the song on a trip to mid-60s London town, and it could have only gotten better when Gibbons laid down a note perfect rendition of his original solo.

Dusty Hill took over for Tush, and it allowed Beck and Gibbon to toss the solos back and forth like a couple of guys playing catch in spring training. The ease with which these two virtuosos traded heaps of tonal bliss was a sight to see.

Next, Billy Gibbons announced that they were going to break out a number for the first time on this tour, and what followed was the most melodic, soulful version of the band's 1986 top ten hit, Rough Boy. The most pop tune in the group's catalogue, it sounded achingly gorgeous in Beck's strong hands. He milked it for all it was worth, and it was worth its weight in gold.

The quartet rocked out the night with a couple of rock 'n' roll classics, 16 Tons, and Jailhouse Rock, and the sold out audience walked away smiling from ear to ear. The evening ended rather well, with myself and my co-pilot for the evening the lovely Michelle joining a group of tailgaters in the parking lot, drinking high end scotch and smokin' Cuban cigars, as we waited for the lot to empty. Folk, it gets little better than this....

ZZ Top Setlist:

1.   Got Me Under Pressure
2.   Waitin' For The Bus
3.   Jesus Just Left Chicago
4.   Gimme All Your Lovin'
5.   I Gotsa Get Paid
6.   Flyin' High
7.   Foxey Lady (Jimi Hendrix cover)
8.   Catfish Blues (Muddy Waters cover)
9.   My Head's In Mississippi
10.  Chartreuse
11.  Sharp Dressed Man
12.  Legs

Encore (with Jeff Beck):

1.   La Grange
2.   Tush
3.   Rough Boy
4.   16 Tons
5.   Jailhouse Rock

Friday, August 8, 2014

Paul Gilbert - Stone Pushing Uphill Man - Fun, Fun, Fun


Thanks, Paul - your new record is seriously, seriously fun.

It sounds as if, in his never ending quest to marry melody with mind-blowing chops, Paul Gilbert has allowed us into the workstation of his mind. Stone Pushing Uphill Man is his new solo instrumental record, and it's filled with familiar tunes re-done Paul-style.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Randy Bachman - Vinyl Tap Tour - Every Song Tells A Story: Pure Canadian Gold


Randy Bachman is one of those guys we all know, whether we know him, or not. His guitar, voice, and songs have been heard by countless millions of rock 'n' roll fans for coming on 50 years. First, he wrote four million selling singles with The Guess Who, then he went on to win four Juno Awards and sell millions of records with the seventies concert favorites, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. He's sold over 40 million records. He's been satirized by Homer Simpson, covered by Lenny Kravitz, and his surname was even adapted as a nom de plume by author Stephen King (Richard Bachman). Yeah, that Randy Bachman (pronounced Back-man).

If you don't know the name, you know the songs - American Woman, Takin' Care Of Business, These Eyes, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet, No Sugar Tonight, Let It Ride, Laughing, and others are all etched in your musical memories, and Bachman has followed in the footsteps of such songwriting heavyweights as Ray Davies and Greg Lake to present his history in storyteller form with his new DVD/CD package, Vinyl Tap Tour - Every Song Tells A Story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Walter Trout - On The Mend! - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Jeff Katz
Today Walter Trout is on the mend, but it was not long ago that things were looking somewhat bleak for the blues rock legend. In less than a year Walter lost over a hundred pounds, his hard earned callouses, much of his physical strength, and very nearly his life, but he came back to win the race and acquire a new liver with which to fight the good fight of recuperation, which he is now doing.

In the interim he did what he's always done - he took care of business. He wrote and recorded a new album, The Blues Came Callin', co-wrote with Henry Yates a new biography, Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout, he's the subject of an in progress documentary film, and he has even managed to keep his longtime band on the road and working. He may not play a single gig this year, but he still has more than enough to keep someone quite busy, all while fighting a life threatening liver failure.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Calfornia Breed - Bonham Out, Joey Castillo In - Bonham: "I wasn't going to be bullied into touring"


Last Friday morning an ominous post showed up upon the official Facebook Page of California Breed - it stated that Joey Castillo would be appearing with the band for all announced dates.

Soon after, the band's website displayed two lineups, one with Joey Castille as the band's 'live' lineup drummer, and a second with Jason Bonham as the group's 'studio' drummer. However, by the end of the day it had unraveled, and it now appears that Bonham is clearly out, and Castillo is the new stickman for California Breed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dick Wagner Dead at 71 - Rest In Peace, My Friend....


I'm saddened today by the death of Dick Wagner - best known as the guitarist who co-wrote Only Women Bleed with shock rock king Alice Cooper, Wagner was one of the greatest unknown guitarists  of his era. He was 71.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ace Frehley - Space Invader: Ace Hits A Home Run With Quintessential New York Arena Rock


Ace Frehley - a guy with a point to prove, and boy has he proved it. Space Invader is the fun rock record of the Summer of 2014. Endless riffs, stinging solos that say 'Ace,' and maybe the best sound I've heard on a hard rock mix this year. The album could have easily been called Kiss This. It's the best album out of the KISS camp since the seventies.

Before I get into this album, I gotta say that this makes my mouth drool for what could have been. If only KISS had been able to play in their original iteration at the RRHoF, the band could have called it a day that night, and been revered for the next hundred years. Sober for over seven years, Frehley is playing better than ever, and it sounds like he's having a fantastic time while he's at it. Whatever the reasons, they sure weren't about musical abilities. We'll always be the less for this tremendous missed opportunity.

That Metal Show Presents: Anthrax, Living Colour, Corey Taylor - Gig Review - Thunder Valley Casino, Northern California

Frank Bello, Corey Glover, Scott Ian
Living Colour remains to this minute one of the greatest rock bands on God's green earth, and it says much about Anthrax that they were able follow Vernon Reid's bunch onto the stage and continue to blow folks away. Corey Taylor? Scott Ian's nu-metal pal showed that he's equally at home with an acoustic guitar and a microphone as he is fronting brutally hard rock.

Classic rock and metal are alive and well in the burgeoning world of gambling and gaming. Where once these genres filled arenas and theaters, time has marched on and many great bands and shows have been relegated to being draws for casinos. The downside is the fact that like it or not, time marches on and no great music stays in the mainstream forever - the upside is that these casinos have better sound, stages, lights, and facilities than their counterparts ever had, they keep these acts earning, and they provide a place for people to see some great entertainment by some very viable bands.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls - The Pride Of Metal


Judas Priest gives a shit. They show up, they suit up, and they bring it - 40 years later they are still delivering the goods. Redeemer Of Souls is a proud testament to a band that has never rested on its laurels, and while I hope it's not their last, if it were it would be a grand way in which to go.

There's a great set of bookends happening here - frontman of frontmen Rob Halford pours his soul into every moment in an effort to prove he is still the king, and he's joined by new kid on the block Richie Faulkner, who proves his mettle by faithfully filling the metal shoes of one of the genre's legends, the now departed K.K. Downing. As one man is approaching the end of a long and unquestionably brilliant career, another has appeared to carry the torch into the future. This is a passing on of a tremendous legacy, and both men have done their best, and it's damned glorious.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blues Pills - A Flippin' Fantastic Debut


Blues Pills have been simmering for a few years, and now with the release of their debut long player they have achieved a full boil. The nascent band of youngsters from Sweden consistently write and play beyond their years, and there's no weak links to be found - in fact, this goes straight into my top five for 2014 at this point.

No plodding blues rock to be found here, this is bluesy rock all right, but it swings and moves in a glorious manner that only makes singing sensation Elin Larsson and guitar star Dorian Sorriaux shine all the more. These two toss the spotlight back and forth like no duo in recent times, and when they riff together it's heaven. People tend to refer to new bands in old terms, and I'm OK with that, but this bunch would sound great in any era that I've lived through. Unquestionably, this is one of the most powerful debut releases in the last decade.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Recordings That Demand Your Attention by Greg Prato - A Great Reminder!


They say you should write what you know, and again and again, Greg Prato has done just that. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Classic Rock Magazine, and he's just released his twelfth book, Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Records That Demand Your Attention, a loving look at 354 undervalued albums that have left an indelible impression on the author's mind.

Greg has an very comfortable conversational manner of writing, electing to go for the direct approach, as opposed to the pseudo-intellectual, 'I'm so clever and erudite' path that so many scribes choose to meander down. This is a fun, entertaining, and educational read that will well serve those who just want good information and a little direction.

Monday, July 7, 2014

America, Meet Danny Bryant - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Marco van Rooijen
Danny Bryant is a very special, exciting, and exceptional musician, but his longtime relationship with blues legend Walter Trout may be even more special. In their relationship there are lessons in life itself.

Talk about your Cinderella stories - just months ago, things seemed pretty bleak in the tale of Danny Bryant and his mentor and friend, Walter Trout. The pair have been friends for twenty years, and they had hoped to tour America together in 2014, but Walter Trout's liver had other ideas, and the blues guitar legend found himself in an induced coma as his body waited on the possibility of a donor organ being found before his old liver completely surrendered. Touring wasn't even on the menu as Trout's mortal coil seemed in peril.

Well, the world wasn't quite through with Walter Trout, and Walter Trout certainly isn't through with this world. The circumstances have turned around very nicely - a donor liver was found, fans, friends and family have contributed over $240,000 to help defray the tremendous financial burdens, the surgery was a success, Walter is on the road to recovery, and now British guitar wiz Danny Bryant is coming to America for the first time to headline a month of shows fronting Walter's longtime band, and it would seem that from the ashes of what could have been a sad ending there has risen a new day's dawn.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shell Shocked - Howard Kaylan - It's A Turtle's Life


There's a lot to be saying for being the last guy standing. This theory is put paid by Howard Kaylan's incredibly entertaining memoir, Shell Shocked. It would appear that Turtles don't move fast, but they are in for the duration.

Jim Hendrix, John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Frank Zappa, Harry Nilsson, and many other friends and associates of Kaylan's may have left us too soon, but the voice of Happy Together is still here and going strong, and we are the beneficiaries. Shell Shocked joins autobiographical treatments by such classic rockers as guitar legend Dick Wagner, and Humble Pie's Jerry Shirley as books by names you might not know, but who all helped write the book we call the history of rock 'n' roll.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bobby Womack - Rest In Peace, Brother....A Brief Remembrance


As always, it began innocently enough. We were working behind the counter at the Guitar Center in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard. We had just moved the store into its new mega-location from the low rent ghetto of a store I hired into, and we were getting ready for our grand opening.

I had gone off to the warehouse to count some stock, and when I returned one of my co-workers, a GIT student with silver blonde hair that was stacked to the moon and frozen in place with simple syrup was arguing with a gentleman over some pricing on a few guitar effects pedals. The man said that they were just some toys for his 'git-ar.'

Sunburst - How The Gibson Les Paul Became A Legendary Guitar - Tony Bacon


Sunburst is definitely a book to own, but it makes me pine for something more. If you've been interested in guitars for more than ten minutes, I'm sure you are familiar with Tony Bacon's works, and this is more of the same. Essential, but not exceptional. If I sound like I'm of two minds here, I most definitely am. Please read on....

Bacon is nothing if not consistent - his books are unerringly accurate, and he knows how to layout a story, but they also lend themselves to a 'just the facts, ma'am,' conclusion. He is an aggregator - there's not much here that will be revelatory, but it's a great primer and one that should be on every guitar buff's book shelf. The stories are all here, they're all accurate, and there's enough technical information in his Reference List to make this essential material for every guitar shop.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Philip Sayce - Influence - His Best Yet - The Kid Ain't Going Down, Ain't Going Away


Influence is the best record of Philip Sayce's career, edging out even last season's impeccably rocking Steamroller. Putting paid the notion that you can keep a good man down, Sayce may not have gotten the breaks with his last outing, but he's kept his nose to the grindstone, and he's combined with his producer and friend Dave Cobb to make yet another brilliant record.

Half covers/half original tunes penned by Sayce and Cobb (who also adds tasteful bass to the tracks), Influence is a brilliant production - it's sonically sensational, the arrangements are just that, and when they went to the library they scoured the shelves for rare nuggets and eschewed the temptation to rest on other hit maker's laurels. If this album doesn't make Sayce a star I'll eat my hat.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

David Grissom - Living The Guitar Life - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Matthew Sturtevant
"It was a long process, and I was very adamant that I had the opportunity to use it in the studio, and a lot of gigs to make sure it worked equally well in each situation, because I think if you spend that much money on an amplifier, it ought to be useful live, and in the studio, and that has not always been the case with amps in the past." ~ David Grissom on his signature series PRS amplifiers 
David Grissom truly lives the guitar life. He's played with Joe Ely, John Mellencamp, The Dixie Chicks, sessioned for the likes of Ringo Starr, Robben Ford, Chris Isaak, written hits for Trish Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack and others. He also has a solid solo career with four long players under his belt, including his latest, the excellent, How It Feels To Fly, which is a must hear that includes a half hour live set from his residency at Austin's legendary Saxon Pub, that includes a fabulous cover of ZZ Top's Funky Dogs And Nasty Kings, and a wickedly cool nine minute workout of the Allman Brothers' Jessica - oh yeah, did I mention he once subbed for Dickey Betts with the brothers?

As if that wasn't enough he's also designer of top flight gear in conjunction with Paul Reed Smith Guitars and Amps, doing almost ground-up work on his signature series DGT guitars, and the new DG Custom 30 and 50 watt powerhouse amps. He'll claim to not be a very technical guy, but by the time you're through reading you'll have a fine appreciation for his attention to the smallest details, and his innate ability to know what he wants to feel and hear from his equipment onstage, and in the studio. I've seen too many signature model instruments that just had a different finish and the star's name emblazoned upon them - it's refreshing to learn so much from someone who took the time to really make his signature models something very special.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Dagger - Death Metallers Go Back To A Melodic Metal Place In Time


The Dagger is a side project that appears to be becoming much more than that for this group of Swedish death metal all stars. They've been writing together for several years, all the while looking for the right voice to present their thoughtful reflection on the sounds of classic '80s metal, and in Jani Kataja, they've obviously found the right guy.

Their self titled long player is a great listen, and I hope they've only begun. Guitarist David Blomqvist is a stunner, and he worships at the alter of Blackmore, Roth, and Murray, and his riff writing is top notch, especially when one takes into consideration just how tough it is to write in a genre which has been on tap for over 30 years. Sure, he completely apes the guitar/keyboard solo from a Rainbow classic on their very first track, but it's old enough so that only a few of us dinosaurs will recollect it, and some kids will hear a ripping good musical interlude.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Who - Quadrophenia - Live In London - Bloody Brilliant


Who'd have thunk? Bloody brilliant. Not feral, as The Who once was, but stunningly beautiful. Daltrey is on fire, and this is the perfect document for the greatness of Peter Townshend's right hand. Holy shit good....If you ever dug The Who, even for a moment, buy this.

I love having my mind blown. Especially when I don't expect it. I had recently been sent a trailer type clip which impressed me tremendously, but I was still unprepared for the sheer breadth of this document. This past month started off well enough with the release of the new Zeppelin remasters/nuggets collection, and this is just icing on the cake. It's most telling that two of rock's original wonders are putting out the most exciting and vibrant packages that are crossing my desk. If you're one of the twelve people who have never figured out the genius of Pete Townshend and The Who, I implore you to check this one out.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Kadavar - Live In Antwerp - You'll Want This One


Kadavar
Live In Antwerp
Nuclear Blast Records

Kadavar serves themselves well with the excellent live set, and set the stag for where this German band of rockers goes next.

As I often do, when confronted with a newer band's offerings that suggest a strong connection to rock's long distance past, I'll A/B them next to the actual artifacts of the past to see how they stand up. I put Kadavar's latest, Live In Antwerp, up next to The Who's Live At Leeds, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath, and I think it makes the case for rock being quite alive and well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Scott Gorham - Still Proving It - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

 "I think we kind of have a point to prove here. We want to get away from the twelve day thing, just to see what we can do given the chance to go in and make a proper album - the way we were used to making albums, right?" ~ Scott Gorham on recording the next Black Star Riders album in the Fall with Def Leppard's Joe Elliott
At a very young 63 years old, Scott Gorham still has things to prove. While many of his contemporaries have decided to pack in making records, and doing anything but greatest hits shows on the road, this California native is in for all intents and purposes new band, writing songs for a new album, and touring America under a brand new banner.

Friday, May 30, 2014

California Breed - The Father, The Son, The Holy Ghost - Rock Ain't Near Dead....


Rock 'N' Roll is alive and well. I went to the mountain, got the sermon, and I am here to spread the gospel. I saw the history of British rock played out with an American twist as Glenn Hughes returned victoriously to the stage of the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood after a 44 year absence, and he brought with him, Jason Bonham, the son of the greatest hard rock drummer in history, who is currently state of the art at his art, and they brought with them the new messiah of rock, 23 year old wunderkind Andrew Watt, who played and looked the part of the second coming of the rock star circa 2014. They tore the joint up, and love was in the air.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Last Hombres - Odd Fellows Rest - Levon Helm Sure Had Good Taste


The Last Hombres were the only band Levon Helm ever joined as a member after the end of The Band, and that speaks volumes. The band also worked with Rick Danko, but the fact that they were revered by key members of maybe the best roots music ensemble ever is just my way of drawing you in - what's germane is the band's excellent new record, Odd Fellows Rest, which you will thank me for pointing out later.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rival Sons - Great Western Valkyrie - A Good Band Gets Great


Rival Sons continue to mine gold on Great Western Valkyrie, their fifth long player with producer Dave Cobb, making meaningful rock in the heart of a country music wasteland called Nashville.

To review this record, I attempted to time travel in my mind, back to 1970, where I imagine placing Rival Sons right in the middle of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Free, to see how they would have fared. These seem to be the points I see struck by most writers, so I figure those are the glasses I'll put on to look into the distant past to see how the present stands up.

Monday, May 19, 2014

PGP 2 - Pinnick Gales Pridgen Do It Again, and Even More Brilliantly


PGP 2 finds Pinnick Gales Pridgen back again, and perhaps they've not only beaten the sophomore jinx, maybe they've beaten even their superb first effort.

In a time in which many are saying that even to consider making an album is a misguided move fraught with danger, dUg Pinnick puts out four records that stand proudly beside anything in his catalogue. People say the guitar is a tired and dying instrument, but somehow Eric Gales makes music sound undiscovered and beautiful every time he picks up his axe. Drums have been a thing of the past ever since rap raised its head, yet Thomas Pridgen remains inventive and vital in a host of various genres and bands. Rock Ain't Near Dead - and it was never proven with more aplomb than on PGP 2, the second effort by Pinnick Gales Pridgen. The Left Hand Gang is back, and they are bad.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joe Satriani - Strange Beautiful Music, and The Complete Studio Collection


Joe Satriani sails into summer with a great package that should satisfy both the loyal and the neophyte Satch fan. Whether you've been there since the first EP like I have, or you're just getting into the realm of shred's smartest head, this package is all you'll need until Joe returns to the studio. The book is an encyclopedic look at Joe Satriani's catalogue by the master himself, and The Complete Studio Collection, re-mastered in 24-bit/96kHz High Resolution-Audio by longtime Satriani studio partner John Cuniberti and overseen by Joe himself, speaks for itself - even the less than expected mp3 files that Sony sees fit to dump on reviewers they obviously have less than love for sound great (more on that later).

Black Star Riders - Harlow's, Sacramento, California - Scott Gorham Proves His Point


Scott Gorham has a point to prove, and he's proving it. And, he just might be the best rhythm guitar player in the world on any stage, on any given night.

It's a small club, and the stage is smaller yet. The band has half their gear onstage, their soundman is not their own, and it's a Monday night crowd. This could discourage a lesser band, but Black Star Riders performed as if it was the biggest arena in the world and this was the only audience that ever mattered. I've not often seen a band so intent, so committed to their performance - Black Star Riders came and conquered.

Monday, May 12, 2014

California Breed - Zen and the Art of Glenn Hughes


Glenn Hughes is excited about California Breed. Glenn Hughes is very excited about California Breed.

Coming on the heels of the musically successful, but born to lose Black Country Communion, his new band is set to launch their debut album and their inaugural shows, and his excitement is well deserved. In the face of the possibility of restarting the failed supergroup, he looked away from an incredible A-list of world class guitarists offering to be the next in line, and instead took the road less traveled with a virtually unknown kid, the 23 year old Andrew Watt. The results are spectacular - this band sounds dangerous.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Motorhead and Graveyard Rock The Warfield Theater: Lemmy Takes The Day


Lemmy Kilminster led his team to the battlefield once more, and rode away victorious. Long live Lemmy.

The sold-out crowd at San Francisco's Warfield Theater is an experienced, well-dressed rock audience. Everyone here is here for the music, the sights, the sounds, and the lights, and they too walk away victorious. No one knew exactly what to expect from Motorhead, what with their hard living leader reported to be unwell, and having many unfortunate cancellations behind them from the last year. What we got was an amazing performance from start to finish, and a reaffirmation of all that's right with rock.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dewa Budjana - Surya Namaskar - The Future Of Fusion In 2014


Surya Namaskar is destined to be a fusion classic. Dewa Budjana brings together tremendous guitar playing skills and equally impressive talent as a composer - add two fusion superstars (Vinnie Colaiuta and Jimmy Johnson) to the mix, throw in mix master Robert Feist (he engineered Allan Holdsworth's greatest records), and you have the perfect ingredients for success, and succeed this troop has.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nita Strauss - Much More Than A Maiden - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


Nita Strauss has been a figure on the West Coast guitar scene for years - when not channeling Dave Murray's sound, style, and licks onstage with The Iron Maidens, she might be found recording rocking classical renditions of various video games with Critical Hit, or maybe even on the road playing some hard funk with Jermaine Jackson. She is definitely not one to let grass grow under her feet - she even finds time to work with her co-guitarist and longtime friend/roommate Courtney Cox in not just the Maidens, but also Lorraine Lewis's reformed Femme Fatale who hit the waves between March 29-April 2 for the incredible (and sold out) Monsters of Rock Cruise, in which they'll be showing off both FF, and The Maidens.

Monday, March 17, 2014

California Breed - Well Worth The Wait, This Is A Brand New Breed - Review


Rock Ain't Near Dead - that's been my mantra for a while, and I am now more convinced than ever. California Breed is a fantastic album by a fantastic band. It's new breed, if you will - it doesn't sound like Deep Purple, Black Country Communion, or anything that preceded it. Hughes and Bonham have done some of their best work yet, and the avenue of guitar heroes has a new kid on the block in Andrew Watt.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Buffalo Killers - Heavy Reverie - Radio Ready, Willing, and Able

Buffalo Killers are back with Heavy Reverie, and they're going for the throat with a record that should situate the band for full throttle rock stardom. They've brought along a new label (Sun Pedal Recordings - Warner Music Group), a new producer (the legendary Jim Wirt), and hell, they even mixed it on the Neve console that gave birth to Michael Jackson's Thriller demos.

Friday, March 7, 2014

KXM - Supergroup? Hell Yes.


Korn + King's X + Lynch Mob = KXM = synergy.
syn-er-gy: noun 1. the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce combined effect greater than the sum of their separate parts.
In my old age, I'm learning to not be too quick to judge, to not shoot from the hip without looking closely at what I'm shooting. And in this case, that concept has served me very well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nalle Colt - Vintage Trouble - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Photo by Neil Kitson
Vintage Trouble is perhaps the world's biggest unsigned act, and that's no mistake. From day one they've done things their own way, and it worked like a charm for the hard working four piece from Los Angeles. Having played for millions of fans over the last few years to taking over the late night airwaves, the band has played their cards to perfection. Now, it's time for all that to change.

Nalle Colt is the band's guitarist, and writer of some of the sharpest dressed rock to find its way into the public consciousness in ages. He explained to me recently how the band's hard work, and the guidance of maybe the best management team on the planet (McGhee Entertainment) has led them to their next chapter and their second album, and perhaps a date with the unlikely, but incredibly impressive pairing of Jack White and Don Was. Nalle also told me how he came to the Les Paul, Revival Amps, and he delivered a great message on the power of hard work and gratitude.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Philip Morgan Lewis - The Whistleblower - A Timely Tale and Video


Philip Morgan Lewis returns with a new single, The Whistleblower, and it is already getting serious airplay here in the States, and in his UK homeland. The message is certainly one that many are thinking these days, in which the good guys have been put on the run by the powers that be.



Lewis is a regular one man band, playing everything here with the exception of Clive "B" Smart's excellent as always slide guitars, and some nice background vocals by Little A and VICK E. Lewis produced the record, played the instruments, and produced and edited the video. And, that's him on the skateboard in the video!

I was big on Morgan Lewis' Karma Comedown EP last year, and it appears there's no slowing down now. Karma Comedown received great press and airplay last year, and it seems that his bold, bluesy style has caught more than a few ears.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jon Herington - Much More Than Just Steely Dan's 'Go To' Guitarist - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview


"I found out that one of the most amazing opportunities anyone can have in a musical career is this repeat chance, years and years in a row, again and again, to play the same music with a top notch band. Music with room to improvise, and to play it at high stakes, where an audience is expecting a high caliber of musicianship night after night, year after year. It's amazing what you can accumulate over the years if you are working consciously to get better at it." ~ Jon Herington on touring with Steely Dan

Jon Herington is certainly best known for being a guitarist for Steely Dan, and various Dan related solo projects and off-shoot bands for nigh on fifteen years, but he's also led his own band for over twenty years and five albums, including a record (2012's Time On My Hands) that Vintage Guitar Magazine called, 'One of the best albums of the year, but of the past decade,' and rightfully so.

Monday, February 24, 2014

KISS - Opportunity Missed?


I'm jumping on the bandwagon on this one, something I rarely do, but I may as well say my piece. The fact that KISS is not playing their own induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with the original lineup is a crime against their fans, and a great opportunity missed.

George Lynch - A Good Effort But A Too Tame Mob in Sacramento


Keith St. John saved the night. A last minute addition to Lynch's mob, St. John stepped in and did a great job in an otherwise extremely lackluster night at The Boardwalk in Sacramento.

In what seems to have become a recurring theme George Lynch again found himself without a lead singer on the eve of a tour. Whether Tad Gonzales walked, or was shown the door, no one seems to know, but regardless of the details, it certainly doesn't look good, and it doesn't make for great rock and roll. It wasn't that long ago that original Lynch Mob vocalist Oni Logan bailed on the band just hours before a flight, and had to be replaced by LA veteran Chaz West. It begs a few questions, but first, some praise for Keith St. John.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rolling Stones Gear - Stones Fans and Guitar Lovers Rejoice!


"Keith explained the unconventional origins of "Paint It, Black" and how it came together: "Mick wrote it. I wrote the music, he did the words. Get a single together. What's amazing about that one for me is the sitar. Also, the fact that we cut it as a comedy tack. Bill was playing an organ, doing a takeoff of our first manager (Eric Easton), who started off his career in show business as an organist in a cinema pit. We were doing it with funky rhythms, and it hadn't worked, and he started playing it like this and everybody got behind it. It's a two-beat, very strange. Brian playing the sitar makes it a whole other thing." ~ Chapter 6 - page 221

Of course, then Bill Wyman goes on to tell a quite different story completely concerning the organ part, the story of the sitar use is fleshed out superbly, we read about the acoustic guitars that Brian and Keith used (Gibson Hummingbirds, with Keith using a Guild Freshman M-65 for his lead), we find out who played what rhythm instrument, all adding up to, "a great sound... like a Hungarian polka."

Monday, February 17, 2014

BIGELF - Into The Maelstrom - A Stunning Comeback


Originally printed at www.metaltalk.net!
"Damon Fox is the real thing. How many times do we get to hear that? Rock and roll is fading into memory, lost in a sea of mediocrity and an ocean of banality. Playing live with Damon is like standing on the stage of a dingy bar in London in 1972 with a charismatic figure from a Charles Dickens fantasy with a B-3 organ at his bejeweled fingertips. Keeping the great traditions of true rock music alive, Damon looks plays, and inhabits the rock and roll vibe of all the greats." ~ Michael Des Barres

I hadn't heard from Bigelf in quite a while when I noticed that Fox was playing amazing keyboards in The Michael Des Barres Band for some great shows, and a couple of excellent records. Then I heard that Inside Out Music had signed the band, Mike Portnoy had lent his aid, and things were back on track for the LA based outfit.

Cynic - Kindly Bent To Free Us - First Rate Thinking Man's Metal


It could be said that Cynic has image issues. Google in one direction and they'll be called prog, go in another direction and you can read about their thrash metal origins, Wiki will tell you they're all but a polka band at times. Whatever they've been, and however they've been perceived is for me immaterial - I'm a neophyte, and I find them fabulous.

Jack Bruce - Silver Rails - Top Of The Class In 2014


Who would have thought that Jack Bruce would do his best work at the age of 70? It's a familiar tack with me, but think about what you would have wanted Jack to sound like in 2014 - he's singing better than ever, he's playing great bass and piano, and he's writing brilliantly. Could you have hoped for more than that? Silver Rails may be his best solo record ever, its certainly the best record he's made in a great many years, and it should end up on a lot of lists for the best albums of 2014.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock - The Boardwalk - Sacramento, California 8th February, 2014


It wasn't the best Schenker show I've ever seen, but it was the best Schenker show I've seen in over twenty years....

It was a cold and rainy winter's night in Sacramento, but the loyal came out in droves to celebrate Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock. On a stage that even threw fear into the heart of as experienced a frontman as Doogie White, the mad axeman and his band of merry men could do no wrong, and the over-capacity crowd sang every word and punched the air with every solo. Schenker is continuing his steady climb that might just have him now at the top of the guitar hero sweepstakes, and he's finally found a dependable frontman with which to share the stage in the seasoned White.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Gary Moore - Rest In Peace (A Re-print from 2011)


It's terribly difficult to put into words what I am feeling on this cold, wintery Sunday afternoon. Just this morning, I wrote a defense of Gary Moore, only to hear hours later of his death. I am, along with a great many others, shocked and saddened.

I have been a huge fan of Gary Moore's since I was about 16. I saw Moore play with Thin Lizzy, and it changed my entire musical worldview. At that age I had never witnessed anyone play with such passion, and enthusiasm. It was as if the music passed through him like electricity, as he jumped, grimaced, and writhed through the show. No mere posturing, the notes revealed a stunning amount of emotion and conviction. He never lasted long in Lizzy, as he was fueled by his desire to sing and write his own material, difficult to do in a band with Phil Lynott, but when they did unite it was always exceptional.

California Breed - Glenn Hughes' New Power Trio with Jason Bonham and Andrew Watt


I first heard the demos some six months ago, but I had been sworn to secrecy by the ex-Purple bass man, Voice of Rock Glenn Hughes.

Hughes, "An announcement will be made soon, about my new band with Jason and Andrew - it's going to be a mind-blower. We're recording in Nashville with Dave Cobb and Vance Powell (Rival Sons, Raconteurs). I am fresh, alive, and with a bag o' tunes to shake up the music industry - and with a record company that will be with me all the way (Frontiers Records)."