Thursday, July 20, 2017

Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore Open to One Final Deep Purple Show

Guitarist and cofounding member of Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore has not played a show with the band in 24 years. For the longest time they seemed to be at odds with one another, but over time things seem to have been smoothed over for the most part; so much so that Blackmore is now open to the idea of doing a one off final show with his old band for old times' sake.

In a recent interview with Rock N Roll Reporter, Blackmore opens up about his wish to jam with Purple one more time, saying:

“I think if they were interested and our dates didn't clash, I would perform a single show – for old times.

But I don’t believe that Deep Purple would be interested. They have their niche and wouldn't do it. We're friends and I have been doing my music for 20 years, while they have been doing it for 20 years. It's probably not likely to happen.

Their management wouldn’t like it – even if it was just for a single show. Their management wouldn’t allow it, I'm sure.”

This wouldn't be the first time Deep Purple's management had supposedly gotten in Blackmore's way. Blackmore wanted to attend the band's induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, but according to Blackmore their management had prevented him from doing so. That said, I'm not sure how I would feel about Blackmore being on stage with Deep Purple again. I mean, Ritchie doesn't exactly have that fire in him that made him play like a madman in a blazing whirlwind any more. He has definitely slowed down and softened his playing quite a bit. Then there is also the fact that Steve Morse has now been with the band for almost a quarter of a century at this point and has breathed life into the band that had quite frankly been gone since the late 80's. I would still eagerly watch such a performance, but I'm still not sure it's the best idea.

Writer's Moment:

After this post I am going to be having myself a little summer vacation. I have a lot going on today, Friday, and this whole weekend. That said, I'm going to take the rest of this week and all of next week off so I can just enjoy the Summer while it's still here without worrying about having to make a post. I will return on Sunday July 30th/early Monday July 31st.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Op-Ed Piece: Is There More to Being a Good Guitar Player Than Shredding?

When I first started playing guitar a decade ago, I wanted to be the next big guitar hero like many teens who pick up the axe. I had dreams of learning all the scales, chords, techniques, etc. and being on the same shred level as greats like Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Buckethead, etc. Over the years as I progressed in my learning and playing however, I came to realize that there is a lot more to guitar than just being the fastest and most technically inclined.

Let's back up a little bit, though. I grew up with a HEAVY leaning towards blues based rock n' roll from an early age. I was inundated with Motown, soul, 50's rock n' roll, etc. Stuff like James Brown, Elvis Presley, The Jackson Five, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, etc. As I started to get a bit older though I became starstruck by the likes of bands like AC/DC, Guns N' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, etc.

Those are the bands I started listening to ALL the time. The blues had essentially become ingrained in the very core and every fiber of my ever living being. When I finally picked up guitar at the age of 16 that was the kind of music I primarily leaned towards even though I had the desire to become some world renowned guitar virtuoso. All of the songs I was learning were based in the blues in some way or another, whether they were classic rock, punk, metal, or any other genre.

That said, that's not to say I didn't learn to play fast at all. After a few years I learned quite a few hot licks and patterns that I could execute at a respectable speed. Got me noticed by quite a few of my peers around the area. Some of it was positive, some not so much. That's a whole other story, though. That said, they were primarily in the style that I had come to love over the course of my entire life.

As I got older I got a bit bored of listening to the same bands over and over again. I decided to venture outside my box a little bit and discovered a handful of newer bands that were actually to my like, such as: The Black Keys, The White Stripes/Jack White, Rival Sons, etc. These bands over time also began to have a noticeable impact on my style of playing. It was still the blues, but just a different way of playing it.

What I began to notice though was one thing these bands had in common: simplicity. Some of the sounds they made might seem wild and out there, but the technique and playing itself was rather simplistic. It was a million miles a second like the guitar wizards I mentioned earlier, but it was still mind blowing. It wasn't because of how much technique they had down or how much speed they had, but because of the way they could take something so simple and make it sound so unchained and expressive; unlike anything I'd ever heard before.

These guitar players would make a straightforward riff or lick that might have been boring before come sparkling with new life in the kinds of layers of sound they added onto it either through amplifiers, pedals, modifications on the actual guitars, or some other method. It made me realize that there was a whole side to this instrument I'd spent the entirety of my adult life learning that I had never fathomed before. It was something I could latch onto as firmly as a clamp.

Getting back to the present, I've learned as a player that it is more about nuance, expression, and engaging your listeners rather than trying to learn every last musical technique and bit of theory that ever existed. As long as you have been honest in your playing, entertained your audience, and left them something worth remembering then you have done your job as a musician. You can learn all the technical stuff and become super robot fast if you want if that's really your thing, but it isn't necessary.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #126

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. Steady As She Goes, by The Raconteurs

This is the big song Jack White's late 2000's side band were best known for. Honestly it sounds a lot more pop punk than a lot of the other stuff I've heard out of them, so I'm kind of wondering what made them choose to go in this direction for the song. Then again, when The White Stripes put out Seven Nation Army that sounded drastically different from the vast majority of the other stuff in their catalog as well. Maybe they just wanted airplay?

2. Love Potion No. 9, by The Searchers

This is another one of the songs I first remember hearing on the radio a lot when I was a really little kid. My mom used to play nothing but the oldies station back then (this was the early 90's, so oldies was 50's and 60's stuff) and stuff like this came over the airwaves and into my ears pretty often. I always found the melody rather entrancing. In more recent years though, I've come to realize that the lyrics sound like they were written about doing drugs.

3. This is a Call, by The Foo Fighters

The first track of the first Foo Fighters album. This has always been one of my favorite songs that they ever did because it is full of balls to the wall guitar sound and charges you with energy that makes you want to get up and accomplish the big thing that you want to accomplish. Dave Grohl definitely wasn't messing around when it came to recording his debut album outside of Nirvana and it shows right from the get-go.

4. Minority, by Green Day

In my opinion this is the single most under rated song Green Day has ever put out. The melody is so catchy and memorable that it never lets you go. Ever since I first heard it years ago I've hummed it a lot to myself even though I forgot the name of the band and artist until only a couple years back. It's loud, has a big social justice message, and gets you moshing around until the last note fades from your speakers.

5. Dance the Night Away, by Van Halen

Van Halen in my opinion will always be the kings of pop rock. They have the crunchy catchy riffs, the vocal harmonies, the swagger, and honestly one of the single greatest guitar players to ever bless our ears with his chops. This tune is less on the hard rocking side, but it is still chocked full of energy, but knows where to lay off a bit and let you feel like there is something actually there to dance the night away to. A classic for a reason.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

White Stripes Release First Performance Recording for 20th Anniversary

Despite the fact that they have been broken up for six years now, The White Stripes (or rather Jack White) just celebrated their 20th anniversary by releasing a high quality recording of the very first performance they ever did via Third Man Records (White's personal label that he runs), which was at an open mic night at the now closed Gold Dollar Detroit in 1997.

The release is titled: The First Show: Live on Bastille Day. It features only three songs (which makes sense, seeing as they were playing an open mic slot rather than a full on show), two of which would make the cut on the band's 1999 debut album The White Stripes (full track list below).

Personally I feel this a really cool time capsule to be able to peer into. This is The White Stripes at the genesis of their existence. For one thing, it was interesting to hear St. James Infirmary Blues played on guitar rather than piano. This is by far nowhere near the best performance they ever put on, but you can hear the raw talent and potential in just the three songs they played. They might have been rough around the edges, but you can easily tell that with a bit of time, hard work, and determination they would become the dominating force in rock n' roll that they eventually became.

The First Show: Live on Bastille Day, by The White Stripes track list:

1. St. James Infirmary Blues
2. Jimmy the Exploder
3. Love Potion No. 9

You can listen to the full thing on Spotify here:

Friday, July 14, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Van Halen II, by Van Halen

In 1978 the world of rock n' roll and heavy metal were forever changed when out of nowhere a band from Pasadena burst onto the scene with some of the most otherworldly guitar work anyone had ever heard. This little band was Van Halen. With the release of their debut Van Halen, the band that was quickly taking the world by storm needed a solid sophomore release and fast. The result came the following year when they released yet another solid classic: Van Halen II.

Van Halen II is pretty much just a continuation of their previous album's pop rock meets crunchy riffs and lightspeed melodic guitar solos from Eddie Van Halen. However, that is exactly what makes the album work. At the time it was still fresh and what the fans were wanting more of. To this day it still holds up with singles like Beautiful Girls, Dance the Night Away, You're No Good, and the flamenco instrumental masterpiece Spanish Fly.

Beautiful Girls has to be one of my all time favorite Van Halen tunes of all time. It has everything a good Van Halen song needs: the cocky swagger of vocalist David Lee Roth, the sexy guitar work of Eddie, the sunshine backing vocal harmonies of Michael Anthony, and the in your face drum styling of Alex Van Halen. It's a steady rolling tune that makes you feel like you're strutting down a beach in Cali on a sunny day with not a care in the world while enjoying the sights of all the gorgeous women lounging around.

Spanish Fly is in my opinion one of Eddie's most underrated compositions. If you were to make the classic Eruption into an acoustic piece, but with a flamenco edge you'd have Spanish Fly. The way he makes two hand tapping work on an unplugged instrument is unreal. To me, this is more impressive than Eruption for that reason. There is so much intricate finger work at play here that you won't really catch it all unless you really sit down and listen closely a few times.

Van Halen II in my opinion definitely deserves to be put in the pantheon of classic Van Halen albums. It has awesome track after awesome track and holds up just as well as any of the early albums that put them in the spotlight. There is a lot to enjoy here, whether you are a casual fan or a guitar player looking to learn from one of the great masters of the six string. It will help you rock out and put a smile right back on your face for certain.

Van Halen II, by Van Halen receives 3.8 out of 5 stars.

Track Listing:

1. You're No Good
2. Dance the Night Away
3. Somebody Get Me a Doctor
4. Bottoms Up!
5. Outta Love Again
6. Light Up the Sky
7. Spanish Fly
8. D.O.A.
9. Women in Love
10. Beautiful Girls

Buy the album on Amazon:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Foo Fighters Premiere Sixth New Song: "Arrows"

At this point I really think Dave Grohl is going to play the upcoming Foo Fighters record Concrete and Gold in its entirety long before it even comes out on September 15th. This time they have premiered a song called Arrows.

The performance was filmed in Acropolis for a TV show called Landmarks Live in Concert, hosted by Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. It also featured Grohl's daughter joining the band once again to perform the Queen hit We Will Rock You.

Arrows definitely has a 90's vibe to it. I mean, I know that the Foo Fighters got started mid-90's, but their sound has evolved a great deal since those early days. I kind of feel like this is a bit of a throwback in some ways to the grungy sounds of the mid-90's in terms of guitar and vocal melody. It fits in quite well with the rest of the band's set.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie: "Life Outside of Music Had No Meaning"

Before re-entering the fold of Fleetwood Mac after a 16 year absence, keyboardist Christine McVie says the years spent alone in retirement sent her into a dark place until she sought the aid of a psychiatric professional.

McVie had left the band in 1998 before making a full time return in 2014 after a handful of guest appearances. Drummer Mick Fleetwood incidentally suggested a meeting to her right before she went to go visit him herself. In a recent interview with Jam, McVie discusses the whole situation, saying:

“I think in my mind I was playing the role of the retired rich lady in the country, baking cookies, raising my two dogs and driving my Range Rover. That kind of world ended up being inconsequential in the end – just nothing. It didn’t have any meaning at all, which slowly led to a bit of a dark place for me. I became very isolated.

I went to a great psychiatrist who got rid of my fear of flying, and made me buy a ticket to Maui to visit Mick. But I didn’t even have to do that because Mick phoned me. This is where serendipity comes in. “He said, ‘I’m coming to England, Chris – are you going to be there?’ I said, ‘Yes, I am. Where else would I be?’ And he says, ‘Wait for me, and we can both fly back together.’ So that’s what happened. I ended up playing in his little blues band in Maui and I got the bug.”

I know a lot of people often think that rock stars come back from retirement because they have run out of or just want more money. In McVie's case however, I really feel that her need to perform and write with Fleetwood Mac again was a genuine personal need. I am glad that she finally got back with and recompleted such an iconic band. It's a shame they're retiring as a group soon, but I'm sure she will still keep busy.