[Album Review] RIVERDOGS Won My Heart with “CALIFORNIA”

Intro:

Funny how all good things in my life are somehow linked to Def Leppard; seems like discovering them back in the day was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. Becoming a fan of Def Leppard led to many different roads. Guess how I got to know some of my favorite rock acts, like Helix, Billy Squier or Tesla? Same way I discovered and became a fan of Roadhouse, Shadow King, Last in Line and of course Riverdogs – they are all somehow related with my beloved members of Def Leppard.

riverdogs debutWhen I got to know and completely fell for Vivian Cambell’s guitar playing with Def Leppard it was only a matter of time before I traced back his career to Riverdogs and that brilliant debut album of theirs. The rest is …well history.

Ultimately, it all led to this moment right here, the moment I’ve been waiting for so long! That’s right – Riverdogs, featuring original members Rob Lamothe (vocals, guitars), Nick Brophy (bass, vocals) and Vivian Campbell (lead guitar), together with drummer Marc Danzeisen are back with a brand new album, titled “California” and I can barely hold my excitement. Many of you are quite familiar with Vivian and his work with Dio and Def Leppard but in case the other three guys are currently not on your musical radar, now is the time to dig a little deeper and add them to your book of great rock artists.

I knew that this was going to be a rock solid year for Frontiers Records but this release right here completely changed the face of the game. I had a feeling that the album will be quite good but you know what – “California” exceeded every expectation I had in terms of sound, lyrics and influence. It was only natural to dedicate a publication on the new album and share a few of my observations and the reasons why this album might as well just top my playlist for 2017 releases. Let’s dive in…

Riverdogs

RIVERDOGS

Coming from Los Angeles, Riverdogs formed back in 1989 – an interesting, quite dynamic time for rock music if you ask me. Still, the band managed to stand out with an exceptional 1990 debut album, conquering fans and critics with an original ‘70s blues rock style, entirely different from the glam metal sound and image that was popular at that time. Songs like “America”, “I Believe” and “Toy Soldier” are just a few of the reasons why their debut achieved recognition and found its place in the hearts of many fans (including mine, of course).

Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, the times were quite turbulent and in this period of transition, many bands couldn’t really secure a stable position on the music scene. Riverdogs re-assembled with new members and released two more albums in the ‘90s before they called it quits. The original line-up got back together in the early 2000s, which eventually led to a new album in 2011, titled “World Gone Mad”.

Now, six years later, “California” is a fact and honestly, nothing else really matters. Whether you are a die-hard fan and lived through those glory old days of rock or you’re just seeing the name Riverdogs for the very first time, “California” most certainly will grab your attention and bring you that much needed summer boost. Melodic rock fans, fans of quality music, fans of the old-school ways of making good music – this is the album for you!

Now, let’s talk more about the songs…

“California”

RIVERDOGS CALIFORNIA BIG

“California” is as soothing as night winds on a warm July evening. You just simply can’t get enough of this blissful feeling the album brings to you. Song after song, emotion after emotion – it’s all there. I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not; “California” is a stunning set of sing-alongs, rock anthems, bluesy soul-touching tracks, all brilliantly decorated with thoughtful lyrics and memorable melodies.

Where do I begin? I don’t know, the songs are all so good! After I played the entire album for the very first time, “The Heart is a Mindless Bird” stood out to me the most. I’m a softie and this is the perfect song for me. The lyrics, along with the deep, affecting vocals of the criminally underrated vocalist Rob Lamothe conquered me right from the start. Next one of my list is “I Don’t Know Anything” which has a similar vibe and I guess that’s the reason why those two songs are my top ones.  Rob singing “I don’t know anything…That doesn’t stop me now…”, followed by those mellow riffs is one of the best moments on “California”. The opening track, “American Dream” is your well-known pounding rocker, aimed at grabbing you by the throat from the very beginning. The breezy second track, “The Revolution Starts Tonight”, should’ve been the opener, at least in my humble opinion. We go full blues mode with the third track, “Something Inside” which brings you back to the good years of Bad Company. “You’re too Rock and Roll” is my new favorite Friday night song. It just begs you to crank it up while having a couple of beers with your favorite people.

Viv is brilliant – we don’t really have to comment on that, just listen to the entire album. To me, though, the biggest strength of the album lies within the gentle but powerful vocals of Rob Lamothe. He truly shines on this album and not only with his powerful singing but also with his songwriting skills.

It’s quite obvious that I’m a devoted fan and I might be biased but at the end of the day, this is how I feel. What I truly pray for is that other people will recognize their talent and ability to write the kind of rock music we truly need nowadays, so that Riverdogs will keep on releasing new albums in the future and make every fan, old or new, feel as proud as I do right now.


“I Don’t Know Anything”

“Welcome to the New Disaster”

“American Dream”

“Something Inside”

Riverdogs “Welcome To The New Disaster” (Live Acoustic Version)


References:

Album art retrieved from http://www.frontiers.it/album/5390
Band photo retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZKFAm6S3Do

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

Bringing Back the ’80s with TOTO’s Classic Seventh Album (1988)

Toto and The Seventh Album

toto seventh oneToto is a household name when it comes to classic rock music and no one can change that. The best time to play their timeless classics? Well, that would be anytime! Is there actually a person out there who has never heard of “Africa” or “Rosanna” or “Hold the Line”? I don’t think so. Late ’70s and early ’80s were unquestionably the heydays of Toto. From their smashing 1978 debut to their fourth release in 1982 which is basically synonymous with ’80s rock music, the band was just at the top of the game.

toto straight
TOTO – Straight for the Heart (Photo retrieved fromhttp://www.45cat.com/record/3807945)

I grew up with Toto IV and that album will always have a very special place in my heart. I think the majority of fans would also pick this album as their favorite and for a reason! As I was getting older and had more chances to experience and understand music and formed a solid music personality, I discovered that when it comes to Toto, their seventh studio album goes right at the top of the list of my personal favorites. I don’t think it’s a popular opinion because neither the original voices of Toto, Bobby Kimball or Steve Lukather (who I adore so much) are the ones taking the lead on this one;. When Toto were re-introduced in my life at a later point, I used to listen to “Straight for the Heart” all the time, every day! This is till today one of the most upbeat and bright songs I have ever heard of. I got the album eventually and here we are – to a point where I can, with certainty, state that this is my favorite Toto album and not only because of that one song I love so much; there are just so many things happening on it! 

 

Before we get to the seventh one, let’s go back further in time. The mid-’80s was a turbulent time for Toto. Boby was fired, his replacement Fergie Frederiksen was also dismissed from the band so as you can imagine time was ticking and the stakes were high. Show had to go on, though. In 1986, Toto released Fahrenheit – the first album with new vocalist Joseph Williams and an album I really love (surprise, surprise). “Fahrenheit” couldn’t make a splash despite all the hopes and hard work put into it.

Two years later, in 1988, The Seventh One was out and the situation was even worse. It’s funny how my favorite Toto album is the lowest-charting album of their career (not that it matters). On a positive note, the album was very well-accepted by overseas audiences, especially in Europe and Asia. My love for vocalist Joseph Williams is satisfied on two* classic albums only. Unfortunately, after The Seventh One, he was also fired because of  troubles with his (gorgeous) voice. It took the band about 4 years to re-assemble but as we all know it, the music industry was very different in the ’90s so even the great Toto couldn’t stand a chance. 

*Just FYI, Joseph Williams did come back to Toto for Toto XIV, released in 2015.


The songs

I want to say it so I’m just going to say it – this album is so much better than their fourth one (in my opinion of course). The rhythmic, groovy, dance/pop sound of the record is unbeatable!

We gotta start with “Pamela” which remained the only top40 hit from the album. I don’t understand why American audiences were so unwelcoming to this single (and the album as a whole) but Asian and European fans embraced it so warmly? For one reason or another this mysterious, brilliantly performed track didn’t get the attention it deserved and is one more reason to back up a statement I’ve been saying for years – chart positions mean nothing!

“Straight for the Heart” is a cheerful, sunny, pop/rock track, capable of conquering absolutely anyone out there! For me that song was a turning point – a new singer was added to my “favorite vocalists of all time” list and the rest is just history. There are many songs that makes you wanna smile, dance and forget about it all, but this song right here does all these things on a whole new level. I just love the melody and lyrics so much!

“Stop Loving You” is a very interesting track because it features my beloved Jon Anderson (vocalist of YES) on backing vocals. Not only that, but the entire song is such a blissful experience for my ears. I was listening to it while writing this and unconsciously I started moving! Seriously! I just love songs that provoke a physical reaction in you. So much live and character, what a tune!

The gorgeous ballad “Anna” (the other lady on the album), the dynamic “Stay Away” and the reggae-inspired ,“These Chains” are some of my other personal favorites on the album. The style, the atmosphere – this has to be Toto’s most energetic and groovy release so far. I am insanely happy that Joseph is back with them and cannot wait to see what the future holds! For now, enjoy these…

“Straight for the Heart”

“Pamela”

“Stop Loving You”

“Anna”


References:
Album artwork, retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.co.kr/pin/519251032017554090/
“Straight for the Heart” artwork, retrieved from http://www.45cat.com/record/3807945
THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

ZINATRA – a Dutch Rock Band, Worthy of Discovering

You know how much I love digging up late ‘80s/early ‘90s hard rock bands that unfortunately didn’t last that long for one reason or another (mostly because of the grunge fever spreading all over the place.) I am the kind of person who just listens to these forgotten AOR/hard rock bands because judging by experience, some of them are worthier than many of the big names of the industry.  Unearthing buried music is a very rewarding experience, believe me. Swimming through the YouTube videos of AOR music with fewer than 1,000 views is something I recommend to everyone! That’s how I found this band I will talk about today – Zinatra. Don’t stick to the usual suspects, let yourself explore the bands that couldn’t hit it that big; thankfully, we have the Internet so use it!

A few things about the band before we jump into the music;

What you need to know about Zinatra (what a cool name, I wonder how did they come up with it) is that they are a hard rock band from the Netherlands, consisting of five members.

The band was formed in 1986 and disbanded in 1991 after the release of just two albums. Some of the highlights of their career include opening up for David Lee Roth on his “Skyscraper” tour and a top20 hit – “Love or Loneliness” from their debut album. Moreover, the band achieved success in Asian and South-American territories where they embarked on tours, filled venues and topped charts with songs like “Hero”.

The sophomore release featured a new keyboardist (Robby Valentine) and a solid determination to make an even bigger splash this time. The album was very well-received, especially in Japan (I love how much Japanese people were into ’80s hard rock music); Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough. Vocalist Joss Mennen kicked off his solo activities and Robby Valentine got a signing deal with Polydor so this was basically it for Zinatra. Just wasn’t meant to be I guess. The changing musical climate were in my opinion the biggest factor that drove the guys away.

zinatra band
ZINATRA

1988 Self-titled debut

Zinatra debut album

I have included three songs which I believe best represent this album. Hopefully you will check the rest of it all, after you hear it. “Love or Loneliness” is undoubtedly their most famous track. The other two are equally appealing. I am very fond of “Hero” and that’s not just because I’m a softie. The ballad is absolutely gorgeous! To me, it’s always been all about the melody and this album right here is full of beautiful melodies that can satisfy any fan out there, like myself. This album is nothing phenomenal or unheard of but it’s something you just gotta experience. Vocalist Joss Mennen is just a bliss for my ears. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“The Great Escape” 1990

Zinatra Album artwork

This album and the catchy “There She Was” introduced me to the band back in the day. I actually saw this album in its original Japanese packaging which led me to the music and to writing this now. I like the debut but this album I like a little bit more and I think that’s because Robby Valentine was added to the line-up; he was not just a keyboardist, he also contributed as a songwriter which clearly hit the spot for me. The album is melodic/pop rock at its finest. In addition to the entertaining bright track, “There She Was”, I included two more songs for you to check out – the rocker “Only Your Heart” and the power ballad “Too Blind to See”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


References:
Album artwork, retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.co.kr/pin/377246906263230272/
Album artwork #2 retrieved from http://ohrenbalsam.blogspot.bg/
Band photo, retrieved from https://heavyharmonies.com/cgi-bin/glamcd.cgi?BandNum=896&CDName=Zinatra
“Zinatra” on http://melodic-hardrock.com/bios/zinatra/
THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

The Story of Tyketto’s 1991 Debut “Don’t Come Easy”

Commercially speaking, the early ‘90s was definitely not a best time for a hard rock band to release a debut and try to hit it big. Labels started investing all their time and money on alternative/grunge rock acts and kicked the door in front of the faces of many glam rock bands with big dreams. Still, regardless of the little promotion and attention those rock bands got from the labels (and fans as a matter of fact), the quality of music was still good and there were tons of great releases in those initial years of the new decade. Where do I even begin? Survivor, Giant, Fair Warning, Europe, MSG, Hardline, Thunder, Harem Scarem, Bad Company, Firehouse, Slaughter, etc.; all of these bands and many more released phenomenal rock albums in the early ‘90s, despite the grunge scene’s vicious attacks. One more band that deserves to be respectfully mentioned is Tyketto, of course. Since I’m a big fan and their debut album is actually one of the best rock debuts in my book, I decided to dedicate a little something to them. Contrary to what I expected, there are many people out there who know so little of that album (and the band, ultimately), so I hope to introduce your next favorite songs in this publication! Enjoy the read and don’t forget to play those mind-blowing tunes!

 

Tyketto & “Don’t Come Easy”

The important thing to know about those guys is that they come from the streets of New York and were assembled by the former vocalist of Waysted, Danny Vaughn. The band was formed in the late ‘80s but scoring a record deal with Geffen and preparing a killer debut takes years, naturally.

“Don’t Come Easy” was released at the very beginning of 1991 and needless to say, despite its edgy hard melodic rock sound and killer vocals, it didn’t get what it deserved. Till today, many die-hard rock fans see this album as one of the most refreshing and promising ‘90s debuts; it was apparently a much-needed breath of fresh air and tons of music enthusiasts found its true value. Unfortunately, for the majority of rock lovers, this album doesn’t even exist. Sad, isn’t it?

tyketto dont come easy“Don’t Come Easy” features 10 stunning hard rock gems, that deserve nothing but high praises. I must begin out discussion with the opening track and the biggest hit of Tyketto’s career, “Forever Young”. How do you describe a song that outstanding? From the powerful, clean vocals of Danny, to the terrific monster riffs this entire song could easily be referred to as the song of the year. Don’t you even get me started on those haunting lyrics: “Forever young, time on our side, we’ve got tomorrow, we’ve got tonight…”! What a mind-blowing experience this track is; the kind of song you can’t just skip, regardless of how many times you’ve listened to it!

We move on to “Wings” which is the point where you actually realize how incredible this album is and that you will play it from start to finish for the next few weeks. “Wings” is a superb mid-tempo rocker with solid hooks and…man, those vocals are killing me! I never got the chance to witness a live performance of Tyketto but with a talent like Danny’s, it must be an experience of a lifetime!  “Burning Down Inside” starts slowly, quite mysteriously…and then BAM – Danny opens a door to an exciting melodic rock world, you just can’t escape from (& you don’t want to). The energizing “Lay Your Body Down” is a personal favorite and how can it not be!? The atmospheric “Standing Alone” is a gorgeous ballad, often forgotten or misunderstood, despite the enormous amount of emotions it holds within itself.

And it goes on and on…

If this album doesn’t send butterflies through your stomach, then you clearly need to listen again and listen better! I highly recommend it to any rock fan out there who appreciates great music and doesn’t necessarily judge it by the number of sales.

Many turbulent situations came after this album, including the departure of bass player Jimi Kennedy and eventually vocalist Danny Vaughn; However, in 2016 the band came back with a new album, titled “REACH“, once again fronted by Danny. They are still alive and kicking, celebrating a career of over 25 years! If that doesn’t convince you to check them out, then I don’t know what will…

Enjoy the tracks and let me know what you think!

tyketto

“Forever Young”

“Wings”

“Burning Down Inside”


 

I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the images on this blog are copyright to their respectful owners. Please note that the digital brand, “My Rock Mixtapes” is for rock music educational purposes only and is in no way participating in any commercial activities.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Album Recommendations: Shadow King’s 1991 Self-Titled Debut

I love giving life back to old-school rock gems by reminding people of their greatness. One of my favorite types of publications is “ALBUM RECOMMENDATIONS” because I get the chance to not only share some of my all time favorite less-known releases but I also introduce them to readers from all over the world who don’t know much abut these albums or don’t know about their existence at all. This week, I chose a special but short-lived band, named Shadow King because the members of this band (especially two of them) are very dear to my heart; on the other hand we have a pleasing hard rock record which deserves our attention. Let’s go!

Shadow King

Supergroups are highly intriguing, at least to me. There’s nothing cooler than having a bunch of well-known musicians, members of your favorite bands, teaming up for a project. You witness how pieces of different puzzles become a whole new piece and in most of the cases, the results are so satisfying! This was also the case with Shadow King. We have the founder – Lou Gramm, the voice of Foreigner, guitarist Vivian Campbell (Dio, Whitesnake, Riverdogs and now Def Leppard), bass player Bruce Turgon (Foreigner, Black Sheep, eventually the Lou Gramm Band) and drummer Kevin Valentine (Breathless, of Donnie Iris and the Cruisers and eventually also in the Lou Gramm Band); obviously there was a lot of talent in that band and under different circumstances, I’m sure they would’ve lasted for more than just a single release.

Lou Gramm had previously worked with Vivian Campbell and Bruce Turgon on his solo releases so the frontman knew quite well how to assemble a winning team. However, it seems to me that all members of the band were in some kind of a transitional period in those early ears of the new decade and that’s one of the reasons why I think they went their separate ways after this album. “Shadow King” ended up as an “in-between” project till the guys decided which way to go.

Shadow King were supposed to embark on an extensive tour and move on to new projects, however fate got in the way; Vivian became a member of (the greatest band in the world) Def Leppard; Lou and Bruce rejoined Foreigner in 1992 and they both, along with Kevin Valentine went on to become members of The Lou Gramm band in the early 2000s.

What’s in the past is in the past, though; Short-lived or not, I’m still grateful that they released this one album, full of breathtaking gems and glorious rock tunes.

The Self-Titled Debut

shadow kingI will try to be as straightforward as possible because when you have one of the strongest, most iconic rock vocalists of all time as a frontman, you can’t but expect the best. The most surprising thing, though, is that despite Lou‘s fame and worldwide recognition, many fans don’t really know this album and project even existed! Why, though? – The sound is maybe a bit too similar to Foreigner (well duh, Foreigner was founded by Lou) and people think they are just listening to the classic rock band; the time period was unsuitable – you know, the early ’90s wasn’t the best time to be a hard rock act and release an album that wasn’t “alternative”. Ultimately, I don’t know why people often forget about “Shadow King” but here I am, writing about it with the hopes of reviving it. And no, I’m not going to refer to it as Lou’s third solo album.

Most of the songs are written by the talented songwriting team of Lou Gramm and Bruce Turgon who skillfully crafted a catchy, highly enjoyable melodic rock playlist. Objectively speaking, the album cannot really compete with Foreigner’s earlier works, despite sounding a lot like a Foreigner album. Don’t be surprised – Lou was behind Foreigner’s iconic sound and classic songs. The difference is that now we have Vivian who changes the game for me; I may be a little bit biased but Viv is a top-notch guitarist and he can produce some of the greatest guitar sound out there.

The Songs you Must Hear:

Well, I am definitely recommending the entire album – from start to finish; however, if my words didn’t persuaded you to do so, I’m going to let you enjoy just a few songs from the self-titled release, to get a little idea of what’s going on (and why I’m so right).

The playlist didn’t get enough radio play despite sensational AOR classics like, “I Want You” and “Anytime, Anywhere”. There’s not even a single disappointing song on this record and I’m not just saying it for no reason. 

Have a listen at the beautiful melodic rock gems below and let me know what you think; I sincerely hope you appreciate the tunes and the album as much as I do.

What Would It Take

Once Upon A Time

I Want You


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Overview of REO SPEEDWAGON’s Smashing Hit Album,”Wheels Are Turnin'” (1984)

REO Speedwagon

A story…

A few weeks ago I went to this huge bookstore where they sell CDs and Vinyl records; I was looking for a REO Speedwagon CD and I asked one of the staff about it. (Not) Surprisingly, the person I asked had no idea who they were and while searching for the CD, they asked me about the band. I thought about it for a second – like, how do I introduce this American old-school rock band to a young European who doesn’t know anything about them. I just said that they are a melodic rock band and moved on (they didn’t have the CD I wanted either ways).

This made me think about it. Similar bands like Foreigner, Journey, Boston, etc. were quite popular in my country (and still are) but somehow REO Speedwagon didn’t really become a thing over here. Anyhow, I just really felt like dedicating a little something to one of my most beloved melodic rock bands and the first album of theirs I heard back in the day. My American readers would of course be well-aware of the band and their career but for the others, I hope you discover something life-changing!

REO Speedwagon formed in the late ‘60s even though many people might think that they are just one of the many ‘80s melodic rock bands. Yes, the early-to-mid ‘80s were indeed the heydays of their career, but they go way back! It would be somewhat difficult to go through every stage of the band and the numerous line-up changes that occurred throughout the years. Ultimately, what you need to know about them is that their early years were quite shaky (but very charming) and REO Speedwagon often reo speedwagon hi infhad a different frontman for every new release. The bell of success rang in the late ‘70s with their “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish” album. Their melodic rock/pop turn was fully made by the early ‘80s with staple rock albums like “Hi Infidelity” and “Good Trouble”. Both these albums, especially “Hi Infidelity” (1980) set the tone for the early ‘80s music scene and brought tons of recognition to the band. It was that same album that arguably defined the career of the band and remained their most beloved and critically acclaimed release.

“Wheels Are Turnin'”

reo speedwagonStill, if someone who has never heard of REO Speedwagon asks me to recommend him/her an album to start with, I’d pick “Wheels are Turnin’” in a heartbeat. Not only it’s one of their best-selling albums but it also contains some of the catchiest, most uplifting classic rock tunes that came out in the ‘80s. As a matter of fact, it was the first REO Speedwagon album I grabbed and where it all started from me.

The album did make quite the splash on the charts and spawned evergreen rock classics, including that “ballad” everyone knows the words to, “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. Many fans refer to “Wheels are Turnin’” as a “guilty pleasure” – back in the day, releasing a synthesizer-oriented album that early in the decade was still frowned upon; still, I’m certain that everyone was criticizing it but secretly listening to it ( you just cannot NOT fall for those magical melodic rock hooks). Keyboardist Neal Doughty wasn’t just your regular keyboardist; he was a true visionary and his elegant keyboard style was one of the main reasons why REO Speedwagon caught the attention of fans all over the world.

“Wheels are Turnin’” is so much more than the smashing hit single “Can’t Fight This Feeling”. I won’t argue though, this song is one of the main reasons why I was sold back in the day. The moment you hear “I can’t fight this feeling any longer…and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow,” you just start singing and you feel your heart filling up with joy and happiness. Every song on that album has a similar effect on me. The opening track, “I Do’ Wanna Know” is a personal favorite maybe because it has that early-REO Speedwagon vibe, mixed with modern elements. It’s actually the best of both worlds – raw and melodic. It’s most certainly a song that should’ve gotten more attention and recognition. “One Lonely Night” is another worthy track; Kevin Cronin was just born to sing for this genre. “Rock ‘N Roll Star” is an often forgotten rock anthem despite being a fantastic piece of a puzzle. The rest is just as appealing; from start to finish, “Wheels are Turnin’”, is a beautiful melodic bliss. If you are in a mood and need a little cheer, don’t go to the store for a huge box of ice-cream; instead, play REO Speedwagon’s “Live Every Moment” which has to be one of the liveliest and most positive songs I’ve ever heard. The album wraps things up with the title track which to me sounds as if it was made in the mid ‘70s, (that’s a great thing, of course). I’m unconditionally inlove with the piano touches and the riffs on this one.

REO Speedwagon flourished on their 11th studio album, “Wheels are Turnin’”. The guys just wanted to craft a satisfying piece of rock music and they did it. The album is breezy and atmospheric, overflowing with fantastic instrumentation, gratifying riffs and superb vocals. This album is as warm as an afternoon coffee with extra marshmallows.

Now, it’s time to listen to it….


“One Lonely Night”

“Can’t Fight This Feeling”

“I Do Wanna Know”


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

The Story of JOURNEY’s “Raised on Radio” (1986)

Journey

Journey - September 3rd, 1981By 1986, Journey was already a household name in the popular music scene not only in their homeland of the USA but also all over the world. Multi-platinum albums, sold-out concerts, millions of fans – that was just the beginning of it. The kings of radio crafted a universally-beloved sound which was basically the secret behind their ultimate success. The appealing mixture of rock and pop, colored by mesmerizing keyboards, rhythm sections and unforgettable hooks, all topped by Steve Perry’s unbelievable, out-of-this-world voice was basically the formula that sky-rocketed their career. AOR treasures, like the 3xtimes Platinum “Departure” (1980), the 9xtimes Platinum “Escape” (1981) and the 6xtimes Platinum “Frontiers” (1983) became inseparable parts of every person’s collection; hit singles like “Don’t Stop Believin’”, “Separate Ways” or “Open Arms” defined the ‘80s and influenced generations of musicians. Whatever more I say would be obsolete. Journey was and still is one of the greatest bands out there and their songs will live forever!


The Years before “Raised on Radio”

the threeThe songwriting partnership between Steve Perry, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain was what kept the band on the top shelves for an entire decade, basically. Things got out of hand, though. We’ve heard the story before with many other bands – fame, success and worldwide recognition can sometimes be the reason why tensions arise within the band, egos start clashing and can sometimes lead to members going their separate ways. After Journey released the smashing hit album “Frontiers” in 1983, guitarist Neal Schon and vocalist Steve Perry took some time off to focus on individual “journeys”. Neal Schon teamed up with Sammy Hagar and released “Through the Fire” in 1984 and Steve Perry recorded that “little” solo album “Street Talk” which was out the same year. Guess which endeavor was more successful?

Steve Perry said so many times that while writing and recording “Street Talk” he had the time of his life and even considered leaving Journey for good. I can understand; after all, if you are as talented as Steve Perry and you found what makes you truly happy then there’s nothing wrong to pursue it. Same goes to Neal Schon who by the way is one of the most networked musicians of all time. It was keyboardist Jonathan Cain who somehow pursued Steve Perry to come back and finish with what was started years ago. That’s the short version of how “Raised on Radio” became a reality.

I am not one of those people who would say that Steve Perry was JOURNEY but I am one of those people who ask themselves whether there could be a JOURNEY without Steve Perry. I’m not going to go into details on who did what and who was given what before Perry came back to record “Raised on Radio” but ultimately, there was a line-up change, along with a shift in musical as well as leadership direction in the band.  We are here to talk about the music, though! I get that there might be some people interested in the “juicy” stuff but whatever happened happened. The results were more than satisfying so it’s time to focus on the content, rather than on its background.

“Raised on Radio”

“Raised on Radio” was out just in time for the hot summer of 1986. Steve, Neal and Jonathan were back to their usual songwriting days, except this time Steve Perry took over the production role as well. He did a marvelous job on his solo debut so giving him this opportunity was a justified decision, I think. A few tracks were written by Steve and Jonathan only; the majority of tracks were crafted by the trio.

journey raised on radioI was always drawn by that bright blue album artwork; it’s just so appealing to me. I find it quite simple, elegant and so suitable for the songs and the overall musical atmosphere of the album. It’s like when I think of that beautiful blue color and I immediately think of groovy uplifting songs like “Girl Can’t Help It” or “Positive Touch” (it goes the other way around as well). Interestingly, what’s shown on that artwork is actually the studio and antennas of KNGS (AM Radio), formerly owned by Steve’s parents. He was also the one who renamed the album to “Raised on Radio” (the original name for that album was “Freedom”). It just seems like this whole project was very close to Steve Perry and he wanted to make it as personal as possible.

In terms of commercial success, “Raised on Radio” couldn’t really match the enormous popularity and critical acceptance of the previous two albums of Journey. Nevertheless, it was certified 2xPlatinum and it did spawn a few mind-blowing singles that took over the charts.

One more thing you gotta know about this album is that Steve, Neal and Jonathan weren’t just the main songwriters of Journey. They were actually the only official members left. That’s right, “Raised on Radio” was done by those three, along with dozens of guest musicians. You might ask what happened with Journey’s drummer and bass player and why was the band just trimmed down to a trio? Well, what can I say – sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. Don’t worry though, those two came back and are still rocking with Journey.


The Songs

It’s a matter of opinion and fan devotion when it comes to this album. Some people strongly believe that “Raised on Radio” was just Steve Perry calling all the shots without being able to fill in that hole left by the two guys that got fired. To others, this album was Journey’s natural progression, reflected by the time period. To me, this is just a piece of beautiful pop/rock fusion album that sounded just as good as “Frontiers” and “Escape” and to some extent, even better!

The song that introduced me to the greatness of this album was “It Could Have Been You” which is also a personally-relevant song. I fell for the lyrics, along with that somehow mellow (at least to me) vibe of the song. It’s difficult to describe it but I always felt so sad while listening to this tune, despite its uplifting grooves; I mean just listen to Steve singing: “I can’t wait all my life, on a street of broken dreams, It could have been you my love, where are you now…I still wonder if you remember the night, It could have been you…” – that’s just so heartbreaking.

“Girl Can’t Help It” – the third single from the album is definitely one of the catchiest, most uplifting songs of Journey; there’s just so much life in that song. “I’ll Be Alright Without You” – the ultimate post-break up track is also another highlight on “Raised on Radio”. Excluding the fact that Steve Perry can turn any song into a memorable body/mind experience, this song is indeed quite affecting and empowering. “Suzanne” is another rhythmic, immensely atmospheric tune just waiting for you to go to the dancefloor. The rest is just as good – “Once You Love Somebody” which came out straight from a ‘80s action movie is a personal favorite and “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” is your typical world-spinning Journey ballad, so full of soul. The title song is absolutely stunning; Perry’s sincere tribute to his rock&roll heroes who he grew up with at his parents’ radio station is a key track on “Raised on Radio” and one of Journey’s best if you ask me. “Be Good to Yourself” is another spirited track that was actually written and recorded in a flash of inspiration on the day they were supposed to finish the record. Steve was going through some tough personal times and he was seeking for inner strength and affirmation.

The great thing about “Raised on Radio” is that there are tons of enjoyable and easy to fall for ear-candies. That’s not all, though. The album is in no shortage of genuine rock tunes, full of feelings and emotional backstories. Overall, this is a positive, eager and exceptionally well-written and produced album. I don’t necessarily think that “Raised on Radio” brought that much to the band; it didn’t really get them that higher. The general mood of the album seems a bit different from their previous work; it is energetic and enthusiastic but not on the same levels as before. Some songs are too sweet but since it’s Steve singing them, I’m totally cool with that!

Now, it’s your turn to listen and feel the great music on “Raised on Radio”…


“Girl Can Help It”

“It Could’ve Been You’

“I’ll Be Alright Without You”


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Album Review: Go Louder, Harder and Faster with WARRANT’s New Album

It has been six years since one of our favorite ’80s/’90s hard rock bands, Warrant, released an album. “Rockaholc”, featuring vocalist Robert Mason (Lynch Mob, Cry of Love) for the very first time, hit the market in the spring of 2011 – just a few months before the tragic death of Warrant’s original frontman, Jani Lane. No one can take away the precious memories the immensely talented Jani brought to us with his music, but it’s also okay to make new memories with new music, styles and voices. With that being said, I encourage you to listen to “Louder Harder Faster” with an open mind, expect something both familiar and new and most importantly, enjoy music the same way you did 20 or so years ago.

I may as well write a three-word review about Warrant’s new album and call it a day. Guess which words I will use… That’s right – Loud, Hard and Fast! The title says it all – you are in for a real wild, fiery and pleasantly devastating rock&roll experience right from the very first second! Frontiers Records keep on releasing one smashing album after another and I can barely keep it up with all that awesomeness. Have some mercy, please…

jeff pilsonBefore I dig a little deeper into individual album songs, I want to applaud the superb production of “Louder Harder Faster”, courtesy of the legendary Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio, Foreigner) who I believe did an outstanding job, capturing the mood of the album. I’ve been a fan of Jeff, his music and production work for so many years now and he still keeps on impressing me with every new project! Remember how well he did with Last in Line’s debut album, “Heavy Crown”? Expect something in similar, if not in higher production level – he truly did great!

Warrant - Louder Harder Faster (2017)Back to “Louder Harder and Faster” which is a reason enough why 2017 could be considered a strong hard rock year! Original Warrant members, Erik Turner, Jerry Dixon, Joey Allen, and Steven Sweet, together with the returning for the second time vocalist Robert Mason have cooked a real knock-out album, stirred with the band’s trademark melodic rock hooks and tons of modern-day surprises! This killer direction is what makes “Louder Harder and Faster” suitable for any rock fan out there. You don’t need to know songs like “Heaven” or “I Saw Red” (tactically avoiding that one song we all know by Warrant) to be able to enjoy and rock on to Warrant’s 2017 release! I think what they did with this album is truly universal and “generationless” and they will most certainly grab the attention of the younger audiences.

“‘Louder Harder Faster’ is truly one of our best records to date. It has all the classic Warrant ingredients that people have come to know, plus a lot of extras that keep it in the modern realm of todays music. It’s a perfect mix between Balls and Ballads. When we started this project over two years ago, we wanted to bring the listener back to the days of sitting in the living room and cranking up a record from start to finish. Making full records seems to be a lost art, we hope in some small way that this album helps people find that art again,” said bass player Jerry Dixon.
(quote retrieved from http://www.antimusic.com)

The 12-song rock&roll gem, featuring a cover of the classic Merle Haggard song, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”, is your ultimate party album! With blazing melodic rock anthems, including the title track, “Louder Harder Faster”, “Devil Dancer” and “Only Broken Heart”, you will definitely be juiced up for days to come. The opening track is your perfect modern-day rock&roll tune, which grabs you by the throat from the first second! Vocalist Robert Mason is truly impressive on this one; not that he has to prove anything to anyone but if he had to, this song right here will shut everyone up! “Devil Dancer” is a personal favorite – those riffs just penetrated my skin and there’s no way I’ll recover. The sing-along tune “Perfect” is another highly memorable point! Pay attention to those harmonies sweet sweet lyrics; that song just won me over after one listen! There’s another side to the Warrant and this album, though. The piano-driven “U in My Life” is a beautifully-done ballad I can listen for days. I wish it had a bit stronger punch into it, though. “Music Man” is a very intriguing track; it starts slowly with just a simple acoustic guitar accompaniment but it nicely progresses into a cowboy blues tune, telling a story worth hearing. “Big Sandy” is another jumpy rocker, meant to lift your spirits. The rest of “Louder Harder Faster” is just as good. Gladly, the physical copy of the album includes the stimulating cover of “I Think I’ll Sit Here and Drink” which triggered a physical reaction in me upon listening. You know a song is good and the vocalist plays with you once your body starts moving and you feel the groove. I think it might be one of my favorite moments from the album.

Final verdict: I will be brief: Play it LOUD, party with it HARD and buy it FAST. (haha)

[For more rock reviews and publications, please subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter.]


Louder, Harder & Faster

“I Think I’ll Sit Here and Drink”

Perfect

Devil Dancer

Only Broken Heart


References:
“Warrant Announces New Album”: http://www.antimusic.com/news/17/March/10Warrant_Announce_New_Album_Louder_Harder_Faster.shtml
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.

The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Album Review: Canadian Rockers HAREM SCAREM are BACK with “UNITED”

One of my most anticipated releases of the year is here and I’m thrilled to finally have it! The expectations were high but let me tell you something – Harem Scarem met 100% of them and went way beyond that with “United”. This is definitely going to be a very strong year for Frontiers Records and this album right here is one of the reasons why!

Harem Scarem surely went a long way since their solid (but highly underrated, often forgotten) self-titled debut. The 1991 release spawned fantastic rockers, including “Slowly Slipping Away” and of course one of the saddest rock ballads in history (and the reason why I became a fan of HS), “Honestly”.

harem scarem united 2017 big.jpgAfter an impressive stream of good albums, compilations, live releases and a lengthy rockstar career, the band called it quits in 2008. That wasn’t the end of it, though. Thankfully, vocalist Harry Hess and guitarist Pete Lesperance pulled their acts together and went back in the studio. To mark their near-30th anniversary and of course, for the love of rock music, Harem Scarem put out their 14th studio album, suitably named “United”.

I’m already referring to Harem Scarem as melodic rock Gods and “United” just solidified their position as such. The album is stunning! The first time I played it, I felt like I was taking a walk in a melodic rock paradise and every song was a breath of fresh, highly energizing air.

The masterful production qualities of “United” (courtesy of Harry Hess and Pete Lesperance, of course) are just one small part of why this album turned out so great. “United” is certainly not in shortage of brilliant hooks, powerful choruses and don’t even get me started on the magnificent guitar riffs.  

The upbeat opening track has all the right elements to knock your socks off. This sing-along treasure is just the beginning of the fiery punch this album is! The second track, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” is my personal favorite… and how can it not be! The entire song is one world-spinning experience, flavoured by the smashing backing vocals of Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen). The intriguing journey doesn’t end there, though. The album doesn’t lose momentum – the mid and ending parts are as fascinating as the first tracks. “Gravity” and “Sinking Ship” are pure energy, synthesized in 4-minute songs. Where is my ballad? There it is, finally – track number 5 is the unbelievable “One of Life’s Mysteries”. Just when I thought it’s been a while since I heard a decent rock ballad, these guys pull out a song like this one…how can I not love them? “Bite The Bullet” is also a song to check out – it’s a very appealing modern-style rock tune. “The Sky is Falling” and “Things I Know” are a couple of the other creative, harmony-teemed sensations on “United”.

Final verdict: “United” might as well be one of the greatest melodic rock releases so far this year. I am recommending it to everyone who thinks that the genre went down years ago. It didn’t! As long as we have Harem Scarem and long partnerships like Hess-Lesperance, things will be alright!


Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

One of Life’s Mysteries

United


Reference:

P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~

Album Recommendations: McAuley Schenker Group – “M.S.G” (1992)

Time to travel back to the early ’90s were hard rock was still relevant before grunge literally wiped it out like a little dirt spot on a shiny window. The following album came into my life months ago after I heard the power ballad “When I’m Gone” on a Spotify playlist. I had no idea who was the band/artist but I knew I had to immediately check them out! The rest is history… It occurred to me that many people forgot about this brilliant glam metal masterpiece, titled “M.S.G” so I decided to include it in my “Album Recommendations” series I have on my blog! Enjoy the read and don’t forget to play the awesome tracks!

McAuley Schenker Group

mcshWhere do I even begin? So many outstanding, well-established in the industry artist were part of this project… One thing you need to know is that it all started with Michael Schenker who already made a name for himself as a one-of-a-kind guitarist in Scorpions and UFO. In 1979, he formed the melodic rock band, Michael Schenker Group, which eventually, in 1986 to be precise, evolved into the McAuleySchenker Group – named after guitarist Michael Schenker and vocalist Robin McAuley (the picture on the right). The group, lead by the fearless guitarist and the brilliant vocalist lasted for just a few years before they called it quits. Michael Schenker reformed the Michael Schenker Group and that’s pretty much it (at least the ultra short version of the story I’m telling you; there have also been many reunions, including a recent one in 2012). 

McAuleySchenker Group was also home to legendary bass guitarist Jeff Pilson (Dokken, DIO, Foreigner, etc.), drummer James Kottak (Scorpions, Kingdome Come, Warrant, etc.) and keyboardist Jesse Harms (Sammy Hagar, REO Speedwagon, David Lee Roth, etc.). We can with absolute no doubt call it a SUPERGROUP – one of the premium examples if you ask me. Not only that but the band was multi-cultural. We have Irish, British, American and German members. What a team!

The album

mcauleyMcAuleySchenker Group released a total of three studio albums, one acoustic (Japan only) and one live, unplugged album. Today I will focus specifically on their third and final studio album, simply titled “M.S.G.”. Since the band had a huge following in Japan, they first hit the Japanese market in 1991 and a year later, released it in Europe (that magical year of 1992!).

A couple of words about the album itself (based on personal experience, of course). First of all, I tried to detach it from any Scorpions or UFO associations but sometimes it’s hard cause it does have that little familiar vibe. That’s totally cool, though! The album is a perfect piece of hard(er) melodic rock and would recommend it to anyone in a blink of an eye. My most favorite thing about the band (and this album, naturally) is the vocals. I was grabbed by Robin’s distinctive, instantly-captivating vocal delivery right from the very first track (“Eve”). Then as I proceed to track 3 – that breathtaking power ballad, “When I’m Gone”, I became an ultimate fan of his (I always fall for the criminally underrated singers). “We Believe in Love” is another personal favorite moment; the drums-dominated track might as well be one of the best rock tracks of the year (big words, I know!). “Crazy” and “Lonely Nights” are just a couple of other songs I recommend you guys check out. Overall, the album is full of kick-ass rockers, beautiful ballads and needless to say, it’s a must-have for any glam metal fan out there. Generic or not, it makes me want to crank it up and dance my ass off (which is the most important thing!)

Oh and before I forget…it’s a SERIOUSLY UNDERRATED ALBUM!!!

Give it a try.


When I’m Gone

Paradise

We Believe in Love

I think it’s better listen to the entire album from start to finish …


References:
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.
Cheers~