Your occasional source for heavy metal, progressive rock and hard rock coverage. Whenever I feel like it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ronnie James Dio Has Stomach Cancer

The great metal frontman, 67, known for his work with Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell and of course, Dio, was diagnosed recently and is being treated at the Mayo Clinic.

His wife and manager, Wendy Dio, released the following statement to

"Ronnie has been diagnosed with the early stages of stomach cancer. We are starting treatment immediately at the Mayo Clinic. After he kills this dragon, Ronnie will be back on stage, where he belongs, doing what he loves best, performing for his fans.

"Long live rock and roll, long live Ronnie James Dio.

"Thanks to all the friends and fans from all over the world that have sent well wishes. This has really helped to keep his spirit up."

Dio have cancelled their current touring plans which included a tour with Whitesnake.

We wish Ronnie a speedy recovery and our prayers our with him, and his family--hands held high, index and pinkie extended. And if you really want to touch his spirit, crank up Heaven and Hell's The Devil You Know, one of the best metal albums of 2009.

Rock on, Ronnie. Get well soon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ten Things I'm Thankful For in 2009 (Hair Whip Edition)

You know you want it.

  1. Anything written by Neil Peart but especially Roadshow: Landscape With Drums

  2. The Muppet "Bohemian Rhapsody." Can't stop watching it.

  3. Endgame by Megadeth and the two albums before it.

  4. Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy singing "Bobby Brown Goes Down." Fear it!

  5. The return to health of ex-Marillion singer Fish. New album sometime next year, we hope.

  6. The new Slayer record.

  7. The astonishing return of Shadow Gallery, and their new disc Digital Ghosts. Currently getting played a lot.

  8. The equally astonishing return of Alice in Chains and how good Black Gives Way to Blue is.

  9. Porcupine Tree's The Incident--maybe the best album of the year. I should write a review of it one of these days.

  10. Seeing Metallica at Madison Square Garden for the first time in ten years.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers, and thank you for sticking with this blog for the last six months. On with the Tryptophan!

The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody

Animal does his best Roger Taylor impression.

Possibly the greatest Queen cover of all time. But I still want to see them do "Master of Puppets".

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Album Review: Megadeth--Endgame

"It's like death, but really mega!" (attributed to Dave Mustaine)

Dave Mustaine and Megadeth complete their comeback (and a speed-metal trilogy of sorts) with Endgame a record that finds the current 'Deth lineup in excellent form. Dave Mustaine still snarls when he should sing, but there is no doubting his emotional commitment. With its laser-precise guitar displays, whip-neck tempos and dizzying time changes, this is a solid record and the band's best effort since the classic Countdown to Extinction.

Endgame the sound of a band that has found its groove again. The quartet meshes beautifully while making some wonderfully ugly noises. This is guitarist Chris Broderick's first album duelling with Mustaine, and the two players trade off leads and rhythm work with astonishing skill. Bassist James Lomenzo provides a solid bottom end, which may lead listeners to wonder what he was doing in White Lion for so many years. And Shawn Drover's tasty, powerful drumming underpins the whole affair. His technical playing verges on the progressive.

Opening instrumental "Didactic Chaos" sets the tone, and leads into the rousing "This Day We Fight", inspired by Viggo Mortensen's speech in The Return of the King. Other songs delve into the world of funny-car racing ("1,320'") and "44 Minutes," a chilling, documenaty look at a bank robbery. The title track mines Bush-induced paranoia to great effect. A stentorian riff is accompanied by grim announcements of secret government programs and a threat to round up American citizens and place them in internment camps. Yikes!

The worst track (and best title) is the medieval torture-meets Saw fantasy "Head Crusher." The best track (and worst title) is "The Hardest Part of Letting Go…Sealed With a Kiss" It's a solid ballad--heavy, radio-friendly and better than anything that other M-band has put out in twenty years. Album finale "The Right to Go Insane" deals with America's 2008 economic collapse, with devastating effect. This is a brutally heavy, well executed record. In short, Endgame is 45 minutes of classic Megadeth.

King's X Goes Back to Nebraska

In recent years, bands have been incorporating complete albums as part of their set.. Judas Priest's last tour featured a complete British Steel. Metallica played all eight songs from Master of Puppets. Iron Maiden's A Matter of Life and Death tour featured that album, complete, much to the chagrin of some fan. And Porcupine Tree's current tour features a complete performance of disc one of their new record, The Incident.

The latest band to plan this kind of "complete album" show is the mighty King's X, who will take to the road next year to present An Evening With King's X including a complete performance of their 1989 platter, the legendary Gretchen Goes to Nebraska

Gretchen was the band's second album. It perfectly captures mix of swirling psychedelia, heavy, de-tuned riff-rock and gospel fervor that came together in this power trio from Katy, TX. From the opening bass chords of "Out of the Silent Planet" to the classics "Over My Head" and "Summerland", this is an innovative rich album and one of the band's finest. It also has "The Difference", an acoustic song that might be among the band's loveliest.

Beatles-esque vocal harmonies and Ty Tabor's wailing guitar are underpinned by the rock-solid rhythm section of Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill. All three guys sing. The blend of their voices, rising over a heavy descending bass-and-guitar crunch, provides this long-lived band with its definitive sound. If you've never seen them, you're in for a treat. If not, get tickets and get exposed to one of the most important, most underrated American rock bands of the last thirty years. And you'll be surprised at how many "grunge" bands ripped them off.

In other news, the band is planning a new album for 2010, and is releasing The Bigger Picture a collection of demos and original versions of songs on their self-titled fourth album. More information is available at Molken Music.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Ten List: Super Duper Supergroups

Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1973

The idea of the "supergroup" has been around since the late '60s, when great bands formed from the ashes of other groups in London. While these volatile lineups often result in ego clashes and backstage drama (Cream are a really good example!) So here are ten super-groups of varied, but always interesting quality:

  1. Cream
    The guitar player from the Yardbirds (some guy named Eric Clapton) hooked up with a jazz drummer (Ginger Baker) and the bassist and singer for the Graham Bond Organisation. Cream were arguably the first power trio and one of the godfathers of heavy metal. Also they were smart--four albums before they realized they couldn't stand each other. Baker and Clapton went on to join another supergroup, Blind Faith, which lasted for only one album.

  2. Emerson, Lake and Palmer
    Not a law firm, but a progressive rock supergroup with real staying power. ELP recorded together for a decade, having huge hits with "Lucky Man" and "Karn Evil 9 (First Impression"). Combining classical music pretensions (their output includes a piano concerto and an adaptation of Mussorgsy's Pictures at an Exhibition, the members had all been in different bands beforehand. Keith Emerson rose to prominence as the knife-throwing flag-burning keyboard wizard of The Nice. Carl Palmer played drums in Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. And Greg Lake was the original singer in King Crimson. ELP have re-formed a few times over the years, and even released one album as "Emerson, Lake and Powell" with drummer Cozy Powell sitting in for Palmer.

  3. Asia
    Asia formed from the ashes of Yes, King Crimson and ELP, playing a unique brand of melodic arena rock with huge choruses, great riffs and multi-tracked vocals. Then guitarist Steve Howe split from the main continent to form GTR. There were many versions of Asia in the 1990s as keyboardist Geoff Downes kept the band name alive. The real, original lineup of Howe, Downes, John Wetton and Carl Palmer re-formed in 2008 and released an excellent new album, appropriately titled Phoenix.

  4. Whitesnake
    Right before recording their self-titled 1987 album, lead singer and Whitesnake founder David Coverdale fired the entire band except for bassist Neil Murray. He hired guitarist John Sykes, (Thin Lizzy) drummer Aynesley Dunbar, (Journey) and ex-Ozzy keyboardist Don Airey. However, the album was recorded with hired guns, including guitarist Adrian Vandenberg, Airey, and the Heart rhythm section of Mark Andes and Denny Carmassi. Coverdale then recruited Vandenberg, Dio axe-man Vivian Campbell, and the Ozzy rhythm section (bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge) to go on tour and conquer MTV. Not so much supergroup as "revolving door."

  5. Damn Yankees
    An unlikely grouping on paper. Terrible Ted Nugent on guitar (and crossbow) with pretty-boy rockers Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Jack Blades (Night Ranger). The result were an excellent first album and a mediocre follow-up. Ted went on to become a right-wing radio star, and Shaw-Blades still release an occasional album together.

  6. Transatlantic
    Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater. Roine Stolt from The Flower Kings. Neal Morse from Spock's Beard. Pete Trewavas from Marillion. Like Asia, this is a four-headed prog monster. Unlike Asia, the music on Transatlantic's three studio albums is actually progressive--winding, polyrhytmic, melodic and thoroughly impressive. Their new album, "The Whirlwind" is their first in six years.

  7. Audioslave
    You don't have to necessarily be good to be on this list. Rage Against the Machine replaced their departed lead singer Zack de la Rocha with Soundgarden howler Chris Cornell. The result: three mediocre albums, and the eventual launch of Cornell's solo career.

  8. Velvet Revolver
    Like the above entry, VR was an amalgam of three frustrated (and fired) members of Guns 'N Roses (Slash, Duff, and Matt Sorum) who found another dysfunctional, drug-addled frontman in Stone Temple Pilot lead singer Scott Weiland, the Robert Downey Jr. of "alternative" rock. Two albums, and done. But aren't you excited that the Pilots are back together, providing Weiland can stay out of jail?

  9. Chickenfoot
    The surprise success of the year: Sammy and Mike from Van Hagar team up with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and master guitarist Joe Satriani. Who needs Eddie?

  10. Them Crooked Vultures
    I just reviewed this band. John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl (Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) in a swirling, heavy brew of psychedelic proto-metal. You can practically smell the hashish coming out of your speakers.

And here's one that didn't happen...
  • X-Y-Z
    After the breakup of Yes and the death of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, Chris Squire and Alan White from Yes talked about playing with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Ex Yes & Zeppelin. Get it? Plant went on to a solo career and Yes reformed two years later, having a huge hit with 90125 and "Owner of a Lonely Heart." XYZ was never heard from again.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Top Ten List: Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin in a field, Knebworth, England, 1979
(from left) John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham

I've been a huge Led Zeppelin fan since I was a kid and used to buy the albums (on cassette!) from the Sears at the Rockaway Mall. The release of Them Crooked Vultures (see previous post!) which features Zep bassist John Paul Jones gives me an excuse to write about them. Here's ten songs by the mighty Zeppelin that I really like. One from each album, except Coda.

  1. "Your Time Is Gonna Come" (from Led Zeppelin)
    When I was in high school, my friend Jeff Korn's brother had a cover band called the "Blind Venetians." I saw them play this on a school excursion "Day Line" cruise up the Hudson River. I remember Jeff's brother on drums, hitting the snare just as the boat went slowly, majestically under the George Washington Bridge. I still see that bridge every time I hear this song. ("Have you seen the bridge?")

  2. "Bring It On Home" (from Led Zeppelin II)
    The last song on the "Brown Bomber" has one of Jimmy Page's best blues-based riffs. The Cult liked it so much that they copped it for the album version of their minor hit "Sweet Soul Sister." And then remixed the song (burying the famous riff) when they put it on the radio, which is why it was only a minor hit.

  3. "Tangerine" (from Led Zeppelin III)
    One of the prettiest ballads in the Zeppelin catalogue. Just a beautiful song with a great Robert Plant vocal. The highlight of the "acoustic" side of III which showed the stairway to heaven being built….

  4. "When The Levee Breaks" (from Led Zeppelin IV or whatever you want to call it)
    The real "stairway to heaven." John Bonham's drums were placed in the stairwell of Headley Grange, the country house where the Zoso album was recorded with the drums at the bottom, the microphones hung at the top. The resulting column of air gives this song its memorable, booming drum sound that sounds like Godzilla himself is coming out of your stereo. But it's only Bonzo.

  5. "The Ocean" (from Houses of the Holy)
    A great, slamming beast of a riff and then Zeppelin turns into a…swing band? A song about the experience of watching the crowd surge and roar from the stage--hence "The Ocean." Has an early example of lyric sheet censorship: Plant's line "Got a date I can't be late for the hell I'm living for" was changed to "hey hai halla ball" on the lyric sheet. Which is why Zeppelin didn't include any lyrics until their fourth album.

  6. "The Rover" (from Physical Graffiti)
    I know a guy who used to live in the apartment building on the cover of this famous album. His tiny place was behind one of the F's on the cover. We used to call his apartment "Eff." But I digress. In a double album of leftovers and new songs, "The Rover" is one of Jimmy Page's best riffs. And it has a great John Paul Jones bass part.

  7. "Achilles' Last Stand" (from Presence)
    From my favorite Led Zeppelin album, an unloved bastard from their catalogue that was recorded in a frenzied session in Berlin while Plant had a broken leg. Presence inspired the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and this song laid the blueprint for every Iron Maiden "gallop" song ever written...

  8. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" (from Presence)
    Jimmy Page's ghostly slide riff leads into Bonzo's breakneck drumming. Up there with "Levee" for the title of best Zeppelin blues rewrite--in this case Robert Johnson's "Hellhound On My Trail." A haunting song about addiction and pain. Zeppelin's most tragic song and an amazing performance.

  9. "In The Evening" (from In Through The Out Door)
    The band's swan song features a mysterious Eastern introduction and then that relentless, sledgehammer riff as the Page Guitar Army fills your living room. Plant's cries of "I've got pain" reflect the loss of the lead singer's son (at the age of six) in 1977.

  10. "Hey, Hey What Can I Do" from (Led Zeppelin Box Set)
    This is a b-side from the III era. For some weird reason it was left off of Coda, the band's final release that featured outtakes, b-sides and alternates. It's a neat little song with a ballad feel, a nice acoustic riff and a great chorus at the end.

"No Stairway? Denied!"

"Wayne's World" image © NBC/Paramount Pictures

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Album Review: Them Crooked Vultures

This is not the album cover. But it should be the title.

This is the debut album of the biggest supergroup to form in years. TCV consists of Dave Grohl (drums and vocals, ex-Nirvana and leader of the Foo Fighters) Josh Homme (guitars, from Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age and the Masters of Reality) and John Paul Jones. Yes, that John Paul Jones whose bass guitar and keyboards were integral parts of Led Zeppelin. They have assembled an adventurous, hard-rocking record that leaves the listener hoping that TCV is more than just a one-shot project. Even if it is, the album is still pretty sweet.

While drummer Dave Grohl does the Bonzo all over this record, most notably on "Caligulove" and other stompers. He remains a great rock drummer in his own right. Here, he sounds like he's glad to be back behind the skins after many years fronting the Foo Fighters. Throughout, Grohl trades vocal duties with Josh Homme. In turn, Homme plays solid, heavy riffs and sings in his trademark style, influenced by Jack Bruce and Masters of Reality leader (and sometime bandmate) Chris Goss.

OK. Let's get the Led Zep comparisons over with. John Paul Jones' presence on the record means that the bass playing remains as memorable as when he recorded "The Lemon Song", and his keyboard work tastier than custard pie. The songs occasionally quote tracks from the Jones-produced "In Through the Out Door", most notably bits of "Carouselambra" and "South Bound Suarez." Driving James Brown rhythms evoke "The Crunge" and "Trampled Underfoot". And the Middle Eastern orchestra from "Kashmir" wanders in and out of the mix on occasion.

TCV does not sound like a bad Zeppelin tribute or some kind of cover band. This is a fresh, original record that looks forward and back, combining the relative experiences of the three members to create an all-new musical monster. Fear it. And check out the band's YouTube Chanel here.

Album Review: Masters of Reality: Pine / Cross Dover

The Masters of Reality have always been one of those elusive bands. They don't tour much, rarely release albums, and are known to a handful of music cognoscenti geeks because they worked with Ginger Baker in the early '90s. But while a new Masters record is unexpected, it is always welcome. In this case, mastermind Chris Goss has cooked up two mini-albums, released as a double. Pine is the first five songs, and the last six are Cross Dover.

Pine / Cross Dover finds writer/singer/guitartist/producer Chris Goss working with drummer John Leamy, Queens of the Stone Age bassist Brian O'Connor, and a bevy of guest musicians. This is heavy, powerful rock with equal influences of Cream and Black Sabbath with odd evocations of The Doors, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and even Urban Dance Squad. Goss is known as a producer (having worked with Kyuss and others) and he gives the record a dry, buzzy, imminent sound that is compulsive and compelling to listen to.

There are some short, heavy tracks that feature Goss' oddball lyrics and wailing Telecaster, lots of psychedelic weirdness, and album-closer "Alfalfa", a twelve-minute instrumental jam that will make you want to dance and headbang at the same time. In other words, it sounds like the Masters' best work--unpredictable, weird, and inspired.

Still not convinced? Download the leadoff cut here King RIchard TLH and join those who believe that "MoR" does not stand for "middle-of-the-road", but for "Masters of Reality."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Concert Review: Metallica at MSG

Metallica: (clockwise from left) Rob Trujillo, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich

Metallica's fourth New York area show of their ongoing World Magnetic tour raised the roof at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. The boys opened with the one-two combination of "That Was Just Your Life" and "End of the Line", racing through old-style chord sections, radical time changes and James Hetfield's barked, spat, growled vocals.

Death Magnetic is a pretty good Metallica album, and this tour has the band taking out their new material and playing six of the new tracks with confidence, a marked contrast to the 2004 St. Anger tour where they would play one, maybe two songs from that album in a show. (Personally, I hope that some of the better Anger songs make a comeback on a future tour, leaving the band's more conservative fans scratching their heads, or possibly holding their ears.)

The show is 15 songs--five from Magnetic, five "standards" ("Master of Puppets", "One", "Sandman", etc.) and five "band's choice" cuts from anywhere in the history of Metallica. We got lucky--they played "Creeping", "The Shortest Straw", "Fade to Black", "Dyer's Eve" and in the encore, "Trapped Under Ice". Throughout, James, Rob, and Kirk jammed together and far apart on the in-the round stage, playing some songs at breakneck speed ("Creeping Death" actually sounds faster than on the record) and taking crunchers like "Sad But True" at a normal pace, instead of the slow, "heavy" de-tuned trudge that made past performances of this song seem endless.

The whole show was infused with positive energy. Rob Trujillo has really become part of the band (hard to believe he's been in Metallica six years now) and his bass-playing is a huge contribution to the success of this tour and of the whole Death Magnetic campaign. He and Lars lock together beautifully, and Kirk sounds like he's in his element, with the shredding solos of old replacing the annoying wah-wah fests of the Load era.

The band closed with "Last Caress", "Ice" and a ripping "Seek and Destroy",played with the house lights on as giant black balloons were tossed into the audience. The evening ended on a sweet note as the band celebrated Kirk's birthday onstage (three days early) with a sudden cream-pie assault by band and crew, followed by James leading the sold-out Garden crowd in "Happy Birthday."

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Metallica Shows--A History: 1989-2009

a shameless merch plug for SkullCandy© Metalli-phones? Would I do that? (yes I would. I love mine!)

OK. I like Metallica. A lot. Still do. Went to get my flu shot this morning and quoted "Shoot Me Again" (that's on the much-reviled 2003 St. Anger) to the doctor before she stabbed me with it. I have been a fan since winter of '89 when I saw them play "One" on the Grammies and lose to Jethro Tull, in that institution's first attempt at a "hard rock and heavy metal" category. (They won the first of many, the following year, for their cover of Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy." So, a look back in time at Metallica shows I have known, with links to full setlists courtesy of Setlist.Fm. Enjoy!

  1. July 23 1989: Damaged Justice Tour, Nassau Coliseum
    The famous Justice Tour with the collapsing statue. Three or four encores concluding with "Breadfan." Openers The Cult were terrible and probably drunk.

  2. Dec. 20 1991: Wherever We May Roam Tour, Nassau Coliseum
    No opening act! The kite-shaped stage. Great show and my friend fell asleep during one of the Black Album songs, indicating that the early shit still works better live. Kirk's solo included the opening riff of "Bastille Day" by Rush!

  3. April 8, 1992: Wherever We May Roam Tour, Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ
    This was the show where we were behind the kite-shaped stage. In the middle of the call-and-response thing on "Seek and Destroy", James Hetfield told us: "You guys are fuckin' loud!

  4. July 29, 1992: Metallica/Guns N' Roses Tour, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
    'Tallica opened with "Creeping Death" and played "The Shortest Straw": "Let's see how many of you fuckers know THIS one!" Guns did not finish their set.

  5. November 22, 1999: S&M (with the Orchestra of St. Luke's) at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
    Literally got these tickets at the last minute. A great show, and one of three times the band played with full orchestra and Michael Kamen conducting. But no "Creeping Death."

  6. April 20, 2004: Madly In Anger With the World Tour at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
    My first Metallica show in five years and the first with Rob Trujillo on bass. A great, intense set, capped with a special treat for the Long Island faithful: "Motorbreath" and "Metal Militia" closed the show.

  7. October 15, 2004: Madly In Anger With the World Tour at Pepsi Colisee, Quebec City, PQ, Canada
    A French Canadian crowd that was completely berserk! The first two songs ("Blackened" and "Fuel") were drowned out in a guttural, French-accented roar singing along. Unusually, the encore included an obscure Load track, "Wasting My Hate."

  8. January 29 2009: World Magnetic Tour at Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
    An excellent show, with much-needed injections of "Damage Inc." and "Creeping Death" contrasting with five songs from the band's new record. First time I ever saw them play "Phantom Lord."

  9. November 15 2009: World Magnetic Tour, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
    The band's second night at MSG (a venue they've only played a few times) featured Kirk getting cream-pied for his birthday and the first time I've ever seen Metallica play "Trapped Under Ice" and "Dyer's Eve." Full show review to follow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Album Review--Within Temptation: An Acoustic Night at the Theatre

The Dutch sextet Within Temptation enters the "Unplugged" sweepstakes, with mixed success on An Acoustic Night At the Theatre For those of you not familiar with WT, they are one of the finest of the current crop of European progressive symphonic metal bands. Think Evanescence or Nightwish, but with a much better singer! The band, led by soprano Sharon den Adel and her partner, guitarist Robert Westerholt have captured imaginations and audiences in Europe, but only enjoy a cult following in the States.

Highlights of these stripped-down performances include the gorgeous, haunting "Frozen" and the powerful "Stand My Ground" on which den Adel's soprano voice sounds even more determined without the usual backup of a full choir, orchestra and heavy rock band. However, throughout An Acoustic Night, the bombast and swagger that defines WT's best moments are absent. Stripped of the dynamic power that makes them rock in the first place, the songs sound anemic.

The album is an eleven-song live set, plus one new track, ("Utopia", currently released as a single and featuring a duet with British singer Chris Jones.) An Acoustic Night at the Theatre is a worthy experiment, and a pleasant enough introduction for new fans, but as a Within Temptation album, it's better thought of as a tour memento. If you want a better introduction to this excellent band, check out their previous live album and DVD Black Symphony and their last three studio discs: Mother Earth, The Silent Force and The Heart of Everything.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cut-Out Classics: Saigon Kick and The Lizard

Music collectors remember the "cut-out" bin, where excess copies of unsuccessful albums would be dumped, with big box cutter cuts in the edge of the LP or the back to the cassette or CD. Many a disc had to have the plastic blown off carefully so it wouldn't get scratched. On the other hand, "cut-outs" were $1.99-$5.99, considerably cheaper than full-priced LPs, CDs or cassettes. Granted the albums hiding in the cut-outs was more Pretty Boy Floyd than Pink Floyd but I spent many hours poring over those bins and going home with huge stacks of new (and old) music.

So here at the
Hair Whip we present another in our series of Cut-Out Classics, great albums that you can probably find for a….song.

Saigon Kick only made two records before singer Matt Kramer walked out of a session for their third album, leaving guitar man Jason Bieler to take over frontman duties. But it was the tension between the intellectual Bieler and the wild-man Kramer that made the first two discs by this Florida-based quartet tick.

The band's 1990 debut is a thrilling ride through a bewildering number of musical styles. After the trippy opener "New World" the band follows up with a one-two punch of "What You Say" and "What Do You Do?". From there things get weird. Highlights include the swirling psychedelia of "Colors", the sexually dysfunctional "Down By the Ocean" and "My Life." One of my favorite songs to play for friends (mostly to watch their jaws drop) "My Life" features a great Beatles pastiche on the verses, a soaring, echo-laden anthemic chorus and best of all, a third verse played entirely on multi-tracked kazoos. A strong and confident debut that sounds better with age.

The Lizard is a much more problematic record. The guitars are heavier, and the hooks are still thick and meaty, staying in your ears long after hearing them. This record has the band's one major hit (the acoustic and career-sinking "Love Is On The Way") but the real gems here are the stomping "Hostile Youth", the decidedly strange "Peppermint Tribe" and the driving acoustic-based tracks "God of 42nd Street" and "All I Want".

However, the overall impression of The Lizard is a band so devoted to experimenting and sounding like other bands that it sounds like a compilation of other contemporary groups, "My Dog" sounds like Jane's Addiction right down to the riff from "Stop!" "World Goes Round" is the best King's X song never written by that Texas trio. And "Body Bags" channels the fury and rage of Skid Row at their peak. (Ironically, powerhouse drummer Phil Varone later wound up in that band.) The Lizard is a good record overall, but a little schizophrenic.

By the way, if you like Matt Kramer-era Saigon Kick (and I do, otherwise I wouldn't be writing about them!) check out his website here and his first solo album, War and Peas.
All images from

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CD Review--Slayer: World Painted Blood

The world according to Slayer

In the spirit of Slayer's Reign in Blood (one of the best speed-metal albums of all time that zips by in 28 blissful minutes) here is a very short review of the new Slayer offering, World Painted Blood

This is the best Slayer record in a long time, and maybe the best since Seasons In the Abyss. WPB hurtles along at a breakneck pace, with the occasional slowdowns into solid groove metal. The star of this carnival of carnage is Tom Araya, whose vocals are a study in stentorian fury. When he sings matter-of-factly about murder in "Snuff", his conviction is chilling. When he howls "It's all about the motherfucking oil" in "Americon" and slings razor-sharp venom in "Hate Worldwide" there is no doubting the sincerity, pain and rage in his vocals.

Slayer's twin lead tandem of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman only get better with age, playing riffs and solos at murderous speed in a Jackson Pollock-like frenzy of musical ideas. Certain bands wish they had the chops and songwriting skills on display here. Dave Lombardo reminds listeners of why he's a legendary metal drummer and why Slayer sounds so much better with him pounding out his crack-fuelled snare shots and Neil Peart on energy-drinks drum fills. Also, the band sounds phenomenally live, this is supremely difficult music played with razor-sharp precision and no mercy whatsover.

In other words, it's

Brutal. Brilliant. Buy it, spin it, and learn something, kids.

Oh and if you don't believe me, you can listen to the whole thing streaming here for free.

RETRACTION: Steven Tyler is NOT leaving Aerosmith.

According to a report on, Ol' Liver-Lips is on good terms with Joe Perry, and appearing with him to promote Perry's new solo disc "Have Guitar Will Travel".

Guess it's the same old song and, same old song and dance, my friends

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

T-Shirt Hell Strikes Again

With my favorite t-shirt of the year. I just ordered mine.


Now, I love AIC--and even like them with the new singer. See the recent review of their excellent new disc Black Gives Way To Blue.

I even saw the original lineup on the Facelift tour when they were opening the Clash of the Titans. (That was the night Slayer were banned from the Garden and Anthrax played with Public Enemy for the first time.) Always liked this band.

But I just couldn't pass on this shirt. It will go nicely with my "TOOL: Not the Band--I'm Just a Tool" shirt which for some reason seems to annoy Tool fans when I wear it to shows.

Get your own Alice shirt (while they are still in print) at T-Shirt Hell's official site.

Aero Force Grounded

Steven Tyler (with headband) introduces new Aerosmith frontman Moe Szyzlak during a performance of "Walk This Way."

Steven Tyler has announced that he is quitting Aerosmith. The Bad Boys from Boston were the first headlining band I ever saw, at the "New Jersey Summer Jam" concert at Giants Stadium on August 16, 1988. They played with Deep Purple and some band from California called Guns 'N Roses opening up. That's also the show where GNR shot the video for "Paradise City."

Back to Aerosmith. In memory of this great American rock'n'roll band, here is a list of my ten favorite Aero-songs. Five from the '70s "soused period" and five from their (relatively) clean and sober '80s-early '90s comeback. Nothing from the Armageddon soundtrack!

"Original Recipe" Aerosmith (with all original herbs and substances)

  1. "Mama Kin" from Aerosmith
  2. "Same Old Song and Dance" from Get Your Wings
  3. "Sweet Emotion" from Toys in the Attic
  4. "Nobody's Fault" from Rocks
  5. "No Surprize" from Right In the Nuts Night In the Ruts

"Extra Crispy" Aerosmith (but for the most part no longer on drugs!)

  1. "Darkness" from srorriM htiw enoD (Done With Mirrors)
  2. "Hangman Jury" from Permanent Vacation
  3. "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" from Pump
  4. "Voodoo Medicine Man" from Pump
  5. "Eat the Rich" from Get a Grip

My last Aerosmith memory was riding the Rock and Roller Coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios, with the following lyrics (from "F.I.N.E.") blasting from the speakers in the car

"Whip crackin' floozy goin' out of control,
she got a new kind of jelly in her jell-ay roll,
I got the right key, baby but the wrong key-hole…."

Right in the middle of the Happiest Place on Earth. Ya gotta love Steven Tyler, master of the subtle double entendre…perhaps his first "Brand Tyler" solo disc will be called "Flying Bag O'Hammers."

Image taken from Wikipedia and originally from the Simpsons episode "Flaming Moe's". All Simpsons images © FOX/Gracie Films 1991 and used completely without permission.

CD Review: Marillion--Less Is More

This is not the album cover. We already posted the album cover.

Yes I'm finally taking down the Marillion design from the Hair Whip--right after I write one last piece.

Marillion's sixteenth studio album (wow, they've been around a long time) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the band (and the 20th year of Steve Hogarth as their singer) with this generally excellent acoustic collection of songs recorded during the H years. Stripping down to acoustic is something that the boys from Aylesbury have done a few times, whether on the excellent acoustic versions of "The Hollow Man" and "Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury" that graced the Brave bonus disc or on the 2005 "Los Trios Marillos" tour which featured three band members in a relaxed, unplugged setting.

The versions here are quite brilliant, and jaw-dropping if you know the original tunes. The most radical re-workings include "Interior Lulu" (from the 1999 record and he antagonistic "Quartz". The latter has had its drum loops removed and its raging sections reduced to almost tearful sighs of resignation from Steve Hogarth.

Other highlights include a radical reworking of "The Space…" (a highlight of past Marillion acoustic shows), the total redemption of "If My Heart Were a Ball It Would Roll Uphill" (never one of my favorite tracks) and the collection's sole new song, the soothing, aching "It's Not Your Fault". Throughout the disc, the band members experimented with instrumentation, trading the usual synths and electrics in for dulcimer, bongos, and even an impromptu pipe organ built by band member Mark Kelly.

Less Is More is a solid effort, recommended as an introduction for those new to Marillion, and as an excellent guide to the Steve Hogarth period for those fans who may only be familiar with the band's 1980s work with Fish. Overall, This is probably the best Marillion release since marbles in 2004. One hopes that the band's unplugged experiment will result in some new sounds and fresh textures as they continue their musical explorations into the next decade.