Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: Def Leppard "Songs from the Sparkle Lounge"

Very timely that Def Leppard should put out a new record during my ongoing investigation of "whatever happened to [insert name of hairband here]."

The new CD draws its title from the fact that these tunes were largely written in an area backstage that the band has termed "the Sparkle Lounge." The band got many long time fans (myself included) very excited because they claimed that the new tracks have been written in the style of the hard rock masterpiece "Hysteria," with the production style of "High 'n' Dry." That means a) the songs should be instantly likable with massive hooks and b) the sound will suffer less processing and be truer to rock and roll. In my mind, only a handful of tracks on this release live up to that claim.

At the risk of angering the legions of Def Leppard fans embracing the band's self-proclaimed "return to form," I have to be honest to my readers and tell them that most of the tracks are mediocre. Plus, this is one of the shortest Def Leppard CDs ever, clocking in under 40 minutes! Only 40 minutes of new music, and about 20 minutes is filler. Not a lot of bang for your buck, folks.

I have to applaud the band for not going down the sappy ballad road once again...I think they've gotten the message that fans have had enough of that. The CD ROCKS and is a blast of fresh air. They've updated their sound in some instances to be modern (such as the lead off track, "Go") but other tracks sound like classic 70s rock(e.g. "C'mon C'mon"). Sonically, the CD is quite good - they've managed to pull a Scorpions here...they've updated their sound but retained plenty of distinctive Def Leppard elements. But it is more the Def Leppard of post-Slang rather than pre-Adrenalize.

The CD definitely has its moments. "Nine Lives," which guest stars Tim McGraw (!) is very good and catchy. But it isn't until track 5 that the peppy hooks come back; ironically, this track ("Tomorrow") is about the death of Collen's father. "Hallucinate" is about as close to classic Def Leppard as we get, and "Only the Good Die Young" (not a Billy Joel cover) is a really cool track, mixing tempos and moods - also a hint of Beatles in that one. I am enjoying the consistent pace of this CD, but wish the songs were as consistently strong too. It is a big step in the right direction and I hope they continue on this path.

On a side note, my CD came with a plastic card that I thought might take me to free tracks I could download...but it acutally contains punch out guitar picks...pretty cool!

iPOD-worthy: 2, 5, 7, 8, 10

Def Leppard on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for "Nine Lives":

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review: The Galaxies "Here We Go!"

3-2-1...blast off! The soundtrack to this rocket ride is filled with power pop influences dating all the way back to the 60s. The Galaxies are a modern AOR fan's dream come true.

"Here We Go!" (2008) is 9 track love letter, which I gather was largely written for a new bride. Let's hope the honeymoon doesn't end soon and continues to inspire more great tunes like these.

The Galaxies have masterfully captured the tone and style of 80s pop rock, with guitars that ring out like those of .38 Special or The Outfield. The Galaxies sound like they were just handed the AOR baton from REO Speedwagon...if I didn't know better, I would have thought the vocalist (Bobby Cox) was one of Kevin Cronin's spawn.

The Galaxies launch us straight into the sun with the lead off track, "Here We Go Again," propelled by guitars that sound like they belong on a Cheap Trick record. "You Promised," a wedding song for the new millennium, sounds like something the guys from Abba might write for the Tories to perform. "Lost and Lonely" takes us back to the bright and poppy sounds of the 70s, and the mellow closing track, "An Ocean Between Us," is reminiscent of something Kenny Loggins would have written on a Sunday morning. You get the idea...all the masters of power pop from the 60s to today are at the center of The Galaxies.

Get over to CD Baby and take the "Galaxies - REO" challenge. Put on a blindfold, listen to "Baby I Believe" (track 3) and tell me you don't hear Kevin Cronin! Seriously, The Galaxies have altered the space-time continuum and fused the best of power pop roots with modern rock...highly recommended.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9

The Galaxies on MySpace. Official site.

Review: The Greenberry Woods "Rapple Dapple"

Power pop was alive and well during in the 90s...just buried under grunge. But as it usually does, melody and harmony emerges victoriously from the ashes to reign once again, as evidenced by the post-grunge success of the Gin Blossoms, Sister Hazel, Everclear, and Dishwalla.

But 1994 was not the year for power pop. Perhaps this helps explain why many people have not hiked through Greenberry Woods. These Baltimore boys put out some of the most delightfully catchy and feel-good tracks of the decade. They were the true alternative to "alternative".

Fans from Badfinger to Teenage Fanclub to Cherry Twister will find pleasure in becoming a fan of The Greenberry Woods. Just try to listen to the tracks on this CD and not get hooked with a smile! "Sentimental Role" should have been their huge hit - la la la la.

It is a shame they only released one other CD (1995's "Big Money Item") and their internal tensions drove the band to "Splitsville" before the Greenberry Woods' brand of power pop was rapidly becoming all the rave again.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 8, 11, 13

Check out the video for "Trampoline":

Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: Donnie Vie "Extra Strength"

In 1991, a virtual masterpiece of pop rock perfection was born, delivered by the "Rodney Dangerfields" of the genre (they got no respect), Enuff Z'Nuff. "Strength" was pure pop perfection, underscoring how closely Donnie Vie and Chip Z'Nuff truly mirrored their songwriting heroes, Lennon and McCartney. One is hard pressed to find a track on "Strength" that doesn't have you humming along in no time. The album actually received excellent press and reviews for the most part, but did not light the charts on fire. A great history of Enuff Z'Nuff has recently been written up and you can read more about it here.

But let's get back to the present day. Donnie Vie has been releasing solo work since 2002, with his debut being a fantastic extension of the pop genius that excites Enuff Z'Nuff's fan base. His latest effort is a most unusual and intriguing experiment: he has re-recorded stripped down versions of one of the best Enuff Z'Nuff records in their extensive discography. These "re-interpretations" have been captured on this 2007 CD simply entitled, "Extra Strength."

For the most part, I found it difficult to get into most of these songs because the original tunes are so deeply etched into my memory. I just can't get the bias out of my head! Some of the new renditions work better than others, simply because some of the songs lend themselves to an unplugged version than others. "Heaven or Hell" works great the way he's revised it, and so does the beautiful piano-driven ballad "Goodbye." But "Mother's Eyes," one of my favorite Enuff Z'Nuff songs, doesn't work at all. And I would have anticipated that one to be especially great in this format. Additionally, "Baby Loves You" would have made for a great bluesy shuffle, but it is "re-interpreted" with just electric guitar and a sticks out like a bad sore thumb. And some songs sound too similar to the original (for example, "Time To Let You Go").

Some non-Strength tracks are also on the record. A nice cover of "In My Life" is here, but mimics the original too closely and doesn't sound very well produced (is it me or does the volume drop dramatically when this track comes on?). Also, a great harmonica-laced rendition of "It's No Good" is here...a song from their 1997 effort "Seven".

So my conclusions from this unique experiment are mixed. About half the songs simply don't work for me and I would choose the original over it any day. But the others that do work REALLY work and are a wonderful and refreshing complement to the original tracks.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12

Enuff Z'Nuff official site.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Review: Big Country "The Buffalo Skinners"

I rescued this CD from the bargain bin at a local store, thinking it might be a rare find. I recognized the name of the band as the one who did the hit song by the same name.

The CD turned out not to be rare or of monetary value, but - whoa! It is INCREDIBLE. "The Buffalo Skinners" was released in 1993, and I was expecting to hear more songs that had that Duran Duran sound, much like their one big hit. But I got an education...Big Country is no Duran Duran on this record, but a monster power house of rock with intelligent lyrics, sizzling guitar, driving melodies, and huge hooks. It just goes to prove...even when you think you know it all about music, there is always someone out there who'll surprise you.

The first 5 tracks just bite right into your neck and shake you around like a rag doll. They bounce back with "We're Not in Kansas" and "Ships" and then the rest of the disc, while still great, doesn't quite have the holding power of the first two thirds. Amazing stuff, and the lead singer Stuart Anderson is brilliant. There is such an urgent passion in his art and I am bewildered this CD has not a huge hit. Big Country reminds me of another Scottish band called Gun, but they are even more melodic and powerful at times. They seamless fuse a hint of traditional sounding Scottish music and sounds in their tunes to great effect (check out "All Go Together"). And as Mike Myers has taught us, if it's not Scottish...

These are epic songs, many of which clock in somewhere between 5-7 minutes, but they are so good you don't even notice how much time has passed. It is very hard to pick a favorite, but I think I'd go for "The One I Love" (not a cover of R.E.M. ). It is probably one of the most insightful songs about aging relationships ever written.

Doing some research on the band, I was heartbroken to read that Stuart Anderson committed suicide in 2001. A true talent has been lost, no thanks to a business that seems engineered to disallow talent like this to shine. The silver lining is that Big Country has an extensive discography with which I look forward to becoming very familiar.

Big Country at MySpace. Official site.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12

Check out the video for "Ships"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Review: Mr. Big "Get Over It"

Continuing with our exploration into "whatever happened to (enter name of hairband here)"...we have here Mr. Big version 2.0. Richie Kotzen jumps on board for this one, replacing Paul Gilbert (Racer X). Richie played guitar for Poison on their release "Native Tongue," but was quickly ousted after fooling around with the drummer's girl...but that is another story.

"Get Over It" appeared in 2000 has all the distinctive sounds of Mr. Big - Eric Martin's signature rasp, Billy Sheehan's thumping bass lines, and some sizzling guitar riffs. Mr. Big always leaned much more to the AOR side than the metal side of the hairband spectrum, and this release does not change that proclivity.

The CD starts out kind of disappointing...hookless and rather forgettable, even with Kotzen's stunning guitar work and backing vocal contributions. I was about to write this one off, and then track 4 comes on, "Superfantastic." It's an acoustic-driven ballad reminiscent of their huge # 1 hit from 1991, "To Be With You," and just hits all the right AOR buttons. The disc then goes on a winning streak with about 5 consecutive tracks of pop rock goodness, with further highlights including the mid-tempo rocker "A Rose Alone" (some cool slide guitar in that one) and the funk rocker "How Does It Feel". After a couple dud tunes, another pleasant acoustic-driven track, "My New Religion," ends the record on a high note.

All in all, this is a solid release by Mr. Big that should not be overlooked by fans of AOR. I guess I now have to check out "Actual Size," the follow up (and final) 2001 release by this Mr. Big line-up.

iPOD-worthy: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11

Mr. Big - Official site.

Check out a live performance of the single "Superfantastic":

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rare CD: Red Hot Chili Peppers "Holy Grail of 2006 -Live"

"Very Rare CD: Red Hot Chili Peppers The Holy Grail of 2006. It includes the following:

Can’t Stop
Scar Tissue
Bass Solo / Intro
Around the World
Bicycle Song
Dani California
Don’t Forget Me
Tell Me Baby
Torture Me
I Could Have Lied
Right on Time Jam
Right on Time
Give it Away
Live at Den Gra Sal Copenhagen, Denmark, April 23, 2006

Bonus Tracks:

21st Century
Soul to Squeeze
Give it Away
Live in Fliegende Bauten, Hamburg, Germany, April 24, 2006"

4-9-08: Sold for $178.50 on ebay (15 bids).

Rare CD: Sublime "Memories"

"Sublime 'Memories' 2CD Set, Live in Everertt, WA
Excellent condition inside and out
Limited Edition # 122 out of only 1,000"

4-19-08: Sold for $197.50 on ebay (13 bids).

Rare CD: Los Lonely Boys [1997]

"This is a RARE 1997 CD by The Los Lonely Boys (self-titled), Sofaking 062797-002. THIS WAS THEIR FIRST CD Songs include: Diamonds, All Tied Up, My Little Angel, I Don't Know, Crazy Baby, Once Again, Losing You, Someday You'll Realize, I'll Make It Right, Are You Ready. Package and CD are Mint- with no signs of any play. This CD doesn't show up very often, don't let it get away!"

4-16-08. Sold for $207.55 on ebay (13 bids).

Rare CD: Bret Michaels "Freedom of Sound"

Does anyone out there have the scoop on this release? Evidently new solo effort or collection by Bret Michaels (Poison). I don't understand why someone would pay so much when you can download it here for just $7.99.

CD sold for $222.50 on ebay (33 bids).

Rare CD: Poco "Blue and Gray"

Billed as a civil war-themed concept album...Blue and Gray. Too much green for me!

4-21-08: One sold for $60.01 on ebay (12 bids).

Currently going for $60.00 on Check now.

UPDATE 4-29-08: One sells for $70.09 on ebay (17 bids)

Rare CD: Nick Lowe "Labour of Lust"

Altogether now...You've got to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure...

"Nick Lowe - Labour Of Lust (Columbia : CK 36087)" This one usually goes as a Japan import.

4-19-08: One sold for $60.00 on ebay (12 bids).

Currently going for $79.00 on Check now.

Rare CD: Dolly Parton "Real Love"

Who would have thunk it?

"You are bidding an incredible collector's item! This is a Dolly Parton original 1985 Real Love RCA CD.

This hard to find, out of print CD is in excellent, near mint shape! This is NOT the remastered version. This is the original 1985 copy. This is NOT a burned copy.

2. TIE OUR LOVE (In A Double Knot)

4-6-08: Sold for $65.00 on ebay (1 bid).

Currently going as used CD for $35.00 on Check now.

UPDATE 5-3-08: Another sells for $75.00 on ebay (5 bids)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Review: James Freud "See You In Hell"

I have a soft spot for Aussie rockers. INXS, Boom Crash Opera, Hand of Fate, Midnight Oil, Taxiride, the list goes on...fantastic artists. Now I have to add James Freud to the list. I got his promo in the mail last week and can't seem to bring myself to eject the CD from my player.

His new release "See You In Hell" (2008) in just brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. James skillfully updates the feel-good rock sound from the 80s, bringing a tastefully modern edge to it. The 80s vibe really comes out strong - and that is a GOOD thing. Case in point: "Junk" comes complete with hand claps and Deborah Harry references, and I hear overtones of Psychedelic Furs, Timbuk 3 (especially track 9), a lively Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) (track 7), and a melodic Iggy Pop.

So who is this guy and where has be been? Freud played in various bands during the 80s (including The Models), and then spent 1992 playing bass on Kylie Minogue's first big tour. He then went "commercial" so to speak, writing over 100 of them for TV. Thankfully, he returned to making his own music that has culminated in the victorious "See You In Hell."

Every track on this tight and coherent effort is a short ride on a pop rock thrill ride - the collective CD is like a day at the amusement park. The momentum just doesn't stop until the very end, and the CD gets better with each listen. The highlights for me include "Desperation Road", "Junk", and "Guilty". James Freud has delivered a masterpiece in the finest Aussie rock tradition.

iPOD-worthy: Seriously, every track is great!

James Freud at MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Review: Slaughter "Fear No Evil"

How the mighty fall. It never ceases to amaze me how musical genres come and go; like a vast empire, they undergo a major collapse just after the height of power. Such is the story with the late great hairbands of the late 80s and early 90s. It is a guilty pleasure of mine to investigate some of the releases these former multi-platinum sellers made after the 15th minute expired.

Which brings us to Slaughter's 1995 release (their third proper release), "Fear No Evil." The CD was put out on CMC International, which for a time, was where hairbands went after their majors dropped them for some dirty mopey band from a dreary wet city. You have to admire the Slaughter boys for sticking to their guns here and delivering a record that did not cater to the grunge fad, but gave fans exactly what they wanted: a gang chorus, saying "ass" a couple times, lyrics a four year could understand, cowbell, more cowbell, and silly little instrumental fillers. What is the deal with those anyway? There are TWO of these wastes of time on this record, making it effectively only a 10 track CD, not 12.

So this record is true to their hairband "roots" if you will and it sounds like 1988 all over again. Actually, the record is a little harder and less pop oriented than their first two CDs. "Searchin'" jams with a catchy hook, and the sappy ballad "It'll Be Alright" is a Beatlesque gem. "Outta My Head" is classic Slaughter, and the ironically titled "Yesterday's Gone" is another cut worth checking out.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 4, 9, 11

Slaughter - official site.

Check out the video for "Searchin'":

Review: Stereo Motion "Stereo Motion"

Now THIS is some good ol' rock n roll! You can tell from the infectious opening riff that this CD is going to rock and then some. Why have most of us not heard of Stereo Motion (formerly Phat Chance)?

These guys sound modern, but have a classic rock feel about them that makes them unique in this day and age. Kind of like Jet or The Elms. If you dig killer guitar riffs and big anthem choruses, there is a lot you'll smile at on this release. The CD is wonderfully consistent - even when they slow it down they don't lose a step in the flow. Stand-out tracks for me include "The Revolution Times" and "Rise".

The bad news is that this 2003 self-titled release is all I can find on the band. It is a shame this may be their only release.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 10

Stereo Motion on MySpace.

Check out the video for "Tip of My Tongue":

Review: Sugar Ray "In The Pursuit Of Leisure"

Is there any difference between one Sugar Ray album and another? I think so, as I enjoyed their self titled 2001 effort the most, even more than their highly successful "14:59" release (from 1999). Sugar Ray 2001, thanks to producer Don Gilmore, leaned much more towards the rock and power pop end of the spectrum. Sugar Ray is better known for their breezy, beach pop that most of their fans like to chill out to. I think this release was an attempt to get back to those "roots," (and the title is consistent with this idea) but it just falls flat on many levels.

The record gets off to a pretty good start with the rocking tune "Chasin' You Around" but momentum is lost with a pretty lame cover of Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" I applaud Mark McGrath's taste in music here, but nobody is going to beat Joe's version, and there is no point in doing a note by note rendering of it. Joe is probably moaning, "Is He Really Gonna Sing My Song?"

Then it goes downhill rapidly from there with track after track of less than melodic, forgettable tripe to chill to. So this record might be suitable for background music while playing cards in your cabana, but why reach for it when they did it better with previous releases?

iPOD-worthy: 1

Sugar Ray - official site.

Check out the video for the inane "Mr. Bartender (It's So Easy)":

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Review: Verbow "Chronicles"

I recently discovered Verbow and gave their "White Out" CD a rave review. Inspired by my love of this CD, I checked out their preceding release, 1997's "Chronicles". This is the release recorded and mixed by Bob Mould, and his trademark tones come through loud and clear...almost as if Sugar had a different vocalist.

I have spun the "Chronicles" CD several times now, but I am not digging it as quickly as I did "White Out". The hooks just aren't as strong and songs not as instantly catchy. Exceptions to this rule include the terrific "Chronicles of Agent Kidd" and melodic tune "Holiday."

Bottom line: I think if I am in the mood for Verbow, I'd be reaching for "White Out" over "Chronicles" 9 times out of 10.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 6, 7

Review: Sass Jordan "Rats"

The name says it all...Sass. There is no better description of this throaty, bluesy talent who sounds like the love child of Rod Stewart and Janis Joplin. On this 1994 release, "Rats," Sass Jordan belts out track after track of raw, passionate rock. I wish I could say I enjoyed it more, but her voice is too grating for me most of the time and most of the songs lack a hook as strong as her growl. But notable exceptions are the tracks "Slave" and "Head." "I'm Not" is about as close to pop rock territory Sass Jordan will venture...and I wish she would have gone in that direction more often - it is a GREAT song. Also worth mention is the gorgeous harmony-laden acoustic track, "Sun's Gonna Rise."

Where is Sass Jordan now? Well, in 2003 she was a judge on Canadian Idol, and I guarantee she did a better job than Paula Abdull.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 5, 6, 8

Check out the video for the feel-good track of the year, "Pissin' Down":

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Review: Kyf Brewer "Me and My Big Mouth"

In the linear notes, after the usual thank yous, Kyf Brewer writes, "No thanks to the industry." Amen to that. An industry that is not amenable to Kyf Brewer being another John Mellencamp is clearly broken.

I've been a fan of Kyf Brewer since the 80s, but never knew his name. I knew his bands: The Ravyns (remember "Raised on the Radio"?) and Company of Wolves (remember "The Distance"?). Remember them or not, take my word for it...the debut CD from Kyf's Company of Wolves remains one of the best roots rock albums of all time.

"Me and My Big Mouth" marks Kyf's first outing as a solo artist (1997). Kyf is tamer and appears to have grown older and a bit wiser, but this does not detract in the least from his skills as a songwriter with a sharp wit and knack for ear writing ear worms. The CD had to grow on me a bit - the songs not being as instantly catchy or crackling with the electricity of Company of Wolves. But with the second and even more so with the third listen, the songs were becoming familiar friends. Kyf has stayed true to his roots rock, with more acoustic-driven material than ever. I can see people drawing comparisons to John Mellencamp or Will Hoge, but he's got such a strong Mick Jagger in his vocals (check out "My Big Mouth"), Kyf is in a league of his own.

The strongest cuts include the lead-off track "Beautiful Thing", the sizzling roots rocker "Soul Jerky", and the greatest break-up record of its time, "Ain't Enough Booze".

So what is going on with the toad on the CD cover, Kyf? Frog in your throat? Hungry?

iPOD-worthy*: 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11

*I have to clarify that my CD is missing track 1 "Tight Purple Gitup" so the track picks are:

1. Beautiful Thing
3. Soul Jerky
4. Tales from the Couch
5. Diesel
9. My Big Mouth
10. Ain't Enough Booze
11. Little at a Time

Kyf Brewer: Official site.

Trivia: Fans of Ike and Cliff Hillis: Cliff produces some of Kyf's more recent work.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Review: Abra Moore "Strangest Places"

Here we have the debut solo CD from Abra Moore, one member of the folky band Poi Dog Pondering. This release from 1997 takes her in a different direction, more towards the pop end of the spectrum. Two main problems that make me want less of Moore: she really can't sing all that well and the songs lack meaty hooks that make you want to come back for a repeated listen. The exceptions are the nice jangle-pop opener, "Four Leaf Clover" (which secured a Grammy nomination). I also like the rougher alt-rock feel of "All I Want," for which her limited vocals are better suited. When she tries to sing a serious ballad, the vocals just sound like a a bad American Idol tryout deserving of a tongue lashing from Simon.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 6, 8

Abra Moore on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the swell video for the single "Four Leaf Clover"

Rare CD: Freiheit "Fantasy"

"Freiheit "Fantasy" CD (CBS 4624822) released 1988 on CBS. Very rare german AOR sung in english. Original Austrian pressing. 11 songs."

I remember the outstanding track "Keeping the Dream Alive" from the Say Anything soundtrack. But even if the rest of the tracks are that good, I can't see paying this much for the disc!

4-5-08: One sells for $45.00 on ebay (14 bids).

Currently going for $34.00 used on Check now.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Review: Relient K "Five Score and Seven Years Ago"

Relient K: An alternative Christian pop punk band. Uh, OK. Oxymorons aside, this CD, the latest from Relient K, is really good! I'm going to be "Devil's advocate" here and label them straight-ahead pop rock. They are not punk, and not overtly Christian in their lyrics, so to hell with least on this release, Relient K is pop rock. A wholesome Blink-182 or Jimmy Eat World if you will.

And it's good stuff! Lots of great melodies, good harmonies, and respectable lyrics. The CD is consistently good from beginning to end, but standout tracks include "Come Right Out and Say It" and "Forgiven." By far, my favorite track off this one is "The Best Thing," which is the answer to any pop rocker's prayers.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 5, 6, 9

Relient K on MySpace. Official site.

Enjoy the video for "The Best Thing":

Review: Kip Winger "Songs from the Ocean Floor"

Aptly named 2000 solo CD from former frontman for Winger. "Songs from the Ocean Floor" is for bottom-dwellers indeed.

I found it very hard to get excited about most of these tunes, even upon repeated listens. Much like his first solo CD (1996), "This Conversation Seems Like a Dream," Kip jettisons his punchy AOR talents in favor of lethargic and aimless collections of sounds. He still sounds great after all these years, but for those of us who love a good melody, this CD makes no waves. Being generous, I can say there are 3 songs that may spend a little bit of time on the ol' iPOD. "Two Lovers Stand" has some very nice orchestration and something reminiscent of a hook in the chorus, the mid-tempo track "Broken Open" ain't bad, and the closer "Everything You Need" is great because it marks the end of a very boring record.

iPOD-worthy: 4, 10, 12

Kip Winger on MySpace. Official site.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rare CD: Duff McKagan "Beautiful Disease"


In 1998, former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan was preparing to release his second solo album, Beautiful Disease, when his label, Geffen, was swallowed up in the massive Polygram-Universal merger. As a result, the album was lost in the shuffle and McKagan, who was dropped from the label, announced that it would probably never be released. Nonetheless, some promo copies leaked out and quickly became sought-after collectibles. It's easy to see why — the album reunites McKagan with his fellow GN'R alumni Slash and Izzy Stradlin (playing together on record for the first time in seven years), and also features former Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin and ex-Black Flag frontman Dez Cadena. Even without the special guests, though, the album would be worth hearing. McKagan's writing had grown by leaps and bounds from his previous album, 1993's Believe in Me, which was uneven. There isn't a weak moment here — from the thundering hard rock of "Seattlehead" to the gorgeous "Song for Beverly," the album hits the mark on every track. Though McKagan promised to re-record some of these tracks, it's a shame these original performances will most likely never see the light of day. Fans who would like to hear what the lost great album GN'R never made might have sounded like should make an effort to track this down.

Seattle Head
Who's To Blame
Song For Beverly
Put You Back
Shinin' Down
Missing You
Then And Now
Beautiful Disease"

4-1-08: SOld for $268.87 on ebay (11 bids).

Not currently available on Check now.

Rare CD: Pointer Sisters "Energy"

This old CD from the Pointer Sisters, "Energy" is very scarce. It also features a lot of the Toto guys playing on it, placing it in high demand among PS fans as well as fans of AOR.

"(ARIOLA EXPRESS / BMG 74321 13591-2)

Printed in Germany.
Original Cover Artwork
Out of Print.Released on 1990
Original LP Released on 1978

Produced By: Richard Perry
David Paich (Toto)
Steve Lukather (Toto)
Jeffrey Porcaro (Toto)
David Hungate (Toto)
Steve Porcaro (Toto)

1. Lay It On The Line
2. Dirty Work
3. Hypnotized
4. As I Come Of Age
5. Come And Get Your Love
6. Happiness
7. Fire
8. Angry Eyes
9. Echoes Of Love
10. Everybody Is A Star"

3-30-08: Sold for $324 on ebay (3 bids).

Currently selling for $559 on Check now.

Rare CD: Hanson "MMMBop"

"Release Date: May 17, 1996

Retail MMMBop CD. This CD was only available at shows and through mail-order.

MMMBop is Hanson's second independant album. Released in early 1996, the album has 15 tracks, all written by Hanson. Not only that, but Hanson plays instruments on this album, something that they did not do on Boomerang. MMMBop was only in production for a few months. In mid-1996, Hanson were signed to Mercury Records. They recorded Middle of Nowhere in the summer of 1996, and the rest is history..."

3-28-08: Sold for $325 on ebay (But It Now feature)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Review: Haven "Between the Senses"

It cost me a penny to check out Haven, a band from England that has drawn comparisons to Radiohead and early U2. I'm glad I did not pay that much more because I don't see myself pulling this one back out of the rack very often. Their debut CD, "Between the Senses," was released in 2002 and spawned several hit singles for the the UK. If you are into slow and lumbering (aka "atmospheric") rock, you might love Haven. The vocalist is quite good, and the comparisons to Thom Yorke are not all that misleading. The songs are just so boring and aimless that I found myself wishing they would just end. The notable exceptions include the lead off track "Let It Leave," the beautiful "Say Something" and "Beautiful Thing."

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 9

Check out the video for "Let It Live":

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Review: The Pendrakes "Sunday Punch"

I never thought a band from Omaha would sound so much like those from Minneapolis. Turns out that the songwriter, Paul Novak, is indeed a veteran from that scene and has shared the stage with many artists emulated on this release, "Sunday Punch" (which by the way gets my vote for one of the best CD titles of the year). This CD marks a strong debut for The Pendrakes, and hopefully a sign of even bigger and better things to come for this deserving band.

The power pop punch begins right away with the fantastic opener, "Dead Man Brake," which has a clear 90s-era Paul Westerberg feel. There is a one-two punch with consecutive tracks that are very reminiscent of Sun Volt and Wilco: "Closed Casket" and "A Man Barely Alive." "Vandalia Heights" is a beautifully mellow track sporting mandolin and accordion that makes you feel like you are in a French villa, while the following track puts you smack in the middle of a piano lounge.

The CD is full of diverse styles, so there's something for everyone. I prefer the more straight ahead power pop gems that sound more like IKE and Fastball.

The lyrics are quirky and humorous, like many Dave Pirner or Westerberg tunes, and joyfully entertaining. Like they sing in track 2, "She was a real go-getter, knew how to fill a sweater," The Pendrakes are go-getters and they know how to fill a CD.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 8, 11

The Pendrakes on MySpace.

Review: The Beautiful Mistake "This Is Who You Are"

In 2004, The Beautiful Mistake, an indie rock band from San Diego, released their second full-length record, "This Is Who You Are." Some call them emo. Whatever you want to call them, I can't get into them. There is nothing here that is very memorable to me. The production ain't bad, but there are no great hooks, the songs are uninspired, and vocals unremarkable. "My Reminder" (track 3) is the only track that I think I would spin again. Nothing beautiful...just a mistake.

iPOD-worthy: 3

The Beautiful Mistake on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for the title track: