Thursday, April 19, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Vanishing Vision", by X Japan


I have elected to leave out the cover art for this particular record because it is borderline too inappropriate for mainstream audiences. I could possibly get away with it, but I'm choosing to err on the side of caution. I am not in the mood to deal with any social media drama for it. If you want to see it for yourself, it isn't too hard to find.

Without further ado...

In 1988, the world was pretty chocked full of some amazing heavy metal from bands and players from all over. However, an unknown at the time speed/power metal band from Japan by the name of X Japan decided it was time for them to throw their hat into the ring with their debut album Vanishing Vision. The album was released independently, but quickly sold thousands and gained them a noticeable following which would act as a jumping board to bigger and better things despite not being an English singing band.

Vanishing Vision is an album that jumps back and forth between speed metal and ballads, though there are also songs that are a blend of the two. For those who are familiar with some of X Japan's more well known work, you can definitely hear the foundation being laid for those songs on this record. In fact, there is even an early version of their hit "Kurenai" that most people who do know the band probably will not have heard.

"I'll Kill You" despite sounding like an incredibly brutal song is more about struggling as a married couple and what goes along with that. Regardless, there is some pretty solid melodic guitar work from hide and Pata and barbarian-like shouted backing vocals. However, Toshi really brings it together with his voice that soars to the heavens with Yoshiki going ape on the drums and Taiji thundering away on bass to keep that driving rhythm going from start to finish.

For those of you who know X Japan at all, their signature song "Kurenai" actually has an older version than the one that appeared on Blue Blood. The song originally appeared on Vanishing Vision, but in English. It definitely brings this speed metal ballad masterpiece a different vibe for sure. Regardless, it is still incredibly emotion driven and blends soft piano and strings with a full plugged in ripping and running band incredibly well.

Vanishing Vision is definitely not the first record I would recommend someone check out from X Japan, but it definitely has quite a few solid tracks on it that stand out. If you are open minded enough to check out something from a non-English speaking band then I think you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by what you find here. It shows that you don't have to be American or European to rock.

Vanishing Vision, by X Japan receives 3 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Dear Loser
2. Vanishing Love
3. Phantom of Guilt
4. Sadistic Desire
5. Give Me the Pleasure
6. I'll Kill You
7. Alive
8. Kurenai
9. Unfinished

Buy the album on Amazon:

Monday, April 16, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #161

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. Raw Power, by Guns N' Roses

The original version by Iggy and the Stooges is pretty damn fantastic, but for me the GN'R cover blasts the song into the stratosphere. The tempo is kicked up, the guitars are more balls to the wall in terms of production, and Duff McKagan just has that punk attitude that no one else could ever seem to match even if they tried. Whenever I need something to get me moving, this is definitely a go-to song for me.

2. Not Dead Yet, by Jen Ledger

If you dig or have ever dug the band Skillet, then their drummer and co-lead vocalist Jen Ledger just put out her debut solo EP last Friday. It's pretty darn spiffy. Despite the heavy pop leanings in it, it still has a VERY noticeable rock n' roll edge to it. Plus, the fact that everything in the songs seems so raw and honest is what sells me on it even though I'm not usually the kind of guy who listens to a whole lot of modern pop music.

3. Easy Fight Rambling, by X-Japan (live)

I wanted to get you guys the studio version of this song, but unfortunately X-Japan or at least their label are very on the ball about keeping people from posting their songs to YouTube. Regardless, this live performance is still pretty solid. If you are willing to jam out to something that isn't in English then I think you might dig this tune. It sounds a lot like a classic Van Halen song, but it's still very much their own thing. Rest assured, the rest of their songs sound completely original.

4. Star Wars, by Buckethead

Buckethead playing Star Wars? What could possibly be better than that? It's a match made in Heaven as far as I'm concerned. Big B puts his own unique personal spin on multiple iconic songs from a galaxy far far away in this rocking medley while still staying true to the emotions of the original pieces. I've always loved to crank this song whenever I'm in a great mood or if I need something to cheer me up when I'm feeling dump trucks.

5. The Ocean, by Led Zeppelin

Ok, ok. I'll give you something that has gotten played to death on every classic rock radio station ever for the past 4+ decades. That said, despite the fact that it has been overplayed "The Ocean" is one of my absolute favorite Led Zeppelin tunes of all time. The riffs just groove and punch in all of the best ways possible. I always have a good time with this whenever I'm bored and want to play along with it on my guitar for certain.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Who Do We Think We Are?", by Deep Purple

By 1973 Deep Purple was becoming a pretty hot commodity. They had made a HUGE impact with their 1972 smash hit LP Machine Head and from a commercial standpoint, things could only get better. However, this was sadly not the case. There had already been plenty of internal strife within the band (particularly between guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and vocalist Ian Gillan) and everyone was getting fed up. However, they still needed to get a follow-up record out, so the result was the troubled Who Do We Think We Are? which would be Gillan's and bassist Roger Glover's last album with Deep Purple until 1984's Perfect Strangers.

Who Do We Think We Are? does not seem to get all that adventurous in comparison to previous Purple records. Most of the songs on there are straight up blues grooving no frills rock n' roll songs. Stuff that in theory was perfect for radio for the time, though the only song from it that still gets any play these days is their hit "Woman From Tokyo". That said, there are still some other songs on there worth giving nods to.

"Woman From Tokyo" has some of Ritchie Blackmore's best blues riffing in all of the Deep Purple catalog. While the main riff isn't anywhere near as iconic as "Smoke on the Water", it will still get ingrained into your head pretty quickly and easily. The way the song ranges in dynamics and changes keys also shows that even when playing more commercial friendly rock, Deep Purple could shine and be the creative group that they are.

One of my personal favorites from this album that no one ever seems to mention has to be "Mary Long". That chorus (particularly the vocal melody) just gets to me every time. The band is pretty tight with the rest of the song. The organ squalls from Jon Lord really do give the song some timbre, but Ian Paice's technically proficient drumming brings it to a whole other level. Still though, it's definitely the vocal performance that makes it as excellent as it is.

Though this is not Deep Purple Mark II's best work, it is still a pretty solid album considering the tense circumstances it was written and recorded under. You can definitely tell that the band had had enough at that point and they were ready for a change. Regardless, it has some good and even a couple great songs on it and it is an essential part of any Deep Purple fan's collection. Also still worth checking out even if you're not the most into Purple.

Who Do We Think We Are?, by Deep Purple receives 3.2 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Woman From Tokyo
2. Mary Long
3. Super Trouper
4. Smooth Dancer
5. Rat Bat Blue
6. Place in Line
7. Our Lady

Buy the album on Amazon:

Monday, April 9, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #160

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. Bonded By Blood, by Exodus

When people think of thrash metal, it's easy for the Big 4 to come to mind and forget all of the other great bands out there who deserve just as much, if not more of the spotlight. One such band is Exodus, who incidentally Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett was a part of until he left to join Metallica in 1983 to replace Megadeth front man Dave Mustaine. This title track from the band's 1985 debut album is pretty spectacular and is a good taste of what the band is about.

2. Thrasher, by Evile

Evile is a pretty awesome newer thrash metal band from the UK. Their sound is pretty reminiscent of the classic 80's heyday of thrash metal, but done completely in their own sped up, rougher style. This is the track that introduced me to them quite a few years back when I saw this video posted to a fellow metalhead's Facebook page. I dug the ridiculously fast tremolo picking of the main riff and was sucked right in.

3. Hardwired, by Metallica

Believe it or not, Metallica's most recent album, 2016's Self-Destruct didn't suck in the slightest. I wouldn't say that it was on the same level as their classic material, but it definitely sounded like a much welcomed return to form after years of writing and playing commercial hard rock. This tune sounds like something that could have been on the band's 1983 debut album Kill 'em All, though James Hetfield's voice has definitely aged and there is better studio production on this.

4. Raining Blood, by Slayer

This is a thrash metal classic. Its riffs are iconic and has some of the best guitar work that the band ever did. Believe it or not though, Slayer's music is NOT pro-Satan despite the image they have presented over the decades. A lot of it has more to do with real world topics like war, politics, anti-religion, and other tough hard hitting topics. Definitely not a band for the faint of heart, but you definitely can't say they didn't have something passionate to say.

5. Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows, by Andrew Huang

And now for something completely different. This is one of my absolute favorite songs of all time and I have absolutely no shame in admitting it whatsoever. It's bright, upbeat, cheery, and always puts me in a better mood if I'm feeling like absolute dump trucks. It might just do the same thing for you as well if you are willing to give it a chance. If it doesn't, well then maybe go find something that will and share it with the class?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Medusa", by Trapeze

The 70's were a rich time full of all kinds of amazing rock n' roll music. Some bands are still celebrated by the masses to this day, some not so much. One of the bands that unfortunately has slipped through the cracks is a funk rock band known as Tapeze, which for a brief period was fronted by future Deep Purple bassist and vocalist Glenn Hughes. One of the greatest treasures they ever produced was their 1970 sophomore effort  Medusa.

Medusa is where Trapeze really hit their stride as a band. The power trio was tighter than ever and it truly showed through their music. Plus, the album showed how versatile they could be with straight up grooving rock tunes, laid back ballads, and long epics. There was most certainly no stopping this train just yet. Some of the more notable tunes from this album are ones like "Medusa", "Black Cloud", "Seafull", and more.

"Black Cloud" is one of those unique songs that on surface level just seems like a straight up no frills or creativity rock tune, but upon further dissection is more interesting. There are some cool layers of acoustic and electric on top of one another. The way the verses transition into the choruses definitely gives the song a bigger punch in terms of dynamics due to the verses being primarily acoustic and the choruses electric, though both still having elements of one another to different extents.

"Medusa" is one of Trapeze's crowning jewels. Glenn Hughes still plays it at many of his live shows even to this day. It's one of those songs that is just, big, riffy, lumbering, and heart string pulling. I know I always get the feels when listening to it. The only thing that kind of holds it back is the lack of decent production, which makes it feel a bit hollow in certain places. Regardless, it is still a song that should have been a classic rock staple.

If you're getting tired of the same 20 songs on classic rock radio and want to give something different a try that still has that classic 70's feel, then Medusa should be right up your alley. The production on it is a little dated, but that doesn't really matter when the awesomeness of the songs still shines through like the sun anyway. In my opinion, that is the mark of a truly good album. Definitely worth your time and money.

Medusa, by Trapeze receives 3.75/5 stars

Track List:

1. Black Cloud
2. Jury
3. Your Love is All Right
4. Touch My Life
5. Seafull
6. Makes You Wanna Cry
7. Medusa

Buy the album on Amazon:

Sunday, April 1, 2018

5 Songs to Get You Through the Week #159

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. Keep On Keepin' On, by Brenda Patterson

Brenda Patterson is/was a Memphis based blues singer who got her start by being a backing vocalist for bigger names like Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder. Throughout the 70's she teamed up with native American band Redbone to release some solo albums. As powerful and luscious as her voice could be, she sadly never quite made the cut to join the big time and thus over the years has fallen deep into obscurity.

2. Kingdom Come, by Sir Lord Baltimore

Sir Lord Baltimore was arguably one of the first bands to ever have the label "heavy metal" thrown upon them, as it was used to describe their sound in a review of their 1970 debut album Kingdom Come done by Creem magazine. Regardless, this band is definitely one of the godfathers of the stoner metal genre. Many of today's bands whether they realize it or not are influenced by Sir Lord Baltimore and owe them a great deal.

3. Into the Fire, by Suck

Suck was a short lived band that existed for eight months between 1970-71. They were from South Africa and were considered to be among if not the absolute first hard rock bands from the area. They released one album Time to Suck, which was primarily cover songs. This one in particular is of an obscure Deep Purple track "Into the Fire" from their In Rock LP which had come out maybe a year before this album came out.

4. Go Back, by Crabby Appleton

Crabby Appleton were a short lived pop rock band from Los Angeles. They had a sound that was somewhat similar to Kiss in terms of catchy melodies, pleasant chord progressions, and a rocking guitar sound to back it all, but they were more polished and refined in some ways. This tune of theirs from their 1970 debut record was their only Top 40 hit in 1970, and from there their 15 minutes of fame ended pretty quickly. The following year they split up after their second album Rotten to the Core flopped.

5. Come on to Town, Ned, by Blue Jug

These guys were one hell of a dandy southern rock/country band from the mid-70's. Their vocal harmonies were immaculate and blended so well that you could have almost considered them in some ways to be a hillbilly choir. They had just enough of a pop and rock vibe to them though to keep them from sounding too heehaw and appealing to a wider audience. Unfortunately though, due to lack of interest they broke up after only one album.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Throwback Thursday: "Shout at the Devil", by Motley Crue

By 1983 a little known band by the name of Motley Crue had put out their debut album Too Fast For Love to some decent response, but they had yet to make much of a real splash. That all changed drastically however when those starry eyed glam metal kids wrote and recorded their sophomore effort, the still famous and considered classic to this day Shout at the Devil, after which things skyrocketed for them.

Shout at the Devil shows the band taking a MUCH heavier and darker sound than their previous album, which had basically been 70's glam rock but given some more driving and distorted guitar. The album featured such staples as "Shout at the Devil", "Too Young to Fall in Love", "Looks That Kill", etc. Needless to say, the overall sound of this album resonated much more with the market they were aiming for at the time.

"Shout at the Devil" is such an anthemic track. That opening riff backed by that slow pulsing hit on the bass drum and bass guitar just thunders through your body and makes you want to pump your fist and shout along with the band. This is definitely some of the most raw and primal song writing that bassist and primary Motley Crue song writer Nikki Sixx has ever done. That dark youthful energy just pummels this song to a whole new level.

The Crue also did a cover of the Beatles classic "Helter Skelter" on this record. Honestly in my opinion it is probably the best cover version of this song and comes second only to the original. It definitely has some serious balls to it with heavier guitars, louder rhythm, and howling vocals that come fairly close to Paul McCartney's. This cover really was a match made in heaven for Motley Crue.

Honestly, Shout at the Devil is one of the most important albums that Motley Crue ever put out. Had they not put it out when they did, they might not have made it as huge as they did. It has some of the best song writing and definitely much of Mick Mars's best guitar work of his entire career. They held nothing back when putting this to tape. This is one of the albums I would advise a new Crue fan pick up and listen to first.

Shout at the Devil, by Motley Crue receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. In the Beginning
2. Shout at the Devil
3. Looks That Kill
4. Bastard
5. God Bless the Children of the Beast
6. Helter Skelter
7. Red Hot
8. Too Young to Fall in Love
9. Knock 'em Dead, Kid
10. Ten Seconds to Love
11. Danger

Buy the album on Amazon: