Friday, May 31, 2013

League Of Rock - The Training Wheels Are Off!


Back for another installment on my own personal "Rock Star" journey. Last night was practice number 2 at the Rehearsal Factory in Toronto.

This last week was spent jamming out on our songs along with my CD's and emailing back and forth trying to really get a handle on what our 4th song was going to be. Last week we left practice with a pretty clear decision that Pearl Jam's Black filled the final spot, but as we packed up our gear that night a couple other suggestions were thrown into the pot.

At some point on Sunday the emails started flowing once again to discuss our song choices and the Janis Joplin tune "Move Over" was brought up once again. This was one of the very first songs that was mentioned back during our Jab night. Absolutely loving that song I thought it was perfect, until I got home and looked at it. That idea was subsequently dropped as I deemed it to be completely put of my wheelhouse. As mentioned before, I am no Geddy Lee on the bass and didn't want to embarrass myself and my band.

I was now in a serious dilemma, I love the song, I know it would totally showcase Laurie's vocals and would work well with our other three songs BUT! I really wasn't sure if I could make it work. I told the guys that I didn't want to be the reason we weren't considering this song but I didn't even know where to begin. I suggested maybe we could use this week's coach to possibly teach me the basics for this song so we could at least attempt it.

The guys in the band really encouraged me, and suddenly I felt it was gut check time. I didn't want to let them down and I needed to learn this song. Tuesday was my day off from work and I began the somewhat painful process of trying to piece this baseline together. I will say that I called Janis more than a few bad names  but little by little I "Frankenstein'd" the song together. Suddenly it started to gel and dammit, it started to feel good. I decided to celebrate my own personal victory by heading downtown on a mission. I ordered my own custom, one of a kind "SHINE" World Tour 2013 T-Shirt. C'mon, if I am going to be in a band I better have my own tour shirt.

I was pumped and ready to roll for our next practice as we unpacked out gear into the "Legends" room at the Rehearsal Factory. We tuned up and got to right work on our first tune which would set the frustrating tone for most of the evening.

Personally I struggled to find the groove. I know we made some headway in the right direction but it wasn't until late into the night that I started to flirt with that euphoric feeling I felt the previous week. It just never quite got there.

Bass Coach Amanda Bentley discussing the importance of "Bassface"

Our coach this week was Amanda Bentley, and in my opinion she really imparted some great wisdom and being a bass player herself she shared a few techniques and pointers for me and our drummer that we will certainly get to work on. One of the most important lessons she taught me was to embrace my  "bass face" and feel the song. I should have recorded her saying this as my daughter teases me about my expressions while I practice. So now I know the "bassface" is not only me! Thanks Amanda, and sorry Meagan I am not constipated, I am feeling the song.

After that we chugged along, working through all of our 4 songs with varying degrees of success. It dawned on me that playing with other musicians is so very different than my time at home with my CD's. I can only relate it to riding a bicycle. At home my Cd's are the training wheels, their perfection is my safety net and when I go off track I can always find my way back. With the band the training wheels are off and in the words of David Lee Roth, "We's a freewheelin"!

This is where I found myself this week. We seemed to be following one another and as someone slid off the track, we tended to all follow and the road got bumpy sometimes derailing completely. Nobody said this was going to be easy, hell if it was we'd all be rock stars. When I left practice it was clear, I have a lot more to learn before I hit the stage but I am more determined than ever to learn to ride without the training wheels. In the words of Bon Scott, "It's a long way to the top, if you want to rock n roll!"....

Drum Wars.....or is it Geek Wars?


A few weeks ago The Canadian Decibel Geeks (well, I guess I have to be careful now as Wally and I are the "original Canadian Decibel Geeks", having been recently joined by my friend Kate Campbell as our newest writer.  Kate was also hoping to join us this night, but prior commitment prevented it), Wallygator and The Meister headed out to catch Drum Wars showing at The Rockpile Bar & Nightclub in Etobicoke Ontario. This review is rather late in it's posting and both Wally and I apologise for that as we were having issues surrounding our conflicting schedules to meet up and hash out our own "Geek Wars".

I would like to point out that the evening of May 10th provided me with a real dilemma  Soon after getting word of Drum Wars, I also found out that Motley Crue would also be performing nearby on the same night. Having already confirmed the Drum Wars show I was suddenly pained to realize the compromise I would have to make. Motley Crue was my first ever concert and I haven't missed many of their shows for any reason.

Both Wally and I were no strangers to Vinny Appice, having seen Kill Devil Hill back in August?? and having the opportunity there to meet Vinny.  Then Wally had the pleasure of doing a phone interview with him for an article on Drum Wars itself.  Drum Wars is a rock show put on by Vinny and his duelling drummer brother Carmine.  Wally was clearly in support of Vinny Appice and I rose to the challenge backing my guy in Carmine Appice.

Vinny has drummed for the likes of Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell and now Kill Devil Hill.  His older brother, Carmine has sat behind the kit for Cactus, Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, King Kobra and Blue Murder.  Quite Obviously the skin bashing skills are abound in the Appice brothers and on May 10th, 2013 they brought Drum Wars to the Rockpile.

Starsik was the first band to take to the stage with it's odd arrangement.  You see there was not a lot of room for the band given that the two drum kits of the Appices sat down on the lower level off of the drum riser and took up quite a bit of real estate.  With Starsik's drum kit crushed into the right corner of the stage they blasted through their opening song called Silence.  These kids were obviously from Barrie, Ontario when they announced that they had been the winners of Rock 95's (the Barrie radio station) Rock Search competition.  They were quite entertaining with funky grooves and a good stage presence.  They played musical instruments, well obviously!  But I don't mean that, more like musical chairs as the drummer shared  many of the vocals with the rhythm guitarist, but for a couple of songs the lead guitarist and bassist switched instruments.  That wasn't the end of "musical instruments" as the drummer came out from behind the kit and took up rhythm guitar while the guitarist bashed the skins.  Really fun and cool to see such talents.  Their set list included songs such as Special In My HeartFourteen MinutesThe Devil and Red, Black and Blue.  The latter was a great song and apparently has been seeing airplay on Rock 95 for about a year.  Watch for their upcoming CD due out June 15th, sure to be loaded with tons of crunchy guitar and pounding rhythms.

Violet Society was up next and I had had some previous experience with them when they opened up for local favourite Diemonds some time ago in Barrie, Ontario.  They are a little "cookie monster" in the vocal department for my tastes, but they do have a following and a friend of mine from work also works his second job with a member of the band.

A band that has come straight into the cross hairs of The Decibel Geeks is J'nai.  This band just gets better and better each time we see them.  Lead vocalist J'nai's wacky dance moves and intensity on stage are winning over audiences every time they play.  The rest of the band is an incredibly tight unit and obviously practice regularly.  These kids put on a great show as well and I was happy to see them with good placement appearing right before the head liner.  A few weeks earlier they were set to open for Loudness, but when Loudness had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, I took an extra shift at work.  No sooner did I commit to that did J'nai announce that they would still be playing at the show and would do an extended set!  Dammit!  That's something that I dearly would love to see, but in any case we move on and they opened tonight with their amazing cover of Heart's Barracuda, once again blowing it away.  In The Light saw the synchronised bouncing of all four that we've come to know and love, there was hardly enough room on stage for them tonight with their
energetic moves.  My absolute favourite song Skipping Stones brought the simultaneous kicks in the air, it might be gimmicky a bit, but I love every minute of J'Nai's new and fresh live show.  They dedicated Defeat Them All to Toronto's hockey team (who had just won their game that night, but would shortly thereafter be put out of the play-off's) and the guitarists performed their signature guitar switch, where they each toss their instrument at the other, catch it and continue playing!  Closing out with Guns n' Roses classic Welcome To The Jungle or as J'nai sung "You're at The Rockpile baby" was the perfect end to another awesome set!

The lights dimmed and the show began with a wresting style intro announcing both duelling drummer brothers and their accomplishments. Brothers will be brothers and Vinny certainly set the tone of the evening with his intro tape introduction that had Carmine weighing in at over 300 pounds! This sense of humour would continue throughout the show. The drum sticks were twirling in the air and the synchronisation of the brothers was awesome to watch from our vantage point down in front of the stage.  Then the sticks flew between each other as they attempted the exchange in a rather entertaining "Three Stooges" style of move.  The pounding version of Mob Rules that they treated us to with both of the brothers drumming in incredible synchronisation gave the song a new life of its' own.

Then the duets were over and Carmine vacated his seat behind his set as Vinny showed his prowess with the assistance of the band that they had brought with them featuring Eddy Levitsky on bass, Manuel Iradian with the guitar and Nick Guerin handling the mike.  They ripped through the Dio classic Holy Diver and I was reminded of the recent announcement that Vinny would be joining Dio Disciples when they hit The Rockpile in July.  Carmine was not totally out of the picture as he assisted on the vocals with Mr. Guerin.  "Anything you want to hear?", Vinny addressed the crowd afterwards.  The response was met with a resounding chant of We Rock, on which they promptly accommodated  Carmine still assisting on vox.

Ok, I am clearly a member of Team Vinny for one simple little reason, I love Carmine too but that little reason is simply - Ronnie James Dio. Whether it be Black Sabbath, Dio or Heaven and Hell, the combination of Ronnie and Vinny is magical and gives me goosebumps that very few bands can. Hearing these songs "Mob Rules, Holy Diver and We Rock" live once again was simply amazing and I declared Vinny the winner right then and there \m/!

Before much else could take place we had to call in the drum tech as Vinny broke a snare.  Vinny's eleven year older brother Carmine now seated once again behind his kit passed a snare from his rig over to his brother adding, "what are brothers for?" as they joked back and forth.  We were next treated to the dual drumming of both brothers on an updated heavy version of the Flintstones Theme song before Carmine got his chance to impress with a little solo and some stick tapping, getting us to follow his movements with our clapping hands.

Carmine then called for us to out do the cheers for Dio as he rolled into Ozzy Osbourne's Bark At The Moon and the singer, Nick Guerin sounded really very good, even having Ozzy's tell tale laugh down pat.  A song that Carmine co-wrote and went to #1 in every country was next up and the heavy rock sound of this version of Rod Stewart's Do You Think I'm Sexy? sounded awesome as Carmine sung the verses. 

With Vinny's snare issues finally repaired we were treated to dual drummers again for Black Sabbath's Lady Evil. Ok this might have been the highlight of the evening for me as having two of the greatest drummers driving one of my favourite Sabbath songs ever was magical. There is nothing quite like the sound of two drum kits in perfect synch.

This led into a little drum stick war in which Vinny came up with some very flaccid sticks!  Vinny the gave us a solo before the brothers ripped into a tribute to Ozzy with Crazy Train as they had both played with him, something that I did not know previously.  Again the singer sounded good on Crazy Train and the guitarist, Manuel Iradian was no slouch either.  For the encore the brothers switched kits and pounded out Black Sabbath's Paranoid followed by Cactus's Evil.

Wally and I, feeling elated by this excellent performance decided to follow suit with the brothers as there was no clear winner in the war, (I still say Vinny won) we declared each of winners for having seen the show and celebrated our successes with another frosty adult beverage.

No doubt about it, the Appice brothers are rock royalty and the history of the music they have been involved with is undeniable. I can't even count the number of times I have seen one or the other live, with Dio, King Kobra, Heaven and Hell, Blue Murder, Kill Devil Hill and every show has been spectacular. The chance to see them both on the same night, up close and personal was a once in a lifetime treat that I will cherish forever. The fact that I missed a Motley Crue show on the same night was no longer a crisis. The Rockpile was the place to be on May 10th, 2013

Wallygator & The Meister

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Meister Music #8 - The New Black


Photo credit - Wench Wendy
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.  Like what I say or think I'm an idiot?  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.

The New Black seemed to me to be rather an odd name as I scrolled through the list of new releases sent to me from the record company, but I thought what the hell and gave it a quick spin to see if it was any good.  Good Morning!!!  It was quite good and I found myself easily listening to the album cover to cover on the inaugural run.

The album is titled III: Cut Loose, thereby implying that this is their third recording and my deductive reasoning powers were tip top as that was exactly correct   These Germans got together in 2009 and so far have released a self titled début and the secondary effort II: Better In Black, both of which have now worked their way into the top ten on my wish list of CD's to own.  I love discovering new bands and The New Black is a great one.  The New Black is comprised of Fludid handling vocal duties, Christof Liem and Fabian Schwarz wailing the guitars, Gunt
Auschrat plunking the bass and Chris Weiss bashing the skins.  The New Black have set the stage, opening up for the likes of AC/DC, Alter Bridge, Volbeat and Black Label Society.  On the band's Facebook page the second release is described as follows: .This is our kind of party: Black Label Society bring the booze, Pantera spice it up, Thin Lizzy add some taste, and Alter Bridge smooth it over before Metallica turn it black... And you can be there, too, with the second album by The New Black...  Sounds pretty intriguing to me, so if that's what they say about the second album, let's spin III: Cut Loose and see what we find contained therein.

The album blasts off with Innocence & Time sounding very Motorheadish and making you sit up and take notice right away, like an awakening.  The second track, Count Me In, shows off the band's love of rock with huge riffs and the power of a great song and this groovy anthem moves along nicely.  The powerful stompers Muzzle & Blinkers and Superhuman Mission are sure to have your fists in the air and maybe even a little air-drumming with a couple of pencils....or was that just my reaction?  The title track Cut Loose oozed out of my speakers next, dripping with 80's melody and groove and the appearance of a harmonica to boot.  The next song, Any Colour You Like (As Long As It's Black) while being a sort of theme song for
The New Black could also be easily heard on rock radio with its' catchy sing along chorus.  From there we head into groovy, funky, pounding beat of Burning D followed by high energy and catchy  hooky riffs of Not Quite That Simple.  With it's biting grooves, Sharkpool is a stand out track and quickly becoming my favourite on the record.  The Texas twang beginning of The Unexpected Truth throws another flavour into the mix for another potential radio hit.  The "piss-off" attitude of One Thing I Know seethes through the speakers.  We finish up the album with Antidote and the furious pounding of the cut leaves you wishing there was more as you hit play and start again.

I was pleasantly surprised with the stylish mix of both modern metal and vintage rock and roll (as they have been described), the heavy melodies, abundant catchy riffs and grooves making this a muscular offering that is meaty like the finest prime cut, grade A steaks.  Check it out and crank it up!

The Meister

Monday, May 27, 2013

Now Hear This: Dirty Looks - Turn of the Screw


     Dirty Looks formed in San Fransisco in 1985 when Danish-born Henrik Ostergaard, who had tired of playing in a cover band in Pennsylvania, arrived in the Bay Area intent on forming his own band and recording original material. The band's first self-titled album was released by a French label called Axe Killer Records. Apparently disillusioned with the San Fransisco scene the band relocated back to Pennsylvania in 1986 and recorded a second album called INYOURFACE. That record and its single "Oh Ruby" got the attention of the major labels and in 1987 the band signed with Atlantic Records, who released the band's Max Norman produced major label debut, Cool From The Wire, in 1988. They got a little airplay on MTV and flirted with the Billboard charts but the album (now a cult classic) wound up in the cut-out bin. Undeterred the band soon entered the studio with producer of the moment Beau Hill to record the follow-up but were dissatisfied with the results and started over with a new producer, John Jansen, who had produced Britny Fox's hit debut the previous year. 

     Dirty Looks were one of several bands of the era (Rhino Bucket, Dangerous Toys, Johnny Crash, Nevada Beach, etc) that displayed a rather obvious AC/DC influence, but the band's second record for Atlantic, Turn of the Screw, is quite impressive in its own right. The album opens with the raucous title track, "Turn of the Screw." It's Aerosmith meets AC/DC. The song is immaculately put together.

     Up next is the single, "Nobody Rides For Free." This song might even be better than the title track, both songs are similarly constructed. Great verse with a nice singalong bit and then a very melodic chorus that rides a groovy riff.

     The band manage to inject quite a bit of melody into their nuanced take on the AC/DC brand of rock and roll. The songs are well-written and bursting with personality. Those first two songs stand out above the rest but the whole album is good. A hyper track called "C'Mon Frenchie" is followed by the in your face awesomeness of "Take What Ya Get."

     Side Two opens with a slick rocker called "L.A. Anna," nice groove and a huge chorus.

     The next song, "Slammin' to the Big Beat," is a shameless AC/DC imitation, Ostergaard sounds almost exactly like Brian Johnson on the track. After a formulaic metal tune called "Love Screams" the band deliver the requisite ballad, "Go Away," not surprisingly the worst song on the album. The album ends strong with a killer riff rocker called "Have Some Balls."

Dirty Looks - Have Some Balls

     The band churned out five more records between 1992 and 1996, then broke up. They regrouped in 2007 and released a few more albums, unfortunately Henrik Ostergaard passed away in 2011 at the age of 47.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Episode 86 - In Memory Of.....


While the Decibel Geek Podcast definitely caters to a worldwide audience, this week marks a very important holiday to Americans in Memorial Day. We thought we would put our own spin on this theme with our own memorial show in the vein of hard rock and heavy metal.

To make things crystal clear, we know that we will hear complaints about who was left out of this show and we assure you that we agree. The simple fact is, so many of our rock and metal heroes have passed that it's impossible to squeeze everyone deserving into an hour format. We will definitely do this theme again next year so head over to our facebook fan page and let us know who you nominate in advance.

Kicking things off is a track by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band from 1972's Framed album. With an odd image and progressive-meets-blues sound, the band never broke through commercially but this track surely shows you what an important cog they were in the British rock scene of the early 70's.

Next up is a track from Slaughter's album The Wild Life. Tim Kelly was a standout guitarist in the early 1990's and this track makes it clear why he was a big loss to the rock community.

It's hard to believe but it's already been 3 years since we lost Ronnie James Dio. The metal community is still not over the loss of this great vocalist and a void is definitely still there. We spin a track in his honor from 1984's Last in Line album that was written by Dio all on his own.

While the offstage drama is what seems to get the most attention, Enuff Z'nuff has a staggering amount of great music in their catalog; overshadowed only by the lack of attention that it receives. Guitarist Derek Frigo and drummer Ricky Parent have both left the earth. We pay tribute by spinning a track from the Peach Fuzz album that is a good example of what they brought to the Chicago-born group.

Our next artist only recorded one full album, but it was a very memorable one. Mad Season was the 90's version of a supergroup. Formed by members of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Screaming Trees, they released Above in 1995. Featuring a sound all it's own, the album had a dynamic range of heavy emotion mixed with laid back tracks that served as a means for Layne Staley to convey is lyrics. Both Staley and bassist John Baker Saunders have since passed. In their honor we share with you a track that fits in nicely with this reflective week.

One of the most impactful losses in the metal world took place a few years ago when Dimebag Darrell was assassinated onstage at a club in Ohio. It's still difficult to wrap one's mind around such a tragic and senseless loss. We remember Dime in better times with a searing studio track that was included with the Official Live: 101 Proof album from Pantera's glory days.

Southern California's own Social Distortion has a musical history dating back to 1988. Their tight, punk-influenced sound has lasted through numerous fads and trends and the band is still performing to this day. Founding guitarist Dennis Danell died suddenly in February, 2000 from an apparent brain aneurysm at the young age of 38. We honor Danell with a track from the 1990 self-titled album.

One of the most popular episodes of the Decibel Geek Podcast, by far, was the Eric Carr discussion that we had with Eric's sister Loretta. To this day, Carr's reputation remains sterling as fans from all over the world continue to pay tribute to the former KISS drummer. We do our part with a shining example of his drumming power with a track from 1982's Creatures of the Night album.

A memorial episode wouldn't be complete without paying tribute to The Ramones. Sadly, the majority of the band members are all deceased. Their music lives on though and we pay tribute with a strong track from the Road to Ruin album.

Finishing things off is a song that Stevie Rachelle of Tuff recorded as a reaction to the death of the aforementioned Dimebag Darrell. Metal Heroes is a track that focuses on what this episode is all about; paying tribute to our heroes from the rock and metal universe. It only seemed fitting as a way to end this week's show.

This week's episode is dedicated to the memory of Slayer guitarist, Jeff Hanneman.

Buy Music!

Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Enuff Z'nuff
Mad Season
Social Distortion

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Now Hear This: Goo Goo Dolls - Hold Me Up


     Do you think Kiss should be judged based solely on "Let's Put the X in Sex?" Should Def Leppard's career be summed up by Adrenalize? Then don't be so quick to write off the Goo Goo Dolls.

Click song titles for links!

     Did you know that the Goo Goo Dolls formed in Buffalo, NY in 1986 and used to be a punk band? Did you know that the band's first album came out in 1987 on a small metal label called Mercenary Records and that bassist Robby Takac sang every song? My favorite is "Livin' In A Hut." Did you know that none other than Brian Slagel and Metal Blade released the band's next two albums, Jed in 1989 and Hold Me Up in 1990? Did you know that both albums are fucking great? Jed is a raucous record full of blazing pop punk tunes like "Out of Sight" and "No Way Out." Takac still handled vocal duties on most of the songs on Jed but by the time of Hold Me Up guitarist John Rzeznik was becoming a driving force behind the band. Even though Takac was still responsible for some of the best songs on the Hold Me Up Rzeznik began to display a knack for writing potential hits that would obviously come to the fore later on.

     Hold Me Up was produced by Armand John Petri, whose resume pre-Goo Goo Dolls consisted of engineering hard rock/metal albums by Talas, The Rods and Manowar. The first song on Hold Me Up is a majestic pop punk number called "Laughing," written and sung by bassist Robby Takac. It's a tremendous way to open the album and a contender for my favorite song on the record. Even though Takac's vocal style is essentially to scream a lot of emotion still bleeds through, I for one think he's amazing and does the song's lyrics justice with his stirring and heartfelt delivery.

I wake up, I'm staring at the clock
my belly hurts and my head is like a rock
I get up to see what i can see
furthest I got was my black and white TV
eyewitness news brought to you at noon
oh my god, guess i got up too soon
because I feel like laughing

     Up next is the first of guitarist Johnny Rzeznik's two swing-for-the-fences potential hit singles on the album, "Just The Way You Are." It's a great song, a bit corny perhaps but...who cares. I think it's an excellent song and I connect with it emotionally. The Goo Goo Dolls were often compared with The Replacements at this stage in their career and certainly Rzeznik's goal was to inject the same kind of raw emotion into his tunes that seemed to come naturally to Paul Westerberg, the difference being Westerberg maintained a snarky aloofness, you never quite knew how far his tongue was in his cheek. Rzeznik's songs are heart on the sleeve, not heart up the sleeve. 

     Another manic punk rock rant from Takac called "So Outta Line" is followed by Rzeznik's other obvious potential hit, "There You Are." It's another great song, meticulously put together and eager to please, but not too eager. There's a measure of angst to Rzeznik's delivery which can certainly be a dealbreaker for me in the wrong hands but Rzeznik's songs are well-written, open and honest. It pains me greatly that in this day and age the Goo Goo Dolls are lumped in with a pile of shit band like Matchbox 20. Rob Thomas doesn't sing, he whines. Thomas' calculated, fabricated angst is ludicrously affected and nauseating. Rzeznik has been responsible for some pretty disappointing material in recent years but he earned my respect long ago and has not lost it. I can't say I've liked anything off of the last couple Goo Goo Dolls records, but the songs don't make me angry the way Matchbox 20 songs do. The Goo Goo Dolls maintain a credibility, at least in my book, that jokers like Matchbox 20 never earned, in fact quite the opposite.

     The worst song on Hold Me Up, a rather boring, moody number by Rzeznik called "You Know What I Mean" that doesn't go anywhere is soon forgotten when Takac's insane "Out of the Red" explodes from the speakers. Side One ends with a joyful cover of a killer Prince tune called "Never Take the Place of Your Man." As they did on Jed with their blistering version of CCR's "Down on the Corner" the band enlist their neighbor The Incredible Lance Diamond to sing lead on the track. It's a hell of a lot of fun.

     Side Two opens with an awesome rocker called "Hey" which features Takac and Rzeznik trading lines a la "Shout It Out Loud." A great up tempo Takac tune called "On Your Side" is followed by an acoustic interlude called "22 Seconds" which is longer than 22 seconds. That snippet serves as an intro for a nice instrumental piece called "Kevin's Song," which brings us to what is probably my favorite song on the record, another hyperactive burst of pop punk adrenaline from Takac called "Know My Name." Robby shreds his vocal cords on the defiant tune. This is one to play very loud in the car and scream along.

     The album closes with an excellent cover of the Plimsouls classic "A Million Miles Away" and an absolutely wonderful acoustic ballad called "Two Days In February" which was recorded live, apparently in a parking lot (you can hear traffic). The fact that the Goo Goo Dolls found fame with a couple shitty ballads is a shame because this song is as good as it gets when it comes to heart-rending ballads, and the fact that the band is performing it in a parking lot makes it all the more endearing. It's an unbelievable and memorable way to close out the album, not to mention brave. Hold Me Up is one of my favorite albums of all time. Almost every song is a home run. On Hold Me Up the Goo Goo Dolls come across as a band making music they love for all the right reasons.

     In between albums the band were asked to write a theme song for the sixth film in the Nightmare On Elm Street series, Freddie's Dead: The Final Nightmare, at the end of which a reanimated Freddie is (SPOILER ALERT) blown to bits with a pipebomb by his own daughter. Queen's Brian May for some reason scored the film and the Goo Goo Dolls contributed a lackluster tune called "I'm Awake Now."

     The band jumped ship to Warner Brothers (Metal Blade still got a piece) for their next album, Superstar Carwash, which is a very good record. The album got a pretty big push at the time it came out but the over-hyped single "We Are The Normal," with lyrics by Paul Westerberg, was a real dud. Rzeznik began to take the reigns at this point, singing 8 of the 14 songs on the album, but Takac still delivered most of my favorites like "Lucky Star," "Domino," and "Don't Worry." The best song on the record is the last song, Rzeznik's astonishing "So Far Away."

     The song originated as a demo called "Dancing In Your Blood." Thankfully Rzeznik rewrote it! I think "So Far Away" is goddamn magnificent.

     The band's first hit, the hook-free "Name," didn't come until the next album, A Boy Named Goo, which was a let-down but still contained a couple of great songs, mainly just the first two, "Long Way Down" and "Burnin' Up." That makes two albums in a row on which the second song was a pop punk tune by Takac with the same title as an early Madonna hit (Lucky Star and Burnin' Up). Coincidence? Of course the Goo Goo Dolls are most famous for what came next, a song on the City of Angels soundtrack called "Iris." I am not a fan of the song but there were a couple of decent tracks on the subsequent record, Dizzy Up The Girl. I am especially fond of the last song on the album, "Hate This Place." Rzeznik had one more classic tune in him, the first song on the band's next album, Gutterflower. It's called "Big Machine" and I like it a lot, the chorus still gives me goosebumps. Unfortunately the rest of the album stinks.

     One of the most disappointing things about the later Goo Goo Dolls albums is the way Robby Takac's songs are neutered. How can you take a pop punk song and arrange and produce it like a modern rock song? It's horrific. Takac also reigns in his vocals. It doesn't make sense, I suppose they felt that Rzeznik's songs had drifted so far in the wrong direction that Takac's style no longer fit and Robby's songs had to be made to conform to the new Goo Goo Dolls paradigm. Very strange indeed, and disheartening. But none of that changes the fact that the Goo Goo Dolls were once a great band responsible for many outstanding songs. I hope you agree.

     Epilogue: at the time of this writing the Goo Goo Dolls have a brand new single out called "Rebel Beat." It's the worst thing the band has ever done, just awful. Embarrassing. Why why why? It's hard to imagine that the guys who did this did this.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rehearsal One League Of Rock - A Band Is Born


Before I get to the Rehearsal Factory and our first actual rehearsal, let me give you a brief recap of the past week....

When I got home from the J.A.B. (Join A Band) night, I got right to work looking at the songs that we were considering and was soon quite excited and also concerned. Was I going to be able to learn some of these songs? Rock n Roll is supposed to be fun but I do not want to let my band mates down and I am determined to play our songs to the best of my ability but I am no Geddy Lee on the bass.

The band and I used e-mail to bounce ideas around and issue our concerns with each other. We were also able to toss extra songs into the "consideration" pile and quite honestly remove a couple that we didn't think we could pull together in our limited time frame.

As I mentioned in last week's article, up until now I have practiced when I felt like it with no pressure or concern. Whether I learned a song properly or not didn't really matter much but now I have to get it together because my band is depending on me. PRESSURE?!? Shit, isn't that what work is for? So I spent my free time, bass in hand going over our short list and trying to piece these songs together.

Wednesday finally arrived, I packed up my Fender Classic 50's P Bass and headed out to the Rehearsal Factory. When I arrived, I found fellow guitar player John (Hooke) already in the waiting area and we exchanged small talk as we awaited our room to be ready. Now the last time I played in an actual band was back in High School. This was a few years ago. OK, OK This was a lot of years ago! Those practices were usually in my friend Adam's attic our our drummer's basement. I have never been to anything as cool as the Rehearsal Factory.

Soon LOR's Robert "Bear" Vessmann assigned us our room and following John's lead, I followed him in to see our home for the next three hours. Unpacking my gear I was thrilled to see the bass rig that I would be using and I did my best to set up pretending I knew what the hell I was doing. Cold beer and the rest of our band (Jim, Scott and Laurie) arrived and after a moment or two of tuning up and pouring some beer we got down to business.

Rig of Doom
First up we decided to take a look at the Cult's Wildflower as we figured it would be one of our easier tunes to dig into. This was one of the songs that we added to our list later in the week and we played around with it for a bit, feeling each other out a bit and trying to piece it together playing the original on the Ipod.

It was around this time that our coach for the evening came in and introduced himself. Local Blues Guitarist Jake Chisolm, sat down and discussed with us who we were and looked at our song list. He seemed very genuine and so passionate about music and our song choices. Personally he made me feel very comfortable and yet challenged us all to aim big. He seemed very enthusiastic that we all seemed to be on the same page with our song choices and felt we had something special going on. He then went over to one of the other bands and we got back to work.

Running through "Wildflower" a couple more times felt good, and although I wouldn't say tight or anything it was a start. What happened next was what I would refer to as "Magic", we turned our attention to our next tune. Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love", one of the greatest tunes ever written. We dove in and right away it felt great and then Laurie transformed into "Rock Goddess"! I saw the look in John's eyes and we all just smiled ear to ear. If I had to describe how it felt, it was like the first time I ever shot a birdie in golf. Magic is the only way I can describe it. Immediately we jumped into the next song AC DC's "Whole Lotta Rosie" and again the knowing smiles between the band told us we were onto something good. This was going to be fun!

After that run through we started discussing a name for our group. Now just the day before it had looked as though John wasn't going to be able to actually be part of our group due to some personal conflicts that were thankfully solved. He happily emailed us saying he was BACK asking us about the movie in which Jack Nicholson yelled through the axed door "Heeeeere's Johnny!" The movie of course was The Shining, and quite simply Laurie threw out "The Shine". Yeah, to me it invoked an image and a feeling. It was simple yet leaves it up to interpretation. Very rock n roll!

Photo by Laurie Crisp
It was then that Jake re entered the room and we were certainly a different band. He was astonished that in the thirty minutes he was gone we played a couple of songs and come up with a band name to boot. With Jake as a captive audience we ran through both the Zeppelin and the AC/DC tunes a couple of times getting some advice from Jake. He once again said we were onto something special and spent some time helping John and Scott with the solo for Whole Lotta Love.

He bid us goodbye and once again we got back to work. Another run through or two of Wildflower and then we tried one of our other choices, Pearl Jam's "Black". A dark and driving melody we worked out the parts and pieced it together and it felt pretty good by the end as we jammed it out for an extended period. This song might be worked in as well.

We entered the room as pretty much five strangers and we left hours later "THE SHINE"

Meister Music #7 - Meister Finds More Than One Way Home

Photo credit - Wench Wendy
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.  Like what I say or think I'm an idiot?  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.

MEISTER MUSIC #7 - Meister Finds More Than One Way Home

I had never heard of Voodoo Circle (Alex Beyrodt's) but I received the latest release via download from the record company along with several others at the same time.  I clicked the link to give it a quick listen, hey, what the hell did I have to lose.  And I can tell you, I lost nothing but gained all the way, this is a great album through and through.

Voodoo Circle was formed around 2008 in Germany by Alex Beyrodt, who has played with bands such as Primal Fear, Silent Force and Sinner.  He wanted to create compositions based more on his early influences in music like Rainbow, Whitesnake and Deep Purple.  The first album, simply titled Alex Beyrodt's Voodoo Circle was released in 2008 and was created in bulk by Beyrodt.  Since then the project has
 become more of a collaboration with band members David Readman on vocals, Mat Sinner on bass, Markus Kullman on drums, Jimmy Kresic on keys and of course Alex Beyrodt himself on guitars.  Adopting the motto of "Bringing back the voodoo vibes to hard rock" the band released their second effort, Broken Heart Syndrome in 2011 to German chart success, entering at #64.  Now, they have just recently unleashed their third effort entitled More Than One Way Home and with that Voodoo Circle has cast a spell on the Meister!

Blasting out of the gates furiously with Graveyard City, guitar wizard Alex Beyrodt's sense for great hooks pulls you in.  Tears In The Rain follows and holds up the theme and power of the first track.  Heart Of Babylon sounds so much like a Whitesnake song that I had to check to make sure of what I was listening to!  David Readmen sounds like a younger David Coverdale (back when Whitesnake was good and Coverdale still had a voice) invoking the classic bluesy rock feel.  The keyboard/organ opening of Cry For Love leads the listener into a great power ballad style of track.  The classic bluesy rock feel of Alissa leads us through to The Ghost In Your Heart reminding me of Deep Purple with the
Hammond organ sounds in the forefront, this may just be my favourite on the disc.  The frantic pace of Bane Of My Existence proves this bands capability for powerful riff driven rockers and ramps up the energy perfectly.  The title track, More Than One Way Home, slows the pace again exuding the bluesy feel for another Whitesnakeish style power ballad.  The Killer In You ups the ante again on catchy, hooky riffs, while The Saint And The Sinner is another stand out cut oozing a 70's hard rock feel.  The perfectly wrenching Victim Of Love takes us to the album closer of Open Your Eyes, a live track.

This album rocks from start to finish and it's as simple as that, I only wish I'd discovered it sooner!  The spirit of 70's and 80's bluesy hard rock is alive and well in the hands of this German quintet.  Check out the links and let me know what you think of Voodoo Circle.



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