Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Iron Maiden - "Brave New World"



Iron Maiden - Brave New World
2000, Columbia

1. The Wicker Man
2. Ghost of the Navigator
3. Brave New World
4. Blood Brothers
5. The Mercenary
6. Dream of Mirrors
7. The Fallen Angel
8. The Nomad
9. Out of the Silent Planet
10. The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

I haven't gotten into a lot of Iron Maiden's later period... Book of Souls notwithstanding. Mostly because I'm not sure what's good. There was a period where Bruce Dickinson left and they put out some albums that have gotten really horrible reviews. I heard through the grapevine that this one was pretty good. It sees Bruce Dickinson back on vocals so that's something. It's not too much of a stretch to say that if you liked the classic Maiden sound then you'd be pretty happy with Brave New World. I know I was. I can see where their penchant for extended galloping jams was really starting to develop. Several songs have extended sections with leads and choruses that could have probably been trimmed by a minute or two. Still a solid Maiden album, though.

Useless Fact: "Out of the Silent Planet" is the title of a novel by C.S. Lewis. I don't think the song is about the book, but I could be wrong. The case can be made, I think.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Alabama - "16 Biggest Hits"



Alabama - 16 Biggest Hits
2011, Sony

1. Mountain Music
2. Song of the South
3. Love in the First Degree
4. If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)
5. Born Country
6. Feels So Right
7. The Closer You Get
8. She and I
9. Fallin' Again
10. Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)
11. Jukebox in my Mind
12. Down Home
13. I'm in a Hurry (And I Don't Know Why)
14. Can't Keep a Good Man Down
15. Southern Star
16. High Cotton

I bought this CD in New York while I was in town because my father had passed away. I saw it in Walmart and couldn't help think back to all the car trips in and around the hills and valleys of upstate New York listening to Alabama. Them, along with Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Daniels and others formed a lot of the soundtrack to my youth. I got this as a way to honor dad in my own weird way and also to see after all these years (and my avowed hatred of country music) if I could get into this at all.

Well... kinda...?

Some of the songs I remember liking as a boy I still like - "Mountain Music," and "Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)" provided the most vivid jaunts down memory lane. I liked those as a kid and still do kind of like those songs. What surprised me the most listening to this album was that the more country the song was, the more I liked it. Take "If You're Gonna Play In Texas..." for example. It's a very country, almost bluegrass song and it ended up being one of my favorites. Unfortunately the lion's share of material on this collection is their radio friendly adult contemporary ballads and what not. These songs are boring as dirt. "Love in the First Degree" and "The Closer You Get" come to mind. I guess that's why I liked the honky tonk songs a bit better - they had some character and were pretty unique. The rest was just radio fodder from the Eighties. Some day it might be worth my time to assemble the songs I like into a playlist and make my own 16 Biggest Hits.

Useless Fact: I noticed that another song of my youth: 40 Hour Week (For a Livin') wasn't on here. How was that not one of the sixteen? Also... Alabama sure did love parentheses didn't they?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whitecrosss - "Nineteen Eighty-Seven (Gold Edition)



Whitecross - Nineteen Eighty-Seven (Gold Edition)
2005/2015, Retroactive

1. Who Will You Follow?
2. Enough is Enough
3. He Is the Rock
4. Lookin' For a Reason
5. No Way I'm Coming Down
6. Seein' Is Believin'
7. All I Need
8. Nagasake
9. Signs of the End
10. Love on the Line
11. Re: Animate
Bonus Track:
12. Angel's Wing

I never purchased or listened to Whitecross's debut album back in the day. I don't know why. I guess I figured I had Triumphant Return and In the Kingdom so I didn't need anything else. I didn't even get it the second time it came out in 2005 - newly rerecorded with beefier and more modern production. Chalk it up to my wanting to archive things I finally picked up the Gold Edition of Nineteen Eighty-Seven. I am a little disappointed in myself that I waited so long to pick this up. There's nothing like listening to a shredder like Rex Carroll - a man wholly at one with his instrument. He is a true virtuoso that will probably never be widely recognized as a guitar hero because of his "Christian" status. Have I said that before? I feel like I said that before. It doesn't matter, though, because it bares repeating. The more modern production of the rerecording only helps highlight Carroll's considerable chops. I do kind of wish the Gold Edition came with some lyrics or liner notes or something. Also, I'm not wild about this move over to cardboard sleeves for everything. I know it's cheaper...but I like my stuff to have some weight, y'know?

Useless Fact: There are some outtakes at the end of the CD which are interesting once. There's also "Scott's Rant" which is basically telling people they shouldn't be looking for the devil, they should be looking for God. This was back when people were really upset about backward masking (that's when you have a vinyl record and you purposely spin it backward and it makes weird noises, kids). I can't remember if that message was actually on the debut album as a real backward message or what. Still a good point, I feel, in this day and age when a lot of Christians are busy looking for the devil in everything up to and including Pokemon Go.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Testament - "Brotherhood of the Snake"



Testament - Brotherhood of the Snake
2016, Nuclear Blast

1. Brotherhood of the Snake
2. The Pale King
3. Stronghold
4. Seven Seals
5. Born in a Rut
6. Centuries of Suffering
7. Black Jack
8. Neptune's Spear
9. Canna-business
10. The Number Game

Brotherhood of the Snake was another album I bought just because people said it was good. And, by George, it's the finest bit of thrash music this side of Anthrax. It's not quite as excellent as Anthrax's For All Kings, which came out earlier the same year, but it's right up there. An impressive, quality thrash record I say. The big attraction here is the tasty riffage served piping hot with a nice meaty, crunchy guitar tone and plenty of face-melting leads. The lyrical direction is pretty steeped in conspiracy theories and such. It's interesting fodder for discussion though. I'm always fascinated by conspiracies even though I'm not a believer in them for the most part. "Seven Seals" is a full on recounting of the book of Revelation - in which the band sings about Christ's ultimate victory. Weird for Testament (who are NOT a Christian band at all), but not unwelcome. You'll notice Flotsam & Jetsam have a song called "Seventh Seal" that deals with the exact same subject matter. Both albums released in 2016... must have been something in the air I guess. Anywho... go pick up Brotherhood of the Snake because it's awesome and well worth your time.

Useless Fact: I guess there was some tension in the studio while the band recorded this record. I don't think they had full songs when they went in and wrote as they went.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Resurrection Band - "Innocent Blood"



Resurrection Band - Innocent Blood
1989, Grrr

1. Rooster Crow
2. Altar of Pain
3. The House is on Fire
4. 80,000 Underground
5. Fiend or Foul
6. Where Roses Grow
7. Right On Time
8. Child of the Blues
9. Laughing Man
10. Bargain
11. Great God in Heaven

Way back in the day my cousin and I used to make copies of the tapes we'd buy and exchange them with each other, thus doubling our music collections. Innocent Blood was one of the tapes she'd given me. When I was young I only liked the first two tracks. "Rooster Crow" is a short little acoustic opener. "Altar of Pain," however, is a monster metal tune - heavy and fierce. For some reason I didn't like the rest of the album. I chalk this up to youthful stupidity. This album is amazing. I'd never really gotten into the Resurrection Band in my youth. Now I'm kind of kicking myself. I'm not sure what motivated the band to go into the hard rock/metal category after being new wave or whatever they were, but it totally works. They've also mixed in a lot of blues as Glenn and Wendy Kaiser were always blues people to begin with. Now I want more Resurrection Band. There's a cover of The Who's "Bargain" here which always reminds me of my hometown because some local car dealership always used that song in their commercials. I also played a good bit of Mega Man 2 while listening to this album along with Whitecross' Triumphant Return. See, the my cousin gave me copies of both at the same time.

Be careful if you're trying to get copies of Rez's albums. I bough this "new" off Amazon and didn't look closely enough - it's a CD-R. They say it's a CD-R but I didn't pay close enough attention. Ugh! Now I have to find a real copy for the vault!

Useless Fact: The band was originally Resurrection Band but shorted it to Rez starting with Silence Screams. They went back to their original name for Lament.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Flotsam and Jetsam - "Flotsam and Jetsam"



Flotsam and Jetsam - Flotsam and Jetsam
2016, AFM

1. Seventh Seal
2. Life Is a Mess
3. Taser
4. Iron Maiden
5. Verge of Tragedy
6. Creeper
7. L.O.T.D.
8. The Incantation
9. Monkey Wrench
10. Time To Go
11. Smoking Gun
12. Forbidden Territories

Flotsam and Jetsam have a history that extends way back into the early Eighties. Unfortunately, while I'd heard their name on occasion (mostly in connection with Jason Newstead), I'd never actually heard any of their music. So why did I pick up this CD? Mainly it was because Scott Waters of No Life Til Metal said it was really good. You know what? He is correct. This is really good. I'm not sure if F & J are a full on thrash band or just heavy metal but they skew the line between the two, I think. They've even got some NWOBHM influence with "Iron Maiden" which I think is a cover but I'm not sure. It definitely sounds like it could be an Iron Maiden cover and I know they had a song called "Iron Maiden." However, I am just too lazy to look it up. I really love vocalist Erik A.K. - he's got his own style that is somewhat reminiscent of Bruce Dickenson but with a little more thrash grit. That's not to say he sounds exactly like him, but you'll know what I mean when you fire up "Iron Maiden." Also, the band has some really good groove in their riffs, especially in tracks like "Life is a Mess" and "Time to Go." I may just go ahead and start looking into their back catalog because Flotsam and Jetsam is really good.

Useless Fact: Not really a fact about the band, but back in upstate NY where I grew up, the local FYE had a copy of F & J's My God album. I never bought it but always wondered if it was good. What if I would have bought it then? I could have been an F & J fan this whole time!

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest - "We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service"



A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service
2016, Epic

1. The Space Program
2. We The People...
3. Whateva Will Be
4. Solid Wall of Sound
5. Dis Generation
6. Kids
7. Melatonin
8. Enough!!
9. Mobius
10. Black Spasmodic
11. The Killing Season
12. Lost Somebody
13. Movin' Backwards
14. Conrad Tokyo
15. Ego
16. The Donald

I picked this one up on a lark when I bought Lady Gaga's Joanne at Wal-Mart. A Tribe Called Quest was a group back in the day that was only on my radar because they were perceived as being one of the more artsy and intellectual hip-hop groups from the time. So I saw it and realized I didn't really know who was good in modern hip-hop anymore and picked it up. I kind of wanted to challenge myself with something out of my wheelhouse. Okay... so an older group from the 90's isn't exactly "challenging myself" but whatever.

Anyway, I like this! It's reminiscent enough of the stuff I used to like - with smooth beats, cool samples, a sense of melody, with a more modern sound and production. Also, much to my surprise and delight, Busta Rhymes is here! Not sure if he's a member of the group or just a guest. Also, the lyrics are challenging and thought provoking which is pretty much what I was hoping for. I would definitely be apt to add a few more Quest albums to the vault. Anyone have any ideas which ones are their best?

Useless Fact: I know next to nothing about this group other than the main rapper, Q-Tip, performed with the Beastie Boys and was on Deee Lite's "Groove is in the Heart."