Category Archives: music

Random Awesomeness (part 2019.15)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase the Nylon Metal II from Thomas Zwijsen!
 

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Thirty-five Years Ago Today: Dio avoids the “sophomore slump”

Dio Last in LineIn 1983, Ronnie James Dio released an epic debut album called Holy Diver. In 1984, he recorded with the same core lineup of Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain, and Vinny Appice, adding keyboardist Claude Schnell to the mix, and unleashed The Last In Line. The album reached #23 on the Billboard 200 charts, and three singles—“Mystery,” “We Rock,” and the title track—received a lot of attention from rock radio stations in the United States. The album was certified platinum in 1987.

Campbell, Bain, Schnell, and Appice used the name of this album to form a new band in 2012, teaming up with vocalist Andrew Freeman to perform Dio classics and write new material. The group has released two albums so far, Heavy Crown in 2016 and II in 2019. Sadly, Bain passed away in 2016; Phil Soussan took over bass guitar duties.

Random Awesomeness (part 2019.12)

Random Awesomeness


Purchase Let’s Rock by the Black Keys!
 

Twenty Years Ago Today: “Weird Al” encourages dangerous exercise

Weird Al Yankovic Running With ScissorsRunning With Scissors, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s tenth studio album, was released on June 29, 1999. Not as strong as 1996’s Bad Hair Day, but infinitely better than 2003’s Poodle Hat, Running With Scissors features parodies of The Offspring, Barenaked Ladies, Puff Daddy, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and a polka medley that pokes fun at the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Beastie Boys, Hanson, Matchbox Twenty, and more.

The most enduring song from the album, however, is a parody of Don McLean’s 1971 hit, “American Pie.” Yankovic took the song and transformed it into an ode to George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

In addition to all the parodies, Yankovic shows his chops as a songwriter with six original compositions in various styles. My personal favorite of these is the 11-minute opus “Albuquerque” that closes the album.

I have loved “Weird Al” since I first discovered his music in elementary school, though he has currently stopped performing in concert a couple of the songs that drew me to his brilliance—“Eat It” and “Fat,” both parodies of Michael Jackson hits. He has not decided whether he will retire them permanently or not, but with the renewed scrutiny of Jackson’s alleged indiscretions, Yankovic has decided to remove them from his current repertoire.

Thirty Years Ago Today: Faith No More gets epically real

Faith No More The Real ThingWill you hate me if I say that Faith No More is epically overrated? “Epic” was a pretty good (and pretty overplayed) song from the band’s third album, The Real Thing. I love the piano outro, but the rest of the song (and album) never truly resonated with me. The album, released June 20, 1989, was certified Platinum in September 1990 and peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 in October 1990.

The Real Thing was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 1990, but lost to Metallica’s “One” (both albums and songs are eligible for such nominations in pop categories). “Epic” was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1991, but lost to Living Colour’s album Time’s Up. Another song from FNM’s album, “Falling To Pieces,” won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Visual Effects in a Video in 1991.

Thirty-Five Years Ago Today: Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck collaborate again

Rod Stewart CamouflageHardly a groundbreaking album, but somewhat entertaining nonetheless, Rod Stewart released Camouflage on June 18, 1984. The record saw the reunion of Stewart with guitarist Jeff Beck, who he worked with on the first two Jeff Beck Group albums. Beck contributed his guitar wizardry to three songs on Camouflage and made a cameo in the video for “Infatuation.”

Stewart hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts with three singles: “Infatuation” (#6), a cover of the Persuaders’ song “Some Guys Have All The Luck” (#10), and a cover of the Free classic “All Right Now” (#72). Stewart (with Beck) also recorded a cover of Todd Rundgren’s 1978 song “Can We Still be Friends. Rundgren’s original reached #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978, and Robert Palmer scored a minor hit with it in 1979. Stewart’s version was not released as a single.

20 Years Ago Today: Dokken Erases the Slate with a new guitarist

Dokken Erase the SlateDokken was known for high-pitched wails from singer Don Dokken and some of the most shedtastic riffs from guitarist George Lynch. The pair had worked together since the group’s full-length debut Breaking the Chains in 1981. In 1999, Dokken, Jeff Pilson, and Mick Brown teamed up with Winger guitarist Reb Beach, one of the most underrated rock guitarists in history, and released Erase the Slate, the first full-length Dokken record without George Lynch.

The album was released by CMC International, an independent record label that was known for promoting hard rock bands from the 1980s who found themselves without a label home after the rock implosion of the early 1990s. CMC International’s roster boasted some of the biggest names in hard rock history, including Judas Priest, LA Guns, Slaughter, and Warrant.

At the time of Erase the Slate’s release, I was working at a small radio station in Hartford, Kentucky. I spearheaded a format change at the radio station, switching from country music to classic rock (and new music by classic rock artists). My definition of classic rock music included such bands as Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and Poison—more progressive at that time than most—so it was not difficult to work Dokken into the rotation as well. Two songs from Erase the Slate were featured heavily on the radio station: “Maddest Hatter” and the cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One.”

Beach only lasted one album with Dokken; he has since recorded with Whitesnake and the reunited Winger. John Norum of Europe fame played guitar on Dokken’s next release, Long Way Home; he had previously played on Don’s 1990 solo effort, Up From the Ashes. .Jon Levin manned the position on the last three.

30 Years Ago Today: Terrible music was released

Nirvana Bleach is one of the worst so called rock records in the history of the universeNirvana’s debut album, Bleach, was released on the Sub Pop label on June 15, 1989.

I have never liked Nirvana. The simplistic songs and nonsensical lyrics make a mockery of actual talent. The band was awful from the start, and Bleach serves as Exhibit A.

Nirvana was not the greatest “grunge” band. Nirvana was not a good band period.

I will not apologize for this opinion. I question the sanity of those who gave the release positive reviews, both at the time and in the years since.

“About A Girl” is perhaps the most tolerable song on the album. If you want to torture your eardrums, click play:

25 Years Ago Today: STP releases a #1 album

Stone Temple PilotsAfter the success of Core in 1992, grunge rockers Stone Temple Pilots upped their game in 1994 with Purple, released on June 7, hitting #1 just 18 days later. The English word of the title is nowhere found on the US version of the album; only the Chinese character 紫 appears on the cover with a picture of a child riding a qilin.

Several singles received airplay on alternative and modern rock radio stations and fared well on corresponding Billboard charts. “Vasoline” and “Interstate Love Song” both hit #1 on the Album Rock Tracks chart and #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart; “Big Empty” hit #3 and #7 on those same charts, while “Unglued” went to #8 and #16.

The album was released just a few days after I graduated high school and I remember listening to it with a friend who had received it as a graduation present. It didn’t have quite the impact on me that Core had, but I still enjoyed Dean DeLeo’s guitar playing and Scott Weiland’s voice.

The band is preparing an “Expanded Deluxe” double-disc release to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Purple. It will be released in September; you can pre-order it here. Of course, if you can’t wait, pick up the standard release here. One of the new tracks will be a previously unreleased acoustic rendition of “Big Empty” and the group uploaded the audio yesterday to YouTube. Listen to it below:

30 Years Ago Today: SRV gets “In Step”

SRV In StepStevie Ray Vaughan’s status as a legendary blues rocker was already established when In Step hit stores in 1989. Sadly, it would be his last album with Double Trouble before his untimely death in August, 1990.

The record produced four singles: “Crossfire,” which hit #1 on the US Rock chart, “The House is Rockin’,” “Wall of Denial,” and “Tightrope.” The album itself peaked at #33 on the Billboard 200 and Vaughan won the 1990 Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

The influence of Stevie Ray Vaughan lives on in the music of blues rock artists such as Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Joe Bonamassa. SRV keyboardist Reese Wynans released an album called Sweet Release in March of this year, featuring two covers from In Step: “Crossfire” with Shepherd on guitar, and “Riviera Paradise” with Shepherd and Bonamassa.

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