Friday, February 23, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Highway to Hell", by AC/DC

By 1979 Australian hard rock kings AC/DC had come to make quite a big name for themselves in the world of music. They had scored multiple hits and built up quite the reputation. Still, they had yet to REALLY break through into the mainstream commercial market. That's when producer John "Mutt" Lange came into the picture. With his knowledge of studio production and AC/DC's ability to rock put together they made the hallmark classic that is Highway to Hell.

Since Lange's background was in pop, people were afraid that he would take away the band's balls, making them sound over-produced and poppy. This could not be any further from what happened. Highway to Hell sounds better produced than its predecessors, but only in ways that give it more punch and clarity. It essentially brought the sound of AC/DC live into a studio setting, making it the band's best selling record until its successor Back in Black.

"Touch Too Much" in my opinion one of the absolute best tracks on the album. It never became a heavily played radio classic, but maybe that is part of what makes it so special. It has this this popping guitar riff that makes it sound unlike anything else by AC/DC, yet at the same time it still sounds entirely like them. The chorus is HUGE and the vocal harmonies are astronomical. It definitely helped set the blue print for 80's metal.

"Highway to Hell". What can I say about it that hasn't been said about it already? It's a classic and a song that people who don't even know AC/DC that well can sing all of the words to from memory. That intro riff is iconic and will forever immortalize the band for all of the ages yet to come. It might be over played, but as I've said about other songs in the past it is over played for a reason and it certainly deserves it.

Highway to Hell really was the climax of the Bon Scott era of AC/DC. It's just a shame that he died not long after the wrap-up of the tour for it in 1980. They probably could have done some great stuff yet. That said, Back in Black took them to a whole other level yet. Regardless, this album is crucial for any fan of AC/DC or rock n' roll in general to have. If you don't have it already, stop wasting your time here and go buy it right now.

Highway to Hell, by AC/DC receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Highway to Hell
2. Girls Got Rhythm
3. Walk All Over You
4. Touch Too Much
5. Beating Around the Bush
6. Shot Down in Flames
7. Get It Hot
8. If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
9. Love Hungry Man
10. Night Prowler

Buy the album on Amazon:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lars Ulrich: "I've never been very interested in ability"

One drummer who gets a lot of flack for his playing style/ability is Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. He has become sort of a running joke in the metal community for his lack of skill and his tool-like personality. In a new interview he apparently does not seem to care.

When asked about how he feels about his style of drumming when interviewed by the Polar Music Prize, Ulrich says:

"I've never been very interested in ability. 'Oh, wow! This guy is so great!' Yeah, he's so great, but it doesn't mean that he can make it swing, or it doesn't mean that he can make it work within a group or a collective."

What's always the most interesting to me about drumming is how do you fit the drums into what else is going on? How does it work [with] accents and special hits and kind of things that make it more rhythmic or more dynamic or just add a kind of a physicality to it?

I've looked at drums as more of a group instrument. I've never been very interested in playing drums by myself — you know, sitting down in a basement, practicing drum solos for hours at a time, that's not my thing."

It's no surprise that Lars feels this way or at least expresses this. When your back is against the wall for being the butt of so many jokes you have to find some way to talk your way into a position where you don't look as bad. That said, I still don't blame people for making said jokes.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Stevie Nicks on Why She Limits Her Availability With Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac in recent years seems to have become one of those bands that will fall off the radar for a while and then out of nowhere pop back up for another tour. Usually this is not the way the majority of the band wants to do things, but singer Stevie Nicks limits her availability to the band deliberately.

In a recent interview with TeamRock, Nicks discusses her reasoning for making her time with Fleetwood Mac so sparse, saying:

“A big band like Fleetwood Mac needs to get out of the spotlight, so that’s what we’ve done. We should always be off the road for three years, because when we come back it’s an event. I think that’s very important. There’s a lot of famous bands and a lot of important people out, and you’re going to make a choice of which ticket to buy, and if you haven’t seen one of them for three years or more then that’s going to be at the top of the list. It feels more special.

And being away from each other for three years is good. It really sets you up for a good time because everything’s new and everybody’s got new stories and everybody’s been doing crazy, different things, so when you walk into rehearsal that first day everyone’s really happy to see each other. If we toured every other year it wouldn’t be like that.”

In some ways I kind of understand where Nicks is coming from on all of this. It makes sense that she would want to keep things interesting and fresh, though at the same time I still get a bit of that diva vibe off of her. Then again, I suppose that has always been a huge part of what makes Stevie Nicks Stevie Nicks.

Monday, February 19, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #153

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. Neverwhere, by Heaven and Hell

Personally, I love it when a band that had a feud within it for decades can be resolved, friendships restored, and a happy ending for all. This was definitely the case for the Ronnie James Dio era of Black Sabbath, who in the late 2000's reunited and changed their name to Heaven and Hell. They toured all the old songs and even wrote some new ones, putting out one final record The Devil You Know before Dio's death in 2010. This tune in particular definitely sounds like a more modern sounding Dio Sabbath song.

2. Boogie for George, by UFO

Believe it or not, Michael Schenker was NOT always the guitar player for UFO. They actually had a couple before Schenker joined the band in 1973. There is definitely a different sound without him, but these tunes are still pretty cool. Definitely a real bluesy edge to them that fits for the particular era that it was. It's too bad that you don't really hear a whole lot of stuff like this out of them at their live shows any more. It's all Schenker and beyond.

3. Nightmare, by Icecross

The 70's had a LOT of great under rated rock and metal bands. Icelandic metal band Icecross is definitely a prime example of this. It's probably due to geography that they never made it that big, which is a shame because their stuff was actually pretty great. It's like Black Sabbath meets psychedelic 60's rock. You will have to listen for yourself to fully understand and appreciate what I mean. It's a unique experience for sure.

4. Heart and Soul, by Michael Schenker Fest

Speaking of Michael Schenker, he has a new solo record coming out next month. He has a star studded line-up for the album with all of the singers he ever worked with in Michael Schenker Group and others as well. In fact, this song in particular has him and Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett trading licks as if they were dueling one another during the solo sections. It's pretty darn gnarly if I do say so myself.

5. Ramble On, by Led Zeppelin

Just in case you have had it with my obscure-ish stuff for the moment, here's some Zeppelin for ya. This song of course needs no introduction whatsoever. It's a classic from their second album Led Zeppelin II and it gets played on the radio all the freakin' time. The way it is put together and the unbridled passion behind it blew the doors off the hinges that were around back in the late 60's/early 70's when Zeppelin was getting started.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ozzy Osbourne Discusses Playing "Blizzard of Ozz" Live for 40th Anniversary

It has become a trend in recent years for a high profile artist who has been in the spotlight for decades to some times when a big anniversary for an iconic album of theirs comes up play it in its entirety live. Another one of those anniversaries is coming up in a couple of years, this time for Ozzy Osbourne's debut solo album The Blizzard of Ozz.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone Osbourne was asked about the possibility of paying such a tribute to his most beloved album, to which he responded:

"That was the thing for a while, to play the whole album, but I don't write albums that way, so no. When I make an album, I specifically record songs that I'll never do on the stage.

Like on Blizzard of Ozz, there are songs that I wrote never to play live, because the production was too heavy.

I always do a ballady song, I always like to do a rock song and I like to do what I call album tracks. And I'll do the ballady songs and the rock songs onstage, but the album tracks are just too over the top. But I suppose I could do one."

Personally I think if Ozzy REALLY wanted to he could pull off Blizzard of Ozz in its entirety live. The production on that album wasn't so heavy that the right group of musicians and stage production crew couldn't find a way to make it happen.

Also, I find it amusing how he claims to write the songs on his albums when anyone who knows even a lick of Ozzy history knows that Ozzy has written very few of the songs he has ever performed. It's always been the other musicians like Bob Daisley in his solo band or Geezer Butler in Black Sabbath.

That said, I can't say I blame Ozzy for not wanting to jump on a bandwagon. I have never known Ozzy to be a copycat of anyone else. While he may not be the best musician around, he has always been one of the most unique. He is his own performer. Always has been, always will be.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Never Turn Your Back on a Friend", by Budgie

You know how some times you will come across a band and wonder why the hell they never got more fame and glory? That is how I feel with Budgie, a Welsh heavy metal/hard rock/prog rock band that got their big start and put out their best material in the 70's. Metallica in 1987 actually covered their best known song "Breadfan" from their third album from 1973 Never Turn Your Back on a Friend.

Never Turn Your Back on a Friend while fitting in with the sound aesthetic of 70's metal/hard rock still had a sound that was so incredibly all their own. It was raw, punchy, loud, grooving, and fast, but it could some times be soft, laid back, and relaxing. The most interesting aspect of their sound however is that their singer/bassist Burke Shelley despite being a man can easily be mistaken for a woman due to the way he sings. That is by no means a bad thing, though. His vocal chops are still incredible.

"Parents" is a 10+ minute cornucopia of rock n' roll sound. It has so many different vibes to it and flows so well that it feels as though you're being taken on a journey. It can be heavy and hard, but it can be tender and soft in places as well. If you listen to the lyrics, they're pretty heartfelt. Regardless, this is where the band truly put a significant portion of their heart and soul when writing and recording this unknown masterpiece of an album.

"Breadfan" is what everyone who listens to Never Turn Your Back on a Friend comes for. It is one hell of a way to open an album, that's for sure. With that iconic guitar riff, that rumbling rhythm section, and those soaring vocals it's hard to not jam out. The only thing odd about this song however is the bit of cognitive dissonance brought about by the bridge section where it goes soft and acoustic for a bit. Granted, the comeback to the electric is awesome but it's still weird.

Budgie is sadly one of those bands that for one reason or another seems to get overlooked by the general public and never made a huge lasting impact the way their peers from that era did. That said, plenty of 80's metal bands like Metallica and Megadeth cite Budgie as a source of inspiration, but had they not mentioned Budgie most people these days who do know of them would never have heard of them. That said, if you want to give yourself a musical treat, pick up Never Turn Your Back on a Friend ASAP.

Never Turn Your Back on a Friend, by Budgie receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Breadfan
2. Baby Please Don't Go
3. You Know I'll Always Love You
4. You're the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk
5. In the Grip of a Tyrefitter's Hand
6. Riding My Nightmare
7. Parents

Buy the album on Amazon:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Led Zeppelin to Release New Live Album

Although it is 95% unlikely that Led Zeppelin will ever reunite again in any capacity, we are at least getting some live recordings that we have not yet heard from them.

According to a recent interview with Planet Rock, guitarist Jimmy Page announced the in transit live album(s), saying:

“I can't give the game away, but there's a recording that’s another multi-track that we'll release. It's so different to all the other things that are out there. It's another view compared to How the West Was Won or The Song Remains the Same.

I'm looking forward to people hearing that. There's a lot of stuff to come out, a number of releases. I'd like to say that they'll be coming out over the next 10 years. There's more to come for sure.”

In the same interview, Page also announced a new Led Zeppelin book that all the remaining members collaborated on, saying:

“I'm really pleased that we're all doing it collectively, because there are so many other people doing books. There's about 10 that I know of that are coming, which is pretty ridiculous! It will be really good to have an authoritative book, where the band are actually contributing to it rather than being ripped off.”

It's nice that we're getting all this new Led Zeppelin stuff, even if it isn't what we all really want. It should be pretty cool to hear previously unreleased live recordings and to finally get a book on them from the source itself.

That said, I'm hoping that Page actually puts out that solo album of his that he has supposedly been working on for a few years now. I would LOVE to hear the stuff that he has cooked up in his refined old age.