Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Floyd - 2/13/15

Happy Friday everyone and this week's reminder that it's the weekend comes in the form of the great PF song "On the Turning Away". This song is off the album "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" which was the first Pink Floyd album to not feature Roger Waters. His departure from the band meant losing the creative force behind the band's soaring success at the time. With guitar master David Gilmour at the helm for AMLOR, more of the other member's creativity was able to shine.

The lyrics deal with the topic of looking away from those in adverse situations and not concerning yourself with other's struggles regardless of what they may be. The ending of the song is a strong statement declaring that "it's not enough just to stand and stare" challenging those listening to help everyone around them.

The below video is from PF's Live in Venice concert video from 1989. The concert setting was one of the most unique in music history as the band performed on a floating stage and the majority of the crowd were in tethered boats floating in front of the stage.

Happy 45th Birthday Heavy Metal!

Heavy metal, as in the genre, turns 45 years old today. It's no secret that Black Sabbath were the fathers of heavy metal and their debut album, titled "Black Sabbath" was released on this day in 1970 making it 45 years old today. Countless numbers of bands that realized that down tuned guitars sounded good and everyone put their own spin on it from there. They didn't even know what they were creating when they created it, but now there are thousands of bands that consider themselves heavy metal all over the world. Heavy metal has grown into countless numbers of sub-genres and cultures and just think it all started because Tony Iommi chopped off his fingertips on his fret hand. If you don't know the finger story, watch this.

Fun fact about the album Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath is that it was recorded on one day in a single 12 hour recording session. The next day when it was being finished and finalized, they played a gig in Switzerland.

Without further adieu, the song that started it all, Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath off Black Sabbath.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TT5 - Best Frontmen

The frontman fulfills such an important role; they have to sing, handle the eyes and attnetion of the crowd at all times, sometimes play an instrument, and most importantly keep the fans engaged during the entirety of a performance. There are plenty of examples of frontmen (and women) doing a few of these things well, but it's rare to find someone who does all of these things well. The hardest thing for most to do is grabbing the attention of the fans and keeping it until the end of the show. The difference of having a great frontman is the difference between selling out a headlining tour and being an opener on someone else's tour. Just like in football where having a good quarterback is key to success, having a great face of the band is crucial to taking a band to their highest potential.

5) James Hetfield
The Metallica front man has a "disadvantage" to the rest of the people on this list, he plays rhythm guitar. James is consistently high energy and a master at putting sing-a-longs and shout-backs into his songs to keep the crowd involved in every show.

4) Rob Halford
Riding a motorcycle on stage. Creating the "look" of heavy metal (black leather and studs). Singing better than most anyone else on the planet. Handling plenty of controversy over the years. Helping put heavy metal in the forefront of pop culture. These are just some of the many accomplishments of Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Oh and he's 63 and still sounds amazing.

3) David Lee Roth
Besides being an incredible talented singer, Diamond Dave is more known for is stage acrobatics and antics. He performed as if he had more energy than anyone else in the arena and was always moving and singing his heart out. There is never a dull moment at a concert that David Lee Roth is on stage. He was the leader of one of the biggest bands of the 80s (and all time) and putting David Lee Roth on this list is in no way a knock on any of his successors in Van Halen.

2) Ozzy Osbourne
As the first heavy metal singer, Ozzy didn't have any example to base his style on. He helped usher in a new genre that was heavier and deeper than any of the rock music at the time. He is controversial, entertaining, talented, and most of all trail-blazing. After his departure from Black Sabbath, he maintained his popularity by launching a highly successful solo career. Oh and yes he did bite the head off a bat while on stage. How's that for entertaining and controversial?

1) Bruce Dickinson
Bruce was brought into Iron Maiden in order to help propel them to new heights and that he did. He understood that in order to take Maiden from a club band to an arena band he as the frontman needed to be more than just a singer, he needed to entertain and keep your eyes on the stage at all time. In the times before huge video screens, he would exaggerate his movements and literally run all over the stage, making sure that even those in the last rows could see him. Don't forget, he did all this while belting out some of the best vocals in all of heavy metal.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Grammys Rant

This is not a retrospective jab at the history of bad decisions by The Grammys, this is simply an opinion that I'm sure is shared by many of the 2014/2015 Grammy awards.

Let's start at an obvious point, the award for the Best Metal Performance. And the nominees are:

  • "The Last in Line" - Tenacious D. Really? Nothing against Tenacious D, they brought Dio to a whole fanbase and generation that would've never have even heard of him. They have a special place in the heart of all rock and metal fans, but the fact of the matter is they are a comedy act. Forgetting all that, the song is a cover song. 
  • "Neon Knights" - Anthrax. Anthrax is most definitely deserving of a Grammy nom, but not for a 35 year old Black Sabbath song. Why didn't the Grammys care when they released one of the most critically acclaimed metal albums of 2011 or any of the other tremendous and pioneering metal work they have produced over the years? 
  • "High Road" - Mastodon. I agree with this one. It's not the best song off the album, but hey beggers can't be choosers. At least they gave Mastodon (one of the most important heavy metal bands of the 2000s) some credit.
  • "Heartbreaker" - Motorhead. I don't have a problem at all with the song or the band getting the nomination. My problem here lies with the fact that this song was released in 2013, therefore making it a song that should have been nominated at LAST YEARS Grammys. Clearly the committee that picks these was grasping at straws here and couldn't find any other act to give a nomination to this year (see below). 
  • "The Negative One" - Slipknot. They're back and on a tear. They're killing it live and the album kicks ass. The Knot deserves the nomination. I fear though that the people that pick these simply picked the first song released from this album just because it's Slipknot and didn't actually care to listen to it and judge it for themselves. 
And the Grammy goes to......Tenacious D. Congrats to them. There are just more deserving metal acts. You guys are great though. 

Here are some tremendous albums that were all released in 2014 that should've gotten some credit from "the biggest names in music":
"Clearing the Path to Ascend" Yob
"Bloodstone & Diamonds" Machine Head
"Blood In, Blood Out" Exodus
"Foundations of Burden" Pallbearer
"Redeemer of Souls" Judas Priest
"Pale Communion" Opeth
Just to name a few.........

Moving on now to the Rock category. I actually completely agree with the nominations and winners for Best Rock Performance (Congrats Jack White). Somehow though "Lazaretto" didn't win Best Rock Song as he was beaten out by a Paramore song. I don't understand the logic. Best Rock Album is a touchy subject for me this year. Beck's "Morning Phase" won. I'm starting to think that he only won because they were giving him Album of the Year so therefore it had to win every other category it was nominated for. The problem is that it's not a Rock album. If that's rock, then we need to redefine what Rock music actually is. Unfortunately the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and MTV (combining rock and pop into the same category) have already done that for us and it isn't pretty. Side note, how does Jack White get nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, but Lazaretto (the album) not get the Best Rock Album nom? Did they even listen to it? It was incredible and a whole hell of a lot better than that U2 album that they gave away for free. 

On the positive side, huge congrats to Beck for winning Album of the Year for "Morning Phase". He's a real artist who writes every single lyric and plays most every instrument on his records. This credit and validation is long overdue for an artist with the incredible history of Beck. 

That's enough ranting for one night. I'm sure if I was able to dive into the other categories, I could find plenty more glaring mistakes by the almighty Grammy committee. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Floyd - 2/6/15

I usually try to expand your PF horizons with my Friday Floyd, but this week, I'm going with a classic. This week's Friday Floyd is the very popular song "Hey You". This is the first song of disc / album 2 of The Wall. Many casual Pink Floyd and even classic rock in general fans know this song very well.

The song fits well as the halfway point of the album due to it's content. The Wall is about closing off from society and reality by putting up a wall (see the connection?), but "Hey You" is sung from the standpoint of an individual who is desperately trying for human interaction.

When The Wall is performed live, a literal wall is being constructed during the first half of the show that is completed on the last note of "Goodbye Cruel World". The next song is "Hey You" and is performed by the band as they are completely hidden behind the wall.

Enjoy "Hey You", but don't forget to always Pink Floyd responsibly and listen to the entire album at some point as well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

TT5 - Top Hard Rock / Metal Albums of 1980

There was a time when all music was considered new and even some of the albums that we now consider game changers and classics were at one point brand spanking new and hadn't even yet stood the test of time. Now that we have had 35 years to digest this music, below is the definitive list of the best hard rock and heavy metal releases of the year 1980.

5) Animal Magnetism - Scorpions
Known nowadays more for it's controversial cover than it's musical content, Animal Magnetism was the seventh studio album for German band Scorpions and released just as they were picking up steam. "Make it Real" and "The Zoo" are the classics off this album. The mid to late 80s are when Scorpions really hit the big time and were easily one of the biggest bands in the world.

4) The Game - Queen
It's hard to believe that a band as huge, influential, and well liked as Queen has only had one #1 album in the US, but it's true and 1980's The Game is that album. "Play the Game", "Another One Bites the Dust", and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" are some of the most loved songs by one of history's most loved bands. Queen is still touring with Adam Lambert filling in for the late, great Freddie Mercury and putting on an amazing show (just ask my mom!).

3) Strong Arm of the Law & Wheels of Steel - Saxon
Saxon had such a good year in 1980 that they get two albums ranked. How can you choose between the two? These were their second and third studio albums and they were released within 4 months of each other. Some bands worry about the sophomore slump, but clearly this is not a problem that Saxon had. The classics from these albums just keep on going: "Motorcycle Man", "747 Strangers in the Night", "Wheels of Steel", "Heavy Metal Thunder", "20,000 Ft", "Dallas 1PM". Most of you probably have not listened to these albums in their entirety. Change that........soon.


2) Ace of Spades - Motorhead
What can you say about the album that cemented Motorhead's place in heavy metal history? Even if the album was just one song and that song was "Ace of Spades", it'd still be on this list. Motorhead's legacy is probably one of the best in metal as they (really Lemmy) found their (his) style early on and stuck with it for 40 years. Besides the title track, songs like "Love Me Like a Reptile", "(We Are) The Road Crew", and "The Chase is Better Than the Catch" are still played live by the band today.

1) Back in Black - AC/DC
The story of Back in Black has hit legendary status at this point. How in the world could a band not only retain their style and image after losing someone as iconic as Bon Scott? Brian Johnson is how. This was his first album singing for the band as they came back with a huge right hook after losing the singer that had been a humongous part of their success to that point. The entire album is classic and frankly I shouldn't have to name any of the hit songs that came from it. Just listen to the whole thing.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Floyd - 1/30/15

Happy Friday. Today's Friday Floyd is a deep cut as it appears on the soundtrack album Obscured by Clouds. I have mentioned this album before in the past telling you that you have to listen to it cover to cover. If you haven't done so yet, this is is your not so friendly reminder.

The Gold It's In The... is an extremely unique song for Floyd for 3 reasons. The first reason is the tempo of the song. The song is very upbeat which is rare to find in the Floyd catalog as most of their compositions are long, drawn out, complex arrangements. This one though seems as if maybe, juuuust maybe, David Gilmour has a smile on his face and a bounce in his step when he's singing. The second reason that this song is unique is the lyrical content. Most PF songs deal with very heavy topics such as life and death, greed, and coming of age. TGIIT... is a story about a man who just loves adventure and doesn't care about what he finds. He wants to explore and come upon treasures, but has no interest in keeping them. The video below includes the lyrics so you'll be able to see for yourself. The final reason that this song is a rarity for Pink Floyd is the fact that Rick Wright (probably to the delight of Roger) is not featured on this song. There are no keyboards or piano anywhere in this song as it is entirely composed of guitar, bass, and drums.

Enjoy The Gold It's In The..... and listen to Obscured by Clouds already!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TT5 - Super Bowl Halftime Wish List

With this being Super Bowl week, most of America and a decent chunk of the planet will be tuning in on Sunday to watch the biggest sporting event in the world. I, on the other hand, will not be. As a Packers fan, it'll be too much to watch the Super Bowl this year knowing how close we were and how much we deserved to be there. It's just like watching your ex-girlfriend win Miss America; you just can't bear to watch it. Anyway, the halftime show this year will be Katy Perry, who I'm sure will put on one heck of a performance as I am a fan of hers and think she's one of the bright sides of pop music today. One day, I wish that the halftime talent is someone on the heavier side. I think the heaviest band to play a halftime show so far was Aerosmith (who's guests included Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Mary J Blige, and Nelly). So in a perfect world, here would be a great place to start when picking an act with a little more edge.

5) Jay Z / Kanye West
I know you're thinking I'm crazy for classifying Hov and Ye as "heavy", but you should listen to Watch the Throne, Yeezus, and Magna Carta Holy Grail. All of those albums are very much hip hop to the core, but all of which are very heavy and I know that with these two performers on stage, the volume would be up, the light show would be intense, and the crowd would be on their feet.

4) Led Zeppelin
I did say that this list took place in a perfect world, didn't I? You and I both know that if LZ were to reunite and play again, the Super Bowl would be the least of their priorities. But hey, a guy can dream right? A 5 song medley of Kashmir, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, In My Time of Dying, and Communication Breakdown would be such a killer halftime show that the crowd would cheer for an encore and boo when the players come back on the field.

3) Iron Maiden
I don't need to explain the credentials of Mighty Maiden. This band would laugh at the fact that the Super Bowl crowd would only be about 80,000 people. These Brits play to crowds of that size every week it seems like. Bruce would never let the energy die down for the entirety of their 15 minute slot because he wouldn't stop running and waving his hands high above his head. The only downside is that 15 minutes of Iron Maiden is only enough time for about 3 or 4 songs but hot damn, they'd be tremendous.

2) Metallica
The reigning kings of metal! Metallica needs no introduction as their music is used in stadiums throughout the world to pump up players and fans alike. The only thing better than playing Enter Sandman at a sporting event is having Metallica play it for you. The biggest problem with Metallica playing the halftime show is that their fans all over the world would tirelessly debate about what songs to play and no matter what they choose, some of those fans will cry for the heavens because their favorite 'tallica song wasn't played.

1) AC/DC
Power chords were meant for AC/DC and AC/DC was meant for power chords. Power chords have mass appeal and instantly create a simple groove that everyone can dig. AC/DC's worst is better than most bands best and everyone loves their music and knows all the words to most of their songs. They're a shoo-in for this gig and anyone in their right mind wishes to Shook All Night Long by AC/DC.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Floyd - 1/23/15

With a band as huge and as popular as Pink Floyd, it's very hard to call any song of their's a "hidden gem". I mean for crying out loud, only 6 artists in history have sold more records. There is a lot of love for (and deservedly so) for the big 4 Floyd albums so any sort of "hidden gem" would have to be found elsewhere. My favorite deep track of the Floyd is the song Fearless from Meddle. This song starts off slow but features one of the best riffs that PF ever performed. At the very end of the song, a recording of Liverpool FC faithful can be heard singing their anthem You'll Never Walk Alone which as a LFC fan, I very much enjoy.

A surprising fact about this song is that Roger Waters (bassist) plays the acoustic guitar parts, rather than David Gilmour, the band's usual guitarist.

The meaning of the lyrics is uncertain, but some debate that they might tell a portion of the story of Jesus's life. See for yourself.....

Monday, January 19, 2015

TT5 - 5 Most Anticipated New Bonnaroo Acts

For anyone who's talked to me in the last few months knows that for the first time in my life, I'm experiencing Bonnaroo this summer. Bonnaroo is over my birthday every year and I've always wanted to go. My friend and I just decided this past summer that 2015 was going to be our year and bought tickets on the Black Friday presale. So in the spirit of Bonnarro, today's Tuesday Top 5 ranks the top 5 bands that I'm most excited to see for the first time at Bonnaroo 2015. There are plenty of acts that I have seen already and am STOKED for (Slayer, Benjamin Booker, Kendrick Lamar, etc.), but this list is only for bands that I haven't seen before.

5) Unlocking the Truth
This band of teenagers (they are all approximately 14) is a heavy metal band that is actually worth all of the hype about them. Yes that was my stab at Babymetal. Unlocking the Truth was recently signed to Sony Records so their first full official release is still to come, but I can speak for the entire heavy metal community in saying that it is highly anticipated.

4) Pallbearer
I recently started getting into doom metal (like in the last 9 months) and Pallbearer are one of the newest and freshest bands in the genre. When Pallbearer was announced for Roo, it was a dream come true. I hope they're playing at night or else rocking out to doom metal with the sun still up will just feel down right strange.

3) Sturgill Simpson
Despite being a huge metal head, I still love great old school country music. Sturgill is by far the most refreshing artist in the entire genre. He's a truly great songwriter and has such an old school delivery that is just not found in too many other country artists today. I'm very much looking forward to seeing Sturgill Simpson for the fist time at the farm this year.

2) Royal Blood
I have heard about Royal Blood for some time now, just never really gave them the time of day until they were announced for Roo 2015. I listened to their debut album "Out of the Black" and was blown away. This heavy blues rock duo is comprised only of a bassist and a drummer. The amount of music and heaviness that comes out of just two men is amazing. Like Pallbearer, it would feel strange if Royal Blood have a set scheduled for the daytime.

1) Robert Plant
I have never come anywhere close to seeing a member of Led Zeppelin, so I'm blown away that Robert Plant will be at the farm this summer. I know that Robert Plant's true love is worldly new age style music, but it's Robert freaking Plant of Led freaking Zeppelin. Even if only a third of the set list is reimagined LZ classics, I'll be a happy man.

El Monstero at The Pageant 12/26/14

I've heard Kevin consider El Monstero to be the monster truck version of Pink Floyd. That is by far the most accurate description anyone could ever give El Monstero. For those that don't know, El Monstero is a group of local (to St. Louis) musicians that pay tribute to Pink Floyd a few times a year in an all out spectacle that has continued to evolve and be a very hot ticket. Their most memorable shows are their Christmas run of shows (2014 featured 6 of them) due to the amount of firepower crammed into the intimate setting of the Pageant. The musicianship is top notch and the complex arrangements of Pink Floyd are perfectly recreated by an all star cast.

The 12/26/14 show was my 7th consecutive year of December El Monstero concerts, so I had an idea of what to expect, but I always know that somehow the show is going to be drastically different than the year before. In the Flesh is such a perfect way to start off a concert and El Monstero seems to know this and they then continue playing The Wall song for song. The first guest of the night comes out to play the role of the teacher at the end of Another Brick in the Wall and snaps his yardstick over his knee after yelling at everyone the famous line "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding!" The next guests are the pole dancers (partially clothed) who perform throughout the entirety of the rocker Young Lust. One of the dancers stays behind to deliver the opening monologue of One of My Turns. One of the things that make an El Monstero show special is that special guests do more than sing or play an instrument. The performers that showcase the most talent and dedication are the ballerina that dances during Vera and the aerialists that perform above our heads for Shine on You Crazy Diamond. This year, there were three aerialists that performed on silks during Shine On and hoops during Echos. With my perspective being in the front row right up against the railing, I was straining to look straight up for so long and pay attention to all three at the same time.

Set 2 started off with Fearless, a song that used to be considered as "one for the heads". With El Monstero making it a staple of it's show, I'm sure that many average PF fans have discovered this gem that comes from outside of the "big 4 albums". After an abbreviated version of Dogs, we were treated with Keep Talking off The Divison Bell. This song was the fan-poll winner that El Monstero put out just a few months before the winter run of shows. There is always a guest singer that comes out for Have a Cigar and on 12/26, we were honored to be joined by the great Steve Ewing of The Urge who delivered the song with the perfect amount of swagger. One of the best parts of any El Monstero show is getting a complete performance of Dark Side of the Moon. After a guest showing by Thom Donavon to add extra guitar firepower during Money and a hair raising vocal performance by the three ladies of El Monstero during Great Gig in the Sky, Dark Side of the Moon was brought to a triumphant close with an added flair that only El Monstero can provide. Following band and cast introductions by the mighty Favazz, the encore started off with When the Tigers Broke Free and The Show Must Go On. Anyone who's seen El Mon knows that The Pageant shows are closed out with the perfect sing-a-long in Wish You Were Here and the beautifully epic Comfortably Numb.

This years stage set up feature 2 "Mr. Screens" that also included video screens that made for a seamless array of video boards that went all the way from stage left to stage right. Both the keyboardists were brought to the extreme front and extreme left and right of the stage creating a deep stage allowing plenty of room for all musicians to wander around freely. A highlight of the stage shows and props was Mark getting up close and personal with a camera while singing a few songs. This, along with doing an entire song from the balcony, added an extra element that makes going year after year a brand new experience. Even though this was not my favorite set list that I've ever seen from El Monstero, this was by far my favorite stage show that I've seen out of the El Mon crew.

Below are a few shots taken by my father and I during the 12/26/14 El Monstero show at The Pageant.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Floyd - 1/16/15

My full review to come soon of the El Monstero Christmas 2014 show, but in the meantime, the first Friday Floyd of 2015 features one of the songs "for the heads". Interstellar Overdrive came off the first official Pink Floyd album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, released in 1967. This was one of the first songs that started to explore the realms of progressive and instrumental extended length tracks that went on to do more for their career than some of the pop driven singles that they recorded at the time as well. So take 15 minutes and explore the depths of an almost 50 year old song.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

TT5 - Desert Island Albums

Following the 2 week Christmas / New Years hiatus, the first Tuesday Top 5 of 2015 is my ranking of the top 5 desert island albums. What is a desert island album? It's an album that if you were stranded on a desert island that somehow has electricity, you're going to be glad you have these particular albums. I picked my 5 so that they would address all different situations and moods. Following are my top 5 desert island albums.

5) Ray Charles - Live
This is the perfect summation of Ray Charles' career put onto a double live album. This album features the raw energy and soul of one of the greatest singers ever.

4) Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
This is the masterpiece of the greatest guitar player of all time. Not only did this album put Jimi at legend status as soon as it was released, it's featured some of the best guitar work that has yet to be copied.

3) Led Zeppelin - 4
The Zep is widely considered (by me included) as the greatest band of all time. Every single song on this album is a classic and has stood the test of time. This album completely shows what LZ is capable off with hard and heavy rockers all the way down to folk ballads.

2) AC/DC - Back in Black
One of the most popular albums of all time, it should come as no surprise that this album made the cut. From the start of Hells Bells to the finale of Rock n Roll Ain't Noise Pollution, there are no dull points in this album. A true classic that will forever be revered.

1) Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Anyone who knows me knows that this is my top album of all time. A true masterpiece from cover to cover is the perfect album for any scenario.