Wednesday, August 31, 2011


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Sheri Miller “Winning Hand” [EP]

New Yorker Sheri Miller has music embedded in the very fabric of her DNA…her mother was an opera singer and classical pianist and her uncle a recording engineer. Despite her young age, she has already paid a lot of dues working as a solo artist in the Big Apple and constantly honing her craft by relentlessly writing song after song. She released a critically acclaimed album in 2008 called “Mantra”, giving her the buzz needed to recruit big players for the recording of her latest EP, “Winning Hand”.

Miller wowed producer Kevin Killen (whose credits include U2 and Peter Gabriel), and assembled other notable musicians to support her new album. Her hard work, coupled with her genuine gift for singing, makes “Winning Hand” a winner indeed. The new EP sparkles with bright and peppy tunes radiating with sunshine, containing lyrics so sweetly clichéd that they would even make Colbie Caillat puke. But truth is, the music is so catchy that you almost fail to notice – or no longer care – about the lyrical shortcomings. The ukulele-seasoned “Spoons” is the hit song Colbie Caillat has been struggling to write – a tune that stirs together shimmering acoustic guitars with an infectious melody. “Satellite” is another highlight with one of the most memorable choruses I’ve heard all summer – it will be in your head for days. “Everybody Feels This Way” follows a similar pattern, but Miller shows she isn’t one-dimensional with “Hungry For The Truth”. This closing track isn’t as catchy, but the haunting verses provide an interesting dynamic on the EP.

I love the organic feel that permeates Miller’s style of pop. Her honesty leaps off the record and the music goes down easy. “Winning Hand” is pure joy, and I hope that Miller has an ace up her sleeve to dazzle us once again. Recommended for fans of Sheryl Crow, Anna Nalick, and yes, Colbie Caillat.

Sheri Miller - Official site.

Here is Sheri Miller performing “Spoons” live:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Forty Winks “Bow Wow”

Indie rock
Italy’s premiere indie rock band Forty Winks is back with their third record, “Bow Wow”. Since 2001, these guys have been touring relentlessly and honing their sound – rooted in the Italian rock scene but incorporating a multitude of other diverse influences. In their words, “Bow Wow” fuses together Elvis Costello like rock, Helmet’s heavier edge, and Bowie’s primordial irony”. Lead singer Sandro Amabili continues, “We’ve stopped worrying about fitting into a specific genre or sounding a certain way. 'Bow Wow' is an album you can blast really loud at a party or within your earphones, adsorbing a bit of the deeper underlining hidden sounds throughout the album.”

If you are looking for tight hooks and meticulously crafted melodies and harmonies, you should look elsewhere. Forty Winks is a band full of surprises – not knowing quite what comes next or where the music is going to turn is part of the fun. Sometimes the direction they choose works better than others, but you are surprised nevertheless. There is a bright, party vibe consistent throughout most of the record. It’s going to be too esoteric and “indie” for many readers, but I got a kick out of standout tracks like the swirling Pixies-esque rocker “Beneath Her Feet”, the rousing “Meet You At The Bar”, and the brilliant surf rocker “I Feel Dead”. The stronger pop leanings in “Mannequins” and “One Last Round” make them my favorites, though.

Check out Forty Winks if you enjoy The Hives, Presidents of The United States of America, and Queens of the Stone Age. The record was available as of August 23 on End Sounds.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6

Forty WinksOfficial site.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

DOKKEN “Back For The Attack” (1987)

The release of "Back For The Attack" was preceded by the single "Dream Warriors", which was written for the movie "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3". Dokken remixed the single and put it together with the rest of the twelve tracks and launched the album in late November, 1987. This is the last studio album they made before breaking up and Don went on to release his solo album, George formed Lynch Mob, and Jeff eventually played with MSG.

Most of the material here is softer than their previous albums with the exception of "Kiss of Death" and "Mr. Scary", two songs that are insanely heavy and have that trademark Lynch shredding. "Heaven Sent" has a gloomy intro and a good bridge but lacks a powerful chorus – it was one of their singles but it is inferior to other midtempo goodies such as "Night By Night", "So Many Tears", or "Stop Fighting Love". The other soundtrack single, "Dream Warriors", is utterly beautiful, comprised of a haunting intro, an exploding rhythm, emotional vocals and a superb chorus. Out of the 60 minutes of music here, several numbers fail to match the strength of the standouts, such as "Lost Behind The Wall", "Burning Like A Flame", or "Sleepless Night".

As it holds the record for being Dokken's highest charting release, "Back For The Attack" is accessible and could be a good entry point for new listeners as well as an admirable record for long-time fans with Don's prime vocal condition and George's unmerciful solos as the album's highlights. Though I don't consider this their masterpiece and my all time favorite, this is an essential album among Dokken's catalog.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, August 27, 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.

Grand Atlantic “Constellations” – Brisbane modern rock band Grand Atlantic is back with their third offering, following the acclaimed 2009 effort “How We Survive” (review here). “Constellations” has a darker, more solemn atmosphere to it in general, perhaps due to the fact that the album was recorded in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Par for the course, Phil Usher unleashes some head bobbing riffs and has a smoky rasp that makes the music sizzle with excitement. The songs are powerful and exert a more prominent dose of psychedelic rock this time around, but I don’t feel that the melodic hooks are as sharp. Standout tracks include the epic opener, “Searchlights”, the engaging “Carved From Stone”, and the energetic blues of the first single, “Fresh Ideas In Home Security”. If you like Oasis, Jet, or Kings of Leon, be sure to check out Grand Atlantic here. “Constellations” will be available September 2nd.

Surprise of the week
Chad Smith is too busy on the road with The Red Hot Chili Peppers…so who is the replacement for Chickenfoot’s drummer? Hint: not Jack, not Diane, but…see here.

The new album from KISS will be called “Monster” (R.E.M. anyone?). Paul Stanley reports: "That was a pivotal album in the sense we were aware of who we were as a performing band, but we had to re-establish who we were as a recording band…There are no ballads”. Story here.

Details on the inevitable “deluxe” version of the forthcoming sophomore effort from Chickenfoot called “Chickfoot III”.

Sadly, we lost a few giants of songwriting. Nickolas Ashford, who co-wrote hit singles for the likes of Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, and Jerry Leiber, who wrote hits for Elvis, The Drifters, and The Coasters.

Random iPOD song of the week
What a great old song! One of my favorite duets – Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks sound awesome. This song appeared on the excellent Loggins CD “Nightwatch” from 1978.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Revel 9 “The Razorblade Diaries” [EP]

Modern rock
From the ashes of the Long Island band Gee Davey comes a reborn modern rock band christened Revel 9. Band founder, guitarist, and lead singer/songwriter DJ Pearlman is the force behind Revel 9, who led the retooling effort that redefined the sound he’s been chasing. The debut EP is a six pack called “The Razorblade Diaries” that loosely chronicles a familiar tale of a 20-something dude meeting the girl of his dreams, finding love and losing love, then finding any way he can to win her back. Sigh.

Yes, it is a tired story but there is always a new generation of 20-somethings going through it. So at least for that demographic it won’t be such a ‘been there, done that’ affair. For the rest of us, you’ll have to hope that you can extract some innovation out of the lyrical twists. What is going to make or break your opinion about Revel 9 has more to do with the music – pounding, thrashing, crank it up to 11 guitars and drums. Pearlman purposely steered towards the dark side to capture the sound he wanted for this EP, but he did that at the expense of maintaining a solid hook that would make the song more memorable. Pearlman wanted to avoid a pop sound, but doesn’t seem to realize that the most successful modern rock can be melodic without being coated in syrup.

Despite these shortcomings, there are some standouts that reach towards a more memorable musical experience. The intensity of opener “San Jose” is palpable and Pearlman impresses with his perfect rock vocal tone and blistering guitar licks. If anyone can bring back the guitar solo, it could be DJ Pearlman. “Only One” is another muscular highlight and the closing track “Without” has a moderately catchy chorus. If you like bands like Hinder, Hawthorne Heights, or Saliva, you might want to give Revel 9 a listen.

Revel 9Official site.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: fORMER “The Kids Deserve Cable”

You might be able to guess that this record has been in the planning stages for about 3 years now…otherwise the boys in the power pop and rock outfit fORMER might have entitled it “The Kids Deserve Netflix”. At any rate, I think many fans will agree that the ten songs on this new record were well worth the wait.

fORMER is headed by Denny Smith (vocals and guitars), and features Patrick Miller (guitars), Henry Go (bass and vocals), Billy Baker (drums, percussion, and vocals), and Lee Coram supplying additional keys, guitars, and vocals. Plenty of punchy, crunchy guitar bring these songs to life, and Smith’s vocals have a mild raspy quality that match the prototype for this genre. While virtually every track is a fun and engaging listen, one of my favorites is the built-for-radio mid-tempo rocker “How Does It Feel” – kind of a Cheap TrickTom Petty fusion. With its luscious harmonies, “Lie To Me” comes across just as strong – in a different decade, this could have easily been a top 10 hit. “Fix You” is propelled by an infectious guitar riff, building up to another rewarding chorus. “Come On” is another memorable highlight at the tail end of the record. If you want to hear a less commercial side of fORMER, check out tracks like “Blue Divide” or “Head Light”, which have a more contemporary Jimmy Eat World feel.

Check out fORMER if you like SafetySuit, The Gaslight Anthem, or Get Up Kids.

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

fORMER – Facebook

Check out a video clip for “Lie To Me”:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Augustana “Augustana”

Pop rock
Augustana has cranked out three terrific albums in their 8 years together and they are overdue for big name success. I became a huge fan when I heard their sophomore release back in 2008, “Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt”. The record was so good it inspired me to also check out their 2005 debut, “All The Stars and Boulevards”, which was also excellent. Their brand of piano-driven pop rock and knack for hooks and harmony was right up my alley.

Enter this year’s self-titled release. Usually when a band names a non-debut album after themselves it signifies a reinvention of sorts. One could argue that is the case here – the record feels more heavily polished and slick, resulting in a more epic kind of sound. “Augustana” sounds more contemporary, but I miss the charm and innocence that was palpable on the first two releases. While I have mixed feelings about this shift in direction, there are still plenty of well-crafted tunes in this batch that have those hooks and harmonies that keep my attention.

Singer Daniel Layus sounds a lot like Scott Bricklin (Martin’s Dam) – a perfect voice with a great rock and soul tone, with expert control that balances power with emotion. “Steal Your Heart” begins this affair, which does little more than set the stage. An excellent hat trick of songs follows with the radio ready “Wrong Side Of Love”, “On The Other Side”, and sparkling ballad “Counting Stars” – my pick for a favorite on this record. “Borrowed Time” has the promise of a pleasant acoustic piece, but the guitar squeaks are obnoxiously loud – try some Finger-Ease, dude. Outside of the decent “Shot In The Dark”, the remainder of the album quickly slides into mediocrity.

“Augustana” is a solid album from a very talented band, but not their best work in my opinion. Be sure to check out Augustana if you like O.A.R., Neon Trees, or Carolina Liar.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 4, 6,


Check out the video for “Steal Your Heart”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Toby Hitchcock “Mercury’s Down”

AOR/Melodic Rock
Fans of the melodic rock community should be no stranger to the talent of Indiana native Toby Hitchcock, who was one half Pride of Lions (for the uninitiated, Jim Peterik of Survivor fame constituted the other half). Hitchcock has now partnered with another budding AOR legend, Erik Martensson, who wrote, produced, and played on the “Mercury’s Down” album. Hitchcock’s powerhouse vocals are often compared to Bobby Kimball (Toto), Jimi Jamison (Survivor), or Lou Gramm (Foreigner), and are easily the biggest highlight of this release. The combination of his voice with the AOR instincts of Martensson makes for quite the dynamic duo. True to the genre, Hitchcock belts out songs with straightforward lyrics about love and encouragement.

While still maintaining a keen sense of melody, this project is heavier and more guitar-driven than Hitchcock’s previous work. Favorites on this record include the huge anthem “Strong Enough”, “How To Stop”, “I Should Have Said”, and the thunderous “Tear Down The Barricades “. While there are no shortage of jaw-dropping notes that Hitchcock nails, “How To Stop” features some of his most amazing moments. Unlike most AOR records, the album is not plagued by too many slow songs, but there is a monster power ballad in “One Day I’ll Stop Loving You”. The record seems to get heavier towards the end, closing with the blistering rocker that serves as the title track.

“Mercury’s Down” should easily please fans of Pride of Lions, Eclipse, or Journey – it’s a great AOR soundtrack to ease us into autumn.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 12

Toby HitchcockFacebook

Check out the video for first single, “This Is The Moment”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

TESLA “Bust A Nut” (1994)

"Bust A Nut" was released in a weird year for hard rock. Many glam bands decided to split up or went into a completely different direction as grunge had taken over the world in 1993, but Tesla is one of the few that stayed true to their roots. Their faith, however, wasn't fully supported by their label as "Bust A Nut" was their last album with Geffen before the band split up to go their separate ways (Tesla reunited in 2000).

On this album, Tesla played their classic style, but the band smartly incorporated some thrashy elements and dark alternative moments. Among the fourteen tracks, I vote for these tracks as their best: "The Gate/Invited", a complex rocking tune with a catchy acoustical part and nicely done chorus; "Solution", with its head-banging chorus and thrashy riffs; "Need Your Lovin", a commercial power ballad that became their second single; "A Lot To Lose", another great ballad and the third single; and "Rubberband", a slow/fast typical Tesla track like their classic tracks "Getting’ Better" or "Heaven's Trail".

Some fillers such as "She Want She Want", "Earthmover", or "Mama's Fool" (ironically, their first single!) should have been removed, but this doesn't stop me from rating this album a solid 4/5 score. The production is also great. Tesla never disappoints me and this fourth album is another piece of evidence that Tesla still kicks it with lots and lots of high quality songs. An underrated album that should be at home in any hard rock fans' CD rack!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, August 20, 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.


Raining Jane “The Good Match”
– Eclectic LA-based folk-rock band Raining Jane is back with their latest full-length CD, “The Good Match”. Long time touring partners of Sara Bareilles, and musical collaborators with acoustic rock luminaries like Willy Porter and Jason Mraz, the girls in Raining Jane have a lot to brag about. The songs on this new album span a range of emotions and feature outstanding songwriting, silky smooth harmonies, and unorthodox instrumentation including an occasional sitar, cajon, and glockenspiel. The result: a light folk rock soundtrack best suited for a lazy afternoon. Highlights for me include the polished radio-friendly title track, the buoyant “A World That's Made For Me And You”, and the closing acoustic track “New Year” (which strangely reminds me of Johnny Cash’s rendition of the Nine Inch Nails hit “Hurt”). And be sure to give a listen to their haunting reworking of Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield”. Find out more about Raining Jane here.

Jason Dean “Coffee” [EP] - More acoustic rock goodness this week from singer/songwriter Jason Dean. With the backdrop of Virginia, Dean was inspired at a very early age by Hank Williams Jr, “not just a musician, but an entertainer as well”. Dean’s debut is this five song EP called “Coffee”, produced by himself and Pete Evick (Shinedown, Paramore, Bret Michaels). The songs are southern, bluesy and soulful, like too unlike what Kid Rock did on his last record, with hints of Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Allman Brothers, and Big Head Todd. Highlights include the groovy blues rock of “Only Wanna Be Me”, the Everlast vibe of “These Times”, and the breezy “Narrow Passage Creek”.
Jason Deanofficial website.

Surprise of the week
And Dave Mustaine’s (Megadeth) favorite Metallica song is…
Click here to find out

35 years in the business and still going strong – Heart is planning a new album to follow up 2010’s “Red Velvet Car”. Can’t say I was a fan of that album, but I hold out hope…details here.

Motorhead is planning an album of cover tunes – should be interesting! Read all about it here.

Despite the death of Brad Delp, and the recent departure of Michael Sweet, Boston insists they are still together and will release the long awaiting album (the first since 2002’s "Corporate America"). Delp will be heard on this record. It is 85% finished according to the band, so that means we can expect it sometime in 2025. Details here.

Don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for these types of lists. Here are the top songs of the 80s, picked by

I admire Lita Ford’s take on aging! Ford says she still feels like the “20-year-old sexy rocker chick” at 51 and rejects plastic surgery, makeovers and working out…she looks fantastic. More here.

Details on Jani Lane’s final recording, “Sin”, done with Liberty n’Justice, a band featuring former Alice Cooper guitarist Keri Kelli, King Kobra’s JK Northrup and Bill Leverty of Firehouse. Lane’s last media activity was an appearance on VH1′s That Metal Show, which was due for broadcast on October 1 but has been brought forward to August 27. Story is here with an update here.

More Jani Lani news: 80s rockers (including Great White, Quiet Riot, LA Guns, Enuff Z'nuff) will be playing a free tribute to the late singer and songwriter. Details on that story here.

Random iPOD song of the week
“Impossible” by Anberlin…one of the finest modern rock songs I’ve heard in a long time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: Airrace “Back To The Start”

AOR/Melodic Rock
How many old school rockers remember Airrace? The band formed back in London in 1982 and had a Beau Hill produced debut called “Shaft Of Light” (1984). The record didn’t bring the success it deserved, and it is now respected as an underground classic. Just a teenage guitarist at the time, Laurie Mansworth was able to recruit former Girl singer Phillip Lewis and none other than Jason Bonham on drums.

It took a 25th anniversary reissue of “Shaft Of Light” to reunite the band in 2009, leading to the release of a long awaited sophomore effort. The lineup for “Back To The Start” included Keith Murrrell (vocals), Laurie Mansworth (lead guitars), Simon Dawson (drums), Dean Howard (guitars), David Boyce (bass), and Toby Sadler (keyboards). While some of the personnel have changed, “Back To The Start” makes it clear that Airrace hasn’t lost their knack for crunchy guitars, airy keyboards, and big melodic choruses.

Standout tracks among this particularly strong set of songs include the Journey sounding opener, “Keep On Going”, the ultra catchy “Two Of A Kind”, and the autobiographical title track. Kids who grew up rocking in the 80s won’t want to miss the time capsule in a song, “What More Do You Want From Me”.

While “Back To The Start” teleports you back to the 80s, the record also has a grittier edge to it. Airrace will appeal to fans of Journey, Autograph, and Diving For Pearls. Essential listening for old and new melodic fans.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 12


Check out “Call Me Anytime”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: Andrew Adkins “Troublesome, My Love”

Andrew Adkins is better known for being half of the songwriter/singer duo in psychedelic/roots-rock band, Mellow Down Easy. Their last album, "COSMISUTRA" has been praised by critics from Rolling Stone, No Depression, Outlaw Magazine, Vintage Guitar magazine and a host of other publications as "the most original style in the last decade" and a "breath of fresh air" for the band's unique sound and mixture of influences. His music has also been used on MTV, ABC, and USA networks.

Adkins will mark his solo debut with “Troublesome, My Love”. The songs gracing this album touch on troubled love, social empathy, and heartbreaking poetic prose to the quest for everlasting hope. Ringing harmonica and a roadhouse beat on “Punch Drunk Commotion” opens the door to this new album. Serving as a fine introduction to what Andrew Adkins is all about, “Punch Drunk Commotion” features socially critical lyrics over contemporary roots rock – a modern day Bob Dylan. “A Little Bit Of Mercy” showcases Adkins’ mild rasp over tremolo guitars, buffered with sweet harmonies – with its hopeful message, we have another winning track. His penchant for storytelling in his songwriting comes through on the driving romp that is “We Knew It All Along”. One of the more accessible folk numbers is the pleasant “Flesh Blood & Bone” – the perfect song for watching the sunset from your porch. Other standouts include the subtle beauty of the down on your luck song, “Sometimes Lady Luck Blues” and the country-flavored rocker, “Two Of A Reckless Kind”.

There is more than one album’s share of ballads on this record, so it can get a little sleepy at times, and I often thought the hooks could be sharper throughout. But overall this is intelligently crafted modern folk rock that plays great during those reflective times. I’d recommend checking out Andrew Adkins if you enjoy Big Head Todd, Todd Snider, Will Hoge, or Bob Dylan. “Troublesome, My Love” comes out September 6.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 14

Andrew AdkinsOfficial site.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: David Cook “This Loud Morning”

Torster is on holiday - more Best Albums You Never Heard will return soon! Until then, here is a review for you...

Modern rock
American Idol winner David Cook returns with his sophomore effort, “This Loud Morning”. The young singer/songwriter has experienced some unfortunate events amidst his raise to fame, the most tragic being the loss of his older brother to brain cancer in 2009. Like most artists, Cook incorporates his personal experiences into his art and the result in a deep and dark record, more reflective than most others out there at the moment.

While the lyrics and Cook’s vocals have never sounded more inspired, the music by and large doesn’t match this quality. The tunes rarely get out of second gear despite a lot of bombast and flare. In my opinion, these songs are way overproduced, and the tendency to throw everything into them including the kitchen sink distracts listeners from the heart of the song. The songs are generally cumbersome and slow, and the orchestration is just too over the top (the overzealous strings ruin “Fade Into Me”). Cook does sound terrific, rivaling the powerhouse vocals of Harry Hess (Harem Scarem), and he has some amazing moments scattered among these tunes, but they're just too much of a chore to get to. In short, the record is too ambitious for its own good and it sounds strained because everyone seems to be trying too hard.

Devoid of instantly irresistible hooks, the record takes several spins before they start to grab you. Songs that do this sooner rather than later include “Right Here, With You”, “We Believe”, “Hard To Believe”, and “Time Marches On”. A couple notable guests appear on this record, including contributions from Johnny Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls) and AOR master Marti Frederiksen. This record will appeal to fans of Alter Bridge, Big Wreck, and Switchfoot. It’s loud alright, but there is more mourning in this record than morning.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 3, 5, 7

David CookOfficial site

Check out the video for “The Last Goodbye”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Review: Freddy Monday “Everything Anyhow”

Freddy Monday is an earnest singer/songwriter based in New York, writing songs that are strongly skewed towards the pop rock end of the spectrum. On his latest, “Everything Anyhow”, his instinct for melody and ear for hooks truly shine. This record follows his successful debut, "Words In Pencil", which features some songs that have been heard on TV, such as "Burn Notice" on the USA Network, "Moonlight" on CBS, "Side Order Of Life" on The Lifetime Channel, and over a dozen airings on "The Young And The Restless" on CBS. Another cool piece of trivia that I love – his CD release party for “Words In Pencil” was on the same bill with Colin Hay (Men At Work).

“Everything Anyhow” is enhanced with mandolin and the occasional accordion, offering a dynamic flair that separates it from most garden-variety pop rock albums. The production is excellent, with everything crystal clear and well-balanced, and Monday’s vocals have that reassuring boy next door quality. The CD opener, “Give Me Your Heart” is a pleasant although rather innocuous pop tune. It takes a couple spins, but this one starts to sink in quick and you’ll find that chorus shaking around in your head later in the day. First single, “Please” (video below), is more immediately accessible with its contagious chorus and slide guitar solo. The playful, bouncy piano riff almost makes “Rain All Day” sound like a Sesame Street song – one of the happiest songs to sing the praises of rain, and it is irresistibly fun for all ages. The title track is one of my favorite upbeat numbers with an instantly memorable chorus and sunny harmonies that make it soar. Additional standouts include the infectious “She’s A Teaser” and the 80s throwback “Who Am I Gonna Dance With”, but this doesn’t mean the rest of the tunes are less than listenable by any means. And don’t miss the gorgeous piano ballad, “Fractured”, which allows Monday to showcase his softer side…and his heavenly falsetto.

“Everything Anyhow” is a fantastic sophomore effort that helps cement Freddy Monday as an up and comer in the pop rock arena. Recommended for fans of IKE, Cliff Hillis, or Ken Block.

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

Freddy MondayOfficial site.

Check out the video for “Please”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

MR. BIG “Lean Into It” (1991)

What makes this record personally memorable to me is that this is the first rock tape I bought along with Scorpions' "Crazy World" back in 1992. I bought it solely because of the mega-hit "To Be With You" that had been heavily played on TV and radio. My first impression is that I'm quite shocked to listen to tracks like "Daddy Brother" or "Alive And Kickin'" - very loud and noisy! There's something great about this album that makes me want to play that tape over and over again until it’s worn out. I was twelve back then and here I am playing this disc again 20 years later in my car this morning, and it's still as great as ever as it was in 1992.

"Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy" is an explosive opening with Paul Gilbert ripping his guitars with an electric drill, the technique he had started using back in his days with Racer X (which was also later applied by Eddie Van Halen in “Poundcake”). "Alive And Kickin" has a punchy chorus and Eric Martin sounds awesome here, one of my fave singers with many capabilities. The commercial hard rock of "Green Tinted Sixties Mind" blasts in with the quick-tapping that young guitarists always want to learn to play. "Lucky This Time" is a blissful midtempo ballad, a great track on par with the other hits, "Just Take My Heart" and "To Be With You". Those last two are timeless classics, songs that I still like to strum on my acoustic in the living room.

The other tracks are also very strong, such as "Voodoo Kiss" with an infectious guitar lick and that 70s Aerosmith boogie; "My Kinda Woman" is a song that Tesla should have recorded in 1987; the lazy bluesy "A Little Too Loose"; and the groovy "Road To Ruin". Perhaps only "Never Say Never" is the weakest but that track alone still good enough to compete with the other average band's strongest track.

Putting aside the priceless nostalgic value, "Lean Into It" definitely has the power to stand the test of time and to claim the status of best album Mr. Big ever made. The virtuosity of each member is undefeatable, the songwriting is top notch, every little thing about this album is perfect. A true five stars!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, August 13, 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.

Simon Felton “Surrender, Dorothy!” – This is the second solo record from Garfield’s Birthday’s Simon Felton. His last solo CD, “Failing In Biology”, was a notable nugget of smart Brit pop (read review here). Felton marches along the same track on “Surrender, Dorothy!”, constructing careful melodies augmented with airy harmonies and psychedelic overtones. The hooks take longer to sink in than last time and the abundance of slower tracks is going to make some people yawn. On the other hand, there is some more sizzling guitar work to be found – check out the solo on “Peepshow” for example. The main attraction is the pop perfection in “Marbles”, and “Novelty” is another highlight I’d encourage you to check out. Recommended for fans of The Smiths, XTC, and The Divine Comedy.
Simon FeltonOfficial site.

Surprise of the week
Footloose is being remade. But the surprise comes from looking at the soundtrack artists…dissing Kenny Loggins and recruiting the likes of Cee-Lo Green amongst a bunch of country stars and…Smashing Pumpkins?! What sort of musical schizophrenic is going to want this? Here are the gory details.

And if that isn’t bad enough, they are remaking Dirty Dancing too.

Swallow this: Poison frontman Bret Michaels believes the band will make another album when the time is right. Here’s to hoping they can recapture the magic of their heyday. Read the story here.

Whose gonna buy your wild reissues? Get a load of all you get with the 20th Anniversary edition of U2’s landmark record “Achtung Baby” – check it out here.

Another hodgepodge of “new” stuff is coming from Foreigner in September. A 3CD collection – one acoustic disk, one full of re-recordings of hits (why?), and one of a live concert. Read all about it here.

New Butch Walker called “The Spade” arrives August 30. In the meantime, grab a FREE DOWNLOAD of the first single, “Summer of ‘89”. Details here.

Michael Sweet has left the band Boston for his old band, Stryper. Good news, bad news, who cares? Story here.

Random iPOD song of the week
Pop perfection. Squeeze’s “Hourglass” – one of their finest moments.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tribute to Jani Lane

I am saddened to hear the news about the death of Jani Lane, the former lead singer of Warrant. Below are some of my favorite songs by this underrated songwriter and performer. Jani Lane was also a member of the noted band Saints of the Underground (reviewed here). Thanks for the music Jani...I wish we had the chance to hear more.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: John and Brittany “John and Brittany” [EP]

John Faye and Brittany Rotondo comprise this songwriting duo from Philadelphia, PA. John Faye is no stranger to fans of BMF - formerly of the Caulfields and current frontman of IKE, he is simply one of the finest powerpop and rock artists around these days. In 2008, Faye met Rotondo and they hit it off instantly with their mutual love of the Beatles and the Ramones. They soon found themselves writing songs together, including "Last Act", which was included on IKE's latest release, "Tie The Knot With All That You Got" (reviewed here). In addition to their duo performances, John and Brittany have also started working with a full band, featuring Jay Miraglia on drums and Mike Vivas on bass. The group released their upbeat first single "Devil's Allure" in December of 2010 and now it is included with five other tracks on their self-titled debut EP.

In case you’re wondering, Faye takes the vocal duties here and Rotondo lends expert songwriting and guitar support. Faye’s years of powerpop experience shine through on each one of these infectious tracks, beginning with the driving spirit of “Dead Dog”. As if the chorus wasn’t tempting you enough to sing along, his affable harmonies step in to take it up a notch. “Dead Dog” is vintage John Faye and will appease fans of IKE. For those who like a darker sound, be sure to check out “Land Of The Unforgiven”. “Fancy Dance” is a pleasant get up and get on with it ballad with affable backing vocals and lovely 80s-inspired lead work – I like this one a lot. Closing track “Queen Of Mean” ends things on an upbeat note with sharp lyrics and one of the most instantly likeable choruses on the EP – not to mention and outstanding vocal performance.

Fans of John Faye, particularly of his work in IKE, should love this new project. For those who haven’t acquainted themselves with Faye yet, there’s no better time than the present and this little EP with Rotondo is a great starting point.

John and Brittany Facebook.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Honeymoon Suite “Racing After Midnight” (1987)

During my retail years of the late 80s, I did my damnedest to promote bands I liked in store, which was usually a refreshing reprieve from the alternative hipster stuff that the other employees tended to play during their shifts. For every Smiths or Joy Division record that was played, I usually counter-acted with some David Lee Roth or Whitesnake. And, when one of those resulted in a sale I was all the much happier.

One album that gained a lot of play from me was Honeymoon Suite’s AOR classic, “The Big Prize.” Not a spin went by that didn’t sell a copy or two, and sometimes I wondered if I generated more sales for the band than their own label did. Though it did generate the top 40 “Feel It Again,” platinum still eluded the band.

Now back in the day, I used to be genuinely excited on Tuesdays when all the new releases came out, and the particular day this album hit, I couldn’t wait to get one out of the box and go to lunch and for a ride, just so I could crank the volume. With one listen, I was so sure that the band had outdid themselves that surely this is the one that will have them selling out arenas and filling up MTV’s rotation with hit after hit. Obviously, that never happened.

Ted Templeman’s production was spot on and highlighted a set of songs that were big, brash and full of an attitude that could only come from a band that felt like they were on the edge of superstardom.

Whether it was rockers (seemingly custom made for MTV), like “Looking Out For Number One,” “Other Side Of Midnight” or the hit single in waiting, “Love Changes Everything,” the songs had a punch that still brings me back to top down summer days.

Not to forget their more melodic AOR side, how songs like “Long Way Back,” the massive “It’s Over Now” or the straight up arena rocker “Tears On The Page” didn’t get cigarette lighters afloat I still don’t know.

Even a throwaway like “Fast Company” still features some blistering guitar work courtesy of the vastly underrated Derry Grehan and the not atypical vocals of Johnny Dee, which both help elevate it above the ever more processed pop and rock of the year.

Also of note here is an excellent cover of i-Ten’s “Cold Look” and the keyboard dominated theme song from “Lethal Weapon 2.”

Although the debut generated the biggest buzz (thanks to their biggest hit “New Girl Now”) and “The Big Prize” is the one that seems to be the cult classic, over time, this is the album I reach for more often than the others. Just tweaks all the right spots...

The band would go on to release a “Singles” collection (which contained one of the band’s best songs ever in “Still Lovin’ You”) and 1991’s better than average “Monsters Under The Bed” before taking a low profile for most of the 90s. They wouldn’t release another album until 2001 with “Lemon Tongue.” In 2008, the band released “Clifton Hill” and more recently are still quite busy touring.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Vic Kingsley “Turn On The Dark” [EP]

Hot new stuff from Forward Motion Records, this time from singer/songwriter Vic Kingsley. Kingsley writes songs with a multitude of other musicians, but his solo career is rapidly developing. His three albums, “These Frequencies” (2007), “Healing Music” (2008) and “Fake Smiles” (2010), have received critical acclaim and led to several television appearances and concerts throughout North America, including SXSW '08 & '09. The song "Fall With You" off “These Frequencies” won's contest for best alternative pop song in 2008, and he’s had songs placed in Toyota Commercials, a feature film titled “The Lavender Tapes”, and the hit TV show “The Parenthood”.

Kingsley's upcoming EP, "Turn On The Dark", consists of five tracks built on strong melodic foundations with intelligent lyrics. You could say this is light rock but it has some meat and muscle – whatever you call it, it is a pleasure to hear. Musically and vocally, I can’t help but hearing a lot of The Outfield when I listen to Kingsley – and that is a good thing! These five tunes are perfect adult contemporary rockers, and Kingsley’s warm tone and sweet falsetto makes each listen all the more uplifting. He’ll grab you right at the get-go with title track, with its staccato retro organ and radio-friendly chorus. One of my favorite tracks is served up next, the upbeat and catchy “Lucky”. The remaining three songs slow the pace down and showcase Kingsley’s gift for balladry. Honestly, I like the first two upbeat tracks better, but “I Try” is one of the slower numbers worth checking out.

Vic KingsleyFacebook.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

WILDSIDE “Under The Influence” (1992)

Another sensational band that came very late to the scene, unlucky to be shuffled out of business. They thought they could try to ride the wave with a grungy sophomore release (which no one actually gives a damn about it), but their debut “Under The Influence” is widely regarded as one of the most underrated gems in glam rock history.

Singer Drew Hannah reminds me of early Vince Neil with a slight Stephen Pearcy or even Axl Rose touch, and though he's retired from this business and focusing on the porn industry, he's remembered by the fans as the gifted kid with a superb voice. Dokken, Motley Crue, and Skid Row are probably the closest comparison of Wildside's music, and try cranking out "Hang On Lucy" as loud as you can - the youthful era of Crue's riffs are obvious on the arrangement, a truly magnificent track to open the album.

"Lad In Sin" is a sleaze beauty, "Hair of The Dog" is like a lost GNR track from the height of the 80s, "Heart-n-Soul" and "Clock Strikes" are brilliant midtempo tunes, "Kiss This Love Goodbye" is the best power ballad of the album, but the other songs such as "Just Another Night" and "Looks Like Love" are actually great as well. In fact, all the songs here are enjoyable but I must admit 2-3 songs are slightly weaker than the rest.

I remember hunting this disc down for several years with no luck, but eventually the lucky day came when I snatched a Japanese copy for a reasonable price. Well, my point is if your lucky day arrives, don't hesitate - it really doesn't come every day. Great fun disc and highly recommended for fans of latter-day glam metal!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, August 6, 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.


Frank Palangi “Frank Palangi EP” [EP]Frank Palangi is a solo rock artist from upstate New York cranking out a loud modern rock sound in the same vein as Creed and Godsmack. His self-titled EP was produced alongside Rogers Masson, who has worked with the likes of Marilyn Manson, and The Mavericks. The tracks are powerful and Palangi has a throaty vocal tone that is a cross between Daughtry and Scott Stapp. Some of his darker tunes, such as “Driving These Lines” sound like Marilyn Manson but without the crazy theatrics. While the songs are bold and lyrics interesting, there are two issues that dampen my enthusiasm. One, Palangi’s vocals just don’t do it for me – it sounds like he is imitating too much rather than trying to find his own voice. Two, despite their strong presence, most of the songs lack a sharp memorable hook. I hear potential in here though and wish Palangi luck in reaching his fullest level. If you like the aforementioned bands, Palangi’s EP is worth checking out. The release date for the EP has not been scheduled yet, but should be out before the end of 2011. You can catch the latest updates at Palangi’s Facebook page.

Surprise of the week
A picture is worth 1000 words? How about $360,000? That is how much some rare Beatles photos fetched. Read the story here.

Can’t wait for this one! Queens of the 80s, The Bangles, return September 13 with a new album! Even better, this one was recorded by Matthew Sweet. Full story and track listing here.

One of the best modern rock bands around. If you haven’t discovered Manic Street Preachers yet, this singles collection arriving this fall would serve as a great introduction. Check it out here.

The debut solo release from Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump will be called “Soul Punk” and drops October 17. He admits, "You may hate my solo music, [but] you may like the next Fall Out Boy record because of it." That’s clever marketing? More details here.

New ZZ Top is on the way! Billy Gibbons tells Mojo magazine, "It sounds and feels like Tres Hombres, with a few elements of the Eliminator period thrown in. A pretty wide range, from basic blues to slightly more fancy stuff.” Read more about it here and give the single “Flyin’ High” a listen here.

September 20th marks the release of “Mockingbird Time”, the long-awaited new album from The Jayhawks. 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 all about it here.

Should be an AOR fan’s dream: Toto's Bobby Kimball and Survivor's Jimi Jamison have teamed up for a duets album that will be release on October 14th in Europe and October 18th in North America. Details here.

Random iPOD song of the week
Awesome song that should have been a huge hit for The Outfield. “My Paradise” is about going back to your old stomping grounds.