Category Archives: music

Random Awesomeness (part 2019.5)

Random Awesomeness

What I’m Reading Right Now: Firefight: The Reckoners, Book Two by Brandon Sanderson. (Yes, still working on it.)


Purchase Feral Roots from Rival Sons!
(Greta Van Fleet is great, no doubt, but Rival Sons rocks harder for my money.)

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JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Def Leppard Covered

Def Leppard covers

Congratulations to the great Def Leppard on the well-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight. A fantastic career, especially the first several albums. Their excellence should have been recognized long ago.

When I started building “JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Def Leppard Covered,” I was initially disappointed by the lack of eclectic selections available. The deeper I got, though, some real gems popped up. Load these into your player and realize the brilliance of the newest Rock Hall of Famers. Some are straight-forward rockers, while others are countrified renditions, and there’s even an a cappella styling thrown into the mix.

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Def Leppard Covered

  • “Rock Brigade” by Bang Tango from The Ultimate Bang Tango: Rockers and Thieves
  • “Wasted” by Seven Witches from Passage to the Other Side
  • “Let It Rock” by Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys) from Rock Anthems of the ’80s
  • “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night) by The Gravel Pit from No One Here Gets in for Free: Rare & Unreleased. I’m not going to pull any punches here. This sounds slightly better than something my college band would have done in our dorm on our little tape deck.
  • “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” by Mariah Carey from Charmbracelet. It was either this or a Jethro Tull-ish Jed Davis version.
  • “Photograph” by Malibu Storm from Malibu Storm
  • “Stagefright” by Matt Nathanson from Pyromattia
  • “Too Late for Love” by Crease from Only Human
  • “Rock of Ages” by Kelly Hansen (Foreigner) from Rock Of Ages: Hard Rock Hits Of The ’80s
  • “Action Not Words” by Charlie Bonnet III from JukeBox Bluesman
  • “Billy’s Got A Gun” by House of Heavy from House of Heavy
  • “Love Bites” by Lucky Uke from Lucky Uke
  • “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Emm Gryner from Girl Versions. If you didn’t click play on the YouTube video at the top of this list, do it. Now. There are a lot of straight-forward covers of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” out there. There are also a lot of off-beat covers. Emm Gryner’s is hands-down the most hauntingly beautiful version of this song ever. Her voice is powerfully soulful. Before I heard her take, I also considered Bristol Love‘s saccharine version and Ely Jaffe‘s toned-down acoustic rendition.
  • “Hysteria” by Daniel Flores from British Metal Invasion: The Greatest Hits Vol. 2
  • “Two Steps Behind” by No Strings Attached from Even Closer. A cappella hair metal, folks. Except not metal at all. I wonder how much Aqua Net they go through in a week.
  • “When Love and Hate Collide” by Patrick Dilley from Southern Sessions Live
  • “Long Long Way To Go” by Lionel Richie from Just For You. The Def Leppard version, released in 2003, was their last song to appear on the UK Top 40 charts. Lionel Richie took his rendition to 20th on the US AC charts in 2004.

Of course, there are a ton of Def Leppard tribute albums available. I am not familiar with any of these personally, but I present them here in a handy-dandy list if you want to give them a spin:

Can’t get enough of the cover songs? The Writer’s Journey has you covered (pun fully intended). Click on these links to check out some strangely familiar songs…

What band should we tackle next?

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Mötley Crüe Covered

Motley Crue Covered

I thought about calling this “Crücial Covers” but that seemed a bit too on-the-nose.

Netflix released The Dirt on Friday. I’m not going to recommend that you watch it. I like Mötley Crüe for their music, not their lifestyle. And even then, there is some music by Mötley Crüe I will not listen to. I try to be discerning with the lyrical content, so that knocks out a lot of rock songs. But what is left is often brilliant.

Mötley Crüe is one of the most influential hard rock bands of the 1980s, and their music has stood the test of time. The true test of a great song, though, is whether it can stand up under the scrutiny of a different genre. There are plenty of tribute albums and cover versions that try to stay as true to the original as possible. To that, I ask, “Why bother?” If I want to hear “Too Young To Fall In Love” in the style of Mötley Crüe, then I will listen to the song by Mötley Crüe themselves. This mixtape is not for the traditionalist. It is eclectic and eccentric but not always electric.

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Mötley Crüe Covered

  • “Too Fast For Love” by Stone Sour from Straight Outta Burbank. This is one of the most straight-forward cover here. The original appears on Mötley Crüe’s debut record, Too Fast For Love.
  • “Live Wire” by Meghan Kabir. Meghan is an Afghan American singer/songwriter. This version was actually just released on Friday and was used in The Dirt. Her take on this Crüe classic is very ethereal.
  • “Public Enemy #1” by Spiders & Snakes from London Daze. Spiders & Snakes’ lead singer Lizzie Grey played in bands with Nikki Sixx during the 1970s, and co-wrote this song that appeared on the Crüe debut.
  • “Piece of Your Action” by These Idol Hands from Unbound. A little grungy, a little sleazy. These Idol Hands hail from the home of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company.
  • “On With The Show” by The Ataris from Let It Burn. Mötley goes emo/pop-punk.
  • “Looks That Kill” by Susan Hyatt from Pin-Ups & Trumpets. She’s the lead singer for Pillbox, but this trumpet-heavy rendition is anything but grungy.
  • “Too Young To Fall In Love” by Chelsea Lankes from Down For Whatever/Too Young To Fall In Love. This song presented the greatest challenge in picking a version. Lankes’ version is an electro-pop masterpiece, but Steve Taylor’s beautiful piano ballad from Got It Covered (Songs I Didn’t Write, Vol. 1) comes in a close second. But the options don’t stop there. Glorified High School delivers a haunting piano rendition.
  • “Home Sweet Home/Bittersweet Symphony” by Limp Bizkit from Greatest Hitz. Don’t @ me.
  • “Girls Girls Girls” by Richard Cheese. He is the greatest Vegas lounge singer doing rock and pop songs.
  • “Dr. Feelgood” by BulletBoys from Rocked & Ripped. A great song, but Marq Torien and company do little to make it their own. In this case, I would rather listen to the original recording.
  • “Kickstart My Heart” by The Booze Bros. from Two Fo The Show. A jazzed-up acoustic rendition of one of Mötley’s most popular songs.
  • “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” by Ben Lee from Family Album: A Compilation. I was introduced to this version in the late 1990s while working for WRFL at the University of Kentucky. I have never been able to track down the album, but the song is available on YouTube.
  • “Without You” by Clare Bowen & Sam Palladio from Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe. A bunch of country artists doing Mötley songs sounds awful to me, but in a couple instances it really works. This is one of my least favorite Mötley Crüe songs, truly a cringe-worthy ballad from my favorite Mötley Crüe album, but the country version is bearable. Not great, mind you, but bearable.
  • “Hooligan’s Holiday” by John Corabi from Unplugged. Is this allowed? The original vocalist of the track, ousted after his one release with the band, recorded a stirring acoustic version of the best song on the album. There is also an acoustic rendition of “Loveshine” on this CD. Corabi has been quite busy lately with his new band The Dead Daisies, featuring the man-of-many-bands Doug Aldrich on guitar. They have released four studio albums, one live album, and four EPs since 2013.
  • “Afraid” by Aaron Lewis from Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe. I’m breaking one of my rules here. Generally, I will not include two songs from the same tribute album, but Aaron Lewis’ southern-fried version of one of the only good songs from Generation Swine is simply fantastic.

If you prefer to just buy a pre-packaged tribute album rather than build your own, there are plenty of options out there. I don’t have any of these in my collection, so I cannot personally recommend any of them.

Random Awesomeness (part 2019.4)

Random Awesomeness

What I’m Reading Right Now: Firefight: The Reckoners, Book Two by Brandon Sanderson.


Purchase the debut album from The End Machine!
(The End Machine features classic-era Dokken members George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, and Mick Brown, with current Warrant vocalist Robert Mason behind the microphone.)

The Return of Random Awesomeness (part 2019.01)

It has been nearly three years since my last “Random Awesomeness” post. Partly because I don’t blog as much as I used to, and partly because I don’t spend as much time on the internet as I used to. But there is still a lot of cool stuff to be found around the web, and things that I want to share with you that don’t naturally fit into my own blogposts. Each “Random Awesomeness” entry will feature seven or more links to some pretty rad stuff, so (obviously) I recommend checking them out. I usually include a music video of some sort and a link where you can buy the music (or something related to the video). New in 2019 is “What I’m Reading Right Now.” No spoilers, just a link to where you can buy the book I’m reading.

I don’t know how often I will publish a new list “Random Awesomeness”…maybe weekly? I’m really not sure. Be awesome, and you’ll probably end up on the list. Since this is the first post in almost three years, I decided to change up the top-of-post image as well, so without further ado

Random Awesomeness

What I’m Reading Right Now: Steelheart: The Reckoners, Book One by Brandon Sanderson.

Purchase Star Wars music by John Williams.

Funko rules the world, y’all

The Office Funko Pop

I have been following Funko‘s various social media accounts as they reveal upcoming releases at Comic Cons and Toy Fairs. A lot of great stuff on deck, including characters from The Office, Office Space, The Lion King, *NSync, and more.

Shazam Funko Pop

I think the one I am anticipating more than any other is Shazam. I’m a huge Zachary Levi fan, and the trailer for the movie looks hilarious, so this one is definitely going to be added to my collection at some point this year.

But if you’re not into comic book movies or sitcoms or Disney or boybands, never fear…Funko will continue to produce sports-themed Funko Pops in 2019. MLB, NFL, and NASCAR are all among the upcoming releases. Even Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth are a part of the 2019 roster.

It really doesn’t matter what you’re into. Funko has you covered. Wheel of Fortune? Check. Dawson’s Creek? You bet. Sanford & Son? Yep. Funko has it all.

Unless you want figures from The Greatest American Hero or Edgar Allan Poe. Still waiting for those…

Greatest American Hero

Edgar Allan Poe

Some hobbies are way too expensive

I love vinyl. I’ve picked up loads of used vinyl at record shops and antique stores in the Cincinnati area (where I live), Knoxville (a yearly trip), and Bowling Green (on my way to my son’s college). Generally I don’t spend more than $10 on a title, and that’s only if I really want the record and haven’t seen it elsewhere. For the most part, though, I like to stick with the bargain bins and keep most purchases under $5. I’ve found some great releases in those bargain bins, including The Guess Who, Merle Haggard, and Frank Sinatra.

Sometimes I click around on Amazon to see what some of my favorite albums would cost on vinyl, and it blows me away. In the same way that some baseball cards are ridiculously out of reach, I never expect to own any of these vinyl releases, as much as I would like to hear them in all their clicky-and-poppy glory.

Alice Cooper Van Halen

  • Alice Cooper, Along Came a Spider, $1396.48. The shock rocker’s best album since at least the late 1980s, maybe even since the glory days of the 1970s. Features a harmonica performance by Ozzy Osbourne and a killer guitar solo from Slash. Yet, I will never buy it at the current price (although, it does have free shipping!!!).
  • Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth, $179.98. I was fortunate to find the first five original VH releases at reasonable prices, and received the remastered 1984 for my birthday last year. (Actually, come to think of it, the debut was a Christmas gift along with the turntable three years ago). ADKOT is another story. The record was panned by many, but I love how it reaches back into the vault and updates some old riffs that were used on demos in the 1970s. But at this price, I’ll have to stick to the shiny compact disc version.
  • Van Halen, Balance, $419.78. Sammy’s last full album with the band is the only Van Hagar production I really enjoy. “Can’t Stop Loving You,”Milli Vanilli “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do),” “Feeling,” “Not Enough,” and “Take Me Back (Deja Vu)” all rank among my favorite Van Halen songs. I really hope I stumble across this in a bargain bin someday (or even for $10), because I’m not dropping four Benjamins and a Jackson regardless of how much I like it.
  • Cinderella, Still Climbing, $89.99. I was fortunate to find Cinderella’s debut, Night Songs, a few years ago for about $8, and I snatched it up immediately. Still Climbing, the band’s last album from 1994, has been more challenging to track down. It didn’t perform well on the charts or on radio as grunge had brainwashed everyone by the time it hit stores. The 21st century price tag is just a little out of my range.
  • Mill Vanilli, Girl You Know It’s True, $65.55. I can hear the groans. I don’t care if the guys in the picture didn’t actually sing the songs, they are still great pop songs. This is one of my go-to albums for “take me back to the easy breezy days of being a young teen in the late 1980s.” But at nearly seventy bucks? Nope.
  • Stone Temple Pilots, Core, $699.99. This album was huge in 1993, but by that time vinyl was on the outs. Everyone was listening to CDs or cassettes. I’m not sure if it was even released on vinyl in the 1990s. The “collectible” reissue from 2013 is currently going for $700. Insane.
  • Black Label Society, Mafia, $70.90. Zakk Wylde’s side-band has changed lineups frequently over the years, but with ten studio releases under the BLS moniker since 1999, it is a force to be reckoned with. My favorite album from Zakk and friends is 2005’s Mafia, which includes “In This River,” a touching song frequently dedicated in concert to Wylde’s best friend Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, who was killed in a shooting in 2004.

Some of these albums may get reissued, and hopefully I’ll be paying attention when that happens so I can buy them for about $20. In the meantime, I’ll just have to stick to my CDs and Amazon’s streaming service.

Cinderella Stone Temple Pilots Black Label Society

Christmas gift ideas for your Zeppelin fanatic

I didn’t run out of ideas when doing my “Christmas gift ideas” posts, but I’ve had other things going on. I appreciate all who have clicked on the links so far, as I get a tiny kickback from Amazon and can put it toward things that I really shouldn’t be spending actual money on…but “gift card” money, that’s a whole different ballgame. Even if you don’t buy the products I post, if you click one of my links before browsing and making your purchase I get a little credit.

Perhaps the biggest hard rock band of all time is Led Zeppelin, and not without reason. Not only is “Stairway to Heaven” a masterpiece, but nearly every song on the first four or five albums is perfectly put together (even if they were not all written by the band). For these lists, I’ve made three sections. First we have other projects of the members of Led Zeppelin. Second we have artists that sound like they were inspired by Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham. And in many cases, they were. Finally, tribute albums to one of the greatest classic hard rock bands in history.

Zeppelin members’ other projects

  • Lead singer Robert PlantLed Zeppelin solo projects has released numerous solo albums; the most recent is 2017’s Carry Fire. He also collaborated with Zep-mate Jimmy Page and classic rock guitarist Jeff Beck in 1984 on The Honeydrippers, Volume One. In 1994, he joined Jimmy Page for an MTV special and released No Quarter, followed by Walking Into Clarksdale in 1998. In 2007, Plant teamed up with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss for Raising Sand.
  • Guitarist Jimmy Page’s post-Zeppelin output is not as straightforward as Plant’s. He started by recording the soundtrack for Death Wish II, but that one is going to cost you a pretty penny as it is no longer in print. His only non-soundtrack solo album, Outrider, did not perform well. One other soundtrack was recorded for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising, but is not currently available unless you want to drop nearly $400 on the vinyl. In 1985, Page contributed to Roy Harper’s Whatever Happened to Jugula? 1985 also saw the self-titled debut of The Firm, a supergroup featuring Page, Bad Company/Free vocalist Paul Rodgers, bass extraordinaire Tony Franklin, and then-future-AC/DC drummer Chris Slade. A follow-up record was release by The Firm in 1986, Mean Business. In 1999, the guitarist joined the Black Crowes for two shows; most of those recordings were released in 2000 under the title Live At the Greek, but singer Chris Robinson was not enthused about the performance.
  • Bassist John Paul Jones wrote the soundtrack for the movie Scream For Help, which also includes contributions from Page and Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. In 1994 he appeared on the album The Sporting Life with Diamanda Galas. Jones has also released two solo albums, Zooma (1999) and The Thunderthief. In 2009, Jones joined a supergroup with Josh Homme and Dave Grohl; unfortunately only one album has been released, the self-titled Them Crooked Vultures. Lastly, Jones contributed to two records released by the band Seasick Steve, You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks and Hubcap Music.

Artists that sound an awful lot like Led Zeppelin

  • Greta Van Fleet Sounds like Led Zeppelinis the band getting a lot of attention right now, as they should. They have taken the rock world by storm and don’t appear to be slowing down. From the Fires was released last November, and Anthem of the Peaceful Army had an October release this year. Watch this band closely as their star is still on the rise.
  • Rival Sons have been around for several years, but is just now starting to gain some traction in the mainstream. You may have heard “Do Your Worst” from the soon-to-be-released Feral Roots on the radio, but the title track from 2011’s Pressure and Time really exhibits the Zeppelin connection.
  • Wolfmother‘s debut over a decade ago exploded on the scene, but then the band imploded. Three more albums have been released since the debut, but none have sold as well.
  • Zebra gigged for years playing Zeppelin songs before releasing their self-titled debut in 1983, and while there are some enduring classics on the record, it is not a cover-to-cover masterpiece like most of Zep’s catalog.
  • Kingdom Come is often cited as a hair metal version of Led Zeppelin, and Lenny Wolf’s vocals were certainly reminiscent of Robert Plant. The songwriting isn’t going to land them in the Rock Hall, but Kingdom Come has proven to be popular enough to release thirteen albums since 1988.
  • Whitesnake may be the most all-around Zeppelin sound-alike. David Coverdale’s vocals are spot-on. Whoever is playing guitar, be it John Sykes or Steve Vai or Doug Aldrich, does a great job laying down some Jimmy Page-like riffs.
  • Coverdale/Page may have been a slap in Robert Plant’s face for refusing to do a Zeppelin reunion in the early ’90s. Guitarist Jimmy Page recruited David Coverdale, one of the most Robert Plant-ish singers around, to record an album of new tracks. The band probably would have lasted more than just one album had Page been able to convince John Paul Jones or Jason Bonham to participate.
  • Speaking of Jason Bonham, he had a band in the late ’80s and early ’90s called Bonham featuring a Robert Plant clone, Daniel MacMaster, on vocals. Their most popular (and most Zeppelinish) song was “Wait For You” from 1989’s The Disregard of Timekeeping.

Tribute albums

Christmas gift ideas for your Force-sensitive friends

The original trilogy is classic. The prequel trilogy, not so much. J.J. Abrams’ first entry into the third trilogy restored the faith for fans of the classics, but Rian Johnson shredded that renewed fandom in less than three hours. Ron Howard’s Solo was excellent (ignore the negative reviews from so-called “fans” who never even bothered to see it). Abrams is back in the driver’s seat for the ninth and final episode of the Skywalker saga, due next year, and I am hopeful and optimistic that he will finish well.

While the Star Wars bandwagon has slowed considerably, there are still many gifts suitable for those who have not abandoned that galaxy far, far away. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Visual MediaStar Wars DVD Blu Ray

Music

BooksStar Wars Shakespeare

Toys and Collectibles

Attire

Other odds & ends

Christmas gift ideas for your headbanger

Everyone loves music…but what do you get for the person who owns CDs, cassette tapes, vinyl records, and MP3s of all their favorite songs already? You could take a chance on new bands such as Greta Van Fleet or Red Dragon Cartel, but you run the risk of getting something that doesn’t quite tickle their ears. Music appreciation is, after all, highly subjective.

Fortunately, there are other ways to enjoy music besides listening to it. Weird, right? But thanks to companies like Funko and McFarlane, you can get collectible figurines of rock stars and band mascots. Here are a few helpful links.
Alice Cooper POP Funko
Funko POP

Ozzy Osbourne McFarlane
McFarlane Figures

Bif Bang Pow! KISS Unmasked

Iron Maiden Super 7 Figures
Various Other Figures and Statues

Playing Cards

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