Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Fall Out Boy "Folie A Deux"

I am a bit of a late comer to the Fall Out Boy craze, as their breakout record "From Under the Cork Tree" did not do much for me. Their next release, however, "Infinity on High" was awesome. Their musical style, which rivals modern emo bands such as Jimmy Eat World or Panic! At the Disco, grew on me fast with this effort, greatly helped by the fact that nearly every track was a radio friendly unit shifter with fantastic hooks, harmonies, and exquisite production.

The more I listen to Fall Out Boy, the more I gain an appreciation for what they do. A mind boggling number of musical styles can be found on each record, and they manage to infuse a healthy dance groove into their sound without compromising the rock sound. The band is not afraid to experiment with different styles and sounds, and they have plenty of horns and some piano on this record to keep things fresh and interesting (check out "20 Dollar Nose Bleed"). Lyrics are not run of the mill, the band is tight, and every record is like a party.

"Folie a Deux" is more or less a continuation of the move towards the more pop rock end of the spectrum, the trek they began with "Infinity On High". A solid effort but, as a whole, not as good or immediately accessible as the preceding record. That is not to say this record is not worth getting - I'd count it as one of the better ones of 2008. Standout tracks for the fans of their more melodic, commercial side should include the first single, "I Don't Care", "She's My Winona", and the brilliant ballad, "What A Catch, Donnie", where Elvis Costello does a guest vocal!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 12

Fall Out Boy on MySpace. Official Site.

Check out the video for "I Don't Care"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Saliva "Cinco Diablo"

Saliva has a split personality; some songs are modern hard rock with a bit of rap-style metal, while others are edgy pop rock with awesome hooks and sing along choruses. Likewise, singer Josey Scott will either growl or sing. Anybody can growl and talk their way through a song, so when he does this it is unremarkable, but when he sings his talents as an excellent rock vocalist truly shine through. That is the part of Saliva that makes my mouth water.

Unfortunately, the catchy songs are few and far between on their new release "Cinco Diablo". Their last effort, "Blood Stained Love Story" and brilliant 2002 record, "Back Into Your System", were full of radio ready hits that effectively combined their split persona to do the rap metal thing with their talent for infectious melodies. "Cinco Diablo" is more like "Survival of the Sickest" in that the songs are loud and thick, but there is no grace to this musical muscle. They sound like they are going through the motions - a rinse and repeat of previous recordings.

The lead off track, "Family Reunion" is classic Saliva, who have to put at least one retread tune that they can use to wind up the crowd at concerts. The opening line "Ladies and gentlemen, here we come again..." is delivered more like a warning than a call for something new and exciting. The chorus is good, but we've heard it before in "Holding On" a few records back. The tune "Southern Girls", which finds Saliva sounding like .38 Special's "Drivetrain" CD, is way too close to Motley Crue's "Girls Girls Girls". Still, I'd count these two songs among the better selections on this surprisingly short CD of only 10 tracks.

Other standouts for me included "Forever and A Day", a classic Saliva power ballad done right with an amazing vocal by Josey. "So Long", the final track, is quite an interesting departure for the band. I enjoyed the refreshing acoustic guitar and piano-driven rhythm and thought this is a great example of the crossover potential this band has but did not maximize on this record.

Hardcore Saliva fans will no doubt enjoy "Cinco Diablo", but will probably be disappointed at the short length and lack of material that ventures outside of the band's comfort zone. The more casual fans like me who love it when they stay focused on great hooks, smart melodies, and singing rather than rapping, will be less than thrilled.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 7, 9, 10

Saliva - Official site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

News: Win Elton John Memorabilia

'Eltonography' tells the story of the man behind the music (and the wardrobe). This is Elton John's life in pictures. The book comprises a magnificent collection of photographs which chronicle his life for 40 years.

The images are by renowned celebrity photographer Terry O'Neill. 'Eltonography' is a definitive collection of photographs – a must-have for any Elton John fan. The book includes many photographs that have never been seen before.

Win Elton John Memorabilia!

As part of a special promotion for the 'Eltonography' book one lucky fan will win a limited edition Elton John silver gelatin print of their choice signed by Terry O'Neill valued at £1,500! A runner-up prize of a copy of 'Eltonography – A Life in Pictures', signed by Sir Elton John and Terry O'Neill, will also be awarded to one lucky entrant.

To enter the competition, simply head over to and enter your details.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Chris English "Dreamtown"

As loyal readers are aware, I have been impressed with the roster of SideBMusic, a label that "brings fresh, meaningful, and creative music from independent artists", such as Chewy Marble and Richard Snow. Multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Chris English has just released "Dreamtown" through SideBMusic.

"Dreamtown" is a beautiful piece of work, and it is difficult to believe it is a debut record. Chris English, however, is no stranger to the music business, having opened for acts such as Hall & Oates, Doobie Brothers, and The Smithereens. Chris has successfully channeled many of the artists he admires into his own songwriting and performing. There is plenty of Brian Wilson in his upbeat, sunny numbers like "Summer Revisited", Peter Gabriel coming through in the appropriately moody "Downtown", and Andy Partridge (XTC) in gems like "Autumn". His vocals are pleasant and soothing, and his lyrics inspirational and insightful.

My favorite tracks include the catchy "I Can See Everything", the atmospheric "Autumn", the shimmering ballad "Without You", and the bright, feel good song, "Summer Revisited".

Fans of Steely Dan, Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, and Peter Gabriel will delight in the thoughtful pop music found on this CD. Deeply textured, expertly performed, and intelligently crafted, the CD is a perfect soundtrack for a lazy Sunday afternoon. If Henry David Thoreau could have taken an iPOD to Walden Pond, he would have surely had Chris English on his playlist.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11

Chris English on MySpace. Official site. SideBMusic site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Butch Walker "Sycamore Meadows"

You never know what to expect from Butch Walker these days. Since the demise of one of the greatest modern rock bands, The Marvelous 3, his solo work has been considerably diverse. Each record is consistent in and of itself, but not amongst the others. Each explores a different stratum of the rock genre, some working better than others. His first solo effort, "Left of Self-Centered" was a brilliant continuation of the glorious and bombastic power pop rock that the Marv 3 perfected. "Letters" was strikingly subdued as Walker strutted into rather banal singer/songwriter territory. "Rise and Fall..." was his tribute to 70s glam rock, but it was so unmelodious and flat that I could not get rid of it fast enough.

"Sycamore Meadows" strikes me as a return to the ground he broke in "Letters", but with a better sense of hook and melody, and some of the best lyrics to have gushed out of his pen. The record feels more organic and personal than anything he's done, with lots of acoustic guitar and airy production. The big bold guitars are largely absent and most of the tunes are mid-tempo or slow. As always, his voice is fantastic, but he generally doesn't go out of his way to give you chills like you know that he can. So fans hoping for a full-fledged return to his Marv 3 or "Self-Centered" days are going to be disappointed. Personally, I would have preferred Butch to repeat history in that way, but hey - he's an artist, he's evolving, and he's doing his own thing...that is rock and roll.

The first single and lead off track, "The Weight of Her" is an upbeat acoustic-based rocker that should please Walker fans of all stripes, especially if they also like Tom Petty. "Here Comes The..." is the first of several ballads, and this one works great with its bouncy acoustic strum and engaging harmonies. The horn-laced "Ponce de Leon Ave" is very catchy, bright, and fun. We're back to ballads with "Ships in A Bottle", but it is another hit out of the park for Walker, with emotive lyrics, gentle horns, and a spine tingling vocal. While I am not crazy about the tune "Passed Your Place...", it does exemplify some of his lyrical prowess and insight. Walker laments the loss of a girl he let get away, "You can't trust a man - it's a species that captures things just to let them go". Butch Walker does a little Bob Dylan on "A Song For the Metalheads", but the addition of brass and xylophone over the frantic strumming on "Closer to the Truth and Further From the Sky" make for a more entertaining tune. A final highlight lurks toward the end of the disc...the sparse piano ballad "ATL" ranks as one of his best - it left me speechless, like something Bernie Taupin and Elton John would have done in their 70s hey day.

The verdict: "Sycamore Meadows" is emerging as my second favorite Butch Walker solo record (second to his debut). What is interesting is that this release and his debut are at such opposite ends of the spectrum that they sound like two completely different musicians - a reflection of a versatile and multi-talented artist.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12

Butch Walker on MySpace. Official site.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Cliff Hillis "The Long Now"

Some people are so full of talent that it almost seems unfair. Cliff Hillis has such a monopoly on talent: a consistently wonderful songwriter, tasteful guitarist, and smooth vocalist. "The Long Now", named after an intriguing Foundation of the same name, is Cliff's third solo release. Prior to his trio of solo records, he built his musical muscle with one of my favorite power pop bands, IKE/John Faye Power Trip.

"The Long Now" finds Cliff more serious and matured; this can be detected in the subject matter covered by the lyrics and what some would call a more "seasoned" musical feel. The tunes just ease right into the ears and the melodies impress gently on the brain. Like other records by Cliff, "The Long Now" charms quickly, with Cliff's soothing voice more hypnotic than ever. The release has a more laid back feel with a lot of mid-tempo and breezy numbers, but there are some kick ass rockers too, like "Northern Lights" and the smoldering closer, "Faded Star".

The CD features an outstanding collection of collaborators that are no strangers to pop rock. One of my songwriting heroes, Danny Wilde, co-wrote "Northern Lights" and "She Sees", both of which would have fit nicely on The Rembrandts' "Untitled" release. Kyf Brewer (Ravyns, Company of Wolves) does his thing on "All For The Sake" and "Shake Me Down". Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) joins in to solo on "All For The Sake", and Cliff's old Caulfields colleague, Ritchie Rubini is a heavy contributor.

This is an artist who strives for the best and avoids filler on his records. In the spirit of pop wizards like Paul McCartney, Glenn Tilbrook, or Danny Wilde, Cliff Hillis continues to be inviting and accessible while expanding his horizons as an artist. It did not take long at all for "The Long Now" to now be a favorite of mine.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11

Cliff Hillis on MySpace. Official Site.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Kelly Jones “SheBANG!”

Any disc bearing the names Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) or Adam Schlesinger (Fountains Of Wayne, Ivy) makes my ears salivate. Now I will have to add Kelly Jones (NOT the Stereophonics frontman) to this list. Their collaboration, “SheBANG!”, is a 28 minute blast of some of the highest caliber power pop I’ve heard in recent years.

“SheBANG!” is a contemporary sounding tribute to the golden oldies of the 60s and 70s. Even the artwork radiates a retro feel, with its Polaroid photos and Kelly’s hairstyle and dress. Every track is a joy to listen to – instantly likable and begging for replay. The pop craftsmanship alone makes this disc remarkable, but Kelly’s wonderfully sweet and velvety voice make “SheBANG!” stand up beyond measure. At times you’ll hear the innocence of Sheryl Crow, the cute coyness of Jill Sobule, and the gentle angst of Tracy Bonham. Kelly is a formidable power pop princess and her harmonies with the distinctive vocals of Mike Viola are sublime.

It is hard to pick favorites among such a strong set of tunes, but my picks would include the bouncy piano-driven number, "There Goes My Baby", an ultra catchy tune that sets a perky mood at the beginning of the disc. I also love the rich textures and melodies in "Fire Escape", and the punchy song Kelly co-wrote with Adam, "Crazy Talk". "Subway Song" is Kelly's answer to the Hollies' hit "Bus Stop" or Replacement's "Skyway". "Over Thinking" is another really fun one, a bonus if you happen to love omnichord.

I’ve already compiled my Top 10 list for 2008, but “SheBANG!” will be a strong contender for the Top of 2009. They say that big things come in small packages. The 30 minutes you spend with “SheBANG!” will surely blow you away.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10

Kelly Jones on MySpace. Official Site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: Stereo Fallout “The Other Side”

Steve Brown is an underdog in the modern pop rock world. He’s been pumping out catchy guitar riffs since his stint as guitarist in the early 90s hairband Trixter. After 'giving it to us good', he impressed us all with his musical makeover in the band 40 Ft. Ringo, in which he served as the primary songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist. 40 Ft. Ringo was a terrific reinvention: still present were the arena rock choruses, but they were placed in the context of music that sounded very modern, along the lines of Marvelous 3, American Hi-Fi, or SR-71. Steve Brown continues to evolve with his new band, Stereo Fallout.

“The Other Side” (2007) almost feels like the next record 40 Ft. Ringo would have released, but I think it is even more melodic and contemporary sounding. From start to finish, nearly every track is upbeat, catchy, and fun…making me long for the days when feel good rock like this dominating the airwaves (check out Steve's own homage to this on the track "Back in the Day"). Steve has kept the philosophy of Trixter, but has dramatically updated the sound and style of the music delivering that message. It is a very similar trajectory that Butch Walker has also taken (who used to be in Southgang, remember? "Tainted Angel"? Anyone?).

There are more hooks on this record than in a tackle box and the production is top notch throughout. Hardly a dud in the bunch, but my favs include "End of the Girl", "Stop Calling Me", "Brand New Me," and what I gather is a song for his daughter, "Everything I Have To Give".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Stereo Fallout on MySpace. Official Site.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Review: Damone “Out Here All Night”

Where was I in 2006 to have overlooked this band? This hard rock outfit from Waltham, MA has scored a number of tracks featured in movies for kids (Rugrats, Freaky Friday) and video games, but Damone offers a lot even for an old school grown up rocker like me. Damone is what you might get if you could genetically recombine the dudes from Poison with Lita Ford.

Clearly influenced in a righteous way by glam rock, Damone are hard rockin’ pop artists. Every song is centered with a big meaty hook, baited with boss guitar riffs and a tight, thundering rhythm section. Noelle is a superb vocalist: she can rock with the best of them. She injects a modern feel into the songs of “Out Here All Night” and successfully avoids the “cheese factor” that reduces the likeability of many acts trying to emulate the glam rock era. There is barely a break in this party of 12 punchy upbeat rockers, and none of it strikes me as filler.

Damone sounds like Paramore, The Donnas, and what Avril Lavigne tries so hard to be. In my opinion, though, Damone reigns supreme among these notable acts bringing back the power of infectious rock. Go grab this CD (cheap) and throw your own welcome back party for the guitar solo.

Damone on MySpace. Official site.

PS: Also worth checking out is their cover of Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You" (on iTUNES).

Check out the video for the title track:

Trivia Corner: Mr. Mister Cher

In the mid to late 80s, Cher was cranking out a healthy dose of pop rock and AOR with the help of some big league players in game at the time. Her 1991 effort "Love Hurts", for example, features songs by Diane Warren and Desmond Child and production by Richie Zito and Bob Rock, staples of many a hairband.

Other familiar guests to melodic rockers will recognize the work and backing vocals of Richard Page (Mr. Mister) on the hit track "Save Up All Your Tears" and her duet, "One Small Step". "World Without Heroes" has songwriters as diverse as Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (Kiss) and Lou Reed, with Steve Lukather on guitar (Toto) and Richard Marx on backing vocals - can you imagine all those folks in the same studio at the same time? Steve actually lends his guitar talents to many tracks on this CD. AOR master Kevin Chalfant is also credited for the track "Who You Gonna Believe".

Finally, we have a cover of the Nazareth classic, "Love Hurts" featuring Gunnar Nelson on backing vocals and Jeff Porcaro on drums. If you were a fan of Heart or any other artist/songwriter here, this CD might be worth a second listen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The BMF Top 10 of 2008: Year in Review

The BMF Top 10 of 2008: Year in Review

I have been a busy boy…here is a list of the indie artists I have reviewed in 2008 on Bill’s Music Forum (up to 12-1-08). Some releases actually came out late in 2007, but I considered them when making the Top 10. In summary, there is no shortage of great music out there…it just isn’t on the radio anymore. Obviously, there are tons of indie artists that should be in the top 10, but they did not qualify because they did not send me their CD!

To qualify for this top 10, the musician or group had to be a relatively unknown independent artist that was reviewed on BMF. I did not think it was fair to consider “Greatest Hits” (sorry in advance to Adam Marsland, whose ‘greatest’ is a true highlight of 2008), other compilations, or reissued CDs (such as the fine pair this year from SideBMusic’s Richard Snow). EPs were considered separately and have their own “Top 5” list. Selections are not necessarily based on how many tracks were deemed “iPOD worthy” at the time, but on how much I found myself reaching for that CD over time. All contenders for 2008 are listed after the Top 10 with links to the original review. Be sure to get your CDs to me ( and be in the running for the BMF Top 10 of 2009!

THE BMF TOP 10 OF 2008

1. Todd Herfindal "Collective"
2. The Galaxies "Here We Go!"
3. Echo Jet "Echo Jet" (2008)
4. James Freud "See You In Hell"
5. Rob Bonfiglio "Bring on the Happy"
6. Craig Marshall "Point of View"
7. IKE "Where To Begin"
8. 7th Heaven "U.S.A.-U.K."
9. The Meadows "First Nervous Breakdown"
10. The Jellybricks "Goodnight To Everyone"


1. Town and Country "My Blue Heaven" (EP)
2. Radio Days "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous" (EP)
3. Alternate Routes "The Watershed EP"
4. John Taglieri "Everything We Are" EP
5. The Simple Carnival “Me and My Arrow EP”

Full list of contenders for 2008

Review: Tessa Rae Newman "Spellbound"
Review: IKE "Where To Begin"
Review: Clint Sutton "Clint Sutton"
Review: Will Hoge "Draw the Curtains"
Review: David Brookings "Obsessed"
Review: The Box Social "Get Going"
Review: The Meadows "First Nervous Breakdown"
Review: The Galaxies "Here We Go!"
Review: James Freud "See You In Hell"
Review: The Pendrakes "Sunday Punch"
Review: Chewy Marble "Modulations"
Review: Craig Marshall "Point of View"
Review: Shake Some Action! "Sunny Days Ahead"
Review: Pensive "Artifacts"
Review: Adam Miner "Playing House"
Review: Mike Viola "Lurch"
Review: Warren Pash "Plastic Rulers"
Review: The Simple Carnival “Me and My Arrow EP” (EP)
Review: Garfields Birthday “Let Them Eat Cake”
Review: The Campbell Apartment "Insomniac's Almanac"
Review: The Brigadier "The Rise and Fall of Responsibility"
Review: The Pop Project “Stars of Stage and Screen”
Review: The Rip Off Artists "Esque"
Review: Major Labels "Aquavia"
Review: Alternate Routes "The Watershed EP" (EP)
Review: Christopher Cash “Invisible”
Review: Jonah Matranga "And"
Review: The Jellybricks "Goodnight To Everyone"
Review: Duff Ferguson "Good Things"
Review: Richard X. Heyman "Actual Sighs"
Review: Town and Country "My Blue Heaven" (EP)
Review: Radio Days "Midnight Cemetery Rendezvous" (EP)
Review: Big Life Desire "Dribs and Drabs"
Review: The Simple Carnival “Girls Aliens Food”
Review: Todd Herfindal "Collective"
Review: The Romeo Flynns “Pictures of You”
Review: Only Makebelieve "Message From A Mockingbird"
Review: Blissters "I Love New Wave" (EP)
Review: Cartographer “Cartographer” (EP)
Review: Deas Vail “White Lights” (EP)
Review: John Taglieri "Everything We Are" EP
Review: Andy Spitson "All Eyes On You" (EP)
Review: The Brigadier "Rhymes for Rainy Days" (EP)
Review: Luke Jackson “…And Then Some”
Review: 7th Heaven "U.S.A.-U.K."
Review: The Smith Brothers "Restless"
Review: Bigfellas "Chubbed Up"
Review: Signal Hill Transmission "Starting Gun" (EP)
Review: Poplord “Full/Filled”
Review: Television of Cruelty “Dead Sea Shanties”
Review: American Werewolf Academy “Triceratops”
Review: Echo Jet "Echo Jet" (2008)
Review: Stella Kidd "Contact High" (EP)
Review: Rob Bonfiglio "Bring on the Happy"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rare CD: NASTY IDOLS "Gigolos On Parole"

"NASTY IDOLS-Gigolos On Parole CD Mega rare debut CD
NASTY IDOLS-Gigolos On Parole CD ,great debut CD from Swedish melodic glam.
This debut album ,the band play medloic HR like TREAT.
Very very rare CD ,almost impossible to find !"

Sold for $104.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Refreshments "Wheelie"

"cd is in perfect condition. its very rare. only 2000 made. this is the real deal. not a copy. front and back artwork also perfect. you won't see this on ebay very often. songs are

1 banditos 2 european swallow 3 suckerpunch 4 don't wanna know 5 mekong 6 girly 7 b.o.b.a. 8 down together 9 psychosis 10 carefree 11 nada"

Sold for $132.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Dream Theater "The Making Of Falling Into Infinity"

"Dream Theater - The Making Of Falling Into Infinity
International Fan Clubs Christmas CD 1997
Limited to 2000 units worldwide available to club members only!!!

This might be your last chance to find this item, as it is now

25 tracks, nearly 80 min of previously unheard studio material"

Sold for $229.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Thrice "First Impressions" demo EP

"This is the extremely rare self released demo / EP by the band Thrice. I picked this CD up at a show back in 1999 before they blew up.

All music written by Thrice
All lyrics written by Dustin Kensrue

Track listing

1. "All Eyes" – 3:14
2. "Lockdown" – 3:51
3. "Opaque" – 3:56
4. "T&C" – 3:57
5. "Second Sight" – 3:59
6. "Freedom" – 3:44
7. "Better Days" – 7:01"

Sold for $300 on ebay.

Rare CD: David Cassidy "Romance"

"David Cassidy - ROMANCE - cd (c) 1985
megarare West Germany first release from 1985 on ARISTA 610 454-222"

Sold for $357 on ebay.

Only $138 at Amazon!