Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Meister's Monsters of Rock Cruise 2014 #11-The Virgins

Hello folks, The Meister is back with more cruise blabber.  Well under two weeks to go now until I abandon my cold and snowy homeland north of Toronto and head south to Miami to embark on the Monsters of Rock Cruise for my third straight year.  I've said it before and I'll say it again now.....this is simply the best vacation I've ever taken and it will absolutely ruin any other holiday for you once you experience it!  Counting down the days until I board the plane and flee a few days early to soak up the warm Miami sun and partake in the plethora of pre-cruise activities.

For this voyage we have some new blood aboard ship, so let's have a quick peek at the bands that will be enjoying their first MOR Cruise.

Let's begin with my fellow countrymen and friends the KiLLeR DWaRfS.  Vocalist and front man Russ "DWaRf" Graham was aboard last year for an engaging acoustic solo gig supporting his release Wireless, an unplugged recording of select DWaRf classics.  Russ obviously caught the cruising bug and this year is back in full force with the newly reformed KiLLeR DWaRfS.  The 2014 DWaRfS include original founders Russ "DWaRf" Graham (vocals) and Darrell "DWaRf" Millar (drums) alongside 20 year veteran Gerry "Cod DWaRf" Finn (guitarist) and newcomer Johnny "DWaRf" Fenton (bass).  Not only have the DWaRfS reformed, but are also touring behind the release of their Start @ One album, issued in September.  The album was originally written and recorded in 1993, but shelved after the onset of grunge and the subsequent DWaRf hiatus.  If you've never seen the DWaRfS, don't miss this show and get ready for Russ' stage antics not limited to randomly falling to the stage as if his marionette strings had been sliced, headstands and even riding a tricycle!  I'm poised to put them up as one of the most entertaining shows on this year's excursion....I know the boys will live up to that title!

I've not had the pleasure of seeing a Ratt concert previously, but they've always been a favorite band of mine, some of their releases shaping who I am today  They don't make their way to Toronto very often, at least not for years as far as I know anyway and they are a big selling feature for me being on board this year.  Vocalist Stephen Pearcy was scheduled to have his name appear in the ship's registry last year with the band Arcade, but the performance was scrapped, rumored to have been cancelled as he was battling alcohol and this cruise was not the place to be for someone in that position.  I've also heard all the stories about Stephen Pearcy's voice being shot and seen some of the you-tube footage, but those rumors were abound about Cinderella's Tom Keifer and his voice before 2012's voyage as well.  Tom Keifer sounded good to me that year, so I'll just have to wait and see.  One thing's for sure, with the amount of alcohol I'll be consuming I probably won't notice if his voice is a bit off!  What does scare me a little is the rampant rumors and social media posts that there is yet again more dissension among the ranks of the band and that they will not be performing aboard ship, wishful thinking that it's just for publicity I think.  The good folks at MORC ensure us that Ratt will be there, so we can only hope that there's no "Lack of Communication".

The original "Queen of Metal" herself, Doro Pesch will be sailing the high seas with us this year as well and is another one that's high on my list.  I've seen Doro twice now, once at a smaller club in Toronto and also last year at Sweden Rock Festival both times somehow seeming to make it personal to each audience member despite the size of the venue and audience.  She is such a charismatic performer, obviously absolutely loving what she does and there's no other who appreciates the fans the way she does.  When her home in New York was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011 I saw one report that Doro had said the most upsetting thing was losing the gifts from her fans!  Expect her to be circulating the ship, mingling, signing autographs and posing for photos with cruisers.  Don't be surprised to find me stalking her around the ship as I've always had a school-boy crush on the Metal Queen since discovering Triumph & Agony all those years ago!  Last year drummer Johnny Dee (Doro/Britny Fox) was aboard as a passenger and I suspect to scope out the lay of the land so to speak, so I was not surprised when Doro's name appeared in the roster for 2014: Escape to Monster Island.  My good friend Edu Lawless at Rock Express Brasil recorded this little teaser video from the Metal Queen while the Doro tour visited Brasil recently: Doro - Monsters of Rock Cruise Teaser

Well as these first three "newbies" above all appear in my tattoo (a full sleeve depicting a guitar case "stickered" with the logos of approximately 30 of my favorite bands), I should keep in that vein for Quiet Riot.  I'm a big fan of Quiet Riot's music, "Metal Health" being one of the first metal songs that I ever heard and albums that I ever purchased.  There has been some naysayers surrounding Quiet Riot's reformation after the tragic death of front man Kevin DuBrow in 2007.  DuBrow's friend and member of the classic era lineup, drummer Frankie Banali, with the blessing of Dubrow's family has taken Quiet Riot back on the road carrying on DuBrow's legacy.  They stopped in Toronto back in June and lit up The Rockpile with an electrifying show that makes them a must see aboard ship.  Alongside Banali in the 2014 Quiet Riot are bassist Chuck Wright, who many do not know was a part of Quiet Riot pre-Metal Health, guitarist Alex Grossi and recently replacing vocalist Scott Vokoun (who was awesome at that show in Toronto) is Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate).  I'm sure Jizzy will do a great job and I was disappointed to learn that his band Love/Hate, who was originally scheduled to appear on ship has been removed, but at least we still get Jizzy banging his head.

The Iron Maiden logo is of course another one that appears in my tattoo and with the line up on this cruise Iron Maiden would be an awesome addition, but if we can't have them....hell this may even be better!  The only all female Iron Maiden tribute band, The Iron Maidens is also aboard this year.    These ladies rock, no other way to say it!  I have two of their albums and have been checking out some you-tube footage.  The axe-shredders of The Iron Maidens, Courtney Cox and Nita Strauss were aboard last year as well with Femme Fatale (another all female outfit that should not be missed) and are pulling double duty this time around.  These girls are blistering on the guitars and truly have fun on stage as I witnessed last year during the Femme Fatale performances....and speaking from a guy's perspective they're super hot to boot....I'll be their "Powerslave" any day!

Winger is a band that I've not seen since 1990....and I still have the tour tee shirt to prove it!  Yes, amazingly it still fits and I've dusted it off to wear on the ship!  Unfortunately I don't remember anything from that show in Toronto, but I look forward to seeing them this year.  The debut album was revered among my high school group and the two follow up releases got a high rotation of play as well.  Winger is on the cusp of issuing new music, the song "Rat Race" from the forthcoming Better Days Comin' album is already circulating on you-tube.  It sounds great, heavier than I expected and I'm anxious to hear the rest of what they have put together.....hey boys, will there be a stop at The Rockpile in Toronto on the tour?

Slaughter also will be receiving the ancient concert tee shirt treatment from me as I pull out the 'Stick it To Ya' tour tee.  This ones a little worse for wear, but again it still fits!  Having recently seen Slaughter in Toronto I have no doubt that they will put on an excellent display on the cruise.  I had of course heard the rumors that Mark's voice had left it's heyday and that he could no longer hit the notes, but at that Toronto show everything seemed basically in order for me and I look forward to their sets aboard ship.  The bonus here is that they are also stopping for two back to back shows at The Rockpile in Toronto on April 4th and 5th right after the cruise.  So if they conflict with another "must see" band on the ship I won't be too heartbroken if I have to miss them, but who am I kidding I want to see every show....even if I'm "Up All Night"....lol.

I love to "Turn Up the Radio" and the Sign In Please debut album from Autograph was also among those early album purchases for me.  Autograph is another band that I've never had the opportunity to see live, so they're in the scope of my radar on this voyage.  Unfortunately original vocalist Steve Plunkett has declined this re-formation of the group, but the band has enlisted Jailhouse front man Simon Daniels to handle the duties.  There has been some rumors awhile ago of dissension in their ranks as well (seems to be a rather common theme), but that seems to have been quelled.  Autograph has the honor of playing the first of two before sailing pre-parties on Thursday March 27th and will also be stopping at The Rockpile in Toronto on May 10 and you can bet that The Meister will be there!

In keeping the trend going of The Rockpile bar in Toronto bringing in awesome acts, we may as well just change it's name to MORC Northland or something.  Of the 30 plus bands aboard this year at least 12 of them have or will be playing at one of the two Rockpile locations in Toronto along with many past MORC alumni.  This next band is no exception and make their Rockpile stop on my very birthday this year!  I speak of Jake E. Lee's triumphant return to the rock world with his new band Red Dragon Cartel.  Despite all the hubub on the internet surrounding the initial performance of Red Dragon Cartel which hurls countless insults towards front man, Canadian Darren James Smith.  Darren, drummer and back up vocalist for Harem Scarem, was chosen to front Lee's new band from submissions through a Facebook page.  The album is awesome and a great return for the former Ozzy/Badlands axe slinger.

I'm not as familiar with these next MORC virgins, but in some cases I've been scouring you-tube and purchasing CD's in my constantly evolving music quest.  Discovering new bands is part of the fun of MORC and also renewing your fever for older ones as well.

The Charm City Devils are a newer band on the scene, and had their name suggested by Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx.  These guys formed around 2007 and have issued two solid rock offerings with Let's Rock-n-Roll in 2009 and Sins on my birthday of April 10 in 2012.  I purchased both CD's in preparation for their shows aboard ship this year and have been rather impressed.  It's no wonder they took home the I-tunes award of best new rock band in 2009!  Their cover of the traditional American folk song, "Man of Constant Sorrow" is a catchy tune and I can't get it out of my head, I'll be looking these guys up for sure!

Tyketto hails from New York City and have been around since 1987 releasing five studio albums and one live recording.  The original roster consisted of vocalist Danny Vaughn, guitarist Brooke St. James, bassist Jimi Kennedy and drummer Michael Clayton.  The Monsters of Rock Cruise finds the original line up of Tyketto along with the addition of keyboardist Bobby Lynch on board.  I have checked out most of their discography and find the music to be decent rock and roll with a few stand out cuts but mostly nothing over the top special for me.  I'm sure that their live show will infect me from the reports I've uncovered on the world wide web, just as has been the case with several other bands such as KIX for one.  I was not a huge KIX fan until I saw them live the first time on 2012's cruise!

Tuff has served up a handful of releases during their career and in learning their discography I found that they have again created a couple of good songs but mostly mediocre selections.  While I'd like to judge for myself, my opinion however may be a little tainted by the general (at least from what I saw on the internet) consensus that vocalist Stevie Rachelle is a "real douche".  What I do know is that he, in conjunction with another party started the Metal Sludge website which seems to me to be more about slander, abuse or bashing and false reporting than anything serious from what I've seen.  Just ask Red Dragon Cartel vocalist Darren James Smith about the things they posted after his first show with Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel.  I do not know if Stevie Rachelle is the actual author of anything for Metal Sludge or even if he's still involved with the site but I'm thinking it's a good idea that him and Darren remain on opposite ends of the boat just in case.  Never-the-less I've never seen Tuff so I'll do my best to check them out, just depends on who else they're up against in the schedule.

With the star power that's housed in the 2012 formed "supergroup"  The Winery Dogs, I was expecting to be absolutely blown away by their debut release.  The Winery Dogs consists of bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth/Mr. Big), drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre/Adrenaline Mob/Avenged Sevenfold) and vocalist & guitarist Richie Kotzen (Poison/Mr. Big).   Wow was I disappointed.  I know there are tons of friends and people that are loving this self titled release and will certainly verbally abuse me for this, but it just doesn't hold my attention.  I will definitely try to check them out on ship and maybe the live set can change my mind, but they're certainly not high on my viewing list, sorry guys.

Mike Tramp, lead vocalist of White Lion is traveling with us this year for an acoustic set.  Not being a rabid White Lion follower and as with anything acoustic I usually tend to shy away from it preferring the electrically charged sounds as my selection of poison, I may skip Mike.  But if there's nothing else on at the time I'll definitely poke my head in if nothing other than to see "When the Children Cry".

I have a deep respect for Carl Palmer as a great musician and one of the premiere drummers around, although he doesn't seem to fit as well into this roster.  I'm not sure an instrumental drumming performance is up my sleeve, but we'll see how the mood strikes me at the time and what sort of competition he's up against.  For the drummers sailing with us or those interested Carl is holding a "Master Class" aboard ship that you should check out as he's sure to have lots of tips and wisdom to pass along!

Richie Kotzen is one of the premiere guitar's of our time and although I'm not overly familiar with his solo material and am not a fan of the Winery Dogs collaboration, I'll definitely try to catch his performance.  I do have and enjoy his 2011 release 24 Hours and hopefully Kotzen will eek out some Poison and/or Mr. Big tunes alongside choices from that record during his acoustic set.....at least a couple of songs.

I know that fellow Decibel Geek writer and MORC virgin Kate Campbell will not be skipping Joel Hoekstra's set, in fact someone will probably have to stand nearby and wipe the drool off of her face so she doesn't embarrass herself too much....I'll help you out Kate if you return the favor for me with Femme Fatale.....lol. I saw Joel aboard in 2012 with Night Ranger and was impressed by the set, not being a big fan previously.

Join me next week as I will be "Planning the Debauchery"

The Meister ("LIKE" The Meister on Facebook)

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