Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ron Keel: Metal Cowboy

Sometimes you just stumble upon something by accident that you really weren't looking for, but was exactly what you needed to find. That's what happened to me a few days ago.

Anyone who was deep into 80's hard rock, otherwise known as hair metal, knows of the band Keel, led by lead singer Ron Keel. We've probably all tried to scrub this video from our memories:

And there was this over-choreographed cover of "Because the Night". The song itself is not bad, but the video.....

Ok, enough of that. I have a good song/bad video series. This is about Ron Keel's solo release in early 2014.

It's an interesting mix of Southern Rock, 80's Hard Rock and Country. And surprisingly, it all works. Personally, I think the country stuff works best. Here's a live acoustic solo performance of "Just Like Tennessee".

This is probably one of the most traditional country songs I've heard in 2014.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Don't Compare Bro-Country to Hair Metal

I've read/heard it many times: Bro-Country is country music's version of Hair Metal.

Well, a tweet from @FarceTheMusic sent me down a Cinderella (the band, not the book/movie) wormhole that ended with a thorough exploration of the music of my high school years.

The actual tweet: Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station" is one of my favorite alt-country ballads ever.

Of course I went back and listened. He's right. And that's what sent me down the wormhole. There are many Cinderella songs that are very country-tinged. But what other 80's Hard Rock bands were doing the same thing? Not exactly the same thing, but stuff that would be considered a different genre 25-30 years later.

Here is Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station".

Cinderella was always more hard blues rock than Hair Metal anyway. They, along with some of the others I will post just kind of go lumped into the category, fair or not. I could post a few more Cinderella songs here, but I want to diversify.

LA sleaze rockers put out some really good Americana type songs in the 80s. One I really like is Faster Pussycat's "House of Pain".

Another sleaze rock band with this type of song was LA Guns. "Ballad of Jayne" is a great song.

Even the ultimate Hair Metal band had several songs of substance. Here is Poison's "Something to Believe In".

Great White got pegged into the same Hair Metal category, but like Cinderella, they were always more bluesy hard rock. I had a hard time choosing which song of theirs to go with, but I chose "House of Broken Love".

Did I cherry pick? Of course I did. But these songs were all released as singles. I didn't dig deep into album cuts. I just get tired of people dismissing Hair Metal and now referring to it as "Butt Rock". It's 80s hard rock and lot of it stands the test of time. I admit, there was a bunch of crap, especially towards the end, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

And everyone should be reading Farce the Music. Funny, snarky and fantastic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Billy Squier: Rock Me Tonite

This one should really be titled Decent Song, Career Killing Video.

The video will speak for itself, but I'll offer a little history here.

Billy Squier was well on his way to becoming a hard rock/pop metal superstar in the early 80's. After two iconic albums, Don't Say No and Emotions In Motion Squier had hits that have become classic rock staples like "The Stroke", "Lonely is the Night", "Everybody Wants You" and "My Kind of Lover". His next album Signs of Life came out in 1984 and Squier was ready to take the rock world by storm. And then the video happened.

In Squier's own words, "I was playing to half-houses. I went from 15,000 and 20,000 people a night to 10,000 people. Everything I’d worked for my whole life was crumbling, and I couldn’t stop it. How can a four-minute video do that?"

How can a four-minute video do that? Oh it's bad. It's really, really bad. But career-killing bad? I'll let you be the judge.

Don't cry for Bill Squier, he's made millions from being the most sampled artist by the hip hop industry.

This, recorded in 2009, shows that Squier still rocks. And this is also more along the lines of the video Capitol Records should have released in 1984.

Just to show those moves in the horrible video for for "Rock Me Tonite" are not out of character, watch this live recording from 1983 for "Everybody Wants You". Much cooler with a guitar in hand.

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.