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Review: Van Halen Triumphantly Return With “A Different Kind of Truth”

Review: Van Halen Triumphantly Return With “A Different Kind of Truth”

'A Different Kind of Truth'

“A Different Kind of Truth” is Van Halen’s first studio album since 1998’s disappointing “Van Halen 3” and the band’s first with David Lee Roth on vocals since 1983’s “1984.” I was skeptical after hearing the first single, “Tattoo,” but after positive word of mouth, I decided to give ADOKT a listen. I sure am glad I did. ADKOT is a time machine back to the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when Eddie Van Halen was THE guitar hero, David Lee Roth was a leather pants-wearing screamin’ demon, and Van Halen meant wild nights and wilder women.

I don’t know why “Tattoo” is the first single. It’s not a bad song and it has grown on me, but it isn’t anywhere close to being the best song on the album. ADOKT really starts to pick up steam on the second track, “She’s the Woman,” which is outstanding. The bulk of the album sounds a lot like “Van Halen,” with a little bit of “Fair Warning” thrown in on the heavier tracks like “China Town” and “As Is.” With the exception of “Blood and Fire” (which is the only song that sounds remotely like it would fit on “1984” or any Van Hagar album) and the beginning of “Stay Frosty” (a throwback to “Ice Cream Man” on “Van Halen”), this is pretty much a non-stop EVH shred fest that doesn’t let up. There isn’t a bad song from start to finish.

ADKOT is an outstanding album on the merits of its sound alone. Considering the turbulence the band has gone through since “Van Halen 3,” ADKOT is nothing short of a triumph. Hopefully, Eddie and Diamond Dave can stay on good terms, because we could sure use another 10 or 15 years of this.

Score: 9.0 out of 10

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Bumblefoot: Normal – CD Review

Bumblefoot: Normal – CD Review

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Bumblefoot - Normal

Bumblefoot - Normal

By STEVE JOHNSON

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A quick google search of Bumblefoot could lead you to a description of a severe foot infection in rodents and birds or could lead you towards discovering the exceptional guitarist Ron Thal. Ron ?Bumblefoot? Thal has led a storied career in the music industry as a solo artist, writer, producer, and engineer. Most recently he has become a member of one of the world’s greatest rock bands, Guns N’ Roses.

In his 2005 album Normal, Thal tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a musician that is on the verge of insanity who decides that he must go on medication to become normal again. Of course, taking the medication has it’s side effects and the musician finds it difficult to creatively express himself. Inevitably, the musician must decide if he should live this normal life or stop taking the drugs and renew his creative spirit.

Normal is noticeably punk inspired and each of its 13 tracks features amazing guitar work by Thal. If you are not familiar with his work, get ready for an assault on your expectations of what a guitar player is capable of. Thal’s ability to shred on the guitar is at the forefront of every track and he easily proves that he nothing less than phenomenal. Thal handles all of the music/lyrics on the album and delivers a great vocal performance. The lone aspect of Normal that is untouched by Thal is the drumming, which is carried out by Dennis Leeflang.

Normal is a good album that showcases Thal’s quirkiness and amazing musical ability. Thal is without a doubt one of the best guitarists that this reviewer has ever heard and it will be interesting to see what kind of journey he leads us through on his next album entitled Abnormal. Fans of Bumblefoot that don’t have this album should be ashamed of themselves. If you are new to his music and have a love for blazing guitars and punk rock music, this is the album for you. While all of the tracks are noteworthy, highlights on the album include ?Normal,? ?Rockstar For a Day,? ?Life Inside Your Ass,? and ?Shadow.?

THE VERDICT:
4/5 Stars

TRACKLISTING:
Normal
Real
Turn Around
Rockstar For a Day
Overloaded
Pretty Ugly
The Color of Justice
Breaking
More
Awake
Life Inside Your Ass
Shadow
Thank You

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Michale Graves – ‘Illusions Live/Viretta Park’ – CD Review

Michale Graves – ‘Illusions Live/Viretta Park’ – CD Review

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Michale Graves - Illusions Live/Viretta Park

Michale Graves - Illusions Live/Viretta Park

By STEVE JOHNSON

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Michale Graves, former lead singer of The Misfits and staunch supporter of the West Memphis Three, has led a storied career and is definitely not content with artistic mediocrity. Graves has historically been recognized as a aggressive punk rock artist, but has recently evolved into a phenomenal acoustic artist. This transition first manifested itself on Graves’ previous effort Illusions, which included tracks written by Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three. Illusions is an amazing album and one of Graves’ best, but his new live album Illusions Live/Viretta Park stands as the pinnacle of his career musically and may be one of the best live albums in recent memory.

Illusions Live/Viretta Park features 23 tracks, 17 of which were recorded live on April 24th, 2008 at Club Bourbon in New Port Ritchie, Florida during Graves’ Illusions tour. The 6 remaining tracks are demos that Graves recorded in Bucarest, Romania, where he was filming scenes for the upcoming film Perkins 14. While the demos are much more polished, the live recordings are exceptional and capture the true essence of being at a live show.

The live tracks are a collection of songs spanning Graves’ entire career. Classic Misfits songs that have been reworked acoustically and Graves’ newer material have been intertwined throughout the album, giving something for new and old fans alike. Vocally, Graves’ voice is superb and absolutely haunting. The acoustic guitar work on the album is top notch and is delivered beautifully by Graves and JV Bastard. While Graves’ performance is the heart and soul of the live tracks, the way in which it was recorded is amazing and is the best aspect of the album. The live performance was recorded directly from the sound board and includes all of the ambient sounds of a typical rock show. Included are sounds of people talking in the background, crowd reaction, and even the sounds of bottles being thrown into the trash. Listening to this album is the closest you can get to being at a live show without being there. While all of the live tracks are worthy of high praise, be sure to check out “Blackbird,” “Fiend Club,” “Ophelia,” and “Frost Bite.”

The demos featured on the end of the album are just as fantastic as the live tracks. These demos showcase Graves’ continued evolution into a musical style that fits him very well. The most notable demo is “Viretta Park,” Graves’ opus to his fallen hero Kurt Cobain. The song was written after Graves visited Viretta Park in Seattle, a refuge for heartbroken Cobain fans worldwide that is adjacent to Cobain’s former home. The track captures all of the sadness and happiness that Graves felt that rainy day he visited the park in Seattle. While “Viretta Park” is the best demo featured on the album, be sure to also check out the demos of “Blackbird” and “The Best of Me.”

Illusions Live/Viretta Park is a fantastic live album that showcases the talent of a highly underrated singer/songwriter. The album is highly recommended for all long-time Michale Graves fans. If you should happen to be new to the music of Michale Graves, this is a good place to start your collection.

THE VERDICT: 5/5

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Metallica – ‘Death Magnetic’ – CD Review

Metallica – ‘Death Magnetic’ – CD Review

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Metallica - Death Magnetic

Metallica - Death Magnetic

By STEVE JOHNSON

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Metallica has been labeled many things, from America’s great heavy metal band, to whiny rock stars who fought against illegal downloading of their music through Napster.?No matter how you feel about Metallica, there is no denying that the band remains an influential and relevant force in modern metal and hard rock. ?

After a five year hiatus, Metallica is back with their ninth studio album and their best work since 1988’s …And Justice For All.?Death Magnetic, a heavily promoted album since May on Mission: Metallica, is the product of a band in dire need of reconnecting to a fan base that has felt let down by many of the band’s past efforts.?Fans are rabid for the glory days and their heroes’ thrash metal roots.?Death Magnetic is the album these fans have been waiting for and represents an end to Metallica’s attempt to reinvent itself. ?

Bob Rock, who produced Metallica’s last five albums, is gone and has been replaced by Rick Rubin.?Rubin’s presence and his history with producing thrash metal records is a much needed change for Metallica.?He pushes the band away from their recent foray into hard rock and back to their thrash metal roots.?Another example of progression that we see with the band is that for the first time in their history, every member has had input into each song.?Even new bassist Robert Trujillo has input into the album, which is a huge step for a band that has been seemingly anti-bassist for the past 20 years.

Death Magnetic is pure Metallica.?Musically, this album takes on the personality of a caged beast released for the first time, tearing and ripping at anything that moves.?Quite simply, the album rocks.?All of the old aggression remains and the band is tight.?Songs such as ?All Nightmare Long? and ?My Apocalypse? exhibit the band’s ability to still hammer out good thrash metal, while ?The Unforgiven III? and ?Cyanide? give us the feel of ’90s-era Metallica.?Though we are given a few tracks that sound more like Load/Reload-era Metallica, the majority of the album is fast and reminiscent of their earlier work. ?

One marked improvement over St. Anger is the sound of the drums.?Ulrich’s drums sound more like the booming drums of Metallica and not St. Anger’s annoying ?tin can? sound.?On Death Magnetic, it is also clear Kirk Hammett fought hard for the return of guitar solos and broke through the brick wall that is Ulrich and James Hetfield.?Hammett tears through the album at a frantic pace, delivering searing riffs and solos.?Trujillo appears on his first album with the band but unfortunately falls victim to Metallica’s tradition of downplaying the bass track.?While the music is the strength of this album, Hetfield remains a great frontman who growls and howls his way through each track.? All of the tracks featured on the album are over five minutes long and epic in scope. Death Magnetic even features an instrumental track, which has been missing from a Metallica album since …And Justice For All.? ?The Unforgiven III? is the only song that doesn’t fit in with the feel of the album and could have been left out.? ? ?

Metallica may never give us another album on par with Master of Puppets, but Death Magnetic is a step in the right direction for an iconic band that has long been marred by mediocrity.?It is easily one of the best metal albums of the year, so run out and pick it up or legally download it.?Highlights are ?That Was Just Your Life,? ?Broken, Beat, and Scarred,? ?All Nightmare Long? and ?My Apocalypse.?

THE VERDICT: 5/5

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Motley Crue – ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ – CD Review

Motley Crue – ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ – CD Review

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Motley Cure - Saints of Los Angeles

Motley Cure - Saints of Los Angeles

By STEVE JOHNSON

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With their first studio album since 2000, Motley Crue is back with a vengeance.?Saints of Los Angeles, the first album featuring all of the original members of the Crue since 1997’s Generation Swine, is a sonic journey into the inner workings of a band who has lived life to excess. Originally titled The Dirt, Saints of Los Angeles is a collection of songs loosely based on many of the outrageous stories found in their book of the same name. ?

This album screams of punk rock and glam metal influence, while adding a few modern touches to round out an excellent outing from the Crue.?Songs such as ?Down at the Whiskey? and ?This Ain’t a Love Song? remind us of the heyday of the Crue in the ’80s, while ?Mutherfucker of the Year? and ?The Animal In Me? represent more of a modern feel that may appeal to a younger generation of Crue fans. The title track of the album certainly will not disappoint longtime fans and?may single handedly be responsible for breathing new life into the Crue’s career. The song’s?release and success on Rock Band?exposes a new generation of fans to the band’s catalog of classics and positions them as a?relevant musical force for years to come.?

Despite many instances at recent live shows where Vince’s vocals have been less than spectacular, they are dead on throughout the album.?Nikki Sixx remains a top-notch songwriter and has collaborated with a variety of people on this album, including the album’s producer, Sixx: A.M. vocalist James Michael. Tommy and Mick also have songwriting credits on several of the album’s tracks. Mick, the most elusive and silent member of the band, remains a top notch guitar player who lays down some killer riffs in this outing. Tommy has finally returned to the band and has brought his booming rhythm section along with him.

Given the Crue’s history of internal and external conflict, this album could be their last for a while. Any fan of hard rock should pick up this album. Although Dr. Feelgood still remains the Crue’s definitive masterpiece, Saints of Los Angeles nips at it’s leather studded heels. Highlights include ?Face Down in the Dirt,? ?The Animal in Me,? and ?This Ain’t a Love Song.? ?

THE VERDICT: 5/5

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P.O.D. – ‘When Angels and Serpents Dance’ – CD Review

P.O.D. – ‘When Angels and Serpents Dance’ – CD Review

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P.O.D. - When Angels and Serpents Dance

P.O.D. - When Angels and Serpents Dance

By JASON PRICE

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It wasn?t long ago when the sounds of n?-metal were breathing life into the stale, struggling rock scene of the late ?90s and early 2000s. But as with any fad, it didn?t take long for the industry to figure out the formula and dilute the scene by churning out clones of the genre leaders. Eventually the scene burned itself out, but there are a few bands associated with it that are still forging ahead with new material. P.O.D. is one of these early n?-metal pioneers that continues to break new sonic ground. The are poised to release there seventh studio album, When Angels and Serpents Dance, and are setting themselves apart from many of their counterparts by continuing to a unique voice to the masses.

P.O.D. has been around in one form or another since 1992. They have experienced both high and lows in that time, including two stellar, multi-platinum albums and the departure of a core member (guitarist Marcos Curiel). Now, in 2008, the band is looking to put their past behind them and focus on what the future holds. When Angels and Serpents Dance is less about the past and more of a road to the future, yet it still has the undeniable passion that only P.O.D. can deliver.

With the original lineup of the band back in place, it seems that the chemistry within P.O.D. has been renewed. The new album at first listen is just as powerful as the two discs (The Fundamental Elements of Southtown and Satellite) that made them a household name. Casual listeners may be surprised to learn that the P.O.D of 2008 is much more than the heavily-rotated MTV hit-maker they remember. The band evolves on every release and this one is no exception. Sonny Sandoval takes a more melodic approach with his vocals on many of the tracks, as opposed to the rap/rock style many might expect. Have no fear, Sonny?s flow is alive and well. He just no longer relies solely upon it.

Simply put, the album is raw, ferocious and eclectic. It kicks off with ?Addicted,? a song custom made for the Curiel?s return. Curiel?s axe wails on this track and fills the void in the P.O.D formula in the past few years. Sandoval?s lyrics are just as powerful and timely, if not more so, than in previous outings. Fans looking for a deeper lyrical content than what is being force fed to the masses certainly will not be disappointed.

The album also pays tribute to some of the band?s musical influences with some terrific cameos. ?Kaliforn-Eye-A? features So-Cal legend Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves fame. The song is at its core a look back at their youth and the influences that shaped the band members into the men we see today. The collaboration serves as a noteworthy moment in the history of the band. The Marley Sisters (the daughters of Bob Marley) make an appearance on ?I?ll Be Ready,? a powerful reggae-infused track that is one of my favorite on this release. The band also employs the services of Helmet?s Paige Hamilton on ?God Forbid,? one of the album?s most aggressive tracks. It is every bit as heavy as anything you can find on the radio today and is screaming to be released as a single to outlets catering to heavier music, be it satellite or hard rock stations. Another gem on this album is the semi-acoustic track ?Tell Me Why.? It focuses on the current political climate in the world. The powerful, beautifully written ballad captures the spirit of our times and is a testament to the band?s songwriting ability.

When Angels and Serpents Dance is a solid album. It is good to see musicians who aren?t afraid to change and do things on their own terms. Hopefully, with the music industry changing more every day, others will take notice and follow the lead of musicians that aren’t afraid to take risks.

THE VERDICT: 4/5

Related Links:
www.payableondeath.com
www.myspace.com/payableondeath

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Sebastian Bach – ‘Angel Down’ – CD Review

Sebastian Bach – ‘Angel Down’ – CD Review

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Sebastian Bach - Angel Down

Sebastian Bach - Angel Down

By JASON PRICE

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Some voices come along every so often that define a genre and even a generation. As time passes, the voices that once ruled the airwaves as the gold standard seem to fade and even the genres they once inspired seem to have little creative life left in them. Luckily for us all, every once in a great while, there are exceptions to these rules. Such is the case with ever charismatic rock icon Sebastian Bach, who is about to unleash his latest genre redefining album, Angel Down.

This release marks Bach’s first solo studio album in more than seven years. During that time, the mulit-faceted Bach has not been stagnent by any stretch of the imagination. He immersed himself in several different creative outlets, with stints on Broadway (Jesus Christ Superstar, Jekyll & Hyde, Rocky Horror Picture Show) and television, ranging from drama to reality television (Gilmore Girls, Supergroup, Celebrity Rap Superstar). In 2005, Bach lent his skills as lead vocalist to record the progressive rock release Frameshift 2: The Absence of Empathy. Even as he was involved all of these endeavors, he managed to tour the world in support of long time friend Axl Rose and a little band known as Guns N’ Roses.

While touring, Bach gathered the musicians that he took into the studio to lay down one of his finest outings to date. Angel Down features “Metal” Mike Chlasciak and Johnny Chromatic on guitar, Steve DiGiorgio on bass and the powerful Bobby Jarzombek on drums. Roy Z (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Judas Priest) serves as producer and lends his magic touch to conjure a dynamic and decidedly crisp sounding album. This assemblage of seasoned talent delivers an album that is well worth the seven year wait. In a return to his true metal form, the album blasts off with the indisputably heavy title track, “Angel Down.” Bach removes all doubt that he is going to a nostalgia act, as many of his metal peers have done.

A major selling point of this record is the simple fact that Bach’s voice sounds as good, if not better, then it did on any of the Skid Row albums that launched his career. Bach attributes the power, longevity and youthfulness of his voice to the time he spent on Broadway. The second track on the album is the equally powerful “You Don’t Understand.” The song is reminiscent of what Bach had accomplished at his best in Skid Row and shows where much of the talent in the original band came from. It goes to show what a great voice, quality songwriting, rockin’ riffs and catchy melodies can do for a record, easily locking the song in your head for hours.

One of the biggest stories surrounding this album is the return of Axl Rose. Rose is featured on three songs: “Back in the Saddle,” “(Love is) A Bitchslap” and “Stuck Inside.” Bach and Rose are a dynamic duo, whether they are on stage together or in the studio. These tracks definitely will whet the appetite and not disappoint all GNR fans who are anxiously awaiting Rose’s epic in the making, Chinese Democracy. The power of both singers covering Aerosmith’s classic “Back in the Saddle” is undeniable, even earning a thumbs up from Steven Tyler. This track is a true rocker and surely will fill the airwaves of radio stations all over the country.

For fans looking to see the softer side of Bach, you will be pleased to hear his powerful brand of balladeering hasn’t gone away. “By Your Side,” which he revealed was one of the first songs he penned for the album back in the year 2000, is a mostly acoustic track that ranks up there with “I Remember You.” The vocal performance on that track alone removes all doubt that Bach is one of the best vocalists of his era and is still at the top of his game today.

This record, which has not a single bad song, is without a doubt a candidate for metal album of the year. Any of track could prove to be a major mainstream hit. The bar has been set high on this triumphant return. The great thing about this record is that Bach refuses to rest on his laurels. He easily manages to bring his voice and undeniable rock n’ roll flair into the new millennium with a fresh, up-to-date sound. Bach has breathed life into a genre where life support (and creativity) is desperately needed.

Angel Down, will be released Nov. 20 via a joint venture between Merovingian Music Ltd. (MRV) and Bach’s Get Off My Bach Productions, and distributed worldwide through Caroline/EMI Music Group.

THE VERDICT: 5/5

Related Links:
www.sebastianbach.com
www.myspace.com/sebastianblog
www.merovingianmusic.com

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Silverchair – ‘Young Modern’ – CD Review

Silverchair – ‘Young Modern’ – CD Review

200x200silverchairBy JASON PRICE

Silverchair first came into our lives in 1995, when the fresh-faced teens from Down Under assaulted alternative rock stations coast to coast with their hit album Frogstomp, featuring such hits as ?Tomorrow,? ?Pure Massacre? and ?Israel?s Son.? It was an impressive and powerful grunge/rock album considering that the band members were in their early teens and playing to the angst-ridden, post-Nirvana set still coping with the loss of Kurt Cobain.

Since that time when they briefly dominated the airwaves, Silverchair has continued to crank out quality albums. Their second release, Freakshow (1997) showed musical growth and managed to yield a gold record here in the United States. Shortly thereafter, the band unleashed Neon Ballroom. Critically, the album was fairly well received, but the focus in the media quickly became lead vocalist Daniel Johns? struggles with anorexia nervosa (which inspired ?Ana?s Song?). Once again, the band managed to up their game musically, bringing us the undeniable power of ?Anthem for the Year 2000? and earning another gold record.

The fourth studio album, Diorama, let the band branch out even further than before and move in a more art rock/progressive direction. This time, Johns also took the reigns as co-producer, alongside David Bottrill (Tool, King Crimson) and Van Dyke?Parks (Beach Boys, U2)?not bad company to keep in the studio. Though the album managed to capture six ARIA awards in their native Australia, it didn?t fair as well as previous efforts due to little international promotion, partly as a result of to Johns??poor health. This was a true turning point for the band as they announced an indefinite hiatus following the tour.

silverchair_wideweb__470x3052But enough with the history lesson. No longer at odds with their pasts, the future of the band is now. Young Modern, their first new studio album in five years, once again takes the band in new directions. The band returns with Diorama co-producers David Bottrill and Van Dyke Parks (who provides depth to several tracks with orchestral arrangements). It is obvious Silverchair is no stranger to reinventing their sound and this album is no?exception. It has twinges of Bowie, a throwback style in a similar vein to the White Stripes (but with more of a ?70s-soaked faux Conway Twitty vibe) and a sprinkling of pop and, at times, a hard rock element.

The main progression is in the vocals of Daniel Johns. His voice was always powerful on previous records and sometimes the focal point of the band. Now he uses it as more of a tool and seamlessly blends it with the different styles of music. One of the strongest tracks is ?Young Modern Station,? a powerful song in the same vein as ?Anthem for the Year 2000.? The band shines and may find some radio play with the melodic sounds of ?If You Keep Losing Sleep.?

Many artists dabble in these genre-straddling experiments and I, for one, find it interesting to see what they have under the hood. Results are often mixed, but Silverchair gets it right more often than not. With so many styles coming together as a unit, there is something to appeal to everyone on this record. The easiest way to describe this experimental brew would be to say it is more Bowie than Nine Inch Nails. This is just another step in the growth of a band and it is definitely a step forward.

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Shaw Blades – ‘Influence’ – CD Review

By JASON PRICE

Jack Blades (Night Ranger) and Tommy Shaw (Styx) are no strangers to? the music scene. With?more than three?decades of music history between them,? there is no doubt that this duo has influenced and inspired countless? numbers of performers. They are now paying homage to the sounds that influenced them. Influence is an idea they had discussed for years and have now?presented as the first release?from VH1 Classic Records. The album is the follow up to their 1995 collaboration Hallucination. The sophomore release does not disappoint.

The album is simply a collection of Tommy Shaw’s and Jack Blades’ favorite songs. A cover album often can?be dangerous?territory for an artist to venture into, but these classic vocalists make?raising the bar look easy. The album includes such hits of the ’60s?and ’70s as The Mamas & Papas’ ?California Dreamin?,? Simon & Garfunkel?s ?I Am a Rock? and ?The Sound of Silence,? Yes? ?Your Move? and the Zombies’ classic ?Time of the Season.”?? There isn’t a single choice on this album that?will fail to satisfy the listener.

In addition to the timeless songs, the duo brings fantastic?instrumentation and production to the disc. What? sets this disc apart from many other covers albums is the vocal work?by these two seasoned rockers. Blades and Shaw sound better?than ever and are at the top of their game. Their classic vocal?harmonies combined?with the crisp acoustic sound breathes new life into these hits. The fresh takes on these songs?make the music of the past easily accessible to a generation that?wasn’t necessarily brought up with these songs or the even the earlier outings by Shaw?and Blades.

Blades and Shaw shine on this album and bring what could?only be described as their unique presence or chemistry to each?song. It makes the listener wonder where the future will take them and if an album of new material could be on the way.

THE VERDICT: 5/5

TRACKLISTING:

1. Summer Breeze (Seals & Crofts, 1972)

2. Time of the Season (The Zombies, 1968)

3. Your Move (Yes, 1971)

4. I Am a Rock (Simon & Garfunkel, 1966)

5. Lucky Man (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, 1970)

6. The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel, 1964)

7. California Dreamin? (The Mamas & The Papas, 1963)

8. On?a Carousel (The Hollies, 1965)

9. Dirty Work (Steely Dan, 1972)

10. For What It?s Worth (Buffalo Springfield, 1967)

11. Dance With Me (Orleans, 1975)

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Pearl Jam – ‘Pearl Jam’ – CD Review

Pearl Jam – ‘Pearl Jam’ – CD Review

pearl_jam_cdBy JEN X

I hate to use a term like ?comeback album? for a band that never really left the music scene. However, Pearl Jam’s eighth album, which is untitled (but becoming known as the ?Avocado? album), may be the one that brings back the casual fan and thrusts them into the spotlight that they have shied away from for so long. Pearl Jam shunned endorsements, interviews and videos in the age of MTV. Despite being considered out of the ?mainstream,? they managed to stay relevant to fans, selling out major arenas around the country and moving millions of records and official concert bootlegs. This was due to their live show. Every concert promises to be something different, with set lists varied nightly, rarities and covers of their rock idols, as well as encores that are longer than most bands? main sets. This album is their debut release with J Records and is their first full-length studio release in four years.

The band is now doing interviews, making appearances on Letterman and SNL, and giving themselves the credit that is long overdue. And if ?Worldwide Suicide? is any indication, the rest of the world will be giving them credit, too. The first single debuted at number one on Billboard?s modern rock chart.

The album starts with the powerful one-two-three punch of ?Life Wasted,? ?WWS? and ?Comatose.? The first track features the battling guitars of Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, mixed with Eddie Vedder?s primal intensity on vocals. The lyrics show the maturity that has come with age and experience. Vedder seems to mock his younger, angrier self that spurned a fame that was built on angst: ?Darkness comes in waves/Tell me, why invite it to stay?/You?’re one with negativity/Yes, comfort is an energy/But why let the sad song play.? The video for ?Life Wasted? came out in May of 2006 and was the band?s first official video since 1998?s ?Do the Evolution.? ?Worldwide Suicide? is Pearl Jam at its best, with an immediate hook, driving rhythm section and lyrical imagery of the effects of war. ?Comatose? has a raw, punk-rock energy and is awesome performed live. With a McCready solo that borders on metal and Vedder?s style of singing through clenched teeth for which he is famous, it is hard to sit still while listening to this song.

Seeing the band perform ?Severed Hand? on SNL opened my eyes to the greatness of this song. So much happens before the first words are even sung, building to a trademark Pearl Jam crescendo. The anticipation begins with a light, airy sound before the drums and more guitars kick in for a second bridge. A third bridge takes it into an aggressive, pounding rhythm. When the words finally start, Vedder sounds a bit demented. When he asks, ?Want to take a ride?,? you can’t help but yell “YEAH!” with him.

The slow, emotion-drenched ?Come Back? has the aching, epic feel of ?Nothingman? from the band?s album Vitalogy. Vedder is amazing in that he can still evoke the kind of raw believable pain with his voice now that he?s at such a happy place in his personal life.

As much as ?Comatose? is a nod to their punk influence, the acoustic ?Parachutes? has an instantly recognizable Beatles influence. With Gossard and McCready?s carefree strumming, you can?t help but be happy when you hear this song. ?Gone,? the other slow track on the album, again showcases Vedder?s storytelling ability as he sings from the viewpoint of a man leaving the lights of the city behind.

The rest of the songs on the album continue to use great melodies and socially-timed lyrics with a softer but more powerful approach to address the problems of today?s society. ?Marker in the Sand? has a mix of good riffs, an infectiously catchy melody and lyrics that paint the picture of someone looking to God for guidance in this messed up world. ?Unemployable? is the story of a working-class man who just got laid off; the story opens as he dents his ?JESUS SAVES? ring when he punched his metal locker. ?Army Reserve,? with music written by bassist Jeff Ament, tells the story of a mother and child left behind while father is at war. An interesting note is that Damien Echols shares writing credits with Vedder on this song. Echols is on death row and has been making headlines for years due to the controversy surrounding the ?West Memphis Three,? who are well known to many metal fans. Pearl Jam, and specifically Vedder, have played a tremendous part in bringing this case to light by supporting Echols and the other two men who have been imprisoned (www.wm3.org).

?Inside Job? closes the album and is the first song to use McCready’s lyrics, causing you to wonder why he wasn?t writing songs earlier. The song, which exceeds seven minutes, starts off light and builds to a quicker tempo that matches the optimism of the lyrics.

Those who pre-ordered the album on Pearl Jam’s official website received a version of the album with different CD art and packaging than the retail version. Instead of the retail digipack packaging, the fan club pre-order resembles a book and has the liner notes bound inside it. In addition, a live CD of the band’s show on December 31, 1992 at The Academy in New York City also was included with the pre-order.

While Pearl Jam has continued to rock for the last 10 years with socially-charged songs, they return to their edgier, more aggressive roots with this venture. The band finally captures the energy that their live shows are famous for, and there is a sense of optimism that was lacking on the last two albums. To the fans that think that Vitalogy is the last album Pearl Jam made, I have this to say: Buy their self-titled CD today and welcome back.

THE VERDICT: 5/5

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