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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

Random Awesomeness (part 210)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase Ace Freheley – Origins Vol. 1

AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History by Phil Sutcliffe (2015)

ACDC High Voltage Rock n Roll

AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History
by Phil Sutcliffe
Voyageur Press, 2015
232 pages

The most popular rock group to ever come from Australia is no doubt AC/DC. But the group was not an overnight sensation; it took years to break into the United States, though now their sound is so distinct one can recognize them usually by the first few notes. In AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History, Phil Sutcliffe presents a history of the band through photographs, beginning with the Dave Evans era. Several photos show the band in clubs during the early days, while the later images display the rockers on larger stages, playing to massive crowds.

Album reviews written by various people are scattered throughout the book, and the afterword is penned by Def Leppard‘s Joe Elliott. Sutcliffe’s treatment of the band’s history takes the reader all the way up to the modern day and Malcolm Young’s recent health struggles and Phil Rudd’s run-ins with the law.

AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History is a fantastic book that covers the Aussies’ entire career, shedding light on how the group was viewed during the 1970s before they achieved their massive success with the Back in Black record. Classic rock fans will dig the photographs of the band playing on grand stages with a sea of young metalheads watching their every move.

Learn more about Voyageur Press.

Purchase AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Ultimate Illustrated History by Phil Sutcliffe.

Greatest non- “greatest hits” albums

In Chuck Klosterman’s review of Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth, he made the following comment in a footnote:

The ’78 debut is almost like Are You Experienced? for two reasons: The first is that it now seems closer to a greatest hits collection; the second is that it’s retrospectively impossible to grasp how new and explosive the guitar sounds must have seemed when heard for the first time.

I agree with that assessment, and would like to further explore that first thought as it applies to other records. Let’s start by looking at Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?, and then look at a few other records that might fall in the same category.

  • Van Halen, Van Halen, 1978
    The greatest of the greatest: “Eruption”/”You Really Got Me,” “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Ice Cream Man” – a concert-goer might feel cheated if any of those classics were left out of a live performance.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Little Dreamer” and “On Fire” – of the eleven songs on this disc, only these two are excluded from the band’s “Guitar Hero” game.
  • Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?, 1967
    The greatest of the greatest (from the US edition): “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Foxey Lady,” “Fire” – I hate to stop there, but those are probably the cream of the crop. It is interesting to note, however, that neither “Purple Haze” nor “Hey Joe” was not on the British version of the record.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Love or Confusion” and “Third Stone from the Sun” – unless you are a diehard music fan, you might have to look these up on YouTube to remind you what they sound like.
  • AC/DC, Back In Black, 1980
    The greatest of the greatest: “Hells Bells,” “Back In Black,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” – the band’s first album with singer Brian Johnson, even Bon Scott apologists can’t argue that as an album, this one can’t be beat.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Given the Dog a Bone” and “Shake a Leg” – if these songs weren’t on this album, fans would probably have a higher opinion of them because they are better than most post-1980 songs recorded by the Aussie rockers.
  • Led Zeppelin, II, 1969
    The greatest of the greatest: “Whole Lotta Love,” “Heartbreaker,” “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman),” “Bring It On Home” – It was difficult to choose between II and IV, but ultimately II is just better on the whole.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: Hmmm…I guess “Thank You.” I almost said “Moby Dick,” but then I remembered how awesome it is.
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller, 1982
    The greatest of the greatest: “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller” – seven singles were released from this album beginning in October 1982, culminating with one of the most epic videos of all time with “Thriller” in January 1984. Throw in Eddie Van Halen and a Beatle for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady in My Life” – the only two songs not released as singles, but probably could have been on his prior album.
  • Def Leppard, Hysteria, 1987
    The greatest of the greatest: “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Armageddon It,” “Women,” “Animal” – this album features Mutt Lange’s slick production skills, and still holds up today as a great listen from beginning to end. Seven singles were released from this 12-track record, which was at the time and is still today unheard of for hard rock releases.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Run Riot” and “Excitable” – just think of how epic Hysteriacould have been without these filler tracks.
  • Mötley Crüe, Dr. Feelgood, 1989
    The greatest of the greatest: “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” – it’s hip to hate the Crüe’s best-selling album (6x Platinum in the US), but it truly is their best release.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “She Goes Down” – I started to type “Time For Change” in this section, decided to go listen to it again, and found that it is much better than I remembered. Several of the non-singles on the album feature some famous singers in the background, from Jack Blades to Steven Tyler to Sebastian Bach to Bryan Adams.
  • Beastie Boys, Licensed To Ill, 1986
    The greatest of the greatest: “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” “Girls,” “Brass Monkey,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” – I really apologize for getting those songs stuck in your head, but the Beasties have some of the most ear-wormy songs in the world.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Posse In Effect” – Another album that made it really difficult to pick a “worst” song.

These are all just off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many others that could be mentioned. What other regular studio albums come so close to “greatest hits” status?

Top Ten Albums of 2008

I present to you the ten best hard rock albums of 2008.

10. Jørn Lande – Lonely Are The Brave – Don’t tell me, you’ve never heard of him. He has one of the best voices in music and a long list of albums released. Give him a chance and you will likely become a fan.

9. Motörhead – Motörizer – It sounds like Motörhead of old…and that’s a good thing.

8. Yngwie Malmsteen – Perpetual Flame – With Ripper Owens on vocals, Yngwie delivers his best album in years. The song “Red Devil” may be the best he has ever written.

7. Tesla – Forever More – These guys don’t get enough love from rock fans. Vastly underrated band, and this album is a strong effort from beginning to end.

6. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy – It was worth the wait. Now that the luster has worn off a bit, it slipped from the #3 spot on my list, but it’s still high quality.

5. AC/DC – Black Ice – It sounds like AC/DC of old…and that’s a good thing.

4. Lynam – Tragic City SymphonyThese boys from Birmingham have a strong record with some Def Leppard-like hooks and sing-along choruses.

3. M.O.B – The Greatest Enemy – How in the world are these guys unsigned? Take note Mr. Record Company Executive, this is awesome rock.

2. Mötley Crüe – Saints Of Los Angeles – A strong comeback for the kings of the Hollywood strip.

1. Alice Cooper – Along Came A SpiderThis album is already on my top ten list for the decade, and it is very close to the top.

A couple of “honorable mentions” go out to Extreme and Uriah Heep, who released very strong albums in 2008. On Extreme’s Saudades de Rock, Gary Cherone shows his spectacular vocal range and Nuno Bettencourt is on top of his game with the guitar. Meanwhile, Uriah Heep produced a great progressive hard rock album, Wake The Sleeper, that would have probably made my top ten list any other year.

Several other hard rockers released material in 2008 with varying results. Metallica returned to its thrash roots on Death Magnetic, but the fire is not as hot as it once was. Sammy Hagar had a few rockers on Cosmic Universal Fashion, but there was also a lot of Jimmy Buffett-inspired music. The supergroup Saints Of The Underground featuring Jani Lane, Bobby Blotzer, Robbie Crane, and Keri Kelli was good, but not quite super.

The dishonor of the worst album of 2008 goes to Def Leppard, who released Songs From The Sparkle Lounge in April. The hype-machine was in overdrive for this record, but the result was one of the worst albums ever made…regardless of genre. Yes, that’s right. The once mighty boys from Britain have made an album that is worse than anything (insert name of most hated “artist”) ever released.

New music Monday…

While Metallica and AC/DC are currently grabbing all the headlines, another 80’s hard rocker has a new video popping up on YouTube. Read the rest of this entry

New radio show

Saturday was my last live broadcast for ClassX. It was a difficult decision to make, because I really do love doing the show and the station’s playlist is incredible. However, with gas prices continuing to rise, it was no longer economical to make the trip every week. Read the rest of this entry

I’ve been dancin’ with Dr. Pepper…

How much does Dr. Pepper love Guns ‘N’ Roses? How much does Axl Rose love Dr. Pepper fans? Those are the questions on everyone’s mind as the soda has announced its intention to give everyone in America (with the exception of Slash and Buckethead) a free can of Dr. Pepper if Chinese Democracy is released in 2008. Anytime in 2008. Axl, will you step up to the plate and give America the long-awaited alleged GNR “masterpiece” along with a free soda?

I’m not sure about you, but I doubt Chinese Democracy can top (or come anywhere near) Appetite for Destruction. That album has more hooks than a Bass Pro Shop. AFD is the definitive hard rock album for a generation, perhaps for all-time. AFD is to GNR what Back in Black is to AC/DC, what Zoso is to Led Zeppelin, what Dr. Feelgood is to Motley Crue, what Hysteria is to Def Leppard. Not one bad song; not one forgettable riff. You start playing it, and everyone knows what it is. I’ve heard some of the demo tracks for Chinese Democracy, and I don’t care how much production goes into it, they just aren’t that great. Some are good, but far from great.

At 17 years (and counting), Axl has a lot to live up to. There has been so much hype surrounding Chinese Democracy, that unless Axl is able to pull off another AFD, it will be a failure. That means he will have to scrap most of the songs that have been leaked on the internet over the past 4-5 years and select other tracks that we haven’t heard yet, that we need to hear. Of those that have been leaked which are potential minor hits are “There Was A Time” and “Better.” The others (“I.R.S.,” “The Blues,” even the title track) need to be either revamped or put to the side for a later release without all the hype.

So the question is, how badly do you want a free Dr. Pepper?

And why are Slash and Buckethead excluded from the free soda?

Look here for more info on this promotion.

The loss of a lead singer

Frankie Banali, drummer of the now-defunct Quiet Riot, has stated that he will not reform the band with a different lead singer. Not even Paul Shortino, who fronted the band for an ill-received album in 1988. Evidently, some have suggested that Banali should call up Rudy Sarzo and Carlos Cavazo and audition new singers, or have Shortino come back to the band. Both ideas are, in my oh so humble opinion, terrible.

I have been against bands changing key members while retaining the original name. Some have pulled it off, namely Van Halen and AC/DC, but many others have failed miserably, such as Quiet Riot. What is a key member? Well, the lead singer is definitley a key member. The guitarist can be a key member if he has a signature sound. Can you imagine anyone but Slash riffing for GNR? (The correct answer is no.) Neither can I. The bass player and drummer, not so much. The idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion is not far-fetched, even though their drummer has left this world. Bonzo was amazing, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not convinced that the band would be any less spectacular without him.

One thing to remember about VH and AC/DC is that they were immensely popular when their key changes happened. AC/DC was coming off one of their best album with Bon Scott, Highway to Hell, when tragedy struck. Van Halen had just released their epic 1984, which contained the immortal songs, “Panama,” “Jump,” and “Hot For Teacher.”

What about Quiet Riot? Frankly, they haven’t been popular since 1983. That’s not to say that the material they released in the past 25 years has been bad. The band’s 2006 disc, Rehab, is a great CD filled with classic rock vibes. A departure from their signature sound, but still they were unable to garner much airplay from its release.

To continue on as Quiet Riot would be a huge mistake. Banali is right to move on, and I applaud his willingness to come out publicly against a new lineup.

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