”There are three essential Commandments:

·        Respect The Elders.

·        Embrace The New.

·        Encourage The Impractical and Improbable, Without Bias.

-David Fricke”

Official Nonsense:

·        Editor and This - Kurt Torster


·        Carrie Borzillo (All Star Daily News)

·        Marty Dodge (

·        Jason Grubbs

·        Tim Henderson (Brave Words)

·        Martin Hennessy III (80's Nuts)

·        Ian McIntosh (AOR Basement)

·        Mark Orsted (Heavens Smiling)

·        Dave Reynolds

·        Alex Richter (Hard N' Fast)

·        George Thatcher (Heart Of Rock)

·        Mike Waugh

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Kurt's Krap:

Grabbed this from the great Pet Peeves mailing list at Z-Media: “My problem is with this big chain music/book/video store in town. Whenever I go in to look at older CDs that I might want, but won't get unless they have a enough good songs on them, the staff has always put the price tags over half the songs listed on the back. This means I can't see how many good songs are on the disc, so I don't buy it. Why?!?! They could just put them on the front; it's not like I'm making my buying decision on the art! They lose my sale, because I then go to another (more expensive) store that doesn't do this--they use little tags.”

News Bytes:

Marillion has announced that have re-signed with EMI worldwide. Not only will this allow better distribution of their new album but the band says it will allow them to undertake a world tour (something they haven’t done in a LONG time). You can still pre-order their new album at their website, and by doing so you will get a special 2-CD version of the album not available in stores.

A friend of mine over at VH-1 has told me that tentative plans are under way for Behind The Music episodes on Tesla, Survivor, Night Ranger, Toto, Rush, Pat Benatar, Doobie Brothers and an entire show dedicated to the 80s Hair Metal Revolution. They are still attempting to put together one on Journey but apparently Steve Perry wants no part of it.

Check out this write up on the Iron Maiden / Queensryche / Halford show at Madison Square Garden.

Though still untitled, look for a solo album from Rush bassist Geddy Lee on October 24. Said to be decidedly different than Rush in a more techno vein. No word on whether Rush will make music again as Neil Peart has yet to get back into things after losing his wife and daughter back to back (to cancer and a car accident respectively). Rumor has it though that the band may reconvene in fall.

The Scorpions will undertake 4 US dates backed by a full orchestra in support of their new album “Moment Of Glory”, which contains the new Diane Warren penned single “Here In My Heart”. Also guesting on the album is ex-Genesis vocalist Ray Wilson. The 4 dates are: Sept. 21: Phoenix (America West Arena), Sept. 23: Las Vegas (Aladdin Theater), Sept. 28: Los Angeles (Greek Theater), Sept. 30: San Francisco (TBA)

Resurrection”, the new album from Halford has debuted at #4 on the Canadian HMV charts, being bested only by De La Soul, Moby and Eminem. Look for Rob to be featured in the new issue of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles.

DC Talk will release a best of in November with two new tracks, “Chance” and a cover of U2’s “40”.

Look for a new update to Loud & Clear: “Though we're suffering from a post-vacation shock ("what do you mean? Back to work?"), we've managed to put together a new issue of our little webzine. This issue features live reviews of Bon Jovi and Toto, an interview with Street Talk main man Fredrik Bergh and a lot of reviews including "The Album Of The Month" by Storyteller, John Taglieri, House Of Shakira and CJSS, to name a few. You're welcome to check it out!”

Columbia Records has jumped on the hit CD compilation bandwagon with “Platinum Hits”, containing, um, hits from Ricky Martin, Savage Garden and others.

A2 has signed Swedish rockers Million for a new album release as well as a compilation aimed at the US market.

German guitarist Rolf Munkes has signed with Lion Music in Finland to release his debut album “No More Obscurity”, a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks.

During a concert in Mancos, CO, a few members of .38 Special were injured when heavy winds caused their canopy to collapse. None were serious, though some of the crew received broken bones and minor head injuries.

Gene Simmons will produce a movie for CBS titled Rock And Roll All Nite, about a boy who meets a girl at a Kiss concert. After getting separated, they spend the whole concert trying to find each other. Please…whatever you do, don’t let Ace or Peter act!

Asshole of the week: Ted Nugent is stirring up shit with comments to the effect that “if people carried concealed weapons, the massacre at Columbine would have never happened” and that the shootings could have been prevented if students rushed the gunmen.

Rare MP3 Of The Week:

Richard Marx with Fee Waybill covering The Tubes’ “Talk To Ya Later”.

Special Report:

With the help of those listed below, myself and many of the various melodic rock website owners banded together to try and create a somewhat definitive list of the best AOR albums, songs and ballads. From these lists I also came up with the best AOR artists too. Enjoy!

Top 10 Albums:
1 Journey - Raised On Radio
2 Harem Scarem - Mood Swings
3 Dare - Out Of The Silence
4 Survivor - Vital Signs
5 Rick Springfield - Rock Of Life
6 Journey – Escape
7 Harem Scarem - Harem Scarem
8 Def Leppard – Hysteria
9 Rick Springfield – Tao
10 Night Ranger - Man In Motion

Top 10 Songs:
1 Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
2 Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer
3 Dare - Into The Fire
4 Harem Scarem - Saviors Never Cry
5 Journey - Stone In Love
6 Starship - The Burn
7 Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger
8 Survivor - High On You
9 Signal - Arms Of The Stranger
10 Rick Springfield - State Of The Heart

Top 10 Ballads:
1 Journey – Faithfully
2 Toto - I'll Be Over You
3 Def Leppard – Hysteria
4 Whitesnake - Is This Love
5 Skid Row - I Remember You
6 Night Ranger - Sentimental Street
7 Journey - Still They Ride
8 Foreigner - I Want To Know What Love Is
9 Boston – Amanda
10 Bad English - Don't Walk Away

Top 10 Artists (based on total number of votes tallied for all categories):
1 Journey (not even close!)
2 Harem Scarem
3 Survivor
4 Dare
5 Rick Springfield
6 Ten
7 Def Leppard
8 Bon Jovi
9 Bad English
10 Night Ranger

Participants - Kurt (SFK), Vince (AOR Central), Marco (On The Rocks), George (Heart Of Rock), Par (Midwestern Skies), Roger (Aor Land), Stefan (Authority On Rock), Larry (Raised On Radio), Kai (RockIt Magazine), Tony (Atomic Chaser), Ralph (Rock Reunion), Khalil (Escape Music), Tim, Steph, Paul and Craig (Detritus), Mark (Heaven's Smiling)

Noteworthy New Releases:

[nothing worth mentioning]

Moldy Oldys:

[What’s kicking old school on the SFK Deck O’ Death this week:]
Pseudo Echo – Race, Noiseworks – Noiseworks, Toto – Absolutely Live, David Foster – River Of Love, Foo Fighters – There Is Nothing Left To Lose

Kurt’s Picks:

Bozzio Levin Stevens – Situation Dangerous, Magna Carta, 2000
[Similarities: Rush, Dream Theater, Joe Satriani]
Eight jamming instrumentals that will either bring you to orgasm or bore you to death. Frankly I don’t know if these guys ever sounded as good as they do here but the music does little for me. And for what it’s worth, Terry Bozzio does lay down some jaw dropping drumming. For shred heads or those progressively minded, this will be heaven. Personally, I’m drooling but that’s from falling asleep at my PC.

Emerald Rain – Live2K, Frontiers, 2000
[Similarities: Harem Scarem, Extreme, Fiore]
Ah…the band that would be Harem Scarem… I’ll admit I am not the biggest fan of this band as I feel they are nothing more than cheap knock offs and…well, this album does nothing to change my mind. Songs with such original titles like “Never Surrender”, “Desperate Heart” or two different songs with ‘savior’ in the title have been done a thousand times before, and better by the bands listed above. I think what pisses me off the most is that you can hear these guys have some talent. Guitarist Milan Dmitrovic certainly has some chops and knows his riffing but it all goes to waste on lame material. I guess if you are a die-hard Harem Scarem fan put off by their current direction (and originality has no definition in your world) then Emerald Rain may be to your liking. Me? I stand by my opinion that this is one of the single most unoriginal bands to ever hit the genre.

Good Rats – Cover Of Night, Frontiers, 2000
[Similarities: Queen, Extreme, Harem Scarem]
Very odd lot this band… Standing out is the incredible guitar playing of Gene Marchello and the background cast should be noted, as people like Bruce Kulick, David Rosenthal, Joe Franco and others all help out in some capacity. Brother Peppi Marchello handles the vocals and sounds strained most of the time. The music can range from great arena rockers like “Cover Of Night” and “Love On The Beach” to such dreck like “Thunder Rocks My Soul” and “Evil Little Boy” (which strikes me as a bad “Way Cool Jr.” rip off). And it’s exactly this inconsistency that makes this one of those releases that’s not bad if you find on the cheap but not worth going out of your way for.

Halford – Resurrection, BMG, 2000
[Similarities: Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Judas Priest]
After dalliances with electronica, the Metal God is back. Unfortunately, while I always loved the music of Judas Priest, I was never a big fan of Rob Halford’s vocals. It’s the same here on this disc. Musically, it’s sonically crunchy and catchy but Halford’s sometimes straining high-pitched wail just grates on my nerves. Now mind you he doesn’t do this on the whole album and it’s on songs like “Night Fall” and “Slow Down” that I find things most tolerable. Old school metal fans will be in their glory as this is vintage Priest through and through. But it’s also entirely possible that Halford will make some new fans among today’s hard-edged youth as this just kicks the ever loving shit out of crap like Korn or Limp Bizkit.

Doug Powell – More, Not Lame, 2000
[Similarities: Todd Rundgren, Jellyfish, Rick Springfield]
After falling in love with Doug’s first two discs I was eagerly awaiting this. Worth the wait and beyond! With some of the best lyrics I’ve heard since The Loveless (check out this gem from “Empty V”: And it’s such a tragedy the way music died, Video killed the radio star and then committed suicide) and simply some of the most sing-along ready songs this year, Doug has put in a serious bid for album of the year. This is an album full of songs that successfully ride the fence between power pop and AOR/melodic rock and puts me most in the mind of Jellyfish at their most commercially accessible. From the upbeat (“Dinah Might”, the blissful “Fall In Deep” and the swirling “Spin World God”) to the downbeat (the grand ballad “March of I’ds” and the harpsichord driven “Lime Street”) there is not a song that doesn’t compliment the others perfectly. An example of melodic pop/rock at it’s best.

Stir – Holy Dogs, Capitol, 2000
[Similarities: Vertical Horizon, Nine Days, Matchbox Twenty]
It’s becoming increasingly difficult in this day and age to forge your own identity when many modern bands sound similar. Amazingly, Stir has done just that. This trio has crafted twelve songs that run the gamut from driving rockers (like “Superstation” and the thrashing “New Beginning”) to slower, moodier pieces (the acoustic driven “Velvet Elvis”) and seem to draw as much inspiration from classic rock (I hear bits of Foreigner and Cheap Trick in the mix) as they do current trends. The highlights far outnumber the lowlights here and this makes a pretty solid impression overall. With a larger than life vibe circulating throughout, add this to the ever-growing list of great modern melodic rock bands.

Toto – Mindfields, Sony, 1999
[Similarities: Journey, Chicago, Survivor]
Here is a great example of an artist who’s willing to evolve yet stay true to their sound. I lost touch with this band for some time and haven’t honestly given them much of a listen since “The Seventh Son”. Though there are some things here that gave me pause (the bluesy workouts of “Mysterious Ways” and the seemingly lost and WAY too long “High Price Of Hate”) the majority of this is primo AOR (and even hard rock). Songs like “Caught In The Balance”, “Mad About You” and “Cruel” not only rank among the finest of this band but give a lot of other artists a run for their money as well. Also, look out for the epic “Better Worlds” which reminds me a bit of Marillion or Pink Floyd. Built on a base of Steve Luthaker’s always incredible guitar playing and the vocals of Bobby Kimball (who has returned to the band), this is an album of interconnected journeys that all wind up at the same destination. Short of one or two stumbles this is mostly excellent.

Urban Tale – One Day (I’ll Make You Mine), Tale, 2000
[Similarities: Toto, Chicago, Richard Marx]
Just a simple single but an incredible one at that. A big ol’ power ballad that brings to mind Toto in their prime, it’s filled with lush keys, clean guitar and the huge vocals of Kimmo Blom. I cannot wait for a full album.

Venice – 2 Meter Sessies, 2000
[Similarities: CSN, Taxiride, Eagles]
Passionate if quiet live TV performance from this superb Westcoast outfit. What has always separated Venice from all other bands is their INCREDIBLE ability to harmonize and live they sound just as good as in studio. Though I prefer the upbeat fare of songs like “One Quiet Day”, “The Man You Think I Am” and “If I Were You”, the sheer power that comes across even in their quietest moments is astounding. Special guests include Jackson Browne and David Crosby. Possibly too mellow for some, sometimes you just need to take it down a notch and I can think of no one better to do with it.

Brian Wilson – Live At The Roxy, Brimel, 2000
[Similarities: Kyle Vincent, Elton John, Eric Carmen]
Pop genius? One listen is all it took to convince me. One time Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson recorded this set in front of a star-studded audience (which included Jon Bon Jovi and John Waite) and the results are pretty spectacular. Although vocally Brian may not quite be what he used to be, the acoustics on this disc are amazing. And he seems to be quite the frontman as the album includes lots of his bantering with the audience. Running through both Beach Boys classics as well as his own solo material, this is a very solid listen as the band gives it all new life and punch that was lacking in the original forms (more a fault of the time period than anything). It also shows that good songs always stand the test of time and the 25 some odd songs all do this quite admirably. For pop-heads, this is essential listening from one of the originators of the genre.

(Re)Views From The Hill:
[Note: these are reviews done by outside contributors and not myself – Kurt]

Blackmore’s Night - Under a Violet Moon, Platinum Entertainment
[similarities: Jethro Tull, Medieval Babes, Therion]
Richie Blackmore and Candice Night recently released their second collection renaissance/medieval influenced folk rock. Mixing influences as diverse as Arab, Jewish and Celt, they all swirl into a melodic outing that is very relaxing and great for late evenings at home. Candice Night’s voice is ethereal and at times a bit like Stevie Nicks at her best.  As you would expect from the man that brought you Rainbow, there is a lot of medieval imagery in this: castles, minstrels and witches abound.  This is not "Smoke on the Water" but if you are in the right mood it can be just as fun.

This collection includes a song by Henry VIII (Past Time with Good Company). Candice Night sings this song with a great aplomb and manages to pull it off very well.  This is "real ale" and mead drinking music at its best.

As to be expected with anything from Blackmore, the guitar (and other string instruments) playing is superb. The guest musician list is impressive, and it features hard rock luminary Jens Johanssen (ex-Malmsteen/MacAlpine). Ronnie James Dio shares writing credit on the final track "Self Portrait" (a Purple track). Violins, mandolins, harpsichord, bagpipes and pennywhistle abound on these tracks.

"Wind in the Willows" is a particularly cute tale, that is very English and very quaint. John Ford adds a male voice to this duet with Candice. The ditty is extremely catchy and will be stuck in your head for days to come. "Spanish Nights" (traditional) combines some fine violin and flamenco guitar intro a really catchy tune that builds into something special.  "Catherine Howards Tale…" is a very stark acoustic ballad about a woman who lost her head over a man. "Now and Then" is another bittersweet piece written by Night, and sung solely with Blackmore’s haunting guitar.

"Under a Violet Moon" is even better than the debut, "Shadow of the Moon" , but does not do anything too radical. As one would expect with Blackmore, the musicianship is stellar and the tunes catchy. One might wish avoid reading the lyrics as they do come across as twee at times. Live reports they BK is something special to behold and well worth risking being seen with a bunch of people dressed up in tights and flowing shirts. Call it a guilty pleasure if you must, but I just love this stuff. - Marty

AOR Basement (Ian McIntosh):

Kurt’s musings last week on the sort of pricing major record labels are using for on-line music downloads was very interesting.

I’ve heard plenty of people harping on recently about how the “golden age of the internet” was over, and never really paid much attention to it. However, now I see exactly what those pundits mean: the internet is now almost exclusively about finding ways to make money and a business medium. The original rationale of information sharing and like minds coming together (which indeed was what this very free newsletter was born out of) are becoming strangely absent.

Whenever something useful comes along big business is going to try and find a way to exploit it and to make as much money as quickly as possible. The rules of the game regarding the internet might be slightly different, but the general principle of a fist trying to close around as much cash as possible is still there, and getting stronger by the day. Lots of businesses are setting themselves up as “loss leaders” to get market share with the principle that they’ll make a bunch of money later. Look at Amazon, its level of discounting seems to drop day-by-day and will soon be non-existent. It’s expanded the scope of things it sells, but has also forgotten how the internet should be crossing international borders as it does not ship most of its new lines on a international basis. It’s getting closer and closer to the traditional businesses it original set out to beat and be nothing like.

That’s the sort of environment we’re in, and now labels are trying to use the internet as a means to make big money and an attempt to find their monetary holy grail of a “new format”. All the labels are looking for a format step change like we had from vinyl LPs to CDs. They are want to find some medium that they can sell material that you already own, back to you in another form. Sony’s trying Super Audio CD, many others are promoting DVD Audio, but labels are just trying to fleece everyone for poor sound quality versions of songs you can download.

The two key facts that should be produced in any art form are being forgotten. They are quality and innovation, but sadly they cost money to produce and require some vision from the industry. For them to come back in vogue someone would have to see something more than just the bottom line, and that certainly doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon.

Reader profiles:

Name: Sean P. Gahgan

Place where you live: McHenry, Illinois

Age: 31

Favorite Artist: KISS/DIO/SAVATAGE

Favorite Song: HAREM SCAREM - Die Off Hard (At least this week)

Favorite Ballad: JOURNEY - Still They Ride

10 Albums You'd Bring If Stranded On A Desert Island:

SAVATAGE – Streets
NEAL SCHON - Late Night
JOURNEY – Escape
DIO - Holy Diver
DIO - Last In Line
KISS – Unmasked
ELO - Out of The Blue
HAREM SCAREM - Mood Swings
QUEENSRYCHE - Rage For Order
SAVATAGE - Dead Winter Dead

That is tough putting that list together! I think you could give me a hundred albums and I still wouldn't be able to make up my mind.

No web page yet!

[If you’d like to be featured in SFK’s Reader Profile, drop me a line at]


From: Weir Jan

Subject: RE:  Your comments on the Styx Behind the Music
I disagree with your comments on the Styx Behind the Music. As a 21-year fan of the band, I think your use of the word hate (see below) in reference to JY and Tommy's feelings toward Dennis is definitely too strong. Hurt? Yes. Mutinous? Yes. Defiant? Probably. Resentful?  Maybe.  But I see no hate in ANY of them.  Since it will be aired 3 more times this week, please watch it again. I think if you watch it closely and listen, you will see many other things, but not hate.

[I have already seen the episode 3 or 4 times and it’s still my impression that Tommy and James despise (or hate) Dennis now for things such as the ballads and “Kilroy”. JY’s comment about “playing hockey on the River Styx” sort of said it all. Personally, I think Tommy and JY came off as immature assholes.]

From: Mike Drew

Subject: Swedish Erotica/Gun and Q Magazine
Hey fellow SFK'ers!

Kurt, keep on doin' the fine job that you've started 6 or 7 years ago (when I used to do the Canadian Corner...ah, the good ol’ days!)

Anyways, a few quick questions to the fine readers here:

1) who can help this Canadian (aka, me!) find some rare GUN Mp3s, cdrs, singles, etc.  I've got a few things and would be more than willing to trade: (for example, who ever posted the extended "Better Days" mix to the I-drive account a few months back, i don't think it uploaded correctly because I could never get the full song!)

2) does anyone have a copy that they are willing to part with, or make  me a copy of, of Swedish Erotica's "Blind Man's Justice"?

3) The Q magazine article that referred too is a really good read.  I've bought the Birth and Toploader records (i've had the brilliant Taxiride album for a while now) and both are really really good (with the Toploader having a slight edge). If anyone is interested, check out (ie. use napster for what it's for, trying out something before you BUY it!) the birth single, "Found A Way Out" and the Toploader single "Dancing In The Moonlight" and if you like 'em, pick up the records: you won't be disappointed.

From: "Ian Pryke" <>

Subject: Peter McIan....
Very interested to know if you guys are familiar with, and perhaps can tell me what Peter McIan [writer, singer, producer] is up to nowadays?..... he surfaced in the 80's with one killer album on Columbia, "Playing Near The Edge" [Streisand covered the final cut "Clear Sailing"]. Did a duet thing with Franne Golde - ''Restless" from which Pat Benatar got a cut. Also did a lot of production work with Australian artists, [most successfully the Men At Work l.p.s that hit it so big in the States.].......... he's always been a favorite of mine along with
a few other unsung heros like Genya Ravan, Ruby Starr, Chris Thompson, Virginia Wolf, Michael Stanley etc......