Monday, October 20, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Journey: Separate Ways

Journey was huge in the 80's. And it wasn't because of their videos. I think we all tolerated the videos just to hear the songs.

Set in a shipping yard (for no apparent reason), "Separate Ways" features really bad air guitar, air drumming and air keyboarding (is that even a thing?). There's the obligatory good looking female. Then at the end, it appears all to have been a dream.

If this video were ironic, it might make sense. But given the timeline and the advent of MTV, I think it's just bad. Judge for yourself.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Scorpions: Rock You Like a Hurricane

For this edition of "Good Song, Bad Video", we take on the German metal machine known as Scorpions (and no, it's not the THE Scorpions, just Scorpions, for those scoring at home).

"Rock You Like A Hurricane" was one of their bigger hits and came out at just the right time to have a video full of cliche and cheese and nonsense.

It starts out cliche enough with cages and attractive women, only with a twist, this time the band is in the cage. And there are leopards (or some spotted jungle cats).

Then it just gets a bit weird. There are what appear to be sleep pods from which lead sing Klaus Meine is the only one who truly emerges. But there are five of them, so it's safe to assume that the other four house the rest of the band. Klaus is met by some masked woman and proceeds, uh, somewhere, where there are strange robed beings fiddling with something. They quickly exit as Klaus stumbles through.

You thought this was going somewhere? Not really. The next couple of minutes are Scorpions playing in the cage interspersed with live concert clips.

Then right after the guitar solo, we get another 80's hard rock video cliche: the dark narrow alley/cave/hallway/dungeon type scene. This one is tad more imaginative in that it has Aliens-like qualities.

Check out Klaus' cool microphone trick at about the 3:43 mark.

Then the band makes it back to the pods. And at least one of the hot chicks. But there are still only five pods.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Album Review: Melissa Etheridge: This Is M.E.

I was a huge fan of Melissa Etheridge in the late 80's/early 90's. Here first three records, Melissa Etheridge, Brave and Crazy, Never Enough, are still some of my favorites. The raw energy and attitude of those albums were great.

Then came the breakthrough Yes I Am followed by Your Little Secret which both contained the biggest hits of Etheridge's career. For me, it became a little too polished. So I kind of checked out.

Since I'm back into music heavily, searching out good stuff, when I noticed Etheridge had a new record out, I had to check out. I'm so glad I did.

Now, I don't know what she's been doing since Your Little Secret, but This Is M.E. is fantastic.

This Is M.E. starts off with a whimper. The first song, "I Won't Be Alone Tonight" is pop schlock. But then things start to pick up. "Take My Number" takes me back to the first album. Instrumentally anyway.

"A Little Hard Hearted" is also reminiscent of Etheridge's earlier stuff. In places.

Then things really start to good and swampy. The next six songs are Melissa Etheridge at her best. Raw, emotional, real and just a little bit different from what I've heard before. Those six songs are the record for me.

"Do It Again" starts out as a country-tinged ballad then Ehteridge channels here inner Janis Joplin in places, especially the pre-chorus, which is kind of unexpected. There's also what sounds like some lap steel in there.

Then she goes really deep into the swamp with "Monster". Sparse instrumentation, gospel choir-like backing vocals and some blues harp. It's all good.

With "Ain't That Bad" we're staying in the swamp. And it's still all good.

"All The Way Home" is just plain double entendre fun. In a good way. No pink umbrellas here.

The next song, "Like A Preacher", leaves the swamp, but it has classic Melissa Etheridge vocals, like the kind found on the first album.

And back to the swamp with "Stranger Road", which may just be my favorite track on the record. The vocals in the verses may be a little forced, but everything else about the song more than makes up for it.

For me, the last two tracks are forgettable.

Here's the official video for "Take My Number"

And then stuff like this is what made me a fan in the first place. Just Melissa and a 12 string Ovation.

Melissa Etheridge on Amazon.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video Y&T: Keep on Runnin'

Time for another edition of Good Song, Bad Video. And this time I may have found the best/worst.

From Y&T's 1984 album In Rock We Trust comes the great song "Keep on Runnin'" accompanied by an atrocious video.

Y&T has never gotten the credit they deserve for all the fantastic music they have put out over the years. They, unfortunately, never caught on big during the 80's hard rock heyday. Maybe they weren't pretty enough. Maybe they were a little too stripped down. Maybe they were a little too hard. Or not hard enough. Maybe they weren't polished enough. I don't know, but they rocked.

The video for this song, however, should live in infamy forever. You can't blame the band. Their part in this whole production was faux playing the song on a stage. It's the whole storyline, horrid special effects and bad acting surrounding them that make this cringeworthy.

The story is familiar. The nerd asks the popular girl to go to show. She shoots him down and goes off with the popular stud jock. Nerd goes home and pops a Y&T cassette into his walkman (sorry kids, look those up, you know how to use the google machine). The guitars crank and something magical starts to happen.

This is where it starts to go off the rails. The kid starts to turn into the metallic figure on the In Rock We Trust album cover.

That in and of itself might not be too bad. But the result ends up looking like a cross between Iron Man and the Michelin Man.

As would be expected, the popular, hot chick and the stud run into trouble on wherever they are going. Stud boy ends up running off and leaving the hot chick at the mercy of this very unintimidating group of three....hooligans? gang members? I don't know. The MetalMichelin Man, while flying through the air, finds this scene and rescues the hot chick.

Then there's a bit of a twist, and I give someone credit for this because if you know Y&T, they never get the girl in their songs. The hot chick freaks out and leaves MetalMichelin Man confused and shedding a tear (oil drop?).

Whatever passes for special effects are disastrous throughout. But remember guys, this was before CGI, at least nothing beyond infancy. And this was the early days of MTV when bands/labels really didn't know what they were doing. But this is disastrously delicious. Judge for yourself.

I just can't leave it there. Y&T is one of my favorite bands of all time. Dave Meniketti is one of the best lead singer/lead guitar combo guys alive. And they are still doing it live. While original bassist/songwriting partner Phil Kennemore passed away in 2011 from lung cancer Dave and the band continue to melt faces. Here's a shoddy video but with good sound from a show in 2013.

Y&T on Amazon

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Album Spotlight: Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams

I probably should have heard of Ryan Adams before now. But just within the past couple of years did I start searching out new music again. And it's been challenging and rewarding.

Adams has been putting out records for years; solo, with Whiskeytown and the Cardinals. I'll probably delve into his earlier work at some time, but right now I want to focus on his self-titled new release.

I don't want to compare Adams and this album to anyone, but if you like Tom Petty, John Hiatt, Dire Straits, John Mellencamp, the Traveling Wilburys, Robert Plant (solo stuff) or Chris Isaak you should find something to like on this record. That's some pretty heavy company.

Groovy at times, sparse at times, more often than not melancholy, this is not your party album. It's more of a stay-at-home-hang-out-on-the-porch-with-a-glass-of-wine record. But each song is so good in it's own way, once you put it on, you just want to get lost in the Ryan Adams experience.

I know there are still over three months left in 2014, but Ryan Adams Ryan Adams is the leader in the clubhouse for the best album I've heard this year.

At 11 songs and 42 minutes, you are left wanting more. But that's what a good record should do.

Here a couple of cuts. The first song of the album, "Gimme Something Good" starts it off on the right note. Plus the video features Elvira, so there's that.

And here's an acoustic version (the album version is mostly acoustic, but does have some more instrumentation) of "My Wrecking Ball".

Ryan Adams on Amazon.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Eric Johnson: Cliffs of Dover: Happy Music

With all the crap going on in the world, here's some happy music. Nothing to see in the video, just put in your earbuds and enjoy "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson. If this song doesn't brighten your mood, you're hopeless.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

NFL Has Turned Its Attention to Fleecing Someone Besides the Fans

I haven't been an NFL fan for years. I'm still a fan of my favorite team. But will I consume anything the NFL shoves down my throat? Nope. Not even close.

I kinda pay attention to what's going on throughout the league, but that's only because I'm in a Survivor Pool.

The NFL has been fleecing fans for years. Especially the season ticket holders.

Hey, maybe they should pay a fee for the privilege of being fleeced. Seat licensing? Check.

Those two home exhibition games that are pointless and poorly attended? Let's build that into the season ticket package. Check.

Football is best consumed on your couch or in your recliner on a nice TV from the comfort of your own home. Best television show going. That's a problem because you're not spending two weeks worth of grocery money on two beers and a hot dog. If those ingrates aren't gonna show up in person for the game, we won't let them see it at all. Blackout rules? Check.

Can we bilk them out of a little more? There's parking fees. Check.

What else? Whoa. They seem to catching on. Let's move on (until they forget). Hey, did you realize that ratings for the halftime show were better than overall ratings for the game?

Yeah, but it was a crappy game by the 2nd half. Many had tuned out. Keep that under your hat, there's another revenue stream to be had here. These artists get a boost in sales after the Super Bowl (it won't sustain, but it's real). They already play for free, but they should be paying us.

Don't you think ratings were so high during halftime because of who the artists are? I mean, we don't get the garage band from down the street.

You're fired!

Yep, that's right. The NFL wants to make the halftime talent make a "financial contribution" to the NFL. That's just a bit grotesque.

You know who I want to see at the 2015 Halftime Show? An empty stage. I know it won't happen. Someone will cave. But a guy can dream.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Bon Jovi: Runaway

Bon Jovi is one of my favorite bands. "Runaway", off the self-titled debut album, is the first song of theirs I ever heard. And still one of my favorites.

But, oh my, what a bad video.

From this video, we can glean that hair metal, along with lavender leather pants, emerged from some post-apocalyptic nuclear accident from the '50's. At least that's what I'm getting.

For all the female fans, Jon shakes his ass. And has great hair. Enjoy.

Previous Good Song, Bad Video submissions:

Dokken: Breaking the Chains
Motley Crue: Looks That Kill
Def Leppard: Foolin'

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Motley Crue - Full Review

I posted a knee-jerk quickie review on the Nashville Outlaws Motley Crue tribute record when only one minute snippets were available. I have now had the chance to listen to the record in its entirety. While I've had some slight changes of opinion after listening to the whole songs, I will say that my quick hits were fairly spot on.

With 15 songs all done by different artists, this record can't be judged as an album, but rather the individual songs deserve to be critiqued on their own individual merits. Because this thing is all over the map, I'll do a song-by-song breakdown.

First a little background. While I'm not the biggest Motley Crue fan in the world, I grew up listening to hair bands and sleaze rock. The Motley songs that I really liked, I judge the covers a little differently than the songs I thought were meh. I'm also a fan of country music. So I come at this from both angles. Or maybe neither. Or a combination.

I wouldn't even bother with this if it had turned out to be the trainwreck I initially thought it would be when first hearing of the project, but there is some really interesting stuff on the record. Let's get to it.

If you can get past Rascall Flatts' "Kickstart My Heart", things get better. I promise. It's not that it's awful, it's just that there's nothing original there. It's a straight-up cover of the original. With Gary Levox on vocal. The studio musicians are good. But as in most of the straight covers, they should have consulted Mick Mars on how to get that bathtub guitar sound. It's just bland and pointless.

I really don't like saying nice things about Florida Georgia Line, but although they did a pretty straight cover of "If I Die Tomorrow", it sounds pretty good. After the first verse the singer loses some of his drawl and it starts to sound real. Wisely, they didn't try to replicate Mars' guitar sound and infused some banjo?, mandolin?, but it doesn't sound out of place. I would be much happier if FGL would stick to this kind of stuff and leave the EDM and rap somewhere else.

Odd song choice for Lee Ann Rimes with "Smokin' in the Boys Room". Which is actually a cover of Motley's cover of the old Brownsville Station song. While I initially didn't care for this song at all, the bluesy, jazzy vibe is kind of cool. The problem is that Rimes stretches the song out about two minutes too long. It just starts getting tiresome at the end.

The lead single from the record, Justin Moore's "Home Sweet Home" with Vince Neil is a watered down version of the original. All 80's power ballads translate easily into country music. So, it makes sense. This was just unnecessary. The original was all that was needed.

While Cassadee Pope's "The Animal in Me" doesn't stray too far from the original, it's interesting to hear the song with a female voice. It's obvious she feels comfortable in this type of music, although it's not much different from what she puts out for country radio now. I do like this one.

Now we get to something truly original and interesting. Aaron Lewis turns "Afraid" into a very classic sounding country song. I really didn't care that much for the original song. If anyone didn't know this was originally a Motley Crue song, they might think it was an Aaron Lewis original. Let's take a little time here to give a little credit to Nikki Sixx as a songwriter in general and lyricist specifically. I mean, just listen to lyrics in "Afraid". Lewis took those lyrics and constructed a very country song around them. This may be my favorite track on the record. May be.

Big and Rich's "Same Ol' Situation" just doesn't do it for me. That may be just

because I really liked the original so well. Or it may be because the cover is crap. I will give them credit for not going straight cover. I really can't say it's bad, it's just not for me. Moving on.

"Without You". Another 80's power ballad. Again, easy transition. But Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio do it as a duet. And pretty much acoustically. And it works. This is one that after hearing the full version, I've changed my opinion. I like it. It really has more of an Americana feel than country. It's well executed.

The Eli Young Band's "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" is another straight cover that is pointless. I'm sure Eli Young's fans will think it's great. It's not bad. It's just not anything other than a cover.

That brings us to the second really big departure from the original, Lauren Jenkins' "Looks That Kill". Lauren Jenkins has that kind of smoky Kim Carnes voice. And a definitive musical style that she does not depart from. I think this is genius. A lot of people are going to hate it. The melody is recognizable, but the instrumentation is totally divergent. This is another of my favorites.

"Live Wire" by The Cadillac Three, I hated the first time. It's grown on me, just a little bit. It's just a bit sludgy and swampy. Just the subject matter of the song, not to mention what the original was, lends itself to more energy. "Live Wire". Electricity. This was when Motley was wild, young and living free. This sounds a bit like grandpa's version of "Live Wire".

OK, so I said "Afraid" may be favorite track. The Mavericks' "Dr. Feelgood" is right there. The Mavericks take this cautionary tale from the dark alleys of Los Angeles and transport it to Miami. Musically anyway. It feels just a real as the original, but in a very different way. I really like interesting covers. This is very, very interesting. And good.

Brantley Gilbert does "Girls, Girls, Girls". Of course he does. This is a sleazy song about strip clubs. And Gilbert manages to just make it creepy and uncomfortable.

Gretchen Wilson's "Wild Side" is another straight cover. It shows that Gretchen has metal pipes on par with Lzzy Hale and Doro. Little else.

Lastly we come to "Time For Change" by Darius Rucker. Give Rucker credit, he's been doing Hootie for a long time. He gives this song the Hootie treatment. And it works. If you're a fan of Hootie and Blowfish and/or Darius Rucker, you'll like it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Album Spotlight: Sunny Sweeney: Provoked

For my 2.5 readers, sorry I've been away for a while. But I'm back with a strong recommendation.

Sunny Sweeney's latest album Provoked is nothing short of brilliant. I tweeted earlier "Smart, witty, poignantly funny at times." That's the short version. And that could be the entire version and be accurate.

Let's get this out of the way early, Sunny Sweeney does not possess the soaring vocal capabilities of Carrie Underwood or Ann Wilson or Lzzy Hale. But she does have the ability to convey plenty of emotion in the songs that she wrote. And what a fantastic songwriter she is.

Heartache, heart break, the other woman, the flawed partner, the bad girl, the snark, sarcasm and playfulness. And a lot of real life. It all comes together seamlessly.

We are almost to September, and this is in my top two records this year.

I don't know if this is my favorite track on the record, or just my favorite lyrics. But either way, I like "Second Guessing".

This next song is on the record, but it's just more fun in any live setting. There are plenty of youtube videos of it as she has been doing it for over three years, that I know of, maybe longer. I like this one.

Sunny Sweeney on Amazon.

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