[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

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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~

’90S ROCK BLAST: DEF LEPPARD – RETRO ACTIVE

def-leppard-retro-active

RETRO ACTIVE

Released: October 5, 1993
Genre: Hard Rock/Glam Rock
Duration: 56:04
Label: Mercury
Producer(s): Def Leppard
Singles: “Two Steps Behind”, “Desert Song”, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”, “Action”, ““Two Steps Behind (re-issue)”
Certified: Platinum (RIAA)

buy-from-amazon


OVERVIEW

Def Leppard released four albums during the 90s but this time I will specifically focus on “Retro Active”, despite “Adrenalize” being their most commercially and critically successful 90s record. I wanted to talk a little bit more about “Retro Active” because of its unique format that combines groomed up versions of unreleased/B-sides tracks and a couple of covers from previous albums. The album carries with it Def Leppard’s genuine and classic ‘80s sound, making it their most deserving work that came out in the ‘90s. Don’t get me wrong, “Adrenalize” and “Euphoria”, for instance are groundbreaking albums, but they cannot match the variety and character of “Retro Active”. Fuelled up with first-class production quality and of course, the dynamic and charismatic spirit of Def Leppard, the record is the ultimate cause for celebration, especially for die-hard fans of the band, like me. On top of it all, the band gives us one more chance to honor the late Steve Clark (RIP) by revisiting his legacy and experiencing his enormous talents and contributions all over again. We get to hear the first recordings with the new guitarist Vivian Campbell, as well.

In terms of songs, “Retro Active” is an absolute rock festival from start to finish. We get to enjoy a couple of gorgeous ballads -“Miss You in a Heartbeat” and “Two Steps behind You”, both presented in acoustic and electric versions.  Listening to those excellent pieces of art makes me such a proud fan of Def Leppard. “Miss You in a Heartbeat”, especially, is one in a lifetime kind of song – memorable and easy to sing with chorus, heartbreaking lyrics and an unmatchable classy aura. I have always been entranced by Joe’s vocals on this track. “She’s too Tough”, originally released on the “Heaven Is” single (1993) is such a delightful surprise and definitely my favorite moment of “Retro Active”. Energizing and empowering, the track is definitely something to anticipate as you go from start to finish. Playful, even sexy lyrics that generate an immediate visual in your mind, which is one of the reasons why I love Def Leppard so much – they tell a story with their music and make things so much more interesting. Kicking things off gently and then quickly teleporting us to a pure solid hard rock realm, “I Wanna Be Your Hero” is another groundbreaking point. On “Retro Active”, you get to find tons of other deserving rockers, such as the covers “Action” (Sweet) and “Only After Dark” (Mick Ronson). The mind-blowing first two opening tracks “Desert Song” and “Fractured Love”, both from Hysteria sessions, are bringing us back to Def Leppard’s early raw roots. The epic “Ride into the Sun” is another personal favorite of mine, probably due to the long history it carries with it – the track was actually featured on Def Leppard’s first ever self-produced EP, released back in 1979 before it was rerecorded in 1987 as a B-side to the “Hysteria” single. “Retro Active” wraps things up with a hidden track – a tender piano version of “Miss You in a Heartbeat”. Leaving us absolutely speechless, you can’t but go on the “Retro Active” journey once again, after the final song is over; the feeling is just that strong!

This album is for everyone, though I do believe that die-hard fans of Def Leppard would enjoy it much more than everyone else. The collection of songs offers a little something for all the rock souls out there – from attractive hard rockers to sentimental ballads, “Retro Active” provides you with the ultimate Def Leppard experience. The album is important also because it’s a final farewell to Steve Clark, the irreplaceable force, without which the band wouldn’t have reached such heights. Grab a copy and enjoy the superb production and quality of this record. Definitely in my top 5 Def Leppard albums! That should tell you something!


Tracklist:

“Desert Song” (Steve Clark, Joe Elliott, Rick Savage)
Outtake from the Hysteria album sessions (1984–87)

“Fractured Love” (Clark, Elliott, Savage) – 5:08
Outtake from the Hysteria album sessions

“Action” (Andy Scott, Brian Connolly, Steve Priest, Mick Tucker)
Original version released on the “Make Love Like a Man” single (1992)

“Two Steps Behind” (Acoustic version) (Elliott)
Original version released on the “Make Love Like a Man” single
Originally released on the Last Action Hero soundtrack (1993)

“She’s Too Tough” (Elliott)
Original version released on the “Heaven Is” single (1993) and is the bonus track for the Japanese pressing of Adrenalize (1992)

“Miss You in a Heartbeat” (Phil Collen)
Original version released on the “Make Love Like a Man” single

“Only After Dark” (Mick Ronson, Scott Richardson)
Original version released on the “Let’s Get Rocked” single (1992)

“Ride into the Sun” (Clark, Collen, Elliott, Savage)
Original version released on the “Hysteria” single (1987)
First recording of the song released on The Def Leppard E.P. (1979)

“From the Inside” (Elliott)
Originally released on the “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” single

“Ring of Fire” (Clark, Collen, Elliott, Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Savage)
Original version released on the “Armageddon It” single (1988)

“I Wanna Be Your Hero” (Clark, Collen, Elliott, Lange, Savage)
Original version released on the “Hysteria” single

“Miss You in a Heartbeat” (Electric version) (Collen)
This was the Japanese bonus track for Adrenalize

“Two Steps Behind” (Electric version) (Elliott)

“Miss You in a Heartbeat” (Piano version) (Hidden track)) (Collen)

She’s Too Tough

Miss You In A Heartbeat

I Wanna Be Your Hero

Action

Two Steps Behind

Desert Song


References:
“Retro Active” Official Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retro_Active
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~