Friday, July 21, 2017

Keaggy, Phil - "Find Me In These Fields"



Keaggy, Phil - Find Me In These Fields
1990, Myrrh

1. Instrumental
2. Strong Tower
3. Carry On
4. Instrumental
5. When the Wild Winds Blow
6. This Side of Heaven
7. Find Me In These Fields
8. Get Over It
9. Calling You
10. Instrumental
11. Gentle & Strong
12. Final Day
13. Instrumental
14. Be In My Heart
15. Instrumental

Find Me In These Fields often pops up as one of people's favorite Phil Keaggy platters. Seeing as I'd only heard Crimson & Blue (and absolutely adored it), I figured I'd give this one a shot. After all, it was released in 1990, aka The Best Year Ever For Music. Aaaaaaaand...what do you know? It's awesome. Of course it is. This is like a master class in musicianship and songwriting. If you're looking for a great pop/rock record written and played by some insanely talented musicians, this is for you. I was hooked from the opening acoustic instrumental. Any suggestions on which Keaggy album to get next?

Useless Fact: Rick Cua played bass on this album. He was kind of a big thing way back in the day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aerosmith - "Permanent Vacation"



Aerosmith - Permanent Vacation
1987, Geffin

1. Heart's Done Time
2. Magic Touch
3. Rag Doll
4. Simoriah
5. Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
6. St. John
7. Hangman Jury
8. Girl Keeps Coming Apart
9. Angel
10. Permanent Vacation
11. I'm Down
12. The Movie

Permanent Vacation is another one of those nostalgia buys that reminds me of summer vacations. Specifically, with my mom and cousin throughout northern Pennsylvania. My original tape (which is long gone) was purchased from the Columbia tape club. Yes... I ain't lyin' when I call myself "The Old Man." So normally I pick one of these oldies up listen a few times and relive some fond memories and then don't think too much about it again until the next season. With the Aerosmith, however, I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. I mean, I always liked it. Heard the singles on MTV all the time. But the whole album is full of really great rock 'n roll. I'd argue that the singles aren't the best tracks here at all (of course, I'd argue that for any band). "Hangman Jury" is a bluegrass/blues inspired track and my absolute favorite on this album. I also like the cover of The Beatles' "I'm Down." The band really knew how to combine hard rock, pop, and blues as this disc seems to be a perfect mixture of all three. I don't know how it stacks up to the rest of their discography, but as a single album it's fantastic.

Useless Fact: Isn't "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" about Motley Crue's Vince Neil? That's what I heard anyway.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Haven - "III"



Haven - III
1995/2017, Retroactive

1. Haven
2. Her Eyes Can't Hide
3. Falling Down
4. Her Eyes Can't Hide (Conclusion)
5. Don't Let the Moment Slip Away
6. Prisoner
7. I Will Follow
8. Love From Above
9. When Jesus Lights the Way
10. The Almighty
11. Don't Run Away
12. Without Excuses
Bonus Track
13. From Everlasting

Now here's a little rarity that I'd never thought I'd hear. Haven's third album was recorded from '93 - '95 and finally released independently in '95. It was recorded in vocalist Kevin Ayer's home studio with whatever musicians he had on hand. I never even knew this existed until the early 2000's when I saw it on Scott Waters' website, No Life Til Metal. Retroactive has rereleased this lost gem with a good remaster and updated artwork. I think the new cover looks pretty cool. The original was in black and white, but the gold here really makes it pop.

For their third album, Haven goes a little more melodic and a little more progressive. You won't hear much in the way of full on power-metal-bordering-on-thrash tunes. Most of the songs are mid-paced and mellower. However, this variety gives Ayers' vocals a chance to shine as he gets to stretch himself a bit more. There's still some of the old school wails, but he also gets to be a little more reserved, a little quieter. He's got great range and this album really shows that off. I love the title track, which harkens back to the bands older material. Also, the riff in "Don't Let the Moment Slip Away" is awesome. Overall, I really enjoyed this album and I think fans of Haven will dig it too.

However...

This album could have really benefited from some label backing - maybe a good producer to help flesh things out. Songs like "The Almighty" and "Don't Run Away" could have used more time in the cooker, I think. Also, while the remaster sounds good, the recording quality is a little bit above "demo." It's not unlistenable by any stretch, far from it. It's impressive considering this was done before ProTools and the like. But like I said, it still could have benefited from big label money. (Look at me acting like REX had money! Ha!) "From Everlasting" is a bonus track that wasn't part of the original album. It has more of an electronic feel, but it's kind of weird. There's like, casio drum beats and record scratching and guitars. The lyrics are serious but it sounds kind of silly with all these elements. Like it was a first attempt at industrial. I also wish there were some lyrics in the liner notes, but what can ya do? III probably isn't the Haven album to give to your friend who's never heard of them, but it's a treat for fans despite my pickune complaints.

Useless Fact: Not a fact...a rumination. I don't think REX would have touched this album in '95. It would have been too metal when they were focusing on hardcore and alternative. As much as I love alternative rock, that wave kept a lot of good albums from being enjoyed.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

INXS - "Kick"



INXS - Kick
1987, Atlantic

1. Guns in the Sky
2. New Sensation
3. Devil Inside
4. Need You Tonight
5. The Loved One
6. Wild Life
7. Never Tear Us Apart
8. Mystify
9. Kick
10. Calling All Nations
11. Tiny Daggers

Okay, so what I remember most about this album is Niagara Falls. My family went on vacation there way back when. It was notable for being one of the few vacations my late father went on with mom and I. Also, it was the only time I have ever (and let's be honest here) will probably ever leave the country. For the record, the Canadian side is way better. You can probably guess by now that...yes, I acquired this album on that trip! It was between this and Weird Al's Even Worse. This is also one of the first albums I owned that had a swear word on it. My mom didn't care because she was cool like that.

So, I guess I should talk about the music some eh? You've probably heard "New Sensation" because it's the biggest hit on here. Though "Devil Inside," "Need You Tonight/Mediate," and "Never Tear Us Apart" were HUGE on MTV at the time. Michael Hutchence was the embodiment of the charismatic front man, oozing with sex appeal. I guess. I mean I was eight at the time so I didn't really know. Nostalgia aside, it's a pretty solid Eighties pop album. I never really got into anything after this one. Even today I'm still not really motivated to search out anything else by them.

Useless Fact: Didn't they have a reality competition show after Hutchence died? How did that turn out? Anyone know?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rose - "Songs for the Ritually Abused"



Rose - Songs for the Ritually Abused
2017, Hindenburg

1. The Tortured Girl/Bye Bye Hands/Songs for the Ritually Abused
2. Keep You To Myself
3. Medication
4. Whispering Whales
5. Kellan and the Illustrator
6. Mickey
7. The Girl
8. Monster
9. Hell's Locked From the Inside
10. When Will I Be Loved?

Remember back in the 80's when there was a big scare (especially in the Church) about satanic ritual abuse? Lots of books written, documentaries made, etc. Bob Larson's Dead Air comes to mind. Despite all the panic it seemed that this phenomenon wasn't as widespread as the paranoia would've had us believe. So... it seems odd that in this day and age Randy Rose and crew would make a concept album about ritual abuse. I mean... that's not something that really happens, right? Though on the other hand, I know the human heart and I also have a hard time believing that it doesn't happen. I guess I'm in the middle about it, was the point of all that.

The music is dark and murky. If you're were a fan of the band's brand of stoner rock/doom metal, then you'll be pretty at home here. This time out, Randy and co. add a few more influences to really spice things up. You'll hear a lot of Queen and even maybe a smidge of King's X. The production is loud and full of fuzz and Randy's vocals, while recognizable, are much more varied. Surprisingly, a couple of the album's best moments come in the form of piano ballads - "Kellan and the Illustrator" and "When Will I Be Loved?" - are heart breaking and poignant. If I'm being honest (and a little bit nitpicky) I could have used another full on faster paced rocker like "Medication." However, as it stands, Songs for the Ritually Abused is a tragic gut-punch of an album conceptually speaking but sonically very compelling and well worth your time. Even if you don't believe in ritual abuse.

Useless Fact: Most of the band these days consists of Randy's wife and kids.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cooper, Alice - "Hey Stoopid"



Cooper, Alice - Hey Stoopid
1991, Epic

1. Hey Stoopid
2. Love's a Loaded Gun
3. Snakebite
4. Burning Our Bed
5. Dangerous Tonight
6. Might as Well Be On Mars
7. Feed My Frankenstein
8. Hurricane
9. Little By Little
10. Die For You
11. Dirty Dreams
12. Wind-Up Toy

So here's something weird - Hey Stoopid does pretty much all the same things as Trash but I like it better. Again, there wasn't anything wrong with Trash, it just didn't do a lot for me. Another weird thing because it's totally 80's and you would think I'd be all over it. But, nope. Hey Stoopid for some unexplainable reason was more likable and catchy to me. I think this one might actually more commercial too. Yeah... I don't know. I do want to point out the cool guitar part in the verses of "Might as Well Be On Mars." I think this album also has more of the creepy Alice Cooper feel too (especially in "Wind-Up Toy"). I'm not sure this one will rank up there with my top Cooper platters, but it's definitely in the upper B-tier.

Useless Fact: Alice Cooper was in Wayne's World. "Feed My Frankenstein" was featured in the movie as well. Though I'm sure you probably already know that.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ayreon - "The Source"



Ayreon - The Source
2017, Mascot

DISC ONE:
1. The Day That The World Breaks Down
2. Sea of Machines
3. Everybody Dies
4. Star of Sirrah
5. All That Was
6. Run! Apocalypse! Run!
7. Condemned To Live

DISC TWO
1. Aquatic Race
2. The Dream Dissolves
3. Deathcry of a Race
4. Into the Ocean
5. Bay of Dreams
6. Planet Y Is Alive!
7. The Source Will Flow
8. Journey To Forever
9. The Human Compulsion
10. March of the Machines

So let's talk about comics for a second, yeah? If you're a fan you'll know that every so often a comic book series will kind of "start over" either totally with a new number one issue or just sort of clear the way with a simple story. These are usually intended to be jumping on points for new readers. They're designed to be read without having to know all the lore beforehand. I bring this up because I think The Source is...you guessed it... a great jumping on point for new listeners. It's sound is quintessential Ayreon. If you know someone who's every been curious, you can hand them this album and they'll get an excellent overview of what Ayeron is all about.

Some of the reason I say this is because the music is a bit more accessible as well. As a whole I don't think it's as long as previous Ayreon albums (not that that's a bad thing). It's also a bit more traditional in structure with a lot of anthemic choruses and catchy riffs. The focus of this album seems to be two-fold: more guitar and heavier guitar. In fact, I think this is the band's heaviest album to date. This is in stark contrast to the more melodic and progressive The Theory of Everything. While I say this album is the heaviest I don't mean to say there aren't slower, melodic parts because there are - and they go well with the crushingly heavy riffs the album is built around. There's also a lot of faster paced, full on metal songs like, "Everybody Dies," "Run! Apocalypse! Run," and "Planet Y Is Alive!." Arjen said that he thought this album would originally be a Star One album because it was so heavy but that he came up with too many proggy, slow parts for it to really be a Star One disc. He's also said that every album is a reaction to the previous album, which I've said was the more complex Theory. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by an Ayreon album and that still holds true with The Source. So to all you Ayreon-ignorant people out there - the train is pulling up to the station. It's time to get on and experience the wonderfulness that is Ayreon.

Useless Fact: Arjen usually records the vocalists in his own studio, The Electric Castle. However, this time more of the vocalists couldn't do that due to time restraints so only a few of the artists recorded at the Castle. The rest worked in their own studios.