Saturday, June 2, 2012

Danko Jones-Bring on the Mountain DVD

Megaforce 2012

Who is Danko Jones you ask? And why does this band warrant a documentary? The Canadian ‘power trio’ named after their charismatic singer/guitarist who isn’t just a great songwriter, with extraordinary humor; he’s a damn fine singer and skilled guitarist to boot. I’m still relatively new to the band having recently discovered Danko Jones’ Below the Belt album in the summer of 2010. Once I began working my way backward into the band’s back catalog I found that Danko Jones is one of the best kept secrets in rock ‘n’ roll today.

Bring on the Mountain is a 90 minute documentary that is named after a never recorded staple in Danko Jones’ live concert set. The song has become a fan favorite which the band vows never to record since they simply can’t capture the energy of it in studio. The film digs deep into the early beginnings of Jones’ passion for music, through his foray into college radio in his late teens into the formation of his first band and the bands that would come then thereafter. The film’s pace picks up about 25 minutes in when Danko joins forces with John Calabrese who played in a rival club circuit band. Calabrese went on to become Danko’s right hand man; he’s been there by his side since the band’s inception in 1996. What sets this particular documentary apart from most; the bulk of the commentary is from Jones and Calabrese alone. There are no big name guests, though we know some are huge fans, it’s stripped down, intimate and leaves engrossed. There are several highlights in this film; the evolution of Danko Jones’ alter-ego who is a witty, assertive, motor mouthed poet who owns the stage and who has been known to own a heckler or two throughout the years . So intense is his performance that he wound up detaching the retina from his right eye. No kidding! How is that for hardcore? Jones’ injury resulted in him having to modify his performance or suffer further damage. Danko Jones could very well have surpassed Spinal Tap as the band with the most ‘disappearing drummers’ as they break in their 6th drummer--- Atom Willard. Scandinavia was where Danko Jones had success first, they were signed by Swedish label Bad Taste Records when no one else would in fact they signed they without even hearing then band; they toured Scandinavia and they were welcomed with open arms. No surprise that the band calls that Sweden ‘their home. In a perfect world Danko Jones would be a household name, rather than a cult band, the fact that they aren’t huge in America makes them that more endearing.

As if a stellar documentary wasn’t good enough there’s more. The second DVD of this set includes The Ballad of Danko Jones ; the short film which the Below the Belt trilogy were based on. There’s also 14 career spanning live performances from Danko Jones’ archives and every Danko Jones video clip in existence (all 19 of them). Let’s hope that we get an officially sanctioned Danko Jones live DVD in the near future as it would make a great companion to Bring on the Mountain.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rose Tattoo—Live from Boggo Road Jail 1993 (DVD)

MVD 2012

It’s interesting how Australia has cranked out some fine influential gritty, blue collar rock ‘n’ roll bands; this biggest name that comes to mind is AC/DC. There was also The Angels from Angel City who influenced Los Angeles based Great White, the band covered them on several occasions and turned fans onto the The Angels from Angel City (or Angel City)catalog. The other band is Rose Tattoo which directly influenced 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Guns N’ Roses who used the band’s bluesy feel and attitude as a blue print. Guns N’ Roses also covered one of Rose Tattoo’s better known tracks “Nice Boys” on their Live Like A Suicide EP. Unfortunately, Rose Tattoo never got beyond ‘cult band’status in the United States despite trying. They remain one of those cool bands like Motorhead that didn’t sell a lot of album but that every rock ‘n’ roll fan should have in their collection.

MVD has just released a live DVD recorded in 1993 in of all things a jail; the DVD is titled Live from Boggo Road Jail 1993. The band joined some of their fellow countrymen (and women) to play the closing of Boggo Road Jail. To commemorate this special occasion singer Angry Anderson got the original Rose Tattoo back together (which included the late Peter Wells on guitar)for a vulgar, high octane, no frills performance that rivaled the old days. Looking a little worse for wear due to hard living no doubt Rose Tattoo tore through a 50 plus minute set that included hits; “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw,” “Nice Boys,” “Scarred for Life,” “Assault & Battery,” an apropos cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” and more. Filmed in 1993 the technology that we have today obviously wasn’t available but then again would you really want to see Angry Anderson’s sweaty, dirty, ugly mug in high definition? I’d have to say certainly not, but in that same regard I don’t think he’d want that---he’s old school that’s not the Rose Tattoo way. Live from Boggo Road Jail 1993 isn’t anything fancy or slick looking for that matter but it is a great document of a great Australian band---that’s not AC/DC.

L.A. Guns-Hollywood Forever

Deadline Music 2012

The first half of 2012 brings a new L.A. Guns studio album, since there are two versions of the band I suppose we should let you know which version this is. The Phil Lewis and Steve Riley version of L.A. Guns have issued a new studio recording---their first all original material record since 2005’s Tales from the Strip. While there is an existing version that is led by guitarist Tracii Guns it seems likely that he might have thrown in the towel; after years of instability Tracii Guns’ L.A. Guns imploded at the tail end of 2011.

On Hollywood Forever Lewis and Riley reunited with producer Andy Johns who worked with them previous albums; Waking the Dead, Rips the Covers Of, and Tales from the Strip. Johns is best known for his work with Free, Humble Pie, Van Halen, Cinderella and Joe Satriani among others. While not a bombastic sounding album by any means the majority of effort was placed in crafting songs with big hooks and infectious melodies. Hollywood Forever continues in the tradition of L.A. Guns post Man in the Moon when the sound is more contemporary hard rock than the sleazy sound that landed L.A. Guns on the map. Phil Lewis’s vocal sounds great on Hollywood Forever kudos to guitarist Stacey Blades for his fantastic solos and memorable riffs---his effort helped this album tremendously.

Unfortunately for those of us that are hoping for L.A. Guns to look back to their roots they didn’t on this album---not completely anyway. At this stage in their career it’s unlikely they ever will completely. So while their contemporaries are making ‘vintage’ sounding albums L.A. Guns continue to press forward and stay the course with the sound that they’ve been utilizing for over a decade—there are glimpses of the sound of old. With 14 tracks Hollywood Forever drags along at times—mainly with the mid-temp stuff or the ballads; the strongest 10 tracks would have sufficed instead there are 14 which increases the chance of filler. The standouts on Hollywood Forever are; the title track “Hollywood Forever,” which could have been taken from Hollywood Vampires, “Vine St. Shimey,” and is vintage L.A. Guns that could have been take from the Cocked and Loaded sessions, “Venus Bomb” is a fast paced, gritty track that will have you thinking of the band’s debut album, “Dirty Black Night,” has a great riff, furious solo and a heavy groove to it, “Queenie” is a bluesy rocker that works to Lewis’ strengths---it’s probably one of the songs things L.A. Guns has done in the past decade. There’s also an interesting cover of “Arana Negara” originally done by the psychedelic rock band Bicicletas completely done in Spanish. So while Hollywood Forever doesn’t knock it out of the park, it’s a ‘very good’ record and I look forward to hearing Phil Lewis & Co break in some of the new exciting songs.

Legacy of Disorder-Last Man Standing

Black Orchid Music 2012

When the new album by New Zealand’s Legacy of Disorder titled Last Man Standing I didn’t know what to really expect. Would Legacy of Disorder be another in a line of forgettable cookie-cutter post nu-metal bands? Or a cheesy faux metal band disguised as metal-core with sappy clean vocals? As it turns out Legacy of Disorder were neither. I was pleasantly surprised with their abrasive brand of modern groove metal that is clearly influenced by acts like; Pantera, Machine Head, Drowning Pool and Throwdown.

Legacy of Disorder brought producer Sterling Winfield on board to handle the production. As many of you might already know Winfield handled production on Pantera and Hellyeah records and he’s brought that explosive and intensity into this recording. Granted a great sounding album would be just a great ‘sounding’ album if it were not for top notch songs, which Legacy of Disorder have in spades. They kept things simple in the sense that they didn’t put too much music on the album; they went old school and narrowed it down to 10 solid cuts—which eliminates filler.

Last Man Standing is highly recommended it’s memorable, they have a fierce front man in James Robinson who at times channels Phil Anselmo and Dave Peters. There’s great musicianship showcased and the songs are well crafted. There’s a track called “Breed” that has too much of a nu-metal influence for my taste; it goes into Korn and Disturbed territory—which I’ll admit I didn’t like too much. It’s with songs like; the blazing opener “Thorns,” the military precision of “March of Death,” and the brutality of the title track “Last Man Standing” that could make this up and coming act a household name by year’s end.

Saxon-Heavy Metal Thunder-Live Eagles over Wacken DVD/CD

EMI 2012

Saxon regained their footing with 2004‘s Lionheart album, since then the band has been hell bent on reconquering the world. While it’s been easier to do so across Europe the United States in another story. Here they are still demoted to club band at best part of the reason was how the band had been marketed in North America. Other reasons could be-- well who can forget the sight of singer Biff Byford trying to look like he was a member of a L.A. glam rock band? You remember Biff in the video clip for their cover of Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind”on 1988’s Destiny album---yuck! Byford made Ozzy Osbourne circa 1986 look downright gorgeous! The album was horrendous and spelled career suicide for Saxon here in America.

In their quest to recapture their fan base worldwide and claim some new recruits Saxon have become a regular participant at Germany’s prestigious Wacken Open Air Festival. To say that Saxon have become to some extent ‘ambassadors’ of Wacken Open Air wouldn’t be a stretch by any means. In 2003 Saxon issued The Saxon Chronicles DVD which captured the band’s complete set at 2001’s Wacken Open Air. Saxon’s new DVD is entitled Heavy Metal Thunder-Live, Eagles over Wacken which is a compilation of Saxon’s best performances from the Wacken Festival from 2004, 2007, and 2009. Saxon’s members are definitely getting up there in age and it’s starting to show. However with a vast catalog they have a lot from which to choose from and they have chosen wisely; selecting the best of the best from the history of the band. The audiences are still very enthusiastic about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal icons and Biff Byford and company clearly feed off the crowd’s energy.

The only shortcoming found on Heavy Metal Thunder-Live, Eagles over Wacken is the fact that it’s not a complete gig and it’s been pieced together from three different performances. That however, is a minor gripe as it was edited very well and the performances are made to be as seamless as possible. With a extensive list of tracks that totals at 30 plus and includes behind the scenes footage; I dare you to complain. It’s a fantastic set. As if things couldn’t get any better the deluxe digi-pak edition features two audio discs; it captures Saxon recorded live in Glasgow on their triumphant ‘Call to Arms Tour’ in 2011, between the two audio discs there’s a total of 24 additional tracks with hits such as “Denim and Leather,” “Wheels of Steel,” “Crusader,” “747 (Strangers in the Night),” and “Strong Arm of the Law” among cuts from recent albums this makes this collection essential. Whether you own Saxon’s The Eagle has Landed series, the The Saxon Chronicles or any of their previously issued live recordings; Heavy Metal Thunder-Live, Eagles over Wacken will be a welcome addition to your existing Saxon collection or a strong representation of what Saxon is all about for someone just discovering the band.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spiders & Snakes – London Daze

Deadline 2012

In case you missed Spiders & Snakes’ London Daze when it was issued the first time around in 2000, Deadline Music is giving you an opportunity to catch it the second time around when they release it as a midline title. For those that don’t know Spiders & Snakes is fronted by singer and guitarist Lizzie Grey who has crowbarred his way into any documentary or television program having to do with the 80’s Sunset Strip music scene. Lizzie was prominently featured on the film Decline of Western Civilization: The Metal Years with his band London. Lizzie Grey along with singer Nadir D’Priest sure talked big but in the end the band never made it despite the name dropping of who was in the band at whatever incarnation of the band. In the end Grey came off as a blowhard with ‘high expectations’ and ‘unrealistic dreams.’

Nadir D’Priest went on to have moderate success when he broke rank from Grey and took the band with him and released the album Playa Del Rock. Not to be outdone Grey formed Spiders & Snakes and kicked around for a few years before he and the band released Astropop in 1997. Unfortunately the album went unnoticed and it was back to the drawing board for Grey. In 2000 Spiders & Snakes released London Daze which was a mish mash of previously issued London tracks which Grey & Co recut, a cover of Motley Crue’s “Public Enemy #1,” a cover of Mott the Hoople’s “Rock and Roll Queen,” a handful of original tracks and three 1980 demos that feature Nikki Sixx on bass and Nigel Benjamin on vocals.

As a whole London Daze is disappointing affair the saving grace is the 1980 London demos as it takes you back in time to the band’s beginnings and give a snap shot of the band in its infancy. While the songs aren’t a home run, they are demos—you can hear the potential of the line-up. I take offense to Grey reusing material from his past; it’s even more ill-advised when he decides to take over the lead vocals. Spiders and Snakes recorded some ‘good’ renditions of the London classics “Nonstop Rock,” “Party in Hollywood,” “Public Enemy #1” and the Mott the Hoople cover “Rock and Roll Queen.” The Motley cover captures the energy and urgency of a hungry London playing the club circuit in Los Angeles in the 80s. Sadly there isn’t more on London Daze like the aforementioned to make this collection a ‘must buy’ the second time around. Instead you get an uncharismatic, at times forced, and haphazardly put together record.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Cult-Choice of Weapon

Cooking Vinyl 2012

After a releasing the uninspiring Born into This The Cult have returned; I’m surprised that The Cult has released a full-length album since singer Ian Astbury vowed that they wouldn’t do this again. Astbury rambled something like ‘the format is dead’ or something to that affect and they’d release ‘capsules’ from here forward. So in 2012 singer Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy together since 1983 (with a couple of sabbaticals in between) have released their 9th album entitled Choice of Weapon.

The Cult have come full-circle with Choice of Weapon as it is their most consistent in years; the album combines sounds of The Cult past, present and future. I must say this is the strongest line-up to date; featuring Astbury, Duffy, drummer John Tempesta (Testament, Exodus, White Zombie) and bassist Chris Wyse. Tempesta and Wyse shine on Choice of Weapon as one of the most pretentious rhythm sections I have heard in a while. This is no doubt due in part to The Cult reuniting with producer Bob Rock; who is known for cranking out some ‘big’ sounding albums. In addition to Bob Rock, The Cult brought in their friend Chris Goss (Masters of Reality) to co-produce the album. No need to fear about having too many cooks in the kitchen while the recording of this album took place; Choice of Weapon is a seamless album it flows very well, the sound is stripped down, bombastic and most importantly the songs are extraordinary.

Right out of the blocks The Cult sets the tone with the opening track “Honey from a Knife” which is a rockin’ track that can go toe to toe with “Rise” from Beyond Good & Evil. “Honey from a Knife” screams ‘play me live’ as does the first single “For the Animals” both of which will have you burying the gas peddle to the floor board and quite possibly earning you a hefty speeding ticket. In addition the aforementioned could be placed side by side from classic cuts from Electric and you’d mistaken them for bonus cuts—not filler but bonus cuts. “The Wolf” has a vintage Cult sound that’s reminiscent of something from the Love sessions, clearly it isn’t but that’s just how strong Choice of Weapon is. The ballad “Love>Death” is among one of the best The Cult has ever done--bar none; “Lucifer” is refreshing take on psychedelic rock and another in the line of the standouts on the album. Ian Astbury is in top form, he’s stepped it up not only as a singer on Choice of Weapon but as a lyricist. Billy Duffy unleashes a series of blazing solos and tremendous riffs of which songs are based around. The Cult is alive and well; they are revitalized, fusing classic rock ‘n’ roll and modern rock--brilliantly. You can add Choice of Weapon to the list of fine works by The Cult like; Love, Electric, Sonic Temple and Beyond Good & Evil. Now we anxiously await the guys to take this album on the road and break in the new material.