Thursday, May 24, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Extremist, by Joe Satriani

n the late 80's, Joe Satriani had taken the electric guitar to new heights. With three LP's and 2 EP's he had shown the world that the electric guitar could be used for more than just flashy shredding or beefy chords to back up hair metal. He showed that technical and feel could be brought together to make music on a whole other level that did not need vocals of any kind. To continue this gospel into the next decade, Satch recorded and released his 1991 classic The Extremist.

The Extremist is where Joe started to drift away from the outer space guitar sound he had become known for and towards other things. In certain respects, it felt just a little more (though not to a huge extent) stripped down and straightforward than his previous outings. That said, there was still plenty of brilliant song writing with the occasional bit of just for fun shred spread throughout the entire record.

"Summer Song" is the very first song I ever heard from Joe Satriani (although it was a live version). I was just so incredibly dazzled by his technical skill on the guitar that he used to express true human feeling through rather than just play scales at a million miles an hour. This tune in particular has this driving pumped up feel with such a memorable melody. As a kid it got me hook, line, and sinker into becoming a big fan to this day.

"War" is one of those songs that no matter how many times I listen to it gives me absolute chills. It makes you really feel that terror of being on a battlefield and being approached by an enemy army that is far stronger and fearsome than you and you for sure without a single of a shadow of a doubt are going to be brutally slaughtered. He manages to do this all without uttering a single word. Just the electric guitar and his backing rhythm section. For that and plenty of other things I have to give him some serious props.

The Extremist is not the record I would start a new Satch fan off with, but it is definitely one of the essential albums of his to get into your collection as soon as you can. It really does show a turning point in Joe's transition from outer space guitar wizard to modern day axe titan. It has a plethora of great songs on it that in my opinion are classics. There are so many other tracks on here that I could go into serious detail on, but I would rather you go out and discover them for yourself.

The Extremist, by Joe Satriani receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Friends
2. The Extremist
3. War
4. Cryin'
5. Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness
6. Summer Song
7. Tears in the Rain
8. Why
9. Motorcycle Driver
10. New Blues

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #166

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week is a feature I run on Young Ears, Fresh Perspective on Sundays/early hours of Monday morning where I pick out 5 tunes that I think are notable and tell you a bit about them. The point is to give you some rocking music to help you deal with your weekday blues. You can either listen to one each day, listen to them all at once, or any other combination that you feel. As long as you can get through the week without the man getting you down, that's all I care about. Without further ado, here are the 5 tracks I've picked out for this week:

1. Blue on Black, by Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Last week for work I was doing a review of the new Five Finger Death Punch album and I found that it had a cover of this blues grooving classic. They did a pretty decent job, but there is nothing quite like the earthy, down home, bluesy soul of the original. When it comes to music, more often than not the original artist got it right the first time and that is most certainly the case here. It is an essential modern(ish) blues tune for sure.

2. My Melancholy Blues, by Queen

I feel like the world's worst Queen fan right now. It wasn't until I was writing a Queen related piece for work last week that I happened upon this hidden gem of a song. This song is gorgeous and features some of the best singing Freddie Mercury ever did. Rather than being a loud rocking tune or one of their ballads, this is a straight up smokers lounge piano driven jazz piece. It's so laid back, yet will still fill you with chills at the sheer emotion in it.

3. Black and Blue, by Whitesnake

Speaking of the colours blue and black, here is a song with a similar title from Whitesnake. This is from the early days where they weren't teasing their hair up to Mount Everest or wearing spandex. This is a fun times up and dancing bluesy rock n' roll tune driven by both guitar AND piano simultaneously, something that Whitesnake used to be pretty good at doing until David Coverdale decided it was more important to be popular and rich.

4. Party of Special Things to Do, by The White Stripes

When it comes to covers as I mentioned earlier, the original is usually the best. However, this is one of the rare cases where I feel the opposite. The original Captain Beefheart version of this tune is great and fantastic, but The White Stripes added this raw, stripped down, punk rock edge to it that brought it to a whole other level. It definitely has more punch and buzz to it, which quite frankly I think it needed.

5. Chapter Four, by Avenged Sevenfold

This is without a single shadow of a doubt my absolute favorite Avenged Sevenfold tracks of all time. It combines elements of the more melodic A7X we all know and love with the edgier metalcore elements that they started out with in a way that gives chills and hits that spot directly. It manages to find this balance that not many bands ever do. Plus, who doesn't love a dark, driving heavy metal song about the story of Cane and Abel?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Throwback Thursday (belated): Come An' Get It, by Whitesnake

By 1981 Whitesnake was gaining some serious traction in the world of rock n' roll both commercially and musically. They had three albums and an EP out that had gained them a reputation for being one hell of a loud and proud blues flavored rock n' roll band. The classic blues era of Whitesnake came to its climax when they released their fourth studio LP Come An' Get It, which at the time became their highest charting album yet, hitting the #2 spot in the UK charts.

Come An' Get It continues the blues rock sound that the band had been toting for the past few years, though took some of the gloss off in some areas while adding some in others. It was a pretty balanced record for the most part, with rockers like "Wine, Women, and Song", "Come an' Get It", "Hit and Run", etc. while also having soulful blues driven songs like "Don't Break My Heart Again". It is easy to see why this record did so well at the time.

Hot damn, does "Wine, Women, and Song" cook. It is very classic 50's sounding piano driven rockabilly tune at first, but then the guitars and the rest of the band come in and it cranks up the fun and attitude up to 11. This is definitely a tune to get up and dance to. It takes what was great about early rock n' roll, but adds on some serious gusto to it. You can tell that they were having a lot of fun when they performed this.

"Don't Break My Heart Again" is a heavy, yet soulful ballad. It is about the crumbling of singer David Coverdale's first marriage and you can hear the hurt and heartache he was dealing with in every last melancholy drenched lyric. It is rather musically dark for a Whitesnake song. No flamboyancy in the slightest. This is just straight up blues the only way that they knew how to play it and really mean it.

Personally I don't think Come An' Get It is Whitesnake's best records, but it still has its moments for me. When I was in college and jamming out to old school Whitesnake a lot this record was frequently in my rotation. No Whitesnake collection would be complete without it because otherwise you would be missing some of the best songs in their entire catalog. At the very least it is worth checking out at least once and deciding for yourself.

Come An' Get It, by Whitesnake receives 3.25 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Come an' Get It
2. Hot Stuff
3. Don't Break My Heart Again
4. Lonely Days, Lonely Nights
5. Wine, Women, an' Song
6. Child of Babylon
7. Would I Lie to You
8. Girl
9. Hit and Run
10. Till the Day I Die

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Monday, May 14, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #165

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week is a feature I run on Young Ears, Fresh Perspective on Sundays/early hours of Monday morning where I pick out 5 tunes that I think are notable and tell you a bit about them. The point is to give you some rocking music to help you deal with your weekday blues. You can either listen to one each day, listen to them all at once, or any other combination that you feel. As long as you can get through the week without the man getting you down, that's all I care about. Without further ado, here are the 5 tracks I've picked out for this week:

1. Kashmir, by Led Zeppelin

What more can be said about this epic Led Zeppelin classic that hasn't already been said over the past four decades? It has one of the most iconic guitar riffs in history that is backed by this thundering drum beat that just exudes absolute power. This song really was a turning point in the band's career in that it even further ensured them a place among the other greatest rock n' roll bands of all time because it showed that they could make songs like this and not have it be a fluke.

2. Shock Me, by Kiss

This is one of my personal favorite Kiss songs. It's actually the first one that lead guitarist Ace Frehley ever took lead vocals on in a studio setting. It seems appropriate though, considering the song is about something that happened to him during a concert. The electrics hadn't been hooked up right, he touched an ungrounded metal staircase, and it blew him off his feet for half an hour and left his hand numb for a bit after that.

3. Hotel Yorba, by The White Stripes

This is one hell of a fun tune from The White Stripes. Has a very jangly, upbeat country feel to it without being overly heehaw. I actually would recommend throwing this tune in the mix if you were throwing a country shindig. It might go over fairly well. Regardless, it paints some simple, yet sweet images in one's head and makes you yearn for getting away from the rat race and enjoying a peaceful life with someone you love and adore.

4. Keep on Swinging, by Rival Sons

This is one of those songs that is a great theme song for those who are currently in a situation where the odds seem stacked against them, but they just keep their heads down and swinging away until they come out on top. It's loud, rumbly, and ROCKS. Rival Sons are definitely one of the best bands to come out of the past decade. Not many people are taking the reins from the old guard of rock n' roll, but these guys sure are.

5. Four Out of Five, by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys are back and better than ever with their new record Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. This first single off the record is a pretty accurate representation of the overall sound of the album in that it shows off the meticulously crafted blend of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles. It has a rather melancholic, bass driven sound, but it still has a groove that hooks you in. Plus, Alex Turner's voice sounds almost exactly like Bowie to a haunting degree.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Love Gun", by Kiss

By 1977, Kiss had already long since cemented themselves as one of the biggest, flashiest bands in all of rock n' roll. 1976's Destroyer and 1975's Alive! had skyrocketed their popularity and increased the attendance of concert goers at their performances. Though there of course were problems in the band, musically and commercially they were at their peak. Before things started going downhill, they made one last amazing album: Love Gun.

Love Gun is one of Kiss's best reviewed albums to date and it features some of their most hard rocking tunes yet, like the title track, "Plaster Caster", "Christine Sixteen", "Shock Me", and more. It packs a punch, yet has those melodies that keep an artist popular in the mainstream. Plus, with all of the overt yet somehow charismatic sexual themes spreading all throughout it, it managed to fly off the shelves even faster than it already would have to begin with.

"Shock Me" is one of the most interesting songs on the album. For one thing, it was the first lead vocal track that lead guitarist Ace Frehley ever recorded. Also, it is based on an event where at a Kiss show Ace got shocked from having touched a metal staircase that was ungrounded. He was knocked to the floor and the show was delayed by half an hour, after which he lost all feeling in his right hand for a bit. Needless to say, this rocking number definitely gives off that electrifying feel.

The title track "Love Gun" is definitely a Kiss classic. Although it is pretty obvious what they are talking about, it's hard not to get into that guitar riff, the dual harmonized guitar parts, the bravado and melodic nature of the vocals, the thundering of the drums, etc. It takes all of the best elements of the band and channels them into one hell of a song. If you haven't been listening to rock radio for the past 40 years and somehow haven't heard this, then I'm surprised.

Love Gun is one of those albums that is an absolute must for any Kiss fan and even any fan of 70's rock. It has all the essential elements: groove, melody, swagger, charisma, harmonies, thunder, and more. While it is not my personal favorite Kiss album, it's definitely up there. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not giving this record at least one full listen-through. There is more to it than just the radio single.

Love Gun, by Kiss receives 3.75 out of 5 stars

Track List:

1. I Stole Your Love
2. Christine Sixteen
3. Got Love For Sale
4. Shock Me
5. Tomorrow and Tonight
6. Love Gun
7. Hooligan
8. Almost Human
9. Plaster Caster
10. Then She Kissed Me

Buy the album on Amazon:

Monday, May 7, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #164

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week is a feature I run on Young Ears, Fresh Perspective on Sundays/early hours of Monday morning where I pick out 5 tunes that I think are notable and tell you a bit about them. The point is to give you some rocking music to help you deal with your weekday blues. You can either listen to one each day, listen to them all at once, or any other combination that you feel. As long as you can get through the week without the man getting you down, that's all I care about. Without further ado, here are the 5 tracks I've picked out for this week:

1. Shadow of Your Love, by Guns N' Roses

Guns N' Roses put out their first bit of new music in 10 years this past Friday when announcing the big Appetite For Destruction box set that will be coming out later this year. This tune in particular is actually not new at all, but one that is as old as the band itself. That said, I believe that this is a new recording of it due to some of Slash's solos and Axl Rose's vocals. Plus, it doesn't sound like any of the demos of it that I have heard. That said, this energetic rocker should have been on AFD for sure.

2. Make America Great Again, by Frank Turner

In an age where so many people blindly follow Donald Trump because of all the big promises of making America great again, singer-songwriter Frank Turner wrote a song about what would actually make America great again: making racists ashamed again and learning to have more compassion for one another. Despite being an Englishman, he really does have a spot-on understanding and view of what is going on here.

3. Neither Can I, by Slash's Snakepit

Speaking of Slash, I couldn't resist throwing this bluesy number on this week's list. It has this cool, laid back bluesy swagger to it that manages to stay throughout the entire song, even when it gets particularly loud and rocking. Plus, that harmonica really does add a layer of flavor that brings it to a whole other level. Naturally the Cat in the Hat's gnarly soloing and soulful melodies bring it all together as well.

4. Cool #9, by Joe Satriani

This tune also has its own bluesy swagger to it, but in a much more outer-space jazzy kind of way. Of course you would expect nothing else from guitar wizard extraordinaire Joe Satriani. He really is one of those rare players who despite his technical prowess manages to compose and play with not just his head, but also his heart. As a guitar player myself, I know that this is absolutely no easy feat by any stretch of the imagination.

5. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

To wrap things up, some classic Hendrix. As a young guitar player that iconic funky riff is one of the first things I ever remember trying to learn once I bought my own crybaby wah pedal. There really is not a whole lot to say about this particular song that has not been said countless times already. It's Hendrix. It's got blues. It's got soul. It effing rocks. Crank it up to 11 and jam it until all of your weekday blues have gone away.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "It's Five O'clock Somewhere", by Slash's Snakepit

By 1995 Guns N' Roses had long since taken over the world and grown into this huge, grand production involved in big business. Lead guitarist Slash was getting rather disillusioned with the whole situation, so he decided he needed a break. This lead him and GN'R rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke and drummer Matt Sorum to form Slash's Snakepit with vocalist Eric Dover and bassist Mike Inez. This was a band that encompasses all of the raw, straight to business, back to basics edge of rock n' roll that he had been craving for some time. That year the band released their debut record It's Five O'Clock Somewhere.

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere definitely brings back that raw, edgy, guitar driven sound in a way similar, yet somewhat different to what GN'R had been doing in their early days. There is very little if any keyboard. What little there is is barely audible and is only there to add a little extra punch to what the guitars are already doing or act as an intro in one song. Dover while having a rough attitude driven vocal style sounded NOTHING like Axl Rose, which in the long run helped the band.

"Neither Can I" is one hell of a cool way to start a record. It has this swinging, bluesy swagger to it that makes you just want to sway and tap your foot. The harmonica especially gives it some real punch aside from the vocals and the pounding riffs. It starts off kind of soft and foreboding and gradually turns into something loud and rocking - all while managing to maintain that old school bluesy vibe.

One track from this album that I feel does not get talked about anywhere near as much as it should is "Jizz da Pit". It's not very long, but it is one hell of a cool ripping and running instrumental. This is just the band jamming, but they sound like they are having a hell of a lot of fun doing so. It sounds like when separated from Axl Rose's nonsense Slash was able to finally have some fun making music again. Definitely a fun tune.

Unfortunately, Slash's Snakepit disbanded shortly after It's Five O'Clock Somewhere was released because Geffen Records wanted Slash to go back to Guns N' Roses in order to make new music. There was another album with the same band name put out in 2000, but it was an entirely different group aside from Slash. Regardless, this is definitely a record worth picking up if you're a fan of Slash's raw bluesy brand of rock n' roll with balls.

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, by Slash's Snakepit receives 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Neither Can I
2. Dime Store Rock
3. Beggars & Hangers-On
4. Good to Be Alive
5. What Do You Want to Be
6. Monkey Chow
7. Soma City Ward
8. Jizz da Pit
9. Lower
10. Take It Away
11. Doin' Fine
12. Be the Ball
13. I Hate Everybody (But You)
14. Back and Forth Again

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