Friday, April 30, 2010

Scars On Broadway - S/T

When Scars On Broadway was originally released in 2008, I was surprisingly apathetic towards it. My feelings towards the project surprised me a bit, especially considering that I had thoroughly enjoyed the last three System of a Down releases so much. I mean, I played the hell out of Toxicity and Mesmerize/Hypnotize gave me a greater appreciation for the band. The social commentary was borderline crass, and the political statements were laced with the kind of venom that would make the most radical activist blush. Then of course, there was the Serj Tankian solo effort, Elect the Dead, from the year before that had seen plenty of attention from my CD player. It only seemed natural that I would have immediately gravitated towards Scars On Broadway, but maybe I had enough of being pissed off at the world and needed my angst battery recharged. So, Scars just had to wait.

When I did eventually breakdown and buy the album, Scars On Broadway suddenly became the sound de jour, with that de jour being a constant two week stint on the turntable. I realized, Daron Malakian is a bit of a madman genius, and Scars On Broadway is his latest vehicle for the conveyance of his ideas. Where he seemed to be countered by a more focused and grounding energy brought in by Serj Tankian while with System of a Down, Daron’s crazed psycho ramblings fly unfettered on Scars. His unique perspective on life is foremost in these recordings, but he also injects lyrics of introspection throughout and we get a better sense that his views are his alone, and we can interpret them anyway we see fit. Just don’t hurt anyone in the process. The music, much like that of System, is all over the place . . . punk-y, metallic, poppy, avant garde . . . the dude’s musical vision is as frightening and exciting as any psycho-thriller movie in existence. Heavy rock, fast punk, melodic classic rock portions, tasteful guitar licks . . . at times, shocking, other times simply breath taking. Seeing as he had full artistic control of this project, all successes and failures are firmly planted on his shoulders. He played all of the instruments, with the exception of the drums, a responsibility that he left in the more than able hands of longtime SOAD drummer, John Dolmayan.

Blasting out in a punk rock frenzy, “Serious” is simply explosive. Daron’s vocals have that manic quality to them, shifting between hopped up tirade to metallic, melodic crooner as he tells the world that it’s being way too serious. The song is fun, but there’s an underlying sense of despair and darkness creeping around in there . . . heavy and moving, cleaner and quieter at the chorus. The guitar work is great, particularly in the outro as he begins this wild alternative double picking technique. The tune is a great, upbeat way to kick off the album, setting the tone for what would appear to be a classic punk infused collection of songs. But the album takes a turn on the follow up track, “Funny.” The song comes across as a poppy surf number filled with synthesized textures and ambient melodies. The tempo is slowed down a bit and the aggressiveness is all but nil . . . though that darkened undertone is still there and has a feel of a personal narrative as if we’re riding shotgun with Daron as he makes his way through the city of Santa Monica.

“Stoner Hate” may be my personal favorite on the album and that feeling is powered by the chorus melody as much as the double time beat and heavy guitar riffing. My God, that’s a powerful groove! Plus, any song that can work “super-cala-fra-jalistic-expi-ela-docious” into the lyrics is alright by me. I’m a sucker for Mary Poppins. In all seriousness, the song is as ballsy and heavy as they come . . . it’s short, to the point (whatever the point may be,) has some great dynamic shifts in tone and tempo, and the vocal melody is infectious. Served up with a cup of coffee, “Stoner Hate” is the kind of song that incinerates the cobwebs rather than brushes them away. And order up a side dish of “Kill Each Other/Live Forever,” and you have a morning cocktail to face the day with reckless abandon. Again, as is the case with all of the songs on the album, the melodies are strong and memorable . . . and the sarcastic lyrics performed in an even more sarcastic voice create one of the more poignant moments on the album. This last song has some striking similarities to latter day System of the Down material . . . jarring and somewhat bizarre musical breaks, and huge melodic choruses, in particular.

“Chemicals” irreverently dances in the no man’s land of rebellious and crass, “Enemy” shakes it’s ass in modern disco fashion while constantly reminding us that the human race is a parasitic organism whacked on drugs, and “Universe” comes out of the gates sounding like Bob Dylan in a uber-paranoid mood before exploding into open chords of distorted sound. “3005” is Daron Malakian spreading his wings and soaring over the concrete mountain tops of downtown Los Angeles . . . the song borders on epic, filled with great musical passages, emotional tones, and an overall cool fucking performance. It has a kind of Beatles-esque experimentation going on with the melodies and the textural nuances, and that guitar solo! Damn! It’s subtle, understated, somewhat reserved and held back, but damn . . . that tone and the phrasing is cool as hell!

Manic and overcharged, Scars On Broadway is a chaotic frenzy of music . . . but that statement alone doesn’t tell the whole tale of what’s going on there. In fact, this review pretty much just skims the surface of what you may find tucked within the grooves of this record. There’s so much going on and the infectiousness of the melodies makes further exploration fell more worthwhile. If the melodies weren’t there, it would be like trading brains with a schizophrenic. The melodies are like a safety barrier from the raw insanity, a protective bubble of rich sounds. There’s nothing I would change about this album, or my experience with it. In hindsight, I’m glad it took me so long to finally include it to my collection, otherwise, it would have been too much in conjunction with all of the aforementioned bands and side projects. Daron Malakian is a nut, but it’s the crazy one’s who seem to create the most interesting music and Scars On Broadway is fantastic journey to the doorstep of institutionalization.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here:  Scars On Broadway [Vinyl]
Buy here: Scars On Broadway

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stone Axe - Stone Axe II

When it comes to mid-tempo heavy rock, Stone Axe are the most dedicated muthas on the planet right now. Too old and unfashionable to be considered “retro,” Stone Axe eat, shit and breathe the full gamut of classic rock from the late 1960’s through the early 1970’s.  Stone Axe II picks up where 2009’s full length debut left off but also offers quite a few surprises. The first album was heavy on British style blues rock of bands like Free, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green era, only), etc. This new one touches on just about every style of classic rock. Listening to Stone Axe II from start to finish is like listening to a good rock radio station with a good DJ and no format restrictions.

Once again, Tony Reed Smith plays most of the instruments and vocals are handled by the incredible Dru Brinkerhoff. How the hell do these guys make records that sound so natural and live when Tony’s overdubbing one instrument on top of the other? Production is top notch and the guitar sound is great. Tony’s guitar playing is always inspired, he makes it sound kind of like Paul Kossoff sitting in with some of the best rock bands of all time. Dru’s voice is powerful and brings to mind Paul Rodgers, David Coverdale and Ian Gillian at their peak. Touring bassist Mike DuPont and drummer Mykey Haslip make a few appearances and it’s hard to tell the difference from the songs where Tony plays all the instruments.

Fans of the first album will love songs like “Old Soul” and “Live For The Day” because of the strong Free influence. “We Know It’s Still Rock N Roll” takes inspiration from AC/DC’s “Big Balls” with Dru doing the best Bon Scott impression I’ve ever heard. “Chasing Dragons” could be from an old Faces album while “Just A Little Bit” recalls early 70’s Rolling Stones. They hinted at this style a little bit on the first album but these are full blown tributes. “One More Time Before I Die” is an instrumental that boils down The Who’s Tommy into about 3 and a half minutes.

Thin Lizzy fans will love “Those Were The Golden Years” because it sounds like “Little Darlin” with Tony doing a spot on Phil Lynott impression. Tony also sings on album closer “Turn To Stone,” the biggest departure for Stone Axe. This is pure Procol Harum worship bordering on Moody Blues with a Jethro Tull middle section. There’s enough mellotron and Hammond organ to make Keith Emerson jealous.

Stone Axe make the kind of classic rock that real classic rock fans want to hear. Buy their album so they can go on tour and spread the gospel. As good as the records are (and there are a bunch of cool singles and EP’s to check out, too) they are best witnessed in yo face. They’re not afraid to set up full stacks in the crappiest punk rock dive and blow the toilet seats off.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dropkick Murphys - Live on Lansdowne

I’m not Irish, but I can tell you, without going to the North Atlantic, there can be no place more fun to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than in Boston with the Dropkick Murphys.  From the opening, massive audience chant of “Let’s go, Murphys” you can tell this was a crowd amped and pumped and just hungering for the Murphys brand of fiery Irish infused street punk.  And boy, did they deliver big time!

Recorded during the Murphys stint of seven shows in six nights encompassing St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, this is a roaring, bar room frenzy of Oi! Punk and roll.  The love the audience has for these cats is palpable, showering the stage with screams and chants and stomps.  The Murphys, in turn feed off that energy, like a hurricane feeding off a low pressure zone, gaining power and momentum as each moment of this triumphant affair unfolds. 

My introduction to the particular Celtic brand of Murphys punk came through the back door.  After reviewing the last Street Dogs CD, I bent over backwards to find everything these guys were involved with, but still, I was unprepared for the shear passion these cats bring to the live stage.  Whether tearing through a manic pure punk frenzy like “Famous for Nothing,” dropping down into some more fired up traditional sounds like “The State of Massachusetts,” or even punking up a traditional blast like “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” there is simply no stopping these guys.  They are Celtic Punk.  They are pure energy in motion.

Mixed in amongst the pure volume and raging devotion the Murphys bring to their music is an assortment of traditional instruments like accordion, bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, bagpipes and tin whistle.  Instruments most punks can’t even pronounce much less play.  And that’s one of the things that makes the Murphys stand head and shoulder above just about every other American punk band ever.  Each member of this rowdy crew is a musician first, finding their outlet in truly tossed-to-abandon punk rock.

God, to have been in the audience during “The State of Massachusetts”!  I can only imagine the dancing, hopping, jumping orgy in the crowd.  Dance floor or mosh pit?  Yep, it’s both as the pictures in the insert contest.   Tattooed punks firing their fist in the air right next to dancing girls.  With it’s incessant beat, pounding drums and violin(?).  The vocals literally bleed with passion in a sweat-drenched performance.  I get sweaty just listening to it!  The song is a testament to their northeast homeland, where the Murphys must be considered the godfathers of all Bostonian punk. 

“Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya,” is a show stopper.  Sure, we’ve all heard this song before but not this way.    Sped up to amphetamine pace, the band is one fused, tight unit, while Al Barr’s vocals dig into every ounce of emotion the song could ever imply.    This song alone cements in my mind the power of the Murphys live and etches their name forever into my forebrain as the legends they are.

This album succeeds where so many live albums fail.  Fuck the overdubs, this is raw and raucous and triumphant.  Never before had I heard a live album that made me want to be in the audience as much as this one does.  Pogo-ing til by calves cramp.  Throwing elbows into the ribs of my new best friends.  Screaming, and chanting and singing til my throat bleeds raw Guinness.  Fuck, this album is so victorious, it makes me wish I was Irish.  And Bostonian at that.

“Caught in a Jar,” is a bagpipe-laced punk rave up.  “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” is pure fury.  “Fields of Anthenry,” is a torrent of bagpipes, guitars and heartfelt vocals, all wrapped up in a gangland, sing-along chorus.  Fists pumping in triumph.  Ale pints swishing side to side.  “Tessie,” a natural for this album is a crowd-rousing ode to the Red Socks leading the audience to gang chant a toast to their favorite team. 

And the album goes on growing in verve and vim all the way to the encore, where another one of Boston’s favorite sons, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones join the Murphys on stage to a pounding rendition of “I’m Shipping to Boston.”  I’m not versed enough to know which instruments are played on this baby, sounds like accordion and bagpipes and whatever else they found on stage, but it is magnificent.  Don’t know if anyone ever called the Murphys magnificent before, but damn it, they are.  Their fierce blend of Celtic roots and punk, so decidedly Bostonian, is just so zealous it can kickstart the oldest, most failing heart.

Yeah, I’m not Irish, but damn if the Murphys don’t make me feel I am.

Pope, pack the Ripple mobile.  Next St Patrick’s Day, we're there, and we'll be pressed up against the front of the stage and we'll be black and blue and exhausted and spent and we'll bless every second of it.

Somebody, get me a Guinness.


Buy here: Live On Lansdowne, Boston MA (CD + DVD)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tinsley Ellis - Speak No Evil

Speak No EvilQuick. Name the 2010 Rock Blues Album of the Year.  Can't do it?  Try this.  Take a dose of Warren Haynes jam blues.  Stir in some Allman Brothers and Freddie King.  Toss in blues licks as smooth as Eric Clapton and as biting as B.B King.  Squeeze a dash of Stevie Ray Vaughan on top.  Add a scorching blues voice, then, simmer until it burns.  Sound pretty good?  It should because it describes the Blues Foundation's 2010 Rock Blues Album of the Year award winner Speak No Evil by Tinsley Ellis.

I heard you say to yourself  "who the H-E-double-toothpicks is Tinsley Ellis?" You would think that his continuous touring since 1988 would give him greater notoriety.  It just goes to prove that some of the greatest blues rock guitar players are obscure even when they are in plain view.

Tinsley Ellis is a power blues rocker who Atlanta Magazine once declared "the most significant blues artist to emerge from Atlanta since Blind Willie McTell."  Ellis picked up the guitar for the first time in 1965 at the age of 8.  A chance interaction with B.B. King at one of B.B.'s concerts in 1971 so impressed Ellis that power blues rock guitar became his passion and life's work. At the performance Ellis sat in the front row hypnotized by the King's guitar work. When B.B. broke a string on Lucille, he changed it without missing a beat, and handed the broken string to Ellis. Ellis still has the string.   

"Speak No Evil" is Ellis' twelfth album. All twelve are scorchers. Some would say that his album 2007 Live album Highwayman - Live is his best.  That may be because live Ellis is an inspired Ellis.  His shows pull something from deep in the soul.  His music is laced with amazing Wah Wah pedal work and blazing sustained leads.  In concert his songs carry into spirited blues jams.  However, it is on Speak No Evil that Ellis finally captures the concert feeling in his songs without the jams. From the first track "Sunlight Of Love," a driving electric blues piece that had me thinking back to the music of the Buddy Miles Express, to the twelfth and final track, "Rockslide," Ellis has you moving and grooving and rocking and rolling.  As soon as I completed listening to the album I started it again, and again, and again.  When I was done I still could not get enough and started searching for all of Tinsley Ellis' past albums.

To truly experience Ellis it is said that he must be seen in concert. He has played in every state of the union, Canada, Europe, Australia and South America. He has also shared stages with the Allman Brothers, Robert Cray, Koko Taylor and Widespread Panic. In fact, according to his website biography, he averages over 150 fiery performances a year. He is scheduled to play Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco, CA on June 2, 2010, a concert that you won't want to miss unless you catch him June 1, 2010 at the Crystal Bay Club Casino in Crystal Bay, Nevada, or on June 3, 2010 at Boulder Station Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, or June 4, 2010 at the Doubletree Hotel in Bakersfield, CA, or June 5, 2010 at the Palms Playhouse in Winters, CA or . . . you get the idea.  Tinsley Ellis - smokin' rock blues coming to a venue near you.

- Old School

Buy here: Speak No Evil

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mason Proffit – Wanted . . . Mason Proffit

Listening to Mason Proffit’s first album is akin to a gentle ride on horseback across the open plains of the Western United States. You don’t need to close your eyes too tight to imagine the soft breeze whispering lullabies through the low lying brush of sage, chaparral and mesquite; the rich aroma from the natural vegetation dancing through the air . . . the euphoric sensation of the vast open land, the call of nature, the freedom of space . . . the distant mountains, in all of their purple majesty, marking the horizon and a land of promise . . . various breeds of hawk and eagle performing an aerial ballet to the tune of the wind and the beat of your heart, their cries a serenade for the lonely traveler. Wanted . . . Mason Proffit is American folk music with a healthy dose of country and a pinch of rock n’ roll, and it’s a marvelous soundtrack for a life out West or for a mental getaway from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Never a big fan of country music, I approached this disc with a little apprehension. What was an old metal like me going to find of great relevance in a country rock album? Well, as it turns out, I found a lot of things compelling about Wanted . . . Mason Proffit. First off, the mellowed out rock and the rebellious country tones transposed my being from riding a desk chair in suburban Southern California to that of one riding that aforementioned horse across the countryside. The escapism of the music is fantastic and the warm tones took me back to when I was a kid watching Bonanza with my grandfather, a time when I thought it would be so cool to be a cowboy. However, it’s the social commentary infused in the lyrics that grabbed my attention the most, drew me deeper into the music, and made me lean back with a smile and a glimmer of greater understanding. Ultimately, it’s the combination of the loner cowboy turning his back on society due the strength of his personal beliefs and ideals that became way too attractive to dismiss, and the music of Mason Proffit took on a whole new meaning.

In a direct attack aimed at the corporate world, Mason Proffit penned the album opener, “Voice of Change.”  Here it is, 1969 and the hippy movement has been in full swing for a few years, and Mason Proffit come out with a largely overlooked anthem that encapsulates many of the ideals of the entire generation. Looking for a world devoid of pollution created by big business, the suit and tie guy, the establishment, these country rockers took more of a punk rock stance that many of our modern, so-called hardcore maestros. On the initial spinning of this track, I found myself sitting, mouth agape as I heard this heavy strumming acoustic guitar accompanied by a mouth harp, but on subsequent listens, the sound became more natural and an integral part of the song. The whole band works in great unison on this tune, and apart from the striking chorus melody, the drum work provided by Art Nash is outstanding!

“A Rectangle Picture,” a song from the perspective of a kid drafted by the Army and sent to Vietnam, features some subtly chilling lyrics. Sung in a voice reminiscent of Roy Orbison, the vocal tone is dark while the music has an almost uplifting quality to it and would seemingly fit better in a jamboree setting. But getting past the cheerier vibe of the music and focusing solely on the lyrics, I can feel a weight of despair running this music. I love the way these guys use the symbolism of “a rectangle picture in an oval picture frame” to emphasize their feelings that the U.S. shouldn’t have been in Vietnam in the first place, as well as a more personal perspective of the drafted soldier sitting in a rice field feeling more out of place than ever before.

Not all of the songs on Wanted . . . Mason Proffit are socio/political in nature. “Sweet Lady Love” is simply about a guy working the river waterways and finding his love, and then settling down. Pretty straight forward, pretty simple . . . well, that’s until the protagonist of the tale kills a man and the two lovers have to live and love on the run. This tune, in particular, sounds an awful lot like Creedence Clearwater Revival, and it has one of the catchiest choruses on the album. The richness of the vocals are intoxicating while the heavily strummed guitars, textural slide work, and swampy bass lines create a warm and comfortable bed for the two lovers to lay their weary heads.

The standout track on the album, and the one that immediately made me stop to analyze the lyrics, is “Two Hangmen.” Man . . . this song is a stunner, bordering on epic! The song is a tale of, as the title indicates, two hangmen who actually turn out to be the heroes in this whole sordid affair. Rebels who started questioning the laws put in place by the government and who needed to be silenced by Uncle Sam. The symbolism throughout this tune is great and I love the parallel lines that they create, the hippies of the sixties in relation to the two hangmen, and how their free thinking was thought of as infectious and rebellious and unlawful, and how the two men eventually die as martyrs . . . like so many demonstrators at rallies who spoke out against the war in Vietnam. By the end of the song, the music is powered by the heavily strummed acoustic guitars as the two hangmen swing side by side from the hangman’s tree. Brilliant tune!

I wouldn’t say I’ve been fully converted to the ways of country music. I still don’t think that I can handle the depressing twang of straight country, but I also didn’t think that I’d ever drink straight bourbon and like it. So, for the time being, I’ll dip my big toe in the pond of country rock, stir it around a little before I dive head first into the deep end, y’know . . . wade through the kiddy pool until I learn how to swim with the big kids. Wanted . . . Mason Proffit has been a foot wetting process, and as I stand ankle deep in this vast pool of music, I stand with a big smile. The Kentucky-fried portions of the music didn’t annoy me and the poignant lyrics gave my mind something solid to chew on, and I’ve even gone as far as tracking down the bands follow up album, Movin’ Towards Happiness. In a time when the music world was getting three Creedence albums, the first two Led Zeppelin albums, Abbey Road, the first CSN album, The StonesLet It Bleed, and the first Santana album, (just to mention a few) it’s easy to see Mason Proffit getting overlooked. The great thing, though, is that the music is timeless and has the ability to touch the listener on several emotional levels. Best listened to while sitting alone next to an open campfire after a long days ride.  -  Pope JTE

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Sunday Conversation with The Vinyl Stitches

Raw, rough, slightly psychedelic and infinitely catchy.  That pretty much sums up our reaction to the latest Vinyl Stitches tracks that Postman Sal slumped into the Ripple Office.   Grabbing a beer and joining us today on the red leather interview couch, is Vinny From the Vinyl Stitches!

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond,and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "DetroitRock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just sovicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music.I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

I was a teenage runaway.

I was living behind this old Church on Red River Street in Austin Tx. ( A disused nuns quarters...not sure what the proper name was called...) In this long house with creepy group showers and no kitchen. It was a very strange period in my life. Luckily, the Land Lady wasnt a complete trollope and explained to me her  good friend owned and ran a local bbq place that hosted live music Lord.... I thought.....she must have felt
sorry for me or something but basically told me when ever I wanted to catch a show there she would make it so I got in..

The New York Dolls
The Cramps
Chesterfield Kings
Sonic Youth
Roky Ericson

Lots of Rockibilly, Loud Pycho Garage! And many more great bands were presented to me at that young age and I flipped... never the same.... NEVER!

After that I was glad I wasnt held down working a bullshit career. I felt ready to hit what ever came my way head on!

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first,the
idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

The Attitude, The Lyrics with musical overtone.. then usually it writes itself... otherwise I have twist the knife in Jean Claws back a little tighter haha.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

The Streets innit!? haha... seems really easy here in London to get theattitude of a collective society just walking around and participating.inspiration comes with experiences, new motivation comes from not wanting
to grow to be an old misrible shit like your more than likely to run into here on a daily basis.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

I say this to my mom. ''It kinda like the stones'' she goes ah.. ok? like she knows who the stones are.... I dunno..I suppose is ok to say The Vinyl Stitches make music to sleep to haha.

What's you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

I want people to feel good, to have a sweet time. To get laid!

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

I look to not over complicate things... when I hear that happening it usally means the meaning is slippin away.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology havemade it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harderthan ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the bandforward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Call their shit, Do it yourself. That is if you wanna do it right...

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Playing on Carnaby st. For the Andy Warhol foundation. A big show.Jean claw's amp smokes and starts to melt.  soon after my bass strings fall apart with no back ups... it was horrible.. to be put on top of a building with waiting people on the street (who were there for hours) and we're standing there shrugging going shitt... what now? HAD TO WALK AWAY WITH OUR TAILS BETWEEN OUR LEGS AND POCKETS FULL OF ANDY WARHOL MERCH..HAHA

What makes a great song?

to me it  a song that extracts real emotions out of my black heart.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

um, well the first song I ever wrote was crap. I was all disconnected inside. I need my good friends with me to get something legible on paper.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I like em all. I'm not able to say which one is better than the other.. it all means alot to me and us.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the

We have 7' Singles , mp3's available and t shirts (designed by sambam) on our myspace.. all the proceeds go to our Lp.

Thanks for noticing.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ripple News - Venomin James Drummer Needs Your Help!

We're reposting this report as their are two important fund-raisers coming for all you waveriders to participate in.

Long-time Ripple favorites, Venomin James, a truly devastating doom/stoner metal band from Cleveland need your help.  Jared Koston, the 40-year-old drummer, has been diagnosed with two brain tumors stemming from stage IV melanoma cancer. He was released from University Hospital in Cleveland to be at home with his family.

"Jared's started radiation therapy, but his doctors have basically said that we should prepare for the worst," says Venomin James guitarist Joe Fortunato.

"It has all happened so rapidly that it took us all by surprise. He had been getting chemotherapy, but a bad reaction hospitalized him, which is how they found more going on. Originally, it was only in his shoulder but has now spread to his spleen and brain. It may happen that he doesn't survive too much longer.

"We were planning to have a benefit concert for him and for melanoma charities, but it looks like he may not even be around long enough to see it, let alone play at it."

"Jared and his family need financial help immediately," says Auburn Records president Bill Peters."Jared has four beautiful children and a wonderful wife by his side.Anything you can contribute to the Koston family during their time of need is greatly appreciated.This family is doing everything they can to keep things going but can't do it alone.Jared and his wife Michele are both hard working people but had to leave their jobs while they continue to battle this illness."

"All of the money raised will go directly to Jared and his family to help cover medical and travel expenses. Please take a few minutes to contribute if you are able. No donation is too small. You can make a difference."

Cash, checks and money orders (payable to Jared Koston) can be sent to:

The Koston Family
3060 Princeton Drive
Madison, Ohio 44057

PayPal donations can be sent to: (be sure to mark "personal," then select "gift").

There also is a Koston Cancer Funds "cause" page set up on Facebook.

Michele Koston has organized two spaghetti dinner fundraisers at the Stadium Grill in Mentor, Ohio on May 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. and at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Madison, Ohio on May 24 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Michele, along with members of Venomin James, will appear live on WJCU's "Metal On Metal" radio show, hosted by Peters, on Friday, March 26 at 8:30 p.m. EST to talk about her husband's condition. Listen live at or 88.7 FM in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Venomin James is about to release its second album, "Crowe Valley Blues", on Auburn Records in May. An advance track from the CD, "Cosmonaut", will appear on Poland's Hard Rocker magazine "Monuments Of Steel II" compilation CD.

Venomin James' full-length debut, Left Hand Man, came out in 2007 to a rave Ripple review.

In addition, Venomin James' lead vocalist Jim Meador also serves as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was called back to active duty in 2009 and sent overseas to be stationed on the frontlines in Afghanistan. He is scheduled to return home in May. During his absence, the band has been writing and demoing new material for its third studio album. They have also performed a couple of all-instrumental sets in the Cleveland area, including a benefit concert for WJCU in February, to remain active and visible while Meador is overseas.

Venomin James are one of Cleveland's hottest upcoming bands," states Peters, "and Jared is a standout drummer. The band is on the verge of breaking out of this market and going on to the next level. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to that fact. They are facing a lot of adversity but are staying strong and positive to overcome these obstacles.

"All of our thoughts and prayers right now though are focused on Jared's recovery and Jim's safe return home."

Ours too, our friends.  Ours too.

pick up Left Hand Man here.  Help support the band.  Left Hand Man

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Return of Heavy Psych - Featuring JPT Scare Band, The Dolly Rocker Movement, and Seaspin

Rumdum DaddyJPT Scare Band - Rumdum Daddy

As I write this, an Icelandic volcano has grounded jet liners over a good portion of the world.  In my opinion, if it wasn’t the volcano putting a stop to air traffic, it would’ve been this eruptive new disc by the legendary JPT Scare Band.  And I don’t toss out that metaphor frivolously.  From the first time I  heard these Acid Rock pioneers plying their distinctly original blend of fuming hot jams and molten acid excursions, a picture of a spewing volcano was what came to mind.  Searing hot, flowing like boiling magma, eruptive in force, and seismically heavy.  That’s JPT.  And everything any JPT fan has every loved about the band can be found right here in Rumdum Daddy.

Starting off with the subtle, yet simmering “You Don’t Want to Know,” somethings become immediately apparent.  First, Terry Swope is without a doubt the world’s most unheralded guitarist.  His fingers boil across the strings, leaving shimmering fiery paths in his wake.  Whether slower and nuanced, as on this song, or tearing the strings apart with earth-quaking might and power, Terry’s tone is always perfect.  His notes flow and flood together like that boiling magma, at times faster than the human ear can detect the spaces in between.  Most importantly, he doesn’t noodle for noodling sake. As much as the band loves to jam, each note is fiercely selected, determined in tone and quality.  Each note tells a story, each note is a vital part of the overall lava flow.

Adding to that intensity, Paul Grigsby and Jeff Littrell are a rhythm section of world class power.  They do so much more than simply keep time.  Together, they lock the groove in place with Teutonic intensity, creating some semblance of terra firma for Terry to stand on while his fingers flare.  Paul’s bass is the secret weapon, thick and dirty, always clearing the path with it’s long looping bass line, nailing down the backbone of the song, building when Jeff joins in with his intuitive style.  Together they clear a wide swath for the terror and destruction that follows in Terry’s wake. A power trio in the purest sense of the word.

Never is this synergy felt more strongly than on the devastation that is “Rat Poison for the Soul.”  It only took one moment into the song, when I first heard that monstrous, seismically heavy riff, for me to fall in love.  This is earth-shattering rock and roll at it’s finest. Thirty years into the game and the boys can still unleash it just as mean and nasty as ever.  As monolithic as “Rat Poison” is, “Rumdum Daddy,” may be my favorite song on the disc.  Starting off with some simply gorgeous guitar tones, undermined by Paul’s rolling bass, “Rumdum Daddy” is an exploration of moods and tones.   Terry’s voice, always an under-rated instrument, searches for new emotion here, digging down into the lower registers of his tenor, then sailing into the upper reaches of his range.  And then there’s that guitar solo!  Strings bend and dip, sparks fly, earth moves, volcanoes explode.

No JPT album would be complete without a couple of free-form, spontaneous jam sessions and Rumdum Daddy doesn’t disappoint with three of them, my favorite being the finale, “Bookends Jam.”  Starting off with Terry’s guitar in a heart-searching solo, Jeff drops in with a few pounds of the tom, before Terry loses himself in swirling plumes of ash and smoke.  Turn off the lights.  Close the curtains.  This song should be reverberating off the glassware of every bong ever made, slowly finding it’s way, exploring, until . . . 2:38 into the song, the explosion happens.  Terry’s fingers sear across the strings in fiery flares of intensity.  Paul and Jeff lock in behind him, Terry’s fingers ignite and the whole damn volcano explodes again.

Having heard this, it should come as no surprise that JPT Scare Band were the first band we signed to our new indie label, Ripple Music.  That’s right.  Coming at you this June, expect to see the first Ripple release, Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden on CD and double-LP, gatefold, multi-colored vinyl.  More JPT Scare Band to come your way.

Earth-shattering rock ‘n’ roll at it’s peak!

Buy here: Rumdum Daddy

The Dolly Rocker Movement - Our Days Mind the Tyme

I know I shouldn’t have been surprised by this.  Bad Afro Records has already proven themselves to be one of my absolute favorite labels, digging deep into the bowels of the earth to uncover one glorious gem of fuzzed out, psychedelic pop after another.  They did it to me with Setting Son.  They did it again with Baby Woodrose.  So why did I doubt that they’d be able to launch another perfectly aimed tie-dyed arrow into my steely heart?

Oh, me of little faith.  For surely, Bad Afro has done it again, and this time the object of my drooling affection is this absolutely glorious disc by Aussies, The Dolly Rocker Movement.  With all the garage and retro-neo-psych I listen to here at the Ripple office, I keep expecting to get burned out, but so far, that hasn’t happened.  If anything, charming new releases like this third effort by Sydney’s Dolly Rocker Movement have got me more excited than ever about this scene.  TDRM mix some bare-bones framework of T. Rex with a pastiche of swirling organs, chiming guitars, soft looping bass runs, and more hooks than can be found at a hanger factory.  Each song on this disc comes across like some tasty treat, some delicious morsel, just waiting for my consumption.

 “The Only One,” starts off with it’s amazing wash of retro organ and acoustic guitars.  Daniel Poulter has an affecting voice for his songs, laced with glam and drama, bringing forth each moment of emotion and melody.   “Sold For Sinners,” drops the glammy vibe back down into the garage with the cum-‘60’s organ washings and the drop dead melody.   “A Sound for Two,” is as gentle and pastoral as any of the early Cambridge-prog of the ’60’s with its strains of harpsichord and strings.  While “My Heavenly Way,” simply rocks and grooves on it’s oil-stained, do-the-swim beat.  Damn, this song is so good, I defy you to play it for any  one and not get some butt-swinging in return.  Bring out the lava lamps, the hip huggers and the funny little cigarettes.  This one’s a keeper.

Don’t think that the genre melding of those previous songs in any way creates a dischordant listen.  Far from it.  The ability of the band to mine its fertile field of neo-psych pop, while dabbling in the soil of other sounds is one of the things that makes TDRM stand out.  Whether it’s the paisley of “Memory Layne” or the T-Rextascy of “The Ecstacy Once Told” TDRM do it all flawlessly, effortlessly.  Beautifully.

Thank you Bad Afro.  You’ve done it to me again.

Buy here

ReverserSeaspin – Reverser EP

Other than having a name that made me feel slighty light-headed and in search of a Dramamine, Seaspin were a total unknown to me when the disc was tossed on my desk by our fearless mailman, Sal.  Watching Sal licking his fingers after dropping it off should have been a hint that what waited for me was a tasty treat.  And tasty it is indeed.

Seaspin conjure up a positively dreamy, smoke-drenched strain of psychedelic dream pop.  Imagine Ripple favorites, Apteka, fronted by a woman who’s voice has the ability to send your conscious into flights of erotic hallucinations, and you’ll begin to get the picture.  Over these 5 tracks, Seaspin flow over an expanse of dreaminess that varies from the vaguely Janes Addiction-esque churning turmoil of “Love is a Fable” with it’s buzzing guitars, swirling keyboards, and undulating dance beat, to the neo-Cocteau Twins vague lovliness of “Dream Life.”   Vocalist Jennifer Goodridge carries both tones with ease, her voice always floating some where just above the music, just above my head, somewhere near my dreams.  Meanwhile, guitarist Ronnie Washburn alternates from laying down some surprisingly heavy tones with moments of pure romantic restraint. The sound is lush and layered, incredibly dense, but not claustrophobic.  Rather it breathes within it's own textures and rhythms.  It is heavy and light all within the same breath.

The biggest problem I had with this disc was the effort it took me to allow the CD changer to move off of “Love is a Fable” to the next track.  That song is just so simply perfect, I never wanted it to end.  Give me the 15 minute expanded version.  Hell, the 30 minute ultra-expanded cut.  Loop it for me, let it be a sound track to my day.  I’m good.

But move on the CD does and of course the rest of the disc is just as powerful.  I’ve already alluded to the gentleness of “Dream Life,” with it’s gorgeous harmony vocals and vague Mamas and Papas-'60's-ish melodies.  Then, as beautiful as “Dream Life” was,  “Give Yourself” is the anger that follows.  The crush of the ending relationship, played out with crunching guitars, swirling harmonies, and manic drumming.  “Reverser,” raves with an indy pop sensibility while “The Way You Move,” ebbs and flows with dissonance, groove and noise pop.

Then, if you’re like me, you’ll hit the repeat button and start all over with “Love is a Fable” again.


buy here: Reverser

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune

Valleys of Neptune is the latest feast of table scraps that the Hendrix estate is offering up to famished Jimi freaks across the globe. The majority of these 12 recordings are from 1969 and have been floating around on bootlegs for years but they’ve been given a sonic upgrade from Jimi’s favorite engineer Eddie Kramer. Since a lot of these were works in progress that were never finished by Jimi, Valleys of Neptune is very much a “mixed bag” as the kids used to say in the 60’s.

A remake of “Stone Free” with Jimi’s old army buddy and future Band of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox and long time drummer Mitch Mitchell gets the ball rolling. This version has a strong R&B feel that contrasts nicely with the original. Not better or worse, but very different and very cool. If only all alternate versions were this good. Billy also appears on a great version of Elmore James’ “Bleeding Heart” that brings to mind Jimi’s high energy remake of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and on the spacy title track.

The rest of the songs feature the original Experience of Jimi, Noel and Mitch. Remakes of “Fire” and “Red House” from February 1969 aren’t too different from the originals but are strong versions. These recordings were done in preparation for a pair of shows at the Royal Albert Hall that was professionally filmed. The Hendrix estate is planning to finally release the footage later this year. The bootleg DVD I have is smokin, but it will be great to see it in better quality with superior audio. Also from the February 69 sessions are a good version of “Lover Man” that’s a little slower and shorter than some of the other versions that have been released and an instrumental version of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” that could been left unreleased. It’s not bad, but it’s not terribly exciting, either.

"Mr. Bad Luck" from 1967 and "Crying Blue Rain" from 1969 feature bass and drum overdubs by Noel and Mitch done in 1987. The uptempo "Mr. Bad Luck" later evolved into “Look Over Yonder” on the Rainbow Bridge soundtrack and South Saturn Delta album. "Crying Blue Rain" is a slow blues in the vein of “Hear My Train A Comin” with a doubletime section in the middle. Speaking of “Hear My Train A Comin” there’s a good version of that song from April 1969 with plenty of guitar freak outs.

“Ships Passing Through The Night” is a previously unreleased song that brings to mind “Night Bird Flying.” Jimi’s playing his guitar through a rotating Leslie speaker to give it some extra Jimidelic trippiness. This mid-tempo blues is clearly a work in progress. Who knows how he would have finished it off. “Lullaby For The Summer,” and instrumental, is also previously unreleased and later evolved into the power boogie “Ezy Rider.”

Chances are you know what kind of Hendrix fan you are. If you weren’t thrilled with posthumous releases like South Saturn Delta and First Rays of the New Rising Sun then you can probably skip this one. If you’re a Hendrix freak like me, than his leftovers are enough of a meal to keep you satisfied until the next round of bootlegs make the rounds.


Buy here: Valleys Of Neptune

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Single Life – 7” of Fun: Featuring Hirax, Heavy Water Experiments, and The Fitt

Hirax – Blasted in Bangkok

Having just written about Hirax’s 2004 release, The New Age of Terror, I was inspired to find the piece of music from my youth that actually turned me onto the band in the first place. A few search functions later, I found myself on eBay and within mere minutes, I was paying a king’s ransom for Hirax’s 1987 7” demo, Blasted in Bangkok. But, it was worth every penny. You see, I picked this disc up around ’88 or so, played it forward, backward, sideways, upside down . . . basically, the songs became a piece of my being and I remember being sprawled out on my bed vegging out to the cover photo. I ended up trading the disc to some dude for a pile of loot, but truth be told, I don’t remember what any of the stuff was and couldn’t even be certain if I retain any of said loot in my collection. So, back to present day and Blasted in Bangkok is being handed to me by poor, underappreciated postman Sal, and it was like being in high school all over again . . . sans the alienation, massive waves of depression, and bad acne.

Amidst some healthy doses of nostalgia, I slapped the piece of wax on the turntable and applied needle to groove, and man! It was like I had never stopped listening to this thing! Rumbling bass and drums tore out of my speakers as “Fear the War Within” cuts through the shit and starts the pit. Despite the poor production or mix or what have you, the song is arguably one of the best tunes Hirax has ever committed to tape. Odds are, the song wouldn’t have had the same impact on me if it were produced to a sterling quality, the rawness of the recording truly captures the emotion of the music. Filled with mid tempo breaks coming out of speed metal passages, Katon W. De Pena’s soaring vocals and cry for equality, “Fear the War Within” shows the band stepping away from the traditional speed/thrash metal of the time and crossing over to more of the hardcore vibe. For me, this whole song comes together perfectly . . . primarily, it’s the lyrics and the way they seem to effortlessly flow out of Katon’s brain. For the past twenty years, I’ve sung the first verse like I was spinning the disc on a daily basis.

Flip this bad boy over to the B Side and prepare to have your face blown off by “The Beginning of the End.” Opening up as a true speed metal classic, Hirax then drop down to a killer guitar driven mid tempo mosh part. Man! What a killer groove! The huge bass volume gives the song a dense hardcore feel, but at the same time, has a warm tone that works as a nice counterpart to the more sterile and rigid guitar tone. Again, hearing this song for the first time in twenty years, it’s as if I had never stopped giving this disc love. I found myself immediately singing in tandem with Katon as he attacks the choruses and then I was a whirlwind of flailing limbs, completely oblivious of any obstacle that was in my path. I love Hirax . . . and it all started with Blasted in Bangkok. It appears that in 2000, the band re-released this demo on 10” white vinyl and included another track, so . . . it looks like I need to make another trip to eBay.

Heavy Water Experiments – Single

Heavy Water Experiments is one of those bands that have never been easy to pigeon-hole. Going back to when they were known as Imogene, I remember listening to them and thinking, ‘They’re heavy, but melodic; loose and spacey, but progressively complex.’ Heavy Water Experiments will always challenge the most discerning music listener, at the same time as they create a rich textural sound to have humming away in the background of one’s daily activities. So, when we received the new single from the band, we were excited beyond all belief, immediately racing to the turntable to give the sky blue vinyl a spin. As per usual with HWE, the bass is heavy . . . man, its heavy! But this time around, as the A Side single of “Hermes Told Me So” hums along in its mesmerizing fashion, we begin to recognize the elegant textures of the keyboards as they create a semi-transparent wall in the background of the song, Robert Salguero’s drum work channels a bit of the late, great John Bonham’s thundering attack, but maybe even more impressively, multi-instrumentalist David Melbye’s softer, more melodic vocal approach. God! The more I listen to this song, the better and better it gets. Heady and intelligent lyrics sung with an airy voice, mixed with the shimmering sound of the keyboards and propelled by a dense wall of rhythmic sound . . . does it really get any better than this?

The heavy drone tone of the Heavy Water sound continues with the B Side track, “The Plunge.” This time along though, the band seems to stretch itself more than what I’ve heard in the past. “The Plunge,” while still harboring many of those late 60’s psychedelic sounds has a heavy pop feel to it. For some reason, I keep thinking of the Mary Tyler Moore show when I hear this, when in actuality, the song would fit better with the imagery of a darkened basement during the Summer of Love . . . lava lamps bubbling away, couples curled up in bean bags, soft clouds of smoke from burning incense or a fired up joint . . . I love the subtle guitar interlude in the middle of the song and the big gong crashes. This song, like many in the bands repertoire, is deceptively complex; filled with great ambient portions of sound while retaining a heady musicianship that would befuddle the average musician. All we need now is a 12” version of Heavy Water Experiments so we can really get our freak on! 

The Fitt – S/T

Sludgy, virulent, mean, and nasty, The Fitt is a new find for me. Submitted by Big Neck Records, this 7” is comprised of six tracks and all of them massively distorted nuggets of sound. I’m not really sure if one would consider these guys doom metal or sludge metal or stoner metal or what, but the common theme throughout all of the sound is the heavy density of the tones. On initial listen, I thought the pressing was at 45 rpm, but upon switching to 45 and listening, well . . . it was Alvin and his furry little friends were smoking a lot of herb and living in squalor, firing off some of the most insane music in their illustrious careers. But alas, the disc is pressed at 33 1/3 and after giving it the self titled disc a few more spins, it all began to make a lot more sense.

When you first hear “Hawk Eyes,” there’s no doubt that you’ll think something is wrong with your sound system. My God! That bass is everywhere! Then, as the rest of the instruments are identified, it’s readily apparent that The Fitt are hell bent intent on leveling cities by sheer sound intensity. The instrumental “M80” opens the B Side and is as powerful as the titled would insinuate. Like every song on the disc, the music is dense. Not just the bass tones, but the guitar tones, the vocals, hell . . . even the drums just sound unnaturally heavy. “Killer” is an unrelenting beat down with a quasi-psychedelic wrinkle. Listening to this song is akin to peering through a cloud of pot smoke and seeing the hazy images of this musical trio hammering away at their instruments. The distorted vocals lend the greatest hand in making this song sound like a trip to a face to face meeting with one’s darkest fears. The effect is one of claustrophobia and paranoia. The effect is fucking freaky!

 -  Pope JTE


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rooftops - A Forest Of Polarity

I have seen Pink Floyd twice. The first time in April 1975 at one of the infamous Los Angeles Sports Arena shows - "infamous" because then Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis had the LAPD package, pocket, dog and/or pat down search every third ticketholder for drugs and alcohol as they entered the arena.  Pink Floyd were rather disheartened as the mechanically played the entirety of Dark Side Of The Moon.  A rather infamous bootleg of the concert exists which in itself is rather amazing given the police presence when it was recorded.  The second time I saw them was on August 9, 1980 at Earls Court in London when they performed, filmed and recorded The Wall live.

I am an early Genesis fan.  My favorite Genesis concert was probably September 24, 1975 at the Shrine Auditorium when, with Peter Gabriel, they performed Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and several encores of older material.  Parts of the concert are available on the box set Genesis Archive 1967-1975.

As you can see I was hooked on the "progressive rock" sound - a classical, theatrical rock symphony of great musicianship and syncopated rhythm.  I loved King Crimson and ingested huge quantities of Robert Fripp, John McLaughlin and Yes.  However, the progressive rock sound faded.  It became commercial.  By the 1990's most of it's original purveyors had moved on to other genres or had stopped producing loads of material.  It was a genre on its last legs - or so I thought.

With tA Forest Of Polarity The Rooftops breathe fresh air into non-commercial progressive rock.  All of the elements of the genre are present - like an old friend there is the feeling that Chris Squire, Mike Rutherford, Roger Waters, Phil Collins, David Gilmore, Robert Fripp and John McLaughlin all got together and recorded one last great progressive rock masterpiece. Really, however, the Rooftops are merely a group of very talented musicians from Bellingham, Washington. Drew Fitchette, Mark Detrick and Jonathan McIntyre play guitar. Wendelin Wohlgemuth (say that three times fast) plays drums. There is very little in the way of lyrics although they occasionally sing a word or two - more as instrumentation than story. The band adds layers of acoustic guitars, horns, strings and percussion that percolate and evoke emotion with odd time signatures and virtuoso performance.  This is an album that plays as background music, yet, can be dissected over and over again to catch this or that nuance in the instrumentation or production.  It is also a concept album.  One track flows after the next in a precise order.  The tracks are named, in order:  1. Fiery Atlas (Intro) / 2. Astray Life / 3. I Fast Early / 4. Raft Easily / 5. Year as Lift / 6. Tear as I Fly / 7. A Layer Fits / 8. Leafy Stair / 9. Era Falsity / 10. Sea Frailty. The music, by design, takes you on a floaty, light, gentle journey with various twists and turns.

I'm not ready to say progressive rock is back.  Heaven knows a progressive rock album has not been a blockbuster hit for over thirty years.  However, if the Rooftops keep it up that may soon change.  They play frequently in Washington State, Oregon and California.  This is a band well worth a listen. I suspect there will be no police pat down searches of Rooftops' fans outside their venues.

- Old School  

Monday, April 19, 2010

Everyone Everywhere MP3 Blog Tour - Free Ripple Music for you

Every once in a while something comes along that is just too cool for words.

That's the way we felt here at the Ripple Office when we were asked to be a part of this truly inventive project. Toss in the fact that it gives us another opportunity to get some free (legal) music into the hands of you waveriders, and we were chomping at the bit.

Beginning today, April 19th, and spanning through May 4th, 10 Independent Music Blogs will be giving away each and every song from the upcoming Self-Titled 12" LP from Philadelphia's Everyone Everywhere.

Aptly dubbed the "Everyone Everywhere MP3 Blog Tour," the concept is simple: Nine amazing blogs (and us, making 10 in total) will be giving away ten amazing songs over the course of the next two weeks.  Each blog gives away a different track from the album.  A different blog, a different song, each day.

We've been asked to kick this whole sheebang off, so today we're presenting to you a free download of the album opener, "Tiny Planet." On first listen, we were instantly drawn to this track, with it's spacey opening guitar and heavy rolling bassline. Bring in some chiming and some crunch and we got some sort of space/emo hybrid with some serious pop smarts, soaring melodies and intricate, layered guitarwork.

The folks at Tiny Engines have lined up some stellar blogs to participate, and each site will be giving away a different song from the record on consecutive days - save for the weekends - until its official release date, May 4th.  For the second track on the album, "Raw Bar OBX 2002" check out Can You See The Sunset? on Tuesday (04/20)

For a detailed schedule of tracks and participants, see below.  Check em all out, we found some new cool stuff there.

For those who simply can't wait to download the album (or simply would like to support the band and label) it's currently available from iTunes and other digital retailers. And  you can Pre-Order the 12" LP in all its vinyl awesomeness from Tiny Engines.

So what are you waiting for? Let's start the tour!

Here's our free song:

And here's the layout for the rest.  Follow the tour each day.  Get the whole album.  Enjoy!

Side A

01. Tiny Planet @ The Ripple Effect - Monday (04/19)
02. Raw Bar OBX 2002 @ Can You See The Sunset? - Tuesday (04/20)
03. From The Beginning To The Tail @ Built On A Weak Spot - Wednesday (04/21)
04. Tiny Town @ Dryvetyme Onlyne - Thursday (04/22)
05. Tiny Boat @ Battle Of The Midwestern Housewives - Friday (04/23)

Side B

06. Music Work Paper Work @ Deckfight - Monday (04/26)
07. Blown Up Grown Up @ The Album Project - Tuesday (04/27)
08. Fld Ovr @ Familiarize Yourself - Wednesday (04/28)
09. I Feel Fine by Everyone Everywhere @ Reviewsic - Thursday (04/29)
10. Obama House, Fukui Prefecture @ Clicky Clicky Music - Friday (04/30)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Sunday Conversation With Blane Fonda

Bringing on a cool, post-eighties, exquisite pop vibe, Blane Fonda were a treat from out of nowhere for us here at the Ripple.  Needless to say, we didn't hesitate to have the boys come join us on the Ripple red leather interview couch and chat a spell.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

For me, listening to Pink Floyd - specifically The Wall and Animals, were epiphany moment that happened when I was about 14 years old. I had always liked music and grew up in a family with good tastes, but from the first listens, these albums changed everything. Since then, I've had similar experiences listening to Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Broken Social Scene, and a few others.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

Usually someone will come to the group with an idea -- sometimes it's a chord progression, sometimes a vocal hook -- and the band will write and arrange as a group. We do a lot of scratch recordings so we can work on parts at home.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Inspiration for music can be found anywhere if you are in a creative mindset. We have a new song about a pharmacy, so there you go.

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

Blane Fonda tends toward high-energy, often danceable rock. There are influences from punk and new wave that probably come through.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

We're playing music that we want to hear, and that we hope others want to hear as well. Listening to music is always a very personal experience, so we can't know what's going to get through to someone or change the way they think about what the song is about. If we can make people feel something, we're happy with that.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

Again it's a group process, sometimes it happens in a night, other songs can take months to come together. As for complexity, Blane likes to have some tunes that are simple pop songs, and others that take surprising turns in structure or feel. Our singer used to front a prog rock band, so there is an element of that in the band, somewhere.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Right now our plan is just to get our music out there. Blane is picking up more and better Midwest regional shows, and we're doing as much publicity and grassroots promo as we can wherever we go. Like a lot of things, motivation is easier to maintain when you stay focused on the next step. We'll worry about making a living when it's an issue we need to worry about.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Someone sent us an email through our website from the name Artie Fufkin, saying they wanted to sign Blane to Polymer Records...

What makes a great song?

The use of the word "haberdashery"

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

It was based on one guitar riff that was pretty much directly lifted "Tom Sawyer" by Rush. Luckily, most of the fellow 12 year olds we performed it for didn't seem to notice or take offense.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

There's a song called "Salacious Love" on Blane Fonda's EP Master of Stars and Broken Arms; I think it showcases the sound of the band, and it's just a really fun song that's very easy to like.

Who today, writes great songs? Why?

The list of great songwriters is too long to list here. How about one chosen at random? Andrew Bird writes great songs in my opinion. Beyond the witty lyrics, the melodies are very smart. I can listen to them a thousand times and they don't ever seem to get old.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Listening to vinyl is ideal, though my record collection could use improvement. I still buy CD's.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Reckless Records

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Thanks for supporting music!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ripple News - New Stone Axe Album and New Website with Tons of Free Music

Self-described '70's rock preservationists, Stone Axe, contacted us today with some news sure to make all the lovers of blues-infused, classic '70's rock turn into a bucket of mush.  First, the new Stone Axe II is out and burning a hole in my speakers, meaning that we got another Stone Axe album to freak our minds on  (calm down Woody, down boy!).

Secondly, T. Dallas Reed, Dru and boys just launched a new website that features all the Stone Axe goodies you could want, plus each month there's a free download of a rare studio, cover, demo or live track.  Hearing this I immediately popped over, and now I'm feasting my ears on a delectable Stone Axe cover of Cream's "SWLABR."  And damn, is it good.

Get yours here:  and check out all the other tracks to stream, swag to buy, and joy to be found.  Your new 1970's music awaits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Proto metal Report - Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla

Anytime that Racer and I get together and sit down for a meal, the safe bet is that a good two hours will pass with us talking about music. In fact, the last time we met up, I’d say we spent . . . carry the one . . . find the lowest common denominator . . . about ten hours discussing all that is music. And one of the bands that frequented many of those conversations was Judas Priest, which then got me thinking about the band’s first album. Rocka Rolla, for some reason or another, is the red headed bastard child of the Priest catalog, and I’m not totally certain why. I know that when trying to compare it to anything post-British Steel is near impossible simply because the sound and musical direction had changed so much. In actuality, the band’s sound really took the most drastic turn with Hell Bent For Leather. Up to that point, Sad Wings of Destiny and Sin After Sin held fairly close in the pattern set with Rocka Rolla’s fuzzed out, blues-based psychedelia.

So, here it is . . . 1974 and this wee little band out of Birmingham, England releases their debut album and it doesn’t even remotely sound like the style that they would become famous for. Rocka Rolla has more in common with bands such as Poobah, or Sir Lord Baltimore, or Leaf Hound than what we’ve all come to know and love as Judas Priest. But folks . . . that’s not a bad thing! Bob Halford (as he was referred to back then) and his stratospheric pipes, K.K. Downing and Glen (that’s right . . . one ‘n’) Tipton’s dual guitar attack seamlessly shifting from rhythm to lead, Ian Hill’s no frills, played-in-pocket low end, and John Hinch’s steady hand steering the ship, Rocka Rolla is a precursor to the pre-Hell Bent For Leather releases from the Priest. Maybe a little primitive in sound, but when you sit back and listen to the groove and soul to the music, it’s easier to see that this is an overlooked gem.

The title track has long been a favorite tune of mine. The opening guitar riff is laced with those elements that would later make up that classic Priest guitar sound, as my fearless brethren, Racer, has often stated, a tone that actually sounds like metal. Capturing the essence of all that rock that became popular in the early to mid 70’s, “Rocka Rolla” is the most commercial track on the album and has a string of lyrics that I’ve found myself singing when I hadn’t listened to the song in years. Downing and Tipton shine. Between the heavy blues riffage, these ax men whip out some great lead work and give us a glimpse of the great things that would later erupt from their fingers. Halford’s voice borders on crooning lounge singer as he emits this sultry bluesy thing, gruff when he needs to be, but all around smooth. We even get some sneak previews of the higher pitched screams that became the man’s bread and butter. Of special note, check out the harmonica work. Yeah . . . not what one would expect with Judas Priest, but then again, back in 1974, we didn’t know what to expect.

“Never Satisfied” is a bruiser. Every time I hear this, I try to imagine what it would have been like to hear this for the first time in ’74. Sure, at that point, heavy rock wasn’t totally new. Zeppelin had released the Brown Bomber and Sabbath, well . . . was there anything heavier than Sabbath at the time? But, the point is, the guitar tones, the heavy groovin’ rhythms, the smoky whiskey drenched blues voice all worked in tandem to create a menacing sound that taken apart from Priests’ peers would have be otherworldly. Co-penned by the bands original singer, Alan Atkins, “Never Satisfied” has a certain blues-y factor to it, what with the chord progressions and lyrical content, but there’s also this underlying attitude to it that I think bares a semblance to latter day Priest and the metal that they would eventually forge. The guitar solos from on this one are doozies, as well. Soaring and ear splitting, Downing and Tipton were kismet from day one!

The thing with early Judas Priest that really shook my foundations and I found unnerving was their slowed down, psychedelic material; going back to tracks like “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Epitaph” from Sad Wings, and “Last Rose of Summer” from Sin After Sin. By the time I heard the chilled out psyche sounds of “Run of the Mill” and the space-y Winter Medley, I was pretty numb to Judas Priest of old. Now listening to this stuff, it’s a hundred times cooler than ever! “Run of the Mill” is packed with these great emotional interludes and dynamic shifts of metal that make the song a quasi-epic. The mini jam section in the middle of the song is laced with LSD as the guitar notes seem to waft through the air like so much pot smoke. All the while, the rhythm section is just humming along in the background, doing what a world class rhythm section is supposed to do. Slowed down tracks like these are, in my opinion, when Halford shines the brightest. Dude has a voice that can melt glaciers!

Rounding out the album with a hard rocking edge is “Dying to Meet You,” a song that initially slithers out of the speakers rather than leaping out like so many rockers. The slow distorted riff is as imposing as any out there, and then when the dual guitarists kick their rigs into a clean tone and Halford’s Sinatra-like vocals croon . . . phew! “Dying to Meet You” reflects the tumultuous times well with lyrics that paint a dark and vivid image of the psychosis of those going to war. Then, the song bursts into a galloping rhythmic beast, kicked into overdrive by a guitar solo that will kick your ass into orbit around the moon. Halford’s vocals switch up with the change in mood of the latter half of the tune and we hear the makings of classic Priest. Heavy, driving, dark and imposing, yet tasteful with a touch of classical headiness.

I could never with a straight face say that Rocka Rolla is my favorite Priest album, but I’m sure I could create some bizarre category where it would rest comfortably in the top five. Maybe, the “best 70’s psyche blues that no one talks about” list . . . anyway, most fans of Judas Priest don’t pay too much attention to the band prior to British Steel, and even fewer before Hell Bent For Leather or Stained Class. Rocka Rolla isn’t the leather clad metal militia that the band became in the 80’s. In fact, the band comes across as star crossed hippies who were dissatisfied with all of the peaceniks of the day and then experimented with hallucinogens to further their musical vision. Where Rocka Rolla stands in comparison with the heavy fussed out, acid blues rock of the same time period is beyond me, and nor do I really care. I hear a collection of songs that have a good groove, a warm though imposing tone, and melodies that I can’t help but sing to every time that I hear them.  -  Pope JTE

Buy here:  Rocka Rolla

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