Wednesday, November 23, 2016

TrueFire In The Jam: Robben Ford Sessions - An Amazing Experience


TrueFire works. They've been a leader in the online guitar lessons since 1991, and with over a million pupils and collaborations with over 600 instructors, they are the state of the art. Their course library contains over 25,000 interactive guitar lessons that cover just about anything a player could want.

In The Jam is just what it says - it is an unparalleled jamming/learning experience in the online arena. It's mind boggling to see what they have put together with this latest edition/addition. I've been spending some quality time with the Robbin Ford Sessions these past few weeks, and I am still just blown away at what is available here, and what has been accomplished by all involved.

Included in this massive, but ultra easy to navigate tutorial is eleven chapters. These chapters include a welcome and explanation/introduction by your host Robben Ford, and ten tracks from Robben's 2014 album, A Day In Nashville. The album covers a lot of ground from rock, jazz, blues, some country, as Robben says, "There's something for everybody." Indeed there is - each track contains audio and video tracks of everything Ford plays, including commentary that let's you know not just what and how he's playing what he's playing, but also why he's making the musical choices throughout. If that was all you got here, it would be a tremendous value, but we're only getting started.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Dictators NYC - As Good As It Gets


As good as it gets. Last night amongst more looming news, The Dictators NYC put on one of the greatest straight ahead rock 'n' roll performances I have ever witnessed. It had it all - a charismatic frontman, "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, inciting the crowd, reciting the rock poetry, and singing his ass off, Ross "The Boss" Friedman putting on a brilliant hard rock guitar clinic about a half foot from my face, JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson on ridiculously impassioned drums and hearty backup vocals, the brutal but sophisticated bass attack of Dean "The Dream" Rispler, and one of New York's finest, Daniel Rey (Hey, somebody get this guy a nickname!) on second guitar and vocals. Yes, as good as it gets.

Here's my disclaimer: I've been a big fan of The Dictators since 1975, when they unleashed Go Girl Crazy to a somewhat disinterested public. Some say The Dictators invented punk rock, and no less a connoisseur than the king of garage rock love, Steven Van Zandt (aka "Little Steven", or "Miami Steve") called the band, "The connective tissue between the eras of The MC5, New York Dolls, and the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s." When I first heard them, I was an impressionable young guitar slinger, and I wasn't sure what the hell they were, but I knew they had balls, a great sense of humor, songs for days, chops galore, and I knew that I dug it all. Well, that all rings true to this day, and I can claim no sense of critical judgement here - I am an unabashed fan, and that's what I went looking for last night, because my soul was in need of something that would take me back to 1975, my personal summer of love. Elections be damned.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Johnny Hickman - Hickmania III - The Third Time Is A Charm, Once Again

Photo by Steve Rizzari
This marks Johnny Hickman's third annual mini tour of house parties in Northern California, and once again I find myself saying that it was one of my favorite nights of the year - one of the best shows I've seen this year, a year that has seen what I would best describe as an embarrassment of riches when it comes to live shows.

There is nothing tougher for a performer than doing a full night of music with just voice, and guitar. In fact, it's always been something I've tended to avoid due to the difficulty involved, and how seldom I've seen it work - it's asks a tremendous amount of the artist, of the audience, and very few artists can pull it off. This being said, Johnny Hickman has the chops as a writer, a player, and a singer to pull it off, but to be honest, where the rubber hits the road is in his ability to draw the audience into every tale he tells as a performer and a personality. He's one with his audience, there is very little separation between the stage and the crowd, they are all in it together, it's almost like a team sport. You can see just how much he is enjoying doing what he does, and the loving response from the crowd is right inline with this.

Diamond Head - A Band Reborn Returns To America As Strong As Ever

"Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed." ~ Lars Ulrich - Metallica
Diamond Head kicked off the first night of their American tour last week in San Francisco, and they were marvelous. Reinvigorated by vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, and lead by the unflaggingly brilliant guitar work of founder Brian Tatler, the band gave a performance that got them a enthusiastic welcome back to the states by a pleased as punch audience.

Brian Tatler has always been incredibly scrupulous about the way his band Diamond Head has presented itself. While he's managed to keep the band's standards very high, it has perhaps come at the price of having his band being acclaimed as one of the most influential acts to come out of the NWOBHM scene in the early 80s, but also an act that has been absent as often as it's been on the boards. The good news is that this iteration of Diamond Head is as mighty as any that has come before it, and having a relatively new frontman who owes nothing to the past while giving it great respect results in a band that can play old and new songs that seamlessly live together in the new set.

As with many bands of a certain vintage, Diamond Head now sports a combination of players who run the gamut from being present at the creation (Tatler) to a brand new bassist (Dean Ashton). Then there is the brilliant man behind the drums, Karl Wilcox, who has been with the band for nearly twenty of the last twenty-five years. I've said it many times in the past, but a great drummer is an essential element in rock 'n' roll, and Wilcox is a very underrated stickman. Musical, powerful, and visual - these are the elements that every kid who picks up a set of sticks should learn. Rounding things out you have Andy (Abbz) Abberley on second guitar (2006), and the aforementioned Ras out front. They are a very cohesive unit, and a great blend onstage. Again, a testament to Tatler's unswerving demand for the best he can present for his brand and band.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bernie Tormé Throws Down The Gauntlet With New PledgeMusic Campaign

Star Shots Photography
Irish guitar legend Bernie Tormé has just announced that he’s mounting his third consecutive campaign to release new music (Dublin Cowboy three cd package) via the PledgeMusic platform. (http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/bernietorme2017)

Dublin Cowboy is an ambitious three CD set that includes an electric studio album, an acoustic album, and a live set - an big bargain in light of the fact that Bernie’s first two pledge music projects were such complete successes for both the fans and the man.

As most know, Tormé made his bones over the years as an electrifying guitarist in the classic Gillan lineups, and with his famed tour of duty with Ozzy Osbourne in the immediate and tragic aftermath of Randy Rhoads death, as well as his own very successful solo career and the band, Tormé.

“I'm so psyched to be doing my third crowd-funded album on Pledgemusic, and in celebration of number three it’s also a triple album. Triple offender! Titled 'Dublin Cowboy' - because that’s what I am, its going to be a studio album, acoustic album, and a live album altogether in a dinky little slip-box. It’s a totally new experience for me, and that’s the best thing about it! It'll be released in March 2017, and we'll be rocking it live throughout the UK in April 2017. Can't wait!” ~ Bernie Tormé 



Bernie Tormé - Biography

Guitar legend, blues rock psychedelic shredmeister, glam punk sleaze rock frontman: Bernie Tormé has enjoyed a long and remarkable career. Hit records, world tours and international acclaim came as lead guitarist in Gillan. Bernie stepped in for Ozzy Osbourne in the aftermath of guitar legend Randy Rhoads' tragic death before going on to front Electric Gypsies and Tormé. Teaming up with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Iron Maiden's drummer Clive Burr he formed Desperado and later reunited with ex-Gillan colleague, John McCoy and drummer Robin Guy in Guy McCoy Tormé (GMT). More recently, Bernie Tormé has been touring with Chris Heilmann (bass) and Ian Harris (drums) releasing two critically-acclaimed solo albums,'Flowers & Dirt' (2014) and 'Blackheart' (2015). Both were crowdfunded, connecting Bernie directly with his fans.

Bernie: “In the past you were pretty distant and separated from your fans with a record label in between. Making these albums with pledge campaigns has been a great experience. I like having the connection with fans and getting the feedback direct on making an album.”
His love of performing is still strong: “I feel very lucky, very blessed, to be able to still perform live and as long as I can keep doing it I will!”

It has been said of Irish guitarist Bernie Tormé that he plays his Stratocaster through a Marshall as though he knew them in a previous life. Dublin-born Bernie learned his trade from local heroes such as Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore and Eric Bell before moving to London in 74, where he initially played with heavy pub rockers Scrapyard, and then formed the Bernie Tormé Band in 76. The BTB toured with Bob Geldof's Boomtown Rats and Billy Idol's Generation X among many others.

In early 79 Bernie joined ex Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan's band Gillan, and was crucial to the band's success as guitar hero foil to Ian's soaring vocals. While a member of Gillan he wrote and played on four top ten albums and many hit singles, including Gillan's biggest selling singles, 'New Orleans' and ‘Trouble'.

After his stint with Gillan, Bernie joined Ozzy Osbourne on the Diary Of A Madman tour in the US, standing in for the legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads who had been tragically killed in an air crash just days beforehand. Madison Square Garden was among the gigs that Bernie played with Ozzy: A young Zakk Wylde who was present in the audience has been quoted in interviews as saying 'Bernie rocked'.
Bernie's first solo album 'Turn Out The Lights' was released in the UK, Europe and Japan in 1982 shortly after his return from Ozzy's US tour. He continued playing gigs in the UK and Europe through the remainder of 82 and 83, when his second solo album 'Electric Gypsies' was released, the album's title being drawn from the name of his three-piece touring band.

Bernie also found time during this period to tour Europe and record with legendary keyboard player Vincent Crane (ex-The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) as a member of psychedelic doom rockers Atomic Rooster. 

In the mid 80's Bernie worked with ex-Girl and LA Guns front man Phil Lewis in Tormé. The band released four albums, including the cult classic 'Back to Babylon' which, like the 'Electric Gypsies' album, made waves in Japan. Following Phil Lewis's departure, Bernie teamed up with Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Iron Maiden's drummer Clive Burr to form Desperado, writing with Snider and recording the album 'Ace'. Bernie then recorded three albums with Guy McCoy Torme (GMT) featuring bassist man mountain John McCoy (also ex Gillan), and drummer Robin Guy. Bernie. During this period Bernie also worked with German band 'Silver', playing lead guitar on three albums.

In 2013 Bernie started playing solo gigs again returning, once more, to his favoured format of the three piece line-up. 2014 saw the release of the critically acclaimed 'Flowers & Dirt' double album and a UK tour, followed by 'Blackheart' in 2015 and a further successful UK tour.

Bernie Torme has recorded over 24 albums in his career to date as a solo artist or band member.

Bernie Tormé 2017 Tour Dates

Sat 1st April SOUTH SHIELDS The Unionist Club
Sun 2nd April GLASGOW Nice n Sleazy
Mon 3rd April EDINBURGH Bannermans
Tues 4th April GRIMSBY Yardbirds
Wed 5th April MANCHESTER FAC251
Thurs 6th April WOLVERHAMPTON The Robin 2
Fri 7th April LONDON The Borderline

Sat 8th April BRIGHTON The Prince Albert

Monday, October 17, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Resonate - Full Spectrum Brilliance


"This album is the first kind of a complete Glenn Hughes album." ~ Glenn Hughes
Glenn Hughes continues to defy the odds, and the laws of nature. Resonate is going to end up on a lot of those top ten albums lists we'll be seeing come January. It's going to be a lot of writers's best album of the year. Out on November 4th on Frontiers Music srl, this album sets the bar very high for whatever comes next.

The career of Glenn Hughes has roller coasted quite a bit over the last few years, but as bands have unraveled and health issues have thrown obstacles at the unbreakable 'Voice Of Rock," he's kept the quality of his music on an incline the likes of which I've never seen. Let me explain.

As artists age, it's very common for time to take it's toll on both the quality, and the quantity of output. It's incredibly difficult to continually grow as a writer when you've been at it for decades, and along with the hinderance of a full catalogue, there is the sheer wear on one's physicality. Time takes its toll on things like voices, joints, and all the rest. This is nature at work, and I am always mystified by so many supposed music lovers's refusal to acknowledge these things when they are considering the lifetime achievements of an artist when seen from the beginning of the third act.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Solo and Superb In San José

Photo By Holger Kling
It's not easy to get me to put ink to paper these days (ink to paper, who am I fooling, right?), but when something strikes me as so important that I can afford to lose some sleep and some moments of productivity, then I can justify bellying up to the keyboard.

#rockaintdead. There, I said it, I've been saying it for ages, and now I'm joined in saying it by my very dear friend, Glenn Hughes, as he not only espouses it, but he also proves it every night out on his first ever American tour as a solo artist.

I've never seen Hughes better than on this night at The Ritz in downtown San José, California.

I first laid eyes on Glenn Hughes when he was in Deep Purple, on February 13, 1974 at a big hockey arena in the Midwest of America located at Dayton, Ohio. It's somewhat ironic that they are tearing down my hallowed home of early rock just this week, after an incredible run that began when The Rolling Stones desecrated the site in 1964. As one of the first musicians I saw playing on that stage, Glenn Hughes is still defining not just what rock is, but where it's at. There's nothing retro about what I saw in San Jose, California last night, it was state of the art.

He could have played it safe, and played a set of wall to wall Deep Purple and Black Country Communion, perhaps his most commercially successful products, but no - whether it was when he was deconstructing his reputation with a fall from grace so large he's today able to quip, "I don't remember the eighties," or in choosing a band challenging setlist comprised of selections from every era of his 47 year career, Glenn Hughes has never played it safe. It's go for the throat, or don't go at all.

Photo By Gavin Lowery
To those ends, Hughes has with him a band to die for. Soren Anderson has been with Glenn on and off for the last ten years, and he's a brilliant right hand man, not just delivering on the music side, but also keeping the stage balanced with a fabulous combination of musical chops and style of performance. It would be easy to get totally bowled over by a personality as large as Glenn Hughes's, but Anderson has the looks, sounds, and confidence to keep that from happening. I'm almost in stitches waiting hear the album they've created together, Resonate, that will see its release on November 4th on the Frontiers label. I'm hearing from sources close to the project that it is the heaviest solo Hughes we've yet heard, and isn't that what we've all been waiting to hear?

On drums we have the larger than life Pontus Engborg, and at a towering six foot four the Swedish stickman commands the throne like a king. His exuberance, power, and precision are perfect for the job. Like Anderson, Engborg is as entertaining as he is musical, and he's definitely the man for the job.

We arrived at the gig early enough to catch the band doing their pre-VIP meet and greet soundcheck, and got a preview of what was in store. Hughes was onstage, still critiquing and fine tuning the band a month into the tour, and you can tell that his attention to detail pays off in big dividends, as the band is as powerful as a locomotive, and still sophisticated and precise. We stuck around to witness the meet and greet, and while these are always a point of contention for some purists, it was clear that both the band and the fans were having a great time communing with "The Voice Of Rock," so who's to judge. Check it out when it comes your way, it's more than worth it, and the package the band gives away is most generous.

Photo By Stewart Westwood
When we walked into the club, Glenn looked up from their intense soundcheck long enough to give me a hearty welcome, and to tell me he's soon be sending me the tracks for his upcoming studio set, which this band plus keyboard wiz Lachy Doley have just completed before this tour began, and Hughes's excitement abut the set was palpable.

We didn't get a taste of the new sounds on this evening (one can't let the cat out of the bag on a new project unless one wants it on YouTube months before release), but what we did get was a career retrospective that was mind blowing in it's depth and coherency. It's remarkable that the first song Hughes ever wrote, the Trapeze classic, "Medusa", sits so well with the latest material he's recorded forty years later, but somehow it all works.

Kicking off the show, it's "Way Back To The Bone" from 1972, then it's ten years later with the Hughes/Thrall classic track "Muscle And Blood" from that great one off album from 1982, and Hughes and company are in it to the hilt. In spite of a heart surgery, and double knee replacement since I last was him perform, Glenn Hughes continues to be a force of nature. His vocals grew increasingly powerful as the night progressed, and he stalked the stage with the energy and passion of a man forty years younger.

Then it's into the twenty-first century with "Orion" from 2005's Soul Mover album, and it's to Soren Anderson's great credit that he not only covers the bases of so many great guitarists that came before him in Hughes's various iterations and bands, but he manages to change up everything just enough so that his personality as a player shines through, and this points straight to the fact that this coming up solo album from Hughes will be a treat, as it's the first record with the man for Anderson.

Photo By David Wala
A few songs later we get our first jolt of Deep Purple, and "Stormbringer" was just that. The crowd went absolutely bonkers as Anderson whipped out the opening chords, and then Hughes's freight train, Orange Amps based bass tone thundered through the mix, Engborg pounded out the groove, and all was well in the valley. Rock royalty was witnessed, and all joined in to celebrate the spectacle.

"Medusa" has long been a centerpiece of any Hughes show for years, and tonight was no exception. After Glenn talked the audience through another sermon of peace, love, and happiness, he spoke of a young man in his mother's kitchen writing songs for his first band at the tender age of 17. If you weren't aware of the song's heritage and history, you'd never known it wasn't written last week, and this band manages to make everything sound up to date and born again. The kids have got nothing on this one.

In advance of next years return, Black Country Communion was represented with a raging version of "One Last Soul" from the band's 2010 debut, and it never fails to get the crowd swaying with it's huge groove, and sensual melodies. Then Anderson throws on a flashy white Strat to round out the set with the title track from "Soul Mover."

Before you know it the main set is done, and the band is off the stage. There is never, not for one second any question about encores. Everyone knows they are coming, and everyone plays their part in this vaunted piece of rock ritual. Lighters come out, fists are raised in the air, and the volume of the room goes up accordingly.

Hughes rips into his brand new Yamaha signature bass, and you know you're on your way back to the "Black Country". Again, it's up to Anderson to conjure the sounds and signature riffs of another, and he does Joe Bonamassa proud with a careening solo that raises the whole affair up another notch, and you're left wondering if there is anything this band can't do. They're left with only one place to go, and when Anderson tears off the intro to "Burn", it's all over but the crying. This is one of those shows you just hate to see end, but it's time to go, and the house lights are on.

Since we're now rating gigs in terms of not just performance (this gig report is also running simultaneously at MetalTalk.Net), but also volume and sound, let's take a moment to discuss this. The Ritz in San José is a square box of a room that is long and narrow, and in the hands of a lesser soundman, it could have been tough to contain the sheer horsepower of this power trio, but the stalwart crew was more than up to the task, and it sounded very good. Hughes was raving about the sound of his bass rig in the room at soundcheck, and you could see, feel, and hear it in his performance. He was pumped up by what he heard, and it played straight into his performance, and it's seldom noted, but while the world knows Hughes is as great a singer that has ever walked the planet, he is very underrated as a bassist. All this being said, it was as loud as Gideon's Trumpet, and it rang like a bell. Fantastic stuff, the stuff rock is made of when it's made right.

Setlist:

Way Back To the Bone
Muscle and Blood
Orion
Touch My Life
First Step of Love
Stormbringer
Medusa
Can't Stop The Flood
One Last Soul
You Keep On Moving
Soul Mover

Encores:

Black Country
Burn  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

An American Writer Asks Why It Takes A British Ex-Pat to Ask, "What's Going On?" Michael Des Barres Has The Answer


America has not been this divided in my lifetime. Not even close. We're barreling towards the most contentious (for many, many reasons) presidential election of our generation, there's violence in our streets, we are being divided in every way imaginable, and for all intents and purposes, it would appear that the wheels are falling off the wagon of The American Dream. Michael Des Barres's new single, an incendiary cover of Marvin Gaye's classic "What's Going On?" confronts these issues in an incredibly timely and head-on manner.


What gives Michael Des Barres the right?


Michael Des Barres has lived in America for over thirty-five years, and for a member of British nobility (He is officially, Lord Marquis Michael Philip Des Barres) that speaks volumes. He's lived in America for the sole reason that he dearly loves it. His radio show can be heard on the greatest mainstream rock 'n' roll radio station on the planet, Little Steven's Underground Garage, and he's been a fixture on the scene in Hollywood as a rocker and an actor since the early seventies. You want to talk credibility? The guy has it in spades, so he's well within his rights to now ask, "What's Going On?"
The Marvin Gaye classic is Des Barres latest solo release on his own Humble Servant, Inc label, and both the song and its accompanying video could not be more timely, or rock a bit harder. Des Barres is joined by his old bandmate and legendary drummer, Clem Burke (Blondie, Chequered Past), and together they make a divine racket. The guitars bristle, the beat is savage, and Des Barres is in fantastic voice. He's also been gifted with an exceptional video (directed by Marianne Spellman) that shows how little things have really changed (and perhaps gone backwards) in the great American experiment and experience.

Des Barres is currently working on an album's worth of both classic and original protest songs for our times, and if this single is any indication (and it is), it's going to be a barnburner. Bring your torches and pitchforks, but make sure they are metaphysical, as Des Barres's message at the end of the day is that we all must learn to love one another and to practice this always. Believing in love has always been the formative philosophy of any protest worth its weight, and it's what the world needs now more than ever.
So, my question seems to have been answered. Perhaps the reason that it's necessary for an ex-pat Brit to kick off the return of the protest song in a country steeped in the tradition is that it sometimes takes the perception of an observer from outside the situation to see it clearest. Michael Des Barres has grabbed the bull by its horns and is leading the charge on this day in which America must truly ask, "What's Going On?" He's inside, and he's looking out. With love.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Glenn Hughes - Keeping It Real All The Way To The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


Glenn Hughes is in his car rolling down the highway, giving me the update on all things Hughes, when he gets a text from his pal, David Coverdale. Turns out that the pair still have no reasonable idea of what to expect this coming Friday (April 8, 2016) at their induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Brooklyn. However, two things are quite clear - these two will bring a great sense of fashion (I believe it's Armani for one, and I know it's John Varvatos for the other), and a lot of class to the proceedings, regardless of all else.

I've spoken with Glenn Hughes several times over the last few months, and his take on the difficulties involved with Deep Purple's induction have been predictably sane and solid. He absolutely gets that the band that has been Purple for the past many years must be the band that takes the stage, and that they have unquestionably earned the right, but he would also dearly love to be able to get onstage with any living member of the band, and to sing a bit on that night for the band's fans. Regardless of what actually transpires, Hughes says that he knows that Coverdale and himself shall greet it all, and all involved with a smile and sincere handshake. It will sure be interesting to see how it all goes down.

Monday, March 28, 2016

UFO - Lights Out In San Francisco! - Gig Review


UFO
March 26, 2016
The Independent, San Francisco, CA, USA

If ever there was a night that should have been recorded for a live record, it would have been this one.

UFO has been rocking American audiences with much regularity for some forty years, and I've never seen this iteration of the band put on a better performance. The sold out crowd at The Independent in San Francisco was in great voice for the last show of the band's current US tour and the walls reverberated as loudly as ever as they sang along on most choruses. This evening was an unabashed love fest, the likes of which I hope we will soon see again.

Monday, March 14, 2016

SIDEMEN: Long Road To Glory - A Big Hit At SXSW Film For All The Right Reasons


"People said, 'Pinetop, it looks like you ought to have plenty of money.' How you gonna have plenty of money when you a sideman? No way!" ~ Pinetop Perkins (July 7, 1913 - March 21, 2011)

SIDEMEN: Long Road To Glory opened this past week to unanimous rave reviews and acclaim at the SXSW Film festival, and while it is a great film, likely as good a musical documentary as you'll see released this year, it's also a movie that has a great story of its own.

In his 97 years on earth, Pinetop Perkins never made himself a rich man by playing the piano, but he still went out of this life a rich man, celebrated by fans, friends, getting some of the acclaim due an artist of his stature by way of his third Grammy Award in 2011, and now having his tale told in this passionate documentary.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Supersonic Blues Machine - West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco - The Blues Rock Record To Beat For 2016


Supersonic Blues Machine is that rarest of beasts, a cameo packed blues rock album on which the core band and the tunes actually supersede the weight of the heavies who stop by to lend their support. And now, let me raise the stakes even higher - every cameo is worthy of being on the guests's own albums, nobody here brought anything except their A-game.This just might be the blues rock album to beat in 2016.

The core band is made up of Fabrizio Grossi, the project's visionary bassist/songwriter/producer, Texas guitar legend/vocalist Lance Lopez, and everybody's drummer of choice Kenny Aronoff. The list of guests is a who's who of musical legends, starting with The Righteous Reverend Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, and Chris Duarté. Grossi has done the near impossible in creating an album with a tremendously diverse cast that never sounds like anything less than a band. In a day and age in which budgets and time constraints often cause projects such as this to go off the rails, this one surfs high up on the waves of glory.