Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Review: L.E.O. "Alpacas Orgling"

Bleu + Mike Viola + Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish) + Hanson (!) + many others in power pop = what?

As you may surmise from the band name, you get E.L.O. reincarnated! You won't believe your ears. This record is a true time machine and will take you back to the pop rock genius of E.L.O. And they are not a cheesy tribute band doing lame E.L.O. cover tunes...these are all originals, written as if someone unearthed a time capsule of a new E.L.O. Greatest Hits package that never saw the light of day.

It is astonishing how much they have managed to sound like Jeff Lynne without Jeff Lynne. "Alpacas Orgling" (2006) is virtual pop perfection from beginning to end. Just skip over the useless "Overture" and stop after track 8. Well, there is a cover of E.L.O.'s big hit "Don't Bring Me Down," but it is one of those "bonus" tracks way at the end of the record...which is a pet peeve of mine. There is no need to do this...just make it a track already so we don't have to cue to the damn thing.

All the shimmering pop brilliance of E.L.O. is captured in this effort: lush harmonies, orchestral backing, and downright catchy melodies. Thankfully, the disco-infused E.L.O. is not present...just the straight up pop rock form. If you were not a fan of E.L.O., you probably won't dig this record too much. If you were a fan, you'll be rejoicing.

iPOD-worthy: 2-8.

L.E.O. at MySpace

News: Goo Goo Dolls update

Goo Goo Dolls Headed For The Future

"The Goo Goo Dolls Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 -- The Singles" comes out Nov. 13, featuring 14 chart entries since "Name" gave the band its first Hot 100 berth in 1995. The album includes chart-toppers such as "Iris" and "Slide" as well as "Before It's Too Late (Sam and Mikaela's Theme)" from the "Transformers" film soundtrack. A "Vol. 2" is slated for February with B-sides, rarities, remixes and some new tracks."

Better news...the boys might be going back to the more aggressive sound, which I've been waiting for since 2000:

"I want the next record to have a little more of an edge on it," Rzeznik explains. "I don't want the rough edges taken off so much. The band's gonna play live on it more, not so many overdubs. When we were on tour we recorded every single show and we would listen back, and the difference between the band on record and the band live was ... I want it to sound more like we do live. It's a lot more energy. It's a more aggressive sound."


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Rare CD: Stone Fury

From the YouTube web site, which hosts some videos from these guys: "Stone Fury released 2 albums in the mid-80's and then broke up. Lenny Wolf went on the front Kingdom Come and Bruce Gowdy went on to Unruly Child."

The first CD, "Burns Like A Star" (1984) is currently selling for over $70 used on Amazon. Average ebay price is $53.

The second CD, "Let Them Talk" (1986) is currently selling for nearly $200 used on Amazon. Average ebay price is $21.

UPDATE (11-5-07) - "Burns Like A Star" sells for $61 on ebay.
UPDATE (12-16-07) - "Burns Like A Star" - Japan import sells for $56.50 on ebay (16 bids)
UPDATE (1-3-08) - "Burns Like A Star sells for $69.00 on ebay (16 bids)
UPDATE (2-25-08) - Japanese import "Burns Like A Star" sells for $175.49 on ebay (19 bids)

Music video for "Break Down The Walls":

Music video for "Life Is Lonely":

Friday, October 19, 2007

Review: Meat Loaf "Bat Out Of Hell III"

No one needs an introduction to Meat Loaf, the atypical rock star most famous for his original 1977 opus, "Bat Out Of Hell." Despite several other releases in the 80s, Meat Loaf pretty much found himself shoved into the back of the fridge with a half eaten rotting block of cheese. The 90s "sequel" to the 1977 blockbuster record brought Meat Loaf back into the limelight in a massive way. But once again, the follow-up efforts could not hold a candle to Bat II, and Meat Loaf was getting colder by the minute. The logic behind entitling the next record "Bat III" was more transparent than Saran wrap.

And you know what? It should have worked. This is a damn good album. Meat Loaf pours his heart and soul into this baby and recruited some of the biggest folks in the industry to record it. Shamefully, despite a solid debut at # 8 on the album charts in 2006, the CD has only gone gold and yielded no hit singles.

In the Meat Loaf tradition, he tries to deliver an album of epic proportions. Huge, sweeping songs with unexpected bridges and twists keep things interesting. The hooks are very strong for most of the songs, with backing vocals and harmonies galore. The songs are so dramatic one could argue it is to a fault and just too over the top. And some of the ultra-heavy rockers just stick out like sore thumbs, making the record as a whole inconsistent. For example, I can't shift gears from the heaviest song the Loaf has ever done ("The Monster Is Loose") to his cover of the Celine Dion (!) song, "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" (video - don't worry...it's the Meat Loaf version).

Bottom line: when the song works, it really works. Meat Loaf sings his lungs out and if you've enjoyed the theatrical sounds of the previous Bat records, you will like most of this one.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11
Meat Loaf on MeatSpace...I mean MySpace. Official site.

Name that Tune

What a man was two thousand years ago
Means nothing at all to me today



Free mp3 - Tommy Conwell "Walkin' on the Water"

Before his well known record "Rumble" in 1988 (read), Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers released "Walking on the Water" on Antenna Records in 1986. Some of these tracks found their way onto "Rumble". I don't think it was ever released on CD, and even the cassette tape must be a hard to find rarity (it is currently going for a ridiculous $2400 on amazon.com...that is NOT a typo of one too many zeroes).

Since most people can't shell out this kind of dough (and since most people probably don't even have a tape player anymore), the Young Rumblers have made it available here to download.

Review: Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers "Rumble"

I was in one of those 80s Philly blues bar band moods (who doesn't get into that mood every now and then?), so I popped in some Tommy Conwell. This exceptional guitarist was an underrated figure in the 80s, but managed to capture at least 5 minutes of fame with the rock hit "I'm Not Your Man" in 1988 (video). The album from which it came, "Rumble" stalled at 103 on the charts, but should have done much better. There are more than a handful of good singles on "Rumble," which has a consistent sound throughout. In the days of vinyl, this would be referred to as a "side 1" album because the first half of the songs are the best of the bunch.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10

On a side note, reading about what this "former" rock star is up to now was interesting:
“My son still thinks that I’m a rock star,” Tommy laughs. “I play the carnival at his school every year.”

Review: Eddie Money "Right Here"

This was nowhere near as boring and dull as I thought it might be! The "Money man" released "Right Here" in 1991, which was DOA in part due to the rise of grunge. AOR was in rapid decline, and AOR is Eddie's specialty. Everyone seemed to be routing for this underdog during his famed comeback in the mid-80s, but he started losing his hold on the charts by 1990.

Eddie's had an enviable career in music and "Right Here" would have been a huge record if it arrived a few years earlier. Instead, it peaked at a lousy 160 on the album charts with only the single "I'll Get By" (video) cracking the top 40. This power ballad is not what I would have released first, and we all know, for better or worse, that the first single can make or break a record. It would have been better as a 2nd or 3rd single.

While the tunes do sound dated, the melodies and harmonies are surprisingly good. You get what you expect lyrically from Eddie Money, as evidenced in the dribble from the failed second single, "Heaven in the Back Seat." But putting that aside, I had fun listening to this record.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

On another note, there is a "companion" EP release to this featuring Money doing several tracks acoustically, called "Unplug It In" (1992). He also pulls some others from his catalogue for acoustic renditions, even "Trinidad" from 1980's "Playing For Keeps." It is worth checking out.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rare CD: Tommy Shaw "Girls With Guns"

Tommy Shaw, no stranger to fans of AOR, left Styx in 1983 to pursue a solo career. His first solo effort, "Girls with Guns" (1984, as if you couldn't tell the date by the cover!) is out of print and often fetches a remarkable price on ebay. For example, a used copy recently sold for $76.

On Amazon today, the cheapest this CD was going for is $69 (1996 A&M release). Check now.

And if you are allergic to money, the reissue by Spitfire in 2000 is going for $550! Check now.

UPDATE (10-31-07): Another sells for $80 on ebay using "But it Now" option.
UPDATE (11-15-07): Another sells for $80.50 on ebay.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Rare CD: Ratt "Ratt" 1983 EP

This is a nice little gem of a CD for fans of early 80s rock, and a cool glimpse of what Ratt was like before they made the big time with their huge cross-over hit "Round and Round" (from 1984's "Out of the Cellar").

From Wikipedia:
In July 1983 the band released an EP on their independent record label Time Coast. With the self-titled Ratt EP, the band began to draw public attention from outside of Southern California. It contained the hit "You Think You're Tough". Also included was a cover of "Walkin' the Dog"; originally a hit for Rufus Thomas in 1963. Ratt's version was a nod to Aerosmith, who had included a cover of the song on their influential first album in 1973. The track "Back for More" that appeared on the EP was a slightly different version of the one that appeared on their follow-up Out of the Cellar. The EP was a success, selling over one million copies (though it has been out of print for many years and is today considered a rare and valuable collectors' item).

Track listing:
1) Sweet Cheater
2) You Think You're Tough
3) U Got It
4) Tell the World
5) Back for More (Original Version)
6) Walkin' the Dog

A copy sold on ebay recently for just $41...I've seen it go for much higher, sometimes $70.

UPDATE (10-25-07): Another sells on ebay for $58.50.
UPDATE (11-3-07): Another goes for $71!
UPDATE (11-23-07): WOW...another goes for over $102.50!

UPDATE (3-14-08): Another sells for $78.00 on ebay (17 bids)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Review: Foo Fighters "Echoes Silence Patience & Grace"

Devout readers will know that I've been in a bit of a dry spell when it comes to listening to some good music these days. I've been eager to write a positive review for something, figuring it would have happened with Lillian Axe, REO Speedwagon, or David Gilmour, but I was wrong. Leave it to Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters to finally save the day!

I was not expecting the world with this new release, as the Foo Fighters have always bit a little hit and miss with me in recent years. But "Echoes Silence Patience & Grace" is fantastic...everything that is good about the Foo Fighters shines through in this collection of very strong and melodic songs. Dave controls his tendency to shout through the songs, and is more artful and creative with melody and song structure than ever before. He also sings the ballads with such sincerity this time around, you can sometimes feel the pain. The Foos also use more piano in this tunes then I ever recall, and to very nice effect. The CD has a good balance of rockers, mid-tempo numbers, and ballads to keep everyone happy. It is one of the most consistently good CDs I've heard this year. They prove once again that you can rock and still maintain pop sensibility that keeps a listen engrossed in your art and wanting more.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10

Foo Fighters on MySpace. Official site.

Video for the single "The Pretender":

Review: Lillian Axe "Waters Rising"

Man, was I excited to hear about a new CD from Lillian Axe! They rocked my world in the early 90s with their CD "Poetic Justice." Their subsequent release in 1993 (Psychoschizophrenia) was also pretty good, but exhibited a shift to a harder, less melodic sound. Still, it had plenty of good moments. Then these talented guys faded from the scene (thank you grunge rock!) and I figured they were out delivering pizzas or painting billboards.

But enter 2007 and Lillian Axe wants to - ahem - bury the hatchet. The new release, "Waters Rising," is earning good reviews from devoted fans around the net so I had to check it out. But, just like I experienced with Europe's "Secret Society," this comeback record left me deeply disappointed. Why can't more of the old bands do it right (like the Scorpions?)

Lillian Axe has plunged full force into the abyss of heavy prog rock that is devoid of hooks and memorable melodies. Most of the songs are epic in proportion, some lasting 6-8 minutes. That would be fine, but they just wander aimlessly and have you just praying for the damn thing to end. Lead singer Steve Blaze sounds great after all these years, and the production is solid (some tunes have orchestration that could be used in the movies), but sadly the songs just suck.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 7

Review: Daniel Powter "Daniel Powter"

Many viewers of the 5th season of American Idol (anyone even remember who won?!) waited in hot anticipation to hear more from the guy who sang the contestant elimination song entitled, "Bad Day". This infectious, feeling sorry for myself tune tattooed itself into our collective conscious and many folks, myself included, were eager to hear more from this man called Daniel Powter.

After a long delay, I finally got around to doing so. Finding the CD in the dollar bin at a Used shop helped. Don't know why I still cared...he was a one-hit wonder in 2005 with "Bad Day," a premonition that I should have heeded. A one-hit wonder he was, and if he releases more CDs like his self-titled one, a one-hit wonder he shall remain.

His piano-based tunes are pretty good, but generally boring. What really kills it for me is the overuse of his falsetto. Why why why? He sounds just fine (and more like a human) in his normal singing voice. Why beat the falsetto thing to death? I even checked the CD linear notes to see if he actually thanked someone for holding his testicles in a vice during the making of the record. Seriously, only dogs might like the high pitched voice.

It also does not help too much that many of the lyrics are just stupid...and in stark contrast to "Bad Day," no one is going to be able to relate to them...except maybe the dogs. Nothing else, save track 9 (Lost on the Stoop), even comes close to matching the simple beauty of the hit single. Sorry Daniel.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 9

Daniel Power on MySpace. Official Site.

Video for "Bad Day":

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hot product: CD storage solutions

I've been researching for some time now exactly how I want to store the ridiculous number of CDs I've accumulated. I favor the "library" style of shelving, allowing me to easily browse through the collection. The storage unit pictured above looked very nice and, with the ability to hold 1500 CDs (!), will allow a bit of room for my collection to grow. I put it together in no time, and have admired it ever since. If you are looking for an attractive and efficient way to store your collection, consider this product.