Category Archives: music

Goodbye, Gregg Allman

(December 8, 1947 – May 27, 2017)

Founding member of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group, the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman passed away today from liver cancer.

Fun Cards: 1987 Topps Chris Cornell

Soundgarden Chris Cornell 1987 Topps

I’m still processing the news from last Thursday. Chris Cornell, lead singer of one of the greatest bands ever from Seattle (sit down, Nirvana, you’re not even in this conversation), allegedly took his own life after a concert in Detroit Wednesday night. Soundgarden was scheduled to play several shows through the end of this month, and was reportedly halfway through writing songs for a new album.

You never know what is going through someone’s mind, even when they are seemingly sitting on top of the world. Please, friends, take care of yourselves emotionally. If you are struggling, seek assistance. Every prescription does not affect every person the same way, and the side effects are more pronounced in some. Work closely with your doctor to get things straightened out, get on the medication (if that’s necessary) that works best for you, and don’t ignore the warnings.

Goodbye, Chris Cornell

(July 20, 1964 – May 17, 2017)

One of the most talented hard rock singers of the past few decades, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell has passed. Police are investigating his death as an apparent suicide.

Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition by Dave Hunter (2017)

Ultimate Star Guitars

Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition
by Dave Hunter
Voyageur Press, 2017

B.B. King’s Lucille. Eric Clapton’s Blackie. Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstrat. Keith Richards’ Micawber. Over time, guitar legends become so connected with their instruments, that it is difficult to think of one without the other. It seems strange to imagine Slash playing anything but a Les Paul, or Yngwie Malmsteen with something other than a Stratocaster (and a vintage white one, at that). In Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition, Dave Hunter explains how these musicians became so connected to their instruments of choice, often revealing how such instruments were acquired and why the artists chose them.

This book covers a variety of genres, from classic rock (Duane Allman, Clapton, Richards) to blues (King, Stevie Ray Vaughan), alternative (J Mascis, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo) to punk (Joe Strummer, Steve Jones) to country (Waylon Jennings, Brad Paisley). You will read about Reverend Horton Heat, Ike Turner, Nels Cline, and even see a picture of Billy Gibbons sans beard. One of the best entries describes Randy Bachman’s work on a 1959 Fender Stratocaster he named “The Legend.” The leader of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive changed nearly everything he could change on “The Legend,” which was stolen years ago. Bachman said, “It would be the thrill of a lifetime to get he guitar back, but it was just a wreck, so unless someone knows what it is…But what a sound and monster it was.”

A fantastic collection of stories and photographs, Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition shows that music history is not made with pristine instruments designed to be on display in glass cases, but with beat-up, modified, and often underappreciated models.

Learn more about Voyageur Press.

Purchase Ultimate Star Guitars: Expanded Edition by Dave Hunter.

Fun Cards: 1971 Topps & 1973 Topps Electric Light Orchestra “Rookie Rockers”

Another 2017 Rock Hall inductee gets the “fun card” treatment today…one of my more recent obsessions, Electric Light Orchestra.

1971 Jeff Lynne Roy Wood Bev Bevan ELectric Light Orchestra

The group’s debut album was released in 1971 in the UK, 1972 in the USA, featuring former members of The Move. Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan were with the group until 1986, when Lynne disbanded ELO and Bevan formed ELO Part II. Roy Wood recorded only the first album, leaving in 1972 to form Wizzard.

Richard Tandy Wilfred Gibson Mike de Albuquerque Electric Light Orchestra 1973

Richard Tandy joined the group in 1972, making his recording debut on the 1973 album, ELO 2 (not to be confused with Bevan’s offshoot, ELO Part II). He continues to tour with Lynne today. Wilfred Gibson lasted two albums, while Mike de Albuquerque appeared on ELO 2, On the Third Day, and Eldorado.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized only Lynne, Wood, Bevan, and Tandy, though many others contributed to their success over the years. Lynne, Wood, and Tandy were present at the induction ceremony last month; Bevan, who has reportedly not spoken to Lynne in decades, was playing a gig elsewhere. Personally, I think I would have rescheduled that gig.

“Mr. Blue Sky,” originally on 1977’s Out of the Blue, is featured on this year’s soundtrack of the year, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2.

Fun Cards: 1975 Topps Rookie Rockers (Journey), 1978 Topps Steve Perry, 1981 Topps Jonathan Cain

It is very possible you have never heard anything from the first three Journey albums. It was not until Steve Perry joined the group in 1978 that Journey really took off, combining pop sensibilities with well-crafted rock songs. The first three albums had a more progressive slant to them, and are not as commercially accessible as the later radio friendly albums.

1975 Topps Journey Neal Schon Gregg Rolie Aynsley Dunbar Ross Valory

The debut self-titled album featured Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie, who worked together on Carlos Santana‘s Santana III and Caravanserai. They were joined by bassist Ross Valory as well as drummer Aynsley Dunbar, who worked with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Lou Reed. Also with the group for the first album was guitarist George Tickner. It was not until 1978’s Infinity that Steve Perry came on board, and songs like “Lights,” “Feeling That Way,” and “Wheel In The Sky,” caught the attention of radio programmers.

1978 Topps Journey Steve Perry

Journey’s 1981 album, Escape, was the first to feature keyboardist/rhythm guitarist Jonathan Cain. Some of the group’s biggest songs came from this album, including the all-time classics, “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Open Arms.”

1981 Topps Jonathan Cain

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Journey edition

The 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place last month, and aired on HBO over the weekend. This year’s class was a very impressive lineup, including Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Baez, Yes, Tupac Shakur, Pearl Jam, and one of the greatest arena rock bands of all-time, Journey. It has been over a year since I last put together an “Ultimate Mixtape,” so I thought the time was right to resurrect this project. I enjoyed going through Journey’s discography, and the related artists. Such a great band, such diverse styles.

Journey

If you are not familiar with the “Ultimate Mixtape” concept, here is a quick run-down of the rules:

  • Every album must be represented by one and only one song. This is an especially difficult rule when looking at 1978’s Infinity album.
  • The selected song does not have to be a single used to promote the album.
  • Live albums are fine if you want to use them, but you are not required to include them if you are satisfied with your “Ultimate Mixtape” without them. Sometimes they are a great tool to sneak in a classic song when the studio version didn’t make the cut. In Journey’s case, Captured just happens to have a new studio track on it, so that was my de facto choice.
  • “Greatest Hits”/ “Best of” albums are eligible only if they contain new songs, or new versions of old songs. With the exception of Time^3, Journey’s compilations do not meet this requirement, so are omitted from the Ultimate Mixtape project.

Everyone’s “Ultimate Mixtape” will be different, and I would love to know how yours differs from mine. Are you ready to rock? Let’s check out “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Journey edition”…

Bonus Tracks:

What do you think? Did I miss your favorite Journey song or solo project on the bonus disc?

Click here to see all previous editions of JT’s Ultimate Mixtape.

This may be the best thing you see on the internet today

Or, at least on YouTube…

Eddie Van Halen played the guitar solo on Michael Jackson‘s epic “Beat It,” and Bottle Boys impressively replicated it in their version of the classic pop song. I’ve never heard of Bottle Boys before this morning, but you can count me among their fans now.

King Kobra Thrill of a Lifetime (remastered 2017)

king kobra

King Kobra
Thrill of a Lifetime
Collector’s Edition Remastered & Reloaded
Rock Candy Records, 2017

Everything that King Kobra did right on their debut, they did wrong on their follow-up, at least for the first half of the record. Capitol Records pressured them for a more radio-friendly sound, claiming the debut was too heavy. Carmine Appice and the band acquiesced to the label’s demands and delivered Thrill of a Lifetime in 1986, an album half-filled with lackluster, synthesizer-heavy pop rock songs.

The first five songs, including the Russ Ballard-penned “Dream On,” are easily skippable. Even the theme song for the awesome Iron Eagle movie, if divorced from the movie, is a ho-hum AOR affair. The song is good when considered alongside other movie anthems of the 1980s, but when measured up against King Kobra’s own material, especially the first album, it falls short. Of course, the label decided to release “Dream On” and “Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)” as singles.

Guitarist David Michael-Philips revealed that eighty percent of the record was recorded using drum machines, despite Appice’s reputation “as one of the best drummers in the world.” Appice was only “fully involved” on three songs: “Raise Your Hands to Rock,” “Party Animal,” and “This Raging Fire,” which was only included on the record as it was released in France, and is not included on this remastered version.

“Home Street Home” is an interesting rock/rap hybrid, and is a fun listen, but doesn’t hold up very well over the past thirty years. “Overnight Sensation,” despite using the drum machine, is more of a rocker and would have fit in well on Ready To Strike. “Raise Your Hands to Rock” and “Party Animal” are also hard rockers that help the album finish strong. A bonus track, “Home Street Home (Street Mix)” is also included, and again is interesting but does not add much to the final product.

The remastered compact disc comes with a 16-page booklet, featuring a 4000-word essay on the recording of the album and the demise of the original King Kobra after Thrill of a Lifetime was released.

Tracklist
1. Second Time Around
2. Dream On
3. Feel the Heat
4. Thrill of a Lifetime
5. Only the Strong Will Survive
6. Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)
7. Home Street Home
8. Overnight Sensation
9. Raise Your Hands to Rock
10. Party Animal
11. Home Street Home (Street Mix) [bonus track]

King Kobra
Mark Free (lead & backing vocals)
David Michael-Philips (lead & rhythm guitar/backing vocals/guitar synthesizer)
Mick Sweda (lead & rhythm guitar/backing vocals/guitar synthesizer)
Johnny Rod (bass guitar/backing vocals)
Carmine Appice (drums/electric & acoustic percussion/backing vocals)

Purchase King Kobra’s Thrill of a Lifetime Collector’s Edition Remastered & Reloaded.

King Kobra Ready To Strike (remastered, 2017)

King Kobra

King Kobra
Ready To Strike
Collector’s Edition Remastered & Reloaded
Rock Candy Records, 2017

Capitol Records initially released King Kobra’s debut album, Ready To Strike, in 1985. Dark-haired drummer extraordinaire Carmine Appice recruited a handful of blonde musicians to join him after he was fired from Ozzy Osbourne’s band. He liked the appearance of Mötley Crüe, with one blonde-haired and three dark-haired members, and wanted to do the opposite with his band. Spencer Proffer, the producer of Quiet Riot’s Metal Health, produced King Kobra’s debut album at his Pasha Music House.

The record is full of hard rockers, from the title track to the ear-wormy “Breakin’ Out.” The only single released from the album was “Hunger,” a song written by Kick Axe and later recorded by them and released on The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack under the name Spectre General. Before King Kobra was fully formed, the song was shopped to Black Sabbath as well, when Ron Keel was auditioning for the band. That fell through, and so did a Sabbath version of “Hunger.” King Kobra also recorded another song written by Kick Axe, “Piece of the Rock,” at the urging of Proffer.

This remastered compact disc by Rock Candy Records comes with a 16-page booklet, complete with a newly-written 4000-word essay by Malcolm Dome which recounts the formation of the band and the recording of the album, along with the difficulties King Kobra had with the record label and the lack of promotion from Capitol Records. Also included in the booklet are several full-color photographs of the band, both promotional shots as well as concert photos.

King Kobra’s debut album is right up your alley if you enjoy bands like Ratt and early Mötley Crüe. After just a few listens, you’ll be raisin’ your fists to the power chords and singing along to this long-overlooked band.

Tracklist
1. Ready to Strike
2. Hunger
3. Shadow Rider
4. Shake Up
5. Attention
6. Breakin’ out
7. Tough Guys
8. Dancing with Desire
9. Second Thoughts
10. Piece of the Rock

King Kobra is:
Mark Free (lead & backing vocals)
David Michael-Philips (lead & rhythm guitar/backing vocals/guitar synthesizer)
Mick Sweda (lead & rhythm guitar/backing vocals/guitar synthesizer)
Johnny Rod (bass guitar/backing vocals)
Carmine Appice (drums/electric & acoustic percussion/backing vocals)

Purchase King Kobra’s Ready To Strike Collector’s Edition Remastered & Reloaded.

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