Sunday, March 9, 2014
Gather ‘round, boys and girls. I want to tell you of a different time. It was a time when the music business was still somewhat taken with the idea that artists could be encouraged and developed. The idea that if a record label took its time with an artist, they might grow in stature until they were a mega artist, and all that investment that a label had put into them would come back many times over. It was a time when record labels were run by people who cared about music, and not just how much money could be made from music. I know, some of you just won’t be able to wrap your heads around those ideas. It is true, though, and this particular album is the proof of that.
This album, in my opinion is one of the all time greats. It is a reference in time to a band that was firing on all cylinders, a band that was at the pinnacle of their powers. If you know the story of Free, it was a point in time before the band came crashing down around them due to the demons that would not let go of Paul Kossoff. These guys were kids when they wrote and recorded this. Andy Fraser was 18 years old for God’s sake!! Thankfully this monument exists. This is an album I have literally grown up with; I don’t really remember a time in my life when this music did not exist. I can remember, as a very wee lad, being pulled in by this album. There is something very primal and instinctive about these songs. I have no idea how many times I have listened to this album but it has to be close to 100. When you are 6 years old, you don’t know anything about the blues, about how life can be a drag. But when I heard “Don’t Say You Love Me,” I just KNEW what Paul Rodgers was singing about, I knew how bad he hurt. Of course, now that I’m older I’ve experienced those things, but that song has always made me feel the same way. When you can make a 6 year old feel the blues, you’ve done some shit right there.
This was their 3rd album, and right from the start they knew exactly what they were doing. Free had only been together about 18 months at this point, but they had albums and touring under their belt and they were on fire. The title track leaps off the album, a bluesy stomp about a woman who runs hot and cold, about being tired of that treatment, and wanting to do the same in return. I’ve gone back and forth about whether they were a heavy band, because that is the knock against them that some people use, but I’ve heard BBC session and live recordings of this song that are as heavy as anything you want to put against them from this time period.
“Oh I Wept” is up next on the album, a gentle song, a counterpoint to the first. There is every bit as much tension and release in this one, but they show remarkable restraint. There are a couple of moments when this song seems ready to take off, but they pull it back like pros. Just a very beautiful song about having your heart broken. “Remember” comes next, and this is just a light rocker about reminiscing, good times with old friends. But it does rock, it is so well written and the solo break that Paul Kossoff takes just could not have been any better. It works so well.
“Heavy Load” is track 4, and also the title of the definitive biography of this band. It’s hard to find but well worth tracking down if you want to know their story. The imagery conjured up by the lyrics is incredible:
Just a young man
By an old road
By the route he choose
An ancient song
In an old tongue
For this man was sung
Gives me chills every time, and the music that goes along with it is just perfect. Did I mention that these guys were in the teens and early 20’s, and they wrote stuff like this? When I was that age I was lucky if I walked out of the house with my clothes matching. A band with this chemistry that just meshes 4 parts so amazingly well together does not come along often.
Tom Petty wrote a song called “Listen To Her Heart” that deals with the same thematic situation as the next song on this album, “Mr. Big”. You got a girl, she loves you and you love her, and some hotshot with more money than sense comes along and thinks he can take her away based on the material things. Tom took a light hearted approach, just saying that, “Sorry dude, but that ain’t gonna work”. Free felt a little different about that whole scenario. Leave us alone or I will have no problem digging a hole in the ground just for you. And the breakdown in this one? If you have somehow never heard this song, go listen to it right now. I’ll wait. Andy Fraser was never the most technically proficient bass player, he wasn’t playing 90 miles an hour, but his solo in this song is absolutely off the hook in how well it goes with the song. I keep going back to that statement, and as I said above this is a band at their absolute peak. They had played together so much they just clicked.
I mentioned “Don’t Say You Love Me” above, a beautiful blues ballad about being lied to that just builds and builds. Then the album wraps up with “All Right Now”, and if you’ve been alive any time since 1970 and somehow not heard this song, my mind would be blown. It is a great, rocking, pop song and every bit as good as everything else on this album, but sadly this is all that the vast majority of people know about Free. They were so much more than writers of great pop songs.
If you haven’t caught on by now, I absolutely love this album and this band. I know every fan of music has a band that they feel is tragically underrated, and this is mine. That might seem an odd statement given that they did have some incredible success around this album, but they could have been one of the all time greats. Paul Kossoff, had he lived, would be considered one of the all time greats on guitar. I know far too much about addiction, I know how it can grab hold and claim your life, no matter your station in life. He joins a sad list that is far too long of musicians who lost the battle with their drug of choice. It demonstrates as well what a rare combination of talents and abilities this band was at their peak. They tried to move on without Kossoff, but the magic was not there. We have this album as a document to what they could do, we have the other recordings, an amazing box set called “Songs Of Yesterday” that is hard to find but worth whatever you have to pay for it. If all you know of Free is “All Right Now”, grab this album and give them a shot. If we ever meet, I know you will thank me.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
It was 1981. I got off the last train from Paris with my backpack and now sweltered in the stifling heat and humidity of summertime Madrid. Thermal waves rose above superheated sidewalks and melted soft asphalt. I immediately headed for the Muncipal pool.
The pool was full of kids. Every blade of grass, table, chair and square inch of pool deck was covered by humanity in various stages of undress. The noise was deafening. Excited children chattered away in water play. Men loudly joked, smoked, drank, ate and played Parchis. Radios blared Spanish rock. I decided to have a cigarette and re-think whether I should pay the few pesetas it would cost to enter.
I sat on a wall under a massive oak tree across the small plaza from the Municipal pool ticket booth. I pulled out a Marlboro but could not locate a match. My Spanish sucked and, for the life of me, I could not remember the Spanish word for match. As families walked by toward the pool I asked them for a light. They looked at me as if I was insane, grabbed their children's hands and hurried on their way.
My attention was drawn to two figures with guitars in the shade of a nearby exterior alcove on the camino leading to the plaza. Neither were playing their instruments. One of them was smoking and both of them were watching me. They were beyond amused; they laughed hysterically, pointed at me and slapped their legs. I walked over to them and asked "¿Tienes la luz?" Tears of laughter streamed down their cheeks. The smoker stopped laughing long enough to peg me. "You're an American?" he said with a Boston accent, and I nodded as he handed me a pack of matches. He said, "Keep them, but please stop asking everyone for a light bulb", and again broke into laughter.
As we settled into conversation I was able to determine that Patrick, the smoker, was from Waltham, Mass. and was visiting his Spanish cousin, Francisco, for the summer. I asked about the guitars and was told they were both trying to learn to play flamenco music. Behind Francisco was an extremely beat up portable record player. It was a large box, speaker built into the side, with four industrial latches so the tan top, cut at an angle, attached to the brown bottom that housed the speaker and turntable. Next to it sat an album cover and on the platter sat the album. I asked what it was they were listening to? Patrick relied, "The new Paco de Lucia album 'Castro Marin.'" I had never heard of him or of the album. I asked whether it was flamenco music. The cousins looked at each other, then at me, and responded in unison, "sort of." I asked to hear it and they started the turntable. I was quickly transported to a place I had never been, and heard mastery of a guitar style I had never heard.
Castro Marin is a monster studio album. The entire effort was recorded by three guitarists and a bassist, a formula de Lucia would use for many of his most successful recordings. It also marks his first studio release accompanied by John McLaughlin, who joined de Lucia and Al Di Meola to produce some of the most inspired progressive guitar jazz of the 20th Century. On Castro Marin you will not find Al Di Meola. However, you will hear a fourth guitar master, Larry Coryell. The bassist is also a master. It is Carles Benavent who, in addition to playing with de Lucia, accompanied Chick Correa and Miles Davis.
The album is a little over thirty-seven minutes long and is comprised of only seven tracks -
Monasterio de Sal" (Colombiana) – 4:43
"Gitanos Andaluces" (Bulerías) – 4:55
"Castro Marín" (Fandangos) – 4:11
"Herencia" (Soleá) – 5:35
"Convite" (Rumba) – 5:08
"Palenque" – 7:22
"Huida" – 3:58
What you hear is, and what I heard was, perfection. It is a fusion of jazz and flamenco that, at the time, paved the way for future greatness, deserved adulation and musical imitation. It helped to change the guitar jazz world. The album and CD are out of print so, if you find a copy, it should be treasured as a lost classic.
As I sat with Patrick and Francisco in the shade of a Madrid alcove and contemplated the treble heavy rendering of the album through the well-worn portable phonograph, the oppressive heat faded into the background. I had arrived in Spain and Spain had arrived in me.
On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, I awoke to learn that, at 66 years old, Paco de Lucia had died of a heart attack while on vacation in Mexico with his children. The world will miss the flamenco guitar master, but, with albums and a legacy such as his, he will not soon be forgotten.
- Old School
Friday, March 7, 2014
Ripple Doubleshot! - Featuring Strings of Atlas Cage and Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of Knight
I've written about Atlas Cage before and his first long-player under the "band" name, Strings of Atlas Cage. Hopefully, you took the time and explored the mad jams that this cat pumps out. If not, here's another chance to get in on the ground floor of something pretty damn special. Or in this case, ground zero.
Atlas is a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist who comes on like some amped up version of Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower filtered through the insane rock/funk of Sly and the Family Stone, Mother's Finest, and even Graham Central Station. Big, beefy basslines play along with fuzzed out, Wah'd guitar, all erupting beneath the Hendrixian sing-talk vocals of Atlas's sinewy vocal chords. Ground Zero, Tx is 8 tracks of vicious funkified rock that doesn't just simmer, it cooks like a beefy pot of Texan gulf gumbo. In truth, there's only 5 songs here, the other three being interludes of DJ Atlas bringing us into GZTX radio, but those 5 songs rock more than hard enough to give you your money's worth.
"UnReality" has a guitar line that drilled it's way immediately into my brain. "Something for the Wait" with it's silky smooth bass and hushed vocal intro is about as sleek and sexy as it gets, before that wah'd out guitar builds underneath until the whole thing simply boils over in a steamy stew of rocking funk. "Bad Day, Good Life" kicks off with a guitar riff right out of a lost classic Aerosmith cut, but is damn funkier than anything the Toxic Twins ever concocted. "Pale Horse" brings in some tasty bluey guitar and the muted jazz of a trumpet to give it a sound unlike any other I've heard. Finally, "Valentines Cage-I'll Drive Away" brings things to a close a unique vibe as Atlas explores some trip hop vibes with what appears to be his next project, Valentines Cage. A mellow bring down to end the night.
I've pretty much dug everything I've ever heard from Atlas and don't expect that to stop anytime soon. The dude is crazy enough to follow his muse wherever it may take him, and talented enough to pull it off. Check him out. Free download (or pay what you'd like) at bandcamp.
We all know Trippy Wicked. Or at least we should. They've been regaling us with tales of heavy, distorted psychedelia for years now, playing with some of the biggest names in the UK underground heavy rock scene and beyond. Underground, released in 2013 is their latest piece de resistance, fuses their trademark bottom-end thickness, trippy guitar, and monstrous riffing into another delectable slab of psych heaviness. Each song here is a coagulated treat for lovers of the riff.
What Trippy does so well, is weld that heaviness to enough glances of light in the vocals, melodies, and swirling guitar tones to avoid sounding like so many trudging doom bands. Textures layer upon layer and it all just builds to heavy perfection. "Enlightenment" captures this perfectly, going from a quiet rumble to earth-shaking seismic shifting over the course of 6 minutes. Twists and turns, peaks and valleys. It all works.
If you haven't already, pop over to Trippy Wicked's facebook or bandcamp page and treat yourself.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
'Sten', Swedish for stone, is doomsters Ocean Chief's fourth full-length album but only the second sung in their native tongue...and man, my fellow Swedes are absolutely relentless. True to the album's title, 'Sten' is hard, heavy, imposing and threatening like a gigantic inhospitable mountain. But once you set off to reach the summit this turns into a soul searching journey. Full of shamanistic traits, these disciples of Odin simply go from strength to strength.
Never prone to take conventional measures Ocean Chief stay true to themselves as 'Sten' is "only" 4 tracks short but actually clocks in at a massive 71:47 minutes! That might seem long but trust me, every second and every feature counts and fills a distinct purpose. Even more so since the album is shamanistic in nature. What I mean is the songs need to be as long as they are in order for the listeners to be able to comprehend what the band is actually saying with the music and the lyrics. In short, this is the celebration of the life of vikings and their worship of Odin as well as the Earth. It's about cultivating what the Earth gives them in order to survive but also to make weapons from it to protect their world in battle so they eventually will reach Valhalla. Keep in mind though, you need a shitload of talent to pull a recording like this off. Because if you don't and instead half-ass it, you're going to crash and burn...fast! As confident as these guys are with each other and as talented as they are, 'Sten' is colossal as it is mighty!
Slow, brutal and punishing 'Den Sanna Styrkan' is the catalyst into the journey the band is about to take us on. Catching me off guard for a moment the sheer power the music radiates is unrelenting and it kicks me in the balls with no intention of stopping. Pulling myself together and bracing myself for the onslaught is the very moment I learn to embrace the world of Ocean Chief. Drummer Tobias Larsson's voice is gravelly and commanding meaning you immediately pay attention to his words while the music is pulverizing you. How he does it while bashing the drums to pieces is beyond me. Live keyboardist Johan Pettersson has been made a fulltime member and his addition has brought new angles to the band. Whenever his work is added, usually in the more trippy parts a huge sense of erieness and impending doom comes over me. And that goes along so well with the more powerful side of the rest of the band.
'Slipsten' continues where 'Den Sanna Styrkan' left off but Ocean Chief slows it down slightly opting for the guitar and keyboards to float on top of the bass guitar and drums conjuring dreamlike visions. A war song if there ever was one lyrically guitarist Björn Andersson plays a mind-bending solo towards the end that, when I close my eyes, I quickly drift off even further seeing things I never imagined before.
Didn't think it was possible but on 'Stenhög' the band are even slower. The focus is on power and it is brutal! A homage to Earth and the mountains and what is extracted therefrom...the material to make weapons. Not only that, it tells how much a viking strived to honour Odin and become like him but also how they tried to make the right choices.
'Oden', Odin - the Allfather of the gods, is even slower than the other three songs on 'Sten'. As Jocke Pettersson's bass guitar and Tobias' drums sets the pace the guitar and keyboards again play on top of it creating sounds and visions of the creation of the universe. About halfway in when the vocals kick in Ocean Chief go all out and simply annihilates. The pace is fast and punishing, no mercy is shown as the band celebrate Odin. All of a sudden only the keyboards are present playing solitary, creepy segment before the band joins in again.
If you want your doom slow, heavy and dream-inducing look no further. Ocean Chief definitely set the standard and the bar extremely high with this master piece. 'Sten' is the perfect introduction to this band if you have never heard them before but I urge you to check out their previous releases. All their albums are really good and shouldn't be ignored at any cost. Because Ocean Chief are the real deal you hear!
För jävligt bra gubbar. Lyfter min bägare i Odens ära!
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
How badass is Ancient Crypts? This release came out on tape. Yes, you read that correctly. A release on cassette tape. Talk about a band where no fucks are given. When you put your music out on a format that, what, maybe 173 people worldwide have the capability to play, you are truly underground. So they score big points in their favor right off the bat.
This one is a quick hitter, only 4 tracks of devastating, crushing death metal. Actually, when I first listened to this, I thought I was in for some high quality doom. The opening song, “Deep Into The Ancient Crypts”, plods and stumbles along like a freshly made zombie just getting his feet underneath him. Then, bam, we're up to light speed and blazing along in full on death mode. When these guys drop the hammer, you better hang on, because they are not playing around.
Track number two, “Between The Mortuary Remains”, doesn't have any tricks up its sleeve. This is just a slamming death metal number. A little slower than the first one but still a nice deathly groove. The title track, “Devoured By Serpents”, plays around with tempos a little bit and there is a very cool mix of doom and death in this one. I really like how this band has a good, solid handle on both of those genres and is very comfortable sliding between them. And that is how this track feels, a little slimy, a little greasy, in the best way possible.
All to soon we find this one wrapping up with “Procession Of Nyarlathotep”, which stomps its way into your head. Is it up tempo doom or down tempo death? Well, around the 2 minute mark it doesn't matter because the band rockets off again and leaves no doubt that they have this death metal stuff down cold.
Hopefully there is more to come, and soon, from Ancient Crypts. This is really good metal and I love the way they combine doom and death to make something that is really their own. Not a lot of bands have the chops make that blend work, but these guys do it like there's nothing to it. Make sure to check this one out. And for all you kids who don't know what a cassette is, maybe you can buy a download somewhere.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I threw this in the player, and thought to myself, "oh, oh yes, this is good."
Deap Vally is a two piece group. Pretty new on the scene, these girls are making big waves. For good reason too, they write good songs and they have a pretty unique sound. It's blues/root rock with a modern twist, and one hell of a voice. Like, serious, voice is the thing here. The drums are big, the guitar is fuzzy, the vocals are wild.
I know, I know, you'll say "so, it's the girl Black Keys." Yes I can see where you may get that, but no. It's not. It is untamed rock and roll. It is Joan Jett re-imagined.
They could be are the rebirth of real girl rock. That gritty stuff that The Runaways brought to the table. These girls are the continuation of that school. It is glorious and entirely refreshing.
Here, let me help you understand: Booze, sex, drugs, hangovers, Rock & Roll. Do you really need more get it through your head?
Monday, March 3, 2014
Dave Meniketti has seen and done it all. A true guitar icon, his band Y&T, has been a nonstop juggernaut of rock and roll. For over 40 years they have criss crossed the world delivering such songs as "Forever", "Meanstreak," and the celebrated "summertime Girls". I had the chance to speak with Dave on his career, highlights and the legacy of Y&T's music
Y&T celebrates 40 years. What are your thoughts on the longevity of the band?
Pretty amazing. Who knew. We just go out there and play music. All of a sudden here we are and it's 40 years later. It's really kind of shocking to me. I don't feel like the kind of guy who has been at the same job for 40 years. I guess that is the good thing about the gig.
Who were your influences growing up?
Hendrix was certainly one of them. I actually got a chance to see him play before he died. That kind of freaks people out because they go "You saw Hendrix play". (laughs) I listen to all kinds of music. Leslie West. Duane Almond, Dickie Betts, Jeff Beck. There are so many of them. I never tried to copy them it just sort of works into you
Any band you would love to record with if you had a chance?
Not really sure. Not off the top of my head. a lot of bands I do admire. Most my voice probably wouldn't go with.
What is the craziest thing you ever experienced on the road?
Well it does happen all the time. So many. A cool thing, when we toured with AC/DC in the 70's. Bon Scott asked to drive in our little van because he wanted to party and at that time he claimed AC/DC was boring. They didn't want to party and he did. So he rode with us through Texas and when we stopped for gas he would run in and buy alcohol. That was a fun moment in our career. I wish I could have enjoyed the moment more as it happened. Especially when you think of how early he died. Those guys were still relatively unknown at the time.
How do you choose the set list?
One of my least favorite things to do. I choose the songs. We try to craft the set do it ebbs and flows right. We don't want to bore anyone. We always want to play more stuff than we can fit in it. When we go back to the same club year after year we try to change up the set list. I have every list from the last ten years on my computer. So when we are on the road we can keep it fresh.
Are you active on social media?
Not so active. I just don't have the time to spend on it. I just don't really bother with it. Sometimes I respond on our forum on our web site. Too many avenues. I'm too busy to really get involved. I like to live in the moment and get out and enjoy life.
O.K. So let's talk guitars. Straight into the amp or a pedal guy?
I'm a straight amp kind of guy. I used some pedals for a little vibe onstage. But from the 70's through the 90's it was all handled by the house guy. For the most part I didn't control it. Eventually I used the pedals to help control. No rack. Chorus, delay, bare bones. Tube amps. Marshalls for most of my career until the mid 90's.
40 years. Is it difficult to come up with new material?
Generally we just write in the moment. We have some riffs on tape but we usually don't listen to them. Sometimes when you get in a rut you can go back. But as you write if things are flowing then you don't want to go backwards. Keep moving forward.
Did you know when you wrote "Summertime Girls" that it would be such a hit?
Well you know what... that song. A typical rehearsal for us. No one gets there at the same time. No pressure. Everyone gets there when they can sort of thing. So we were there with Joey and he starts noodling over my chord pattern I was messing with. We just stopped and looked at each other and said "That's cool". So by the end of the rehearsal we had the song basically down. It doesn't happen all the time but the song was written in a few hours. We thought it was kind of commercial. The record company wanted another single. We finished the song. It just happened. We liked it. But the record company initially told us "what the hell was that crap". A couple of years later we recorded it for the live album as an extra track. Just because we thought it was a good song. The label reps heard it and they loved it. They told us to record it right away. Everyone at the time was looking for a hit. We just liked the song. We thought it had a nice, fun melody.
Any advice for aspiring musicians?
The main thing to keep in your head. Just keep remembering sometimes you make better decisions if you just step back and go with what your gut is telling you. Always go with your gut. Go with what feels right. Try to just feel what you are doing. Don't just copy other peoples licks. Create you r own vibe. So when you're playing they can tell it's you playing.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Ross The Boss has always been one of my favorite guitar players and I've been lucky enough to see him play in many different bands over the years here in New York City. I first heard Ross when I picked up a copy of Manowar's debut album Battle Hymns in 1982 and was thoroughly blown away. An article in Creem about Manowar mentioned that Ross was previously in a punk band called The Dictators. It took awhile to track down copies of their albums but I became a huge fan of The Dictators. Ross can play in any style but always sounds like himself, whether it was with melodic punk band Shakin Street, instrumental rock with Thunderboss or blistering power metal with his latest project Death Dealer.
I've met and spoken to Ross at shows many times over the years and he's always been generous with his time. My friend Dean Rispler plays bass in the current line up of The Dictators and put me in touch with Ross so I could formally interrogate him. The history of The Dictators and Manowar has been covered thoroughly many times before but I had a long list of questions for Ross about music, guitars and snow. I caught up with Ross after we were both done shoveling after one of the many blizzards we've been having this winter.
Since we're having yet another blizzard here in New York, do you mind re-telling me this story about Manowar playing at L'Amour in Brooklyn during a snow storm?
I forget what year it was but it was a real brutal winter. We had booked L'Amours in the wintertime. We knew it was going to be snowing but we didn't know how bad it was going to be. We pull in, set up, do our soundcheck - loud as fuck. The whole block is vibrating and it's just blizzarding outside. So we just thought it was gonna be a wash out. It's an expense moving everything down from upstate New York and renting a second PA. We said "we're gonna lose our shirts tonight." George Parente, L'Amour's owner, was like "you never know." So after soundcheck we go back to our hotel in Staten Island, we were right by the Verrazano Bridge, and have dinner. Then we come back, ready for the show. There's not a soul outside and it's still snowing. We're thinking we're gonna walk into an empty hall. George Parente is standing there at the door with a big smile on his face. He says "look inside." We go in and the place is packed, sold out to the max. We just couldn't believe it. Everyone braved the snow and found a way to get there. It just blew our minds. We felt that we had the most dedicated fans. It was just amazing.
There's something so metal about snowstorms that makes you want to go to the show even more than usual.
If you really want to see your band, you're going and nothing's stopping you.
What's going on with Death Dealer right now?
We've been working on our second record and we're waiting for the announcement that we're going to be the opening act on the Metal All-Stars tour that I'm taking part in. So Death Dear is going to be playing some Eastern European shows and hopefully we can get on the South American leg, too.
You're going to be playing with Udo from Accept?
I will be playing with Udo and Zakk Wylde. I'll be doing some Manowar songs, too. The whole thing is set right now on paper but when we get to rehearsals in Bulgaria things might change. March 23 is the first show.
Death Dealer has an interesting story about how it formed. Tell me about how it all came together.
It was about 6 months before the last presidential election. I started getting these messages from Sean Peck. We're Facebook friends and we're talking a lot about my political posts. We share the same views on things. Then he said something like "Ross, I really love your guitar playing. I'm putting this project together, would you mind playing on a song or two?" You know, I'm very open minded. So the next day I get a Facebook message from one of my friends named Stu Marshall. He says "I'm working with Sean Peck and I spoke to him yesterday." A little picture is forming with this thing. He says "Yeah man, I was in a band called Dungeon and Empires of Eden." He's a really, really great guitar player. I'm listening to his stuff and getting to know these two guys. Then Sean calls me again and says "By the way, this project that I have, I'm gonna send you some songs. I have a vision for this project. We were thinking of asking KK Downing to play guitar. It's either you or KK Downing that Stu wants to play with." I said, alright, let's hear the tracks. So they sent me some tracks and it was amazing. Sean is an unbelievable singer. So I said "I'm interested." I heard the best voice in heavy metal. We took it from there and started working on the songs, developing the record and we have War Master. Sean goes "By the way I have the name of the band, I have artwork ready, the logo ready." He had everything in place.
So all you had to do was play?
All I had to do was work on the songs and play.
You had the Ross The Boss band right before that, where you had a lot more work to do.
Everyone did a lot of work, but it was kinda up to me. We did two records, 2008 New Metal Leader, 2010 Hailstorm. They sold very well. I sorta put the band on hiatus and we're gonna pick it up eventually for the third record.
Where's the most dedicated, hardcore metal audience these days?
South America and Eastern Europe. They've had the least exposure to it all and they're not jaded. In Germany and Western Europe there's a concert like every 2 seconds.
I consider myself really lucky to have seen most of your bands as I was growing up. I think I've seen all of them except Manowar!
Really? Did you see the Spinatras?
Saw them at the Continental in New York. I also saw Ross The Boss & The Pack at Streets in New Rochelle.
Wow, you know your stuff.
At the show at Streets I wound up getting drunk with a guy named Ron Haney who was in Wild Kingdom with you for a minute. Were you and Daniel Rey ever in Wild Kingdom at the same time? Or did you only start playing together in this version of The Dictators?
We did play one show at the Ritz together.
I was a huge fan of Wild Kingdom. I saw that band play many times.
That was a great record. [1990's …And You?]
That was the record I was hoping would have been the next step after Bloodbrothers.
(Laughs) That was a little too metal for The Dictators.
Not for me.
If you're with The Dictators for awhile do you miss playing metal?
Nah, I don't miss doing anything. The only thing I don't like is not being busy. This year has started out unbelievably great. I got asked to join the Metal All-Stars, then Death Dealer got the opening slot. Last week in Uncut Magazine, did you see that? [Go Girl Crazy, The Dictators' first album, was named the #1 American punk album in the March 2014 issue of Uncut Magazine.]
I just saw it earlier today. Go Girl Crazy has always been the definition of punk rock for me.
That record's number one, above Patti Smith, the Ramones and all these other bands. I mean, finally. It's just unbelievable. Wow! For us it's just a gigantic vindication. It's really indescribable to see something like that. We put a lot on the line with that record. Everyone thought we were fuckin' jokers.
When I discovered that record I was so excited to hear an album entirely about my life - drinking beers, eating hamburgers, being obnoxious. Most of my punk rock friends hated the album but my metal friends liked it because of the guitar work. The punk rock guys thought it was too metal.
Too metal? (laughs) It just seems like the whole thing has crystalized. It started a long time ago but the whole thing has really crystalized to the point of "Wow, we're getting the cred, man!" If Joey Ramone were alive he'd be flipping out over that. He'd be loving it because he loved us more than life itself.
It seems like over the past 10, 15 years that some Dictators fans are more accepting of Manowar and vice versa. I think the Wild Kingdom record had a lot do with that. Have you noticed that?
Yeah. I don't think there's a link to anything. I put out there in the world that it's all good. There's good music and bad music. Manowar's good, Dictators are good. There's not really any bad.
You played on a Hellacopters record, I think that probably helped too.
Yeah. The Hellacopters played their first tour with us. It was D-Generation, Nomads, Hellacopters, Dictators. That was an unbelievable tour of Scandanavia. Boy, that was…wow!
As a guitarist, I'm always interested to see what you're playing. It was nice seeing the 3 pickup white SG Custom at the Dictators show at Bowery Electric in January. Does that only come out for special occasions?
I picked it up and it felt good so I said "let's air it out a little bit." Everyone was really happy to see that guitar. Daniel had to have his picture taken with it.
[Ross puts me on hold to take a call at his business The Cage, an indoor sports facility in Queens, thecagenyc.com]
Before we get back to guitars, let's give The Cage a plug. How's business?
Business is great right now. This is the season. No one can be outside playing. It's a family business. We have baseball, softball, indoor soccer and we do cricket now.
It's in Middle Village? And your son also teaches there.
Jesse teaches here and he's the JV coach for Christ The King right now.
Are you a Yankees fan or a Mets fan?
Getting back to guitars. Are you using ESP's with Death Dealer?
Yeah, in Death Dealer we have an endorsement deal with ESP. They've been so very nice to us, and to me since the 80's. They're a great company. We're getting a few new Horizons for the tour. They've been absolutely great for us.
So is this the first time you've been in a twin lead guitar type of band?
Yeah, a twin lead as pre-eminent as this, yeah.
You and Daniel got into some great dueling lead guitar on "Slow Death" at that Bowery Electric show with The Dictators.
That was good, wasn't it?
It reminded me of Foghat when they really get into their jams.
Yeah, sort of like Wishbone Ash almost.
I haven't seen the black Les Paul custom in awhile, do you still have that?
I used that the last time we played at the Bowery. I use it all the time.
And you also have a Gibson ES 355? Or is it a 335?
I have a 1991 Gibson ES 355 Lucille, black.
I've heard you say before that you're a huge fan of B.B. King. How did you first get into him?
B.B. King has been my idol since childhood. I first discovered him in 1967 and I have been a fan and admirer ever since. His playing is unbelievably beautiful. He really taught me that less is more. You might not think it because of the amount of notes I play.
Live At The Regal, was that a pivotal album for you?
Live At The Regal, yup. It really changed my life. "Every Day I Have The Blues," that record, and the story of Lucille. I would just marvel at how he can tell that story about why he named his guitar Lucille. It was named after a woman who started a fire in the club that he played so he named his guitar Lucille. It was amazing.
Listening to you the other night I never noticed the strong influence of Freddy King and Albert King in your playing before. You're obviously a big blues fan.
Obviously. All those guys. My pedigree comes from blues. When I was growing up I worshipped guys like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee, Santana, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, all those guys. But then I figured out that all those guys were playing blues. All those song titles on their records, I went back and looked. "Who are these guys that they're playing? Who are these people that the Rolling Stones are playing songs of?" I just went back and boom - Freddy King, Albert King, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter, Memphis Slim, Robert Johnson. Robert Johnson was just unbelievable! That provided me with the foundation that I always talk about to kids. You have to have a foundation of music when you're gonna play. All these guys that just start with Eddie Van Halen, it just sounds very shallow. It doesn't sound like a complete guitar player to me. There are some shredders that do really good work, of course, but I'm not hearing the depth of playing in these guys.
It's all exercises and no emotion in the playing.
Yeah, it's just an exercise.
You brought up Eddie Van Halen. I was wondering if you were a fan of Cactus growing up and their guitar player Jimmy McCarty?
Did you recognize Jimmy's solo from "Let Me Swim" when it turned up in "Eruption?"
I never put two and two together like you just did. But yeah, Van Halen obviously came along revolutionized guitar again. He picked it up from Hendrix. Of course he's brilliant.
You have a really interesting set of influences. There's blues but also guys like Wayne Kramer, James Williamson and Pete Townshend. Is that accurate?
Yeah, I kind of just put everything together in me, kinda like a soup. A guitar soup of all my influences. Not so much James Williamson, who's a great player, but didn't really influence me. Ted Nugent did, of course. I love the MC5. Wayne Kramer, definitely, and Sonic. Those two guys were a big influence on the Dictators. The blessing that I've been given is my own style. People hear me and they know who it is.
You could blindfold me and play me something you've played on that I haven't heard before. I'd know it was you immediately.
It's a beautiful thing. There's millions and millions of guitar players out there that really don't sound like anybody.
I noticed recently you'll do some octave slides like Wes Montgomery.
Yeah, I was a big, big fan of his playing. George Benson, another one, great guitar player. There's so many of them! Peter Green. So many really awesome musicians out there that I love. When I was coming up the guitar was king. Guitar led the music, everything was guitar based. Cream, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. Of course Black Sabbath changed everything. Everybody had to have a great guitar player and the guitar player had to be a blues master. And if he wasn't a blues master then forget it.
What were some of the great shows you saw growing up in New York City?
At the Fillmore I saw Jimi Hendrix, the Band Of Gypsys, on New Years Eve. I saw so many great shows at the Fillmore - Frank Zappa, Paul Butterfield, Chicago Transit Authority. I saw the original Jethro Tull line up. You name it. Savoy Brown. Zillions of groups. I saw The Who there. Miles Davis! A lot of different groups. Bill Graham went to my high school, DeWitt Clinton, in the Bronx.
I didn't know he grew up in the Bronx.
Yeah, he did. Every night at the Fillmore he had three very interesting bands. It's not like today where you have to have three of the same type of bands on a bill, otherwise people get really antsy. I'd see Frank Zappa, Chicago and the Youngbloods all on one show.
If someone today had the money and tried to put on a diverse bill people wouldn't be into it.
Everything was just music, it wasn't about "this is metal, this is hard rock, this is pop, this is funk." There were no titles back then. It was all just music, it was all just rock n roll. I think that's what's sorely missing around today. People are like "If it's not viking metal then you can't listen to it!"
You can't have viking metal, power metal and thrash metal on the same bill.
Can't have that! No!
What about Grand Funk and Humble Pie at Shea Stadium in 71. Were you at that show?
I didn't make it to that one. I did see Humble Pie at the Fillmore, though.
They just released a box set of all the recordings they made when Humble Pie did their live album there.
That must be amazing. They were tremendous, boy! Peter Frampton was amazing and Steve Marriott was one of the best singers in the world, too.
I wanted to ask you about the instrumental album you did called Thunderboss [with Dictators drummer JP "Thunderbolt" Patterson]. Not a lot of people know about it. Is that when you first met Dean?
Yeah, JP was friends with Dean because they played together in Karen Black. JP was always like "You gotta hear this guy Dean play!" He was always raving about him. Finally we did that record and a show at JP's bar and it was great. Dean has been in the fold ever since. He's an amazing musician. He's an incredible guitar player in his own right. He can go out and play guitar in any band. As a bass player he's amazing and has great stage presence. Great friend and a great head of hair, too.
I like to hassle him that he has Mark "The Animal" Mendoza's job. That reminds me. I've heard some wild stories about Mendoza and the way he treated rental cars when he was in The Dictators.
Oh! Well, Mark had this side to him that he was just a bad ass motherfucker. I mean he was just a bad-ass-guy. He had an edge on him. He loved to drive and whenever he got his hands on a car, forget that car. He would show everybody how he would drive. We're going down the highway in the middle of nowhere. He would go 80 miles an hour, turn the engine off as we're driving, pump the gas, then turn the car back on so flames would come out of the back. He would drive the car like it was part of him.
And Mark didn't drink or anything, right?
Mark told me something about how he would wake up early on tour and play bumper cars in the parking lot.
Yeah, he'd just polish them off. Great guy. Great musician, too. Dean loves Mark's playing.
I saw Twisted Sister a couple times at L'Amour and stood right in front of his amps. I thought I was going to throw up because he played so loud.
Yeah! I know. He's good, man.
Alright Ross, thanks for talking to me today. I really appreciate.
My pleasure. See you soon.
More info -
Death Dealer "Warmaster"
The Dictators "Search & Destroy" 1977
Saturday, March 1, 2014
The band is fronted by vocalist Ty Taylor who evokes memories of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Ben E. King, Otis Redding and James Brown. Taylor's long time friend, Swedish born guitarist Nalle Colt, is an electric Les Paul blues guitar master influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. Bassist Rick Barrio Dill has been playing with Taylor since at least 2008 when Taylor tried to become the next INXS singer during the ill-fated INXS lead singer search television show. Drummer Richard Danielson is absolutely spot on the beat with just the right amount of flash. The band backs Taylor with the beauty and precision found in classic Booker T & the MG's.
The Bomb Shelter Sessions has a deliciously stripped-down sound, what Danielson calls "primitive soul." It is exactly that. The vocals have that smooth, laid back, sweet mother of God coolness of doo wop at its best backed by the world's finest juke joint band. Vintage Trouble has essentially captured 1960's Stax and Motown, modernized it, and repackaged it for a 21st Century audience.
From the start of the album, with Taylor belting out "Blues Hand Me Down" over Danielson's soulful syncopated beat, to the thirteenth and final track of the encore re-release, a live version of a Chuck Berry inspired rocker, "Nancy Lee," Vintage Trouble transports listeners to a full blown 1960's dance party. The songs are incredibly well-written efforts by the band and focus on lust, love and liquor.
As good as this debut album is it fails to capture the completely passionate experience of a live Vintage Trouble performance. From what I have observed, and have been told, Vintage Trouble live goes beyond anything the band has captured in 1's and O's. If they are ever able to digitally capture that mojo on a release, watch out. As Taylor sings in "Blues Hand Me Down":
I come from vintage trouble
Look out if I’m the one you found
I’ll pop your bubble
With my live wire, straight shooting dirty mouth
Papa was a blues man
Please baby understand
I got the, got the, got the, got the
Blue hand me downs
- Old School
Labels: ripple music free album music review download free mp3, The Bomb Shelter Sessions Encore Edition, Vintage Trouble
Friday, February 28, 2014
1974...this is a year I don't have any recollections of, after all I was only three years old at the time. However, looking back in music history I would have loved to be in my late teens or early twenties then since so many of my favourite bands were emerging at this point or had just made a name for themselves. But alas, that was not to be. So for obvious reasons Jethro Tull's master piece from this year, 'WarChild', as well as the band itself, eluded me for some time. Roll on eight years however, I finally discovered them thanks to my brother Thomas as always in my formative years. He brought home their magificient album, 'Broadsword And The Beast' and the rest is as they say history. I quickly began to check out the band's previous output and was almost overwhelmed by what I found but I didn't work in a chronological order, so by the time 'WarChild' ended up on my record player 'Aqualung', 'Thick As A Brick', 'A Passion Play', 'Stormwatch' and 'Heavy Horses' had already been dissected by yours truly. Looking back at what I was really into musically as a kid that was probably as wise move because at this point I knew that Jethro Tull always do what they want and it's never going to be by the books. And if you have never listened to this band before 'WarChild' is a tricky and difficult beast to fathom, at least the first third of it. And had this been the first album by Tull I listened to I would probably never listen to them again
Starting off Side A with the title track it's kind of shocking to hear the sound of air raid sirens while a couple is having tea...only to be annihilated as dropping bombs are exploding. And this is before the band has even started. Once they join in the cacophony their distinct sound is backed up by a sax, piano and a full string orchestra. Despite all the disharmony which I guess represents war there is harmony within which represents people under attack trying to find a way out to survive. A great albeit schizophrenic song that still catches me off guard.
'Queen And Country' changes direction completely. A reggae bassline and an accordion leads the way as the band launches into gypsy-like music with Martin Barre's excellent guitar and Ian Anderson's magificient voice floating on top. Following along with the name of the album, this is about soliders signing their lives away thinking they are protecting their country when, in fact, they are only filling up the queen's treasure chest. 'Ladies' is about the women of the night, working the street coner. It starts off with a line being snorted after which an acoustic guitar, a flute and a sax takes centre stage backed by the string orchestra again. Soft and slow it ends in true 50's rock'n'roll fashion. Next up is the first song on the album that reminds me of the Jethro Tull I had discovered some years before. 'Back-Door Angels'. Heavy intricate rock as well as progressive and slow/soft in equal parts. Martin plays a couple of excellent solos as the band also spaces out and jams. Trippy indeed and I love it! Last one out on Side A is 'Sealion' which is musically a fantastic ballsy out-and-out rocker. Lyrically to me this a perfect social commentary, a trademark of the band if you ask me. I might have misinterpreted it but it's about someone trying be aperson they're not. You try to dress and act the part but you always give yourself away somehow unless the system grinds you down first.
One of my all time favourite Tull songs starts Side B, 'Skating Away On Thin Ice Of The New Day'. To me it epitomizes everything the band is, from the songwriting to the performance as well as how the lyrics really talks to me. Break the chains of the society you were born into, risk your safe life for something new. Nothing ventured, nothing gained so take the step and evolve. 'Bungle In The Jungle' is another social commentary from the band if there ever was one. Taking place in a jungle it definitely portaits any government, how incompetent and useless they are and how they always screw up leaving its citizens to pay the price for it as well as picking up the pieces from constant failures. Full of razor sharp sarcasm the beautiful and acoustic 'Only Solitaire' makes a huge kick at media and the way they smear people in the limelight, who tries to keep their personal lives private. Written and recorded in 1974 it's poignant as ever. Up tempo and military sounding in style The Third Hoorah' to me is about going out with all guns blazing, i.e. live life to the fullest and die with a bang with no regrets instead of fading away. Features some nice flute-work from Ian as well as keeping keyboardist John Evan in the front. Last one out is 'Two Fingers', another good kind of rocker where the saxophone and the accordion are back. A fitting way to close the album since the song tells about a persons final moments before passing away.
What struck me the most then and as it still does, is the almost non-existent flute. It is Ian's trademark if you will and it barely makes an appearance, instead Mr. Anderson plays the saxophone a whole lot more. But the way the album plays out that makes sense because to me the baying sound of the saxophone adds to the calamaity of war as well as the distress of breaking out of your life as you know it. While the rest of the music is on course this woodwind instrument causes havoc so it is understandable that Ian plays it more than the flute.
Like I stated in the first paragraph 'WarChild' is a strange creature and it is clearly not the first Jethro Tull album to start out with. On the other hand, if you already have knowledge of the band and their music this is an excellent album. And as it moves along it turns into a classic Tull release, just give it time. Come to think of it, even the "stranger" first couple of songs are classics, or typical, Jethro songs. What I mean is, they have never been shy to try new avenues and change up their music. You never really know what they are going to do but you still know it's going to them. And that gives me comfort because I know they're not going to half-ass no matter how off the cuff they might sound.
It's time for this old fart to round things up and I hope I've made sense in all my ramblings. 'WarChild' is a great album made by a great band who are still going strong and who has never budged in the conviction of doing their own thing. That's called integrity and deserves recognition.