Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You Were Robbed – Survivor

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

How in the world can I be crying that 80s AOR giants Survivor were ever robbed? The band enjoyed phenomenal success with two distinct Rocky soundtrack classics, and their completely non-Rocky album “Vital Signs” (1984) is considered one of the finest melodic rock records of all time. The band even “survived” a change in lead singers (from “Eye of The Tiger’s” Dave Bickler to “Burning Heart’s” Jimi Jamison). 1986’s “When Seconds Count” stayed true to the band’s synergistic mix of guitars and keyboards, and squeezed out a couple more hits. In 1988, the band released a markedly harder record called “Too Hot To Sleep”, and this marks when the band was robbed. “Too Hot To Sleep” stalled at #187 on the US charts and inexplicably failed to generate much interest at radio.

It defies the imagination why this record was ignored to the extent that it was – it contained a masterful mix of Survivor standards fans would expect and a lot more riffy crunch to capitalize on the glam/hairband style so popular at the time. The first single, “Didn’t Know It Was Love” deserved to be just as huge as past hits like “Is This Love” or “Can’t Hold Back”.

Here it is, in all its late 80s glory:

Another fan favorite is the keyboard-driven “Desperate Dreams”:

The harder-edged material comes in the form of tracks like “Here Comes Desire”, “Burning Bridges”, and “She’s A Star” – while more guitar driven, the band never strayed from catchy melodies and big arena-ready choruses. And towards the back half, “Tell Me I’m The One” and “Can’t Give It Up” are just blistering hot pieces of rock.

“Too Hot To Sleep” contained requisite tender moments as well, such as the sparse but beautiful ballad, “Across The Miles”.

“Too Hot To Sleep” should have revitalized Survivor and further cemented their status as kings of melodic rock. It is the Survivor album that best balanced Sullivan’s guitars and Peterik’s keyboards. And who knows? If the album did better, fans might have been treated to more AOR gems in the 90s.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Danika Holmes “Living Your Dream”

Two years ago, we were taken by the charming debut by Danika Holmes, an aspiring songstress from Iowa (review here). Holmes returns with a new release, “Living Your Dream”, this March. “Living Your Dream” was funded by fans through a Kickstarter campaign, which must have been pretty successful given the slick new look and sound of the record.

Holmes is a mix of heartland warmth and book smarts (she was a dissertation shy of earning a Ph.D.; she decided to write an album instead). These attributes carry through into the messages contained in her lyrics. Even more than on her debut, Holmes stretches herself into a diverse array of musical genres, incorporating more guitar-driven leads and even horns throughout several of the songs. To be honest, a part of me misses the more organic feel of her debut set. On “Living Your Dream”, the music has evolved to a glossier plane, and I am not certain it fits her voice as comfortably as her debut.

Nonetheless, Holmes demonstrates she is certainly capable of writing to suit many styles, reminding me of the versatile Shelby Lynne. Lyrically, and true to the album’s title, Holmes still shines as a beacon of hope and positivity. “Dreams Held Hostage” and “Bluebird” will undoubtedly be fan favorites, each a country-tinged tale that touches the heart as much as it tickles the ears. My personal favorite, though, is “How To Be Beautiful” – on this track, Holmes is at home in her comfort zone and backed by pleasing “oh la la” harmonies. From here on, Holmes will either confuse or delight with forays into other musical territory. “Rainy Day Lovin’” has a bit of a doo-wop and jazzy feel while “Someone New To Forget” sounds like an attempt to capitalize on the Adele craze. “Kids and Makeup” is sweet and simple bouncy pop. Holmes shines on a couple standout ballads this time around, including “Breathe In Let Go” and the sweeping title track. The ten song record closes with another highlight in “Forever Young”.

It should be easy to catch Holmes on tour this spring and summer, stateside or in Europe - she has a whopping 160 shows planned. In the meantime, you are sure to find something to love on “Living Your Dream”.

Danika Holmes – Official site.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

TWISTED SISTER “Love Is For Suckers” (1987)

If there's something bad in the mind of TWISTED SISTER's fans regarding this album (apart from the difference in style compared to their earlier albums), it’s that two days after its release Dee Snider announced that he's no longer a part of the band. Beau Hill was behind the production desk and at first, “Love Is For Suckers” was intended to be Dee's solo album - but the label scraped the idea and asked them to release it under the TWISTED SISTER brand.

Considering that 1986 was a year full of commercial hits from fellow glam bands, this album tried to adapt to that climate, producing several songs that had potential for airplay such as 'Hot Love', the title track, 'Tonight', and the ballad, 'You're All That I Need'. I understand if some fans didn't like this at all, because they expected the band to keep playing the raw and wicked hard rock like the old days, but I'm one of the few who enjoyed it a lot.

'Me And The Boys' is another fun track: sounds like an anthem, and even though slightly sloppy at the chorus, this is truly a strong track. 'One Bad Habit' is addictive and as great as 'Hot Love' - these two are the best on this album. 'Yeah Right' is probably the worst filler…if only they replaced it with a better song. Having the remastered version is nice, especially for the four bonus tracks alone.

Beware that if you prefer the olden days, this might not suitable for you; otherwise, it's a solid underrated album and I think deserves a score of 80%.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Under Cover: It's My Life

Crazy polka version of this Bon Jovi hit. And it's not Weird Al.

Село і люди "It's My Life" (Bon Jovi)

New video: Jet Electro "I'll Never Find Another Girl Like You"

Check out the new video from Jet Electro; the CD was recently reviewed here.

Excellent tune!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Michael Thompson Band “Future Past”

Melodic rock/AOR
Ace studio session guitarist Michael Thompson, who has played for the likes of Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Scorpions, Vince Neil, and many more, is releasing a new, long-awaited record entitled “Future Past”. Longtime fans of West Coast AOR probably remember his cult classic “How Long” from 1988. “How Long” was reissued in 2007 with 3 bonus tracks, starting a relationship between Michael Thompson and Frontiers Records.

This time Michael teams up with Larry King, the smooth vocalist from the band Soleil Moon. King brings a more rocking edge to the MTB sound but the trademark craftsmanship in the songs that fans would expect have been retained. Beginning with the lead off anthem, “High Times”, the listener is treated to one polished slice of AOR after another. While “High Times” is truly a highlight, my favorite song on the disc is “When You Love Someone” – an absolute winner without a single flaw. This smoldering power ballad draws you in with sultry verses that lead to an amazing chorus. Additional standouts include the upbeat arena-ready rocker “Here I Am” and “Beautiful Mystery”, which sounds like a lost Toto track. “Break Me Down” is also a solid track that grows on you quickly.

MTB’s “Future Past” should be an obvious choice for fans of Giant, Alias, and Foreigner.

Michael Thompson Band – more info.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Were Robbed – Teenage Fanclub

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

Teenage Fanclub “Bandwagonesque”

1991 was a tumultuous time for music. But who was honored with Spin magazine’s poll for best album of the year? Was it Nirvana’s “Nevermind”? R.E.M.’s “Out Of Time”? No. It was “Bandwagonesque” by Teenage Fanclub. This band from Glasgow took a markedly different approach on this, their third, record. Leaving behind the dissonant fuzzy noise, they aimed for slick melodies and keen harmonies the likes of Big Star. The change in direction hits fans right in the face with the first track, “The Concept”.

As with most of the other songs on this brilliant record, Teenage Fanclub carved out a unique niche that brought in the grungy noise we craved at the time and combined it with supersweet 70s bubblegum pop. Another fine example of this is the amazing ballad, “December”.

Bringing in their love of 60s groups like The Box Tops, Teenage Fanclub struck gold again with “What You Do To Me”.

And if there was any song that could capture the sentiment of the day and relationships better than “Alcoholiday”, please let me know.

Over the years, the band has released a string of follow up records and shuffled personnel, mostly to mixed reviews. While some songs shine here and there, the band hasn’t quite recaptured the magic that made “Bandwagonesque” such a perfect listening experience.

Time has shown that “Bandwagonesque” deserved to be among the ranks of Nirvana and R.E.M. for that year, but it still remains unknown to too many people. More info on the band can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Fairchilds “Our Revolution”

Pop rock
Cyril Niccolai, whose interests range from cooking to the study of medicine and law, discovered yet another passion in music. The product of that passion is the debut album “Our Revolution” by The Fairchilds (Vertusent Music Group). This French singer/songwriter is inspired by everyone from Bon Jovi to U2, and incorporates modern influences such as Lifehouse, Coldplay, and the Goo Goo Dolls into his sonic palate. Niccolai wrote more than 200 songs to choose from and selected the top dozen to constitute his debut.

It doesn’t take too long before Niccolai’s songwriting philosophy is evident – he believes everything is linked, “a melody, a mood, some characters, a story... all interdependent”. Boosted by expert production from Jim Lowe (Stereophonics, Foo Fighters), the Fairchilds have delivered a hugely appealing modern pop rock release. Refreshingly, Niccolai strives to keep things positive both musically and lyrically: “My main goal is to distract people from their problems and my music therefore has to be optimistic."

“I Need You” kicks off the set - a tight rocking tune with just the right amount of punch, written about the historic election of President Obama. The track indicates that the Fairchilds mean business. Along similar lines, the title track speaks to his influences by incorporating themes from U2 with the arena rock sound of Bon Jovi. The next series of songs, which includes the first single “Unbreakable”, emphasize Niccolai’s introspective lyrics and thoughtfulness. His knack for wrapping reflective lyrics within catchy melodies is perhaps no better demonstrated than on “Story Of My Life”, which is my favorite song on the record. Defying the label of one-trick pony, “Body of Lies” and “My Name” sound a lot like something Puddle Of Mudd would do, yet I can imagine a pop country artist like Tim McGraw performing “Life Is Beautiful”. Fairchilds refuses to run out of steam as the album closes, crossing the finish line strong with the crunchy pep of “Song 12” before relaxing a bit with the majestic ballad, “Turn Back Time”.

“Our Revolution” is available now on iTUNES and at Amazon. Easily one of the best pop rock releases of 2012. Given that he has 188 “leftover” songs, I hope it isn’t too long before we get another Fairchilds record!

Fairchilds – Official site.

Check out the video for “Unbreakable”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

Review: Mr. Big “Live From the Living Room”

On the heels of their excellent reunion CD, “What If...” (review here), Mr. Big is releasing a new live set entitled, “Live From the Living Room” February 28. The story behind this recording goes like this: “At the end of January 2011, during a weeklong promotion of “What If…”, the band was invited to the WOWOW TV Studios in Tokyo to perform a special show in an acoustic setting. When the talk of a broadcast first came up, the guys wanted to present something different than they’ve ever done before. Thus the idea of an acoustic show came about and a string quintet was brought in to enhance the project even more, with arrangements provided by Takashi Miyazaki. Although Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan hooked up electric on a few songs, the show was still very much acoustic in nature throughout. Pat Torpey played various acoustic percussion instruments during the gig. The result from that magical night in Tokyo is now here: 10 Mr. Big classics in a completely new and fresh dress and a portrait from the very first ever acoustic show from the band.”

Given the sheer talent among the players in this band, and their string of radio friendly melodic rock hits, I was really looking forward to such an album. The musicianship is incredible and comes out loud and clear when played in the largely acoustic format. It is also obvious that the guys are having a great time performing this way. The vast majority of the set includes new cuts from “What If…”, including “Undertow”, “As Far As I Can See”, “Nobody Left To Blame”, “Still Ain’t Enough For Me”, “Stranger In My Life”, “All The Way Up”, and “Around the World”. As great as the new songs are, I would have loved to hear some of the classics done this way. To the band’s credit, they throw in a well done version of their #1 smash “To Be With You”, but that song was acoustic already. With so many outstanding songs from their extensive back catalogue, it is puzzling to me to hear middle of the road stuff like “Voodoo Kiss” and “Take Cover”.

“Live From the Living Room” is sure to please most fans of Mr. Big, but may not do much for the casual fan who enjoys only the older stuff. For anyone with doubts about the unbelievable talent in this band, hearing these stripped down performances should provide unshakable evidence.

Mr. Big – Official site.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Under Cover: Kiss Me Deadly

REEL BIG FISH "Kiss Me Deadly" (Lita Ford)

Check out this rendition of Lita Ford's big hit, "Kiss Me Deadly" by Reel Big Fish. Reel Big Fish inject a little reggae into the song and pump it full of horns too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Cirrone “Uplands Park Road”

Cirrone is a band of (mostly) brothers: Alessandro Cirrone on guitar/vocals, Bruno Cirrone on bass/vocals, Mirko Cirrone on guitar/vocals, and Ferdinando Piccoli on drums. Banging out their brand of Kinks-inspired powerpop from Italy, their new record, “Uplands Park Road” has been near the top of many best of 2011 lists on the powerpop circuit.

The album was recorded in Italy and mixed in Los Angeles by famed producer Todd Burke (No Doubt, Johnny Cash, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few). The 13 song collection mixes ballads with uptempo rock tracks, with some softer acoustic moments thrown in for good measure. The band strived to make each song strong enough to stand on its own, with an overall mood that is sunny, optimistic and sincere. As we often expect from a group of siblings, these guys deliver some excellent harmonies.

The album, including its upbeat title track “Uplands Park Road”, is an ironic autobiographic picture of the band living in London, trying to get into the Hall of Fame without having any money in their pockets. “Here Is My Song” boasts a breezy acoustic introduction and its groove settles down comfortably into your ears in no time. The talented musicianship is quickly evident in the layers of guitar that support the song structure. “Let The Wind Blow” is another well-crafted piece soothing to the ears, entangling a bit of country flair with Beatlesque melodies. “All I Know” is a contagious mid-tempo rocker with another sing-a-long chorus, while “Brand New Life” is an epic ballad on the scale of “Hey Jude”. As if these tracks aren’t good enough, “How Does It Feel” left me speechless. The band sounds great whether they are rocking along with horns as in “Here We Will Go” or waltzing through a simple fingerpicked acoustic beauty like “In The Sun”.

Cirrone has completed an exceptionally well-constructed set of songs here that no fan of classic or modern powerpop should be without. Check them out if you miss The Beatles, Badfinger, or The Raspberries.

Cirrone – Official site. Get the record here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

You Were Robbed – Hoodoo Gurus

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

Hoodoo Gurus “Blow Your Cool”

There are any number of albums in the extensive Hoodoo Gurus discography that I could pick as a demonstration of how this Australian band was robbed. But after a fun afternoon of revisiting their catalogue, followed by very careful deliberation, I have to go with 1987’s “Blow Your Cool” to be the biggest head scratcher - why this record didn’t catapult the band to superstardom in the States is the eighth wonder of the world.

The band released two albums prior to “Blow Your Cool”, which were well received at college radio and started earning the guys a rabid following. The debut and sophomore effort, 1984’s “Stoneage Romeos” and 1985’s “Mars Needs Guitars!” are now classics in garage pop rock, but were probably a bit too eclectic for mainstream listeners at the time. But flash forward to 1987 and we hear the band like we’ve never heard them before – slick, polished, and full of radio-friendly hooks. Just give a listen to the kickoff tracks “Out That Door” and “What’s My Scene”:

Can you imagine anything more tasty for late 80s rock radio? How about a duet their touring partners, The Bangles, one of the hottest groups around at the time? But not even that harmonious pairing in “Good Times” could ignite DJs.

The band shared a new dimension of their talent with fans on this record, too, in their first real – and most amazing – ballad, “I Was The One”, featuring some rip-roaring sax that was ubiquitous in the 80s.

The Hoodoo Gurus should have had success in excess of their INXS brethren. If you like “Blow Your Cool”, there is plenty more where that came from, including a new best of collection coming in March entitled, "Gold Watch: 20 Golden Greats".

Learn more about the Hoodoo Gurus here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Origami Hologram “Bats In The Attic” [EP]

Justin Kline, the powerpop artist who impressed us with his 2010 EP, “Triangle” (reviewed here) is back with a new sound in the form of an outfit called Origami Hologram. While Kline’s sweet and savory vocals are still recognizable, his signature sound has taken on more of a grungy edge. The guitars are fuzzier, and the production is raw, but Kline’s crafty hooks and vocal tone still work in this context. I’d liken it a bit more to Weezer or Teenage Fanclub.

“Bats In The Attic” features four songs, with my favorite being the most melodic one in the bunch: “Ghost Horse”. The title track is also a highlight, and serves as a proper introduction to Kline’s new sonic direction. Staccato guitars pierce through the verses and lead us into a satisfyingly catchy chorus. “Orange Tree” is another enticing song that follows a similar formula. The only throwaway is the aimless noise of “Cat Fight”.

It costs nothing to try them out – download the new EP from Origami Hologram for free here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

L.A. GUNS “Waking The Dead” (2002)

2002 is surely a bad year to produce a glam album – who would buy that when nu-metal still ruled the world? But thumbs up to Phil Lewis and the gang, who delivered such a classy release in the midst of a horrible heavy metal year. “Waking The Dead” sees L.A. GUNS trying to revive the sound of their early days, but also attempts to adapt to the current climate, resulting in a 75% classic style and 25% modern touch.

Hits for me here are the opening song, 'Don't Look At Me That Way'; the melodic hard rock of 'Revolution' and 'Lost In The City of Angels'; 'The Ballad' which is quite obvious, is the ballad of this album; the sleazy 'Hellraisers Ball'; and the fast-paced closer, 'Don't You Cry'. 'OK, Let's Roll' and 'Waking The Dead' are okay, the latter has an almost-growl vocal that I believe they’ve never tried before, and 'Frequency' is the worst song here.

I know lots of fans dig this but I also know that much of the 80s generation missed this because they think by 1993 the game was over…but if you can find this record I strongly recommend you buy it. It has those classic punchy riffs, Lewis’ crazy scream, and mostly enjoyable songs. A great criminally-underrated album!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cover tune catastrophe: Landslide

Smashing Pumpkins "Landslide" (Fleetwood Mac)

This gorgeous Fleetwood Mac song has been covered by many, but one of the most abrasive to my ears is the version by Smashing Pumpkins. It's really no secret that Billy Corgan can't sing well. Corgan can get by when he's shouting and surrounded by a lot of noise, but when he's naked in a sparse acoustic song like this...yikes. It would have been interesting to hear them do a rocking version of this tune instead of trying to mirror it so faithfully.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Van Halen “A Different Kind of Truth”

“There will come a day when youth will pass away...”

How many of you actually thought you’d see the day come when the Van Halen brothers (I guess we can say Van Halen family now that Eddie’s son Wolfgang replaced Michael Anthony on bass) would release a new record with former front man David Lee Roth? Diamond Dave always thought it was inevitable, but I am still taking in the moment that has finally arrived. You could feel the energy of anticipation in the air for months now…most of which was instantly deflated with the debut of their new video, “Tattoo”. I was apparently in the minority in liking this song from the get go.

No lie - “A Different Kind of Truth” is very good. The band has taken heat for revisiting some ideas that dated all the way back to the 70s, but what better way to get their feet back in the water with Roth? Longtime fans will be able to spot these elements in the tunes without hesitation. So how are the boys holding up after all these years? Eddie and Alex sound like they are on fire – the record is ambitious, ferocious, and bursting with energy – you can tell they’ve been holed up in studios for far too long and the band is playing like they have something to prove. Dave still brings that certain charm to the fore and while his voice is going a bit and he talks too much during the songs, his lyrical wit remains as sharp as a tack. Wolfgang proves he is a capable bass player, but there are many spots on this record where I can hear the ghost of Michael Anthony chiming in with his trademark backing vocals. Still, the band makes attempts to compensate by crafting excellent harmony vocals on tracks like “The Trouble With Never”.

The first three tunes are an excellent announcement that the boys are back and taking no prisoners. Eddie brings back the guitar solo with a vengeance and Alex is jaw-droppingly good on his drums. “She’s the Woman” sounds like Roth-era Van Halen v2.0. The ultra-catchy “You and Your Blues” is the kind of song that made Van Halen a radio staple back in the day. “China Town” starts off with blistering thunder that recalls “Get Up”, but Roth soon chimes in to make it his own. My favorite tune in the batch is the dynamic yet wonderfully melodic “Blood and Fire” – a record full of songs like this would be a new classic. But then tunes like “Bullethead” and “Honeybabysweetiedoll” seriously take away the melodic momentum – on the plus side, they highlight the greatness of the explosive “As Is” and “The Trouble With Never”. “Stay Frosty” provides a pretty cool acoustic-based break on this otherwise heavy record, but in isolation it isn’t all that memorable. The record ends strong with a double punch of powerful cuts in “Big River” and “Beats Workin’”.

The new record strives to show that the boys are older and wiser, but youth has not yet passed away. It succeeds far more than it falls flat, and I feel younger just listening to it.

Van Halen – Official site.

Check out the video for “Tattoo”, if you are one of the 5 people who haven’t done so yet:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

You Were Robbed – Company of Wolves

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

Company of Wolves “Company of Wolves”

You might faintly remember a tune called “The Distance”, an amazing breakup song that won a smattering of airplay on rock radio in 1990, boasting lines line “You think we’ll work it out in some restaurant…well I’ve got my reservations, girl” and “Guess I’ll never learn to play it smart…if I twist your arm, you break my heart”.

The band was Company of Wolves and this track was featured on their self-titled debut, one of the most "classic rock" records to come along amidst all the glam and hairband clones. Kyf Brewer (formerly of the popular Baltimore band The Ravyns – remember their hit “Raised on the Radio” from “Fast Times At Ridgemont High”?) and brothers Steve and John Conte led the charge, cranking out track after track of melodic rock goodness. Why “Call of The Wild” didn’t catapult these guys above the crowd I’ll never understand.

There are even better tracks here, including the hugely catchy “My Ship”, “Girl”, and the surprisingly moving acoustic ode to a stripper girlfriend, “Everybody’s Baby”.

Drummer Frankie LaRocka, who played with everyone from Scandal to Bryan Adams, would go on to produce The Spin Doctors, but sadly passed away from complications following heart surgery in 2005. Kyf Brewer would go on to release a number of solo records, frequently collaborating with powerpop favorite Cliff Hillis. He now leads a wildly entertaining Celtic band called Barleyjuice. The Conte brothers formed Crown Jewels and you can follow their latest endeavors here.

Company of Wolves is a must have, folks – it is cheap, so track it down today and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: Jeff Litman “Outside”

Back in 2009, the NYC-based singer/songwriter Jeff Litman scored one of our favorite picks of the year with “Postscript” (review here). Needless to say, we were very excited to hear new material in the form of his sophomore CD, “Outside”, which is out today.

In the words of Litman: ““Outside” is a record about searching for one's place in the world—professionally, romantically, artistically. Where my first record, “Postscript” is mired in the grief of a recently ended relationship, “Outside” is its slightly jaded, somewhat wiser, but still uncertain aftermath—grappling with the question of what happens next and taking on the struggles that accompany life as an independent artist at this moment in time.” As on his debut, Litman recruited some excellent personnel to make “Outisde” a memorable listen – this includes Andy Thompson (Dan Wilson, Andy Sturmer, Jeremy Messersmith) and drummer Michael Bland (Prince, Paul Westerberg, Soul Asylum). Powerpop fans should also note that none other than Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. (Jellyfish) sings and plays keyboards on the bouncy title track.

For the uninitiated, Litman is a cross between Elvis Costello and Tom Petty in songwriting style and a near dead ringer for Michael Penn in his vocal tone. Mixing their brand of Americana and pop savvy, with the occasional grit of Paul Westerberg (Replacements), Litman has emerged with a record that should appeal to the masses. Opening track and first single, “Over and Over”, is the epitome of this description, sounding like Elvis Costello covering a Tom Petty-penned song. The more upbeat “Runaway” is even more enjoyable in my opinion, thanks to its ear candy chorus. “Chasing My Tail” has a great sunny vibe with a melody that reminds me of “Nobody” by The Replacements...with handclaps to boot! Additional highlights include the acoustic based pop rocker, “Don’t Want To Talk About It”, “Girl Down I95”, “Just Another Dream”, and the sublime “Don’t Do That”. Finally, be sure not to skip over the refreshing changes of pace that include the remarkably beautiful ballads, “Back To You” and the piano-driven “Time Heals Nothing”, the latter of which could be mistaken for another Westerberg song.

“Outside” is no sophomore jinx. On the contrary, Jeff Litman solidifies his reputation as a songwriter focused on melody and thoughtful lyrics. Go to his web site now for a FREE download of “Over and Over”!

Jeff Litman – Official site.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda


The final album of the duet Robin McAuley and Michael Schenker, which was released in 1992, was the first MSG album I heard. It eventually became my favorite MSG release throughout the band’s entire career. This is an album that was packed with lots of commercial edged melodic rock, powerful ballads, huge harmonic background chants, and thrilling solo. On this record, Jeff Pilson and James Kottak were also strengthening the band’s magical line-up.

"Eve" rolls like an assaulting fireball shot out from Schenker's Gibson Flying-V, reaching the sky with its monstrous chorus. "This Broken Heart" pumps up the tempo and has a danceable chorus. I also love the giant melodic lines in their ballads, "When I'm Gone", "We Believe In Love", and "This Night Is Gonna Last Forever". "What Happens To Me" could have been a wonderful Scorpions track. MSG wisely put the acoustic-based and haunting track, "Nightmare", last – it helps to cool off the heat and closes the album nicely.

This record is clearly a winner to all melodic hearts, and as they have written in the lyric "love like this will never come again", that's what really happened to me with MSG.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cover tune catastrophe: You Give Love A Bad Name

I'm not sure what is worse: having your hit rock song sampled by rappers or having it performed this way.

Miracles of Modern Science "You Give Love A Bad Name" (Bon Jovi)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: The Outfield “Replay”

Pop rock
The latest record from 80s giants, The Outfield, arrived last year and it has taken me a long time to finally write a review. I have been playing this one on and off for months now, trying hard to find something that I like about it. I’ve been a huge fan of the band since day 1, so I am surprised that I find “Replay” so disappointing.

There was a lot of promise for this record, starting with the return of original drummer Alan Jackman joining John Spinks (guitar, keyboard) and Tony Lewis (bass, vocals). Jackman hasn’t played with the band since he left in 1990 and reportedly energized the group upon his return. Additionally, the advance single “California Sun” was a decent song with a nostalgic feel. Unfortunately, the rest of the record is an exercise in frustration – even after months of trying to get into it, the melodies just don’t stick.

There is no question the guys remain in top form – excellent musicianship, solid vocals, and warm production certainly brings back shades of the 80s. But this is all wasted on surprisingly mediocre songs devoid of hooks or interesting riffs. Outside of “California Sun”, the highlights include “Aladdin’s Cave” (which feels like a sequel to the hit “Voices of Babylon”) and “Wonderland”. I hate to say it, but “Replay” will probably compete with “Diamond Days” for being the least played record in my Outfield collection.

The Outfield – Official site.

In case you missed my interview with the boys in the Outfield, you can check it out - here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You Were Robbed – Pay The Girl

"You Were Robbed" features artists and bands that should have gotten much more recognition and fame than they did. Check them out now...better late than never!

Pay The Girl “Pay The Girl”

This self-titled debut by the Cincinnati rockers calling themselves “Pay The Girl” bowed in 2003 to deaf ears. After hearing this set of radio friendly pop rock tunes, it makes the mind wonder why they couldn’t sneak above the crowd to match the success of like-minded bands such as Matchbox 20 or Goo Goo Dolls. These songs boast potent production and a perfect mix of gritty guitars with pop sensibilities. Lead vocalist Jason Allen Phelps has a warm rock voice that fits into the band’s tasty rock groove effortlessly.

The track “Freeze” received modest attention at adult rock radio, but should have been much bigger in my opinion. A snippet of the video is below – check it out and see if you agree.

“Beverly” is even more radio friendly with its pop hook aping the megahit “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” from Nine Days. But my favorite track is “All You Are”, a biting breakup song with a huge sing-a-long chorus.

The back half of the record is quite strong as well, with smoldering cuts like “Traded”, “I’m Not Like You”, and the moving closer “We Both Lose”. The chord changes in the chorus are quite unique but a strong melody still emerges that sticks with you.

True, the record is not a masterpiece, but surely deserved more attention than it got. Unfortunately, the band would release no more records after this one fizzled – a real shame considering that their debut was so impressive. I imagine these guys would have reached great heights. If anyone knows what happened to them, let us know!