Friday, August 24, 2007

Random thoughts from MJ 08-24-07

1. I didn't get tickets for the the upcoming Van Halen tour. A week has gone by now, and I'm happy to report that I'm completely fine with this. I'm a bit put off that the other three guys have excluded Michael Anthony. I don't know what all happened, but I've heard reports now that they removed his images from their website, and have now removed him from the songwriting credits. That's just crap, no matter what the details are (although, I tend to think the remaining three are the problem). I'm glad I'm not partonizing this tour after hearing that. I've heard that there will be tapes used for Michael's backing vocals on the tour. I hope he at least gets money for that. So I'm going to the Hagar show when it comes to town, and I bet I will have a much better time than to have to watch Eddie meltdown again and listen to Roth runs his mouth off. There. I'm glad that's off my chest.

2. Just saw a news item that Steve Grimmett (ex- Grim Reaper vocalist, the master of the ending supreme voxwork at the end of "See You In Hell") is confirmed for Holland's "Heavy Metal Maniacs" Festival. God, that makes me so happy. What a great name for a festival. I would have loved to be in on that meeting when they were brainstorming for a name. I mean, when you get a ticket to that show, you know what you are in store for. No surprises. Apparently it's the eight year for this extravaganza. Right on. Metal is alive and well in Holland.

3. I was watching some special on KISS for the new Kissology DVD set - which covers the middle years of "Kisstory" (as Gene and Paul always say). It's a very intersting time frame: band members leaving and being replaced by other members that come up with new makeup characters, the band unmasking, etc. As much as I can understand Paul's assertion that the addition of new makeuped characters was getting ridiculous (Eric Carr was "The Fox" amd Vinnie Vincent was the "Ankh Warrior"), I suddenly felt bad for the two guys now that wear Peter and Ace's makeup. How lame is that? You know you're not fooling anyone. And it really is kind of a slap in the face to the original members.

It reminds me of a birthday party/sleepover I had as a kid. There were five of us and we all liked KISS and acted out the songs. Of course, the fact that there were five of us presents a problem, you know? So my friend Dan Jachera rises to the occassion and becomes "The Hunter". That may have been due to the fact that one of the other guys gave me a toy rifle for my birthday. So he had a good prop...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Album of the Week 03/05/07
Trouble - Trouble

Suggested by: MJ

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Album of the Week 01/29/07
Symphony X - Odyssey

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Suggested by: MH

Monday, January 22, 2007

Album of the Week 01/22/07
Balck Sabbath - The Mob Rules

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Suggested by: MJ
Album of the Week 01/15/07
Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death

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Suggested by: MH

Ok, let’s try this. We are going to review this song by song, but are only allowed one word for each song. Here goes…

A Different World

MH: Satisfying
MJ: Catchy

These Colours Don’t Run

MH: Solid
MJ: Transitions

Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

MH: Transcendent
MJ: Fantastic

The Pilgrim

MH: Pass
MJ: Filler

The Longest Day

MH: Classic
MJ: Soaring

Out Of The Shadows

MH: Filler
MJ: Pleasant

The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg

MH: Ambitious
MJ: Worthy

For The Greater Good Of God

MH: Power
MJ: Relentless

Lord Of Light

MH: Cunning
MJ: Noble

The Legacy

MH: Wow
MJ: Epic

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Album of the Week 01/08/07
"Weird Al" Yankovich - Off The Deep End

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Suggested by: MJ

MJ: Ok – anyone that reads this is liable to think I’ve gone nuts, but I’m comfortable enough in my musical opinions to go out on a limb here. I think Weird Al is a very talented artist. Most people know him from his very popular parodies: “Fat”, “Eat It”, etc. If that’s all there was to it, I think I would leave it at a nice chuckle, and move on. But a few years ago I dug a little deeper, and found a whole lot of brilliance in Weird Al’s catalog.

The parodies of course get everyone’s attention and will likely be the songs that sucks you in. But I started really appreciating his original songs. Additionally, on each of his albums he does a polka medley of hit songs of the day. I think the polkas are what made me realize that he really is a good musician. I saw some concert video where he went through a polka medley at breakneck speed. Transitions on a dime. Him and his band were TIGHT.

I could go on and on, but let’s get to this album specifically. I picked this one because as a full album I think it’s one of his best (plus I thought it would be funny to "force" MH to listen to it). “Smells Like Nirvana” is the opener, and was likely the song that sold the album the most. Other parody gems include “Taco Grande” (“Rico Suave”), “I Can’t Watch This” (Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”, and “The White Stuff”. “Taco Grande” is so simple, but so genius. He basically just says a lot of Mexican food items, but damn is it hilarious. At first glance, you might think “The White Stuff” is something about cocaine, but instead it is a song about Oreos based on “The White Stuff” by NKOTB. This brings me to one of the reasons I’m amazed at Al. What idea comes first in his head to make him do a parody? The reason that I’m confused by this is that there are many brilliant points of his songs – which are the genesis of his idea, and which are surprises to even him as he gets into it? With this song, did he just start with the rhyme of “white” and “right”, think of Oreos, then decide to go with a full song on Oreos? That works well enough for me: “I need the white stuff, baby, in the middle of an Oreo”. But then, if you know the original song, there’s the part where the New Kids go “oh, oh, oh oooo, oh, oh, oh, oh!”. Weird Al goes with “oh, oh, oh, oooo, O Oreo”. Brilliant. But which idea came first? Drives me nuts.

One of my favorite songs is called “Airline Amy”, in which Al is obsessed with a flight attendant and just goes around flying on all of her flights. The lyrics are very clever, but the one that gets me is when he says that he wants to get her in an “upright, locked position”. Right on…

I played this the week it was AOTW while I was at the gym working out. I bet people thought I was insane – no one should have that much fun on a treadmill…

One thing I think also is a testament to his talents is that my niece and nephew think the songs are funny and they don’t even know the original song that is being parodied.

On his latest album he does a parody of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in a Closet” called “Trapped in the Drive-thru”. My god is it brilliant. I bet as soon as Al heard that song he called up R. Kelly and thanked him. As long as there’s people that put out ridiculous crap like that song, Weird Al will be just fine…

I personally think Weird Al should be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. I’m serious. There’s no one that does this like him. You hear the songs and think, “why didn’t I think of that” or “I could totally do that”. But no one else really does, and if they do, they’re not good as Al. Period. He’s been doing this for a long time, and doing it well. He’s defined this genre of music, and is the undisputed King.

If these strong feelings make me out to be some kind of dork, so be it. I think the shit is funny, and will never file this under “guilty pleasures”. The shit is funny, makes me laugh, and I’m oftentimes in awe of just how genius his stuff is. So there…

MH: Who'da thunk that Weird Al would be as long lasting as he is? I sure didn't. I remember buying my first Weird Al tape in a big ol KMart off Torrence Avenue in Lansing Il. (Future hang out sight of your fearless Brothers of Metal for Powerfest 2005 Fuck Yeah, Imagika!!!!) It was called Dare to be Stupid. I don't even remember why I bought it, just because I had to, and I was 11. It had the song, 'Girls just wanna have Lunch.' Which I still quote everyonce in a while. (She eats like she's got a hole in her neck.......) Plus the hit, 'I wanna new Duck.' (One that won't try to bite.) I fell in love with the polka medley at the end of the tape. Which I am glad that he still does on every album. He summizes the year's big hits polka style! Right on. It's great.

So basically, this album is nothing different than what I bought 20 odd years ago. And why would it be? The Polka is there. The song where his lover who is leaving him does really bad things to his shit. Go on Weird Al. The cover of the album is a paraody of Nirvana's Nevermind. It's a little more skin than I needed to see on him. But oh well. Everyone is a miracle and attractive to someone. My personal favorite on this disc is "Nacho Grande" a take off of "Rico Suave" based on the many delicious items at teh ever entertaining Taco Bell, or the T-Bizz. Nice. Right on. I 'm not sure if this will stay in rotation, but it's nice to have. I wish he would just put out a cd of all of his polkas. Dare to be stupid had 99 luft balloons and Bang your head on it. I should find that tape....I don't know if I still have it. I also had Even Worse with "Fat". He's funny. And he has a new hit out. Still cranking it out. Good for you. Make your money, Polka boy......
Album of the Week 01/01/07
Queensryche - Rage For Order

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Suggested by: MH

This is the granddaddy of all albums for MH & MJ. It showed each of them the light to their “Brother In Metaldom”. Therefore, this one deserves some special treatment. Below is a track-by-track analysis, with input from both metallists.

Walk in the Shadows

MH: I recently found out this track was about vampires. I guess it IS obvious, but I was too busy singing along to this instead of focusing on the lyrics. Haha. Out of the GATE and ready to please this track says to me. I still listen to this alot. That means it's a good album. The one that started it all for me and my BOM. Great guitars. Great singalong at the show. Everytime they play this, I sing like I've never sang it before....

MJ: I’m not sure there is a much better opener to any album. God, I love this song. This was the first song I heard from QR, most likely in my high school friend Dan Jachera’s Le Mans. I was weird about QR at the time. Since I wasn’t the one who discovered them, I was a little cold on them at first. Plus, looking at the picture inside the cassette case where they are trying to look all gothic (especially Geoff…), I just didn’t want to like them. But in the end, I came to my senses and was won over. And this song did it…

I Dream In Infrared

MH: Not sure if I would have done a ballad for the second track in a running order sort of way, but this song does have Geoff wailing like a banshee. And that's a good thing. Especially when he is screaming, “I can't feel anymore...." I love how this album has a sort of, 'Technology could be evil' theme that they started in NM156 and continues throughout the album.......

MJ: After that first blistering track, the first part of this song seems like kind of a letdown. Then there is a hint of awesomeness, then it goes back to being mellow. But you know it’s about to build. Then it does, and Geoff’s vocals just soar. It would rank in the bottom half of the album for me, but I do think this showcases GT’s vocals nicely. I was always intrigued by the title of the song, but never really understood what I was supposed to be getting out of it.

The Whisper

MH: A couple of times we saw them live, they opened with this. Not the best opener, and his voice was not as strong as it was on the recording, but oh well. Usually I just look at Mike and say, "Yup, the Whipser again, but maybe they'll play Jet City Woman next....." but at least we're at a Queensryche show and not somewhere else....Probably my 2nd least favorite song on the album...

MJ: Great transition at the beginning from the previous song. I always liked this song. I think the vocals are fantastic (of course). It sounds really evil in the chorus with the whispering lines, and I like how they intersperse with the group backing vocals and GT’s lines. Plus, it ends with a gong. I’m a sucker for gongs.

Gonna Get Close to You

MH: I thought this song was perfect. It builds and changes and rocks and mystifies. I thought that it captured obsessive love so well in its tale. And how the emotion was a very man thing to say. When I found out it was written by a woman, I was kind of shocked. The Ryche made this song their own though. I often sing this when I'm pseudo stalking someone on the train or in a store or something. Just start singing, "If you knew my infinite Charm. Oh-whoa, there'd be no reason to be so alarmed..." Says it all. I always thought that if Roger Clemens knew my infinite charm he would be mine. The guitar sound on this is so piercing and tight. I think this helped me get into them. Plus the image of Geoff Tate brooding in the video was cool, too.

MJ: This is the song that really made me love QR. Funny how they didn’t even write it. It’s got such a great build-up, and creates such a desperate mood. Probably one of if not my favorite vocal performance from GT. He runs the gamut on range, and just blows the doors off in some select parts. I love the part that goes “if you knew my infinite charms…”. It takes its time, and then you get a nice scream from Geoff. A couple years ago I awarded this as my #1 QR song. I still feel pretty good about that pick. One of my favorite mp3s I ever found was the original version of this song. It’s also very cool, and is very interesting how QR didn’t really change it all that much, but at the same it sounds quite different.

The Killing Words

MH: I, the first million times I heard this song, wasn't sure if I liked it. Sometimes I get bored with the introspective ballads that Queensryche tend to do. As I've gotten older, I've grown to love the screaming chorus of, "OVER...OVER. Too late to take a chance again...You're killing me with words." Plus this has some of the best harmonic guitar work on this album. I feel they were experimenting, and I feel they were starting to hit their stride as songwriters with this one. Just kind of practice for Operation Mindcrime, the next studio album........

MJ: Once again, I think Geoff is the highlight of this song. There are great build-ups to get to the chorus, and some nice vocal gymnastics on GT’s part. Pretty darn passionate song. It’s one of those songs that when I look at the song list it doesn’t jump out at me as one of my favorites, but I always enjoy it when I’m listening to it.

Surgical Strike

MH: Good start off for the second side of the tape. Remember tapes? They had to be flipped? Of course you do. I always had to flip this and rewind a bit so I could get every note off this album ingested. I couldn't get this song out of my head when we invaded Iraq. They kept saying, 'surgical strike' on the news, and I would drift away on a sea of charging drum riffs and killer fast guitars. Man, when the Ryche go fast, I am paying attention and LOVING it.

MJ: This was never one of my faves off this album, but musically it is quite solid. It’s a good one to clear out the cobwebs, you know. Good one to air drum to…

Neue Regal

MH: I always liked this song, but sometimes forget about it when talking about the Ryche. I love how he screams Neue Regal is here at the end. He is such a good singer, and this album was his. He stepped up to the plate and OWNS this album. I still don't know what it's about.

MJ: Great vibe going on this song. There’s a lot going on sonically – weird muted vocals, sound effects, creepy sounds – the Geoff just soars over everything and churns out some sassy vocals. I love the back and forth on the chorus between main and backing vocals. It’s solid and very Rychean, if you will…

Chemical Youth (We are Rebellion)

MH: Not my favorite. Good try, though. The wave of Eighties is No. 3. (?) I also have a problem with the word Anarchy in songs. Seems like a buzzword that you throw in to make you sound tough. Ah, well....

MJ: There are parts of this song that I dig, but for the most part it just sounds sort of dumbed-down compared to the rest of the album. Especially the part when they sings “if we don’t stand together, we stand to lose the future” and on and on. But then right after that there’s some cool weird vocals and good chaotic riffs to close out the song, so it ends nicely…


MH: This song is probably one of my favorite ballads that these geniuses have put out. I can't explain it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they name check my BOM's birthday in this song in the first line. That's certainly awesome. I think this has one of the greatest guitar solos in Ryche history. The dual axe attack of Chris and Michael needs to be respected (and missed since Chris left the band). Geoff's voice soars like an eagle on this one. A London Eagle.

MJ: This song has really nice structure. It takes it’s time to get to the rocking part (hey, I’m in no hurry…). I love the build-up and culmination of the chorus – man, that is just fantastic! Great guitar breaks as well. I probably have never thrown this on any of my QR Top 20 lists, but now I’m starting to wonder why. The vocals after the guitar solos after the first chorus are pure ecstasy! This one will leave you with a big ole glop of cream in your jeans. It’s funny, when I think about this song, I remember the “London! London!” chorus, which isn’t the best part of the song at all. It’s also very cool that the song starts out mentioning my birthday…

Screaming In Digital

MH: This song used to scare me a bit. I think the word 'screaming' always alarmed me. And to be screaming in digital, well, that's just insane. But, this is the song I always play on this album. I think it has the best chorus ever. When they get into "Hush, Now...I'm not your slave." I celebrate Rock music. This is why I was put on this planet. To jam with my boys. It is so melodic and beautiful underneath such aggressive topics. Which I think might have been the point. That is such an advanced age, that music gives grace and beauty even though the subject might be oppressive and difficult. Bottom line, one of the greatest tunes by this band. Well done. When I saw them do this song when we first saw the Ryche together, me and QM, I thought I was gonna pee. I was giddy as a heavy metal school boy. They played it after they opened with NM156. Come ON!!!! They rule.

MJ: What a transition from London into this beauty. Insane vocals throughout! God, I love this song. For how great the beginning of this album is, I think I forgot how much of a bang it ends on! This song and “London” really bring it home. This song just sounds like they gave it a lot of thought and made sure they nailed it down. No fluff, everything that’s there is needed, necessary, and very much APPRECIATED. Wow.

I Will Remember

MH: I always thought this had a great feel... The acoustic guitars kind of wind down the album. It did, however, introduce, the strange whistling sensation that Geoff tries to put on each album. Of course, when he does his speaksinging and whistling and all that moody stuff, it's gotta be Geoff's idea. He's a big personalitied guy and I'm sure he has a ton of weight when it comes to artistic decisions on the albums. Oh well. I think it closes off the album nicely, and I usually just flip the tape and start the whole thing over at this point......

MJ: The first part of this song sounds like a bit of a letdown, and I’m not a big fan of the whistling that comes in from time to time. But after a couple minutes it starts to pick up speed and starts to show that it wants to start rocking again. Acoustic guitars all around. I guess it’s a fine way to bring things down a bit and the album to a close. There just a point towards the end that I think they could have pushed it over the top for a little bit, then came back down and wrapped it up. But, hey, I’m not complaining. By this point, I have been thoroughly rocked...