Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Big Truck Keeps On Rollin'


Hello and welcome to my new segment called Meister Music.  I often get new music cross my desk from record companies or from my own personal musical searches and adventures.  I thought that this would be a good place to review and post my thoughts on some of this music, maybe turning you onto some new bands or reminding you about some old favourites.  Some of the albums may not always be to my specific taste in music, but I'll give you my honest opinions.  Some of it may not even be the most current as I try to introduce you to some lesser known bands that have crossed my path and become favourites of my listening rotation.  Please feel free to leave me comments and suggestions as you see fit, it would be great to start a discussion of some of these albums.
For my first venture with Meister Music, I thought I’d begin with something new that I just discovered.  I had never heard of this band and just blindly spun the album from a download that I'd received.  I was hooked almost immediately less than halfway through the first song and being a
supporter of music, I have now pre-ordered the actual CD due out May 14th, 2013!  Usually when I'm listening to music at home, I have it on as I'm writing or doing something around the house, so it doesn't always get my full attention.  The way this grabbed me, all else ground to a halt as I got into the song and started to tap on my desk.  The album I was listening to based on a random clicking out of the five new recordings that I had recently received was Trucker Diablo’s Songs Of Iron and if you've not heard of these boys previously, pay attention, you'll thank me later!  The first track was called "Red Light On" and as I said, it hooked me right away.  Starting with a little guitar riff and then pounding in with the rhythm section driving the beat, this is the kind of thundering anthem track that forces your fist in the air!  This is just the kind of rock that I love, dirty, gritty straight up working man’s tunes reminding me of bands like American Dog, Rhino Bucket and especially Planet 9.

I immediately popped onto the internet as I was groovin’ to their beat and searched out some info on this Trucker Diablo band that I'd never heard of until now.  This statement appeared on their website and also the Facebook page “Heavy melodies firmly planted on a foundation of steamroller
rock n' roll aggression is the fuel behind the latest offering from Northern Ireland export, Trucker Diablo. Songs of Iron picks up where the breakthrough hit album, The Devil Rhythm left off, blasting listeners with the sonic fury of modern heavy rock mixed with a road worn southern swagger. After releasing two viral videos ("Drink Beer, Destroy," and "Voodoo") taking the stage at Hard Rock Hell, Download, and opening for The Foo Fighters amongst others, Trucker Diablo surged to new heights of popularity in 2012. Now 2013 finds the band upon their international acclaim by cranking out another set of pile driving melodic rockers. Songs of Iron, ups the ante on heaviness, crunching guitars and sing-along chorus, and is sure to please Trucker fans the world over, new and old.”  Wow….sounds to me like I should have heard of these guys before, but no matter I'm on board now!

The second cut, "Year Of The Truck" starts out with furious crunchy guitars and by the time I'd ripped through it and "The Rebel" I'd learned that the band consisted of Tom Harte on guitar and vocals, Simon Haddock also on guitar and vocals, Glenn Harrison on Bass guitar and Terry Crawford rounding out the line-up behind the kit.  The boys started Trucker Diablo in 2008 in Northern Ireland and have cited influences by the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival  AC/DC, Metallica, Anthrax, Canadians Annihilator and Thin Lizzy, whose current vocalist is Ricky Warwick formerly of The Almighty another awesome Irish band.  They played the prestigious Download festival in 2011, had a song on Rock Band 3 for Xbox.  Played Hammerfest and the Hard Rock Hell festival in 2012 and supported both Thin Lizzy and The Foo Fighters.

"Drive" has a more commercial sound to it and I could easily hear it on rock radio stations, but it still manages to maintain the attitude and edginess of the band.  "Not So Superstar" comes back with a kick in the teeth and spits venom everywhere grinding through the track just might have your middle finger raised high in the air saying "Fuck the road" along with the chanting chorus at the end of the track.  "The Streets Run Red" groove along with a cool bass line driving the song forward.  "Lie To Me" starts off with a catchy, hooky little riff and has a sing-along chorus.  I'm not a ballad guy, but the slower pace of  "Maybe You're The One" was a nice change from the ass-kicking assault of the first half of the record and once the chorus sets in the track does justice to the band's sound once again with a great little guitar solo, something not often found in today's newer songs.

"Bulldozer" offers just what the title of the track suggests.  Right from the opening seconds prompting your hand to the volume control of your speakers, turning it steadily up and maybe even getting you out of your chair, jumping around the room air drumming and air guitaring, banging your head or maybe that's just the effect it had on me anyway!  From "Bulldozer" we move into "Rock Hallelujah", a bit more melodic of a track and has radio single written all over it while still containing some great riffs.  Track #11 was titled "Highway Radio" and its southern flavor maintains the pace of the record, whereas some others may tend to lose steam by this point.

I was expecting another slower ballad style of cut from "When's It Gonna Rain?", maybe thinking too much of Little Caesar's "I Wish It Would Rain", but it is another up-tempo rocker.  "Shame On You" is full of piss and vinegar and the beat is guaranteed to have you out of your seat and dancing.  The album closes out with "I Wanna Party With You" and once it's over, you can't help but give your ringing ears a second to rest before starting the ride all over again!

With a whopping 14 tracks, this album is nothing like most that are issued these days and only two of those tracks are under four minutes, clocking the whole ensemble in at over an hour running time!  Their website mentions a 2013 tour in the U.S. and I certainly hope they manage to squeak out a show in Toronto, Canada as well!

Songs Of Iron is set for release on May 14th in the U.S and Canada.  You can pre-order the CD through this link: TRUCKER DIABLO-SONGS OF IRON.  Do what you have to to get this CD, save your pennies, borrow the cash from your parents or even skip your mortgage payment if needs be, but please don't steal it!  You'll thank me later.

Trucker Diablo's catch phrase is "The Big Truck keeps on rolling" and I say either get on board or get out of the way 'cause this ain't slowin' down for nothin'.

Cleveland Snobs: The Rock and Roll Hall of Lame

Rolling Stone recently asked its readers who they thought the next ten bands inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be. Here are those poll results:

10. Nirvana
9. Chicago
8. Gram Parsons
7. Warren Zevon
6. Cheap Trick
5. The Moody Blues
4. Yes
3. Kiss
2. The Smiths
1. Deep Purple

Nirvana are already eligible because their first single, "Love Buzz," which was a cover of a song by The Shocking Blue, a Dutch band most famous for their 1970 hit "Venus," was released in 1988, but it would be ridiculous to induct them this early in my opinion.

From Wikipedia: "According to Billboard Chicago was the leading US singles charting group during the 1970's. They have sold over 38 million units in the US, with 22 gold, 18 platinum, and 8 multi-platinum albums. Over the course of their career they have had five number-one albums and 21 top-ten singles." I might not be a huge Chicago fan but that's impressive.

Gram Parsons was a member of The Byrds for a short time and fronted the highly influential country rock group The Flying Burrito Brothers, who opened the infamous Altamont show. Parsons also released two acclaimed solo albums before his pointless death in 1973.

Warren Zevon was a creative, unique, and talented guy.

What more needs to be said about Cheap Trick? My favorite band and undeniably one of the best and coolest rock bands ever. They are also greatly admired by their peers.

The Moody Blues have sold more than 70 million albums worldwide. They had three number one albums in the UK and four top ten albums in the US.

Yes were a very original and influential group.

We all know it's a travesty that KISS weren't inducted years ago by those elitist pricks.

The Smiths are a much beloved band and were quite influential in their own right. I'm not a huge fan but I don't dismiss or despise them the way some of you out there might.

And last but certainly not least Deep Purple are a monumentally important band in the history of rock and roll, it's an absurd joke that they weren't inducted twenty years ago and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.

Personally I wouldn't argue with the merits of any of those ten artists being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at some point, but the eternal question remains: do some of them deserve to be inducted before a slew of others I could rattle off? Rolling Stone's readers got it very right when they chose Kiss, Cheap Trick, and Deep Purple, but beyond those three here are, in my opinion, the most glaring omissions:



New York Dolls


Big Star

Thin Lizzy


Judas Priest

Iron Maiden

Def Leppard

Who have they inducted instead? Let's see. They inducted Ricky Nelson in 1987. Pretty boy TV star, wannabe Elvis, not an important or influential artist but I guess he was popular. The Allman Brothers in 1995. They have a couple platinum albums but give me a break. Joni Mitchell in 1997. I can't stand her music. Santana in 1998. I despise their music. Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, and Earth Wind & Fire in 2000. Give me a fucking break with these three. Steely Dan in 2001. I truly hate their music. Isaac Hayes in 2002. What exactly is rock and roll, anyways? Jackson Browne and Traffic in 2004. Boooooooooooooring. Jann Wenner inducted him-fucking-self in 2004! Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2012. What an insult. This year it's Donna Summer. Are you fucking kidding me? 

I like the Pretenders a lot, but should they be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Deep Purple? How the fuck is Leon Russell in there before Kiss? It's completely ludicrous. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a haughty clique. It's a pathetic disgrace. Now should I tell you what I really think?

More important bands they've missed:

Blue Cheer

The Raspberries


Blue Oyster Cult



T. Rex


The Runaways

Joan Jett



Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads

Ronnie James Dio

Mötley Crüe

Bon Jovi

A strong argument could also be made for: Styx, Boston, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Bryan Adams, The Knack, and I hate to admit it but obviously Ted Nugent. Also since Patti Smith and Talking Heads are in, among others, how about the rest of that CBGB's scene (Richard Hell, Television, Dead Boys, etc).

At this point the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a sad joke. I think it would be a great thing to have a Rock and Roll museum that chronicles the history of one of humanity's greatest cultural achievements, and it seems to me that's what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in theory, aspires to (or should aspire to) be. The problem is they are doing it wrong. Way wrong. There is a clear bias against hard rock and heavy metal. They don't have a problem inducting Earth Wind & Fire and Run DMC but not Judas Priest and Iron Maiden because they don't respect Priest and Maiden, they don't get it, personal preference and snobbery clearly play a role in the charade. It's 2013, Judas Priest should be in the fucking Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There is no debate to be had. Judas Priest are not in because the dickheads running the show think Bonnie Raitt was more important and influential to the history of rock? They couldn't possibly believe that. They are either woefully ignorant, living in a box, or pretentious assclowns. I can only assume that the disrespect shown to such undeniably historically significant bands as Deep Purple, Kiss, and Judas Priest is the result of some sort of twisted rock puritanism. The Rock Hall comes across as pompous and condescending. That is why so many rock fans despise the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and what it appears to stand for. It's an exclusive club and heavy metal bands are the outcasts. Fine, if they want a lame ass museum that caters to tourists who need plaques to help them differentiate between the Beatles and the Stones, that's what they'll have. It's too far gone to ever gain the respect of real rock fans anyway, but I think that's very unfortunate. I would love to see a real rock and roll museum devoted to the true history of rock instead of a contemptuous sham devoted to one biased, limited version of that history. Instead of a real tribute to rock we get this trite mausoleum. Smug, vain, imperious, insolent--yeah, I googled synonyms for arrogant.

According to their website: 

"The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum exists to collect, preserve and interpret the impact rock has made on our world." 

Exactly how huge does the impact of heavy metal have to be on the world before these cavalier turds figure out that it deserves its rightful place in their dubious shrine?

I know you didn't ask, but here's how I would have responded to the poll if I was a Rolling Stone reader. In a perfect world these bands would already be in, but here are my next ten that should go in since they aren't in already.

10. Def Leppard

9. Iron Maiden

8. Slade

7. Judas Priest

6. Thin Lizzy

5. MC5

4. New York Dolls

3. Cheap Trick

2. Kiss

1. Deep Purple

In all honesty my list is biased as well. I just like Slade and Def Leppard too much not to include them but I will concede that a band like Badfinger really should be inducted before Slade or even Maiden.

In the end the real response to any story about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should probably be...Who cares? But they've gone too far in their dismissal of heavy metal. I think we should make a stink. Mike McCready said on That Metal Show that if Pearl Jam are inducted before Kiss they might refuse the honor. I'm hoping for a Ticketmaster type battle, but with a better outcome.

Who are your ten? Come tell us at https://www.facebook.com/DecibelGeek?fref=ts

Am I Evil?

New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers Diamond Head may not be a total household name like Metallica or Megadeth whom they had a huge influence on during those bands formative years, but they brought the house down in Toronto on Friday April 19th.  The venue, The Hard Luck bar was a new place on my radar screen and I had never been there before.  It was certainly unassuming from the street and had there not been some obvious metal fans and security guys out front I probably would have walked right past it without a second look.  After climbing three flights of stairs, I had no problem securing a ticket at the door and entered the small one room club.  There were a few tables, maybe 8 or 10 clustered around with the merchandise booth on the right hand side and bar on the left.  The stage was behind me as I walked in, perpendicular to the bar/merch table walls.  With only a smattering of rockers in the club I perused the merchandise table and acquired a new t-shirt and Diamond Head's latest CD, What's In Your Head? from 2007.  Joining a friend at a small round table, we obtained some beverages and chatted about last week’s U.D.O. concert and debated the suckiness of the opening bands that night.  I quite enjoyed the first band, Axxion, but it appears that I was alone in this thought.  We did both agree however that the second act, Halcyon Way was not good at all and that U.D.O. was stellar, up there with the best shows of the year so far.

Phantom, a local Toronto band was up first and I had no idea what to expect from them.  I was pleasantly surprised as they worked through their set playing original compositions such as In MetalThe Powers That Be, Killing Concubine and Riker's Beard.  I was digging the grooves of this three man outfit and by the time they got to Blood & Iron, which had a real Maiden feel to it, I had decided that I would purchase their CD if they had one on sale.  My concert going friends also echoed my sentiments, quite enjoying Phantom as well.  I looked around and saw the venue starting to fill in a little more now.  Their catchy riffs getting my head bobbing as I noticed Axxion’s guitarist Shred, drummer Alison Thunderland and vocalist Dirty D Kerr in the audience behind me.  Beyond The Sun was next on the set list and I noticed that the band had a recording of a male speaking in Asian language during the song breaks.  The singer/guitarist 
D.D. Murley, had made an earlier reference to “radio free Hong Kong” and I didn't get it then, but now I could hear the recording as he made another reference.  I'm not sure what the purpose of it was and it didn't seem to fit that well, perhaps it was some kind of over broadcast.  Phantom tore into their last song of the assault called Citizen Pain and as they ferociously played, the guitar cut out near the end of the song.  Perhaps a blown amp or something caused this, but in any case the song finished well still and the singer commented on how hard they must have rocked to cut out the guitar like that.

Cauldron was up next, another local Toronto band who took to the stage wearing tees such as Raven and Rush.  They erupted into their first track as the crowd tightened up in front of the stage.  Cauldron was heavy and seemed to have an incredible grasp on their instruments and the blistering guitar solos from Ian Chains did not get tiresome.  While vocalist and bass player Jason Decay was phenomenal on the bass, his vocals were a bit weak in my opinion.   I was informed by a concert going friend that Mr Decay was a former member of another Toronto band called Goat Horn.  During one of the short breaks between songs the guitarist, Ian Chains downed a beer and dropped kicked the empty can out into the crowd.  The move backfired a little bit as the can bounced 
off his toe sideways and smack into the face of someone in the front of the audience!  After a short pause for a broken bass pedal, the guitarist took the time to apologise to the person who was the recipient of the beer can in the face and they were under way again.  To me it’s obvious that Metallica was a big influence on this band as they smashed through their set list including tracks such as Nitebreaker, Summoned To Succumb, Burning Fortune and Conjure The Mass.  While they have some good head banging riffs and the crowd was surely enjoying it, with a small mosh pit even breaking out, they were not really my style.  They ended their set and the guitarist actually passed his guitar out into the crowd and I watched closely as it crowd surfed around a few minutes before returning to him on the stage.

The reason for the evening was next on deck and the crowd was tighter than I have seen at concerts of late as we stood to the right of centre stage planned to be in front of Brian Tatler, the magic behind Diamond Head.  As I looked around I noticed that C.C. Diemond, guitarist for one of my favourite local bands, Diemonds was in the audience as well.  The musicians of Diamond Head came on stage starting into Play It Loud and lead vocalist Nick Tart, replacement for original crooner Sean Harris joined a few moments later attempting a dramatic entrance with the delay I suppose.  As they ripped into song number two, I Feel No Pain, I was loving the sound!  They were bang on musically, to my untrained and partially deafened due to years of loud Diamond Head ears.  Bassist Eddie Moohan was all smiles, obviously having fun as was Brian Tatler, both occasionally pointing at someone in the audience with my newly acquired diamond head t-shirt getting a thumbs up from both.  By the time they 
started into their third cut, Dead Reckoning, I had the thought that this was certainly the most raucous crowd I've seen at a show in a long time.  I was surprised at the crowd reaction, but pleased to see that these Brits could still get the crowd going strong, enhancing the possibility of keeping them alive recording and playing.  Come Alive from 2005's All Will Be Revealed and To Heaven From Hell from 1981's To Heaven From Hell proved that Nick Tart was a great fit as successor to Sean Harris and his voice was in top form, sounding great on the classic material as well as the newer compositions.  While The Hard Luck Bar was a good place for a small intimate show with good sound, the stage seemed to be too small for the quintet of Englishmen as they navigated around each other.  Diamond Head continued to rip through their set list serving up In The Heat Of The Night and Shoot Out The Lights next, one of my personal favourite Diamond Head cuts.  The crowd kept getting whipped more and more into a frenzy as a small contingent nearby began
a bit of moshing.  As the pushing surge from behind escalated and it became tougher to hold my position in front of Brian Tatler, I eventually had to “tap out” at the end of Shoot Out The Lights, not because I couldn't take it but more that I was tired and the surge from behind was slamming my legs against the couple of feet high stage causing bruises on my quads.  I  just didn't have the energy after a near 60 hour work week to repel the onslaught any longer. I above anyone understand the frenzy of live music, but one thing I can’t stand is people who push their way up front like that, if you want to be up front then get there early and stop being an asshole!! But such is part of concert going and I had to use the facilities and get a beer any ways, plus my two friends had already retreated.  As I hung towards the rear of the crowd, catching It's Electric and Give It To Me from the great All Will Be Revealed CD, I was watching the odd
person crowd surfing and picked off that one of them was Axxion’s lead singer Dirty D Kerr.  Nick Tart took a second to mention their visit here in 2011 when they played at the Heavy T.O. festival, but I already knew he would mention this as you could see the note circled on the top of the set list positioned by the drum riser.  Diamond Head saved their best or most known songs for the end of the set with Sucking My Love, The Prince and Am I Evil? being the last tracks of the night including encore.  All in all an excellent performance by these Brits and I shake my head that they were/are not a bigger household name.  A huge influence on bands like Metallica, who have openly stated this on many occasions and even covered a number of their songs and I'm told that Dave Mustaine even thanks Brian Tatler in the credits in every album (although I have not verified this) and yet the bright light of huge stardom has tragically not shone more brightly upon Diamond Head.

NWOBHM pioneers Diamond Head rolled into Toronto on Friday April 19th and destroyed the Hard Luck Bar in one of the most raucous high energy shows I've seen this year and I hope they come back again soon.

The Meister

Now Hear This: Thin Lizzy - Chinatown


     Thin Lizzy are one of my favorite bands of all time, despite the fact that I hardly even like their first four albums. Of course they were an entirely different band on the first three but the classic line up of Phil Lynnott, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson, and Brian Downey was in place by the time fourth album Nightlife was put together, I just don't like Nightlife very much. Most of the material is too mellow and...boring, I guess. It wasn't until fifth album Fighting that the band morphed into a rock juggernaut that would churn out seven killer records between 1975 and 1981. 

     Obviously Phil Lynnott was the heart and soul of Thin Lizzy but the Thin Lizzy sound was defined by the twin lead attack of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on Fighting, Jailbreak, and Johnny The Fox. In 1977 Brian Robertson injured his hand and was replaced by Gary Moore for a two month North American jaunt opening for Queen (if I had a time machine...). Moore was more interested in pursuing a solo career and opted out of participating in the band's next album, Bad Reputation, and Scott Gorham wound up playing most of the guitar parts himself. Brian Robertson apparently rejoined late in the process and may appear on one or two tracks, but he does not appear on the album's unfortunate cover. Robertson did accompany the band on the subsequent tour supporting the album, which resulted in the Live & Dangerous record, but he was fired by Lynnott at the end of the tour. As the story goes Phil and Robertson just couldn't get along and Robertson had only managed to remain a part of the band as long as he had because Scott Gorham continually lobbied on his behalf. Gorham knew there was gold in them there guitar harmonies. 

     Gary Moore returned for more North American dates with Kansas and Blue Oyster Cult and remained with the group through the recording of the next album, Black Rose, but he reportedly lost patience with Phil's substance abuse issues and resulting sloppy performances and quit in the middle of the Black Rose tour. Moore was temporarily replaced by Midge Ure from Slik and the Rich Kids and then by Dave Fett, formerly with Manfred Mann's Earth Band. With the tour completed the band found themselves once again minus a guitar player. Phil and Gorham kept themselves entertained by playing gigs with a punk side project called The Greedies:

     Phil also found the time to record and release his first solo album, Solo in Soho. 

     At some point Phil and Scott Gorham found themselves in the audience for a Pink Floyd performance of The Wall at Madison Square Garden and both were impressed by the band's touring guitarist, Terence Charles "Snowy" White. They approached him about joining Lizzy and even though he wasn't a hard rocker Snowy took the plunge.

     It seems like Black Rose is the last universally highly regarded Thin Lizzy album but with Snowy White installed and a new twin lead attack in place the band released two more great albums, in my opinion, the first of which is 1980's Chinatown. The album bursts out of the gate with one of my favorite Thin Lizzy songs, a wonderful call to arms called "We Will Be Strong."

     Song number two is the title track, a riff-heavy Lizzy classic. Phil Lynott's artistry is fully on display for these two opening tracks.

     Next up is an excellent pop number called "Sweetheart." I suspect Phil could write this kind of song in his sleep, which is not a dig against Phil or the song, quite the opposite I think it would fit snugly on side one of Jailbreak.

     Side One of Chinatown closes out with a driving rocker called "Sugar Blues" and an atmospheric punk-infused tune called "Killer On The Loose," both decent songs but not as great as the first three.

     Side Two opens with a fun rocker called "Having a Good Time." It's no "Emerald" but I like it.

     Next up is a slightly odd five minute treatise on the near genocide committed against the Native Americans and the concurrent indiscriminate slaughter of the buffalo. It's an important message to deliver but the song brings the album to a screeching halt. There's a time and a place, Phil! That song is followed by a pleasant ballad called "Didn't I." Any flaws that might exist in the production of the album are most apparent on this gentle track. It's a nice song, nonetheless.

     The album closes with a killer tune called "Hey You," my second favorite song on the record. "We Will Be Strong" and "Hey You" bookend the album magnificently.

     And there you have it, a really good album in my opinion and one that seems to slip through the cracks more often than not when Thin Lizzy is discussed. It could have been an even better record if they'd replaced "Genocide (Killing of the Buffalo)" with the excellent "Don't Play Around," which ended up on the b-side of the "Killer on the Loose" single.

     The band recorded one more album with Snowy White, 1981's Renegade, and it's almost as good as Chinatown. Snowy was replaced by John Sykes, who was between gigs (with Tygers of Pan Tang and Whitesnake) for what would be the last Thin Lizzy album, Thunder & Lightning. The band adopted a more metal sound for that record and while it contains a couple decent tracks it's not a great record in my opinion. After Lizzy disbanded Lynott formed a new group called Grand Slam and recorded some very strong material before his tragic death in 1986 (he was only 36 years old). One Grand Slam tune, "Dedication," was included on a 1991 compilation called Dedication: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy. It's a wonderful song and a great way to close out the article. Enjoy.


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