Friday, February 28, 2014

It Was 40 Years Ago Today: Jethro Tull - WarChild



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.

- Swedebeast





Thursday, February 27, 2014

Musical Martyrs- The Vilified Albums: Judas Priest – Turbo

Judas Priest – Turbo


To fully appreciate the Turbo album, one needs to put it in perspective.  The year was 1986, a rough time for “Traditional” metal bands.  It was the halcyon time for the “hair metal” bands, yet the bands on the heavier end of the spectrum released arguably the best albums of their careers – (eg, Metallica “Master of Puppets”, Slayer “Reign in Blood”, Kreator “Pleasure to Kill” just off the top of my head.)  Bands like Priest and Maiden had either two choices, follow the chart-topping trend set by bands like Poison, Cinderella and Bon Jovi, or go brutal like the heavier bands.  It took Priest until 1990 to take the thrash-heavy route, with “Painkiller”, but in 1986 they were going a bit soft. 

That is not a slight or insult in any way.  Turbo is not “Look What the Cat Dragged in” by any means.  The songs don't make me want to choke anyone if that’s any indication.  Maybe I have a soft spot in my heart because this was the first Priest album I ever bought.  I still remember back in the days of vinyl, it was hanging on the wall of The Wiz, next to Iron Maiden's “Somewhere in Time”.  I bought both simultaneously, but to this day listen more frequently to the latter.  It's a shame, because re-visiting Turbo for this article, it's still a damn good album. 

I'll spare everyone the story of my crush on KK Downing that spanned from when I was a dewy eyed 13 year old, till I finally got to meet him in my late 20's (And looking back, for both of our reputations, it's better I don't get into it....insert innocent sounding whistle here.)  At the time of it's release, and for the next few years, I was obsessed with this album, subjecting my pop-music loving friends to it on a regular basis.  I didn't care that the metal-heads in the neighborhood outright hated this record, (save for a track or two, I remember a neighbor saying he didn't think “Out in the Cold” was that bad.)  Rob Halford defended the album in  Kerrang in 2008, “...Personally I think there are still some great tracks on that album ... It's one of the recordings that divide opinion.”

Turbo is a fun album.  It's a nice departure from “We're a metal band and we love being metal and aren't we heavy”? Besides, that area was more than ably covered by Manowar.  And the song “rock You All around the world” still has some of that “rockers vs the world” mentality.  Are some of the lyrics cheesy? Yes, but so what!  THINK FUN!  And the videos that went with the singles for the record?  The “theme videos” for Turbo Lover and Locked in..look them up on Youtube – the look on Halford's face when confronted with Amazonian jailers is priceless (and really who didn't know back then!)

As with any Priest release, there is some great playing on Turbo.  Yes, they're using guitar synths, but it's still Tipton/Downing.  The twin guitar leads on “Hot For Love” are classic Priest, with an arena-rock backing track.  And that's another thing, Tom Allom's production is typical of mid 80's hard rock albums.  Huge thudding bass drums, bass low in the mix, almost AC/DC-ish.

Listening like Turbo is like going back to your old high school yearbook.  Yes there were some things that make you uncomfortable, but overall it wasn't that bad and in a way you kind of wish you could go back to that more innocent time.

--Rys



Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Nada Surf - High/Low



My parents had this friend named Ian; he went to prison and left a box of his crap at my parent's place. Among the junk were some CDs. They were mostly inconsequential compilations of 90s grunge, the kind you always saw late at night on the SciFi channel in 1998.

 I picked up this Nada Surf CD from that box when I was 16-ish. It had hovered about the house for around 8 years, like some black-magic talisman. It seemed like every time you threw it away, it came back.
The cover caught my eye, reminded me of the childhood I was growing out of. I popped in the disc and fell in love.

Maybe you remember the single "Popular," the cynical song about the football star, as if there weren't enough of those in the 90's. Market-wise, the release was pretty unremarkable. The band never really broke out, just made a mid-level career and released a couple, more indiesque, albums.

This was their first one and every song on that album took me away. I still remember driving in the middle of the year. My arm hanging out the window to catch the wind, Stalemate or Zen Brain playing, the long sunset shadows of early summer falling across the ponds and fields of Southwest Oklahoma. It was good, wholesome stuff. The songs sounded like freshly cut grass and felt like cool flowing water. The album who's cover had reminded me of childhood, ironically, made me enjoy my teenage in-between-ness.

Oddly enough, I can't really listen to it anymore, at least not in the way I used to. I feel like it was an album for a specific time in my life and now it doesn't hold that magic anymore. The songs are still good, mind you, but the creeping dread of adulthood which is so apparent in the fibers of this music doesn't speak to me as much as it did when I was 17.

As far as albums go, though, it was one of the most emotional connections I've had with one. That is why I'll speak up for it. Aside from the fact that it is a truly solid offering of 90's alt-rock; and, in a way, an anticipation of what would become popular in the mid 2000's with the new Sub-Pop sound, it truly made a difference in my life.

- Headshot




Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Ripple Conversation with John Mortimer of Holocaust


Holocaust were one of the fore-runners of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. With anthems like “Heavy Metal Mania” - their music became the soundtrack for a new generation of heavy metal fans. Through the lovely medium that is social networking, I was able to become friends with guitarist/vocalist John Mortimer, who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to do this short interview with me.

The Wikipedia page for Holocaust appears to have not been updated in awhile – but on your facebook page it says you recently released on EP Called “Expander” featuring songs that will be on an upcoming full – length called “Sweet Liberty”.  Can you tell me more about that? 

Up until recently the album was pretty clear cut - we had 13 new songs ready to go, (almost). Just recently however there has been serious label interest in the album that I describe as a "pure art project in essence". It looks as if the next studio album will be old songs recorded by the current band and then two albums consisting of "Sweet Liberty" material and material from the earlier project. The whole thing is in a state of flux.

How did you go from being the guitarist to the lead singer?

Initially it was a matter of necessity. After the original band split up I began working with drummer Steve Cowen and writing songs... well, I was the only one there to sing them. Gradually I came to like the vocal thing and got a little more confident. I really valued the fact that I could express what I wanted to express vocally and not have someone else interpret my lyrics. To be just absolutely honest though, it's only been since 2011 that I have felt completely confident and happy with the singing. I LOVE it now.


Your voice is definitely different than Gary Lettice, but still sounds great singing the classics. Is it easier or more difficult for you to be the front man – was it a natural progression?


It means a lot of rehearsal...a lot of work combining rhthym and lead guitar, with the related effects switching, with vocals. These days, (again since 2011), I love being the front man. Prior to 2011 I used to feel it as pressure...a necessary burden, you know? But now it is a joy, it is exectly what I'm supposed to be doing. The stage feels like "home" for me now and I love getting all that attention.  


Do you sometimes feel like you need a second guitarist for some of the guitar harmonies?

I have reworked a lot of the lead guitar from the early days. It is true that the twin lead guitar thing was a feature of the NWOBHM and the first two Holocaust albums did have that in places. So I guess it is a bit of a shame that that feature is lost on stage now. However I would say that the essence of the early songs is articulated much better by the current band....and the twin lead guitars is just like a missing decoration. We play the instrumental opening of "Heavy Metal Mania" with the bass doing the harmony and I think it feels more NWOBHM than the Nightcomers version! Holocaust has been a trio through much of its existence to date, even though it was launched as a 5-piece. I never think about a second guitarist these days.


Being based in Scotland did you find yourselves a bit removed from the whole NWOBHM scene?

Yes. Back in those pre-internet days it was all about what contacts you had and we were just a bunch of school kids. We didn't know any booking agents or whatever. Gary worked at the record store owned and run by John Mayer, (the guy who formed the Phoenix label), and so he was our one contact. John Mayer did what he could – not least, release three singles, three albums, a Live video and an EP! - but we never got networked with the Live scene in England. The only places the original band got to play were in Scotland. England largely ignored us. We were aware that there were good sales of "The Nightcomers" in Holland but the band broke up before we could establish any contacts there.   


What was the metal climate like in Edinburgh during this time?


It was great from the point of view of there being loads of Metal fans. You'd see a lot of denim with patches and pins and like, Motorhead and Sabbath and Zeppelin T-shirts out on the streets, you know? But from the point of view of bands...... Holocaust was the only real Metal band in Edinburgh at the time.


What are some of your personal favorite bands from that era?

If you mean specifically NWOBHM, (which would exclude Budgie and Motorhead, who were already established), then my own personal favorites were Witchfynde, Samson and Mythra. That was at the time....nowadays my favorite band from that era is Spartan Warrior. I knew of their existence back in the day but never heard any of their material. For me, Spartan Warrior capture the essence of the NWOBHM perfectly.


How would you compare the music scene in the UK then and now for original bands?


Depressingly, it is just as difficult today. That's because the UK generally sucks when it comes to the attitude of most club venues. It's like they expect the band to do all the promotion and they don't expect to be thinking about a fee unless you are the size of Megadeth or something. There are one or two venues in Scotland NOT like that but the situation is far better in places like Holland, Belgium, Germany. 

There are so many festivals for “Classic” British heavy metal, like Brofest, British Steel Festival, Keep it True – what is the fan reaction like for Holocaust at these events?

Just unbelievable! Well, I believe it now but it was staggering to me how the awareness of the band out there had increased in the years I was out of action, (basically 2003 – 2011). The response is genuinely overwhelming at times. There was a stage invasion during a Dutch gig with all these people singing "Heavy Metal Mania" and it choked me up because I remembered right then and there how patronizing and demeaning the music press were in the UK when that song was released in 1980. But that is just one example. It's the age range of the fans these days that is encouraging also. Sure, we have fans who are in their 50s but some are as young as 14! The fact that so many people in their teens and early 20s love the band is very heartening. Then there's the fact that we have fans in so many different places. We did a mini-tour of Greece and Cyprus in 2012 and I was astonished at how many loyal fans were telling me they never thought they would see me. We have fans in Turkey and even in Iran. That international aspect means a lot to me. The international Heavy Metal community means a lot to me.

Do you prefer playing being fests like that or small club shows?

You know, I used to feel nervous about small gigs?! It used to be that the bigger the crowd was, the more relaxed I would be. I remember playing Wacken in 1993, third on the bill, and I just felt so at ease outdoors in front of thousands of people. But the next gig was a club gig in Edinburgh and I was shaking with nerves at the start of that! Crazy, huh?!

These days I love massive, I love tiny...I love it all. We had a great little trip to France recently, where we played the British Steel (France) festival with Girlschool and M:Pire Of Evil one day and a tiny underground, (literally underground!), club in Paris the next day. The contrast was mind-blowing and great fun. Both gigs were awesome!


When Metallica covered “The Small Hours” on their Garage Days EP did that help or hurt the band or not effect your career at all?


Well again, this was pre-internet. By that time, (1987), the big media in the UK had decided that Heavy Metal was a thing of the past and so hardly anyone in the UK realised the significance of that cover. Certainly the small independent label, Chrome, expressed an interest in doing a mini-album with Holocaust and so "The Sound Of Souls" was born. That was definitely a help. But we were entering a period in the UK, (basically the 1990s), when old school Metal was virtually invisible. The publishing royalties I got at the time financed the next album, "Hypnosis Of Birds", which was released on a label I set up. Not being able to get enough contacts and gigs outside of the UK was the killer – I cannot stress that strongly enough. We got to play Wacken on the strength of "The Small Hours" cover because the German organisers realised the significance of it. So anyway, to answer your question, it helped....

What about the Gamma Ray and Six Feet Under covers?

I love all three of those covers. I love the fact that Metal bands of such differing styles cover those songs. I'm really pleased about that.

How do you feel about these bands paying homage to you?

Makes me feel like a star because those people are total stars.

You're not shy about your love for Lady Gaga.


Damn right!

I think its very cool that a “metal” person isn't afraid to admit they like other forms of music. What is it about her that draws you to her?

My love for Lady Gaga is not simply the result of admiration for an artist. I mean, I think she IS a phenomenally talented artist but when I seriously connected with Gaga's work it produced deep and radical changes in me. I absolutely guarantee that Holocaust would not be happening now if it were not for the effect that wonderful woman has had on me.

Before May 2011 I used to perceive her as an eccentric pop queen....which was fair enough but not what I was interested in. Then on the evening of 15-May-2011 I was surfing YouTube with the headphones on and I stumbled across Gaga's new video at the time, "Judas". I still remember how shivers went through me watching the opening of that video. You know how the motorcycle riders all have their names, (of the 12 disciples), on their backs? There's a section, just as the song is starting, where the one with "JOHN" on his back does this really unexpected thing...he kind of leans over toward the road and makes a graceful motion with his hand that repreesents sowing seeds. Even at that moment I had this eerie feeling that there was something deeply important for me here. Before I knew it, I was watching the entire video for the sixth or seventh time. Each time I was getting something new from the song and also from the visuals. But each time the feeling increased that there was something extraordinary going on inside me....something wonderful but disturbing at the same time. I decided to check out another video of hers and happened to choose "Alejandro". I remember thinking half way through that, "Oh, she really is an ARTIST then – not just a pop star!"

From the next day onward I was obsessed by her. I downloaded all her music, watched all the videos and every interview I could. I wore the T-shirts and all that. For many weeks I thought of nothing but Lady Gaga...talked of nothing else, as anyone who knows me on a routine basis will testify. Hahaha! She had made me so happy and I felt a completely bewildering sense of love and adoration for her. I thought I was just a big fan and that was all. However the obsession got more intense and I remember one night watching one her speeches from the Monster Ball tour about self-acceptance and weeping uncontrollably. It was at that point that I realized something very profound was happening and I had to get down to some serious soul searching. It's difficult to know how best to express all this but I will use the concepts that have been useful to me. It seemed to me that there was a common vibration, (or quality of energy), in everything she did, whether it was a song or a photo or what she would say in an interview and how she would say it. This vibration had the effect of lifting the weight of a dark and heavy energy within me that I had not even been aware of. No other artist, no other figure had this effect of burning away that darkness, which would always return whenever I wasn't immersed in Lady Gaga. The question for me was, what WAS this dark and heavy energy? Gaga's message of unconditional self-acceptance helped me to see what it was. Unconditional self-acceptance does not mean that you approve of everything you are – neither does it mean that you disapprove. Approval and disapproval don't come into it. The point is that you SEE what is there. And to my surprise, what was there was self-loathing. It was not the kind of self-loathing that is the result of a particular acute experience but rather something that had gradually formed and got heavier and darker over the years and decades. It was no-one's fault, (not even mine), it was just there, so familiar that I didn't even notice it. The very fact of dispassionately observing what is there is freedom from compete identification from what is there and in no time I had jettisoned all that and I felt like I was a new creation!

Up to that point I had felt like I was this weird, unattractive personality who had musical talent but nobody else was ever going to be interested in anything I did. You know, it was the poor, misunderstood genius thing – boohoo! Hahaha! But with the Gaga experience, everything was new and different. Re-launching Holocaust was now the most natural thing in the world and I just wanted to be on stage and perform and have fun and meet people and all of that. It was scary, however, just how quickly everything moved. I had been writing and recording an album with Scott Wallace and Mark McGrath since 2003 but I didn't think of it as a Holocaust album. It was more of a pure art project in essence. As soon as the three of us decided we would launch Holocaust again, (I mean the very next damn day!), I got the offer of singing "Heavy Metal Mania" and "Death Or Glory" at the Keep It True festival in Germany. The German band Roxxcalibur were doing a set of NWOBHM covers and had invited the original vocalists as surprise guests for that show. I remember waiting in the wings whilst the meister of ceremonies was doing his build up for me coming on and of being so aware at that moment of the difference Gaga had made in me. Previously, if I had been in the situation of going on in front of thousands of people with no guitar I would have kind of skulked out, trying to hide behind my hair and gone straight to shaking hands with the band members and then waving modestly to the crowd as if to say, "Oh – you're all TOO kind, I mean, I'm no big deal". But NOW! HAHAHA! I was like, "WHOOOOO", and – well I'll send you the pics! Those pics from Keep It True 2012 will always be iconic for me in representing the difference Gaga made in my life. I will be forever grateful to her, as will hundreds of thousands of others whom she has touched in unspeakably wonderful ways.
 

Do you see yourself using her showmanship in Holocaust shows? (Although I don't think wearing the meat dress would be a good idea)

The meat dress would not be a good idea only because she and her pals have already thought of it and done it. I see the whole thing about projecting persona and creating images in a completely new way now. It's an undisovered continent for me and I would rule nothing out. What limits me is money and contacts. Gaga had the same financial constraints in her early career and it has been fascinating reading her anecdotes about how she dealt with that. You ask about showmanship and there is no doubt that what one wears is a big part of that. As for attitude and contact with the audience, I don't imitate anything Gaga has done BUT I am definitely going through my own little revolution that way thanks to the effect her amazing work has had on me.

And finally – where on the web can people check you out? Any upcoming shows you want to plug?

At this time, unfortunately, the official website is not yet up and running but it won't be long. In the meantime there is the Holocaust The Band Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Holometal) and my own facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/john.mortimer.127).

It's been a very long time since Holocaust last played on the American continent, (we have only ever had 3 shows in the USA), but our first ever Canadian gig is happening in August as we headline the Wings Of Metal fest in Montreal. (https://www.facebook.com/WingsOfMetalFestival) That will be special, not only because it is the first time in Canada but also because we will be playing every single song from The Nightcomers album. In fact it will be the longest Holocaust set to date. There are 4 songs in that set that have not been played Live since 1981.

Any final words for Ripple Effect readers?

Love and Light.


--Rys

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ripple Editorial: Why I don't like The Beatles


We don't all have to like the same things. Not everyone likes the Beatles.

I will never understand why people get so bent out of shape when I say I don't like the music of the Beatles. "But the Beatles are the greatest group of all time!" they always scream. Says who? How come? And why should I care? This is music we're talking about, not sports. The Beatles have sold 600 million records. Does that make them the best? Madonna has sold about half that much. Does that mean she's half as good as the Beatles? There is no "best" when it comes to art. There are only two kinds of music - what you like and what you don't. I like a lot of the same music the Beatles were influenced by and a lot of music they influenced. I'm just not interested in their music. Is that so difficult to accept?

I was born in 1967 and wasn't aware of the Beatles while they were active. I have vague memories of them breaking up but was more interested in my tonka toys. My mom really liked Chuck Berry but also loved schmaltzy movie themes and show tunes. Lucky for me I spent a lot of time with my oldest brother Joe who's 12 years older than me. He was a fanatic for the original rock n roll of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers and so on. His real passion, though, was soul music. It was such a thrill hanging out in his room hearing him play James Brown, the Temptations, Booker T. & The MG's, Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. We'd get jacked up on sugary breakfast cereal and be glued to the TV every Saturday morning to watch Soul Train. Being able to watch these giants in real time during their prime left a huge impression. One of my parents must have been a member of the Columbia Record Club because there were albums by Miles Davis, Johnny Cash and Dave Brubeck (all Columbia artists) in the house.

At some point the music of the Beatles came on my radar. Between my three older brothers there were copies of Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album, Yellow Submarine and Abbey Road around. I loved songs like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and "Yellow Road" as a kid but didn't consider it serious music like "The Theme From Shaft." As I started discovering my own music - mainly Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent - I had zero interest in Beatles albums. That lack of interest continues to this day.

Getting drunk and antagonizing Beatles fans in bars used to be a favorite past time of mine but I had to quit that years ago. It was a total waste of time and beer. The Beatles, sports, politics and religion are topics I try to avoid at all costs. I really don't know why their fans are so hell-bent on converting everyone to Beatle-mania.

Tastes change and evolve over time. I remember buying Our Man In Paris by Dexter Gordon and not being that impressed with it. A few years later I put it on and couldn't believe how great it was. I like Mercyful Fate more now than I did in the 80's. So occasionally I'll revisit things that I really don't like - The Beatles, coffee, mayonnaise, the Rolling Stones, etc - and give them another shot. I can certainly understand the appeal of the Beatles for a lot of people but they're just not for me.

So there. I've tried more than once. Leave me alone. It's not like I force other people to listen to Venom or Bob Wills when they're trying to have a mellow Beatles brunch party.

WE DON'T ALL HAVE TO LIKE THE SAME THING!

Now can we have a beer and listen to Psychedelic Shack together and have a good time?

--Woody

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Revenge of the Quick Ripple Bursts - Featurning Astralnaut and Jowls

Astralnaut - In the Gaze of Gods EP

I've been derelict in my duties.  With the Ripple Music Record Label going full-bore and Heavy Ripples Distro making big waves in the heavy rock underground, I simply haven't had enough time to devote to listening to music.  . . and writing!  With the excellent crew of Kiddies in the Pool, I know that great reviews keep coming in, but now it's my time to step back onto the diving board.  I'm gonna try and jump into that pool more often myself.  And one band I've very unjustly ignored is Astralnaut.

These cats have released a couple of pummelingly heavy, howlizter-cannon blasts to the face of fuzzed out doom-laced rock n roll.  Stoner in vibe, sludgy in vocal intensity, Astralnaut are a lot more direct and pointed than their "spacy" name might suggest.  We don't have meandering noodles of blissed out psych here.  No way, 2x4 smash to the face is more Astralnaut's style and what they do, they do with aplomb! 

In the Gaze of Gods was their last EP, released in April of 2013 and I'm digging into it because their new EP is set to be released very soon.  (also don't forget their first EP Back to the Bog from 2012--both available from the bandcamp link below).

For those of you who like your heaviness chock full of mighty riffs, enough fuzz to choke a hamster, vocals thick and ruddy yet still clean, and melodies, then you gotta check these guys out.  "Emerald Lord of Pleasure" is destroying my earphones right now, a chugging, churning rush of post-70's riff-mania, thickened stoner-heaviness, fuzzed-out solos . .  . and rock.  Tons of pure, heavy rock.  All five songs on this EP cook with the best of the heavy bands out there.

Astalnaut is definitely a band to keep your eyes (and ears) on.  They can definitely keep pace with the best of the competition out there.  New EP is set for release soon, so keep a look out.

In the meantime, dig into a mouth-watering portion of "In the Gaze of Gods" and let me know what you think.




 Jowls - Cursed 10" EP

Clear vinyl with black smoke.  Only 125 pressed from Tiny Engines.

Harkening back to 90's hardcore/noise rock, Grand Rapids, MI based Jowls blast out aggressive hard-core with a firm underbelly of sludge and heaviness.

Jowls' brand of hardcore is unabashedly aggressive but also flexes a keen sense of dynamics, sludgey breakdowns, downtuned heaviness and  even melody. And that's what captivated me.  At first, this wasn't my thing, but after giving it one final listen (everything gets listened to 3 times around here) it suddenly all coalesced.  Cursed is the sound of controlled chaos, of confidence exploding in measured amounts of brain and brawn. This is not aggression without purpose, every note here serves the whole. Every scream and every instrumental explosion.  And it's the dynamic breakdowns into those thick moments of sludge, playing against the mayhem that really caught me.

--Racer




Saturday, February 22, 2014

Eddie Brnabic & The Cosmic Fellowship - Subtle Realms

I landed at Sky Harbor in Phoenix, Arizona for a change in flights.  That is when I first listened to the instrumental album Subtle Realms by Eddie Brnabi & The Cosmic Fellowship.  Upon hearing the first track, "Voices Of The Spirits," a slow, pan flute heavy cut, I was a bit discouraged.  There is only one Gheorghe Kamfir, "Master Of The Pan Flute."  I had no desire to listen to an album of people blowing on tubular reeds, no matter how well done.  If I had stopped listening then and there I probably would have tossed the release in the "no real interest" pile for recycling.  However, I let the album play.

I'm glad I did.  The remainder of the album is fantastic.  On "Transcendental Wine" Brnabic channels Jeff Beck with his extraordinary wah-wah work, so much so that the song sounds like it could have been a track on Beck's "Blow By Blow" album. Bassist Gregos Madja bumps, and drummer Steven Rubio thumps, through the tune "Throne Of Saturn" while guitarist Brnabic conjurs the Robben Ford that for a short time played with The Blue Line. A King Crimson-era Robert Fripp-ish composition, "Still . . . Tripping Through Time," puts a whole lot of  "Cosmic" in The Cosmic Fellowship.

Brnabi then provides a soulful, southern rock ditty in the style of Dickey Betts, "Pearl," that lets Dario Lapoma exercise the keyboards. "Moongroove" made me think of Elvin Bishop's hit "I'm Strutting My Stuff Y'all" and, true to the groove, Brnabi does strut his licks. As "Waves" played I could not help but notice the similarity of the composition, and the guitar playing, to that of Al DiMeola during his Return To Forever days. 

An exposition through the best progressive blues/jazz rock grooves of the 1970's and 1980's would not be complete without an exhibition of Frank Zappa-like compositional and guitar mastery,  the tune "Riff Mountain" does just that, or John McLaughlin's epic transcendental work with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The final track "Death & Resurrection" does that.

Although Eddie Brnabic & The Cosmic Fellowship wear their influences on their breasts, the music is reminiscent and not wholly derivative.  I think that is exactly the concept behind the album as each of the tracks harkens to a guitarist and band that was one of the "Voices Of The Spirits" of contemporary rock.  The band merely brings those voices forth on Subtle Realms. Bottom line, I don't think you can get this much rocking good transcendence anywhere else for only $7.00.  Check it out, but, here’s a caution - like me, after listening to it, you may find yourself on a different plane. 

- Old School

Friday, February 21, 2014

BLACK SABBATH – TECHNICAL ECSTASY



VERTIGO 1976

Popular opinion is a strange beast. On the one hand you can lie back and allow yourself to be caught up in the stream and follow suit or you can haul anchor and paddle like fuck against it. When it comes to Sabbath’s controversial 1976 offering “Technical Ecstasy” I will paddle like my life depends on it!

Sabbath emerged in 1970 with one of the most striking and influential debut albums of all time and virtually single handedly invented heavy metal. Over the next six years they expanded and evolved whilst never losing sight of what made them great in the first place; Tony Iommi’s mighty crushing riffs, Bill Ward’s kinetic, jazz infused drumming, Geezer Butler’s meandering and propulsive bass lines and Ozzy Osbourne’s acidic and compelling vocals. Collectively the band composed, not so much songs as mini symphonies, dark, brooding yet ponderously heavy suites that shifted and changed in unconventional fashion. By 1976, however, the band were reaching the peak of their drug intake, were living the lifestyles of rich young rock stars and the cracks were starting to appear…and thus “Technical Ecstasy” was born.

Now, granted, I will admit “Technical Ecstasy” does fall a little short against the six albums that had preceded it but I ask you your honour, is this any reason to completely disregard it? For most people their relationship with an album will depend on a number of factors; are they a fan of the band already? How old were they when they heard it? How did you hear it? Any number of factors can influence your perception of an album. In my case I was 13 years old, my mother was in the midst of a fairly brutal nervous breakdown and one day she bought me, at my urging,  Black Sabbath’s “Live Evil” album (another much maligned classic but that’s another story). I took it home to my room, my sanctuary from the misery in the house at the time, and put it on. The second “Neon Knights” kicked in I was utterly hooked. I’d never heard any Sabbath before yet this was the most brutally heavy thing I’d ever heard. It took approximately four bars and they became my favourite band…and have remained so unwavering for 31 years! At this point I knew nothing of their history, I didn’t know that Ozzy Osbourne used to be the singer. I didn’t know which albums were rated highly and which weren’t…I was a blank page free from preconceptions and I set about filling that page voraciously buying up everything I could afford, as a 13 year old kid, that had the Black Sabbath name on the front. Tellingly the first album they released upon my new found fandom was “Born Again”…yet another album that has been pilloried in the press and by the fans but hey, guess what…I fucking love the shit out of it! To me, “Technical Ecstasy” was just another album in a catalogue I simply had to own so I bought it…and played it to death. Here we are 31 years on and it’s still one of the Sabbath albums I turn to most regularly.

So let’s start at the start. In the good old days before MP3 downloads, your first introduction to an album would be the cover artwork. This is where I learned an interesting lesson in how an album looks can influence your perception of how it sounds. The previous albums had all been housed in dark, ominous covers featuring, dying souls tormented by demons, spooky women in derelict locations, warmongers, Bill Ward in tights amongst other things. “Technical Ecstasy” on the other hand looked positively bright and breezy as well as uncharacteristically hi-tech. When putting the album on for the first time having seen the cover I almost expected this to be reflected in the music. I couldn’t be more wrong. The only concession to the modernist tendencies of the cover was a slicker, more tempered production and greater exploration of musical technology through the use of synthesizers…etc. This was still a bastard heavy album by any standards though and still delivered on all the Sabbath trademarks whilst adding a little something new.

Over the previous six albums the band had gradually moved away from their simplistic blues origins into something far more progressive and expansive and “Technical Ecstasy” pushed the band further down this road. That said, opening track “Back Street Kids” was a brash, defiant opener. Iommi’s guitar chugs and pushes the track forward ahead of Ward’s simplistic beat. Ozzy’s vocals are laced with bile and attitude that an upbringing on the streets of post war Birmingham instils in you no matter how much cash you have in your pocket and how much cocaine you shove up your nose. The synthesizers add a progressive edge to the middle section although, untypically the band employ a fairly conventional structure, even going as far as to have, gulp, a chorus that once heard will not shift from your mind!

Defiance is the key to the next track, “You Won’t Change Me”. A song that appears to be about retaining your identity within a relationship, it is full of the doom and gloom sound that Sabbath had invented and defined. Iommi’s guitars almost seem to take a back seat here to organ and piano but the song is no less heavy as a result and Iommi still pulls off a stinging solo. Those wishing to denigrate this album would surely have a hard time criticising the quality of Osbourne’s dramatic melodies if they were to actually listen properly and set aside their prejudices.

Ok, prejudices are justified for the next track, the Bill Ward sung “It’s Alright”. A cloying piano ballad that Paul McCartney would have been deeply embarrassed by. This is undeniably a massive shit-sack of a song that can’t even be saved by Iommi’s dramatic guitar interlude in the mid section. Arguably the worst song ever recorded by Sabbath, I have often pondered if this song alone has coloured peoples’ judgement of the album to the extent that it has damaged the ongoing reputation of “Technical Ecstasy” as a whole. Skip it!!!!

Back on track “Gypsy” kicks off with a samba inflected drum figure…yes samba. Don’t be rolling your eyes, they did the same thing in the middle of “Supernaut” and everyone loves that right? Before you know it the band kick into a lecherous tale of the titular woman, riding on a riff that is pure fist-in-the-air rock and roll power. Again keyboards play a large roll in the song but never cloud Iommi’s wall of fuzz guitar playing as the song shifts moods in an almost schizophrenic fashion. Sonically this is one of the densest songs Sabbath had attempted up to this point as layers of guitars, keyboards and backing vocals combine to push the song on to an epic conclusion.

“All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” sees the band employing a looser, almost funky vibe. Again this isn’t exactly new territory for the band, go back and listen to “A National Acrobat” from “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” for a similar effect…nobody complained then did they? Despite this, the song is still moody enough and heavy enough to satisfy worshippers at the Sabbath altar and Iommi’s lead playing, after handing over the baton for a rare keyboard solo, has lost none of its bite and dexterity.

Now straight up rock and roll is something that Sabbath had rarely touched upon but on “Rock and Roll Doctor” they bring the good times on a swinging riff, some honky tonk piano and Ozzy proves he can do the blues. Yes it may be atypical for Sabbath but so what, it’s still a great song and a lot of fun…real punching the air kind of stuff. For some reason this song has always reminded me of Saxon. There’s something that I can’t quite put my finger on but it just seems to have that Saxon quality to it…and no-one complains when they do it do they? Do they fuck!!!!

Ok, so they’ve attempted a ballad on this album already and fucked it up royally. One could question whether they need another one but fortunately on “She’s Gone” the balance is restored fully and then some. For me this is probably the finest ballad Sabbath ever wrote…not that they did many and I’ve never been a fan of “Changes” if I’m honest…especially after Ozzy and Kelly bent it over a barrel and fucked it to within an inch of its life!!!! A delicate acoustic guitar picks out the chords whilst Ozzy’s plaintive vocals are backed up by mournful strings/mellotron. It may lack Sabbath’s trademark bombast but makes up for it with their usual sense of darkness and impending misery.

Now Sabbath have truly left the best til last. “Dirty Women”, a sordid tale of “professional” ladies, is, for my money, one of Sabbath’s finest yet most unsung songs. A fact that the band seem aware of to this day as, post reunion, it continues to feature in their live set…and deservedly so. Iommi’s dark, orchestrated guitar backs up Ozzy’s evocative lyrics before the band lock into one of the most bad-ass, rockingest riffs they ever wrote. Sabbath throw everything at this song, epic solos, doom, kick ass metal and show that, despite the burgeoning punk scene of the time, they still pretty much owned heavy rock and roll.

And we’re done, the album ends on a high…you can roll over, wipe yourself off and pay the lady before slipping out into the street. So why has this album been such a critical failure in the eyes of the press and the fans? That’s hard to ascertain. I believe that “Technical Ecstasy” is a victim of the band’s success. By that I mean that Black Sabbath between 1970 and 1975 recorded, not only six of the best hard rock/heavy metal albums ever recorded but six of the best albums ever recorded period. These six albums would be hard for any band to top and, let’s face it, how many bands manage to record to record six albums in their whole career let alone six albums of such stunning quality. At some point there is bound to be a dip, particularly when the aforementioned drugs and lifestyle start to take a hold. There’s no denying that this album doesn’t live up to the sheer awesomeness of its predecessors but that doesn’t make it a bad album…it just makes it less good than those before. Place it up against all the other albums released in 1976 and it’ll probably still kick the arse of a hell of a lot of them. In fact if “Technical Ecstasy” had been recorded as say, Sabbath’s second or third album I dare say it would be hailed as a ground breaking triumph and its history would be a lot different…and you wouldn’t be reading this now! So, I would suggest you go to your old vinyl collections, I’m guessing you probably don’t have this on CD, and dig through to find your copy…it’ll probably be near the back covered in a coating of dust…stick it on, plug in the headphones and listen to it, really listen to it…without prejudice, without preconceptions, without expectations. Listen to it, if it helps, as though this is a new album by a new band you’re just discovering then maybe, just maybe you’ll be hearing it in a similar context to the way I first heard it and maybe, just maybe it will reveal itself as the sleeper masterpiece that it really is.


--Ollie



Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to Get a Record/Distribution Deal - One Man's (moderately educated) Thoughts


A musician in a new stoner/doom band wrote me asking if I could give him any advice on how to get a distribution deal. After telling him about Heavy Ripples Distro, this was my reply.  I thought I'd share it here to stimulate discussion. Feel free to share if you find any value in it.  This is not the final word, and many will find fault here and there, but it is what I've surmised after running the Ripple Effect for almost 8 years now and having my own record label for 4 years. 

It's very hard for a band that's not on a major  label to get noticed by a Distributor.  And it's very hard for a new band to get on a major (or even Independent) label. It always helps to know people, to make a friend in the industry.  This is not always possible, but it does help to get a manager. Somebody to open that door.




So this really becomes, how do you get noticed?   How do you get a Manager/Distributor/Record Label to notice you?

1) Be as professional as possible and make a very professional product. Treat people you encounter, even the assholes, with respect and kindness. Treat your music, your job, and fellow musicians, club owners etc, with respect.  Lose the attitude.  The world does not "owe" you anything because you learned to play guitar and write a song.  I don't need to hear how hard you practiced and "took lessons for years."  You have to earn it every step of the way.  And the first step is in that professional attitude and respect.  It's not always easy but it will win in the long run.

2) Work your fucking ass off to promote yourself using any channel possible. Get a pro PR agent if you need one. Don't think posting something on facebook is getting the "word out there." Very few of your FB fans will ever see that post. Explore new channels, go to local radio, be friendly to the blogs, and webzines, podcasts, and online radio.

3) You must gig your ass even more fucking off. You gotta play, play, play. Everywhere. Anywhere. Play. Engage your fans. Offer a great show. I've heard people complain that there's no value in playing some crappy bar for one fan and a bartender.  But one fan at a time can build something and that bartender may talk to other bartenders or bar owners. You gotta play. Did I say play?

4) You gotta create a buzz for your music. You are the only one who can do this. A Label can't do this on their own. They need a band who's dedicated and committed. Work hard and steady. Always. Being a musician isn't about recording an album and sitting back and letting the adoration flow. Now comes the real work. Create that buzz. Once the buzz builds, Distribution and Labels will follow.

5) Buzz can be built by bands that don't tour or gig that often.  A killer video works.  But that's not always easy.  You can't just say "I'm going to create a viral video."   Yet, you can do this, by being creative, provocative, unusual.  And putting your video up on YouTube with a mention on your facebook page isn't "promoting your video".  You gotta work the heck out of it--multiple video channels, press releases, get a promo agent for it.  Work it.  It won't likely go viral by itself.

6) Get a book like "Your Band is a Virus" written by James from Independent Music Promotions and treat it like a bible.  It's full of helpful (and often free or affordable) ways to promote your band.  Get that buzz going. 

7) There's no substitute for blind luck, being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right person.  You can't plan for this or bank on it, but you can increase your chances by attending music conferences (yes, most are worthless wastes of time--but you only need one good one), being sociable, putting yourself out there in forums and groups, and again, treat people with kindness and respect. 




8) And of course, it goes without saying, you gotta play damn fucking good music and play it damn fucking well. Without the music, you're just Justin Bieber."

Of course, it's a lot easier to say "build a buzz" than it is to actually build that buzz, but it doesn't matter.  Buzz is what brings you to other's attention.  You have no choice.  If you're trying to get noticed, get a label, get distribution, get a manager, you have to give them a reason -- a belief-- as to why they should work with you.  In this day and age, a good album simply isn't enough.  You have to approach your music as a business and work your ass off as much on the promotional/playing aspects as you did on the creation of the music itself.

It's not easy.  It's not fair.  It's certainly not a perfect system.

But then no one ever said being a musician was going to be easy. 

Now go ahead, flame me . . . 

--Racer

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ripple Field Trip: Blackfoot Gypsies @ Hat Trick's Sports Bar and Grill



There I was trolling facebook for noteworthy posts when eureka!  The Blackfoot Gypsies, a band I have loved since first discovering their music, were playing a show close to where I live.  Finally!  Work had sabotaged my two previous attempts at seeing the Gypsies when they rolled through town, but for this performance I was in the clear.  Huzzah!

I arrived at the venue early, paid my way past the doorman and immediately spotted Zack Murphy, the Gypsies' drummer standing in front of their merch table.  He was flanked by two men who I vaguely recognized from photos on the band's facebook page.  Breaking from my traditional concert behavior of shying away from those I'm there to see I walked right up, said hello, and identified myself as 'the guy who wrote that crazy review of your album for The Ripple Effect' or something to that effect.  The other two men turned out to be Ollie Dogg and Dylan Rowe, the band's harmonica and temporary bass player.  Matthew Paige, the group's vocalist/guitar player, appeared a few minutes later.  To put it mildly I enjoyed talking with all four of them.  They are very nice fellows.

When the time came the Gypsies took the stage and proceeded to lay down a wickedly good set.  They played selections from both of their terrific EPs as well as their stellar On The Loose full length album.  Not surprisingly all of the tunes sounded fantastic live!  If you are unfamiliar with the group I would describe their sound as Southern-fried garage rock.  To call it ear pleasing is a monumental understatement!

The biggest surprise of the night was how different the live renditions of songs were in comparison to what you hear on their records.  I honestly had trouble recognizing "Don't Know About You" until the first chorus kicked in.  "1776" was performed at a faster tempo and became quite a bit more aggressive, almost sinister.  The Gypsies' performance of the contemplative "Stone Throwin' Angels" took the opposite route, utilizing a slower tempo and becoming more delicate in nature.  The addition of bass and harmonica added a ton of warmth to "Rock It Up", and when the band locked into their groove "Coming Through The Pines" was nothing short of ferocious!  Much more so than on their self-titled EP.

Special recognition must also go to Matthew Paige's vocals.  I love what he sounds like on record, but he truly impressed me with how much variation he threw into his live performance.  After the show he informed me that he was diligently working to improve as a singer.  All I could say in response was mission accomplished!

Waveriders, do yourselves a favor.  If you discover that the Blackfoot Gypsies are playing within driving distance of wherever you happen to be, go.  That's right.  Go.  Enjoy some exceptional music and the good times it brings.

-- Penfold

Buy Music Here - http://blackfootgypsies.bandcamp.com/


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Satan's Host – Virgin Sails




Alright, I will readily admit that I am a huge fan of this band, so reviewing this album was a no-brainer for me.  And I love Moribund Records.  I thought that maybe they had gone by the wayside, because I hadn't seen any releases from them for a while.  They operate out of the same little town here in Washington state where you will find Tony Reed of Stone Axe and Mos Generator fame.  The dude who runs the label really is named Odin.  If you're a fan of metal, you really owe it to yourself to check out the label.  Absolutely killer underground stuff.

Satan's Host is one of those killer bands, and they've been doing their thing for a while now.  If you're not familiar with them, their thing is this pretty cool hybrid of power metal style vocals with some killer, crushing death and black metal music underneath.  It might be a head scratcher on paper, but man oh man does it work on album and on stage.

Sometimes you can look at an album title and figure out what its about.  I'm not sure what “Virgin Sails” means and the press release wasn't very helpful, but I guess it really doesn't matter.  Just fire this one up and enjoy.  There are 10 songs on offer here and its an offer you don't want to refuse.  Sometimes you listen to death metal and you can get a little tired of the grunts and growls that pass for vocals, so the cool part of this band for me is that you can hear and understand the lyrics, and they are usually about some pretty cool stuff.

The leadoff track, “Cor Maleficus – Heart of Evil”, gets everything going properly, just ripping and roaring along and setting the tune.  This track is almost just a straight power metal song, but there is nothing wrong with that.  And the tracks get heavier and nastier as the album goes along.  “Of Beast And Men” is another favorite of mine.  Its another one that really gets the blood pumping, with a nice galloping riff on the guitars and some absolute pummeling on the drums.  “Vaporous Of The Blood” is another one that I really like.  Starts off slowly but then all of sudden goes up to full throttle with a little vocal treatment that is more what you might expect from a death metal song.

You may know this band already and if you do you will enjoy this release as a continuation of some very solid albums over the last 6 or 7 years.  If you're looking for something a little new, a little different in your metal, I highly recommend this album.  It combines elements of metal that you don't often see together, and the playing and writing on this release are very good.  This one comes with a great big thumbs up from your buddy Odin.  You know I never steer you wrong. 

- ODIN




Monday, February 17, 2014

Three Way Plane - Fire EP


My company recently missed out on winning an order for the large-scale manufacture of our new airplane.  Why?  That's hard to say.  I've gone over the entire situation in my head several times and I can not come up with a satisfactory answer.  Our prototype was superior in every way.  It was faster, more maneuverable, could carry a heavier payload, and would have been cheaper to produce than any of the other entrants in the design competition!  What sane individual or group would choose an obviously inferior product!? 

I tell you there is something fishy about this whole affair.  I'd demand an independent investigation if I thought it could cut through the red tape surrounding this bureaucratic blunder, but I've been around this business too long to be that naive.  No, I'll just have to take the 'thanks for participating' letter sent to my company at face value.  The preposterous claim put forward by the letter is that our airplane was rejected due to the fact that it can't go backwards.  Of course it can't go backwards!  Airplanes only need to move in three different ways!  Forward, up and down, and left and right. 

I'm sorry.  Has there ever been a commercial airplane that while flying could stop and retrace its flight path?  Where the pilot thinks oops, I overshot the runway.  Better throw this puppy into reverse.  Of course not!  Yeah, sorry our plane didn't include a six-speed gearbox or paddle shifters to fulfill this clear aeronautical need.  What a joke.  Uggh.  I need a new job.

Greetings waveriders.  Take a trip with me to Athens, Greece where we find the band Three Way Plane.  Today we're going to be discussing their Fire EP, which the group self released in late December of 2012.  According to their Facebook page they describe their sound as psychedelic punk/post-hardcore.  Who am I to argue, especially when that categorization is mostly accurate?  Actually, I'm not so sure about the psychedelic label.  Perhaps that's in reference to their earlier work.  I'll find out and report back later.  Anyway, down to business.

The Fire EP is fantastic!  The group blazes through the four songs on offer in under thirteen minutes.  Each track is easily distinguishable from the others yet all four come together seamlessly to create an endearing whole.  "Old School Chum" starts things off with a trumpet and a trombone playing a ska-friendly introduction.  The guitar, bass and drums kick in quickly to anchor the song with a more aggressive hardcore stance.  "Freeze Me" adds some 90s grunginess to the band's sonic formula.  "Fall In Love With Fire" is my pick of the litter.  I am enamored with the twists and turns this song takes and the fact that it never loses an ounce of energy.  "Queen Misery" provides the most straight ahead punk rock attack and is an excellent way to close out the EP.

Hear me waveriders.  Those of you in the mood for some terrific new tunes destined to light a fire under your day need look no further than Three Way Plane.  You can download the Fire EP directly off their Bandcamp page for the low, low price of free so you have nothing to lose.  Enjoy!

-- Penfold

Download Here - http://threewayplane.bandcamp.com/ 

Fall In Love With Fire              



Queen Misery

         

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Trilogy - Burned Alive



Formed under unusal circumstances, Trilogy came about when two Frederick, MD bookers were discussing what it would take to make a good band made up of local musicians. Eventually Messeurs Barker, McGinnis and Saunders were approached with this idea, they started to jam...and the rest is, as the saying goes, history. After a few "get together" rehearsals the trio found their feet and were officially launched as Trilogy in May 2012. Not resting on their laurels work began on their self-released debut album 'Burned Alive' which finally saw daylight in April 2013.

An eclectic band if there ever was one, Trilogy draw inspirations from many sources. A lot of times that can produce music which is all over the place. However, these guys circumvent any obstacle of this nature by keeping their foundation in power blues, southern rock and jam rock spiced with other hot ingredients. The end result? Simply fantastic, that's all I can say. Instrumental opener 'Daybreak' whisks me away to the magic era of the late 60's and the early 70's when Allman Brothers broke through. This track brings out the very best those southern gents have ever done and I can feel a big cheesy grin on my face as Trilogy waves their magic wand.

On an album as complete as 'Burned Alive' is it's hard to pick out any favourite tracks, however there are a few stand out compositions. I've already mentioned the magical instrumental opener 'Daybreak' and that one along with the title track, 'Teachers Of The Peace' and 'Malice' are my pick. The reason is simple...they represent all that Trilogy are. Each of these tracks are in my opinion what really shaped the band's sound and gave them their direction, that's why they are slightly ahead of the rest. Don't get me wrong because there simply are no flaws on here which is another peak for Trilogy. Their low is extremely high...in any sense of the word!

A couple of other personal favourites are the heavy and jammy blues monster 'All Aglow' where the band manages to play heavy power blues mixed with spaced out jam sections; 'Frown' which is full of southern darkness, sludge and southern rock, slowly weaves it's way through heartache and misery and finally the extremely beautiful but dark 'Invade & Occupy'. Truly fantastic!

Few trios can create this kind of sound. Usually it requires 5 or 6 members which isn't bad but when three guys let their hair hang down and rip it up I get awestruck. Even more so when I know this happens live because then I know i'ts not a fluke, a pro tool scheme. No...I've had the opportunity to witness the Trilogy-phenomena live before this album was released and they were amazing then and they are even better now. And man, what else can I say? This is how 'Burned Alive' comes at you. It's organic, honest, in your face and...well get a copy and listen...you hear?!?! Ignore this at your peril!

- Swedebeast




Saturday, February 15, 2014

It was 40 Years Ago Today - Syd Barrett - S/T


I'm always bad when it comes to knowing what year an album was released. I think one of the only ones that really pops off to me is 1980's "Back in Black." I was born after all these great albums, so the years don't relate to anything in my life.

So, when I heard we were doing a 1974 theme week, I hit the google machine.

At first, I leaned towards Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs." It's a solid album, and I've always liked it. Yeah, we'll go there! But, I don't have much to say about it, really. So, I dug. There were some good albums that year, but none of them were my "favorites." Then, I found it.

In 1974 a compilation of Syd Barrett's two solo releases was released under the simple title "Syd Barrett."
When I was in high school, I was mildly obsessed with Syd's solo stuff for a time. Like, listened to it all day every day. I thought (and still do) that the guy was a genius. His songwriting, as jangly and loose as it was in that post-Floyd era, was some of the most darkly playful music ever written. His music formed the soundtrack to a good portion of my adolescent experiences; fist fights, lovemaking, breakups, video games, you know the drill.

His voice held some kind of trauma behind it, even on such light songs as "Love Song" and "Effervescing Elephant." Others, like "Dark Globe", have been hailed as a stark insight into the mind of a schizophrenic.
If you've never listened to Syd's stuff, this would be what you need. Simple format, two discs (four LPs, if you get it on Vinyl), everything you need to hear from the broken king of psychedelia.


--Headshot


Friday, February 14, 2014

Want a Private Skype Jam Session with Mothership? Jump onto the ship and help them at Ingiegogo.com




News from the Ship!! Want a skype jam session with the band? A performance in your back yard? An original drum skin? Check it out!

"Mothership has officially launched our Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds to record our brand new album and our first tour of Europe! 


We ask you to please visit our page for more information regarding the campaign, and to re-post this link or share directly amongst your friends and family. Be the first to receive the new album on CD, vinyl, and limited edition splattered color vinyl by pledging today. 

Join the ranks. Score some loot. 

Rock and roll. Its a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll 

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW thanks"

http://igg.me/at/mothershipusa
http://igg.me/at/mothershipusa
http://igg.me/at/mothershipusa

Bad Company - S/T



Sometimes it pays to procrastinate.  A few months ago, I told Racer I wanted to do an article giving Bad Company props, he was all for it and added, “Free gets all the love. Bad co was killer.” 

I got about 200 words in, but the never ending marathon of doctors appointments, concluding with surgery to remove internal organs, put writing on the back-burner.

Then the Ripple Writers came up with an idea for a “theme” - pick a great album from exactly 40 years ago (1974) to retro-review.  Hmmmm...Bad Company's first album came out then.  This was the kick in the ass I needed to tweak my original article and contribute more content to  the site!

Bad Company was a super-group that was born out of guitarist Mick Ralphs frustration at the direction Mott the Hoople was going.  Mott were riding the wave that was the tsunami  of “All the Young Dudes” - and suddenly, due to the David Bowie connection, they were a glam rock band.  In a recent interview with Mojo magazine, Ralphs said he felt the songs he was working on no longer fit in with Mott's new direction added “I was always more into blues-rock and wanted to get back into that simpler, earthier stuff.”

In early 1973, singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke were without a band when Free finally split amidst inner-band squabbles and guitarist Paul Kossoff's erratic behavior due to an eventually fatal heroin addiction.  Bassist Boz Burrell came from the revolving door of musicians that surrounded Robert Fripp in King Crimson – and Bad Company were born.  Managed by Led Zeppelin guru Peter Grant and launched on Zep's own Swan Song records, the group were set to take on the world. 

All the hype and record company money wouldn't mean a damn thing if the band didn't produce good music.  Fortunately for the annals of Rock n' Roll, the first Bad Company album is a collection of classic tunes.

The album kicks off with the now classic rock radio staple, “Can't get enough”.  Clocking in at just over four minutes, its a perfect hard rock song and a great introduction to the band.

“Rock Steady” is an even shorter slap to the face and kick to the butt.

The song “Ready for Love” was originally a Mott the Hoople song, and Mick Ralphs sang lead.  Admittedly he didn't have the vocal range to do it justice, but Paul Rodgers did.

“Don't let me down” is a slow, bluesy jam that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Free album.

For some reason the song “Bad Company” always reminds me of Ennio Morricone and “Spaghetti Western” soundtracks.  My mind works in bizarre ways.

“The Way I choose” is another bluesy Free-esque track written by Paul Rodgers, with a nice saxophone thrown in the mix.

The mood is lifted by the Mick Ralphs penned track “Movin' on” - a day in the life of a rock n roll musician. “Jump in to a taxi and the time is gettin' tight/I got to keep on movin' on I got a show tonight”

The album closes with the mellow, acoustic guitar driven “Seagull” .  This is actually my favorite track on the album because it shows off Paul Rodger's powerful vocal range and Mick Ralph's expert playing without the bombast of the heavier songs on the album.

Bad Company would go on to release a series of successful albums in the 70's before falling apart in the 80s, resurrecting (with a new singer) in the 90's – and more recently touring the “Classic Rock” circuit playing their greatest hits to cougars in leopard print spandex. 

--Rys












Thursday, February 13, 2014

It Was 40 Years Ago Today - Frank Zappa - Apostrophe (')

Yes, another Ripple writer chose Frank Zappa's landmark album, Apostrophe, as his selection for 1974.  Hmmm, two writers.  The same album.  Probably telling you something.





Defiance.  In 1974 I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school, and was hell bent on being on the edge.  I would play albums specifically chosen to evoke "turn that down" screaming from my parents or a yell of "turn it off" due to offensive lyrics or subject matter.  I reveled in each such moment as a triumph over authority.

Prior to 1974 my "go to" artist to offend my parents was Frank Zappa. I could put on 200 Motels and regale Mom and Dad with lyrics such as these from the song “Half A Dozen Provocative Squats”:

. . . Half a dozen provocative squats!
Out of the shower she squeezes her spots.
Brushes her teeth.
Shoots a deodorant spray up her twat...
It's getting her
getting her hot.
It's getting her
getting her hot.
Oh-woh-woh-woh-woh-woh

She's just twenty four
and she can't get off.
A sad, but typical case, yeah.

The last dude to do her
got in and got soft.
She blew it
and laughed in his face, yeah.
Yeah.

Thus, in 1974 when Zappa released apostrophe (') I drove down to Licorice Pizza and purchased it on the day it was released. I waited until both my parents were home before I played it for the first time.  I gleefully envisioned their horrified looks and screams when I put it on.  It didn’t happen that way.
Dad arrived home from work as Mom fixed dinner.  It was the perfect time to be an abrasive teenager.  I tore the cellophane, split the cover and put the album on the player.

I fully expected an irate parental tirade as the first cut, "Don't Eat Yellow Snow" pervaded the living room, but, nothing.  Absolutely nothing, until the lyric:

. . . He took a dog doo snowcone and stuffed it in my right eye,
He took a dog doo snowcone and stuffed it in my left eye,
And the Husky wee wee has blinded me,

Temporarily . . .

I heard my father laugh, then I heard my mother laugh. As Zappa cautioned about "Eskimos named Nanuck", my parents came into the living room to catch "St. Alfonso's Pancake Breakfast."  I was dumbfounded.  My straight-laced, conservative parents were belly laughing as Zappa told us St. Alfonso "stole the margarine."  I was flummoxed.  It was not the reaction I was seeking.  My father started to listen intently.  Little did I know that once he heard "Cosmik Debris" every time I would provide an explanation for breaking curfew, he would repeatedly say to me, "Who you jivin' with that Cosmik Debris?" 

I turned the album over with hope side 2 would be more offensive and shock my parents. No luck with "Excentrifical Forz." In fact, my father appreciated the musicianship - surprising for my father and his distaste for rock music.  Not surprising when you consider Zappa was accompanied by legends - Ansley Dunbar, Jack Bruce, George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty - and a dozen other incredible musicians.  Then the title song played and resulted in a room full of attentive listeners.  I became more and more perturbed that my parents also liked it.

I thought finally my parents would be derisive upon hearing "Uncle Remus."  Instead, they laughed and smiled as Zappa sang:

. . . I can't wait till my Fro is full-grown
I'll just throw 'way my Doo-Rag at home
I'll take a drive to BEVERLY HILLS
Just before dawn
An' knock the little jockeys
Off the rich people's lawn
An' before they get up
I'll be gone, I'll be gone . . . 

I was getting frustrated.  This was my music.  I really enjoyed it and also enjoyed that Mom and Dad disdained it. I looked at the album cover and realized the final track was called "Stink-Foot."  I was flush with anticipation that such a rude title could only precede a rude song - one that would offend my parents and reinstate Zappa as my number one musical parental agitator.  Alas, it was not to be. They began to laugh uproariously as Zappa extolled:

. . . Now scientists call this disease bromidrosis
(that's right!)
And well they should
Even Napoleon knows that
But us regular folks
Who might wear a tennis shoe
Or an occasional python boot
Know this exquisite little inconvenience by the name of:
Stink foot . . .

I was divided.  On the one hand I thought the lyrics ridiculous and the music incredible, evocative and masterful.  On the other hand, how could I enjoy Zappa if my parents enjoyed Zappa?  Then I realized, while my parents enjoyed this particular release, it was not their music.  It was my music and that is what Zappa was trying to tell me - "the crux of the biscuit is in the apostrophe".

- Old School



    
 


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ripple Music to re-release Poobah's "U.S.Rock" album in February 2014: Limited Edition already available now!



Legendary heavy psych masters Poobah have just recently announced that Ripple Music will be re-releasing their 1976 album "U.S. Rock" in February, officially set to hit the UK stores on February 10th and in Europe on February 14th of 2014. But to celebrate the upcoming re-issue of "U.S. Rock" in advance, Ripple Music is now offering an exclusive Limited edition blue splatter vinyl package which includes the fully remastered LP with an 11 x 17 poster and download card, and also the CD version of the release, which features 4 previously unreleased bonus tracks! The blue splatter edition is a limited press run of 100 units.

You want to be the first to get hold of Poobah's re-issued and hotly anticipated Seventies rock jewel before the rest of the world? Then this is your chance, the advanced Limited edition of Poobah's "U.S.Rock" is available on Ripple Music now:




"U.S. Rock" is the second release from the mighty Poobah (originally released in 1976) and the also the second to be re-issued by Ripple Music. The album features ten tracks in the original running order, remastered by T. Dallas Reed at HeavyHead Studios. This is the first time that this album has seen the light of day in almost forty years and the CD edition features four bonus tracks, including a blistering live rendition of “Steamroller”. Jim Gustafson, the Grand Poobah himself, delivers a resounding set of six string heroics that should have seen him sitting alongside the greats of the time, and shows why he is the Wizard of Heavy Psyche!

For Fans of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Foghat, Deep Purple, Cactus, Leaf Hound, Uriah Heep, Blue Oyster Cult!


Track List: 1. Flesh Fantasies
2. Pullin' Me Down
3. Watch Me
4. Coast To Coast
5. Let's Rock
6. Thru These Eyes
7. Crazy
8. Keep On Rollin'
9. Right Out Of The Night
10. Out Of You
*Bonus tracks on CD*:
1. Your Way, My Way
2. Cold Blooded Lover
3. Enjoy What You Have (Alternate Mix)
4. Steamroller (Live)

Poobah is:
Jim Gustafson- Lead Vocals/guitar/songwriter
Lori Powers- Percussion/vocals
Eric Wright- Bass
Mike Fortino- Drums /backing vocals


Links:
www.poobahband.com 
www.facebook.com/pages/Poobah/139254842766375
www.ripple-music.com

"U.S.Rock" by Poobah - re-released on Ripple Music - will be officially coming out in the UK on February 10th & in Europe on February 14th of 2014!

VOLUME IV To Release Long In The Tooth Album In March Via Ripple Music


Atlanta’s VOLUME IV, featuring Joe Carpenter of NIHILIST, have just announced the release of their Ripple Music debut album, Long In The Tooth, which will be coming out in North America on March 11th, and is scheduled to hit the European stores on March 14th.

With equal parts elegant beauty and steamrolling aggression, Volume IV serve up a piece of ear candy for the ages with Long In The Tooth. This first release with Ripple Music is a concise, 36-minute thrill ride of swampy metal heroics, featuring heavy grooves, classic bluesy stoner riffs, and an overall impending sense of doom. These boys bring back the old school attitude of musical sensibility, working hard to master your instrument, and taking pride in creating a wide pallet of musical styles: Thunderous drumming locked tight within the pocket, bass guitar providing a dense foundation for the thick guitar and gritty yet melodic vocals that lay on top. In a world where everything is mechanized, click-tracked and auto-tuned, Volume IV does it the only way, the honest way, straight from the gut, which is what we need to make music human again and separate the men from the boys.



Long In The Tooth tracklisting:

'Looking Low For A High'
'Utero/Long In The Tooth'
'Wager'
'Blackwater'
'Save Your Servant'
'KONG'
'Cabal'
'Awake The Dreamer'
'Save Your Prayers'
'Locust Have No King'



Volume IV is:

Joe Carpenter – Guitars/Vocals
Troy King – Drums
Blake Parris – Bass

The Rolling Stones – It's Only Rock N Roll



We were given the assignment to write about an album from 1974.  Not sure why, something to do with this year being 2014, but anyway, as I started casting around for an album to write about, I realized that many of the bands and the albums I wanted to write up were released a little bit before 1974.  Then it occurred to me, like a bolt out of the blue.  The Rolling Stones had to have released an album in 1974.  That was back in the heyday of rock, when bands actually dropped a new album on a yearly basis.  For me, its always been about the Stones.  When my friends want to have the “Beatles vs. Stones” debate, its real simple for me.  Fuck the Beatles, give me Mick and Keef any day.

So yeah, “It's Only Rock N Roll” came out in 1974.  Some people view it as the last of the incredible run of albums that the Stones put out from the late 60's through the early 70's.  Look at the albums these guys pumped out, one after another.  “Beggars Banquet”, “Let It Bleed”, “Sticky Fingers”, “Exile On Main Street”, “Goat's Head Soup”.  Those were the predecessors to this one.  Tell me one other band, ever, that had a run like that.  And I would extend it to include the first two albums with Ronnie Wood, “Black and Blue” from '76 and “Some Girls” from '78.  Completely untouchable.  Put any of those albums on now and you think you're listening to a greatest hits album, but no, it's just one of a string that came out pretty much every year.  Just another studio release from the Stones.

But I'm supposed to focus on “It's Only Rock N Roll”.  And as mentioned above, this one starts out like a greatest hits set, with “If You Can't Rock Me”, “Ain't Too Proud To Beg”, and the title track blasting right out of the gates.  Three powerhouse tracks bursting with that patented Stones' swagger.  Then the album gets interesting.  “Till The Next Goodbye” is yet another of those wonderful acoustic yet rocking ballads that they have done so many of.  It's the next two tracks, “Time Waits For No One”, and “Luxury”, that hint at where the band is headed.  If you listen to this one and “Black And Blue” back to back, they almost form a double album, one being the logical progression of the other.  Even with a major lineup change (Ronnie Wood), there is a real cohesiveness between these two albums and they flow together so well.

“Dance Little Sister” is just one of those Chuck Berry-ish ravers that this band does so well. Good ol' rock and roll done just as it should be.  “If You Really Want To Be My Friend” is another that foreshadows where the band is going.  It seems to plant the seeds for things to come 2 or 3 or 4 albums later.  With all of the great music that these guys had written and recorded over the previous 6 or 7 years, they were still growing, still exploring, and still had a lot to say.  It's one of the marks of a truly great band.  Great bands don't ever sit on their laurels.  They have something about them that is instantly recognizable, yet completely their own.  They take risks that don't always pay off.  And they always give you something to talk about, even if the conversation is about how that one was a miss.

The album wraps up with “Short And Curlies”, a short boogie, and “Fingerprint File”, which again shows the roots that “Miss You”, “Hot Stuff”, and “Slave” would sprout from in the not so distant future.  This album was by no means the end of the great and classic Stones albums.  It is a classic that stands on its own, yet also marks a turning point in the music of the band and gives many clues as to what is to come.  Many bands that had started at the same time as the Stones were winding down, whether from years of excess, lack of creativity, or just not having their hearts in it any more.  The Stones were just catching their second wind, gathering themselves for the next incredible bits of music they had for us.  What a band and what a career, and its still going strong as I write this.  If you consider yourself a fan of rock music, you have to know the albums mentioned earlier, and this one, inside and out.  These guys ARE rock and roll.  They were touted for a time as the greatest rock band in the world.  If you don't think they are, show me another band that can match what The Rolling Stones have done.

 - ODIN




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