Thursday, September 30, 2010

Interview: Neil Nathan

Neil Nathan's debut record, "The Distance Calls", merges ’70s style jangle pop with modern singer-songwriter smarts. He is equal parts Cat Stevens and Matthew Sweet, and he recently took a few moments to entertain some of our questions…

Q: Neil – thank you very much for taking the time to chat. Let’s go back to the beginning; we’d like to hear about the time it first dawned on you that music was your calling…

Read the full interview now at Rock and Roll Report.

Our review of "The Distance Calls" is here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Review: Nazatron “Fork In The Road”

“Fork In The Road” marks the debut release of an artist known as Nazatron, and comes to us through Rees Street Records, an independent record label from Melbourne. The music of Nazatron can be best described as a cross between alternative pop and electro rock.

Nazatron, which sounds like an 80s arcade game, is Genaaron Diamente from Australia. He’s always had a love for both music and computers, which explains everything about his style and probably has something to do with the title of the record. Listening to the nine tracks immediately call to mind Seal. There are a few moments of scorching guitars rising above the otherwise electronic noise, which may also bring forward comparisons to 90s electro-rock pioneers Garbage. Consistent with the mix of rock and contemporary computer-generated sounds, Nazatron’s vocals either adapt to the grit or lay softly within the beat. In this aspect, he is a versatile performer. Most songs have a tremendously dramatic feel, rich with orchestral stabs and sweeping strings.

Highlights for me include the soothingly cool feel of “Cordial Girl” and the terrific rock jam, “Hypersomnia”, which inches into Nine Inch Nails territory. But honestly, the heavy use of fake drums, electronic gibberish, and even auto-tune give “Fork In The Road” an overly synthetic sound that does not sit well with my ears. If there are great hooks and melodies lurking underneath all these distractions, he has hidden them too well.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 5

Nazatron on MySpace. Official site.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kneejerk: The Gracious Few – Gin Blossoms

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

The Gracious Few “The Gracious Few”

Mix three parts Live (bassist, drummer, guitarist) and two parts Candlebox (vocals and guitarist) and you get The Gracious Few. The sound is pretty much what you would expect, but thanks in no small part to vocalist Kevin Martin, The Gracious Few sound pretty much like Candlebox. One is tempted to retort that The Gracious Few sound like Live without vocalist Ed Kowalczyk (his solo effort is reviewed here by the way), but that is inaccurate because Live could write good songs that generally did not bore you to tears. I was really looking forward to this collaboration, but there is little here to fuel any fire. The guys are trying to modernize the sounds of their 70s rock heroes but the results are anything but gracious, with wasted riffs and vocal talent rarely congregating around an engaging hook. The exceptions to this tragedy include “Sing” and “The Rest Of You”.

Gin Blossoms “No Chocolate Cake”

Everyone’s favorite pop rock band from the 90s returns once again with “No Chocolate Cake” – the follow up to the acclaimed comeback record “Major Lodge Victory” from 2006. The title “No Chocolate Cake” might seem to suggest this record is not a decent dessert to follow "Major Lodge Victory" – but this band can have its cake and eat it too. Their latest contains 11 more high-calorie tunes packing plenty of sugary melodies and sweet sentiments. There’s no new territory explored here, save the horn-laden “Dead Or Alive On the 405”, but to venture into new ground for a band like this would be a slap in the face to their fanbase. So the Gin Blossoms deliver what they do best. Standouts include driving rockers like “Don't Change For Me”, the built-for-radio single, “Miss Disarray”, and the acoustic-driven “Wave Bye Bye”. But don’t underestimate the pull of their mellow side, especially the breezy “I Don't Want To Lose You Now”, “Something Real”, and their best ballad in a long time, “If You'll Be Mine”. With a sagging middle bringing the record down a bit, I’m not sure it will be the first Gin Blossoms record I reach for when the mood strikes…but it is a worthy addition to their catalogue.

I don't know how long it will last, but you can download the new Gin Blossoms album in its entirety for only $3.99 at Amazon - well worth it! Click here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Joshua English “Lay Bare Your Bones”

Musicians like Joshua English draw more inspiration from the road than anything else. English calls two places home – Portland and Boston, but in reality he spends more time in-between these cities enamoring audiences with his brand of modern folk rock. His latest, “Lay Bare Your Bones”, could not have a better title…this collection of cohesive and laid back tunes are stripped down to the bare essentials, and allow English’s lyrics to come to the forefront.

“Lay Bare Your Bones” is a brutally honest look at life’s ironies, but every once in awhile English throws a hint of optimism with his “stick to your guns” message. His songs lack the processed bells and whistles common in modern music, but the skeletal nature of the arrangements gives the record an earnest and organic feel that is true to what English is all about. The simple style puts focus where focus should be – one the melodies and words. Exposed like this, one runs the risk of becoming too monotonous and sleepy, but English avoids this on highlights such as “M-LV”, “Nickel In”, and “Danny Drugs”. As for most of the other tunes, they would have been better if built on sharper hooks.

English has toured extensively with Frank Turner, Ben Nichols, and Jonah Matranga. If you like understated roots rock and folk with spicy lyrics akin to John Wesley Harding, be sure to give Joshua English a spin – it only takes 30 minutes.

iPOD-worthy: 3, 6, 8, 11

Joshua English on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

BAD COMPANY “Here Comes Trouble” (1992)

“Here Comes Trouble" marked the end of Brian Howe's era in Bad Company after 8 years with the band since he replaced Paul Rodgers in 1986. For those who haven't heard of him before, Howe possessed a smooth pop-rock and laid back vocal which is a bipolar opposite of the bluesy voice of Paul Rodgers. The album itself is very different contrast to their early hard rock roots you'll feel a breezy blow of the thick AOR winds, thanks to the major contribution of Brian Howe.

"How About That", the first track of the album, was their biggest hit, spending over six weeks on the chart. I found this song to be an enchanting and beautiful showcase of Howe's majestic voice. The next single, "This Could Be The One", is another acoustic power ballad gem, but "Hold On To My Heart" is definitely the best pick on the album. Looking for an uptempo track here is a tough job as most of the songs are slower but "Take This Town" and "Stranger Than Fiction" are great examples of Howe's songwriting capability. Avoid "Both Feet In The Water" and "Brokenhearted", but take a close look at the other great songs such as "What About You" and "My Only One".

The swansong release of Brian Howe in Bad Company is a forgotten jewel of '92, especially if you're fond of melodic rock and AOR genre. The production is warm with the highlight being Howe's voice and the superb compositions. I recommend you pick this up for those singles alone but you'll be swarmed with at least 7-8 wonderful songs inside, so how about that?

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: ISSA “Sign of Angels”

ISSA is a melodic hard rock band featuring the remarkable vocals of 26 year old Isabell Oversveen, an exceptionally gifted singer from Norway. Producer Ronny Milianowicz (Saint Deamon) is at the helm, and the project features masterful players such as Peter Huss on guitar, Uli Kusch (ex Masterplan, Helloween) on drums, Nobby Noberg on bass and Tim Larsson (Nick Lachey) on keyboards. ISSA is described as “Brother Firetribe meets Treat with tons of melodies, class and attitude”.

ISSA’s debut, “Sign of Angels” is a collection of highly enjoyable modern AOR. Her soaring vocals work well whether she is accompanied by shredding guitars or the sweeping strings of an over-the-top power ballad. The production is incredibly slick, almost to the point where the music sounds like it couldn’t have been performed by mere human beings, and they overdo the orchestral stabs in some places. The songs deliver the stereotypical themes of encouragement, love, and mild angst that you’d expect on an AOR release, but ISSA delivers the messages in style, shrouded in layers of solid hooks and harmonies. Lots of great tracks to choose from, but for me the cream of the crop consist of “I’m Alive” and “Closer”. For those of you who think there is still plenty of room in the world for more power ballads, be sure to check out “Give Me A Sign”, “Unbelievable”, and “It’s Not Me”.

ISSA is like a female-fronted Journey and, for a fan of AOR, I can think of no better compliment. "Sign of Angels" will be released in the US/ Canada on October 12th 2010.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11

ISSA - Official site.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Powerpopaholic CD of The Week - The Orbans

We're back with another exciting installment of the Powerpopaholic CD of The Week! Aaron Kupferberg (from Powerpopaholic) tells us about some of the best new power pop records by way of an audio review. This week's featured CD is "When We Were Wild" from The Orbans - just click below and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kneejerk: Weezer - Anberlin

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Weezer “Hurley”

Weezer is back with “Hurley”, which finds the prolific band revisiting the classic hooks of their more successful records. Fuzzy and crunchy guitars intermix around the band’s characteristic pop rock sound, making most of “Hurley” a worthy addition to the Weezer discography. Wonderfully upbeat and catchy tracks like “Memories”, “Ruling Me”, and “Trainwrecks” perk you up right away. Famed songwriter Desmond Child contributes to “Trainwrecks”, elevating this track to being one of the most commercial sounding on the record. The band lay their limitations bare on sparse acoustic tracks like “Unspoken”, but quickly cover them up with heavy riffs and sugary choruses like those on “Where’s My Sex?”. “Smart Girls” is a crazy dance-inspired track that provides a generous dose of the quirky lyrics and indie rock that we’ve come to expect. “Hang On” and “Brave New World” are also welcome invites to this high energy 30 minute party hosted by Weezer. As you can see, I found a lot of redeeming qualities about “Hurley”, and it is one of their most consistently fun releases in years.

Anberlin “Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place”

Anberlin seems to be getting better and better with each release, realizing that in order to put a sustained mark on the musical landscape that you need more than heavy riffage and powerhouse vocals. Anberlin is poised for a major breakthrough with their latest record, which puts their talent to good use by writing memorable melodies and harmonies. The records rushes out of the gate with indisputable winners like the radio-friendly lead single “Impossible”, energetic cuts like “We Owe This To Ourselves”, “Closer”, and “To The Wolves”, and a crowd pleasing midtempo ballad, “Take Me (As You Found Me)”. What darkens my cheer about this record is the abundance of slower, less compelling tracks in the middle and at the very end. But, there are more winners than losers on this one, and the winners are truly some of the band’s best to date.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interview: The Americans

The Americans’ Charlie Klarsfeld on working with Sean Lennon, The White EP, and the coming year

On November 16, modern pop band The Americans will release their sophomore effort, The White EP. The Americans have recruited none other than Sean Lennon to lend a hand with the new EP, which contains six genre-defying songs. It could even be argued that no one since Prince has blended rock, pop, and soul so masterfully as The Americans. Recently, lead singer Charlie Klarsfeld took a few moments to answer some questions about the EP, The Beatles, and the coming year.

Q: Thanks for taking the time for this interview! So, tell us how The Americans came together…

Read the rest of my interview with The Americans at Rock and Roll Report!

Read my review of their upcoming EP here!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Kurt Baker “Got It Covered” [EP]

As you might surmise from the title, the latest from Kurt Baker, “Got It Covered”, is an EP of cover tunes. With this effort, Baker does justice to seven wonderful tracks from the early 80s. You can feel Baker’s love for these songs and artists shining through in his respectful versions. Filled with upbeat and catchy song choices, the EP plays like a party and Baker has the vocals and attitude to match. “Got It Covered” is a jubilant ride down memory lane and a great introduction to Kurt Baker. He even dresses for the part!

Kurt Baker is a singer, songwriter and rock n’ roll performer from Portland, Maine who has always gone by the famous saying “Have a Good Time All the Time”. He was the founding member of the notable pop/punk outfit the Leftovers, who formed in 2002 and have released many acclaimed records and have toured all over the United States, Europe and Canada.

The seven tunes Baker takes on for this solo EP include: “Let Me Out” (The Knack), “Hanging On The Telephone” (Blondie), “Pump It Up” (Elvis Costello), “I’ve Done Everything For You” (Rick Springfield), “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” (Joe Jackson), “Cruel To Be Kind” (Nick Lowe) “Turning Japanese” (Vapors). It is hard not to like any of these, but I must say Baker’s version of “Let Me Out” and “Hanging On The Telephone” were especially enjoyable. The project also features guest appearances from Kay Hanley (Letters To Cleo) and Adam Marcello (Katy Parry).

Kurt Baker on MySpace. Official site.

Check out the video for “Hanging On The Telephone”:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

TRIXTER "Trixter" (1990)

This New Jersey pop metal act actually had been playing together since 1985, but in 1989 they landed a good deal with MCA and went to Hollywood to record their debut. I heard a lot of Bon Jovi influence in their music and it is probably not a coincidence since they were raised in the same town as Jon. Honestly, Trixter can be considered a late comer on the scene and, with an average musicianship, there’s nothing really spectacular about them. But Trixter came out to have fun, to give you a lot of fun, and I catch their spirit throughout this album.

The first single, "Line of Fire", didn't hide their intention of borrowing Bon Jovi's arrangement. A decent track, but when "Heart of Steel" came into play, that's when I started to like them. With memorable lines sweeping across the sing-along chorus, this came out as their best offering. The first video release of "Give It To Me Good" rewarded them a top spot in an MTV show - the song is quite good, but the second video, "One In A Million", is much better and one of my all time faves. Loran's vocal is okay, Brown's guitar is good, but their weakness clearly is the drummer, Mark Scott. His play sounded a bit dull and weak and that's just sad. "Only Young Once" and "You'll Never See Me Cryin" are great as well, but the rest are largely forgettable, even though nothing's totally horrible.

Sound production is slightly below average, but thanks to several radio-friendly singles, this album went gold and Trixter enjoyed moderate success. Don't look for any virtuosity or complex songs inside - this is the type of album you want to play when you're out with the boys, for some casual fun getaway, or to get completely wasted.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Urge Overkill - free mp3 download of new song

"In a span of about three years in the mid-'90s, Chicago rockers Urge Overkill dropped a hotly-tipped major label debut, 1993's Saturation; released a wildly popular cover of Neil Diamond's "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" on one of the decade's most beloved movie soundtracks, Pulp Fiction; then, on the verge of breakout success, flamed out and broke up. Now, fifteen years after their last album, they're back with a brand new album -- get a taste by downloading "Effigy" below!"

Story here. Free mp3 download here.

Review: Quakers On Probation “Every Living Thing”

You might think you’re seeing double when reading the list of band personnel for Quakers On Probation. Daniel Craig appears twice because this Yakima, WA band is a father-son venture, joined by Graig Markel and a number of other highly talented guests, including the late Grammy Award winning keyboardist Larry Knechtel. Their latest record is called “Every Living Thing”.

Quakers On Probation is an Americana, roots rock and folk outfit that is strongly influenced by the greats from the 60s and 70s, particularly the Beatles and Beach Boys. They call it “twanglepop”, and it is a spot on descriptor of the band’s sound. But in addition to strong melodies and expert musicianship, the lyrics are a true standout on “Every Living Thing”. The opening track reflects on human behavior and revenge with lines such as “You said if you pay it forward, well I say pay it all back”. “Yard Sale” is a solemn and bittersweet reflection of how certain material things are like living things that we cannot easily let go. “Lament for the Aging Rocker” is another treat, full of references to familiar acts now losing their hearing and hair, providing a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the egos interrupting the art. The tune asks if the boys in Def Leppard are going deaf, wonders who will outlive who (one of which has been recently answered), and righteously concludes that Cheap Trick will always be cool. The tune is a must for any rock music fan. Other highlights include “Your Favorite Song”, “I Know A Woman”, and the title track.The record closes with “Chevy Van”, a bonus track featuring a guest vocal appearance from NW folk legend Colin Spring. “Chevy Van” is a cover of Sammy Johns 1974 hit, which Knechtel originally produced.

“Every Living Thing” is one of those rare records you can listen to in its entirety and still want more. Indeed, a great way to “spend your Sunday stretched out on your couch.”

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11

Quakers On Probation on MySpace. Official site.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview: Ingram Hill

Ingram Hill’s Justin Moore talks new album, label change, best band name ever, and reveals his Milli Vanilli-loving days

Ingram Hill is a pop rock trio based in Memphis, TN, excited to release their third album, Look Your Best, on September 28. Look Your Best is their first record on the Rock Ridge Music label, following 2004’s June’s Picture Show, which yielded the hits “Will I Ever Make it Home” and “Almost Perfect”, and 2007’s excellent, but underrated, Cold In California. We had the honor to ask Ingram Hill’s Justin Moore about the band’s new record and recent label change, and discover his secret Milli Vanilli-loving days.

Q: Thank for taking the time for the interview. I understand you and [guitarist] Phil have been friends since kindergarten, so I would guess that by now you almost read each other’s minds – How has your lifelong friendship factored into the songwriting for Ingram Hill?

Read the rest of my interview here.

Read my review of Ingram Hill's latest, "Look Your Best", here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review: Air Traffic Controller “The One”

“The One” is the debut album release for both Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and Sugarpop Records, and was produced by power pop/rock maestro Bleu. The main man behind ATC is Dave Munro, who has served in the US Navy as a real-life air traffic controller. The record was born while Munro was overseas, "Making music, at that time, was merely a way of coping with homesickness and a long distance relationship.” He recorded some demos and sent them home, not realizing that he was accumulating a fan base in Boston already. Not before long, an acoustic demo of "Don't Tell Me What To Do" charmed the pants off Bleu, who quickly signed on as producer for this full-length debut. ATC continues to generate additional buzz through a nod from MTV, a performance at the Boston Garden, and finally signing with Sugarpop Records.

“The One” is an impressive debut and, while it has Bleu’s fingerprints all over it, there is clearly a great talent shining through in Dave Munro. Munro has terrific instincts for pop rock and pens lyrics that are earnest and thoughtful. Munro’s voice is vibrant and well-controlled, sounding somewhere between Deathcab for Cutie and The Fray. The record begins with the haunting “Don't Tell Me What To Do”, which creeps up on you with acoustic guitars and quiet vocals, then morphs into a sweeping ballad with dramatic strings. The title track marches straight into your ear with an upbeat melody and catchy “mmm”s for backing vocals – an obvious standout on the record. “You Think You Know” is another perfect pop rock hit waiting to happen, and fans of Jeff Lynne are going to think he’s resurrected the Traveling Wilburys on “Can’t Let Go”. “Rain Song”, a Tom Petty-styled ballad, and “God Had A Plan” are additional highlights to sink your teeth into.

Air Traffic Controller is flying high with this one, so don’t miss it! I’ve been given permission to post "Can’t Let Go" as a free downloadable track for you, so go check it out now (download here)!

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

Air Traffic Controller on MySpace.

Here is the video of “Can’t Let Go”:

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

WINGER "In the Heart of the Young" (1990)

Winger extended the success of their debut and eventually reached their height with this album. "In The Heart of The Young" was also certified platinum and featured a more serious approach in the lyric department and displayed a more complex composition as well as even better guitar playing by Reb Beach. Three singles that became their hits back then are also among my all time fave Winger tracks. "Can't Get Enuff" is such a huge uptempo rocker, "Easy Come Easy Go" blows high with its catchy groove, and "Miles Away" is definitely their best ballad ever written…but funny thing is that the author of the track isn't Kip Winger, who basically wrote almost all of their songs.

There are two other great power ballads inside: "Rainbow In The Rose" that featured the trumpet of Chris Botti and Beach's fantastic outro solo, and "Under One Condition", although this one isn't as good as the others, it is still a very good emotional piece. "In The Day We'll Never See" is also an underrated uptempo tune - it has the big power and hooks. However, tracks like "Little Dirty Blonde" or the title track are relatively weak and can be considered filler. "Baptized By Fire" actually is quite good and I highly admired the insane intro, but when the weird rap came in, it's all over.

Winger is one of the few bands that never disappointed me. I love all their albums and this one is also surely loved by many glam fans. If only a couple of the tracks were better, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this a perfect five stars. Reb Beach is the ultimate highlight of the band but Kip Winger's warm voice is unique, calming, and comfortably blended with their music. Great stuff and four-stars is warranted, I just can’t get enuff of this classic!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kneejerk: Sara Bareilles - Crowded House

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Sara Bareilles “Kaleidoscope Heart”

Sara Bareilles is responsible for one of the most recognized piano pop tunes of the last decade, but without any memorable tunes after “Love Song”, most people have probably written her off as a one-hit wonder (read our review of her last record, “Little Voice” here). But I wouldn’t be so fast. While I don’t hear anything grabbing my ears as immediately as “Love Song” did, “Kaleidoscope Heart” has its dazzling moments. There is plenty of bouncy piano pop that fans have grown to love, with “Uncharted” and “King of Anything” leading the pack, and a couple of unexpected pleasures like the acoustic ballad “Basket Case” (yeah, I was hoping for a Green Day cover too, but it’s not!). “Hold My Heart” and “Breathe Again” are two more sweeping ballads that are very well done. I think Bareilles has delivered a follow up that is even better than “Little Voice” and in a just world she’ll avoid the one-hit wonder label.

Crowded House “Intriguer”

I’m always routing for Crowded House. A fan since their huge debut in 1986, I have long been enchanted by the subtle melodies crafted by Neil Finn (and his brother Tim). But to be honest, I got limited enjoyment out of the 2007 reunion album “Time On Earth” and I am even less thrilled with “Intriguer”. With the disclaimer that I usually don’t appreciate the songwriting genius of Neil Finn until a few spins later, I have to say this one is a real snoozer. “Saturday Sun” and “Inside Out” are about as peppy as they get this time around, and unfortunately the many ballads here are not as engaging as I had hoped. While some will argue this one is perfect for a rainy day, I’d much rather replay my Finn Brothers record from 2005, “Everyone Is Here”, instead.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Dan Miraldi "Tease" [EP]

You may recall the name Dan Miraldi as the man supplying keyboards and vocals to the DC band Silver Liners, which we reviewed back in June (review here). "Tease" is his latest solo effort - a high octane, three song EP that follows his 2009 debut, "Thirsty" (produced with award-winning Jim McKell). "Tease" was recorded with producer-engineer Kyle Downes.

Miraldi has also been in Cleveland-based bands such as Cherry Flavored Elevator and Exit Suburbia prior to his current stint in the Silver Liners. He cites his influences as "women and booze", but his musical style was forged by listening to Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and modern day acts such as the Format and Green Day. Consequently, he writes pop songs that have a garage rock vibe.

I hope "Tease" is a prelude to a full-length record because it surely whets the appetite. The three energetic songs play to his strengths and deliver a memorable hook while flaunting his fondness for alternative and indie rock. The title track and "The Holy Roller Stone Revival" are my favorites, but the laid back "Lucinda" provides a nice break between the two. I recommend Miraldi if you like Material Issue, Posies, and The Knack.

Dan Miraldi on MySpace. Official site. Get it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: Bucket and Co. “Guitars, Beers, and Tears”

Best known as the long time guitarist for Bad Company (beginning in 1990 with their blockbuster comeback, “Holy Water”), Dave 'Bucket' Colwell has just released his first solo album, “Guitars, Beers & Tears.” Bucket has surrounded himself with good company over the years, and many of his friends are featured guests on his record. The list is long, but worth articulating. We have Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith lending vocals and lead guitar to “Make Up Your Mind” and vocals on “Reach Out” (he sounds a lot like Sammy Hagar here), Edwin McCain on “Why You Call” and “Survive”, Steve Conte from The New York Dolls singing “If You Need Me At All”, Spike from The Quireboys on “Girl of My Dreams” and “I’d Lie”, Danny Bowes from Thunder on “Life”, just to name a few. To say that “Guitars, Beers, and Tears” isn’t comprised of one of the most diversely talented groups of musicians and vocalists is an understatement. The first concern is that Bucket and Co. is going to sound like a disjointed mess, but the record plays like one big all-star party straight through. It is surprisingly cohesive despite the revolving door of players and singers because nearly every song is centered on a strong rock hook with Bucket’s distinctive guitar licks taking it to the next level.

Bucket has a long and storied career in the music business and has appeared with many artists including Bon Jovi, Slash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and ZZ Top to name a few, and you’ll hear bits and pieces of their influence and others throughout “Guitars, Beers, and Tears”. There are lots of excellent tunes that blend classic rock and blues with those sweet AOR melodies from 80s rock. Colwell is a terrific songwriter trying to bring fun, memorable melodies back into rock. My favorite cuts include “Make Up Your Mind”, “Why You Call”, “If You Need Me” and “Life”. The only tracks that didn’t work so well for me are those sung by Spike – sorry, but the guy’s voice is shot. He still sounds OK on a rough and tumble rocker, but he simply isn't suited for softer songs or ballads – it makes about as much sense as blowing your nose with sandpaper.

In my opinion, “Guitars, Beers, and Tears” is one of the most pleasant melodic rock surprises of the year. This is Dave 'Bucket' Colwell’s self-proclaimed labor of love, and it is a record that demands to be on everyone’s bucket list.

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

Bucket and Co. on MySpace. Official Site.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Poobah "Let Me In"

Ripple Music once again dips back into the proto-metal time capsule to yank out another overlooked gem. The debut album from Poobah, “Let Me In”, originally released in 1972, has become a highly sought after classic. Poobah is an essential piece of hard rock history. The six songs on the original LP are restored here in their full jam band glory, in hopes that Poobah no longer remains one of the best kept secrets in rock music history. Ripple Music has bundled in twelve bonus tracks, from previously unreleased tunes to short on stage antics. “Live To Work” is my favorite song and has already been added to my Monday morning drive to work playlist. Poobah specialized in fuzzy hard rock and lengthy jams, and will appeal to fans of Cream, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. Guitarist Jim Gustafson and the rest of the band were ahead of their time and it is no wonder Poobah was called "the most collectible psych rock band in the world" by Goldmine magazine.

Poobah on MySpace. Official site.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rare: Mark Everett "Bad Dude In Love" LP

This super rare 1985 LP from Mark Everett just sold for $5,000 on ebay. Mark Everett is currently lead singer of The Eels.

"This is the ultra rare 1985 first release by Eels front man Mark Everett, musician, singer-songwriter Mark Oliver Everett (also known as, Man Called E, Mr. E, or simply E; son of famed physicist Hugh Everett III)

This just might be the only one still in sealed condition after 25 years. This highly sought after album has very rarily surfaced in the marketplace

Record is new unplayed factory sealed condition ~ The cover appears factory fresh, nice sharp corners, shrink is 100% intact ~ This is a store stock copy with no cuts, holes, promo markings, no bends or creases, etc. Sealed LP's are sold "as is" since the collector value of an LP is greatly lessened once opened

The following info is from Wikipedia:

Bad Dude in Love is an album released independently on Joe Mama Records in 1985 by Mark Oliver Everett (credited without his middle name), later to become leader of the band Eels. Five hundred copies were made and most were distributed to friends and for promotion. The album was discovered at large when it was put up for auction on eBay in 2005.
Prior to its emergence on eBay it had been mentioned, in 2000, by musician Chris von Sneidern, who briefly worked with E in 1994. He stated: "The record to get, apparently, is the Mark Everett record, it's called the Mark Everett something... 'Cool Dude' record or something. It's one of those things that if you were to show it to him he'd like flip, he's apparently not comfortable with it."

Bad Dude in Love has so far been located in two locations. The Library of Congress in Washington, DC and a private owner in Phoenix, AZ. The album is available for listening by request of either party. Requests for copies are not granted by either party.

Track listing
All songs written by Mark Everett/Joe Mama Records, except where noted.

Side one
"Everybody's Tryin' to Bum Me Out"
"Gotta Get Out Tonight"
"History Baby"
"Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" (Norman Whitfield, Janie Bradford, and Barrett Strong)
"I Just Wanna Be with You"

Side two
"Bad Dude in Love"
"The Girl in My Neighborhood"
"Burning Love" (Dennis Linde)
"Ain't Braggin'"
"I Can't Get Next to You"

Mark E – Vocals, keyboards, and Drums
Richard Aspinwall – Guitar
Kevin Cooke – Bass guitar
Granger Helvey – Bass guitar and backing vocals
Chris Ivy – Guitar
Mike Kelly – Keyboards
Jimbo Manion – Guitar
Mike Melchione – Guitar
Mark Pohien – Bass guitar
Bob Read – Keyboards and production
Cheyenne Wilson – Backing vocals
Featuring The Ever-etts: Cyndi Krombholz, Sandi Welch – Backing vocals

The above information is from Wikipedia, much additional and updated information about this album is available on several searchable Mark Everett / Eels related websites and a 2009 sale of this album is documented on the website"

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

QUIET RIOT "Mental Health" (1983)

If there's one band that quickly shot to stardom and then fell hard on the ground in no time, then perhaps Quiet Riot is the right name. Imagine how they woke up from the ashes in 1983, spawned a 6-million sales breakthrough album, "Metal Health", and then were forgotten in the blink of an eye. Thanks to the huge hit of Slade's cover, "Cum On Feel The Noize", Quiet Riot etched their name as the first American heavy metal debut to ever reach Billboard #1 chart in 1983.

Aside from that big hit, there are quite a lot of great tracks. From the catchy riffage of the title track, with its invitation to bang your head raucously shouted on the great chorus, this track secured them a prestigious opening slot for Scorpions. "Slick Black Cadillac", which was recycled from their second album, is a fun party tune that will blow your roof away. "Run For Cover" has a nice solo performed by Carlos Cavazo, and the instrumental track, "Battle Axe", is also worth checking out. The ballad "Don't Wanna Let You Go" and "Thunderbird" are both good though I think they're better with the uptempo tracks.

"Metal Health" is an inventive release and considered one of the most important releases that influenced the early growth of glam metal. This album is full of flaming riffs, bodyshaking grooves, and brilliant vocal performances by the late Kevin DuBrow - highly recommended for fans of glam and traditional heavy metal.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Ingram Hill "Look Your Best"

Ingram Hill, a pop rock trio based in Memphis, is back with their third album, “Look Your Best”. For this record, the boys have found a new label and reunited with producer Rick Beato (Billionaire, Michelle Malone, Flickerstick, Shinedown), who worked on the band’s acclaimed 2004 full-length debut “June’s Picture Show.” It is great to hear the distinctive voice of lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Moore once again – his mild Southern draw and gentle rasp provide a texture not like anything else out there today. Moore is backed by Phil Bogard on guitar and Zach Kirk on bass (in case you’re wondering who does the drumming, the guys call on various friends to supply the beat).

The album’s first single is a pleasant mid-tempo number called “As Long As I’m With You.” In Moore’s words, the song “is for that person or the people who really kind of hold it together for you. When seemingly everything around you is falling apart, it's nice to know that it's going to be okay because someone's got your back. It doesn't always have to be the same person, either. Sometimes it can be your best friend or significant other, and sometimes it can be a group of fans in the front row, smiling, dancing, and singing the words to your songs.”

There is a perfect mix of upbeat and slow songs rounding out the ten that made the cut for inclusion on “Look Your Best”, many of which have already met the approval of fans at recent shows. There isn’t a clunker in the bunch – if you think you’ve found one, just listen to it once more and you’ll likely change your mind. In the tradition of Ingram Hill, each song has an engaging verse that soon bursts into a huge chorus with genuine lyrics sung with sincerity. This is contemporary pop rock at its best. Highlights include the punchy, feel good opener, “Broken Lover”, the radio-friendly single mentioned above, the uplifting ballad “Hey Girl”, and “Ready For The Sun”. But my favorite on the record is the infectious “Burn Out Your Flame”. It is obvious the guys poured everything they’ve got into this third swing at bat, and as a result “Look You Best” finds Ingram Hill sounding their best.

“Look Your Best” arrives on September 28, 2010 (Rock Ridge Music). Be on the lookout for two bonus tracks that will only be available at iTUNES: “L.A. Crazy” and “Good Man Gone Bad”. Ingram Hill is for fans of Nine Days, Better Than Ezra, and Train.

iPOD-worthy: ALL TRACKS!

Ingram Hill on MySpace. Official site.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Kneejerk: Heart - Goo Goo Dolls

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Heart “Red Velvet Car”

Ann and Nancy Wilson, the real muscle behind Heart, have captivated audiences for decades but haven’t been able to rebound after grunge stomped their brand of high gloss pop rock into the dust. “Red Velvet Car” is not a release that is likely to restore these sisters to the top of the charts, but it doesn’t feel as if they care – sounds like they are just doing what they love. The songs found on this release are more aligned with their less melodious 70s output than the pop perfection that gave their career a second wind in the 80s. Some of the tunes like “There You Go” and “WTF” have a welcoming bluesy guitar sound that revs up your heart, but the record soon flatlines into one disappointing track after another of aimless wandering. Vocally, Ann and Nancy sound terrific, but with no memorable hooks or exciting direction, this is a car best kept in the garage.

Goo Goo Dolls “Something For The Rest Of Us”

I fell in love with the Goo Goo Dolls with the release of 1993’s “Superstar Car Wash” – to this day, it remains my favorite of theirs, and one of my all-time favorite records. But ever since the commercial breakthrough of “Name”, and “Iris” shortly thereafter, this band has never been the same. Instead of trying to be The Replacements, the Goo Goo Dolls now seem content to be a Bon Jovi. Honestly, I’m OK with that - their modern output is more predictable and less energetic, but I have to admit that generally I still like it. What I’m not OK with, however, is the mediocrity that abounds on “Something For The Rest Of Us”. It continues along their recent trajectory, but this time I feel like we’re being served lukewarm leftovers from “Let Love In”, which was pretty tepid to begin with. There are a few sweet morsels, like “Sweetest Lie”, “Nothing Is Real”, and “Still Your Song”, but generally these songs feel uninspired with a lot of style and little substance. Put it this way – most of the songs are as exciting as the cover art.