Errols Weekly Music Update.

August 2, 2020

Albums That Changed My Life- “Dosage” by Collective Soul

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As I mentioned when I first started doing this topic of “Albums that Changed My Life” that I may go out of chronological order and I can honestly say that Collective Soul was the first band that helped me make it through a period of my life where I was making one of the biggest alterations in my professional career which ultimately impacted my personal life. I know I sound like a broken record but for the people that know me, they knew (know) I was (am)  a “creature of habit” and not too receptive of making dramatic changes to my daily schedule. In the year of 1999, at the age of 34, I made one of the prevalent adjustments whereby I left a career from the company that hired me when I first graduated college in 1987 to a well known entity but for me it was life altering in the sense that not only was I leaving the company (and family) but also leaving my home in New Jersey whereby the softball team I played for were my brothers and fathers which to this day was the greatest bunch of people that I have ever encountered in my life. In addition, I was also “leaving” one of my dearest friends who had been with me for most of my adult life as we had commuted everyday into the same company on New Jersey Transit from the Fairlawn station and she had no idea that “Dosage” helped me realize that I was never going to lose her friendship but not seeing your best friend everyday is a huge adjustment. (By the way, we are still “dear” friends to this day).

As I have previously mentioned, I met the members of Collective Soul in 2019 before their show at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Connecticut- the only band ever that I actually paid for a “meet and greet”- and even though I was the first one in line to meet them, we were told by the representatives of the Playhouse that there would be no conversation with the members of the band while we each took photos with them, so I immediately made believe my shoe-laces were untied and I bent down to tie them to let everyone behind me to go ahead because there was no way I wasn’t going to speak to my idols and I ended up being the last in line so I could converse with them. They had to know that “Dosage” saved a big part of my life and my adoration for this band was unlike anything I had ever experienced. To this day, meeting the members of Collective Soul, even for five minutes, was a moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life. And in an ironic twist, my buddies who attended the show with me actually met the entire band, except for Ed Roland, at a local pub in Ridgefield CT after the show and hung out with them for hours for “free” but it didn’t matter to me, I met my heroes and let them know how much “Dosage” changed my life.

As I told Ed Roland that night, besides the Cars “Candy-O” (which I knew he was a huge “Cars” fan) the album “Dosage” was the album that I have most listened to in my entire life and I know that is a huge statement because as everybody has told me- “Is there any band or act that you don’t love?” [As a side note, I told Ed that I want “Hymn (For My Father)” (on “Collective Soul” or “Rabbit” released in 2009) to be played at my funeral- I know- weird, sick, whatever adjective you want to add- but this song stopped my heart and I cried immediately as I thought to the pain that Mr. Roland experienced when he lost his father and I could not have said it better- Dad, I love you!]

“Dosage” is their fourth album, you see I can move away from “sophomoric” efforts, although there are many out there who would say that their second album (or “Blue”) released in 1995 is their best album and there would be no argument from me as I own every body of material they have released (including Ed Roland’s side project with the “Sweet Tea Project”). In my opinion, Collective Soul has never issued a bad album in their nearly 30-year career, I cannot even think of a song that I skip over on any of their releases, but I may also be biased.

The album starts off with “Tremble for my Beloved” which starts off slowly but stick with it as you will shake your head from west to east while enjoying a big smile as there is an edge to this tune which is sort of like a food that you are afraid to try but once you close your eyes and take a bite, a pleasant surprise has begun just like this album. The vibe is different here as it starts off unlike the first three efforts, there is something different and this song exemplifies their talents as they head off in a unique direction. And if I am not mistaken I believe the lyrics to this song is about becoming a father for the first time and in 1999 I had two boys who were 5 years and 2 years old so the connection was there- “The hour has begun… your eyes have now opened.” Talk about the emotions of becoming a Dad for the very first time- fear, love, “protection-ism” and the wondering if you can do the job (that never goes away by the way). Now of course, there is a “veering” off to start the album but make no mistake, the main ingredient to this band is always prevalent and that is the ability to craft a “hook” whereby, in my opinion, sets them apart from many bands or acts. Are there bands that know how to craft a “pop-rock” song? Yes, but does any band do it better than Collective Soul? I think not, I believe they took their cues from The Cars and carried on a tradition where they cornered a market where they are now the “professors’.”

Which brings us to “Heavy”- wow what a hook, line and sinker to captivate an audience. First the guitar riff starts off in your right ear only, then appears in your left ear—sort of like when one plays that “Whac-A-Mole” game as you wonder where the groove is going to take you next. As the headbanging starts right around the seven second mark in both ears, there is an immediate appreciation for the time it took for this album to come out as I read somewhere that the band was pressured into “churning out” for the machine and in my opinion, the additional time turned out one of the best tracks this band has ever recorded. It has everything on the menu, the meat, the veggies and of course the sweet topping that keeps you coming back for the same order because it is so good and at the 2:10 mark or so when the lead guitar takes the song to another level similar to when you request the person behind the counter to add another piece of cheese.

I will not forget the first time I heard- “No More, No Less”- I had to keep checking the CD case to see if this was really Collective Soul? -talk about going into unchartered territories? I loved the expansion and gamble that they were taking and, in my opinion, it totally paid off as I believe this could be one of their most recognized songs (by their “fans”- not the general public). This song is as cool as an early summer morning breeze as the pulsating bass will match the heart beat as you go for that walk to start your day- and when Ed gets to the part-“See I no more no less… Of an angel… than you’d have me be… so let’s shake it like this…” The band is working on all cylinders as the piano is the sweetness while the drums and guitar keep you locked in and before you know it five minutes has gone by and you want more.

Track #4- “Needs”- is a song that always takes me back to riding NJ Transit with my dear friend “99” and the “sadness” of the tune would bring me to near tears as I wondered if I was undertaking the right direction in my life by leaving the company, leaving a state that I called home for nearly nine years (“99’s” mother sold us our first home) where all my friends, who had become family, asked why I could not remain with them. But sometimes in life, one makes a difficult decision to stretch themselves, like the members of Collective Soul did when they recorded this album, as I would think to myself- “I don’t need nobody… I don’t need the weight of words… to find the way… to crash on through…” However, by the end of the song it is apparent that I do need someone and that was my bride because for me to do this was a monumental task as I would tear up while exclaiming- “You’re all I need… when the waters run deep… now I cry my soul to sleep…”

“Slow” could arguably be the best track on the album, this song has it all- a brilliantly crafted tune that mixes all the ingredients that embodies all their musical and vocal talents, refreshing as that summer cocktail that is being dispersed into your tall glass filled with ice consisting of the sweetness of all that you require in your favorite drink. I love the way Ed almost unnoticed seemingly fading in the background at the 2:18 mark “I passed the darkened vaults of late doorways as if I were a king… like this, I chain a whisper to my faults” as the lead guitar takes over and makes you realize that he was just singing- wait what did he say, I have to rewind that but you don’t mind going back because it is that good. “Dandy Life” is a track that was written and sung by Ross Childress, who is no longer with the band and when Chris and I along with all his buddies went to see them when they performed this album in its entirety in May 2012 at Irving Plaza in NYC, it was not performed. I am not sure what occurred, but I think this track is a catchy tune which does not depart too much from the menu of the selections.

If I can imagine, as I am not sure because by 1999 there were not too many vinyl’s at this moment but humor me as I say- “flipping over to side two” the beautiful “Run” starts off and from this moment onward folks the succession of songs are again, in my opinion, arguably the ultimate six compositions ever recorded.

Look at the first two lines of the massive track “Run” and tell me it does not apply in 2020? “…Are these times contagious… I’ve never been this bored before…” I know that there are plenty of us who are totally bored but hopefully you have that something or someone that you can connect to or maybe you can turn to this song like I did in 1999. Beautiful songs like these can change your life forever, like it did mine. For those of you who are old enough to remember the old “Bugs Bunny” cartoons, think about the episode where he meets the beast and he is lifted off the ground from the aroma and sleeps on the pillow as the water takes him through his journey. Then at the 3:05 mark or so, there appears to be sounds of “hand claps,” reminiscent of “Miss Mary Mack” when you were a child takes the song to another level, folks this could arguably be their best song ever. Then the “hook” comes right back with the righteous – “Generate?” I love the way the album was constructed with very soft songs that make you drift off and then the next song is like a hammer that nails the melodies which are so addictive whereby you realize that this well oiled machine is a unit that is so “collective” it is hard to ignore the massive talent.

“Compliment”- Again I know I say this all the time, but this could be my most favorite song by this incredible unit from Georgia. This song will forever take me back to the early 2000’s when I convinced my wife and some of my friends from my new company, MBIA Insurance, to accompany me to see them at the St. Ives Center in Danbury CT, my own backyard, literally 15 minutes from our home. It was one of the most humid and hottest days of the summer and when they started to play this song, I almost jumped to the blue skies above. Of course, none of the people who were with me or around us knew the track, but I was in my own world. Some guy sitting next to my wife said- “Boy I have never seen anyone enjoy a concert as much as him- how does he know this song?” I can remember thinking on the train rides back and forth from Fair Lawn N.J. to Hoboken that my life was going to change forever and these words hit me deep- “There’s something more than… the world out there… the world out there…” This song is so fantastic that it brings tears to the eyes. “Not the One” continues the majestic attraction, like steel to a magnet, with Ed’s vocals so stellar I often wonder why this band is not considered one of the revered units in the history of rock music. There is a beauty to this tune which is so elegant that it excels in its seemingly simple setting but separates itself from the pack with ingenious arrangement that is so hard to ignore.

“Crown”- is my most ultimate Collective Soul song ever and the first time I ever heard it I was polarized- couldn’t even move or make a sound as the introduction actually lured me into the speakers where I thought I actually became part of the song and when Ed breaks in at the 0:32 second mark with “Who’s gonna to be my savior, now that I learned to believe…who’s gonna be the answer… to all of my questioning…” I said to myself- “this is what heaven feels like.” I had some many friendship’s at the company that hired me right out of college and in 1999 I had one with the administrator of the group where we were very close and the words-“Who’s gonna be the shepherd to lead this poor boy back home… well I hope I’m not lost”- made me question if I was making the right move. And I know this sounds very strange or weird but, in my experience, exquisite songs like these help me get through the day or life and without them who knows if I would have made the decisions I made without them. Do you see how deep and emotional this album is for me? As I drifted off the first time I listened to this track I noticed that even though the song ended at the 4:58 mark there was still a good five minutes left even though there was no noise and then at the 5:59 mark I heard Ed’s voice as the “hidden gem”- “She Said” began and I scoured the CD to see where this song was listed but it was not anywhere that I could tell. This spectacular melody was such a beautiful touch to take us to the promised land as this momentous album came to an end. The chorus is so engulfing that you will find yourself singing it over and over again- “Life’s river shall rise…she said… and only the strong shall survive… she said…”

I want to thank the members of Collective Soul for forever enriching my life with this absolute masterpiece of an album. There are numerous memories that will forever take me back to one of the most enormous decision that I have ever had to make in my lifetime and this album guided me through this most difficult time. Right before I left the state of New Jersey to head to the Nutmeg state, I went to see them at the Bowery Ballroom with a great friend Sal, who enjoys this band as much as I do, and I know this is going to sound weird but after seeing them live I knew I was taking the right path- sometimes being taken out of your comfort zone ends up making you grow as a person. I believe this album was the recording that expanded the horizon of this band and reached a larger audience at the same time. I know I love every band but there is a very special place in my heart for Collective Soul and my dream came true last October 2019 when I was actually able to see them in person and speak to them, albeit for a few minutes, was a life altering moment for me. During this pandemic whenever I am feeling like I am trapped I seek a “Dosage” I pull out this album and my life comes back to the center. I will always bow to this band—Thank you Collective Soul!

July 28, 2020

Albums That Changed My Life- “Don’t Say No” by Billy Squier

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The best thing about music is that it is internal while also being individual because its impact on your life may not be as valued by the vast amount of the general public but when you find that one person or group of people where the connection is “universal” then maybe one can rejoice in the euphoria because it validates the judgement made because of the pure excitement generated by an album . Enter, “Don’t Say No,” by Mr. Billy Squier- go ahead- squirm, squint, roll your eyes or hold your ears but as I will always maintain- it is in the ear of the beholder.

Whenever I hear a song from this classic album, it takes me back to the corner of 48th street and 8th avenue in Sunset Park Brooklyn where the friends who shaped my life all hung out at our favorite place called “Izzy’s.” I was 16 years old when this album was released and in my mind I was no longer a novice to rock music while searching for alternate acts to bring to the “rock-heads” of the corner who were already knee deep into the heavy metal genre. I was always considered the “light-weight” because I loved bands like The Cars, Foreigner and Squeeze, so you know I ran to the corner when this album arrived and stated that I had a “heavier” dose than usual, maybe not Sabbath worthy but “head-banging” enough which did bring a thumbs up from that tough crowd. And I will say, just to give them their due, that I always felt that there should have been more room for additional lead guitar solos on this album. However, this does not prevent this album from being something that altered my life.

Altered does not necessarily mean that it was able to guide me through a difficult part of my life but there is a song on this album that helped me and I believe many others, to help with the grief of losing John Lennon. To this day in 2020, “Nobody Knows” is in my top ten songs of all-time. Sometimes, the excitement of an album because of its groove and muscle is the main reason which causes you to just continually play it over and over. “Don’t Say No” is one of those albums where I wore out the inner sleeve that I had to be very careful when I took it out of the milk crate that I did not let the “33” fall out and hit the wood floor of my bedroom.

Side one begins with the energetic “In the Dark” and even when I listen to this nearly 40 years later it is still as fresh, clean while bursting with flavor just like the gum that might have come out at the same time-“Freshen-up”- the groove is so infectious and the drummer sounds like he is sitting on the back of your ears as Billy’s vocals are so good like the spearmint flavor that coats your teeth as you bite down on the square piece of gum. The keyboards and the guitars vibrate from one end of your headphones to the other as the guitar solo around the 2:42 mark makes you jump out of your seat to “air-guitar” along. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the use of keyboards, synthesizer or organ seem to take a turn away from the traditional sound as the “new wave” (think “The Cars”) took over during this time and this is one of those songs where one sings along to the keyboard playing. For some reason, I can picture being on the beach at Coney Island with multiple radio’s playing this tune- yes, we (“the rockers”) were up against the pop world which dominated Brighton beach but this song was too hard to ignore.

Was there a bigger song in the 1980’s than “The Stroke?” The opening 10 seconds of the song is like a magnet and we are all the steel, it is almost impossible to not sing along with Billy-“…Now everybody… have you heard?…If you’re in the game… then the stroke’s the word…” The guitar hook is so recognizable, world-wide I would think at this point and the drumming will have your head snapping north to south in no time. There is no other way to listen to this but LOUD!! Turn it up. I absolutely love the “bull-horn” orders coming from the pit and my most favorite part of the tune is when Billy says at the 2:47 mark— “Keep your eye on top.” As we all march in order as the track ends, we are all now completely under Billy’s spell.

He then hits us with another outstanding song which really deserves more playing time on the current classic rock radio format- “My Kinda Lover”- whereby the structure of the song appears to be “simple” but sometimes keeping it this way turns out to be the best recipe because it is addictive that one can not get the chorus out of its head. The ending result is similar to asking the guy from the “Freezer Fresh” ice cream truck (who always came at dinner time and upset Mom) to add the sprinkles to your soft ice-cream cone, why not? You might as well enjoy it to the fullest as this song has all the ingredients to be one of the best pop-rock songs ever.

The tempo picks up with “You Know What I Like” and could be added to your next workout setlist as the drums start off like someone is running ahead waiting for the guitar and keyboards to catch up. Once they catch up the fusion is perfection- think of those perfect snowballs you used to make when the packing snow falls and achieving a perfect circle is almost guaranteed as you line them up like what a dozen and a half of eggs looks like. The screeching guitar solo lingers on and then at the 1:39 mark, my favorite part of the tune is when all the musicians come to a halt as the drummer makes everyone stand at attention and then he takes off again. Side one ends with what has to be in Billy’s top ten songs of all-time- the funky rocker called- “Too Daze Gone”- I can remember lying on the hardwood floor in my bedroom while my mother keeps asking me to turn up the volume. “Taking in another show… how we live I’ll never know…”- remember my alter ego? I always wanted to live vicariously through this track. The life of a rock star with a song like this is like being in centerfield on a perfect sunny day shagging fly balls all morning long. “Gone through the games you want me play… gone past the rules that you put in my way..” When the piano jams with the drums at the 2:39 mark I am in my glory because this takes me to another stratosphere. I would say this is a perfect rock song.

Flipping over to side two and when you hear the opening guitar lick you are thinking how talented is this guy to craft songs like these? “Lonely is the Night” is one of the greatest rock songs in the history of music and if I am not mistaken it is a premier song on the now faded “Rock Band” video game. How does one not want to be the drummer in this song, he crushes the cymbals with force that it snaps you into the direction he is taking you. The guitar riff is enriching because it fills your heart with the necessary blood flow to send back down to your feet and if the pulsating bass friction doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know what else to say- you may need cardioversion? I can remember when albums turned to cassettes then to CD’s and now I don’t even know what to call what we use to listen to music- I refuse to put music on my phone- anyway I was searching for a greatest hits CD by Billy and I believe it did not have this tune? After fainting, I came to and refused to order it because it did not have this song on it? Could be the biggest over-sight in music history. The tempo picks up at the end and again your head snaps to the crashing cymbals—pure perfection folks, it does not get much better than this.

“Whadda You Want from Me” keeps the juices flowing and if you are thinking of running on your treadmill or around your town, there is no better way than to put this in your ears and turn up the volume to the highest level that you can take while letting the guitars take you to that level you never thought you could achieve. The sweat is pouring down from my hair as I air-drum at the 2:51 mark knowing that the snap of the drums will soon put me back to the speed I was just at- is there a better “head-banging” song?

“Nobody Knows” is one of the greatest tribute songs ever written to and for John Lennon. I can remember just being absolutely floored as the acoustic guitar start of the song froze me in time. The end of 1980 when Lennon was taken from us it was one of the saddest moments that lingered into 1981 and when I heard this song I immediately started to cry. I remember being at Brooklyn Tech during this time and I shared this song with everybody I knew and most never heard of Mr. Squier, but I bet they all know this song. If I am stranded on a desert island, I am taking this song with me and as mentioned at the top of the review, this lands in the top ten songs of all-time for me- I love this song so much it is hard to put into words.  Okay I will say this is, if  there was ever a song that changed my life, this could be it and, in my opinion, just like “American Pie”- no one other than Billy should be allowed to sing this. I apologize in advance to the endless possibilities to the great singers out there today but please do not ever cover this song. (I am still wounded by the Madonna cover of “American Pie”).

The album ends with arguably the two best songs on the album- can you imagine that after the stellar tracks on this masterpiece? “I Need You” is a perfect tune that engages you with the acoustic feel with Billy’s soft vocals with a crescendo build to the thumping bass lines as the chorus drags you in like no other song on the album. And at the 2:19 mark when Billy exclaims “well I forget all my sorrow… I forget all my pain… I relinquish my doubts at the sound of your name” I feel like I am at the top of a mountain with my arms raised to the sky with no fear of falling off. It does not get better than this, folks. The title track closes out this tremendous sophomoric effort (I know what is it with me and “second” albums?) with a funky kind of groove with a strong mix of heavy guitar and drums that gives it the crunch for those who love celery, it snaps off when you chew it and you keep going back for more. And just when you think the song is ending with a bongo sound as the volume lowers then “crash crash” at the 2:17 mark that gives it another minute or so of pure bliss.

I want to thank Mr. Billy Squier for creating this work of genius, in my opinion, and as mentioned this album will take me back to the carefree days of being a middle-aged teenager when doing homework while having a paper route was the work that I was responsible for while the free time I had was spent playing ball as well as conversing with all my great friends about the music that we needed to hear, just like the oxygen that surrounded us to keep us breathing. Now almost 40 years later when I need a break from everyday life I turn to this album and I am free again. If you are looking for an album to jam to as loud as you can bear to listen to music, this is one for the ages. I did see Billy open for Queen in 1982 and his set was phenomenal as well as the entire night. It is a shame that MTV, which sky-rocketed him to fame, was also the dart that popped the balloon. I scour the earth seeking a Billy Squier sighting and a few years ago he came around to the Ridgefield playhouse but he did not have a band with him and I apologize to him but I want to remember him the way this album allows me too. Billy, if you ever crank it up again, I will be the first one to buy a ticket. I bow to you for making this album, it changed my life for the better.

July 22, 2020

Album Review-“Gaslighter”- by The Chicks

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Make it personal. I believe that is what most senior artists would offer as advice to those who are just starting out in their journey to achieve their own definition of success while attracting an audience that resonates with the message. In the past 20 years, what band has persevered through more personal matters than The Chicks? This powerful (in so many ways) trio has endured so much pain but it has not deterred them from being role models for their children, family, friends and the fans who treasure their honesty along with determination to be the best they can be. And, oh by the way their music is also beautiful.

Gaslighter is an album that will need a few turns to let it soak in to recognize that it is a solid effort and if you have experienced some of these very personal encounters in your life, this album will sink deeper into the soul while taking you to places that are undesirable to confront. If you have not heard by now, Natalie Maines, lead singer, endured a public divorce from another artist, an actor, and many of the entries, if not all, detail the pain, anger, frustration and sadness from their nuptial. It also depicts the strength from all the women in this band who like all the Moms I know, kept the family together in spite of mental and sometimes physical betrayal from whom the very person they thought would lead them into the promised land. I read somewhere that Natalie was thinking of a “covers” album release as “writers block” set in and I wish I could erase all the pain but this recording will be recognized in the future as some of their best work ever when all is said and done. The multitude of points included in this story is a teaching moment to those who are just starting out in their journey and may save many from the same pain that this trio has already encountered.

The title song is a perfect example of what this trio is all about- fierce, tough with a flow that grooves where you will be dancing all around the room, exemplified by each members stellar talents as musicians as well as beautiful vocal singers. The song is a head and finger snapping tune whereby if one is not paying attention to the lyrics you will think this is a happy tune based on the pace while their harmonization is so pleasing to the ears. (By the way, Chad Smith is on the drums- is he on everyone’s album?). “Sleep at Night”- when I saw the title to the song it immediately took me to one of John Lennon’s solo songs that was clearly about his dear friend, Paul. The message is the same here—how does someone who you entrusted, loved and adored, turn their back on their best friend?  “But then I think about our two boys trying to become men…there’s nothing funny about that.”- wow these lyrics rip me apart because anyone who is a parent realizes the absolute truth in those lines.

The dancing and head snapping vibe continues with “Texas Man” which I can see being a love fest with fans dancing in the aisle- obviously social distancing- but this song might be too hard to adhere to that cause I think most would want to dance it up like we all did before the pandemic. The tone changes dramatically on the fourth track of the album with the compelling “Everybody Loves You” which basically stopped me from doing everything and listen intently to Natalie’s painful yearning to understand why no one noticed what she did. The words may have been written by others but she experienced it and I know I encountered, in a different way, a situation that I knew could never  vocalize what I witnessed because the majority would question my judgement and sanity.

“For Her” will grow on you the more you listen to it as Natalie’s vocals will take you to the clouds and slowly the build up will encompass your whole being while you belt out along with them- “Stand up, show love for her, for her.” The beauty of the song will sink in a variety of ways while you do not want it to end. “March, March” could be the best track on the album—in my opinion, it is a very simple setting with just some banging beats alongside Natalie’s lead vocals and when the Erwin sisters come in with their stunning background vocals which sinks into your ears as you sit there and say—did they just curse? The slow vibe is interrupted by what sounds like when you are playing checkers and you just keep jumping your opponent and instead of saying “King Me”- you know the response is “Queen Me.”

“My Best Friend’s Wedding” starts off with a similar vibe to the “Bronx Tale” where the ending credits had all those voices sitting under the lamppost in the summer making great harmonies and depicts the story of how Natalie met her spouse at Emily’s Erwin’s first wedding- c’mon we all know a friend or a family member that met their future spouse for the first time at a family or friend’s wedding? Hopefully, Natalie will experience in the future the words she sings about Emily’s second wedding where she says- “I’m back here at my best friend’s wedding… Yeah, she married again… I’ve never seen her look more happy… guess from ashes, we can really grow.” “Tights on My Boat”- Ouch. Talk about letting it all out? It is kind of weird because you will find yourself singing along to these very tough lyrics, almost like “Goodbye Earl” which ironically Natalie’s ex appears in the video. Not sure if I could ever write or sing a song like this but the picture painted plants one in the shoes of Natalie and it is understandable why it was written.

“Julianna Calm Down” is one of those teaching lessons for the younger generation because all three “sisters” have been through it and know what the result will be so do not even go down that road. For us older folks believe me, we (and our parents & grandparents) have “seen a lot” if not- “seen it all” and it would behoove you to pay attention. There is a “bomb” that is clear as day that you may want to cover the youngsters’ ears as they dance around the room, but it fits perfectly into the vibe of the tune. It had to be recorded this way and I love how all the names of the trio’s daughters are highlighted, knowing this message is for all women. “…Breathe, it’ll be okay…”

“Young Man” is my most favorite track on the album. It is a beautiful and poignant advisory to her boys as she details how hard she tried to make it work while informing them to take the best part of their Dad and leave the bad news behind. I know there are a ton of men and women who have experienced this pain and sometimes divorce doesn’t just apply to marriage, it can also be about a family or friendship parting whereby you try to explain to the younger generation to make it their own with understanding, realization and compassion for the journey, unfortunately ending in the unintended manner. The mellow tone continues with “Hope It’s Something Good” which will tug at your heart as the self-doubt kicks in as you wonder why you did not see the signs. Why would you? This was not in the plans you had when you first met when everything was wonderful. Again, there is a “simple-ness” to the arrangement of the song that will grab your attention while bringing a tear to the eye.

The album ends with “Set Me Free” which is a cry for freedom and although this seemingly applies to her asking him to finally release her, one could possibly interpret this to a major social movement that is and has been gripping this nation for far too long. “Will you do this one last thing… set me free…”

“Gaslighter” will eventually go down as one of their best albums and I feel weird for liking/loving it because of all the pain these women have endured over the past 20 years but like I mentioned at the top of this review—it is the personal touch that will draw you in. Despite the 14-year gap for their last two albums, the ending result for both is a stunning emotional ride that leaves you gasping for more. I bow to The Chicks as they will go down in history as one of the most powerful bands this world has ever seen. I know I cannot wait for this pandemic to end and pray that I will again get to attend one of their concerts at Madison Square Garden. Thank you, Ladies!!

July 19, 2020

Albums that Changed My Life- “Rock and Roll Over” by KISS

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You remember your first love because… how do you finish that sentence? We all know this famous quote and most would associate it to a person, who may have been the first date or maybe someone, who may have not been the first person you “went out with” (this had a different meaning when I was a kid back in the 1970’s) but that special human being who enriched your heart with fullness then took it away somehow through either a “breakup” or maybe a change in circumstances. As life continues to come at us through the years, one can always pause and think back to that first love with fondness, no?

I would have to say the band KISS was my first love of any band or artist that truly impacted my life with joy, pleasure and music to my ears. I can remember being in the sixth grade at P.S. 169 in Sunset Park Brooklyn and being totally infatuated with this band. Folks, back in the mid 1970’s there was a certain mystique to this band—the face paint hid their identities for what seemed like an endless period of time, the Daily News and N.Y. Post probably had photographers on its payroll for 24 hours a day for many years- just looking for a picture of Paul, Gene, Ace & Peter while attending a friendly barbecue or out on the town when their face paint was non-existent. I bet you that both newspapers gave up after spending so much money because there was always-“sightings”- and front page photos with a man’s face with half of it covered by a mask (ironic isn’t it?) while the long hair shielded the general public from real identification but there seemed to never be any actual credentials to connect any humans to being a member of KISS.

I would spend my summers as a kid staying at my grandparents’ home in Otisville N.Y. and I can recall in 1976 being introduced to this band, most likely along with many other people, through “KISS Alive.” Did I own Kiss Alive? “Is the Pope, Catholic?” Everyone that I knew who loved KISS thought that Peter Criss’s drum solo in “100,000 Years” was the greatest thing we had ever heard. I returned that fall back to P.S. 169 with an obsession that rivaled insanity. My schoolwork back in the sixth grade was secured by a “loose-leaf binder” so what better way to store photos or articles for my preoccupation? My room was a shrine to this band, I had the “infamous” 1976 poster of the band with the white headband around Peter’s head with the American flag to commemorate our nation’s 200th birthday along with so many others. I swore I could have been the best manager for them even though I was not of legal working age because there was no one on the planet that loved KISS more than I did. During my year with Mr. Whitman I found another member of the KISS army and his name was Rodney, I believe we spent most of that school year trading newspaper clippings, buying every “Creem” magazine, scouring the earth looking for everything KISS. Endless hours of listening to “Alive” which of course we would learn was a culmination of the first three studio albums and while I recognize that “Destroyer” is most likely the critic and fan alike choice for their best work ever- I won’t argue that point, it was the 5th studio album that jolted me into submission where I knew that I would worship this band for the rest of my life—I was eleven.

When “Rock and Roll Over” was released I was star struck by the cover and at that time I also loved to draw- I could look at something and replicate it (my youngest son has taken this talent to another level way beyond his Dad). I know I spent way too many hours trying to reproduce what I consider to be the best album cover ever- there I said it. Go ahead laugh, chuckle or demean it, being in the KISS Army gave us all strength to withstand the endless criticism this band has taken on throughout its nearly 50-year career. So, if the cover is the best, I knew the music was going to make the hair on my arms standup just like when someone rubs a balloon on their hair—get it?

Side one begins with “I Want You” which I believe lands in the top ten songs that Kiss has ever recorded, it starts off angelic with Paul singing- “In the morning I raise my head and I’m thinking of days gone by… and the thing I want out of life, is….” And then Bam!! At the 15 second mark, the album’s builds into the electrifying riffs by Paul and Ace while Gene’s bass with Peter’s bashing drums give it the energy which I believe epitomizes the growth this band had achieved because even in 2020, I can listen to this song with the same fervor of any head-banging act. “Take Me” is a track that I love, the guitars and drumming that kicks off at a high pace keeps the head-banging going at a feverish pace. Ace’s guitar solo is fun and when I was eleven, this was my music- I could call this my own and would sing along to Ace’s solo. Now as I have mentioned, especially to the female audience out there, the lyrics are somewhat “immature” and I will not make any excuses to listening to them, as I mentioned many times, it was “mainly” about the music, especially before becoming a teenager. (This applies to the rest of the album so I will refrain mentioning the lyrics because it would clutter the rest of the write-up- sort of like “ignore that man behind the curtain”).

“Calling Dr. Love”—This has one of the best introductions to a song ever, everyone who is a Kiss fan knows what I am talking about. Think about what this band had to endure, they didn’t receive that much radio airplay back when they first started out and even today there are a handful of their songs that are played on the “classic rock format.” So you can imagine my reaction when I heard this on WABC radio in the summer of 1977 in Otisville- it was an AM radio station in N.Y. that had classic DJ’s such as Ron Lundy and Harry Harrison and I think it was Lundy who played it. You would have thought I hit the lottery, I sat there stunned that I actually heard a KISS song on the radio? —what would be next? Seeing them without their makeup? For the rest of that summer, I carried a radio or sat in front of it eagerly awaiting a replay and believe me folks this was not a band that received a fair shake and it may have been only four or five plays after I originally heard it- but I heard it!! My other memory which I will take to my grave was flying out to Chicago IL to take my younger co-workers to see them on the “End of the Road Tour” on Mar. 2, 2019 in the house that Jordan made famous, the United Center. They had just added “Dr. Love” to the setlist and Chicago was one of the first places to have this played on the last tour. I was in my glory as I air-guitared with Tommy and belted out every word that Gene was singing—the entire band was on all cylinders as this song (and the night) is something I will never forget. (Yes, of course I went to see them in N.Y.- both at Madison Square Garden and the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn—did you just hear that? I saw them in Brooklyn?!! My life is complete— almost 44 years after the album was released).

“Ladies Room”- say what you want about Gene, but he earned his chops with both his bass playing and his vocals. I recently saw an interview with Dave Ellefson, bass guitarist for Megadeth, and his praise for Mr. Simmons on the bass was very surprising while at the same time being impressive for which I can tell the naysayers- “see I told you!” I love the studio version as well as the “Alive II” version. Side one ends with “Baby Driver” where Peter takes control of the vocals and his drumming is infectious. His voice was a surprising good fit which set it apart from both Paul & Gene—as usual the chorus is addicting- “Go baby driver… you’ve been driving too long…” Now I know things are not the same for the original members but just like your first love, things change but you know there were good times and to the ear, this appears that it was at the height of their happiness.

Flipping over to side two, one of my favorite Kiss songs of all-time- “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em”- either Ace or Paul kick it off with the cool guitar riff and the head-banging starts up with Peter’s constant pounding of the skins, then Gene vocal prowess takes the song to another level. “My limousine is a waiting… and I see you coming my way- hey- hey- HEY…” The chorus is addictive and then when Ace breaks into his solo at the 2:33 mark I am running all around the house air-guitaring wishing I could have been in the studio when they recorded this. “Mr. Speed”- another KISS classic is such a hip tune where Paul does his “Ah Ah” which is amazingly simple, but the song would not be the same without it. This was a well-oiled machine by the time this album came out and this is obviously a highlight. Recently, Charlie Benante (Anthrax) and John 5 (you should know who he is) teamed up during this pandemic and did an awesome rendition, each from their home along with PJ Farley & Joe McGuiness—so much fun to watch and listen to! “See You in Your Dreams”- is another killer tune where Gene takes the lead vocals and his interaction with Paul as they harmonize the chorus is up there as one of the best harmonizing duos in rock history. They feed off each other and the energy is at a high level as Ace & Peter add the needed ingredients to make this a solid hard-rock song.

“Hard Luck Woman”—many of the Kiss Army now know that Paul wanted Rod Stewart to sing this song, but in the end, Peter does a fantastic job with it. I have friends who do not know Kiss music that well but this song (as well as “Beth”) is instantaneously recognized and it is hard to not sing along to it. I was and still am amazed how this track did not pick up the deserved traction on the classic rock format on radio, it has all the ingredients of the perfect “pop-rock” song but the brethren still appreciates this Kiss classic.

The album ends perfectly with the stunning “Makin’ Love” which in my opinion is one of the best tracks Paul has ever written and crafted. This is 3:08 of pure bliss with awesome contributions from every member musically—it sounds like there are more drummers than just Peter and Ace’s solo takes you to outer space while Paul keeps the rhythm going with his vocals and guitar licks. Gene’s pulsating bass is like that friend you know where the veins in the arms or legs looks like it is going to burst out of its skin. During the pandemic, Paul has been playing in front of his camera and he pulled this song out of his massive repertoire and ripped it to shreds—his guitar playing has improved immensely over the decades.

Over the decades, my music tastes went into so many different directions, but I always kept an eye out for my first love and have seen them “Unmasked” as well as performing in their alter-ego’s. Yes, I was there in 1996 with the reunion tour (but also felt bad for Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer whom I thought made an incredible album in 1992 with “Revenge”) because of my best man John, his wife was able to score us a corporate box at MSG (ok maybe not so rock and roll but we were there). I attended the 35th anniversary tour and most recently three times in 2019 with the “End of the Road Tour.” I have no issue with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer in the band and do not listen to the “noise-makers” because they will always complain, no matter what. The three shows I attended in 2019 were phenomenal while also being so much fun. Isn’t that what we all look for? To have a great night and have as much fun as you can… that is what I live for. I thank Peter, Ace, Paul and Gene for making “Rock and Roll Over” and changing my life forever. I also thank Tommy and Eric for making it possible to go back to my first love, how many people can say that? \m/ \m/

July 11, 2020

Albums that Changed My Life- “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns & Roses

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Buzz… Have you ever experienced it during the time you have been on this planet? It does not come along too often and if you are lucky enough to be of age where you can feel the vibe coming in from all angles, it is something that you will never forget, just like that one special birthday or Christmas gift that will immediately take you back to that exceptional moment. It is the summer of 1987 and I had just started my “work-life” at Standard & Poor’s and commuting into lower Manhattan from the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn.

By this time, in my mind, my body, heart, & “engine” was filled with premium hi-test rock and roll music to the point where I considered myself a “well-oiled machine.” As I have mentioned numerous times, my life revolved around playing softball & football and soaking in all the music I could find. At this stage of the game, one could usually find me camped out standing alongside a building in the darkness, almost every Saturday morning right around 4:30 – 5:00 a.m. on about 69th street and 4th avenue in Bay Ridge Brooklyn eagerly awaiting to purchase tickets to as many concerts that I could get my hands on. The “Ticket-Tron” building at this location was a little closer to my home and it was kind of unknown as “The Little Record” store was no longer an anonymous place to purchase tickets and most people flocked to 86th street between 4th and 5th avenue because as it was (and still remains) a major thorough-fare through the heart of Bay Ridge.

Anyway, back to the buzz. During that summer I made many “friends” as the same crowd was usually waiting on line (this has a different meaning today, right? So weird) with me and the only topic of conversation was rock music. (I was in my glory) I can remember hearing these rocker dudes and women talking about this “wild-ass” band (please forgive my language) called Guns & Roses. There was an “excitement” in their voices as they gushed about how big this band was going to be—they were going to blow everyone away- including Motley Crue, who were arguably at the height of their career in 1987.

Of course, I was skeptical but so curious and could not wait to hear this band to see what all the buzz was about. Then on July 21, 1987, the world changed forever as “Appetite for Destruction” was released and folks this arguably could be the greatest debut album in the history of music. I can remember when I dropped the needle on the record on side one and heard “Welcome to the Jungle” for the first time- my jaw dropped and I don’t know what it is like to actually receive a shot of adrenaline (see Nikki Sixx for that) but I could feel my entire body being over-taken by this incredible rawness, this hunger, this unbelievable fierceness of a sound, that I thought I was undergoing an out-of-body experience and I was immediately star-struck. You know I had to have this song at my wedding, right? I can recall the fear in the eyes and ears of all the older aunts, uncles, and guests (My mom was cool she already knew these songs from my bedroom, so she knew what was coming) as they all went back to their seats to eat and stare at the Arne and Salatino clan head-bang with the Fagan’s as the euphoria of that day was taken to another level. My bride was air-guitaring in her beautiful dress, a sight to see and something I will treasure until I leave this earth.

The volume must be increased, right? So, the second track begins, and my enthusiasm is already at a level that is hard to describe. I am head-banging and jumping up & down in my small rectangular room feeling like I can reach the ceiling and then Axl as clear as a button says- “Why don’t you just… blank off…” Oh my, I immediately dive for the stereo and have to turn it off because I know my mother heard that bomb and my brother was about almost nine years old so there was no way I could play this album from this point onward without putting on head-phones. Talk about adding “A-1” steak sauce, the flavor just became that much sweeter.

Folks, at this time in the rock world there was nothing like this—you know how people talk about Nirvana when they entered the fray in the early 1990’s and there was nothing like them—G&R was Nirvana before Nirvana. I mean that in the most respectful way. Yes there was Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Heart, and whomever you want to talk about… BUT there was nothing like G&R—this was like walking into a dead-end alleyway with garbage can tops on the sidewalk as all the stray cats are running for cover and your senses are at a heightened state because you don’t know what’s going to happen.. then the liquor bottle bursts on the ground as the local resident of this dead end is protecting his own. And instead of running away, you stay there to see what is going to happen next. This band was the epitome of what a sleazy rock band sounded and acted like, they smacked you in the face with their sound, stuck their middle-finger up at you and we all kept coming back because we wanted more- I know I did.

This album was really the first one that I had to shield from my family because this is not an album one plays at a dinner-party. Maybe since I was always Mr. Dudley “Do-Right” all the time, the connection I felt was fierce because I felt like I could have that alter-ego that no one would ever expect from me. The connection to the bloodstream that “Appetite” had on me is still the greatest injection that ever filled my rock and roll heart. Now I know for some of my friends, they know that I had a “love-hate” relationship with Mr. Rose and mainly “not love” for the past two or so decades because of all the antics that in my opinion, ruined their chance to rule the world and I would have been there with them along for the ride, just like that first person on the lower level of the Staten Island Ferry navigating like he or she is driving the boat through whatever weather is being thrown at the ship and then dock, start to head back to NY, and continue to the ends of the earth—that is how much I loved this band!! Yes, I have forgiven Axl and I am now on steady ground, obviously not like in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s but I can always listen to this phenomenal album and it brings me back to such a great time in my life—have I mentioned the word-Buzz?

Track 3- “Night train”- OMG?!! How freaking good is this tune—Axl and Slash are the new Robert & Jimmy for this generation and their talents, along with every other member of the team that threw the coal into the fire that made this train roar down the tracks at such a dangerous level but here I was with my arms out flying like I was a bird on top of this speeding train and I didn’t even care that the tunnel was coming because I knew I would just fall flat on my back and get back up as soon as we saw sunlight again. “Out Ta Get Me”—each song just keeps getting progressively better and there no need to add ice—just drink it up nice and neat! Mr. Rose’s growls and tough guy image shines brightly in this tune and Slash’s guitar work is the muscle that Axl brings to the fight. If this does not get the juices flowing, I give up.

“Mr. Brownstone”- what has not been said about this song? The accolades can go on for the next few decades- Steven Adler’s infectious drumming will have you dancing around the room like you are at Woodstock as a hippie. “I don’t worry ‘bout nothing cause…worrying is a waste of my time”- who would have thought that G&R would have lyrics to live by- wish I could. Ironically, this song could be a lyrical depiction of their career and fortunately now they (and we) are back to some normalcy these days. If one looks back to the late 1990’s who would ever think we would be talking about a 2021 tour with G&R?

Side One ends with the landmark, stadium-anthem, majestic – “Paradise City”- is there a better beginning, middle and ending? Everyone I know air-drums along with Mr. Adler and once that whistle blows it is off to the races. This song will forever take me back to my time spent at MBIA Insurance Co in Armonk NY around 2003-2005 when Chris would lead us during his awesome spin classes. I can picture Taxter and all my other bike buddies sweating while pushing because this song if you are not aware (please do not tell me If you have never heard this song) is long. As Chris would jump off his bike and turn up the resistance on everyone’s bike, he would especially ride me because he knew I loved this type of music and when the tempo picks up at the 4:47 mark it was an all-out frenzy to the finish line as my legs would churn so fast as the adrenaline from this song was so infectious. He was in incredible shape, but I think he would smile and laugh at my intensity because Slash’s guitar playing kept me pushing to the top of the mountain. I can still taste the sweat falling into my mouth as I would scream over to everyone else- “I wanna go… Oh won’t you please take me home.” Is there a better head-banging song in the history of music? I think not.

Flipping to side two, that “gutter” feeling continues as the filthy “Michele” has this energetic bolt that flattens you just like a Mike Tyson roundhouse in his prime (maybe even now- have you seen his latest work-outs?) This is a stunning debut album that electrifies the soul with this pure perfected lewdness that is so hard to ignore. “Think About You” kicks it up to another level- I usually think of Emilio Estevez dancing around like a maniac in the classic scene from “The Breakfast Club” as this is what I usually do- fly around the house like I am on a broom sliding on the wood floors air-guitaring but then again getting dangerously close to the speakers, hoping it will suck me in. My neighbor always says – “I know when your wife is not home.”

“Sweet Child of Mine”- what else can be said of this song? This song crept up on the classic rock radio format during the spring/summer of 1988 and I can clearly remember being in centerfield playing on concrete at East 5th street in Brooklyn singing this song for both games of a double header and one of my teammates saying—“what the hell song are you singing?”- My response was—“the whole world will be singing this song”- was I wrong?

“You’re Crazy” is an all-out frenzy type of song that is the perfect way to exercise- whether spinning, walking, or running. Again, the pure rawness is what sets this entire album apart from anything ever made and this could be the poster child for what I would refer to as “controlled chaos” as the band is clicking on all cylinders. (For the acoustic version of this song- see “Lies”). The feverish pitch continues as what better title for a G&R song- “Anything Goes”- because that is the way they wanted it. This song represents the boyfriend that you never wanted your daughter to date because he isn’t coming to the door, he will wait in his Mustang with music blaring, smoking a cigarette as she knows that if she doesn’t make a break from her parents, he will just drive off.

Side two ends just like side one, with an epic of a song-“Rocket Queen”- in my opinion, the cockiness is still there along with the rawness but what sets it apart from the rest of the album is the “progressiveness”- dare I say – “The band Yes on metal?” The timing changes are spectacular with a flow like a river after a massive rainstorm—it was rolling fast and furious, but it is staying within the gap and not spilling out into a flood. Do you get what I am saying? The majestic ending to this tune is jaw-dropping and Axl’s vocal prowess is stunning. Enough said.

“Appetite for Destruction” changed my life forever and in the cycle of my life, like I mentioned I am back to a place where I can listen without bitterness and the joy that it brought me back in the late 1980’s is something I will never forget. G&R lived up to the “Buzz” or the “Hype” or whatever you want to call it. I have said it numerous times, I have never witnessed the buzz that G&R created in my entire life—nothing even comes close. Do not get me wrong, I love so many other bands and artists but to be there from the very beginning and experiencing the ride was incredible. Just picture yourself with your friends at Brighton Beach or Coney Island (or whatever beach you love) and seeing that wave building up and everyone tries to get into position to body surf this wave right up to the sand where people will have to jump out of your way because it is the best wave you ever caught. To every member of this band that created this album and the buzz, I thank you from the bottom of my heart- I bow to you. My life would never be the same without it—my alter-ego came to life because of this album. Yes, I am still Mr. “Do-Gooder” but I will always have this “Appetite for Destruction.”

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