Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: The Hillary Step “Note To Self”

Pop rock
Named after Edmund Hillary, the Hillary Step is a 40 foot, near vertical rock face on Mount Everest. What this has to do with the acoustic driven pop rock band I’m not sure. Maybe one of the members is a descendent of Edmund Hillary. Maybe they are enthusiastic mountain climbers. Maybe because the name “is just there”.

Whatever the case may be, Hillary Step put the rock in acoustic rock, along with plenty of melody and harmony. Think Rembrandts in mountain climbing gear reaching new heights. The Hillary Step is based on the fruitful partnership of Rob Schiffmann (guitar, vocals, songwriting and everything else) and Jon Rothstein (bass, vocals, songwriting), backed by a solid group of musicians in Ale de Vries (drums), Rachel Dart (vocals) and Eric March (keyboards). The full band brings vibrant life to the acoustic tunes the duo initially put together. The 13 songs found on their new album, “Note To Self” span topics related to longing, relationship issues, reaching peace with oneself, and the lucidity of quiet times. In their own words, their music is “1 part acoustic rock, 1 part singer-songwriter and 1 part straight-up Rock 'n Roll.”

“Tell Me You Love Me” gets things rolling. As if the peppy piano and sublime harmonies weren’t enough, there is a cool key change in the coda that takes things up a notch – consequently, this one is my favorite track on the album. But there are plenty of other gems throughout this collection that make “Note To Self” a consistently enjoy listen from beginning to end. Some additional highlights include the pleasant jangle pop of “All I’ve Got”, the harmony-laden “A Little Time” and “Sister Mercy”, a captivating storytelling tune with an engrossing melody. On the softer side, don’t miss the achingly gorgeous piano ballad “For The Moment” and the thoughtful seize-the-day message in “What Are We Waiting For?”. Showcasing the diversity of the musical styles this band can pull off include the funky rock of “Answers”, the awkward and haunting verses of “Doorways”, and the jazzy overtones of “Quietness of Love”. The CD ends with a simple yet charming acoustic piece called “Stars and Butterflies”.

So plaster a yellow sticky note to your forehead to run and check out The Hillary Step. Clearly a band that us older pop rockers are going to click with, but hopefully some younger recruits can meet us up on the mountain too. Recommended if you like The Rembrandts, Venice, or Sister Hazel.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 11, 13

The Hillary Stepofficial site.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Alih Jey “Tarte”

Pop rock
“Tarte” is the album from Latin Grammy award nominated singer-songwriter Alih Jey. It is her English language debut and is destined to win over the hearts and ears of everyone. Helping put the album together are Miami-based music gurus Fernando Perdomo (Dreaming In Stereo), Jorges (Plains), and Derek Cintron (Dc-3).

Born in Santo Domingo, it was quickly noticed that Alih Jey was bursting with talent. She was ushered into the music business at a very young age, signed by Universal Music Latino at only 16 years old. Alih released two albums with Universal, then an independent release ("Necia"), which was nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category of Best Rock Solo Vocal Album. Alih was Clear Channel's Hispanic Artist of the month in March 2009, has played in SXSW while promoting "Necia", was a winner of the iTunes Jukebox Jury, and was the opening act for Paulina Rubio in her "Pau-latina" tour.

Summing up “Tarte” with a single word: party! These songs are radiating sunshine and good times, with some of the most buoyant melodies since The Bangles. Jey’s voice is sweet and strong, and she has great skill in writing and performing harmony parts. There is a sense of 50s and 60s melodies sprinkled throughout her songs, but everything still retains a very contemporary sound thanks to outstanding production. “Entertain Me” and “Carousel” are full of good cheer and will get your blood flowing. “Crooked” begins with an acoustic strumming, giving Jey’s vocals plenty of room to breathe on this tender ballad. “Cherry Pie” (thankfully not a Warrant cover) is a mid-tempo duet with Jorges that will satisfy the musical equivalent of a sweet tooth. “Holler Girl” returns to the upbeat pace and is one of the most danceable songs on the record, featuring some fun backing vocals on the chorus.

If you enjoyed the latest from Mandy Moore, Kelly Jones, or Marissa Levy, be sure to check out Alih Jey’s “Tarte” as you won’t be disappointed.

Alih JeyMySpace.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Attack Attack UK “The Latest Fashion”

Modern hard rock
Welsh rock quartet Attack! Attack! U.K. will be releasing their new album, “The Latest Fashion,” in the U.S. via Rock Ridge Music on June 21. Attack! Attack! UK delivers blistering modern rock tunes that seem engineered to sear themselves right into your brain. “The Latest Fashion” was recorded in Cardiff, Wales, in the summer of 2010 with acclaimed producer Romesh Dodangoda (Motörhead, Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine) and follows the band’s 2008 self-titled debut.

The eleven tunes gracing “The Latest Fashion” are not only qualified rockers that will test the limits of your speakers, but they bare the stamp of a thinking man’s rock band. The lyrics are of exceptional quality and touch upon subjects ranging from parenthood to the psychology of fads. While the hooks could be sharper and more consistent from song to song, the record is a worthy listen from start to finish just to hear these words float on the soaring melodies.

One of my favorite tracks from the record is “Blood on my Hands”, which was inspired by fatherhood (video below). In the band’s words, “It’s about responsibility and living up to your obligations…Consider it a reminder that people count on you.” “My Shoes” is even more melodic, with captivating chord changes and pounding riffs that will inspire you to play along on air guitar. “Nemesis” is a rousing arena-ready anthem that features a chilling twist in the lyrics about who our worst enemy can be. The album just seems to get better and better as it progresses, with one of the most radio-friendly rockers in “Best Mistake”.

The band will begin its first official tour of the US to support “The Latest Fashion” (they have performed in the States only once to date, at SXSW in 2009). Watch out for them, especially if you like Hoobastank, Taking Back Sunday, or Rise Against.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 7, 8

Attack! Attack! UKOfficial site.

Check out the video for “Blood On My Hands”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

John Eddie - John Eddie (1986)

A product of the incredibly vibrant Jersey Shore scene of the 70s/80s, it’s a scene that produced some of my favorite acts...many of which I still listen to this day including Bon Jovi, The Hooters, Southside Johnny, Glen Burtnick and of course, Bruce Springsteen. John Eddie could be described somewhat of an artist that combined all those elements into one “superstar in waiting” package that somehow never was meant to be.

From seeing him live many times I know he had the goods, as his front man skills were about as honest and true as I’ve ever seen. For the album, produced by Bill Drescher, he surrounded himself with talent like Nils Lofgren, Max Weinberg and Mike Landau .

This relative failure couldn’t be because of the songs, which are all quite Springsteen-like in their approach and come from a lyrical storytelling place that only Jersey could produce. Although “Jungle Boy” was a minor top 40 hit, it was songs like the straight up arena rock of “Dream House”, the epic pleading of “Please Jodi” (which would have been massive in the hands of Bon Jovi) or the crashing hard rock riffs of “Waste Me” that bring me back to this set time and again.

My favorite song here, depending on the day (ask me tomorrow and I might answer different), is “Hide Out,” which hammers home the pain of being on the wrong end of a cheating lover better than just about any song of the decade and is still laying there waiting for someone in Nashville to discover it and turn it into the hit it deserves.

John would go on to release about a half-dozen albums and EPs over the years and is still a fixture of the south Jersey music scene. He’s also written a handful of hits for artists in Nashville including Kid Rock. You cannot go wrong with any of his efforts, but this debut still tweaks the right spots in my heart and brings me back to one of the best times of my life.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Dom Liberati “The Good Hurt”

Dom Liberati is an L.A. based musician blending the songwriting styles of The Police with Jimmy Eat World and Kings of Leon. The result can be heard on his latest album, “The Good Hurt”, which was released this April. Liberati is a poet at heart, intelligently exploring the typical singer-songwriter themes of life and lost love, but surrounding those philosophical meanderings with plenty of rock crunch and tasty melodic hooks. Liberati got his first taste of success in 2009 when Activision used his song “Love Holds it Down” in their famous Guitar Hero game. He also tours as a session bassist, which isn’t surprising after you take a listen to some of the amazing bass lines put down on “The Good Hurt”.

Lead-off track “We Own the Night” is the first single from “The Good Hurt” and is sure to become the new anthem for night owls. The tune begins with a soft acoustic strum before launching into a feisty chorus built to make a permanent impression. “Burn” is my favorite track off the CD – a perfect radio-friendly single that has 80s overtones in the Rick Springfield vein that really hit the sweet spot. “Evidence” is a bit darker, but provides an opportunity for Liberati to show off more of his vocal range in a killer pre-chorus. “Changing August”, with its pleasant mid-tempo pace and cascading drums, sounds like a modern Bon Jovi tune, while the similar but different “Won’t Let You Down” veers more into Goo Goo Dolls territory. Things cool off a bit, but “Suffering” is a fine track that grows on you quick and the album closes on a strong note with the lyrically strong and melodic “Semicircle Effect”.

The heart of rock and roll is still beating…if you don’t believe me, take a listen to Liberati’s “The Good Hurt”.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 5, 9, 12

Dom LiberatiOfficial site.

Check out a video:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

KISS “Crazy Nights” (1987)

It's 1987 and pop-metal began spreading like a disease. Bon Jovi and Poison took over the world and Kiss kept up with the competition by releasing "Crazy Nights", which favors the current wave of the time. The result somehow is not disappointing as they achieved platinum status a year later, and three of their singles received heavy rotation on MTV and radio.

"Crazy Crazy Nights" has its own charming shout-along chorus and really could turn your party into a wild wild night. "I'll Fight The Hell To Hold You", "My Way", and "Turn On The Night" are rough-edged melodic rockers and were infectious at the same time - you gotta love ‘em all. "Hell or High Water" sounded 70s but with a major 80s upgrade. "Reason To Live" is the contender to match their massive classic ballad, "Beth". Paul sung his heart out and with the heartbreaking lyric "you can love and get burned, if it has to be", this track is achingly beautiful.

I think the real power behind this album is Paul Stanley, who wrote all of my favorite songs along with Desmond Child and Diane Warren, and carved out the three successful singles while Gene Simmons put out some inferior songs such as "No,No,No", "Good Girl Gone Bad" and "Thief In The Night". Bottom line, this is a great commercial and fun album to enjoy!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Odds and Ends

Each week I use this space to post some mini-reviews, cool tracks, random thoughts, neat news, or whatever else I damn well please.

Drew Martin and the Limelights [EP] – Drew Martin is a singer-songwriter from Richmond, VA, leading the band Drew Martin & the Limelights. Their first EP is self-titled and available on iTunes and Amazon – it features five jangle pop tracks to enhance your chilling out this summer. Drew is also a member of the Jim Ivins Band, which we’ve covered a couple times here previously on BMF (click here), and Ivins plays along here as one of the Limelights. Martin has a soothing voice, which can kick up into an ear-pleasing falsetto, perfect for this style of mellow yet upbeat pop rock. Most of the tunes are acoustic-based and feature cozy melodies atop of smart lyrics telling stories of deceit, nostalgia, and hope. Highlights include the driving rockers “Calling Your Bluff” and “Bring The Light”, but don’t miss the breezy closer “Just Call Me” either. Learn more about the band and their music here.

Great new video from Neil Nathan
Check out this great new animated video from Neil Nathan, “a homage to the perfect Sunday drive and to my uncle who used to drive a 67 Chevy Corvette Sting Ray Convertible and refurbish 'em for other collectors”. See more on Neil Nathan here.

Surprise of the week
Um…Rob Zombie has done a commercial for…wait for it…WOOLITE! You know, the gentle laundry detergent. Perfect match up, wouldn’t you say? It’s actually kind of cool – check it out here.

Tyketto reunion and new album for 2012. “Well...the ink is finally dry, and we can announce that Tyketto has signed with worldwide giant, FRONTIERS RECORDS. Tyketto happily joins the Frontiers family, which houses such heavyweights as Def leppard, Whitesnake and Journey! We have been busy finalizing the deal, and working on material for our fourth studio release. This will be our first new album since 1995's SHINE. These are some of the best ideas we have worked on in years. There's plenty of the classic DON'T COME EASY sound, mixed in with some new ideas and some great surprises! Look out for a Spring 2012 release....everywhere! All FOUR ORIGINAL MEMBERS WILL BE A PART OF THIS SPECIAL EVENT!”

American Idol David Cook will be celebrating the release of his sophomore album “This Loud Morning” on June 28th, 2011 with a special event at the Paramount Hotel in Times Square, NYC. Read more about it here.

New Butch Walker coming this Fall – not many details at this time, but you can read the story here.

Check out three new songs by Morrissey from his forthcoming new album here.

Paul McCartney opens up about the release of his first solo album and the breakup of the Beatles. McCartney said, "I was not a popular bunny". Read the full story here. By the way, Sir Paul turns 69 today - Happy Birthday!

Random iPOD song of the week
Never understood why the leadoff single, “Didn’t Know It Was Love”, from Survivor’s “Too Hot To Sleep” album didn’t help the record blaze up the charts. What is there not to like about this song?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: Night Ranger “Somewhere in California”

Melodic rock
Has it really been 30 years since Night Ranger first stormed onto the 80s hard rock scene? Best known for their big classic hits such as “Sister Christian”, “When You Close Your Eyes”, and “Don't Tell Me You Love Me”, the band is back to show they can still rock in America. The lineup for the new effort, “Somewhere in California” includes Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (guitars), Joel Hoekstra (guitars), and Eric Levy (keyboards). It was hard to find a high school dance in the 80s that did not have Night Ranger on the playlist – will any high schools want to play a new Night Ranger track today? Of course not, but this is no fault of the band – they stay true to their 80s sound and avoid catering to today’s musical trends. Fans are going to love the band for this choice.

I have to admit that the lead off track and first single, “Growin' Up In California” left me disappointed. Who needs another song about &!#$#ing California?! The performance is tight, but the lyrics are bland and the melody is tired. “Lay It On Me” brings Night Ranger into 2011, with heavy riffs and modern guitar tones driving the rhythm. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything more memorable about this tune. Things get much better by the third track, the radio-friendly anthem “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)” – the chorus on this one shines and finally reminds us of the band’s gift for melody and harmony. “Follow Your Heart” is an AOR staple as you can judge from the title, and there is a decent song somewhere in this near seven minute labyrinth, but it takes too much effort to find it. “Time Of Our Lives” is the first requisite power ballad – it is beautifully done and grows on you after a couple spins, but doesn’t hold a cigarette lighter to their 80s work.

The second half of the record is a little better by comparison. Sounding like a .38 Special single, “No Time To Lose Ya” is spectacular – one of the catchiest choruses on the record. “Live For Today” is an interesting rocker with psychedelic verses flanking a more orthodox melodic chorus…but at six minutes, it wears out its welcome. The “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” spirit is captured in the steady rocker “It’s Not Over”, which also features some excellent lead work. “Rock N Roll Tonight” is a rather lame sequel to "(You Can Still) Rock in America", but the album’s closer, “Say it With Love” is compelling. After pseudo rap verses comes a traditional Night Ranger chorus, ending the record on a high note.

“Somewhere in California” will be out June 17 (Frontiers Records).

iPOD-worthy: 3, 6, 8, 11

Night RangerOfficial site.

Check out the video “Growin' Up In California”:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Faz Waltz “Life On The Moon”

Italian rockers Faz Waltz are back with a new record entitled, “Life On The Moon”. Led by Faz La Rocca, the boys are back with a dozen new tunes that capture the essence of 70s glam rock. “Life On The Moon” is the sophomore release to their self-titled debut (read our review here), which came out exactly one year prior.

Hop into their “Love Limousine” and you’ll feel like you’ve taken a time machine back to the glory days of T. Rex. Their love of all things Marc Bolan comes through even more on tracks like “Get On Down” and “I Long For Your Love”. Other highlights include the ballad “Mr. Sorrow”, which features progressive chord changes reminiscent of the pop stylings found in the music of Mott the Hoople. “Never Let You Go” sparkles with a super sharp pop melody, made all the more radiant with a bouncy piano line. “Friend Of A Nightmare” has a very similar vibe and is equally enjoyable. Two other tracks stand out because they are a detour from the fuzzy stomp rock that dominates the album. The stripped down acoustic “Lucky Man” offers a rare glimpse of a naked Faz Waltz, and “Marble Eyes” closes the record with a gentle and earnest piano ballad in the key of David Bowie.

Faz Waltz is recommended for fans of T. Rex, David Bowie, or The Knack.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 6, 10, 11

Faz WaltzOfficial site. Facebook.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Tour De Force “World On Fire” (198?)

More a set of demos strung together rather than a proper complete album, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is some of the best arena sized pomp that’s ever graced my ears.

I first came across this band on one of my weekly trips to the Village in New York City, St. Mark’s Place to be more exact. There, me and an ever revolving group of friends would scour places like Sounds or Rock N’ Roll Heaven for all the imports, demos and promo items we could get our hands on. One trip in 1989 scored me a 4 song cassette EP by Long Island’s Tour De Force, which I knew of by name at least from seeing their giant full page ads in rags like the Aquarian.

Most of the demos I would pick up over the years never amounted to much (save for a little known group called Hollywood Rose, which would go on to become Guns N’ Roses). But, this cassette just captivated me and because a permanent fixture in my car. In particular, songs like the bouncy “Back To You” or the MEGA ballad “Coming Home” brought to mind the finest moments of Danger Danger or Night Ranger. Soaring vocalist Chali Cayte simply sounds like he was born for this.

The disc itself kicks off with the Michael Bolton penned “Tonight,” and like the majority of songs here is an infectious keyboard dominated rocker that should have had filled arenas fist pumping rather than becoming something of a lost legend (like their NYC brethren Aviator or Prophet).

Songs like “If It’s Over” or “Rough Boy” keep the winning streak going with songs that are about as 80s as you can get, yet no matter when I spin this set, it sounds as fresh as the day I first purchased that EP. Though it loses some steam in the middle of the disc, at 17 songs it’s a bit expected and trimming it to an even dozen would have been a better bet.

If hard rock dominated by layer upon layer of keyboards is your thing and a band name like Giuffria or Shy gets you foaming at the mouth, you’ll wonder how this lot slipped under your radar.

Recently reissued yet again just the other week through AOR Heaven, I honestly have no idea what happened to any of the members of this group. Though their actual self-titled debut for Geffen eventually saw the light of day, from what I hear it’s a mostly avoidable affair that doesn’t touch the potential of what most of these demos offered.

Find more info on Tour De Force here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Ari Shine “Ghost Town Directory”

Since the age of 15, Ari Shine has been working to perfect his craft, incorporating his love of late 70s rock and pop into his own contemporary tunes. In addition to writing his own material, he co-writes for numerous other bands and artists (The Secret Handshake, Josie Cotton, Gaby Moreno to name a few). When he isn’t writing and recording, he is out on the road taking his songs to the people. He’s opened for Rhett Miller, Redd Kross, Silversun Pickups, the Donnas, and many others. Last summer Shine was selected to support Chris Shiflett of the Foo Fighters on his entire US/Canadian tour.

Shine’s latest record, “Ghost Town Directory” bristles with singer/songwriter spirit yet has a slick radio-friendly gloss provided by producer Noah Shain (As Tall As Lions, Me Talk Pretty and The Secret Handshake). The introductory track is a perfect example of how this team dresses up the retro melodies in modern rock clothes. “All I’ve Got Is Love” is a blistering rocker sizzling with a crunchy riff and harmonies dripping with syrup – not too far astray from Collective Soul. The driving “Against The Night” enshrouds Bob Seger lyrics with the sort of punchy guitars that lifted the Goo Goo Dolls into superstardom. Other highlights include “Refuge In You” and the Bay City Rollers sounding “Better Anyday”. On the softer side, Shine shows off his skills for balladry on the pleasant “Here With Me” and “Shine”. The bonus track, “Ship In A Bottle”, for which there is a video below, is a sparse acoustic tune not representative of the majority of high energy, more accessible tunes on this record.

“Ghost Town Directory” is a terrific release from start to finish. Shine is an extremely promising talent that wraps his earnest, often inspirational lyrics in melodies that feature plenty of affable harmonies and interesting chord changes.

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

Ari Shine Official site.

Check out the video for “Ship In A Bottle”
MTV IggyAri Shine - "Ship In A Bottle"
Ari Shine

Monday, June 13, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

BON JOVI “New Jersey” (1988)

Bon Jovi labeled their fourth album “New Jersey” out of pride for their home state. Though it seems hard to beat the victorious 30 million sales of "Slippery When Wet", this album carved another important record for being the only hard rock album in history that spawned five singles on the Top 10 of Billboard Hot 100.

Among the singles that conquered the charts, I don't like "Lay Your Hands On Me" as I found it's too boring and disposable. "I'll Be There For You" is a decent generic ballad, but "Bad Medicine" and "Born To Be My Baby" are essential upbeat rockers. And the heart-throbbing backstreet ballad, "Living In Sin", is legendary and I consider it as one of their greatest piece ever penned.

After the previous "Wanted Dead or Alive", Bon Jovi had a big interest in the wild west cowboy theme, reflected on tracks such as "Blood On Blood", "Ride Cowboy Ride", and "Stick To Your Guns". The list of great songs here goes on with the anthemic "Wild Is The Wind" and the acoustical outro of "Love For Sale".

"New Jersey" is a crucial part of Bon Jovi's growing phase and a huge nostalgic memory to many. Remember when hair was long and the hysterical shout of "when you get drunk, I'll be the wine" with guitars on your lap and the neighbor’s girl secretly falling in love with you. Whether you like it or not, Bon Jovi played an important role in bringing many new fans to the rock/metal community, and "New Jersey" is their one thing to blame.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Odds and Ends

Each week I use this space to post some mini-reviews, cool tracks, random thoughts, neat news, or whatever else I damn well please.

Bowery Beasts “Heavy You” [EP] – This L.A.-based rock outfit pays homage to classic rock acts such as Thin Lizzy and Mott the Hoople on their latest five song EP entitled, “Heavy You” (release date July 5). Describing their own sound as “Blue Jean Glam”, one can hear the bright melodies of groups like Slade or even Sweet percolating up to the surface above the fuzzy guitars and wailing vocals. To my ears, there is just as much modern influence from the likes of Modest Mouse or The Killers in their tunes as well. Check them out if you want a fresh spin on the late 70s classic rock sound. Highlights include the lyrically seductive “He Was Your First Tattoo” and the feisty “Young Rockers”. Learn more about the band and their music here.

Surprise of the week
Ozzy Osbourne had a pair of unlikely guest vocalists on his 1988 album "No Rest for The Wicked": Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, better known as Flo and Eddie from Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention and The Turtles (of “Happy Together” fame). Read all about it here.

The Trews (reviewed here) are releasing “Live From Montreal” on iTUNES June 21. THE TREWS released Hope & Ruin last month and their fourth full-length studio album is also available on vinyl courtesy of Bumstead Records/CEN. The quartet just completed a leg of the "Born Free Tour" with KID ROCK in the Great White North and will summer in New York with five shows covering the state from Niagra Falls to Houston Street in June. To prepare the U.S. for their enthralling stage-show, THE TREWS are releasing LIVE FROM MONTREAL, exclusively through iTunes on June 21, 2011.

Def Leppard is releasing their first ever live album, “Mirror Ball”, and you can stream the 2CD collection in its entirety right here.

New Jayhawks coming September 20 – “Mockingbird Time”! The 12-track album is the first full-band studio release featuring both founding members Gary Louris and Mark Olson since 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass. Read more about it here.

Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, and his wife, Sharon Finn's Pajama Club have set a September 13th release date for their self-titled debut and have announced some U.S. shows this month with more coming this summer. More info here.

Charity auction for Trekstock. This week the third and final lot of plectrums will be auctioned, which includes the likes of Band Of Horses, Ronnie Wood, Duff McKagan, and Paramore to name just a few of the artists involved. The plectrums signed by these bands are now up for auction on Ebay.
You can learn more about the auction and the charity project over at and for further updates on twitter check out the hashtag #BSVIP and the account @bensherman1963

Random iPOD song of the week
“Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina. One of the most beautiful songs ever, written by Kenny in 1970 for his brother Danny to celebrate the birth of Danny’s boy. Brings a tear of joy to my eyes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: Warrant “Rockaholic”

Melodic Rock/hairband
The revolving door of personnel in the band called Warrant makes the early years of Fleetwood Mac seem pretty stable by comparison. Erik Turner (guitars), who formed the band in 1984, is in the current lineup along with others who have been with him since the early days. The gaping hole is that lead singer and key songwriter Jani Lane has been replaced with Robert Mason (Lynch Mob, Cry Of Love). For most people, Lane defined the sound of Warrant during their peak of popularity and any version of the band without him just isn’t the “real” Warrant they knew and loved. Well, we can sit and debate whether bands that go on without key personnel have a right to continue using the same name, or we can just judge the songs on “Rockaholic” as they stand.

As you can surmise from the title, “Rockaholic” covers standard fodder of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The boys in this rendition of Warrant sound like they are giving it their all – the guitars are loud and proud, the bass and drums create a thunderous backbeat, and Mason belts out the tired lyrics with remarkable gusto. Where the guys come up short is in the songwriting category. Lane’s vocals are not only missed, but so are the melodic hooks that he could write. Not all songs suffer from this deficit – the album is like a sandwich. There is some tasty meat in the middle, but it is flanked by stale bread.

The record begins with songs that attempt to revive an element of the band’s glam roots with “Sex Ain’t Love” and “Innocence Gone”, but these tracks are in need of serious Viagra. Things don’t get very interesting until the power ballad “Home”. Leaving this comfort zone, the band grooves right into a driving mid-tempo number called “What Love Can Do”, which is one of the most accessible on the album. Next up is the first single, “Life’s A Song”, another respectable radio-friendly tune that gets better on repeated listens. Sounds more like a Danger Danger song, but it works for me. After this, things go South again with lukewarm songs like “Cocaine Freight Train” and “Sunshine”, but a decent power ballad is buried on the back half of the record in “Found Forever”. “Found Forever” is a little over the top but on equal footing with the quality of “Home”.

“Rockaholic” ain’t all bad, but I can’t see anyone getting addicted to it. The band needs an intervention. Fans should “cherry” pick the highlights.

iPOD-worthy: 5, 6, 7, 10

Warrantofficial site.

Check out the video for “Life’s A Song”:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: Moonlight Towers “Day Is The New Night”

Power pop/rock
“Day Is The New Night” is the third album by Moonlight Towers, a band from Austin that takes its name from the city’s tall vintage streetlights. The guys in Moonlight Towers cherish the three minute pop rock song and hope this third release is the charm. In their own words, they enjoy “writing, recording and playing real rock’n’roll with a hearty pop kick, and being a genuine band. It’s really that simple.”

Their latest effort comes off the heels of “Like You Were Never There”, which was produced by Mike Napolitano (Joseph Arthur, Neville Brothers, Ani DiFranco, Twilight Singers). Thanks to extensive touring and warm reviews, the CD sold thousands of copies and inspired the band to get back in the studio to write more infectious melodies.

The enthusiasm on this new record is palpable. As the band slips into the horn-infused opener, “Heat Lightning”, thoughts of Collective Soul covering Tom Petty come to mind. “Can’t Shake This Feeling” marches into your ears with eager pomp and circumstance, with the snappy lead guitar riff leading the charge. “The Easy Way Out”, with its breezy and laid back vibe, makes for a perfect tune to play while sitting in the sun on the beach. Additional highlights include “What Else Can I Say”, which possesses relatable lyrics and a driving mid-tempo beat. “Baby Don’t Slow Me Down” is a terrific rocker with a funky rhythm guitar line and instantly likeable chorus. I also enjoyed the E Street Band feel of “Not A Kid Anymore”. If you are in the mood for something mellow, there are a couple ballads worthy of mention. “Distant Wheels” would fit comfortably on an Oasis record, and “Comes A Time” is an acoustic driven piece augmented with radiant strings.

The nine tracks come at you fast – the band only takes 30 minutes to tear through the set. The songs are short and sweet, but so tuneful that they don’t need a long time to make a lasting impression. Moonlight Towers will appeal to fans of Matthew Sweet, Cheap Trick, and Collective Soul. Rock and Roll doesn’t get any more straight-up than this.

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

Moonlight Towers Official site.

Check out a video: presents: Moonlight Towers from WOXY on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

The Yeah You’s “Looking Through You” (2009)

It’s pretty much a dead horse to complain that music is just not the same as it used to be. Whether the complaint is about the overuse of technology (like auto-tune), compression or just the basic lack of good songs, there are always exceptions to the rule, especially if you’re willing to look outside of what the mainstream filters to your ears.

In what is probably the best album I’ve heard in at least 5 years, British duo the Yeah You’s have taken just about every sound I like personally and rolled it around 11 perfectly crafted pop songs that, for whatever reasons I’ve used in the past for an album failing probably apply here.

While the biggest sounds that jump out at you are 80’s Yes and Genesis, keep listening and sounds of Cutting Crew, The Outfield and even Pet Shop Boys will eventually pass your brain. This is intelligently crafted pop that uses the technology afforded rather than rely on it. Vocalist Nick Ingram brings that 80’s Yes vibe home by having a singing style somewhere in the middle of Jon Anderson and Trevor Ravbin.

If you’re a fan of big melodies and even bigger sing along choruses, then you probably won’t find a finer modern album, especially if the majority of your music collection is 25 years old. Songs like “15 Minutes,” “If I Could” and “If It All Runs Out” are upbeat and memorable ear worms of the best kind and will get your foot tapping and your hand turning the volume knob to the right as far as it will go. One listen to “Getting Up With You” will leave you speechless and wondering how it didn’t become THE summer anthem of 2010.

There is not a song I even remotely dislike here and the whole album has that obsessive “repeat play” feeling about it and could be one of the single finest examples of how broken the music industry really is, if they couldn’t pull at least one respectably charting single from it.

The duo has since changed their name to Madfox and from what I gather are working on a new album. Since this disc though is barely 2 years old, maybe it’s not too late for an Island re-release and a proper promotional push? Not bloodly likely I suppose.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: Kim Drake “Surrealist's Dream”

Pop rock
Here we have another promising young artist from the Miami-based label Forward Motion Records. Kim Drake’s second CD, “Surrealist's Dream” builds on her desire to fuse psychedelic and garage rock in a way that stays true to her avant-garde roots without sacrificing the melodies that keep listeners coming back for more. Drake developed her vocal chops as the lead singer for a Ramones cover band (called the Ramonas) and also continues to play piano/organ for The Black Rabbits. Another interesting bit of trivia: Drake studied under opera singer Kay Kramer, the mother of Matt Kramer (Saigon Kick).

“Surrealist's Dream” was produced by Fernando Perdomo (Dreaming In Stereo), who has a masterful ear for great new talent and a knack for bringing out the best of their abilities. I first found out about Drake through watching her adorable video for the first single, “Modest Man”. Not only is it a great sunny tune, but the video was shot in celebration of Record Store Day, and it is fun to see her flip through so many of the LPs I cherished growing up. Check out the video below and see how many of your favorites you can spot.

With its mild Traveling Wilburys feel and instantly gratifying chorus, “Modest Man” remains my favorite track on the album. A close second is the delightfully bouncy, piano-rich track called “Andy”. “Nerd Amour” is an infectious rocker carried by a great stomp-clap backbeat, crossing her Ramones influence with Joan Jett. Songs like this as well as her acoustic ballad “My Love Wants To Grow” also reveal that Drake has a vocal range well beyond what one might expect for fronting a Ramones cover band – her vocals can be tender and earnest, and she has a beautiful falsetto. Drake can also channel some of the great girl groups of the 50s and 60s – check out the Ronnie Spector coming through on the title track. The CD ends strong with a terrific power pop number called “Summers Fade Away” before chilling out with the mellow piano ballad, “Heartbeat”.

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

Kim Drake Official site.

Check out a video for “Modest Man”:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

EVERY MOTHER’S NIGHTMARE “Wake Up Screaming” (1993)

"Wake Up Screaming" was the second release by Every Mother's Nightmare The record has an intriguing cover portraying a baby surrounded by poisonous snakes – looks more like a thrash album than a glam one. Almost everybody played grunge in 1993, but EMN didn't want to tune down their guitar and still insisted on throwing some swaggering sleaze riffs with raspy screams - unsticking themselves from the trend.

"House of Pain" and "Closet Down The Hall" are entertaining openers, each with a gloomy nuance and thumping beat. EMN wrote some good power ballads here such as "I Needed You", "Already Gone", "I Hate Myself", and the magnificent "If I Had My Way". Surprisingly, there are a lot of addictive headcrusher tracks here as well from "Tobacco Road" and "Cryin' Shame" to midtempo commercial rocker, "Slip and Fall".

Unfortunately, the sound production is awfully horrible - you have to crank up to an extremely loud volume to enjoy, yet the drums still sound distant and buried. But overall, I will say this is a very good album judging by the year of its release: a good vocal, a great guitar, a jawdropping album!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Odds and Ends

Each week I use this space to post some mini-reviews, cool tracks, random thoughts, neat news, or whatever else I damn well please.

The Brigadier “Holiday Special” [EP] - Our old friend Matt Williams, aka The Brigadier is back with another EP in his seasonal series. This one celebrates summer and is called “Holiday Special”. Things couldn’t start off better than with the beautiful sunny side up spirit of “When The Sun Comes Out”, which contains just enough crunch in the guitar to give the brilliant harmonies a nice little kick. Not only my favorite off this EP, but one of my favorite Brigadier songs. “Swansong” is a pleasantly melancholy goodbye tune while “A Holiday Romance” is a cute island-flavored song. “Ogmore-by-Sea” is an interesting mix of surf and country guitar. Like holidays, all good things must come to an end, and the Brigadier departs for now with an epic, extravagant ballad entitled “Time To Go Home”. Among his most ambitious tunes, “Time To Go Home” oscillates between breezy orchestration and rocking fuzzy guitar breaks. Definitely a few tracks on here going onto my summer playlist. More info here.

Surprise of the week
New research from Australian scientists will convince you to always have some AC/DC handy if you take out your boat into shark-infested waters. Read why here.

New Chickenfoot record in sight? “Chickenfoot’s second album is almost finished, and we’re hoping to mix sometime in June,” says guitarist Joe Satriani. “It is heavier, and better than the first one, and I can’t wait to get it out there!” Read more here.

In related Van Hager news, Sammy Hager and the third Van Halen singer (Gary Cherone, better known as front man for Extreme) will be sharing a stage tonight. Cherone's new band, Hurtsmile, will support Sammy Hagar and the Wabos at Casino Del Sol tonight. Cherone also commented that Extreme is back at work on a new album. The full story is here.

How about some new Pearl Jam? With Eddie Vedder’s solo record out of his system (“Ukulele Songs”), the band is back at work on new material for their tenth album. Read the full report here, and check out this video from Vedder’s solo outing.

Random iPOD song of the week
From her breakthrough record, “I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have”, this definitive breakup song from Sinead O'Connor leaves me with chills every time. This particular performance is also noteworthy as it shows Sinead in rare form – with hair!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Review: Evick “Reflections” [EP]

Pete Evick and his band have been trying to release their latest recordings for a long time now, but they got sidetracked with an offer they could not refuse…touring as the backing band for Bret Michaels’ solo shows. Evick has been on a non-stop rollercoaster ride of reality TV, rock 'n roll, and relentless touring. Consequently, they’ve reached a decision to release these five “long-lost” tracks in their present demo form. You have to keep that in mind when listening to the EP, brushing the lo-fi sound aside and trying to appreciate the “inner beauty” of the songs themselves. Evick’s voice is a little rough around the edges, but it fits with this type of music. He sounds a little like C.C. Deville when he fronted Samantha 7.

The songwriting varies on the EP – from serious, party, to novelty. Songs like “Reflection” capture a very raw emotional battle about Pete losing himself to the constant trappings of the music business and still finding his way back to the innocence of playing music for the love of music. On the other hand, “Prom Queen” introduces an element of humor, coming off like something Bowling For Soup would do. “Late Nights Good Times” is a generic party all night track, and most people have enough of these in their collection already. The real treats are “Real Thing”, one of the more melodic numbers that just radiates fun, and the driving “So This Is Goodbye”.

Check out Evick if you like Poison/Bret Michaels, Faster Pussycat, or Charm City Devils.

Evick on MySpace. Official site.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interview: Chris Alvy

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Chris Alvy, who released one of the best power pop EPs I’ve heard so far this year (see my review of “Anything Goes” here). Read on to learn more about Alvy’s musical influences and huge record collection, his times with big name artists (from Sister Hazel to Warrant), and what is next for his band, a group of guys he is proud to call brothers.

Bill: First I have to say once again how much I loved your EP [Anything Goes]. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so immediately captivated by a record. I characterized your sound as “Cheap Trick or Boston performing songs written for ABBA” – did I happen to hit any of your influences with that description?
Chris: Well, CHEAP TRICK yes. ABBA, though I like them, I've never been a big daughter is - she plays MAMMA MIA SOUNDTRACK non-stop in our house. CHRIS ALVY BAND actually opened up for BOSTON and I do like their work, so yes you were pretty close. My main influences have always been melodic pop rock, obviously THE BEATLES, BEACH BOYS etc......rock music with lots of melody and harmonies.

Bill: I understand you were born in Cuba and raised in Spain as well as the US. How have these transitions impacted your music and songwriting?
Chris: I do have some Latin influences that I am sure come from my background, but I usually incorporate them in the Spanish material I write for Latin artists. I have been working with SONY ATV MUSIC here in MIAMI for about a year and a half and they pitch my Spanish tunes to their artist and others. They also administer my publishing company aptly named POP TRASH PUBLISHING [LOL]. My American stuff has never shown traces of Latin music, and I don't foresee me incorporating any in the near future. I am a rock and roll guy even though my roots are Latin.

Bill: One of my favorite cuts off the EP is “The Fall” – could you tell us some more about what inspired this song?
Chris: THE FALL is a song about realizing that it's really not about your failures or dreams that may have not come true - whichever those may be. But it's really about the experiences and lessons you learn along the way trying to pursue those goals/dreams. It was inspired by our own personal experiences as a band. My guys and I have been together many years performing and have been through some great, amazing times, but also very heavy times. Three guys have always been the core of this unit and it's Todd Taulbee, Darrell Killingsworth, and myself. We are literally almost like brothers and that is something I am very proud of. The song is like the chorus says "think about the fall, the meaning of it all, who answers to the call, when your back's against the wall....don't refuse to see, it's all within, it's never been at all about the fall”. The song in simple terms is about realizing and digesting the important things in life and don't dwell on the things that might or might've been.....It’s about the of my favorite songs that I've written and very fun to perform. Another way of putting it would be like the famous saying "it's not how hard you fall, it's about how quick you get up" or something along those lines [LOL]…it’s really all about enjoying your journey and experiences and learning from them.

Bill: What type of bands might we find in your music collection?

Bill: Are you a digital music kind of guy or old school with a library of LPs?
Chris: I am old school BIG TIME...not to say I don't have CDs, but I am proud to say I own over 5,000 VINYL RECORDS…last time I counted it was that, I know I have more now. Yes, old school till the end - not into the new stuff too much - rarely do I find something that catches my eye. When I do, I get very excited.

Bill: Among many others, you’ve collaborated and performed with Alto Reed, who founded Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Tell us more about those experiences.
Chris: I met Alto Reed performing at a south beach event a few years back. He was also performing solo doing a jazz thing he does. He saw me sing and play and came up to me and asked me to sit in with him on his last set and I did. I sang some Seger tunes and we did some cool blues and the place went nuts. So he gave me his info and we've been doing shows here and there ever since. I just came off a gig I did with him in the BAHAMASa few months ago. We spent 4 days performing at the NORWEGGIAN CRUISE LINE ship and it was awesome. I was very happy to have been involved in that gig - we had a blast and let me tell you, he's a heck of a sax player and a great show. He truly is a character and I thank him for the various opportunities he's given me to perform with him. So yeah, Alto and I are cool [LOL].

Bill: You’ve also shared the stage with acts as diverse as Sister Hazel to Warrant. I’d love to hear more about that and whether there is someone else out there that you’d love to jam with.
Chris: We have gotten over the years many opening slots, among them those you mentioned also some other notable acts such as AMERICA, GRAND FUNK, BOSTON, HUMBLE PIE, LIVING COLOUR, FOGHAT...and maybe others I forgot. I'd love to jam with the guys from JELLYFISH, just off the top of my head...always been a big fan. One quick note, one of my Spanish songs that I placed with an international artist CHAYANNE (this guy sells tons of records and is one of the top 3 guys along with RICKY MARTIN, MARK ANTHONY etc…I found out that ROGER MANNING PLAYED ON MY TUNE! I totally was I have to say, it has been one of my proudest moments as a professional musician to have ROGER MANNING play on one of my songs. So, yes, JELLYFISH and CHRIS ALVY BAND would be a rockin' event [LOL].

Bill: How did you get hooked up with Fernando Perdomo's Forward Motion Records?
Chris: Well I knew Fernando was opening up or at the time already had his label up and running, so I gave him some rough mixes of the stuff the band was working on. Funny thing is that I never heard back from him till like a couple of months later. He had placed my demo CD on his guitar case and had forgotten about it till he found it one day. He called me and immediately said, "Let's release this". I actually thought he had heard it and hated it, so I did not want to follow up on it. Anyway, we were very excited to be a part of such a cool, happening label here in Miami. I firmly believe that Fernando has slowly but surely put Miami back on the map and has done what has been lacking here for many years...create a whole new scene. As you know, it's a slow, process but I have already seen huge results and the label has been around for less than a year. All the artist that are signed are great quality and great productions so myself and my band are very proud to represent the label in anything we do. I think great times are just ahead for FORWARD MOTION RECORDS.

Bill: If you could describe your band’s sound with just one word, what would it be?
Chris: COOL. It is the word that has kept coming back to us from friends and fans - your music is SOOOO cool, very CALIFORNIA, very high energy. I think we're just a true ROCK & ROLL BAND, but heck that's like 4 words isn't it? So I guess just COOL.

Bill: What is next for Chris Alvy and the band? I hope a full-length release is in the works.
Chris: Well, we are currently promoting through live shows and internet "ANYTHING GOES" our 6 song EP. We have already done two videos "INSIDE JOB" and "YOUR SMILE SHINES A LIGHT" and we are planning on doing videos for all 6 songs. We also started compiling and shooting footage for a DVD titled CHRIS ALVY BAND "ANYTHING GOES" THE DVD which we will hopefully release by the end of summer or the fall. And yes, we will be releasing another batch of songs (6 songs) as a continuation of ANYTHING GOES. We may just press all 12 into one package to sell along with DVD. We're still thinking about how we will market the whole thing. So definitely, new EP, new DVD, and videos for everything we put out is our plan. I also want to expand a bit and start hitting towns all over Florida - that will be coming soon. Lots of crap goes into running a band [LOL], but we have great fun and we are a band of brothers. We enjoy playing and hanging together - that is a priceless commodity in a band - I am a lucky guy.

Bill: On behalf of BMF, thanks again for your time and best of luck with the new release!
Chris: The CHRIS ALVY BAND thanks you for giving us this time to speak a little about what we truly breathe and live every day. Long live true rock & roll...

Chris Alvy Band - MySpace.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Dan Reed Network “Slam” (1989)

As the late 80s came to a close, the mire of hair metal and over-processed pop had pretty much taken over the musical world. Not that there wasn’t a lot of goodness in the mainstream, but it really is easy to look back now and wonder what the hell we were thinking allowing a band like BulletBoys to go gold, when superior acts like King’s X, Enuff Z’nuff or Lillian Axe struggled to find their place.

The Dan Reed Network is another one of those superior bands. I think their sound confused people and hence they were not easy to peg into one particular genre. They had a style that combined Prince-like funk, early Van Halen bravado and attitude and Bon Jovi’s gift for commercial bombast and wrapped it around a hair metal look that might have done more harm than good.

Co-producer Nile Rogers, once of hit makers Chic and the Power Station, helped to tweak these 13 songs to perfection, and in what is becoming a weekly cliché, should have been mined for hit after multi-platinum hit.

Though singles “Make It Easy,” “Tiger In A Dress” and “Come Back Baby” did moderately well across Europe, it was the amazing ballads “Rainbow Child” and “Lover” that elevated their status and allowed them to open stadium tours for Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones in the UK. Yet here in the US, they never became anything more than a club level act. Criminal.

For me, those tunes were just scratching the surface as I thought the mid-tempo ballads “I’m Lonely, Please Stay” and “All My Lovin’” were about as sure fire #1 hits as I’ve ever heard. Same goes for mega-power ballad “Stronger Than Steel,” which coincidentally became mine and my wife’s wedding song. This album’s infectious melodies were only made stronger by the lyrical angle, which was so far above anything else out at the time. In all honesty, it’s an album like this that makes some of us the passionate and obsessive fans about music we become.

Since this release, the band went on to release another fantastic album in “The Heat” before breaking up. After a long spiritual journey, Dan finally released the solo “Coming Up For Air” last year and is well worth your time as well. Other members of the band would go on to play with Stevie Salas, Edgar Winter and En Vouge.

Over the years, I’ve casually gotten to know Dan as well as drummer Dan Pred and keyboardist Blake Sakamoto and am proud to call them friends. Even more so that they’ve recorded one of my favorite albums of all time in what should have made them a worldwide household name.

I asked Dan Reed to give me a few thoughts on the album:

“Most of Slam was written and demoed in the back of a bus as we toured the US and Europe in 1988. We are on the road with UB40 throughout the US, and on our first European tours. It was an exciting time for, seeing the world, and taking in all the different cultures, really witnessing we are world citizens and not just 'Americans'.

The recording process was even more interesting for we lived in New York City while recording for three months and working with Nile Rogers, famed for producing Duran Duran, Madonna and David Bowie, let alone his guitar work and writing for the band Chic, a group I grew up listening to as a kid in South Dakota.

It was the best of times for a young band just catching a glimpse of the music business.”