Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sacred Warrior - "Rebellion"

Sacred Warrior - Rebellion
1988/2010, Intense Millennium

1. Black Metal
2. Mad, Mad World
3. Stay Away From Evil
4. He Died
5. Children of the Light
6. Rebellion
7. Day of the Lord
8. Heaven's Are Calling
9. Famine
10. Master of Lies
11. Sword of Victory
Bonus Tracks:
12. Day by Day
13. Prince of Peace

In my review of the original I said that I didn't really care for this one as much as the others. For some reason they didn't just resonate with me like Master's Command or Wicked Generation. My edition was also the pooptastic KMG edition with no liner notes or anything. Thankfully Intense Millennium is busily reissuing classic after classic and I was more than happy to plunk down some coin for this edition. All the tracks have been remastered and I have to say that I could definitely tell the difference and it really increased my enjoyment of the album as a whole. It seems just a bit more vibrant, more alive. Granted, I still don't care for "Famine" or "Master of Lies," but the album closer "Sword of Victory" is just phenomenal - as is the rest of the album. The two bonus tracks originally appeared on the Live at Cornerstone 2001 disc but it's nice to actually hear them here. They're not really metal - "Day by Day" is more hard rock and "Prince of Peace" is a ballad. Still good though... and I'm still hoping the band puts something new out soon.

Now with all the gushing out of the way, I do have some complaints. First, the cover. It's gorgeous, it really is, but it doesn't fit the music at all. I held the CD up to my wife and asked, "What kind of music do you think this is?" "Goth," she said. It looks like something Evanescence or a band like H.I.M. would dream up. Not to mention the song isn't about Lucifer's rebellion, which is kind of what the cover implies. Second, while I LOVE having all the liner notes (which include stories from Pastor Bob Beeman and the guys themselves) and lyrics, they are REALLY, REALLY hard to read. The small, faded white letters on the dark background makes them very blurry. The liner notes really need to be a lot brighter and clearer - especially for us old folks. Finally, if for some reason you prefer the original cover art (which admittedly wasn't fantastic) it is very poorly replicated.

I know a lot of love went into this reissue and it does show. It also did its job of making me love this album. Hopefully the art direction can tighten up a little for future releases!

Useless Fact: There have been whispers for years about the band getting back together but so far nothing has come of it yet except the two bonus tracks on this CD.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hark, the herald angels sing! Glory to the newborn king! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!

Merry Christmas everyone! Santa Claus (i.e. my parents) were very good to us this year. Little Lexi didn't really know what was going on, but she got a baby doll, a stroller, a kitchen, and several books. Lindy got a new diaper bag, shoes, earrings, and some other stuff. I got a total of 12 CDs (along with a Star Trek book and a Nintendo DS game)! It won't be too long and I'll be posting them here.

Here's my haul:

Bloodgood - Bloodgood (Intense Millennium reissue, first time owning)
Bloodgood - Detonation (Intense Millennium reissue, first time actually owning)
Vengeance Rising - Human Sacrifice (Intense Millennium reissue, second time owning)
Vengeance Rising - Once Dead (Intense Millennium reissue, third time owning)
Sacred Warrior - Rebellion (Intense Millennium reissue, third time owning)

I'm going to post completely new reviews of these discs, mainly so I can talk about how the reissue is. I also got:

The Swirling Eddies - Let's Spin
The Swirling Eddies - Outdoor Elvis
Mortification - Break the Curse 20th Anniversary Gold Edition
Mortification - Brain Cleaner
Seventh Angel - The Torment (Metal Mind reissue)
Seventh Angel - Lament for the Weary (Metal Mind reissue)

I opened Star One early, and a good friend (Thanks Uvalapie!) sent me Ayreon's Timeline.

It was a very musical Christmas...

God bless all of you out there!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Star One - "Victims of the Modern Age"

Star One - Victims of the Modern Age
2010, InsideOut

Disc One:
1. Down the Rabbit Hole
2. Digital Rain (The Matrix)
3. Earth That Was (Firefly/Serenity)
4. Victim of the Modern Age (A Clockwork Orange)
5. Human See, Human Do (Planet of the Apes)
6. 24 Hours (Escape From New York)
7. Cassandra Complex (12 Monkeys)
8. It's Alive, She's Alive, We're Alive (Children of Men)
9. It All Ends Here (Blade Runner)

Disc Two:
1. As the Crow Dies (The Road)
2. Two Plus Two Equals Five (1984)
3. Last Day (Logan's Run)
4. Closer to the Stars (Gattaca)
5. Knife Edge

I got to open a Christmas present early a few days ago. As you can see, that present was the mediabook edition of Star One's new album Victims of the Modern Age. It hasn't been too long since I listened to the first one and I liked it even if I thought it was a tad samey in parts. However, I can say that Victims is much better than Space Metal. The first thing I noticed, aside from how amazingly heavy it is, is that the hooks are much more apparent here. All of the same vocalists from the first disc return - no complaint there. Dan Swano has a much more prominent role in here and even gets to growl on a couple tracks. Another thing that made me smile was that this doesn't just sound like slightly beefed-up Ayreon tracks either. Despite Arjen's ever present Hammonds and synths, I didn't feel like I was hearing more of the same. I think there's a vitality and excitement here that may have not been present on Ayreon's latest CD. Some parts reminded me of Devin Townsend's Physicist and other parts King's X. I will say that I prefer "Starchild" to "It All Ends Here" in terms of epic closing songs. I'd also like to praise Ed Warby's drumming here. He's always been fantastic, but I actually agree with Arjen that this is one of his best performances.

The theme for Victims is post-apocalyptic movies - I've listed which one go with which songs for your convenience. Finally, if you're going to get this, splurge and get the mediabook edition. It contains an extra disc with five extra songs and a half-hour "making of" documentary. Of the five, four are awesome and I really think that they should have included them on the disc proper. On "Last Day" Arjen takes his downtuned riffs and plays them acoustically, leading to an interesting Days of the New-type sound. I didn't care for "Closer to the Stars" because it sounded like an Ayreon cast-off to me. The documentary is fun to watch - you'll know what to expect if you've seen most of the Ayreon ones.

When I listened to "Digital Rain" for the first time I didn't think I would like this as much as I do. Definitely worth the dough!

Useless Fact: Arjen said that this album was sort of a reaction to his previous Guilt Machine project that was more melodic and atmospheric.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Choir: Live in Dan's Living Room

Out here where I live (in the sticks) we don't get a lot of cool bands. Scratch that, we get no cool bands. Occasionally around Savannah area a band will come around but usually Atlanta is the place for a music scene. Imagine my delight when The Choir announced a free online concert to be put on December 14th. I took the day off for this. There was no way I was going to miss it.

I actually logged on a full two hours ahead of time just to be sure everything would be in working order before the concert. Several other people had the same idea and we all hung out, shooting the breeze for two hours. It was a lot of fun. It must be what it's like for my wife and her fellow Twilight-tards when they camp out for the newest Twilight movie. The concert started more or less on time though they abruptly started right int he middle of the first song. The complete setlist was as follows:

1. 15 Doors
2. Black Cloud
3. Clouds
4. To Cover You
5. A Sentimental Song
6. Beautiful Scandalous Night
7. Wicked Guns (w/ Steve on vocals)
8. Love Your Mind
9. Spring
10. Leprechaun
11. Mercy Lives Here
12. Hey Gene
13. Enough to Love
14. Between Bare Trees
15. Midnight Sun
16. About Love

The show ran about two hours and the band answered fan questions between songs as well as told stories and fooled around. It was a mellow, intimate, and informal vibe - only Steve and Derri with occasional performances with Dan. The band played in Dan Micheal's living room in front of the fireplace where Dan's family's stockings were hung. Steve had strung Christmas lights over his drums as well. Sometimes it was hard to hear certain band members at certain times but for the most part the audio was pretty good.

As far as the performances - they were all a treat. Aside from a few extras here and there the band pretty much stuck to the songs on de-plumed which wasn't a problem for me because I love that disc. Derri played "Love Your Mind" completely solo and it was absolutely stunning for me. I think I like the acoustic version of that song more than the normal version. I was surprised that they decided to play "Wicked Guns" (off Lost Dogs' Old Angel) and even more surprised that Steve sung on it. It gave that song a different spin and Steve sounded pretty good. He also broke out a lasso and showed off his rope skillz that he acquired on Route 66. I requested "Goodbye Winslow" but to no avail.

It was cool to see all of Steve's weird percussion toys in action. He used a wine glass (with wine in it) on "Enough to Love" and a couple songs featured a "spring drum" I think it's called. The guys shared odd tales from the road like their weirdest gigs and how weird it is to room with Mike Roe, who apparently really likes to be naked. All in all it was a great show and a really fun night and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. Hopefully they'll do it again soon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Choir Concert Tonight!

For those who may not know, The Choir is putting on a special concert tonight at 9 p.m. EST. The concert will be available to view at Ustream.com. We'll be able to interact with the band, request songs, etc. So make sure you get involved. This will probably be the only time I'll ever be able to see them live.

Now I don't know the exact details of how to get logged on but you should probably go to Ustream.com and set up an account. Then check The Choir's website frequently today for updates.

I'm pretty excited. I'll probably take notes and give you some reflections sometime afterward.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

DeGrazio, John - "Stronghold"

DeGrazio, John - Stronghold
2010, Watersound

1. Stronghold
2. I Did Fly
3. Tomorrow Is Here
4. New Life
5. So Much Stronger Now
6. Heaven Sent
7. Fragile
8. At All Cost
9. Shine So Bright
10. Down I Go
11. Lord of Sacred Light
12. What Has Been
13. The Kingdom

Over on one of my other blogs I got a message from Bridegroom & Bitney saying they wanted to send me a copy of John Degrazio's new CD, Stronghold. I informed them that this blog was not even close to professional and basically a temple for my own nostalgia, but they insisted. So I said okay. There's this saying people have about books and covers and not judging and stuff. Though I confess, as soon as I saw the cover for this album I knew what to expect. You know what? I was right. Look at that cover. What does it say to you? If you guessed "Christian pop in the vein of Casting Crowns, etc." you're correct! Though to be fair, this isn't a bad disc. In fact, I really liked "Stronghold," a powerful piano ballad that immediately grabbed my attention. It actually reminded me a little bit of Serj Tankian's (System of a Down) solo material - if you can believe that. I also liked "Fragile" (pronounced frah-jee-lay... I think it's Italian...) - basically I liked the songs with minor chords. Unfortunately this just isn't really my thing. I don't like modern Christian radio and so anything that remotely sounds like it should be on modern Christian radio makes my stomach turn. Though honestly, John writes a good hook and the songs aren't bad at all so if you dig the Casting Crowns-type stuff, definitely give John DeGrazio a listen.

Useless Fact: The liner notes include a lot of Scripture verses for each song. Reminded me of the old days when an album from Tourniquet or Vengeance Rising could be turned into Bible studies - extra points for that!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Choir - "de-plumed"

The Choir - de-plumed. laid bare; exposed; featherless
2010, Galaxy 21

1. Dreams
2. 15 Doors
3. Black Cloud
4. Clouds
5. To Bid Farewell
6. A Sentimental Song
7. Love Your Mind
8. Spring
9. Leprechaun
10. Hey Gene
11. Enough to Love
12. A Friend So Kind

So one day I was checking the Choir's website (as I often do, being the total Choir fantard that I am) and I see that they had a new album out. This isn't an album of new material, but a collection of "unplugged" versions of album tunes - one from each album. I listened to the samples online and my brain screamed at me: you must buy this! And buy this I did. I think the greatest thing about this disc is that it really showcases the songs themselves and just how good they really are. It's nice to hear these tunes without all the psychedelic brik-a-brak that the band is usually known for. I think it makes them sweeter and more poignant - more sentimental if that's even possible! I actually preferred this version of "Enough to Love" to the album version. I'm also glad they did a couple Youth Choir songs because I think "15 Doors" is my favorite track and another one that I like better here than on the actual album. That being said, this isn't going to replace the albums but it's a real treat for fans.

There's only two things I have to complain about. First, "A Friend So Kind" was my least favorite track on Burning Like the Midnight Sun. I would have much rather heard an acoustic version of "That Melancholy Ghost," "It Should Have Been Obvious," or "Invisible." Second, the disc costs $15.99 plus shipping. It's kind of a steep price for what's essentially a CDR in a cardboard sleeve. I think they offer a cheaper online version but for those who like to have the CD it's a bit much. Though I did buy it and I do like it a lot so I guess I should shut up, eh?

Useless Fact: Matt Slocum from Sixpence None the Richer is on hand to play cello for several cuts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Guaraldi, Vince - "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Guaraldi, Vince - A Charlie Brown Christmas
1965/2006, Fantasy

1. O Tannenbaum
2. What Child is This?
3. My Little Drum
4. Linus & Lucy
5. Christmastime Is Here (Instrumental)
6. Christmastime Is Here (Vocal)
7. Skating
8. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
9. Christmas is Coming
10. Fur Elise
11. The Christmas Song
12. Greensleeves
Bonus Tracks
13. Christmas is Coming (Alternate Take 1)
14. The Christmas Song (Alternate Take 3)
15. Greensleeves (Alternate Take 6)
16. Christmastime Is Here (Alternate Vocal Take 5)

So I was having a conversation with some coworkers yesterday about Christmas music. I informed them that I had just picked up the Charlie Brown soundtrack before coming to work. Their response? "OHMYGOSH YOU HAVE CHARLIE BROWN?! YOU MUST PUT IT IN NOW!!!!" In it went - and you know what? We were all instantly happier. That's saying a lot considering how hard it is to make us happy at work. I don't think there was one single soul working with me that day that didn't have a little more spring in their step. Such is the power of Vince Guaraldi and his timeless soundtrack to an equally timeless Christmas special. This is one of those albums you put on, like Bing Crosby's White Christmas, and just sit back and enjoy. There's no flash, no over-the-top antics, simple production, and only three instruments. Yet somehow it has a way of communicating so much. I can't believe it's taken me this long to actually buy this album. Truly a holiday staple if there ever was one.

I feel I need to point out something very important - in all the pictures included with the liner notes, Vince is totally rockin' the handlebar mustache. Yeah... you don't mess with Charlie Brown and you don't mess with the sweet Guaraldi 'stache.

Useless Fact: Vince Guaraldi composed the music for some 14 or 15 Christmas specials and died before his music became a Christmas time favorite.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Various Artists - "The Broken Christmas"

Various Artists - The Broken Christmas
1988, Broken

1. "The First Noel" - Riki Michelle
2. "O Come All Ye Faithful" - Undercover
3. "Born in a Stable" - Level Heads
4. "Rudy Red" - J.C. & the Boyz
5. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" - Ojo
6. "What Child is This?" - 4*1*1*
7. "Angels We Have Heard On High" - Adam Again
8. "O Holy Night" - The Reign
9. "Silent Night" - The Holidays
10. "Follow the Star" - House Party
11. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" - Gene Eugene, Riki Michelle, Ojo

Uvulapie's comment about The Broken Christmas reminded me that I do actually have this! Granted, I don't have the actual CD, sadly, because they're about $100 on amazon and I'm just not going to pay that much for a CD (someone reissue this will ya?!). Anyway, I heard that this had some Adam Again Christmas songs on it so that's why I checked it out. Both the tunes featuring Gene are really cool. Definitely a different spin on those holiday classics. I'm kind of ambivalent about the rest of the songs though. I'm sure if I had heard 4*1*1*, Level Heads, The Reign, etc. I might be more excited but when this CD came out I had just gotten into Christian metal and my fondness for alt rock wouldn't develop for another five years or so. Still, I do like the album and it's definitely different from anything you would hear anywhere else. Ojo's take on "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" almost reminds me of Mannheim Steamroller. "Rudy Red" is no "Christmas in Hollis" but it's fairly amusing - kind of bizarre in the fact that it makes Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer a strung out junkie that finds Jesus. I think one of the sites on my link list has this available for download. Don't feel too bad... it's long out of print and I don't think anyone plans to rerelease it anytime soon.

Useless Fact: Not a fact, a request. The cover art looks like a Mike Knott creation. Can anyone confirm?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey everyone!

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy Turkey Day. Hopefully you'll be reading this just seconds before digging into yummy turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.


Anyway, I'm going to take some time to jot down some things I'm thankful for:

1. My wife who loves me even though I sometimes forget to flush the toilet - God bless you dear.
2. My daughter who is the most beautiful, perfect thing that God has created so far.
3. My friends and co-workers at Bear Creek Ranch - your friendship and kindness have been invaluable. Thank you for taking me in!
4. My parents for their continued support of my family in whatever the hell we think we want to do each day.
5. The fact that I do have a job, even if it's not my favorite, and the fact that at least MOST of the bills get paid.
6. Music! It animates my life and provides frames for my memories. Without it life would be colorless and drab.
7. My blog - this past year has been the most fun I've had on any blog I've done. If you're a regular visitor, thank you! Don't be afraid to leave comments!
8. Little Ceasars... seriously... you guys are the bomb.
9. I'm thankful to Dann Gunn for visiting my little corner of the Internet and being so honest and open about the old 'Pede days.
10. Also a thank you to Bridegroom and Bentley who sent me a free CD to review. Don't worry it'll get up here next month.
11. Finally, I am thankful for God, who remains the same no matter where I am or what I'm doing. The One who keeps the flame alive in my heart even when I'd sometimes rather punch Him in the face. All my faith I owe to You.

God bless everyone this Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Various Artists - "Happy Christmas Vol. 2"

Various Artists - Happy Christmas, Vol. 2
1999, BEC

1. MxPx - "Christmas Day"
2. Sixpence None the Richer - "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
3. All Star United - "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday"
4. Plankeye - "Jesu Bambino (The Infant Child)"
5. Hangnail - "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
6. Joy Electric - "Lollipop Parade (On Christmas Morn)"
7. Flight 180 - "O Come All Ye Faithful"
8. Starflyer 59 - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
9. Viva Voce - "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
10. The Normals - "Peace Child (O Come Emmanuel)"
11. Fanmail - "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"
12. Norway - "White Christmas"
13. Element - "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
14. The Deluxtone Rockets - "Santa Claus is Back in Town"
15. House of Wires - "Caroling, Caroling"
16. Lost Dogs - "The Chipmunk Song"

I got this CD for two reasons and two reasons only. First, I wanted a legal copy of Sixpence's "Mr. Grinch" on CD, second I wanted to hear the Lost Dogs version of "The Chipmunk Song" without shelling out $15 for their Christmas disc (which I've heard isn't very good). As a bonus I get a bunch of songs by a bunch of bands I've never really heard of (except MxPx and Starflyer 59) because by the time 1999 rolled around I wasn't really into the music scene much. The disc was only 75 cents so it's not like I was going to be disappointed if all the other songs stunk. Imagine my genuine surprise when I found that the rest of the songs didn't suck. Not only do they not suck, the CD as a whole is pretty enjoyable. Of course, pop-punk can be a pretty fun genre anyway so marrying that with Christmas tunes seems like a no-brainer. I like MxPx's offering as well as Flight 180's ska version of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Awww... remember ska? Viva Voce's shoegazery take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is a highlight as well. I've got a Viva Voce disc laying around the house somewhere, I guess I'll have to go check it out because their version has become one of my top favorites of that song. Joy Electric, Norway, and House of Wires provide some electronica, though I think Joy Electric's tune is the best out of the three. Their music has always sounded to me like it came from a video game. I was slightly disappointed by Starflyer's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" but I'm betting it will grow on me. I also don't like the Deluxtone Rockets though I think that's because I've never really liked the song they cover.

Naturally I would do a disservice to the Dogs if I didn't mention their entertaining cover of "The Chipmunk Song" with Gene Eugene (gosh, it's good to hear him again) playing the adult and the other three dogs playing the Chipmunks (Mike Roe is Alvin). It's funny and they sound great. I especially appreciate the use of "Virtual Derri." What's that you ask? You'll just have to get the CD and listen. I'm sure this CD will become essential in the coming years and I'm really glad I picked it up!

Useless Fact: "The Chipmunk Song" also appears on the Lost Dogs Christmas album, We Like to Have Christmas. As I've said, I've heard that it's kind of mediocre. Maybe someone out there with the CD can chime in and change my mind.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Deliverance - "A Decade Of..."

Deliverance - A Decade Of...
1995, Intense

1. Victory
2. No Time
3. The Call
4. Flesh & Blood
5. This Present Darkness
6. Rescue
7. After Forever
8. Prophet of Idiocy
9. Words to the...
10. Ramming Speed
11. Stay of Execution
12. Learn
13. Desperate Cries
14. Sanctuary

While I don't need this on my ipod anymore (since I have all the songs already) I thought I would include it anyway. A Decade Of... is an interesting little retrospective on the big D's career. I listened to it a lot when I first got it - mainly because of "Rescue" which is a smokin' awesome track that never made it onto Weapons of Our Warfare. Another highlight of this disc is the short liner notes written by Jimmy P. Brown himself. They're rather informative and enjoyable. I will say that it's kind of odd that tracks like "Weapons of our Warfare" and "What a Joke" didn't make it on this comp, but I never really cared. It's kind of nice to have a comp where the absolute most popular songs aren't tread out again. I wonder if Jimmy got to pick the track list?

Useless Fact: "Rescue" was eventually added as a bonus track on Retroactive's Weapons reissue. There's also a mistake on the back of the CD case where the title doesn't match the album artwork above it. I can't remember which ones are wrong though.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dr. Octoroc - "8-Bit Jesus"

Dr. Octoroc - 8-Bit Jesus
2008, Independent

1. We Three Konami
2. Ryu the Red Nosed Ninja
3. Silent Knight Man
4. Carol of the Belmonts
5. Joy to Commando
6. Deck the Kremlin
7. Little Drummer Nemo
8. The Legend of Noel
9. Super Jingle Bros.

...and now for something completely different. I stumbled upon this little Christmas oddity while doing an article for a local paper on Christmas music. The good Dr. Octoroc specializes in what are called "chip-tunes." For the uninitiated "chip-tunes" are songs that sound like they came straight from the ol' Nintendo. The original 8-bit Nintendo. Dr. Octoroc produces Christmas tunes as though they came from your favorite classic games. "Ryu the Red Nosed Ninja" is "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as done in the style of the game Ninja Gaiden. "Silent Knight Man" is "Silent Night" as done in the style of Mega Man. It's quite an interesting combination, especially if you grew up with the old Nintendo like I did. I will admit that it's hard to pick out the actual melody of the Christmas tune in question in songs like "The Legend of Noel" and "Little Drummer Nemo." Then there's songs like "Carol of the Belmonts" and "We Three Konami" that are really fun - you can pick out the melody pretty easy. The edition of this album on my ipod is the free 9-song download that Dr. Octoroc offered on his website. You can find it here. The actual album itself has 18 tracks. I decided not to buy the whole album because while it's a lot of fun for me, my wife doesn't like it at all. Also, it's not really something I'll listen to while driving in the car or anything - money's tight and I've gotta save for stuff I know I'm going to listen to a lot. That being said, I've totally been digging these a lot more the past few days so who knows? You can order the full album here. If you're a Christmas lunatic with a deep abiding love for the old grey box, check out Dr. Octoroc.

Useless Fact: Dr. Octoroc has also produced chip-tunes based on Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Music Musings: 5 Christmas Songs That Need Updating

Even though it’s only November I’ve pretty much said, “Screw it, I’m doing Christmas now.” So in my head it’s Christmastime and will be until January 2nd. That being said, I’ve been thinking about Christmas music and which songs should be updated. There are some more obscure songs that I think need a fresh coat of paint. Likewise, there are some songs that should be remade, yet remain “original.”. Quick note: just because a song is on this list doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with the original.

1. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Gayla Peevey – I first heard this song a couple years ago on the radio. Up until then I’d never heard of it. I had no idea that a song about wanting a hippo for Christmas would make me giggle like a school-girl, but it did. There’s also something about Gayla’s Shirley Temple-esque vocals that appeal to me as well. I think it’s about time for a fun pop-punk version of this song. A band like Paramore could probably pull it off. Anyone know Paramore’s phone number?

2. “Snoopy’s Christmas (Snoopy vs. the Red Baron)” by the Royal Guardsmen – When I was little (and I mean little, like 4 or 5) I had this record with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang. It was a Christmas record and I remember listening to it over and over. “Snoopy’s Christmas” was one of the songs and my personal favorite. I heard it a year or two ago on the radio and thought that it was time someone did a good cover of this tune. I’m not sure what direction you could go but I think this is a song that deserves some more airplay. After all, it does have some basis in fact – during WWI Allied and German soldiers would call a temporary truce on Christmas Day. Sometimes they even exchanged gifts! So the story of Snoopy’s one-day truce with his nemesis, the Red Baron, is a holiday story that deserves more exposure than it currently has. Also, if anyone knows what record I’m talking about, please let me know because I can’t find any information on it.

3. “Last Christmas” by Wham! – I have included this song not because it’s one of my favorites, but because it is one of the most over-played songs of the holiday season. You’ll hear it at Walmart, Walgreens, the radio on your car, the elevator, the doctor’s office, any restaurant with music. Doesn’t matter where you might find yourself during the season you will hear this song. It is inevitable. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!! Um… so anyway, it’s time to update the synth-tastic original. Also, George Michael’s whispery vocals annoy me for some reason. I propose a nice acoustic guitar version with a decent singer that’s NOT Jon Mayer.

4. “Same Auld Lang Sine” by Dan Fogelburg – Here’s another song that’s didn’t make this list because it’s a favorite. In fact, I hate this song. If this song were a person I would probably punch them right in the throat. If you read my “5 Worst Christmas Songs” list from last year I think this was number 2. This song’s presence on my list is a request. I’m calling on a metal band to do a full on metal cover of this turgid holiday turd. I want fast down-tuned riffs, death “cookie monster” growls, blast beats, and a few face-melting leads. That would be the ultimate salvation for what is one of the worst Christmas songs ever.

5. “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” traditional – I know what you’re thinking. “But Adam,” you say, “there’s, like, a zillion versions of this song! Why does it need updating?” Well, gentle reader, I will tell you why - because among that zillion there is not one version that I like. Not. Even. One. I don’t know what it is about this song, whether it’s the repetitive nature of the lyrics or the fact that no one has really done anything spectacular with it but we need a “definitive” version of this song.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Favorite Albums of 2010

It’s that time again… time to run down my top picks for this year. Remember as with last year, the albums on this list didn’t necessarily come out this year but are just stuff that I’ve found this year.

Lost Dogs, Old Angel – The Lost Dogs have truly engineered a triumph with their newest album. I have gone back to this again and again. While not my favorite Dogs disc it’s easily the second. I love the sense of collaboration here. I like that they dialed down the country a little bit. Oh, and I LOVE “Dead End Diner.” Amazing song.

Grave Robber, Inner Sanctum – I never would have thought that a Christian horror punk band would produce one of my top picks of the year, let alone become one of my favorite bands. Their brand of punk/metal is so upbeat, positive, and catchy that I can’t help but love them. Whenever I want to get myself pump (spiritually or otherwise) I give Inner Sanctum a spin. They also get bonus points for doing a cool version of “Awake” for the Deliverance tribute album.

Lady Gaga, The Fame/The Fame Monster – Seriously, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I like Lady Gaga. She writes good pop songs and can actually sing. Lady Gaga pretty much dominated the late spring this year. As a bonus, some of the best songs aren’t even the singles!

The Choir, Burning Like the Midnight Sun – So I think my initial blush of love has worn off on the Choir’s latest. While I don’t know if it’s quite the best thing they’ve ever done, it’s certainly good enough to make my “top picks” list.

Swirling Eddies, (all) The Midget, The Speck, and the Molecule – This year was a good year in that I was properly introduced to the Swirling Eddies. I downloaded Outdoor Elivs and was in love with it from the very first note. Several purchases followed and I love them all. I put the latest up as the pick of the year but they’re all my picks. Outdoor Elvis, Zoom Daddy, and The Midget. All good. Now if we can just get Let’s Spin and Outdoor Elvis re-released so I can complete my collection.

Sixpence None the Richer, My Dear Machine EP - I found this almost by accident early this year. Apparently they’d released it for free on some obscure website but I missed it originally as it came out in 2008. Like I said in my review, this is just enough new Sixpence to piss me off. The four songs on this EP are some of the best that Sixpence have laid down and I hope, nay, I DEMAND that they finish their new album!

Knott, Michael, Alternative Worship: Prayer, Petitions, and Praise – I’ve found that albums that I never liked when I was younger I love now that I’m older. So is the case with this “worship” album. I didn’t really care for it for various reasons but now that I’ve got a few more years on me I think I can appreciate the heart of this album. “Call on You” has quickly become on of my favorite songs of all time.

Various Artists, Temporary Insanity: A Salute to Deliverance – The big D have remained one of my favorite bands since I was a teenager. It took some warming up but this two-disc collection of D covers is probably the best way to cap off this year. Out of 30 tracks there’s only a handful that don’t cut the mustard, but there’s so much that’s good. Josh Kramer from Saint singing “If We Faint Not,” Scott Waters singing an ultra-heavy version of “What a Joke,” Whisper From Heaven’s epic take on “Anymore.” Oh… and “Hunger and the Thirst” finally on CD, a remixed and powered-up version of “In-U” by the D themselves. I could gush forever. This was worth every penny I spent.

Disappointments of 2010:

Coheed & Cambria, Year of the Black Rainbow – I usually count Coheed as one of my favorite bands but was sorely disappointed by this year’s release. The hooks just aren’t there, the cool riffs just aren’t there, and I never find myself really wanting to go back to it. I wouldn’t say it was terrible, but it’s definitely a disappointment.

Jet Circus, Look at Death Now – You know what I miss here? Terry Haw. I just don’t think the band is the same. It’s also not nearly as much fun. Aside from “Lizzard Love” there aren’t any songs that really stick out. It makes me sad because Step On It remains one of my favorite albums.

Weezer, Raditude – I think I’m just about done with Weezer. I’ve never been one that expects them to do another Blue Album or Pinkerton but I’d at least like something with a little more depth than Raditude. This album is pure sugar with little to hold my interest past the occasional listen. I’ve heard the samples from Hurley and it doesn’t seem like anything I’m going to like either.

No new D, no new Sixpence - *sigh* Both Deliverance and Sixpence are supposedly working on new albums that were supposed to be released this year but they’ve yet to appear. I’ve heard no news on release dates or nothin’. It makes me sad.

No Deconstruction or Ghost – This really isn’t anyone’s fault but my own. I was under the impression that the last two discs in The Devin Townsend Project would be out this year, but they won’t be out until 2011. That means no new Devin this year and that’s never a good thing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Year Anniversary!

Holy cannoly! Has it really been a whole year since I started this blog? I've been having a lot of fun with this blog, much to the consternation of my other blogs that sit there un-updated. So... question for those who may be regular readers (if I actually have any!)...

Is there anything you'd like to see? I've pretty much been doing whatever I feel like but I'd be open to suggestions. Probably the only thing I won't do is put whole albums for download - so don't ask. I don't know how and a lot of stuff is being reissued anyway. Also, blogspot tends to frown on that sort of thing and I've worked too much on this blog to have it shut down.

So... other than that... anything else?

Special thanks to my wife Lindy for giving up the computer for a few minutes to let me write reviews. Also special thanks to little Lexi.... the best little girl in the whole wide world!

Yes. It's Halloween. Yes... that's Lexi in a Christmas dress.

P.S. Taking suggestions for good Christmas albums. Which ones are your favorites?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Knott, Michael - "Alternative Worship: Prayer, Petitions, and Praise"

Knott, Michael - Alternative Worship: Prayer, Petitions, and Praise
1994, Alarma

1. On My Feet Again
2. Windows
3. River of Love
4. Simple Man
5. Everything For Stormie
6. Shine
7. Call on You
8. Never Forsaken
9. Lamb of God
10. Holy, Holy, Holy
11. Within

Rule of Acquisition #239 states, "Never be afraid to mislabel a product." So it is with Alternative Worship. An album that was originally billed as a worship album by Terry Taylor, Gene Eugene, and Michael Knott. However, what it really is is a Michael Knott solo album with Terry and Gene singing a song or two. I think that's why I originally didn't like this CD. I was expecting sort of a "Lost Dogs" type fusion and it wasn't that. It also dies down a bit toward the end with quiet, acoustic songs. That being said, this is going to end up being one of my top picks of the year. Strictly speaking it's not worship, per se - if we used the narrowest definition (the one I prefer is "being consumed with who God is"). It's more like... songs from a prayer closet. Honest and open, holding nothing back. Usually the phrase "Giving it all to God" is so cliche and trite but it certainly applies here especially in a song like "Call on You" where Michael sings, "But for now I call on you/For help with cash for bills overdue/ And strength to influence right/ The little one I hold so tight." Pretty much anything about little girls or parenting makes me cry these days. Can't help it, I'm a big softee. It's good to hear Gene again on the poignant "Windows" which is one of the most beautiful songs he's performed on. Then there's "Holy, Holy, Holy" - a very simple song but it captures something that the modern worship blitz with it's multi-million dollar production setups misses.... actual worship. I've never been a huge L.S.U./Michael Knott fan but this disc went from being a curiosity (because I didn't like it when I was a teenager) to an essential.

Useless Fact: I believe "Everything for Stormie" is about Michael's daughter. I know, I know, anyone with half a brain would pick up on that but I didn't have any tidbits for this one. I'm as disappointed as you are.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Various Artists - "Temporary Insanity: A Salute to Deliverance"

Various Artists - Temporary Insanity: A Salute to Deliverance
2010, Roxx Productions

Disc One:
1. Deliverance - "Flesh and Blood (25th Anniversary Recording)"
2. Deliverance - "In-U (25th Anniversary Recording)"
3. Oil - "Attack"
4. Applehead/Fasedown - "Belltown"
5. Lambs Among Wolves - "Greetings of Death"
6. Stricken - "No Time"
7. FaseUltified - "What a Joke"
8. Grave Robber - "Awake"
9. Ghostemple - "If We Faint Not"
10. Faith Factor - "Weapons of Our Warfare"
11. Whisper From Heaven - "Anymore"
12. Venia - "Desperate Cries"
13. Days of Affliction - "River Disturbance"
14. Grave Forsaken - "Bought By Blood"
15. Eternal Decision - "Belltown"

Disc Two:
1. Deliverance - "The Hunger and the Thirst"
2. Oil - "Screaming"
3. The Sacrificed - "Slay the Wicked"
4. Coriolis - "What a Joke"
5. Krig - "Weapons of Our Warfare"
6. Leper - "The Call"
7. Unforsaken - "Stay of Execution"
8. Crucible Divine - "Ramming Speed"
9. Walk on Water - "Learn"
10. Visions of Reality - "Blood of the Covenant"
11. Saint Spirit - "Prophets of Idiocy"
12. Bloodpaid - "Words to the..."
13. Bi-Polar Echo - "The Call"
14. Incarnate - "Victory"
15. Pastor Brad - "A Space Called You"

This year marks the twenty-five year anniversary of the formation of Deliverance. I can't believe it's been that long. I'm only 31 as of this writing. That means the band formed when I was six... SIX! Deliverance is one of my favorite bands of all time. I get in moods where I'm in the mood for this band or that band but Deliverance is one of the handful of bands that has always stood at the top of the heap. For whatever reason Jimmy P. Brown's songwriting just resonates with me in a way that few artists do. I have every D disc and love pretty much all of them to varying degrees.

About a year ago or so the posters from the Christian Metal Realm decided to contribute songs for a Deliverance tribute. I think it was originally supposed to be an EP. So many people responded that it became a 2-disc mega project and now we can finally reap the benefits of everyone's labor. I wasn't initially going to get this but when I looked at the track list and saw the artists involved my opinion changed. Deliverance themselves contribute three tracks along with Greg Minier (Applehead/The Crucified), Grave Robber, Josh Kramer (Saint) and Scott Waters (Ultimatum) to name just a few. Seeing some of those names... dang... the decision pretty much made itself. I love when that happens.

The question is... how is it? Honestly... pretty dang good. Well worth the fifteen bucks. No matter the recording quality of the track you can tell that everyone on here has put their heart and soul into these songs. It's truly a labor of love and that passion oozes through the speakers and is almost contagious. Instead of doing a track by track thing I'll just give you some highlights...

Disc one is the best of the two and contains the most well known talent. The D rerecordings of "Flesh and Blood" and "In-U" are awesome... especially "In-U." That's been a favorite of mine for a long time and it's great to hear it get an upgrade. It's great to see Greg Minier back in action with a great rendition of "Belltown" (which includes members of Fasedown). Hey Greg... when are we gonna see a new Applehead? Please, pretty please! Also... thank you Grave Robber for "Awake." I love you guys. Finally, I don't know who Whisper From Heaven is but their rendition of "Anymore" is stunning. They took the somber and minimalistic Camelot track (which I already liked in the first place) and turned it into something epic. Now just because I didn't mention the other tracks that doesn't mean they're bad, far from it. Probably the only track I didn't like on disc one was "River Disturbance." Mainly because the vocal performance is not really that great. It sounds like the singer is flat a lot of the time.

I don't think disc two is quite as strong but it does have some really cool moments. I've always liked "Hunger and the Thirst." Jimmy posted it on the old D website a long time and I never downloaded it so it's great to finally have it on CD. It's a little bit different in that it's along the lines of the Assimilation material or This Sad Veil of Tears. I dig the industrial covers of "What a Joke" (by Coriolis) and "The Call" (by Leper). "The Call" almost sounds like Deliverance as filtered through Devo! There are a few tracks on disc two that aren't that good - like it's Amatuer Hour at Deliverance Tavern, but the fact that I still listen to most of them is a testimony to the songwriting prowess of Jimmy and the guys. In fact throughout the course of this two-disc extravaganza you'll hear two "Belltowns," two "What a Jokes," two "The Calls," and two "Weapons of Our Warfares." I was surprised that even with the repeats I was still groovin.

If you're a long-time fan of the D - get this. Just get it. You won't be sorry. Out of the 30 tracks on here I'd say 24 of them are really good. Still well worth the money in my book.

Useless Fact: I find it odd that on a tribute called Temporary Insanity no one felt the need to cover "Temporary Insanity."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

System of a Down - "Steal This Album!"

System of a Down - Steal This Album!
2002, Columbia

1. Chic 'n' Stu
2. Innervision
3. Bubbles
4. Boom!
5. Nuguns
6. A.D.D.
7. Mr. Jack
8. I-E-A-I-A-I-O
9. 36
10. Pictures
11. Highway Song
12. F**k the System
13. Ego Brain
14. Theatwaves
15. Roulette
16. Streamline

I've heard that most of Steal this Album! is tracks that were left off of Toxicity. Honestly, that's exactly what it sounds like - tracks not good enough to be on Toxicity. Granted, there's a few good tracks on here like "Innervision" and "Chic 'n' Stu" but for the most part the songs here just aren't as catchy or as heavy. I only paid a dollar for this because I got it as a trade on Music Boomerang and I'm glad because there's just not much here that grabs me.

Useless Fact: There's no actual cover art for this disc. They shipped it out intentionally to look like a bootleg. Different discs have different art on the disc itself. So yeah... no lyrics, no liner notes... no nothin'.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Little Dog China - "The Velvis Carnival"

My Little Dog China - The Velvis Carnival
1994, Alarma

1. Listen
2. Her Machining
3. Puppets & Fools
4. See the Man Fall
5. Entanglement (The Web)
6. Iconland
7. Why?
8. Eggshells
9. Salvadori
10. Nothing
11. Swirl

It's I M P O R T A N T ! It's D E E P! It's E A R N E S T! It's..... COLLEGE ALTERANTIVE ROCK!!!!!! All joking aside My Little Dog China came out at a time when Christian music was sloughing off it's glam rock/metal skin and morphing into the pale alternative grunge clone that only the Christian music industry could produce. Um... anyway... where was I? Oh yeah, this is very fuzzy, feedbacky cacophony of sound with lyrics about being yourself, being miserable, and raging against the "machine" (no pun intended). You know what though? I like it. There's some cool melodic parts and lots of bass which I did not expect. It's probably not something that I'll listen to a lot, but it's fun to spin when I need something different. Or when I want to wear flannel.

Useless Fact: My Little Dog China came out with one more, more commercial album called Game Face and then no more was heard from them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Moshketeers - "The Downward Spiral"

The Moshketeers - The Downward Spiral
2010, Roxx Productions

1. Sin
2. The Downward Spiral
3. Locked in Chains
4. Ye!
5. The Myth
6. Self Extinction
7. Epicurus
8. Posers of Deceit
9. Grease the Duck
10. Nightmares
11. The Life of Emptiness
12. Return (1997 Demo)
13. Death or Life (1997 Demo)
14. Thelo Angolia (1997 Demo)
15. Take My Life (1997 Demo)
16. Ye! (1989 Demo)

The Moshketeers were a band that were a little bit like unicorns - a mystical entity that I had only heard about third hand through rumors and other band's liner notes. I had some friends that said they were awesome and the rumor mill seemed to indicate that they were awesome. Unfortunately, we never had much of a metal "scene" in my town so the band remained a mystery. Roxx Productions has reissued the bands one and only album so now I finally get a chance to hear these guys. They were exactly as I expected - plain ol' American thrash. Decent thrash too. I can't say I was completely "wowed" or anything but there's a lot here to like. The disc has been remastered which gives the guitars a nice thick "CHUG-CHUG-CHUG" and the bass is mixed in well which makes things sound nice and heavy. The band experiments with some different sounds going from a stoner/doom type metal in "Self Extinction" to more of a groove-type sound on "Grease the Duck" (a personal favorite). The vocalist sounds a like a cross between Kurt Bachman (Believer) and Joey Belladonna (ex-Anthrax). I'm sure if this band had been signed and released albums they would have taken their place among Deliverance, Tourniquet, etc. as a legendary band. While it isn't quite the awe-inspiring collection of songs that the rumors promised, it's still a really fun listen and I'm glad I bought it.

Useless Fact: When the band started out they were originally known as Rapture. I think The Moshketeers is a way cooler name.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ethereal Scourge - "Judgement and Restoration"

Ethereal Scourge - Judgement and Restoration
1997, Rowe Productions

1. Through the Waters
2. Warcry
3. Refuge
4. Estranged From the Womb
5. Shroud of Mist
6. Earthshaker
7. Hecatombs
8. Restoration
9. Quiet Surround
10. Subconcious
11. Giver of Life

Based on the strength of "Death of Hades" and "Tombthroat," both of which appeared on the Hard and Heavy From Down Under compilation, I excitedly bought Ethereal Scourge's debut disc. Originally I was bored to tears with it. I'm not sure why exactly but I think at the time the songs seemed boring to me. I recently bought it to see if it was as boring the second time around. Good news... it's not. I really dig it now. Ethereal Scourge's brand of melodic death metal is powerful. They manage to weave textures together with clean guitar tones, acoustic guitar passages, and plain ol' thrash metal riffs. They use a lot of harmonics as well which I think adds a little spice. There are even some clean vocal lines like in "Warcry." "Giver of Life" has some groove in it too and was probably the only song I liked originally. The album definitely has more meat, both musically and lyrically, than your average death metal disc. Speaking of lyrics, these are some of the most beautiful, reverent, and worshipful (worshipful? is that a word?) lyrics I've heard on any Christian disc. I've always thought that metal could be worshipful but I hadn't seen anything that comes close until listening to this on the way to work. Pretty much everyone uses the word "majestic" to describe the band's sound but I can't think of any other word that fits. I guess I just had to be a little older to appreciate what was going on here.

Useless Fact: This is the band's one and only CD. Though according to Scott Waters at Nolifetilmetal the band is still together.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Apple, Fiona - "Tidal"

Apple, Fiona - Tidal
1996, Sony

1. Sleep to Dream
2. Sullen Girl
3. Shadowboxer
4. Criminal
5. Slow Like Honey
6. The First Taste
7. Never is a Promise
8. The Child is Gone
9. Pale September
10. Carrion

Not a huge fan of Fiona Apple. I never cared for her when she first came out and looked like an underage, slutty, heroin addict for her "Criminal" video. Though I do like that song. I like "Sleep to Dream" too and that's about it. It's not that this disc is bad, it's not. Fiona can sing. I like the husky, sultry jazz voice she's got going on. I just wish the rest of the songs on the disc were more like "Criminal" and "Sleep to Dream." Why? Because the rest of the album, filled with piano ballads, only makes me sleepy and that's not good for driving. My wife likes it though, so here it is on my Ipod... and blog.

Useless Fact: At the time of this album's release Fiona had kind of a reputation for being mouthy. She went on some rant at MTV's VMA's one year about being yourself and what not.

Gunn, Dann - "Easy"

Gunn, Dann - Easy
2010, Independent

1. Unwinding
2. Closer
3. Easy
4. Moon Song
5. All For You
6. Still Smiling

I'll start by saying this - if you liked the old Velocipede CD even a little bit then you'll LOVE this. This is, essentially, Velocipede done right. Granted it's not exactly like ...Sane but the big, crunchy guitars, the catchy tunes, the passionate vocals - those elements are here. Dann is evolving his sound somewhat to include industrial elements which I think is a good fit with the thick guitar tone. Though I confess my favorite track is actually the acoustic tune "Moon Song." It really showcases Dann's vocals and is truly a beautiful song. My only complaint is that occasionally it sounds like Dann is holding back vocally on a couple tracks ("All For You" springs to mind). It just feels like he's holding back to me. He's got a clean, powerful style so he doesn't really need to. When I listen to it I'm expecting him to attack the song more. It could just be me. Still, Easy is a great little EP and I hope this signals more from the Gunn camp.

Useless Fact: If there's still something about Dann that you don't already know by now you'll just have to track him down yourself and ask him!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chattin' With...Dann Gunn

Hello everybody! This is the start of what may be a new section of the blog. Recently I reviewed the album ...Sane by Velocipede. I tried doing some searches on it and found nothing. It's not surprising really. The band was fairly obscure. However, Velocipede main man Dann Gunn found my website with my review and was kind enough to leave some comments about the album. I asked him if he'd like to do an informal interview thing and he agreed. There isn't very much info about the band so I hope this interview is enlightening. Dann Gunn is still making cool music too so make sure when you're done reading you check out the links. Now let's get started!

When and how did Velocipede get its start (and why the name Velocipede)?

I was in a band called the Square back in the early 90s...just the singer (and songwriter), didn't play anything. Although I enjoyed the band, I had lots of ideas outside of what we were trying to do. I also wanted to play guitar. I bought a guitar and learned to play, sort of...ha. I did what came naturally...power chords and such. Noisy.

During this time I saw a band called Flat Duo Jets, a two-man rockabilly band. Just guitar and drums. It was probably the loudest show I've ever seen, at a club in Nashville called the Exit/In. The guitar was a glorious blur, and the drums were so loud. It was astounding that two guys were making so much noise. Their recorded material was quite different than the live show. It was just so..big. A true wall of sound. Probably one of the most intense concert experiences I'd had. The guitarist was just crazy. I think he had a nervous breakdown on stage that night. It was the 'punkest' thing I'd ever seen.

I began to think how cool it would be to do a two-man band that was very hard rock. And I talked with the Square's drummer about it, who was my best friend. He also thought it was a cool idea, and we started to work on it. I had bought an amazingly loud Ampeg half-stack, and we'd spend hours attempting to sound 'big'. My playing style sort of evolved around the concept. Huge low end and tons of distortion. I started to write songs, and it became my most important creative outlet. When the Square broke up, me and Mark just kept going, the two of us.

Somewhere along the way, I had seen the word 'Velocipede', which is what a certain style of very old bicycle was called. I just thought it was a cool sounding word...and sounded like a band name. Mark liked it, and that's what we became. We always referred to ourselves as 'the Pede'.

Who were (and are) your musical influences?

Sex Pistols, Social Distortion and Killing Joke were probably my three biggest musical influences during that time. I like (and still like) very distinctive rock bands. I liked a lot of the riffs and rhythm of metal guitars, but pretty much couldn't take metal bands seriously (early 90s). I was into bands like Midnight Oil, the Godfathers, and Sugar. I was also a fan of several Christian rock bands, like Undercover, Daniel Amos, and the Altar Boys. I am still a big fan of Steve Scott, as well. Brilliant stuff.

My vocals evolved from trying to rant like Johnny Rotten to actually singing. I realized I could actually sing pretty well, and had a lot of power. I developed a very straightforward singing style (as opposed to vocal 'riffing' that is quite common in rock), trying to imitate Michael Been of the Call, and Sim Wilson from Undercover.

As far as songwriting and lyrics, I took my cues from Michael Been. He was definitely my favorite songwriter. I wanted to talk about the 'inner life' as he described it. I began to write songs that were very introspective, and wanted to project passion and intelligence in my words.
My singing style did not match my music, according to a lot of people...ha. To me, it seemed natural. I wanted to sing like Michael Been and play guitar like Geordie Walker (Killing Joke). The 'Pede happened in a time where people were pretty obsessed with labeling music, and I think that worked against us.

These days, I’m a huge Filter fan, and love Gargabe, Curve and obscure things like Suzanne Vega and Michael Penn. I love modern rock…from the Cure to Girls Against Boys. Not really fond of the most of the stuff this decade, overall…it all sounds like Creed and Pearl Jam crammed into a blender, then pooped against a wall.

And yes, I am a huge Morrissey fan. No apologies. Ha.

How did you get hooked up with REX and Neverland?

I had known Tyler Bacon, REX's A&R guy since college. He had always seemed to like the music I did, to a degree, but always made suggestions for improvement which I dismissed. His tastes were more polished, I guess you could say. I contributed a song to the Demolition album, and he called and said he wanted to do a complete record. I did some demos at a friend's house on his four track, and sent it in. Tyler liked it.

During this time, I had moved to Knoxville, and changed drummers. Mike Santrock, who was an old friend, and an amazing drummer, really pushed me musically. I 'drilled' with him for months, and my guitar playing really stepped up. It became second nature to me to play and sing. I never practiced with a microphone...I would face the drummer and sing as loud as I could. It really helped me build power. Mike didn't play the drums as just a beat...he played parts. Very specific things at specific points during the song. This was a huge difference for me, and really changed things.

These days, the White Stripes and the Black Keys do fine, as two-piece bands. Back then, it was a struggle to make people 'understand' the concept. I didn't have anything against the bass, I just thought the idea of two guys just 'going for it' was really cool. When we played live, people would say, 'Where's the rest of your band?' Thirty seconds into the first song, they'd say, 'Oh, nevermind.'

Tyler didn't get it. He was worried about production, and worried how the record would be perceived. He went to Neverland, which had just moved to Nashville, to talk to Chris Colbert, because Chris was known as the king of punk, and he knew how to make a record CHEAP. The studio was booked, and we had a week to make a record.

Chris recorded us as we were...raw and crazy. Stacking the guitar tracks in fours or more, sounded huge, but turned things into a dizzy mess. Mike's drums didn't sound very good, and his cymbals were utter crap. It frustrated me at the end of recording to find out that the studio had many good cymbals we could have used...just sitting in the closet. Chris was pleased with the way it sounded...it was a big, glorious pile of sludge. 'That's what you sound like', he said. Although I had to agree, I wanted a more polished sound, and wish I had known more about production. I kind of felt like a bystander during the process. No one's intent or fault. There was no producer listed on the project. Chris explained to me why he didn't claim to be producer. 'My job as a producer is to **ck an artist up. You were already **cked up.'

Tyler said he did not like the way the record sounded. Chris offered to remix it. Tyler said not to bother, it didn't matter. I later found out through a friend that a couple of songs actually charted on the 'Hard Charts'. REX never bothered to tell me, and never offered any support other than to say they were unhappy, but not to bother remixing. They were obsessed with Fleming and John and Sixpence None The Richer at the time, and everyone else was a bit of a nuisance, I think. I really think we could have done something with the record, if it sounded better, and if REX even pretended to care.

I sent in some demos for a new record, but they were rejected because John Armand Petrie, Tyler's favorite producer, said they sounded silly. He said it sounded like it was done with a bad drum machine. I was very frustrated and just gave up, thinking no one cared, and having no sense of the 'Pede having any fans of any kind. I asked to be released from my contract. No, that's not true. I angrily demanded it. REX didn't even give any free product to their bands. I got a check for about seventy bucks from SESAC...that's all I ever got out of the deal. The REX concept for their heavy music, overall, was to just sell records to the same 4,000 kids every time. The money earned from each project, paid for the next one, by a different band. There wasn't a commitment of any kind to help develop artists...just criticize them and dismiss them. I know that may sound bitter, but it's the way it was. I had another friend who worked there, and he confirmed my feelings.

I felt I had a lot of potential as an artist, and was sad to see it all get flushed away so quickly. At least that's how it felt at the time.

I was quite amazed, years later, to find references online, and especially the lyrics to 'This Way'. It was touching to realize that that song had meant something to someone other than me.

What was it like working with Chris Colbert and Steve Hindalong?

Both guys expressed a lot of appreciation for me, and were very gracious. Chris ended up becoming a close friend for a while.
I loved the studio...it was in an old building on 4th Ave., the older, more industrial part of downtown. They had a Studer two inch tape machine, and a vintage sound board that had been bought from the BBC in London. And an entire closet full of guitar effects pedals, which I loved. I think we used every one of them...ha.

Chris was great to work with, because he got it. He thought a two-man rock band was a cool idea, and he was a true noise merchant. He was relieved because I could play the guitar in time, sing well, and didn't have a giant ego that needed to be nursed constantly, unlike a lot of his other projects. According to him, half of producing a record was dealing with explosive egos and difficult people who could barely sing or play. I was just so honored to be there, and be making a REAL record, that I would have done anything they asked.

Chris liked my random, weird guitar ideas, and encouraged them. He was great as an engineer, and has plenty of work to prove that, regardless of how '..sane' came out.

Chris has a great sense of humor, and we got along well. He's one of the smartest, deepest people I've ever met, and I feel honored to have been his friend for a while. He meant a lot to me. Talked to him briefly a couple of years ago, and he is doing well. He was running live sound for a band called the Walkmen, and living in the Pacific Northwest...not sure what he is doing now.
Steve? I didn't get to know Steve very well. He was going through a tough time in his life, and that was obvious. But so was I, honestly. Who wasn't? Steve brought out some harmonies that I would never have thought of, or tried, and he was great at communicating what he wanted. I don't think I did a single retake because I wanted to. I trusted him, and I think he got a good vocal performance out of me. If I had a project in the works, and need a great vocal producer, I'd probably call Steve, sure. He is also an amazing percussionist, and had a closet full of the most amazing hand drums and shakers imaginable.

Are there any funny/interesting stories from that time?

Oh sure, too many to remember...and some I couldn't repeat...ha. I remember random things, like Chris, myself, and Skye (2nd engineer) passing a guitar around in a circle, making crazy noise, and keeping it all on the track. I remember Mike, the drummer, eating day-old pizza covered with cat hair. I remember putting the old 70's Peavey logo on the wall in the main mixing room, and that it pissed of Derri. I remember trying to play a Bazuki. I just loved the feeling of being involved in something that felt important. I was 27 at the time.

After the album was recorded, I moved back to Nashville, and ended up hanging out at Neverland a bit. I actually gave Chris an old car in exchange for recording a song for me. The recording never happened, but I heard lots of stories about the car. Can’t remember what it was…an old Nova? My wife at the time had bought it from a friend, and when we moved, we didn’t need it. I gave it to Chris. Apparently the universal joint wore out, and it would stay in drive, no matter what…heard some funny stories from him and Steve about that…the car ramming into a building while they were flooring the brakes. I think there’s a line about that car in a Fluffy song, actually.

I was called to be an additional male vocalist on the second ‘Foot of the Cross’ album, and was then politely asked to leave after several takes, because I was so much louder than the other guys. Didn’t’ mean to be…

Velocipede and Fluffy played a joint show at the Strand in Marietta, GA, once. Nathan, Fluffy’s singer, was in town working on the last Fluffy record (Sugar Pistol), which was later rereleased as a Duraluxe record. We all drove to GA together, and after the ‘Pede set, I unplugged the guitar, plugged in a bass, and became Fluffy’s bassist for a night. I still remember playing the intro to ‘Guns, Guitars and Girls’ over and over, while crazy kids rushed the stage and started to mosh. Chris had bought a thrift store guitar that day, planning to trash it on stage. He did so, gloriously. At the end of the set, as he demolished it against the floor, a bunch of kids ran onstage to grab guitar parts. Chris yelled out, ‘The pickups are mine! Take anything else!”

Chris moved to New York for a while and ran sound for MTV’s ‘120 Minutes’ show, and several of their live events. He had lots of great stories about that time, including running sound for an outdoor Kiss concert. He told me that Ace Frehley was so messed up that he was wearing an in-ear monitor so someone offstage could coach him through the performance. Tell him what chord was next, etc. Pretty funny stuff.

What are you working on now?

I decided after the ‘Pede that I was a solo artist. I did another record with Chris, funded by myself, in 1997, called ‘…losing steam’

I am intensely proud of that record. It was recorded at a tiny studio Chris owned in west Nashville. It was not a very heavy record, guitar-wise, even though it is a guitar record. I wanted to prove that I could do more than create a wall of sludge. I played guitar, bass and did all the vocals, and my good friend Jeff Bradshaw played drums. It was a very personal project for me, and it’s nowhere close to perfect, but I still listen to it and enjoy it. ‘My Ghost’, the opening track is probably the one track people seem to latch onto more than anything I’ve written.

Anyone who wants it can download it here: http://danngunn.com/losing_steam.zip

I recorded another indie project in 1999 called ‘Floating, Spinning “Upside-Down”, and have played sporadic gigs over the years. My heart has always been in making music, but I was never a part of any ‘scene’, or ever felt I had any real fans, beyond a friend or two.

Last year, I recorded a batch of songs I am extremely proud of, and I am working to get them on Jango.com and iTunes. I am also working on new recordings soon. The newer songs have a decidedly ‘industrial’ feel to them, and I like that. I have gotten into drum programming, and like it. I will always use a live drummer on stage, of course. Two different things.

You can listen to these songs at: http://danngunn.com/ I am in the process of completely overhauling that site. The songs will be available for download soon.

I am hitting age 44, and I feel like I still have a lot to say. Many years ago, at a frustrated time in my life, I promised God that if He allowed me to continue making music, I would respect the honor, and that I would only create beautiful things. I would never do anything that was angry for the sake of being angry. I would attempt to be redemptive in my thoughts and words. I still honor that promise, and hope that the songs I have made have some impact, and gives someone a little more strength, and reminds someone that they need more love in their life. I will always want to do something that matters, and talk about things that make my heart shake and keep me awake at night, with a brain on fire…for me, music is all about catharsis.

Again, special thanks to Dann Gunn for taking the time to answer my questions. Definitely check out his new album, Easy, available on Itunes now! I'll probably post a review soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Various Artists - "Hard & Heavy From Down Under"

Various Artists - Hard & Heavy From Down Under
1996, Rugged

1. Mortification - "Peace in the Galaxy"
2. Cry Mercy - "Time To Go"
3. Cry Mercy - "D.A.M."
4. Metanoia - "Accute Obliteration"
5. Metanoia - "Dimensions of Life"
6. Screams of Chaos - "Fighting For Breath"
7. Screams of Chaos - "The New World"
8. Screams of Chaos - "Destroy the Plague"
9. Embodiment - "Loophole"
10. Embodiment - "Incorporate Body"
11. Callous - "Hate"
12. Callous - "The Mind That Rots"
13. Ethereal Scourge - "Death of Hades"
14. Ethereal Scourge - "Tombthroat"

This is a pretty decent compilation of Austrialian Christian Metal bands. I really liked it when it first came out. In fact this disc is the reason why I bought Metanoia's debut, even though I didn't end up liking it as much as I thought I would. Cry Mercy is a straight forward hard rock band with good riffs but the singer is really, really nasally. Like... almost sounds like Cartman from South Park nasally. They also rap in "D.A.M." and it's the whitest rap I've ever heard. The two Metanoia tracks are amazing, sizzling slices of thrash/death metal. Screams of Chaos are an interesting hybrid of industrial, death metal, and thrash. Their songs aren't really catchy and the music just serves as a vehicle for the story told in the lyrics - but it's interesting nonetheless. Embodiment are a plain ol' death metal band that I never cared for. They're technical and stuff but they don't really hold my interest. Callous is a hardcore/thrash outfit headed by ex-Mortification drummer Phil Gibson. I dig them... they're probably one of my favorite bands on here. Ethereal Scourge ends the disc in style with death metal that is quite breath-taking and amazing. Definitely a highlight. They eventually recorded an album that I was disappointed with originally but now I kind of want to hear it again to see if my opinion would change.

Useless Fact: According to Scott Waters (Ultimatum) the comp was a collaboration between Rowe Productions (who didn't have any distribution in the states) and Rugged Records.

Jet Circus - "Look at Death Now"

Jet Circus - Look at Death Now
2005, Hypersonic

1. One Dime Scape Goat
2. Man Rules
3. Godless Happiness
4. Look at Death Now
5. Lizzard Love
6. The Way You Bless Me
7. Shooting Star
8. Skull of the Poet
9. Fears of Tomorrow

I have really mixed feelings about this one. This isn't actually Jet Circus' second album. The actual second album was called No Mercy For the Living Dead and was supposed to be released about the time this one was. Look at Death Now was to be Ez Gomer's solo album. Well, all of a sudden vocalist Terry Haw left the band, Look at Death Now became the new Jet Circus album, and No Mercy faded away into obscurity. Most of the reviews of this disc are pretty positive but I have to confess that I'm just not that into it right now. Ez Gomer does a good approximation of Terry Haw but I don't think he quite gets there. The fuzz is still there and the album does rock pretty hard but it just doesn't feel as much fun as the debut did. In fact there are only two songs where I felt like I was listening to Jet Circus - namely "Lizzard Love" and "Look at Death Now." Additionally, I just don't think the hooks are there. I hope this one grows on me, but time will tell....

Hopefully someday we'll get No Mercy...

Useless Fact: I suspect that this album was supposed to be a sort of concept album based on a comic written by Ez. I only say that because back when this was his solo album he had a lot of comic book art on his website and I think the album was supposed to tie into that. I don't know for sure so maybe someone can enlighten us. Also... someone please tell us as to how Wonderland could neglect to publish No Mercy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Guardian - "Buzz"

Guardian - Buzz
1995, Myrrh

1. This Old Man
2. Lead the Way
3. State of Mine
4. The Lion's Den
5. Are You Gonna Keep Your Word?
6. One Thing Left To Do
7. Hand of the Father
8. Psychedelic Runaway
9. Even It Out
10. Lift Me Up
11. Shorty
12. Lullaby
13. Them Nails

SELLOUT! Well... I don't know. A lot of people were disappointed by Buzz because of the new alternative sound. When I first got it I wasn't put off a bit. Maybe because Guardian were really commercial and trendy to begin with so it's not really a surprise that they'd move in a more alternative direction. To tell you the truth... I never thought it was that bad and I still don't. There are some great songs on here. Some of my favorites being "Lead the Way," "The Lion's Den," and "One Thing Left To Do." One disappointing thing about Buzz is Jaime's vocals. He sings in a lower register and kind of mostly moans his way through most of the disc. You spend the whole time waiting for Jaime to let it rip but he never does. It should be illegal for awesome vocalists to not use their full potential. Illegal I tell you! Steve Taylor produced the CD and a lot of people think that some of the clever lyrics came from him but I read an interview once with Steve where he said that most of the lyrics were from Jaime Rowe. Whether it was Steve's coaching or not, I do like most of the lyrics here (except "Them Nails"). I can't say I'm an enormous Guardian fan but this is an all right disc to whip out on occasion.

Useless Fact: There are actually four covers of this disc depending on how you fold the CD insert. I've only got the bees up there because, let's be honest here, that is clearly and UNARGUABLY the coolest one.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rose - "Intense Live Series Volume 3"

Rose - Intense Live Series Volume 3
1993, Intense

1. Oppression
2. On My Knees
3. Demons
4. Hide
5. D.O.P.
6. You Gotta Move

I think Rose's edition (along with Deliverance's) of the Intense Live Series are my favorites. The band puts together some rockin' version of album tunes. I really enjoy the speedy version of "Oppression" and the electric doom version of "On My Knees." "Hide" is a new track that kind of mixes the stoner rock style of the band with blues. I also have to give the guys kudos because I've never liked the song "You Gotta Move" but I even enjoy that too.

Useless Fact: According to the liner notes Randy invited his whole family to the recording studio and a few of the helped out on some of the tracks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Die Happy - "Intense Live Series Volume 4"

Die Happy - Intense Live Series Volume 4
1993, Intense

1. Justified
2. In Studio
3. Painted Truth
4. In Studio
5. Temple Of Soul
6. In Studio
7. Celebration
8. In Studio
9. Endless Time
10. All Over Me

If I remember correctly the Intense Live Series got a lot of flak from critics but I always thought they were pretty fun. Die Happy's installment was the only one I didn't get on tape back in the day. I don't know why... I just missed it somehow. Well now I finally have it and it's pretty much what I expected - a fun "live" disc with decent versions of album material. It really showcases how great a vocalist Kyle Basuri is and how great a bassist Greg Chassion is. The band also does a little bit more acoustic stuff than some of the other discs in the series. "Temple Of Soul" is pretty cool as an "unplugged" tune but I think I could do without Greg Chassion shouting the chorus at me in the second half of the song. "Endless Time" is a new ballad and "All Over Me" is a Petra cover - both rock.

Useless Fact: Terry Taylor (DA, Swirling Eddies, Lost Dogs) was the executive producer for this whole series. I have a hard time seeing him with the likes of Tourniquet, Rose, and Die Happy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Red Sea - "Blood"

Red Sea - Blood
1994, Rugged

1. Soulshaker
2. Blood
3. Wolves at the Door
4. Dust to Dust
5. Last Day of Winter
6. Walk on Fire
7. Shades of Purple
8. Hellbound Train
9. Losin' My Way
10. Down Home Static
11. Tears of Joy

I should like this. Really, I should like it. Red Sea's Blood could almost pass for a third Die Happy album. It features Kyle Basuri on vocals and Greg Chassion on bass. So... there's no reason for me not to like it. Yet... whenever I put this on one of two things happen - my mind wanders and I forgot what I heard or I fall asleep. It's not that it's bad, not at all. I'm just weird. That's really all I have to say.

Useless Fact: Bands on Rugged records had a habit of creating some pretty 80's looking cover art. Red Sea was no exception.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spy Glass Blue - "Shadows"

Spy Glass Blue - Shadows
1997, Organic

1. Thin and Leaner
2. Lodging
3. In Sultry Places
4. Can You Feel
5. Me Mine
6. On and On
7. Stygian
8. Iron Grey
9. Ignorant Side
10. Come Patmos
11. Should Have
12. Tell

Hmmm.... so Spy Glass Blue is a band featuring Allan Aguire from Scaterd Few. Since I loved Sin Disease so much (and still love it to this day) I thought I'd check out Spy Glass Blue. Eh... it's alright. It certainly doesn't have the raw edge to it that Scaterd Few had. It's definitely more melodic and Allan's vocals are a bit more restrained, staying in a lower Bowie-esque mode for most of the disc. I kind of missed the yowling honestly. The basswork is also amazing. I can't remember who played on this album but that awesome spin warping bass that was present on Sin Disease is here too - only a bit more melodic. For some reason I've never really been able to get into this at all. It's not bad but I never really seem to want to go back to it.

Useless Fact: Allan Aguire and his family were on the show Wife Swap. They swapped with an uptight conservative Christian family. It was interesting. Of course the other family thought the Aguires were out of their minds for awhile!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Foxworthy, Jeff - "Big Funny"

Foxworthy, Jeff - Big Funny
2000, Dreamworks Nashville

1. Intro
2. Seeing Things on the Road
3. I'd Heard Every Redneck Thing
4. Telephones in the Bathroom
5. Jeff Gordon Enunciates
6. Speaking of Words
7. The Way I Grew Up
8. My Wife's Family
9. House Full of Girls
10. It's A Different World
11. I Don't Need to Know That
12. You're Being Trained
13. Women Want To Talk
14. Thanks Ya'll - Encore
15. Blue Collar Dollar

A decent amount of material on Big Funny shows up in the Blue Collar movies. So, like Foxworthy's latest, you may have already heard some of the stuff on here. Luckily for me, I think there's more that I haven't heard here. In fact, I think some of Jeff's best lines are on this disc. "It's a weird feeling to be mad and learning at the same time." Good stuff. I suppose it also helps that I haven't seen any of the Blue Collar movies in years. Big Funny ranks right up there with Totally Committed in terms of my favorite Foxworthy albums.

I will say one thing... in "You're Being Trained" Jeff talks about how women really rule the house and how all men are being trained. You know guys... it doesn't have to be like that. In my experience women can only control a man up to the point that he allows himself to be controlled.

Useless Fact: "Blue Collar Dollar" continues the tradition of music/comedy songs. I don't really like these.

Foxworthy, Jeff - "Games Rednecks Play"

Foxworthy, Jeff - Games Rednecks Play
1995, Warner Bros.

1. Introduction
2. Victoria's Secret
3. Games Rednecks Play
4. Southern Accent
5. Nasa & Alabama & Fishing Shows
6. Clampetts Go To Maui
7. I Love Being a Parent
8. Out of the Gene Pool
9. Seek and Destroy
10. Don't Drink and Drive
11. More You Might Be a Redneck if...
12. Party All Night

Jeff Foxworthy's second disc (after You Might Be A Redneck If...) is pretty good. I think it's a step up from the first one with some great stories - particularly taking his family to Hawaii. I've been listening to these at night to unwind lately and I got sick of the ones I had so I bought some of the other ones I didn't have.

Useless Fact: "Party All Night" is another one of those country songs with Foxworthy bits as the verses. It didn't quite make the transition from CD to my Ipod. Can't imagine why...