Friday, March 23, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Icky Thump", by The White Stripes

By 2007 The White Stripes had become a staple in the world of modern rock n' roll. With so many groundbreaking and innovative albums to their name already, people were giddy with anticipation to see what the band would cook up with their sixth studio LP Icky Thump, especially since front man Jack White had been busy for a while with his side project band The Raconteurs and the album they had put out the year prior.

Where their previous album, 2005 release Get Behind Me, Satan had been mostly piano and other forms of unplugged instrument driven music, Icky Thump showcases the band going back to being a plugged in balls to the wall cranked to 11 rock n' roll band, though in a more evolved and mildly experimental way. Notable tunes from the record include "Icky Thump", "You Don't Know What Love Is", "Conquest", etc.

"Icky Thump" is actually the second song by The White Stripes I had ever heard. Before I had only listened to "Seven Nation Army" and didn't have much interest outside of that. This tune with its thumping and crunching riffs, wild vocals, and unusual guitar sounds made me want to dig into the band's entire catalog that very moment. Who knew a song about how absurd it is to treat illegal immigrants the way we do could be so rocking and fantastic?

"Rag and Bone" is one of my personal favorite songs of all time from The White Stripes. While it doesn't feature a traditional song structure or even sung verses, it is something to behold. It feels more like you are being bugged at the door by dirty grimy bums who want all your stuff that you don't want so they can sell it all while set to a driving, stomping, rock n' roll boogie. You wouldn't think that would work, but it does.

Sadly, Icky Thump was the very last album The White Stripes ever made. After the tour ended early with multiple canceled dates due to drummer Meg White suffering from acute anxiety the band went on hiatus. On February 2nd, 2011 it was announced that the band was over and done with for good. I suppose if the band had to end, it's better for them to have burned out on a high note than to have faded away into mediocrity.

Icky Thump, by The White Stripes receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Icky Thump
2. You Don't Know What Love Is
3. 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues
4. Conquest
5. Bone Broke
6. Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn
7. St. Andrew (This Battle is in the Air)
8. Little Cream Soda
9. Rag and Bone
10. I'm Slowly Turning into You
11. A Martyr for My Love for You
12. Catch Hell Blues
13. Effect and Cause

Buy the album on Amazon:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #157

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. Waiting on a Sign, by Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

After 23 years, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow has returned with a brand new original song. That's right, an original. Not a new even lesser version of a crappy Joe Lynn Turner era tune or an instrumental take on a traditional song. A new song by the band. It definitely has a bit of that Ronnie James Dio first album vibe mixed with some Bad Company. It's nothing stellar or groundbreaking, but it doesn't need to be. It gave me that classic Rainbow feeling one more time.

2. Immigrant Song, by Led Zeppelin

Used in countless popular movies, TV shows, commercials, etc. this tune is the definition of badass classic rock. With that galloping riff, those chilling high vocals, booming rhythms, and lyrics about vikings, how can you go wrong? This is one of those songs that is allowed to be overplayed on commercial radio because it's just so awesome and never gets old. It's the perfect song to get your blood pumping when you need it most.

3. Safari Song, by Greta Van Fleet

Speaking of Led Zeppelin, here is a song from their younger clone. Seriously, put this song on. I guarantee within the first 30 seconds you will be flabbergasted at just how spot on to Led Zeppelin's sound they are. Even the vocalist can easily be mistaken for Robert Plant. Honestly, if you put this song on and you didn't know it was a different band, you might think that this was unused material or a B side or something. Regardless, it's still a kickass tune.

4. Rock Steady, by Bad Company

Also, speaking of Bad Company.... Here is the song that the Rainbow tune reminds me of. It has a similar vibe and atmosphere. That said, this song is pretty rad. It has this infectious guitar riff that just grooves into your soul and sticks with you. It has everything that a good classic rock song needs: a memorable guitar riff, powerful melodic vocals, sleazy lyrics, cowbell, etc. Can't go wrong with a tune with a ton of cowbell, right?

5. Flash of the Blade, by Avenged Sevenfold

And now for something completely different. To wrap this week up, here is a cover A7X did years back of an Iron Maiden classic. While I am a HUGE fan of Maiden, this might be one of the few and far between occasions where I like a cover better than the original. The production is better, M. Shaodows brings this nice nasty snarl, and The Rev does some awesome backing vocals to hit the higher notes that Shadows can't.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Slip of the Tongue", by Whitesnake

In 1987, Whitesnake was launched into the stratosphere in terms of fame and commercial success. Their album Whitesnake aka 1987 was filled to the brim with chart topping hits and everyone knew who they were, or at least their songs. In 1989 it was time for the David Coverdale lead band to start working on a follow-up LP that would be strong enough to keep the gravy train going. The result was their final initial run album Slip of the Tongue.

Although Slip of the Tongue did not do anywhere near as well for Whitesnake commercially, it still featured many songs that loyal long time fans of the band still know and love to this day, such as "The Deeper the Love", "Slip of the Tongue", "Fool for Your Lovin' '89", etc. To make things even better, guitar god Steve Vai did all of the guitar playing on this record, which in turn brought it to a much higher level musically.

"The Deeper the Love" definitely has that late 80's Whitesnake hair metal ballad feel to it. It just oozes cheese and hairspray. Definitely the kind of song you put on to get your girlfriend in the mood back in the 80's. That said, its saving grace is that Steve Vai does one hell of a wicked job on the guitar work - especially in the solo section. None of the other guitarists who have come and gone through the band since have been able to come anywhere near being able to touch it.

Now for those of you with actual taste in music, this album still has you covered. By far without a single fraction of a shadow of a doubt, "Wings of the Storm" is the single best track on Slip of the Tongue. Hell, it might be the best hair metal era Whitesnake song. This is straight up metal. Ripping riffs, powerful melodies, passionate singing, driving thundering rhythms, and a solo that Steve Vai himself admitted was the most difficult thing he has ever played in his entire career. Definitely worth checking out.

Slip of the Tongue is by far nowhere near being the greatest Whitesnake album, though it does have some of their best tracks. It was a solid effort to attempt to follow up 1987, but it just didn't quite hit the mark commercially. That said, nearly 30 years later a lot of it still holds up and is worth looking into at least once. If nothing else, it's some Steve Vai shredding that some of you may not have heard at all yet.

Slip of the Tongue, by Whitesnake receives 3.5/5 stars

Track List:

1. Slip of the Tongue
2. Cheap an' Nasty
3. Fool for You Loving '89
4. Now You're Gone
5. Kitten's Got Claws
6. Wings of the Storm
7. The Deeper the Love
8. Judgment Day
9. Slow Poke Music
10. Sailing Ships

Buy the album on Amazon:

Monday, March 12, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #156

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. I Can't Play the Blues, by Bumblefoot

Personally I've always been amused by this song. For those of you who don't know who Bumblefoot is, he is an INCREDIBLY skilled technical guitar player who did a nearly decade stint in Guns N' Roses, but has a solo career as well. This particular song is him singing about how he can't play the blues, but then right at the tail end of the song, he plays one of the most awesome bluesy solos of all time - thus proving that he can in fact play the blues.

2. Way Down We Go, by Kaleo

I'm not generally that big into the whole alternative radio station stuff, but I can definitely get behind the vibe of this song in particular. It just has this soulful groove to it that somehow gets to me. I mistook this for a Black Keys song the first time or two I heard it, but then I quickly sorted that out. Regardless, I love the way the rhythm just slams while the more melodic parts have this softer and introspective vibe about them.

3. Little Black Submarines, by The Black Keys

Speaking of The Black Keys, here is one of their most popular hits to date. I do like this song quite a bit, but I have a VERY serious gripe with it. It shares a lot of similarities with Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". It's in the same key, follows the same chord progression, starts off acoustically and transitions into full plugged in band, etc. That said, it's still a good jam to throw on when you want something a bit more soul driven to listen to.

4. Midnight Rider, by Saxon

Saxon while being a heavy, driving metal band could also have some ever so slightly more melodic moments as well. This tune has a catchy chorus melody and this chord progression that somehow just keeps you mentally flowing and moving. It's definitely noticeably different from tunes like "Princess of the Night" or "Denim and Leather", but it definitely has earned a space on the shelf with the rest of the iconic material in the Saxon catalog.

5. Beast Nation, by The Temperance Movement

It feels like a lot of the newer material from The Temperance Movement has gotten kind of soft and eh. Not really the hard driving, bluesy rock n' roll band that I fell in love with. All that said, this song still has some nice guitar work in the verses. Makes me feel a little homesick for their self-titled debut album, but this is still a great tune if you can approach it without the preconceived notions about what the band should be.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Led Zeppelin III", by Led Zeppelin

By late 1970, British hard rock legends Led Zeppelin had already in the space of a year changed the entire game in rock n' roll forever. With two ginormous blues tinged wall rattling albums to their name, they had already made themselves a force to be reckoned with. With their third release Led Zeppelin III they showed that not only could they rock, but there was a more creative and dynamic side to them as well.

Led Zeppelin III was a transitional album of sorts for Led Zeppelin. Where their previous two albums had been primarily loud stomping bluesy rock n' roll, this album was more focused on straight up rock as well as European and American folk music. Some of its best known tunes are "Immigrant Song", "Since I've Been Loving You", "Tangerine", and more, all of which showcase a different side of the band's musical personality and what was to come from them in the future.

Who in their right mind doesn't absolutely LOVE "Immigrant Song"? That song is the definition of headbanging, chair throwing, air punching rock n' roll. That Jimmy Page guitar riff is iconic and Robert Plant's howling into the wind vocals are one of the most memorable things in the entire Led Zeppelin catalog. It is definitely an essential part of any classic rock or even regular hard rock playlist. Plus, this is where tunes about vikings became popular in main stream.

Led Zeppelin III did not get rid of the blues in the Zeppelin sound altogether. In fact, it has one of the best blues songs in the band's whole repertoire: "Since I've Been Loving You". The guitar playing is sparse in some areas, but that only makes a much bigger impact when it comes pounding in during the choruses and makes for some of the most emotionally powerful stuff you will ever hear in your entire life. There is some immense passion that you will find few other places.

If you're the kind of person that likes variety on a record, then Led Zeppelin III is right up your alley. Odds are there will be something on there for you. Personally I am fond of almost the entire thing, but I suppose I am kind of biased due to the fact that I am such a big fan of Led Zeppelin. Regardless, it has some essential listening on it for people just getting into the band or just love rock n' roll in general. Definitely worth checking out at least once.

Led Zeppelin III, by Led Zeppelin receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Immigrant Song
2. Friends
3. Celebration Day
4. Since I've Been Loving You
5. Out on the Tiles
6. Gallows Pole
7. Tangerine
8. That's the Way
9. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
10. Hats Off (to Roy Harper)

Buy the album on Amazon:

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Op-Ed Piece: Greta Van Fleet Too Much Like Led Zeppelin?

So like many of you who love some good old fashioned hard rocking music, lately I have been hearing a lot about this new band Greta Van Fleet. For months I have been hearing the name left and right, but never bothered to have a listen until not too long ago.

When I did finally give them a listen, I understood immediately why they have been getting such high acclaim from fans and critics alike. They sound almost EXACTLY like Led Zeppelin.

I realize that this has already been talked about by many people, but I wanted to give my own personal thoughts on it.

Everything from the Jimmy Page-like big brown and dirty bluesy guitar riffs, the passionate soloing, the rumbling rhythm section, to the vocals that are almost indistinguishable from Robert Plant would make you think you would actually be listening to the real thing if you didn't know it was another band ahead of time.

From what I've heard, these kids (yes, kids. they're still teens if I remember correctly.) grew up listening to a lot of stuff like Zeppelin, The Doors, as well as stuff that influenced Zeppelin way back when so it isn't surprising that this would be the direction they go.

I guess the issue that I and many other people have is that what is the point in sounding exactly like another band?

Led Zeppelin already existed. They already did this kind of thing. They did it better than anyone else ever has or ever will. Why repeat and rehash the past to such an extent?

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE this kind of sound. I love that this kind of music is getting as popular as it is again. It's just I wish that it was being done in such a way that you could hear the Zeppelin influence, but not mistake it for unreleased Zeppelin material.

I do realize though that these guys being as young as they are have not had enough time to really find who they truly are as individual musicians and an individual group. They have grown up imitating their heroes and haven't thought about what they actually have to say as musicians.

That is a perfectly fine and ok way to start, but my hope for them is that over time they do start to develop a sound that is more original and their own. The Zeppelin influence doesn't have to go away altogether, but they do need to stop copycatting.

If they don't do this, then they might be able to last another year or two as they currently are but then the Led Zeppelin novelty will wear off and people will move on and forget about them. They won't have any real staying power and I don't think that's what they want.

That said, I know it sounds like I'm beating up on Greta Van Fleet and that I hate them. Honestly, that could not be further from the truth. I LOVE that there are kids a good 10+ years younger than me loving and playing this kind of music. It gives me at least an inkling of hope for the future of music.

Plus, I'll admit when I need something to rock out to I might put on "Highway Tune" or "Safari Song".

Even Plant himself has given these guys the thumbs up, so for that reason I also can't dislike them completely either.

I wish nothing but the best for these boys and hope they can keep on getting better and better all the time.

Highway Tune, by Greta Van Fleet

Safari Song, by Greta Van Fleet

Monday, March 5, 2018

An Important Announcement

Dear Readers,

I am penning this open letter to you all today to inform you of something that I have thought long and hard about. As of today I will be cutting back on the amount of posting I do. There are multiple reasons for this.

First and foremost, I got a job a few months ago. I was hired as a music writer at Salute Magazine, which has kept me pretty busy. As of about a week ago, I was promoted to assistant editor, so I was given even more responsibility.

Don't get me wrong, I love writing and researching stuff about music but when I spend 8+ hours a day doing it it's kind of the last thing I want to do at night when I'm trying to have some relaxation time before bed.

The whole purpose behind Young Ears, Fresh Perspective for me was to have something that would bolster my resume, keep my skills sharp, and give me something to do while I was still desperately searching for a job.

However, now I have a job in the field I set out to obtain one in. This blog helped me do just that. It made me look like a good enough candidate to the right publication and they took me on. At this point this blog has now served its intended purpose.

That said, this is what is going to be happening with Young Ears, Fresh Perspective:

First, I will not be writing any more news stories unless it is something I find particularly interesting and want to talk about it. It gets exhausting to night after night try to find something new to write about and say something interesting about it when I'm wiped out from a full day of work and other parts of my life.

I WILL however be continuing the weekly features like 5 Songs to Get You Through the Week and Throwback Thursday. Those have never been all THAT difficult to do and they require a rather minimal amount of time, research, and effort. Plus, they are a good bit of fun.

I will also still be reviewing new albums as they come out. Whenever one that piques my interest comes out that my work will not run I will gladly do a write up for it and post it here.

I will still once in a while do Op-Ed pieces. Some times I have thoughts on a topic and I would be more than happy to talk about it here.

I will still do the Top 10 Albums of the Year posts at the end of the year. It's always fun to see what was worth listening to this year.

I want to thank ALL of you who have been with me since day one or have at least been following me for a prolonged period of time. Hell, even if you have only ever read one post I would still like to metaphorically shake your hand and say thank you. It means the world to me.

Without you all I would not have been able to get to where I am today and I could not be more grateful.

I hope you all will understand why I am doing this and still continue to read the posts I do make when they come out.

One final time, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

With most utter sincerity and gratitude,

Josh Leep