Friday, February 29, 2008

Headspace - I am

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

You happen to look up just in time to see an asteroid shower shooting by overhead, or step out the front door at the exact pinnacle of a lunar eclipse. Or in this case, catch the birth of a star.

There I was, hanging out at the vaunted office of the Ripple Effect eating chocolate chip pancakes and drinking chocolate milk with the Popester, when fate would have it I dropped a line to a band, or they dropped a line to me and the next thing you know, the brand spanking new, still steaming hot off the production line Headspace EP, I Am, arrives at my doorstep.

And I saw the birth of a star.

Mixing tons of old-school prog, ala 90125-era Yes, with smatterings of Metallica heaviness, more melodicsm than could be found on an entire David Gates tribute CD and Dream Theater aspirations, these guys are already grander than the cosmos.

Whatever you do, don't let the fact that this is a four song EP stop you from picking this treasure up. Headspace pack nearly 25 minutes of music onto this EP, containing more time changes, power chords, melodic passages, dynamism and sheer emotion than you'll find in 10 of your lesser prog releases. "Never Let Go," blasts this rocket ship of success off the launchpad, guitars and synths blazing like afterburners before separation occurs and the stage two thrusters propel the band into a bottom heavy passage of bass and vocal distortion. Lastly, the melodic chorus kicks in and we officially have reached orbit.

Soaring in a high trajectory over the lowly earth below, several things are readily apparent. "Never Let Go," is Headspace's "Owner of a Lonely Heart," powerful, majestic prog with all the requisite expert musicianship and complex time changes, without ever losing its pop accessibility. Everything about this song screams out that it needs to be heard. Secondly, in an era where the popular trend is to vocalize as if you're belching rancid bile from a gangrenous gall bladder, Damian Wilson can really sing, and damn, is that refreshing. While the obvious comparison to Jon Anderson can't be avoided in his tonality and timbre (and the occasional hint of Geoff Barradale from the '80's band Vitamin Z) that comparison is meant as a compliment, not a distraction.

"Sane Life," starts off with a beautifully played piano and strummed acoustic passage by guitarist Pete Rinaldi, before the prog kicks in. Avoiding the overly-classical pretensions of the worst of prog, the guitar precisely picks out a complex riff, never losing melody, while Adam Wakeman's synths build underneath. And the song builds and builds like a grand prog monument. Rich Brook's drumming and Lee Pomeroy's bass add muscle until a fury of Metallica-metal roars through the speakers. Wilson's vocals grasp for a whole new level of emotion and height. Pacing, rhythm, and time changes fall through the song with the frequency of leaves dropping in autumn. The bass playing is superb and Rich Brook plays drums like an eighteen-armed mutant, keeping time through odd time signatures and shifts like a jigsaw puzzle, somehow all the pieces managing to fit together perfectly. This is every progsters dream.

I would love to say that "Sane Life," is Headspace's epic du force, but wouldn't you know it, they went on and outdid themselves on "Symbol," a spiritual odyssey told through layers of piano and electric guitar. Here you can see what Headspace is all about, filling that space between your ears with a literate quest for meaning - both in terms of lyric and melody.

Somewhere, I suppose that I should mention that Adam Wakeman is the son of the original Yes keyboard player, Rick, and is the full-time keyboardist for Ozzy. And that Damian Wilson has released four solo albums himself, and that the guys have already opened for Ozzy on tour, but truth be told, those bits of background don't really matter. All that matters is the musical chemistry these five have when they're playing together. A prog kismet of stellar proportions.

"Sober," finishes off the disc amidst a fury of stoner-metal heaviness leading into an extended passage of strong acoustics before a Budgie Breadfan-esque guitar riff explodes like a sunspot bursting from the sun, driving the song to its conclusion. The song's dynamics are engaging, powerful and propulsive.

And there you have it - a supernova has just exploded before your eyes. You've witnessed the birth of prog's newest star - a rare celestial event, packed neatly onto a four song EP.

Lucky you.--Racer


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Waveriders Write!

"The Ripple Effect is possibly the best review blog on the interweb."

"Great stuff! Your sincerity is much appreciated in this day and age of disposable music... and writing. Keep it up." --Kick-Ass Magazine

*The Ripple Effect is by far, one of the most honest and outstanding music sites online today.
--Pickled Sun Music

*You're awesome thanks for everything that you do for bands, it seems like such a rare thing these days!

*Seems The Ripple Effect is quickly turning into a monster and getting tons of deserved respect. Props to you for writing it so well and promoting it the way you guys have. I think you guys kick ass and I'm glad to see your reputation is growing.
--Mountain Mirrors

*I have read many reviews of our albums..many very positive of course, but I must say that I have not read many reviews like yours who so fully understands what we are after..what we want to achieve with our music.
--Trettioariga Kriget

*I checked out your site and you have some killer bands I have never heard of.....great stuff! Man, it's so cool how there is so much talent out there. I appreciate your work in searching out these gems.
--93 Harding

*What a breath of fresh air to read such a well structured, accurately detailed, intelligent review in an age when so much shit is being written. Good or bad it would still have been a pleasure to read. Thanks again and I'll make sure Burke gets to read it.

*That is a great review, not only because you dig what we're laying down, but it is extremely well written and poetic in and of itself. It feels great to have our statement understood. With love.
--K23 Orchestra

*That is the most beautiful review I've ever read - thank you so much for really LISTENING to the songs! It's so easy to lose faith at times; despite our determination to keep "having a good time" as the main priority (and not "making it"), playing to a blank wall can still be frustrating! It's people like you who provide continued inspiration. Thank you again; I'll put you in our top friends to help spread the ripples further!
--The Dooberies

*We read the review and it is cookin' man! Thanks a million for putting so much energy into your review and for getting the point across that our music is energetic Rowdy Rock'n Roll. I think people forget to have a little fun with it all sometimes. We posted a blog with a link to the review. Again, Thanks for the support man...

*Thanks so much for the nice review !!!! Looks like you put a lot of work into it!!!
We have alot of friends and fans that would love to read it!!
--Dream Aria

*Thank you so much for the vote of confidence man! We really appreciate your time and both, actually listening....and writing the review! Couldn't ask for more...and you hit the nail on the head man!

*Thanks so much for that review. Really. This is one for the press kit.
--Jade Leary

*Thanks a lot. it's always good to have someone on our side. great review. You hit a lot of things right on. Thanks again
--Mos Generator

*Wow! Thanks! What a wonderful and wonderfully insightful review! I will definitely link to it from the Bongos' MySpace page and my main website. Thank you again for the terrific review, your support, and friendship.
--Richard Barone

*Wow! I'm really impressed with your review. Usually I feel as if people listen to about 20 seconds of each song, if that and review. I can tell you really gave us a good listen and I want to say thanks for that.
--The Waking

*Thanks so much for this review - up under "press section" on our webpage www. enslaved. no
Thanks for your support!

*I must say you are doing a great service to many a good band that need more attention. Maybe they will be helped by your blog. I wish and pray. Let the best bands win.
--Great Annonymous

*WOW you’re almost the first person to really get where the album was coming from. Much appreciated and impressed – the references and commentary are spot on. I’ll make sure you get a copy before anyone else in the USA, definitely.
--The Automatic

*Wow, thanks man that was a good review...someone actually "got" the tunes and fully listened. Thats refreshing! Thanks for taking the time!
--Attic of Love

*A most excellent review sir! And also a fine way to start my week....

Thanks for the VERY interesting take on the album - I appreciate the fact you did something different, and the film analogy is perfect. We will for sure use some excerpts for our myspace, and have the full review on our website very soon. I also really appreciate the kudos you gave us regarding the artwork and production - It took us close to 10 years to get this CD out and part of the reason is that we wanted to make sure we were presenting the best possible album we could - So thanks for noticing the extra work we put into the presentation.

Thanks again for your support and the totally wicked review.

hey man you wrote a killer review and it's clear you have sufficient gray matter to have hit the mark on our "genre" as unintentional as it may have been. I thought it was very insightful and very gratifying for us three.
--JPT Scare Band

This is a great review. we're all stoked to read it and we cannot WAIT for you to see us live and get the NEXT album!!!LOL we're betting people will like it even more!

*THE RIPPLE EFFECT. Not only does this Blogger-based web source feature exceptional writing from site proprietors Todd "Racer" Severin and "Pope" John Rancik, their taste in the heavy and obscure lines up intimately with ours. The variety of different genres, from indie rock to punk to metal and beyond, as well as the depth of musical analysis is exactly the type of site most of our readers should bookmark.

The way THE RIPPLE EFFECT works is thus: if it's reviewed, it's recommended. The focus is describing and detailing music you haven't heard, but need to experience. Reading the blog, there's no off-putting musical ignorance, content poaching, or pretentious, genre-damning listen to how smart I am cyber-babble that some web geniuses enthusiastically spew. In fact, one gets the impression that these guys would spread the word with carrier pigeons if that was the only medium available. It's all about turning rock addicts with hungry ears onto fresh, vital music of the past and present. Sound familiar? Then get thy scurvy arse over to the Ripple Effect and check out the good word!

Thank you so much for taking the time to review our record, you have truly made our day! We are very excited about the future of this band and all of our future work. We are very glad that there are people like you working for underground artists and for good music in general. We look forward to keeping you close and to letting you know all that is to come. truly, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you!
--Petty Crux

*It means alot when you can actually tell the reviewer listened to the album and can go in depth and describe it. That doesn't always happen and it is very appreciated.
--fear nuttin band

*I'm truly loving this review! I could go on and on! But it is just absolutely thrilling when a respected and talented music reviewer (that's Racer X!) understands and applauds Dave's music for its artistry. You're one talented and extremely intelligent reviewer, and one who truly "Got IT" when it comes down to the artistic meaning of the music.
Thanks again so very much and I would love to quote your review on his website, cd baby link, apple iTunes, and future press releases with your permission.

--Pickle Sun Music re: Dave Dill

*Wow, that is an incredibly bitchin' article. I am in love with that Shame Club disc, too. Those guys rule. Thank you thank you thank you for the kind words about our album. And you are pretty much right on the money with the sci-fi pulp novel comparison.

*Hey Pope and Racer, sweet feckin show, guys! Nice job!! My favorite track was that Imogene song. I have to get that cd.

My favorite parts was you guys just shooting the shit though. Sounds like you huys had a lot of fun and worked well together. You both sound like radio professionals.
--Mountain Mirrors

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Enslaved - Below the Lights

Ever gone ice fishing?

Nah. Me either, but I’m told by those who have that it’s one of the finest ways to get away from the everyday life of shuffling papers and dealing with ugly people. An activity where you leave civilization behind and commune with nature. Solitude. And, if you don’t catch anything? So what. At the very least, you’ve downed a few beers and you’ve found a few moments of peace. I find Enslaved’s Below the Lights to be very much like ice fishing. Not that I find myself listening to it in a wooden box in the middle of a frozen lake. But, I do like the idea of shelving those nagging responsibilities for an hour or so. Below the Lights (and ice fishing) is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy that type of thing, it’s a brief moment in time where we can get back to our natural selves and get lost in the beauty hidden by that which is misunderstood.

“As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” opens the album with a majestic keyboard intro before being completely overcome by the beastly screams of bassist /vocalist Grutle Kjellson and the distorted wall of sound provided by the rest of the band. The most compelling aspect of the beginning of this song is that, even though the listener is being assaulted by what might be described by some as noise, that noise is merely acting as a canvas for the folksy melodies to contrast against.

Lead guitarist, Arve Isdal, is the unsung hero of this band in that he provides moments of true beauty and brightness to an album that dips a toe in some of the darkest music that this reviewer has ever heard. His lead work is stellar on the second track, “The Dead Stare” . . . in fact, the whole band performs brilliantly on what I can only describe as a progressive black metal tune. The break midway through the song is as epic as they get . . . drifting seamlessly from a full on aural onslaught into the aforementioned guitar solo, then into a killer palm muted break that builds in intensity before dropping back down again. And from there . . . into yet another killer driving riff with spacey keyboard textures applied to give the tune that much more color. Absolutely genius! I challenge you, Waveriders. Walk through the darkness and see the light of this work!

Below the Lights is one of those albums that captures the bands native land of Norway like no other. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s earthy. “The Crossing” has that feel of being on a Viking ship, plowing through the frigid ice waters of the North Atlantic, preparing for battle against southern infidels and their new cultures. The acoustic guitar works in contrast with the searing electric guitar and adds a feeling of classic ‘70’s era arena rock, and then all hell breaks loose as only black metallers do. “Queen of Night” opens with a flute and drum intro, both instruments moving in synchronicity and working tightly with one another. It’s another one of those prog-rock attention getters that takes your attention away from the rest of the band as they’re preparing to come in with one of the wildest off time riffs this side of Voivod’s Dimensions Hatross. Arve lays down more outstanding guitar textures to fill in what open spaces remain in the wall of sound.

“Havenless” begins with what I can only assume is a native Norwegian chant over another great off time riff. Regardless of the language, the power is convincing. The song has a groove to it unlike the rest but is no less savage. In some ways, it may be more so. Very tribal. Very primal. Another great reflection of Enslaved’s environment and my personal favorite from the disc.

This is one of those rare albums for me where I’ve rated every song the highest possible on my trusty iPod, and quite honestly, when I recognized that I had done so, I was a bit surprised. Below the Lights sat in my library for close to a year between it’s initial spin on my CD player to the time I decided to give it another try. Yeah. You’re reading that right. I wasn’t all that fond of it on first listen, but look at my feelings for it today! It took time for me to recognize it’s brilliance, and I thank all of the metal gods for blessing me with the patience to go back to it with open ears and an open mind.

“Ridicule Swarm” and “A Darker Place” complete this mind bending journey. The latter track, again, features a killer off time riff. Along with the textural melodies, it’s the off time stuff that I find so fascinating. The dynamics (there’s that word again) are perfectly timed. The melodic acoustic break near the end of the tune has a bit of a Pink Floyd feel. Real moody. Somber and a bit edgy. And, of course, great guitar work. The fade at the end of the song fits the disc well . . . kind of like waking up from a daydream. You’ll feel a little hazy. A bit disoriented. Ah . . . you’ll feel you’re like re-entering the real word after a day of ice fishing! Stay warm! - Pope JTE

Buy here: Below the Lights

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dream Aria - In the Wake

Sometimes a name really does say it all.

Dream- A succession of images, thoughts or emotions. A vision occurring during sleep. Something of unreal beauty.

Aria- An air or melody. Elaborate.

Dream Aria, a Toronto-based four piece, set out to make music that is emotive, elaborate, evocative and melodic.
If music was a painting, Dream Aria's palette would weave ambient groove, middle eastern vibes, techno and new age tones, blended on a canvass of rock, with some metal flourishes, a broad inkwash of goth and some delicate brush strokes of classical. But truthfully, the best way to describe their music is to think of it as a journey, a passage far removed from the daily grind of traffic jams and deadlines, lifting you off on some nearby astral plane, where, damn it, everything just sounds a little bit better.

Each journey needs a starting point and the obvious starting point when describing a band that mixes soaring female vocals with rock, goth, and classical strains would be to compare them to Within Temptation or Nightwish or any one of the other female-fronted symphonic metal bands. But this comparison sputters to a halt as Dream Aria has none of the symphonic bombast or classical ambition of the aforementioned bands. Instead they replace blast beats with middle-eastern percussion, extravagant theatrics with moments of ambient beauty and Gottenburg metal with melody.

Now, that's not to say they don't rock. "Spirit," starts the journey off, gently gliding through the atmosphere with an ambiance of percussive beats and synthesizer before the melody bubbles up from underneath like a boiling cauldron. Eastern horns and a great wah-wah guitar tone leap to the forefront as Ann Burstyn's dreamlike vocals layer on top. Don Stagg, the keyboardist and composer has created a swirling departure point for our journey, sailing off on a middle-eastern magic carpet of sound. This is a voyage across continents, or rather a collapsing of continents from separate rooted masses of land into one smoldering super-continent of music, where no native sound is ignored. He even throws a bagpipe outro into the mix. And it works. The total effect is exciting and vibrant, refreshingly new.

"Sungoddess," brings out the more majestic tones in Burstyn's voice, soaring over a propulsive polyrhythmic beat, splashes of power chords and goth synths. On other songs like "In the Wake-Body," "Blue Lady," and "Snapshot," Burstyn digs down into the depths of her vocal range, at times reminiscent of Siouxie Sioux in all of her goth mire. But when we talk about goth with Dream Aria, we're not talking about the self-obsessed-in-my-mysery, more-concerned-about-my-eyeliner-than-the-music broodiness of the latest trendy teenage goth-phase band. Rather Dream Aria are goth in the grandest terms of Gothic, as in Jane Eyre or Wurthering Heights, romantically beautiful. "Pacis," continues our journey washed in these heavenly gothic tones, a song that carries you across the wind swept, fog drenched moors of the British Highlands in search of a long lost love.

While Burstyn's vocals are clearly a focal point for the band, one thing that could easily be overlooked amongst the mesmerizing wash of synths and rhythms, is the stellar guitar work of Jozef Pilasanovic. Each track finds his guitar searching for new tones to drive between the spaces and crannies.

As our magic carpet weaves through the sampled middle eastern voices, polyrhythms and propulsive beats of songs like "Promise," "Raindrops," and onto "11th Hour," you quickly realize that Dream Aria have created that most amazing of albums; one that could just as easily be played as background music behind the incense laden air of a new age book store or blasting through the loudspeakers, warming up the audience before an Epica concert. Either way, the listeners in both settings would be just as mesmerized as the journey unfolds.

But don't take it from me. Follow the link below, jump on your own waiting magic carpet and take off on this journey for yourself.--Racer

Friday, February 22, 2008

Excel - The Joke's On You

For me, putting on Excel’s The Joke’s On You is kind of like putting on that old worn out pair of slippers. You know the ones. Holes in the soles. Tattered. Possibly held together with strips of duct tape. Familiar in that you know every little nuance, positive or negative, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the late ‘80’s, Excel defied categorization with their debut album, Split Image. They weren’t traditional heavy metal by any means, but neither were they straight up hardcore punk. They were probably the quintessential crossover band between the two genres. Well, them and Suicidal Tendencies. They had the metal guitar riffs and double bass drum bursts, but they had that straight forward punk attitude of disdain towards any and all authority figures. As a follow up to Split Image, Excel released The Joke’s On You in 1989 and I played this sucker to death!

The disc opens with “Drive” and does what a lead track is supposed to do . . . gets your attention and keeps you pinned in place until the album is over. The off-time drums, wah’ed out guitar solo, and musical breaks show that this outfit are anything but dumb punks. These guys have chops and could keep up with most of the metal bands on the scene at that time. Sabbath-like riffs push us through “Shadow Winds” and carry us to a great chorus break down where, ultimately, the band pick up the pace to those traditional skate punk tempos. “Fired (You’re)” is a traditional snot nose punk number that features more outstanding drum work and stop-on-a-dime breaks.

And now for something completely different. “Tapping Into the Emotional Void” starts off with a great bit of acoustic guitar work, complete with some timely harmonics, and sets the mood for what might feel as a more mellow tune. However, the band open up the volume knobs and lets the distortion ring out before the real fun begins. See . . . the most underrated aspect of this type of music is the bands ability to fuck with mood through tempo changes. One minute, the listener is cruising along at a slowed down pace when out of nowhere a dynamic shift of tempo hurls the listener into physical motion. It’s the kind of music that makes spending time in a mosh pit so much fun!

Barely before we’ve been able to catch our breath, Excel kick into “Affection Blends With Resentment”, and we get to sing along in a classic punk sing-along style. The break at the chorus has always reminded me of Jane’s Addiction, and considering that Jane’s was fresh off the success of Nothing Shocking, well . . . it’s not all that shocking to hear some influence make it’s way to Venice Beach.

Much like “Fired (You’re)”, “My Thoughts” has that punk overtone, but with a more introspective slant from singer Dan Clements. It’s an interesting juxtaposition in that with such aggressive music so rife with anti-establishment sentimentality that they would “take time to shake hands with my inner self.” Again, it’s those little nuances that made this band so good at what they did. “I Never Denied” follows next with another classic crossover tune, jam packed with neck wrenching tempo changes and body slamming riffs. Through the beginning build up, one can actually imagine the scores of bodies strutting in a circle. Shirts removed from those most brave to bare their physique (or lack thereof), skin shimmering in the pulsating stage lights, paranoid eyes shifting anxiously to see where the first body blow will be coming from. And then . . . the combination of guitars and drum kick in at that precise moment that the entire circle unravels to become a massive, rolling, boiling stew of appendages tangling with one another. Good times, friends. Good times.

Excel, I’m sure, raised a few eyebrows with their cover of "Message in the Bottle" from The Police. But, honestly, they did it their way and they did it well. There’s nothing in the world that Racer and I loathe more than when a band does a cover song and it sounds so much like the original that it makes you wonder why they ever did it in the first place. If a band's going to cover a tune, they better do it in their own voice, style, and fashion. Otherwise, what’s the point? We’ve all heard it before.

Sorry. Went off on a little tangent there, but it had to be said.

The best thing about the CD version of The Joke’s On You is that they included the b-side single, “Blaze Some Hate.” Amazing song! Dynamic shifts from slow to fast to mid tempo. Tight guitar work. Tight rhythm section. Vocals that work well within the context of the music. All in all, a perfect closer to a damn near perfect album.

Tracking down this disc may take some effort, but it’s worth it. After damn near twenty years, the tunes still sound fresh. Yeah, their aggressive and uncompromising, but they’re honest. The best thing about The Joke’s On You is that, if you spent any time in a pit, it will take you right back to some of those happy moments when you and a thousand other like minded “friends” were together for one reason and one reason only. To enjoy music in your own unique way and knock the freaking shit out of each other.

Excuse me as this old punk kicks off his Doc Martin’s and slides into an old pair of slippers. - Pope JTE

Buy here: The Joke's on You

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Living Colour - Time's Up

Living Colour was too brave to fail. And the second album is usually where most groups fail. Following up Vivid, with "Cult of Personality" still in heavy rotation and a new multiculturalism in place at MTV, Living Colour took off, creating Times Up, one of the most wide-ranging albums that had been put out in that decade. Bravely, perhaps foolishly, the band didn’t stint on any one part of its legacy, but ventured forth in all the genres apparent on Vivid: rock, thrash, rap, funk and the power ballad, while adding experimental pieces that harkened back to Vernon Reid’s time in the avant-garde Decoding Society and soca into the musical mix. It’s a heady album, one that challenges the listener with its sheer breadth.

Time’s Up opens the album, 3 minutes of intricately played thrash that smashes Bad Brains up against Rush and sees what comes out the other end. "Pride" pisses on the ground and announces their intentions: “this is our music, so why shouldn’t we play it?” in reaction to the oddity of a black rock band. And play it they do. S"omeone Like You" is a menacing meditation of crack cocaine and the streets of New York, and "New Jack Theme" swirls around around in a fury of guitar and drums and bass like a patrol car’s red light. "I make more money than a judge or a cop, give me a reason why I should stop." The press labeled them “Black Zeppelin” for the fury of their assault. Calhoun’s drumming is astounding, Reid’s guitar is almost more textural than full on rock and Skilling’s bass alternates between a counter statement to the main theme and a separate, supporting riff.

But for all the noise, the band never loses its sense of humor. "Love Rears its Ugly Head" visits that horror of finding true love, "Elvis is Dead" takes the sacred cow and blows is the skeleton complete with a great Little Richard rap in the middle. I mean, damn, Little Richard? How cool is that? Even in the cautionary tale of love in the time of Aids, "Under Cover of Darkness", has the sweetness of a rap by Queen Latifah in the bridge.

The last two songs, "Solace of You" combine the sweet and sour of the Living Colour world. Set to a soca beat blown in by a Caribbean breeze, the beauty of the melody is a counterpoint to the lyrics about the entire generation of Disappeared men from South America. "This is the Life" grounds us into remembering that we have this life, good or bad, and we have to make the best of it. It’s a sobering message in an album that has spent the better part of a hour covering as much of life as it can, musically and lyrically.

Too brave to fail. --Fearless Rock Iguana

Buy here: Time's Up

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Angels (Angel City) - Dark Room

 Dark Room
Previously, we'd already posted on these hallowed pages a review of The Angels Face to Face, a devastatingly powerful album that married the passion and intensity of the Sex Pistols with the rock and roll riffs of AC/DC. In truth, it's difficult to tell which is the quintessential Angels album, their first American release Face to Face or their follow-up Dark Room. The Australian version of Face spent an unprecedented 77 weeks on the Aussie charts, and Dark Room followed it by immediately going platinum. In America, however, The Angels still struggled to find an audience. The problem was no one knew how to classify the band. Too punk for heavy metal, they were too rock for punk and too heavy for new wave. As singer Doc Neeson put it. "Punk. Heavy metal. New Wave. We're a rock and roll band. Those other words confuse me."

Indeed, The Angels were a rock and roll band, and Dark Room, rocks in fine form. Like Face to Face, Dark Room has the same propulsive rhythms, manic vocals and contains its own classic of Orwellian paranoia, "Face the Day." Again, Neeson's voice is barely contained within the structure of the songs and the Brewster bros blast out one mighty riff after another.

Dark Room contained the Angels first #1 hit with "No Secrets" (although "Am I Ever Going to See Your Face Again" was a monster hit down under.) As the first sounds you hear when the CD spins, "No Secrets," kicks off the affair with a stuttering riff that builds in intensity until Doc Neeson's twisted vocals sneer on top of the pounding bass. "Wasted Sleepless Nights," begins with a dirge-like Velvet Underground bass line, gradually building momentum until the guitar slashes in, Neeson's vocals building in mania until he screeches across the chorus. Absolutely, vintage Angels. "Night Comes Early," and "Devil's Gate," follow form, just balls-out rock and rollers in serious need of a thorazine injection.

But, without a doubt, the highlight of the album is "Face the Day," a perfect vehicle for Doc Neeson's brand of mental illness. Forget the Great White embarrassing bastardization, no one could do justice to this amazing declaration of schizophrenic paranoia other than Neeson. Check out the video down below. The mania in Neeson's eyes is real, my friends. Let's face it, he wasn't nicknamed the Mad Irishman for nothing.

But truth be told, which one of us hasn't at one time just wanted to pound the fuck out of the alarm clock, hide our heads under our pillows and just wish the day would go on with out us. Or as our Mad Master of Ceremonies declares: "Long night leaves me stranded/black vision, danger sign/no love need protection/feels like I'm on production line/daggers of dawn/cold hearted day/why does it have to be morning?/cover my head/stay in bed/too late for luckless warning/I don't want to face the day."
Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

I once wrote a short story, interspersing the lyrics of "Face the Day" with images of a sermonizing Jimmy Swaggart and images of flight attendants pointing out the way to the emergency exits. Well, it made sense at the time.

Anyways, as always, the band is incredibly tight behinds Neeson's mad vocals, riffs executed to perfection, the rhythm section endlessly flawless, as they propel the songs forward, ever fricking forward. The arrangements on Dark Room are more complex than Face To Face, with more variation of tempo within the songs, rather than the straight ahead blues-busting riffs. "Poor Baby" is catapulted into the stratosphere with a grinding prototypical Angels riff while "Alexander" would sit comfortably on any AC/DC album with the exception of the lyrics ,which are far too intelligent for Bon Scott to master.

The Angels are a true treasure of straight-out raucous rock and roll that somehow got lost on the sanitized American shores. Thankfully, those brilliant Aussies knew what they had, and the Angels enjoyed a huge measure of success there. More Angels albums will probably make there way onto these review pages in the future. Two Minute Warning is an exceptionally brutal outing for the lads. But in the meantime, run, don't walk to the local CD shop, jump online over to CD Baby or Amazon and do yourself a favor, pick up Dark Room and revel in the shear insanity of the Angels creation.

Mental illness never sounded so good.-Racer
Buy here: Darkroom

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mountain Mirrors - Dreadnought

For months, I’ve been pacing around my house like an expectant father. I kept looking to the calendar to make sure I had the due date written down correctly. I’ve chewed my lower lip to pulp. I’ve even gone as far as building new furniture in expectation of the new arrival to the household. I’m not really expecting a baby, mind you, but the anticipation I’ve been feeling has got to be relatively close. Dreadnought is coming! Dreadnought is coming!

A few months ago, I introduced some of you to the ever so talented Jeff Sanders and his heavy acoustic musical project, Mountain Mirrors. If you can’t remember . . . shame on you and go back to the archives (over there on the right side of the screen . . . go ahead, it’s okay to peruse) and reacquaint yourself to the brilliance. To summarize, the self titled Mountain Mirrors album is a dark, multi-layered masterpiece of sonic soundscape. Well, the follow up, Dreadnought, is all that and so much more.

What we’ve come to expect from Jeff is acoustic guitar driven brooding music, but from the opening strains of “Born Deranged” one gets the sense that there’s something strange afoot at the Circle K. It’s a bit . . . peppier? Nah. That can’t be it. Bare with me . . . we’ll figure this out together. The tune opens the disc with a Days of the New type guitar riff, all the while being surrounded by a distorted and droning bass line, humming Hammond organ, and Bonham-esque drumming. The tune isn’t so much brooding as much as rocking, but not just meathead rocking but prog-like rocking. A little surprising, but very much welcome. “Field of Grass” follows by trudging across dusty plains traversed by few before. That distorted bass carries the tune in a retro, fuzzed out way. A little psychedelic, but heavy in an Imogene kind of way. Jeff’s vocals take on a whole new quality unlike anything he had done on the self titled disc. Notably, that acoustic guitar isn’t ringing through and is replaced with an electric that has as much tone as you would find on any classic ‘70’s album. The guitar solos are fantastic, melodic adventures. “I Don’t Belong” has that classic acoustic strumming away and the melody is awash with Jeff’s crooning voice. But, it’s the piano work that separates this song from sounding one dimensional.

“End of Days” is a textural masterpiece. Heavy groovin’ acoustic guitars flow to beautifully strummed passages, while the vocals soar a melody of their own. The tune features great dynamic breaks and introduces a smattering of synth and vocal harmonies to add a bit of color. The break at 3:21 just hits a nerve and damn near breaks me down. Almost like being taken back to a simpler time when life wasn’t so demanding. Simply put, it’s a great song.

After a brief interlude with “The Elemental”, Jeff slays it with the instrumental, “Your Dirge.” Bloody heavy track for an acoustic guitar carrying the weight of the track. Masterful. “Birds in a Rat Race” is a sorrowful tune filled with the desperation of escape. More beautiful guitar work and synthesized texture make this song a memorable one. “Better Days” is like going back in time to the day Zepplin III was released.

“A Spell to Block” is a spooky and dark tale. This is a personal favorite simply because of the songs dynamics. Great guitar work, especially when you listen to it in headphones. Jeff does a great job of shifting the guitar runs from one ear to the next, and then drops some more of that stunning electric tone on us. Finally, the piano driven “Angelic” sees the end of the disc with an emotionally filled tune of hope and love. It’s a stirring end to an all around solid disc.

The most stunning aspect of this album is how much musical growth there is since the last disc. And maybe that musical growth is what we were looking for instead of the earlier statement of peppier. The songs may be shorter, but they’re more focused and more concise. The musicianship shows brighter than on the self titled release through musical shadows and light, and the overall mood is less hazy. An excellent effort worthy of your hard earned dollars. Pick up Dreadnought over at and meet me and Jeff in the delivery ward . . . there’s a cigar waiting for you. - Pope JTE

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Hatters - The Madcap Adventures of the Avocado Overlord

Ok, straight up, guys. Pop quiz time.

What was the best damn album of 1994 that you never heard? Well, since we already know that the average Ripple reader is vastly more intelligent than the rest of our saccharine illiterati, I'll bet you simply looked up at the title of this post to the get the answer. And yes, oh loyal reader, there it is, the Hatters in all their glory, creators of clearly the best, unheard album of 1994.

Now, in truth, it's not hard to see why no one picked this little gem up. First of all, take a look at the album art. Someone at Atlantic Records art department should've been beheaded for releasing that monstrosity onto the world. It frightens me just looking at it. But in the end, the boys got no one to blame but themselves. Check out that mouthful of an album title. Really, there can't be too many people clamoring to hear an album about an avocado overlord no matter how madcap his adventures might be.

But, let's put all that behind us, if we can, and focus on the music, because, damn, this is one fine album.

The Hatters, formed in Philly then moved to New York were they traveled in the same jam band circles as Blues Traveler (in fact John Popper lends a hand on one track) and that association gives you a starting point for where these guys were coming from. But to label them as merely a jam band would be doing them a grave disservice. With expert musicianship, a true gift for melody and the most soulful vocals coming from a white boy since Greg Allman, the Hatters were a devastating blues rock outfit. Think of them as the Allman Brothers for the nineties, with a smattering of country flavor and a true classic rock heart.

"Sacrifice," starts the gig off with a beautiful 70's rock riff, dropping right into funky scratching guitars before the song morphs into the gorgeous piano strains of "Bring That Wagon Down." But as good as those two songs are, The Madcap Adventures is that rarest of albums where each song that follows is actually better than the one before. Think about that for a moment. Usually a band load up the front end of an album with all their best stuff, saving the filler for the end. When was the last time you could say that an album actually got better as it played on?

Musically, there's not a weak link. The dual guitar work of Adam Hirsh and Adam Evans is stellar, fiery, easily on par with that of the best of the jam bands, rocking harder than Phish or Widespread Panic. Each note from the blistering solos is perfectly selected, never noodling, just refined. The rhythm section of Jon Kaplan and Tommy Kaelin never falters, and never overwhelms the song, rather each component blends perfectly, keeping the melodies in the forefront. But perhaps the Hatters greatest secret weapon (other than the incredible vocals of Adam Hirsh, which we'll get to later) is the piano work of Billy Jay Stein. No matter how hard these guys are rocking or flying off into jam band nirvana, Stein's beautifully melodic playing keeps the songs grounded in a very accessible pop structure. Some of his melodies and passages are so beautiful, you could easily envision an entire chamber orchestra picking up the melody and running away with it.

Now, for Hirsh's vocals. Trust me, if you like a guy to reveal his passion with every syllable, bear his heart with each word, Hirsh is the guy for you. His voice squeaks, cracks and at times, nearly yoddles across the melody. "I Could Be The One," is a love-near-breakup song of amazing passion and honesty, a capsule of exactly what each one of us has wanted to say, at one time or another, to our lover, when things seemed to be falling apart. The soul and pain in Hirsh's voice, tripping and dipping across Stein's piano chords, is so intense you can't help but feel it. I swear, every time I hear that song, it almost brings a tear to my eye. Yes, I'm getting misty now just thinking about it.

"Bad Side," "Empty Handed," and "Sip of Your Wine," should appeal to every fan of classic rock, blazing guitars and mean riffs. "Dig the Ribbit," gets up and funks in a down home way as Hirsh coveys the joys of frog jumping. "Madness of the Green," and "Found With Your Drawers Down," are fierce rockers, with extended funky jams. Meanwhile, "For Tomorrow," and "The Last Walt," are quite simply, beautiful.

I've played this album for nearly anyone I could corner and block from escaping. Yes, even the local grocer. And truth be told, everyone who's heard it has always responded with that same wide-eyed, god-damn-where-did-you-find-this look of appreciation. I must have purchased and passed this CD out 10 times at least. It really is that good.

Unfortunately, The Hatters couldn't translate their incredible work into financial success. A live album that preceeded Madcap and a second full-length CD finished them off, leaving the world just a little more barren. Adam Hirsh is still recording, as Tree Adams, Billy Jay Stein is up and running at Strange Cranium and Jon Kaplan has become a sought after produceer and mixer, working with such bands as Maroon 5, B-52's and Ray Lamontagne. You can find their websites below. But whatever you do, don't miss this moment of Hatters magic. They really did capture lightning in a bottle, and Hirsh is the man to sings its praises right to your front door.

Makes me wish I knew what a damn avocado overlord was anyways. --Racer

Buy here: The Madcap Adventures of the Avocado Overlord (Adam Hirsh) (Billy Jay Stein) (Jon Kaplan)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jade Leary - Black Glitter Diaries

Some reviews come to me without any difficulty and the words seem to jump onto the page . . . others, like a fine wine, take time. I had to sit on Jade Leary’s Black Glitter Diaries for a while longer than I normally would because, well . . . it deserves that extra time. It would be a complete injustice to simply throw up a review that glanced over this fine piece of work. So, as Mr. Leary has taken such time and great care in putting together a sonic masterpiece, I figure the least that I could do is take my time and let the words ferment before I poured them onto the page.

Black Glitter Diaries is a sonic spectacle filled with ambient musicianship and laced with emotional passages of lyric. “Agnes and the Shadowlamb” opens the disc with a burst of distorted and textured guitars when suddenly we, the listener, are lifted into empty space as the bottom completely drops from the mix and we’re left feeling weightless. Slowly, the music begins to build and flow around our suspended forms and, rather than the ground meeting our feet again, we’re carried through time and space as a marvelous journey of sound acts as our vehicle to another reality. By the time “Howling at the Dam” winds down, we find that our physical forms have barely moved, but we know that our spiritual form has.

Jade writes a catchy melody and cleverly mixes that dynamic in the ambient sound of lush keyboards and textured guitars. The chorus for “Agnes and the Shadowlamb”, as that of “Scream, Atomic Boy” are as striking as anything we’re forced to listen to on the radio . . . just better. His voice has that tortured quality that all the great singer / songwriters have, but there’s also something else very unique to the nuance. It has a bit of swagger without being overly cocky. At times, it shimmers like a shadow to Ian Astbury, at others, is reminiscent of a mellow David Gilmour. Check out the tune, “Elliott” for the Gilmour-esque vocal work. This song is simply a wonderous piano driven tune dripping with somberness and the vocals convey a mixture of hope and sadness.

“We Were Eternal” features a beautiful guitar passage to the accompanying lyric. As the song continues, it just grows in magnitude as percussion, synthesizers, and gorgeous vocal harmonies enter the aural field. What an amazingly epic tune!

As much as Jade Leary opens himself on a emotional level, he’s not afraid to let the distortion ring out and get a little bombastic. There is absolutely nothing boring about Black Glitter Diaries. The dynamic mixture of heavy and mellow tracks make this a truly entertaining listen. “The Black Stars” opens up as heavily as “We Were Eternal” is mellow. “Saints in Cadillacs” is a bass heavy brooding tune that could have you thinking of Nine Inch Nails. I personally want to put on my leather jacket, grab some reflective sunglasses, slick back my hair, and strut down the street with attitude when I hear this track. It’s got a swagger to it and is a fresh change of pace from the rest of the tunes.

Black Glitter Diaries is a high quality piece of music that will make your soul soar, and is best listened to with headphones. Yeah . . . you can listen to it on your home or car stereo systems, but you’ll inevitably miss some of the more interesting musical moments that get washed away by external sound. So, go over to, track down Jade Leary, purchase Black Glitter Diaries (Fossildawn is also a solid piece of work, but I’ll get to that later), and have an out of body experience. Suggested listening environment is for inside only, otherwise you’ll have a hell of a time retrieving yourself from the stratosphere . . . consider yourself warned. - Pope JTE

Friday, February 8, 2008

Proto-Metal Report: Bang - Mother/Bow to the King

Previously, (see Budgie review) I'd written in these pages about that heady time during the late 60's to early 70's when heavy metal crawled out of the muck and mire of the Vietnam war letdown and belched its bile of heavy blues-based rock onto an unsuspecting world. In regular (monthly?) installments, we're going to take an aural microscope to that period of proto-metal (roughly 1968 to 1973), dig through the skeletal remains of the bands lost to poor management, distribution and record company apathy, and find the plethora of treasures buried under the undiscerning ear of history.

To start this series off, then, the first rapturous disc popped onto the CD player is from this mad trio from Phili, Bang. Bang's crazed ascent up the ranks of proto-metal pioneers is near-legendary among the underground circles. Story has it that the Bang boys were in Florida, trying unsuccessfully to scrap together a music career. Having scored some weed on the Boardwalk, they walked to a local music store to buy some rolling papers when they noted a sign advertising a Battle of Bands. Asking the store manager if they could join, the manager mockingly pointed out that the contest was last week and sarcastically suggested that they go over to Orlando and open up for Rod Stewart. Armed with their gear, papers, bag of pot and a hefty set of balls, Bang took his "get-the-fuck-out-of-my-store" suggestion to heart, headed to Orlando, somehow tracked down Rod Stewart's manager, somehow convinced him to let them set up and somehow got him to listen to their set. And it worked! From out of nowhere, Bang's first real gig was opening up that night for Rod Stewart & the Faces, Deep Purple and Southern Comfort!

From there, the music did the rest, and this is where the story concerns you, oh loyal lover of all things seventies and heavy. Bang produced a series of albums for Capitol that deserves to be heard today. Using a basic power-trio line-up of drums, bass and guitar, the boys managed to avoid sounding anything like Cream and instead fused a love of early Sabbath with a slightly bluesy-folkish twist of Zepplin into a wholly satisfying stew of proto-metal.

Mother/Bow to the King
was reissued in 2007 by Green Tree Records, an awesome purveyor of 60's and 70's rock reissues ( This set combines two four-song EP's onto one disc and throws in three lost singles from the same time period. To cap it off, adding an abundance of riches for your hard-earned proto-metal dollar, Bang's entire first unreleased album, Death of a Country is thrown into the mix. A freaking gluttony of proto-metal on one disc.

So what's it sound like? "Mother" kicks the whole thing off as a perfect example of the birth of proto-metal. Coming from the folky, psychedelic sixties, metal was the music of disillusionment, anxiety and anger. "Mother" starts off with a catchy acoustic passage, sounding very sixties in its peace-and-love vibe. The vocals, a great cross between Ozzy and Robert Plant (kind of a pre-dating of Axl Rose) hangs onto that sixties idealism, until you suddenly realize what they boys are singing about. "Mother/you've been good to me/Mother/kept me from what I shouldn't see/taught me life was sweet and grand/told me goodness came from man/Mother/ you lied to me." Then the detuned guitar kicks in, launching the song into a heavy tirade about the state of American society in the early seventies. There could be no better capsule to so aptly define the death of the hippy, than this statement.

And the disc doesn't let up from there. "Humble," after it's folky intro, rages with a riff as heavy as anything Sabbath turned out and a vocal phrasing eerily reminiscent of Ozzy without being derivative. "Keep On," skips the folk altogether, shooting off with a scratchy wah-wah style riff, before dropping into a heavy bottom ended groover. "Idealist/Realist," finishes off this first portion of the disc, the original Mother EP, with another barnburner, making you wonder just why you've never heard of these cats before.

Actually, one thing that's readily apparent on listening to the disc is that somehow, everything sounds vaguely familiar. And that my friend is meant to be a compliment, not an insult. When you consider that Bang were banging out this heavy groove way back in 1971, it makes you realize just how much these guys influenced a whole generation of rockers later in the seventies and into the eighties.

Now the disc is too long to review each track, but let it rest that the Bow to the King EP is just as polished and fierce, while the three singles rock harder than the first Kiss record which followed a full-year later and makes you wonder why Bang didn't become a household name years ahead of bands like Blue Oyster Cult or Ted Nugent. The Death of a Country album is a great addition from a historical aspect. Recorded in 1971 it encompasses a more psychedelic sound as the band were just trying to figure out their metal chops but that's not to say that there aren't some heavy passages or accomplished songs. Having said that, it's easy to see why the disc was never released. The album is credited as being produced by Ron and Howie Albert, but what it really needed was an editor, most of the songs wandering off into a dime-bag of marijuana fumes long past their expiration date. But isn't that what makes the proto-metal scene so much fun. It's the sound of change, of the old dying and the new being born in a fit of anger. Listening to this portion of the disc keys you into that musical shift as it overtook a generation.

Mother/Bow to the King
is an essential addition to any self-respecting proto-metal library and still sounds fricking vibrant today. Pop it into your player and dig on that crazy proto-metal vibe, back when rock was a fresh statement, an angry protest, and everything was just a little bit better with a dimebag scored on the Boardwalk.

Rolling papers not included.--Racer

Buy here: Bang-Mother/Bow to the King

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rumors Heard in Myspace

Greetings, oh Loyal Ones! We’re stepping out of the box with this installment just to do something a little different. In one way, this is for me to keep all of the great information that I’ve received through Myspace organized. Quite frankly, there’s a lot of information soaring around out there and it’s easy to think one band is doing this or that when in actuality, it’s someone completely different. And, then that someone’s not doing that at all, they’re doing this. So . . . there’s that. (Huh?) Keep up people, we don’t have a lot of time!

The other reason for this “newsletter” is promotion. You readers need to know about what’s going on. You’re not going to hear about most of these bands from your local radio stations. You’re not going to hear about them through the satellite services. You could scour the internet, but you know you don’t have the time for that and you’d only get distracted by all the porn. Worse yet, you’ll shoot your eye out, kid. So, leave it to us. Sit back, wrap one of your mitts around a cup of cocoa, push play on your music device, and read up on some of the Rumors Heard in Myspace.

Hailing from Canada, Braintoy are about to release they’re first full length album entitled Vehicles. They have a psychedelic prog-metal vibe going on that kind of reminds me of Pink Floyd, but with gusto for a modern age. I’ve already reviewed they’re EP Tremors, so check that out if you haven’t already. The advance tracks that have been posted on their Myspace page ( show a quantum leap in maturity. The early songs were very primal where the work for Vehicles encompasses a wider array of emotion and musical virtuosity. Just listen to the first minute and a half of the title track . . . and you won’t be able to stop until the whole songs complete. Rumor has in we should see Vehicles in the spring of 2008.

Mountain Mirrors has informed me that the follow up to their self titled epic is darn near complete. The advance tune that I was so fortunate enough to hear had that Zepplin III feel mixed with a bit of Dave Matthews’ vocals. What the rest of the album holds, well . . . we’ll just have to wait and see. If it’s half as good as the last one, we’re in for a treat! If you don’t have a copy of Mountain Mirrors, head over to and do what you have to get it. Speaking of Magnatune . . . while you’re there, check out the phenomenal talent of Jade Leary. I was turned on to him by Jeff Sanders of Mountain Mirrors, and I was immediately blown away by the emotional brilliance of this mad poet. Black Glitter Diaries is Jade’s latest release and the English language lacks enough words to adequately describe it’s brilliance . . . but I’ll do my best! Check in soon, I should have a complete review up in the next week or so.

Prong are back from a mighty successful jaunt through Europe. Rumor has it that Tommy Victor and Aaron Rossi will tour with Ministry and then hope to get back into the studio to begin work on the follow up to the critically acclaimed Power of the Damager.

Everybody’s favorite psychedelic gurus Imogene are working on their new album, which has yet to be titled. The two advance tracks that they have posted on their webpage are simply incredible emotional journeys. They kind of have that Doors sound with a touch of Steely Dan. So far, nothing as brooding and foreboding as their self titled release, but we’re only talking about two tracks. I’m personally shaking with anticipation over this one!

The recently reviewed Moses Mayfield have broken up. Folks . . . don’t start thinking that just because we review a band that we’re giving them the ole jinx. It looks like Moses Mayfield called it quits before we actually reviewed the EP. Check ‘em out anyway ( . . . they’re good. Real good.

New York’s Tribe of Eden have been nominated for a whole boatload of awards through the Progressive Rock Hall of Fame. They’re debut album, Supernova Soul, combines a hearty dose of rock with lyrical enlightenment. It’s positive vibe oughta’ make you feel pretty good about yourself!

Headspace have an entertaining load of songs awaiting you at their site and you’ll be treated to some well written prog-metal samplings. These guys have all those elements of music that I love. Dynamic tunes that shift from heavy to light, all with beautiful vocal harmonies. Their debut EP I Am is available now, so be good to yourselves.

Sticking with the prog theme . . . The Awakening from Ocala, Florida are plugging away on their debut EP. This stuff sounds so freaking amazing that for a brief moment I actually thought to myself, “These guys are gonna’ blow up bigger than Porcupine Tree.” Now, that remains to be seen because all I’ve really heard are instrumental samplings. But one has to think if these guys are putting this much effort into making the music sound this good, the vocals are going to be out of this world. No pressure, though. Check them out at Opeth and Porcupine Tree fans take note.

Italy’s prog-rocking Arpia have a new disc in the works. From what I understand, the new album will consist of one acoustic song clocking in at 43 minutes! Sounds intriguing and I, for one, look forward to that release.

Singer / guitarist/ founder of Opeth, Mikael Akerfeldt has stated that the new Opeth album is in the final stages of completion. You missed it, but I just did a back flip. Also, he’s once again working with the legendary death metal outfit Bloodbath.

And, finally, if you’re looking for some music that’s just fun, check out Mardo ( These two bothers from the L.A. area have put together a little band that just takes you back to a simpler time when lettin’ your hair down and rocking out were fun things to do. They put on a hell of a show and they do a very good job of capturing that live energy on their recordings.

Okay . . . that’s it. That’s what I’ve heard, so feel free to spread the rumors. If they become true, I shall change my name to Poperadamus. If they don’t, blame Myspace. - Pope JTE

Monday, February 4, 2008

King Sunny Ade - The Mango Albums

There's no specific album title associated with this review, because, let's face it, to the uninitiated all forty or so of his albums sound about the same, but damn, what a sound it is.

King Sunny Ade is a legend in his home continent of Africa. If you know anyone from Nigeria, just mention King Sunny's name and immediately you'll watch their face transform, their eyes brighten, their lips bounce into a smile, their shoulders loosen. You can almost see them get ready to dance. Such is the love for the man in his homeland. Everything he ever recorded in Nigeria is gold, his songs dominate the airwaves and he owns half the country. Not bad for the work of a man who left his royal heritage behind to play his music.

King Sunny is the undisputed king of Juju music, a near psychedelic blend of weaving African guitar, talking drum, congas, synthesizers and harmonious vocals. His music doesn't pound or thunder like the Afrobeat of his countryman Fela, rather it ungulates and purrs. It is rhythm in its purest sense, constant and unwavering in its gracefulness. His gentle guitar tones, duck and weave around the talking drums, lilting through the spaces in the polyrhythm, dancing across the bass. Sunny's voice adds texture, never overpowering, but soothing in its call-and-response. His vocals are repetitive like a mantra, encouraging you to leave your seat and worries behind, jump to your feet and move that thing you call an ass.

The first time I ever heard his creation was on the beach, at midnight in San Diego. Imagine the scene, if you will. It was a near heaven experience. Lost amongst the beck and call of the waves, the crackling of the fire and the brilliance of the stars, King Sunny's talking drum called out, like a beacon, ushering me off to an exotic land where problems and worries are not allowed to exist. Trust me, psychedelics weren't needed. Just the music, baby. Since then, I've seen King Sunny live several times, and never has he failed to transfix the audience with the swooping majesty of his music.

King Sunny has put out tons of albums on many different labels over his 40 year career, many of which are available in the states. Check out Synchro System or Juju Music, probably his greatest masterpieces, but Aura on the Mango label is also excellent. These three Mango albums were the ones that first introduced America to the mesmerizing infectiousness of Juju in the early eighties. If you can't find these, any of his more recent recordings such as Odu will fill the bill.

Put it on, turn the lights down low, relax and prepare to become one with the music. --Racer

Buy here: Synchro System

Buy here: Juju Music

Friday, February 1, 2008

Corey Glover - Hymns

You remember those cats, Living Colour, right? Wore a lot of latex and Body Glove gear while they hooted and hollered about being a cult of personality. There we go . . . now you’re with me. I could see the wheels turning just a bit. With Living Colour, we were treated with some pretty heavy groove rock. We cheered them on, we laughed a little, we dug into their riffs tinged with spastic jazz guitar solos. And through it all, we were treated to a multifaceted vocalist who ranged from blues rock to soul in a couple of breathes. Who’s voice was that? Give you a hint . . . read the title of the review.

So, Corey Glover goes out and records an album, which was released in 1998, and subsequently watched it fall on deaf ears. I tell ya . . . such injustice in this world. I understand why it wasn’t commercially successful, and it’s not just because the label didn’t know how to position this bad boy in the superstores. I know that most people expected it to sound like an offshoot of Living Colour with their previously mentioned array of sounds. But that’s not what Corey Glover, the artist, is all about. This dudes got soul and he expresses it with the power of groove and a killer voice. Hymns is packed with R&B soul churning grooves that will leave your hips worn out from pelvic thrusting your way across the living room.

After the opening tidbit “Hymn #1017”, we’re offered a peace offering for believing that this was something from “Camp Living Colour.” “Do You First, Then Do Myself” is a rocker! It truly opens the album with attention grabbing gusto and is upbeat and lyrically stimulating. Along with “Sermon,” its a simple reminder of where the voice gained it’s popularity. Both songs could have fit nicely on any Living Colour disc, but thankfully appear on Hymns and are somewhat of a necessity. Gotta’ have some rocking tunes to balance out the slower stuff, otherwise where are the dynamics?

“April Rain” and “Hot Buttered Soul” are soulful tunes that highlight Glover’s voice. Great melodies at the choruses carry the tune through the day like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth. Simply put . . . it sticks with you, and doesn’t taste bad either. “Little Girl” is straight out of R&B history and would have been a huge hit in the ‘60’s or ‘70’s . . . you know, back when people cared more about the quality of the music than the look of the musicians. Watch for the great vocal breakdown at the 3:38 mark. Soul, baby!

“Sidewalk Angel” and “Lowball Express” show Corey’s funky side. Groovin’ bass lines and wah’ed out guitar licks fill the air and have you feeling like you should be cruisin’ down the streets of Harlem with some attitude. Either that or shooting a porn movie. But on a serious note . . . how is it that “Lowball Express” didn’t become a hit song? I’m bouncing in my chair as write this thing . . . bad ass groove, man!

The most moving tune on Hymns has to be “Only Time Will Tell”. Corey’s vocal performance will tear you up. The tune has that ‘80’s soundtrack quality to it. The melody just reminds you of so many poignant moments in life and makes the song fitting for any “Best of the Soft Rock That You’ve Never Heard” compilation. You can feel the emotion throughout, and that’s all I’ve ever asked of a song. Let me feel it. Let me know why you’re hurting, Corey! Damn it, man. We need to go have a drink and talk things over. I’m sad for you.

And, I guess only time will tell if Hymns will ever be considered a classic by the music industry. I’ll do everything that I can with the power I wield within these spindly fingertips to keep a fire lit under this one. Again, it’s probably not a life changing album, but it’s also one that shouldn’t be ignored. Find a copy, feel Corey’s pain, and meet us at the end of the bar. We’ll save a seat for you. - Pope JTE

Buy here: Hymns

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