Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cinderella Deconstructed

Cinderella, one of my favorite bands from the 80's, apparently have no plans of getting back together and making new music. But that hasn't stopped the individual members of the band.

Tom Keifer, lead vocalist, lead guitarist and chief songwriter for Cinderella put out a solo album a while back and has just released a new lyric video for the song "It's Not Enough". It sounds like Cinderella, well, because Tom had the voice of Cinderella and was the main songwriter. No mystery there. I like it.

Guitarist Jeff LaBar recently released his own solo project with a corresponding video for "No Strings". I'm guessing Jeff never got enough credit for the Cinderella sound because this is pretty good, except for the vocals. It's kind of akin to the Ace Frehley solo stuff. Good songs, suspect vocals. Maybe Jeff should lay off the cigs or hire a singer. That's my only qualm, otherwise it's a good song.

Bass player Eric Brittingham has teamed up with Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns) and Rikki Rockett (Poison) and some singer named Eric Gibbs to form an 80's glam supergroup of sorts called Devil City Angels. They have a single out called "All My People". Not great, not horrible. Would like to hear more from them before making a judgement.

I don't know what drummer Fred Coury is doing. I'll take what I can get, but personally would love to see all the guys get back together and record another album as Cinderella.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Album Review: Night Ranger: High Road

If your familiarity with Night Ranger begins and ends with "Sister Christian", well, you're not alone. And that's a shame. While "Sister Christian" is the quintessential ballad of 80's hard rock, Night Ranger is, and always has been so much more.

Night Ranger released their 11th studio album last month, High Road. It may just be their best effort yet. Over 30 years after their debut release Dawn Patrol, Night Ranger is still bringing it. While years of hard living and age have taken something away from Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy in the vocal department, the musicianship has only improved.

This is probably the most diverse record Night Ranger has put out. From classic 80's-style rockers to KISS meets Loverboy to a Styx/Kansas/Deep Purple 70's style mashup, it's all good.

Here's the shame of it all: Nobody outside of hardcore Night Ranger fans and good music archaeologists is going to hear it if left up to traditional outlets.  If you're reading this, you don't rely on traditional outlets, so I'm going track-by-track here.

The record starts off with the title track "High Road". Fun summertime song. Big chorus. "You don't need us, you need a mind of your own." Favorite line from the song. Roll down the windows and blast this one.

"Knock Knock Never Stop" is pure 80's-style fun. Catchy chorus. Big guitar solo. Which is a good time to mention guitarists Brad Gillis and Joel Hoekstra. Killer guitar riffs throughout this record.

"Rollin' On" brings on the heavier side of Night Ranger. This is the KISS meets Loverboy song. If you don't see the connection, listen to more music.

"Don't Live Here Anymore" is a 70's style ballad the evokes the sounds of Styx and Kansas with a touch of Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd. This may be my favorite song on the album, but I may change my mind tomorrow. There are so many layers to the song. Lyrically it's mature and introspective. Musically it goes so many places, and all are good.

"I'm Coming Home" is a classic country lyric set to Thin Lizzy style rock music. Or maybe it's just reminiscent of Thin Lizzy. It's catchy and it rocks.

"X Generation" falls a bit flat, especially lyrically, but the guitar work almost makes up for that.

"Only For You Only" is the kind of ballad Night Ranger made famous. It's not bad. It's not great. There's no place in current rock radio for it to find a home, but it would be better than 90% of what's being played on current country radio. And no, it's not a country song. But neither is mainstream country radio.

"Hang On" is a very Classic Rock sounding song that would be very much at home on an early Foreigner record. But it doesn't sound dated.

"St. Bartholomew" starts out with the chug of early Judas Priest, but seamlessly transforms by the chorus into a melodic rock track.

"Brothers" is very Beatles-esque. I don't know how else to describe it. Probably my least favorite track. But it's not horrible.

"L.A. No Name" ends the record and is very un-Night Ranger like. It's an acoustic guitar instrumental. And it's fantastic.

Night Ranger on Amazon.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Will There Ever Be a New Wave of Hard Rock?

I have been searching out new music that has in-your-face guitars, melodic vocals, good musicianship and is just a little over-the-top. Pretty much, 80's-style hard rock. I'm not talking about hair/glam/pop metal. Though I'm not dismissing that either. I'm talking about the hard rock that dominated the 80's with such acts as AC/DC, Scorpions, Motley Crue, the Cult, Guns 'N Roses, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Cinderella, etc.

There is some good stuff out there. And I have a theory as to why: Now is the first generation of musicians that have 80's hard rock as an influence. They are far enough removed from the atrocities that became of hard rock in general and hair metal specifically to be able to connect with the quality stuff that did exist. Also, they had parents who grew up with this music. And they have probably played with older musicians who played this type of music. It all rubs off.

I doubt there will ever be a new wave of hard rock, but for those of us that enjoy fun, loud guitar-driven rock, there is hope.

The members of Australia's Koritni, named after lead vocalist Lex Koritni (and let's just get this out of the way: horrible name) make no bones about naming Motley Crue, GnR, RHCP among others as influences. Listening to their most recent studio album Welcome to the Crossroads, the influences can't be denied. You can hear the Cult, Aerosmith, Tesla and the funk of RHCP or maybe more accurately, Extreme.

Million Dollar Reload, hailing from Northern Ireland, have definitely taken hold of the dirtier, sleazier side of the 80's rock scene. Reminiscent of Faster Pussycat, early GnR, L.A. Guns, but also holding onto an Aerosmith and AC/DC vibe. M$R knows how to write a hook as evidenced by songs such as "Wicked" and "Tatoos and Dirty Girls".

Unfortunately, I don't see this type of music taking hold in the United States anytime soon. But as long as there are thriving rock and metal communities in Europe and Australia, then we can at least get our hands on it.

Both of these bands bring the old sensibilities while not sounding dated, in my opinion. Judge for yourself.

Koritni on Amazon.

Million Dollar Reload on Amazon.

TheCheapSeats on Twitter.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Def Leppard: Foolin'

Def Leppard's Pyromania still stands as one of the best hard rock albums ever made. I don't know if there was really a bad song on the entire record. And Def Leppard came along at just the right time to take advantage of MTV becoming, for all intents and purposes, the world's biggest radio station.

Back in the days when Rick Allen was not the one-armed wonder and Phil Collen still owned shirts, Def Leppard graced us with one of the cheesiest videos ever with "Foolin'".

While this is mostly a performance video set on a cheap soundstage, this video gets high cheese marks for the inane, disjointed imagery interspersed throughout.

It starts off, for no apparent reason, with some strange harp player engulfed in flames. This harp player returns a couple of times throughout the video, again for no apparent reason.

When we move on to the pre-chorus, Joe Elliott is strapped to what appears to be some triangular shaped torture device. It's a recurring theme in the video. But the torture aspect is lost on me. Unless, of course, we count the torture of having to endure this.

The second verse introduces us to some sorceress witch-like character who apparently through her crystal ball is the one behind Elliot on the triangular torture device. Or maybe she is the one who sets Joe free. We never see her again.

Then there's just cheesy explosions following Joe Elliot through a poorly constructed narrow hallway of sorts.

Oh, then we have the band rising out of some pit with angel of death and skull imagery. That is just SO Def Leppard.

It's a great song from a great band and I probably spent way more time deconstructing this video than what was put into crafting it. Judge for yourself.

All in all, good fun. Back in the day it made for good video viewing. Now it makes for good fodder.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My Texas Rangers at the All-Star Break: It's Not Pretty

Yes, I included "my" in the title of this post. I've been through a lot as a fan of the Texas Rangers over the years. Yes, this is bad right now. Losing 9 of the last 10 and 22 of the last 25, there are no
two ways about it, they are pitiful right now. Firmly in last place of the AL West, behind (gasp) Houston.

But for all of you Johnny-come-lately's who have bandwaggoneered your way into becoming a Rangers fan the past four years, this is how it used to be on a regular basis. And without all the injuries.

I turn on the TV and see a bunch of guys I've never heard of donning Rangers gear. And some of them will be gone the next day.

But here's the thing. This organization has done things the right way and this is just a blip. Hopefully. The Rangers have used approximately 432 pitchers and 157 position players before the All-Star break. I think both are records. This is a lost season.

Look on the bright side: plenty of good seats available at the Ballpark. And no matter how bad the team is, a bad day at the Ballpark is better than a good day at work.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Natalie Stovall and the Drive

I have heard that country music is the most popular form of music in the United States right now. If that's the case, then by definition, country music is pop music, right?

Natalie Stovall and the Drive are a pretty good pop rock band that you just might hear on mainstream country radio or CMT and GAC.

Stovall fronts the band and plays a pretty mean fiddle. The strength of the Drive is the musicians. With James Bavendam on drums, Zach Morse on bass and guitarists Miguel Cancino and Joel Dormer, The Drive is a jam band of the highest quality. Evidenced by this medley of mostly classic rock songs, Natalie Stovall and the Drive excel in the live setting. And that's a good thing as sales of physical forms of music as well as digital downloads are on the decline, being replaced more and more by streaming.

Stovall and the Drive released a self-titled, six-song EP in late 2013. They are currently working on a full-length record slated to be released sometime this year. A single from that EP was released accompanied by the video for "Baby Come On With It". Country, it ain't. But it is some good fun pop rock.

Natalie Stovall and the Drive on Amazon.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quick Thoughts on Nashville Outlaws Motley Crue Tribute

OK, so I haven't listened to the entire record, only the one minute snippets available to preview on iTunes. But that's enough to know that Nashville Outlaws - A Tribute to Motley Crue is not the massive train wreck I expected it to be.
There is some good, some meh, some bad and a couple truly inspired tracks.

Pretty much, every artist that tried to do a standard remake of a song just came off as a watered down version of the original: Rascall Flatts' "Kickstart My Heart", Justin Moore's "Home Sweet Home", Eli Young's "Don't Go Away Mad", Brantley Gilbert's "Girls, Girls, Girls", Gretchen Wilson's "Wild Side" and Darius Rucker's "Time for Change".

Florida Georgia Line actually sounds like a good Southern Rock band with their version of "If I Die Tomorrow". If they would stay in that pocket they probably wouldn't be the butt of so many jokes that they are today.  And Cassadee Pope stays pretty true to the original on "The Animal in Me", but I like way she does it.

Some artists decided to stray off far from the original, with mixed results. Lee Ann Rimes' "Smokin' in the Boys Room" is just....odd. And not quite right. Clare Brown & Sam Palladio on "Without You" just falls flat. Big and Rich's "S,O.S." is ill-conceived and boring.

But.....and wait for it, there are three gems on this record.

Aaron Lewis, lead singer of the band Staind turned a pretty bad Motley song into a pretty damned good country song. His version of "Afraid" might be the largest departure from the original, but also the most successful.

Lauren Jenkins (don't know who she is) but her version of "Looks That Kill" is pretty killer in it's own right.

Finally, the Mavericks' doing "Dr. Feelgood" is just about genius. It takes the original out of the streets of Los Angeles and transports it right into Miami. It feels very "Miami Vice". And it doesn't feel wrong.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Good Song, Bad Video: Dokken: Breaking the Chains

Dokken was never one of my favorite bands, but I do like the song "Breaking the Chains" from their debut album of the same name.

This video is so epically bad it's fantastic. I don't blame the band or anyone else for that matter. This was made during the infancy of the video age and nobody knew what they were doing.

You should immediately notice George Lynch's unfortunate two-toned mullet. Then there is a preening walk down a narrow hallway. Then we get to some of the "performance" footage in the video and take particular notice of the synchronized, death-defying leap off the 2 1/2 foot riser by Lynch and Jeff Pilson at around the 54 second mark.

There is some pretty bad green screen usage with the estranged female super-imposed. There is fire and chains in a dungeon-like setting. Then of course the power of the guitar solo, by the guitar hero breaks them all out of their chains.

Now we go to what may the most disturbing part of the video, wearing some kind of martial arts top masquerading as a robe, a pants-less Don Dokken is laying chained to a bed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm not saying there aren't any cheesey videos out now, but the early 80s are a goldmine. Enjoy.

Dokken on Amazon.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Working Women's Wednesday: Dolly Parton

Yeah, I know. Last time Stevie Nicks, this time Dolly Parton. Nothing groundbreaking in featuring these two icons.

But a lot of people don't know of their greatness, their contributions, their legacies. And that's a shame. If I can educate just one person, I've done something.

Dolly Parton has recently released her 1,497th album. You might want to fact check's just an estimate. Blue Smoke came out in the U.S. in May of this year and hit #2 on the country album charts. You probably won't hear any of the music on mainstream country radio.

How does Dolly stay relevant, other than the fact that she is Dolly freakin' Parton? Why not commission the boys from Bon Jovi to re-write "Lay Your Hands On Me"? Sure.

Playing to a huge crowd at Glastonbury, England, accompanied by estranged Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, Dolly killed it, as only Dolly can.

This performance overall, not this particular song, has come under some scrutiny as being lip synced. While I don't believe this song was, you can read more about it here at Saving Country Music.

Whether solo or with Porter Waggoner or Kenny Rogers, Dollly Parton has always commanded attention. I would be remiss to not include some version of "Jolene".  So here you go: