Thursday, December 21, 2006

Top 5 Concerts Attended in 2006


This was my most productive concert-going year: 35 shows in all. I don't think I'll ever top that. It was a great year...

1. Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band @ First Midwest Ampitheater - I decided to go at the last minute and didn't really have that high of expectations, but the show absolutely blew me away. His 18-piece band packed a huge punch and he really looked like he was having fun. Superb.

2. Roger Waters @ First Midwest Ampitheater - I was so excited to see him and he did not disappoint.

3. Queensryche @ Potawatami Bingo Casino in Milwaukee - Great seats made this one special.

4. Mastodon @ Metro - Raw and powerful.

5. Y&T @ Chicago City Limits - The boys playing on our home turf for a change...

Other notable shows: Iron Maiden, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Sammy Hagar, Journey & Def Leppard, Paul Stanley, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, Tenacious D, Boris, David Zollo @ an Iowa wedding and Mutiny in Chicago (two shows).


1. Mastodon @ Metro -For a couple of seconds before their show started, I was standing right next to Brent Hines. That was nice. Covet. Plus. Mastodon at the Metro. Perfect.

2. Built to Spill @ Metro (two nights) - It's always a pleasure.

3. Lemonheads @ Double Door -I smiled so much during this show...

4. Unholy Alliance: Slayer, Mastodon, Lamb of God, Children of Bodom @ Aragon Ballroom - So hot. So many shaved heads and tatoos, I could hardly stand it.....

5. Queensryche @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino - Simply because we could sit and still be in the front. Mindcrime I and II and discount coupon for blackjack.....


5. Iron Maiden @ Allstate Arena - The WHOLE NEW ALBUM?!? Yes, please.....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Album of the Week 12/25/06
Iced Earth - Live at Metro Chicago, IL 04-20-04

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: So to cap off 2006, I thought it only fitting to pay homage to my greatest musical discovery of 2006: a bit torrent site giving users the ability to share and download live bootlegs. It’s been an eye-opening experience and an exciting journey. Definitely the best thing to happen to my personal music experience since the mp3 player.

First, I will defend the practice of sharing live bootlegs. I personally think it should be far down on any copyright infringement enforcement task list, and best if omitted completely. Now, let me clarify – I used the word “sharing”. This site is specifically for those of us who want to listen to this stuff for our own pleasure, not to take these live recordings, package them, and sell them for profit. Also, the site will ban downloads that include any officially released material. For instance, if an artist used a live recording for a greatest hits package or a bonus track, the “offending” tracks have to be removed in order to let users continue downloads. They have their shit together, and they are providing this site for music lovers only. I’m a BIG fan of this site.

As far as the argument goes that you are ripping off the artists, I just don’t buy it. Of the bands I download from this site (and I think this is the case with most other users), in most cases I have purchased most of their official releases. I’ve given them plenty of my money. I just want more material to listen to. In most cases, the stuff that I have downloaded will NEVER be considered for an official release (case in point – this AOTW). But just because the record companies will never agree to release it due to suboptimal sound or the doubt that it will be a commercial success, does that mean that rabid fans should be denied these unique performances? What a damn shame that would be…

So enough defending this practice – let’s get into how I found this site, and why and how it’s changed me. Completely by coincidence prior to learning about the torrent site, I was at the library in the music section looking for a book. I came across the book “Bootleg: The Secret History Of The Other Recording Industry” by Clinton Heylin. I really got it as a backup in case the book that I came for sucked (it did). So I really enjoyed this book, but it was very dated. It was written before the whole mp3 craze and music downloading. Then unrelated to this book, I kept thinking how cool it would be to have video of Queensryche back in the day – specifically on the Rage For Order tour. I had been reading a QR message board and there was a section called “The Art Of Live” where people talk about live shows they have, etc. The problem is, anywhere I saw people talking about this it always required that you had to have something to trade with them (that they would want) to get their goods. I posted a question asking people how they got started and any suggestions for me who doesn’t have squat. A couple of folks sent me personal messages and led me to the torrent site. Ever since, I’ve been going nuts. There have been times that I have bordered on obsession. Anyway, one of the guys on the QR site started a QR DVD “torrent war” on the site so I could download a bunch of great stuff. That was the coolest thing. At first I just thought it was a coincidence, but then I emailed the guy and he pretty much fessed up that he was behind it. Very cool…

[Man, I’m kind of rambling here, but I’ll try to wrap this up and get to the point!]

I was never really into bootlegs before. I always thought it was weird how some people collect basically every show from the favorite artists. I just didn’t get it. But the fact of the matter is that I love live music. I love the whole experience of a live concert: scoring tickets, the build-up before the show, the minute the lights go out and you know this thing is ON!, the crowd, an obscure song a band plays, the feeling that you are hearing the best live music playing in town right at that particular moment, getting blown away by something, etc., etc. So this leads me to my ranking of treasures in the realm of bootlegs:

1. A show you were
2. A show from a tour you saw
3. An historic concert from a tour that you didn’t see
4. A show/tour that you missed that you are now kicking yourself for
5. A show from a band that you are thinking about getting into
6. A show from a band that you are thinking about going to see
7. A show from a band that you are definitely going to see when they come around

Those last two are ranked low because it can kind of ruin your live experience when you see the show. I’ve kind of ruined this a bit by looking at setlists beforehand, but this would be the ultimate. What I have done in the past is gone ahead and downloaded these, but in the case of #6, just listen to a little bit, and in the case of #7, not listen to until after the show I go to – but then I guess it turns into a #2. Obviously, within these rankings would include the sound/performance quality of each show, but you get my point.

So finally that brings me to the whole point of this – this week’s AOTW (finally!!!!)…

Well, Iced Earth Live in Chicago 2004 (April 20th, to be exact) was a show I was at, and a great recording to boot! Mark and I were pretty damn into Iced Earth and their new album, “The Glorious Burden” before this show. In fact, we went to see them again in Milwaukee a few days later. This bootleg gave me much more appreciation for what we saw. The singer, Tim “Ripper” Owens was absolutely wailing that night. And the riffs from Mr. Schaffer were awesome, as expected. What I think back as the greatest moment of the show by far was when they left the stage and the crew started rolling out old Civil War flags and it became evident that they were going to do “Gettysburg”, their 32-minute magnus opus from the new album. It was the highlight of the album for us, and definitely the highlight of the show. I don’t think they will ever do it in entirety again. So I feel lucky to have seen this tour (twice…). And now I feel even more lucky to have the ultimate souvenir from the show, a live recording of those moments we shared with the band and the surrounding crowd. Ok, I guess Ripper’s mic or micstand would also be pretty cool. Or Schaffer’s guitar. Or one of those Civil War flags. Or the Glorious Burden backdrop. Or someone’s underpants (better if it’s from a band member, but I guess one from a crowd member would be okay as well…).

MH: I swear you can hear the two of us screaming for this band in the background. This was such a whirlwind show. I remember I had to leave rehearsal early to get to this one. I missed all the opening bands, but got there in time for IE. I wasn't gonna miss this show. It had Ripper as the lead singer, and I think he's hot. Plus it was a metal band at the Metro. The greatest place to see live music. For Real.

This was also a catch up for my introduction into IE. I only knew a few of the tracks since we (Queensryche Mike and I ) had just started to listen to them. I would have loved to see them with the original singer Matt Barlow, but I am glad to see Ripper burning it up, yo. So the night was going to be relatively new to me.... I had the new album, but didn't know the back catalogue.... Notice the british way I spelled catalogue. I'm cool.

I just remember the anticipation of when they were going to come out and do the ENTIRE Gettysburg 32 minute long song. No way, are they really? Darn right. They pulled it off, and I loved every freaking minute of it. They need to tour again. Jon Shaeffer needs to get his back fixed or at least get a really cool back brace and stand him up and get him to riffing. I could use another show with them. We of course, drove to Milwaukee four days later and saw the same show at the Rave, which I highly recommend, and hope to do so again.
Not to be 14 and writing stuff on my folders at school, but Iced Earth Rule.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Album of the Week 12/18/06
Celtic Frost - Monotheist

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Suggested by: MH

MH: Now I just did a review for IQ saying how certain genres need to be taken in small amounts, right? Well, this one definitely falls into that category. Whenever these songs come on random, I am so excited and am happy with the aural assault that they do to my ears, but as I tried to listen to the whole album, I find my mind wandering. I think the music is great. The guitars are fantastic. It's heavy, aggressive, evil, all that shit. But I'm so ready for the album to be over. Now I once read in a Lester Bangs book, that music is perfect in it's form, and if you don't like a certain kind of music, it's just that your brain may not be ready to process it. I've struggled with that alot. I mean, I have been a convert to certain types of music or artists, and I feel this is true. But sometimes after I am listening to this type of death metal, I want to listen to something super adult contemporary. Like Melissa Manchester or The Mighty Barry Manilow. Just as a pallet cleanse. I'm sure that I will always have this as an option to listen to, but am not sure if I'm gonna pull it out at a party. Like I would pull out Bootylicious or Funkadelic.

I did put the song 'Winter' on my Christmas cd that I gave out to my family. It's properly gothic and gorgeous. It's an instrumental with a lot of forboding strings doing really long notes. Plenty of dischord and dissonance, too. It brings up imagery of cold, old drafty churches, solitude, and your hands and feet never getting quite warm enough. Which is the emotion that I'm sure they were going for. Mission accomplished, my death metallists. I ain't mad atcha. And is it pronounced Celtic with a "Kel" or Celtic, like the fabulous Boston Celtics? The mind reels....

MJ: Now this is some evil shit. And I love it. Kind of doomy in parts, with really crunchy riffs. I usually like good-quality doom metal – slow that shit down and just beat me over the head with that slow and sludgy, deep, dark and nasty jam.

This falls into that category of fairly brutal metal with that little extra something that keeps it on the side of good as opposed to monotonous crap. And that can be a very thin line, my friend.

When I first started listening to this several months ago, it struck me as the kind of music that I just couldn’t listen to straight through. Just a bit TOO much you know. But even in a period when I haven’t been listening to too much metal, this sounded really good to me – and I happily went the distance.

I think there is a lot of emotion on this album. The song “Ground” with the repetitive lyrics: “Oh God….why have you forsaken me…” is pretty damn intense. I mean, he means what he’s singing. A lot of the vocals on this album are repetitive, but to a good overall effect, in my opinion.

I really like this singer’s voice as well. It’s very effective in its evilness, but not so over the top that you can’t understand anything. Sometimes it even sounds a bit gothic, a la Peter Murphy of Bauhaus.

This was a good pick to start rounding out year. It was the AOTW in effect through Christmas Eve. I feel that we have officially exorcised the demons of 2006…

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top 5 Songs with the Word "Lonely" in the Title

1. Lonely Side Of Town - Y&T
2. Lonely Is The Night - Billy Squier
3. There Is Lonely - Prince
4. Only The Lonely - The Motels
5. Lonely Nights - White Lion

1. Lonely At The Top – Randy Newman
2. Only The Lonely – Roy Orbison
3. Lonely Days – Bee Gees
4. Lonely Weekends – Charlie Rich
5. Lonely Side Of Town – Y&T

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Album of the Week 12/11/06
IQ - The Wake

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: I picked this without ever hearing it, based on reading somewhere that I should dig these guys if I’m a fan of certain other bands (namely, Marillion). I was sort of taken aback since I’d never even heard of them. So I decided to give them a spin.

I listened to this first at work, which is a terrible place to get a first impression. The volume is down way too low for starters, plus I get distracted. So after that listen, I was ready to do my write up – basically pan the album and talk about how it’s never a given that you will like a band because they are “similar” to some band you dig. This thesis was reinforced this weekend from another event, which I’ll get to later.

I usually try to listen to each AOTW more than once, particularly ones that are new to my ears. So I thought I would give this another chance. I queued it up on my mp3 player, but put a backup after it in case I just couldn’t get into it. Low expectations, my friends…

So off I go. Definitely prog rock – you can’t hide from those keyboards. The singer’s voice was not bothering me – kind of a cross between Tommy Shaw (Styx), Geddy Lee (Rush), Jon Anderson (Yes) and maybe someone else that I just couldn’t figure out. The music style sounds a little dated, it is from 1984 (22 years ago!). But I can’t poke holes at their musical abilities. There’s some pretty intricate stuff on here. There was one song (“The Thousand Days”) that kind of reminded me of that Flock of Seagull’s song “Space Age Love Song”. And oddly, that didn’t bother me that much. So I didn’t turn it off.

This one could actually grow on me a bit over time. I may even check out some of their more recent releases. And I was this close to discarding them forever…

Prog rock/metal is a tough thing. I think there is a fine line between good and cheesy. And I think this line is in a different place for everyone. This is a particularly delicate genre to turn people on to. I’ll be surprised if MH digs this one.

So what about the event over the weekend that I was talking about before? Ok, here goes. I was scanned my TV for HD things to DVR, and came across Dream Theater Live at Budokon. This is a band I’m supposed to like given that I like prog rock/metal and particularly because I like Queensryche. I’ve listened to a few of their CDs. I keep trying to get into them because I felt like I should – and hoping that I will get off on them like I do on Queensryche (the more the merrier!). But after watching a bit of this concert, it is finally apparent to me: I don’t like Dream Theater. There, I said it. It’s done and I’m extremely over it. It’s all about the vocals – they just sound weak and thin to me. I’ve seen the lead singer’s name on lists of best vocalists, but I just don’t get it. Coincidently, it’s of the same style as IQ’s singer, but I like his voice so much more.

So this reminds me once again that there are no guarantees when it comes to digging music. Sometimes the fact that a band “sounds just like” a band you love doesn’t mean shit. You may think, “yes, I can see your point, but there is one difference: they suck and the band I like rules”. And no one can really argue with that. I guess sometimes people say this without really trying to get into the music, but there’s nothing you can do about that (besides maybe duct-taping a pair of headphones around their head). Music is subjective. And I will not be subjecting myself to Dream Theater anymore…

MH: Man, this was an album that truly tested my patience. In a good way, I mean, at least I'm sitting listening to music instead of tarring a roof or something like that. Sometimes when an album is a specific type, in this case, prog rock, you kind of have to be in the mood to listen to it. In my humble experience, if it's not hitting you , it's hard to be dropped into a concept album. Because most prog albums are concepts....

I love the use of keyboards on this album. I have always loved interesting use of keyboards. And they have some good harmonies on this too. I think the idea of a choir of angels is fun and should be used in EVERY recording somehow. Don't we all need a choir of angels? For Real. Okay, I think that's all I have to say. I didn't really get into this, would love to, but I don't know If I feel like making time for another prog band. I can't even get through my Dream Theater CDs in one sitting and I've had them for years....

Friday, December 08, 2006

Top 5 Musician's Names in Metal


1. Matthias Jabs
2. Udo Dirkschneider
3. Warren DeMartini
4. Nicko McBrain
5. Bobby Blotzer

Honorable mention: Lemmy Kilmister


1. Zakk Wylde
2. Rudy Sarzo
3. Rick Savage
4. Bobby Blotzer
5. Yngwie Malmsteen

Honorable mention: Dave Meniketti. I'm not sure, but I think it's Dave Meniketti...
Album of the Week 12/04/06
Def Leppard - On Through The Night

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Suggested by: MH

MH: Okay, yo, this is the one that started it all. The first album by the mighty Def Leppard. I was such a huge Lep fan. They were my first band that I loved. I started with Pyromania, then got heavy into High and Dry. I never really got this one. I always knew that I would want it, and probably like it since I LOVE High and Dry. I'll even go so far as saying that it's my favorite Lep album. But this one, I never had. I did have a Union Jack Shirt though. I was cool. No one could touch me.

Queensryche Mike hooked my ass up with this album. It's all good. Now I feel that the song writing on this is still a little green, but that is entirely because it was their first album. It's a little more garage and raw, which is great considering where they have been on the last few albums, polished and perfect. I like the energy of "Sorrow Is A Woman", and you can not deny the awesomeness of the cover with the giant guitar on a truck rollin through space. That is pretty much as cool as you can get. I would love a t-shirt with that image on it, big time. It could go well with Mike and my plan to wear the most embarrasing ridiculous shirts to various opportunities. So far, Mike would love to do ZZ Top "Afterburner" I think Bon Jovi 7800 degrees farenheit. We would be cool as heck then. I don't think This album is as ironically funny, so I wouldn't feel too weird wearing this one. Maybe a Styrper shirt would be cool too. Or Trixter.

MJ: I typically only play two DL CD’s: “High ‘N’ Dry” and “Pyromania”. So it’s good to expand my scope from time to time. I will admit, I’m not sure I ever played this one in entirety before.

My main take on this album is that it really shows how Lep evolved and got much better. I guess it’s all about developing and building on what you’ve done before. This album sounds so much different than the two MONSTERS that came out subsequently (the two I’ve mentioned before…). Kind of a stripped down sound, sort of subdued rocking, and vocals that make me wonder at times if it is Joe Elliott.

Another thing that got my attention was how awesome many of the song titles are, but that they don’t really live up to the level of rocking the name implies. I mean, come on: “Rock Brigade”, “Wasted”, “Rocks Off” and “Answer to the Master”? “Rock Brigade” comes closest, and is probably my favorite song on the album behind “Hello America”.

Here’s a weird thing about this album. When Mark threw this out, my first reaction was that I didn’t know it that well and looked forward to it. I was ready given that I remember loving the song “On Through The Night”. But get this: that song’s not on this album. It’s on “High ‘N’ Dry”. I seem to recall some other artist with this same situation, but it escapes me right now. Very strange.

It’s very interesting listening to this and thinking about what was going to happen to this band over the next few years. They really kicked things into gear. I suspect part of this was songwriting maturity, but mostly I think it was that they hooked up with a good producer. Their next three albums were produced by the now legendary “Mutt” Lange, and not coincidently those were their biggest and best (the big two mentioned above, then “Hysteria” - we’re talking millions of records!). The boys just needed a little help with their rock. And boy did they get it…

One last comment I have: I always pretty much hated this album cover. I think that was another reason I didn’t listen to it much. I should think a huge guitar like that is awesome, but it just doesn’t work, in my opinion.