Errols Weekly Music Update.

December 18, 2018

Def Leppard Is In- What Were “They” Waiting For?

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During the early to mid- 1980’s, the roots of my musical being were expanding and just like impatiens that require more and more water, my need for hard-rock music was growing immensely. I was always seeking more – just like when you are at a holiday party as you are devouring the numerous hors d’oeuvres- my soul was craving straight up rock music. I would always tune into WPLJ in New York (back when it was a rock station) to see if I would hear something that would grab me by the throat and make me pay attention. Then it happened…

I remember the first time I heard what sounded like someone lighting a match as the guitar riff comes in and the opening lyrics just rip through you- “I’m out of luck, out of love… got a photograph, picture of”- and just like when Cabbage Patch Dolls came into being—I GOTTA HAVE THIS!! Who is that? For the next four minutes or so, it is pure bliss—Air guitar heaven with crashing drums spliced in with the coolest vocals which can go low and high—does it get better than this? This one song hooked me on its opening moment and I have never looked back- enjoying a journey of this most excellent band- Def Leppard- through four decades of joy and hardship for this outfit from across the pond. And from a personal point of view, I will forever be grateful to Def Leppard because my first ever date with my bride was seeing them live at the Brendan Byrne Arena in Sept. 1988 (when they sold out three straight nights and I was there for the last two nights) and as they say “the rest is history.”

 “Rock Rock Till You Drop” is my mantra and I could go on all day long on how many of their songs get them into the Hall on an individual basis alone – this song kicks off, in my opinion, their first “break-through” album-“Pyromania”- and it leaves you thirsting for so much more. Your blood starts flowing, your excitement increases and all one wants to do is dance around the room with both arms raised- this is the first song and there’s no waiting to turn up the volume. CRANK IT UP!!! Joe’s vocal prowess seeps with the hunger and energy needed to make it to the top and the guitar solo at the 2:17 mark is too much to handle as the “pure perfection” production is evident right from the outset. Then it’s on to the aforementioned “Photograph”- an awesome one-two punch to get things started. “Stagefright” used to be an opener at their live shows for a couple of years and I guess the reason for the audience to be part of a studio album—I can picture the mash pit swarming like bees surrounding and protecting the queen as the adrenaline is at a fever pitch. And you know what? Some 30 years later Def Leppard is still creating that adrenaline at a fever pitch, how many bands or artists can say the same thing?

 I don’t want to do a song by song review but how can I ignore the fourth song on side one of Pyromania- “Too Late For Love”—dare I say that this track could arguably be their most popular song? (I know what you are thinking but I will pour some sugar on that later). How cool is Mr. Elliot’s vocals when he starts the verse- “…Standing by the trapdoor aware of me and you…” How can you not sing along to this song- pretty impossible, huh? Side 1 ends with the jewel of this album- “Die Hard The Hunter”- again the production is top notch and the timing changes along with the heavy melodic guitar is so infectious that you realize that about 23 minutes have gone by and it feels like seconds because it is so good. This is clearly a perfect album side and this alone gets the boys in to the Hall.

Side two contains two songs where many people would argue are their best songs ever- “Foolin’” and “Rock of Ages”—are you kidding me? What were “they” waiting for? Foolin’ ranks up there with the best rock songs ever created- “Is there anybody out there” that would disagree? If I am starting a band I take Phil Collen and the dearly departed Steve Clark any day of the week—their guitar work is so addictive that it’s like when a small child is trying to eat an ice cream cone on a hot summer day and the ice cream just keeps dripping. You struggle to contain the euphoria but sometimes it is over-whelming and that’s how I would describe most all their songs—especially “Rock of Ages”  — these are stadium anthems that never get old. To this day, when one puts this album on it’s like a lightning bolt “down to the ground.” The album ends on a high note with the unheralded “Billy’s Got a Gun” and the one thing that I notice on this song is the compelling background vocals—think Queen, think Van Halen—the backup vocals set them apart right? Def Leppard, in my opinion, sets the standard- there I said it—I know I will receive flack but it is hard to argue because when one thinks of Def Leppard- amongst the many attributes that people would throw out there- the background vocals is one of the things that sets them apart from the pack.

So I played “Pyromania” until the inside sleeve of the album was torn and was waiting for the follow-up. Then all of us heard of the horrible accident that occurred to their drummer- Rick Allen- on New Year’s Eve 1984. He amazingly survived and has thrived since losing a limb (a true “Beat All the Odds” story line here, no doubt) but at the time I think we all waited with bated breath to see if the band would continue. Here they are hitting their stride and then this. It took a while but then in 1987 they release the almighty “Hysteria”- this album is the flat out reason they find themselves in the same hall of fame alongside the bands they idolized and imitated. This is their “Sgt. Pepper’s” and it was a double edge sword—the hard (rock) liners were upset with the pop/country flavor (see “Love Bites”) and yet the pop stalwart-“Pour Some Sugar on Me”- brought in a whole new fan base and sent their popularity to another stratosphere. The “Sugar” song is arguably their most popular song and just like other rock bands that have a song that is repeatedly played until the song is dead (think- “Sweet Home Alabama”) this song is in that category and though I recognize its greatness, I usually hit the next button when I listen to Hysteria in its entirely- doesn’t take anything away- just being honest.

Hysteria starts off with the incredible-“Women”- and right off the bat, it rips the Band-Aid off the skin and flat out rocks- the groove line is so contagious that you start a slow bounce of your head up and down while squeezing those headphones to your ears so you can soak in all the juicy flavor. I have to say if I am on a desert island and I can take only 25 songs—I am taking this one with me. I have already hit the replay button five times since I started the last two paragraphs. Again I say to myself- What were “they” waiting for? And just like when Metallica released the “Black Album” all the questions arose with the style and flavor of “Hysteria”- it’s not like “Pyromania”; it’s not hard rock enough—I say- What am I missing? “Rocket” is a stellar song with “guitar” and “drums”—when a band can make a song like this, what is there to really complain about? “Animal” is so powerful that I dare you to get the chorus out of your head-“…I got ta feeling in my blood…Waa Ohh… I need your touch don’t need your love… Waa Ohh… And I want And I need And I love- Animal” The entire album seems crafted that each song is its own island and stands alone and I bet some many people have each song as its favorite—dare I say that they created new material for a new album and yet at the same time it could have been released as a “greatest hit” collection—do you see what I am getting at? If you put this album on today it sounds as fresh as it did when released in 1987. Even the title song is so good that it makes me picture the entire brethren of Def Leppard to be in an open field on their knees while a soft drizzle sprinkles our faces and as we all slowly rise, the sun shines through as we all exalt- “…cause it’s a miracle… Oh say you will, ooh babe… Hysteria when you’re near…”

As the summer of 1988 was coming to a close I knew my window of opportunity was closing with respect to a beautiful woman that I so badly wanted to go out on a date but was intimated. But for everyone that knows me, music is what makes my world spin, I can’t survive without it as it is my inspiration. So on a Thursday afternoon in Sept. 1988 while I was standing talking to my cousin outside our work building and making plans to meet up later to see Def Leppard at the Brendan Byrne, the woman that I wanted to date overhears our conversation. She then proceeds to ask me why I didn’t ask her to go to the show. I immediately tell her that I will purchase tickets for the Friday night show and she agreed. The night obviously turned out to be magical as she became my bride and I was able to see Def Leppard two nights in a row. So again I am forever grateful to Def Leppard.

Hysteria would be the last album that Steve Clark played on (but he co-wrote songs with the band that appeared on “Adrenalize”) and in 1991 the band suffered its second hardship- saying goodbye to its brother. It is so sad to this day that we (the general public) assume that a rock star has it made, right? I think to the gut-wrenching song that Tesla wrote for him (Tesla has been with Def Leppard from the beginning and appear to be family as they still tour together today)- “Song and Emotion”- “… see a man most everyday… a lonely man and his guitar… in his eyes, I see the pain, all the faces and the places of the troubles that he has seen…” still hard to not shed a tear when I hear this song. To the band’s credit, they continued onward and getting Vivian Campbell to join the fray is another feather in their cap.

Another memorable moment for me is when I attended our friend’s wedding in 1993 and when the bride had her own dance, she chose “Two Steps Behind”—I will never forget Joe’s vocals coming across the speakers to the acoustic guitar- “Walk away if you want to… it’s Ok… if you need to… you can run but you can never hide…” as Mimi danced to this heart-warming song as Sal watched like the rest of us to the beauty of the moment. It was the first wedding besides ours that I heard a song from a band that I loved and as I sang along all the folks at my table were like- “You know this song?” Of course, “And you don’t?”

I would be remiss to kind of gloss over some of the earlier and post Hysteria catalog. As I mentioned at the top of this review, this band has so many individual songs that in my mind easily stamps their ticket into the Hall of Fame. In no particular order or any rhyme or reason here are some of their songs from their other albums. “Bringing on the Heartache”- How can anyone write or speak about Def Leppard without mentioning this song? It’s from their second studio album-“High & Dry”- the opening guitar riffs lure you in and when Joe starts with “Gypsy, sitting looking pretty” you know you are in- hook, line & sinker. And when it gets to the chorus you know you have to sing to the top of your lungs- “taking all the best of me… oh can’t you see… you got the best of me… Oh can’t you see… YOU’RE BRINGIN’ ON THE HEARTACHE!!” From the album- “Adrenalized”- I am all about the bubble-gum sappy rock ballad and the “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” is truly a guilty pleasure. Talk about stellar background vocals—“I gotta have ya… Babe.. Bay” I am swaying back and forth as I am belting out the chorus. Same goes for “When Love & Hate Collide” from the album –“Slang”- this has the Aerosmith power ballad down to a precision. I can picture this song being requested at a party where everyone is slow dancing and lip syncing to this mellow but beautiful song. Mr. Elliott knows how to sing these ballads (and obviously rock it out when needed). And then from their latest release in 2015, check out the song –“We Belong”- I think it’s the first time that everyone in the band sings on a song. Thirty-five year years after they made their debut album, they still have the chops to make a song like “We Belong.” Talk about staying power?

Def Leppard so deserves to be in the rock and roll hall of fame and it is so gratifying for me personally to see the bands that I have grown up with to achieve this prestigious recognition. So thank you to Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell as well as the departed Steve Clark for making such great music and enriching many hearts. (Also need to include Pete Willis who was part of the early years). Thank you for continuing to tour around the U.S. seemingly every year and we can’t wait for the next time when we can all sing along- “Let’s Get Rocked.” And we no longer have to say- What were “They” Waiting for? Congratulations boys, well worth the wait—enjoy the ceremony!! 

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April 29, 2018

The Legend of Godsmack Rises

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It’s been four years since Godsmack released new material and in my opinion, they were at a “crossroad” so to speak, with their musical direction. The world of “metal” can be an unforgiving and “un-forgetting” place, meaning the expectations to reproduce the similar tone that put a band “on the map” must be adhered to through and through, with no excuses, no exceptions and anything less will not be tolerated. Just ask the boys from Metallica- when they released the “Black” album you would have thought the world of metal exploded on that day to never return. Do not evolve… Do not take chances… was the message from all the “haters,” in my opinion.

I thank the “metal Gods” every day for the “Black” album because it pulled me into a world that I was always fearful of and yes that was my first introduction to Metallica, so what? I had seen them live well before their 1991 release but did not recognize their infinite excellence until that moment of the release of the “Enter Sandman” album. That album dragged me in and I was hooked, so much so that I went back to the menu and ordered their first tasting and yes it did “Kill ‘Em All.” Now all these years later, seeing them live every chance they tour and owning every studio album (and other “stuff”) is my right of passage and if you want to rant and rave that I am not “metal” because I “entered” during what many see as the “non-metal” phase, so be it, I can’t change that opinion.

So why so much about the “Black” album? Folks I am here to say to those same people who were like me back in 1991 that have recognized that Godsmack is out there but maybe have not “dipped their toe” in their world—NOW IS THE TIME!!

I will say that I have been with this band from the very beginning when they released their debut album in 1998 and I am a freak of fan of this band as many know. I have been waiting for “When Legends Rise” for some time because in my opinion, they are taking the chance that I knew was in them and this album will forever be the body of work that blazes a trail just like the Black album did. This album from top to bottom is an “instant classic” in my opinion, there are no songs to skip over.

Now the “hater’s” will say that this album crosses the line, it is not “heavy” enough and that it will drag the “mainstream” into the fray.  There is piano and a “hip-hop” beat with children singing in the background—how can that be “metal?” Why does there have to be a label? Listen for what it is—passionate & energetic, and so addictive that you will be amazed how many times you can listen to this album over and over. This body of work is so worth the wait because it takes chances that most bands (or record companies) refuse to take because of the perceived notion that it will alienate the existing fan base and won’t grab new listeners because while being “radio friendly” this album still has the main ingredient of what this band has always been about- INTENSITY.  Godsmack makes you up stand up & pay attention and this turn down the “hard rock” road, as opposed to the “metal” fairway, should not have passengers jump off the wagon but just the opposite—everyone who has been there from the beginning should extend their hands and arms to lift others on to the wagon to join them in the jubilation of all that is Godsmack.

The album kicks off with the title track and for some reason I can picture a boxer training for a title fight as the opening drum part employs a vision of a speed bag flailing to the two fisted roll, then breaking out to doing jumping jacks as the infectious groove gets the juices flowing while putting a dance beat that gets your feet moving but never taking your hands off that air-guitar. As soon as the track ends you will know that Godsmack has already won the title.  “Bulletproof” is definitely a stand-out and I can see why the band released this first—it sends a message to everyone. This will be their “Enter Sandman”- a song that will pull in lots of people and not because it is “less metal” but because it is pure ecstasy with a sing along anthem that you won’t be able to get out of your head—“Now that you want it…Now that you need it…I’m too far gone.” The funky groove continues with the jaw dropping-“Unforgettable”- which is an appropriate title because it takes chances that needs to be done. I immediately started to laugh to myself when I heard the opening licks to this song as I could visualize the faces of those extreme “metal-heads.” This song will bring down the house at every one of their shows for the rest of their career—I can picture the whole audience with arms swaying in unison back and forth while singing- “Whoa… It’s UNFORGETTABLE.”

“Every Part of Me” has this stinging guitar sound that will make your arms point to the air almost like swatting a bee that is buzzing around you and the sing-along party will continue. “I can’t feel alive…If I can breathe the air…that’s been frozen…when you’re so far away.” Does it get any better? “Take it to the Edge” is a heart pumping, squinting eyes track that will have you lip-syncing to Sully while wishing you could sing like him and the passion will bleed right through your skin.

Then it’s on to the piano… yes the piano… for the fans who follow Sully’s solo career this is no surprise but I am assuming it will be to everyone else. The beautiful &  majestic- “Under Your Scars”- will take you to places that you never thought a Godsmack song would take you—lifting you off your feet as you float away to a fantasy world that you may never want to come back from—this is what music is supposed to do to you—take you that place where your spirits are lifted to the highest level. This song should immediately be placed on whatever system where music can be heard.

The “higher pitched” guitar sound comes to the forefront like a rising sun with the full-body piercing “Someday”- wow, so addicting. The crushing groove, the emphatic vocal prowess and thunderous drums are too much to take as another stadium-anthem chorus will resonate in your blood stream as everyone sheds all their skin to start again. “Just The One” kicks up to another level as the head-banging is now in full gear. Sully’s vocals-which sound like it is coming out of a tunnel- matches the ferocious guitar-riff as he exalts- “I always hate the way you love me!!” The guitar solo flows perfectly and as the eighth song comes to an end you stand up and take notice on how tight and how every note and grunt has been painstakingly put into production. “Say My Name” continues the furious pace—who will say this is soft?- let them try just like they did when “Sad But True” came out. The believers knew then and now what greatness is just like they will know with this song.

The albums’ last two tracks solidifies my opinion that this is an instant classic album. The very different- “Let It Out”- could be my most favorite track as the body of this song is something totally different from any Godsmack song, again in my opinion. The controlled guitar strut that is evident throughout is masterful as it provides the hook which will get you in line as you let it sink into your system. You will find yourself singing and dancing in the middle of your living room as your neighbors will wonder what is in the water in your house as you carryon like there is no one else in the room. Keep the volume up for the thunderous “Eye of the Storm” as Sully’s commands will have you bowing in no time- “Don’t you point your finger in my face” he exclaims while being backed up by the roaring guitar. The entire song is infectious and as the thunder blankets your ears you realize that the party is over but are thankful for the invite.

“When Legends Rise” is by far the best album of 2018 and no matter what happens over the next eight months, it will be in the top of anyone’s list by the time the year ends. I recently saw a comment by Sully that the focus of 2018 will be about the new album as opposed to the 20th anniversary of its debut album as for the upcoming tour and I must say after listening to this album- they should play this in its entirety. Thank you Sully, Robbie, Tony & Shannon for making this spectacular album. I am so glad I am along for the journey and can’t wait to see you in the summer and the rest of my life. \m/  \m/

December 13, 2017

THE CARS ARE IN!!!

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THE CARS ARE IN!!

As a kid growing up in the Sunset Park section of  Brooklyn NY in the late 1970’s I hung around a bunch of folks who were into two things- sports and music. My life revolved around baseball, football and rock and roll. (Still does) Many were older and their influence made a lasting impression on me. I can remember Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath blasting from the boom boxes in the local school yard and I was always blown away by the passion that they had for their favorite bands. I wanted to be just like them and wanted to have a band that I could call my own.

In walked Benjamin Orr, Ric Ocasek, Elliot Easton, Greg Hawkes and David Robinson to my life in the summer of 1978 and my wish was granted. From that moment on, The Cars became part of my life just like bread and water—I needed all three to survive. I can remember the first time I heard the opening licks to “Just What I Needed”- “I don’t mind you coming here and wasting all my time”—it was like a lightning bolt for me—I had to find out who made this sound which was different but still had that rock and roll influence. This song has everything—smashing drums where everyone I know does the “air-drumming” part where Robinson does the “falling down the stairs, roll of the drum sticks” after Orr completes that infamous verse that I just cited. Hawkes keyboard vibe always added the spice, sometimes weird but always tasty. Easton’s guitar playing gave it that gusto that made you stand up and pay attention while always thirsting for more. And for a while in the beginning I didn’t know that there were two lead singers in the band, Orr and Ocasek,-who seemed like brothers from another mother- their rhythm section and passion for their craft- singing and writing lyrics changed my life forever.

So I walk back into the school yard and profess that I have a band that elicits an internal passion that burns deep similar to showing off a paper test grade of an “A” that has a circle around it from your teacher to prove that you fit in. “Oh yeah? Who is it?” I respond- “The Cars”—and just like all of us who have been in a classroom where your classmates bristle and laugh it off like you are from another planet- they poured cold water all over my enthusiasm. But just like everything else, I brushed it off and went back to digesting their music into my blood stream every single day to the point if listening to albums could add weight I would have been the size of the earth by 1979.

I heard comments like how could you like that weird song-“I’m In Touch With Your World- that’s not good”—you’re right, IT’S GREAT. They were “offbeat”- not as “weird” as maybe The B-52’s or The Talking Heads but just enough to separate themselves from the rest of the block. I grew up on ‘blocks’ and each one had their own favorite. I was turning my block into The Cars and would scream from the rooftop any chance that I could, that this band from Boston with their debut album was a force to reckon with. Take ‘Don’t Cha Stop” – which snaps you right into attention and makes you dance all around the room- as I am now so elated that The Cars are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—I told you so!! Make room for me and my band!!!

Ahh but I jumped too far ahead. Let’s go back to the first album and talk about “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”—my friends, just like Bill Mazeroski making the Baseball Hall of Fame on one homerun – this one song alone writes their ticket into the Hall of Fame. I believe this could be the best song that Ocasek ever wrote, sang, crafted- however you want put it- with help from his brothers as well. This song has everything- the appetizer, the main course and the sweet desert of Easton’s guitar dripping just like when you put chocolate sauce on your ice cream and the fudge rolls all in and down the spoon on top of your monstrous desert but you don’t care because you are going to enjoy it—that’s what this song does for me. Then right, after arguably the best song that Orr has ever sung (I know – what about “Drive?” but hear me out) Bye Bye Love—if there ever a category for the best ‘one-two” songs on side two – these are it!! Does it get any better- “It’s an orangy sky…always with some other guy”—Hawkes solo lifts me off the ground into another stratosphere. From the first time I heard this song I always pronounce the word- “Ill- luss-tree-us” just like Ben sings it to this day—too much for me to take, can’t get enough. Easton’s ending solo is off the hook and really these two songs have to be considered the best rock and roll songs ever crafted.

But it doesn’t stop there-we are now in a time warp as the outer space type –“Moving In Stereo”- comes into your headphones like nothing you have ever heard before. (If I am not mistaken I believe this was their first song that was featured in a movie- “Fast Times At Ridgemore High”). When I hear this song I can picture myself on a rocket ship being an astronaut and flipping upside down in slow motion while my body has no gravity. Orr’s vocal prowess is stupendous and how many times have you hummed the organ part by Hawkes—name another song where you hum an organ part? Then it’s on to what maybe my most favorite song in my life on this earth—“She shadows me in the mirror”- wow, does it get any better than this? “All Mixed Up” is maybe a “hidden classic” for the general public but the Cars’ brethren know this to be the “ultimate”- that bottle of wine or whatever your preference is, when you break it for very special occasions or a holiday meal with all of your favorite people that you break bread with—this song still gives me goosebumps when I listen today—it has-and will always- survive the test of time.

1979—The Cars second album “Candy-O” comes out about a year later and again in the summertime as we are all playing ball in the school yard and I am uneasy because of the term- “sophomore slump”—how would I be able to stand toe-to-toe with the ‘Led Zeppelin II’s of the world?”  But as soon as I put on side one I knew I could run right back to them with my chin up- no sophomore slump here—this album has songs that I cherished from the moment I heard them and I will take them with me whenever I leave this earth. “Since I Held You” brings tears to my eyes because of how good it is- I know that sounds weird but this song takes me back to my bedroom lying on a hardwood floor with a pillow around my head soaking in the flavor with the two big speakers that were right next to me as I tried to take this in intravenously like when a nurse gives a needle to put the bag of IV into your blood stream. “It’s All I Can Do” will always be a fond remembrance for me because the lyrics hit home for me as I had tried to get the attention of someone who didn’t have the same thoughts as I did. “I cancelled my flight from going nowhere”- huh, wow- how did they know? Elliot’s guitar solo is short but so exhilarating that I wonder why he is often left out of the conversation of “best guitarists’?”  Hawkes- “Shoo Be Doo” has my vote for the best keyboard/organ song ever created—how psychedelic, how cool is this song and Ocasek’s vocals are stupendous- “Don’t cha tell me what to do.”  The first side ends with the ever energetic-“Candy-O”—CRANK IT UP—there is no other way to listen to this song but LOUD—who says the Cars couldn’t rock it out?—listen to this and don’t even… just soak it all in.

Side two starts off with what I consider my favorite Cars song of all-time- “Night Spots”- “I see you crossin’ the fine line”—how cool is Ocasek? He has the look, the feel, the voice and the creative genius that puts him in the same company as the character-“Sheldon” from “The Big Bang Theory.” Hawkes and Easton flat out kill this song with their mastery (and of course the train doesn’t run without Robinson banging away like he can). The entire second side is pure genius that ends with the stadium anthem-“Dangerous Type”- a song that I always pointed out to my school yard buddies was played on WNEW-FM just as much as any other classic rock song on their set list.

For some reason, their third album-“Panorama’- is often cited by critics as not good. What? I say if you are a true Cars fan, this is something you treasure just as much as the first two albums. This is arguably my most favorite album by the boys from Boston. I say, there are no “fillers” on this album at all- I listen from top to bottom (now on my I-pod) or side one and side two as I did back in my bedroom. “Touch and Go” is not a classic tune? C’mon let’s get real—this is the Cars at its purest, with another smoking guitar solo by Easton and the bass lines by Orr just bounce in your ears. That “stop and go” motion makes you gyrate your body in angles you never thought you could do and the flow of the chorus is so natural. “Don’t tell Me No” grabs you by the throat and makes you pay attention, Ben is at his best with his demands and you will listen! For some reason “Misfit Kid” always stands out to me, the groove with the drumming is so addictive that you can’t help but sing along and the best part is the two hand claps that appear twice along with the way Ocasek says “cru-uh-uh-um-bulled.” Or how about the cool grooving “You Wear Those Eyes?” C’mon who makes songs like these? Timeless tracks with stupendous vocals and background vocals and the musicianship fits like a glove with all the various instruments. “You do the pogo without the bounce..” Love it!!!

When I was in Brooklyn College there was a “entertainment” room where you could sign up for  classic album side for each half hour intervals while sitting there with other folks that you didn’t know and hopefully entice them to feel what you have recommended. Well I will never forget when I recommended side one of “Shake It Up” which came out in 1981 and the person running the room started to dance around the room when he heard the opening licks to “Since You’re Gone.” There was no worries after seeing him dance to the first song, I was at ease and just sat back with this big smile that there was a band that I loved more than anything was bringing joy to others!! Another classic for me is “I’m Not the One”- it is amazing the quality of that song when you have your headphones on, it sounds like Ric is standing right next to you. Side one ends with the kicking “Cruiser” by Mr. Orr which made that same guy get back up and dance around the room again with the complementary handclaps.

As the 1980’s continued and a thing called Music Television was introduced to our world and talk about putting a band that I loved on the map. The Cars were on MTV all the time—remember “Magic” from their fifth album- “Heartbeat City?”—I would say this could have been one of their most memorable songs as well as one of MTV best known videos. And how can one talk about “Heartbeat City” without mentioning “Drive”- arguably their most well-known song across generations. What was not to like? Even grandparents sang along- “You can’t go on…thinking…nothing’s wrong.. who’s gonna drive you home tonight”- listening to this song is tough and brings a tear to the eye because Ben Orr is not here to celebrate with his band members for something that is so well deserved.

As the 1980’s ended and we all kind of went our separate ways, classic rock radio had so many songs to choose from, that I know for a fact that every single day across this world, you can guarantee that you will hear a song by The Cars. Then just six years ago out of the blue, the surviving members come back with another classic- “Move Like This”—right out of the gate “Blue Tip” grabs you pulls you right up to their faces as they are gonna “hook” you in with their infamous grooves that makes you dance along while trying to imitate Ocasek’s singing style- forget it, you can’t do it- there’s only one Ric Ocasek. Then on May 25, 2011 a dream come true for me came to fruition as I was able to see my heroes at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC nearly 30 years after I had first seen them. I was with my friends who also loved The Cars and it was a night that I will treasure for the rest of my life. “Keep On Knocking” and that’s what we did all night long.

Words can’t do the justice on how The Cars have impacted my life, I know it would not be the same without them. It is amazing how this thing called music, connects some many of us and we don’t even know each other. I would like to thank each member of The Cars for enriching my life and I have been listening to all of your music to ear piercing levels and basking in the joy of your special moment since 7:00 a.m. this morning. I know it sounds funny but I am so proud and full of joy to now say that I have lived a life with a band from its initial existence to today and I can jump up and down and scream to the world- “THE CARS ARE IN!!!!”

 

 

May 22, 2017

A Tribute To Chris Cornell

Image result for Image of Chris Cornell

It’s been almost a week since our world was turned upside down when we woke up to the news that Mr. Chris Cornell had passed away. My brother had sent me an early text and when I opened it I was bracing for bad news, I thought it was something to do with my immediate family. It turns out it was very sad news and even though I never met Mr. Cornell, I considered him part of my family and have been grieving since. And I mean this with no disrespect because recently there have been many artists who have passed on with just as much shock and disbelief—this untimely finality is something that I am having a hard time shaking. For me (and I was born one year after Chris), the lyrics to “American Pie” by Don McLean have never hit me the way it did last week- “…when I read about his widowed bride… something touched me deep inside… the day the music died.” My heart aches for his wife, children, family & friends.

How can someone I never met have an impact on my life? It’s easy—music. His music (along with much help he had along the way with his various bandmates) was injected into my blood stream in late 1994 and became essential for me almost as much as food & water. “Superunknown” was released in March 1994, I had heard so much buzz about this album that I ran out to the local store in Ringwood N.J. and I purchased it, put it on and subsequently tossed it to the bottom of the pile of CD’s that I owned. I wanted to go back to the store clerk and tell him the buzz was not worth it. But as it goes, I was sadly mistaken because a few months later (and since that time), I have held the belief that “Superunknown” was by far the best album of the 1990’s and in my opinion is one of the greatest albums ever recorded in the history of music. I was all in and just like when I boarded the “band-wagon” late for Metallica, I went back through Soundgarden’s catalog and embraced it all.

I remember the first time I saw Soundgarden as a headliner at the New York Armory in June 1994, there were no windows, no air-conditioning and to give you an idea of just how hot it was, the NYC subway system was a breath of cool air when the show was over, if you can believe that. I was there by myself and remember wanting to get as close as I could to the stage to see this man with the golden voice—who sings like Chris Cornell? Are you kidding me, no one comes close. I wanted to body surf but with a baby coming in December and no one else there to save me, I decided to move closer. I set up shop near the right speaker—dark as well you know what—and then here it is—“Jesus Christ Pose”—the screeling (is this a word?) sound of the guitar, the pattering of drums sounding like they are coming in nine different directions as the crowd starts to body slam each other with such force I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Then this high pitched voice comes screaming through the microphone—“And you stare at me…in your Jesus Christ Pose”— there he is—Chris Cornell—closest I ever came to meeting him in person. And like he was for me since that time- a larger than life figure, he simply took over the room with his vocal prowess and I’m thinking he could have commanded us to do what he wanted because we were under his spell. You could smell, taste and feel the energy in the room similar to that of a vicious tornado ripping through your town and despite the absolute craziness going on around me, I was at home.

Two years later “Down on the Upside” is released and I am thinking that there is no better band on the planet. The first time I heard Chris’s vocals on-“Burden in my Hand”—I knew I would follow him anywhere, including a desert because I was thirsty for more. The passion in his voice is something to behold and despite the dark lyrics on most of his tunes, I was drawn to its beauty- yes beauty. Now many would say how can something bleak be beautiful? I asked the same question and then Chris Cornell came into the picture and I never asked that question again. Like many families which experience turmoil, the Soundgarden members were stressing & fighting as the bar they created rose to a level that was probably too much to take and then…I will never forget the day- April 9, 1997—I hear on the radio that Soundgarden has broken up. What? How can they? A part of me died on that day, no exaggerating.

As I stumbled from the news, wondering where I was going to get my Chris Cornell fix from there was news that he was working on his first solo album- “Euphoria Morning”- and it was to be released in the fall of 1999. During that year I made some huge personal maneuvers including leaving a company I never thought I would leave as well as moving away from Ringwood N.J. which had become some much of a home, just like Brooklyn N.Y. because it was “family” to me. As I settled into a new job and a new state (CT) Cornell’s first solo album is released and I will tell you that his album helped me adjust to my new life. He had to adjust to life without Soundgarden and his first solo effort solidified that he could move forward on his own two feet and you may not believe it but that inspired me to move forward with the changes I had made.

His music continued to inspire me because of the deep lyrics (and for those who know me I am typically not a lyric guy) which if you looked closely there are signs of beauty through the darkness. “When I’m Down” is the perfect example—when I heard this I did not move, I was frozen—here is such a deep song that is seemingly depressing –“…I only love you when I’m down… I’m only near you when I’m gone…” However, he lets her know—“…one thing for you to keep in mind, you know… that I’m down… all the time..” This is a dark beautiful tribute that tugs at the heart. As a side note, I was able to see Chris perform this song at the Town Hall Theater in NYC in 2011 and I felt like I was lifted off the ground to hear him sing it the way it appeared on the album. I had tears in my eyes that night and then last Thursday morning as I was watering my lawn looking up to the sky wondering why or how this could happen. (And again thinking about his wife & children).

After “Euphoria” I waited patiently for the follow up album which did not come for a while as he hooked up with the members of Rage Against the Machine to form Audioslave. This combination produced some excellent songs over the three album history but for me it wasn’t the same. I wanted Chris to be the solo artist that I knew he was- different, unassuming, not pretentious, melodic with lyrics that hit your heart. Home is where the heart is, heart is where the home is.

As with friends or even family one loses touch as one learns to adjust to things that the heart wants but is not having for some reason that is out of one’s control. I waited and was rewarded with the unbelievable release- “Higher Truth”- in Sept. 2015 which took me back home again. They say that a fine wine takes time and it is worth the wait when it is a diamond in the rough. As soon as I heard “Let Your Eyes Wander” there was a feeling of warmth that took over my body just like a hot cup of cocoa or soup on a windy snowy cold day. I knew I never had to read any other reviews on this album because I knew this was something that was waiting to come out of Chris for a long-time and is a masterpiece, in my mind.

Chris, if you can hear me through my tears, please know how much your music meant to me and at least I have your songs to keep me moving forward. If your wife & children could hear me please know that my heart bleeds for them and I wish I could take all the pain away. They say time heals wounds and this will take some time. I know your heart is in their hearts. Again- home is where the heart is, heart is where the home is. Thank you for always taking me back home and maybe we will meet at another home someday.

September 27, 2016

Kansas- An Old Flame Rekindled…Who Says You Can’t Go Back Home?

The Prelude Implicit (Special Edition)

Maybe Paul Stanley has it right by saying that the entity of KISS will “carry on wayward” with a new “son” taking their places when they are no longer able to front the “hottest band in the world.” He has said many times he wants what he and the other three original members created a long time ago with their love, blood, sweat & tears to live on in infamy with “replacements” who also must be engulfed in the passion of what has been constructed while breathing life into the next generation of the band so that the established fan base will continue to add to its members while treasuring the tradition of that KISS sound. Instead of being upset on who is not in the lineup maybe we should all focus our attention on how this band continues to move forward while maintaining the hunger of its craft. And KISS is not the only band that continues on with new members (but seem to catch the most grief) there are plenty of others who continue on the tradition of their sound- Allman Brothers and Metallica- to name a few. And then there is the band called Kansas.

 

Kansas to the general public has and most likely will always be recognized by their two greatest hits–“Carry On” and “Dust in the Wind’—and those songs will always remain as legendary and revered as they are now. But for the Kansas brethren, time changes with brilliant musicianship along with powerful vocals, classic melodies are part of the reason this band will always be considered as one of the leaders of what is often referred to as the progressive genre.  Personally I am not concerned with “labels,” it always has and will always be about the music for me. And oh my Kansas makes music which takes you on a joyous magical journey which is now in its fifth decade.

 

Recently the band added Mr. Ronnie Platt as vocalist after the legendary Steve Walsh retired from the band in 2014. Now there is no replacing Mr. Walsh or Kerry Livgren  or Robby Steinhardt or Dave Hope, the “original” recipe of the band which still also includes two original members, Phil Ehart and Rich Williams. No one expects Mr. Platt to live up to the bar that Mr. Walsh set as he has to be considered one of the all-time great vocalists ever. (And by the way Mr. Steinhardt was no slouch on vocals as well and in my opinion doesn’t get the full credit he deserves as a singer, we all know the accolades he receives as musician, specifically his violin play).

 

Over the past 18 months I have seen Kansas live four times in N.Y. and Connecticut and I will tell you the Mr. Platt puts the needed passion and respect that is expected from all Kansas fans into his performances. This guy has “it” which comes shining through as he looks like he is having the time of his life being on stage with the music of his life- which is Kansas- just like it is for us fans. And now he has created new Kansas music (the Sept. 23 2016 release of “The Prelude Implicit”) which in my opinion ranks up there as one of their best albums without the “original ingredients” and dare I say one of their best efforts ever. This Kansas dish also includes a new ingredient (new to the fan base but not to the current members of the band)- Mr. Zak Rizvi- who in my opinion has contributed greatly to the original flare of what we came to love but also has added a spice which has made this legendary band sound fresh with “current” structures which explode into your headphones and you’re sitting there saying- “this is the best album of 2016 period!!” This album has everything a Kansas fan is looking for—you want a majestic epic, it’s there- see “The Voyage of Eight Eighteen”- or how about a microcosm of everything Kansas -see “Summer.” There are 10 new songs which will leave you pleading for more as you won’t believe how stunningly good this album is.

 

Now it has to be mentioned that two gentlemen who also love the music of Kansas and have greatly contributed to its success and they are Mr. Billy Greer (joined in the mid 1980’s) and Mr. David Ragsdale (joined in 1991). They both keep the spirit of Kansas alive and keep the blood flowing with their stupendous musicianship- which again is what makes Kansas so great. Their work on ‘Prelude’ is also something to behold- Mr. Ragsdale violin playing will have you drifting off into another world, the same world which Robby took you. Another recent addition, Mr. David Manion will blow you away with his keyboard acumen. And then what I would refer to as the “power” section of the band- Mr. Williams guitar playing along with Mr. Rizvi will knock you off your feet. And what else can be said of Mr. Ehart? His drumming skills are unreal and he has always known when to make that exclamation point or when to sound like a note- how many drummers play a “note?”- Phil does!!

 

Normally I would go through each song one by one and describe what it means to me but in this review, I will say that every new song on this album is fantastic—I could go on and on about it. One thing to reflect on when you purchase this album- track #9- ‘Crowded Isolation’ could arguably be the “best” song on the album and it is ninth!! Are you kidding me?

 

I want to thank the current members of Kansas for taking me back home to the new future of this legendary band and rekindling the love I have for their music. I have the best times when I see them live and I for one would not be disappointed if when I see them the next time they performed this album in its entirety—there are no fillers here. I can’t stop listening to it.

 

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