Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Chickenfoot “III”

Sammy Hagar’s supergroup vehicle Chickenfoot is back with their second record called “III”. Didn’t some other band in Hagar’s history release a record of that same name? Hmmm…anyway, “III” is the follow up to the self-titled debut from 2009 (reviewed here). It is nice to see these veterans of rock out of the coop and ready to take another swing at saving rock and roll. For the uninitiated, Chickenfoot is composed of one half Van Hagar (Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony), guitar wizard Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer Chad Smith.

“III” is one of those records we would refer to as a “one-sider” back in the day. If these ten (actually 11) songs were split on an LP, the first half would clearly be the superior one. Seriously…the first half of “III” really brings it. The album rips into high gear with the sultry guitar power of “Last Temptation” – lush with power chords and crunch, this song is a comfort zone for Hagar’s impressive roar. The party continues with the sing-a-long “Alright Alright”, featuring great harmonies from Anthony that induce Van Hagar flashbacks. But “Different Devil” is probably my favorite track. While slower in pace, the song is beautifully written and performed – would have been a huge hit back in the 80s. “Up Next” cranks things back up and is one of those songs where the verses are actually better than the chorus.

What makes the first half of the record work so well is that the guys wrote great hooks into the songs. That really can’t be said of the second half, which is more aloof and experimental with exception of an arena ready standard in “Big Foot”. “Come Closer” is a fairly nondescript ballad that even the well done harmonies cannot save. “Three and a Half Letters” is an interesting piece, with spoken word verses and a simplistic chorus. I like the concept of the song, which features timely lyrics about the unemployment rate, but there is something incredulous about Cabo Wabo dwelling Hagar singing “I Need A Job”. “Something Going Wrong” is another tune that just didn’t live up to its promise – an acoustic-based track from these guys was a pleasant surprise, but there just isn’t a good hook to be found here.

The band called their second record “III” because they claim, with irreverent immodesty, it is too good to be a sophomore release. “III” is certainly better than the debut in my opinion, but not that much better…”II ½” would have been more appropriate. While all the guys sound in top form, the MVP is clearly Satriani, who makes guitar solos sexy again.

By the way, I got the deluxe edition which contains a cool DVD about the making of the record. It is also worth splurging for since it is printed in 3D. It comes with 3D glasses so you can view the eye popping cover art and photos of the band members – really wild!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8

ChickenfootOfficial site.

Check out the video for “Big Foot”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: meyerman “Who Do You Think You Are”

Pop rock/powerpop
The brainchild of guitarist and vocalist Theo Meyer, the meyerman raises the ante on the quality of modern powerpop to spring out of New Jersey. Along with his bandmates, Jeff Preischel on bass and vocals, Mike Eckhart on lead guitar and vocals, and Rob Barden on drums, these guys prove you don’t need facial hair, tattoos, or ironic T-shirts in order to rawk. The record is so consistently good, and band chemistry so electric, that it’s hard to believe ““Who Do You Think You Are” is a debut album. Bolstered by the production talents of Kurt Reil (Grip Weeds, The Smithereens), “Who Do You Think You Are” makes it evident that meyerman thinks they are bona fide rock stars.

Relying on the tried and true method of encasing a sweet center with crunchy power chords, meyerman cook up all kinds of ear candy. One of the themes explored on the record is music and the music business itself, underscoring the commitment these guys have to their craft – music is truly in their blood. Meyer’s vocals are modestly scratchy with a nasal delivery, making the band sound like The Thornbirds or even Enuff Z’Nuff at times.

The band sets the stage with a "ready to rock" intro that surely kicks off their live set as well. Then they dive straight into earnest pop rock with the memorable “Permission To Rock You” before coming up with the most radio-friendly serving on the record, “Get To You”. “Tour Of Japan” is sure to be on the playlist of any musician. “New Direction” is another astute satire parodying the music biz, but the song features such delectable melodies that it will find universal appeal. Meyerman doesn’t slow things down much, but they do a good job of it when they do…check out “Indecision and Inertia”. The CD continues to end strong with a trio of snappy tunes including “Metalface” (love the reference to the Quiet Riot mask), “Bitter End”, and “Elephants”.

Catchy riffs, spot on harmonies, and sugary melodies – what more could you want? “Who Do You Think You Are” is a nonstop thrill ride from start to finish. I can’t see how this one can’t make my best of 2011 list.

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


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Nine Days “So Happily Unsatisfied” (2002)

I think just about anyone my age would call the decades of the 90s/00’s a vast musical wasteland. Sure there were exceptions, but overall, the mainstream continued to get further flushed down the crapper. So leave it be to me to come across one of the great undiscovered rock albums from a band that might have been considered to be part of said wasteland.

Nine Days will always be looked at as nothing more than a one hit wonder, with their “Absolutely (Story Of A Girl)” propagating many a “Now That’s What I Call Music” type compilation.

Sure, the follow up single, “If I Am” did a minor bit of chart damage but it’s doubtful many remember this one.

So with a moderately successful major label debut under their belt, the band set out to record their second for Sony and then were promptly dropped and the album left to sit around unreleased.

I have to wonder what the people at the label were thinking when the band handed in the tapes for this one. Even as I listen now, this set holds up remarkably well and if one didn’t know any better, could easily have thought it came out yesterday (well, minus a reliance on stuff like auto-tune).

With a sound that now resembles what Train might sound like if they were a Green Day cover band, it’s everything a fan of anthemic rock would want. Big, bold and loud with choruses made to be sung along combined with a handful of introspective (yet never plodding) ballads, this album is close to the top of my “WTF was the label thinking?” chart.

What easily could have been mined for hit after hit, songs like “Good Friend,” the infectious “Emily,” the poptastic “The Joneses” and the amazing epic “Ocean” should have taken this band multi-platinum alongside their similarly sounding brethren Matchbox 20.

Looking back to 2002, music was trending more towards the forthcoming decade chart dominance of American Idol and hip-hop. With Nickelback being the only rock band in the top 10 for the year, it might have been one of the many periods of “experts” proclaiming yet again...rock is dead. But, with a little scratching at the surface, albums like this were easily uncovered and this was actually one of my favorite musical time periods. I found so many great bands that for the most part remain undiscovered, and will give me endless writing fodder.

As opener, “Favorite Song,” prophetically stated, “What if everything you had, was like a castle made of sand, would you open your hand or hold on tight?” Who knew they might have talking about their own career?

The band has since released a handful of excellent EPs and seems to have fractured into a set of solo acts. Since it remains unreleased, the band offers this album for free (yep, free!) in high quality downloads over at their site, So, really, now you have no excuse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: Canon Logic “Rapid Empire” [EP]

Modern rock
Canon Logic is a modern rock quintet comprised of guitarists Mark Alu and Josh Greenfield, bassist Sean Enright, drummer Zach Jordan, and frontman and principal songwriter Tim Kiely. Their new five song EP, “Rapid Empire” was released on August 30, 2011 via Engine Room Recordings. The EP follows their debut full-length effort, “FM Arcade”, from 2010, which has been hailed as “an eclectic album of powerfully catchy pop songs”.

I’m primarily hearing a lot of influence from The Killers in Canon Logic, but also hints of ELO, Blur, and The Decemberists. You can get “Howl in the Night” for free below, but the real standouts for me are “Sirens”, the title track, and “Dungeon Fallout”. Kiely has a soaring voice reminding me of the sound of Keane, but it is lifted to even greater heights with bellowing harmonies and toe-tapping rhythms throughout. Great attention to detail can be found in the arrangements of these tunes and the end result is five highly satisfying tunes that will move you lyrically and musically. Don’t miss this EP if you like any of the aforementioned bands.

Canon LogicFacebook

Download “Howl in the Night” for FREE:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

STEELHEART “Tangled In Reins” (1992)

Steelheart was heralded with explosive fame after their big international hits, “I’ll Never Let You Go” and "She's Gone" spread like crazy across the planet. "Tangled In Reins" was their second attempt to emulate the debut's success. Although the effort wasn't very fruitful, Steelheart secured a safe position in the Asian region with their sophomore ballad, "Mama Don't You Cry", which conquered many charts there. This album's style is sleazier and catchier but slightly inferior in song quality compared to their debut.

"Loaded Mutha" was given the chance to open the album…this Whitesnake-ish track puts Matijevic's magical vocal to the front. A great track but the next one is even better: "Sticky Side Up" is definitely a party soundtrack - just check out the naughty words of ‘watches me drown in your lovin' cup', as the music arouses to make you bang your head. "Late For The Party" and "Dancin' In The Fire" are in the same vein and both are also my fave tracks. "Love 'Em And I'm Gone" copied Dr.Feelgood's groovy rhythm and overall is a good track, while "Steelheart" contains one of Matijevic's insane screams. "Mama Don't You Cry" is a touching ballad dedicated to his mother, and I love how the emotion is pouring down like a hard rain…such a beautiful tune.

A very good album and probably their last greatest piece before Matijevic was involved in a tragic accident while performing live. The comeback album is far from the first two, and although not as great as the debut, "Tangled In Reins" is a worthy buy in my book.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rare CD: Black Stone Cherry "Rock' n Roll Tape"

Black Stone Cherry - Rock' n Roll Tape / 10 Track Privatpress. Melodic Hardrock CD Mega rare New!

Absolute Super rare Hardrock CD!

Released in very small item!

Chris Robertson Vocals, Guitars, Slide Guitar
Ben Wells Guitars, Electric Sitar, Background Vocals
Jon Lawhon Electric Bass, Background Vocals
John Fred Young Drums, Percussion, Background Vocals

01. Redneck
02. America
03. Under The Sheets
04. Amen Nation
05. Drift Away
06. Silver Smiles
07. Sissy Bitch
08. Walkin'
09. Sunrise
10. Blame

Label: Black Stone Cherry Records 2003

(Long Time Out of Print!)

Sold for $285 on ebay.

Rare CD: Nirvana "Pennyroyal Tea" single

NIRVANA: Pennyroyal Tea CD single
one of only a handful that hit the markets

This is the German version, with no IFPI-code. As you can see from the pictures, the matrix is as it should be: SONOPRESS I-2211/GED21907 A 2

"Nirvana"- text on spine is yellow, as it should

The story goes: a bunch of these saved from the garbage bin by a guy who the sold them on flea market places in Helsinki, Finland.
I bought this some time ago from a girl, who got this from her father, who originally got his from the original guy saving these.
So, the story is quite similar to what happened in Sweden at the same time. I know 100% sure that some of these were also sold directly in eastern Finland record stores.
Were they sold regardless to the command to destroy them, or accidentaly in advance, is unsure.

Sold for $525.00 on ebay.

Rare CD: Bruce Springsteen "In the Midnight Hour"

Bruce Springsteen "In the Midnight Hour" promo 2CD set sells for $1,150 on ebay.

Saturday, September 24, 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.


House of Lords “Big Money” - House of Lords debuted in 1989 with the release of the self-titled album, a record which is still regarded as one of the best arena rock releases of the 80s, up there with frontrunners like Whitesnake, Deep Purple, and Van Halen. The band has a varied and spotty catalogue ever since, with frequent lineup changes and oscillating musical styles to match. Some releases are downright catchy arena rock whereas others are less melodious prog rock. This month the band will add “Big Money” to its discography, which feels like a blend of their mixed melodic and prog rock past. The trademark vocals of James Christian sound finer than ever, and he is surrounded by updated guitar sounds and pounding beats. James teamed up again on the songwriting with long-time friend and partner Mark Baker along with the other band members Jimi Bell and BJ Zampa for this release. While “Big Money” rocks through and through, several of the tunes are overly long and burdened with less than compelling riffs. Standouts include “First To Cry”, “The Next Time I Hold You”, “Run For Your Life”, and “Once Twice”. More info on House of Lords can be found here.

Surprise of the week
Motley Crue
guitarist Mick Mars is recording with latest American Idol winner James Durbin. Get the scoop here.

R.E.M. has broken up. Hard to believe…read about it from the band member’s perspectives here.

New “best of” collection coming from Paul Simon October 24. Details and track listing here.

Get a taste of the Lou Reed and Metallica project, “Lulu” here. It’s only 30 seconds, but confirms my worst fears about this collaboration.

Love this article at Popdose about Survivor’s underrated ballad “Ever Since The World Began” (video below).

INXS have sacked their singer JD Fortune for the second time. Story here.

Where are they now? Colin Hay (Men At Work) released a new video. Check it out here.

Toto collides with SurvivorKimball Jamison. Debut video!

Random iPOD song of the week
Survivor “Ever Since The World Began” from the album “Eye of the Tiger”

Reminder: we’re now on Twitter! Follow us for even more updates, news, and reviews!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review: Work of Art “In Progress”

AOR/Melodic Rock
Frontiers Records is on a roll finding new melodic rock releases to fill up your end of summer playlists. Work of Art is an AOR outfit from Sweden that had its early origins in 1992 when Herman Furin and Robert Sall met while attending the SÖL school of music. They didn’t acquire a lead singer until 15 years later, but Lars Sarfsund, who sounds quite a bit like Joseph Williams (Toto, Vertigo), proved worth waiting for, and all this time gave the boys the chance to really polish their craft. The debut album was called “Artwork” and earned critical acclaim in the AOR community upon its release in 2008, drawing comparisons to genre icons like Toto, Giant, and Journey.

“In Progress” is the heavily anticipated follow up to their debut, and Work Of Art proves they have plenty of hooks left up their sleeves. As before, Work of Art pulls no stops in trying to dazzle the listener with driving guitar licks and lofty keyboards. Overall, “In Progress” is a dead ringer for 80s-era Europe if you ask me, with a smattering of tasty prog rock thrown in now and then.

“The Rain” is quite the tempest – a stewing pot of sweeping melodies swirled with slick guitar riffs and in-your-face keyboards. “Nature Of The Game” keeps the high octane pace full throttle with another keeper of a chorus. The boys shake the mood up a bit with the mildly darker “Once Again”, but the moody verses lead us to the type of sugary chorus that made Giant so huge. “Never Love Again” is one of my favorites on the CD – upbeat verses propelling you to that rewarding chorus once again, augmented with affable harmonies. Punchier guitar churns “Eye Of The Storm”, but the melody sticks right in your ear the first time – and check out those slicing keyboards in the chorus! You’d think a band that could crank out five consecutive excellent pieces of melodic rock would run out of steam, but not so with Work Of Art. Other highlights include the blistering first single, “The Great Fall”, “Emelie”, and “Castaway”, which features a refreshing acoustic verse that lets Sarfsund really strut his stuff.

If you like big keyboard-rich melodic rock with outstanding vocals, Work of Art is the band for you. You’ll feel like it is 1989 all over again!

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11

Work of Art – more info here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: Queen Electric “Queen Electric” [EP]

Pop rock/powerpop
Queen Electric is the latest project to come from singer/songwriter Scot Sax, who is widely regarded as a hero in the indie pop rock world. Sax has fronted the bands Wanderlust and Feel, each of which has left us with masterpieces of powerpop. Rounding out the Queen Electric trio is Phil D'Agostino on bass and Mike Pietrusko on drums.

Sax has a distinctive vocal tone and a knack for harmonies in the neighborhood of Jeff Lynne and ELO that are front and center on this record, so fans of his earlier work are bound to enjoy Queen Electric. The self-titled debut release is a 7 song EP that offers a little something for everybody. Opener “Gonna Let You Down” serves as a great way to kick things off. One of the more rocking tunes, “Gonna Let You Down” is designed to pick you up and it quickly became my favorite. Things slow down a little too quickly with “As You Make Me Out To Be”, but the Beatles vibe permeating “Maybe You’re Lost” is rejuvenating. “Everything I See” is a pleasant mid-tempo number driven along by a crunchy guitar riff. “Day After Night” has a bit of an island feel with its bouncy piano, jubilant horns, and “wah-oo” backing vocals. The EP closes on a softer note with the beautifully reflective piece, “Happy Where You’re At”, which is my second favorite in the batch.

Queen Electric – Get it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: DanseWolf “Smoke N Mirrors” [EP]

Are you tired of waiting for No Doubt to make a new record? The L.A.-based rock and pop trio known as DanseWolf has a little something that will help ease that wait…in fact, they could very well compete for your love of No Doubt.

This energetic six song EP entitled “Smoke N Mirrors” is an absolute thrill ride down the tracks No Doubt pioneered in the 90s. Lead singer Juls D not only channels Gwen Stefani, but throws in a little Blondie to fit in even more snugly with the retro 80s rock belted out by her band, Andy Lagomarsino and Grant Webb. Things kick off with the high octane fever of “In L.A.”, a tune dedicated to their adopted hometown. With retro keys, gang vocals in the chorus, and Juls D swirling vocal, it is one of those tunes that pays homage to a musical past yet retains a modern edge. The title track simmers with excitement too, building up to a gloriously memorable chorus. “I Think Maybe” is another radio-friendly highlight, complete with handclaps to liven the party atmosphere. “Shut You Down” is the power ballad moment, which would have been a standard at many an 80s high school dance. “Love Hate Heartbreak” picks the pace back up with another engaging chorus propelled by cascading drums. And don’t miss the 50’s piano riff that the band brings back from the dead in “Like A Ghost”.

“Smoke N Mirrors” is a triumph and has the potential to appeal to old school pop rockers as well as the youngsters. DanseWolf is ready for the big time…don’t miss this one!

DanseWolfOfficial site

Check out a live performance of “Shut You Down”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Classic melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

SARAYA “Saraya” (1989)

Formed in 1987 by singer Sandi Saraya and keyboardist Gregg Munier (RIP), the band's name eventually changed from Alsace Lorraine to Saraya and their eponymous debut was released in 1991. Their guitarist, Tony "Bruno" Rey, was formerly in Danger Danger briefly and supplied his guitarworks in several songs on their debut before being replaced by Andy Timmons. Saraya's musical direction is melodic rock, probably closer to AOR. Sandi's vocal is at times comparable to Lita Ford and she's a well-respected female singer with a pacifying and elegant voice.

Their first single, "Love Has Taken Its Toll", received decent MTV rotation back then, but in my opinion, this song doesn’t shine enough to be their number one single because the second track, "Healing Touch" is a better pick. "Runnin' Out of Time" has a sweet guitar lick and roaring rhythm, this is the heaviest tune of the album. "Fire To Burn" is a good rocker though it seems to lack something memorable. "St. Christopher's Medal" is a very good emotional ballad with an uncliched lyric. And the crème-de-la-crème of the album is "Back To The Bullet", a superb song with passionate vocal and heavenly chorus - I can guarantee this song will stick in your head and make you hum for days.

This album has some big moments but also has some low points. The sound production is acceptable and every instrument is pretty clear. The original album has been out-of-print for some time, but they have recently released a remastered version. If you're looking for a good female-fronted melodic rock act, Saraya can be a nice choice.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Saturday, September 17, 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.


Sebastian Bach “Kicking & Screaming”
– The outspoken and always entertaining former Skid Row frontman returns with his latest solo release, “Kicking & Screaming”. As you would expect, there’s no shortage of loud, in-your-face guitar shredding and dazzling solo work. Bach sounds as potent as ever, showing off the full range of his vocal talents through these thirteen tracks, and his lyrics remain sharp. That’s the good news. While “Kicking & Screaming” has plenty of testosterone and muscle, it often lacks the melodic hooks that would make these songs memorable. That is regrettable, because Bach used to write some killer ones. In short, Bach delivers a solid record to pump your fist to, but not much to sing along to. My favorites in the set include “Caught in A Dream”, “As Long As I Got The Music”, and “One Good reason”. Also, don’t miss “I’m Alive” and “Wishin’” – two of the best ballads he’s done as a solo artist – each feature compelling instrumental dynamics and Bach simply nails the vocal.

Sebastian Bachofficial site.

Check out the video for the title track:

Surprise of the week
Beam me up, Scotty. William Shatner has covered Black Sabbath’s "Iron Man”, one of the tracks from his upcoming album, "Seeking Major Tom”. Give it a listen and read more details here.

For you “die” hard vinyl fans: now there’s a company called Andvynyly that offers a service to turn your cremated ashes into a record. What song would you like to be? Check it out here.

Julian Lennon to release first album in 13 years (his sixth studio album) this October, called “Everything Changes”. Details here.

Check out this explanation of the famous Guns N' Roses video “November Rain” here.

Some classic Bob Seger is finally coming to iTUNES along with a free EP – check it out here.

Will CDs go the way of the dinosaur within five more years? Here is an opinion.

Deck the halls with Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots)? Yep.

Random iPOD song of the week
L.A. Guns – “Never Enough”

Reminder: we’re now on Twitter! Follow us for even more updates, news, and reviews!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Important news

We're on holiday this week, but will take this opportunity to remind you of our new Twitter account! Go follow us now for more frequent updates that will keep you informed of the latest music news and reviews for pop rock fans!

Help spread the word!
Keep rockin'!

Saturday, September 10, 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.


March Into Paris “Beautiful Chaos” [EP]
– Following their 2008 debut “Shield The Dilemma”, this new seven track EP takes the Sacramento band in a new musical direction. The new sound is bigger and bolder, but I can’t say it is all that melodic. The strongest thing March Into Paris has going for them is the powerhouse vocals of lead singer and chief lyricist Jennifer Valdez. Valdez is truly stunning at times and injects true talent and passion into this otherwise pedestrian modern rock band. It is a shame the songs are not as memorable as Valdez’s vocals. One exception where everything comes together perfectly is the track “Panic Room”. More tunes like this – with hooks even bigger than the guitars - is what the band needs. Recommended for fans of Paramore and Evanescence. Check out the band here.

Surprise of the week
Billy Joe (Green Day)
gets kicked off a plane because of his low riding pants. The surprise here is that he was flying on Southwest. Read the story here.

FREE MUSIC! Check out this 3 song indie rock/pop EP, “This Culture” from Nishwasher. Cool stuff – a little like Soup Dragons. Download it for FREE here.

Last time we mentioned Paul Westerberg had written songs for the new Glen Campbell CD – now here is your chance to hear one of them, “Ghost On The Canvas”.

Hear what is believed to be Jani Lane’s last recording: a song called “Sin” performed with the band Liberty n’Justice – click here. It sounds promising…such a shame.

Nickelback's new studio album is due November 21st and will be called “Here and Now”. The band will also release two singles simultaneously: "When We Stand Together" and "Bottoms Up". Full story here.

Random iPOD song of the week

Dishwalla – “Home” from the album “Opaline”

Reminder: we’re now on Twitter! Follow us for even more updates, news, and reviews!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: Stretford End “Letters On Sunspots: Siderevs Nvncivs” [EP]

Yeah, my spellchecker went nuts with that album title. But it’s not every day you encounter a record inspired by Galileo and the series of papers he wrote on sunspots. The tragic story of how the Church repressed Galileo and his research to maintain control over the populace encouraged the California band Stretford End to write about the quest for truth. “Letters On Sunspots: Siderevs Nvncivs” is volume one in a series of what will amount to three EPs.

Stretford End formed in 2009, consisting of Alexander Millar on vocals, Joey Jane on bass, and Prentice Daggs on drums. I’m assuming someone plays the guitars – which are front and center - but it wasn’t listed in the information given to me. Leading off we have the lengthy “Drift”, which tries to create an epic atmosphere appropriate to the depth of the lyrical content throughout this EP. It is a mixed success…not bad, but a bit overreaching at this stage in the band’s development. The first single is “The Fates” (video below). Produced by Gus Cryns (The Academy Is, Panic! At The Disco, Foxy Shazam), “The Fates” is a slick slice of modern rock, although it seems to take itself too seriously. The heavy guitars proceed in slow motion, successfully creating a haunting environment. The result is more of a mood piece than a radio ready single. In my opinion, the energetic “Carry On” is the band’s comfort zone and would have been a better choice. The ballad “You’ll Never Know”, a duet with Nikki Simmons, is well done and reminds me of Taking Back Sunday. The EP closes with a great melodic tune in “The Believers”, underscoring the promise Stretford End has as a new force in modern rock.

You should point your musical telescope to “Letters On Sunspots: Siderevs Nvncivs” if you like the post-punk bands that dominated the rock scene the past decade, such as Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. While this genre seems to be fading out, maybe Stretford End will be able to breathe new life into it.

Stretford Endofficial site.

Check out the video for “The Fates”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: Dexter’s Kin “Dexter’s Kin”

Pop rock
With influences ranging from the Beatles to Muse, New York City native Paul Benedict has formed a band named Dexter’s Kin (the project was named in memoriam of Paul’s late brother). Paul reflects, “Every song I’ve written has been related to my experiences with family. My brother’s death made such an impact in my life. One way or another he’s influenced my music. It’s the core of who I am saying that I’m Dexter’s Kin.” Paul released a solo EP in July 2009 called “Metamorphose”, which created a modest buzz. He and his comrades in Dexter’s Kin (Bryan Christopher on guitar, Gisel Costa on keyboards, Jason Juliette on drums, and Andrew Lynch on bass), should create even more buzz with their self-titled full-length album.

Dexter’s Kin is an upstart band filled with young players – this has to be kept in mind when listening. While the music would benefit from better production and more natural chemistry between the bandmates, the key thing that I get excited about here is the potential. Benedict can write songs…great songs. I would have recorded them differently, but there is no denying these songs are the basis for some serious hits. Benedict also needs more confidence during his vocal delivery, but his instincts are good regarding where to take the melody. It is also unfortunate that the instrumentation often buries his vocals to near inaudible levels.

Problems aside, listen to the promise in cuts like “Out Of My Head”, “Day Sleeper”, and the Radiohead sounding ballad, “Stay” – excellent song structure, interesting chord changes, and nicely sung. The back half of the CD is just as good, with catchy power pop like “Self Inflicted” and “Fair Share” balancing gorgeous pieces like “Dive”. With the proper resources, I think Dexter’s Kin could be a real force in modern pop rock.

The band will be releasing its highly-anticipated self-titled album in late Summer 2011. Check it out if you like IKE, Abandoned Pools, or Toad the Wet Sprocket.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10

Dexter’s KinOfficial site.

Check out the video for “Spill Out The Lies”:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Best Albums You Never Heard

By Kurt Torster

Harem Scarem “Harem Scarem” (1991)

It’s weird how what has become one of my all-time favorite bands completely slipped under my radar for a few years. 1991 was a weird time in my life where music had taken a backseat to outside forces and my sense of discovery had been replaced by a complacency for whatever was fed to me via MTV (yes, they were still playing videos then). I had stopped buying my bi-weekly fix of Kerrang! magazine, which was my musical bible for much of the 80s, so new music was not high on my list of priorities. Even my monthly shopping trips into the Village in NYC had stopped.

Fast forward a couple of years, past life changing events, and a swelling undercurrent of discovery thanks to friends I had made through that new fangled thing called the Internet. By some point in 1993 or 1994, I had started to trade tapes (yeah, cassettes!) with people all over the world. One particular mix tape had found its way to me from Scotland. Insert tape, side A, press play and the first song that came out was “With A Little Love,” and I know it sounds cliché, but it changed my world.

At this time frame of the decade, about all I was hearing of late were bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and their ilk. Suddenly though, with one simple song, I was catapulted back to my first (and still strongest) musical love. Taking equal parts of 80s arena rock (like Journey and Def Leppard) blended with late 80s hair metal (lots of Extreme and Winger), it was really like nothing I had heard in years. I drove out that day and hit all my favorite import haunts until I found not only their debut but the follow up, “Mood Swings.”

But that one little song, and eventually the entire album, re-lit my flame of discovery and led to my starting of a promotional website and company, SFK (which ran for almost 12 years), where like that mix tape, allowed me to share with the world all the great music that might be slipping under other’s own personal radars thanks to the mainstream musical wasteland that was the 90s.

That was only one song too. The rest of the album had so much more. Whether you felt like rocking your own arena to “Hard To Love,” “All Over Again” or “How Long” or taking it easy to acoustic power ballads like “Honestly” and “Something To Say,” it makes me wonder how this album didn’t sell millions. And, considering the band only seemed to get better more diverse with each outing, the mystery just deepens. In melodic rock circles, the band are still gods, with their cult-like following snapping up everything the foursome touch.

Nowadays, the members own one of Canada’s biggest recording studios and do a lot or work for Canadian Idol. Smokey voiced singer Harry Hess also released a great hard rock album last year under the name of First Signal (read our review here) while guitarist Pete Lesperance, who could stand his own with guys like Nuno Bettencourt or Brian May, had some minor chart success with his new band Fair Ground.

Maybe it was all in the timing. As this album was released, a wind known as grunge blew through and, well, you know the rest. Shame we couldn’t turn the clock back just a little bit and let them be big on their own terms.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Bear Lake “If You Were Me”

Rock and pop
Driving between downtown Detroit and then through some of the affluent suburbs provides a sharp contrast in how people live. Spending time between these disparate areas is a source of inspiration that finds its way into the songs written by Michigan band Bear Lake. Bear Lake happens to be the place they travel to in Grayling, Michigan to write their material. As a result, the music is generally atmospheric and tranquil. If you are a fan of shows like One Tree Hill, Bones, or The Gates, chances are you’ve already heard some music by this band.

The sound of Bear Lake is quite contemporary – somewhere between Coldplay and Keane – with some experimental keyboard effects thrown in that probably get mixed responses. I could do without the electronic noises and personally think the band sounds best when these elements are not incorporated. One if the most striking things this band can boast of are the vocals – they have warmth and charm that fit perfectly with the airy songs, but show their teeth on the heavier numbers. Opening tune, “It’s Over”, surrounds an infectious riff with dazzling harmonies, serving as a fine introduction to the album. Most of my favorite songs cluster at the back end of the CD, such as the acoustic-driven pop of the title track and the nostalgic “We Were The Young”. The peppy “Tonight Is On Your Side” is another thrill ride, but the moodier hooks in “Breaking Me Down” were built to last.

Bear Lake is recommended if you like Keane, Band of Horses, or Snow Patrol. Head over to their page now and get a free download code.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 3, 8, 9, 11

Bear LakeOfficial site.

Saturday, September 3, 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.

“State Of The Art” – Frontiers Records has done a superb job this year keeping the flame of the melodic rock genre alive and well. They’ve put out terrific contemporary AOR records from Toby Hitchcock, Work Of Art, Airrace, and more, and now we have Xorigin to add to that fine collection. Xorigin is influenced by Giant, Toto, Foreigner, and Yes, and features AOR veterans Johannes Stole (vocals, keyboards) and Daniel Palmqvist (guitars, The Murder of My Sweet). Standout tracks include the fighting anthem “Can’t Keep Running”, “Crying For You”, and the harmonious mid-tempo rocker “The One For Me”. “In The Blink Of An Eye” is a grand power ballad in the REO Speedwagon tradition. Very little filler on this one, so be sure to check it out if you miss the 80s melodic rock heyday. More info on the band can be found here.

Surprise of the week
Lou Reed made the guys in Metallica cry. Here’s why.


Cruise on over to the web site for The Tonighters and grab three of their EPs for FREE! Masterminded by UK musician Billy Gilbert, the Tonighters incorporates elements from his extensive background in diverse musical areas ranging from power pop to punk. Awesomely catchy pop rock here, with some of my favorites including “Sad Forever” and “Down To One” from “Closet Classics Volume I”, “How Am I Supposed To Let You Go?” from “Closet Classics Volume 2”, and “Finish What You Started” from “Trivia Melodies”. With a total of 10 tracks, you are bound to find something you’ll love.
Get the free downloads here (if all used up, wait until Sept 7).
And be sure to “Like” them here.

Both amazing Jellyfish albums are being re-issued on vinyl only – details here.

New CD of Aerosmith rarities coming soon! Track list can be found here.

Producer Jack Douglas says that the new Aerosmith is due May 2012 and will be “nasty and raw” – kind of like those chicken fingers I ordered at Pizzeria Uno. Read about it here.

Next to jump on the covers album bandwagon: Scott Weiland. Details here.

The new Chickenfoot video, for lead single “Bigfoot”

What are the guys from the Replacements doing now? Well, Tommy Stinson just released a new solo record and Paul Westerberg contributed to the latest record by Glen Campbell. Details here.

Random iPOD song of the week
Sinead O’Connor does a brilliantly endearing rendition of this wonderful song originally performed by Elton John. This track appeared on the 1991 Elton John Tribute album, “Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: Graham Colton “Pacific Coast Eyes”

I was very eager to hear this new one from Graham Colton, who blew me away with his 2007 effort “Here Right Now” (review here). Colton is a pop rock artist from Oklahoma with an excellent track record harking back to his early days fronting The Graham Colton Band. After several EPs, he’s back with his second full-length solo release, “Pacific Coast Eyes”. Most people would recognize Colton through his American Idol connections – he toured with and dated Kelly Clarkson and provided the exit song for the show (“Best Days”).

“Waiting For Love” is classic Colton, offering a radio friendly hook and bright production that just makes you feel all warm and pleasant inside. “1981” is just fantastic – a catchy upbeat rocker that is beautifully sung, with lyrics that stir nostalgic emotions. “Graceland” is a tender folksy duet, and even better is the contemplative piano-driven piece, “Twenty Something”. He continues tickling the ivories on the feel good love song “Everything You Are”. The album then plummets into mediocrity, but closes fairly strong with an affable ballad called “A Day Too Late”.

Among the swings and misses is the sleepy opener, “Love Comes Back Around”. And with its near spoken-word verses and breezy vibe, “Pacific Coast Eyes” strives too hard to be like Train, and it just doesn’t work for me. Many others seem to like it, though, and it is the first single. And despite excellent production and wonderful singing, most of the other tracks are just too generic to get excited about. All things considered, “Pacific Coast Eyes” is another fine feather in Colton’s cap, but not the one people are going to remember the most. Recommended if you like Matt Nathanson, Train, or Ingram Hill.

iPOD-worthy: 2, 4, 6, 7, 12

Graham ColtonOfficial site.

Check out the video for the title track:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: The Jennifers “Well Intentioned World”

Indie pop and rock
Pulling talents from a spectrum of noted bands including The Hated, Berserk, and Garage Sale, The Jennifers can be considered a supergroup of sorts. This modern indie pop outfit is comprised of John Irvine (guitars/vocals), Skizz Cyzyk (drums), Joe Stone (guitars/vocals), and Ed Wade (bass). The band has been a staple in Baltimore’s underground pop scene since the mid 1990’s.

Their new record, “Well Intentioned World”, is the first on the Baltimore-based indie pop label The Beechfields – a label that has exquisite taste in musical talent. Sounding like XTC on ecstasy, or Teenage Fanclub heading into their early 20s, The Jennifers is an indie pop dream. Propelled by the feisty drumming of Cyzyk, the eleven songs on this album prove that you can groove to heady lyrics. And while the indie spirit is adverse to that slick pop sheen, the band certainly isn’t opposed to crafting catchy melodies. “Roses” comes storming out of the gate with a rollicking drumbeat punching up clever phrases such as “You’re in the real world, but the world is reeling” - and the groovy change of pace mid-song adds a dynamic that makes this song one of the early favorites. The title track is just as good, thumping along with a retro Talking Heads feel. “Around the World” reminds me of Echo and The Bunnymen…after they drank a case of Red Bull. “Elephant Heart” is terrific pop confection too. There are a couple missteps – such as “Sunshine”, which has such a fuzzy vocal that it grates the ears - and there is a lull in the action with a number of slower, less tuneful pieces after that. However, the record ends strong with cuts like “Simon Says” and “150,000 Things”.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 11

The JennifersOfficial site.