|Editor and QuarterBack - Kurt Torster|
The Offensive Offense:
|-Ian McIntosh (AOR Basement - http://www.aorbasement.com|
|-Tim Henderson (Brave Words - http://www.hardradio.com|
|-Peter Sims (Now & Then/Frontiers - http://www.nowandthen.co.uk|
|-Ove Gustafsson (MTM - http://www.pi.se/mtm|
|-Mark Alger (Z Records)|
|-Carrie Borzillo (All Star Daily News)|
|-Marty Dodge http://www.lupusandco.com|
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CD NOW is running a $10 off everything in the store sale...check it out: http://www.cdnow.com/from=sr-38281
Ian's AOR BASEMENT column is a must-read this week.His thoughts on the state of AOR and magazines sum up a lot of what I feel.
Came across a pretty neat website at http://www.highschoolalumni.com/ that is attempting to be some sort of database for a "Where Are They Now?" sort of thing for everyone in the US.
Bassist Marc Kolodziej has left SAVANNAH to bereplaced by Boston area player Max Vitello.
Congrats to SANTANA for taking the number one slots on both the Billboard Top 200 albums and Top 100 Singles for "Supernatural" and "Smooth" (his duet with Rob Thomas) respectively. In the meantime, MATCHBOX 20's debut album has just surpassed 10 million in US sales, a pretty impressive feat.
SHANIA TWAIN releases a new single from the incredibly successful "Come On Over" album with the rather AOR-ish title track. Those old demos, released under the name Eileen Twain "Beginnings", were produced by PAUL SABU and backed by ONLY CHILD. You can hear them at www.musicmaker.com.
Look for KIP WINGER's "Down Incognito", a 13 track acoustic greatest hits.
Here's the tracklisting for the upcoming TOAD THE WET SPROCKET collection "PS": "PS" (new version), "Come Down", "All I Want" (remix), "Something's Always Wrong" (edit), "Good Intentions", "Crazy Life", "Come Back Down", "Walk On The Ocean", "Fall Down", "I Will Not Take Things For Granted", "Way Away", "Jam" (non-album version), "Hold Her Down" (remix), "Whatever I Fear", "Eyes Open Wide" (previously unreleased), "Silo Lullabye" (previously unreleased)
Need plans for New Year's Eve in New York City? BILLY JOEL will ring in 2000 at Madison Square Garden. Tix went on sale today.
Don Hill's, a night club in New York City will now feature a hard rock night every Wednesday called 'Rock Candy'. Admission is $5 or free with "big hair". Acts scheduled to play upcoming shows include ENUFF Z'NUFF, D GENERATION and an invite only SEBASTIAN BACH.
SIGNS OF LIFE have added bassist Billy Greer to their lineup.
The GOO GOO DOLLS have announced the launch of their official Web site at www.googoodolls.org. The site features exclusive photos and video footage of the group and also provides messages, photos and news from the band on the road. Exclusive merchandise will be available on the site as well.
According to Tony Banks, if there is another GENESIS studio album, it will be again with vocalist Ray Wilson.
Check out an all new RealAudio radio station dedicated to Melodic Rock at http://www.seismicradio.com/.
Thanks to Mark Orsted for tipping me off to the RICK SPRINGFIELD video site at http://www.angry-young-bunny.com/rls/super/mainmenu.htm.
Look for JON BON JOVI on the fourth installment of "A Very Special Christmas" which benefits www.specialolympics.org. This time out the whole CD was recorded live at the White House.
Noteworthy New Releases:
[* recommended by SFK]
BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY - This Beautiful Life
THE CLASH - Live: From Here to Eternity
DENNIS DEYOUNG - The Ultimate Collection
BRYAN FERRY - As Time Goes By
GIN BLOSSOMS - Outside Looking In: The Best of
GARY HOEY - Ho! Ho! Hoey (Christmas record) and Money
JOE JACKSON - Symphony No. 1
RINGO STARR - I Wanna Be Santa Claus
STEVE WINWOOD - 20th Century Masters: The MillenniumCollection
THE ZEROS - Right Now!
LINUS OF HOLLYWOOD - YOUR FAVORITE RECORD, Popsquad,1999 [Similarities: Kyle Vincent, Jellyfish, Beach Boys]
[ http://www.popsquad.com ]
Twelve songs, the longest being four minutes makes this too short but also very sweet. LOH is mostly a one-man band and has a real affinity for that classic pop sound of the 70s that is infused with layers and layers of harmonies and where melody is far and above the most important detail. This is simply a marvelous slab of ear candy that is just the thing for long Sunday drive. Each of the twelve tracks stands nicely on it's own, yet taken as a whole makes you realize that this is a pretty essential piece of modern pop. Whether your tastes run from the upbeat (both "Heavenly" and "Good Sounds" live up to their titles) to the slower paced (the waltz-like "Say Hello To Another Goodbye" is pretty indeed) you'll find what you're looking for here. You'll even hear traces of Queen-like grandiose in a song like the excellent "A Song". Linus has a voice that is reminiscent of Danny Wilde and suits the music perfectly. Along with Kyle Vincent, this is probably the best pure pop disc of the year.
LOAD POINT PULL - WE'VE COME TO TAKE WHAT'S OURS,Demo, 1999 [Similarities: Skid Row, Judas Priest, Motley Crue]
[ http://www.loadpointpull.com ]
LPP have a sort of modern edge to them, but mostly they are totally lost in 80s metal and don't seem to be afraid to show it. Throbbing rhythms and screaming riffs surround the rather decent vocals of lead screamer Frank Campobasso. Those longing for the days when metal was just hard and heavy without all the bullshit that seems to go with it these days will love this Kansas mob. More than just a blur of noise, there seems to be some melody backing up the playing and songs like "Sentimental Genocide" and "Rain" reminded me loads of 'Slave To The Grind'-era Skid Row. While not as polished as the Jersey bunch, they also don't have the production that Atlantic's money afforded them. If you like it on the heavier side and are disgusted by the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit and now Tommy Lee, then these guys could be the answer you've been longing for. Oh, and bonus points for their rocked up covers of the Go-go's "Our Lips Are Sealed/We Got The Beat".
MICHAEL MORALES - THAT'S THE WAY, MTM, 1999 [Similarities: Jeff Paris, Rick Springfield, Def Leppard]
[ http://www.michaelmorales.com ]
Michael's first two discs were essential slices of techno inspired melodic rock and he continues thatpath on this long awaited new disc. In a way, this could almost be the album that Def Lep's "Euphoria" strived to be. Big (or maybe that should read BIG) rhythm sounds wrapped around some absolute smoking melodies (think "Tao"-era Rick Springfield), this may be the finest arena rock album of the year. Each song on first listen feels familiar enough that you're almost able to sing along, yet repeated listens open up something new to the ears every time. I've been listening to this disc a lot over the past week and each pass a new song became a favorite. From the huge ballads of "Change The World" and "Let You In" to arena rockers like "Where Does Love Live" and "No Tomorrow", this is top to bottom primo AOR that simply does no wrong. After hearing his demos from about two years ago, I was a little worried that this album was going to be more modern sounding. One listen was all it took to vanquish any of those fears.
JIMI JAMISON'S SURVIVOR - EMPIRES, Frontiers, 1999 [Similarities: Journey, Foreigner, John Waite]
[ http://www.frontiers.it ]
Okay, regardless of whatever name this band decides to use, one thing is for sure...this is classic AOR that is about as perfect as you're likely to find these days. All the Survivor hallmarks are in tact, from the big chunky riffs, soaring choruses and melodies that seemingly float above the clouds. Jamison is in as fine voice as ever and his backing band is as capable as his old mates. What's most interesting though is that Jamison only had his hand in writing four of the eleven studio tracks on the disc (there are also two live cuts included of old Survivor tunes in "Burning Heart" and "Rebel Son"). The others are either covers (including songs from Gary Wright and Tom Cochrane) or written by one Kenny Mims (who?). All the typical bases are covered, from the booming arena rock of "First Day Of Love" and "A Dream Too Far" (with some pretty incredible guitar parts) to the huge epic ballad on the title track and the rather touching "November Rain" to the beautiful mid-tempo "Cry Tough" and single "I'm Always Here". While there are some throwaways here, as the cover of "Love Is Alive" seems too stomping and out of place and "Calling America" seems to drag on forever, it's small nitpicks as there more than a fair share of possible classics as well. No matter what your opinion is on the whole band name saga, the music here is what matters and it's hard to fault.
(Re)Views From The Hill:
CAT: FORGIVENESS, BAM [similarities: Garbage, Romeo’s Daughter, Portishead]
This CD single has 1 song and 1 video on it, but what a song! Sounding a bit like a combination of Portishead/Garbage (s/t)/Romeo’s Daughter, the track Forgiveness is damn good female sung rock pop, that is catchy as hell. It is so good that I look forward to their full-length debut, Best Kept Secrets. Fronted by the sultry Catherine Lawless, this is damn good stuff Included on the disc is the video for the track (unusual but welcome) so you can see the band in all their glory. The video is suitably atmospheric so that it adds to the song. According to the bio Cat’s debut single Love got airplay on the Rock Radio Network, Music Choice Europe and VH-1 (Europe.) If you want to see more on this up and coming five piece go to www.bam.org.uk/cat - MD
HOUSE OF LORDS: SAHARA, Axe Killer [similarities: Giuffria, Ten, James Christian]
Axe Killer, a French label, has re-released this hard to find second album from pomp rockers House of Lords. As someone who simply adores the s/t debut, this was welcome news indeed. To make things all the more interesting, Axe Killer has included a brief history of the band as well as a bonus track in the cardboard cover over a jewel case. The only problem is that the person who translated the French to English does not speak English very well and the bonus track is an edit of one of the songs already on the damn album. To make matters worse the bonus track is cover the Blind Faith track "Cant Find my Way home.’ While not as good as their debut, this is a great album. I am pleased to have finally found it. If you have ever heard James Christian then you know a little of what to expect, ditto if you are a Giuffria fan. Ranging from cranking tunes like "Shoot" and "Chains of Love" to power ballads like "In ain’t Love" and "Remember my Name." Truth be told there is not a turkey on this album, every track, except the cover is House of Lords at their best. The guest list is impressive as well, featuring Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, who not only sings backup on the album but wrote "Heart on the Line," for it. Other guests include Mike Tramp (White Lion), Robin Zander, David Glen Eisley (Giuffria), Steve Plunkett (Autograph), Ron Keel (Keel) on backing vocals with Chris Impelliteri , Doug Aldritch (Lion) and Mandy Meir (Lion)on guitar. These boys certainly had a lot friends Not to mention the fact the album had none other than Gene Simmons of Kiss as Executive Producer. The album originally released on BMG in 1990 sank without a trace and has become a much sought after gem for the fans of any of the bands or individuals in the band. House of Lords was touted back in the day as a Hard Rock super-group, unfortunately grunge had just hit and it tanked. If you already have this gem don’t bother picking up this re-release but if you have a taste in pomptastic 80s keyboard ladened rock then this is a must have. - MD
XYZ: TAKE WHAT YOU CAN…LIVE, Axe Killer [similarities: Dokken, Kix, Keel, Autograph, Slaughter]
Well guess what, you never know when you are going to learn something new. XYZ the band that got me into reviewing, has two members who are bloody French, here was doofus thinking they were Franco-Americans. Yeesh what a dolt. XYZ (derived from the expression x-amine your zipper) featured on a vinyl EP on a UK rock mag Raw for a reviewing contest. Didn’t win the contest, but it got me into this game at least. YYZ had one album that made a bit of a blip on the radar screen, this album had some major kicking tracks on it. Terry Illos (vocals) and Pat Fountaine (bass) hooked up with the French Marc Diglio (guitars) and Paul Monroe (drums) in LA, naturally after losing two of their original members. Enigma (RIP) released their self-titled Don Dokken produced debut while Capitol picked them up for their second album "Hungry" and promptly dumped them when the album bombed. Only problem is that Don Dokken may have produced them too well, turning them into alleged Dokken clones, complete with bluesy guitar solos and heavy rifftage. All of their best stuff is on here from the raunchy "Come on and Love Me" and "Inside Out" to power ballad "What keeps loving You, to the weepy acoustic ballad "After the Rain." All of these songs work in the live format, this disc is lacking in the heavy screeching and on-state banter that ruins so many live efforts. There is just enough there to let you know that this is a live album, but just enough. To round out the album is nicely titled "A Nice Day to Die." Also included with this disc, that was originally released in Japan (including demo tracks) only is the original XYZ EP, 4 tracks that show were the band were headed. These four tracks feature original members Terry Stalloni (vocals), Paul Villet (drums) and Uncle RV Alliroll (guitars.) The early stuff is Tokyo Blade like yelling rock, not dissimilar to the Rhett Forester fronted Riot. The highlight of the tracks is mellow acoustic number "Show Me Down" even though it clearly demonstrates the limits of Mr Stalloni’s vocal talents. Terry Illos (vocals) and Pat Fountaine (bass) can now be found in the Japan only super-group Cage with Jeff Northrup (King Kobra). Ignoring the last 4 mediocre tracks, the live part of the album really shows XYZ at their best. I am very pleased I found this album and hope Axe Killer releases some more hidden gems, even if the English translation of the French text is laughable. - MD
AOR Basement (Ian McIntosh):
First off, there is finally new reviews available at the AOR Basement site ( http://www.aorbasement.com), and hopefully some more will follow in the next couple of weeks.... Obviously it's still not updated as frequently as Kurt would like (his comments in his web site reviews are perfectly valid), but that's the nature of the beast....
Been wondering if it's appropriate for me to comment on some of the issues going on with the current Euro-based melodic rock magazines.... I'll make my comments anyway though I'll probably get flamed by someone at some point!
So we're getting an all-new magazine called "MHR"? And it's supported by Escape and Z Records? Oh great, how inappropriate and how much longer can European AOR circles go around in it's own little vacuous world!
In the real world, record labels and review sources should be completely divorced from each other. But that's not what happens in the current market, all the labels think the only way they can generate sales is by getting glowing review after glowing review in paper magazines that have a very limited, and cliquey, circulation and are almost all sub-economic. They need to use a little more imagination to reach a bigger audience that can help melodic rock get back on its feet properly rather than just being content with ramming endless similar releases down the throats of the same listeners over and over again. The fact that Hard Roxx is switching to a web based only publication medium, definitely suggests to me that it could make no money in a traditional form. So, essentially we end up with a load of publications, some of which are enthusiastic - some of which are truly misguided and written in a juvenile form, that become purely promotion outlets subsidizing the labels out of the goodness of their hearts. None of them see the bigger picture of what music means in a bigger sense and most of them continue to reinforce their own directionless dream world.
What labels don't see is that the more urbane listener rapidly becomes totally distrustful off all these review sources, as once they hear some of the releases involved they turn out to be substandard, or miles away from what they were expecting.... How many of the currently hip releases will actually stand up to close scrutiny in 10 to 15 years time? Not that many, I think..... People are too easily satisfied with average, or deeply flawed, releases these days. The same listeners also become very distrustful of the labels who churn out endless releases that no one ever seems to criticize.
Sometime, someone's got to really wake up and prove they really care about restoring the health of melodic rock in general and not just making a quick (and lets face it, modest) buck right now.... Only then will the music we love start to win back its lost audience and prove its real viability to survive in the contemporary world.
From: "90125" <email@example.com>
I agree with the review of the new Queensryche cd. I'm a major fan, but was majorly disappointed. The music is very bland and most of the tunes sound alike. They are capable of much better. You'd be much better off buying the new Megadeth disk. One of my faves of the year. Also, just got the new Yes cd. It was very good. The production was excellent (long live Bruce Fairbairn). It hearkens back to their old stuff, but very fresh and a little more accessible. I highly recommend it.
From: "Orsted, Mark" <Orsted@uillinois.edu>
[re: the Mike Tramp "review" in the letters section]
you do of course realize that is the first and only positive review I've heard of Mike Tramp's latest 2 efforts.... Capricorn was horrendous, and I'm getting reports that Mike actually "forgot" White Lion.. not remembered it, on the new album...
From: Phil Leahy <Phil.firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was interested to read the review of the Mike Tramp CD in the last SFK. I'm only aware of the Freak of Nature self-titled and Outcasts releases - what's the name of the (presumably) middle album?
[I could swear there are two proper FON releases. Can someone back me up on this?]
From: Rafael Rupay Rojas <email@example.com>
Hi Kurt, In the last SFK issue you made a short review of BAM BAM BOYS' single "Let Me Touch Your Skin". Maybe you didn't know but BBB is a Swedish hard rock band from the late 80s which line-up consisted of Matti Alfonzzetti on vocals; later on JAGGED EDGE and SKINTRADE, Göran Elmqvist on guitar, Gunnar Hallin on bass and Fredrik Von Gerner on drums; later on VOODOO X, EASY ACTION and RED FUN, besides Matts Olausson on keyboards for live work. And that single was their only production originally released in 88. I was wandering if that single you reviewed and the forthcoming album are the old material that was forsaken by the discographies or is some kind of reunion, playing once again the old material?
[Nope...from what I understand, it's just a reissue of the old album.]
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