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Christmas gift ideas for your rock ‘n’ roll fan

Rock isn’t dead, and here are ten records to prove it. If the rocker in your life likes classic hard rock, there’s a good chance he’ll love some of these albums. They are not all brand new, but there are some hidden gems that even the most grizzled rockers have not heard.

Scorpions

Of course, if your special rocker is into stuff off the beaten path, check out these bluegrass records that really rock:
Possum Kingdom Ramblers

And then there are books about music…

Concert review: Queensrÿche and Scorpions (September 22, 2015 @ Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, Columbus OH)

Two classic hard rock bands have joined forces on tour and stopped in Columbus, Ohio’s Lifestyle Communities Pavilion Tuesday night.

Queensrÿche

Queensrÿche, with new singer Todd La Torre, opened up for Germany’s Scorpions for a massive crowd. La Torre has been with the band since 2012, but they are just now preparing the first studio release featuring his vocal abilities. In concert, La Torre sounds great when he isn’t trying to imitate Geoff Tate’s distinct sound. He struggled with “Jet City Woman” and parts of “Silent Lucidity,” but regained his command of the microphone for the new song, “Arrow of Time,” and sounded strong on the classics, “Eyes of a Stranger” and “Empire.” It will be interesting to see how the new record is received. La Torre’s voice is powerful, but lacks the range of Tate. The rest of the band sounded fantastic, and lead guitarist Michael Wilton looked like he was having a blast. Queensrÿche is rounded out with Parker Lundgren on guitar, Eddie Jackson on bass, and Scott Rockenfield on drums. They played a solid 9-song, 45-minute set.

Queensrÿche

Setlist for Queensrÿche:
Anarchy-X
The Needle Lies
Walk in the Shadows
Jet City Woman
Silent Lucidity
Arrow of Time
Eyes of a Stranger
Empire
Queen of the Reich

Pre-order the new Queensrÿche album Condition Human,due out October 2, or pick up some classic releases by the band.

Scorpions

The main event was the Scorpions, who blazed through a selection of vintage and newer songs for over an hour and a half. Klaus Meine was at the top of his game, belting out timeless songs like “The Zoo” and “Blackout,” while Rudolf Schenker pranced around the stage thrusting his Flying V guitar into the air.

Scorpions Rudolph Schenker

Scorpions are celebrating their fiftieth year as a band, though Schenker is the only member who has been at it the entire time; Meine joined up in 1969, three years before the first studio album was released. The new material is remarkable and fits in perfectly with the band’s most enduring songs. Guitarist Matthias Jabs sounded phenomenal, and truly appeared to be enjoying the spotlight during his solo performances.

Scorpions Matthias Jabs

The group also includes Paweł Mąciwoda on bass and James Kottak on drums. Kottak’s drumset was raised high above the band, so his animated style was never hidden from the audience. The Scorpions never disappoint when performing live, always playing with energy and enthusiasm and encouraging crowd participation. This is a band that every rock fan needs to see live at least once. I have been fortunate enough to see them three times, and they sound better every time.

Scorpions

Setlist for the Scorpions:
Going Out with a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train (70’s medley)
We Built This House
Delicate Dance
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel (acoustic medley)
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Dynamite
In the Line of Fire
Kottak Attack (drum solo)
Blackout
No One Like You
Big City Nights
Encore:
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Rudolph Schenker Scorpions

Purchase the Scorpions’ newest release, Return To Forever, or reacquaint yourself with the classics.

Scorpions

Scorpions

Legendary guitarist Michael Schenker releases a new studio album featuring former Scorpions and Rainbow members

Michael Schenker Spirit on a Mission

Award-winning, legendary guitarist Michael Schenker releases a new studio album entitled Spirit On A Mission Released by in-akustik, the album of all-new material features Schenker’s Temple of Rock band – ex-Scorpions Herman Rarebell (drums) and Francis Buchholz (bass), ex-Rainbow’s Doogie White (vocals) and Wayne Findlay (guitar, keyboards).

The new album features twelve 12 classic rock guitar-driven songs that highlight Schenker’s distinctive and dynamic guitar playing, valiantly underpinned by the ferocious rhythm section of Rarebell and Buchholz, the same rhythm section that originally performed together on the Scorpions’ 1979 album Lovedrive.

Michael remembers how he came up with the name of the new album – “A while ago I was asked how I wanted to be remembered, and I said ‘as a spirit on a mission, spreading the joy of music from a place of pure self expression.’”

Scottish vocalist Doogie White, who co-wrote the album with Schenker, soars across every song, and stamps his personality with every note and phrase, while Wayne Findlay adds a new level to Schenker’s classic sound with his Dean 7-string guitar and keyboard arrangements.

Spirit On A Mission is a rapturous, explosive collection of brand new songs steeped in shades of dark and light. Musically and lyrically, the new album shows a re-energised guitarist at the top of his game, surrounded by some of the best musicians in rock. The new album was recorded at Kidroom Studios, Muenster, Germany; the same studio where 2013’s Bridge the Gap album was recorded. The album was produced by Michael Voss and Michael Schenker, and engineered by Voss.

“After the Bridge The Gap Japan Tour in March 2014, I started to put new material together for what was to become the Spirit On A Mission album,” says Schenker. I went to the recording studio in June 2014 to put down the song arrangements and we finished recording in November.”

During the recording of the new album, the original recordings and guitars were stolen from the recording studio. Did this impact on the recording process of the new album?

“Yes we got robbed (some guitars and some music) and got very upset about it,” recalls Schenker. “Fortunately it was just performances and not compositions. We caught up and performed the music better than before. It forced us to work extra hard and longer but it made it stronger.”

For Schenker, the songwriting and recording process for Spirit On A Mission was very different from the 2013’s Bridge The Gap album.

Says Schenker – “I already knew ahead of time that I wanted to take Spirit On A Mission to the next level by adding more 7-string guitar on some songs to get more of the low heavy sound, and on other songs to keep it very fast and energetic with melodic vocals and a couple of mid tempo’s with more of my writing like in my UFO days.”

“Doogie did an amazing job with his melodies and singing,” adds Schenker. “Even though we had our instruments, music and equipment stolen from the recording studio, we had to re-record a lot of his vocals again, but when we did it the second time around, it got even better.”

“I asked Wayne to come up with a few cool guitar riffs on his 7 string. I added my parts to it and the outcome was very unique. Again, with the addition of Doogie’s vocals, we entered a whole new place that was an extreme pleasurable experience.”

The writing process and overall concept for Spirit On A Mission proved to be a fulfilling experience for Schenker and his band.

Says Schenker – “I always write in the same way but this time, especially driven by a precise concept.” The picture was album balance for me and combine many years of emotions in one. I wanted lots of double bass drum to keep the fast songs rolling like a train with lots of energy covered with interesting elements, a couple of my UFO days-type of mid tempos and the 7 string low sound to get a very wide range of sounds and emotions.”

Michael’s Temple of Rock shared ideas and collaborated in a bigger way on the new album.

“All songs were co-written by Doogie and myself,” recalls Schenker. “Wayne co-wrote five songs. I originally wanted to write the album as a group effort, but I had this concept that needed to be focused on differently. However, Herman and Francis did very well by adding there amazing ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ rhythm section parts that gave it all it needed.”

The new album also sees guitarist and keyboard player, Wayne Findlay, takes on a bigger role.

“Wayne has been with me (MSG) since 1999,” says Schenker. “In 2004, I met Dean Guitars and they built me a 7 string. I played it for a while but thought it was too much of a sidetrack from what I was doing.”

“I always liked that low sound and asked Wayne to look into developing it on the 7 string. A couple of years ago we started to use a bit of Wayne’s 7 string guitar on Bridge The Gap as a slow introduction. Wayne looks like a Neptune (Ocean God) and he loves the ocean. I saw this as an opportunity to have Dean build him a Trident Guitar in order to make his character complete. I wrote a little piece about Wayne called ‘Neptune Rising’ on the Bridge The Gap album and now on Spirit On A Mission Wayne was ready to co-write five songs, and has now become an essential part of Temple Of Rock.”

“Coincidentally,” says Schenker, “former Scorpions members Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz and myself were out of the loop of rock’n’roll around the same time, but for different reasons. When we recorded 2013’s Bridge The Gap album, we had not played together since the Scorpions’ Lovedrive album (1979). Sprit On A Mission is the second Temple of Rock album to feature the former Scorpions rhythm section.”

Former Rainbow singer Doogie White is described by Schenker as an ‘extremely creative individual with a fantastic range and a voice that never stops.’ “How many people do you know that can sing nine shows in a row, without a day off and still have a voice with a range like his?”, says Schenker. “He’s a real trooper.”

What are Schenker’s favourite songs from Spirit On A Mission, and why?

Says Michael – “I love ‘Live and Let Live’ because it has everything. I love ‘Vigilante Man’ because it’s heavy and melodic with a great tempo and sound. ‘Something Of The Night’ turned out to be a fantastic outcome especially with that spooky Howler sound I developed awhile ago. ‘Saviour Machine’ is an epic. ‘Rock City,’ ‘Bullet Proof,’ ‘Restless Heart’ – I love the fast melodic stuff, and the other 7 string songs with a touch of ’70s rock.”

What are Schenker’s overall plans to promote the new album? Does he plan on touring the album by relentless touring and playing summer festivals?

“Promotion is definitely the next step,” says Schenker. “Wherever we are needed around the world, we will be there to promote Spirit On A Mission. I want to make Temple Of Rock its own entity. Right now it is still using the Michael Schenker platform but eventually I want it to stand on its own feet as ‘Temple Of Rock’.”

SPIRIT ON A MISSION – TRACK LISTING

1. LIVE AND LET LIVE
2. COMMUNION*
3. VIGILANTE MAN
4. ROCK CITY
5. SAVIOUR MACHINE*
6. SOMETHING OF THE NIGHT
7. ALL OUR YESTERDAYS
8. BULLETPROOF*
9. LET THE DEVIL SCREAM*
10. GOOD TIMES
11. RESTLESS HEART
12. WICKED*

Bonus Track on Deluxe Edition + Vinyl Edition:
Searching For Freedom (Instrumental)

All songs produced by Michael Schenker and Michael Voss
Engineer: Michal Voss

All songs are written by:
Music – Michael Schenker
Lyrics – Doogie White
Except* Music and Lyrics by
Michael Schenker, Doogie White, Wayne Findlay

Pre-order Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock – Spirit On A Mission.

Scorpions – MTV Unplugged in Athens (2014)

Scorpions MTV Unplugged in Athens review

Scorpions
MTV Unplugged in Athens
Sony Music, 2014
71 minutes audio, 129 minutes video

Scorpions are perhaps the most forgotten big-name band in hard rock history. Even with iconic songs such as “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” “Big City Nights,” and “Wind Of Change,” the group rarely comes to mind when making a list of the all-time greats. Their concerts, however, bring their power and prestige back to the forefront as they display high-quality musicianship and professionalism in each performance.

MTV Unplugged in Athens is a fantastic addition to the Scorpions’ deep catalog, featuring acoustic renditions of those aforementioned greatest hits and several seldom-heard songs, along with five brand new compositions written specifically for this release. The concert occurred at Lycabettus Theatre in Athens, Greece, in September 2013. Those in attendance witnessed one of the best live bands performing in a historic setting, a fact that was not lost on the band. Rudolf Schenker remarked several times in the documentary how much it meant to him to be in the same place that Plato and Socrates once addressed the masses. “Blackout” may not carry the same philosophical weight as Socrates’ famous “I know that I know nothing,” but it sure is fun to hear it on acoustic guitars in such a setting.

The song arrangements are very well-done, and if you were not familiar with the originals it may be difficult to tell that these are not being performed as originally written. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” has just as much power here as the 1984 studio version. But more than just a greatest hits album, the band dug deep, pulling out such cuts as “Can’t Live Without You” and “Where The River Flows.” Two songs from 2010’s Sting In The Tail are also represented here, along with five brand-new songs. Of the new tracks, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band” is especially impressive, and one can only hope that it will receive a proper electric treatment in the studio.

Also included is a DVD with nine more songs than the CD along with a bonus “Making Of Documentary.” Many concert videos are inconsistent, but Scorpions’ MTV Unplugged in Athens is over two hours of great music, professionally packaged for home viewing. Without a doubt, this is one of the best MTV Unplugged releases of all-time.

Disc One: CD
1. Sting In The Tail
2. Can’t Live Without You
3. The Best Is Yet To Come
4. Dancing With The Moonlight [new song]
5. Delicate Dance (Matthias Solo) [new song]
6. Love Is The Answer (Rudolf Solo) [new song]
7. Follow Your Heart (Klaus Solo) [new song]
8. Send Me An Angel
9. Where The River Flows
10. Rock You Like A Hurricane (with Johannes Strate)
11. Rock ‘n’ Roll Band [new song]
12. Blackout
13. Still Loving You
14. Big City Nights
15. Wind Of Change (with Morten Harket)
16. No One Like You

Disc Two: DVD
1. Sting In The Tail
2. Can’t Live Without You
3. Pictured Life
4. Speedy’s Coming
5. Born To Touch Your Feelings
6. The Best Is Yet To Come
7. Dancing With The Moonlight [new song]
8. In Trance (with CÄTHE)
9. When You Came Into My Life
10. Delicate Dance (Matthias Solo) [new song]
11. Love Is The Answer (Rudolf Solo) [new song]
12. Follow Your Heart (Klaus Solo) [new song]
13. Send Me An Angel
14. Where The River Flows
15. Passion Rules The Game
16. Rock You Like A Hurricane (with Johannes Strate)
17. Hit Between The Eyes
18. Drum-Athenica, PiTTi vs. James
19. Rock ‘n’ Roll Band [new song]
20. Blackout
21. Still Loving You
22. Big City Nights
23. Wind Of Change (with Morten Harket)
24. No One Like You
25. When The Smoke Is Going Down
Bonus: Making Of Documentary

Scorpions are:
Klaus Meine – lead vocals, guitar
Rudolf Schenker – ryhthm guitars, lead guitar, sitar, lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Pawel Maciwoda – bass guitar
James Kottak – drums

Learn more about Sony Music.

Learn more about Scorpions.

Purchase Scorpions – MTV Unplugged in Athens.

Today is gonna ROCK!!!!

I’ve been looking forward to this day for months.

I’m ready to get rocked like a hurricane!

Top Ten of 2007

“Hair metal” is my favorite musical genre. But it is not the only kind of music I listen to. I enjoy some classic country (Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard), 80s pop (Young MC, Tone Loc), and several other types of music (Buckcherry, Fergie, Violent Femmes). Each has its own qualities and I have to be in the mood to listen to any one of them, but they are all a part of my life.

In 2007, there was quite a revival of hard rock. I am going to limit my top ten list to rock releases (though not necessarily always “hard” rock), so you won’t find Rihanna popping up here (regardless of how much I love the disc). And keep in mind that this is only my opinion, and I’m probably forgetting something somewhere.

Honorable Mention: Sebastian Bach – Angel Down. The solo album from one of rock’s greatest voices misses the top ten because of my own laziness. I just haven’t taken the time to listen to it as much as the other discs, but the few times I did I thought it was really good. Had the former Skid Row singer released it earlier in the year, I probably would have listened more and it may have made the top ten.

10. Scorpions – Humanity Hour 1. These German rockers have had an up-and-down career. There are classics like “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Still Loving You,” and then there are not-so-classics like “Winds of Change.” Humanity Hour 1 is a continuation of the return to their hard rock sound that they started with 2004’s Unbreakable. Best track: “321.”

9. Ted Nugent – Love Grenade. The Motor City Madman would have made the top ten if all he released was the single “Love Grenade.” The rest of the album is not as strong as the title track, but it is still a raucous, politically incorrect hard rock fest. Best track: “Love Grenade.”

8. CRASHDÏET – The Unattractive Revolution. Mick Mars from Motley Crue stepped in to help out these Swedish boys on their second release, which is notably heavier than their debut. New singer H. Oliver Twisted stepped in and did well on the vocals, but he definitely has a different style than the late Dave Lepard. Best track: “Falling Rain.”

7. Ozzy Osbourne – Black Rain. I’m not a huge fan of Ozzy’s solo work with Zakk Wylde on guitar, but this CD sounds more like a Black Label Society album with Ozzy on vocals. That is why I like it. It is heavier than any album Ozzy has ever done, and Zakk’s fretwork is amazing. Best track: “I Don’t Wanna Stop.”

6. Sixx:A.M. – The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack. Nikki Sixx’s side project with DJ Ashba (Beautiful Creatures) is a hit-and-miss affair, but still solid despite the misses. Don’t buy this if you are expecting a Motley Crue album. There is more of a modern rock feel to it, and very little outright glam. Best track: “Van Nuys.”

5. Foo Fighters – Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. I hate Nirvana. Everything that band did is total rubbish to me. On the other hand, I love Foo Fighters. I don’t recall ever hearing a Foo Fighters song and thinking, “I don’t like that.” Dave Grohl is a genious, and is to be commended for his emergence from Kurt Cobain’s shadow. Now, the 2007 CD is not as good as some of their past work, but it’s still great. It is standard Foo, no real surprises. Best track: “The Pretender.”

4. White Stripes – Icky Thump. I was surprised how much I liked this CD, because I’m not a big fan of the White Stripes’ previous work. But Jack’s guitar work here just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, and his songwriting is amazing. You’ve probably heard some of these songs on the radio by now, so I won’t go into any more detail than to say it is a great alternative rock album with a classic rock feel on many of the tracks. Best tracks: “I’m Slowly Turning Into You” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told).”

3. Airbourne – Runnin’ Wild. The best AC/DC album since The Razor’s Edge is by a band called Airbourne. These Aussies rock it just like their predecessors, and they make no apologies for that fact. Currently it is only available as an import from Australia, but will be released in the rest of the world in January of 2008. If you decide to wait for the worldwide release, you can search for their videos on YouTube and check out some of their tunes that way. Best tracks: “Diamond in the Rough” and “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast.”

2. ZO2 – Ain’t It Beautiful. Brooklyn-based ZO2 got a spot on the 2004 Kiss/Poison tour based on their independent release of Tuesdays & Thursdays, but Ain’t It Beautiful blows that CD out of the water. There are shades of Audioslave, classic Aerosmith, and Kiss throughout the entire album. Paulie Z’s vocal style is very similar to Paul Stanley’s, and the band’s chemistry is undeniable. Plus they put on a killer live show. Best tracks: “If You See Kay” and “Ain’t It Beautiful.”

1. Endeverafter – Kiss or Kill. Hands-down, the best album of the year. Already in the top five of the decade. Endeverafter opened for the Poison/Cinderella tour in 2006, and finally released their debut album in October of this year. It was well worth the wait. The guys have a classic glam metal sound, and this disc is every bit as good as (if not better than) anything Poison put out. Shredding abounds, and you can’t resist but bang your head to these songs. Best tracks: “Baby, Baby, Baby” and “All Night.”

Biggest Disappointment of 2007: Poison – Poison’d. Poison is my all-time favorite band, but this disc of cover songs is a travesty. “Dead Flowers” was awful, and the overall song selection was poor. They did a decent job with the Romantics’ “What I Like About You” and Alice Cooper’s “I’ll Never Cry,” but for the most part the disc is a throw-away. Add to that the fact that only 8 of the songs were new; the other 5 were previously released remakes. Poison needs to get back into the studio and record some new material, and it better be good.

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