Friday, March 30, 2012

Under Cover - How Long

Rod Stewart – How Long (Ace)

This week we feature a young (middle-aged?) Rod Stewart covering Ace's big hit, "How Long". Paul Carrack (Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics) sang the original.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review: Candlebox “Love Stories and Other Musings”

Multi-platinum rockers Candlebox keep the rock 'n' roll flame alive with their first studio album in nearly four years, “Love Stories & Other Musings”, due April 3. Produced by Ken Andrews (Pete Yorn, A Perfect Circle, Tenacious D, Beck), “Love Stories & Other Musings” features nine new tracks and five bonus tracks, which are re-recordings of some of their biggest hits including "Far Behind", “You”, and "Cover Me."

I must admit I’ve always carried a torch for Candlebox. Sometimes referred to as that “other Seattle band”, these guys never struck me as a grunge outfit, but more of a modern band with classic rock influences. The musicianship is a cut above the rest and Kevin Martin always sings his lungs out with his amazing voice. Best of all, the band knows that a good hook is necessary to make a song memorable, and they can write such melodies without compromising one iota of their rock bravado.

"I haven't felt this way about a release from Candlebox since our first record. The feeling for this record is both refreshing and stimulating," said guitarist Peter Klett. "I can't be more excited to release this music to the fans who have been with us for so long." Kevin Martin adds, "This record…is our music and our love for what a great gift we have been given. 'Love Stories & Other Musings' is a new direction for us and I couldn't be happier to share it with our fans." Fans need not worry – the band doesn’t stray too far from what you are salivating for. The new direction is a natural evolution – an evolution towards even better songwriting. Tighter, more melodious, and more eventful.

You can feel the band’s renaissance in the energetic lead off track, “Youth In Revolt”, which is an anthem in the making and quickly reminds us of the musical power this band can wield. For “Sweet Summertime”, the band downshifts to an infectious mid-tempo beat that is perfect for cruising down the highway with the top rolled down. “Believe In It”, the first single, is another winner – instantly gripping and dripping with inspirational lyrics. As you might surmise from the record’s title, the band showcases its softer side quite a bit on this record. The good news is that Candlebox is a band that can write a genuine love song without it sounding silly or oozing with cheese. There is a sultry and haunting song in “Turn Your Heart Around”, but even better is the aching “Come Home”, which contains some of the best chorus harmonies the band has ever performed. “Baby Love” begins with a tender piano and guitar riff, but kicks into a wonderfully pleasant upbeat song soon enough.

I would have preferred a couple more new rocking tracks rather than the “bonus re-recordings”, but can’t complain because the nine new songs really bring it. Another excellent job from an underrated band. Get the record, and be sure to catch Candlebox on the road beginning April 7 – check their web site for details.

Candlebox – Official site.

Check out “Believe In It”:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You Were Robbed – Dada

"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!

1995 was a tough time for Dada. After exploding onto the alternative rock music scene with the unlikely hit, “Dizz Knee Land”, the band went on to obtain critical acclaim for the other cuts on their remarkable 1992 debut, “Puzzle”. Despite an outstanding sophomore release, the band was beginning to lose its foothold and got caught in the crossfire of its label’s demise. MCA picked them up and a revitalized Dada released their fourth album (self-titled) in late 1998. With famed producer Danny Kotchmar at the helm, the band had a promising launch pad for a massive comeback.

But that didn’t happen. Not at all. The first single is probably to blame: “California Gold” is a lackluster and confusing tune, more experimental than melodic. Hearing this song probably made a lot of fans – not to mention radio – write the band off. Shame. The vast majority of the other songs on this fantastic record are nothing short of amazing and should have been all over late 90s radio. Take the lead-off track for instance, “Information Undertow”. The topic is even more relevant today and the infectious chorus keeps you coming back for more.

The band lets its thoughtful, reflective side shine through all of these songs, and the trademark harmonies of Michael Gurley and Joie Calio have never sounded better. I really miss hearing these two sing together like this. The quality of the songwriting and performance is exemplified on the track “Beautiful Turnback Time Machine”.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any other videos for the songs here, but go to Amazon and sample these spectacular cuts: “Where You’re Going”, “Spinning My Wheels”, and “The Ballad Of Earl Grey And Chamomile”. Highlights of the band’s balladry can be heard on “Goodbye” and “Outside”. Don’t let another day go by without discovering the majesty of this wonderful record.

Keep up with Dada here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Jack Blades “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride”

On the heels of a new comeback album with Night Ranger, Jack Blades is already back with a fresh set of tunes constituting his second solo record, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride”. The man should need no introduction, so if you want to get to the album review, just skip to the next paragraph. For those who aren’t aware, Blades achieved multi-platinum success with five studio albums by Night Ranger in the 80s. Jack then co-founded the super group Damn Yankees with Tommy Shaw (Styx). In 1995, he continued his budding collaboration with Shaw to form Shaw/Blades. Across these three successful groups, Blades has earned a gold star for his songwriting skills, and has penned tunes for many other artists including Aerosmith, Cher, Alice Cooper, Roger Daltrey, Great White, Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, and Styx, many appearing in major films.

Like his solo debut in 2003, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride” contains an abundance of potent rock anthems and includes a few notable guests. In addition to some of his Night Ranger band mates, the new release features Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) on “Anything For You” – one of the best tunes on the record - and some beats laid down by Brian Tichy (Whitesnake). The record plays like a celebration of the art of rock n’ roll, full of bright, positive energy from start to finish. True to his own words, Blades commented, “’Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride’ is an extension of what my music has been for the last 30 years. It has been quite a rock n’ roll ride and I decided to lay it all down on a record!”

In addition to “Anything For You”, there are many highlights on this record to mention. Blades charges back into action with the take-no-prisoners opener, “Back In The Game”. The tune harps back to his gritty rock roots, but shines with an optimistic attitude and radio-friendly melody – it is hard not to be invigorated by this one. The classics 80s AOR riffs of “Love Life” brought back some pleasant nostalgia, and the arena ready rocker “Say You Will” and mid-tempo affirmation “Don’t Give Up” will get you off your feet. On the tender side, Blades delivers as expected on the magnificent “Hardest Word To Say”.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll Ride” will be available in late March (Frontiers Records), promising to be one of the greatest joyrides of the season!

Jack Blades – Official site.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

BRASS KITTEN “Across America” (2001)

BRASS KITTEN was revived by Perris in 2001 for a blitzing glam release, 'Across America' and I'm going to say, judging by the year of its release, this is definitely an oasis in the desert. Steve Philbrook has an amazing vocal and a wide range - the songs are mostly energetic, very melodic, and right in-your-face. 'Crossfire' is a mind blowing opener; 'Can't Hold Back The Young' is reminiscent of PRETTY BOY FLOYD’s style; 'Too Far Gone' is a nice and simple ballad; and 'Bite The Bullet' is a great no-frills hard rock tune.

There are some fillers scattered here such as the second track, 'Sweet Love Affair' or the eighth track, 'Can't Get Enough', but those are the only the weak songs I spotted. 'Fit To Be Tied' and 'Wait Another Day' are still pretty good. 'Country Song' is an easy listening acoustical piece - I love this track and 'Quit Your Bitchin' is an ass-kicking sleazy tune similar to DANGEROUS TOYS.

Unfortunately the volume is quite low but the production isn't bad considering it's an indie recording. This album isn't going to win any award, but for fans of glam yearning for some serious rock and roll salvo, BRASS KITTEN is a good catch.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Under Cover: Bohemian Rhapsody

Ever wonder what Queen's classic, "Bohemian Rhapsody", would sound like if performed by a hip-hop group? Yeah, me neither. But if you did, this is a great example of being careful what you wish for...

The Braids "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Queen)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Bunny Austin “Shadow Life”

Rock/Power pop
Named after the British tennis player from the 1930s, the Birmingham-based rock band Bunny Austin is hoping to score with their first album, “Shadow Life”. Their influences mainly include power pop, but you’ll hear a smattering of retro garage rock and punk in their sound too. Bunny Austin includes Charles Arndt (Plaid Camels) on guitar and vocals, Rich Albright (Altamont, Muddy King) on bass, Tony Oliver on keys, and Tommy Prewitt (Month of Sundays) on the drums.

Some strong suits in the band include excellent dynamic bass lines, with lively piano or organ augmenting the predominant fuzzy guitars. There is a palpable urgency in the band’s playing, not unlike the great Jim Carroll Band. Nothing on the record is unlistenable (although “Let The Power Fall” gets tedious) but I do wish more tracks had sharper, better developed hooks. I hasten to add that there are plenty songs that get under your skin. “Sparks” is the most accessible, radio-friendly track. Also notable is the dance rock of “I Can’t Take It No More”, the harmonious “Myra”, the breezy “You Were The One”, and the Knack inspired “Make It Last For Now”.

The chemistry is just starting to brew for Bunny Austin. “Shadow Life” is exuberant, radiating with the energy typically associated with that first record. With continued honing of their craft and development of more harmonies, Bunny Austin stands a good chance of hopping out of the shadows of their influences to become an influence themselves.

Bunny Austin – Official site.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Were Robbed – White Lion

"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!

The band White Lion roared onto the late 80s melodic rock scene with their “Pride” record, which featured big hits like the catchy “Wait” and the tender acoustic ballad, “When The Children Cry”. The band inexplicably fell prey to the sophomore jinx with their excellent follow up, “Big Game". What should have been the comeback of the year, the band’s third album “Mane Attraction” was tragically ignored.

I was inspired to write this post when I heard that an American Idol contestant actually did a cover of “Broken Heart”, one of the first songs White Lion wrote as a band (and was incidentally re-recorded for “Mane Attraction”).

Here is White Lion’s version from “Mane Attraction”:

The real surprise was that the super catchy leadoff single, “Love Don’t Come Easy”, with a great video to boot, failed to ignite a third chapter in this band’s career.

Infinitely popular at the time was the majestic power ballad – White Lion delivered big time on these with the beautiful acoustic “You’re All I Need” and the piano-driven tune “Till Death Do Us Part”, which I’ve heard at several weddings.

“Mane Attraction” also shows the bad evolving a harder edge with epic cuts like “Lights and Thunder” and “Warsong”. "It's Over" is another well done melodic song. In listening to the closing track, “Farewell To You”, I get the sense that perhaps the band had a gut feeling that the ride was coming to an abrupt end.

The record also contains a stunning instrumental called “Blue Monday”, a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. This song, like all the others on the record, is testament to the sheer brilliance of Vito Bratta as a guitarist. His retirement soon after this record is a catastrophic loss to the entire music community. Anyone know what he is doing now? As for lead singer/songwriter Mike Tramp, he’s gone on to release a number of solid solo records, and his latest work with Rock N Roll Circuz is just fantastic (see review here).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Jim Ivins Band “Everything We Wanted” [EP]

Pop rock
Richmond, Virginia pop rockers The Jim Ivins Band have released a new 7 song EP called “Everything We Wanted”, the follow up to their 2009 Ace Enders-produced self-titled set. The EP was produced by fellow Richmond native Pedro Aida (The Riot Before, Ann Berretta, Carbon Leaf), and features “Sight of Fire” as the first single (stream it here).

The Jim Ivins Band formed in 2007 and have been steadily cultivating a large base of fans hungering for their bright acoustic-based rock formula. They have shared the stage with national acts such as Parachute, Carolina Liar, The Rocket Summer, Cracker, The Ataris, Mae, Carbon Leaf, and Pat McGee Band, and showcased at the 2009 Miami Music Festival. “Everything We Wanted” draws inspiration from opening for Switchfoot and The Airborne Toxic Event; consequently, Ivins has dug deeper to carve out more emotional and reflective lyrics.

The EP begins with “Run”, which is driven by Ivins’ trademark acoustic strumming, accentuated with some funky wah pedal in the verses. The chorus is a dream – so bright and sunny you might need to apply sunscreen while listening to it. “The Sight Of Fire” touches on the theme of addiction…and becomes quite the addiction in the process. “Rollercoaster” gets back to the band's sentimental side, touching on the ups and downs permeating our relationships. The EP continues to impresses as it comes to a close with the optimistic rocker “It’s Getting Better” and the contemplative title track. The only dispensable item here is the aimless but thankfully brief “Emergency”.

In short, another big winner for the Jim Ivins Band and a treat for those of us who are missing the heyday of bands like Crowded House, Toad The Wet Sprocket, and Vertical Horizon.

The Jim Ivins Band - Facebook

Monday, March 19, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

UNRULY CHILD “Unruly Child” (1992)

Unruly Child was formed by Mark Free after Signal split up in 1989. Bruce Gowdy and Guy Allison joined him after they left World Trade. Musically, they continued the AOR path that was derived from Signal's sound and mixed it with the glam sound of Giant and some Bon Jovi. Mark Free, whom later transformed into Marcie Free, definitely has one of the truly magical voices and he's the shining star of this album.

The ultimate reason to buy this album is because of Free's voice singing two insanely beautiful tunes, "Who Cries Now" and "Is It Over". While "Who Cries Now" is more of an uptempo track with an unbelievably awesome chorus, "Is It Over" puts their tender side ahead. You can hear the sadness and emotion wrapped tight inside the arrangement - this is the type of song that'll be loved by many, and is it very nostalgic.

Some other wonderful tracks to check out include the ballad "To Be Your Everything", which features a superb sing-along chorus; "When Love Is Gone" – with another stunning delivery by Free; "Wind Me Up", a great hard rock effort by the band; and "Lay Down Your Arms", a groovy midtempo song with a strong chorus. The rest are also listenable, although nothing is really spectacular, with "Tunnel of Love" and "Long Hair Woman" being the worst fillers.

The production level is very good and you can catch every detail of Mark Free's great voice. The band's musicianship is quite decent, but Gowdy did throw in some memorable riffs and solos. For fans of AOR, pop-metal, or Mark Free, the debut of Unruly Child is undoubtedly their greatest release. It has been out of print for a long time, so it's gonna be a tough job looking for this in the market.

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Under Cover: Eye of The Tiger

The Temptations “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor)

Check out this rendition of Survivor’s classic, “Eye of the Tiger”, performed by The Temptations at the Oscars in 1982!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Sunstorm “Emotional Fire”

Melodic rock/AOR
Joe Lynn Turner is back with the third album from his Sunstorm project, entitled “Emotional Fire”. Joe Lynn Turner, who has a voice like Jimi Jamison (Survivor), is no stranger to both fans of classic rock as well as AOR - his career began in the legendary bands Fandango and Rainbow, and then he worked with the likes of Deep Purple and Yngwie Malmsteen. Interspersed in all of this work, he has built a solid fan base around his solo career (his first solo album was 1985’s “Rescue You”).

Sunstorm released their self-titled debut in 2006 and followed this up with “House of Dreams” 3 years later. Each became instant favorites in melodic rock circles. “Emotional Fire” is poised to add another favorite to the catalogue. The third album draws inspiration from various sessions Turner did in the 80’s as background vocalist for other artists. Consequently, Turner has redone Michael Bolton’s AOR gems such as “Gina” (originally included on “The Hunger” album, where Turner contributed with background vocals), and the title track, which Bolton penned for Cher’s “Heart of Stone” album (Turner performed background vocals on that record too). “Emotional Fire” also contains some great songs written by Soren Kronkvist (Crash the System, Issa), Tom and James Martin (Vega, Sunstorm, Khymera) and Daniel Palmqvist (Xorigin, The Murder of My Sweet).

The album blasts into action with the energetic anthem of encouragement, “Never Give Up”, which quickly reminds us of Turner’s startling vocal prowess. The part-ballad, part-arena rocker “Lay Down Your Arms” is quite captivating, exuding a darker edge without compromising on melody. “You Wouldn’t Know Love” and “Wish You Were Here” are spot on throwbacks to the golden age of 80s AOR. Additional highlights include “Follow Your Heart” and “Torn In Half”.

As expected, Turner turns in another AOR winner the likes of Journey, Survivor, and Night Ranger and I give it a strong recommendation for fans of the melodic rock genre.

Joe Lynn Turner - Official site.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Were Robbed – Richie Sambora

"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!

Richie Sambora has gotten plenty of love in the context of Bon Jovi, but his first solo record, 1991’s “Stranger In This Town”, didn’t capitalize on his fame to the extent that I expected. The record barely cracked the top 40 on the Billboard charts and its rousing lead single, “Ballad Of Youth” struggled to reach a dismal 63 on the singles chart. The subsequent singles, the soulful ballad “One Light Burning” and title track, didn’t even chart. Admittedly, the choice of singles was a bit perplexing, and probably has a lot to do with why the album wasn’t as warmly received as similar melodic rock records dominating the time period.

“Stranger In This Town” contains plenty of Bon Jovi-ish anthems (for example, “Ballad of Youth” and “Rosie”), but infuses the blues and a touch of soul that distinguish it from his day job output. In fact, the one and only Eric Clapton guests on the track, “Mr. Blueman”. Sambora’s voice harmonizes with Jon Bon Jovi perfectly, but this record shows he can stand on his own vocally. His voice also has more of an everyday man’s quality to it that exudes a charm all on its own.

Two of my favorite cuts on his debut solo record are saved until the end. “Father Time” is a huge power ballad that continues to resonate with me to this day, and “The Answer” is a rare and beautiful acoustic treat that makes us wonder why Sambora doesn’t put down his electric guitar more often.

Some other cool bits of trivia – Randy Jackson (American Idol dawg judge) played bass on “One Light Burning”, Desmond Child co-wrote “Rosie” and “Father Time”, and Dean Fasano (Message/Prophet) contributing backing vocals.

Bottom line: I would take this solo release from Sambora over any of Jon Bon Jovi’s solo efforts. This record is no "New Jersey", but surely should have performed much better than it did.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Brixton Riot “Palace Amusements”

“More power, less pop” is the mantra of Brixton Riot, a New Jersey quartet readying their new record, “Palace Amusements” for release. This full-length record follows the band’s 2007 debut EP, “Sudden Fiction”, which helped to grow a solid fanbase throughout the northeastern US. Engineer Frank Marchand (The Thermals, Bob Mould) was behind the mixing board for the new release.

The songs of Brixton Riot are lyrically sharp, and the band creates a sonic landscape that is very reminiscent of the post-grunge era. Bands back then were rediscovering melody but weren’t quite ready to surrender the gritty guitar tones. It’s not unusual to hear juxtapositions of 70s powerpop and classic garage rock even on the same song. Many of the tunes revolve around life as a modern musician, but anyone who is working for a living is going to relate to the themes the band puts under the microscope.

Among the highlights is the energetic and catchy lead off track “Signal To Noise”, the driving rocker “Hard To See The Sun”, the savory “Canvas Shoes”, and the sweet satire of “Hipster Turns 30”.

With its heady blend of Lemonheads meets Gin Blossoms, Brixton Riot sounds like a long lost friend from the late 90s alt rock scene. Both the vocals and the songwriting style remind me of The Caulfields a great deal. “Palace Amusements” will be available March 13 on Modern Hymnal Recordings.

Brixton Riot – Official site. Bandcamp.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Melodic rock CD of the week

By Stephen Kasenda

WHITE WIDDOW “Serenade” (2011)

Melbourne-based melodic rockers WHITE WIDDOW return with even stronger output in 'Serenade'. Sounding almost identical to their debut, the band kicks up the bar to a higher level with a more polished sound and well-crafted songs in the vein of Def Leppard's Hysteria/Adrenalize era, wrapped up with European smooth AOR.

You can't find any fillers here - if you're really a fan of AOR, really it's just amazing to hear some heartburning songs like 'Cry Wolf', 'Strangers In The Night', or 'Serenade'. Granted there are few weaker songs such as 'Show Your Cards' or 'Mistake', but even those songs are still enjoyable. 'Do You Remember' is the most obvious Leppardized track, 'Reckless Night' is flawless, and 'How Far I Run' is also stunning (although the chorus is too similar to JOURNEY's 'Never Walk Away').

This album is full of sugar-coated hooks and sing-along choruses that might remind you to the hey-day of arena rock back in the 80s…and the production is excellent. Definitely better than the debut, a 90% from me that got it into my final top ten list last year. Superb!

Read more of Stephen’s features at MetalMusicArchives.