Thursday, September 29, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: Uli Jon Roth - The Metamorphosis of Vivaldi's Four Seasons (2003)

Every once in awhile I stumble upon a CD that is a pure joy to listen to from start to finish, one I can’t stop listening to, where I can’t get the music out of my head even long after the banality of life has forced me to remove my headphones. Uli Jon Roth’s Metamorphosis is such a CD—an aural treat from start to finish, pure ear candy!

Uli Jon Roth got his start in the German metal band, Scorpions, back in 1972. During his six year tenure in Scorpions he displayed a strong Jimi Hendrix influence and both psychedelic and neo-classical tendencies which eventually led to his departure from Scorpions in 1978 to pursue a solo career that would allow him to stretch out in ways he hadn’t been able to within the context of his former band.

Initially Roth struggled to find himself musically walking a tightrope between his Hendrix influenced psychadelia and neo-classicism. But in the first few years of the new millennium he finally seemed to find a style that suited him perfectly, an interesting fusion of psychadelia, heavy metal, and neo-classicism. It’s in Metamorphosis that Roth’s fusion of those styles was fully realized.

Metamorphosis is Roth’s “interpretation” of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Backed by the fifteen-piece Sky Orchestra, Roth is at his absolute best in this brilliant fusion of musical styles. He has a sense of melody and adventure, putting his own spin on Vivaldi, making it sound new and fresh, as if it were written today and not in 1723. The first 13 tracks feature Roth sticking close to Vivaldi’s original and the final 14 tracks feature Roth’s re-imagining/re-interpretation of Vivaldi’s work, which at times sounds reminiscent of some of the more familiar work of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. But the album is best enjoyed when listening start to finish without interruption—or at least the first 13 or final 13 tracks should be listened to in single sittings.

The only drawback to this exceptional CD; and it’s one that’s, quite fortunately, easy to completely ignore are the spoken word intros to several of the pieces. Roth was/is a consummate flower child, and his neo-hippy spoken word intros don’t really add anything to the exceptional music, and without headphones they’re often not even audible over the nature sound effects Roth used for “background” during those intros.
This CD does beg the question, what more musical adventures does Roth have up his sleeves, and when can we expect another brilliant offering such as this one? Hopefully, this isn’t an isolated occurrence for Roth as he’s truly found his musical niche.

Related Links:
The Four Seasons (Wikipedia Entry)
Antonio Vivaldi (Wikipedia entry)
Uli Jon Roth (
Uli Jon Roth (Official Site)
Uli Jon Roth (Authorized Site)
Metamorphosis ( Review)

The Metamorphosis of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Wikipedia entry)

Friday, August 26, 2011

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

Heavily inspired by Pat Frank's post-apocalyptic classic, Alas, Babylon, Forstchen fast forwards to the early 21st century and instead of Alas, Babylon's post nuclear world, Forstchen's cautionary tale is one of an America crippled by an EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) attack.

On the surface the idea of an EMP attack seems far less severe than a nuclear attack as there's no fall-out to deal with nor any radiation sickness.  But stop and think about it, a sudden pulse that knocks out electricity across the country all at once.  Any device with ANYTHING electronic in it is fried.  Some cars (pre-1980) might still run but they'd be few and far between.  No Internet, no television, no radio-- basically we'd be completely cut off from each other.  Instead of a UNITED States of America government would suddenly be forced to turn completely local and we'd be scattered groups of city-states.

Without TV, radio, or Internet we would be left to speculate over what happened and who was responsible.  With Pearl Harbor there was radio to keep us informed, with the Kennedy Assassination there was TV and radio, with 9/11 there was TV, radio, and Internet to keep us informed.  Imagine being sucker-punched back into the 19th century....

And it gets worse-- 19th century technology can't support a 21st century population!  Something's got to give!

William R. Forstchen dares to imagine such a world in a cautionary tale in the tradition of great post-apocalyptic fiction like Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon and Nevil Shute's On the Beach.

What is especially chilling about Forstchen's book is stopping to take stock of your own situation as you read it. Would you be one of the lucky few survivors? or Would you be one of the unlucky many? If you're on prescription medication keep in mind there'd suddenly be a finite supply of it at your local pharmacy. If you suffer from any health ailments at all you'd find yourself more vulnerable with those who are stronger in the unenviable position of "triaging" the population to make sure the limited resources-- food, water, and medication go to those who are most likely to not only survive but help others survive as well.

While One Second After is not for the faint of heart or stomach it's an excellent read.  The characters are real and tangible-- you know these people or people like them.  Forstchen set the book in the town where he lives to give it a greater air of authenticity and making it all that more real to his readers.  ***** out of *****

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: Survivor - Caught In the Game (1983)

In the early eighties bands like Journey, REO Speedwagon, Asia, and Survivor not only dominated the airwaves but also filled arenas with their special blend of AOR.

A bit heavier than their contemporaries—Journey and REO Speedwagon, Survivor really burst onto the scene with a little help from Stallone and their hit Eye of the Tiger which was used prominently in Rocky III.

Caught In the Game has gone largely overlooked or forgotten by the band and by radio. None of the tracks from this album have even appeared on any of Survivor’s multiple different “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of” collections.

This oversight is quite unfortunate as Caught In the Game is likely Survivor’s most consistently strong album from start to finish. The songs are catchy and have a bit more bite than the lesser tracks from their previous albums.

The album opens with the title track, an infectiously catchy rocker and other than the ballad I Never Stopped Loving You the album doesn’t really let up from start to finish. And even that lone ballad is the 3rd track—thus getting it out of the way early—before reverting to the more mid and uptempo rockers that allowed guitarist Frankie Sullivan to cut loose a bit more.

Survivor ended up saving the best for last with the album’s closer, Santa Ana Winds, one of the best tracks the band ever recorded. With guitar solos vaguely reminiscent of some of Blue Oyster Cult’s better material of the previous decade, Bickler’s soulful vocals and the keys of Jim Peterik the song is strong from start to finish.

Today, admittedly this album sounds somewhat dated, a relic or snapshot of the early eighties. But in the context of its time, this was easily one of the better albums released in 1983. It was much to the listening public’s detriment that radio didn’t give it more attention.

(Incidentally this was David Bickler's final album with the band. After leaving for medical reasons he was replaced by Jimi Jamison. Bickler did re-join in 1992, only to be replaced in 2000 by... Jimi Jamison. Today Survivor's lead singer is Robyn McAuley. Bickler today can be heard in Bud Light Real Men of Genius commercials)

Related Link:
Survivor Caught In the Game on (song samples available)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

One Track Mind: Toto - Falling In Between (2006)

Toto has long been one of my favorite bands. Their willingness to take risks and try a variety of different styles of music has always impressed me as has their brilliant talent. After all Toto is a band of session cats. These are the guys the other bands call on to perform on their albums.

Heck these guys started out backing up Boz Scaggs on his Silk Degrees album and after the unprecedented success of their 1982 album IV they were tapped by Michael Jackson to play on his Thriller album.

In 2006 Toto released what would inevitably be their final studio album, Falling In Between.  Some would argue this was their best album ever and most would agree it was their best album since IV.  They certainly went out with a bang.

The album opened with the title track.  From the first time I heard Falling in Between, it swiftly became one of my favorite Toto songs.  It had a fiery drive to it I'd not heard since Gypsy Train on their 1992 Kingdom of Desire album.

Between Steve Lukather's fiery guitar work and the powerful vocals of original lead vocalist Bobby Kimball (who rejoined the band in 1998 after a 14 year absence), the tasteful background vocals and keyboard work of grammy winning keyboardist Greg Phillenganes, and the precise and tasteful drumming of Simon Phillips Falling In Between has it all.  It inevitably set the tone for the entire album.

Related Link
Falling in Between (album review)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: Supertramp - ...Famous Last Words (1982)

After the smash success of their Breakfast in America album, Supertramp bought themselves sometime by releasing the live album, Paris in 1980 and re-grouped in 1982 for what would be Roger Hodgson's final album with the band.

While not as commercially or critically successful as Supertramp's seventies material, ...Famous Last Words is still a strong album and is still very faithful to the sound and musical style that the band had made their own in the previous decade.

The biggest hit from this album, It's Raining Again is perhaps one of the weaker songs on the album.  It has that fun whimsical style but it also comes across as the band merely going through the motions.

The real meat & potatoes of the album are some of the deeper cuts like Crazy & Put On Your Old Brown Shoes.  Both of which take full advantage of the vocals of both Hodgson & Davies not to mention the superlative woodwind skills of John Helliwell and apparently the band thought well enough of both of those songs as they did make it onto the setlist of Hodgson's farewell tour with the band.

While both Hodgson & Supertramp would later find some success separately there was a lightning in a bottle magic that crystallized on Crime of the Century and remained present through Hodgson's final show with the band in Munich in 1983.  And admittedly, this album isn't as good as Crime of the Century, Breakfast in America, or even Crisis?  What Crisis?! but it is still quite enjoyable and remains a worthy bookend to Roger Hodgson's tenure in the band.

Related Links & Media
Supertramp Crisis? What Crisis?! (1975) review
Supertramp Even In the Quietest Moments (1977) review
Supertramp Breakfast in America (1979) review
Roger Hodgson In the Eye of the Storm (1984) review
Supertramp It Was the Best of Times (2000) review
Roger Hodgson Open the Door (2000) review
Something Else Reviews: Featured Artist - Supertramp

Monday, July 11, 2011

One Track Mind: Nick Cave - Into My Arms (1997)

Nick Cave is a brilliant songwriter. Admittedly much of his material is a bit dark for my tastes but the first time I heard Into My Arms it moved my soul.  A person's religious beliefs are very personal and I dare say that no two people hold the exact same beliefs.  The song is a testament of love and respect of one another's beliefs and how love can bridge those differences.

The song is sung from the perspective of a non-believer addressing his love who is a believer.  The song says, I may not believe in God, but if I did I'd ask him to protect you, to watch over you, and to guide you to me.  The non-believer after going through a litany of things he doesn't believe in says he does believe in love and that his belief in love should be enough to bridge the differences in belief between he and his love.

Stripped down to just Cave on vocals and piano the song grows even more starkly personal and moving with Cave's deeply emotive vocal delivery and subtle understated piano playing.  Both lyrically and musically the song is a touching and at times haunting baring of a soul.  The vulnerability goes far beyond moving and is easily one of the most emotionally wrenching songs ever recorded.

The song works on both a deeply personal level and on a grander all-encompassing level.  We may have our differences but don't most of us at least believe in love?  Isn't that belief something to build on, to get past that which divides us?
"But I believe in love
And I know that you do too
And I believe we can choose our path
And we can walk down, me and you"

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: I-Ten - Taking a Cold Look (1983)

In 1983 songwriters Billy Steinberg (guitar/vocals) and Tom Kelly (guitar/keyboards/vocals) formed the short-lived hard rock/AOR band I-Ten.

Steinberg and Kelly have quite an impressive resume as songwriters, having penned the hits Alone for Heart and Like a Prayer for Madonna among several others they had significant cred in the music industry.

Although MTV was still in its infancy, video had already killed the radio star... If this album had been released in the pre-image concious age of music videos, it very likely would have been a hit.

As it is, 3 of the songs on this album ended up being covered by other bands-- the aforementioned Alone became a hit for Heart, Taking a Cold Look was shortened to Cold Look and covered by Canadian hard rockers, Honeymoon Suite, and I Don't Want to Lose You showed up as a bonus track on REO Speedwagon's The Hits.

The original versions have a certain fire in them that, aside from Heart's Alone, is sorely lacking in the cover versions perpetrated by other artists. Steinberg and Kelly's vocals, while not extraordinary, are certainly of a professional calibre that warrants taking them seriously and giving them further consideration than they ended up receiving.

This album seems to go in and out of print.  When in print it's in the steep but reasonable $20 range (or used for only $12) when out of print I've seen it listing over $100!!  I recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to get this album while it's in print at a much more reasonable cost.  This album is a musical time capsule of all that was GOOD about music in the early eighties. For the quality of music on this album, it remains somewhat of a mystery to me why I-Ten weren't more well received at the time of this release. If the opportunity to listen to this lost gem ever presents itself to you, by all means open your ears, close your eyes, turn up the volume and enjoy!

Related Media

Friday, June 24, 2011

One Track Mind (Squared): Marillion - Kayleigh & Lavender (1985)

Much like with tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, and Queen's We Will Rock You & We Are the Champions, Marillion's Kayleigh & Lavender are inextricably linked.

Listening to Marillion's Misplaced Childhood album it's easy to see that this was by design as Mark Kelly's beautiful keyboard solo acts as a segue from Kayleigh into Lavender.

Both songs are rife with Fish's brilliant image-laden lyrics:

Do you remember chalk hearts melting on a playground wall?
Do you remember dawn escapes from moon-washed college halls
Do you remember the cherry blossom in the market square?
Do you remember I thought it was confetti in her hair? - Kayleigh

I was walking in the park dreaming of a spark
When I heard the sprinklers whisper,
Shimmer in the haze of summer lawns.
Then I heard the children singing,
They were running through the rainbows.
They were singing a song for you.
Well it seemed to be a song for you,
the one I wanted to write for you, for you, you. - Lavender

Both songs also feature a biting and at times even menacing sarcasm in Fish's vocal delivery that twists and darkens the mood of both songs.

By the way didn't I break your heart
So sorry, I didn't mean to break your heart... - Kayleigh

You can hear the venom dripping from his broken heart. He's been hurt and he wants to hurt the one who hurt him. Anyone who has had a broken heart is familiar with that sentiment and Fish captures it absolutely brilliantly not only in his choice of lyrics but in how he delivers them.

While Lavender begins with a lighter tone it doesn't last:

A penny for your thoughts my dear
A penny for your thoughts my dear
I owe you for your love
I owe you for your love- Lavender

If anything Lavender is even more stark in the difference between the lighter tone of the lyrics vs. the harsher delivery of them. Sung by someone else the song could be considered light and even whimsical. Sung by Fish the connotations behind the lyrics are considerably darker.

I "discovered" Marillion in 2002. An online friend of mine who shared some of my other musical interests (Chicago and Dream Theater) recommended Marillion to me. I started with Misplaced Childhood and perhaps it was due largely to impeccable timing-- I was going through a rather rough case of heartbreak myself at the time-- but the album really spoke to me... especially Kayleigh and Lavender. Granted the girl who had broken my heart inherited her name from a Barry Manilow song that had been playing in the car when her mother was on the way to the hospital and not the Marillion song-- but the bitterness of both of these songs spoke to me at that point in my life.

One of the things that I really enjoy about Marillion on the whole is that they twist and turn on its head the negative stereotype that prog-rock is overly technical at the expense of emotion. If Marillion's music is bland and emotionless then I'm a vernicious knid.

Related Links
Marillion Misplaced Childhood (1985) review

Thursday, June 09, 2011

One Track Mind: Chicago Transit Authority - Introduction (1969)

While I'm part of what is considered the "second wave" of Chicago fans in that I became a fan of theirs in the eighties when they were riding high on hits like Hard to Say I'm Sorry, You're the Inspiration, Hard Habit to Break, Will You Still Love Me, and to a lesser extent Look Away, it was inevitably their back catalog that held my interest and kept me a fan all these years later. 

I remember, Christmas 1991.  My parents got me my first computer and Chicago's 4 cassette box set, Group Portrait.  I was already intimately familiar with everything Chicago had recorded since 1981 (Chicago 16-21) but I was still rather new to their older material. 

I popped in that first casette and was blown away by the opening track, Introduction, which had been the lead track on their debut album back in 1969.  Terry Kath's soulful vocals and searing guitar, that wall of brass from the horn section, and a tasteful Lee Loughnane trumpet solo that was followed by a fiery Terry Kath guitar solo.  I was hooked!

About a year and a half after that, the summer of 1993, my father took me to my first Chicago concert at the Starlite Theater in Latham, NY.  Latham was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from my hometown.  On that tour they were opening their sets with... Introduction.  The faces and voices had changed somewhat.  Terry Kath had died in 1978, Peter Cetera had left the band in 1985 to pursue a solo career, and drummer Danny Seraphine had unceremoniously and somewhat acrimoniously been fired in 1990.  In their places were Bill Champlin (vocals & keys), Dawayne Bailey (guitar & b/g vocals), Jason Scheff (bass & b/g vocals), and Tris Imboden (drums).  The horn section was still intact though as was original keyboardist/vocalist, Robert Lamm. 

My father & I made the same pilgrimage in 1994 and I had the joy of meeting many of the members of the band including guitarist Dawayne Bailey, bass player Jason Scheff, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, keyboardist Robert Lamm, trombone player Jimmy Pankow, and the 2 guys who were arguably the most gracious with the fans) trumpet player Lee Loughnane and drummer Tris Imboden. 

Since then my knowledge and familiarity with Chicago has grown substantially.  I know their back catalog front, back, left, right, upside down, and inside out.  Some of their material has aged well, some has not.  But Introduction-- no matter how many times I listen to it, it's like hearing it for the first time all over again.  There's a timeless energy to it.  That these guys were in their early twenties when they recorded it.  None of them had even graduated college that they were able to compose and perform material like this just blew my mind. 

And now whenever I hear that song, my mind goes back to those long road trips with my father (my mother joined us when we went to see them in Saratoga Springs, NY with CSN in 1996 and in Toledo, OH in 1997 when they came to visit me while I was working at Cedar Point Amusement Park.  But on both those tours they had dropped Introduction from the setlist).

I opened with a clip of the original line-up of the band performing the song in 1972.  So it seems only fitting that I close with a clip of the band, as I would have seen them in 1993, performing the song in Toronto:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: Dragon - Body and the Beat (1984)

With the unofficial start of summer looming on the near horizon the time to break out good summer music is upon us.

Few CDs scream summer to me the way most of the albums Dragon released in the eighties do.  I'd argue that no other band captured the overall atmosphere and spirit of summer in musical form the way Dragon did. 

In 1979 after firing vocalist Marc Hunter and trying to continue without him Dragon split up and Marc Hunter released a couple of solo albums (Fiji Bitter and Big City Talk).  In the early 80s Dragon decided to have another go at it.  They updated their sound a bit and capitalized on the success of Hunter's Big City Talk album and single as the springboard to catapult them back onto the Aussie charts after a four year absence with the single Rain
Rain was so successful the band headed back to the studio to record a full album leaving enough space to include their latest hit... The Body and the Beat was born.  Before even opening the LP, CD, or cassette sleeve the album cover suggests opening the windows to let the summer breeze flow through. 

From the first bars of their hit single Rain through to the closing bars of Fool  Dragon gives the listener a full on blast of that summer breeze.  The album is further augmented by hits like Cry and Magic.  But capturing the overall vibe of summer the best is Cool Down.  You can see the heat shimmering off the pavement, the hot sun beating down on you, the sweat forming in droplets on your forehead.  This song so perfectly captures the heat of summer that even on the coldest days of winter listening to this song makes me want to crank the AC.

The upbeat vibe of Promises (So Far Away) captures the magic and fun of summer nights and further establishes the whole summer vibe of the album:
The moon is a sunlight
It shines in the night

While it sounds dated today the title track, The Body & the Beat is a fun song with Todd Hunter's solid bass chops taking center stage.  The truth is, there's not really a bad track on the album-- there are good ones and great ones.  If you can find this classic Aussie gem GET IT save it for a hot summer day, roll down the windows, turn up the volume and enjoy the soundtrack of summer in full force.

Related Links & Media

Dragon (Australian Archives write-up)
Dragon O Zambezi (1978) review
Marc Hunter Communication (1985) review
Dragon (official website)
Dragon (wikipedia entry)
Dragon ( - Download their out of print albums in mp3 format

Monday, May 02, 2011

Australian Archives 1: Dragon

Information Taken from Wikipedia:

Dragon formed as a prog-rock band in 1972.  However the original line-up never released any albums.  It was only after bass player, Todd Hunter, brought in his brother, Marc, as a vocalist that the band began to find success.

In 1974 they released their debut album, Universal Radio in New Zealand and followed it up in 1975 with another prog-rock album-- Scented Gardens for the Blind.  While they were successful on the live circuit, their studio albums were met with very little success.

In 1975 their manager, Graeme Nesbitt, convinced them to go in a more pop-friendly direction and to tackle the Australian market.  They brought in keyboardist Paul Hewson who had developed a reputation for being an exceptional songwriter.  In 1976 after the release of their first pop single in Australia, This Time, the band was hit with their first setback.  Drummer Neil Storey died of a heroin overdose at age 22.  Dragon considered disbanding, but again manager Graeme Nesbitt came to the rescue and recommended Kerry Jacobsen as a new drummer.

The 1975-1979 line-up of Dragon consisting of: Todd Hunter: bass guitar; Marc Hunter: vocals; Paul Hewson: keyboards & vocals; Robert Taylor: guitar; and Kerry Jacobsen: drums brought Dragon their first wave of success with Aussie hit singles April Sun in Cuba, Are You Old Enough, and Still In Love With You from their albums Sunshine, Running Free, and O Zambezi.

In 1979 Dragon attempted to break into the US market in a disastrous tour with Johnny Winter in which Marc Hunter nearly incited a riot by referring to a Texas audience as "faggots."  Upon their return to Australia the band was forced to fire Marc.  His drug abuse was adversely affecting his voice and his brother, Todd, felt that the only way to save Marc from himself was to fire him from the band. 

The band enlisted singer Billy Rogers to replace Marc and brought in violinist, Richard Lee in an attempt to change their sound and direction with their new singer.  They released one album, Power Play, that was a commercial flop prompting the band to disband in December of 1979.  Meanwhile Marc cleaned himself up and recorded his debut solo album, Fiji Bitter, and scored a minor hit with Island Nights.  He followed up Fiji Bitter with Big City Talk in 1981.  The title track was a minor hit for him.

In 1982 Dragon reformed, initially under the auspices of paying off their old debts.  Drummer Kerry Jacobsen left for health reasons and was replaced by Terry Chambers.  In 1983 Dragon scored a number 2 hit with Rain.  In 1984 Dragon saw a return to their late seventies era fame with their Body and the Beat album.  Dragon's success was further helped by the success of Marc's 3rd solo album, Communication in 1985. 

Sadly keyboardist and songwriter Paul Hewson left Dragon and died of a drug overdose on January 9, 1985.  Drummer Terry Chambers and guitarist Robert Taylor left the band shortly thereafter.  Chambers was replaced by Doane Perry (currently in Jethro Tull) and Taylor was replaced by Australian guitar ace, Tommy Emmanuel.  The band brought in Todd Rundgren to produce their next album, Dreams of Ordinary Men and toured Europe supporting Tina Turner under the name "Hunter" in 1986 (incidentally Dreams of Ordinary Men was released in the US under the band name, Hunter.  The US version of the album also included a remix of their 1982 hit Rain).

The band briefly split up but released Bondi Road in 1988 with guitarist Randall Waller and drummer Barton Price.  They continued touring into the 90s with the Hunter brothers, their longtime producer Alan Mansfield, and an ever changing line-up of keyboardists, guitarists, and drummers. 

In 1995 Dragon released Incarnations, an album featuring new arrangements of some of their biggest hits with a litany of notable Australian guest musicians augmenting these adventurous new arrangements.

In 1997 Marc Hunter was diagnosed with severe oesophageal cancer.  Marc underwent a litany of traditional and experimental treatments and his friends in the Australian music industry even performed a couple of concerts to help defer his medical costs.  At the first of the benefits, Marc appeared on stage and thanked his fans for coming.  For the second benefit he was to ill to attend but sent a video thanking his fans and friends.  That concert was released on CD as "The Concert for Marc" and includes a who's who of Australian musicians including Little River Band vocalist - Glenn Shorrock, Australian Crawl frontman - James Reyne, Midnight Oil vocalist - Peter Garrett, Cold Chisel vocalist and Australian vocal legend - Jimmy Barnes, Barnes Cold Chisel bandmate guitarist and vocalist - Ian Moss, Men At Work vocalist - Colin Hay, Daddy Cool and later Mondo Rock vocalist - Ross Wilson, Southern Sons lead vocalist - Jack Jones, vocalist Wendy Mathews, and even former bandmates guitarists Robert Taylor and Tommy Emmanuel.  Sadly Marc Hunter succumbed to his cancer on July 17, 1998.

In 2005 Todd Hunter reformed Dragon with vocalist/guitarist Mark Williams, guitarist Bruce Reid, and drummer Peter Drummond.  They released the 2 CD Sunshine to Rain in 2006 featuring acoustic arrangements of Dragon's biggest hits and fan favorites performed by the current line-up of the band.  On July 1, 2008 Dragon were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.  They were joined on stage by Australian Crawl's James Reyne and Cold Chisel's Ian Moss to perform April Sun In Cuba and Rain.  In 2009 Dragon released Happy I Am,  their first album of original material since 1988's Bondi Road.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

One Track Mind: Steve Lukather - Hate Everything About U (1997)

In 1997 Steve Lukather released his most raw and personal album to date, Luke.  After his then recent divorce Luke was an emotional blood-letting of sorts.  Hate Everything About U is perhaps the most heart-wrenching of the songs on the album.

Employing the same songwriting tool that 10cc did on their hit I'm Not In Love--  repetition.  Lukather's repeated claims of hate instead reveal a heartbroken love.  Lukather rattles off a litany of reasons for his "hate" that expose his love, regret, and broken heart.

At the time I first heard this song in 1998, I was still nursing the wounds of a broken heart suffered a few months before this song was a sucker punch to my heart.  While the whole album resonated with me Hate Everything About U and Always Be There For Me (but that's another review for another time) hit a particular nerve.  And while I've long since moved on I still look back on both of those songs fondly as they helped me get through a bit of a rough patch

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: The Hounds - Puttin' On the Dog (1979)

In 1979 John Hunter and The Hounds released their second and final album, Puttin' On the Dog.  While not as strong or ambitious as their debut, Unleashed, their sophomore release has its moments and is still quite enjoyable.

The album opens with a fun rousing cover of Doo Wah Diddy Diddy.  The Hounds interpretation of this rock classic while enjoyable neither takes anything away from nor adds anything to the original version leaving the listener wondering why they bothered covering the song in the first place.

Angel of Fire is perhaps the best song on the album.  It has a fire and energy to it that would not have sounded out of place on their debut and, perhaps more than any other song on the album, it recaptures the overall fun spirit and energy of Unleashed

Next is yet another cover, this time they decide to tackle the Stones Under My Thumb.  And again while an enjoyable cover it neither adds anything to nor takes anything away from the original version.  It's slightly more enjoyable than their cover of Do Wah Diddy Diddy.

Other than Angel of Fire, the next 4 tracks are some of the strongest on the album and are all original songs.  Of the four songs (Gotta Find a Way to Meet You, The Moth and the Fire, Workin' On My Cool, and Horses), The Moth and the Fire is the strongest and is easily the 2nd best song on the album.

The balance of the album is somewhat uneven-- an original tune, Spiders, a cover of The Kinks Who'll Be The Next In Line, and the album closes with a strong finishing track, Along The Lane.

After further researching this album I noticed that there was a bit of a personnel shift in the band between the 2 albums.  Gone were guitarist Jim Orkis and drummer John Horvath and in their place were guitarist Donald Griffin and drummer Michael Neff.  Given the general uninspired "going through the motions" vibe of the album I'm left wondering if the personnel change was prompted not by Hunter or anyone in the band but by record label executives or producer Jeffrey Lesser.  The absence of Orkis was especially noticeable as Orkis had co-written 4 of the songs on Unleashed.  Perhaps the 3 covers are the result of the absence of Orkis and the corollary lack of his creative input in the songwriting process. 

If you've heard and enjoyed Unleashed chances are you'll also enjoy Puttin' On the Dog... You just won't enjoy it quite as much.  If Unleashed was a feast, Puttin' On the Dog is the microwave reheated leftovers of that feast you have for lunch the next day.

Related Links
The Hounds Puttin' On the Dog

Thursday, April 14, 2011

One Track Mind: Toto - I'll Be Over You (1986)

I'll Be Over You
by: Steve Lukather & Randy Goodrum

Some people live their dreams

Some people close their eyes
Some people's destiny
Passes by

There are no guarantees
There are no alibis
That's how our love must be
Don't ask why

It takes some time
God knows how long
I know that I can forget you
As soon as my heart stops breaking
As soon as forever is through
I'll be over you

Remember in times gone by
Promises we once made
What are the reasons why
Nothing stays the same

There were the nights
Holding you close
Someday I'll try to forget them
As soon as my heart stops breaking
As soon as forever is through
I'll be over you

As soon as my heart stops breaking
Someday I'll be over you
 As soon as my heart stops breaking
Someday I'll be over you
As soon as my heart...
While not as successful as 1982's mega hits Africa  & Rosanna, Toto enjoyed modest success with 1985's I'll Be Over You.  The song tugs at the heart strings a bit.  Having my heart put through the wringer a few times over the years this song has provided a comfort to me on those ocassions when the wounds of heartbreak were still fresh.  Those moments, fresh out of a relationship you didn't want to end when you don't think you'll ever feel that way again.  Most of us are familiar with these feelings.  The song has been sung millions of times with millions of different lyrics but the sentiment rings true for different people in different variations.  Some might argue there's little that sets this song apart from all of those other songs that share the same sentiments.  I'd argue there's a lot to be said for the delivery and the performance of the lyrics and that's where Toto comes through in spades.

There's a natural progression to the song where it shifts from "As soon as forever is through" to "Someday I'll be over you." that mimics the progression we go through as we get over loves lost and allow ourselves to open up to the possibility of new love.

This song has aged considerably better than some of Toto's other songs from the eighties.  Over the years the band has offered alternative arrangements of the song to keep it fresh (including a beautiful and stirring acoustic version on the 1999 tour).  Steve Lukather's soulful vocals are a perfect fit for the song.

If you've "been there" and "done that"-- chances are this song song will speak to you as well.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Forgotten Music Thursday: The Hounds - Unleashed (1978)

It's 1977.  You're at Just Angels Lounge in Harvey, IL.  The floors are sticky and the stench of cigarettes & stale beer hangs like a fog in the air.  You're packed like a sardine with the rest of the standing room only crowd near the restrooms where the ammonia stench of the urinal cakes has your eyes watering.  The bar is packed and the audience is waiting for The Hounds to take the stage. 

The Hounds were a mainstay of the south-suburban Chicago bar scene in the late seventies.  Led by the charismatic keyboardist/vocalist, John Hunter the Hounds performed a lively brand of late seventies hard rock with tinges of glam mixed in.

Hunter would take the stage dressed in a silver jacket, ratty old jeans, and a handcuff dangling from his right wrist.  And given their local popularity the Hounds played to packed houses.

Truth be told, I'd never heard of these guys until quite recently.  A colleague of mine had the pleasure of seeing the Hounds live in the late seventies before they signed their recording contract. 

After a bit of investigation I found a high quality rip from vinyl of Unleashed.  From the opening bars I felt my feet sticking to the floor, my eyes watering from that ammonia urinal cake stench, I smelled the cigarettes and stale beer.  I was instantly transported back to the Just Angels Lounge.

The Hounds were a band that wore their influences somewhat on their sleeves but mixed those influences together in a way that was distinctly their own... Whether it's the Mott the Hoople tinged When the Boppers Turn to Rockers the suggestions of David Bowie on Janeane Tangerine or even John Hunter channeling Mick Jagger on I'll Be Your Magic Man you get a fun album full of delightful seventies musical influences.

After listening to this I find it a pity that the Hounds only released 2 albums (Unleashed and Puttin' On the Dog) and unfortunately they never released any live albums.  While Unleashed is thoroughly enjoyable it only hints at the band's showmanship.  It lacks the energy and the chemistry between the band and the audience that was present in their live shows.

That being said, if you're looking for an excellent sample of late seventies hard rock nostalgia you really can't do much better than Unleashed.  Try it, you won't be disappointed.

Related Links:
The Hounds Unleashed (download the album)