Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ripple Top Albums of 2012

 Racer's Top 10 of 2012 (in no particular order

The Cult - Choice of Weapon
Black Bombaim - Titans
Doctor Cyclops - Borgofondo
Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned
Baroness -  Yellow and Green
Orcus Chylde - S/T
Blood Of The Sun - Burning On The Wings Of Desire
Arkona - Slovo
Heidelvolk - Batavi
Lonely Kamel - Dust Devil

Pope's Top 10 of 2012

1.     Alcest - Les Voyages de l'Âme
Post-black metal with a poppy sensibility and charm, it’s almost toe tapping in its accessibility while remaining rooted in all that is dark and gloomy. More reminiscent to the first Les Discrets album than the follow up.

2.     Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata

A hodge-podge of musical styles on full display, filled with grooving dance numbers, ultra-heavy operatic metal, and propelled into the cerebral cortex by the most violent drumming of 2012.

3.     Hypno5e – Acid Mist Tomorrow
The long-awaited follow up to the epic debut album, Des Deux L’une Est L’Autre,this French art-metal quartet brought the goods, combining the heaviest off-time metal heard since Gojira, yet extremely accessible and packed with memorable melodies.

4.     Katatonia – Dead End Kings
They could release a platter of shit and it would probably still sound good. Thankfully, Dead End Kings is a return to the form that intrigued me enough to investigate this band back on Viva Emptiness. Gothically dark, haunting and moodier than a gynecologists waiting room, and perfect in every way.

5.     Les Discrets – Ariettes Oubilees

6.     Moonspell – Apha Noir/Omega White
Dark and dastardly, these Portuguese metal mainstays return to the fray with a haunting and demonically heavy epic double LP set.

7.     Mos Generator – Nomads
A triumphant return to the fold, this Port Orchard trio delivered the goods when everyone seemed to forget they ever existed. Soul searching song craft is on full display in this 40 minute gem!

8.     Om - Advaitic Songs
Mesmerizing. Like walking through the Sahara desert with Farflung as your tour guide. Ripe with Middle Eastern tones and themes, yet heavy and accessible at the same time. A complex listen, but one of the most satisfying.

9.     Secrets of the Moon – Seven Bells
Never has evil sounded more brutally beautiful. The bands most focused release to date, clear and concise, the let us know the end is near.

10.  Wo Fat – The Black Code
Dallas, Texas trio has redefined the meaning of HEAVY with this five song marathon of blues-based doom-tinged rawk.

11.  Year of the Goat – Angels’ Necropolis
I fell in love with their 4 song EP from a couple of years ago and to have this drop at the end of 2012 tells me that someone, indeed, loves me. High quality musicianship and song craft, lyrically dark, dripping with images of séances and the Dark One, yet musically accessible enough to bop your head to.

Honorable mention:

Doctor Cyclops - Borgofondo
Dordeduh – Dar De Duh
Blood of the Sun – Burning on the Wings of Desire
Syven - Aikaintait
Xandria – Neverworld’s End
Corrosion of Conformity – S/T

 Woody's Top 10 of 2012. (Very glad this year is over, been a rough one.)

Chips & Beer #3 (magazine)
Corrosion of Conformity - Corrosion of Conformity
Cortez - Cortez
Federale - Not Your Vessel
Groan - The Divine Right of Kings
Mos Generator - Nomads
Dee Snider - Shut Up and Give Me the Mic (book)
Superchrist - Holy Shit
Ufomammut - ORO: Opus Alter
Voi Vod - To The Death

 Horn's Top 10 of 2012

10    Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Alter
9      Nachtmystium, Silencing Machine
8      Serpentine Path, Serpentine Path
7      The Sword, Apocryphon
6      Saint Vitus, Lillie:  F-65
5      Sylosis, Monolith
4      Windhand, Windhand
3      Pig Destroyer, Book Burner
2      Witchcraft, Legend
1      Cattle Decapitation, Monolith of Inhumanity

Ollie's Top 10 of 2012

Wow, Top 10…no easy task by any means…especially as I got it down to around 14 or 15 and should all be in my top 10. I couldn’t really out them in a particular order so the running is purely arbitrary. If I overthink this it could all change so I went with gut instinct!!!

1)       Mos Generator – Nomads
2)       Lord Fowl – Moon Queen
3)       Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned
4)       Doctor Cyclops – Borgofondo
5)       Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – Don’t Fear It…Hear It
6)       C.O.C – C.O.C
7)       Imperial State Electric – Pop War
8)       Stone Axe – Captured Live! Roadburn Festival
9)       Alunah – White Hoarhound
10)    Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment

I have to give honourable mentions also to:

Mother Corona – Out Of The Dust
Black Magician – Nature Is The Devil’s Church
Mighty High – Legalise Tre Bags
Sun Gods In Exile – Thanks For The Silver

I could add a load more but it’d get silly!!!

Penfold's Top 10 of 2012

Top 10 of 2012 (in Alphabetical Order):

Alestorm – Back Through Time
Blackfoot Gypsies – On The Loose
District 97 – Trouble With Machines
Ebert, Matt - Hard Work
Gift of Gab – The Next Logical Progression
Random – Language Arts Vol. 1, 2, and 3
Royal Headache – Royal Headache
Sigh – In Somniphobia
Wilson, Jim – Jim Wilson
Wino & Conny Ochs – Heavy Kingdom

Honorable Mentions:

Atherton – No Threat
Brother Ali – Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color
Coup, The – Sorry To Bother You
Fiasco, Lupe – Food And Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1
Immortal Technique – The Martyr
Leiana – Lucky #3
Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned

Swedebeast's Top 10 of 2012

1. Pale Divine - Painted Windows Black
2. Magnum - On The 13th Day
3. Marillion - Sounds That Can't Be Made
4. Chowder - Passion Rift
5. King Giant - Dismal Hollow
6. Kontinuum - Earth, Blood, Magic
7. Blood Of The Sun - Burning On The Wings Of Desire
8. Killing Joke - MMXII
9. Monolithe - Monolithe III
10. Alunah - White Hoarhound

The Professor’s Top 10 of 2012

1.     Thrice- Anthology
One of the greatest bands of all time (and I’m not exaggerating) puts out their final and most epic piece of work they’ve done.  Anthology is a live album recorded along the final tour of their amazing careers.  It’s a fitting conclusion. 

2.    We’re Doomed- How to Destroy Something Beautiful
When I was given this band to review for The Ripple, I was stunned by the quality of the work here.  Moody, oppressive, gorgeous, sad, and professional, this crew has jumped up into “favorite band” category.   Just waiting on a full length release!

3.    Between the Buried and Me- The Parallax II: Future Sequence
What can you say about Between the Buried and Me that does them justice?  They are some of the greatest musicians in metal.  Hell, in any category.  They create beautiful arrangements that erupt into violent explosion. The Parallax II is far superior to its predecessor, and may be BtBaM’s finest album to date.  That’s saying a great deal.

4.    Deftones- Koi No Yokan
I’ll admit that I was ready to write off the Deftones new album when I heard the single Tempest.  I hate that song.  Still do.  However, the rest of the album is grade A Deftones.  It’s one of the most enjoyable albums of their career.  It’s nice and heavy with just a splash of moody electronica.  It’s great, and I highly recommend it. 

5.    Set it Off- Cinematics
I was stunned when I heard this excellent pop-punk-orchestra affair.  It’s straight up beautiful, with incredible lyrics that are easy to relate to.  It’s catchy as hell and well thought out.  There is a ton of energy involved with this band.  When my band, Cover of Afternoon opened for them, we learned that their live show was as intense and energetic as their album.  Easily the best live band I’ve seen this year.

6.    Wretched- Son of Perdition
If it wasn’t for Between the Buried and Me, this album would win my “Guitar Work of the Year” award..  if it mattered.  Or existed.  These boys can shred.  John Vail is a legendary guitarist, and he’s flanked by the equally talented Steven Funderburk.  Sick stuff. 

7.     Lower than Atlantis- Changing Tunes
It was hard for me to listen to Lower than Atlantis’s new album, because the previous outing World Record is listed as one of my all-time favorite spins.  This album didn’t disappoint.  While not as stellar as WR, It’s a compelling follow-up that has the gorgeous melodies surrounded by the punk guitar.  It’s a great album.

8.    Trioscapes- Separate Realities
Sexy sax jazz metal.  Need I say more?

9.    By the Bull-  Ghosts and Prophecies
An unheralded little band out of Columbia South Carolina, Nick Brewer and co. bring a certain style to their brand of rock.  Part Fall of Troy, part nothing I’ve ever heard, and all freaking fantastic.  The first four tracks of the album stand are amazing.  Especially the acoustic and piano driven The Push. It’s possibly my favorite song of the year.  Check these guys out. 

10.    Jowls- Cursed

I freaking love the aggressive explosion that is Jowls.  This album bleeds anger and is as brutal as any shred metal without being overbearing.  It’s all emotion. I absolutely loved it. 

Mr. Brownstone's Top 10 of 2012

Beach House- “Bloom”
Cat Power- “Sun”
Gotye- “Making Mirrors”
Grimes- “Visions”
Jack White- “Blunderbuss”
Kimbra- “Vows”
Lana Del Rey- “Born To Die”
Passion Pit- “Gossamer”
Sleigh Bells- “Reign of Terror”
The xx- “Coexist”

Old SchoolLists, Lists, Lists!
Racer is at it again.  He wants a Best Music of 2012 List.   A list of bests.  I'm supposed to judge what I've heard in the past year and tell you - in fact, more than tell you - persuade you that I know what's best.  Or, maybe it is so you can judge me and my musical tastes?

Racer, don't you see the whole list thing is what's wrong with the music world?  We all want to take the upper hand in the argument, be seen as the most, come out on top, and be able to look down on the competition.  But, when for the love of music did music appreciation become a contest?

I think it must be ingrained in us to contrast and compare all things and create a little hierarchy of like-kind items and then, to try to impose it on others as "truth". Sure, one apple may taste sweeter than another and be better in your apple hierarchy, but where do you place it in the context of all the fruit you ate this year?  The desire to elevate that which we prefer by subjecting others to our opinions is just misapplied Maslow to music with consequences as serious as misapplied Darwinism to social economics.  What you get when you impose your preferences on others is not what is best.  It may be the most publicized or top grossing, but it is not the "best."  What you get is stuff like "Gangham Style" and Justin Bieber, and I really don't want to go there.

Music is an experience that takes you on a journey. It is not a mineral, fruit or vegetable.  It breathes and moves, has structure and has rules that were made to be broken.  Whether it is The Ben Rice Band on Pour Me Some Whiskey taking you through a scathing slide guitar blues; Heavy Manic Souls' electrified power bluesrock on their self-titled album; Amy Hart's powerful blues-based vocals on Congratulations or Jon Herington showing his funky side on Time On My Hands - all 2012 releases - what do I add if I say they are some of the best blues rock releases of 2012?  Nothing, I add nothing, and it means nothing  unless you also listen and agree. Yet, even that does not mean any of it is "best".

How could it be? Is it even possible to compare releases by The Ben Rice Band, Heavy Manic Souls, Amy Hart and Jon Herington with alternative pop rock such as All The Right Moves'  release The Monster I've Become; Monte Pittman's step from behind Madonna's pointy bra on his album Pain, Love & Destiny'; or Bethpage Black's eclectic rocker Black Magic?  Contrast and compare.   Rule one effort best or better than another? Hardly.

You may hate pop, detest the blues, are non-plussed by alternative rock and only crave the harder stuff like Ripple Music's own Stone Axe's Stone Axe II; Mos Generator's Nomads; or Trucker Diablo's The Devil Rhythm.  So how is it possible with such disparate styles and sounds (and I haven't even mentioned classical, latin, reggae,  metal, country, symphonic, rap, hip hop, jazz, progressive, experimental, stoner, psychedelic, acoustic, emo, gypsy, or any one of a million other human categorizations of the sounds humans make that we call music) anyone can judge one better than another or ever come up with a list of the ten best efforts they heard this year?  It is an impossible, unnecessary and useless task.

The way I look at it we should not compare and contrast to determine which is better or best.  It is all music and, in my humble opinion, in it we should find harmony.  It is not to be placed in a pecking order. So, Racer, you go ahead and rank your aural journey. You won't get a 2012 top ten list from me.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Pharoah Sanders - Black Unity

Over ten minutes into this fucker, and we've got trumpet over organ over every freakin' type of percussion reasonably imaginable... we start with bass lines like fingertips massaging you... then bells, then maybe a harp...?

Black Unity, all told, is one track, at 37:21... it's an exercise in tribal rhythm: it builds, and it builds and it FUCKING BUILDS, repeating and repeating and reiterating and synonymizing and reflecting and recapitulating... (and during all this where the trumpeter's still trying to out-scream and/or arpeggio Sanders... and he's giving it a pretty good go...!)

Black Unity is the free-jazzish version of black metal and/or grindcore:

it's a delighted, religious swoon of a ceremony, and this ceremony, this sonic invocation... about chaos: a celebration of the unknown, and of our relationship to it... swelling keyboards at 19:30, again....

Dig that xylophone at 19:00... bass plucked at random as though dictated by the Gods... strings plucked above their bridge at 28:00...

It waxes, it wanes... it's sometimes a melody, sometimes a percussion, often both... it's "music" deciding, however coyly, whether or not to make an appearance....

Black Unity shows the majesty of tenor sax, as, above all, a leader, a sonic Herald, a modernized tribal conch shell... it rarely plays, yet completes the scene when it does... and you can feel it, when it's silent, dictating the action from behind the scenes, a leader in sound... but then there it is, with 2:55 left in the tune, swelling in and out over the pulsing organ, so much activity, saying such a simple thing... with 1:11 (left) we're fading out... with Asian harpsichord.... fading out for over thirty seconds... dig that applause... dig that laaaaaast bell....

It's chaos in hand, via reed, as is the way it is, and should forever be... huzzah!


Song Review: "Tenderly"

Originally published in 1946, with music by Walter Gross and lyrics by Jack Lawrence, and most notably recorded by Sarah Vaughn, this standard has been published in several striking colors and shapes: generally in Eb, and in either 4/4 or 3/4 time.

Of the literally hundreds of recorded versions of this song, I in particular dig eleven-- those of:

Chet Baker/ Miles Davis (trumpet);
James Carter (bari sax);
Don Byas, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins (with Lionel Hampton), Lester Young, David S. Ware and Dexter Gordon (tenor sax);
Eric Dolphy (solo bass clarinet);
and Billie Holiday & Amy Winehouse (vocal).

Particular Highlights?
Chet Baker: a familiar recitation of the minimal number of notes necessary to recognize the melody (C-D-F E on trumpet); this is my favorite version, probably, with hundreds of plays on iTunes... Chet establishes a familiar refrain (A, A#, E, F), this showing up several times during the piece, and one on which it ends.

Miles Davis: impatiently blurts out the melody at 0:20 (from Miles Davis live at Birdland, 1951-53), but otherwise (and this notably) ignores it....

Don Byas, also with a bitchin version (playing with Sir Charles Thompson)-- Byas' signature "could be crazy loud and brash because of the mechanics of his mouthpiece setup, yet rarely is, and is usually quite subtle" tenor sound, adding a bit of grit and pathos to what could easily become syrupy... Byas' muscular playing (especially for the time), replete with his (at 6:45) restatement of the melody in three octaves, makes this a great version, and just behind Chet Baker's. It ends at 7:00 with beautiful, quick and gentle "inverted U"-shaped runs runs through the melody, à la Coleman Hawkins....

James Carter's starts with a very fragile trumpet with the melody, and his bari sax playfully in the background... a Loki to the Thorish trumpet... and finally David S. Ware's version is Albert Ayler-ly awesome....

It's a great, simply, emotionally-moving tune-- no wonder so many greats had such fun re-reading it.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

X-tivity Factor - Planetary Travel

When it comes to music, I usually find a surprise to be a good thing. A surprise means that something is exceeding or working outside of my expectations. It means that something has departed from the status quo, and introduced an element to my listening experience that is fresh, unique, engaging, or a total about face from what I was expecting. I love surprises in my music because it means something new has unfolded in my ears, and therefore I am very glad that I have the opportunity to write about X-tivity Factor’s Planetary Travel, which threw me a pleasing curve on my way to work today.

The majority of promo’s that I receive fit into the rock mold. Therefore when I put Planetary Travel into the player, I was expecting a riff of some sort to jump out at me. What I got instead was a beat, a beat that immediately got my head nodding and my foot moving. You see X-tivity Factor is not a rock band at all, but rather an electronica group from Italy. Having only dabbled in the electronica pool before, it was very pleasing to feel this music take ahold of me and gently coax me into a rhythm. Starting with Galaxy Places, and working through to the very end of its 25:42 run time, Planetary Travel works its magic through the less is more approach. While numerous effects are used with great results, nothing ever gets overly complicated, and more importantly nothing ever takes your mind too far away from the beat, which lies at the very heart of the music. Even the lack of any vocals whatsoever does nothing to hinder my enjoyment of songs like Acid Rain, Hungry Wolf, Lost Species of Earth, and the remastered Vanethian track Dreamscapes. There is a real sense of pleasure in not being required to dig too deep in lyrics, or in deciphering the numerous technicalities injected into a single song, but rather just allowing that single steady beat to carry you.

Part of the joy in having the opportunity to write on albums through The Ripple is experiencing a broadening of my musical horizons. That happened today when a got to listening to X-tivity Factor’s Planetary Travel. The only downside I can see with it is the very short length of the album, which leaves me wanting more. Still if that is the only problem you have, then that is not necessarily a bad thing. I may not be the authority on electronica music just yet, but I do know good music when I hear it, and I certainly did with this album.

--Audio Renaissance

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top 5 Underheralded, Underappreciated Clash master oeuvres

"Pressure Drop", Black Market Clash

Cover versions are indelibly etched near the top elechons in the Clash musical lexicon ("I Fought The Law", "Police On My Back"); reggae of course features prominently as well (too many to mention); for that matter, "Police and Thieves" is a reggae cover that is often featured among top Clash song lists.  From where I sit however I'd take their rollicking take on the Toots and the Maytals classic any day.  Covers are a tricky business, naturally:  optimally one walks a fine line between roboticallly reproducing the original (why bother) and perverting the original into something uncomfortably unfamiliar, cringeworthy, or both.  The band imbues this classic with just the right measure of infectious abandon without contorting the original beyond recognition.

"Up in Heaven", Corner Soul and Let's Go Crazy, Sandinista

About midway through the sprawling multicultural epic, albeit surely the most polarizing of all Clash albums, lies this one-two-three knockout punch that ranks among the band's most brightly shining moments.  After the merciful fadeout of Lightning Strikes, a catchy four second riff masquerading as a 5 minute funk workout, intones the opening organ of Up in Heaven, one of Mick Jones' criminally overlooked Clash masterpieces.  Where Joe Strummer's ideological fervor often drove the bus through the band's trademark high octane manifestos, sometimes dangerously bordering on the bully pulpit, Jones was always more subtle, more nuanced in his approach to social justice, his signature compositions weaving character portrayals of the everyman struggling to deal with everyday challenges (ie the oft-celebrated "Lost in the Supermarket") rather than polemic bannerwaving.   (Of course, there's always an exception to every rule, witness Strummer's stunningly brilliant "Broadway" on this very album, which easily could have made this list, dripping in pathos as it evokes rain-soaked down and out New York street folks...). In my view nowhere is Jones' essence more evident than in "Up in Heaven", a pleasantly uptempo melody betrayed by a heartwrenching lyrical glimpse into the plight of London's underclass:           

And whatcha gonna do when the darkness surrounds?
You can piss in the lifts which have broken down

You can watch from the debris the last bedroom light
We’re invisible here just past midnight

After the final drums clatter and fade away into that darkness we are startled awake by Strummer's invocation at the outset of Corner Soul.  Loosely based on Enoch Powell's famous River of Blood speech (learn more about it here: : newsflash - apparently xenophobia is nothing new!, and certainly not limited to ultraconservatie militias pacing the Arizona border...), musically Corner Soul defies easy music categorization.  Guitar, bass and drum chug away in an understated reggae vibe, but keyboard effects and ethereal choral vocals give the music a hypnotic depth.  But Strummer's  vocals are the centerpiece of this gem, conjuring up the sceptre of impending violence without rooting it in the historical grounding of any particular set of facts.  Simply riveting, spinetingling listening.

The third track in this sequence isn't the slightest bit opaque, nuanced, or subtle:  it's the Clash at their effervescent, pedal to the metal, celebratory best.  "Let's Go Crazy" is the "Party Rock Anthem" of the Clash anthology if you will - an unbridled celebration of Carnival's ebulllience, with a few touches of Strummer's wryly cynical views of law enforcement, the drug trade, and the like thrown in for comic relief.  The band dabbled in just about every musical genre imaginable on those three discs, sometimes more effectively than others for sure, and this calypso barnburner replete with steel drums, police whistles and streetcorner preachers positively captures the exuberance of this cultural phenomenon. 

  (i LOVE this viewer-created video!)

"Sean Flynn", Combat Rock

"You Know He Heard The Drums Of War."

Such is the haunting refrain that infuses this sinewy, softspoken track  hidden deep on side two of Combat Rock, perhaps the second most polarizing of all Clash releases.  While the karaoke-friendly power chords of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and the playful blues bar riffs of "Rock the Casbah" (drummer Topper Headon's finest moment?) remain permanently ingrained in top 40 rotation to this day, having rocketed the band's final release to commercial superstardom, Sean Flynn, along with the more widely acclaimed Straight to Hell and Ghetto Defendant, much more effectively capture the band's restless, experimental essence at the sunset of its glory.  No verse, no chorus, no real structure at all; just Jones' undulating, understated riffs punctuated by darting saxaphones and slowly galloping Asianesque percussion, with Strummer intoning with typical passion about the plight of the actor-turned-photojournalist son of the dashing Errol Flynn.  It doesn't characterize his disappearance and presumed tortured death at the hands of Khmer Rouge in anything resembling any sort of linear cohesion so much as summon his spirit cosmically.  It's virtually unfathomble that it was produced by the same quartet that just a few years before was blurting out hyperkinetic, three chord, twominute blasts about rude boys, hateful record company execs,  and condoms, but such was the evolution of the greatest band that ever mattered.  

 --Rhythm Slayer

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Machine - Calmer Than You Are

Oh yeah, now we're talking folks. This Dutch trio knows what it's all about. Just turn off the lights completely, light a candle or two or maybe turn on a lava lamp. Sit down somewhere comfortable, start Calmer Than You Are, crank up the volume, stare at the lights and The Machine will take you anywhere you want to. It's a great journey indeed!

These guys are definitely a stoner band and subsequently references to the mighty Kyuss are impossible to ignore, that goes for every stoner band. But The Machine has something different going on if you side-step the Palm Desert influences. Beyond the stoner heaviness, they conjure spacy, trippy psychedelica akin to get-on-the-magic-carpet-ride and it's an amalgamation I really love. Simply because when blended together the juxtaposition of these two elements has such a calming and soothing effect on me, hence the title Calmer Than You Are perhaps? At the same time it can get me into the groove as well, it just depends on the situation.

Calmer Than You Are is The Machine's fourth full length, the third for Elektrohasch, and for some reason I have totally missed out on them. This is more than redeemed with this offering though. Despite clocking in at just about 46 minutes a distinct jam-feeling is apparent throughout which, after checking out the band's catalouge, isn't strange at all. Up until now The Machine were clearly a jam band but with Calmer Than You Are they have opted for a rawer more distinct sound albeit without losing any of their past. And that works real good for me.

Frontman David Eering - vocals, guitar - uses fuzz and wah wah pedals perfectly and elegantly helping their music to their new-found direction although during the first half of opener Moonward his use of the sitar keeps the link to their past well and alive. The song starts off slowly keeping it stoney and trippy but about halfway in the band, completed by Hans van Heemst - bass guitar - and Davy Boogaard - drums, pounds me into the ground by switching tempo and going all heavy. While David is riffing like there's no tomorrow Hans and Davy's rhythm work simply pummels me into oblivion. It's like a bulldozer on a rampage. And this is how Calmer Than You Are plays out, it switches between slow and heavy without being all over the place instead it works perfectly. The only time the band reverts to the music from their previous albums is on Sphere(...Or Kneiter). At 12:22 they allow themselves room and freedom to improvise and jam and it's beautiful.

Like I mentioned earlier The Machine draws their inspiration from two elements stoner rock and psychedelia. And where so many others fail they are solid, adventurous, skilled and absolutely brilliant. Roaming within a genre that draws so much inspiration from one single band, Kyuss, The Machine have found their own path and there's only one way for them...up! Don't miss out on this three-piece because they deserve to be out there and you'll do yourself no favours by ignoring them. Good stuff indeed.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Revenge of the Quick Ripple Bursts - Featuring Gunslinger, Pagan Alter, Gorgantherron, The Setting Son and Laugh at the Fakes

A quick rundown on some of the discs taking residence in my Ripple player.

Gunslinger - Better Times

We blasted out a special review on their last album Earthquake in E Minor contributed by Mike "Artie O." Hannon, one of the original innovators at Kick Ass.  So when the band returned with their new album Better Times, we were primed and ready.  This is simply balls-out rock n roll, played with abandon by Alan Davey (ex-Hawkwind) and crew.  Riffy, rough and rocky.  70's rock fans take note.  it's a keper. Check out the way groovy, funk-rock of "My Lady."   Simply perfect.

Pagan Altar - The Time Lord

I'm a hard nut sucker for early NWOBHM, particularly the more obscure stuff.  It's stunning how many bands came out of that era, most never seeing the light of day beyond their local pub.  Pagan Altar is one such NWOBHM band that has been bypassed by time.   These are the oldest known recordings to exist, demos, dating back to 1978, and show a band that definitely should have reached a wider audience.  Fantastic riffs, great harmony guitars and a slightly darkened, post-Sabbath edge.  The quality is DIY and rough, just the way I love my early NWOBHM.  This one is an orgasm for early metal addicts like me.

Gorgantherron - S/T

What do you get when you mix a big stoner/doom vibe with a love of Grade B sci-fi?   Don't think Monster Magnet, think Gorgantherron.  There's a whole mythology around the band that includes super secret space missions in 1968, lost monkeys, crash landings in 2010 and endless tapes of Sabbath and Maiden.  I believe it all.  These madcap riffmeisters tread the delicate balance between gargantuan, rocking doom rock with a touch of the tongue-in-cheek absurd.  And it all works.  Whether rocking their brains out on "Mothra!" or really freaking out into a jazzy-stoner groove on "Assimilate", this self-titled debut is nothing but fun.  And I'll give a nod to anyone who brings some fun back to the oh-so-serious genre of Doom.

The Setting Son - Before I Eat My Eyes & Ears

With The Setting Son, you know what you're gonna get.  Swirling, acid-tinged, addictive sugary garage pop, and this album is no different.  As sweet a confection as cotton candy, swirling organs and soaring harmonies guide us through one garage pop gem after another.  I loved their last album and this one holds up just as well.  Seems their well of candy-perfect melodies will never run dry.

Laugh at the Fakes -One Night Only

Wasn't sure that I was going to include this disc or not, because in the end -- to me-- it's flawed.  But on the other hand, I seem to keep playing it so there's definitely something there.  Four guys who rock out like a mad mix of Guns n Roses, thrash metal and . . .and . . .I don't know.  Something complex and proggy.  How's that?  Laugh at the Fakes is the brainchild of singer/guitarist and songwriter Everett Mason.  One thing I gotta say, this kids got talent, both on the axe and the vocals, and most of these songs really cook.  The problem is that Everett seems to want to do too much with each song.  He doesn't know how to leave well enough alone and let things breathe.  Rather that find that perfect riff, he breaks up each song with odd time changes and conflicting riffs.  It's impressive to an extent, but when you take a song that is as near-perfect as "Better than You," --with that earworm of a pop metal chorus and vocal hook (simply amazing) -- and add that post-chorus stuttering riff, it simply kills the momentum of the song.  To my ears, it just would've been so much more effective without it.   I'm including them in this post because I believe in Everett's talent, and think that if he gets a producer who can focus his attack into less showy songcraft, we'll have something really incredible. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dustin Kensrue -This Good Night is Still Everywhere

This Good Night Is Still Everywhere

Let me begin by saying that I absolutely loathe Christmas music.  There.  I said it.  I loathe it.  From Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas I hear the same overly peppy music in every location I go.  I am not even safe in my own vehicle, since my family wants to hear it. 

I can tolerate some Trans-Siberian Orchestra and really nice orchestral works of the classics.  I enjoy the live music from The Nutcracker. 

However, a few years ago, I discovered a Christmas album that would change my Christmas life.  Dustin Kensrue’s This Good Night is Still Everywhere. It’s rock.  It’s blues.  It’s emotional. 
It isn’t “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  All you have to do is watch the first official music video for This is War.  It’s a different breed of Christmas tune. 

To begin with, Dustin Kensrue is my musical idol.  His incredible vocals are unmatched by any I’ve ever heard.  As the lead singer from my favorite band of all time (Thrice), he’s shown a knack for screaming and growling to go along with some of the most soulful and emotionally wrought clean vocals of all time. 

Thrice should be viewed upon like the Beatles of my generation.  

I digress. 

Dustin Kensrue has an acoustic side project.  His debut album, Please Come Home, Is a complete masterpiece.  Its Thrice meets blues, meets Johnny Cash, meets awesome. 

He follows it up with a Christmas album… and I couldn’t be happier.  I finally have a Christmas album I can listen to that everyone can (sort of) get into. 

You have the old classic church hymnals like Hark The Herald Angels Sing, O Come O Come, Emmanuel, God Rest You Merry gentlemen, O Holy Night, and O Come, All Ye Faithful.  Except… they are darker.  They aren’t bright.  They sound sad and emotional.  Probably the way the songs were supposed to sound when the composers thought of them many moons ago.  When Dustin Kensrue’s gravelly voice wails during the bridge of O Holy Night, the emotion is like a knife to the heart. 

He also has some non-traditional Christmas music on there.  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) opens the CD, and I think that was a mistake.  It doesn’t show off the dark tone of the whole album.  You have some bluesy tracks after in Christmas Blues and Blue Christmas.  Then you’ve got some awesome “modern” Christmas songs like Fairytale of New York and This is War. 

This album screams quality.  It has a raw sound that makes it feel as though Kensrue and his backing band are right in the room with you.  They vocals are astounding.  It’s a striking album of any kind.  It just so happens to be a Christmas album. 

Thank God I get an excuse to listen to it every year.

--The Professor

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pound-One of these days I'm gonna bring you the sun in a box

I like Swedish women, pancakes, meatballs, Smörgåsbord, Alfred Nobel, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, old Volvos and Great Danes.  I also like Pound’s brand of Swedish alternative rock on their new album release, One of these days I’m gonna bring you the sun in a box.

Pound, formed in the middle of Sweden in 2004, consists of Stefan Altzar (guitars & lead vocals), Christian Larsson (bass & vocals), Samuel Granath (drums), Janne Korpela (guitars) and Kalle Sandström (keyboards & vocals).  One of these days I’m gonna bring you the sun in a box is Pound’s fourth release, second full length (thirteen track) album and, by far, has the longest title of all of their releases.  It is heavy, bright, symphonic, well written, steeped in rock hard harmonies, beat and keyboard driven and as majestic as the Skanderna and as sparse as Norrland.

The album starts with part one of its namesake, a classic string pinched orchestration of ominous foreboding - an allegro for the album.  It sweeps directly into “Apocalyptic Smile”, a galloping, swirling keyboard rocker with great vocal harmonies and a hook. It is the allegro con brio. A bass heavy and hard rock guitar blues driven sound blasts out “She’s A Killer”,  with just as killer vocals.  Then, the album gets more frantic with “My Friend, The Ghost”, a great hard rock mood piece with added keyboard eery spookiness foreshadowing the spirits that explode in vocals and a wall of sound.    The wall of sound surrounds the soaring vocals and harmonies in the rock love ballad, “Impossible To Kill”, that follows.

Club dancers will instantly love “Last Show For Mary And Me”, a disco bit of electronica with video game-like keyboards, bass, tight vocals and toe-tapping drum beats that seem made for the colored flashing lights of the dance floor.   Pound redeems itself from what could have turned into disco hell with “City In The Sun”, a hard rocking piece of late seventies inspired showmanship.  Think Kansas on steroids. The song “Secret Friend” is a counterbalance. It is a sparse acoustic, story-telling voice and guitar piece that almost ends in a raga. It abruptly stops and gives way to “Diamonds In The Dust”, a pounding fuzzed bass driver of a tune that breaks into an alternative rock anthem before going on to “Permanent Vacation”. 

Almost three quarters of the way through the album Pound goes pure sugar pop with the appropriately named track “Radio”. It makes me think that the tune is really a tongue in cheek joke, especially since what follows,  “Freedom (2.0)”, should get kudos from a host of classic rock heavyweights for its orchestration, lyrics and execution.  The album comes full circle with the final track “I’m Gonna Bring You The Sun In A Box (Part 2).”  The classical clipped strings of part 1 return but now they are softer, less anxious and a bit airy. Over it all Stefan Altzar theatrically sings the story of bringing the sun in a box and then Pound marches in changing keys to a final triumphant and exhilarating crescendo and finale.

Do I like this band? Yes.  Do I think you will like this album?  I’ll answer with another one of my favorite products from Sweden - Absolut!

- Old School 


Friday, December 21, 2012

Meshuggah - Koloss

Meshuggah's an extremely acquired taste, even for metal fans-- like Islay single malts, and this for nearly as discerning an enthusiast-- they've got wildly asymmetrical time signatures (even to a jazz fan and musician), even while the key itself is merely open tones or chords... they're a drummer's band, in other words:  masters of time signature who can't be bothered with hooks....

Opener "I am Colossus," makes me think Koloss and Meshuggah in general should be enjoyed as innovative jazz acts tend to be (rather than as a metal band): you can't "rock" your way through this one; you've got to take a very obviously-cerebral step back and appreciate what they're doing in principle, since you generally can't nod your head or your hips to it... you let the song saturate you, rather than running to it and rocking out... it's supremely heavy background music....

I didn't really like their previous album ObZen that much; having said that, however, I really liked singles "Bleed," and semi-worshiped "Combustion," whose and-beat intro count-off (which counted off the meter in the upcoming riff in a way I'd never heard before in 30 years of listening; it didn't do it directly on the beat --like "one, two, three, four!"-- but on the and-beat, or, the beat plus half a beat [e.g., "And-one and-two and-three and-four!"]), as well as the furious downbeat under the serpentine riffs, was beyond sweet.

Track two, "The Demon's Name is Surveillance," arguably the best track on here, is similar to the aforementioned "Bleed" in its rhythmically-complex-yet-melodically-comically-simple riff... a slurry of menace and warning, this... an asymmetrical sonic massage....

"Do Not Look Down" fires up a hypnotic 7/8 or maybe 14/16 time signatured-riff (what do I know, Holy Fucking Buddha...!), lurching back and forth in a somehow-symmetrical-yet-disjointed time signature, like a possessed girl techo-clubbing... track four, "Behind the Sun" hits its distinctly non-Euclidean riffs and manages in that to sound like Nyarlathotep's house band....

Have I excited, or baffled you with that simile? If the former, continue reading, you might like where we go....

"Behind the Sun" intros with minor and/or diminished acoustic tones, quickly segueing into a slurred, way-detuned riff in an alien key and time signature... is it a good or troubling thing that Koloss keeps making me refer to my H.P. Lovecraft novels for adequate metaphors/similes...? This is my second favorite tune on here....

Track five, "The Hurt That Finds You First," opens and continues with blast beats and hyper-velocity beats per minute, fades out with lonely acoustics... track six, "Marrow," manages to (wildly improbably) sound like Yog-Sothoth's version of Left Lane Cruiser in its down-home, rural-suggesting riffage over a time signature that would make the crew of the Event Horizon have a (more) psychotic episode... "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion," is another open-chorded raspy-vocal fest, one almost Louisiana-Sludgy... "Swarm" starts seemingly-busily, much like the titular entity... it's a much slower, more considered, brooding, being... gradually gaining tension and cerebral traction... "Demiurge," after 30 seconds, hits with an Eyehategod-as-top-40-in-R'lyeh-vibe that continues throughout the whole tune... closer "The Last Vigil" opens with phased/flanged acoustic tones and continues for some time, distinguishing itself as more than an intro, and more of the song itself... strange, yet completely like Meshuggah, to close an album with what sounds like an intro....

Overall, Koloss is a fascinating musical experiment, (strangely?) much more so than most free jazz... though Meshuggah haven't noticably evolved at all beyond ObZen, these Swedish fucks are still the new guard, still pushing the boundaries of music (and not just extreme music), and this, fearlessly... it's no wonder NY Times music Ben Ratliff has gone on record comparing drummer Tomas Haake to Jeff Watts and other modern jazz drummers.

Koloss reinforces Meshuggah's classification as a "cult" band, but for much more literal reasons-- at first they seem wacked, out of it, needlessly weird... but the more contact you have with them, the more at home you feel (even as friends and family shake their heads in confusion and regret at your love for them)... the more you listen to Koloss, the more you'll like it.

But I can't promise that's a good thing....


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vanderbuyst - Flying Dutchmen

So, you've heard of Steel Panther by now, right? They're good, they're real good; but they're gimicky. Vanderbuyst is the real deal. These guys can crank out some serious tunes. First thing that caught my eye about the album was the cover. It's just the three band members against a white background with the band's name in rainbow covered angular font, true 80s class.

I gave it a listen, I gave it another listen, hell, I didn't stop. When I say this album is 80s to the core, I don't mean your stereotypical high pitched vocals loads of silky guitar, synthy drums and douchey (phonetically and characteristically) snare. Oh no, this is the down and dirty 80s. The kind of 80s rock you listen to when you're John Rider from "The Hitcher."

This band really has its own sound. Sometimes you'll hear some Megadeth, some power pop influences, but really, they do their own thing. The songs all pop, they stick in your head. The album's title track (kind of) "The Flying Dutchman" is a catchy catchy catcher of a catchy song. "Give Me One More Shot," is a power ballad, but it feels great to listen to and headbang with. The album's lead, "Frivolous Franny," almost has a Van Halen feel to it, almost. It's grindy and dirty and sleazy as hell. It's all just fun to listen to. Put your sunglasses on, roll your windows down, light one up and ride.

I've got it on shuffle a lot, and when it comes on I can always tell who it is, instantly. They have a sound, it's cohesive, and bitchin.

This band is the real deal, check them out. Oh look, this CD releases the day I'm writing this.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

District 97 - Trouble With Machines

“Hey Penfold!  What’s up?”
“Ah nothing much.  Same old, same old.”
“Wait a second Pen.  Are you trying to tell me that you haven’t been listening to any new music since I saw you last week?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.  You know I’m always looking for something new and exciting to listen to, and this past week was no different.”
“That’s what I thought!  Dude, you’re a machine.  A music loving machine!”
“It’s true.  I can’t deny it.”
“Well don’t hold out on me man!  Did you hear anything interesting?”
“Actually I did.  There’s this group called District 97 that I discovered just a few days ago.”
“District 97 huh?”
“Yep, District 97.  The funny-slash-embarrassing thing about the past week was how close I came to dismissing them before hearing a single second of their music.”
“Oh come on Penfold!  Based on albums I know you’ve sat through in the past that can’t be true.  You give everything a chance!”
“I’m afraid it is my friend.  Your ‘machine’ comment was right on the money in more ways than one.  That’s the trouble.”
“What are you talking about Pen?”
“Well it seems that oftentimes, like a machine, I fall into a couple of bad habits.”
“And those are?”
“First and foremost, I sometimes read a band’s bio sheet before listening to any of their music.  That’s a big no-no.”
“Why’s that?”
“Reading those bios is counterproductive because I will inevitably make powerful assumptions about whether or not I am going to like what I hear.  District 97 is a perfect example.  I read portions of their bio sheet before hitting play on the album stream.  The first thing that drew my attention was that after the band initially formed they ‘honed a no-holds barred style of Liquid Tension Experiment-inspired instrumental rock’.”
“Penfold you loved Liquid Tension Experiment back in the day.”
“That’s very true.  I loved LTE to a fault, but I haven’t listened to those albums or really wanted to listen to that style of hyper-technical music for a while now.  Right off the bat I cast aspersions on District 97.  Then I read a little more of the bio sheet and my eyes stopped dead in their tracks.”
“What, was there something about your mother in there?”
“Ha, ha.  Very funny.  No what I read was far worse than any insult to my immediate family or lineage, at least when it comes to the mindset of a music curmudgeon like me.”
“Out with it man!  Don’t keep me in suspense!”
“It turns out that the lead singer for District 97 had been a finalist on American Idol back in 2007.”
“You’re kidding?!”
“Nope.  She was one of the last 10 female contestants that year.  I don’t have to tell you I hold very little regard for anything associated with American Idol do I?”
“Penfold, I assure you that your opinions concerning that show are well known.”
“Exactly.  Based solely on my negative views of the show, without any concrete evidence, I assumed I would have a negative reaction to this band.  To make matters worse I made a second big mistake that by now I should know to avoid.”
“What was your second mistake?”
“I looked at the band’s photo.”
“And that’s bad why?”
“It’s very simple.  When it comes to bands or singers your eyes will deceive you more times than not.  At the very least the visuals will reinforce whatever stereotype, positive or negative, that you have attached to them.  This was the case with District 97.  The picture of the band was very simple, with four normal looking guys and an attractive young lady in the middle.  Because I’d attached the ‘super technical’ label to this band it made sense that each of the guys looked like me, bespectacled and a little nerdy.  For a music reviewer…scratch that.  For a music fan in general this is dangerous territory.”
“Okay.  I get it.  What happened next?”
“I begrudgingly hit the play button and listened to the first song.”
“Based on where this conversation began I’m going to go out on a limb and say you liked what you heard.”
“Ding ding ding!  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!  I not only liked what I heard, I was transfixed for the next fifty five minutes and however many seconds it took to listen to the entire album.  It was fantastic!”
“That good huh?  Were any of your assumptions correct?”
“Not even close.  Make no mistake; District 97 is a progressive metal band.  What they are not however is a band that crams a million notes a minute down the listener’s throat.  Their music is certainly technical and intricate, but the focus is placed firmly on their song craft.  What I mean by that is I didn’t initially notice all of the crazy time changes and tempo shifts.  The wickedly strong melody lines and emotional depth of each song was what really caught my ear.  Listening for the second and third time revealed all that hidden depth.  Honestly, I can’t imagine the difficulties one would face in transcribing this music.”
“What about the singer?”
“Oh my goodness!  She is tremendous!  What a voice!  So much power, charisma, and versatility.  Seriously, I was blown away from start to finish.  The interplay between her voice and the band is magical!  It really drives the melodies home when the vocals mirror either the keyboard or guitar lines.  The band uses this to great effect throughout the album.  Very, very impressive!”
“Alright, so what song should I listen to first?”
“Dude every song is great!  That being said, my two favorites off the album are ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Who Cares?’.  I love the off time riffing throughout ‘Open…’ and ‘Who Cares?’ is super smooth.  That song builds and builds upon itself until the band drops the hammer and the guitarist positively rips into a short solo.  The music calms down for a moment and then everything is taken to eleven again to wrap up the song!  I’m not going to lie.  It’s righteous stuff.”
“Righteous huh?  If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were telling me to buy this District 97 album as quickly as possible.  Do I have that right Pen?”
“Yes.  Without question.”
“And you’re ready to give American Idol a shot this year?”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.”



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blood Of The Sun - Burning On The Wings Of Desire

Holy shit! What rock I have I been hiding under to have totally missed this band? I should go stand in the corner for a day wearing a dunce hat for my tardiness. Well I had actually heard of them but until now I had never heard their music. They were booked to play at Days Of The Doomed II but unfortunately they had to cancel since their main man, Henry Vasquez, also plays the drums for St.Vitus and they booked a tour at the same time as the festival. Regardless, Blood Of the Sun has been around since 2002 and Burning On The Wings Of Desire is their fourth album and what a corker it is!

Full throttle 70's rock with prominent use of the Hammond organ is what is on display here and it's simply fantastic. Blood Of the Sun are not reinventing the wheel but they do take this 70's-tinged music to a whole new level. The two guitars trade great solos back and forth with the Hammond being just as fervent in between. Sporting a distinct 70's sound thankfully the band has gone for a great, crisp and full sound which enhances their music even more. They coudn't have found anyone better-suited producer for this than Tony Reed from Stone Axe and Mos Generator. Apart from catching their awesome sound he helps out on guitar and bass guitar. And best of all, they seem to have such a blast doing this. That alone will lift any band and record and put them ahead of so many other acts. Have fun with your music! Did I tell you waveriders that this is fantastic???

Let It Roll kickstarts this barmstormer of an album and although it's not a cover of UFO's song, it still rocks hard. And it definitely sets the standard throughout because there are no ballads on Burning On The Wings Of Desire, only good old heavy rock. The only time the album "slows" down, in lack of better words, is with the track Brings Me Down. It reminds me of Lynyrd Skynrd or Molly Hatchet in mid-tempo stomping it up real good. Rock Your Station follows and is my favourite song on the record going full blast simply blowing me away. But like on any great record there are no bad songs on Burning On The Wings Of Desire at all, no fillers just great rock songs that rattles these old bones real good! We're treated to a nice surprise with the last song Good And Evil where Henry Vasquez' band mate from St.Vitus, the legendary Scott "Wino" Weinrich handles the lead vocals. He does a great job as always but it's nice to hear him perform outside his usual doom world. That's very contradictory of me to say since I love doom but to hear a singer step outside of his box and sing something else is great!

This is a dangerous album indeed. No, there are no backwards playing satanic messages on it; it doesn't tell you to kill people or start riots. Instead it's lethal because when I play it in my truck going to work and back I just about wreck every time. Once I hit play I headbang like a maniac while playing air drums and air Hammond trying to keep the truck on the road. And that's dangerous if anything folks! If I do contain myself enough to be a somewhat safe driver all I want to do is get a couple of cases of Yuengling, screw work, rock out and party real good! Memories of growing up listening to this type of music while having a great time keeps coming back to me and I simply can't stop playing Burning On The Wings Of Desire.

Burning On The Wings Of Desire is the ultimate album for any occasion. If you want to get a party started this will kick everything into gear perfectly right away. For me personally it's a feel-good record because every time I listen to it I always feel much better, more up-beat. Of course, it will affect each of you waveriders differently but I think I can promise that you all will feel invigorated, happy and ready to take on the world after listening to it. So do yourself a huge favour and purchase it right'll benefit from it!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Big Ripple Music Holiday Years-End Sale!!

Happy Holidays! It's time to pick up some of those last minute stocking stuffers or a little something for yourself coz' you've been a good little boy or girl. With the exception of all multi-unit and sale packages, everything in the Ripple Music Store is on sale! It's simple . . . throw a minimum of two items in your cart, enter the code word: grinch, receive 20% off your entire order!

The sale is running now until we say it's over (probably sometime in January) . . . here's your opportunity to share the wondrous rockin' sounds of Mos Generator, Trucker Diablo, Fen, Mighty High, C.F.A., Grifter, and really, the entire Ripple Family, at a discounted rate!

Happy hunting and we wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!

Bargain Bin Treasure: Charlie - No Second Chance

I'll never forget the first time I saw a stack of Charlie records.

I must've been about 13 or so and was heavy into the grips of hard rock.  With my best-friend's brother's record collection as my muse, I knew all about the big bands (Lizzy, Sabbath, Zeppelin) and thought I knew all the second-tier also (Wishbone Ash, Nazareth, Widowmaker).  But there I was, visiting the house of my parent's friend, who happened to have a boarder staying in the guest tower.  (Yes, it really was a tower.)  This guy was an artist and a musician with a nice stack of records on the floor next to his futon.  And on top of the stack, was Charlie.

Now, obviously, that album cover (and the whole series of female model covers they put out) was designed to catch a teenager's attention.  And it did.  But what also captured me was the thought that there really was a whole world of music out there that I didn't know about.  With that realizaton, a lifetime of bargain bin hunting was born.

I don't see much written about Charlie and their classic grouping of albums in the mid-late '70's, and that's too bad.  At their best, Charlie sounded unlike anybody else in the industry.  Sure, with time, American record labels would try to force them to be the next Foreigner or REO Speedwagon, but that wasn't where their hearts were.  In their souls, Charlie were one of the smoothest, jazziest, seventies bands out there, and when they were firing on all cylinders they were something special.  Over the course of a long discography, two albums really stand out as definitive Charlie.  1978's Lines, and this tasty choice from 1977, No Second Chance.

Charlie started out from the ashes of the British band Axe (Terry Thomas, John Anderson, and Nicko McBrain). This version was short lived however, as Nicko left due to personality clashes (later to become the drummer for Iron Maiden) and Steve Gadd came in.  They released their first album, Fantasy Girls, in 1976 to good response, but in reality, they were still searching for their sound.  That all came together perfectly on the next album, No Second Chance.

From the first hesitant stuttering guitar that leads us into "Johnny Hold Back," we're introduced to Charlie's rather unique take on 70's pop.  Terry Thomas, the lead Charlie, had a idiosyncratic, slightly-neurotic, nasal singing voice that perfectly captured his left-of-center stories.  Nothing appealed to Thomas more than stories of the underdogs, the lost cases in the city's underbelly, the oddballs and losers of this world, and "Johnny" was no exception.  "Johnny was a boozer, at romance we was a loser, no love life/alcohol made a strange wife/I said it's love on the rocks," he sings over  a pulsing, jazzy beat.  Gadd was impeccable with his drums, dropping in the perfect fills for the stuttering verses as big horns wail in the back ground  Then there's the real signature Charlie sound; slickly produced harmony vocals including Thomas dubbed against himself.  No one else ever captured that classic Charlie multi-vocal attack.  As always, the chorus was infinitely melodic and singable. Stick around for the staggering guitar solo that seems to fall and stumble out of the guitar just like a drunk Johnny stumbling down the street and we got ourselves a real winner.

"Turning to You," is more of a conventional pop song that really should've earned tons of radio play.  Think Jefferson Starship in their best days around Red Octopus (and Miracles) doused with the jazzy inflections of Steely Dan and a touch of the idiosyncratic approach of prime Supertramp and you'll get a flavor of Charlie. 

Charlie's Lines may have been a better pop record with songs like "She Loves to be in Love" which graced the lower reaches of the charts, but No Second Chance was the better rock record.  Songs like "Don't Look Back," reveal Thomas at his best outside the standard pop convention.  What starts off in the frame of a tender ballad, slowly builds in intensity with some searing guitar licks reminiscent of Santana.  Charlie's typical gangland harmonies take over, flowing on top of the brooding guitar licks and somber melody.  Another tale of lost dreams and fading glory, Thomas really nails the mood here, letting the song breathe and grow to emotional heights during each of the moaning guitar breaks.  "Pressure Point" lightens the mood with it's gaily strummed acoustic despite another tale of Thomas's woe.  "These four walls don't make no home/I'm here with you but still alone," he sings against the irony of a buoyant synth line and uptempo beat. 

Then comes "Thirteen" the emotional epic of the album.  A tale of a young girl, who fell in love at 13, married at sixteen, mother of 3 by nineteen, who's left to look back at her life of broken dreams and lost hopes.  Thomas and company totally nail it here, with a melody and acoustic guitar line that can only be described as haunting.  And stunningly beautiful.  And if it's guitar you like, the leads here simmer with unspeakable heat.

That's just side one, with a whole second side of immaculate pop waiting to be explored.

Charlie had a few minor brushes with the charts over the early years, then finally hit the big time with "It's Inevitable" in the early 80's, but by this time, the record company was trying to make them the next Foreigner, demanding that Thomas be replaced on vocals for a more traditional singer.  While the accompanying album had some good moments, the passion of what Thomas seemed to want to be doing was lost, crushed under faceless American production. 

Charlie faded into oblivion but not before they gave us some absolute lost classic albums of sophisticated, jazz-tinged art-pop.  If bands like Supertramp, Steely Dan, and classic-era Starship appeal to you, you won't be disappointed with "Lines," or this bargain bin treasure, "No Second Chance."


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kat Parsons - Oh! EP

I've slowly grown to be a fan of pop music, especially female singers who eschew electronic excess, pitch correction and the incessant note trill warbling that permeates the voices of female contestants on American Idol.  Give me some nice hummable tunes with a playful female voice and I'm hooked.
Kat Parsons must have been reading my mind when she produced her five track EP Oh!.  She makes female pop a soothing and fun experience.  Kat reminds me of Colbie Caillat and the first song on the EP, "Love Changes Everything", reminds me of Caillat's "One Fine Wire."  It is catchy, witty, pleasant and optimistic.  In other words, a whole lot of fun and, unlike the slew of female pop singers gracing network television, Parsons writes her own material.

Music has permeated Kat's life since the day of her Austrian birth.  Her father was an opera singer with the Vienna State Opera.  Her mother was a professional musician.  Her aunts were involved in folk rock music in the United States and, when Kat was very young, Kat and her family moved to Maryland.  Parsons first debuted as a solo artist in 1999. 

While "Love Changes Everything" is a fun and upbeat pop tune, "Oh" is a pop love ballad. There is circumstantial evidence that it arose from a personal experience as the lyrics start "I took the keys and drove to Harrisburg".  The song displays Parsons' classically trained piano skills, is infused with introspective emotions and is written around the chorus vocal hook -

Oh!, It's so lovely when you smile

I glow, in your presence all the while

Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!

Kat merges genres in "What's Wrong?" to create a reggae pop tune. A heart beat of guitar upstrokes merges with a better vocal range than that of most Rastafarians.  To top it off the chorus is littered with great harmonies.  Parsons melodically asks "What's wrong?", but from what I hear I am ready to respond "nothing, nothing at all."    

"Let's Not Be Scared" is an absolutely theatrical, insipid and syrupy piano love ballad.  If it had been the lead track on the EP I might not have paid heed to the EP at all.  However, upon reflection, Parsons has a degree in theatre from Northwestern University and "Let's Not Be Scared" is the sort of tune you might expect in an Andrew Lloyd Webber production, not on a pop EP.  If Kat chose to include the track on the EP to show her ability to write songs for musical theatre, she has succeeded in displaying that talent.

The final piece is a pop song with a mid-70's vibe - the type of thing you would have heard alongside The Hues Corporation's "Don't Rock The Boat" back in 1974.  The name of the cut is just how the EP left me and, may leave you, "Happy." 

-  Old School

“Love Changes Everything”

“What’s Wrong?”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Witchery - Witchkrieg

So, I written about them previously several times, and this wasn't enough.

It didn't detail to the extent that I'd like why the newest incarnation of Witchery-- is truly awesome.... I still, 3 years after its release, listen to this bad boy first, over even the most hip, new, Truly Dominating metal.

It's good. You come, you hear it now.

The greatest deathrash track ever is opener "Witchkrieg..." complete with Kerry King solo and great chorus....

Next is "Wearer of Wolf Skin," not the best track on here, but still ferocious... still thrashy, Mercyful Fate-y, with death growl vocals from a former black metal vocalist of some renown who's also got a sense of humor about his lyrical content....

"The God Who Fell From Earth" follows, with its churning central riff and somehow very self-aware vocals that still manage to describe the life of a deity who's come back to the human world many millennia after he's been forgotten... this is almost something that a novelist should tackle, and yet vocalist Legion does a great job in the limited stanzas herein....

"The Reaver" is a deaththrash version of every truly great horror movie of the last 30 years (not sure if Legion knows the Joss Whedon/ Firefly legacy of the word, but that's not important right now).... "From Dead to Worse," is a great king diamond/ MF-ish ode to metal ruffs and why they are awesome... "Devil Rides Out" is the thumping singular bass and drums riff of the year... "One Foot in the Grave" is both a great rhythmic Heavy Metal tune with thrash aspirations but still sounding something like a Swedish, possessed (not "Possessed") Armored Saint might write... "Hellhound" struts and thumps, a slower, groovier track of these, and closer "Witchhunter" sounds like Motörhead if they were more into the occult. And were Scandinavian.

Also, the production/ mix is great: loud and sharply clear without being obnoxiously clipped or omitting crucial sound dynamics, and lastly the drums are nearly always in the pocket, but not Pro Tools-tracked, annoyingly-acurately so.

Well done, gents. I still can't say enough about Witchkrieg.


The Single Life - Featuring Jerad Finck and Nine Times Blue


Jerad Finck - Runaway

…I have been writing for Ripple for about a month and a half and I have to tell you that the best part of being a part of this family is the ridiculous amount of incredible music I’m exposed to.  And the artist I’m writing about today is one of my favorite to date…If you haven’t heard about this Spokane, WA based songwriter…get on board…you won’t be disappointed.

“…Spokane, Washington-based pop-rocker Jerad Finck carries a bright, powerful musical flavor to fans, enlightening them with the sounds of rock-n-roll’s future. Finck’s sound is accessible and endearing but also forward-thinking, moving the music up a notch and setting a new bar. “

Finck and his band have completed seven national tours covering over 200,000 road miles and 48 States. He's toured and/or performed with Daughtry, Christina Perri, Vertical Horizon, Sister Hazel, Parachute, Edwin McCain, One EskimO, Cracker, Ingrid Michelson, Ingram Hill, Smile Empty Soul, Tony Lucca, Ernie Halter, and several others. He and his band have performed on nearly a dozen Morning TV shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, & Fox and his songs have been featured in movies and television shows on HBO, ESPN, Discovery, CBS, & NBC, among other…     Runaway is an amazing song that is pure gold.  When I close my eyes…I feel as if I’m listening to the great Billie Joe Armstrong.  The song starts out sweet with some nice delayed electric guitar…quickly followed up by an acoustic strumming its way into your heart…preparing you for Jerad’s passionate vocal chords.  With solid lyrics and a relevant sound, they sound like The Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, Oasis, Train, Sister Hazel and, this is important…make them proud.  One day, bands will be compared to Jerad.  A nice surprise was during the bridge…there was actually a guitar solo!?  Short, but nice none the less…paying homage to those before them that knew the simple phrase…”less is more.”  

…Jerad has runaway with my heart…I’m a new fan!

REVIEW     I give him 5 out of 5 Fish!

Nine Times Blue -Falling Slowly

…making the assumption that this band is named after “Nine Times Blue” by the Monkees, the expectation was set…but, did they meet it?  Often compared to the Gin Blossoms, the Plain White T's, the Click Five, Jimmy Eat World and The Smithereens…these guys carry on a tradition forged by the classic power-pop bands that preceded them.

Now back to the question did they meet my expectations?  YES…yes, they did.  I was pleasantly surprised by their single “Falling Slowly.”  Very relevant to what is currently being played on both traditional radio as well as internet stations like PANDORA and NWCZ Radio.  A combination of great lyrics…great songwriting…backing vocals and solid musicianship…mixed and mastered by two-time Grammy-winning producer Don McCollister, who’s worked with such top-selling artists as Sister Hazel, Indigo Girls, Third Day and Shawn Mullins…and NOW, Nine Times Blue…it will come as no surprise to me if I hear any of their songs on a new hit show on HBO or Showtime.  It has a timeless sense about it in that it also reminds me of the theme song that the Rembrandts did for “Friends” as well as movies like “American Pie.”  I could go on and on, but this is a very commercial ready band with a great new single, Falling Slowly that has soul and fire driving it…

…I have been falling slowly in love with Nine times Blue…

REVIEW     I give them 5 out of 5 Fish!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...