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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Supersonic Blues Machine: West of Flushing, South of Frisco Review

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

superSupersonic Blues Machine, formed by bassist and vocalist Fabrizio Grossi, and drummer Kenny Aronoff with guitarist Lance Lopez, has just set out on their maiden voyage with their release West Of Flushing South Of Frisco. In addition to the already stellar line up, the release features guest performances by Billy Gibbons, Walter Trout, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Eric Gales and Chris Duarte making this super group even “more super.”

If you are familiar with Lance Lopez’s music then you know that this album is all about hard driving southern rock and blues based riffs. The album opens with the southern rock inflected “Miracle Man.” All the Lopez penned tracks are strong but here he shows off his knack for great hooks. In the right hands (or wrong hands depending on your point of view) the hooks are catchy enough to find a home on country radio. But don’t be alarmed. He follows up with the minor key grooving “I Ain’t Falling Again” and from that point on, the album just burns the entire farm to the ground.

The guest artists all put their unique stamp on their perspective tracks. Billy Gibbon’s “Running Whiskey” could be a lost ZZ Top track and “Remedy” with Warren Haynes would sound at home on a Gov’t Mule record. Both Chris Duarte and Eric Gales give empassioned performances. The ballad “Let’s Call It A Day” is a perfect vehicle for the legendary Robben Ford and shows him at this melodic best. He and Lance even do a little harmony work on the intro as well as near the end of the track.

West of Flushing, South of Frisco is a total treat for the those of us who crave great hard driving blues based rock and ear frying guitar playing. The core of Supersonic Blues Machine of Lopez, Grossi, and Aronoff have nothing to prove. They could easly have carried the entire project themselves. The guest stars are just icing on an already very tasty cake.

The Review: 9.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Miracle Man
– Running Whiskey
– I Ain’t Falling Again
– Nightmares and Dreams
– That’s My Way

The Big Hit

– Remedy

Leslie West: Soundcheck Review

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

west soundcheckFor his sixteenth solo album, Soundcheck, Leslie West, gives us his take on some of the coolest blues, rock, country, and traditional music from the past one hundred years. This well chosen set demonstrates that Leslie West’s monstrous guitar tone and crushing voice are still going strong. Soundcheck is raw and ballsy and a fun listen from start to finish.

The record opens with the slide guitar drenched blues rocker “Left By the Roadside to Die.” This sets the tone (pun intended) for what’s to come. Other highlights include West’s lick trading with Queen’s Brian May on the rowdy standard “Goin’ Down” (which also features Bonnie Bramlett and Bobby Whitlock).  Also of note is the acoustic guitar instrumental “Stern Warning,” an original that he penned for his longtime friend Howard Stern. One of the real surprises on this record is the Leslie West/Peter Frampton collaboration on the singalong  “You Are My Sunshine.” They replace the familiar major key sing-songy melody and give it a minor key treatment. This ends up being one of the most interesting tracks on the record. Other fun covers include the Gretchen Wilson hit “Here for the Party” and the Willie Dixon penned “Spoonful” featuring the late Jack Bruce on vocals and bass. Also of note is an instrumental take on the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” that’s played by band bassist Rev Jones.

Considering a career that dates back to the Vagrants in the late 1960s, hard rock titans Mountain during the 1970s, and a legendary solo career that has spanned five decades, Soundcheck is an excellent addition to the Leslie West catalog and legend. If you haven’t checked out what Leslie has been up to lately this Soundcheck is a great place to start.

The Review: 8.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Goin’ Down
– You Are My Sunshine
– Spoonful
– Here For The Party
-Left By The Roadside To Die
The Big Hit

-Left By The Roadside To Die

 

The Sheepdogs: Future Nostalgia Review

Friday, October 16th, 2015

the sheepdogsLet’s step into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine forFuture Nostalgia the latest from Saskatoon’s The Sheepdogs. We will set the dial for the late 1960s to early ’70s and just cruise, while The Sheepdogs straddle the difficult line between nostalgia and being original.

This time around frontman Ewan Currie along with engineer Matt Ross-Spang handled the production duties. The aptly titled Future Nostalgia delivers 18 classic rock inspired tracks. The signature guitar and vocal harmonies which have been a Sheepdog staple from the beginning remain firmly intact throughout.

It’s hard to pick favorites on such a great record. The rocking opening track “I’m Gonna Be Myself” has a catchy lyrical hook and Jimmy Page-esque guitar work.  The Sheepdogs follow up with the guitar harmony drenched chorus of “I Really Wanna Be Your Man” and each subsequent track opens new vistas of sound in the “neo-classic rock” arena. Finally there is suite of six tracks that close the album. These gems are strung together like side two of Abbey Road. It’s a fitting conclusion to an album that owes so much to the music of that era.

It’s easy to  listen to this album over and over. Each song has something of value; hooks that won’t let you go and very warm production that beckons the listener to come back for seconds and thirds. Don’t be shy. By all means, help yourself to as much Future Nostalgia as you like.

The Review: 9.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– I’m Gonna Be Myself
– Back Down
– Giving It Up For My Baby
– Help Us All
– I Really Wanna Be Your Man

The Big Hit

– I Really Wanna Be Your Man

Robert Cray: 4 Nights of 40 Years Live Review

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

crayRobert Cray has been recording his unique style of soulful blues for over forty years. That’s over twenty albums and thousands of live performances. 4 Nights of 40 Years is an attempt to present Robert Cray’s career in a fan friendly, three disc package.

The first disc is billed as the “Main Feature.” Recorded last December at several L.A. rehearsal halls and venues, Cray’s current line up of bassist Richard Cousins, drummer Les Falconer and keyboardist Dover Weinberg are augmented by  saxophonist Trevor Lawrence and trumpeter Steve Madio of Paul Butterfiedl and Stevie Wonder fame.  Producer Steve Jordan adds percussion to give the band a full R&B flavor with extra bottom. From the opening track “I Shiver” it’s apparent that both Robert’s voice and guitar work are still as soulful as his fans have come to expect. Guest vocalist Kim Wilson turns in a fine performance on “Wrap It Up,” which was a huge hit for the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1980s. However, the band stays closer to the 1968 Sam and Dave original, right down to the horn section. Lee Oskar also sits in on “Sitting on Top of the World.”

Disc 2 is the bonus disc and includes performances from the Dutch television show “Countdown” from 1987, and the Robert Cray Band’s set at the 1982 San Francisco Blues Festival. The band was touring behind the Strong Persuader release and this show contains music from that period. Peter Boe on keys and drummer David Olson were the rhythm section for this outing, with Cousins on  bass, Some of the highlights are “Guess I Showed Her,” “Right Next Door,” “Smoking Gun” and “Still Around.” The 1982 tracks feature Warren Rand on alto and Mike Vannice on tenor and organ. “Too Many Cooks” and “T-Bone Shuffle”  from the festival are great examples of what a 28-year-old Robert Cray could do with a Stratocaster even at that early age.

The DVD is a treat for any Robert Cray fan. There is lots of well put together biographical information as well as footage from the 1982 and 1987 shows interspersed throughout the disc, showing the band members discussing the trying times early in their careers. There are interviews with a lot of great musicians, including Buddy Guy, Keith Richards, Jimmie Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton. Of particular interest is producer Steve Jordan discussing how Keith Richards introduced him Robert Cray.

All in all 4 Nights of 40 Years is one giant Robert Cray love fest. In addition to the 3 discs there is a full color booklet with some great photos and even more information about Cray’s illustrious career.  The package is a fun retrospective of one of contemporary blues’ most beloved artists and is a must own for all Robert Cray fans.

The Review: 8.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Too Many Cooks
– Wrap it Up
– Smoking Gun
– Guess I Showed Her

The Big Hit

– Right Next Door

Joe Bonamassa: Live At Radio City Music Hall Review

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

blueIn January 2015, Joe Bonamassa took the stage at Radio City Music Hall for the first time for a sold-out, two-night run.  These concerts have been nicely captured on CD and DVD/Blu-Ray and a version will also air this fall on the Palladia HD TV network.

It seems that Joe has been on a mission to record and release a live album from all of his “fantasy” venues.  Live at Radio City Music Hall is live album number eight, and features over 75 minutes of music, including two newly recorded songs, nine unreleased live tracks, over 2.5 hours of live footage, a special 45-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a 40-page collector’s book with exclusive photos, and a sneak peek into Bonamassa’s childhood home and musical heritage. The package definitely was obviously put together with the afficiando in mind.

These shows were the culmination and the finale of Bonamassa’s special half acoustic/half electric tour, which he showcased around the world for the past year and half. The first set has Bonamassa playing alongside the acoustic band The Huckleberries and features Irish fiddler Gerry O’Connor, Mats Wester on niyckelharpa and mandola, keyboardist Reese Wynans, and percussionist Lenny Castro. He then shifts into electric mode for the second set with his regular touring band of bassist Carmine Rojas, keyboardist Reese Wynans, drummer Tal Bergman, trumpeter Lee Thornburg, trombonist Nick Lane, and saxophonist Paulie Cerra. As one would expect, Joe covers a lot of territory here. The electric set has Joe sporting a slightly brighter guitar tone that seems to work nicely with the “uptown” horn arrangements.  On the acoustic set he gets a bit country-ish with “Trouble Town” and “Still Water.”  The acoustic material is very tuneful and provides a nice dynamic against the high energy electric set.  All in all, Live at Radio City Music Hall is more traditional both on the electric and the acoustic sets but never sacrifices the blistering lead guitar that we have come to expect from Mr. Bonamassa.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I read that J.B. was doing yet another live album.  However, this one has some nice variations on his style and as always the playing is flawless. Live at Radio City Music Hall is a must have for all true Joe Bonamassa fans.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– I Can’t be Satisfied
– Trouble Town
– Still Water
– I Gave Up Everything for You
– One Less Cross to Bear

The Big Hit

– One Less Cross to Bear

Review by Lou Lombardi

Buy the album: Amazon

Upcoming UK Tour Dates

Newcastle Metro Arena – Wednesday Oct 21
Liverpool Echo Arena – Friday Oct 23
Leeds First Direct Arena – Saturday Oct 24
Nottingham Capital FM – Arena Sunday Oct 25
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena – Tuesday Oct 27
Bournemouth BIC – Wednesday Oct 28
Brighton Centre – Friday Oct 30
Brighton Centre – Saturday Oct 31

Steve Cal’ Band: Room to Move Review

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

Room To Move

Steve Cal’ is an emerging blues artist from Philadelphia, PA. Picking up the guitar at the age of eight, after hearing Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti,” he began playing professionally by the tender age of 14. The “Hendrix-esque” Room to Move is Steve Cal’s second album. The sound is raw, but not underproduced and the record has a “live in the studio” sound and feel. This is a breath of fresh air compared to the the current ‘Nashville-esque” sound of some of the major artists today.

Even though the recording has a very live feel, Room to Move is a typical blues record in the sense that Steve hits all the bases from funky tracks like  “Midnight Dream” and “Dirty Old Woman,” to the slow hard-driving blues of “Voodo Chile.” Kudos to Steve for not covering “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” which may be the most over covered blues rock song of all time.  The last three tracks on the album are in the slow blues tradition, which leaves the listener a bit hungry for the funk of the first part of the album. Read more.

 

Is The democratization of the music business is a complete failure?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I grew up in the 1980’s. That was the era of the big labels, big tours, and big hair! 😉 Lot’s of $$$ was made. Bands from the 60’s and early 70’s would talk about how they had been screwed but that these 80’s bands were raking it in.  Go back and watch Billy Joel’s or John Fogarty’s  episodes of “Behind the Music”.  Bands were getting screwed over left and right from everyone including promoters, managers, and record labels.   The attitude among the ruling elite of the music business was, “These are hippies. Keep ’em doped up and make sure they have a lot of groupies and they’ll be happy.  They don’t know how to handle money. So, we’ll just take care of that for them.”  This is why many artists from the late 60’s and early 70’s ended up penniless once the ringing in everyone’s ears had faded.


Thankfully, by the end of the 1970’s things were changing and in the 1980’s with the advent of MTV, smarter artists and a legacy of horror stories from a decade before the music artist ruled the planet.  The artists of that area were some of the most influential people in the world and some of the most financially successful.  Some of the 70’s and 60’s artist also enjoyed major come backs and financial success  during that period. The image of the music artistThe exact opposite of today.


So what the hell happened?

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Gene Simmons and many others would like to blame the current state of affairs on grunge.  In the early 1990’s rock music under went an over haul. From an artistic stand point, it appears to have been necessary.  Grunge was sort of a reset button and while some artists of that movement were very understated in there performances band’s like Rage Against the Machine had crowds gathered in mosh pits.  It wasn’t all dark stages, depression, and shoe gazing.  Keep in mind that any time there has been a major change in the world there are always several galvanizing factors.  For instance,  the Vietnam war, the Kennedy assasination, experimentation with psychodelic drugs  and Watergate all went in to the pot that created hippy movement.  It wasn’t just one factor.  With that in mind  let get back to the “glory days” of the late 1970’s and 1980’s.


In the 80’s   it was very expensive to record an album, master it, do a video and promote it.  Record labels would spend thousands before the song or album was even released and without ever knowing  what kind of  return on investment they could expect.  Why was it so expensive?  It actually takes a village to get a band recorded, video recorded, and promoted.  Many of you reading this now have learned this the hard way. We will get back to that in a minute. Albums like Purple Rain, and Born in the USA had scores of people making sure that everything got done and the it was done well.  This was still no guarantee of financial success but records were really well made. The artist concentrated on writing great music. The band concentrated on playing that music perfectly live and in the studio. The video director and his team gave the video their complete attention and the people at the label worked hard to get the record and the video played and supported (paid for) the tour.   It was a good model. Rather expensive but it worked, and it gave a lot of artists of that era a lot of financial and social capital .  Then some one had a “better” idea…


Winy whiners whining….

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So we have this well oiled machine, but still some people weren’t happy. Many artists felt that major labels controlled the business.  The big evil corporations were squelching the true artists.  Many cried “No fair!”  That was their right to do so . The war raged for about 10 to 15 years and when the smoke cleared.  The label system was dead. The indie artists had won.  The music business was now completely “democratic”.   We wanted a “fair” system… and guess what? We got our wish. The business is completely democratic.  You can record a great sounding record in your house.  There are mastering services that will master your record very well for very low price or you can even do that your self. Technology also makes creating a video very inexpensive and quick and there are literally HUNDREDS of marketing services aimed at the indie musician’s price point. The internet allows your to promote yourself all day and night practically for free .  Now everyone can be a rock star!


Where are all of these Rock Stars???

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With all of this technology and free promotion why isn’t EVERYONE a rock star?  If you are a musician reading this, you have probably noticed that while all of this democracy sounds good…I mean democracy HAS to be good right? Why don’t have I have the success that I feel I should or even feel that I deserve?  About 20 years ago something disturbing started happening. You would buy a CD from your favorite artist only to realize that the only good song was the one that you heard on the radio.  This is REALLY what happened to the music business.  The push to do more, spend less, and get that return on investment quicker lead to albums being cranked out with maybe one good song, instead of an album’s worth a great material.  Fans began to become skeptical.  I’m not making this up. This became a huge topic in the music press at the end of the 90’s and early 2000’s.  Bands like Hootie and the Blowfish would put out an album full of great material. They sold millions and in an effort to duplicate that success they rushed to do another record. The second album tanked.  This happened with many artists of that  era. You cannot pull a bait and switch on your customers.  You will loose EVERY TIME!


Album sales were declining. Internet downloading was increasing.  People thought… “Hey his last record was pretty weak. Why should I spend $14.99 on his CD only to be disappointed when I can get it for free on the web?”  I’ll digress here for minute. Did you find $14.99 price for a CD rather high in the last sentence? That was actually a bargain price for a CD at the time. Many CD’s were selling for $17.99 and some as high as $19.99. It’s hard to image people these days spending that kind of money on a CD, if they would even buy one at all.  This is how bad things really are. The combination of weaker material, customer disillusionment, internet down loading, the money drying up, and more options for people to spend their entertainment dollar on non music related things  is what got us to where we are today.


Democracy in Action!

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So…fast forward and it’s 2014. The business is heavily segmented. Most of the music that makes it on the radio does not translate well live unless you are the original artist.  So even cover bands are struggling.  Hip-hop and Country have surpassed the success of rock many times over.  Now that it’s all democratic, artist has too much on her plate. She needs to write, record, produce, mix and master her own record. book her own shows, do her own promotion,  film her own video and carry her own equipment.  Most record labels are just that “labels”. They are just the business structure that the artist herself must set up.  There is a lot of freedom these days but with freedom come responsibility.  This is why everyone isn’t an indie sensation.  Very few can maintain this work ethic. It’s a bitch doing it all yourself. Remember you STILL need to keep the lights on and feed yourself. A lot of people get all excited when they see how wide open the business really is. It is wide open. There is a lot of really unique, interesting, fun, catchy, and downright great music out there.  Many artists who could not find a platform even 5 years ago are on tour and making  a living at it. But they busted their asses to get there.  They joint ventured with other aritists and businesses. They learned how to out source a lot of their promotion costs. They barter. They find a way.  They have learned that it really does take a village.

You’re playing that wrong!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Alright…. there are a hand full of tracks out there that guitarists have disagreed about how to play for YEARS!  I remember when Guitar Player magazine started printing transcriptions of guitar solos in the 1980’s. Invariably, people would would write in disagreeing with the transcription. Usually this was over a fast passage and was often confined to a line or two. But there were guitarists who would get down right nasty about the transcription being “wrong”… as if they were some how ripped of by the magazine or something.  To keep the peace Guitar Player would print these corrections or “alternate versions” and order and peace were once again restored in the world of guitar playing.

Guitarists can be down right anal about fingering, chord positions, and even a  tiny variation of a riff will almost always provoke a “That’s Wrong!” from some one with entirely too much time on their hands. Guitarists are also very anal about their tone and claim to hear minute differences in eq curves, over drive character and reverb depth that no one else can. They throw around terms like, “chime” and “glass” and  talk about emphasizing “even order harmonics” .  I’ve been playing for 30 years or so and I have known many guitarists and I assure you that these terms are so arbitrary as to render them completely meaningless.

Will all of these anal retentive guitar players roaming the planet , you can imagine the extreme relief when the mystery of the opening chord for Hard Days Night was FINALLY solved.  This one chord has provoked more arguments, caused more band brake-ups and sent more fists flying at more rehearsals than any other guitar riff or solo in the history of the instrument.  Thanks to Randy Bachman of Bachman Turner Overdrive fame (yes… they put one of those meaningless guitar terms in their name.) who was granted access to the Beatles master tracks, we call all sleep a little better tonight.  The chord is actually two separate chords played on two different guitars by two different guitarists and one of those guitars is a twelve string. These guitars in combination with the bass note…played on a bass guitar create the magic that is the “chord heard round world.”   The six string guitar (played by John Lennon) is playing a D chord with a G note added on the first string. The twelve string guitar (Played by George Harrison) is playing a form of an F chord with and added G  on the sixth string and a G on the first string.  The bass gutiar (played by Paul McCartney) is playing a D note.  Put it all together and you have music magic!

Here Randy Bachman tells the complete story of how he got to hear the master tracks and demonstrates what he learned.

Lou Lombardi
yourguitarist.com

U2 is setting a bad precedent

Friday, September 19th, 2014

I have been a U2 fan since the 80’s. In many ways they were “my band”. There was no real indie scene at the time….no youtube, no internet. The Sony Walkman was the cutting edge music technology. You had to find bands like U2, The Alarm, The Dead Kennedys etc… on your own. You would talk to friends or read underground mags and then go to a record store and take a chance with your $7 or $8 on the record. This was how U2 started. They were in the trenches busting ass, and making great music. Only a hand full of us really knew who they were and even fewer owned their records.  They grew their success slowly over the course of several albums. With each new release they honed their craft and expanded their sound.  They were never known for anything that would be considered pandering.  They didn’t try to second guess their audience. They made the music that they loved and as it turned out many of US loved it too. I was happy with their success in the late 80’s, 90’s and beyond.  I was never one of these people who wanted a band to stay small. I was happy for the Police’s success as well as REM’s and Metallica’s success.  Today they  are arguably the biggest band in the world. So …what the hell is this business with the iPhone? Dammit guys…. what the hell are you doing???  You are still the biggest band in the world. This stunt with the new iPhone… and that’s EXACTLY what it is. It’s a stunt… makes you look like amateurs.  There is no reason to force every iphone user to own your record, and as a band that has and continues to have such major success you send dangerous message to the music business that even the biggest band in the world needs to give away their music for free.  The real kicker is that this isn’t even a sound marketing strategy. All good marketers know that to have a successful product you must narrow your approach to tightly focus on your niche. The idea that all iphone users are potential U2 fans, just waiting to discover their music is HIGHLY DUBIOUS at best.   This isn’t going to garner them one more fan, album sale or ticket sale.   This is something that we might expect from Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, NOT from one of the most influential and successful bands of all time.  I suspect that a publicist or or some other marketing “expert” sold this to the boys.  The sad thing is that they are still a great band and this sullies their reputation. They might want to look at the band Rush.  Rush as not only endured for 40 years they have grown and thrived.  There is really no “trick” to it. The formula is pretty simple Stick to making great music. Give the audience your heart and soul and  make every record and every tour awesome.

On the other hand…. 

What if U2 is getting a percentage of the new iPhone sales. I haven’t heard that yet, but if they are, then U2 is selling the iPhone and not the other way around?  If that is the case, and I do not know that it is… then U2 may not only be the biggest band in the world but they may be some of the best business people as well. But this is pure speculation. I would think that they MUST be getting something out of this. U2 is one of the biggest (most expensive) tours out there. Is Apple paying for their tour?  This seems to make more sense… but more info is needed.

We could go on and on here… but Sharon Osbourne makes some good points here.  So we will close today’s post with and insiders point of view.


 

An age old question has FINALLY benn answered!

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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