Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview: July for Kings

My interview with Joe Hedges and Brian Ives of July for Kings is now posted for you to enjoy at Rock and Roll Report. Click here!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Review: Go Time "Speak"

Go Time! is the brainchild of Chicago-based musician Scott Niekelski (formerly of Prairie Town). For those of you who've never heard him before, Niekelski sounds a bit like Michael Stipe on crack, and now he is backed by a band rooted in no nonsense garage jangle pop. As the name implies, Go Time! is all about high energy and a Go(od) Time!

"Speak" comes at you like the menacing dog on the cover, and should come with a warning that reads "Beware of dog". The album bites. The noticeably lo-fi production and limitations of Niekelski's vocals distract from whatever melody may be under the surface - at first. Forcing myself to listen to "Speak" more than once did allow me to begin to appreciate some of the smart power pop within. There is a certain charm about these guys, as their sincerity and attitude will remind you of that wide eyed kid next door who wants nothing more than to have his garage band hit the big stage.

There are some tunes on "Speak" that warrant attention, such as "Rust To Rust" and "Wait and See", but - being honest - I think Go Time! needs to make an effort to get production and recording quality up to a level that no longer distracts from their songwriting and performances. Future releases would also benefit from some added dynamics so that every song doesn't sound the same. I recommend checking them out if you dug the early indie pop sounds of R.E.M., The Connells, or Hoodoo Gurus.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 7

Go Time! on MySpace.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: July for Kings “Monochrome”

Joe Hedges has reassembled his Cincinnati-based modern rock band, July for Kings, to deliver a highly anticipated follow up to 2002’s “Swim” and 2005’s “Nostalgia”. Unlike his darker and sonically intricate solo effort (“Curvature”), “Monochrome” is a welcome return to the melodic hard rock that made “Swim” one of the best (albeit underrated) albums of the decade in that genre.

For the unacquainted, July for Kings is similar to Matchbox 20, but with more punch in the music and more poetry in the lyrics. While “Monochrome” does have its more artful and experimental moments, the vast majority of the record is straight-up rock and roll from the heart. Hedges, who sounds a bit like Brian Vander Ark (Verve Pipe), comes across as earnest as ever, performing some amazing vocal gymnastics, He has also recruited some ace musicians who are on the same page (John McGuire, guitar; Brian Ives, bass; Dan McQuinn, drums). The chemistry of the new ensemble is evident as they effortlessly blend the thunderous guitars and drums with delicately tasty melodies.

A lot of bands have to compromise on production value after going independent from a major label, but that is clearly not the case on “Monochrome”. The sonic quality and engineering is outstanding - whether the song has multiple layers of big guitars, harmonies, and strings, or is just a stripped down tune, the music is always a perfect match for the mood.

Despite its name, “Monochrome” is radiating with diverse musical colors. The record also finds the band in a happier place this time around, full of upbeat songs that generally exude a more optimistic outlook. The band is more seasoned now and this maturity reveals itself in the 11 new tracks. Fans of “Swim” are going to love this one, from the crushing guitars in “Houses Made of Stained Glass” to the uplifting strumming in “Blue”. “Falling (How Do I?)” is a bouncy piano-driven ballad - quite a deviation for the band - but a remarkably enjoyable track. “Like A City”, which compares a girl to a city (and gives a shout out to Cincinnati in the process) is another pop rocker that treads close to Matchbox 20 territory. Other highlights include the driving “Fighting Fire”, the ultra-catchy “Emma”, and the infectiously peppy “Say It Now”. “Monochrome” is easily one of the best modern rock releases of 2009.

Don’t miss my Rock and Roll Report interview with Joe Hedges and Brian Ivesclick here!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

July for Kings on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Free mp3: Andrew Ripp "Blue Sky Christmas Eve"

Happy Holidays from Andrew Ripp (see our review of his latest record here):

In the giving spirit of the holidays Andrew Ripp recorded and is giving away a new song he wrote specifically for this time of year. It's never too early to start in with the Holiday festivities. The malls and retailers throw the decorations up at 12:01 on Halloween so we thought mid-November makes us slightly less than obnoxious! It's really fun and upbeat.......and is not too syrupy sweet which is a refreshing change from most Holiday themed tracks!

Blue Sky Christmas Eve (MP3):

More Holiday Tunes from Andrew:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: The Bloodsugars "I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On"

The Bloodsugars are composed of frontman and primary songwriter Jason Rabinowitz, keyboardist Matt Katz, bassist Brendan O’Grady, and drummer Kenneth Salters, the same line-up responsible for 2008’s critically-acclaimed BQEP. Founding members Rabinowitz and Katz met in college, where they “bonded over music and emotion,” listening to records in their dorm rooms. They began making music together then and there, but it wasn’t until O’Grady and Salters joined the band that The Bloodsugars really arrived at their sound. According to Katz, “Each member brings something essential to the music,” whether it be knowledge of jazz, soul, Turkish garage, French house or straight-up pop, and it is this sharing of styles and sensibilities that really lends the band their unique sound.

According to frontman Jason Rabinowitz, "I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On" is “a modern prom playlist.” Of course, prom is not without its awkward, painful moments. Written during a time of personal difficulty for band members, "I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On" is about remembering that there is always something to celebrate, even in the face of major adversity. With their combination of thoughtful lyricism and kinetic beats, the album's ten new tracks reflect a refreshing optimism and sweetness.

There is a palpable indie vibe that runs through the record, but what really makes this band unique is the incorporation of 80s new wave sounds, blended with an occasional modern house beat. Kind of like Pet Shop Boys meets Death Cab for Cutie. I give them high marks for originality. The Bloodsugars add in plenty of harmonies and strive to write memorable melodies, some sinking in more immediately than others. I was really attracted to the sample single, lead off track "Light at the End of the Tunnel", but I've got mixed feelings regarding the rest of the CD. "Light at the End of the Tunnel" works on every level and has all the markings of a big radio hit. "The Pedestrian Boogie", "Before The Accident", and "Form/Function" were also pretty enjoyable.

The band describes their sound as follows: "Imagine a house designed by Paul Simon, built by Prince, and decorated by The Flaming Lips and you’ll have some idea of where The Bloodsugars live." I'm not sure I'd want to live there, but it is an interesting house to visit from time to time. "I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On" (Engine Room Recordings) is out November 17.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 6, 10

The Bloodsugars on MySpace. Official site.

News: Robert Tepper - early albums now digital!


Legacy Recordings/Sony have digitally released the first two albums by Robert Tepper ‘No Easy Way Out’ and ‘Modern Madness’. Released in 1986, His debut album title track ‘No Easy Way Out’ became a smash hit at rock radio and was prominently featured in the Rocky IV Soundtrack. It remains an international rock anthem. The debut album also includes ‘Angel Of The City’ and ‘Don’t Walk’. The follow-up ‘Modern Madness’ was released in 1988 and includes ‘The Unforgiven’. Both digital albums are available at iTunes,, and all major online stores.

Robert Tepper lives in Los Angeles and has been producing, engineering, and re-mixing locally and abroad. Recently, Robert has been writing with Grammy winner Jeff Silbar ('Wind Beneath My Wings') and Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne). His official site:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rare CD: Worrall "Worrall"

"This is the nearly impossible to find self titled release from Canadian melodic rock/AOR group WORRALL - the times that this title appears on EBay are few and far between (I actually doublechecked to make sure that my own copy didn't wind up in my sell boxes by accident!) It is rare! Band was: Steve Worrall (lead vocals, guitars), Rick Worrall (lead vocals, keyboards), Chris Brockway (bass) and a cat called Big Mac on drums. Really - I'd say that all of the elements of great melodic rock are here - strong vocals, catchy songs, more than a few great ripping guitar moments, and enough hard edge to please the hair metal folks - this is KILLER!!!

This one is highly recommended if you liked the melodic rock style of BLVD (Boulevard) and Harem Scarem - backing vocals here from non other than Jimi Jamison!! (Survivor!)


1. Best Is Still to Come
2. Shadow of a Life
3. You Know
4. Summertime Radio
5. Catch Me
6. Take a Look Around
7. Heat of the Night
8. I Can't Stop
9. Hard Times
10. Suspicious Heart
11. Ordinary Man"

Sold for $108.50 on ebay.

Rare CD: Klaatu "Strange"

Year: 1991
Label (Indie): Arston (Poland)
Catalog Number: ACD-006

One of the most sought after US-style HARD ROCK cd's ever.
This CD was pressed in small quantities on a Polish label almost 20 years ago, so it's very rare.
In reviews they were compared to bands like LESSDRESS or SHOTGUN MESSIAH.
Fantastic guitarwork, strong rythm section, nice melodies etc

1. Bad Feeling
2. Come On
3. Be My Girlfriend
4. Do You Feel This
5. America
6. One Chance
7. I Can't Stand Your Jail
8. Lazy Girl
9. Cover Woman
10. Nice Boys
11. Strange
12. Crazy Rock'n'Roll"

Sold for $425.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: David Bowie "All Saints"

"This 2 CD set was manufactured as a gift from Bowie to his friends to be sent out as gifts, Christmas 93. As far as I know it was never officially sent out, so the number of these floating around is very very small. It's a wonderful package, and it is still sealed (the scans are from a previous copy I had). This is absolutely one of the rarest Bowie items."

Sold for $425.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: Elton John "Friends" Soundtrack

"Up for auction is a super rare CD of Elton John's entire soundtrack to the 1971 movie FRIENDS. This is an official PARAMOUNT release. I do not know why it was released or when, my guess is the late 80's because of the source it came from. There is no date or no artwork. However, this is an original CD, NOT A COPY.

I do know that this is an extremely rare CD and the usually the FRIENDS soundtrack is only available on CD with the Elton John Rare Masters box set, and not even in it's entirety.

This CD would almost be impossible to find, most people don't even know this exists !

A stellar edition to any great Elton John collection."

Sold for $610.00 on ebay.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: Bon Jovi "The Circle"

The ham and cheese of rock are back with a new record, following their so-called "country"-inspired detour, "Lost Highway". With "The Circle", Bon Jovi is once again claiming that they are going back to the big arena rock sound of their late 80s hey day. "The Circle" is as much "New Jersey" as "Lost Highway" is a "Ropin' The Wind". In other words, big arena rock this is NOT; but that doesn't mean it isn't a decent record from Jon Bon and the Jersey boys. And to their credit, "The Circle" is generally more upbeat and not overwhelmed with the band's proclivity for sappy power ballads.

We have all the elements that set the stage for a reliable Bon Jovi effort: yet another blatant retread of their biggest hit "Livin' On A Prayer", a song referencing Superman, a piano ballad that gives the vestigial David Bryan something to do, and a handful of tracks letting us know that Billy Falcon and Desmond Child are still alive somewhere.

Things get off to a predictable start with the driving single, "We Weren't Born To Follow" but then suddenly get stuck in molasses with the sleep inducing "When We Were Beautiful". They step back up to the plate with a Springsteen-esque track "Work For The Working Man", which is a tune the Boss could have pulled off much better. Then comes "Superman Tonight", which, while lyrically challenged, is a decent midtempo track with an enjoyable chorus. Beginning with "Thorn In My Side", the album really picks up in terms of delivering the catchy AOR we expect from modern Bon Jovi, serving up some of the best tracks the band has done since "Have A Nice Day". Bottom line regarding "The Circle": the record has its moments, but too many lackluster tracks interspersed among the standouts bring down my enthusiasm for it as a whole.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11

Bon Jovi on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Winterbloom "Traditions Rearranged" [EP]

Winterbloom is a supergroup of sorts that have just released an acoustic-based EP containing 8 tracks inspired by the holidays and the chilly season. While most of the songs have an overt holiday message, or are a traditional favorite, others are original tunes that can be played anytime of year.

Winterbloom strikes me as something the Indigo Girls might have gently dripping out of their speakers while decorating their holiday tree. Put another way, Winterbloom is sort of like the Lilith Fair of holiday EPs...these are not the bright and brassy carols you usually hear this time of year. They are soft, but lyrically sharp, and full of as much melancholy and sarcasm as they are Christmas cheer.

My favorite is their original tune, "Thanks for the Roses (Merry Christmas)". Penned by noted singer/songwriter Antje Duvekot, this ditty has quite a unique spin for a Christmas song, and is useful for those who'd rather push their significant other in front of a sleigh instead of dangling mistletoe. I also love the acoustical interpretations of holiday favorites such as "O Holy Night" and the simple piano and vocal of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".

Winterbloom is:
Antje Duvekot -
Anne Heaton -
Meg Hutchinson -
Natalia Zukerman -

"Traditions Rearranged" is a refreshing break from the usual fare we are bombarded with this time of year, and the voices and harmonies are wonderful. Definitely worth putting on your list.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 8

Winterbloom on MySpace.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: Train "Save Me, San Francisco"

Honestly, I have been getting pretty weary of Train. A huge fan of their first couple records, I found their subsequent ones to be hit and miss. Their last one, 2006's "For Me, It's You", was a real snoozefest - more fun could be had watching CSPAN. Making matters even worse, in 2007 lead singer Pat Monahan put out a steaming pile with his solo effort, "Last of Seven" (reviewed here). After that, I reached the conclusion that Train was at the caboose of their career.

I was in no rush to hear their fifth album, "Save Me, San Francisco", especially after hearing the rather silly and annoying first single, "Hey Soul Sister". But after a few more tracks in the album really picks up, sending you back in time to their early days. Train has finally stopped taking themselves so seriously and simply recorded a fun roots-rock record - their specialty, and what most fans fell in love with in the beginning. Additionally, Pat Monahan sounds fantastic on this record - he seems re-energized and has written melodies that allow him to showcase how great of a vocal talent he really is.

Train are full steam ahead on this one from the get-go...the record is short and sweet, but most of the songs are bright and playful, free of the over-production that dragged down their last couple of records. Fans of the first two albums are going to appreciate "Save Me, San Francisco" the most. Catchy songs abound, but the highlights include "Parachute", "You Already Know", and "Brick By Brick".

With "Save Me, San Francisco", Train is finally 'back on track': it is easily their best release since their masterpiece, "Drops of Jupiter".

iPOD-worthy: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Train on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: Gary B and the Notions "A New Twist and Shout"

If you can imagine Elvis Costello and the Attractions playing a show one night after getting completely tanked, you can begin to understand what Gary B and the Notions sound like. Hailing from my hometown of Baltimore, Gary B and the Notions are out to wake you up and make you dance to their schizophrenic pop rock jams.

The new record is aptly named - the melodies do twist, and the vocals shout at you. Much like the town of Baltimore, the music of Gary B is a myriad of styles, with some places being safer than others to visit. But whatever musical road Gary B is exploring, there is a certain indie, garage rock charm about this record that makes you looks beyond the low-fi nature of the production and the offbeat lyrics. It leaves you saying, there is something about these guys that I like, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

There are times when Gary B writes vocal checks he just can't cash, but his style makes you cheer him on for trying. He's our everyday hero living out his dream and inviting you to his 30 minute party. So consider yourself warned: this is not high gloss power pop - "A New Twist and Shout" is for those who dig raw indie rock of a quirky nature. Highlights include "Three Horse Carousel", "Give Me One Reason", and "New York Jet Set Garbage".

iPOD-worthy: 2, 7, 11

Gary B and the Notions on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Movies that Rock: "Say Anything" 20th Anniversary Edition

Has it really been 20 years? The image of John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler holding the boom box outside Diane's window while Peter Gabriel belts out his classic "In Your Eyes" is still very fresh in my mind. But here we are, two decades later, and it is time to relive this iconic late 80s film. There is no better way of doing so then getting the 20th Anniversary Edition of "Say Anything".

"Say Anything 20th Anniversary Edition" made its debut on Blu-ray Disc November 3 (DVD version was released on same day). This is one of those movies that you never tire of seeing, full of one-liners that I still find myself using today. The film holds up against time well, as it explores timeless themes of growing up, finding love, and fighting for the one you want. Like most other John Cusack movies, "Say Anything" also spawned one of the best soundtracks of the 80s, featuring the aforementioned hit by Peter Gabriel, but also great cuts from Living Colour (“Cult of Personality”), The Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Taste the Pain”), Cheap Trick ("You Want It"), and The Replacements ("In Your Reach"). While not as well known, AOR fans cannot miss two additional cuts from the soundtrack - the wonderful power ballad "All For Love" by Nancy Wilson (Heart) and a gorgeously melodic track from Germany's Freiheit called "Keeping the Dream Alive". You can sample the soundtrack here.

Say Anything 20th Anniversary Edition - Synopsis
In this charming critically acclaimed tale of first love, Lloyd, an eternal optimist, seeks to capture the heart of Diane, an unattainable high school beauty and straight-A student. He surprises just about everyone – including himself – when she returns the sentiment.

Free mp3! Chris Richards "That Covers That"

Great news for fans of Chris Richards and the Subtractions (see our review of their last record here):

"We've compiled a digital release of cover songs as a free download only via Rapidshare. Hopefully, you'll be able to take advantage of this free download and enjoy our versions of classic songs by The Beatles, The Who, George Harrison, Elvis Costello, and Big Star. It also happens to be a wonderful companion disc to "Sad Sounds of the Summer".

Track list:
You Like Me Too Much - The Beatles
Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand - The Who
Wah Wah - George Harrison
No Action - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Thirteen - Big Star

Click here to download!

Chris Richards and the Subtractions on MySpace. Official site. Get "Sad Sounds of Summer".

Friday, November 6, 2009

Interview: Lita Ford

I recently interviewed Lita Ford for Rock and Roll Report.

Go check it out here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Review: Jacob's Ladder "Ours For The Taking" [EP]

It is hard to write a review for the South Florida band called Jacob's Ladder without hearing Huey Lewis sing the famous Bruce Hornsby tune! But Jacob's Ladder - the band - sound nothing like these big cheeses from the 80s. Jacob's Ladder is firmly planted in the soil of modern rock, in the same garden reaped by Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco.

Jacob's Ladder is a young trio of talented musicians (Sammy Gonzalez - bass, vocals; Oren Maisner - guitar, vocals; Brian Hernandez - drums) and their new EP was produced by Cyrus Bolooki Of New Found Glory. The band polishes their chops by touring relentlessly (over 400 shows!) and they've racked up some pretty notable achievements so far, including sales of over 4000 records between 2007-2009 and sponsorships from Ernie Ball and Gibson.

For this early in their career, Jacob's Ladder is off to an admirable start; there are good dynamics in the music, considerable harmonies, and a few memorable moments in emphasis tracks such as "Home Alone Tonight", "Not Your Enemy", and "Birds Of A Feather". The band needs to focus a bit more on developing a good strong hook or a lot of people ain't going to bite. The "Ours For The Taking" EP demonstrates some potential for this trio to rise above the crowd, but they still have a few more rungs to climb in order to reach the top.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 5, 6

Jacob's Ladder on MySpace.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review: Will Hoge "The Wreckage"

Dare I say it, but the past couple of records from Will Hoge have been disappointments for me - yes, they had their moments - but overall I found the albums cumbersome. The songs were still ripe with passion, but lacked the charm and energy - and catchy melodies - that made his first few releases so mesmerizing. Hoge's latest, "The Wreckage" is a solid return to his earlier sound.

"The Wreckage" may have a double meaning. In 2008, Hoge was involved in a traffic accident that nearly robbed the world of this fine talent. As it states in his bio: "As Hoge rode his scooter home from the studio, he was struck by an oncoming van that had veered into his lane. There were no skid marks. Launched off his bike, Hoge ended up bloodied, broken-boned, temporarily blinded, and near death. [The accident] was like stopping a record as it spins,” says Hoge, who had been halfway through recording material for his new record before getting derailed...For ten months, the accident sidelined Hoge. For ten months, it made him do something he hadn’t done in 18 years: stop the music."

But upon listening to "The Wreckage", another meaning seems to emerge. The primary theme that courses through the record is human connectedness. Song after song, Hoge leads us through a very personal and bittersweet exploration of aging human relationships.

While many of the new songs recapture the essence of that made early Hoge records such a joy, "The Wreckage" is not without its missteps. It has a fair share of ballads and only one or two are engaging enough to want to hear more than once (e.g. "Where Do We Go From Down", which finds Hoge searching "for light in a shadow of a doubt"). Hoge's strong suit are his rip-roaring melodic rockers - which he delivers on tracks like "Hard To Love" and "Favorite Waste of Time". Other highlights include his usual life on the road song, "Highway Wings" (isn't there one of these on every Hoge record?) and the inspirational single, "Even If It Breaks Your Heart".

Musically and lyrically, I think the time away from music has recharged Hoge. Track for track, I think the "The Wreckage" is one of his strongest efforts and is second only to "Blackbird On A Lonely Wire" as my favorite Will Hoge album.

When it comes to roots rock, Will Hoge continues to impress with his contagious passion and good natured melodies. He is long overdue for the recognition he deserves and is proving worthy of inheriting the Tom Petty crown.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10

Will Hoge on MySpace. Official site.