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Fun Cards: 1974 Topps Judas Priest “Rookie Rockers”

1974 Topps Judas Priest

The 2020 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees have been announced, and heavy metal icons Judas Priest appear for the second time. They were previously nominated in 2018.

The other nominees are Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Kraftwerk, MC5, Motörhead, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Todd Rundgren, Soundgarden, T.Rex, and Thin Lizzy. Fans can vote via Google…just type in “Rock Hall” or one of the nominees, and the ballot appears. You can select up to five nominees.

I expect NIN and B.I.G. to get in, and probably Soundgarden. Past that, it’s a toss-up. I would love to see Priest and Motörhead make it in, but the Hall is notoriously anti-metal.

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.

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.

40 Years Ago Today: KISS goes disco!

KISS DynastyDisco was all the craze in the late ’70s, and it even affected shock rockers KISS when they wrote and recorded Dynasty in 1979. The influence can be heard most clearly on the most popular single from the record, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” co-written by songwriting extraordinaire Desmond Child.

Nine songs appear on the album, including a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “2,000 Man,” sung by Ace Frehley. Though pictured on the cover, Peter Criss only performed one song—“Dirty Livin’”—on this entire album; Anton Fig, who had drummed for Frehley’s 1978 solo effort, was brought in to play in Criss’ place.

The album spent 25 weeks on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and peaked at #9, but the subsequent tour was a flop. KISS struggled on at least the next couple albums to rediscover their hard rock foundation.

30 Years Ago Today: John Sykes’ Blue Murder released

John Sykes was involved in one of the most popular albums of the 1980s, Whitesnake’s self-titled 1987 release. He co-wrote all the songs on the album except for two that were re-recordings of songs from the band’s back catalog. He played all the lead guitars on the album…except for the most popular song, the new version “Here I Go Again.” Blue MurderDavid Coverdale hired Adrian Vandenberg to record the solo after firing Sykes near the end of the recording process.

Two years after Whitesnake’s 1987 album was released, John Sykes exacted his revenge with his new band, Blue Murder. Sykes handled vocals and guitars for the hard rock outfit, while icons Tony Franklin and Carmine Appice played bass and drums, respectively. The self-titled debut was released April 25, 1989, and reached #69 on the Billboard 200 in June 1989. Blue Murder released two studio albums and one live album before the label dropped the act and Sykes went solo.

If you’re looking for an often overlooked hard rock masterpiece, pick up a copy of Blue Murder’s self-titled debut.

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 rock n’ roller

There really are a ton of great bands out there that you have probably never heard of. Rival Sons, Scorpion Child, Black Country Communion, Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, Revolution Saints, just to name a handful. But there is one band that has absolutely overshadowed all others, and they only have eight songs recorded so far: Greta Van Fleet. The group of three brothers and a drummer released a 4-song EP earlier this year, and have added four more songs on their latest release, From The Fires,, which dropped in November. Apparently they are getting some radio airtime, and that’s great, because this is the most rock n’ roll band since Led Zeppelin.

Greta Van Fleet

I’m not even making a list with this post. It begins and ends with one band: Greta Van Fleet. Buy it for every headbanger on your Christmas list.

Need some new rock in your life?

LA Guns The Missing Peace

The Missing Peace, the brand new LA Guns album just dropped today, featuring the first new music from Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns in fifteen years. Johnny Martin, Shane Fitzgibbon, and Michael Grant join Phil and Tracii on this trip back to the Sunset Strip. It’s not just nostalgia, though—these songs are actually good! If you love the “hair metal” scene, this record will put you back where you belong. Hands-down, the best reunion album from a group of that era. There are some objectionable lyrics, as there is with much from the rock world, but there are some great clean songs as well. The musicianship is top-notch. I like Stacey Blades, but Tracii Guns is LA Guns. The Missing Peace shows how much we have missed in the past 15 years while Phil and Tracii were at odds. I am so glad they have buried the hatchet and have given us this new music. Phil and Tracii are good individually, but together they make great music.

Michael Grant adds quite a bit to the mix as well. Grant’s former band, Endeverafter, toured with Poison and Cinderella, and released one of the best hair metal-esque albums ten years ago, but went largely unnoticed due to poor promotion and a general distaste for the genre at the time. I highly recommend adding Kiss or Kill to your collection (after The Missing Peace, of course).

The Missing Peace is available on CD or vinyl, or can be downloaded in MP3 format.

Tracklist:
1. All the Same to Me
2. Speed
3. Drop of Bleach
4. Sticky Fingers
5. Christine
6. Baby Gotta Fever
7. Kill It or Die
8. Knife to a Gunfight
9. The Flood’s the Fault of the Rain
10. The Devil Made Me Do It
11. The Missing Peace
12. Gave It All Away

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Aerosmith covered edition

Aerosmith covered

One of the greatest American rock bands of all time, Aerosmith raised the bar for hard rockers in the 1970s and shocked the music world with a massive comeback in the late 1980s. More than three years ago, I gave the band the “Ultimate Mixtape” treatment, picking my favorite song from each album released by the group.

Countless artists have offered up their renditions of the Bad Boys of Boston’s greatest hits. In this Ultimate Mixtape, I will attempt to collate some of the greatest and most interesting Aerosmith songs covered by other bands. I’m sticking only to officially released songs, and my personal preference is to avoid live versions. While tribute albums are fair game, only one song per tribute is allowed on this compilation. Further, no artists will be duplicated, and each song will only be represented once. So hit play on the YouTube videos below, click the links to buy some records, and rock out like you’ve never rocked out before!

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Aerosmith covered edition

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