Friday, January 30, 2015

Uli Jon Roth - Scorpions Revisited - The Godfather Of Shred, But Much, Much More

Uli Jon Roth
Scorpions Revisited
UDR Records
March 10, 2015

The big news here is that Uli Jon Roth is playing guitar and singing as well, if not better than ever. The German maestro has been touring for several seasons now celebrating the 40th anniversary of his joining The Scorpions, a band he helped take to the very brink of international stardom before he exited the group to follow his own muse, and now he's documented the current state of his musicianship, his fine band, and the durability of some of the most adventurous hard rock music ever written and recorded.

Uli Jon Roth is a legend - he was there at the creation of a guitar movement that came to be known by the unfortunate name of shred, and in all actuality he may have been the first guitarist who married the feral excitement and soul of Jimi Hendrix with a sophisticated sense of harmony and the technique that had previously been left in the realm of serious jazz guitarists. No one had quite mastered the use of the Fender Stratocaster's tremolo bridge system - even Hendrix never approached the sheer mastery that Roth achieved with his customized extra sturdy arm that enabled him to wrestle dynamics and drama out of the instrument, and allowed him to find the full expression of his almost endless bends, pull ups and dips. Even that instrument itself ultimately found itself supplanted by Roth's self designed Dean Sky Guitars which with their scalloped frets, seven strings, and fully functional 34 frets, allowed the guitar to keep up with the imagination of its player.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Richie Kotzen - A Musician's Life - The Rock Guitar Interview

He wouldn't say no to Jimmy Page. If Jimmy called Richie to make a new record, Mr. Kotzen would report to duty....

Richie Kotzen has just released Cannibals, his twentieth solo album, and it's another great example of the man's incredible musicianship - this is a more adventurous, funky, and personal release than his recent work with last year's biggest new band, The Winery Dogs, with whom he has recently been busy writing for their second album.

I had a chance to chat with Richie about this album, his work with The Winery Dogs, his writing and creative processes, how the wholesale changes in the music business has actually helped artists like himself, his influences and inspirations, his exciting new multi-effects unit that he's partnered with Tech 21 to develop (Tech 21 RK5 Fly Rig), and how he's ended up being a Marshall amp guy again.

Randy Bachman - Heavy Blues Done Right - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

Randy Bachman first told me about his Heavy Blues album almost a year ago, and it was absolutely worth the wait - producer Kevin Shirley took the reigns, Bachman writes, plays, and sings as well if not better than ever, his rhythm section of Dale Anne Brendan (drums) and Anna Roddick (bass) make a holy noise that evokes memories of bands like Cream and The Who, and there's a slate of cameo appearances by such six string luminaries as Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Rudolph, Scott Holiday (Rival Sons), and even the late, great Jeff Healey.

(Rock Guitar Daily's review of Randy Bachman's Heavy Blues)

I had a great chat with Randy this morning, and he gave me the low down on his Heavy Blues from A to Z here on The Rock Guitar Daily Interview on Soundcloud.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pete Way - A New Solo Album, UFO, And Vinnie Moore's Shorts - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

The legendary Pete Way talks about his many years with UFO, his new solo album, the mysterious Mr. Squirrel, and selling Vinnie Moore's shorts at the merch table in Prague....

My chat with Pete is fairly far reaching, and ranges from UFO's earliest days, the effect of Michael Schenker joining that band, his time with Fastway, touring with Ozzy Osbourne, and much more on The Rock Guitar Daily Interview On Soundcloud.

Randy Bachman - Heavy Blues - This Is How I Like My Blues

Randy Bachman
Heavy Blues
Linus Entertainment
April 14, 2015

Randy Bachman has hit another home run - after a few years of supporting his extremely successful career retrospective Every Song Tells A Story with his Vinyl Tap tours, his very successful Vinyl Tap radio show, and keeping the long running Bachman/Turner franchise alive, he's now unveiling yet another new trick with an explosive set of originals done in the guise of classic blues rock vein under the title, Heavy Blues.

This album is exactly how I happen to like my blues - Bachman has wrapped his heavy blues in a lot of great melody, a slamming rhythm section, down and dirty rhythm guitar tones (dare I say filthy?), and some screaming guitar solos from himself and a slate of bona fide six string superstars. Kevin Shirley's no frills, 'in your face' production works perfectly here, and in a move that is either brilliant serendipity or extremely shrewd and wonderful marketing, Bachman is joined on the record by a sexy couple of serious slammers in the way of drummer Dale Anne Brendon and bassist Anna Ruddick, who not only look great, but who also do a fair approximation of The Ox and The Loon. Make no bones about it, they are both fabulous players. Yeah, this is how I like my blues....

Monday, January 26, 2015

Uli Jon Roth Leads The Extreme Guitar Tour To A Tremendous Victory!

Extreme Guitar Tour
Uli Jon Roth, Vinnie Moore, Black Knights Rising
Rockbar Theater
San Jose, California, USA
January 25, 2015

Uli Jon Roth proved that he is perhaps the best of the best of his generation of guitarists, and he was joined by mad axe men Vinnie Moore, and Craig Goldy, who combined to put on one of the most successful package tours in recent memory.

The guitarists were the men of the hour, but the evening's all around MVP just might be bassist/guitar manufacturer Elliott 'Dean' Rubinson who covered the four string end of the spectrum with a trio of his own tasty instruments for all three of tour's main bands.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Robin Trower - Something's About To Change - Trower's Sermon On Soulful Blues

Robin Trower
Something's About To Change
Manhaton/V12 Records
March 9, 2015

Is it my imagination, or is Robin Trower really getting better with every new record? His last outing, 2013's Roots And Branches was a super solid sender, but there's something about Something's About To Change that rings much more true, more direct, and more to the point. It is also a great sounding record - I've been on a tear about record production of late, and this is how it should be done.

This is truly a Robin Trower solo record - he not only masterfully wields his signature Fender  Stratocasters (which have never sounded better), but he's also supplying soulful fatback bass, and singing in a style and fashion that must certainly have his old pal Jack Bruce smiling down upon him from the cosmos. He's joined by Luke Smith on a very sultry Hammond organ, Chris Taggart's tasty drum work, and longtime producer Livingston Brown, but as picture perfect as their support is, this is all about Trower, who has long since graduated from being touted as a Hendrixian dietary replacement when he exploded on the six string scene in the early seventies to being the UK's senior king of the blues. He's never stood out this far, writing, singing, and playing wise, but it serves him very well, for this well runs deep.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment - A Scientist Succeeds At Art

The Neal Morse Band
The Grand Experiment
February 16, 2015
Inside Out Music

Of course, Neal Morse is amongst the most gifted musicians amongst us, but I am calling him a scientist for having the fearless wonderment that brings great ideas from thought to fruition. The Grand Experiment is a stunningly good record - it has great, instantly hummable tunes, enlightening and uplifting lyrics, brilliant singing, some of the best ensemble playing you're likely to hear, and maybe most important to me, it is a great sounding album.

The Grand Experiment marks the first time Neal Morse has ever walked into a recording studio with the intention of making an album, but having nothing written, nor prepared. You would not guess that in a million years to hear it, this album is extremely coherent, cohesive, and complete. That being said, this is the Neal Morse Band, and the credit must be parsed out to everyone onboard. Mike Portnoy brings his always exciting rums, and he's singing more and more these days on his projects, and that's a great thing. Randy George, well, he just might be my favorite bassist these days - his tone, taste, and chops always astound me, and he is on fire here. Keyboardist Bill Hubauer is a prog lover's dream, wrapping every tune in a wonderful tapestry of tones, and guitarist Eric Gillette brings some shredding rock skills along to keep things from ever getting too mired in all the pastoral beauty. Everyone is firing on all cylinders, and there is a great feeling of unity, which can be rare in these times of too often short budgets and time restrictions. This feels just right.

Uriah Heep - Live At Koko - Still One Great Band

Uriah Heep
Live At Koko
(Frontiers Records srl)
February 20, 2015

God bless Mick Box - there's something to be said for being the last man standing, and this man has managed to keep his ship afloat through thick and thin for forty-five years. He and his fine band deserve your love. Uriah Heep never got their due as critic's darlings, but they've been thrilling audiences and listeners in the same style since day one. Live At Koko continues that legacy in fantastic form - nobody's resting on their laurels, and everyone's giving 110%.

Bernie Shaw has been at the helm of this hard rock juggernaught for just under thirty years, and he's in as good a voice as he was the day he joined. he brings not just great tone, pitch, and phrasing to the gig, he also brings a sense of theatricality that makes a Heep show an occasion. He's one of hard rock's best frontmen, and he is vastly underrated. He puts on great shows, makes excellent records, and never displays less than a tremendous respect for the legacy that is Heep's before his joining.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Toto - XIV - Still Playing For Keeps

Toto XIV is yet another excellent album from Toto. They're the same hard to classify act that has been putting out their sophisticated blend of progressive pop, rock, and jazz since the late seventies, and they continue to grow as purveyors of smart music for the masses.

The set opening 'Running Out Of Time' would have been a big MTV hit - it's got great guitar playing, a rumbling rhythm section with killer drumming, and a fine melody being sung by a great vocalist. Well, it won't be a hit today for the simple reason that there is not a place for it to be a hit. There's no real avenue for this middle aged band to get the attention they so richly deserve, but I think that art is to a degree its own reward, and on that count Toto, a band that's no stranger to the fickle mysteries of pop success, have been beating the odds since day one.

This latest iteration of the band sees the return of bassist David Hungate, a new drummer in Keith Carlock (Steely Dan), vocalist Joseph Williams, and original members Steve Lukather, David Paich, and Steve Porcaro. They are still the same tireless workers who spend endless hours in the studio honing their craft - you know what and who you are listening to the minute the needle hits the grooves, and they are as fearless and adventurous as they've ever been. There's no resting on laurels, or reaching back to recreate formulas - this is a much more politically topical, and mature bunch than the band that topped the charts in the early '80s.

Damon Johnson - Paying It Forward With Black Star Riders - The Rock Guitar Daily Interview

"I will argue until somebody puts me in a pine box that there are not two people on this planet with more respect and more humility about an opportunity like this than Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson. There's just not. 
"We have a commitment to that that we bring every time we sit down to write a song, write a riff, write a lyric, working on harmony parts, whatever it is - there is no way we would ever do something consciously to tarnish that legacy and that name." Damon Johnson on the legacy of Thin Lizzy.

Damon Johnson takes his job very seriously. Not that he doesn't have a great time writing songs and performing them with Black Star Riders, he definitely does, but he's also fiercely proud and protective of all that that means. It's a band that rose from the remnants of the legendary Thin Lizzy, and in spite of many world tours, and now two great albums under the new name, there may still be those who cannot make the leap from the past to the present, but Johnson more than understands it, he even manages to be humbly appreciative of the feelings of those with whom he may not see eye to eye.

(Listen along on Soundcloud!)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock - Spirit On A Mission - Schenker Is Primed For A Return To The Top

Michael Schenker is playing as well as ever - his re-emergence is still heading up that hill, and every indication is that he's ready for another run at the upper bracket. Spirit On A Mission is the latest chapter of his return to rock 'n' roll grace, and the man is truly inspiring. In a world that's way too short of current guitar heroes, Michael and George Lynch seem to be the current kings of 'can do no wrong'.

Spirit On A Mission is an album ripe with juicy, new guitar riffs - I often say that the hardest job in rock is reinventing the wheel called the riff, and Michael is still finding new ways to revivify the form. It's shame that this is not one of the better examples I have heard of an album capturing his signature guitar tones. Great writing, great playing, and great performances abound, but disappointing production haunts this album. Perhaps having your entire of arsenal of guitars and a half finished album stolen was just too much to overcome, but there is a bunch of fantastic playing that I am hearing on this album that sounds like it's been covered with a wet blanket. It's time to up the ante and get a better support team in - the music deserves better than it's been getting.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

California Breed Has Gone The Way Of Black Country Communion

After a great first album, the departure of a superstar drummer, and very little touring, California Breed is extinct. Guitarist/singer, and songwriter Andrew Watt posted this statement on the band's Facebook page:

"To the California Breed fans here...I put everything I had into this band...all I can say is I was in it for the long hall...I have a lot of new music for you guys...going to be announcing my plans soon...I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you supporting us, buying our music, coming to our shows...this is not the is truly the beginning...cannot wait to continue the quest to bring rock n roll back to the people that are hungry for it...what an amazing learning experience for me here and introduction to an amazing world of people and fans that share love for the same thing."
Andrew Watt

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Dictators NYC - Better Than Ever, And They Were Already The Kings of New York

The Dictators NYC
The Blue Lamp, Sacramento, California, USA
January 13, 2015

I'm still reeling. It's that great feeling you get when you wake up feeling like you got hit by a train, but you liked it.

The Dictators NYC might just be the best live lineup that this long running legendary band has yet presented. Frontman Dick Manitoba, guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman, and stickman JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson have kept this hard rock juggernaught alive through thick and thin, and they are just now hitting their peak. That's a lot to ask of the band that may have arguably and unintentionally invented punk rock way back in 1973, but they are more than up for the task, and they have added some incredible firepower in the guise of legendary New York producer/guitarist Daniel Rey (The Ramones, and too many others to mention), and another longtime NYC record producer, Dean Rispler on bass - this band is the daisy cutter of rock 'n roll. What they are is one of the absolutely best rock bands on the planet.

We gathered in the backroom of The Blue Lamp in Sacramento, California using the ice machine's motor for a room heater, and wondered what kind of crowd would turn up on a deserted downtown street corner on a Tuesday evening in January, but by showtime there were several hundred of the faithful gathered and ready to rock. And rock they did - this was one of the best, most inspiring shows I've seen, and I've been seeing shows for over forty years now.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Black Star Riders - The Killer Instinct - It's Gonna Be Hard To Beat This One

Black Star Riders
The Killer Instinct
Nuclear Blast Records
February 20, 2015

Black Star Riders are back, and they are bad. The band soundly defeats the sophomore jinx by beating their impressive 2013 debut with their new album, The Killer Instinct.

The blood of Thin Lizzy still runs through the veins of this outfit, but they are now very much their own band with their own sound that cozies up to the legacy quite nicely. This record sounds more sure of itself than its predecessor, and I think that's down to touring under their own name, growing together as writers and a band, and a big nod goes to producer Nick Raskulinecz, who has captured a much, much more organic sound than was found on their debut.

Pat Travers Band - Live At The Iridium NYC - Kicking As Hard As Ever

Pat Travers Band
Live At The Iridium NYC
Frontiers Records srl
January 23, 2015

Pat Travers has always realized the importance of having a great band. He still does, and Travers and company are hitting it hard, and on the mark with their new Live At The Iridium NYC set. As seventies guitar heroes go, Pat is still delivering the goods in spades. Coming off a very strong studio release (Can Do), the man and his band are on fire and still kicking ass. This is definitely not an oldies act.

Travers' trademark tone is largely unchanged and his love for the heavier groove is still in tact, and that's a beautiful thing. He never mails it in, or rests on staid pentatonic licks, he's still one of the sleeker models of his era, and he keeps himself in check by having a very hot handed co-guitarist in the band in Kirk McKim, who supplies great twin leads with the man, and some stunningly good rhythm work - when either player takes a solo, the other guy is digging in and pushing it all further down the road.