Friday, January 31, 2014

KISS Debut Turns 40. The Dawn Of KISStory.


February of 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the debut album from KISS. The 40th anniversary. The Ruby Anniversary. The eponymous album that started it all, that launched a legacy, that created a brand. The band has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, with 28 releases being certified Gold. But before the lunchboxes, the action figures, the comic books, the caskets, the condoms, and the arena football team..there was just a rock and roll band.....with the intent of being the biggest rock and roll band anyone had ever seen.

In 1972, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were in a band called Wicked Lester. The group had a deal with Epic Records and had recorded one album which took a year to record on a shoestring budget. Because of the lengthy process the album lacked focus and direction. Discouraged, Paul and Gene disbanded Wicked Lester, got out of their perfectly good recording contract, and set out to pursue their vision. They kept the famous loft at 10 East 23rd Street in New York City for rehearsal space and began the search for like-minded musicians. Drummer Peter Criss was hired in late summer of '72 and they began rehearsing as 3 piece but brought on lead guitarist Ace Frehley shortly thereafter so Paul Stanley could concentrate mainly on rhythm guitars.

Drawing from a multitude of influences from Alice Cooper to The Beatles to The Who along with bands from the New York scene like  The New York Dolls and fueled by raw vision, the band would write and rehearse constantly. They would also develop the face paint for the individual persona of each member, as well as costumes and stage presence. Word of mouth soon spread fueled by gigs at local clubs like Coventry and The Daisy. KISS had a fledgling manager who got them a record deal with fledgling label Casablanca Records and were in the studio in the Fall of '73 recording there debut. It was released the following February. It sold 75,000 copies after the initial release, peaking at #87 on the US Billboard Album chart. KISS reentered the studio that summer to record "Kissin' Time" and the album was rereleased in hopes of generating a hit single, but to no avail. Three songs total were released as singles; "Nothin' To Lose", "Kissin' Time", and "Strutter" but none would become a hit. The rest...they KISStory.

If you've been even remotely conscious on this Earth for the last 40 years, you know that KISS is a machine that is still ALIVE! and well. Despite the ever changing music genres, despite original members leaving then returning then leaving, despite unmasking then remasking then letting new guys mask, despite trying to put the KISS brand on any piece of  anything than can be sold for profit, the band still continues to play arena sized concerts around the world yearly as well as record new music.

I became a KISS fan in '77/'78. Around the 2nd grade. I am still a fan to this day. I'll admit, they lost me during the 80's, but I will always favor early KISS. The debut album contains, to me, the core KISS classics like "Deuce" and "Black Diamond" as well as the aforementioned songs that were released uneffectively as singles. Many call this album a diamond in the rough and over time the material has circled back around and continues to hold up. The longevity that KISS has maintained over 40 years is unprecedented and is no doubt fueled by in part by a worldwide fanbase. They have also influenced a vast array of bands and performers from Garth Brooks to Pantera to Weezer, while passing the theatric torch on to the likes of King Diamond and Marilyn Manson. Who can say what the future holds for KISS or what they have in store for us, the fans. They surely are a huge part of American history. And still in the making. Here's to another 40 years of KISS!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

SCrued! The Final Tour


So Motley Crue have announced they are calling it a day, the Bad Boys of Rock n Roll are heading out on "The Final Tour". I can see people rolling their eyes in disbelief, money and egos have a way of getting in the way of farewell tours and many say it's just a cash-grab to ensure ticket sales by playing on the urgency to see the band one more time. Regardless of all that Motley Crue hold a special place in my heart.

Motley Crue was my very first concert back in June 1984 and instantly they became "my band", although Kiss was also important to me, KISS was before my time, they had already been to the moon and back before I was old enough to witness the spectacle of KISS. Motley Crue on the other hand were young, hungry and just starting to burn their own trail. Still an opening band on tour with Ozzy, they scheduled a couple of headlining shows. One of which here in Toronto at the "Coliseum Building" on the CNE grounds. If your looking for it, it has been completely remodeled and is now the Ricoh Centre.

Nikki Sixx is the reason I play bass today. Some may scoff but to a fourteen year old impressionable metalhead, Sixx was and is cool personified. The Crue took the spectacle of KISS and made it young and fresh again. I have been fortunate enough to see just about every Motley Crue tour that made it's way to Toronto, sometimes multiple times and I have never left disappointed.

The news via Tuesday's press conference outlined the first portion of the tour that hits Toronto on August 10th. Tickets were to go on sale Saturday February 1st., I thought I might like to try and get some decent tickets and surprise my step brother with an early Birthday gift.

On Wednesday afternoon I noticed something that really started to bother me. First of all, the really good seats are always secured for the VIP Meet and Greets, which for this show is broken down into 4 different price points ranging from $300-$8000 dollars per ticket. Now I love Motley Crue and I love my Brother, but I don't have that kind of dough.

The next thing that I noticed was that they had a Motley Crue Fan Club presale, so if I run out and become a member of Motley Crue's fanclub at a cost of $55.00, then I will get a password to allow me to buy tickets on Wednesday instead of Saturday thus ensuring better seats. Why would anyone want to spend $55.00 to become a fan club member for a band that is retiring? Ticketmaster made it nice and easy selling you the tickets and fanclub membership together in one convenient purchase called the ticket+fanclub bundle. How nice, and I noticed that if I selected that option the best available seats were already up in the 300 level?!?

Now local radio station Q107 were to offer a pre-sale for the show on Thursday at noon and since I am a club Q member they emailed me the "secret password" so that I being a special member could go and get great seats two days before the public sale (sarcasm mode off). I decided that instead of forking over $55.00 extra to join a fan club for a band that I have faithfully supported since 1983, I would wait until Thursday at noon.

So Thursday morning the Alice Cooper Fan Club Pre-Sale and the American Express Front of the Line Pre-Sale open up and then promptly at 12:16pm (what happened to noon?) the Q107 Pre-Sale, the Ticketmaster Pre-Sale, the Live Nation Pre-Sale, the Facebook Pre-Sale and the Live Nation Mobile App Pre-Sale all started selling tickets with their own unique little password.

Since I was lucky enough to be a club Q member I was able to score mid 400 level seats, with a good pair of binoculars it will feel like I am right up close. I suppose I can use the $55.00 I saved by not joining the fan club and either buy a t-shirt or a beer because I am sure it won't cover both. Here we are still two days before the tickets officially go on sale and they are already selling lawn tickets for the show.

Long gone are the days of the die hard fans being rewarded for their loyalty. I remember camping out for good seats as testament to our favorite bands. So this once proud Cruehead is also on his FINAL TOUR of these bloated corporate rock shows. I will instead get my rock fix from the many local talented bands and musicians that are out there delivering the goods and appreciating the support. Feeling just a little corporately sCrued right now and it doesn't feel very rock n roll!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #5-AC/DC Beer Can Guy......and his band The Milestones

Here we are at #5 of my weekly Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 blog series after a couple of great weeks covering some new music with Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel and Ron Keel's Metal Cowboy.  Let's keep the new music going for another week with something that I can pretty much guarantee that you're unfamiliar with, but I highly recommend you check out.

You never know who you'll meet aboard The Monsters of Rock Cruise and last year I happened to meet a guy with an empty beer can.  Strange as that statement might seem, it's 100% true!  During the all day, every day drunken fog that I'd fallen under while wandering the ship between concert shows I paused in the lobby area of the vessel to chat with friends, Cliff Koehler (who repeatedly mentions that his name never appears in my blogs, so there you go sir!) & his wife, made at my totally awesome Keel experience the day prior to boarding the ship (THE MEISTER'S RIGHT TO ROCK WITH KEEL).  While we were chatting another fellow stopped by and showed us his beer can!  It was an empty AC/DC brand beer enough
in itself to a beer and rock lover such as The Meister, but there was more to it than that.  Tommi Manninen told us he was part of a group that shares possession of the can ("ONE" AC/DC BEER CAN TRAVELS THE WORLD) and takes it to various locations around the world.  I met the can personally and had my photo taken with it (no that's not a choke collar as some wise-ass friend had suggested....just my cruise key/pass lanyard flipped the other way to fully display the awesomeness of the Helix!)  Tommi and I became friends and through our Facebook communications after the cruise I learned that he played in a band called The Milestones in his homeland of Finland.  I checked out a couple of links on you-tube and was actually suitably impressed ("Queen to Me" & "So Alive Today")  Tommi was kind enough to forward me a 3 song promo CD that The Milestones had issued in their native country and it often slides it's way into a playlist of mine......all 3 songs are excellent, but "Trouble Walking" is an amazing cut.  I was disheartened that I had been unable to meet up with him and visit Finland when I was "right next door" in Sweden at the Sweden Rock festival in June of 2013, but that excursion brought about it's own difficulties upon The Meister and my time there was altogether too short (A CANADIAN DECIBEL GEEK IN SWEDEN).  Tommi Manninen and his band have put in a bid to play Sweden Rock Festival in 2014......can it be that my first time seeing The Milestones live will be at Sweden Rock 2014?

Throughout the year approaching this 2014 voyage, Tommi and I have kept in touch and now here we are preparing for 2014's MOR (Monsters of Rock) cruise and The Miletstones are set to release an album, Higher Mountain, Closer Sun (Samples and Pre-order link) in the same year.  The album leads off with the awesome "Trouble Walking" flowing into the first single and video released "Shalalalovers".
Next up is a cover song of "Drivin' Wheel" originally recorded by Foghat.  That's right I said Foghat, probably the only way that you've ever heard of them is through watching That 70's Show or playing the song "Slow Ride" on Guitar Hero.  If Tommi hadn't told me it was a Foghat tune I never would have known and he even tells me that the reason they chose to cover it is a little MOR related, but I'll have to wait until I see him to receive that full story.  "Oh My Soul" sits in the fourth position and features a classic 70's influence throughout, but that could actually describe all of The Milestones music.  Slowing down the pace is "Grateful" flowing into "Sweet Sounds" and through
to the rockin' boogie of "It's All Right".  "You" and "Looking Back For Yesterday" maintain the albums pace and 70's influenced feel bringing us to "Damn" which appeared on the 3 song promo CD and therefore was familiar to me.  "Damn" is the shortest cut on the record, features a grinding riff and some great guitar work as does the rest of the album.  "Fool Me" draws the record to a close very nicely but leaving you with an empty, missing your best friend kinda feeling until you hit play and your foot begins to involuntarily tap again.  The album is set to be released on February 28, 2014.

While they may not be the "classic" fit to the 80's themed MOR sound, The Milestones certainly rock and I'm glad to hear their music.  If it wasn't for MORC and an empty AC/DC beer can I may never have had the pleasure of hearing The Milestones!


The Meister ("LIKE" The Meister on Facebook)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Visiting the Temple..........of Rock that is (Two nights with Michael Schenker in Toronto)


This was a very hard review to write for me.  Normally with two nights of shows and a total of five bands performing each night, I would not mention the stage setters and stick to the two performances of the headliner, in this case guitar great Michael Schenker….that being said however, all the bands that performed each night were all top notch delivering a great show of rock and roll and deserve to be recognised, so I’ll try to keep it brief while I mention everyone.  Each night consisted of two local bands and two bands that Schenker brought on tour with him, so I'll cover the four local bands first and then into the tour bands that played both nights.

Crisis Kings
On Saturday January 18, 2014 at The Rockpile West in Toronto local band Crisis Kings were the first to take the stage.  They ripped through an entertaining half hour set featuring “Glutton” (which is set to appear on an upcoming compilation called Canuck Metal Volume 2), “Top
Top Dead Centre
 of the Rad”, Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye” and Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”Crisis Kings on Facebook

Also on the Saturday bill was Top Dead Centre delivering a great set although the guitarist seemed to be having some pedal issues, at one point remarking about the “gremlins in the thing”.  Their set included original compositions such as “On a Train”, (a fan favourite it seemed), “Up To Me” and “Lights Off”Top Dead Centre Facebook

Skrou was the first band to appear on the Sunday and I’d seen them a few times previously so I knew we were in for a great performance.  Skrou blew through a set comprised of originals such as “Place to Shake”, “Dirty Little Fantasy”“Eyecatcher” and “No One’s Home”.  An awesome representation of the local music scene, Skrou are set to release their
Flux 440
 début CD at the end of January, check out my esteemed colleague Wallygator's review of the
  CD here: Skrou: Giving Us A Place To Shake.  Skrou on Facebook

Sunday’s show also brought Flux 440 to the Rockpile East in Toronto for a solid half hour set including “Slight of Hand”, “Make it Stick” and a cover of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”.  They had some fans and followers with them as well as someone hollered out, during one song break,“I love you Frank” to the guitarist who responded with “I see Corey made it”.  Flux 440 Facebook

Gundriver's Tom Potter
Next on the roster, playing both nights was Gundriver from Hollywood California.  These young guys served up some excellent high energy rock pushed by guitarist Tom Potter’s stomping riffs, Alex Rivas' pounding drum beats, Crazy Tomes’ thundering bass and Scott Siegel’s soaring vocals.  Their all original set both nights featured songs from their No. 1 CD “Gundriver”, “Against the Darkness” (showcasing Crazy Tomes intense lead vocal delivery on this Black Sabbath-esque cut), “Under the Rock”, “Rip It” and “Reign”.  Some compositions showcased Crazy Tomes vocal abilities while Siegel took a break and during
Gundriver's Crazy Tomes
 all cuts Rivas was hitting his drums hard, tossing and twirling his sticks in the air for an entertaining performance.  During the second night Tom Potter had a slight tuning issue with his guitar that was excellently covered by Crazy Tomes and Alex Rivas doing David Bowie proud as they broke into an impromptu "Space Oddity".  Be on the lookout for Gundriver!  Gundriver Facebook  Gundriver Website

Also travelling with the Schenker crew was Ethan Brosh.  Brosh is a young shredder in the vein of greats of the era such as George Lynch and Joe Satriani.  Fellow Decibel Geek Kate Campbell had previously seen Brosh on his tour with Yngwie Malmsteen (Yngwie Who?) and had become a big fan.  Prior to Brosh taking the stage on the Saturday night I had to vacate my position at the front of the stage in favour of a washroom break.  I wandered into the merchandise area as Ethan Brosh took the stage and discovered that Kate was behind his merch table sporting an Ethan Brosh shirt and selling his CD's!  Turns out that she had earlier wandered in there and seeing no-one behind his table and customers looking on she jumped in to make the sale and help support the artist!  On the Sunday night Kate became Ethan's official merch girl
for the evening.  Ethan Brosh's set was all instrumental and covered selections from his 2009 debut CD Out Of Oblivion including “Downward Spiral” written with George Lynch.  Brosh was absolutely face-melting and there is no doubt of this young shredder’s playing ability, but for me I would have preferred some vocal accompaniment.  Brosh is the guitar player in Angels of Babylon along side David Ellefson (Megadeth) and is also the founder of the band Burning Heat who are in the process of recording their début album and will be playing at The Rockerz Gone Wild Pool Party in Miami a couple of days before I board The Monsters of Rock Cruise.  Expect to hear more from Ethan Brosh.  Ethan Brosh Facebook     Ethan Brosh Facebook

Who better to appreciate an excellent guitar wizard such as Schenker than another talented guitar player....why hello Mr. Greg Fraser of Brighton Rock way over there at the back of the crowd.

Schenker is probably best known for his time in Scorpions and UFO as well as various incarnations of his namesake band The Michael Schenker Group.  Schenker appeared on Scorpions début recording, Lonesome Crow at the age of 15!  He departed to join UFO and stayed with them for the albums Phenomenon, 1974, Force It 1975, No Heavy Petting 1976, Lights Out 1977 and Obsession 1978 also appearing on the live album Strangers in the Night 1979, issued after his departure.  Returning to Scorpions for 1979’s Lovedrive, he soon formed his own band MSG (Michael Schenker Group) releasing The Michael Schenker Group in 1980, MSG in 1981, Assault Attack (featuring Graham Bonnet on vocals) in 1982 and Built to Destroy in 1983.  Two live albums were also issued, One Night at Budokan in 1981 and Rock Will Never Die in 1984.  A re-organising of the band saw Robin McAuley take on vocal responsibilities, the band being re-dubbed McAuley Schenker Group and an output of three albums, Perfect Timing 1987, Save Yourself
 1989 and M.S.G. 1992 as well as the EP Nightmare: The Acoustic M.S.G. and "Unplugged" Live both in 1992.  Returning to UFO on two occasions with another bout of MSG in between Schenker has been steadily releasing albums ever since.  His latest effort titled Bridge the Gap features a band consisting of drummer Herman Rarebell, bassist Francis Buchholz (both former Scorpions members), guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay and Scottish vocalist Doogie White (Rainbow).

The Bridge the Gap tour made two stops in Toronto, one at each Rockpile location on Saturday January 18 and Sunday January 19, 2014.  For the tour Rarebell and Buchholz were unavailable so bassist Rev Jones and drummer Pete Holmes (Black ‘n Blue) were inducted into the Temple of Rock.  The audience was treated to such songs as “Neptune Rising”, “Where the Wild Winds Blow” and “Horizons” from that newest Bridge the Gap album and “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”, a tribute to Ronnie James Dio, off the previous effort, Temple of Rock.  A healthy dose of other classic MSG compositions such as “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”, “Assault Attack”, “Cry for the Nations”, “Armed & Ready”, “Attack of the Mad Axeman”, “Into the Arena” and “Rock My Nights Away” peppered the set list.  There was also a nod to Scorpions with “Another Piece of 
Meat” and “Lovedrive” before a powerhouse UFO finish featuring “Shoot Shoot”, “Lights Out”, “Only You Can Rock Me”, “Let It Roll”, “Too Hot To Handle” and the encores of “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor, Doctor”.  The vocals were excellently handled by Doogie White and the whole band was a tight unit, Rev Jones especially really looking into it, but the feature of the night was certainly Michael Schenker, who appears to be every bit the legend that he’s accused of being.  I was disappointed that I had missed Schenker's appearance for a few songs with Europe for their 30th anniversary at Sweden Rock Festival 2013, but I've now been able to cross Schenker off of my "bucket list" and after these shows I certainly won't miss the opportunity to see him live again!  Don’t miss the Bridge the Gap tour as it rolls through the US until mid February.
  MSG Facebook     Michael Schenker Website

*****All live photos courtesy of Jackie Lynn on Saturday January 18, 2013 and Sunday January 19, 2014*****

The Meister  ("LIKE" The Meister on Facebook)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Episode 121 - Under Covers 2

After a wild couple of weeks of going behind the KISS curtain, we're back this week to kick back, have some laughs, and spin some awesome cover songs.

This week we bring you Under Covers 2, a collection of kick-ass hard rock and metal cover songs. Some of these are just great takes on the original and others are more rocked-up versions of less rocking songs. Covers by bands such as Bobaflex, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, Ronnie James Dio, Halestorm and Nantucket covering songs by great acts like AC/DC, Styx, Alice Cooper, Simon & Garfunkle, and Hall & Oates (weird, I know). Hope you enjoy!

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Jizzy Pearl
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
John Corabi
Ronnie James Dio
Stevie Rachelle
Skid Row

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #4-The Metal Cowboy Saddles Up

Well after last week's very exciting and eagerly anticipated return of Jake E. Lee and his new band Red Dragon Cartel, a hard act to follow, we have another incredible MORC performer unleashing new music in 2014 and on the same day no less!  I speak of none other than Ron Keel's Metal Cowboy.  Ron Keel's latest solo effort is set to be released on January 28th and can be ordered through his Pledgemusic campaign (Metal Cowboy Pledge Music).

In truth, and some of you may remember this from last year's ramblings, it is Keel that I have to thank for my discovery of the initial Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2012.  While visiting the Keel website that year, I saw an icon on the homepage that beckoned "join us on the Monsters of Rock Cruise"......"click"......and the rest they say is history.  When I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Ron last year during my awesome day with Keel (The Meister's Right to Rock With Keel) he mentioned that he was working on a solo effort titled Metal Cowboy and it has now found it's way into my hot little hands last week!

Ron Keel came to attention with the band Steeler and their one and only release in 1983.  Steeler was also notable for introducing Swedish born guitar great Yngwie Malmsteen to North America.  After issuing the self titled Steeler in 1983, the group disbanded and went thier separate ways moving on to other projects.  Ron Keel formed his own namesake band, Keel the following year, releasing the début Lay Down The Law in 1984.  Two Gene Simmons produced albums followed, The Right To Rock in 1985 and The Final Frontier in 1986.  Michael Wagener was in the drivers seat for the self titled Keel in 1987 and after a line up change seeing the departure of Marc Ferrari and Brian Jay we were served Larger Than Live in 1989.  Nine years later saw the "classic" line up of drummer Dwain Miller, bassist Greg Chaisson and guitarists Marc Ferrari and Brian Jay reunite with Ron Keel producing Keel VI: Back In Action in 1998.  It would be a further 12 years before seeing another Keel album, the product of re-uniting again for the 25th anniversary of the band.  With bassist Greg Chaisson declining, Ron Keel's long time friend and band mate Geno Arce joined the Keel fold for 2010's Streets of Rock & Roll which I put up there as the best Keel album cover to cover to date!  During the hiatuses of Keel, Ron has been involved in a variety of projects including providing vocals to the Japanese heavy metal band Saber Tiger's Project One album in 1997 as well as the country-rock outfit Iron Horse, a band featuring Geno Arce, which produced two albums, Iron Horse in 2000 and Bring It On in 2004.  Ron Keel, as Ronnie Lee Keel, also portrays Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn in the Vegas music show Country Superstars, is a counsellor at the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas and also hosts his own Streets of Rock & Roll Radio Show.  Now here we are in 2014 with a new solo effort from Ron Keel set to drop.

Metal Cowboy begins with "Long Gone Bad" which successfully combines Ron Keel's country influences with his metal side producing a rousing track that lovers of both country and metal music should be able to get behind with ease.  "Wild Forever" has radio hit written all over it and has been released as a single available here (Wild Forever single download).  Up next is "My Bad" for another excellent blending of the country/rock sound with a grinding low end and some twangy guitar.  We move a little more country-ish for the next selection of "What Would Skynyrd Do" with some blues influenced slide guitar followed by "Just Like Tennessee".  The shortest cut of the record is the only one coming in at under the four minute mark with possibly the best song on Metal Cowboy in "The Last Ride".  "When Love Goes Down", the longest on Metal Cowboy, takes us into the twangy "Singers, Hookers & Thieves".  I was surprised at the inclusion of a Keel song on Metal Cowboy, but none the less there's a revamped version of "Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty" which originally appeared on 1989's Larger Than Live and really fits in well here.  "The Cowboy Road" is next up and is loaded with a country flavour....for some reason it reminds me of Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road" but that may just be the title and country theme.  The close out position finds "3 Chord Drinkin' Song" just an all around fun song that I can easily see getting some airplay as we're gathered around the camp fire this coming summer......just as I'm sure it'll get a workout for a good sing-along during Ron's solo gig aboard this year's Monsters of Rock Cruise as well.  Also don't forget to pick up Ron Keel's new autobiography Even Keel available the same day as Metal Cowboy and available for pre-order through the Pledgemusic link.

I dearly wish that the full Keel band of Dwain Miller, Geno Arce, Brian Jay and Marc Ferrari were back aboard this year for a face-melting electric show. That being said I'll be in the front row in the lounge for Ron's solo acoustic performance aboard the MSC Divina, singing along and proudly displaying my Keel tattoo!


The Meister ("Like" The Meister on Facebook)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Episode 120 - Gary Corbett Part 2


To say that last week's part 1 of our conversation with keyboardist Gary Corbett was popular would be an understatement. In just 7 days, part 1 exceeded download totals for any episode in show history. The audience feedback was overwhelming with many, especially KISS fans, expressing gratitude for a peak behind the curtain of a working band that has had its share of controversy. This week's second half is no exception.

Gary shares his happy recollections of his time spent on the road with Paul Stanley during his 1989 solo tour. The solo band, comprised of Stanley, Corbett, guitarist Bob Kulick, bassist Dennis St. James, and drummer Eric Singer formed a tight bond and showed a side of Stanley that was much easier to work with according to our interview subject. While this tour seemed a happy time for Paul Stanley, Gary explains that there was definite pushback from the rest of the KISS camp and not just Eric Carr. He also shares an eerily prophetic moment from Carr after he took in a Stanley solo performance.

We then segue into discussion of Eric Carr's decline in health. Gary describes the physical symptoms that cropped up during the end of the Hot in the Shade tour and the subsequent surgeries and chemotherapy.

Many rumors have swirled around for years about Eric Carr's status in the band after his cancer diagnosis. Gary shares his memories of what took place between Carr and his KISS bandmates and what led to Carr's family cutting off all contact to Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley during the end of Eric's life.

Gary also shares his objections to certain things portrayed in The Eric Carr Story by Greg Prato; a book in which Corbett is quoted alongside Bruce Kulick, Carrie Stevens, and others that were close to the late drummer. He also states how his side of things are backed up by, what many would consider, a surprising source.

Hot in the Shade was released as, basically, a collection of demos that were polished up for cost-cutting measures. Gary explains how one of the biggest tracks on Hot in the Shade featured a future lineup of KISS.

Gary then takes us a bit by surprise by stating that Eric Carr was, indeed, fired by KISS and explains the different ways in which they were pushing to attain his exit from the band during a very difficult time as well as their motivation.

During this part of the conversation, Gary recounts more of Eric's displeasure with his drum solo being taken away during the beginning of the Hot in the Shade tour. He also claims that Paul Stanley, in particular, had a certain way of, in his words, "torturing" Carr.

Gary then shares details of the funeral and the tension that hung in the air as Eric's KISS bandmates showed up for the services. He also talks about the infamous feud between Gene Simmons and Howard Stern due to Stern's comments on the air about Eric's death. Gary reveals his role in this drama that wound up being played out on Stern's television show later. He also shares details of the icy reception for Simmons and Stanley at the post-funeral dinner.

One positive note from the funeral is shared by Gary as he describes the miles-long turnout of thousands of fans along the road for the procession. Despite the fan support though, Carr's parents were uncomfortable with the attention.

Chris tells Gary about seeing footage of he and Carr goofing off on camera during the Hot in the Shade rehearsals in bootleg footage that circulates among fans as Exposed II. Gary goes on to discuss some footage that he took himself of the band during the band's Smashes Thrashes and Hits tour and, in particular, a certain story of Carr experiencing hash in Amsterdam for the first time.

Gary describes some of the conversations that took place among the band during the Hot in the Shade era including the Paul and Gene's stories of Ace and Peter, talks of a possible reunion, and the tension that resulted from a makeup-era flashback scene that was filmed for the 'Rise to It' video.

Gary also shares how Eric Carr's naivety and innocence worked against him in the confines of the music industry. He talks about Gene and Paul's business savvy and what he thinks it will lead to in the future.

We then ask Gary about the Revenge era and he describes his memories of the club shows that led up to the tour to break in new drummer Eric Singer. He explains how the emotional toll of Eric's death kept him from being able to continue to work with the band and how he made his exit from the band. He also talks about how the tension, with Paul Stanley, in particular still exists after the two saw each other backstage in Nashville during the 2012 co-headlining tour with Motley Crue.

Gary Corbett remains friends with current KISS drummer Eric Singer. We get Gary's take on Eric's role in the band portraying the Catman character and how he feels about Singer's extended employment with KISS.

Finishing up the conversation Gary explains how Eric Carr's memory and friendship are absolutely the highlight of his time working for the band as well as his current projects, plans for the future, and success that he's had with other artists such as the Marley Brothers and Cyndi Lauper.

The Decibel Geek podcast would like to thank Gary Corbett for a such an open, frank conversation.

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Eric Carr

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Primal Fear Delivers The Black

Primal Fear may not be a particularly household name over here in North America, but the German power metal outfit has issued 10 albums since formation in 1997, most charting well in countries like their home of Germany but also in Japan and Sweden.  Molded in the vein of other such great German power metal bands as the internationally successful Helloween, Primal Fear was founded by former Gamma Ray vocalist Ralf Scheepers and Sinner bassist Mat Sinner.  A few line up changes have taken place over the existence of the band and we now find drummer Randy Black and guitarists Magnus Karlsson and Alex Beyrodt joining the founders.  Karlsson has previously worked with Sinner on projects such as Kiske/Sommerville in 2010, a collaboration between former Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske and American singer Amanda Sommerville and Primal Fear vocalist Ralf Scheepers' first solo effort simply titled Scheepers in 2011.  Alex Beyrodt and Mat Sinner have been involved in many collaborations including Beyrodt's Voodoo Circle More Than One Way Home in 2013 Beyrodt's Silent Force Rising From Ashes 2013 and Sinner's namesake band Sinner Touch of Sin 2 2013.....a busy year for those two boys!  Here's links to my reviews of VOODOO CIRCLE and SINNER.  

Primal Fear is ready to attack the world in 2014 supporting Delivering the Black with a tightly packed world touring schedule throughout Europe and North America.  For the upcoming Delivering the Black world tour guitarist Magnus Karlsson announced that he would be unable to participate as he does not want to be away from his young children for an extended period such as that.  In his place original founding member Tom Naumann will be returning to the camp and stepping in for the tour.  Primal Fear makes a stop in Toronto in May and is a sure fire target in The Meister's cross hairs of concert going.

Delivering the Black starts off with the charging riff of “King for a Day” which has a forthcoming video as well.  Right from that opening riff of "King for a Day" I was hooked!  “Rebel Faction”, a power metal gem with thrashy overtones is next up.  Considered the lead single as it has already received the video treatment and been unleashed prior to the album’s official release, "When Death Comes Knocking",  a brooding, grinding, epic sounding composition at over seven minutes runtime sits in the third slot.  The album really opens up here with“Alive & On Fire”, a little more old school metal sounding and may well be my choice for top of the heap.  The title track, “Delivering the Black” delivers another fine cut, matching and maintaining the pace leading into another thrashy style composition with “Road to Asylum”.  “One Night in December”, a pure power metal opus of epic proportions, clocks in at over 9 and a half minutes before “Never Pray for Justice” resumes the assault.  “Born With a Broken Heart” slows the pace down showcasing Scheepers vocal abilities and featuring the assistance of Leaves’ Eyes vocalist, Liv Kristine.  The high speed, balls to the wall “Inseminoid” closes out the offering on a fast and furious note.  All in all a fast paced album playing well from start to finish and growing on me steadily with each spin.
 As with all the Primal Fear album covers, the bird of prey is prominently featured in the artwork and any fan of their past work will surely enjoy the progression and direction of Primal Fear’s latest effort Delivering the Black out on January 28th from Frontiers Records.


The Meister ("Like" The Meister on Facebook)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #3-Red Dragon Cartel (Jake E. Lee's Return)


Well folks, for those of you just joining me for your first foray into my Monsters of Rock Cruise ramblings I'm The Meister and I've been fortunate enough to have voyaged aboard the Monsters of Rock Cruise yearly since its inception in 2012.  For the 2013 excursion I crafted a 20 volume series containing anything and everything to do with the cruise from personal stories to band bios and interviews with the final instalment being a guest on the on air podcast to recap my "Top 20 Moments" (just click the "play" arrow in the graphic at the top of the article to listen in).  This year I'm on the same trail for 2014's now sold out Monsters of Rock Cruise: Escape to Monster Island and for this third volume I've been fortunate enough to secure a copy of the forthcoming Red Dragon Cartel album slated for release on January 28th, 2014.  Here's a look and my thoughts of these shipboard performers.

When this years line-up for The Monsters of Rock Cruise was revealed there were a few "unknowns" in the roster.  Had it not been for the name attached to the Red Dragon Cartel, I would have been in the dark on them and probably not checked them out until a little closer to cruise time.  The name attached was Jake E. Lee....ring a bell?  It should, Jake E. Lee is well known for his tenure in Ozzy Osbourne's band and also his own post-Ozzy project, Badlands, featuring future KISS drummer Eric Singer, bassist Greg Chaisson and former Black Sabbath vocalist Ray Gillen.  Jake began his interest in guitar after being introduced to bands like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath by his older sister.  Around 1980 Jake E. Lee joined vocalist/guitarist Stephen Pearcy in a band called Mickey Ratt which would in time be shortened to Ratt.  Lee departed Ratt, making way for the classic line-up of that band and joined the Ronnie James Dio produced and Wendy Dio managed outfit of Rough Cutt.  From there Ronnie James Dio asked him to join his new project, Dio, but it was a short lived union.  Jake is in good company as Ratt, Rough Cutt (who have since had to cancel their appearance aboard ship), The Dio Disciples and surely Wendy Dio are all aboard ship for this year's Monsters of Rock Cruise.  After a tough decision by Ozzy Osbourne between George Lynch and Jake E. Lee, Lee joined Ozzy in 1982 in time for the Bark At The Moon release and the follow up Ultimate Sin in 1986.  Lee was surprisingly fired by Sharon Osbourne in 1987.  Badlands was formed by Lee in 1988 and issued three albums Badlands (1989), Voodoo Highway (1991) and after several years and the loss of vocalist Ray Gillen to HIV, Dusk (1998).  Since then Lee has kept a relatively low profile releasing some solo work, A Fine Pink Mist (1996), Retraced (2005), Guitar Warrior (2007) and Running With The Devil (2008) as well as working with Enuff Z'Nuff on their 2009 effort Dissonance.  Jake surfaced again in 2011 in the video for the song "We Come Undone" by the band Beggars & Thieves alongside Ron Keel, Blas Elias, Paul Shortino and porn star Sunset Thomas.  He appears at approximately 2:30 minutes, playing the guitar solo under the following quotes or captions on the screen, "Jake E. Lee is alive and well, living in Las Vegas".  "He would just rather play with Beggars & Thieves than deal with shady promoters and play "Bark At The Moon" 750 more times".
Jake has emerged from his self imposed seclusion and returned to the musical forefront with a vengeance bringing with him a new band called Red Dragon Cartel.  The band features the talents of Ronnie Mancuso, the guitarist from Beggars & Thieves.  For Red Dragon Cartel Mancuso wields the bass guitar and serves as songwriter and producer for the Red Dragon Cartel album due out on January 28th, 2014.  It is Mancuso that we have to thank for co-ercing Lee back into the foreground of the musical limelight.  Rounding out the band are drummer Jonas Fairley and vocalist Darren James Smith.  Fairley and Smith were both selected by Lee from thousands of submissions through a "Jake E. Lee needs a lead singer and drummer" Facebook campaign.  Darren James Smith is a fellow Canadian and integral member of the music scene up here in the Great White North being a member of such awesome bands as Harem Scarem, Heaven's Fire and Warmachine (Harem Scarem / Heavens Fire / Warmachine concert review).

On line reviews of the première Red Dragon Cartel show, particularly from The Metal Sludge website, have been less than kind, especially to Darren James Smith's performance.  In true "in your face" fashion Darren and Red Dragon Cartel rebounded in spades with subsequent performances and have garnered mostly excellent reviews moving forward.  I have to wonder if the MSC Divina cruise ship is big enough for Darren and Stevie Rachelle (vocalist for Tuff and, if I understand correctly, the co-creator of Metal Sludge and possible author of some of Smith bashing articles found therein).

As for the album itself, you should probably pick this up sooner rather than later!  Jake has definitely returned to take the crown and the album features guest performances from the likes of Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Rex Brown (Kill Devil Hill, Down, Pantera), Maria Brink (In This Moment), Todd Kearns and Brent Fitz (Slash's Conspirators), Scott Reeder (Kyuss), Paul Di'Anno (Iron Maiden) and Sass Jordan.  Produced by Ronnie Mancuso, mixed and mastered by Kevin Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Ozzy), the album can be pre-ordered through links included at the bottom of this article.

It starts off explosively with "Deceived" featuring what I found to be a fresh and inventive guitar riff that simply draws you in.  Jake E. Lee has returned and any rumours that you may or may not have heard of his demise are greatly exaggerated.  If you're anything like me you'll play this track several times before moving forward.  Can it get any better than this?  A little apprehensively I moved forward into the second cut of "Shout It Out" and I expelled a sigh of relief knowing that it was not a fluke at the start.  The third selection, "Feeder" has been issued as a video prior to the albums release and the track features the aforementioned Robin Zander of Cheap Trick handling the vocal duties for this one.
From there we get "Fall From The Sky" a slower almost Beatles-ish feeling selection before kicking into high gear once again with the Paul Di'Anno (Iron Maiden's vocalist way back in the old days before Bruce Dickinson) led "Wasted".  If we're in high gear now what comes next can only be described as vaulting into overdrive with "Slave", leaving me speechless....awesome is about all I can say!  The brooding plod of "Big Mouth" and especially the vocal chorus is less than a favourite of mine and no offence to guest vocalist Maria Brink of In This Moment, but it gets skipped in nearly every rotation of the Red Dragon Cartel disc.  "War Machine" however is a the exact opposite, boasting the longest run time on the album at over 6 minutes.  Make no mistake, the rest of the songs are no slouches, all but one over four minutes in length.  This Black Sabbath-esque sounding cut has Darren James Smith sounding a lot like Lee's former boss, Ozzy Osbourne and may well be the stand-out track here if one must be chosen.  Canadian crooner Sass Jordan lends her soulful, throaty vocal stylings to "Redeem Me", a great bluesy number.  The instrumental final track is a tender piano ballad titled "Exquisite Tenderness" and the lone track under the four minute mark.  You'll hear Ozzy like riffs to Badlands style blues influenced guitar, everything else that you can think of and more with Jake E. Lee's new project, Red Dragon Cartel.  Long live Jake E. Lee!


I can't wait to catch Jake and Darren with Red Dragon Cartel on this year's Monsters of Rock Cruise.....tune in again next week for another great upcoming release from someone who's been performing on the cruise since it's inception, someone who if it was not for I may never have discovered this amazing floating rock party.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Episode 119 - Gary Corbett Part 1

At the end of 2013, Aaron and Chris got to sit down in-person with a guest that had been on their wish-list since, basically, the inception of the podcast. Today, we're happy to share the first half of the conversation.

Gary Corbett may not be a household name along the lines of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tom Keifer of Cinderella, or Cyndi Lauper but he's worked closely with all of them. In part 1 of this long-form discussion, Gary shares his experiences in the music business working with Cinderella and KISS.

The discussion opens with Chris telling Gary about seeing, or more appropriately hearing, him perform with KISS in Nashville on the Hot in the Shade tour. Gary goes on to share how he wound up relocating to Nashville from New York years ago and also talks about the Scrap Metal project that he's been part of with also-Nashville-resident Mark Slaughter, Scrap Metal.

We then discuss the announcement of KISS' upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Gary's thoughts on who still deserves to be in the museum.

Gary shares the story of how he was brought into the KISS fold during pre-production for the 'Crazy Nights' album. He was then brought in to tour for the 'Crazy Nights' tour and he recounts the struggles the band went through on the road due to low ticket sales in the face of dismal returns on the album.

Soundcheck for KISS is a time when the band members can cut loose away from the audience while still being on stage. Unfortunately for Gary, his first tour with the band didn't provide a fun atmosphere in which to soundcheck due to Gene Simmons razzing the keyboard player in a particular way.

We go into a brief discussion of KISS' appearance at the Monsters of Rock festival in Germany in 1988 and how Gary being shown on camera during the performance led to some unpleasant vibes from Gene and Paul.

Chris, then, approaches Gary about the presence during those years of Jess Hilsen, who was Paul Stanley's therapist who wound up handling KISS' financial affairs before leaving the country amid a haze of lawsuits and bad business deals. And speaking of managers, Gary then shares how another KISS manager Larry Mazer was responsible for bringing him into the fold playing for Cinderella beginning with the Heartbreak Station tour.

We come back from the first break with some Vinnie Vincent discussion and Gary shares how he was actually at Mark Slaughter's house when news broke of Vinnie's arrest.

Another KISS connection for Gary goes back all the way to the 1970's as he crossed paths with the Kulick brothers early on. He was also a part of the mid-late 70's New York scene and was a part of the Max's Kansas City crowd.
During his time working with KISS, Gary become very close friends with Eric Carr. In this discussion, we get Gary's take on Eric's personality and some of the struggles he had with dealing with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons' control. He would typically hang out with Gary after the shows and in this discussion he shares what Eric was like socially with fans and friends.

Eric Car went through a difficult circumstance when KISS toured Europe in 1988 as his drum solo was vetoed. This decision hit Eric very hard and Gary shares his take on who was responsible and why.

In this discussion, Gary has some very pointed things to say in regards to Paul Stanley. He also shares his thoughts on Bruce Kulick's long tenure in the band and how that took place under the control of Simmons and Stanley.

We come back from the second break with discussion of Gary's memories of his tenure with KISS and how, during the 'Crazy Nights' tour, the employment arrangements with the band were becoming troublesome due to the on-again/off-again nature. This situation came to a head and led to a standoff of sorts between Gary and the band at Nassau Coliseum.

We finish off Part 1 with a quick discussion of what it must have been like to be a roadie for KISS during the 'Crazy Nights' era. Who could forget that logo?

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